I scrambled untidly onto my knees, watching Kris as she left the arena. I was still slightly numb from my near-death experience, hardly noticing when the guard who'd let me in came out and pulled me to my feet.
"You got lucky this time Ryder," she said in a low voice, "You'd better smart up before your next fight. Now shift yourself, they're bringing the next fight in now. And trust me, this one'll be a sight."
Darting back behind the door and peering through a small viewing window on the other side, I watched as the crowds in the stands began to shift expectantly. Other fighters were standing at the viewpoints beside me, all watching with wide eyes. Then the voice called again;
"Our next contestant, a man with fast fingers, fast feet and even faster comebacks. Back again after his victory last week, it's Morrow!"
The tall, hulking man beside me, evidently Morrow, gulped as the guard lead him out into the arena. Clutching the long sword-like weapon he carried, he stood and waited. The crowd were silent with expectation and a long pause passed before the announcer spoke again, voice low and ominous.
"It's the nightmare you'd never hope to meet. It's the monster that haunts the darkest shadows of our subconscious minds and fills even the bravest hearts with fear. A creature so terrifying it is known only by one name. I give you, Vengeance!"
As if on cue, a terrible snarl echoed through the air, making the silent spectators jump. A door on the other side of the Arena opened and thre guards came through all wielding long sharply pointed sticks.
Then, out of the dark, emerged the creature from the shadows in my cell. I felt the blood drain out of my face. Someone next to me squeaked in fear.
The monster, Vengeance, looked even larger in the light of the Arena. Its wings were furled against its back and the blades on its calves and fingers looking even sharper and more vicious when it stood up. My estimations of six feet seemed pitiful now that I saw it again. In truth, Vengeance stood at well over seven and a half feet tall.
Something that looked like an adapted bridle was strapped around the beast's head, the hard steel bit clenched hard between its fangs. Despite the strength of the restraint, the guard was clearly having great difficulty restraining it. Then Vengeance's eyes locked on Morrow. Morrow let out a sob and took a step back. Vengeance snarled low in its throat, hellish eyes never leaving Morrow as the guard fiddled with the bridle, clearly preparing to remove it. Morrow held the creature's evilly glowing eyes for a few moments more, then he flung himself at the Arena door, screaming and sobbing like a madman.
"Please! Please please don't let it get me, spare me I beg you! Don't let it have me, give it someone else, please have mercy!"
The guards didn't move and Morrow's screams fell on deaf ears as the guard pulled the bridle off Vengeance's head. The creature tossed its head and flexed its claws, hungrily eying its panicked victim. The guards with sticks gradually backed away, leaving through a pair of trapdoors that had been winched up from beneath the floor. When they had gone, there was a moment of silence.
Then, with a cry that chilled my very soul, Vengeance attacked.