Jyx the Shadesworn: Part Two

The Betrayal of Stychen

I was hatched to this, I guess. Apparently my grandmother was one of the last Salaman to hatch her young in a land of freedom. How true that is, I have no idea. Everybody seems to have a family member with a similar claim. It doesn't matter. All that matters, is that I was hatched to this.

"Stychen," the old Cyclops, Hunan, has further demands of me, "we need to have five nega-fields ready before the end of today".

We. So often that word simply means, me. I can have the nega-fields ready, that isn't a problem. It's what I do. My days are spent making gadgets to control the nora flow, to stimulate or block the natural harmonics of magic. My Cyclops masters demand it. So much of their power comes from the ease at which they can interact with magic. We just make it easier for them and harder for those that oppose them. I'm always struck by the irony that our ingenuity helps to keep our masters in power.

The nega-field is a simple piece of equipment, worn by the Cyclops negamage’s in battle. I can tune the field harmonics to interfere with the aggressive magic of their enemies, dampening the effects of even the most powerful spells. Perhaps one day, we will be able to use this technology to our own advantage.

"Good work as always," Hunan picks up a nega-field, inspecting it, “go on Stychen, off home to your family”.

Family. Hunan is friendly enough in his own way, but he is a master and I am a slave. He thinks that I would wilfully hatch my young into slavery, to be used and exploited by the Cyclops. The very idea forces my hand to involuntarily drift to my side, where I keep a weapon that, if found, would result in my execution. Weapons are forbidden for slaves.

“Thank you, Hunan,” I’ve become a master of self-control, “may the blessings of the emperor be upon you.”

I can echo the formal farewells all day if I have to, I just want to get out of the workshop. As I close the door behind me, the bright sunlight reflects off the polished stone which makes up all of the buildings in Myridin. It's hard not to be impressed by the architecture, until you remember that it’s been built by slavery.

The skin on my arms is starting to feel dry after a long day in the workshop, so I decide to head back home before calling in on Jyx. It will be good to allow him time with Jalander, before I take him away for the evening. I still can’t bring myself to be pleased for my friend and his soon to be family. Jalander is a fine Salaman and she has laid many eggs, but why would they want to inflict such a life on the innocent?

I head towards the pool area, where the Salaman town has been assembled from materials we could reclaim from things the Cyclops no longer have use of. The cool water wells up from a natural spring, forming a wetland which is shaded from the harshness of the sun. The houses are built around the pool, to allow for communal access to the rejuvenating water.

I struggle to shake my dark mood as I relax and feel the water lap around my neck. If all goes well, tonight we will have placed the final piece of the puzzle in our bid for freedom. The fact that this piece relies of a pair of Moga, does nothing to lighten my mood. Now it is about courage and focus, we are so close, just hold my nerve.

"Stychen," the voice of my friend Jyx.

I turn to see him, smiling the wide grin of a Salaman who has found true love. I often wonder why he is caught up in this venture. Loyalty to me? Perhaps. I hope it's because he knows that he will soon be a father and the best hope for his young is freedom. The best hope for Salaman, is freedom.

"I'm ready. Perhaps if you can manage to lift your old scaly body out of that water, we can get this done." My age always seems to amuse Jyx. "I take it you can still manage to get out by yourself?"

I grunt some kind of reply as I lift myself out of the pool. His jibes would be funnier to me if my body didn't insist that he was speaking a little of the truth. Gathering my things from the side of the pool, I see Jyx's smile fade slightly as he notices my knife.

"Just a precaution."

He nods.

We make our way to the ghetto downtown, avoiding the more affluent areas of Myridin where our presence would surely be noticed. There are countless places to eat, drink and fight, depending on your preference. Jyx takes a nasty shove from a large G'hern, narrowly avoiding his sharp horn, that was clearly displeased at losing money on an illegal Moga fight.

The places that we slaves gather, they don't have a name. When I was younger, I spent a little time in Valdac. The human cities don’t have the same splendour as Myridin but they have been built honestly, not upon the enslavement of several races. There was one bar there, owned by an old Dwarf who had recently retired from the Valdaci army, it was called The Boar of the Huntress. It seems silly I guess, but the fact that they had named their gathering places made it seem… What’s the word? Safer? Civilised? I don’t know. I could just never imagine having the luxury to worry about naming such a place as the one we were about to enter.

The place is too dark and too dry. G’hern and Moga drink together, gamble and often fight in teams. Even amongst the slaves, I feel that Salaman have no place. Nobody looks at us as we walk in, although Salaman aren’t common in this place, we’re not such a rarity as to draw attention.

"Over there." Jyx points to a table in the corner of the room.

I nod. It is Leb and Fen, waiting for us as they said they would. Usually, I struggle to tell Moga apart but this pair are different. They have an intensity about them, despite sharing the frivolousness of their kin. It is clear that they make decisions for the Moga, that they are as wise as we could hope the Moga to be. Hopefully, they are wise enough. I take a seat with Jyx standing behind me, alert to any sign of danger.

“We are sorry Stychen.”

Sorry? I run a thousand possibilities through my mind. Had they decided to renege on our agreement? Was it simply a courtesy, some kind of greeting? I feel my body prepare for the worst. Sinews tighten, the energy I have stored from the days heat releases into my muscles. It is as though my body knew what was coming before my obviously limited intellect caught up.

Stychen… careful.” Jyx sounded worried.

A quick glance to the side and I realise why. Several G’hern with Moga on their shoulders, typical of the illegal fight clubs of this kind of place, have gathered around us.

“You must understand; they have our pups.” The Moga have a forlorn look, that almost grants them forgiveness. “Now…. Now they have yours.”

I’m still stationary, processing the words, as Jyx smashes head first into the leading G’hern. The speed at which he moves catches them off guard and he’s out of the door before they can react. Good. Although, that leaves me alone with the betrayers.

My first attacker never realised his mistake. I duck beneath his lumbering swing and leap, slicing my knife across his neck before rolling away from a second assailant. Focus. I’m armed, they are not. They delay, looking to Leb and Fen for instruction. I realise I have another advantage. They don’t want to kill me.

As they wait for a signal, I dart as though to leap at the Moga pair. The G'hern react on instinct and lurch to their defence. I twist in the air, more agile than the cumbersome G’hern and push off against the wall, changing direction in a heartbeat. Now is not the time to fight, now is the time to get to the pool. To get to Jyx. Thankfully, I am out of the door, with only a bellow of rage pursuing me.