Chapter 12 – Unfinished Business
“I saw him!”
Barnell looked up from his book at his father. The older
bear was perched by the window, staring out. “Please, let’s not go through
Boswell glared back at him. “I’ll telling you, I saw
him out there just a moment ago, looking at me! Royce is alive!”
“You’ve been saying that for days,” The large
muscular bear pointed out, “and you’ve been the only one to see him.”
“I know, but…”
“You have to accept it, father.” Barnell sighed.
“Royce is dead. That can’t be changed.”
The older bear’s face fell. “I know. But I keep seeing
him! I… I’m afraid I might be losing my mind…”
Barnell closed his book and put it aside. He stood up and
wandered over to his father. “Don’t talk like that.” He said as he gave
Boswell a comforting hug. “You’re just going through a bad patch right now,
what with everything that’s been happening. We both are. But we’ll get
through it. Now come on, you need to rest.” The large bear led Boswell through
to his bedroom.
A few minutes later, once he was sure his father was lying
down and resting comfortably, Barnell returned to his chair and his book. But he
gave up trying to get some reading done. His heart just wasn’t in it.
The truth was he was just as worried as his father. Worried
that Boswell was losing his mind. The way he’d been rambling on about seeing
Royce for days now, there was no way he couldn’t worry about it. But it was
just the top of a long list of worries. Everything had been going wrong since
But he did his best not to think about it too much. For his
father’s sake, he had to be strong…
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Royce spun around, startled. He hadn’t heard anyone
approach. But then, he had been pretty caught up in his own thoughts as he
watched the home of Boswell and Barnell just across the street.
He found Armin standing beside him in the alleyway. The
young leopard did not look happy.
“No, I’m not having ‘fun’.” Royce replied.
“I’m just doing what has to be done.”
“Attempting to drive an old bear mad?” Armin spat. “I
wouldn’t think of such a thing as ever being necessary.”
“Then you fail to understand the situation.” Royce shot
“All I understand is that your desire for revenge is
driving you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.” Said Armin. “This
friend of yours…”
“He’s not my friend!” Royce interrupted. “Not
“Whoever he is.” The leopard continued. “He hurt you
deeply with his betrayal. I can understand the temptation to cause him grief in
return. But giving in to that temptation is not the way to go.” He put a
reassuring hand on the tiger’s shoulder. “There are other ways.”
Royce thought about it. Perhaps Armin was right; perhaps it
was best to deal with Boswell some other way. This wasn't what he’d been
intending, he’d had other plans for his former friend all the way to Pyre. But
then he’d laid eyes on the old bear, the full sting of the betrayal had struck
again and he’d changed his mind, wanting to make him suffer. Even now, it was
He brushed away the leopard’s hand. “There may be other
ways, but I’m doing this my way.”
Armin looked at him angrily. “Very well.” He said,
simply, before turning and stalking away, leaving the tiger alone once again.
Royce returned his attention to Boswell’s home across the
street, planning his next move against his former friend. He sat himself down on
the ground, his back against the wall, making sure he still had a good view of
the old bear’s building.
It felt strange, he reflected as he waited there, to be
back in Pyre, the city he had called home for so long. So much had happened to
him, had been done to him, that try as he might, he couldn’t think of this dry
and corrupt place as home any more. The city felt unfamiliar and alien to him
He could remember how happy he’d been when he’d first
arrived in Pyre all those years ago, how special the place had seemed. Remote
enough to be far away from his former existence, but still enough of a bustling
city for there to be plenty of opportunity to settle and build a new life for
His first few months had sullied that view of Pyre a
little, as he’d been pit-fighting on the rough underground circuit, and it
wasn’t exactly glamorous. But once he’d been spotted and befriended by
Boswell Kincaid, things had improved. Things had been good.
Until Boswell had betrayed him.
Boswell had always been a good friend to him, helped him
through bad times, supported him, been there for him. It was why the betrayal
hurt so much.
On a rational level, the tiger knew that Boswell had been
presented with no other choice. That he’d had to do it to save the life of one
of his sons. But that knowledge did little to help with the lingering sting from
what his old friend had done.
But, being honest with himself, what he was doing now
wasn’t helping either. He hated it, but it was actually making him feel
guilty. It was if all that Boswell had done for him warranted a less harsh form
Sitting there, thinking about it, maybe that was true.
Maybe Armin had been right when he’d said there were other ways…
There was movement across the street, suddenly drawing his
attention. It was Barnell, dressed in simple loose clothing, leaving the
building, locking the door behind him. The large brown bear then headed off down
the street. Royce knew that the Stone Walls Arena lay in that direction, and
realised he must be going to do some training.
Watching Barnell go, Royce suddenly knew what he wanted to
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Killian strode confidently through the back areas of the
Stone Walls Arena, his expensive silver-topped cane clicking on the stone floor
as he hobbled along. A determined look was set the lion’s features as he made
his way to the training area.
There were many fighters there at the moment, sparring and
training with one another. The increased savagery the pit-fights had taken on
during his time as manager of the place had led to the need to have more
fighters, to fill in for those who had been injured while they recovered.
Of course the crowds loved it. Profits were up, much higher
than things had been under Kincaid’s inept management. So if he had to be
continually hiring new fighters to replace those that had died, it was worth it.
He stopped at the edge of the training area for a moment,
watching the horde of pit-fighters going through their routine, briefly
recalling the days when he’d been one of them.
But he was there on business, and had spotted whom he was
there for. “Dex!” He called out. “Dex, get over here this second! We need
A bulky Dalmatian detached himself from a group that were
practicing moves and headed over to the lion, his muscles rippling as walked.
Like many of the training fighters, the dog was wearing only the traditional
“Yeah, boss?” Dex drawled, annoyed at the interruption.
Killian simply beckoned him to follow and led him away.
Once they were a good way down the corridor away from the training area, he
turned to face the fighter.
“I heard you told my assistant you weren’t going to be
doing you’re scheduled fight tonight?” The lion said.
“Yeah, that’s right.” Dex nodded. “My shoulder’s
still sore from that fight yesterday. I’m gonna give it an extra day to let it
“I see.” Killian muttered. He beckoned Dex forward with
a finger. “Let me tell you something.” He said quietly. The Dalmatian leaned
The lion’s fist lashed out with lightning speed, catching
the canine squarely on the chin and causing him to yelp in pain and stumble back
a few steps, slumping against the wall. Killian relished the look of shock and
surprise on the dog’s face, at the fact that this crippled lion could strike
with such strength and ferocity. Of course, Dex didn’t know that although
Killian wasn’t a fighter anymore and had a bad leg, he still kept in shape.
“What the fu…?” Dex started to snarl. But was cut off
as Killian struck him across the head with the end of his cane.
“Now, you listen to me, muscle-head!” The lion growled.
“You’ve only been here a few days so perhaps you haven’t picked up on how
things work here yet! You fighters do as you’re told! You fight when I say so,
no excuses! That’s what you signed up for!”
“Hey! I…” The dog tried to protest.
“Don’t give me any crap, Dex!” Killian spat. “Go
against me, and you’ll regret it.”
“Really?” Dex chuckled. “What can a poor crippled
kitty like you possibly do?”
“I can fix it so that you never fight again.” Killian
sneered at him. “These days, I have the money and the connections to see to it
that you are never able to be a pit-fighter anywhere within this kingdom, either
in an official arena, or on the underground circuit. Understand?”
“You couldn’t…” Said Dex, but his face told a
different story. He’d obviously heard how powerful Killian had become and so
what he was being told could be true.
Killian pressed on. “I could even make it difficult for
you to find any sort of work at all. Or, if you push me far enough, a worse fate
could await you. Just ask Nathan Frost. He tried to back out of the fights I set
him as well, needing more healing time.”
Dex frowned. “Frost? Wasn’t he that polar bear who used
to fight here? The one who was found dead in an alley one day?”
The lion just grinned. “Exactly.”
The dog’s eyes widened in shock and his expression paled.
“So I expect you to be in the Arena tonight for your
scheduled fight.” Said Killian, his voice now pleasant. He patted the
Dalmatian on the shoulder and walked away.
Once he was gone, the canine straightened up, his shocked
look vanishing in an instant as his face split into an enormous grin.
“Well,” Dex muttered to himself as he headed back to
the training area. “This is going very well…”
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Barnell trudged through the baking hot streets of Pyre. He
was already late for his training session, but frankly, he didn’t care if
Killian was pissed at him. It wouldn’t be the first time. Or the last.
His worries about his father still preyed on his mind. He
wasn’t sure what to do. Ever since Royce had died, he’d been getting more
and more withdrawn, almost constantly down and depressed. It had been bad, but
Barnell had managed to convince himself that his father just needed time to deal
with what had happened before he could move on. Of course, everything else that
had gone wrong hadn’t helped things in the slightest.
And now this latest twist, seeing Royce everywhere. It had
him concerned far more than he was letting on. If his father was losing his grip
on reality, he had no idea what he could do about it. He had considered leaving
the city, taking his father and going elsewhere, putting the foul memories of
Pyre behind them. But he was still employed at the Arena. And Killian was more
than enough of a bastard to do everything he could to make sure Barnell
regretted it if he ran out on his contract. He’d proven that with Nathan
Nathan Frost, the polar bear fighter who’d stood up to
Killian, but turned up dead barely a day later. There was no evidence that
linked the crippled lion to the death; it was just something everyone at the
So all in all, Barnell’s list of options was a short one.
And he was so wrapped up in his thoughts about the problems facing him and his
father, that he didn’t notice the familiar tiger following him through the
streets, closing in on him.
“I think we should talk, my friend.” Said Royce, as he
drew level with the big bear.
Barnell skidded to a halt, staring at the tiger in absolute
shock, all his worries instantly forgotten. He was dumbstruck. Which was what
Royce had been hoping for.
“Please don’t say anything.” Royce said, quickly and
quietly. “I can understand the shock of a friend who’s supposed to be dead
approaching you in the street, but I’d rather not draw too much attention to
myself. Let’s go somewhere more private and we can talk.”
Barnell managed a slight nod. “Okay…” He stuttered,
still glaring at Royce in wide-eyed shock.
“Then follow me.” Said the tiger. “I know a place.”
With that he turned and headed off through the streets, Barnell stumbling after
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Armin was trying to meditate.
He was sat in the middle of the floor in the main room of
the small rented house on the outskirts of Pyre that they’d been using as base
of operations since reaching the city a few days before. He was cross-legged and
had his eyes closed, breathing deeply.
The leopard was trying to relax and put aside the anger his
talk with Royce had brought up. But he wasn’t really succeeding.
Armin heard the door open behind him, but did his best to
ignore it. And the footsteps that thudded across the floorboards towards him.
“You know, I’m pretty certain you’re doing that
The leopard opened his eyes to find that Acheron was
standing over him, with one his customary warm smiles.
“I have studied meditation for many years.” Armin
explained. “I think I know what I’m doing. These techniques I learned from
texts written by the renowned Hyrul.”
“Ah.” Said Acheron, knowingly, sitting himself down
opposite the leopard. He adopted a similar cross-legged position. “Well, he
could never get it right either.”
Armin frowned at the white tiger, trying to figure out if
he was joking.
“Don’t get me wrong.” Said Acheron. “Hyrul was a
nice guy, did a lot of good in the world. But when it comes to meditation, he
really wasn’t as good at it as many like to believe.”
“Knew him well, did you?” Said Armin, skeptically.
“Sort of.” Acheron shrugged. “Who do you think had
nightmares trying to teach him meditation in the first place?”
The leopard shook his head in disbelief. “Hyrul lived
almost three thousand years ago.”
“I know.” Said Acheron. “What’s your point?”
Armin looked into the white tiger’s eyes and realised
with a shock he was being serious. “You’re three thousand years old?”
“Older actually.” Acheron grinned.
“I knew you had been around for some time…” Said
Armin, “but thousands of years?”
“Yeah, amazing isn’t it?” Acheron replied, running a
hand through his head-fur. “All that time and not a single grey hair.”
“How old are you?” The leopard asked.
“Older than you’d believe.” Acheron told him. “But
enough about me. You seem to be pretty tense. And I know a way to deal with it
that can be just as good as meditation.”
“And what would that be?”
“Talking about it.”
Armin sighed. He supposed it might help. “It’s
“Let me guess.” Acheron interrupted. “You disapprove
of what he’s doing?”
“Well, of course!” Said Armin.
“Did you do your best to convince him to find some other
way?” The white tiger asked.
“Yes, but he wouldn’t take any notice.” Armin
“Then exactly what else can you do?” Said Acheron.
“I…” Armin began. “I don’t know.”
“That is because there is nothing else you can do.”
Acheron shrugged. “Royce has to make his own decisions and follow his own path
through life, just like the rest of us. You can offer him advice, but in the
end, what he does is down to him alone.”
“I just thought he’d listen to me.” Said the leopard,
sadly. “I thought we were beginning to get close as friends. I guess I was
“I wouldn’t say that.” Acheron reassured him.
“It‘s just that a lot happened to him in this city. Being back here is bound
to be a somewhat emotional experience. That is undoubtedly fuelling his desire
“I’m surprised you haven’t tried talking him out of
it.” Armin pointed out. “He’s more likely to listen to you.”
“He’s made up his mind that revenge is the course of
action for him.” Acheron said. “At this point, I don’t think anyone could
talk him out of it. Besides, I’ve been busy.”
“I’ve noticed.” Said Armin. “Ever since we got to
Pyre, you’ve been disappearing for great lengths of time. What have you been
“Making preparations.” Said Acheron. “It won’t be
too long before my Enemy knows we’re in town, if he doesn’t already. Which
means events will soon start moving more quickly. I have been trying to put
things in place before then.”
“What things?” Armin said, now confused. “What kind
of preparations are you talking about?”
“Now is not the time for such explanations.” Said
Acheron firmly; giving the young leopard the instant impression he wouldn’t be
giving him anything more on the subject. “In fact, I’m sure now is the time
when you are supposed to be relieving Tobias over at the Stone Walls Arena.”
Armin got to his feet, realising that the white tiger was
correct. Tobias was expecting him. The lack of solid answers bothered him a
little, but from what he’d seen of Acheron since meeting him, he knew that if
he didn’t want to give any answers, then none would be given.
He bid farewell to the large white tiger and headed for the
door. Before leaving, he glanced briefly back at the mysterious Acheron. He had
closed his eyes and was meditating. But it was his expression that stuck in
Armin’s mind at that point. It was one he hadn’t seen on Acheron’s face at
He looked worried. Very worried.
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Killian stalked into his office, grumbling to himself about
the arrogance of fighters these days.
He came to a halt just inside the door in surprise. Someone
was in there. A wolf with black fur was lounging in his chair, feet up on the
desk. He seemed to be taking a nap.
“Who the hell are you?” The crippled lion shouted,
hobbling across to the desk.
The black wolf woke with a start and looked shocked at
“We don’t look too kindly on intruders around here!”
Killian was roaring, “You’re in real trouble, and the really funny thing is
you have no idea how much!”
The wolf was looking more bemused now.
“Well?” Killian demanded. “Do you have anything to
say for yourself?”
The wolf simply laughed. “It’s been so long since
anyone dared talk to me in such a tone.” He said. “Its rather refreshing. So
refreshing that I think I won’t leap across this desk and skin you alive with
my bare hands.”
The lion turned to see Nomack standing in the doorway of
the office. “Mr. Nomack! I didn’t think you were stopping by until this
afternoon. I’m sorry about this problem here…”
“It’s not a problem.” The large grey wolf stated
firmly, walking into the office and closing the door behind him. “This is
Kameryn. A friend.”
With amazing speed, the black-furred wolf leapt across the
desk and landed in front of Killian. “That’s Mr. Kameryn to you, little
kitty.” He grinned.
Killian looked to Nomack. “Who is this, sir?”
“He’s the one running things.” Nomack told him.
“Whatever he tells you to do, you do it.”
Killian simply couldn’t believe it. If he didn’t know
better, he’d think Nomack seemed slightly fearful. “You’re telling me this
eccentric idiot is in charge?”
Kameryn glared at the lion. Nomack gulped, instantly
recognising the black wolf’s body language and knowing what was coming next.
Kameryn sighed deeply. “It’s possible you could regret
His hand shot out, grabbing the lion by the throat. Killian
immediately dropped his cane, both hands scrabbling to prise the hand from his
neck, where it was crushing his windpipe, preventing him from crying out. But it
was useless. Kameryn had an iron grip.
The wolf lifted the lion from his feet easily, almost
without effort, holding him up by the throat. For a few seconds, he stared into
Killian’s eyes, relishing the panic and desperation that filled the lion’s
Then he turned and slammed the lion head first into the
wall, with all the strength he could muster.
Nomack flinched at the sound of cracking stone and breaking
bone. When he looked back, he saw Kameryn dropping Killian’s lifeless form to
the floor, a bloodied mass where the lion’s head used to be. There was a deep
dent in the stone wall as well, with a network of cracks radiating outwards from
it, and blood splattered across it.
“Well, you might have regretted it if you’d lived long
enough.” Kameryn laughed at the dead feline before him. He pulled a
handkerchief from a pocket and started cleaning the blood from his hands.
“I’ll arrange to have the mess cleaned up.” Said
“No.” Kameryn strolled over to him and handed him the
bloodstained handkerchief. “Leave it all where it is.”
Nomack frowned. “Why?”
“It’ll serve as a nice example.” Kameryn smiled.
“To not offend me.” He looked back at the dead lion. “I think it’s also
a nice conversation piece. In case we should have unexpected guests. Which I
think is a distinct possibility with Royce in the area.”
“He’s in the area?” Nomack frowned.
“Oh yes, he arrived in town a few days ago.” Said the
black wolf dismissively. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have places to go and
things to arrange.” He departed the room without so much as a backward glance.
So that damn tiger was in the city somewhere? Nomack
thought. That was interesting news. He was looking forward to getting rid of him
once and for all and putting the whole business behind him. Honestly, it was a
little embarrassing that so much time and effort was being spent on a simple
slave with delusions of grandeur about his place in life.
But that was apparently the way Kameryn had wanted it. And
he wasn’t going to go offending his old mentor.
He glanced at Killian’s body. Then he realised with a
sigh that he’d now need to find someone else to run the Arena for him…
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Barnell followed Royce through the streets of Pyre, his
thoughts racing. It was impossible that his friend could be here. He had been
killed and cremated. There’d been witnesses and everything.
But yet, here Royce was, alive and well…
The tiger led him away from the more crowded areas of the
city and along some of the less-travelled back streets that threaded their way
between the clusters of buildings. They eventually came to a stop at a
half-demolished and abandoned house with large holes in the walls and part of
the roof missing. Royce stepped through the shattered doorway and Barnell
The area beyond was littered with broken furniture and old
rubbish, with light filtering in through the gap in the roof.
“We should be able to talk here without being
disturbed.” Said Royce, turning to face the big bear.
Barnell stepped forward before the tiger could react and
hugged him. “It’s good to see you again, my friend!” He broke off and
stepped back, leaving Royce looking a little bemused. “But what happened? How
are you still alive? Where…”
“It’s a long, complicated story.” Royce interrupted.
“And there are parts of it even I have trouble believing. Suffice to say that
ever since that night I was framed for murder, I’ve been through a lot. Most
of it painful.”
“I never believed that you killed that tigress.” Said
Barnell. “I knew you were not a murderer.”
“And what about the revelation about me being an
ex-slave?” Royce asked. “Does it bother you?”
Barnell smiled. “You think I didn’t already know? The
number of times we’ve fought each other, both in the pits and in practice, you
think I never noticed that scar on your shoulder?”
The tiger frowned in surprise. “You knew? Why did you
never say anything?”
The muscular bear shrugged. “I decided that if you wanted
me to know, you’d tell me. Otherwise, it was your business, not mine.”
Royce let out a small chuckle. He was finding it
surprisingly good to talk to his old friend again.
“Hey!” Said Barnell. “We should go see my father!
He’ll be thrilled that you’re alive!”
And suddenly, the good feeling was gone. The tiger’s good
humour disappeared in an instant.
Barnell noticed. “What is it, Royce? What’s wrong?”
“I just need to know, Barnell.” Said Royce, facing him
seriously. “Were you in on it?”
The large bear frowned. “In on what? What are you talking
“I’m talking about what your father did.” Said Royce.
“What did my father do?” Barnell said, confused.
The tiger stared into his eyes. “No.” He said, after a
moment. “You really don’t know.”
“Know what?” Barnell demanded. “Royce, what are you
“I’m talking about Boswell being a traitorous,
back-stabbing bastard.” Royce spat.
“What?” Barnell was shocked to hear the tiger speaking
of his father like that.
“He helped frame me.” Royce explained. “He was in on
it! How do you think that body got into my room at the Arena? Apart from myself,
he was the only one with a key!”
“That is simply ridiculous!” Barnell growled. “My
father would never do that!”
“Even if doing so would save the life of his son?”
Royce shot back.
Barnell simply frowned in response.
“He made a deal.” Royce went on. “To get the money he
needed to pay off Aiden’s debts and thereby save his life. So all this
happened thanks to that worthless pathetic brother of yours…”
Royce didn’t see the punch coming. Barnell slammed his
fist into the tiger’s face, throwing him from his feet and sending him
crashing to the ground, where he glared up at the bear, angry at the sudden
“Aiden is dead!” Barnell snarled. “And I will not
listen to anyone talk about him like that!” He turned away. “Even if it may
be true…” He added a few seconds later.
Royce sat up. “What happened to him?” He asked, softly.
“He got into a bar fight.” Barnell said. “It happened
a few weeks after you ‘died’. He’d started expanding his addictions to
include alcohol as well as gambling. Picked the wrong place to go drink, ended
up saying something while drunk that offended someone else there. And then he
got a knife in his ribs.”
The tiger climbed to his feet. “So Boswell betrayed me to
save Aiden’s life, only for him to get himself killed a few weeks later? There
has to be some kind of irony there…”
Barnell turned to face him. “Ever since then, things have
just got worse as time has gone on. Aiden dying hit my father very hard. A lot
of the time, it was as if he just lost the will to live. And then he lost what he
still owned of the Arena…”
“How did that happen?” Royce wondered.
“Some small print in the contract he signed with Nomack.”
Barnell explained. “If he displays behaviour that may indicate he isn’t in
sound mind, his share of the Arena could be bought out, for the good of the
business, without him having any say in the matter. Killian, acting on
Nomack’s behalf, used father’s grief and depression as evidence of him not
being of sound mind. And with him having bribed most of the legal system in
Pyre, there was nothing we could do about it.”
Royce suddenly found himself feeling sorry for Boswell.
Losing a son, losing what he had left of his business. He knew the old bear well
enough to know how much the loss of such treasured things in his life would
affect him badly.
But then he remembered the betrayal, and the sting of it,
and his sorrow wasn’t as strong anymore. Boswell deserved to suffer, as far as
he was concerned.
“And now Killian runs the Arena with an iron fist.”
Barnell was saying. “No one dares put a foot wrong with him because he had
“He what?” Said Royce.
“He had Nathan Frost killed.” Said Barnell. “No one
can prove it, but everyone knows it was him. Killian’s always using him as an
example of what can happen to someone who gets on his bad side.”
So at least I’ll be doing everyone a favour when I get
around to dealing with Killian, Royce was thinking.
“And things just keep getting worse.” The big bear
said. “Father rarely leaves the house anymore. I’m supporting us both, which
isn’t easy since Killian cut the fighters’ wages in half. And now I think he
may be starting to lose his mind as…” He stopped in mid-sentence and stared
at Royce. “He’s started seeing you about.”
Royce was once again caught off guard as Barnell’s
massive fist came towards him, catching him across the jaw. The tiger hit the
“You bastard!” Barnell roared. “Why didn’t you get
in touch sooner? Father’s been glimpsing you about the city for the past few
days, losing his grip on reality…”
“Good!” Royce shot back, rubbing his jaw as he got to
his feet again.
“What?” Barnell spluttered.
“You don’t understand!” Royce growled at the bear.
“I’ve been purposely letting him glimpse me. I want him to lose his grip on
reality! I want him to suffer!”
“He had no choice in what he did to you!” Barnell said,
leaping to his father’s defence. “You know that!”
“Yes, I do!” Royce sneered. “And that is why I
haven’t personally ripped out his traitorous spine with my bare hands!”
For the third time in the conversation, Royce was caught
unawares by Barnell’s fist. The tiger felt the powerful strike across his face
and was down again, hitting the ground with a thud. He sat up. This was getting
Barnell was standing over him, shaking with anger. “Stay
away from my father, Royce! I’d hate to have be the one who actually killed
The bear stomped away at that point, leaving Royce alone in
the abandoned building, with only his conflicted thoughts for company.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tobias yawned and stretched, and wondered where Armin was.
The leopard should have arrived by now.
The old wolf glanced over the edge of the rooftop of the
empty disused warehouse that he and Armin had been using as a surveillance. It
had a good enough view for their purposes and had the advantage of not being too
noticeable from the ground.
He was starting to question the wisdom of this continued
surveillance of the Stone Walls Arena. Royce had suggested it. Well, insisted on
it, pointing out how he was under orders to help him here in Pyre.
The idea was to try and keep tabs on Nomack and his comings
and goings, and perhaps even see if this mysterious ‘Enemy’ could be
The problem was that even though he and Armin had managed
to glimpse Nomack arriving or leaving a few times, such information was of very
little use, since there was no pattern or regularity to his visits to the Arena.
And as for the Enemy… well, Acheron hadn’t provided any
description of what he looked like and had avoided all questions on the subject,
making spotting him somewhat difficult.
The old wolf was thinking that maybe Royce had just wanted
him occupied and doing something out of his way, so he could avoid any attempts
Tobias may make to talk him out of what he was doing.
“Sorry I’m late, captain.” Armin had arrived at last.
“Don’t worry about it.” Said Tobias, getting to his
feet. “I suppose nothing new has occurred while I’ve been here wasting my
“Not really, sir.” The leopard shrugged. “Royce
continues to be driven by revenge. Acheron continues to be annoyingly
“And we’re stuck watching a building all day.” Tobias
“Sir, how long are we going to just let Royce carry on
like this?” Armin asked. “I mean, I know it’s not my place to say this,
but shouldn’t we be trying to talk him out of his revenge plans rather than
helping him with them?”
“I know how you feel.” Tobias sighed. “But I have a
lot of faith in Acheron, and he seems to be intent on allowing Royce to do what
he likes unchallenged. He must have a good reason.”
“A reason he is withholding from the rest of us?” Armin
“I know Acheron isn’t always as open as he should
be.” Tobias admitted. “But that’s just the way he’s always been. We can
“I don’t doubt it, sir.” Said Armin. “I just
can’t see what good we’re doing following this course of action.”
“Neither can I.” Tobias muttered. “I’ll see you
He left the leopard to it, making his way down through the
warehouse to ground level. As he emerged on the street, he was surprised to find
Acheron waiting for him with a smile.
“What are doing here?” The wolf asked.
“Came by to see a friend.” The white tiger grinned.
“How goes the surveillance?”
“It continues to be a colossal waste of time.” Tobias
told him, as they walked along the street together.
“I bet it does.” Acheron nodded. “But its what Royce
“Doesn’t make it the right thing to do…” Said
“Look, I actually came by because we need to talk.”
“Yes, we do!” Said the wolf.
Acheron frowned at him. “Is there something you want to
“Yes! What are we doing?” Tobias wanted to know. “Why
are we indulging Royce on his revenge mission?”
“As I remember,” Acheron replied, “you were ordered
to do so by Oberon Kane.”
“Don’t give me that.” Said Tobias. “You know very
well I’d easily disobey that order. But you seem intent on letting this carry
“My intent,” Acheron explained, “has been to allow
things to play out for the time being. Until my Enemy shows himself.”
“And what about your plan?” Said Tobias. “And where
do you keep disappearing to? Ready to share yet?”
“Unfortunately not.” Said the white tiger. “I have
been surreptitiously making preparations for what we will be facing since we
arrived here. But now I’m sorry to say I have to start getting my plan in
“Why are you sorry about that?” Tobias frowned.
“Because you’re not going to like what I have to do.”
Said Acheron, sadly. “I have to disappear for a while.”
“Everything will become clear in time.” Said Acheron,
cryptically. “Just remember that I am around, and will make my move when the
time is right.”
Tobias shook his head sadly. “Very well. You know I trust
you, but…” And then the old wolf realised he was alone.
He spun around and looked back along the street. There was
no white tiger anywhere in sight, and judging from the way everyone was still
going about their normal business, no one could have seen anything too unusual.
Acheron had just vanished.
It wasn’t the first time the white tiger had pulled that
trick on him, but it was no less amazing this time. He just couldn’t see any
way Acheron could have disappeared from sight so quickly without being noticed.
He shook off the thought. The bigger concern was that
Acheron was gone now, off doing whatever it was he had planned to do. And he was
left to explain it to Royce and Armin.
The old wolf continued on his way, hoping Acheron knew what
he was doing. He trusted the white tiger more than anyone else in the world, and
that was unlikely to change. But this situation was fast becoming more confusing
and complicated than he generally liked things to be. He honestly couldn’t see
how this was possibly all going to work out in the end.
He wasn’t looking where he was going, so wasn’t too
surprised when someone bumped into him, walking in the opposite direction.
“Watch where you’re going!” Growled the bear that had
collided with him.
“Sorry.” Muttered Tobias, and continued on his way.
Then he stopped in his tracks and looked back in shock.
The bear was walking away, not giving Tobias a second
thought. It had taken a second to register, but he was the very same mysterious
black bear he’d glimpsed back at the Haven. He was even wearing the same
clothes. What was he doing here?
As he watched, the bear turned into an alley, moving out of
sight. Tobias knew what he had to do. This was an opportunity to find out more
about the black bear and what connection he had with events.
He padded back along the street to the alley. At the corner
he stopped and peered cautiously around. The alley was drenched in shadows, but
he could still make out the bear, stomping along. His quarry turned another
Tobias followed, creeping along quietly, glancing in
revulsion at the mess and rubbish that littered the cramped avenue. He quickly
reached the corner and took a look around it…
The black bear was right there, leaning against the wall,
arms folded casually, staring straight at him, waiting for him. “Tobias
Clandrell, I presume?” He rumbled.
It was a trap. Tobias spun around to make a run for it,
only for him to be struck across the side of the head by something heavy and
blunt. The wolf went down, slumping against the wall of the alleyway as he fell.
There was a rather scruffy looking canine, a bulldog,
standing over him, holding a large piece of timber, which he had used to attack
Tobias. The bear quickly joined him. “Well done.” Said the black bear,
grinning down at Tobias.
“What about my money?” Demanded the dog, throwing his
makeshift weapon aside. “You said if I helped you with him, you’d pay me!”
“Of course.” Said the bear, reaching into a pocket.
“Here you are…”
The bulldog stepped forward. Ready to take his payment. But
suddenly found a small knife plunged into his chest. He staggered back a few
steps before collapsing.
“I love this city.” The bear grinned down at Tobias.
“It’s so easy to find someone willing to do anything for anyone for some
quick cash! Just a shame there can be no loose ends in this case.”
Tobias was still semi-conscious and was groggily trying to
pull himself up.
“Just be glad you’re not a loose end, Tobias.” The
bear chuckled. “Not yet.”
The old wolf saw the bear’s fist coming towards his face,
and then everything went black…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was time to put and end to things.
Royce was stood in front of the door of Boswell’s house,
summoning up the courage to knock. He’d been thinking about this for so long,
but now doubts were creeping in that perhaps finishing off his former friend
wasn’t the right thing for him to do.
So it was time to do it before he lost his nerve. He
It took a few minutes for Boswell to answer the door. And
then it creaked open, giving Royce a good look at the one who’d betrayed him.
It was a shock now that he saw him up close. The bear
looked a lot gaunter than Royce remembered, haggard and bedraggled, his
shoulders slumped, his fur unkempt. He looked tired and unhealthy, a haunted
look in his eyes as he looked up at Royce in surprise.
Suddenly Royce caught himself thinking that perhaps this
wasn’t a good idea. He’d been unprepared for seeing Boswell in such a state.
He hadn’t realised how bad Boswell was doing and how much he still cared in
spite of everything. Maybe he could…
“No…” Boswell stammered, staggering back from the
open door. “You can’t be here! You died!” The bear was utterly terrified
as he backed away from the tiger.
Royce took a deep breath, steeling himself. Hearing
Boswell’s voice had brought back the sting of the betrayal he had suffered; it
had reminded him of why he was doing this. He stepped through the door.
“But I am here, Boswell!” He growled. “I’ve come to
settle the score for what you did to me!”
“I…” Boswell was having trouble finding words,
stricken with fear. “I… I’m sorry!”
“Not good enough.” Said Royce. “I want…”
All of a sudden, hands fell on his shoulders, grabbing him
and throwing him aside. Taken by surprise, Royce was slammed against the wall.
He spun around to face his attacker.
Barnell was there, manoeuvring himself so that he was
between Royce and his father.
“I don’t know how you made it here ahead of me.” The
big bear rumbled. “But I warned you to stay away from my father.”
“Get out of the way!” Said Royce. “He and I have
unfinished business.” He glared at Boswell, who was now cowering behind his
“And it’s going to remain unfinished!” Barnell shot
back. “If you want my father, you’re going to have to go through me!”
Royce stared at Barnell. This is not the way he had wanted
this to go. Barnell had done nothing to him. But he was in the way. And Royce
wasn’t about to let anything keep him from his revenge.
“Very well.” He said. “I will do what I have to. Even
if it means beating you to a pulp first…”
To Be Continued…
Raging Tiger/Kuman the Barbarian/Mitchell and Michael/Going Under/Beware the Transformer/Servus Inc./Farewell to Free Will
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