200 The Beast of the Arena*
Aegin bit back a grunt as the burly beast of a man slammed him onto the floor. That had hurt, more than he'd care to admit.
The first two days inside the prison cells beneath the warrior's arena had been spent eating actual meals and trying to regain some semblance of humanity. Nearly a month inside a cramped brig had been hell on his body, but it wasn't something he was completely unaccustomed to. As a part of the Ridge Men, part of his training, punishments as well, had been similar treatment followed by harsh training. His body remembered the rebound, a part of the reason why he'd been able to threaten the Slave Master originally.
Still, he'd felt tired too quickly after that brief fight. He welcomed the food that meant more energy for his tired muscles.
After those initial two days, the meals had continued, but the sparring with the other warriors, the more experienced ones, had begun. Aegin had some semblance of respect for them, mostly because it hadn't taken them long to figure out that he was putting too much strain on his body for what it had been through. After they started ganging up on him in groups of three, he took several beatings.
Of course, that didn't mean he didn't take the opportunity when presented to give as good as he'd taken. They'd seemed to respect that about him, rather than treating him as a live punching bag, they started treating him like he may actually last a little longer. Though, it was only when the treatment changed that Aegin realised that none of them had expected Aegin to come out of his Challenge fight in the Arena alive.
The Beast of a man who had pinned him was literally known as 'Beast'. He'd been at the arena for over a decade, and was one of the most accomplished warriors there. He barely spoke to anyone but the eight or so others that were as accomplished as him. Most of the hundred or so warriors in the cells assumed it was because he believed the majority below him, but Aegin had watched him interacting with the ones higher up. He did not disregard those junior to him because he had some sort of superiority complex, it was because he feared what relationships he would form with them. It was pretty much a guarantee that those of lesser skill sets were more likely to die. By forming relationships only with those more likely to live, he was saving himself from a whole lot of emotional and mental pain.
Today, on his sixth morning in the cells and the day before his fight, Aegin had approached him. Aegin hadn't only watched the man inside the common rooms and cells, he'd watched him in the sparring ring as well.
"I want a challenge, and I was hoping you'd be willing to meet it," Aegin had said. Not arrogantly, it was his show of respect for the other man. Beast had looked up at Aegin, along with the other eight warriors he usually interacted with, then he'd given a half smile.
"For a last request kid, I gotta say that's a first".
Aegin can't have been more than six years younger than Beast, yet he was a 'kid'? Aegin brushed off the jab and agreed to meet on the sparring mat.
This was his fourth round, and every time he'd ended up on the mat. All it took was for Beast to get some form of hold on him, the man was just too damn strong.
Aegin tapped him and the Beast released him. Aegin sat up, giving a deep sigh. The other eight chuckled from the sidelines, having found amusement in watching the spar.
"Don't look so forlorn," one of them said, "Every one of us gets beat up by Beast at least once a month".
In the Arena no doubt. Despite this being a sparring room, Beast had made no attempt at causing Aegin actual injury. There was plenty of time for that in the Arena.
Aegin took in a deep breath and stood, "One more time".
They paused, looking at Aegin. Beast didn't hesitate though as he stepped forward once more. He was a mountain of a man, at least seven feet tall and enough muscle to crush Aegin pretty easily. His stability was incredible. Aegin had already tried twice to knock him off his feet and been unsuccessful. His first attempt he'd gone all in, that hadn't worked either. In his final attempt, Aegin had attempted to climb the man to get an arm around his neck, but that had just given Beast the opportunity to get his arms around Aegin. It had been one of the quicker rounds.
This time, Aegin didn't spring forward like he had previously. Beast didn't move either. There were a few tense seconds where they sized each other up, then Beast shrugged and stepped forward.
"Was nice knowing you, kid," one of the older spectators muttered just loud enough for Aegin to hear.
Aegin barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes before he side stepped a punch and wove his way around Beast's body. He took three steps back, creating distance, then looked up to Beast's surprised look. It only last a few seconds before Beast advanced once more, this time going for two punches, one after the other. Aegin dodged the first, then diverted the second to the side. Beast caught himself just before he fell forward and he looked at Aegin with new eyes.
"You know the Havoi Style," Beast stated, then frowned, "You don't look like you grew up in desert plains".
Aegin shook his head, "I didn't".
Beast lowered his guard and stepped back, the fight unofficially ending, "Don't show that style here. Not unless you're desperate".
Aegin frowned, confused. Fighting was fighting, wasn't it?
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"The Slave Master doesn't much like Havoi. Besides, their style of fighting doesn't make for a very bloody show. That's the worse kind in the Arena, the crowd will demand refunds," Beast stated.
One of the others clapped Aegin on the shoulder. Aegin had barely sensed him approaching, "Didn't think you had it in your repertoire. If we ever have a moment, I'd love to spar against you with it".
Aegin scratched the back of his head awkwardly, "I'm not that great, honestly. My friend is much better".
"The girl?" asked one of the others with a raised eyebrow, they'd seen Aegin talking to her the other day at breakfast, not to mention they all knew he was making a deal with the Slave Master for her.
Aegin shook his head, "No, another friend".
The group all looked to one another, then the one who'd asked for the spar with Aegin gave a small grin, "Well, I'd like that spar all the same. Name's Talo".
"Oh, we know. Just about everyone down here knows it. And once you fight tomorrow, guaranteed the rest of Herguard will too," Talo grinned.