Kira remained wrapped around the helpless female, trying to bring some comfort. While her arms were calm, her brain was erratic with thoughts. Who was this Xulor? Was he an enemy, or a friend?
She waited until the girl’s sobs calmed before proceeding with questions.
“Did he hurt you? Xulor?”
She wasn’t surprised when she received no answer. The girl moved to lay down on the bed, her back pressed against Kira’s thigh. She stared at the wall catatonically.
“Do you want me to leave?”
She offered nothing, seeming to be done speaking.
The mysteries stacked like a fucked up pile of jenga. It was only a matter of time before everything came crashing down. No one knew whether the pyramid would remain standing by the end of this game.
Kira brushed the female’s hair behind her ear, not caring about how oily it was.
“Rest,” she told her. “I’ll return later.”
She slid off the bed and followed Vrox outside. It was a clear day. Tents littered the distance, smoke from a recent meal reached for the clouds, and tanned flesh wove through the trees as men worked. Their population was well over one hundred now, and infrastructure was rising.
It took months to get to where there were now. Snow fell, starting a new year. Terra shrieked, starting a new generation.
Ezron’s eyes had been closed for fifteen years. For some months, its eyes opened, but Kira could sense that it was time to blink. The darkness was returning.
“You look frightened.”
She didn’t bother to lie to him. “Something bad is coming.”
Vrox took her hand and squeezed gently. He didn’t tell her that he would protect their family, because she already knew that. All he could do now was keep her close and happy. Stress would do her no good.
“Will you train with me?”
He squinted. “Train? I have already taught you everything you could handle about close combat.”
“I know. For old time’s sake, though. It will be a nice distraction from all this.”
Vrox squeezed her hand. “Of course. I shall bathe you afterward.”
She chuckled. “Do you remember when you gifted me a bottle of semen and it cracked open on top of my head?”
He pat her head. “I think Kyros was right about its cosmetic properties. Your hair has been shinier since then.”
She swatted his arm. “Eww.”
“Ah, you moan your pleasure when I spray between your legs but you shy away from my words?”
“I’m starting to like the less talkative version of you.”
Vrox grinned. “I like Terra better too. Come, let us go check on her.”
They went to the common room, and Nebula practically ran Kira down.
With a twinkle of desperation, she held out Terra. “Take her, please. She’s been fussy and moan-y.”
Kira laughed and accepted the baby. “Didn’t I tell you to be a good girl?” she cooed. “Why are you bullying aunty Nebula?”
Kira adjusted Terra on her chest, and Ni’ev walked out to give her privacy. The hungry baby began to chug away.
“There. She’ll calm down once she’s drunk on milk,” Kira assured.
“I don’t know how you’re going to handle twins. You’ll have two hybrids hanging off each boob.”
Kira sat beside her her, yelping with surprise when Vrox snatched her onto his lap.
“Did I mention that I missed you?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Yes, but I enjoy hearing it." He cupped her stomach with one hand and brushed Terra’s soft black hair with the other.
“And I thought Kyros was grabby. Looks like Vrox takes the cake,” Lamara said in English.
“Hey, let’s criticize my alien later. We have some things to talk about. The mystery girl finally spoke.”
The women shuffled closer, their interest peaking.
“What did she say?”
“Not much… she said that she has to leave and mentioned the name Xulor. Vrox didn’t recognize it, so it’s pretty much useless. I still don’t know how she got in the walls and how long she was in there.”
Nebula shook her head. “The poor chick."
“We have to earn her trust slowly,” Lamara said. “A visit every day will be nice.”
Kira blew an exhausted breath. She lingered in the room for fifteen minutes until Terra was tipsy on milk. Nebula was more than happy to babysit the bleary infant.
Kira and Vrox went outside to have their little date. She went over the old maneuvers Vrox taught her with a dagger. She was pleasantly surprised to see that although she hadn’t practiced in months, she still had it.
“Already sweating? Come on, Kira. It has only been one hour.”
“Don’t tease me, you big log,” she panted. “I haven’t worked out since…”
Since I tried to lose some pounds and almost miscarried my pregnancy.
Her shoulders tensed. So much happened that she forgot about her mistake.
“Snap out of it,” Vrox said. “Come back to me.”
She stabbed the dagger in the dirt and rubbed her face. “Shit. This exercise was supposed to help me relax.”
“Come. I will bathe you, and then we will see the men.”
She let him guide her to the second level. Vrox’s brothers didn’t believe in shower curtains, so she only installed one in a corner to give the girls privacy.
Vrox led her behind the leafy covering and dug her out of her clothes. He turned the knob, and warm water rained from above. His scrubbing was gentle and platonic. Like last time, he paid special attention to her stomach.
“Dirty female,” he chuckled.
“I’m covered in soap and you’re calling me dirty?”
He stared pointedly at her perked nipples.
“Hey, they’re just… sensitive from feeding Terra.”
It definitely has nothing to do with you rubbing all over me, or your thick biceps glistering with water.
He swept between her legs and found the truth. He held out his hand pointedly. “Dirty, dirty, dirty, female,” he repeated.
She laughed, forgetting all of their troubles for the sweet moment.
“Stop laughing so much. It will make the seedling dizzy.”
The misconception only made her laugh harder. With a wipe to her eyes, she asked, “how many times do I have to tell you that laugher doesn’t make a fetus dizzy?”
He grumbled, falling to his knees. “Give me your foot.”
She lifted it and watched him clean it with a smile on her face.
A lot of teasing later, she was dressed in a fresh dress, and her hair was neatly braided. They checked on Terra one more time before descending the pyramid.
Their arrival at the camp was received with the typical over-the-top welcome. Men dropped what they were doing and threw themselves at the floor, kneeling for their leaders. It didn’t matter how many times Kira tried to usher them to their feet. They didn’t listen. They would do anything for her– take an arrow, go to war, anything except stand. She was glad that they didn’t know she was pregnant, or else they wouldn’t dare to meet her gaze.
Many of them walked around naked, since her visit was unexpected. She tried to avert her eyes. The men varied in skin tones, eye color, and size, but most of them had braided hair and beards. Vrox kept his face bare, because he knew she preferred it that way.
Wo’ton waved them over to the biggest tent in the center of the camp. As they walked around, the men kept a respectful distance, but Vrox still kept a secure arm around her.
“In here,” Wo’ton gestured.
He opened the flap of the tent. Vrox ducked in first, and Kira followed. Inside was well-lit, and the room smelled minty. Most of the items stacked on tables were pots and herbs. In the middle of the room were three beds, but only two of them were occupied.
One of the men was unconscious. When the other noticed who entered the room, he tried to sit up. He was older, his temples peppered with grey.
“Stay where you are,” Vrox said.
There was a thick coating of purple paste splattered on his thigh, and smaller scratch marks under his knee.
Kira walked to the bed. There weren’t any chairs or stools, so she plopped down on her knees.
“High Mother,” the injured warrior wheezed.
“Don’t worry about it,” she waved.
“Please… I am not worthy…”
“Yes, you are. You got injured while hunting for your people. You deserve everyone’s respect.”
Vrox kneeled beside her. “How are you?” he asked the patient.
The young leaders began a conversation with the warrior, forgetting about titles and customs, and remembering that they were all subjects of time. Only humbleness and loyalty would save them from the darkness that was coming.