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rejoicing story cover with starsSta Hyt Mai, Zarbanni Warrior of the Twelfth Order, Holder of twenty-fifth level fame, is an interesting character. You can read about her origins in a free short story available on Smashwords. There Shall Be Great Rejoicing was written to accompany my Lone Wolf sci-fi series.

When first introduced, Mai comes on a little strong. She seems abrupt and offensive until the others realize that she’s really very shy. Though they share a common heritage, Mai isn’t anything like the others. She most closely resembles the Fellician warriors, giant, sentient cats who most often work as mercenaries. Although Mai is a catlike race, she’s hairless—something the other Cats find both odd and interesting.

Not long after she arrives on Shakazhan, Mai proves her worth by facing down an enemy. It becomes readily apparent, she is more than any of them anticipated.

Below is a short excerpt from There Shall Be Great Rejoicing, The Story of Mai, my free short story.

Sta Hyt Mai surveyed the crowd in the arena stands. This was by far her largest audience, roughly five thousand souls. Her prior bouts had been in front of two hundred or less, certainly never more than that in any of the small town arenas.

This trial was different, a civil case on a region wide level. It required a larger body of witnesses to her success or, she conceded silently, her defeat. It was no simple matter of a public insult or damaged property, but a crime second only to murder, fame theft.

The matter would be decided between herself, a class four duelist, and the accused. He had the right to representation, but his fame would buy only a class two duelist. They were by far less experienced and trained than she. He felt he could do better on his own, so he was allowed to defend himself.

Mai didn’t know if he was guilty or innocent, nor did she care. She was here to do a job, nothing more. At least it wasn’t a death match. She shivered in her thin, linen garment. The air was moist, chilly and foggy. She couldn’t see the top rows of the stands. That made it a little easier, she could imagine a smaller audience and not be so intimidated.

“It’s time to change,” her Guild Mentor said softly. She followed him to the duelist dressing room. At least a dozen other members of the planetary Guild of Duelists were preparing for their matches.

Mai kept her eyes lowered, chin bent discretely to her chest, her hands clasped before her, the very picture of subservience. She was the lowest ranking duelist present, as well as the youngest. She didn’t linger on the fact that she was also the only member of the guild to have attained her rank at the age of fifteen. Most didn’t get to class four before the age of twenty. If she won this match today, she would gain enough fame to advance in rank, fifth or possibly sixth if it was a quick victory.

She followed her mentor to her dressing area where he helped her don her fighting clothes, a brief white and yellow chiton, depicting her rank, and a snug loin cloth in the same colors. As was customary, she would remove the chiton in the arena, fighting only in the loin cloth.

“What weapon has been chosen, Deliss?” She asked her mentor Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]quietly.

Deliss blinked large, golden eyes, his hawk like, tawny features covered with soft feathers, glimmered like metal in the dim light.

“He has chosen to fight with the logost, Mai.”

They exchanged a brief smile. The logost was her best weapon; a staff approximately twenty-four inches long and as thick around as her wrist. Her long, muscular fingers could grip it easily and her sinewy arms moved with lightning swiftness.

“Have you made your preparations and ablutions?”

“Yes, Deliss.”

“Are you afraid, little Mai?” He looked at her tenderly, for he was as much a father as a mentor.

“Somewhat,” she admitted, blushing slightly, turning her golden skin a rosy pink.

He touched her cheek with the back of his hand, catching her gaze. At first they had found one another’s eyes disturbing, for their races didn’t generally associate. Mai’s feline race, the Zarbanni, and Deliss’s avian people were from opposite sides of Bankaywan. Both peoples kept to themselves. Her catlike eyes with the extra nictating membrane had bothered him just as his golden, Peregrine eyes had frightened her.

“You will make me proud, Mai and bring both of us great fame.” He limped away sitting heavily on the bench in front of her.

“I will try, Deliss.”

He smiled comfortingly. “You always do well, Mai. Of all my students, you’re the best.” Her blush deepened. “Your match is third on the docket. The first two cases are property disputes and should be quickly settled. They will call you in a few minutes.”

He stood carefully, favoring his bad left hip, moving gingerly toward the door. She watched him leave in silence, ignoring his infirmity. It was one thing they never discussed, although everything else they did. Deliss had once been in line for the Championship, but in his final match, he was injured, nearly killed.

His opponent, a Minotaur, grappled with him, spinning him above his head. He hurled Deliss into the crowd with such force, even his wings hadn’t spared him the fall, for he had been unable to open them quickly enough in the confined space. Instead, his left hip shattered, seven ribs broke, left arm dislocated and his wings were irrevocably damaged. He never fully recovered. As his fall killed or injured six high ranking, influential people, his reputation was ruined along with his body.

As a mentor, he was invaluable to the guild, who kept him on despite his injuries and disgrace. As Mai was the youngest and least prestigious of all new students, they were foisted off on one another. But the match was smiled upon by the gods of fame, for she had won many duels where she was outmatched. Side betting would be heavy. Many fame tokens would exchange hands today.

A servant came up to her, gesturing for her to follow. “It’s time, Duelist Sta,” the servant said respectfully. She followed him into the arena quietly.

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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