26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner
R #AtoZChallenge Raw-lencantabes (alien species)#Fiction #SFF
I can still feel Brydanz under my grip, feel him struggling to stay alive. But I can’t see anything.
A squawking sound comes from behind me.
“She says to let him go,” Jenesis translates.
“Make him answer me first!” I can’t see, but I can still punch my target in the mid-section.
More squawking. It rings in my ears. The thing is, I’d sooner go deaf than let Brydanz go.
“Attie, please.” I feel Jenesis against my leg. She must be on her knees. “Do what the champion commands.”
It’s not what she says so much as the way she says it. There’s no win for me here.
“This isn’t over,” I say as I let him go. My vision returns a moment before Brydanz leaves. The champion and I stare at each other. Body like an upright bull, legs ending in over-sized spiked paws, and the neck and head of an over-sized Shoebill. I recall the science report Mystic wrote on those birds, how incredibly deadly they are and that they eat baby crocodiles. Looking at this champion, I realize that she could literally bite my head off.
She squawks again, though the sound isn’t deafening this time. A massive, black skin-wing unwraps from around her body. Claws run along the span, as if she were part chainsaw.
Jenesis wraps herself around my leg, the way my children did when they were toddlers. “The champion says you are a brave fighter and a good looking human. She hopes not to have to kill you in the future.”
I turn my gaze slowly from the champion to Jenesis. She looks terrified, as if she’ll piss on my leg any moment now.
“Oh. Right. Well, could you thank her for me and tell her I feel the same?” I look back to the champion and smile, careful to keep my lips closed. Flashing teeth probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Jenesis unwraps one arm from around my leg. She makes three sickly sounding squawks and waves her arm.
The champion squawks, moves her bat-like wing, and leaves. Once we’re locked in our quarters, Jenesis lets go of my leg.
“Are you all right?” I ask her.
“Other than the fact that you nearly got us killed? Sure.” She looks to Quinn. “Welcome to your new home.”
Quinn is curled up in a ball under the winner’s feasting table. I crouch down near him.
“Sorry if I scared you.”
Jenesis grabs a piece of food from the table. “Raw-lencantabes prefer to eat the live young of other species. No doubt that is why champion Myndi was so close by. If you declined your bonus trophy, she would have feasted on him.”
“That’s my nephew! There will be no talk of anyone eating my nephew.”
Quinn comes out from under the table and wraps his arms around my leg. Jenesis shrugs.
“Just sharing a fact, Attie. Myndi has been a champion for a long time. She is what they threaten us with during trophy training. Misbehave or fail, and you’ll become her next meal.”
I rub the top of Quinn’s head, trying to soothe him. “But that doesn’t really happen, right? It’s something they say. Big Bad Wolf and Boogieman type stories.”
“I have no idea what those stories are.” Jenesis points to a marking on the tablecloth. It’s faded, so it’s hard to make out, but it’s there. “Food for humans. That’s what this symbol means, more or less. Everything on this table has been tested and approved; it’s all guaranteed not to kill or weaken you, a human Earthling fighter. Myndi’s table is much different. And, as a champion, she eats whenever she wants to eat. Her table is never empty, Attie. Never empty.”
Have you ever heard of the Shoebill bird before?
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