“I know you.” Jay said, quietly, “you’re a Collective Wrangler. This is against your laws, your Archmage has forbidden you from forcing people to fight in your Games.” The Wrangler merely glanced at him. “Our Archmage…this will send a message to her, but don’t you worry, her time will come.” At that, Jay's blood ran cold. This wasn't just a random attack, this was a personal attack on Eris herself. "Now, human. Fight. Fight for your life."
Jay had seen the Games the Collective held; they were huge, glorious events that took place in gigantic coliseums. This was different. This fight seemed to be taking place in an underground chamber, small and claustrophobic. Instead of the massive crowds that occupied the usual Games, maybe only fifty Mages had gathered here.
The Wrangler threw Jay into the centre of the arena, and his voice boomed, "Jay, a human. And his opponent..."
One more combatant staggered into the arena. Usually, the Games included several combatants, but this time it appeared to be just Jay and the newcomer. Jay’s opponent was a huge, hairy creature, with a great bushy tail and mane. It had a long, sharp row of teeth jutting out from its elongated jaw. “This hardly seems fair…” Jay muttered. To make matters worse he hadn’t been given a weapon. It was just him, his fists, and his wits against this brute.
The other fighter tried to speak, but all that came out was a guttural roar. The gathered audience cheered. The alien charged, roaring all the while, and Jay barely ducked aside in time. Damn, he thought, this thing was fast as well as strong. The creature staggered to a halt and glanced around, wondering where his quarry had gone.
The few second respite gave Jay a chance to survey the arena, and look for anything he could use to his advantage. In one corner there was a chipped piece of fence, and Jay took off for it at a sprint. From behind him, his foe roared, and Jay heard the sound of heavy feet thudding along the ground.
He reached the fence just in time, and succeeded in wrenching free one of the struts. He swung his improvised weapon round as the enemy closed in, slamming it straight into his foe’s head. The wolf-like creature gave a grunt of pain and leapt back, realising its prey was not quite such an easy kill.
The fence post had splintered from just the one impact, so Jay knew he couldn’t press his advantage. The wolf came in again, probing for a weakness this time, instead of just attacking outright.
His foe growled and attacked, but Jay was able to keep him at bay, prodding with the stick. He wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long, he knew. Finally the attack came that smashed Jay’s improvised weapon into dozens of tiny chunks of wood, and the beast was upon him. Jay rolled back through the dirt, but the wolf creature was just as fast.
And then, everything exploded in a blinding flash of white light. The gathered Mages hissed and cried, and the monster recoiled, howling. When the light dissipated, Jay saw Eris, leading the others in a charge. “Take them down!” She ordered, stringing a bolt of plasma to her bow and launching it into the fray.
The wolf glanced around madly as several bullets hit it in the chest, and Jay backed away from it. “Hey, catch!” He heard Basher shout, and then he grabbed the pistol that came flying through the air.
The monstrous creature regained control of the situation, and rounded on Jay once more, but this time Jay was ready; he raised the pistol and emptied the magazine into the beast’s head.
“You will not escape!” Growled the Collective Wrangler, pushing Preshant aside in his haste to get to Jay. Jay fired his pistol, but the bullets had little effect.
The Wrangler was just about to reach Jay, when Eris suddenly appeared between them. “Who are you? Why are you doing this?” She demanded. “Because you, Eris Arathon, are a disgrace to the Collective. You give peace to our enemies, and make love with…heathens.” With the last word, he shot a glare at Jay. “The Collective are broken, Wrangler. We have lived on our traditions for hundreds of years, festering, a blight on the galaxy. Now, we will become something more. I give you an offer; live in my new world, or die in your old one.” The last line was amplified, so every Mage present could hear.
The Wrangler snarled. “You are but a child. The last Arathon dies today.” Flourishing his sword, he charged, and Eris met him head on. She ducked under one swipe, slid beside another, moving this way and that to avoid the blade.
Finally, Eris rolled under his slash and came up behind him. She placed one hand on the back of his skull, and said, “yynt, an’kl!” The Wrangler’s face contorted, and he dropped his sword, body spasming and thrashing. He opened his mouth and screamed, a high pitched, guttural scream of someone whose mind is burning.
The cries did not last for long though; after nearly ten seconds, the Wrangler collapsed, eyes but smoking holes. Presh stepped up to the body and fired one more shot into his head. Eris glanced at him, quizzically. “This was the bastard that took me to the Games.” He explained.
All around, the battle had come to an end, as the last defiant Mages were killed, and the rest bent the knee and submitted to Eris. She turned to Jay. “I believe we have a wedding to get to.”
The Next Day
The bells rang almost ceaselessly. On a plinth in the far end of the hall, Jay stood, waiting. Each breath caught in his chest, and he couldn’t help but laugh. From over his shoulder, Keira frowned. “What are you laughing at?” She hissed. Jay smiled at her slightly. “I went onto the Spire and fought Azgoth…I survived a massacre engineered specifically to kill me…I’ve stood up to murderers and warlords and every kind of bloodthirsty bastard in between, and yet…” he held up his hand so she could see the nervous shaking.
“You look beautiful,” Said Tank, watching his friend. Eris smiled, “watch it you, I’m getting married in a minute.” She replied. Tank inclined his head slightly, “Eh, I reckon he won’t notice if we elope.” They both laughed. “He’s nervous.” Eris said, and Tank frowned. “Are you reading his mind?” Eris blushed. “No…nothing like that I just…I can feel him. It’s like he’s a part of me, Tank. Even now.”
Suddenly, the air was filled with the ringing of bells. “That’s our cue.” Said Tank, and Eris nodded, taking his arm. They stood outside the doors to the hall, and Tank glanced at Eris. “Are you ready?” He asked. “I’ve been ready for a long time, Tank.” She replied with a smile.
Together, they marched into the hall, down the aisle and up to the plinth at the end. The room was silent except for the bells that still chimed incessantly. To Eris the walk seemed to take a dozen eternities, but also over in the blink of an eye.
When they finally reached Jay and the dais, Tank released Eris, and she took the last step herself. Jay extended his hand, and she reached out and grasped hold of it. Their eyes met for the first time, and Eris felt butterflies in her chest.
The Priest of Deja stepped forward and cleared his throat. “On this day of peace, we gather to join these two in the eyes of Deja.” He began. “From this day forth, they shall be one, in heart, mind, body, and soul, in the eyes of the law and the eyes of the faith. He that would tear them asunder will face the wrath of Deja Himself.” The Priest glanced to Jay. “Jay. You are not of the Collective, you are not of our faith, but you have been brought before us all the same, to join your life to that of our Archmage. Do you consent, from this day, until your last day, to put all worldly allegiances and obligations behind that which you have to your beloved? Do you consent, from this day, until your last day, to stand as a member of the Collective, under the judgement of Deja, and to forever more be known as Jay of the House of Arathon?” Jay’s response came immediately, instinctively. “I do.”
The Priest nodded slightly, and then turned to Eris. “And do you, Eris of the House Arathon, agree to welcome Jay into your home and into your heart, and hold him there forever more? And do you consent, from this day, until your last day, to put all worldly allegiances and obligations behind that which you have to your beloved?” Eris’s answer came just as quickly, “I do.” The Priest nodded once more, then looked out across the rows of people gathered before them. “Then, today, in the eyes of Deja, and the sight of men, I join you together, and pronounce you man, and wife.” Eris pulled Jay close and pushed her lips to his, and the assembled crowd cheered.
Okay guys, and there you have it! I know this is slightly later than promised, but I figured I could make it a Seventh Mociversairy Special instead of New Year! You can expect to see the opener of Season Three in February some time…I hope!