Brisia was stunned. She sat staring into the arena with disbelief.
“Hey, Brisia, she called your name.” said Ingrid.
“Why Brisia?” someone whispered.
Brisia stood up and picked up her shield. “It doesn’t matter.” she replied. “I am a gladiatrix. I fight whenever I am called. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.”
The words were calm, but inside Brisia was upset. She was upset that of all the available warriors, it was her lot to end Hippothoe’s dream of going home. She knew that even if Hippothoe were to somehow win, they were not going to let her go. So, it was her lot to keep a false hope alive by losing or to end a dream by winning. She would have to win.
“Brisia?” Helga quietly implored. Brisia bent down to better hear the dwarf. “I know you have a big heart, but you can, no, you have to win.”
“I will, Hel.” replied Brisia. Helga gave her a quick hug as she straightened up. She walked to the gate where Margo stood. Margo nodded and said “Fight hard.” The gate opened and Brisia trotted into the arena to join the Arena Mistress and Hippothoe.
“You’re next to taste my ax, Brisia. You can’t stop me.” snarled Hippothoe.
“That remains to be seen, Hippothoe.” replied Brisia.
“You’re not going to stop me. I’m going home!”
“Going home is a nice dream. Too bad it ends here.” replied Brisia.
“Bitch! I’m going to chop you into little pieces.” shouted Hippothoe.
“You bellow like the cow you are.” taunted Brisia.
“I’ve already killed four today, I’ll cleave you in two.” said Hippothoe.
“Ha, two that were so afraid they pissed themselves and two that could twirl a sword. The way I see it, this is your first real match of the day against someone who can fight.”
“You insolent bitch. What do you know? You sat on your butt all day watching. I’m going to enjoy killing you, shield flinger!”
“Now you bray like an ass.” said Brisia continuing to taunt Hippothoe.
“You’re getting me worked up!” hissed Hippothoe.
“Exactly, I know you and how you fight, remember? When you’re frenzied you make mistakes.” replied Brisia.
“You manipulative bitch!”
“Hush up, both of you!” said Bermusa, the Mistress of the Arena. “Your wounds are on your left side.” she said looking at Hippothoe. “White, come stand on Red’s left.” she said to Brisia. She never addressed the gladiators by name in the arena. Often she called a gladiatrix by the color she was wearing or the color of her shield.
The gate opened and five slaves entered carrying tools. “Ah, good.” said Bermusa. “Hurry up now. Let’s not keep the noble ladies waiting.”
Two of the slaves approached Brisia. One was carrying a small anvil. The other carried a bucket with a hammer and other tools. Brisia noticed that another slave carried a basket that seemed heavy. The slave with the anvil put it down near Brisia’s feet. The other slave sat the bucket down and squatted beside the anvil. “Lift your right foot.” she said to Brisia. Brisia lifted her right foot and the woman pulled out a shackle and wrapped it around her ankle. “Chloe!” she shouted to the slave with the basket. “Bring an end of the chain here.” Brisia watched in amazement as they quickly attached the chain to her ankle. Then she noticed that the other end of the chain was attached to a shackle around Hippothoe’s left ankle.
With their work finished, the slaves quickly left the arena. As the gate closed, Hippothoe asked “What’s the meaning of this?”
Bermusa smiled and said “The head women thought you might need some help with this final match. However, after listening to the words between you two, I wonder how much you will help each other. It is time. Hold your position here until I give the command to start.” The arena mistress turned and walked to the center of the arena.
Brisia noticed a woman standing near the opposite gate. She stepped forward and shouted words in a strange language while making gestures in the air with her hands. “A sorceress!” exclaimed Hippothoe. Suddenly, there was a flash and a loud noise like thunder. A column of white smoke appeared in front of the gate. The sorceress walked away. There was an erie hush over the arena as everyone waited. As the smoke began to clear, a single figure stepped forward.
“A vampire?” asked Hippothoe.
“Shit.” said Brisia.
Sinistra, the vampire, had a terrible headache. She didn’t know if it was the result of the teleportation spell from the sorceress’ tower or if it was because the sorceress had starved her and she needed to feed. She could smell fear throughout the arena and she could smell blood, fresh blood. Her gaze narrowed to Hippothoe and her wounds.
Brisia did her best to push her fear aside and moved toward the center of the arena. She felt a tug on her ankle when she reached the length of the chain. Hippothoe wasn’t moving. Sinistra noticed Brisia’s movement and also began moving toward the center of the arena. She didn’t move as fast as she normally did. Something was wrong. “Was it the headache?” she wondered.
Hippothoe finally began to move with that determined quick pace. She charged the vampire head on. Sinistra parried the swing of Hippothoe’s ax with a trident she held in her left hand. Pushing Hippothoe’s arm out of the way, Sinistra cut a deep slash across Hippothoe’s chest above her mail corset. Hippothoe screamed a fearful scream and backpedalled away from Sinistra.
Sinistra’s eyes grew wide with pleasure at the scent of fresh drawn blood. She wanted to taste the new blood. Before she could advance on Hippothoe, Brisia jumped in between them. Brisia was sick with fear, she wanted to throw up. Every blow she threw was parried or blocked by the vampire. She couldn’t find an opening and the fear became so much that she had to back off.
Brisia saw the look in Sinistra’s eye and saw the vampire lick her lips. She knew that Sinistra was going for Hippothoe. Pushing the fear down as best as she could, Brisia again charged the vampire. Instead of striking with her sword as the vampire expected, Brisia caught Sinistra in the face with the edge of her shield. Sinistra fell to the ground moaning with pain.
Brisia couldn’t reach the prone vampire. She was at the end of the chain. She jerked on the chain and Hippothoe reluctantly moved forward. “Come on, Hippothoe. Do you want to die here?” she shouted giving the chain another tug. It was just enough that when the vampire got to her feet, Brisia charged the dazed Sinistra. Brisia cut into Sinistra’s belly with her “sica”, a short curved sword. Sinistra howled in pain and stumbled back onto the ground. Brisia could feel some of the fear leaving her.
The vampire was against the wall. The chain around Brisia’s ankle kept her from quickly attacking the vampire while she was on the ground. “Bitch!” Brisia shouted in frustration. “Try to keep up! You’re going to get us killed.” She turned and could see the fear on Hippothoe’s face as she trudged forward.
Sinistra stood and while catching her breath her wounds began to heal. Hippothoe’s frenzy overtook her fear and she recklessly charged into the vampire. Hippothoe couldn’t land a blow, but she couldn’t back away. Sinistra had her locked in an embrace. Hippothoe screamed as Sinistra bared her fangs. The wound in the vampire’s body completely healed. Brisia rushed in and broke Sinistra’s grip on Hippothoe.
Sinistra hissed and started to slash Brisia. But today, Brisia was faster than the vampire and the sica again dug into the vampire’s belly, and again the vampire fell to the ground. The vampire quickly jumped to her feet and backed along the wall. As she backed away from Brisia, the wound in her stomach began to heal. Brisia lunged at the vampire, but was tripped up by the chain.
Sinistra took the opportunity of the stumbling Brisia to move away from the wall and back out into the arena where she had room to maneuver. Hippothoe move forward, toward Sinistra as if she were in a trance. Taking advantage of slack in the chain, Brisia charged the vampire again. Brisia attempted another bash attack. Sinistra saw it coming and hooked Brisia’s arm with her trident. Pushing the shield arm, Sinistra turned Brisia into her body where she roared and opened her mouth wide. Brisia struggled in the embrace keeping Sinistra’s fangs away from her throat. Brisia managed to get her sword arm free and raked the sica across Sinistra’s face.
Sinistra screamed from the pain. She broke off her deadly embrace and backed away from Brisia. Exhausted, Brisia tried to catch her breath. The wound on Sinistra’s face began healing. However, the vampire seemed dazed and unable to move while the wound healed. It was enough for Hippothoe to break out of the trance. Hippothoe charged in with a huge swing of the big ax. She sliced the vampire in half.
The pieces of Sinistra fell to the ground and burst into ashes. The crowd went wild. Hippothoe had her five wins. She lifted her arms in triumph and then winced from the wound across her chest. She quickly put her arms down. Putting her hands on her bloody chest, she looked at Brisia. She knew that if it wasn’t for Brisia, she would not have survived. “Brisia,” she started apologetically. Brisia smiled a wicked smile and said “Next time you won’t be so lucky, cow.”
“You bitch!” Hippothoe snapped as they walked toward the open gate.