OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gustav Mahler Persia


6. The Deal

The characters split up. Hank and Char escort Tira to the secret entrance to the old Circle. She returns to her room in the Hall of Art. As tired as she is, she cleans her new clothes before collapsing in exhaustion. Immune to exhaustion, Hank walks the perimeter of the Promethean Hill, making friends with some of the night watch.

Mahler takes Sanyo back to the Kraken's Head, figuring the tavern where they captured Sanyo would be the last place they would look for him. Koda greets him at the door and helps him clean his wounds. The giant took some nasty wounds in the underground battle.

Persia leads Haiku back to her house, where they inform the worried Basarin that all have returned alive. Persia offers to let the half-breed stay with them for a while, but realizes that her one-room house is becoming quite crowded. This point is driven home when Char returns.

The party decides to lay low for a while, but they realize that eventually, Harker will discover them. Hank and Mahler are too difficult to hide. Over then next week and a half, they are successful. Tira uses the herbal skills learned in the wilds to help heal Mahler's wounds. Hank makes good progress on street repairs, but is continually interrupted by intermittent rain.

Eventually, Mahler is found by Scorch, Harker's henchman. Scorch is insufferably polite but this mocking facade thinly disguises a deep contempt. That someone would call a riven like Sanyo a friend is an alien concept to him. Scorch tells Mahler that Harker (who is an ex-gladiator) was impressed by their boldness in invading his games. However, he cannot allow such brash behavior to go without repercussions. Harker is willing to erase any death-mark on the characters if they agree to fight in the next match. Mahler barely controls a desire to crush the pompous little swordsman, but realizes that he needs the advice of his friends. Scorch tells him he will meet him again soon for an answer.

Mahler immediately seeks out Tira and Hank at the public gate to the Old Circle. Persia is also there, having met for lunch. Mahler begins to tell the others what has happened, when Tira's spirit sight suddenly warns her that they are being watched by someone with ill intent. She is not skilled enough to find the source, so the party quickly moves to a less-open area to continue their discussion. They are no longer watched, but they realize that Mahler has been followed and they have likely been identified.

Once Mahler has related his tale, they decide that this looks like their best option. They briefly consider going to the authorities, but Persia informs them that the city guard turn a blind eye to the games and bringing the police in would certainly seal their fate with Harker. Hank is chosen to stay with Mahler until Scorch shows again.

Sure enough, Scorch is found at a café in the shambles. With his mocking manner, he offers them a drink, which is refused. They tell him that they will agree to Harker's offer. Scorch tells them that as many may fight as wish, but only one is necessary to cancel the debt. The party had discussed this beforehand and all but Tira have chosen to fight. Tira has no combat experience but came up with a way to turn this whole experience to their advantage. They ask Scorch if they are permitted to wager upon themselves. Scorch informs them that they may, but a combatant may not be a wagerer. With crafty conversational skill, Hank asks if every member of their party will be free from Harker. Scorch assures them that this is so. It is Hank's plan to have Basarin accompany them, ensuring her safety from further kidnapping attempts.

Scorch tells them that they have two weeks before the next full moon to prepare.

The party uses these two weeks to raise some money for betting. Persia uses her street smarts and thieving skill to raise a few gold, but times are hard and she is only moderately successful. Tira tells Farralon all that has happened to her and asks his advice. His first advice is to hide in the Hall of Art and not come out. He lets Tira talk him into asking the nasty trio of Pasha, Hofi and Gamina for a loan. They of course laugh him off, but not before Tira notices that Gamina looks sick.

Tira eventually manages to wrangle 40 gold pieces from D'nall the weaponsmith by trading on Mahler's reputation as a fighter. Tira will place the wager and split any winnings with D'nall. Her elation over this success is dampened by the realization that Gamina is truly ill. Tira is compassionate and caring, which confuses Gamina, whoa has always treated her with contempt. Gamina informs her that her condition has baffled the healers her father has taken her to. It seems her spirit is weakening and the condition is getting worse. Tira is unable to do more than offer comfort.

Mahler goes to the River Master for advice. Crockett tells him that Harker is dangerous. He would be willing to lendhim money to wager with if Mahler had not already cost him 50 gold upon their first meeting. Mahler confides that he let the paladin win in that first match, since he did not wish to risk angering the General. Crockett agrees to let Hank use the Columbia's workshop to make a war club, large and iron-shod. He further offers to enhance the club with his abilities.

The night for the Death Pit match comes. Scorch is infuriated by their inclusion of Basarin, but honors his word. Basarin will have nothing to fear from him. He is further pressed to repeat his promise to not molest Sanyo, though he does make a condition that Sanyo remain off the streets and hidden.

As they approach the new location of the pits, Tira uses her senses upon the area beneath the streets. She senses a layout similar to the last one, including the huge creature at one end. She tells the party so that they will not be surprised.

The combatants are led off to the underground waiting area. Here they see many of the people they fought before, as well as several new combatants. The most unusual is a man with a steel hand, an animated prosthetic. The atmosphere is tense. The mood is not helped by the occasional screeching roar from the holding area on the far side of the pit. Whatever it is they are to fight sounds big.
Up above, Tira and Basarin are told of a few conditions. Basarin must remained cloaked, to hide her repulsive visage (repulsive to Scorch, anyway), and Tira must temporarily surrender her lumina crystal. (It is forbidden within the death pit.

Tira is escorted into the tiny underground arena. The scene is quite outlandish. Food and drink vendors, prostitutes and bet-takers work a crowd from all walks of life. A pair of musicians play a strange combination of horn and drum to which an oiled and naked woman dances upon the pit floor. The whole scene is lit by a slowly revolving lantern which casts a lurid glow over all.

Three things draw Tira's attention. The first is Harker, a greying and paunchy man, once a great fighter, but now aging. His body is comprised of knots of muscles and scars. The second item is a cloaked figure on the far side of the pit. Tira's spirit sight cannot detect anyone inside. He seems identical to the person who helped them escape the previous time. The last thing is Gamina, aparently well and healthy, who waves and calls her by name.

Harker gives the signal to Scorch, who calls the games to begin. The dancing girl is hauled up on a chain and the first combatants enter the arena.