The following scene takes place in the beginning of the second chapter after the Hare Hunt. It was cut from the original draft due to violence and to reduce the size of the final text. Although this scene contains some character development, it was not deemed crucial to the story arch. Some character descriptions were pulled and used in the final text. Enjoy!
Azaria and Daneel watched the rest of the competitions with Dogahn and Tiriz. All four were excited to see Luzon’s older brother in his first bout. Dizon was pitted against a smaller, younger contestant with fear in his eyes. As the whistle blew, the young wrestler rushed the giant man’s legs, hoping to surprise him. Unfortunately, he stepped right into a brutal left elbow that hit his temple square. He crumpled, out cold, falling face first into the dirt. Dizon pounced on him, rearing his fist back, ready to pound his head into the ground. The judge whistled furiously, grabbing hold of Dizon’s massive arm. Fortunately Dizon stopped just short, looking disgusted. Azaria imagined he would have rather beat the man until the back of his skull caved in.
With his victory confirmed, Dizon swung his arms high and roared, circling the defeated before striding over to his bellowing family. Tiriz was stunned. But he assured his friends that his brother, Tilik, would never charge so stupidly into Dizon’s range of power.
The next few matches were less than thrilling compared to the opening display. Most of the competitors rolled together in the dirt until one gained an advantageous hold. One man had his shoulder pulled from its socket and had to verbally acquiesce to his more adept rival.
Tiriz bristled with anticipation when Tilik’s turn came. He rose to his feet, shouting strategic suggestions. The opponent had a muscular build, with a wide chest and thick, hairy arms. Osto opened with a wild swing and Tilik ducked under, grabbing the back of his thighs and pushing off with his right foot. He lifted him off the ground and drove him hard onto the dusty battleground. On his back, Osto’s powerful left arm wrapped around the back of Tilik’s neck. With his right hand, he swung again and again at Tilik’s side. But Tiriz’s brother was an experienced wrestler and blocked the blows. He squeezed out of Osto’s hold and mounted him, sending a few quick punches to his face, none of which landed squarely.
Tilik grabbed hold of Osto’s right arm by the wrist, allowing several clear shots to the Fox Camp wrestler’s face. One carefully placed blow broke the man’s nose, launching a splash of blood. Osto, having had enough, pulled his knees up toward himself, dug his feet into the ground and arched his back up, setting Tilik off balance. He then rotated underneath and slipped out. Both men leapt to their feet. Osto was bloodied with Tilik breathing heavily.
Osto charged head first, grasping for his opponent’s legs. But Tilik was not yet fully spent. He stepped left, spinning away from the attack. He jumped on top of the bigger man’s back, driving him to the ground. Osto landed heavily on his stomach, with his assailant mounted on top. Tilik pounded the back of his head, driving his face into the dirt. Blood poured freely from the broken nose, testing the judge’s nerves and causing some to turn away. With great effort, Osto rotated his body around again, only to find himself in the same position he was in earlier, except now his own blood was pouring into his mouth, interfering with his breathing. He cocked his head back, attempting to direct the blood away from his mouth. Tilik took advantage and jammed his forearm into Osto’s throat and swung his fist into his mid-riff. Osto tired quickly. He did little more than flail his fists at the back of Tilik’s head. Tilik avoided the blows completely, while continuing to wail at the space just below Osto’s rib cage. The judge finally decided he’d seen enough and let out a piercing whistle. The match was over. Tilik escaped unharmed and more confident than ever. He ran over to Tiriz and wrapped him in a bear hug, stepping on poor Daneel in the process. He then ran to the rest of his family, Tiriz following him, slapping his brother on the back and shouting encouragement.
Dizon destroyed his next couple of opponents, sending one man off with a broken arm. Tilik’s next two challengers were not as much trouble as his first. After some brief arm-to-arm grappling, he dispatched his second foe with a swift kick to the back of the man’s calf, sending him sprawling onto the hard dirt floor. He landed harshly, the back of his head slamming violently on the ground. Tilik followed the move with an elbow to the man’s sternum which knocked his breath out. The incapacitated wrestler held his palms upward, indicating his desire to cede. Tilik’s third opponent initially had him mounted and he took a few blows to the head, leaving him with a swelling eye. But he quickly reversed the position, gaining advantage on top of the other man’s back. With his opponent locked in his grip, he rolled over. The man on top of him faced the wrong direction and threw wild elbows which mostly punished the ground. Tilik maneuvered his right arm around the man’s neck, locking the choke hold with his left. Tilik’s opponent was near blacking out when the judge whistled the match over.
Four unbeaten competitors remained. To Tiriz’s dismay, his brother would face Dizon next.
Tilik took to the field, a skilled and powerful warrior. Next to Dizon though, he appeared outmatched. Dizon’s intimidating glare gave Azaria shivers. He was a giant of a man, once and half again as massive as his youngest brother – a preview of what Luzon would become. His dome was shaved clean in the customary style of the family men. Black tattooed stripes covered much of the surface of his skull, beginning just above the back of his neck and tapering to converging points at the top of his forehead. His arms were as big as almost three of a normal man’s and he towered above the rest of the field, standing a full head and shoulders above. Ugly scars on his face, arms and torso were trophies of his many battles. Spread across his upper back were a pair of tattooed eagle wings, a familial identification. Dizon’s clan claimed an ancestor had bred with one of the Bird Men, providing explanation for their astonishing physical prowess and speed. Most believed the claim. The wings reminded those who didn’t.
Azaria could tell Tilik was intimidated, despite his winter of preparation. When the judge whistled the start, Tilik stepped to the side again and again, forcing the competitors to circle each other. Tiriz explained his brother was looking for the right angle and attempting to frustrate his opponent. Each instance Dizon charged forward, Tilik would step aside and back. Some in the audience grew restless, a murmur beginning to stir. Finally, Dizon charged forward, head down, aiming for Tilik’s mid-section. But Tilik was ready. He had practiced the move over and over with his father and brothers. In the blink of an eye, he shifted his weight back to his left foot, planted his right firmly and stepped forward, thrusting his knee directly into the oncoming man’s face. Dizon was quick though. He saw the assault and swiveled just enough to mitigate the full force of the attack. Still, he took a crushing knee directly to the side of his head, sending him sprawling to the ground.
The crowd roared, jumping to their feet in anticipation of a huge upset. Tiriz’s knee knocked Daneel’s head as he sprung up, screaming in hasty triumph. Dogahn hopped up too, partially fearing what other damage his best friend might do in his exultation.
Tilik was still hesitant however. Instead of mounting his downed opponent, he kicked at Dizon’s mid-section. The crowd booed its displeasure. There were few rules on the wrestling grounds, but some tactics were considered dishonorable. Tilik heard the discontent and ceased the line of attack. He instead dove at his opponent, his drawn fist striking Dizon squarely on his jaw as he rose, knocking him on his back. As the crowd roared, Tilik leapt onto the massive hunter and threw strike after strike at the mammoth head, finding small openings in Dizon’s defense and exploiting them. He was gaining confidence with each landed blow, straining to hear the official’s conclusive whistle. But the judge believed Dizon was still able to defend himself, perhaps thinking the giant man could endure almost anything.
Dizon was stunned by the successive blows, confused and surprised to find himself in the compromising position. Not able to anticipate from which direction each strike would come, he was less sure of the outcome of a battle than he could remember. Desperate not to be bested, he gripped a handful of dirt and threw it into the eyes of his assaulter. Tilik, suddenly blinded, brought both hands to his face, frantically wiping at his eyes. The crowd howled its disapproval again, disgusted with the cowardly ploy. The tactic had crossed a line. It was something small children and cowards would resort to. But Dizon didn’t care. He rolled Tilik, quickly shifted to an upright position and swung violently at his face, landing a second punch and then a third. Blood splattered in all directions. The judge whistled and pounced, slowing him but not completely preventing a fourth, softened blow. Dizon reared his right arm back, shedding the judge from his back and threw a fifth blow at Tilik’s head. One of the older hunters ran onto the pitch and tackled him. Dizon rolled the new aggressor and brought his fist up and then down into the man’s face. The older man diverted most of the punch away, but still took a glancing blow to his forehead, leaving him dazed and vulnerable. Several rushed the pitch. Azaria yelled “No!” and “Stop!” as did Dogahn and many in the crowd. Tiriz stormed the pitch also, but was held back by one of the older men.
Finally Dizon came to his senses. He didn’t throw again, but rose howling in rage. When the pandemonium died, Tilik was upright on his knees, grimy blood and dirt covering his face and in his eyes. Dizon shouted at the judge and yelled threats at the brave man who dove into the middle of the tussle. Fahim, the elderly Ta’araki co-leader, made her way onto the pitch. Her graying hair was unkempt, her dark brown skin shriveled. Faded tattoos covered her arms and part of her forehead and cheeks. She consulted briefly with the man officiating the match and then addressed the crowd. “Both men have shown dishonor in this match and both should wear a mark of shame,” she said. Her crackling voice carried much force, despite her age. The audience murmured. “However,” she creaked. The crowd quieted immediately. “However, no champion has yet emerged. The match must go on. We will give each competitor a few moments to dust off…” She looked at Tilik before continuing, “and gather themselves – and then we will continue with the competition.”
Most of the audience quieted in appreciation of the elder woman’s words. To Azaria, it seemed each person had their own opinion as to what should happen next. It was obvious Tiriz thought Dizon should be disqualified. Many agreed, but the old woman had spoken, and the Natu were accustomed to acquiescing to her guidance.
The competitors faced each other again. Tilik’s face was cleansed of blood but he looked beaten. His right eye was closing and open cuts glistened on his forehead and upper lip. He could see at least, but the cuts trickled fresh blood. Dizon, despite a darkening left eye and a small gash on the bridge of his nose, was ready to kill his rival. With the second opening whistle he charged blindly, jabbing with his left fist before swinging madly with his mighty right. Tilik barely dodged the flurry and scampered away. It was obvious he was scared. Dizon charged again and again, with Tilik dodging and scurrying, narrowly avoiding each blow. The incessant attacks finally forced him off balance and he fell backward into the crowd. Dizon stood at the edge, glowering down at him, but holding his wrath in check, intelligent enough to know another infraction would lead to disqualification.
Azaria was dismayed, terrified for Tiriz’s brother. She looked at each of her friends. Tiriz was desolate. Daneel was silent, keeping her head down, unable to watch what she feared would come next. Dogahn’s expression was grim also.
The fight restarted and for a third round the competitors faced each other. Dizon was somewhat winded, Tilik surprisingly a little more confident. Managing the withering onslaught seemed to have encouraged him. Dizon taunted him, yelling disparaging remarks about his family and slapping his chest, daring Tilik to fight. Tilik tried a leg swipe, but Dizon saw it coming. He was too fast. He lifted his left leg up to avoid the blow, stepped forward with his right foot and swung viciously, just grazing Tilik’s chin. Tilik swung down with his right elbow and caught Dizon on the top of the head, but there was no force in it, as he wasn’t properly positioned when he threw. It was enough to set Dizon off balance however, and he lurched a few steps forward. Tilik swiveled and jumped on his back, grasping for a choke hold. But Dizon was too experienced. He grabbed Tilik’s legs, spun around and fell back, crushing Tilik against the ground.
It was a heavy blow, but Tilik had his opponent in the same position as his last and attempted to catch him in the same choke hold. Dizon was agile however, and able to prevent the trap by keeping his chin tight to his chest. Kicking his feet out to gain leverage, he heaved his upper torso up and violently brought his body back down, smashing the back of his head into Tilik’s face. Tilik’s nose busted, blood splattering in several directions. He was dazed and his grip loosened. Dizon rolled off him, brought himself to his knees and slammed his hulking fist into Tilik’s already bloodied face. Tilik rolled over to a fetal position, lacking the energy to scamper away. Dizon swung again and landed a ferocious blow to the exposed side of Tilik’s head. He cocked his right hand back to deliver again. The judge whistled and charged, afraid the hulking competitor would never stop. However, Dizon respected this call. The match undoubtedly his, he was no longer set on brutalizing his smaller rival. He stood and waved the old woman over, kneeling patiently until they tended him. Then he thrust his arms into the air, accompanied by his customary battle cry. But it was muted, as if the victory was less satisfying than his earlier fights. Azaria was moved by his sudden turn of compassion, wondering if he felt Tilik was a worthier opponent and more deserving of his respect.
Tiriz again ran onto the pitch, unencumbered, and accompanied his beaten brother and the elder Ta’araki woman, along with his father and some other relatives, to the waiting healers.
The second to last match was quick and impressive, ended quickly by a clever choke hold applied by the smaller of the two competitors, an athletic looking man from Swan Camp known as Olaf. His acrobatic style had made him a crowd favorite, knocking out one of his earlier opponents with a high kick to the other man’s jaw. He was shorter than most, but had an innate ability in leveraging his body weight to produce powerful blows with both hands and feet. His ground skills were equally deadly, forcing one of his earlier opponents to cede with an unusual hold that nearly busted the other man’s arm. He had escaped all of his earlier matches with few visible wounds, a scratch on his forehead being the most prominent.
Moods had mellowed by the brutal finish to Tilik’s match, but were livening again due to Olaf’s highly entertaining performance. Dizon and Olaf took to the pitch soon after. Dogahn was excited. Azaria also felt the thrill of anticipation and even Daneel was looking forward to the last match. Olaf was a dwarf compared to Dizon, but he stood his ground proudly, meeting the giant man’s gaze determinedly. Clearly, he understood the art of intimidation. If he felt any, he didn’t show it. Dizon looked down at Olaf as a leopard would at a rabbit trying to bite his leg.
At the whistle, Olaf backed off several paces and then took three bounding steps forward. He faked right, then left, confusing his massive opponent. Planting with his right foot he made an impossible leap upward, leaning backward in mid-air. Before he could react, Olaf had his legs wrapped around Dizon’s neck. He thrust his upper body backward, pulling Dizon’s full weight with him. Dizon somersaulted and was thrown hard to his back. It was a dazzling move, no one had ever seen anything quite like it. It didn’t injure Dizon, but it clearly shocked him. The crowd roared in anticipation. They didn’t know what to expect next from Olaf, this unlikely hero. Azaria wondered if Dizon felt the same uncertainty.
Olaf was up instantly. He had practiced his opening attack and it proceeded exactly as he planned. As Dizon turned over to get up, Olaf was in the middle of a spinning round house. His right heel slammed into the giant man’s jaw. A stream of blood flew across the pitch, landing a couple paces away. Dizon collapsed face first into the ground. The crowd was on its feet screaming, erupting with delight, salivating for the next blow. Olaf leapt into the air again, twisting his body horizontal and came down with his right elbow hammering Dizon square on his ear. Nobody else could have withstood the two vicious blows, but Dizon was powerful, the staunchest fighter any could remember, the pride of his family line. He was only stunned, albeit bloody. He brought his hands to his face to block further attacks while he struggled to his feet, sacrificing his midriff in exchange. Olaf saw the opening and took it. He rose and drove his right knee straight into Dizon’s mid-section. Dizon toppled over with Olaf on top of him. His side was bruised, his face bloodied.
But he had Olaf within his clutches.
He would not let go now. No matter how many blows he took, he would never let go of his opponent. The small man was too dangerous on his feet.
Olaf felt the power of his opponent’s grip. The strength frightened him and he scrambled to get away. But Dizon had hold of his foot. He pulled Olaf like a ragdoll. Dizon raised his fist and with the force of a cliff side coming down, slammed it into the smaller man’s rib cage. Azaria heard bones crack. Again and again, his fist slammed into Olaf’s back, just above the kidney. Olaf was face down, no longer attempting to flee, his body beginning to spasm. Azaria covered her ears, unable to bear the awful sound of bones breaking. She closed her eyes and could see inside his chest, bones shattering, splintering into vital organs. The crowd was shrieking. There was another thud and more bones splitting. She opened her eyes and saw the judge smashing into Dizon, driving him to the ground. Other hunters dove onto the giant, preventing further harm. Healers rushed to the downed man. Chaos unfolded unlike anything Azaria had ever experienced. She imagined this was what battle must look like.
A few moments of blurred commotion passed and things gradually settled down. Luzon and some of the men of his family took swings at several of the hunters who had rushed Dizon, but they were greatly outnumbered and backed off when they saw Dizon rise. He stalked off with the rest of his clan, swinging his arms in the air and howling, only stopping momentarily to look back at his fallen rival. Azaria thought there was a hint of remorse, but it was hard to be sure. His face was covered in shared blood.