Savage Miraya


A NOVEL OF ADVENTURE

BY JEFFREY BLAIR LATTA


EPISODE 37: THE SAVAGE SWITCH!


The rescue plan was as crazy a scheme as Seagrave had ever heard -- and he had heard quite a few in his day. What made matters worse was that he was the one who had concocted it.

But desperate circumstances demanded desperate solutions.  Even now, Princess Shyrin Shas might be screaming under Dol Hashar's tortures; if the pirate waited until the fleet reached Eukara, it might be too late to save her.

"Here it is," said Admiral Nisram Nyl tightly.

The admiral carried a gorgeous gilt and silver sphere sumptuously encrusted with dazzling jewels, a scarlet tassel dangling from the bottom.  He touched a catch on the side and the top half sprang open to reveal a green gemstone nestled in shining folds of blood-red fabric.

Nisram Nyl's demeanour was strained -- and Seagrave knew why.  As the admiral had explained, there was only one Eukara tal-stone carried by the entire Royal Fleet.  To carry more might have proved too great a temptation to deserters in the midst of battle.  This one tal-stone was kept for but a single purpose: in the event of the total defeat of the Royal Fleet, the tal-stone was to be used to send word to Eukara.  To use the tal-stone for any other purpose was a crime punishable by death.

So deeply ingrained was this rule that Seagrave had spent hours of heated argument before he had finally convinced the admiral that the rescue of the princess justified this small transgression.  Even so, Nisram Nyl remained sceptical, doubting that a single man could hope to find and succour Shyrin Shas.

As the admiral had rightly pointed out, there was no way of knowing where she might be held.  Almost certainly, she would be taken aboard one of the wingships of the Armada, just as Bishras Bid, Fanas Fel and Zhanak Zen had been; but there were nineteen ships in the Armada.  Which one should be searched?

Seagrave suspected so important a prisoner as the princess would be held aboard the flagship.  Grudgingly, the admiral concurred.

But how was Seagrave to get aboard the flagship?  So long as the Armada remained nestled atop Nakris, this would not be a problem.  He could have snuck aboard as before.  But, by now, Jyleesha would have informed Dol Hashar that the Royal Fleet was still two days away.  Seagrave and Nisram Nyl could both agree that Dol Hashar would order the invasion of Eukara to begin right away, while the Armada could be assured of two days without interference from the Royal Fleet.  The Armada would have taken to the air long before Seagrave could reach it -- if indeed it had not already lifted off.

The wingless pirate could still board the airborne flagship using a narse -- but boarding a ship in the dark of night was a completely different animal from boarding one in the midst of battle.  The decks and turrets would be thick with Trayken Rayvers and sailors, all armoured and armed, all alert and keyed to a feverish pitch of readiness.

For a time, Seagrave had almost found himself agreeing with Nisram Nyl; it seemed hopeless.  Even his cutlass could do no more than slightly even the odds.  How was he to board a ship aswarm with Trayken Rayvers, each one armed and nearly twice as strong as himself, search every chamber for the princess, grab her and make his escape?

And then came his mad scheme.

With as much conviction as he could muster, Seagrave told Nysram Nyl about the green squall the Empress of Shek had passed through.  He described how the storm somehow used the heart-gems to paralyze everyone onboard the wingship.  Seeing the growing disbelief in his listener's eyes, Seagrave decided not to mention the three-headed winged creatures; the temporary paralysis was the only detail pertinent to his plan.

The green squall had been headed toward Eukara.  It moved fast and, at a guess, Seagrave believed the storm would pass over the island sometime in the morning.  If he could reach Eukara before the green squall hit, Seagrave could wait until the storm arrived, then board the flagship while her crew was subdued by its influence.

There were only two problems to this plan.  First, how was Seagrave to fly aboard the flagship when even the narses would be paralyzed?  After some thought, Seagrave had come up with a solution, albeit, one almost as desperate as the main plan itself.

But for the second problem, there was no solution.  The squall had passed the Empress of Shek in less than ten minutes.  Even with the crew immobilized, could Seagrave board the flagship, search for Shyrin Shas and be away before the squall passed on?

In the end, all he could do was try.  But he didn't relish the thought of what would happen if the storm passed away while he was still deep in the enemy's stronghold...

The pirate took the emerald tal-stone from its crimson bed.  It seemed to radiate cool green beams across his palm, like dappled sunlight reflecting off jade water.

Nisram Nyl closed the lid of the jewelled globe and nodded smartly.  For the first time, Seagrave found there was a hint of emotion in the admiral's stern eyes.  What emotion, he couldn't exactly say, but the hard edges seem softened.  The admiral spoke in a strangely quiet, uncomfortable voice.

"I don't know anything about you," he said.  "You say your name is Moryan, you come from another world, a planet called Earth.  I have never heard of this Earth.  I don't really know if I can trust you, but the princess clearly did -- and so it seems I must as well."

He paused, the words obviously coming hard.  After a moment, he continued: "I told you before -- that is, I made it clear I did not approve of any...relationship you might look for with the princess.  All of us, we care for her deeply.  Her people cherish her, just as they cherish Queen Itazara Tal.  None of us could bear to see anything happen to either of them; nor could we bear to see the princess hurt, physically or emotionally.  It was for this reason that I spoke to you as I did."

His lips tightened and his eyes bore steadily into Seagrave's.

"But what you are about to do...your courage..."  The admiral faltered, and, for just a moment, his eyes dropped nervously.  Then he looked up again and squared his shoulders.  His voice rang.  "I for one am proud to call you 'friend'."

Seagrave was momentarily speechless, surprised by this stolid admiral's difficult admission.  The surprise came all the harder since Seagrave had just been developing a profound distaste for Nisram Nyl.  Still, it just went to show, on any world, you never could tell.

After a second, Seagrave nodded, a faint smile touching his lips.  "I'll hold you to that," he rumbled wryly.  "Just make sure you lay on all sail and get to Eukara as soon as you can.  I can't win this war on my own, you know."

Then he eyed the tal-stone, and his smile gave way to a nervous frown.

So far, he had only used a tal-stone once, snatching him literally from the jaws of death and bringing him to this mad world.  He still wasn't certain what he had done to activate the thing that one time.  Worse, how could he be certain this tal-stone would take him to Eukara?  Shyrin Shas had thought she was travelling to Lin and instead ended up on Earth because of Jakar Jet's switch.  For all he knew, this tal-stone might whisk him away to the Trayken homeworld of Shek.

Still, there was only one way to find out.

"Aye, in for a penny..." Seagrave muttered grimly.

Nisram Nyl looked at him quizzically, since the pirate had spoken in English.  The Trayken Draykhis, Dol Hashar, was the only one on this alien world who knew that tongue -- a mystery which Seagrave still had yet to unravel.

The pirate knotted his damp fist around the bauble.  It felt like a stone left out in the warming sun.

He closed his eyes and concentrated, as Pallin Pol had told him he must.

At first, his thoughts centred on the stone itself, picturing its mirrored facets, its lustrous emerald sheen.  Then he tried to imagine himself -- pictured his flying across the immense, sparkling waters of Miraya.  When this didn't work, he imagined the hanging cabins and swing bridges of Jinja Khyam nestled beneath the air-borne island of Eukara.  Still, nothing happened.  He began to grow more and more despondent.  Why wasn't it working?

Then, he saw, in his mind's eye, the beautiful tangerine figure of Shyrin Shas, saw her struggling in Jyleesha's grip the moment before they had vanished.  He heard her call his name in a distant wail of despair.

Then he saw the pale blue form of Montaz, the slave girl, lying on her final bed of tangled vines, her trembling body marked and torn, the bruises left by fists only hinting at the more terrible damage deeper within.  In an instant, his need flared up like a raging fire feasting on dry timbers, filling him, engulfing him even as a brilliant emerald glow flashed abruptly through his closed eyelids.

Aye, that was the secret then!  To activate the tal-stone required, not specific imaginings, but simple honest desire, need.  To save Shyrin Shas, he knew he needed to be somewhere other than here.  And in the wink of an eye...he was...

***
Jyleesha had never met Draykhis Dol Hashar before.  She had heard stories, though -- about his fondness for torture, often carried out for no other reason than to gratify his own sadistic amusement.

Now, as she stood in the draykhis's personal cabin aboard his flagship, Shek Conqueror, she felt a shiver of revulsion trickle down her spine to see the way his beady black eyes seemed to stroke her sapphire flesh like fondling hands.  She could too easily imagine what he saw when he looked at her that way.

His glistening jet tongue glided back and forth over the jutting fence of his bottom fangs, and his cooling gills spread wider on either side of his gaunt head.  Jyleesha knew her fear was revealed by the flaring of her own cooling gills, but there was nothing she could do to control it.

The draykhis took note of this and a crawling smile moved his mouth.

"You have done your moon a great service," Dol Hashar assured her, placidly drawing his goatee into a point.  "Not only have you delivered the princess to us, but your information regarding the position of the Royal Fleet is invaluable.  As we speak, the Armada is preparing to up ship, the invasion of Eukara about to begin."

"I was only doing my duty."  Jyleesha's voice broke.  She swallowed against the dryness in her throat.  An oppressive air of menace seemed to fill the dark corridors of this vessel.  She found it hard to breathe.  "Now that I have told you everything I know, I need a narse to get back to Jinja Khyam.  My wings --"

Dol Hashar laughed, waving a hand dismissively.

"I'm afraid that is not possible for the moment," he said.  "After the invasion is complete and Jinja Khyam has been secured, then you may leave.  For the moment, you must remain our guest.  But I promise you, you will be amply rewarded for all you have done.  You will have wealth enough to buy a hundred narses, if you wish."

 Jyleesha swallowed tightly.  Dol Hashar seemed amused by her discomfiture.  His eyes stroked her sleek body once again.

"I'm not a Rayver," Jyleesha reminded him stiffly.  "I've never been on board a wingship in the middle of a battle."

"Don't concern yourself about that."  Dol Hashar stepped to a triangular door and slid it open.  "The Shek Conqueror is the largest wingship in the Armada.  She is armoured and built to resist anything the Kamirs might offer by way of defence.  You will hardly be aware that anything is happening."

He gestured for Jyleesha to step through the doorway, his black cape majestically swirling.  Nervously, she slid past him and into the next chamber.  She was barely aware of the jingling of spurs as Dol Hashar climbed through behind her.

Her eyes widened as they took in the scene.

The orange princess lay on her back on a table.  She was completely naked; even her scanty loin garment had been removed.  Jyleesha could imagine what shame the girl must feel to be stripped of that small but precious piece of clothing.  But there was no need to imagine; she could see the terrible agony of helplessness and humiliation blazing in the girl's emerald eyes as they turned to her.

The captive's wrists were bound with thongs to the top corners of the table above her head.  The position stretched her smooth breasts almost flat on her chest, her scalloped ribs arching high beneath her tight skin as if yawning.  Her slim legs were pulled up so her heels thrust to her bottom, knees pointed at the ceiling, limbs clamped tight, defensively.

Two strong Trayken Rayvers stood near the prisoner, each clothed only in a skirt.  One stood on the other side of the table, his arms crossed over his broad hairy chest; the other stood to one side.  The latter wielded a long, straight switch of wood the length of his arm.  He bent it testingly between his hands, demonstrating its frightening combination of pliancy and strength.

At the sight of the princess, Jyleesha's blood ran cold.  She started to turn back to the door, but the black-armoured figure of Dol Hashar loomed in her way.  He raised a restraining hand, his claws just poking through the fingers of his glove -- then casually gestured her to face the princess again.  Reluctantly she complied.

"Again I must thank you for delivering this princess to us," Dol Hashar said.  "We have searched for her for some time -- not always for the same reason, interestingly."

In spite of her suffering, Shyrin Shas looked at him, surprised by his words.  He smiled.

"That is correct, Princess.  Initially, we wanted to capture you because Khomas Khan assured us that Nisram Nyl would never surrender the fleet with you on the loose.  But then we discovered a wingless stranger from another world who had in his possession a green Eukara tal-stone.  I never managed to question him as to where he had obtained that tal-stone, but later I spoke with an acquaintance of yours, Jakar Jet.  He told me how you had intended to travel to Lin, but that he had switched your Lin tal-stone for another tal-stone.  Jakar Jet offered to sell me the Lin tal-stone -- a transaction which unfortunately was not completed."

Jyleesha cringed as a gloved hand settled on her naked shoulder.  With only slight pressure, Dol Hashar moved her ahead of him as he stepped over to the table.

"Nonetheless, Jakar Jet managed to help us far more than he could ever have imagined."

The draykhis paused and his tiny eyes played over the princess, fondling down her tangerine curves to her rigidly folded legs.  There his gaze fixed and he licked his fangs again.

"Captain Jyleesha," he said, as if he had just had a sudden idea, "I think we can find something for you to do while you wait for our invasion to be carried out.  Here is what you can do for us..."

Jyleesha felt a wave of nausea surge through her guts as Dol Hashar calmly, coldly explained what she was to do.  She shook her head quickly; but Dol Hashar continued before she could voice her refusal.  His tone was hard but quiet.

"I trust I can count on you for this?  I would hate to find your loyalty only extends thus far and no farther.  That could prove a most embarrassing problem -- one that would have to be looked into."

His eyes remained fastened on the princess, but Jyleesha felt a prickly pain as his claws exerted a gentle pressure on her shoulder.  She licked her lips, then nodded weakly.

"Very good," he said.

Jyleesha found her body moving almost without conscious volition.  Dazedly, she stepped to the side of the table, in line with the captive's hips.  At the same time, the Rayver on the other side of the table took up his position opposite her.  The second Rayver, the one with the switch, moved quietly to the foot of the table.

Dol Hashar's attention had returned to Shyrin Shas's anguished features.

"Now, Princess," he said softly, compassionately, "you will tell us what has become of the tal-stone."

The princess whimpered deep in her throat.  Her eyes jerked from Dol Hashar as she glanced along the shallow groove between her breasts.  She flinched as the Rayver took hold of her bent left leg, each hand firmly clamping on either side of her raised knee.  After a moment, Jyleesha did the same with the right leg.

"I don't know where it is!"  Shyrin Shas cried miserably.  "Jakar Jet stole it -- you said so yourself!"

For a moment, Dol Hashar frowned, puzzled by her response.  Then a faintly sympathetic smile raised his beetled brows.

"Not the Lin tal-stone," he said.  His eyes hardened once more.  "Our interest in that distant moon is minor at best.  Certainly, we should like to get our hands on a tal-stone for Lin, but that isn't why we have gone to so much trouble over your puny island -- and it isn't why this is happening to you."

In spite of her fear, Shyrin Shas drew her wide eyes from the hands on her legs.  She looked at Dol Hashar, questioningly.

"Princess," the draykhis asked calmly, "where is the Earth tal-stone?"

In her surprise, Shyrin Shas betrayed too much.  Dol Hashar saw the momentary look that flitted across her face, and his smile returned, all the wider.

"Ah, yes.  You do know where it is, don't you?  I saw it in your eyes just then.  Sooner or later, we will find that tal-stone, you understand?  We traced it to your miserable city.  We know it is here, somewhere.  If we have to we will tear apart every hovel, we will skin alive every Kamir man and woman a dozen times -- but sooner or later we will find that tal-stone."

The feigned compassion returned to his voice.  "But you can save your people; you can save yourself so much... unpleasantness.  Give us the Earth tal-stone and I promise the Armada will depart without firing a single cluster worm.  Eukara can exist free and without interference -- you have my personal guarantee on that.  Simply tell me where it is."

For a moment, Dol Hashar's words had worked a mesmerizing influence over the princess.  She seemed on the verge of acceding to his demand, as if longing to be freed of a terrible burden.  But then, with a physical effort, she dragged her gaze from his, squeezing her tear-bright eyes with a tormented sob.

Dol Hashar nodded as if it was only as he had expected.

"Very well."  He glanced at Jyleesha, then at the Rayver across the table.  "Inform me when she answers the question," he instructed the guard brusquely.  "And tell me if you have any trouble -- with either of them."

Wheeling, he strode from the chamber, sliding the door closed behind him.

For a moment, silence held the chamber like a finger touched to a gong.  Jyleesha met the eyes of the Rayver and she saw the silent threat in those small black orbs.

Grimly, she clenched her teeth, tightening her grip on the princess's leg.  The captive moaned in horror, flexing her hips and thighs in a vain effort to resist.  But her strength was nothing compared to the hard-woven thews of the Traykens.  With ease, they straightened her slender legs, pressing the straining limbs tight to the table.

The second Rayver raised his long, slim switch.  It curved almost imperceptibly along its length, as if hungrily reaching toward the soft orange of the captive's flesh.

Though Jyleesha tried not to, she found her gaze strayed to the princess's fear-wide eyes.  For a moment, they locked together.  Softly, like a moan, Jyleesha pleaded: "Tell them what they want to know.  Please -- please, just tell them."

Jyleesha did not know anything about the Earth tal-stone.  She had no idea that she had held it in her own hands when she had taken the pouch away from Seagrave to regain her key.  All she knew was that, however much she hated this beautiful princess, however much she herself had desired to torture this rival for another man's love, now that she felt the fearful rippling of dread-tight sinews beneath her strong fingers, saw the wide-eyed look of terror that haunted those emerald eyes, now that she had what she had desired...it filled her with horror and loathing.

Barely able to speak, the princess sobbed through choking tears: "Please -- don't..."

It took all her strength for Jyleesha to tear her eyes away from that horrified countenance.  As if in a dream, she saw the Rayver lift his switch, muscles knotting on his heavy arm and down his back.  Involuntarily, she closed her eyes.

A split second later, she heard the vicious crack of the switch.  She clamped her fingers tight, holding down ruthlessly as the leg jumped under her hands, knowing the other Rayver was doing the same with the opposite leg.  She felt supple muscles suddenly straining with the surge of racing unimaginable pain.

So great was the first hot burst of agony, it was a moment before the princess could draw breath into her paralyzed lungs -- and a moment after that before she could release it again in a wild, shivering scream that left Jyleesha weak and dizzy, a low moan rising in the captain's own clenched throat.

But, by that time, the captive's frenzied wail served merely to mask the savage crack of the second blistering stroke...



Next episode...Race to Eukara!

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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!)