Another Writer’s Carnival ‘Sideshow Challenge’: You wake up in an arena… and it’s a fight for your life! (1280 words) *ADULT CONTENT*
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My consciousness arrived with the jolt of an express train collision. My hearing returned first.

“It is a fight to the death. No quarter asked, nor given.” The words echoed around the arena. “Myron, your life is forfeit.”

My sight returned as a view through a fogged up window and when I blinked, the surrounding were chillingly familiar. I registered the gritted sand beneath my bare feet at the same time as I felt the weight of a weapon in my hand. What is it this time? Lifting a leaden arm into view, I examined the twisted length of wood with a hefty knot on one end. A mace, this time.

I scanned the sun-bleached area and faced the sensation of déjà vu head on. How many times had I killed him, now? Four, no, five. It didn’t matter. This scene would play out over and over until the ‘Oracle’, Minerva, achieved the outcome she wanted. Me. Dead.

My opponent’s malignant sneer oozed confidence. Across the twenty yard divide, I stared into eyes which gleamed with the same vicious spite they held the five times before. As far as he was concerned, we faced this battle for the first time, every time. If he remembered his own death, over and over, it would be a real mood killer. Minerva knew that, as surely as she knew that experiencing the adrenalin rush of being triumphant, only to find it counted for nothing, wore me down.

Patience. I knew the weapon I waited for would eventually be in my hands. I rolled on the balls of my bare feet. The ease of movement assured me my ‘wounds’ had been erased without the need to inspect my naked torso. The rewinding of time was all encompassing.

At six foot three inches, with a physique of ridged muscle and sinew, I was used to measuring up to my foe. Gaius’ superior height and weight had not given him the advantage Minerva expected. He lacked technique… and skill.

I shifted my focus to the packed gallery and located her. Raising my chin, I smiled up at the figures seated in the viewing box, where Minerva, flanked by two ‘seers’, occupied pride of place. Her serene mask slipped, just a little.

Her lips compressed into a thin black line and the warm bark color of her skin glowed with copper fragments. Her skin tone reacted to her moods like a moonstone. I began to enjoy myself.

“Minerva.” The amphitheatre amplified my anger, giving it the weight of a growl. “I can live this day over and over, and never tire of defeating your pawn.”

The flecks of copper glowed rust red as the Oracle surged to her feet. “I will see you die, Myron, you took my kin and shattered her heart. You will pay.”

“Your kin?” I laughed. “It’s your pride I shattered. I chose a heart over beauty.” Esther waited for me. I fought for her, too. If I died here today, then she would become a slave. Choosing Esther –the birthmark which distorted her face meant nothing to me– proved to be the insult Minerva could not bear.

“You insult me at every turn.” Minerva’s liquid gold gaze focused on her champion. “Kill him, Gaius.”

The theatrical sweep of her hand gave the signal to begin.

I let the weighted end of the mace drag the shaft through my hand and gripping the smooth hilt, I faced Gaius. Swinging the knot of wood in front of my chest, I drew figures of eight in the air. The loin cloth with modesty flaps allowed freedom of movement, and I smoothly shifted my weight from one foot to the other.

Gaius mirrored my movements, swaying from side to side.

Drawing him into the hypnotic dance, I lunged forward and swung the mace overhead. I landed a two-handed axe blow, cracking into Gaius’ weapon and sending the swinging weight careering off course. He stumbled, and I jabbed the knot of hardwood into his stomach.

Gaius grunted.

As I heard his bottom rib crack, I bared my teeth in a taunting grin.

Gaius launched a swinging blow. I twisted to the side and gritted my teeth as the jarring vibration of a direct hit on my shoulder shook me. I couldn’t die this time. My wounds may ‘rewind’ when Minerva reset time, but I grew more tired. I can’t loose. I reared up. My counter strike slammed into the fleshy part of Gaius’ chest. My next blow slammed into his sternum. Strength born of fear drove me forward. Switching my grip, my mace crunched into his collarbone and, as it crumbled, his weapon dropped from slack fingers. I swung the mace high, homing in on the target of Gaius’ skull.

As the impact with bone rattled up my arms, the world went black.

My consciousness arrived with the jolt of an express train collision. My hearing returned first.

“It is a fight to the death. No quarter asked, nor given.” The words echoed around the arena.

My vision cleared as I blinked, and confronted Gaius, yet again. He shifted his broad shoulders, squaring up to me, completely unharmed. Exhilaration gleamed in his eye. Here we go again. What weapon this time?

I felt the hilt of a dagger in my hand and spared a quick glance at the eight inch serrated blade before my attention shifted to the small circular shield resting along the length of my forearm. At last.

I let the dagger fall into the sand at my feet and withdrew my shield arm from the harness of leather straps. Ignoring the shock of cold metal on my bare skin, I lowered the shield to my thigh and gripped the lower edge. Whipping around in a tight circle, I rotated faster until the arena became a blur. I stopped suddenly, spotted my target and grinned into Minerva’s puzzled expression. I swung my arm through and released the shield in a perfect discus throw.

The silver disc flew through the air, and the crunch of steel demolishing bone heralded a stunned silence. A river of blood flowed down Minerva’s body as, for a second, her sightless eyes stared across the arena.

A sigh gurgled in her throat as her head fell forward, her copper colored hair gleaming in the sunlight.

Somewhere to my left, I heard Gaius grunt as he launched his charge against me. I didn’t move. Time no longer meant anything. I gritted my teeth ready to absorb the pain.

As Minerva’s head rolled down over her blood soaked breasts, deep cuts erupted over Gaius’ flesh. His knees gave way as he clutched the gushing sword wound in his side and flayed skin fell away from his cheekbone.

The injuries I suffered during our first sword fight hit my body in a tidal wave of pain. My nose crumpled and blood gushed down my face. The blood capillaries in my thigh erupted into a blue-black bruise and the cut across my ridged abdomen opened up and oozed freely.

Gaius hit the sand, face down, as dead as he had been at the end of the first fight.

I took a deep breath. “I have paid my price but I’ll take on any man who wants to stop me. Is there anyone else?” I ranged my disgusted glare across the indifferent faces of the court. “Is there anyone else.” My voice echoed across the arena.

The shuffle of bodies moving, shrugging, was drowned out by subdued murmurs.

Spitting blood that had pooled in my mouth onto the ground, I turned and walked away. Esther was safe, and that was all that mattered.