A painful reunion with ‘Gladiator’ Ardan turned into a bloody battle with ‘Gladiator’ Lance in the sands of the Gythian arena. This pulse-pounding story ends with the epic ‘Gladiator’ Catherine, fighting to save the life of her enemy.
CHECK OUT HER 3D MODEL:
- Eagle helm
- Pauldron with deadly eagle talons
- Feathered bodice with golden eagle skull clasp
- War belt with gold talon buckle and feathered skirt
- Eagle inspired arcshield
- Gladiator sandal boots
- One-armed manica armor
- Halcyon gem embedded in arcshield
- Glowing eagle emblem flies out of Catherine’s arcshield when she strikes with Merciless Pursuit or Blast Tremor
ALTERNATE FATE LORE
The Second and the Third
Read Part I: The Reunion
Read Part II: The Champion
From ‘The Champion:’
There was a rumbling, and the floor split apart. The crowd went quiet, so that the great metal wheels cranking to pull away the arena floor could be heard. The gladiators had to jump to one side or another, their eyes darting left and right, crouched in defensive postures. Dark water appeared from under the floor; the sand fell in and sank. The fans who had fallen into the arena scrambled and grasped for handholds wherever they could. One fell in with a splash, and the floor continued to roll away, separating the fighters farther and farther while the man in the water screamed for help. And then he disappeared, fast as if pulled under, and screamed no more.
Three small boats were lowered down from the stands and pushed through the dark water toward the gladiators…
Out of the water rose a long-tailed sea beast, its jagged curved teeth overlapping, its fat head as wide as a man was tall. An appendage grown from its forehead dangled a single glowing orb. The gladiators stepped into their boats, no larger than canoes, and struggled for balance as the beast slithered through the water toward The Champion’s boat.
The massive jaw opened and water rushed inside, pulling the boat close. The Champion leaned back, shield high, shoulder back, and sank his weapon into the beast’s horrid face. He yanked it out with one eye attached; the beast screamed and dove and the people’s stomps and shouts shook the arena. The Champion raised the dead eye toward the podium where the young emperor, Samuel, stood to cheer his favorite fighter.
While the beast hid underwater, Catherine scanned the crowd under an eagle-faced helm, her eyes narrowing on the podium. The public death of the Stormguard captain would be the emperor’s wedding gift to his bride. But the empress’ passionless expression betrayed the farce: she was as much a captive as her father, whose murderous eyes Catherine was glad she could not see beyond his ancestor’s mask.
Celeste was the very image of her mother. For one dangerous moment, Catherine’s eyes filled with tears.
The impatient crowd booed, so that guards rushed to thrust long pikes into the depths to antagonize the beast. With a grand splash that soaked the lower seats the beast surfaced, whipping its wide head side to side. The crowd screamed with horror and pleasure when three of the guards were snapped up, torn apart and swallowed.
The Champion marked his opportunity and took it, shaking the detached eye free of his weapon and aiming toward Ardan’s boat.
“Help me keep my promise, Julia,” Catherine whispered. “It is all I have left.”
She rode the wave that the beast made, gripping her shield with her bare arm, leaning forward for speed, and collided with The Champion’s boat, bashing her shield into his chest. The stun froze him in place, the bloody point of his weapon an arm’s length away from Ardan’s exposed back. Knocked off balance, The Champion fell, rigid, into the murky water.
Catherine twisted to turn the boat toward the sea beast; it loomed over Ardan, the crowd’s streamers plastering to its glistening black scales. The teeth clamped together a hair to the right of Ardan’s shoulder as he wound up and punched his caestus through the top row of the beast’s curved teeth, leaving them dangling and spraying oily black blood.
The crowd erupted with appreciation, the entire arena singing as the beast screeched and arched away.
Ardan pointed his caestus at Catherine. “May pain follow you into the Nether!” he cried.
“Blood for blood!” he screamed, his voice breaking.
And he jumped, caestus first.
Catherine caught the strike on her shield. Her shield arm went numb, her neck snapped back, and the two enemies fell together into the water, sinking under the weight of their heavy armor.
Her feet hit the floor of the arena. She felt around in the dark and caught Ardan by the hair; he struggled and she flanked, forcing her eyes open, refusing to panic from the pressure tightening her chest and throat. He struck again and she took the hit in her belly, forcing the last of the air out of her lungs.
In the distance, she saw the light. It grew larger, and it was beautiful, glowing, mesmerizing in the deep dark, ever larger, and she thought it must be light from the last door through which all must step, and beyond it, Julia would be there, or it would be as Ardan had cursed her: full of pain, and she thought even that would be better than life as she had known it…
And then, with the last of her wits, she recognized the light.
Her eyes rolled up and the power flowed downward from the sky, through the cursed water, into her, making her shiver, into her shield, and in slow motion she raised her shield and slammed it into the arena floor.
The tremor blasted the water away, and with one breath Catherine crouched and leaped, planting her feet on Ardan’s shoulders, burying the blade of her shield into the sea beast’s brain as it glided up behind him.
The waves hit the edges of the arena and rolled back, hard and fast, tumbling Catherine and Ardan back under, and for many endless seconds they spun in water and blood without knowing which way was up.
It was The Champion who pulled them onto the arena floor as it closed. Dripping, coughing, they struggled to their feet. Ardan lurched toward Catherine, but Lance held him still.
“Do not dishonor yourself,” he growled. “She saved your life two times.”
“Three times,” whispered Catherine, but no one heard.
All eyes in the arena turned to the podium where the emperor stood, fuming, as the roaring crowd awaited his decision.
Read the canon Stormguard Saga:
What Must Be Done
The Right Tool For The Job
What Krul Seeks
The Shield and The Bow
The Coup D’Ètat
Crossing The Bridge