Sabine of the Ten Rings: Birds Not of a Feather, Part Three

To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below. *** Sabine was trapped between the stink of the metal monstrosity below and the creaking of Jas’s bed above. With palms open

To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below.

***

Sabine was trapped between the stink of the metal monstrosity below and the creaking of Jas’s bed above. With palms open tight against the wall and sweat dripping from her forehead, the implications of the last day crept into Sabine’s psyche.

“He—he told me to jump down here this morning,” she said. “The big fat arse was trying to grind me into sausage!”

That’s a ridiculous ploy, Dahkhal said. Manflesh is tough enough on a fine, fatty creature. A runt like you would be too lean.

Sabine found depths deeper still to feel disgust. “Why? Have you eaten people before?”

What? Of course I haven’t. Weren’t you paying attention? Your kind isn’t nearly tender enough. But remember that time I hired Benedict the Brilliant Bunyip? He could chew the meat from a man’s fingers and do taxes, all at the same time—

The mercenary shut her eyes tight. “Shut up,” she hissed through her teeth.

But when Dahkhal went silent, she was left alone with the squeaks of Jas’s bed and the occasional, “Lo! Lo! Hark!” of her would-be meat grinder.

With trepidation and iron strain on her splayed legs, Sabine slid her right hand upward. The shaft was worn rusted and uneven, but with some struggle she found purchase. With the other hand she pulled herself up a tiny inch higher, then managed to do the same with each leg, one after the other. She’d fallen perhaps five feet down the trapdoor, and the journey back up would be agonizingly slow. And even when she emerged from the shaft, Jas of Great Mass was waiting for her, and she’d have a trespassing charge on top of everything else.

Then, she reminded herself, the big man had been ready to trick her down the chute of doom. A stab in his bloated gut was the least he deserved.

Sabine dug her palm into a rough bit of wall and had to swallow a shout. With a wince, she jerked her hand away and shook it with pain.

Watch what you’re grabbing at, Dahkhal said.

The yell she’d forced down bubbled back up. “And how am I supposed to do that? It’s pitch black in here!”

You’ll drop yourself right into the killing machine if you don’t wise up, give yourself time to adjust to the darkness.

Just to spite him, Sabine climbed faster. As if to emulate her efforts, the squeaks and moans from the room above increased in speed and pitch. Motivated by anger and revulsion, Sabine redoubled her efforts and bit back another shout when she cut her clammy palm.

Eck, your grip is tenuous enough as it is. Would you just focus—

Jas cried, “Forsooth, forsooth!”

Sabine couldn’t concentrate, of course. In the dank and the dark, with the squeals and echoes above, focus was impossible. She would just have to strain her way upward, clean or sloppy, inch by bloody inch.

“Gramercy —Gramercy—HUZZAH!”

Jas’s shout of climactic jubilation echoed down the shaft. Sabine, with a shudder of abhorrence, missed her next handhold and sliced open her left ring finger. Dahkhal opened his mental mouth to chastise her, but as she shook her hand with pain, the blood loosened the ring’s grip on her finger. Harrow’s wedding band slipped off and carried Dahkhal down into the darkness.

The jellified warlock cried out “Ow, ow, ow!” as the ring clanged against the Organizer below.

Sabine cast a look into the black below. “Oh Gods, are you all right?”

I’m immortal, so it’s worse than you can imagine.

Above, the bed’s creaking came to a sudden stop. Jas’s interloper asked, “Eh? Did you hear something?”

There was a pause, then the butcher said, “I dunno. Some bloke brought in some parrot-hogs earlier, probably one of them squealing outside. Lemme go check.”

Sabine swallowed another shout. First he’d called her a badger, now apparently she was a parrot-hog, whatever that was. With agonized determination, she continued to climb. There was a score to settle with Jas and Dahkhal to fish out of the machine.

“Oh damn, my wife’s come home early,” Jas said.

“Your wife?” His companion’s voice began with confusion, then settled into sultriness. “How would she feel about a little two on one?”

“Oh you wouldn’t like that,” Jas said. “We better hide you, she’s a real harpy.”

The dam that held back Sabine’s rage and disdain broke in that instant. “He used the same wretched joke on me!” With one hand tight against the wall, she pounded the other. “And he’s going to trick you into jumping into a damned meat grinder! What ho, you hoe, run for your life!”

Again the bedroom went silent for a few seconds. Then the interloper called down, “Hey, Miss Parrot-hog, you wanna come up here? We can do the meat grinding together. The big man looks like he’s into it. He’s come over here to—”

Her words were cut off by a fast-approaching scream. A body slammed into Sabine, cost her the tenuous grip she had against the walls, the two plummeted downward, and crashed onto the floor of the cold, rusted machine.

“Ugh, what?” Jas’s escort sat up from atop Sabine and blinked her eyes to the darkness. “Hardly feels like an appropriate place for debauchery.”

“It’s not that kind of pit,” Sabine said. “I told you, meat grinder!”

“I’m sure he’ll be back down here in a second—”

“Lenore.” Jas’s boisterous voice carried down into the machine. “You’re home early.”

“I caught a whole pack of voles in one swoop,” the harpy said. “How was your evening?”

“Fine, just fine,” Jas said. “Someone just brought in a few more of those noisy parrot-hogs, dear. Will you give me a hand with the Organizer? Gonna have some fine shipments of carrion plates going out tomorrow.”

For the Goddess’s sake, girl, I’m right here. Grab me before I’m turned into charcuterie!

 “I can’t see you.” Sabine fumbled her hands along the floor. “I can’t sense direction when you’re talking inside of my head.”

“Noisy ones today, aren’t they, love?” Lenore said.

“Yes indeed,” Jas said. “Let’s give them something to squeal about.”

The metal floor lurched under Sabine and the other woman. Tiny glimmers pierced the darkness just above the Organizer. Only with squinted eyes did the mercenary realize the glints were dozens of thin blades sliding out from overhead and swinging downward like guillotines.

“Wait what?” The first of genuine fear crept into the other woman’s voice. “This is getting too kinky, even for me.”

Sabine drew her sword from its sheath and stepped in front. “Stand back.” She shut her eyes to focus in the moment before one of the blades came down. Dahkhal’s agonized screams filled her mind. “Us or this thing, something’s about to get minced.”

To Be Continued…

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