Savage Miraya



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Abruptly, Jyleesha twisted free from Seagrave's deadly grip, rolling back onto the cushions and unfolding her arms luxuriously over her head. She eyed him sideways, the silver and gold beads spilling away from her cooling gills.

"We will still have to put into Jimnyr," she said. "When we accidentally blundered into that meshmel cloud we sustained some damage to the hull and lost a few meshmel plates, as well."

Seagrave fought to control his features. He found it hard enough to kill her without this added delay.

"You mentioned these meshmel plates before," he remarked. "What are they for?"

A pleased smile formed her lips into a drawn bow and she laughed mildly. "You see -- you have as much to learn from me as I might learn from you."

Her fingers idlely teased the beads spilling around her head. "The lifting gas -- raidraas gas -- used to fill the gasbags, could never lift an entire ship on its own. So our wingships are lined with plates of meshmel stone. The stone seeks to return to whatever elevation it knew when it was first formed, thus lightening the ship. The more expensive meshmel plates come from mountain tops like the Hakaras Range on the island of Lodes, permitting the ship to rise to a maximum elevation well above any island. The plates on the Empress of Shek, however, are cheaper, mined from the usual island level, so we cannot rise higher than the base of most islands."

Seagrave was only partly listening to her explanation. He slowly drew closer, aware of the concussioning of his heart. He hooked two fingers in the glittering ring on her flank. When he pulled, the tight material barely stretched, but her glossy ribs expanded with sudden quickening anticipation as he dragged her smoothly across the pillows to his knees.

For a moment, he studied her, her arms still curled above her head. In an instant, he made a decision -- even as he cursed himself for his weakness. He knew he would probably have to kill her eventually, but, for the moment, he would attempt to take the key from her while she was still alive.

"You will not regret your decision," Jyleesha whispered, blissfully unaware of how ironically her words matched his own dark thoughts.

Seagrave mumbled incoherently. His hands crept to the tight straps across her chest. Hooking them with his thumbs, he slid the sheer straps upward so they slipped suddenly from her proud breasts.

She gasped wincingly, her eyes closing.

Seagrave's gaze darted to the key rocking against her turning hip. His fingers moved downward following the straps, the material hissing against his palms. The rings on her ribs passed through his hands, the veils momentarily drawn tight as they snagged in his grip -- and then his fingers continued downward and behind, meeting where the straps crossed her back. He leaned forward, hugging her, lifting her in his arms so her pliant body arched until her face was framed between the domes of her breasts.

She gasped again, her eyes still closed.

He began to kiss her just beneath the sapphire heart-gem on her chest. The stone began to glow with a pallid nebulous light. His arms crossed behind her arching spine, straining her closer, still following the straps, encircling her liquid waist until his fingers felt the cool rings on either hip.

His mouth moved to the gemstone, gently caressing the shivering skin around the faceted edges, his tongue tasting the salty beads speckling her flesh. Her wings spasmed constrictedly, pinned between her shoulders and the pillows. The gemstone dazzled his eyes with its pulsing radiance, matched to the quickening rhythm of her urgent sobs.

Her eyes were still closed.

His hand clenched on the lodestone key.

His tongue stroked the heart-gem. It tasted like honey, a sweet fluid flavour, heated until it almost burned like fire. Jyleesha cried out as if in stabbing pain, her claws springing up on her fingers causing the silver false-claws to leap off her thumb and forefinger. Involuntarily, she raked the pillows over her head, stuffing spilling from the ragged wounds. All at once, she heaved upward even further, hardening into a sleek, gleaming arch. Her breath seized in her throat, her head thrashing in a final orgasmic paroxysm.

It was now or never. Setting his teeth, Seagrave jerked on the key -- then breathed exultantly as he felt it come away in his fist.

Simultaneously, Jyleesha collapsed back down onto the ravaged pillows, her breath exploding from her lungs in an exhausted cry.

After a moment, Seagrave drew his arms from about her waist, deftly pocketing the key in the pouch with the Earth tal-stone while her eyes were still closed. His own eyes grimly surveyed the damage done by her claws, the memory of Bishras Bid's horrible death too vividly etched in his mind. She was not so strong as the men of her people, but her lean thews were still formidable enough -- and with those claws...

His features hardened. If he moved now, perhaps he could choke her into unconsciousness. He raised his hands. With eyes closed, Jyleesha stiffened expectantly as his fingers touched her throat, her breath catching, her trickling breasts lifting sharply --

Then there was a brief rattle of claws on the door.

Seagrave's breath blew through his gritted teeth. Jyleesha snapped open her eyes and cast a vicious scowl at the closed door. Momentarily, Seagrave considered finishing her quickly before she could answer -- but then realized there would be little point. Whoever was at the door knew she was in here with the pirate.

Angrily, Jyleesha shouted in Trayken. From beyond the door, a voice responded, obviously apologetic for the intrusion, but insistent. Jyleesha hesitated, clearly wishing she could tell the sailor to come back later -- but then, with a snarl, she slipped gracefully to her feet, carefully straightening the straps over her breasts before gruffly commanding the sailor to enter.

The triangular door glided open and two grim Traykens shouldered through, bearing a sombre captive between them. Seagrave's blood stopped in his veins.

It was Nas Klarak.

Seagrave didn't need to understand Trayken to follow the brief conversation. Obviously, Nas Klarak had been caught leading one of the narses up from the hold. From the fact that no one glanced at Seagrave, the pirate guessed that Nas Klarak had not revealed his purpose in freeing one of the narses. They did not know the narse was for Seagrave and Shyrin Shas.

When the situation had been explained to Jyleesha, she regarded Nas Klarak with an appraising glare. She asked him a question, but he maintained his silence, his tiny black eyes stoically returning her stare. Seagrave could not help but admire the Trayken sailor -- Nas Klarak had said he owed Seagrave his life, and it seemed he meant to repay that debt one way or the other.

For a moment, Jyleesha studied the sailor with a puzzled contraction to her finely-shaped brows. Then, all at once, her smooth shoulders lifted to match the sudden stiffening of her spine. She half-turned and her dark eyes fell on the pirate.

He could see comprehension slowly filling her gaze. With a wounded cry, her fingers flew to the ring at her hip -- then her cry choked off, her eyes growing wide. Her look shot to the pouch on Seagrave's belt, then to his face. In a matter of heartbeats, he saw a flurry of emotions flash across her beautiful features: astonishment, betrayal, bitterness -- rage.

She took one quick step and yanked the pouch from his hip, then tumbled the contents into her palm -- both the tal-stone and the key.

The game was up.

In an instant, Seagrave considered his options and recognized that resistance was futile. Nas Klarak had been caught trying to bring up a narse from the hold; without a narse, Seagrave remained trapped on the Empress of Shek. He could still have killed Jyleesha, but now he was faced with the two other guardsmen as well. If he had had his cutlass or the punch spike, perhaps he might have stood more of a chance -- but there was no sign of either weapon in her cabin.

He stood in grim silence as the captain's blazing eyes rose to spear him like hurled daggers.

Her claws gleamed as she curled her fingers around the tal-stone and key. Ripe lips drew back to expose her white teeth clenched in a ferine grimace. For a moment, she seemed unable to speak.

Then, in a low, aching voice, she groaned: "It seems you did not disappoint me, after all."

She paused, fighting to master her anger, conflicting emotions warring in her eyes -- then she hissed bitterly: "I did not lie to you -- whatever else I have done, I did not lie!"

For a space, she seemed to consider how else to voice the horrible sense of betrayal writhing like a serpent in her breast. Finally, recognizing that no words could suffice, Jyleesha straightened sharply, squaring her shoulders, then barked a command to the sailors behind her. In an instant, they bracketed and seized Seagrave, who made no effort to resist.

"You need no longer worry about being handed over to the navy," Jyleesha told him, viciously tossing her head. "Tomorrow, you will be tortured and then killed. I told you I would not be toyed with. And since you seem so obsessed with the welfare of your orange slave girl, you can spend the rest of the night in the vat with her. If she is already dead, you will spend the night with her corpse!"

Jyleesha passed the key to one of the guards and, shortly, Seagrave was roughly cast into the sweltering blackness of the storage vat. The hatch was sealed and he found himself cocooned in thick, smothering night.

Unable to see, he located Shyrin Shas by feel. She made no sound as he drew her supple figure into his arms and, for a moment, he thought the day's heat, so much worse than now, had killed her. But then he felt the fragile tripping of her small heart beneath her tender ribs.

Gently, he pressed his mouth to her dry lips, licking each soft arc in a vain effort to sooth her with the moisture of his tongue, however slight. He was rewarded only by a weak stirring of her naked flesh against his own and a pale delirious whimper, too much like a faintly dying echo.

He thought of what tomorrow might bring and, for the first time, he began to wonder if he could save her, after all...

In the morning, Jyleesha was true to her word.

Seagrave was hauled from the storage vat and trussed to the rigid webwork on the starboard turret, this time with his face turned into the cords, his arms above his head. The pirate had known quite a few scorned women in his time, but none whose fury could hold a candle to the matchless revenge of the Trayken captain.

She wielded the double-corded silth whip with a fierce, vengeful determination which no hired torturer could ever have equalled. The pliant glass cords had been made inert, so as not to contract as they cut viciously again and again across his naked back.

Jyleesha stood alone with him on the turret, preferring to administer the punishment with her own fine hands. Seagrave couldn't see her behind him, but he could hear the angry sucking of breath through teeth, the soft slap of bare feet on the deck, and of course, the steady whistle and crack of the hard glass cords as she threw her rippling back into the bloody task.

Relentlessly, she launched the whip against his smooth hide, each searing stroke delivered with all the vindictive force of her seething rage, until he felt warm blood trailing down his spine and involuntary cries broke from his drawn lips in time with each stinging blow.

Sixty strokes were laid.

Then, abruptly, the punishment stopped. He opened his eyes and looked down to find Jyleesha standing before him, watching him through the shrouds. She was panting from her exertions, her splendid physique molded by white gleams of sweat. The silth whip glistened with his blood where it coiled over her feet.

She stepped closer until her eyes stared up into his, her quick breath gusting on his throat. There was pleading in her gaze, and, to Seagrave's amazement, the glimmer of tears.

It was as if he was seeing a completely different woman.

"There is still time for you to save yourself," she begged, choked by her anguish. "I could still protect you. We could still sail away together. Don't make me hurt you. Please -- I burn with every stroke."

One slender hand clutched the ratline under his chin, drawing her closer until her lips touched his chest.

"I don't want to hate you," she insisted. "I ache to be loved, you know I do. You showed you understood me before -- why can't you understand me now? Just tell me you will sail with me. Tell me you will love me and I will cut you down and save you. I could change for you. I would do anything for you, but you must do this for me. Please!"

Tears tumbled unhindered from her dark lashes, but she seemed not to care if she showed such weakness. She knew only her own desperate urgency, the frantic impulse of her longing. Her lithe body quivered. It was impossible to believe that only seconds before this pleading creature had strained that same beautiful body to flog his back to ribbons.

"And -- what about -- the slave girl?" Seagrave asked slowly, his teeth grinding against the pain.

Jyleesha's brows dipped in frustration. She shook her head sharply.

"She must die," she replied with certainty. "You must let her die to prove your love for me. How else can I trust you when you have already lied to me? Please -- don't make me do this to you. She isn't worth it. I don't want to hurt you -- I would die to save you. Let me save you now."

For a moment, Seagrave regarded her. Her plaintive hope fed on his silence.

But then, in a clenched growl, he gritted brutally, "I should -- have strangled you -- while I had the chance."

Her eyes dilated, her breath catching, a sob of horror leaping from her lips. Then, just as suddenly, her sloe eyes slitted and she reared back with a flashing of claws. The tears still sparkled on her soft cheeks, but a dancing fire sprang up in her gaze.

In an instant, she had transformed once again.

"Very well," she hissed, snapping the silth whip on the ship's deck. "Have it your way. Sixty more strokes before you die!"

Then, for a time, the rhythmic swish and crack of the licking cords was punctuated only by the few grudging cries that found their way past the pirate's grinding fangs...

At last, the punishment ended and sailors freed Seagrave from the shrouds, then carried him down to the middle of the main deck where a triangular hatch covered a raised coaming.

He was heaved face down on the boards, where he struggled feebly to raise himself up on his arms. He lifted his eyes to find Jyleesha looking down on him, the wind thrashing her pink veils, cruelly gorgeous in her panting ire.

She gestured and the hatch was lifted. Instantly, Seagrave could hear a low, bass tone like the deep sounding of an organ.

"This is the chute we use to dispose of waste," Jyleesha explained, placing added emphasis on the final word.

Seagrave leaned over the raised edge. A long, narrow shaft dropped straight through the bottom of the ship. He could see a blue-white sparkle of waves far below.

At some signal he did not see, two sailors seized him and, before he could resist, he was forced into the chute. Frantically he caught himself from falling by bracing his body between the square walls, his feet thrusting against the opposite side. His breath hissed as the wall scraped his ravaged back.

He glanced up just as a slender tangerine shape was brutally hurled down through the hatchway, landing limply atop his bent knees. Desperately he caught the princess before she could slip past, urgently adjusting his stance to compensate for her added weight.

Jyleesha loomed against the dazzle overhead.

"You wanted your slave girl," she snarled; "she is yours -- for however long you can manage to remain braced in the chute. Enjoy her while you can."

For a space, she eyed him as if briefly considering what else might be said in this final moment, what else to say to add one further stinging stroke to her brutal revenge.

But then, before she could speak, Seagrave's precarious balance faltered. He slipped sharply, his feet racing to keep below the level of his chest as he plunged in quick, painful jerks several feet down the chute.

Finally stopping his descent, he looked up. Jyleesha had transformed once again. Her dark eyes shone wide in anguished horror, ripe lips forming an O, hands half-reaching as if imploring. Again Seagrave found it hard to believe a single lithesome shape could house such disparate aspects. Even with his back still striped by her lash, he felt strangely attracted to her, irresistibly drawn by her restless conjoining of monster and maid.

But then her eyes saw how his hands clutched Shyrin Shas so covetously to his straining body -- and whatever momentary horror she had felt on seeing him fall was submerged in a tide of red jealousy.

Her supple shoulders squared and she stepped back with a brusque gesture to her sailors. The hatch was replaced with a decidedly final clanking...

Next episode...Monsters from the Maelstrom

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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!)