Tuesday, September 27, 2011

131 Days 1-2 - Keith C. Blackmore

"Baylus stood in a white tunnel, long and bare, leading upward to a thick portcullis. A gatekeeper stood a few paces in front of him checking his fingernails for dirt. A lever protruded from the wall over his left shoulder. Baylus ignored the gatekeeper and regarded the bench to his right. There for support, he had sat on it once before toward the end of his first tournament because he had been tired of it all and couldn’t wait to be finished, one way or another. That was five years ago. He had done that five years ago and vowed never to return. Made promises to dead men that he’d never return. Yet, here he was. And for what? When he hacked heads off brutes trying to do the same to him, he wished it was finished. He wished it was done, either with him winning it all or just dying in one short, spraying grunt. He had vowed he would never return to the hell of the Sunja’s Pit. But here he was, both ashamed and excited.

He had won it all five years ago. He won the title and the coin. He had a life of unwanted celebrity status and routine. He avoided people who wanted stories of the Pit. He got angry with them, got angry at the smiles when they told their tales of warriors, of gladiators, when really they didn’t know one damned thing. They were spectators watching men tear the guts out of each over and delighting in it for an afternoon. Or morning. Or whenever the bloodletting was scheduled. All believed they knew his strengths and weaknesses. They didn’t know anything more than what they saw from the stands high above, far away from harm. One time, a crazy Zhiberian had flung his spear into the masses and pinned two poor unlucky bastards through their gullets. That was the talk of the gladiators that day, and more than one wished they had come up with the same idea. Not that the Zhiberian got away with it. They dragged him out of Sunja’s Pit using meat hooks. Archers had cut him down right proper. But he had gotten his point across.

The crowds were both grand and… evil."

4 out of 5