An attack on the nobles in the arena had resulted in all manner of states of alertness and security upheaval. With harsh treatment, gladiator lockdowns and strict schedule adjustments were enforced, as information was rumored to involve them in the event somehow. Entire groups of fighters were kept in their rooms, behind barred doors, and the guards had been doubled throughout the Ludus of Lord Lúcuma. There had been rumors that those responsible had been gladiators themselves, or at least a few that were involved, so a high degree of suspicion had been cast toward the servants as a result. Not to mention the state of alert the nobles remained in, especially Lord Lúcuma and his estate. And then there was the issue of the noble's pet Saiyan, the once-prized gladiator who had become a liability...
The small room that was Keel's home was dark, as only the faintest rays of afternoon sun passed through cracks in the rough, rocky wall and he sat motionless in chains around his wrists and ankles. The Saiyan sat on his bed, which was flat on the ground, the padding removed since his return from the arena after the battle against Courge. In fact, a lot of the privileges Keel had been given had been taken away, likely owing to the fact that Lúcuma had lost care of investment in a has-been and troublesome gladiator. The revelation of more Saiyans in the universe, the decay of loyalty, and the standoffish behavior had come to a head, and now Keel's lifetime of achievements had been forgotten, as the fighter was reduced to little more than a tool for whatever final uses Lúcuma had.
For Keel, it was a bolt of lightning, sudden and unexpected, one that changed everything. His life, everything he had been told, the people he knew, the small semblance of status and glory he had carved out for himself, was all gone. He had been escorted from the arena several nights prior, chained like a common criminal, held at stun pole point like some lunatic ready to react, and kept in his dark and cold room - or cell, really - awaiting the whims of a master who probably preferred if the Saiyan just died. It was certainly a far cry from what the once-prized gladiator had been, compared to what he was now, but there wasn't anything Keel could do about it.
I should have tried to escape during the attack, Keel thought, as he looked down to the empty metal plate at his feet. The days food at been dry bread, the instructors weren't even wasting nutrients on him anymore, so he kicked the plate aside with a clatter. If I'd have died, it would be better than living through this hell.
The guards came for him soon after, when it started to darken more. Two, specifically. They had a bucket with a sponge, and demanded Keel wash and prepare. He did as commanded, though the chains made it more difficult, and eventually was cleaner than he had been. A fresh pair of gladiator clothing was thrown his way, typical to Keel's attire in the arena, and he changed as instructed. Eventually the familiar voice of Rimoya was heard, as the old Canistelean appeared with a chest harness in hand; he approached and waited until Keel outstretched his arms, which allowed the thing to be slipped into place and locked.
"You're fortunate, slug," Rimoya muttered, as he pulled Keel's covered hands to his chest and secured them like a cross over his heart. "You get to enjoy some true noble hospitality tonight, even though you deserve a quick death for your insubordinate and treasonous behavior. But, Lord Lúcuma, in all his mercy has held true to his plans to hold an evening dinner with you present..."
Keel looked at the trainer from between his wet hair, which hung over his face. There was nothing but hate on the blue-skinned alien's expression. Clearly Rimoya had made up his mind, much like many others, and Keel was now an outcast of outcasts. There was a sting from being abandoned by everyone you knew, of course, but there loomed a larger threat that began to dominate Keel's mind - that after tonight, after he was used to prop up Lúcuma's status with nobles, there was no knowing what to expect...
"Let's go," Rimoya said as he gave the Saiyan a once over. "The transport is waiting..."
And once on the transport, Keel was left to his thoughts. He didn't know what to think of it all, however, as at present the Saiyan was kind of numb. There was a foreboding sense of dread, as though once this requirement was fulfilled, that would be that, and Lúcuma's full wrath would descend upon him. Or, maybe, Lúcuma would be pleased enough to give Keel some privileges back, and to resume his fights in the arena, so he could die with some dignity... but, really, it was the uncertainty that was the hardest, of not knowing the outcome or decision Lúcuma had in mind.
A nearby voice, opposite Keel in another seat that faced him, brought the Saiyan back to the moment:
"You listen to me, monkey," Rimoya leaned in close, his lip curled in a sneer, as he gave a harsh whisper. "I'm going to be beside you the entire evening. If you so much as look at a noble funny, I will end you. No hesitation."
Keel grunted, as he continued to stare at the transport floor panel. Seemed the old Canistelean wasn't done:
"I believe Lord Lúcuma is making a terrible mistake this evening, especially allowing you any kind of hand freedom to enjoy a lavish dinner at his own expense," Rimoya's words dripped with venom, a hatred expressed that the Saiyan had never seen before, which helped put the magnitude of the situation in the right place for Keel. "And just so you know... my acquisition team is already scouting for more of your disgusting kind. And once this dinner is done, I'll be joining them, to grab another monkey to train to dance for our master."
Rimoya seemed pleased by the reaction, as Keel glanced up at him.
"Something to say, slug? Go on."
With a scoff, Keel merely looked back down with his dark eyes, and resumed glaring at the metal panel in front of his feet. For a few moments Rimoya remained, but then stood and walked to the forward part of the transport, likely to check on arrival time. The other guards seated nearby remained alert, despite the fact Keel wore a chest harness - with his arms chained to that same metal vest, which restricted his length of movement - and his hands were angled toward his own face. That tended to lessen the attempts at using Ki to blast the hand coverings away, for fear of taking one's head along with the attack.
"We're almost there," Announced Rimoya as he walked back toward the group. "Two minutes. When we touch down, all hands will surround and escort the monkey, and then we walk him to Lord Lúcuma's dining hall... all eyes remain on him," Rimoya glanced to Keel. "At all times. No excuses. If he makes any move that isn't given by me, you take him down."
The guards nodded and confirmed, before they stood and prepared for arrival. The pilot of the transport brought the ship down toward the private landing pad of the Lúcuma Estate in a long, slow turn. It was probably to give any guests watching a chance to glimpse the ship arriving from inside the hall of the large manor. Finally, though, the ship touched down on landing struts, and the rear ramp-way descended to allow the group to walk out into the cooler evening air.
"Okay, walk," Rimoya said with a shove of Keel. "I hope you give me an excuse to end you... I really do."
Keel grunted, as he began to walk, the guards forming up around him. They each held weapons, looked alert, and were ready to act. Ahead, more servants - those of the more publicly presentable variety of the manor - opened the grand gates, but then motioned to a side entry for the arrivals. Keel was escorted to the side of the manor, where he entered through a servant door, and was finally brought through the kitchens, however before the group went further, Rimoya called a stop.
"One last thing, just to make sure things go smoothly," The old instructor reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out a sedative. "Don't move."
The small jab delivered a mild dose. Not enough to zone Keel out, but certainly enough to make him slow down and feel fog in the brain. The tension, the suppressed anger, it remained - but the impulse to act or think on it had lessened. In fact, Keel's expression softened from the scowl he usually had, and he seemed calmer. When Rimoya was content the sedative was in effect, he motioned with a hand, and had the escorts continue toward the public corridors of the large home. It wasn't long before the escort arrived at a very grandiose doorway, and Rimoya knocked twice, then all waited.
An order came from within to enter.
The large wooden and carved doors opened, and the procession - with Keel in the center, eyes a little vacant and chained - stepped through and into the waiting hall...
The gladiator apprehended after the failed attack had perished from severe injuries received during his questioning - but not before he told his interrogators all he knew. Namely, that the assault was planned by Victus City rebel leaders, the identities of which he, unfortunately, couldn't provide; that someone in the highest nobility had provided information on the gathering days before it took place; that the original mission had been to kidnap Lúcuma as he was leaving the gathering, after most guests had already departed - but the ambitious attackers decided to instead take out the entire attending nobility, hoping to send the capital into turmoil; and that there were numerous fighters in Lord Lúcuma's Ludus who had joined the rebellion in some form. Needless to say, the governor was displeased and demanded that action be taken in uprooting the rebels who had gotten far too brave. Several more fighters from the same ludus - the ones most likely to have turned treasonous - had been taken for harsh inquiry. Some claimed to know nothing even with their dying breath, others desperately cried out names while begging for mercy. One zoanthrope listed so many fighters - and even guards - as traitors that the interrogators became convinced he was either purposefully trying to confuse them, or was actually quite innocent and just wanted to save his own furry hide by incriminating others. He died anyway, as did every single slave condemned to such questioning.
It took Father three days to make a decision, one he was forced to come to in order to please the governor. One that would cost him months' worth of profit, and dozens of gladiators - their lives. Every single one of them would have to be killed. If his people couldn't find out which slaves worked with the rebels and purge them, then the entire current batch would have to be scrapped - including all the prized warriors, and even most of the recently acquired aliens. The weekly games would be cancelled until new fighters were found and trained. No less than ten acquisition squads had already been sent out; a handful of gladiators would also be bought from other cities around Canistel over the next month. All in all, it was a considerable financial loss, but not a devastating one.
Tiyesa was appalled and guilt-ridden, blaming herself for allowing the plan to go forward when it was so poorly designed, and relied purely on the judgement of slaves that would be carrying it out. There was no time to languish in such emotions, however. She was needed more than ever now, to inform the rebels and help them make preparations for possible evacuation. Luckily, her father became so preoccupied with the arrangement of the upcoming slaughter that he didn't pay any mind to Tiyesa's frequent absence. His intention was to round up everyone at the ludus and execute them, the day after the dinner party. In turn, the rebel plot was to arrange a breakout on the night of the said event. The door locking mechanisms around the barracks would be disabled, and a riot would be initiated - along with a break-in by a squad of Canistelean middle-caste insurgents. Dissatisfied with their current treatment, most of the gladiators would doubtlessly seize the chance to escape. Rescue ships would be waiting in a designated location as well, equipped with cloaking devices and ready to take the liberated slaves off the planet.
The only one unable to use this opportunity to escape would be Keel. Sedated for the evening, he would likely fall into a comatose sleep right before the breakout started. Unless he was to be administered an antidote. However, none of the leaders were willing to dedicate resources and allow for additional complexity to an already convoluted plan by sending someone to the Saiyan's cell, with an injection that would help him regain focus and fight. A single slave was not worth the effort, especially when he would likely just get killed on his way out - as many others would, too. Not to mention the increased security at his door, due to the trouble he got himself into. Tiyesa was the only one insisting that he should be given a chance like everyone else. The meeting ended with a compromise - she was the one tasked with nullifying Keel's sedation.
As she stood in her bedroom, fastening the intricate injection device onto her right hand, Tiyesa wondered if tonight would end in another fiasco. This time, she wouldn't be there to witness it, which was arguably worse. What if every slave in the ludus, and even some of the Canistelean rebels, died during the attempt? Or what if some of them were captured and interrogated? Would her name and her treason be revealed, and would she end up in shackles before the next day broke? The young woman flexed her fingers, a sliding needle fixed to the index, the liquid capsule of antidote nesting in her palm, with the plunger activated by tensing her thumb in a certain way. This might be her last attempt at a good deed, ever. She had to make it count.
The lavish dining hall was filled with lords and ladies wearing their best attire and most expensive jewels, all trying to impress each other with the display of elegance and riches. Tiyesa wore a white silken gown with silvery ornaments, and a pair of long evening gloves that concealed the highly modified syringe strapped to her hand. Officially, the event itself had barely just started, but she had been conversing with arriving guests for the past hour. It was a relief to have a break from vapid small talk and senseless gossip as everyone turned to look at the bound Saiyan being marched in.
One might have thought that most attendees would be content seeing the slave warrior cuffed, the memory of attempted assault on nobility still fresh in their memories. On the contrary - most were disappointed at the sight of chains, murmuring among themselves in low voices. Had there been any highborn casualties, the function would have been cancelled altogether, no doubt about that. But given the rebel failure, it was mostly just a source of hilarity for those below Lord Lúcuma - his own slaves rising up against him! He had to regain everyone's respect, show he was still in control. Save face, essentially. Cancelling the promised event, or even choosing to remove its main star, would have been an additional reason for mockery. It didn't take a genius to realize that most people attending this dinner were secretly hoping for another catastrophe to happen, something that could knock the governor's favorite down a peg. Sadly, the chances of that happening were quite slim with the Saiyan restrained and guarded...
The sight of Keel's arms bound to his chest was upsetting to Tiyesa, too, although for different reasons. The massive hall was filled with smells of flavor-rich foods, multiple tables laden with various chef-made dishes and assorted beverages. He would likely have been starved during the recent days, as punishment for his perceived insubordination. Being unable to taste anything offered at this feast, while the noble guests gorged themselves as they gaped at him, would be a torture in itself.
Conversation was gradually resuming as the gladiator was brought to the center of the room. Nobody went up to him just yet, although curious glances were being cast. Rushing to examine him from up close would not be seen as sophisticated behavior, after all. Thus, most nobles continued placing choice morsels on their plates and filling their glasses with the finest vintages that could be found on Canistel, while chatting with acquaintances. Lord Lúcuma, who had already given a welcoming speech to his guests, was the first one to approach his prized warrior, his expression unreadable.
"You lost most of your privilege as punishment for signs of treachery," he spoke in a low voice that only Keel and his guards could catch. "If you can remedy that tonight by behaving well, you might just get back into my good graces. If not, you will be executed, as I'm sure you have been warned." He exchanged a look with Rimoya before adding: "I invested so much into your upbringing - killing you is not what I want. Prove your loyalty to me, and we will forget your little chat with that other monkey. Is that understood?"
Meanwhile, Tiyesa was drifting through the hall, seeking someone to facilitate the plan she had in mind. Another noblewoman - preferably a young, timid but curious one...
"Are you seeking company, my lady?" Tiyesa heard the familiar voice that made her suppress a groan. She turned her head to see Litchi approaching her, all smiles as usual. "I must say, you look marvelous - as always, really. Silver shines brighter than gold when you wear it."
"You're too kind, Lord Litchi," she said, cringing inwardly at the overblown compliment. "I hope you're enjoying the evening so far?"
"Oh, I am. As is my father - he was most curious to meet your brute," the lordling used his drink-holding hand to indicate something at the other side of the room. Tiyesa followed the motion and saw Lord Ackee conversing with her father - and Keel.
"I have to admit, this is one impressive specimen," Ackee was saying, looking the gladiator up and down. Having approached while slave and master were exchanging some hushed words, the stout lord had a feigned expression of admiration on his face as he pretended not to realize he was barging in. "I've been trying to catch a Saiyan for ages - lost an entire acquisition squad in one of those attempts, too. Shouldn't have tried to capture an adult one."
"Yes, Saiyans are notoriously vicious and bad-tempered," Lord Lúcuma responded coolly. "I don't think you have the resources to capture one, or masters good enough to provide training, if you manage to get a toddler."
"You might be correct, my friend," the good-natured words made Lúcuma frown suspiciously. Ackee was not usually one to admit being inferior to his competitors. "I probably wouldn't be able to keep the knowledge of his origins from the Saiyan for so long. That had to involve so much organized effort..." He turned his pale yellow eyes to Keel, then. "Tell me, were you enraged when you found out more of your kind exists? It must have been quite a shock... how do you feel about your master now, knowing he hid this knowledge from you?"
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 1,767 || Total word count: 1,767 || Post #1
There was a stir of attention from the guests, one Keel was used to though mainly from the arena, and a good number of eyes turned toward the bound Saiyan as he entered. The edges of Keel's vision blurred, his movements felt delayed, but nonetheless he was walked into the center of the room by Rimoya and the guards and presented to the crowd. The reaction seemed mixed, but Keel wasn't in any mental state to register much of that, as he looked around slowly with a half-lidded stare. The smell of the food, however, immediately assaulted Keel's senses, and the Saiyan looked across to where it was placed and couldn't help but feel his mouth water. Compared to what the gladiator was used to, save the odd 'rewards' throughout his life, it was like stepping into another culinary world that could only be dreamed of... and all it did was make Keel's inner rage boil more.
"Don't move, monkey," Rimoya hissed, as he leaned close to Keel and spoke. "I know of the Saiyans' appetite. So, if for no other reason than to indulge in some of this food, behave."
Keel was seen as a pet, after all, and his masters saw momentary accolades with higher standards as enough to sate his life beneath them. Rimoya's offer of the lavish and expensive food across on the tables was just an extension of that, which was seen as enough placation to keep Keel playing nice and friendly, despite his owners knowing his true feelings. Or at least suspecting. For Keel, the platters were just another reminder of how low his station in life really was, and how opulent the nobility of Canisteleans really were, and it was enough to add more fuel to the fire inside. But, the sedation held sway, combined with the simplistic thought of getting more than Ludus nutrient slop to eat, so Keel didn't react.
"Now, here comes Lord Lúcuma," Rimoya continued, as he straightened and smiled. "How you act in his presence, determines how you eat. Force fed by myself, or with your own hands... make your choice."
And when the nobleman arrived from through the crowd, Rimoya bowed and continued to smile, before he stepped to one side and gave his master room to approach and interact as he would. Keel, for his part, brought his half-lidded gaze back to focus on Lúcuma, as the Saiyan slowly considered Rimoya's words - if the gladiator acted as expected, his hands might be freed from his chest restraint. That meant opportunity. Try as they might, what with Lúcuma's honeyed words and proclamations of subservience and reward, Keel was skeptical. Still, a solid intake of food for energy and recovery, combined with - mostly - unrestrained hands, meant there was a chance for... something.
"I understand, Lord Lúcuma," Keel heard himself say, as he blinked. The response was automatic, his delayed mind caught up though, but Keel was thankful it had been favorable. He continued to try and push through the sedative effects, but it was difficult. "The other... monkey had nothing to offer, except problems. Complications. I'm simple, I only need a simple life."
Keel looked down, his vision wobbled, and he remained silent. He didn't show outward expressions beyond stoic and solemn, nothing but a calm, controlled and subservient indentured Saiyan. Inwardly, however, Keel was in the process of smashing Lúcuma's head repeatedly against the expensive tiling of the eating hall, as the nobleman screamed for mercy. Thankfully the sedation kept that urge from being realized. It also occurred to Keel that time had passed, while he thought about enacting his own form of justice on Lúcuma, and the situation had changed before him, as another Canistelean approached and spoken with the same self-importance of most nobility.
The words shared were heard by Keel, about the want of a Saiyan servant and acquisition squads, as well as Lúcuma's snide - but polite - remarks. The exchange between the pair was obviously forced, even Keel's sedative addled brain could see that, but they danced the dance anyway. Then the other noble turned to speak with Keel directly, with words that were pointed and blatantly aimed at baiting the Saiyan; Keel blinked, probably stupidly to those observing, before he fixated on the new arrival to the conversation and spoke...
"I have been raised since birth under Lord Lúcuma's household, in his prized Ludus, so there has been no experience of Saiyans to be enraged about," Keel said in a low tone, his black gaze didn't falter, as he stared at the troublesome noble. There seemed to be a familiarity about the Canistelean's features, as though Keel had seen them recently, but clearly hadn't met the individual before him. "My knowledge is limited to what I need know, based on what Lord Lúcuma wishes me to know. I am a gladiator, nothing more."
All Keel could do was focused with every part of his muddled cognitive function to say what he had. It helped the Saiyan had rehearsed over the last several days in his cell, of course, but even then Keel felt he could have done better. Either way, once Keel had said his piece, he looked down and remained silent - no doubt Lúcuma would want to interject and offer more politely snide remarks, as the pair lost interest in the servant and made everything all about them, again.
Pathetic, entitled narcissists. All of them.
From nearby, Rimoya inched forward, and offered a bow of his head to both nobles, before he waited for permission to speak from Lúcuma. When it was given, the older Canistelean lowered his voice and looked toward the table where the main meal would take place, before glancing back to Keel. "When you are ready, Lord Lúcuma, perhaps we can finalize the table arrangements for the monkey? He has maintained his obedient and subservient behavior for several days, and seems to understand the importance of continued mannerisms..." Rimoya looked back to Lúcuma. "Perhaps allowing arm movement for the purposes of dinner, with the guests, is permissible? Guards will be close by with stun poles, of course."
Keel didn't react, he simply remained still and stared ahead, and waited to hear what Lúcuma thought of the proposition...
It seemed that the tactic of starving the pet monkey had worked wonders. That, and the sedatives. He was sufficiently submissive, probably so famished he would even perform circus tricks for the crowd just to be fed some leftovers. Lúcuma was content with the result, the verbal responses and the body language both indicating obedience and loyalty. Not that he was fooled by that display, of course, but most guests would be, and that was the whole purpose. There was nothing the brute could do or say that would change his fate at this point. Quite possibly, he even realized that himself, especially if he truly was as intelligent as Rimoya seemed to believe; although the mere hope of being forgiven would keep him placid long enough.
"Certainly, we can finalize the seating plan now," Lord Lúcuma said to Rimoya, a glimmer of satisfaction in his eyes as he observed the retreating Ackee. His endeavor to provoke the Saiyan had failed, which must have been quite an embarrassment to the petty man. The slave's show of fealty certainly earned some reward. "I will allow some leeway. The monkey's arms can be freed once he is secured to the seat, no earlier. Come and inspect the chains to be used for his chair."
Lúcuma cast one last look at the gladiator before walking off towards the table, to show Rimoya the restraints that had been crafted specifically for this event. The guests would likely be quite amused by Saiyan eating habits - a certain amount of movement freedom was required for Keel to put on that spectacle. If he behaved well throughout the evening and left the nobles entertained, perhaps he would earn a swift and clean execution.
Knowing the tensions between Father and Lord Ackee, Tiyesa could guess that they were probably exchanging veiled insults while maintaining an outwardly civil conversation. That was their usual mode of interaction, wherever they met. Out of all the attending nobles who might or might not be hoping for some mishap to happen tonight, Ackee stood the most to gain in case of a security failure. Victus citizens would flock to his fighting pits if something were to damage Lúcuma's reputation, and thus his business.
"I must excuse myself, my lady... your company is charming as always, but I, too, wish to meet the brute," Litchi spoke and inclined his head in a polite bow before moving off towards Keel... just as her father and Master Rimoya went to the long dining table, leaving the Saiyan with only a pair of guards. Tiyesa watched him, feeling quite dumbstruck. During most similar gatherings, she had to struggle to shake the lordling off - he was sticking to her like a leech, ignoring most of her polite attempts to disengage from conversation. Now he left her willingly and almost in a hurry, which sparked a vague suspicion.
It was absurd, really; for once, Litchi chose not to bother her, and now Tiyesa was the one feeling the urge to stalk him. She hoped this wasn't just some mind game, an altered approach to the attempts at courting her - such as making her feel inquisitive by feigning indifference. After a moment's hesitation, she began trailing after him.
With all those chains on him, and his hands locked in a position that prevented energy attacks, the tailless monkey was not likely to try and cause harm in retaliation for that light prodding he received. Pity; Litchi had been hoping to provoke the Saiyan today. Letting one of his own gladiators to attack a competitor's heir would essentially destroy Lúcuma as a fighting pit owner. That blasted assault by the utterly inept rebels made it impossible, as did the monkey's own bid to find out his filthy origins. The security increase was so massive that even a wild beast would not dare to act out, and this particular beast seemed to be fairly tame to begin with. If he was promised mercy for good behavior, and lacked the insight to see through the lie, he would not give any cause for his master to be displeased. That had to be changed.
"You're being a good pet today, aren't you? Lord Lúcuma must be proud," he jeered, not too worried about the duo of guards closest to the slave - both of them had questionable loyalties and had taken Litchi's money before. "I see your wounds haven't healed that well; why, it's almost as if you weren't cared for at all since we last saw each other."
The lordling reached out to pluck at the stitches used to seal together a gash on the gladiator's side, making sure to cause some pain but not bleeding. There was still a glimmer of hope that the Saiyan would try and attack; mostly, though, Litchi was just tormenting him for personal entertainment.
"It amazes me how loyal you still are, even knowing you're of no use to Lúcuma anymore. Or are you expecting to regain your position as the prized warrior?" He glanced over his shoulder carefully, making sure nobody was within earshot; only Lady Tiyesa seemed to be close enough, picking up a glass of some beverage from a nearby table. Perfectly inconspicuous. That was fine; there wasn't anything she could do if she overheard the next part. Litchi sneered as he looked back up at the restrained slave. "Sorry to shatter your hopes, but he's planning to get rid of you as soon as tomorrow. I believe you'll have a training accident, as will a lot of your comrades."
It wasn't even a lie, although it wouldn't have been beneath Litchi to make something like that up. One of his spies, a servant in Lúcuma's own household, had overheard the family's conversation regarding the matter. It was also noted how opposed both Lady Ava and Lady Tiyesa were to such a decision. The former eventually agreed that it might be the safest choice, albeit brutal and financially damaging, and suggested that the slaves could be put down painlessly, with lethal injections administered during their sleep. The latter, however, was visibly outraged, and tried a number of approaches to change the patriarch's mind - all of them in vain. The resolution was final, and it would be carried out the day after the function where Keel would serve one last purpose - proving Lúcuma still had control.
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 1,066 || Total word count: 2,833 || Post #2
Keel stood idly by, as both Lúcuma and Rimoya spoke between one another, regarding the seating arrangements. It seemed the Saiyan's strategy to play the long game had worked, with permission given for both arms to be less restricted, which presented Keel with options. He still felt, though, that acting too early - like at the dinner itself - would be expected, and Keel would likely have numerous guards poised and ready with his state of comfortability. So, in order to avoid the obvious tactic, which would be to take advantage of the hand movement, Keel decided he would continue to placate Lúcuma and Rimoya so that they might lower their guard a little more in the days to come...
I'll act, later, Keel thought lazily, as his gaze drifted about the room slowly. When I'm not sedated.
The Saiyan paid little attention as Lúcuma and Rimoya stepped away, which left Keel in the middle of the hall with guards nearby, until a familiar face filled his sight line. Keel locked his dark-eyed stare onto the approaching individual, the shorter and leaner form, along with the narrow face, were indicators of the rodent noble. So it seemed the little lord was important enough to attend the gathering of nobility, which made Keel grunt to himself, as he watched the Canistelean step ever closer. There was also a vague recollection of the similarities between the little lordling and the other one who had spoken in Lúcuma's presence... they had similar features, similar walks.
Not important right now, Keel thought, as he fought to control his continued onset of rage inside. Focus... don't attack this fool...
When the rodent noble began to speak, Keel remained as passive and stoic as possible. He sneered in response, as the shorter Canistelean leaned in and began to prod with dainty fingers at the Saiyan's side, before he plucked at a stitch. Keel tensed, the chains jostled, as he bit his lip and accepted the small twinge of pain to his flank. He had bigger plans, ones that required no mistakes; and, even though the sedative did a lot of the work, Keel found it increasingly difficult not to headbutt the little lordling's nose, to smash it flat against his smug face, simply for the satisfaction.
"Night's still young," Keel muttered, teeth clenched, as he concentrated on every word through the medication. He stared, unblinking, at the other. "Enough time... for this pet to act up... if I cared enough. You can't goad me, little lord."
Keel felt he had achieved a small victory, as he relaxed and began to smile. However, that smile faltered when the rodent noble revealed that Lúcuma had other plans. Ones that - unfortunately - Keel believed, as the Saiyan had developed an accurate understanding of his owner. The nobleman was ruthless, had ordered the deaths of gladiators before, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Especially after the incident in the arena, both Keel's and the attack... and even more unfortunately, the words spoken by the lean Canistelean made sense, combined with the assurance he spoke with, and the utter enjoyment in his yellow eyes.
Things... are more complicated now...
"Doubt you know much," Keel continued, his words slurred every now and again. "But... looking forward to proving you wrong... don't die so easily."
Granted, the claim was made from Keel's perspective of fighting in arenas. Where it was all public. When it came to the Ludus, though, just about anything could happen, because of the enclosed and private nature of the compound. As it was, Keel would have to consider his actions tomorrow, whether he had enough time to escape during the guard change in the morning; perhaps there was a chance to speak with one of the guards under the rodent noble's pay, one of the bribed ones, to threaten to leak the knowledge if they didn't provide a key. But with the sedative still fresh in Keel's body, flowing through his veins, he found it difficult to precisely plan. And whether Keel liked it or not, he couldn't shake the feeling that, whoever the little lordling was, he told the truth... or at least enough for the Saiyan to see it as a real potential threat.
"I have... adoring fans, little lord," Keel said eventually, as he slurred again, but this time stood upright and somewhat jutted his chin out. It was a small display of defiance. "Why don't you... mingle and drink more wine, like... you're used to."
Keel's mind might have been foggy, but he knew that the nearby guards could hear everything. And the fact the rodent noble said such things, without worrying about those very guards, probably meant they were bribed as well. The Saiyan began to wonder if anyone in Lúcuma's employ had any loyalty, but also found the idea amusing, since the nobleman who owned Keel couldn't even keep his protection under check. That almost made the threat of death the next day worth the knowledge, because it seemed like everyone - from gladiators to servants to guards - were ready to deal behind the great Lord Lúcuma's back.
Without meaning to, and likely looking like he had lost his senses for the moment, Keel began a low chuckle right there in front of the rodent noble and in the middle of the hall. Perhaps it was the sedative, which might have elevated the humorous side of it all while simultaneously suppressing his anger, but it all seemed to be the funniest thing Keel had ever thought or heard. Lúcuma was in trouble, even as he sat on his perch and played with others like little toys on a board, completely unaware of who had hooks in whom.
Then, with nothing else to say to the little lordling, Keel just kept chuckling at him under his breath... that was, until the Saiyan heard footsteps beside him, and a familiar voice that brought Keel up short, if only to continue the ruse.
"It must have been a very funny joke," Rimoya said with suspicion, as he stopped beside the pair, and looked from one to the other. "Do you mind if I hear it, Lord Litchi?"
Keel stopped the chuckling slowly, then looked down to the rodent noble, who's name Rimoya had just said - a name that had finally been revealed - to which the Saiyan felt a faint smirk on the edges of his lips. His dark-eyed stare bore into the shorter Canistelean, as the mysterious individual was now known to Keel, and that meant the separation and control of being strangers had just been lost.
Lord Litchi. I know who you are, now. Finally.
And that thought was expressed to the little lordling Litchi, as Keel's eyes held a dangerous glint in them, and the chains jostled again...
Positioning herself close enough to Litchi to eavesdrop, Tiyesa did her best to make it seem like she wasn't interested in his interaction with Keel. Her side was turned to the pair, her eyes scanning a table with a wide selection of refreshments as if she was trying to choose one. She heard most of their exchange, however, and liked none of it. It suddenly became very clear who had reopened the Saiyan's wounds after the last week's event; Tiyesa had forgotten all about it, her mind occupied with matters of greater import, but the memory came to her now that her brain made the connection. Litchi had been missing right before the gathering began and the gladiator was brought in... and now he seemed to be referencing some encounter the two of them had. The dots were easy to connect. She should have realized back then - the way he intercepted her attempt to approach Keel's guards should have tipped her off. There had been rumors about the little runt's inclinations, of course, but so much gossip about nobility was started baselessly, only to tarnish someone's reputation, that she didn't pay much attention... The young woman shifted her gaze towards the men for a brief moment and caught a glimpse of the lordling's fingers picking at the Saiyan's wound - a yet another proof, if she needed one. She clenched her teeth, fighting the urge to make her proximity known to them, just so the attempt at inflicting pain would cease. But she wanted to hear more, and that required letting Keel suffer.
Tiyesa picked up a glass of a deep maroon wine and took a sip, mostly to seem occupied with something. The next statement made her freeze momentarily, the glass still touching her lips. Once again, Litchi proved to know more than he had any business to; last time it had not been quite as impressive, though - he had found out something that was discussed over breakfast, with numerous servants attending, and some of those would be selling secrets to other noble families for a bit of bonus income. But the plan to execute most of the current gladiators was discussed briefly at their home, with no servants present, and then shared with a few of Lúcuma's trustworthy commanders, such as Rimoya. How could he obtain such sensitive information?
The reaction Keel chose to display at the revelation was attracting notice of some nearby lords, as they cast wary glances towards him. Tiyesa looked at him too, not hiding her concern anymore. An order had been given to execute him on the spot if his behavior seemed threatening in any way, and the threshold for what would be considered 'threatening' was set pretty low. Chuckling at something in this manner could make his guards feel tense... and they did seem anxious now, exchanging glances behind the gladiator's back as one of them readied the stun pole. That sedative must be clouding his mind too much. Luckily, Rimoya's return seemed to calm the situation somewhat. If he succeeded in chasing Litchi away, the sadistic creature would likely return to her and pester her for the rest of the evening... She had to prevent that somehow. After a brief consideration, Tiyesa moved towards the group, still clutching the drink.
"It's your choice, monkey," Litchi spoke coolly, dissatisfied with the response. Did the Saiyan really think he could escape the execution planned by his master, if he just kept acting obedient? "Don't let me goad you, instead let your owner usher you back into your cage. This function is your best chance at breaking out. If you go back to the ludus with all the guards and force fields present there, you'll never leave."
How much more obvious did he have to make it? Run the calculations of how many soldiers were posted at the barracks, versus the few handfuls scattered around the mansion? Point out that there were spaceships parked just outside? Well, maybe the brute couldn't even fly one, and that would mean nothing to him. True, his probability of successfully escaping would be low even now, with the sedation and the chains - but it would still be considerable, compared to trying to beat the ludus security. Could the dumb ape even determine odds mathematically, or was that too much to expect? To Litchi, it didn't matter whether the breakout attempt succeeded or not; he just wanted for it to happen, now, with all the influential witnesses present. If the Saiyan did escape, he could be recaptured later for Lord Ackee's pits, and that would be the optimal outcome - though not a necessary one.
"You'll die easily enough if Lúcuma wills it. Maybe you won't even wake up from the heavy post-sedative sleep tomorrow," the lordling narrowed his eyes, tuning out the slave's attempts to shoo him away. The audible chuckling, though, was quite acceptable. Maybe if the brute got prodded with a taser a few times, he would get more agitated and realize the precarious position he was in. Or perhaps the guards could even be startled into trying to end him on the spot... They did seem to be getting antsy.
Rimoya's return was rather unwelcome, but Litchi didn't let the sentiment show as he put on a mildly confused expression. "All I said was that Lord Lúcuma is a generous man, allowing a slave to attend such an extravagant function... I don't know why the concept amused him so," he shrugged. The Saiyan looked far too satisfied for some reason; what had caused that smug expression? Did he feel safe now that Rimoya was back? What an utter imbecile, if so. Or did he believe he had some leverage now that the master made Litchi's identity known to him? As if that would help him in any way... "If you'll excuse me, I have to refill my drink, and find someone who can hold an intelligent conversation."
He turned to go and felt someone bump into him, spilling a full glass of red wine all over the front of his beige dress suit. Litchi shot a startled look at his assailant.
"Please forgive me, Lord Litchi, I didn't expect you to turn so hastily..." Lady Tiyesa seemed quite distressed as she apologized for the mishap, her own white clothes miraculously intact after this unanticipated collision. He clenched his jaw for a moment, suppressing the rising irritation.
"That's alright, my lady, I'm sure we can sort it out..."
"Attendant! Come here," Tiyesa was waving over one of the servants now, not paying any attention to his words. "Please accompany Lord Litchi to the washroom, and try to take the wine stains out of his clothes. I believe we have the required cleaning agents to speed up the process. It shouldn't take long, I trust it can be done before the dinner starts - once again, I'm so sorry..."
"Please come this way, my lord," the attendant spoke after bowing courteously. It had always been a challenge to remain cordial with Tiyesa when she tried to escape his company, but Litchi usually took it as a challenge, and an amusing one at that - most of the time she clearly struggled more than he did, her emotions easy to read, her little insults entertaining rather than hurtful. This time, though, he felt the muscles in his face twitch as he battled to retain a pleasant expression.
"Thank you, my lady. Don't worry, such accidents happen - no harm was done. Do save a seat for me," he inclined his head to her before departing after the servant.
That had been a petty trick, but a satisfying one. Tiyesa could feel the corners of her lips turning upward slightly, against her will, as she watched Litchi walk away. That ruse would buy her at least a quarter of an hour before he sought her out again. Judging by the annoyance she glimpsed on his face, he might not even try to do that at all, especially if she made sure that seats on both sides of her were occupied once the dinner began. She placed the now almost empty glass of wine on the tray carried by a passing attendant, nodded politely to Rimoya - he was too close for her to not acknowledge his presence - and departed the scene for now, resuming her search.
She didn't need to wander off too far. The sound of a girlish giggle caught her ear, and she looked over to see Lady Cherree standing in a cluster with her entourge, all of them casting furtive glances at the Saiyan and discussing something in hushed voices. Tiyesa didn't know them that well, but the group would have to do. Cherree was the niece of a fighting pit owner from another major city; her family was visiting the capital, and their blood was noble enough for them to receive an invitation to Father's event. All the women in her suite were young, impressionable and - presumably - seeking excitement. With any luck, they were also easy to maneuver in a social situation.
"I hope you're having a good time in Victus City, Lady Cherree," she spoke, stepping up to the group at the first lull in their conversation. "How is your uncle? Has business been good?"
"It's been splendid so far, the capital is charming as ever. As is your father's mansion, Lady Tiyesa," the young woman spoke after greeting the hostess with a curtsy. "Uncle's amphitheater is flourishing, his Namekian gladiator is attracting huge crowds. Although he's certainly not as intriguing as your Saiyan... isn't it dangerous to have him here? I heard he's a fierce fighter." A few of the ladies tittered nervously; it was clear the exotic warrior interested them, but they likely lacked the courage to approach him.
"He is fierce in the arena, but he is also loyal to my father. The chains restrict him, too, although they're not really needed. He would never try to injure a noble," Tiyesa guaranteed, hoping against hope that that was still the case, and that Litchi hadn't gotten into Keel's head. "Would you like to inspect him closer?" The response was unanimously positive.
"Is it really safe?" Cherree asked apprehensively as she and three of her friends followed Tiyesa. She didn't seem at all reluctant, though.
"I assure you, he will cause you no harm. And the guards are right there as well."
"I thought Saiyans were shorter than the average Canistelean?" one of the ladies said as they stopped in front of the bound gladiator, who stood taller than most men in the room.
"Most are, but Keel is an exceptional specimen," Tiyesa said, suppressing her own discomfort at what was about to come as she stepped closer to him and reached out to touch his bicep with a gloved hand. She could feel the guards' eyes on her, and suspected Rimoya was watching, too. Administering the antidote would take a few seconds and the metallic needle could be visible; she needed the men to be distracted, or uncomfortable enough to not pay close attention. Especially Rimoya, as he was undoubtedly loyal to Father, unlike the other two soldiers. "He spends almost every day training, and you can see the result - aren't his muscles impressive?" She allowed her fingers to travel down to the Saiyan's torso next, careful not to touch any of the recent injuries as she felt his abdominal muscles. "Of course, during the hundreds of fights he's had, he obtained some scars - we can't prevent that by speeding up his healing, since that goes against Canistelean tradition."
"Even his face is scarred," Cherree observed, sounding somewhat disappointed. "Such appealing features, otherwise... for an alien, that is," she added hurriedly, a flush creeping up her cheeks.
"Yes, his face is quite symmetrical, that's always attractive," Tiyesa agreed, putting a finger under Keel's chin to make him raise his head for better inspection, before moving on to grasp a tuft of his hair. "You might not know this, but a pureblood Saiyan's hair doesn't change throughout his life - Keel has never been given a haircut, it looked like that his entire life." She let go of the strands and began to move in a circle around the Saiyan, making the guards step back to give her space. "He's in his prime now, and will remain in perfect physical shape for many decades - provided he keeps winning his fights. The Saiyans' delayed aging really makes them the perfect warriors, and a great investment for a fighting pit owner." All the while her right hand remained in contact with Keel's skin, brushing along his back as she orbited the gladiator before stopping at his side, in front of the four ladies that were watching her with rapt attention.
"Has he really survived the pits for more than ten years?" one of them asked. "How is that possible?"
"Closer to fifteen by now," Tiyesa corrected. "And it's possible chiefly due to Master Rimoya's outstanding training routines," she cast an appreciative glance towards the man, smiling charmingly. "Would you care to tell our guests more of Keel's training?" She assumed that would occupy him for a few seconds as he had to deal with the audience. In the meantime, she placed her right hand above the brute's elbow and moved it upward, locating the deltoid muscle. Tiyesa gave it a light squeeze, the index finger placed at the triangular muscle's center, her thumb tensing to activate the injection mechanism. A thin needle pierced through her glove, entering Keel's skin - something that Tiyesa hoped nobody would notice, including the Saiyan himself - and the liquid antidote was expelled from the concealed capsule into his system. Heart drumming in her chest almost painfully, she slowly retracted the plunger with her thumb, to slide the needle back into her glove, and withdrew her hand.
"Can I... uh... can I..?" Lady Cherree was clearly eager to prod the gladiator herself, but had trouble formulating the question.
"Oh, don't be afraid - you can touch him, it's safe," Tiyesa encouraged, feeling strangely disassociated as she stepped back and away from the Saiyan, her limbs feeling shaky. Did anyone see? She glanced at Rimoya, trying to determine if he knew something was amiss. The ladies were now flocking Keel, giggling as they poked his muscles. In a few minutes, the injection would start working and he would overcome the sedation effects. Maybe that would help him control his emotional expressions better. If he pushed through the dinner without any outbursts of aggression, he would be taken back to the ludus, and in a few hours the rebels would initiate a riot. He would be able to fight alongside them, instead of laying in his cell semi-comatose. Perhaps he would even live to see the next day. Tiyesa certainly hoped so; otherwise, all this effort would have been for nothing.
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 2,489 || Total word count: 5,322 || Post #3
Between the swimming vision and fog that moved through Keel's mind, he found lordling Litchi's words difficult to follow. Some were clear, some became muffled, but the idea behind escaping outside of the Ludus made sense. And it was for that exact reason that Keel felt the advice was better ignored. If it was one thing the Saiyan had come to trust, it was his instincts, and there was no way he would take anything the rodent noble said without a pinch of pepper - or salt - or whatever it was meant to be. When scrawny Litchi mentioned that Lúcuma could kill the Saiyan at will, it brought a scoff from Keel's lips as he blinked slowly.
"Maybe, maybe not..." Keel mumbled, as he concentrated on keeping his footing, still chuckling. "We'll see, little lord."
It wasn't long after that Rimoya made his way back over, absent from Lúcuma, and inquired about the source of Keel's manner. The Saiyan made no move to offer an explanation, instead remaining silent, in order to see what Litchi said. The little rodent noble came up with some accusatory statement about Keel finding the apparent 'praise toward Lúcuma' amusing; in some ways, yes, had that discussion had of happened of course. Still, Rimoya narrowed his eyes and immediately took the noble's word for the situation, to which Keel sighed and stopped the reaction to little Litchi's threats and honeyed words... he really was a pathetic little rodent, all said and done, and wasn't deserving of any respect.
Not even from a indentured Saiyan.
"I will remind the monkey of Lord Lúcuma's kindness in short order, Lord Litchi," Rimoya offered a polite nod of the head, before his yellow eyes returned to Keel with a glare. "He hasn't quite been himself since the last arena... but we're close to righting that, aren't we monkey?"
Keel looked between the two with half-lidded eyes, before he nodded.
"Good little gladiator," Rimoya said with a smirk, as he looked back to Litchi. The latter excused himself. "Of course, Lord Litchi. Enjoy the evening, and my best to your father."
Yet, instead of a graceful exit, there was a small collision.
There was a bump followed by spilled wine, followed by Litchi being covered in a red stain. Clearly the incident had agitated the little lord, even as Keel's dark eyes shifted to the individual responsible, and saw Lady Tiyesa. If the Saiyan had been able to, he would have congratulated her for the mishap, but as it was Keel didn't want to attract Rimoya's ire more than he might have. The scene played out while Keel remained silent, though even in his sedated state he could tell Litchi was fuming, but did his best to hide the fact, before both nobles departed the immediate area and Keel was left standing beside Rimoya.
"Lord Lúcuma has deemed your behavior acceptable, so far, that you might use your hands for the meal," The training master said once the pair were - relatively - alone, his voice low as he watched Lady Tiyesa walk over toward a group of young noble ladies. "But be aware, you will be watched closely and guards will be ready to react immediately, if you do anything... ill-advised with your mobility. You shall be restrained to the chair, which has been prepared specially, of course."
"I understand," Keel said slowly, as he listened. "Am I expected... to act a certain way, with certain... table etiquette?"
"You are no guest, you are a spectacle," Rimoya said with a sneer. "Do not confuse your position here. Do what comes naturally to your gluttonous kind. Besides, given the platter for the meal, I doubt you could control yourself, anyway."
At least Rimoya was being honest more than in the past. Keel had always felt the old Canistelean had been duplicitous, being civil to the prized gladiator to keep things smooth, but now that the Saiyan had upset the dynamic it seemed Rimoya's real thoughts about him had started to emerge. Whether that indicated impending trouble - as the little lordling Litchi suggested - or not, remained to be seen. Keel might have thought on it more, were it not for the sedation and approach of Lady Tiyesa amid a group of other noblewomen.
Keel blinked slowly, as one of the ladies asked about Saiyan heights. Courge had been shorter, anyway. But, then Lady Tiyesa stepped forward and began to speak about the gladiator with surprising - and somewhat praiseworthy - words. Keel slowly glanced between the noblewomen, as they listened, and then remained stock still as Lady Tiyesa's hand touched his chest. From Keel's peripheral, he saw Rimoya raise his chin at the words, as the older Canistelean looked at Lady Tiyesa with a seeming mixture of confusion and attempted composure. The master trainer was fighting reactions, as he tried to remain poised while also trying not to balk at the admiration displayed for the Saiyan.
Impossible, Rimoya thought, as he looked away and considered. Lady Tiyesa? The Saiyan, of all things? She is her father's daughter, this simply cannot be!
For his part, Keel remained unmoving, barely breathing, as the noblewoman traced her hands down his abdomen and commented on the scars. There was the mention of the healing methods of his captor species, as well as a young noblewoman who commented about his features and the scarring, in response to Lady Tiyesa. Still, the latter didn't seem perplexed, and tilted Keel's head with a finger, which caused his half-lidded eyes to return to hers. It seemed Lúcuma's daughter found the pet monkey attractive... and then Keel's head shifted as Lady Tiyesa grabbed a portion of his hair. It was true, about the lack of haircuts, Keel had never had one before. Yet, the revelation about the Saiyan's age, and remaining in his prime for an extended period, was something new, which caused Keel to turn his head and follow Lady Tiyesa's circle around him.
How much does... she know? Keel wondered, as he noted the guards had turned and found other focuses momentarily. Whether uncomfortable or disgusted or opted to give the ladies some privacy, one couldn't say, but they were apparently reluctant to stand or listen too closely. I never knew... she thought about me like this?
Keel mostly was shocked, as he watched Lady Tiyesa.
"Thank you, Lady Tiye--""
The Saiyan was cut off, however:
"O-oh? Yes, of course, Lady Tiyesa," Rimoya bowed his head as he turned back to face the group. His eyes lingered on her a little longer, before he spoke up. She had praised him, quite considerably. "The Saiyan has been trained since an early age, around three. His exercises and regiment involved a lot of resilience and strength training, along with a focus on hand-to-hand combat. Lord Lúcuma, an ever gracious master, wanted the Saiyan to utilize his best weapon... himself." Rimoya smirked at his own humor. "Since then, we have kept Keel-" There was a momentary sneer from Rimoya. "-on a strict training routine. Lots of fighting, very intensive, very dangerous, to simulate as real to arena combat as possible. There have been many injuries, even some training partner deaths, in the pursuit of arena championship perfection."
And now there are more witnesses, gossips, who know how dangerous the training can be, Rimoya thought. The sooner this Saiyan expires, the better, especially if his corruptible presence is snaring Lady Tiyesa. His death will not be a surprise.
Keel remained still, as he listened, dark eyes on Rimoya. So caught up with the conversation, like others around, the Saiyan didn't register the sting at the back of his arm from Lady Tiyesa. And once the master trainer had finished, and looked impressed with himself, Keel turned to regard one of the noblewomen who wanted to approach and touch him.
It was almost time to begin the meal, but before that required securing Keel. Rimoya stepped forward and bowed with a smile, before he motioned the guards closer and then looked between the faces of the young ladies. "If you would excuse me, m'ladies," The master trainer said as he motioned for the guards to grab the Saiyan. "Sadly the present time for... admiring has passed, and we must prepare the seating arrangement for the dinner to come. There might be additional opportunity after that, depending. Thank you."
Keel was walked from the space in the middle of the hall, as the guards grabbed either arm and half-dragged, half-lifted him along. Rimoya led the way, as he parted the nobles as needed with kind words and apologies. It was several minutes before they reached the table, specifically the seat at the 'bottom end', which was opposite the far head of the table - where Lúcuma would sit. The seat for Keel had been replaced with a metal one, which had been secured and had chains for him to wear while seated.
"Remember, we will be watching you closely," Rimoya said with disgust on his face. "And do not speak to Lady Tiyesa. She is beyond your existence, do you understand?"
The Saiyan was forced onto the seat, where the additional chains were wrapped around his lower body. He looked to Rimoya, nodded, then stared forward down the length of the obscenely long table. There were many chairs to fill, but too many guests at the event. Keel suspected some would leave, maybe those that weren't quite important enough to remain. Canistelean politics and social norms were lost on him, in some ways the Saiyan was glad his only job was to kill.
It made things a lot simpler.
"Will you be joining the dinner, Master Rimoya?" Keel asked, as he raised an eyebrow and glanced to the other. "Or are you watching me?"
"I will be standing nearby," Rimoya huffed, as he crossed his arms. "I do not have a place at the table. Yet."
Keel smirked, then looked back along the mostly empty table space. In that moment, he realized something:
...I'm not feeling sedated anymore. My head is clearing up, my vision isn't blurred, I can focus again. What?
And with confusion on his mind, Keel was finally fastened into position, and his chest restraint unclasped and his hands freed. Granted, some chains still attached his forearms to his chair, but for the moment, Keel was as free as he had been in a long few days...
Now that her clandestine operation was carried out and the adrenaline surge caused by it was subsiding, Tiyesa allowed herself a few moments to admire her accomplishment. Neither Rimoya nor the guards had realized something was off, it seemed - they appeared to feel uneasy, but not suspicious. And the ladies she used as her cover were enjoying the permission to have a 'closer look' at the famous Saiyan gladiator. What he himself thought of this whole situation was difficult to say, with his expression stoic as ever. In all likelihood, he was used to a bit of curious prodding - that was the least harrowing part of his servitude. Tiyesa had decided that he could suffer this type of attention once more, if that meant he would gain a chance at fighting for his liberty. He was free to loathe her for it, if he assumed she was merely showing him off as a particularly valuable piece of her father's property. But Keel, in fact, seemed appreciative of her comments; at least, he had started to voice his gratitude, before Rimoya hurried to talk over him. Tiyesa wasn't sure if her words had deserved any thanks; in truth, she only listed most of what she knew about the Saiyan kind, mixing it with personal opinions and actions meant to distract her audience. At the time, she barely thought of what she was saying; had any of that been over the top? Her reputation could be damaged if someone started to gossip about her attraction to aliens, but she wasn't too concerned about that. Rumors far worse than that frequently circulated the court; she would just deny it and recite some xenophobic lines, like all nobles did.
As the ladies were ushered away from Keel, Tiyesa moved off as well, resuming her duties as hostess. Some of the departing guests - those of lower status and/or lesser wealth wouldn't be staying for the second part of the evening - would be wanting to thank Lúcuma's family for having been invited, and Tiyesa needed to be there accepting their praise of the household, the function, the entertainment, and all that. The other lords and ladies, the ones worthy of staying for the dinner itself, would soon start drifting towards the long table. There was no strict seating plan, although certain guidelines applied - such as allowing the more distinguished guests to pick their seats first. Usually, the preferred placement was near the host; although now, with the unusual type of entertainment present, some might choose a chair closer to the brute, for better view of whatever antics he might display. Tiyesa had no such hurry; her place, by default, was to her father's left side, and nobody would presume to occupy it.
It was about a quarter of an hour later, with the hall considerably emptier and most invitees already at the table, that Tiyesa could finally join them. As she approached, alongside her father and mother, all the guests briefly rose from their seats, waiting for the hosting family to assume theirs.
"I am grateful for the honor of having you here at my home this evening," Lord Lúcuma began the customary address after stepping in front of his ornate throne-like chair. "I hope you haven't overindulged in appetizers, because my cooks certainly outdid themselves preparing for today's banquet!" There was some light laughter at the humorous comment. He sat down then, everyone else following suite. Tiyesa found herself flexing her right hand awkwardly in her lap; there had been no opportunity to remove the syringe contraption without attracting notice, and now her fingers were somewhat restricted. It would be a challenge to hold the silverware in a natural-looking way, when she couldn't even bend her index finger properly. Luckily, few people would be paying attention to her, having come expecting a show from the 'ape' seated at the opposite end of the table.
Lúcuma gestured for the musicians to begin playing, and an unobtrusive melody filled the room - enough to reduce the noise of utensils hitting the plates, but not to drown out any conversation. The attendants began bringing in the dishes. First course would be hors d'oeuvre - crostini with an endless selection of toppings: different types of grilled cheese, meat, vegetables, fruit, berries... The highborn guests would be able to choose whichever flavor they preferred. Multiple trays were brought in and placed at regular intervals; everyone would have easy access to at least one of them. Once the host put one of the savory slices on his own plate, everyone else began reaching for them as well. Nobody would take many - two or three at most, since there would be far richer dishes offered soon.
Unsure of her ability to use her right hand with precision, Tiyesa picked up a pair of delicate serving tongs from a tray with her left, and took the nearest crostino, not paying any attention to its garnish. It turned out to be one with exotic fruit. Both the sight and the smell of it should have made her mouth water; instead, she found herself staring at the little piece of toast on her plate without any appetite. In a few hours, people would be dying at the ludus - her father's soldiers, the gladiators, the rebels... How could she enjoy the meal when her mind kept bringing forth images of bloodshed? She glanced up, to see if anyone had noted her lack of interest in the food. As expected, she wasn't attracting much interest. Not even Father seemed to notice; he was looking at the other end of the table - as were most other Canisteleans. Evidently, the spectacle had already started.
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 953 || Total word count: 6,275 || Post #4
Keel was aware of the eyes on him, mainly from the guards that stood a half a dozen yards from his end of the table against the walls, as he lifted his hands and placed them on the table. The chains clinked and clanked, but the Saiyan had decent movement at least, and the notion of using his less restricted state was a serious consideration. But, ultimately, Rimoya was no fool, and the master trainer had doubled the guard that proverbially hovered near the gladiator, likely waiting for just that eventuality. While Keel wasn't known for his social understanding or politicking, he was good at reading opponents - mainly in the arena, of course - but over the years he had come to recognize certain Canistelean expressions or ticks... and Keel wondered at Rimoya's thoughts about Lady Tiyesa, with the former displaying some interesting reactions from the conversation earlier.
Something to keep in mind, Keel thought to himself, as he stared down the length of table. I also need to keep my sedated ruse up.
For whatever reason, the Saiyan now felt fully like himself, and he didn't know why. Someone had done something, he suspected that much, since a sedative didn't simply 'go away' so suddenly after being administered. But who had done it? Keel had thought back to the interactions and couldn't pin down a single individual, so far, since many had touched him in some way. Keel had felt Rimoya shove him, the guards grabbed his arms, Lady Tiyesa poked around his chest and stomach, the noblewomen had poked and prodded basically everywhere else, and then the guards again; all in all, there a surprising amount of hands on Keel, but a singular individual couldn't be picked over who might have delivered some kind of antidote or why.
But whoever it was, there has to be a reason, Keel thought, as he watched some of the guests - which were to remain for the meal - begin to take seats down the length of the table. Several got within a few chairs of Keel, even, eagerly glancing at the bound Saiyan. Litchi? He poked at one of my stitches... did he do it, to try and make me attempt escape?
There was a lot to consider; and in the end, Keel decided his best option was to remain obedient, for now, and take in as much food as he could to fuel his energy for whatever was to come. If what the rodent noble Litchi said was true, tomorrow would be a disaster for himself and other gladiators, though in truth Keel didn't much care for them, as they were just opponents he hadn't killed yet. Still, with his new knowledge of Saiyans, and that ever-present want to learn more about himself now multiplied from recent events, Keel refused to die a slave under a tyrant's whims of paranoia.
"...wonder if it will even eat the food?"
"Will it like the taste? Maybe it will spit it everywhere, hah!"
Keel glanced to his left, as a whispering pair of nobles was overheard a few seats away. They blinked and gulped when the Saiyan's dark eyes turned their way, before chuckling to one another and whispering in lower voices. They did bring up an interesting question, though, since Keel had never eaten noble food and wasn't quite sure what to expect. And it seemed he didn't have to wait long, either, as Lúcuma and his family took their places at the head of the long table. Some words were spoken in thanks to the guests by the host, to which Keel stared and remained stoic in his chair and bindings, before soft music began to play in the background. Then Keel's attention was stolen, as the waft of food reached his nose, and he turned to look at the servers that walked in, who placed down large platters along the table...
Looks fancy, but smells... interesting?
Across the table, Lúcuma reached out and took some of the small nibbles for his plate. Keel did the same, as he leaned forward with the ever-present clank of chains, and scooped up a handful for himself, which he put on his own plate. It didn't occur to him that others hadn't moved, unlike the Saiyan, until the same couple to the left giggled and pointed. Whether intentional or not, Keel had broken some kind of etiquette, and glanced to Lúcuma... but, the Saiyan decided he didn't care, it was done now, and reached down to pick up one of the things between thumb and index finger.
Keel sniffed it.
Is this it? No wonder they're all so skinny, Keel made a face at the 'food', as he studied it. What is this?
Others had started to serve themselves, seemingly after Lúcuma had, which Keel supposed made sense. And as the nobles began to eat, the Saiyan decided the fancy food he held wouldn't look or smell better with time, so he unceremoniously shoved the entire thing into his mouth; the toasted thing crunched, as Keel munched, and while the taste wasn't to his liking - he kind of preferred the nutrient slop - it was kind of nice to have some different texture with the meal. Crunchy, salty, some meat and a bitter sauce. Not ideal, but not terrible, so Keel reached down and grabbed some more, though the one he held was different from the last as he took a bite--
--and scrunched up his face, before he spat it out onto the plate. That particular type, with the weird vegetable on the top, was promptly separated from the other small bite-sized snacks and pushed to the far side of Keel's plate, to join the chewed one. He then started to probe the remaining types, as he licked them before eating them, and soon found four or five that he enjoyed enough to suffer through. They all had various types of meat on them. With little effort, Keel began to shove those preferred edibles into his mouth, one after the other, with loud crunching and finger licking; and when the plate was empty, save for the discarded ones, Keel reached over and collected more - multiple handfuls from the platter - and began to stack them in messy heaps, as his appetite began to grow and grow.
"Do you like them?" Asked one of the noblewomen, the one Lady Tiyesa had been with, who had touched Keel earlier. Excitement passed across faces nearby, as someone dared to speak to the brute. "The ones with meat, I mean."
"Yeah," Keel nodded, as he looked to those that dared sit closest, and stuffed in more as he talked with his mouth full. "Meat's good. They ruined it a bit with the other stuff on it."
Keel looked to the noblewoman, as he smirked, and put another into his mouth. He had almost single-handedly cleared the platter closest to him, at least where it came to the meat topped morsels. The Saiyan spotted some more, on a nearby plate, and pointed with a clank of chains--
"You eating those?"
--to which the noble shook his head, and slid the plate over with a barely contained smirk on his own. Seemed most were enjoying the spectacle, with hushed whispers and some giggles, and Keel saw no reason to adjust his own behavior to suit them from that point on. This was what they wanted, they wanted to see the barbaric Saiyan eating, right?
Keel reached over and took the morsels from the plate, then began to shove them into his mouth. He wondered what all the other utensils were for, if this was the meal, but didn't have to wait long as the servers began to file back into the area with trays and began clearing the table. With a blink, Keel reached out for several more meat-topped crunchies, and frowned as the meal seemed to be over already...
"Is that it?" Keel asked, eyebrows furrowed in irritation. "That was nothing..."
But Keel was silenced, when a server removed his plate - last, after everyone else at the table - and then in unison, the servers placed trays topped with metal covers in front of everyone. Keel reached out and tried to lift the round lid, but the server who had been allocated to his place gave a hiss and put pressure to keep it from being raised. There was some announcement about the next course, and the lids were lifted, which revealed a number of bowls with some kind of slop inside of them...
The eating habits displayed by the Saiyan were causing numerous whispers and stifled expressions of cheer. Tiyesa had initially only peered at him briefly, not intending to join the other nobles in watching the gladiator as if he was some exotic animal in a menagerie. However, despite her resolution, the young woman's eyes returned to the sight again a few moments later, as whispers around the table increased in intensity. Did he just spit out a piece of food back onto his plate? After a brief consideration, torn between shock and amusement, her brain decided to go for the latter emotion. A small smile gradually crept up on Tiyesa's face. She had sorely needed a distraction from all the troubles and guilt that had been plaguing her, and Keel was providing one. He was even engaging in conversation with surrounding nobles - with his mouth stuffed, no less. Was that a genuine show of Saiyan table manners, or was he just exaggerating, knowing a show was expected of him?
"You seem uncharacteristically engrossed," her father observed in a low tone that wouldn't have carried far past her own ears. He was leaning slightly towards Tiyesa, watching her with hints of discontent. "I never took you for someone who would cherish farcical comedy. Is this type of performance more to your liking than the ones at the fighting pits?"
"It's refreshingly novel to me, that's all, Father," she responded in a quiet voice, the smile gone from her face as she turned to look at the patriarch. "If I were to see this every week for most of my life, I'm sure I would grow just as indifferent to it."
"I saw you introduce the monkey to Lady Cherree," Lúcuma continued, not paying any mind to her explanation. Tiyesa held her breath, suddenly apprehensive. Of course; nothing ever slipped past her father, even in a room full of people. How much exactly had he noticed, though? Surely he couldn't have seen a minuscule needle from a distance..? "You performed your hostess duties well - keeping the guests entertained. She seemed happy, which means her uncle will be pleased, and hopefully willing to sell me some of his second-grade warriors for a lower price..." He narrowed his eyes, studying her expression carefully. "I assume that is the opposite of what you were trying to achieve. Getting a malleable young noblewoman interested in that despicable creature won't save his life at this point - if she shows a willingness to purchase him, I will deny the request."
Tiyesa lowered her gaze, relief flooding her chest. Father had noticed more than she would have liked, but made incorrect interpretations. She should encourage him on that path, preventing him from accidentally stumbling on the truth.
"But why? You can put an incredibly high price on him, and someone would pay it. Other pit owners are already seeking to capture a Saiyan for their own games, it's only a matter of time until they do. Lord Opoyo already did, if only to lose him foolishly," she spoke earnestly. "Is it really better to do away with Keel, when instead you could pay for a dozen well-trained gladiators with the money you get from selling him?"
"That may be so; to tell the truth, I have considered this option myself. But by now, Keel is not just a Saiyan - he is also the longest surviving arena fighter on Canistel, and that alone attracts a fair bit of tourism. He would give insight on how to train a Saiyan, too - so far only Rimoya has been successful in that, and I do not wish these secrets to be shared," Lord Lúcuma directed his gaze back at the slave with grim expression. "He has to go. It will hit my amphitheater hard, but not as hard as it would if I were to sell him to someone else instead of quietly getting rid of him. His fame and the information he can provide, and his genetics, are just as valuable as his fighting skills; no price can be put on that. Sadly, I can't trust him to be loyal anymore, but I won't transfer his ownership to someone else either - significantly boosting the popularity of someone else's business is not my intention." There was a pause before the cold yellow eyes looked at Tiyesa again. "I do wish you had demonstrated such a knack for advertising and selling our gladiators while interest in them still served a purpose. I hope you will do better with the next batch."
The attendants approached to take away their plates, then; Tiyesa's untouched crostino was removed. She couldn't respond now that the servants were so close, nor did she particularly want to. To her, the conversation only had the purpose of reinforcing her father's belief that she had been trying to find a buyer for Keel. That goal had been achieved.
It was the head cook himself, standing to the left side of Lord Lúcuma, who introduced the next meal proudly before lifting the lid off of his master's tray and retreating with a bow. It was bisque - a creamy, seasoned soup of freshly caught crustaceans, pureed to achieve smooth texture, with a sprinkle of green garnish on top. Once again, Tiyesa didn't feel any appetite at the sight of the fine dish in front of her. Nonetheless, she took a spoon and dipped it into the soup after her father tasted his own serving. Skipping too many courses would make her stand out, raise questions, offend the chef - all the consequences she didn't want to deal with. Besides, the portion was a modest one, so as not to fill up the delicate stomachs of the nobles before the main course arrived; she could handle that amount of food even while consumed by stress.
"The brute looks far too lucid, don't you think?" her father spoke again some minutes later. "Perhaps the sedative dose was too low."
Her heart rate increased momentarily, Tiyesa glanced at the gladiator. "I think the sight of food has merely excited him temporarily. His people are known for gluttony, after all."
"That is correct, but just to stay on the safe side, I should tell Rimoya to administer another injection... surreptitiously, of course," he was already typing the order into a curved screen fastened to his forearm. Tiyesa watched him, feeling only slightly anxious. The antidote injection would have made Keel immune to the sedative for the evening, unless he was given numerous large doses. A single repeated injection shouldn't make him go back into a state where he could not even keep his eyes fully open.
"It will disappoint the guests greatly if he passes out before the dinner is concluded," she protested feebly.
"We will make a joke of it. Say he ate so much that his body couldn't handle it, and so he lost consciousness." The message was sent before the attendants approached again, removing the soup bowls and replacing them with trays of appetizer - lightly spiced vegetables candied in honey, accompanied by small cuts of lean meat.
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 1,190 || Total word count: 7,465 || Post #5
The older Canistelean, with pale yellow eyes and a sneer on his face, watched the monkey stuff food into the maw that was it's mouth. From early in Keel's life, there had been feeding issues, where Rimoya had known of the Saiyans' appetite and ability to intake vast quantities of food; and as a result, Rimoya had also slowly weened Keel off from that intake, it had taken a number of years, but ultimately had brought the monkey to within acceptable range of cost for his worth. After all, a gladiator that ate as much in price as his winnings for a master wasn't conducive to business.
Ugh. Disgusting creature.
So now, Rimoya watched in stunned silence, as all that effort was lost. The monkey gorged on the food of his betters, ate and ate without care or self-control, and it was essentially what Rimoya needed to see in order to understand that - yes - Keel had to be killed. The gladiator had become disloyal, uncontrollable and now discarded behaviors instilled in him for decades. But it wasn't until the next course that Rimoya knew true revulsion...
"What... is this?" Keel asked slowly, as he peered down into a bowl of creamy-looking soup with pieces. "Gladiator slop?"
"Oh my, absolutely hilarious," Laughed one of the nobles nearby, as more joined in. "That, my brutish friend, is a bisque. Very flavorsome, very gourmet, a very refined and elaborate presentation of balanced ingredients that presents a wonderfully rich course!"
Keel looked at the noble, dark eyes blinked slowly, as he heard the words but failed to see the complexity of the statement. The noble waggled fingers in the Saiyan's direction, motioning to the bowl. Those nearby - and others around - watched to varying degrees of interest.
"Try some... you'll adore it, I'm sure, haha!"
"Bisque," Keel glanced down and picked up a spoon, one of the few next to his elbow, before he dipped it and lifted a portion. The Saiyan took a mouthful, made a face, as the rich flavors passed over his unaccustomed tongue and then swallowed. Keel wasn't sure about it, the taste was odd, the color strange, yet the meaty portions were nice. "It's... strange slop."
The closest nobles laughed haughtily, as they began to eat their own meals.
Is this how they eat? Keel wondered to himself, as he watched them, his eyes moved across the table. So richly, all the time?
Keel paused on Lúcuma, as he watched the nobleman, and felt a renewed agitation toward him. All of them, really, but Lúcuma specifically. It also seemed the gladiator owner was in the middle of a discussion with his daughter, while his hand moved against one wrist subtly. Keel knew what was on that wrist - a personal device. With a clank of chains, Keel hunched forward and readjusted his seating, before he glanced back and saw Rimoya - off to one side, behind the Saiyan - also tapping away on his wrist device. There was a likelihood both were communicating, but Keel wasn't certain, at least until Rimoya looked back at him and their stares met.
He's up to something, Keel thought, as he looked back to the bowl and continued to do his bit. By now it was half-eating, half-play acting, but also a maintained sense of awareness. Lúcuma and him, for sure... not sure what yet.
Keel didn't think Lúcuma would risk disgrace by simply taking action against Keel so openly. Not without provocation, anyway. So far the Saiyan had been fairly controlled - save, perhaps - for the food eating, but otherwise he had done his bit perfectly. And not because of Lúcuma's words about going back to how things were, but mainly to prepare for any possible attempts at escape when opportunity presented itself. But with Rimoya and Lúcuma in discussion, it was possible something would happen, soon...
Meanwhile, Rimoya finished confirming the action from Lord Lúcuma. He typed a quick response, then looked to the monkey. The creature's time was up, very soon, and it made the old training master somewhat happy. He had more experience, he could make the next Saiyan brat even better. But, for now, Rimoya waited for an opportunity to deliver another sedative dose...
So far, majority of the nobles present seemed to be enjoying the show. Admittedly, a few of the older women who chose seats close to the hosts, instead of the 'guest of honor', were occasionally huffing in displeasure every time they deigned to cast a look in the Saiyan's direction. But they should have foreseen what sort of table manners would be displayed here today - most other invitees did, and either sent their younger relatives in their stead, knowing the youths would enjoy the sort if entertainment more, or left before the dinner started.
"What an uncouth beast," muttered Lady le Monn, seated to Tiyesa's left. The young woman would have preferred to ignore the comment, but it was soon followed by a direct question aimed at her: "Does it always consume such copious amounts of food?"
'It' - a clear indication that the woman saw extraterrestrials as no more than animals, so much so that she wouldn't even refer to them as people. At least half of the Canistelean nobles spoke in this manner.
"I believe the food at the ludus is carefully rationed, so he wouldn't be getting more than his body requires, my lady," Tiyesa responded courteously. "Maintaining such good physical shape does require plenty of nutrition, his muscles would atrophy otherwise."
"The monkey hasn't ever gotten to taste noble food before, hence the loss of self-control, Lady le Monn," Lúcuma interjected. "I am told that it usually is somewhat more sophisticated in its feeding habits during meal times at the ludus. It only serves to prove that aliens such as this one can only be trained to behave acceptably under specific conditions... any variation in them, and all that's been learned is abandoned as the creature reverts to its unrefined primal state."
"Very true, my lord," the woman agreed.
Tiyesa tuned out the conversation at that point, not interested in listening to the same archaic philosophical ideas she's been hearing discussed around the court since childhood. It mostly revolved around Canisteleans being superior - at least intellectually, and generally also physically - to most other known races. Lacking alternative means of diversion, she took a few dainty bites of the appetizer, failing to appreciate the mixture of flavors. Tiyesa wished the function could just end, so she wouldn't need to play the proper lady... and at the same time, she was horrified by the thought of what would take place soon after the event was concluded.
At some point, the salad was brought in and her bowl of barely-touched honeyed vegetables was removed. That meant the main course would follow next, and after that the conclusion to the meal wouldn't be so distant. Tiyesa suppressed a sigh as she pushed the mixed greens around her plate. Noble events such as these were ridiculous in the amount of time it took to get through a meal. Private family dinners were much more simple. But, of course, inviting other highborn guests meant showing off one's riches with the amount and variety of food offered. So much money was spent on flaunting and maintaining appearances... half of the lower castes could get bumped up to at least middle ones, if all that wealth was redistributed to them instead.
Distractedly, her eyes wandered over to Rimoya, who would be looking for a chance to discreetly inject the Saiyan with more sedative. Would the old master even survive tonight, once the riot started? He was one of the most powerful soldiers in her father's employ, but that might also make him a primary target for the rebels and some of the grudge-holding gladiators. It was an odd thought. Rimoya had been around for most of her life - a constant presence that existed parallel to herself without actually interacting with her too much; just like Keel, in a way. And tomorrow, either one or both of them would be gone. How many more familiar faces would disappear, either by gaining freedom or perishing? So much would have changed when the dawn broke. Tiyesa couldn't shake off a nagging bad feeling about it.
At long last, the head cook arrived again to introduce the main course. Tiyesa barely listened, absently flexing the fingers of her right hand that was growing increasingly uncomfortable. That was another reason why she wanted the ordeal to conclude - the syringe contraption strapped to her palm had become a nuisance.
The lids were lifted off the trays, revealing venison medallions with mushroom sauce. Expensive, expensive game meat, more and more difficult to come by on Canistel as the planet was becoming increasingly urbanized. Vaguely, Tiyesa remembered this particular dish having been among her favorites back when she was just an indoctrinated noble lady with no insurgent thoughts. Now, all she could think of was how ridiculously wasteful it was to consume such foods... and how unfair, when slaves were being fed with largely flavorless slop that looked as tough it had been through someone's digestive tract already.
Once Lord Lúcuma sampled a piece of the venison served to him, everyone else began cutting theirs, eager to consume such a special treat - a rare sight even on the highest nobility's table. The dish was delicious, Tiyesa had to admit; even with her lack of appetite, she ate all three petite pieces served to her, and felt a mild urge to put more onto her plate. Instead, she reached for a glass of red wine that had been filled as the venison was being introduced, and took a sip while surveying the table. Her eyes drifted to Keel, as she wondered if Rimoya had already administered additional sedatives. Would the Saiyan feel any effect, with the antidote still active in his bloodstream? If not, would he be wise enough to pretend he did, to avoid getting shot up with half a dozen more injections?
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 977 || Total word count: 8,422 || Post #6
When the servers came back and began to take the bowls, Keel almost protested as his own plate was removed somewhat unceremoniously.
Keel hadn't finished, there was still food in there, even if it wasn't that enjoyable. The spoon was taken from his hand, also. Rather than cause a stir, the Saiyan instead sat quietly and stared down at the table, as the nearby nobles smirked and amused themselves with remarks muttered in whispers. He didn't really care what they said about him, or his species, because within the next day or so it wouldn't matter - Keel would be free or dead. Either option was preferable to remaining in Lúcuma's service, especially if Keel was able to determine his fate, one way or the other.
I'll do what I need to in order to escape. There's few options now, if lordling Litchi is accurate.
Suddenly another metallic tray with lid was lumped down in front of Keel, as the server looked down his nose at the Saiyan, while nearer the top end of the table someone announced the next main course. That caused Keel's eyebrows to raise, as he looked down at the metal lid with curiosity, his mind now filled with possible meals. He didn't know what to expect, he didn't know what venison was, but it sounded fancy - like everything else, so far - and was hopefully delicious, unlike the finger snacks and bisque slop. It wasn't until the lids were lifted that Keel's focus was completely drawn to the sizzling, seared and neatly arranged cuts of meat on the plate before him.
Keel's mouth watered.
Actual meat? It smells good.
The aromas washed over the Saiyan, he couldn't care enough to wait, and he reached down and grabbed one of the medallions with a hand. The meat portion was immediately bitten, Keel's teeth gnawed through it easily, and then the taste and texture was in his mouth. Keel's tastebuds lit up like a sun, and he exhaled deeply with a low groan of enjoyment, as the nobles nearby watched with blithe glances. Some even waited longer, not eating as yet, to watch the spectacle of the monkey pawing at its food like a starved animal - which, ironically, wasn't too far from the truth for Keel. Not only had the gladiator's intake been specific and controlled, but the soup provided had possessed all the necessary proteins and nutrients to supply him with an acceptable amount of sustenance; as such, there had been little fanfare or refined food for him, for most of his life, and it now showed.
"So... good," Keel said between chews and bites, as he almost literally shoveled the meat into his mouth. It might have been comical, were the Saiyan not chained and captive for observational enjoyment by an overbearing social elite. "I like... venison."
A simple, newly discovered truth. And in that moment, Keel didn't care about the others. He didn't care about the chains, the guards, or the nobles that watched or pretended not to care about the scene. It was all about the meat, consumption by a ravenous Saiyan that had been deprived, and Keel's body responded almost immediately; it felt like someone who had been drowning, then managed to come up for air, and couldn't stop inhaling. It came as no surprise when Keel completely finished his plate within minutes, his face and hands covered in juices, as he eagerly looked for more--
"Here, monkey," Said one noble a few seats over, as she lifted some meat with a fork and tossed it toward Keel. "Eat like the glutton you are!"
Keel didn't care. He snatched the meat from the air, as his chains groaned in protest at the extension of his arms, but they remained fixed and secure. Rimoya narrowed his eyes, as he regarded the movement, a small concern in the back of his mind. He considered that - maybe, just maybe - the thick metal chains might not quite be enough to keep the Saiyan contained, if the strain from Keel's passive reach had been any indication. The sedative was needed sooner rather than later, the master trainer decided, as he glanced to Lúcuma and nodded.
"Now, now, Keel," Rimoya said with a smirk and narrowed eyes. He approached from behind the Saiyan, syringe held down out of sight behind his thigh in one hand. "Don't embarrass yourself, or Lord Lúcuma. You act as though you've not eaten before... how about we calm down, hm?"
During that time, other nobles had tossed meat toward Keel as well, which landed on or around his plate. Keel was midway through more venison, when Rimoya reached him, to which the Saiyan felt a firm hand on his shoulder. Keel glanced over that same shoulder, to see Rimoya offering a sneer, as he used his concealed hand to jab the chained gladiator in the flank - the pin prick was small, but Keel felt it, and knew what it meant...
More sedatives. Damn.
That meant he had been too cognitive, too present, and Lúcuma had probably panicked. Rimoya had delivered another dose, but for some reason it didn't have much of an effect. In fact, Keel might not have known it had been a sedative, except that the master trainer's words implied the syringe use as from earlier. So, with heavy reluctance, Keel began to act the part; he slumped a little, half-closed his eyes, and slowed his movements considerably.
"Calm..." Keel mumbled, as he slowly chewed the meat in his mouth. "Calm."
Lúcuma undoubtedly watched from the other end of the table, as Rimoya smiled and patted Keel's shoulder, to which the Saiyan just kept lazily looking downward at the food before him.
"Good monkey. Calm, yes."
Rimoya stepped back, content for the moment but still wary, as Keel became more docile. But for Keel himself, it was now one of the hardest things he had ever had to do; fighting, training, combat, all of that came easily... but pretending to be sedated, while surrounded by delicious portions of meat for him to devour, required almost every ounce of willpower he possessed!
The behavior some nobles displayed towards Keel was abhorrent. Tossing food to him as if he was an animal, instead of passing it over in a civilized manner... Tiyesa clenched her jaw while observing the scene. This was looking less and less like a sophisticated soiree, and it was not solely due to the Saiyan's table manners. She glanced over at her father, who was watching the disgraceful conduct of his fellow highborn with a frigid expression. He had organized the function expecting exactly this type of performance, of course - the lack of refinement in some members of the upper castes was known to him. Coming from an older generation, he looked down on such types of entertainment. Of course, he had done what needed to be done in organizing this event in a way that would please the less mature crowd, the interest of which had been gradually slipping when it came to attending the gladiator fights. That didn't mean he would enjoy the spectacle. For once, Tiyesa's opinions aligned with her father's... albeit for different reasons.
"They have been taught not to feed pets from the table, yet they're doing it now as if all etiquette has been forgotten," Lord Lúcuma muttered quietly, noticing his daughter's attention was directed at him. "I suppose it was my own error to allow the brute to sit with everyone else... he should have had his own separate spot further away, on the floor. Then these youngsters might have remembered how to conduct themselves at a noble dinner."
"They just got carried away, we shouldn't think less of them for it," Lady Ava spoke to her husband before Tiyesa could come up with an appropriate response. "You gave these youths such a rare opportunity to observe a beast from up close... they will admire you for it. "
Liberated from the need to engage in conversation and feeling grateful towards her mother for it, Tiyesa shifted her gaze back to Keel. He had just been approached by Rimoya. Even knowing what the old master was intending to do, the young woman couldn't see the needle, or any indicators of him carrying out the injection. It was done truly professionally; no wonder Father placed such trust in this man. Only the Saiyan's behavior gave it away - his lethargic movements, stupefied expression, slow speech. The act was so convincing, when watched from a distance, that Tiyesa found herself somewhat worried it might actually not be purely pretense. Surely the antidote gave him enough temporary immunity to resist several more sedative jabs? That was what one of the rebel leaders assured her of, when providing her with the encapsulated liquid and the syringe contraption. If his estimation of the drug's potency had been wrong, it would cost Keel his life. Tiyesa didn't want to linger on this line of thought, not when there wasn't anything else she could do to help. It was just a trickery on the gladiator's part, nothing more. He had to be smarter than most nobles thought.
Soon enough, the main course was finished. As attendants began clearing away everyone's plates and the trays of leftover venison, Tiyesa felt anxiety flooding her chest. How would she ever fall asleep tonight, knowing the slaves were fighting and dying for freedom down at the ludus..? The dessert held no interest for her. A rich chocolate cake, fancily decorated with fresh berries, accompanied by a glass of sweet port. Out of courtesy for the chef, she took a single bite; that was all she could manage, with the sick feeling growing in her stomach. Never the fan of sweet foods, perceiving them as decadent, Father left his own portion mostly uneaten as well. Instead, he busied himself by typing something on his wrist device. What he was communicating or to whom, Tiyesa couldn't see, but she suspected she wouldn't like the answer if she were to ask.
Minutes crawled by as everyone was finishing up with their dessert, reaching out for seconds, chatting... The host would have to wait until the vast majority of attendees were done indulging in the confection before he could make a closing speech and send the guests on their way. It seemed like a whole eternity had passed before Lúcuma finally rose from his seat and motioned for the musicians to cease playing.
"My friends, thank you for granting me the honor of being your host today! I hope you have enjoyed the fares served to you today, as well as the entertainment provided," he gestured towards the Saiyan at that, causing some ripples of laughter.
Tiyesa stopped listening to the words; it was an empty, formal speech, much like a hundred others she had heard during the various gatherings she'd attended. The meaning behind the polite words was simple - 'the party is over, this is your cue to go home and talk about how splendid the experience had been'. Once the address was concluded, the nobles began rising from the table. Tiyesa started standing up as well, but was stopped before she could make even a single step away from her seat.
"Not yet," her father said in a low tone, putting a hand on her shouler. "We are going to the landing pad. There are matters I need to take care of, and your presence is needed - for educational purposes. You may come as well if you wish, Ava."
There was no other choice but to follow the patriarch as he lead the way out of the hall, through a side entrance. Tiyesa's mind was racing as she tried to unravel the meaning of her father's words. Judging by the grim look in his eyes, it couldn't be good...
POWER LEVEL: 13,990 || SUPPRESSION: N/A || ANTISENSE: ON
Word count: 956 || Total word count: 9,378 || Post #7