Friday, December 7, 2012

Arena Games: Petrova's Legacy

Please understand this is an unedited version of a work in progress manuscript. What you are reading is raw material, not a finished product. While the content will generally remain the same, names, titles, spelling, grammer, usage, symantics and other aspects may change before being printed to book format.

Chapter Three

As the lights lit up the sky Petrova wondered how late it was and she quickly gathered her items and ran down the stairs. Halfway down them she stopped to see if she recognized anybody. The pub part of the inn was nearly deserted as the games were about to begin. She didn’t see anyone she recognized, but the bar maid caught her eye and nodded to a door near the back of the room below. Petrova shook her head in acknowledgement and walked slowly down the rest of the stairs so as not to draw attention. She was not wearing the brown hair wig.
She made her way to the door in the back and opened it slowly. She expected to see a number of people who would help her prepare for her fight. In previous fights she would be assigned three or four men or women to put together her warrior’s suit. But when she opened the door and slipped inside she found only a single boy. He was tall, skinny, lanky and his light-colored hair was tousled. He sat on the edge of the bed, giving her the unpleasant profile of his extensively large nose.
“Sorry,” she said to him. She assumed she had opened the wrong door.
“No, no no no. You are Petrova?” He said to her as he stood up from the bed.
“You are my countenance?” She asked.
“Yes, just me.” He said. Then he smiled a relieved smile. “I thought they were putting me on, I thought you weren’t going to show up.” For a moment he stared at her, in awe.
“Please, let’s get started,” he said, making way for her to sit on the bed where he had sat.
“We are nearly late, so we must hurry,” he said to her as he opened the door to an armoire. Inside were new chest and lap plates.
“They are Japanese metal?” She asked him.
“Of course. Petrova wears only Japanese metal,” he said, bowing his head as he handed them to her.
Petrova took the plates and inspected them carefully. The metal was light, yet strong. It was encrusted with Imperial Topaz, the stone that would help ward against the negative magic she would be up against. Imperial topaz was found in both Japan and Russia and is a fire element stone. It also would ward against sudden and untimely death. It was the perfect stone for her fight tonight.
The familiar coolness of the hard metal felt like home to her. She admired how they shined in the light. Her countenance may be just a boy, but he was a very good at presenting her chest and lap plates.
“And the scepter?” She asked.
“Vanadinite gemstone surrounded by Golden Yellow Apatite , just as you asked,” he said, putting the small scepter into her grip and bowing once more.
The scepter was the tool by which weapons were dispensed onto the grounds. All weapons took the form of a ball, varying in colors and sizes. Sometimes one weapon could be mistaken for another weapon of similar size and color so it was important to know the weapons very well.
Petrova ran her fingers over the red stone’s crags. It was blood red and the power hit her immediately.
“Endurance, persistence…” she said to herself under her breath. “And sexuality.” The power of the vanadinite was great, but its counter point was that it made it hard for Petrova to not be distracted by the attractiveness of the opposite sex. She was normally not distracted by such foolishness. She remembered the chatty, giggling girls outside the arena when she had watched Eric almost a year ago in a game. She could remember his fluid movements, his precision and his obvious deep knowledge of weaponry. For the first time in a long time Petrova felt fear. She had confidence that the longer she held the scepter, the more the power of the apatite would shine through. Golden Yellow Apatite was a fire stone that increased learning and helped with overcoming fears. It also had tremendous healing powers for the bones and cartilage. The combination was perfect for the game.
The entire scepter was six inches in length, a very small size compared to others she had held. But the gems were what were most important. The silver plated stick was twirled with designs and indentations. She was happy with the appearance of the scepter, especially the wonderful color of the blood red gemstone atop it. She smiled slightly as she ran her hand over the scepter one last time before wrapping it in her laplette and securing it to the belt that would go on her waist.
“Four Crunch pencil boots, light brown,” the boy said, handing Petrova the boots for her ensemble. They were made of soft, light-brown, yellowish leather.
“No tread?” She asked.
“No tread, just as ordered,” he said. She could tell he was confused about the order. What warrior wanted shoes without tread? But he would find out soon enough.
She turned the boots over to see their bottoms. It was nothing but a small, smooth slab of rubber. She needed boots with no tread because she planned to attempt a weapon release ritual she called the Fire Bird Totem Release, which required her to slide some distance. Weapon release rituals were a new thing for the games. She had seen one in the last fight she watched nearly six months ago and had been researching them since. She hoped that all her fire elements and her Fire Bird Totem Release would strengthen the use of the Ball of Fury. It also helped that she was born under the Sagittarius sun, which was a fire zodiac sign. The Ball of Fury was her going to be the main event.
He handed her the belt that would strap across her shoulder. It would carry her weaponry. She slid the chest and lap plates over her head and secured them on top of her Japanese floral kimono. The Japanese metal lap plate resembled a short, pleated skirt. She strapped the belt across her chest from shoulder to hip like a sash. The scepter she stored in a hip belt and strapped it around her waist.
“Head adornment?” She asked the boy.
He handed her the sheet of flowing linked metal and she placed it over her red hair. Most Warriors wore hard helmets, but she had never seen the use in it. It only added heavy weight to her head, making it difficult for her to balance and sometimes to see. She imagined other warriors believed heavy helmets protected against kill shots, but honestly if an opponent issued a kill shot, a heavy helmet would not do much for protection. She had seen it too many times.
To use a weapon she would place the orb in the hook of the scepter and wait for it to glow. The longer she waited, the more the weapon would glow. Then she would sling and release it, aiming for three feet in front of the opponent.
Sometimes a warrior could slam the end of a scepter down on the ground to release the weapon, but it was hard to aim doing it that way. To do so required a staff as opposed to a scepter because they were longer. She had seen many of them, but preferred the shorter scepters. After release, when the ball hit the ground it would burst into a glittery fog of various colors according to its element, initiating its power. For a kill shot, the user aimed directly for the opponent, either the head or the chest. Learning how to throw the weapons was key in a warrior’s training. A perfect shot was imperative.
Petrova turned, lifting her hair, initiating the boy to connect her chest and lap plates to her weapon belt from behind. He clasped them together and stepped back. She turned to him, expecting to be handed her arm guards. When the boy did nothing but stand there staring at her she lowered her head and looked at him from under her brows.
“Oh!” He said at last, understanding what she needed. He hurried to a side table and opened the drawer. He brought out arm guards made especially for her delicate arms and hands. They were silver plated steel and heavy. It would make it difficult for accurate shots, but she would manage. Sliding the steel onto her forearm she admired the dark red fabric that stretched across it. A triangular shaped piece of the fabric dangled from her wrist and she slid the hoop onto her middle finger. She smiled as she admired the look.
The rest of her protection lay on the bed. They were shoulder pieces made of the same Japanese metal as her chest and lap plates. Attached to them was a flowing blood-red cape. She lifted them over her head, making sure to keep a portion of her head adornment underneath the plates so that it secured it to her body. She stood and admired her arm guards once more.
“Ms. Petrova,” the boy said with his hands clasped behind his back. She looked up at him from under her brow again without saying a word.
“We must hurry,” he said. The look of concern on his face indicated he did not intend to rush her, but wanted her to be on time. He was a good countenance.
She nodded to him and quickly put on the second arm guard. She breathed in deeply as she ran through her mind the checklist of items she would need. When she was satisfied she closed her eyes and let calmness run through her veins.
“Let us go,” she said to the boy. The boy moved the bed by pushing it aside, uncovering a passage in the floorboards. He lifted the passage door open for her and she saw there was a ladder that went down into the darkness. She positioned herself on the boards and slid down into the hole, grasping the rungs of the ladder with her warm hands. The rungs were cold and slightly damp, making her feel uneasy in her grip. She imagined the ladder to go deep into the ground, but just as her head disappeared from the boards above, her feet hit firm ground. If she were any taller she would need to crouch. She took a few steps ahead into the darkness and waited for the boy. He did not use the ladder, but jumped down into the hole, nearly his whole head still stuck up out of the floor boards. He carried a lantern that flooded the area with an orange glow. She watched him use a shepherd’s hook to pull the light bed back over the passage way entrance and close the opening, ducking his head inside.
They were in one of the many tunnels of Carthusa, used only by Arena Warriors and royalty. The tunnel snaked around the underground of the city, following intricate piping systems that carried water to and from the houses and market buildings. It was not a long trip before they arrived at the end of the tunnel, which opened up directly onto the Arena field.
Petrova could hear the crowd above the ground and her heart beat fast. They were chanting something, but she couldn’t understand what it was they were saying. Her lips and mouth had become dry and she wished she had sipped some of her herb and flower holy water before she left her room. Sweat beaded up on her forehead and she felt especially grateful for the Golden Yellow Apatite, otherwise her fear would be mounting.
Petrova took her place on the lift and cleared her mind, letting the roar of the crowd dissipate into the wind. All she heard was the voice of her master, repeating the Warrior’s prayer.
She felt the jerk of the lift as it initiated. The mechanical noises drifted into her mind as she heard the boards above her begin to open. The breeze flowed in and rustled her hair up against her face, tickling her cheek. But the fresh air felt good against her skin and she lifted her face up to the light, closing her eyes to convince her insides to resort to the calmness she had accessed in her meditation that morning. The Golden Yellow Apatite must have started its wonderful power because all the fear released from her mind and calmness settled in its place.
As her head emerged from the ground she lifted her face and opened her eyes. She took her stance with her left foot in front; legs separated shoulder-length apart. She stood tall as the rest of her emerged from the ground. Her cape floated behind her in the wind. The night air was light, cool and breezy. Across the venue she saw her opponent had been lifted onto the ground at the same time. There he stood, tall and proud just as she was.
She knew her arsenal well and she needed her first play to be a defensive one. She wondered what Eric the Natural had in store for her. Then she saw the bright green glow of a weapon ball. Bright green meant an earth element. As the glow grew bright she felt a slight rumble under her feet. And then, fast as lightening, the glowing ball spun free of its captor and exploded in front of her, sending blasts of dirt into her face. Instinctively she covered her face and turned her back to the flying debris using her cape as a shield. Tornados of brown dust reaching over twenty feet high formed around her and the wind ripped past her ears, sending a high-pitch ring deep into her ear drums.
The tornados narrowed in on her, surrounding her on all sides. She had never seen the weapon, but her mind was clear and she knew what to do.
Quickly Petrova sat in her meditating position. She knew many spells to counter the weapon, but she wanted one sprinkled with fire chants to set the stage for her Ball of Fury. The tornados were gathering their strength as they began to combine into one another. The wind around her was fierce and sent pieces of sand stinging into her exposed skin and face.
She gathered dust into a pile, covering it with her hands to shield it from being blown away. And then, as loud as possible she began her chant, circling her body in the same motion as the tornados:
“Gods of the wind and rain, expose the fury before me. Settle the child that is uneasy. Make your way into the center of the pain, shield it against the source. In its place ignite the happiness that puts the soul to sleep, that ripples through the excited heart of man, that closes in on the depressed. Take your wind and turn it to fire!” She yelled. Her voice was barely audible against the raging winds, and for a moment she thought her spell was not strong enough. The tornados had combined to form one large tornado and the spectators were not visible due the swirling dust around her. She stood and unhinged her scepter. Now she would throw the Muhler Tea Sprouts, giving her time to prepare her Ball of Fury. It would be a short fight and the spectators would be upset, but she knew what she had to do to win.
The winds still raged on but the tornado came no closer to her and so she cupped the small orange orb around the scepter’s ring. It latched on quickly and glowed brightly. Though the tornado still spun in front of her she knew where her opponent would be and when the orb glowed bright enough, she released it into the wind. She watched it sail through the spiraling dust and instantly the tornado evaporated. All the sand that the air had held onto fell to the ground in a heavy torrent. Remnants rested on her head and shoulders. As she shook the dust off, she could see her opponent across the pitch, on his knees.
She detached her Ball of Fury orb and settled it into the scepter’s ring. It did not glow quickly like the Muhler Tea Sprouts ball had. In fact it did not glow at all. Petrova breathed in deeply, closing her eyes to concentrate. Her life depended on bringing this ball to life.
In her mind she recited her Russian chants from that morning, asking for strength, power and atonement. To her horror she felt heavy rain drops fall on her head and heard the angry rumble of the skies. Rain would counteract her fire elements! She remembered how she had worded her prayer, “may you squeeze the power from it and let it rain on me.” Quickly she searched her brain for chants, spells, anything that would stop the rain, but she couldn’t come up with anything. She could see Eric across the venue breaking free of his bindings. The orb on the scepter had not even the smallest glow. Time was running out. Her Fire Bird Totem Release would have to be enough. She would have to send an orb that wasn’t even glowing. Was that against the rules? She couldn’t remember. But it would have to work.
Petrova began her Fire Bird Totem Release: She knelt and dug the end of her scepter into the ground so that it would stand on its own. The orb latched to it still had no glow. She stood and gripped her cape in her fingers, letting the material drape around her arms as she stretched them out in front of her and crossed her arms, forming a dome around her scepter. She bent her head forward to finish off the shield for the Ball of Fury. She puckered up her lips and sent light breezes of air flowing from her lungs out into the small confine she had made with her body and cape. She watched with joy as the orb twinged with light as her breath hit it. She began to blow a little harder and with each breath the orb would begin to light until finally it was glowing weakly.
It was crucial that Petrova be able to anticipate her opponent’s next move. Being able to see the color of the orb as it glowed before the release was the only way to know what kind or type of weapon was being used. She knew she had to lift her head and see what color Eric’s orb was turning into.
She lifted her head and could see Eric, in full offensive stance. What she saw she had only ever heard about. She never thought it possible that she might see it in her lifetime.
The orb that was braced in Eric’s scepter was glowing white. Only one weapon had ever glowed white: the Light Ball. It was the king of all weapons and it was said to have only three in existence. The Light Ball was instant death; its only purpose was to kill. Petrova stood motionless as the crack rang out letting Petrova know the weapon had been released. But dread did not consume her. Anger did. This was not how the fight was supposed to go. Petrova did not lose fights. Petrova did not get outdone. Petrova did not get outsmarted. She was the warrior of the century and no one would take that title from her. It was the only thing she was good at, it was the only thing she knew and death would not find her this night. No, it would not. Red, hot, burning anger seared through her body, filling her chest with rage. The Light Ball flew at her so fast it only made her angrier. It cut through the air with ease and just before it smashed into her face Petrova heard the cries, gasps and screams of the spectators. For a moment she thought they were gasping at her death, but looking upward she realized the rain had turned to fire, dripping down from the sky. The Light Ball came hurdling at her and as it smashed into her face Petrova felt herself being flung ten feet into the air, her body spiraling. It was the kill shot.
She could see nothing but black and she knew she was lying on the ground on her back. Even in her death she was going to have the last shot. She moved her arm and even though she couldn’t see it, she felt the end of her scepter. She pulled it to her and with one large swoop, she released what she assumed was a half lit Ball of Fury.
She heard the sound of the crowd uproar and then it faded into black. There was nothingness.

To Read Chapter One, click here.
To Read Chapter Two, click here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

News for Arena Games: Petrova's Legacy

The release date for Arena Games: Petrova's Legacy will not be 1/19/2013. The new release date will be April 15, 2013. The reason for the change in date is due to the inclusion of necessary and potentially profitable adjustments to the Marketing Plan of the book. I plan to continue to post chapters of the book on the website. Here are the chapters and the dates they will appear:

Chapter Three = 1st week of December
Chapter Four = January 9, 2013
Chapter Five = February 20, 2013
Chapter Six = April 3, 2013

For more information, feel free to contact me via Facebook or Twitter.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tabitha.short.7
Twitter: @tabithashort2

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Roller Coaster of Terror

Here's another horror short story for you to enjoy. Cover design and editing by The First Five Pages.

You can read about it on the Short Stories tab above. You can purchase it here:

Smashwords $1.99

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Her Sister's Murderer

Her Sister's Murderer

Kate thought it was something they had left behind long ago when they moved nearly two-thousand miles away, but when her best friend Abby talks her into visiting a psychic, the mystery is reawakened. Twenty-one years ago, four years before she was even born, her older sister had disappeared from the front porch of their cousin's home. Without witnesses and without any evidence, the case went cold.

Abby's had a crush on Adam for nearly two years and is more than ecstatic when she finally catches his attention. Secretly Kate has liked him since sixth grade and when she learns he is taking a weekend trip to see his brother in the same town where her sister had disappeared, she goes along. As their forbidden romance blooms and betrayal weighs heavily on her heart, she finds herself face to face with her sister's murderer.

I found this manuscript in my files. It's one of my earliest stories. I wrote it when I was eighteen. It is called Her Sister's Murderer. Today is November 10th, I've uploaded it to Smashwords and it's available there for $1.99 as an ebook. Printed copies will be available through Amazon in a few days. 

You Can Purchase This Book Here
Smashwords $1.99

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chapter Two

Please understand this is an unedited version of a work in progress manuscript. What you are reading is raw material, not a finished product. While the content will generally remain the same, names, titles, spelling, grammer, usage, symantics and other aspects may change before being printed to book format. This book will be fully published and released January 19, 2013.

The wind was picking up on the mountain as Petrova made her way down. It would take her nearly two hours to reach the City of Carthusa by foot. There she would find a place to rest as the night had not been kind enough to give her sleep.
Petrova let her feet crunch loudly on the leaves and twigs that littered the ground beneath the massive trees. She began running through her mind the items she was going to use in her fight. The Arctic Round Tool had features that were useful for cutting away anything made of ice. It was meant to counter the Russian Frozen Tundra, which froze everything and stringed everything together with small knots of icicles. The Arctic Round Tool easily sliced through the layers of ice and could dig anything or anyone out of it. But the Arctic Round Tool could be used on anything if imagination was used. Nearly every weapon could.
Her Fulmeric Tonic might actually be of use this time. The Fulmeric Tonic was used to counter any weapon that had a ‘death’ component to it. These were weapons that would cause the the person receiving the hit to think they were dead, thus leaving them unguarded to attacks that wouldn’t necessarily have defeated them if they weren’t disoriented. A Fulmeric Tonic would reveal the truth when drank. She would give the Fulmeric Tonic to her opponent once she did away with him so he would know for certain he was no longer alive. And if the reverse were to happen, she would be able to know her death as well.
Muhler Tea Sprouts was an offensive weapon. When administered, roots formed and locked the opponent to the ground, and if done correctly the roots formed to the opponent’s arms and legs and rendered them useless. However, they were only effective for thirty seconds due to the tea sprouts’ life span. Thirty seconds of life and then the roots would dry up and the opponent could easily break free of them. But thirty seconds was enough to use a second offensive weapon.
The Log Roller was also an effective offensive weapon. When used, a series of logs fell from nowhere and trampled the opponent. In the past there had been many ill-equipped fighters who had found death because of a Log Roller. There was only one weapon ever found useful against the Log Roller and that was the Russian Frozen Tundra. Petrova had extinguished her supply of Russian Frozen Tundras long ago and unfortunately only had a fourth of a Log Roller, meaning her logs would be shorter than the full length and there would be more time between the falling of the logs. It would be nearly useless and her spectators would likely have a good laugh at her for using it.
She did have one major weapon though: The Ball of Fury. The Ball of Fury, it was rumored, initiated a series of fireballs that would sail through the air, busting up anything it came into contact with. The Ball of Fury was a fire weapon, meaning that in the right conditions the weapon could do a lot of damage. No one knew its full power yet. The conditions had never been quite right in past uses of the weapon. The Ball of Fury was a rare weapon. In fact, Petrova had never witnessed the use of a Ball of Fury. She had obtained the weapon from her Master and had never known how to use it until recently. While in the northern Ship Star City she had come across the remains of a library that had burned. The runes still smoldered as Petrova scavenged through the black dust and embers. She didn’t know why she had stopped in the first place. It was not her nature to rummage through a library, burned or unburned. But it was lucky she had because she found, buried beneath ashes and soot, the Book of Weapons. Somehow it had gone nearly untouched by the hot fire.
She sat among the red-hot smoking remains of what used to be the greatest library in their country and read the book entirely for she knew she would not be able to take the book with her in her travels; it was much too heavy. She stayed awake for two days to finish it, without food and water, and with very little sleep. When she had finished it, she carried it with her for nearly a half mile before she left it in the dust of the desert that separated the eastern City of Carthusa from the northern Ship Star City.
Even though it was merely a book, leaving it behind reminded her of her father and how he had left her behind in the dust of the desert. She was just a baby then, not even able to walk. She wondered if he had left her there in hopes that the swirling dust of the desert would suffocate her and she would die. That’s what she had always assumed. Her father had gone into town and an old man had found him crying in the streets. When the old man talked with him, he discovered what had been done and secretly scoured the desert until he found her. He took her and raised her as his own. His name was Vortura and he was a magi; a person of magical healing powers. He taught her healing spells and ingredients to use in making healing potions.
Her memories of Vortura were fond. She thought back on her last day with him. On her eighth birthday they had set out for the City of Carthusa. They had weathered the dust storms of the desert and were near the gates of the City of Carthusa when they were ambushed and robbed. Vortura had hidden in his robes a rare gem which he planned to trade for new clothing as Petrova had grown out of the ones she owned. When the robbers found the stone, Vortura refused to give it to them. She remembered watching the blades of the swords shoved through his thin rib cage. She could remember the blood that flowed to the tip of the blades and fell silently to the ground as Vortura fell to his knees. A last sword went through his heart and she could see it exit through Vortura’s back. She watched as he fell forward to his death. She screamed and cried out his name, but it was of no use. Vortura was gone. She rushed to his side as a man grabbed her and even though she flailed and grunted trying to be released, she could not get free. The man was too strong. They took her away and told her she would be sold into slavery.
They restrained her with thick ropes and heavy chains in their covered wagon as they travelled to the City of Cardusa where most of the country’s robbers and murderers slept. Slave trade was illegal, but in Cardusa it was a daily occurrence. She sat, bound and gagged, in the covered wagon as it bumped along for two days before anyone thought to give her food.
She had become so weak she could not hold herself up and her body fell limp to the side. She could no longer feel the rope burns on her wrist or the ache in her jaw from the gag rags in her mouth. Finally a girl who was halfway between a child and a woman came to her with a bowl of oatmeal. She knelt beside Petrova and brushed Petrova’s hair out of her face.
“Girl, hey girl,” she had said to Petrova. But Petrova had not been able to find the energy to grunt.
“Look, I have food for you,” she had said excitedly, like one would be excited to feed a new pet.
Petrova remembered that moving had been agonizing. She could remember she tried to move into a position where she could be fed, but all she could manage to do was move a leg and lift her torso before falling back where she had lain. The girl had helped her to her knees, took the gag out of her mouth and spoon fed her.
As she had put the first spoonfuls in Petrova’s mouth she had whispered to her, “I can help you escape, but you’ll need to follow my directions absolutely.” The girl continued to feed Petrova as she told her the plan.
“We stop tonight at the Tankard, a pub that is just outside of Cardusa. When we stop I’m required to set the room up for a stay overnight. In the morning is when they plan to sell you off. I’ve become very quick at preparing rooms and I’ll do it my quickest this night. Afterward I shall sneak out here and loosen your bonds. A man will come late in the night to check on you, but he will not check your restraints. I’ve been his servant for many years and I know his habits. After he sees you and he leaves, you must go. There is a house three miles in the East at the end of a path. This is important, you must do this. You must go to that house and give the woman there this letter.”
The girl had pulled a letter out of her apron and showed it to Petrova. She remembered the letter had been written on heavy paper that she knew was expensive. It also had a red wax seal on it, but she couldn’t remember the design.
“I’ll leave the letter behind you so no one can see it if they check on you. Oh, by the way, my name is Georgina. The woman at the house, her name is Minserva. Will you do this for me?”
Petrova had nodded her head as best she could. She had understood and she had been grateful that the girl was going to help her escape. She’d have done anything the girl asked her to do if it meant her freedom. She could remember thinking  that the walk to Carthusa would take a fortnight by foot and she had no food, no water and no money. Worst of all she had no one. She would return to the cottage she lived in with Vortura for as long as she could remember, but that was not her house and she was certain the owners would be by to retrieve it. If they found her there, alone without a guardian, they would send her to The Stables which was for orphans.
She had learned about it from Vortura’s sister before she had died. Petrova cringed as she remembered her aunt. Vortura’s sister, Varea, had not been pleasant at all to Petrova and constantly reminded her how lucky she was to be in Vortura’s care. Every time she saw her in the streets the woman would grab her up and make her help her bring her baskets home from the day market, purposefully filling them with as heavy items as she could purchase. And every time Petrova would be petrified from the stories she would tell her. They were stories of orphans who lived in The Stables that were forced into heavy labor for eighteen hours a day with only two small bowls of wet, runny food in their stomaches. Varea would scare Petrova with the stories she told her about the young girls who would be sold to older men as wives once they were in The Stables’ care. Varea was vicious to Petrova, hitting her and slapping her when she didn’t do something exactly how she wanted it. But Petrova was smarter than the woman had thought she might be because Petrova knew what Varea wanted her to do. She wanted for Petrova to tell Vortura about the beatings so that Varea could claim innocent and make Vortura decide Petrova was a liar and not worth keeping. So Petrova kept her bruises hidden and her scars covered. Vortura never knew of his sister’s sinister side.
She remembered lying in the back of the covered wagon, promising herself she would not go to the Stables. She could remember thinking that she knew Varea was a hideous woman, but she also knew that what she told her might very well be true. She had seen the orphans out cleaning the streets. She had watched one be beaten with a leather whip. She noticed how none of the orphan children ever looked the other children in the eye and how they would shy away from anything and everyone. She would not let herself be an orphan because she would take care of herself.
So as the night wore on she had listened and waited for the almost woman to return. She did not have to wait long before she heard the barrier to the door being lifted. The girl popped inside quickly and, with a key she kept in her apron pocket, began to unlock the chains. She loosened the ropes. Just as quickly as she had squirmed inside, she had left.
The night continued on and it had seemed like forever before the man would return to the caravan to make sure she had not escaped or been stolen. She remembered trying to memorize the many sets of feet walking around her and the many voices. Finally she had heard a pair of heavy boots coming closer to the caravan than the other pairs of feet. She had heard them stop right outside the back of the caravan. When he had lifted the heavy material, light from the Inn flooded into the caravan and it had stung her eyes. She had grunted at him and pretended she was trying to wiggle free, thinking it would make it look like she was still tied up tight and couldn’t get away. It had seemed to please the man, who had chuckled and walked away.
She had waited until she was certain she could no longer hear his footsteps and then quickly broke free of the ropes that bound her arms. She had untied the rope that bound her feet and let the unlocked chains fall free of her ankles as she stood. She had untied the gag from her head and walked clumsily to the back of the caravan. Through a small hole in the material she could see outside. What she had seen was not part of the plan.
The man that had lifted the material and was satisfied with what he saw inside had been standing nearly ten feet away with Georgina. Her arms were bound behind her back and he had covered her mouth with his left hand and held a dagger to her throat. Three burly men had stood behind him.
Petrova’s memory was keen. She remembered it step-by-step. She had shuffled her way back to the front of the caravan to look out over the horse’s heads, but there were no horses. They were undoubtedly away in a stable, getting hay and rest. She had climbed through the small hole that led to the horses that pulled the carriage, crawled down its side and lay on her belly, inching her way underneath the wagon.
She remembered clearly seeing their feet and recognizing Georgina’s small boots. Petrova had slid herself as far to the back of the caravan as she could without risk of being seen.
“Muerler I thought you said you heard these girls plotting an escape?” The man who held Georgina had said in a gruff voice.
“Heard ever’ word o’ it, just keep watchin’” the second man had said.
“Lift the damn flap!”
Petrova’s heart had beat fast as she listened to the man lifting the flap. She knew what he had seen, or rather hadn’t seen.
“She’s gone!” She remembered him proclaiming to the others. The memory was vivid, their feet scurryied around looking for her. She had watched two pair of feet go to the right, out close to the wooded area. She could see the feet of the man who had Georgina still captive. Where was the other pair of feet? There was one more set.
“Come here you,” she had heard as a hand reached out and grabbed her. She kicked and bit and punched, but the man had handled her as if she were a cranky kitten.
“Let me go, you scum!” She had yelled to him once he had pulled her from underneath the carriage with one hand.
“Well, would you look at that? One almost got away,” the man who held Georgina had said. And then, right as Petrova had looked at her new friend, the man had glided his dagger across Georgina’s throat. Petrova had watched her eyes grow big and her body stand on its toes as the life flowed out of her. The man pushed Georgina to the ground. Petrova could no longer see life in her eyes. Blood poured from her neck and quickly created a large puddle. Petrova’s heart lurched and settled in her stomach. Two people had given their lives for her. She would not go down without a fight. And fight she did.
She had screamed as loud as her weakened body would let her. She had kicked the man who held her arms behind her back. She had wiggled fiercely trying to loosen his grip. She had slung her head back as hard as she could into the face of the man. She had heard a loud pop and the man had growled in pain, but still did not loosen his grip. She had thrust her head back again, with all her might, but the man put his arm in the crook of the back of her neck, stopping it from hitting him. Then he put his other across the front of her neck, locked his hand in his elbow and began squeezing her. She had tried to gasp for breath but the pressure on her neck was too great to allow any air to flow into her lungs. She had scratched at the man’s arms, but his skin was thick. She had kicked and wiggled as hard as she knew how, but his grip was like iron. She could remember not being able to breathe, how the black faded in from the sides and consumed her.
The memories didn’t stop there. When she had awoken she had been slumped over and tied up again in the back of the carriage. Her entire body felt like one big bruise. The sun had come up and the horses were unmanned. The sound of birds chirping had made her already aching head pound. She remembered looking out of the opening ahead she could see the tails and hind ends of the horses and they felt like freedom. She reimagined the images of horses running free and proud in an open pasture crashed through her mind as she tried to free herself from her own reigns. She had jerked violently, pulling and twisting the ropes with her fingers, but all she had gotten was rope burn on her already bloody wrists. Pain coursed through her and it was a relief because it meant she was still alive.
She remembered the voices she had heard outside the carriage, speaking in a foreign language she neither understood nor had ever heard before. They came closer to the carriage and the man lifted the flap on the back of the carriage.
The face of an old man with a very long, white beard poked into the carriage.
“I’ll give you four monts for her. She’s not worth any more than that, she’s much too thin,” he had grunted to the man. His voice was harsh and deep. His face had been full of resentment and he had looked at her with scorn.
“Yes, but look at her face. It is flawless. You’ll be able to resell her for a wife,” the man had said to him.
“No. I intend to use her for myself,” the old man had told him.
 “Well alright then, but I’m asking minimum of five mont,” he had told him.
“Fine. Five mont, put her in my carriage.” And just like that she had been sold. She had been sold like the butcher sold slabs of his cows.
A slight smile crossed her face as she remembered him climbing up into the carriage and pulling her to her feet very roughly. She had been so weak she could not stand so he had to hold her up. When she neared the edge of the carriage the man pushed her to the ground. She had landed on her right shoulder and had felt something give in her neck. The pain had been excruciating and she had cried out, knowing her collar bone had snapped in two. But of course, no one cared. The transaction went on.
“Two, three, four, five,” the bearded man had counted as he placed the coins in the man’s palm.
“Nice doing business with you,” the man had said to him as he clapped him on the shoulder. Then he turned and walked away, apparently very satisfied with his profit. She recalled how she was very angry, thinking most girls would be scared, but not her. She was ready to fight her way out, she was ready to make a run for it. She remembered what happened next.
He had bent down so his face was near hers. His breath was staunch and she had held her breath to keep from smelling his. He had reached to put a hand on her shoulder but she moved quickly and tried to brush it off, but the action of moving made pain sear through her neck and shoulder.
“Shh, girl. I am not going to hurt you,” she had heard him say. He had used a different voice, a less harsh voice, one that was not intimidating.
“You have been hurt, I will help you. I am not going to make you a slave,” he had told her. “But you will stay with me, I bought you.”
She chuckled lightly to herself as she remembered how she had felt. She had been relieved she was going to be a slave but at the same time she was afraid because she didn’t know why he had bought her. She didn’t know it then, but the man’s name was Montrivious Sceptor and he was to be her Master. For many years after that she would stay with him and train with him. He first sent her to Japan for a year to learn to read, write and speak Japanese as she learned how to use the orbs and the scepters. Next she was sent to Russia for one year where she learned to read, write and speak Russian as she learned about stealth and charm. It was fortunate that her name was a Russian name: Petrova.
Her memories had occupied her during her walk down the mountain. Three more miles and she would be in the City of Carthusa. Petrova could see the flags atop the arena. All that separated her from the city was three miles of slightly rolling, grassy hills and open space.
By the time she reached the gates of the city she was exhausted. The gates towered some thirty feet high and were open, allowing visitors and travellers into the city. Fourteen guards in total stood near and around the open gates, checking travelling vouchers. Before pressing on she pulled a ball of brown hair out of her bag and placed it on her head. She was easily recognizable with her red hair. By wearing her wig, it was very rare that someone recognized her. Her face was pretty, but ordinary.
She waited in a small line as others ahead of her checked into the city. The woman ahead of her had two small children with her. When it was the woman’s turn she handed the guard her travelling papers.
“Purpose?” the guard asked as he took the papers to study them.
“The Arena Games,” she told him. “My husband will be along in a few hours as well.”
“I hope he has his own papers. Otherwise we will not allow him into the City,” the guard told the woman strictly.
“He does,” she told him.
“Very well. I suggest you make accommodations quickly, the rooms are filling up fast,” he said to her and then handed her the papers. The woman took one of each child’s hands and led them into the city.
“Purpose?” the guard called out to Petrova.
“The Arena Games,” she told him. He looked at her, expecting receipt of papers. She would have thought he would recognize her as many young people had drawings of her.
“Name?” he asked when he understood there were no papers.
Petrova stepped nearer to him and whispered, “Petrova.” The man’s left eyebrow perked up and he looked down at her from his stand. He knew the rules regarding the Warriors in Arena Games. Their names and any other name that would likely cause people to stir were on a special list with special instructions that had been left with them prior to the event.
The man thumbed through his book quickly.
“Oh c’mon,” Petrova said to him in a very aggravated, hushed whisper. He thumbed through his book.
“Oh good Ashen, I’m Petrova,” she said to him a little louder. “Petrova the Pummeler.”
The guard bent forward over his podium and said to her, “I know who you are Ms. Petrova. Your master has left you some instructions. Let me find them and you’ll be on your way.”
She was slightly embarrassed at her display of impatience.
“Here you are,” he said to her, handing her a note.
She walked quickly to the side and opened the small piece of paper. It read: Darton Inn, 7:00PM. She knew they were the instructions on how to enter into the arena without being seen by spectators. She also knew this was the inn at which she would have a reserved room. She imagined that at any second someone would recognize her. A wig was not a proper disguise. But to her relief no one did and she made her way to the Darton Inn.
Once in her room, Petrova laid on the bed. She was happy her room was on the top floor because if she had been on the bottom floor she would not be able to rest because of all the noise from outside. The city was packed. There were people yelling, both cheerfully and angrily, kids screaming and crying, people haggling and selling things. It felt chaotic. Petrova took a deep breath, closed her eyes and tried to sleep. In spite of all the noise from the streets below, she fell asleep easily.
***
Petrova awoke to a loud booming noise coming from outside. A few moments later she heard another loud boom. She rushed to her window to see what was going on. It was already night time and the booms were the sound of the pregame fireworks.