Chapter 14

Blood, Guts, and …Love?

Talyah and Qwyn arrive in the Arena District, reaching the Stadium entrance gates, Qwyn looks to Talyah, “Well, sis, did your boy toy tell you where to meet him? Or are we to scour the whole of the arena for his pretty Altmer face?”

Talyah pulls the note from her the pocket of her dress reading it to Qwyn, “It says he left my name with Stadium Overseer Grunal, who will have a guard escort me to him.”

Qwyn arches an eyebrow, “Well now, that is either ominous or he is more important than I would have thought,” looking at Talyah, her smirk fading when she realizes the joke wasn’t funny, “Right, don’t mind me, love,” she takes Talyahs’ hand in hers and pulls her toward the Arena betting counter, “Here we are, sis, I am willing to bet these nice people can help us” she chuckles to herself amused by her own wordplay and lightly pushes Talyah in the back towards the counter where an older Redguard man and a younger Imperial woman stand taking bets from people.

Talyah approaches the Redguard, “Hi, my name is Talyah. I am looking for the Stadium Overseer Grunal,” she smiles.

The Redguard looks at Talyah for a moment, sucking on his tooth and nodding, “Grunal is over there.” Qwyn and Talyah follow the Redguards finger as he points toward the stadium seating entrance, to a slender, pale Orc man with his salt and pepper hair slicked back, wearing fine clothing and an overabundance of jewelry who is taking notes on all the attendees as they make their way to the seating area.

Qwyn looks at Talyah, “Yeah, he seems very official,” pushing Talyah toward the Orc, “You go on ahead I am going to stay here and make a bet or two.”

Talyah rolls her eyes and walks up to Grunal, tapping him on the shoulder, “Excuse me.”

Grunals’ shoulder slouch as he lets out a deep sigh, “The water closet is down the hall to the left,” he says on instinct not looking at Talyah.

A look of confusion forms on Talyahs’ face, “What, no,” she taps his shoulder again, “Sorry, no, I’m not looking for the lavatory. My name is Talyah. I was told to speak to you about meeting with Falcen.”

Grunal stops taking his notes turning to face Talyah, looking her up and down for a moment, “So, you’re the one, eh? Good to see Master Falcens’ tastes in females have improved a bit. I apologize for dismissing you at first. You wouldn’t believe how many times a day I get asked where the shitter is located,” looking past Talyah he motions to one of the patrolling guards. The guard approaches Talyah, saluting Grunal, “Escort our guest here to the Divine Prosecutions’ private viewing area.”

Talyah turns and looks over at Qwyn who appears to be placing bets, “If we could wait a moment before we go, my friend is just over there placing some bets, I think, and I would like her to join me there.”

Grunal looks over to the betting counter, “Sorry but your name was the only one given to me,” looking at Talyah who gives him her biggest and saddest puppy dog eyes, “Don’t give me those eyes,” he sighs rolling his eyes as his shoulders slump again as he sees her pouty lip begin to quiver a little, “Fine, I guess it should be okay.”

Talyah smiles brightly, “Thank you, you are so nice.”

“I better not lose my job over this,” Grunal grumbles. He looks at the guard, “When her friend is done placing her bet take them both up to the Divine Prosecutions’ private viewing area.” Looking back to Talyah, “If you will excuse me, I need to make sure today’s big main event is ready and goes off without a hitch, or Estano might put me in the next arena fight,” he nods to Talyah and walks away.

Talyah smiles brightly and thanks Grunal again as he walks away. She turns to the guard with a smile, “I am sure she won’t be too much longer.”

Meanwhile, Qwyn stands at the gambling counter, “Thanks for all the info, Lidy. You’ve been a real peach.”

“My name is Liddretovix, not Lidy,” the Redguard glares at Qwyn, “Will you be placing a wager, now?” he asks trying to be as polite as possible.

“Oh, right, a bet. Nah I don’t have the funds for something so frivolous, Lidy, maybe next time,” Qwyn smiles and walks away.

The young Imperial woman taking bets next to the Redguard covers her mouth hiding a giggle as she watches him bang his head on the counter. The Redguard keeps his head on the desk and holds up a finger to the Imperial woman, “Not a word.”

Qwyn walks over to where Talyah and the guard are waiting, “We read to go, sis?”

Talyah nods and smiles, “Yes, we are,” she motions to the guard with her hand, “This fine gentleman is going to escort us to the Divine Prosecutions’ private viewing area.”

The guard nods, “This way ladies,” he walks ahead of them and begins to guide Qwyn and Talyah down the hall towards the stairs that lead up to the private viewing area.

“I hope you didn’t waste all of your money at the betting counter,” Talyah smiles with a wink at Qwyn.

Qwyn smirks, “I didn’t spend any money at all, love.”

Talyah looks perplexed at Qwyn, “Wait, you spent a lot of time at that counter and didn’t make a single bet? What were you doing over there for so long?”

Qwyn chuckles, “Oh you know, just chatting and getting some information on the matches for today.” She grins and flips a gold coin, which she pilfered from the betting counter, in the air.

Talyah arches an eyebrow, “Oh, and just who might our wise and benevolent overlords are prosecuting today?” her words ooze with sarcasm.

She stops walking and looks past Talyah, “What are those knob heads doing here?”

Talyah turns, looking where Qwyn is, trying to see who she is referring to, “Who are you talking about?”

Qwyn rushes past the guard, “Boyos!” she grabs the shoulder of an Imperial making his way up a set of stairs to a sitting area. She turns him around and smiles, “What are you boys doing here?”

Armitus and Jowan turn and see Qwyn. Armitus smiles, “Oh hey, we were bored and decided to wander around a bit. We overheard there is supposed to be some sort of special event today. So we figured we would see what the hubbub was about and we ran into our new friends from last night,” he points to the small Breton woman and the Redguard woman from the tavern.

Qwyn looks past the boys to the girls. She nods, “Ladies.” She looks back to Armitus and whispers, “Isn’t that the girl Jowan failed to talk to last night?”

Armitus nods, “It is but I was able to chat them up a bit last night after you left and we all had a grand time.”

“Really? Well, good on you boyo,” Qwyn smirks punching Armitus in the arm. She looks around slightly confused, “Hey, where is Clyn?”

Jowan chimes in, “He said he had some stuff to do.”

Qwyn glances at Jowan with a confounded look on her face, “Stuff? What stuff does that numpty have to do?”

Jowan shrugs, “No idea. He didn’t say and well I didn’t ask.”

 “I think Clyn might be smarting from the events of last night. After all, Taly really laid into him good. If I had to guess, I would say he is back on the training fields to blow off some steam,” Armitus interjects. “Well, enough about that,” he looks at Qwyn with a perplexed look, “What are you doing here?”

Talyah walks up behind Qwyn, “She is here with me.”

Armitus and Jowan smile, “Taly, I wouldn’t have thought you would find this kind of thing fun,” Jowan says hugging Talyah.

Embracing Jowan, Talyah shakes her head, “No, not normally, I am actually here to meet someone and Qwyn insisted to be my chaperone,” she glances over to Qwyn and smirks seeing Qwyn’s face scrunch up at her.

“The Gentleman from last night, I presume?” Armitus asks with a grin.

Talyah narrows her eyes at Armitus and then looks back to Jowan, “Are you going to introduce us to your new friends?”

Seeing Jowan blush, Armitus smiles, “Certainly,” he motions his hand from Talyah and Qwyn to the two women standing behind them, “Talyah, Qwyn let us introduce you to,” before he could finish the Redguard woman steps in front of Armitus.

Yarah smiles with a nod, “My name is Yarah and this is my friend Elspeth.”

Qwyn smiles and nods, “It’s a pleasure to meet ya ladies.”

Yarah and Elspeth smile at Qwyn, “Likewise,” they say in unison with a nod.

Talyah looks back at the guard, his face showing visible frustration at how long they are taking. She looks back at the group, “I have an idea why don’t you all join us? We are heading to a private viewing area. I am sure Falcen won’t mind.”

Armitus looks at Elspeth and Yarah, “Well, ladies, what say you? Want to go with them?”

Yarah looks at Elspeth and smiles, “I don’t see why not? I doubt we will ever get a chance to be in the private viewing area again.” Elspeth nods in agreement.

Armitus and Jowan nod at Talyah, “We are in,” they say eagerly and as one.

Qwyn looks over to the guard and then back at Talyah, “Yeah maybe, but I think you should,” she uses her fingers to make quotation marks, “ask,” she then winks at Talyah, “The guard if it is ok if they join us.”

The group watches as Talyah saunters over to the guard with a little skip step as she stops in front of the guard. They can’t make out what is being said and only see the guard shaking his head no. Talyah steps closer to him with her hands behind her back and slightly bent forward looking up at the guard before his shoulders slouch and he nods yes. Talyah looks back at the group with a bright smile waving them over.

The guard guides the large group down a private hall and up a few flights of stairs. Walking down a long corridor, the guard opens a pair of large ornate double doors and nods to the group showing them into the private viewing area. The group steps forward into the viewing area where they are greeted by a lavish sitting area with servers walking around the room with food and drink. The guard prevents them from walking fully into the room, he looks to Talyah, “Sorry, but your friends will have to wait here until I receive word that they are cleared to stay.”

Talyah scrunches her nose, “But, you said they could join me.”

The guard sighs, “I agreed that they could join you in the room, I never said they would be allowed to stay. As far as I know, only you and Ms. Qwyn were to be allowed up here.”

Talyah grumbles and looks to Qwyn, “Do you see Falcen?” Qwyn lightly jabs Talyah in the ribs, then points across the room where Falcen stands near the balcony overlooking the arena grounds, talking to an Altmer man with long perfectly groomed hair wearing decorative robes.

Talyah smiles, she turns to the group, “Wait here, I am sure Falcen will straighten things out,” she narrows her eyes at the guard and walks toward Falcen. “I must confess, Falcen, I was a bit taken aback to see your company’s ability to fill such a unique request in such a speedy manner. I was afraid you would not be able to supply the goods in time for the spectacle of events I have planned for the arena today. You have my appreciation and the appreciation of all the Divine Prosecution.” Falcen nods in respect, “I am glad to have been able to help you, High Magistrate,” Talyah stands quietly to the side of the two men coughing lightly to make her presence known.

Falcen and the other Altmer turn to look at Talyah. Falcen smiles warmly at her and approaches her for an embrace, “I am glad you decided to join me.”

The High Magistrate turns halfway and looks Talyah up and down, “And who do we have here, Falcen?”

Falcen turns back to the High Magistrate, “Apologies, Milord”, he takes Talyah by the hand and guides her forward to introduce her, “High Magistrate Volrynil, this is Talyah. I invited her to watch today’s events with us.”

Talyah steps forward and her eyes grow slightly as the High Magistrate turns to face her revealing his face being hidden by his long blonde hair draping over a half mask. She glances up at Falcen, he gives her hand a gentle squeeze and a discreet nod as if telling her to compose herself and not ask about the mask. She gathers her poise quickly hoping the High Magistrate didn’t notice her hidden curiosity and she hesitantly holds her hand out to him.

The High Magistrate takes Talyah by her fingers, kissing her hand gently, “A pleasure, any friend of Falcen is a friend of mine, though, I gather you might be more than just friends,” he glances up at Falcen then back to Talyah, “High Magistrate is too formal for one of such beauty as yourself. My Name is Estano Volrynil, please just call me Estano,” he says with a devious smile looking up at Talyah while embracing her hand with his.

Talyah smiles nervously as she can feel Estano’s eyes devouring her form, “Y-yes, a pleasure to meet you as well,” she slowly tries to remove her hand from Estano’s clammy grip. “I hope you don’t mind I ran into some friends on the way here so I asked them to join us,” she pulls her hand from Estano and then points over to her group, who are still waiting at the doorway looking at the opulence of the rooms in awe.

Estano and Falcen look over to the group, “By all means, the more people to witness the events of today, the better,” Estano says through a forced smile trying to hide his dislike of so many people in his private viewing area. He looks to Falcen and then waves to the guard at the door to allow the others full entrance to his private viewing area. He turns to face the arena grounds watching as the massive stadium fills up with people, “Today’s events would not have been possible without you Falcen. I do hope you and your friends will enjoy what I have planned.”

Talyah looks back to her group of friends and motions with her head to join them on the balcony that overlooks the arena grounds. She entwines her fingers in Falcen’s, “Well, to be honest, I only came to spend time with Falcen. I have never enjoyed the arena.”

Estano glanced over his shoulder, “I see. Have you ever been to the arena before?”

Talyah shakes her head, “Not recently, no. I had heard of its recent changes though. I just feel this isn’t proper entertainment.”

Estano turns to face Talyah and Falcen with a sly smile peeking through one side of the half mask, “I see, I see, well, perhaps you just don’t understand the rules of the arena now which is keeping you from enjoying the games. I assure you they are quite simple. Even a child could comprehend the new rules”

Talyah narrows her eyes slightly, “Oh, no, I think I have…” before she could finish her statement Estano interrupts her. He clears his throat and motions for all in the private room to come near and listen to him speak, “Come all, gather around and I will endeavor to explain how things work in a manner where everyone present can grasp the new rules and further enjoy themselves during today’s very special events,” he pauses briefly making sure everyone’s attention is squarely fixed on him.

Talyah begins to speak again but before she can utter a syllable, Estano interrupts her again. Talyah grips Falcens hand tightly in hers, she again narrows her eyes at Estano, piercing him with her glare as he once again cuts her off, and continues with his explanation, “It is quite simple really. We have set up the arena as a form of entertainment for the masses, as well as a lucrative way to punish those who break the laws of our great Imperial City. Firstly, every person participating in the arena is a convicted felon, so I highly doubt anyone could feel a tinge of remorse for people such as them. Once convicted of breaking the law, they are processed into one of four Diamond Groups where the law-abiding citizens of Cyrodiil can place wagers on the outcome of any match happening in the arena.”

Estano pauses for a moment, glancing at those in front of him, once again making sure everyone is paying attention to him, “The groups are broken up into differing colors, yellow, blue, red, and black. Prisoners in the Yellow Diamond Group are the lowest tier in the arena. These individuals have committed non-violent crimes such as tax evasion or simple theft. They can earn their freedom in the arena by fighting low-tier wildlife, like boars or wolves, and the like. It is nothing too dangerous of course.”

Estano glances at the group he is speaking to briefly before he continues to bloviate, “The prisoners in the Blue Diamond Group are the second-lowest tier of the arena. These individuals have committed crimes that are both violent and more severe than non-violent crimes, such as armed robbery, assault, and grand theft where the amount that was stolen is greater than 500 gold. They too can earn their freedom by facing a higher tier of wildlife such as Bears, Lions, and so on and so forth. They are also allowed to win their freedom in team battles by defeating other teams from the Blue, or Red Diamond Groups.”

He again looks at the group, oblivious to the faces of loathing on some of the people he is speaking to, and continues with an unconscious and conceited smile, “The prisoners of the Red Diamond are the third tier of the arena. This group is home to violent fugitives, whose crimes include but are not limited to armed assault, involuntary manslaughter, rape, and insurrection. They can fight for their freedom as well in group battles against the Blue and Black Diamond Groups but must do so several times to earn their freedom. They can also win their freedom by fighting against monsters such as Minotaur; much like group battles the participant must win several times against monsters to claim their freedom.”

Estano’s face brims with almost euphoric delight as he continues talking about the next prisoner group, “Lastly, the Black Diamond Group is the final tier of the arena. This group is reserved for truly vile and evil criminals.”

“Like you,” Talyah mumbles under her breath as she sighs.

Estano continues speaking unaware of Talyah’s remark, “War criminals, premeditated murderers, mass murderers. You know the real dregs of society, really just the worst of the worst. They must participate in both single and group fights when told. They have no choice in the matter, they either participate or they are executed. The tier of monsters they must fight against is the same high-tier monsters as the Red Diamond group as well as summoned Deadra and some more of the more dangerous beings our brave gatherers can find for our festivities. They have no chance for freedom at all, ever; at least by participating in the games they serve some purpose for the Empire.”

Estano smugly looks over the group placing his eyes on Talyah, “So, my dear little elf, as you can see, things are very simple, no? In short,”

“Too late for that,” Qwyn says rolling her eyes.

Estano ignores the comment and continues, “The criminals get their just punishment and we get a spectacle to enjoy. What could be more fun? Don’t you agree?” he finishes with an arrogant smirk on his face before turning to face the arena grounds overlooking the crowds as they settle into their seats. He gestures waving his hand out toward the crowd of the arena, “Just look at all those happy faces. I dare say the arena has never been more prosperous or more fun since its conception. How anyone could fail to have fun here boggles the mind.”

Qwyn glares at Estano, her eyes shooting daggers at the Altmer in front of her; as she’s about to verbally fillet Estano she feels a tug on her hand from behind. She looks back at a clearly irate Talyah holding and squeezing her hand, shaking her head silently and urging Qwyn not to make a scene, even though every fiber of her being wants to throw the Altmer off the balcony. Qwyn looks perplexed by Talyah’s restraint, she sees Talyah look up at Falcen whose face is beet red and his eyes lowered to the ground.

Qwyn grumbles, and sighs deeply in an attempt to calm herself down, she pulls her hand from Talyah’s hand, “Well, I need all the alcohol after that,” she pauses glancing at Estano, really wanting to push the man from the balcony, but she continues to hold her tongue for her friends’ sake, “Delightful, and very thorough explanation, milord” she finishes her statement with a forced smile on her face, placing her hands on Falcen and Talyah’s shoulders, “Let’s all go get some libations and we can try to enjoy the rest of our time here, shall we?” She walks over to the bar, grabs a bottle of wine from behind the bar, and starts chugging it, the bartender rushes over to her attempting to chide her, she holds her hand out, to keep the bartender at bay. She slams the bottle on the counter, and looks at the bartender, “Got anything stronger than this shite?”

The bartender looks perplexed by Qwyns request. She rolls her eyes, “Never mind.” Qwyn turns around and motions for everyone to in her at the bar. “A round of your best, most expensive drink for everyone,” she says as the rest of the group joins her at the bar.

The bartender looks at the group that has saddled up to the bar and then back to Qwyn, he clears his throat, “I am sorry, madam, but I’m afraid you won’t be able to afford…” the bartender is cut off as Falcen and Talyah step up to the bar.

“Don’t worry about the cost. Lord Volrynil says to give his guests anything they wish,” Falcen looks over to Estano giving him a smile and a nod, Estano nods back raising his wineglass in the air with a smile.

The bartender sees the exchange between Falcen and Estano, “I see, as you wish, sir.” The bartender begins pouring wine into crystal chalices and handing them out to everyone.

“Keep the wine flowing barkeep. After all, this is a special day for our High Magistrate and he wants everyone to enjoy the events of the day,” Falcen leans against the bar with his back to the bartender. He looks down at Talyah and then over to Qwyn and the rest of the group, “Please, allow me to apologize on behalf of Lord Volrynil, he isn’t usually such a,” he pauses searching for the proper words.

“Fuck wit? Arsehole? Arrogant prick? Fecking eejiti arse licking piss skinned maggot?” Qwyn chimes in, her accent getting thicker, showing her frustration, filling the long pause Falcen had and the group laughs.

Talyah puts her hand over Qwyns mouth, “Qwyn, that’s quite enough of that.”

“It’s okay, I was going to say self-absorbed but I think she hit the nail on the head with her assessment,” Falcen says trying to hold back some laughter. “I do hope you all can put aside that lecture that Estano gave and can enjoy the rest of the day and hopefully the events of the arena are not as grim as he makes them out to be.”

“Free alcohol goes a long way to helping your cause,” Qwyn looks over to the group, smiles, and raises her glass. The group responds in kind raising their glasses with laughter as they all chug the wine from their chalices. “See, no need to worry your pretty elf face about it,” Qwyn smirks patting Falcen on the shoulder as she joins the rest of the group at the bar to refill their drinks.

Talyah squeezes Falcens’ hand, “Please, don’t mind her. She has always been outspoken when it comes to,” she pauses for a moment searching for the right words, “People in authority that look down their noses at her or her friends.”

Falcen chuckles, “That was a very diplomatic way of saying Qwyn doesn’t take shit from anyone.”

Talyah smiles and nods, “What Qwyn lacks in tact, she more than makes up for with loyalty to her friends. I will deny ever saying this but, Qwyn is a giant softy. Once you become her friend she will move the heavens to make sure someone she cares about is happy.”

“She seems like a wonderful friend indeed. And don’t you worry, I won’t tell her you said she was a giant teddy bear,” Falcen grins looking down at Talyah with a smile.

“Oh, don’t you be putting words in my mouth; I would never call her a teddy bear. Not to her face anyway.” Talyah and Falcen both laugh and join the rest of the group at the bar to drink.

Not long after, Estano clasps his hands calling attention to himself again, “Come, my friends, the festivities are upon us,” he says with a grin motioning for everyone to join him on the balcony as the events of the arena begin.

Falcen sits between Talyah and Estano, “So, Milord. You mentioned that today’s events are going to be very special. How will they be different from other events?” Falcen inquires while gazing out at the arena sands.

A vindictive grin graces Estano’s lips, “Oh, you’ll see. I am not about to ruin my surprise. I have been waiting for this main event for a very long time,” he says while lightly brushing his fingers along the sides of his mask, “A very long time indeed.”

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2 Replies to “Chapter 14”

  1. Love this chapter so much. I love how the group kept getting bigger as they moved along. I love the idea of Talyah with a whole entourage. And yeah, Estano…what a prick.

    1. WOO! Mission accomplished. I was really hoping Estano would get under everyone’s skin, especially my readers.

      Yeah, as I was writing the journey to the arena box I kept thinking something was missing, then I remembered going to events growing up I always ran into people I knew or just met the day prior. That really helped flesh things out.

      Glad you like the Chapter. I am working on the next right now, the synopsis I write before I do the chapter has gotten out of hand. lol

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