Amidst a sea of yellow was a pair of green eyes. He firmly stood at eight feet tall. Not unlike his people, he was clad in standard-issue thermo-netting and armor. His was forged in bronze, meaning that he had just completed his Chiva to become an Honored Warrior. His talons were clean, sharp, and ready. His ebony dreadlocks, slick and lanky, were fastened together with metallic trinkets and polished bone. His leather-like, scaly skin was battle-honed with scars, some a fresh pink while other were relic. Aside from the hue of his fair hide, his body was riddle with deep indigo freckles. He was just your ordinary soldier. All muscle.

With raging yaut'ja, blaring howls, and flailing arms, the arena echoed in a cacophony of whoops and hollers as the tournament continued. Lights flashed, casting shadows and abstract shapes around the colossal dome. The bronze-clad warrior had come to the event with the same intention as any other: to watch the glorious way of natural selection; weaker beings being killed and eaten.

The warrior's chest rumbled in laughter as a few of the female oomans cowered by the edge of the black pit. He sneered in disgust as one of them decided to jump, welcoming a coward's death rather than standing her ground and dying with honor. Sure, take the easy way out. He shook his head, disgusted. Absolutely unacceptable. They were pathetic to him, and worth very little. A feral hound with one testicle was of more value than these miscreants. The existence of oomans were for their pleasure only and nothing more.

The lights flickered red, signalling the flying creatures away to their cages. The first round was finally over. He gave a quick, resonating howl, pounding his chest to blend in with the others. They seemed to be enjoying themselves with this absurd activity more than he was at the moment. There were only a handful of females left standing, if you could call it that. He watched as those who had fled to the edge hesitantly stood, scurrying like vermin toward the center where two lone females were already waiting. Hmph. At least they had the decency to act with a little dignity. As usual, the oomans were confused, exchanging looks and bickering to each other in their own tongue as they waited. Always waiting...

Hypnotized by his own thinking, the warrior hadn't even noticed that one of their own was standing at the edge of the rink. The stadium of viciously animated spectators were immediately silenced when the mediator entered the dome. He began to make his way toward the cowering oomans, feet pounding against the artificial soil. They, as predicted, moved away—at least as far as they could. They fled until their backs were facing the black void of the pit. Having nowhere else to go, they froze. Only echoes and murmurs from the crowd filled the air of the arena now.

"Are you not entertained?!" came the Mediator's irritating bark. The warrior rolled his eyes. All mediators seemed to get under his skin. Their ridiculous outfits and squealing voices. They probably didn't even know how to hold a weapon properly. He'd bet his life on it. What a waste...

"Only nine are left!" It sounded more like a question rather than an actual statement. "I don't know about you, but I was a little disappointed." The mediator's joke seemed to set off a chain of laughter. "Haven't seen a more deplorable batch since the first tournament... When our ancestors' ancestors' ANCESTORS were only pups! "How can you blame them, though? The count down starts RIGHT NOW, so place your bids! Quality of an ooman may vary. Clothes are not included."

The warrior snarled, crossing his arms in a tight knot. No ooman is or will ever be worth his time. Or his trophies. Why a wealthy and elite predator would exhaust his prize possessions for such a filthy creature was beyond his comprehension...

With a click of the mediator's wrist, the remaining females were snatched up and taken away, their screams of protest faded as they disappeared through an exit door. The warrior felt instant relief. Though slightly entertaining, the foolish event was finally over. And, he was grateful for it too. He'd have a headache for the next eight cycles for sure. With the audience gradually increasing each generation, it was becoming a bothersome task just to get the arena after every event, never mind leaving it. It was already a nightmare to maneuver in the traffic. Shuffling through an arching hallway, the warrior had to slow down because he got stuck behind a pair of honored warriors who were walking at a nauseatingly slow pace. Their clad of armor reflected an illuminating gold alloy—meaning that they were elite, having had hunted down and killed more than a dozen xenomorph queens, taking their skulls as trophies. They were far more wealthier than he and had probably already sired many pups. He was only a bronze honored warrior and had quite a long way to go if he wanted to achieve their status.

Just a few staggered rows ahead of him, the warrior spotted one of his hunt brothers. Desperate to get out of the crowded hallway, the warrior searched for a way around the elites. To move past them directly would be a great disrespect to their rank, especially since he was clearly inferior to them. Seeing no other option immediately, he had no choice but to wait for their pompous arses to veer off into another corridor.

Frustrated, the warrior saw a gap in the crowd. It was just a sliver, but he was going to take what the Goddess would give him. In an instant, the warrior darted between two unblooded youths. His hunt brother was waiting for him off to the side.

"Thank goddess," the warrior huffed, finally making his way to the side, "I hate these things. It's such a waste of time, if you ask me."

The larger yaut'ja, clad in silver, bowed a greeting to his friend with his mandibles outstretched in a grin.

"If you hate this glorious time so much, why bother making an appearance?" the silver-clad asked, genuinely amused, even though his tone dripped with weary.

"And refuse you, brother?" the warrior shook his head, "Never."

"Please!" the silver-clad scoffed, "Be sarcastic to your left, would you?"

"My apologizes," the warrior sighed, mandibles suppressed. "It would do you good to remember that I made a promise to accompany you to this horrid place in favor of you saving my neck from the last hunting excursion we had. And you know me, I always keep my promises."

There was something about his tone that made the silver-clad hunt brother hesitant to respond. Something bitter. Something doleful. Or, perhaps he was mistaking the warrior's tone for anger? Frustration? Deciding not to let the depressing thought bug him anymore, the silver-clad nodded in acceptance to his brother's apology, and together they continued through the hallway in silence. When no more than two minutes went by, the silver-clad's eye caught a glimpse of something he'd been eagerly looking for. Suddenly desperate to break the lull between them, he said:

"Despite your absurdity, I believe we have an excellent group of females this generation," the silver-clad clicked blithely. "They seem very promising."

"I do not want to discuss the tournament with you, Odin," the warrior grunted.

"There was one ooman in particular that caught my eye," he continued, ignoring his friend, "Tell me, did you see the female with red hair? Most unusual, wouldn't you say? Perhaps I should place a bid. What do you think?"

"Don't do that."

"It was either her, or that one ooman with particularly massive breasts—even by my standards," the silver-clad snorted, "Honestly, brother, help me out here."

"This conversation is pointless..."

"Can you imagine the status gain I would achieve if an ooman bearing my name actually won the tournament? I'd be given as many trophies as I could possibly manage, riches, glory, fine women..." his voice faded, mind deep in pleasant thought, "Why, the Queen might even let me suck one of her tits if I asked..."

"I think you're mad, Odin. Senile mad."

"Don't be ridiculous, brother," Odin slapped a hard hand against the warrior's back. His chest rumbled with hearty laughter before he fell quiet, seriously considering his chances with the Queen. He shook his head, face in a scowl. "Perhaps not the Queen..." The warrior noted that he sounded too disappointed. "Maybe she has a sister?"

The warrior looked up at the taller hunter with a jerk of his head, his eyebrows lifted in bewilderment. His reaction was met with another string of bellowing laughter.

"Relax, my friend! The Queen is far more experienced than I. She would kick my arse if I so much as looked at her the wrong way..." he said.

"And if she didn't, I bet one of her mates would gladly take you out," the warrior added.

"Damn!" Odin growled, "I forgot about them! What do you think: them against a guy like me—"

"NO."

Odin sighed, clearly defeated."Fine... I guess I'll have to stick to the tournament then."

Sighing, the warrior relented, saying, "I would advise against it. The oomans are not worth your time. I can assure you."

"Can you now, little one?" Odin said in mock-assurance, raising his mandibles precariously. "And how can you assure me that these oomans are not worth my time if you haven't even been within 200 mekes of the tiny bastards?"

Clearly offended, the warrior sneered. "Don't be a fool. There's no need for me to be. Nor will I ever..."

"You know what they say," Odin flashed a sideways grin, "there's a first time for everything."

"What do you—...?"

The warrior hadn't even noticed where his hunt brother was taking him. Odin had led them directly into the bidding chamber. It was towering. Massive. Impressive, really. Nine behemoth tanks were pillared in the center, each protected by two guards. He couldn't figure out why protection was needed. Despite his opinion, warriors of every likeness and gender stood in the corridor, gaping over the survivors and analyzing their own standards of worth. The stakes were rising. Bids were placed. Challenges were met. But, from what he could quickly discern, no one had yet enforced an AON bid. That was shocking—there was always at least one every season.

"Paya," Odin gasped, darting forward to the last behemoth tank. The order of the tanks were usually ranked of physique. "The Goddess of War wants me to have this one. I know it." The bronze warrior stared at his hunt brother with an odd look. Odin just... stood there, gawking up at the tube of crystalline water where a naked female drifted unconscious. It was so embarrassing...

"Odin," the warrior said, deadpan, "ODIN!" he barked again, louder.

"What do you want, pest?" Odin slurred, still in a trance. The warrior crossed his arms, snarling at the insult.

Deciding to ignore the quip, he growled, "Enough! An honeredwarrior shouldn't be in a place like this..." he sneered, as if the very air he breathed made him sick.

"The door is in that direction," Odin pointed, lifting a talon to indicate the exit. The warrior slapped his hand away, furiously shaking his head. Bringing his companion back to reality was going to be hopeless.

His mandibles gave a sudden twitch when he realized that his eyes had wandered from the floor to the tank. Odin's words, 'There's a first time for everything,' reeled in his mind. This was as close as he'd ever been to an ooman. As he had expected, they weren't anything to cause a fuss over. They were small, weak, and... squishy. The thought of one actually touching his skin made him cringe. This female was clad in a delicate tan hide. Curly black follicles concealed her feminine, as well as her scalp—though the strands on her head were longer, fraying out around her face. There. That was its first flaw. It had too much hair. It would surely cause problems in fighting; always getting loose and in the way. Not to mention it was certainly lacking for muscle. As far as he could tell, the ooman was all skin and bone.

The ooman's face was angular but soft; nothing fancy or worth noting though. Except for... The warrior took a step closer for a better look. In a dramatic slash across her left eyelid was a remarkable scar. A battle mark! He trilled. Perhaps this ooman was worth a little something after all. He leaned back to look past the still-dazed Odin where the other tanks stood in a row. He studied the other oomans for a brief moment for any obvious marks of battle, but found nothing. Nothing that was worth a second look that is.

Suddenly engulfed in rage, the warrior let out a viscous snarl, turning away with a jerk of his head. He'd been admiring an ooman... AN OOMAN! If he had been caught—! The idea was unthinkable! He looked at the ground, ashamed that he'd let himself act so foolishly. An ooman, even with a mark resembling battle, didn't deserve his attention. They were nothing more than slaves. Equivalent to the rogue bad bloods. Either way, the disgusting creatures would be out of sight and out of mind after they left this place.

"Look," Odin trilled, breaking the warrior's train of thought. "Don't you have a scar just like that?"

"No," the warrior pouted, crossing his arms. "My scar is nothing like that."

It was a lie... The scar in which the young female had was an exact match to his, and Odin was wise enough to know better.

Smirking, Odin nudged his hunt brother in the shoulder, "You do know that you're talking to me, right?" As expected. "I was with you the day you got that, remember?"

"...Yes..." the warrior admitted.

"Now," Odin laughed, "as much as you hate oomans, wouldn't you like to know how she got it?"

"Odin, the ooman is nothing more than a pestilence. And quit referring to it as a she. It makes me nauseous..." the warrior growled.

"Listen, runt. You see the difference in our armor?" Odin gestured back and forth between their armor with his thumb. "Silver, bronze. Silver, bronze. I'm silver. You're bronze. Silver, bronze. Silver, bronze. Silver, bronze. Silver bron—"

"I get it," the bronze-clad said deadpan.

"Good," Odin said, shrugging his shoulders, "Then I don't have to remind you that you'll lose an inch of your cock if you ever give me a command so casually again. And you see those?" Odin made sure his younger companion saw the plump breasts he was pointing at. "It is in fact a she. So quit acting like a pup."

"I am not acting like a pup! I just don't see the point in distinguishing them," the warrior huffed. Odin sighed. He opened his mouth to spit out another retaliation, but someone caught his attention.

"Brace yourself..."

The warrior sniffed the air. He felt like vomiting when he caught wind of a sour tinge that belonged to his bloodline's life-long nemesis and competitor. His body immediately became rigid, muscles tightening—ready for a fight. For as long as he could remember, their families had always been at war. Ironically, this tournament could be the tipping point for either of them.

"Wreave..." the warrior snarled through gritted teeth.

"Vi'dell!" Wreave greeted with mock-enthusiasm. "Always a pleasure."

It took every ounce of strength the warrior had not to devour that smug little grin off his face and pummel him into the ground until he was nothing but pulp. He offered a quick nod to keep himself level-headed, but his fuming rage was practically rolling off of his body in heat waves. Luckily, he had Odin with him.

"What do you want, pup?" Odin challenged, his tone no longer light, but rather loud and serious.

"Ah," Wreave said, tipping his nose up as if disgusted by what he saw. "If it isn't Vi'dell's bitch. It would seem as if you two are attached at the hip. "

"WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY TO ME YOU LITTLE SHIT?!"

With incredible speed and brutish strength, Odin lunged his massive body in Wreave's direction, forcefully shoving Vi'dell out of the way in the process. He stumbled, but instantly recovered to put himself between them. Spectators were already beginning to gather around the specticle they had created, murmuring amongst each other who would turn out victorious in this dispute. Vi'dell snarled at them, but his reaction only made them more interested, stepping closer to the group for a better view. Odin's roar rang loudly in Vi'dell's ears as the silver-clad tried to claw his way past him. Vi'dell furiously shook his head.

"Not now! Not here!"

"It's as good a place as any to mop the floor with his hide!" Odin snarled, lashing out again. "Step aside!"

"No! Listen to reason! Fighting is prohibited here! You'll be thrown out!"

"I don't care! He needs to learn some respect!"

"Odin!" With equal brutality and strife, Vi'dell shoved the larger male away. For a moment Odin stood silent, startled and mildly shocked. "He's not worth it..." Vi'dell breathed, "He's not worth it..."

A moment of silence passed as Odin mulled it over. His eyes shifted between Vi'dell's green ones and the floor. He was frustrated, and almost appalled, that Vi'dell would dare intervene. His muscles pulsed with adrenaline, hands clenching and unclenching indecisively. His instincts were screaming at him to split the bastard Wreave's head open, but those eyes, those green eyes, and Vi'dell's expression. Odin sighed and instantly deflated.

"Fine," Odin submitted through gritted teeth.

"Didn't know you had it in you, old friend," Wreave smirked, mandibles clicking with amusement.

Vi'dell turned around to face the problem. "If you are not here to bid, then leave," the warrior commanded.

"I am, actually." Wreave turned away to face one of the guards standing next to the tank with Odin's ooman. "I'd like to place a bid."

"You can't!" Vi'dell suddenly blurted out, shocking himself more than the others.

"Unless I am given a reason why not, it is my right to—"

"I have already placed a bid," was the warrior's answer. "An AON bid." That was the only way; the only reason as to why Wreave couldn't have his way. Vi'dell could practically feel Odin's body tense. He was barely even aware of his own rapid heartbeat as his mind tried to comprehend the future he had just set into motion.

Snarling, Wreave beat his chest, readying himself in a fighting position. He roared, whipping his dreadlocks across the length of this back, enraged. "So be it. However be warned: this will end badly for you and your ooman pet."

All Vi'dell could do was inwardly agree with him and think, what have I done...

Whirling around on his heel, the nemesis of Vi'dell's bloodline disappeared into a throng of yauj'tan spectators. Taking in a sharp, hesitant breath, Vi'dell turned to face his hunt brother. Odin was just as shocked now as he had been when those words—that promise—had left his mouth. Clicking his mandibles in submission, Vi'dell brushed past the gaping warrior to speak with the ooman's guard. Before he could even choke out a single word, a sturdy hand gripped his right shoulder.

"Do you have any idea what you're doing? Just a moment ago, you said—," Odin clicked nervously, his voice just above a whisper.

Vi'dell nodded, "I know." The warrior returned his gaze to the guard. "Guard," he addressed with a bow, "Validate my name for this ooman." The words were sour on his tongue. He wished with all the might in his body that he could take them back.

"As you wish," was the guard's answer.

"...And my symbol," Vi'dell added. The guard was clearly surprised as he glanced up from the data-pad in his hands with weary eyes.

"Are you certain? Once you have placed an AON bid, this ooman and her fate will be your responsibility. Any and all that challenge her, also challenge you. If she fails to achieve champion in this tournament, you must forfeit the name of your bloodline, the symbol of your bearer, clan name, clan ship, rank, social status, occupation, any and all trophies you may have acquired in your lifetime, sired pups, residence, possessions in your care, and all mates you are entitled to, to any and all challengers. You will be branded a gra'eyde. The only alternative you have to regain all that you have lost is to complete a Mountain Chiva as directed by the High Priestess... Is this what you want?"

No...

"It is," the warrior confirmed.

The guard was silent for a moment, as if searching for the real answer. Vi'dell mimicked his silence, staring blankly at the guard. He was unsure of what to say. Unsure of what to do. After a long moment, the guard shook his head and carved the symbol into the side of the ninth behemoth tank. The warrior watched as the guard's blade was quick and flawless, etching a mark Vi'dell had learned to find... beautiful. He had learned to fight for that symbol. Not just for honor, but for its right to live among his people. It was a part of him. It defined him. He was nothing without that symbol.

"Vi'dell..." Odin's voice seemed to fade in and out of his mind as he stared at the ooman in the water.

It was just him and the behemoth tank. Just him and the ooman. Everything that made up his identity was now in the hands of that ooman. He'd loose it all if it didn't succeed and survive. One would think that these thoughts would only motivate Vi'dell to make sure she was the last one standing in the end, but it just made his blood boil. The more he thought about it, the more he wanted to kill the ooman himself. But not this ooman. Not this one...

"Vi'dell." The bronze warrior shrugged away Odin's hand. Sighing, Odin continued solemnly, "Why? Why would you do this? I thought you-"

"I know what you thought!" Vi'dell snapped, his chest heaving in anger. The warrior put his hands up in an attempt to calm himself down, but failed. He opened his mouth to apologize for several times, but stopped.

"Whatever the reason..." Odin trilled, patting Vi'dell on the back, "I pledge my name to you."

The warrior took a moment to understand his words. He curled his mandibles up, flashing a quick smile, "You don't have to do that..."

"I insist!" Odin called out. Vi'dell stopped, turning around to meet the gaze of his old friend. "After the tournament is over, no matter the outcome, know that you won't be entirely empty handed."

The warrior wanted to argue, but was suddenly tired and decided against it. His eyes fluttered up to tank one again. The female was still adrift. Motionless. Eyes closed. Body still. Her skin rippled through the water as curious pups poked the glass with their budding claws. Without thought, he fixated his gaze on her scar, identical to his own. Maybe it was a sign. The ooman could be his redemption. His second chance. Or, his downfall...

"One more thing," Odin chirped as he tried miserably to hide a smirk, "Why the change of heart?"

Vi'dell scoffed. Heart? No... The warrior thought for a moment. Coming up with no better reason, Vi'dell responded with, "Her scar—I want to know how she got it."

Odin couldn't suppress his hardy bark of laughter.

"Well, I'll be damned," was his last and only remark.