The arena was packed for the competition today. The introductions were made and Tony caused quite a stir - but it was nothing compared to the stir that Annie caused. She was decked out in a gold lame' unitard and was wearing a red white and blue sequined cape. Leo was dumbstruck.
"Leo! Avert your eyes - you can't have her," I told him.
"Oh. My. God," he replied.
Gabriel was introduced and sort of snuck past the cameras, using Annie as a shield. There were three Drow women snarling at one another. Olivia told them, "Just remember - whatever happens - I was the first."
"History is written by the survivors," one of them snarled back at her.
All told, there were an awful lot of non-felines in the line up - thirty-two of em', along with twenty Cats. Once everyone was introduced, we took our seats and Caesar put all the combatants' names in a hat. Before he drew the first two he drew the names of some Overlords to act as judges if the match didn't end in a clear submission. He explained that ferocity will be judged and along with the winners, the highest-ranking competitors will go on to the second round.
And so the matches began.
The first of my people was my little MBA, Steve. He had the luck to be matched up against one of the Drow women. They faced each other down; the Drow looking really pleased with the situation, Steve looking like he was about to cry. The Overlords were all looking my way as if to say, "What were you thinking?"
The bell rang and she said, "Why don't you just surrender now?"
"No. I will not do that. Because, because I am going to (long pause) make you my bitch!" he said, and looked like he'd wet himself.
"Oh please!" the woman laughed at him.
"I am serious," Steve said. "I will make you bow down. And then I am going to stomp all over you."
The Drow sneered at him; "I can't do this! I'll mess up my nails and I just got a manicure. You are so not worth my time."
"Put your money where your mouth is (another long pause) you cheap trailer park bimbo!" he said and this time it looked as if he'd soiled himself - but he stood his ground. The drow laughed, lunged and kneed him in the groin - hard.
Steve said, "Do you think I'm stupid? Ever hear of a cup?"
"Well, are you going to hit me?" she yelled. So he did. He hauled off and backhanded her, sending her against the far wall. She bounced & stared at him.
"You hit me!"
"I know and I am sorry, but I'm supposed to." She jumped at him screaming and he backed up. She charged him and he ducked and she ran headfirst into the wall of the cage and fell to her knees. Steve looked up at me, like, "What now?"
I shrugged. "Up to you, Honey."
He made a decision. He screamed and jumped on her, "I was told to never, ever hit a lady - and you are no lady, lady!" The bell rang and he immediately retreated to the far side of the cage. The judges conferred and he won by a 3 - 2 vote.
"That was interesting," Leo said.
Annie was next up, against a smallish male Bengal tiger. "Oh please!" he exclaimed. "Your outfit is hurting my eyes." She ignored him and when the bell rang they began to circle one another.
"Here kitty - kitty," Annie said.
The Cat's ears went pink and his tail went 'sproing'! "I will wipe that smile off your face," he growled.
Annie laughed and did a Michael Jordan slam-dunk jump at the Cat, grabbing his neck. She got a firm grip on his whiskers and upper lip and started to bang his head against the floor. All the time she was yelling, "Bad damn kitty! Bad damn kitty. You know - people spay and neuter their pets in this world!" She leapt off of him, climbed the wall, and got ready to jump on him.
"Yield!" he roared. "Keep her away from me!" Annie put her cape back on with a flourish and left the cage throwing kisses to the crowd.
The Overlords were all looking at Olivia as if to say, "What the Hell were you thinking?"
A few matches later Tony was called to face another of the Drow women, the one that had lipped off to Olivia. Olivia recognized her and said, "I hope he kicks her ass."
The Drow looked down at Tony (literally and figuratively) and said, "If you just give up now - I won't kick your ass and turn it into a handbag."
Tony gave her a small bow, "I've always been taught that a gentleman kisses a ladies hand and I was, among other things, a gentleman."
The drow was taken aback, "Um. Alright." She held her hand out. He daintily took it in his hand - and chomped down on it! He jumped around and somehow got on her back and proceeded to ride her around the cage like a horse, using her hair for reins and all the while gnawing on her forehead. She finally threw herself to the ground, covered her eyes to protect them and screamed, "Get him off me, get him off me!"
Tony hopped right off and let the medical people escort her out. He spotted something on the ground and held it up (I'm not entirely sure - but I think it was part of an ear), "Hey lady! You forgot something!" One of the medical people, a cleric of some sort, took the thing from Tony and followed the drow down the hallway.
"Damn," Leo said. I didn't look around the arena - but I could feel the looks I was getting from the Overlords.
Swiftwind was matched against someone who looked really familiar - but not really - ya know? It was a woman who looked sort of human, with really short blonde hair wearing a studded leather dominatrix outfit. She was also wearing some barbed wire around one arm as a bauble and it was clearly embedded into her flesh. It dawned on Rodrick who she was: the Priestess of Aphrodite who's de-frocking we'd caused.
"Uh - oh," I said, "He's in trouble."
The bell rang; they nodded to each other and began to circle one another. They slowly closed in to grapple. Then she coughed and spit something at him. Something green and slimy that adhered to his face. Swiftwind screamed and let go of her to clutch his hands to his eyes. He was writhing in agony but somehow managed to call out, "Yield!" His opponent was already at the door, ready to leave.
Watching the medics tend to Swiftwind, I felt guilty on a couple different levels and went down to assist the medics tend to his eyes. I passed the ex-priestess in the hallway and she gave me a creepy smile that was pure Jack Nicholson as the Joker. It made my skin crawl.
Anyway, the medics had washed Swiftwind's eyes by the time I got there. Luckily he'd gotten them closed so the eyes weren't damaged, but the skin around it was burned, badly. Corellon answered our prayers and Swiftwind was left with only faint scars. I got back in my seat in time to see Gabriel enter the cage with a large female white tiger. There was no chitchat for these two - they stood and stared at each other then the Cat dropped into a martial arts position. Gabriel stood his ground, looking rather relaxed and unworried.
The Cat threw a test punch at Gabriel that he casually walked around and then he delivered a quick shot to the Cat's midsection. When her move carried her past him, Gabriel spun and 'tapped' her on the back of the neck. She fell unconscious to the ground. The medics moved in, strapped the Cat to a backboard, affixed a cervical collar and carried her out. Gabriel calmly waited 'til they were gone and casually walked out of the cage.
The second round started with Tony facing off with a male Siberian Tiger. The tiger did a lot of posturing, posing, roaring and generally carrying on. Tony just stood there - staring at the Cat like he was something that crawled out from under a rock. When the Cat finally noticed that his behavior wasn't getting the hoped for results, he stopped and stared back at Tony.
Quick as a wink, Tony sprang at the cat, sinking his teeth into his nose. The tiger screamed and reared back, taking Tony with him and Tony did a quick 'Three Stooges' jab to the eyes. The tiger collapsed, crying, to the ground and Tony walked over to the door. A few matches later Annie was called to face the ex-Priestess.
Annie took a look at the woman and said, "Damn, bitch! You a walking junkyard!" Well, she didn't seem to take that as a compliment and tried the 'spitting' thing - which Annie neatly avoided by flipping backwards. She straightened up, said, "Ah, c'mon! This is how you hawk a loogie," and she proceeded to demonstrate.
The ex-priestess wiped it off her face and Annie took the opportunity to tackle her around the waist - driving her into the wall of the cage. The priestess doubled over, trying to catch her breath but Annie grabbed her by the throat and crotch and dropped the woman across her knee. That's when the judges stopped it and again the medics used a cervical collar and backboard.
When Steve's turn came around again, he was paired up with a medium sized male Bengal tiger. The Cat huffed and puffed and Steve had a glassy look on his face thru it all. When the Cat stopped Steve asked, "Are you quite finished?" The Cat looked puzzled. "Because if you want to continue - feel free. I have plenty of time," Steve said.
"Little man," the Cat snarled, "I am going to crush you."
Steve stammered a little, "Ummm, I don't think so."
The Cat's eyebrows went up.
Steve gathered a little confidence, "That's right! Because, you know, if you were capable of doing so - you would have already done it."
The Cat growled, "I'm going to tear you to pieces."
Steve actually laughed a little, "Oh come now. The clock is ticking - time to shit or get off the pot. If this were a business meeting - I'd be walking. You've got nothing on the table, here."
The Cat was confused now, "What's wrong with you? I said that I'm going to dismember you."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah."
By then the crowd was piping up in favor of Steve and were taunting the Cat. The Cat stalked right up to Steve until they were literally nose-to-nose and snarled, "Any last requests?"
Steve waved a hand in front of his face. "Yeah! Brush your teeth!" The Cat roared his anger and threw a total haymaker of a punch. Steve ducked and the Cat's fist connected with the cage wall.
There was a loud crunching and as the Cat wailed Steve calmly called out, "Medic!" Steve walked out of the cage without a glance back, disappearing down the hallway.
Olivia asked, "Where did you find this guy?"
"He showed up with the rest, looking for a sponsor. I'm surprised as Hell."
Gabriel's next opponent was a Drow woman. She circled him, warily and was rewarded with a big ol' creepy smile. She saw it and stopped dead in her tracks. She backed up several paces and without turning her back on Gabriel told the judges, "I yield - get me away from him!"
On her way out, one of Jim's reporters asked, "Why did you yield so quickly?"
"I'm not sure," she said, shakily, "But something inside told me that he'd eat my skin if given the chance."
I asked Olivia, "So where did he come from?"
"I'm not sure - but he knew Karyn, Before," Olivia said.
When that round was over, four of the final eight people were sponsored by Olivia or myself. The others were three white tigers and one Human male - a mercenary type who won his matches by actually fighting. Steve was called up next - to face Gabriel.
The faced each other and Gabriel said in a quiet voice, "You're not going to be able to talk your way out of this one." The bell rang and Gabriel gifted Steve with the same smile he'd given the Drow.
Steve walked up closer and said in a clear, steady voice, "There is no way I can beat you in a fight so I'm not going to fight you. I will not surrender but I will not fight. You can kill me - or whatever - but I stand here before you, an unarmed person who will make no attempt to defend himself."
Gabriel nodded, "Okay then. I understand." And he punched Steve hard in the stomach. As he doubled over, he caught him again on the chin, laying Steve out. Gabriel stood over him and said, "But I do admire your principals."
Steve was helped out of the cage and after cleaning himself up took a seat by me in Olivia's box. "I didn't think he'd really do it," he said. "I'm sorry if I embarrassed the Cathedral."
"Not even close - you did great!" I told him. I Healed him up and told him to go get his belongings and move to the Aladdin. "Then report to Colonel Nightshade at the Cathedral. Tell her I've hired you to help her with the Cathedral's finances."
Tony was up next against the mercenary. The merc looked at Tony and sneered, "I'm gonna squash you like a bug."
"Come over here and say that," Tony sneered tight back, as he walked closer to the merc. When he broke into the Robert DeNiro "You talkin' to me?" speech from 'Taxi Driver', I thought I was gonna die! When he finished the spiel he was standing right in front of the merc, head at belt level and he reared back. When he did the merc realized his danger and practically shrieked, "Yield!"
Tony grinned up at him, "Forget your cup, big boy?"
"Whatever - good dog."
Annie drew one of the male tigers. The Cat said, "I've seen a lot of humans - you are human aren't you?"
Annie smiled sweetly, "I'm just a collection of sweetness and light, Honey-Bunch. You know every time I see one of you tigers I remember when I lost my virginity...in front of a crackling fire, face-down on a fake-fur white tiger skin rug, screaming, 'No, daddy, no!'"
The Cat was completely and totally appalled, "Oh my . let me out of here!"
Then it was Tony's turn again, this time against Gabriel. The bell rang and they wasted no time! Tony leapt at Gabriel and sunk his teeth into one of Gabriel's biceps. Gabriel worked frantically (for him, that is) to dislodge him and got whipped by Tony's tail right across the eyes. Tony sunk his talons into Gabriel's skin and worked his way up to his shoulders. Gabriel was looking a little wild eyed but managed to get the fingers of one hand around Tony's throat and began to pummel him with his free hand. Tony squirmed and squirmed and got his jaws clamped around Gabriel's throat.
Suddenly both of them were very still.
Gabriel said, "I think we've reached a negotiating point." Tony was silent so Gabriel started, "Let go of my neck and I won't snap yours."
"I'll kill you first," Tony sort of mumbled around the throat between his teeth. "If I die, I become a martyr to my people. If you die, no one will remember you after the blood has been mopped up. Yank me away, you die. Snap my neck, you die. Don't break my neck, and you live."
Gabriel said, "Maybe I'll just take my chances."
"Maybe I'll make you my office manager if you surrender," Tony countered.
Gabriel thought about that for a moment or two. "Deal," he finally said.
Personally, I think it was the Kobold drool running down his neck that was the clincher. They walked out of the ring and I went down to give Tony the healing he'd need for the final match. When he and Annie entered the cage for the final match, the Overlords were visibly disturbed at their prospects and were glaring at Olivia and I.
They squared off and as soon as the bell rang, Tony said, "I'll make you an offer."
"I can find a job for you. A lot of people like me are being exploited and need someone to teach the people doing the exploiting a lesson. So how about this? I promise you a job, a nice suite at the Mirage and all the guys (or girls) you want if you help me deliver a message once and awhile."
Annie scratched her head, "Um, do y'all mean actually deliver a message on paper, or just fuck someone up?"
"Fuck them up."
"Okay, you've got a deal! I was really afraid that I was gonna have to go hire some people." She turned to the judges and hollered, "I yield!" And so Tony the Kobold became the latest Overlord of the Mirage. The silence was deafening.
Olivia leaned over and whispered, "Jazz - you are in so much trouble "
"Yeah - the next quilting circle could get ugly."
It didn't take that long. Binion came charging over and demanded, "What were you doing? What have you done? What is that that lizard rat?"
I said, "He approached me and was really very articulate, kind of. He spoke his case convincingly and sold me on it."
"His case?" she asked.
"Yes, his case! His people are being oppressed and exploited."
"What's wrong with protests or signs?" she wondered.
"Would anyone have heard or listened?" I asked her.
Then she turned on both Olivia and I, "No one and I mean no one had better invite that gold lame' wrapped buffoon to the quilting circle!" We assured her that we had no intention of doing any such thing. Binion shook her head and muttered, "I'm going home for a drink."
"Have a bubble bath," I suggested.
She glanced over to where Caesar was stomping down the steps to the cage and sighed, "It's going to be one of those nights."
"So come over to my place," I said. "We can do drinks and movies and have a real girl's night."
"Hmmmm, it'd better be a good movie."
"Leave it to us - I'll kick Leo out for the evening and the place will be all ours." She agreed to come over after she'd take care of some things at home. Down in front of the TV cameras, Caesar introduced the new Overlord and Jim's people moved in to ask questions.
"How does it feel?"
"Pretty good, if I do say so," Tony said. "Can I send a message?" he asked.
"Go right ahead."
Tony looked directly into the camera, "Whoever is on my personal staff: I'll be home soon and there's gonna be a general meeting. I'd like a massage. And a shrimp cocktail. And get a freakin' booster seat for the limo."
I told Leo to make himself scarce and he said that Alfred and Jim were going to be taking the new Lord Aladdin out for a celebration and he was going to go with them. Binion showed up with only two of her 'girls' as bodyguards. Karyn had arranged for a bartender (who just happened to have been a Chippendale dancer, Before) and we introduced Binion to the glory that is the Long Island Iced Tea.
My phone rang at an ungodly hour this morning and surprise! It wasn't Olivia. It was Rodrick.
"What the Hell do you want?!?!" I asked him, sweetly.
He said, "If I'm awake - you're awake."
"I received a rude awakening this morning, too. I was told that there was a Kobold in my lobby with his entourage. A Kobold in a pimp suit."
"A kobold demanding to withdraw a million," Rodrick explained. "It could be Mirage - but they all look alike to me."
"And he's yours - come over here and tell me if it's him or not."
"Oh for the love of Corellon!" but he'd already hung up. So I threw on some jeans and a t-shirt and stumbled next door, only to have my senses assaulted by Tony - wearing a purple pimp suit compete with spats and crushed velvet hat.
E - freakin' gads.
So I assured Rodrick that that was indeed Tony.
"Thank you!" Tony said. "Now, business - I'm here for my million."
"What million?" Rodrick asked.
"The million she promised me."
Now - I may have had one of the worst hangovers of my life, but that wasn't gonna fly. "Oh no, no, no!" I said. "I provided you with a voucher for the one million required to enter the competition yesterday - you don't get any of that."
"Oh. Okay - I own a casino - it must have some money, right?"
"I don't know - it's your domain, it's your problem," I told him and went in search of coffee. Strong, strong coffee. Corellon bless Allison - she gave me coffee. While I was doing that Rodrick was checking on the Mirage money situation. And Tony's wardrobe situation.
"You know," he told Tony, "That suit is just not attractive."
Tony didn't seem too upset by that, "Well I have not yet had the time to avail myself of the Tiny Tot section of the Forum Shops."
Rodrick asked, "May I make a suggestion? Armani, maybe Brooks Brothers and some custom tailoring.
Then we were interrupted - there were four women at the front desk asking about jobs. They all looked pretty road weary and all four of them had at least one child, six of them altogether, ages three to five.
They had asked the people working the border where to go, which Overlord was most renowned for kindness and mercy. So they were starting at the Paris and if they had no luck were going to try the Excalibur. (Apparently the border guard had told them not to try at the Aladdin; "She's only looking for hot, young women.")
They explained that they had escaped from a farm somewhere in Utah, some people had found them on the road - took mercy on them and dropped them at the border.
Rodrick asked them what sort of job experience they had. They assured him that they could and would handle any sort of domestic situation.
"Allison, do you need anymore housekeeping help?" Rodrick asked.
"If it weren't for the kids - I'd have to say, 'no'. But .."
Rodrick nodded his understanding and hired them. Allison took them off to get cleaned up and fed and Rodrick called Alfred to see if he needed any more help.
"Maybe," was as far as he'd commit.
Rodrick said, "Well keep it in mind if something comes up. I hate to kick kids out onto the street."
"Kids?" Alfred said, "I always need help in childcare."
"I'll ask them."
Alfred reminded him that there are alternatives, "There are lots of single men on my farms. Almost every one of them would like to meet a nice girl."
Rodrick promised to bring it up to the women and hung up.
His accountants returned with the current books for the Mirage, gave Tony his money and he left to go shopping. I bid Rodrick a good morning and headed home,
Olivia was at the pool. "Good morning, Jazz! Did you sleep in?"
"Busy? We didn't get to bed 'til five a.m. Like some orange juice?"
"No. Had coffee. Want more." And sleep. Sleep is good.
That afternoon, when I'd woken up, the invitations came for the 'swearing in' of the new Overlord. I didn't get one. And that was fine with me, really. But Olivia insisted that I had to go as her guest.
"But I don't wanna," I whined. "They're all gonna be mad at me."
Well Olivia didn't care and swore that I was going to go, "One way or the other."
Ooooh - fine!
So at 6:00 there was the official reading of the domain and Tony was very solemn thru it all in his brand new, freshly altered Brooks Brothers suit.
When it was his turn to speak he said, "First of all I want Lord Bellagio to know that I am going to be reviewing everything. All contracts and all agreements. I have observed some practices that have bothered me and I intend to provide this city with entertainment as wholesome as Death Sports can be."
I leaned to Jim and said, "I am so sorry."
Tony continued, "After talking to my 'legal' council I have learned that the original purpose of this Domain was to regulate all activities where someone places themselves at harm for remuneration. I am laying claim to the entire spectrum of athletics; Dwarf Bowling, Ring Around the Hobbit, etc."
"That's pretty much it. Enjoy the day, be nice to each other and don't fuck with me. Thank you all so much and see you at the parade!"
"I never got a parade," Rodrick pointed out.
"He's paying for it himself," Caesar said. "He found some giant balloons somewhere and has hired a band."
But before the parade was the reception. It seems Tony is quite the Prince fan. Little Red Corvette, Raspberry Beret, Purple Rain, When Doves Cry - over and over and over again. Leo looked at me and said, "Kill me, please?"
During the reception, Tony made a point of seeking out and speaking to everyone in the room with even the slightest Clerical connection - even Seeker, of all people. OK, I know Machiavelli said that a leader should always appear with a religious figure so that the people will know that God is on his or her side, but this was way far beyond that.
Tony said that he preferred to practice his observances in private but out of respect for his employees he was interested in attending services at the various Temples; "If I have any religious-type questions, might I call on you?" Olivia and I both told him that he could do so.
At dinner, after the reception, Fr. Matthew sat at the head table next to Tony. The Priestess of Aphrodite was at the same table and not looking real happy about it. I wonder how long before her Temple starts looking for a new location. There was one large table of Cats and Seeker was right in the middle with Caesar on one side, Binion on the other. Finally the evening was over and we could go home.
Leo and I caught the parade coverage on the news. Tony was hanging out the sunroof of his limo waving to the 'crowd'. He borrowed a page from Olivia and was tossing chips to the people. The caravan made a brief stop where Tony made a big production of getting out of the car and leaving a large donation with Fr. Matthew.
"Things are never dull, are they?" Leo asked.