Life is short and cheap in Nero’s arenas. A single stab might cause the death of humanity.
Rome, 54 AD: In a dazzling twist of fate, Rawena becomes a gladiator, vanquishes an impossible opponent, and infuriates the emperor. Cursed to start a plague when steel pierces her heart, the Celtic woman fears that Nero’s wrath will force her to trigger a catastrophe.
As she fights against her destiny, arrogance, treacheries, and intrusions from magical realms hamper her at every turn.
Then a fellow gladiator, a young, love-struck Briton, promises the unimaginable. His oath and devotion fill Rawena with hope for the future.
But nothing will be clear until the ultimate combat.
A multi-award-winning author, P.C. has always had a vivid imagination.
When he was in kindergarten, he convinced his classmates that his grandma was a tribal shamaness. Then he learned his letters, and kidding his friends no longer seemed adequate—so he started writing fantasy.
P.C. has published two standalone novels and a series. His latest project, Celts and the Mad Goddess, is the first installment of The Deathless Chronicle. The sequel, Celts and the Gladiator, is coming out this summer.
His stories have been featured in various publications, and ‘A Poisoned Gift’ received an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. He is Spillwords Author of the Year 2020.
CELTS AND THE GLADIATOR by P.C. DARKCLIFF
CHAPTER ONE – A FREE Snippet ……
As she paraded in front of the vicious crowd, Rawena wondered who of her
‘family’ would try to kill her today.
The spectators filled the amphitheater to the awnings, ready to see her fight.
Nobles, consuls, and priests sat in the first two rows, wrapped in togas against the cool
February air. Behind them, plebeians shouted and placed bets while they watched
Rawena and her familia—the fighters from her gladiatorial school—tread the sand of
the arena. Slaves stood in the back, chatting and enjoying their freedom until the end of
the games when they would carry their masters back home in litters.
Since her enslavement six months ago, Rawena had fought with blunted swords
and pointless spears in a practice arena near the amphitheater. Although she had often
won, bruises covered her body like a mosaic. Today would be her first combat with
sharp, deadly weapons.
None of her familia were aware that a curse hung above her, protecting her from
their weapons and exposing them to deadly peril. She could only be killed by fire or
beheading. If her heart was pierced, though, it wouldn’t be Rawena but everyone around
her who would face death.
Trumpets pealed and cymbals clashed as a horde of guards led the gladiators
past the orchestra and to a projecting podium reserved for the emperor, the senators, and
the veiled Vestal Virgins. A breastwork surrounded the podium to protect the emperor
from wild beasts—although most Romans thought the emperor was the wildest beast of
Nero reclined on a couch inlaid with mother-of-pearl. He wore a purple tunic
and a cloak embroidered with gold. Although he was only twenty-six, he had been
emperor for ten years, and he looked much older. Rawena found him ugly, with a fleshy
neck that connected his spotty face to his narrow shoulders, and with weak, thin legs
that contrasted with his prominent belly.
At the guards’ order, the gladiators knelt in the sand. There were a hundred of
them, all barbarians, and mostly men. Rawena was one of five gladiatrices, or female
gladiators. They all wore breastplates over their tunics, but they wouldn’t get weapons
until the combat.
“Hail Caesar!” they said in unison, as they had practiced before every training
session. “I vow to endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the
Scared of fire, Rawena winced as she murmured the word burned.
Nero yawned and popped a plump date into his mouth. Then he waved his thin
hand, and the gladiators stood. The guards marched them to a large waiting chamber
that had long benches and tables with cups of water and heads of garlic.
Rawena took a few sips from a wooden cup, but she was too tense to sit. So were
most of the others. They fidgeted and looked around as if they tried to guess who had
been chosen to fight against them. According to the veterans, nearly a quarter of the
gladiators lost their lives during each games. Rawena feared that a spear or a sword
would make her an immortal cripple…
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