The first thing that hit Esme was not the smell of blood or the slight red peak within the Colosseum walls - it was the sheer psychic resonance that was akin to a mystic punch in the face. It was the screaming of children, chilled by the fades of death but still desperately clinging to reality - still hanging on to the last remnants of life, trying not to be swallowed by the darkness beyond the veil.
Armstrong merely sat, serene and calm as ever, poised and ready. There was a sickening silence in the air as the Silver Shadow emerged from the tunnels into Rome and stopped just outside the Colosseum. Through the windows before them, they could see glimpses of viscera within. Esme could hear the noise now - the screaming, almost inhuman in volume and tone, more desperate than ever, screeching and wailing, begging in horror and fear from beyond their grotesque grave...
"Esmerelda St Clair." Her eyes flashed open to see Armstrong's hand on her shoulder. He drew a small black pill from his jacket pocket and handed it over. "A little present. Bon appétit." She reluctantly took the pill from his hand and gulped it down - psychic silence. Even, perhaps, a touch of serenity. She was clearer - sharper - faster in thought and energised.
She turned to Armstrong, only to see an empty seat - but she already knew where he was. Out of the corner of her eye he had seen him leave the Shadow and move towards the Colosseum, armed with a Magnum .45 in his left side pocket and a few talismans held in his right inside chest pocket.
Whatever this stuff was, it was remarkable. And now a lot more things were starting to come into focus. Esme smoothly slid from her seat and broke into a fluid run towards the entrance of the Colosseum...
They approach - but I am fed. They will not last long now. The new altar is contracted, and once more I can feed. So young - so scared... it pleases me. This host is not nearly as useless as he looks. There is a sturdiness to this one - an inner strength unknown before. There is something all too alive about this one - docile, easily subjugated, but very much alive. This one is of- RED. RED. LOTS OF RED TOO MUCH RED ICAN'TSEEICAN'TSEE
The monstrosity in the silver-grey suit reeled backwards from the bullet blast to the face. Armstrong kept his untrained on the host as he noted the guards moving towards him - homunculi, created by a more powerful force, and tougher than most. But that had never been a problem before.
A swift side kick sent one to the floor, and the second was thrown overhead by using the momentum of his frenzied run. The second landed with a satisfying crush of the neck, whilst the first had hauled himself up again and was moving to strike - a solid right hook and a good thrust kick sent him into the air. Armstrong focused and raised the Magnum - two shots to the heart, one to the head - the Mozambique Drill manoeuvre, perform perfectly to the millimetre - and the homunculus guard collapsed to the floor in a lifeless heap.
A sudden shriek from behind caused him to wheel around and watch as Esme charged for the dead man in grey, her skin breaking out into thick black fur and her shining white teeth extending into thick sharp needles. The lycanthrope launched screaming at the corpse, tearing it to shreds and chewing upon the face - gradually, she began to revert back to her human form, crying furiously as she pounded her fists upon the corpse. Armstrong moved over to aid, only to feel a twitch at the very base of his spine.
"Esme - stand back..."
But it was too late - the corpse sprang to his feet, spouting silvery fur from his pores and screaming with a voice of hundreds. Esme gracefully landed beside Armstrong, and he handed her the gun before moving in. The silver lycanthrope swung wildly - Armstrong ducked and landed a solid uppercut on the bastard's floating ribs. The monster reeled back, a little golden ichor trickling from his mouth as he began to choke.
"You're choking on your own blood. The rib has been broken, and your lung is punctured. The question is how long you can hold your breath for." Armstrong smiled, but as the lycanthrope changed back, the smile faded to be replaced by a cold demeanour.
The silver suited man grinned, his face all too recognisable.
"Heh... Hello, Sherrinford... Long time... no see..."