Chapter 97: Captive 5
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A vast improvement on the dungeon and general slave quarters, the Ludus was a royal suite in comparison. Each gladiator had their own room, which was barred and locked, not just to stop them roaming, it also allowed them to sleep soundly, without having to be on guard for their safety day and night.
Fury had been moved in with the Ludus Gladiators, a status well above the slave trainees who were training and attempting to become Gladiators themselves. The trainees bunked in large numbers and were treated close to general slave conditions, other than better food and exercise in comparison to the, now fifteen, Gladiators.
Genoci had little of the backstory on his newest Gladiator, but where his orders were detailed was his training and preparation. While he could be sold at any moment, he was tasked for preparing Fury for some large exhibition matches at least and ultimately the Val’Tien; the grand Myrkalfar event where the prime gladiator representatives of each of the Royal houses and the most prominent martial coteries duelled for supremacy.
How he was supposed to do this he did not know, his Ludus had never been close to prime of the Royal House of Ileum let alone compete in the Val’Tien.
For now, he would prepare Fury to hone his movements, they were too full of fancy forms. Wherever he was trained in the past, they were more concerned with looking pretty than being functional.
Today, Gine was assisting and monitoring Fury, which suited Genoci. Phee was too busy playing her sadistic manipulation games. Gine would simply, watch and offer assistance when needed. This assistance was usually calming Fury or explaining things to him. The Dread Lord and her apprentices had this web of deceit surrounding Fury were he was previously the Prime Gladiator but was severely injured and lost his memories.
It required all the Gladiators to keep their mouths shut. Which was not a problem, they would never admit it, but they were afraid of the mysterious warrior. During his first bout, he had demonstrated the level of his qi powers to the extent of almost killing Mordecai. At dusk, Fury visited the injured gladiator who then had a miraculous recovery in days instead of months.
Genoci had to watch that this very fear did not turn into plans for Fury’s demise. But, at the moment, he was such an enigma it did not enter into the contemplation of his fellow Gladiators.
Genoci prided himself on getting the most from what he had, and while other Ludii were superior, that was due to the investment in stock and the sheer number of slaves in the selection pool. Prospective free Myrkalfar, hoping to improve their station, were not attracted to his Ludus due to the standing, that was a vicious circle in itself.
For him Fury was an opportunity, Azrul was not a terrible mistress, she did not torture her slaves for pleasure and rewarded those who did well with her version of fairness. But he was under no misapprehension, Fury was valuable, extremely valuable. If he were to die while under Genoci’s care, there would be two deaths that day.
“Rolling,” he called, which was an attack form where a Gladiator used momentum to continue attacks in quick succession. It was a fundamental attack form. Fury had a similar technique, however, his was full of extra movements and flair. The Gladiator style was supremely more efficient.
Genoci had selected his best four to train with Fury, they would take turns demonstrating and showing him forms. The four plus Fury would also form a penta if the Dread Lord wished it.
Mordecai, a male grey elf, formerly the Prime Gladiator of the Azrul Ludus
Scintilla, a female werepanther, an exotic warrior popular with the crowds. She was deadly while lacking any qi potential. She more than made up for it with her natural speed and agility. Her Gladiatorial aspect was humanoid, while she had fur in places and a black tail, this aspect was the only one allowed in the arena, otherwise, she would be classed as a creature.
Yontil, a male Myrkalfar from the Tendulkar clan. A free Gladiator who wished to become a knight. He and his sister were from a lower caste with little qi potential. They made up for it with drive and ambition. Their natural teamwork made them perfect selection for a penta.
Yanti, Yontil’s younger sister, another free Gladiator with aspirations of becoming a knight.
“Lunges,” Genoci called. Like all styles changes based on the weapon in use, at the moment everyone trained with swords. It was designed to strike an opponent and then remove oneself from the range of a counter strike with speed and efficiency.
“Backs,” Genoci called. A drill where the gladiators lay on their back, rose to their feet to strike or defend against an opponent. The variations of this drill would have one partner on their feet, with the other on the ground or both on their backs.
“Sixes,” Genoci called. A variable attack sequence targeting all six strike points. The drill aimed to hone the efficiency of all six strikes and enable natural flow to a change in sequence. Genoci did not allow his Gladiators to form predictable habits while practising sixes.
Gine watched Fury practising sixes, he seemed much calmer now he was embedded with the Gladiators. The routine, the exercise suited him. He also found it believable, because although his memories were wiped, he had much knowledge of qi and combat. And he was not stupid, he could speculate and conclude based on what he knew.
The Dread Lord had his ability to portal blocked permanently, Gine was never to remove it. The qi combat techniques would be blocked each night and then turned on or off based on what Genoci desired during training. Unfortunately, Genoci himself was not talented enough to activate tattoos, or the Dread Lord could have had his signature added.
The Gladiators trained hard, much harder than she did during her weapons training, which made her wonder if she should join the hardened warriors instead of her sessions with Phee and their trainer. The Dread Lord rarely assisted these days, not since she spent most of her time with trading, raiding and now the scheming surrounding her latest asset, the Gladiator Fury.
Gine did not need to ask permission of Genoci, she outranked him in all areas except the running of his Ludus, so she ran back to her room, collected her training weapons and returned to the training yard. It was sufficiently large enough for her to train at one end, mimicking the Gladiators while they trained at the other. It was better than standing around all day watching, which was becoming tedious despite the glistening chests of the males.
Genoci had to smile at the apprentice, she looked cute trying to emulate the drills, he would invite her to join but needed permission from Azrul first.
“Right, now, you two,” Genoci shouted pointing at Yontil and Yanti, “your job is to break down Fury’s defence. Fury,” he turned to look at his new charge, “no qi skills other than internal qi body techniques. You are not to be touched and if they leave you with an opening bruise them. This will be a circle spar.”
The circled created by Genoci was tiny, he wanted the combatants to focus on reflexes and efficiency of movement. Fury would use his black sword and shield, they seemed custom made for him and never wore, also being made of wood they were ideal for sparring when you prevented Fury using qi skills.
He would rotate two opponents versus Fury for the next several hours. Although bruises ensued on both sides Fury never tired, his stamina was amazing, perhaps it was due to an advanced body technique, but even then, did his qi never run out?
Mordecai and Scintilla were superior opponents, but they did not have the teamwork and understanding of Yontil and Yanti. Genoci was pleased, the lessons and economies of the movement were sinking in, Fury was a fast learner. Usually, it took more time to undo bad habits, but this man was different. Perhaps it was the memory wipe, he did not hold onto previous learnings.
He continued to instruct and comment on Fury’s movements, pointing out when his economy was lacking, teasing with any flourish that he saw. It was not easy, his movements were so quick, but the improvements would allow his natural and qi enhanced speed to be an even greater advantage.
Fury had fought off Mordecai and Scintilla for the sixth time, they were all sitting on the ground exhausted. The new Gladiator would meditate between each bout, and this had Genoci intrigued.
“What are you doing Fury?” He asked, knowing he meditated but wanting an explanation. Fury’s behaviour reminded him of a martial Monk or Paladin.
“Replaying the drill in my mind, reviewing each movement, mistake and success,” he answered, “may I have permission to heal my bruises?”
“Huh?” Genoci said.
“He can heal his bruises,” Phee explained, she had taken over from Gine shortly before.
“He…what….why…nevermind,” Genoci said, “yes, in-between bouts feel free to use this ability and any recuperative ones you have.”
“Do not touch anyone else,” Phee said, “you do not have permission.”
Genoci pondered what she had just said. Did she say he could not use qi to heal anyone else? The miraculous rate that Mordecai healed was attributed to Fury’s visit, but, it was just a rumour. The Dread Lord had instructed Mordecai to silence and closed the matter. It was not Genoci’s place to question why a person with such ability would be a Gladiator, so he did not.
Phee approached Fury from behind and placed a hand on his bare shoulder. Fury was dressed only in loincloth leathers, the Dread Lord had possession of his special armour and would make it available for competition.
His muscular chest glistened with sweat, he looked every part an Adonis with no visible fat or weakness. He also had no scarring which was unusual for someone of his combat experience. His hair was white, similar to the Myrkalfar, although his skin was white with a slight green tinge in places. Genoci did not like her caressing him, but what could he do.
“Ah, my Fury,” she said sweetly. He seemed not to notice, deep in meditation. “I miss the nights we used to spend together,” she blatantly lied, but who was there to challenge her? “If only you could remember what we had together,” a fake sniffle emitted from her nose.
Phee was a perfect female Myrkalfar specimen, beautiful, cunning and vicious. Genoci would not have had a problem with any of those traits, but unlike her mistress, Phee would cause pain for no other reason than her own enjoyment.
Fury seemed to not notice her attention at all. He was the perfect picture of concentration while he meditated.
This did not dissuade Phee, she stretched her had down his chest all the way to his loincloth.
Genoci clapped his hands before this went any further, he did not want any of his Gladiators, including Fury, despoiled on the training yard floor. There was a time and a place for such activity, and training was certainly not it.
“That’s enough rest, next we will conduct a mobility spar. This time it will be Fury versus all four, and you will be allowed to use any qi technique except for qi strikes,” Genoci called. His Gladiators were tired, but they did not complain, they would not have made it this far if they complained during training.
Phee pouted at her fun being spoiled, Fury stood and walked into position, ignoring her entirely. Genoci had no idea what he thought about the Myrkalfar apprentice.
The rest of the day and weeks to come Genoci worked Fury hard. Retraining, refining, and embedding the talented warrior with everything he knew. His chosen four also worked hard, they knew Fury was important to their mistress, and there was the small chance he could lead them to penta glory, thus lifting their own chances of glory and all it entailed.
Although Genoci was able to block Phee, in a small way, on the training yard floor. He was unable to stop her visiting Fury at night. Fury never complained although he was certain she hurt him, but, each morning the Gladiator appeared unharmed physically. Genoci was not sure this was true in the case of damage to his mind.
Phee made it difficult for him to report, he had no proof other than sighting her coming and going. She would know immediately it was him who spoke to the Dread Lord, and unless Azrul deemed to protect him from Phee, he would be at her mercy. He was afraid of this outcome because, without proof, the Dread Lord would most likely just question Phee and order her to leave Fury alone.
What then played out on Genoci’s mind was Phee would make his life a misery, and possibly end it when it suited her. It may be cowardly on his part, but Genoci stayed silent.
Azrul was frustrated, after weeks of investigation she had uncovered nothing new. The Daughter of Ileum and many others merely hunted the Benzhi because of Scydhel, they had no idea why, they merely wanted him because she did.
The information she had paid dearly for was what she already knew before capturing him. He was exotic, powerful and wanted by many Royal families.
The next stage of her plan was already implemented. She did not have to do anything. Just by conducting the investigations word would filter to the powers that be, they would soon know she had the Benzhi and come knocking.
In order to get the highest possible sum, she would have to resist pressure to sell him right away. And the pressure would surely come, especially from her own House. Short of a thousand qi kernels, she would not relent.
She could increase his value and show him off to all of the Myrkalfar by entering him into the Gladiatorial games. First the local games and ultimately the Val’Tien in a few months time. With only a week to go until the games of her house, she had placed wagers across several of the Myrkalfar denizens who dealt with such things. She had wagered all of the remaining qi kernels she had found on him, that Fury would be victorious, and at good odds. Fury was an unknown, at both the House of Ileum Royal Games and the higher tier events.
She calculated the winnings from this bet and placed a note to the same value that Fury would be victorious at the Val’Tien.
To Azrul, this risk was small, she did not mind losing the five concentrated qi kernels and gave him very little chance of losing at the Royal Games. It was unknown if she would sell him before or during the Val’Tien, it was also unknown if he could win. This event had the finest warriors from all of the Myrkalfar, be they a Gladiator, Knight or Noble seeking recognition.
Even she had competed before becoming a Dread Lord. However, if she still was in possession of Fury, if he did win, the long odds she was offered for a new slave who had never competed before, who no one knew anything about, she would win close to a thousand qi kernels. A sum which Queens would be envious. A sum which surely would elevate her to Mistress and a well established one at that.
After placing the outrageous wagers, she journeyed back to her castle, a messenger was waiting for her at the gates.
“Azrul, Dread Lord of the Tendulkar Clan,” the messenger announced formally, “Daughter Scydhel of the House Val’Sharah requests an audience. Her portal master stands ready to convey you to her palace.”