We were thrown into a cell with other competitors, but I did not care about that. I cared about getting Silvia and my Queen out of here alive. “Samarra?” I heard a groggy voice from the other side of the room.
I passed by the other competitors, still covered in bleeding cuts and the sheer dress. Garrett sat up in his cot, saw Silvia and our Queen, then he fully saw me. I watched as he tried to hide his reddening face. I grabbed our Queen and Silvia, sitting them on the cot. “We need to plan.” The other competitors looked at us, interested in the ladies wearing almost nothing at all. I growled to them, “Avert your gaze or I will kill you were you sit.” I must have looked angry enough to do it, because all of them went back into their own little worlds.
“What happened?” He asked me, sitting with his back against mine.
“I killed the King.” I said it loud enough for the rest of the room to hear. I heard shuffling and scraping as the other slaves pulled their cots away from us, giving us a little bit more privacy.
He turned to face me, “You did what?!”
“The Merchant said he would kill Silvia and the Queen if I did not do it. Then the King and I were in a room together when he tried to rape me for an heir. I had a knife, and I used it. The Merchant paid the King’s guards so we were all captured and sent here.” I said it matter-of-factly. “How do we get out of here?”
He laughed pathetically, “We do not get out of here. You see, they take volunteers first, but if there are none, they take those who would provide the best entertainment. Those who have never seen battle, like our Queen and Silvia, usually die first because they are easy targets. They start with you fighting vicious exotic beasts, then you move into fighting against people, then into a death match.”
I tried to run a few options through my head, when the guard called for volunteers. No one stood up because they valued their lives. They dragged the nearest person to the door out for the arena. “Do we get weapons?” I asked.
“We do, but there are also things called sponsors. If you get a sponsor, you get better equipment and armor. The problem is that sponsors get a chance to choose their Gladiator who has to fight what the sponsor wants and how they want, as long as they are on the same level. Let us say that the Merchant wants you to fight the Queen into a death match, only one of you can walk away alive. If not, they will kill you both.” He looked at the ground as Silvia and our Queen started to tear up. They were not warriors, not fighters, and they would die if they were forced to go out there.
“Then I guess I will have to fight in their stead.”
He grabbed the bottom of the dress and lifted it to my thighs before I had a chance to pull it back down. “You are already injured. I see the scabs that keep opening and bleeding on your back. You could die out there as well.”
“I have to do something…” I mumbled as he dropped the dress back down.
He took off his shirt and handed it to me to wear. “At least put this on. We are in the criminal section, so there is already a higher chance of getting hurt in here. But I guess with you being a King-Killer, you might be left alone.”
I turned, took off the dress, exposing the injuries to the entire room. I heard a couple gasps and one small yelp from our Queen who had not seen the majority of the damage. “Silvia, could you heal her?” Our Queen whispered.
Silvia shook her head, her eyes haunted, as I put the shirt on to cover the wounds. “I am impure because I caused her pain. Until I can cleanse myself of that sin, I am unable to heal anyone.” She whispered back.
With Garrett’s shirt on, I pulled the bottom to cover my backside and upper thighs. “We should try to get some sleep.” Garrett said to the three of us. “Since they just took someone, it will be a few hours before they take more people. Take the cot, another one will open up soon enough.” He spoke with authority that we had to trust.
I got off the cot, leaving it to Silvia and our Queen. I laid between them and the rest of the room. Garrett sat down next to me, pulling me closer to him. I leaned into his shoulder, “I am sorry that I cannot stop this.”
“Shh.” He rubbed my shoulder farthest from him, both of us trying to find comfort in one another. “Try to get some sleep, and we will come up with a plan to save our kingdom and her Queen.” I shut my eyes, breathing in his warm scent, realizing that maybe the Merchant was right and that I was falling in love with the Guide.
I woke up to screaming. I jumped up, causing the tight muscles in my body to twinge with pain. They had Silvia by the hand and was dragging her towards the door. I intercepted them, ripping the guard away from her. “If you want someone, I volunteer.” Silvia ran back to the cot, back to safety. “Garrett, keep them safe for me.”
“We have our first volunteer, and what a beauty she is, if you ignore her face.” The guard laughed at himself. He tried to grab me, but I stepped away from him.
“I can walk on my own.” I followed him out of the room, down the hall and into another room.
“You do not have a sponsor, so you get to use this equipment.” The guard grinned at the assortment of rusted weapons and armor pulled off the dead bodies of those who did not survive their Game. I put on a couple pieces of armor to cover the necessities, but still allowed movement. There were no projectile weapons such as bows and arrows, or even crossbows and bolts. I found two of the least rusted daggers I could and one sword that I placed around my hips. “Are you finally ready?” He asked, bored of not seeing a naked girl or a bloodbath. I found a piece of cloth long enough to cover the lower half of my face, and I tied it into place.
I wanted to kill him where he stood, but the daggers and sword would not hold up against his new armor. “I am ready.” I followed him to the arena holding area, a small room with a metal gate that would shut me in.
“Since you are new, they will announce you to the crowd and you will walk out that door.” He pointed to the large wooden door where light bled through the edges. “When you are in the arena, the spectators have the option of placing bets on you. Then you will fight an animal to the death, because we could care less if you die until you get sponsors. So, put on a good show, get a sponsor, so we can make the money to actually care.”
Wealth had too much power in this world. It was between life and death, with money as the deciding factor. The guard locked the gate behind me as the announcer spoke to the crowd. “We have a newcomer here today!” The doors opened, blinding me with the daylight. I shielded my eyes as I stepped into the arena. “She is said to be the one who killed our King!”
Boos and jeers rang out from the crowd. I watched as a substantial amount was bet against me, the colors of the jewels indicating different people betting against me, but there was also a substantial amount in the same color jewel betting for me. I looked around, trying to find faces in the crowd, but they all wore masks.
All except one. The Merchant sat in a special box, closer to the action. He flicked a jewel into the air, the same color as the one who bet on me winning. He knew what I was capable of and knew this would be a great way to make money. The smile on his face proved that he set this up for me to fight now.
I pulled my gaze away from the box towards the wooden gate at the other end of the arena. I pulled my two daggers from my hips and readied myself. I could hear a jeer from the crowd, “What does she expect to do with those tiny things?” The roar of laughter was almost louder than the roar of the creature behind the door. Two slaves threw the door open, before retreating into their safe spots.
I watched as a beast with the head of a goat, body of a lion, and the head of a snake at the end of its tail. I watched as it lazily moved around the arena. It had seen armored fighters like me before and knew its own strength in living. I watched it intently, looking for weak spots. We circled each other, the Chimera keeping an eye on me, while also focused on the cheers of the crowd.
I took my chance, throwing a dagger and hitting it in the eye. It screamed in pain as it charged towards me. I dodged around it, before stabbing into its side as it charged passed me. I held onto the dagger as the beast flailed, trying to throw me off. I grabbed the hilt of the sword as the snakehead struck. I barely dodged it, as it bit into its own body. I finally got the sword free from its scabbard, to block another bite from the snake. I used the sword to stab into the body again, freeing the dagger.
It jumped and bucked, trying to get me off of it. I used my skills from when I was an apprentice to ride the Chimera. The arena was silent, save for the Merchant who cheered. I reached its back, pulling both the dagger and sword from its side. I was facing towards the snakehead, hoping to stop it from getting a bite into me. The head launched at me as I stabbed the dagger into the back of the beast. I felt more resistance and figured I was near the spine. The head closed its mouth around the sword, shattering the rusty sword. It was still sharp, but I no longer had any good reaching weapon.
The snakehead attacked again, and I shoved the broken blade into the roof of its mouth. I felt the sting of the snake’s fang as it grazed my skin. The snake tried to close its mouth, which pushed the sword further into its brain. I grabbed the dagger and pulled it from the monster’s back. I then turned and plunged it between its should blades. The monster threw me off, and I landed skidding on the dirt floor.
I watched with sympathy as the creature died from blood loss. Its survival instinct was better than mine, but I knew the creature did not choose this life. Neither did I for that matter. I watched the beast wrangle itself, trying to dislodge the two daggers and broken sword. The beast fell to the ground, dead from the wounds I gave it. I walked up to it and removed the two daggers from its eye and back.
I turned to face the Merchant and watched the elation light up his face as the crowd was confused on what happened. The announcer spoke to the crowd, “The newcomer wins!” The crowd erupted in cheers, jeers, applause, and boos, depending on how much money was lost in comparison to the entertainment they just witnessed.
I walked back to the wooden door, dropping off the dagger and armor, before being thoroughly checked by two guards. As we walked back to the cell, they talked to each other about what they just saw. “It was one of the best matches I have seen in a few weeks.” He looked back to me in Garrett’s shirt, “Maybe she is a King-Killer like the Merchant boasted.”
I hated that he made money using me, but knew that I could not have just laid down and died to prevent that. We reached the cell and the other competitors looked at me, their eyes wide. They parted away from me. I sat next to Garrett, my muscles sore from the battle. “It sounds like you did well out there.”
“I killed a poor Chimera for these people.”
“A Chimera?!” Another competitor overheard us. Whispers filled the cell, “No one gets a Chimera on the first round.” “How did she beat a Chimera when she was dressed like a sex slave?” “I wonder why they put it against her.” “Maybe she is the King-Killer!”
Garrett stroked my hair as I laid my head in his lap. “Did you come up with anything?”
The excited talking blocked out others from hearing our plan, “We did, but it is not the best plan. It requires you and I to fight in a death match.” Garrett tried to keep me calm as I tensed up with his words.
“Why a death match?!”
“A death match has different rules, including allowing things like bows and arrows. We need that kind of equipment to get out of here. If you win a death match, you and anyone of your choosing are free. You also get to keep the weapons you fight with, and they are usually the best quality, because the masses do not get to see a death match often. As much as the guards say they do not care about us, we make them lots of gold. They will not chance someone taking that gold away.” He put his hand in my hair, finger combing through it. “Samarra, do you trust me?”
I nodded without hesitation, “I trust you more than myself.”
“Then please understand that I will do anything for the safety of our Queen and Silvia.”
I smiled ruefully, as he left my name out. “I will do the same.”
“This is the only way to get them out of here safely. We will have to do this soon, because the longer they are here, the more danger they are in.”
I sat up before standing up. “I cannot…” I started to walk away, but he followed me.
He pinned me to the wall, removing the face mask from my lips. He leaned in close to me, “I wish there was another way; I truly do.” He smiled softly.
“Why have you not done a death match yet to escape?” I asked in an almost breathless whisper.
Sadness filled his eyes, “I did not want to be free without a Queen’s Guard by my side. Until I knew you were free, I could not force myself into a death match. I did not want the chance that you would arrive here injured and alone. I want you to go back to your normal life, where the worst day is where the Queen makes your frustrated with her stubborn nature.”
“You think I want to go back to my normal life after this?” I felt the tears slide down my cheeks, “I do not think I could go back to that, and our Queen understands. I want a small farm with a man I love, maybe a couple children to teach how to fight.”
His lips were less than an inch from mine, his forehead touching mine. “I cannot give you what you want.” He pulled away, and I felt him rip my heart out with every step he took to walk away.
Days later, I had graduated into the person versus person league. We had successfully kept the Queen and Silvia from the arena. We knew that we were getting close to our death match. The Merchant started to sponsor the two of us, pushing us into this.
A note was left on the cot we four shared. Our Queen opened it and told us what it said.
Tomorrow is the day where you decide where your heart is. Garrett, the Master-Killer, and Samarra, the King-Killer, will fight to the death at noon. Whoever wins gets to choose between saving the other fighter or the Queen and girl. The crowd expects a good match, as the entire stadium will be filled. I, personally, cannot wait to see how wins this battle. I will admit that I am hoping my Dear toy will emerge victorious. If she wins or loses, the Games have granted me rights to keep her, in exchange for the Queen and girl.
I tore the note up, pissed off that he could continue to use us like this. He had to be stopped and I was the only one who could do it. I told Garrett, our Queen and Silvia that plan. They hated it, but I refused to budge on it. This was a fight between him and I, and I would be the one to finish it.
Garrett grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the other contenders. There was a small alcove where the window sat into the wall. The other competitors looked away from us, making sure we knew that they were not watching. Garrett and I were the top two contenders, and the other competitors knew that. “I do not like this plan.”
“It is the best on we have. He wants me. He has always wanted me. If I do not go to him, it will never end. He is the one financing this arena, so without his gold, it will no longer be a sport. He will stop stealing slaves from others, and he stopped torturing people while I was there, because he had me.” I looked into his green eyes, “It is not like you are a part of my future anyways.” I tried to push passed him, but he kept me in the alcove.
“Do not think for a second that I do not care about you. I could have left you in the woods to be captured when I climbed that tree. I could have left you to freeze to death in that cave. Everything I have done for your Queen, I have done for you. I WANT a future on a small farm with a wife and children, but I had to be realistic. It is a death match, and I did not want your feelings clouding your judgement. We have to make it look real, or we both die, along with the Queen and Silvia.” He leaned his forehead against mine, “I want nothing more than to adventure with you, even without the guards, bandits, and close brushes with death. If you do this, you throw away any chance you have at being free.”
“Freedom was when I was with you. I have to do my job and to protect my Queen, but more than that, I need to protect my heart and that means not killing you. I know what is at stake, because the Merchant has said what was. Its either me or the rest of you, so give me the freedom to make this choice myself.”
I felt my heartbeat faster as he leaned in for a kiss. His lips were soft, compared to my scarred ones. His hand grasped the back of my head, pulling me further into him. Deepening the kiss. This would be our last day together and kissing was as far as we would be able to go. “Your majesty, may we borrow you for a second?”
Our Queen hopped out of the cot and walked over to us, Silvia following close behind. “How can I help?” She has been eager to do something so everything is not on Garrett and I, but we refused to let her into the arena.
“Will you marry us?” He asked her, holding my hands in his.
“I cannot, but Silvia can.” She pushed the girl forward. “I will witness this for the eyes of the Crown.”
The competitors cleared their cots to the side, before pulling us away from each other. They took him to the farthest reaches of the cell away from me, but it was not to harm us. Even these hardened warriors and criminals felt a soft-spot for us. The females gathered around me, some giving me the clothes off their backs to help dress me. One combed and put my hair back into a long braid.
I looked over their shoulders to see the males giving the same treatment to Garrett. They turned him away from me as the women shuffled me to the opposite side of the cell. Silvia and our Queen took their places near Garrett. The males took their seats, Garrett finally able to turn around. The females went to their cots, and I watched Garrett’s eyes light up when he saw me.
I walked towards Garrett, Silvia, and our Queen, each step a deliberate action to reinforce what I felt towards this wild man assassin. I reached them within a few steps and Garrett grabbed my hands in his.
Silvia cleared her throat, “Do you Garrett take Samarra to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold, despite any and all circumstances you find yourselves in? Will you save her when she needs saving, but allow her to save you when you need it?”
“I do.” He smiled to me.
“Samarra, do you take Garret to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold, despite any and all circumstances you find yourselves in? Will you save him when he needs to be saved, but allow him to save you when you need it?”
Garrett interrupted, “I wish to add that you will not taking flying leaps off of cliffs into rivers at least until I learn how to swim.”
The people around us looked at us oddly, wondering where this came from. “I do and I promise.”
“By the power vested in me by our God, Kitarr, and the Queen of Astria, I now pronounce you, husband and wife.” She smiled, but it was short lived as the guard came rushing in. The other competitors tried to stop them, but the guards pushed them to the side, even slashing at a few.
“What is this little party going on?” The Merchant stayed just outside of the cell.
“It is a final goodbye.” I spoke first, before anyone could stop me. I pulled away from Garrett and turned towards the Merchant, my arms crossed at my chest.
“Ah, then you are going to go through with the death match?”
“Unless you decide that there is another way. You have wanted me from the beginning and it really burned you when the King took me away from you. That is why you used me to kill him; it as payback for him taking me away. Then with my Queen, you did it because she is the one who fought for me. She was not like her parents that would have let you have your toy. So, you set this all up to have her fear you, so she would never take a toy away again.” I grimaced at the thoughts going through his head. “This was all done so that you could get me back.”
He stroked his non-existent beard. “You might be right, but with this, I do not know if I would take you back. You are soiled by his love, my dear. Maybe it would be for the best that you kill him tomorrow.”
“If I kill him, then I will kill myself as well.”
He took a step back in shock, “You would not dare.”
“I would dare. After all, I would win the match, setting my Queen and Silvia free, then I would plunge the sword into myself.” I smiled sickening sweet, “But… If you put a stop to this, I will go willingly, where no one will have the authority to take me away from you again. I have fought against man and beast and became a better plaything for it.” I toyed with all of his emotional buttons.
“Prove it.” His smile was vicious and cruel. “Take off everything you are wearing and put back on what I like.”
I turned away from him with a sigh. I took off everything including Garrett’s shirt, putt the sheer dress back on. A symbol of what I was before and what I would become again. I reached for Garrett’s face, but the Merchant stopped me, “If you touch him, the deal is off. The only reason I am still willing to take you is because I am the only man you have laid with.”
Garrett’s eyes widen as he realized what everything I had been through truly meant. It was not just the scars on my skin, it was the scars on my soul that I used to drive me. I turned to face the Merchant, “Shall we take our leave?”
“Of course.” He offered his arm to me, a curtesy to piss Garrett off.
I stopped just short of grabbing his arm, “Release them first. You have no need for them anymore.”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me into him, “You are right, my dear.” He tossed a comment over his shoulder, “Kill them all.”
I tried to fight him to get back to help them, but he dragged my tired body through the arena and into his specialized carriage. I prayed my final prayer to Kitarr, hoping, wishing with everything within me that they got out safe.