Dawn was just coloring the sky when the arena started to fill up. Deep shadows still hung over the wooden seats, and the tawny sand inside the arena looked dark brown, the color of dried blood. Voices started to echo around the arena, both the hum of the audience speaking in low voices and the shouts of the handlers and slaves preparing for the fight. Bookies had already started collecting bets on who would survive the day's combat. The tunnels and cells beneath the galleries bustled with life. Handlers shouting everyone into line, cracking whips occasionally to motivate the slow ones; slaves helping to suit up the fighters or run errands; animals of various shapes and sizes rousing and rumbling in protest at being awoken so early. Nearly all of the ones shouting orders were like the audience outside: human. Most of the slaves and the fighters were not. Fur, feathers and scales were all in abundance, varying from almost human but for a few features, to barely different from the caged animals nearby. A leonine mountain of a man was standing in the nearest cell to the arena, arms raised as a slave laced up his breastplate. His owner, a richly-dressed woman, was standing in the passage, talking to some of the other slaveowners. "...Tagga's never been defeated, I'd put him up against ten fighters if I could find that many handlers willing to lose that many slaves." She chuckled and the others echoed it politely. "He's never faced an aquatic before, I think my Nagach may put up a challenge," a man said, gesturing towards a blue-green creature going through a warmup drill with a trident. Tagga's owner smirked. "Your Nagach can't even fight in broad daylight, dear Oraculus." As Oraculus started to respond, a slave dashed up the passage, carrying a bucket of something foul-smelling. He tried to slip around the group, but tripped and fell, splattering everyone with greyish goop. The rich handlers let out shouts of alarm and anger, recoiling from the slave. "I'm sorry," he said, scrambling backwards. "I didn't mean to--" Tagga's owner, eyes smoldering, raised her voice. "Tagga?" The leonine creature's head snapped around to look at her. The slave shrank back, terrified. At a signal from his owner, Tagga leaped through the open door of his cell. The slave barely had time to scream before he was dead, bleeding from a wound across his throat and chest. As if nothing had happened, Tagga went back into his cell and stood still so his startled helper could finish. Gathering up her stained skirts, Tagga's owner stepped around the dead body and headed out, muttering something about how much this dress was worth. The others drifted apart, avoiding the corpse. Eventually one of the other slaves, a skinny young man with the thick, rudderlike tail, webbed digits and small ears of an otter, stopped in the passage and grabbed the dead body. He shook his head. "Running in the tunnels isn't a problem, you said, you'd rather get there in time than beaten for being a few seconds late, you said. Now look at you. You're dead. Nobody listens to me." With a sigh, he started dragging the body away.