Read Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator Online

Authors: Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan

Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator

 

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About the Authors

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To the legions of science fiction fans around the world who have brought me so much love and support through the years.

—
C
LAUDIA
C
HRISTIAN

To Catherine, my bright swan.

—
M
ORGAN
G
RANT
B
UCHANAN

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

ROMANS

Accala Viridius Camilla
—the heroine

S
ERTORIAN
T
EAM

Licinus Sertorius Malleolus
—tribune, the team leader and war chain fighter

Gaius Sertorius Crassus
—the team trainer, gentleman, and javelin fighter

Gaia Sertorius Barbata
—a trident-wielding gladiator

Servius Tullius Lurco
—a hammer-wielding beast fighter

Castor Sertorius Corvinus
—a one-armed charioteer

Pollux Sertorius Corvinus
—a one-armed charioteer

Mania Sertorius Curia
—a trapper of beasts and dreams

V
IRIDIAN
T
EAM

Vibius Viridius Carbo
—tribune and team leader

Gnaeus Viridius Metellus
—the team trainer

Darius Viridius Strabo
—Accala's cousin, an archer and a gladiator

Titus Viridius Nervo
—a charioteer

Trio Viridius Mercurius
—a charioteer

Scipio Viridius Caninus
—a dart-throwing beast hunter

Capitulus Viridius Pavo
—a crossbow-wielding beast fighter

Taticulus Viridius Leticus
—a club-wielding gladiator

O
THER
R
OMANS

Julia Silana
—a Vulcaneum immune

Marcus Calpurnius Regulus
—Accala's lanista

Caesar Numerius Valentinius
—imperator, emperor of the Galactic Roman Empire

Quintus Viridius Severus
—Accala's uncle
,
the Viridian proconsul

Aquilinus Sertorius Macula
—the Sertorian proconsul

Lucius Viridius Camillus
—Accala's father, a war hero and senator

Alexandria Viridius Camilla
—Accala's mother, a philosopher and scientist

Aulus Viridius Camillus
—Accala's younger brother

BARBARIANS (ALIENS)

Lumen
—a Hyperborean child

Concretus
—a Hyperborean warrior, Lumen's guardian

Alba
—an Iceni body slave

Bulla
—Accala's Taurii body slave

 

TRIA NOMINA

Typical Roman names of the Galactic Empire have three parts (the “tria nomina”). For example, for
Accala Viridius Camilla:

•
Accala
is the given name.

•
Viridius
is the
gens,
or house name (House Viridian).

•
Camilla
is the family name.

 

PROLOGUE

T
HE
V
IRIDIAD,
P
ART
I

The History of Accala, the Noble-born Gladiatrix, from the Chronicle of the Seventh Empire, 7753–7901
A.U.C.

Justice—Goddess, sing of the retribution of Lucius' daughter, Accala. Driven by a thirst for vengeance, she cost House Sertorian countless lives. Like raindrops striking the ground, they died, black-hearted warriors, their souls cast down to Hades' boundless halls. What terrible price did she pay to see justice carried out? Tell us what Fate drove her to brave such hardship. To endure so many trials?

But wait. First, O Muse, sing of Galactic Rome, master of ten thousand worlds, the stage upon which her story is set.

Rome! It was the twins, Romulus and Remus, who laid her foundations eight thousand years ago. Abandoned at birth, they were found and suckled by a she-wolf until they grew in strength and power. From her they inherited resilience, loyalty, and ferocity—qualities they bestowed upon their city. Unconquerable Rome! The city that grew to rule over Mother Earth, crushing all efforts to bring about her fall. Eternal Rome! That expanded into space over five thousand years to become the heart of a galactic empire.

In Accala's time, seven noble houses ruled the empire's galactic provinces, each vying for the imperial throne, held by the eighth, the emperor's own house. Fighting between two houses—the virtuous and brave House Viridian and the corrupt and heartless House Sertorian—had driven the empire to the brink of a civil war.

The shining Viridians! Accala's own family, bearing the standard of the golden wolf. Steeped in military honors, placing service and duty above ambition. For two thousand years, they embodied and upheld the best of Roman virtues.

The black-hearted Sertorians! They bore the standard of the ruby hawk—a hawk with outstretched talons, seizing wealth and power at any price.

Begin, Muse, when the two first clashed, the boldest of each house—Crassus Sertorius, lord of corruption, and the brilliant Lady Accala Viridius. Both young and reckless, both gifted in the gladiatorial arts and filled with the spirit of ambition, desperate to triumph at any cost.

 

PART I

BURNT OFFERINGS

Let justice be done though the heavens fall.

—Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities.

—Ovid,
Metamorphoses

Who has not seen the dummies of wood they slash at and batter

Whether with swords or with spears, going through all the maneuvers?

 … Or, it may be, they have deeper designs, and are really preparing

For the arena itself. How can a woman be decent

Sticking her head in a helmet, denying the sex she was born with?…

What a great honor it is for a husband to see, at an auction,

Where his wife's effects are up for sale, belts, shinguards,

Arm-protectors and plumes!

 … Hear her grunt and groan as she works at it, parrying and thrusting;

See her neck bent down under the weight of her helmet;

Look at the rolls of bandage and tape, so her legs look like tree trunks,

Ah, degenerate girls from the line of our praetors and consuls,

Tell us, whom have you seen got up in any such a fashion,

Panting and sweating like this? No gladiator's wench,

No tough strip-tease broad would ever so much as attempt it.

—Juvenal,
Satires

 

ACT I

SHE-WOLF

Gods of my country, heroes of the soil,

And Romulus, and Mother Vesta …

Preservest, this new champion at the least

Our fallen generation to repair …

Here where the wrong is right, the right is wrong,

Where wars abound so many, and myriad-faced

 … new strife

Is stirring; neighbouring cities are in arms,

The laws that bound them snapped; and godless war

Rages through all the universe.

—Virgil,
Georgics

I

Rome, Mother Earth, 7798
A.U.C

E
VERY NIGHT THE SAME
dream—a blast wave of atomic fire raced across the surface of a distant ice world, an inferno that would envelop the planet's capital in a matter of minutes, transmuting sturdy buildings to slag, consuming three and a half million lives with the same dispassion as it liquidized steel and stone. But before that could happen, I had to bear witness.

Mother ran toward me as the bright firewall rose up behind her, rapidly gaining ground. Ever Stoic, her face registered no fear, only a dread urgency—there was something important she had to tell me before the fire claimed her—but I was trapped behind a wall of thick, dirty ice, entombed alive in it. In place of words, all that reached my ears was a dull, brassy drone.

Mother tore out her hairpin and used it to scratch two words into the ice, but they appeared back to front, and I couldn't read them in time because my little brother suddenly entered the scene. Aulus' small body was trapped in the press of stampeding citizens as they fled the city, his eyes wide with panic. Mother turned from me and rushed to aid my brother, hair flailing behind her, the tips of the tresses catching fire as the burning wind rushed over her. Arms outstretched like a dragnet, she made an instinctive but futile effort to catch Aulus and wrap him up before the thermal currents scorched them both to ash. The ice was the only thing protecting me from the unstoppable fire, yet I battered it with my fists, clawed at it until my fingernails splintered and snapped. I fought to stay, prayed to Minerva that I be consumed with Mother and Aulus, disintegrated by heat and light.

*   *   *

I
WOKE IN A
fevered state, burning up, heart racing, breathing rapid and shallow. The silk sheet was drenched in sweat, clinging to my body like a hungry ghost. The urge to sit up and grasp for a lungful of air was strong, but instead, I kicked the sheet off the end of the bed and lay there, tears stinging my eyes, forcing my lungs to take the slowest, deepest possible breaths.

A clear golden light bathed the high ceiling of my bedchamber, the kind that follows a summer dawn. The gilded cornices that skirted the ceiling's edges bore seventy-one cracks of varying lengths, and I slowly counted each one in turn until I could breathe normally and all that remained was a residual choleric anger—the outrage that any human being must experience at witnessing the murder of loved ones. The sharpest sword dulls with repeated use, but the dream never lost its cruel edge. My ears still rang with the sound of Mother's voice trying to penetrate the wall of ice between us. No instrument could replicate the unsettling drone that poured from her mouth. The closest analogy I could come up with (and in the aftermath of the dream each morning, I had plenty of time to turn things like this around in my mind) was the sound of a living beehive submerged in water.

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