This might be the beginning of something beautiful…Or it might fall by the wayside.
You be the judge:
The drumming was making Yazi sick to his stomach. Usually, the gyroscopic cadence of the drummers incited the natural blood rage in Yazi, causing him to gnash his teeth and struggle against the runed bonds that pinned back his wrists. Today, he bent and sagged against his bonds, his thick bush of hair sweeping intricate patterns in the dirt floor. Sweat gleamed on his skin, giving him the appearance of an oiled ebony statue. The chants of the spectators outside only served to make his world spin in even more dizzying circles. Despite conjuring up frightening red and black images of flame and war and gleaming weapons impaling shivering flesh, he could not slip into that enjoyable trance that allowed him to take life without remorse or mercy.
Yazi tried to fight the spasms that wracked his muscles, struggling to put his flesh and blood leg under his body. His hemp trousers soaked up his perspiration, making his leg feel slimy and foreign. The stone walls of his cell seemed to expand and contract with his labored breathing; the smell of dust and sweat drowned out anything else he could identify. He heard Oue’s voice as he tried to will himself upright.
Speaks a lot about ya that ya favor that flesh leg when ya got a bright shiny servoplate leg that you can work with. I like that will. It’s a bad day for the man who crosses you…
Yazi ground his teeth. Oue wasn’t here now to grunt his praises. He spat a sour, bloody glob into the dirt and continued the battle to a vertical position.
The crowd kept screaming.
Yazi nodded at the keepers posted next to him, decked out in mismatched plate armor. One shuffled in front of him, keeping a propulsion spear trained on his chest. Yazi stretched himself to his full height, almost three heads taller, to give the chubby, mud-colored keeper a better shot. The second keeper, a young, fair-skinned boy, moved to the chains that bound the large man’s arms to a steel plate embedded in the floor.
“Damascus is here to parlay,” the younger keeper said, splaying his fingers over the pitted iron shackles. His voice was a grating soprano, harsh and high-pitched. “Are you ready to receive him?”
Yazi snorted. The young keeper concentrated, focusing his will on the runes that had been carved into the iron. Soft swirls and angular edges began to glow and spark as the keeper started to chant an ancient song. Yazi turned away from the boy.
With a high-pitched clink one of the bonds snapped away from Yazi’s thick wrist. The keeper shuffled around to work on the other.
“Did you hear what I said?” The young keeper asked. The fair boy turned to his friend, whose pump action spear rattled in his hands. “You think the brute has a chance?”
“You shouldn’t speak such about him,” his shaky friend replied.
“Oh crags, he’s nothing special. Besides, the clerics branded him. He’s no harm to any keeper, even one who slacks off in his runes while he’s visiting chambermaids.” The fair-skinned keeper shot a sly glance at his friend.
“Branded or not, we should still be respectful.”
The fair skinned boy whirled away from Yazi with a roar. “Respectful? Of a traitor? That would make me as much of a traitor as him! I refuse to sink to that level, and you should too! Grow a pair and man up, Terkza.”
“I’m just saying…”
“Whatever,” the fair-skinned keeper muttered, turning back to the shackles. In a matter of moments, the iron popped off, freeing the towering captive. Drawing a long knife, the fair-skinned keeper motioned toward a door cut in the stone that opened out into a long, dusty corridor. Yazi walked, his metallic leg creaking and hissing as the servomotors in it worked to propel him forward. As he passed the keeper holding the propulsion spear, he stopped.
“What the fuck are you doing?” the fair-skinned keeper raged, turning red about the ears.
“What is your name, keeper?” Yazi said ignoring the rattling sound of the keeper’s weapon as his hands shook.
“Don’t you tell him anything!”
“I am Terkza Raman of the fifth unit,” The chubby keeper said, meeting Yazi’s penetrating stare. “Proficient with the propulsion spear and marksmanship.”
Behind them, the fair-skinned keeper waved his knife around, nearly choking as he raged and snarled. Yazi turned toward the writhing youth.
“May I have one or two moments to converse with your second? I won’t jeopardize your position in any way. I’d greatly appreciate it..”
The fair-skinned keeper pointed his knife at Yazi in the most menacing way he could muster, then waved the large man away. Yazi turned to the second keeper and extended his hand, reaching for the keeper’s spear. The air around the three men grew deadly hot and stifling. The chubby keeper blinked sweat from his eyes, his legs shaking as Yazi towered over him.
Yazi tapped the shaft of the weapon, indicating that the keeper should place his hand in the spot he had tapped.
“A propulsion spear is supposed to be used two ways: As a hand to hand and projectile weapon. You’re holding it like you’re ready to shoot, when the most effective way is to engage in close quarters combat until you’re ready to fire.”
The keeper nodded emphatically, helmet rattling. Yazi fixed brown eyes on his and continued speaking.
“Remember, when you fire the spear, you’ve lost eighty percent of your weapon, which can be very dangerous in combat situations.” He grimaced, the feral expression meant to be a smile. “Having a loose cannon as a second can also hamper your combat effectiveness.”
The chubby keeper slammed his fist to his chest, rattling his armor. “Thank you for the advice, Lord Yazi! I’ll never forget it!”
Yazi nodded, and motioned at the fair-skinned keeper. The young guard mumbled and cursed under his breath the entire way out of the corridor.