Chapter 15: Take Me Into Battle
Out of the right gate emerges a stout, angry looking Dwarf (replace species). He has long, unruly hair concealed beneath a horned helmet and a silver battle axe clutched in his left hand. The crowd erupts into cheers.
From the left gate comes a Thunderbird, twice the size of a Dwarf. He has cropped hair and a deep scar across his cheek. He wields a broadsword and a shield baring the battered image of a Thunderbird with a spear clutched in it’s talons.
The Emperor nods to the Captain of the Guard whose name Ra’venna has forgotten and he waves the banner of red material in his hand. Cheers ring out as the prisoners charge at each other.
“What happens if one concedes?” Ra’venna whispers. Helio can barely hear her over the screams of the crowd.
“Conceding isn’t permitted. It is a fight to the death.”
Ra’venna turns her attention to the arena in time to see the Thunderbird decapitate the Dwarf. His head rolls across the dirt leaving a bloody trail in its wake. His body crumples to the crowd. The Thunderbird raises his sword in victory. Two guards scramble to drag the body and head from the arena, applause erupts, so powerful Ra’venna seat shakes beneath her.
“Your family are barbarians.” Ra’venna remarks, disgusted. Helio scoffs and mutter something under his breath.
The ceiling shakes, showering her with dirt. Amsyn scrambles backwards, slamming her back into the stone wall. She gasps in pain. Sinnion whimpers, crawling to her. “I’m okay.” She manages.
A Griffin’s forced down the grungy hallway at spear point. Amsyn wraps her fingers around the cold, rough bars of the cell. The cuts and bumps dig into her flesh hand. The other prisoners bang against their cell doors and call out in their native tongues.
Amsyn blinks back the tears forming in her eyes. She takes Sinnion into her arms. He nuzzles his head against her breast. The soldiers muzzled Sinnion to keep him from burning them.
Amsyn awoke to Sinnion staring down at her. She doesn’t know how long she’s been here. There are no windows with which she can catch a glimpse of the outside world.
The first thing she remembered was what the soldier said to her. The Helix. There’s not a creature alive that doesn’t fear the Helix. It’s a brutal battleground where the winner is still a loser. The last creature standing wins and is granted their freedom, but first they must kill all their opponents. Amsyn made a vow to never take a life only to save them. How is she going to survive this? Does Helio know she’s here?
The tears she’s been suppressing finally spill over onto her pale cheeks. She’s hungry, tired, hopeless, and she doesn’t stand a chance against these criminals. They will kill her and she will have failed Helio. She will have failed her mother and Fulor. Sobs rack her body.
She clutches Sinnion close to her chest. He rubs his snout against her neck in an attempt to soothe her. She sobs louder. She’s trapped with no way out and no one to save her.
Helio needs her though and so do the creatures of Fulor. She doesn’t have a choice. She can’t fail. She must live for all those who have died unjustly. Her cries die and she reaches up and brushes away her tears. She runs her tongue over her chapped lips and gazes down at the Wyvern in her arms. He stares up at her with questioning eyes.
“We are going to survive.” Amsyn decides.
The Thunderbird who won the last three fights is slaughtered by a silver-haired Kitsune who-based on the number of his tails-is at least five or six hundred years old.
Ra’venna snakes a glance at the Emperor and Empress. Helio is nineteen and Terdar is sixteen, but she doesn’t know how old the Emperor and Empress are.
“How old are your parents?” Ra’venna asks, leaning towards the Prince.
He stares at her for a moment, confused, before replying. “My father is 1,360 and my mother is 1,043.”
Solus ascended the throne when he was around 800 years old. He spent a couple centuries solidifying his rule over Quvania before turning his attention to the world. Apollonis, the only child of two powerful nobles, served as a high-ranking commander of the Quvanian army before rising to the rank of General. She was General when Solus became Emperor.
As the Thunderbird’s dead body is dragged from the arena the Kitsune parades around, pumping his fist int he air. The gate is raised and the next contender is pushed out.
Helio sits up. Heat erupts in Ra’venna’s chest, not a soothing heat, but a panicked, fearful wildfire. Ra’venna’s eyes snap to him. “What’s wrong?” She demands.
“Amsyn.” His voice trembles. He can’t stop the fight without exposing the three of them.
Ra’venna glances at the Elf. She looks absolutely terrified, like a baby animal surrounded by predators. She has a bow clutched in her quivering hand and her loyal Wyvern hovering at her side.
“You can fight for her.”
“What?” Ra’venna whisper shouts.
“The rules state one contender can take the place of another.” He explains hastily. The fight is about to begin. Ra’venna shakes her head.
“My job is too protect you, not her.” Helio grabs ahold of her wrist.
“Please. She won’t survive. I-I can’t watch her die. Please, Ra’venna, please.” He begs. Ra’venna sighs heavily.
“Fine. Stop begging it’s unbecoming.” She yanks her wrist away and the heat subsides.
To take the place of another, Helio rambles, she must throw herself in the ring and inform the guards who she is fighting on behalf of.
Ra’venna stands up. She can feel the curious stares on her backs. She leaps from the balcony with outstretched arms, her capes flies behind her like the infinite arms of night. One powerful thrust of her wings propels her forward into the arena.
She marches over to one of the guards. He staggers backwards. “I am fighting on the Elf’s behalf.” Ra’venna bellows, pointing to Amsyn.
The guards nods, too frightened to speak.
Ra’venna approaches Amsyn. “What’s going on?” She cries. She looks awful. Her face is unnaturally pale, her cheeks are sunken, and there are dark circles beneath her eyes.
“I am fighting in your stead.” Amsyn opens her mouth. “Don’t thank me. I’m doing this for Helio.”
Two guards grab ahold of Amsyn and drag her to the outskirts of the arena.
Ra’venna draws her sais. Let them all see what she is capable of without the Nether. Let them see the monster they created.
The Captain of the Guard drops the cloth. “It will be an honor to kill the Dark Duchess.” The Kitsune taunts with a mock bow. Sneering, Ra’venna twirls her sais.
The Kitsune hurls a ball of gathered ice. Ra’venna steps aside and it soars past her. She smirks. He may be powerful, but he has no direction.
Ra’venna charges at him dodging and weaving his frozen blasts. He tries to kick her, but she dodges and drives a sai into his side. He cries out, falling to his knees. Ra’venna uses the other sai to slash open his throat; blood gushes down his front. Ra’venna pulls the sai from his side and he collapses.
She looks down at her blood soaked cloak and frowns. She liked the gift. She glares at the Kitsune’s dead body. How dare he ruin her gift.
Ra’venna glances at Amsyn who seems as scared by the cheering as she does by the two guards holding her. Under the mercenary’s dark gaze she holds Sinnion closer to her.
The gate rises once again and this time a woman is pushed out. She has unkept sapphire hair that reaches down her back and is dressed in teal rags held around her waist by a rope. In her left hand she holds a battered mace with more than half of its spikes missing. Her face may show no fear, but her eyes betray her. She slowly makes her way into the arena, wincing at the sunlight.
Ra’venna watches her closely. An enemy may have many sides and fear does not determine skill. To be brought to the Helix she must have at least an intermediate level of skill.
Then again, they did bring Amsyn here.
The Captain of the Guard-Sir Leonitras-whose name Ra’venna has just remembered signals the start of the fight. The High Priestess raises her hand and fires an knife like blast of water. It flies past Ra’venna’s head, nicking her hood. She narrows her eyes in response. The High Priestess has made the grave mistake of assuming she is an easy target.
The High Priestess charges at her with the mace raised. Ra’venna ducks and delivers a sharp jab to her stomach. She hunches over, coughing violently. The mace falls from her hands. Ra’venna hurls a sai at the High Priestess. It embeds itself in her shoulder. She falls to the ground. Ra’venna stalks over and pulls her up by the hair. She yelps.
Ra’venna locks eyes with Amsyn as she drives her sai into the High Priestess’s skull. Amsyn gasps and looks away, tears streaming down her face.
Ra’venna releases the woman and steps away from the body. She doesn’t dare look at Helio. She won’t be able to stomach the look on his face, the repulsion.
Guards drag away the High Priestess’s bloody body.
The next contender is a black haired woman with horrifying burn scars covering half of her face and a deep a scowl that appears to be etched onto her face. She carries no weapon. Ra’venna regards her with caution. She feels different from the others. The power radiating off of her marks her as either a Griffin, Dragon, or Thunderbird.
The mystery woman looks to Sir Leonitras, awaiting the signal. She’s eager, too eager for Ra’venna’s taste. She has not revealed herself. She isn’t bothered by the idea of facing the Dark Duchess.
The Captain of the Guard lowers his hand.
A smirk spreads across the woman’s grotesque face. Before Ra’venna can react the woman is engulfed in pure darkness. It whirls around her like a cyclone, swallowing her from view. The darkness expands in an impenetrable cloud. Ra’venna curses as it dissipates to reveal a black Dragon.
This could prove to be difficult. All Dragons possess the ability to shift into their more monstrous forms, but how long they can maintain the form is another story. Some can only retain their Dragon form for a few minutes, others for days. Judging by her confidence, she must be able to sustain hers for at least a few hours.
The crowd’s cheers swallow all other sounds, including Helio’s curses.
She stalks towards Ra’venna, every step shaking the ground beneath her feet. Ra’venna tightens her hold on the sais. The Dragon woman unhinges her jaw and fires a beam of darkness. Ra’venna rolls out of the line of fire. The blast blows a hole into the field. Ra’venna has killed Dragons before, but never in their monstrous form.
Gold is a Dragon’s weakness, unfortunately she has none, besides it’s illegal in Quvania. Ra’venna considers drawing on her power. Nether can erode anything: flesh, scales, metal. No. She looks at the filled stands. She’ll show all these Dragons that their scales and wings can’t protect them, that they are easy to kill as any other creature.
Ra’venna runs towards the Dragon. She fires another beam. Ra’venna dodges, sliding under the Dragon’s belly and remerging on the other side. Ra’venna runs up the length of the Dragon’s tail. She tries to shake her off. Ra’venna latches on to one of the numerous spikes protruding from her spine. She drive one of her sais into the Dragon’s hide. The blade snaps. Growling, she tosses it aside.
Something tugs at her half of the bond. She looks up at Helio. Despite the distance, she can see him as clearly as if she was before him. The Dragon jerks, trying to throw her off. She tightens her hold on the spike. Helio subtly pats his chest. It takes a moment for her to realize what he’s trying to convey. Ra’venna leaps off the Dragon’s back, landing roughly on her side. She rolls onto her feet.
The Dragon whirls around and unleashes a wave of darkness. She runs out of the way. The blast blows another hole into the arena. The Dragon whips her tail around. The tip strikes Ra’venna’s side sending her flying across the field. Ra’venna cries out as her body slams into the ground. She rolls onto her back, hissing as a sharp pain travels up her side. She tentatively touches the area to find a bleeding wound. Ignoring the pain, she pushes herself to her feet. She doesn’t have long before the blood loss renders her unconscious.
Purple wisps of power travel down Ra’venna’s arm. A hush falls over the crowd, only the howls of the wind and the panting of a Dragon can be heard. The Nether condescends into a longsword.
The black haired Dragon tires of waiting and charges at Ra’venna with supernatural speed. Ra’venna runs to meet her head on, but just before they can collide Ra’venna slides beneath her. She drives the Nether blade into her belly and drags it down. The Dragon’s agonizing cry echoes throughout coliseum. The Nether from the blade spreads out, devouring the Dragon’s body. The ashes rain down on Ra’venna.
An excruciating, burning pain seizes Helio’s side. His eyes snap to Ra’venna. She’s been injured. He leaps out of his chair and off the balcony before his parents or the guards can blink. He rushes to Ra’venna’s side, oblivious to the scores of creatures watching him. He’s tempted to use her sai to slice open his wrist and feed his blood to her again. He would if it wasn’t for the fact he doesn’t know what the repercussions could be. Once has already created a bond between them..
He gathers her in his arms and makes his way across the arena. A healer is always brought to the Helix; not for the prisoners of course, but for the guards.
His thoughts flicker briefly to his parents. He doesn’t care about the consequences. He won’t lose her.
He spars a glance at Amsyn. His little sister looks both frightened and relieved. He acknowledges her with a subtle nod. How he longs to talk to her. There’s so much he wishes to tell her. Have the Children of Tevata been good to her? Is she safe with them? His sole comfort lies in the fact he knows she will be set free.
Be safe little sister. Be safe.
Helio rids his mind of all worries that do not include Ra’venna and the pain in his side. A guard approaches ready to take the Nether Fairy from him, but he refuses. He orders them to open the guard’s entrance. He storms into the infirmary, devoid of all life except the healer. “She’s been injured.” Helio barks, laying her limp body down on a cot.
The Wind Healer lifts up Ra’venna’s shirt so she can examine the wound. Helio winces at the sight of the oozing laceration. The healer looks up. “She requires stitches, but she should be fine.”
Helio paces alongside Ra’venna cot, repeatedly running his hand through his hair. Every stitch causes a fresh prick of pain to blossom along his side. He almost growls at her to be more careful. No one can know of their bond, it would put Ra’venna in danger.
“I have finished Your Imperial Highness.” Helio curtly thanks her. She bows and retreats into an adjacent room.
Helio sweeps the hair from her face, allowing his hand to linger on her forehead. Soft warmth floods into his hand and up his arm causing a small smile to appear. The pain in his side has long subsided. Ra’venna’s eyes flutter open. Helio draws his hand away. Her own goes to her injured side. She breathes a sigh of relief upon finding the hole has been sewn up.
“Thank you.” She resents having to continually repeat that accursed phrase to him.
“I should be saying that. Thank you. If it hadn’t been for you Amsyn would be...” He trails off. The mental image of her bloody and lifeless body is enough to leave his mouth dry. He blinks away the daydream. She’s alive. She’s safe.
“Let’s just call it even.” She pushes herself into a sitting position, gritting her teeth as a fresh wave of pain engulfs her side. Helio moves to aid her, but she pushes him away. He sighs at her stubbornness. “What happens now? And how do you intend to explain my presence in the fight.” She questions.
“Amsyn will be escorted back to the kingdom they captured her from, Gorus. I will handle my parents.”
“You sound rather sure.” She remarks.
The Emperor and Empress spend the ride back to the palace below deck and this time an invitation is not extended to the eldest prince. Though they don’t utter a word to Helio their displeasure is clear. They have worked hard to present a crafted facade to the world and Helio has singlehandedly destroyed it. He made them appear weak in front of the most powerful creatures in Quvania.
Helio and Ra’venna trail behind the rest of the Shalquim family into the throne room. Apollonis dismisses Terdar with a few curt words and a hand gesture. He flashes a malicious smile at the duo on his way out. Though Helio does not visibly react molten rage courses into Ra’venna from his half of the bond. She only glares at the young prince.
The Emperor and Empress seat themselves upon their thrones. Solus remains silent, drumming his fingers on the throne’s arm. He glares at Ra’venna before shifting his gaze to his unruly son.
“What, my son, did you think you were doing?” He seethes.
“Many wish to take our power. I wanted a demonstration of what Ra’venna is capable of, to deter any...foolish ideas.” He lies. She almost chuckles. The prince they so adore is plotting their destruction and they believe his every word. It brings a smile to her face.
Apollonis places her hand on her husband’s arm, silencing him before he speaks. “That was still very foolish of you, my son. You should have consulted us.” She scolds. Helio dips his head.
“I apologize mother. I won’t do it again.” She smiles.
“Ra’venna,” the Fairy looks to her, “Now I know you can be trusted with my son’s life.” Ra’venna clenches her jaw at the underline threat in the Empress’s words. It’s all she can do to keep from retorting. Solus continues to glare at her.