Reaver’s Prize: Chapter Seven


Once again I woke dizzy, disorientated, confused.

But this time I wasn’t alone.

Silver skin scales over sharp cheekbones, impossibly black eyes narrowed with worry.

“Khelos?” I said weakly.

Are you all right?


The word sounded strange in my mouth, my tongue twisting in knots.

It had worked.

The teaching chamber had given me Khelos’s language, and more.

Random images of the history that have been crammed into my brain flashed before me as I struggled to sit up.

If you are well, we should leave.

Well might be an overstatement, but I was ready to get out of here.

The bulking dome of the generator loomed over Khelos’s broad shoulders and I shuddered.

Something else for me to think about, but I could do that as we traveled.

Khelos’s hand steadied me as I climbed out of the chamber.

“Back to the laboratory?”

He nodded. 

It will be safer there.

I clung on to him as he climbed the maintenance shaft with quick strong movements.

Reluctant to let go of him as we reached the horizontal passage that led around the building, I tucked my hands behind my back like a kid in a candy store trying to ward off temptation.

My cheeks heated, but he didn’t seem to notice, simply crouching down as small as he could before leading the way back to the next shaft.

I followed behind quickly, his awkward posture making it barely possible for me to keep up.

As we twisted and turned through the hidden ways I fought the urge to put my hand on his back.

Don’t be ridiculous Hannah, I chided myself. He’s right there. You don’t need to be touching him at every moment.

I’d never been clingy.

Wasn’t really my style.

But apparently turning my world upside down, having my life explode before me, be threatened to be thrown into a pit filled with weird creatures, and having my only protector in this place forced to battle for his life changed things.

Add hearing the murder of three unarmed prisoners and then having an entire culture’s history and language shoved into my head and it was enough to shake me up a bit.

Besides, touching him felt safe. Right.

And at the moment that was all I needed.

All the way back my mind spun, thinking of the wonders I had seen.

Five different types of aliens.

Four obviously built for battle, the fifth, small gray ones giving the orders.

Gleaming cities, scattered across a vast continent.

One city of graceful curves, winding through tall trees.

Another, its tall spires reaching to the sky, skies above it filled with copper figures with wings.

Another shimmering in a desert like a mirage, another spanning over a broad river.

So many places, all under a purple sky filled with orange and pink clouds. Sometimes three moons hung above the scenes.

But almost all of the images had focused on a fourth city, sparkling and shimmering in the giant red sun like the dark water it was built beside.

The city the Ol’ki had been built to protect, to fight for in the endless battles of supremacy between the people of Thaxos.

Row after row of silver scaled warriors battling against others just as fearsome looking. I could almost feel the information swirling in my mind, still needing to settle.

It was going to take a while. Even with the help of the teaching chamber, I had plenty of questions.

At least now I would be able to ask them.

As we entered the privacy booth attached to the lab Khelos stopped again, listening, his hand on the panel.

I didn’t need his powers to tell that someone was with Evras.

“Lord Isar was not pleased with the beast tonight.” 

I shivered.

That was the voice of the man who had dragged me from my hiding place in the escape pod hours ago.

“He fought well, though.” came Evras’s mild reply. “Even I had doubts that he could defeat so many of the sharks without taking more serious damage. Lord Isar should be excited about the possibilities of his design.”

A loud smack of flesh on flesh stopped whatever else Evras wanted to say.

I moved towards the door but Khelos stopped me, shaking his head.

Our presence would only make it worse.

“Don’t be a fool. The beast defied his maker, in full view of the court.”

A strange wet sound I did not recognize, followed by a low groan.

“If you cannot control it better than that, there is no use for you.”

Evras didn’t answer.

The voice said nothing else.

And after long minutes, Khelos opened the door to find Evras alone, slumped over in his chair, bleeding from the wound of his shoulder, his scales even paler now.


Rage fumed off of Khelos, but not surprise.

He quickly moved to the pyramid on the table that Evras had used just an hour ago to heal his own injuries, carefully placing the clear tape over the wound.

“What can I do to help?” I whispered, my hands at my throat as if I could push my heart back into place.

Hands busy with the device, Khelos pointed with his chin at something that looked like a pistol at the edge of the table.

“Take that, shoot him with it.”

“What?” Maybe that language download hadn’t really worked. Maybe there was a conflict with the translator implant.

Because he couldn’t mean that, could he?

Then it clicked.

It wasn’t a gun, it was some sort of syringe.

A vial of yellow liquid sticking out of the top sloshed slightly as I picked it up, pressed the point into Evras’s uninjured shoulder.

“Do it,” Khelos ordered.

I pressed a long flat button at the top, held it down.

Nothing happened.

That was stupid. No one would make a syringe that didn’t work.

I kept pushing the button until finally it slid to the side, and with a click and a hiss the yellow liquid drained away.

The ashey look began to fade from the scales of his arm as Evras’s breathing became easier.

“Good,” he said faintly. “One day it will be poison, but I’m glad it wasn’t today.”

My hands went numb, the syringe-gun nearly tumbling to the floor before I stepped back to my senses and snatched it back up, carefully, so carefully putting it back on the table.

“I could have poisoned you?” I said weakly, reaching behind me to find the chair, sitting down hard before my knees gave out altogether.

“It was always a risk. Today perhaps more so.”

That did it.

My temper, carefully schooled over long years to stay sweet, happy, to not draw attention, finally, totally snapped.

“What the hell is going on in this place?”

“Would you be surprised to learn this was part of a dream?” Evras said, sitting up even straighter now, rolling his chair back from the table. “Once it was even my dream.”

“It seems a lot more like a nightmare now,” I snapped.

“Perhaps we should have learned the lessons of the Makers better.” Evras took the syringe from the table, rolled over to a cabinet and placed it inside.

“It is a long story. Perhaps while I recover you will tell us your own tale of how you came to this place.”

I laughed. “Mine starts out as a dream as well,” and waved my hands at their blank looks.

“Sorry, just that was the name of the ship we were on, the building in the stars that you saw in my mind.”

One of the hundreds of questions that the teaching chamber had spectacularly failed to answer bubbled to the top, insistent, pressing like a siren.

“I need you to tell me how you do that.” I narrowed my eyes at Khelos. 

“Because while I am unhappy about being trapped here with knife wielding maniacs, I’m going to be really really unhappy if the knife wielding maniacs can also read my mind.”

Khelos’s smile stopped me in my tracks.

It softened his whole face, the harsh angry look of him transforming into almost sweetness.

“Have no fear. The others do not have this gift.” 

The corner of his mouth quirked up, and he moved from sweet to downright charming.

“They are not aware I have it either.”

I stopped myself from trying to work that through, figure out how that was even possible.

It would wait.

For now, I had an answer. Even if I didn’t understand it.

Taking a deep breath, I thought about my own story.

At least telling what had happened to me was fairly straightforward, if not particularly helpful.

“What you saw in my mind, that was pretty accurate. Many of us were on a ship, and it had an accident and was destroyed.”

All right, that was a gross simplification, but I was a biologist, not an engineer. I didn’t want to get into details I couldn’t explain.

There were other people, people like me. We all got into our escape pods.”

“The metal chamber you were hidden in?” Khelos asked.

“Exactly. And then the pods came here. At least mine did.”

A wave of aloneness swamped over me.

No. I wasn’t alone.

“At least one other of my friends is here. Kyla. I heard her voice.”

I scowled at Khelos.

“I didn’t hear much of her message though.”

He didn’t look daunted by my glare at all.

“I am sorry. I still had hopes that your presence would remain undetected.”

I grit my teeth.

That was reasonable.

Annoying, and I was still kind of mad about it.

But reasonable.

“But now I don’t know what she said, what she wanted,” I sighed. “Even where she is.”

I traced the edge of the comm bangle, tapping it as I had a hundred times already, trying to summon Kyla’s voice again.

A terrible thought struck me.

“She’s not here, is she?”

 Khelos shook his head. “I could not understand her words, but one of the Vak’ki spoke after she did.” He frowned, mouth pressed into a severe line.

“It made little sense though. It said to go to the mountains of the winged one. Almost as if there was a truce, a treaty between the two clans.”

Vak’ki and Sen’ki. The red skinned, horned warriors and the copper winged ones I’d seen in the visions from the teaching chamber.

Nothing I’d been shown made me think they were friends.

“I would say such a thing was impossible,” Evras said, his voice still weak. “And yet our guest is here. I would have thought a ship that sailed in the stars with an unknown clan was also impossible until today.”

Khelos blinked, rubbed the side of his head.

“Our guest. Have we really not even asked your name?”

It seemed impossible. 

He’d been in my mind, been my shield and protector. I could feel every emotion from him, the feeling as close as if he was in my own skin with me.

But apparently we’d skipped that bit.

“It’s not exactly like we had a lot of time for formal introductions.”

I pushed up from the chair, held my hand out towards him.

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Hannah Dominguez. Thanks for saving my life.”

Wrapping his fingers around mine, his grip gentle, but firm, strong, until I could almost feel the warmth of his embrace through my entire body.

“It was a pleasure to fight for honor. That has not happened for a long time here.”

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