Strength of an Assassin(3)By: Stormy Glenn
As I settled back against the cold stone wall and my eyelids slid closed, I realized they had spiked the food.
I huddled in my corner, curling my nose under my paws and tucking my tail around myself to ward off the chill in the air. I could almost make myself into a tight little ball, almost be invisible.
Invisible would be nice.
I’d like to be invisible.
I had heard the screams and seen the mangled bodies of those who hadn’t survived the cage or the feral monster they’d been forced to fight. I’d heard the crowds shouting for more, always more. Chanting beast, beast, beast.
With such demand, they were quickly running out of cannon fodder.
I knew my time was coming. I was amusing to the guards at the moment, a pawn in their sadistic games, sometimes being beaten by more than one at once. My ability to heal my injuries was quickly waning. There was only so much abuse a body could take, even a shifter’s.
I almost welcomed being thrown into the pit.
I swallowed tightly when an enraged roar echoed down the long corridor. Most of the cells on my side of the room had long ago been emptied out, but I knew the far side still held a few fighters. I had been made to clean their cells.
I lifted my head when I heard another roar. It was a victorious sound, telling me that another three fighters had met their ends. I didn’t know the monster who was killing them all, but he had been down in this hellhole for the last three weeks. And the number of eligible fighters had been going down steadily ever since.
I had no doubt when I faced him, I would die. I was an omega. I barely registered on the feline scale. If there was someone bigger and badder out there—and there always was—I was fucked.
I cringed when I heard the heavy slam of a door and then voices headed in my direction. I hated the voices. They were usually angry, and that never boded well for me. It pretty much meant I was about to have my ass handed to me.
When they walked down my corridor, I turned my face toward the wall and closed my eyes. If I was lucky, they would think I was asleep, although that never stopped them before.
“We only have two left,” one of the guards was saying.
I recognized that voice.
I didn’t recognize the next one.
“We need three for tonight,” the stranger was saying. “If we don’t provide enough entertainment, we won’t draw in the crowds.”
“The next shipment isn’t due until Saturday.”
“No, that won’t do at all. We’re already almost to capacity.”
I lifted my head and peeked up to see who the guard was talking to. I recognized the man’s white suit. I had seen it in the stands several times when I had been sent to clean the pit. Considering the number of guards who surrounded him, I knew he was someone important. I just had no idea who he was.
I didn’t really care.
“The next batch won’t be here until Saturday,” the guard insisted.
“I don’t want to hear your excuses.” Wow, the guy was waving his hands. His face was turning red with rage. “Either find another contestant or you’ll be in the ring with the beast. Your choice.”
“Just do it, Westcott!” It was obvious from the way the guard cringed when the guy shouted that he was in charge. “I don’t have time for this shit. We have several VIPs coming in tonight. Do you have any idea how much money they have? These people demand excellence, and that’s exactly what we’re going to give them.”
I would have snorted if I’d been in my human form, but that would have alerted them to my presence. It wasn’t as if they didn’t know I was there, though. I was locked in a cell. Hopefully, I wasn’t important enough to acknowledge.
I preferred to keep it that way.
The man in the white suit stormed off. A door slammed a moment later. I tried not to shiver in fear when one of the other guards walked up to the first one. I hated it when there was more than one. It was like they egged each other on to see who could inflict more pain.
“What did he say?”
The first guard lifted his lip back in a snarl. Even from where I was curled in the corner of my cell, I could see the hatred in his eyes. He did not like his boss.
“Either we find someone to toss into the pit,” Westcott said, “or he’ll make one of us fight the beast.”
Westcott turned to look at his coworker. “Can you get anyone?”
“Not before tonight’s event. There’s not enough time. The damn thing starts in twenty minutes.”
Westcott shot the man a hard look. “Well, I sure as hell ain’t gonna do it.”
The other guy shook his head rapidly. “Me either.”
“If we don’t get someone—”
“We’ll get someone.”
“What about that one?” Westcott asked.
I forgot to breathe when I realized he was pointing at me.
The second guard reached up and rubbed the back of his neck, looking a little hesitant. “Me and the other guys were kind of hoping to keep that one around a little longer.”
And that right there was why I was ready to be thrown to the beast.