Inquisitor 28: Andrus Fell
The first punch dislodged a knuckle, the second sent pain lancing down his fist. As the third crushed his opponent’s trachea a stream of vomit burst from his mouth. He shuddered, exhausted. Blood filled the other man’s mouth as he struggled to maintain his feet, struggled to draw breath. The crowd roared in an exultant rush of frenzy as the two men came apart. Andrus watch as his opponent drowned in blood, rage and hopelessness pouring from his eyes. Andrus dragged air into his lungs, the expansion of his chest causing his bruised and broken ribs to send more lancing waves of pain into his skull.
A tannoy blared as his opponent fell to the floor of the fighting pit. Andrus stood impassively and watched as menials dragged the sad corpse away. The tannoy blared so violently that he could not hear it, he felt the sounds vibrate in his bones, knowing that they sounded the next bout. There was no celebration of his victory, he received no laurels from the crowd, he merely slunk back into the under warrens as the crowd brayed for more blood.
His handlers approached him warily as he stepped into the darkness of the under-arena. Very little light penetrated the depths of the filth warren and Andrus was still dazed from the blinding lights of the arena. The shades danced around him as he waited. His breathing was ragged and heavy in the air.
‘Good work, filth, your master will be pleased.’
Andrus did not know his handlers’ names; he referred to them by the shape of light they displaced. This one was Long-shadow.
‘I fight because you make me, daemon, not to please your master.’ Agony flared in his skull as the neural whip licked across his bare and bruised torso. Andrus dropped to his knees and prostrated himself in the darkness, his hands clasped before him – a mockery of sacred diligence. Heavy manacles were locked to his wrists and the shades goaded him into deeper darkness.
His cell was a spare and sorry thing. A pallet crate was his bed and a bucket his toilet. Andrus hadn’t slept in days, not since the night they had taken him. He feared the time would come where he would succumb to exhaustion and the skinny rodents would amass and feast on his recumbent flesh. Andrus smiled teeth red with his own blood.
‘Well there is precious little else to eat.’
Ahmed el Rasheem licked his teeth as his fighter lurched from the arena, victorious. His smile was razor thin as he stood to leave. Sycophants and lackeys fawned around him as he pushed for the door of the royal box.
‘Rasheem, you offend me brother. You would leave before paying me your obeisance?’
The fat worm Mulkrat bellowed his words through a mouth filled with food. The arena’s proprietor waved Ahmed over to him, a greasy smile pasted across his wobbling face.
‘I have paid your fees, your benevolence. Is that not respect enough? I have matters that require my attention.’ Ahmed gave a mock bow at the foot of Mulkrat’s imposing mercy-seat.
‘You have paid the coin tithes, but you know there are other things I would have of you.’ He sneered.
‘Blood for the blood god? Really? Is the blood my warrior sheds not sacrament enough? What would you have of me?’
Mulkrat sat up suddenly, lurched to his feet and stomped across the room to stand chest to chest with Ahmed.
‘I was a warrior myself once.’ His fists clenched and unclenched in anger, as if clutching the handles of weapons long lost to him. ‘You will not mock me, not in my house.’ Ahmed struggled to maintain the fat mound’s gaze, he looked away,
‘I am aware, brother. Accept my apologies.’ Ahmed took a thin blade from his belt, closed his hand around it and showed his open palm to Mulkrat. Mulkrat smiled and clasped Ahmed’s hand in his own.
‘Blood for the blood god, brother. ’ Mulkrat leaned in closely and ceased his bellowing, his voice became a whisper, ‘your fighter wins too often Ahmed and you do not know your place here. Do not try me or I will suck the marrow from your skinny bones.’
Ahmed met the pit-master’s gaze this time. How he wanted to bury his blade in the fat man’s heart. His fingers twitched around the smooth handle as Mulkrat made his threats.
‘I understand, brother.’
Mulkrat was smiling and laughing again, playing the host to the many sycophants who flocked to him, as if the altercation had never taken place.
Anger seethed inside of Ahmed as he broke from the room and made for the holding cells. The cut in his hand was deep, he would need to suture it or risk infection. This place was rife with disease, the crowd pressed in in their thousands and brought their filth with them. He could taste it in the air. The thin blade still held in his left hand was a surgical scalpel. Dr Rasheem placed one foot in front of the other as he descended into the under-arena and cursed the pig Mulkrat.