The brazen metal bars behind me groaned and squeaked as they slammed shut. My armor felt cold and weighted and my helmet misplaced. But my energy was surprisingly strong and alive.
That same low longing whisper from last night’s dream emerged in my thoughts.
Free me! Free me! It had said, Or else your kind shall be lost forever.
I shook my head freeing myself from the whispers and tried to focus on the event that was about to take place.
I stepped forward a little bit and a low gaining growl evaded from the guard who stood in front of me.
My grip tightened even further around my gladius.
“Anticipating your death?” He sneered. Then stepped closer into view towering twice as tall as I was with six muscular bulging arms as he clenched and unclenched his fists. His putrid smell shoved its way up my nostrils and his crazy sneer appeared as grotesque as his dirty chapped feet.
“Go back to the crows, Gegene.” I answered.
A growl erupted from his throat again. It stopped and he said,
“Oh, if I had my way, you puny filth breeds of the gods would’ve been used as toothpicks for my kind by now… but you’re lucky our master wishes you as entertainment.”
He grumbled even louder then stepped out view reaching one of his arms for a rustic lever and mumbling.
“Die with misery.” He said and pulled down the lever.
Massive cage like bars opened up to my north along with dying screams of anticipating monsters and blinding daylight and afternoon heat. I began trudging down the corridor that led to the rapacious crowd of monsters, with my courage and strength dwindling at every step.
What if this was my last fight? I thought to myself as I neared the entrance.
What if… my heart sank. Fear crawling into its place. What if it’s another fellow demi-divine?
The scene flooded into of my memory: The demi-divine son of Apollo, Ethaniel sprawled across the sandy arena floor with an overflowing river of scarlet blood spewing from his side. My sandy sandals placed on top of his heaving chest as I awaited for the signal of his final blow. The memory of the waterfall of salty tears that fell from my eyes as I stabbed my blade downwards at his chest and the roar of the crowd as his lifeless body was dragged away from the arena.
I stopped completely as my feet touched the sandy filled arena floor. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t slay another demi-divine I couldn’t. Tears began pouring out of my eyes and my gladius suddenly became as weighted lead. I had to escape this prison and stop these ruthless deaths.
The shouting of the crowd forged new anger inside of me, anger that I had never felt before. I felt like I wanted to massacre the whole crowd relieve myself of this pain. But that voice from last night spoke again, a pain stricken soft voice.
In due time my child, soon we will rise and take back what they have taken from us. Soon the world will be made anew and your kind will be free.
As the voice receded new courage washed over me. Most of my anger vanished and my will to survive and hopefully escape this prison was renewed.
I focused on the crowd that was seated around the circular arena, towering bloodlust monsters that were waiting for me to make a mistake and end my life.
Their hide glittered with bright gold and reds and deep browns under the glare of the sun and their expressions dreadful to look at.
Standing at the opposite side of the arena was Antaeus, The protagonist of these pointless deaths. He stood half as tall as a siege tower easily surpassing the height and build of the Gegene guard and the midpoint of the arena’s boundary wall.
His rust red skin tone glinted orange in the sunlight as his heavy feet pounded towards me across the arena. No armor or over garments covered his body except for a lion skin loin cloth, that thankfully didn’t reveal much more than his muscular body and legs.
He stopped at the midpoint of the arena, with a giant fang filled grin plastered on his muscular humanoid face.
“Demi-divine of Mercury!” he announced.
The raging crowd died down to listen to his announcement.
“You have triumphed over many opponents in this arena, surviving with incredible skill that makes even me, the best and the greatest a little jealous.”
He said this as if it was a compliment, encouragement even but I didn’t sway towards his sweet words.
“Now once again,” he continued, “It is time for you to face another opponent. He who you are about to face is unlike the others you have met in battle. He surpasses the strength of the great Chimera, surpasses the agility of the mighty Cyclops and surpasses the brains of the clever Sphinx. He is the reaper of mortals…. The great Agrius, twin of Oreius!”
He raised his massive hand, and the crowd erupted in a loud uproar that continued until Antaeus stepped out. His grin widened into a beaming smile that looked like it would fall off at any second.
I heard the heavy rustic sound of metal grinding and the gates that stood behind Antaeus rose. Thick metal chains rustled and the beast I was to face trudged out.
A massive lump of fur and claws that seemed to part the sand as it entered. As it stood erect its build became more viewable; slightly humanoid with a thick waist and legs that bulged and relaxed as it moved. Its body was covered in a shower of black fur that added to its build like plates armor even though the only armor it had on was a poorly crafted spiked barbarian helm that seemed two sizes too small for his head. Its face held an elongated snout which in turn held vicious carnivorous teeth that I knew was dying to sink into my skin. The beast’s keen squinty obsidian eyes looked me over trying to pinpoint a weakness. It sniffed the air, using the slight breeze to take in more of its surroundings.
It roared baring its teeth. And I nearly choked back a gag. His breath was worse than the afternoon heat giving off the stench of rotten human remains and other decaying animals, and stuff that I just didn’t want to explain.
I exhaled when he stopped his billowing and readied myself as he reclaimed himself; his voice sounding like the scraping of the rustic metal bars.
“I am Agrius, bane of men and your executor puny divine.”
Out of the corner of the arena I heard the voice of Antaeus rise over the crowd.
“Arm yourselves.” He said.
I placed my gladius out in front of me and Agrius roared again holding out his hands as a wickedly sharp double headed war axe materialized in his grip. A deep growl emersed from his throat once again, as if he was laughing at me.
Antaeus looked at us pleased then gave the signal.