A champion is needed in Merrick’s trial.
Merrick’s chains are removed as soon as the arena quietens. Off to my left, I can see the Luna of the St Michael pack, Felicity. Her husband, the alpha, survived the attack by Merrick’s men. His beta, however, did not. Their new beta and a pack omega, stand on either side of her. The Minister’s voice magically echoes around the arena.
“Justin Edward Merrick, you stand accused of murder and carnage by attacking the St Michael’s Wolf Shifter Pack. The Council would like to understand why.”
Merrick sneers at The Minister. “You finally leave your ivory tower and you want answers, old man?” He spits on the floor and swears at the Minister, making every mother in the assembled arena cover their children’s ears. The Minister nods to the guards on either side of Merrick and Aunt Em once again produces the silver thread from her pockets. Merrick tries to get away, but he’s quickly subdued, though he is still thrashing when Aunt Em rests the cord on his shoulder, around his neck. As the magic of it takes effect, he quietens. When he’s calm enough, the Minister asks him the same question.
“Because they helped the dragon. I was told to…” and he stops, realising that the cord is making him say too much. The veins in his neck pop and strain as he fights the spell. Aunt Em places another on the other side of his neck. Not many can withstand one silver thread of truth on them, never mind two. He fights the magic hard, but in the end, it wins.
“By Minister Clarke,” he yells and collapses, exhausted by the magical fight. The Minister before us is Roger Harvard. What has Gabrielle Clarke got to do with this?! I look at Athanasios, whose lips are set thin. It doesn’t take too much to work out that he’s talking with someone else in his clan via a mind link; either back home in Greece, or as I suspect, another Dragon. With one hundred Dragons awake, they’d be a force to fear.
Minister Harvard steps forward. “And it never occurred to you that this was wrong? Why did Clarke want any dragon hunted?” Harvard asks. Merrick sighs.
“He didn’t say. Just that they had to be stopped before they all woke the hell up.” He looks at Harvard with tired, exhausted eyes. “End it now.” He commands. Harvard isn’t finished.
“How did you know to find Mr Dragonos on that path?” Harvard asks. Merrick looks at the floor. I can see him fighting the silver threads. If he keeps on doing that, the energy he’s spending will exhaust him to the point of killing him.
“We heard he’d travelled through our pack lands but was sent on his way. We projected his trail.” I know from where Merrick’s pack are based, St Michaels’ wouldn’t be on a direct path, but they’d be one of the largest, closer to Glastonbury than any other pack. Harvard nods at James and Aunt Em, who removes the silver threads. Then she steps back. When she is clear of Merrick, the guards too step back on James’ orders.
“Justin Edward Merrick, the Kinfolk High Council deem you guilty of treason and murder. How do you plead?” Harvard demands. The Minister is on the other side of the arena with Aunt Em, who is no doubt shielding him.
The arena is thirty feet in diameter, a tight space but you don’t need a vast amount of arena space most of the time.
“Guilty, not that I was expecting anything less,” he admits. He shrugs his shoulders, warming up; I do the same. Athanasios notices and growls.
“He’ll pick Felicity,” I whisper to him and he glances across to the St. Michael Luna. She’ll pick a champion, she has that right.
“Then you are sentenced to death. How do you wish to depart this world?” Harvard asks him.
“I’ll fight her,” he says and points straight at Felicity. She smirks in a grin and lifts her chin.
“Minister, it is my right that I choose a champion, is it not?” Felicity’s voice is clear, high and powerful. She’s got her shoulders set back; her arms are draped around her daughter, Penny. Her new beta has an arm around her young son, Daniel.
“You do,” Harvard confirms.
“Then I call upon Ava Callaghan, to be my champion.” I step forward before Athanasios can stop me. I’m sure he knows these proceedings as well as I, he’d be a fool to try and stop me.
“Ava, please,” he begs. I turn to look at him and offer him a wry smile.
“Watch,” I tell him with a wink. Then I turn back to the Minister and let my voice project around the whole arena.
“Felicity St Michael, I accept your calling. I am happy to be your champion.” I nod to Felicity and she smiles back with a single nod. Shrugging my jacket off my back reveals the harness that houses the two Callaghan curved blades. There’s a small commotion to the side but I ignore it. Merrick is my target and I will not let him out of my sight.
I give my jacket to Athanasios. His jaw and neck muscles look like they’re about to explode in rage.
“I’ll be fine. I have done this before.” His eyes are dragon-like, clearly, he’s not amused. Angry would be one word. “Athanasios,” I call out to him and he snaps his gaze to me. “You can’t interfere,” I remind him. He growls and nods.
“Do it quickly,” he tells me curtly. My only reply is a thin smile, a wink and then I turn, striding into the middle of the arena. Merrick bounces on his feet and I do the same. My jacket kept some warmth in me while Harvard laid down the law.
“You may begin,” Harvard announces and Merrick shifts, shredding his clothes as he does. I jump out of the way, rolling as I avoid his first attack. I cast a spell to prime the blades; one scratch is all I need to deliver; though I think Merrick wants a much quicker death.
Merrick skids as he lands past where I once stood, then he turns and snarls. I prepare to launch myself at his next attack, but Merrick starts pacing, swinging around. I move, cat-like around the arena, keeping my focus on Merrick. Seconds later, Merrick attacks again. I slash out with my left as my right drives up, burying a curved blade through his ribs, into his heart, killing him dead.
Merrick’s’ dead weight falls onto me, trapping me. It takes a few moments before I can find ground to push the stinky, dead wolf off me. As I’m about to do so, Athanasios lifts the corpse up and helps me up, his eyes still showing his Dragon near the surface. I nod my thanks and retrieve the blade from Merrick’s chest. I walk to his shredded clothes and use his rags to wipe his blood from my blades. At least they were useful for something.
Athanasios has retreated back to the arena viewing area, but I can feel his eyes still bore into me, relief now as well as nerves, wash over me. I house the blades, then I drag Merrick’s corpse to Felicity’s feet.
“Felicity St Michael, I as your champion, bring you justice,” I announce with Merrick’s corpse at my feet. These old ways of speaking are annoying.
“Ava Callaghan, I thank you,” she declares. Then Minister Harvard’s voice rings out clearly.
“Justice has been served. We’re adjourned,” and the sound of a gavel vibrates through the arena. In moments, Felicity is before me, thanking me.
“How did you know?” She asks and I smile.
“I am a Callaghan,” I wink at her. She laughs, hugs me tightly, then her children do the same. I recognise the young boy, he was the one stumbling in the second group.
“I wish you all long, happy lives,” I bless them with a smile and touches. Felicity thanks me again, then their new Beta guides them to the main hall.
Athanasios stalks over to me and hugs me, pulling me close.
“You are lethal with those,” he confirms, stroking my head, breathing in my stench. “You knew you’d be called to be her champion.” He states. His eyes are back to humankind now, bright and dancing. I grin up at him, glad to be feeling him shower me with warmth and reassurance. He emits a wave of sheer relief as he holds me.
“I ought to be, by now, and yes, I knew she would call on me,” I tease as a small laugh rumbles through him.
“Ava!” A voice calls to me and I turn, surprised at who I am now looking at.