#10: What the hell have I gotten myself into?
The morning after the attack by the Red Spines and the Desert Knives against the Kreen, I went over to the new ones to thank them for their help. If their actions could have come a little sooner, it likely would have saved some of those who perished. But I felt that the fact that they did come to our aid needed to be acknowledged and thanks given for those who were saved.
Two of their number were elves, and hearing them talk, it turned out that they were the two who had approached my old mentor Jigush asking for help for their village. They immediately became angry with me, and would have attacked had I not said that the way he treated them was the reason I left Jigush.
I worked at their side hauling bricks that day, a welcome relief from the heat of the kiln. Throughout the day, we heard the Templars and guards talking about a large ceremony that would take place at the arena two days later, upon completion of the ziggurat. The night before, there had been an explosion atop the ziggurat, and rumors flew through the camp about what had happened: King Kalak had sacrificed someone or something, the Veiled Alliance or another resistance group had attempted an attack, as well as many unlikely things.
A compatriot of the people I spent that day with had been freed and made a noble by King Kalak the day before, and they hoped that this newly made Lord, the barbarian Zar, would be able to win their freedom. I would learn later that this Lord Zar did make unsuccessful attempts to free his friends and to make contact with the resistance. He spent much of the first day hanging out at a bar waiting for his contact. Once the contact showed up, the meeting did not go as Zar had hoped. Zar also travelled back to the pit to try and talk his way into getting his friends set free. That also, did not go as Zar had hoped.
Thinking back on this now, I should have gone back to the clutch that night to tell them what I had found, but I decided to stay that night with my new friends and see what happened. I did learn a little about them that night, but nothing of real note occurred.
The following dawn, as we were finishing our morning swill, a templar and guards approached, and I and three of the others were chosen to fight in the games that King Kalak was throwing to celebrate the completion and dedication of the Ziggurat. Liam the Ranger, Ganath, Bynn and Tlik-Cha would fight for the glory of Kalak. We were brought to the arena and allowed to practice and given tests. It was determined that Ganath and myself would be on a lower tier of the games than Liam and Bynn.
At the end of the day, we were returned to the pit. Before dinner, the templars announced that in honor of Kalak, we would be given double rations for dinner, and that at the conclusion of the ceremony tomorrow, we would be returned to the status we had before we were taken. Those who were slaves would return to their previous owners, and those who were free would be set free. All wanted to believe this would be true, but we were not among them. Whatever would happen at the arena, we doubted it would be good.
We split up and told various contacts to be wary the next day, and to be ready to act when the time came. I returned to the Thri-Kreen to tell them, but was not allowed into the clutch-home. They thought my efforts over the past two days had broken tokchak. Rather than viewing my efforts as aimed at gaining allies for the clutch, they had seen it as giving aid to others before the clutch.
That night was without much rest, mourning over my expulsion from the pit’s clutch, and worry over my newfound compatriots (would they and I be worthy and compatible?), fighting the arena, and whatever defiling ceremony King Kalak would lead on the morrow.
That night was also a time of action and the paying of debts. Liam the ranger secretly attacked and killed a snitch. All that was spotted by the guards was an elf, and so the Templars and guards moved into the Elf-camp. There was fighting and some explosions, and the guards dragged a few elves out of their camp. We found out the next morning that the guards had entered their camp just as the elves were sending lines over the walls in an attempt for them all to escape.
We were all given double rations for breakfast. While we were eating, the elves that were dragged out of their camp were thrown over the wall, hanging from ropes around their necks. As they twitched their last, the Templars said something to the effect that such is the fate of all who oppose King Kalak.
We were led to the arena: the four who were fighting to the gladiators cells under the arena, and Liam the Bard, Zaine and Grimgutt to the upper tier with the rest of the slaves. The Lord Zar used the last of his gold to bribe his way into the Noble’s seating area and was seated in the second row.
We were given armor and weapons, and learned that the brand or tattoos preventing the use of our powers were no longer active. Ganath and myself were on an undercard, and wound up fighting halfling rogues. They were quick and hard to hit, but eventually we each defeated our foe. Liam the ranger and Bynn faced tougher opponents, further up the card, and each fought against a Mul warrior. After a short rest, the four of us were grouped with two other Mul warriors to fight in the penultimate match against a huge leaping spider. The battle was hard fought, but eventually we won. Things were diciest for Liam, as he used the last of his healing surges against the Mul warrior in the previous fight. As he hit the hardest, the Spider did all it could to knock him out of commision.
We bandaged up our wounds, and were led into the stands to watch the last fight, a duo-team king-of the-ziggurat free for all. Whichever team could hold the top of the ziggurat that rose out of the arena floor for two minutes would win the battle. There were many strong and impressive teams, and a great battle raged. Some among us noticed a few strange things happening as the fight progressed: many guards and templars were no longer at the positions they had held at the start of the fight, and some low thuds shuddered through the arena.
When the dust was settling, the duo that stood atop the ziggurat at the end was a team made up of a human warrior and woman psi (I think). Just as they defeated their final foe and claimed the top of the ziggurat at the center of the arena, the woman looked toward the balcony of Kalak and loosed a huge bolt of mental force at it. The bolt struck against a force barrier around the balcony and fizzled out. Just as the barrier came down, the warrior threw his immense spear, striking Kalak in the chest.
A collective gasp went through the crowd, and chaos began to spread through the stands. Most spectators stampeded toward the now barricaded exits.
Zar began to fight his way through to an exit and was trying to break down the door blocking the way….
Liam the Bard, Zaine and Grimgutt gathered up a couple of slaves, took down a couple of the remaining guards, and made their way to the edge of the top tier, where a jury-rigged rope dangled halfway to the lower tier. They gathered some more clothing from the surrounding crowd, trying to making the rope longer….
Bynn, Ganath, Liam the Ranger and myself decided to try to make it to the Ziggurat, figuring if any attack would ever succeed against Kalak, now would be the time. Our way was blocked by a Templar and guards, so we went over the wall to the floor of the arena and were getting ready to follow the Warrior and Psi who had attacked Kalak into the ziggurat….