Caleb Goodman, Guest Author

I finally died a day later. It hurt surprisingly little. Then I was in Hell. The entrance read ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’. It was right. It is nothing like your imagination. It can’t be. It is so horrible that if you understood it you would die. I was assigned to the Coliseum. That had to be a sick joke. Fighting for demons’ entertainment for eternity. At least I was allowed to keep my weapons. Another sick joke, but one that may help me. The first fight was almost immediately after I found out I would be fighting. My opponent was better than I was. A lava pillar erupted before his feet and he overbalanced and left me with an opening. Ranger training overruled honor. If your opponent gives you a shot, no matter how underhanded it was, take it. You may not get another. I won, but only by a miracle. My wounds felt worse than normal. It felt like a branding iron was being pressed to my wounds; it felt like a boulder fell on them; it felt like it was being slowly ripped off. But even that is a terrible description of what it felt like.  I was displayed for everyone to see, then shown to the bunks.

Everyone there looked battle-hardened, but what else would expect when you fight all day, every day. The man I fought today came back a few hours later. He must have healed even though I decapitated him. He glared at me. With no form of a guard watching what happened, I figured I’d best sleep with one eye open. I was figuring out the rules here, and there was only one, you fought when you were supposed to. Otherwise, anything goes, including murder. The guy I beat tried to kill me  while I slept. I wasn’t surprised, or unready. He thought I would be unready and easy to kill. So when he tried to kill me he took an arrow to the eye. I had it hidden up my sleeve. From the looks others gave him, he was probably not the favorite here and they didn’t care that he died. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. I was woken by a horn of such a sound that all one could think of was insanity. I was up first to fight on the list that was posted, then again after five fights. With the wounds from yesterday still barely scabbed over, I figured I would lose this next fight. This time, instead of simply pushing me through the door, there was a show of “respect”. Both fighters would meet in the middle and shake hands. It was a joke. No one had any real respect for others here. But that probably kept you alive. I died in the dust and the lava of that Coliseum, and it hurt like nothing describable. To be wounded hurt worse than when alive, but to lose, to be killed, was like all the pain of life came to hit you all at once. It took hours to heal, but at least I was fully healed for the next fight. A team fight this time. Apparently the teams never changed, and you never fought someone in your team. That was good. I could make allies without any worries. But there were many teams that you could be put against or forced to work with. This time it was a Omnis Dolor, all of the teams in the Coliseum together. No allies beyond our team. My team consisted of a knife fighter named Katalia, an archer named Owen, a knight named Vanya, a broad-axe wielder named Ayaki, and me. Katalia was the leader.

“Well, as we have a fifth member, we should be able to protect Owen. We need to be able to take out threats from a distance. Just don’t let anyone here get thrown into the lava!” Katalia said.

“Why?” I asked, confused. The lava couldn’t possibly be worse than being killed any other way.

“Because if you wind up in the lava, you will become a thing. A living humanoid lava beast and you will most likely be in constant pain.”

“Oh.” Well, no wonder everyone avoided the lava, though I couldn’t say I was surprised that people would throw others in. Then the doors opened and the fight began.

The first minute was a bloodbath. Everyone ran in through separate doors that were close together and were cut down by other teams that were entering. The lava beasts coming through the cracks in the floor didn’t help. Ayaki went down first. An arrow got her in the chest. Owen got the archer immediately after, but we still had to keep Ayaki’s body safe. I started seeing red, and when Owen was shot in the arm, I broke away from the circle protecting Owen and went after the shooter myself. As I got closer to the shooter, I saw the guy I killed working with him. I let all restraints go and let my anger take me farther than I had ever let it go. All the hurt and anger came out. I was a primal being without any ties and loyal to no one. If any of my team had gotten in my way, I would have killed them. I knew this trance, allowing me to become pure unrestrained violence; it was what had killed my best friend and put two others of my ranger team in the hospital, where one of them had almost died. It frightened me. But here I doubted I would hurt anyone I didn’t mean to hurt.

I could’ve used my bow, but I wanted to be up close and personal when I killed them. I tore through everyone like a hurricane, leaving no survivors. The dominate team, the team that the guy I killed is in, was dead in seconds. I killed thirty-five more people and then I saw Katalia, dead, being pushed towards the lava, the rest of my team dead behind her. The enemy’s team must have been the ones fighting around him, protecting him. I couldn’t make it in time, but my arrows could. Everyone near my team died as I closed the distance between us. For the rest of the fight I guarded the bodies of my fallen comrades.  At the end of the battle, it was me versus two others. They made me come to them, so I did, if only to see their deaths, and they died with my eyes looking into theirs. My team had won, and as such were revived first. They appreciated it, but they were surprised. Loners usually don’t make it in a Grand fight. Loners were those whose team has died save for them.  I had no explanation, at least none I wanted to give. They were fine with that. I had won after all. They didn’t like that I had abandoned them though. Couldn’t sleep well either, multiple people tried to kill me or someone on my team. The next centuries, or maybe millenium went by much the same. Time has no meaning in Hell. The only measurements were based on kills, fights, and the Horn. If you weren’t fighting, you were trying to sleep or watching your back. Because I was so dangerous, I didn’t sleep much. Many of those I killed tried to kill me later.

I was so good that I was put up against teams without backup. I still usually won. I was even put up against my own team from time to time, even though I wasn’t supposed to. I wasn’t surprised, it’s Hell, after all. I didn’t give in to my anger then and let them have a chance to win. When I did let go all restraints, I finally felt at peace, relatively speaking. But I couldn’t always let go of the restraints. In the team battles, I had to help my team.

Then things changed, lava beasts appeared more often, which caused the earth to rip open more, and so the earth was more active. Because the earth was more active, more lava beasts were escaping. The fights got more dangerous because of it. The Omnis Dolor were so dangerous that ten or more teams could find the earth open under them into the lava. I was almost caught in the lava many times. Then finally I was hit by the lava. It hurt worse than death in Hell. I managed to kill a few more people before burning. Then I was dragged down under the Coliseum where I had been fighting. I saw there what controlled the lava beasts. An ancient being of fire and lava, a being of pure destruction, just as I was a being of death and anger, only I could control myself, where as it couldn’t, or didn’t want to.