Vrorgard stepped into the wide coliseum with the shabby sword limply held in his hand. His lips were chapped and the wounds of yesterday were already scabbing. He groaned in agony, attempting to stand upright.
The sounds of the masses resounded against his eardrums. The familiar din was deafening.
He had only taken three steps into the arena before he found himself biting his inner cheek to draw attention away from his swollen, bare feet. The sands were scorching and his soles were cut and brimming with pus and infection. He had accumulated the Rot from his cell mate, the bastard, who had died the week prior. It was as though the Sun God mocked his Fate, heavily breathing fire upon his sole/soul.
The slaves were given very little for these barbarous displays of brashness. Before the Ga’tol Guard had taken him prisoner, slaughtering his father and stealing away his betrothed, Vrorgard had lived in mediocre luxury. At this moment, his life was not fit for the hogs. If he were not slaughtered, he would die from the Rot. Having little control of Fate left a man like Vrorgard desperate.
“Citizens of Ga’tol,” exclaimed the Crier from the lofty retreat above the arena, “Prepare for a display of nerve and gallantry never before witnessed in the Dome. Today, this fearless slave, with nothing to lose and nothing to gain, will fend off three starved lions from the forests of Vashual!”
The Sun God really did hate him. Vrorgard could only think that he must have been a rain cloud in a previous life.
He fingered the hilt of his weapon and stared past the Crier. His eyes locked on the Emperor of Ga’tol that drank his wine, wiped crumbs from his purplish robes, and stroked the blonde locks of the woman at his side. His name was not important to Vrorgard. A man did not need to know another man’s name to be covetous. Life was a masquerade filled with inequality, injury, and injustice.
Vrorgard curled his lip. His heart was filled with fury, his mind with bile.
The squall that erupted from the warrior’s lips was deafening. Lightning flashed in his eyes. Thunder echoed in his breath. The gale rushed from his lungs as though it had never been heard and needed to sound throughout the world at once. Even the Sun God could not ignore the wrath of Vrorgard’s internal storm.
And then the sword in Vrorgard’s hand plummeted through his own chest. His fingers loosened as he swayed. He stood there momentarily, nearly as surprised by his own action as the silenced crowd. His blood flowed down his bare chest to his aching feet.
It was warm, warmer than the sand.
The Sun God could have his vassals. The Crier could have its audience. The Emperor could have his grandiose life. Vrorgard would have his freedom.
Joshua Robertson is an award-winning author in epic, dark fantasy. You may recognize him as the dude whose dragons were said to destroy George R.R. Martin's and Christopher Paolini's dragons in a very biased Twitter poll. His first novel, Melkorka, was released in 2015, and he has been writing fantasy fiction like clockwork ever since. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He currently lives in North Carolina with his better half and his horde of goblins. Learn more at http://www.robertsonwrites.com or connect with him on Twitter or Instagram @RobertsonWrites.
I am an award-winning fantasy author, known best for the Thrice Nine Legends Saga. Please take some time and explore the website, and feel free contact me. I love getting mail!