Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Boy Named Nod: Seas of Blood and Fire Part 3


I shrugged off my jacket and tossed it to the ground. My bowtie followed it shortly thereafter. I had already removed my shoes. They didn’t need to be roughed up any further than they already had been.

The Wrecking Crew was scurrying about from underneath my coat, carrying it away across the sand and back to the Wulf brothers for me. Little shouts of “Arr!” burst out from underneath it as they passed the hawk-headed gargoyle manning the gate I had just come out of. He pulled a lever and the gate slammed shut. He nodded to me solemnly and disappeared into the tunnel.

I looked up into the crowd and squinted my eyes. There were thousands gathered to watch this fight. I wouldn’t have been surprised if The Commandant had decreed that they had to attend. That seemed to be about his style. You will watch. You will be entertained. You will cheer for the blood on the sand. You will be as amused as I am.

The Commandant seemed to think it would be a fight to remember. It probably would be. This fight would decide whether The Commandant accepted Mayor Morelli’s proposal or not. One couldn’t ask for a much simpler task to force a decision. Me versus their Coliseum’s champion, some charming giant named Greeg.

He had at first been selected for The Commandant’s personal choir as their primary castrato. Unfortunately, shortly after the surgery, his growth began to accelerate. Rather than having an emasculated young man with a beautiful voice and a learning deficiency they had an over-muscled beast with a voice no longer suited to singing. So The Commandant threw him into the arena.

Greeg had been its champion ever since.

I waited patiently, watching the barred gate across the arena from me. I already knew that Michael and The Commandant would be watching The Commandant’s private box to my right. There was no need to look in that direction. This was a fight that I had accepted without consulting Michael first. He had been angry with me, most certainly still was, but that wouldn’t change facts.

This was what would make sense. This was the shortest path to our goal. It needed to be walked.

I waited under the sun and under the eyes of thousands of former Chrysalis Falls citizens. These days, they weren’t considered part of the city. They were a country within the city, a scab on the hole in The Wall. Should the invasions ever cease, Gravesite could be picked off and flung away. At least, that was how The Corps viewed things. I wasn’t so certain. Not as I watched these former entertainers and military personnel watching me. There would be no easy invasion of Gravesite if it was unwanted.

The gate opened across the arena from me, and Greeg lumbered out. There were lumps all down his back as he stared up at me from his hunched position. From slack alligator jaws came a deep panting. Greeg’s eyes were glazes over and its sculpted arms dragged in the sand. His tail kept him balanced as he staggered into the Coliseum.

This was their champion? He was definitely large. Large enough even, to concern me on brute force standards. But… There was no fire in those eyes that told me about the killer within.

The Commandant was shouting above the din of the crowd.

“Honored guests! We have a special entertainment this day! The stone troll Gregor Rook will face our champion, Greeg! The fight begins now, our fellows. May only the strongest win.”

Michael was standing next to The Commandant. He had only two words for me.

“Crush him.”

I nodded and charged. Greeg cocked his twisted head and watched me through the lengthy whiskers sprouting from his snout. I drove an immovable fist into his stomach and Greeg wheezed. Clasping my hands together, I brought them down in one smashing blow onto the back of his neck. Greeg collapsed into the dirt, wheezing and gasping.

The crowd was chanting.

“Second verse.”
“Second verse.”
“Second verse.”
“Second verse.”

Greeg tipped his head to look up at me and smiled through his crooked jaws.

“Second verse.
Same as first.
Little bit louder.
Little bit WORSE!”

The last line was a scream I barely heard as I was lifted into the air and thrown across the arena. I slammed into the wall with a crunch and tried to capture the air that was escaping me.

“Did I forget to warn you and your master Gregor? Greeg may not have the perfect pitch he did as my castrati but I think his voice is still beautiful in its own right, no? I admit, his choice of material is juvenile but opera eludes him these days. The best he can manage are children’s rhymes.”

Michael stood there, silently watching me.

I was picking myself up when Greeg plowed into me, driving me back against the wall. It cracked. I cracked. Greeg was panting and giggling and singing.

“Jimmy crack corn.
Jimmy crack corn.
Jimmy crack corn.

Greeg was slamming his mallet fists attached to those long strands of muscles he called arms into me over and over as his voice jackhammered me against the wall.

“I have a new song for you Greeg.”

His singing stopped but his fists continued to rain down on me.

“New song?”


Fifteen men on a dead’s man CHEST!”

I drove my knee into his stomach just below his ribs. The air fled from his lungs this time and I caught both of his arms in my hands.

“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”

I slammed my head into the bridge of his snout and Greeg squealed in pain.

“Drink and the devil…”

Right cross.

“…had done for the rest.”

Left cross.

“Yo ho ho…”

I pulled Greeg in close, twisting his arms behind his back.

“and a bottle of rum.”

That’s when I squeezed. You can’t sing if you don’t have any air. You can’t punch if you can’t swing. You can’t win if I don’t let you.

“Come Greeg. With me. One-two-three. BREATHE!”

My grip constricted and his ribs cracked under the strain. Greeg was whimpering in my arms and the crowd was silent.

“With feeling this time m’lad. One-two-three. BREATHE!”

Greeg squealed outright this time.

“Daddy! Give me daddy. Daddy fixit!”

“Gregor stop!”

I looked up at The Commandant. He was on his feet; tears streaming down his tanned, leather face.

“You can tell the Mayor we will agree to his plan. Let Greeg go.”

I let my arms loose and Greeg stumbled backwards, whining softly. The gate behind me opened and my jacket floated back out to me on the heads of four cheerful little imps.

“Yo ho ho!”

“Thank you gents.”

“Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”

They scurried off, cackling madly.

I slipped on my jacket and my tie, adjusting them as bits of me shook loose and fell down my sleeves. I turned to face The Commandant and face Michael. I bowed slowly and my eyes met Michael’s.

“Thank you sirs. Your orders?”

“Mr. Jonathan has tea waiting for you. Rest for as long as it takes to drink it and meet me in The Commandant’s office. We will still be there taking care of paperwork.”

“Aye sir.”

The sun was setting and the sky was bleeding. It would be a good night.

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