Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week.
I’m continuing with Sealed in Stone, M/M science fiction about Torrey and Willem, two human youths who love each other but must fight to stay together when Torrey becomes the Chosen of the alien Queen who rules over his people.
In this chapter, Torrey and Willem learn the outcome of the queen war. [Author note: I added a hanging to conceal the tunnel. I accidentally cut that detail when trimming down my word count last week.]
This week I chose: “Who is that?”
Sealed in Stone #30
“Oh. Fuck.” Blood, so much blood. Blood like a carpet. Bodies like stones. Willem tried to pull Torrey back into the tunnel, behind the hanging they’d had to push aside, but the other youth pushed past him and all but pulled him out of the opening. The corridor around them was silent.
“They’re not all Cyrrhi’s.” Torrey sounded terrified, but he seemed to be thinking clearly. His gaze skipped from warrior to warrior, seeing details Willem missed. All he saw was the blood and the gaping wounds, severed limbs and tangled entrails. “Another queen gained entrance.”
“Through the tunnel?”
“Let’s go back.” Willem didn’t like this place. Too much blood, too much death, and it stank of the nomari.
Torrey shook his head. His lips trembled a little and Willem wanted so much to kiss away the fear, but when he tried to draw Torrey close, he met with resistance. “Willem—”
“Maybe they won’t find us.”
“You’re not thinking straight. Of course they will! They’ll find the tunnel, or break the door. There’s no way out, not for us. Don’t you see?”
“Of course I do. But I’m scared.” The situation Torrey described sounded hopeless.
“So am I. We can’t go back. We have to find out who won. If we go back, if we wait, we will be found anyway and we will look weak and worthless.” Torrey gave Willem a weak smile. “We don’t have much leverage.”
“Looks to me we don’t have any.”
“But we do. We are human and male. Warriors won’t kill us. They don’t kill males unless in the heat of battle or if ordered to do so by a queen.” He grabbed Willem’s arm and nodded toward a cadre of spear brandishing warriors just emerging around a bend a few yards away. “Whoever won this war, they will take us to Her. Do what I do. Be strong. And if you can, let me answer all questions.”
* * * *
The Queen’s audience chamber was crowded. It held more bodies than Torrey had ever seen it hold, even on the day of his ascension as Queen’s Chosen. The chamber smelled of blood, queens and fear—and victory. A queen war could not end otherwise. The triumphant queen became Queen and Her first acts were always to deal vengeance and death. The Queen seated on the throne this day wore a face filled with rage and her naked body was splashed with blood.
He recognized many others in the room. Sovesa and two other trusted queens standing to one side, ringed by warriors. Hari, Nak and Aktu, naked and seated on the dais’ lowest steps. On the highest step sprawled the hacked and slashed body of a younger queen in full chitin armor, her thorax and belly pierced with spears and Cyrrhi’s foot upon her throat.
Torrey smiled with relief when he saw Cyrrhi. Her left shoulder and the breast below it were wrapped in a bloody bandage but she was alive. His allegiance was sound, and the pact that protected his kumbh and family remained in place. When the warriors had dragged him and Willem to the foot of the steps, he dropped to his knees before they could force him. Willem followed his lead.
“My Queen,” he said.
“Where have you been? My warriors tell me you crawled out of a hole. The same hole they came from.” She pointed to her left. Torrey twisted to see and his heart stopped for a beat. Willem gasped aloud. Shel and Lena hung from crude frames, displayed in chains. Both women bore terrible wounds and one, Shel, had been eviscerated.
“We were fleeing when we found it,” he said, but his mind was racing. Lena’s throat was cut. The nomari did not slit throats. Humans did.
“What were you fleeing? You were in the safest of places.”
“I did not believe that. The warriors fled. And Hari sought to harm me. That’s why we fled, to hide. It’s what we are taught to do when nomari swarm to battle.”
Cyrrhi’s eyes narrowed. Sovesa stepped forward. “Great Queen, this cowardly male lies. He plotted to destroy you so he might be with his lover. These female ri’im”—Sovesa pointed to Shel and Lena—“who entered the nom to kill you—may you heal quickly—are from his kumbh. Clearly they put him in your bed so he might open the doors to your enemies!”
Why would Sovesa say such a thing? Torrey fought to make sense of it. “My Queen! The Bhesarim are your most devoted servants! These women, Lena and Shel—”
“Attacked me in the Corridor of Drones. My warrior told me how they found you and now I know how they came to be there.”
Lena and Shel had attacked the Queen? How? And why? No wonder he and Willem were now under the same suspicion.
“If the females attacked you, my Queen, they did so in treachery against their kumbh—and for the advantage of another!”
“These useless males should be impregnated by vrnabi!” Sovesa eyed them with venom.
Beside him, Willem’s breathing turned ragged. Having your insides hollowed out by the larvae of giant wasps was the worst kind of death. He prayed Willem remembered his advice to be strong. Torrey sensed something more terrible happening than threats against both their lives.
“Be careful, my Queen. These females did not devise their plot alone. Who did they plot to put in your place? Not one of us, but one of you.”
Cunning touched Cyrrhi’s hard eyes. It took intelligence to become and stay Queen. She had that in common with the humans she ruled. She understood that kumbhs, too, waged dominance wars, and dominance was a game at which she excelled.
“You mean this one?” She kicked the corpse at her feet so it rolled down the steps to lie, sightless and gape-mouthed, at their feet.
“Who is that?” Willem whispered.
(to be continued…)
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.
You can visit the Wednesday Briefers home page HERE for opening snippets and links to all the briefs. Or you can choose from the list below. Enjoy!
Jim Dunaway FLASH VIRGIN HERE