Twin Suns of Atlantis: Dorgon

by Blind_Justice

Copyright© 2019 by Blind_Justice

Fantasy Sex Story: A warrior without memories finds himself fighting for his life, while at the same time, an unwilling wife is trying to escape her tyrannical husband. Once they meet, an empire will shake in its foundations.

Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Mult   Consensual   Mind Control   NonConsensual   Fiction   High Fantasy   Aliens   Far Past   Group Sex   Oral Sex   Violent   .

Author’s Notes:

Many thanks, as usual, to my lady love for inspiration and last-minute transmogrifications and bikoukumori, for an editing job rivaling any gladiator’s finishing blow.

All participants in sexual activities are adults

Awareness crept back, gently and stealthily like a cheating lover returning from a midnight tryst. At first, his entire universe was dark and devoid of anything, but one by one, his senses returned. Something cold and unyielding pressed against his naked back. As a curious contrast, sticky and warm liquid clung to parts of his body. The smells came next, the coppery odor of spilled blood and another; pungent, bitter, sickening. Dorgon couldn’t place it. A wet, bubbling wheezing reached his ears, in time with each heave of his chest.

Am I dying? Or is this already the afterlife? The thoughts sparked through his brain like incandescent shooting stars. Or did he say them aloud? His ears only picked up a weak moan.

There was more, though. A low, raspy murmuring. Ritualistic inflections butchering the trade tongue into obscurity. Sibilant hisses.

“Suture, suture, disinfect.

Sow shut the gash.

Suture, suture, disinfect.

Bury deep the mesh.

Mend the bone and knit the flesh.”

Then a hideous, dry laugh. Fluttering touches, soft pinches and more wet, fleshy noises.

Was it inside my body? By the gods, why can’t I see anything? Moving his hand proved to be futile, for his limbs were fastened to the metal slab he was on, held in place by unmoving metal clasps and braces.

“Shh, shh, lie still,” the voice hissed. Scaly fingers, tipped with short, pointy claws patted his head, leaving behind more traces of warm liquid. The stench of blood and of acids and herbs intensified tenfold and Dorgon fought not to retch.

“It should be dead, with a broken spear in its lung,” the voice chittered on. “Good thing God-Emperor does not want it dead. Good specimen for arena combat, God-Emperor said.”

Dorgon again tried to speak, but there was only more weak moaning and horrible wheezing.

With titanic effort, Dorgon forced his eyes to open. Hair by torturous hair the lids moved and his vision returned. At once he dearly wished it hadn’t. He could see his chest, folded open like a grotesque pair of skin-wings. Only, instead of the fair skin he once had, it now was a weird, metallic grey. The ribs had been folded out as well, and a bizarre armature, whirring arms made out of metal, with clicking claws and pointy things and glowing things was dipping into the gaping cavity, plucking bloody splinters free and dropping them into a metal bowl near his hip. His arms and legs had indeed been fastened to a metal table and he could see tubes and hoses disappearing under his skin, which threw off odd reflections caused by the dozens and dozens of candles arrayed around the butcher’s table.

Presiding over this horrendous operation was a tall, wizened being wrapped into a green, blood-spattered robe; clawed, four-fingered hands gently caressing his tortured flesh and guiding the metal arms to do their butcher’s work. A triangular snout protruded from under a hood inscribed with protective runes. Short, pointy teeth glinted in the candle light and orange eyes, slitted like a serpent’s, darted this way and that. My impending death is playing tricks on me, Dorgon thought, fighting the first gentle twinges of madness.

“We will make it better even,” the being chirped, a long, forked tongue tasting the air between words. “More muscle mass. Tensile strength. Harder skin. Stamina. It will amuse the God-Emperor, and we will be rewarded with more test subjects. Ah, here it is.”

The being turned away from him as a second robed figure, as malformed as his torturer, entered his field of view, carrying a large metal container coated in frost. Through a round, glass-covered hole Dorgon could see something red and fleshy inside. Gently, as not to damage anything, the newcomer pulled the lid off the container and lifted the fleshy thing from inside. It was a new pair of lungs.

“Make sure it does not move,” the being holding the lungs ordered. The other one nodded and picked up a long, menacing syringe, which it swiftly plunged into Dorgon’s right arm. What few sensations he could feel were washed away by a tide of cool nothingness.

Dorgon awoke with a scream. His hands flew to his chest. Rough, scaly skin greeted his questing fingertips. Agitated, he clawed at his face. A hood, made from coarse fabric, covered it. It was very hot around him.

“Better take it slow,” a male voice nearby cautioned. “You don’t want to hurt yourself again.”

Dorgon worked his mouth until he could move his tongue again. Even then, his voice was hoarse and raspy from disuse.


“I saw your bleeding carcass carried past the Pits, towards the witch’s abode,” the voice said. Dorgon clearly heard the deep-seated disgust from the stranger’s words.

“Why the hood?”

“To protect your eyes from the sun. It’s very bright out here.”

Dorgon closed his eyes, then pulled the hood off his head. He could feel the sun on his face. It burned much, much hotter than in his homeland of Nothria. Careful, as not to strain his eyes, he squinted through half-closed lids. He sat in a circular pit, the walls towering a good twenty feet above his head, broken up only by a wide portcullis recessed into the wall. A small rivulet of water dripped from a spout next to it and drained into a floor grate. He wasn’t alone. Five other men, most of them bronze-skinned, with short, curly black hair, sat in what paltry shade the walls could offer. They all were stark naked, and each of them looked like a capable fighter, well-toned muscles and barely an ounce of fat.

Dorgon looked along his own body, as if seeing it for the first time. His skin was of an odd grey hue, and hard to the touch, not unlike a coat of scales. The sun threw the odd reflection off the skin, as if tiny metal slivers were embedded in it. No visible scar along his chest. He pulled a fistful of hair in front of his eyes. It was an inky black, long and thick. Black were also his fingernails. Where were his golden tresses? His beard? There was nary a hair below his eyebrows. What had happened to him?

“Where am I?” Dorgon asked, looking at the men. One of them, a bald, scrawny fighter with a criss-crossing set of tattoos all over his face and upper chest, bared a set of pointed teeth.

“You’re in the Fighting Pit of Atlantis. Ring a bell?”

Dorgon opened his mouth to answer. Atlantis? But then his memories stirred, like a turgid leviathan in primeval sludge. He had been on a ship, hired as a guard for a Huan trader. Then there was a storm. Sharp cliffs, outlined by maddening strobes of lightning. A world-shattering crash as the ship impaled itself on the rocks. The sensation of weightlessness as his body was borne by the icy sea. Then-

The beach. The looters. Or were they guards? He remembered an armored giant trying to ram a spear into his chest. He had fought that giant.

“Did I win?” he asked aloud.

“Dunno,” the tattooed fighter said, grinning viciously. “You got dragged into the witch’s abode, while a couple dead guards got dumped into the beast pens. A few days later and they dropped you in here. What happened?”

Dorgon shook his head. How could he articulate what he himself barely could comprehend? They had ... changed him. Somehow they had turned him from a tall, lanky Nothrian warrior with blonde hair and beard into a smooth-shaven, black-haired, scale-plated ... abomination. He could feel the added weight on his limbs, and his shadow told him his shoulders were broader too.

Dorgon got on hands and knees and tried to stand. His balance was off and he dropped into the sand again, to the mirth of the other men. He tried again and managed to stand, unsteadily, by the third try.

“He’s not much good in a fight,” a shaggy-haired man, broad and heavy, remarked. “Not much good standing either.” The men around him snickered.

Another, with a bushy beard going to his navel, clicked his tongue and caressed his dick. “Maybe he should be face down, ass up in the sand for our amusement, eh?” Raucous laughter erupted. Only the tattooed fighter kept quiet and eyed Dorgon intently, gauging his reaction. When none came, he joined Dorgon and led him towards the water dripping down the wall. “Drink. Maybe you’ll feel better after.”

“How could you see me get carried around from down here?” Dorgon asked, cupping his hands and splashing water into his face. It smelled metallic, but at least it was cool. He drank greedily.

Silently, the tattooed fighter pointed upwards. Shading his eyes against the glaring sun, Dorgon followed his pointing finger. High above, he could see cages dangling from skeletal-looking contraptions.

“The arena proper. And the place where the miscreants go to dry out. I had a spectacular view.” Again he flashed his pointy teeth. Then he jabbed a finger at his chest. “Karas.”


Karas clapped his shoulder. “Feel better?”

Dorgon righted himself. “A bit. What are we doing here, Karas?”

Before Karas could answer, the man with the bushy beard joined them. Clicking his tongue again, he placed his rough hands on Dorgon’s ass. “We wait. Until then, why don’t you and me get to know each other a bit better, huh?”

Dorgon turned on him and pushed, hard. The bearded man fell, rolled and nimbly came back to his feet a few steps away, his grin wiped off his face. With open malice, he glared at Dorgon.

“I will kill you with my bare hands, you snake-eyed freak,” he growled, dropping into a low brawling stance, hands distorted into claws.

“Save it for the Pit, Vokesh,” an authoritarian voice barked from above. Dorgon looked up. The sunlight reflected off polished armor, the metal a rich honey-like gold in hue. White cloth was draped over the chest plates and helmets of a quintet of men, all armed with bows. Four of them had their weapons at the ready, arrows pointing at the men threatening Dorgon and Karas while the fifth made a sign with his free hand.

Three more naked men appeared at the rim of the pit, carrying rope and baskets. Under the watchful eye of the guards, they lowered the basket into the pit.

“You know the drill. One after the other. If I see even a tiny scuffle, we shoot.”

The men assembled in the pit grumbled. Vokesh was the first to saunter over to the basket. He dug around in it and pulled forth a piece of bread and some meat. The others, one by one, plucked food from the basket until it was Dorgon’s turn. He approached the basket and looked inside. What little food remained wasn’t really appetizing, some small bits of bread, a squashed tomato and a smelly bit of cheese. Shrugging, he grabbed what was left and stepped back from the basket.

“Good. I’ve heard the God-Emperor plans to entertain some guests in a few days and he wants his newest toy to perform. So ... play nice,” the guard ordered, malice dripping from his grin.

Dorgon could feel the eyes of everybody on him. Karas’ were full of sympathy. Vokesh and the others eyed him with barely concealed hatred.

“What have I done?” Dorgon muttered between bites. Tomato juice dripped from his fingers, but it made the dried bread a bit easier to eat.

“You just got picked to fight for the God-Emperor. Most of us need to fight, and win, in the Arena for a chance to do so. You just got chosen. The veterans won’t like it one bit:”

“What’s so special about the God-Emperor?”

“If you can impress him, they say, he will grant you any wish. Anything. Gold. Women. Or Men, if you that’s what you like. Fame. Land. Or freedom.”

Dorgon nodded, comprehension dawning. “What’s your story?”

“Me? I killed a man and they offered me a choice. Work in the mines or fight.” Karas shrugged. “I’d rather hit people than rocks. Much more satisfying.” Again, his pointed teeth glinted in the sunlight.

“So, Vokesh,” Dorgon asked, head jerking in the direction of the bearded man and his cronies.

“He’s the current champion. Mean bastard. Broke my arm twice, just because.” Karas winced. “The witch healed me, then it was back here.”

Vokesh laughed, a ghastly sound. “You squeal like a little girl when I hurt you. The crowd loved it.” The men surrounding him roared with laughter. Vokesh grabbed the shaggy-haired man sitting next to him and pulled his head down to his crotch. “Relax me,” he ordered. To Dorgon’s amazement, no protest came, even though the shaggy man was taller and heavier than Vokesh.

“A shame, really. I liked Nicos before he turned into Vokesh’s whipping boy,” Karas whispered as the slurping began. “Listen. Tonight ... will you watch my back?”

Dorgon nodded. He knew he needed any allies he could get. Four against two wasn’t remotely fair, but better than all against one.

The room was large and airy, a domed ceiling held up by four ornate pillars, with a huge window leading to a wide balcony overlooking the glittering marvel of Atlantis. The setting twin suns reflected off an untold number of domed and slanted roofs, turning the sky itself into a sea of scintillating colors. Looking towards the north, one could see the deeply recessed Fighting Pit, according to legend once the crater of an active volcano now turned into a blood-soaked coliseum. Beyond it, Jendayi thought she could glimpse the immensely deep blue of the ocean.

She stood naked in a shallow basin, the cool water lapping at her calves. Two slave girls, beauties from the northern realms, were washing her, gently soaping her up and pouring water over her dusky skin. One of them had short hair like spun gold, the other coppery tresses hanging almost to her shapely behind. Jendayi barely noticed their gentle ministrations, her mind was elsewhere, trying to flee the golden cage she was in. She wasn’t here by choice, oh no. Her father used her as a bargaining chip to spare his land the wrath of the Atlantean armies. The God-Emperor accepted the truce, took Jendayi as his wife and annexed her homeland, after having her father publicly executed once the vows had been said.

“I cannot risk leaving such a valuable province in the hands of a man who willingly sacrifices the freedom of his people,” the God-Emperor, Xevex, had explained to her. “Who would he betray your kin, and me, to next?”

Jendayi hated Xevex with every fiber of her being, not only for the murder of her father, but--

Oh no, not again! Gnashing her teeth in frustration, Jendayi opened her eyes and looked down, to see the red-headed slave girl kneeling in front of her, mouth fastened to her nether lips, tongue deftly flicking against her most sensitive spot. The slave girl looked up, her glazed-over eyes meeting Jendayi’s, her face distorted in a mask of confusion and lust.

He’s doing it again!

Much more gently than she thought she could be Jendayi cupped the girl’s face and took a step back, distancing herself from the furiously licking slave.

“Stop it,” she hissed. “You’re not yourself!”

The girl whimpered, one of her slender hands wedged between her own thighs and rubbing furiously. Sighing, Jendayi aimed and slapped her cheek, hard. The slap echoed obscenely loud through the room and a pained “ow” could be heard both from the slave girl and from a curtain leading into her bedroom proper.

Wet and incensed, Jendayi stormed into the bedroom, throwing the curtain wide. Sitting on the bed, his splendid gown wide open, showing his sickly grey skin, sat Xevex, gingerly touching his cheek. He wasn’t even close to handsome. His head seemed too big for his frail, gangly frame. He only had four fingers on each hand. His eyes were black, pupil-less and devoid of all emotion, and he wasn’t even a real man! With disgust, Jendayi looked at his crotch. All his other deformities combined couldn’t instill as much revulsion as a quick look at the hideous mass of twitching protrusions and small, oozing holes where, on a healthy man, a sizable rod should be. Bile rose in her throat and Jendayi fought hard not to vomit onto the priceless carpet. She focussed on the red-hot anger clawing at her insides instead.

“You did it again! How often do I need to tell you-”

Xevex looked up at her, his mouth a thin, furious line. Her tongue stopped moving and breathing became difficult.

“I am trying to make you happy. We are not able to consummate our marriage like man and wife, so we need to find other ways. I thought after the guards-”

Jendayi could hardly breathe, let alone speak, but she could still walk. They had danced this particular dance before, and she knew how to make him listen. Two steps brought her to the side of the bed and she lashed out again, her hand connecting solidly with his cheek. As if it had never been there, the invisible claw pressing her throat shut vanished.

“Being forcibly taken by two guards, with you watching no less, is not the way to make me happy,” Jendayi gasped.

“I thought you might prefer women,” Xevex said mildly, rubbing his face. “I wanted to find out.”

“Ambushing me will get you nowhere,” Jendayi hissed. She pulled a long, white robe off the foot of the bed and wrapped herself into it, to shield her body from his leering stare. “Is this the way your people court each other or is it just your own perverted sense of fun?”

“Tell me then. How should I pleasure you instead?” Xevex snapped. For the first time since she knew him, his stoic voice had changed. Exasperation? Anger? “It is expected the God-Emperor will produce an heir eventually. So far, I’m no closer to it than 200 years ago, when I took the throne from my predecessor.”

“If you have treated your previous mistresses like you treat me, I can see why,” Jendayi snarled, leaning against the wall opposite the bed. Distance was meaningless when Xevex was concerned, but she felt better knowing he could not lay his hands on her without her noticing. “Maybe you should have wed one of your own people instead.”

Xevex laughed, a dry, humorless sound.

“Let’s just say it is not an option, otherwise I would have taken it into consideration already. There are other factors than physical compatibility I have to consider. So, tell me, dear wife. How would you like to be courted by me?” He almost sang, his words carrying a soothing undertone. Xevex looked deep into her eyes. An icy trickle crept up her spine, spreading through her head, then down to her limbs. Jendayi’s anger melted away, leaving her pleasantly light-headed. All she could see was the infinite blackness and she was losing herself in it.

“What are you doing?” she whispered, leaning against the wall, pinned there by the sheer force of his stare alone.

“I am trying to engage in a civilized discussion between husband and wife. I want you to be happy, dear Jendayi,” Xevex murmured, each word a silken caress. “How can I make you happy and make an heir with you?”

“Would siring an heir make you happy, dear husband?” Jendayi asked. She felt incredibly relaxed, more at ease with her odd husband than ever before. Just his voice and the infinite black-

What? I should be angry! He forced my bodyguards and now my maid on me!

But here she was, pondering the idea of spreading her legs for him. Her last little bit of reason fought valiantly, but in horror Jendayi realized she had as much control over her own body as she did over the movement of the twin suns in the heavens. Her hands moved over her body, at first caressing her curves through the fabric of her robe, then, as the need became greater, she shrugged out of the fabric entirely. Sighing in pleasure, she resumed caressing herself, cupping one of her firm breasts, pinching her nipple with one hand while the other traveled down over her flat stomach, brushing against the fine golden chains she wore over her hips. Her fingers slithered over her shaved mound, aiming straight for her center.

What am I doing? Why can’t I stop?

Her last bit of coherent thought screamed in impotent fury as two fingers parted her moist folds and a third slipped between them, deftly teasing the hidden treasure inside. Jendayi tossed her head up, her eyes meeting Xevex’. His lips were moving, and from far away, she heard his voice, strained with effort.

“You are in an agreeable mood now. How about we discuss how I can make you happy? What do you need, wife dearest?”

A wordless groan ripped straight from her insides as two of her fingers, generously slicked by her juices, dove deep into her. It had been so long since she had allowed anyone, even herself, to touch her like this. But no matter how deftly she pumped her digits into herself, it wasn’t enough. She needed more. She needed hands on her, lips, and ... and...

No! I don’t want this! He is making me do it!

“I need to be fucked.” Jendayi whimpered, taking unsteady steps towards the bed. She slumped onto the mattress and flung herself onto her back, wantonly spreading her legs for Xevex to see. Her hand on her sex made sloppy, wet noises as she hungrily drove her fingers into herself. “Xevex, get someone in here to fuck me,” she ordered.

What am I doing? Please, stop. Stop! It won’t work anyway. I’m taking my herbs!

A moment later, a large shadow loomed over her. She hadn’t noticed the broad-shouldered, naked warrior enter the chamber. Jendayi rejoiced. Like a striking serpent, she swung around and dove straight for his impressive manhood, sucking the bronze-skinned rod hungrily between her lips. He was hard in an instant, but she kept sucking on him for the sheer joy of it, her tongue fluttering against the sensitive glans. He breathed deeply, gently grinding his crotch into her face, but that was not nearly enough. With his hardness still between her lips, she snatched his hands, putting one on top of her head, the other onto her breasts, then she cupped his heavy sac with a hand and redoubled her effort.

Doomed to be a helpless witness in her rebellious body, Jendayi grieved. She wept for herself as the warrior, now really getting into it, tossed her around on the bed as if she were merely a toy, propping up her behind for easy access. He swiftly mounted her from behind, his manhood spearing deep into her. The pleasure her body experienced trickled down even into that tiny, sane place she was confined to, but to her it was only ashes. Her body thrashed and screamed in ecstasy as the warrior pounded her over and over, pumping his cock deep into her folds, showering her insides with hot, sticky man-juice. And when she came, screaming herself raw, Jendayi vowed to make Xevex pay for violating her like this.

The pain in his chest was unbearable. Each breath like liquid fire, and the slightest movement of the tortured skin like a hundred claws tearing at the wide, ugly seam running all the way down to his stomach. The floor of the chamber was awash with his own blood, which trickled like crimson syrup into a drain beneath him. Dorgon didn’t know how long the robed monstrosities had let him hang like this, but for him, it felt like the weight of centuries on his shoulders.

Soft steps came closer, then stopped just outside of the lake of blood.

“It is time for Phase Two. The body is prepared, now the mind must follow. And the flesh needs more healing. Tsk. So much weave already and it still won’t heal properly.”

An ominous whirring from overhead. With inhumane effort, Dorgon raised his head, causing his chest to erupt in renewed agony. A large, clawed metal arm came down from the ceiling. With mindless purpose, it lowered and lowered, until it clamped the edge of the metal slab he was still fastened to. Effortlessly, it raised the slab into the air, carrying it and Dorgon from the bloody chamber. Along a icy cool corridor they went, the robed monster padding in the slab’s wake, chittering to itself.

“Infernal delays. God-Emperor will not be happy! But what needs to be done needs to be done. Don’t want his toy breaking down, no, no, can’t have that...”

Grating noisily, a stone door pulled open, revealing a much larger chamber ahead. A criss-crossing network of metal rails was on the floor, while the walls of the room hosted a menacing array of huge glass containers, large enough to fit a man. They were lit from below by an unnerving blueish-green luminescence. Most of them were occupied. Men and women, in various stages of recuperation, hovered in those transparent prisons, while metallic tubes and hoses connected them with humming machinery outside their glassy prisons.

The slab stopped and the whirring metal hand disappeared into the ceiling again. But instead of remaining still, the slab slowly toppled over backwards and stopped at an angle. Two of the robed beings came closer, pulling a cart between them. On it was one of the glass prisons, awash with a thick, clear liquid which churned sluggishly as the cart was moved into position at his feet.

Dorgon knew what they were planning, but he could only stare in mounting dread as more robed beings came into view, carrying tubes and hoses. He tried to move his head, turn his face away from the bending tubes they forced down his throat and nose, but to no avail. And then he heard locks click open. Before he could grasp the edge of the slab, he began to slide, helped by the robed beings which guided his feet into the thick liquid. One last push, and he was in, the viscous stuff engulfing him.

Heart pounding, Dorgon awoke. Karas sat a few feet away from him, intently staring at Vokesh and his cronies.

Dorgon thought about telling him about his dream and pushed himself into a sitting position. It wasn’t a dream, he realized. He remembered what had happened, clear as day now. While inside the glass bottle, he could feel his body mend. But they also did things in his head. He remembered things where previously were none. Dorgon had been a decent fighter before, trained in the ancient Nothrian warcraft, spears, bows, axes, hammers. Just by looking at the men on the other side of their pen, he knew how to kill them in a dozen ways, even without a weapon, which bones to shatter to cause horrible internal bleeding, which joints to crack to cause the most agony. He shivered, disgusted by his own sudden bloodlust.

Unbidden, his mind conjured up images of exotic weapons, like a shiny metal tube with a hexagonal opening at one end and a handle at the other. A plasma pistol, it came to him. Aim along the glowing sights, press the trigger and vaporize the enemy. He even knew new, hitherto unknown ways to wield familiar weapons like axe, spear and blade. But why give me this knowledge?

Dorgon looked about. The first sun was already peeking above the horizon, bathing the sky to the east in a pinkish glow. He heard movement from behind the portcullis and a moment later, the metal barrier opened with the rattling of chains being winched up. A dozen guards, wearing the same gold-hued armors as the ones the day before emerged, only this time they were armed with long clubs and shields.

“Wake up, fighters. It’s another fine day to hone your skills and prepare to die to the amusement of the God-Emperor. I trust you won’t try anything stupid,” the leader of the patrol snapped, banging his truncheon against his shield for extra emphasis.

Dorgon marched alongside Karas and the others as the guards walked them through a labyrinthine network of tunnels. They passed several openings, each barred with another metal portcullis. Behind these barriers, he could see more pits. Some housed more men, some held women, others were filled with snarling predators gathered from all corners of the world. two-legged hunter-saurs from the mist-shrouded Huan jungles, ferocious saber cats from the Southern Deserts and flesh-eating apes from the cragged mountains in the West. The stink wafting from the beast pits made his eyes water and stomach churm.

Eventually, they were herded up a narrow set of stairs until Dorgon and the other fighters emerged into a rectangular arena. The floor was made of sand and the sides, under some roughly made awnings, held racks crammed full of weapons and armor. The guards made a smart about-face and trotted back into the tunnels, a stone hatch closing behind them.

“Believe me, freak, you don’t want to take your eyes off me or your fellow fighters,” a harsh voice snarled. Dorgon turned around to see who was addressing him. A black-skinned woman, completely hairless and wearing not much more than a simple loincloth and a wide leather strip across her breasts, stood next to the weapon racks. A serrated scar ran down the right side of her face, from the forehead over her eye and down the cheek, making her already fierce stare even meaner.

“Listen to Lovely here,” Vokesh chuckled, picking up armor pieces off a rack. “Nicos, move it.” The shaggy-headed warrior joined Vokesh and helped him strap on bronze shell pieces.

“You’re new, and by the Creator, you’re one ugly bastard,” Lovely snarled, sizing up Dorgon. Her eyes lingered on his crotch for a moment. Then her eyes snapped back to his. “So. How do you fight?”

“You’re the trainer here?” Dorgon asked her. More fighters arrived, picking up gear and squaring off with those already present.

“Got a problem with me? I’m sure I could lay you flat on your back in a matter of moments. Let me ask you again: Do you know how to fight?”

Dorgon looked around. At first, he didn’t recognize any of the weird arms and armor on display, but his new memories stirred. These things were built to provide a bloody spectacle, not as efficient tools of slaughter. There were impossibly large clubs and axes as well as swords with straight and curved blades. There was a bewildering variety of polearms, topped off with odd poking, slicing or bashing implements. Gauntlets were on display as well, ranging from simple protective gear to monstrosities with spikes, blades or even blunt surfaces instead of fingers. Rounding out the panoply of bizarre weapons were nets, bolas, lassos, throwing darts and other odds and ends even Dorgon’s altered mind couldn’t comprehend.

“Here, wear this,” Lovely barked, dropping items into the sand at his feet. A studded loincloth, a single metal shinguard and what looked like a sleeve made of bronze shell pieces. She still held a helmet, a voluminous monstrosity with tiny slits for the eyes. “Make haste, I don’t have all day!”

Dorgon picked up the metal sleeve. It had been patched numerous times and the inside was dark with dried blood. Gritting his teeth, he adjusted the shoulder straps and fastened it in place. Next came the loincloth and the leg plate. “I don’t think I need the helmet,” Dorgon said.

“I say you do. Stop arguing,” Lovely snapped, tossing the helmet his way and grabbing a trident off a rack.

“What if I don’t comply?” Dorgon asked. Wordlessly, Lovely turned around, the barbed prong of the trident whistling as she aimed for his face. Dorgon dodged to the side and snatched the head of the weapon, pulling hard. Lovely staggered a step forward in surprise. Dorgon turned into her, his elbow leading the way, connecting solidly with her midsection. Breath exploding from her lungs, Lovely folded in half. Dorgon, still in motion, scythed her feet from under her. Letting go of the trident entirely, Lovely crashed into the sand and found herself staring at the butt end of the trident, sitting on her throat. Dorgon blinked at her in surprise.

“I’m ... I’m sorry,” he stammered, surprised by his own prowess.

Laughter erupted around him. Lovely angrily pushed the trident aside and sat up, shaking sand off her scalp. “That was the only time you’ll ever catch me unprepared,” she hissed, coming to her feet. “Wear the helmet. It’s better for your eyes.”

Training under Lovely was anything but. Dorgon not only needed to learn to properly fight with the new weapons, but to use his altered body as well. Despite nearly two decades worth of experience, the way the robed beings had altered his body and mind threw him off time and time again. He was much stronger than before, able to pull grown men off their feet with just one hand, but the added body mass made him slower and threw off his timing. He knew new, impressive moves and combinations, but they interfered with the instincts he had honed his entire lifetime. The burning sun and unfamiliar armor didn’t help much, and by the time the guards came and collected them for the walk back to their pit, Dorgon’s body was covered in nicks, cuts and angry, purple bruises.

“Not bad for your first day,” Karas observed when they were back in their pit. Vokesh and Nicos used the water to wash each other while the rest of the men had to wait their turn. “They had to carry me to the witches with a pair of claws in my gut.”

Dorgon rubbed his shoulder where a brutal hit with a stone club had caved in his metal armguard and bruised the flesh beneath. He already felt much better, able to move the arm again which had hung useless by his side only an hour ago.

“I don’t know. Everybody seems to go especially hard on me,” he said softly. Karas shuffled his feet, looking away. “What?” Dorgon hissed.

“Listen. You have been touched by the witches. Your skin, your eyes. And I have watched you today.” His fingertips brushed along Dorgon’s side, where a barely visible scratch mark was. “Here Lovely had caught you with her falcata. You were bleeding like a stuck pig. And now? Almost whole again. I’m still your friend, Dorgon, but what in the burning Pits are you?”

“I wish I knew, honest,” Dorgon sighed. “But I do know I want to get out of here, hopefully in one piece.” His eyes flicked to Vokesh, who took his usual place in the shade, with Nicos by his side. The other two men were at the water spout now, scrubbing off sweat and grime, occasionally throwing barbed glares at Karas or Dorgon.

“They had ample opportunity to backstab us already. It’s clear they don’t like us very much, but why aren’t they doing anything?” Dorgon whispered.

“It’s forbidden to attack other fighters outside the arena,” Karas said, shrugging. “The guards always find out who did it and the attacker gets fed to the beasts.”

“What, not even as a spectacle for the masses?” Dorgon snorted.

“No. You forfeit your shot at glory once you harm the God-Emperor’s property. But don’t be fooled. Training accidents happen. A lot,” Karas explained, a grim smile on his usually friendly face. The two other men vacated the water spout. “Also, there’s always the Culling before a big event.”

“The Culling?” Dorgon splashed water over his skin. “Sounds ominous.”

“Hm-hm,” Karas grunted. “They’re picking the best warriors from each pit and toss them into a fight, to make sure only those in true fighting shape perform on the big day. You don’t need to worry though, they have obviously chosen you already.” He ducked his head under the spout, pouring handfuls of water over his bald pate. “Done. Want me to wash your back?”

The next days quickly blurred together into a long stretch of merciless drills and long, tense periods of waiting. Dorgon’s fighting ability improved in leaps and bounds as he came to grips with the changes the witches had forced upon him.

Dorgon circled around Karas. The bald fighter wore only a skirt made from broad leather strips and a pair of dangerously clawed gauntlets which he used to stab at Dorgon. Taking a glancing blow on his armguard, Dorgon jabbed the trident into the sand between Karas’ feet and, grabbing his wrist, dragged Karas forwards, tripping the dangerously overbalanced fighter. Lightning-fast, the trident came up, twirled and then down again, butt end resting on Karas’ naked chest.

Lovely clapped her hands. “Flashy, yet efficient. You’ll be popular. Do it again.” She strode off, critically inspecting Vokesh and a female fighter from another pit who were going at each other with scizore and barbed lance.

Dorgon bent down and pulled Karas to his feet.

“You scare me, friend. No one has been praised by Lovely before,” Karas said, panting. “At least not since I’ve come here. Hm. I wonder what they want?” He pointed towards the entrance of the training arena. Two armored guards strode purposefully between the sparring fighters and headed straight for Lovely. They snapped something at her. She shrugged and nodded, quickly looking Dorgon’s way.

The guards approached them. “You,” one said, pointing at Dorgon, “come with us. Leave your gear.”

“Hooray, a break. Finally,” Karas said with a grin, flopping into the sand.

“You wish,” Lovely snarled. She picked up Dorgon’s discarded trident and jabbed it mercilessly at Karas. “On your feet. You, my bald little peach, do need more practice.”

Sweaty and sand-encrusted, Dorgon followed the guards. They walked him out of the training space and back into the tunnels. Some time later they emerged onto the the streets of a gigantic city. At it’s center stood a towering palace, triple spires piercing the heavens. From where he walked, it seemed as if the spires held up the twin suns. The houses were made of white stone, doorways and windows framed by painted outlines done in dizzying colors. The roofs were slated with the same kind of metal the guards wore, the warm honey-gold reflecting the sunlight and painting the sky with a shimmering haze of light. The streets were crowded with people from all over, from the fair-skinned Nothrians to the dark skinned desert dwellers, from bronze-skinned Atlanteans to those with the tell-tale crimson hue of true Huan-i. No one spared Dorgon a second look, as there were more than enough naked slaves about.

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