The time for the match drew close, before then, Mr. Stone had successfully whipped the town into a frenzy.
First he started the rumors; tales making rounds of a fighter who had fallen in love and wanted a chance at freedom for himself and his love. In a town soaked in boredom, where everyone’s personal business was everyone else’s latest news, the gist spread like wildfire.
Then one day, while smoking at a public bar, packed full with patrons thirsty for both beer and gossip, he let slip the possibility of him allowing the fight.
At heart he was a hapless romantic, but then, he had gotten the slave at such a high price- a man had to recoup his investments did he not?
So, of course, the entrance fee was going to be on the high side. Only those who desired to watch beauty and love, faithfulness and date in action would be allowed to come and watch.
In the meantime, you could come see the negro if you had a few shillings to spare. With a swish of his cloak he left the bar, and almost three-quarters of the bar went with him.
He got home and had Koby put on display, with people thrusting money into his hands to see the fighter. That day, he made enough to buy another Koby.
Koby meanwhile, busied himself with preparations. A prince back in his homeland, he was intimate with the means and methods of dealing death.
A veteran of several tribal wars, he knew that half of what guaranteed success was the proper mindset. And also, preparation.
So he took deep breaths, exercised and stretched his limbs. He ate his meals and went for regular strolls, within Mr Stone’s enclosure of course. Then he took up running, and joined the household slaves in fetching the heavy jugs of water.
At night, he took up sticks and worked through the night, twirling and thrusting in patterns handed down from generation to generation.
Weeks passed and his hand grew even more calloused, limbs thickened and grew, and his endurance grew steadily.
Finally, the match was fixed and the day arrived.
The entrance fee was seven pounds, yet the spacious arena was chock-full.
For people to contend with, the prison happily contributed it’s prisoners on death row after a lump sum of money had changed hands. Savage killers, murderers and psychopaths each, they had been guaranteed a pardon if they participated. Illegal, but in those times, records could easily be doctored. And they were, with blatant regularity.
For anyone who died, the cause of death would be ‘natural causes’.
So of course, everyone in the ring had a motivation. When Koby stepped into the arena, people went wild, throwing roses and all sorts at him. Thanks to Mr. Stone and his publicity, everyone felt like they knew him.
A deadly, quiet savage, he had fallen in love with beautiful slave girl; and now, he was ready to fight to keep what he had found. He was going to fight for freedom and love.
The housewives agreed as one that it was deliciously romantic.
The spinsters fantasized about him in their sleep and could often be heard muttering his name under their breath as they tossed and turned at night.
Men grunted and drank to his health as they gulped down mugs of beer in the evenings.
And each of these groups were fully represented in the arena.
He entered with just one weapon, a staff with a blade attached at both ends. Inlaid with iron and bound with iron rings, it was a bit on the heavy side, but very sturdy. It had to be, it would decide whether he lived or died.
Armor was not to be allowed.
As he walked to the center, people cheered, the noise loud enough to be heard and felt a good distance away.
His first opponent was released from a set of five cages of different sizes hanging suspended about three inches from the ground.
A mad murderer known as ‘Smiling Sam’ his weapon of choice was a cleaver, and not just any cleaver, the cleaver he had used to chop up bodies before he was discovered and arrested.
Armed with a manic smile and his wicked looking blade with brown stains, he advanced on Koby. Koby waited for him to get close enough, then quickly, almost a blur, he twirled, reached, sliced the inside of Smiling Sam’s wrist as the lunatic raised his hand to swing. The cleaver dropped to the ground. A sharp quick slice sent his head after it, and Koby stood as his lifeblood leaked to the ground.
Attendants rushed out and dragged the corpse away. Some others opened the next cage door and out of the separate spaces divided by a partition, two men stepped out.
One had a sword. The other had nothing. His teeth had been filed into sharp points and his fingernails were long and sharp, talons, in fact. They called him “The cannibal of the hills.”
Before capture, he would often go after people and kidnap them, before taking them with him to the hills, where he roamed.
Then he would set them free and then proceed to hunt them down. When he eventually found them, he ate them.
The two criminals came for Koby at the same time. Koby kept his eyes on the one with the sword. The cannibal wasn’t much of a threat, he had to first get close to attack. So he went swinging and thrusting, forcing the swordsman to parry blow after blow after blow. Just as he got in, slicing into his belly, he felt a sharp pain at his back. The cannibal had clawed him! He had almost forgotten about him. Turning back with anger, he severed off his head.
The swordsman was still coming for him, one hand clutching his stomach. With ease, Koby finished him off.
Attendants came and dragged away the corpses and another set of attendants opened the third cage door. This one they opened after all the attendants had left the arena, and they opened it while standing on a raised platform. The moment it was open, they took to their heels.
Gingerly, like it was testing the floor, a clawed foot came out. Then another, and gradually a leopard slinked out.
Koby held his breath. No one said anything about fighting a leopard. But then, he was asking to be free, wasn’t he?
It would not come cheap.
He and the leopard stalked each other, moving round in a circle. Koby mirrored it’s steps, watching for the bunching of muscles that signalled a pounce, there! As it came for him, he was already in motion- he shifted a bit to the side and sliced.
Enraged it came for him again. He sliced it across the about, and it caught him just below the knee with a claw. He drove the blade into it’s shoulder. They separated, bleeding.
The beast staggered a bit, and fell to the ground in a heap. Attendants, unwilling to come near it quickly opened the fourth cage and hurried off. From the two partitions, three hefty men came out. One clutched a club, another held two knives, and one held a spear.
Koby watched them, wary as they advanced. Then he noticed something, the leopards head shifted a fraction. It wasn’t dead!
Just as the trio raised a war cry, it turned into a shriek as the leopard got to it’s feet, shook off the effects of blood loss and pounced on the spearman.
They rolled to and fro, and his screaming was cut short. He wasn’t quite dead when it lowered its head and feasted on his innards, pulling juicy bits and gulping them down
The remaining two kept a respectful distance between the beast and it’s prey. Then the club wielder noticed how preoccupied it was with it’s meal, for the leopard hadn’t been fed for three days prior to the match to out it in the proper frame of mind.
He snuck up behind it and clubbed it to death. Satisfied, he came for Koby. At this time, Koby had several cuts and gashes from the knives. Slowing, the knife user was gaining an upper hand. And now, his friend had joined in.
He gritted his teeth and offered a prayer to ogun, the yoruba deity of hunters and war and fought on. Finally, he managed to kill the two criminals.
The last cage swung open, and spilled its contents. When they came out, the entire arena went quiet. People whispered to one another;
“Aren’t those the ‘George twins’?”
“Lord that’s insane.”
“Some say they’re not even human.”
“I agree. Sixteen men between them, sixteen good men.”
“Monsters, the both of them”
And then soft feminine whispers of
“The poor darling”
“Oh he’s gone.”
Ewatomi meanwhile gripped the railing from where she was sitting, a side attraction.
Some fingers pointed in her direction. Tongues wagged. They knew she was the woman Koby was fighting for, after all, did he not offer his life to set them both free?
Buxom housewives were green with envy. They didn’t have anyone willing to do anything so romantic for them.
Ewatomi didn’t hear the whispers, didn’t see the pointing fingers, her mind was filled with fear for Koby’s safety.
She called to mind the legend of the ‘George twins’. At first, they had been hunters of big game, quite good at what they did, but with the price of meat being what it is, they didn’t get the life of luxury they desired.
Then one day, someone stole from their hunting lodge one night. They tracked him, hunted him and killed him.
At that point they discovered even easier prey- people. So they closed the lodge and held themselves out as men-killers for hire, assassins.
Slowly, their came spread, no one earmarked by them ever got away. Everyone who ‘did business’s with them came back satisfied.
Poison, accidents, stabbings, they prove proficient in every scenario given. People feared them.
Eventually, the officers of the law got fed up with their notoriety and went to arrest them. First, three officers were dispatched. They never came back. Then five went after them. They didn’t come back either. Eventually the entire barracks emptied itself into the streets and armed to the teeth, they went to the house of the ‘George twins’
A lot of officers died that day, but eventually they won thanks to the sheer force of numbers, and captured the brothers, binding them hand and foot before taking them to jail.
They were shut in a solitary cell, and at first, the wardens decided to starve them to death, but the brothers broke out of their cell and broke into the kitchen. They killed the cook, ate a lot of food, killed two officers and returned to their cell with some food items. After that, they were fed regularly and on time.
For years, they lived in solitary, never seeing the sun. And now, they had come outside for one more hunt…