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The Mark of Eris
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Writer Chloe Quinn
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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The Mark of Eris
A - A - A
Chapter 3
Chloe Quinn
Jun 13, 2018
11 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!lEC2U6EejDBnKtBJMDJvposted on PENANA

Chapter 3 copyright protection7PENANAtlo4irCcPo

Fay inevitably fell behind Tahlia and Nadia as they spoke about what was going on the camp. She tried to focus on it, make some sort of sense about it, but she zoned out, her mind elsewhere. On the visions, on Andromeda, on another life entirely. Even Abe, Amon, Ben, Mel, Amanda, Tash flashed through her mind. Hell, she even thought about Peter, the man whom had raised her. She’d avoided him entirely out of childish spite. Now, she thought she’d want to see him but she didn’t – that desire belonged to another soul entirely. Instead, she felt detached, an alien peering in. An outcast amongst her own species. copyright protection7PENANACb2feXmSbF

That made her laugh.copyright protection7PENANAwN2ggEZ3hJ

Nadia tossed a worried look over her shoulder. “Something up?”copyright protection7PENANAzK5XPnosAe

“You wouldn’t understand,” murmured Fay quietly. “Modern joke.”copyright protection7PENANAQdqTsEROx2

Tahlia laughed, as if Fay had said something hilarious. “I think you’re going to fit in wonderfully here.”copyright protection7PENANAu3Pxk6bkat

Fay glanced about the myriad of hounds that watched them as they walked deeper into the camp. She was doubtful.copyright protection7PENANA3Ke9H3w6w7

The destination, as it turned out, was a circular collection of large tents with a caged dome in the middle. There were several smaller cages set off from it, each containing a demon, mostly low levels. In the end one, which stood the tallest, housed a Minotaur. It stood tall, breathing hard, angrily, tied down by thick chains. Tahlia led them past the cages, gesturing to them with pride.copyright protection7PENANAkmkLgNp7BX

“We capture demons to train with but eventually it wasn’t enough. Hounds are restless at the best of times, so we have to amuse ourselves somehow. From that, this place was born – a kind of gladiatorial arena,” explained Tahlia, like she was the mistress of it all. “Bets are placed on fights. It creates amusement, a little currency in this hell, even helps train, keeps us sharp.”copyright protection7PENANAa600Dl7PFh

Nadia seemed restless, like she was itching for a fight, something to sink her teeth into. She kept glancing over at the cages, eyeing off the demons, then sussing out the hounds that hovered. There was a fair mix of sizes and sexes, with each bearing scars with pride, and arm bands that seemed to denote either rank or wins.copyright protection7PENANAiJ1wSJApP6

As Tahlia led them into one of the larger tents Nadia looked ahead, exhaling deeply. Inside, there was a plethora of tables and racks full of weapons and uniform. A dozen or so hounds lingered, most bent over weapons, sharpening. A couple gathered together in a corner, speaking in lows voices together that fell silent as the three entered, their eyes lifting, tracking, sizing up. They even eyed Fay intensely, seemed wary, too. Did they wonder, too, if Fay was a fair threat? Had they already found out about her fight with Diana, or had they been there to see it themselves? There had been a decent crowd, from what Fay remembered, anyway.copyright protection7PENANAwatRVJElRg

“Is my sword ready?” Nadia asked quickly.copyright protection7PENANAi1mj10E8Pk

Without replying Tahlia strode over to a nearby table, lifting the lid of one of several long boxes. She stepped to the side, gesturing with a small smile, proud. A master showing off their wares. Fay drew close, curious to see the blade, as Nadia lifted it from the box, holding up. A low whistle cut from her lips as she took into the finer details of the blade; the engraved handle, the symbols pressed into the steel, gleaming sharp and deadly in the light of the lanterns that hung from the ceiling.copyright protection7PENANAq73sEWbem1

“This is some of Nakori best work. Give her my best, won’t you?” Nadia said, lowering the sword back to the table. She grabbed the accompanying back strap and sheath, setting about fastening it in place.copyright protection7PENANAlTbOK6ypsp

“One always enjoys to hear her work appreciated,” said another voice, a woman whom appeared behind them; she was short, petite, with long dark hair and distinctly Japanese features.copyright protection7PENANAFKr23s2IBR

Nadia sheathed the sword and turned, smiling. “I thought you were busy today?”copyright protection7PENANA22Z6uD3GSp

“Our squad is out of the contest. Our captain and several members were injured on a training run. High level demons that bled through from Tartarus. We sent them back but at a price,” said Nakori.copyright protection7PENANAHejS23ZBsr

An uneasy glance was shared between the girls, leaving Fay confused. Monsters bleeding through? She wondered if Andromeda had a hand in it. Who knew what she was planning?copyright protection7PENANA18bsafVcXw

“Is that common?” Fay asked.copyright protection7PENANA40z363HaJz

Nakori looked at her as if she was seeing her for the first time. She answered slowly, controlled. “No, it’s not.” She stepped up to Fay, eyeing her from top to bottom. “I saw you fight Diana. You’re not too bad.”copyright protection7PENANAzqOSjQWisp

“You say that like Diana is an easy target,” replied Fay.copyright protection7PENANAKtyWVIbQV9

“She’s not as good as she likes to think,” said Nakori.copyright protection7PENANAnZ9W2g0JqK

Fay bristled, as if the effort of the fight, and her own worth, had been diminished by those few words. At first it seemed like Nakori was just being dismissive, arrogant but, upon looking at her more closely, Fay realised she was being baited. She wanted Fay to join in on the fights, saw profit in it. copyright protection7PENANAj0b7TuYQNr

Smiling, she turned and surveyed the weapons. “So, Hades is okay with this fighting?”copyright protection7PENANAfxUOuPwFGs

To Fay’s surprise Nakori merely shrugged, as if the idea of Hades knowing or not was not even a priority, let alone a consideration. It was strange to see someone in the Underworld, aside from Fay herself, who didn’t think of Hades like everyone else seemed to.copyright protection7PENANAP4rZ0ug1eG

“He keeps to his own little part of the Underworld, ruling from up high. Hell, I hadn’t even seen him personally since I was branded until he appeared at your fight. Do you think he’ll be appearing more?” Nakori asked cautiously.copyright protection7PENANALyHWGAqEre

She clearly wanted to suss out any future interferences, to plan ahead for inconveniences. Whatever Fay might’ve said Nadia beat her to it, like she’d already found out.copyright protection7PENANA5GM0vgQ1Ww

“She was an obsession for his for two years whilst she had another master. I think he’ll visit when he wants to but I wouldn’t worry. He’ll grow tired of her eventually. Their attention never lasts on one person for very long,” said Nadia reassuringly.copyright protection7PENANAtLAVKBq0CE

If Nakori had any real intentions of convincing Fay to join the fights they were cooled substantially. Clearly Hades wasn’t fully aware of what was going on – or, if he was, he didn’t care. Nakori wasn’t overly eager to temp fate.copyright protection7PENANAHncpkSZKxq

Outside, a drum tolled – three heavy thumps. Nadia and Nakori shared a long glance. Beyond them, the other hounds were grabbing weapons and slipping out, chatting excitedly amongst each other. It bled into the air, seemingly compelling their little group to make their way out as well. Groups parted for Nakori as she led them through, their respect palpable. The crowd closed in behind them, spilling into a thin group surrounding the central cage, everyone shifting on their feet restlessly. There was a hum in the air which hadn’t been there, a stirring of blood lust, quite ribbing of prowess. Some strutted back and forth like peacocks, whilst others stood proud like lone wolves, their eyes sweeping the crowd.copyright protection7PENANAZD7LDC1tEX

Nakori bade them to stay put. She stepped up to the cage, then pushed open a small door, stepping inside. The low murmur fell to dead silence as she strode into the centre, all eyes on her, expectant. She seemed to bask in their attention, glowing resplendently, a ring master who had the crowd in her hands.copyright protection7PENANA08JB4ucuuP

“Thank you all for coming today. The first fight will be Ajax, son of Edonus, and our current champion Leviticus, the Hound of Tartarus. Bets are now closed for this fight and have now opened for the following fight, Nadia, daughter of Remus, and Felix Deveraux.”copyright protection7PENANA8cdlBxeBiL

As she spoke the first two fighters entered the cage, both sporting swords, though Fay’s focus was on Nadia. Nakori said she was the daughter of Remus, leaving Fay to reconcile that she might be the daughter of the squad captain, though perhaps another Remus. There was very little to support either idea. She decided to ask about it later, discreetly.copyright protection7PENANA2hpa22N4ws

When she glanced back Nakori was stepping out of the cage, closing the door with an exaggerated slam, starting the fight. The two fighters came at each other, little more than a blur of steel and flesh, parrying and attacking swiftly. Certainly, faster than Diana had. It was hard to tell them apart, though the taller of the two seemed a fraction faster, his movements just that bit more precise. The champion, maybe?copyright protection7PENANA2xBL8Ffl9K

Leviticus with his dark, long limbs was on the attack, bearing down with a series of hard blows. One sent Ajax stumbling back. Beside Fay Nadia’s breath hitched. Looking up Fay saw the concern in the eyes and wondered if she had feelings for the fighter. She hadn’t heard of any rules about relationships between hounds, so perhaps it was permitted, and maybe Nadia loved someone.copyright protection7PENANAbiXoEzVSae

Ajax dropped suddenly, stunning his opponent, and rolled to the side. He moved fast, a whir of colour and shape, as he got in behind and drove his foot into Leviticus’s lower spine. The hound staggered forward, briefly stunned – he was too slow. Ajax came again with a blow, sword slicing flesh, a deep wound into his waist – blood sprayed the sand in glittering rubies. He howled, sinking to his knees. The crowd hitched a collective breath, their eyes locked.copyright protection7PENANADdv2oy5cDB

The demons in their cages, sensing the approaching end, roared and paced, hungry for blood. Fay felt them all, even the ones that hovered at the fringes of the camp and beyond. They all seemed to know what was coming.copyright protection7PENANAEF8fqhVGC5

Ajax spun, swing the blade – and the head of his opponent rolled away. Both head and body burst into dust before the head hit the ground, vanishing. The crowd roared, leaving Fay and Nadia quiet, the later exhaling deeply, relieved. She unclenched her fists but remained where she was until Ajax walked out of the cage. He glanced at her, eyes flashing with something undefined for a second before he stalked on, slipping into a nearby tent. Nadia didn’t follow but her eyes followed him until he was gone. She pressed her lips together but said nothing. She only moved when Nakori’s resonant voice rose over the thundering crowd – the next fight had started.copyright protection7PENANAqNonc2X8U7

The next fight was over a lot faster. Nadia destroyed the smaller, slower hellhound. She didn’t kill him, instead stabbing her sword in the earth beside his head in one firm hit. Felix limped out of the cage, booed by the others. When she came out she seemed distracted, on edge, and stalked into another tent, Fay on her heels. She didn’t say anything as Nadia stalked over to a barrel of water, splashing her face. She grasped the edge of the barrel and stared at her rippled reflection, silent.copyright protection7PENANAmxlRAKqGW3

“Having fun?” Nadia asked in a low voice, detached.copyright protection7PENANAiBJrRaIMQl

“It’s interesting,” said Fay.copyright protection7PENANARh9fFliCuc

Nadia pushed away from the barrel and leant against the table, arms folded. “Ajax is my ex.”copyright protection7PENANAKQK6IlQ81M

“I didn’t ask.”copyright protection7PENANAcjnVKe6t1W

“You didn’t have to. You’re easy to read,” said Nadia. “It’s why I brought you here.”copyright protection7PENANAOTdX9TjrvN

Fay frowned, scarcely following. “What?”copyright protection7PENANADfEnmmIcvK

“You’ve got a lot of rage and power inside of you. The others might not want to see it – or can’t – but I know it when I see it. Here, you can blow off steam, really let loose and, for the most part, it’s contained. Out in squad training is different,” explained Nadia.copyright protection7PENANAYI3mENBKgC

Oh. She shifted on the spot, acutely aware of how much Nadia actually saw of her; that wild, turbulent emotions; how on edge she was; the way her mind was splitting at the seam. No one else had been able to read her like that, not even Abe. For all his wonderful qualities he was blinded by his obsession to keep her safe, trying in a futile effort to do what he hadn’t done with Andromeda. So, in his mind, she’d remained a wild creature, a free spirit that he might save with his guidance – his way. It didn’t matter if fate had other plans.copyright protection7PENANAG5vU3ENn5j

She glanced away, like that would relieve her of Nadia’s burning gaze. “I got the impression that Nakori wouldn’t want me in the fight.”copyright protection7PENANAbJzP6VcP7H

“She’s hesitant given that Hades is so focused on you. We won’t do this regularly but when you’re getting restless you can come here. She’ll fix up a fight for you, then go to town. That way the risk is reduced. Besides, for whatever reservations she might have, the promise of you fighting will be too much for her to resist.”copyright protection7PENANAz6pDs4r4OI

“I don’t get all this focus on me. I’m nothing.”copyright protection7PENANAGuNbpQPdeV

Nadia snorted. “Sure. Hades has never gotten so worked up over a hellhound; then there is your power. You’re untrained, sure, but to beat Diana the way you did, and the way you defied Hades? Let’s just say word gets around quick. You’re a bit of a celebrity right now.”copyright protection7PENANAxpE6eL2qAa

She squirmed under Nadia’s words and appraising gaze. It was hard to tell if what she saw was actually Fay – or if it was Andromeda bleeding through, slowly taking her over.  copyright protection7PENANA8agyNJCfNq

“Does obeying feel natural to you? When you’re Commanded?” Fay asked quietly, glancing around carefully before meeting Nadia’s guarded gaze.copyright protection7PENANAXuVKFkBvyP

“It doesn’t to you?” A weighted question, the possibility of treachery hung between them both.copyright protection7PENANAq5e4ctQfTq

Fay drew a deep breath, held, then exhaled slowly before answering. “No, it doesn’t. I feel suffocated, like I’m being dragged down by a thousand chains and my rawest instinct is to fight. Even with Hades.”copyright protection7PENANAp2BGApqcEe

Nadia pushed away from the table, her eyes darting away, searching. She then stalked to the entrance, ushering Fay to follow, whom fell into step beside her, uneasy at Nadia’s silence. She hadn’t made one comment about Fay’s confession. Maybe she thought it was too dangerous or was doubting making an effort with her, too much risk.copyright protection7PENANACBIymnTXSr

Silence pursued as they made their way out of the area, back to camp. Fay caught familiar smells and recognised insignias hung in front of tents. She should’ve been happy to be recognising her way so quickly but her mind was full of shadows, every one gnawed steadily at her mind. No matter what she did they remained.copyright protection7PENANANjx2oKveZp

Finally, at the tent, Nadia stopped and took Fay by the shoulders. She stared at her dead in the eye, cold, serious.copyright protection7PENANAFprh52Gvel

“Whatever you do never repeat what you just told me, okay?”copyright protection7PENANAJRXrpjPihI

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