When life starts with nothing but pain, cold and darkness, anyone coming out on the other end would ultimately be changed, damaged even. He is definitely no different. Born to a disinterested Eídisi father and a slave mother, he never knew either of them. Perhaps he did, at one point, but life erased anything resembling memories about the both of them. His only reminder of them lies in reflective surfaces, where the ‘best’ of both of his parents mixes into a horrible outcast.
His first memories were of darkness and cold, the cell where he lived under the arena in Rynmere. His first pain came from the slave brand being pressed into his skin. Luckily for him, his owner at the time saw more use in a fighter who didn’t show immediate signs of slavery on his face. The brand was placed on the left side of his breast instead, where clothes or armor would hide it while fighting. Not that his owner would let him forget his status as a slave. When you’re five arcs old, there is very little you can do to prevent the change from human to barely more than a beast or a tool at the hands of certain people.
While other children learned to read and write and went out to play with friends, he learned to punch, to feel pain and to win fights. Aside from himself, there were quite a few other children owned by the man. The ones that could win got better treatment and the ones who lost went to sleep hungry and with twenty new lashes on their back. Arcs passed in this manner, training, fighting, pain and hunger. Over time the lashes hurt less, the punches that connected bruised less and what little flavor food had died as well.
His first public fight was one big, messy defeat on his end and he still remembers the shame, pain and hunger he felt for the next several trials. Ashamed of his own defeat and having let his owner down, he poured himself into his training. If he had to choose between himself or any of these other kids when it came to the pain and hunger he would damn well make sure it wasn’t going to be him. Maybe this was the point where the berserker started. The fight where it happened first, or at least the aftermath of it, is still burned into his mind. He’d gone out to fight, as always, facing some other kid. Sometime during the fight, as the blows kept raining down on him, the pain and the potential for more hunger snapped something inside of him. The next thing he remembered was sitting on top of a bloody pulp, his weapon and shield thrown aside somewhere and his gloves dripping with blood. He vividly remembers pulling a tooth out of the leather and flicking it aside.
With that bloody display and victory, his life got a little better. His food portions got bigger and he spent more time outside, training with other fighters, people he’d never seen before. He wielded swords and spears, hammers, axes, shields and all sorts of exotic, sometimes even cumbersomely so, weaponry. During all this trial and error trying to find something that fit him, he began to understand that he was here to stay. He’d fought his way out of the dark and cold cells and into the sun lit training grounds.
The revelation that fighting well led him from darkness into the light almost toppled his world right over. This knowledge strengthened his belief that doing well for the master was the best thing he could possibly do. How benevolent was the man that was proud enough of him to bring him out here, where all these other fighters were training? That this move came with more training and stricter rules in his life were things he chose to overlook back then.
The life of a prized fighter was good. Over the arcs he earned himself his own room, barely more than a closet, with the added, and often envied, bonus luxury barred window with a view outside. While he wasn’t anything remotely like the undefeated champion of the ring, he began to win more fights than he lost and over time a trend started to develop. He would be prepared with weapon and shield, or a combination of weapons and thrown items and sent out to fight only to watch him lose them during the fight and end it with his fists. The more he got used to them, the more it happened until he was simply presented with a pair of steel gauntlets one time. The fight ended with spectacular results and his life changed equally spectacularly.
He was called before his master, who was in the presence of another man. At the time, he didn’t really understand what was going on but the unknown man gave money to his master, lots of it, and he was told to leave with the new man to meet his new master. While the feeling of betrayal was present in the pit of his stomach, the outside world and the wonders out there quickly replaced that feeling with excitement. His new master was well dressed and smelled much better than anyone he’d ever met before.
His new home came with four or five other fighters. Two of them seemed happy to meet him while the other three kept their distance. He felt much more akin to the latter three than the first two. Before, any fighter smiling at you was a fighter about to stab you in the back. In his new household, or stable as his master called it, all of his training was focused on the use of the steel gauntlets he was given. He learned to wield them in combat, punching people, grabbing whatever he could get hold of and throwing them down to finish them off. Every other trial, he spent time outside, guarded, training at the arena with one of the trainers there. Some of the things he was taught resonated well with him while others didn’t and over time, he started mingling his skills together in a form that worked for him.
The steel gauntlets were as much his defense as they were his offense. Blocking weapon strikes with uncanny precision and then following up with hits to exposed areas. If there were no exposed areas he’d simply make them by grabbing shields or weapons, arms, legs or hair and pulling or pushing until he got through. He probably spent as much time getting bandaged and healing up as he did actually fighting but he did the latter with a lot of success. The other fighters in the stable all had similar results and training schedules.
Arcs passed and what had started as distrust towards the other fighters slowly turned to camaraderie. They were, after all, comrades in arms. Especially the two who had greeted him smiling, he managed to befriend. One night, after they’d drunk a bit too much, celebrating this or that victory, they formed a bond of brotherhood, swearing to live and die together. As if the immortals had overheard them, the youngest of the three was put up to fight next against an opponent they all knew he wouldn’t be able to win against. He tried to take his place, as his chances were marginally better, against someone soon to own a gladiator title but his master wouldn’t let him. He never did ask why.
The fight ended with the result they all expected. Barely ten trials after they had formed a bond ‘to live and die together’ one of them had died. The fight had been more a cat toying with his prey than anything else and in the end their friend had died a mess of cut off limbs, blood and tears. Definitely not how a real fighter should go out. While he seethed and swore vengeance to the high heavens, his friend, Quan sat in silent contemplation. They drank less than the last time they had been together and spoke even less. At the end of the night, Quan spoke up and offered him an oath, one of blood and promise. A bond of blood that neither of them would ever raise their hand against the other and a promise to do everything they can to keep each other safe. He distinctly remembers seeing the shimmering silver tattoo on his friend’s side at the time. It would be arcs before both these oaths would find themselves suddenly and abruptly ended.
The seasons came and went in training and fighting and life took on a routine turn. One trial, the master invited him to come along. Curious, he joined him and with some guards and servants they went back to the arena. It was the first time he could experience the fighting from this side. He didn’t really understand the appeal, he’d much rather be down there, fighting himself. During the conversation he had with his master, the man kept asking him what he thought about fighters and who was going to win. His instincts quickly found him a single person out of the group and he pointed him out. While his target didn’t win, he fought well and at the end of the fighting had managed to survive the tournament. Several bits later, he watched his master count out the money needed to buy this young man.
When it had happened to him, he had not understood what was going on. It had been arcs since then and he had learned much about the world. The buying and selling of arena fighters was as much a trade as the slave or fish trade. It wasn’t until that moment that he realized that perhaps he, too, could buy a fighter and free them. He could keep up his end of the oath to Quan by buying him and never letting him fight again. He carefully broached the subject towards his master, asking him if it was possible for him to keep some of his winnings for himself. When he was asked why, he tried to think of a good reason without telling him that he wanted to buy out a fellow fighter from his own master. Before he could come up with something, his master laughed and clapped him on the back, mentioning something about girlfriends. He didn’t really understand but he’d gotten the permission.
Fighting became about more than just winning. With trial and error he learned how he could increase the amount of money he earned by placing bets on himself to win. He never told Quan about it as he saved up little by little. It took him several more arcs before he’d managed to put together as much money as he thought he needed. After that first outing with his master, he’d joined him on a few more over the arcs, often times calling out the winners or better fighters for him and watching them get bought. He learned to roughly estimate value depending on how he thought about a certain fighter and how much his master paid for them in the end.
His big break came when he was listed for the seasonal match. The monetary reward was top of his list and he was sure that that, combined with all the money he’d saved up, he would be able to buy Quan and keep his oath to him. The seasonal match came closer and the trial of the fight, he gladly joined the many fighters in there. He still clearly remembers the moment before the fight. Several other fighters were around him and he could see and hear some of them praying to whatever immortal they figured would save them. He still blushes thinking about the cheesy line he delivered to them in regards to their praying. It involved only needing to pray to one immortal: the immortal of bloody, gory victory and that it would be silly for him to pray to himself.
The fight was messy and chaotic and most of his opponents, especially the early ones, were simply thrown out of the ring rather than beaten to a bloody pulp. The final two opponents he fought did prove their worth but facing the berserker they both ended dead or broken at his hands. When he regained his own mind, coming back from his berserker state, he did find himself more wounded than normally. Blood was seeping down his chest and legs from various cuts and breaks in his skin. His gauntlets, as usual, were dripping with blood and bits of human. The fight was over and won. He received both the gold and the title with pride and went to see his master as soon as he was presentable and gotten all his gold together. The rest is one big blur and haze. He only remembers standing outside of the house much later, the flickering of flames as they consumed the house. He was holding a ring of keys in one hand and watched the other fighters quickly leave, their chains unlocked on the ground in front of him. He couldn’t recall anything of what happened, no matter how hard he’d try in later arcs. He had no idea where Quan was, he hadn’t been amongst the fighters leaving the scene.
Before he could go back inside to try and find anyone still alive, the guards arrived and managed to subdue him. The long fight in the arena had taken more out of him than he had anticipated. They found several bodies, some fully burned other clearly recognizable, dead at the hands of someone with big fists. Only one person came to mind and he was quickly detained and judged. During the entire trial, whenever he tried to tell people things he felt sick to his stomach, as if he was about to throw up and could barely tell them he didn’t know what had happened before actually throwing up.
He was judged to the mines, where he would work until his death. The first few trials were horrible for him. He got sick from his wounds and suffered heavily from them for quite some time afterwards. It took the most part of the season for him to simply get back on his feet. Only half aware of the next few arcs, he worked trial in, trial out, hauling rocks and metals from underground to the top. He only had one thought, trying to find Quan. What had happened to him? He slowly got back to his old strength and things took a turn for him when he was invited to join one of the fights in the mine’s arena. He spoke very little, often feeling ill whenever he tried to tell people he was a Gladiator from the arena or that he didn’t really know why he was here.
It definitely resembled the first few years of his life once more. Dark and Cold and Pain. The fighting was much easier, of course, having a life of training and experience to back him up now. Whenever he won, he earned himself a gold coin. After a while, the fighting scene increased and he was allowed to fight on location. Nothing resembling the grand arena of Rynmere but he got to see some sights. Arcs came and went, new masters followed them, coming and going, bought, sold, bought, sold. Monetary rewards went from single gold pieces to dozens of them over the course of time. His last master was younger and friendlier than any of the first ones. He was more interested in the stories and training he could provide for him than in actually putting him up for fights. Only because he kept asking for them did he agree. When he finally presented him with all the money he’d saved and asked for his freedom, the man, to his surprise, actually agreed.
He wandered the world for several arcs, seeing the world away from the Rynmere arena and found himself spending the last of his purse when arriving in Scalvoris.