Ragnarok 1: The Last Adler: Book 2: Utgard-Part19
"Little one! Where are you!?"
Burla wiped her hands clean on her apron, while she looked through the door at the courtyard. Falco appeared around the corner, holding a couple of dead rats in his hand.
"Get your butt over here! Give me those dead animals and go to the throneroom! Moorgash wants to see you."
Falco obediently handed his catch over to her and ran through the corridors of the palace to Moorgash' grand throneroom. The huge orc was leisurly sitting on his throne. He looked up when the human boy came in.
"Finally! You sure took your sweet time! That's what you get from staying up late! You no longer have the energy to serve your master in time."
Falco startled. What did Moorgash mean by that remark? Did he know about his nightly raids? Because that was exactly what he had done the previous night. He had stolen some dried food and convenient little things and he had left some of the food at his former page's cage at Butgar's. The rest he had deposited in his secret hide-out. Had Moorgash seen him leave? Perhaps even followed him?
"You're turning white, pup. Why is that? Do you think I summoned you here for some kind of punishment? That's not the case. Although I would like to know what it is exactly that you think I want to punish you for. Have you been naughty?"
Falco shook his head violently.
"No, I guess not", Moorgash said with a sarcastic smile. "Stop shaking your head before it falls off and listen to me. I have something important to tell you. You have been training at Ranto's for more than half a year now. You're not dead yet, so I take it you're not doing too bad. Last month I had you fighting in unarmed combat with goblinprisoners from other tribes en gobis in my Towerarena. And you fought well. In fact, you won all of your fights. Now it's time to scale things up a bit. I'm sending you to the Fightingpit, the grand arena of Utgard."
Falco raised an eyebrow, but showed little other reaction. Showing too much emotion wasn't good. Ranto had taught him better than that in his trainingsessions: never show your enemy how you feel about something and never show anybody, neither foe nor friend, what you are afraid of. They will only use it against you. Ofcourse, that was easier said than done. The Pit... He wondered how different it would be from Moorgash' arena. That place was scary enough as it was, but at least, he had somewhat gotten used to it. COuld the Pit be so different? After all, people died in Moorgash' arena as well. Still, he felt a little sick to his stomach.
"Hey, pup! Are you listening to me! Don't make me smack you to get your attention!"
Falco quickly looked Moorgash in the eye, to make it clear he was listening, without violating the ban on speaking without permission for slaves.
"Mmm, good! Now listen, up! You'll be participating in the Treasurehunt. That's a game, played mostly by slaves, of which the object is to collect as many colored wooden sticks that are spread and hidden on the playing field. Every stick represents a certain amount of gold and silver your owner will get if you can keep them until the end of the game.
Pretty boring, don't you think? That's why we spiced things up a bit. All kinds of traps are hidden all over the playing field. And to make it even more interesting, all competitors can take each other out and steal each other's sticks. The object of the game is not to kill anybody, but it wouldn't be the first time if people started dying anyway. So you better watch out. I'm entering you, a weakling human pup, but others will be entering adult slaves, captured orc or goblin warriors. I advise you to stay out of their way. Nobody is to take weapons with him and nobody wears armor. In fact, everybody wears
the same kind of loincloth in their owner's colors, so there can't be any cheating. In addition you wear a headband and a piece of cloth around your right upper arm, also in your owner's colors.
The game will last until a certain amount of time has passed or until there's only one conscious participant left, whatever happens first. There, that seems pretty clear to me. Any questions?"
Falco thought for a moment. The contest sounded bad, but it could have been much worse, like being released with a pack of wolves in the Pit. At least, people weren't supposed to die, although he hardly doubted they would anyway.
"May I use stuff I find on the playing field as a weapon?" he finally said.
"Good question, little pup. Yes, you can. In fact, there are almost certainly some
unconventional weapons hidden on the field. Usually a couple of clubs, clawgloves, a mace, small handheld crossbows with only one bolt. Those sort of gadgets. Anything else?"
'A crossbow might be nice', he thought, 'but an orcsized club or a mace, I probably won't even be able to carry. And what the hell is a clawglove?'
"You win gold and silver when I do well? What do I get out of it?" he asked the huge orc.
Moorgash stared at him for a moment. Then he raised his hand as if to hit the boy. Falco flinched but didn't take his eye off the warlord. Moorgash held his hand up in the air and then slapped Falco gently on the head, without hurting him.
"Little insolent runt", he said with an amused smile. "What do you get out of it? I have to pay up a lot of gold just to enter you. So do well and you get out of a real trashing if you don't do well or disappoint me in any other way! That's what you get. And the satisfaction of pleasing your master. If I really like what I see, you'll get an extra piece of bacon for your supper. Anything else?"
"It's lord Moorgash or master to you. Just one more thing. The Pit is something entirely different than my own small Towerarena, pup. It's a lot bigger, a lot meaner and a lot more brutal. Only the biggest assholes fight there. And now, you do too. So get an early night. I'm not giving you any chores tonight. Make sure you are well rested by tomorrow. You'll need all your strength. You may leave."
Falco swallowed a big lump that had suddenly appeared in his troath and, feeling a little weak in the knees, walked to the door that led to the kitchen.
"And when I say, get an early night, I do mean for you to go to sleep early. So if you get a sudden urge to go for a nightly walk, I would suppress it, if I were you."
Falco glanced back at Moorgash for a second, again frightened by the warlord's insinuations, and quickly slipped through the door. He would have to be a lot more careful if he wanted to go on nightly raids in the future. It was strange however that Moorgash hardly seemed to care about it. Maybe he thought he was just stealing some extra food to eat. He probably would react differently if he knew about the hide-out. Moorgash probably didn't mind as long as his work didn't suffer and he didn't steal from the warlord himself. He decided then and there he would never steal from Moorgash or Ranto, with the only exception being the witchdoctor's skull.