Excerpt: The Gladiator and the Guard

An Excerpt From

 

The Gladiator and the Guard

 

written by Annie Douglass Lima

 

cover art by Jack Lin

 

Bensin had been nervous all day. Not just because he was scheduled to fight the Yellows that afternoon. Not just because Ninety-Nine was scheduled to fight too, possibly at the same time. Not just because Gile had decided to do something different this weekend and give the audience a little extra excitement.

The “something different” was definitely worth being nervous about, though. Six separate martial arts were being featured today. A total of twenty-four glads from the two arenas would be fighting, each using his personal favorite weapon or style of unarmed combat. Members of the audience would be chosen to draw numbers, which would determine the order in which each glad would join the melee. Every five minutes, a new glad would be picked from each side, and they would fight as long as they could. When one was disarmed or too badly wounded to continue, he would retreat, but the victor would stay and keep fighting whatever other opponents were still out there. Depending on who was picked when, and how the battle was going when they were brought in, it was a good guess that things would be pretty uneven for a lot of people a lot of the time.

All of that made Bensin anxious, but he had another worry as well. This would be his first battle out on the sand since his new resolution. He still hadn’t figured out if or how he could possibly be the kind of person he had chosen to be when he was fighting. Would he be able to disarm an opponent, or possibly multiple opponents, without injuring them? Would it mean he had to let someone else beat him? Might it mean that he would end up injured, himself — or perhaps even killed?

That’s going to happen eventually, he reminded himself as he jogged on the treadmill. Won’t it be best to die in a way that involves standing up for who I am and what I believe is right, and not letting the arena force me into violence?

But Bensin still wasn’t quite sure about that. I can just wait and see how it goes. I don’t have to make the decision now.

But he knew that wouldn’t work. There wouldn’t be time to stop and think about it in the middle of a battle. He had to make up his mind beforehand and then stick to it. What’s the point in deciding I’m going to be a certain way if I don’t keep it up when things get hard? But how exactly could a person not be violent when he was fighting for his life?

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

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Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

 

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