Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gladiator and the Beast

Gal gripped his gladius tight as he waited for the door above him to open so that he could make his way up the ramp into the arena. He hated the waiting, it was the worse part. All he wanted to do was get out there, have his match, kill whoever or whatever was up there, and get back to the cells to wait for dinner. He could not deny the excitement of battle, but fighting for his life for the entertainment of a mob of onlookers was a chore forced upon him, not a choice he was given. That could sour a lot of things.

This would be his twelfth match, making him a rising star in the arena. That was no small accomplishment for a half-ogre bastard. The organizers usually made sure the likes of him died early. He was fairly sure that his mother would have paid them off to remove her little embarrassment. She had kept him around as a slave until he had made the mistake of asking for the truth. Now he was just a disgrace to be removed.

Gal stood head and shoulders over most humans, though a head shorter than a fullblooded ogre. His skin was tanned from long labors under the sun with the olive tone of his mother favored over the sallow color of his father. Arms like carved granite stretched down towards his knees. For the match he pulled his tangle of black hair behind his head in a loose ponytail. Most of the scars he had earned were readily displayed, the most impressive was a jagged white line slashed across his back.

He was normally only allowed a loincloth as clothing, but for the match he was given his usual armor. A manica of segmented plates covered his left arm. It was spiked and had a single claw at the end coming over his hand. His feet were covered with armored greaves. In his right hand he held the gladius that had gotten him through his matches so far.

A crack of daylight spread above him as the doors parted. He walked up from the cool, dank depths of the holding area and into the simmering afternoon sunlight. The crowd gave a cheer and he raised his sword in salute. He did not give a damn about their applause, but it was good to have the spectators on your side. They might well determine life or death at some point. As well, crowd favorites could earn special perks. His rising status as a champion had earned him such a boon just last night.

He had not slept nearly as well as he would have like, especially with a match the next day. However, two noblewomen had paid his trainer handsomely to have his company last night. It was an open secret that the women of the aristocracy liked to take gladiators as temporary lovers, including ogres and half-bloods. They might never talk about it in public, but the hedonistic women whispered of their sexual adventures in private, sharing the lurid details. When he was a servant he had overheard tales of some of the trysts and now he was one of them. He had made the duo howl with pleasure and was certain that they felt the gold had been well spent. Remembering them was making him turgid as he waited for his opponent to be announced.

It turned out he was going to be a bestiarus today. The announcer said something about an accident changing the matches. Gal sensed his mother’s hand in that. Steeling himself, he faced the gate at the opposite side of the arena where his challenge would come from.

The heavy grate raised up like a monster opening its maw. Prodded out was a huge creature with scaly black skin. It stood half again as tall as Gal. The front legs were clawed while the back were hoofed. Its head was a mix of bull, bear, and serpent. Another misbegotten experiment of the fleshwarpers being used as entertainment.

The beast did not take long to set its sights on Gal and charged. It roared as it barreled across the dirt floor, kicking up clods of dirt. Gal waited till the last second before leaping to the side, narrowly avoiding impalement on by the wicked horns, and slashing the creature’s flank. The beast howled in rage as black blood oozed from the wound.

The creature turned quick to make another lunge. Gal was ready, diving under the attack and thrusting up at the creature’s chest. The stab was shallow, the scales stealing the power from the thrust. The snarling monster swept its claws at Gal. He blocked the first with his armored arm but the second raked across his chest leaving four bloody lines. Gal backpedaled away as the creature lowered its head for another charge.

Gal dodged the beast’s charge by ducking low under its horns. However, at the last moment he reached up and grabbed at one horn with his free hand. Kicking off of the ground he arced up through the air as the beast found its head yanked to the side. Gal’s arm was nearly torn from its socket, but now he was straddling the monster’s back.

The monster bucked trying to throw Gal free. He held on, though, with powerful legs and by digging the claw of his armor into the abominable creature’s shoulder. As it swung its serpentine neck around so it could bite him, Gal stabbed down with his sword. Again and again he thrust until the monster stumbled to the ground. With a two-handed chop, he severed its head.

The crowd roared its approval and Gal gave them the expected salute. He then walked back to the holding area, standing tall and proud until out of sight. He slumped, the excitement gone, while attendants saw to his wounds. He would need to rest for his next challenge. He intended to keep living to spite his mother.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Night Raider: Issue 3

Clarence watched as the drug dealer surreptitiously handed over a packet of crack in exchange for a handful of cash. He had been watching the dealer for an hour now. Each time he made a sale, Clarence snapped a picture with his camera. The zoom lense captured a clear shot, even from a roof half a block away. It was getting late though, and the dealer would be surrendering his spot to another gang member soon.

Before the next shift showed up a police cruiser came around the corner. The dealer did not run or even try to look like he was doing something else. He knew the police were no threat to him, not here, not in Crown City. Instead, the dealer waits until the cruiser pulls up next to him and leans in to talk casually with the officers inside.

Johnson and Axelrod were both scum so far as Clarence was concerned. They were the kind of slime that other filth is disgusted by. Even among cops that take graft, those two had pushed the line. Its not just bribes and extortion, they actively worked with the gangs. Watching as the gang member handed over some of his cash to them, he wanted nothing more than to smash their heads in and rip off their undeserved badges. He wanted to scream to the world about their corruption and oathbreaking, about how they are not fit to wear the uniform. He wanted them punished and made an example of. None of that was going to happen though. They were to well shielded. So instead he pressed the button and catches it all with the camera.

As the cruiser drove off, Clarence left his post and changed into his new “uniform” to go “talk” to the dealer. Over the last few weeks he had been refining his gear. His entire outfit was black. Black tactical pants and shirt over his bulletproof vest. Instead of a plastic domino mask he had bought an imitation leather mask that would not flip from his face. He pulled the hood of his black duster over his head. His baton, OC spray, and other tools were stored in pockets or on a body harness. He slipped on the tactical gloves as he headed towards the edge of the roof.

He started to run and leapt the short distance to the next roof, sliding a bit but staying on his feet. Clarence had done a bit of freerunning as a teenager. He was never that good with the flips and other fancy stuff, but he could get up and over most obstacles and was a pretty good climber. A little practice and it all seemed to come back to him.

He moved over the roof to the other side and climbed down to the alley below. Quiet as death, he moved through the shadows as the world slid into twilight. He darted down an abandoned street then down another alley. He found the one he knew the dealer would head down on his way home. As easy as a spider he climbed up a wall and hung from a fire escape that was half ready to fall from the side of the building.

Clarence watched as the dealer came down the alley at a brisk walk. As soon as the dealer passed under Clarence’s hiding spot, he dropped down onto him. They went down with a heavy thud. Clarence’s arm was around the dealer’s neck before he could cry out. The man tried to fight, but the chokehold was too tight. A few seconds later he was passed out and Clarence drug him off to a waiting car. A touch of chloroform to keep him docile then Clarence shut the trunk.


He crouched on top of an old barrel as he watched the dealer slowly come too. He stared at the man dangling upside down by his feet the same way a hawk eyes a mouse. Nothing would have pleased him more than to cut the drug dealer open the same way a hawk’s tallon’s shred a field mouse. He could probably forgo eating the man afterwards though.

“Wake up to your nightmare skum,” Clarence said as the man’s eyes started to open. He practically growled the words, his voice filled with malicious intent.

“What the fuck is going on?!” the dealer demanded. The dealer tried orient himself he shouted up at the masked man looking down at him, “You better let me the fuck go! My boys are going to cut your head off you stupid cocksucker.”

Clarence hopped off of the barrel then drove his booted foot into the man’s stomach. The dealer swung about on the rope gasping for breath. “Watch your language punk. You don’t get to make demands here. Your friends aren’t here. You have no weapon, no way of escape. I do not have a problem with taking a lead pipe to you like an overgrown pinata. If you aren’t cooperative I may well do just that.”

“Fine, what do you want then?” the dealer gasped out.

“What do I want? What do I want?!” Clarence snarled at his prisoner. He grabbed the man’s pants leg and gave a shove so that the man went spinning around. “I want to be able to walk down the street without having to worry about getting mugged. I want kids to be able to walk home without getting hit by stray bullets from a gang shootout. I want people to be able live their lives without some piece of crap drug dealer peddling dope to them. What I want is to rid my city of people like you!” As he said the last part, Clarence crouched down so he could grab the man in the throat. Choking the man with a vice like grip he said in a very low voice, “And you, you are going to tell me things I want to know so I can do just that.”

“What if I don’t?” the dealer asked weakly when Clarence released his throat.

Clarence gave him a vicious smile. He reached down and pulled away the metal plate covering the floor below the dangling man. Revealed below it was a dark pit reeking of the sewers. Scurrying and squeaking of rats reverberated up through it. “Simple, I’ll drop you down in there and go find someone more talkative. The water is too shallow to drown in so I hope you like having your face gnawed off by rats.”

“Oh God! Oh God man, you can’t do this,” the dealer begged as started to thrash about.

“No, I can, and its as good as you deserve,” Clarence said as he stood up, “Its as good a fate as you have given to a lot of people. Last year an infant died from being gnawed on by rats on the block you were selling on. The mother was strung out on drugs, and she probably got them from you. I’ve seen children walking that street to prostitute themselves for drug money just down the street from you.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’ll stop, I won’t sell to anyone else,” the drug dealer said as he started to cry, “Please, just don’t put me down in there. I’ll tell you anything you want!”

A grim smile formed on Clarence’s face. This was what he was waiting for. He took out a notebook and started to question the dealer, taking detailed notes on everything he heard. Much of it just confirmed what had already known, if could not prove when that mattered, or confirm things he suspected.


Clarence opened the trunk of the car and pulled the drug dealer out and dropped him roughly to the ground. The man moaned with pain, his broken arms tied to his body at awkward angles. He knelt down and forced the man to look up at him. The dealer looked up in fear when his eyes met the eyes full of righteous fury behind the dark mask.

With a low, growling voice that bordered on bestial, Clarence told the crippled drug dealer, “Someone will find you here. My suggestion is that you go to the police, make a confession of all your crimes, and spend some time in jail rethinking your life, because that is the only place where the likes of you is going to be safe. Your friends are going to ask you what happened and who did this. Tell them that vengeance has come to this city and that a cleansing fire is going to burn away the corruption. Tell them that the darkness is no longer safe for them, that someone is policing the night. Tell them to beware the Night Raider, because he will be watching and he will deliver justice.”