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Six feet of blood swept sand.
[Image: best_of_the_arena_3_d_conversion_by_mvra...4xkh9k.jpg]

The winds swept over the dry sands in the Gurubashi arena, billowing up clouds of fine dust - as if the entire arena floor was slowly evaporating into the sky. Though the, almost murderously, dry climate did not promise to stay like it for long. Already the air began to thicken, like a great weight descended on the ground, making it feel heavy in the wake of the coming storm. The more knowledgeable spectators sitting in the seats surrounding the arena already shifted their cloaks and pulled up their hoods in preparation to the dribble of rain that was bound to follow soon, but even the fear of a coming storm didn’t turn away a single person in the arena. Too great was the lust for bloodshed as it hung thicker in the air than the tar coloured clouds that blanketed the sky as it gleamed in the eyes of so many of them. Far too powerful was the greed as many of the wretches who came to witness the carnage and to claim the bets they had made on the suffering of those who were to fight for their amusement as they sit safely in their cosy seats, licking their lips, almost tasting the gold they are so sure to claim. Yet there were a few who stood out more squeamish in the crowd, not too keen on witnessing the deaths that had been promised. One of such people was a quaint little priestess, her worried gaze hidden behind the set of purple tinted glasses sitting on her nose.

Short John Mithril, or just Shorty for those with a sharper tongue, was the Goblin who had made the promise for such carnage for that day. Unusual to many as death was something not too keenly viewed in the arena battles, but the promise of such a rare event had gotten the attention of many thrill seekers. Many of witch were not against handing out the ridiculous sums of coin for the opportunity to watch the sands be smeared in blood, sitting just at the edge of the arena. Along with so many bets being made, sizable amount of witch ended up in Shorty’s pocket, it was only too sweet of a deal for the little green skinned pirate.

As the murmur of the crowd echoed in the circular stone ruin, he stepped onto the sands himself; flanked from both sides by two massive Ogre Bruisers who followed him like obedient dogs. “Me Hearties,” the Goblin spoke into the enchanted stone in his palm, not even in the middle of the arena yet, “I be a happy soul to see so many of ye’ here today.” The talk in the seats died down with every word he spoke, as it was magically amplified trough the arena. “Of course today be no usual day for this here arena. No. Today I be bringing ye’ all a treat. A spectacle worth it’s weight in gold,” his lightly girlish giggle echoed trough the arena as he mentally congratulated himself for having the smarts making such a witty ‘joke’, “for today only, ye’ shall witness the spirit of Gurubashi Arena. Today I be, not only, bringing ye’ blood, but the chance to pay witness to brutality and death.” Only the keenest of eyes noticed the smirk that crossed his face as he mentioned the word ‘pay’. Only all those keen eyes rolled in their heads, silently disappointed by the fact that the pirate found that even remotely funny to begin with.

“But,” He made sure to emphasize the word, “I shall not be keepin’ ye’ from such wonders. So let us introduce. The! Combatants!” His voice rising with the last words as he spun around, his free hand sweeping in a wide arc, almost as if it present the empty arena. “Gladiators!” He finally screamed into the magical stone, loud enough that in the silence of the soft winds he could have gotten the attention of even the dead. With or with out the stone. With his final call the gates in the sides of the massive ruins opened and, to the deafening cheers of the onlookers, the Gladiators marched.

From the gates emerged a huge number of souls. Many held their heads high, raising their armaments to greet the crowd, but many of them looked more scared than anything else. Heavy collars wrung around their necks, the slaves who were forced to fight, in too many cases, for the first time looked down at their feet. Some forcing back tears, most didn’t even bother to hide them. Against people who had fought many times before or who had already made their name at the arena, they held no chance for survival. To be bound and beaten, only to be brought in front of a few thousand eyes as they drink in your sorrow, your pain and ultimately, your death. What greater shame could a poor man ask, having lost everything already, only to be stripped of that last dangling piece of dignity as you are struck down in front of a cheering crowd. Left to rot as your bowels empty themselves into your garments leaving you with nothing but everlasting shame in whatever would come after the relieving cold embrace of death.

With a toss the Goblin gave the stone to a spindly looking old shell of a man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, as no one noticed him approach the centre of the arena. Short John Mithril gave the man a nod and retreated back to his walled off little area in the stands, cowered by a large piece of extravagant cloth and surrounded by beautiful half dressed women of every possible race. The Bruisers followed him again as the crowds attention shifted to the strange man in the arena, looking over the march of fighters. The warriors, at least three dozen of them, took up their positions in a circle around the man, facing the crowd. Or facing them as much as possible, considering as twenty of them were clearly looking down at their feet, mumbling for their deities even though they had clearly no intention of easing their suffering.

“Tonight’s entertainment,” the strange man suddenly announced, with a brim and proper voice unfit for his degraded body. With those simple words all the fighters raised their right hand in a fist high above their heads, some letting out a howl as the crowd let out another barrage of cheers. “The rules are simple. Any kind of fight goes. Any sort of dirty trick is approved. Scratching, blinding, maiming, biting, tripping and tricking are allowed. This is not a gentleman’s sport today. Everyone in this arena is here to fight for his or her survival. Only five of these people shall walk out of here with their lives, awarded with a large sum of coin or their freedom.” The man swept his hand around, much like Shorty did not too long ago, as he brought his hand up to point at the large canvas hanging above Short John’s private booth. “It shall be a fight between two contestants, the winner advances and the looser shall suffer a swift demise. Or a slow one, if the crowd desires it.” The last part being delivered with a tone suggesting it was more meant for the gladiators than for the onlookers.

“If, however,” And his hand was lowered to point and a red bowl, placed next to Short John, “At the beginning of the match a different set of rules is drawn, the match shall be carried out accordingly.” With that he let his hand fall to his side, “Now presenting. The first round! Aurites, The Lion, from Lordaeron.” With the call a lean man stepped forward. With a closely shaved head and strong tan, he stood out as he held both his hands high, greeting the crowd as they cheered his name, even thought a few disagreeing chants were mixed into the lot.

He wore a leather chest piece, decorated with cuts and scratches witch had been moulded into the shape of a lion by an expert’s hand. His upper arms were left uncovered while his hands were protected by a set of clinging iron gauntlets, painted to match the colour of his chest piece. A ripped pair of pants hid the plate greaves he wore underneath as they let out a melody of sounds with his steps. He wore nothing on his feet, witch some found strange, but a few men nod approvingly to the man as they noticed how he moved his feet, feeling the ground beneath him with expert knowledge and feel. He wielded a broadsword and a steel buckler, both showing that they had seen many fights before, both bearing the carving of a lion on it’s hind legs upon them.

“Boruril, The slave, from Khaz Modan.”

The Dwarf stepped forward, clearly lacking the same kind of enthusiasm the Human had. Not helped by the fact that any kind of cheers that were sent his way was drowned out by the overwhelming amount of negativity. Questioning, but not stopping at, the existence and size of his sexual organs.

The armour that he wore was clearly lacking, in it’s design and in it’s state. What seemed to be a worn set of iron plate mail that had seen many fights before and, most likely, just as many defeats. Rust was strewn across it as if someone had sprinkled him down with cinnamon before he stepped on the arena sands and the helmet he wore seemed to be only a step above a bucket with eyeholes. For his weapon he had chosen, or perhaps given, a short sword unfit for even a slave as it bore the lack of care in a way that you might have though it was proud of it and the wooden round shield seemed to be a sturdy cart wheel.

As everyone, but the two, marched back trough the gates they turned to face each other. Aurites, clearly torn between feeling joy for his easy opponent or being disgusted for having to fight such a sorry looking dwarf, readied himself. The Dwarf followed his example and raised his shield in front of him, his sword held low towards the ground. He might have been a slave, but he clearly knew how to use his equipment.

Shorty reached into the bowl besides him and pulled out a small scroll, rolling it open and reading trough it before making his announcement. “No magic,” He screamed. It was a redundant rule, as both combatants seemed to be lacking in any kind of knowledge how to use magic anyway. Alas, the gong let out its cry and the two ran towards each other.

The fight was over before it began.

Aurites’ sword cut deep into Boruril’s shield and a healthy junk of it was thrown to the side as the tip of the sword loudly scraped across the Dwarf’s helmet. He attempted to counter, swinging his shield aside in hopes to make an opening as he made an upwards thrust towards his opponents uncovered head. His stab was brushed aside by Aurietes’ sword that had just a mere moment ago been pushed in the opposite direction. The rim of his heavy shield slammed dead centre of his opponents helmet as his whole body jerked backwards, loud groan echoing from within, only to be turned into a bloody gurgle the moment the mans sword cut into the uncovered throat.

The sharp blade went straight trough the Dwarves neck, the point of it protruding out from the other side after it had expertly slipped between the two vertebrae. For a moment the two stood there, in that position, before Aurites swung his sword to the right, throwing Dwarf with it. Nearly decapitated, the Dwarf lied motionlessly on the sands as it greedily drank in the flowing crimson waters of life. The arena stayed silent, most spectators unsure what to think of such a fight as only four blows had been exchanged. Aurites was the first to make a sound as he whipped his sword in front of himself twice, the spray of blood from the blade flinging in a wide arc, before raising it high to the sky and loudly announcing his victory with a cheer. The arena responded with a cheer, but hardly with the vigour it had before.

Four Bruisers marched onto the arena, two of who escorted Aurietes back trough the gates, while the other two grabbed the deceased Dwarf from the arena floor. The spindly man, now standing next to Shorty, announced the next fight the moment the sands were clear again.

“Cirroel, The Dancing Blade of Silvermoon, from Quel’Thalas.”

The gates to the arena opened to another wave of cheers as the Gladiator, known for fighting in the arena before, stepped onto the arena floor. The tall and gorgeous Blood Elf walked with long calculated strides, his hands held slightly upwards on his sides as he stared into the sky with a smile only someone who cherishes the cheers of the crowd could have. His hair was fair, grown half way to his belt as it was held bound behind his back with beautiful silver wires. His armour reflected his good looks. A light chain mail shirt, painted silver and reinforced with plates was clearly fitted for him, his shoulders protected by curved metal and his hands held in the embrace of silk gloves, reinforced with metal plates as well. Matching chain mail pants, held tightly to his body with leather straps with intricate sowings on them. If vanity were a person, Cirroel would have been the avatar of it. He held himself high with such certainty that people couldn’t help but love him. And it wasn’t just the way he presented himself. His past victories, witch had been many and often, had earned him the name ‘Dancing blade’.

On his belt hung two curved swords, covered in silver as the majority of his armaments, reaching a little over his knees in length. Song and Silence, the swords were named, after his fighting style. As Song struck the opponent, erupting the melody of screams, Silence was there to bring an abrupt end to it. But a hint of worry sparked across Cirroels face as he noticed that the dark clouds were yet to disappear as he was most adapt fighting in sunlight where his shiny armour could blind his opponent. That look disappeared as quickly as it had appeared when the confidence in his abilities once again rung loud in his mind. It was the first match and he was the tip of the challenge.

As he walked, his choice of clothing singing with his steps, a light shower of rain started to slowly fall. It was inconsistent, a drop falling here and a drop over there, but it was a clear sign that the thunder and torrential rain wasn’t far off. The fine sands of the arena, hot from the earlier day when the sun shined strong, let out a peculiar aroma as the cold rain cooled it, hiding the previous smell of gore.

“Sur’maw, The Scorpion, from the Ghostlands.”

The spectators let out another deafening cheer, almost drowning out the crackle of thunder that erupted at the same time. With their encouragement urging him on, a Troll stepped into the arena. The green skinned Troll stood proudly in the cheers of the spectators. Covered from neck to toe in black plate armour with chain mail showing from places where the plate did not cover. It looked worn from many battles that had come before this one as scratches and cuts littered the fine set, but it was clearly well looked after, the previous scratches left just for show. On his back were three spears, with the fourth one held all ready in his hand and raised above his head in a silent greeting to the audience.

The spear in his hand was attached to his gauntlet with almost ten feet of chain that had been rolled around it. In his other hand was a large shield, covered with thin spikes like an agitated metal hedgehog.

As the two gladiators were approaching each other, Shorty was all ready fishing for the next set of rules from his bowl. “Free game…” he said so silently that even the magical stone could barely pick up the words. With a sneer he crumbled up the paper and tossed it aside, raising his hand in protest. The Orc in charge of ringing the gong had to stop mid-swing, mere moments before he was able to announce the start of the fight. “No,” The Goblin announced, “We shall make this a spectacle. Bruisers!” With the words the two massive Ogres jumped into the ring, dragging their hands on the tilted arena walls to slow their fall, showing rather uncharacteristic agility for some one so large.

Oh, the crumbling voices did not escape his attention. No. He heard them. Questioning the fights. Questioning HIM. They paid good money for the show and if the first fight was going to show how the rest of them would turn out then they were not going to be happy. They paid good money. It was his money now and he was not going to loose his money.

Shorty turned to the Orc, murderous glare in his eyes, screaming at him. “Ring it, you cur!” he yelled, landing a cloud of spit on the spindly man, who seemed to stay stone cold even then. The Orc quickly complied, swinging his massive maul at the gong as it let loose another deep ringing tone trough the arena.

The two combatants were as surprised by the announcement as everyone else. Cirroel quickly slid his swords from their sheaths and prepared for the fight. Sur’maw followed the same advice. Slamming his spear into the ground and grabbing one from his back. He hefted it over his head and threw it at the closest Ogre. The Ogre swung it’s maul at a high speed and hit the spear clear out of the air, making it skitter across the sands. Cirroel suddenly understood why those two were chosen to act as Short John’s personal guards. Without a moment to spare the other Bruiser was already on top of him, swinging wildly at him. The elf had just enough time to move away from the blows or deflect them aside with his swords, but lacked enough time to move in for a strike himself. As he was driven back he suddenly heard a hiss as another spear flew trough the air, missing his head only by a feet before burying itself into the shoulder of the Ogre. It let out a cry of pain and reached for it with its free hand before remembering its target and taking another swing at Cirroel. The ogres’ movements were slower now and the elf quickly moved in. Light as a feather he jumped towards the massive bruiser, using the Ogres hand as leverage and pushed him high over the Ogres head.

He brought Song down at his opponents other shoulder and the blade dug deep between the bones. Using the gravity to his assistance, Cirroel held tight onto the sword and as he came down towards the ground, twisted the blade. The Bruisers arm fell on the ground with a wet flop as it threw blood and mud in all directions. Not exactly a ‘by the book’ disarming technique, but it worked, he thought to himself as he spun around and made two cuts at the back of his targets knees. The slashes sent the Bruiser spiralling into the ground and before he had a moment to react, the Elf was already ontop of him. Song was quickly sheathed and with a two handed overhead stab Silence was brought down. It pierced clean trough the plate, cutting clean trough the massive mountain of flesh. It didn’t stop until it was buried hilt deep into the chest of the Bruiser when the rocks beneath the arena sands stopped the tip of the blade. The abrupt stop sent a shock trough Cirroels hands, making his teeth clatter. For a moment he thought someone had actually punched him in the mouth.

He twisted his head to see Sur’Maw still fighting the other Bruiser. Apparently taking a hit at one point as the shoulder guard on his left hand had been blown off and sent flying a good twenty paces. Had the Troll taken the hit because he tried to help him, Cirroel thought to himself. Still, Sur’Maw seemed to be doing good all thing considered. With the reach of his spear he had the Ogre well under wraps, as it was unable to move in without taking a hit first. It wasn’t about a clean kill, the elf noted. The Bruiser was covered in bleeding cuts wherever his armour wasn’t protecting him and whenever he attempted to strike the long reach of his opponents spear quickly found an opening and abused it to the fullest. With every strike the Bruiser became slower, more exhausted and sloppier. The bleeding didn’t help and the elves keen eyes quickly noticed the sheen of poison glimmering on Sur’Maws spear.

In a minute the fight was over. Leaving an opening as the Ogre took a massive overhead swing the Trolls spear punctured into its knee. With the weight of his maul behind him the Bruiser fell on its back and didn’t have time to get up again. A spear pinned his weapon hand into the sands and the moment he reached to pull out the spear his other hand got pinned as well. Sur’Maw stood on top of the thrashing Ogres chest, his last spear still connected to his hand that was now pinning the Ogre. He raised his hands to the praise of the audience, drinking in the energy of their applauding. Then he brought up his leg and with a crushing blow brought it down on the Bruisers face. He repeated the motion until the Ogres helmet no longer acted as a piece of protective head gear but more like a bowl for the mushed pulp that used to be the Bruisers head.

The crowd was going wild at the spectacle; it was exactly what they wished for: brutal, unadulterated mayhem. Cirroel relaxed, loosening his grip on his sword and slumping his shoulders a bit. The fight had been won.

It wasn’t until Sur’Maw picked up his throwing spear and launched it at the Elf did he remember that his opponent was still eager to kill him. The Bruisers were simply a warm up. Nimble as a deer, Cirroel dodged to the side as the spear landed neatly into the arena sands. No time to think, simply a play of instinct.

He moved forward, both swords unsheathed and ready for a strike. His quick approach was brought to a halt when Sur’Maw swung his hand around, the chain bringing his spear around like a whip. Cirroel ducked beneath it and before Sur’Maw had enough time to bring the spear around for another go he was already on him. The massive shield that the Troll brought between the two blocked the elves strikes. The swords let out an ear piercing scraping sound as the slid across the metal surface, making sparks fly as they touched. With a practiced twist of his arm, Sur’Maw caught his spear out of the air and as soon as the shield was removed from between the two of them, the spear took it’s place in a stabbing motion.

Cirroel twisted his body to let the spear pass; his chainmail armour was good against slashing attacks but offered little defence for stabs. He moved in with a stab of his own but again was met by the shield. With it there it was hard for him to make a precise strike. Instead he took a step backwards and brought his hand up, it suddenly brimming with magical energy. He aimed his hand into the sky and a single blue bolt flew from his fingers, flying quick and true behind Sur’Maw and striking his uncovered shoulder. Just for a moment the Troll lowered his shield and in that instance Cirroel moved in. Again he jumped into the air, spinning upside down in the air as both of his swords cut across Sur’maws shoulder. His shield dropped to the ground and he was brought to his knees. The elf brought Silence up for a strike but hesitated.

Didn’t the Troll just save his life moments before?

His hesitation didn’t go unnoticed and Sur’Maw turned just enough to take a stab at him. The Elf let go of Song as he reached up and grabbed hold of his opponents sear, turning it safely aside. He couldn’t hesitate. He made a stab himself at his opponents’ chest, where his plate didn’t protect him, but the chainmail underneath disrupted the blow. The curved blade got directed to the side, although it pierced trough it, it only managed to make a cut just to the side of the Troll. A kick to his head was to make sure he was incapacitated.

“Kill him,” Shorty demanded from the stands. “I can’t,” Cirroel said, barely audible even for himself. “Kill him!” Short John screamed again, louder this time. “I said I can’t,” The elf responded at the top of his lungs. “Did you not see him aiding me with your blasted Ogres? He helped me, I’m honour bound to spare him.” Loud murmuring started coming from the stands, people agreed. The elf, still standing over Sur’Maw, looked at Shorty, “Did you also not see the cheers the audience screamed in his name? Our work together was well received. Think how well it would go if we fought together as allies. What a show it would make.”

Shorty seemed to take the idea well, “Yes… YES! You two against other gladiators. Of course! Duels have been seen and gotten bored of, but tag teams… So it shall be--…” He suddenly stopped when the spindly man leaned over to whisper something in his ear. This entire time he had his eyes locked solely on Sur’Maw, peering into him like he was trying to make him burst into flames simply by his gaze. A grin shot across Shorty’s face, “But what does the Troll thing?” Again the Spindly man whispered something. “Sur’Maw, that is. What do you decide?”

Sur’Maw let out an angry howl and pulled on the chain to his spear. Cirroel had just enough time to register the clicking of mechanism in the spear when the white-hot pain shot over his cheek. The tip of the spear had shot open, like a crippling hook. In his confusion he lost his grip on the spear, as warmth started to flow down his face.

The world seemed to wobble, like he was gazing trough hot air as it wavered over an open flame. Another jolt of pain, followed by the crackling sound of his nose caving in. He stumbled backwards, loosing the grip on his weapon as well. Something behind him halted his feet and he fell on his back, onto the Ogre he had slain not too long ago. “I’ll take that as a No,” Shorty announced with sarcasm.

Cirroel looked up at the Troll, Standing over him. “We could have been allies,” He slurred trough the blood in his mouth. “In da world of da hunta’ there be only pray,” Sur’Maw said without a hint of regret, “Ya be no pray worth ‘untin.” He lowered his spear, grabbing Cirroel by hi throat and throwing him towards the centre of the arena. He struggled to gain his footing, slowly raising on all fours and pushing himself upwards, “Then. I shall… Make it… Worth it.” With blood bubbling at the sides of his mouth, his vision almost blurred both by the poison and the tears and his arms heavy as stones he still stood.

Even with his impaired vision he saw the murder in Sur’Maws eyes as he moved to him, grabbing him by the throat again. “What ya be doin’, Mon?” He asked, spitting the words at the elf like they were covered in poison, “Ya be defeated, Mon. Brokn’ n’ beatn’. Why ya be still figtin’? Are ya tryin’ to prove sometin’?” He didn’t expect an answer, simply pushing Cirroel to the ground again. “Ya think dat ya be showin’ courage? Dat ya be showing stubborn persistence?” He brough his spear down, just past Cirroels head, “Nah, Mon. Some people, they be persistent. Ya, Mon. Ya be too dumb to quit.”

He placed his knee on the Elves chest, leaning close to him, “Had ya been someone else. Maybe an Orc or even a Human, I might ave’ convidered da offer. Bo you?” He took a moment to spit, “Ya be an elf. For four years I be sufferin’ in da hands of an Elf. He be showin’ me no mercy. He be showin’ me how ya people aa’.” He rose, bringing his spear to Cirroels throat, the elf long ago loosing any hope of survival. “Any last words?”

“Just make it quick.”

“For a good pray, maybe. But for ya, Elf, Not a chance. Best ‘ope the poison be numn’ da pain for ya.”

To the cheers of the audience Sur’Maw butchered the elf, spending a good half an hour ripping bits and peaces from him before growing tired and simply decapitating him. He let out a battle cry that some of the other Trolls quickly picked up on: Amani Victoria.

Shorty smiled to himself, “And the fun has just begun…”
"Oh no, my good Sir, killing him was never the intent. I like to think of it as an added bonus."

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