A flash of familiarity caught his eye. Startled, he turned, and amidst the cheering screaming crowd saw one man, leaning on the rail, watching with a smug grin at the scene below. Their eyes met. Reddish hair, that beard, that arrogant face… and that sword. Yes, him no doubt. Icthan remembered him very vividly, for it was that man that had greeted him when he swam out of unconscious, after the hunters had cornered him straying too far from the village, bound him and hauled him away to this strange place and these hostile faces.
"If I survive this," Icthan breathed and the words were lost by the roar of the crowd, "I will hunt you down and destroy you."
The man smiled even more as the da'kor's lips moved.
"Well, I'm sure everyone here is ready to see our lovely lady Anesah in action again," someone boomed and the crowd grew a touch quieter, "So! Let the fight commence!"
And the lady stepped forwards, putting both hands on her sword and bringing it up to guard. Icthan had never fought someone that used a sword before. He could only guess at how this would work. She would have the advantage of reach here. The advantage of speed, however, would be his. As seemingly alluring as that armor was to the humans – he wouldn't know – it had to impede movement somehow. Yes, he could outmaneuver her. And up close, well, her sword would only get in the way and he had his claws.
The sick little pit in his stomach started to fade as the charge of the battle pressed in tight around him. The screams of the crowd seemed to dim and all he could hear was his own heart and the crunch of Anesah's boots on the gritty stone floor. She was smiling slightly, that tight grimace of anticipation. Well then, human, let's begin.
She charged, brought her sword down in an arc directed for his shoulder. He dove to the side and red heat flashed across his shoulderblade. Longer reach than he thought. He continued to skid backwards as she followed up with a reverse swing; one that would split open his stomach had it connected. Then he found his back smacking against stone and Anesah paused for dramatic effect.
But this was a fight. This was not a show. This was a fight and the da'kor was cornered and desperate and did not care about how impressed the crowd was. He just wanted it to end. So he sprang, using his hind legs as a lever against the stone of the wall, and shot like an arrow out at her. She responded with her sword, holding it across her body to deter his attack with the sharp of the blade. Icthan caught it with one hand, felt it slice his palm open, and failed to care. Claws tore across her belly, caught in her armor, ripped it open, and dug into the skin beneath.
She screamed, a sound louder and more piercing than the cheering crowd, and threw him back with a kick and the blade. Blood dripped freely from both of them now and they both were breathing hard. There was no dramatics from the woman now. As one, in some unspoken agreement, they ran towards each other again. Anesah aimed high, hoping to take the da'kor's head off, and Icthan went low, dropping to his side and sliding under her sword to latch onto her legs. The muscle was not protected by armor and he slashed claws along both of these. She crumpled, he shot to his feet, wrapped an arm around her neck, and drew the claws through one more time and watched the sword fall from her limp hand and the curls of her hair grow thick and heavy with blood.
Icthan staggered backwards a few paces. The reek of copper filled his nostrils and screams pounded into his ears, giving the world an odd and unreal quality. Like everything had stopped existing after she died. After he killed her. The announcer was saying something and people were starting to turn their backs, clutching little pieces of paper and yelling about money. The man, the one with the beard, still reclined on the edge of the pit, watching with disappointment. Icthan locked eyes and everything became a muted roar.
He was running again. Hit the side of the pit. Found miniscule holes in the brick and mortar, propelled himself up it. Slid. Dug in with claws. More screams, different now, and the red-headed man vanished from his sight momentarily. Still there. Had to be. Icthan smelled him. More scrambling, then his hand closed on the metal bar of the railing. He pulled, ignored the pain in his palm and back, and flew up over the edge.
The da'kor saw his adversary. That hateful man, that being that had greeted him when he woke a prisoner. A slave to their greed and lust for violence. He was standing with sword drawn, at ease, just waiting. Ichtan did not see those surrounding him, not even when the twang of crossbows and the solid thud of bolts hitting flesh broke into his bloodlust. All he knew was that the world grew very slow and the man grew so far away. Just, standing there… just out of reach. With a cry, Icthan collapsed and did not move again.
"Get rid of that thing," Berard said softly and turned.
Behind him, voices resumed again, nervous laughter, and the men started to drag the da'kor's body away, leaving a long swath of red on the stone floor of the arena.