Neira to My Heart – Part 5
by Vicky Morgan-Keith
Sa’ruk chel’ vek take them all! Mrrowl growled to himself. He was well aware the Neiran spectators desired the spectacle to last as long as possible. However, Mrrowl knew to survive, he had to bring the Edo down swiftly. Its ability to assault his mind was formidable. There was no telling what else it could do. He didn’t know how often the creature could make its mental attack, but he knew he couldn’t allow it the opportunity to use it again. Racking his brain for a plan as he circled his opponent, he wondered how he could close with this bizarre being before it rendered him helpless or dead? He noticed its tentacles shuffling awkwardly in the sand as it turned with him, its axe held in readiness. Mrrowl smiled to himself, thinking he had his opponent at a disadvantage. He readied himself to pounce.
Unexpectedly, the Edo sprang forward with agile speed, swinging its axe around in a silver blur. As it did so, tendrils of blue-white light appeared, crackling across the weapon’s metallic surface. Mrrowl’s eyes widened as he realized the Edo’s impairment had been no more than a ruse. Once again he threw himself desperately to the side, biting back a roar of pain as the axe’s electrified edge grazed his flank, spilling blood. The powerful current coursing along its surface gave him a jolt that locked his muscles in an agonizing spasm. A collective gasp rose from the crowd and many sprang to their feet as the big Shrinaar gladiator fell heavily to the ground.
Spawnguard No Longer slowly closed with its opponent, certain of victory. It gazed about the arena, repulsed by the crowd’s wanton bloodlust. These deaths were not for sustinance, nor for protecting territory, they were merely for passing time. The frenzy for blood battered at its mind, and Spawnguard No Longer realized continuous brutal combat was to be its fate. It hesitated as it swung its axe to deliver the killing blow, allowing the felinoid to roll to a crouch. With the last of its strength it managed to block the Edo’s weapon with its metal claws. Spawnguard No Longer felt a fleeting admiration for the creature’s strength and will as they remained poised for several moments, weapons locked, shaking with the effort to shove the other back. And as they stood there, locked together in combat, Spawnguard No Longer decided it did not wish to spend the remainder of its life entertaining its captors. Instead, the Edo entered the Shrinaar’s mind a final time.
There was resistance to the intrusion, but Spawnguard No Longer brushed it aside with hardly any effort at all. It had glimpsed something of interest during its previous mental attack, a possible future among the various threads of this creature’s life woven within the fabric of The Deep. It searched among the threads until it found the one it sought, gleaming brightly within tendrils of darkness. I am Worthy to be Edo Leader, it thought and plucked the thread.
Mrrowl screamed. His hold on his enemy’s weapon faltered, and the deadly axe slid perilously close to his throat. Frustrated rage and pain flailed within his heart and mind. A roar thundered from his throat as a red haze dropped over his eyes. His dark fury lent his muscles the strength to keep death at bay for a moment more, but he knew he would not last much longer.
Suddenly the Edo was gone, tumbling back as if Mrrowl had succeeded in pushing it away. Caught off guard, the Shrinaar almost pitched forward to the ground, but managed to keep his footing. Perplexed, he shook his head, watching alien cephalopod warily. Why had it broken off its attack? Then Mrrowl realized the assault on his mind had stopped, but a presence remained. With a start, he understood it was the Edo. He sensed…amusement.
Not certain what to make of the situation, Mrrowl snarled and mirrored his opponent as it readied its weapon. The Edo was laughing at him, one of the most celebrated gladiators of Neira! The insult stung his honor. Mrrowl, forgetting his pain and shaking muscles, sprang forward ears flat, fighting claws outstretched. The Edo swung its weapon high to block, but the big Shrinaar twisted mid-leap, bringing his body in under the Edo’s guard. With all his remaining strength, Mrrowl slashed across both the Edo’s weapon-wielding tentacles with his Shre’quo’ro.
The metal fighting claws sliced through the Edo’s rubbery flesh with ease. The axe fell to the sand with a thud, the Edo’s severed stumps spraying dark violet ichor as it twisted and writhed in mute agony. Mrrowl rolled unsteadily to his feet, scooping up the alien weapon in one massive paw. With a savage roar, he brought the axe down upon the Edo’s head in a spray of blood, only vaguely aware of the electrical arcs cascading across it.
Worthy to be Edo Leader fell back against the sand. Pain overwhelmed it, but that did not matter. This Cycle was ended. It could begin anew. It could feel its life slipping away into The Deep to some unknown evolutionary fate. But before it continued on its strange unknowable journey, Worthy to be Edo Leader had one last thing it wished to do. It felt along the length of its connection with the Shrinaar’s mind.
You will aid in their downfall.
On his knees in the bloodied sand beside the stricken Edo, Mrrowl panted heavily, gulping air as dizziness and the elated thundering cries of the crowd washed over him. He blinked and stared at the strange creature when its thoughts touched his mind, enveloped in the same amusement he’d sensed before. He realized the Edo hadn’t been laughing at him, it had been laughing at something he would help transpire. He leaned over, staring into the Edo’s quadruple eyes.
“Whose defeat? What do you mean?” he asked.
Worthy to be Edo Leader’s eyes clouded over. There was no answer.
Mrrowl noticed the Edo’s axe was still clutched tightly in his paw. He stared at it uncomprehending for a moment, then staggered to his feet and raised the weapon aloft with a roar that was drowned out by the responding shouts of the once again adoring crowd.
From his seat of honor high in the balcony, Nuvos stared in amazement as the arena shook with cheers. “I’ll take him,” he told Ramosh. “And the Edo ‘s weapon as well. The arnt has earned it.”
Ramosh bowed low and made a profound gesture of respect to hide his wide grin. “Of course,” he replied. Although Ramosh had experienced momentary doubt during the combat, the gladiator had performed even better than he’d hoped. The Shrinaar would bring him a small fortune. “But friend Nuvos, you have not yet heard my price.”
Nuvos didn’t even spare his host a glance. His eyes gleamed at the thought of such a bodyguard. He gestured to a slave for more wine and sipped, continuing to stare at the Shrinaar gladiator roaring on the bloody sands.
“Name it,” he said.