• Blood for Belief
    By Martin Kewish

    It is important to remember that my work is fiction. The war of the beliefs you are about to read are fiction; please enjoy the story for its entertainment value.

    I had never seen the ring so quiet. The rows of stone seats that laced the outer line of the arena were packed, yet not a single cheer erupted from them. The only sound was that of the gates we they slowly edged open, the holy order was waiting only centre meters behind the darkness of the dungeon.

    A single figure stood tall in the centre of the dusty, blood stained arena. His jet black hair and his simple brown tunic stood as the only thing he and the crowd shared. His soft blue eyes slowly moved from side to side, watching the men assemble with perfection. It was then that a booming voice came crashing down on the arena.

    “Pagan!” a man yelled from the crowd, then another and then the crowd joined there simpleton voices, shouting the word.

    The man did not seem to even flinch at the word; he just continued to stand in silence. But it was then that another voice joined the chant, it seemed to cut down the crowd quicker than any threat would have.

    “Here stands a believer of false teachings!” the voice came from a large man, laced in jewellery and royal clothing. “Here stands a sinner to our great lord!”

    The crowd cheered, but they were silenced once more as the man arose from his chair in the small open room that over looked the arena. The king like figure strode slowly over to the rail and leaned over, his eyes shone a deadly bronze in the relentless heat that the summer that had given them.

    “Tell me pagan, what was it you said your hammer was blessed by again?” his voice was laced with ignorance to which he had been talking too.

    The figure in the centre of the arena looked up, for only a second. His voice was much more pale than the rest and the crowd had to silence there excitement to even hear him.

    “Thor blessed this hammer, the god who fought against the giants, the god of thunder!” the man’s voice took a quick turn to a powerful bellow that filled the arena, but this only enraged the crowd which sent curses back.

    “Thor you say? Have you heard of the great Jesus, the man who relinquished our sins!” the king like figure spat back.

    “I have heard of the human races freedom being stripped from their bones, their eyes blinded by a false belief, and it is I who will show you the might of the gods this day!”

    The crowd roared with anger but the man in the centre of the arena only closed his eyes and smiled, he had never seen such anger in humans before. The kingly figure lent back and lost his smug smile, replacing it with a frown.

    “I am the great priest of the holy order, Brother Marcus. Tell me your name pagan!”

    “My name is Loki” he said with a proud bellow into the crowd.

    “What a pathetic name pagan, you will die with your false gods”

    “If you knew what my name held, oh priest of a hollow mind, you would pull back your soldier’s”

    Marcus laughed and the crowd followed suit. He slowly made his way back to his gold laced chair and looked down upon the arena, his bronze eyes slowly glided over the execution squad he had put into the ring.

    “So show me the strength of your name, pagan!” he put his index finger into the air and pointed forward, this was the single for a single man of lowest rank to step forward.

    A single solider stepped forward, he was only a boy. The solider all wore golden amour forced from—what they believed to be—the most pure alloy. Loki and his village had discovered years ago that gold made a weak amour for defence and therefore, never used it. But for some reason this lesson in smithing had missed the Christian settlements of the south. The boy held up his sword to meet Loki’s hammer in mid air, only a few steps apart. The boy lunged forward with a clumsy slash.

    Loki was unarmoured and all he held was his hammer. The large war hammer was larger than two fully grown men’s fists and the heavy weapon seemed to show no effect to Loki, as his shoulders were broad and his arms were evidence to his long work in the fields. Loki moved to the side and brought the large hammer down on the boy’s temple. With an ear piercing crunch, the youth’s life was snubbed out.

    “My name, means ‘To Break’ priest, your men will do to remember that” his tone had taken a turn to evil and his eyes of innocent blue had clouded, it was clear he felt regret for the life he had just taken.

    “Strength of a demon!” the priest screamed into the arena “Demon I tell you! Demon!” this time, the crowd did not follow the priest in his outburst. The silence was so rare that even Loki could see that the priest was finding it weird. It was with that he signalled the rest of the men to move in; it had seemed fear got the better of him.

    Loki dodged the first stab, and the second and even the third. With their heavy amour the soldiers found it hard to keep up with him. He ducked as a war spear was lunged at his throat and returned with a powerful blunt attack to the chin, the soldier died instantly from the deadly blow. Loki quickly skidded backwards and spun his hammer around to met another soldiers helmet, crushing the side with such force, it killed him. Loki only got a glimpse of the Marcus, which had been standing at the edge of his private room; his eyes were laced with fear.

    “You will not crush me!” Loki screamed into the face of a solider that he had just killed.
    The bodies seemed endless and the golden plated men slowly became nothing more than jewellery for the arena floor. Loki had just delivered the final blow to the last solider when the crowd grew very silent, there excitement had turned to fear and their eyes could not be unlocked from the single force of thunder that had grown with demonic speed in the middle of the arena.
    “That’s...impossible!” Marcus screamed, but no one seemed to hear him.

    “Not impossible you fool” Loki had lost his tone of wisdom and strength; it was nothing more than a whimper of regret now. “This is murder at its worst. You have forced my hand, I beg for forgiveness to my gods”

    “You’re gods?! You mean my god!” Marcus yelled back and pointed a single skinny finger at Loki “I will have your head on my table this night, Pagan!”

    With that Marcus waved his hand at two large men who seemed to be waiting for the signal. They began to lift a large iron shaft then kept the dungeon door down, why was it different from the rest? It did not take long for Loki to find out as a large brooding figure slowly emerged from the shadows. The man was at least twice as tall as Loki and proved to be bearing more than enough muscle to make quick work of him, Loki swallowed hard. He did not have time to pick out the rest of the details of the man as he brought a large jagged axe down towards Loki, which just narrowly dodged the attack.

    Loki lunged forward and noticed that the man could not keep up with his speed. His opponent was also unarmed but seemed to be weighted down from the large axe he was holding in his right hand, which in itself seemed to be able to crush the life out of Loki. He took a step back and arched his back, sending his hammer down onto the man’s hip. The attack held perfect execution and a loud crack could be heard from even the back seat viewers of the religious carnage. Loki’s victory only lasted for a second as he noticed the man seemed to shrug off the pain like he was just hit by a child, not a war hammer.

    “Impressive is he not? It’s to be expected from the best gladiator of all the arenas. He has no name, no friends and no family. Just the need to kill what’s in front of him, and that’s you pagan” Marcus’s voice was sly and he seemed to assume his victory, which struck worry into Loki’s heart.

    It was then that the great axe came crashing down onto Loki like a howling force from the heavens, striking into the middle of his rib cage. Blood spat violently from Loki’s mouth and his eyes blurred. But he refused to die, his eyes turned from fire to water, his heart connected with the very weapon that threatened his life.

    “So this is what you see as right, Gladiator? Too take the lives of those who are not a believer?” Loki said, his tone was almost a whisper but the hulking mass of a man was so close due to the nature of the attack, that he could hear him.

    “Of course, those who do not believe must burn!” he grunted back.

    “Don’t be a fool, no god would wish for blood christen!”

    “Oh? And why is that, Pagan?”

    “No god who created us would wish for his creations to be destroyed. No god would wish for the blood that holds us dear, to be split”

    “Ha! What a fool you are, Pagan” The gladiators tone seemed to waver.

    Loki fell back against the hard arena wall; his eyes locked on the gladiators “Then tell me, where in your holy book does it tell you to destroy those who do not believe?”

    The Gladiator seemed taken aback by the question and could only stutter. “I...err” His vision moved to Marcus, which refused to inject in the convocation it seemed.

    “Fool! No god would wish for this. No god would wish...” Loki’s words trailed off and a hidden strength awoke inside him “wish for...” Loki tried desperately to focus his words, but the loss of blood had made his head hazy, his eyes clouded. Then with an explosion of passion Loki screamed “No god would wish for blood for belief!”

    With that Loki hurled the war hammer with the remaining strength he held. It flew with such perfection over the Gladiators shoulder and towards the room that over looked the arena. It was the last sound Loki could make out. Marcus’s gargled scream of pain, then all went blank.