Chapter 10: Bloodline
“Are you the god who named me?”
A small voice came from the reeds by the lake.
Niurgun looked up from his holographic display. He had known she was there for quite awhile.
“What are you doing in the reeds you silly little thing. You must be soaked, come here,” he said as he patted on the log that he was sitting on.
Erdene slowly came out of hiding. She was soaked to the skin, her doeskin tunic dripping water. She shook like a puppy, throwing water everywhere. Niurgun laughed. Her jet black hair clung to her head so that her slightly pointed ears stuck out. She was a tiny slip of a girl with skin so pale it looked like milk in the moonlight.
Niurgun knew she had just turned six a few days earlier. He had become good friends with her grandfather the Khan over the years. The Khan spoke of her often and she was very special to her grandfather. Her eyes glowed ever so faintly as all Fadian eyes do in the dark, their beautiful lavender color painfully reminding Niurgun of the skies of his home world.
She stared right at him, hands on her hips, and repeated her question as if she were speaking to a child.
“I said are you the god who named me? My Aunt Suri says that my father was a god from the sky and that you are one too. She says that I should stay away from you because the gods bring curses upon the ones who love them. Why are your teeth so sharp?”
Niurgun laughed again.
“You ask a lot of questions for a wet otter.”
She giggled, “I’m not an otter.”
“Are you sure?” Niurgun smiled at her, “I just thought you were an otter since you were swimming in the lake and hiding in the reeds. I bet you can crack clams with your teeth too.”
“I cannot,” Erdene said with a giggle, “but I can talk to the otters,” she said, “they are my friends, but I am no otter. I can talk to all the animals. My Aunt Suri says it is because of who my father was.”
She climbed up and sat next to Niurgun on the log. Niurgun thought, she certainly is fearless.
“To answer your first question,” he said looking down at the tiny girl, “yes, I am the one who named you but I am no god nor was your father for that matter. We both come from places far, far away. We do come from the sky but we are not gods.”
Erdene looked at him puzzled.
“Well if you are not a god how is it you make pictures in the air?”
“Oh you mean this.”
Niurgun pressed on his wrist device and more holograms appeared in the air. They looked like floating balls. Erdene swatted at one with her hand but it just wavered as her hand went right through it. She gasped.
Niurgun tried to explain.
“This is a machine, a tool, made by people just like me. We call it a companion or comp for short. It is a weapon, a shield generator, a computer, a communication device, nanocyte synthesizer,” he noticed her confused look, “well let me show you.”
He pointed to his wrist.
“When I press here it can make the pictures in the air. It is not magic it is something called technology, basically a complex machine. Just like a bow sends an arrow through the air this device sends pictures into the air. It is no more magic than the bow.”
That seemed to make some sense to Erdene so he pressed the comp again and the moon appeared before them in glorious detail.
“Oh the moon!” exclaimed Erdene.
She glanced up in the sky just to make sure it was still there.
“Yes,” said Niurgun, “the moon, now do you know this one?”
Suddenly in place of the moon was a seething ball of flame, hellish eddies swirled on its surface while geysers flared from the sea of flame only to be pulled back in beautiful fiery arches.
“Is it the sun?”
“Yes, that is the sun, the star for this solar system. Look up at all the stars in the sky?”
Erdene looked up.
“Each one of those stars is very much like the sun but much farther away. Some are larger, some are smaller but basically they are very much the same. They give off a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat, radiation and light, and make life possible on worlds that are close to them just like when you sit by the fire in your tent to warm up. Without the sun, earth’s star, this world would be a cold, dark, dead place.”
He pressed the comp again and the entire solar system appeared, hanging in the air.
“This is earth,” Niurgun pointed to the third planet from the sun, “this is where you live. See that bright star just over the horizon.”
He pointed so Erdene could find it.
“That is not a star at all but this little planet called Venus.”
He pointed to the holographic Venus.
“She shines very brightly because her atmosphere reflects most of the sunlight that strikes it. Legend has it that the planet was actually named for an Annunaki ruler many, many thousands of years ago who was so kind and beautiful that the people believed her to be the goddess of love, but that is a different story.”
Erdene’s eyes were as big as the holographic moon and Niurgun laughed.
“You know how there are islands in the lake?”
“Well think of space,” he waved his hand across the sky, “as a giant sea and each planet as an island. Some islands have things living on them others are too hot or too cold but I come from one of those islands as did your father.”
Erdene put her little hand on Niurgun’s arm. He stared down at it, how could the hand of a Fade be so gentle, so innocent? She looked up at him.
“Which pla...net is my father’s home?”
Niurgun found himself captured by her eyes. He looked away quickly and pressed on the comp. The constellation Orion appeared. He zoomed in to the stars in the belt.
“This is a double star, see, it is called a binary system. The Fadians call the stars Dyesegei and their world is called Availon.”
Erdene reached out and gently touched the air where the image hovered.
“Is he there now; will he come back for me?”
Niurgun looked up into the heavens and thought of the last time he saw Brannoc, locking the training collar around Rowans neck. He couldn’t think of anyone in the universe he wanted to hurt more and here beside him sat Brannoc’s child. What is stopping me from drowning her in the lake? He had the terrible fleeting thought but the second he thought it he knew that hurting the innocent child beside him would not hurt Brannoc. He had abandoned her here, never to see her own people or Availon.
Perhaps she was better off here away from the evils of the Fadians. Her human blood would probably have made her an outcast in Titania despite her appearance. A thought struck Niurgun; perhaps that is why he left her, he was protecting her. Niurgun doubted it but it was possible.
Finally he answered her.
“Out there in space there is a war going on between your father’s people and my people. Maybe he thought you would be safer here far away from the battles. You should ask your Aunt Suri, she was there when you were born perhaps she could tell you more.”
Niurgun knew Suri had stolen the baby away. He also knew that Suri believed that Brannoc did not know the child lived but Niurgun doubted that as well.
“Aunt Suri does not like to talk about my father. She says that it is best that I forget him, she says my life is here.”
“Well perhaps your aunt knows best,” Niurgun replied.
“Why does your tribe fight with my father’s tribe? Are you my father’s blood enemy?”
Niurgun thought for a moment. How do you make intergalactic warfare make sense to a six year old, he was not even sure it made sense to him.
“It is a very complicated matter,” he began his explanation, “We fight because your father’s ruler, their Khan, who happens to be a woman named Cali, has done terrible things and she is building weapons that threaten the safety of our people so our ruler is trying to stop her. As I understand your customs, a blood enemy is one who has personally shed the blood of one of your clan so technically no I do not think Brannoc, your father, is my blood enemy yet; but we would probably try to kill each other if we met face to face so we are definitely enemies.”
Erdene wrinkled her brow as if she was thinking very hard.
“Well then when he does come back for me I hope you are not here because I do not want to see either one of you hurt.”
With that she gave him a comforting pat on his arm and slide down off the log.
“Thank you for showing me the pictures in the air,” she said and then added, “I will come back tomorrow night; you will be here to show me more.” There was no question in her tone that Niurgun would come back…she wished it.
She flashed him a quick smile and ran off into the reeds. Niurgun heard her dive into the water and she was gone, only the croaking frogs broke the silence.
Niurgun had always come at night to the glade by the lake to think; he thought of Rowan, of her touch, her voice, her eyes, the feel of her body next to his. The first year he thought his heart would never heal, over time the pain had lessened but the longing remained the same.
Sometimes when he went to visit the Khan he would see Isla, the Khan’s first wife, her red hair shimmering down her back and just for a split second he would think it was Rowan. He would glimpse Isla in a crowd and his heart would jump. He missed Rowan so much it was as if a part of his being was gone and he was no longer whole.
Niurgun remembered the night six years ago when Erdene had crept up out of the lake for the first time and become his friend and just as she had commanded
they had met every night since.
Sometimes she swam, sometimes she just appeared from the woods on the back of a stag, often she rode on the back of a wolf or a huge bear. Nothing was a danger to Erdene in the woods; among nature she was completely safe.
Niurgun taught her many things and eventually she had been through so much on his comp’s data files that he had to download more programs just to keep her happy. She studied until she knew the heavens like a starship captain. Niurgun taught her biology, geology, Fadian history, Thracian history, Human history, poetry, music, languages, mathematics, and physics.
Erdene loved reading most of all. In the beginning Niurgun had read to her, first children’s stories and then the great epic poems of the Annunaki but now each night she read to him as he lay on his back watching the stars and for those brief moments he didn’t hurt; he only heard her clear, sweet voice and he found such peace in her company. He never knew for certain what brought her there to him every night but he was grateful; then one night she did not come.
They had always met in secret. Her Aunt Suri, who had raised her, did not approve of Niurgun. She distrusted him only because of her hatred of Brannoc not because Niurgun had ever done anything to deserve her rancor; Erdene loved Suri with all of her heart so Niurgun had agreed that their time together would be their secret.
He paced under the full moon jumping at each sound he heard waiting for her to appear. An otter climbed up on the bank clutching a clam. Niurgun looked at it.
”Do you know where Erdene is?’ he asked the creature feeling quite frustrated. “If only I could talk to you like she does.”
The otter just stared at him as it gnawed at the clam. Erdene never arrived that night or the next. Niurgun was beside himself with worry. At sunrise the next morning he went to the village of the Khan.
It was early spring, the weather was still cool but one could feel the coming warmth in the air. The camp should have been preparing to move much of the livestock to the summer grounds but everything was quiet. Niurgun appeared in the electric blue glow in a small clearing outside of the camp. He walked into the midst of the encampment heading straight for the Khan’s tents. There was almost no one about, a strange pall hung in the air as if no one dared speak. Niurgun knew something was very wrong.
Isla came out from between two tents carrying a basket filled with leaves and fir branches. Two girls followed behind her carrying buckets of water; Isla looked as if she had not slept in days. Niurgun grabbed her arm.
“Where is Erdene?” he demanded.
Isla’s eyes were red from crying.
She began to weep as she answered him.
“She has a terrible fever. I am afraid she is dying. The fever came on so suddenly. Her heart barely beats, her lungs are full of liquid and nothing, nothing I do for her seems to help. The Khan is beside himself, she is the world to him…to both of us.”
Niurgun shook the women.
“Where is she? Take me to her now!”
Tears were coming now and Isla seemed dazed. Niurgun looked at the serving girl.
“Do you know where she is?”
“Yes my lord,” she said quickly, “Follow me.”
Niurgun and the young girl ran down a long row between the tents and then the girl stopped.
“She is in there,” and she pointed to a large dark colored tent.
Niurgun burst into the tent. The interior was dark, colorful carpets covered the floor and Niurgun could make out several people sitting in the shadows they were chanting and shaking sticks covered with small bells. Steam filled the air; it smelled of balsam and juniper. Erdene was lying on a palette near the center of the tent. Niurgun saw wolves curled up at the foot of the bed, an otter nestled by her small head and an eagle was perched on the back of a chair. Her friends sit her death watch, thought Niurgun. The Khan, Suri and Yeke were there and at least five or six others but Niurgun only looked at Erdene.
The tent was so dark Niurgun touched his comp and one of the glowing orb lights appeared in the air above the bed, everyone in the room gasped and the chanting became more frantic. He could see Erdene better now and she was so pale she was blue. Her beautiful black hair was soaked with sweat; her breathing came in ragged gasps. Niurgun knew that his comp would give him a detailed analysis of her condition but he didn’t need it, she was dying and he did not have much time. He touched her face, it was burning up. Niurgun threw back the furs that were covering her and picked up the limp child. Suri started to speak but one look from Niurgun and she held her tongue.
Erdene weighed nothing in his arms. She had always seemed small and frail but today she felt like a husk, empty and brittle.
The blue glow filled the room and Niurgun saw it reflected in the wolves’ eyes as he and Erdene winked out of existence and reappeared in his cousin’s room aboard the Cruiser Juchin.
Unegen was just getting out of bed butt naked when Niurgun appeared with the child in his arms. Around her tall athletic body coiled a black and blue dragon tattoo that started at her right shoulder, covered her back and wrapped around one of her long legs, dark blue serpents coiled around her upper arms. Against her pale skin the tattoos seemed to be alive moving as her muscles moved. Her nakedness was of no concern to her.
“I need your help, cousin,” Niurgun pleaded, “this girl must not die.”
The panic in his voice was barely contained.
“Good heavens Niurgun you startled me, you haven’t jumped into my room unannounced in years,” Unegen said as she put on a robe. “Is this the little earth girl you are so fond of?”
Unegen walked over to Niurgun, and the shock on her face was obvious.
“She is a Fade, Niurgun have you lost your mind!”
Niurgun snapped back.
“I know exactly what she is. She is the only thing that has kept me sane since Rowan left. Please help her Unegen, she is only half Fade. Even Rowan had Fadian blood and that did not stop you from loving her. That is why I came to you. Your crew will do anything for you and ask no questions. I have kept her a secret for twelve years because I feared for her life if even one Thracian knew she existed. She is the daughter of the Dark Prince Brannoc Tong Durai, granddaughter of The Divine Mother.”
Unegens mouth fell open just a bit.
“Please,” Niurgun pleaded,” we don’t have much time.”
Unegen walked to her desk, waved her hand over the communications orb.
“Please prep the nanolab immediately for a patient.”
A voice instantly responded.
“Yes commander, what is the nature of the injury?”
She looked at Niurgun.
“Go, get her to the med bay, I will be there shortly.”
Niurgun disappeared in a blue flash. Unegen spoke to the nanotech.
“I believe the injury is either viral or bacterial. Captain Niurgun should be there now with the patient. Her identity is not to be disclosed to anyone, do you understand.”
“Yes commander, I understand. Is the patient human?” the tech replied.
“Not quite,” was all Unegen could think to say.
Niurgun appeared in the nanolab with the young girl in his arms. Her breathing had become very irregular and he shook her gently every few seconds.
“Breath little one, breath,” he said as he tried to will her next breath.
The nanolab technician motioned for Niurgun to place her on the table.
“I am going to put her in stasis now,” he said to Niurgun.
“I cannot synthesize the biocytes for her until I have a sample of her DNA.”
Niurgun laid her down gently on the table. Her lovely lavender eyes opened but they were dull and glazed over with fever not bright like Niurgun knew them. She moved her lips; Niurgun leaned down to hear her whisper.
“I knew you would come; I kept asking for you. Aunt Suri said you had abandoned me but I knew you would come.”
Niurgun kissed her cheek.
“I will never abandon you, now ssshh, this man is going to make you sleep and when you wake up I will be here, I promise.”
Niurgun stepped back and the green glow of the stasis field surrounded her and for the first time since he had found her that morning Niurgun took a deep breath.
“This may take a while captain,” the technician said as he looked over his shoulder at Niurgun, “you may want to go take a break.”
“No,” Niurgun shook his head, “I will stay right here, what is your name?”
“Nevvi,” said the tech.
“Well Nevvi,” Niurgun said in a low voice, “I am entrusting you with a very special little girl.”
His tone implied that Nevvi better try his best.
“What is wrong with her and can you fix it?” Niurgun said as he looked at the holographic symbols appearing around her.
Nevvi was looking at several holographic screens above the stasis table. As he moved his hand over the images flashing red symbols began to appear. Nevvi moved the red symbols into other holograms. They began to break down into smaller parts. Blue symbols appeared. Finally Nevvi answered.
“She has viral pneumonia. There is an infection in her lungs causing fluid to accumulate and her fever is extremely high for her hybrid body. If she was pure Fadian her system would have killed the virus by now but since she is half human she has much less immunity. You got her here just in time. I believe she would have been dead in a few more minutes.”
Small robotic arms rose up from the table on both sides of Erdene and long needles went into her arm and chest. Nevvi continued to move images about; another large red blinking symbol appeared.
“Ahhh,” Nevvi said almost to himself.
“Here is the real problem,” he said as he pointed to the large red symbol, “conjunctive heart failure; she has a defect in her heart, probably the result of her mixed ancestry. Very few human- Fadian crosses have been known to survive birth much less live this long without medical intervention. Usually the heart is not formed enough to function at all. Fadian hearts are slightly different from humans and some say they don’t have one at all.”
Nevvi chuckled at his little joke. He glanced at Niurgun and could tell that he was not amused. Nevvi cleared his throat and continued.
“Anyway… it is a miracle that she has lived this long. The pneumonia, while not caused by the heart defect, was made worse by it, but then again if she had not come down with the pneumonia we would have never found the defect and she would have just dropped dead. She really is a very lucky little girl.”
He moved more images around in the air.
“I would say by the looks of the heart her death would have been one day soon, her heart muscles are almost completely atrophied on one side.”
Nevvi pushed a few more images around, overlapped a couple and then the entire display went blue.
“There,” he said, “all done. The biocytes have been programmed. It took a little longer than usual because she has traces of Annunaki DNA, very rare you know.”
Niurgun remembered that Rowan had traces of Annunaki DNA, maybe it is less rare on earth, he thought. Nevvi continued obviously proud of himself.
“The virus is no problem that will be cleared out in no time. The heart may take a few hours to repair.”
Niurgun let out a long breath.
“She will be all right then?”
“Better than ever,” Nevvi said looking absolutely smug, “I even took care of some tooth decay. She also now has immunities to every cataloged earth infectious disease, bacteria, and virus. I have programmed the biocytes so that these immunities can be passed to her offspring since they will also be hybrids they can use the extra defenses. You can go if you wish Captain; I will call you when the process is complete”
Niurgun pulled up a small metal chair.
“That’s okay I will wait right here, I promised her.”
“As you wish Captain,” Nevvi said with a smile as he continued to manipulate the holograms above the stasis table.
The door swooshed open and Unegen strode into the room.
“How is our little patient, Nevvi?”
“Well she is a fade, I don’t know if you noticed that or not Fleet Commander?”
Nevvi answered her quite sarcastically. Unegen gave him a crooked smile with her hands on her hips.
“Half fade, you are a medic you should know such things.”
Nevvi laughed. “I am not even going to ask why we just saved one of the enemy but you know I trust you completely.”
“Thank you for your trust and I know that this information will not leave this room.” Unegen said with total seriousness.
“You have my complete confidence.” Nevvi said with a slight bow of his head.
Erdene woke up in the big bed where Rowan had slept. Niurgun was sitting looking out at the planet below.
“Am I aboard your ship, Niurgun?”
He turned from the window and smiled.
“You are finally awake, you know you scared me. Who will read to me at night if you leave me?”
He walked over to the bed and hugged her close.
“No, this is not my ship,” he said, “my ship is just a mining vessel with a surly crew of company miners who think of nothing but money. This fine vessel is the Cruiser Juchin or Sara as she prefers to be called, a nebula class bionanyte cruiser and the flag ship of the Thracian battle group stationed in this solar system.”
Erdene’s eyes lit up.
“You mean this is one of the ships with the brain of a celiph, which is just as much animal as it is machine? I would very much like to see the ships mind!”
Niurgun brushed her hair back from her face.
“Well maybe later but for right now you stay in bed. You just grew a new heart.”
Erdene put her small hand over her chest.
“I knew it felt different, stronger, I can breathe better.”
“Me too,” said Niurgun, “me too.”
“What is that? Erdene said as she noticed Batu, he slowly stretched and stood up.
“That is an arach.” Niurgun answered, “I have told you that we keep them as companions. His name is Batu and he has been with me since the day I was born.”
Erdene looked at Batu as she wrinkled her brow and squinted her eyes. Batu just looked back at her and lolled out his long blue tongue.
“I can’t feel his thoughts and he can’t feel mine. Is something wrong with me? Is it because I now have a new heart?” Erdene was quite distressed.
“No, no nothing is wrong,” Niurgun laughed. “Fadians cannot communicate with arachs. As far as anyone knows they are the only animals that Fades cannot control at least to some extent. As a result arachs terrify them and that is one of the reasons we keep them close. They are native to our world of origin, Tegus and legend has it that our two species have lived together for a very long time.”
Batu walked over to the bed and laid his head down next to Erdene. She reached out and patted the giant animal.
“See he likes you anyway.” Niurgun told her.
The door slid open and Unegen came in with a tray of food.
“See what a special girl you are,” Niurgun laughed, “the Fleet Commander delivers your meals.”
“Well it’s not like I can send anyone else in here,” Unegen huffed. “The last thing I want to do is explain to the whole crew why we have a Fade on board especially with the news from the war. Things are not going well. The mindships are causing big problems and several outer colonies have been lost.”
“I know,” Niurgun said with a shrug, “but she has nothing to do with any of that.”
“I suppose not,” said Unegen as she sat the tray down by Erdene. “Here dear eat, it is my favorite soup. I had the chef make it for me. She thinks I am not feeling well, she fusses over me so.”
Erdene looked up at Unegen astonished, “you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen! Your eyes are even bluer than Niurgun’s.”
“What a perceptive child she is,” Unegen said with a smile, “no wonder you are so fond of her cousin.”
Erdene was slurping up her soup, “you two are cousins?” she said between spoonfuls.
“Yes,” Niurgun answered her, “Unegen’s mother was my father’s oldest sister. We grew up together because her parents were killed when she was young.”
Erdene reached out and touched Unegen’s arm. Unegen looked down at the small hand. She had never been touched by a Fade.
“I lost my mother too and I have never seen my father so I know how hard it is,” Erdene said as she patted Unegen gently.
Unegen couldn’t help but smile. Erdene was as honest and innocent as any creature she had ever met.
“Well that was many, many years ago but I thank you for your concern,” Unegen said with a slight nod. As she stood to leave she patted Erdene on the head, “I will be back later to check on you two.”
Niurgun and Erdene spent the next few days playing games, watching holoshows, and reading. He could tell she was stronger. Fadians are always pale but Erdene had been especially so. Now there was color in her cheeks and he thought she had even put back on a little weight in just a few days.
Unegen visited often. She showed Erdene how to put her hair up in fashionable Thracian styles and they discussed battle strategies for hours; playing out mock space battles using the holoviewer. Niurgun watched for hours as holographic ships sailed around the room firing on each other. Both were big fans of Chen Ta Ray the great Thracian general of the Thousand Years War. Erdene had read her writings over and over. She and Unegen became fast friends.
On the fourth day Niurgun decided they should go back. He had left with her at deaths door and he was certain her family thought she was dead, plus Unegen was having more and more trouble hiding the fact that she was on board. The crew was beginning to wonder why Unegen was carrying food around the ship like a yeoman.
Niurgun knew he should have told her family earlier that she was alive but for some reason he felt angry at them for almost letting her die. He was also angry at Suri for telling Erdene that he had forgotten her. He knew Suri hated Brannoc but he had never given her reason to hate him. Being upset with them wasn’t logical, he knew that, but he felt it anyway. They had tried their best. He guessed he was really angry at himself for not checking on her sooner and for not giving her a way to reach him.
“When Unegen comes at dinner time we will eat and then I have to take you home, I am sure your family believes you to be dead.” he told her.
”I wish I could have seen more of the ship,” she said, “I really wanted to see the celiph brain.”
“I know,” said Niurgun,” but you understand we are at war with the Fades and I do not want any more Thracians to know you exist. Your father is a very important Fade and you could be used as a pawn; I do not want that.”
“I understand,” she mumbled. “And perhaps you do not want me, a Fade, to see some things on your ship?”
Niurgun looked surprised at her astuteness.
“It is not that I do not trust you. You could be found and then forced to talk. We are at war and I can take no chances.”
Erdene reached out and touched his hand.
“I understand, you must be careful but they would have to kill me before I would let harm come to you,” she said with a degree of conviction that was well beyond her years.
Niurgun looked down at the small twelve year old child and he believed she meant what she said but he knew the methods that could be used to extract information and death was not necessarily an obstacle.
“I believe you would do just that,” Niurgun said as he hugged her.
Unegen soon arrived with dinner. The three of them ate by the viewing window and watched the planet below. When they were done Unegen handed a box to Erdene.
“It is a small gift from Niurgun and me,” she said,” I hope you like it.
Erdene opened the box and pulled out a small brown nanoleather suit and matching boots.
“I had Nevvi make them for you.” said Unegen, “the suit will protect you from many dangers, it will grow with you and when you die it will cease to function.”
“Can I put it on now,” Erdene asked obviously excited.
“Of course, please do,” said Unegen tickled that Erdene was so excited. She came out of the bathroom wearing her new Thracian nanoleather.
“I look like a real Thracian,” she said as she spun around.
“Indeed you do,” Niurgun replied, “and there is one more thing.” He reached down and pinned a small gold brooch on her collar. It was the image of a double star. If we ever need to find you again this star will tell me where you are and if you need me press here,” he showed her the spot on the pin, “and I will be alerted.”
“Thank you both,” Erdene said as she hugged Unegen legs.
Niurgun took Erdene’s hand and said, “I am afraid it is time to go back now. Take one last look at earth from here.”
The blue glow filled the room.
Niurgun didn’t even bother to be discreet as the two of them reappeared in the middle of the Khan’s main tent. The Khan was on the dais in the center of the tent and a dozen chieftains sat around him on cushions on the floor, Yeke was one of them. Isla and Suri sat on low stools. No one spoke, they just stared. Erdene ran to her grandfather.
“Papa, Papa, I am back and Niurgun gave me a new heart!” Erdene dove into his arms.
The Kahn looked at Niurgun.
“I do not have the words to thank you, my friend. You assure me that you are not a god yet you have power over life and death. When you left with Erdene she was drawing her last breaths and here she is bright eyed and full of life. Your magic is truly powerful.”
“Not magic,” answered Niurgun,” we are simply much older than your people. In time the people of earth will wield the same powers.”
Erdene climbed down from the Khan’s lap and went to Suri. She wiped the tears from her face and said, “You know now that we can trust Niurgun. He will not abandon me as my father did.”
Suri hugged Erdene and whispered in her ear.
“I am so grateful that he saved you but the gods deal with matters much more important than us and when the time comes he will leave you, even if he does not yet know it.”
Erdene thought of the great ship and the endless worlds. She knew the pure vastness of Niurgun’s experiences and she knew in her heart, her new Thracian heart, that he would go someday, but not today, she thought, not today.
As the years passed Niurgun and Erdene became closer and closer. The mining operation was basically automated so his duties on the ship were light and he spent more and more time on the surface. They hunted together, rode together and spent endless nights reading to one another.
News of the war came often and it was never good. The main Thracian sector was holding but Cali’s’ mindships were extremely dangerous. The powerful mindships did not have to spend time traveling using conventional gravity drives. They simply opened a hole in visible universe went through it and reappeared at will. Their weapons were no better than Thracian technology but the ability to jump was an extreme advantage. Several outer colonies were now in Fadian hands.
On the other hand the Thracian Division was very rich in resources and much more densely populated than the Fadian Collective. Mongke had effectively cut off the flow of goods through Thracian space and the Fadians were feeling the pinch.
Erdene was no longer a child. She had become an incredibly beautiful woman and the Khan spent much of his time everyday receiving offers of marriage from every chieftain, king, warlord, and sultan within a two thousand mile radius. Erdene would soon be eighteen, five years past marrying age, but nothing the Khan could say would convince her to marry. All she had to do was look him in the eyes and he could never deny her anything.
The Khan knew she only loved Niurgun; she had loved him since she was a child. He also knew that Niurgun loved her but not in the way she wanted him to. The Khan suspected he belonged to another but Niurgun had never spoken of it. The Khan always wondered what sort of women could make a man like Niurgun think only of her when one as beautiful as Erdene wanted him so.
On the night of Erdene’s eighteenth birthday Niurgun sat on the very same log by the lake where she had climbed out of the reeds twelve years earlier. He smiled as he thought of her standing there in the moon light dripping wet, thin as the reeds she had been hiding in. He had brought Batu with him to surprise her for her birthday. She was fascinated by an animal she couldn’t communicate with.
The full moon was rising over the lake and it cast a perfect reflection on the still surface of the water. The giant silver disk seemed to float upon the surface of the lake. Suddenly the moon’s reflection shattered as Erdene rose up from under the water. She stood and then slowly walked through the shallow water towards Niurgun; she was very wet and very naked.
The moonlight reflected off of her flawless white skin making her look like a living marble statue. The rail thin girl had been replaced by a woman. Her breasts were full and Niurgun could see glistening drops of water running down them. Her thin waist seemed to call for strong hands to encircle it, her hips were wide and promised to hold between them a heaven no man could deny wanting.
If there ever was a goddess on this world she is it, thought Niurgun, she rises from the water like the spirit of the earth and all the living things on it.
She walked towards him, her lavender eyes glowing ever so slightly in the moonlight. Niurgun looked at her face shadowed so gently by the silver light and suddenly he saw something he had never seen before, the arch of her cheekbones, the shape of her eyes, the smooth soft line of her chin…Rowan, in the shadow of the moon the bones beneath her skin were Rowan’s.
The words rang again in his head; you will have a daughter Niurgun Bootur. She must be given this and every daughter after her must be given it until the one for whom we wait holds it in her hand. He reached up and clutched the golden egg he had worn around his neck since the day Rowan left.
Erdene stood before him now so close he could feel the heat from her body. She looked up at him and spoke softly but clearly.
“You have been everything to me since I crawled up this bank as a child and you showed me the universe. You have been my father, my teacher, my brother, and my friend. Now you will be my lover. I know that somewhere out there is another that holds your heart, I have always known but I will take the place of second wife, gladly to be with you. Anyone that you love so dearly must be worthy of my love as well.”
Niurgun took her beautiful face in his hands, “sweet Erdene she would love you as well for in truth I know now that she exists in you.”
He kissed her, soft at first as he remembered the little girl he had loved for so long, but Erdene ran her hand up his thigh and reminded him she was a child no longer. Niurgun took her hand in his and ran it down the center of his chest. The material parted peeling back to reveal the racing deer tattoos upon his chest. Erdene traced their shapes with her slender finger just as Rowan had done almost twenty years earlier.
Niurgun peeled off his leathers and the blue and black dragons were bare in the moonlight.
“I wish I could command these dragons,” she whispered.
“No one commands the dragons,” he whispered back, “not even Fades, but tonight these are yours to command.”
Erdene stepped back and laid down upon the thick moss that grew on the banks of the lake and offered her body to him. The silver light shone through the leaves overhead casting beams of moonlight onto her milk white skin. Niurgun dropped to his knees and reached out spreading her thighs apart as he moved his body towards hers.
He began to kiss her inner thighs moving from one side to the other slowly working his way towards the soft mound between her legs. He bit her softly at first and then harder; tasting her blood and then tasting her. She tasted like the earth and the sea and Niurgun didn’t stop until he felt the ripples of pleasure shudder through her. He gently took one of her ripe breasts in his mouth as he thrust into her, gently at first but her hunger seemed greater than his and soon there was no gentleness only desire.
He felt as if he made love to the earth itself for Erdene was as much a spirit of nature as she was human. The wind rose to caress their skin, the night birds sang in joy and the moon bore witness to their union. Niurgun thought of the past, the present and the future and how all were tied together in an interwoven pattern. He thought of Rowan, and Erdene and all the women that would exist between the two. Here they had begun the path to the Eki under the full moon in a place so pure and beautiful, in an act of true love.
Eventually he just held her in his arms as they lay in the moss by the lake and listened to the water lapping at the shore. Niurgun looked up at the bright moon and then he turned to Erdene and said, “I do love you it is just…,” and as the words left his mouth the sky to the west of them exploded.
The shock wave hit about thirty seconds later. Niurgun was on his feet and dressed in seconds. He touched his comp.
“Captain Niurgun calling the mining vessel Gamsus,”
There was no answer only static. He repeated the call over and over. More explosions ripped through the western sky. Balls of fire were raining to earth and beams of light ripped across the horizon. The defense ring around the borer began to activate and white hot balls of energy flew into the sky.
Erdene could see small objects moving in the night sky and she knew they were ships fighting above the earth.
“They are here aren’t they? The Fadians are here!” she said as she clung to Niurgun.
Unegen’s voice came in clear from the comp, “Niurgun! Niurgun can you hear me!”
Niurgun answered her as he stared up into the chaos going on in the sky.
“I am on the surface. I was not on board the ship.”
Unegen answered, the relief in her voice was palpable. “A mindship jumped into orbit, the Gamsus was destroyed almost immediately. If you had been on board you would probably be dead; there was nothing you could have done. We are engaging the mindship but we will have to pull back soon. Jump to my ship now. I am transmitting the coordinates.”
Suddenly everything became so clear, Niurgun looked down at Erdene. He placed his hand upon her belly.
“You will ….we will have a daughter. You must give her this when you feel she is ready.” He took off the necklace and placed it around Erdene’s neck. “You must promise me you will do this and tell her she must give it to her daughter and so on until it reaches the one who must have it. Do you understand how important this is?”
Erdene could barely see him through the tears, “will it bring you back to me?” she sobbed.
Niurgun held her face between his hands, “yes it will, perhaps not in the way you want but yes.”
Erdene looked directly into his eyes.
“You know I could make you stay, I can make people do things.”
Niurgun kissed her, “I know what you can do. Use that power to protect our child. Go northwest to the snow lands, to your grandmother’s people. They are the descendants of my uncles who stayed here on earth a thousand years ago. Marry the Jutland king, he is a good man and he has all but begged for your hand. You will be a great and powerful queen. If I can return I will look for you there. You know I must go fight for my people.”
Erdene nodded. Unegens voice came again.
“It has to be now Niurgun we are under heavy fire”
Niurgun stepped back from Erdene, Batu at his side. “Promise me you will do as I ask, on your love for me promise.”
Tears flowed down her cheeks and dropped onto her breasts. She clutched the golden egg in her hand. “I promise.”
“I love you both,” he said as the blue glow filled the glade and he was gone.
Erdene dropped to her knees and put her head down to the mossy ground. Her Aunt Suri’s warning was so clear in her head. The gods bring curses upon the ones who love them. She shook her head. Our love, our time together has not been a curse, she thought as she looked up into the sky.
The battle that raged above continued and it seemed that the very heavens would be torn apart. Erdene knew exactly what was happening but she knew her village would believe that the gods were clashing in the skies. The great battle between Niurgun Bootur and the forces of Tong Durai would be long remembered. She knew the weapons systems, the shield technology; she thought she might even know what battle strategy Unegen would employ against the surprise attack. Niurgun had tutored her for twelve years. She was probably the most educated person on the planet, and not without her own special gifts.
She looked up at the fiery skies and shouted, “I will go north and I will rule the people. Our child will be loved as I loved you. I will keep my promise.”