It was we, the people [Sabine]

A trip to the Arena

The capital city of the of Rynmere, here is seated the only King in Idalos.
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Elyna
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

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13th Ashan 716
The skyrider was hunched over and wearing as many layers as she owned for warmth. The wooden bench was low to the ground so her legs were stretched out as far a she could put them, without kicking the man sat in front of her. Her hood was pulled up, keeping the worst of the icy wind off of her ears. Her thick jerkin was fastened tight over a shirt and she’d worn all the stockings she could find to try and stop the painful sensation of numb toes in boots. Still, she felt more than half-frozen, although a quick sip of brandy from her flash had the tendency to take the worst hit off. She couldn’t wait for Ashan to finally warm up and stamped impatient feet on the stalls. She rubbed her fingers together, blowing on them for all the good it did her.

But it was hard to feel too sorry for herself, as the fanfares died down and the first combatants were bought forth to the arena. The sacrifice had been made, blood had been spilt and she’d grimaced, trying to hide the expression in the shadows of her hood.

Why did she always come here? Hatred was a powerful force and it twisted deep within her belly, and yet she always attended the ritual of the cycle; and every cycle she hated it more and more. Her teeth were pressed hard together, clenched and the pulse raced in her neck as she tried to curb her sense of revulsion. It was dangerous to come here and display such emotion, her thoughts were not popular in Rynmere and less so amongst many of the nobility.

This, the second or third match of the day was always one of the worst. The men that edged out of the gates were scrawny at best and wraithlike at worst. They carried nasty little blades, sharp as well if the amount of blood they tended to draw was anything to go by. They must have been frozen themselves, eyes and hair wild, dressed in barely more than a suit of linen. Burial clothes. If anyone of them made it out alive, she’d have choked on her drink. Angry tears rose as they fight began. Give her a sword and she could have broken them all in moments. They were hopeless, underfed, under clothed, these were not the prize-fighters. Why use all the best talent for the earlier performances, when half the city hadn’t yet been bothered to drag their arses out of bed? The real battles came later, the men with skill and something in their expression even more desperate than death, hope. Hope that their freedom would be granted.

Elyna pressed the back of her hand against her mouth and bit against her knuckles. It was the only way to remain calm. Because she searched the faces, every cycle for one she recognised. Hoping and dreading the moment she was sure would one day come; and that was why she forced herself down to the pit of humanity each cycle.
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

The icy wind raged, but a fire burned within her.

It was a fire built of disgust and pity and loathing: for herself, for the Gazette, for the fighters, but most especially for the puppeteers - the ones who forced the fighters to perform.

She didn’t have to be sitting close to the arena floor to see the fear and desperation that rose from the gaunt puppets like a wisp rose from its grave.

Sabine scowled heatedly down at the pit, and then at the cheering spectators scattered around the half-empty arena. Cowards, the lot of them. She had to be here. Had to report the fighting results, had to earn her wages, had to free her father. But them? The other spectators? They came for sport. For fun. It made her stomach turn just thinking about it.

She pulled the fur trim of her coat closer to her neck and cursed her supervisor for sending her into the reaper’s playground. Not only was the tradition obscene, but it was so damn cold that she couldn’t even write. She’d have to actually remember the results - and that would only be possible if her brain didn’t give up and freeze to death.

Not unlike the pair of prisoners fighting in the arena’s second match.

“I could knock them both over with my pinky.”

Sabine’s jaw clenched as the man seated behind her began purporting his superiority to the morning’s imminent victims. His voice was slimy, like sewage water. Sabine could almost feel it dripping down her back.

The man’s companion snorted. “It’s not even worth betting on,” he said. “They’ll manage to kill themselves from the strain of trying to swing those blades.”

“Right? What a joke. These guys actually think they can fight?”

“They don’t exactly have a choice,” Sabine said loudly, keeping her eyes glued to the arena floor.

Her sense of propriety was limited at best, and non-existent at worst.

“What was that, now?” Sewage Water leaned forward and clapped a gloved hand heavily on Sabine’s shoulder. “What did you just say?”

She jerked away from his touch, and twisted around to glare up at him with feral eyes. “I said, they don’t have a fucking choice. You, however, chose to be a depraved moron when you woke up this morning.”

Before he could respond (with his big dumb mouth, she added childishly), Sabine grabbed her bag, flipped her braids, and stalked past the six empty seats to her right until she was blocked from going any further by a cloaked woman sitting with outstretched legs.

Well, that was just great. Sabine exhaled her frustrations and dropped onto the bench next to the woman. Just what she wanted: another entitled spectator taking up space and revelling in someone else’s death.

At least, that was what she thought before catching a glimpse of her bench partner. Her expression was pained, and she looked to be on the verge of tears.

That’s unexpected.

Sabine’s anger softened as her interest piqued. Perhaps the woman wasn’t upset about the fight (grieving a recently dead pet, perhaps, or maybe a husband), but it didn’t hurt to probe. Sabine had already caused a small scene; what was one more?

She leaned forward casually, balanced her elbows on her spread knees, and nodded her head towards the arena. “So… Is this as terrible for you as it is for me?”
Last edited by Sabine on Sat Apr 30, 2016 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 592
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

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The skyrider took a casual interest in the excitement a few spaces down on the benches, but satisfied that no one was about to get pummelled into the wooden seats, she had fixed her gaze back on the loosely named sport in the arena. The young woman risked a sidelong glance as the seat beside her was filled and sat up with care. She smoothed her hands, pink with cold and splotchy, over her woollen trousers.

"It's an unpopular opinion to hold," she spoke quietly and returned her gaze to the front. She was confident in her ability to hold her own in a brawl, or even try and protect someone else. But she wasn't arrogant enough to imagine she could fight the entire blood braying crowd over a difference of opinion. She scowled, if only it was such a trivial matter in truth.

Elyna looked, properly at the young woman who had claimed the seat, she offers a grimace of sympathy, "you'd think though, after so many centuries if civilisation- we would find a better use for the lives of our men and women," her anger was barely contained, simmering beneath the surface. She hoped she had not misjudged the woman's words, "you'd think there would be a better way..."

She nodded her head to the pitiful struggle as a death rattle rang out, "if the wind blows to hard they'll snap..."
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

“An opinion’s popularity doesn’t make it any more or less right,” Sabine replied, unconcerned with thoughts of who might overhear her words.

She was entirely convinced of the barbarity in forcing men to fight one another, and especially in forcing men to fight one another to the death. But she didn’t take issue with the fighting itself. If the matches had been entirely between free men or women, she would have been perfectly content to watch them kill each other. A person’s life was theirs to keep or throw away as they pleased, and their desires for death were none of her business. No, what made the act barbarous was the complete lack of agency on the part of the prisoners and the slaves who had been sentenced to die on the field for Andaris’ amusement.

Andaris. She flexed her gloved hands, focusing on the stretch of the leather to help keep her hatred of the name in check until the woman beside her finished speaking. It was so cold that her breath steamed in the freezing air with each word shared.

“You say civilization,” Sabine said. “But I see nothing civilized here. I see pawns and cowards and cretins” - here, her eyes darted back to the men she’d left behind - “but these can’t possibly be the products of what you call ‘civilization’. At least, not any civilization that I want to be part of.”

Attendants came to drag the dead prisoner’s body off to the side of the arena, where he would either be burned or returned to whatever pitiful family he had. The surviving man was left shivering within the circle of blood until a half-starved slave was pushed out onto the floor and the bell rang, signalling the start of yet another match.

Of yet another murder at the hands of the Kingdom.

A thought occurred to Sabine, and she eyed her bench partner’s distressed appearance. “Why are you even here, if you find it so troubling?”

Her words were harsh, though that was more a product of their environment than a judgment of the woman seated next to her. How the intent was interpreted, however, remained to be seen.
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

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“No, but it can get you killed – and dead you won’t do much to change anyone’s mind,” Elyna turned to studied the woman more completely, twisting in her seat. She peered behind her at the crowd, thankful that they were too busy cheering on the hapless death of yet another slave. The woman looked sharp, not just intelligent, like a blade, but as though her thoughts and focus on this matter had been coaxed into being finely honed. She had been forged by something.

The skyriders opinion was set in stone when the woman continued her tirade against so-called civilization. The force of her anger was apparent and Elyna found she offered a small nod of agreement. There was nothing civilized in slavery, or forcing folk to their death in her mind. She knew she was unusual, but she prized life above all else. Maybe she should have been born a Gawyne. She didn’t watch the body pulled away, but did turn to look over the new victim pushed forward, brow creasing as she studied him with care.

“Why are you here, when you hate it?” She returned with a brief sidelong glance. She waited for the first swing of the blades before giving a small shake of her head, “I’m looking for someone,” she admitted softly, “someone I hope never to see down there.”

The young woman lent back on the bench, finger curling on the edge of the wooden planking, nails digging into the hard surface. Who could the dead men have been, if life had been different? What skills were now lost from the world forever, what knowledge, what thoughts and expressions were wasted for sport? No one deserved to die like this.
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

Sabine considered the woman’s point before conceding with a nod of her head. She was right, of course. Death would change no one’s mind, except perhaps the minds of those who were still building the courage to speak up.

She eyed her pretty brunette companion with newfound curiousity. The last thing Sabine had expected to find during her visit to the Fighting Arena was someone who could - and would - debate intelligently. Then again, she also hadn’t expected to find someone who held as much aversion to the death sport as herself.

It was a silver lining to the otherwise dismal cloud of misgivings that hung over the stadium.

Sabine nearly smiled at the woman’s retort. Under any other circumstances, she would have smiled. It was certainly a reasonable question to throw back in her face, and she knew she couldn’t expect an answer if she didn’t share one herself.

“I’m a journalist,” she said. “For the Rynmere Gazette. I have to report on the outcome of this horror show. One of the many perks of my job.” Her words were laced with sarcasm.

"And yourself?"

She immediately wished she hadn’t asked. The look of tension that passed over the woman’s posture, and the answer that followed, tugged heavily at Sabine’s heart.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, dropping her voice to match the woman’s soft tone. A sudden cheer from the crowd rocked the arena, and she paused so as not to be drowned out. “That must be dreadful. The not knowing, I mean.”

She hesitated before probing further. “Do you mind if… if I ask who it is that you’re looking for? Are they someone close to you?”

An image of her father popped into her head as she asked the question, and a visceral no rose up in her chest like a flame. She curled her fingers into fists to contain it.

Shut up shut up shut up.

She refused to believe that he would ever end up in the Arena. He wouldn’t ever be desperate enough to bet his life on his freedom, no matter how awful his situation.

He just wouldn’t.

…Right?
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

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A journalist? Elyna’s attention was captured for a moment. A journalist reported the news, they told stories, there was power in words. She loved stories, telling them, crafting them, reading them. She’d considered, once, briefly, after a bad in the training grounds a change of career; but the reality of such a profession quickly turned her interest sour. The idea of having to spend breaks and breaks of time slaving over a piece of text was abhorrent, it gave her a headache just to think about. A nasty annoyance above her left eye. She rubbed her brow and shrugged off the woman’s apology.

The journalist wasn’t sorry for asking her questions, she was merely sorry to hear a genuine response. The skyrider was surprised though when the questions continued and she turned back to the young woman, raising a brow. She studied her again, trying to discern her motives, “this isn’t a story for the world,” she warned, apprehensive.

However, the noble took little convincing to share a little of the troubles shadowing her heart, “I had a trainer once, Nicoli,” she ran her fingertips down the bridge of her nose, “he was a wonderful warrior, he specialised in speed and agility, in using your opponents body against them,” her gaze returned inevitably to the arena, “we used to meet at the dawn call each morning, and one day he wasn’t there,” her gaze narrowed, “they told me he had disgraced his title…” she shook her head. It hadn’t been, and still was not her place to speculate on what disgrace had been put to Nic’s name. All she knew is that he’d never returned.

She nodded her head toward the arena, “I see his style every now and then, in one of the younger fighters…the ones who live a little longer; so there you have it all.”

Elyna wasn’t sure how she felt about being so open. Surely it was more than she usually spoke to anyone, perhaps the young woman was in this profession because she had that effect; of making people spill their secrets.
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

Sabine shoved thoughts of her father to a dark corner of her mind just in time to fend off questions of her integrity.

“Of course it’s not a story for the world,” she said, and looked at the woman with something close to indignation. “I’m a journalist, not a gossip-monger.” Mostly. She considered the Gazette’s Rumours column and then amended her words. “What I mean is that I’m not looking for a story from you. I’m asking because I want to know, not because I want to share.”

She listened quietly as the woman told her tale. When it finished, she opened and closed her mouth. For what felt like the first time in her life, Sabine couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Well, that explains the flask,” she said finally, and nodded towards the brunette’s drink.

It was a terrible joke.

Sabine fell silent and stared out at the arena. The third round was about to wrap up. The prisoner from the previous round had, surprisingly, held his own in his second fight of the morning. He had his opponent on his back and was steps from delivering the finishing blow. She forced herself to watch the slave’s death, as if by watching she could somehow ease his passing. I see you, she thought. I see you, and I will remember you.

I will not let your death make your life meaningless.


The death rattle rang out, the crowd cheered, and the slave’s limp body was dragged away.

Round four.

“I’m sorry about your trainer,” Sabine said, eyes flickering from the arena to the brunette and back. She clenched her jaw. “Sorry.” She was beginning to hate that word. People like Nicoli were being sent to their deaths, and all she could do was apologize. Sabine loved words, but words could not ease the frustration that was building up within her. It was a frustration born of her own powerlessness and inaction, of her complacent participation within a system that thought of slaves as a farmer might think of cattle.

They were tools. Labour.

Expendable.

There had to be a better way.

Sabine shifted restlessly in her seat and grabbed the strap of her bag. “I need a break,” she said. “Can you save my spot?”

Without waiting for a response, she stood and strode past the six still-empty seats towards the nearest stairs. Her thoughts were swirling in a tornado of grievances against herself and the Kingdom; so much so that she did not see Sewage Water and his friend exchange glances and follow her out.
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

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The sky rider was comforted by the womans’ agreement not to share her story and she nodded, offering the mentioned drink with a wry smile, “stops my insides freezing,” she shrugged and took another small sip. She watched the girl beside her forcing herself to witness the brutal death of the slave, but didn’t turn to do the same. For someone who was occasionally, very occasionally responsible for death, Elyna took no joy from it. Two men, she’d killed during all her time with the Skyriders, only two and their faces were burnt in her memory. There was nothing poetic or glorious in it either, it had been ugly.

The woman excused herself and Elyna watched her go; surprised and then dismayed as the man who’d caused a fray earlier quickly swept past her legs, with his friend and dogged the journalist down the stairs, her acquaintance hadn’t noticed, intent on putting space between herself and the blood soaked sand.

The Skyrider didn’t need time to think, she paused long enough that there was space between herself and the two men, before she too stood and trailed after them. Smaller than her targets she found it easy enough to slip soundlessly behind them. The flask was tucked safely in her jacket and she curled her fingers around the grip of a short sword. Elyna was many things, but she wasn’t stupid enough to visit the arena unarmed; not with her uncanny ability of finding trouble wherever she went.

She kept her distance though, not wanting to make an assumption, but unable to shake the feeling that from the set of their shoulders, they meant the journalist no good. Why all the trouble? Why all the time?
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It was we, the people [Sabine]

She took the steps two at a time in her haste to leave the arena. Heads turned towards her as she bounded down the stairs, their faces frozen in smiles and jeers. Sabine's stomach flipped, and a defiant heat rose to her cheeks.

Could they not see what she saw? Andaris might worship humanity, but it was a city of animals. A city of cattle, and sheep, and wolves.

She ducked down the nearest side passageway and jogged just far enough for the cheers to become a distant roar before sagging against the wall in relief.

Shit.

She closed her eyes and tried to control the tug of war that was threatening to tear her in two. She couldn’t stand to stay, but how could she go? How could she leave the fighters to suffer a fate that they hadn’t chosen?

Was she a warrior by name only?

Footsteps echoed on the stone corridor as Sabine fell deeper into self-doubt. They came closer and closer and closer, until - “She sure is quiet now, isn’t she?”

Sabine’s eyes flashed open a moment too late. Her bag was wrenched from her hands, and she found herself blocked in by Sewage Water and his balding friend. Up close, their beady eyes and patchwork coats reminded her of sewer snakes.

Another damn animal to add to the zoo.

“That’s mine.” Her heartbeat sped up, but she reached for her bag without dropping her gaze. She refused to feed the animals, to let them smell her fear. The morning had been difficult enough without losing her pride.

Sewage Water grinned and pulled the bag out of reach. “Here’s the thing, sweetheart-“

“Don’t call me sweetheart.”

“Here’s the thing, sweetheart. I seem to remember you calling me some kind of moron, back in the arena.”

Sabine cocked her head. “And you want a chance to change my mind?”

The grin faded. “What I want is to give you a choice, since you seem to like that idea so much.” He slung the bag over his shoulder and patted it roughly. “One: you can just say you’re sorry, and we’ll be on our way - with a few nels’ compensation, of course.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Fuck you.”

“Yeah, you seemed like a number two kind of girl.”

The balding friend cracked his knuckles and gave her a lazy smile. “Your choice,” he said. “Let’s play.”
Last edited by Sabine on Thu May 12, 2016 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 418
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