The crowd roared almost as one at the appearance of an Imperial hero entering the arena. Standing over 6ft tall and being heavily muscled with long blonde hair and a face that would not have looked out of place on a movie star, he strode around the arena playing up to the crowd especially the younger women most of who stared at his oiled body with undisguised longing.
While he eschewed most armour wearing only a leather kilt and an oversized shoulder pad on his left side, they were obviously high-quality items suiting of his reputation and prestige. The sword he carried, however, was unmistakably a weapon of power even without any intent it blazed with magic to those able to see it and when wielded in anger it would be the same for those without the sight.
All in all the hero lived up to the descriptions given of his deeds both on and off the battlefield a paragon of the empires power and a symbol for the citizens to look up to and seek to emulate.
However, it was hard to truly understand the crowd or acknowledge their “hero” when the fearsome opponent they were to face in the arena was a malnourished Demi human girl who could be barely past her mid-teens.
She stood barely 5ft 5 and was a beast-kin of avian lineage she wore rags that barely covered her modesty and may have been pretty if her face had not been covered in dirt and streaked with tears her matted hair appeared to be a muddy brown as did the feathers of her wings and the only weapon she carried was a long dagger chipped and damaged.
Her tear-filled eyes spoke of what she considered her chances of leaving this arena despite the Governor stating that she would be free to go if she won or survived for 10 minutes.
The obvious unfairness of the girl’s predicament seemed to only have been acknowledged by one of the spectators who sat unobtrusively near an exit in a hooded cloak.
She thought she had become used to the empire’s methods in the short time she had been there but she was apparently wrong, the only reason she was even at the arena was due to the slight pull she felt on her consciousness while walking past which was something she would have ignored until a few months ago.
‘This is even worse than I expected, let’s see if I can even the odds a little’ she thought and then she sang.
Veanne stood trembling in the arena unsure how her short life had come to this point, despite knowing how pointless a gesture it was she gripped the knife in her hand more firmly and tried to compose herself as her father taught her.
Her “opponent” what a joke it was to consider him as such, given the only reason she still lived was that he was toying with her to the delight of the crowd, she had only so far received a few shallow cuts which while painful and bloody were not dangerous.
Suddenly she heard a strange drumbeat reach her ears even above the noise of the crowd she looked around but could not see a bard with an instrument, suddenly the tune turned into a song when the most beautiful voice she ever heard started to sing.
Despite not recognising the language used she felt the song uplift her spirits and quell her fear, then while the language remained unchanged she started to understand some parts of the song.
“At first I was afraid, I was afraid, I heard the voices in the dark”
At the same time, she felt a stream of foreign mana reaching out to and through her awakening her mana, then continuing moving around her body and mixing until she could no longer tell where her mana started and the intruding mana ended.
“So I beat my fist against my chest, against my heart.”
With more power than she could ever imagine surging through her body leaving it thrumming with what was currently only potential, she instinctively knew the song she was hearing was only for her to hear and was not just speaking figuratively.
Power this potent did not come without an equivalent price and as such consent was required, taking only a fraction of a second to decide living to pay the price in the future was better than having no future than to bleed out on the arena sands now she slammed her right fist over her heart twice.
“Hear the roar we are the revolution, rising up we’re not afraid of fighting, I’ve finally found my place I put the war paint on my face, I’m ready to give whatever it takes”
“Fighting for the will to survive I feel it burning under my skin and I’m back on my feet again”
She screams in defiance and pain as she no longer fears the crowd, the empire or the “Hero” and her body burns as the mana blazes through enhancing everything it touches.
She feels not just her speed, agility and strength increasing but the secrets of her bloodline being unlocked, the blood dripping from her wounds starts to steam as the wounds slowly close.
Before they do she dips a finger in the blood from a wound and draws the ancestral markings on her face, that her father had told stories about when he thought her mother was not paying attention.
“This is the feeling I can’t believe it now I’m dangerous feeding the fire higher and higher rising up, rising up. Now I’m dangerous”
The burning sensation in her body intensified but was no longer painful and had instead become a comforting feeling, while she did not know if she could beat her opponent now she did know she could make him bleed for his victory.
“Hear me now, I take on the darkness by myself ‘cause I’m ready to give whatever it takes”
Her opponent noticing the change in her demeanour starts to move towards her raising his sword to end her with one blow, she is surprised at how slow his actions seem and even more surprised when she starts to move herself.
Lucius was bored, his role to kill the cowering animal in front of him was beneath his position and he was only here as he owed a favour to the city Governor.
Sadly he could not just put her out of her misery quickly as the crowd required at least a little entertainment from the display.
He had used his superior abilities and skill as a human to dance around the beast inflicting painful but mostly harmless wounds, before spotting a rather beautiful noble-looking girl in the crowd whom he eyed while appealing to the crowd.
When he turned back the unfortunate girl in the arena with him was now looking around seemingly puzzled and distracted, Lucius had to admit that while a little young for his tastes under the dirt and grime of the dungeon that the girl may have been quite pretty if she had not been an animal as reflected by the large wings on her back and scattered patches of feathers on her body.
From the expression on her face it looked like the pressure of the situation had broken her and it was now time to end this farce. He could then get back to the bottle of wine he left open and the pretty slave girl left tied to his bed.
However as he started to move the girl thumped her left breast twice and suddenly what stood before him was no longer some weak beast girl child, but a predator radiating an aura of power no less than some of the more dangerous monsters he had fought to earn his reputation as a Hero.
Gone were the tears and the eyes resigned to her fate now they blazed with fire and she let loose a bestial scream, as her wounds then started to heal she raised a hand to one and then smeared blood on her face.
The changes continued as the dirt in her hair burned away turning from a muddy brown to a rich almost scarlet red. Her wings went through a similar metamorphosis from dusty beige and brown the feathers after the dirt and grime burnt away revealed golds, blazing oranges and fiery reds.
Lucius ignored these changes and charged attacking with a rising slash from her right hip to left shoulder looking to end any danger with one blow before she can react, but she moves with an unbelievable speed and agility ducking and pirouetting gracefully under the blow.
Following this Lucius feels a searing pain at the back of his left ankle as he suddenly finds himself on one knee with his achilles cut, roaring in pain and anger he lashes back with his sword just looking to return his pain to her.
She casually somersaults over his arm slashing his wrist as she passes over him causing him to drop his sword from now unresponsive fingers, by the time he can focus she is stood in front of him holding his sword and casually casting aside a bloody dagger.
Her wings are now blazing with actual fire which he finds mesmerising even through his pain and rage, just as he starts to voice something “Damned Pho…” it is cut short by a sharp pain in his neck and the world tumbling around him before darkness takes him.
“I don’t know how I ever survived, I feel it burning under my skin and now I’m back on my feet again”
“This is the feeling I can’t believe it now I’m dangerous, feeding the fire higher and higher rising up, rising up now I’m dangerous”
Veanne standing over both parts of the hero’s remains looks around a now silent arena with her gaze finally falling on the Governor as the song came to an end. She pushes down the nervousness she is feeling and tries to keep her voice steady and confident.
“I believe I’m free to leave correct? as this surely counts as defeating my opponent”
A discontent murmur runs through the crowd as they realise their hero truly is dead, the Governor stands with a displeased expression on his face and opens his mouth to speak, but before anything further can happen a thick rolling fog pours into the arena from all sides.
He looks at the stunned crowd and cannot believe that idiot Lucius managed to get himself killed, there’s no way he can let the beast girl free so now he has to break his word even if it was only given to a beast. He is just about to order the girl slain as apart from anything else the unusual abilities she has shown make her dangerous, luckily his archers should be in a position to strike shortly and if she tries to take flight the arena guards are positioned on the outer walls to shoot down anyone who attempts this.
Before he can give any further commands a wave of thick fog pours into the arena reducing visibility to a few feet, the unnatural fog is disconcerting and the Captain of his bodyguards starts to approach him. At this point, he hears a beautiful melancholy voice drifting out of the fog at first the words are hard to understand but then they become clearer.
“Something wicked’s coming, something wrong has begun, something wicked’s coming. You better run, run, run”
He looks around the private box and the guards he can see can also hear the song judging from their puzzled looks.
”Do you feel the tension, don’t know who’s a friend, Exposing all the weakness is this where it all ends”
The guards nervously look around some of them start to rest their hands on their weapons and shouting from the crowd can be heard coming from the fog. The Governor notices his captains shaking hand on the hilt of his sword knuckles white and reaches for his dagger.
”Feel the frenzy, feel the fire. Beg for mercy, run for your life. Feel the frenzy, feel the fire, run for your life”
Panic grips the Governor and when the Captain is close enough and before he can react he, draws his dagger and stabs him in the throat. He hears shouting behind him then an incredible pain, he looks down to see a sword blade protruding from his chest.
As he collapses he hears the sounds of battle behind him and screams of terror and pain coming out of the fog, this is the last thing he hears before the darkness takes him.
Veanne looks around herself into the fog terrified of the screams of terror and pain that are erupting from the crowd. The stench of blood and death is already drifting through the air the copper tang unmistakable.
Suddenly startled she hears a voice directly in her mind “Could I strongly suggest that you get out of there as I’m not sure how much longer I can maintain that large an area of fog. It should be safe to fly out of the arena, the guards are ahem distracted, now go unless you want to die In there. Head in the direction of the sun and I will meet you in the alley just outside”.
With that, the girl’s voice is gone from her mind. Given it was unmistakably the voice that sang to her she turns and with a few steps takes flight a few moments later she is out of the fog away from the chaos and landing at the meeting point.
she approaches a figure in a long grey hooded cloak who turns upon hearing her and pulls down the hood. Standing half a head taller than her she looks up at the ethereal beauty that is revealed, at first she thought they were human but patches of small silvery scales can be seen on the sides of her neck and her ears which form delicate points at the top can be seen through the shoulder-length black hair.
Exotically shaped piercing blue eyes the shade of the sea are watching her intently, when the girl speaks she notices full pink lips framed by delicately tanned skin which form a slight smirk when she finishes speaking.
“Greetings my name is Mayumi and while I am flattered you find me so interesting I believe we should focus on getting out of here as quickly as possible”
Noticing she has been staring Veanne starts to blush deeply but before she can apologise Mayumi hands her a bundle of clothes.
“This dress is backless and should fit even with your wings though it may be a little long, once you look less like an escaped prisoner we will head to the inn I’m staying at and discuss your future”
Mayumi turns away allowing her at least the illusion of privacy to get changed and then she leads the way out into the city. She follows as so far only goodwill has been shown to her by the beautiful girl and surely not because she wants to stare at her a little more.