The First Her

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Part 51

Why would anyone want to hurt an unborn fetus? Suffocate a spark of sunlight on a planet that was cooling with death?

She had never come across such cruelty.

She stared at the scratches, They were small, but felt like stab wounds.

“Is she alright?” Ni’ev boomed from the entrance.

“High Mother?” Terson called out.

“She is fine,” Vrox delivered. He gripped her upper arms and tried to get her to stand. “Come. Let us get you to the other females. I have to investigate this.” He kissed her hair and hugged her tight. “I am sorry he got so close.”

Kira nodded numbly. She didn’t want to leave the safety of his embrace, but it had to be done.

“I will see you soon. Please do not stress, yes?”

She bit her lip.

“Vrox?” Ni’ev called out from the entrance.

“One moment.”

He rubbed her back and pressed his cheek against the crown of her head. “It is alright. I will get to the bottom of this infiltration.”

He pulled away, fixed her dress, and kneeled down to kiss Terra’s forehead. When he left the room, she forced herself to grip the curtain to stop herself from running after him.

“High Mother, please forgive me. I should have been faster,” Terson begged.

“It’s not your fault,” she told him, her eyes still following Vrox’s bare back.

“Ni’ev, take her to the common room. Terson, clean up the body.”

She watched Vrox spit on the steps, before turning and leaving in search of vengeance.

“Do you want me to carry Terra?” Ni’ev offered.

Her gaze snapped to the death grip she had on Terra’s bassinet. She loosened her hold and exhaled shakily. “No thanks... let’s just go.”

The moment they walked into the common room, Nebula knew something was wrong. She rushed to her side, questions shooting past her lips. Lamara tried to stand too, but her heavy belly made it difficult.

“There was an attack. A traitor male struck her belly, but she is not injured.”

“Where is he?” Kyros snarled.

“Dead. Terson pushed him down the steps.”

“Lucky for him. I am sure Vrox would have offered a slower death.”

Nebula gripped Kira’s hand and led her to the nearest seat. “Are you okay? Is your belly okay?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re pale.”

Her stomach was spinning, too, but she didn’t have time to get sick. She had work to do.

“I’m fine. We need to check on Layla. Maybe she knows something about a rebellion. She has been living in the walls for months. She must have heard something, right? Right?”

Nebula looked at her pitifully.

Kira ripped her eyes away and picked up Terra. She kissed her soft hair and straightened out her dress.

“Let’s finish the tents. The men will need them soon. Then I’ll check on Layla.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this?”

“I'm okay. Let’s get busy.”

She threw her mind into her work. The tent’s infrastructure was finished by the afternoon. Kira was proud of the invention, but she wished she could do more. She would try to get them intel.

She just needed to get Layla to spill her secrets.

With the help of Kyros and Ni’ev, she straightened the tent and stored it away.

“Let’s go,” she said.

“Go where?”

“Let’s go get some answers.”

Lamara, Nebula, and Kyros stayed behind with Terra as Ni’ev guided Kira away.

He sighed and stared at the distance.

“What’s on your mind?” Kira dared to ask.

Ni’ev’s eyes remained on the horizon. “Rokan is returning soon. He will probably give us an update about the prince’s position, but I fear that he is closer than we anticipate.”

“We’re ready, aren’t we?”

“To face the prince? Yes, of course, but we did not plan for having spies in our midsts. This complicates things. Vrox needs to think carefully about where to go from here.”

Kira had no idea what was running through Vrox’s mind. She would find out during the next Council meeting, but was ready to support whatever he chose.

When they reached Layla’s room, they greeted Akdronis and dove inside. Layla was asleep. Her skin and hair were much cleaner, and Kira could only hope that the same could be said about her mental state.

She sat on the edge of the bed and gently shook her arm.

“Layla.”

Layla shot up and cowered against the wall like she usually did. Her feral eyes found Ni’ev first, before settling on Kira.

“Hi. How are you feeling?”

Layla looked at the ground as if looking for something.

“Are you looking for Terra?” Kira asked. “We were attacked today so I’m keeping her indoors, but I’ll tell her you said hi.”

Layla’s eyes widened.

“I need your help. I know you’re afraid, but I need answers to protect my friends and family. There are spies in our ranks. Do you know anything about that? Did you hear anything?”

Layla’s lips trembled. “I can’t… I’ve said enough. I can’t. I’m sorry.”

Kira’s shoulders dropped with defeat. “I won’t force you to speak, but I want you to think about my baby–” her hands cupped her stomach. “My babies. You could help keep them safe. You just need to trust me.”

Layla shut down after that. Her gaze became distant, and her hands fisted.

“Call me if you need anything.”

With a pat to her hand, Kira slid off the bed and left the room.

“Do you think she will open up?” Ni’ev asked.

“She has come a long way. I think she’ll crack soon.”

“You are patient.”

She sighed. “Have to be.”

It was draining her to keep a peaceful front while she bubbled with nerves on the inside, but she was keeping it together because that’s what any queen worth her title would do.

“What?” Vrox boomed from the common room. “What do you mean she left?”

She hurried inside, throwing herself at his back and hugging him before he decimated the pyramid.

“Kira,” he growled disapprovingly. “Why do your little legs never stop moving? You are supposed to sit still today and calm down. You were attacked.” He spun around.

“How did things go?” she asked to distract him.

“Hmm… alright. I went to the camp and promised death to whoever is involved in this.”

Kira was sure that was true.

He looked up when footsteps approached, instinctively pulling her closer. When Terson appeared, he loosened up.

“Wo’ton and I took care of the body.”

Vrox examined Kira’s face, checking that she could handle hearing the conversation.

“Did you find anything suspicious in his possession?”

“No. Nothing in his tent or person.”

“Terson,” Vrox frowned. “Why do you avoid my gaze?”

Terson shifted his stance. “I am ashamed. I have failed our High Mother.”

Kira sighed and walked to his side. She palmed her hips and stared him down.

“Terson, raise your chin.”

He hesitated before presenting his marred face.

“Put your hand forward. That’s an order.”

He slowly raised his hand. Kira snatched it and brought it to her stomach.

“I’m okay. Thank you for caring. I know you lost your father to get here, and you suffered horrible burns. I’m grateful for your sacrifices, and I need you to understand that this is not your fault, alright?”

He nodded, moving his gaze to Vrox. “Yes, High Mother.”

Vrox appeared beside her and wrapped an arm around her. “Tell Wo’ton and Usuri that the meeting will be one hour earlier. There is much we need to discuss.”

“Have you made your decision about assassinating the prince?”

“I have.”

Terson straightened. “May my father and the Fates be with us.”

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