Chapter 5: To Hatch a plan
The Nomey’s began to lay out before our fighter their version of exactly what he was in for, he was told the Hatch clans loved the pits almost as much as their gambling, women and ale. They bet hard and collected all fees owed to them, both a weakness and an unfortunate deadly side effect of their greed for gold and treasures. Hatch’s lords and generals have deep connections to the base of the surrounding mountains as they dug deeper in search for the shiny earth elements. Through the past few decades this place had grown from a small bumbling town into a flourishing city with a legion of followers some following the gold, some following the loyalty of the family, the of balance of which is never truly understood.
There the ringed pit is adorned in polished marble and forged steel blades embedded into the walls, the creature pits there are somewhat bigger than anywhere else across this realm, not surprising given the coin they can spare to care and feed the creatures to keep them alive. Tales of Some would be warriors or generals like to try and prove their worth in open combat with these giant beasts, not many get out alive and the few that do are assured a place at a Lord’s or even Generals side. A position you are surely wanting to achieve, not content with this corporal lifestyle forced to fight and scrounge for what you can. You have the chance to make it there now with this beast on your side I cannot see us losing this fight, a win on the day will see this whole mess right for us and with a big enough prize and we will consider freeing you to do as you please, you may even get an offer to become a general or warrior yourself. In the pit you have to make it look good do not just kill them outright let them rough you up a bit, while we drive up the bets. We will signal you with a wave when the time is right, look out for it and when you see it unleash the forest darkness upon them. The fighter’s mind had began to dream of what he could do if left to his own path and free of these men, may be to win more fights or serve a lord for a big enough purse of his own to buy a small piece of land to call his own.
The Nomey’s could see their plan starting to take shape as our fighter sat there dreaming away, one turns to the other and quietly says “The time grows late we must travel protected by this beast or not, we must move to the gates of the Hatch clans, I can see the smoke from the watchtowers we can make it before night fall if we leave now, the darkness may see our end if we wait around here to be food for these scavengers. We still have to work out if this beast will follow him yet and I am not going to be the one who tries to chain it up. The Hatch clans don’t take lightly to roaming beasts within their city limits. How we are going to get him into the city limits is still going to be a problem, that thing is huge and I don’t see us slipping it by the guards of the gate house, so what exactly is your plan there?” No sooner were these words uttered and they turned to see our fighter, while they spoke he had apparently begun to bond with the hound now perched atop of the hound riding it as a horse. “well I think we have our answer every man needs his horse. We shall see if we get away with it and get out of there with our heads attached to our bodies, you know the Hatch’s don’t take kindly to losing.” they said loud enough for our fighter to hear.
Arriving at the gates of the Hatch’s was a short way off, all the men knew the value of this place and its possibilities of changing their fortunes for the next few years at least maybe even a lifetime. Climbing back on their horses after gathering the weapons from the robbers searching their corpses for anything worth selling, they headed back onto the road behind our fighter aboard his hound heading for the Hatch’s city. The journey was spent with each of them looking backward and sideward for any attackers that may be lurking in the darkness lying in wait for them. The weapons they had just gathered and the gold they had stolen back was just enough to enter their fighters into the pits maybe if they sold their weapons they would have enough to make the bets worthwhile.
The stone watchtowers and vast oak gates draping with banners depicting the sigil of the Hatch clan, two weapons overlaid one double headed axe and one with a large hammer painted onto red and gold cloth slowly came into view as they approached on the road to the clans domain as they gained ground upon them the enormous gates dwarfed the group even our friend aboard his hound now standing ten feet off the ground at least, there was still room for two more of them above his head. A feeling of release began to spread amongst the group standing there at last in front of the gates surveying them. The Nomey’s calling for the guards to let them into the compound, a rumbling booming voice called back to identify themselves through two gigantic hollowed horns placed atop either side of the gate atop of the stone gate towers, the Nomey’s knew these guards thought little of hailing arrows as wide as a man’s head from giant catapults down against would be attackers or intruders. These guards almost thinking of themselves as the rulers of who could and could not enter. The Nomey’s called to them “we are the Nomey’s of the south we have come to take part in the pit fights. We have our fighters and a beast to enter into tomorrow’s fights and would reward a helpful guard that would see us through the gates to take part once our prize has been claimed.”
A laughter of the darkest bowels of the guards guts could be heard, “not likely for you to win with that lot as the Lord Hatch plans to have his finest fight tomorrow for the trophy and glory of the city to south of here, the lord has passed with no heir and you and your group of puny fighters don’t stand a chance with the warriors that have passed through these gates in past few days. I suppose another few to the slaughter won’t matter but I warn you any funny business and that hound nore those fighters of yours will protect you from where we would send your souls.”
“Quit with your idol threats and open these gates.” the Nomey’s dared to answer the guards of the gate, a short silence fell before the deafening sound of the gates cracking open, the clanking of the chains could be heard as they were churned by 4 ogres on the other side. As they began to wind the anchors opening the huge doors into the compound a waft of the food, ale, fires and deadly poisons of the pits and their surrounding engulfed their nostrils.
Taking one last look behind them they edged their way inside, passing the ogres now closing the gates as their eyes gazed from their feet the size of ale barrels, legs that could crush multiple men between their thighs, to a bursting belly probably filled with at least two oxen each. Their upper body and arms where a force to be reckoned with on their own as the four of them sported arms thicker than any man’s torso they had seen to date. All the while covered in thin wispy black hair with green or brown skin. Their heads resembled giant boulders, two tusks protruding from their mouths sitting under a bulbous nose and two giant eyes and large bald forehead, a large tuft of black hair wrapped the back of their head tied back with dried oxen intestine upon their chins a fine line of spiked black beard covered at least some of their bulging necks. The gazes of our group was broken as one of the ogre locked gaze with one of the group and it grunted at them not liking to be stared at, quickly their gaze returned to the winding road leading off to the pits with possible fame and fortunes back at the forefront of their minds.
“Before the night begins to grow cold we need to get our fighters into the contest, then we need lodgings and food with these streets bustling with this tournament as they are, we will be lucky to bribe a street rat for his crate, and have to cook their rodent counterparts for food.”
“Worry not last time we visited I am sure we had a debt owed from that lodgings on outskirts of town, if I can just remember its name” the Nomey’s began to debate. The other saying back in a snappy reply,
“you mean we have to stay in that ogers inn, aghhh, we vowed never to visit that place again. Let me remind you incase that ever not so genius mind of yours fails you not two streets away are the sess pits from all manner of creatures. The smell I recall was enough to kill a man let alone trying to sleep or eat. That foul odor will haunt my nose until the day I die and the owner of that place stank worse. Before we left that wretched place I can recall that owner knocking out a man or two with his breath alone,”
“And you think we can get somewhere else, if you want to sleep with the street rats go ahead, but I am going to claim our debt and have some wretch thrown out of a room so we can stay, now are you coming or not?” they argued incessantly back and forth the whole road down to the pits over staying in the less than desirable Ogre Inn.
One might consider that a luxury compared to the night our fighter and companions had in store for them, in comparison to some of the other pits they had been in before, the creatures of these pits had a stay worthy of humans, fed with plenty of straw to bed upon watched throughout the night by a group of keepers. All the fighters can hope for is a small amount of straw to bed down upon, the food on offer was usually the dead creatures from the battles of the previous week, which by now would smell as foul as the sess pits cooked over pitiful fires made from old clothes and debris. The company is always relied upon as being annoying, as the best conversation to be had is with the swarms of flies as you try to keep them from trying to eat you in your sleep. If you’re lucky enough to be caged with any number of fighters who want to knock off some competition before he enters the pits, you could spend your night trying to fend them off instead. Gods forbid hunger kicks in and your madness takes over you, they will throw you in the beast cages as they choose you for a snack that’s a fate worse than the fighter camps any number of beasts looking at you like a quick live and fresh meal, as they are ready to dine out on you dead or alive.
Our fighter and his new companion approached the underbelly of this world on that day with a feeling of being not so lucky to be there, and with a smell in the air of fear lurking. In his mind this fight was to be huge although his confidence was boosted by his new found friend in the hound, he still knew the battle was not going to be easy, knowing somewhere in his mind if his masters had anything to do with it he wouldn’t make it through this fight but they would still be in for some coin, the best he could hope to do at this point was to try and stay alive and cost them coin if they dare hatch a plan to double cross him. Turning down a small darkened street to two large doors sparsely lit via two feeble torches in pegs either side of it, the Nomeys called a halt to the group’s advance. “We are here at last,” while dismounting the tired and shaken horses, hungry and in need of rest shook themselves as they were dismounted letting out a nay and a shudder from the cold night’s air. Approaching the large door one of the Nomeys takes his fist knocking for the attention of the keepers within, cracking his fingers as he did with his almost frozen solid hands by their journey on horseback. Letting out a squeal in pain then with his foot kicked it harder half in anger, the other in frustration that they had not heard the first knock despite his now aching hand.
The doors remained silent for but a few moments more until they could hear the locking planks being lifted from the doors rear outstepping from them was one of the keepers and a large familiar waft of the pit cages excrement and rotting flesh being the scent of the day. The keeper stood towering them dressed in skinned hides with holes and tears from where their hides creator had been slayed in the pits, down to his feet wrapped in leather tied together with long strips of twined leather to make his boots. Looking the Nomeys from head to toe as he stood there, it did not take a clever man to know the Nomeys thought better of mouthing off to him. “We require a stay for our entries into tomorrow’s competition,” with a look behind the Nomeys for a quick head count the keeper replies with a deepened voice.
“The beast rests in the lower pits and fighters are to go to the camps on the far side of the pit cage. Five is empty should be big enough to hold that hound, chain it there and we will feed it, if you have the three gold coin and one for each of the fighters?”
“Three gold and one half silver for the straw they can fight for their meal?” the Nomey’s always had to bargain down a deal “with no meal for the fighters, done?” they said with an air of glee. With a hesitant nod the keeper held out his hand for payment, taking three gold coins out his pouch the Nomey placed them into his hand trying to pass the keeper into the compound. Stopped in his tracks as the keeper grunted gripping the back of his collar looking slightly disappointed the nomay placed the other silver coins into the keeper’s free hand smiling as if it was a simple mistake, the keeper checks the coin before releasing him again. There seems no end to how low they would stoop our friend thought to himself, as he dismounted from his new friend and began to lead it down the dark corridors towards the pit cages. The distant moans of caged creatures could be heard getting closer as they approached the rows of cages which had huge reinforced doors one on each side, one to let the creatures in form the outside and one that lead into the pit down an even darker and damp tunnel wreaking of blood, guts and death, torchlight blistering through cracks where eager creatures had slammed into them before today.
“Here is this beasts cage for the night get it in there and we will find these squabbles somewhere to bed for the night”, the fighter looks deep into the eyes of new friend and urges him into the cage, it did not move an inch, more to the fact it sat down staring intently at our fighter with a look of puzzling complexion, as to why he would want such a thing. The keepers now growing impatient with the beast one decided to crack a large whip over its back, it contacted the stone upon its skin with a sound so loud as to set all manner of beasts and creatures howling and screeching in the surrounding cages. The hound instantly raised to its feet slamming its tail against the body of the keeper who had whipped him, now seen to be taking flight he was ejected towards the cage of what turned out to be a rather hungry creature as out of the darkness a scaled hand reached through the bars taking him by the ankle and pulling him inside in a flash identified only by what could be described as the most haunting sound of bones crushing as his body folded and squeezed between the bars, leaving but a smallest piece of evidence he was ever there, by the now slightly bent bars where his body was dragged through. A new eerie hush fell upon the cages as if no creature wanted to argue with the creature who was dining upon our misguided keeper. Our hound curious sniffed the air towards the darkened cage then clearing its nose, looking back to our friend it then flipped our fighter with the tip of his nose onto the hay bail in his cage and silently crept inside.
The keepers shook their heads and closed the gate they didn’t want to be a meal for one of these beasts and the coin was simply not worth it, they would have the last laugh they thought as these were likely to die in the pits the following day. Now turning their gaze to the remaining fighters who looked inside the cage and back to the darkness dropping to their knees they begged for the camps as a night here would see them dead of fear before the pits could ever take them. The cage door slams for these two newly found friends and a day of days awaited them in the rising of the new sun, bringing something that changes this land and lest we forget the challenges they face on this day. His co fighters found their way into the camps and cells like trapped mice, they like our friend awaited the day with fear and excitement to end their days of torture through glory or death.