Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity
Grasping at his earliest memory only brings the smell of fire and screams of death. This young elf’s mind was very kind to shield him from the reality of his early years. Orcs made short work of his small community. Not that the Elves were short of courage or skill, but to call the Red Mountain Orc force a raiding party would be an mistake. A mistake many would give their lives for through Warlord Brag the Bloody’s history.
If our young elf, Peren, could remember that day he would remember the last stand of the Shardwood Elves. An opportunity to see these great warriors wielding two swords fighting with speed and precision was a site he couldn’t miss. A small raiding party would be turned aside quickly and efficiently. As he found his hiding place among the brush he realized something was different. Orcs were everywhere, this was no raiding party, it was an invasion. Hiding in the brush near the front line of defenders, he was trapped. He had faith in these great warriors and knew they would win the day. Even as the bodies of Orcs piled in front of each defender, one by one they began to fall, until one elf remained. The Great Elven Captain, armor dented, blades nicked, he fought on. Peren, eyes locked on the Captain, still held his faith even as a giant red skinned Orc pressed through the seething mass of its kin. The Orc bellowed orders as it swung its giant axe crashing through the Captain’s defense and sending him flying to land hard on the ground. Peren screamed as he ran to the Captains side. Just before the Captain died his eyes went wide over Peren’s shoulder. Peren turned to see the foot of the giant Orc descending down knocking him unconscious. None of the Elves realize in their panicked retreat that the order from mighty Brag was “Take slaves.”
Brag had a raiding party at one time. They preyed on man caravans outside of Duchy Jepson. Choosing the wrong caravan had put his party on the run from a cavalry detachment that pushed them too close to the city of Scandshard. Camping that night with his dwindling party and their group of captives he realized he would have to travel to Red Mountain to build his force. He was having trouble concentrating with the cries of the fattest captive as they led him to the cooking pot. Even after beating the cries out of him the man continued to whimper. Brag glanced over to enjoy the sad creatures final moments of anguish with the fat man’s head firmly underfoot the orc raised his axe high. A solid but high voice said in Orc “He is worth more alive than dead.” So began Brag’s rise to power on the coin of flesh and the brutality only an Orc possess.
Peren was one of many sold to Scanshard after the long trek with the Orc captors. The first memory he could clearly remember was kindness shown to him as he was cleaned for assessment. A young elf could be used for many things in a city of indulgences. Luckily his speed of body saved him before his speed of mind learned to avoid the cruel reality of those indulgences.
Attractive and elegant by nature, fast young Elves were commonly used for bet runners for the upper class of the Arena. Peren was assigned the 17th box of the 3rd level of the Gladiatorial Arena. The 3rd level catered to the gambling merchant class or the young foppish nobles. He learned earlier the way of the world as a slave. All his money went to his masters and disagreements were only for other slaves. Peren thrived here for many years as he grew, always perceptive of the nature of people, keeping his ear to the stone, and making friends of good nature where he could.
His life wasn’t bad for a slave. He was treated well enough, fed better than most, and had saved through illegal betting and hiding tips with a dream of freedom. His favorite part of life was watching the fights. As a slave he always felt a connection with the contestants. Also, it gave the promise of a path to freedom which drove some slaves to volunteer for the Pit. The fact that none had achieved freedom in many years fell on deaf ears. The best Gladiators were kings among the other slaves and none bothered to try for their freedom in a long time.
Task Master Oren had heard rumors of the big Elf stowing money, but he didn’t take interest until he heard it to be a pile of gold. He had searched the room, more accurately his slave thugs, had searched the room and found enough to justify sending the bet runner to the pit. The Elf had served well, but was getting older and could be a threat. Still he would allow the Elf to grovel to keep his place before sending him to the pit.
Peren did not grovel. Anger boiled inside him seeing his freedom slip away every time the Task Master bounced the coin purse in his hand. The small smug man, with his pock marked face and twisted grin. He lashed out at the Task Master and his thugs. He was beaten severely and tossed into the pit. The Task Master would forever have a crooked smile after that night.
Slaves that weren’t sold right away or sent to the establishments of their Masters were sent to the Pit. Catacombs ran deep below the Arena in Scanshard, a natural prison. The Pit consisted of the top two levels. The Peacocks controlled both levels and guards patrolled on regular schedules. This Pit was more of a small town than a slave pen. The top floor included the auction area, armory, kitchens, common areas, and other assorted rooms. This floor was often travelled by non-slaves making on Peacock business. The lower level was housing, a large common area, and shops that traded in all services except weapons. Barter was the only currency in the Pit and slaves were quick to turn you in for coin or weapons to garner favor with the gang.Peren was dumped with the other new members on the first level. As the physically able were assessed for combat ability the barely conscious Peren was taken to the Cutters to see if he would survive. A bent back miser with rotting teeth and water eyes patched his wounds. His bouts of consciousness were filled eating the sludge provided to the general populace and listening to the old man talk to himself.
Peren did survive and found that he had an advantage compared to the other slaves. Years of proper eating and daily interaction with educated society gave him a physical and mental edge. He found the under city of the Pit was a much poorer and sadder version of the rest of the world he knew. He allied himself with a group of gladiators because they had an elf trained in the two sword style. He wasn’t sure why the style appealed to him, but he was drawn to it.
Within weeks Peren was fighting in the arena. Some fights with his group to represent battles through history and sometimes he fought alone. Driven by the idea of freedom, taking another creatures life became easier and easier. As time passed though he realized that the reality of freedom through the Arena was next to impossible. The entire slavery system was well designed to keep slaves as slaves. He had to find an out.
When he wasn’t training or fighting Peren was observing the coming and going of people on the top floor of the Pit. The only access in or out of the area was through the compound of the Peacocks. The only flaw in their system was the overconfidence of the individual guards. As a Gladiator in the arena nobles could purchase the services of the Gladiator for a night. He had attracted an admirer after besting a long time crowd favorite in single combat. She had purchased his services for the night and he was sent to bathe and given modest if slightly worn clothes. He was escorted by a Peacock guard to a large room with a dinner table and large bed. He wasn’t sure what was expected, but had seen slaves enter this room and seem to come out no worse for wear. That night the guard of similar build and an elf like Peren traded clothes with Peren and took his place in the bed. Once the noble left he told Peren to keep his mouth shut and he could have the dinner left overs. Peren accepted, he ate the rich food, cleaned up, traded clothes back and they left the room.
This ritual became a regular occurrence, the elf taking Peren’s place with various customers. After the guard realized that Peren wasn’t telling their secret he opened up. The elf enjoyed the idea of giving it to the nobles and the deception made him enjoy it that much more. Peren soaked up every word the guard said, he was from Scanshard, spoke with a slight guttural accent and had an almost unnoticeable limp in his left leg. Weather it was the eagerness for the nobles, the excitement of the deceit or the years of humbled slaves the guard’s complacency with his arrangement was growing every encounter.
Peren had waited for this moment for over 6 months. Fighting as flashy as could and showing bravado to the crowd that he had never done before. He wanted suitors, he wanted all the suitors this guard could handle. Her name was Isabella De’Irle and she was the fattest daughter of a very powerful Merchant. She preferred the company of women, but would on occasion travel to the Arena for a tryst. The guard traded clothes with him and he went into the side room designated for guards, so the nobles could have their privacy, but also be protected. Peren didn’t have to wait long and the light was turned off. Our guard friend had only been with Isabella once before and Peren remembered his shudder and comment that the next time the lights go out for that one. The guard had always kept his weapon on the far side of the bed from Peren and some form of light was always on. Peren took a deep breath and moved for his opportunity for freedom.
Grunts and moans filled the room where all else was black. Peren was no stranger to this room, he had memorized every step of this small cage. He quickly worked his way over to the far side of the bed retrieved the short sword and a butter knife and went back to the small room. His heart was racing like he was about to charge into the Arena to his death. He calmed his breathing, focused on his plan and taking the butter knife. After the final groan from the true guard he stood, focused on his plan. The cracked door to the side room gave him a view of the exit. He saw light flicker and then brighten as a lamp was lit. The suitor quickly dressed and left the small room, blowing a kiss at the bed as she exited.
The guard was standing with his back to Peren, as he turned Peren stabbed him in the gut with a look of utter suprisde on the guards face. He barely heard the guards scream of pain and help as he dragged him closer to the table. Peren let the blood of the guard drench his front before smash his face twice with the pommel of the short sword. The guard fell back knocking the table over sending food and plates everywhere. He then took the butter knife and stabbed it into his left shoulder twice before backing to the door and calling out with a slight guttural accent.
The Sergeant of the guard burst through the door with two guards at his back. The scene he saw was more common than expected in his 20 years of guarding the Peacock compound. The Gladiators were usually smart enough to get their jollies off and return to their Arena. At least once a year one of the Gladiators would make a try at a guard and then a try to escape. None had succeeded as his men were trained well and this compound was specifically designed to prevent escape. The Sergeant checked the slave as his men helped the guard to his feet. He instructed the guard be taken to see a healer and the slave disposed of. Damn shame to lose that slave, he won me a good bit of money over the years.
The other guards helped Peren in a small wagon as he partial feigned the pain he was having. A short but very wide guard started leading the mule up the street as the other guards went back into the compound. The mule must have taken this route many times before because the short guard dropped back next to the wagon and looked in. The guard pulled his hood back and revealed the ugliest mug Peren had ever seen. He was bald, with giant eyebrows, a bulbous nose and big mouth. His features were all scarred, mole covered or discolored, but he had the most perfect teeth as he smiled at Peren. “I saw your first fight. Hell, I lost 2 months wages betting against you. What you pulled there was real smart like.” He laughed. “Got it all right ya know, the voice, the limp, one thing though, Scorch had brown eyes” He smiled again “Let me make you a deal. I got a cousin does loans with the Peacocks, we can make good coin working for him. You give me half your first year wages working loans and we call all this even, what do you ya say?” Peren nodded. “Good good, by the way my name is Leff and for now your name is Scorch.”