Itd been less than a day since I was convicted, and it seemed like the entire city was gathering in the arena stands. As the guards led me to another holding cell, I squinted in the bright light. Solas two suns were almost aligned at the top of the blue sky.

My cell had two doors, one leading to the hallway where I came from and one that led to the middle arena, the death grounds.

The guard locked my cell and said one last thing, ”When the doors open you best get out. The ground you
e standing on will burst into flames and anything in there will burn to a crisp within seconds. ”

I looked down and saw little holes scattered everywhere on the metal floor. Great, I bet they had to put those in to ”encourage ” the prisoners that were hesitant about being beaten to death.

Outside, the crowd was cheering. I went over to the little square window at the door that led to the arena and saw there were already matches going on. From what I understood, before the main match they put on a show of twenty slaves who must kill each other to survive. Each kill meant more food. Anyone who lived until the suns aligned got to keep their life another day. Those who refused to kill would be starved to death, but most men succumbed to the growl of their stomachs eventually.

My gut churned, and I moved away from the door and leaned against the far wall. I buried my face in my hands, trying to calm down. My heart was racing, but I managed to tune everything out, and when I did, I heard something.

A faint familiar voice whispered in my right ear. ”Hey, can you hear me now? Hello? ”

Her voice brought me back to life. ”Akiko! Yeah, Im here! Are you going to get me out? ”

A pause. That was never a good thing.

”I have some bad news; Vaughan hasn made his appearance yet. You
e going to have to hold off the Quwallie until he arrives. ”

”WHAT? How am I supposed to hold off the greatest fighter on the planet?! ”

”Just calm down. This is part of the new plan. Ill just have to use the sync rings. ” I heard startled voices in the background shouting followed by a clash of steel. ”Crap, I have to go. Ill be back in time for your fight. Just stay focused, okay? ”

”Wait! No! Don go! ”

Too late. It was completely quiet except for the random spurts of cheering from the crowd, probably signifying a death. I went back to burying my face in my hands.

I was not a fighter. Its not that I couldn ; its just that Id never really tried or wanted to try. Ive always avoided a fight if I could. I wasn weak looking though; in fact sometimes my appearance enticed the more competitive people to come after me, but I was always in better running shape.

A loud gong echoed throughout the arena, and suddenly the crowd went crazy.

I lifted my head and faced the door that determined my fate. A few loud clicks came from the door, and I jumped to my feet. Then a hissing sound came from the door behind me, and a row of large flaming jets shot up from the floor, reaching all the way to the ceiling and blocking the door to the hallway. After more hissing the second row ignited, then the third, and suddenly I was already fighting for my life waiting for the arena door to open.

The heat was intense. My skin felt like it was already burning. The heavy iron door began clicking as its rusted gears slowly slid the door open. The fire crept closer. The pressurized flame jets roared next to me, toasting my skin and blackening the ceiling as I squeezed myself through the opening and rolled away from the door just as the last of them burst to life where my feet had been just seconds ago.

That was close, too close. The match hadn even started yet and I felt like I was a handshake away from meeting death.

The crowd exploded as I stumbled to my feet. The arena was a lot larger than it looked from the safety of my masters side at his booth. Pools of dark red blood stood out against the light brown sand as bodies were dragged off by men on scavys, giant tamed lizards.

I thought the crowd screamed loud for me, but it was nothing compared to when the Quwallie stepped out from the other side of the arena. The sand vibrated under my feet as the people in the stands cheered on the greatest fighter on Sola.

He played the crowd, enticing their roar with a wave of his massive arms. They fueled each other, and I could only watch as their bloodthirsty desire shifted to me.

Suddenly the Quwallies eyes locked onto mine. The only marks on him were the ones he had given himself to tally the people he had killed. No one else had been able to scratch him. Rumors went as high as saying he had killed more than seven hundred people, which I hadn believed until the moment I saw him approaching and his larger-than-life biceps came into view covered in scars. The vast number of them running down his arms made it impossible to actually count them. I gulped. He was staring me down, anxious and alert, eager to add another death mark on his arm. He didn have to wait long.


The sound sent a cringe throughout my entire body, and the Quwallie came striding at me full force. My heart was out of control. I wanted to move, but my legs wouldn budge. My brain stopped. He was charging right at me and I could do nothing—I could think of nothing.

It was only when my right ear buzzed did my brain finally snap out of it. The voice that had kept me sane throughout my brief imprisonment whispered in my ear.

”Im back. ”

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