Bizarre, sharp-edged rock formations stretch for miles around the caravan. In the distance, low, dark mountains composed of dirt, rocks, and low growing shrubs peek over the rock formations.
Meah looks around the crowded carriage. Those who can, sleep, while others stare at the floor. Their minds are distant, thinking of homes and loved ones they were torn from.
“The Arena is ahead.”
Meah jumps at Jaxon’s voice. It is the first time he’s spoken to her since they left the canyon three days prior. A black cloth is wrapped around his arm where he was cut.
“It’s surrounded by the city of Bloodfall,” he continues.
“Bloodfall?” Meah feels her fear growing.
Jaxon laughs. “A joke name many have come to call the city since the Blood King made it the sight of his games. Its true name is Bruelle, but only those born before the games remember it.”
Slaves with enough energy to lift their heads gasp at the sight ahead. Meah turns her eyes forward and peers through the bars of the carriage at the mirage appearing among the rocks.
The mountains that seemed so far away appear as dry and barren as the land around them, providing a fitting background to the large building at their base. The city is large, far larger than any town Meah has seen. Buildings on the edge of the city are smaller and built with dried mud. The buildings become larger and more substantial as they move away from the borders, some reaching three stories in height. The Arena that towers over the city is made entirely of stone with long tapestries flowing down the sides. Emblems cover the red cloth. Meah’s eyes widen when she realizes they are the symbols from her visions.
She turns to Jaxon. “What do those symbols mean?”
“Those symbols are from the ancient language. Some denote magic, some represent different lands, and others are words for great mythical beasts. The Blood King loves the ancient language though there are few still alive who speak it.”
Before Meah can ask more, he adds, “You should move away from the bars. The locals like to touch the fresh flesh.”
Meah jerks back and pulls her knees to her chest. Those around her who heard Jaxon do the same. Others, too weak to even lift their heads, stay still.
A low wall made of stone circles the city. Men walk along the top of the wall and watch the caravan as it approaches. The gate stands open, closing only at night.
Bloodfall is a dusty city. Wind blows sand and dust everywhere. Those who live here don’t try to sweep it away. The buildings are made from stone or dried mud depending on the wealth of their owners. Shops are mostly outside, with a few located just inside the homes of the owners. Merchandise is displayed on long tables while the more valuable oddities are kept behind locked, glass-covered cases.
The caravan moves slowly through the city. People watch with curious eyes, eager to see the fresh flesh for the Arena. Some walk along the carriage or the line of slaves. A child kicks one of the slaves, causing him to trip and fall. One of the men in black armor chases the child away, but others take his place. Men poke their hands through the bars of the carriage, grabbing for the women inside and making lewd remarks.
Meah tries to force a man away from one of the weaker women whose dress was being torn from her. The man hits her hard, knocking her back. She moves away, as close to the center of the carriage as possible, but still feels eyes glaring at her.
Those following the caravan fall back as it enters the wealthier section of the city. The buildings with three floors are located here and people stand on balconies to see the new commodities. The ground changes from dirt to paved stone. The wheels of the carriage create noises that echo off the surrounding buildings.
The Arena grows larger and larger as they approach. It towers above the rest of the city and fills almost the entire rear section of the city, facing the mountains. Entrances are located all around and stairs can be seen at one end. There are five levels total. People enter through the first level. But Meah can see others walking around the second, third, and fourth levels through large openings in the stone. The top level has larger openings with different spacing. Fewer people are seen, but it isn’t too difficult to see why. The top floor is made entirely of marble and plants are seen through the openings. It is clear the top floor is reserved for the wealthy.
Meah hears cheering from inside the Arena. It sounds like thunder as it bounces off the mountains behind the arena. Other, stranger sounds can be heard, but Meah can’t determine what’s causing them.
The caravan follows the wall of the Arena around to the back, the side closest to the mountains. There are fewer people walking around and the shadow of the mountains provides much needed relief from the blazing sun.
One entrance, larger than the others, heads into the Arena, but down into the earth below. Men stand guard on either side of the opening, preventing curious spectators from entering. The caravan enters without a glance from the two guards. The heat fades as they go further down under the Arena.
Hundreds of men are walking around. Some carry weapons. Some pull cages of wild animals from one side to the other. Some operate strange machinery. Some even use magic to assist others. Most are muscular and wear similar clothes. Some others who wear the same clothes, but carry parchments and write continuously. Members of an even smaller group carry bags of money and talk amongst each other.
Then there are those who wear different clothes. Torn, battered clothes that hangs from their bodies like chains. Blood stains some, but most are covered with dirt. These men and women watch the caravan go by with pity in their eyes. Meah realizes that she and her fellow slaves in the caravan are staring into their future.
Slaves of the Arena.