How far is it to wherever they are taking us? I’m not sure how long I can survive in this freezing weather wearing only this torn white robe. I could make a break for it… these hunters will certainly find me and kill me in no time.
The Jaekels continue marching us further into the mountains. The whipping winds are comprised of tiny shards of ice which easily slice minute cuts into the skin. Our captors are well insulated with furs and augmentations of carapaces and pachyderm hides while we are thinly draped in the garments we were wearing when captured. My feet had gone numb quite a while ago, causing me to stumble often and lose my footing, especially on this icy and rugged landscape. The Jaekels are intolerant of any prisoners that slow or impede progress, and I witnessed two of us put to death just for being an impediment, their bodies left in the snow drifts for whatever scavengers might possibly exist on this forsaken island.
Goash is forced to pull the cage that holds his raster. The creature screeches from within, its wings tightly folded to fit the cramped prison that is not much bigger than itself. The wheels of the cage slam against rocks and chunks of ice, further upsetting the unfortunate creature. Goash winces through the pain of his raw palms, the persistent wind having frozen the tears onto his cheeks.
Countless hours of travel bring us to several stony structures carved out of the sheer face of the mountain. These Jaekels appear to have taken ancient prior world edifices inconceivably cut from mountain rock and fashioned them to look like the jaws of gargantuan beasts. Our group of prisoners is parted out and led to separate structures. Goash, his raster, and I are taken to one where a Jaekel with serrated mantis-styled arms stands watch. He grins as he watches us being forced into the menacing structure. I would say I am relieved to be coming out of the elements but I have no idea what potential horrors await me.
We are led through a central chamber that had been bored out of the rock with the precision of a highly advanced civilization from an inconceivably distant past. Veins of lava running through the floors and walls provide a dim light and a welcoming radiant heat to the chamber. In addition the walls seem to be coated in a strange viscous substance to which the occupants of this chamber have adhered the bones of humans, abhumans, and various animals. Stalactites have formed over the eons that have passed since this space was created. The place has the persistent air of what I imagine the lair of a predator would carry.
Finally Goash and I are shoved into a smaller room with what appears to be an adjustable workbench of sorts, as well as detritus from spent cyphers and various numenera devices. The Araska sardonically welcomes us to our new home as an accompanying Jaekel unlocks our shackles. She declares that we are to serve them by providing them with better, more fierce enhancements, then boasts to the Jaekel beside her of her great fortune in capturing a chiurgeon and an Aeon Priest. For our first task we are ordered to augment her Jaekel companion. She indicates the piles of numenera scraps, demanding that we are to fashion a controllable armature to implant a barbed tail taken from a jreet, including its poison delivery system. We are given 28 hours to create the attachment, and they leave us to our new prison and bolt the door.
I spend the next few hours scouring the assorted bits of numenera in hopes of finding something with which to fashion a weapon. Goash is more set on compliance as a means of self-preservation, prodding me to develop the augmentation quickly, as we have so little time as it is. He reminds me that Jaekels do not extend deadlines.
Soon enough it becomes clear that the Jaekels were clever enough to eliminate parts that could serve as weapons. I am no wright, but I have enough rudimentary knowledge to select the pieces that will serve to create a moveable tail. I spend the remainder of the time constructing the tail, not even stopping to consume the bits of grut meat they tossed us. I feverishly work on it until I’m satisfied it will function as intended, then I immediately fall into a hard sleep.
The hard sliding and slamming of the door’s bolt thrown open awakens me only a few hours later. The Araska and accompanying Jaekel enter, and the man drops the tail of a jreet before us. He lies face down on the work table and Goash immediately gets to work fashioning the tail around the armature I created. The Araska stands watch vigilantly with a long serrated sword at the ready, should we choose to make a foolish decision. They had indeed captured the right chiurgeon; the precision with which he works is unparalleled to any I’ve seen. He has assembled the tail in short order and the Jaekel then hands him a miniscule blade with which to perform the surgery. Goash gets straight to work attaching the tail to the man, who bears the incisions without displaying a hint of pain. Within a couple hours the venom delivering tail is attached at the small of the man’s back. While still prone on the table he rocks enough to make the tail sway, getting the feel of how to swing it. The Jaekel grins and slowly climbs off the table with Goash numbly advising the man to give himself 56 hours to allow the implant to take hold. The man sneers at Goash and reminds him that he’s had implants before and knows the drill, retrieving the makeshift scalpel from his hand with a yank.
The Araska claps her clawed hands together and proclaims the procedure a success, stating that she wanted to measure our skills before assigning us our true task. With the capture of a Ghan merchant flagship she has gained high honors amongst the other Araskas and has become worthy of her wings. She tells us we’d do well to get straight to work readying for another procedure tomorrow, where she will have us attach a new set of raster wings onto her back. She winks at Goash, then exits our cell with her companion, leaving us with the sound of the outside bolt securing in place once more.
It only takes a few moments, but the realization sinks in for Goash, though I caught it right away. The chiurgeon backs himself to a wall, drops his face into his shaking hands, then begins to weep profusely.