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Test of Strength (And Devotion)

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Tests of strength between Saren and Amukiki were not uncommon, nor was it uncommon for the whole camp to watch their little battles. Saren could even occasionally see Chambara and Mesphit among the crowd, whispering among themselves on who would win.

Saren almost always won, but when he was tired, Amukiki was prepared, or it was generally an off day, he had been bested. Their contests ranged from full on duels, stopping only when they were both near dead, to simply seeing who could lift a large rock higher (or party member. Ramas was not amused).

Today there contest was very simple. Arm wrestling. There happened to be a large, relatively flat stump near where they camped. Everyone stood around them, watching intently. The most intense gaze of all was from Draco. It took much of Saren’s willpower not to keep glancing back at him, and felt his cheeks rise in color for a reason he did not understand.

Saren grasped Amukiki’s hand tightly, and his grip was returned in full, both of their knuckles turning white. They stared into each other’s eyes, and on a mutual count of three, began to push their arms down.

As did most of their competitions, it began rather evenly, their arms almost not moving from their strength. The thick muscles in Amukiki’s arms flexed, urging Saren to put more strength into his efforts.

However, the gods seemed to be against him, and he could see his am falling closer and closer to defeat.

A voice rang up from the group around them, and Saren looked to his side. “Come on Saren! You can do it, come on...” Draco said, gripping the edge of his cloak tightly, looking at Saren with eyes as burning as his fire. After his initial outburst, he continued to mutter, “Come on, come on...” under his breath.

Why he was so passionate about such a small contest was beyond Saren, but something about his devotion spurred a new burst of strength, and he fought back Amukiki, bring their grips back to standstill, and slowly began to bring the gladiator’s hand down towards the wood. With one last look at the now enthusiastic Draco, he slammed Amukiki’s hand down, before throwing his own up in victory.

Saren could now hear the clink of gold...all into the hands of Draco...and was that Mesphit!?

“Thought Amukiki was gonna win for sure this time...” Dora muttered, reluctantly handing her money to the elf and half-elf.

“What inspired such a comeback?” Apolimesho wondered (why was he even gambling?) as he too was handing over his gold.

“That would be the face of his devoted wife,” Chambara said with a smirk and crossed arms. She had abstained from betting ("Can't make much gold in a swamp," she said), “Did you see him? Bright eyes, ‘Come on, Saren!’ It was precious.”

Saren’s face lit up with a blush, and he could see Draco turn even redder out of the corner of his eye. “Must you joke?” he said to her with exasperation.

Her smirk was unflinching. “I don’t think it was a joke to him though. He seems pretty serious.” About you, were the unspoken words on her lips and he didn’t know how to take that.

Saren sighed, and looked around again, though this time the mage was no where to be found. He was usually pretty clumsy outside of battle, so where had he gone to?

“I think I hit a little close to home,” she said, slinking away herself.

Saren could only watch her, and flex his wrist. Did him and Draco look like a couple? It wasn’t the first time someone made the connection. Perhaps...

...it was a thought for another day. Right now he had to tend to his arm and think about things that weren't Draco.

...it was going to be a long evening.•