227 The Untouchable Merchandise*
*Eldovian Era 1713, 20th day of the 7th month*
The clanging ring of metal against metal resounded through the arena, shortly followed by the excited roar of the crowd. Aegin retreated, coming to stand back to back with Talo.
"What's happening Bloodthorn? Are you getting old?"
Aegin scoffed, ignoring the teasing from the trident wielding crowd favourite and indicating to their opponents instead, "Trust the Slave Master to bring in talents from abroad just to keep the crowd entertained".
"Well they got bored of us winning all the time, and the last thing he wants to do is put his Nine Reapers on the chopping block against one another," Talo replied.
That was true, Aegin was sure that the Slave Master had learned from Aegin's fight with Beast two years ago what the cost was for putting his prized fighters in a fight to the death.
"Duck!" called Talo.
Aegin followed the instruction, Talo's trident swinging over the top of Aegin before it sent one of the foreign warriors flying to the side towards Garrow, the only one among the the Reapers who preferred fighting with his fists. With good reason too, the guy had absurd strength.
On this particular occasion, the Slave Master, in the process of entertaining guests from afar, had complied with the request of that foreign dignitary to pit the famed Nine Reapers of Herguard against one of his guard squadrons. This particular Squadron had thirty individuals that were quite well trained, but clearly not used to the lawlessness of the Arena. There were only sixteen of them left and the Reapers had only earned minor injuries so far.
Aegin parried the jab of a spear and made his own move forward. Over the last two years, he'd grown quite close to the other Reapers. There was an understanding between them, one that stemmed from years of having been forced to fight for their survival in more ways than one. They understood that death was just a part of the life they lived, but they'd also come to acknowledge the fact that if they closed themselves off from everybody, it was a lot harder to live what little was left of their lives.
The Reapers consisted of Nine individuals of which Aegin was the newest. He was not the youngest however, that burden fell upon Layton, the sixteen year old whip wielding expert that had been put into his first Arena at 12, two years before Aegin's arrival. He'd essentially been cannon fodder when he'd been placed in there with forty-nine other boys against a pack of starving wolves. He'd been the only one to survive, and had been dubbed 'Wolfsbane' as Aegin had been dubbed 'Bloodthorn'.
Talo, the Reaper that Aegin had become closest to, had been kidnapped from the fishing villages along the northern coast of the Southern Continent when the Pirates had gone plundering. He'd never thought his skill at wielding a harpoon would come in handy anywhere else until he'd been thrown in the arena. He'd taken a trident when they didn't have a harpoon in the Weapon's Vault. He'd been dubbed 'Lovisson' after the God of the Sea, Lovis, shortly after. Talo had been in the Arena for a decade now, and he was in his late twenties, though birthdays had stopped meaning much for many of the slaves here. It only meant they were getting older, and slower, and therefore increasingly closer to their last fight.
Garrow was the muscle. He never talked much about his past, but he was around Talo's age and refused to wield a weapon. He'd been dubbed 'The Bear', but prior to when Beast died, hadn't had an awful lot of attention paid to him thanks to their similar styles and physiques.
Some of the more popular Reapers were the sword twins, Eros and Eon. They were from a country far to the South, and kept mostly to themselves except for the Reapers. They were only a couple of years older than Aegin and protected each other fiercely, never apart for long whether in the Arena or not.
The final three Reapers were the bowman, Alistair, who was the oldest among not just the Reapers, but the Arena Warriors as a whole, just entering his forties. Will, the man slightly older than Talo who fought and sounded a lot like an Eldovian Knight, though Aegin had never gotten him to open up about it, and Sel, the assassin like warrior who after one awkward encounter, Aegin had discovered to be a eunuch.
He certainly didn't fight like one expected a eunuch to fight. Aegin could see Sel out of the corner of his eye, weaving between the enemies with such speed and prowess they barely had time to react before they were either choking on their own blood or screaming in pain. Aegin had sparred with Sel more than once, even he'd struggled to keep up.
Ebony poured the goblet of wine effortlessly, with all the propriety she was supposed to display. She watched the fight out of the corner of her eye as she moved seamlessly between the dignitaries and Herguard elite alike.
The Reapers were absolutely slaughtering their challengers, just as their name suggested. The name had been bestowed on the 9 elites of the Arena some time ago, and any time they were mentioned the Slave Master beamed with pride. He regularly allowed foreign challengers to visit and test out the skills of his greatest warriors in a fight that took place bimonthly. The Reapers had yet to lose.
"Girl, come here," one of the foreigners ordered. He indicated to his lap, and Ebony tried not to look utterly disgusted. Denna, one of the other slave girls, swept in front of the foreigner to draw his attention and gave him a 'come-hither' flutter of her eyelashes as she smiled.
"May I, Master?"
He seemed surprised, but seeing Denna's willing and supple body, his attention was drawn away. Ebony moved on. The Madame had instructed the girls to all do such things over the years. At first they'd been hateful towards Ebony, not understanding why she was let off from such duties. However, after Ebony started passing on the lessons Aegin gave her about self defense and the Havoi style, they started respecting her a little more. Granted, Ebony wasn't all that much of an expert, but her determination had allowed her to at least be able to spar with Aegin when they met up every week. She rarely won, but when she did she didn't let him live it down.
She'd asked him to teach her other fighting styles as well, and he'd reluctantly started to, though Ebony had realised quite quickly why he and Rassa had decided that the Havoi style was better for her. Other styles took a whole lot more effort.
"More wine!" one of the dignitaries called. Ebony realised that it was the man who had made the current challenge when she approached. He didn't look pleased that his squadron was being slaughtered. Ebony probably wouldn't be either if she was watching her subordinates get killed for the entertainment of others.
Ebony poured the wine into his goblet elegantly, then stepped back and turned to leave, only to be dragged back by her waist and to have the offending hand delve towards more private areas.
"Not that one, Lord Revierre," the Slave Master spoke without turning towards Ebony, "You can have any of the others, but not that one".
"Is she yours?" asked the offending Lord, his hand stilling.
The Slave Master scoffed, looking over at Ebony who kept her head bowed and her expression cold, "She's the wife of one of the Reapers. He fights, and so long as he wins, she sticks to serving food and drink alone. He has yet to lose".
Lord Revierre scoffed, "You made a deal with your merchandise? How unlike you".
"It seemed interesting at the time," the Slave Master stated, "Though it is growing tedious. At this point I'm still contemplating whether I'd prefer to lose him or her".
Lord Revierre waited a moment, then released Ebony, pushing her to the side as he tsked in displeasure, "Let me know when you do. This one looks delicious".
Ebony tried not to shiver as she walked off, but such was the life she lived.