The audience stares at the carnage in silence. Their excitement turning to shock as they realize what has happened. The slaves faced the Blood King’s best men. Yet the Brüdel all lay dead on the Arena floor. And the slaves, despite many dead and still more wounded, stand victorious.
Applause starts somewhere in the audience. A low cheer follows, slowly growing to fill the Arena. The roar becomes deafening as the audience members stomp their feet and slap stone with their hands. A chant, calling for freedom for the slaves blocks out all sounds.
Ime, Meah, Daniil, Kylii, and those around them stare up at the excited crowd. The audience’s chant for freedom continues on and on. The surviving slaves hug each other in surprised relief. They have won. They have survived the Blood King’s deadly game.
The slaves circle around Meah and Ime and chant their names. Others surround Kylii, Daniil, and Tanith. Meah can’t take her eyes off the audience. She moves across the mass of faces, but her attention is caught by one figure. The cloaked figure from the day before is standing inside the hallway leading out of the Arena. His arms are crossed and he stares at her, face covered in shadows.
A reluctant bell rings out under the sound of the cheers and it takes a long moment for anyone to notice it. The crowd calms and attention turns to Blood King Klaeon. He is standing as still as a statue at the edge of his private box. His eyes are wide with rage. He looks around at the crowd and finally to Ime and Meah. His eyes narrow and he turns. He disappears through the red curtain followed by Teron and his men.
The crowd returns to cheering and chanting for the slaves and many slaves raise their weapons above their heads. They yell victoriously and encourage the audience.
Arena workers open the gates to usher the slaves back into the bowels of the Arena but with smiles and words of praise instead of jeers and threats. Everyone they pass stops and cheers for the victorious slaves. Soon the underbelly of the Arena is filled with the echoes of cheers and laughter.
The triumphant slaves are cleaned, healed, and taken back to their cells. The Arena workers leave the cells open, showing them newfound respect and sitting with them to speak as equals. Workers sit inside the cells listening to stories of the fight. Food is brought directly to the cellblock along with long tables. A feast is laid out and the air fills with light-hearted laughter as tales of the many individual skirmishes are told from a number of different points of view.
The only ones missing from the feast are Ime, Meah, Daniil, Kylii, and Tanith. Tanith is allowed to stay in the cell with Daniil even though it is against Arena rules. The workers are too smart to try and separate her from Daniil.
Bern, Cal, Bon, Tristan, Skara, Rava, and Mava stay close to Meah’s cell. They bring food to the four Rare Kinds and Bon brings something for Tanith to eat and drink.
Meah turns to Mava and Rava, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, we’ve known each other for a while now, but I still don’t know your full names.”
Rava smiles. “Rava and Mava Eene.”
Mava laughs. “We haven’t really had a chance to sit and talk, Life Healer.”
Rava nods her head. “We decided after you saved my life we would repay you however we could.”
“I would never ask that of you,” Meah says, quickly.
“We know, Life Healer,” they say in unison.
“Please, we’re friends. Call me Meah. I only wish I could have helped those who died today.”
“You aren’t responsible for their deaths, Meah. They fought hard and valiantly for you and Ime. Honor their sacrifice. We must all keep living to justify their sacrifice.” Mava straightens her back, making herself appear taller in stature as she says these words.
Meah smiles and nods her head.
Slaves and workers crowd the cell to praise Ime for his fights against the stronger Brüdel, Meah for her life saving healing, and Daniil and Kylii for taking on the beast masters alone. Daniil is given additional praise for befriending Tanith.
The familiar whip crack announces Seera’s arrival to the festivities. The mirth is silenced and everyone turns to her. She stands with a hand on her hip and her eyes move from the feast to the crowded Rare Kinds’ cell. She parts the slaves and workers to make her way to Ime. He stands and they stare at each other.
Seera holds a hand out. Ime looks at it and slowly accepts it. “Over the years, this Arena has seen thousands of fighters, witnessed thousands of games, and held thousands of spectators. This day, this fight, and all of these…” she indicates all of the slaves with her free arm, “brave fighters will be spoken of for ages. You are all true warriors and have discarded the title of slaves.”
The slaves are struck dumb by her words. Then they cheer and continue their celebration. Arena workers bring out more food and drinks. Soon singing begins.
Seera pulls Ime close. “The cell doors will be kept open in honor of your victory. Feel free to enjoy the fresh, night air.”
Ime pulls away and his eyes fill with surprise. He nods and she pats him on the shoulder. She walks to Meah and runs a hand through her hair. “You surprised us all, Life Healer.” She moves to the brothers and stares at the calm beast next to Daniil. She nods her head and walks away, patting the shoulders of those she passes as she disappears into the celebrating crowd.
“What did she say to you?” Meah asks, turning to Ime.
He smiles and his eyes meet hers and the brothers’. “We escape tonight.”