The Centurion Cycle Book Five ~ Of Shadow and Fire

Chapter Thirty: No Choice

Unlike, the first time Jason arrived in Domus there were no lines of waiting people there to greet him. Inside the walls, the entire city seemed to be under a dark shadow. Its once crowded streets almost completely empty, the few Famulus about almost running to their destination. From where the Famulus Quarter once stood Jason saw a large pillar of black smoke rising.

Taken to Xavier's palace where once the Grand Square once stood Jason was put in chains, his wing bound to his body before being led inside to Xavier's throne room. There he found to so-called emperor sitting on his gold throne his knees bouncing in an agitated fashion. "So this is Jason... the Holy King of Qul Tos," Xavier smirked.

"We've met before," Jason said smartly, receiving a punch in the jaw from one of the Centurions guarding him.

"Still a cocky brat I see but what are you going to do now my winged Legatio. There are no more Field Marshals to protect you. There is only me."

"Not much of an improvement from what I can see," Jason replied, this time getting hit in the gut causing him to bend over.

"What a clever mouth you have," Xavier chided. "Still you have some uses. We have planned a great festival to celebrate your capture. There will be games and sports with a grand finale of you being put in the arena against Felix."

"I know," Jason whispered having foreseen it all. "Please don't send Felix against me."

"Why, you afraid?" Xavier asked holding a hand to his ear mistaking Jason's tone of pity for insecurity.

"Felix cannot beat me so I do not wish to hurt him."

"Oh, it is overconfidence you feel," Xavier grunted, disappointed. "I think you will be surprised by Felix now," he said before clapping his hands. To the side of the throne room, a pair of gilded doors opened. From it jumped a large half-naked man, wildness about his face as he darted his head about the room.

"Oh Felix," Jason sighed sadly. "To think our rivalry would lead to this."

"Quite fearsome isn't he," Xavier said taking Jason's sad expression for shock. "Unfortunately high-quality anime is rare these days, so we had to use the anima of the younglings on him. Their unformed memories have driven him quite mad as you can see. Still he knows how to use a sword." Xavier said as he drew the sword from his belt, throwing it to Felix, the insane Legatio catching it and using it to kill one of the men holding his chains. Felix then used the blade to break into the man's anima core. Reaching into the dead Centurion's body he scooped out the elixir with his bare hands.

"Enough Xavier, end his misery." Jason pleaded.

"No, I am leaving that pleasure for you. If you are as good as you think you are you will have no problem killing him in the arena. Let him sulk in the dungeons for a week as he thinks on this," he ordered to his guards.

It was not until the fourth day that Armageddon visited him, bring with him a flask of water and a little food with him. "I'm alright Alex. You shouldn't risk being down here," Jason said calmly. "I know what he's up to. He hopes to weaken me before I face Felix."

"Yes, that is what he's planning," Alex nodded. "Tonight I have gained a boon from him. You are to come with me to my bedchambers."

"Have you seen reason?" Jason asked hopefully.

"I have always known Xavier would come to a bad end even if I caused it myself. The great store of anima under the Hall of the Field Marshals is almost exhausted. As you saw with Felix, the anima of the younglings is tainted and will drive a man insane. What I want to know is what do you plan to do about it?"

"Why are you asking me that? I am your prisoner."

"I might be a demon but I'm no fool, Jason. I know you have a plan. I was hoping you will let me in on it. We could help each other like in the old days."

"I wish I could Alex but I know why you're really here. The Gate has fallen. Armies are moving toward the capital from the north and south. The old generals are turning against Xavier. The emperor is becoming desperate. That is why he sent you here and why I can't tell you anything."

"Damn Jason. How do you know all that? I know no one has come to visit you since you were put in your cell since I have the only key to the dungeons."

"Reaching through the bars Jason grabbed Alex's right hand. "We cannot escape our fate. We can only make the best of it," he said his dark eyes burrowing into Alex's solid blues. This was the moment... the moment he would always wake from his dreams. Before Alex was two futures. Both of them were almost identical, except for one thing, Alex's fate.

"I am a condemned man Jason... nothing can save me from that fate," Alex said after a long silence.

"I have failed," Jason said in an inaudible whisper, heavy tears dripping from his face. If Alex believed he had no hope for salvation that was to be his fate.

"Why are you crying," Alex demanded anger filling his voice. "Are you crying for me? He said before he started kicking the bars of Jason's cell. "No one cries for Armageddon, no one!" he yelled in his booming voice.

"Do not worry Alex. I promised I would take care of you. Though I had wished to do it, you will be saved. I promise." Jason said his voice filled with a terrible sadness.

"Stop crying!" Alex shouted at the top of his voice.

"I'm sorry Alex," Jason said even as the tears continued to fall.

"Stop it," Alex screamed as he fled from Jason's sight.

Letting out a deep sigh, Jason tried to wipe his tears away. He knew why Alex had run from his tears. Deep down past all the thousand memories Alex had consumed was the original young man, untouched by Xavier's corruption. It was that tiny part of Alex, the part of him who remembered what being a Centurion meant and remembered his promises to Jason that could not stand the idea that he could cause Jason such pain as he had seen on Jason's face.

"You have done well Jason," Thomas' voice said interrupting Jason's silent grief.

"You will keep your word?"

"Aye, the Dominus are pleased with you. They hope to continue to be impressed by your progress. Alex will be taken care of, do not worry."

"I have no choice... do as you will."

"You should be used to having no choices. You knew what would happen if you refused to come here. Domus would have destroyed itself, the Centurions and Legatio would have gone extinct and you would not have the army you know you will need for the approaching storm."

"Is that all you have to say?"

"Only congratulations, it will all be over soon," Thomas said before his voice faded out of Jason's head.

On the seventh day, the guards came for him, giving him a leather jerkin to wear as well as his gold staff. He counted that as a blessing. As he rode in a cage to the arena he was comforted by its touch and familiar weight as he replayed his dreams in his head. No matter what happened now Xavier was doomed. Nothing Jason could do could ruin that outcome. By the time he reached the arena, he knew that the guards at the main gate had been overpowered by a raging Famulus mob, opening the gates to let in the combined armies of Tal Sith, Qul Tos, and Aquanos as well as the countless throng of Famulus who followed them all in Jason's name.

Stepping into the sandy floor of the arena Jason saw Felix, still as mad as ever held back only by a leather leash. In the balcony where the Field Marshals once watched only Xavier sat looking incredibly uncomfortable on his stone throne. With a drop of the emperor's hand, the leash was cut, Felix almost running on all fours toward Jason. Standing as if stoic Jason waiting calmly for Felix to come towards him. In the end, all he could offer the unfortunate man now was a quick death. As Felix attempted to jump at him, sword flailing, Jason made a mighty swing with his staff, sending it crashing into the man's skull, crushing it on contact. As the gathered crowd of Centurions, Famulus, and even a symbolic number of Legatio sat in silence Jason took in a deep breath, snapping the chain that bound his wings. He then rose up to be even with the Emperor in his box, ready to lay down the crimes this man had committed.

"For shame!" Jason shouted in a strong voice that filled the arena. "For shame that we have come to this... that a Legatio has been forced to kill his brother," Jason said as crossbow bolts bounced off his body. "For shame on you all who have supported this usurper, this Legatio and child killer, this demon. Do none of you remember your oaths. How dare you let this creature live as the people of the Empire, my people have been forced to suffer under his heel?"

"Kill him," Xavier spat in desperation.

"Kill Xavier," First one then several Famulus shouted as they ran towards the emperor's box.

"Kill the demon," the Centurions shouted in greater number.

"No!" Jason shouted, his voice booming like thunder. "None of you here have the right to kill him. For resisting him since the beginning and for the pain he has caused me only I have that right," Jason said sending his staff at Xavier like a bolt of lightning just as the man attempted to flee. The force behind the staff was such that when it hit the back of Xavier's head it ripped it right off his neck, slamming it into a stone wall where it fell, a fleshy sack of shattered bone. "Xavier is dead, his skull is broken. Such is the penalty for all Centurions who forget their oaths." Jason said before landing back down in the middle of the in the arena. Closing his eyes, he waited in stunned silence for his fate to be sealed.

"Hail Jason, Emperor of Domus," A single strong voice shouted.

"It is done," Jason whispered sadly as the single man's cheer was soon picked up by every man woman and child in the arena. Looking up, he saw his Saints arriving with their belated rescue.

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