The guard woke me before dawn the next day. I had tried to sleep once or twice, but had frequently been awoken by terrible nightmares, most of them involving a large pair of claws and a mouth full of bloodstained teeth. Now, just as I had gotten into the deepest part of my sleep pattern, the guard nudged me awake with his hob-nailed boot.
“Get up man, you’re needed in the Arena for the morning bouts.”
I sat up and rubbed my eyes blearily. The Arena? This early in the morning? The guard hauled me to my feet and led me towards the door. The creature watched me leave, its glowing eyes following my every movement. Before he closed the door behind us, the guard turned to it and said;
“Don’t you worry, you’ll get your turn soon enough.”
* * * *
I was lead to a large open space, like a sort of underground courtyard, several meters down the corridor. There were other inmates there too, all walking around chewing small bits of bread and looking as nervous as I felt. My first fight. Possibly my last fight as well.
After handing me a piece of mouldy bread, the guard pushed me into the courtyard to join my fellows. I retreated to a corner and sat watching the others, munching my food in an absent-minded manner.
There were around twenty to thirty men altogether, all of various ages and appearances. Some I knew from the Wanted posters that appeared around Alarbor at various times. They were always portrayed as dangerous and merciless looking killers in the public eye, but here they looked like any other men I had seen, all terrified that this fight could be their last. Just as much as it could be mine.