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Tawmis Sanarius – Human (Fighter)
Taren Bloodhorn – Minotaur (Gladiator)
Blaz’tik – Insectoid Mage
Coy Twofang – Ratling Rogue
Sir Karin – Human Knight
Alissa – Human Mage
Jorale – Human Alchemist
Stonebreaker Bloodrage – Human Barbarian
“So, you and the human have an interesting friendship,” Stonebreaker said, looking over at Taren as they walked cautiously ahead.
“The human,” Taren followed Stonebreaker’s gaze. “Tawmis,” he said noting who Stonebreaker was glancing at. “He was a slave of Namaer, the homeland of my people. I was accused – falsely – of murder. Tawmis recognized a plant that’s used to heal if applied to the skin, but if consumed, causes distortion. The plant was put into my food… and Tawmis broke his chains and risked his life for me.” Taren looked at Stonebreaker, then back at Tawmis, then back to Stonebreaker. “My people have a thing called an Arena of Justice. Those accused of crimes, no matter how petty or severe, are put there to fight off seven waves of gladiators. If you survive the experience, we believe the gods find you innocent. Our Emperor was impressed by the bravery of Tawmis… but we were banished from the lands, despite being found innocent. I owed him a life debt.”
“From the sounds of things, you two have been friends for a long time,” Stonebreaker noted. “Surly you’ve repaid the life debt by now?”
“I have,” Taren replied. “Many times. As he’s saved my life many times since then.”
“So why stay?” Stonebreaker asked.
“Because he is my friend,” Taren replied. He paused, before adding, “He is my family.”
Stonebreaker, a Northman knew of the Minotaurs. Knew they were vicious fighters and honor bound. But he also knew the superiority complex commonly known among the Minotaurs; that every race that wasn’t a Minotaur was either meant to be food or fodder. Seeing such depth in Taren, he wondered if the life debt opened a door that forged an unbreakable friendship.
Not far behind them, Alissa was walking next to Jorale.
“I don’t trust that rat,” Jorale sneered, casting a baleful gaze in the direction of Coy, who was at the front of the expedition.
“Interesting,” Alissa commented, “you not trusting a rat.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jorale asked, halting in her steps for a moment.
Alissa did not slow down. “Is there any rat worse than a slaver?”
“I am not a slaver,” Jorale growled as she caught up to Alissa and gave her a stern look.
“Funny, from where I sat, behind those bars, you looked like a slaver to me,” Alissa sneered back. “You and the captain – what was his name? – Barion – seemed very cozy. And now, I see you getting cozy with the barbarian. You don’t even know who or what you are. You need a man to make you feel complete and secure. First the captain, a man in a position of power. Lose him then you try to warm up to the barbarian – one of the men that your previous lover captured in hopes of selling him off to the slave markets for profit.”
“You dare judge me?” Jorale looked at her, even more furious. “While you grew up with a loving family in your giant castles in your massive empires, I grew up in Sanchi – which, I don’t know if you know this – is a Hell Hole. The heat kills newly born children as quickly and easily as we kill the ants beneath our feet. The harsh conditions make it so parents rarely dote on their children or show them any compassion, because they could die as young children thanks to the heat and lack of water. All you ever knew was a loving family – all I ever wanted was to be loved. So I ran away. I ran away when I was young. I sought a better life for myself. Yes, I used my looks to get me further in life, because I didn’t have the luxury of a father whose purse was full of endless riches.”
“You do not know what love is,” Alissa replied. “You think my life was so easy because I was rich? The vast castle and vast empire you think I grew up in – I never saw. I was the only daughter my parents had. They were paranoid that I would be abducted and held for ransom. I was barely able to leave my room most nights, because of the fear my parents lived in. From my window, I could see people – my own age – laughing and playing with one another. As the years went by, I could see teenagers when I was of their age – kissing in the garden. The only person my parents ever trusted was Sir Karin’s mother and father, because his father was a part of my father’s Knighthood. That’s why Karin and I became as close as we are. Because he was my only friend I ever got to know. I was just as much as a prisoner as you were. I wanted to know the love and friendship of others and be free of the prison my parents had placed me in.”
Both ladies walked in silence.
Alissa turned to Jorale. “I’m sorry for what I said about you.”
“As am I,” Jorale replied, “as to assuming you had a perfect life.”
“There is no such thing as a perfect life,” Alissa said, looking over to Karin, then over to Tawmis. “Life is always full of trouble and turmoil.”