fb

Reaver’s Prize: Chapter Four

Normally I didn’t mind a good fight with the ceapaks or whatever other lab-born nightmares Isar threw against me.

Here in the pit there were no lies, no veiled threats.

No words masking harder, crueler thoughts.

Just the flow of battle and blood.

Simple. Direct. Easy. 

But now the pack of creatures were in my way.

I leapt towards the closest one, ignoring the curved blade in its hands while I wrapped my hands around the thick, flesh of its neck.

With a sharp wrench to the side its spine cracked, gave way.

I grabbed its knife from its hands as it sank into the knee-high water.

Spinning to face the rest of the pack, I searched for any other modifications.

The extra set of arms had been enough of a surprise.

Three broke away, splitting around me, trying to circle me.

I flung my knife into the eye of one, then dove towards it to retrieve my blade and claim his own.

That was better.

Isar had not allowed me weapons for years now.

But I did feel better with them in my hand.

Suitably armed, the next two fell before me, my focus burning past any awareness of the slashes across my scales.

Which left the other four, who stood, watching.

Observing.

Could they be learning?

I’ve learned long ago not to discount the wildest theories.

Those were the ones that came and stuck a knife in your back.

These four were the new ones that Evras had released into the pit at Isar’s command.

I wondered what special treat was in store for me.

It didn’t matter.

My only job now is to finish this quickly.

Claim my prize. 

Get back to the female.

I felt the weight of her terror as she watched me.

Then my step faltered.

Her fear was for me, not herself.

My resolve only firmed.

She did not know the danger of this place.

And I could only hope I had not put her in more peril.

I shouldn’t have spoken, lost control.

My sharp laugh sent a wave of uneasiness through my opponents.

Control was lost to me the moment I found her, touched her.

There was no going back now.

My gaze swept across the pack of wolves again as they edged forward, watching them, waiting for a break.

With one unified motion the creatures charged, then spread out.

Their motions more coordinated than their brethrens had been, but still the tactic was the same.

Surround, trap, destroy.

The low rumble of machinery let me know the viewing platform now straddled the pit, rolling forwards in grooves at either side so that Isar could have a perfect view of the combat below.

His experiments.

The four enhanced Seawolves moved closer, bringing in the corners of their square.

Crouching I whirled into a low spin, throwing the knives again, taking one of my opponents in the center of the throat, then twisting to fling my blade at the enemy diagonally across.

But it flinched, the blade doing little more than grazing his shoulder.

For a moment shock ran through my blood.

Had it understood its danger? 

With this batch of wolves capable of thought? 

I shook myself.

That was a problem for later.

The three remaining opponents shifted positions, pinning me within their triangle.

Except they had forgotten a direction.

I launched myself towards the underside of the viewing platform, my fingers snagging the metal lip.

Swinging myself back and forth, and for a second I was high enough to see the wide gaze of the female, her hands pressed over her mouth as she stood next to Evras.

The points of the spears of the guards at her back forced her to the edge, ensuring she was not spared the side of the carnage below.

Wait.

Before anyone on the platform could move I hooked my hand around one of the guards ankles, flinging him off his safe perch and into the water below.

Isar’s bellow of rage continued long after the guard’s scream was cut short by the wolves.

I dropped back down, behind the feasting creatures.

Distracted by the unexpected meal, they fell easily.

There was no honor in this fight.

But the pit had never been about honor, only survival.

The platform rolled back as I panted for breath, the cuts across my scales burning.

Isar looked down, the scowl of his face quickly replaced by a broad smile, but the fingers of his hands flicked open and closed, an unconscious sign of his agitation.

“Again you have earned the name of Beast,” he said. “You will have extra rations tonight.”

No.

That was not what I had fought for.

Reaching down I took the knife from my final opponent’s grip, held it to my own throat.

“What are you doing?” He snapped.

The female’s distress ripped through me, sharper than any blade I had ever fought against, but I could not look away from Isar. Not now.

I pressed the point of the knife in further, enough that he could see the blood flowing.

“Extra rations for a week.”

But still he said nothing about the female.

A fraction deeper with the blade and Evras gasped.

“My Lord, he will not be swayed. Is that not a testament to the perfection of your design? Let him have this creature. It will be of no other use to you.”

“You are wrong, my old friend. Having something new that the beast cares about could be very useful indeed.” For long moments Isar said nothing, then he spread his hands out, as if dropping a weight into the waters below. “Fine, he can have it. Take it to the labs and make sure it brings no disease here.”

The platform rolled away, and I fell to my knees in the filthy water.

I had won. 

This time.

By the time I climbed out of the pit the spectators were gone.

And so was the female.

I rolled my shoulders, testing out the extent of my injuries.

Nothing too bad. It didn’t even feel like their blades had been poisoned.

Normally if I’d taken such little damage I’d return to my lair, sleep, wait to heal.

But the need to see the female, to confirm with my own eyes that she was safe, pulled at me, led me through the facility like a hunting call I could not refuse to answer.

I paused at the gate to the chamber of the pit, stretching my senses as far as I could before leaving.

Flitting from one corridor to the next, I twisted and turned, my progress towards Evras’s lab far slower than a direct route.

But I had no interest in meeting any of the others now.

My temper rode too high, my grip on it felt frayed.

An encounter with any of Isar’s disciples would not end well.

Finally I could feel her presence, sliding into the corners of my mind like she had always been there,

I quickened my pace, stepping through the sliding door as soon as it opened.

They sat together at a table at the front of the lab, her legs swinging as they dangled from the chair, her hands locked together, face blank as Evras spoke to her in low, soothing tones.

My feet slowed, stopped as I considered the situation.

Evras could shield her, hide her from Isar’s attention better than I could.

My presence would only distress her.

She would be safe here. I was a beast. I would only make her more frightened.

I had seen her. It was enough.

But some sound must have betrayed my presence, far as I turned to go she sprang from her chair and ran towards me.

More surprised than I’d ever been by any of the creatures of the pit, she wrapped her arms around my waist, her head resting on my chest.

I stayed still, afraid to touch her, then she broke away, tiny hands patting over the long cuts across my chest.

Evras reached us quickly.  “He’s taken more damage than that and been fine,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

She whirled to face him, anger flaring.

Anger on my behalf?

Carefully I lay one hand on her shoulder.

Evras is a friend.  You do not need to be silent now.

She glanced at me over her shoulder, then turned back to Evras, a torrent of words falling from her lips.

But I could understand none of them.

Evras’s narrowed eyes looked between us in confusion. “I’m sorry, what does she say?”

She stopped, then tapped at the broad metal cuff on her wrist, and with a jolt I remembered the sounds it had made when she first emerged from the metal cocoon.

The sounds were the same.

After a moment there had been words in our own language, then the strange voice spoke its nonsense again.

I had only half listened to them, more focused on the need to keep quiet, to avoid attracting the attention of the guards.

Perhaps I should have listened more closely.

But you can understand me? I sent to her.

She turned to me, nodded once.

Then speak again, little one.

“MynameisHannah.Idon’tknowwhereIamorwheremyfriendsare.AndifthisguyisyourfriendIdon’tknowwhyyou’renotgettingfixedup.”

Evras tilted his head to the side.

“I understood none of that. Did you?

I shook my head, and her shoulders fell in defeat.

I could not even understand her in my mind, only the waves of emotion as they passed through her.

Fear and despair and sadness.

It was unacceptable.

I pushed her hair back from her face.

We will find a way to fix this, I promise. 

She gazed at me with eyes bright with unshed tears.

Do you trust me?

She nodded sharply

Then trust Evras also.

She stepped closer to me, mouth pursed angrily before she spoke again.

“Idon’tthinkso.Hesenttheothermonsterstoattackyou.”

The words were soft like rushing water, but the image in her mind was sharp.

Evras’s hand at the controls, the second pack of wolves coming into the pit.

Do not blame him. He is as much a prisoner here as I am. He dares not refuse.

One Response to Reaver’s Prize: Chapter Four

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to my Update List!