Two enemies have entered the arena – but the story takes an unexpected turn featuring ‘Gladiator’ Lance, Gythia’s Champion!
CHECK OUT HIS 3D MODEL:
- Manica armor
- Galea helm
- Scutum shield
- All-new pilum
SPECIAL EFFECTS CHANGES:
- Black and red impact
- Red shield energy
- Trident pulse effect
- Eyes on shield glow when active
ALTERNATE FATE LORE
Read Part I: The Reunion
The fighters stepped through separate doors into the arena. Catherine blinked against the glare reflected off of the metal masks worn by the crowd. Before she could clear her vision, Ardan was upon her, his caestus slamming all of his rage and pain into her raised shield. The blow knocked her off her feet. She spat sand and blood. With something like childish glee he struck again, expecting her ribcage to splinter and sever her heart, but instead the force of his punch echoed back through his body and he screamed, falling away from Catherine and her pulsing bubble.
“You don’t know the truth of that night.” She stood and squared her shoulders, shivering as a healing green glow enveloped Ardan. “Julia …”
“Don’t you dare say her name,” growled Ardan, but there was a commotion at the other end of the arena. Horns blew, the crowd roared, and a gate opened with painful creaking slowness. From the dark tunnel a third gladiator entered. Ardan and Catherine stepped back, their eyes twitching between one another and the new contender.
“It is the Champion,” whispered Catherine, her shield dropping.
To survive one’s first fight in the arena was rare. To win was a miracle. To continue winning was unheard of. Ardan had had some recent luck, had won by the skin of his teeth and been stitched up in time to be torn apart in a half-dozen subsequent fights, but Lance, the Archelion, had won every bout for a year. He was not Gythian by birth, but the people had adopted him. His spiked black armguard rose, displaying a heavy bladed pilum to the roaring crowd; from his black helmet burst the red horsehair brush of the warriors. Into his armor was sculpted the faces of monsters he had beaten in the sands. His crimson shield bore the face of Caius, the fabled first warrior of Gythia. The crowd erupted in songs for the champion in red and black; some threw their masks into the sand.
Ardan’s heart sank. He had abandoned Gythia long ago, in his youth, to join the Technologist rebels, and he had in turn abandoned them to protect his children, but he had been raised among the warriors. To bear the face of Caius would have made his father proud. As the Champion took his time striding across the sand toward them, Ardan forced himself to breathe through the throat-crushing weight of his failures. His fans called him a Son of Gythia, but this Archelion, Lance, was more Gythian than he.
Despite his heavy armor, The Champion somersaulted like a nimble dancer to the delight of the crowd. He lunged at the other gladiators with a battle cry, the eyes of Caius on his shield glowing, his pilum speeding toward Ardan’s masked face.
Before he could use his Vanguard, Ardan saw Catherine speed into the path of the pilum, following the blades of her shield, and slammed full force into the Champion. Energy crackled around the black armor, stunning the Champion long enough for Catherine to grasp Ardan by his one bare arm. In the noise, he only saw her lips moving, saying, “Join me now, or you will not survive long enough to kill me.”
The Champion shook off the effects of the stun. A blood-red energy came off of his shield as he bashed Catherine away. She tumbled backward, her shield sliding out of reach. Scrambling on her knees, grasping at nothing, the great tall shadow of the Champion stretched over her.
But Ardan’s caestus landed first, cracking into the Champion’s solar plexus. While he stumbled, Ardan kicked the arcshield to Catherine; she grabbed it and rolled, slicing the shield at the Champion’s knees. He jumped clear, but Ardan was on him again, punching at his exposed belly while Catherine found her feet and flanked around to the back. But the Champion rolled away again, lithe and quick, and sprinted to the barbed wire-encased edge of the arena. The crowd pushed forward, crushing, reaching, risking their lives for the chance to brush their fingertips against greatness. Catherine walked ahead, shield before her, no rush, and the closest row of fans tumbled into the arena as the Champion raised his pilum.
“No!” bellowed Ardan. “Her head is mine!”
And then the ground shifted.
There was a rumbling, and the floor split apart. The crowd went quiet, so that the great metal wheels cranking to pull away the arena floor could be heard. The gladiators had to jump to one side or another, their eyes darting left and right, crouched in defensive postures. Dark water appeared from under the floor; the sand fell in and sank. The fans who had fallen into the arena scrambled and grasped for handholds wherever they could. One fell in with a splash, and the floor continued to roll away, separating the fighters farther and farther while the man in the water screamed for help. And then he disappeared, fast as if pulled under, and screamed no more.
Three small boats were lowered down from the stands and pushed through the dark water toward the gladiators.
Read Lance’s canon lore:
Read about Ardan and Catherine’s tumultuous history:
What Must Be Done