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Defending Champion

This is movie-verse and the begining of Gaveedra's story, before he arrives at the mansion

 

He had been born for this. Gaveedra paced restlessly, watching the last few challengers finish each other off with sharp attention. Below him, three pairs of fighters fought with sword and spear, daggers, screams, dirty tricks and desperation. Around him, on the other side of bullet resistant glass, the Audience shrieked and roared their excitement. Cameras and a network of lights illuminated the arena below and Gaveedra knew that there were cameras in the Champion's box, observing him. There were always cameras. This was Shangri-La and these were the final rounds of the Championship battle. This was Gaveedra-7's world.

By tomorrow, there would be three finalists left and Gaveedra, after nearly two weeks of waiting, would finally enter the arena and defend the rank he'd held all year.

Heavy satin whispered behind him and Gaveedra stilled.

"It's good to see you so eager, Gaveedra." His owner's voice was amused and the hand brushing over his wide shoulders stroked him as if he was prized thoroughbred; valuable, beautiful - and owned. "You'll get your chance soon enough."

"Yes, Mistress." Gaveedra shifted slightly, his owner's hand falling naturally away. One of the prizes he most valued about being so highly ranked was the privilege of choosing who touched him and when. He knew it did not apply to owners - the owners were above all rules - but he liked to pretend it did.

Mistress Viper came to stand beside him, full mouth amused. He did not think he fooled her but she made no mention of it. The combat below was stable for now and Gaveedra studied his owner from the corner of his eye. She was new to him, having bought him from his old owner only a few months ago. Like all owners, she was full of secrets. It was in their eyes when they looked at him, some kind of pleasure he didn't understand that had nothing to do with the money he was worth and everything to do with a kind of delight in harming others that he occasionally saw in his opponents. But it was not the sort of thing he could answer with a challenge and a sword. Secrets were the province of owners and he generally avoided them, and owners, as much as possible.

Mistress Viper was young, unlike most owners, and - he presumed - beautiful. The dress she wore was of a green satin so dark it seemed black in the dim light, the last foot of the train was embroidered with serpents and the ruby of their eyes glittered like fresh blood. Her hair had the same look as her dress, and her eyes were a vivid, poisonous green.

She had dressed him as carefully as she'd dressed herself. The mandarin style jacket was of heavy white silk, along with the lose pants. The deep sleeves were folded partway back to reveal the gold satin lining and the strong bones of his wrists and the weapon calluses on his hands. He wore his sword across his back, the gold and red tassels lying beside the braid of copper-gold hair falling down his back. Gaveedra knew it pleased the Audience, he'd heard it in the noise it made. The Audience was, ultimately, why he was here and he would wear what he was given and perform as he was instructed to please them.

"A year of the best this world can offer you." She went on, her hand returning to his shoulder, stroking him possesively. "Food and drink, fine clothes, all the trappings of wealth. Any pleasure you desired. Now is the time to make good on all your privlidges."

"Yes, Mistress." Gaveedra's silver eyes lifted to hers for a moment. He didn't care about the silk on his back or the wine he was too wary to drink. The boys and girls he had been offered didn't intrest him and wealth meant nothing to someone who was property himself. It was the heat of the sands below that he wanted, the wild taste of fear and adrenaline and blood. In the arena he was alive. Everything else was simply - waiting. "I am stronger - I will be victorious. I am the Champion of Shangri-La."

"I have plans for this place, Gaveedra. Something more than a dirty hobby in a backwards country." The Viper said softly, eyes on the crowd outside their lushly appointed private box. She turned to him suddenly with a sharp smile. "And you are going to help make them come true."

Gaveedra bowed his head under her hard gaze. "Yes, Mistress."

The dinner was traditional at Shangri-La; the challengers and the champion took their last meal among the owners and VIPs. Last year, Gaveedra had sat among the challengers, watching the old champion's every move, measuring his strengths and weaknesses. This year, he was aware of the eyes hard on him, studying him, looking for weakness. Had the champion then felt as he did now? The pressure of all the eyes on him? The expectations of his owner?

That he might die tonight didn't trouble Gaveedra, he lived with that every day of his life.

"Shall we toast our brave gladiators?" The Viper rose from her ornate chair, red wine in her hand. Gaveedra, sitting at her right hand, lowered his eyes to the table at the sound of scraping chairs and laughter. He couldn't resist glancing up at the others; the bright eyes, the envy in the faces of his challengers.

"This is a world of blood." His mistress began. "And the strong rule over the weak. Only a fool would deny it. This place -" She gestured around at the gleam of teak and gilded wood, ebony, ivory and the shining steel of the naked sword resting in a rack behind Gaveedra. "- is the real world. We have stripped away the games, the lies, the pretty stories meant for children. We are the strong."

Her hand came down to rest on Gaveedra's shoulder. "We are the strong and we are the victors."

The guests shouted their approval, toasting Gaveedra and his mistress with wine and vodka, beer and rum while Gaveedra tensed under her hand, though no expression crossed his calm face. He knew what came next.

Out from the dimness between the pillars carved with birds or deer or serpents stepped one of the owner's special enforcers. A heavy club in his hand, he moved smoothly behind one of the VIPs and brought it down without hesitation on the old man's balding, and oblivious, head.

It happened that he was looking at Gaveedra when the blow fell and he watched the life leave him. He watched the sudden bloom of blood in the man's left eye, the way one pupil suddenly sprang wide just before blood sprayed out of his mouth and nose and the crack of his skull silenced the laughter and the cheers. It was a killing blow and a quick death.

The corpse thumped forward, staining the gold and crimson tablecloth, bits of broken skull and brains sliding down the side of his head and dripping off the hardwood club. The Viper's servant stepped back, returning to the shadows hovering at the edge of the room. Someone began to retch, the only sound in the silence.

"I am the victor." The Viper said to the pallid faces and took a sip of her red wine with a smile. Beneath her hand, Gaveedra did not move.

END (071503)