Although the bars of his cage were made from a strange wood that was as hard as iron, the thickly-woven rope that bound those bars together was not. Jack had slipped his belt off and worked at sawing against the ropes whenever he thought his guards’ backs were turned. His belt buckle was not especially sharp, but he made good headway by jabbing the prong into the fibers and tugging them outward. If they had left him unsupervised for another few minutes, he might have been able to fray his way to freedom.
However, the Nazis were not about to make anything easy. They wheeled him out to the center of a dirt floor beneath a wide, domed ceiling. On the outskirts of the area, a stone wall rose straight up to protect rows upon rows of benches. As the Nazis soldiers gathered in one quadrant of the seats and their chosen slaves gathered in a smaller section of benches to the back, it became clear that this would serve as an arena and Jack was meant to be part of the main event.
Three other cages were wheeled in, and Jack recognized some of the captives within. The first was the mysterious Spartan who had ambushed the Nazi slave train earlier that day. His thick wolf-skin cloak and bronze helmet covered his entire body, so Jack couldn’t see his features any better here than he had out in the jungle.
The second cage was perhaps twice the size of Jack’s, and yet its captive could barely fit inside. This was the titan of a man that had been pulling the same slave-cage that the Spartan had ambushed, and although the giant hugged his knees tightly to himself and bent his head down low, his shaggy black hair and his fayed clothing pressed out through the bars.
The third cage contained what at first appeared to be a wild animal. It was feline, with sleek black fur, a lean body, and a swishing tail. Yet it wore the clothing of a native woman, and when it ceased its nervous pacing, it sat down, cross legged, and gripped the bars with very human fingers. For a moment the yellow cat-eyes met Jack’s and he saw that the face was a perfect blend of a cat’s and a woman’s. This was not an animal, he realized with a jolt: this was a half-panther, half-person hybrid the likes of which Jack had never seen in all his years of exploring the globe.