Savage Miraya


A NOVEL OF ADVENTURE

BY JEFFREY BLAIR LATTA


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EPISODE 20: Massacre!


The water was barely an inch deep in the crystal plug, but already it pressed down on the pirate's straining arms with a force greater than the weight of the frantic girl at his feet.

Desperately his urgent glare swept the enclosed darkness of their prison. The walls were polished like curved mirrors; not even seams showed in the glossy stone. The floor was earth packed hard. Thin trails of rainwater trickled down the gleaming walls, seeping past the crystal plug and soaking into the dirt.

Seagrave shifted his stance as the pressure weighed heavier and heavier on his powerful frame. He braced his legs widely, supporting the burden with one broad shoulder, muscles twisting and rippling across his back. The wound in his thigh throbbed under the terrible strain.

For a moment, he sucked in a quick breath and heaved up against the crystal with a force that shuddered in his calves. The plug sluggishly retreated, rising barely an inch in the smooth bore of the pit -- only to drop several inches when his strength could sustain the pressure no longer.

On her knees, almost between Seagrave's wide-braced legs, the princess gazed up with enormous eyes, fearfully awed as much by this staggering display of savage endurance as by the ghastly death inching relentlessly nearer. The light rippled down her supple back, flashing on the blades of her wings, shimmering like billowing veils on the small globes of her panting breasts. Her slim hands clutched Seagrave's breeks-clad legs on either side as if they were great stone pillars erected against the terrible death overhead.

Unable to speak, Seagrave could only groan as the inexorable water surpassed three hundred pounds, his lithe frame bowing as if before a conqueror, legs steadily buckling.

Dimly, through the rush of falling water, the two prisoners suddenly heard a strange din from above. Astonishment rose through the fear in Shyrin Shas's voice.

"Listen," she gasped. "Flash worms. I hear worm cannon. But who would use worm cannon in the rain? The Kamir and the Trayken know the flash worms dissipate too quickly in a downpour."

Seagrave was barely aware of the sounds of battle from above; all his attention was centred on his incessant burden. The weight of the water was surely nearing four hundred pounds. In his life, Seagrave had once met a man -- a giant of a man -- who could raise five hundred pounds for a few seconds -- but no more.

Through grinding teeth, Seagrave groaned: "The floor -- dig a pit -- quick, girl -- "

The princess hesitated only a moment. Understanding his purpose, she bent her supple back and began clawing recklessly at the hard-packed earth with naked hands. The dirt gave way with surprisingly little resistance as she scraped and scratched deep furrows in the ground between the pirate's legs.

"Hurry, girl -- ah! -- hurry --" Seagrave dropped heavily to his knees, straddling the princess and nearly crushing her under his weight. Her smooth shoulders twisted and knotted in sleek sinuous ridges as she desperately raked the sandy soil. But it still wasn't enough.

He didn't need to look to know the terrible truth. His only hope was that he might stave off death long enough for the princess to dig a shallow depression deep enough for herself; there wasn't time enough for her to make the depression for both of them.

"Hurry -- girl --"

He groaned again, his entire body shuddering, torso gleaming like polished brass under the spectral flicker of watery light. The sound of worm cannon had stopped. Between his knees, Seagrave felt the princess's frenzied exertions, the rapid labouring of her damp exhausted lungs. The weight of the water topped five hundred pounds. The depression was deep enough -- it had to be.

"Lie down --" gasped Seagrave.

"There isn't room for you --"

Frantically he threw her down with a rough shove of his hand launched against her spine. Instantly the relentless press crushed him down to his hands and knees, the full force surging down on his grinding back. For a moment, his thigh bones were trapped vertically between the crystal and the earth. He screamed as blinding pain flared in his hips and legs. Twisting desperately, he dropped flat on the cool soil beside the depression, unable even to cry out now as six hundred pounds or more rammed his ribs like a vice.

Denied breath, his vision blurring, unable even to rotate his head in the cramped space, Seagrave couldn't turn to look at the girl; but, dimly, as if through a long tunnel, he could hear her frantic sobbing cries, feel her small desperate hands dragging pitifully at his arm. Ridiculously she sought with all her strength to pull his pinioned frame into her tiny sanctuary, to save him from the water squeezing the life from his shuddering length. The inexorable weight increased to seven hundred pounds. Seagrave heard bones creaking like timber. Then eight hundred...

Suddenly gelid water surged in a foaming tide about his face, spilling in his open mouth and racing up his nose. He sucked the rising water deep into his burning lungs, choking and coughing on the bitter wash. With eyes closed, as if in a dream, he felt a soft belly sliding liquidly over his tortured back, smooth hands urgently gripping his shoulders; a lush voice was in his ears screaming and laughing at the same time.

Slowly he opened his eyes.

He lay in a pool of water no more than a few inches deep. Crystal shards jutted from the foaming surface like blue- white icebergs glinting with the warmth from above. Three feet of the smooth stone wall had been replaced by gleaming glass; he was inside the crystal plug. Somehow, by some miracle, the base had shattered.

With delirious detachedness, Seagrave realized the princess was trying to lift his face out of the water; as shallow as it was, he would drown if he didn't raise his head. Setting his teeth, he heaved up on his elbows, lifting the startled girl clinging to his back. Her weight was like soft down after what he had suffered, like a cool breath caressing his aching spine.

"A stone!" the princess exclaimed, as she tumbled into the water. "A huge stone fell from above and shattered the crystal!"

But Seagrave had no time for stones. Barely aware of what he did, he caught the princess in his powerful arms and squeezed her to his chest as if to crush the life from her, just as he had been so nearly crushed. His mouth recklessly attacked her lips, her throat, her rising breasts -- until she was left panting and dazed, exhausted more by those few moments of exuberant passion than by all she had been through before.

Finally Seagrave seemed to return to his senses. Still clasping the princess, he gazed into her immense eyes and his teeth shone in the wide slit of his grin.

"God damn it, girl, but that was close!"

His eyes cast upward and he released her, sending her tumbling indelicately back into the water. She remained as she had fallen, staring at him unblinking as if entranced. The cooling rain sheeted down his chest and limbs, matting his hair as he studied the opening above.

"I wonder why they haven't noticed what happened?" he muttered. "You'd think they'd leave someone to check on us."

It was as if the terrible trial they had undergone was already a fading memory.

Wincing at the aching in his joints, he shrugged to his feet, dragging the princess up with him. The crystal plug had been lowered by four ropes fastened to holes on the rim. Seagrave tugged experimentally on one of these ropes.

"Here -- put your arms around my neck," he instructed the princess. "I think I've still got enough strength to climb out of this pit."

Shyrin Shas barely had time to wrap her slim arms over his broad shoulders before her bare feet were drawn smoothly from the water. Seagrave had climbed many a rain-slicked mainmast in his time, and clambering from this smooth-bored pit was little different. In short order, he scrambled out onto the damp grass, winded but still fully prepared to meet the attack that must inevitably come.

He staggered upright, the princess lying sprawled at his feet. Crouched and glaring, he swept the glade with a truculent snarl -- quickly giving way to a baffled frown.

All around them lay death.

Fenok bodies littered the damp sward like grotesque marionettes, their rangy blue-grey frames contorted, their bulging white eyes staring blindly up into the pelting rain. Their quarter-moon shields and paralysing prods lay strewn about. Liquid flames roared in the circular openings to their hanging houses, thick black smoke curling around the green rims of the hovering islets like fingers cupping jade riches.

On the edge of the glade, a worm cannon lay toppled on its side, the gilt serpent-patterns sparkling with rain.

"What the devil happened here?" Seagrave muttered in grim amazement. "These fenoks were massacred. Who could have done this -- the Trayken?"

Still on her knees, the princess slowly shook her head. "I told you," she said; "neither the Trayken nor the Kamir would use a worm cannon in the rain. The flash worms dissipate too quickly to cause damage -- that's why there are no signs of worm burn. No doubt that's why they abandoned the worm cannon, too."

"Who, then?" Seagrave strode to the nearest body. "There are no marks of violence, no wounds that I can see. How did these fenoks die?"

Shyrin Shas rose nimbly and followed her saviour with quick, mincing steps. Her wide eyes roved over his rolling, bronzed back, trailing guiltily down to his lean hips, then up again. Her heart hammered in her chest. She frowned, vaguely disturbed. The ruby burned painfully on her chest.

Abruptly Seagrave turned and caught her guilty look. She dropped her eyes quickly, abashedly, one hand unconsciously covering her heart-gem. After a moment, she peered up furtively.

But now his gaze was fastened on something behind her. Quickly crossing the glade, Seagrave caught up his gleaming cutlass from where it had been cast on the grass. His punch spike was also amongst the pile of items, and he slipped this under his belt, then secured his scabbard at his hip.

Reaching his side, Shyrin Shas snatched a small pouch from the cache, quickly tying this to her single scanty thong garment. Seagrave observed the action and his narrowed eyes fastened a moment on the pouch.

The Earth tal-stone -- it had to be.

But now wasn't the time to ask for it. There would be time for that later. Just now he had other questions on his mind.

Turning again, Seagrave surveyed the glade, a scowl hardening around his eyes.

"Pallin Pol is gone," he observed grimly. "His cage is missing, too. Whoever attacked this place must have taken him with them." He crossed swiftly to the toppled worm cannon, Shyrin Shas pursuing with anxious haste. "The heavy cannon left tracks in the earth that even the rain hasn't entirely washed away. Whoever it was didn't come from Eukara, but from the opposite direction. If we hurry --"

Seagrave felt the familiar caress of a prod lightly brush against his shoulder. Before he could react, numbing paralysis washed over his frame, instantly robbing him of strength. He groaned and slumped to his knees on the damp grass, the cutlass tumbling from his open fingers. Unable to move, he could only listen in helpless rage as Shyrin Shas cried out behind him in sudden fright -- then cried out again in pain...



Next episode..."Never!" gasped Shyrin Shas


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Savage Miraya is copyright 1998, by Jeffrey Blair Latta. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)