The nubile Neekin
returns in...

The Garden of Death

A 5-chapter Sword and Sultry Saga!

By D.K. Latta
About the author

Episode Five:

"Neekin," It Hissed

C HUMBOBO AND THE OTHERS WERE being herded by a half-dozen albino men toward the walkway leading from the valley -- the walkway and the quicksand. The men of the ship were bound.

She started after them, moving with such stealth that the thick-witted islanders were completely oblivious to her presence as they halted the men on the edge of the stone walkway. Six to her one, and she armed only with a knife; Neekin did not much like the odds. Ideally, her plan should be to get the others free as quickly as possible.

"No!" One of the men was pushed toward the liquid -- Hapeth, if Neekin was not mistaken. He struggled frenziedly as the slack-jawed Shotaki struggled with him.

"Leave him be, damn you!" roared Chumbobo, helplessly.

And then Neekin was among them. She kicked out, catching one albino in the stomach, and head-butted another. She staggered back, pain exploding behind her eyes, she being insufficiently recovered from the last two blows to her head to make that a suitable combat technique. She whirled dizzily and drove her fist into another man's jaw, instinctively reluctant to draw her knife against unarmed foes.

The albinos grunted amongst themselves, confused, perhaps even realizing that, if she were here, what did that say about their missing brother?

"Cut us free so we can aid you!" shouted Chumbobo.

She turned toward him, then a shadow fell over her. The biggest of the Shotaki grabbed her shoulder; his other hand clamped savagely about her thigh, his big hand closing with vice-like intensity. She cried out in pain, then let out a surprised shriek as she was hefted easily into the air, high above his head. She squirmed, momentarily helpless. Then, with an inarticulate growl, the albino flung her at the ground.

She hit the walkway, hard, and then rolled onto something soft, a soothing warmth oozing over her. She lay there a moment, dazed, aware of a strange sinking sensation.


She stirred, abruptly realizing she was sinking into the goo surrounding the walkway. She clawed at the stone, her body half-in and half-out of the stuff. It pulled upon her, hungrily, trying to drag her in deeper, but she scrambled still more desperately and felt herself pulling free.

A foot struck her across the jaw, almost snapping the tendons in her neck. She held her ground, barely. With one hand she whipped out her knife, the handle still poking free of the mud. As the albino made to kick her again, she split open the sole of his foot. He howled and hoped away on one leg, clutching his bloody foot.

She pulled herself farther out, her hips breaching the surface. She wiggled and squirmed, trying to drag her legs from the sucking quicksand.

Something touched her foot.

She started, and glanced back at the flat surface.

Something brushed her leg.

With a cry and a final heave, she tumbled out of the goo and onto dry land, gasping. She spun, wide-eyed, to look back at the placid, muddy liquid. It had to have been a trick of her senses, she told herself. Nothing could live in that substance. Nothing human.

She rose unsteadily to her feet, knife held out. The islanders stood upon the dirt path leading to the town, watching her with their soulful red eyes, small grunts issuing from their pale lips. Stood as if awaiting something.

She quickly severed Chumbobo's bonds, then the ropes about Hapeth and the other man. "Back," she ordered. "I'll cover us." The others ran immediately for the cleft in the valley wall, but Chumbobo hesitated. Then, realizing that Neekin had the only knife, and had more than proven herself, decided against making a show of chivalry. He ran, too.

Neekin waited a moment, still facing the last remnants of the Shotaki, warning them back with her knife. She suspected that they did not travel far from their valley home, and that even if it took her and the others a few weeks to build a sturdy boat, they would be relatively safe on the greater part of the island. It was merely a matter of getting out of the valley alive.

"Come on, Neekin," called Chumbobo, his voice indicating a sufficient head start. "Hurry, girl, we- By all the gods of Hell! Neekin! Look out!"

The Shotaki started grunting excitedly, displaying more enthusiasm than she had yet seen them express. More enthusiasm even than the one who had tried to molest her had demonstrated. A chill washed over her.

Slowly, she turned.

Something rose out of the quicksand. Something dragged itself with living tendrils onto the shore. Something big.

The blood drained from her face as she saw what appeared to be a living, moving plant rear up before her. It towered more than twice her height and was perched on two thick, manlike legs, its torso as broad around as a circle she could make with her arms. Roots rippled and slithered beneath it like feet, and thick, leafy vines coiled and uncoiled like grasping tentacles. In the centre of its torso, a great, gaping mouth bloomed with rows of jagged, black teeth.

And Neekin understood what the garden of death was.

It hissed a sound, and a sweet, grassy smell washed over her. It made the sound again, and this time she recognized it as a word. A name.

"Neekin," it hissed.

She felt a weakness in her knees as she identified strange ridges around the savage mouth, ridges that, if looked at just right, formed the impression of a human face. A familiar face.

"Sh-Strev'n?" she gasped. Horror welled inside her as she realized this was why the crippled Manoori had been deemed unsuitable for sacrifice to the garden. The victim's form, planted in the goo, served as the basis for the plant creature. She staggered back as the thing that had been Captain Strev'n lurched forward on its awkward legs.

This was how the ancient Shotaki protected their bountiful gardens from saboteurs and pillagers, she suddenly understood: this plant creature made from human beings, this abomination.

A vine whipped out, coiling around her leg, and she tripped, sprawling upon the hard stone. She screamed as she was dragged toward the creature. She jabbed her knife into the walkway again and again in an attempt to hold her ground, but the creature was impossibly powerful and the knife wrenched free each time. She saw Chumbobo rush at the creature from behind, a stick in his hands. Without even looking at him, the thing that had been Strev'n swung one of its mighty tentacles and Chumbobo tumbled away. Another tentacle coiled around her waist and still another, lifting her into the air.

"Neekin," hissed the thing again, as though the only sound it knew, Strev'n's hatred for her living on in this new form.

She hurtled toward its gaping mouth, the black teeth gleaming wetly. She spread her legs and her feet struck the plant thing on either side of that deadly orifice. Her legs buckled slightly as the vines about her waist grew taut. They were frozen there for a moment, immobile as the thing that had been Strev'n sought to pull her into its maw, and she strained to prevent it. Tendons stood out along her inner thighs, her face a mask of gritted teeth and squinted eyes. Sweat beaded along her skin. Her knees started to bend. Slowly, as if in a dream, Neekin remembered the dead weight in her hand: her knife. She hacked at the vines pulling upon her, slashing them till thick juices spewed out. The creature screamed as the vines snapped.

She hit the ground and turned, stumbling frantically toward the mainland, horror commanding her to get away from the creature at all costs. A vine snapped out for her, managing to snag the waistcord of her g-string and yanking her once more toward the creature. Without pause, Neekin dove forward, the g-string slipping down her thighs. She rolled and it came off her feet, leaving the Strev'n-thing holding an empty garment. As she got to her feet, she hurled her knife. It sank to its hilt in the thing. The creature roared in pain and frustration and lurched forward, a weighty vine striking Neekin heavily across the side of the head before she could take two paces. She sprawled upon the ground, her head ringing, consciousness surging in and out like a tide.

"Neekin," the thing hissed again, almost chortling, if such a thing was possible.

She yelped as one of the vines snapped across her bared bottom, then again and again, the pain thrusting aside the encroaching darkness of unconsciousness. But it was more than that. The thing that had been Strev'n was mimicking a whipping action, echoing his deed on the ship. The creature was taunting her. Mocking her.

Neekin had allowed its shape, its sorcerous origins, to unnerve her. She had panicked, desiring only to run away. Now a new desire coursed through her veins.

She spun and caught the flailing whip-limb in one hand, letting it snake around her forearm. Blazing rage burned behind her emerald and blue eyes.

"That reminds me, Strev'n," she snarled. "I promised to kill you."

She yanked on the vine. The creature was impossibly strong, far stronger than she, but whatever it was that was left of Strev'n was also new to this form. He was awkward and clumsy. She pulled on the vine with all her might, digging her heels into the ground. The creature attempted to resist, but its big legs twisted awkwardly beneath it. With a weird roar of frustration, it toppled over onto the walkway.

She launched herself on top of it. "I thought the job done once already. But by the spirits, I'll finish it now." She yanked her knife from the thing's breast and started stabbing at the thick, plant-like torso, seeking some vital organ, some crucial artery. The yellow juices bubbled out of the cuts she made and the creature roared in pain and rage. A vine coiled around her neck, cutting off her air. Still she held on, stabbing and slashing at the downed creature. Tears streaked down her cheeks as her lungs burned and shadows once more ate at the edges of her vision. Suddenly a dark shape appeared before her, and Chumbobo rammed his stick again and again into the thing. That which had been Strev'n screamed as, between the two of them, more and more of its juices flooded out upon the walkway. Slowly Neekin felt the vine about her throat slacken.

At last, with a shudder, the creature went limp.

Neekin fell off it to land in a heap, gasping, vision blurring in and out of focus. She could barely make out the Shotaki staring stupidly at their fallen champion, muttering incoherently.

Chumbobo gathered her up in his big arms, and she found herself laying her head against his muscular chest. "Are you all right?" he asked.

"It's...been a bad day," she muttered.

"Gods, girl," he said, trying to make a joke of it even as he glanced in revulsion at the dead monstrosity, "remind me never to get on your bad side."

She smiled weakly. "Help me to stand."

He made to oblige, then looked suspiciously at the Shotaki, who watched them with their ruby eyes. Instead he tossed her gently over his right shoulder, steadying her with a hand across her thighs. He waved her knife threateningly in his free hand, in case the islanders thought to press the matter. The albinos, however, made no move toward them. Keeping his eyes on them, he retrieved her g-string from the dead clutches of the creature, then backed slowly toward the valley entrance.

Satisfied they would not be pursued, he turned and strode from the valley, Neekin already asleep from exhaustion.

The End.

Back to Episode 4....The Other Garden

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"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!)