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Steve was in pain.
And he was cold too.
Both added and then compounded into an unholy combo that made the Spy wish he was back in boot camp.
At least there, the threat to his life was minimal even though the torture of training was more trauma inducing.
Plus, on the bright side his current tormenters were good looking.
One of them shoved him forward roughly and Steve had to bite back a snide remark as they made their way through the tunnel.
One lesson he'd quickly learned was that the Amazons did not appreciate humor. Especially coming from a man.
"So...where are we going? I doubt this is the way to the Palace."
He took a chance as they ducked through another intersection, the walls around covered by cobwebs and skittering insects.
"Shut him up."
The High Priestess ordered from ahead the group.
The two Amazons behind Steve wasted no time, one of them ramming the pommel of their lance onto his Kidney.
Steve went down on a knee, gasping from the pain. They might not look it, but these Women were stupidly strong. He'd learned that the hard way.
Damn that guy for not warning him.
"Okay okay, got it."
He waved them off.
"Less talking, more walking."
From then on, he gave them little trouble. His mind was understandably pre-occupied with how he to get out of this mess.
He couldn't rely on that...strange man. Kane, he'd called himself, to save him. Neither could he trust on the angel who he found out was called Diana to bail him out.
He was alone.
A few minutes later, the sounds of cheering grew audible from their front. The tunnel they were on had changed from a dusty path, into a bricklayered ramp that went up and up-
Steve enquired, risking another blow.
Neither of his escort said a thing in response.
Finally, the tunnel emptied out into a chamber of sorts, one with a brown ceiling painted with a mural depicting fantastical battles and phenomenal scenes.
Steve turned around, awed by the visual spectacle that any historian or archaeologist would kill to study.
The veteran fighter pilot muttered.
"The beginning. Unfortunately, you won't be around to see it."
The High Priestess coldly informed him.
Steve sensed the attack coming but decided not to react. As a result, his knee was kicked in and shoulders held in a vice grip by the two warriors behind him.
"You're probably wondering what is going on."
The High Priestess walked closer to him.
"This chamber is constructed right under the Coliseum. As a matter of fact, it has been here even longer."
True enough. The walls were archaic, filled with cracks and moldy sections.
"What does this have to do with you?"
The High Priestess asked, spotting his confusion.
"To answer that, I'll let you in on a little secret."
She bent down, close to his face.
"Do you know why you survived?"
Then she whispered something to him.
Steve raised his eyebrows in confused understanding. That's...not where he thought she would go.
Shaking his head, Steve took the bait.
"Why? Why did I survive?"
The High Priestess reached for her hood...and removed it, revealing a beautiful face set with silver eyes.
"I revealed the Island to you. I let you find Themiscyra."
The two warriors behind Steve stiffened in shock. As if this piece of news was new to them too.
"Ah, Your divineness? what do you-"
One of them begun, only for Steve, to plunge his elbow onto her belly. And as she gasped, releasing him while curling in pain, the other Amazon tried to bring her lance down on Steve-
-Only for her to fall like a puppet whose strings were cut, owing to the neck chop delivered by the High Priestess.
"Well that's that, I didn't think you'd trust me..."
The High Priestess sighed in relief, turning around only to feel the tip of a spear on her neck.
"Explain. Everything. Now."
The Coliseum was a haven of chaos.
And not just because of the cheers and roars of approval coming from the Amazons on the edge of the Arena.
The stands seemed to be steadily filling up with more and more Amazons. All hungry for a spectacle.
It seems that the drums were meant for more than just signalling the start of the battle; also serving as a summon of sorts.
That was at least my conjecture. And as it was apparent my life was at risk, that was as far as I allowed that train of thought to go.
Because I had a more urgent matter to attend to.
Like the lumbering mass of superheated flesh prowling towards me.
The Hellhound was unlike anything I'd ever laid my eyes on.
Even from this distance, I could tell from its shifting muscles and burning coat, that this was an enemy stronger than the Serpent Steve and I had encountered in the forest.
And the thing was staring at me with a ferocious look on its burning blue eyes.
It only took a second to regard me and then disregard me as nothing but prey.
Then it really moved.
And the whole Arena started shaking with each of its steps.
The temperature of the air around me heated up, and the cheers from the spectators increased tenfold. I looked down at my position.
I reiterate, this situation is not ideal. Not ideal at all.
Both hands in glowing silver chains, my body restrained by long shafts of metal that had formed a cage around me...and the physical aspect of my new powers...suppressed.
Welp, I'm dead.
I turned to the front, fearlessly grinning up at the beast rightfully from Fantasy about to make chow meat of me.
The distance had shrunk so quickly that I was treated to the image of long sharp teeth preparing to clamp down on my position, ballistic bolts, sand, Kane and all.
Only for the Hellhound to step on the breaks and stop a very short distance away from me, its entire body shaking like a leaf in a hurricane.
The Coliseum seemed to go silent at what they were witnessing.
Arissa didn't know what had happened.
The Hellhound was poised to attack like it usually did, only for it to come to a screeching halt before Kane.
The cheers and pandemonium of hot blooded Amazons looking forward to Kane's execution, were rendered mute by the unexpected turn of events.
And that's when she felt it. And not just her.
Lyra gulped as she and almost every other Amazon surrounding Arissa took a unified step back, staring at Kane's position with wide unblinking eyes.
Sweat dotted her brows, and her hands slightly shook. None of them had ever felt something so...raw and visceral.
Arissa actually found her hand inching towards the weapon on her hips, as her body reacted to a perceived threat.
The dust in the arena settled and the scene was fully revealed to them.
The Hellhound sat on its hunches, whining in subservience before a still restrained Kane.
Arissa tightened her grip on the frame of the barricade around the arena, eyes wide and skeptical.
"He used his Hades damned Killing Intent on the Hellhound?! And it worked?!"
She asked herself, incredulous and full of disbelief.
Lyra echoed, the look in her eyes changing as she reevaluated Kane. Who was this man? Were all males so...resourceful and terrifying?
Gritting her teeth, Arissa snapped her face toward Lyra.
"Give me the horn."
Lyra wordlessly complied.
Arissa snatched it and brought it to her lips, only hesitating for a second as a heap of doubt blossomed within her.
She could not mess this up, not when Alkyone was relying on her.
This was the show of power they needed to cement her position as someone to be trusted by the rest of the Island.
The Amazons would never follow a weak Queen.
So Kane had to die. He had to die in the most gory way possible. And if the damned Hellhound couldn't do it, then she was going to take matters into her own hands.
Up close and the Hellhound was no less intimidating than before. Nay, It was even more so.
But even a monster from legend would falter when put under the effects of my Trump Card.
A fully loaded blast of killing intent directed it's way. The phantom of death unleashed. A promise. Like a sharp knife hanging above a beating heart...
A skill that you couldn't train. Only sharpen with each life you took.
A whine that sounded as if it was projected from a loudspeaker caught my attention. The Hellhound was staring at me with a mix of fear and nervousness, it's chest rumbling deeply.
Oh. I was yet to retract my killing intent. Closing my eyes, I breathed it all in. The unmitigated malice and violence.
The commotion settled. Breathing became easier for all exposed to the effects of the Killing Intent.
When I opened my eyes, it was with a small smile on my face.
"You don't really want to fight either do you?"
I asked the beast, staring deep into it's eyes.
In response, a wet tongue rolled out of its fiery maw, licking my torso and face, covering me in dog slobber.
"Ooof, you should really get a breath mint."
I joked, hit on the face with hot dog breath.
"Then again, I don't think they make any that come in your size."
Another lick, accompanied by a happy bark that sounded more like the rumble of thunder, escaped the Hellhound, indicating to me that I'd won it over.
"Okay okay, get me out of here and I'll find you a bone or two."
I added, my eyes landing on Arissa and the Amazons on the edges of the sand field. Most of whom were looking at me in fear and trepidation.
My smirk turned feral.
"There's no shortage chew toys for you to play with."
Fortunately, the 20 feet tall and even longer Hellhound woofed in understanding.
With a swipe of its claw, the Hellhound smashed apart the ballistic bolts holding me in place,
allowing me to jump to my feet.
Then it opened its jaws wide, exposing to me long teeth the size of my hands in a mouth that was covered in super hot blue flames.
"What are you-"
My words were cut short when the Hellhound wound it's head around and breathed out an inferno of flames my way.
While my whole body tensed, I realized that danger sense had yet to activate, meaning it wasn't an attack.
I forced myself to calm down, enjoying the cascading flames as they melted the last of the ballistic bolts around me, leaving me standing unburnt and whole on the Arena.
"That's a good boy..."
I rubbed its lowered head, only for the cheeky thing to growl a little, a spark off it's coat jumping onto my finger and slightly burning it.
"Oh, so you're not a boy...a girl then? My mistake."
I chuckled, wincing as I looked at the finger and...found no burn marks.
The fire-she had such phenomenal control of it.
She confirmed with another bark, going back to licking my hands, only for us to be interrupted by the blare of a horn.
A very familiar one.
Looking over at Arissa told me everything I needed to know. Especially with the malicious expression she was sporting.
I coldly stepped away from the Hellhound.
The beast herself tensed, a dangerous growl rumbling forth from her chest and permeating the arena. She could feel the danger as well.
As if on cue, danger sense activated, with the air being filled up with dozens of long metallic shafts. The sharp tips descending onto our position glinted beautifully in the sun.
I see. So that's what you've decided Arissa. Your initial plan to use the Hellhound has failed. So the backup plan is to pelt us with a barrage of ballistic bolts.
I called out to the Hellhound, holding up my chained hands.
"Would you mind?"
Another growl and I was awash with flames.
Arissa gave the order as a ball of flames exploded in the area around the Hellhound, melting all the ballistic bolts before they could land on target.
"Sister...has the Hellhound always been this ferocious?"
Lyra muttered from beside her.
Arissa gave no answer, only tightening her hands on the barricade as she watched the flames die out, revealing Kane...still alive.
"Why won't you just die?!!"
Arissa lost control of her rage.
"Archers! Listen up! Don't stop firing until I say so. By the time you're done, I want to see that mongrel and his new pet full of holes!!"
Kane yelled out. And with no visible chains on his wrist, jumped ontop of the Hellhound's head, a grin on his face.
"Who's the mongrel and who's the pet here? You need to be more specific."
Arissa clenched her jaw so hard, her teeth almost cracked.
"No mercy. Fire!"
The Amazons manning the ballistic mechanisms didn't need to be told twice.
There was the unmistakable sound of metal grinding on each other, the bolts slotting in place with an audible clang.
Kane watched the third barrage flying at them with barely a reaction, wringing his freed wrists.
The fire had managed to melt even the chains, something he had hoped for but not expected. Fortunately, that saved him the trouble of dislocating his thumbs.
He rubbed his new ally's head.
She barked out, paws slamming onto the sand and producing sparks that instantly turned the particulates into glass.
Translation? Of course she was.