The Blood Pit
The coarse sand crunched under my feet as I pounded down the tunnel. The loud stomping of thousands of spectators—bloodthirsty, rich spectators—all slamming their feet against the ground above filled every inch of air around me. My muscles twitched as I held one of my Kindjals, my treasured Russian Cossack daggers, in each hand. I spun them as my blood rushed through my veins, igniting my bloodlust.
The thunderous, rhythmic stomping of the waiting crowd grew faster, as my legs pushed my body into a steady run. My lips rolled back over my teeth. A low growl tore from my mouth. The echoes of my heavy, excited breathing beat in tandem with my fast-moving feet.
The pitch-darkness of the tunnel gave way to light as I approached the ramp that led to the pit. The pit where hearts were pierced and monsters were slain. The pit where blood ran as freely as water, where flesh slipped from the bone as easily as the most tender of meats.
Where champions reigned supreme.
The pit where I held court. The king, the demon shade, the famed “Pit Bull.” I was unbeaten. No one that Master dragged in from aboveground could take me down. They barely even made a scratch when they attacked. For years I’d reigned as champion.
I owned this sand.
I owned every soul freed in this ring.
In the Blood Pit, I was a god.
As the mouth of the pit came into sight, I picked up speed as the crowd roared above. Then I was free as I burst into the arena, rushing forward to slay anyone put in my path.
I swung. My treasured Kindjals, in seconds, sliced through not one but two males who ran at me without skill or a hint of competitive spirit. Their lifeless bodies slumped to the ground behind me, but I didn’t look back. My eyes tracked the remaining three fighters, circling, craving my blood.
I smiled. I kept my head lowered and my eyes off theirs. They didn’t stand a chance. These males were already dead to me. More fresh meat, soon to be disposed of.
The first ran at me, quickly followed by a second. I cut them down without breaking a sweat. Then the final opponent edged forward, swinging a bladed chain around his head. I ducked left, then immediately to the right, until we passed each other. I pushed by his side and sent my trusty blades into his torso. I kept my attention focused as the dying male fell to the ground. I heard the telltale thud of his body disturbing the sand … then the spectators roared their approval.
I stood upright, unmoving, as the crowd jumped to their feet, chanting my number over and over again.
“901! 901! 901!”
My eyes scanned the crowd, hatred dripping off me in waves, until my eyes found Master. Master was sitting on his seat, the gilded seat, which was central to the pit. And he glared. It was a glare filled with a mixture of pride and censure.
I waited, waited for him to give me permission to leave. When he did, with a dismissive flick of his wrist, I turned on my heel and stormed back down the tunnel. I trudged through the darkened hallway back to my cell, when Master suddenly appeared before me.
I stopped, remaining stock-still.
Immediately, I dropped my head in submission.
My eyes focused on Master’s perfectly polished black shoes, his legs draped in the finest of suits. And I waited. I waited for him to speak.
“I told you to make it slower this time. I told you to create a show. You kill too quickly. You’re costing me money. No one will bring their best fighters to face you unless you show an element of weakness. You don’t ever appear beatable.”
My jaw clenched at this harsh reprimand. My hands tightened on my Kindjals as they hung at my sides. “I don’t lose,” I grunted in reply.
Master’s feet closed in until he was looking up at me. He was tall, dark, and broad. I was taller, I was broader, I was his prize killer. I was made of stacked, ripped muscles—he’d ensured it. I was brutal strength made real—he’d designed me to be that way. And best of all: I held no fear—Master had made sure I endured enough punishment that fear held no place in my black heart. He had been so thorough that I now didn’t even fear the male who owned me.
“901,” he chided, showing me that fear bubbled just under a veneer of calmness, “you are my best fighter. My champion. My Pit Bull.” He stepped closer still. “Don’t force me to hurt you.” His hand lifted. In a move that always disgusted me beyond measure, he slowly stroked a finger down the side of my face. I froze as his fingertip ran over my lips and down over my chest. His finger traced the inked tattoo on my chest. My identity number: 901.
I risked a glance into his eyes as he stared, transfixed, at the ink. My veins filled with blazing fire. Flames replaced blood. Because Master was insane. Master lived for this, to dominate us: his slaves. In the Blood Pit he was a king. Worst of all, he believed it.
Clearing his throat, Master stepped back and withdrew his hand. My gaze dropped to the sand beneath my feet again. “901, you have no choice in this.” In an instant, his personality switched. He lost his anger and sighed. “Don’t make me punish you. It would pain me greatly to punish you, my champion of champions.”
My skin pricked at his words. Because he meant it. Master would punish me. I had no doubt. He was feared by all, a predator, a born killer. He got off on inflicting pain on his slaves. But more than that, he got off on the mindfuck. The not knowing what he was thinking, not knowing if today would be the day he chose to have you killed.
His entire empire was built on a foundation of fear.
But I didn’t have this fear. I was too important to him. I knew it. He knew it. Everyone knew it. I had no weakness for him to exploit.
That pissed him off more than anything else.
He waited for my answer. Taking in a deep breath, I replied, “I won’t slow down. I won’t be beat.”
He shook his head and smiled. But there was no humor in his smile. There was only challenge. “That’s where you are wrong, 901. Everyone has a weakness.” His eyes flared and he added, “It’s just a question of finding it.”
Speaking against command, I replied, “I don’t have a weakness. I don’t allow myself weakness. Ever.”
Master didn’t respond. He remained still, directly in front of me, for several minutes. Silent. Pensive. Until he moved aside, which I took to be my cue to leave.
As I hurried down the hallway to my cell, Master shouted, “You’ll yield, 901. I’ll spare you for your insubordination this time. But don’t think you are immune from punishment. Everyone is replaceable in the pit. Even you. Someone stronger and faster always comes along. Weaknesses will be found. And I assure you, they’ll be exploited.”
I stilled. His cold, lifeless voice washed slowly over my skin. Master’s footsteps approached, the light padding of his shoes on the sand slicing through the cloying silence to where I stood. He hovered a moment, asserting his authority over me. Then, finally, he walked away.
When his footsteps died in the distance, I marched back to my cell. His words ran through my brain with every step, my lips curling in pure hatred.
Long ago I had resolved that no matter what he said or did, I would not let him break me. I wouldn’t kill my opponents slower and I certainly wouldn’t “put on a show”—feign failure and hide the power my body held. More important, I wouldn’t show weakness. In my twenty-one years in this hellhole, I had never shown him weakness. Because this was the motherfucking Blood Pit. Weak males died. Champions fell. Only the most brutal killers survived.
And I too would die on this sand, but not until Master brought me someone who was worthy and ruthless enough to stop my heart. Only then would I breathe my last breath.
My strength, my refusal to bend to his will, was the only choice I had left in this life. He’d stripped me of everything else—freedom, happiness, free will. But my pride as a warrior was just for me, the only thing I called my own. I wouldn’t let him take that, too.
I sucked in a deep breath and increased my speed. Safe in the knowledge that there was no one out there that could defeat me anytime soon.
Because I was the Russian Pit Bull.
The collector of souls.
This was my domain.
The Blood Pit was my arena.
And I’d fight until the end.
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