‘Aaron,’ she stood her voice quiet not moving any closer to him. As if frightened he would vanish, run even. She hadn’t missed him tense at her voice. Taking a tentative step forward. She wanted to touch him, reach out and pull him into her embrace. She knew better than to do that.
‘I am fine Florence, I just…I just needed a moment,’ he didn’t turn his knuckles gripped the railing showing white, showing his irritation. Last night he had crawled into her bed and lost himself in her. Skilfully bringing her pleasure time and again. He was an exceptional lover. Taught how to please a woman there was no love, sometimes he barely tolerated her.
Yesterday, sending baby Jack away had almost broke him. Would have if he wasn’t so focused on this mission and she knew he didn’t want her here, had wanted her to leave with the baby.
‘I know, we dock soon,’ he turns to face her and in one stride she is in his arms.
‘Sorry,’ he whispers. She wonders why he is sorry. Sorry that she loves him or sorry that he can’t reciprocate that love. Or that his capability to love died with her sister.
He clings to Florence sat in front of him; Holding her tight and she knows he is loving every minute of being on the motor bike. She can still picture his face, his excitement at seeing the collection of bikes. Running his hands reverently over there body work. For a moment pulling him from his melancholy. Knowing his life hangs in the balance, knowing it will be him that will suffer if this doesn’t work.
It is dark by the time they reach their destination. Cresting the steep hill revealing a glacial valley before them. Aaron gives a soft gasp as he can see what can only be described as a veritable city of tents. These tents were mostly white or grey or brown, and varied in size from ones that could barely fit more than four people too massive marquees that could hold hundreds of people, all radiating out from one giant central tent.
‘You ready?’ Florence’s voice distorted through the helmet mikes.
‘Yes,’ his curt reply. She gives the signal and the small band descend down the track.
Entering the camp at the bottom of the hill. The tents were separated by wide highways bustling with pedestrians and motorcyclists. As they drove through the camp, they passed multiple craft tents selling furs, wooden trinkets, tools even weapons. This place was incredible, Aaron had never seen anything like this as they passed a tent with a real hog roast outside.
Eventually they turned onto a large dirt highway that led towards the largest tent of all. It was surrounded by hundreds of parked motorcycles as well as a tiered circular ceiling and was covered in flags of all different tents, Aaron instinctively knew that it must belong to the whoever led this wandering horde of bikers, that or it was probably a communal gathering place.
The riders dismount and remove their helmets all of them shaking their hair free talking and laughing as they walk towards the main tent. Florence climbs off and removes her helmet. She shakes her pale hair free and fluffs it with her hand before turning to Aaron. His attention still taking in the multitude of sights and smells that bombard him from this amazing place. She wonders how he will adjust to the Capital when they finally get home. His life so sheltered up to this point. His fragility a constant worry.
‘Aaron, you must behave like an Adam do you understand. This place is dangerous for you and me okay,’
‘Yes,’ his attention now fixed on her. Large blue eyes wide and innocent, she pushes the urge to take him and run far away from here and the harsh reality of what they may find.
‘You are sixteen if you are asked, you are too small and delicate for here, you are my match my Adam do you understand?’ injecting strength into her voice.
Aaron nods, he doesn’t understand the full extent of the danger, but he does realise she is going to be his saviour, protector. If they have any chance of surviving here and if he is going to realise his objective, find Adam and Charlie. She takes his hand for a moment their eyes lock with understanding before she leads him through the jungle of parked bikes towards the main tent.
If Aaron thought the outside of the main tent was impressive the inside was something else entirely. It was long and rectangular with two long rows of tables running down the centre of it. The lines of tables were separated by three large fire pits each with a hog roasting over it. Seated at the tables were at least a hundred bikers all talking, drinking eating and laughing raucously. At the far end of the tent was a bar with five massive barrels that he assumed were full of alcohol, probably ale, sat behind it. Along the walls of the main tent stood multiple small groups of bikers talking and drinking, obviously although favoured enough to be allowed to loiter in the main tent but still not important enough to sit at one of the tables. At the other end of the tent was a raise platform with the head table upon it, place perpendicularly to the other tables and only seated on the far side so that its occupants had an unobstructed view from the head table all the way along the tent to the bar at the other end.
They walked towards the main table, eleven people were seated at it and unlike the benches at the other tables each of these women had a separate wooden chair of their own. Seated in the centre was an older woman.
Upon noticing them she stops her conversation and greets them with a warm smile. ‘Florence how can I help,’ the woman casts her eyes over them, and a small smile touches her lips as her gaze falls on Aaron.
‘The raids in my villages I want them to stop,’
‘Why would I do that,’
‘You really want my mother’s wrath brought down on you! She is already angry at you,’
‘Tell me in what way have I angered your mother?’
‘Your unruly horde killed my sister, the Princess Rita and stole her child, which I want returned,’
‘I have punished those responsible, as for the child it didn’t arrive here, and I can find no trace of it. Sorry, but all information I have indicates it is dead,’ Out the corner of her eye Florence notices as Aaron stiffens his hands ball into fists and she reaches out taking one giving a squeeze. Don’t lose it now she thinks while maintaining her smile.
‘And you will stop this lunacy,’
‘In return for what?’
‘In return for your life,’ The woman laughs.
‘Oh Florence, tut tut,’
‘In return our borders will remain open to your traders,’ Florence regains her composure.
‘I have heard rumours that Sophie has a baby and that Madame Ramsbottom is protecting the boy that fathered the child.’
‘Really, that is interesting, Tribe don’t get involved in Gen-Corp,’ Florence answers. Her voice nonchalant as if she could care less.
‘But you protect the boy who fathered the child despite him belonging to Gen-Corp,’ Lady Ariellia challenges. ‘Despite the fact he isn’t the princess Sophie’s chosen. Oh dear, and you have lost the heir and a boy, I heard. Trust me if the child was here, I would know. Something so valuable and important, but I hear there is a replacement, so all is well,’ she raises a brow a smirk on her lips. ‘Rita’s match, I heard he survived, but no report on his fate. How carless to lose a mature and productive Echo child, he was an Echo, was he not?’
‘I cannot comment on that as I haven’t been briefed on all the facts. My Mother just wanted me to speak with you,’ Florence answered politely her political training to the fore. Aaron stiffens again as he realises they are discussing him.
Which begs the question, what is Sophie to them? A princess, important if she is allowed to breed. Or was she, is that why she left, to have a baby, something Tribe would have stopped her from doing. So, does she have Adam. This thought is eating away at Aaron is that who he will have to rescue Adam from? These are questions only Florence can answer, and it has now become apparent she wasn’t entirely honest with him and that makes Aaron sad.