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Survival.

 
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2004 1:03 pm    Post subject: Survival. Reply with quote

Date: 3/24/2004 2:47 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Samiyah Zayn


Samiyah launched her back leg out in a round kick, attempting to use a bit of strategy to divert her opponent's attention and defense low. The gesture went unnoticed. Samiyah's opponent, a teenage boy who stood a good foot taller than her, bared down upon her with a series of attacks. He opened with a lead leg front kick to start her on a backward movement and then came baring down on her with a siege of heavy jabs and crosses.

Samiyah's breath quickened as she attempted to avoid the fury of fists and kicks. One of the multitude of tiny dark braids of her hair had escaped the ponytail which held the braids away from her face and the small braid was whipping her furiously as she twisted and turned. Before she could even react, one of the teenager's large boots was bearing down upon her crouched position in the form of an ax kick. The heavy leather connected against the back of her head, driving her face first into the dirt floor of the ring.

Samiyah coughed out the dirt from the back of her throat, fighting to remain consciousness. The crowd of unwashed men surrounding the ring screamed obscenities -- either in anger or in joy. Samiyah lifted her battered head just enough to watch the teenager prancing around the ring with his wrapped hands raised above his head in victory. Her vision was blurry but she forced her eyes to narrow in on her intended target. Anger bubbled but she kept it repressed. Anger only got in the way in the ring. Survival was the only emotion one could rely on.

Her small dark hands caked in dirt and blood pushed her body to her feet. The shiny metal of a sword on the hip of a man haggling with a bookie, already looking for a return on his bet, caught her eye. With the skills of an expert pickpocket, Samiyah dropped enough to snap the short sword out of his sheath. Before the victim of the theft even noticed, the smallish preteen was stalking towards her much larger opponent across the ring. Without a moment's hesitation and grunting through the effort, Samiyah brought the hilt down swiftly onto the head of the teenage boy who had his back turned to her as he celebrated his short-lived victory. His body crumbled to her feet, blood immediately seeping from the gash to his head.

The cries from the crowd lit up the room. Samiyah heard nothing. There were no rules within these rings. Her opponent shouldn't have made the mistake of turning his back. The teenager's manager rushed in between the ropes to tend to the unconscious fighter. Samiyah dropped the sword carelessly to the dusty floor. She drew her arm across her forehead to wipe away her sweat and blood, attempting to clear her head which remained cloudy from the blow.

Her dark eyes caught sight of her manager -- the seedy establishment's owner. His smirk made her queasy. A toothpick hung precariously between his thick lips. His balding head shone with sweat beneath the harsh overhead lights. Samiyah spit a mouthful of her blood off to the side. After a long moment of enjoying the scene, Leon moved from his spot, shooing off the attention of one of the establishment's many prostitutes. His cowboy boats clunked along the wooden paneled floor until he entered the dirt ring.

"What're you gonna do when we start catchin' on to that broad's cheap tricks?" the manager of Samiyah's opponent shot out bitterly at Leon.

Samiyah's thin arms crossed in front of her chest. Her tank top and jeans suddenly seemed to be little cover. Her dark brown eyes watched Leon's every step. She carefully kept her Bedouin Arab features trained in an uncaring expression. As the adrenaline of the fight faded, the pain became real. Not only the physical pain but the deep, mounting concern over the answer to the question now posed to Leon. There would be time to nurse those wounds later. The best thing to do now was to remain silent.

"Sam's getting older, isn't she?" Leon's smirk grew, he cupped Samiyah's chin in a gesture that almost seemed loving if it wasn't for the smirk and the glint of greed in his eyes. "I'm sure one of you fine gentleman would give me quite a price to be the first to conquer this spit fire." Cheers and laughter rose through the mob of men while Samiyah stood in the ring, fuming in silence.
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2004 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Date: 3/30/2004 4:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Sarah The Stick



       "Stick."
       "Cagey."
       "Stop calling me that.  That's not my name."
       "I can't say your name."
       "I know, but Cagey?  It's not very... flattering.  Makes me sound less than honest."
       "At least it's fitting."
       There would be no purpose in trekking to the confectionary stand, rented out and built from the unused portion of a reputable clothing shop in Midtown, were it not for the treats hidden within and had for a reasonable price.  The roguish elven gentleman who acted as proprietor and sole employee, one Elkariathas Gul'daren, was nearly dashing in his black eyepatch, which kept straight, shoulder-length blond hair partially in check.  Stick had long been impressed by it, her imagination looping to and fro in speculation of the precise size, shape, and angle of the jagged scar which lay beneath.
       Then she happened to stop by on a morning he was hung over and wore the patch on the wrong eye.
       That left her two reasons to return.  One:  The only quality cinammon rolls in RhyDin.  The other was Cagey's stories.  He was a first-rate yarn-spinner, and with the manner in which he limped about his tiny shop, frequently dressed in drab, worn greens and browns, as an ex-adventurer might be wont to do, Stick considered it a challenge to tell truth from half-truth, half-truth from bald-faced lies.
       And, occasionally, he managed to set his ego aside to share some anecdote centered around someone else.
       "I'm wounded."
       "The truth hurts, Cagey."
       He sighed heavily, making his point before changing topics to something that would be less likely to make him look the fool.  "How is your new palace of learning coming along?  I never did quite picture you as the 'schoolmarm' type."
       Dark eyes glared over a tan snack covered in white icing.  "You know damn well what kind of school I run."
       "Yes, yes, I know.  Are your students progressing well in the relaxed atmosphere you surely provide them?"
       "Pfffft.  What students?"
       Silence.  She paused.  He blinked.
       "Ahhh.. it's been some time since you claimed it was ready, so I assumed you had at least one or two."
       "Oh.  That makes sense."
       "It?  Does.  Yes."  He nodded, forcing himself to slow to a natural speed.
       Stick nodded back, savoring a bite of the cinammon roll.
       "That's good."
       "I'm glad you like it."
       "It almost makes me feel bad about threatening to rip the points off your ears if you don't tell me the truth."
       "But you haven't- ah."
       Stick smiled, a wicked victor's smile, and a certain elf residing in Midtown began to wonder, if he tried very, very hard, and believed with all his might it was possible, could he will himself to disappear?

       She stood on the corner of an avenue near Badside, surrounded by shacks and hovels slumped to one side or another, broken losers of the war against poverty.  One, her destination, stood firm, a lonely general refusing to give up hope despite his wounds.  No more than six feet to a side, the hinges of its door remained oiled and shiny while wooden skin rotted around it.
       "This can't be it."
       What the shack was to small, the platform behind it was to oversized and out of place.  Stairs led to its surface, one story removed from the surrounding gravel paths.  That would be a place for a fight, packing in spectators to create a smaller and smaller ring of flesh for combatants to do battle in.  The closer the quarters, the quicker the fights; the quicker the fights, the more bets could be made.  It made sense.
       It still didn't match Cagey's description in certain ways.
       He had very specifically said it was indoors, for one.
       It has to be a mage, she thought.  There were enough of them who saw regular people as their playthings.  Maybe it's like Harris's pocket, where he fits all that crap to throw at people.
       Approaching the building, her imagination began to expand on the initial suspicion.  A mage wouldn't need bouncers.  He- of course it was a he- would have given keys to his customers to allow them access.  She would never get in.  Better yet, the door would open into dead space, dragging her into some sort of black hole, a concept she had overheard Matt discuss just enough for it to wreak havoc with her mind.
       She stood before the ratty old shanty house.
       Somewhere in there, a mage was waiting for her.
       Somewhere in there could lay her doom.
       Somewhere in there, her childhood was being replayed.
       Somewhere in there was her supposed first student.
       She opened the door.

       Stairs, plain, wooden, and rickety.  Leading down.
       Stick spread her fingers in the air, weaving patterns in a makeshift test for magical properties.  Better to lose a hand than a leg or a life.  To her pleasant surprise, she remained intact for the walk downstairs, into a mundane, exceptionally large, highly un-magelike basement.
       Had she only heard stories, it could have been the Arena; an evil twin, at the very least.  It reeked of dying morals and ethics.  Courtesans milled about in their tawdry skirts and bosom-baring corsets, leeches searching for golden blood to suckle from victorious gamblers.  A cowboy haggled with an elven warlock over odds on fights to come.  The spill of coinage rang out heavily, weighing down an atmosphere of competition with the endlessness of business.  Debts were created and paid as a bloodied young man shuffled weakly out of the fighting circle, leaving another face-down in sand and dirt to be dragged away by his ankles.  Looking up at an impossibly high ceiling, she discerned at least one purpose for the platform outside.
       When her attention turned back to the ring, she decided she would have to thank Cagey.
       Stick passed easily through waves of leers, catcalls, and occasional lingering stares of recognition to stand by the ring near the braided girl's entrance point.  One tale of mistreatment raised her hackles; another, of guile, piqued her interest.  She stood impassively, arms crossed and feet spread, ready to observe a familiar sight from a very different perspective.
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