The Baker of Bad Omens

Arah 40 Selah 754  

He stood in the darkness, his back against the cavern wall, trying to slow his breathing to keep it from echoing in the emptiness. The exit lay eighty feet in front of him but he knew the gate would remain closed as long as his final opponent still lived. He listened for the gentle footsteps on the gritty cavern floor, but heard only the last gurgled breaths of the man who lay in the dirt some forty feet behind him. Quietly he crouched to the floor, found a small stone, and tossed it to the darkness on the far side of the cavern, hoping to draw out his opponent. 

The reptile stepped around the corner of the cavern wall not 8 feet away from him and fired an arrow into the dark corner where she'd heard the noise. With a roar, from his crouched position, Nazire lunged forward with his axe. Approaching from the side he caught her under her arm and carved a deep gash across her chest. With a wail she retreated backward, putting one arrow into Nazire's abdomen and another between two ribs of his Indigo scaled chest as he tried to follow. The Drakona roared, and electricity shot from his open maw, arcing off of nearby stalactites and striking the reptilian in the torso. She twitched and seized as Nazire continued to rush her. She was able to put one more arrow in his thigh before his axe cleaved deep into the side of her face. 

Nazire released the axe as the reptilian' smouldering corpse slunk to the floor. He stumbled back toward the middle of the room and threw his fist into the air, looking toward the ceiling and the arcane glyphs that glowed there. With a great and beastly roar, he pumped both fists again. There was a heavy clunk behind him and the grinding of gears and stone as the door opened. Nazire made his way toward the growing chant that came from outside the cavern.

"Na-Zire! Na-Zire!" The audience chanted as the Drakona exited the cavern into a hundred-foot arena, arms raised in triumph. As his eyes adjusted to the daylight to see the crowd, 2 tiers high, cheering and chanting. Even with three arrows still protruding from bloody wounds, the shirtless Drakona turned around to see them, pumping his arms to embolden the cheers further. 

The Fighting Pits of Bacot were renowned throughout Barasea and Brothellad for producing the greatest warriors in both Realms. Even directly out of their Arming Ceremonies these Gladiators were highly sought by Kings and Queens to Marshal their armies, and the crowds at these were often gilded with royalty. This imported regalia made the arena resemble a golden crown atop an otherwise bleak and barren city. 

For Nazire, a tiny figure at the far end of this blinding bowl of gold fixtures and jewel colored robes the sight was surreal and whelming. The sun beamed down, warming him and a  fresh breeze caressed his scaled skin carrying with it the the taste of honey and the smells of freshly baked bread, roasting meats, and other wonderfully fragrant delights. Fourteen years he had known only the the cold harsh darkness of The Pits. As he stood here, arms out, soaking in the applause he realized his true prize was this new life above ground and its sunny warmth.

When he had turned completely about, Nazire stepped to the edge of a hundred-foot square pool set into the ground before him. Beneath his toes, the pool was filled with a wax replica of the very cavern he had just exited, carved with such intricate detail as to include the bodies of those who had just been slain and the guards sent to retrieve them.  Beyond it, at the far end of the arena on a raised platform, sat the governing body of Bacot. The Council Head, The Great Candalier, Alanna, was a tall elven woman in her sixties. Her long red hair was tied up into a messy bun. She wore a simple gold necklace with a glinting pendant about her fair neck and an off-white linen dress covered with a white apron. She stood, signaling two guards who approached Nazire. One stripped him of his weapons while the other pulled the arrows from him and sealed his wounds with a poultice of herbs and honey. Together they placed a manacle about each wrist that nearly covered his forearms; attached to each drug ten or more feet of chain. 

Alanna stretched out a hand with her palm down, making a slow, sweeping motion and the sculpture at Nazire's feet melted into a pool of molten wax. The Council-head turned her palm to the sky and folded the fingers toward herself, as if beckoning the warrior forward, and the molten wax formed and hardened into an ornate footbridge across a moat of bubbling wax. 

Nazire stepped confidently onto the bridge, still enticing the crowds as he crossed, dragging the long steel chains with him. Bees buzzed about him, from the many hive boxes that lined the arena but they seemed uninterested in the goings-on of those in attendance. He continued across the bridge and the loose ends of the chain dropped heavily into the wax moat. As a traditional show of strength, he held his arms high against the jolting weight of the chains, eliciting more cheers from the crowd. He continued, and the resistance of the thick molten moat and the swift buildup of wax on the chains soon slowed his progress but he dug his toes in, leaned forward and pressed on. When he stepped back onto the sand at the end of the pool, he did so dragging two mighty boulders. He pressed forward and the wax buildup sloughed off the chain as it exited the moat but a thick film remained, which hardened and bound him from stepping more than eight feet beyond the pool's edge.  

The council descended a small staircase to join him on the sandy arena floor. On Alanna's right stood the Helm of the Gladiator's Guild, Grakilm, an elven man in his sixties who Nazire knew all too well as The Butcher of Bacot. He stepped forward, a slender man of nearly six feet, in leather armor spotted with aged bloodstains, over which was tied a white butcher's apron. The crowd quieted as he called out in a commanding voice.

"NAZIRE!" He paused a moment to let the last of the crowd quiet and retake their seats. He walked in a slow procession about Nazire, keeping the Barbarian at arm's length and though his words were directed at the champion, they were shouted to the audience. "You were thrown to The Pits a worthless, mewling, orphaned, clan-less, Drakona whelp!" He added emphasis with each insult, to increase in their offensiveness, and ended the sentence standing back to back with restrained Gladiator.

Nazire considered the many ways he could take advantage of this. A simple back kick would send the man into the molten wax below, with a flick of his wrist he could take out the elven man's knees, or wrap the chain about his neck and strangle him before the thousands in attendance. Being well mentored, however, Nazire knew this to be a test of his civility, to be presented with a vulnerable opponent and not simply murder him. "Community requires both collaboration and sacrifice," Garkilm had taught him, "Today we will work hand in hand for the greater good of Barasea in general, and Bacot in particular. Of course, Nazire also knew the Butcher of Bacot to be the single most skilled warrior the he knew, and he was never vulnerable. Garkilm took a breath and continued, stepping over the Drakona's restrains to continue circling him.

"At that time what did you deserve?"

"Nothing, my Butcher!" Nazire shouted triumphantly, the crowd cheering back in agreement. 

"And what did I GIVE you?" The Grakilm asked, standing at Nazire's Left, but still presenting his back to the chained Nazire. 

"Scraps, my Butcher!" Nazire shouted, and again the crowd cheered.

"And what did you DO for those scraps?" He continued circling, ending the question facing Nazire. 

The Drakona looked Grakilm in the eyes and hissed. "I fought, my Butcher." The crowd roared!

The Elven man smiled, "Yes, you did," Then turned away from him and continued to circle Nazire a second time. "And when you won that fight, what then did I give you?"

"Meat, My Butcher!" Nazire roared again, pulling against his chains. 

"Meat From The Butcher!" The crowd chanted in unison, ending in more cheers and applause. 

"And what did you do for this Meat?" The Elven man continued his preamble at arm's length.

"I worked, My Butcher!" Nazire pulled again at his chains, knowing the Guild Master stood between them, at his back again. This was another traditional show of force, to indicate that even bound, even to those he could not see, he was still a threat. In traditional response, the Guild Master waited with a patient smile for the crowd to silence, to show that he would not be intimidated. 

 "Why do you fight for scraps and work for meat?" The elven man's voice took on a mocking tone as he stepped over one of the binding chains to continue his preamble.

"I fight for scraps, to show I am worthy of this life!" Nazire shouted, but the crowds did not respond. Instead they whispered amongst themselves in hushed tones. "I work for meat," He paused, pretending to lose the words in order to build anticipation. The crowd sat anxious and baited, "To make it worth living!" He bellowed and the crowd erupted with cheers and applause!

The Guild Master returned to face Nazire again and waited for the cheers to diminish. He continued in a commanding tone, "And how will you know your life was worth living?" He locked eyes with Nazire, awaiting his response.

"By the marbling of my meat, my Butcher!" Nazire brought his voice down as well, maintaining the solemnity of the moment. 

"How does one build in life that marbling that is so revelled in death?" Grakilm's eyes looked with focus and intent deep into Nazire's.

"Through labor and celebration, my Butcher."

"Explain yourself." The Elf commanded.

"Through labor, I will make myself hearty, and a worthy meal for any warrior" Nazire paused to wet his lips, "Through celebration, will I be seasoned with joy and companionship. From the two I will become a worthy champion to fight at your side, or a worthy meal to nourish you for the battles ahead."

The Guild Master smirked and turned from the Gladiator. Again he circled Nazire, this time in silence. When he stepped between the wax-covered chains that bound the Drakona. "You present yourself a champion, have you a bounty to offer?"

Nazir responded by pulling hard on his restraints, lifting the chains taught, and dropping them to the ground in heavy clunks, three separate times. Large chunks of beige wax flaked from the steel links but the ends remained fastened inside the edge of the pool. A goliath in a studded leather kilt walked forward into the space between the council and Nazire, cradling the dead reptilian in his arms. Behind him followed two other Gladiators carrying additional bodies; the other contestants from this challenge. The bodies were laid respectfully at the foot of the council, and when the last Gladiator had placed his burden he looked to the council.

"My Butcher," The Gladiator said with a slight shake in his voice. Nazire recognized him as the Winter Champion from the same ceremony two months prior. A huge Half-orc with a long scar across his chest. He cleared his throat and continued. "H-he has not e-even a weapon but we have found these bodies at his feet." Without a word, he turned and joined his colleagues among the bees near the wall.

"Do you present these beasts as your bounty?" The elven man asked Nazire, who remained silent. The Winter Champion stepped forward, and with a little more confidence than previously he declared. 

"My Butcher, These are not beasts but proven warriors!" He stepped back into his position again.

"Nazire of No Clan, you deign to feed the people of Bacot with the blood of your enemies?" There was intended disgust in the Guild Master's voice. Nazire smiled.

"What better to nourish the meek and humble than the heart of a Warrior?" There was a rich depth and conviction to his words. 

With a flourish, the slender elven man turned to the audience. "Good people of Bacot, "His voice was bold and serious. "This Champion offers the hearts of warriors to feed you, Do you accept his bounty?"

"Meat for The Butcher!" The crowd responded amid cheers and applause.

"The people have accepted your bounty, and they challenge you to be a champion of Bacot." The Guild Master returned, "Will you accept this challenge?"

"YESS!" Nazire hissed, leaning forward and pulling his chains taught.

"Then Nazire, Champion of Bacot," The Guild Master paused, feeling the anticipation of the crowd. he finished by breaking with tradition, and in his normal speaking voice he asked with a smirk, "Why are you still in those fucking chains?"

Natural 1

Nazire roared, dug in his toes, and threw his weight forward, yanking at the chain manacled to his right forearm. The beige wax binding the chain to the stone interior of the pool exploded, sending shards of hardened wax flying. The loosened chain flailed in the air and fell to the sand behind him. He then pulled hard at the chain bound to his left wrist. The manacle there, not having been clasped properly blew open, just as it released from the wax binding on the opposite end. Wax chunks flew as he lurched forward. The loosed chain coiled in the air and slammed into the back of Nazire's head.


Nazire opened his eyes. The early afternoon sun was blinding and the silhouette over his face was blurred. A voice reached out, as if through the water. He focused on it trying to make out what it said among the noises of, what sounded like, geese. He focused harder tuning the voice clearer as Grakilm, above him, came into focus. A hand clutched his and pulled him to his feet amid cheers and laughter. 

"You good?" The Guild Master asked him, patting him roughly on the back. Nazire looked about, his ears ringing with confusion as he pieced together what had happened. Two Guards approached, one to release the manacle about his wrist while the other collected the binding that lay coiled at his feet. "Shall we continue?" The elf asked, as the guards presented him with the chains.

Nazire nodded and was lead, still dizzy, to stand before the four members of The Council of Three. To the left of Alanna stood Anjali, an elderly Tiefling woman. Her curly black hair was held back with a handkerchief that tucked neatly under her horns. She wore a broad, semi-toothless smile, and a simple red dress of linen. In her left hand she leaned on a wooden cane and on her right wrist she carried a small basket of apples. Though no longer on The Council of Three, Anjali still held a position of authority and respect in the community and as an advisor to The Council. She stepped forward, placed her palm on Nazire's chest, and closed her eyes. Warmth, like sunlight coursed through his veins and he felt a brief twinge of pain, followed by intense itching at the site of each of his wounds, which closed before his eyes. His hand involuntarily reached to scratch the wound on his leg just as it closed.

"Yes, " the elderly druid giggled, "that's gonna itch for another hour or so." She moved a half step back, removed a small linen bag slung across her body, and held it up. Nazire lowered his head to allow her to hang the bag about his neck and across his body.  "Champion, I gift you wisdom." She pulled an apple that was past its prime from the basket on her wrist, "Wisdom of the past, " She placed the apple in his new shoulder bag and produced a beautifully ripe red apple "Wisdom of the present, " She continued, placing that apple in his bag and the retrieving a small, green apple that had yet to ripen from her basket, " And wisdom for the future." She placed the third apple in his bag. With a pat on the cheek and no further explanation, she hobbled away and took a chair on the sideline, among the bees. 

Alanna Stepped before him, holding out two small candles bundled together with twine and wildflowers. " Champion, I gift you light, may it guide you in dark times." She stepped back with a kind smile. 

Grakilm had returned to his place at the Candalier's side, waiting to present the cast off-chain and manacle which now draped in his arms. To his right stood the newest member of the Council of Three, Bene. The lean Half-elven albino man in his thirties stepped forward. He wore black leather goggles, light brown linen work clothes covered with a white apron. Bene's position on the council was a matter of much controversy. Though he'd been granted the gift of Divination at a remarkably young age, and with a remarkable degree of accuracy, his predictions since his appointment had the distinction of being consistently ill portents. In fact, over the last few years, it had not become uncommon to among the people of Bacot to guard one another against taking advice from The Baker of bad omens.  

"Champion, I gift you fertility, may the seeds you sow yield bountiful harvests and bold children," Bene said in murmured and mumbled words holding out a small loaf of bread heavily crusted in seeds, grains, and oats, which Nazire accepted graciously. 

Grakiln stepped forward with the chain and manacle, "Cham..."

"Please Champion, " The baker interrupted, "Eat of this loaf, as a blessing to this celebration of the Sowing Season of Selah." He urged, breaking with what was traditional for the ceremony.  Grakilm took a quiet, restraint-filled sigh and nodded subtly to Nazire. 

To make up for the awkward interruption to the traditional proceedings, Nazire made a show of it, raising the loaf high in the air to the cheers of the crowd and then lowering it and taking a large, animalistic bite from its center. With the loaf in one hand, he threw both hands into the air to entice the crowd and give himself time to chew and swallow. Bene stepped back, and bowed his head with a somber smile.

"Champion!" Grakilm hollered over the applause, quieting the crowds again but causing Nazire's ears to ring. "I gift you responsibility," He dropped the chain into Nazire's waiting arms. Nazire's left knee buckled just slightly as if he'd not been ready for the weight. "May the weight of these chains remind you of the responsibility you owe to the people of this Realm in general, and the citizens of Bacot specifically." Nazire's head swirled and he stumbled backward as a vision of a Half-elven couple arguing flashed through his mind. He felt the hand of the Guild Master gripping his forearm to hold him steady.

"And I proclaim you  ... Nazire, ..." The voice of the Guild Master echoed in his head alongside that of a foreign man and a woman screaming in terror and agony "... a dead man, you hear me, a fucking dead man…" while images of an elderly human woman in the throes of passion flashed through his mind. " ... and I arm you with this ..."

Nazire reeled, dropping the chain and flailing for balance. "Gozzunn?!?" A vision of the steel bars of a jail cell or dungeon slammed into his head, garbled together with more voices "...don't worry, I'm gonna take care of you ,,," He fought to clear his vision, his open eyes blinded by sunlight on steel shields while his closed eyes became enraged with the with the gentle glow of two moons. "What a curious phenomenon." 




Nazire opened his eyes. The early morning sun was blinding and the silhouette over his face was blurred. A voice reached out, as if through the water. He focused on it trying to make out what it said among the noises of, what sounded like, children playing. He focused harder tuning the voice clearer as the figure above him slowly came into focus. 

"Butcher?! Sorry friend, no butchers here, just us fishermen." A hand clutched his and pulled him to his feet, "Names' Skellan, welcome to Honi!"

age 70 human male / smuggler

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