Kidnapped from his homeworld and sold into slavery, Maurin despairs of ever seeing his cousin or his home again. When he is ransomed by a mysterious woman and reunited with Aric, he joins an unlikely group committed to the downfall of the slave trade. But it isn’t long before he realizes they are being hunted–not only by the blood-lusting head of the slave trade, but by an ancient evil that wants their souls.
From a corridor on his left emerged a quartet of large men, all heavily armed. One walked in front, one behind, and the two between had chains leading from their waists to the wrists of a fifth person in their midst. Aric stopped to let them pass, and recognized their captive as Dania. Though clean and dressed in a plain tunic, she still looked like a viper ready to strike. She had a bandage on her arm.
Aric guessed that the man walking point carried the keys to her manacles, and the other two were there to keep her from going anywhere. Even if she managed to disable or kill them both, it would be hard to drag their bodies. Her feet were also shackled, with a chain long enough to allow her to walk freely, but short enough to cause her to fall flat on her face should she attempt to run.
Taking no chances with you, are they?
As they passed, the woman glanced up and straight at Aric. He took a step back, despite her humbled state. The hostility in her turquoise eyes was palpable.
She stopped short, jerking on the chains. Her guards warned her with a glance, but she ignored them.
“What are you looking at, slave?” Her accent suggested the common tongue spoken here in Caileen was not her natural language, but it didn’t sound at all familiar to him. He decided not to try speaking in Aran. The chances of finding someone else from his world were pretty slim at this point, and her guards might take exception to it, anyway.
Aric shrugged. “The winner.”
Dania tilted her head and regarded him for a moment, then laughed mirthlessly. She held up her wrists, showing him the manacles. “Winners go home with trophies. Losers go home in shackles. I’m just a slave, boy.”
“So am I.”
“Your slavery is only as sure as your chains. Where are yours?”
“Let’s go,” the man in front said. “You don’t need to be giving him any ideas.”
“Just wait, boy,” she called over her shoulder as they led her off. “You may see the victor yet.”
In BID THE GODS ARISE, readers were introduced to the hardened gladiatrix, Dania. Now, in this standalone prequel novella, we learn the story of how the orphaned pickpocket comes of age and grows to become the Blood Goddess of the gladiatorial arena of a distant world.
She had heard about loder-cats, but never seen them. The creature in the pit with her was far grander and more terrifying than anything her imagination had associated with it. It stood as high as her shoulder, padding along on enormous clawed paws. A gray and black streaked silky mane bearded its fearsome yellow-eyed face, and its thick-furred tail twitched in anticipation. It stalked back and forth, just a couple of yards from her, but no closer. What kept it from killing her?
Flat against the wall, breathing heavily, Dania forced herself to assess the situation. She glanced back at Kathke, who seemed relieved, but tense. She pointed again, and Dania followed her friend’s finger to the center of the pit.
The cat was tethered. A chain kept it from reaching the edges of the pit. The chain terminated in a shackle set about a heavy plinth. And atop the plinth—
Thick wood tipped with a steel barb like a harpoon, the spear stood there erect in a tiny base, easy to retrieve, yet completely inaccessible.
“I know you can do this, Dania.” Farel’s voice echoed through a trumpet used to make announcements throughout the games. “I have faith in my girl.”
Incredulous, Dania pulled herself together. The loder-cat’s bass growl vibrated the air around her, and it snarled, baring yellow fangs longer than her hand.
Pleading would do nothing. She had learned that well enough.
Time to prove herself.