Excerpt from The Esther Experiment
I motioned the warriors forward.
They fanned out on their mounts, forming an arc beneath the tree line. To the right, my always present second in command, Tin, whistled; the shrill sound signaling additional forces on the far side of the meadow.
The majority of the captives had been fleeing that direction and came to an abrupt stop, huddling together as the warriors created a second border blocking their retreat. I noted, with an odd sense of pride and a hint of pleasure, that my pixie girl and her group were moving toward us.
Bravery was valued above all else on Donaria. Females, although honored for their beauty and artistic talents, were also well-trained in weaponry and magic. The primary difference between our planet and Earth was the use of magic and Eden-like landscape we had managed to preserve.
Humans had corrupted their planet, destroying its original beauty and resources. Here we’d learned to harness energy, like electricity, through science and magic. If only we could forgo violence and the need to force our will on neighboring planets. Yet the truth remained. Despite our appreciation of nature, we embraced magic-enhanced technology powerful enough to destroy the universe with, as humans would say, the flip of switch.
Remembering my purpose, I pushed thoughts of inner galactic destruction away and focused on our new guests. A young male approached, his shoulders squared and his chest out. He wasn’t the hero type; better suited to science and numbers if my perception was correct.
“Greetings,” he said, reminding me of the silly cartoons humans watched about aliens. The greeting was typically followed by: We come in peace.
I couldn't make that promise.
Speaking Donarian, I ordered my unit to move in closer. I didn't have to ask twice. They were eager to menace the confused captives.
The screams and frightened cries that followed provided assurance that my earlier laughter hadn't softened our first impression.
“Why are we here?” the want-to-play-hero boy demanded.
Offended by his tone, one of my comrades shoved him to the ground, barring his teeth. The boy scrambled backward like a crab and collapsed on the grass. I couldn't help thinking that his choice to stay on the ground would save his life.
More screams. Screams that should have been music to my ears instead fueled my disgust. Our captives' increasing terror, proved the roundup was going according to protocol. It was considered the unofficial opening ceremony of the Crownscape Challenge.
My brother grinned. “Thirsty?” He slapped my back, nudging me forward.
I hesitated just long enough for his expression to turn grim, reminding me of my duty.
Dreading what came next, I raised my hand and let the red sash I’d been gripping flutter to the ground.
Each warrior seized a nearby male and twisted his neck to the side. They waited for me, fangs extended in anticipation.
Adrenalin flooded horror shot through me. I’d never taken blood from any creature unwilling to give it, and never with violence. If I failed this test, I could expect far worse than panicked prisoners.
Sliding off my chartigue, I grabbed the first boy I could reach. Closing my eyes, I let my thirst take over. The screaming and sobs faded, sounding faraway now. The thumping of a healthy young heart pumping mouthwatering blood replaced all other noise leaving me breathless.
Before I could change my mind, I pieced his throat, letting my fangs slide into the succulent vein. I sucked deeply.
With the rush of coppery heaven shooting into my mouth, came images from my victim’s life. His name was Imad. He came from a county in the
Middle East, on planet
Earth. He had a family of which he was the middle son. His mother was dying
from cancer and his father worked long hours. Imad was preparing for college.
He wanted to be a doctor. His first and only love had agreed to marry him.
Lost in blood lust, I drank with gusto, feasting on his memories, his spirit, and the precious life-sustaining liquid his body offered. I stopped only after his heart skidded, shuddered, and slowed to a complete halt.
I let his body slide to the ground, his life’s essence gone … yet not. His memories, gifts and talents remained, inside me ― tucked away in some dark corner of my mind, waiting until I needed to access them.
Lifting my head, I watched as more bodies slumped to the ground, their once warm bodies turned into empty husks. The flowers, so beautiful to behold, lowered their faces and sprayed a shimmering mist on the fallen. In a matter of seconds their lifeless forms were no more.
It was then I saw her eyes. Green. Sorrowful. Hateful.
I’d made one enemy for certain. The little pixie I found so desirable now found me revolting. I didn’t blame her.
Tearing my gaze from hers, I realized she wouldn't be fighting for my favor in the days ahead. She’d be hoping for my failure.
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