I, WARDEN - The Last Raptori, Book I

Status: 1st Draft

I, WARDEN - The Last Raptori, Book I

Status: 1st Draft

I, WARDEN - The Last Raptori, Book I

Book by: Seabrass

Details

Genre: Science Fiction

Content Summary


This was previously published here a decade ago as EARTH CELL. Rights reverted back to me after the publisher shuttered his shoppe. I'm revising and plan to self-publish this time.

 

 

Content Summary


This was previously published here a decade ago as EARTH CELL. Rights reverted back to me after the publisher shuttered his shoppe. I'm revising and plan to self-publish this time.

Author Chapter Note


Whatever you wanna comment on. I'm game.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 02, 2021

Comments: 1

In-Line Reviews: 9

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 02, 2021

Comments: 1

In-Line Reviews: 9

A A A

A A A

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01 - 01

My senior mentor, Ehr Rhee, scowled. Sweaty fur and wrinkles already present obscured her expression. “Maels! Focus!”

The way she barked her words revealed her fatigue. It wasn’t apparent in the way she came at me with sword, dagger, and ux-metal gauntlet, blocking my moves, forcing me to retreat at times. But her feet slapped the mat now rather than dancing across it, her breath came in noticeable heaves, and sweat dampened the short fur across her forehead, neck, arms, and thighs.

“Me? I’m not the one gasping for breath, you old dog!” I swatted her sword aside with Scange, my dagger, then jabbed with Scance, my blade. She parried and stepped back.

We’d limited ourselves to blades for our sparring session. I’d hoped she’d choose pikes or spears, as I needed practice there, or maybe even an archery shoot-off, where we were evenly matched. Instead, she wanted to train up close and personal.

She scowled. “Old dog?”

I remained tense as we circled. Sweat beaded my forehead and dripped down my chin and the back of my neck. It plastered the sides and back of my practice vest to my skin and dampened my shorts.

“Rrr-ruff!”

My taunt drew a smile. Even she, a Uone, reluctantly admitted she looked like an Earth beagle. Her snout sat more flush with her cheeks, her ears arced in furry crests over her temples rather than drooping, and she lacked whiskers. But the domed head, expressive eyes, and smiley-curved lips just screamed beagle.

From a distance she might’ve passed for human. At five feet, she stood as high as a dog balancing on its hind legs. Her fur could’ve been mistaken for a body-length coat. Up close though, her proportions and the way she moved—graceful, agile, quick—eliminated any doubt. In that regard she looked more chimp than dog, but I wasn’t about to mention that.

I’d never be mistaken for a human, with my pale brown skin mottled with tan splotches or my feathery hair a thick wave reaching from between my eyebrows to the base of my neck. Not to mention my large eyes and wide rounding snout. My Raptori heritage stood me out in a crowd of humans far more than her. But I didn’t look like a dog! And even at fourteen I stood over a full head taller.

The scowl creasing her forehead deepened. “You’ll pay for that, Raptori.”

She engaged me sword to dagger, dagger to sword, drawing close. Anticipating an extrusion from the ux-metal gauntlet around her right wrist, which rose near my head as we locked blades, I ducked back the moment I sensed the slight ux influence in my puush organs. The extrusion whispered past my cheek and retracted with a metallic snik, almost too fast to see.

“Ha! Felt that com—”

A second extrusion, much wider than the first, punched against my wrist. Had this been a real fight, I would’ve pulled back a bloody stump. The pain momentarily weakened my control, and Ehr Rhee’s blade forced mine down enough that her edge touched my cheek. Its stingclip left a nasty welt.

“Ow! Shit!”

I stepped back as though to disengage, then planted a foot into her belly instead as she anticipated my retreat. With a whuff she staggered back then fell into her guard stance, weapons ready. While the kick gave me some satisfaction, we both knew I’d lost that exchange. I blinked until the sting faded, my body’s natural healing ability accelerating the process.

“Does Dell know you’re taking up some of the locals’ more colorful language?” she asked, her smile more of a taunt. We circled again.

“I’ve dropped a ‘dammit’ and ‘crap’ on him by accident. He didn’t seem to mind. I think he thinks they’re fun to say too. Nice move with the gauntlet, by the way.”

“Just be sure not to salt your language when a dignitary visits,” she said. “Crath taught me that move yesterday.”

Her ux-metal gauntlet provided the reason for our blades-only sparring session, now over an exhausting two hours along. Each of the cell’s three wardens wore a gauntlet. I had one too, though I was still in training and not yet a warden in my own right. At the moment it lay puddled in its box in my room a quarter of the way around the cell. While it had taken me longer than my fellows to open my mind to the strange, semi-alive material, I now controlled mine with greater precision. Intix, a senior witchen in our small coven and director of the ux-metal experiment, thought my puushers, themselves powered by ux, founded my advantage.

We’d only had the gauntlets for about two months. My fellow wardens insisted I spar without mine when we practiced, to keep things fair.

I closed the gap between us. “I think I taught it to him six weeks ago. Knocked his sword right from his hand. Talk about colorful language!”

“He hoped I’d ‘give the totter a taste of his own medicine,’ as he put it.”

I laughed. “That’s Crath, all right.”

I pounced.

She retreated as she fended off my thrusts and jabs. I kept her gauntlet arm busy, a trick I’d learned early on. Although she demonstrated uncanny control of her extrusions when she created them, she seemed to lack the mental clarity necessary to form them if her arm was in motion—a weakness among my fellows I gleefully exploited.

Such flaws in her technique made these practice sessions all too frequent.

Fuspin!” she growled, a colorful Uone expletive. She twisted to avoid a slip-move from Scance. I scored a hit on her flank though, Scange’s stingclip drawing a grimace. She jabbed an extrusion in my direction. Snik! I felt it, dodged easily enough, and re-engaged, driving her off the mat, toward the gym’s rocky back wall.

The gym was the largest space within the cell, and it provided plenty of maneuvering room, yet one could use its walls and edges to their advantage. Ehr Rhee hated when I pinned her in a corner. She rarely returned the favor because I often puushed myself free. And since my flying ability was as much a part of me as an arm or a leg, it remained fair to use—encouraged, even. At fourteen, I was far from a mature Raptori, so puushing often left me with a grinding headache. But the more I used it, the easier it became.

She tried to fight her way to my left, back into the gym’s open expanse. I stepped into her path, working my weary arms hard and fast. “No you don’t,” I growled between breaths.

“Uhr!” she growled and came at me directly. I twisted back, leveraging Scange to nudge her sword away. I tried a sideways lunge to pop the side of her furry head with my elbow. She ducked under and rolled toward the gym’s center.

“Shit.” Weapons ready, I followed, happy with the look on my senior mentor’s face.

“What the rot was that elbow?” With a forearm she wiped away the sweat trickling through the light tan fur at her brow. She pointed her sword toward my left, exposing me to her gauntlet. A faint tingle in my puushers warned me and I swept Scance down across my body. Snik! I deflected her half-hearted thrust, my arm jolting with the collision.

I shrugged. “You’re tired. It might’ve worked.” She lowered her arm slightly. The next extrusion went for my knees. Snik! I dodged aside.

“In your dreams, maybe. Now stop playing around or I swear, I will make you my pet!”

Some of my good mood disappeared. Historically, Raptori were derided as pets of the Pheelm, inhabitants of the anchorworld above my homeworld’s place in the Skein, before the Pheelm Chaos destroyed them and left us in ruins. True, we’d worked closely with them for ages, but they never decided our destiny. We rebuilt, and in the centuries that followed, served with honor and distinction as respected wardens and ambassadors in the League of Cells and esteemed witchens in the Guild. Still, we hadn’t shaken that reputation as the Pheelms’ lapdogs when plague and devastation struck. As the last surviving Raptori, I intended to erase that misconception.

“Now why’d you have to say that?” I circled quicker and edged closer. Lowering her gauntlet, she retreated toward the gym’s center. I swiped at the sweat beading on my forehead—the gymnasium was steamy today but with a late-season South Pacific cyclone raging outside we couldn’t very well open the windows. “Now I’ll just jog around you all day.”

Then a better idea came to mind.

Scowling, she relaxed her stance. “You’ll collapse into a ball of jelly before I ever will, trainee.” She shifted, then came at me.

I deflected a flurry of thrusts and lunges, letting her close. My new idea? To steal her gauntlet right off her wrist. I’d never attempted that before and didn’t think she’d expect it. If I were successful, she’d never utter Make you my pet! again. I just needed to get my fingers on the light-gray metal, when I’d think it out of her control before she realized. Especially if I threw a jab into her face beforehand.

Two fresh stingclip welts on my flanks—glancing blows, really—failed to dissuade me. I returned stings to her forearm and thigh. We grunted with effort and cursed at the pain. I matched her retreat, keeping her blade arm busy to prevent extrusions from driving me back. She managed to pop the side of my knee with her hard, knobby kneecap. I brushed the pain aside.

“Come on, old dog!” I taunted. “Where’s the gauntlet?”

She tried a slip-move, one that often caught me. I raised Scance, let her blade dip beneath, and brushed it back with Scange. She swung her dagger. I blocked her forearm with mine in a move that bruised us both. She grunted. “You’re learning, trainee.”

I narrowed the gap between us. “You’re breathing hard!”

She looked up, half-smiling, half-snarling. “Keep it up, pet!”

The goad only deepened my desire.

We hacked, slashed, thrust, jabbed, and parried. We both grunted and cursed, twisted, shoved, elbowed. She kicked at my feet. I tried to stomp hers. More welts colored the exposed skin on our arms and legs. She aggressively held her ground. I forced her back one step at a time until I saw my chance.

I swung my dagger up, forcing her to counter with an upraised blade. At the same time I released Scance and gripped her dagger arm just below the wrist and snapped it against my rising knee. Her dagger spun from her grasp.

“Uhr!”

Releasing her arm, I jabbed my fist against her cheek. She teetered. I grabbed her sword arm at the elbow and jerked her down while I forced my leg between hers. She twisted helplessly, directly exposing her flank, her hip practically in my groin, her free arm too far away to punch me back. Dropping Scange, I grabbed her forearm just below the gauntlet and jerked her arm back and down while I shoved her elbow up. At the same time, I bent my knees, taking her to the mat.

She pitched backward, rolling over my thigh and off my knee. I threw my weight against her arm. Choosing to fall rather than suffer a dislocated shoulder, she slapped face-down on the mat. I followed, bending my knee to be even with her blade. When we landed, her weapon lay pinned beneath my leg. I inadvertently bashed my snout against the back of her head along the way.

Sensing victory, I grabbed for her gauntlet. But as I touched it, it slipped away. Fwit! It flowed off her wrist and up her back into a thin ring around her neck. A moment later, two thin flat extrusions curved out.

Oh, shit!

Because I lay pretty much atop her, my weight pinning her down, she knew where to find my neck. All too quick, the extrusions scissored around either side as she closed the angle between them, clamping my neck in a pincer grip beneath my jaw. Bends prevented me from jerking my neck free.

At least she’d remembered to blunt the extrusions. Once formed, they kept their shape; the user could only extrude them further out or angle them at the base. I didn’t have to worry about her slicing my head off. Still, ux-metal driven by thought would easily mash any skin and bone between extrusions. She could pop my head clean off my neck. A simple thought, and our little sparring match would end. Permanently.

“I yield, I yield,” I choked. The pincers tightened. I surrendered my hold on her arm. She jerked it out from between us. Still, the extrusions squeezed. She meant to knock me out, to stand triumphantly over me when I roused.

The pain increased. Blood dripped from my nose onto the back of her furry head. My numerous stingclip welts burned. I grasped the extrusions.

Our sparring match turned from physical to mental.

My fingertips tingled as they found the ends of both pincers. I might’ve tried connecting to the ux-metal through its touch around my neck—direct contact was all one needed to gain control. But winded from our lengthy tussle and with the pincers choking off my circulation, I lacked the time.

The ux-metal left a distinct sensation in my mind, like a touch-activated feedback loop. I felt the ux-metal but it felt me, and I felt it feel me. I’d never really gotten used to that queer sensation—sometimes I still recoiled from it. In addition, I sensed Ehr Rhee’s presence, a tingle distinctly separate from the ux-metal. My presence outweighed hers, as between my fingertips and neck, the ux-metal touched more of me than her, but I remained too unfocused to exploit the advantage.

She sensed my effort and the extrusions pinched tighter.

For a heartbeat my body went numb. I nearly lost what little focus I still possessed. Only the ux-metal’s queer and distinct sensation in my thoughts, an anchor I clutched with extreme intensity, kept me from surrendering. My situation seemed hopeless, but until I lost consciousness, I’d fight. That was what a warden did.

Light danced in the periphery of my vision. My pulse thundered. With a surge of effort, I pushed my focus at the ux-metal, screaming at the extrusions to spread enough to allow me to breathe.

The extrusions twitched apart.

I sucked in a deep, gasping breath. A burning flooded up my neck.

My senior mentor chose that moment to launch her head back and up. My snout again took the brunt of the blow. A burst of pain smeared sparkles of light across the insides of my eyelids.

When I roused, she stood over me, looking down with that beagle-like lip curl of hers. “Focus, Maels. You’re not focusing.


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