Shadows of the Sun – Sci-Fi Short Story (2/3)

Thiur had only ever known strength – and that was her weakest point.

Her dark hands wrapped around the white spear’s shaft, she looked around her at the empty seats of the coliseum. The place would be usually filled with ecstatic faces, crying and shouting and raving at the battle going on over the sand. She had seen this place many times before, though always from one of the barred entrances that led to the central arena.

Now the Examiner, a stern Anthilian writing down on his ledger, looked down at her from his seat, the only figure there.

Thiur danced around, using the spear as a pole – she set the sharp edge deep into the sand and jumped about, displaying her strength and coordination, and her beauty as well. The intricate lines that glowed all over her body brightened to a deep magenta, the pinkish red that she had learned from Pulum being one of the main colors, according to some hare-brained theory she had already forgotten about. Listening to Pulum made her feel good enough – what she said was never quite as important as just being there to listen.

The Examiner’s eyes drank from her body, and a thin smile danced on her plump lips. Usil might easily find out what kind of dark desires loomed behind his blue eyes, but she did not need her perceptors to take a guess – if he found her beauty scandalous, so be it. She loved to revel in it, especially when it was Usil and Pulum stealing a glance from afar (or from just behind her, when they thought she wasn’t looking). She was the tallest and by far the strongest, her legs wrapped around the spear as she sent her long black hair dancing in an endless wave, her dark clothes barely covering the pronounced shape of her breasts and her buttocks.

Then again, what did he expect to see? The Hearthwomb had not given them genitalia, not the kind that flesh and bone women possessed. Their only way of reproduction passed through the now-dead machine, and the Hearthwomb had imprinted in all of them one final imperative with the last of her non-breaths.

Take care of each other.

“The fight will now begin,” her Examiner proclaimed, his voice echoing in the empty arena. From one of the gates where she used to watch the competitions, rolled out a hulking beast, a mountain of muscles and pale skin knitted over bulging bones. They must have found this lovely specimen in the forest. It was not an Elf, for sure.

Too symmetric.

Still perched on the spear even as the creature sniffed the air, bellowing out a roar that sent up puffs of sand, she waited for it to charge her. as it found out she was the only thing in the area that it could charge against, it aimed its bulbous head at her, lowered it like a turtle and dashed.

Thiur’s peripherals slowed down to a crawl. She counted the red gashes on its skin, coming most likely from the cruel lashes that they used to sent it into a raging frenzy just before shipping it to her. It was far from home, in a place it did not understand, likely mad with hunger and thirst, and did not even understand what was going on.

In the end, the only difference between the two of them was that she had been created for moments like these.

She briefly wondered how it would feel if it were Pulum or Usil in her place.

She couldn’t really find an answer. She only knew how to deal with it in the way she had been made for.

Her naked feet gripped the shaft. As the thing roared at her, she did a somersault, cutting an arc with the spear – her enhanced peripherals felt the blade’s white ceramid cut into skin, tissue, muscle all the way to bone, and all the way back. The shock of the impact sent her back, but she counterbalanced by widening her arms so that she could still use part of her momentum to cut deeper, so deep in fact that it bisected the creature in one clean strike.

Her arc of the jump reached its zenith even as the thing fell apart, running against the wall out of sheer momentum, one half to her left and one to her right.

She gave the spear a light stroke and it impacted the sand once again by the blade, cutting through one good arm of soil – she stepped on its base, balancing herself like a dancer as she gave him a good bow.

“Hm,” he stated, looking at the right mess and at the droplets of blood running down the spear’s shaft. The sand was steaming with still-hot blood, coming up in faint clouds. “Next one.”

They were not even bothering to withdraw the first corpse.

Another door opened and a slithering creature hissed the air. It was a scaly beast, serpentine in its body but with the head of a lion, its wild golden mane sticky with sweat. Just like the first hulking monster, this one had been lashed and beaten to the point of madness.

It pointed at her, but it kept its distance for the time being.

Thiur closed her eyes, focusing her perceptors on the creature, scanning its insides, taking a good look at its thermals and at the three hearts beating in unison.

“Are we supposed to keep these?” She asked.

“Please repeat the question?”

“The spears,” she said tapping it lightly with her foot. “Are we supposed to keep them on our mission? I am not sure if there are any like that on the Farthest Shore.” She said she was not sure but to be fair she did not have the faintest idea. She could ask Pulum.

“You will receive a standard set of equipment,” he replied over the venomous hisses of the monster. “The rest you are supposed to fashion after your own preference and need.”

She nodded.

Thiur jumped down from the spear, landing on her left foot. The serpentine creature looked at her, snapping its maw barely at one arm’s distance from her face, but she did not withdraw.

Just like the other, this one was in pain.

If it was up to her, she would have left it alone.

But she, like Usil liked to remind her at every moment, had a duty.

She’ll have to prove she could be trusted.

And she felt like the weakest person to ever set foot in that arena as she lunged at the serpent, jumping right into its maw and punching its tiny brain from the roof of its mouth. Its skull burst from the violence of the impact and it swiftly fell to the side and it did not breath any more.

Such was the law of nature and such would be even more the moment they set foot on the Farthest Shore. She had to protect those who couldn’t protect herself – her choice was not neutral, it was pure egotism.

But she’d get to bring Pulum and Usil where they needed to go.

That was enough for her.

The Examiner moved his finger through his list. She perceived his mixture of emotions – he seemed a bit confused, ecstatic at her performance, and yet not knowing where to actually hit her to put he through an actual trial.

Then he smiled.

He waved his hand and from the farthest of the gates long thin spears pushed a tiny mangled thing into the arena.

Thiur frowned.

It was no monster, it was no hulking beast, it was not threat.

It was a Dwarf. His pale skin blotched with the signs of beatings, his face as weirdly smooth and devoid of beard as a mirror, glistening with cold sweat. In his beady eyes feverishly shook the specter of fear.

No weapons had been given to him. He was dressed only of his shame, and the remnants of two lines of chains rattling with every spasm of his srunken, hairless body.

Thiur looked up.

“What kind of challenge is this?”

“Would this count as refusal,” the Examiner replied, tapping his finger over his notes. “Or as treason? When the three of you are all alone a thousand’s thousand miles away, what will keep you bound?”

Duty to the cause, Usil’s voice spoke to her synapsids. Thiur shook.

It was, in the end, an egotistic choice.

“Easy now,” she said walking towards the poor sod, keeping up her hands.

The Dwarf let out a whimper. He fell back, until his body touched the wall, and could not withdraw any more.

“Easy.” She repeated, offering a smile. She opened her arms wide.

The Dwarf looked at her. At them.

Bit by bit, he leaned forward.

“Easy now. That’s great. You are doing great.”

Thiur perceived his sweat – mixed with fear, and now a tentative relief. She felt his spasms as his body shook, unable to cope with everything. The capture, the torture, the sacrifice.

“Easy.” She would make it so.

Thiur shut her eyes. She passed her hands over his back, stopping at the base of his neck. She set a kiss atop his forehead. He seized.

He must know what was about to happen.

She thought of Usil and Pulum as she snapped his neck.

She truly was the weakest person to ever set foot into the arena.

The corpse slumped in her arms.

“You pass,” came the voice from above.

Thiur did not let go.

Not until the Examiner had walked out, shaking his head, and the body between her arms had grow stiff and cold like terminal coal.

Author’s Notes: I really liked this piece. It’s rough in certain passages, but I think I finally managed to grasp at the essence of Thiur, who insofar has been the one that’s less-defined of them all. I hope you liked it, no matter how depressing some of my writing becomes at times.

Thanks for reading!

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