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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chapter 14 - The Duchess of Evil Arrives

Well, if you can't root for the good guys because they're a bunch of loser pogues, then at least we have some evil dominatrix chick...let's just hope she's evil enough to keep the plot going...

14 – The Duchess of Evil Arrives

                The bird landed in a flutter of enormous white feathers.  The bird swept its long wings forward and down to stop its forward flight, and the nematada leaves rustled under the force of the breeze.  And the feet came down hard.  The claws were spread open as wide enough grab the roof off a humvee, and Jonathan felt the thud as they hid the ground.
                It was a terrifying sight, seeing the bird perched up on its feet like that, wings held high.  But then the creature folded itself, tucking in the wide wings to either side of its breast.  Only then did the harness come into view, and the rider on top.  And as the woman lifted the goggles from her eyes, Jonathan felt the blood drain from his face.  Even from a distance, he knew the godmother from the night before.
                “Halloo down there!” she called, offering Jonathan a flippant wave.  She then turned to climb down from her high perch.  She dressed like some aviator of old, except all in white – white leather jerkins, a white leather flight jacket with a high collar, and a white leather aviator’s cap.  And, of course, the goggles to match – rimmed in white, with an elastic white to hold them in place.  The boots, even, from the buckles to the soles, were a perfect white.  It was as if the woman had never in her life run across a thing called dirt.
                The gremlins, of course, sprinted up to help the woman down.  All except the green one, naturally.  He seemed like the leader of the bunch, if they had such a thing – he stood farther back from the bird, watching the proceedings with his one eye and a grim look.
                Jonathan turned to the Iraqi.  “Mahn hee-ah?” he asked.  Who is she?
                The Iraqi closed her eyes as if in pain.  For a moment, he thought she might not be able to talk at all, that the arrow had really and truly collapsed her lung.  But then she reopened her eyes, and the look of utter hate explained all.
                “Hee-ah Shaitan,” she said.  She’s a Devil.  Or maybe it was better translated as She’s Evil.  Jonathan wasn’t sure.  Did it matter, though?  She had a squad of gremlin minions and rode to work on the back of a thirty-foot crane – how much more evil could a person get, really?  At least she wasn’t riding a dragon.
                The woman was pulling off thick flight gloves as she walked up, four of the gremlins trailing after her like lapdogs.  Only the old green one and the small brown one stayed back.  The others were stooped and groveling, tongues working in-and-out as if they were trying to say words of flattery yet were afraid to speak.
                “Ah, here she is, the great Suha Al-Taneen,” said the woman, staring at the Iraqi.  “That is what you call yourself, isn’t it?  Star of the Dragon, isn’t it?  A wondrous name, if you ask me.”
                Jonathan still strained harder against his bonds, but to no effect.  He could only burn more of the skin from his wrists while the Iraqi girl sat limp upon the ground.  The fire in her eyes was something, but there seemed to be no energy in the look.
                The godmother-lady folded her arms.  She feigned a sense of amusement.  “What is it, dear Suha?  Didn’t find any real allies in that wondrous new world of yours?”
                Jonathan felt like he needed to say something.  But what?  Call out that the Iraqi – Suha – didn’t understand a word the woman was saying?  Yeah, like that would help matters any.  But if he could get the attention of the woman in white for just a few minutes, he figured it might help Suha pull herself together.  She knew this world – maybe she’d come up with a plan.  Or maybe she’d found a way to break free of her bonds.  It was unlikely, but he had nothing else to go on.
                He called out to aviator lady.  “She doesn’t even understand what you’re saying,” he said.  “Why don’t you try a language she knows?”
                The woman turned her eyes on Jonathan.  Compared to the sheath of white leather covering her from head-to-toe, her face was a shock of peach and pink.  And freckles – the woman who could turn herself into a ghost had freckles.  It would have been a perfect image of youth and health if not for the traces of foundation that had flecked off onto the white collar raised up around her neck.  Her makeup was so thick, in fact, that her face looked too dull to be real.  It didn’t shine in the morning sun as real skin.  And, in a way, that made the smile – with those too-bright and too-large teeth – all the more menacing.
                “I don’t speak for her sake,” the woman said.  “I speak for yours.”
                Jonathan blinked. “Mine?”
                She walked up to him until she could kneel down beside him.  He twisted as hard as he could, but he couldn’t even lean forward enough to try a good head butt.  And he could tell that his struggles only brought more mirth to her face.  So he pushed even harder, planting his right foot into the ground and shoving so hard that his butt came up off the ground.  He squirmed until it felt like one shoulder or the other would dislocate, but it was no use – he still couldn’t break free.
                She reached forward and grabbed him under the chin to hold him still.  She leaned in close to peer into his eyes.  “Ah – a hint of courage.  I was beginning to wonder if we’d find any at all.”
                She released him, and he fell back onto his hands.  Oh, that hurt – he crumpled onto his side.  His right hand popped and cracked in at least a dozen places as he fell.
                Then the woman stepped back.  “You are still pathetic, unfortunately.  It’s a shame I still need you.”
                With that, she turned on her heels, spitting out commands in some language Jonathan did not understand.  The four sycophants among the gremlins sprang forward to grab Jonathan’s legs and shoulders.  At the first touch of their hands to his body he fought, knocked back one with his head, kicking another aside with his foot.  He had his foot back, ready to kick away the one holding down his left foot, when the green one suddenly appeared at his side.  The creature was holding a knife to his throat.  It was a very sharp blade.  He could feel the individual serrations digging into his skin as he swallowed.
                The woman, meanwhile, had drawn a slender baton from a hidden pocket.  Rather, a wand.  Jonathan knew it was a wand by the way she held it – wrist loose, but fingers taught.  He swallowed.  She was like some nightmare out of a Harry Potter movie.
                “If you knew anything,” the woman said, coming around to Jonathan’s left, “you’d understand that I could have killed you easily.  If I wanted to.”  She pointed to Jonathan’s left leg and said something to the gremlin he had kicked aside with his foot.  The words came out like some twisted hybrid of French and techno, but the gremlin seemed to understand well enough – it scampered over and then, hooking a claw under the leather strap, it cut the tourniquet from Jonathan’s leg.
                He nearly passed out from the sudden pain – the rush of blood into his thigh made it feel like his leg was about swell up and explode.  And – only because he forced himself to look – he saw blood burbling up out of the wound.  Thick red arterial blood, with dark curds of clotted blood sliding over to the sides.  He bucked at the sight of it, and the serrated blade dug into the side of his throat.  The woman cried out something, but Jonathan didn’t hear.  The next thing he knew, he was fading into fantasy land as his left leg turned to ice.
                Crap, crap, crap.  He stared up at the sky, convinced he was about to die.  He’d been woozy before, but this – it didn’t matter now that he was falling back again on his hands.  He couldn’t feel his leg – but then, he couldn’t feel anything, anywhere.  As his eyes began to close for the last time, he was aware only of the disapproving glare of the one-eyed green gremlin.  He was dully aware that the creature was now standing up his chest and staring down at him.  There was that single dark eye rimmed in yellow, and the flared nostrils over that tiny, tiny mouth.  The creature said nothing, but somehow – he wasn’t sure how – Jonathan just knew the gremlin very much wanted him dead.

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