Chapter 8 - A Tour
When in hostile territory, your greatest asset will likely be your knowledge of your surroundings, its layout, and its structure. - COVEC Survival Manual pg. 34Walking a short distance in front of Nash, Bassil turned and gestured his hand in a sweeping motion toward the largest building on Corvain’s compound. “This is the arena. It is off limits at all times to the fighters, except the day before the fight, and of course, the day of the fight. Normally new fighters come in here already either experienced and jaded or highly resistant to their newfound role in life. As such, I rarely give tours. They either don’t care where they fight or spend all their time mewling about how unfair everything is. However, I like you - I see much merit in you, so I am granting you this quick tour.” Any other saying this might have sounded haughty, but when Bassil said it, it came across with full sincerity.
“My deepest thanks. Why are we forbidden access?” Nash said looking at the large building. It looked nothing on the outside like the Coliseum in Rome he was expecting. It looked more like an oversized log fort standing nearly twenty feet high. Each of the vertical logs making up the outer wall ended in sharpened points, burned and hardened at the ends for appearance than for strength. The building, forming a rough square, was close to a hundred yards on a side. The only entrance to be seen was directly in front of them, a large iron gate with an oversized lock.
Opening the lock, then swinging the gate open, Bassil stepped inside and started descending a large series of steps. “This entrance is known as Death’s Womb. It is the fighter’s entrance and exit. All warriors leaving the Arena either re-enter the world as a better fighter or as corpses when they leave the Womb.”
“The main entrance is actually outside the compound, just off the main street. That is where the public enters and leaves. And Corvain makes a small percentage of money there as he charges each spectator for entering. As to why fighters are forbidden access, it is in your best interest that we do this. Every thirteen days, once a week on Sunday,”
Nash slightly missed a step and almost stumbled. Bassil glanced back, raised an eyebrow in interest but continued on, “The day before any fight our fighters who are to fight are brought into the arena and train for the advantage of being used to their surroundings. So as they don’t become overused to their surroundings, however, fighters are not allowed into the Arena any other time. The rest of the time they train in the main training facilities, which I plan on showing you next.”
Nash’s quick stumble was due to the use of that single word - Sunday. It was not a translation from this new language he understood, but the same as the English word he had grown up with. Thinking quickly, he rationalized that chance dictated with a limited number phonetics to choose from some words would appear that actually have the same meaning from two totally alien languages.
Or it could be a slip up of the dreaming program I am under. The simplest answer is a mistake.
Walking further down the hallway, two passages descended from either side of the hall with a short series of stairs ending at a large oaken door. “This is where the gladiators wait. This side is our side, on the other three sides of the arena is a similar hallway for the visiting gladiator stables.” Continuing past the stairs the hallway started sloping up and widening. Leading Nash up the hallway, it widened to about fifteen feet wide and ended at an iron portcullis. Walking over to the side wall, Bassil started turning a large spindle attached to a chain. The Portcullis raised into the ceiling to show a full view of the field of battle. A large circular arena, nearly 80 yards in diameter. Both men stepped out onto the dusty field. Nash looked around to see wooden bleachers rising nearly to the top of the outer wall. The field of battle was surrounded by a stone wall almost 10 feet high. All around the arena, both on the field and in the bleachers he could see women, children, and older men cleaning up what looked to be rubble.
Looking to his left, Nash scrutinized the view boxes for the rich and wealthy. Putting aside the question of language similarities, Nash started analyzing the layout for routes of escape and vantages for different kinds of combat as was his habit in any new surrounding. He set various program routines to work on analyzing distances and noting all details which might be significant. When he left this arena, he would have a perfect 3-D replica in his mind’s computer to study at his leisure. While he was at it, he set additional resources to map the entire complex.
He vaguely listened to Bassil as he continued on explaining various aspects of the Arena like where the animal stables were, where the trapdoors were at, where the hospital was at, and how many people normally attended events. He also explained that the day before had been the last fight, a special fight in honor of Josca, goddess of war. That’s why the cleaners were here now, cleaning everything up. Most of them were beggars, allowed in to clean for the privilege of picking up any dropped food, coin, or trinkets they might find.
Bassil then explained that the next fight would be delayed here, as the exploding tower from when Nash had arrived had left quite a bit of debris in the stands.
Bassil quieted down, not having much more to say about the Arena itself and looked at Nash expectantly. He saw Nash carefully surveying his surroundings and kept quiet waiting for Nash to get done.
Nash took one last look around, then looked back at Bassil. “Might I ask a question. Actually, two questions. First off - what should I call you?”
“If you were a friend, I would say Bassil. That may come to pass, in fact, I kinda have a feeling we’ll be friends. However, in any formal situation, and for now, simply call me Sarg. And your other question?”
Now that Nash seemed to be done looking, Bassil started leading them back the way they had come.
“You said Sunday in reference to the day of the week. I find that odd - we had different days of the week in the time I came from. So I might be current - could you recite the days of the week?”
“Really? Different names for the days. That is kinda odd, why would they have changed in two hundred years? I guess things really do change over the generations,” thinking, he then says, “Oh yeah. Sunday. Most cities call the last day of the week Lastday. But yeah, I can list them. After the gods, they are Stentag, Valtang, Radtag, Bortag, Jostang, Yahallatag, Kristang, Tortang, Sandtag, Slinjetang, Dalsharday, Azuraday, and Sunday. After all, if you mention two of the three suns, why would leave out Seriat?
Nash was totally dumbfounded now. Looking up, sure enough, there were three stars in the sky, appearing like suns. Large central red central sun with a smaller yellow sun and despite being daytime, a bright blue star nearby. Am I just dreaming after all? I am pretty sure a trinary stary system is impossible. How can they expect me to fall victim to whatever their plans are if they keep me from totally immersing myself in this illusion? Checking his database for trinary star systems, he found several, none that looked like what he was looking at. The stars were too close. About to move on, he came across some theoretical models in his data files that predicted what he was looking at. However, the chances of three equally massed stars of different ages coming together in perfect harmony was nearly impossible.
Bassil locked up the Arena behind him and started off across the compound again. “We are heading to the Barracks now. This will be your home until you either retire after five years service with your stipend, are crippled and put out in the street, killed, buy out your contract, or are sold.” He held up a hand and ticked off the possibilities with his fingers: one, two, three, four and five, reciting from memory. “Just out of curiosity, what names did you have to the days of the week.”
Thinking quickly, Nash rattled off a mix of Japanese and English day names till he had twelve days named and then added Lastday for the thirteenth.
“Hmmm, sounds a lot like Elvish to me. I believe Getsuyobi, or whatever you said, is the Elvish name for Monday. You will have to tell me more of your time when we have more time to speak in quiet. Speaking of which, when we are by ourselves, you can speak of your past, but everyone would rather you just forget it altogether. I am sure Corvain already warned you, but you should never mention anything that might seem unusual about how you came here.”
“He did warn me. He said if any should ask, I should just either ignore them or say that I volunteered for this and wish not to speak of my past. He said most would just assume I’m just another noble brat from the northern desert seeking adventure and glory in the pits.”
“Good. I don’t know about your time, but glory is to be had here in the pits. True, it can be fleeting, but your name could be the cherished name of the local hero on the tongues of every youth in Kraylin. I once had such a name. I could go anywhere in Kraylin, and I was given free food, drinks, and lodging cause I was the great Bassil, Champion of the Sword three years running. Any woman I wanted was mine for the asking, for all wanted me. Two years after I retired, I was lucky if I was even recognized, and then it would be more as a curiosity. ‘Hey - isn’t that Bassil - I saw him fight once.’ Now I am only seen with reverence by those still in the business. I would have to hunt hard to find a barkeep willing even to acknowledge me, much less offer me a free drink. But all the same - glory can truly be had here, but the only treasure you will gain from it is the memories.