From the author: This one wasn’t edited quite as much as I would normally edit, but I wanted to be sure it got posted on time instead. 

Mira had needed to come back through and get Derek for help with the Underground and the demon’s businesses while Dante was being held.  That was all well and good, but Inea had a few strings to pull and back-up support to look into as well, while on the other side. That had them back in Iona for the evening before they would all head back out of the twins’ portal nearby. She had put on makeup and an illusion to keep anyone from noticing the wear on her face. She didn’t want them to know the full extent of what was happening. She needed unbiased information, hopefully information that would help her kindred’s case.  

Everyone dressed in their finest OtherWorld clothing, the women in gowns made of the finest silks and linens. Lord Rashgun’s seating at the arena was the west side tower. They were to arrive in the foyer area, for only those portaled in could be allowed. And then they were checked in by the dragon’s security.  The arena was reminiscent of the old Roman gladiatorial sites, just as large as the Colosseum. There was a tower for each of the directions and smaller towers for the elements that lower families had taken. Clan Findias owned the North Tower in this arena and had their own gladiators here for the fun.

The fights were to begin immediately at the shifting of the winds and that meant five -ish in the normal world. Inea got them there at an hour prior so that they could all partake of the banquet and socializing, which took place inside the third floor while the balcony was prepared for their enjoyment on that same floor.

“Inea!” The sound of the deep voice came from one with long curly hair that hung to his waist and sparkling draconic eyes. He took the lady’s hand and growled something that was likewise met with the same growling language. Then, he bent to kiss that hand.

“Rashgun! It was with welcome that I received the invitation. I hope you don’t mind the guests. My friends, Ashley Matthews and Miranda de Salucet.”

The younger dragon moved to Miranda first. “Pleased and charmed!”

“Pleasure to meet you finally, Rashgun.” Mira smiled as he kissed her hand. “My brother Dante has talked about you often.”  This wasn’t so bad so far, though she truly wished she had not listened to Derek and had remained with him. He had said that he would need to calm things down and also get some supplies set and ready for delivery for the other side before meeting up with them here.  

“Ahhh Dante! So, I see you got the best of the looks between the two of you,” Rashgun flirted with ease.

“Well I always thought so myself, thank you for agreeing with me.” Mira smiled and flirted back because it was just naturally her way. Derek wouldn’t mind, he loved her for her ways.

“What business would you like to partake in, Miranda? Inea talked me out of a very fine masterpiece that was probably for you, not that long ago. Are you trying to buy my collection of slaying weapons and gems out completely?”

With one perfectly polished nail Mira tapped her bottom lip in thought. “Well I’m not quite certain, but I’m sure you could tempt me with something that is sure to catch my fancy. I like a touch of the dangerous as well so feel free to wow me.”

“Well, there is to be an auction in the morrow. Perhaps I can let you have first choice? After all, what are friends for?” The dragon knew he could probably get something very valuable in exchange – especially from Dante’s twin.

Inea had been quiet, letting this little discussion go on. Rashgun then moved to Ashley to kiss the top of her hand. “Pleased and charmed.”  

Ashley was quiet but gave a pleasant smile as her hand was kissed as well. Polite was the word of the evening and she was trying to keep to it.

“Rashgun is a descendant of Uscias or as you know him, Nathan. He’s much better at courtly gestures and such than I ever was.” Inea chuckled and looked around the place, adorned with curtains and gold and marble – it was beautiful. Servants attended everyone. There were guests already all around socializing at chairs and tables and upstairs were rooms for those staying here, if Inea remembered correctly.

It seemed that her friend was absolutely fascinated with the place, but Miranda remembered when places like this existed in their world too. Of course now they were mostly ruins that attract visitors that could only imagine or dream what it was like while she lived it. “So what do you think of it all Ash?” She exchanged looks with Inea before watching her friend take in the place.

“I think it’s amazing..” The blonde let her gaze move around as she took in everything about the areana. This was all real! She had finally made it here and it was even better than she had imagined.

Looking out into the arena, there were ribbons and decorations all around but not over the round ring – no views could be blocked. Right now there was setting up being done and the cheap seats all around the bases of the towers were already filling.

The blonde walked to the edge and looked out over the arena. This was quite the scene and as she watched she was reminded of so many movies. It was surreal to her and she stood there while her friends socialized and just stared at the sandy area down below. This had been earth realm a few thousand years ago – minus so much magic. Was that what drew her to it? Had she always wondered what it would be like?

“I can’t wait to see the fighting, Inea says it is quite remarkable to watch.” Mira commented as she stood at Inea’s side with their arms entwined. Each female was dressed in the loose flowing gowns that were called empress dresses for the way they gathered beneath the breasts before simply dropping in silken layers. Their lovely hair was gathered in masses of ringlets on top of their heads and spilled down just a little past their shoulders. Having shorter hair meant that Mira didn’t have to do that. Her’s was simply left in loose curls at her shoulders.

“It is. I believe most of us have studied the art of fighting and so when we watch the various styles that are used in the arena, it thrills our souls. And when I sponsor the fights, I make sure no deaths occur. Now, they can be a bloody mess, so be sure your delicate natures can handle it. But no deaths, I promise.” Rashgun spoke confidently as he led them out to the balcony.

“You don’t have to stay out here, by all means enjoy everything, but I wanted you to see where you will be seated when the fighting begins. I’m rather proud that Uscias helped design the decking and seating for our Clan’s use. It has lasted many, many centuries. We dragons get proud when it is a direct line – it’s like we get to take credit for it too.” he chuckled.

~ He’s full of it. I warned you. But he has a heart of silver at the very least. And he keeps his word. I couldn’t ask for more when it comes to an informational contact. ~  Inea spoke mentally, just to Mira. Her eyes remained on her new ally rather than on the path they tread, at least until they got to the arched doorway that led to the box outside.

Taking a glass of wine from one of the servants, Ash looked towards the pit again. She just knew that something in this particular place was what drew her, but the question was what or who was it.

Sipping from her glass she leaned on the balcony and looked down into the arena once again. She had that feeling flitting across her soul once again, as if she were close to what she needed to find.  She jumped at the sounds of horns. Ashley looked back to realize everyone was taking a seat. She stayed at the edge of the balcony instead of taking her own. Here she could observe without being drawn into a long boring conversation.

The dragon moved back to his seat and as he did he motioned for the other women to come and speak with him. “Come Miranda and Inea. We can enjoy business with pleasure.” He waited for the half-demon to be seated before sitting next to her.

“The pieces you have interest in are to be delivered in the later of night, actually. Out of respect for your brother, I’ll be happy to save them for your discerning eye before placing them in open auction.” Rashgun motioned for a servant to refresh the drinks and bring Mira one as well. The first gladiators were being announced in the arena below.

“You have my deepest appreciation Rashgun. My brother always speaks highly of you and this place. He enjoys his evenings at this arena with you. Said he lost just as many wagers as he won.” There was a soft laugh from her. It was true, Dante always enjoyed visits here. She believed it was the violence that drew him. He fed off anger and fear just as much as he did the passion of his lovers. In that way they differed as she was purely a passion feeder.

“Well, once he gets things cleared with Crimson, he is always welcome back,” the dragon replied. “I have some of the best fun when he’s here.”

“Speaking of trade and Crimson, might I ask a few questions, Rashgun?” Inea put her untouched wine glass on the table.

“By all means, do. You know I’m nearly an open book,” He sat back and took another drink.

“Have you seen changes in trade and in commerce where Crimson portals are concerned? Have any of your people tangled with Director Skinner?” Inea asked bluntly.

“Yes, actually. They, uh…” he leaned forward and got lower of voice. “…they have tightened down on some imports and exports. The living kind. They have even said that they will look the other way in some cases, but only if we pay a higher tariff. And the one Skinner? He’s a bigger purchaser of magical items than anyone else I’ve had dealings with.”

“Living, sentient beings shouldn’t be transported through Crimson sponsored and regulated portals,” Inea pointed out.

“And yet, I have made some very fine purchases for my arena and had them safely shipped here from the other world,” He toasted the ladies. “Business is business and freedom can be earned through me and mine.” He sipped before adding, “It costs more for the rights to trade this way, but I believe those of us in it for the high stakes game realize there is a secondary set of rules at play where Crimson is concerned. So – we’re willing to soak the losses.”

Mira paid little heed to those around her as she had interest in only one person at the moment and he was seated at her side. Her red glossed lips curved in a seductive smile as she held her glass up to be refilled. Unlike the other females present, Mira was dressed in a green sequined slip dress that covered one shoulder while leaving the other bare and had a slit up one side clean to her hip showing the length of tanned leg as she crossed them. Her mass of black hair was pulled up high and held in place by a circlet of emeralds and diamonds. And her ruby gaze glittered as she smiled at Rashgun. As always, she hoped to exploit her natural beauty and ability to get as much information out of the dragon as possible.

“How do you make up for the losses?”

“I keep sponsoring these big events with one main set of events in the arena, but background events, like the auction and the ball that will happen tonight – because I make money every time that way. I tried to talk Dante into the business, but he was too interested in other exploits. He preferred leaving the sponsorships to me and just profiting from … well, as you are about to do should this shipment be to your liking…the gems that come my way from far off lands where the gladiators come from.”

“That keeps you from losing too much from Crimson?” Inea asked.

“It offsets the loss of profit, yes.” the dragon shrugged, “I and my mate do well for ourselves.”

Looking to the empty seat Inea raised a brow, “Will your mate not be enjoying the arena with you this evening?” That would be highly unusual indeed.

“She’ll be here. Saysha wouldn’t miss cavorting with you for anything, Inea. She just had some side business of her own. You know how those who love anthropology can be. She’s a true treasure hunter. I’m just the business end of the relationship.” He winked at the lovelies – the second flirt he would enjoy and the last. Rashgun only had true adoration for Saysha of Findias. All knew this very well. An unusual case of a dragon who was solely monogamous. It seemed to be part of the Findias tradition.  

“Well that is something I can appreciate. Treasure hunting can be quite pleasurable.” Mira gave a soft laugh as she sipped her wine. Slavery had been around for centuries so it was not surprising to her. Her kind had been enslaved and were still being enslaved by those that knew how to do so.

“The fight’s on,” Rashgun announced to the table, indicating that he was no longer speaking about business.

Mira’s attention went to the fight and her green eyes widened as she watched the fighters go after each other. The first few clashes of metal made her jump a little but then she settled as the crowds cheered.

There was already clashing and grunting and wild acrobatic movement from the arena and the crowds below them were cheering.

At the first sign of blood Ashley closed her eyes and gripped the stone bannister. “Oh my.. very.. fierce aren’t they.”

“Yes, they are. It’s definitely not all for show only,” Inea pointed out. She’d glance from time to time but if it became too rough her face dipped down quietly.

Rashgun was distant for a moment, checking on things apparently. He then focused on Mira again. “My kindred says the shipment is here and my current collection is being readied for your perusal. As soon as Saysha appears, we can go take a look. There should be an intermission between the lighter weight bouts and the heavyweight bouts.”

Mira looked away from the fight at this bit of news and smiled, “Sounds perfect, I wouldn’t want to miss the best matches. I do love a good fight you know.” She went back to sipping her drink and watching the fighters. A good fight really did get her blood stirring after all. Derek would be in for one hell of a workout when she got home with him.

“No chance you could convince that new mate of yours to take a bow in the arena is there?” Rashgun asked before drinking more of his wine. He was showing them that he already had gotten word of the demoness and a Weylyn commander being involved.

“Hah not on your life. I wouldn’t let him. But, if he decided to try it out, I wouldn’t bet against him. You should know my picks have never lost. And he definitely wouldn’t, especially when I reward him so well.” Her gaze glittered with mischief at him. So he really did have eyes everywhere?

“Did I miss anything?” the dragoness came running in, still in her khakis and linen shirt, a dusty face and holding a cold beer in her hand. Seeing Inea she exclaimed in happiness, “OH! Nea!” She came over and hugged the dragon, but then stepped back a bit and brushed some of her filth off the perfectly dressed lovely.

“Saysha!” Inea hadn’t complained when her friend hugged her no matter how dirty she might get in the process. Clothes could be replaced after all.  “I’ve brought some friends.”

“So I see! I believe I might know… Mira?” Saysha tried.  

Her lovely ruby gaze moved over the new arrival, “That’s right. You’re voice seems familiar.” Mira’s head tipped to the side on thought as if trying to place the soft feminine voice with it’s little accent.”

“Oh we have a shared love of antiquities. We’ve bid on some of the same pieces before.” Saysha giggled before taking Miranda’s hand in her’s. “Pleased to finally meet you face to face.”

The light in her eyes sparkled then, “Ahh, that Saysha. The pleasure is all mine. I look forward to the next challenge you present me.” Mira smiled and watched the couple together.

“And the one enraptured in the fighting is Ashley. This is her first trip.” Inea walked over and stood beside Ashley.

“Is that the end?” the human asked as the fighters walked off the field to the side exits.

“Uh, no they are just now getting to the third round. The first two went pretty quickly. But then, they usually put the beginners first…” Rashgun was trying to see around the two women. And then just gave up. He smiled at his mate and looked over to Inea and Mira, “See where I rank?”  

“Oh hush it, Lord…” Saysha leaned in and kissed his lips. “You look too nice for me to jump on and slobber on.”

“I’m Ashley Matthews, pleased to meet you as well Saysha. I’m a bit of a collector myself. Perhaps some day we can tour collections together.” At the sound of cheering Ashley’s attention went back to the arena for the fourth match. After it would be intermission and then the main fights would take place. That was where all the real betting took place.

Saysha took her hand. “Pleased to meet you!”

“Too bad we can’t take a tour during intermission and see the next bunch of fighters. As it is, I would be betting blind. Now how fair is that?” Ashley smiled and went back to watching the fighting taking place below.

The fourth fight was about to be announced. And the implication was that there would be a nice intermission afterward.

“I can do that!” Saysha offered. Rashgun shrugged. “Rash can keep the guests happy up here and I can take you downstairs to see our true fighters – the heavyweights. The intermission is an hour so we’ll have time. And I can show Mira to the chamber where our shipment is.” Saysha looked between the two women and her mate while smiling wickedly. “You have to see her shipment too. It’ll make you drool almost as much as looking at the gladiators will.”

“Down girl!” Rashgun warned his mate. She moved to her seat hissing at him. His eyebrow raised. “Promises to be fulfilled I hope,” he muttered.

“Always. I don’t make promises I don’t keep.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek and before she could he turned his head to catch her lips. The fights were effective on most libidoes. Including draconic ones.

 

***

 

The fight went a bit longer than they had thought it would. The two went through five weapon choices – both being human they did not shift. Most in this session were human or lesser and did not shift at all. They were showmen – that was true. The gladiators made a show of their skills and tried to make thee matches last longer than ten to twenty minutes. This match had lasted over thirty minutes and even the dragons were cheering by the time it was over. The bet getters had come back through for a second round this time! The servants were only there for gathering money and taking wagers. More wine was brought out only after one man stood victorious.

“Ladies and Gentlemen! Take your leave, but remember our sponsors have brought for us an exotic treasure for the main event! And we have  five more battles for your eager eyes before even getting to that event! All please set your bets and come back to watch your winnings grow!”  The announcer motioned for the arena caretakers to begin cleaning up.

“Ready?” Saysha hopped out and took Ashley’s hand and helped Mira out of her seat as well. “Mira, Inea… you want to go with us? No promise on being lady-like… Lady Inea. Just, a warning,” the dragoness was nothing if not free spirited and honest.

Ashley was actually eager to go along with the two women. Inea on the other hand wasn’t quite so eager.

“Think I’ll pass but thank you for the offer, perhaps next time, my dear. You go on and enjoy just be back in time for the first match.” Inea was protective, but knew when the others were in good hands.

There was no time wasted before the trio were off and going. That did make Mira laugh softly as she walked beside the dragoness. “I think Ashley is truly enjoying herself. This was a perfect outing for her.”

As Saysha led them down the stairs Ashley couldn’t help but take in the sights that met her eyes. Very detailed columns and brick work created the towers and she was astounded at some of the more intricate details. A few times she stopped to admire only to be tugged along once more.

They reached the main floor but their dragoness guide simply said hello to people and was gracious, but steadily led them onward through the small crowd to the gated entry and down more stairs. Here, Ashley could smell the sweat of the male bodies and hear the sounds of the breaths and grunts as they psyched themselves up for their upcoming battles. The guard opened the next gate and Saysha led them into a center point of a circular room that held the doors to at least ten cages. Men looked out at them from the cell walls and Ashley’s breath caught at the sizes of some of them.

The succubi stopped walking when she realized that her friend had stopped walking and was now looking around wide eyed. Had the blonde never realized what it would look like? Oh right, for Ashley it had all been stories out of books and what she saw in movies.

“Be careful of the cages. If they don’t want to be bothered, they don’t have to come forward. They need to be ready for fighting…” Saysha moved around the circle. These were their best. Most were free, but two were prisoners and one was their newest purchase.

Mira laughed softly and swatted her friend’s arm, “Oh you do make everything so dramatic Ash.” Walking to one of the cell doors she pulled it open easily and grinned at her human friend. “Things aren’t always what they seem. Most of these doors are unlocked. I say most because a few really do need to be confined for the safety of the other fighters. But most this day are volunteers isn’t that right sweetie?” Mira looked at Saysha and grinned as one of the fighters stepped to the opened entrance.

The male said nothing, but his eyes happily traveled the curves of the woman before him. He flexed a muscle for her and a grin was on his lips.

“Our wrangler from Pack Ondaleer. He fights for the thrill,” Saysha explained. She made her way to check on her prize.

Running her nail up along one pec muscle Mira wrinkled her nose at the big male and turned to move to another cell. “Sorry big boy but I’ve already chosen my fighter.” She opened the cell and waited for him to step to the door as she grinned at the other fighter, “Perhaps she’ll lay a wager on you though.” Mira looked to Ashley and grinned wickedly, “You’ll never have a better lover than a true warrior. Trust me when they win, so do you.” There was a soft purr from Mira as she reached to tap her fingernails along the metal door to the cage of her chosen warrior. The big male turned from the corner and smiled for Mira. He was missing a tooth, but otherwise was full of vibrant power.

“Herrod is fighting to free himself of debt. And he is superb at building the cheers. He has never lost a match, Mira. A good choice for a good bet.” Saysha looked to Ashley. “And I’ve been told a good choice for a good bed.” The dragoness did not partake anymore but had before being courted by Rashgun. She would wager that Mira had before finding her mate. And if Ashley needed it or wanted it, Saysha would oblige with sealed lips.

“Have a look around and ask questions, but don’t take too long I still want to see the treasures Rashgun and Saysha were talking about before we head back up to our seats.” Mira’s fingers slid up and back to rake through the hair at the back of Herrod’s head.

The growl that came out of Herrod told them all he was lycan. But he wasn’t a wolf. Striping appeared over his arms and legs and his eyes slitted. Several others in the circle growled in response, their innate defenses kicking up. The big tigris huffed at them and looked to Mira with a wanting appreciation.

Taking the advice given Ashley moved around the area and looked in each cell to gauge the fighter with in. Most were big and well muscled but she was looking for more than just that. She was looking for that gaze that screamed winner. Saysha knew what the other woman was looking for. Ashley was obviously a natural at the sport of choosing the perfect warrior. Saysha respected that. She moved to Herrod and looked to the warrior beside him who now had crossed arms and was simply grinning at the females.

“Hackle Herrod, Fenris,” she whispered to the gladiator. He raised a brow. She placed her hands on her hips.

“I’d better be paid.” it was all he said before moving so quickly it was difficult to follow. He smacked the tiger on the back and moved on past. The big tigris let out a low warning growl that just about rattled the cages before making a spit-roar at the upstart lupus.

Mira laughed as she stepped to stand beside her friend and watch the ensuing entertainment.

The cacophony that ensued was pretty rough. The howls and yells from the other gladiators even above them on the next level told them how wired and ready these warriors were when hearing that battle ready roar from Herrod – and it wasn’t even a full roar. He understood that this was just a harassment, not a true battle. He backed back into his cage and willingly closed it so there would be nothing further to remove his focus for the arena.

Ashley was startled and turned with wide blue eyes to watch what was going on. Her heart sped up a little, and she glanced around at all of the cages as the noise level rose. And then, from behind Ashley there was a growl that matched the heaviness of Herrod’s and went even farther into a whining angry howl. All the others, including Herrod paused and quieted. Saysha smiled. Then Herrod answered back, but Mira placed a hand to the big warrior’s chest, even through the bars.

“Easy, save it for the ring and my money,” the demoness played it all off.

The sound sent chills along her skin and Ashley slowly turned back around to stare at what she had thought was an empty cage.. Apparently she’d thought wrong. Goose bumps appeared on her arms and she rubbed at them while watching Saysha walk to the cage.

“My latest acquisition,” the dragoness was very proud of herself on this one. He was in the back of the cage and the door was locked. He whined and growled at the same time, his big hand on the cage at the side, and the cages to each side of him were empty for a reason. The big lycan was not a close match to Herrod’s bulk, but it was his eyes that told his inspectors that he was vastly more dangerous.

Stepping to the door Ashley peered in and found that she couldn’t look away. “Tell me more about this one.” Her gaze met his and she felt her breathing shallow out just a little. Oh he truly was a dangerous one, but Ash didn’t always go for safe things in life now did she?

The rumble from the lycan’s chest continued, even though he had finished warning the others that he’d had enough. He crouched, and she could see that the bottom of his form was partially shifted. His ribcage as well and the muscles were tight. But his face was human, save for the canines that were elongated and ready should he be attacked. His eyes were fierce and green but with an odd ring of red on the outer circumference.

Her fingers curled around the bars as she continued to drink in the sight of him. Oh yes, he was exactly what she’d been hoping for. Tugging gently on the bars let Ash know that his cage was well and truly secured, which meant he was a slave.

Fenris chuckled and stepped back to his pen. He needed to get a few more build ups going and get his head on straighter. His way of fighting was just what they had seen and it worked 85% of the time. He was a wiley one and he used every advantage, not just fighting head to head.

Herrod watched him with mild irritation, but Mira’s touch kept him from going off on the wolf.

“Oh great, you’ve mesmerized her and now we’ll never leave. Hope you’re happy you evil wench.  By the way you owe me for riling Herrod up like that. Although it may make the fight that much more intense.” Mira grinned, she knew how to play this game too. Her fingers went back to scratching Herrod’s jaw the way he liked it. The tigris lycan enjoyed the demon’s touch for as long as he could. 

“No, my fun is always payable by me,” Saysha let her eyes move from Mira to Ashley. “He has won every fight he’s been in thus far. In some, we’ve had to pull him back so that he doesn’t kill. Unfortunately, he’s partially feral. See his stance? Beautiful. I actually bought him. I know Rashgun doesn’t like slavery, but I felt like, better here than where he was. Here he can be controlled and focused. Out there, someone could turn him into a real killer.” Saysha was close to Ashley, moving from one shoulder to the other. “I wouldn’t get too many ideas as Mira has about getting laid by him. Unless you’re into danger. I’ve only been able to communicate with him twice. Most of the time, he prefers his world…the one in his mind.” Saysha tapped her temple.

At the moment, the lycan was not in his mind. And Ashley could tell. He was staring at her. He did not apologize, he was what he was. Something told her that this was what had drawn her to this world. The way he stared at her made her feel like hunted prey and yet she just couldn’t pull herself away. Mira was right, she was mesmerized by him. He truly was beautiful.. exquisite even.

“He is called Azrael.”

“Azrael.. “His name left her lips and she was still staring at him with her blue eyes just taking him in. “I want to bet on him. What’s the wager? How do I.. make him my warrior?” She wasn’t sure she was saying it right but something deep down told her this was her champion.. this was her warrior.

“Well, that is two different things you’re talking about and right now. To enact the “patronage” in our ways…that means you get a percentage of his profit amongst other rights near to the trainers and owners in a degree. That’ll cost quite a bit up-front.” Saysha moved to the side a bit more. She watched the lycan for any signs he might lunge. She didn’t want to have him lose Ashley’s interest by harming her.

There was a long sigh, “Doubtful you can afford Saysha’s price..” Mira finally moved on from Herrod and waved him back into his cell.

“Maybe not, “Ashley turned to grin at Mira as her hand lingered on the bars of the cell, “But you can and I can repay you when we get back to the other side.”

That really did make Mira laugh. “Oh you are ballsy aren’t you? Now what could you possibly offer me that is worth the price she’ll be asking?” Mira knew her friend well enough that it wouldn’t be cheap.

“Favors from my family are worth it. You know that.” Ashley dangled the good stuff as she looked between the two females.

“You’d offer that on a lycan you know so little about? You haven’t even seen him fight yet. Are you that foolish or just naive?” Mira turned to start walking out of the celled area and towards the gated door across the hall from the gladiators. As far as she was concerned the conversation was done.

Saysha motioned for Ashley to come with them. She wouldn’t leave the woman in here alone.

But apparently Ashley didn’t see it that way. “Okay so I’ll watch him fight and then the three of us can talk business? I still want to wager a bet on him though. A hundred gold says he wins.”

“A hundred gold?” Saysha shook her head. “That’s piddly for a guest of mine and Rash’s. If you believe in that warrior, bet a good amount. Tell him to win it for you. The more you make, the more you have toward making him yours. And maybe someday, I’ll actually let you buy him from me. Who knows?” Saysha waited at the door and looked over to Mira. She pulled a key from her pocket and tossed it at the succubus. “Five doors to the right. Don’t get sticky fingers, I know that collection like the scales on my mate’s tummy.”

Swiping her fingers in a cross over her left breast, Mira kissed the fingertip and blew it towards the dragoness before heading off for the room that held the treasure she was really after.

Ashley looked in at him again, ” I brought twenty-five thousand gold with me and I’m wagering it all on you Azrael.. Win and it’s yours..” She wasn’t sure he’d have need of gold in here but she wasn’t sure what else he’d be interested in to win.

Azrael moved to face the blonde female at the front of his pen. He lifted his face to sniff the air. His eyes glowed with a faint reddish hue. He remained on all fours as he took the scent into him and set it to memory.

His attention thrilled her. Chewing her bottom lip she whispered, “Win and I’ll come back afterwards to see you.” She rushed to catch up with Saysha and Mira. “Think he truly will win for me?” She was hopeful he would.. She really did want to come back and see him after the fight.

“Ashley,” Saysha took her new friend’s arm in hers to follow Mira. “He’ll win. Now, I’m not sure if he’ll do it for you or himself or just because he’s wired that way. But I have confidence he’ll win.” She nearly skipped into the room to watch Mira’s eyes when she beheld the case full of enchanted weapons.

“The dagger… is beautiful. But the entire case is what I must sell. I’ll not keep it in my tower for longer than a week. And I suggest you take it and make sure when you take it, you are ready to hand it over to that father of yours to disenchant. Several are cursed. One makes me ill. But they definitely are … nearly… priceless.” Saysha paused before adding, “I came across these after Inea sent me to look for the other dagger for you only two weeks ago. It seems my investigations opened the door for a lot of people wanting to part with their magical weapons in this area.”

The succubi’s eyes were focused on the ivory and silver dagger with angels carved all through it and their symbolic names emblazoned along the blade. It was a thing of beauty alright but very deadly to demons of any kind. She dare not even touch it yet. But her heart skipped a beat knowing how close to success she truly was.

“Disenchant? Seriously what a shame to destroy such beauty. Shouldn’t it be kept and studied?” Ashley took a step towards the case and Mira actually growled at her. It was not a playful growl either. She enjoyed her friends company but there was no way she’d let a Kennedy descendant close to such a weapon.

As Ashley stopped in her tracks Mira looked to the dragon, “Name your price, you know I’m good for it.” Mira’s ruby gaze went to the dragoness.

“Ashley back away from the case. One of them has already tasted your essence. You feel drawn to it and want to keep it from being destroyed, do you feel that tug? See…that’s why just because something is beautiful – doesn’t mean it should be allowed to exist.” The dragoness coaxed the human back. If anything, this would teach her a lesson she needed to learn.

Slowly Ashley backed away and shook her head to clear it of the thoughts that were running through it.

Knowing Ashley was okay and not influenced, Saysha turned her attention back to Mira.

“Derek,” was all the dragoness said.

That got Mira’s total attention and not in a good way. “Excuse me?”

“I want one season as owner. His skills are a desirable set, but his name? A Weylyn hasn’t fought arena in all of OtherWorld for over a century. Just the name would draw thousands. And profit comes with numbers.” The dragoness had made her offer. Now Mira had the chance to counter.

“No deal, my mate is not up for barter any more than yours is.”

“It’s not for sexual favors, silly. It’s for profit.” Her pout was amusing.

Mira stepped back from the case and tapped her chin, “BUT that isn’t to say I can’t get you a Weylyn for your arena. There are plenty enough in that Pack and many with that fire in their veins… that feralness you delight in so much.”

“Mira what are you..” Ashley started only to find herself silenced by the succubi. Her friend was bargaining with lives? “Slavery is wrong Mira, don’t do this.” The blonde spoke low even though the dragoness could hear every word.

“You just showed interest in a lycan and plan on betting on him, remember, so don’t cast judgement on me Ash. I’ll do what I need to; to keep me and mine safe.” Mira looked back at her friend. “I’ll need more than a week and you auction off the rest of the case EXCEPT the dagger for half that years profit which means you get a fighter for 6 months.” It was a good deal and they both knew it.

“I won’t sign off on it until I see the merchandise.” The dragoness raised her hand toward the case and it closed, locked and was slung back into a huge walk-in safe which closed with another twitch of Saysha’s fingers. She spun her fingers in the air and the bolt locked with a loud “CLANK.” Immediately, the hair on the backs of their necks stood on end signalling more alarms and traps set in place around the area.

“IF I am pleased with the merchandise and he is free-will able to fullfill 6 months of a season – the last six months, not the first…you may have your precious dagger.” Saysha held her hand out to Mira. The succubus knew the dragoness had quite the discerning eye. She would be very picky about a replacement for Derek.

Mira took the outstretched hand and the deal was made. Now all she needed to do was figure out which Weylyn would do for this little bargain.. aside from her own that is. Derek was a fine warrior indeed, but Mira was a possessive bitch and was NOT in the habit of sharing her mate for any reason – sexual, profit or otherwise. But she would talk the deal over with him and see what suggestions he had.

“This has all been a delight but can we get back up to watch the fights?” Ashley was anxious to see if her fighter won.. HER fighter? Where did that come from? She shook her head to clear it as she turned to step farther out of the room. “I still need to make my wager with the house don’t I? Or do you take such bets as well for this arena Saysha?” She didn’t like the idea of anyone fighting for their freedom. She looked towards the other cells.

Mira rolled her eyes and just giggled. Had to love newbies to the circuit. “He’s her fighter of course she takes wagers..”

“Actually, let’s run. The money exchange is not handled by private owners unless you plan on buying. The clan felt it best this way – so there is no question about cheating. So let’s keep to the rules, shall we?” Saysha grabbed both their hands, cast a portal in front of them and pushed them through to the doorway right before the balcony. She came through last.

“Getter! Here! We have a wager to be made on Azrael!” Saysha laughed as she grabbed a flute of champagne and took a good swig. She had made deals and was looking forward to inspecting the promised piece of warrior flesh the demoness had offered up. She sat down with her mate and kissed him.

“Did we miss much?” she asked Inea and and Rashgun.

“A lot of this lovely hiding her eyes…” Rashgun teased Inea. “I think she would buy most of your stock and two other houses out of debt. I told her that wasn’t how we worked.” The dragon stepped to his mate and hugged her before kissing her cheek.

Inea rolled her eyes at the dragon Lord and watched as Ashley moved to place a wager. “I take it Ashley found one of your fighters to her liking enough to bet on?”

“She wanted to make him her warrior. You should have seen her eyes light up. Everybody else is frightened of the man and she’s holding onto the bars! It was lovely, Inea.” She leaned closer, “If you know what I mean…” she winked and sat back properly with her mate, who was ready to snatch her up.

Inea didn’t like the sound of it. The fact that everyone was frightened of the man and bars were mentioned told her this one was dangerous. And Ashley seemed hyper thrilled.

“Apparently the business went well?” Rashgun was very pleased. After all this meant that he and his mate would most likely be excusing themselves early for a romp in the back hills nearby. When she did good business or came back from a good discovery she was hot.

As they spoke Ashley was giving over 25 marks to one of the barters placing her bet of 25,000 on Azrael. Once the bet was accepted she moved back to her place at the balcony to watch the fights again only this time she was a great deal more excited than before. Now she was looking for that one fighter in particular.

Inea watched Ashley’s excitement closely. ~ Mira…has she ever acted like this? She’s taking more to this scene than I thought she would. ~

A little concerned herself Mira shook her head, ~No.. never.. She rarely shows interest in anything not business related as of late. All her boyfriends have always been business men.. nothing even close to dangerous about any of them.~ Her mental conversation with the dragoness was a first. She had held a bit of a grudge on the woman since she and her brother had bonded without even letting her know.  But then again… she had Derek, now, right? How could she judge Dante and Inea?

Mira reclaimed her seat and watched the center of the arena even as mentally she spoke to her mate. ~Confirmed, Sash has the other dagger but her price is pretty steep. She wanted you as a fighter for the arena for a full season. She wants to renew the Weylyn name in the pit apparently and make a tidy profit doing it too. I told her no.. that we’d find another Weylyn to feed her money hungry appetite and only for six months of the season not the full season. But who would do best in the arena and actually agree to fight?~

~ First off – flattered. But I have too much business here and with you…not going to happen. You were right in turning her down on my behalf. Uh… wow. She means really Weylyn – as in close to the royal blood or just someone from the Pack and that’s good enough? I’m considered Devon’s son by adoption and so a royal. I look a helluva lot more like him than my own father so a lot of people just assume. ~

~She wants a Weylyn and she wants one that fits your build or better.. Better won’t happen. ~ Mira grinned as she mentally purred to her mate. But then the sounds of the crowd cheering intruded, ~We’ll talk more later when we are home and we can decide what to do. The next rounds are about to start and my fighter is in these. ~ Mira sent him a warm kiss through their connection as she turned her attention to the arena again.

The next round of gladiators were paraded out onto the arena and matched up in front of the crowd. There were five in this round and then the main event. Already the crowd could see the difference. These were what were known as the heavy weights. The guest ludus brought out their gladiators. One by one the ludus auctori ordered his men to step forward. The name was announced. From the Findias gladiators, the crowd roared to the colorfully dressed man who went to each of the gladiators and paused. The one with the most roars won the crowd’s wishes to face the guest gladiator who was stepping forward. Then both were paraded around the arena so the betters could see them and then they were taken back into the sides of the arena and under to their prep area. The next guest was brought forward. The ‘clown’ made his way to each home gladiator. The winner got the loudest shouts and so around they went to show the crowd who would fight whom.

When they had all been paired for fighting, the crowd’s roars got stronger. The clown did cartwheels in the arena, and worked up the crowd. The guest champion was led out, a mountain of a man with obvious lycan leanings. He raised his big hands and the crowd cheered. He was already getting bets. He went through what was probably his battle showcase routine. He was fast, strong, and skilled. They announced his name, “Garaldi!”

Then there was a howl, deep and strong from the side of the arena. It was long and held for almost a full minute. The crowds seemed to be confused. They weren’t sure what to do or think. And then there were two men with chains, pulling and tugging to get the champion to come out. He was in full hybrid form now, the huge lycan with the nearly wolfen head still had the piercing bright glowing blue and red eyes.   

Ashley’s attention was riveted on the open gate as her breath caught. She should have felt that chill of fear like a rational smart woman would but she didn’t… He was frightening yes, but that just seemed to draw her more to him. It was crazy and very odd. That was for damned sure. The blonde found she couldn’t look away.

“Are you sure about this, love? I mean, you had me convinced when I saw him in the cells, but he doesn’t seem to want to fight now.” Rashgun chuckled nervously. If he had placed this creature out there and nothing happened, they lost a lot of money.

“Oh, come on!” Saysha got up and hopped down with Ashley. She motioned for Mira and Inea to come with her. “Yell his name in a chant with me. This is his first time in this arena. He’s not sure what to think. Chant with me.” Saysha yelled as loudly as she could to start her girls off. “Az – ra – el! Az – ra – el! Az – ra – el! Az – ra – el! “

It took Ashley a moment but she joined in and chanted loudly as did Mira. The women were lined up at the edge of the balcony clapping and cheering for the unknown lycan.

The handlers kept pulling as some of the crowd near the girls began copying their chant. Rashgun just shook his head and face-palmed. “She’s had too much to drink Inea. I apologize.”

“Don’t apologize. I believe the girls are having the time of their lives.” Inea was laughing at them and their cheering. That was until the hybrid wolf turned around and decided he wanted to get into the arena after all.

The werewolf stalked into the arena, and made his way toward the ladies.  He was as big as the guest champion, and he was already in hybrid form. The other champion growled and tried to be intimidating. But the lycan Ashley had chosen didn’t even acknowledge his foe. He was on a   mission. Now, the handlers were having to try and hold the creature back! Digging in their heels and yelling, they all kept the lycan from moving forward any farther once he got 2/3’s the way across the field toward the women who were calling him. He lifted his head and sniffed the air. He could smell her. He looked right at her. Blonde…curls….

Ashley’s breath caught. Even with all these people and all these sounds he could find her.. and that gaze shot straight for her. It was as if he were warning her that he was coming for her with just that look alone.

Azrael let loose another howl and the other lycan champion then tried to break free and fight right then. He shifted partially and snapped at  Azrael. And the home champion just turned and stared at his attacker and hissed low, getting his body crouched as if to attack. This action was  unexpected and made the opponent lycan jump back and re-evaluate.

Mira was startled right out of her chanting at the sight of the beast that came out into view. Her green eyes widened as one hand went to her chest and her breath caught. Her gaze shifted from the beast to Ashley and that was even scarier.

There was a bright smile on Ashley’s face as she cheered louder and clapped all the harder. He truly was magnificent.  Her blue eyes drank him in even more now that he was out of that dark cell. She didn’t even notice her friend staring at her.

Rashgun made a motion with his hands and two of the guards leapt down from their balcony, shifting into dragons mid air to make sure they got between the two warriors. The scaled beings helped get them back into their places while the announcer called out the names for those betting. Garaldi was a known champion and was a favorite. Azrael was unknown, but his power and the handler’s lack of control of him said he was a power to be reckoned with.

“I take it back. He made a good show. Maybe we’ll make some money on him after all?” Rashgun stated to his mate. Saysha looked over her shoulder at Inea while the announcers were getting the crowd ready for the first matches. She said nothing to her mate, but her eyes were concerned.  

Inea came to stand by the girls, next to Mira. ~ Did you see that? He was tracking. Point is, I don’t want you two near the edge when they actually let that one loose. I know we’re up pretty high, but this is for your protection. Come up with a reason to get Ash back. ~

~Don’t worry yourself on my behalf. Do you think she’s seen enough of this world?~ It was obvious that  Mira was worried for her friend. ~I don’t like this at all Inea.. What if that feral hurts her?~ Mira was busy watching her Ashley’s reactions to the lycan more now than the fighting below. Ashley was just human after all and very much mortal, both points made her frail when compared to the beast that she’d become so quickly fascinated with.

“I think we need to get going, kiddoes.” Inea said as she pulled away from the edge of the balcony with Mira.

At  the mention of leaving Ashley finally looked away from the arena to frown at the dragon. “You can leave at any time, I know my way back. I’m not leaving until my fighter fights.” She looked back at the arena and her chin tilted up a notch letting them know she wouldn’t be swayed from this decision. She’d told Azrael that if he won she’d go back and see him. If she didn’t then he’d know her as a liar and that wasn’t acceptable either.

“Guess we’re staying for the main event.” Mira took up another glass from a passing servant and drank from it as she leaned once more on the banister to watch the fight below. “He better be worth all of this time and not just bluffing for a good show.”

Inea growled to herself. She didn’t like this. She didn’t like it at all. 

 

To Be Continued… 

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018