Another throwback Teaser this week, this time to Bloodlust: Will to Power, the second book in the Domains of the Chosen series. Gavin is trying to fight his way through the Death Leagues to confront Valaran diVolcanus. The Death Leagues of Dregs are some of the more extreme side arenas in the Great Games, a bloody mix of the desperate, the mad, and the great. Gavin’s presence here is offensive to the fans, who are eager to see him bleed out in their favoured fighting ground.
Baron Bones hopped up. His cultured voice carried over the din of the crowd as Gavin and Choker met in the centre of the arena and turned to face him.
“Welcome supplicants,” said Baron Bones. “Today is a good day for one of you to die.”
“BLEED FOR US SLAGFUCKERS!” shouted someone nearby.
“I WANNA SEE YOUR GUTS!” came another voice.
“They’re talking about you,” said Choker, his voice singsong and mocking. A Shadow-Elf, he carried a heavy whip made from metallic cords and a short, brutal-looking serrated sword. Gavin knew that his opponent was a skirmisher by training, versed in life magic and dirty fighting. It was Gavin’s guess that, unlike his beloved Sadira, Choker had developed his natural shadow manipulation abilities: such powers were just too useful to a Gladiator who relied on misdirection. He could not guess at what other training the man might have.
Gavin ignored the jibe.
“We have a special guest today,” said Baron Bones.
Baron Bones is an amusing character, the sort of archetypal ring master that seems appropriate to the Death Leagues. His mix of class and mummery is especially fun to write and I bring him back in Bloodlust: Red Glory (and I intend to make use of him again soon enough)
Baron Bones cadaverous disguise is a nod to Baron Samedi, but also to the religious origins of the Roman Gladiatorial games as the funeral games for a culture where ritual sacrifice still held significance. Baron is also a title that has little real significance in the Domains, a relic of the times before the Reckoning.
The Baron quickly becomes a foil for Gavin, trying to force him to accept the harsh realities of the Death Leagues. This clash of ideology is central to the tension of Gavin’s battles here, and leads to a fateful decision.
Choker’s eyes went wide. Lionfang had performed flawlessly, accounting for the impact of his blades and pain while delivering the fatal blow. It was a master-stroke, almost unbelievable in Choker’s eyes. Gavin let go. The heavily armoured Shadow-Elf dropped his weapons and toppled, hands tugging at Gavin’s sword. His mouth worked but only blood came out.
Gavin’s spear flew into his hands. He looked down at Choker.
“KILL HIM!” came a shout from the crowd.
“MAKE HIM SUFFER!” came another.
“BLEED HIM, BLEED HIM, YEAAAAHHH!” another shout.
Gavin’s eyes met Choker’s. He saw defiance and acceptance there, a strange mix. He supposed that very few Gladiator’s came to the Death Leagues expecting to lose. The thought of killing Choker filled Gavin with disgust. He thought of Omodo on the ground, hacked to pieces, a gleeful Valaran getting ready to foul the corpse. Gavin did not want to be like that; he was tired of pointless killing. He placed the tip of his spear at Choker’s throat.
“Yield, and I’ll let you live,” he said. “Do you yield? Nod if you can.”
Mercy in the Death Leagues demonstrates Gavin’s growth as person. He confidently rejects the demands of the crowd, placing principles above popularity. It is a simple twist, but one I am proud of.
The writing in book two is better than book one, but could still use a touch up. On the whole though, I think it is a strong work, and well worth delving into for anyone who loves action and magic.