|2 Heroes||HP+ 1200|
|2 Elite+ Heroes||ATK +150|
|2 Legendary+ Heroes||ATK +250|
The crack of the whip sounded through the stretched hides of the tipi encampment. Khasos the shepherd was being punished by his master, a centurion general known for his pettiness and proclivity for making life hard for his subordinates. The general hadn’t had a good fight in a while, so the shepherd’s chances of surviving this incident were slim. According to the customs of the Maulers, the centurion was well within his rights to snuff out the very life he’d made so miserable for so long.
The general wouldn’t miss a chance to add insult to injury, and had opted to mete out the punishment in front of a group of distinguished guests, recently arrived from inspecting another encampment much like this one. Among them was Brutus himself, the closest thing the Maulers had ever had to a king. He sat in a place of honor, a great rough hewn throne of sorts that disrupted the circular seating arrangement by its sheer size, not to mention his own mass and presence. In the middle of the circle, Khasos hunched. He wore a hate-filled sneer and stole furtive glances at the great warriors and generals surrounding him.
His master addressed the guests.
“This one has lost my sheep! This one has squandered our resources! He blames the storm! Tell me, is the one who cannot combat the storm one worthy of our tribe? Is he worthy of the very blood that flows through his veins? Every breath he takes is stolen! Every morsel he consumes is wasted for not going to nourish his betters! This one will burden us no longer!” The centurion had a commanding voice and put on a good show, but whenever he made eye contact with Brutus he would invariably avert his gaze, looking to-ward the others leaning forward in their seats.
Scars and fresh lacerations criss-crossed the back and arms of the shepherd, marking the whip’s passing. Every breeze that danced over the new wounds was agony. He raised his head and uttered a challenge. Around the circle, jaws dropped. Only Brutus seemed unsurprised. The shepherd had demanded his right, as a Mauler, to combat. The hulking centurion flashed a look of indignant fury before regaining his composure. He roared laughter, and Brutus noticed his honor guard were quick to follow suit. He looked down at Khasos with a wide, predatory smile, and gave him a mockingly friendly slap on the back. Khasos winced and prepared for death.
The Centurion began to throw back one horn of ale after another, toasting his guests and then his ranking warriors. He jested about the fight to come and Khasos’ small stature. He talked about the ignominy of a task such as shepherding and wondered at one’s ability to fail such a simple job. Deep in his cups, he began to reminisce about foes felled and bathes won, occasionally going back to compare those worthy opponents with the pitiable wretch before him now. Khasos stood through all of this, seething and quietly shouldering the pain to his body and dignity.
Eventually even many of the guests were noticeably inebriated. They began to call for the fight to begin. They jeered and chant-ed, not really observing what exactly was transpiring. Brutus had taken only as much drink as custom demanded, and he straightened in his chair as he watched the preparations for the combat. He saw a feared but overconfident general, stumbling in a semblance of a straight line. He was unfocused and dragged his sword along behind him, the point scoring a deep groove in the earth. He saw a frightened but furious young Mauler, tense with un-released energy, his gaze sharp and steady. A warrior had begrudgingly handed him a pair of throwing axes, the only weapons available that fit Khasos’ size. He hefted them, feeling their weight, and took a few practice swings. A few among Brutus’ generals noticed his look, and began assessing the situation themselves. It might not be so one-sided after all.
The master raised his sword high above his head, swinging it in slow circles as he spoke. “This one wants a fight, but he’s gonna get an execution one way or another! C’mere little shepherd!”
He charged heavily toward a terrified Khasos, who managed to snap out of his paralysis just in time to avoid the first slow arc of the blade. The general re-gained his balance and executed a careless backhand swipe at Khasos’ belly. This one he avoided more easily, and seemed to remember the axes he held in either hand. Breathing quickly, the diminutive Mauler circled, watching the general’s movements, gauging his re-action times. He made as if to throw the axe in his left hand, and the general’s sword was raised to deflect it. Everyone watching saw that the general’s reaction was sloppy and slow. The crowd quieted and some of the warriors began to show worried expressions. The general roared.
“Throw it then, coward! Throw your lithe axe and I’ll catch it with my teeth! I’ll hold you down and skin you with it!”
With a soft grunt Khasos did just that. The axe flew at the general’s leg. He was now focused enough to parry, but not sober enough to maintain his balance after doing so. In an instant, Khasos was on him. The shepherd-turned-gladiator bared his teeth. Brutus saw a grimace overflowing with anger, fear, and determination. The other axe stayed in hand, and with a savage downward stroke, found the general’s neck. A crimson spray painted the former shepherd’s face. Complete silence gripped the circle. The general straightened and stepped backward, his hand on his neck, blood pouring from between his fingers. He looked around at his warriors, confused, searching for an answer as to what was happening and then he redirected his attention to Khasos. “You…you weren’t supposed to.” He sat suddenly in the bloody dirt. “You aren’t allowed. You’re…” His eyes closed, and he slumped forward. The flies were already starting to buzz around his body.
Brutus rose and walked toward the shocked Khasos, picking up the thrown axe and offering it to him handle first. The victor looked up at him, just as scared now as he had been earlier.
“You used these well, but you still need training. You’ll come with us when we leave tomorrow.”