The nubile Neekin
returns in...

The Garden of Death

A 5-chapter Sword and Sultry Saga!

By D.K. Latta
About the author





Episode Four:

The Other Garden


A  SMALL BARRED WINDOW NEAR the ceiling spilled a little light into the room, allowing Neekin to make out a form huddled on the floor by the far wall. She hesitated, then stepped forward. "Who are you?"

A frail, black-skinned man propped himself up unsteadily on one bony arm, dreadlocks spilling over his gaunt features. "Whu-?" he mumbled unsurely. "Are you the goddess Mishtaffi? Come to release me from my earthly shell?"

Neekin stared. Naked and curvaceously beautiful, it would be easy to mistake her for the manifestation of some otherworldly entity. She crouched beside the man. She recognized his tongue as one of the dialects used in darkest Manoori, making this sickly figure a Manoori sorcerer more than likely. Neekin's experiences with the denizens of that mysterious land had been few, but always unpleasant. Still, he was a stranger, and she could not condemn a stranger for the actions of a few of his countrymen -- no matter how much the practitioners of mmagic raised her hackles. "I am Neekin," she said gently.

His bloodshot eyes stared at her with barely maintained focus. "A...a white woman," he said slowly, as if that settled the matter, and Neekin realized that undoubtedly southern gods would have dark, southern skin. "Lovely...but not Mishtaffi." He sagged and she caught him, laying his head gently against her soft, bare breasts.

"Tell me how you got here," she said, realizing he was no newcomer like them, and that he might have information. "What is this place?"

He snuggled against her breasts, inhaling. "You smell nice."

She frowned. He was practically delirious. His Death goddess was coming for him after all, it appeared. Seeing a Manoori sorcerer reduced to such a state, he of such a proud, and arrogant, and seemingly not entirely mortal people, sent a shudder through her. She shook him gently. "Where are we?"

He blinked up at her unsteadily. "The isle of Shotaki," he said carefully, as though his lips were numb. "The Gardens of Maytaggo. Four hundred years ago...the Shotaki set sail...to...to war with a kingdom whose identity has been lost...to antiquity. They left behind a small party to tend the, the gardens where they grew food...and flowers of...value in certain rites. A party to tend the Gardens, and to guard them in case their...en-enemy sought to destroy their food supply. But the fleet never returned...and the remaining islanders died out till only an albino name Driok and his sister, Chyria, were left. Left to tend the gardens, awaiting a homecoming fleet that would never arrive. And left to sire the next generation of garden keepers. Who sired the next, and the next."

Neekin stared. The slow-witted creatures she had encountered, then, were the result of centuries of inbreeding. Evolving into a race that had lost their desire to maintain their homes, their capacity for speech, their intelligence, but maintaining the one final purpose in their lives: the gardens. Then she blanched. She had seen no women. Obviously the last generation had produced only sons. Until she came along.

The Shotaki had not just intended to rape her...but to breed with her.

A shiver raced up her spine. "How do you know all this?"

He shifted against her and for the first time, she realized how cold he was. "The flowers. My people collect them...for certain...rites. We well know this place's sad history. Months ago I came here...as I had twice before...but I was not as clever this time. They captured me. I was injured..." He gestured at his left leg. It was bent crooked below the knee as though it had healed wrong. "My leg was broken. They were too stupid to realize, though, when I set it improperly."

"You-?"

"With a bad leg, I knew they would not bother giving me to their garden. I had saved myself." He chortled weakly, bitterly. "Heh. Saved myself."

"Give to their-?" Neekin stared. Were the dead then used to fertilize their lush greenery? And why would infirmity preclude him from such a fate? she wondered. "They use the bodies of men to sustain these gardens of -- what did you say? -- Maytaggo?"

"No," he groaned, eyes growing wide. "No, not the gardens of Maytaggo. The other...garden." Suddenly he began to spasm. Neekin grabbed him, attempting to keep him from injuring himself. "Beware...the garden...of...death..." He exhaled heavily, eyes fluttering, and then he went limp. Neekin put her ear to his bony chest.

His heart was silent.

She rose carefully. It was as if, once he had told his story to someone, the life had left him. As if he had lingered for all these months, only in the hope that he would not have to die alone. Neekin could appreciate the sentiment. She did not want to die alone on this island either.

She padded to the door and pried it open a crack. The hall was deserted.

She still had Chumbobo and the others to free, and now the nameless Manoori had warned her of a fate other than simply being left to drown in quicksand.

The Garden of Death was a most ominous appellation.

Suddenly she realized that the footsteps she had ducked to avoid had been heading in the direction from which she had come. Possibly to the lower level cell. Cursing under her breath, she raced heedlessly down the hall and vaulted the steps to land in a crouch. The cell door yawned open, the place empty. Though practically exhausted from her ordeals over the last day and night, she turned and sprinted up the steps again.

Was Chumbobo and the others to be placed in the quicksand, or to face the garden of death? she wondered. And where was the latter?

She came upon a room, thick with dust and disrepair like the first chamber she had encountered. She made for the window opening onto an avenue, then stopped. After a moment of consideration, she tore down the rotting drape from beside the window, dust erupting into the air. She cut strips from the cloth. She formed from the strips a crude, rather brief G-string and tied a second strip about her breasts.

If the albinos sought a brood-mother, she thought it best not to face them naked -- though she doubted clothes would truly discourage them.

Slipping her knife into the waistline of her makeshift garment, she leaped through the window, landing nimbly in the street, relieved to be once more under the shimmering sun.

She raced down the street, the balls of her bare feet barely gracing the stone in her fleetness. She rounded a corner, than another, glimpsing greenery on all sides through the cracks between buildings. At last she emerged from the collection of buildings onto the grassy sward leading to the surrounding gardens. She looked around, ears alert, nostrils flared, seeking some sign of those she sought.

She did not have far to look.

Back to Episode 3....Captive!

On to Episode 5...."Neekin," It Hissed


Back to Pulp and Dagger

Back to The Garden of Death: Table of Contents


"The Garden of Death" and the character of "Neekin" are copyright by D.K. 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!)