The burning sun leered down on the three young women, each awaiting their turn to boast of their fighting skill to the cheering crowd looming over the arena. "We who are about to die, salute you," each chanted to the crowd. As today's slaughter was to be a Triangle of Death event; only one would leave alive. The voyeurs devoured the lies and exaggerations spurting from the teen-agers mouths, like the blood that soon would gush upon the hot sand.

The lithe Nubian, brandishing her trident and fish net, wasn't fluent in Latin and had but one kill to her credit. Dressed in a tiger skin that left her right breast and left thigh exposed and no helmet, she stammered in her birdlike tongue. Her tale was about her innocent-looking victim, armed only with a short sword, who soon became a raging tiger. Hundra, the youngest of the three, had witnessed the vanquishing of the "ferocious beast" from the safety of the trainee stand. She had bowed her head in a pagan prayer as the black bitch's trident disemboweled the half-naked Spanish teen, who had died begging for mercy.

"We're all too young to die," Hundra mumbled to herself, as she heard the muscular Goth speak in educated Latin. The statuesque woman claimed to be a princess, but now she was just a slave like the rest of them waiting to kill or be killed. The smug savage, wearing a horse-tailed helmet and garbed in a short skirt of thin leather strips, was bronzed and her monstrous, naked breasts heaved while she bragged about how her huge axe chopped one girl in half and split the skull of another. Hundra knew she could never turn her back on this one if she expected to walk away today.

At long last, the lanesta beckoned to Hundra to speak her piece. Fresh out of training, she knew the game scroll announced her virginity in the arena. Her story about how she had been bartered, eighteen winters ago, to the slavers for twenty pieces of silver so her large, starving family could survive another remorseless winter on the Eurasian steppes would not gain her any sympathy from the gamblers howling above her. A tomboy, she had enjoyed fencing with her play sword and shield with the village boys. She was doomed to the gladiatrix arena in Hispana when her drunken father had bragged to the slave-catchers how many boys, and even a few tough girls, had felt the thunk of her wooden blade on their chests and heads.

Hundra's story ended the trumpeter awaited the games-master's signal to commence the entertainment. Her two opponents glared at her, like two butchers evaluating a carcass. Her padded, chain-mail halter and cotton-lined, steel groin-guard would offer her scant protection against the Nubian's trident plunging into the exposed top of her chest or her naked abdomen. She winced when she envisioned the Goth's double-bladed axe cleaving her plumed helmet. Hundra saluted both of them with her short sword and they brandished their weapons at her. The crowd yelled for the action to begin.

"It's a good day to die," Hundra commented to the blazing sun. The horn brayed and all three gladiatrices circled for offensive positions. Hundra, being the smallest and most inexperienced, hoped her small shield would keep her alive until one of the women warriors was dispatched to their God. If she was lucky, her opponent would be wounded by the time she had to fight her.

The Goth charged the black girl who then tried to catch her prey in her net but missed. She lunged at the axe-woman's bouncing bust, but her fish spear was parried by the axe head. The Nubian flung her net again, this time binding her opponent's sweaty head and shoulders like a spider's web. With a heroic effort, the fatigued African evaded the swinging axe and jabbed the Goth in her upper left thigh. The Gothic giant screamed a curse and used her enormous strength to lift her attacker off the ground, flinging her away like a rag doll. She then limped back to her fallen axe.

Ferret-like, Hundra jumped at the panting black woman when she observed the Goth retreating. The injured giantess kept a keen eye on the raven-haired beauty and the Nubian. The African concentrated on slaying the wounded woman before she could use the axe on her. In her haste, the trident-fighter failed to spot the nimble swordswoman making a lightning-fast move on her.

The young gladiatrix slashed downward at the chest of the startled Nubian, who had just tossed her net at the half-naked warrior. The ambushed Nubian screamed and dropped her trident and net, freeing her intended victim who then unraveled herself. The big blonde limped away to catch her breath and observe how well this unproven threat fought.

The African clutched her ripped right breast with both hands and realized how stupid she was for underestimating the young Eurasian. The hungry sand tasted its first blood as the frightened black sank to her knees, fear in her dark eyes. Her opponent stared at her bloodstained sword, summoning the courage to finish off her opponent before the axe-woman recovered and hunted her down like a deer.

A bright reflection dazzled the Eurasian's eyes, distracting her from thrusting her blade into the wounded girl's neck. The former peasant twisted to her left and brandished her shield above her. She grimaced as the monstrous axe splintered her oaken buckler. The blade's remaining force then bit through the chain-mail links hugging her left breast. Hundra cried out in pain, but was able to roll away. She was then surprised when the enraged Goth ignored her and advanced on the bloody Nubian cringing on the sand, her head bowed as her life flowed upon the reddened sand.

Hundra leaped for safety, not wanting to wait for her own deathblow to send her to Hades. The Amazon blonde decided to kill the stricken Nubian first, saving the raven-haired rabbit whom had escaped her for dessert. The Eurasian heard a stifled shriek, and observed in disgust as a kinky-haired head rolled towards her. She kicked the hideous thing away from her.

The young gladiatrix moaned in agony from the pain in her slashed left breast, and watched rivulets of her lifeblood streaming down her chest and abdomen. A voice in her head renewed her courage. It told her she might die in some other battle, but just not today. She struggled to her knees and raised her sword to challenge the axe. The crowd went crazy and the axe-fighter paused to soak up the praise. After admiring her headless victim, the Goth now decided it was Hundra's time to die.

The big blonde was halted by a near-lethal sword swing at her stomach. Laughing, she knocked the sword to the ground with her axe. So, there was fight left in the weasel, the Goth thought to herself. A crimson fog clouded Hundra's vision as she sagged into the burning sand. The Amazon, towering over her victim like a Collosus, raised her axe to behead her defeated foe. Then, the voice of Odin whispered to the Eurasian girl, "Fight little one; it's not your time."

Summoning her courage, Hundra forced her right arm to obey her. She groped in the bloody sand for her lost sword, grasping the leather-wrapped hilt just before the axe could separate her head from her beautiful neck. Her vision cleared long enough for her to spot the belt-buckle on the axe-woman's skirt. While the axe descended towards her throat, she had a split second to launch her sword arm upward into the silver target, ramming her sword's stained point into her would-be killer's bladder.

A shocked look appeared on the giant's face as she arched her back, dropping her blood-smeared axe. She staggered and clutched the bloody blade protruding from her lower abdomen, the gory blade sticking out of her back. She howled like a beast as blood streamed down her legs and then collapsed, her spine severed. Hundra stood over her, a triumphant look on her face.

Using her last reserve of strength, Hundra kicked the deadly axe out of the Goth's reach and placed her right foot on the beast's stomach. As she wrenched her sword free, she told her victim that it was a fight to the death and only one would walk away today. The crowd roared at Hundra to finish the Goth off so they could collect their bets. Her victim didn't beg for her life and closed her eyes.

The winner of today's match now realized that she wasn't going to bleed to death and would live to fight again. With that thought in mind, she wrenched her red-stained blade free and plunged it into the ample chest of the fallen warrior, slashing her heart. Blood spewed out of her mouth and she gurgled a curse at Hundra before her soul fled her.

Hundra jerked her blade free and brandished it at the shouting mob. She had slept with Death - and would live to tell this tale. Her trusty blade had feasted on blood for its first time. As the arena attendants bound her slashed breast to stop the bleeding, she never felt more alive. She was now battle-tested, and would never have to herd smelly animals again. She would now kill or be killed!

Today's victor turned her head to Heaven, and thanked Odin for giving her the courage to survive today's match. She mourned the two slain women, murmuring, "someone had to die", but happy it wasn't her. She then rejoiced that her cut of today's bets, plus the generous gratuity she would get as a victorious underdog, was the beginning of the gold she craved.

But, would she survive eleven more bouts in the Triangle Of Death, or would she, too, be dragged out by her feet from the arena? She prayed to Odin that she would live to fight again and again, her sword devouring yet more slave women, to fulfill her quest to return home a wealthy woman. Only then would she get her revenge on the family that had turned a shepherdess into a murderer.

--- The End ---