The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 25byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: This fanfic is based off the Neverwinter Nights community module by the name of "A Dance with Rogues" created by Valine. I fell in love with this story and felt compelled to write something that compliments it. This story contains explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Ni'as, Nicca, Narev and Essex are property of Valine.
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Shiloh had only ever been to the western part of the city once before. That was when she was working on lesson five. She had to procure a ring from a residence here. She rubbed her bottom as she thought of the spanking Vico had given her after he rescued her from that Dhorn soldier who had tried to make her take all of her clothes off in front of him. She knew what the Dhorn had had in mind. He wanted to fuck her. Though she couldn't quite remember his name, she recalled what he looked like and kept an eye out as she strolled along on her way to the Arena. She wasn't in the mood for any confrontation with a Dhorn or any one as a matter of fact. She just wanted to get this job over with and find out who was collaborating with the Dhorn. She was sure they would be made to pay for their involvement in the whole mess. Had they had anything to do with Caron's death? Whether or not, she swore to make them pay. It wasn't fair that someone as young and sweet and good had to die so cruelly.
Glancing at the tall tower clock that could be seen through most of the northern and western parts of the city, she knew the Arena would be open for a few more hours. She had never been allowed to come here before. It was far too dangerous and too violent for a girl of her upbringing. Shiloh scoffed, knowing she had done worse things than what went on here in the gladiatorial ring.
She opened the iron gate and let herself in. The noise level was almost deafening. From the sound of it many people had come to see the fights. She knew she wasn't here for that specifically, but she knew it would be a good idea to at least watch a fight or two just in case she saw someone she recognized. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to ask around a bit.
Approaching the ticket counter, she stopped to have a look around. There were doors leading up to the Arena itself and one marked for admittance by the gladiators only. That one might prove useful if indeed she needed to sneak back here. She knew she'd have to keep an eye out for the guards if she did return. She didn't relish the thought of getting caught by either of them.
The only other door she noticed was iron bound and marked with a sign that heralded it as the office. That might also merit returning to. Where there was an office, there had to be money. She chuckled to herself at the thought of fattening her own purse again.
Then she turned to the ticket vendor and smiled at the attractive girl. "I'd like a ticket, please." Shiloh spoke up as she dug into her money pouch.
"That'll be 5 gold coins then," she replied as she handed Shiloh a ticket and accepted the money in return, placing it in a small chest. "Have an enjoyable evening. I hear there is quite a line-up tonight."
"Do you get to watch the fights?" Shiloh inquired as she clutched her ticket in her hand.
"Only when I'm not on duty. Sometimes I get to go up and see the last fight. It's normally the main event."
"I see. I've never been to a place like this before. My parents were very strict. So, are the gladiators all human?" Shiloh asked, figuring the clerk would be a fount of information.
"No, not all. There is an Ogre, a Hill giant, some strange thing called an eyeball. And there's this strange witch woman. She usually foretells the weather and things like that. And there is a monk, too. He never speaks to anyone, but he always gets what he wants."
"But there are human male gladiators, right?" Shiloh cocked an eyebrow.
Shiloh leaned closer to the ticket clerk. "Would it be possible to meet the gladiators? Visit them, perhaps?"
"Oh no, I'm sorry, Miss. Entrance to the gladiators' quarters is limited to authorized personnel only."
A frown crossed Shiloh's face. Now what, she thought to herself. I suppose I'll have to sneak my way in. "Hmmm..."
She studied Shiloh briefly, then lowered her voice, leaning even closer. "You've got a favor for big, strong men?"
"Yes, very much."
The girl cracked a wide smile. "I've got to admit, I enjoy looking at them too. I know the gladiators are often visited by women who pleasure them. I never see them coming in, however, just leaving. But I know a woman named Sharita is involved. She used to run a bordello in the city, the Dhorn have closed her down though. But I've heard she often visits the Lion's Head Inn these days. Maybe she'd get you in. I'd say that's your best bet, but don't tell anyone I told you. It could mean my job."
"Never fear. I didn't hear a word. Thank you." Shiloh winked and walked over to the guard working one of the doors that went up to the Arena floor. She handed him her ticket and waited while he invalidated it and let her through the gate.
Apprehension filled Shiloh. She wasn't sure what she'd see up here. Her heart pounded in her chest. Would she see the same man she'd seen in the sewers? Would she be recognized by one of the commoners who had come to witness the bloody spectacle?
Shiloh took the steps two at a time, her long legs eating up the distance quite quickly. As she entered the main area, she was assailed by the roar of the crowd and clang on weapons hitting flesh. She stopped momentarily, sucked in by the raw violence. It disturbed and fascinated her... she longed to join in on it. Instantly she imagined being in the shoes of one of them and fighting to the death. Claiming victory and reveling in the shouts of praise from the crowd.
But a voice brought her out of her momentary reverie. "Greetings, fairest lady. Your first time at the arena?"
Startled, she turned to him wide eyed. "Uh... yes, it is." His manner of welcome caught her off guard. Did he know who she was? Had he recognized her? "But I'm no fair lady. Just a simple kitchen girl."
"You look like the Princess," he commented. "It's nearly uncanny. I bet you've heard that before, huh?"
Shiloh nodded and shrugged. "A time or two."
"Well, let me give you a brief introduction. The arena's a big show! People from all over the kingdom come to see the fights! You see that shield over there?" He motioned to a huge shield mounted on a pillar. "That's where you can see the night's schedule. Normally there are five or six fights per evening! There is only two more left, one of which is the main event. Abhu, the hill giant, is fighting Taursxith, an eight headed Hydra. It's the battle of the giants. An exciting battle all around. You should bet on that one."
"Betting is allowed?" Shiloh asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh my yes. Wagering money on the different opponents is highly encouraged. It adds more excitement to the fights. A lot of people have made a small fortune this way. You'll want to visit the bookmaker for that. He's standing next to the arena master. He's the only person allowed to take bets. You'll also be able to see what the odds are on the opponents so you'll have a good idea who to bet on."
"Thank you very much, good sir." Shiloh inclined her head and walked away, making her way over to the shield. She scanned to list of events, carefully checking out the names of all the gladiators that were competing this night. She smiled as she noticed one that she'd seen before in the accounting ledger she'd stolen from the barracks. He'd already fought a match earlier in the evening and had won. No wonder he was working for the Dhorn. He wasn't a main event fighter.
Walking away, Shiloh stopped to watch the carnage in the ring. It wasn't pretty, that was for sure. A muscle-bound male in a loin cloth wielding the largest axe she'd ever seen was facing off against a half-orc female... it looked orcish, but had many human features as well... with an double ended axe in her hands. Both were bruised and bloodied and were giving the fight their all.
The brutality of it had her mesmerized. She couldn't pull her eyes away as both combatants swung their weapons at each, tearing gashes in each others flesh. And then the man went down with one wide arcing sweep of the half-orc double axe, blood and entrails splattered all over. Shiloh turned away, resisting the urge to empty the contents of her stomach.
She had to get out of there. She had to let Master Nathan know what she had found out and she needed to pay a visit to this Sharita woman who could get her into the meet the gladiators. She knew she was on the right track. Shiloh left the arena in a hurry, leaving behind the ear-splitting noise and gut-wrenching violence. No wonder her father's advisors didn't think it was a good place for the princess to visit, she scoffed to herself.
Her destination was the Lion's Head Inn. She remembered fondly the night she'd spent with Pia. It had been a beautiful experience, but not one she was interested in repeating. She had decided that she preferred the passion and thrill that only a man could give her. The pleasure of a hard thrusting cock sent shivers of need racing through her and she quickly realized how much she missed it. How much she missed Vico...
Damn, she muttered aloud. This wasn't the time to be having thoughts such as those. She knew she certainly needed a good fuck. Perhaps once she finished this job for Master Nathan successfully, he'd be willing to tell her where Rhys was. A rendezvous with her gorgeous giant of a man was always pleasurable. And perhaps it would take her mind off Vico. It had to, she told herself disparagingly. She had made the decision to bring Shanna back, to mess with things she probably had no right messing with, and Shanna was looking forward to seeing the blackguard again. You've made your bed, a voice in her head reprimanded, now you must lie in it.
Ensconced in her thoughts, she walked into the Lion's Head Inn not paying attention to where she was going and ended up bumping a serving wench with her hands full. Shiloh watched in dismay as the tray of drinks hit the floor with a resounding crash and liquid splashed upon her. The waitress glared at Shiloh menacingly, "Watch where yer headed, stupid," the girl spat as she pulled a bit of cloth from her pocket and dabbed at her wet clothes. "I can't afford to buy these customers drinks fer them."
"I'm sorry, miss. I wasn't paying attention. Excuse me," Shiloh gave her a frosty glance and headed towards the innkeeper. He raised an eyebrow as she approached his desk.
"Ya gonna pay for that?" He asked as he motioned toward the serving girl who was now cleaning up the spilled drinks.
"Why would I do that?" Shiloh shrugged, "She should watch where she's going. I'm the patron here and I've always been told that the customers are always right. Plus I work for Master Nathan."
He cleared his throat, "But I don't. Pay up or you'll find yourself out on your skinny little ass, wench."
Shiloh handed him a gold piece, "Will that suffice, good sir?"
"Do you mean to insult me? That doesn't even come close." He turned towards a door and bellowed, "Time to take out the trash."
Shiloh flashed the haughtiest glare she could manage and slowly pulled her knife. "I wouldn't call me that if I were you. You just might find that the next time you open your mouth, I'll slice off your tongue and make you eat it. Now, are you going to apologize or do I need to get really nasty?"
The innkeeper paled as his eyes darted from her to the blade and back to her. His fear of her rolled of him in palpable waves. "N-No ... need for... violence and no... harm done," he stammered, eyeing her warily as he noted her glowing red eyes.
She nodded at him, replacing her blade. "I came in here looking for a woman named Sharita. Would you be so kind as to point her out to me and then I'll be on my way?"
"She's over there in the turquoise dress." The innkeeper pointed over as he motioned for the serving wench to come over to him who lowered her as she complied.
Shiloh nodded again and turned away from him, strolling over to Sharita quite casually as if nothing had happened at all. "Sharita?"
"Who wants to know?" The attractive middle aged tawny skinned woman replied.
"I do, naturally. It would seem we have some business to discuss. Would you like a drink?"
"I favor elven mead. They have a fine one here, but it doesn't come cheap," Sharita replied as she looked Shiloh up and down.
Shiloh snapped her fingers at the serving wench she'd bumped into and sat down in a chair across from the older woman. "You, wench, the lady will have a glass of your finest elven mead and I shall have Willowyck Brandy. Promptly and don't drop it."
The waitress bobbed a curtsy despite the fact that her cheeks were burning with indignation and scurried off the fill the order.
"And what kind of business do we have to discuss, sweetheart? Because I don't believe I know you." Sharita spoke up.
"Well, sweetheart, my name is Belara and I was told you would be the woman to speak to about getting a rendezvous with the gladiators at the Arena. You see, I love big strong men and that kind of company is so hard to find. I abhor going anywhere near the docks. It's just not safe anymore. I had to find an alternate way to cater to my... let's say, addiction. It could very well be a profitable enterprise for both of us."
Sharita cocked an eyebrow at her and leaned forward as the serving wench set their drinks on the table. "And how often would these rendezvous occur?"
"Nightly," Shiloh grinned as she handed the waitress a small pouch of gold coins quite nonchalantly. "I'm a woman who needs constant... attention, if you know what I mean."
"Then why not get married?"
"I am married... to an older gentleman. It was an arranged marriage and he's not physically able to perform the way I need it, but since he is a wealthy man I just can't leave him. Being penniless doesn't suit me. So until he dies and leaves me with his fortune, I'll seek outside means to satiate my needs. Now can you help me?"
"Usually it's the gladiators who pay for these kinds of services, but for a fee, I believe I can arrange a meeting."
Shiloh delved into her haversack and pulled out a pouch of gold, slipping it across the table to Sharita discreetly. "Tonight?"
Sharita downed the contents of her glass and inclined her head. "Come with me," she motioned as she led Shiloh out of the inn and over into the western part of the city. The Arena was dark as were most of the houses. She knew it had to be fairly late. Sharita avoided the main entrance, instead approaching a small trapdoor located in an alcove in the back of the building. She unlocked the trapdoor with a key of hers and explained to me that it was an old funnel that can be used to get into the basement.
Shiloh eyed the older lady speculatively before carefully lowering herself into the funnel. It was just wide enough for her to squeeze into. There was no ladder to be found. The thought of having to drop down into the darkness unnerved her more than she wished to admit. She hesitated for a moment. Sharita noticed her apprehension. "Don't worry, sweetheart, it's only a small drop. There's a shaft below you. You'll be sliding down than actually falling. And have fun. I'll see you tomorrow night, if you don't mind a few bumps and bruises. These guys tend to be rough on the ladies."
"I like it rough," Shiloh grinned before allowing herself to let go and drop down into the darkness below her. She slid down the funnel, rapidly picking up speed. The friction of leather on steel warmed her bottom quite nicely. But then she felt the sensation of falling. A small squeak of dismay slipped from her lips as readying herself for her landing. She wasn't sure how pretty it was going to look, but she tucked herself into a ball, hoping to slow her momentum. Soon she tumbled into a sparsely lit room and landed in a crouch, letting her knees absorb most of her impact. A small hiss of pain slipped past her lips.
She gathered her wits about her and scanned the room. Before her, polishing an extremely large axe was an overly muscled hulk of a man. He cocked an eyebrow at her, looking up at the chute she'd come down from. "Who sent you, wench? What brings you here?"
"Where's here?" Shiloh bluffed, looking around the room nosily.
"I asked you first, bitch, and if you don't have a good explanation, my friend here," the bald headed man petted his double-bladed axe, "will become quite intimate with your insides."
"See, for most of m'life I'se been an urchin. I like pickin' locks and breakin' into homes. Just t'see how the other half lives. I picked the lock on the trap door. It was so simple. Ya'll should consider a harder lock."
He studied her thoughtfully, his eyes talking a slow walk over every inch of her body. "Then why do I get the feeling that yer a spy, lil' girl?"
Shiloh let out a chuckle. "Nah, just a thief," she quickly sprang into action, whipping out both her swords quickly.
Without speaking, the gladiator launched his attack, meeting her head on. He swung his massive double-bladed axe at her. She dodged him quickly, ducking beneath it and tumbling backwards. He charged at her, a growl on his lips, but Shiloh nimbly sidestepped his rush, which carried him past her. With a giggle, she planted a foot on his rear, and gave him a big shove.
The gladiator whirled as he regained his equilibrium and swung at her again. She ducked the swipe, bringing her swords in contact with his legs. She jabbed and stabbed, watching as blood spurted from two ragged cuts upon his thigh.
The two combatants circled each other, looking for an opening. Shiloh struck first, making a feint at his arm with her right hand that he easily parried with a swing of his axe. She seized the slim opening his attack left for her off-hand sword to strike a slashing hit to his torso. He let out a hiss and pressed his attack on her as dual strikes of his weapon came at her. His blows landed, opening gashes in the front of her armor and tearing the flesh beneath it. Shiloh cried out as the pain ripped through her. She knew she couldn't take any more of those hits. It would mean utter defeat. She couldn't fail at this either.
She tumbled back, favoring her injuries and landed a deep cut to his chest again. She hissed in frustration. That one was meant for his neck, she mentally chided herself as she swept past him. He spun to face her and swung at her again. Ducking and rolling out of the way, Shiloh feinted for his torso. He brought his guard low in an attempt to block her, but she proved to be too swift for him. Bringing both blades up, she whirled about, sweeping around his guard and slicing his throat wide open. His double axe clattered uselessly to the floor at her feet as he gasped around the blood welling up in his mouth. It splattered on her armor and onto the floor as he fell in a thud.
Making sure he was indeed dead, she rolled him over and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest. "Asshole," she muttered as she quickly searched his room. Atop a desk was a receipt she found interesting. It was from the very same payroll office she had robbed. One thousand gold paid to the order of a man named Jarthan Mordwinn. He didn't look like the one she'd seen in the sewers, but she was sure she was on the right track. Jarthan was the same one who had competed earlier in the fights.
Delving into her pack, she pulled out a healing draught and drank it quickly, shuddering as it slid down her throat. Damn, those things should taste better. She knew she had to be at her best if she wanted to sneak out of here alive and in one piece.