Here's an early excerpt from an opening chapter of my WIP
 
Ronbo slapped his buttergut belly then squeezed his love handles tight and jiggled. The flesh rippled like water from a rock skipped over a lake. The audience applauded. Ronbo gave a curt bow. He was the reigning champion, a shirtless eating legend with flabby man-breasts that seemed to flap in slow motion as he moved. The deafening roar of the spectators in the indoor Ventennius Coliseum hurt his ears, but it was a good kind of pain.  He stood at one side of a long table in the middle of the field, hands on his hips, giving stern and confident looks to the crowd. They were here to see greatness manifest – he wouldn't disappoint.

He sat down at the chair and gazed at his adversary across the table. She was a tiny girl, of northern descent, wearing a petite pink dress. Her dark hair was cut short, boyish. The child's head was canted to the side as she stared at him. Like a dog.  

Woof.  

There was no doubt in Ronbo’s mind that he could out-eat a child. Or even eat a child. Though he’d never done such a thing.   It was insulting. He was the Warblust World Champion of the annual eating competition, held in Ventennius every year. This was his contest, and he was not about to lose to someone who had barely hit puberty. He slammed his fist on the table, pointed a taunting finger at the girl, then grimaced, clutched his chest. The stomach slapping, the sitting down, the pointing – it was too much movement. Made his heart flutter and his chest tight.  

“Water,” he said. He had to heave out the words.  

A servant appeared with said water and he gulped it down, hoping it would help. It didn’t, but the pain went away as he sat there. He had to be still. All energy had to be directed to the contest. The girl across the table sat motionless, regarding him with an apathetic smirk. Let her smirk. She would not be the first young one he’d eaten to the death.  

He’d been dueled for three years straight, and was undefeated at seventeen. Obviously so, for otherwise he would not be here right now, looking at a dumb little girl whose quiet confidence unnerved him to cataclysmic proportions. A pool of sweat began to accumulate beneath his upper thighs and asscrack, moistening the leather chair in which he sat. He was used to it. Sweaty asscrack was an occupational hazard of the largest young man in the Warblust Capital City. It could be the coolest day of the year, but all that weight pressed to a single space guaranteed a considerable measure of ass-sweat. He grabbed hold of one of his breasts, lifted it, then swooped a table cloth underneath it to clean out the underbreast sweat that had given him a rash.  

He threw the cloth across the table at the girl. It landed a couple feet away from her. The audience gasped.   A bell rang and out came the servants carrying plates and plates of food. An intoxicating smell of buttered rolls, turkey legs, and extra sharp cheese wafted into the air. Not to mention ale. Drool slid down Ronbo’s chin and stretched into a frothy string as it puddled onto the table. He drum-rolled his hands on the table as the plates were positioned in front of him and his challenger. The audience followed suit. He let a few seconds pass, then raised a hand to silence the gathering. It was time to begin.   “

What’s your name, little girl?” He licked the syrupy-sweet sweat from his upper lip.   When she responded by saying nothing, doing nothing, he hoisted his beer-stein into his hand and took a chug of ale, thumped the cup back down and felt some spill on his hand. He sucked the ale off his fingers like a baby to a breast. The slurp and pop of his lips and mouth were the only sounds he could hear.   T

he child continued to stare, crinkled her nose a bit, ran a finger through her hair to pull it back behind her ear.  

“Say something, damnit.” He lifted his other breast, wiped the under-tit sweat from it with his bare hand, gave his fingers a sniff. Sweet and sour.  


Finally, the girl spoke. “Your fat-slapping, tit-wiping days are over, Ronbo."   He unfolded his arms and leaned forward in his chair. “You really think you can beat me, little girl?”  

“I’ve been watching you. You are unwell. I can beat you..”   Ronbo unleashed his most obnoxious laugh yet, to which the audience responded with loud bleats of their own. After laughing so hard it hurt his chest, he hocked a fat loogie and spat it across the table. It landed next to the girl’s plate.   “All the children who look up to you will eat themselves into an early grave; so I will beat you with one little bite.”

He was liking this. The child had spirit, that much was apparent. He leaned back and smiled as the child rose from her seat and walked over to the plate of food that had been placed in front of him. She picked up the turkey leg and took a slender little nibble from the meatiest part. She placed it back on the table and returned to her seat.   Ronbo frowned. “I’m not stupid, wee one.”

Ronbo pointed at one of the servers, who came over and took the bitten turkey leg away and replaced it with another. “Trying to slip a poison pill hidden in your mouth into my turkey leg…tisk tisk. Sad that the last day of your life will be spent eating until you vomit so hard you rupture something or choke on a piece of food.”

The girl shrugged, took a sip of her drink.  Ronbo took a swallow of ale. He nodded to the timekeeper and, thunderous gong echoing into his ears, the competition began.  

*  

Sabine picked up a cookie from her plate and took a nibble as she watched Ronbo dive into his turkey leg then stuff a bite of roll into his gaping maw. He didn't get far. A look of shocked surprise lit the fat-king's face two chomps in, juices and chunks of food frothing from the sides of his mouth. His eye bulged as he dropped the food and grabbed his throat. An assistant dove forward in a rescue attempt, thumping and smacking the man's colossal back as his face went purple, then blue.  

Not even a year ago, the sight would have repulsed Sabine, the man changing colors like that and now flailing around in his chair as more people rushed in to help. Now, matured by death and grief, she watched with indifference as he choked to death. It gave her no pleasure, to know that she'd delivered this demise. Ronbo wouldn't have lasted another year at the rate he devoured food. Some shot her accusing looks, to which she'd shrugged. There was nothing they could prove, for nobody had seen. Smooth as deep red velvet, she'd brushed her hand over his plate and sprinkled powder from a chindu plant that grew in the forest behind her family's farm. The powder was so fine it was almost invisible. Uncle had said it would dissolve immediately on whatever it touched, then constrict the man's throat once he took a bite of something. Uncle Nil was right.   In a final attempt to dislodge the tormenting turkey-chunk within his throat, Ronbo leaned back and beat at his chest and throat in violent fist-pounding smacks. It didn't help. He uttered a final gurgle of protest as his eyes glossed over to emptiness, face up, staring at the ceiling of the competition hall.  

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new winner,” said the timekeeper who stood before the gong. The people who had come to behold a long, epic eating competition held their silence. A hero had been deposed but tradition demanded the victor be honored, and so the soft reluctant clapping commenced.   Sabine stood from her chair and quietly waked over to where her uncle awaited. He greeted her with a hug, a peck on the forehead, and a smile. She shuddered at the affection, but accepted it. His love was maybe the only thing that still made her feel human. This was one of the biggest moments of her life. She'd never killed someone before. The ease with which the act had been carried out should have disturbed her, but it didn't. Already numbed and emptied by the death of her parents, she'd felt nothing as she'd watched the fat man die.  


“On to bigger and better things now, Sabine. I wonder how far and how well you can go with your training.”   "All the way. I'm going to use it to kill Matron  Mamba."

Uncle Nil gave her an appraising nod. "You certainly have an ambitious imagination. And the patience of someone my age. Don't say such things aloud in public again, however, lest you encounter someone who can read lips at a distance."  

Sabine rolled her eyes, then held Uncle Nil's hand and led him out to the front, where the world waited to receive their new Warblust Annual Eating Competition World Champion.