Tuesday Teaser

Once upon a time I wrote a short story to give readers an idea of what fan culture in the Domains in like. Bloodlust: The Great Games follows the tale of a father taking his daughter to her first live games. Aside from fan culture, with plenty of cheers, the story follows the whole structure of an evening’s entertainment in the games. Given that regular matches least around five minutes, fifteen with introductions, there is a great deal of padding attached to each event. Darius specifically chooses this event because he likes Fiona, but also because he knows that the entertainment is not especially bawdy, and mostly appropriate for his child (Of course, he never questions the content of the games themselves)

I love this cover.

I love this cover.

Tall and athletic, Fiona moved with predatory grace as she strode across the white sand to the middle of the fighting grounds. Red hair, spiked, gave the impression of a phalanx of bloody spears erupting from her head. Pale green eyes raked the crowd as the Gladiatrix’s mouth twisted into a playful snarl. The viewing enchantments on the arena were so powerful that Rose and Darius could make out the freckles on her pale skin.

In one hand, the Executioner bore a large wickedly curved sickle, and in the other, a full sized headsman’s axe. Darius knew that even a man his size would likely have trouble wielding such weapons in a fight. Gladiators used the Gift to enhance their bodies, and Fiona’s muscles were like steel cables, far denser and stronger than those of any normal person could be. Her armaments were made of exotic materials, custom-made by master smiths, enchanted with potent runes, and Darius, who admired craftsmanship, took in the details reverently.

Rose was impressed. Naturally, her favourite Gladiatrix was Red Scorpion, a light-armoured fighter who carried three swords. Red Scorpion was beautiful and savage; an exotic Shadow-Elf who would won the crowds over with her relentless energy, daring, and her romances and rivalries. Rose was unsure what to make of Fiona, whose story was not as familiar to her. The Executioner’s armour was heavier than Sadira’s, with a plated breastplate, thick greaves, and a teardrop shaped buckler on each arm. It was enamelled red with beautiful golden edge-work.

Bloodlust: The Great Games was written after the first two books, but Fiona, Darius, Rose, and other characters from the short story appear later, in Bloodlust: Red Glory.

Watching her father and Fiona in equal measure, Rose was enjoying the freedom to shout and be loud. She did not yet have a full grasp of the strategies of the arena, but the sight of Fiona bravely facing down the armoured hulk of the Scytheclaw filled her with admiration. Her heart skipped in her chest as the Gladiatrix stepped back, barely avoid a sweeping claw. Her blood pounded as Fiona darted forward in the wake of the chitinous scythe, weapons raised. Her voice erupted again, joining the roar of the crowd as the Executioner struck.

Fiona measured her movements. She did not see any opportunities for a spectacular finish. She would have to settle for a normal, which would leave her lower than Lord Peerless but still quite respectable. Instead she aimed her attacks at the spots she had already struck. She fell into a rhythm, avoiding the claw and then chipping away at the Scytheclaw’s armour. She channelled power, readying a spell. This drilled precision was a hallmark of her patron, Chosen Marius.

Darius watched the fight wind down. Fiona fought with grace and ferocity, but she wasn’t taking any risks now. She struck the same areas over and over, following the effective pattern of dodging and then striking. She cracked the shell in several places and fluid leaked out. After a few minutes of fighting she finally hobbled it, breaking enough of the legs that it could not readily move. The crowd roared in triumph. Darius shouted with them, pushing away his dismay for the sake of Rose’s enjoyment. The Scytheclaw seemed more pathetic than menacing to him at that moment.

Fiona stepped back and loosed a spell. The Scytheclaw’s wounds began to fester with alarming alacrity. It dragged itself towards her for a moment, foul pus bubbling from its broken shell before collapsing.

Exuding confidence and savagery, the Executioner raised her weapons in salute to the crowd, taking time to repeat the motion for each section of the audience. They cheered each flourish. Rose and Darius raised their voices with the rest, flush and exultant.

Fiona the Executioner is one of my favourites. The stage name is silly enough to make me grin, but in my mind she plays it serious and wins me over.

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