I awoke to the sound of voices. The fact that I woke up at all was so big of a shock that I didn’t even open my eyes. A second later, when the voices of the people around me became more distinct, I made sure to keep them closed, and my body relaxed. “…glad I let you see him at all, Shaman.” Said a voice so deep that I felt the bass of it in my rib cage.
“…long has he been unconscious?” Asked a voice that sounded vaguely familiar to my hazy mind.
I felt, more than heard, a man shrug. “Time means little to me. My men brought him here after the moon had finished its crest.”
“After midnight?” The familiar voice asked. “Zat vas over tvelve hours ago!” The accent suddenly snapped into place in my mind. Dr. Johann.
I began to concentrate on the room around me. My sixth sense, or whatever it was, hadn’t really been working at all since I met Grace Redding in my office yesterday. ‘No,’ I thought, ‘Two days ago now.’ The thought sent a chill down my spine. What time had the Crimson Makos branded me? How much time was left? It didn’t matter. If I didn’t get out of wherever I was now, I’d never have to worry about the Makos.
I focused on the here and now, willing my extra sense to kick in. With a jolt, it did. There were four people within ten feet or so of me. The one with his fingers on my throat I guessed to be Dr. Johann, while the one five feet away I assumed was the source of the deep voice. The other two presences were standing together about five feet beyond the deep voiced man.
“If you say so.” Deep Voice replied. “If that means half a day, then that is correct.”
“He needs to be at ze hospital.” Dr. Johann declared. “He needs medical attention.”
“His injuries do not concern me.” Deep Voice said in a bored tone. “The agreement was that you see him. Now you have.”
Dr. Johann sputtered angrily. “Vell now zere is a different agreement.” He boldly told Deep Voice. “You vill let me take him to ze hospital, or you can forget about going home.”
Deep Voice took a single step, the sound of his footfall so loud it shook the floor. Suddenly Dr. Johann’s presence moved straight up, until his feet were dangling three feet above me. “You do not give me orders, Shaman.” Deep Voice told Dr. Johann, his voice still bored. “You will go back to work now, or I will break your neck with one hand. I can find another Shaman. Understood?”
I took a gamble and opened one of my eyes just enough to see through my lashes. A giant stood over me, towering at least seven feet tall. His skin was golden, and his thighs were nearly as big around as my torso. He wore a tiger skin around his body like a toga, and in one of his hands was Dr. Johann. Deep Voice had his fingers wrapped all the way around Dr. Johann’s neck, and Johann himself was already turning purple in the face as he struggled to nod an affirmative.
I closed my eye quickly, just as Deep Voice released Dr. Johann, dropping him almost on top of me. Dr. Johann struggled for breath, the air going in and out with the sound of a faint rattle. “Of course, Chief.” He mumbled. “Forgive me. I vas taken off guard by his condition. A zousand apologies.”
“Much better.” Chief Deep Voice answered. “You two.” He suddenly exclaimed. “Have this man prepared, then toss him in the pit.”
I heard two fists slamming bare chests in answer. “Vhat?” Dr. Johann exclaimed in surprise. “But vhy?”
“He is the blood of my wife.” Deep Voice replied with anger, the first emotional response I’d heard from him. “I would kill him myself just for that, but the pets need food and exercise. He will provide them with both.”
“Technically,” Dr. Johann protested lightly, “He does not share the same blood.”
“Do they have the same father?” Deep Voice demanded, his voice tight.
“No, and yes. It is complicated.”
“They were raised by the same man. They are the same blood.” Deep Voice said, cutting off anything Dr. Johann might have said. “Come, Shaman, or you can join him in the pit.” The giant’s footsteps took him away from me, and began to grow faint.
Dr. Johann staggered to his feet and said, “Oh God. I am so sorry to get you into zis mess, Jake.” I heard him run after Deep Voice, like a beaten dog following his master. I was suddenly alone with the two guards, who were moving towards me. Nothing Deep Voice had said had been reassuring in any way, shape, or form, but I knew for damned sure that I wanted nothing to do with being ‘prepared’ for ‘pets’. The only problem was that I knew that in my current condition, I’d only get one chance to escape, so I had to time it perfectly.
I was roughly picked up and thrown over the shoulder of one of the men, and I just barely managed to avoid groaning when my stomach slammed into the hard muscle of him. A cold blade was pressed against my neck as I was carried away. Whoever these people were, the Natives I was guessing, they weren’t taking any chances.
I felt every step in my stomach as I was carried for a full fifteen minutes through dark, nearly freezing cold hallways. If I had eaten anything in the last day, it would have come up. The thought of food made my stomach growl lightly, thankfully unheard by the man carrying me. ’When was the last time I ate something?’ I wondered idly. I couldn’t remember.
The air around me grew warmer as the man I was draped across opened a door. We passed into a room as warm as a sauna, and I was thrown unceremoniously onto a hard bed. Sweat immediately burst out along my body as my internal systems tried to compensate for the sudden rise in temperature. Before I could even think of moving, however, the razor sharp edge of the blade returned to my neck. Without looking at it I knew that the knife was made of the same black stone that had killed Susan Hammond.
A second knife began to casually cut away my clothes, like a hunter skinning his kill. I could tell from how easily my clothes were cut off that I would never even feel it if they decided to turn the knives on me instead. I lamented the loss of my favorite, and only, jacket, but I was more concerned about how I was going to get out of this mess.
Once all of my clothes were removed I felt one of the men step back. When he returned he began to put what felt like a fur diaper on me. It only took me a few seconds to realize it was a loincloth like the one they wore.
Scented water came next. They dribbled it all over my body until small streams of it began to run off my body, like glacier water melting its way down a mountainside, washing away who knows how much dirt, sweat, and grime. The smell of the water reminded me of a cross between an exotic fruit and a rare flower. All things considered, it was rather pleasant. Except, of course, for the implications of the cleansing. They didn’t want the ‘pets’ to eat dirty food.
The feel of a brush drawing swirling designs and sharp lines across my torso followed the scented water. For a brief instant I thought they were covering me in makeup, or perhaps drawing war designs on me. It wasn’t until the man moved on to drawing on my face that the cold fear of reality set in. Cutting through the sweet smell of the scented water came a sharp, and metallic odor that I recognized almost immediately. Blood. I didn’t know what the ‘pets’ were, but I sure as hell knew that meeting them while smelling of fruit and blood was not a situation I was likely to walk away from.
Time was running out for me to make my escape, but the second guard had the patience and muscles of a god. During the entire process his hand had not wavered at all, the knife not moving so much as a hairsbreadth.
When the artist was finished drawing on me, he moved to the foot of the bed. The knife suddenly left my throat, but before I could react I felt the two men lift the blanket, with me still on it, off of the bed. Together they carried me once again. Being carried in a blanket has the same feeling of lying in a hammock. While I could have gotten off of it, there was no way I could do it fast enough to avoid getting stabbed.
The sudden drop in temperature between the preparation room and the hallway was so intense that goose bumps immediately sprouted across my entire, essentially naked, body. I had to fight hard to hold off an essentially fatal shiver. Thankfully, I didn’t have long to wait.
The temperature once again rose drastically as we entered another room a mere five minutes later. The instant the blanket was set on the floor, I once more felt the razor edge of the stone knife at my throat. I opened my eyes slightly and watched as the man who had drawn on me moved to the middle of the room. He leaned down, grabbed something, and stood up with a weightlifter’s groan. In his hands was a solid metal grate, the holes in it barely three inches across. The grate was about ten feet around, in a circular form, and held by hinges on the far side. A giant hole gaped out of the ground at the man’s feet. The pit. It was hard to tell, but I thought I heard a clanging sound come out of the pit when the grate was opened.
The man holding the knife on me shifted in order to pick me up. I burst into movement, pulling forward just enough, and with such speed, that I felt it as the knife cut some of the hairs on the back of my head as the man moved to slit my throat.
I jumped to my feet as quickly as I could, and spun around just in time to dodge a knife thrust to my kidney. I punched the man as hard as I could across the jaw, and I watched as he staggered slightly to the side. But he didn’t go down.
He quickly recovered, and cast a glance at the man holding the grate. I moved slightly, trying to circle around to the door while still watching both men. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as the man holding the grate grunted. With almost casual ease he threw the grate open, swinging it on its hinges. It fell against the far wall, leaning at an angle. With a slight smile, the man drew a knife of his own, and stood so that the only way I could move was towards the pit itself.
Against one of these men I had a chance. A slim chance, but a chance. Against two of them, with knives, while I was unarmed, however… I knew there was no way I was getting past them. At best they would cut me to ribbons within a few minutes. The first man was guarding the door tenaciously, ensuring that I had no ready means to escape. That left only the pit.
I side-stepped around the second man as he attempted to gut me while my attention was diverted. I found myself standing on the very edge of the pit, facing my two would be murderers. The three of us stood like that over the cold stone floor for several dozen of my frantic heartbeats. After what felt like an eternity, it was the man who had been holding me at knife point this entire time who made the first move.
He rushed me enthusiastically, his knife held low. It was obvious that he didn’t care if he stabbed me in the stomach, or if he simply forced me to fall into the pit. Either way I ended up dead. He was, therefore, completely caught off guard when instead of dancing backwards, I dodged slightly to the left, allowing his knife to sail past me and just barely miss slicing open my side. I grabbed him by the wrist in a death grip, and jumped back into the pit.
With my weight, and his forward momentum, he had no chance of slowing down. We fell together into the complete darkness to the sound of the golden warrior’s screams.