This week’s teaser comes from Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden (Domains of the Chosen #3), and features another of the lesser known characters, a Hearthbound to Gavin named Riritaka. She is actually introduced in an earlier book, but features more here, although I feel there is more potential in the character, as a stranger to the perspective culture.
In his first match for Master Rank, Gavin fought Riritaka, a Spirit-Binder from the people called The Pale. In the end, he had decided against killing her, defying convention. Riritaka’s thoughts often turned to the Gladiator known as Lionfang. The mercy he had shown her ensured that she lived, seeking her freedom in the arena. She was too weak to win often, especially without access to powerful spirits to bind, but she cared little for her record as a Gladiatrix. It was enough for her simply to live, for now.
Life among her people was a distant memory as were the endless interrogations by the Grey-Robes. No longer considered a Heretic, she was as free to travel as any Gladiatrix. She had visited the great cities of the Empire; seen her first snowfall; walked in the bamboo gardens of the Far Isles; fought a Wirn to the death in the Grand Arena in front of more people than she’d imagined could fit in one place. They had cheered her on that day. It was a precious memory, even if it felt like a betrayal of old hates.
The Spirit-Binder often wondered if she was a coward for choosing life over honour, but it was now a philosophical question, no longer a gaping wound that brought sleepless nights and bitter regret. She had chosen life, and that was what she did. She lived.
The Krassian Empire held many wonders, strange foods and interesting people and part of her had come to love it, even though another part of her still hated it. She was at peace with her enemies; books, chipped ice, and Light-Elf men with clear blue eyes were good reasons to live.
Riritaka is an outcast from her people, betrayed by her father and captured by the Legions. As an outsider who uses magic, she is automatically labelled a Heretic and sent to the arena after the Deliberative interrogates her. Here she meets Gavin, who still suffers guilt for killing a heretic early in his career and decided to show her mercy (or perhaps defy expectations, depending on how you see it). After this she fights in the arena for a while in the outsiders league (I don’t have a name for the League where the heretics go to fight if they survive that first Deathmatch) and wins her freedom. Gavin searches her out and she joins him as a Hearthbound.
Sadira looked at Riritaka. The Pale woman was changed, skin covered in spotted fur, features catlike. She moved with admirable silence now that they had shed their disguises, creeping between the great wheels of the juggernaut that housed the war altar.
A Fologi ride had landed them on the coast south of the Deomen, and from there they had circled and entered the enemy camp from behind. They had killed a few sentries and taken their robes as disguises. The Deomen were lax about security now that the battle was underway, especially with Sadira wearing a Gold Mask. Riritaka had bound the spirit used by the mask’s previous owner, a complex weave that had dazzled Sadira. As a consequence the Pale spirit-binder now knew how to speak the Howling tongue of the Deomen.
Riritaka is a spirit-binder, a gifted who wields a form of magic that is unfamiliar in the Domains. She is able to bind spirits and express their characteristics, even shapeshifting to emulate them. Here she invokes some of the abilities of a hunting cat and uses the knowledge gleaned from an enemy spirit to understand their language.
I feel Riritaka, like most of the Hearthbound, has yet to live up to her potential as a character. She works best as a lens through which the reader sees the Domains, but has mostly been stuck in Ithal’Duin so far, which is a weird place for everyone, by design. In Bloodlust: The Seeds of Ruin (still iffy on that) I will be exploring more of the Domains and the idea of heresy in general, so expect more of her.