To the group’s relief, no more rain impeded their travels. They walked up a slope before being awarded with the sight of their destination. They were on a mountainside, high above the treeline. In the distance was a golden, pyramid-like structure.
Kira’s eyes widened. It was as if she had been teleported to Ezron all over again.
The pyramid had stairs running up each of its faces. It also had many levels, each having entrances that led indoors. Vines were snaking up and around the stone like poisoned veins, but the vegetation wasn’t dense enough to cover the massive structure.
A few miles away was a building that had a single long staircase. At the top was a row of doors that led to a room.
Around both structures were smaller stone houses. They were more modest in design- square and brownish in color. Vines and weeds practically swallowed these smaller structures. It was easier to spot their damage.
Even with massive chunks of rock missing and fifteen years of neglect, this city remained beautiful.
“Let us go,” Vrox told the group, his voice hoarser than usual.
Taking his hand in hers, he led her higher up the mountain. They made it completely around it before walking down a slope and returning to the treeline. The wilderness became so thick that Draekon had to help Ni’ev cut down whatever vegetation stood in their way.
It didn’t take long before they were passing what seemed to have once been a trading post. Piles of wood and scattered items surrounded them. A skeleton with a sword poking out of its torso laid in a corner.
Vrox reached for Kira when she gaped, making her look away. “It is alright,” he rasped. “It is just history.”
His golden eyes– those beautiful irises that owned her heart, were sad. His soul was tired. Returning to his birthplace was draining him.
She inhaled deeply and nodded.
I need to be strong for him.
They resumed walking deeper through the trading post, approaching the pyramid that was miles into the heart of the capital.
Vrox’s ears were ringing. The capital had always been a lively place– it always had a heartbeat. In his childhood, there was never a moment of silence. His people were always laughing and chatting. Even when The Vanishing happened, the capital never hushed.
But now, fifteen years later, there was no heartbeat—just death in every crook and cranny.
“This is far enough,” Ni’ev called out just as they crossed the Vrox gate– or at least what remained of it.
The capital had three different sections– Vrox, where trading happened, Ni’ev where Ezronians resided, and Akdronis, where the commander’s pyramid and ancestral shrine stood.
The commander gave them the honor of naming them after the gates.
Vrox stared at his name. It remained in pieces at their feet. Once upon a time, the letters were engraved into stone and hung proudly on the gate.
“Vrox, you should find shelter for the females. The rest of us will scout the capital for supplies. We will return in the night.”
Swallowing, Vrox nodded. He needed to let go of his memories. The capital was no more. It was a cementary now, where demons could very well be lurking. If he wasn’t alert, someone could get hurt.
“Very well. Go, we will be here. I will not risk starting a fire.”
After a lingering, intimate stare, the brothers nodded and went separate ways.
Vrox rested his hand on the small of Kira’s back. She was clutching onto Vee and taking in everything. Nebula seemed to be doing the same.
“Come. We will rest in one of the houses.”
“That one looks sturdy.” Kira pointed to a stone house that wasn’t as chipped as the ones next to it.
Vrox led them forward but made them pause outside.
“Wait here. I will check the inside.”
With an inhale, he entered the house. It had no fur or door covering it. The elements had gotten rid of that barrier a long time ago.
His sword felt heavy in his right hand as he scanned every corner for a hint of a man or animal. Bowls, cloths, and other household items littered the floor. Leaves and dust had blown inside from the windows that were uncovered.
No sign of life.
How many more times would he survive that assessment?
He turned around and walked to the exit, beckoning the women inside. They took in the place like starstruck children.
“This is tiny,” Kira observed. “Actually, pretty much all the houses are tiny. Why is that, Vrox?”
He grabbed two stools and shook them, not wanting to risk there being any insects on it. Then, he placed them in front of them.
He turned to scan the room a final time.
“Ezronians have no need for much space,” he explained.
“What about their kids?”
“On most occasions, Ezronians raised children for five years, and then the child must move to the Hei’nas.”
Vrox frowned. “For how long do Terrans keep their children?”
“Well... it depends. Around until twenty-one years, I’d say.”
His frown deepened. “Twenty-one? That is absurd.”
She shrugged. “What are the Hei’nas?”
“It is where the unmated stay. Females lived amongst themselves in their Hei’nas, and males lived in their own Hei’nas.”
She scratched her head, finding this system awfully confusing. “So the sexes lived separately? The children were looked after by strangers?”
"Yes. They lived in the wild because there are lessons that can only be taught by nature. The purpose of the Hei’nas is to teach about community survival.”
"Okay... when do you get to leave that place?”
“There were many ceremonies that occurred for those that were over fifteen snowfalls of age. Males and females would meet during these instances. Once a male and female decide to unite, they may become a citizen of The Capital.”
Even Nebula looked confused.
“So let me get this straight...” Kira started. “Males and females lived in separate places, only meeting during these ceremonies.”
“Only those over fifteen snowfalls of age could attend the ceremonies,” Vrox corrected.
“And when you find a partner, you get to move to The Capital?”
He nodded. “Yes. However, only the children of commoners were moved to the Hei'nas. The children of nobles and royals lived in the pyramid. This included my brothers and me.”
“Oh. Does that explain the whole nudity thing?”
He nodded. “Yes. Only mated couples wear clothing. Neither my brothers or I took a mate, so that is why you met me–”
“In your birthday suit,” Kira finished for him.
Vrox didn’t understand the expression but shrugged it off.
With the realization that she still had more to learn about the Ezronian people, she dove into another conversation.