From the moment I raised my blade to block off Vengeance's attack, I knew I was doomed. No matter how fast I ducked, dodged and tried to run, Vengeance's claws were always mere inches from my flesh. Laced with sodium sulfide or no, they were still lethal weapons. My short blade might as well have been a wet towel for all the good it was doing me, in fact it merely slowed my retreat as I constantly twisted away from the onslaught. A sudden determination seemed to have taken over Vengeance's mind, an ice-hard resolve that had all the emotion and pity of a blizzard. I wondered how many other men had seen this look before they died, how many had felt the despair that now hung over me. This was a fight to the death. My death.
Then, suddenly, something hard came up against my back. In my haste to escape, I had unwillingly driven myself against the back wall of the Arena. Vengeance advanced, eyes locked on me and a truimphant snarl on his face. He lunged, fangs bared, and I barely managed to get my blade between his teeth before he tore my throat out. This wasn't part of the plan, I thought as I tried desperately to push Vengeance off me, what is he playing at? Then there came a terrible crack as the blade shattered beneath Vengeance's teeth, the shards clattering to the ground like broken china. Vengeance yowled and twisted away, spitting out mouthfuls of blood and broken metal. Heart hammering, I seized the opportunity and raced away from the wall, trying to put as much distance between me and the murderous creature that was howling in rage behind me.
"Good show!" Jeremy Wayne cried, tears streaming down his face as he laughed. "Brilliant show! Now go on you great brute, kill him! You're not going to let him get away with that are you?"
As if in answer, Vengeance gave a furious roar and charged me, blood streaked across his face like warpaint. I tried to dodge, but one of his bladed heels shot out and slashed across my calf, tearing through flesh and sinew alike. I screamed and fell, only to find myself flat on my back with Vengeance's taloned hand pressing onto my chest and his enormous black horn inches from my face. I froze, scarcely daring to breathe. The crowd too fell silent, all holding their breath to see what would happen next. For one second, Vengeance and I held each other's gaze. And in that moment, I no longer saw the winged horror I had come to both fear and respect for the past months of my internment. All I saw was the lonely heart that dwelt beneath the terrifying exterior, full of pain, regret, loss and a desperate, longing hope.
"Don't forget me." Vengeance whispered, so quietly I had to strain my ears to hear it.
Then, as if a spell had suddenly been broken, he reared back and plunged his talons into my abdomen. I screamed, the pain searing through me like molten metal as the blood gushed out of the deep gash. Sodium sulfide or no, the agony was almost unbearable. I felt myself falling, blackness rapidly creeping across my vision as the pain roared through my body. I heard the crowd roaring, Wayne's ecstatic whooping and Vengeance's truimphant scream.
Then, I fell into darkness.