Heads of the Hydra is a Wulfgard Fan-Fiction by Thomas "Major-Tom" T. in which a young slave named Ewan Harper is taken to the gladiatorial rings at Caltha, and forced to fight for entertainment. Being a young man from a small Imperial village, Ewan's skills included chopping wood, fishing, and plowing and tilling fields, so combat was an alien idea to him.
Thankfully an older Northerner by the name of Jonas who was Ewans cell mate decided to take him under his wing and mentor him. Jonas taught him enough in a day that when Ewan first entered the ring he managed to kill a man, however reluctantly, and escape with his life spared at the hands of a Southerner named Erkos who would become his friend later.
Jonas goes missing and Ewan and Erkos are forced to room together and learn to fight with each other to secure their livelihood earning the nickname "The Hydra" by the multitudes of fans they began to gather. After winning a few fights, Ewan and Erkos became reunited with Jonas who began forming a plot to help the two escape like he had.
The escape doesn't go very well, and Erkos, Ewan and Jonas are hauled off to the grand arena to participate in a grand execution in which they'd be fighting for their lives one last time. Fortunately, Erkos daughter who happens to be a mage manages to distract the guards long enough to allow the three to escape down the halls where Jonas eventually gives his life so that the other two may go free.
You can find the link to the story here or by clicking on the title under "Brief Plot". Please give it a read, as I have left out many intricate details.
Part One: Crime
The wind whipped across the plains of Illikon and kicked dirt and debris into the faces of the imprisoned men and women whose lives had been forfeit to the Empire. There were fifteen of them all tied in a line by metal chains, and on either side they were flanked by Imperial guards escorting them South down the road towards the city of Caltha. They had been traveling for days, and all were tired, bent and broken. Yet still they marched, for the fear of the whip was greater than the fear of death itself on their fourth day of restless travel.
The sunlight quickly faded from the sky cascading into pinks and hues of magenta before plunging into darkness; they all adored that beautiful, beautiful darkness. For the darkness signaled the end of the day, and the end of the slaves’ labor, but as the shackled bodies began to set down in the mud for the night, there was a crack of a bull whip on the air. A young hooded woman shrieked and threw herself back up on her feet as a fresh line of blood trickled down her back, staining the wool of her blouse. Tears ran from her eyes creating clean walkways down her cheeks as she shuffled forward with the rest of the group.
A tall man with a dark cloak and bushy grey eyes rode up with a freshly painted scowl on his face. He charged to the front of the column, and passing the two covered wagons pulled by grey horses, he shouted out to the slaves.
“There will be no rest tonight, vermin. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to cover it in before the games begin,”
The slave driver reeled his horse and circled back behind the group of men and women who marched stalwartly forward. Their blistered feet left trails of blood behind them, but not one of them dared ask that they be put in the wagon, unless of course they had a death wish. Slave driver Roderick was keen on dealing out fatalities among the slaves. Everyone knew that.
They marched until one of the Imperial guards pleaded for a rest, and even that respite however welcome, was quite short lived. Only an hour passed before the group was once again on their feet and rustling forward into the black of the night with only the guards’ torches to guide their blind eyes, and their thin shirts to warm their slumped bodies. It was a pitiful sight to behold indeed.
The night was dark, but his eyes were keen and sharp. The pain in his feet kept him awake and trudging on at a brisk pace. He was a tall man with long brown locks that hung to his shoulders and curled with the matted sweat from the long march. His face was thin from lack of food, and his lips were chapped from the wind, but he had once been a handsome sort, and one could tell upon looking into his dark brown eyes that he possessed a sharp mind, and a sharper tongue.
She fell down again; the woman who had been whipped had lost a lot of blood and could barely stand. With a sigh, the elderly woman took a swan dive into the dirt landing flat on her face with a sickening crack. He was at her side in an instant, trying to help her up.
There was a crack, and the man with the dark eyes shouted in pain as the whip descended onto his back, dropping him to his hands and knees. He growled as the hooves of the slave drivers' horse clicked into place in front of him, and two metal boots plopped down from atop the saddle. A steel gauntleted hand pulled him up by the back of his shirt.
“Up, boy,” the slave driver snarled clutching the bull whip, “this woman is none of your concern,”
“She is old and weary,” the young man bit back, straining the cuffs that bound his tan wrists, “she’s lost too much blood to go on,”
Once again, he was dropped to the ground, only this time it was a metal hand that slapped him across the cheek. He could feel his eye swelling as he hit the hard earth once again. His rage churned deep in his gut, and in a moment of desperation, his fist clenched around a rock. He snarled and made his body ready to attack the man with wild abandon, but the fervor in his soul was quelled as he locked eyes with the young girl who had been brought along as a slave among the rest of the group. Her large blue orbs pleaded with him to drop the weapon, and he did so, only begrudgingly.
“Up, boy,” grunted the slave masted again as he fit his gauntlet back over his thin fingers, “we can’t have another straggler,”
He rose slowly, dusting what dirt he could off of his trousers. He realized how foolish that was though, and soon dropped his hands to the hanging position demanded by the bindings on his wrists. Shooting a backwards glance over his bruised shoulder, he managed to lock eyes with the young girl who was crawling out from underneath one of the covered wagons once again.
“What should we do with her sir?” asked one of the fur cloaked caravan guards as the older woman squirmed helplessly on the ground, “we could load her on the back of the cart until we get to the city,”
“No,” replied the slave driver with a loathsome smirk, “sever her ties. Let us see how she fares on her own out on the plains,”
“But Sir Roderick,” protested the same guard, “she is old and unwell, she’ll surely die if we leave her. She’ll be easy prey for the scavengers of the night!”
Roderick’s smile vanished from his face as he turned to address the other slaves, “She is a criminal, and a thief at that,” he said as he stepped over the decrepit woman, letting a dribble of saliva land on her clothing, “let the beasts and the marauders decide this ones punishment. She’ll be no further inconvenience to us tonight. Men, push them forward. The rest of these have had too much of a break as it is,”
The guards reluctantly passed over the woman after removing her shackles, leading the small group of men and women forward towards the gates of Illikon. The man with the dark eyes couldn’t force himself to move. Then the whip cracked, only not on his back. Roderick, pulled up behind him and shoved the despairing young man with the sole of his boot.
“Forward, Ewan,” he shouted, “before I whip you into a bloody pulp and leave you to bleed out with her,”
In all of his days, Ewan never counted himself as a coward until then. With the fear of the whip at his back, and the uncertainty of the future looming miles before him, Ewan marched forward with the rest of the slaves. After they’d put a decent amount of distance between them and the injured woman, he managed to steal one last backwards glance.
Her hand was raised out in front of her, desperately pleading for mercy. A lump caught in his throat as he slowly turned his head forward, locking eyes for the last time that night with the young girl who possessed the brightest blue eyes and crisp autumn hair. They lingered on each other for a moment, each measuring up the other in the brief moment that they shared. Ewan sighed, and with a tear in his eye and the frog threatening to burst forth from his broken and bleeding lips, he looked out in front of him and beheld the great walls of Caltha off in the distance. He hung his head in defeat and shame as his body methodically churned along with the rest of the poor souls towards their imminent doom.