This weekend is Book Bash! I’ll be heading there for noon to help set up, and look forward to hearing about all the new books published in Guelph this year.
After two weeks of not writing, I finally got back on the horse. I think I just needed some time off. Creativity levels were low, and we were busy. I have some good news, and that is that I’ve started fixing up A Hero’s Birth. Unfortunately I couldn’t get Word working on my Aunt’s tablet at Thanksgiving, because we needed her Microsoft login to access the program, and when we did the “forgot your password” thing and got the code, when we got back to Word, it automatically left the portion that had asked for the code in the first place, and wanted us to ask for a new code again! So frustrating. Anyway, she sent me what she has done, and I’m going through it. I posted a teaser for the prologue on Google+, which I’ll share here, too:
Prologue: 250 Years After Gods’ War (AGW)
The thunder of thousands of voices, hands, and feet shook the coliseum around Matthew Strongblade. In the tunnels below, he swallowed hard. The match above must have ended in blood, for nothing riled up the spectators more than death. Matthew’s final battle for freedom was next, and a subdued crowd for the main event just would not do.
Julian, who had just watched the end of the last match, came down the hall toward his friend. He was dressed in a faded tunic and leggings, both stained with old, dark blood. The men were studies in contrast: Matthew, with his dark hair and sun-burned skin, and Julian, who had fair hair and a darkened, creased complexion from years of training outside in the coliseum. “Ready?” Julian asked.
Matthew examined himself in the dirty, cracked mirror that ran up to the ceiling, showing gladiators how they looked before entering the arena. His dark curls clung to his head where matted blood from his last fight had scabbed over. His muscled arms and legs bore scars from attacks that had come too close to causing serious injury, and his clothing hung off him like tattered rags.
But his eyes smouldered with defiance as he unsheathed his sword and held it across his left palm.
“Won’t be good for much more than one strike,” Julian said of the blade.
The metal was pitted and weak, an insult to the man’s stubborn habit of introducing himself as Matthew Strongblade. Slaves did not have last names, he was told. Slaves had no heritage, they insisted as they beat him. Slaves were barely worthy of a first name, his master had said, while trying to whip him into submission.
But Matthew had a last name. His mother had told him of the power in the Strongblade line. He would not forget. “Then I’ll make that one strike count,” Matthew said through gritted teeth.
Julian sighed, shaking his head. “This’ll be your hardest fight yet. Your previous opponents were scared for their lives. They weren’t hardened veterans like this one.”
Turning from the mirror, Matthew asked, “Do you think I can win?”
“That’s not the question you want in your head right now,” Julian said, gripping Matthew by his shoulders. “Ask what you can do to win. This brute is bigger than you, he’s fought in more military campaigns than I can count, and kills contenders for fun.”
Matthew thought for a moment. “So he’ll be overconfident –”
“No,” Julian interrupted, shaking his head. “That implies you’re holding a secret weapon that can best him. He’s confident, and rightly so. He’s buried dozens of fighters, if there was enough left to scrape off the arena floor.”
“Any suggestions?” Matthew asked.
Julian held Matthew’s gaze, his face deathly serious. “Those others you’ve killed, and those you’ve sparred with, they too fought to win. They wanted the prize you’re about to fight for. This bastard has crushed the dreams of everyone who’s come before you.”
“Still waiting for the inspiring part,” Matthew said.
Julian offered no hint of amusement. Instead he took Matthew by the shoulders and shook him. “Everyone’s the hero of his or her own life story, Matthew – even this guy. The trick is to live long and do great deeds so that you’re a hero in other people’s lives. But your opponent proves that heroes can die all the time. You need to show him that he can die, too.”
Matthew nodded, feeling slightly more inspired by his trainer’s words. “But I’m still fuzzy on the details …”
The tunnels shook once more with the cheers of the crowd. The gladiator champion had just been introduced, and the spectators were thrilled with the promise of a brutal battle.
Looking down the tunnel to the bright light of the open arena, Julian said, “Sounds like it’s your turn, Mr. Main Event.”
“Wait,” Matthew said. “Is that it? You haven’t got any real advice?”
“Nope,” Julian replied, shaking his head. Matthew saw the sorrow in the man’s gaze, as his own fell to the floor. “I could remind you that you’re smaller and faster than your opponent, and one of the smarter slaves I’ve trained, but you’re ill-equipped and if he makes contact even once, you’re done for.”
Matthew stood numb, unable to comprehend that the man who had trained him to fight for the last several weeks now obviously believed he was going to throw his life away. Why bother to work with a fighter, if the end was a foregone conclusion?
Control, Matthew realized. The trainers were prisoners as much as the slaves who battled for freedom. Julian was not a citizen either, and spending his time training warriors to die as a spectacle would be a terrible, dehumanizing experience. What must Julian have done to earn such a fate?
Gripping Julian’s shoulder, Matthew fought to keep his voice steady. “When I get back from killing this monster, you and I are going to have a talk about staying optimistic.”
Looking up, Julian could not hide his smile. A horn sounded, it was time to part.