“Are you kidding?” she whispered, her waterline swelling with emotion.
“No. I welcome you to speak with the council regarding–”
Kira threw her arms around him, crushing him with newfound strength. “Thank you.”
He chuckled and accepted her embrace. “You deserve this.”
She stared at his eyes and remembered all the reasons she loved him.
“You may hear some alarming news at the Council meeting tomorrow. I do not want you to worry.”
She nodded and molded her body against his.
“How is the seedling?”
“She’s fine. She wasn’t too fussy today.”
“I do not mean Terra,” Vrox corrected, sliding a hand between them to palm her growing bump.
She snorted. “Sorry. It’s hard to keep up with all these kids you’re pumping into me. This little one is okay. I have no idea how far along I am, but I haven’t felt a kick yet, so I’m guessing that it’s very early. Lamara isn’t sure how far along she is either, but she looks like she’s a little bigger than I am.”
“You females have blessed us. Ezron owes you its life.”
She smiled, raking her nails up his biceps and into his hair. She massaged the crown of his head, glad that no horns were peeking out yet.
“You should stop this,” Vrox warned, grabbing her wrists.
“Why? It’s late in the night. You know what happens when the moon comes out.”
His eyes flashed.
“We have to do this for the fetus,” she said, licking her lips. “For science, you know?”
“Right,” Vrox replied. He grabbed her hips and laid her down. “For science.”
– • –
In the morning, Vrox kept his promise. He helped Kira to the highest level of the pyramid where he met with his council. It was a small group made up of Wo’ton, Ni’ev, and another elder that Wo’ton knew from youth.
Vrox watched Kira rub her arms. Assuming that she was cold, he pulled her into his arms to provide more warmth.
“Thanks,” she said, although her chill had nothing to do with the temperature.
“Greetings,” Wo’ton said, crossing into the room.
“Mothers,” Vrox replied.
“Greetings to you too, High Mother.”
“Hey,” Kira replied.
“You have never joined us before. Why are you blessing us with the pleasure?” Wo’ton asked.
She smiled at the elder. “I had some ideas I wanted the Council to consider.”
“What is that?”
She eyed Wo’ton, Ni’ev, Usuri, and Vrox. “First, I think we should announce my pregnancy and Lamara’s the same day. It will give people hope, and it will make Lamara feel welcomed.”
“That would be pleasant,” Wo’ton said.
“Great,” she cleared her throat. “The next things have more to do with Ezron’s laws. I thank you for welcoming me to your meeting. I think we can learn from each other. The same way Vrox and I are mixing our genetics to make wonderful children, we can mix our cultures.”
None of the men frowned or interjected, so she continued.
“Terra may be a girl, but she has a great destiny ahead of her. I think she should be given a chance to become the next Commander.”
“A female as Commander?” Usuri pursed his lips. “This would be difficult. No Ezronian Commander has been female. Females are not as capable as males to rule in the battlefront.”
Kira straightened. “Why not put her to the test? Give her eighteen years to train and then give her trials. If she passes them, she’ll get her title.”
Usuri scratched his jaw. “We will need to discuss this further.”
“Kira has my vote,” Ni’ev said, unfolding his arms. “We have already changed much of Ezron. Vrox de-rooted the previous royal line and planted his own. There is no need for us to look back at Old Ezron. A species that does not evolve is a dead one.”
Wo’ton nodded. “We will consider both sides. Thank you for presenting these ideas, High Mother.”
“Thank you for listening.”
“Now,” Vrox spoke up. “We must do something about Kyros’ report. One of the former princes is marching this way, likely to reclaim the throne.”
Kira snapped her head in his direction. “What?”
Vrox pat her hip. “It is alright. We are working on preparing the men for the collision. We will not lose. We cannot lose. There is too much at risk. We have four females now– Kira, Nebula, Lamara, and my daughter. Not to mention that two children are on the way.”
All men nodded.
“The throne is yours, Vrox. You can offer Ezron heirs, and you are undergoing a second Scaling. The Fates have chosen you for a reason,” Wo’ton said.
“As far as I am concerned, you are my Commander and brother. I will be loyal to you until the end,” Ni’ev added.
“Thank you, Ni’ev, but there are bigger plans for you.”
“Lamara revealed that there are many Terran women lost in the wilderness. You and Draekon must go find them.”
Ni’ev frowned. “Why me? Why not the others?”
“Well, Ak is obsessed with Nebula and refuses to leave her side, Rokan is constantly leaving The Capital in search of men to recruit, and Kyros has a pregnant female. I can only trust you and Draekon to do this job.”
Ni’ev nodded. “We will leave after we make sure that all the men are prepared to fight.”
“Very well, then.”
Kira glared at the sword hanging from Ni’ev’s fist. If this so-called Ezronian prince walked through the door, she would march her pregnant butt to him and run him through. She was tired of all this mess. She wanted peace, for once.
“Is there anything else we must cover?”
“Yes. Food has been going missing from the storage room,” Ni’ev announced. “I do not understand how. I have guarded the entrance for hours, and things still disappear.”
“So we have a thief lurking around?” Usuri suggested.
“Why would anyone steal?” Wo’ton asked. “All the men are fed well.”
Kira knew that it was true. Vrox took care of his men. He often came home late because of hunting trips, refusing to rest until his men had fresh meat to eat.
“The right question is how are they stealing,” Vrox said. “If things have been disappearing while Ni’ev guards, then…”
“Oh my–” Kira blurted.
This story was starting to sound eerily familiar.
“Ni’ev, give me that thing,” she said, holding her palm out for his sword.
He raised an eyebrow, but passed it over.
Kira’s frantic eyes scanned the smooth walls of the pyramid. She walked along the wall, dragging the heavy sword behind her.
“Remember when someone touched my stomach when I was in bed, but we never found out who? This thief situation has me thinking it’s all connected. How does someone enter and leave a room without using a door?”
She pressed an ear against the wall and knocked hard.
“Maybe they didn’t access the room through the door,” she continued. “Maybe they used a hidden entryway.”
She circled the room, knocking all over the wall until finally, she heard something different. Using the grip of Ni’ev’s sword, she smashed the wall. Vrox gripped the blade and gently tugged it from her.
“Let me do this. Take a step back.”
With a grunt, he smashed into the wall and a square block fell away.
Kira’s fingers curled. Finally, the mystery had been solved.
“Wo’ton, gather men. Kira, take Terra outside and wait there with Wo’ton and Usuri. Ni’ev, follow me inside.”
Minutes later, a dozen men waited outside the room. Kira carried Terra, fidgeting from the suspense while Wo’ton and Usuri surrounded her. The warriors all adverted their gazes out of respect, but their hands held weapons boldly.
“We are going inside now,” Vrox said.
There was silence for many minutes, and then there was a scream– a female scream.
“Kira!” Vrox roared.
She tried to run into the room, but two of the warriors blocked her way. “It is dangerous, High Mother.”
“Kira, come here!”
“Let me through,” she demanded.
The men hesitated, but parted. Kira rushed into the room and the men followed her. Everyone stared into the hole, waiting for Vrox and Ni’ev to crawl out.
Vrox came out first, and then Ni’ev. In Ni’ev’s arms was a filthy, squirming human.
Vrox took Terra from Kira. “Tell her to calm down. Perhaps she speaks your language.”
Ni’ev grunted when he was elbowed in the ribs. He was doing his best to pin the woman to the ground without hurting her.
“Please calm down! We won’t hurt you,” Kira pleaded in English.
The stranger froze.