The maw of the werewolf snapped closed over the gladiator’s face. His skull gave way beneath the pressure of its jaws. The giant died before my transformation had even completed.
Then the beast put on quite a show for the populace of glorious Rome. It tore the giant’s carcass apart, sending his blood up in a shower that extinguished one of the nearest torches. Then, still enraged, it charged the walls of the arena, trying to leap up into the stands with the crowd, trying and very near succeeding, failing by only three or four feet, coming that close to escape and wholesale slaughter of the spectators. The crowd exulted in the whole thing, entertained beyond their greatest expectations. It took an entire team of gladiators entering the arena and bearing between them a net fashioned of silver chains to at last subdue my bestial self and remove me from the arena.
If the Emperor had sent his forces to capture me and bring me to Rome in order that I might provide a distraction, a novelty, for his subjects, I had more than given him what he’d wanted.
Seeing how fast I had dispatched a man, even a giant of a man, the next night Silvanos the Gamesmaster put me into the arena with a lion.
It leapt upon me, bearing me to the ground beneath it, crushing me beneath its weight, the same way, I don’t doubt, in which it had slain countless criminals, enemies of state and, yes, innocent victims fed to it by the corrupt authorities. How many unarmed Christians had that brute dragged down and killed, I wondered? Concentrating on that fact gives me some small league of satisfaction, in terms of what happened next. The lion’s jaws sought the man’s throat, but found other jaws seeking its own.
Such power the devil gives to his creations! The werewolf fought its way back to its feet, lifted the lion off the ground and hurled it aside, as a grown man might fling a whelp, then, before the lion had recovered itself, leapt upon it. The two beasts rolled over and over in the dirt. The claws of the lion raked the werewolf’s hide and the latter’s claws tore into the pelt of the great cat. But the claws of the lion were not made of silver. The wounds in the Doghead’s flesh refused to stay open; they closed almost as soon as they’d been inflicted. The gouges left in the cat’s flesh, however, were not so quick to heal.
The lion stood no chance. The fangs of the werewolf tore out its throat. The king of beasts is monarch of Nature’s beasts only. It cannot contend with the spawn of Lycanon.
The crowd went insane at the killing of the lion.
“You’d best be careful,” Selene warned me a couple of days later, as she strode past my cage. “You are now more popular than the Emperor.”
She was right. The masses do love their monsters.
They put the beast against three gladiators at once, these armed with lances and swords, shields, clad in armor and helmets. The men died. They put the beast in with a pair of lions. Though I bore painful wounds for a few days after that encounter—the beast is not so quick to heal if the wounds are numerous enough and grievous enough—the Doghead destroyed both animals. I remember the roaring of the populace, so loud it troubled my ears, the keen ears of the Doghead, as I lifted the carcass of one lion overhead to then throw it upon the second, a tumult that grew even louder and more ferocious when the second lion attempted to flee from me and I pursued it. The sight of the Cynocephalus running down a full-grown lion as the lion would run down a timid deer drove the spectators in the stands mad with bloodlust and arousal.
My gory performances in the arena, and the throngs’ reaction to them, so pleased Silvanos the Gamesmaster that he announced plans to use me in more frequent contests.
“You force me to become ingenious, werewolf,” he cooed, peering through the bars at me. “Devising new entertainments for you. The crowds demand fresh entertainments.”
“The crowds can go to Hell,” I muttered.
Little did I know then how soon I would visit there myself.