Episode 16:  Sinister Within

Elden Dena wadded a small strip of linen and stuffed it in Noshee’s mouth. Blood quickly soaked it. Noshee wasn’t sure pulling out the damaged tooth was the smartest thing. But it was done. It'll grow back.

Warlord Rorkai’s breathing seemed calm and relaxed. He was nervous, waiting to see if Noshee would give him away.

When Rorkai let Noshee go from the infirmary, Noshee had little chance of finding the one Harton who had a rare sikya spider bite. That Harton would likely be the one who not only killed his mistress, but killed the soldier. Murders that Noshee was accused of. And that wasn’t the end of it. He was accused of neglect, allowing Genaian researchers be devoured by Graywolf and his wolf pack.

And the only one who knew the truth was Genai’s Warlord. But Noshee couldn’t betray Rorkai’s trust. Doing so would give the Eldens reason to unseat him.

So he sat and waited to be condemned. Noshee wrung the linen. Blood and saliva streamed down the slimy rock floor of the detention cave. Torches lit the dark hallway beyond the iron door. Would his wife and daughter ever know the truth? That Noshee was not a murderer?

“I’m sorry, Noshee,” Dena said. “As the senior Elden of this province, I have no choice but to have you stand trial for the crimes you’ve been charged with. We’ll start in three days. All of your injuries will be healed by then.”

Rorkai's long hair spilled over his face. He finger-combed it back and approached the Elden. “I suggest we move the researcher to the Core. Guardians will be posted. Give him the opportunity to put together his case.”

“Very well, my Warlord,” she said. She bowed to the commander.

Rorkai placed his palm over his heart and bowed back as she squeezed her wings through the opened door. The Warlord unlocked the iron shackles. Noshee rubbed his wrists and ankles.

Over the next three days, his wounds healed completely. Tiny scars left by the barbed wire that bound his wings were the only things left of the nightmarish ordeal. The Core, the capital of the province, was buzzing. Angry families of the victims threatened Noshee. Threatened to tear him apart. He wasn’t sure he’d make it out alive even if he was found innocent.

Shop keepers and provincial citizens all around chatted about their infamous guest. All were sure he was guilty.

He’d requested pamphlets about sikya spiders. They didn’t arrive until the third day. Catacomb keepers were reluctant to help a murderer. But Rorkai forced them to.

Noshee also requested for the guard of his detention cave to be present at the trial. He was the only one who saw the sikya spider bite on Chusee, Noshee’s superior. She was responsible for the catacomb murders. Noshee didn’t know how she got in, or why she was there. But her behavior has been suspect since she forced the assignment on Noshee. To research why Graywolf and his pack has been attacking Genaian citizens. Something he still doesn't know the answer to.

Thousands of Hartons flew in and out of the Core. With his keen eyesight, Noshee saw Rorkai run battle drills over the eastern border. Waves of warriors crashed above the canopy like the beaches of Noshee’s home province. It was an eternity since he’s seen his wife. His baby daughter must be so big now. He smiled, remembering her cute laugh.

Outside his door, words were exchanged between one of the guardians, and her.

The guardian opened the door. A gust of wind blew the pamphlets to the floor. She entered.

Noshee palmed his heart and bowed.

Chusee didn’t return the gesture. She strolled along the table.

He gathered the pamphlets and placed them back on the table.

Her left wing dragged as it did before, revealing her left shoulder. The bite had healed, disappeared. A smirk touched her lips.

“What do you want?” Noshee said.

“Notice anything?”

“Not really. Just a fishy stench permeating this room.”

She laughed. “Your hero, Rorkai, didn’t bathe you?”

“He knows the truth.”

“Does he?” She chuckled. “You have no idea what’s going on. If you did, you’d accept the crimes you’ve committed. For the safety of your wife.”

“My wife is a Legionnaire. She fears nothing.”

“Oh. Believe me. If she knew the truth, she’d tuck her wings and spread her legs for a real man.”

“Interesting. Who are you working for?”

The corners of her mouth dropped.

Noshee smiled.

Choose your poison: Noshee has Chusee. But he knows she won't reveal who's behind all of the murders. Should he hope the trial ends with his innocence or threaten her with physical harm?

60% of the readers chose to wait for the trial.