The first book of the Domains of the Chosen Series.
Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim is out in the world, and selling fairly well (Though I need more reviews up…) So instead of a preview of that book I thought I would go all the way back to book one and post parts of one of my favourite fight scenes: the Deathmatch between Bella + Cat and Gavin + Sadira. Bella has been sent to kill Sadira, and uses Gavin to get under the other Gladiatrix’s skin and get her to agree to a Deathmatch. The pre-fight language is vicious and provocative and the fight is raw and energetic.
“Don’t worry Gavin, we won’t kill you!” Bella said cheerfully as they waited for the match to begin. Fights between Gladiators, especially Deathmatches, often have time allotted specifically for banter. The audience loves it, and Skirmishers like Bella and Ravius like to use this time to get under their opponent’s skin. The Gladiatrix’s armour consisted of a plated brazier, skirt, greaves and bracers. Her light armour was the same golden colour as her hair, edged with emerald green enamel. She carried a trident, a barbed metal filament net, and a long, saw-toothed dagger. She had started talking in a low, clear voice even before the announcer finished the long ceremonial speech that preceded every Death-match. “Like I said, you, me, and Cat would make quite a threesome. I like your armour by the way. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got for me under that kilt, babe…”
Cat said nothing. She wore middle-weighted armour, like Gavin, with large metal gauntlets sprouting curved ten-inch claws for weapons. Her armour was the same gold and green colour as her partner’s. When she noticed Gavin looking at her, she licked her lips slowly. She was wearing a tiger-mask faceplate complete with whiskers. He almost laughed.
Sadira kept quiet. She knew Bella was trying to make her angry. Gavin had spent the last few months trying to show her that her anger often led to recklessness and poorly executed moves, and she had to admit he had a point. Bella, trained as a skirmisher like Ravius, was at her deadliest when taking advantage of her opponent’s mistakes. She wondered what other moves her opponent had in her repertoire.
The bantering also gave the crowd time to settle, talk, and place wagers while getting a good look at the Gladiators. Betting at Deathmatches that pit Gladiators against each other was much more prevalent than in regular fights, partly because the efforts the Deliberative put into ensuring fairness in such a fight made for a comfortable wagering environment.
“Once I’ve killed this fat milk-cow, Gavin, you can spend the rest of the match eating my dripping wet snatch. Human pussy tastes so much better.” Bella emphasized this by pointing to her crotch and lifting her skirt, “… trust me.”
Cat laughed, making a meowing sound as she did so. Gavin quickly turned his head, rolling his eyes.
Sadira lost the battle with her temper and her hands flew to her swords. Bella grinned. Whispers rose among the audience and there was a sudden increase in bets placed favouring Bella.
“Look how eager the bitch is to die, Cat.” Bella smiled broadly, her perfect teeth gleaming in the sun, confident she could handle Sadira. Cat made a purring sound, eager for the fight. “Shadow-Elf women are so angry… must be because they are so pale and ugly…”
Racism and objectification, oh my! The trash talking aspect of the arena is much better in this match than the rest of the first book. In this fight Gavin is treated as a kind of prize, a non-entity to be used to rile up Sadira. For her part Sadira is talented and physically unmatched, a rising Star among her peers, but the cunning Bella senses that she can easily be angered to the point of recklessness.
One day, when I have more time, I will probably go through and smooth out the rough edges on this scene, but I love it nonetheless.
Let’s skip ahead and see what some of the action is like…
Sadira felt the heavy, weighted net envelop her, covering her prone form. She rolled, trying to escape and the hooks and barbs of the net ripped into her as she moved. The more she struggled, the tighter the vicious mesh became, the metal strands digging into her. Fear touched her as she saw Bella closing in slowly, strutting, smiling, and whirling her trident. The net flayed her as she rolled back and forth in a blind rage.
“It’s over you stupid slut; struggle all you want, you can’t power your way out of this!” Bella moved forward, intending to take the fight out of Sadira with a few well-placed jabs of her trident. Her intention was to render the Shadow-Elf helpless so she could execute her for the crowd. “It’s almost over now…”
Gavin pushed forward with a surge of pure adrenaline birthed by desperation, using his lion-headed shield as a battering ram. He caught Cat squarely, shoving her to the side. He ran forward two short steps, throwing his spear at Bella as Cat recovered and jumped back on him from behind, claws slicing bloody furrows into his back. The spear sped through the air only to be knocked to the ground with a flourish from Bella’s trident. Gavin and Cat fell sprawling to the moss covered ground, wrestling and clawing.
I will not die like this, Sadira thought; I will not be beaten by the likes of her. She fought to control herself.
Bella turned to her once more, sneering. Sadira slowed her down with a hastily woven grasping-roots spell. She struggled to her knees; a towering white hot rage burned through her as the vicious hooks and barbs ripped her. This time she focused her anger, using it to give her strength to ignore her pain and overcome the hated net. Even her magic responded, her healing spells strengthening as she took control of her rage. She pushed her swords outwards, peeling the net from her arms, feeling the hooks rip their way out of her flesh one by one. Impressed by this display of courage, the crowd began to shout encouragement, which further fuelled her efforts. Shocked by Sadira’s bloody determination, Bella moved forward to finish her off; but in her haste, she made a mistake of her own. Sadira completed her terrible, bloody effort and stood up, freeing herself enough to move just as Bella thrust the trident at her. The hastily thrust tip nicked her side as she pivoted away and threw herself on Bella. The crowd roared as the two fighters collided and went down.
The retiarius is one of the more distinct varieties of Roman Gladiator with the light armor, net, and trident combo. Bella, like Ravius, represents my view of that style of fighting in the books. They circle and taunt, using the folded net as a kind of scourge, baiting their opponents into making a mistake. When the time is right they cast the barbed net onto their enemy and kill them as they struggle.
The fight goes on for some time, and is mostly a struggle between Bella and Sadira with Cat and Gavin negating each other. Again, it is not as polished as some of my newer action scenes, like those in Red Glory, but it has a raw, visceral quality to it that keeps the scene fresh in mind even now.