Diana could hear the mob above her, they stomped and shouted. They were drinking their ale, placing their wagers, and brought their whole family along, after all, it was free admissions on the night of the Bishop’s birthday. She had seen the caged exotic felines being carried in their crates by strong men. The roars of the orange and yellow beasts were unlike anything she had ever heard.
She heard them again now as she sat on the work bench of the Trainer’s Chambers, she knew they were hunting the lesser Condemned in the cage right now. She thought back to the young girl who had been laying on this very bench earlier that week. She would have been eaten alive. The sad attempt of self justification was an old habit that was dying hard. Basil ran her hands through her hair as she pulled it back tight, and ensured it would not get in her way. There was a knock on the door, Diana kept her eyes lowered as Basil went to open it, she was sure it would be Apollo, coming to coming to give a hug and some pointers.
Who entered was draped in red robes, his dark hair slicked and his face clean shaven.
“Your brother is loyal to me, but his loyalty to you runs much deeper,” Basil kept her head low as the Bishop entered, servants were never to look upon something so sacred and holy, but the Condemned were damned either way, “I was disappointed when you did not come to me after you heard my proposal,”
“You never thought I’d prefer death over being with you?”
The Bishop snorted. Diana recalled when she was a young girl, she had killed two of the Bishop’s men, after she had seen her mother taken in the back of their home, she returned with her clothes ripped and tattered, face bruised, and bottom lip split. Diana being older, understood what had taken place, Apollo only asked that his mother come look at was he had done while she was gone. She had been Condemned ever since she had avenged her mother’s pride.The rest of the men involved in the act went unpunished.
“You are a lost cause,” he turned to face Basil before exiting the room, “perhaps she will take the place you refused,” he reached out to brush a strand of Basil’s hair out of her bowed face, but Diana was on him, her hand caught his wrist. Diana stood a good head’s length taller than the Bishop. She tightened her grip until her willingly pulled it back, “you dare disgrace yourself further, in the presence of your god?”
“You’re getting weak, Old Man,” she released him.
“You wont be missed Diana, as soon as your body cools you’ll be forgotten, don’t worry about her, she’ll be killed as soon as you’re gone, a Fille is your’s, you earned her, she’ll follow you to hell.”
When he left Basil finally exhaled, “after you kill Achilles, demand your freedom, the people will chant for it, he will have no choice but to grant it, it’s the finale he’ll never see coming.”
Diana pulled Basil in for a final hug she pressed her head against her chest. Basil returned the embrace, tears began to fall from the servant’s eyes. She tried to speak once more, but Diana shook her head, and left the room. This would be the first time Filles were permitted to watch their Condemned fight, Basil walked down the underground hallways to find her seat among the sea of people.
Achilles’ arrogance was what killed him. He did not take note as to what Diana was looking at every time she had gazed into his eyes when they had tea in this villa. He had not anticipated Diana beginning to circle to his right, his legendary strong side. It was only strong because with a man of his size, everyone spent the fight running from it. A blow from his left would be better than a blow from his right. Diana proved that to be quite false. A bout this legendary, as had been demanded by the audience, should include weapons. Another advantage Diana had found. He fell to his knees and bled out his side, the final strike had been clean and merciful.
The mob screamed for her as they usually did. She rose her arms above her head, showing open palms and slowly spinning, calling for silence. No Condemned had ever spoken after a bout, or at anytime to the audience before. Basil grinned in her seat as hushed whispers strained to hear what this woman had to say. The Bishop gripped the arms of his seat and leaned forward.
“I want to wish the Bishop a happy birthday, the later years suit you,” Diana’s voice projected and echoed through the arena. Basil’s smiled faded quickly, and her eyes widened, darkness swam in her stomach, she felt herself pale.
“There’s only one problem, gods don’t age,” she lowered her arms as she turned to face her attention to the Bishop himself, she allowed a smile to tug at her lips, she licked the dry skin, but they were not split. She turned to the people now, looking to the sea of faces, “You see, I have power, as I have proven, bout after bout. Can any of you recall the last time I bled? The last time I was wounded?” she waited remembering the last time she had bled in a fight, her very first. She won by luck and against all odds. She never came close to losing again. “You can’t can you? But I’ll bet he bleeds.” She rose a finger and pointed to the Bishop, summoning him to the challenge.
“If I’m wrong I’ll die,” she added with a shrug, a no harm no foul suggestion, “I feel I cut the evening short, how about another try at a finale?” She offered, looking to the mob. They remained silent; looking around at one another and then to the Bishop’s seat as well. The Militia around him were becoming uneasy, they brought their weapons forward and looked around as the power in the air began to shift.
A single man rose from the sea of people, a face familiar to Diana one who had told her that she had done enough, a man who spoke in tears was a man to be heeded. Now he was calm, and collected.
“I bet he bleeds before she does,” after he spoke his piece others too put in their thoughts, the verdict was becoming unanimous. One way or the other, they wanted to see a god bleed.
The Militia began to itch at their triggers, but the Bishop silenced them, “you hurt no one.” He commanded as he rose from his chair and made his way to the arena.
The crowd was rowdy once more, crying out for their allegiance. Diana was no longer listening to them, they had done their part. The two who claimed to be gods in order to gain power, began to circle one another.
“If what you wanted was power, you should have taken my hand and killed me in my sleep,”
“I don’t want your seat, “
“The walls will fall without a firm leader,”
“Let them, my brother will rise and lead your flock out of the shadows,”
“There’s dangers out there you couldn’t imagine, things you can’t kill.”
The Bishop was the last person to ever bleed in the cage, for once, and the very last time,
Diana rose her arms above her head and accepted the glory of the games.