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Reaver’s Prize: Chapter Three

Hannah

His voice snapped me out of my daze.

The sights and sounds of the world around me finally made more than just vague blurred impressions on my mind.

Ever since I was a child I had dreamed about this day, when I would meet a new, undiscovered alien species, learn their ways and culture.

It would be wonderful.

But now? 

Now I was just scared out of my mind.

The soldiers who had escorted us from the room where I’d awakened, the men standing on this platform.

The echoing hallways we’d taken in to get to this strange room, the knots of people staring at us.

A large rectangular hole took up half the space, like a mostly empty swimming pool, smooth metal sides disappearing beneath the water below.

It was dark at the bottom.

And for a moment I thought something moved in the shadows.

It all terrified me.

Except for the one they were calling Beast.

I risked another glance around in the silence that followed his words.

It wasn’t that he was any less imposing than the others.

Everyone in the room looked to be of the same species, with the same silver skin and scales, harsh planes to their face.

But my companion stood taller, broader than the rest, even larger than the man who was the obvious ruler of this place.

If that didn’t mark him as something removed from the others, his eyes did. Everyone else I could see had grey eyes, not too different from my own.

Only Beast was marked with those pools of unrelieved black.

He stood quietly, his hand still on my arm, as if he had exhausted his ability to speak with those two small words.

No. 

Mine.

Then with a shock my brain replayed what he’d been responding to.

The king, whoever he was, had said ‘put it in the pit.’ 

It.

Me.

Maybe the translator was getting it wrong.

But I didn’t think so.

The king tilted his head to the side, a slow smile loss spreading across his face revealing disturbingly sharp looking teeth.

“You’ll have to pay if you want to keep your pet. But something could be arranged.”

Beast didn’t answer, didn’t even shrug, just stood next to me, staring back at the man on the dais above us, the one with the power to command, to demand obedience.

But the Beast simply waited, and the king finally looked away.

“Fine. It should at least be interesting.”

He turned away and for the first time I noticed the  person behind him.

He’d been easy to miss, seated in a sleekly curved black chair rather than standing as the others did.

The same sort of alien, but whereas all the rest looked impossibly strong, the face of the person in the chair was drawn, his body thin, even his scales looked faded and scarred.

If he was human, I would think he’d been sick for a very long time.

Despite my fear I stopped myself.

I had no way of knowing that.

I didn’t even know if it was a “he.”

It was ridiculous to assign gender to a being that I knew nothing about.

The Xornians of Rekalda Two had seven different genders, and a multitude of configurations for family life and reproduction.

But still, Beast felt male, and strangely, so did everyone else in the room.

“Double them.” The king didn’t sound amused any more. 

“My Lord Isar…” the man in the chair protested, then his shoulders slumped.  Lips pressed tightly together, he tapped at a tablet in his lap.

The grind of machinery, then splashing from the pit below.

A moment of tension ran through Beast, then instantly suppressed.

Whatever was down there wasn’t good.

The sounds drew my attention despite my fear, like the shapeless things of nightmares.

You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help it.

I shouldn’t have looked.

Through a gate in the side of the pit four creatures stalked through the water.

Like sharks.

If sharks walked upright, and had four arms instead of fins.

But the same grey and blue mottled skin. 

The same nearly featureless, pointed faces.

The same flat look in their eyes.

And the same horrible rows of teeth.

Lights flicked on all around the edge of the pit, and I saw what had been waiting in the shadows.

Another four of the monsters.

“Bring it here.”

The soldier next to us pointed a wicked looking short spear at Beast’s chest while the other grabbed my arm, pulling me forward. 

Stay silent.

His voice again, I would have sworn it.

They forced me up the platform, placed me next to the man in the chair.

But all the while my mind was spinning.

Beast had spoken again, hadn’t he?

But no one else had heard him.

My eyes fixed on his, the blackness of his gaze pulling me in until I could almost feel him next to me.

Without turning away, he stepped backward, towards the edge of the pit.

My heart leapt to my throat and I leaned forward, only to be stopped by a hand around my wrist.

Startled, I looked down. The man in the chair didn’t look at me, just shook his head a tiny fraction.

The message was clear.

Whatever was happening here, I couldn’t do anything about it.

“What do you think of my latest design?” the king, Lord Isar, whatever, was back to smiling. It didn’t make me feel a bit better.

Beast’s only answer was another step backwards, closer to the edge, the brightness around the pit like a spotlight on him.

Unlike the rest of the men, he wasn’t in any sort of uniform.

They all wore dark pants and boots, the jackets with the stripes of color that even now part of my brain wondered the meaning of.

They all carried weapons. Knives and swords, short spears.

All except for Beast.

Barefooted, his only clothing was a ragged pair of pants torn at the knees.

 No colors. No weapons.

Nothing but his stillness.

“Don’t you want to keep your pet?” Isar tilted his head, looked around at the other men, now all avidly watching the scene as it played out before them.

Don’t watch.

And then with that same silence wrapped around him, Beast took a final step backwards, and dropped out of sight.

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