Dissension





 But before you buy, why not have a sample.

©Katie Salidas 2014
Rising Sign Books LLC

 Finally, last in line, Mira and Mitchell were called up to fight. Mira approached the handler in charge of the weapons closet and requested her sword. As her hands were still cuffed, the handler retrieved her weapon, checked it off his list, and walked around Mira, sheathing it in her belt for her.
Mitchell was handed a rather odd-looking weapon, one Mira had never actually seen in live combat before. An ancient and nasty-looking thing: a ball with long spikes on a short chain attached to a wooden handle. She’d seen flails like this before in books, but never actually met a fighter who used one. Unlike his armor, this weapon appeared to have been used quite often. Based on the wear and tear, it was his weapon of choice. Some of the spikes had been sheared off, some worn to nubs. Deep scars ate into the wooden handle. Yes, this weapon had seen quite a lot of action in its time, and yet its Owner was as fresh and clean as if he’d never seen a day of battle. That, despite her resolve, gave Mira a moment’s pause.
She suddenly wished she had a shield to use with her sword. But wishing would not make it happen. She shoved down her apprehension at the foreign and dangerous looking weapon. No good would come from showing her fear.
A gruff bark from her handler told Mira it was her time. She walked to the arena doors. Mitchell’s name was called next, and he too walked toward the door. A cage dropped down around the two gladiators. Mira held out her hands toward the bars, waiting for her restraints to be removed. Her heart pounded with anticipation. Once those bars lifted, she’d need to be ready to fight.
Without a word of acknowledgement or glance of recognition to each other, Mitchell and Mira stood together while their handlers worked to remove their restraints. The front of the cage lifted as the doors to the arena opened.
The rowdy mass of spectators was still cheering the last combatants whose fight had just ended. Only one vampire would be returning to the stable alive. Adding insult to injury, the screams and howls of approval from the happy crowd as the other was dragged away by a team of handlers served to harden Mira’s resolve. The poor wretch’s blood muddied the ground where it had spilled and trailed on to another set of doors, ones only used to dispose of the dead.
The scent of freshly spilled blood caught in Mira’s nose, awakening something primal within her. She’d recently been allowed extra rations, a gift of her Patron, to build strength before the fight, but nothing compared to the sweet smell of fresh, hot blood pouring from an open vein.
Mira and Mitchell entered the arena side by side, walking straight to the center. An announcer overhead called out their names, and the crowd erupted in another bout of loud screams, hoots, and cheers.
Mitchell smiled up to the crowd, turned around a full circle, and waved to his adoring audience. Mira remained still, staring straight ahead, caught off guard by the sight of her new Patron, Lucian, sitting next to the Magistrate. She’d seen him observing the games on many occasions, and watched for his signal to make the killing blow, but somehow, seeing him here, now, after their little chats felt different.
She nodded stiffly to the Elite box and then finally addressed the crowd. She held up her sword in a victory pose, and those in the crowd who were clearly her fans jumped to their feet. She may have been the bane of her handlers and owners, but the rest of the crowd loved her. She was a winner. She never failed to give a good fight. And she would not disappoint this time either.
“Combatants,” the announcer called over the speakers. “It is your privilege today to be able to display your skills for not only your Regent but also our esteemed Magistrate. You may show your gratitude now.”
Gratitude was not what Mira felt, but she’d done this so many times. She turned back towards the Elite box. “I fight for the honor of the Iron Gate and the pleasure of its people, and salute our great leader, Magistrate Mathias Robertson, for allowing me this opportunity.”
Mitchell repeated a similar token of false gratitude. Mira could hear it in his voice; he was just as sick of this bullshit as she was. But that would not matter once the horn blared overhead, signaling the start of battle.
Mitchell’s face hardened from bored to cold and calculating. He whipped his flail around overhead a few times in a nice display for the crowd.
The chain was no more than two feet, but she needed to account for the handle and his reach too if she wanted to stay out of striking distance. Her own short sword would not provide much protection. It was a close quarters weapon, and she doubted she would get the opportunity to get near him.
He swung it — more like flung it — at her, and she narrowly avoided the head of the spiked ball as it whizzed past her nose.
In unison, the crowd sucked in a deep audible breath.
Mira ducked the next swing but wasn’t prepared for the recoil. Mitchell quickly backstroked with the weapon and whipped it back in Mira’s direction. Even with her supernatural speed, she couldn’t escape the blow. The spiked head of the flail came at her fast. She dropped her sword, reached out and snatched the ball mid-flight. A spike drove straight into her palm. She bit back a scream as she clamped her hand around the ball and jerked it back quickly. Mitchell held tight to the handle, overbalanced himself, and toppled down to the ground.
Mira, too, lost her footing. She released the weapon as she windmilled her arms in an effort to stay upright.
A mix of cheers and boos rained down from above. Clearly Mitchell had some fans. She would have smiled up at their taunting, but Mitchell was already bouncing back to his feet.
Her hand bleeding from her fresh wounds, Mira crouched, ready to strike. Mitchell was not giving her an opening; he immediately went to swinging the flail defensively. It whizzed through the air with deadly speed. Wicked fast with a supernatural speed equal to hers, Mitchell was damn near invincible with that weapon. She needed to get in close, but couldn’t find a way to do it without feeling the sting of the spikes again. Her hand was bad enough. It was healing, but not as quickly as she would like. She could only imagine how pleasant it would feel to have those spikes pierce other parts of her body.
With her sword on the ground, she was completely defenseless. 



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