Written by: Mikami
Warnings: Possible offensive material. Graphic violence. Sexual innuendo. Viewer discretion strongly advised.
The roar of the jeering crowd still thundered inside his head like the merciless storm he'd encountered on the boundless sea. The shouts and hollers rose up deafeningly to protrude through his hammering heart and the way they beat their palms against the arena's fencing caused an eruption of his unbridled disdain. They were a sheer mass of white facelessness—deriding, intruding and repulsive. Every scream was for blood, for they were an audience with a ravenous thirst, unquenched by the sadistic spectacle performed like a wretched play.
A weaker man would have splattered his insides on the already sullied floor outside the arena. But the Mohican brave had watched, unblinking and unmoving to the mockery of his comrades' brutal passing. He remembered fleetingly there were four of them to start with and now they were down to only half.
"You really don't think I'd pass off a grand opportunity to join in one of those street fights do you?" boasted Benjamin Locke haughtily. To the swift change in his normally joking manner, the young man opposite him at the garden table crossed his arms skeptically.
"You never cease to be a form of entertainment whether you're talking out from your mouth or your rear," William Hartley replied, cocking a blonde eyebrow up at his friend.
"Fine, don't believe me. But don't start moaning in defeat after I finally give those ninnies on the street a good horse to bet on."
"Oh come on," William rolled his eyes. "I bet you couldn't even last ten seconds in a round with the weakest bloke in there."
"While I'd love to see you try to prove it, I've other pressing matters to attend."
"Yes, like trying to get into Alice Munro's panniers," said Benjamin, looking quite self-satisfied. An unholy grin began to spread his lips when his friend's previously bored expression turned into a scowl. Grabbing his tea cup, he downed the rest of it and leisurely sat back with a clever little smirk.
"So how's that project coming along?" he drawled smugly.
The blonde, pony-tailed youth pursed his lips together in annoyance while taking the time to absently throw a glance over his shoulder to three elegantly dressed young ladies a few feet away.
"Not yet…" William uttered darkly as a glare crept onto his face. It did nothing to stifle Benjamin's rising amusement.
"Well, you better get on it—I mean HER, forgive my mistake—or you forfeit our bet."
William completely despised his best friend when he put on airs and it was especially so when he was losing a bet. Both young men had been in the habit of making ridiculous wagers ever since their early teens. And now at the ripe age of eighteen, slowing down the stakes was nowhere in sight.
Benjamin echoed William's action by briefly taking a look over his shoulder and eyeballing the golden blonde in the straw hat and apricot colored dress. His eyes narrowed slightly to examine the revealing portion of her ample bosom and slim waist. Even from this distance she appeared surreal standing next to her two friends—the very image of chastity and virtue made flesh. Alice Munro, the youngest daughter to the Scotsman Edmund Munro, a Colonel in England's thirty-fifth regiment of foot.
"Do you think she's a screamer?" Benjamin spoke softly with a wider grin.
"She's probably high-pitched but melodic," responded William, forgetting his annoyance and instead focusing on her.
Benjamin made a face. "Gods, Will. You're describing her as if she were an opera singer."
"Well if I can make her do that, I can safely say I'm bloody good at what I do."
"Bollocks to that if it's all talk and no action."
A few feet away, the trio of young ladies had paused their conversation about the most coveted services of personal seamstresses when Rosa Bentham abruptly noticed the attention of the two young men.
"Things may finally be getting interesting at this boring little get-together," said Rosa, biting her lip a little anxiously.
Alice Munro and Gabrielle Lavoisier followed their friend's gaze toward the garden table.
Gabrielle scoffed and started to walk away. "I'd rather not be admired by such company. It's enough that dear Alice had to invite us for brunch, omitting the details that Mr. Benjamin and Mr. William were also going to be sharing the same vicinity."
"Gabrielle, I had to," said Alice, grabbing her arm and pulling her back. "My father's close comrades with both Colonel Locke and Lieutenant Hartley—all three of which just returned to London from the Americas. He put me in charge of entertaining their sons and…well…let's just say I just couldn't do it without yours and Rosa's assistance."
Rose gave an unladylike snort at Alice's poor excuse for an explanation and apology. "You're adorable when you try to make things sound less severe."
"How is any of this severe?" Alice questioned. "Our stomachs are full, the sun is high in the sky and we haven't yet had the 'pleasure' of doing some valid entertaining since we excused ourselves from the table."
"Pleasure, in the loosest sense of the word," added Gabrielle, eyeing the two young men again.
"And that's exactly why this sorry charade of non-interaction should end as soon as possible," drawled Rosa in boredom. "I've heard the lewd rumors about them but I feel so restless, I couldn't care less."
"Gabrielle does have a tendency to believe everything within earshot and blow it to a sizable proportion," Alice found herself cracking a smirk.
"I most certainly do not," shot the redhead, open-mouthed.
"Oh really," said Rosa, leaning toward her friend daringly. "Who did I hear said rumors from about William Hartley and Benjamin Locke? Who said they were good for nothing, scandalous, impropriators that—"
"Gentleman!" exclaimed Alice loudly when she saw the two youths approach their trio. "How lovely of you to finally join our party. I see that our housekeeper Anne has already brought you a sample of that fine tea from India. I confess I haven't tried any myself and it would be good of you to let me in on the experience."
Benjamin almost nudged William after hearing Alice's superfluous and sudden chatter upon their arrival. Neither boy could ignore Rosa's rather loud voice when listing various qualities of their supposed reputation. He even spied William's struggle to not laugh at Alice's attempt to cover up the fact that the boys themselves had just been under discussion. Nonetheless, they both agreed silently to play along.
"A heady taste with several notes of spice," William smiled. "It's something I quite enjoyed. As for Benjamin's companionship, I can't really say the same."
"Well, it's taken you long enough to decide on a change of crowd," tittered Rosa. She cast a glance at the dark-haired Benjamin, who noticed immediately.
"And are we ever glad for it," he said, taking her hand and blessing it with his lips. "Benjamin Locke, Madame."
Gabrielle's green eyes narrowed a fraction when a coy tone elevated Rosa's voice.
"I have to echo my father's comment on the grounds of your estate, Miss Munro. It's remarkable how fast the Burkes landscapers were able to complete the garden in time for Colonel Munro's return to England," commented William.
Alice nodded graciously as her hand swept the expanse of the garden's view. The limestone staircase opened a paved pathway that swirled around the grass, lined with trimmed and charming hedges. It led to a fountain in the middle, grounded by a man-made limestone pond in which colorful, imported koi swam amongst lilies and rocks.
"My sister Cora insisted on the best possible service and knew our father had wanted the project completed long ago. However, he was called away to service in the Americas and his vision was never realized. This was a perfect homecoming gift."
"Tremendous," said Benjamin, peering in Rosa's direction instead.
"Indeed." Gabrielle raised her voice slightly in a hopeless attempt to gain back Rosa's attention. The redhead knew the consequences of a male's interested gaze. Rosa, with her silken tawny curls, wispy lashes and chocolate irises was a magnet for young bachelors ever since her debutante ball. And she was enjoying every minute of it.
"Might I inquire about your conversation with William before you joined us?" Rosa asked. "You two seemed quite adamant in your personal discussion."
William and Benjamin exchanged glances and gave a secretive chuckle that made annoyance flash temporarily on Gabrielle's features. She glimpsed at Alice with a suspicious manner and tugged lightly on her sleeve.
"Just trivial matters, I assure you," said William.
Benjamin supplemented, "But if you would really like to know, we were deliberating my chances of winning in an ungentlemanly sport."
"And that would be?" Alice found herself asking despite Gabrielle.
"Good old fashioned fisticuffs. No shirts, no weapons, just flesh and the pavement under your feet…or your face if you should lose," said Benjamin matter-of-factly.
"That's absolutely barbaric," Gabrielle sniffed in displeasure.
"But you wanted to know."
"I didn't," said the redhead, shooting Alice and Rosa a firm glance.
Benjamin shrugged offhandedly, covering his observation of both her friends' sudden curiosity in unladylike affairs.
"On the contrary, hand-to-hand combat is the fairest of all fights," interjected William. "There's no aid of a weapon; all you have is your head and raw strength."
Benjamin nodded in agreement. "Yes, none of that rifle sniping and foreplay behind a fort."
"That doesn't sound very fair taking in account the military status of our fathers," said Alice thoughtfully. "I'll admit I don't know much, but I know there are strategies involved when going to battle with a larger force. Wouldn't it be a collaboration of several minds?"
A brief memory passed through Alice during a time when her father tried to teach her and Cora the game of chess. Cora had excelled splendidly, being the brighter and more logical thinker of the two girls. The pieces on the checkered board only confused Alice, resulting in her lack of attention and subsequent losses. What she did catch was Colonel Munro mentioning that chess was the battle of minds, as were the real strategies of war.
"A fair argument," said William, flashing her another smile. "But what Benjamin really meant was that if General Daniel Webb were to face Marquis de Montcalm with only their fists—no guns, knives or their regiments, who would win?"
"Wouldn't that be interesting if an entire battle could be decided on whose leading officer had the mind and the raw strength?" stated Benjamin keenly.
Alice wanted to sigh but looked at both Gabrielle and Rosa instead. The redhead seemed apathetic while the other was feigning interest.
"But I think years without being in the actual fray because of their rank may have weakened their physical resolve," William said. "If they were to go out and fight Savages, they wouldn't last a round."
"Savages?" said Rosa with a lifted eyebrow.
"The so-called Red Men of America's frontier. I refuse to believe you haven't the stories."
"Unfortunately, I can't say I'm usually within a social circle that talks about primitive creatures in a rifle war as my pursuits obviously remain on more civilized subjects," Rosa replied haughtily.
"I guess you'd have to be the son of a military man to hear firsthand accounts," said Benjamin.
Alice spoke up, her tone changing to a slower place, "I've heard of them."
The two young men looked at the Munro girl simultaneously.
"Lately, visitors to my father's house have been members of his regiment," Alice said. "I sometimes hear them talk about the Colonials and the Red Men and how much of a nuisance they can be regardless of whether or not they're allies."
"Their understanding of European military terms apparently doesn't translate very well when it comes to whatever jibberish they speak," commented Benjamin with a flick of his hand.
"And if you thinking fighting hand-to-hand at equal measure is barbaric, I've been told these Savages are rampant with acts of brutality on the battlefield," William responded, eyeing Gabrielle.
"What makes you think hearing any of this will benefit our knowledge?" said Gabrielle in distaste.
Benjamin blatantly ignored her and maneuvered himself beside Alice, who seemed to be the only female who scratched the surface of the subject. Alice, on the other hand, was taken by surprise at his boldness.
"They're filthy and uncivilized. They seem to live for battle and the pleasure that comes from killing their enemy," Benjamin affirmed, mouth turning upward.
"You two appear sure of your conclusions," Alice Munro uttered skeptically. "I already know that neither of you has ever been to the Americas, so how is your word solid proof about these people?"
"My dear girl, these aren't people," laughed William. "If you want to be kind about it, at least say they're half of one."
Alice prodded further, "Fierce as they may sound, a large portion of them are serving under England against France. The Red Men have to be reasonable in some way in order to do that."
She watched as William and Benjamin looked to each other for some sort of permission. Curiosity began to worm its way into her stomach ever since people of the frontier were brought into the conversation. Alice was unsure about believing their account because the stories her father brought home about them had been neutral or sometimes positive so far. But maybe she was wrong; perhaps they were cutthroat and her own naive mind had romanticized what was really primitive.
After a lengthy pause, Benjamin put his hands together. "There hasn't been a need for either of us to waste our time on a boat to see the vicious sights."
"Do you like to gamble?" questioned William furtively.
"What does that have to do with anything?" Rosa appeared perplexed but she was fully aware of the spark of mystery in his voice.
"It has everything to do with it," replied Benjamin with a grin.
A churning sensation began to meld with Alice's chest as she realized the brewing of a plan before her.
Rotten handfuls of hay were strewn haphazardly along the squalid stone floor and Uncas had tried his best to create a makeshift sleeping space for him and his remaining companion. Ituha was turned on his side with his eyes shut. The blood from an earlier battle was crusted on his forehead, while around his left eye angry gashes crisscrossed. Where the tarnished bars met the grimy wall, Uncas sat huddled against them as he watched over Ituha. Sleep was evasive in a place that teemed with the scent of death and Uncas knew his comrade was fully awake despite his rocklike state.
He couldn't tell if it was day or night—their captors kept them in the darkness of what was once a cellar room. Uncas recalled the deprivation of sunlight for seven days. They were fed like dogs and when it wasn't enough, he and Ituha would consume pieces of the hay just to quell hunger.
At one point there had been four in the cell including him. All were brought there against their will, sold from a duo of impoverished English soldiers to pirates. The rancorous sea was a ghastly experience in storms and the way the merciless body of water pushed the boat around like a simple pawn made him and his comrades frequently sick. After three months of thinking they were to be slaves, they arrived in the land of the English fathers only to be thrust into darkness and carnage. Pitted against hostile animals already provoked by their captors, Uncas and his companions were the new entertainment in the dingy halls of underground London.
The crowds' screaming faces haunted whatever sort of dreams he still had, as well as the horrendous deaths of two of his comrades, Kesegowaase and Nootau. Every fatal graze of claw earned louder shrieks of bloodlust and the arena's audience grew bolder at their last efforts to survive. But their passing was not out of fear; each went to their demise with respect to their animal assailants, concluding their situation as a battle of wits and strength—which if their beastly opponent won, there would be no hard feelings to the end. Before entering the arena, they both gave Uncas was a silent farewell that he acknowledged wholeheartedly by witnessing every moment.
Their captors were quick to fire insults any chance they received, assuming neither Uncas nor his Native brothers knew a speck of English. While he couldn't say the same for the other three tribesmen, Uncas heard and understood everything due to an educated past. Their captors' ignorance was something that could be used against them and Uncas hoped they were foolish enough to discuss who was on guard in the vicinity and where, as well as exits and hidden pathways. Uncas was attentive as ever when one of the pirates, a burly, ginger-haired man named Mortigen, trudged in just to drink a large, stolen bottle of ale by himself. Refusing to share with the other fellows, he swigged the amber liquid while getting his kicks by ranting at their captives. But even if Mortigen ranted in English, Uncas had difficulty understanding his slurred speech and had pirate's bottle thrown at him instead. The glass smarted against Uncas' forearm and he moved back to avoid anymore projectiles.
Now, the faint sound of a bustling crowd slowly trickled into the dank atmosphere and Uncas closed his eyes. This was the only way of telling time and was the recurrent allusion of how much longer he and Ituha had to live.
On the opposite side of the enclosure, Ituha stirred and looked up at Uncas with an unreadable expression.
"Soon," he said softly in his native Delaware tongue.
Uncas only nodded.
Seconds later, the door swung open with a ferocious bang. The burly man, Mortigen lumbered inside, dragging heavy, booted feet beneath him. Two more dirty figures entered behind him—a balding, gangly man called Keffa and the other a toothless and stocky, bearded fellow named Bulvine.
"Alright Savages, time fer 'nother round 'a ring-a-round-the-rosy," Mortigen exclaimed boorishly. "An' I got yer pocket-full-o-poseys right here."
A grubby hand fished through the inside of his pants and retrieved a rusted ring of keys. He spat unceremoniously on the ground before grabbing the squeaking lock to open. Two pairs of hands reached into the darkness and extracted Ituha and Uncas. Dragging them to their feet, the gangly man gave Uncas a personal view of his blackened teeth.
"He's goin' in t-night 'gain," Keffa garbled, peering for a moment at the stumbling Ituha. "But don' worry Chief, you git yer turn soon 'nough. We goin' love to see yer ass dancin' in there with them."
Uncas stared unblinking into Keffa's hollowed eyes without a trace of emotion on his features. He looked back at Ituha, who was lurching forward due to his bad leg and yet no amount of pain could be seen in his face.
"This be the night when you meet the angels," Mortigen said, grabbing Uncas and shoving him out the door.
"The clouds'll open up an' the good ol Lord will say," he added. "Half a human don't belong in no heaven or hell. He jus' goin' let you Savages ROT."
Their howling laughter filled the gritty, stone hallways and filtered through Uncas' ears as they were marched through the twists and turns. Now and again there would be a torch to light the path but most were put out or unused. But Uncas knew they were heading to higher ground when the cruel resonance of the crowd became louder and bolder. They were marched up slippery steps and down a tight corridor until they reached the arena.
The room was tight and circular; walls made of shabby wood and decaying stone. In the middle stood the arena, held together by wooden planks and a fence. The surrounding ring of seats was arranged like steps so many would have a clear view of the spectacle.
The populace's storm-like shrieks engulfed Uncas, saturating him in a dizzying world of zealous facelessness. They jeered loudly and tried to grab him. On his right, a group of people were frantically placing bets and on his left, Bulvine was delivering Ituha to the arena.
"Uncas," Ituha said in his native Delaware tongue. "I go to the council fire of my fathers without regret for where my path was laid. The passage will be easier now, as it will be for you if you are of the same mind. The Great Spirit has come for us."
"Safe journey, my friend," Uncas spoke back.
Ituha had managed a smile before being jostled into the ring by the gruff Bulvine. The crowd's voices rose higher.
Between two of his captors, Uncas stood rigid while faintly hearing Keffa speak jovially in his ear about his upcoming turn. What awaited Ituha in the arena was a pair of ferocious wolves. The beasts scattered briefly when Mortigen hauled a rotten shield and a flimsy spear over the fence for Ituha to use.
It was inhuman; it was vulgar—and they still had the nerve to call him and his comrades savages. Behind Uncas' calm and closed mouth were teeth gritted in anger and helplessness. He watched in severity as the wolves separated and began to circle his friend.
Far away, lost amongst the wild and spiteful mob, Alice Munro sat stiffly in between William Hartley and Rosa Bentham, mentally berating herself for getting pulled into a ridiculous charade. Gabrielle had strictly refused Benjamin's invitation and she was right to do so because at that time, Alice couldn't possibly imagine herself in the middle of what could be the dirtiest and most uncouth place in all of London.
The boys had made sure to seat Rosa and herself in the middle, with William on her right and Benjamin on Rosa's left.
The screaming was preposterous but their two male companions were feeding off the crowd's energy like parasites and were whooping at the execution that was about to take place. Glancing at Rosa beside her, Alice's mouth opened in alarm when Benjamin's contagious enjoyment inspired her friend throw her fist in the air and cheer like common riffraff.
"This one was remarkable last night!" Benjamin shouted loudly, pointing to the figure in the arena. "He survived a struggle with two of their Rottweilers! It's a good thing I placed my bet on him. Poor William lost a few!"
"What? That man is in no condition to fight again!" Alice's eyes widened and shot toward the stumbling man.
"The rule is the Savages are made to fight until they…expire," said William in her ear. "So it's a good thing I kept my bet on his loss tonight."
Alice covered her mouth. This was nothing like she had ever imagined and she had trouble trying to connect William and Benjamin's previous point about two beings fighting fairly in unarmed combat, one-on-one.
"It's not that hard to understand," William said, aware her wordless confusion. "This isn't man-against-man, it's animal-against-animal. The fight can still be fair."
The tone of William's voice carried a chilling soullessness that carried an unwelcome prickle up Alice's spine. The crowd around her roared in appreciation as she saw the man barely dodge the wolf's pounce.
In the arena, Ituha's damaged leg forced him down and this time a shock of pain exploded on his face as he hit the ground. He desperately felt for the spear and grabbed the shabby weapon in time to keep the other wolf's open jaws at bay. The weight of the beast's paws thumped heavily on his stomach and a snapping noise reached his ears, signaling that the spear was about to break in half.
Up in the stands, Benjamin and William jumped to their feet regardless of Alice's disturbance. She could see the struggle between the wolf and its prey, while the other animal stalked around, giving the fight a morbid sense of play. The man's legs were twisting beneath the beast helplessly as the flesh of his stomach paid dearly for sharpened claws.
Not a coherent thought passed through Alice's bewildered thoughts at the gruesome display before her. She felt as if she couldn't concentrate on anything; her surroundings were thrashing about at a feverish pace. Every face around Alice took pleasure in the brutality—everyone, except for the raven-haired young man that stood by the arena, fixed in between two riotous brutes. His stern features were unfazed by the violence of the scene and yet he kept his eyes steadfast on the man with the wolves. He didn't blink; he never moved. It was as if he were the only one there.
For awhile, Alice couldn't help but ask why he was in such a passive state but sitting forward and squinting closer made her realize that he was about to share the same fate as the man in the ring.
The mob's cries broke the room like a tidal wave when the wolves' foreplay came to a feral ending. The man's body was a mangled sight, gashed and bloodied in between fur and teeth. His limbs, which had once fought hard, were now lying limp amongst the growing pool of scarlet.
At once the crowd shot to its feet and as a chain reaction, their macabre curiosity sent them rushing to the edge of the arena's fence to investigate the slaughter.
"We're going down there!" Benjamin exclaimed in manic excitement.
"You saw what happened already! He's dead! Isn't that enough?" Alice cried, sickened. She looked frantically at Rosa for support. A rush of anger pulsed through her face when Rosa avoided her sight.
"Got to make sure. Come on!" William ignored Alice's plea and grabbed her wrist instead.
She felt herself being pulled down into the hollering masses, unable to twist her arm out of his ironclad grip. Behind them, Benjamin also followed with Rosa tagging along.
"William! Stop!" she began to scream. "Stop it! Release me this instant!"
He tossed her a look over his shoulder. "Calm down Alice! It's only for a while! Besides, I can't leave you alone in a crowd like this. You'll get lost and then where would we be?"
"No! I want you to take me back! I want to go home!"
Alice was dragged between colliding bodies and pushed around like a flimsy rag doll. William unintentionally pulled harder, making sure that she wouldn't get lost when he managed to squeeze through to the edge of the fence. Alice let out a strained cry as he secured her a place beside him, crushed against the side.
Her eyes widened in terror. Everything she had seen from the stands was multiplied in full horrific volume. The stench of new death, the body situated in the middle of a crimson lake, with sticky drops of it hanging from the wolves' open mouths.
A surge of panic rose up in Alice's chest. She was powerless to move; the shifting bodies around her created a moving cage, seemingly impenetrable. With eyes suddenly filling with tears, she looked beyond the metal fencing and across the arena.
He was there again—the dark-haired male that Alice had spied from her seat further back. Her fingers unconsciously grasped the wire fencing. He was no younger than the suitors her father had begun to pick out for her. Long, silken hair fell roughly over broad shoulders and deepened mahogany skin with features set in a somber state.
She unexpectedly became still, her eyes remaining on him in attempt to drown out her chaotic environment. A strange focus took root, willing her to involuntarily believe that if she lost sight of him, the painful atmosphere would rush back ten times worse. Alice began to contemplate his reaction to the carnage but now at a closer distance she discovered guarded emotions behind his stoic exterior. The man that just died in the arena must have been his friend.
Across the bloodied space, Mortigen was shouting at his men to keep the wolves at bay while Ituha's body was to be retrieved. The men were having trouble and were afraid to be the wolves' next kill.
Uncas had ignored their incompetence as they tried to startle the beasts away from his comrade's still form. The battle hardly lasted five minutes but seemed like the longest period of his life. The last of his companions was dead and his captors' senseless shooing was only a dreadful hindrance to what lay ahead for him.
In the midst of coming to terms with his demise, Uncas vaguely sensed the attentions of an unknown presence. A feeling of foreboding began to seep into his weary blood as he allowed himself to dissect the shrieking faces in the crowd. They all appeared the same—soulless and unforgiving. However, in the short distance he abruptly caught sight of her.
He couldn't understand. Why wasn't she screaming like the others? Did she not enjoy the malevolent sport? Her hands were clenched tightly to the wiring; her expression was echoing something akin to compassion, which Uncas adamantly refused to believe. But her face—her pinked lips were parted in alarm as if she'd been discovered doing something terrible.
Alice blinked, willing his sudden detection of her to be a figment of her imagination. She was proved wrong by the hazy seconds ticking by and how strangely she was able to see the clarity of his dark irises. Anger, suffering, grief and acceptance of death. The question of 'why' hung thickly in the tormented air between them and Alice was drawn to locking her gaze with his. She had no answers to give and yet couldn't deny him the sudden fear she felt for him.
She saw a man, not an animal.
"Yer turn, Chief," Keffa sneered in delight. He grabbed Uncas' forearms as Bulvine tightly secured a set of chains around his wrists. Uncas bit the inside of his cheek as the rusted cuffs cut against his skin.
Out of the corner of his eye, Uncas spied Ituha's body being hauled away through the entrance they arrived through. The pathway into the ring was marred by red; they hadn't bothered to clean a speck. A second later he was being thrust into the arena toward the dizzying effect of the crowd.
Alice's hands moved toward her mouth the moment his eyes broke contact with hers. The bloodthirsty atmosphere was revived around her, destroying what resembled stillness in the most atrocious of places. She saw his captors place chains on his wrists before flinging him into the ring with the wolves. A sickening feeling churned her stomach as dismay etched itself into her wide blue eyes. Over her shoulder she heard traces of William and Benjamin flinging their dirty money at the bookie in preparation for the next slaughter.
"I'm placing the rest on him!" shouted William at his friend.
"The Savage is bloody malnourished! I'll give him a minute before getting shredded!" Benjamin yelled back, smacking a small wad of bills into the bookie's hand.
"You're not winning this one, Will!"
"We'll see about that!" said William confidently. "Malnourished or not, I'm taking into account his size and build. He's probably fast."
"Oh bollocks, you insipid poof."
Inside the arena, the wolves eyed Uncas carefully while studying him to the very core. One paced back and forth in an agonizing matter. The other remained eerily motionless, content to judge whatever move their newest prey might try.
Uncas deliberately slowed his breathing as quickened eyes flickered from one wolf to the other and to the weapons given to Ituha earlier. The decaying shield was completely out of reach, while the broken spearhead was outside the pool of blood on his left. The chains clinked as Uncas extended his hands outward while slowly bending his knees. The pacing wolf halted in anticipation. It was now or never.
A frightening jolt shot through Alice when she saw him leap to the side. The nearest wolf acted in hot pursuit, pouncing toward him in ferocity. He was too slow to reach the spearhead and his foot slipped on the blood, causing his knee to be driven harshly into the ground.
The crowd screamed and cheered when he grimaced painfully.
Uncas' head snapped over his shoulder, glimpsing the leaping wolf. By instinct, he brought his wrists together and swung as hard as he could. A high-pitched yelp hammered his eardrums as he felt the chains collide with fur and bone. It was followed by a further whimper and a blunt thud as the first wolf hit the wooden side panels.
"No!" Alice shouted when she saw the other wolf bound toward him.
Her faint cry filtered into Uncas' head, causing him to dive for the spearhead and out of the wolf's path. He slid on his stomach and almost hit his head on the side planks. Turning over on his back, sharpened jaws had clamped down on the suede of his pants. Uncas tried to kick frantically with his other leg but his beastly assailant was gaining the upper hand by forcing its way on top of him.
Alice wanted to look away. She didn't want to see him die. Behind her, the boys and Rosa were becoming ever restless with the heartless bet looming over him.
Beneath heavy fur and flesh, Uncas gritted his teeth tightly and held back the snapping jaws with a bloody arm. With his grip tense around the spearhead, he gave a thunderous roar and plunged it deep into the wolf's side. Above, the growling beast tried to go for his neck but Uncas turned away and spearheaded it again.
Alice's chest was heaving up and down as she watched the struggle. At first she assumed the lack of movement in his body meant he was dead but he startled her by pushing the dead carcass off in a weakened state. Alice's hand found the wiring once more and leaned forward for support. But a gasp lodged its way into her throat when the first wolf recovered and tried for a second round with his human opponent.
By then Uncas had gotten to his feet and stepped quickly to the side, catching the wolf's head by looping his chains. In the trap, he tightened the loop forcefully around its neck. The wolf thrashed violently between Uncas' legs but he held firm. Little by little, the beast's strength waned and its tongue hung out of its mouth as life drained out of its body.
A few feet away, Alice saw the wolf cease all movement and a strange wave of relief washed over her. With the rowdy crowd pushing at her from all sides, she ducked underneath limbs to keep sight of him. She observed his excruciating rise from the wolf's immobile form; the chain weighed down his arms heavily and it showed in the lines of his face. He was dirty, bloody and panting—swaying on his feet and ready to collapse.
Look at me, her thoughts spoke.
Uncas felt his breath escape him and the floor appeared tumultuous below. He had begun to slip into a muted world where the hollering mob was quiet noise. He wondered momentarily if this was what dying felt like and began to search through clouded eyes for a sign of his passing.
The Mohican brave only found her. Golden tresses with eyes that made the ocean cry with jealousy.
He found himself placing one foot in front of the other, unconscious to where he was being taken. With eyes almost half-lidded, he sought her out by instinct and soon found himself near the very edge of the arena.
Thousands of unnamed emotions were channeled through Alice as she watched him drift toward her place near the side. Now and again she was pushed roughly by the crowd but managed to maintain a position where she could see him clearly. The tangible details of his being came into focus, rendering Alice both frightened and fascinated that it wasn't a ghastly dream. He was much taller than she expected but judging from the way he slouched due to his wounds, Alice estimated his size would tower over her. Grasping his injured arm, he heaved as his full lips opened to accompany the sternness of his dark brows. A ragged shirt, with a color barely discerned as plum, hung over his shoulders and was loosely secured with a worn leather belt. Alice's eyes trailed down his form to scrutinize his eccentric pair of pants that seemed to be cut off at mid-thigh and secured by additional leather bands below his knees. She couldn't tell completely how they were being held up but it may have had something to do with the straps along the sides of his thighs—disappearing underneath the length of torn shirt and a rectangular section of embroidered cloth.
Uncas' tunneled vision secured on the woman with golden hair when he stopped directly in front of her. The wires crossed over her creamy skin but did nothing to reduce the clean sapphire of her irises. There were dozens of her kind in the Americas that never bothered to look at him twice but until now he'd never glimpsed one so provocatively lovely. He had trouble reading the expression on her face—his pride wouldn't let him acknowledge it as sympathy. However, he suddenly wanted to know who she was but his throat was strained and uncooperative.
"Back, Savage!" shouted an angry voice. Uncas regarded the blonde man who stepped protectively in front of the young woman.
"Ugh, he really is filthy isn't he?" commented another female with tawny curls.
The dark-haired man beside her nudged the blonde man in the ribs. "I guess you won this round. He almost lost an arm but he's still standing."
With her gaze still fixed on Uncas, Alice felt William tug on her arm.
"It's late," he said insistently, all the while noticing how intently the Savage was watching her. "We have to get you and Rosa back home before anyone finds out that we didn't attend the opera."
Benjamin chuckled despite his loss on the bet. "Indeed. William here has to go and collect."
Alice had begun to shake her head but was swung around and maneuvered toward the steps to the exit. She anxiously looked back over people's shoulders to catch one more glance of the enigmatic young man in the arena.
"Wait—" she started to say. Rosa linked arms with her and carried her faster up the steps.
He gradually grew smaller again and Alice tried her best to keep him within sight. His dark eyes were fading from her vision amongst the crowd.
Two pairs of rough hands seized Uncas by the arms and dragged him back across the arena. He grunted and tried to forget the state of his body by searching for the young woman's vanishing form. Uncas looked upward, catching her momentarily before she disappeared through the exit.
"I lost a lot of money 'cuz of you," Keffa growled at him irately. He grabbed the chains and yanked them hard so the Mohican brave stumbled forward.
"If he keeps this up, I'm goin' to be rich," said Bulvine in glee.
Both men neglected to remove the cuffs while grasping Uncas under the arms and hauling him toward the cell. This time he was able to drown out their insults, their callous manner and their sordid surroundings. Even when they threw him back into the darkness to await another episode of sadism, Uncas had taken to memory the soft, taintless face of the girl with blue eyes. An odd sense of comfort trickled into his mind even though she was gone. But she suddenly became a symbol of the missing humanity in his brutal environment. If there had been a lack of peace before his eventual passing, Uncas knew it had been restored through the moment her attention was his.
A/N: I think this AU was taken completely out of the film's setting and storyline. I basically kidnapped Uncas and Alice and tortured them a little since I'm prone to be a sadist toward my favorite characters. Anyone who's read my fics in other fandoms know that my forte is angst. I know it sounds like an abusive relationship but trust me in real life I'm the absolute opposite :) I adore love stories but even more I adore the uncensored emotion and situation that comes with love and passion. Call me an idealist, call me an insane romantic. I hope you enjoyed it :)