The orange sun blazed down on Kiaran, sweat gathering on her battered skin. Her opponent was hunkered over, panting and holding an arm across his gut. Hatred and rage filled her heart as the crowd circling them cheered her on. They shouted from their elevated seats; they shouted for bloodshed, for an amazing fight, and—hopefully—a death. There were old, wooden stands surrounding them on flat, grassless land, perfect for poor arena fights. The country of Kamoni was well known for its gladiatorial fights which dwindled away after the last war. However, there were still a few arenas which were used, and many smaller, personally owned ones such as this.
For years, Nathanial had trained Kiaran to fight so she could earn his riches. She was his prized fighter, his prized possession. This arena was his, and people came from cities miles away to compete, bet, and watch.
The boy struggled to keep on his feet, blood dripping from his lips. Kiaran’s dark hair fell into her eyes, her ponytail becoming loose from its tie. Bruises lined her body from her matches being held too closely together. The sun burned her body, her knuckles aching as sweat dripped into her opened skin.
A chill crossed her as her silver eyes moved to Nathanial. He stood upon a tall, wooden dais with the other fighter’s keeper. His stature was scrawny and dark against the bleeding sky, showing his unnatural and repulsive nature.
“End it,” he ordered.
Kiaran stared at him, her blood boiling with the urge to disobey him. Every fiber of her being wanted to destroy Nathanial. Her gaze moved to her young opponent. Taking a deep breath, she walked to him. Dirt rose from each step, clouding beneath her feet, leaving a small trail of fresh, hot blood from a gash in her calf. The boy was scared to fight her...knew he had no chance. So he had pulled a small blade, though she had easily disarmed him. Her heart begged to spare him, to leave just this one, poor boy alive.
He was younger than her; by at least five years would be her guess. Being adopted by Nathanial, she never knew her precise age--not that he found it important to share such information with her, anyhow. It would be appropriate for her to believe she was in her early twenties. This boy…he was only a child--hardly an adult.
Grasping the boy by the collar of his shirt, she yanked him up. He stood near her height, but he was much broader than her. His dark eyes met with hers, and her heart shattered. Every muscle in her body turned to stone as their gazes locked together. Resentfully, she tore her eyes from him and looked to Nathanial.
She never blinked as she gripped his jaw, snapping his head in one direction so fiercely that it snapped his neck. She felt the bones breaking between their skins. The audience roared with delight as his body fell limp into her arms. Her sight moved to the boy and she clenched her jaws tightly.
Gently, she held him by the arms, his head dangling from his gnarled neck as she sat his body in the dirt. She could not tear her eyes from his body…no matter how badly she wished it. The sun boiled her blood, as if scolding her. It was late autumn, but she felt the sun as if it were on top of her.
“The victor!” Nathanial shouted once he reached her, raising her arm into the air. The stench of sweat, blood, and alcohol filled her lungs and she was near ready to vomit. As he touched her wrist, it made her skin crawl and she felt more sinful. He laughed as he collected his money from gamblers. Her lungs had difficulty breathing as he joked about the boy’s mortality.
She remained motionless as the crowds left the small, poorly built wooden grandstands. The way she held herself was powerful, even though she was so easily controlled by such a disturbed man. It was all she knew. If she killed him, where would she go? Many people knew her, they knew her face, her scars, her eyes. She would forever be seen as a prized fighter and she had no escape of this life.
It would always follow her.
As the gamblers walked by her to pay Nathanial, they watched her nervously, as if she were to jump them at any second. Her brows were drawn low, her arms folded across her chest. If she had the opportunity...she probably would hit a few of them. To find such enjoyment in such grotesque means of entertainment.
Ignoring the men, she turned her gaze to the boy’s body as he was carried away carelessly. The late-day sun cast long shadows along the dirt, giving the area a wicked feel. Her body was rather fit for a woman, her shadow stretching her figure out. It was the only time it appeared curvy and womanly. She was thicker compared to the tiny women of the cities, her muscles built a bit more and her height a few inches above all the women--even a few men. Her figure was still full of envious curves, catching the eye of any onlooker with ease. Her eyes—however—reversed them from her.
“Kiaran,” Nathanial barked. “Get going.” Her eyes shot him an evil glare. Instantly, she imagined doing to him what he made her do for years. She wanted to kill him; she craved his blood on her hands. “What the hell are you looking at?” he snapped. “Go you piece of filth.” He thrust his arms into the air, his eyes cutting through her.
Tearing her gaze from her keeper, she marched toward the house in the short distance, her teeth digging into the bones of her jaw as she clenched them tightly.
Her room was dark and cold. It resembled nothing less than a prison. Kiaran sat on her wobbling bed and stared at her bruised fists. There was so much pain in her heart, but she found it best to ignore it. There she sat, motionlessly. On the inside, she screamed, aching for a release, but she appeared calm. The pain of her sin was impossible to handle for much longer. The agony of her torture was driving her to the brink of her sanity.
Standing, she walked to the mirror. Brown and yellow bruises covered her left cheek, both eyes, and her bottom lip. Blood crusted along her lip and eye. She grasped a damp cloth from the bowl of water and began washing up. The water was cold and still dirty from that morning. It felt wrong cleaning herself off with it. Taking several deep breaths, she hoped to calm herself although she knew it was futile.
Her heart was torn to shreds and she was dried up of tears. A lump formed in her throat as she could feel Nathanial’s hands at her neck. She looked to the mirror and saw only her reflection and felt mere memories. His hands wondered about her body until she submerged her face in the water. In one quick movement, she shot up, her hair stringing water across the room.
She smashed her fist into the bowl, knocking it to the floor in pieces. She threw the rag at it, and with that, she found herself sobbing. The feelings were never gone…and never would be. Curling up in her little, awkward bed, she left her bloody, tattered clothing on, not bothering to change. Soon, she fell into a deep sleep, her body tingling in delight and despair.
The next morning, the sun peaked through the wooden shutters across her window. The strips of sunlight were warm upon her sore, cold skin. Her straight, curl-less hair was strung across her face. She listened to the latch on the door open up. It creaked as it was pushed forward. The door bumped against her bed, small footsteps making their way inside.
It was Grace, Nathanial’s ten year old daughter. Kiaran had once heard him tell another man she did not have the will to fight as Kiaran had. At the young age of eight, Grace had already lost her will to do anything. She didn’t have the will to keep her father at bay, and he was very much willing to push himself on her whenever he pleased. That pushed Kiaran over the edge. One day…He would die.
Kiaran sat up in her bed and forced her stinging eyes open. She looked to the little, blonde girl. She was short and had a round face with round eyes of sadness. She handed Kiaran a tray of breakfast which consisted simply of bread, an apple, and a cup of water. Neither of them spoke. Although Kiaran had a tough, fierce spirit and Grace was much too fragile, they were alike. After handing her the tray, Grace turned and left.
Kiaran forced herself to eat, knowing she would regret it otherwise. Once finished, she tied her hair back and changed into less tattered pants and shirt. The pants only reached halfway down her shins, but her boots covered the remainder of her legs. Her bangs framed her battered face, a few strands feathered across her forehead while the rest of her hair was pulled into a rugged ponytail.
There was nothing worse she could do to herself than show weakness to her keeper. He was an evil, nasty man. Before leaving her room, she masked her face with anger, hatred, and—of course—strength. Always strength.
Her footsteps echoed through the empty, dead house. She passed the doorway of the main room, where Grace was sitting, holding her doll limply. Her sad, little eyes gazed at the toy, dreaming of a happy ending. Kiaran forced her legs to keep moving. Just at the last moment, she caught a glimpse of Nathanial standing in the corner. His disgusting eyes burned on Grace’s skin. Kiaran was ready. Kill him, she thought, do it now, she begged herself. However, she kept moving.
Finally, she reached the barn. Eight dogs populated the old building in pathetic, little cages. They each sat restlessly awaiting her. She was their alpha, their ruler—not Nathanial. For the past few years, Nathanial made Kiaran train the dogs for fighting. She was able to understand their body language and how to communicate with them as if she, too, were a dog. It was much more civil than her human life.
Latching the barn door shut, she began opening cages—against her orders. The dogs, although trained to rip through other dogs, got along with one another. Kiaran sat on an over-turned bucket, watching the animals. In the corner of her eye, she caught a dog targeting another. He was the largest and meanest of them all in the fights, but in the pack, he was a lover.
However, his body stiffened and his ears began to perk at the other dog. To keep a fight from breaking out, Kiaran jammed her fingers into his ribs, hissing, “Stop.” The dog darted back, lowering his head level with his shoulders. His ears lowered and she patted the top of his head. She would never cuddle with them or love on them. Somehow, though, she believed they knew her affection for them.
Kiaran grasped a rake and began clearing out the cages. Straw and dirt clumped together with urine and feces. She, then, scooped it all up with a shovel and dumped it into a wheelbarrow. Without a moment’s rest, she poured dinner leftovers in their bowls. It was then that she decided to rest. Her muscles were tight and her bruises burned, screaming for her to sit still and heal. It wasn’t from the work, but from the previous fight added to the labor. Her muscles had no time to heal.
She sat on the bucket again and watched them eat quickly. Her face ached and her hands throbbed. She closed her eyes, slowly flexing her fingers. Her calf was burning beneath the old bandage, staining it dark brown.
It was rather comforting to be surrounded by muscular dogs with teeth the size of small knives. They were her kind. Fighters. They were all alike: Tortured and made into fighting savages, when truly at nature they were relaxed and calm. Nathanial entered her mind and she grew angry again. Her anger alerted the dogs and they became tense and overprotective of their meals.
Noticing their connection of feelings with hers, she knew what to do and how to do it. She stood, with almost a smile on her aching lips. She rummaged through the piles of junk around the barn. There was not very much to work with, but scraps of metal, short strips of cord, and a pair of broken scissors. Finally, she found a ball of twine and an old, but sharp, knife. The handle was missing, so she wrapped a rag around it to hold it with ease. Her lips curled into a menacing grin.
It took an hour or so, but she got every cage rigged up with the twine, and a string of that twine dangled from the rafters by the doors. Grasping it, she tugged and all eight cage doors swung open. Now, the only thing that stood between Kiaran and her keeper’s death was time.
Nathanial stormed through the house. “Where the hell is that wretch?” he growled. She had been gone since that morning. Oh, the plans he had in store for her little disappearance.
In his rage, he spotted a gleam of moonlight upon some skin. Racing into the dark room, he smacked her down. She struggled with him as he sat on her stomach. The light fell upon her brown eyes. Grace. But that was not enough to stop him.
Her scream echoed through their vast property as her beating began. Blood soaked his skin, hair, and clothing. Then, he sat in the chair to catch his breath, looking at the silhouette of his dead daughter. Her little, pale foot glowed white in the moonlight, the rest of her body hiding in the shadows. What a shame...she was the quieter of the two girls. Pretty too.
After a quick rest, he moved outside to find his prized champion.
His gaze landed upon the barn, the lantern blazing from inside. Smiling, ready to treat himself with a bit more blood, he rushed to the old building. He swung the door open, and there she stood in the center of the room. The dogs howled and snarled as he entered. Light glinted off the blade of her knife as she held it at her side. They both stood motionlessly.
Her eyes narrowed as she saw blood drenching his shirt. She could see the faint worry in his eyes and it made her grin. In an instant, she was at him and stabbed the old pair of scissors into his arm. Using the scissors as a handle, she threw him to where she once stood. He struggled to keep to his feet, growling and holding his wound as the metal shined with blood. While he cursed, she latched the door behind her. Turning to him, she kicked him in the teeth, knocking him onto his back. He raised her to be a savage, and so she shall be. It was only right for him to die savagely.
“You damn bitch,” he spat blood from his mouth as he sat up. “You really think you will do it, don’t you?”
“Shut up,” she hissed as she kicked his chest. He fell back, losing his breath. She had not spoken in years. The shock on his face made her smile widen. “You have stolen my life much too long ago,” she howled as the dogs grew mad. “Your reign of disgust and sin ends tonight.”
He laughed as he stood, ripping the scissors from his arm. He tossed it aside, leaving a thin trail of blood. He just did not understand how determined she truly was. Her face grew hard and he froze in her glare. As quickly as a snake, she lunged forward and stabbed straight into his chest. The cloth was slick with his blood and her hand slid onto the blade, cutting her skin. She tore the blade from him, blood staining her arm. He gasped as he held his fresh wound. Hot blood ran between his fingers and he began to hyperventilate. She grew satisfied.
Now on his knees, Kiaran took advantage of this. Stepping back to the rope that hung from the rafters, she gripped it tightly. His wide eyes glared at her as her teeth glimmered in the faint light. Her voice was beautiful and yet so menacing. “You have ruined my and Grace’s lives. Your hands have gone where no man’s hands should. Nathanial, I leave you to the mercy of these beasts, for you’ll find none from me.”
“What do you think will happen when you open the cages? They’ll kill each other, not me,” he fought to speak.
Grinning, she answered, “I was the one who trained them,” there was an ominous pause. “They know what I want, and I know what they want.” And with that, the dogs were released. She left, knowing what was to happen. It was unnecessary to watch.
Closing the door behind her, she raced toward the house to find Grace. The wind rushed across her face as she grew hot all over; freedom. Freedom! Gracie came to mind and her heart sank.
The sounds of the snarling dogs and the screaming man rang through the fields around them. She slammed through the door to the house, out of breath. Racing down the hall, she glanced into each room, her boots slick with blood. Suddenly, the moonlight caught her eye as Grace’s foot gleamed within it. Her breath was caught as she whimpered, “Oh, Gracie.”
Rushing to her, Kiaran lifted the child into her arms. Blood stained her clothes and her skin as she began to cry. “I’m sorry I have waited far too long,” she sobbed, “Forgive me.” She held the child’s head to her chest as she rocked. The gash on her calf broke open, bleeding onto the floor. At this point...she would be pleased to die. But to bleed out would be too much to ask.