Chapter 27 Blood Fall

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A Brüdel with sharpened teeth fights to stay standing, but a pointed rock pierces his skull. He falls dead on top of his brethren. Ime takes a moment to catch his breath. His eyes move across the Arena quickly. The number of Brüdel has drastically decreased, but more slaves have fallen, too. It seems the fighting will never end.

Two Brüdel try to trap Ime, attacking from both sides. He raises his arms at the elbow and earth rises in front of them. Once he’s stopped their forward motion, Ime pushes out, causing the walls of earth to drag the men back, smashing them on opposite walls of the Arena.

He runs towards a group of slaves fighting off two large Brüdel and three smaller, quicker men. The smaller men move in for quick slashes and taunting while the Brüdel keep them from escaping. Ime pulls water from buckets around the walls of the Arena and freezes the feet of the men. They hack at the ice with their weapons. Ime send gusts of wind to separate the Brüdel, creating an opening for the slaves to escape. They surround the Brüdel and Ime leads them in a counterattack. Earth flies as earth magic users finally have time to use their magic. A magic user creates several shadow images and uses them to distract the Brüdel.

The Brüdel attack the shadows, unsure what is real and what is illusion. Ime crushes the three men. Soon the group of five Brüdel is dead. The slaves salute Ime and rush to help other slaves in trouble.

Ime looks around the Arena for anyone else who may need his help, but is surprised to see the slaves finally taking control of the fight. He turns his attention to Klaeon’s private box and sees him whispering into Teron’s ear. Teron bows and disappears through the red curtains at the back of the box.

A loud horn rings out through the Arena and a gate opens. A giant appears. Towering over all the Brüdel, he looks around the Arena with large, empty eyes. His mouth hangs open displaying missing teeth and infected gums. He stands with knees bent and long arms dragging on the ground. Long, greasy black hair hangs from his head and covers his shoulders. Two Brüdel enter the Arena after him and yell words at the giant in a strange, broken language.

The giant turns his head as though it is too heavy for his neck. He sees the slaves fighting the Brüdel and a strange expression flashes across his face. He yells loudly, swings his long arms around, and stomps his feet before tromping over to the nearest fighting group. His large feet crush slaves and Brüdel alike. Any who try to fight him are smashed by a fist or sent flying into the audience. Slaves scream and run from the monster. Brüdel move out of the giant’s path and cheer him as he passes, using the same guttural language the two who entered with him spoke.

The excitement shooting through the audience at the giant’s arrival is palpable and increases with each kill—until he crashes into a wall at full speed.

The size of the giant destroys not only the wall, but also a large section of seating, killing audience members or dropping them into the Arena. They scramble to find an escape, but workers keep them away from the gates. Brüdel who come across the frightened people kill them without a second thought. Slaves try to help them, but fear prevents the audience members from listening to reason.

Even with the potential of being attacked, the remaining audience remains at high energy and fills the Arena with roars of excitement. Ime is amazed they can still cheer so loud, after all the cheering that came before.

The giant bellows and moves around the Arena at random, attacking any who wander into his path or line of sight. He moves as if to attack the audience directly, but a voice in his harsh language from below speaks, stopping the giant cold. He turns his large head and a strange motion from the lips might be the giant’s attempt at a smile.

When Ime follows the giant’s gaze, his heart turns to ice. The giant charges the area where Meah and the healers are treating the wounded. And the giant’s eyes are locked on Meah. She and the other healers are too busy working to see the immense man heading for them.

Ime curses and runs for the group. Other Brüdel, seeing Ime running, chase after him, or try to block his path. He easily crushes them with his earth magic, knocks them away with his air magic, or drowns them with his water magic. He shouts to Meah, but the noise of the fighting and the roar of the audience drowns him out.

Kylii runs across his path, searching the chaos of the fighting. Ime changes his path and grabs the twin’s arm. Kylii turns, ready to punch, but stops when he realizes it’s Ime. “Have you seen that monster? Who knew men could grow to that size!”

“Meah is in danger!”

“Have you seen Daniil? I can’t find him or the beast he was fighting.”

“Later! Right now we have to stop that thing from reaching Meah!”

Kylii sees the destination of the giant’s rampage, bites his lower lip, and nods. “All right.”

The two run after the giant.

Meah finishes healing another severely injured man and stands. She looks at her fellow healers. Tristan, Skara, and Bon are working together as they had in the previous fight. Two other healers, older Arena slaves named Gira and Hakon are working separately, stronger healers than the others. But all are running out of energy. Even Meah experiences more strain each time she heals. If the fighting doesn’t end soon, they won’t have anything left.

Screams of terror from those waiting to be healed make her turn. An enormous hand grabs her around the waist and lifts her. She screams and looks into the face of a giant. His expression is empty and his mouth hangs open, but the lips are twisted into a deranged smile. He touches Meah’s hair with his other hand, breathing heavily. She slaps the hand away and tries to escape.

The giant grimaces and starts squeezing. Meah gasps as her breathing is constricted and she starts clawing at the hand holding her. Small tracks of blood appear, but the giant only squeezes tighter. She screams as she feels a rib crack.

She reaches for one of her hidden knives and aims for a large vein visible under the taut skin. She misses and the giant yells in pain. He grabs his fist with his other hand and squeezes harder.

Meah is unable to take even the smallest breath and vision slowly darkens around the edges. She tries to raise her arm to stab at the vein again, but her arms become limp. Her knife falls from her hand and her head rolls forward.

The giant releases her. She feels the air rushing past as she falls. Then a strong updraft slows her descent. She lands in warm arms and hears the grunt of the one who catches her. She inhales deeply and coughs, nearly choking. When her vision returns, she sees Ime’s face. Meah whimpers and grabs him in a hug. He lowers her legs to the ground and wraps his arms around her. He pulls her away from the giant as a large foot crashes nearby.

Meah looks back at the giant and sees Kylii dashing between his legs. He throws fire at him to keep him distracted. The giant tries to grab him. But Kylii throws up a wall of fire whenever the giant’s hands get too close. The giant cringes from the burning light and tries to step on Kylii.

Ime takes Meah to a different wall of the Arena. “Stay here. Kylii and I will take care of this.”

“Where’s Daniil?”

Ime shakes his head. “Haven’t seen him.”

Meah looks at Kylii. He’s laughing as he dodges through the giant’s legs and taunts his foe. The giant growls and falls to the ground, kicking his legs in front of him. Kylii is too fast and dodges these attempts to crush him. The giant’s tattered and filthy pants burst into flames, bringing screams from the wearer, who smashes into the nearby Arena walls to smother the flames. The kill list of audience members continues to grow.

“If he keeps going, he’s going to crush the injured!” Meah says. She can see the healers trying to move the wounded away from the battle, but there are too many bodies for five people to move.

Ime looks Meah in the eyes. “Stay here. Just this one time, do as I say.”

Meah vigorously nods her head. “I need to do some healing on myself before I go anywhere. He cracked one of my ribs.”

Ime nods and runs across the Arena. He joins Kylii in attacking the giant. They steer him away from the wounded as Meah slumps to the ground, focused on healing herself.

Ime and Kylii keep the giant distracted as more slaves run to help the healers transport the wounded. Bern, Cal, Rava, Mava, and a few of the older Arena slaves take care of the remaining Brüdel.

The giant grabs a large slab of stone from a crushed wall of the Arena and uses it to try and smash Ime and Kylii. He slams it down over and over again, missing the two each time. Frustrated the giant growls and throws the slab into the audience. They try to scramble out of the way, but the crowd is too large and much of the Arena is already damaged. Dozens more are killed.

“This bastard isn’t going down!” Kylii yells as he throws fire in the giant’s eyes.

Ime throws earth up to try and trip the giant, who merely crashes through with his huge feet. “Daniil’s freezing would have been useful right now!”

A howling, roar rises from behind them. Accompanied by the sound of running feet. The two turn as the Khorgoi leaps over them. It zig zags towards the giant, avoiding his attacks. It claws the giant’s feet, drawing blood and cutting deep enough in some places to show bone. The giant raises his fist high above his head, ready to bring it down on the Khorgoi. Ice covers his hand and lower arm, throwing his balance off and causing him to fall to the ground onto his back. The Khorgoi leaps onto the giant’s chest and digs razor-sharp claws into his chest. The giant raises his free arm and slaps at the beast. The Khorgoi jumps to the ground, avoiding the large hand. The giant slaps one hand against his raw, bloody chest and screams in pain. Pink ice freezes the hand to his chest. He struggles to raise his other arm, frozen fist and all, but he can’t.

At last, the giant stops struggling, his body jerks violently from side to side, and scarletfoam erupts from his mouth.

Daniil walks over to his brother. “Hey.”

“Where the hell have you been?” Kylii demands.

The Khorgoi moves to be next to Daniil and sits. It looks up at him, expectantly.

“What is that?” Ime asks.

Daniil places a hand on the animal’s head and smiles. “This is Tanith. She is a Khorgoi.”

Kylii stares at his brother, confused. “How do you know it’s a she? And how do you know what it’s called?”

“What’s a Khorgoi?” Meah asks, surprising them. Her wounds are healed and she looks from Daniil to Tanith curiously.

Tanith looks at Daniil. He meets her eyes and then turns back to the group. “Well, Khorgois are legendary beasts from our part of the world. They are said to be spirits that watch over the earth. I know her name because while we fought I may have heard her voice.”

Kylii grabs Daniil’s shoulders. “Run that by me again?”

“I heard her voice in my head and she told me her name.”

“What does that mean?” Meah asks.

Kylii stares down at Tanith. “It means she wants something from him. What did she ask for?”

Daniil eyes his brother, cautiously. “She wants to be taken back to her home.”

“Quiet!” Ime yells suddenly. The group falls silent and turns to him. He is looking around the Arena. “The fight is over.”

A strange silence fills the Arena. With the giant dead, slaves who had been running, join the rest. Shock fills every face.

They are victorious.

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