Screaming snatches Meah from her sleep. Slaves in the other cells are crying out in fear, waking from nightmares of death and violence. They beg for the gods to save them or call for the workers to release them. Some of those who have been in the Arena for years yell at them to be silent, but the crying and screaming continues.
Meah sits up and realizes she is now sleeping on the third bed in the cell. She looks around and sees the silver-eyed magic user still sitting on the floor. He is staring out through the bars of the cell, unmoving. She wonders if he moved her to the bed. But why would he do that? Was it pity for the fresh flesh? A chance for her to have a little comfort before being killed in the games in the morning?
Daniil and Kylii wake, but stay lying on their beds. They listen as the voices shred the silence. Meah wishes she could do something to calm the terrified slaves, but she doesn’t know how, being trapped in a cell herself.
A solemn voice begins singing from one of the center cells across from Meah. His voice fills the cavern, overpowering the cries. It is an older slave, his hands shaking from old age and his face covered in wrinkles and scars. He sings with his head leaning back on the wall and his eyes closed.
A slave in the same cell joins in, watching the elder slave with no emotion on his face. They sing in duet for a while longer before a third voice from further down the hall joins in, followed by a fourth from the opposite end. The crying and screams fade. The four voices sing the song softly, but loud enough to be heard throughout the whole cellblock. It brings calm.
Meah stands from the bed and moves to the bars of the cell. She looks out at the other cells and sees the elder slave singing. A voice joins in with the song and her eyes move to the cell next to the elder slave’s cell. The man is kneeling against his bed and praying as he sings. She looks to another cell and sees Rava holding her sister in her lap, reminding her of how she met them. Rava is stroking her sister’s hair. There are dried tears on her cheeks. Mava stares out into the darkness of the hallway. They mouth the words and soon join in the song.
Daniil walks to Meah’s left side and leans close to her ear. “They are singing for the gods to watch over them as they fight. It’s a gift the survivors give to the fresh flesh. A chance for hope and calm before they die.” His expression is sad as he stares at the elder slave. “Guvie is the oldest in the Arena. He has been fighting since the Blood King started the games. He started singing for the fresh flesh many years ago. He sees it as a way to honor those who have or will die in this place.”
Meah turns her head enough to see the silver-eyed magic user’s face. It is empty of emotion, but she can see in his eyes that he is listening to each word as much as the fresh flesh.
Kylii walks to Meah’s right side and leans close to her ear. “You saw him fight today, didn’t you?”
Meah nods and faces Kylii. “Who is he?”
“His name is Ime. He is an Elemental Mage. He controls all of the elements of the world. Water, wind, and earth.”
Daniil shakes his head. “No, he lost that magic when he was brought here. The Blood King had it taken from him.”
“The Blood King took away part of his magic?”
Nodding his head, Daniil says, “It was too dangerous to have him continue using it.”
“Ime is the champion of the Arena, a real crowd pleaser. Everyone comes hoping to see him fight.” Kylii returns to his bed and lies down.
“The Blood King only comes to see him fight…and the fresh flesh. You will see him tomorrow. He likes to watch the fresh flesh die,” Daniil says, walking to his bed.
The brothers fall asleep quickly.
Meah moves back to the third bed and lies down. She listens to the singing, letting the calm words soothe her to sleep. Before she closes her eyes, she sees Ime stand and move to the back of the cell, away from the light. He sits and crosses his arms and legs. He struggles to keep his eyes open, but she catches the tears rolling down his cheeks, even in the shadows of the cell.