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Killian The Troll-Slayer - A Short Story by David Catling

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Killian The Troll-Slayer - A Short Story by David Catling

Post  Vic Vegas on Sat Nov 02, 2013 11:04 am

Posted by ILNEVAL on 06-08-2009:

Killian trudged wearily through the boggy earth, cold rain drizzling down upon his soaked hood. Ever since the loss of his home village to the wanton destruction of rampaging troll armies and the subsequent redefining of Trolland borders he had found himself an outcast and fugitive in a land where he grew and spent his childhood. One of the few survivors of a last suicidal battle against the invading beasts he had been forced to undertake this flight some weeks ago, but exactly how long he had been wandering for he couldn't remember.
Deprived of homeland and cause, this gaunt figure of a warrior was driven on by the knowledge that his journey was near an end, civilisation and new opportunities nearby. Cresting the steep hill he lifted a weather-beaten face to peer upon his goal. There through a thin veil of rain and misery lay the city of Keldarn sprawled before him. The drizzle was abating late that afternoon as Killian wandered through the marketplace in the poor quarter of the city. The sights and smells abounding here was enough to make him feel light-headed, a condition contributed to by sparse rations and little sleep. Keldarn was however, enough to rattle the senses of the staunchest individual. Killian had never seen such a melting pot of races and cultures. Here could be seen a tiny halfling, screeching in high-pitched tones about the virtues of the dubious gems being offered on his stall. Across from him an elf was hawking beads and cheap clothing. Beside him a half-elf sister displays pottery for sale.

The section of the market which commandeered Killian's attention however, was that from which emanated the sweet aroma of roasting meat. Following his nose, the young warrior soon found himself standing before a rickety stall where an enormous half-orc was preparing small morsels of skewered meat. Killian had seldom seen this breed of creature before. He was ridiculously large with broad forehead, protruding jaw and a physique that made you think of an unfinished sculpture untimely brought to life and lumbering around of it's own accord. The monster fixed it's gaze upon Killian and proffered one of it's snacks.

"Two sheckles", the goliath intoned.

Certainly this fare was cheap and for all the meat's dubious origins Killian's mouth began to water. Unfortunately he hadn't a single sheckle upon him. His sole possession was the short sword he carried wrapped under the folds of his robe, hidden there from the view of the town guard. Killian weighed his options.
On the one hand he could walk away and spend the night huddled in a gutter, hungry until morning. On the other he could take a chance on this brute being as slow as he looked, steal the food and spend the night huddled in a gutter but not quite as hungry. The grumblings of his stomach told him this was no choice at all, so he simply snatched the food out of the shocked half-orc's hand and fled.

Head down, twisting through the mob, he sped from the enraged bellows knowing that any town guards in the vicinity would soon be on his tail. Ducking out of the marketplace he went racing down alleyways, through squares and streets, with no mind to his direction. Finally, stamina failing, Killian slowed to a walk, senses straining for sign of pursuit. Finding none he slid down against an alley wall and ravenously devoured his booty. Night had now claimed the city, Having finished his stolen meal, Killian strolled off along the street and boulevards, realising he was now close to the city centre. His surroundings were very grand compared to the poor quarter he had recently fled and to which he knew he must return to sleep.
Considering this, fatigue began to creep over Killian and he started returning to the slums, although by a different route to his escape in order to give the market-place a wide berth.Not far along his trek Killian heard a multitude of conversations emanating from a side street. Even in his weary state his curiosity was aroused and he plodded around the corner to find what had inspired this night gathering. Killian was surprised to discover himself in a narrow street filled to capacity with the wildest assortment of grotty hobos he had ever slapped eyes upon. Just like the marketplace there was a wide diversity of races here, all huddling down for the night under filthy rag blankets. The only explanation for this great unwashed gathering he could surmise was that this must be a sort of official sleeping place of the unwanted members of this community, a place the city guard turned a blind eye to. Whatever the reason, Killian was too tired to care. Figuring he had every right
to count himself a full member of this city's homeless, he pulled his cloak around him and settled down on the hard stone. Surrounded by dubious comrades,
within minutes he was snoring loudly.
An unkind poke in the ribs from a filth-encrusted big toe roused Killian to wakefulness. He reluctantly peeked out from under heavy eyelids to be confronted by the painful light of dawn. He preferred this however to the sudden shadow which was cast upon him by a looming half-orc. Killian leapt fearfully to his feet.

"They've started", rumbled the imposing figure before turning disinterestedly away from him.

Killian thought it wise to take a moment and compose himself. It seemed that he had formed part of a huge rag-tag queue and what the half-orc was referring to was that said queue had started shuffling forwards towards God knew what. Obviously more hobos had joined the ones from yesterday for the line extended out of his sight behind him. Was there some vast soup kitchen they were all headed towards? Killian certainly hoped so as the stolen snack he'd feasted on last night had done
little to relieve his hunger this morning. Just to make sure he turned to the thin elf behind him.

"Where are we going?", he asked simply.

The elf eyed him with some uncertainty. "We're going to the pit of course, that is why we've been here all night".

Those two words, "The Pit", had a certain ominous ring to them, Killian thought. Deciding enlightenment was worth appearing foolish he pressed on. "The Pit?".


The elf, which gave the impression he was now quite certain he was talking to an imbecile replied "Yes, the pit, they're auditioning today. If you didn't know about it, why were you sleeping here?".

Killian supposed it would be best to take charge of the conversation. "Tell me more", he said.


"Well", replied the elf, settling into an instructional role, "about a week ago they finished building this huge arena, right here in the middle of the city. Then the mayor says that it's going to be used for cheap entertainment, gladiators fighting each other every day".

"And this is the line for gladiator school?", prompted Killian, horrible realisation dawning.

"Well for selection by a manager anyway", said his elven informant.

"You see, all the fighters will be working in teams sponsored by their boss. Most of these bosses are wealthy merchants, rich nobles or even a few desperate gamblers like us", he grinned.

Killian nodded thoughtfully while he digested this information. Although the idea of shuffling inadvertently into occupation as an armed gladiator had initially distressed him, he thought perhaps he should be weighing his options. There was one question he thought he'd best get straight right now. "So, these fights are to the death I take it?".

"Oh no", replied the elf. "Each fight is governed by a referee. If one warrior's taken too much of a beating then he'll usually stop the fight".


"Usually?"


"Well, sometimes he might not, it depends on the mood of the crowd. When you think about it I suppose it can't happen very often, after all the team managers don't want to look for new fighters every week".

"Yes," mused Killian, "that makes sense".

"So what do you think", enquired the elf brightly, "are you going in?". At this moment the line shuffled ahead a bit and Killian made the most important decision of his life.

"I suppose it won't hurt to see if anybody wants me", he assented stepping forward.

"Good!", beamed the elf, apparently overjoyed that they may one day be facing each other over raised swords. "Kal", he exclaimed, offering an outstretched hand.

"Killian", said the young warrior, shaking it, "I hope to be standing over your blood-drenched corpse some day soon". Killian was slightly surprised that Kal accepted this remark with genuine humour.

It was past midday when Killian and Kal finally stepped into the shade of a narrow tunnel under the arena's grandstand. Here an ancient scribe was recording details of each warrior before they were ushered by a couple of broad-shouldered veterans into an adjoining room. There was some delay between each fighter and Killian wondered just what sort of test they were undertaking and where they were going from there. Finally, after the hirsute half-orc before him had been entered into the clerk's register and led away, it was Killian's turn.

"Name?", demanded the scribe without looking up.

"Killian".


"Race?"


"Human", said Killian, who rather hoped this was self-evident.

"Previous fighting experience?", croaked the old scribe, scribbling fiercely

"I fought with the Allansian guards against the Trolland armies a while ago".


"That will do", the clerk informed him, sliding his book across the desk, "make your mark here".


Killian scrawled his sign in the indicated space, then resigned himself to more standing around on aching feet, waiting for the two ushers to return.

"You've made the pledge now", Kal whispered into his ear.

"I suppose I have", Killian replied in an equally subdued tone.

The clerk here was, after all, one of 'them', those faceless men who they were now trying to impress and it wouldn't do for him to be privy to their thoughts. The two could think of little else to discuss anyway, given the uncertainty of their situation, and shortly the two musclemen returned to lead Killian away.

"Good luck", called Kal, taking his turn to step up before the scribe. In the adjacent room Killian discovered a large, well equipped armoury. A wide range of armour ranging from leather to heavy plate was pegged against the wall in varying sizes. Opposite these was in impressive collection of weapons, comprising of swords, maces, hammers and every other widow-making appliance imaginable. Some of the weapons, such as a gigantic pole-arm like affair with a large brick fixed onto one end, appeared to be intended for giants. Others, such as lightweight knives and thin quarterstaves could have been wielded by the smallest halfling.

"You may choose any weapon and armour you wish", one of the men informed the prospective gladiator.

"Once you are ready we'll lead you into the arena to spar against one of the Blood Master's fighters".

"The Blood Master?", enquired Killian apprehensively.

"He's the boss", said the other veteran. "He'll announce you to the buyers, now you'd best get suited up and don't make him wait".

Acknowledging the wisdom of this, Killian picked out a suit of leather roughly his size. At least this wouldn't be too tiring, he figured, given his present state of malnourishment. For a weapon he decided on a well sharpened broadsword, discarded the old short sword he already carried and also scooped up a target shield for added defence. As he strapped himself into his armour one of the warriors offered some further advice.

"When you walk in you'll see a big stone fellow. Don't worry, your fight's not with him, he's the ref. Normally he's the one that'd stop one of you from getting killed if things got too bad, but this is only a bit of nonsense for the buyers, so it won't get that far anyways".

"A big stone fellow? You mean a golem?"

"That's right", affirmed the veteran.

"I thought all golems had been driven from these lands years ago", protested Killian.

"The Blood Master has his ways", shrugged the warrior.

The other fighter clapped Killian on the back with a "Right! Let's go!" and led him out of the armoury into another tunnel, this one opening out into the bright sunshine of the pit.

"March out proud with your head up, try to make a good impression", was the last advice the veterans gave him as he strode out onto the sands of the pit. The sight which greeted Killian was one of darkest nightmare transposed onto a scene of glaring noonday sun. Across the wide expanse of sand stood a creature to make mere human blood freeze. Encased in glinting, fine-mesh steel armour, the thing towered above Killian's head, saliva dripping from yellowed fangs set in a jutting jaw. It's small, beady eyes were fixed in a broad, sloping forehead, the skull capped with evilly pointed horns. Almost in a state of shock, Killian let his gaze fall back down the muscular frame of this hell-spawn to settle on what hung from an oversized right paw. It was a black ball of blood-stained metal, every available inch of which sported long, thin spikes. The monster chuckled, a deep, throaty expulsion of fetid breath from between wicked jaws and Killian believed he felt the first stiffenings of rigour mortis beginning to set into his bones.
A sudden, lumbering movement to his left jerked the newly recruited gladiator out of his trance. He spun around with broadsword raised to find himself facing a moving brick wall. Castling his head far back (why is it he was suddenly feeling so small?) he found the rock-like head mounted upon this mountain of masonry and only then did he realise the thing was surely the golem referee he had been told of. The sound of booming, sonorous voice made Killian spin yet again and his overloaded senses registered the sight of a large, dark-clad man standing in a box high above the stands, stands which he only now noticed held many wealthy-looking individuals peering at him intently. It was the large man who was speaking in the tones of an experienced general, completely in charge of this crazy spectacle. The Blood Master, Killian realised.

"Our next warrior, Killian the troll-slayer, stands ready for his time of testing", intoned the imposing figure. Killian only wished he was as ready as the man said.

"His opponent", the Blood Master continued, "Jason the half-troll". With that the dark one settled back upon a large throne.

Killian suddenly regretted mentioning his previous combat experience and hoped that the half-troll hadn't taken his new honorary title too seriously. All doubt on that point was soon resolved however, as over four hundred pounds of enraged, snarling muscle hurtled across the sands towards him, morningstar raised purposefully. With the agility of the desperate Killian leapt aside and rolled once in the hot sand, kicking up eye-stinging dust to spring to his feet again, now behind the charging monstrosity. Appearances had deceived though, and the towering nightmare amazingly spun about, changing direction seemingly in mid-air with a dexterity Killian would never have dreamed it possessed. The morningstar came whistling down through the still air, wielded like a bullwhip. The deadly device of destruction slammed into Killian's left shoulder and though the sharpened spikes failed to penetrate his leather tunic the sheer force of the blow was enough to send him crashing to the ground, gasping in mouthfuls of dirt.
Panicked, he rolled away to his right, spitting sand and desperately blinking grit-filled eyes. Killian felt the earth shudder as inches away the morningstar
came thundering down after him again. Then he was on his feet, striking out blindly in the hope of scoring a hit before Jason could bring his weapon to bear again. He felt the blade strike something hard and unrelenting, then ducked as he sensed the half-troll's murderous weapon swing by overhead. Killian leapt off the ground, attempting to tackle his opponent and wrestle him down. The ill-conceived plan had little success as he rebounded and landed flat on his behind before the chillingly efficient engine of destruction.
Badly dazed, Killian peered up into the bright noon sun and wondered detachedly about the swiftly moving shadow curving down towards his skull... and then the sun was gone. It took a couple of seconds before Killian regathered his wit enough to realise the cause of the shadow which now enveloped him. The great wall
of stone golem stood before him, distancing Killian from sure death in the form of a half-troll. Rising groggily to his feet Killian heard the resonant tones of the Blood Master.

"Thus ends the testing of Killian the troll-slayer. How bid thee?"

So this is the start of the auction, thought Killian. I've consigned my soul to the Blood Master and now he sells it off to the highest bidder, if there are any after that performance he mused, shaking his slightly befuddled head gingerly and tenderly working the muscles in his battered left shoulder. On this day of surprises Killian had one more as, while Jason the half-troll lumbered off and the golem shuffled back to his assigned position, the bidding did commence.


Oh good, thought Killian with a dazed grin,

WELCOME TO THE PIT.
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