Excerpt from "Arena of Death" (1953)

For a moment all was still.

Manglorious opened his eyes. His blade had run through the creature's neck and brain, bringing its slavering jaws to halt mere inches away from his noble brow. Jets of foul ichor coursed from the gaping wound in its throat and down his trembling arms. The beast continued to writhe for a minute, and then its sinuous coils dropped lifelessly onto the sandy earth of the arena floor.

It was over. He still lived.

He planted the haft of his halberd in the ground and lurched to his feet.

"Pazar Paxu!" he bellowed. "I have defeated your monstrosities! Now bring the girl to me, as we agreed!"

For a moment a look of admiration shone in the wizard's yellow eyes. "Well done, barbarian! By Xernegus and Malthoxia, I had thought my lion-snakes would prove your match! Truly, you are mighty indeed." A silent moment passed and then a cruel smile began to play across Pazar Paxu's fleshless lips. "But I am afraid, that your gantlet is not over yet."

Hot flashes of anger began to throb through Manglorious's veins. "That is not what we agreed on, sorcerer! I am tempted to climb up there and tear your serpent's tongue from your lying throat!"

"Now, now," the wizard chortled. "There's no need for such an outburst. Only one obstacle remains between you and your freedom. I think you shall find this one most… intriguing." He gestured extravagantly to one of his unseen thralls.

Manglorious wheeled as the portcullis of doom began to slowly raise again. He guardedly raised his halberd and tried to anticipate what horrible surprise Pazar Paxu had in store for him. Some of the gorilla-creatures he had fought through on his way to the top of the mountain? More lion-snakes? A dragon?

It was a woman.

And what a woman.

She was nearly as tall as he was — perhaps taller. She was slender, perhaps, but only a fool would fail to see the rippling muscles beneath her glowing alabaster skin. Her long black hair was tied in three braids that fell past her ample bosom to her pert waist. She wore a simple halter and skirt of blackened leather, adorned by oriental patterns in hammered brass. In her left hand she clutched one of the cruel curved swords of the east, and in her right, the severed head of faithful Xong, his studied inscrutability finally broken by a pained rictus.

She was the spitting image of his dead wife.

She studied him with her pale green eyes and a playful smile danced on her wicked lips. "I am Kaileetha of Lemnoros, barbarian," she sweetly intoned, "and I am your death."

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