The First Sdhlain: Sdhlai 4
She bolted, but the binders hitched into their secondary mode. Pain
lanced through her arms, shooting into her chest. She dropped to
the floor, panting. The binders went back to merely restraining
her, but a dull red pain throbbed in her head, in her chest, in her
She heard footsteps, muffled, shuffling. Someone cursed.
"Damn it, I told you not to harm her. She won't be able to tell us
where the Key is if she's dead, now will she?"
That voice. The Master's.
Something leapt inside of her, a white-hot filament of anger, of
rage, of terror, and she leapt from the ground. Snarling, she
charged towards the shape in front of her, her eyes still swimming
with spots. She hit, and with a loud oomf, they were in a
tangle on the ground.
Someone whispered in her ear. "Well, love, we hardly know each
other, but I suppose that's one way to get my attention." He
The Master spoke again. "Looks like our little cur has got a bad
case of . . . something. Perhaps . . ."
Once again, she felt soft fingers running down her neck and back.
Almost instantly, she felt the pain drain away, and with it the
white filament inside burned down.
I won't let it disappear . . . smoulder, perhaps, but not
Then, again, darkness.
The transition to full consciousness was
abrupt. She knew she was awake but her present bore no relationship
to her past. The last thing she could remember was a desperate need
to remember something but 'it', whatever it had been was
gone and with it a time and a place that still felt like
now. Part of her wanted to leap up and find out where the
hell she was but the urgent impulses of her brain didn't seem to be
finding their way to her body. She could feel all her limbs and the
gentle give of the surface on which she lay but she couldn't
do anything. Only her eyes obeyed her commands, darting from
side to side in helpless panic.
" . . . calm, calm . . . breathe in, two, three, out two three . .
Like a kit learning its first trance level, she forced herself to
breathe regularly, gradually increasing the count until her
heart-rate slowed and her brain could think rationally again. She
was alive and nothing hurt, her senses seemed to be functioning
normally and she still had her eyes. It was time to put them all to
work. Wherever she was, it wasn't there anymore. Fact.
Slowly and methodically she swivelled her eyes from right to
Here was a pleasant room, at least by non-Khur standards.
The ceiling and walls were coloured a soft apricot, which was quite
pleasing to the eye, although nothing could soften the hard edges
where they met. The lighting was also subdued, flickering gently
inside two strange torches, one on either side of the . . .
bed? Whatever she was on was raised off the floor like a
Khur nest but there the similarity stopped. At home, her bed was
rounded, with no hard edges and big enough for three or four
siblings to curl up comfortably at once. This 'bed' was like
everything else here, flat, straight, alien. That much she could
see and feel.
Closing her eyes she let her other senses take over. The air smelt
of flowers and stale body sweat, some of it her own, none of it
Thul. It should have tasted fresh, like a spring meadow dotted with
Lady's Tears but instead it was undercut with a metallic flavour,
and there was no smoke . . . at all. Fact. The flames inside those
torches were not real. Fact. The alien comfort of this room was
real, but it was still within the Master's fortress and it was
still a cage . . .
With her senses wide open, the change in air pressure as the door
opened was unmistakable. Fact. The door was there, in the
wall directly in front of her. Fact. She was no longer alone. The
footsteps which approached her bed were soft and light, barely
whispering over the floor covering. No Thul could move like that.
They were just too big. Him? No, a her. As if to confirm her
thoughts a light, high pitched voice piped up. "Don't be afraid.
I'm Jam'ee. I'm supposed to explain things to you . . ."
. . . ah . . . his woman. Things? . . . what things?
To her complete surprise, Walks-in-Shadow suddenly found herself
sitting up, supporting herself on arms that belonged to her again!
However when she tried to move her legs as well, the only response
was a warm buzz around her throat. Lifting one slim, brown hand she
discovered that an impossibly fine thread encircled her neck. It
was so tight that she couldn't even slip a nail beneath it yet,
when she swallowed nervously, it moved with her muscles and
constricted her throat not at all. Eyes narrowed suspiciously she
looked at the Jam'ee person. She held something small and metallic
in her hands. The expression on her face was apologetic.
"I've got one too . . . it's a . . . special sort of binder. If
you promise not to hurt me I can release your legs?"
Walks-in-Shadow settled back on her elbows and stared down the
length of the bed at her useless feet. So, a binder, on both of
them. She was the prisoner of a prisoner. The situation would have
been almost funny . . . but for the mention of a promise. Did the
Jam'ee know that promises were binding? In all her life
Walks-in-Shadow had made only three promises. She knew,
intellectually, that other races used the word lightly, but no Khur
could. If she promised not to hurt the Jam'ee then she would never
be able to lift a hand against her, or knowingly endanger her. Yet,
if she didn't promise she might never walk again. Looking up again,
Walks-in-Shadow surveyed her strange guard. This one's hair was
long and a delicate shade of blue but otherwise she was just like
him, Lee'sar. Slighter though, and younger, much younger. If she
had been a Khur she would have been a tween, on the cusp of
fertility but still a kit. Not his woman then. Not yet. Or perhaps
a sibling? Twitching her nose irritably Walks-in-Shadow focused
back on her dilemma. Freed, she could break the kit like a twig,
but only a promise could free her . . The inevitable logic chased
it's tail inside her head and went nowhere. . . . fash, fash,
double fash . . .
Sitting up in bed was hardly a dignified way to make a promise but
it would have to do. Right thumb pressed over her heart,
Walks-in-Shadow locked eyes with the Jam'ee and spoke the words
which would bind her.
"I, T'thup promise not to hurt the Jam'ee person." Sinking back
onto the bed, Walks-in-Shadow sighed. It was done. For good or for
ill it was done and there was no undoing it while either of them
"You see, it's not so bad, really, ya
get used to it . . ." Jam'ee said as she sat at the foot of
Walks-in-Shadow's bed, idly toying with a dead . . . animal, of
sorts, "but . . . it'll tighten if ya try to run away."
Walks-in-Shadow took a moment to feel disgusted, then switched all
primal emotions off, senses open and raw as another loud crash
echoed around in the hall beyond her cell. A voice, followed by a
smell meshed together and a face that would haunt her dreams
flashed behind her inner eye. Red Star.
"Get out Lee'sar!" she heard him bellow.
"I'm not in your room Red, I'm right here." The sweetness
that edged the other's sneer repelled her.
"Get out!" And a door slammed home.
Walks-in-Shadow propped herself up by the elbows and levelled her
gaze with the Jam'ee person, who seemed blissfully unaware of the
quarrel, her childlike face smiling innocently at the dead animal
that hung between her fingers. All at once their door flew open and
a very self-satisfied pink head loomed above them.
"'Allo lady and girl!" He ruffled the Jam'ee person's blue hair,
beaming fondly at her. "Jam'ee, thought them bastards took youse
away from me." "Nah-ah." She shook her head, pressing the dead
animal to her breast bone.
Lee'sar pouted thoughtfully, head turning slowly in
Walks-in-Shadow's direction. She pulled her body erect, self
conscious of the way her copper hair was floating about her dark
face like a wraith. Lee'sar clucked his tongue, eyeing her with as
much respect as a cat eyes a dog. He whipped a chair out from its
position in the corner and straddled it, elbows leaning on the
back, chin on his arms. He quirked an eyebrow at her, pulling his
full lower lip up in a lopsided grin. Walks-in-Shadow felt the fine
copper pelt on her limbs prickle.
"What?" She snapped, mindful of the way his eyes roamed over her
He inclined his head towards the Jam'ee person, but kept his eyes
on the object of his fascination. Which happened to be her.
"Ho, Jam'ee, go ask Red Star if he got any of them smokes I asked
for. He dun' wanna talk to me."
An evil expression ghosted across his face and was gone. The
Jam'ee person gently placed her toy on the floor and smoothed down
its fur before scuttling out the door. A muscle in Lee'sar's jaw
"What're you really doin' here?" He lowered his voice into a husky
whisper. Walks-in-Shadow pursed her lips, eyes narrowed. "Why do
you want to know?" "It's in my nature to snoop." His mood lightened
a little. "So, guess I'll ask you later, when you're in a better
mood, whatever mood that might be."
He raked his teeth over his bottom lip. Walks-in-Shadow was about
to retort, when the Jam'ee person cut her off, scooting across the
floor to Lee'sar. In her hand she held out a small metal box and a
small plastic box.
He winked at her and flipped the top of the metal box off. A flame
burst to life. The Jam'ee person produced a thin rolled up piece of
paper from the other box and held one end over the flame. Once
lighted, Lee'sar shoved the safe end between his lips and breathed
deeply. With a flippant gesture, he stuffed both boxes into the
pockets of his pants, which were made of some soft, black material.
The Jam'ee person retreated into a corner of the room, dead animal
"So," Lee'sar began, blowing smoke out the side of his mouth.
"have you been to see the great and wonderful Doctor Dick yet?" "He
means Doctor Richard Kelp." The Jam'ee person explained from her
corner. "That's right sweetpea," Lee'sar grinned. "Hence the
nickname." Walks-in-Shadow shook her head, nonplussed. "No, I've
never heard of him." "He means the Master, T'thup." Once again the
Jam'ee person was very helpful.
Lee'sar sat back in his seat and blew smoke at the ceiling with a
long, satisfying sigh.
"Ah, T'thup, is that your name?" Lee'sar chortled. "Oh, a should'a
known." "Known what?" "You're a Khur, right? T'thup means . . . oh,
I dunno." He nodded, more to himself than anyone else. "We've heard
Walks-in-Shadow frowned deeply. He's heard of my people, he's
heard of me, but from who . . . ? Red Star?
"You said you wanted to know why I was here. I'll tell you, for a
price." she said.
This seemed to spark a look of enthusiasm on his pale face.
"And the price being . . . ?"
Now it was her turn to grin.
"Quid pro quo. I tell you what I'm doing here, and you tell me why
Red Star is afraid of you, yes? Agreed? And you also tell me how to
get out of here, like you did."
He licked his lips, considering her offer.
"Alright, sweetness, you got yourself a deal."
And they shook on it.
Return to The First Sdhlain
Last Updated: 2002.10.13.1004