History of Martok
I wasn't born a slave, at least that's what I'm told. I never knew my father or mother, all I remember from my childhood were cruel taskmasters and trainers. I grew up in the slave pens of Gulg. I was first owned by Renmar Creedy, a minor noble. Renmar hated gladiators, but kept them on orders from the Oba. I was fed and watered as little as possible. My training was subpar compared to other Gladiators and it was obvious, so obvious, in fact that I was soon transferred to a templar, Korik Sutler. To say Korik was cruel is an understatement. He delighted in seeing others in pain and often ordered his slaves whipped with bramble branches for even minor infractions. However, Korik was also known for training the best Gladiators in Gulg.
My trainers were hard on me. They would have me punch pumice stone until my hands bled. They took delight in having me attack them and then quickly overcoming me. They would punch or kick me to the ground. The trainer I remember most was Nigol, not because he was the kindest, or the most cruel, but because he taught me what fighting in the arena was really about, survival. "Defeat means death." Was a favorite phrase he would use. Nigol was never gentle and showed no mercy. I did not like him, but his lessons were the most valuable for my survival in the arenas. One day he did not return.
I was first sent to the arena as a young man, not yet old enough to sire children. My first opponent was a man who had been caught stealing water from his master. We were both given daggers. He was told that if he killed me, he would go free. His attacks were clumsy and awkward. I easy dodged them. I had never killed another man before and I was reluctant to start. He kept attacking and I kept dodging. The crowd began booing and hissing. The man surprised me with a slash across my forearm. As I saw the blood run down my arm I remembered what Nigol had told me. Defeat means death. I had two choices, kill or die. He swung again and I grabbed his dagger arm. I pulled him toward me and buried my dagger into his chest. I heard him cough as blood dripped from his open mouth.
"Defeat means death." I whispered to him as he dropped to the arena floor.
The crowd cheered.
Killing became easier the more I did it. I killed a dozen criminals in the arena. My master did not deem me ready to fight another gladiator. I could kill criminals, but I was awful against a trained fighter. During practice, I was constantly defeated by the other gladiators. There were whispers of sending me to the arena to die, if I did not improve. That is when I decided that I needed to escape.
During a trip to Raam, I saw my opportunity. As we were being led out of our wagons and into the arena pens, I grabbed a guard's spear and ran him through. I ran, I ran as fast as I could through the streets of Raam. I did not know my way and was slowed down by dead ends and confusing twists. The templars caught me and I was dragged back to the slave pens. My master was furious. If he had lost the Oba's property, he would be punished. My master decided that I should be made an example of. The worst pain I ever felt was when the first hot stick entered my eyes, blinding me. I was to fight the next day for the crowd's comedic delights.
The following day, I was lead out to the arena. I was given a small agafari shield and a bone short sword. When I entered the arena, the laughter of the crowd filled my ears. Sorrow consumed me. This was the day I was going to die. When the other gladiator entered the arena, I heard the announcer proclaim that the match was a night and day match, meaning my opponent was not blind. As my opponent moved forward, I swung wildly, my instinct to survive outweighing my sorrow. Easily countered, I received a shallow cut along my shield arm. The crowd cheered at the sight of blood running down my arm. I was to die slowly for the crowds amusement.
A sloppy second swing toward where I thought my opponent was brought gouts of laughter from the crowd and a shallow cut along my upper back. I swung back around, only to receive a cut along my shield arm again, deeper than before. I dropped my shield. I swung again, striking nothing, but air. My opponent didn't bother striking me again, he was going to let blood loss defeat me. I tried to listen for him, but the crowd's laughter and cheers were too loud to ignore. I swung wildly to no avail.
After an eternity, I dropped to my knees, the blood loss becoming too great. The crowd cheered.
"Kill him! Kill him!" They chanted and laughed.
I could not hear my opponent approach over the cries of the crowd. I felt the wind shift and sand was kicked up from the ground. A strange scent caught my attention. Sweat and blood. The blood was mine, but not the sweat. I turned and thrust my sword toward the smell. I felt my sword pierce flesh and I threw my weight into the thrust, crashing down on top of my opponent. The crowd fell silent, too stunned to continue their blood thirsty chant. My opponent coughed and I could smell his blood.
Finally he whispered, "Defeat means death."
As he body fell limp, the crowd erupted into cheers.
As the years passed, I developed my other senses to compensate for the loss of my eyes. I fought other day and night matches. I won and I survived. One day, the Oba decided to sell me to a Noble in Balic. So, I was herded into a wagon and set out for the city-state. A few days into the journey, I smelled a familiar, but strange scent. It was the smell of death.
"Death." I whispered.
"Death." A little louder.
"What did you say slave?" One of my handlers barked at me.
"I smell death on the wind." I told him. "Don't follow this path."
"Oh, shut it." He laughed.
The smell came closer and I felt panic in my chest.
"It's unnatural, turn around!" I shouted.
"Shut up, or I'll beat you!" He shouted back.
"Death is on the wind, a beating is better than death, turn around!"
"This is the only road to Balic."
The smell came closer, I knew it was right around the corner. I could hear its groans.
"We're all dead." I told him calmly.
"Sir, there's a man on the road." The wagon driver called out.
"Clear the way, this is a caravan from the Forest Goddess of Gulg!" My handler demanded.
I moved to the furthest point in my cage, away from the stench.
"By the Dragon, look how fat that blighter is!" The caravan driver called out.
I heard some of the guards move toward it and demand. "We said move!"
"I'm so hungry." It moaned.
The guards took out their weapons. They moved to attack. The sound of bones being crushed and the screams of the guards was terrible.
"My hand!" A guard screamed, "It bit off my hand!"
The driver panicked and attempted to turn the wagon around. I heard the thing shamble up and attack the kanks. Biting through the insects chitin and chewing the insides. The cart tipped over and came crashing down. The other guards began doing battle with the thing. More crunching, more screams. I kicked at the roof of the wagon with all my strength and felt it give. I pried my way out. I felt a spear at my feet and picked it up, ready to fight for my life.
"Run." The voice in my head was male and ghost-like.
"So hungry." The thing moaned as it began devouring the screaming guards. I heard every bone crunch and smelled the blood pouring into the road.
I heard the thing beginning to shuffle towards me and I ran.