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Reaver’s Prize: Chapter Eight

Khelos

Her gaze pulled me in, trapping me as surely as any opponent in the pit.

A weak wet sound vied for my attention, but only until I heard it the second time that I understood.

I ripped myself away from Hannah to find Evras attempting to get himself into the miserable cot that he was allowed.

“You will reopen your wound,” I growled, hurrying into his side to lift him from his chair.

Without a word, Hannah came behind me, quickly pulling down the covers and rearranging them over my friend’s frail body.

“I’m not entirely certain Isar didn’t mix a surprise into my dose after all.”

Hannah gasped, and he reached for her hand, putting it lightly.

“Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last. But Khelos will have to answer your questions for a while. I’m afraid I won’t be in much shape to help you.”

I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and she swallowed hard, smoothing the blanket out.

“Do you want us to stay here, see if you need anything?” She asked in a small voice.

I knew what his answer would be, what it always was, every time I offered.

Maybe this time he would relent, let Hannah’s soothing presence remain nearby.

But he shook his head.

“No. It’s best if I’m alone at times like this.”

Evras’s eyes fell close and quietly we stepped away.

“He is not the only one who needs rest, I am certain.”

Hannah looked up at me, her mouth twisted into a half smile.

“If you mean me. I’d rather not. I’ve got too many questions for my mind to rest. Besides,” she added. “Evras seemed to think you had some answers for me.”

I snorted.

“Everything I know of value is from what he has told me. I will be a poor second choice.”

“How about you start explaining, and if I need more detail I’ll ask him when he wakes up.” She frowned, eyes clouded with worry. “He will wake up, right?” Her whisper was so faint I was unsure if I had heard her with my mind rather than my ears.

“He will be fine. Despite Isar’s amusements, he needs Evras too much to permanently destroy him.”

At least, I hoped he still did.

Hannah shuddered. “What a horrible, horrible man.” She took a deep breath. “Can we get out of here, just for a little bit? I think I could use some fresh air.”

I considered the risks.

The capture of new potential ‘followers’ always heralded a celebration. 

Most of the facility would be in the large chamber Isar had turned into an audience hall, feasting and drinking, listening to his plans to conquer the rest of the Reaver clans.

“Out, yes. Not away. However…”

She tilted her head to the side. “What are you nervous about?”

Thrak.

Before I had suspected, but now it had been confirmed.

At least at this proximity, Hannah could sense my mind, just as clearly as I could hers.

That was new.

And I was not certain how I felt about it.

“I am not nervous. I simply do not know if you will agree to be carried again,” I said brusquely. “There is a place that is unmonitored, but it is a long climb through the tunnels.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Promise not to drop me?”

My words of outrage died on my lips as I realized she was teasing me. 

Me.

The beast of the pit.

This tiny female, who I could lift with one hand, joked with me as easily as if we were younglings together, fresh from the generator.

“I promise nothing,” I declared, and was rewarded by her husky laugh.

As I ascended through the hidden network of shafts and tunnels, I was all too aware of the feel of her heartbeat against my own.

Ask me your questions. Softly, I sent. I will do my best to answer as we go.

“I guess that’s the first one,” she whispered. “How do you do that?”

I do not know, I said, then shifted her to my other arm as I crossed to a new passageway.

While Evras grows new creatures for the pit in his lab, Isar has not his patience. 

Years ago, he decided to mix the most savage beasts of the sea with the bodies of our own dead in the generator. The results from the generator are often somewhat unpredictable.

Shock.

Disbelief.

And… anger? 

“Who would do that? How would they even know where to start?” She shook her head. “From what I saw in the teaching chamber I thought the Reavers were made to fight. No offense, but this seems a little above their pay grade.”

I placed my hand lightly over her lips as we neared the next junction.

So far the way had been easy, securely out of sight.

But here we had to cross into the open, past the rooms that Isar had claimed for his own as Lord.

Slipping out into the brightly lit hallway I pressed her close to me, ignoring the feel of her, the touch of her hands around my neck.

I could not afford to be distracted now.

If I were caught wandering this level, the consequences would be severe. 

But Isar wouldn’t take my punishment out on Evras, not when the scientist was already so weak.

No. Hannah would pay the price.

Around the corner the heavy steps of the guard approached, then passed by on their patrol.

Quickly I darted out, racing back along his path until I reached the next hidden panel.

Once we were safely inside I leaned against the cool metal for a moment before resuming our climb.

Unlike in the other cities, some of the Makers of Olvos shared their knowledge with a few, chosen warriors.

When the Makers died, Evras’s clan kept records of much of the old technology.

Her fingers on my cheek stopped me as I reached for the next rung.

“The Ol’ki. They’re your clan too, aren’t they?”

It is not something I claim. I am too different. And the warriors here have strayed far from the path of the rest of the Ol’ki.

“Right. More questions that need answers.”

Evras would explain it better, I reminded her.

“Maybe, but I’ll just keep a list for later. Go on.” She leaned back slightly to look up at me. “Please.”

While the information was kept, it was forbidden to recreate the Makers’ work. But secrets are hard to keep.

“Isar decided he wanted to know more, right?”

I pushed open the final hatch that led to the outside. 

The shrieks of kaquen birds swooping through the evening sky greeted our arrival and waves crashed far below, sending flecks of salty foam into the air.

But here on the shore-facing side of the facility, the small ledge was mostly dry.

He-

I cleared my throat. I’d avoided talking aloud for so long that using my voice felt strange, unnatural.

But this clear connection with Hannah felt too easy. Too right.

Dangerous, somehow.

“He was not alone. In the beginning, Evras and Isar were brothers in the work. Inseparable.”

Crouching down on the ledge, I stared across to the mainland, just as I had countless times before.

In the growing darkness there was only a dark line on the horizon, the last deep red light of the sun a fading light over the jagged peaks of the mountains.

Nothing more.

“Three moons,” Hannah said, her head craving up at the two pale globes that hung above us, the third moon a low crescent at the horizon.

“Is it that different from your own world?”

She laughed softly. “Yeah, you could say that. But I guess one moon or three isn’t the biggest thing to get used to.”

Leaned out slightly over the ledge, she stared down at the churning sea below.

“We’re on some sort of an island? Never seen the ocean before. This wasn’t exactly what I had planned for my first visit to the beach.”

I settled back, trying to organize my thoughts, to tell a story I’d only learned in fragments.

“As Evras said, in the beginning this was a dream. He and Isar found this place when they were younglings returning from their first raiding mission. They were separated from the rest of the party, lost, wounded.”

“Is that when Evras was injured?” Hannah said, tucking her legs under her as she sat next to me, facing out into the deepening dark.

Bile burned my throat. “That was later. Together they were able to penetrate enough of the facility’s mysteries to spark their curiosity. Well, Evras was curious. I think even then Isar must have realized this was a path to power.”

Hannah leaned against the wall next to me. “He’s really a grade-A, sadistic psychopath, isn’t he?”

A wave of bleak humor slammed into me. “That’s a pretty neat summing up. But you forgot deranged and easily embarrassed.”

“Charming.” Her eyes went back to the moons. “They found enough stuff here to start doing their own experiments, right?”

She pulled her over garment tightly around her chest. “I guess Evras isn’t one of the good guys after all.”

Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, I cursed myself. I shouldn’t have brought her here. Shouldn’t have tried to explain the tangled past.

Now she was cold and unhappy and I would only make things worse.

“That is not correct.” 

Her narrowed eyes challenged me silently.

“In the beginning Evras was too focused on learning the tools of the Makers. He did not think about the consequences, too excited to be freed from the rigid restrictions the Elder Ol’ki had placed on this knowledge.”

“Maybe they had the right idea,” she muttered.

“Perhaps. Slowly, Isar wooed more Ol’ki warriors to their cause. When Evras realized the breadth of Isar’s ambitions, he declared he would not be a part of it, would return to Base.”

“But he didn’t.”

“Do not judge him too harshly. While Evras slept that night, he was taken prisoner. Isar seems to have enjoyed having a live subject for his experiments.”

A small gulp marked her disgust, but I could not stop now. 

She had to understand.

“Isar had learned enough of the Makers’ arts to twist something inside Evras’s body, to make an illness where there had been none before.”

The screech of the birds above faded, the world restricting to only the female at my side.

“The need for the medicine kept Evras in line. And through his pain, they control me as well.”

I took a deep breath.

“I can never leave.”

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