AN:To those who decide to read this, underlined words are human words that Polemos understands, and the ones not underlined are nonsensical babble to him.
Alexander approached Polemos, who was sleeping on his bed of pillows in the house, which seemed to be getting more and more lavishly decorated the more that Polemos fought. He didn't mind the fights so much anymore. Alexander didn't take him all of the time, as he had heard happens to other cats, just when something got bad. It always involved the little jingle bags, and almost always involved the three men who had appeared on the doorstep the night everything changed. Alexander attached the chain to his collar and it roused the slumbering clouded leopard. Polemos opened his grey-green eyes and looked up at his owner. Alexander looked sad, he always looked sad whenever he took Polemos to the arena. "Come, my friend
," he whispered, and Polemos got to his paws, following him out the front door.
Today would mark Poelmos' 10th fight in the Coliseum, but he was fairly unconcerned. The fights were so easy. You enter, you swat your opponent around until he passes out, and then you leave. Simple, quick, no fuss. The wounds from previous battles had healed, and become scars, although Polemos didn't think they would last forever. He figured the scars would fade, and his fur would regrow. There was no lasting damage from the fights, and his first opponent was nothing but a distant memory in the back of his mind. The cat was unworthy, and fell by his paws. He no longer wondered if the humans helped the cat, he just assumed they did.
Once inside the Coliseum, he padded over to his cage, he knew what to expect now. He walked into it willingly, sitting down to wait. When they tossed in the slab of meat, he devoured it quickly, ravenously. He licked his lips and looked around the dimly lit room. It was filled with cages, lined up in order of what cat would go when. The cat ahead of him sat cowering, and Polemos assumed he was a rookie, and looked to the cat behind him. This cat was calmer, a lion by the looks of it, covered in scars and with a thick mane. "How many fights have you been entered in, stranger?" Polemos asked, less curious about the cat and more wanting there to be some sort of noise other than panicked breathing.
The cat looked at him, yellow eyes glittering in the dark. They just stared at each other, silent for a long time before the lion said, "I have lost count. You?"
Polemos shrugged. "Only my 10th."
"Have you taken a life yet?" he asked, catching Polemos off guard.
"What did you just ask me?" he gasped, appalled.
"So you haven't yet," the lion murmured. A dark edge entered his voice, and the gleaming yellow eyes narrowed. "You will. And it will cut your soul. Harden yourself. I expect your first kill to be this battle," his voice had a eerie tone that made the fur on Polemos' shoulders raise.
"Mind your own business," he snarled, turning away from the cat with a sniff of disdain to hide the fact that those words had gotten to him. He crouched, hunched in his cage, eyes wide as moons as he thought about what the other cat had said. But when the cage in front of him was wheeled away, Polemos shook his head clear and sat up tall, the picture of confidence.
It wasn't long before they brought the cage back, with a limp, unmoving body inside. Polemos stared as they took the cage away, and he opened his jaws to catch a trace of scent from the cat inside. The smell was still there, but somehow it was wrong, and it made his fur prickle. When they came for his cage, and wheeled him to the large metal gate, he was ready. By the time the doors were opened, he was pacing restlessly, and he darted out into the familiar packed earth of the arena. He watched as his new opponent stalked out into the open, and he felt his body tense. The tiger was easily twice his size, female, and covered in countless scars, making odd stripes when mixed with the natural black markings. It threw its head back and roared. Polemos took the chance, dashing forward lightning quick and diving under the belly of the large cat, slashing with one paw as he went.
The giant cat curved her back as Polemos dove, and so he only grazed soft belly fur. He quickly ran away from the other cat, but he could hear the female perusing him, and he dashed for the wall. Upon reaching it, he leaped, hitting the wall with his paws and kicking away from it, sending him soaring over the closely following tiger. But she pulled up short of running into the wall, spinning around and catching him as he landed. She swatted his haunches, knocking him off balance. In the few seconds that Polemos attempted to regain his footing, the cat was on him, her claws ripping at his back and sides. A shriek of pain erupted from the leopards jaws and he rolled onto his back, kicking as hard as he could straight into her stomach.
Her eyes grew wide and she coughed, a little spatter of blood landing on Polemos' cheek. He raised his paw and hit her hard across the face with a heavy paw, snarling in fury. He dove at the tiger, ramming his shoulder into her side, shoving her up against the wall. His eyes blazed green fire as his jaws snapped for her face and throat. But she shoved him back with a booming roar, her heavy paws hitting him in the face a few times in rapid succession. He stumbled backward, fur fluffed up to twice his normal size. He felt a burning in his ear, and his face felt battered and swollen. He barely had time to recover before the tiger was charging him again. She leaped at him, and Polemos ducked, scrambling away from her before she could spin around and get his haunches again. He spun, and of course she was coming for him again, and he felt a spark of fear. She was so endlessly persistent, and for the first time since his first entrance into the arena, he was afraid he would not make it out alive.
With a caterwaul of fear and desperation, Polemos acted on his instinct, leaping at the tiger. They collided, and their paws flailed wildly, both trying to hit the other, claws flashed and glinted in the bright light of the sun beating down on them, and their tails lashed. Snarls and hissed filled the air, and fur flew. Polemos felt a few of his blows connect, but much more of hers were landing, and they were hitting vital areas. Polemos screamed, lashing out once more with his claws. He felt them hit flesh, felt them sink through the layers of skin and muscles, and he could swear he felt them scrape bone. Everything froze, Polemos and the tiger stood, staring into each others eyes. His claws were burrowed, stuck inside her neck. His fur began to rise along his spine, his eyes growing wide with shock. The tiger looked back at him, seeming just as stunned. She opened her mouth as though to speak, but the red sticky, life giving substance that was her blood streamed out of her mouth and seeped out her neck, filling up the space between the leopards toes. A sickening gurgle escaped her before she fell, taking Polemos with her.
He landed, stunned in the dirt, and her blood began pouring onto the ground. Slowly, the realization of what he had done sank in, and he screamed, horrified. He ripped his claws free with a cry, stumbling away from her a few paw steps before tripping over his paws and falling over. His whole frame shook, his heart pounded in his chest, and he watched as the life slowly faded from the female cats eyes. He stared at her, willing her eyes to light up again, but they were dull, and staring blankly straight at him. His breath hitched; he couldn't look away from those eyes. They held him. Finally, he threw his head back and let out a blood curdling scream, before everything went black.
Alexander was seated in the front row, anxiously awaiting Polemos' fight. He hardly payed any attention to the other fights, but the one before Polemos' was brutal enough to put him on edge. The first cat let into the arena was tiny, and it was shaking so bad that it could hardly stand. He remembered when Polemos had looked like that; his first battle he had shaken uncontrollably in the beginning. The other cat let in was at least twice the little cats' size, and covered in battle scars. It snarled at the little cat, and it flinched. Alexander couldn't watch, he was mortified, and he knew the match had been set up so that the other cat would win. He couldn't help but wonder if they had tried to do the same for Polemos. Maybe that's why the payout was so good... but when the little cat left the arena, he was beyond dead, the herders had to rip the other cat away from his body, and Alexander felt sick to his stomach.
When Polemos finally came out, he looked confident, nothing like the previous cat. But his opponent was a tiger, and Alexander was on his feet immediately, having half a mind to jump down into the arena and stop this fight himself. He stared, hating himself more and more with each passing second. He was about to leap down into the arena when Polemos swung, his paw burrowing into the tigers neck, and the crowd roared for a second, before falling silent as the two cats fell together. Polemos ripped his claws free so forcefully that fur and blood flew through the air. Alexander stared at his friend, perhaps just as horrified with himself as Polemos was of what he'd done. Polemos threw his head back and let out the most chilling wail that Alexander had ever heard before he began to slump to the side.
He didn't care anymore, Alexander swung himself over the wall and dropped down into the arena. He ran to Polemos, going to his knees next to his cat, his best friend, and lifting him in his arms as he began to cry. "I am so sorry for doing this to you Polemos. Please..." he trailed away as the men that shoo stubborn cats back to their cages came out and attempted to drag him away from his dear friend. Alexander swung at one of them, effectively sending the message he wanted to, I am NOT leaving my cat. They allowed him to follow them to the medical area and observe as they patched him up before letting Alexander finally take him home. He carried Polemos all the way back, even though his arms were screaming in pain by the end of it. He laid the clouded leopard down on his bed and settled down next to him, planning on staying there until he woke up, at least. He wanted to make sure that he was okay.
When he woke again, he was back at Alexander's, on his pile of pillows. He jerked upwards, but Alexander put his hands gently on Polemos' shoulder, making quiet shushing noises. "I know, Polemos. I am so sorry
," he whimpered, stroking his fur soothingly. Slowly Polemos relaxed and laid back down, taking deep breaths in and out. His eyes began to drift closed, but just as they shut her
face flashed behind his eyes and he jumped awake, gasping. Alexander was still there, but Polemos was surprised to find night had fallen, and the human was curled up, asleep, next to him, with one hand resting on his flank.
Polemos stared down at his human, the fur on top of his head was a mess, and the leopard leaned down and gave the human a soft lick on the head, smoothing some of the troublesome fur tuft out. "I know you are sorry," he whispered, even though Alexander was asleep. Slowly, he got to his paws, wincing from the pain in his wounds, and padded over to the window. He jumped up, letting out a quiet hiss at the pain the movement caused. He sat down in the window, looking out and up towards the sky. He could barely see the stars in here. But it was enough to let him think.
He raised his paw, the one he had killed her
with, and his fur began to bristle. There was still dried blood staining the fur, and he began to frantically clean it, wincing at the coppery flavor. He slid out his claws, dismayed to find more blood there, and he pulled at his claws, and the fur between his toes, with his teeth, fervently trying to wash the blood away. Finally, he got all the blood out of his fur, but as he looked at the paw, her face flashed behind his eyes, her eyes staring at him, blood trickling from her mouth, he flinched as he heard the horrible gurgle again, and he shook his head to try and clear it. His eyes strayed back to his paw, and the words that the lion had said flashed through his mind, It will cut your soul.
That's what he had said.
Polemos stared at his paws, and shook his head. He was wrong. It doesn't cut your soul. It stains it with their blood. And I can never do anything to make up for what I have done. I took the life of an innocent cat...
Her eyes flashed in his mind again and he flinched. Gods, why did she have to stare at me like that? She didn't scream, or cry, she just looked at me.
Polemos turned away from the window, jumping down stiffly. He limped back to Alexander and curled up next to his human, staring at the wall until he finally fell asleep.