The defense bombs convinced the men to relax their patrolling schedule. Kira was pleased to see that only two of them were patrolling during the night. Over the next few days, she and Nebula fabricated more of the bombs and began making their natural potassium nitrate supply using cut glass and urine. The process would take a couple of months, so they were eager to get it started.
“Draekon, can you remind me of the official title of your ruler?”
Kira jotted that down. Lately, she had been writing about Ezron’s societal structure. She found it interesting how noble and royal families lived in the pyramid from birth to death, while the children of commoners were sent to the hei’nas until adolescence.
She scribbled “crowned commander” on top of the page.
“Hmm... why is he called crowned commander?”
“Because there are two other commanders. The commander of war, who was my father, and the commander of defense.”
“Okay. Do all of the commanders inherit their titles?”
“No. They are elected by the council. Only the crowned commander is birthed into the position.”
She scribbled all of this down. Ni’ev once mentioned that the crowned commander wears a cape. She found it hard to picture him wearing crowns. Ezronians are fierce warriors, and head adornments seem frivolous for them.
“So who gets the final say in things, a commander or the council?”
Draekon shrugged. “It is best to ask Akdronis or Ni’ev about these things. I do not remember–”
“Vrox! Gather the others!”
Before Kira could even process what was happening, Draekon stood and roared, “Nebula, come here!”
Nebula rushed away from the corner she was bathing Vee in.
“Stay close. We must climb higher.”
They were currently on the second level, not far enough from the mayhem outside. Draekon ripped a blanket off a nearby table and tossed it over both of the women.
Kira panted under the darkness and clutched Nebula’s hand. They had practiced what to do in this situation, knowing that they would eventually be found.
Draekon lifted the front of the blanket to allow them to see the steps. Behind them, male voices clashed.
Did the others gather the bombs? How many men were they facing? Each question throttled her brain tighter, and she suddenly felt dizzy.
“Here. Turn here,” Draekon instructed. Everything got even darker once they entered a room. She rushed to remove the blanket and found Draekon covering the entrance with the fireproof door that they had crafted.
“To the corner,” Draekon instructed, his grip tightening on the axe in his fist. Kira knew what corner he was referring to. Instead of following her training, she rushed to the door, desperate to peek outside.
“Kira, no!” Nebula argued, gripping her upper arm.
Kira could only whimper. She was torn between Vrox and their baby. She didn’t want to risk hurting her stomach by struggling, but she couldn’t bear being in the dark. What if Vrox got hurt, or what if he went berserk again?
Her feet were heavy as she stumbled backward and slumped down. Nebula instantly wrapped an arm around her, and Vee furrowed himself into her stomach.
The room quieted, welcoming the sounds of turmoil.
Outside, Vrox held the enemy at knife-point. Ni’ev, Akdronis, and Rokan were on standby, clutching bows and ready to send bombs flying.
“You cannot do this! You cannot be here!”
He glared down the elder that stood at the business end of his broadsword. His body was grey all over, but his spirit was red with rage. Although he had no weapon and little strength, the elder made commands as if he was Vrox’s father.
“I will not ask again!” Vrox snarled. “Who are you with?”
“My grandsons! Now, leave this place. You do not belong here!”
“How many grandsons? Has your group been sneaking around?”
Vrox stepped closer, tipping the old man’s chin up with the tip of his sword. “I will send you to meet the fates with a flick of my wrist. Answer my questions.”
He’d be damned before he risked the safety of his woman or child. If this old man posed a threat to his family, he was going to get his own personal Vanishing.
“So disrespectful, you young one! The pyramid is not a playground. It is a historical site. Be gone!”
Vrox scowled. He knew very well that this wasn’t a playground. He had traveled for days, losing a brother and risking Kira’s health to rebuild Ezron.
With one hand, he gripped the bony wrists of the intruder and pulled him toward the pyramid. He was going to get his answers one way or another.
“Release me at once! You will not want to cross my grandsons!”
Vrox ignored the demands, dragging him up the stairs.
“You are dishonorable,” the prisoner continued to rant.
Vrox stopped half-way up the stairs to glare at Ak. “What are you doing? You must be in position!”
Ak ignored the enraged male, focusing on the older one. “Councilmember? Councilmember Wo’ton?”
The older man tipped his head back, squinting.
“It is I. Akdronis Ezron. Do you not remember?”
“Akdronis! Son, look at you!”
Vrox looked from his brother to his prisoner, confused beyond words.
Wo’ton looked at Vrox. “A scaled arm. You must be Vrox.”
Vrox only continued to lead him up the stairs. He took him to the common room, while Rokan and Ni’ev remained on watch. With his hand still gripping onto his sword, he glared at Akdronis. “Who is he?”
“Councilmember Wo’ton,” Ak answered, scanning the grandfather. “Father was close to him.”
Wo’ton nodded. “Where are your brothers and the M’Novarie boys?”
“Draekon and Ni’ev are nearby. Kyros did not make it,” Vrox lied.
“Fates,” Wo’ton frowned. “So much loss. I am saddened to hear this.”
“What are you doing here, Wo’ton?”
“It is the anniversary of my son’s passing. I always come here with my grandsons.”
“Grandsons?” Vrox repeated, his attention perked.
“You have three grandsons, correct?” Ak pushed.
Three grandsons? Vrox didn’t like the sound of that. They were much younger than Wo’ton, meaning that they were much more dangerous.
“Yes. Do not worry. I will not mention this misunderstanding. Now, tell me, what are you doing here? For how long have you been staying here?”
Vrox and Ak exchanged a look.
“We will return shortly. We need to discuss something. Stay here.”
“I see,” Wo’ton replied, not bothering to hide his confusion.
The brothers stepped outside, keeping an eye on the entrance.
“It happened. People found us.”
Vrox nodded. “It was expected. The question now is, do we welcome them or run them off? I need to know if he or his grandsons were the ones who snuck inside.”
Ak looked at the entrance. “I doubt it. Wo’ton asked how long we have been here. I do not think he or his family has been spying on us, but we must make sure.”
Vrox swung his sword from one hand to another. “Yes, and I know just the way to test if he is genuine or not.”
“How?” Ak pushed.
“Go get Kira.”
With that, Vrox walked back into the common room. “When did you and your grandchildren arrive at The Ruins?” he asked Wo’ton.
“This morning. How about you? I did not see you here last snowfall.”
Vrox ignored the question. “Where are your grandsons now?”
“Hunting. I must ask, what is this contraption?”
Wo’ton was distracted by the metal pipes that ran from the roof to the ground, but his answers flowed naturally.
“Vrox!” a much more pitched voice cried out.
He remained still, gauging Wo’ton’s reaction. Even when Kira’s arms wrapped around his waist, he stared at the other man.
Wo’ton’s shocked eyes found Kira and flickered from her face to her protruding stomach. “How... how could this be?” he whispered.
Kira squirmed. Sensing her nervousness, Vrox kissed her hair.
“This is... this is...”
With a whimper, the elder fell to his knees. He bowed deeply to show his respect. “A mother! Fathers and fates, it is a mother!”
When Akdronis entered the room, Vrox nodded his way to communicate that he found Wo’ton’s genuine.