Chapter 9

The congregation has departed.

Zulmak, impaled by a lesser blade, has failed.

The congregation is foolhardy.

Zulmak spins.

Lodged in his flesh, the blade snaps, its wielder now weaponless but for an edgeless grip.

Zulmak crushes the assailant with a single, mighty blow, but the damage is done.

The horde piles on, weighing him down. Cutting. Slicing.

The would-be champion is swallowed by the mass.

Across the Pit, the attention of the combatants shifts. They turn on each other. There is no more champion, so a new champion must claim victory. The sword logic demands it.

Beneath the mound of writhing bone and claw, those who rushed Zulmak poke and prod, killing all beneath their weight.

Then movement. And a terrible scream.

The heap quakes and pulses.

Then, a powerful thrust. Bodies fly, and an angry shape stomps forth.

Zulmak, impaled a dozen times, perhaps more—decorated in blade and hilt—roars.

All eyes fall upon him.

He slumps, breathes heavily, then stands.

The heap continues to writhe.

Zulmak climbs its uneven slope, crushing the weak underfoot.

Reaching the bony peak of bodies living and dead, the wounded champion issues a challenge—a gut-born, ragged battle cry.

Zulmak, the Impaled.
Zulmak, the Unfelled.
Zulmak, the Destroyer.

The horde charges.

Clambering to reach him, high above the pile.

And when they do, they offer themselves, one after another, to his devastating embrace—sacrificing themselves to the champion, to the logic.

They are not worthy.

But maybe—maybe—Zulmak is.