13th of Achtus, 2718
The ROSE ARENA | EVENING
"We have a victor!" Master Boriand's voice rang out above the jeers and the applause. Heavy, reinforced doors slid open and a couple of young, fightened-looking wicks scrambled out into the sandy arena floor, a meager sheet between them to roll the groaning, half-conscious galdor onto and drag him away while the galdor ringmaster of sorts prattled on about Tristaan's next opponent.
The dark-haired passive didn't get a moment of rest, either, though he used the brief speech as an opportunity to squint upward and scan the faces looking down, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sarinah somewhere in the loud, obnoxious crowd. Adjusting the thick wraps around his hands and hissing at the sting of fading magical welts, grey eyes found familiar mahogany hues and he flashed a smile—the flicker of a hopeful expression brief but sincere.
The lovely witch was fuel to his fire, after all, her love and the life that grew within her his reason for getting back up here on the Rose Arena's floor. Rolling his shoulders and shifting his footing when the door slid open again, a short, broad Mugrobi wick stepped into the sand, already grinning. Her hair was worn up in a shockingly traditional wrap, and the diminutive woman was a landscape of dark skin over muscle, her left arm decorated in raised scars in an intricate pattern perhaps indicating her Turga tribal origins.
"Hulali be merciful! Let the fight begin!" Randal was cackling from above them both, the last of his words drowned out in more eager cheering.
More coins were quickly exchanged while the pair of fighters sized each other up with a few preliminary blows, Tristaan immediately made aware that they were perhaps on an impressively even keel. It would be a fight of wits more than muscle and skill, the two opponents well-matched. Perhaps too well-matched for the dark-haired passive's comfort, aware that should he stay standing, he still had one more opponent to take on—an opponent his Master expected him to lose to.
He had no such plans, of course, but he had to keep enough of himself together to make good on those ideas and this Mug was eager to knock all of his good ideas out of his skull with surprising force.
She was fast on her feet, but she had a clocking hard kick that made staying on top of combat difficult for Tristaan. The crowd roared with every blow, a few even standing on tables to cheer and chant for the few heart-stopping moments the dark-haired passive spent face-down in the sand after a surprise knee to his forehead that left him seeing more darkness than stars. The thought of displeasing Boriand by losing here in this fight was tempting, jaw aching and ears ringing, but he didn't want to give up so soon. Sore fingers curled and he struggled with consciousness while the Mugrobi witch began to climb one of the chain link walls in hopes of leaping onto his prone form for a theatrical finish.
The chanting wasn't the name of his opponent, however. The jeers weren't in his direction at all. Instead, he heard his arena-given moniker on the lips of strangers begging for him to get back up.
With a growl, he found his feet again, wavering for a moment while the fog of near-unconsciousness cleared itself from between his ears. Some keen observers shouted their warnings to him and he heard the rattling of metal, looking up in time to see the decorated woman high above him, ready to jump. The entire arena erupted in praise when Tristaan stood, a wave of elated noise echoing off the walls.
The scarred witch didn't even alter her plans, launching herself from the wall toward the bloodied passive with a wild, shrill shout, arms and feet ready to rain blows on him with the force of her impact. Because he'd had time to prepare, however, the dark-haired man allowed her the illusion of his weakness, willingly waiting until the very last heartbeat to roll out of the way and let her crash into the bloodied sand where he'd just been.
Laughter rang from the audience, the Mugrobi witch slow to recover from her impact. Too slow. Ignoring his dizzying pain, Tristaan moved quickly to keep her pinned, knees against her spine and curling one hand into her wrap and hair to hold her down for a few swift, near-merciless punches, knuckles against flesh that struggled and writhed. She twisted beneath him, nails digging into tanned skin while he shifted his weight and continued to slam blows where he could without a hint of apology until she was unconscious and he was left panting over her crumpled form.
It was more a movement of desperation than any lingering desire for victory that drove the passive, and even as he leaned away from the witch, he took no pleasure in the moment. His name was once again chanted, but Tristaan didn't feel the praise, anticipation twisting like a hot iron in his gut, aware he still had the headliner human left to defeat. Master Boriand was most likely quite confident in his loss now, given how he swayed on his feet and dribbled blood and sweat onto the sand, but the dark-haired passive wasn't about to give anyone exactly what they wanted out of him, not now, not ever, aware that the consequences were a terrible risk.
The magic-less son of a galdor was still too stubborn to be broken.
He groaned, waiting for the next announcement while the audience seemed ravenously reluctant to settle down.
"A wounded chrove will fight harder."
— Passive Proverb