Orphans of a Dead Nation Chapter 20: Steam
This week’s release. I have to apologize for not releasing the make up chapters last week. I fell ill and in too much pain. Could not even think, let alone write.
After which, I became too busy and lost my window. Won’t make any promises this time. If I have more time, I’ll post.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy this chapter, and sorry for any inconvenience for those who waited for those releases.
Braen stood up straight. He watched the half-man disappear into the dark tunnel. For the moment, he did nothing. He did not take a step back, nor did he go after the half-man. He did not cry at his misfortune, nor was he filled with anger once more. He just stared into the abyss of the cavern entrance that grew darker and darker with every passing moment that he did not blink.
It was when the crowd grew more and more noisy that he finally snapped to. Braen was not the smartest kid out there. He was not the bravest either, by far. He knew that. Everyone who knew him knew that. Such a thing was normal. It wasn’t the bravest or even the smartest that lasted long in the Free Cities. Especially the city he came from. It was those who were able to acclimate well to anything. Those who understood when it was time for certain things to be said or done.
He thoughtlessly walked over towards the area with the assortment of weapons. His eyes swept across swords and spears, maces and hammers, only to land on… Guns.
That shocked him, actually. There were several projectile weapons, but all of them, especially guns, were banned from use within any city.
It was now that he could gauge the power behind this arena, and that power simply frightened him.
It was one thing to make an illegal underground fighting ring. There were plenty. But very few illegal activities violated laws that came from the Council, the group decision of the Executor Families themselves. Everyone knew what resulted in those that do; the stories to be heard. And for this group to do so in such a large scale…
“Well, if I’m going to die…” Braen picked up a black pistol. He felt the weight in his hand. It felt good. He avoided anything else though. The gun was the only thing he could think of that he could use with only one arm. Even if he had anything else that did not necessarily require two hands, his balance would be off. He was not as practiced with them to adjust quickly in such a short time.
Even though it was nearly impossible to check the gun easily for bullets with only his one hand, Braen did not need to. He was accustomed to the make and model from his training days, and could tell it was loaded.
Suddenly the weapons cache closed in on itself, and the wall became a wall once again. So I only had only one chance to chose.
And then the earth shook.
Braen stumbled and fell on his side. While his arm had healed to a stump, it was still swollen. It no longer hurt by the mere touch of the air, but it hurt when you jostled it… He cursed under his breath, and sucked in the cool air through his teeth to calm the roaring tide of pain within him.
Glancing around, he realized that the entire field of the arena had actually lowered. He could see the marked lines on the edges of the wall and what looked like… A gap?
Suddenly, water came shooting out from the gap.. It bubbled and gushed. Hot steam blew in the air and marred at his face.
Standing up with difficulty, he ran to the cavern.
He knew exactly what they were doing.
He had expected something like this, especially once he saw how quickly the half-man had left to go fight, not even waiting to drag him along. He expected the backers of the arena to somehow force them to participate in this battle of blood. His thoughts leaned to trapping them in arena where they had no choice to fight. Usually with a creature and no way out but one of them dying. But this?
You’ll boil us alive!
As he entered deep into the cavern, Braen breathed in the warm, moist air. He could hear the water behind him roaring and seething, see the small field, now far away, awash with with the turbid flow.
Shaking his head, he ventured deeper.
“Oh? There is even boiling water? How cruel.” Jeffrey said as virtual screens popped up in front of him on the clear membrane. He saw two scenes. The first screen showed a crippled boy getting up from the ground and running away from a flooding arena and into the cavern.
The second showed the half-man following the various twists and turns, choosing his tunnels wisely.
He looked upon his father, only to see the man’s eyes narrowed into slits. Jeffrey’s heart shuddered. I’ve never seen him look so… on edge.
“Ha ha ha, my friend,” came an uproarious laughter. Jeffrey glanced back to see a large, burly man in a gold-yellow jerkin with brown leather.
“Sixth,” Jeffrey heard his father say, who’s eyes were still locked on the screens. Sixth, as in father’s acquaintance? He’s the sixth executor. But Jeffrey did not get to finish that thought. His mind became blank as he stared at the figure trailing the Executor from behind.
She looked about sixteen, with long legs, and caramel skin. Her skin looked like it was oiled, and even though she wore brown leather pants and a long sleeved, gold-yellow tunic, with the crest of the Sixth Family on the shoulder, the very site of her made Jeffrey’s blood rush to his head.
The Sixth Executor laughed out again, saying, “You’re the same as usual, I see.”
Seems father isn’t mentioning anything about him knowing about those dealings with the Twelfth just yet.
“Eleventh, meet my first daughter, Liela Debonitte.”
The Eleventh Executor finally tore his gaze from the screens and looked back. He gave a nod, before turning around.
Jeffrey saw the Sixth Executor’s mouth draw into a thin line of a smile before he walked up and sat down in one of the free chairs besides his father.
“What brings you over here?” His father finally spoke.
“What? I can’t visit an old friend?”
“Like you do visits… You only come when there is some game to be played.”
The Sixth Executor only chuckled, beckoning for his daughter to sit besides him. But instead, she sat besides Jeffrey.
The Sixth Executor didn’t seem to mind, but Jeffrey saw from the corner of his eye, his jaw clench!
Jeffrey became nervous. Not because of what he saw, but because the girl sat down besides him.
“And what’s your name?” She said.
And when he heard her voice, his mind went blank.
The cavern was not small at all. He could feel the air shifting among its walls. He could hear the moans as the wind slithered through the cracks and over the hollowed out spaces.
And as he ventured forth, the passageways grew darker and darker still. Braen walked cautiously as he moved. Every once and awhile, he’d come across a patch of moss that glowed, brightening up the dim pathway. He chose to remain right the entire time, turning over and over again. If he had no sense of direction, he would think he was going in circles. But at each fork, at each intersection, he still made another right. It wasn’t that he knew where to go, or even that he had an inkling of what he was going to do, outside of fighting to the death with some nameless creature. It was just, if I have to run, i’ll know where to turn.
It was then that the cavern opened up into a wide space. The inside was massive, about a hundred feet above his head. He could see the dimly glowing moss caked all along the walls of this inner chamber. There were stone walkways, carved out from the cavern itself, and there were several cavern entrances and exits, blacker than the one Braen entered from.
But even that did not shock him. What shocked him was what laid in the middle of it all.
It was over fifty feet tall, and as wide as several houses. It’s body’s upper half was half human-like, and the other half a big blob that pulsed. It gestated, and with every movement, the lower half glowed a dull yellow with black- ash like spots.
So far the creature just sat there, quiet. The human half was that of a woman. Her breasts dangled down, albeit smallish, and her hair like flowing black silk, fine and shimmering in the dull moss light.
Before the creature, Braen saw the half-man there, standing just as quiet. The half-man stood there staring at the creature, watching it as it seemed to watch him.
They both did not move.
They both did not speak.
They both seemed to be against the time around them, silent, frozen, yet with each blink, Braen knew time had not stopped.
The space itself began to heat. He could feel the tension growing in the air.
It was then that Braen heard the trickling of water. And felt the air grow hotter at his back.
Water flowed from the corners of the entrance he came from, spilling from some of the lower entrances and especially from the higher ones all around.
A small bit dripped down from an entrance above and it burned.
Braen grunted, surprised at the sudden pain, and lost grip on the gun. Something his training should not have allowed. The water had reached them too quickly. Are they trying to kill us? A thought that flashed across his mind as the gun landed on the ground, the contact echoing across the chamber.
And then, as if it had been the signal, like a torrential flood, a sound rammed against Braen ears.
He screamed and looked askance back at the half-man and the large creature, half off his feet.
There, the two had finally moved.