So, I've been doing some work on the plot and setting of the next contest, which I hope to get started in earnest sometime in May. Short version is that it takes place in the Northlands in a place called The Crater, a gladiatorial ring run by a lynx named Nire Borean who imported a tradition of his faraway homeland into Mossflower.
This is a little warmup piece I did. It's only loosely connected to the rest of the story, and doesn't necessarily need to be worked into the plot by the cast, but I did it to shake off the cobwebs after several months of not really writing anything, and as a way to flesh out some aspects of the plot and setting. Let me know what you think of it.
Brockrun the Hammer hoisted his namesake aloft as he charged towards his opponent, eyes alight with the ancestral rage of his ancestors. He was borne forth by memories as much as by Bloodwrath – memories of Claude Riverdeep, who guided him for many leagues up the River Moss and taught him to wrestle, of the perilous haremaid Dayna, with her songs and rhymes and inedible soup, of the taciturn Tuosim shrew Gyerba.
He was propelled forward most of all by the memory of how they had died – scared and in pain and far from home in this bizarre, awful place in the Northlands. He remembered Claude Riverdeep, realizing full well he was about to die and extracting a promise from Brockrun to take care of his holt. He remembered struggling vainly to save Dayna as she quivered and jerked and died in his arms. He remembered only knowing Gyerba by the green woven belt around the shrew's waist.
And so he blocked out pain and fear and doubt and focused on rage – rage at this horrible turn their adventure had taken, and at the betrayal by Gyerba's own clan that had started it all. Rage at himself for not having shaken off the paralytic that had been placed in his ale, and for not bursting out his chains while they were still aboard the ship that had brought them here.
Across the field, his marteness opponent narrowed her eyes and surged forward. Unlike Brockrun, though, Drazat did not fight alone, though. Instead, she rode forward atop a black boar, his tusks filed to fine points. The screech that issued from his throat as she spurred him to top speed had no sound of language to it. His eyes, however, had none of the blankness of fish eyes or insect eyes. This creature had a mind of sorts, if not speech or paws.
As the two combatants hurtled towards each other, Brockrun raised his hammer to strike at the marten. She, in turn, lowered her spear point first towards the badger Shortly before the two met, however, Drazat banked right while hissing a command to her porcine steed, and the boar veered out of Brockrun's path while putting on a burst of speed. The boar's path took it in a shallow loop around and behind the badger, while Brockrun's own momentum continued to carry him forward in the same direction.
Drazat spurred the boar forward again, and charged towards Brockrun's back. The badger had only partially managed to turn before she slammed the spear home into his unarmored side and released it as the boar carried her out of reach of his retaliation.
Brockrun snarled as he snapped the spear's shaft, but the head remained fixed in his side. “Face me without your pig, vermin!”
Surprisingly, Drazat complied. She hissed another command to the boar and hopped off of it, drawing a long fighting axe from her back. Keeping their distances, both the pine marten and boar began circling around Brockrun in opposite directions. The marteness whistled a repetitive tune over and over again, not stopping even as Brock run charged forward and began a series of terrifyingly swift and strong attacks towards her. The marten's eyes quickly grew fearful as she struggled to stay ahead of the flurry of blows. She gave two more sharper, louder whistles before feinting left and then right, leaving behind a small gash on Brockrun's leg before dodging out of his way again.
It was only seconds later that the black boar slammed into Brockrun's back. In the grip of Bloodwrath, the young heir of Salamandastron had neglected to guard against it, and the boar had dashed back into the fray, goring Brockrun with his tusks as he slammed the badger to the ground. The badger struggled, digging Drazat's spearhead deeper into his side as he tried to force the massive creature off. Brockrun succeeded long enough to struggle to his footpaws, but boar charged again. Brockrun swung his hammer and connected with the beast's side. He felt and heard two of its ribs break, but the boar slammed him to the ground again, jaws snapping at him.
The badger grabbed his opponent's tusks and pushed with all his might, but was jerked off balance as the boar suddenly reared back and to the side. The creature slammed him to the ground again and dug its teeth deep into his wrist while giving its head a violent shake.. The bones crunched, and Brockrun's namesake hammer dropped to the ground. filling his nose with the scent of blood and the creature's awful stink.
Brockrun gave a furious roar and began slamming his fists into the creature's sides. When he punched the boar's broken ribs, the beast gave a squeal of pain and let go, but when he went for his hammer it charged towards him again. The badger sidestepped, raised his fists up and brought them crashing down onto the boar's back, bringing it to the ground with a crash. The badger gave a roar of triumph.
That was the moment that Drazat's axe sliced deeply into the side of his neck. The badger tried to strike back as blood sprayed out of the wound but his thrashing motions didn't catch the nimble marteness.
The boar gave a loud, long squeal. Brockrun watched it charge towards him. Summoning up all his strength, the badger tried to rush to meet it, but he could feel his own limbs getting heavy and slow as the blood loss took its toll. His charge began to falter. And Brockrun began to understand that this really was where his quest would end. He was going to die here.Dayna...
When it was all over, the crowd went wild. Drazat looked up from the arena level of the Crater, basking in the applause of the specators who had just watched her and Cutieface kill the badger. A diverse assembly of beasts – mostly vermin, but not entirely by any means – had clearly gotten its money's worth of action that day. A complex network of scaffolding and columns supported several successive rings worth of seating for visitors. The seats were packed tonight – few Northlands vermin would pass up the chance to see a fight involving a badger.
Drazat wasn't a regular in the ring by any means, but after the badger had killed off several fan favorites, Nire had opened things up for staff and trainers, too. At this moment – just at this moment – Drazat could understand why even free beasts frequently fought in the Crater.
That said, “fighting a badger” was going right next to “eating a live cricket on a dare as a kit” and “drunkenly proposing marriage to a rat” on the list of things Drazat did not intend to do ever again. The marten wasn't an addict. She was going to take the money, patch up Cutieface's two broken ribs, and go back to just patrolling the perimeter while keeping watch for that gigantic and probably imaginary army that Nire always rambled about when he got too much drink and catnip while trying to think up new games. It wasn't the most stimulating of jobs, but somehow Drazat didn't think she'd be looking for excitement for a long time. Some experiences just didn't get any better with repetition.