Thump… thump… thump… the slow rhythm was maddening. What seemed like a thousand people stamped their feet creating an impressive noise and an impressive sense of foreboding. As the tempo slowly gathered Arn knew the fight was about to begin. Opposite him stood a large woman. Her bare armed were tight cords of muscle, her skin had a blueish pallor, a result of exposure, illness or substance abuse maybe. She wore a dirty rag across her forehead and scalp, lank dreadlocks hanging from under it. Her knuckles were wrapped for a fist fight… she was ready.

Arn had felt jittery since landing on this Emperor-damned planet. It was all too much… too much rockcrete, too much noise, too many smells, too many people. He senses were pulled tight all the time and now, in this ring, with an opponent ready to do him harm, those senses were razor edged. He needed to stay calm… this wasn’t his first time in a ring. He scanned the arena for any advantage, but it was Kael’ion’s voice that broke his hunter’s diligence. “Undulations in pit surface to your left; sharp tear in floor to your right”, was all she voxed through the bead still in his eay. His eyes darted to these inconsistencies in the arena. Calm…. he needed to stay calm.

Thump… thump… thump… the noise rose. The tempo increased. There was an almost perceptible expectant pause and then knife, flung from above, embedded with a resonant twang in the floor of the Pit. The fight was on. The thumping continued, but the cheering, booing and even that thumping sound faded into the background. Arn had found his calm. He stood still, every aspect of his being focussed on remaining calm, composed. Hortensia backed off initially, raising her meaty fists into a boxer’s pose, careful steps showing she’d done this before many times. She seemed to lead with her left… as he’d suspected. It was a small thing, but something nonetheless.

His unmoving stance had her confused. It was writ large across her faced. It didn’t stop her closing quickly, swinging a heavy haymaker towards his head. Arn dodged with preternatural speed, sending a headbutt towards her. She raised a shoulder to block his head, her left slamming into his stomach at almost the same time. Arn staggered, but gathered himself. She came again, but he kicked out with his left leg. Hortensia sidestepped the leg and jabbed wildly with her left fist, but Arn had anticipated this and with a planted right foot delivered a staggering uppercut to her jaw. Hortensia swayed for a moment and was down.

The thumping stopped and a ripple of groans went through the crowd. That punch has lost a lot of Vylathi Knives a lot of solars. Decima and Raguel, however, seemed pleased. Nodding and smiling at what had unfolded in the Pit.

Kael’ion stepped into Thermal Warning just a few strides behind Jaq and Arns. Their bravado caught the attention of the patrons, while her cloaked movements didn’t warrant a glance. Jaq and Arn marched straight to the bar, order a bottle of something that was a sickly green colour and then went directly to where the Vylathi Knives and Lethe, who they’d been told to talk to by Decima and Raguel, were seated.

It seemed to go well, though she was only catching one side of the conversation. They sat in seats vacated by two Knives at a gesture by Lethe. Jaq’s false confidence made Kael’ion cringe as she sank into a dark corner to observe everything. It seemed to take a bit of convincing, but Jaq dropped the right names and their sheer ‘out-of-place-ed-ness’ seemed to convince Lethe to talk. Of course, Kael’ion could only see Lethe’s lips move. Jaq repeated something, seemingly to himself, but she knew it was intended for her. Shaved head, ritual scaring, bright and textured clothing. Kael’ion scanned the bar, quickly drawing a bead on the target.

The audience with Lethe was wrapping up, Jaq and Arn standing to leave. They marched out as confidently as they’d walked in. That was until Jaq chanced a surreptitious glance over his shoulder at the target. Kael’ion knew instantly they’d been made, but she held station. The target said something to their table, then they and three of their companions stood in unison. It looked like they were following the boys.

“That went pretty well”, Jaq thought to himself as he swaggered out of Thermal Warning, Arn marching at his side…

  • Raguel was willing to talk, though a little more sharp-edged and ‘explosive’ vox bead coercion didn’t hurt… well, not much.
  • He led them to a private maglift used by the Knives to get down to the Bowels and the Pit.
  • The Pit was a visceral experience. Entry was no problem with Raguel and they arrived just in time to witness Ofelia fight Alecto, a lithe warrior against a hulking brute. The fight was brief, Ofelia landing a precision strike against the frantic Vylathi Knife.
  • Following the fight Decima, the Knife that runs the Pit, came to talk to them. Raguel suggested they could do with knowing more about the Amaranthyne and that these three could do some snooping. Sure, Gratis was lucrative, but he wasn’t comfortable knowing so little about their ‘business partners’. He suggested Thermal Warning might be the place to go.
  • A short Hauler ride across the Bowels brought them there.
  • The Hauler, and Hortensia, are waiting for them a short distance from Thermal Warning.
  • Jaq and Arn talked to Lethe, who indicated that Ulixes was the person they wanted.
  • Jaq was a little unsubtle glimpsing at Ulixes as they left…
  • … they were followed!

Until next time,