The markets where slaves were viewed and sold were all outside the western city gates. There, the sprawl spread for miles into the distant horizon. There were no roads and it was difficult to navigate the sprawl. Colorful tents and signs littered the area creating pathways which twisted and turned with no end in sight. There was also the occasional large structure surrounded by tents, stalls and sleeping mats. These were the arenas where only the strongest and most vicious of battle slaves resided. It was truly a vast area where slave merchants, their guards, patrolmen, interested buyers and gawkers moved about in a chaotic throng.
Despite the abundance of color, it was a dark and dreary place filled with a discordant din that mingled with the sound of mourning and the woeful wails of the enslaved. Pits where slaves were thrown to fight and kill were littered about the area haphazardly without any real rhyme or reason. These were the cheapest of battle slaves, ones barely worth their price in Ducats. The more robust and well built arenas were where the veteran and elite battle slaves were housed, bought, and sold. Only those slaves who could survive the pits would be allowed to enter into an arena where they would be able to obtain some semblance of luxury. In this case, luxury meant three meals, a straw mat, and a whore.
Where the slaves were located was in stark contrast to the beauty and affluency of Kordusk. It was like two sides of the same coin, where one side was polished and gleaming and the other was covered in grime and dirt. The residents of Kordusk scoffed at the filth and degeneracy of the slave markets outside of the city and at least in public, denied ever setting foot there.
Only slaves which were exceptionally skilled or beautiful would be allowed to enter the city and be sold at slave boutiques located throughout. These were upscale and luxurious stores where only the most premier of slaves were sold. These slaves were not battle slaves however and were suited for more skilled tasks. They would either be purchased by the government to maintain the city, by craftsman to work as skilled laborers, or by the residents to serve as maids, servants, sex slaves, or all of the above.
Aleks wasn’t interested in perusing such luxury slaves and instead headed into the slave markets outside of the city. The stink and filth of the place didn’t bother him as he had even lived in a sewer for a brief time. He had no hesitancy in entering such a place, it was more so the stink of their souls which caused him to feel a bit of discomfort.
Despite the chaotic nature of the slave markets, they were relatively safe. Not only were there numerous guards patrolling the vast area, but even the slave merchants had many guards in their employ also keeping the peace. It was necessary to keep the area clean of riffraff to ensure business went smoothly. Any slave merchant who didn’t follow the letter of the law would lose their sales licence and would no longer be able to do business in the city. Of course, this was only within the range of influence of the city itself. Outside the city limits these slave merchants had very few scruples.
Having Lenia by his side also helped to ensure that no one bothered him as he made his way through the various tents, stalls, and other setups while carefully observing the slaves within the pits. He had no intention of going into one of the arenas, which were circular wood and stone constructions where the best of battle slaves were housed. These arenas allowed the battle slaves to showcase their might and attract potential buyers. There was also many events held in the arenas which attracted gamblers from all over. Battle slaves fought in planned events, sometimes against other battle slaves and other times against vicious beasts or unique beings. Usually, these battle slaves would not fight to the death because they were much more valuable.
After looking through the various pits for over an hour, the two of them arrived at a pit which was just like every other. There was a hole dug approximately ten feet into the ground with a wooden fence surrounding the outer ridge of the pit. There were a dozen or so onlookers leaning on the wooden fence yelling towards the battle slaves fighting to the death below. It may seem a waste to have these slaves fight to the death like this, but in reality their lives were extremely cheap. They were all the lowest of basic class beings and only through combat and killing would their levels rise allowing them to eventually become an intermediate class being.
Most of them were Orcs, barbarian tribesmen and members of nomadic human tribes which were most likely captured on the Orgren Steppes. There was a constant stream of such people being brought to the slave pits on an almost daily basis from the Steppes. Every day, they would have batches of these slaves fight within the pits and those watching would place bets on the winner. The slave merchants would not only obtain decent profits from the betting, but they could even sell the winner of the fights for a price which ensured they would never be at a loss. They would only put on such displays once a day though to ensure that their stock was never too low.
At that time, there were ten slaves fighting a free for all within the pit and Aleks had his eye on one particular large and fierce looking Orc which was bashing the head of a human into a rock. The other slaves seemed fearful of him and they decided to temporarily put their fighting on hold to surround the Orc. Most of those in the pit were either of the barbarian or human races, but there were also two other Orcs in the pit.
“Which one are you looking at master?” Asked Lenia after noticing her master finally showing some interest.
“Do you see that large Orc there? I like the rage in his eyes. He is one who is unwilling to accept his fate.” Aleks replied.
Lenia followed her master’s finger as he pointed to the pit below. There, a rather muscular and large looking Orc, was roaring at the other slaves who were surrounding him. He had just killed a human and thrown the body to the side after smashing its head.
Lenia looked on with a bit of disdain, “Just a weak Orc, nothing special.”
Aleks chuckled, “You are wrong. It is true that if you compare only level and class then yes, he is weak. It would only take you a mere second to kill him, but the rage and hunger thirsting in his soul is much to my liking. This is an inherent strength that you can not learn with just effort. It takes a fiery will and strong desire to birth such rage. This is the Orc I have been looking for.”
“Why an Orc? Is there something special about them?” Lenia asked.
She was clearly looking down on her master’s decision to seek out an Orc as his next subordinate. She was feeling slightly jealous because she had been unique as his first and only creation. Now, he wanted to create more subordinates which she felt would no longer make her unique. Also, she hated the idea of sharing Aleks with anyone else. Especially an Orc, which she felt somewhat disgusted by.
“If we were to follow your line of thinking, than is anyone special? Is there anyone worth my effort? You look down on these people because they are slaves, but they are at least slaves by force and not by choice. Where I originally came from, there were no slaves and all men were free. Yet we were all slaves of our own design. In my opinion, these people here are more worthy of life than others because they struggle to live even though they know their lives are valued so little….”
Whereas I, who was valued so much, struggled so little and in the end died an honorless death. Those words he left unsaid for he couldn’t bring himself to speak them out loud.
Lenia was confused by what her master said and her face grew red at his sharp rebuke. She wanted to speak, to say something to defend her words or to find fault in his, but when she looked at his profile from the side she couldn’t help but feel a certain desolate emotion radiating from it. This was something from his past, something she couldn’t relate to or understand. Lenia was at a loss at what to say and could only stare at her master hopelessly, feeling distant as if she were never meant to share his world.
“Orcs have naturally strong bodies and are suited for aggressive and wild combat. They receive a bonus to their PHY. ATK. value and their Vitality through their bloodline. Most importantly though, I need an Orc for my future plans. Orcs are a relatively xenophobic race and they will be difficult to deal with as they have great numbers and are quite fierce. Not to mention all of the competition we are going to have once we arrive at the Orgren Steppes. My plans require an Orc on the inside, one who can move the Orcs as we will and use their power against our enemies and that’s why I chose him. Is that satisfactory?”
Aleks’s voice was tinged with anger but he held back when he noticed Lenia’s somewhat fearful expression. His voice immediately softened as he couldn’t stand to see any fear in those eyes so reminiscent of his sister’s.
“I’m not angry at you, I’m angry at myself. Now watch.”
Aleks pulled Lenia over to his side and they watched as the Orc struggled against the several opponents in the pit. Lenia was still feeling somewhat nervous and even though her master had not blamed her for her willfulness, she still felt as if she were to blame for his anger. Nonetheless, she watched the brutal fight below in order to take her mind off of her thoughts.
The Orc was clearly stronger than his opponents. Even though his opponents had some makeshift weapons of bone, rusted iron, and stone, they were incapable of gaining any clear advantage. As the fight dragged on, the Orc slowly whittled away at their numbers and eventually overpowered the group, killing them with his bare hands or anything that could be used in the environment as a weapon.
The last Human to die had been lifted off the ground and strangled to death before being thrown haplessly to the ground as the Orc roared out in defiance. All the while, Aleks stared at him with unbridled admiration for his fearlessness in the face of adversity, even if he were just an ant that Aleks could easily crush.
“We must buy him at all costs.”