Soul of the Forgotten

scroll down for excerpt                 Book 10 in the Heart & Soul series

***

Imprisoned and forgotten, the Reeka warrior is finally freed into the
care of Daamen traders. She needs to learn to live again, and Borga is
more than happy to teach her.

But past shadows haunt her…someone wants her dead. Treachery, murder, and greed…and the key to it all…the Forgotten Warrior.

 

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**

Walcot looked at the photo image. “This is definitely Prisoner nine four eight, but I never realized she was a Reeka.”

Simon frowned down at him. “What of your records? Surely you have them here?”

Handing the photo image back to Simon, Walcot shook his head. “All I know is that she came here at nine years of age with no papers, having been sold previously. It is not unusual for child slaves, be they outlaws or not, to have no records.”

“No records?” Borga growled. “What of their branding?”

Walcot eyed him warily. “Oh, they’re branded as outlaws, but that is all.”

Borga felt his gorge rise at the thought of children being branded.

Simon scowled. “Never mind that now. You have to send all paperwork on her to the Intergalactic Peace Ship, for perusal. Meanwhile, you have the release order, Walcot. Bring her to us.”

“With pleasure.” Walcot shrugged. “But I warn you that you’ll have your hands full. The woman is quite insane at times.”

A dangerous look crossed the traders’ faces, making Walcot take an involuntary step backwards.

“You are never to call her insane again, do you understand?” Borga took a threatening step forward, his big fists clenched. “She is a Reeka, and as such, a friend of the Daamen.”

Hastily, Walcot nodded. It was plain to see that he wanted to be rid of these giants quickly. He gestured to the guard at the door. “Fetch prisoner nine four eight.”

Prisoner nine four eight. It left a bitter taste in Borga’s mouth. “Her name is Liane.”

“Prisoners have numbers here, not names,” Walcot replied. Moving to the window, he pointed down into the yard below them. “If you look out there, you can see her.”

Borga and Simon strode over to the window and looked down into the grey yard. A mass of humanity in prison grey overalls wielded hammers, picks and crowbars, while others wandered aimlessly.

Were the wanderers insane?

Then Borga saw her. A tall wench, her stance straight and alert. She was looking towards someone else. Suddenly, as though sensing she was being watched, she looked up at the office.

Too far away to see her eye colour, he nevertheless felt the direct regard. Her face was unreadable. For several seconds her gaze flitted between him and Simon, before coming back to rest upon his face.

Just as suddenly she turned away, and he followed her gaze to see a guard kick a man. Liane turned away, stopped, and closed her eyes.

“Shit!” Walcot swore.

“What’s wrong?” Simon queried. “You mean that bastard of a guard kicking that prisoner?”

“No, I mean nine four eight!” Walcot reached for the alarm button.

Bewildered, Simon and Borga looked at each other, then down into the prison yard.

Borga’s mouth went dry.

Liane had a crowbar and had attacked the guard, knocking his laser away and crashing the crowbar across his forearms.

Behind her the prisoners wielded their hammers, picks and bars. From every direction, guards poured out into the yard.

Borga fastened his eyes on Liane. “You have to get her out of there, Walcot! Now!”

“Soon,” Walcot said grimly. “Once a riot starts, all you can do is wait until it’s over.”

Borga ran to the door, only to find it locked. He slammed his shoulder against it, but the solid steel didn’t give.

“It’s no use trying to get out,” Walcot informed him. “Security systems lock all offices. The windows are breakage proof.”

“Where’s the control to open the doors?” Simon demanded.

Walcot shook his head. “It’s on a timer, for security purposes. All we can do is wait. Don’t worry, the riot won’t be long.”

Frustrated, Borga strode back to the window to stare out at the fighting below him.

It wasn’t hard to spot Liane. At the front of the surging prisoners, she fought savagely, using the crowbar to disarm and hit the guards.

She didn’t fight with the skill that Borga and Simon were accustomed to seeing of the Reeka warrior women. Instead, she used brute strength, fighting her way through, deep into the guards, splitting their forces and weakening their defences.

Skill nay, intelligence aye. But no amount of strength or intelligence could win over stun guns and lasers.

The battle was short and savage. Liane fought with the fury of a cornered animal, and lasted longer than many others against the brutal guards and their superior weapons. But her luck couldn’t hold out. Surrounded by guards, she was stunned several times and finally collapsed to the ground.

It wasn’t long before the last of the prisoners lay stunned or dead, the weaker ones fleeing to the far side of the yard.

Borga saw that Liane was one of the first to be dragged away, and fear filled him. “Where are they taking her?”

“To her normal place,” Walcot replied calmly.

Frustrated, Borga glared at him. “When do these bloody security locks open?”

Walcot turned from the window. “Patience, Daamen. It will activate shortly, for the sensors will pick up that the fight is over.”

Clenching his jaw, Borga looked back out of the window to watch the devastation below him. He noticed that the prisoner Liane had tried to rescue was being tossed carelessly onto a small pile of broken bodies, and he wondered if the prisoner had been her friend. If so, he was dead. He’d have to tell her, or mayhap she already guessed.

Impatiently, he shifted his weight to his other foot. He wanted to be out of this accursed, dreary place with its hopeless souls. He caught the reflection of Simon’s grim visage in the window, and knew he felt the same.

“Do you have men to help transfer prisoner nine four eight to your ship?” Walcot broke the tense silence.

Simon folded his arms. “Aye. Several of my crew wait near the entrance. Why? Do you expect further trouble with Liane?” He emphasized her name deliberately.

Walcot gave a short, hard bark of unamused laughter. “These episodes do not, how shall we say, agree with her. She can be hard to handle.”

Anger flickered through Borga. “Exactly what do you mean?”

“You’ll find out.” Walcot straightened as the door slid open. “Collect your men on the way to the solitary cells, Daamen. You’ll need them.”

The traders followed him out of the office, and down the corridor to the elevator that transported them down to ground level. The entrance to the prison was directly opposite the elevator, and Heddam and Findel awaited them, curiosity and a touch of alarm on their faces.

Findel stepped forward. “We heard the riot from here, but the guards assured us that you were safe.”

“Aye.” Heddam scowled at a nearby guard, who stood his ground warily. “They wouldn’t let us seek you out.”

Simon nodded. “The riot was quickly quelled.”

Findel glanced past him. “Where’s the lass?”

Walking past the giant traders, Walcot answered, “Prisoner nine four eight is on her way to solitary confinement, but trust me, the guards will not have her there yet.”

“The cells are that far away?” Uneasily, Heddam looked around at the dreary, grey, stone walls.

“Not really. You’ll see what I mean.” Walcot opened a door to show steps leading down into the darkness beneath the earth.

Sputtering torches lit the way. It was bleak and dark, like a gaping hole into hell, from which the screams and shouts from the imprisoned in the dark depths echoed. The cackle and whine of the insane interspersed the hopeless sobs and cries.

But it wasn’t the screams that made the icicles run down the traders’ backs. It was the howling, that of a trapped, tortured animal. Desperate. Panicked. Damned.

“Bloody hell.” Findel swallowed. “What’s that?”

Walcot smiled grimly. “Can you not guess, Daamen?”

After several seconds, Borga swore savagely. “Lead us to her, damn you, Walcot! Now!”

Walcot’s face hardened, but he turned and led the way down the steps, forced to hurry with the giant traders on his heels.

The steps stopped in a level passage that twisted and turned, stone cells with iron doors along it at intervals. From behind the doors came the sound of screams, silence and sobbing. The stench of excrement, blood and sour bodies filled the air, and Borga had to clench his teeth against the offensive odours.

He forgot the odours when they rounded a corner to show a well-lit passage.

“There she is,” Walcot said calmly.

Borga’s eyes widened in shock at the sight before him. His appalled friends stared.

A tall figure with a bag pulled over her head struggled against the chains that bound her. The four chains were held by four struggling, cursing guards.

The screams were muffled now, but still unmistakable. Wild. Feral. Desperate.

~ * ~

The iron manacles had snapped tight around her wrists, and the chains were pulled taut in the holds of two guards. Even stunned, they didn’t trust her. Experience had proven that prisoner nine four eight recovered quickly, and was wild and savage when she did so.

She didn’t disappoint them now, but never had she fought so savagely, so furiously. She clawed, punched and kicked out. A bag was pulled over her head and jerked tight around her neck. A neck collar had been snapped about her throat from which two chains fell. The chains were held in the clasps of two more guards.

With the chains they tried to control her, dragging her deeper into the bowels of the earth.

Blood spattered to the floor from the cut skin on her wrists, while several rivulets of crimson stained the plain, round neckline of her overalls.

No! No, they aren’t going to put me in the dark again! Buried alive in a chilly grave of a cell, away from the light!

Jerking and pulling on the chains that bound her, Liane could feel herself being dragged further down, closer to the pit and darkness.

Simply breathing was hard, the bag cutting off at least half of her oxygen. Her chest heaved, her heart pounding so hard she thought it would surely burst, splitting her chest wide open to pump her miserable, desolate life away on the floor of this hell hole.

And she wanted it to happen. She wanted to end the torment. She wanted to hurt and enrage the guards enough that they would lose control and beat her to death. Kill her.

She didn’t hear the deeper curses, or the heavy thud of boots on the stone floor. Only the sudden slackening of the chains did she feel, enough so that when she pulled, she was taken unawares. Stumbling back against the wall, she fell jarringly to one knee.

But in a powerful, desperate bid for freedom, she pushed herself up, taking advantage of the looseness to hurtle forward.

Only to come to a crashing halt as she hit something bigger than she was, something hard and unyielding.

Two hands grabbed her upper arms, a voice taking urgently. “Steady, lass. Easy. ’Tis all right.”

Imprisoning hands that tried to stop her flight for freedom. She lashed out with her foot, roaring out her despair when she missed. Twisting desperately in the strong grip, she felt herself pushed back against the stone wall by a heavy body. He pressed into her, and he was so big and heavy it felt as though whoever it was could easily push her through the stone wall into the cell beyond it. Her wildly clawing hands were grabbed and forced above her head in a firm grip that, though not cruel, had a steely strength.

“Findel, help me get this bloody bag off her head,” Simon ordered, coming to stand beside Borga.

Using his weight to pin the wench to the wall, Borga watched Findel and Simon untie the strips at the base of the wench’s neck before jerking the bag off.

He found himself gazing into pale violet eyes that burned wildly, and his heart sank. Was Liane insane? Had she gone mad, after all, while incarcerated in this man-made hell?

Walcot made sure he stood well back. “Now you know why I asked if you had men to help transfer her to your ship, Daamens. I’d advise keeping her in chains.”

As Borga looked at the collar encircling her slender throat, and at the rivulets of blood that trickled over it, pity rose up in him. “Have the neck collar removed.”

“That’s not wise.” Walcot frowned. “She’ll be harder to control.”

Borga gazed into the wench’s face. Scared eyes stared back at him, a desperate savageness in their unfathomable depths, and he could feel her straining against him. “Liane.” He said her name softly, hoping for a spark of recognition in her eyes. “Liane, I’ve come to take you home.”

She didn’t hear him; panic still filling her, making the blood pound in her ears, in her veins, in her very throat. She looked to the side, a frantic glance up the passage towards the steps.

Towards the light.

“Liane, do you hear me? You’re to be free, lass. Listen to me. Liane.”

**

Copyright Angela Verdenius