A crimson-tinged mist of sweat and blood stained the air as Dean reeled from the shocking force of the blow, his sword flying out of his hand and skittering across the uneven ground away from him. Stumbling sideways, he pirouetted clumsily on legs like water, tilting nauseously as he struggled to maintain some kind of equilibrium.
Somewhere, a long, long way away, amidst a concerto of tweeting birds and ringing bells, he could hear Sam's frantic voice calling out his name.
His world spun and whirled; a nebula of floating stars twinkled and blinked around him. Cautiously opening his eyes, he could just make out, through the tear-hazed, wheeling chaos, Sam's blurred form across the enclosure struggling and bucking like an unbroken mustang as he fought furiously to break free of his shackles, and the increasingly traumatised guards who were clinging onto him with grim determination.
Spitting a sticky ribbon of bloody foam into the ground, Dean blinked wildly as his eyes began to refocus, and the stomach-churning thrill-ride that his world had become began to ease back to something approaching bearable.
He regained his wits just in time to see the grinning giant bear down on him again, sword raised and ready to sweep. The predator had scented the blood of his prey, and was moving in for the kill.
Dean instinctively leapt backwards, feeling the draught, and hearing the whine as the tip of the wooden blade slashed past his chest, close enough to rip open the coarse fabric of his tunic. He stumbled back with a gasp; that would have damn near cut him in half if he hadn't got out of its way.
There was Sam again, still raising Cain and practically dragging his six frantic guards across the enclosure in his desperate attempt to wade into the fray and help Dean; Dean made a brief mental note to congratulate Sam on managing to draw so much blood using only his elbows and his head.
Another whistling slash; this time Dean ducked as the wooden sword arcked across the air above his head.
He could feel his heart pounding wildly ; his whole body pulsing with the sheer force of the adrenaline racing around his battered system, driving him dangerously close to hyperventilating. This was freakin' serious; this lunatic could kill him if he didn't get his ass in gear right now.
"DEAN, HERE …"
Dean didn't dare pull his eyes away from the advancing titan, but his instinct told him that Sam had managed to drag his struggling entourage just far enough across the ring to be able to kick Dean's sword back toward him before they had managed to overpower him.
But Dean ignored it, he knew he was better off without the damn thing as he darted forward, shimmying sideways to avoid a violent sword thrust ramrod straight toward his belly.
"Hey, Jabba," he yelled, his voice bubbling through foamy blood, as he landed a socking haymaker into his opponent's rock hard flank.
To Dean's dismay, the blow which was hard enough to rattle his knuckles all the way up to his shoulder and back down the other side, seemed to do little more than inconvenience rather than hurt the man, and Dean found himself on the receiving end again as an enormous musclebound forearm whipped round and caught him across the ribs, carrying him through the air like a rag doll before gravity took over, dumping him unceremoniously on his ass halfway across the enclosure.
Dean now knew he wasn't going to be able to win this bout by his own strength and power alone. He was strong, sure; way stronger than most guys he knew, but a sense of realism was the key here. Even a charging bull couldn't bring down a mountain.
His racing mind considered his only other advantage - speed. He was much faster and more nimble than Godzilla here, who lumbered around with the speed and agility of a continental drift, but … one swipe, that's all it would would take; one lucky swipe of those massive gorilla arms would take his goddamn head off.
No, he couldn't take the chance of prolonging this farce; he had to end it and he had to end it now.
Life had taught him that when all else failed there was one specific technique which could be applied to good effect when fighting someone much bigger, heavier and stronger than you.
It was called cheating.
Rolling over and grimacing at the sting of his grazed, sand-caked butt-cheeks, Dean clambered to his feet, trying to calm his breathing as his battered lungs fought for the air that had been so rudely displaced as he was flung onto his back. He knew what he had to do; there was only going to be one way he could immobilise this monster.
Taking a few tentative steps back from his approaching doom, he took the deepest breath he could manage and stooped deeply to ensure that he would be under the range of the giant's colossal arm, and more importantly the deadly lump of wood he was wielding. Then he sprang forward, one … two … three strides, throwing the full weight of his one hundred eighty pounds behind the charge, and violently rammed the top of his head with the force of a jackhammer into the gargantuan jewels bulging underneath the loincloth.
He gave a satisfied smirk as he heard the roar of agony that sounded before the giant man imploded, his weapon falling limply from his hand as he staggered forwards and dropped helplessly to his knees, clutching his battered vitals with great tears, worthy of a man-mountain, rolling down his cheeks.
Dean acted swiftly, grabbing the mighty head by the ears, forcefully pulling it down, just as he violently thrust a knee up to meet it.
There came a satisfying crack of kneecap meeting bridge of nose, and the huge body went limp, faceplanting heavily into the ground like a felled oak.
Dean stumbled backwards, panting and listing sideways as he curled a protective arm around his bruised ribs, and turned defiantly on the Lanista.
"There," he roared, stepping over the inert body; "hope you're satisfied you oily, fat, sonofabitch." Lanista sat, bulging lazily over the edges of his seat, staring impassively back at him; a faint smirk of approval playing across his stubbled jowls.
Dean hobbled urgently back across to Sam who, along with six bleeding, dishevelled attendants, stood frozen in mute shock.
Sam nodded, wide eyed in awe. "Dude, you totally nutted his – uh – nuts!"
Dean scowled; "Yeah well they were too freakin' far up to reach with my knee. He spat another bloodstained gobbet of foam into the grey dust around his feet, wiping the back of a dusty hand across his split lip.
"I never had my face that close to …" he shuddered with a queasy grimace; "… never mind."
Sam watched as a team of harried slaves ran past them with a stretcher that appeared to be comically inadequate for the task in hand; "I get the impression, I was supposed to fight him after you."
"Well, looks like you're off the hook for now," Dean groaned, sinking to his knees as he cradled the rapidly swelling and darkening bruise across his cheekbone with a shaking hand.
Sam reached out his shackled hands, shooting a defiant glare of molten fury to his cowering escort that suggested a swift and violent death en mass if they made a single move to stop him, and cupped Dean's drooping head in a gesture of support.
His guards stood by meekly and allowed it.
The rotting sash on the museum window groaned painfully as Bobby painstakingly inched it upwards before heaving his body up onto the sill and pouring himself through the still-too-narrow gap. He let out an involuntary yelp of shock as he tumbled clumsily into an unco-ordinated heap, displacing a pile of books.
Damnit, he was getting too old for this.
Rolling slowly over, he glanced up through the darkness which shrouded the abandoned building, blinking and hesitating to allow his eyes to adjust to the gloom. Having impatiently pounded the streets all day waiting for twilight to fall, he was wired from way too much caffeine and buzzing with the urgency of the job in hand.
He wandered round the lifeless room; through a haphazard jumble of packing crates and wrapped exhibits, losing himself in the darkening shadows as he paced among the looming shapes. His flashlight beam weaved and fluttered around the room, highlighting everything … and nothing.
He was suddenly distracted by a sound; jumping slightly as he heard a stuttering, crackling beep.
His EMF Meter crackled into life, and he clutched it, fiddling with the frequency like a set of worry beads as he continued to pace slowly and randomly around the room.
As he moved between the shrouded exhibits, the meter's feedback increased in volume and urgency until he found himself standing in a spot at which it worked itself into a frenzy.
Cautiously lifting the edge of a massive white sheet hanging beside him, he groaned as he saw what was revealed under it.
The huge stone block bearing the carving of the two brawling gladiators stared back at him.
Bobby shuddered, and let out a deep sigh.
If there was a spirit, that meant there definitely was a curse.
And if the curse was the same one that he'd been reading about, then that meant he finally knew where - and when - the boys were.
He closed his eyes and pulled in a long, shaky breath.
Sometimes ignorance really was bliss.