The crowd are crammed in tightly, eager to see how this night's murder will go, for it has been too long since anyone able to challenge Udd'Fugg has come here. The air is thick with the stink of piss, tabac, wyrdroot and Jiid smoke, sweat, alcohol and testosterone. In here at least, the horrors of the island are forgotten, replaced by the savage hunger to see blood spilt and to make gold from the process. This is the Splintered Skull, an infamous fighting pit on Scarathane, that occupies the grim territories between the Porto di contadini , and the bare stone of the volcano's mid caldera. Famed for its brutal fights and savage combatants, its champion has been the horror known as Udd'Fugg for long and long – something that has caused a slight dip in profits, as the mob grow bored of its easy victories, and pray to Banturn that something more novel presents itself soon. And it seems that this night their prayers may be answered, for a band of adventurer's many have already taken note of have arrived....and they have killed their way to the Skull's champion.
The group arrived here late in the evening after being turned away from Niba's tower by a towering Cinderspawn, informed in its crackling, dead voice, that “The Lady is indisposed for some time, following her direct psychical contact with the entity known as the Scheggia. She will not respond to any summons until she has fully recovered”. Somewhat put out given the trouble they had on the way there, the group seek a distraction...and Shnecke suggests a good bar brawl. And so they found themselves in the sweaty and cramped heart of the Splintered Skull, surrounded by the worst of a bad lot, watching a battle between several pirates in a small, blood soaked pit. Soon after, the group sign up to fight...and a new legend is soon born.
The first battle is over almost before it starts, the group facing a huge Solifugid; a brutally swift arachnid that sports a huge pair of shredding jaws. Deadly it may be, but against the group, the beast stands not a chance, and it is slain within moments, the crowd going berserk.
Next, the group face a band of pirates. All have the olive complexions of Vaedecci, and demonstrate considerable skill and tenacity. The fight is nowhere near as easy as the one previously, and the air of the pit resonates with the cries and roars of the crowd as it swings back and forth in favour of one group, and then the other. However, the pirates are outclassed, and slowly but surely they go down. Eventually, the last of them surrenders; a canto or chanter, who's magic has caused the party more than a little pain during the course of the battle.
And so the group wait in the arena, the air booming with the unified chanting of the crowd around them;
“Thatari's Wolves! Thatari's Wolves!” (Shnecke is not happy, for as the chanting began, the warlock managed somehow to swing their chants to cry his name and not the Ulnyrr's). Money is changing hands at a furious rate above, as bets are placed on the outcomes of this battle, and the party can feel the charge in the air as the heavy gates leading to their enemies chambers begins to slowly inch upwards. From the dimness beyond issues a terrible roar; inhuman and thunderous.
And it steps into the arena, each footfall shaking the blood caked ground. Everyone in the group takes an unconscious step back, the arena suddenly feeling way too small, for Udd'Fugg is truly massive. The crowd also back away from the edge of the pit, their faces growing fearful, for the monster has, on more than a few occasions, grabbed a spectator and consumed them there and then.
“What in the sixty six nights is that?” Growls Shnecke, his hands tightening around the handle of his brutal axe as he cranes his neck to meet its eyes, “'Cos I'm going to carve it a new bum hole”.
“It” was clearly once a gigorim – almost certainly a Vulgorim. However, at some point, someone has enhanced it. Its muscles and skeleton have clearly been mutated and exaggerated to an unnatural extent, giving it a rolling, deformed gait, its tanned flesh grown thick and leathery like that of a Thodzuna. However, this grotesque mutation of its form isn't the thing that dominates its appearance, for it seems that whoever chose to “improve” it went one step further; replacing a good part of its chest, both its arms and its left leg with animated stone prosthetics. They also chose to reinforce its skull, implanting a fortifying exoskeleton of stone to support its grossly thickened skull, and worked dark wonders within it, replacing mortal organs with artifice. Glyphs that glow with a hellish light burn across the stone parts of the half-golem, and both the priest and shade realise that they are Draxian in nature, suggesting a possible origin for this nightmare – though how it came to be here is something they can only guess at.
Udd'Fugg stands before the group, his eyes shining with hunger and hatred. Either side of the area a low rattling heralds the arrival of two pillars from which spring lethal blades. Each clatters to a height of about 10' before slowly starting to spin, the air savage with the low swoop of the blades as they describe a vicious zone of slicing death around them.
The crowd begin to chant the group's names, and the announcer (who during the break between this fight and the last came to wish the group good luck, his heart hopeful that they will defeat their current, staid champion and usher in a new order within the arena), his voice magically amplified, announces the start of the battle, the crowd going insane as the group's name is called.
Things do not get off to a good start. Varracuda charges in and slashes out, his blade throwing sparks as it rides along the layers of magical protection covering the monster. In response, Udd' grabs the swordmage and lifts him up in his massive fist, completely covering his upper half. He then grabs the unlucky adventurer's legs, and begins to twist him as if wringing out a wet cloth, sending waves of abject agony through his body. Varracuda tries to scream within the clammy, stinking darkness of the brute's closed fist. His spine feels as if it will snap, and his stomach as if it will burst open. He tries to wriggle free, lights dancing before his eyes, only doing so when Shnecke gives voice to a terrible roar; alive with the primal rage of the frost wolf, and lands a ripping blow across Udd's knee, knocking him back and forcing him to drop the dazed swordmage.
Shnecke is sent spinning away from the monster by a well placed kick from one of its oversized boots, the Ulnyrr smashing against the wall of the arena with a sickening crunch. Magic rakes at the monster as Grigori unleashes his spells against it, a blast of flame following as the warlock adds his ire. The air shimmers with violence, and money madly changes hands as the crowd become suddenly unsure who will prevail in this deadly battle...
Even to a crowd inured to acts of violence, the battle that takes place in the arena that night is a revelation. Udd'Fugg is a truly deadly enemy, and he wants to live to see another day. However, even he, in his magnificent lethality, is slowly but surely weakened and eventually brought low by the group, his form torn and blasted, frosted and dissolved. His artifice innards are ripped and burst, and his spirit crushed under layers and layers of divine magic, and elder hexcraft. He gives as good as he gets thought, and more than a few times it looks as if one of the group are doomed. Alas, he is simply not able to fend off the whole group, and as he weakens so they thrive; the magics of the priest, warlock and swordmage coming together with the deadly poisons and tricks of the assassin and raw brutality of the barbarian to bring him - with Shnecke's axe tearing a bloody swathe along the front of his throat and up through his jaws and into his face - down.
The group forge a new legend for themselves (and Shnecke's axe seems to grow more potent in that moment of glory, somehow seeming more deadly and alive than before), being the new champions of the pit – a title they must be careful to defend if they wish to keep it.