Legin’s right arm extended slowly, his fist balled and his weight moving with the steady punch. In a fighting stance his breathing was controlled and his mind focused on the movement and precision of his punch. Arm extended, but not so much as to lock his elbow at full extension, Legin deliberately moved his feet with perfect precision to position himself to execute a side kick. With the upmost control he retracted his punch and in the same movement twisted his hips, brought his right knee up to his waist then extending his leg in the kick. His left foot turned with the motion so that his heel was facing the direction of the kick. Breathing ever so slowly his right foot came back to the ground and Legin moved back into his fighting stance.
“Hope you can hit faster than that,” Kōrrin remarked dryly as he watched Legin practice.
“I’m working on my technique,” Legin replied simply as he executed a straight left punch.
“Technique,” the black bearded dwarf snorted, “All ye gotta do is hit the guy until he doesn’t get up again.”
“You can take my place if you want,” Legin remarked as he stood perfectly still with his leg at full extension in a turning kick at head height.
“Nah,” Kōrrin shook his bald head, “It’s all yours crazy monkey boy. So come now, we’re about to get things going.”
Legin let out a slow breath and moved into a casual stance, his arms relaxed at his sides.
“Lead the way,” Legin remarked as he moved to join the dwarf, stretching his arms and shoulders as he did.
Kōrrin snorted again and waved Legin to follow him from the tents of the East Quarter encampments towards the center of the prison compound and where the Convict Crucible waited.
“Ye want me to place a bet for ya?” Kōrrin asked as they walked along.
“What are my odds?” inquired Legin curiously
“Me an me boys are giving ye four to one to win,” said Kōrrin without looking over his shoulder.
“Seriously? Is that all?” Legin balked.
“Whatcha expect?” Kōrrin shrugged, “Tarris is the current tournament champion.”
“I guess,” sighed Legin, “Alright put me down for a silver piece.”
“Feelin’ lucky are ya?” Kōrrin chuckled and nodded.
As Legin followed through the campsites the sound of the gathered convicts gradually rose, and as they noticed his approach they began to cheer. The mass of people moved aside as Kōrrin led the way up the slight hill which came to a rise looking over the Crucible which sat in the ground down a slight decline.
The cheers increased as Legin crested the hill and began the walk down. A slight smile came to his face as he looked around at the gathering. Nearly everyone in the prison was here for this fight, more than any ever showed up for the monthly tournaments. The whole area was filled with jostling prisoners trying to get the best vantage point.
At the bottom of the hill Aurora and Pip waited for him each with a look of determination upon their faces.
“This should be interesting ay bro,” Pip remarked as Legin stopped beside his friend. “Tarris looks keen for a fight too.”
Pip pointed into the in-ground ring and to where Legin’s large opponent was waiting, shadow boxing for a warm up.
“He does,” Legin nodded and smiled, “Does it look to you like he is favoring one leg?”
Pip nodded slowly, “Yeah he does, now that you mention it.”
“Word is, Tarris was involved in a fight with the Lieutenant just before Vythe made his escape,” Aurora remarked to Legin, “He was apparently badly injured.”
“I suppose that makes things a bit easier,” Legin replied with a little disappointment.
“Beware a wounded bull’s charge,” Aurora was quick to say.
“And that Saiross is planning something no doubt,” Pip added and Legin nodded.
“Alright, let’s get to this,” laughed Legin and clapped his hands together, “You guys keep an eye on Sairos, okay Pip, Kōrrin. Hey where did the dwarf go?”
Legin looked around as did Aurora and Pip, for indeed Kōrrin had vanished.
“Probably getting a better vantage point,” the yineth shrugged and Legin nodded.
With a wide smile Legin calmly walked to the edge of the ring and dropped down into the sandy circle. The gathered crowed cheered wildly and Legin began to stretch his back and legs. He reached high into the air and backwards before bending at the hips and stretching forwards so that his forehead touched his knees.
“You’re going down little crazy monkey man,” Tarris declared loudly and cheer rose up from the gathered men from the South Quarter.
Legin did not say anything and simply smiled at the large man who was nearly a foot taller than him and Legin took up a fighting stance. His right foot forward a single stride and on a slight angle. His back leg was bent and raised up onto the ball of his foot, like a spring ready to snap. Bringing his hands up before him Legin began to slowly inch forwards, his feet never crossing.
Tarris smirked confidently and raised his fists around his head like a boxer and strode towards him, his six foot eight frame casting long shadows across the dirt.
The crowed hollered wildly, many screaming for Tarris to defeat him and just as many yelling for Legin to win. Out of the corner of his eye Legin noticed a few men walking about taking bets to see who would win. Kōrrin had said earlier that Tarris was the favourite to win, but that hardly deterred Legin. In fact it made him more determined to win.
Tarris drew closer and the crowd’s anticipation mounted.
This would be a good fight, Legin knew, he also knew that he could win and having watched Tarris fight many times before, he was confident that he would win. But he would at least put on show for the crowd.
Legin let his eye’s slip out of a single focus on Tarris and took in the whole sight his peripheral vision provided and allowed his to pick up the slightest of movements around him.
Tarris came closer still and his bare fists began to move around and flinch, feigning attacks to try and distract Legin.
But Legin smiled and darted forwards. His front foot lunged ahead as his back leg sprung into motion. His right fist dived for his larger opponent’s gut and as Tarris reflexively moved to block Legin’s right fist shot for Tarris’s face. So quick were Legin movements that he hit the bigger man square in the cheek and sent him stumbling back a few steps.
Legin followed him, sending a jab for Tarris’s face. Again his first attack was a feint and he dived low and landed a heavy blow to the big man’s gut. Faster than his opponent could react Legin’s next punch hit Tarris in the face, before he landed another punch to the man’s ribs.
Tarris took the hits well and Legin’s confidence swelled. But before he could make a quick retreat and another attack Legin felt Tarris’s heavy hands grab him around the head. The large man pulled him off balance and Legin’s eye’s widened as he saw a knee come for his face. Legin managed to cross his arms in front of himself to block the strike, and the next one, but Tarris still had him around the head and was outmuscling him.
Legin blocked another knee from Tarris before he suddenly felt himself flying through the air as Tarris tossed him to the other side of the circle.
Bouncing off the smooth rocks, Legin quickly rolled to his feet to face Tarris. Another wide smile came to Legin’s face as he took up his fighting stance once again and he and Tarris stalked each other around the ring.
Gradually they drew closer, each observing and waiting for the other to strike. Tarris’s fists were not as closer to his face this time and he seemed to be taking on a more freestyle technique and not so ridged in his boxing form.
Closer Legin moved towards this bigger man, cautiously they watched each other’s movements, searching for an opening. Their forearms almost touched before Legin struck like lightning. His leading fist snapped forward and collected Tarris squarely on the mouth, splitting his lip and sending him back a few steps.
Tarris grunted angrily and again he cautiously moved towards Legin. This time Legin waited patiently for his opponent, coiled like a spring ready to strike.
Again their forearms crossed and almost touched. But this time Tarris tried to strike. The man’s leading fist shot forwards. Just as quick Legin forced the attack low with his leading hand. His back hand darted ahead, knocking Tarris’s punch lower as Legin struck out with his right hand and punched Tarris in the face again. His punch hit the exact same spot on his opponent’s face and Tarris stumbled back a few steps once again, his hand over his mouth.
A stream of curses came muffled from the bigger man and he spat out a wad of blood along with a tooth. Furiously Tarris turned on Legin and charged back in with a vicious combination of punches and attempted grabs.
With a smile on his face Legin nimbly deflected the attacks and grabs, and countered with lightning fast punches and a high turning kick to Tarris’s head. But the big man continued to crowd him and push ahead, accepting the blows from Legin to somehow get a hold of him.
Legin was swift of foot, but then Tarris got a hold of his shirt and held on like a vice. Tarris’s free hand slammed into his ribs and shot for his face. Skillfully Legin managed to roll with the blows and block them well enough to lessen the hit. But he could not withstand these sledgehammer-like hits forever.
Legin could hear the crowd cheer Tarris on and he even caught a glimpse of Saiross looking smug.
Desperately Legin knocked another heavy punch from hitting him square in the jaw and struck out with his feet. Legin pushed off his toes and slammed Tarris in the ribs with his heel as his second foot hooked over the man’s shoulder. Grabbing a hold of Tarris’s arm with both hands Legin locked his feet together over the man’s arm and with his body weight pulled Tarris to the ground.
As soon as they hit the dirt and rocks Tarris let go of Legin’s shirt. He could have held onto the big man’s arm and potentially broken it, but Legin did not want this fight to be over just yet.
Letting go of Tarris’s wrist Legin rolled away and quickly got back to his feet, just as Tarris did the same.
The crowd cheered wildly as he and Tarris faced off once again.
“You fight well, for a crazy monkey boy,” Tarris nodded sincerely, “Should’ve joined in the previous monthly tournaments, might have made things interesting. I would’ve still won though, don’t you doubt.”
Legin smiled and shook his head, “I’ve never been one for self-gratifying tournaments. Besides, it would not have been much of a challenge.”
Tarris narrowed his eyes angrily, “What? This ain’t challenging enough for you?”
“Don’t get me wrong, you’re a good fighter,” Legin smiled innocently, “And I am having fun. But you’re not good enough to beat me. Nowhere near good enough. Maybe if you trained more you’d be better.”
Tarris snarled and growled angrily and he charged towards Legin, his fists close to his head again like a boxer. Anger drove Tarris then and he jabbed and swung viciously at Legin.
But Legin was the better and he easily blocked and countered, hitting Tarris with a heavy blow every time there was an opening in the man’s defences.
As Legin moved and stepped around and away from Tarris’s attacks he did not even register the reveal of an opening in the larger man’s defences. As soon as there was an opening, Legin did not think to strike, he simply struck without thinking.
Tarris’s punches were strong though, and even though he was blocking and deflecting each one, the weight of the blows were beginning to tire Legin. But ne was nowhere near as worn out as Tarris. The large man was breathing heavily now and his movements were starting to look sluggish, as were his punches and defences. Tarris had only ever focused on his attack and finishing his opponents off as quickly and brutally as possible. But his stamina was considerably lacking, unlike Legin.
Legin always made a point to keep aerobically fit and regularly went on runs around the prison, following the wall, and fighting now he was hardly breathing heavily.
Legin continued to dart and weave around Tarris’s slow attacks and strike when the opportunity presented itself.
Under a wild swing Legin ducked and slipped forwards as he landed a blow in Tarris’s ribs. With another quick step Legin was behind the man and he slammed his heel into the back of the big man’s knee. Tarris’s leg collapsed under the strike and he dropped to one knee just as Legin landed a heavy side kick between Tarris’s shoulder blades and sent him tumbling to ground at the base of the wall below Saiross.
Legin wore a wide smile and waited patiently for Tarris to get back to his feet.
Suddenly there was a flash of metal and a broad sword stabbed into the ground in front of Tarris. In surprise the large man looked up to Saiross who had thrown the blade.
“Kill him you fool,” Saiross screamed wildly, “Take his head from his shoul…”
The Southern Faction Leaders sentence ended in a gasp and a look of pain came to his features. The whole crowd hushed and all looked in surprise to the elderly Faction Leader as Saiross yelled out and grabbed at his chest.
“What the?” Legin exclaimed silently as he watched the old man gasp as he continued to grab at his chest.
The prisoners who could see all gasped as Saiross fell to his knees, his face marked with pain as he tore at his clothes. The man’s yells turned to garbles as his eyes bulged and he fell forward into the Crucible. The Southern Faction leader landed head first and a loud snap echoed around the stunned crowd. Saiross crumpled in a heap and twitched uncontrollably.
Curiously Legin approached and gave a bewildered look to Tarris who shrugged in response. Tarris also moved to Saiross twisted body and gently rolled the man on to his back.
“Dead,” Legin said loudly as he looked down on the old man’s anguished features, his withered hand still clutched at his left breast. “Heart attack maybe?”
“And broken neck,” Tarris added and Legin nodded.
Legin looked away from the dead man and towards Aurora and shrugged.
“Now what?” Legin called out to the yineth and turned back to Tarris, “Do we keep fighting?”
The large man scoffed and stood up from inspecting the body, “You’ve already won.”
Tarris gave a brief nod of respect to Legin before he moved to climb out of the Crucible.
“Legin won,” someone cheered from the crowd and was followed by a resounding applause, along with a few disappointed shakes of heads.
Legin looked around at the gathered convicts who were cheering him and scratched the back of his head in confusion. With a shrug Legin followed Tarris’s lead and climbed from the arena before making his way through the crowd to Aurora, receiving many pats on the back as he filtered through the crowd.
“Hear me all,” Aurora yelled above the clamor and the convicts slowly quietened down. “Siaross is dead, and Legin is the victor of the duel. This concludes the conflict between these Quarters. No more blood need be shed, and from this point forward I control all Quarters. Those who lost their homes in the West Quarter shall relocate to the East. Though the East mines are now flooded we can still find ore in the ravines of the West Quarter. All of you may now go back to your daily activities. But remember: I am now in control. If any of you are brave enough to dispute that, be my guest and you will meet a quick end. A time of transition is upon us all, but my agents and I will pave the way through it. Now disperse and get back to work all of you.”
Legin approached Aurora slowly as the gathered convicts looked to each other in confusion before they all seemed to shrug and slowly leave the area. Immediately Aurora turned to her agents and instruct each of them what to do.
“So, a heart attack ay?” Pip remarked offhandedly as he came along side Legin.
“He was old,” Legin replied nonchalantly. “I expected Tarris to be a better challenge though.”
“So, what now?” asked Pip.
“What now?” sighed Legin and stared absently at the ground.
“Now we rebuild,” Aurora said, grabbing his attention. “It may take some time, but this prison system will be operating efficiently soon enough. I may need you to help with any stubborn individuals though.”
“Strong arm store vendors?” Legin asked with a disappointed sigh.
“If need be,” the yineth nodded.
“Aurora,” an agent called as he raced up to them, “Its Kōrrin.”
“What happened?” Legin asked with concern.
“He and his dwarves,” the man explained and pointed to the south, “They’ve barricaded the South Quarter bridges and Kōrrin’s claiming the Quarter as his.”
“That conniving gnome,” Aurora smirked, “I had wondered why he had not been here to watch the fight. Come Legin, lets us see what he wants.”
Legin quickly followed Aurora and the agent from the edge of the Convict Crucible and into the South Quarter. By now all the convicts had gone back to their daily activities, apparently completely forgotten about the fact that the whole of the compound was on the verge of all-out war. But that was the way of the place, Legin mused, battles between Quarter’s were a common thing here and going back to work like nothing happened was the only reasonable thing to do.
But not all had gone back to their day to day lives, Legin noted as they came to one of the bridges that arched over the Southern Lake. Many of the people who lived in the South Quarter were gathered and seemed unhappy about the blockade which Kōrrin’s dwarves had constructed at the center of the bridge.
“Here now, let us through,” shouted one man at the front of the gathered as Legin and Aurora pushed to the front. “Or I’ll break it down.”
“Try it,” the dwarf Blarrid laughed and knocked his axe against his wooden buckler.
The unhappy man of course did not try it and he turned away muttering curses under his breath.
“Blarrid, where is Kōrrin?” Aurora demanded as she walked right up to the piled crates which were serving as the barricade.
“Right ‘ere,” came a gruff reply and Kōrrin showed his face from around one of the high boxes.
Legin looked to the yineth and through she would start yelling in anger, but he was surprised to see a thin smile come to the beautiful woman’s face.
“I did not think you were one for fishing,” Aurora remarked and Kōrrin chuckled.
“But I am one for profit,” the dwarf replied with a wink, “An this Quarter is the most profitable now that the mines are flooded.”
“Would you not rather mine the rocks in the West Quarter?” asked Aurora with a sly grin.
“I’ll tell ya what I want,” Kōrrin replied simply, “An even split.”
Aurora narrowed her eyes, “Of what and in what manner?”
“Me and the boys’ll take the East an West, an you can have the North an South,” stated Kōrrin, “How’s that for generous?”
“Except, I cannot help but notice that I already have control of the East, West and North,” Aurora replied confidently, “Your bargaining power is quite small.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what I want,” Kōrrin grunted, “And if you want this Quarter, that’s what I’ll get. And I could make your new position real hard for you or real easy. We are both blessed with longevity thanks to our race, so if you don’t want any upstarts trying to take your leadership from ya you’ll give me the East and West.”
Aurora narrowed her eyes at the dwarf and Kōrrin smirked triumphantly.
Aurora let out a slow breath, “Fine, you can have the East and West, and there shall be a truce between us.” She finally decided, though she did not seem happy about it.
The two of them then shook hands and the crates blocking the bridge almost immediately came down.
Legin scratched his head with a bewildered expression on his face, “Just like that?”
“’Course what ye expect?” laughed Kōrrin, “Why would Aurora refuse a deal which suits her? Blarrid, go get the others from the other bridge and meet me on the Northern Hill where me and the yineth will be discussing the fineries of our deal.”
The young dwarf nodded and raced off through the crowd who were making their causal way back to their homes.
“Join us if you wish Legin,” Aurora remarked as she and Kōrrin began their way towards the North Quarter, “If not, I shall be in touch.”
“As will I, ya crazy monkey,” Kōrrin added with a laugh and he and Aurora continued on their way without waiting for Legin’s reply.
Still wearing a confused expression Legin lent on the railing and looked to Inüer as He began to set in the west.
“I’m not sure I really understand what just happened there,” Pip remarked as he rested beside Legin.
“You and me both, Pip,” Legin shook his head.
“Did the two of them organise that? Did they somehow make Saiross have a heart attack?” Pip wondered aloud.
“They could not have planned the death of Saiross,” Legin replied, “That was just a fortunate twist I think. But Kōrrin capturing the South was planned, I think. Hey that dwarf owes me four silver coins for the bet.”
Pip laughed, “Whether they planned it or not, it certainly worked out well for them.”
“Not so well for us,” Legin replied with sigh.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s bound to get boring around here now,” Legin replied and looked to the water below the bridge as it sparkled in the afternoon light.
Legin shrugged, “Come one Pip, let’s get some food, I’m starving.”
Pip laughed lightly and nodded before Legin slapped his friend on the shoulder and together they headed over the bridge in search of something to eat. Legin wore a smile as he walked along for a grand change had come to the prison, it would never again be the same, and he was the one who instigated and orchestrated it, almost right down to the smallest detail.
Vythe would be proud of his achievements, thought Legin, the student had become the master and now he had a whole new dynamic in the prison compound to work with. Which he would make sure would get him as much profit as possible.