This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Red Glory, the fourth book in my Domains of the Chosen series. Red Glory follows the story of a half dozen Gladiators, some Chosen, and a few ‘normal’ people as they get caught up in a surprise Grand Championships.
Red Glory takes place over the course of a single, huge tournament that is held to find a replacement for one of the Chosen. Everyone has a stake, even Gavin and Sadira end up backing a Gladiatrix. Fortunes are made and lost amidst the bloodshed, and even something as trivial as who supplies the food in a parade district in Krass becomes a matter of deep importance.
To bring this even to life I needed not just a handful of exciting perspective characters but dozens of opponents for them to face. Here are a few of my favourite secondary fighters.
The Weird lived up to his name; he wore a hood, for one. Most Gladiators who covered their face did so with an armoured helm or a decorative mask. Admittedly, Fiona herself had considered wearing an executioner’s hood as part of her garb early in her career. Her red hair, however, was too much of a crowd pleaser to hide.
Aside from the hood it was difficult to tell how much of The Weird’s attire was armour and what was clothing. Gladiator armour was strictly regulated in both coverage and weight; the Deliberative checked it thoroughly before every match so it should be legal, but that did not help Fiona determine where to strike. The Weird’s clothing was made up of strips of grey, brown, and black, woven with plates of dull grey metal that appeared and disappeared as he shifted.
The Weird’s staff was a hand longer than the quarterstaff Fiona had been practising with, but otherwise unremarkable at first glance. The man himself was like his weapon, tall and lean, though not so thin as a light fighter would be. He sized her up as she approached, dark eyes surprisingly human despite the hood and strange costume.
The Wierd was interesting — he uses a magical, shifting staff to fight.
The Gladiator’s entrance opposite Scarmaker dropped open. Gloria Bella Maxima marched onto the fighting grounds. Everything about her shone, from her oiled skin and platinum hair to her silver coloured armour, set with enchanted diamonds, sapphires, and pearls in cunning patterns. Part of her garb even included a golden circlet. Her under-armour clothing appeared to be white lace, including a high collar.
Even more impressive than her sparkling, sumptuous costume were her eyes, which were the blue of a clear winter sky and somehow managed to outshine the gems she wore. Scarmaker wanted to pluck those beautiful eyes out and make a necklace.
Gloria Bella Maxima wore her hair in a long, simple braid, capped at her waist with a golden clasp, heavy enough to double as a weapon of sorts. Small blades and spikes were cunningly set into the twists of hair. Scarmaker thought he would like to grasp that hair despite the ruin that these would inflict on his hands, especially with the Gladiatrix at his mercy.
For weapons, Gloria Bella Maxima carried a long bladed glaive, a barbed net folded into a lash, and a simple legion gladius. The glaive was almost a naginata, with a blade the length of a man’s arm, elegantly crafted and bearing powerful runes. It too, was set with diamonds and pearls, and the whole weapon was beautifully etched with scrollwork patterns.
Above all, however, it was her bearing and attitude that commanded the audience’s attention. Gloria Bella Maxima entered the fighting grounds like a beloved queen of old coming before her adoring subjects. Tall and proud she exuded confidence and poise with every measured movement.
As she came closer, Scarmaker realized that Gloria Bella Maxima was somewhat larger than he had pictured her in his mind’s eye.
Gloria Bella Maxima was one of the odds on favourites at the tournament, but had the misfortune to draw the psychotic Death Leagues Gladiator as her opponent. Fun fact, most readers consider Scarmaker my most disturbing creation. How does the Arena’s premiere diva handle him?
Hummingblade was still considering her choices when Shagra the Bloodless was called into the arena. A broad-shouldered Orcish woman, dressed in dark green armour stepped into the arena carrying a large hammer. Shagra’s head was bald and smooth and her eyes were fearsome.
Despite her reputation for mayhem, Shagra was trained as a defender. Her main strategy was to outlast her opponents, and she used a combination of heavy armour, druidic magic, and incredible conditioning to survive. Unlike Rabid Edge, whom Hummingblade had faced earlier in the tournament, Shagra did not seek to attack relentlessly and overwhelm. Instead she seemed to endure her opponents until they made an error or she cornered them, then she struck them down with a well-placed hammer blow.
The hammer in question was large, and Hummingblade suspected that even a glancing blow from such a weapon could crush her. Shagra hefted it with the easy familiarity of a Master. She did not perform any tricks as she strode across the sands in front of the cheering crowd, stopping only to give her salute.
Up close Hummingblade could see that Shagra’s armour was made of ribbed plates that slid and moved as she walked.
Hummingblade returned Shagra’s salute. Their eyes met. Hummingblade saw a grim intensity in the other woman, but detected a surprising lack of arrogance or hatred. Without taking her eyes off Hummingblade, Shagra raised her weapon again.
“I call for Ut Nex!” said Shagra.
Shagra the Bloodless is one of my personal favourites. Another Death Leagues Gladiator, she represents the concept of unrelenting endurance and pure will to power in a competitor.
There are many more, but these stood out in my mind. Which is your favourite?