From the Archive: When I was a kid, I used to watch the old “sword and sandal” movies on the local TV station on weekend afternoons and I loved them! Something about the gladiators of ancient Rome really appealed to me and especially as a venue for telling good stories. In particular I loved “Demetrius and the Gladiators” and pretty much any version of “Last Days of Pompeii,” but especially the 1984 TV miniseries with Duncan Regehr as the gladiator Lydon. Oh yessss…..I also hugely enjoyed the first season of “Spartacus” on the Starz cable channel in 2010. That one was almost too gritty for me but presented quite a picture of what the life was like.
The important thing to remember is that a gladiator wasn’t necessarily fighting to the death every time he or she stepped onto the sands. Yes, that did happen on occasion but gladiators were too valuable and too much was invested in their training to just kill off half of them every week. So based on the research I’ve done, I suspect many times the participants simply fought to a draw or till one was vanquished but not killed. Thumbs up.
Live to fight again another day!
As I’ve been writing the Badari Warriors series, I kept thinking they’d make terrific gladiators and I planted a seed in LANDON (SPOILER)……… when two men were rescued from a plan by Khagrish guards to sell them to slavers for the ultimate purpose of becoming gladiators, because by then I’d decided I would write a spinoff series at some point.
I’d previously established the fact in earlier novels that there’s a wild west kind of lawless frontier to the Sectors interstellar civilization. This Hinterlands as it’s known is a dangerous place where anything goes. No Star Guard, no interstellar police, venture there at your peril, lots of credits to be made doing nefarious things. There’s also the Outlier Empire, which I envision as kind of Old Tsarist Russia but translated into a science fiction equivalent. (I explored this more in my book LADY OF THE STAR WIND, if you’re curious.) So it also made sense to me that there’d be smaller civilizations, not part of the Sectors, maybe allied with Outlier and a world like that would be a perfect place for the local citizens to be clinging to an ancient allegedly ‘glorious’ tradition of hand to hand combat, sometimes to the death.
Of course they don’t want to be the ones in the arena fighting for their lives, so there’s quite a brisk trade in slaves brought from elsewhere and condemned to life as gladiators with the mostly illusory promise of freedom dangling in front of their eyes.
So I had all the structure waiting to tell a good – I hope! – story and then my hero Kyden came to me and I was ready to go. He’s a Generation Five Badari, whereas the men in my main series are Generation Eight. I’m being a bit fluid with time and one must remember the Badari can have extremely long lifespans if the Khagrish scientists who created them don’t kill them off as part of their ‘experiments’. It’s really fun to be able to tell some different Badari stories in a completely new setting, without having to wait for my first series to end. I’ll absolutely continue writing the primary series too! REEDE IN THE SECTORS is the next book I’ll be doing.
All these years there’s been one scene in “Demetrius and the Gladiators” which has bothered me because although I understood how it made the plot work in the movie, I didn’t like what transpired. So I’ve “fixed” that to my own great satisfaction now by having Kyden step into a situation which arises to threaten Elara, the woman he loves (which is how they meet, actually).
I’ve had a few readers tell me they were uncertain about the gladiator aspect of the novel but I’m very careful to explain in the book how and why Kyden and his fellow gladiators are forced to fight in the arena, dress in the ancient uniforms and wield the reproduction weapons. It all has a nice solid scifi basis! And a lot of the action and adventure occurs outside the sandy floor of the arena, as in any other science fiction romance.
Here’s the blurb:
KYDEN: BADARI GLADIATORS SERIES BOOK ONE
Kyden is the top ranked gladiator in the Five Systems but he’s hardly there by choice. Unscrupulous guards faked his death in the lab where he was created and sold him into slavery in the galaxy’s hinterlands. He has no idea where his home is or how many years have passed since he was condemned to a life of endless combat. Kill or be killed is the rule and a Badari never gives up. He’ll fight to stay alive until the Badari goddess sees fit to decree his death.
Elara Vasclavian is the daughter of a senator, as far removed from the life of a gladiator as a noblewoman can be until through the machinations of a political enemy, she ends up in terrible jeopardy. Abducted and given to a group of drunken gladiators for their amusement the night before the games, Elara vows to put up a fight but there’s no real hope of saving herself. Until Kyden steps in, responding to the goddess’s commandment to protect those who are smaller and weaker. And discovers she’s his fated mate.
Rescued, Elara returns to her life of privilege but she can’t forget the man who saved her life. The gulf between their places in the Five Systems is unbridgeable, no matter how much Kyden longs for even a glimpse of her in the arena audience. No matter how much she feels the pull to be by his side. As matters stand, they cannot be together…Or can they?
KYDEN is the first book in a new series, spun off from my ongoing Badari Warriors series. Kyden is a Generation Five Badari whereas the main characters in the long running series are from a later time and are Generation Eight. This new series stands alone and you don’t have to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one. I couldn’t resist the temptation to tell a few other Badari stories, set in the galaxy’s Hinterlands, and who can resist gladiators?
A quick excerpt from one of Kyden’s afternoons in the arena:
His bout was last, as befitting for the champion of the Five Systems. While he was waiting in the wings, he pondered how good it felt to have a person in the audience who was there just for him. Not for the Death Dealer and the spectacle, but to support him. The difference in his attitude was amazing and he cautioned himself against enjoying the experience too much. Kind as it was of the lady to attend the bout today, surely she’d only meant it as a one-time event. A small sign of gratitude for what he’d done last night.
When it was time for him to return to the sands, he found the klixta worms waiting for him in a writhing mass. They were quite ferocious in appearance, with tentacles and barbs but were actually a mindless mass of parasites from a forest world. A clever gladiator could make the creature appear to be a formidable opponent by dancing in and out of reach, slicing off appendages as the klixta roared and advanced, but in reality the alien life form ate only lichen and large insects. They were a closely held secret of the gladiatorial world because crowds loved them. Occasionally a gladiator was assigned to be ‘devoured’ by the klixta and other men assigned to ‘rescue’ him, which the crowds adored. The common people ate up all the public relations flackery about the gallant warriors and the friendships and feuds which supposedly went on.
Erment and the other masters kept tight control on the promotional machinery.
Kyden made an excellent show of his time with the klixta, conscious of Elara in her luxurious box, watching. He wanted her to see him at his best and he was glad he wasn’t fighting other humanoids today. He had no desire to hurt or kill anyone in front of her. This protoplasmic chimera didn’t feel pain as far as anyone could ascertain and regenerated in an acid bath in a few days so he had no qualms. The crowd roared its approval as he cut off the final ‘head’ and the klixta collapsed, oozing brightly colored fluids onto the sand.
He bowed to the empty emperor’s box and then—greatly daring—to the Senatorial seats. Warmth ran through him at the quick sight of the lady applauding his effort.
The bored officials brought him the afternoon’s crown of woven greenery while the announcer read off his point totals and then Kyden left the arena without attempting to see Elara again. In the antechamber, gladiators congratulated him profanely on his ‘win’ as they disrobed and cleaned their weapons from their own bouts. He responded in kind and headed for the refresher chamber, which his status entitled him to use rather than the communal showers.
Erment intercepted him. “You did a nice job today. Thanks for putting all the effort into it just for the bored lower tier rats.”
“If I set foot on the sand, I do my best,” he said, curious as to why the master was here at all.
“You’ve been requested for an audience,” Erment said, lowering his voice. “In the special office.”
A surge of hope spun through his mind, quickly pushed away. She’d never be so indiscreet. Being in the stadium today was a risk for her after the unsavory events of the prior evening. Probably some overawed young scion of a House wanting private lessons will be waiting for me. Erment was practically incapable of turning down the chance to make a credit from services provided by any of his gladiators, no matter what the client wanted the man to do. “All right, let me shower and change. I’ve got the damn klixta sap all over.”
Shaking his head, Erment handed him a wash rag. “No time. She said immediately. Wipe yourself off and come on.” The master reached out and snagged a fresh scarlet cloak from a hook on the wall. “Wear this and you’ll be fine. She didn’t ask for or pay for skin privileges.”
As he was rushed across the huge space to the visitors’ office, Kyden couldn’t decide between being insulted on Elara’s behalf that Erment even considered she might lower herself to ask for a quick sexual encounter, or disappointed for himself. He’d dreamt of her soft skin and lush curves.