For millennia beyond reckoning the Eaters of the Gods ruled over this sunless world, waging their secret war on each other through their Chosen, mortals granted a fraction of the Eaters in human powers in exchange for a life of servitude. Kaius counts himself among their hallowed ranks, devoted entirely to his brutal duties. Lucia is no more than a travelling minstrel, albeit one who found herself in the very worst place at the very worst time. How could mere mortals like them stand up against the vast alien power of the Eaters of the Gods?
In the dense forests and the warrens of tunnels that the people of Walpurgan called home, the daggers were the most sensible choice, but out here in the open his weapon's reach would easily outweigh the benefits of their speed. She gave a mocking bow to him and waited for him to approach.
A cry reverberated over the city, driving the screaming crowds to silence, an owl's shriek that made the first few rows cover their ears. The individual plates of Kaius armour chattered together. The sound stayed within the armour, crushing his head like a vice.
He felt his skin quiver and in that long moment of pain and confusion she was out of his line of sight. Her dagger pricked the skin above his kidney before he could move. He rolled away from the other Chosen but she stayed close, pressing her advantage with a speed that seemed impossible without calling upon her Eater’s, and a ruthless efficiency.
She was inside his guard and it was only frantic movements that kept him from the dagger's thrusts. She kicked out twice, and hooked his feet back in closer when he tried to stagger away.
He abandoned his sword, seeing its futility and letting it fall to the ground as he danced back. It turned liquid as it hit the sand and began its slow creep back towards him. He brought his hands down to catch her wrists but he was always a moment too late. He narrowly avoided losing the tips of his fingers twice before he gave in, clenched his fists and tried to knock the knives far enough out from her tight routine to allow for some sort of response.
She was having none of it. If anything, her blows came faster, gashing along the inside of Kaius' arm on one side and a moment later slashing a line across the front of his chest.
It should have burned each time. The pain should have been sharp. Every movement should have made it sharper but instead he felt numb. The cuts, shallow as they were, felt cold. The cold was spreading. Kaius moved slower now. Even if he could call speed he would barely have kept ahead of the knife darting in at him again and again. His thoughts slowed and the arena grew grey in his sight.
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About the Author
G D Penman writes fantasy fiction. He lives in Scotland with his partner and children, some of whom are human. He is a firm believer in the axiom that any story is made better by dragons. His beard has won an award. If you have ever read a story with monster and queer people, it was probably one of his. In those few precious moments that he isn’t parenting or writing he continues his quest to eat the flesh of every living species.
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