Chapter 8

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Alexior leaves me alone in the cell, and hours later I finally drag myself up and out. He's right. I need to stay alive for Lena. She is not dead. She is not.

Everyone is out training in the courtyard with wooden swords and shields. Over to the left sits a large wooden box filled with more practice swords and shields. In front of the box lay a pile of spears.

Dad throws his arm around my neck and knuckle rubs my head. "Thata girl. Way to take first place. The other team never expects you for a javelin thrower."

Laughing, I poke my dad in the ribs and repeat his own words, "I'm short and scrappy, but deadly."

My dad was a cop. From the time I could throw a punch, he worked with me on techniques and skills. He wanted me strong and able to defend myself. Lena never got into it, but I loved training with him. He was also very skilled in gymnastics and taught me a lot of those moves, too. He was the one who encouraged me to join the heptathlon team in high school. And though I was the shortest javelin thrower, I held my own. Actually took first in a lot of competitions.

My father's laughter floats through my mind. It's been two years since he died of pancreatic cancer. I miss him more and more every day. It doesn't seem to get any better. If he were alive right now, I wouldn't be here and Lena would be safe.

Though everyone's using swords and shields to train, I lean down and pick up a spear. It's a little smaller than a javelin, but the most familiar thing here. I turn and look at Alexior, and he nods his approval.

I take a second to familiarize myself with the difference in weight and shape and center of gravity. I'm used to throwing a six foot javelin and this spear is about a foot shorter. It's also lighter. The grip's what I'm familiar with, though, and wrapped with leather.

Wiping my sweaty palms on my tunic, I put it in position overhand and turn toward the training area. I need running space to gain momentum. I step on the other side of the large wooden box where no one is training and back all the way up.

I take off in a jog, feeling the bounce and weight. Yes, it's definitely smaller. I point my left finger where I want it to go, leap off the ground, and bring my arm back as I use my shoulder and triceps to throw it through the air.

It sails a respectable distance and skids across the dirt. I frown. That's not where I was aiming.

Laughter fills the air and I turn to see Sera. I glare at her. This one's different than I'm used to throwing! I want to snap at her, but instead ignore her and go retrieve my practice weapon.

As I stalk back to my original spot, I glance up to the terrace to see Dominus and his wife and several more of the rich and elite.

They're drinking and talking and idly watching us train. Behind all of them stand a row of slave girls. I see the one who was forced to get in the pool. She is staring straight ahead in a brainwashed haze. I wonder what her name is.

Two women over to the left are giggling and eyeing several of the men warriors. It hadn't occurred to me until this second that the men captives are used and discarded just as us women.

I push their disgusting rich selves from my brain and resume my spot. I try again, jogging, throwing, and do better this time. I actually spear the dirt.

My dad always coached me to fine-tune my "distance" weapon skills for self-defense. Things I could throw. Things that would injure my opponent without hand-to-hand combat. Though he taught me plenty of that as well.

Again and again I reacquaint myself with the spear until I'm consistently spearing not only the ground, but specific spots on the ground. Next I want to try an actual target. I turn and glance up to the elite on the terrace. Those are some good targets.

"Halt!" Alexior commands.

I put my spear down, use my tunic to wipe the sweat off my face, and go stand in line with the other warriors and recruits.

Dominus addresses us from the terrace. "My esteemed guests," he indicates those who are standing with him, "would like to see an exhibition." He turns to the heavyset man on his right. "Who is your first pick?"

Chapter 9 next Tuesday!

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