There's only one rule if you ever come across a Brute in a cage.

Don't stick your hands through the bars.

The young stable cleaner had forgotten this very simple rule, which is why he now found himself pinned to the side of Kayo's cage, missing an arm, two legs, and half a face.

Picking a shard of bone from between his fangs, Kayo dropped the corpse and blearily peered out of his prison, head still swimming with whatever the fight-masters had pumped him with. He could just about make out the dusty brick walls, patches of dirt-caked straw, and pools of hot sand littering the chamber.

He had already lost count of how many days had passed in this wretched cage, only being released to battle creatures much larger than himself. The time he didn't spend locked up he spent fighting for his life, as ugly onlookers screeched in a language he didn't quite understand. He licked the stump that used to be his left arm in anguish.

Escape was futile. Every attempt he made only resulted in harsh punishment. Kayo sank to his knees, grunting with frustration. At least today he had snagged himself a tasty treat. He picked at the remains of the stable boy, and to his astonishment, a set of keys fell out of the boy's shredded pocket. Kayo glanced around to make sure he was alone, and hastily snatched up the keys, fumbling them into the lock.

Clink. The door of the cage swung open.

A bloodsoaked grin quietly spread across Kayo's swamp-coloured face. Not such a dumb animal now.