"Who do you keep looking up to?" asked Isaac, his curls already peeking beneath his helmet. Without seeing the youth in combat it would be hard to believe he was a vicious fighter, already the victor of several battles. These displays of violence did not help him fight the accusation that he had murdered his father however, though Isaac still firmly held that he was innocent of such a claim.
"Nothing," Derek answered quietly, strapping his gauntlet tighter. As a formal noble he was better suited for dressing himself in armor than most the men around him, but that didn’t mean the scraps they received fit him any better.
Isaac peered upwards to the balcony full of nobles. “Lady Martin, I wonder?” He chuckled dryly. “I served her at the Whittemore house. Not one to be bedding gladiators at a whim, not if her gaze towards young Lord Jackson had anything to say.” He glanced back to Derek, as if to confirm his suspicions.
"I know a venomous woman when I see one," was all Derek muttered back.
"Ah, so perhaps her companion?" Isaac looked once more. "Young Lord Stilinski, I believe. Can’t quite remember his first name… Though I remember Lady Martin calling him Stiles."
Obviously a shortening of his family name, Derek thought to himself, gazing up once more to the youth. The boy could be no more than sixteen summers, with an upturned nose and moles that dotted his face. The sun burned brilliantly behind him, giving highlights to his closely cut hair, and turning his brown eyes amber.
It set memories blazing in Derek’s mind, of a fortune teller with sad eyes who told him of destiny and greatness. That he would one day meet a child of Apollo, and give them the glory of an empire. He had, only a few months ago, believed that to be Kate; Kate, with her golden locks and prideful eyes, who had all the greatness of a God and all the terrible wrath of one.
He looked away from the sunlit boy and back to the arena. Today he wouldn’t simply flash his wolf eyes and scare away a few animals. Today he would kill a man, staining his hands ever deeper with the crimson of death, his blue eyes shining with the innocents killed.
Today he was a gladiator, and today he would not die.
So after the game…
"My, my, my," said Lydia as she began to pluck the purple flowers from her hair delicately, one by one. "That certainly is a way to capture Gladiator Hale’s attention. Though I’m not sure what your father will say to throwing away your birthday present to a mere fighter…"
Stiles waved a flippant hand. “That trinket? My father said that it would give me Apollo’s grace. I’m sure Hale needs the Gods’ favor far more than I.”
"Oh? And shall the gladiator receive a young lord’s favor as well?" Lydia scrunched her nose with a wicked smile. "A token of affection seems awfully bold of even you, Stiles. You should have seen the look on Emperor Argent’s face. The old man looked like he was about to pop a vein…" She offered Stiles her hand.
"He would do his oh-so-loyal subjects quite the favor if he did." Stiles took the offered hand, giving her a slight bow. "And why should he care who I take into my bed chambers? I may pay for the pleasure of Hale’s company, same as any other noble."
"Why Stiles, such brash words said in front of such a refined lady as myself," Lydia answered with a smirk as she stood. "With such talk as that you’ll only double your father’s efforts for us to be betrothed, and for me to make a proper lord of you."
Stiles kissed her hand and grinned up to her. “I believe we both know that would never happen, should we be interested in wedding at all. Now, is not Lord Jackson expecting to see you within this hour? Speaking of bed chambers, and the dealings within them...”
Lydia tutted as she yanked her hand free, a pretend pout gracing her lips. “Why Stiles, you know I am simply spending the night within Lady Allison’s household.”
"Yes, and Lady Allison is simply spending the night within your household. Accompanied by the faithful soldier Scott, there for her every whim." He gave a cheeky wink. "Hopefully I’ll be having such a faithful soldier of my own soon."
"The young lord seems to favor you," noted Isaac dryly, washing hot blood off his chest. Derek had been glad that they had never been ordered to fight against each other. The young man’s lithe body and quick moves gave him an advantage to those of greater bulk.
Derek simply allowed the chain of the necklace to slip through his fingers as he passed it from one hand to the other. It was gold and soft, and the pendent was no larger than a coin, with the carving of a lute within it. Apollo’s symbol.
Were the gods trying to tell him something?
"Will you be accepting his offer, should he try you for a night?" asked Isaac, leaning cockily against the wall. "If he likes you enough he may buy you. Far better to be a young noble’s plaything than risk your life for a crowd’s amusement, if you ask me."
"And have not you had such offers?" asked Derek.
Isaac simply shrugged. “Old politicians all. No, it would take the princess herself to woo me into a bed.” His eyes narrowed. “But you kept looking at the lordling, didn’t you? Perhaps his bedchamber is exactly where you wish to be.”
Derek didn’t answer. He could not deny the truth that Lord Stiles’ bed seemed very welcoming, whether the Gods led him to it or not.