"I know you," said the reporter from the Black Horse Courier. "I reported on your Arena match against the Grand Champion."

"And I suppose you're wondering why I'm working here for him," answered Freija, "especially after the beating we gave each other."

"That did cross my mind," he admitted.

Freija took off her dress. What was it with these women? Why couldn't they keep their clothes on? She made him look closely at her body. She was covered in scars, everywhere he looked, There were a few places he wasn't going to look, or this interview would get off-track.

She put her dress back on, and he sighed with relief. Pehaps he'd be able to concentrate on getting the story this time. This should be a good one.

Like most Nords, I was fond of good food, a good fight, and a good ... well, just about anything. The North's like that, you have to work hard and play hard, just to stay warm. I did a few contracts for the Fighters Guild up in Bruma, and got myself a reputation for swinging a sword. That kept the men respectful, and made me a bit of gold, too.

But I needed some more excitement, so I went off into the mountains to look for ruins and caves to explore. That's where I came across a shrine to Boethia. I was promised all the excitement I could hope for, in the Tournament of Ten Bloods.

I wasn't too keen on having to kill all the other contestants, but I wasn't going to let anybody kill me either. I had trained well in the Fighters Guild, and I knew I could defeat them.

After I did, Boethia told me that my reward was immortality, if I wanted it. I didn't think it out, and agreed too quickly. I also accepted the suggestion that I should use it to become the Champion of the Imperial Arena. How could I lose?

The first fights were easy, but of course they get harder as you advance in rank. Before long I was fighting opponents who were my equal, and really able to hurt me. I couldn't lose, but I could get still get badly injured. You can't believe how painful it is to survive wounds that should be mortal.

The Basin of Renewal heals all, but it doesn't take away all the pain. Some of it will never go away; it's etched into my memory.

So I trained harder, and took more time between matches to make sure I was ready. I fought more defensively, and carefully. I still needed to attack to win, but I wasn't reckless any more. I became a better fighter, and won my matches fairly.

I don't know why I didn't just stop. I wouldn't have been the first to retire from the Arena. Maybe I was afraid of Boethia's "reward" and what might happen if it was taken back. I kept advancing, and was soon the team champion. Only one more match, and the title would be mine, and then maybe Boethia would be satisfied, and I could safely retire.

Normally, when the Grand Champion is challenged, it's an unlimited match, with no armor, weapon or spell barred. I had had matches against mages that burned off all my hair, and Orcs that swung huge warhammers that rattled my bones. I could get badly damaged in an unlimited match.

I persuaded the Battlematron, Ysabel Andronicus, that the crowd would be better served by the opposite. What would be better than a match where both combatants used equal equipment, and spells were forbidden? I got a lot of support from Owyn, the Blademaster, for that last idea. Like most Redguards, he hates spell-casters, .

Ysabel liked the idea too. We discussed what gear would be appropriate, and decided on reviving the ancient armor of the first Arena. Just a manica on the sword arm in place of the full cuirass. A traditional bronze helm and shinguards, with a round shield and gladius to match. Oh, better add a loincloth to keep it decent!

"That's not much protection, but it's the same for both combatants, The crowd will have no problems seeing the blood, if you're not all covered up." Ysabel reasoned..

Owyn wasn't so sure when he saw it. He wanted me to cover my chest. "This isn't that kind of show," he complained.

"It is now," returned Ysabel. "The crowd will love it. We should have the seats taken out from the cheap sections, so we can pack more in."

"But it's too distracting," Owyn argued. "I've seen them a thousand times, but I still can't help looking. It's got to be worse for the Champ. Aren't you supposed to be looking out for his interests?"

Ysabel was convinced that the Grand Champion wasn't going to have any problems concentrating on the fight. She had his financial interests to look after, too. This was going to draw in a much bigger crowd, and she got a cut of that.

They had an artist come in and draw my likeness for a new poster. It was quite tasteful, but one's imagination could easily fill in what it didn't quite show.. So could an urchin with some charcoal! I was going to be famous for that, if nothing else.

I would have the advantage of training with the unfamiliar antique equipment. The Gladius is a stabbing sword, unlike the modern edged weapons, and you need a different style of fighting to use it effectively. That also meant a different defense, especially without body armor. The current Champion would forget that, I hoped.

The day came, and I issued my formal challenge to the Champion. We suited up, (or is that down?), and took our places behind the arena gates.

When the gates dropped, we both came out slowly. I held my shield up in front of my chest to tease the crowd. I knew I'd get more effect when I moved it aside. I hoped that worked the same on the Champion.

The Champion never took his eyes off mine. Ysabel was right, he was too good a fighter to get distracted.

He opened with a slash at my shield arm, just as if he were using a regular shortsword. I dodged and stabbed under the swing. He wasn't there any more and I had to bring up my shield quickly to block the real attack. Damn! he understood the old weapons too.

Over the next half-hour we stabbed, blocked and parried at each other without seeming to make any progress. Neither had scored any major hits, but we were both bleeding from numerous small cuts. The crowd had cheered every one of those. especially when the blood trickled down my chest. Our swords and shields were showing a lot of wear, too, as most of our efforts had involved them colliding in futility.

I'd read that a lot of the fights in the early Arena had ended when one of the combatants collapsed from fatigue or loss of blood. Back then, the crowd got to choose if he lived or died. I couldn't die, but I was getting close to collapse.

My opponent had the advantage there. I'd fought short matches in the Arena, but he'd been off closing Gates in the Oblivion Crisis, facing streams of opponents in long battles to get to the Towers. I had trained hard, but I began to doubt if it was enough.

Then our equipment started to break. My sword tip snapped off against his shield, making it next to useless. Then the handle came off his shield, but I had nothing to attack with but my fists. I'd killed with them before, so that's what I used. And then my shield broke, just like his.

In a few seconds, we were both pummeling each other with our bare hands. The crowd had never seen anything like this before. This wasn't a back-alley brawl outside the tavern. We were trained fighters in open space. And without my shield, they could see me better. They loved it.

They couldn't see the bruises yet, but we could feel them. We were both liberally smeared with each other's blood, and our blows would re-open the cuts and keep it fresh and flowing. My only hope was that he was as close to collapse as I was.

He wasn't. I went down first. When I came back to consciousness, he was just standing there waiting for me. Anyone else would have tried to finish me off while I was down, but he hadn't.

Or had he? Had he tried and given up?

We tried to continue the match. I went down a couple more times, and realised we'd come to an impasse. He couldn't kill me, of course, but I couldn't win either. I suppose I could wait until he starved to death, but the crowd wouldn't.

I took off my helmet and told him what I had just thought. He agreed that the match had become pointless, and neither could win. We went back to the Bloodworks to ask the Battlematron for a ruling.

She had no idea how to handle a tie, they just didn't happen! She pulled a dusty old book from her cupboard, to read what had happened in the past. We'd fought our match with the old equipment, so the old rules should apply, shouldn't they? No, they didn't, she decided, one of us had to die.

"But I can't die" I confessed. "And I don't have the ability to kill him."

I had to tell them the whole story of Boethia and the immortality curse. I was cheating, so the match was void. Ysabel wasn't happy with the idea of a void match, as she might have to give the crowd its money back. And we'd certainly given them value. There hadn't been a bout this long in all her memory. Forfeit, then, just like you'd get for illegal equipment in a regular match.

I didn't care. I didn't want to fight any more, so any way we could stop was good with me. I didn't expect to get paid, either, and I was very surprised when the Champion insisted we split the purse. He said I'd done half the work, so I should get half the gold. We'd announce a tie, not a forfeit.

We washed off the blood, and went back up to the Arena with Owyn, who raised both our arms in "victory". The announcer declared a drawn match, the first in history, and the crowd went wild! The Champion would retain his title, as he had not been defeated. I would retire undefeated, too.

A part of the crowd who'd hoped for a rematch weren't happy with that, and a few small fights broke out in the terraces. The guards soon stopped those, however, as the majority of them knew they'd had a great show. I was still giving them one, if you think about it.

Back in the Bloodworks, the Champion asked me what I'd be doing after this. "Hurting" I told him.

He meant after that. I hadn't given it any thought, mainly because I hadn't expected this outcome.

He pointed out that I wasn't reluctant to use my "obvious assets" to my advantage, and suggested I join his venture here at Gweden.

I wasn't ready for that kind of switch in career yet. I liked the idea of giving pleasure instead of pain, but I couldn't come to terms with asking for payment. "If a guy deserves me, he should get it for free." I told him.

"Besides, I need to get myself some different skills if I'm not going to be a fighter any more. I want to learn to heal, instead of injure. Cure diseases, that sort of thing."

He'd wait. He marked the farm on my map, so I knew where to find him when I was ready. I gathered up my few posessions, put on a plain robe, and hit the road.

I went back to Bruma first, and had Cirroc teach me healing, both for myself and others. It was strange to learn spell-casting from a Redguard, but I guess healing is a special case. Owyn never had any problems with the Basin of Renewal being magical. It was just there, and we all used it.

Bravil was next, the Mages Guild. I wanted to avoid fights in future, and I thought a Calm spell would help. It would probably make healing more effective too. It's a friendly place, that guild, and I stayed for about a week before I moved on.

Heading back North, I ran into a bandit. My new Calm spell wasn't enough, and I ended up having to kill him with his own weapon. Carrying one of my own wasn't a good idea, as that seemed to make the bandits attack first and talk later. I needed to be able to conjure one instead. That way, I wouldn't look threatening until I needed it.

Chorrol Mages Guild was the place to go for Conjuration, so that was my next stop. We worked on creating me a custom spell that gave me both a bound sword and some armor. The defense was mainly magical, as I figured I'd use my natural distractions to supplement it. Even if it hadn't worked on the Champion, it would work on highwaymen and bandits. Teekeus made me practice it in the basement, as I was distracting everyone else!

I still wasn't ready to take up the Champion's offer. I felt better about travelling the roads now, so I went all the way to Cheydinhal next. I wanted to see more of Cyrodiil before I made up my mind, and I could take some training in the chapel there. Perhaps to cure disease, or poison.

I was about as far from the farm as I could get in Cheydinhal, and there was something I didn't like about the place. Maybe it was the corrupt guards, although I'd run into those just about anywhere I went. Cheydinhal did seem to have more than its share. So I didn't stay long, and soon found myself headed for Anvil.

I wasn't consciously going towards Gweden, that was just coincidence, wasn't it? I wasn't sure any more, but it wouldn't hurt to learn another spell at the Mages Guild while I sorted out my mind. By the time I learned to cure paralysis, I was decided.

The Champion wasn't at the Lodge when I arrived. Tsarrina promised to send him a message, and introduced me to the rest of the team. That was a word I hadn't heard since the Arena, and it meant something different here. Most of the Arena fights were one-on-one and the only help you got from your team was encouragement before the bout.

Ok, maybe there were a few similarities, but there wasn't another team to hate here. Quite the opposite. And every match was a tie, or as close as you could manage.

Tsarrina told me I'd really be part of a team that night. One of the men of the Anvil watch had got a promotion, and they were all coming here for an orgy to celebrate! She assumed I wasn't too shy for that after my Arena performance.

She showed me where I would sleep, and gave me a chest to stow my things. I didn't carry much, just the helmet from that championship match as a reminder of what I'd put behind me.

Back downstairs, the men were beginning to arrive. It was strange to see them in civilian clothes, but that didn't last long.

"Didn't I see you in the Arena?" one of them asked. I noticed he wasn't looking at my face when he said that. The other men noticed that too, and laughed at him.

So I gave him something better to remember me by. I could tell by the way they all cheered that he would.