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[2009: JUL-AUG] The Gauntlet for Gauntlets


Nimue
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:: Mailea heard of Konta as a worst nest of scum and villainy in Renaaran Sector on the edge of Alpha quadrant, but it was still the place where she had to go. After 5 months in her “father’s” house which spent trying to find the basement he indicated in a message left in laboratory only indication that someone somewhere may have a clue was a stonecutter on Konta who built a grave. ::

:: She left her beloved SS Pi'yel-hali aboard DS 555 and from there took a public transport to Konta capitol Luras. It took her good 3 weeks to finally locate Tanaran Kosk. Old man lived on one of the thousand islands called Pirate bay, because many were house to the famous pirate families. Man lived alone with only a few servants in one of the biggest houses on the island, but was still working stone, creating great works of art in building graves, crypts and mausoleums. Young servant opened a door and when Mailea asked for Kosk she walked her around the house and into the workshop. ::

Labria: Tanaran Kosk?

Kosk: Aye?!

Labria: I’m Mailea Labria... :: She removed the hood and took off the robes. :: ... you built my father’s grave.

:: Kosk rise from his chair looking her with silent interest, then of a sudden, started to laugh. His laughter sounded like a stone bumping into stone, loud and strong. ::

Kosk: So you’re another one of them, ha? :: Man watched Lea like seeing into her. :: You’ll have to prove it, little warrior.

:: Mailea had thousand questions, but kept quiet. Man waved her to follow him. She grabbed her robe and went after him. Through the workshop, along the long corridor and into a beautiful house built mostly of white marble. She was watching beautiful simplicity of a house which graceful design and the free use of beautiful details made her hold her breath while a man walked her through the house to the main hall where from a pretty wooden locker took a piece of wood carved with a chain on the edge and a picture of a metal glove in the middle. When gave it to her explained. ::

Kosk: That token is a key for “The Gauntlet”. Five fights, each with a stronger and better opponent.

Labria: I will not fight, no way. I don’t want to hurt anyone, even less get hurt. :: Beat. :: You knew the moment you saw me who I am, so tell me what I should know...

Kosk: No!

Labria: No? :: This man was, she believed, supposed to help her, tell her what she has to know and this refusal shocked her. ::

Kosk: NO!

:: She rose her head, put robe back on and left the house through the nearby front door she recognized by seeing them when arrived. Lea was angry and hurt, and walked fast through the town and out of it until realized she’s almost lost. Good thing was the fact that house Kosk was on a high ground and still visible. She sat in a grass by the large tree and cried. ::

oO Is it the only way, can it be? I don’t want to fight... I don’t want to be hurt, I cannot stand pain. Oo

:: Drained from all the excitements in last few days she fell asleep and slept for good half a day. Morning sun awoke her. She was hungry and dizzy, but resolved to do as asked to get to the answers she needed. With that decision she returned to marble house, and around it to the workshop. Stood in front of Kosk, who was sitting on a chair almost as high as she was standing. ::

Labria: Feed me!

Kosk: You’re back, Snowflake! I thought you’re gone when didn’t return till dark! Come, my household already had breakfast, but cook may still have something left.

:: They ended in a big room with a huge round table and a young girl from the day before brought them wide assortment of food. Lea was eating like someone starving for months. Man was watching her again with lot of interest and a smile on his face. ::

Labria: Tewl-me-awoumt-gaumthet! :: She asked with her mouth full. And when saw puzzled look on man’s face took the token out of pocket and throw it on the table. :: Gaumptet!

Kosk: Aaaaa, Gauntlet! :: He again laughed his trademark stonecrash laughter. :: You interested in history or just what and how.

Labria: The only history I’m interested at the moment is my own. So jump onto what and how to win it.

Kosk: Gladiators are chosen when participants, challengers like you apply. So how to win is something I’ll may be able to help you with when see your opponents. As I already mentioned it’s 5 rounds, first 3 are you against Gladiators owned by a Families, last 2 are challengers against challengers. Those who surv... :: cough :: ..win in their initial fights.

:: Lea caught that, and knew there’s a danger, but decided to let it pass as unnoticed. ::

Labria: What about weapons?

Kosk: You can use all bladed weapons but if you choose to use it as challenger, also your opponent can use any weapon of his choice. In some cases it may prove good while with some opponents can be very bad.

Labria: What I have to do now? :: Lea leaned back and tapped her belly. :: This was great, what is it, well... :: She looked at empty bowl somewhat ashamed. :: ...was?

Kosk: Slow down, one question at the time. You’ll go up, Lina will show you your room while I go and register you for gauntlet. And the food, it was Gorn egg omelet. And yes it’s great food.

:: And Mailea did as was recommended, went to a beautiful room with a huge bed. After took a shower went to bed. When awoke Lina was standing silent at attention by her bed holding her clothes all cleaned and ready to wear. ::

Lina: Dinner is ready. He is waiting for you.

:: Lea went down where in dining room Kosk was waiting for her with loads of news. ::

Kosk: It is done. Gauntlet is starting in a week. Your first three opponents are going to be announced day before the fights, when we’ll be called to move into Gauntlet Arena. I brought you assortment of weapons to can train with them. Lina will show you where you can train, in the house and outside. You understand if I don’t want people to see you.

:: For some even for her unexplainable reason she did. After a dinner Lina showed her a room in a basement equipped with holoemitters capable of producing quite usable opponents. Next 6 days Mailea spent in working on her speed and building muscles. She was in the middle of a hand to hand fight when Kosk entered and ordered her to go to bed and rest until he wakes her up. It sounded and was an order which from his grim expression she decided to listen to silently. ::

:: Next morning strange looking vehicle parked in front of the house and after strong breakfast Kosk ordered Mailea to pick weapons she plan to use and wait him outside. Vehicle, which looked like something between a hovercraft and submersible, took them through the town and over the open sea, until they reached an island away from most inhabited, when dived into the water and to the hidden base. ::

:: Once inside they were taken to their rooms, and as soon as dropped equipment around the base, dining room, gym, infirmary, Arena... and places forbidden to guests and participants under threat of death... and returned to their quarters. ::

Labria: Will you now tell me what bothers you?

:: Kosk looked at her with fear... then rushed toward Lea and kneeled in front of her holding her gently in his arms. ::

Kosk: I’m sorry, so sorry. I got you in such a danger.

Labria: What are you talking about?

Kosk: I’m talking about your opponents. They are... oh they are the best and strongest among them. I... I didn’t want, didn’t expected it.

Labria: You knew that before we left house! You knew evening before, when rushed into gym and sent me to bed?! Why didn’t you tell me? :: Lea didn’t feel good either held by Kosk in so manly manner and even less for the fact she may be in huge danger. She pushed him away. :: You got me into this, now got me out of it.

Kosk: I cannot, the problem is once when the opponents are chosen there is no way out. You have to fight. I know I was selfish and got you into trouble for my personal reasons, but I had to... I .. :: He stood up and turned to leave, but Lea grabbed him and pulled back. ::

Labria: No, you will not. First you’ll tell me what we’re doing here. And then you’ll tell me how to beat my opponents. It is time to start talking, old man!

:: She stood in front of him with hands on her hips and legs outspread. Kosk watched her few moments and then again laughed his trademark stonecrash laughter. But it didn’t last as long this time as it tends to before. His strength vanes of a sudden. ::

Kosk: Yes... I believe I can help you with your opponents, but let me tell you why I got you into this mess. :: Old man’s eyes got wet but he didn’t care to show emotions. :: My oldest son was a fighter, my firstborn. He was the best! He was winning year after year. Houses were searching throughout the universe to find both Gladiators and fighters to oppose him. :: Tears were now steadily flown down his cheeks. :: And that last year it seems like nobody can beat him, but in fourth fight something happened in the middle of a battle. He got a hit in the stomach and fell dead. Just like that. I demanded to get his body right away, but they were keeping it for whole week before handed it to me. I believe he was poisoned. We’re here because I want to investigate it. After that my wife left to her parents with our children. I never saw then after that.

Labria: Why didn’t you tell me that? I would do it for a just cause.

Kosk: I didn’t know that. I couldn’t know. Your brother who arrived before you, few years ago was completely different. He was... was evil. Good thing is I didn’t trust him enough to tell him real reason but told him I need that; need him to avenge my son. Next thing I heard was he went to Families and told them I seek revenge. That’s why you got so bad opponents.

:: Lea brushed tears from old man’s cheeks. Next two hours they were discussing her Gladiator opponents and how to stay alive but keep fights long and at the same time interesting to can give him as much as possible time for investigating. ::

:: First fight was almost funny. Her opponent was huge lizardlike creature most probably some Gorn relative, or maybe even one of them, just overgrown and with much smaller tail. Lea choose to fight without the weapon what got audience into waves of laughter. But despite it seem against all odds and after a long fight she won. After getting her opponent tired by hunting her throughout arena she was able to approach him from behind and hit his knees. When huge beast fell hard on his back for the sixth time, decided not to get up. ::

:: Next fight was much more problem. Opponent was not as huge as previous, but was strong and fast. Not as fast as she was, but fast enough to be huge problem for her as tired from last fight. She won, but her rib and few fingers lost in that fight. After brief visit to infirmary Kosk took her to bed and stayed with her whole night. ::

:: Third fight was bloody and she was drained but despite that for her it was easier than second. This time visit to infirmary lasted much longer, but for some reason Kosk was hovering over doctor who was treating her whole time, and didn’t let him give her any medicine. He had his own first aid kit and demanded its use. Back in their shared quarters... ::

Labria: Is that how they poisoned your son?

Kosk: Yes.

:: He took a data crystal out of invisible pocket and pushed it into a PADD. It was a proof he needed, proof that Families who have bases on Konta poison fighters they don’t like. Kosk’s son was not the only one killed this way. ::

Labria: So you probably saved my life now.

Kosk: That statement is highly questionable, my dear girl. You have to, if not win, and then at least survive two more fights.

:: That was not easy task to accomplish but she managed. Noooo, she didn’t win, but survived. And that is something she found out few days after the fight when awoke in her room in marble house. ::

Kosk: Oh, Snowflake’s awake, ha? Good morning sleeping warrior.

Labria: What happened?

Kosk: Shar’ravan was “real” opponent, not one of Family fighters. I payed him to knock you down.

Labria: But how he knew where to hit me to just knock me down so well?

Kosk: Well, how to say that... you see... I told him. It had to be done really good, and you were not to expect it. :: He smiled, for the first time; he really smiled a happy smile. Now he took a pair of gauntlets from his belt and handed them to her. :: Time for answers!

Labria: I believe it is. :: She leaned on a side yawning. Her whole body hurt, but she won one for her big fight. Proved she’s up to her heritage. ::

Kosk: Let’s go from the start; Tanaran Kosk you heard about is my grandfather. A man you call father asked him to build mausoleum and with it hide a vault in which is going to store data on all children he saved, for them to one day be able to find about their ancestry. My grandfather learned everything your father left about “you”; he teach my father who teach me and I will find one of my children and teach him or her how to judge are you ready to find that knowledge. Put your gloves on and go to the back of the crypt and slowly pull with them down the edges. You’ll hear when the basement door opens. Rest of the vault will answer to your retinal scan.

Labria: I was constantly expecting it to be somewhere under the house, that’s why I never found it.

Kosk: One more thing. :: He was watching her now more serious than ever. :: Don’t try to take anything that doesn’t belong to you, and before leave vault leave gauntlets inside. Only, and only my family have a right to judge who’s ready and who is not. Don’t seize the right that doesn’t belong to you!

:: He wasn’t waiting for answer, nor wanted to hear it. He left house before she woke up next time. Lea was strong enough to leave, but was waiting for his return two more weeks. Finally realized he will not come back any time soon. When returned to her father’s world entered vault and retrieved a switch box... and now when was at the end of her journey she had neither strength nor courage to finish it. All she had to do was open the box...::

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