A NOVEL OF ADVENTURE
BY JEFFREY BLAIR LATTA
Previously: Returned to his prison, Seagrave decided he must escape before the Trayken received permission to torture him, then rescue the mysterious orange-skinned girl who, he hoped, could return him to Earth. His blue-skinned companion drugged him with "damash" by which, while they slept, her knowledge became his, allowing them to communicate. Waking, he found the night sky filled with twelve moons around the planet Korash, and was told that this world was another such moon -- Miraya. Intoxicated by the night, Seagrave tried to make love with the girl only to be violently interrupted.
Now, on the balcony...
"Run!" he shouted, giving her a quick shove through the doorway. She stumbled over the door's rim and sprawled flailing in the room beyond. Momentarily Seagrave's attention was distracted by her fall; by the time he turned, his attacker had freed the leister and was swinging for his head with the haft-end. Seagrave tried to duck beneath the blow -- but too late. The shaft caught him sharply across the ear, stunning him with its impact and throwing him hard against the wall...
Shaking his head, Seagrave found himself stretched on his front -- and realized he had passed out for a moment. He heard a woman's frantic cry. A feral snarl broke from his lips. He surged to his feet and bounded through the door.
The guardsman had brought a gilded globular lantern, now hung on one of the bed chains. A topaz gem -- a "glim-gem" according to Seagrave's damash-enhanced memory -- cast soft light through the delicately latticed front. In its wash, the purple guardsman relentlessly pressed the girl back into the far corner of the room. She fought with all the lithe strength in her splendid body, with the frantic spirit of a trapped animal. But her struggles merely served to further inflame her attacker's smoldering rage.
"You are mine!" the guardsman shouted, hurling her against the wall. "How dare you lie with that thing! How dare you allow him to touch you!"
He lashed out, striking her viciously with the back of his gloved hand. The cruel blow left her dazed and defenceless; her eyes glassy, she couldn't even raise a hand to protect her face as he motioned to strike her again --
But then Seagrave's fingers clenched on the upraised arm, jerking it backwards and spinning the guardsman to face him.
"You dog," Seagrave hissed. "Let's see how you like it."
He slapped the guardsman sharply across the face, leaving a mottled imprint in the purple flesh. Momentarily the man seemed too stunned to react. Then his eyes narrowed to deadly slits, and his lips writhed over his grating teeth. "You'll die for that," he rasped.
He swung at Seagrave's head with the haft of the leister -- but this time Seagrave was quicker. The pirate caught the shank in one powerful fist. In a swift motion, he wrenched the weapon from the other's hands, then snapped it disdainfully over his knee. He hurled the two pieces out the door, so they spun away and down into the sea. The guardsman gaped, his purple features paling.
"Let's see how well you fight without your toy," Seagrave snarled savagely. "I've fought and beaten bigger men than you on a rolling deck slick with blood and brains -- and I've beaten them with my bare hands."
The guard's eyes dilated a split second before Seagrave's fist crashed into the man's stomach. The wind was knocked out of him in a wheezing rush, and he pitched forward into the pirate's arms. Seagrave held him up a moment, scowling in disgust as the guardsman coughed and hacked wretchedly.
"Come on, ye dog," Seagrave growled. "At least try to defend yourself."
The guardsman straightened drunkenly, still fighting for breath. Seagrave's fist caught him cleanly across the jaw, spinning him half around. For a moment, the guard weaved on his feet, orange fluid trickling from his lips; then he lost his balance and stumbled backward, catching himself on the ladder. Grimly Seagrave stepped forward --
Suddenly the girl sprang in his way, throwing herself frantically against his chest. "No!" she cried. "Let him go! Please don't kill him!"
Seagrave hesitated uncertainly, his feral eyes shifting between his gasping quarry and the blue vision in his path. In that moment, the guardsman managed to recover sufficiently to struggle to his feet. His eyes were livid balls of baleful flame. "You'll suffer for this," he hissed. "I swear you'll suffer -- both of you!"
Then he clambered up the ladder and slammed the hatch behind him.
"You shouldn't have stopped me," Seagrave said, folding the girl in his arms to soothe her trembling. He took her delicate chin in his fingers and turned her face, scowling at the dark bruise on her high cheek bone. "I wouldn't have killed him. I just would have taught him some manners."
The girl moaned in an anguish of despair. "You should not have fought him," she insisted. "Now you have made an enemy."
Seagrave chuckled darkly. "I've made better enemies than that poltroon."
"You don't know him as I do. Bramal Bren will not forget this, and he will not rest until he has had his revenge."
"And what is Bramal Bren to you? Your lover?"
Her emerald eyes dilated in amazement. "Lover? How could he possibly be my lover? I am the slave of Khomas Khan."
Seagrave frowned. "Slave?"
"Of course -- didn't you notice my ears?"
"What the devil do your ears have to do with anything?"
"I have no earlobes." She turned her shapely head to show him. "See -- I am a slave."
Seagrave grew steadily more befuddled by the moment. "You mean to say, just because you don't have earlobes they turn you into a slave?"
The girl shook her head quickly, her dark brows crinkling in frustration. "No, no. When I first emerged, they saw I had no earlobes. That was how they knew I was a slave. I have always been a slave. It is simply what I am -- just as I am a woman, just as I am blue."
Seagrave regarded her narrowly for a time. He did not like slavers and he had never done business with them. From the sounds of things, slavery in this society was part of a caste system; people were born slaves and remained so until they died. "What did you mean when you said you 'emerged'," he asked. "Emerged from what?"
She laughed lightly. "From my chrysalis, of course."
This time Seagrave was silent for considerably longer. Finally he decided to tackle an easier question. "And who is this Khomas Khan?"
"Khomas Khan is my master. He is also the advisor to Queen Itazara Tal -- or was, until he deposed the queen. He is a very good master, although distant and aloof, and I don't mind being his slave. But there is a limit to how long anyone may keep one slave -- after that, the slave must be sold to another. My time with Khomas Khan is nearly up, and Bramal Bren intends to purchase me. But Bramal Bren is a possessive, jealous man. He knows that Khomas Khan has never touched me -- that is why he desires me. But when he saw you with me..."
Seagrave nodded grimly, the whole picture rapidly coming clear. So -- Miraya was not so different from Earth, after all. Suddenly he had a thought. "What does this Khomas Khan look like?"
The girl described her master, and Seagrave nodded again. Khomas Khan had been the officious jade man in the throne room.
That realization brought another question.
"If Khomas Khan is your master," he asked, "why does he send you down here with me -- a prisoner? Doesn't he think I might...take advantage of you?"
The girl frowned doubtfully, then shrugged her glossy shoulders. "I have wondered that myself. I don't know why. I begged and pleaded for him not to send me -- I was afraid because of what I had heard about you."
"And just what had you heard?"
"That you had broken a Trayken in half with just a stick."
A startled laugh broke from the pirate's lips, and it was a moment before he could find the breath to speak. The girl watched him with a questioning half-smile on her delicate face. "Have I said something funny, Moryan?"
"No," replied the pirate, his laughter dissolving into a low chuckle. "But I think I can see why you might have been afraid of me."
"Did you? Break a Trayken in half?" Her emerald eyes were enormous, her voice hushed with mingled dread and awe; she awaited his response with tense, breathless trepidation. Suddenly Seagrave realized: she wanted to believe he had broken a Trayken in half with a stick. For a moment, he was tempted to feed into this strange mythos which seemed to have evolved around his earlier encounter with the Rayvers -- but then he shook his head.
"No," he murmured, gently stroking her satin cheek with the knuckles of one hand. "I killed him with a cutlass. He didn't even try to defend himself, so I can't even claim it was a fair fight. The poor devil didn't stand a chance."
The girl's eyes gleamed just as wide, her voice, if anything, even more breathless with wonder. "And what is a...a cutlass?"
"A cutlass? Why a cutlass is --" Seagrave paused, a baffled frown straining his tanned features. Strange -- try as he might, he could think of no words in her language which would allow him to describe his weapon. Apparently her people did not have swords, nor blades of any kind. For the life of him, he couldn't even think of a way to explain how it worked; even the word "cut" was absent from their lexicon.
It occurred to him that the leisters had only points, without cutting edges. Was it possible that this society knew only about points, but not about edges? It was hard to imagine, but he supposed it was no different from the concept of the wheel on Earth. People must have observed rolling rocks for thousands of years before some prehistoric genius recognized a physical principal at work and thought to harness it in the form of the wheel. Still, that didn't help Seagrave with his explanation. Confounded, he shook his head. "I can't explain it. You'll just have to take my word for it. But, right about now, I'd sell my soul to get that cutlass back."
A mischievous smile
slowly narrowed the girl's lustrous eyes. "I see what you are doing,
but you don't have to, you know." Seagrave's brows rose questioningly.
"I told you I was frightened of you because you had broken a Trayken in
half with a stick, and so you deny it so I will not be afraid. But
I am braver than you think. I am not afraid of you anymore, even
though I know you could break me in half far easier than a Trayken.
Still..." She shrugged and slipped smoothly from his arms.
"...if you wish to pretend this...cutlass...broke the Trayken in half,
I don't mind. And perhaps it was also a cutlass that slapped Bramal
Bren as if he were a child."
With lithesome ease, she settled on the hanging bed, extending her nearly-naked length luxuriously and cradling her head on her arm to regard him sideways.
A light smile touched Seagrave's lips, and he perched on the bed beside her. His feral eyes played hungrily over her pale blue curves. He decided to change the topic. "Tell me about this place," he instructed. "This island. You said Khomas Khan overthrew your queen -- why?"
"This is the city of Jinja Khyam, capitol of the State of Eukara," the girl explained. "Our nation consists of the four islands you see outside; Nakris and Dis are those islands you see when you look toward Korash, while Masra is the island on the opposite side of us. This island -- the largest of the four -- is called Eukara, for which our nation is named.
"A very long time ago -- how long I do not know, but certainly long before I emerged -- the Trayken invaded our moon. They came from the moon Shek, and our moon is but one of several which they seek to conquer and upon which they are presently waging war. Little by little the Trayken have defeated the various nations of our moon, until now there is no one left to oppose them. Because we are so small, the Trayken have ignored our tiny state until now. But, seven days ago, a Trayken delegation arrived on Eukara offering a pact between our peoples, a pact of non-aggression, of surrender.
"Queen Itazara Tal has no love for the Trayken; she had long resolved to resist them if they attacked us. But her advisor, my master, Khomas Khan, believed that the Trayken would destroy us if we resisted. He is not a bad man; but his loyalty to the people is stronger than his loyalty to the queen. As Khomas Khan is the leader of the army, he deposed Itazara Tal and confined her to her chambers, then signed the pact with the Trayken.
"But, while Khomas Khan commands the army, it is Admiral Nisram Nyl who controls the Royal Fleet, and Nisram Nyl is staunchly loyal to the queen. A principle condition of the pact required the Royal Fleet to return to Eukara, to be scuttled. Trayken domination of Miraya is largely dependent on their Armada's uncontested control of the skies. With the queen deposed, Khomas Khan sent word for the Fleet to return. He assumed Admiral Nisram Nyl would recognize that resistance was futile and either surrender the fleet or else scuttle it at sea. Either way, this would fulfil his pact with the Trayken and they would leave us alone.
"Unfortunately for my master, while he successfully arrested the queen, somehow the Royal princess, Shyrin Shas, managed to elude capture. While she remains free, Admiral Nisram Nyl will never surrender the fleet; his loyalty now belongs to her. When the Trayken learned of this, they sent Rayvers to assist my master in searching the islands for Princess Shyrin Shas.
"Then, yesterday, Draykhis Dol Hashar, the leader of the Trayken Occupational Army, arrived to personally assist with the search." Her side- turned face contracted gravely. "I have not seen this Dol Hashar because Khomas Khan sent me to look after you just before the draykhis arrived -- but I have heard he is a cruel monster who delights in torturing prisoners."
Seagrave massaged his jaw, and nodded grimly. "Aye, I think I've met your Draykhis Dol Hashar. He knows how to throw a punch."
"So far, they have been unsuccessful in finding the princess, and no one has any idea what has happened to her. Still, it is only a matter of time."
"And then what will become of this Princess Shyrin Shas?" Seagrave asked soberly.
"Khomas Khan believes she will remain under house arrest with Queen Itazara Tal."
"But what do you believe?"
The girl's solemn silence was the only answer Seagrave required. The pirate had met the Trayken draykhis himself; he could too easily imagine what that creature would do to the princess once she was caught. "One final question," he asked guardedly. Everything hinged upon her next answer. "What does this missing Princess Shyrin Shas look like?"
The girl's features suddenly brightened, and she raised her sleek torso on one fine elbow. "Oh, I have only seen the princess once, but I remember it clearly," she replied, breathless with delight. "She was the most beautiful creature under Korash. Her eyes shone like two emerald stars, and her body was slender and supple as a twisting stream of falling water. Her wings were slim and shimmered with dancing light, and her lips were ripe and full like the succulent fruit of the vinala vine." For a moment, the girl racked her brain -- then her smile widened as a final detail leapt to mind. She closed her eyes, luxuriating in the memory. "Ah, and her skin -- her soft skin is that rarest of all hues...the vibrant, luminous orange of the gloriously shining sun!"
So, thought Seagrave. There you have it. The orange girl on the Sea Dog, the girl who was captured by a two-headed monster and who might be his only shot at getting back to Earth...was none other than the missing Princess Shyrin Shas...
Previous episode Next episode
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!)