I know where your heart isMature

In this chaper introduce the main character Cain. He's a 18 year old slave who raised in a farming town called FreshField. I explain a little big about his background. He's fights in an exhibition to show off his very unique skill set. He defeats the three opponents impressing the nobles who came out to see him. His master summons him to his quarters where he meets Jon Lax for the first time. Jon chooses join to fight in his primist as champion of Freshfield. Arthur lets our hero know that the P

 

 

It was humid day, yet dull day in the great city of Freshfield. Clouds blanketed the sky as the smell or rain filled the air. Arthur Zarious’s two-story stone villa sat on top of a small hill overlooking the coast. It was here where I, Cain Valdarian, son of Anthony Valdarian was born and raised. For 18 years I have trained gladiatorial art of Akai. I’ve done countless of hours of sparing with veteran gladiators, vigorous conditioning exercises, and battle planning methods with blade master Clinton. Up till this point I have defeated every opponent put in front of me and overcame every challenge far exceeding all Master Arthur’s expectations of me.  Every day for the last eighteen years I’ve shed both sweat and blood in efforts to become the greatest gladiator that Sidney has ever seen.

 Just like every day of my life I have stood in this courtyard prepared to put my skills on display. But this day is no ordinary day. On this day, unlike others, I will have to display my skills in front of an audience of noble men and women. Today I will put down my practice swords and pick up real ones. On the outside I stands strong at 6’4, sculpted muscular build, bald head, radiant brown skin, and with a look of confidence like a man preparing for victory. On the inside tells a different story as nervousness and fear consumes my emotions. “What if I fail? What will happen to me? What will happen to my mother? I’ve beaten all three of these men in practice but how well I fair against them in a real fight? Am I as good as Master Arther thinks I am?” I thought to myself as sweat as poured from my body hitting the course sand beneath is feet like rain drops.

I looked up to the old wooden balcony of the villa in hopes to see my mother present. Unfortunately, she was absent. The balcony was half filled with old noble men accompanied by mostly young beautiful women. These people were definitely amongst the finest men in women in Sidney. The men dressed in expensive white togas, tonics, gold embroidery. While their beautiful lady companions dressed in peplos and wore Bain crafted jewelry.

 Arthur and his wife Lady Jessica sat in the overseer chairs that was in a separate balcony. Arthur is the master of House Zarious. His family has breaded some of the greatest gladiators Sidney has ever seen, most notably, my grandfather Felix Valdarian. Since the death of my father nine years ago, House Zarious hasn’t competed in South Sidney gladiator tournament or the King’s Blood games. Solely, because King Caden, disappointed by my father’s defeat to the Clayborne’s champion Ganlen Deku, banned House Zarious from all the major games.   Even Queen Alyana, Lady Jessica’s sister, could not convince the King to left the banned.

  "I must have a very impressive showing on this day if I am to restore prosperity and honor to this once proud house. If I fails to impress them House Zarious streak of misfortunate will continue. My life and my mother’s life could also be forfeited as a result of failure. I must win or die; there’s no in between." I thought to myself as the nervousness began to grow increasingly strong as the seconds past.

Master Arthur Various stood up out of his chair and cleared his throat as he prepared to speak. I noticed that my mother was nowhere in sight. “Where could she be?” I thought briefly.” I can’t worry about it now. I must turn my thoughts towards this exhibition or we’re both dead.”

"Noble ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you all for accepting my invitation. It warms my heart to know that have so many good and noble friends. Your friendship will be rewarded to today with a gift blood and optimistic. I bring you Kain, son of our late beloved champion Anthony Valdarian and great grandson of the one and only Grand Champion of Sidney Felix Valdarian. I believe that he will be the greatest gladiator in this generation! You my noble friends will get the first glimpse of his greatness. Without further a due I bring Cain!" Arthur said with excitement and vigor.

Arthur’s vigour and excitement was met with modest applauses.

“Now who would I have oppose? Who pose a challenge for the mightily Cain. Like my late father use to say, “if you want to be the best you must beat the best.” I bring you Casper Champion of House Zarios and Freshfield.” Arthur said.

A little short and fat nobleman stood up with a look of confusion on his face. He has a square face, pugged nose, bald, with a long white beard. He wore a white toga and big gold medallion around his neck.

“Wait a minute; you’re seriously considering pitting this boy up against Casper the Champion of Freshfield? Casper has been your champion of 5 years and is undefeated in the Freshfield arena. I know this boy has the blood of Felix and Anthony Valdarian but he has never fought in the arena. You can't possible call this a fair contest.” Said the fat Nobleman.

“You’re right, Jon. Cain against Casper wouldn’t be a fair contest. That is why I’ve commanded Achilles and Rufus to fight alongside Casper to even things out.”Arthur said with wicked smile on his face.

The old man sat down with the look of confusion still on his face as the crowd began to mumble amongst each other in disbelief. Arthur gave Clinton (his blade master) a slight nod as signal to begin. Clinton pulled out his wipe and gave it a fierce lash.

"Cain, Achilles, Rufus, Casper step forward! You all are the fight to the death. No mercy is to be shown. Do you all understand what is being commanded of you?" Clinton said with a strong and forceful voice.

We all responded in unison, "Yes blade master."

Casper turned his eyes from Clinton and gave me a cold look of anger and hostility. He’s been champion of this house for the last 5 years and professional gladiator for the last 13 years, even though, I have bested him many times during our sparing sessions. He felt that he was champion of this house and should be respected as champion. By Arthur sending others to aid him is this fight deeply offended Casper. The look in his eyes suggests that he plans to earn his respect today.

"The three of you are to fight Cain. Now go claim your weapons." Clinton said.

I turned to go and claim my weapon when Blade Master Clinton grabbed my arm. “Honor our master, honor yourself, and honor your father. Go out there and kill them….all.” Clinton said with a low tone where no one else could hear. I responded with a head nod as I turned to claim my weapons from the armory.

Casper and Achilles both claimed a sword and shield, while Rufus claimed his spar and sword. I preferred to fight with swords like all ancient Akia warriors. I went back to my position, turned to face my opponents, and got in my fighting stance.  Casper already in his fighting stance had a looked of determination on his face as sweat poured from his overly muscular body. “You ready to die boy.” Casper said but was met with no reply.  Casper then looked at Achilles and Rufus. “You two stand down the boy is mine.” Achilles nodded while Rufus remain silent.

My adrenaline and heart began to pump at an extremely high rate. I no longer felt the weight of the swords in my hands as they became as light as feathers. Everything and everyone appeared to be moving slower like time itself had slowed down. I gripped both of my sword tightly anticipating Clinton giving the order to proceed.

"Begin!" Klinton said with authority.

As expected Casper charged forward like a bull with red in eyes. Like in practice he always allow his momentum to carry him pass his target leaving his right side and back vulnerable. Casper swung his sword expecting to draw first blood but was met with nothing but air. I side stepped him like I’ve done my times before and cut his right arm off at the elbow. I took another step forward positioning myself behind Casper as I spun around slicing his head off of his shoulders. His body not fully aware of its death stood on its feet for four seconds before it collapsed gushing blood from both the neck and arm.

Rufus throw his spear as I was turning around. It grazed my chest. Achilles retreated a few steps with the look of fear in his eyes as I advanced. He had his shield up a little too high leaving his upper thigh exposed. I throw one of my swords at his left thigh. The sound of his bone shattering echoed off the stone walls of the villa as my sword struck him precisely on his upper thigh. He dropped his sword and shield, fell on one knee, as he grabbed his leg screaming in agony. I immediately advanced slicing his head off. His blood splattered all of my face and body.

It was just Rufus and I left now. Out of all three of them he was the weakest and less experienced.  I removed my sword out of Achilles thigh and advanced forward to engage with Rufus. However, he refused to engage with me as he retreated in fear.

“Stop, Cain throw down your weapons.  Rufus advance or I’ll have you burnt alive.” Arthur said from his overseer’s chair.

I dropped both of my swords as commanded. Rufus advanced slowly and with caution with the look of fear still in his eye, yet he appeared to have gain some confident now that I was unarmed. He swung his at my head. I took a leaned back causing him to miss. He attempted to swing back handed but I caught his forearm and gripped it tightly making Rufus drop his sword. I grabbed his risk twisting it causing a violent crack. He cried out in pain as he begged his life. “Please Cain I don't.” 

The look of pity in his eyes made of think for a second. "Rufus is not gladiator. There is not glory in a lion slaying  a rabbit." I began to lower my fist when Arthur yell at me from the balcony. "Finish him Cain!" The feeling for discomfortable began to take over my emotions. "I have not chose I must do this." I looked Rufus in his eye. "I'm sorry Rufus, this must be done." Rufus shook his head in making his last and final plead. "No Cain please duh." I punched him in his neck before he could get his final words out of his mouth. He fell to the ground desperately trying to suck for air to no avail. He suddenly stop moving as gave into death. 

 For a second it was nothing but silence before it was disrupted by a passionate standing ovation for the nobles. I turned to my master and his noble guests,  got on one knee, and bowed my head. Arthur stood up overseer’s cheer with a look delight on this face.

"I told my friends I would give them a gift of blood, not slaughter." Arthur said sarcastically.

His humor was met with laughter from his guests. “My friends please enjoy the feast I have prepared for you and the entertainment inside. I would join you all shortly.” The nobles who appeared please my performance, they talked amongst each other as they collective walked into the villa.  Arthur and Jessica walked down the stairs from the balcony down to the lodes to talk to me face to face. With my eyes still fixed on the ground I saw Arthur and Jessica’s shadow walk over me.

“You may rise Cain. You’ve done well, go cleaned yourself up. I’ll send for you after finish entertaining my guest. We have a lot to talk about my boy.”

“Just a second Arthur.” Jessica said as she circled, stopping right in from me. She placed her hands on my chest as she admired my upper body with her eyes. “You’ve just defeated the Casper and two other gladiators and you walk away just scratch? It appears you were right about him Arthur. He is an impressive beast.” She said as she removed her head from my chest with a smiled.

Arthur turned to his most trusted guard who was standing right beside him.

“Brutus, escort Cain down to the bathing room. I might need him presentable within the next few hours. I will send down some house slaves to see to the task.” Arthur commanded.

“Yes sir.” Brutus said.

“Thank you master for your kindness. However, I'm fully capable for washing my own body. I do have one small request.” I said with his eye still fixated on the ground.

“Speak your heart’s desire and see it fulfilled.” Arthur said with a smile on his face.

“I would like to see my mother.”

“She’s tending to my guest at the moment but once they’ve left I’ll send her to you at once.” Arthur and Jessica turned and walked upstairs to the villa to join their guest.

 Brutus escorted me through the double medal slave doors. I looked back at my Rufus lying in the dirt. I shook my head feeling regret and sadness. The image of Rufus begging for his life popped up in my head.  In my heart I knew I had no choice. "If the roles would have been reversed he would have done the same thing."  At least that’s what I told himself.

“Get moving dog.” Brutus said as he gave me a slight shove in the back.

 I snapped out of his momentary daze but didn’t respond. I just kept moving down the dark musty stairwell of the Gladiators quarter. A place I was all too familiar with.  At the bottom of the stairwell lies the gladiator dorm.  It’s a long, filthy rectangular shaped room with 20 cells on each side that smells of piss, must, and infested with rats.  The doors of these cells were old wooden doors with poor locks. 

  Usually everyone would be outside training or free to roome the dorm around this time of day. However, everyone is locked in their cells because of my exhibition.  On my way to the bathing room I heard a voice from the middle cell on my right.

“Cain what happen? Did you best Casper?” Ben yelled from his cell.

“As you can see I’m here, he’s not.”

“So you’re our new champion I suppose?”

“I believe I am.” I said while still walking toward the bathing room.

“What of Achilles and Rufus? Why have they not returned with you?” Ben asked impatiently.

The guilt of killing Rufus made me feel bad. I had no problem with taking Casper and Achillies lives. They were gladiators like me. Rufus was not like us. He was a house slave thrown down here with the lions. He’s only been practicing Akia for 2 months. Why would master match him with me? I thought to myself.

“Let’s talk about it later Ben.”

“Did you fight them as well?”

“I said I will discuss this with you later.”I said with a much firmer voice.

“Sorry my friend. I didn’t mean to pry.”

“It’s alright I’ll”

“Shut up and move your ass” said Brutus as he gave me a much harder push.

We reached the bathing room. Brutus pulled out his guard’s key and unlocked the door. I walked in and took of my rags then got inside of the huge pool sized tub. The hot soothing water was just what he needed.  I washed the blood from off of my face and body. I laid back, closed my eyes, and relaxed. Visions began to pop up in his head of his father getting his throat bitten out by Galenus “the Giant” Deku. I could hear my mother screams while the crowd roars with excitement.

###########

“Cain, my son, I was so worried about you!” Alexandra said.

I jumped up out of my sleep startled. I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep.

Alexandra ran over to the edge of the tub bent down and hugging me and kissing me all over my face.

“Are you alright? Were you hurt? Did they….”Alexandra said with concern in her voice.

“I’m fine mother! Alright? I’m fine.”

“Where were you today? I looked on the balcony and I didn’t see you out there.”

“I was in the villa” Alexandra said quickly.

“What!” I said with a surprised look on his face.

“Forgive me, I couldn’t stand to watch. You’re the only thing I have and I couldn’t bear the thought of watching you get hurt, or worse, killed. I’ve already watched my husband get murdered by that fucking inbred Galenus. I just can’t..I just…” Alexandra said as she burst out in tears.

I stood up and hugged my mother. She's all I have in the world. Seeing her cry breaks my heart. I released my grip and looked into her eyes. “I understand mother, father death haunts us both. You must understand that I’m not father. You will not lose me. I promise you that.  Besides, I didn’t go up against the Giant today.”

Alexandra stood up and wiped the tears from each side of her face. She turned to pick up the tunic and sandles she dropped as soon as she entered the bathing room and handed it to me."Arthur sent these down for you. There nice don't you think?"

"Yes they are nice mother." I grabbed a cloth and covered myself. I dried myself off and put on the tunic and sandles.

“You’re right; you are not your father. However, I lost him to this barbaric gladiator madness. I don’t want to lose my baby. No matter what I’m always going to worry about you. I just thank the Gods that you’re alright.”

“Mother, why did master remove Rufus from the house and send him down here with us gladiators?  He was weak and frail. He didn’t belong down here.”

“Rufus wasn’t a good house slave. He failed at small and simples task. Lady Jessica no longer wanted him in the house so Arthur sent down here.”

“Why did he match him against me? Certainly every man in dorm was more worthy,”

“You must keep this quiet. If Arthur hear this he’ll know you got it from and I will be punished. I heard Arthur talking about the boy with one of his guards. He got news from Clinton that the boy wasn’t fairing well in training. His match with you was a death sentence. He said that Rufus just wasn’t worth the price it would cost to continue housing and feeding him. Rufus no longer had worth in his eyes.”

“He was a man mother. He had worth!”

“Lower you voice before someone hears. Do you want to see my lashed?”

“Ofcourse not mother. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright.”

“Do you think that master would allow Rufus to have a proper burial?”

“Have you gone mad boy? He was a slave. It would be illegal for him to receive the same burial rights as a citizen. You know that.” Alexandra replied firmly.

“I know mother but you can..”

“Hush now and speak no more of this.  Arthur would have you lashed till the meat came off your back for suggesting such a thing. Listen, Arthur is waiting in the villa. Whatever it is its important and you need set your mind towards what task he’s going to give you.”

“I know, do you have any idea what it might be?”

“I have no idea. He didn’t tell me. But you will find out soon enough.”

“You’re right mother; I sorry for breaching the subject with you about Rufus. I just felt that taking his life was....wrong."

Alexandra grabbed Cain’s right hand and placed her other hand on the side of his cheek.

“I know your heart my son. I’ve prayed to the Gods many nights begging them that spare you this gladiator life. But this is the path you’ve been sat upon. Achilles, Casper, and Rufus are the first of many lives you will have to take to fulfill your destiny. Let go of the guilt and set your mind to the task at hand. Alright?

Cain shook his head yes and smiled as his mom.

“Yes mother.” Cain said.

“I have to go back the villa. Lady Jessica is expecting back. I love you my son.” Alexandra said with a smile on my face.

“I love you too mother”

 

 Brutus escorted me up to the back entrance of Arthur’s private quarters in the villa. Unlike the gladiator quarters, the room was clean, large, spacious, and smelled of roses.  The floors were black marvel and on the walls hung huge portraits of Zarious men including Master Arthur. Under each portrait there were statues of champions that the served House Zarious. 

Arthur sat in the corner of the room at square wooden table with the old man who protested his decision to match me with Casper. His servant girl Marie stood behind him awaiting his orders.  Arthur immediately stood up as soon as he was aware of my presence.

“Cain my boy, come over here and join us.” Arthur said.

I walked over to the table with my eye fixated on the floor. I never eaten from his master’s table. Throughout my whole life his mother told me, “never look your master in the eye, never question him, never think of yourself as his equal. For you to do any of the above will lead to your demise my son.” Now he was being asked to share a drink with his master?

“Yes master.” I replied still not quite sure of what to make of the whole thing. I sat down at the table feeling confused and nervous.

Arthur commanded Brutus. “Leave us.”

“Yes sir.” Brutus said as he turned and left the room.

Arthur sat down at the table with Cain and his old noble associate.

“Maria, pour Cain a cup of wine. He deserves it after what he did today. Wouldn’t you agree?” said Arthur.

Maria replied. “Yes master, it was a excellent display of his skill.” As she grabbed the glass jug half full of wine and poured a cup full and placed it in front of Cain. She was a beautiful girl with long brunette hair, blue eyes, and big breast who mother told me was the master’s lover.

“Do you know who this is my boy.” Arthur asked referring to the old noblemen.

“No, I don’t master.”

“This is Jon Lax from House Lax; a good friend of my father and House Zarious.”

I stood up and bowed to Lord Jon.

“That was a quite impressive showing today. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it.” Jon Lax said.

“I’m honored my lord.”

“I’m planning to host games in Freshfield arena two weeks from now in honor of my ancestor, Marcus Lax, who held off the Clayborne legions after Phillip Drakin killed the Emperor. I was planning on securing Casper but after today’s event it appears he won't be unavailable.” Jon said.

“Apologizes my lord.”

“No need to apologize my boy. You are clearly the best gladiator that Freshfield has to offer. There is none more worthy to participate in my championship Primist.” Jon said.

I was shocked. “Primist?” I looked up and made eye contact with Lord Jon Lax, but quickly looked back at the ground.

“Yes the Primist. I’m sure most of my noble friends would love to see you action again, against stiffer competition if any exist.”

“I’m honored my lord. Show me my opponent and he will die.”I said with confidence.

Arthur laughed with delight. “You see, he’s a natural born killer, just like his father.”  Arthur said.

“Well after your dismantlement of Casper and Achilles in last than a minute I will have to search long and wide to find you a suitable opponent.” Jon said.

Arthur we can discuss the details and the purse on a later date. Right now, I must return to Red Hall at once. I have urgent matters to attend too that require my full attention. It’s been a pleasure Arthur. Once again, congratulations on your new champion; I believe the three of us will do a lot of great things together in the near future.”  Lord Jon said as he shook Arthur’s hand impatiently.

“The pleasure’s been all mines Lord Jon. I’ll be looking forward to us meeting again.” Arthur said while shaking Lord Jon’s hand.

Jon gave me a nod and walked out of the front entrances of the room. When the door shut behind Jon; Arthur rejoiced.  

“You did it Cain! You fucking did it! Arthur yelled with enthusasm .

“You may rise Cain.”

I stood up with his eyes still fixated on the ground.

“You need to relax my boy. It’s a time for celebration. You’ve just defeated the Casper the Champion of Freshfield and House Zarious. You’ve just elevated this house above its station. Thanks to you we will reclaim former glories that once showered House Zarious.” Arthur said as he handed me my cup of wine. I took the cup of wine and finished it in one long gulp. I could fill it warming my chest almost immediately.

“Thank you Master, I’ve long yarn to restore glory and honor to the House Zarious. Nothing would please me more than to finish the business my father left undone.”  I said as he looked at his father’s statue sitting right under Master Arthur's portrait.

Arthur came closer to me and placed his hand on my shoulder. I could smell the wine on his breath. “Your father left no business undone. He was great man, a great gladiator, a great friend. He served this house well. Don’t you ever forget that.” Arthur said.

Arthur turned and walked over to the square wooden table and grabbed the jug of wine. “Turn your mind to another pressing matter.” Arthur said as he poured himself another cup.

“Lord Jon Lax games?” I said with excitement.

“No, my boy, I have utmost confidence that you’ll beat any opponent that Lord Jon matches you with.”

“I don’t understand master.” I replied still confuse.

“Were you aware that my wife is the Queen’s sister?”

“Yes I was.”

“Well I can assume that you’re aware that we’ve been banned from the Royal games for the last 9 years. This is only thing standing between us and greatness.  If the king doesn’t lift the ban, we will be force to stay in the lower markets.  No matter how many champions you defeat you’ll never be nothing more than the Champion of Freshfield. In order for you to become champion of Sidney the King must left the ban.” Arthur said.

“I’m still confused master. How can I play in role in getting the king to lift the ban?”

“My wife’s niece Princess Appollonia will be coming to stay with us this summer. Her father favors her and I think through her we can get the ban lifted.”

“What is it that you need me to do?”

 "From what I hear she’s a huge fan of the arena. After she sees you in action you will win her heart just like you've won over the hearts of Lord Lax and the rest of my noble friends. Once you do I want you to stick close to her. Do whatever it takes to win her favor. If you do this we will once again be the talk of Sidney. House Zarious will to elevated so high we’ll reach the Gods!" Arthur said.

“I will do whatever you command master. But I must let you know that I’m not sharp with the tongue. I never really talked to a woman outside of my mother and the house slaves. When it comes to women I really don’t know much. Akia is all I know.” I said with the feeling worry building up inside me.

“I understand my boy. This task is not a hard one. All you have to do is perform in the arena and do whatever she commands. While she’s here she will be under my protection. I will the assign you the task of guarding our Princess, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to get to know each other.”

I bowed to Arthur once again. “I will do as you command master.”

“I know you will Cain.You’re dismissed”

I turned to leave but just before I reached the back door. “Another thing before you go, I made a deal with your father before he took to the sands in the Blood Games. I promised that if he had won, I would free him, your mother, and you. I plan on still honoring that agreement if you succeed in winning a match that he could not.”

My heart begin to jump out of my chest with excitement. Were my hears deceiving me. I turned to Master Arthur. "I can actually gain freedom for himself and his mother?You would do this for us?" I said with a look of disbelief. 

“If I defeat Ganlus my mother and I will go free?” I said huge smile on his face.

“Yes, I will free you both and give you a small portion of the purse which is small fortune. It would be more than enough for you to buy you some land, a house, maybe even start your own Akia school.”

I ran over to Arthur fell to my knees and kissed hand.“Thank you Master. I will not let you down. I promise to honor this house by defeating the Giant.”

Arthur laughed, “Rise my boy, I know you’ll defeated the Giant. Right now, go to your quarters and get some rest. We have a long and difficult task ahead of us. I’ll see you in the morning.

I rose to my feet, bowed to you Arthur and exited the room where Brutus was waiting in the courtyard. He escorted me down to my quarters where I attempted to sleep. Both excitement and worry had my tossing and turning that night. All my life  I have dreamt of freedom. Never did I think that it would become a reality. It was going to be a long path to gaining my freedom. I would have to defeat a man that many believed cannot be defeated. Before then I would have to best every single champion from all regions of Sidney.  These things weren’t what had me lying awake on this night. It was the idea of meeting Princess Appollonia. “What would she be like? What will she look like? How am I to win her favor? What if she doesn’t like me? I thought before I drifted off into a light sleep.

The End

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