This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
THE WHIP GOES biting inside the man’s shoulder.
An ear-piercing shriek indicates the pain he is going through. The slicked hair on the forehead, showing exhaustion from the sun burning from all directions, sending hot waves of feelings - from aggression, anger to torment. While he falls - landing on the rough ground - defeated, thousands of voices cheer at the rough battle.
The old king, dressed in a white toga in an expensive fabric, raises his cup with wine high up into the air. Asking his dear audience for their participation of the poor man’s fate. Because the audience have more green colors than red, they raise up their beautiful but sharp leaves. Waiting hungrily for the game to end there and now.
A little boy hides behind the hem of his mother’s dress, not daring to know how it all will end as the men eagerly show their wish for the finale.
“Well, let’s get this over with. Shall we?” The king roars back, stumbling to his seat. Affected by the sweet wine made of the best grapes worldwide.
In a minute everyone goes silent. The whole arena goes silent. Even world goes silent. The only sound hearable is the king’s harsh laugh echoing louder.
Fast as a cobra, the victims head is chopped off and rolls around, leaving small pearls of blood behind. It comes to a stop at the foot of an enormous seat belonging to no one else but the insane king.
Everyone is enjoying the scene. Everyone except for one person.
One girl raises a hand playing along with everyone else as if what she has done is incredibly honorable and brave. Hiding the feelings of regret and small relief, while panting under the helm. Most importantly, a big heart with its frantic beats.
“Excellent Serpente! He will be rewarded!” A drunken voice orders.
In that moment there will always be someone murdered or executed. Killed by no one but the gladiator. Until the day someone kills him first, they say.
“He`s one of the best players! I heard he was originally brought as a slave.” A middle aged woman with crooked nose tells her nearest friends. All gathered together, gossiping about the latest.
The queen is dressed in a silver colored satin dress. Pulling a hand through the soft fabric as she says,
“God has gifted him. How else can a slave have such abilities? Our people deserve to be the best!”
The queen’s lips are drawn into a thin line. She is starting to age and doesn’t have any heir to take over the throne yet. Gray layers of hair strands hang loose from her messy bun. Her hair once had the same brown color as her eyes.
“Serpente!” She yells over the sea of women sitting around her in the room.
“Yes, Queen Elara.” Serpente answers, in a respectful voice.
Turning, annoyed from being disturbed eating her apple, even angrier at the praise everyone was giving this new slave.
“You will win this newcomer! Do you understand?”
She never felt any real pleasure in killing anyone. But her blood was boiling with anger at being asked killing this slave, who was taking all her honor away. All the honor of being the one in center. All the hard work she had put at even being there.
“Of course maestá, you won’t be disappointed.” She answers, tightly between clenched teeth. Thankfully no one could see her behind the thin mask.
The queen leans back in her chair, satisfied. “Good.”
Four hours later, Serpente stands in an attire made of steel. A red feather on her helm symbolize the kingdom she serves. Her legs and arms are covered in narrow chains of steel, hiding her feminine body. A hair in golden is now hidden behind a helm.
In front of her a man stands in the same clothes, except he doesn’t have anything covering his muscular arms and legs. His tan skin glows in the sun. His hair, a light brown color. He has the most beautiful light blue eyes. Eyes that lack fear.
He’s thinking about Serpent’s eyes not looking humanly. They look like a wild animals’ eyes. A molten gold with a shade of red. Truly like a Serpente: a snake.
“My people, meet Sparta! He was brought as a slave to my palace. If he hadn’t fought my men, we would never have known about his fighting skills. Today, he will fight Serpente in this colosseum. Our favorite, our best man. Let us see who wins! Close the gates!” The guards obey.
A creaking sound blends with the voices of hungry people waiting for the game to begin.
The arena is large and round. The ground consist of nothing but yellow sand. Slaves are not permitted. Only rich people. And rich people love watching others going through pain.
Serpente hits her sword against Sparta. Waking him up from a trance. He answers with a move against her left as the swords cling. They continue fighting. He does not judge. Neither does she. Whenever Serpente thinks she is nearing victory, Sparta gets a grip on her. She is not used to fighting this hard, and it’s starting to ache in her every vain. She doesn’t want to lose. She does not have the time or life for that.
Sparta put more effort with this gladiator then he has ever with anyone. Though he wasn’t even going to resist being beaten from the beginning, something inside him urged to compete with this alluring creature. He didn’t feel any remorse anymore. This cobra was fighting for life and death. He was fighting to overcome.
His sword finally damage her left arm. The chains fly into every direction. Half of the audience is quiet. She raises her sword as a defense. In trying so, she falls back with the helm giving a nod back. Her face is being revealed to this complete stranger.
A pant slips from his lips. Eyes fall on her face then wander back to the eyes. She carefully lets her hand slip the front of the helm back in place. Hiding her identity once and again from the world. But not from one person. And out of all, he happens to be a stranger.
The king drowns every voice in the palace.
“I guess you can finish him. He no longer seems to be the gladiator.”
The majority shows green color, leaving Serpente breathless. Unexpectedly the rest small part venture with red. “Red as in leave it”. But it’s not going to be enough keeping someone alive.
Sparta turns his head back to the disguised girl. There are so many questions unanswered. He cannot let any murdering occur.
“He… can live. I don’t feel like I have won. Another battle again would be fair enough. Every man should have the chance to give his best.” He lies, leaving the girl in shock.
Chorus of cheers with delight at the decision is heard. Cheers of disappointment of not seeing any blood being spilled is also audible.
The king gesture bored against the gates.
“Settled then.” Meaning she was free to go.
Mortified, the girl limps hurriedly away from there with a hand against her forearm. She casts one last glance behind, before the ports close. Ice blue eyes meet her, showing determination and something looking like curiosity, which scared her more than anything.
“You shouldn’t be here.” A strong voice states. “This place`s not for girls.”
An arm is around the helm resting on his hip. He has a strong face and the gaze is demanding.
“What do you want, slave?” Serpente asks taking off her helmet.
Her eyes glow with danger, like a predator. The walls are closing her from all sides. The darkness in the room is killing her. Small streaks of sunlight from the cracks in the walls made of mud, illuminate them both.
Sparta raises his eyebrows in mocked surprise. “I just saved your life, and this is the thanks I get? I would like a better explanation.”
“I don’t need to explain anything to a slave.” Comes the hissed reply.
She takes a deep breath. “But considering you have the power of exposing me in front of everyone and ruining all effort I`ve put being here. Never.”
He rubs his chin suddenly looking really tired. “I wasn’t even going to tell anyone. I’m just curious.”
“Like I said, I don`t trust anyone. Especially not strangers like you. Mind your own business and leave me to do mine.”
She’s starting to walk out from the suffocated changing room, when a strong hand goes around her arm. Fortunately, not her injured one.
The power in his arm tells he has years of training experience. But how can that be possible when slaves are too busy to even think about training. Who was this disturbing new gladiator? What does he hide?
There is a stern expression in his eyes as they blink coldly, sending her icicles into the chest without knowing why. It clearly showed disappointment. The hand presses harder forcing all her attention towards him.
“I take back what I said. You deserve to be killed. You didn’t finish what you were going to say. But I do understand this much. That you have fought everything coming here to take over the throne. Become the ruler of whole Rome.” He shakes her arm and she doesn`t react.
“You are not afraid of spilling blood. Whoever it is.” He finally let go. Taking a step back.
“Unlucky you, I won’t let that happen.”
She turns to leave the room, shaking a bit from the ugly words thrown at her. Not before she puts on the veil again and whispers,
“I’m not cruel, I just want to live.”
Sparta can see the sparkle fade away with her as she walks out from the door. He`s confused about the girl. About her words. Most confused, about who she is. Not like other Roman woman, afraid of getting their hands dirty. At the same time, exactly like those snob behaving rich people, hungering after power and it angered him.
Two weeks have gone since the incident in the changing room and arena happened. Neither of them have talked ever since.
Serpente is waiting in the tender-hook for someone to make her admit the crimes she`s thinking about. But everything is quiet and it’s killing her. What’s worse is the new gladiator not telling anyone about it. What if he is thinking about doing so?
He`s so different from what she thought. He doesn’t speak with anyone. Only keeping focus on training to become a better fighter. He doesn’t even cast her a glance. This hush of silence won’t last for long. Something must be done. A fast plan and unselfish act.
She is hurrying out from the training room past the colosseum with its high walls of protection. The largest Amphitheatre ever built. The construction started under the emperor Vespasian reign, completed by his heir Titus and later on, modifications made by Domitian. It is known right after Domitian’s father died, his brother also got murdered mysteriously. You could say a lot had changed in life since the third Flavin dynasty took over the throne.
The history had been drilled inside of her ever since childhood. The spectators inside the arena is estimated to sixty five- thousands. Every third week, public spectacles are held, such as mock sea battles, contests, animal hunts and…executions. The word hung in her thoughts.
Mythological dramas are performed when she isn’t attended at the particular occasions.
At that moment, a nearby statue made of marble stared down at her with wrath in the eyes. It is the roman God Apollo. The God of music, light, truth and archery. Believed to give all brave and pure hearted souls the strength they needed to accomplish duties and battles.
This is all nonsense, of course. She did not believe in any of it. There are no such things as these myths. If someone would have heard what she was thinking right now, they would probably ban her from her homeland.
“Can I help you?” A man inside the horse stable with big greyish mustache ask her.
“I would like to borrow Styx.”
“Not possible.” He answers not feeling sorry.
“She’s not available.” She darts away from there, leaving the horse owner to do his.
A heavy feeling lies on her shoulders, weighing it down. A helpless and useless meaning with life. There is no point with anything anymore. Someone will find her later on and kill her for high treason. If she doesn’t manage to find a secured and undiscovered place.
She has been going for hours. The feet are aching from all walk. One step before another may be a big step into freedom. It’s such a beautiful word and it tastes wonderful in her mouth. But so unreal.
An uneven stone rolls under her foot as she almost stumbles forward. The ground has gone wet from the rain.
Squinting up through her eyelashes, large water drops land on her face and move further down the body. The sky is clouded with a dark color, not usual seeing in such a hot climate.
A fresh scent of oranges and freshly showered flower- blossoms, in white and purple, spreads hope and creates a natural odor.
There are no stores opened as the weather hinder farmers from working. High trees with bundles of dark green leaf, help keeping the small huts with important products from falling. But the storm does get a grip on her, trying to rave everything from inside.
She is thinking about turning back home as there is no idea walking around in the storm. But still keeps walking stubbornly not letting her mind change her decision. The cold rain goes through her garments causing small shakings. Wetting every inch of the skin.
She rubs her arms with both hands glaring at all the water. Hurrying down in her steps, she comes to an abrupt stop when a figure stands across looking at her.
Even through the pouring rain and ten feet between, she could see it was a man. Only she couldn’t tell who it was? All small fears turned into real fear. This was something she had no idea how to deal with.
All soaked now, the man almost smiled at her shuddering. Deciding he might be scary and probably dangerous, she finally turned after fifteen long seconds. Her heart kept beating. What if he is fast, and really strong? Would he reach her in time before she could reach a safe place?
Much too late, her body collides with a tall and uncomfortable wall. She`s being blocked from all corners as two arms do not let her pass.
The man is dressed in a disguise made of black, which is a rare color around here. His face is hidden under a hood, giving the impression of a dead skeleton half human. Brought from the dead to bring her with him. She starts screaming, completely paralyzed.
The dead man puts a hand around her mouth, trying to mute her screaming. There is a violence in this man, as she tries to kick and break herself free from his tough grip and tiring her from holding against his stranglehold. A disgusting lust is visible in his eyes.
All at once, she manages to hit the dead man in the face, near the eye. The grip only loosen up a bit but recovers from the unexpected, throwing her down on the wet ground.
Thousands of knives are stabbing her in the back causing her to cry out. Gravel and dirt are digging inside the flesh. But that is the least of her problems. Right now, she wished more than ever she wouldn’t have left from the palace. Wishing Sparta had killed her when he had the chance.
She pulls up a weak hand, trying to avoid the disgusted creep from nearing. The half Skelton is about to bend down over her when he stops midway surprised. Another stranger joins the game.
Unexpectedly it is Sparta.
He throws a punch causing dead man to fly a good length before landing on his back. Sparta is on him once again with fire. And keep hitting the man over and again until he loses conscious.
Serpent`s head is spinning around, not knowing how to deal with all of it. Her head is throbbing and it hurts everywhere. This is worse than the day she felt the sword almost slice her arm off. Is this a trick? Why is new gladiator coming to her rescue?
He bends besides her looking worried. There is also a guilt hiding somewhere inside of him, which bewilders them both. However, he doesn’t say anything. There is truly a kindness he is showing her, not anything false in there. Serpente doesn’t understand what to believe as she starts feeling reality let go. And then she falls into a forced darkness, greeting her with wide arms.
Sparta has taken the girl into an old friend’s house. He`s carrying the cold body down from his horse. An old lady receive them at the front door looking concerned seeing the boy’s face.
“What have you brought me Spartacus? You know I love visitors, but this is most not a proper time. ” The woman gasps loudly and the mouth forms into a round O.
“She is drenched from head to toe poor bambina! Bring her inside. Hurry!” He does exactly what he is being told, expecting the old lady to invite them inside.
He lays the girl carefully on a small bed, inside a living room.
It was so strange being there after so many years. A hut, embraced in green plants cautiously taken care of. Which was odd considering what they represented in the battle field. How could there be such a difference between two groups? One part, entertaining themselves with ravaging everything that comes in their hands. While the rest served them so dutifully and loyally.
And us. Trapped in between. Trying to break ourselves free.
The warrior girl fighting so bravely, looked now worried in her sleep. Her fingers gripped his collar, not letting go and lips kept shaking.
He stands on his feet in time as the old lady comes running with a bowl of hot water and clean clothes.
“Move aside young man before she turns sick. What happened? Who is she?” She keeps asking questions as she clean Serpent’s wounds and dirt. Trying to bring warmth to the blood circulation.
He makes up a story. Because knowing the truth could cost her life. And he doesn’t want his godmother to encounter anything bad. Or get involved in his problems. He leaves them both trusting no one will find them tonight. Deciding taking a bath and nap might be a good idea.
A lot of answers finally coming to a sense circles around in his head. Everything is much clearer than it was before. Now is only a time matter before they will act. Couldn’t you have waited a little longer before something could have been done more smoothly? But no. She keep putting herself in danger, risking her life. What have you gotten yourself into, crazy girl? Is his last thoughts before he is being pulled into a restless sleep.
She wakes up not wanting to. Not wanting to know what happened to her when everything comes pouring back into the head. She holds it, trying to keep out the world. It doesn’t last for long as an angry voice make her jerk up.
“So the first thing you do when being revealed from your secrets is, leaving without knowing how the weather will turn out and without food. Not to mention if coming as far as possible from the last place you want to be in, no carriage. I`m truly interested in knowing how you were thinking?”
“Leaving? I was just taking a…eh…walk outside. And when walking I didn’t notice where I reached or that there might come a storm.” She argued, wanting to kick herself for being such a bad liar. Who was she trying foul?
“Oh really?” He says crossing his arms clearly not believing her.
“Without your attire? And did the king permit that? I`m pretty sure you`ve been locked inside that animal prison your whole life.” She looks at him astonished. Heart almost coming to a stop.
“How do you know so much about me...are you a spy?” She asks uncertainly.
He takes a deep breath, figuring it wouldn’t hurt giving an explanation.
“Look here is the truth, I read about your journal, the second I got to know who you really were. The day in the arena, I was going to let you kill me. But then the way you were fighting drove me to a challenge. Later on, after I found out who you were, I wanted to know more. You refused to tell me.” He raise his hands in defend.
“Don’t blame me. A girl dressed like a gladiator and the fact she has beaten every guy. Wouldn’t you find it admirable?”
She just shrugs relaxing a bit. But hesitated for if she should trust Sparta? He had saved her when knowing she was a girl. Which made her believe it wouldn’t be a bad idea sharing her life history. Yet a little voice inside urged her not to. But she ignored it.
“I guess you read everything about me. But you don’t really know the whole story. You read about my parents being criminals and executed. They left me to mourn alone with their dead bodies when I was five. Ever since then I`ve planned how to revenge. Turning into a gladiator was a perfect opportunity.” Her eyes bores into his.
“I had to be in the contest. I never intended in stealing any kingdom or kill for joy. I just waited for a chance to give back on what they did to my family. I can’t rest in peace until the guilty ones are punished. And that’s how it will be!”
After the whole declaration the only thing he asks is.
“Tell me one thing?” With two perfect lips.
“What’s your name? Real name?”
“Amazona.” The name slips easily. Tasting strange after so many years of not mentioning it.
The vow is made there and now. Right before them.
Sparta is back on the platform, fighting like usual. Like he knows nothing. Like he´s innocent. Only fighting to show his skills and win the kingdom. But the reality looks nothing like that. The reality is much crueler.
Their former rulers and coming ones, kept telling them to have faith in them. That it was important to serve the high ones. That it would lead to being praised and paid for doing good deeds. Both on earth and by the Gods.
Gods. That was the words of fear being used to fulfill what others wanted and their motives. Even if it meant crossing the line between right and wrong.
One day in front of the other, is a day he`s hoping will near to an end to this brutal using of slaves and farmers for others use. He didn’t know if there was any God. But the principle should be, everyone is equal in front of God. Someone once told him, if there is justice, nothing can ever go wrong. How difficult could it be to understand something so simple? If not, he didn’t know what to believe in anymore.
He is wondering how Amazona is doing? Why the king has not attended the occasion. What could possibly be more important than being here at this moment? But he doesn’t demand knowing. Knowing it would draw more attention towards him and his real reason of being there.
Animal like sounds wake him up from his deep thoughts.
He`s holding the swords in a way building a cross, finishing two pumas from both sides with one swift. The wild cats meow loudly before they land on the ground, leaving the world dying. He uses the fur to brush the swords clean from the blood.
“Sparta! Inside my room now, I would like to talk in private.” The queen shouts over the noise, leaving with her fluttering purple dress. He follows obediently.
The door is closed behind him as two guards approach. Turning right before him, the queen is standing upright with one arm behind the back. Tears running down her cheeks. Looking like she had been kept in a household for dead people.
“The king was killed yesterday. And I need someone to take over the throne. Do you understand what that means?”
“That I`m the heir, cause you have no children to take over.” He guesses, shocked by the announcement.
“But why aren’t you using gladiator Serpente maésta?” Playing along to know what she intended doing with Amazona.
“You see.” She says, wiping her tears away with gentle fingertips.
And behind her three guards are carrying Amazona. Her hands are tied as is her mouth. What’s worse there is nothing covering her from the queen’s mad gaze.
“When I was thinking about finishing this first gladiator, I discovered there was an ill-behaved creature hiding behind a little girl.” Turning her mocking face towards him.
“Did you know anything about this little secret?” She takes a handful of Amazonas’s hair when he doesn’t answer.
“Your silence speaks. I thought you would become a perfect assassin and maybe… something more. It’s a shame. You both will be punished with death. ”
“Your assassin?” He asks not really interested in even becoming one.
“Who let you take such decisions? The king wanted-”
“Of course I can silly. I killed the king. I can do whatever I want!” She says evilly finally letting go of the hair.
There was no mistake in that this was the woman who killed Amazonas parents. Not the king.
“Any last words Serpente?” She asks releasing her band from the mouth.
“You could not possibly be my mother. I feel ashamed even thinking about it. You killed my godmother cause father loved her more than you!” The queens face transform into surprise and then anger.
“Yes my real name is Amazona. Not your snake.”
“You….you are still alive? They didn’t kill you?!” Elena recovers from the reveal when recognizing who the girl is.
Suddenly Amazona takes down the two guards nearby with her bounded wrists breaking herself free. Striking for her goal; her mother.
Sparta hurries over there, beating the guards down. When turning to help his comrade, he sees the queen trying to escape. Amazona gets a grip around her mother’s ankle. She falls hard on the ground, hurting her head hard in the process. Causing her to cry out in pain.
He drags Amazona away from there. Trying to hinder her from killing her own mother.
“This isn’t over yet!” She cries from where she lays.
“I will kill you both. I won’t spare you Amazona!”
Both turn to see small streaks of blood running from her hairline. Noticing she is actually hurt badly. He runs over there, trying to stop the blood flow.
“Help! Guards help me! The queen needs help!”
Amazona stands stubbornly on her feet, not moving. Only observing them with a sad and helpless face.
“Did you hear me Amazona…not…going…to let you rest…in peace.” Then her hand falls from the forehead, covered with blood. And eyes stop moving.
He pull her eyelids down. He never had any intention in killing her. They both were just going to run away out on their own.
Guards outside are banging on the door, trying to open it up. Demanding them to open, waking them from their sorrow. Forcing them to face reality. They both start running for the window, climbing out.
Outside, guards are hunting them, but they have already set off with their horses. Running for their lives. Running for a life that hasn’t started yet. Running for freedom.
marklurch1: What an unexpected pleasure! I usually avoid modern gothic stories as the zombies and demons shown on TV seem so one-dimensional. But the demons in this story were truly menacing as their powers grew and transfigured as the story progressed. But then, great heroes require great villains. There we...
Diyfamilygarden: This is one of the best books I've ever read! The characters, the unique love and everything else in this book is so well written that it feels like you're there! Like you can see it with your own eyes! J.K.Rowling can watch out, this fantasy book is just as good as the Harry Potter books, maybe ...
catd69: Karim is a very talented writer. When I started reading his journey it took me into the book and I was in the story till the end. I've never felt this way with any other writers stories. If you want to read a gripping adventure, this will be the one book I would suggest you pick.
Bri Hoffer: I couldn't put it down!! The characters are all incredibly likable, and it's so descriptive you can see, smell, and feel thier surroundings. Great story, and very well written. I cannot wait for follow up stories. there were a few grammatical errors, but nothing that I could move right over.
JWalker: I loved this story from start to finish! It flows at a really nice pace and the story world feels so real. The fight sequences are a treat especially when Isanfyre is training to become a warrior. I found the names really cool and thankfully easy to pronounce. Personally I have always struggled w...
Pablo Rojas: Love the story, at the end it is a western story, simple, yet giving hints and pieces of the situation that is happening all over ravencroft´s universe. easy to read and always keeping with the main stream story I want to keep reading about, Olafson´s adventures.
Nymeria: Really can't get enough of this story. It flows well, it captivates the reader from page 1, and throws you into such a well-written, well conceptualized world that you'll believe it's real. Everything in the book is meshed together really well. From character backgrounds to plot twists, you can t...
Deleted User: I liked it very much. I liked how it began with the two sisters bonding like that. I especially liked how it ended. Although, i wish it had more of a plot twist, but then again, that's just me. This was my first book i read on this app, and i really like it. I'll probably read more books because ...
263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...
Kasei Bulloch: At the beginning I wasn't very into the story but I kept reading and was more hooked than I was with Battle of the Wills. All of a sudden I had devoured chapter after chapter then the book was over. I am dying for The Compact. Please help a girl out!
Tiffany Thomson: This story is not something I would normally pick up and read but I'm so glad I did, I wasn't able to put it down and my husband was yelling at me at 3am to put it down and go to bed (just waited for him to doze back off before picking it back up) I really hope Natalie brings out another book eit...
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."