The new fighter was tough, and, more than tough, he had that fire that the desperate often had.
He hadn’t learned how to hoard his strength, letting it out when he needed it. He hadn’t learned how to control his attacks, or understand his opponent.
If he survived, he’d learn all that in time.
In the meantime, Marri had to survive him.
His swings were wild, but they were getting too close to her, too often. She was trying not to kill him – it made the handlers frown, if they killed off the new meat before they had a chance to build a reputation and a following – but he was giving her no such courtesy.
He caught her in the leg, the big axe he was using smashing the plate of her armor. She went down onto one knee, shit, shit, swung low with her blade and caught him just under the pit-issue breastplate.
Her next swing was timed to move with his fall, and he ended up on his knees with her sword at his throat.
The audience roared. The Oligarchs in their box seats clapped. The fighter dropped his weapon and put his hands up.
She saw him going for his wrist-blade before he knew he was going to do it, and smacked him hard in the head with the pommel of her sword. He went down, and she rose, bleeding, to collect her lauds.
She managed to stay on her feet until the pit-servants bundled her out of the arena. She was particularly proud of that.
Marri held still. She was, above all, obedient. And Biccon was not exactly tolerant of disobedience.
She hadn’t been ordered to be silent, however, and she hissed as the antiseptic washed over her wound.
“You should be more careful.”
“Nalon should be more careful. He’s a brute.”
“And a dishonest one at that. There.” Biccon finished wrapping Marri’s leg in bandages. “You should have hit him harder.”
“As my patron commands. Next time I’ll break his teeth.”
“I’d like that.” Biccon had already peeled off most of Marri’s armour. “Tch. He dented the leg plate. I’ll have that re-done before your next match.” The leg plate went in one pile, the chest plate and the greaves in another, Marri’s shift and padded cuirass in a third. That left Marri standing in her collar and nothing else – the way Biccon tended to prefer her.
“My patron is too kind to me.”
“I’m as kind as I want to be. Lay down.”
Marri, of course, laid down, following the hand gesture to sprawl gracelessly on Biccon’s huge bed. She turned her face until she could look out the window; the tower overlooked the whole of the city. From here, she could see all the way down to the tenth circle.
“You fought very well today.” Biccon put a hand on either side of Marri and straddled her. Somewhere in the last minute, he’d lost his robes. It was surprising they’d stayed on this long, honestly. Marri fighting always made him… affectionate.
“Thank you, my Patron.”
“Marri, can’t you call me by my name?” He pressed his lips to her navel, and again to the bottom of her ribs, where he had, in times past, bound two other wounds. Biccon liked her scars. On a good day, Marri liked that he liked them. She liked his, after all, when she was allowed to touch them.
“I can do whatever you wish me to, Sir Biccon Arinstalla Gedon Rock-face.” She softened it with a smile, because he really was being kind.
“Of course.” His hand trailed up the inside of her uninjured thigh; she spread her legs further in response and closed her eyes. She could still see the city, stretching out beneath her. “You’ll do whatever I ask you to.”
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