"Jewelry is sacred to me so I’m taking it all!” I suggested.
10. Jewels of Mars
by Erin Halfelven
I put on the bracelets and anklets I had taken off our captive while the drama wound down. It felt so good—and having the gems close to my skin gave me a warm, comfy feeling. I decided the stones must be jade. They had about that color and went so nicely with my pale copper skin.
Seejay was watching everything while picking up discarded weapons. “This rifle is a repeater,” he observed. Then mentioned to Hote. “Pinkstuff’s tail is going to be a problem, she could undo her bonds with it. Puss, how do we tie her up so she can’t use her tail?”
“Can you bring her here?” I said. Mostly, I wanted to get more jewelry off her.
“Don’t give me to your girl-toy,” said Pinkstuff. “She’s cruel and evil! She wants to torture me! She wants the greenie to eat me!”
“I do not!” I protested. “Not really. Seejay, please order me to not mistreat the prisoner,” I said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Seejay gave me the order. “Don’t torture the prisoner unnecessarily but make sure she can’t use her tail to get free. And don’t suggest that Trike bite or taste her anymore.” He grinned and winked at me.
“I need to take all her jewelry off,” I said. The guys laughed at that. I wasn’t sure why, so I giggled. I had to stifle a squeal of anticipation as Trike dumped her right in front of me. The gold, the jade, oh, my precious! I had it bad.
“My tail,” she whimpered, trying to pull herself away from me with her arms and legs tied behind her. “Tails are sacred to my people, if I lost my tail I’d never be able to go home to my tribe.” While she spoke, our tails began circling one another, like two hostile cats.
“Oh, boo hoo,” I said. “Listen to the sound of the smallest flicha on Mars playing a sad song just for you.” A flicha is what came out when I tried to say violin in Red Martian. “Jewelry is sacred to me, so I’m taking it all. I’d never be able to go back to Nordstrom’s without all my gems, so stuff your sob story.”
The guys overheard this and almost busted a gut laughing. So of course, I had to endure a giggle storm, too. I probably sounded like a deranged super-villainess. This confused and terrified our prisoner, and her weeping and babbling finally brought me out of my hilarity.
“You’re all insane,” she wailed. “I’m captured by maniacs! I’m going to die while you all laugh at me!”
Trike got himself under control first and stopped laughing. He did something I had never seen him do before, he went down on two pair of legs, becoming more or less a Martian centaur. This put his height to the top of his head at only a couple feet taller than me instead of more than twice as tall.
“You’re right,” he said to Pinkstuff. “We’re crazy. We think we’re on Mars. How crazy is that?”
Okay. That didn’t actually help her calm down all that much. She lay there on her stomach, tied hand and foot and wept great shuddering sobs in between incoherent babblings about being dismembered and eaten.
Trike sat down in front of her, another thing I’d never seen him do, his back legs sitting like a dog while his front legs sort of knelt. He tried to calm her down with soft words but she was having none of that, and after one particular shriek she suddenly went quiet.
Seejay and Hote finally stopped laughing when they realized that Pinkstuff had passed out from hyperventilating, she was so scared. I actually felt sorry for her. Her friends and comrades all lay dead around us, and we were laughing at her. Jeez. I would have been a basket case.
She might have stolen my jewelry but I was dead at the time and…. You know what, that is still really complicated to even think about.
* * *
We cut her legs loose but left hobbles around her knees and ankles. Then I threaded her tail up through the bindings on her wrists and elbows, Bending her tail into a loop, I fastened that last finger-like few inches to the overlap using the silver wire from one of the pieces of jewelry I didn’t intend to claim.
That way, she couldn’t immediately pull her tail out of the other bindings or use her finger to loosen them. She could probably get the silver wire off eventually and be dangerous, but we could watch her for that. Besides, the silver wire stuff was hers.
In fact, I was going to let her keep all the silver pieces with their little black jewels. They really clashed with the gold and green motif of the jewelry I thought of as mine. One of the other things that had changed about me in this world, I seemed to have developed—or came equipped with in this body—a fashion sense. Who knew?
She came to while I was doing this and glared at me, panting and with the whites of her eyes showing. We really should have put a paper bag over her head for the hyperventilation, but she probably would have taken that the wrong way. Besides, we didn’t have any paper bags. I didn’t mention this thought to the guys for fear of setting off laughter again, but I giggled to myself about it.
After recovering from their conniptions, Seejay and Hote took over sorting and cataloging our loot while Trike served as lookout. I really didn’t participate in either of those activities. I’d been told to stay out of the way, so I didn’t go into the room where Hote and Seejay were working, and with his full height and nearly 360° vision, Trike didn’t really need my help keeping watch.
One thing I did to maybe encourage our captive to think we would let her live was to ask her name. “What is your name and what did the humans call you, if those things are different?” I asked her while working on tying her tail in a knot.
“Djelora Panep is my tribe name, but the humans called me Dolores,” she said.
The Martian word for human actually meant “de-tailed,” a dishonorable fate for a Martian, perhaps, but it made me think of getting my car washed at the dealership.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m Yonee, but Seejay, that’s the big human, calls me Puss. And I think we’re going to call you Dolly. Or at least I am. It’s friendlier.”
She snorted but didn’t protest and did seem to be calmer after getting a name. “My shoulders hurt,” she complained. I ignored that.
Dolly and I stayed by the wall just outside of the room while I took jewelry off her and put it on me. Bracelets, armlets, anklets, rings on fingers and toes, that thigh band and a similar armband. Necklaces, I took three and left her two silver ones. One of the gold ones I took was long enough to go around my neck twice and still hang down almost to my navel.
I felt like a kid at Christmas, and that would weird me out if I thought about it too much. Getting excited about jewelry? Was I becoming that girly?
Apparently. Like, it was hard to suppress my glee when I discovered more items in the pouches hidden in her belt. Three of them resembled the thigh-band and armband I had already taken off her, gold network with large green stones I suspected were more jade. The rest was small stuff that resembled earrings and such.
And some of the gems in the jewelry had stored magic in them. Most of that was just manastore, what were called power stones in one of the games we used to play: energy for doing magic.
But the large gems in the network bands seemed to have something more. An enchantment? Dolly had been wearing the thigh band and the armband. I asked her, “Why weren’t you wearing these other net bands? And where do they go?”
“They were too small for me,” she said. “The smallest is a neckband and the largest is a belt. The middle one went around your forehead.” She gasped as she realized that she had admitted to looting my body previously.
I glared at her but my chin had stopped hurting, and I really felt in a good mood about getting my stuff back. Even though the me I was now had never seen any of it before. Still too complicated to think about that.
I tried on the thigh band. It seemed hard to believe with her height and muscles, but apparently, my thighs were bigger than hers. It barely fit, and I sort of had to stretch the net to close the clasp. But once it was on, I felt taller and more graceful.
I couldn’t figure out what the enchantment might be, as a gamer I thought perhaps an agility boost? I liked it, whatever it was.
She had worn the armband just above the elbow where her arm was most slender. I tried to put it on there on my arm, but I was just too skinny to get it to stay. I had to wear it up higher, right over my bicep, if that’s what the meaty part of your upper arm is called. Again, like the thigh band, I had to stretch it a bit to make it fit there and once closed I felt an enchantment on the armband. Were my fingers longer and more tapered? A dexterity bonus? Whatever, the effect was delightful and worth more giggles.
“Will you not laugh at me like that?” Dolly pleaded. “You sound so bloodthirsty. It sends chills down my spine.”
I suppressed more giggles at the thought of sounding bloodthirsty. “I’m not laughing at you, I’m just enjoying myself.”
She snorted and did not look convinced. “The ropes on my wrists are too tight,” she whined.
“Tough,” I said. “You sign up to be a looter, you get caught, you pay the penalty.” I had no sympathy to spare for her, the jewelry was occupying all my thought.
I considered the other bands but I was in a quandary.
Dolly had lots of piercings, and I had no holes to match any of them, even though some of the items seemed to be the gold-and-jade motif I considered to be mine. Had I accidentally healed up my own piercings? I took a closer look at some of her piercings, but when I touched the ones I suspected of being my own, like her earrings, they simply fell off in my hand. And they left no hole behind.
“Must be magic,” I said. There didn’t seem to be any way to open the clasp either, each of the earrings had been held in place by a complete circle of gold. Not the recommended way to do that.
I held one of the earrings up to my earlobe and felt it melt right through the flesh. When I let go, it dangled there, a pleasant-feeling weight. I put the other one up to the other ear, and it slid into place, too. “Wow,” I said. I couldn’t detect that either of them did anything to my hearing and when I tugged on them, they stayed in place. No pain, either.
“You see why you were so valuable as a prize?” said Dolly with a sour note. “You were not only beautiful yourself, you were richly decorated.”
“Hmm,” I said. There were several more piercing hoops, some that Dolly had been wearing and some that she hadn’t. Did I want piercings in my lip, navel, nose, or eyebrow? And what about my nipples? And… down there?
I picked up one of the pieces that had been hidden in a belt pouch, a curved gold stud with a jade bead at each end. “Where did this one go?” I asked.
“You don’t remember much from before…” she paused to swallow. “…from before your death?”
I shook my head. “Not really.” Which was true.
“You wore that one sideways through the end of your tongue,” she said.
I blinked. I already had piercings in my tongue, tiny power beads in three rows further back, I wasn’t aware of them mostly. “Wouldn’t that interfere with talking?”
She nodded. “I’m sure the men thought it gave you an adorable lisp. My arms are hurting,” she added.
A cute lisp? I decided not to use the rest of the piercings just then and scooped them into one of the belt pouches. “Live a little longer,” I said. “Let them hurt. How is it you came to kill such a valuable property as me?”
She squirmed. “It was an accident.”
“Your guards were in a fight with a group of greenies, we came in from the side to help drive them off. When the fight was over and the surviving greenies had left…” she glanced toward Trike. “Well, you and your guards were all dead and about half of our party, too.”
She winced suddenly, a stray pain caused from struggling against her bindings. “Your pet greenie there was one of the attackers, I’m pretty sure. And your two guards were part of our party. Our leader, Rollo Garland and our healer, Stief Hale. But they don’t recognize me!” She started blubbering again.
I winced. That would be tough. Old friends back from the dead who don’t know you and tie you up, all while you are sure you are destined to be a snack for their favorite monster. It was baroque, bizarre, absurd, almost slapstick and I had a terrible struggle not breaking out in giggles again.
“I know the greenie is going to eat me,” she said, not helping in the least.
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