Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Flash Fiction: City of Curses: Kabyr'abd

Some fiction.  Kabyr'abd, a Ramelin Wondersmith, but she has a run in with the Spice Khan- the Maliphi Giant wants Kabyr'abd's latest wonder, but Kabyr'abd worries more about whether she can survive the Spice Khan with her life intact.

Flash Fiction: Kabyr'abd
I hate running.

It's not that I'm bad at it.  I am Kabyr'abd, afterall.  My father once ran from Northcrown to the Wish Quarter and back in less than five hours.  My mother once swam to Blackcliff and back.  Effort doesn't frighten me.  I trained as a Ranger.  I am Ramelin, I know what pain means.

But iaraam.

I hate running, especially when being chased by iaraam thugs.  My legs both burned like molten irons.  I
preferred the hot burn of the workshop to this.  Being chased down like a dog.

"Iaraam!"  I tried to turn a corner toward the Old Wall in the neighborhood they call Old Crux.  If I could only get back to Poorfellows.  Back near the Workshop.  Home, where I could go to ground.  Safety.

"Aht!"  I felt my legs tangle underneath me.

"Ai!  I got her!"  My pursuers called.  Figures emerged from the smoke and fog behind me.  I glared up at the two of them.  Bolas wrapped around my legs.

The two gnolls' dripped saliva.  Scars  and the blue velvet of the Spice Khan's Janissaries declared their allegiance.  I tried to kick at one of them.  I could've yelled out.  Called out for help.

But the City Watch wouldn't care.  The Spice Khan's money had paid them off.  They would look away.  I meant nothing to the City Watch.

Her gnoll thugs ignored my kicks.  So I stopped kicking.  Instead I went prone, forcing the two hyena-headed monsters to drag me.  They didn't bother to try to ask me to walk.

I had Ramelin blood.  I would save my strength.  I would make each step cost them.  Life is pain.  I could handle that pain.

--------

I saw nothing but black.

Up and down stairs, the black hood didn't really reveal where they had been dragging me to.  But I knew.  I could smell the salty fish of the docks.  The Port of Crux, its docks dinging with boats.

The Gnolls didn't talk.  These weren't the cannibalistic thugs I knew from Poorfellows.  Disciplined gnoll janissaries.  Enslaved from birth to serve her.  I could smell their perfume, the pungent scent that marked them as her servants.

"Hmm."  A loud voice chuckled in my direction.  A voice that belong to someone much, much bigger than me.  A large feminine voice.  Chuckling as her gnoll janissaries dragged me in.

They removed the hood.  I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the purple and blue silk walls.  It looked like a massive desert tent, but I could feel the sea bob up and down.  The barge of the Spice Khan.

"Ramelin through and through.  Dragged across half the city, wordless without complaint."  The giant woman's voice boomed.  The couch she laid on itself had to be massive.  The Spice Khan.  Her purple clothes were loose, jewels and gold adorning her bronze skin.

The Spice Khan also was a Sand Giant.  Almost thirty feet tall, her barge had been built to handle her scale.  I and her janissaries looked like toys to her.  Dark, curls dangled down from her face.  One of her eyes looked sapphire, the other glittered like a ruby.  A series of thin, precise and tiny scars were across her cheeks.  Each the width of my finger.

Each measured a year of her life, like my own did.  There were almost hundred scars on her cheeks.  The Spice Khan smiled down at me.  She licked one of her pointed canines.

"Kabyr'abd, daughter of Qawiz'abd.  Sometime Ranger, clearly Ramelin in your blood.  Maliph has need of those of your strength, Kabyr'abd."  The Spice Khan held her head on her hands, glancing down at me.  It felt like being studied by a predator.  She spoke her all words in Malic.  The old language of my people made part of me feel proud.

But I refused to be swayed.

"I don't live in Maliph." I spoke in Tomish.

The Spice Khan didn't skip a beat.  She switched easily to the tongue of Crux and Ith.  "Of course we are not home in the Khanates.  Still, our people's honor remains, does it not?"

"What can I do for you?"  I tried to stand up to her.  To try and keep myself from looking weak.  How does one look up at a giant without fear of being smashed like a rodent?  "Is there something you want?"

"Little Kabyr'abd."  The Spice Khan put her hand into a nearby bowl.  Her massive fingers plucked up a live, baby goat.  I winced as she tossed the brown kid into her maw.  She didn't even chew.  "We all work together in the Khanates, even when stuck in foreign lands like this one.  You are a Wondersmith, are you not?"

"Yes."  I decided to keep my answers short.  The Spice Khan's wealth could match her own weight in gold several times over.  She always sought ways to expand it, never to shrink it.  I didn't want to attract her ire.  I knew her ire.  I'd seen it in Poorfellows.

"Wondersmith.  Such a interesting word."  The Spice Khan adjusted her seat a bit.  "I'm sorry, I am famished and have been eating before you.  Would you like to-"

"No."  I tried not to tap my left foot.  I studied the room from the corners of my eye.  I looked for anything that could offer escape.  I thought I could see water past one piece of silk.

"Hmm."  The Spice Khan bent down, leaning onto her right elbow.  "Projects, little Kabyr'abd, projects you have.  So many... so many opportunities."

"No."  I stamped my left foot and took a step forward.

The Spice Khan squinted her eyes at me.  "You would abandon your people?"

"No.  I will not work for you."

"I wish to simply have access to one these wonders you work on."  The Spice Khan drew closer to me.  Her guards didn't respond.  I didn't even warrant a response.  One of her hands closed into a fist.  "Our people need such innovations, Little Kabyr'abd.  What you have wrought, it could make our people so much stronger.  Our enemies are gathering wonders of their own."

I let my stupidity override me.  Better to be stupid than look weak.

"I work wonders.  Other Wondersmiths will dirty their hands with your... your ilk.  I know better than they.  You are vermin, a monster who chews at the soul of this city.  I help to uplift people.  Not to help you chew them-"

"Silence!"  The Spice Khan's roar made the silk walls bellow out.  They fluttered and flapped like a mad bird's wings.  She stood up, her full height before me.  "I asked nicely, Kabyr'abd.  Perhaps other ways may change your mind."

I dashed at that moment.  I ran like the wind, each footstep taking on the wild blur of ranger magic.  I whispered the words that made the magic turn real.  The spell made my feet faster.  I blurred away from the giant woman who could stomp me like a rat.

Gnoll Janissaries missed as I dived through blue silks.  I could smell gunpowder from behind me.  Gunshots thundered.

I rolled.  I leapt in the water.  Cold, foul saltwater embraced me.

--------

My arm went numb.  I had clung tight to the elevator crane's lift chain.  There were no harnesses, nothing meant to be used as handholds by a rider.  The lift had been meant to just carry items up to the University atop the Skullmount and back.

I held onto the lift chains for an hour.  By then, my right arm had gone numb.  Life is pain.  I only hoped my arm didn't have any lasting damage.

I looked down at the Port and Docks far below me.  The massive purple and blue silk barge of the Spice Khan still buzzed with activity.  But they couldn't follow me onto campus grounds.  Not directly.  It wasn't the best escape effort, but I had friends at the University.

But I knew this incident wouldn't go away.  What I had said, those words were dangerous around someone as vain as the Spice Khan.

"My wonders don't belong to your chains and coins, Spice Khan.  Monsters will never have them."