Ka’tho of Hezzrat left the ravaged camp site in haste, hoping to inform the guard Rasea of what had transpired. Their paths crossed and he informed her and her armed contingent of guards what had transpired. With the sounds of rowdiness coming from elsewhere in the evening, the desert raiders had claimed the lives of another arena team.
Ka’tho thought it prudent to inform Rasea that the slaves had stumbled upon a large camp about a day and a half from Valmiren. The party had done as told and pretended as though they had seen nothing. In the context of the town being so close, though, it was made clear that Valmiren had little hope of surviving a full on attack from such a continent.
After they parted, the monk Razin and Ka’tho bought some of the healing-infused pears from a child at the marketplace. Having spent all of their money to facilitate their resurrection, gladiator Mir and barber Nusakan had to take Ka’tho’s charity and accepted a pear each, knowing that it might save them from death in their first gladiatorial game the next morning.
Ka’tho took a moment to adjust his armor, adding and adjusting bones on its exterior to make himself more visually intimidating. Fellow thri-kreen Qir’ick arrived and began to question him about this action, stating that as a user of the The Way, he needed no such armor, and could bolster his defenses through force of will. Ka’tho, himself a psionic battlemind, tried to wrap his head around this concept.
That evening the party kept a very diligent watch and found that the night passed with thankfully little trouble.
In the morning, their merchant companion Dieber arrived to invite them all to breakfast at the home of Yarma, the chef for the local tap house. He boasted that she had acquired cheese and eggs, and posited that there could be no better way to start a series of games than on a full stomach. His enthusiasm made Nus suspicious enough that he left to attend to “very important business.” Razin followed out of curiosity only to find that Nus had gone to the tap house for a standard meal, some kind of fried meat.
Hezzrat representatives and fellow slaves Barthomar and Hurgen met the party at Yarma’s home to eat, though they mentioned that they would not be participating in the game that morning. The elf woman had many questions for the party and easily made conversation. She explained that she had a sister in Altaruk who sold knickknacks from the silt sea that had been polished from exposure to the silt. She also made mention of an apprentice cook who had yet to fall into his knack for it.
The most interesting conversation piece, though, was of the nature of the supposedly living arena for which Valmirren was lauded. Ka’tho inquired further into the nature of gaining favor with the pit, and Yarma explained that having the blood of thousands of people spilled upon its sand infused the arena with a mind of its own, that had moods that came and went and even would go so far as to judge and test the fighters in it. “It’s like fighting in the brain of another being,” she said. Particularly of late the arena had become overgrown with shrubs and blood trees. The party digested this information and their meal as they went back to camp to rest until the games began.
Kai, the organizer, arrived to explain that because of the sheer number of teams, the first day’s game would pit the gladiators against the pit itself. He was vague as to the nature of how this worked, explaining that you had to “survive until the pit lets you out.”
Kai directed the party to the caves from which they would enter the arena and wait with the other gladiatorial teams for their turn to begin. There they met with a child from the village and several guardsmen, among them the polished guardsman who kept himself in good order. The slaves were directed to the fourth cave, which they would share with the teams from House Wavir and Stel. One of Wavir’s half-giant gladiators acknowledge the team with hungry eyes, looking forward to seeing them “later.” Nus burned incense as the party looked with wary eyes at the other teams that eyed them with equal suspicion.
The party was ushered up to the wooden and bone entry portcullis by Kai and thrown into the arena as two bloodied combatants fled out of the other side. A bell sounded, and from magic or some other means a booming voice introduced the slaves of Hezzrat to a roaring audience.
Ka’tho and Mir entered, followed by Nus and Razin, into a pit smaller than they were used to filled with flora. Cacti of many shapes, several blood trees and bramble bushes littered the area, and they knew something was amiss when they felt the ground heave and vines squirm beneath their feet. The exit at the far side of the arena was suddenly overcome with thorny vines that barred exit.
Nus drew his sword and set an arcane ward around himself, disguising this action from the rest of the party. He smeared an arcane salve around his neck that boosted his awareness and reaction time, further bolstering his defenses. Ka’tho felt a barrel cactus sidle up beside him and initiated his new bone mace with a blow that blew the plant backwards. He noticed it had eyes and arms with tiny, spiny fists. Mir charged forward and both she and Ka’tho were assaulted by the thorny brambles, who stuck in them tail-like vines with spiked ends.
Nus and Razin had a moment of realization and decided to coordinate their attacks. Razin leaped from behind Ka’tho into the fray, delivering punches and kicks to both cacti and bramble bushes and circling back around to end right in front of the kreen. Several of his attacks destroyed harmless cacti, and the party realized that not everything in the arena was an enemy.
Despite using both a noose-lasso and his trademark chemical compounds, Nus failed to wrangle one of the blood trees into striking range. He threw down a glass bomb at Razin’s feet that exploded into a cold vapor that iced over the nearby plants and invigorated Razin and Ka’tho, as the incense he had burned earlier changed its biological effect on the party. He noticed that one of the cacti in the blast radius remained unfrozen and saw that some feet away, behind the nearest blood tree, a palm cactus instead took the damage.
Ka’tho surged with psionic energy and blasted the nearby plants away, violently ripping the bramble’s spike out of his ankle. Mir did not have time to react, and the spike lodged in her chest drained blood into the bramble she was facing, and it seemed to visibly look healthier.
The barrel cactus that had suffered multiple blows from Ka’tho, Razin and Nus was near death and reflexively ejected all of its spines out at the three slaves. Ka’tho and Razin took the brunt of them and were sedated by its poisons, unable to attack or make efforts to bandage or defend themselves. Nus took the opportunity to slide around them, only to be grabbed by the blood tree that he had earlier tried to dislodge. Unable to do much else, he drew his obsidian sword and cut away at the brambles that had assaulted Ka’tho, destroying them.
Mir was dragged across the arena floor by the spike in her chest and found herself separated from the party and flanked by a patch of brambles and a saguaro cactus. She cleaved at them both using her gouge but neither fell.
Ka’tho used his psionic ability to hinder the movements of his enemies, sliding them about the floor of the pit when he sensed that they were about to move. He smashed his maul into a barrel cactus and found again that the palm cactus somehow took the blow instead.
A second barrel cactus, heavily wounded, ejected its spines into Nus and Razin, pacifying them. The blood tree nearby grabbed them both and pulled them near it, restraining Nus and attempting to crush Razin. Nus used his fey ability to step through the grasp of the tree and tossed a healing salve to Razin, who was able to slip out of its grasp and wedge himself in a corner. The palm cactus, much closer to him now, began to stitch up its wounds.
Mir missed the bramble and was pulled further across the arena as the entire party was assaulted by hails of spines and a viscous red fluid. The blood tree, palm cactus and brambles shifted around the area. At the end of the pit the vine curtain blocking the exit drew itself back. Nus was the only slave with an opportunity to escape.
Ka’tho found himself dazed and both he and Razin were heavily wounded. Nus tossed a defensive ointment to Ka’tho and a vial of poison at the palm cactus, disrupting it long enough for Razin to kick it away before it exploded into flesh and seeds. Ka’tho was grabbed by the blood tree and swung about the arena, being pulled off into the corner before Razin and Nus came to his aid. They failed to pierce the blood tree’s thick bark, but Ka’tho was able to wrestle free of the tree’s grasp as it grabbed Nus and raised him into the air.
Mir smashed the brambles, freeing herself from its spiked tail as the saguaro spat a combination of poison and her blood into her face, dazing her. Nus, similarly limited in options, ignited his sword with a flammable oil and cut himself out of the tree as it howled and fell to the ground, dead. Ka’tho and Razin fell upon the saguaro cactus in combat with Mir, and as it died the entire party fled the arena, feeling more plant life erupting from the ground in preparation for the next team.
The slaves of Hezzrat had survived their first battle without any casualties, but the infused pears they had purchased just the day before had all been consumed for healing in the course of the battle. Hopefully their winnings would afford them more preparation for the next.