Like most of the Arenafics, you probably need a little background before it makes any damn sense, but suffice to say our hero (Kender) is fighting our villain (Gulzak) for the honor of his lady love. Gulzak is also Tiamat's character.

Kender vs. Gulzak

Kender's first step into the stadium was heavy. A weight something like responsibility had settled near his gut, but his second step pushed it away before it could turn into debilitating anxiety. He'd written -- well, dictated -- a letter to his mother that morning that told her of the entire affair, making sure she knew about it from him this time. She'd worry, but he thought she would also approve. After she finished yelling at him, anyway.

The air was crisp and not quite cold, but the sun was shining. He was glad. He never liked to fight under a threatening sky, and for this battle in particular it seemed like a good omen. He looked up to the roof (it was easy to forget it was a roof and not open to the sky outside), taking a deep breath, and suddenly became aware of the roar of the crowd. The second thing he became aware of was his opponent, already in position at the center of the field.

Gulzak was watching him approach, piggish eyes narrowed in an expression of deepest loathing. He would not be satisfied with a simple win. Kender ignored him, gaze drifting curiously over the crowd as he approached the center. He knew everyone was out there somewhere, but he'd have to be a telepath himself to find them. Thinking on it, he was just as happy knowing they were there.

He stopped, finding that he was in the center of the stadium, three feet away from the person he could safely say he hated most in the world. It was odd to think of that -- he wasn't prone to hating people -- but even as he considered it, a loathing to match the Champion's own rose into his gaze.

Over the crowd, he could only vaguely hear the announcer calling for the match to begin, but Gulzak's words were quite clear. "I'll crush you, country boy."

Kender gazed at him silently for a moment. "Save your breath for the fight," he replied finally, stepping back and taking position as per the announcer's instructions and drawing his sword. He'd never put much stock in trash talk. His father had said it was a waste of time, preferring to demonstrate superiority by deed instead of word.

The crowd very suddenly fell silent, waiting for the duel to begin. The announcer roared their names a final time, and the gong sounded.

Gulzak was moving before the first brazen echo fell silent, swinging his axe in a vast overhead strike that forced Kender backward out of surprise, dodging it by a hair. The half-orc pressed him immediately, latching onto the advantage, and Kender let him, darting and weaving a hurried retreat away from the walls and back toward the center. It wasn't a perfect way to start the fight, but it was better than taking a hit -- one swipe from that axe, and they'd likely be wiping smears of him off the walls. As another swing brushed past his ear, it occurred to him they might be doing that anyway.

The crowd grew restless in the background, demanding more action than the mouse fleeing from the cat -- or whatever metaphor sprang to mind. Kender obliged them at last, stepping under an enormous left-hand chop to strike at his opponent from inside his range. The sweep would have gone nicely if Gulzak hadn't blocked it with a gauntleted fist and followed up by attempting to bash his skull in with the butt of his axe. The beast master shifted hurriedly to his left, and the blow glanced off his shoulder.

It didn't hurt as much as he'd thought it would, but it still rattled him badly enough that he was barely able to parry the next strike -- and the next -- and the next -- and get his footing again. He barely had time to breathe before the onslaught of blows came again, pushing him back yet again. The Champion swung recklessly, apparently furious that he hadn't fallen with the second blow, so Kender watched and waited until a particularly wide swing gave him the opportunity he needed.

The resounding clash and following screech silenced the crowd momentarily and cause Gulzak to stop in astonishment upon discovering that his weapon was locked with the beastmaster's. They stayed that way, each attempting to force the other to give ground, when the half-orc lost patience and shifted his weight. Kender had no time to react before his opponent's elbow smashed him in the face, knocking him solidly onto his backside in the packed dirt.

He sat in stunned silence for a split second but was awakened by a roar of triumph from the Champion. The axe flashed once in the sunlight, then came down with an earth-shaking crash that would have been much more satisfying if Kender hadn't rolled out of the way.

Very suddenly their roles were reversed. Kender attacked rapidly and competently, driving at Gulzak from first one side and then the other. It seemed to be making the larger man very, very angry, as he suddenly lashed out with his foot, landing his opponent a solid blow to the gut. He staggered once, but he continued moving forward, backing Gulzak slowly but steadily against the wall.

Gulzak was enraged. The fight was taking much longer than he'd intended -- he should have gotten tired already -- given up -- fallen -- but now it even looked like he was going to lose! It was intolerable.


And the eyes that watched him, predicting and defeating his every move, were as measured and cold as any he'd ever seen on the battlefield. There was real hate behind them. He felt a quiver run down his spine, and it made him even angrier. Afraid? Of this puny farmboy?

He uttered a fearsome roar and charged forward, ignoring the sword, which grazed him across the stomach before Kender could back away. He was too close when the half-orc swung, as well, and instead of the blade, the axe's handle struck his shoulder, crushing him down. Gulzak gave a frustrated snarl, backing away.

He swung again, but his rage turned almost immediately to shock. When he completed the swing, he found his hands were empty, and his axe was flying in the opposite direction to land with a sharp thunk a few feet away. His gaze shot back to his opponent, and he found the tip of Kender's sword levelled at his throat.

Kender watched him in silence, waiting for the Gladiator to make his decision. Gulzak watched Kender, considering his options rapidly.

And then he lunged.

It wasn't the direction the beastmaster expected, but he reacted immediately, shifting his weight and kicking with all his strength at Gulzak's belly, where the sword had struck him. The half-orc roared in pain and astonishment, stumbling and skidding to the ground, arm still stretched toward his axe. He moved to spring to his feet almost immediately, but he found the sword at his throat again, and a boot pressed firmly into his chest.

Kender drew in a ragged breath, wiping a trickle of blood from his nose with his free hand. "I win, Gulzak." He took another breath, then turned away from the fallen Champion, weary of the entire affair.

As he walked away, he was dimly aware of the crowd's sudden roar, oddly shrill, and behind him he heard a heavy tramp and then a snarl. He spun sharply to see Gulzak coming at him, axe in hand, roaring with rage -- and then the half-orc fell, surreally, axe slipping from his grip as he crashed forward to the stadium floor.

The crowd was howling -- the sound was banshee-like -- and the announcer was yelling something, but Kender could only stare blankly at the shaft of the arrow suddenly protruding from Gulzak's head.