frowned at a particularly loud shriek
from the Ascalabos. The damn lizards were out in numbers today, flying all over the sky of Amathus
rather than sunbathing alongside its towers as was usual at this hour of the day for the nocturnal predator
. Something—or rather someone—must have caught their attention.
She squinted in the glare of the sun. Yes, there was definitely magic
flaring over in the southern block of towers. And given its erratic staccato, the fight was not going well for the mage.
Good riddance. All of Amathus' were horrible slavers, and conceited and mannerless to boot. And the lizards' favourite food
, thanks to their rich magic.
Still, the little hunt going on would make her outing more difficult. And The Mistress
was not known for her patience and good nature; she wanted the mission done today, and it would have to be so, no matter the consequences.
Galáteia sighed and turned her eyes away from the Southern commotion and all the roars
to survey the rest of the city. Her post on the Mistress' own personal balcony at the top of her tower gave Galáteia a perfect view over Amathus. Very few mages were able to compete with the Mistress' power, and so very few towers reached the height of hers.
The magic of the wards of Amathus’ towers shone briefly as her gaze fell over each one in turn, tempting her to examine them in more details to find their flaws. But her target was not within such an easy range. No, the mage in question had been crazy enough to erect his tower right next to the Mages-Kings' mausoleum
, so as to "better study its protections and how to bypass them". The fact that he had not yet succumbed to the magic and traps regularly spat from the mausoleum was a proof of his competence—as was his survival of the numerous assassination attempts from the other Merchants-Mages.
But that was where Galáteia came in.
Something she would not be able to do from so far away.
She sighed again before shaking her wings and stretching them. Despite not having any memories of her previous life, she had certainly never had such cumbersome appendages at the time. Even after several months in her new life and artificial body
, they still felt foreign. And yet, as she stepped over the edge of the landing platform, instinct guided all of her moves and she soared through the air.
Drifting from one hot air current to another, she soon ended up overlooking the whole city, its towers now little pinpricks. Thankfully, focusing some magic into her eyes allowed her sight to sharpen and focus on what was going on below.
As expected, a swarm of lizards was out of their burrows
alongside the towers, and they were filling the area next to the entrance of the underground mausoleum, as they had been doing for a century. That was when the Council of Merchants-Mages
had finally managed to breach its first layer of protections, inadvertently freeing the creatures. At the time, their existence had been as near-mythical
as that of the Mages-Kings
who had created them millennia ago. Their sudden appearance had been a shock, and nobody had been able to stop their escape.
Their attachment to the area nearby had been the only saving grace for Amathus, as the lizards were true monsters
despite their arm-length size. Vicious
honing in on anyone flying nearby and silently stalking
them before pouncing and sinking their sharp finger-length teeth into their flesh.
They were also dangerously parasitic
; everywhere they settled, they used their acidic and stinky
saliva to dig into the façade of the towers, damaging their structural and magical integrity. To compound on the problem, they were resistant to magic, the stripes
on their back containing special magic that formed a shell
near impenetrable to external magic. Unsurprisingly, all attempts by the council of Merchants-Mages to drive them away had failed rather spectacularly—and with more than a few mages ending as a snack.
Galáteia loved the lizards. And not only because their favourite preys
were all the rich and powerful of Amathus. The Mages-Kings’ taste had been impeccable, and they had designed them as murderous armfuls of jewellery, all flutter of colourful
and green scales – that were not mere emerald-like
. The perfect accessories to have around.
She squinted through the glare of the sun-reflecting sauritis jewel the lizards had on top of their head. The pack
in the sky seemed to all have little horns
. Males then. The females had to have all stayed in their burrows and were undoubtedly observing what was going on, waiting to be offered their share. Galáteia’s attempting to fly close to a tower to avoid the lizards would not work.
What to do?
She scanned the tower that was her target and frowned. Its walls and wards were far too intact for the amount of lizards lodging among its stones. In fact… There was not even any window or opening throughout the lower two-thirds of the building; instead, those were human-made niches for the lizards. Very clever.
And their presence meant no need for guards and extra wards, allowing the owner of the tower to focus all of his effort on the upper levels. This would make Galáteia’s assault particularly complicated—pierce the stones and weaker wards while under the assault of magic-resistant murder machines, or go through a thoroughly warded and guarded window...
Unless—Her eyes fell to the ground. Of course. Everyone with magic tended to forget that some people still walked around everywhere and had to use the endless staircases inside the towers, the poor fools. Still, even if that bottom door would be less warded, Galáteia’s entering was sure to trigger an alarm, and the time for her to climb a few hundred floors, she was sure to be stopped.
But there was a solution to that too.
Without further thought, Galáteia activated a shield over her skin, folded her wings, and let herself plunged to the ground.
The 1 km-high fall was vertiginous, but her magic enhanced speed brought her to the ground in a mere 15 seconds. She burst straight through the swarm of lizards, many crashing against her shield, allowing her to grasp one by the neck. When she threw her wings opened, she could only slow down her own crash against the wards of the bottom door of the tower. But she thrust the lizard in front of her, and it hit them first. They flickered under the shock, her speed carrying her through.
Rather than scramble to stop her flight, Galáteia threw the lizard away, refolded her wings, and rolled all over the ground. She unsheathed her dagger in the same move, using her momentum to reach the first guard and slice his throat. Before the half dozen other soldiers had time to react properly, they were also all dead. Galáteia finally stopped and stood back to take stock of the situation.
The room was empty save for the corpses. No alarm had sounded through the wards, Galáteia having successfully tricked them into thinking she had been an overzealous lizard.
She sneered. What a poor security. She had expected it to be easy, but to such a point…
One of the corpses shuddered and she honed on it, dagger raised and ready, before snorting. The lizard she had released earlier had ended up buried under the body and was struggling to push its way out. When it emerged, it shook its head and wings and emitted a short, annoyed shriek.
Galáteia stepped forwards and reached to grab it again, but the lizard suddenly froze and she instinctively imitated him. The creature slowly turned its head towards her and their gaze met. The moment did not last long, however, before it showed its teeth again. Her hand immediately closed around its neck and it went limb again. She brought it to her face to shake it like a broken toy, but the damn thing started to purr
She frowned and sheathed her dagger to have her hand free to poke it. Far from getting angry, it leaned into her touch.
Seems like there might be some truth in the Mistress’ claims of having fully breached the Mages-Kings’ mausoleum to steal their soul jars
and using one to animate Galáteia’s body. For whose blood but theirs and the magic it carried could have that effect on their creations?
She exhaled slowly. There was a lot she did not know about Amathus and the society in which she had been thrust, but the legendary Mages-Kings and the past glorious days were such a hot topic, even a slave like her had heard snatches of conversation. Speculations were rife about the bond
that had linked the lizards to the royal family, transforming them into tamed
pet under their hands, used as mere messengers
. About whether the magic that had birthed and controlled them was still present or had become too corrupted after millennia of imprisonment in the mausoleum of their creators. And about whether there was any possibility of seizing it and harnessing them as a weapon.
Cautiously, Galáteia let go of the creature. Its wings immediately fluttered to allow it to hover in front of her before it moved to land on her shoulders, its claws piercing her shoulders none too gently
. She drew her dagger again and smiled viciously as she turned towards the staircase leading to the upper levels of the tower and the Merchant-Mage it was sheltering.
Looks like she
would be the one benefitting from it. And that mage was only going to be the first of the council.
Word prompts used to write this article: 1. Wings, 2. Stripes, 3. Horn, 4. Shell, 5. Colorful, 6. Nocturnal, 7. Mythical, 8. Prey, 9. Monstrous, 10. Danger, 11. Purr, 12. Roar, 13. Shriek, 14. Howl, 15. Tamed, 16. Pack, 17. Burrow, 18. Bond, 19. Stinky, 20. Gentle, 21. Messenger, 22. Food, 23. Vicious, 24. Silent, 25. Parasite, 26. Predator, 27. Stalk. Inspiration:
In Roman and Greek mythology, the Propoetides were the people living on Cyprus (Kýpros). One of their city was Amathus, and this is where Pygmalion created Galáteia, a sculpture that came alive. This story is my inspiration for this world.
Ascalabos comes from a Greek and Roman legend: When Demeter was wandering over Greece, looking for her abducted daughter Persephone, she met a woman, Misme, and her son, Ascalabos. Misme offered Demeter water, but Ascalabos made fun of the goddess for drinking so much so quickly. In revenge, Demeter changed him into a gecko.
Sauritis is a precious stone that was said by the Romans to be found in the stomach of green lizards that were split opened with a reed.
Lizard symbolism: Roman and many other people used lizards as symbol for immortality because of their regeneration abilities. Lizards are also linked to the sun gods because of their sunbathing. In honour of that, I made them guard the souls of the Mages-Kings and love sunbathing.
Galáteia is able to reach a speed of 0.1km/sec when diving, similar to eagles.
This was such a good article. Galáteia as an enslaved angel (maybe an angel of death as an assassin), the guarding lizards (I really love the real-world-references in the comments) and how it is described... A good prose and I want to know how the story continues. But I assume that it is not going too well for the Merchant-Mage :D
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
Thanks! I'm thinking that I might adapt this scene and reuse it as the introduction scene of the novella I'm going to write at some point, so the story will definitely continue <3 I was going to kill the mage off screen, but I'm suddenly wondering if I should not make this mage the one that's going to cause problem for Galáteia and trigger the plot... I need to do some more thinking about the plot before I decide XD Meanwhile, suspense!
I would love to hear more about the story and Galáteia .... the suspense is killing me! Joke aside: can't wait to see how you expand it :)
THE LIZARDS ARE SO CUTE! And also very deadly. Deadly cute.
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
Thanks <3 The deadliness only makes them more cute!
This isbsuch a great article! So detailed!
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
Great work! I really like how you wove the details of the lizards into the narrative. They sound incredibly terrifying as well as dangerous and beautiful. The foreshadowing (is that what it is?) about Galateia being a royal was great. The mage she's about to kill has no idea what's coming for him with both Galateia and the lizard about to kill him...
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
Thanks :D I didn't think about having Galáteia' new friend staying with her, but I love the idea of them being an assassin duo now XD
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
Dun dun duuuuuun. I kind of love the lizards, even if they are a little bit scary.
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
Thanks :D The teeth and grumpy experession are obviously part of the charm :p