The Contest

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

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Picture of AcriendThe boy attendant finished the application of oil and stood back as Piaq rose from the wood bench to stretch. He wore the ceremonial fighting garb of the arena: a tightly cinched leather belt, a metal cup protecting the genitals, cloth wraps around ankles and wrists, and a metallic helmet with only eyes and mouth exposed. The helmet was forged using his head as a mold and fit as though part of his body.

He eyed the oil application and approved. All exposed skin had been treated, denying the opponent a firm grasp of anything but the accouterments required by arena rules. He flexed his enormous muscles and smiled at the beautiful physique displayed in the mirror. His three meter frame hung thick with muscles wrapped in smooth dark brown skin devoid of hair. Were his face visible, its chiseled lines told a story of endless fights, each scar representing a victory. But golden eyes peered from behind the mask, the reptilian pupils narrowed as he focused on the contest ahead. He was a professional combatant, and one of the best his world had created.

By most galactic standards, Piaq’s world was primitive, a world barren of technology and the ability to travel into the stars. That didn’t halt their evolution, but enhanced the more barbaric aspects of it. They were fighters and had perfected war across millennia of contests as each race vied for world domination. Even today, battles were fought along neighboring borders, each willing to spend whatever lives it took to protect their plot of land. The battles were violent and bloody.

Piaq’s race was known as the Acagandi, an established race that had maintained their lands for thousands of years. The contests within the arena were a testament to their warring people’s desire to be the best fighting force on the planet, and Piaq was the best of their best. He feared no opponent and believed even if he fell he would be richly rewarded in the afterlife for his fierce skills as a warrior. He spent many hours fighting in the arena after a successful career in the military.

But today, the contest before a hundred thousand of his countrymen held an even larger role than mere sport or display of combat readiness. It was a message to the invaders that this world was prepared to defend themselves against any and all aggressors. He turned from the mirror and began the long walk down the corridor to the arena’s grand entrance. Already the sound of the anxious crowds vibrated through the very walls of his cathedral of death.

The invaders had arrived in a massive flying craft and made the mistake of landing in Piaq’s country. The brutish monsters covered in thick, long hair, wearing ridiculous penis sheaths to protect their monstrous genitalia, established a heavily defended perimeter around their craft, establishing a beachhead without as much as a hello. Their arrogance and their technology were no match for the power of the defending army.

Within days of their arrival, their craft was destroyed in a spectacular barrage of fifty ton boulders hurled from kilometers away with the precision of the most advanced artillery. Everything the Acagandi war machine had at its disposal was thrown at the beasts who valiantly hunkered down as their ship was wiped from the surface of the planet. But they were destined to lose against the vast army of the Acagandi.

In battle, the hairy monsters were formidable. Substantially larger than Piaq’s people, their muscular physiques hiding beneath their hair were a reality many were not ready for when the first wave of infantry assaulted their encampment. The losses in the Acagandi army were staggering as the beast’s technology felled half in blazes of lightning that burned like fire from the gods. But the Acagandi did not stop as wave after wave of soldiers were thrown against the deadly monsters.

When their modern weapons finally failed them, the monsters met the onslaught with primitive weapons forged from metallic alloys never seen before. The melee lasted three days, and in the end, the monsters lost all their invading force but twenty-three soldiers now captive in the arena. They would be sport for the people, a humiliation to hurt them deeply.

But Piaq remained humble before this opponent. The beasts had slain over four thousand of the best Acagandi military men to their thousand. Had they not possessed such fiery weapons, that number would have been substantially lower. Nonetheless, they were no easy match, and Piaq would need every ounce of his vast experience to win the day. Clearly the brutes were also a warring race and expected to win every contest. It spoke volumes about their previous conquests. But today, those victorious triumphs of the past would fall at the hands of primitives.

Piaq listened from behind large doors as his past victories were announced to the crowd. In response, the crowd bellowed with a thunderous applause that shook the very ground beneath his feet. This brought his senses to full alert as he placed his mind in battle mode. The large doors swung open and he walked proudly onto the field of battle as the crowd rose to their feet and barked for his victory. He raised his right arm in a salute to his fans, and the crowd honored this salute with a booming chant of his name.

“Pi-aach, Pi-aach, Pi-aach, Pi-aach…”

His arms came down and the crowd grew hushed as the opponent was raised into position. Boos and hisses accompanied the brute as the platform stopped at ground level of the arena. The charcoal eyes peered intently at Piaq, the grotesque expression belying nothing of its thoughts. The beast knew what was happening and measured its opponent.

Though speaking with the invaders had proven nearly impossible, they had worked out that this was the highest ranking member that had survived. He was very tall, spanning at least one more meter above Piaq’s formidable frame. He looked lean compared to the others caged below, but that might make him more deadly. Sometimes weight was not an advantage in this style of fighting. His larger size would only prove useful if it came down to hand-to-hand combat, a common outcome.

The arena was a large, open aired oval constructed of enormous granite blocks rising hundreds of feet above the floor. It held over a hundred thousand spectators, and everyone from the capital city that could afford tickets was there to watch the event of a lifetime. At either ends of the arena, large doors led onto the arena floor beneath massive carved statues of the patron gods of war. The floor of the arena was coarse sand not easily compacted. This gave uneven footing, but allowed for deft moves and twists for those who understood how to fight on it. The rules were simple, use anything on the arena floor to kill your opponent.

Throughout the battle, an array of various weapons would be presented to each combatant. It usually started with staffs of hard woods and metallic spearheads. From there, it moved onto large clubbing weapons spiked with protrusions for maximum damage. If combatants survived those first two rounds, an array of sharp knives, swords and axes would be presented. At that point, both combatants would be too tired to wield them effectively. Finally, should each be unable to heft the metallic weapons, hand-to-hand combat would decide the contest.

Piaq had taken many battles to the end, a glorious show for the spectators. However, as he watched his opponent carefully, he decided early victory would be preferable. Still, he had a few tricks up his sleeve to make the contest interesting for the crowd. Unlike other arenas around the world, the Acagandi were proud they ran a clean contest. No drugging of opponents, weakening of weapons, or hobbling the captives was allowed. It was a fair fight to the death, and the Acagandi fighters didn’t always win. One of the champions within the arena was not even Acagandi, but a captive from a border battle with a neighboring country. Piaq had not yet faced him.

The crowd roared as the first set of weapons was raised into position next to each combatant. Piaq chose his two favorites, a short handled staff and a long spear. The brute eyed the weapons rack and finally settled on a long staff sharpened at both ends. In his hairy hands, the weapon looked useless, but Piaq knew he would only choose that with which he was adept. Both now properly equipped, they moved into the center of the arena to begin the contest.

Piaq watched the monster’s movements closely as he circled in towards him. The beast looked slow and lumbering, an illusion no doubt enhanced by the sand shuffling into large piles at the monster’s feet. He was purposely dragging his feet to feign helplessness. As they inched closer to each other, Piaq kept his eyes on the tip of the staff that would signal the opponent’s intentions. He held his spear entwined in his left arm like an extension and held the short staff like a shield. Block with the staff, attack with the spear. It was classic fighting, but Piaq had a twist.

They were close enough that Piaq could smell the stink of the beast. Its hair was matted in spots and its penile sheath tattered and worn from many battles. Pieces of food clung to the thick coat of hair, and the beast’s dark face held black eyes of hidden fury. Still it dragged its feet as it lumbered to meet its opponent. Both danced slowly around, each waiting for the other to make a move. Piaq could not wait any further as the crowd booed the lack of action and he moved in with his spear tip.

As expected, the beast parried the thrust with its staff, and then kicked up a large pile of the sand into Piaq’s eyes, temporarily blinding him. He ducked and rolled as he sensed the beast attacking in the confusion and barely saved his hide as the sharp tip of the staff tore into his left side. Within seconds he was back on his feet as the beast flew through the air for another attack. He dodged right and thrust with his spear, the tip catching the beast’s leg, tearing into the tough leathery flesh. Both had drawn blood.

They backed away, each assessing the other’s dripping wounds. Piaq knew his was superficial, and the roll in the sand was helping to stem the loss of blood. The beast’s fur was stained red, but otherwise it appeared unharmed. Piaq chastised himself for the lack of forethought, and realized his foe would use any and all tactics to win. Fine, Piaq knew how to fight that way, too.

The beast circled in again, piling sand against its dragging feet. Even though it had already used that trick, it could still be effective. Piaq decided to the attack root cause of the problem. He charged in with a leap and pressed his spear forward before bringing his right arm around with the short staff aimed at the monster’s head. The monster reacted to block the head shot, allowing Piaq to pierce the beast’s right foot with his spear tip.

He fell to the ground and rolled, the action ripping the spear through the foot of the monster, the beast roared in pain and anger. The crowd shouted its approval, but Piaq wasn’t yet done. He charged once more, but switched the spear to his fighting hand, a final twist in this round of fighting. With a deft motion, he weaved his spear around the blocking staff and caught the beast squarely on the left side of its face. The gash spewed blood while bits of flesh hung in tatters from the wound.

Coming back to his feet, Piaq threw the spear directly at the beast. The monster blocked it with a violent slash of its staff, and the spear exploded into shards of kindling while the sharp tip was knocked uselessly to the ground several meters away. The crowd booed noisily, and Piaq ran to the nearest weapons rack to re-equip. As he grabbed another spear and ran back to his opponent, the beast picked up the spear tip and through it like a missile into the booing throng. Piaq watched as a spectator caught the tip in the head. The fan fell to the ground limp.

The beast roared in victory and turned back to Piaq. Just then, the new weapons racks were raised into position. Piaq discarded the spear and staff, selecting an arm held battering ram and large mace. The battering ram would provide a shield while the mace would be used for attacking. He knew this round would be the most difficult as the beast’s strength would be a factor in its favor. He watched his opponent choose a spiked club and the smallest mace in the arsenal. Piaq puzzled over the choice.

They moved towards each other again, the crowd chanting his name, their excitement building his resolve to end this in this round. The beast moved in first, pivoting on its feet to build momentum in the club head. The swirling spiked club came close to catching Piaq in the mid-section, but a quick parry with his battering ram pushed it aside as the monster’s hand came round with the small mace catching Piaq’s mace head on, forcing his own weapon into the left side of his helmet. The blow stunned Piaq and he staggered backwards as the world swam.

The beast used this to his advantage and pressed another charge with the club. Piaq, though stunned, saw the attack and fell in a pivot to his right knee, blocking the club with his battering ram, sending the beast to the ground in a splash of sand. He stood up and wobbled slightly as his head began to clear, but the beast was back in action just as quickly, forcing its club downward onto the battering ram of Piaq, the blow forced him back to his knees as the mace came around for attack. This time, he was able to deflect it enough so that it only caught his helmet with half the force. In a brilliant transfer of his weight, he slid beneath the beasts legs, grabbing the penis sheath as he dropped his mace. The beast roared in agony as he pulled hard on the genitalia before regaining his feet. Two can play dirty.

The beast spun around dropping its mace as it held its crotch in pain. Piaq attacked. He met the other’s club with his battering ram before spinning and ramming the beast in the mid-section. This exposed his back and the beast caught it with the spiked club as it fell to the ground. Pain shot through Piaq as several spikes dug into his flesh, ripping across his back.

He ignored the pain and flung the battering ram at his fallen opponent. The beast blocked the battering ram with its arm, but the sound of breaking bones was audible above the din of the crowd. The noise in the arena erupted in volumes that nearly deafened Piaq as he slowly made his way to the weapons rack. As he arrived, another round of weapons sprang from below. Finally, sharp knives and swords.

Piaq favored the smaller blades as they were easier to handle after so much fighting. He was very tired and the wounds to his side and back were beginning to register in his mind. He pushed the pain aside and move towards his enemy once more. He could not let it get to hand-to-hand combat as he realized the beast would annihilate him.

Despite its injuries, the beast stood up and made its way to the weapons rack. It, too, favored the smaller blades. Piaq knew each of the beastly captives had been equipped with a blade of their own choosing, so he would have to be smart in this contest. They carried those blades for killing, not ceremony. They circled once more, and Piaq watched for signs of weakness. If the broken bones in the beast’s arm were hurting, you couldn’t tell by how it held the large knife at the ready. However, Piaq knew that arm would not be as effective.

He attacked the other arm and his blade met the other in a shower of sparks. The beast tried to bring the other blade up under in a thrust designed to gut Piaq, but the broken bones made it impossible to move fast and Piaq parried the thrust, slicing down the length of the blade to cut the beast’s hand. Slowly, he was destroying the beast’s left arm. They both moved back and Piaq eyed the blood oozing from the wound across the beast’s blade. Its arm was held low as the damage took its toll.

They circled again, and the monster attacked with its good arm in a deft move to catch Piaq’s left arm exposed. He parried that thrust with his own blade, both cutting into each other’s arms as they slid down the shaft. Piaq jumped back in pain and the beast pressed the attack aiming for his outstretched leg. The blade sunk deep into Piaq’s calf and he screamed in pain as he launched one of his blades at the other’s injured arm. His blade sunk deep and both rolled away from each other in a spray of red sand.

Neither moved as they eyed each other from their positions on the ground. The beast finally sat up and pulled the blade from its left arm slowly. It staggered to its feet and flung the blade into the crowd, this time failing to land a deadly blow. The crowd booed and the monster roared in what could have been called a grotesque form of laughter. Before recovering one of its weapons, it disconnected its penis sheath and began swaying back and forth as the grotesque member swung methodically from side to side. Its left arm now hung useless at its side.

The perverted scene was enough to enrage Piaq as he understood what these beasts used their mammoth genitalia for. They were weapons of another kind, a way to humiliate their opponents once defeated. He was taunting Piaq, promising another type of pain should the beast win the contest. Piaq collected his senses and rose from the ground before this disgusting display. He slowly pulled the helmet from his head and the crowd crowed in pleasure as their champion prepared for the final onslaught.

He limped towards the beastly visage, his leg protesting every step as warm blood ran down to his foot. He had to win this-he had to defeat this grotesque beast masquerading as a soldier. This was no soldier but a blight on the Universe, and he was the cure. As he neared, the beast’s member swelled as it grew excited by the pending attack. Piaq tried to ignore it as he limped the last few meters. The beast waved its pride in the sky and Piaq attacked. He pushed is way past the protrusion and spun around to the beast’s left side severing the injured arm from the beast’s body. The arm hung by shreds of muscle and bone and the beast fell to its knees.

It laughed in a sickening way as it succumbed to the inevitability of its fate. It grasped its member with its good arm and climaxed in a final show of defiance as Piaq brought his blade down onto the back of its neck. He felt the crunch of the spinal column as he delivered the final blow, and the beast fell to the ground in a heap of blood and hair.

The frenzied crowd was on its feet, and Piaq held up his arm in victory. He kicked the lifeless form and rolled it onto its side. In one final act, he cut off the monster’s genitalia and held it high for all to see, a final humiliation. This was the enemy that threatened and this was what would happen should they return. The crowd howled in delight and the arena shook as if an earthquake. He flung the grotesque body part as far as he could before falling to his knees in exhaustion.

His eyes swam with spots as the loss of blood and the utter exhaustion took control. He raised both his arms and gave the Acagandi salute before blacking out. The arena exploded once more as Piaq fell into the sweet embrace of a victorious darkness.

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