Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week.
I’m continuing the story of Willem and Torrey, who are being torn from each other on an alien world. This week the prompts were: “Nothing else matters” or have a scene set in an art gallery or use: fish, knife, ice or use a bucket in an interesting way; or have one of your characters explain what FIFO means; or have someone watch an arrest or be arrested, or use: sun, mimosa, swing or “One is the loneliest number”. I went with “Nothing else matters”.
Sealed in Stone #8
Never taking his gaze off the scorpion, Torrey drew up his bare legs slowly until his entire body was on the bed. He looked for and found a faint yellow stripe on the venom sack and forced calm into his limbs. A yellow curl scorpion. Aggressive and deadly, they moved lightning fast. A single sting would stop a human heart. No amount of effort or skill could save a victim, only prolong life for a few days.
Picking up a cushion, choosing the largest and heaviest, he took careful aim and then dropped it onto the tense arthropod before it could spring onto the bed or scuttle under it.
“Ypa!” he called. Child sized nomari workers, bland eyes wide and staring, emerged from their alcoves. No, not them… they were responding to his vocal distress, putting themselves in danger. “Back!” he shouted, using the harshest tone he could command. Cowed by his displeasure, they retreated. He grabbed another cushion. “Ypa!”
“Chosen?” Ypa darted into the room. Her sharp gaze scanned the chamber.
“Yellow curl, under the pillow on the floor.”
Without a word, the nomari female leaped toward the bed. With a strength that startled him, Ypa grabbed him about the waist and slung him across her shoulder. Just as quickly, her legs carried them both from the room. Her trill of alarm summoned warriors, sleek and silent shapes that poured through the central antechamber in a stream of flesh and limbs. To a lithe warrior wearing a headdress of rank, Ypa clicked a series of orders.
“I can walk!” Torrey protested. It was embarrassing to be carried by one of the nomari, as though he were but goods—or a war prize. Just as painful was the bony jut of Ypa’s shoulder blade into his ribs.
Ypa did not put him down until they were in another chamber, one that was not part of his apartment. Here the ceiling vaulted even higher and boasted a clerestory that ringed the room with windows and light. The mosaic floor must have taken human artisans a generation to create. Each flat gemstone in the great design was set within thin veins of gold.
“You will be safe here. Nothing else matters.” She grunted as she lowered him onto his feet.
The floor greeted him coolly as Torrey’s bare soles pressed upon it. He was about to ask where he was when movement drew his attention past Ypa to the hangings at the far end of the room, falling from windows to floor in a waterfall of blood red silk.
“Why is he here before being summoned?” Cyrrhi asked. She looked ponderous and cross, her movements slow as she walked toward him.
“My Queen, he claimed danger.”
Among their many other traits, the nomari for the most part dealt with facts. Ypa’s fact was that he had claimed to be in danger. A soft click from near the door caused Ypa to go there. When she returned, she held a square of red cloth with something black upon it. The scorpion had been found—and crushed.
“It is as he claimed. I ordered his room searched. This was where he claimed it would be.”
“Under a cushion I threw on top of it. It was in my slipper,” he said. The information was probably unimportant, but his nerves compelled him to explain.
“A creature from the low desert, dangerous and deadly,” said Ypa. When Cyrrhi gestured her to approach, the female did so and knelt, extending her hand so the Queen could examine the dead arthropod.
Cyrrhi’s gold-hued, calculating eyes turned toward Torrey. “It appears his safety requires that he stay with me. Have everything in his chambers removed and examined. Destroy his garments, ornaments, and footwear. I will have his kumbh provide all new at my expense.”
“Yes, my Queen.”
His clothes? Everything? All he would have left was what he was wearing now, an absurd arrangement of sheer panels hung from a girdle of iridescent links. And he wasn’t wearing the possession he valued most.
“My Queen,” he dared to say.
She cocked her head. “Yes, young one?”
“I would like to keep one of my ornaments. It has… deep meaning for me.” He clung to hope the nomari Queen was able to appreciate the import of his wish. The nomari were not a sentimental race… except for their queens. Intelligent and ruled by hormones even more so than were humans, queens possessed true emotion. Indeed, their passions were as famed as they were dangerous.
“An ornament?” Her chin lifted slightly. “Describe it.”
“An amulet of plain cut stone on a thin gold chain. It looks unimportant, not like something a Chosen would wear.” He flushed at describing Willem’s gift in this way.
“Yet it is important to you.” To Ypa she said, “Find the thing and bring it to me.” She gestured for Torrey to follow, leading the way past the blood silk curtains into a chamber draped with richly colored hangings about a large bed. The bed's covers matched in color the purple hue of Lishar, the small moon that moved nightly across the sky.
Cyrrhi sought the bed and reclined upon her side, her silken gown spilling across her heavy thighs and large, protruding belly. When she indicated Torrey should sit and face her, he did so nervously. He didn’t know what she would want, not specifically, though he’d been told some of the possibilities.
Her six fingers combed back a lock of hair that had fallen across his cheek and tucked it behind his ear. Torrey forced himself not to flinch when she traced the line of his nose and touched his lips.
“You look so much like your brother, like Arton,” she said. Her hand fell away from him when she looked up at Ypa, who’d just entered the room. A stone amulet on a gold chain dangled from Ypa’s hand. “Is that the thing? Let me see.”
Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more fun, free fiction use the links below to visit the blogs of the other Wednesday Briefers.