In the Shadow of the Sundered Shield

by Hallan Mirayas

Author's warning: GRAPHIC violence and gore ahead. Viewer discretion is advised.

March 28, 708

Revonos leaned on the arm of his throne, pondering as he watched the arena fight. His recent acquisition, Carcarak, fought below, and fought magnificently. He leaped in to strike and leaped out again, rarely doing so without acquiring a fresh stain of blood on his teeth to match his deeply blood-soaked fur. Already, within a single month, fame was spreading in the Hells of the mighty Beast of Revonos, the Red Jaws, the Blood Wolf.

Revonos did not often take the time to ponder things. Indeed, if any of the other members of the Pantheon were asked, especially that sissy Dokorath, he thought, they would say that Revonos -never- pondered things. Even Suspira, lovely and clever as she was, underestimated him, and that was just fine with him. He just felt he drew his greatest power from raw emotions, that control was not the right path for a warrior. He -had- control, he just rarely used it. If they wanted to believe something else, well, then that just made them easier targets.

Still, his new war wolf intrigued and puzzled him enough to be worth the pause for contemplation. Rarely had he seen a creature more receptive to Revonos' rage and hatred, and yet so coldly calculating when left to his own devices. On his own, he fought with a cold, ruthless fury as merciless as Revonos could possibly desire. Not for nothing was he also called the Frozen Flame.

It had seemed so easy breaking him. His pride had shattered like brittle glass. His foolish ideas about compassion and mercy had folded after only a few lessons in pain. His compunctions about 'fairness' and 'decency' had melted like a house of sand. Carcarak had cast everything of his former life aside... except for one thing. By the time Revonos had realized there was a part of his war wolf that would not yield, Carcarak's mind had drawn so fiercely around it that Revonos could not determine what it was. All he knew was that it was a devotion to someone or something, so powerful that it defied all efforts to quash that tiny pocket of rebellion, that shred of final resistance. Its fierceness was a blinding radiance, a backed-into-the-corner, last ditch, final stand from which there would be no shrinking. Its ferocity bordered on insanity, a state of mind with which Revonos was very familiar indeed. As a warrior, Revonos could understand and even admire the result, but he could not understand the source. What was it that kept Carcarak fighting? Could there possibly be something to all of Dokorath's blatherings about loyalty?

Revonos spat in disgust and lashed the chain binding his war wolf to him, blasting the beast with raw pain for inspiring such an odious thought. "Feh. Never." He watched as the wolf rode through the pain, turning it into fury that he used to literally tear one of his opponents apart in a delightful spray of blood and body parts.

He would break, sooner or later. They always broke. And yet, to his surprise, Revonos realized that he would regret it when that happened. It was what made the war wolf so interesting a plaything and, he suspected, so devastating in the arena.

Revonos peered at the war wolf again as the beast fought on, his brow furrowed in puzzlement. "What makes you hold on, my Blood-Drinker? What is it that you cling to so tightly? What makes you so strong?"

Below, Carcarak hamstrung his last opponent, a balrog, and he leapt away while the creature fell, gulping down the mouthful of still quivering muscle that he had taken. He darted in again to destroy the other hamstring, once again ripping it free and eating it where the balrog could see. Revonos smiled. Such a showman. The crowds loved it, and they flooded his coffers with soul tar to see it. Even that stuck-up prig Agemnos had to admit that Revonos had discovered a true prize.

The wolf circled carefully, watching the balrog's whip, and moved only when he saw the bull-creature commit to a strike. Once, twice he dodged, and on the third strike he caught the whip in his jaws and ripped it from the balrog's hands, contemptuously biting it in half before devouring that, too.

Carcarak stared into its eyes for a long moment, letting it savor its pain and its upcoming death, freezing it with those fearsome golden eyes before lunging forward and ripping each bicep. Knocking it onto its back with a powerful shoulder, he left it helpless but still alive as he bit into its belly and feasted on its entrails, working up through the stomach and into the chest, dragging each organ out into view for the crowd's pleasure before devouring it. He left the heart and lungs for last, just so it could moan and scream.

He cracked open the chest next, crunching his way one by one through the ribs, and bit the still pumping heart in half. He quickly gulped that portion down with a single swallow and took the rest into his mouth to drink the balrog dry. Only when he had suckled every last drop from the beast's veins did he bite through and eat the rest.

Carcarak had just lifted his bloodied head to the cheers of the crowd when an audacious imp, perhaps feeling secure in its fast healing, landed next to him and made a grab for the choice meat. The Beast of Revonos slapped it onto its back with a sweep of his forepaw and pinned it down nearly hard enough to crush it. He growled furiously and, when it started to protest, he bit off its head and ate it while the imp regenerated. When it started yelling about how much that hurt, he yawned widely, and then bit off its head again. This time he waited until it could see before he crushed that skull in his jaws and swallowed it to join the first. He growled again, a low warning that the arena had to hush to hear. "Alright! Alright!" The imp screamed. "I was just hungry, okay?!"

Blood and gore dripping from his chin, Carcarak leaned down and smiled. The look was unmistakable and sent a chill of fear through many who saw it. Especially the imp, who got a nice close view just before the wolf bit off its head again, waited, and then spat it out so it bounced off the new head freshly grown in its place. His message was clear. When he let the imp up, it took the head and flew hastily away.

The crowds roared with laughter, all the way up to and including Revonos himself. Carcarak heard, straightened up, and turned to bow his head in reverent obeisance to his master. His head tilted slightly so Revonos could once more see, as he enjoyed so much, the purposely shaved area over Akkala's dead, blackened Mark.

And all the while, in his head, Carcarak repeated to himself, Do what you have to do. Survive at any cost. Popularity is favor. Favor is life. He will come. He will not leave me here.

He will come. He -will- come. Must... Must remember... Must. Remember. Misha!

But NEVER let Revonos know.

Up on his throne, Revonos frowned anew, sensing in that letter-perfect bow a tiny seed of rebellion. Such a puzzling creature. Such a very puzzling creature indeed.