The day of the fight came much faster than I had expected. Two days after I had convinced Vengeance to help me, I heard the clang of the cell door swinging open. Several guards entered, all armed to the teeth with electrowhips and shockstaffs, and dragged Vengeance out of the door. The sounds of his outraged snarls, punctuated here and there by the occasional loud curse or shriek of pain from a guard, rang in my ears for several minutes before all was quiet again.
I sat alone in the cell for a further two hours before they finally came to get me. I was so numb from terror and apprehension that I scarcely noticed them calling my name. I didn't notice anything as I walked, it was as if I was floating somewhere high above, looking down on everything that was happening. My mind was so fogged up I couldn't even put my thoughts into words and even when Kris came to sit beside me I didn't so much as look up. She knew all about the plan, but didn't seem to understand how scared I was about carrying it through. Then again, she wasn't the one about to go and get her bowels ripped open.
However, when I was pushed through the Arena doors, everything seemed to come crashing down on top of me. There I was, standing at the edge of the enormous space, my knuckles white as I clenched my short blade in one hand and heart hammering in my ribcage like a pneumatic drill. From the doors on the other side of the arena, I could hear a low threatening growling. I bit my lip, sweat trickling down my forehead. This was the most terrifying moment of my life. Standing here, alone and vulnerable, against the most deadly creature Alarbor had ever known.
"This is it Ryder!" came a shriek from above me. I jumped and looked up, straight into the piggy eyes of Jeremy Wayne. He cackled, pointing at me and shrieking like a banshee. "You can't get out of this one! Death is staring you in the face and there's nothing you can do about it. See you in hell, bastard!"
Before I could reply, the growling on the other side of the Arena turned into a furious roar. The great doors swung open and Vengeance leapt forward into the floodlit space. From here, he looked even larger and more terrifying then I had ever seen. Even the first time with Morrow he hadn't looked this murderous. I felt as though my heart had plummeted into my boots. Could I really trust this creature not to kill me? Had I been wrong about him? Perhaps he had tricked me into this plan, just so he could tear me apart? Had I thought him a friend, when he was merely a monster?
No. No, I couldn't have been wrong about this, I told myself. Remember everything you've been through. Remember those days in the cell, remember the trust you put in him not to kill you every time you stepped through those doors. Remember the trust he placed in you when he told you about Wayne. Remember the trust he still places in you to get him out of here.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped forward, closer to where Vengeance was standing, his brimstone eyes locked on me. He snarled, pulling back his lips to reveal his fangs. I hefted my blade, planting my feet firmly apart and looking straight into his eyes.
Trust him, I thought, I've got to trust him.
Vengeance held my gaze for what felt like hours, but I knew could only have been a few seconds. Then, with a scream that seemed to tear the very fabric of time itself, he spread his enormous wings and attacked.