Part 2- ‘Heroes and Saviours...’
The sword slipped a little from her fingers; no…no this couldn’t be right, she stared up into his dark eyes, how…why?
Her breath quickened, the ground beneath her feet began to spin and she stumbled a little as she stepped forward, he hadn’t changed in the slightest, still the same hard set jaw, his hair was a little wilder now and he was bigger than she remembered, the muscles apparent and more defined.
But she knew him, she would have known him anywhere, and it was him, the soldier from the forest, the man who had saved her life. The man for whom the crowd was cheering, kill…kill…kill her.
Kill me and let it be over.
Drive this pain further, dredge the memories up, remind me of the child, the innocence lost, and the life that was ripped from me.
And it was you…you, where it all started, where my journey became undefined, where my presence was lost, I died alongside you, and now…will I die here, can you kill me now?
Her fingers struggled to gain a hold on her weapon, the cold metal caught the light, her reflection, and the thin band of her eyes stared back at her, the tears, tears from years of fighting to forget, of bitterness and an unrelenting ache, spilled down her cheeks.
For the first time in a long time they hadn’t taken bets on how long, how many rounds it would take for him to put down his opponent, he’d heard the talk, this time there was to be an actual challenge, they put money on whether he’d put down his opponent at all.
He’d been oddly proud of the fact, this Rogue, this mutant that he would fight, perhaps this time it would prove to be something to be relished. He ached for a release, hours spent caged, spent pacing back and forth, pent up rage and fury built into a burning fire, he needed to tear something apart, and the walls and stone floors of his prison could do no more.
He needed it, the animal inside, ached for something to be broken, for something to be killed. The blood pounded in his ears as he had taken that walk to the arena, pounded along with the rhythm of their chants, kill…kill…kill…
It is what you are; it is what you were built for. Here is where you will die, and here is where you will be reborn, under these lights, under this steel cage and caked in her blood.
Her blood…Oh God no, I dreamt of this angel, and now this monster, this unrelenting rage inside me has brought me back to this.
He knew her, he would know her anywhere, the curves were defined, beautiful curves, full curves defining the woman, her hair, it was different, full and dark, but with streaks now, pure white streaks that framed her face.
Her eyes, those eyes, chocolate brown eyes that seemed to burrow deep into his soul, serving now to remind him as they had done then, of that hollow vacant space.
That vacant, emptiness where a soul ought to have been, where pity and compassion ought to have been, you awakened me then, you poured back into me what I thought I could well do without…a soul. You breathed into me the remnants of a conscious, at your feet I was reborn and died in that same instant.
Her eyes brimmed with tears, the sword from her hands slipped a little, and her breath came in quick short gasps, matching his. He shook his head, of all the miracles, of all the coincidences to be cursed with, here and now, to be facing the cold metal of your sword, how …why?
He would have laughed had it not been so tragic.
And their shouts, their sounds, their chanting drummed harder and harder into his haunted mind until he thought he would drown in it…kill…kill…kill…
Kill her, the angel of your dreams, the girl who relinquished your soul, your saviour.
His anger grew, at the futility of it all, the sheer uselessness, we fight and we struggle but in the end we are brought to this, the bitterness of a life destroyed, of a hope vanquished, of a punishment unending and it made him scream.
His hoarse furious war cry rang out far into the night, it reverberated around the arena, and it shook the foundations, carrying over the chants of death, and silencing it all, he silenced them all.
His claws sprang out, shooting out in the spaces between his knuckles, the sound, the horrible sound of metal grating, echoed a thousand times over in the now silent arena. He watched as her eyes widened and she stepped back in horror, her fingers tightened over the sword, her grip now sure.
With you it started, and with you I was killed and reborn, and now…can you kill me now?
This wasn’t him…it couldn’t have been him, of all the things she had been sure of then, she knew he had been human.
Not this, this creature with metal claws, this thing with an animal like intensity that roared his strength for all to bear witness, that screamed an entire arena into silence. And if this was not him, then she owed him nothing.
She owed him nothing, not her life, not her mercy, nothing, you are not him, I am not obligated, I am not indebted, and I am not…
I am not free.
I will do as I am ordered, I will obey, and I will survive, one more night because I will have killed you, because I will have learned to bury this hope once more, one more night, and one more death.
You are not him, I owe you nothing. Her grip tightened even as she stepped back, even as the echoes of his cry had died down, she held tight to her sword and readied her stance.
And he did the one thing she prayed he would never do, he smiled. That smile, that beautiful smile even as they had shot him and he had fallen to the ground at her feet, it was that smile she could never have forgotten. Could not forget, it was him.
It is you, I am indebted, I am obligated, and Oh God…I am not free...
He watched as she fell to her knees, her sword hitting the floor with a thud, and the sounds began again, the miserable chants and jeers, she was not providing them with the entertainment they craved, and they would kill her for it.
He knew, he had seen it happen so many times before, out of fear, out of reluctance to obey, an unwillingness to kill one of their own, he had seen so many mutants dragged out, tossed to the baying crowd or killed where they stood, their hesitance rewarded by death.
All his screaming would not silence them now, she had to stand, she had to fight, and as he knelt down to her it was clear she already understood. Reaching out tentatively he pushed the white bangs of hair out of her face, she suddenly reached up and gripped his hand tightly, her fingers dug into the palm of his hand.
Her eyes met his and the pain of recognition kicked in, she shook her head slowly, fighting the words he whispered to her, knowing, and always knowing that he was right. They must fight…, fight, kill or be killed.
Kill your angels, kill your saviours, and kill yourself.
He pulled her to her feet, gripped her firmly by the top of the arms, and forced her to look at him. He smiled and kissed her lightly on the forehead, a chaste kiss, a kiss made at the altar of a goddess, a saviour worshipped in broken dreams and now brought forth in the most brutal way imaginable.
His gruff tones soothed, and his voice was a reassured handle in the dark, she grasped at it, I am not free, and I am not…
‘Listen to me…’ he shook her once more, ‘ya have to do this, darlin’ ain’t no way o’ gettin’ out of it.’
He nodded, ‘Look at me…LOOK at me.’ She looked up at him at last, ‘It’ll be alright, I swear to you, I promised once I would never hurt you, I’d sooner kill all these fuckers than ever hurt ya, but…’ he gripped her face tightly, ‘ya have to give ‘em what they want, and what they want darlin’ is blood…, but ya can be sure ah’m gonna be damned if it’s yours!’
He pushed her back, unsheathed his claws once more and growled low, ‘Ya have to fight…FIGHT!’
She stepped back, her sword hanging uselessly by her side, she watched wide-eyed as he advanced, the same horror, the same fear constricting her heart, she was that child again, lost and alone in the forest.
Stumbling upon a hero, stumbling on a flawed human being, a man who had killed so many, but could not bring himself to draw his weapon on her. He had spared her then, and he would save her now.
Strange, for all her strength, for all the crimes she had committed since, all the lives she had taken, with him it was gone in an instant. She could offer no predatory look, could offer no fight, before him she was defenceless, hopelessly unguarded and exposed. For all her faithlessness she was saved…
They struck and parried for the best part of an hour, the exertion showed on both their faces, the sweat dripped down their bodies, the limbs and grunts tired, the sheer exhaustion weighing down on them both.
She had found her sword arm at last, they exchanged strike for strike, and though this was all for the sakes of their audience she knew they would grow impatient, and call for an end to this fight, one of them would be forced to strike the deadly blow.
Her sword clashed against his claws, the metals became entangled as he locked their weapons together, and he wrenched the blade away from her hands. His force was unmatched and as the weapon went sailing from her hands she followed, catapulted halfway across the cage she landed with a hard thud as the crowd roared into life once more.
She rolled and scurried across the floor, a desperate attempt to grab at her sword, she heard his footsteps thud heavily towards her, the crowd on its feet anxious to get the best view as he dealt the final blow.
It was instinctive, a reflex almost, as her fingers finally gripped the handle of her weapon, she turned, half-rising from the floor, her arm outstretched, the deadly metal held aloft.
She could never have been sure if he’d planned it all along, or if she had caught him by surprise, but as she had turned he had stepped over her, the blade caught him in the chest, pushing through the skin she watched in growing horror as the metal pierced and sunk into his flesh.
He nodded, and as her grip faltered he took her firmly by the arm and pulled her towards himself. It was with a sickening resonance that she felt the handle vibrate as the force of his actions saw the blade pushed all the way through.
Through his chest, through his heart, and he smiled, smiled at her, a hero as he fell to the floor at her feet, the cold metal protruding from his back, covered in his blood. She watched as he rolled onto his side, he reached up to her and she fell to the floor alongside him.
The crowd was silent once more, and now it was his silent last breath, that shook through the foundations, that carried over the chants of blood, that silenced them all, he silenced them all.
Stumbling over a hero, stumbling over redemption, stumbling over the man who could not have seen her sins, the one to sacrifice himself for her, not once, but twice, and her heart, her heart for so long as dark as the bitterest rains falling from an unrepentant sky, her heart, her aching heart screamed.
It was you…I was obligated…I was indebted…I am not free…
Oh God, I am not free…too late, too late I realise…I was yours…