by Paul Worthington

The priest’s cackling laughter cut through the calm after the battle like the blades of the Svaalti had sliced through the flesh of the warriors of Achten Tan. None were left standing and the only one still breathing, bloodied and racked with guilt at her failure, was Lakshmi. She alone had engineered and orchestrated the plot to kidnap the Svaalti priest, and now she alone remained, her hands wet with the thick crimson blood of her comrades. She too would have fought to the death, but a sharp blow on the back of the head left her senseless on the dusty ground of the battlefield.

When Lakshmi came to, her weapons were taken and her hands bound. She had lost her chance for revenge, lost even her chance to die gloriously in battle. All that remained was the prospect of captivity, and even that would likely not last long--considering the Svallti’s hatred of mixed-race people, her chances of a long life were slim to none. 

Lakshmi trudged with her captors toward Satama, dragging her feet through the sand as she wondered how she had ended up in such a predicament. A figure in rudimentary armour appeared at her side, strutting and whistling an annoying tune.

Lakshmi spat. “Who are you? And why did you pretend to be monks?”

“I am Shoshanne.” The voice was high, feminine. “If you’d known who we were then you wouldn’t have attacked!”

Shoshanne turned her torso to Lakshmi and gestured at the symbol on her chest-piece. Lakshmi frowned at the coat of arms, a serpent wrapped around the God Tree Then realisation forced her jaw to drop.

“The Snakes of Satama!” Lakshmi’s voice was incredulous. “You lot died out years ago!”

“Still alive enough to kick your asses!” The other woman sniggered before marching off at a quicker pace.

Her head hurt from the blow. The blood of her companions weighed heavily on her shoulders. But the worst part was the gnawing in her gut at how she had led them all directly into a trap.

The Svaalti priest called the residents of Satama from their homes as they marched through the town, yelling news of the capture of the assassin as he walked. The crowd spat and hurled abuse at Lakshmi as she was dragged through the main street. They would have hated her anyway. The Svallti hated anything that wasn’t “pure elf and as she clearly appeared more human than elven, the contempt showered upon her knew no bounds.

They forced her into a cell in the town square. The priest watched with a smile on his face as rotten food scraps were thrown through the bars at the captive, who spat and yelled back. When the novelty wore off and the crowd dissipated, the priest approached the bars but did not dare get too close. Lakshmi glared at him, imagining their situations reversed -- he in a cell back in Achten Tan while she gloated, triumphant. That’s what should have happened. Had the kidnapping had been a success. 

Had she not fallen for the Snake’s trap.

The priest’s voice snapped her back to reality. “Rest tonight...your heathen blood will be spilled at dawn,” he sneered. “Although I doubt your dirty blood will gain us much favour!”

Lakshmi sat in her stinking cell, twitchy and wringing her hands, mulling over what the next day would bring. The square was empty now, save for the elves constructing the platform where she was to be sacrificed. 

A voice whispered from her flank. She turned and reflexively smiled at seeing a familiar face.

“Nervous? You should be!” asked Shoshanne, a mischievous grin on her face.

Self consciously, Lakshmi ceased her hand wringing and hid them behind her back, her cheeks burned with embarrassment.

Shoshanne said nothing but stood staring into the captive’s eyes. Lakshmi stared back until her uneasiness forced words from her mouth. 

“What will they do to me?”

Shoshanne’s expression became serious and her eyes drifted to the construction. Calmly, dispassionately, she described the sacrificial rites that would slowly bleed Lakshmi dry over a period of pain-filled hours.

Lakshmi tried to feign indifference but her face told a different story. Shoshanne reached through the bars and surprised Lakshmi by clasping one of her hands.

“I wouldn’t worry about tomorrow...It’ll all be fine,” Shoshanne promised before retreating into the darkness.

Lakshmi wouldn’t be in the cell when they came for her in the morning.


Paul Worthington lives happily in South Wales U.K. with his partner and two children.When not working a mundane day job likes to write Sci-fi, Horror, Fantasy and Post-apocalyptic fiction. He tweets as @werthyp, and can be found both on Wordpress and YouTube

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