Skull Lord died messily. Anausa decapitated him and nearly took his shoulder off with the follow through. Anatoma put up a good fight, but she couldn’t match Anausa’s endurance. Anausa persisted as he always did, cold and detached, fighting cautiously and patiently, avoiding injury.
And then he fought Brick.
Even over the roar of the crowd, Anausa could hear the bellow of the man’s taunts. “Hello, Butcher.”
The man towered over him. He normally fought bare-handed and unarmored, like some kind of an ancient gladiator, but tonight he was wearing thick leather and crude metal plates. Wearing the synthetic fabrics and smart metals of modern combat armor was against the rules of the arena, but nothing forbade the use of “antique” gear. It was considered more a costume than anything else, but Anausa understood its purpose right away.
It’d be hard to pierce. It’d be difficult to cut. It would make bleeding and wearing down the big bull of a man all but impossible. Brick wasn’t an intelligent fighter, but he wasn’t a stupid one. He’d know better than to chase a quick and nimble enemy around the arena. The longer the fight took, the smaller the arena would get as the walls were pushed in by death traps. And the closer the two of them had to fight, the more likely Brick would be able to win simply by catching Anausa and choking the life out of him.
“No? Nothing to say, Butcher?”
“Don’t call me that,” Anausa said, his voice the hiss and rattle of an angry serpent. Brick’s lips split like a wound into his sharp-toothed shark’s grin.
“I’ll call you whatever I want. I was there, Commander. I know what you are. I know why you ran. And once I kill you, everyone else in the system will, too.”
Brick raised his hand and a camera drone flew done to film him up close. His sneering face appeared on the vid screens, five stories tall, every pore and scar and drop of sweat broadcasted for all to see. The crowd went wild. “I am Brick!” he bellowed. The crowd roared. “I am a warrior! I am a fighter! I am a killer!” He paused, licked his lips like he was savoring the words he was about to speak. He pointed at Anausa. “But that man, Anausa, Anausa the Undefeated, Anausa the Immortal, is a monster! I tell you, he is to be hated! He is a creature more evil than any that has ever fought in the arena! And before I tear his head from his body, he will tell you himself of his sins!”