At first he knew only blackness, then a chill, and then a dull roaring that assaulted him from what seemed every corner of his being.
His heart beat heavy in his chest and blood pounded in his ears along with a loud ringing sensation.
So he had not died after all, but how had he survived? Was it some cowardice that saved his life? If so, he thought, he should end his life now.
His eyes cracked open as he used his powerful arms to push away from the gritty surface he was laying on. They opened on a familiar sight: sand. The ringing in his ears steadied and slowly faded, but the roar only grew louder as his hearing returned.
It was the roar of a crowd, with shrieks and guttural sounds he had never heard before. Instincts kicked in as adrenaline coursed through his body shocking him into recovering the rest of his senses and he cast his eyes about assessing the situation even as he fell into the warrior’s stance his father had drilled into him since childhood.
“By the Gods…” he exhaled out loud.
He was in what appeared to be an arena of sorts, circular in nature and not horribly unlike the sand covered training grounds he was molded into a warrior within. The man was surrounded and above him in the stands, howling in a cacophony of varying noises, were what he could only assume were the spawn of Hades himself.
Realizing what danger he might be in he swiftly looked around the grounds of the arena itself and spotted a large creature with it’s back to him holding it’s arms above it’s head and shouting in a deep guttural voice that the warrior could not understand. The other two arms, for indeed the creature had two sets, was clutching a weapon similar to a scimitar, but glowing with an odd light and much larger than he had seen any man wield before.
The creatures back was to him for a moment longer and turned to face him. In spite of his training the warrior took an involuntary step back as standing before him was an atrocity. It towered above him, even at this distance, and the man judged it to be at least 3 foot taller than himself, no mean feet considering he himself stood tall.
Those muscled demonic arms came down from the cheer, obviously meant to rile the crowd, and two of them pointed at the warrior, the one holding the scimitar tossing it to the other set of hands nonchalantly. As it did so it muttered more of the guttural barking in his direction, but again the man understood none of it.
Suddenly his neck was aflame with pain as something metallic pierced it. He instinctively reached to pull out what he assumed was some sort of arrow, but found instead a small metallic nub. When he pulled on it intense pain exploded in his skull, it was buried far too deep to remove.
Alarmed he focused on the demon before him who was still speaking at him and suddenly the words, just moments after uttered, were able to be understood by the man.
“You do not think that you will challenge me do you?” it turned to the crowd seeking their favor once more.
“YOU BRING SOMETHING SO WEAK BEFORE ME? HA!”
The creature turned once again to face the man as a voice boomed out from above, amplified in some way.
“Warriors gather before you, the best of their realm. You already know Gattarak the Merciless…” the voice paused for loud applause.
“Today we bring you a new fighter, from a time and place far from here. A race of beings known as human, and among them one of the greatest warriors of their race. The Spartan Archelaus!”
Archelaus kept his eyes forward on who was clearly his opponent, still trying to understand the light blue skinned giant before him, ignoring the boisterous booing that assaulted him. The demon was bare chested covered only in some sort of skirt made of a metal the Spartan had never seen. It’s eyes were two narrowed slits that came down in a sharp angle from it’s otherwise smooth countenance. It spook from a large toothy maw, that seemed intent on taking up the rest of the creatures skull whenever it opened.
“If you die you shall be forgotten and erased from history, but if you live you shall be like Gods! Perhaps even allowed to join us in our crusade!” the voice boomed again and applause roared.
“Begin!” the voice came from nowhere and suddenly the one he had called Gattarak was already moving, sprinting toward Archelaus with inhuman speed, dropping it’s weapon to it’s lower set of hands and swinging it violently at the Spartan, hoping to end the fight quickly.
Though the warrior was still confused his body did what it had trained his whole life to do and he found himself in a roll carrying himself inches under the weapon, before he could think further on the chaos around him.
As he rolled he surveyed his surroundings again, taking them in quickly, looking for weapons of any kind. There were some weapons in racks at spots throughout the arena and his eyes settled on a familiar sight: standard Spartan phalanx weaponry. How it came to be here he did not know, and at the moment didn’t care, as he came out of his roll and began to run for the weapons.
He did not make it but a few feet, when the demon caught him square in the back with a kick of it’s powerful leg. Archelaus flew forward and smashed to the sand of the arena the rough sand gouging painfully into his face.
The demon was on him before he could stand one arm grabbing the Spartan by his armor and the other punching him with inhuman force in the face. The warrior had taken hits before, but nothing like this. His whole world rocked, blurring out of focus for a moment, but again his reflexes saved him as the weapon held in the creature’s other hand swept down.
Grabbing a handful of sand he smashed his left hand into the creatures right eye and ground it violently in. The demon shrieked two hands raising to rub at his eyes while one other swung blindly with the sword. Seeing his chance the Spartan took off in a desperate sprint, hoping to reach the rack of weapons.
His hand closed on a Xiphos beginning to pull it it free from the rack, but before he had freed the blade he heard a roar of anger and turned just as the creature tackled him. The Spartan and the demon flew into the heavy rack knocking it over and sending weapons scattering across the sand.
The sword Archelaus had hoped to be his salvation went with the rack since it hadn’t fully escaped it’s scabbard and now the warrior was in a desperate grapple with an opponent much stronger than him. Gattarak didn’t bother with his scimitar instead two of his large and powerful hands closed around the Spartan’s throat. Archelaus kicked at the creature as hard as he could, first his legs and then in his abdomen, but it was as if kicking solid stone.
His vision grew dark around the edges as his arms, originally trying to pry the vice like grip of the demon from his neck, felt around frantically for a weapon. It closed instead on the edge of a Spartan shield and despite his situation he smiled, to the confusion of his attacker.
In the hands of a Spartan a shield was also a weapon.
He pulled the shield further into reach and with all the strength he could muster rammed it hard into the demon’s neck. The creature released it’s horrible hold and fell to it’s knees, it’s top set of hands holding it’s throat and suddenly both Spartan and demon were on their knees gasping for air.
Archelaus stumbled to his feet and slid his left arm through the leather straps of the shield. The Spartan took a few pained steps, he must have hit the rack harder than he thought, and stooping picked up the Xiphos from the ground. He had just enough time to also hook a large wicked looking dagger that glowed with the same blue light of the scimitar into his belt before the demon recovered bellowing in rage.
The warrior guessed that Gattarak the Merciless wasn’t used to many real fights of late. The creature charged him again and with all four hands brought his scimitar down hard toward the Spartan’s head. Training took over for the warrior and he darted to the right raising his shield, hoping to deflect the scimitar to the left and then stab with the Xiphos as the creature was exposed.
Instead what should be a glance and redirect of the weapon hit which such downward force that it threw the Spartan’s arm out wide and drove him to his knees. He felt something snap in his forearm and cursed in pain. He had underestimated the demon’s strength and it cost him greatly.
He stabbed forward blindly with the Xiphos as his left arm broke and it was the only thing that saved his life, the creature forced to pull his next swipe off course in order to avoid being impaled. The warrior threw his left hand forward as he stood smashing the shield back into the abdomen of the creature as he rushed forward swiping down with his sword.
He inhaled sharply as his broken arm and the shield that bore it smashed bluntly into the demon’s body, not slowing the creature in the least. The move bore fruit though, as the creature was distracted enough with this man inside his reach, that he failed to see the sword as it swept downward and sheared cleanly through his lower left arm, the one that currently held the scimitar.
The bellows from before had been anger and irritation, this shriek was that as well, but mixed with real pain. Pale white ichor splattered to the sands as the limb fell away and the other three hands swept outward in response throwing the Spartan into the air and backwards at great speed. The shield flew from his grasp, his badly broken arm unable to hold it, and the sword went skittering away as well.
Archelaus crashed hard into the wall of the arena and fell to the sands, all of his wind knocked from him and his broken arm igniting in fiery pain. His vision blurred, he struggled to stand once, then twice as he collapsed to the sands again and again.
His pure determination and adrenaline could only carry him so far against this foe, it was the strongest opponent he had ever faced. A lifetime of war and training brought to bear and it had not been enough.
The Spartan only had moments to consider that he was doomed as Gattarak made his way menacingly toward him, his lower right hand reaching down to pick up a Dory spear that had been flung from the weapon rack even as the warrior struggled, amazingly to his knees, still panting for breath and in horrible pain.
This creature knew it had won, knew that its weaker quarry was through, so it didn’t mind taking it’s time to bait the crowd. It made a full turn holding the spear up and roaring for the crowd who applauded, many of them standing and screaming the name Gattarak in unison.
The creature stooped down, one large right hand closing over the Spartan’s throat and as if he was a child, lifted him into the air holding him aloft.
“This is the best your people have to offer?” the demon spat in Archelaus’ face, the same white ichor that had flown from it’s arm dribbling down his cheek. It’s toothy maw opened in what the Spartan assumed was a cruel grin, and then it rammed the spear into the warrior’s stomach.
Such was the creatures strength the spearhead passed all the way through him and then the creature released the hold on his throat, holding him aloft instead with the spear shaft alone.
Archelaus wasn’t sure what had happened, where he was, or if he would ever be buried in his homeland. He was dying, of this he was certain; though he had fought honorably and would see a warrior’s death.
But he would not do so alone.
Summoning the last of his strength the Spartan in a fluid strike brought the glowing dagger down across the spear shearing it in two causing him to fall from the creature’s grasp.
The demon was still struggling to understand what had happened when the Spartan used the demon’s large thigh to leap upwards and buried the dagger deep into the large creature’s neck.
The arena stilled completely, the surprised and confounded crowd starring on in shock as in unison the demon and the Spartan fell to the sands, the white ichor and the crimson blood pooling together beneath them.
He glanced to the side as his life blood ebbed away and saw small creatures bathed in light rushing in from the arena gates as the stunned crowd erupted in wild cheers.
Cheers of his name.
Archelaus heard the booming voice again, this time speaking only one word, that was soon translated via the silver nob.
All faded to black.