As the citizens of West Holpry, the capitol of the totalitarian realm of West Zecor watched, King Qweh paraded a new victim through the streets towards the city’s notorious Ktenology Center, a building from which no prisoner emerged alive. Qweh was an imposing figure, nearly eight feet tall with muscles hard as stone. His complexion resembled the gray slate cliffs of Rdegjma on a starless night and his long, silver hair swept behind him like a comet blown on stellar winds. His ears terminated in sharp points and it was rumored that his auditory acuity was ten times that of the average person. Arched silver brows drew attention to glimmering golden eyes, and each bystander prayed that the brutal king’s gaze would never fall on them.
By contrast, the prisoner being led by a chain fastened to a thick, silver collar was a willowy elfin man who stood no more than five feet three inches tall. He had long, dark brown hair, a pale complexion, and eyes that changed from blue to green depending on the angle of the light. He was one of the scavengers who lived in the abandoned ghetto on the outskirts of West Holpry. His rough-hewn, angular face bore lines and scars revealing a difficult life.
The prisoner seemed oddly sedate for one being led to certain death. His acute hearing picked up whispered speculation regarding himself and his projected fate.
“Do you not see that he’s an Ahprizite?” an observer whispered. “Ain’t many of ‘em left, you know. His Majesty likely wants to experiment on him a bit, see what makes him tick before plucking out his eyes to see if the Princess can make them regrow or nailing his feet to the floor or whatever other game strikes his fancy.”
“This bloody place is an urban nightmare,” the prisoner thought. “I think maybe the deities are tired of the way things have been for the last five generations under the rule of the Pasaws. The light has had an unsavory cast to it for the past three months, and there is something ominous in the zany dance that the suns are doing of late. In truth, I care not. Were the suns to engulf this wretched world in fire, it would all be the same to me. The only reason I didn’t tease the volatile King into a rage, so he’d eviscerate me on the spot and end my miserable existence, is because you advised me not to, Joub.”
“Do not fear, Serab,” a quiet voice responded in the prisoner’s mind, accompanied by the vision of a boy in early adolescence with curly golden hair and bright blue eyes. “You are my best friend. I would not steer you wrong.”
“Brother, my only wish for the past twenty-nine years has been to join you in death,” the prisoner thought, willing away the tears that welled up in his eyes. He did not want the tyrant king or his lackeys to believe that he was weeping out of fear, and he did not wish the discomfort of salt-water drying on his face in the wickedly hot air.
“I’ll bet that Madam Yadira wanted the King to bring this chappie to her in good working order,” the prisoner heard a woman’s voice whispering. “Rumor has it that she’s the real power in this realm and Qweh ain’t naught but her lackey.”
“Best you shut your trap with them rumors before His Majesty hears you, Suwzod,” another woman hissed. “I’ve a feeling the King wouldn’t treat you near so delicate as this fella. Though it’s impossible to see in his common appearance, there’s something special about him. Whether that’s a lucky thing, I have my doubts.”
The King led his prisoner to the fearsome and marvelous Ktenology Center, a building carved from slabs of Opqros, a jet-black stone embedded with chips of mineral dust resembling stars. The building had been constructed to resemble the Peaks of Tvych, which no living being had ever been able to scale. The Peaks were said to be the entryway to Nuwy, the place where the spirits of the lost ones who had done no evil but had never known love were taken. There, these unhappy souls would rest and dream until they became part of the planet.
As the prisoner contemplated the gateway to hell that stood before him, he listened to further whispered speculations from the crowd.
“Well, we’ll not see him again.”
“Odd-looking bird. Wonder who he was.”
“Nobody. Ain’t nobody. Only a common thief.”
“Must be a canny bastard to have survived to his middle years. Qweh’s family offed most of the Ahprizites a centum gone.”
“He can’t be full Ahprizite. They’re even smaller than he is. Besides, Giraq announced that the last one of ‘em died in captivity a good twenty-five rotations ago now.”
“Never thought I’d say it, but I miss Giraq. Qweh is far worse than his father.”
“For the Ahprizite’s sake, I hope the lovely Ondina sees fit to release him rather than keeping him around as her brother’s toy.”
“Qweh is like a cruel child pulling the legs off nawa.”
“Watch your mouth, or you’ll be the Nawa!”
“Think you that things would have gone better for us had Ondina agreed to marry her brother?”
“No better for us and worse for Ondina.”
The prisoner was yanked from his reverie as the King jerked the chain around his neck, causing him to lose his balance. The King lifted the little man up, laughing.
“It is your lucky day, Thief,” he announced. “I like the way the suns dance in the sky, so I am bestowing upon you a unique opportunity to serve your realm. Should you prove worthy, your life will be spared. Should you fail, you shall serve as a subject for my experiments. Either way, you shall serve at your King’s pleasure.”
~Cie for Naughty Netherworld Press~
And now...the notes!
This piece is part of The Yadira Chronicles and will appear as a chapter in one of Naughty Netherworld Press' forthcoming novels. We don't know how or when just now, so, when you're least expecting it, expect it.
The Icky, Sticky, Nit-Picky Legalese, if You Please (Or Don't Please)
Content copyright 2020 by Cara Hartley
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