Savage Miraya


A NOVEL OF ADVENTURE

BY JEFFREY BLAIR LATTA


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EPISODE 21: "Never!" gasped Shyrin Shas


Jakar Jet tossed the prod aside, exchanging it for the gleaming glass of his punch spike. He held Shyrin Shas by one trim wrist, ruthlessly twisting the limb up between her quaking shoulders and forcing her to her knees until her forehead touched the grass. Her slim wings shivered with anguish.

"Princess," he hissed, leaning down to her ear. "It looks like I arrived just in time. I'll admit, I wasn't at all sure throwing that rock would shatter the crystal, but I didn't have time for more subtle action."

He glanced at the motionless figure of Seagrave kneeling only a few feet away, then snarled: "So -- the alien found you before I did. I'm truly impressed. He has red blood -- did you know that? If I had more time, I'd show you his blood; but, unfortunately, there's a party of Rayvers approaching and we have to be gone before they arrive." With her arm still twisted behind her back, Jakar Jet forced the princess to her feet. "I've no doubt the Traykens will do wonderful things to him when they find him, anyway."

Her tired legs buckled beneath her as Shyrin Shas was dragged callously into the clawing depths of the rain-sopped woods. For a time, she was hauled along on her belly through the tangled undergrowth, her world reduced to a nightmarish blur of crashing leaves and whipping rasping branches. Then, suddenly, Jakar Jet released her.

Dazedly, she opened her eyes -- just as ruthless hands turned her onto her naked back. They were in a small glade. The rain had finally quit. Jakar Jet dropped to his knees, straddling her, his narrow eyes burning with triumph.

"Why are you doing this?" she sobbed, hands leaping defensively before her face.

"I am saving your life, Princess." The punch spike lightly pricked the tensed saddle of her belly. "Dol Hashar is looking for you. If he finds you, he will torture you for pleasure, then announce your death to convince Nisram Nyl to return with the Fleet. I offered Dol Hashar the Lin tal-stone; it was a fair offer made in good faith. Instead he tried to torture it out of me. For that, he will be denied both the tal-stone and you."

Shyrin Shas's features reflected her struggle to understand what he told her. "Then -- you will let me go?" she whispered fearfully.

Jakar Jet's mocking laugh made her wince. "Hardly that, Princess. You know how much I desire you. For the Lin tal-stone, I was prepared to give up that desire. Now, however, my plans have been undone. I am fleeing for my life -- but I won't be alone."

His sinewy hand began to caress the ruby set in the supple skin between the low domes of her naked breasts. Shyrin Shas clenched her eyes, whimpering with shame.

"Why do you resist me, Princess? -- Oh why do you always resist me?"

"Never -- " gasped Shyrin Shas. But her sleek length strained involuntarily, convulsing as the ruby began to throb with a hot pulsing luminance. Jakar Jet's fingers continued to stroke the gem, his eyes burning with a mad light. The princess's head thrashed back and forth in desperate negation of her body's betrayal. "Never --" she sobbed again. "Oh please -- never --"

"Jakar Jet!"

The furious bellow was like a sudden cloudburst in a crisp cloudless sky. Shyrin Shas's ravisher sprang to his feet, whirling with an amazed shout.

"How --"

"It seems those prods have a limited supply of their poison," Seagrave snarled, stalking menacingly from the opposite end of the glade. "That prod must have been just about used up during the fight that killed those fenoks. The paralysis soon wore off."

Jakar Jet hissed like a serpent, brandishing his punch spike with sharp, angry jabs. The breeches-clad pirate continued to approach, a tongue of flashing silver growing from his fist. Jakar Jet eyed the cutlass uneasily. His slitted gaze flickered to the girl cringing behind him -- but she had wriggled out of reach.

With a feral growl, Seagrave bounded forward, his blade a blue-fire thread as it cut the humid air in one singing slash. Yet the murderous stroke clove only empty space as Jakar Jet's wings flourished like a conjurer's fingers and he sprang nimbly upward, rising instantly out of reach.

"No!" Shyrin Shas sprang up and threw her arms around Seagrave's neck.

Cursing in amazement, Seagrave caught her in one arm, his sword briefly faltering. His eyes leaped between the quaking girl and the purple figure hovering tauntingly overhead. "Damn it, girl --"

Jakar Jet laughed a mocking, maddening cadence.

"Listen to her," he called down sardonically. "You may break Traykens in half but, without wings, you are as helpless as the princess you seek to protect. Beware -- I will have her yet. The princess is already mine. And when I am through with her, she will wish Dol Hashar had found her first."

With a rising whir, Jakar Jet soared off over the treetops.

For a moment longer, Seagrave regarded the emerald crest with a baleful glare -- then his legs crumpled and he pitched face first onto the damp sward, nearly carrying the princess with him. Shyrin Shas sprang to her feet. At her anxious touch, Seagrave struggled weakly to his knees, shaking his head to clear his senses.

"I wasn't entirely honest with Jakar Jet," he muttered wryly. "That poison still hasn't quite worn off. I'm slow as the Sargasso Sea. He probably could have beaten me, if he'd had the guts to stand and fight." After a moment, he added bitterly, "But, damn it, girl -- you shouldn't have grabbed me. I might still have clipped his ankles for him."

Setting his teeth, he clapped a hand on the princess's round shoulder, nearly forcing her to her knees as he shrugged to his feet. He straightened the scarlet scarf around his head. "Come on," he said. "I hear men coming. It's probably those Rayvers he mentioned. We have to try to find Pallin Pol if we can."

Together they hurried back to the fenok village, the rustling din of approaching men rising steadily in their wake. Crossing quickly through the field of strewn bodies, they passed the toppled worm cannon and merged into the damp verdure beyond, following the rain-flooded grooves left by the heavy weapon.

Only seconds later, a party of seven armoured Rayvers stumbled into the glade and gaped at the grisly scene of savage massacre...

***
Seagrave and Shyrin Shas had travelled some distance when the princess slumped to her knees, pleading for a moment to catch her breath. The pirate was anxious to keep going, but he too had to admit that even his strength was overtaxed. He cast a searching glance back the way they had come, considering a moment.

He supposed they had put enough forest between themselves and the Rayvers.

He nodded reluctantly. Through the interwoven greenery, he discerned a glimmer of pale blue water -- a small pond nestled against a mossy hillock, surrounded by ripe nodding blossoms of lavender and peach. Lifting his slender companion, he carried her to the edge of the pond and set her down gently so that her tired feet dabbled in the cool waters, rippling the still surface like ruffled silk. Smoothly he slipped into the pond, until the water curled over his tanned shoulders.

"Come on in, girl," he encouraged, lightly taking hold of her trim tangerine ankles. "The water's fine. A little swim is just what you need."

Shyrin Shas's brows contracted fearfully. "Why would I want to go in there?" she asked. "What do you mean by -- swim?"

Seagrave scowled, realizing that he had used the English word. In the lexicon bequeathed to him by the slave girl Montaz there was no Kamir equivalent. "You know," he said after a moment; "climb in and move around in the water -- like this." With clean, knifing strokes, he crossed the pond to the moss-cloaked hillock, then returned. The princess watched his demonstration with mounting scepticism.

"Why should I want to do that?" she asked, shaking her head.

"Why, for fun," Seagrave replied, playfully tugging at her toes. "To cool off."

The princess's dubious expression told Seagrave she was not at all convinced. Slowly he understood. "I think I see. Living under the island, the only water you Kamir know is either pouring through holes or a thousand feet below and teeming with monsters. You never have any reason to learn how to swim." A half-smile flickered in his dark eyes. "Well, then -- it's never too late to learn."

Shyrin Shas yelped in surprise as Seagrave dragged her down into the pond. For a moment, she panicked as the water surged over her head -- but then strong arms encircled her supple waist, lifting her back up to the surface. She gasped and sputtered, twisting frantically in his grasp, stung by the wingless stranger's cruel laughter.

"Come on, girl," Seagrave smiled, as her struggles gradually abated. "That wasn't so bad, was it? It's only water, you know."

"I couldn't breathe!" she cried, beating against his chest with one small fist.

"That's why you're supposed to hold your breath," Seagrave chuckled. With a sudden kick, he pushed off from the bank, lunging backwards and bearing his rigid companion out into the middle of the pond. As the surface levelled around them, Seagrave steadily treaded water, his slitted eyes silently devouring his beautiful nearly-naked captive.

The princess glanced around her timorously. Her gaze cast down through the clear blue water to her legs hanging suspended over the pebbled bottom. She watched how Seagrave's powerful limbs slowly moved. Gradually she kicked her own sleek legs in imitation.

Seagrave saw what she was doing and encouraged her in a low mutter: "That's right, girl. You've got it. Now move your arms -- as if you were spreading tangled branches. That's it."

Slowly the pirate drew his hands from about her silky waist, beaming like a proud parent as she bobbed on the glassy surface. Shyrin Shas seemed mesmerized by the wavering vision of her own legs agilely thrashing in the clear crystalline water. Her eyes grew wide and a wondering smile moulded her lips.

"I'm flying!" she laughed excitedly. "Look at me -- I'm flying! Oh --"

Suddenly a soft whir of tiny wings filled the air and a miniature narse, no larger than a sea horse -- a holix -- circled the pond, dipping down and drinking with its long, serpentine neck. Surprised by the intrusion, Shyrin Shas's concentration faltered and she sank in a flurry of thrashing orange limbs.

Laughing gustily, Seagrave hauled her back to the surface and carried her to the shore. He heaved her glisteningly wet figure out onto the emerald lawn, then climbed up beside her. His laughter quieted suddenly as his eyes burned on the sweet flashing curves of her slim back and wriggling bottom. She twisted lithely and caught his wolfish gaze; coyly she dropped her eyes.

Seagrave smiled knowingly. "There wasn't a man amongst my crew," he told her with admiration, "who could have treaded water as long as you did just now." Then he added, "And certainly none who could have looked so lovely doing it."

Shyrin Shas turned her attention back to the grass upon which she stretched luxuriously. "You haven't told me your name," she asked guardedly.

"Morgan."

"Moryan?"

A sober shadow crossed his features, her mispronounciation momentarily reminding him of Montaz -- the poor slave girl who died to protect him. He nodded slowly. "Aye, Moryan."

"I never imagined I would ever learn to fly, Moryan," she told him. "Thank you for teaching me."

"The pleasure was all mine." His eyes studied the way the sunlight glittered on the beaded tips of her wings; then he regarded the tiny holix still drinking from the pond. "The narses you ride," he asked suddenly; "they have no limbs. How do they land when they stop flying?"

She laughed. "Narses never stop flying," she explained placidly. "Even when they sleep, their wings keep moving. They have hard plates to protect their bellies in case they should be forced down momentarily -- but a narse with a broken wing would not live very long."

Seagrave watched as the miniature narse darted away over the top of the mossy hillock. His eyes returned to the tangelo figure squirming at his side, then fastened on the small pouch tied to the princess's single thong garment at her curving hip. He reached out and tugged at the pouch...

With a sharp cry, the princess whirled to her back and scrambled out of reach.

"What -- what where you doing?" she gasped, panting affrightedly.

"Take it easy, girl," Seagrave assured her, holding up one hand. "I wasn't after that damn loin cloth of yours. I want the Earth tal-stone, that's all."

"The Earth tal-stone?" She blinked in confusion.

"I'm told that's how you reached my planet in the first place," Seagrave explained. "Jakar Jet switched an Earth tal-stone for your Lin tal-stone. I want the Earth tal-stone so I can return home."

Slowly the princess's bafflement gave way to uneasy comprehension. "You want this Earth tal-stone so you can go home?" Her slim brows bent like laden branches and a dark flame gradually kindled behind her flashing eyes. "Is that why you came here and rescued me -- to get this Earth tal-stone?"

"Of course, girl," Seagrave laughed. "What other reason could there be?"

For a moment the princess regarded him in smoldering silence. Seagrave frowned, puzzled; for the life of him, he couldn't imagine what he had said to upset her. Abruptly she shot to her feet. Her chin rose at a haughty angle and her fists knotted at her hips.

"Well, you came for nothing, then," she said bitterly. "I lost the Earth tal-stone sometime after the fenoks recaptured me. I probably dropped it while they were squeezing me into their tiny cage. I guess there's no reason for you to remain with me any longer. You can return to Jinja Khyam. I will find Pallin Pol on my own."

Without another word, she showed him her rigid back and stalked off into the sun-drenched forest. Seagrave gaped in bewildered amazement -- then climbed to his feet and, shaking his head, quietly plodded after...

***
As the sun settled languidly into the jade treetops and banded Korash showed half its face in the star-beaded night, Seagrave and Shyrin Shas clambered up atop one of the numerous floating islets to hopefully keep out of reach of predators. Ripe succulent fruits clustered in the vegetation on the islet; neither pirate nor princess had eaten in a long time and they gratefully set to slaking their ravenous hunger.

They ate in brooding silence; obviously the princess was offended by something Seagrave had said but, though he racked his brain, he couldn't think what.

After a time, Seagrave grew disgusted with the lack of conversation; his dark gaze swept their nighted platform searching for a suitable topic. "This islet," he began suddenly, "in fact, this whole island, the string of floating stones linking Eukara to Nakris -- how is any of that possible? How can rock and soil float like clouds in the sky?"

He had gambled that she couldn't resist the chance to demonstrate her superior knowledge -- a guess she quickly proved correct.

With feigned reluctance, the princess searched a moment, then picked up a vitreous black stone that gleamed like obsidian. As if demonstrating for a child, she raised the stone, then dropped it with a dull thud. Seagrave frowned, not understanding. But then she picked up the same ebony stone and held it out over the edge of the islet. This time, when she opened her hand, the stone fell -- but only until it reached a level with the top of the islet. Here it magically checked its descent, hovering weirdly in the dark air.

"That is meshmel stone," Shyrin Shas explained. "I have been told it forms from molten rock. When such rock hardens, within its structure it imprints a memory of its elevation at that time. Thereafter, it will always seek to return to that elevation. The core of these islands, as well as these smaller islets, are made of meshmel stone. Once upon a time, these islets were the tops of hills; gradually the softer soils were worn away by rain leaving behind this islet which we sit upon."

"And the big islands?" Seagrave asked, truly impressed by her explanation. "Eukara, Nakris, Dis and Masra?"

"It is said that the sea was once much deeper than it is today." She no longer spoke with imperious hauteur, her anger forgotten as she warmed to her topic. "At one time the waters rose as high as the islands; but, gradually, the waters retreated. The crashing tides wore away at the undersides of the islands just like the rains wore away at these islets. In the end, there was nothing left to connect the islands to the sea; the great quantities of meshmel stone held them aloft with nothing beneath." She shrugged her smooth shoulders dismissively. "At least, that is what I've been told. It may be just a story."

"And the bridge of floating stones?" Seagrave asked.

"I've never seen them before," she replied. "The fenoks must have built that themselves. The stones are easy to move if they're small en --"

She caught her breath, her eyes widening whitely in the cool darkness. From out of the tangled night throbbed the menacing rhythm of pounding drums...

***
Seagrave was reluctant to leave the princess behind while he went to check out the drums, and he was equally loath to carry her further into unknown danger. But the decision was quickly and definitively taken out of his hands when Shyrin Shas slid lithely down to the ground, whispering urgently: "Hurry -- we must rescue Pallin Pol."

He slipped down to her side; then, together, they sprinted through the spectral forest, their path lit by frosty shafts of faerie luminance cast by the banded planet low in the sky. Gradually the pulsing drums grew louder until the insistent sound seemed all-encompassing, seemed to reverberate in their panting breasts.

Then, suddenly, the two searchers staggered to a halt on the edge of a wide clearing.

Two surging bonfires lapped restless tides of light and shadow across the terrible scene, adding to the nightmarish surrealism of the weird untamed display. Twelve rangy fenoks danced and whirled, spun and gyrated in the middle of the glade. The flickering light splashed over their long, sinewy limbs, glinting on the stringy roles of lanky sweat-streaked muscle, heightening details at once bizarrely grotesque and exotically mesmerizing. They danced with quarter-moon shields and paralyzing prods, wheeling around and around like tall marionettes caught in a whirlwind.

Three hovering islets hung etched against the scattered moons, their dark undersides clustered with domed houses like ripe pendulous fruit. A vast tawny membrane was stretched between the three islets. A lone musician beat upon this titanic drum with a long paddle, the entire glade serving to catch and magnify the pulsing din until it seemed to reverberate in the listeners' bones.

In the middle of the dancing fenoks, Pallin Pol crouched motionless, still trapped in the tight confines of his cage. The cage hung from a carrying pole placed between two crossed braces. The blue man's head was sunk between his knees, his folded wings sticking out through the rear of his prison.

It took only a heartbeat for Seagrave to take in the savage scene. The bonfires danced in his slitted gaze and his cutlass slithered from its sheath.

"More fenoks," he muttered, as if irritated by a persistent pest. He touched his orange companion without turning his eyes. "You free Pallin Pol," he instructed. "I'll keep these fenoks busy." He heard the princess gasp, and her fingers caught at his arm. "It's all right, girl. I know what to expect now. Besides, they aren't allowed to injure or kill. I am."

Instantly he sprang from the concealing foliage, slipping smoothly from the princess's desperate hands. Bounding across the glade, he did not hear as Shyrin Shas called urgently after him:

"Wait! Those aren't fenoks!"



Next episode...The Fenfyr!


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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!)