The Lady Hian Klau, Commander of the 12th fleet of Invidia and a peer of the Regents Council, approached the prisoner. Her red uniform coat, with gold piping and jeweled epaulets, provided a stark contrast to her mahogany skin and long, black hair. She stopped and stared down at the shaman-king with her turquoise and silver eyes. She clasped her hands together behind her back as her full lips drew into a smile that made her elfish face take on a sinister mien. Being Invidian, she was a full head taller than her surrounding entourage and there was no doubt about who was in command of the situation.
Her prisoner showed no wounds, even though he’d been struck numerous times during the battle. Mola-cord binders held him around his wrists and ankles, immobilizing him as he was stretched. His muscles flexed, his limbs held tightly between four suspensor shackles, each controlled by one of her large, furry Lupine soldiers.
The creature before her had tried to run as his planetary defenses fell. Even though he was a prisoner, he still looked at her with a condescending and self-assured, defiant stare. His long mane of black hair was striking. It stood tousled, from above his forehead to the middle of his back, where it hung over to the short beige and brown spotted fur that covered most of his exposed body. He was lean and muscular. A predator, wound tight and ready to spring.
He smiled slightly, exposing the quad canines in his upper and lower jaw. He flexed his six-fingered hands, exposing his claws for everyone to see. He was a force to be reckoned with, as was his army.
After their arrival in orbit, she’d commanded her fleet and ground units, and followed the battles, as the shaman-king’s armies put up a valiant fight. They fell to her forces in days, as had dozens of other civilizations. The well-planned and entrenched defenses broke under her relentless and overwhelming assaults, both on the ground and from her orbital fleet.
Attempting to evade capture, the shaman-king sought refuge in a hidden bunker far from civilization, but her trackers found him. The Deathstalkers never failed her.
His final desperate act was to turn some of his closest supporters, hoping their remarkable and devastating attacks would cover his next retreat. They were his disposable fodder, with no coherent control or restraint. Once turned, their strength and speed cost her an entire company of her personal strike team to subdue. Their lack of experience and voracious hunger allowed her a tactical advantage. Once captured, she personally exterminated them one at a time. Their funeral pyres burned nearby.
Before coming to see her prize, she read the post battle reports. The turned native’s individual strength rivaled and likely exceeded her own, which meant after they were turned, they gained an eight to one increase over the norm for their species. That notable item excited her immensely. That and the fact that the captured shaman-king before her was rumored to be at least ten-thousand years old.
Her Majordomo approached with an additional report on the testing they had completed on the recently turned defenders. His oversized head barely came to her waist. He stared at her with large yellow-brown bird-like eyes. They clashed with his bright pink skin. His rain-drop shape seeming to ooze out of his well-maintained uniform.
“It’s as you suspected, my lady,” the Majordomo told her. “A retrovirus has altered their DNA and physical bodies to create a hospitable symbiosis. There are additional organs, antibodies and a micro-organic equivalent of our nanites. The transformation wasn’t complete, but the changes and enhancements are astounding.”
“You’ll destroy any other creatures found during sweeps, the test samples and anything they’ve touched. I don’t want a single DNA strand to survive. Am I understood?” she said, without looking the Majordomo’s direction.
“Yes, my lady, as you command,” he replied and scurried away.
“Well, Methu, it seems you and I have much to discuss,” Lady Hian said to the shaman-king.
“No, insect, we do not,” he replied. “I’ll not turn you and you can do nothing about that. I’ll die first. I’ve lived a long life and am satisfied with my reign.”
“Reign, indeed,” she replied. “We’ve found evidence that at one time you were a traveler between the stars, but you stopped some time ago and have suppressed technology on this planet for a very long time. You’ve kept your people captive, feeding at your leisure. They’re stagnant. You haven’t turned any others without killing them, so you have no rivals. Your ego is astounding.”
“I’ve kept my people safe. They’re happy. They’re artists, farmers, and craftsmen. Or they were until you arrived. I respected our home and they worshiped me,” he said with the look of a true believer. “They’ve lived peacefully for a very long time. Can you say the same of your people? I think not.”
His exposed skin, where visible, was paler than the norm for his people. His robe and loin-cloth were in tatters from the battle. His facial features were sharper and more pronounced. His long black hair showed no signs of graying. At first glance, he was rather unremarkable. Of course, she’d seen him snap the spines of her Lupine shock troops two at a time, with his bare hands, so she knew he was more than he appeared.
“My people are the most powerful beings we know of,” she said, with conviction. “The Invidian Empire brings order to the universe. But that grand effort takes time and generations to implement. Many of us would like to see our work to its end, which is why I was tasked with finding you and your secret.”
“The secret dies with me, bitch!” Methu spat at her.
“No. It doesn’t,” she replied. “I know more about you than you think. I’ve prepared well and you’ll give me the information I seek willingly. Believe me when I say that, within a day, I’ll have all that I need.”
Next, she spoke over her shoulder to her ever-present Lupine escort, “Have the Majordomo bring our guest to my ship.”
An hour later, they were aboard her flagship, the shaman-king held in one half of a large, transparent chamber. Bars and electrified fencing separated him from the opposite half of the chamber that housed five of his people in individual cells. They lay quivering, stripped of all clothing, and with looks of confusion on their faces. The younger ones openly showed their fear by sobbing.
“They’re my people, but there is nothing you can do to them that will make me acquiesce. They’re willing to suffer for their God,” Methu said, a wry smile on his face.
“It isn’t they who will be suffering, Methu. I believe I know why you stopped your space travel. I’ll now prove or disprove that theory,” she stated with a smile. “Major, change the mix to my specifications.”
The pink-skinned servant went to a holo-panel and manipulated the system controlling the environment within the chamber.
Lady Hian waited. She looked out the viewport at the planet below and watched it move under her while a tenth of a day passed. The battlefield she’d left in the afternoon was now moving into the darkness. She turned to her prisoner and saw that Methu’s look had changed.
“What are you doing? You have no idea. You must stop!” he screamed. His breathing became rapid and his demeanor changed. His body changed, in both appearance and posture. He moved over to the edge of his chamber, toward the other captives.
“Methu? Methu? Can you hear me?” she asked. He turned his head slightly, but his gaze remained transfixed on a naked young female in the closest cage.
“I…hear you…bitch, I feel the hunger. I must…feed,” he said, his tongue rolling in his mouth and spittle forming in the corners.
“I’ll let you feed on one at a time, but for each meal, you’ll tell me more of what I want to know. If you don’t, I’ll let the thirst continue to grow.”
“No, not thirst. Hunger. Desire. Emptiness needing to be filled. The heat. I see the life in her—I see life in you. Come here and I’ll turn you!” Methu said.
Lady Hian cocked her eyebrow and shook her head slowly. She raised her long, narrow hand, her fingernails glittering with ground ruby polish and embedded gold in the shape of water birds.
She waggled a single finger while clucking her tongue at Methu.
“No? I’ll tell you then, but first I feed,” Methu said.
“No, first you tell me where you were turned,” she said.
Methu looked back at her and hissed, trying by force of will to resist. He stood straighter and was about to spit out a reply of defiance, but the hunger came on stronger and he leaned hard on the bars, reaching for the young female he now only saw as sustenance.
“Yes, bitch, I’ll tell you where I was turned.”
Lady Hian stood on a rocky outcrop. At her feet, huddling against the wind, were the remaining pair of prisoners that the shaman-king hadn’t feasted upon while in his induced ravenous state. She left the flagship in orbit above the planet, landing without her Lupine escorts. She piloted her royal yacht down to the surface herself.
In front of her rose the ruins of an ancient fortress, its inhabitants long gone. Based on the height of the steps and doorway, the builders were at least half-again her size and she was tall, even for an Invidian.
Her race was a majestic one. Beautiful to behold, by most standards. Intelligent beyond compare, a warrior breed with a thirst for knowledge. And war. They’d travelled the stars for 800 years, discovering and conquering as they went. They flitted between the interstellar gaps, using their advanced technologies to bring their huge armies and fleets to bear on those that opposed them.
She and the rest of her kind only took the finest each conquered civilization offered and sent it home to their planet, Invidia. The prizes would be displayed for the gradanin and bid on by the Royals, after which they’d be taken to private collections or placed in the Thálamo ze-Zois, a planet-sized repository and treasury, for all Invidians to look upon. Methu wouldn’t make it back to Invidia.
She sighed and a resolute look passed over her face. The only prize that eluded them was time. Time that they needed to see their conquests through and to explore even further. Invidians grew restless and civil war loomed over which direction they’d take in the future. She, along with ninety of Invidia’s finest field commanders, were asked to find the secret to longer life, whether it lie within Invidian space or beyond.
“That trail of rumors and tall tales led me to Methu and this cloud-covered speck of cosmic dust,” she said aloud, more to herself than her company.
Lightning struck dozens of times across the horizon. She’d seen the storms that covered ninety percent of the planet raging and she felt the humid breeze as it blew across the patch of ground she stood over.
She smiled at the ancient edifice, its high walls and turreted towers an indication of its purpose. The old fortress, surrounded by a moat of sorts, didn’t show the classic signs of weathered decay. Her current lover was an archaeologist that specialized in study of indigenous civilizations. He was obsessed with the study of ancient races, societies and their artifacts. He would have spent months mapping and sampling the mighty edifice, given the chance. There would be no time for that, as he was back on Invidia and this planet was living on borrowed time.
Instead of water, a sand-filled moat encircled the structure. At the edge of that moat lay the carcasses and bones of various creatures. She grabbed her two prisoners by their long black hair and dragged them to the edge of the moat. They whimpered but didn’t scream, since she’d told them to remain silent.
She watched as a small gray-skinned mammal scurried across the sand after its latest run to pick through the bone pile. The sand flowed and ebbed as something underneath moved toward the mammal, the pattering of its padded feet drawing the unwanted attention. The mammal stopped and sniffed the air, turning to look at her. She watched as whatever was under the sand caused a swirl when it moved closer to the creature. Suddenly, there was a puff of sand and the swirling pattern retreated, leaving the mammal to complete its journey unmolested.
“That’s interesting,” she said aloud.
She reached down and then held up the older male prisoner by his hair. She drew her dagger, cutting him across the throat in one fluid motion. She casually tossed him forward, his bleeding neck landing over the sand. She placed her foot in the middle of his back as he squirmed and wretched, his blood soaking the sand. She waited.
His breathing became labored, his struggles lessened.
Nothing seemed to be happening. The young female behind her sobbed uncontrollably and struggled to move away, but the mola-cord equipped suspensor shackles around her hands and ankles held her in place. Lady Hian looked at the girl, so frightened and weak. The young female stared with wide eyes at the dying man as he gasped one last time and his body relaxed entirely.
“That didn’t produce the desired results, did it?” Lady Hian said to herself and turned to the young female. The female prisoner looked her in the face and pleaded for mercy in her native tongue. The Lady Hian Klau held her finger up to her lips. Her prisoner immediately went silent, bowing her head slightly and focusing on the pit. Her eyes grew wider. She began muttering a prayer to some unknown deity.
The Lady turned. The sand looked like boiling water. Something under the surface was moving. A number of somethings, based on the amount of swirls that created the boiling effect. As the wave of sand undulated toward the body of the now dead male prisoner, a flash of pink and green broke the surface. Then another. Soon, the Lady of Invidia could see the creatures that inhabited the moat.
They looked like large Invidian forest worms, but more oval than round, each segment a slightly different color. They were narrow at the ends and bloated in the middle. The “heads” were large, circular mouths filled with concentric rows of fangs.
Lady Hian moved closer, dagger in hand and watched as the “worms” glided up from under the sand and latched onto the dead man. Their body would writhe for a second after they attached, then they let go and went back under the sand. The shaman-king was right, they only latched onto living beings. Dead flesh wasn’t to their liking.
Lady Hian moved to the edge of the moat and watched the sand closely. She kicked the body of the man and more blood came out, dotting the sand. Another “worm” came to the surface under the blood specks and began following them back to the body. As it got close, she struck out, grabbing it with her free hand.
The creature squirmed and twisted, almost entirely back on itself, as she lifted it free of the moat. It was about as long as her arm, using powerful muscles in its ellipsoidal body. She almost lost her grasp of it a number of times as it twisted and wrapped itself around her arm. She held onto it firmly behind the “head” segments and maintained her grip as she brought her dagger up, slipping it inside her military style coat, the tip of the blade above her breast.
She stuck the point of the dagger in, through her blouse and it broke her skin. A small stream of blood came out of the cut and the creature immediately stopped squirming. It now directed its efforts toward moving to the hidden but open cut. Hunger overcame the need to escape.
She turned the blade, cutting open her uniform overcoat and tore away a large section of her silken blouse in the process, exposing her bare breast to the cool air. The line of red now ran down its fleshy, rounded shape, culminating in an oversized droplet hanging from her erect nipple.
The creature made a concerted effort to find some sort of purchase to allow it to drive toward the flowing blood it now sensed. She relented and brought the creatures “head” to her chest, where it immediately latched on, digging into her flesh with numerous fangs.
The bite was painful, then numbing. The creature flushed red and she felt slightly light headed. She waited as the shaman-king instructed. Her heart beat faster as the creature’s body swelled.
It was consuming her blood at a remarkable pace. She needed to hold on a few more moments. She felt a second wave of pain, indicating the creature now drew, rather than let the blood just flow. Methu told her to wait for this. She took her dagger and stabbed it into the body of the creature with all of her strength, just as the shaman-king had done to his attacker ten-thousand years before.
She held on for dear life. That is what it was, holding on for dear eternal life.
Blood gushed out of the wounded worm. The creature could rapidly heal just about any bodily damage, except for damage done by a natural bioactive metal. That took time to heal, according to Methu. Her dagger was made of just such metal, silver. She moved the dagger around in the worm, destroying its internal organs as her vision began to fade and she felt her grip slipping. The worm became more aggressive, biting at her for defensive reasons instead of just to fulfill its hunger. Her worldview narrowed and became tunnel-like. The worm stiffened and then latched tighter, biting deeper into her flesh. She felt her heart stop and she ceased breathing.
The young female prisoner turned away after watching the tall woman that had captured the shaman-king, and leveled her civilization, lie still on the ground. She’d seen the tall woman pull the nasty worm thing from the sand. The woman battled it and apparently fell to its relentless biting attack.
The young female didn’t know what she would do next, since she was still held by the shackles. She couldn’t run. She had no place to run, regardless, since she was on another planet far from home. She turned her black-maned head and looked back at the tall woman. The worm thing rolled off her chest. It looked emaciated and stiff. It looked dead. The tall woman didn’t breathe or move. The young female slumped forward and started sobbing.
She lost track of time and a light rain fell in the swirling breeze, making her exposed pelt, and naked skin, feel cold and slick. Lightning intensified and struck the fortress, the thunderclaps making her ears hurt. She screamed and jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
She turned her head and looked directly into red-irised eyes on a face she knew. The tall woman. She couldn’t believe the tall woman had survived the attack. She felt no comfort in not being alone. It was the tall woman who’d brought her to the wretched place, but at least she’d hoped to get off the planet and possibly return to her family.
Any thoughts of returning home shattered as she looked into the tall woman’s mouth at the four pairs of fangs that had grown. Two pairs on top, two on the bottom. The tall woman gripped the female’s head and twisted, positioning it to expose her neck. The young prisoner screamed when the tall woman bit into her neck. Soon, she succumbed to the numbing properties of the tall female’s saliva. She slipped into unconsciousness, followed by death, as the Invidian fed.
The Lady Hian Klau, Commander of the 12th fleet of Invidia and a peer of the Regents Council, returned to her yacht, feeling new life coursing through her.
This was her second trip back to her spacecraft. Her visual perception was changing and she actually leapt the last ten body lengths to reach her ship’s loading ramp. She placed the live sample box in the rack by the door and secured it. Once fully inside, she adjusted the gas mixture to reduce her hunger and launched for space. She achieved low orbit and activated her comm.
“Get me the Majordomo,” she ordered.
She waited patiently. She could afford to be patient now. She had all the time in the universe.
“Yes, my lady,” said the pink face that came on the holo-display. “I’m yours to command.”
The holo-vid image seemed hazy. She realized it as due to her eyesight moving into the previously unseen light bands. The equipment seemed alive with different hues.
Her Majordomo’s voice rung with a hint of relief and dread at the same time.
Lady Hian pulled an embroidered silken robe over her bared chest, having tossed her bloodied clothes into the incinerator disposal unit. The Majordomo averted his eyes.
“Yes. Yes, you are,” she replied. “Have the gunner launch two planet killers at that rock as soon as I dock. I want it atomized before we leave the system.”
There was a pause before the Majordomo responded.
“And the prisoner?”
“Singular? He’s dined on all of his followers already? Well, I hope they were a satisfying final meal. He’s no longer of any value. Dispose of him per my previous instructions.”
“Yes, my lady. I’ll see to it personally.”
She was already doing the math. There would be a gestation cycle after turning others, to replenish the symbionts. After the thirty standards to travel back to Invidia and the turnaround time for Royals to respond to the recall messages; the entirety of Royals of Invidia could be turned in a few months. A year at the most. She would need to implement some safeguards to reduce the possibility of turning the servant races. Immortality was for the Invidians and for them alone. No other race would receive the gift of eternal life. She would see to it.
She turned and looked to the rack at the live sample box secured for the journey. Inside were four of the small gray-skinned creatures she’d captured near the sand-filled moat. They stared back at her from their cages. They physically repulsed her now and she wanted to know why.
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Any similarity between any place, event or person (Living or undead) and any actual Place, event or person (living or undead) is purely coincidental. © Copyright 2012 for draft © Copyright 2015 published version Blood of Invidia by Tom Tinney and Morgen Batten. All Rights reserved
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