Enmity : Sample Chapter

4 June 2018


1 - MAIA


It was pitch black, the metal walls of the truck shook and thundered as it hurtled over a bump. Maia had woken up shortly after being knocked unconscious and had been stood amongst her fellow captives long enough that her legs were beginning to shake with the effort of keeping balance. She reached out to steady herself and as she stumbled into the corrugated metal, her hand grabbed onto another person’s shoulder. She didn’t bother apologizing and the figure reached back out toward her, holding onto her shoulders to steady her.
“It might be easier if we sit down?” the nervous male voice offered.
“I don’t think there’s space,” she replied.
They were crammed up against each other, uncomfortable and blind. Maia tried to fight her anxiety at her inability to tell who, or what, was surrounding her. The person beside her crouched, big hands curled gently around her tiny arms pulling her down onto the floor between legs and feet which parted clumsily around them in confusion. His knees knocked awkwardly against her in the darkness and as she sat pressed up next to him she could tell that despite his young voice, he was much taller than she was, though not bulky.
The truck shuddered again and Maia gasped, caught by surprise. The boy beside her squeezed her arm in silent support. Kelvintown was known for its farmland and acres of fields, alongside its traditional and old-fashioned ways of life. Automatic vehicles weren’t something Maia had ever experienced before, though of course, she’d heard of trucks like this, used to transport cattle to lands further than she had ever dreamed of seeing.
At the back of the truck a child was crying whilst someone tried to comfort it and one of the captors from the front of the truck banged on the wall irritably, the deafening clash silencing them all in anticipation, but nothing came.
“Where are they taking us?” Maia whispered to her anonymous neighbor.
“I don’t know,” he mumbled. Something deep in the pit of her belly began to churn and she felt nauseous at the realization that she probably wouldn’t return home. What if they found out the truth about her? About what she could do?
Demon, demon, demon.
“I’m Maia,” she mumbled. If she was going to die, she was going to die with at least one more friend in her lifetime. Someone else was going to know the name Maia Ellery.
“Aldrik Fox,” the boy replied sadly.
They sat beside each other, rocking with the movement of the truck as they waited for their destination to be revealed. The air was hot and humid. Maia’s hair clung uncomfortably to her neck; a sheen of sweat covered her like a cloak.  After what felt like hours, the vehicle began to slow to a stop. The crying had ended in defeat a while ago and whispers dulled as the group began to emotionally prepare for whatever was about to happen next.
What came was a foreign swaying sensation.
“A ship. They have boarded us on a ship. We’re leaving the Dror,” a man’s panicked voice cried.
Murmurs began, worried and distressed as the time dragged on slowly. Maia found herself gripping onto her new friend’s leg, which shook with nerves. Leaving the Dror meant leaving her home, her family and the safe haven of the South.
She had heard enough town gossip to know that the North was on the brink of a civil war, that families were trying to flee south for refuge and dying in the process. Stories of the Azgad soldiers slaughtering innocent citizens in the streets had burnt her ears and she had told herself that nothing bad would happen to her if she remained in the Dror. The Dror was her homeland, a nation of peace and free will where no government ruled and everybody did their part to keep the community thriving. As of recent years, the Lornelands was a violent nation, filled with corruption and fear-mongering.
She tried to swallow but her mouth was dry as stone. She began to hyperventilate. Several of the captives threw up, the putrid stench of vomit stung Maia’s senses. Beside her, Aldrik’s stomach moaned loudly.
“When will they let us out? Are they starving us to death?” A woman’s voice from the darkness moaned.
The floor vibrated as the engine juddered, starting up again, and the journey continued on.
They must have been driven to Stonegate Port before being loaded onto a ship. They would have docked in The Lornelands and now they were continuing the drive. They could be anywhere in the north’s territory. It’s far more difficult to plan an escape if you don’t know the lands you’re in, she thought to herself bitterly.
Hours passed and the truck halted once more. Footsteps marched around them and voices shouted orders in a language she recognized but couldn’t interpret - Lore. The back shutters of the truck flew open with a crash and groans erupted as the sunlight momentarily blinded them. She blinked furiously as her eyes began to adjust. Figures cloaked in black, their faces covered, surrounded the back of the truck. Strange rifles were pointed at them from all angles - similar to the type she would use to go hunting with but far more advanced. Small computer screens hovered over the barrel projecting information and graphs. She squinted at the writing but again, it wasn’t a language she could translate.
She raised her hands slowly, copying everyone else as they shuffled down the ramp in a single line. She considered using her secret to escape, but it had been years since she had felt her inner powers. She had no control over them, no way to summon them and couldn’t risk hurting any of the innocents. She chewed her lip thoughtfully. Aldrik moved behind her and she took in his messy red hair and kind face. He looked slightly older than her, perhaps nineteen or twenty, but she didn’t recognize him from town. His green eyes darted around warily behind spectacles.
She scanned the room searching for a way to escape, for any slight flaw in the Azgadi’s line up. More Azgad guards dotted the gargantuan building, armed to the teeth with advanced weaponry that Maia had never seen before; guns, lasers, and electronic spears.
They were indoors, in some sort of giant warehouse. It was gleaming white, nothing but white walls and floors. Clinical lighting illuminated everything and the air smelled strongly of bleach. No windows, no doors - just a giant and guarded metal shutter which was presumably where they were driven in from.
Within the walls were small tunnels leading off into other areas. Raised platforms cross-crossed above her, where she could see more guards watching them over the railings. She couldn’t see their faces cloaked in their uniform of black combat trousers, boots, and balaclavas which met at their bulletproof jackets. Six of them stood at the single shuttered doorway, making it all too clear that attempting escape was not an option.
She jumped in surprise as a tiny metal drone zipped in-between the group, passing right by her face.
“Don’t look at them,” hissed Aldrik behind her. “They have cameras. They’re all around the room.”
Maia felt a twist of discomfort in her belly at the thought that her final moments were being recorded. She noticed Aldrik’s head was bent down and she followed suit, eyeing the tiny red camera eyes with her peripheral vision as they darted around the group. Someone was watching them, but why? A security measure, perhaps?
Something sharp prodded her in the back and she was pushed onto a slightly raised platform along with the others, their masked captors forcing them all on with strange metal clubs. She felt like the sheep she was so used to herding and knew from experience that a single sheep was no match for a pack of wolves. Armed wolves. They shuffled onto the platform awkwardly until someone shouted an order in Lore. “Mindrahs!”
The platform shuddered and began to lower. Some of the others tried to leap back up onto the stationary ground, but were pushed back by guards who knocked them down with their clubs. Maia spread her feet and crouched slightly, steadying herself. She saw Aldrik’s mop of hair on the other side of the platform, swaying as they sunk. She was too close to the center to peer over the edge at their destination. As they sank further they were surrounded by dark and damp cave walls, illuminated by spotlights in the crevices with more drones flitting around them. It was chillier down here, a bleak contrast to the white space they had just left.
The platform smashed to a halt and several of them fell from the sudden impact. Maia held her ground and looked around as the group began to disperse in confusion. They were in a huge, underground room and in the center stood a pit illuminated by huge, fiery torches. She gulped. Demon.
Guards stood around lazily, chatting and laughing in their mother-tongue. Small tunnels led out of the room into shadows that showed no sure signs of potential escape - it would be suicidal to try to reach one of them without knowing for sure where it led.
The platform was controlled by some sort of holographic screen across the room where a guard stepped forward and input a passcode. It began to rise until it sealed itself to the ceiling once more, the bright white from above disappearing into the dingy darkness as it closed them in.
Using their clubs, the guards herded the group towards the sunken pit and torches, but kept them back far enough that Maia wasn’t able to peer over into the pit.
A huge man strode into the room from one of the dark passages, letting out a guttural roar.  The room fell into frightened silence, with even the Azgad guards ceasing their conversations. He was the largest man Maia has ever seen, his muscles twitched from sheer volume as he moved slowly across the room like a tiger taunting it’s trapped prey. He carried a huge mallet with him, but Maia noticed that it had a bullet-sized hole at the front and electronic wiring at the handle - it probably shot, and she didn’t want to be near it when that happened. He was wearing black leather clothing like all the other Azgadi, but his face was unmasked, revealing a bald and veiny head, teeth which had been sharpened into points and pitch black eyes. He was like nothing Maia had ever seen before, part human, part monster.
“Welcome to The Pit. We are here today for a Cleansing. It is time to pledge your allegiance to our living God, Than, and join the northern Lornelands in our fight against Dror infidels.”
A young girl with fiery red hair stepped forward. “We will never join your corrupt gang of enslavers and murderers,” she spat at him, her saliva hitting his chest armor.
Maia vaguely recognized her from Kelvintown, a girl who used to work at the market selling bread and pastries. She sucked in a cold breath in anticipation of his response.
He smiled slowly, his black eyes shining with twisted delight. “Then you will be the first to face Dracul.” He motioned with his hand, slowly curling his finger and the girl was dragged, kicking and screaming by three masked guards. Maia ran to the edge of the pit alongside everyone else, watching in horror as they threw her down, her body crashing onto the concrete floor.
Maia caught Aldrik’s eye from across the pit. He nodded toward the guard and she watched him entering information into some sort of computer before drones rushed forward and scanned the red-haired girl who had picked herself up groggily.
A huge bell rang out from the darkness and all the drones surrounding the pit flickered.
“Are they filming this?” Maia gasped in horrified disbelief.
A huge metallic creature emerged from a corner of the pit. It was a glistening black, teeth made of jagged daggers and electronic eyes fixated on the girl. It looked like an alligator but stood on two feet like a human, its long plaited tail fitted with a spiked shot-put ball at the end that it swung around with reckless abandon.
The red-haired girl stood frozen against the wall, her eyes bulged.
She made to sprint to the left.
The creature let out a bloodcurdling scream unlike anything human, it leapt like a wildcat pouncing on its prey. It engulfed her with its bladed jaws and she was torn in half in seconds before it slunk back into the darkness leaving behind half of its victim.
Maia stared, horrified, unable to turn her eyes away from the mutilated body. She was drenched in sweat.
“Who wants to go next?” bellowed the black-eyed guard.
Nobody moved, eyes fixed on the floor, terrified tears splashing at feet.
“Nobody? I can cut a little deal then. Whoever can recite the Prayer of Than can stay, and join us. Anybody who cannot, or won’t, can face Dracul. I assure you, Dracul does not tire,” he said, a small and cruel grin playing across his face.
Maia’s heart raced as a new fear overtook her. Maia didn’t know the prayer. It wasn’t taught in the Dror, not at school nor in homes. Temples of Than didn’t even exist in the Dror - prioritising science and technology over nature and liberty was a belief that nobody openly shared in the South.
A boy stepped forward nervously, his legs shaking. “I know the prayer.”
The huge Azgadi eyed him up and down with interest before another girl stepped forward.
“I know it too,” she admitted quietly.
A moment of silence followed, but nobody else stepped forward.
“Go,” he ordered.
They both got down on one knee, bent their heads, and began in unison:

“The power of Than is impregnable,
Our leader, our courage, our king,
He leads us out of the darkness,
Purity he will bring.

A single and unified empire,
With only red-blooded to rule,
To kill is to cleanse the unfaithfuls,
Each death brings to us a new jewel.

A prized dedication to Than,
A loyalty none can defeat,
I honor and worship him solely,
And offer myself to his fleet.”

Maia cringed at the words and understood why they weren’t uttered publicly in The Dror. It wasn’t a prayer, it was a brainwashing anthem. A slow clap began, the guard smiling as other Azgadi in the room began to join in the applause. Then he offered two vials, filled with a luminous cream.
“Pledge allegiance to Than. Join the Azgad Army here and now,” he growled.
They bowed their heads and two guards stepped forward and grabbed their hands before either had a chance to consent or pull away. They plunged the needles into their arms, the bright yellow serum disappearing into their veins as they winced.
“Trackers,” the head guard explained.
“You are now forever a part of the Righteous Army.”
Cheers from the Azgadi erupted in the room whilst Maia stood still, the blood draining from her face as she self-consciously rubbed her own wrist where the needles had been plunged.
Another boy Maia recognized from her days at school stepped forward, defiance and anger shining in his eyes. “I will never join the Azgadi. Your corruption and evil will end eventually - you can never win. You haven’t recruited these people, you’ve entrapped them,” he shouted bravely.
He glared at the two transfers and spat on the ground at their feet.
“Cowards and betrayers,” he cried at them as their eyes filled with guilt and fear.
The guard grinned. “Then you can go next.”
With his order, two more guards stepped forward and flung the flailing boy into The Pit. Maia gasped and ran forward along with the other captured, her white hair swayed around her face as she peered over the railings.
The boy stumbled in shock at the impact. He stood shakily, eyeing the walls. He scrabbled wildly and clawed at the stone walls, desperately trying to climb up the sides. The rocks were barely cragged, there was no hope for an ascent.
In less than a second the creature had leapt onto him, impaling him with retractable spikes from its tail and the boy’s body was flung to the other side of the pit. He was ripped into two as easily as a doll.
The creature slunk back into darkness amidst screams and cries from the spectators.
Maia was stunned into a horrified silence, her mouth open in a soundless scream. She had no hope. That electronic monster had moved quicker than a fleeing rabbit in the fields and she could feel her heart beating out of her chest as realization dawned that it was to be her fate also, in moments too soon.
Before she could even comprehend what was happening, two hands gripped her arms in a vice hold and she was hauled over the railings.
“You’re next, princess,” one of the guards sneered as they flung her down.
Her mind went into a state of shock - she wasn’t ready. Ready to die. She lay there, frozen in pure and blinding panic. She curled herself up into a shaking ball and felt hot, burning from the inside out. She sucked in a breath. She recognized this feeling, from years ago. She saw the creature’s eyes watching her carefully from the dark edges of the pit, eyes shining a poisonous lime green and flickering with desire.
It took a step towards her.
Maia’s entire body engulfed in a white hot fire that threatened to burn to her death. She screamed in agony as balls of fire shot erratically from her hands and penetrated the monster, its metallic roar dulled into silence as its body dropped into a charred heap in the corner. Maia lay twitching in the pit, smoke drifting up from her palms. Did I hurt anybody? She tried to move but it was too painful; her body felt raw.
Chaos erupted.
The guards, shocked into silence, were caught unprepared as the captured Dror citizens began to fight, punching and kicking with desperation. The Azgadi’s laser guns fired but it was too late - they had been caught by surprise and a couple of them had already had their weapons lifted by the desperate kidnapped. Shots were fired everywhere, sending bodies dropping.
The smell of death and metallic blood engulfed the room.
Alarms sounded, a deafeningly loud screech, and more guards appeared by the dozen.
Maia curled up into a fetal position. Before losing consciousness, she saw huge hands grabbing for her, lifting her small, scorched body and dragging her away roughly.

Out August 4th 2018

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