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OK a girl at work bet me I couldn't write 5 pages on a novle over the weeknd. Well I did. All mine all orignal (although I used some familar names- any resembalance between the chericters that first had these names and my chericters is - well it's unlikely)

 

 

Culag is walking down the long stairway.  Below she knows her life will change forever.  She will be embraced by the Goddess of the deep earth.  She will be a priestess. Her life will have meaning beyond the battles she endures in the sand arena as a Gladiatrix.  When she dies she will be afforded every luxury of a priestess despite her position as a slave.  

 Culag pauses at the door at the bottom of the stairway.  She stands in total darkness; the light of the torches burning bright in the cave above her can not penetrate this far into the depths of the earth.  Her breath is coming fast, as if she was in pitched battle; her stomach twists as if she has not eaten in days.  A few more deep breaths and she is ready.  She pushes the doors open.

 Bright light pours over her.  She blinks; eyes squinted against the sudden blinding brightness.   As her eyes adjust, she smiles seeing a familiar face, the Swordmistress.   Culag runs her hands over the front of her simple woolen shift, pressing out imaginary wrinkles.  I am prepared, Culag thinks to herself as she steps forward. 

 "I have come to meet my death," she says kneeling at the Swordmistress' feet.  The ritual words in her mouth allow her to feel stillness for the first time that day.
   

    "Not tonight," the Swordmistress says gently taking Culag's face in her hands.

 "Why?" Culag asks, hoping the ache that has suddenly grown in her chest is not coming though in her voice, "Have I not proved myself!  Have I not battled all before me?  Have I not studied all the teachings of the Deep Earth?  I am prepared!"
 

"You are prepared.  But you are no longer mine to teach, no longer mine to initiate into the priestesshood."

 "Pardon me?" Culag stands.  Now real fear is coursing through her.  The Swordmistress has been everything to Culag since she had been brought here as a small child. 

 "You have been sold."

 The words are simple, but Culag's mind refuses to understand.  She stands gazing at the other woman, as if staring at her will change what has been said.

 "You have been sold," the Swordmistress says again, "Tomorrow, you will leave for the Islands of the Mighty.  You will be going home my daughter," the Swordmistress' voice is full of longing. 
 

"This is home," Culag whispers, "I was sold before I could even hold a knife.  I have known nothing but this life.  I belong here!"  She knows speaking her mind will change nothing. Culag is a slave and as a slave she can no more decide her fate then she could change the color of the sky. 

 "My daughter, you belong where your master says.  There are temples on the Islands.  I was made a priestess there."

 Culag wants to scream, but it would serve no purpose.  She turns and takes a torch from the wall.  The walk up the stairs seems to take forever.  She remembers almost nothing of the country where she was born.    She has heard stories, of course she had, from slaves who had either lived on the Islands for many years, or ones who had served there.  The stories she had heard were of green valleys, shifting mists.  The language that they speak in this Glaladum is the language of the Islands.  This training center specializes in Gladiatrix, and it is known throughout the lands of the Leageum that the best Gladiatrix are from the blood of the Islands.  Not that there are not male Gladiators here, there are, but in this one lone training center of the Empire woman out number men.   Culag steps out of the stairs and walks out of the cave entrance to the Temple.  She moves briskly across the training field to the dorms that she shares with other Gladiatrix.

  

    The next day dawns bright and clear, Culag starts her day as if she doesn't know her life is to change.  She eats her morning meal and walks onto the training field checking her weapons.  She stands at the ready awaiting her first opponent of the day.  The whole time her mind is spinning, wondering when her new owner would make his presence felt, when she would be leaving the safety of the world she has always known.  Her opponent moves to his place before her; a man obviously from the Stepps, the vast grasslands to the east.  He moves like a trained Gladiator, but the purple edging on his toga marks him as free man.  Culag has no problem fighting men, even free men, but his weapon gives her pause, he holds a net and a trident, she a short sword and a shield. 

 "I fight men everyday," she growls at him.

 "I'm sure you do," her opponent replies with a smile. 

 "I win."

 "I'm sure you do," he swings his net in his left hand.

 "This is a ridiculous pairing."
 

"My master whished to know how you behave when at a disadvantage."
 "Your Master?  You are a free man."

 "Even free men have Masters.  This is enough," he drops his Trident and turns his back on Culag.  She springs, hitting the man from behind and placing her sword to his throat.

 "Never turn your back on me," she hisses into his ear. 

 "Don't worry," he laughs.  And with a subtle movement he whips the net around to strike her in the back and while she is startled he flips her over his shoulder.  She hits the sand of the training arena with a thud, she blinks up at the man who put her there, stunned, "stay down," he says placing his foot on her chest.  Then he looks up at another man,

"She'll do then?" he asks.  Culag suddenly realizes that this man is with the person who bought her.  She tries to still herself but can not resist attempting to see her new owner. 

 "She will," the voice is soft and speaks the language of her fore mothers.  She realizes suddenly that it is true; she has been bought by someone from the Islands of the Mighty, "let her up Tristin," the voice says and instantly the foot on her chest is gone.

 "Who are you?" she asks brashly, she thinks that her Owner should know from the outset that Culag is trouble, maybe if he is displeased he will not take her.

 "I am The Lancelot," he responds to her question with a smile, obviously giving his title not his name.

 "You aren't going to convince him not to take you by being rude.  He doesn't understand the decorum of being a Gladiator," the man called Tristin whispers from behind her.

 "Gladiatrix," she corrects him.

 "Be that as it may now, soon you will be a squire."

 "Squire?" she tries the new word out on her tongue, as The Lancelot approaches her.  He is tall and strong, obviously a Warrior of some sort, the fabric and cut of his clothes mark him as someone of high rank.

 "I would appreciate it if the two of you would not change language every three words.  You must speak your own native tongue?" he asks looking directly into Culag's eyes.

 "Yes my Lord," she responds, dropping her gaze quickly, she had not been aware that they were changing language, but she knew the blending of languages was common in the training centers, one must know whatever language was coming at them. 

 "Good then.  Good," this Lancelot seems distracted, "Tristin would she have anything else?"

 "Some clothes, the weapons on the rack.  Some personal effects," Tristin shrugs, "They are slaves.  I doubt she has anything that isn't replaceable," then quietly into her ear, "I saw you put your Kit at the rack, get it, get your weapons then come back.  I don't know why he wants you so badly but he came here to buy you."

 "Good.  We will replace everything on the road.  We must be leaving."

 "Yes my lord," Tristin bows and motions to a few of the other Gladiators, who rush to bring Culag's weapons and the small bag holding the only positions that she can truly call her own, small statues made by other slaves in the darkness of the Dormitory.  When one is bought the only choice is to follow your new master.  And follow she does.

 "You ride with me," Tristin says as they reach a group of horses.  Horses and wagons; horses that are tacked and wagons that are loaded.
 

"We have enough horses," Lancelot says over his shoulder. 

 "She should ride with one of us until we know she won't run back."

 "Why on earth would she run back?"

 "I told you he didn't understand," Tristin says with a conspiratorial smile as he stows her things in one of the wagons, "if you want something ask me for it.  The teamsters are not allowed to remove items from the caravan."   

 "Fine then," Culag says finding it difficult not to return Tristin's smile.  She waits as he mounts and then allows Lancelot to lift her behind Tristin.  Culag feels odd sitting behind a Knight like a true Lady, after all she is a slave. 
 

"I was a slave as well," Tristin says, as if reading her mind. 

 "Excuse me?"

 "I know this is strange for you.  I know you've been trained that a private owner will be brutal, but that's not always true."

 "We need to go, Tristin," Lancelot says again.

 "You've said that a few times Lance," the two men urge the horses on and for a time all Culag can think of is clinging to Tristin's back in an attempt to not end up in an ungraceful heap on the ground.   The ride seems interminable and sitting across a horse, as if it were a chair seems ridiculous to Culag.  Finally the men pull the horses up and Culag slithers to the ground.  The day is over; the sky is streaked with purple and orange.  She sighs as she tests the stability of her feet.  Behind her Tristin has dismounted and someone is taking the horse from him. 

 "What a lovely sack of turnips," Tristin says coming up from behind her.  She hadn't realized how many people were traveling with these two men until now.  There are any number of grooms and people setting up tents and starting fires.  Men and woman working together as equals, Tristin has been watching her watch the workers "We'll be staying here tonight; we should get to the boat some time tomorrow."

 "Boat?" she asks.

 "Yes you didn't expect us to ride to an island, did you?" he's still looking at her as if they share some sort of a secret.  She hadn't really thought about getting to the Islands, but she can vaguely remember the trip from the Islands.  She remembers the dark hold and the dampness.  Damp and dark was her trip from the Islands. 

 "I hadn't thought that far ahead," she says simply, trying not to let her apprehension show.

 "It won't be bad," he says gently, "we will have a cabin."

 "We?"

 "You, me, Lance, maybe a few others."

 "It's still a boat."

 "Well if you can find a way to get there without a boat we will go that way then."

 "Tristin!" the Lancelot calls from one of the wagons, "You need to tend to the - er," Culag wonders what is in the wagon.  Obviously something important that the Lancelot doesn't want to be shouting about, "I will watch the girl if you still think it is necessary.  If anyone sees we will have to fight our way out," he finishes, approaching and placing a hand on her shoulder.   The rest of her evening is spent trying to figure out what could possibly be in that wagon.  She wondered about it as she ate the meal prepared for her.   She thinks about it as she wraps herself in her cloak to keep the night chill off.  And as she slips off to sleep she wonders.   

 She wakes in the night confused.  An arm is around her, that isn't odd, after all Gladiators often sleep in very close quarters.  The arm is unfamiliar, and she is on the ground.  Startled she starts to sit up.

 "Where do you think you are going?" Tristin growls at her, his arm tightening around her shoulders.

 "To pee," she mutters.

 "No you weren't you were going to run back."

 "Why do you keep saying that?"

 "Everyone I know that came out of a Gladiator center at least tried to run back."

 "I'm not everyone."     

  "Neither am I, but I tried."

 "Four times if I remember correctly," the Lancelot says sitting up,

"Now either go back to sleep or we can set out very early.  Or you two could sleep somewhere else!" at his exclamation a familiar sound comes to Culag's ears, the bleating of sheep, "Well that's it now we have to go.  Tris shut them up," Lancelot hisses from between his teeth. 

 Tristin hurries to one of the wagons and Lancelot wakes someone sleeping nearby.  Suddenly the whole camp is up and moving, the whole camp, save her and the Lancelot.  People are making ready to move again.  She is surprised how quickly the camp is broken down and packed away.  Soon Trisin is approaching them mounted on his horse bareback, he is leading Lancelot's horse.

 "If you'd been quieter we could have gotten a good nights sleep," Lancelot quips.

 "May I remind you that this whole plan was your idea?" Tristin says blandly reaching a hand down for Culag, "You can ride like a human being now, not some trussed up deer.  If we have to ride quickly I don't want you falling off of the back.  If I loose you Lance will make us come back and I don't want to have to hunt you down in the woods."  Culag wraps her legs around the horse and her arms around Tristin and the group sets out in the dark of night.

 "Why do we have to run?" she asks.

 "The wagon.  It has sheep in it.  We stole five of the finest Rams in the area."

 "But you are knights."

 "Yes, well, we are.  But the Leginum has something our master wants and we serve our master."

 "Like a slave?"

 "Much like that.  Although I could have refused."
 

"Why didn't you?"

 "It seemed like a bit of fun.  Steal sheep from the people who stole me.  Plus I got a Squire out of it."

 "Who?" Culag asks looking around.

 "You.  Lance picked you though I don't know why.  He can be a bit of a jokester sometimes, maybe her thought it would be funny me have a Gladetrix as a squire."

 "I don't see the humor in it."

 "Nor do I.  But he was dead set on you for some reason.  I'll find out one of these days.  I always do.  But not just now."

 Culag finds riding behind Tristin this way more comfortable and isn't surprised that the ride goes smother.  It is just dawn when they reach the water.  Before her Culag sees a small town spreading down to the shore she sees docks and ships.  Many large ships, she notes with a sinking feeling.
 
"What one do we take?" she asks trying to hide the apprehension she feels.
 
"That one," Lancelot says pointing to a ship.  The largest ship at the dock.