Originally to be called "To the Victor Goes the Spoils" that somehow didn't seem right by the time it was finished. I'll admit it was going to be a yiff peice, but that side of things never eventuated, something of which I'm quite happy now that I look through it.
The characters in it are shamelessly based/inspired on drawings done by Kaa Starhunter and available at his site Anthrosaur Imagery. I'd recommend a visit.
I didn't set off to steal any characters as such, but the images were a
very nice source of inspiration. :)
Partners By Wolphin T'rall woke as the remains of the door crashed to the floor. He tried to stir himself, but his limbs felt like lead and his mind was clouded. He managed to open his eyes and the reason for his slowness was realised. Standing in the ruins of the door were three mammals. A rodent, a equine and a wolf. All had grins on their faces and all were rugged up in furs. "What's the matter scaly," taunted the rat. "You left the fridge door open...?" T'rall hissed and swung out wildly with a clawed hand. His usually lightening fast reflexes slowed to a crawl and the grinning rat dodged easily. "Truss him up boys," said the rodent, his eyes narrowing after he spied the claws on the lizard's hand. "And make sure he's nice and tight... don't want him getting away early." The wolf and equine moved in, each one grabbing an arm, subduing the reptile easily in the freezing room. Expertly they forced his arms behind his back, binding them with snap-locks, then one of them captured his tail as he tried to swing it at them and bound that to his wrists. Pulling him to his feet, then snapped manacles around his ankles and finally locked a collar around his neck. T'rall glared at the rodent, studying his features, noting a strange barred pattern on one ear. "You two," he demanded the rat of his colleagues. "Take him down to the van and get him into a proper cell before he warms up. I'll meet you back at the centre once I've seen to business." The rat left first, then the goons half pushed and half pulled T'rall out the door and down the hall. Before he had left the room, T'rall knew this had been a setup. The corridor was cool, but compared to his room, it was like a furnace. He breathed a little faster, feeling the blood beginning to flow around his body. By the time he reached the lobby, he was beginning to struggle. He paused long enough to spit at the wolf behind the counter who was receiving a wad of cash from the rat. That earned him a crack across his shoulders and he hissed at the equine who leered back at him. He was manhandled into the back of a waiting truck which sped off into the early dawn. The drive was a relatively quick one, but he still managed to earn himself several kicks in the stomach as well as another snap-lock around his muzzle. He was still savouring the taste of horseflesh when the van arrived at his destination and he was unceremoniously pulled out and dumped onto the floor. The scent of many different species hit his nose and he remained still, assessing his situation. He could hear voices somewhere behind him, one belonged to the wolf, the other he did not recognise, they seemed to be discussing him. Some conclusion must have been reached because there were loud footsteps behind him. He felt his legs lifted and then he was being dragged across the ground, the rough concrete scratching against his sensitive underside, making him squirm. The movement stopped and a giant hand reached down and pulled him to his feet. "Me sorry," said a deep slow voice. "They said you were unconscious. Me take you to cell now." T'rall's eyes widened as he saw the owner of the voice. It belonged to a huge elephant morph, the guy was easily nine foot tall, muscle bound and covered in a multitude of scars. Both his ears were missing chunks and his trunk moved strangely, as if it was somehow broken. Around his neck he had a similar collar to T'rall's. The lizard tried to ask a question, but with the restraint around his mouth, he could only grunt. The elephant seemed to sense this and paused for a moment. T'rall could actually see his brain ticking over, after a moment, he reached a conclusion. "Tiny not remove band," said the elephant. "Tiny told, take to cell. Just that. Tiny take lizard to cell." By that stage they had obviously reached the cell. A large wooden door which the elephant morph slid the bolt back on, opened and threw T'rall inside. There was a thunk and the door slammed shut behind him. The first thing T'rall noticed about his new surrounds was the warmth. Heat lamps glowed in the ceiling and the magic warmth started to flood into his veins. There was a slithering off to one side and T'rall tried to roll to face it, but two large hands grabbed him first. "Ssssshhhh," whispered a voice in his ear. "Just remain sssstill for a moment while I get you untied." First to go was the band around his muzzle, a second later the two behind his back snapped with a soft twang and he leapt to his feet and spun around. He was facing a large snake. At least twenty feet long, the tail was still coiled a little to one side. Large clawed hands still played with the snap-locks as the snake raised his torso up a few inches to regard him. "A lizard..." he hissed. "Yessss, there is potential. But first, introductions, I am Sassark." The snake extended a hand which T'rall regarded for a moment before shaking warily. "What is this place?" he asked, rubbing his wrists, while leaning back to enjoy the light from the lamps. "This is the Du'tok," said the snake. T'rall shook his head. "Which is?" he prompted. The snake looked at his level of incomprehension. "You don't know this place do you?" he said, coiling his tail up under himself. "I was only passing through," explained T'rall. "Shuttle got cancelled last night, so they put me up in a hotel and I wake up here." He rubbed at some sore spots on his scales. "So tell me, what is this Du'tok?" "Du'tok," began the snake. "Means place of battle. Above us, is the very ground where the Mylay defeated the infidels of Goh." "Mylay... Du'tok... Goh," snapped T'rall, his body warming nicely. "Why does this concern me? It doesn't explain why I was kidnapped and dragged here." "Several hundred years ago," continued the snake, ignoring the interruption. "A battle was held here. The small community of Mylay was attacked by religious zealots who called themselves the Goh. The battle was remarkably even and lasted many hours, but eventually the Mylay defeated the Goh, before slaughtering those who surrendered so such an uprising could never take place again." "Nice crowd," muttered T'rall under his breath. "Every year," continued Sassark. "They hold a ceremony commemorating their victory. Originally the ceremony was just that, a ceremony, then over the years mock battles took place. Mock battles developed into skirmishes and now there is a full gladiatorial style event, culminating in a life or death struggle between two teams. Those on the winning team are given their freedom." "And on the loosing team?" asked T'rall. "They have a small plaque marking their burial site," said Sassark with deadly seriousness. "So what am I doing here then?" T'rall muttered. "Traditionally the Goh fought in pairs," explained the snake. "I am guessing they could not find a replacement snake, so any scaly would do." "Wait, wait, wait," said T'rall, pacing around the room. "I'm going to be partnered with you?" "Most likely," admitted Sassark. "I am a good fighter. My partner and I were very successful, but I wasn't there when he needed me." The snake looked genuinely sad and T'rall felt small knot in his stomach. "What happened?" he asked, looking up at the other reptile. "Gyhing, my partner," said the snake. "Was singled out for extra duties after he continually beat the mammals. He was taken from here not two days ago and I was informed of his passing this last night." "They killed him?" said T'rall incredulously. Sassark nodded, "Most likely. Mammals do not like being upstaged by a reptile." "So I've noticed," muttered the lizard. "So, when is the big show?" "In a few hours," said the snake. "Hours!" exclaimed the lizard. "How are we suppose to get ready for that?" "You're not," replied Sassark. "We are to die." "You may be," responded T'rall, pacing back and forth. "But I promised I'd kill that rat and I keep my word. How did you get here anyway?" Sassark seemed to go quiet and T'rall could sense the blood rushing to his belly scales, a reptilian blush. "Gyhing and I were... together... when the slavers caught us," he said quietly. "Together..." repeated T'rall. "You mean you were mating?" Sassark nodded slowly. "Sheesh..." hissed the lizard. "Is nothing sacred? And couldn't you fight back?" "We get rather... entangled..." admitted Sassark. "It takes us a while to separate and recover... All the partners in the Du'tok are mates, they say it makes the fighting bond greater." T'rall nodded, regarding the snake in a new light before giving the snake a curt bow. "I don't believe I introduced myself before," he said. "But if we are fighting together, I believe you should know my name. I am T'rall, I am not sure if I would be your partner, so to speak, but I am at your service." "And I at yours," responded Sassark, bowing low in the traditional snake greeting. "It will be a pleasure serving along side you." "Yeah," muttered T'rall. "I just hope we get out of it alive. Now, what else can you tell me of the competition?" "There are usually a dozen creatures on each side, each comprising of six teams of two," said Sassark, drawing T'rall closer as he explained the game. "It is a fight to either death or incapacitation. The Goh, that's us, are given a small collection of weapons while the Mylay may have one weapon of any choosing. Weapons are all close combat, the Mylay's always outclassing the Goh's. Traditionally the Goh are all slaughtered, but I am planning to change the script and avenge Gyhing's death." T'rall nodded. "Do you have much hand to hand combat skills?" he asked. "Yessss," hissed the snake. "Gyhing and I were the best in our group, one of the reasons why I believe we were torn apart. And yourself." "A few," admitted T'rall. The snake regarded him for a few moments and was about to say something when the door was slammed open once again. The open doorway filled by the bulk of the elephant. "Tiny get..." said the elephant slowly. "Follow Tiny... it time." "That's Tiny," offered Sassark, slithering towards the doorway. "He was on the Goh side a few years back. Everyone else was killed. He received an axe through the head, but it didn't kill him. Messed up his brain though. Now he's a pawn of Fern's." "Fern?" said T'rall, falling into line as they marched outside. "Fern is the rat who runs this operation," explained Sassark. "Got a funny fish thing on one ear?" asked T'rall as two felines join their little line. Sassark stifled a chuckle. "That'ssss ssssuppose to be a fern," he hissed. "Fern had it down when he was young and his ear changed as he grew. It drives him mad and there is nothing he can do about it, so don't mention it where he can hear it." By this stage, their line had grown quite long and they were lead into a large room. The opposite wall had two imposing double doors which were shut, but a dull roar could be heard on the opposite side. They were surrounded by guards, all dressed in full body armour and holding energy pistols. T'rall noticed the setting was on maximum. A smaller door off to one side opened and Fern strolled in. The rat looked completely comfortable as he leered at the gathering of misfits. "In approximately ten minutes," he announced. "Those doors will open and you will go out into the arena and fight for your freedom. If you stay here, you will die, at least if you leave, you have a fighting chance." He smirked as the ensemble scowled at him. "Boys," he shouted towards the open door. "Bring in the box." Another suited guard walked in and dropped a box in the middle of the circle. "I'll let you decide who is going to use what. I have to get upstairs and mingle." With that, Fern left, snapping his fingers and the guards breaking ranks to follow him through the door. The door slammed shut, leaving the combatants to look through the box. As the team started to pick through the weapons, T'rall looked at what had become his team. It was a motley bunch, Sassark and himself, two felines, two bovines, two equines and four wolves. Next he looked at the weapons. They were pretty pathetic. Two swords, two daggers, two axes, a spear and a pike. The box also contained a mixed collection of armour, none of which looked complete. "Eight weapons, twelve of us," he announced, the first words spoken. "Who is having what and who is going without." The minotaurs whispered something to themselves, then looked back at him. "We'll take the axes," ones said.' "Good choice," nodded T'rall approvingly. "You're probably the best suited for it." "Just who made you boss?" demanded one of the horses suddenly. "I made myself boss," said T'rall slowly, turning to look at him. "We're all in this together, we're all relying on each other. I don't know if you've had any experience in this sort of thing, but I happen to have had some and I don't want to die on this pathetic excuse for a planet." "What experience?" pushed the equine. T'rall hissed, for the first time the fin along the back of his head beginning to lift. He pointed to the tattoo around his left eye. "Have you heard of the Order of Syltor?" he asked slowly. "The mythical fighters of Syltor?" scoffed the stallion. "Of course I have, every colt hears the legend of the lost legion of Syltor, free agents who patrol the universe looking for unjust battles to fight. But everyone knows that is just a myth." "Myth or not," said T'rall. "That is their mark. I have trained with them, joined their ranks and occasionally even patrol the universe. But this month I was on my vacation and now I'm pissed off, so all I want to do is get home and relax. You understand." As he spoke, he had stepped towards the equine, his eyes beginning to glow an eerie green, his stance becoming increasing threatening. "Ummm... ok..." said the stallion nervously, backing down. "I think you'd make a good leader." "Right," announced T'rall looking around. "Anyone else have any opinions on who should lead us." Eleven heads shook quickly and the lizard went back to dolling out the weapons. The felines got a dagger each, one horse a sword, the other the spear. Sassark got the pike which left a single sword for the four wolves. T'rall began picking through the armour. "Take whatever fits," he instructed. "It may not be complete, but its better than bare flesh." For himself he picked out a shoulder pad, originally for a creature larger than him, he strapped it on tight, making note of the spikes that protruded from it. His only other covering was a protective belt. It provided decent protection against his thighs and a little cover for his underside. He hoped that would be enough. He had just finished strapping it on when there was a beeping sound in the room and the doors at the end began to swing open. The dull roar increased in crescendo until it was almost deafening, a line of guards entering the room once more, pointing their weapons at the mixed dozen. "Its show time..." murmured T'rall under his breath and took a step towards the opening. "Right guys," he shouted above the din. "Everyone stay together. I want a tight formation and each of you watch each other's back. I want you to fight as a single unit, remember two are always better than one." "That is what snakes say," Sassark smirked as T'rall nodded to him. "Ready?" he asked, cocking his head curiously, then turning towards the door. "Ready," came the reply, the snake gripping his pike tighter. "Fall out!" T'rall yelled and started jogging towards the door, as he approached, he increased in speed, developing into a flat out sprint as he entered the arena. Thumping across the sand, the took it all in. A circular sand covered area surrounded by a high wall, about ten foot tall. Tiered seating went up all around, the space absolutely packed with chanting mammals of all sorts. The arena was about fifty metres in diameter and through a door directly in front of them lumbered the opposing team. Compared to his own team, the opposition looked very professional. They were fully armoured and in possession of some serious weaponry. Very large swords seemed to be popular, but one or two other things were included. "Halt!" ordered T'rall, pulling himself up sharply. "Defensive positions. Let them come to us." He was a little surprised to find his team slip into a very good configuration, the felines and wolves at the front, larger beasts at the back. There was some hope after all. This tactic seemed to throw the other side, who paused and whispered to each other before slowly advancing once again. "They're use to be charged at the beginning," whispered Sassark. "It apparently been the standard tactic for years. Keeps the crowd happy." T'rall flicked his eyes around, glancing up at the crowd for a second. He was looking for one face in particular, singling out Fern in a private box off to one side. "Well, if the crowd wants... we should provide," whispered back T'rall. "Guys, are you ready. When I give the signal, charge them. Go straight out, as hard as you can, but stay in your rows. Then, when you're on top of them front row, you drop and hug the ground, back row, attack over them. We should take one or two of them out and break them up, the rest will scatter. Grab any weapons you can and keep moving. We'll regroup just past of where they are now." There were small nods of understanding, one curious look from a feline and T'rall growled, eyes fixed on the approaching horde. "Steady..." he began to whisper, watching them approach, his fin-crest beginning to raise up slowly. "Steady..." the opposing team was less than twenty metres away and beginning to break into a run. "Now!" T'rall shouted and his team leapt forward as one. The opposing team, paused and looked around in surprise. They were only a few steps away and the felines and wolves dived to the ground. Instinctively, the other team changed their stance to go for the first wave when the second wave hit. T'rall had picked his target, the equine who had carried him out of the hotel room. He felt his claws find the seam and rip though the armour as if it were butter, his jaws snapping around the exposed throat, hot blood spurting over his scales as he twisted his head. The horse had just enough time to give a strangled whinny of surprise before his windpipe was crushed, his body falling to the sand. T'rall grabbed the sword as it fell from his hand and continued moving, slashing at another body in his way as he powered past. He cleared the team and kept moving. Thudding forward another five paces before spinning and sliding to a stop. Sword raised in readiness. His team circled around him. One wolf, limping slightly, one horse and one minotaur both nursing slashes to the ribs. He looked at the other team. Three bodies lay in the sand, still spasming in their death throes. Another wolf stumbled and lent against a team-mate. T'rall hissed loudly. The simple action causing the other side to jump back. His team gave a cheer. "Now it gets difficult," he announced under his breath. "From now on, your own your own. I suggest you stay with your partner. Cover each other's back. Pick one target and concentrate on that while your partner looks out for you. Regroup when we can. Ready?" There were nods from his team. "Go!" he shouted again. His team started to spread out. Each picking someone on the other side and moving towards them. "Sassark," he whispered. "We'll take those bear dude. I think they're the biggest threat." He saw the snake nod out of the corner of his eye and together they began to advance. They started to move to one side to circle around the bodies. The other team looking nervous and breaking formation. T'rall's team began to spread out. There was a clang as the wolves began clashing with their opposite number. T'rall stopped and pointed to one of the bears, singling him out. Strangely distant, the roar from the crowd was enormous. The two bears began to advance together, both were equipped with huge broadswords. T'rall gripped the handle of his own and watch carefully, his brain taking in all of the battles around him, recording everything and plotting the positions of everyone involved. He broke into a run, his crest-fin lifting as he began to scream. The bears did the same, hollering out their battle cry. The distance between them closed, he swung his sword, blocking the first blow and dodging the swing from the second. His tail flicked around, striking one bear on the face, swapping hands on the sword he swung it around, catching one bear on the thigh. The sharpened blade slicing through muscle until there was the dull thump as it hit the bone. The bear dropped to one knee, bellowing out in pain. Its partner swinging for T'rall's head. He lifted his shoulder, taking the full force of the bone jarring impact on his shoulder, his armoured pad, buckling, but not breaking. He twisted, catching the blade between the spikes, forcing it from the bears paw. He jerked his own sword, but it was lodged to deeply in the bone. He let go, ignoring the pain in his shoulder to lash out at the wounded bear. The beast gave a bellow as his talons ripped across its face. T'rall jerked to one side as the other bear swung its paw against him. He fell, rolling to one side, hand grabbing the hilt of the bear's dropped sword, bringing the point up to slip it between the chinks in the bear's armour. The creature gave a strangled moan of surprise, gripping at the blade as he fell forward onto his knees, then plunged forward onto his face, sword protruding from his back. He heard a scream and brought his head up in time to watch Sassark bury his pike into the remaining bear's face. The bear was strangely silent as it fell back, blood oozing from its body. T'rall gave a nod of thanks and put one foot on the bear's leg, pulling his blade free. Sassark, followed suit and picked up the beast's sword, leaving the pike where it fell. "You ok?" asked the snake, panting a little. "Fine," muttered T'rall, looking around at the carnage. His side had the definite advantage. His wolves had adopted a pack tactic and had taken down the remaining equine, one feline and as he watched dispatched the last feline. Three of them were limping, but still on their feet. The other was panting on the ground. The two felines had singled out a wolf who was still putting up a fight, but that was not going to last for long. His minotaurs and equines had joined up and were in the process of slicing up the other wolf. He was mentally counting and looking for the missing pair. "You're bleeding," said Sassark. "I know," replied T'rall. "I'll live." "Not if I can help it," came a scream from behind him. Instinctively, T'rall dropped to one knee, spreading his fin and hefting the sword behind him. There was a thump, pushing him forward and a groan. The lizard rolled forward, leapt to his feet and spun around. Behind him a badger lay in the sand. Blood oozing from the sword wound to his stomach and the line of holes down his face caused by the lizard's spine. There was a scream and T'rall looked up, a second badger approaching, his eyes glowing in anger. He swung his sword wildly, T'rall blocking and dodging, the badger's strength driven by the helplessness of his situation. The lizard, stumbled over a body and the badger shot forward, sensing his opponent's weakness, T'rall's sword was knocked from his hand and the lizard's foot lashed out in desperation. He missed, but the badger stopped, his body still, but eyes moving wildly. T'rall rolled to one side, grabbing his sword, leaping to his feet and swinging in one smooth motion. The badger's head slid slowly off his body, lips mouthing silently as the body pitched forward, Sassark's sword still buried in it back. T'rall panted, looking around the blood splattered sand, his sword held at the ready. He became aware of the silence. The entire crowd was silent. His team began to back together slowly. T'rall looked around warily, watching the frantic action in the corporate boxes. "They're not sure what to do," guessed Sassark. "We've never won before." "They give us our freedom and let us go," growled T'rall. "That's suppose to be what happens," said one of the wolves. "Free us!" bellowed one of the minotaurs, his voice echoing around the arena. There were whispers in the crowd. T'rall could see Fern growing more and more agitated in the box. Something seemed to give and the rat stormed out. "I don't like this..." muttered T'rall, his eyes shifting around the arena. "Lets get out of here..." "We're going," yelled the minotaur. "We've won our right to be free." Together the group began edging towards the nearest set of doors. "Kill them!" came the high pitched scream across the arena. T'rall's head snapped up. On top of the wall, Fern was pointing to the team. "Kill them all," he shouted. "They killed the Mylay. The Goh shall not win!" "I've had it with him," snapped T'rall, grabbing the battered spear off the feline. His arm barely seemed to move and the spear flew from it. Straight and true, it buried itself in the rat's chest. Fern gave a strangled squeak of surprise and fell slowly off the wall. There was a crunch as he hit the sand, his body lying still. "Anyone else have a problem with us leaving?" yelled T'rall, waving his sword to the whole arena. The audience was silent. "Lets get the hell out of here," whispered T'rall. "Seconded," muttered Sassark as the team finally made it to the doors. They stepped into the darkness beyond, T'rall half expecting to find the place filled with guards, but it was empty. Grabbing a towel, he wiped the blood from his face and did his best to cover the wounds on his chest, wincing a little as he inspected his shoulder. The team did not stop until they were out of the arena and into the streets. The dispersing audience giving them a wide berth. Outside, they said their farewells, each team member having set plans with what they wanted to do. T'rall was headed for the hotel to pick up his stuff and have a few friendly words with the manager. When he arrived, he found the place deserted, but his bags and belongings sitting on the counter waiting for him, along with a large sum of credits. He handed the credits to Sassark who was tagging along with him. "Where are you going now?" asked the snake, looking at the large sum of money in his hands. "Off this rock," muttered T'rall. "Just somewhere where I can laze in the sun and not get kidnapped. Somewhere scaly friendly. "Sounds nice," admitted Sassark. "You?" the lizard asked as he hailed a transporter to the spaceport. "Not sure," said the snake. "Now that Gyhing is gone, I don't have any ties to this place. I never expected to live, so I never made any plans for after." "Well," said T'rall slowly. "You handled yourself well out there today. I know some people who may be interested in your skills. But I won't be able to introduce you until after my vacation." The snake seemed to perk, then sag again. "Oh..." he said. "You're welcome to join me if you like," offered T'rall, looking over his scaled friend. "We are partners after all." "We are?" hissed Sassark, cocking his head curiously at T'rall. "Well, I hope to be, if you'll accept..." smiled T'rall, a little bashfully. "I do," hissed Sassark, his tail snaking around T'rall's waist. "I do."