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Fantasy Speculative Science Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

{This story is a sequel to 'The Sabinarath of Xenoscthye' and best read in conjunction}


As Tokarov made his way back to the cavern, a smile dotted his lips. Nothing so strange had ever happened to him. He had never made love to a stranger before, yet here on Xenoscythe it came to him naturally. He sniffed the curls of hair hanging around his face, a faint flowery scent still lingered. If such beautiful females could be found in these caverns, he thought it might be acceptable to be trapped in the labyrinth after all.


Exiting the small cave opening he followed boot prints to find his new acquaintances. A moment of regret caught him and he stopped before strapping the respirator back on his face. Turning around he wanted something as proof of his encounter. Nearing the split in the caverns, he didn't remember the turn. He was sure the opening was near, yet he was faced with more stone. The lack of oxygen made him light headed. Sure he had passed the alcove, he turned around and broke into a jog, flipping the beam on his headlamp to high. He stopped, huffing as the stale air of the cave coated his lungs like spiderwebs. Desperate for oxygen, he threaded the tubes back into his nostrils and sucked on the mouthpiece, turning the breathing machine to its highest setting and slumping down with his bottom to the floor.


He now wondered if the maze itself was an undulating moving creature, one that could change shape. Maybe he was trapped in the intestines of some vast inter-dimensional alien, one who's rock was like living tissue. Either way he needed to find the safe haven. His dagger wouldn't be much use against a group of marauding aliens.


Working his way up to a steady run, the ruck sack shifted back and forth on his shoulders. He drew in ragged breaths from the oxygen concentrator, the slapping of the boots treads echoing in his ears. The light danced to and fro in a rhythmic motion as he found his pace and sweat dribbled from his brow, stinging his eyes.


Ahead an eerie green glow around the walls signaled an opening to a larger lighted space. Tokarov slowed to a walk, the wheezing of his exhales pulsing out of the apparatus tangled with his long hair. The vast room was illuminated by clumps of gelatinous blobs clinging to the ribs and ceiling of the space. The walls had been chiseled into semi-smooth surfaces.


Enraptured by the glow he walked over to investigate. Leaning in close he observed a barely perceptible movement, the globs leaving behind iridescent trails of slime. They were alive, some sort of bioluminescent jelly, so many of them the room glowed a soft chartreuse color.


“Funny little creatures aren't they?” Tokarov jumped as a firm hand gripped his shoulder. Looking back, Omega's wide grin welcomed him.


“Bizarre life forms for sure, on Earth these were usually found deep in the bottom of the ocean.”


“I know. These almost seem the product of some experimentation, not the work of a...diety.”


The words caused him to snap back, locking into Omega's sharp gray eyes.


“Come, we have things to discuss.” Omega motioned for Tokarov to follow. Leading him over to chairs carved of stone, he waved a hand for him to have a seat. Alpha and Ego were already sitting down, holding their steel canteen cups. The room was immense, other groups of humans were gathered in clusters. The muffled din of conversations echoed off the rock.


“Did you find what you were looking for?” Ego piped up, his words firm like leather.


“No, not exactly,” Tokarov sensed bitterness in the tone of Ego's voice.


“He's lying. I can see it in his aura,” Alpha surmised as Ego stared hard at Tokarov.


Omega, being the peacemaker spoke up, “Before we can allow you to join us, you have to tell us what you found.”


“I found an oasis, and a female companion,” Tokarov's nerves quivered in the tenor of his words.


Ego's head jerked like he had been slapped by sound of his voice, “There are no females in the Labyrinth. You were tricked. Did you consummate the union?”


“We, uh, I don't know.”


“LIES!” Ego reached for his dagger. Stunned, Tokarov stood, ready to defend himself.


“If the Sabinarath has your seed, we will go to trial,” Omega's low tone was ominous.


Tokarov went blank. What kind of magic was he dealing with? The siren song drifted into his mind; the garden like Eden, the serpent, Alpha, Omega. His epiphany was sudden and sent an electrical shock through his frame, “Your, Him........How?”


Omega's eyes swirled with twisting colors, “I don't have the powers I used to possess, I have been transfigured back to human form, Alpha is my son. I am who has always been.


“Then why are you here?” Tokarov's confusion was palpable.


“I was the Deity of Earth alone, when it was harvested, the Overlords of Xenoscythe took most of my powers and banished me to the maze, that I may be tested as well. You and all humans were made in my image, and to that form I have returned. Tokarov fell back to his seat.


Ego took his hand from his dagger and spoke, “I want proof. None have lived after seeing the Sabinarath.”


“The water. I have water from the lake where we...”


Ego held out his cup. Tokarov pulled his canteen from his pack and poured some of the precious water into the cup.


Ego groaned and shuddered as he gulped the water down, “The well of life itself,” He slammed the steel vessel onto the rock and trembled as if waiting for a scream, emotions washing over him.


Calming himself, Ego turned to Tokarov and glowered at him.


“You are not the first to be tricked by the Sabinarath,” Omega tried to break the tension.


“So what happens now?” Tokarov turned to the elder with an inquisitive look.


“The Overlords of Xenoscythe will have trials.”


“What will we have to do in the trials?”


“Survive.”


* * *


The roar of the observers deafened everything. Aliens and humanoids stomped and clapped, hollering in a din that drowned out all extraneous sounds. Tokarov gripped the metal bars of his enclosure and stared down onto the battleground. He had been roused from sleep and separated from the others many hours ago. Looking up the cavern walls, spectators stretched in levels a dozen units above him.


“The Trial begins!” A baritone voice boomed over the noise. A thunderous din of feet stomping and cacophonous yells and shrieks erupted. The reptilian hand of a Grigglesneed slipped a steel cuff onto Tokarov's wrist, handing him an iron buckler. The small shield locked onto the cuff on his weak hand. A loop on the handcuff was threaded with a large chain, stout enough to fell a tree.


Without warning the giant reptilian humanoid jerked the chain and Tokarov had no choice but to follow or be dragged down the floor of the dripping rough hewn passage. Torches flickered, illuminating the rough stone of the walls, gargoyles dangled from the bottom of the lamp bases, wide mouths grinning with pointed teeth and outstretched tongues.


Circled flights of stone stairs led to the bottom of the tower. A beefy guard stood at the gate, brandishing a long hardwood shaft topped with a metal ball, engraved on three sides with faces, each one representing a face of the fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.

The voice boomed again, “A god must best his creation, deity versus mortal!”


Tokarov looked across the floor of the arena as another colossus lowered a helm over Omega's square jaw, a shield and the chain dropping from his arm as well. The guard handed Tokarov the mace adorned with the fates and opened the gate. Omega and Tokarov were led toward each other to the center of the pitch. The chains were locked together, a mere ten feet of log chain separating the two. The helmets hid their faces, each twirled a mace and tested the tension on the chain.


Omega made the first move jerking the chain between them, trying to pull Tokarov from his feet. The mortal had youth in his step and hopped when he pulled, heaving the weapon behind his back and over his shoulder aiming for Omega's helmet. Sensing his move, the old one dodged aside as the iron bounced off the stone, sending sparks flying as a roar sailed up from the crowd.


The two circled each other, the tension in the chain grinding and chinking as the spectators grew restless. Tokarov pulled the chain closer, jumping links as he closed the gap to Omega. Feeling his advantage was in tight melee, he gritted his teeth and dragged Omega closer. Pulling with a final heave Tokarov clenched his gut and swung in a windmill fashion over his head. In a sudden defensive move Omega felt slack in the chain and hoisted the buckler over his head, Tokarov's blow glanced off the shield, cleaving off a chunk of the metal, showering sparks.


The crowd erupted with the fires of the battle. Omega backed off as Tokarov pulled the battle mace over his shoulder, panting from exertion. The mortal realized this was it. If killed by a god he was doomed to be the unremembered, a faceless passerby of the cosmos, a nameless nobody.


The image of Lora Lei bloomed in his mind. The thought of another taking her from him, even a god, boiled the anger in his soul. The injustice of his childhood stood in his way. Wasn't that too the fault of some unnamed god. A fire erupted in his body, he must kill the god that was responsible for his pain.


Blood flowed to his hands and feet as anger boiled the fluid in his limbs. A hatred he had never connected with gave renewed life to his body. The mace whistled back and forth in a cross motion over his head as he stomped toward and stalked Omega. The patrons of the arena, sensing his resolve came to life, cheering him on. One blow shattered the chain between them. Cutting off the ring he chiseled the arena down to a corner. The old one stood defiantly, raising his shield and mace. Tokarov with a lifetime of pain and regrets funneled all his energy into a single blow that tore Omega's head off, helm and all. As it tumbled to the stone, the blood gushing onto the arena floor, the roar of the crowds filled the tower.


* * *


“Tell me more.”


Tokarov sighed as he propped his head up from the lush green carpet of grass, “Why?”


“I need to know why you are the one.”


“The one?” Tokarov snorted in derision. He had lovers back on Earth.


“We are tasked with creating a new race that will thrive in the terraformation of Xenoscythe,” Brushing back curly locks, Lora Lei plucked a small pink daisy flower head and spun it under her nose, inhaling the robust scent, “Tell me about your life back on Earth.”


“We were farmers. Our crops were dying by degrees each year. At first it was just the extreme weather, then the plants themselves began to fail. As the atmosphere thinned the radiation from space distorted their DNA, crippling their ability to thrive and produce viable generations,” Tokarov looked across the calm blue water, his mind drifting into the past.


“I sensed your life force when you first arrived in the labyrinth. My omnipresence on Xenoscythe allows me to observe the planet on a spiritual level, yet I can't see memories.”


“Memories are all I have left.”


“I want to know about your childhood. What kind of world was it?”


“Our family was isolated, we holed up at the edge of what was left of civilization and made our stand. My parents believed in survival of the fittest. They pitted siblings and cousins against each other, hoping to make us strong.”


“Did it?”


“Of course not. The older ones abused the others, we learned to hide our strengths and disguise our abilities. If one stood out they were beaten down and humiliated in front of the others.”


“How were you chosen? The Overlords kill most of the survivors when they harvest a planet,” She reached over and drew her nails over his torso, causing him shivers and goose flesh.


“I don't know. I've always had a mental antenna for the stranger things. I started having dreams about a giant transport ship, larger than our solar system. We all knew the planet was dying. Most of the humans were like the ancient one Nero, fiddling as Rome burned. I began meditating and started a communion with the Overlords of Xenoscythe. I didn't know them as such then, as a young man, but I knew the end was near,” The Sabinarath tried to pry open a telepathic channel into Tokarov's mind. He felt the intrusion and walled off his subconscious, cracking a smile as she continued caressing him.


“You are strong. I know why they chose you. Your mind is a vise, your body is hard and fertile. These are the qualities a new race of beings will need,” Lora lay her head close to his neck, her hot breath pulsing on his neck, “You know I am not limited to one offspring.”


Tokarov tensed up, “What is this place? How do we fulfill our obligations and leave here?”


“We are in one of the many wombs of Xenoscythe. Others like us are bound to procreate, lest we all perish on this infernal rock.”


His eyes shifted around, the sun Aerialis glowed from cracks in the roof of the cave, glinting off the moisture beaded on white orchid flowers and orange moss dangling from the walls of rock. A tiny gold breasted finch flitted to a bare branch near them, trilling, cocking its head from side to side.


“I let you in. I could have let you perish at the claws of countless alien hordes,” Her purple eyes closed, brushing the skin on his neck with her eyelashes.


“But, you didn't and here we are,” Tokarov ran his fingers through her tangled curls. Looking over the soft light of the cavern gave her hair a hue like the heart of ancient redwood trees he had seen on vacation as a small child. Curling his arm around her shoulder, they pieced together like an organic puzzle, “Exactly how does an alien give birth?”


“We give ourselves up,” Lora Lei leaned up on her arm, staring at Tokarov.


“For how long? On Earth it takes a mother twenty or so years to create a viable offspring.”


“The Sabinarath gives itself up at birth. Females are no longer needed except for gestation. I can give you more than one if you wish.”


“What do you mean by gives itself up?”


“We perish. Our life force is passed on to the future generation.”


“What happens to me?” Tokarov's heart galloped. He suddenly felt the gravity of it all.


“You are left to rear the progeny. It is the order of things.”


“But, what about nursing, nurturing? What about teaching the basics of living?”


“You will be a good parent, I just know it,” She brushed her lips on his neck. The burn of her touch radiated down through his limbs and fingers. An aching fear gripped Tokarov.


His mind shot backward through his memories to his childhood, to the screaming and fighting. Endless crying spells often stretched into unfathomable depression that yawned for months at a time.


“What if I want out? What if I refuse the adjudication of the trials?”


Lora Lei reached her hand and cupped it around his neck, “Close your eyes and I will show you.”


Tokarov closed his eyes. He felt the strength in her grasp. Her fingers began to lengthen into clawed appendages, covered in iridescent turquoise scales. The grip strengthened and rotated his head towards her. Her mouth and nose merged, elongating into a massive beak-like protuberance lined with tiny razor like grooves. The beautiful purple irises enlarged into discs the size of dinner plates. Rows of feather like hair grew out of the now bird-like face. A forked tongue split its beak and danced across his face, tickling it. With the force of a steel trap, in his mind meld, it snapped off his head and he jerked back into reality.


“You're going to eat me?” He was incredulous.


“I must abort your seed and seek a new surrogate if you break the ruling of the Overlord's trial.”


“It doesn't exactly leave me many options does it?”


“No. There is one other contingency I must confess,” Her skin glowed and rippled from the reflections of the water undulating on the cave walls, “I must feed as the Sabinarath each week to grow our offspring.”


“I'm guessing the native reptiles and amphibians of this area won't do.”


“No. When the sun Aerialis is at its zenith each week, I must transform and feed, otherwise our hybrid offspring will die.”


“I'm guessing you will...”


“I will let you know. What do you think I am a monster?”

August 04, 2022 03:52

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8 comments

Michał Przywara
03:07 Aug 05, 2022

That's quite a development from the previous story. It's no longer a capturing of a people physically, but also metaphysically. The project these Overlords are running seems to be unfathomable in scope. And yet, despite his victories, Tokarov is no less free. He is bound either to the Sabinarath or to their offspring -- and who knows what form they might take. It doesn't really look like there's any freedom for him, that doesn't involve either dying or cooperating with the game, whatever form that takes. I like the idea of a labyrinth that...

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Kevin Marlow
03:19 Aug 05, 2022

As usual your observations present further questions. The raw narrative speaks to the flailing human condition. We are surrounded by billions of galaxies and potential worlds unexplored, yet we currently lack the technology to even crack the veneer of interstellar travel.

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Graham Kinross
13:11 Aug 07, 2022

“one who's rock” whose? “diety” deity? “ “Your, Him........How?” you’re? “ As the atmosphere thinned the radiation from space distorted their DNA, crippling their ability to thrive and produce viable generations,” this sounds too terrifyingly possible, especially as I read this with my baby asleep on top of me. The world needs to do more about climate change. A lot more. Is the fact that she’ll die and he has to raise the children a comment about how women usually do most of the work with kids or a reverse of a praying mantis scenario? Bit...

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Kevin Marlow
14:28 Aug 07, 2022

Thanks for the editorial notes, too late to make changes though. I only did one good edit session. It usually takes me more than that to catch all my mistakes. The Sabinarath dying is more a comment on how modern fathers have an ever more increasing role in child rearing. I think it's a good thing although the thought of doing it entirely alone is terrifying.

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Graham Kinross
18:03 Aug 07, 2022

Yeah, if my wife couldn’t feed the baby and I had to sort formula every time she woke up I would be losing my mind.

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Yves. ♙
08:24 Aug 07, 2022

I've never seen a sequel submitted to a prompt here before (though I now know from some browsing that it's more common than I'd thought) and I'm so glad to see some genre fiction especially! While I've only posted one sci-fi piece here (The Traveler Wife), I really do love speculative fiction.

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Kevin Marlow
14:33 Aug 07, 2022

Thanks for commenting. I love science fiction. I will read your story later.

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Yves. ♙
20:40 Aug 07, 2022

Thank you! Hope you enjoy it. I've been reading a lot on Reedsy recently and while I love realistic fiction I am also always happy to see some SFF to break it up: so, thank you!

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