Coffee Break Read – The Warlord and The Fighting Slave

An extract from Dues of Blood which is the final part of Transgressor Trilogy in the Fortune's Fools series.

Torwyn watched the cold eyes behind the high Vyazin nose and found himself thinking of the last time he had been in such a room with the man who had then been just a Warlord.
It had been in Alfor two summers before at the time of the Fair and he had been left chained so the Warlord could talk with him alone. For the longest time, Qabal Vyazin had just walked around his naked, freshly oiled body and said nothing, examining him from every angle.
Trained to such display from an early age, Torwyn kept himself still. He had been uncertain what to expect from such a man as this. Some nobles were quick to make their desires known and wanted a response to feed their egos. But this man seemed to study him from another perspective altogether.
At last, he had stood in front of Torwyn, and held his gaze with a vice-like stare which had been cold and dispassionate. Torwyn had lowered his own eyes after a short time and it was then Qabal had spoken, his voice enquiring.
“Tell me how it is you have such power?”
Torwyn had struggled with that, uncertain what he was being asked or how he could please this man with an answer.
“I have no power, Most Honoured One,” he had said at last, aware of the burden of the unemotional eyes upon him. “I am just a fighting-slave. I cannot command others.”
Qabal had stood very still and given a sharp upward nod.
“You know your place well,” he said softly. “But you also underestimate yourself. Each time you walk onto the sand you have more power than any man – the power of death over another human being. How does that feel?”
Most who paid for private time with the Sabre were interested in only one aspect of his anatomy: that which he kept between his legs. Qabal was clearly equally obsessed, but with another part of his body: that which lay between his ears.
Torwyn stared at the Warlord and hoped the sudden rush of contempt was not visible on his face. How could he ever explain the sick sense of fatality? How to describe the gut-churning fear? How to express the burn of adrenaline which had to push you further than thought? What possible way could he put into words the sense of intense self-disgust which choked the soul each time he had to kill? Standing before Qabal he had struggled to find anything in that which had to do with power. Eventually what he had said was what he thought Qabal had wanted to hear: a simple lie.
“It feels as though I am the ruler of the world – in that moment with my opponent’s life in my hand.”
Qabal had stared at him for a long time and then given that same odd upward nod.
“Then you and I are men of the same cast. Except that my arena is all Temsevar.”

E.M. Swift-Hook

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