The air is musky, almost like it weighs on your lungs every time you breathe in, and it smells faintly of sweat… decay… death. This is everyday for me. I have forgotten the smell of fresh air, the feel of the wind on my back, flowing through my fur. Just thinking about it makes the hair on the nape of my neck bristle. Nobody wants to stay here, its dank, dark, your room is tiny, there is no bathroom, and your bed consists of straw. We fight daily and then you're taken back to your stall to await tomorrow. This place is all I've known for fifty years, six hundred months, eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty days, eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty fights, which is more than I can say for the others that pass through.
The only way out is death.
Vampire guards patrol night and day, easy to do so since the arena is underground. As if anyone could escape these disgusting holes, the rooms suck out any magical power you may possess; in here the strongest of creatures become as weak as newborn kittens. And if that isn't bad enough the doors to these horrid stalls are locked with two keys and those keys are separated between two guards.
I brushed my fingers through my wild hair, they didn't even make it an inch from the roots before they were caught on the multitude of tangles that resulted from never having a proper bath. Growling in frustrating I tried ripping my fingers through to no avail. Giving up I touched my hair gently trying to find out the new length. A couple of fights ago was against an imp wizard, his fireball singed a lot of my hair away. I felt the rough tips and sighed, not like a hairstylist mattered in this place.
Flicking some straw off my only pair of pants I looked at the bloody tattered pieces of cloth. They were more like shorts but they worked well enough, fit me perfectly well in both my forms. I toyed with them thinking of how long its been since they've given me a pair of pants, has it been three years already?
A knock sounded on my door pulling me from my thoughts. Great here comes the next match, "Come in!"
Six vamps rushed through the door tackling me onto the floor just as I began to change. I felt the delicious pain as my bones started to reshape and the prickling of my pores as my fur grew. Before they even came to the door I knew I wouldn't win, I also understand I may never win, but I will never stop resisting because when I stop fighting I accept defeat and that is not what warriors do.
Funny, the thought of me being a warrior. Warriors lived on the battlefield, loved the challenge a fight brings, reveling in a chance to prove themselves. I wished I could get away from this place, live peacefully, never to fight again.
I snarled as I struggled to get them off of me.
On cue the seventh and eighth vamp came in, one tying my hands behind my back and the other rubbing my face into the moldy, decaying straw as he put the tight iron collar around my neck preventing me from changing. Damned collars are as bad as the rooms, draining me of any power I have.
I've always toyed with the thought of them putting a collar on me that had no magic. A dud. I daydreamed of the chance to rip open the eight vamps that came in to get me daily.
"You'd think by now the mutt would've learned his lesson," the seventh vamp huffed as he doubled over, I growled at the interruption of my thoughts.
"Not this pup, Auryn has fought since the day we found him curled up under an overhanging cliff," eighth one replied, "That was a good day for us Hunters. We bagged two trolls, a gargoyle, and this pup."
"I just hope he dies today," the seventh grabbed my chin then moved till he was only an inch from my face, "Then I wouldn't have to deal with your punk ass resisting us. I mean you've been here fifty years now, just give up like all the other disgusting vermin in here." He smirked.
I wanted to kill him, rip open his chest as he watched me rip out his heart and eat it, a nasty taste it would leave but the look on his face and the pain it would inflict would be worth the vomiting I would do for the rest of the day.
Instead I gathered whatever saliva I could from my parched mouth and spat on his face.
"You lowly piece of shit!" he punched me in the gut as I tried to hide my smile ever grateful that I had enough self control to stop from laughing. My ribs were about to crack from the effort.
"Enough," the eighth vamp stepped between us, "He'll probably die in the arena today so don't get your panties in a bunch." That's what he said about the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that…
"Let's hope so, just looking at him makes me sick," with that said he walked away the eighth one easily catching up to walk beside him. I wanted to say, 'Well at least its not as disgusting as you smell,' but I'd rather not be beat before I had to fight some monster.
I felt a tug on my collar and started to amble down the hall to the large reinforced doors about half a mile away. In my fifty years I have defeated zombies, ogres, griffins, imps, golems, more creatures than I care to remember. The only thing I don't understand is why?
Why can't I kill these damned vamps? Just one swipe from my claws and they'd be on their knees trying to put their intestines back in their body. Why can't I break this magic they use? Why can't I find a weakness in these infuriating spells?!
Vampires are weak, well at least near the bottom of the food chain, the only reason they weren't extinct was because they are like humans, there were too damn many of them. And they tasted horrible, no use to the world but to take up space. I wish I could stomp the life out of every one of these creatures that thought they were better than me, watch as they spurted blood from their mouths and cry out in agony.
We neared the door, no more than thirty feet away. Before they even opened the door I heard the roar of the crowd, the stomping, the shouts, all waiting for a bloodbath. What concerned me was the creature behind the other door. The last couple of fights have been close, they keep putting me against more powerful and more dangerous creatures. My last fight was against a large chimera, the snake head of the tail nearly bit off my arm.
The past fight was wiped from my thoughts as the putrid smell of blood assaulted my senses. It would get worse as soon as they take off the collar; a wolf's heightened sense isn't always a good thing.
Then it all went deathly quiet and I heard the Lord of Vampires announce my entrance. A smile touched my face as I looked up at him, I always found it ridiculous that vamps needed a Lord like the humans do. Boos echoed through the stadium as he finished his long line of insults that was my introduction.
I couldn't hear the vamp when he said who my challenger was but everyone went into frenzy. The large doors across the arena opened and to match the roar that resounded through the arena a wyrm stuck its long neck through the archway.
Normally I would be cool about these battles; the thing is the only creature worse than a wyrm is a dragon. It roared again and the crowd went nuts. A bead of sweat ran down my cheek, it was the first time I sweated out of fear in decades.
The wyrm slithered out and I was able to size it up properly. Even compared to others of its kind this one was large, at least seventy feet long. It lunged at one of the vamps following it but was pulled back violently by the chain on its neck.
Flapping its small wings irritably it smacked a guard near its tail but it only pushed the vamp away. Without that collar that tail swipe would've sent him across the room.
The vamps dispersed and went back inside the doors leaving only the wyrm and me in the large arena.
This thing was a true monster, it could have been a ugly dragon's baby, the scales glittered a dark green as it shook it's great neck. It still hadn't noticed me yet as it went on doing its normal grooming, licking a few of it's scales it's bottom jaw coming out and apart as it's three prong tongue flicked across its body.
I looked in every direction trying to think of anything I could use against the wyrm. Only piles and piles of skeletons lay on the outskirts of the arena, my only weapons other than my teeth and claws. My eyes shifted back to the wyrm and it was staring at me its eyes burning with hunger. Damn vamps starved this thing so it would fight more viciously then clean up their mess.
Saliva began to trickle from its mouth as the crowd went silent. I tried to move back slowly so it wouldn't notice, but when I moved it moved. It's soft underbelly easily pushed aside the loose dirt of the arena.
Hearing a loud clink I realized my collar fell off and without even thinking I transformed. As soon as I finished I rolled out of the way of the first attack. Before I could even move the wyrm's tail came afterwards hitting me square in the back lunging me across the arena and on top of a pile of bones.
The vamps cheered and stomped their feet happy to see me already on my face.
This thing was lightning fast, I wonder how many vamps had to die to get their hands on this thing.
Getting up I launched from the bones and ran with all my might as far from the wyrm as I could. The telltale roar was closer than I thought and I could hear the slithering fast on the advance.
I saw my opportunity ahead and dove in the ribcage of a long deceased giant and the wyrm couldn't fit its head in. It began ramming its body and head butting the skeleton hoping to find a weak spot. While thanking any and every god that may exist for the strength of giant bones I searched for a weapon and found it quick enough.
The wyrm roared showering me in spittle which I quickly shook off. Then I heard the bones begin to groan and knew that the wyrm would soon be on me. Picking up a broken giant's rib I got ready for the attack.
Two of the ribs broke and the wyrm's head was coming at me its mouth wide open. As the mouth came down I put the rib on one of the wyrm's tongues as it was biting down. Its mouth couldn't close on me, but since wyrms aren't very smart it bit down as hard as it could. The giant's bone went straight through the top of the wyrm's mouth.
The wyrm reared up bringing the ribcage and me with it. The roaring nearly blew my eardrums out and blood began to soak my fur. Looking down I noticed I wasn't very far up in the air and tried jumping out but then the wyrm shook its head slamming it against the wall.
I saw stars, the darkness swirled in my vision and I shook my head throwing myself back into the now.
Still a bit dazed I saw the floor coming at me very fast and then realized the wyrm was about to go headlong into the ground. I lunged out of the ribcage just in time and I heard the bones crunch behind me.
Turning around I looked at the wyrm carefully. It didn't so much as twitch and I fell panting deeply. I was already exhausted, this thing was really pushing my limits. The edges of my vision began to blur, if I blinked I'd probably fall asleep.
My eyes still half open I saw a very small movement and suddenly I was wide awake. God dammit! It was getting up.
Struggling to my feet I took off to the other side of the arena and then watched as the wyrm tried using its small wings to help move it upright. Opening its mouth it tried to use its tongues to remove the bone that adorned its muzzle like a grotesque horn. Giving up it looked around the arena blearily as if not remembering why it was here.
I stepped back as its eyes settled on me. It was as if the wyrm was trying to catch me on fire with it's glare. Still I moved back slowly.
Stepping on something I looked down to see what it was. The wyrm's collar! I could use this to my advantage. Picking it up in my mouth I sprinted up one of the mountains of skeletons. Soon the wyrm was slithering my way and I readied myself for the inevitable.
It stopped at the bottom of the small mountain of bones and coiled like a snake ready to strike. My breathing became labored as seconds slowed feeling more like minutes as we stared deep into one another's eyes.
Suddenly it lunged and I pumped my legs as hard as I could jumping high in the air with part of the chain where I was standing and the wyrm couldn't redirect its path going head first into the pile of bones.
Landing on the back of its head I pulled on the chain with all my might. The wyrm reared up showering me and the ground with bones. I held on tightly trying not to let my grip waver. I pulled again all of my muscles straining to exert more strength. I could hear the wyrm biting down hard as if to break the chain but the chain was past all of its teeth and it was only tearing up its gums.
The wyrm roared as I pulled and pulled ripping through the flesh of his cheeks until I reached the jaw. Blood showered on me like rain matting my fur.
I had to incapacitate it… I yanked it once more with all my strength and broke its jaw making it hang at a weird angle.
Jumping off the wyrm began to flail hitting anything and everything. You could tell it was in agony, it didn't roar anymore, it screamed. I crouched covering my ears trying anything to drown out the deafening scream.
I kept my distance till it tired itself out then picked out a large bone from a pile. Limping up to it I saw its eyes burn with anger as it watched me. Sadness gripped me, I didn't want to kill another poor creature, the only reward I had was another day in this hellhole. Holding the bone in my right hand I plunged it deep into that eye and straight into the brain killing it instantly. I envied the wyrm, it got to escape this existence, anything was better than here.
The arena echoed with the sound of boos as the vamps saw that I won yet another round. At that same moment thirty vamp guards ran in and apprehended me. I was able to throw four off me before I was overwhelmed and the collar was put on me again changing me back into my human form.
"Damn thing won again," one of the vamps spat.
"Yeah I put a small fortune on that wyrm," another one growled, "Took forever to catch that wyrm, lost seventy hunters in the process just so we could kill this wolf off."
Heh, so now they were trying to find incredibly ridiculous monsters to kill me with.
They were extremely rough as they pushed and pulled me back through the arena doors. Walking through the halls I smiled as a hulking figure came into view. My only friend.
"Hey Auryn! You kick their ass?" the minotaur walking toward the doors called.
"Wyrm didn't even see it coming," I chuckled despite the pain in my ribs.
"Damn! You beat a wyrm?" he whistled, "Remind me not to get on your bad side."
"Ha ha, well good luck with your fight," I called to him.
"Pft I'd like to see the creature that could beat Anat'suran the Destroyer," he said gruffly as he was pulled through the door.
Names given to us in the outside world still ring true in this disgusting place. Anat'suran was the chieftain of Bloodmoon the most revered and feared Minotaur clan. Although he was practically ancient he still held his own in the battlefield. I hear the vampires talk about the things he's done. His first day on the battlefield he killed over one thousand men among those the general thus he got the name Anat'suran the Destroyer.
Eventually through the years he rose through the ranks of his clan and became the youngest chieftain in Bloodmoon's history. He was nothing like his former glory and knowing this the Hunters found him hunting on his own and captured him. They say he took down fifty Hunters without even tiring before one snuck up behind him clasping on one of those damned collars.
I would give up any possibility of freedom for him to be free to go back to his family, I had nothing in the outside world. No friends, no pack, no love.
I was pushed into my stall roughly and slammed against the wall by one of the vamps while three others held me in place. The one that pushed me moved out of the way so a fifth vamp could come take off my collar. Looking into the face of the fifth vamp I almost gasped in surprise.
Her eyes sparkled a bright blue but phased into a brilliant violet at the edges. Dark curls framed her seraphic face making her pale skin glow flawlessly. Black robes flowed around her body leaving the rest to imagination.
Normally female vampires aren't allowed anywhere near the stalls let alone to take the collar off of a creature. She almost looked sad, like she hated seeing me in shackles. What was more shocking is that I've seen this face before, somewhere, I couldn't put my finger on it though.
They took off my collar and let me go without me even realizing I was so deep in thought. Filing out the woman glanced back and my heart thudded against my chest. The door slammed shut leaving me in darkness except for the lights that streamed through the cracks around the door.
I laid there in silence, thinking, wracking my brain for where I could have possibly seen that woman from before. Eventually my adrenaline rush broke and my eyelids drooped warning me of the coming sleep. My exhaustion covered me like a thick blanket and I succumbed to the darkness.