Read an excerpt from Spartacus: Swords and Ashes
Spartacus is the hit TV show which combines blood-soaked action, exotic sexuality, villainy and heroism. This original novel from the world of Spartacus: Blood and Sand tells a brand-new story of blood, sex and politics set in the uncompromising visceral world of the arena.
Check out our preview of Spartacus: Swords and Ashes below:
Those gladiators who had shields held them over their heads to keep off the rain. Those who did not did the best they could with the flats of wooden swords, or lifted helmet visors. They stood, intently, watching two lone gladiators who stood waiting in the training ground. The storm pelted every man with rain, but none voiced a word of complaint.
“Now,” Oenomaus bellowed over the noise of the downpour, “observe their footing. Barca, the Carthaginian giant, the strongest and heaviest among you, shall fight as murmillo.” Oenomaus gestured with his hand, and Pietros the slave darted forward with a sword and heavy shield for the Carthaginian.
“Spartacus,” Oenomaus continued, “is fleet of foot, and not the heaviest of our fighters. He shall fight…” Oenomaus glanced over to the weapons store, where Pietros was already fishing out the sword and light shield of the Thracian style.
“…as retiarius,” Oenomaus finished. Pietros glanced at him in confusion, as did Spartacus himself.
“I do not fight with net and trident, Doctore,” Spartacus noted.
“Indeed you do not, Champion of Capua,” Oenomaus said, “and yet you will come to know them intimately in the arena. Hold them in your hands, so you will know how to defeat them.”
Pietros scurried over with a fisherman’s net and three- pointed spear. Spartacus hefted the trident experimentally, feeling its strange displacement.
“Note the unfamiliar weight of the trident,” Oenomaus continued. “Best held either right behind the head or at the far end of the haft. In either mode, an ideal weapon… for spearing fish!”
The men laughed as Spartacus looked on grimly. Barca laughed loudest of all, swinging both his sword and shield in great, deadly arcs about him.
“Do I hear a coin bet on Barca, the Beast of Carthage?” Oenomaus called.
“If I had a coin I would wager it so,” Varro answered.
Spartacus shot the blond roman a scowl.
“Apologies, my friend!” Varro laughed. “You are not destined for fishing.”
“We shall see,” Oenomaus said, lifting his whip and cracking it through the falling rain. “Begin!”
Spartacus clutched the net in his fist like a forgotten towel—he had not even had the chance to spread it out and check its dimensions. Barca had no such doubts, charging directly at his foe.
Spartacus hurled his trident straight at the oncoming Carthaginian.
The gladiators gasped as Barca barely halted the trident—the triple-points pierced right through his hastily raised shield, and stuck fast. The weight of the trident dragged down Barca’s shield arm, and the Carthaginian fervently tried to shuck the dead weight as the Thracian launched his second attack.
Spartacus whirled the net around his head, feeling the strong pull of the round lead weights at its edges. He leaned forward and caught Barca’s head with the edge of the net, causing the hulking Carthaginian to yell out in pain and surprise. Barca held out his sword to block the net on its next swing, but Spartacus had stepped another two paces closer, causing his net to wrap around Barca’s sword. Barca pulled back, in an attempt to drag Spartacus and his net closer to him, only for Spartacus to let go of the net altogether.
Barca’s eyes widened in surprise. He lost his footing on the wet sand and mud, pitching backward and landing with a cry of expelled air on the soft sand. He scrambled to get back to his feet, but slipped a second time, while Spartacus grabbed the fallen trident. The Thracian jammed the business end of the trident—Barca’s impaled shield still attached—into the Carthaginian’s face, temporarily blinding him as Spartacus snatched up Barca’s fallen sword and—
“Stop!” Oenomaus’ voice rang through the courtyard. Spartacus froze mid-action, ready to stab the sword down between the ribs of the man who had previously wielded it. The gladiators clapped politely, while Barca disdainfully scraped wet mud and sand off his body. Barca stared silently, as if willing daggers to fall from the sky and stab Spartacus to death.
“Observe how circumstances can change. Barca fought with his weapons of habit, on ground he thought familiar. Spartacus fought with weapons unfamiliar, and…” even Oenomaus could not resist a smile, “did so in a manner most unorthodox. The change in terrain has served to his advantage.”
Oenomaus waited for his words to sink in, as the rain continued to spatter down upon the gathering of men. They stared back at him attentively, squinting as the water ran into their eyes.
“Enough,” Oenomaus declared. “To the baths, let oil replace rain.”
The gladiators trudged indoors, dawdling only insofar as seemed appropriate, determined to prove that nothing so ineffectual as mere rain could cause them to retreat. Oenomaus was last to leave the square, just as he was habitually the first to arrive there each morning.
“A moment, Doctore,” Batiatus called, as the towering warrior descended the steps toward the steam room.
“Your will,” Oenomaus said. He stood, the water pooling at his feet, and waited for his master’s instruction.
“I require five men, in the best condition.”
“I will set to purpose,” Oenomaus replied. “But the next exhibition is not until—”
“Not for Capuan rabble,” Batiatus explained. “Those ungrateful vermin will have to wait their turn. A new audience awaits us, in Neapolis.”
“Ah,” Oenomaus said. “I have heard speak of the death of Pelorus.”
“Word would not travel so fast,” Batiatus muttered, “if I were to remove tongues with knife.”
“Older voices recalled days spent under roof of this ludus,” Oenomaus said. “They meant no malice in its telling.”
“No matter,” Batiatus said. “The men will be on cart tonight, and bound for Atella by mid-morning, and Neapolis by night.”
“Mercury would struggle to sprint such a course,” Oenomaus observed guardedly.
“I myself will be spending the next two days in cursed litter,” Batiatus scowled. “Find carter to add human cargo for extra coin.”
“I shall make preparations for us.”
“You will remain.”
“You will train the men in preparation for exhibition here in Capua. Ashur will handle accounts in my absence.”
Oenomaus looked troubled.
“Lucretia?” Batiatus laughed. “The woman only wants the wants of her ‘friend.’ and her friend has business in Neapolis. Trust me, doctore, she makes preparation for departure as we speak!”