Two weeks later, I still hadn't died. I suppose you know your life sucks more than a Cartorian river leech when this thought cheers you up. But it did cheer me up, and a little bit of cheer goes a long way in the Silver Sword Arena. It can keep you sane, and sanity is a difficult thing to hold onto in that dark, slimy cell that was my home.
I had lasted a whole two weeks and hadn't lost a fight since my first against Kris. I had learned a lot from Vengeance. Though my lessons with him were terrifying, I gained valuable skills that helped me win in the arena. I learned how to strike a crippling blow and how to avoid one. I learned how to exploit weaknesses and how to master my fear. I learned how to kill.
Though Vengeance still unsettled me somewhat, my fear of him had greatly diminished. I realized that he was one of the reasons I was still alive, and though the memory of him killing Morrow still haunted me, he wasn't always so horrifying. Sometimes he almost seemed gentle. More so than the guards ever did.
However, though Vengeance was a formidable warrior, he wasn't human, and he couldn't help me where human needs were concerned. The fact that he seemed to have a weapon sprouting from virtually every part of his body gave him the slight edge in the arena. I, however needed extra help.
Kris was that help. She and I had become rather friendly, and her tricks and advice proved invaluable. The first thing she had taught me was how to bribe the guards.
"They have absolute power over us," she said as we were waiting to enter the arena one morning. "They are in complete control of our lives. But you do have something to bargain with. They can be bribed."
"We don't get paid, though," I said, pointing out the obvious. "I don't know about you, but I haven't got a fed to my name."
"No, neither do I," said Kris. "But all the guards bet on the matches. Being on the inside, they've got the clear edge over everyone else. It's not technically legal, but neither is this facility, and the laws are easily circumvented. Anyhow, you can bargain with your ability to win or loose the next match."
I looked at her, puzzled.
"For example, if you tell the guard you'll throw the next match, he can bet against you safely," Kris explained. "In return, you might get some feds, food, or medical supplies, all of which can be vital. Just make sure you get payment in advance, and if you're throwing a match, make sure you put on a convincing show and that your opponent really isn't going to kill you. You usually have to give them a cut of the rewards."
Kris shrugged. "It works, that's what's important."
Then she taught me the rather finer arts of evaluating opponents and how to give the crowd the exciting fights they wanted.
"It's all about appearance," she told me. "If you're popular, then they feed you better and match you up against opponents you can handle, 'cause they want to keep you alive. And at the end of the day, it's all about staying alive."
And after two weeks, I was still alive. I was surviving in harsher conditions than the most barren stretches of the Scarabine deserts. Things appeared to be going well, or at least as well as things could go in the arena. But then things took a turn for the worst, which seems to be a recurring element in my life. Someone who I had hoped never to hear of again showed up at the arena. Jeremy Wayne came to visit me.