We stayed in Parvus Turmeric Arbustum for a few more days after we returned the people that had been captured by the gargun. The towns people treated us like heroes, and spent several days celebrating. But Junia had a schedule to keep, so the caravan set back out on the road towards our next destination. We learned that we would be arriving there just as an annual celebration would be occurring.
We had several fairly uneventful days on the road before we reached the next town. Turmeric Arbustum was a larger village than any of the others we had visited so far in these lands. When we reached the town, we quickly noticed that the town was divided amongst two factions. Most of the houses and businesses were flying banners of either red or blue. The town was overrun with seedy looking characters, most of whom were also wearing some type of red or blue markings. We received some rather ominous warnings about the town having “two bosses”.
We decided to look around a bit before we committed to where we would be staying. Junia found a neutral spot outside of town to store the caravan wagons. Ulgaden and I did a quick scouting of the three inns that we had to choose from. The first inn was flying the colors of red, and we received some rather hostile looks and comments from scum who were hanging around it. The second inn was flying the colors of blue, and the men around it didn’t look any more friendly. The third inn seemed to be neutral, so we claimed the few remaining rooms that were available.
Junia conducted her business with representatives from both the Red and Blue factions. I did my best to keep an eye on her, just in case any trouble broke out. I figured that it was as much my duty to guard HER as it was her caravan. She also found a lead on where to sell the rare herbs that we had picked up in Heldir’s lair.
The next day, Junia and Morwenna headed out of town to meet with the buyers for the herbs. We offered to accompany them, but they insisted that they would be perfectly safe. So Maximus, Ulgaden and I decided to check out the local celebration and see about participating in some of the competitions.
We expected the competitions to be in good fun, but they very quickly turned deadly serious.
Ulgaden entered the combat competition, and even before he faced his first opponent, he encountered somebody that he had a past connection to. One of the other men in the competition was Kelus Riga, who was the son of the patriarch of the Red gang. Kelus was also the reigning champion, undefeated for many years. But the thing that drew our attention was his hat – Kelus was wearing a hat with a band made from the skin of a Koori. The sight angered me, but I could tell that Ulgaden was filled with a rage unlike any I had ever seen in him before. Ulgaden challenged Kelus, wagering his crystal blades against Kelus’ hat. It was a tough fight, but Ulgaden managed to defeat Kelus and claimed the hat as his prize. He had to be reminded that this was a non-lethal fight or he would have killed Kelus.
It was only after the fight was over that Ulgaden told me his story. That Kelus was one of the men who had murdered his mate, and was wearing her skin as a trophy. My answer to Ulgaden was simple – “When are we going to kill him?” We spoke in Koori to prevent anybody from overhearing us, and made our plans that we would not leave town without making Kelus pay for his crimes with his life. Maximus could tell that we were planning something, and cautioned us several times that we should not make trouble in the town – that it would hinder Junia’s future business.
I was surprised to hear a familiar voice calling out my name. I turned to see my brother Surtak on the other side of the combat field. Of course he was wearing red and wielding the crystal sword of our grandfather. He called me a coward and bragged to his followers that he would kill me. He ordered the combat field to be cleared and challenged me to meet him. Filled with rage, of course I accepted.
I turned to one of the Blue gang members behind me and asked to borrow his blue scarf. I tied it around my arm. I had chosen my side. If my brother had aligned himself with the Red, then I would fight on the side of the Blue. Before I stepped on to the battle field, I turned to Ulgaden and Maximus and told them “No matter what happens to ME, that Koori MUST die”. They didn’t understand why, but they agreed.
Despite my rage, I knew that I had to be cautious and fight smart. Surtak was a powerful, dangerous Koori and one of the best fighters that I had ever seen. He could very easily kill me with a single blow from our grandfather’s sword. My only advantage was that he was overconfident and still viewed me as the little brother that was no challenge to him. I would prove to him that I had grown up.
I allowed him to make the first strike. As expected, it was a powerful overhead strike that would have cut me in half if it had landed. But I anticipated it, and easily knocked it aside with my batons. This also left Surtak exposed, and I quickly struck him twice with the tip of my batons – once in the kidneys and once in the throat. He wasn’t expecting such a furious attack, and they left him surprised and stunned. Gasping and clutching at his throat, he dropped to his knees, and then fell on his face. I had gotten lucky, and was not about to give him a chance to recover.
I picked up our grandfather’s sword with my tail and flipped it back to Maximus and asked him to guard it for me. I then turned to Surtak with my claws bared. I intended to end his miserable life and make him pay for everything that he had done. A wall of his Red companions surged forward towards me. I looked behind me and saw that an equal number of men in Blue was stepping forward to face them. Although they didn’t yet know me, at this moment in time, I was the Blue’s chosen champion.
I raised my claw, ready to rip out Surtak’s throat. His eyes fluttered open and he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He told me that one of my cubs was still alive, that he had stolen my youngest, rather than kill him. He told me that if I killed him, that the cub would die. I hesitated, unsure of whether I should believe him… but there was too much at risk. I couldn’t take the chance.
With a final roar of rage, I used my claw to slice open his cheek… a mark to remind him of our encounter. In exchange for his life, I made him promise to return my cub to me. I released him, and surrounded by his men, he slunk away in defeat.
I knew that I had gotten lucky and caught him off guard this time. The next time we fight, he will be prepared and will not take me so lightly. I may not survive the next encounter, but I swear that one way or another, my brother will die.