She was blood. He was to become her lover. I didn’t have to like it, but he grew on me. In the end, I found out about the Corianada…but I think that he truly loved her.The Journal of Togoya
Place: Hyandora Seas
Planet: Vico, Colga Galaxy
The next morning saw a gorgeous sunrise of the culmination of the red and yellow sun with a zenith of Peace and Hope moons. It was a rare day; that was a good omen to the seamen. It would take about three days full sail to reach the outer tip of the Shimit-chain. The wind was with the Hawkeye. The sails were fully unfurled, and the ship kept a good clip of twenty-seven knots.
However, a problem did arise within the group. Solomon had not joined the group for breakfast. Isis reserved some of the fresh fruit from the meal, put it in a bowl and took it down for him. She wrapped her knuckle on the rough hewn door. A groan resonated from within. She twisted the brass door knob and the hinges gave. She peered in the crack between the frame and the door to find a pitch black abyss that reeked of vomit and blood. She pushed the door open and a shaft of light caught Solomon’s face. The fruit in the bowl hit the ground; a bright red horn-apple rolled into the room.
She rushed in and knelt down next at his side. She put her hand to his forehead. He was burning to the touch and sweating beads of blood. A full bucket was pushed up close to his bunk. His body had a fine sheen of the bloody sweat coating and smeared across him. He had grown palled in color – almost that of tea mixed with too much cream. His face was shrunken and pulled taught against his cheek bones and his eyes had bags beneath them.
“Sol!, Sol!” she yelped, hoping he could respond. A low moan was issued from cracked bleeding lips. She rushed out of the room to find somebody, anybody. She ran into Togoya and drug him by his collar back to Solomon’s room. “”Who else shares bunks in this room?” she interrogated the man.
He stood there, terrified. The man before him resembled a skeleton more than a man. “N-no one bunks in this room, Isis,” he stuttered. “Goltoma! So, he could have been like this since last night?” she prodded, trembling. Togoya only nodded. She pushed him from the room, and handed him the full bucket. “Go dump this! If you run into Patch, bring him back with you. Bring back wash clothes and warm soapy water,” she commanded. Togoya fled down the hall with the sloshing bucket.
She hurried back into the room and began rummaging around in Solomon’s pack for a piece of cloth. She found an old torn shirt that he had been using for breakable antiseptic bottles that Patch had asked him to carry. She tore off a clean strip and began dabbing at his face and shoulders.
Togoya returned with Patch and the empty bucket and a water filled bucket in hand. Patch took one look at Solomon and gulped. He knelt down next to Isis and motioned Togoya for the bucket. Togoya knelt on the other side of Isis and placed the bucket of water between his cousin’s knees. Patch jerked the damp blankets off Solomon and threw them into a corner.
They took the rags in the bucket and began to wipe him down. The frothy bubbles turned pink. They had swabbed his upper torso and face. “Togoya, was it?” Patch motioned, “take his shoulders, I’m gonna get his legs. Isis, I need for you to remove the bedding underneath him.” Solomon proved to be heavier than expected; however, they were able to accomplish the task. As they laid him back down he curled into a fetal position as he reached for the empty bucket. Dry heaves wrenched from his gut before blood frothed at his mouth.
“What does he have, Patch?” Isis asked frantically as she rubbed the blood from his lips.
“I’m not sure. Has anyone else been in here other than you two?” Patch asked. They both shrugged and lifted their hands to show they didn’t know. “Ok, let me think…Could he be allergic to anything? No, the symptoms don’t seem right for an allergic reaction. He might be suffering from food poisoning, but, why would he be coughing blood…wait a minute!” He turned to pin Togoya with a cold gaze. “Does this planet have a particularly deadly fish, called a Habiscus fish? It’s bright red and caries a vicious venom in the tentacles that grow from the spinal column gaps between its vertebra.” Togoya blinked as his color paled to the same shade as Solomon’s. He nodded his head, his brows furrowed as he contemplated the accusation.
“What are you thinking, Patch?” Isis asked. Patch rubbed a bloody, soapy hand across his forehead, leaving a scarlet smear under his bangs. “It’s Irunaki, a type of intestinal poisoning that can occur if the venom from the Hibiscus fish is ingested. I have some medicine in my pack that will slow the degeneration of his cells for a bit, but I don’t have a lot of it. It’ll kill him within a month if we don’t find ingredients for the antidote,” he faced the sleeping man. Dark black tendrils curled around Sol in a deathly halo of pitch tentacles. A new layer of sweat was forming on his brow as the convulsion began again.
Isis grabbed Patch by the shoulder. Patch’s eyes snapped to hers, the green depths radiating a fear so intense it blistered. “What does he need?” Togoya supplied the question that wasn’t coming out of Isis’s pursed, trembling lips. He had never noticed Isis too look upon a man of any kind in this manner before. She looked close to tears, and he had seen her cry only once before. He never wanted to see that again. He remembered when she had cried last, twelve years ago – and that was when their world had changed.
Patch sucked in a deep breath, goosebumps rippling across the top of his right cheek and traveled down his neck. His hand came up to his chin, rubbing the jaw bone from tip to earlobe. His hand messaged the tensed muscles in his neck as he tried to recall the different ingredients. It had been a long time since he had learned the antidote, it was back when he had taken a university class in pisciod toxicology. “He’ll need a compote of ground pearl, sapphire, and flaked gold, as the mineral ingredients. The compote will also need the pollups of a yellow-bird coral and the oil of one of those ice whales that shipmen keep with their ships. The protein chains in those will combine with the elemental compounds in the sapphire and the gold and pearl with help to bind it and keep the major poisons in it from being absorbed through the sili in the stomach lining. The cure to this is…well, just as deadly as the venom,” he looked up into Isis’s eyes. Faith, that was what he found looking back at him, total, untainted faith; innocent faith found in children that can’t comprehend the real implications in messages. By the Red Sun, this woman had led them through battle, gone up against a rogue and white dragon. She had proven herself as a substantial individual with a strong spirit that seemed like it could never break. There she sat shacking, terrified. “He has been placed under my care. All of you have been placed under my care. Only over my dead body will I let any of you die,” she stammered as she tried to fight back tears. She was failing herself. She should have thought ahead about the possibility of poisoning.
Patch sighed and turned to lean his back against Solomon’s bunk. “Well, for the moment, we can take him above board and let him breath some fresh air. Sunlight’s supposed to help a bit, sorta like when a baby has jaundice,” he reassured Isis. He and Togoya worked at supporting Solomon’s weight between them as they went to take him out of the cabin. Isis grabbed some fresh blankets from one of the other bunks and followed the men up above deck.
The tiny group reached the deck to find it in an uproar. People were shimmying up and down rope ladders, looking out towards a choppy area in the ocean. Marj was yelling at one of the men. Patch and Togoya were able to lay Solomon in a quiet shaded corner under one of the exposed stairwells. Isis settled next to him. Patch rushed back into the ship and reemerged with a bucket of cold water and towels and a flask of liquid. He had Isis hold up Solomon’s head as he forced the liquid down the Kayo’s throat. Isis set a damp cold towel on Solomon’s brow. Patch knelt down next to Isis, putting his lips to her ear, “Don’t tell anyone that he’s been poisoned. Just say he get’s really seasick in the cabins. We brought him up here to see if it’ll help him feel better, ‘k?” Isis looked at him quizzically, then nodded, her attention drawn back to Solomon’s rasping cough.
Solomon felt like he was floating on a sea of pain. His stomach lurched and rolled and burned. Dreams and nightmares crowded his brain. He was back home, back at the race. Then another wave of pain hit and he was sent rolling back into his cell in the auction house.
A voice kept bringing him back from the brink of a sweet black oblivion. A hollow, soft voice full of tears that tore his heart. Two other voices, masculine in nature, one might have been female, were questioning the soft one. His eyes opened the faintest slit to look at the group. He could not recognize anything. Where was he? The floor swayed beneath him as he watched an older lady reach down next to him. There was a girl beside him. He felt he should know her. The older lady grabbed the girl’s elbow and lifted her to her feet, placing a pad of paper and a pencil in her hand. There was a man next to the older, black headed woman, he placed his hand on the girl’s lower back and gently pressed her forward, away from Solomon.
“Where…” Solomon spluttered as blood coated his throat. The older woman glared back at him. He tried to lift his head to see what was happening to the girl. They shoved her to the front of the ship and onto a long beam that extended out over the ocean. Then, as the fog cleared from his mind for a few seconds, he remembered who she was and where he was. Isis will die if she falls, she’ll sink like a stone.
Isis shimmied along the beam, careful to not fall the ten stories to the crashing ocean waves below. Marj had forced her up onto the beam to sketch out the reef that surrounded them. The ship had found itself stuck in a dangerous location about half an hour ago. The last map had been lost overboard by a clumsy navigator.
Her hand trembled, which led to a rough, messy sketch of the reef. It was not like she knew what she was doing, it was just a bunch of little round circles where rocks peeked above the surface. Why was not the navigator out at the end of the beam doing this? Sweat beaded under her scales at her should blades, making them itch. She reached to scratch at a newly growing patch of scales. That was the last competent thing she remembered doing before she saw the ship rise above her and freezing tendrils cradle her into a dark, murky space.
The group stood still in horror as Isis plummeted to the cold salt water below. As if directed by a back stage producer, they all rushed at the same time towards the front of the ship, only to see a flash of horse legs pass them and fly off the side of the ship. All eyes swiveled around to look back at the corner stairwell to see clots of smeared blood on the deck. Otly’s face was flecked in red.
In the water, Isis watched as diamond bubbles rose to the azure surface of the water where yellow and white rings played in the glistening waves. The farther she sank the colder and darker it got. She did not have much air left in her lungs, after having hit the surface of the waves. She hit a coral laden rock that tore into her tunic and back and dug out her last breath. Then as black rings encompassed her vision and her mind numbed to the coldness of the water, a manacle clenched her wrist. The last thing she saw as she lost consciousness was a set of amethyst eyes, or maybe it was just all in her head…
A rope ladder was lowered to Solomon and he, along with Isis, was pulled back onto the ship. On the deck, he laid the young women on her back and tipped her head to the side as she spat water from her lungs. Solomon’s heartbeat was drumming in his ears. He wiped water from his eyes and his lungs heaved as he tried to gulp for air. His guts wrenched as a coughing fit left him dizzy and retching.
Pitch black scales glistened in the blazing white sun’s angry rays. Solomon slumped down as his vision blurred, his head drooping to Isis’s half scaled breasts. He finally welcomed that black oblivion as the world disappeared around him. His lanky black hair swirled around their bodies, shining wet with dripping water.
The group stood back, encircling the couple. Then one of the crew members spoke up into the dead silence. “Rebel traitor.” Then others echoed them. Fado signaled to the group. The Ipty brothers let loose their wings and dropped to crowd around the couple, blocking them from the view of the outraged crowd.
Otly knelt down between Honfu and Fado. “By the blasted white sun, why didn’t we think about -” he cursed.
“Goltoma, we’d better do something before the crowd riots,” Wain bit out between clenched teeth. He stared down at the fainted couple, goosebumps crawling up his arms. He could not believe it, couldn’t comprehend that it had taken him, them, to understand what the scales meant.
“What’s going on?” Honfu whispered to Fado. “Hush boy, be careful of what happens next,” Fado replied, clapping a hand on the Ipty’s shoulder.
“Rew?” Wain turned to his brother. Rew nodded. He hefted Isis’s limp body into his arms while Fado lifted up Solomon. They glanced around quickly as the group helped make a bolt hole through the crowd. They barreled towards the back of the ship and down a set of steep, slick steps. “Where to?” Otly yelped when he came to a fork in the hall. “Head for his old room, Otly! We’ll put them in there and set guards!” yelled back Wain from the rear of the group. They clattered down the right hall to the cramped room. Otly shoved the door open and everyone crowded in.
Patch locked the door from the inside and the rest of the group found seats on the bunks and floor. Rew still held Isis’s small body in his arms. He looked around, for a place to set her, but decided to hold onto her instead. Her breathing grew labored and her hands clenched the material of the shirt over his chest. He watched her little fingers fret at his shirt; he looked at the scratches and scars that marred her hands. She moaned in her labored sleep. “Don’t die…daddy…don’t die,” she mumbled. It was the first revelation of her life that the group had heard from her. Wain looked over at Rew, puzzled. Rew shrugged his shoulders, not sure what to make of it. Wain scooted closer to whisper to the girl. “Who is daddy?” pried Wain gently. He was counting on her to answer under layers of sleep. She was a rather secretive individual, and the scales had to have a reason. Random women do not just get dragon scales. Only royalty, royal women specifically, were set up to meet with a dragon to designate the next queen. The implantation of dragon scales only occurred when the king was dead and a new queen to start the new lineage was chosen. It was a strange, convoluted system, but also a symbiotic relationship between the planets and the dragons. With royalty chosen, the dragons returned to their states of hibernation. Only when the king died were the dragons in an uproar. And ever since the accident twelve years ago, the dragons had not calmed down.
Ever since Isis got her rebel scales though…Wain began to wonder. There were supposed to be dragons quite frequently on their path, it’s just how it had been for the last decade, but they had only encountered the two, the black and the white dragon.
“Emperor…” Isis drifted off into a more gentle sleep. Rew’s hands gripped Isis’s body harder, the scales cutting into the palm of his left hand. He left a bruise on her arm from his right hand. There was a hiss from the others. Fado stared at her aghast. Patch pulled Isis’s clenched hand from Rew’s shirt to examine a faint scar he had noticed. “I didn’t know the emperor had a daughter,” Penen hissed to Gotre. “He doesn’t,” Fado snapped back in the overburdened silence.
“What does it mean then?” Wain quipped at the Sho’ren. His fists clenched and unclenched, leaving nail bites in his palms. He could not believe it, well maybe he could. The emperor was a dirty scumbag as it was, it would not go against anything that the emperor would have a daughter and scuttle her off to mercenary school. The fact that they had allowed her to stay with them for so long though…that was just reprehensible. Patch was still examining Isis’s hand when it snaked out and grasped his wrist with a furious strength. “Everything’s burning daddy…don’t leave me,” she begged in her sleep. A tear rolled down her cheek as she released Patch’s wrist and curled deeper into Rew’s arms. “By the red sun, don’t tell me,” Patch looked over to Fado and back at his bruised wrists. “She can’t be,” he murmured as he tested the tender tendons.
“If she’s the emperor’s daughter, I say killer her and dump her overboard. Marj was right in trying to drown her!” exclaimed Gotre as he lunged towards the girl. Otly tackled him, putting him in a tight hammerlock. “She’s not the current emperor’s daughter. Stop it!” He forced the Ipty to stop squirming. Wain’s face held an awed expression as he reached toward the small woman. He brushed the bangs from her sweaty forehead and ran his fingers down her soft cheek. “What is it?” Gotre was still yelling.
“She can’t be, Fado. You know she cannot be. Princess Symone died in a transpoplane crash with the emperor more than twelve years ago. The princess was only nine or ten for the red sun,” Wain stammered as he touched a scar on her bare shoulder. Then he noticed something on her back. The wing edge of a raven, the symbol of the Emperor’s spies.
“What is she?” he asked a silent room.
“She’s the lost empress, Symone Mand, Wain, she’s the lost empress,” Fado sighed as he shifted Solomon’s weight. The Canto began coughing in the silence. Fado laid him on the floor and placed a rolled sheet under his head. “You know they only find a mate once in their life?” he stated off hand. Honfu and Patch shook their heads. The other’s watched Fado closely. “That’s right. They only find a mate once. They give over their heart entirely. When their mate dies, they don’t just suffer from a broken heart, they die from a lost heart, at least, that’s what I’ve heard,” The Shor’ren shifted.
“You’re evading the topic at hand, Fado,” Wain whispered.
“She’s the topic, I know that, but have you seen them together?” Fado answered. Wain paused a moment to think about it. They were almost always at each other’s side, watching out for each other. With the Canto’s resentment for humans, it was a little out of character. “What of it?” Wain asked.
“Have you ever known of the royal family to nominate a non-human as the emperor?” Fado asked. Wain again paused, reviewing his grade school lessons on the royal family. The dragons only showed up and started screwing with the galactic politics after the humans had landed in the Colga Galaxy. Only when the dragons were pacified was there galactic peace. The dragons were pacified only after a virgin had been offered up as a sacrifice. They had scaled her, similar to what the group had witnessed with Isis, or Symone. It was thought to be a miracle that the first girl hadn’t been eaten. The girl was held in highest regard and given to the current chief of the people as wife. Since then, the tribal society of humans had developed into the Imperial system that Colga was in the midst of today. Twice in the long lineage had the royal family married in a non-human. Only when that happened did the dragons reach chaos and choose a different royal heir. This was when the black dragons came forth and rebellion ensued. Hence, the name rebel scales. “By the white sun…” Wain cursed, how had he been so blind to the Sho’ren’s knowledge. How had he not considered this all earlier?
Rew’s arms were beginning to grow numb. Finally he laid the woman down next to the Canto. He turned to the Canto’s pack to see about finding a shirt for the poor girl and maybe a pair of pants for Solomon.
Solomon’s mind was hazy as he came out of his tango with the black oblivion. His eyes fluttered open, a fog clouding his mind as he noted Isis’s small angelic face close this. With a weak, shaky hand, he drew her face close to his. “Don’t you dare scare me like that any more,” he whispered as he kissed her forehead. He curled around her protectively.
The group watched this transaction take place. “You were saying, Fado?” Wain asked as he gazed at the sleeping couple. A fine sheen of sweat was beginning to coat the Canto’s skin once more. “Are we, is this…is that the new emperor and empress?” Honfu asked naively. “Not possible, she can’t be with him,” Gotre stammered. “She’d lose her empire by marrying him.” Penen explained to his brother. “But…” he stammered.
“Honfu, you know how your mother and father were not considered to be married until she had born their first male child? And you, Otly, your species is hermaphroditic or androgynous until you enter a symbiotic relationship with a gultense. You are married, yes?” Fado asked the Elivik. Otly nodded mutely. “Well, for the Canto, it’s the first sexual encounter that the male encounters. The Canto claims this as their form of marriage. As long as he doesn’t do anything to her, then yes, you may be looking at the new empress, otherwise, that marriage will likely null and void the Imperial contract with the dragons.”
A hard rap at the door startled the group from their revelry. “We want the girl!” a hardy voice rumbled. “Give us the girl and your group will be allowed to live,” another voice weaseled.
“What do you want the girl for?” Wain yelled through the door.
“She has the rebel scales. She has to be the emperor’s wife!” voices chimed in, yelling for her death.
“Oh, blow it, you fools!” Wain yelled. Patch flinched at the curse.
“You know the current empress has green scales,” Wain bellowed.
“That’s propaganda! We saw her with our own eyes! Only with the implantation of scales can a woman become empress. There has been no announced death of the emperor. The witch in there has to be the empress!” countered the man. Wain looked to Fado for help.
“What do we do now?” hissed Honfu.
“We protect them,” stated Patch, reaching for his specimen knife. There there was a commotion outside and another loud rap at the door. “Let me in! I need to speak to the girl!” A high, chirpy voice demanded. “Why should we?” Penen countered. “Just tell her Togoya needs to speak to her,” he yelped as a loud bang resonated in the hallway.
“Let him in,” Patch demanded of Wain.
“Why?” Wain bit out, eyeing the man curiously. Patch was a fairly timid individual, to be demanding such a thing…
“He helped Isis and me earlier. She trusts him completely, more then she trusts him,” he pointed at the Canto. Wain guffawed and opened the door a crack and jerked Togoya in by the shirt collar. Wain slammed the door in the face of the first mate. Togoya settled against the door frame, but moved quickly away from it when a loud bang jarred his back. He brushed at his ruffled shirt collar. “I’m beginning to get used to being drug around by this thing,” he quipped as his eyes adjusted in the dim light. Then they settled on the sleeping couple. “By the red sun, they didn’t, did they?” he exclaimed. “Not yet,” Fado responded. “I can call in a gunship if need be to get her off of here,” Togoya said, kneeling down next to Isis’s still body. “Common Isis, wake up,” he whispered in her ear and shook her shoulder gently.
“Cousin?” she whispered, staring at Togoya, groggy eyed. She lay her head back on Solomon’s chest. His body was muscled…warm…hard. Startled to find herself lying under a blanket next to a naked man, she scooted back quickly, finding herself between Rew’s knees. Gotre and Penen chuckled. Togoya looked Isis in the eye, “are you here with us, Sym?” he asked. Her hand clamped over his mouth quickly. “You bloody moron, Togoya!” she hissed, her ears ringing. He jerked away from her, silent and moody.
“What is going on here?” Wain asked the two. Isis moved faster than expected. She made for the door and Wain was the one to catch her. He pulled her onto his lap and clutched her wrists so that her arms crossed over her stomach. She squirmed and tried to free herself. Wain’s forehead wrested on her back as he tried to draw in a deep breath. “By the Red Sun, woman, stop moving!” Wain huffed. “Rew, help me get a shirt on her!” Isis became motionless when she felt Wain’s hardness pressing into her thigh. Wain let go of her carefully as he reached for the shirt Rew offered. She jerked it out of his hand and quickly slipped in on. She leapt to the other corner of the room and burrowed into a small, dark corner.
“Togoya, don’t you dare say another word,” Isis spoke docilely. The cold chill of death crept in her voice, promising swift retribution if he were to make a wrong move. The boy turned ten shades of white at that note and everyone suddenly knew they were in a very small room with a cold-blooded killer. They waited silently as Isis and Togoya drew out a silent battle of bluffs. The two never noticed Rew and Wain quietly signaling back and forth. Then the brothers jumped the two. Rew tackled Isis to the floorboards and caught her wrists while Togoya found himself tied securely to the post of one of the bunkbeds.
“Alright children, tell the truth,” Fado chirped. Wain bent his head to Togoya’s mouth as he began to whisper. Isis fumed, but she remained silent. Rew had straddled her high upon her back so that her arms were pinned to her sides. She drew in long, steady breaths and waited. It was over, all of it. Togoya, she knew he was telling Wain everything. After all of the work she had done, she was going to die.
Wain slumped to the ground and buried his head in his fists. “By the Red Sun, this can’t be happening,” he mumbled. “Rew, for all that is of the White Sun’s providence, get off her,” he motioned his brother away from the girl. “What is it Wain? What’s happened?” he asked his brother.
Isis was able to make it into a kneeling position. She glared at the men and then bowed her head to listen to what Togoya had told them. She was Symone Mand, lost empress of the galaxy for twelve years. She also was the top Ravenspy and right hand assassin for the current emperor. She had killed over 3,000 people under his command without a second look back. She was, to her emperor, a slave that could be gifted to any man the emperor found favor with. She had been beaten and tortured when she failed to please and starved when she tried to flee.
Her brother was the key to why she did not try to fight back. He was the blackmail to keep her and her mother silent.
“Why didn’t you just assassinate him?” asked Otly about the emperor. She did not move. She didn’t say a word. She hung her head morosely waiting for the men’s decision on her fate. Now that they knew, nothing was stopping them from taking her. She quivered inside, mortified that something like that could happen again. She was without her weapons and found the room too small to properly move to defend herself. She waited, calculated. “Isis, Symone, we aren’t going to do anything to your child,” Fado grunted. She wanted to trust him, as if she had wanted to trust so many people before her, but she knew better. She knew to wait and watch.
Solomon had begun moaning again and a thick layer of sweat coated his exposed body. He began shaking as his stomach lurched. Patch reached the bucket in time for Solomon to vomit more blood. “If anything, we all need off this ship. If you can actually call that gunship like you said, then call it,” Wain told Togoya as he untied him.
Symone had curled up to watch them. She was uneasy. She knew men, they were not to be trusted. She waited as Togoya utilized his galatron to radio in a gunship. She waited as the men consulted their holomap. She waited every time Solomon was sick. She waited.
Togoya let himself out of the room to tell Marj about the arrangements and possibly negotiate a way of getting off the ship safely. The group remained inside of the cramped cabin, waiting for word back from the effeminate man. Symone had not moved since being let loose. She would not talk. If anyone tried to speak with her, she would look at them like they were going to murder her.
Finally, Patch could not take it anymore. “What are you expecting of us, Isis? We’ve never done anything to you in any way. Have we ever given you reason not to trust us?”
She looked at him coolly and measured his words. “You are men. What am I supposed to expect?” she replied after her long hour of silence.
“You never acted like you had a problem with it before,” Otly countered.
“You guys didn’t know before. You all probably assumed that I was a virgin or considered me as one of the guys. Now that you know what I have done, what’s stopping you?” she bit out.
“Uh, human decency?” Rew snapped back.
“Yeah, like human decency exists anymore,” she quibbled tersely “Don’t tell me you didn’t contemplate even the slightest idea of it while I was lying there, or even right now. Men, the one’s I have known, aren’t like you. The image you portray doesn’t exist.”
“No, that image doesn’t exist,” replied Rew as his hands came down on her shoulders. “But, if any of us were to do this to you,” his hand ran down the front of her shirt to gently hold the weights of her breasts in his palms. She looked at him, startled. Honfu and Wain jumped him, pulling him away from her. “You see, Isis, Symone, no one else would allow for such a thing to happen to you.” It had felt good, to feel those soft mounds, but he did receive a black eye from his brother for it, even if he was trying to prove a point. Honfu turned to Symone. “Rew, might be a perv, and the whole room now has a hard-on, but he is right. We swear we won’t commit such an atrocity to you, ‘k, Isis?”
Symone eyed him warily, but Rew had made a good point. Still, she held her breath to see what the others would say, if they would agree with the young Ipty. Solomon was the one to startle the silence. “Rew, when I don’t feel like crap any more, I swear that I’m gonna beat you senseless, ” he swore as another convulsion hit his stomach. “Just because I fondled you’re true love before you could,” Rew smirked. “Just for that, you’re dead – and who said anything about true love? I, as a proud Canto have to protect a female’s honor, no matter their species,” Solomon groaned. Fado snorted. The rest of the group chuckled. Apparently neither Solomon or Symone were going to admit, or were even aware of just what had developed between them, but it was obvious to everyone else.
A sharp rap at the door signaled Togoya’s return. He settled himself on his haunches before revealing to them that they were to be kept under lock and key for three days, the time it would take for the gunship to get to the Hawkeye. From there, they would be transferred at dawn to the ship without indecent.
“Lock and key? In here?” Otly yelped.
“No, Marj said she would move us to one of the larger suits that has a bathroom. I couldn’t get much more from her. They posted guards outside of the door to move us when we are ready,” Togoya told them quietly. It occurred to Fado to question the man as to how he had negotiated their safe passage in the midst of such a blood-lust crew. However, due to Symone’s position in the royal household and Togoya being her cousin, it was better for Marj and her illicit cargo trafficking to not piss off the emperor any time soon. It was probably better if he didn’t know exactly what Togoya had negotiated, or threatened. It was better for now to not know just how much power the man had.
Fado joined the group in helping pack out the room and getting Solomon dressed. They unlocked the door to find two tall, robust guards waiting for them outside. The guards led them through the decks to the aft of the ship where one of the larger “guest” suites were located. They found their new living quarters to be a little more roomy with a few extra chairs and enough bunks and floor space to accommodate everyone relatively comfortably. The group’s personal items that had been in other bunk rooms had already been collected and dumped in the room. Togoya was now going to room with them.
Symone had settled onto the floor, feeling dizzy from even that short of a walk and equipping herself. Almost drowning could really take it out of a person. She glanced over at Solomon who was lying in the bunk under the port hole, finally asleep. She laid her head on a pillow, one hand with a tekko and the other with a tekagi shuko. The men noted that she had packed herself out as soon as she had access to her weapons. She made a point in them watching her perform the ritual she had never let them see before. It hit home just how terrified she had been of them finding out who and what she truly was when they saw how many pockets her pants, shirt and shoes actually contained as she filled them in with her preferred weapons. Her boots filled with throwing knives and stars. The pouch in the back of her tank top held a katar from an Earth place called India. A tuck-in at the base of her spine in her pants had a garotte. What they had thought was a necklace that she was fond of wearing they discovered was a kusari fundo. She also had a kusarigama at her right hip and a tessen at her left, these all coming from another Earth place called Japan. Knuckle dusters took up a spot on each side of her pants right above the knees. She had taken from her pack a corset of sorts that held small metal plates in the panels, but she left it in her pack when she figured that her scales did the same trick. The list of weapons she carried on her being continued. She had not worn her implements in several weeks, it felt comforting to her to have them back. She had made a point of trying to be at ease with the men, but now she wanted to feel safe.
She began to doze as the rest of the group made plans. The men were on guard. They knew there was a breathing weapon in the room that was terrified. It was better not to corner a panther if they wanted to stay alive. Wain explained to Togoya what they were doing on Vico. He revealed a hiding place that he had been told about by one of the cabin boys.
The group stayed up late into the night, plotting and planning. Finally, just as the white sun’s rays began to turn the ocean all hues of pink, they drew the heavy curtain over the porthole and clambered into bed. “Do you believe something like that could really have happened to her? I mean, you saw all those weapons,” Otly asked Fado. The Sho’ren analyzed the girl for a while before making a reply. “She doesn’t show it often, but it did happen. You remember her a Solomon lying together. Remember how she had ran in fright when she realized where she was? That was no virgin’s innocence. She was terrified that something really had happened to her. The emperor probably broke her in that type of life early before turning her into an assassin. He probably knew that he could easily manipulate her that way,” Fado sighed as he laid down on the bunk above Symone – feeling pity for the woman.
Symone was sitting in a chair in the middle of the room when a knock for breakfast disturbed her thoughts. She went to open it, but Togoya pushed her away, making sure not to cause conflict with the crew bringing food. She stumbled to Solomon’s bunk and placed a hand on his forehead to check his temperature. His cheeks were flush and his skin was clammy, but he had finally stopped vomiting blood. Togoya set the platter of food on one of the other chairs in the room and brought a horn-apple and a paring knife with him. He pulled up a stool next to his cousin. He proceeded to peel the skin off the horn-apple and cut it into small pieces. He handed the chunks to Symone to feed to Solomon. The Canto was becoming dehydrated and it was difficult to get water brought to them. She slowly fed Solomon the apple. Togoya placed the rest of the clumps in a small wooden bowl for her and left it in her lap.
Solomon’s eyes bored into her’s as she fed him. Finally she stopped and waited for him to speak. His eyes fluttered to a half closed look as he contemplated the question he was going to ask. Symone brushed a hair from his face and tucked it behind his ear. “How many?” escaped his lips. She looked at him blankly and began counting the pieces of horn-apple. “Dear girl, no. How many…men?” he had difficulty asking the last word. His face was serious and Symone couldn’t tell if it was out of judgment or care that he asked. She went on edge as she chose how to answer him. She cast her eyes down into the bowl of horn-apple pieces and began fiddling with a cube, forcing it to bruise and brown under her pressing, pushing fingers. “Does it matter?” she finally responded.
“Did you ever love any of them?” he didn’t know why he asked such a question.
“There was one, once,” she confessed as the horn-apple smushed under her finger. “Uncle found out that the man was embezzling funds and ordered me, as punishment for not informing him sooner, to…get rid of him. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Togoya, he helped me. He did it for me. I…I…just…well,” she trailed off.
“She was taken down to the imperial prison chambers and beaten to within an inch of her life,” Togoya said from behind her. She began to feel tears growing behind her eyes, the first time in years she had felt like crying.
Solomon stared at the effeminate man. “What about you? You look guilty of something,” Solomon pointed out to the man who could not look the Canto in the eyes. Togoya shifted. He rubbed his right arm in a slow motion, still averting his gaze from Solomon. “He made me do it,” he whispered. He wanted to cry, he wanted to air his emotions, but he knew he had to keep them in check, if for anything to support his cousin. “Do what?” Solomon questioned intently. Togoya drew in a shaky breath and looked to Symone, who nodded her head.
“He made me…use the wires, so they wouldn’t be readily noticed on her skin by the other men. He made me…” he couldn’t continue. He couldn’t bear what he had done to her. She had endured and she still forgave him, understanding.
“The emperor made you beat her? Is that what I am hearing? Because she refused to murder someone she loved?” Solomon asked. Togoya nodded, biting his lower lip. Solomon began contemplating just what this could mean for him and her. This would be a good reason for why she tended to try and be cool and indifferent around him most of the time. “Why didn’t you stand up for her? Fight back?” Solomon’s voice was growing hoarse, but his anger flashed in his eyes. He knew that his anger was not just for Symone, but also partially out of self-preservation. “You don’t know the emperor, the things he can do,” Togoya whispered back. “Don’t yell at him, Solomon, he was beat too, worse for not doing things correctly the first time,” Symone retorted, another horn-apple chunk smashing beneath her fingers. “Like hell he did!” Solomon was getting riled.
“Togoya?” Symone had gone stone cold. She left it to her cousin to decide. She didn’t feel like arguing anymore. Togoya lifted his shirt to expose his torso. Tiny geometric designs had been carefully cut and burned into his flesh. It wrapped around his back and disappeared beneath his pants and up his chest under his sleeves. “What the…by the Red sun, that’s” there was no word Solomon could find within himself to describe the horror he felt. “And this was because the man you were with was embezzling and you didn’t tell your unc – you said uncle? You mean…wait…” His heart dropped into the pit of his stomach and he knew this feeling of sickness was not related to the poisoning. Uncle, by the Red Sun’s pity. I thought I was broken. These two have suffered at the hands of family. He was beginning to formulate just what this family looked like. It was more than broken. It was crushed into dust. He watched as Symone settled her hand on her cousin’s and squeezed it gently. These two, they suffered at the hands of a tyrant and continued to work together, forgive each other, and support one another through the thick and thin. “You were asleep for part of this conversation. You know who she is, right, or were you out of it for that part too?” Togoya asked sourly. Solomon stared at him blankly.
“My name is Symone Mand, and I am the royal and rightful heir to the galaxy,” she stated solemnly . “I am also the right hand spy and assassin for the current emperor until I can find a real way to dethrone him,” she bit out angrily.
Togoya moved his hand out from under hers. She figured he had moved to take a break from standing. The next thing she knew a pair of hands drew up her legs and her stomach to cup her breasts. Symone’s hands came down on the pockets on the top of her thighs and produced a pair of knuckle dusters faster than Solomon could see. “Rew, you can’t just do that to her!” Togoya dead-legged the brother. Otly and Wain stifled a laugh as Symone turned to glare at the crippled man. She left the dusters in her hands a little longer as she watched Rew roll around on the floor. She slumped against the chair, her head lolling on the backrest.
“Togoya?” she muttered, looking at his cupid face upside down.
“Yes, dear cousin?” he kissed her forehead.
“This is going to be a long three days, isn’t it?” she groaned.
“Yes, it sure will.”
“And Rew is going to probably continue doing that?” she asked.
“Yes, he probably will,” he answered her.
Rew, lying on the ground at her feet, smiled at her. “I’m going to keep doing that to you until you learn to not mope around us. Threatening the empire is fine and dandy, but you can’t let yourself get too riled, or else you really will give yourself away. You’re one of us, and we’re not going to let anything bad happen to you. So for now, forget your life and be yourself, be someone different, who cares, but loosen up a bit, be happy, ‘k, Isis?” he used her alias. She stared at him, not really sure how to respond.
“We agreed to continue calling you Isis out in public, and probably still in private. Fado said that it would probably help you to continue feeling comfortable in our presence and keep your identity a secret,” Wain told her as he offered his brother a hand. Rew waved him off. “I’m enjoying it down here,” he told his brother. “Well, if you like it down there, I can have your bunk tonight,” Wain plopped a pillow on Rew’s head. “Ah, come on, Wain…”
Symone looked to Fado who smiled at her. She smiled back. The Sho’ren always seemed to be looking out for her, now that she looked back on her time with the group.
They played cards. They opened the porthole to let in a cool breeze off the ocean. They told jokes, laughed, reminisced of their families, cried. The first night came without event and so too did the second day pass, but as night fell once more, Solomon’s cough had worsened. Symone waited until everyone had rolled into their bunks before settling into Solomon’s bunk. She rested her back against the headboard and rested Solomon’s head against her throat. Elevating him seemed to help somewhat. His coughing became less and he was able to drift in and out of a groggy consciousness. She felt safe with him. Her heart broke for him and she didn’t know why. All they had was the Corianada. Maybe she just needed to pretend that she could be allowed to have an emotional connection with someone other than her cousin for once in such a long time.
At one of his points of entering the world of the living, Solomon was able to observe Symone sleeping over him. Her hair had grown since the first day they had met. For everything she had been through, her face was miraculously beautiful. He cupped her cheek and reveled in the soft texture. His hand skimmed down her throat and drifted over the Corianada cut to find one other cut right under it. He pondered it, wondering if she held two Corianada, or possibly more, but he knew the contract and the substance of it. Who ever it was was either dead or close by to her, for she would never have left them alone after establishing the pact. His gaze swiveled over to her cousin, but it was too dim in the cabin to tell if there was a faint scare on his neck. In his gut, he knew there was probably a pact between the cousins. The man had probably been following them all along. His hand continued down the line of her throat to the collar of her blouse before he dropped it to rest it on her thigh.
The gunship met up with the Hawkeye on the third day. Everyone but Solomon and Symone had awoken. The group found Symone resting against the headboard of Solomon’s bed, his head on her lap, his hand resting on her upper thigh.
“So, who should we wake up first?” Penen whispered to Gotre.
“If you wake up Solomon, he may start coughing again. This is the best I’ve heard him in days, but if you wake up Symone, she’s liable to annihilate everyone on the spot. For her, that would probably be a compromising position to her, and I’m not sure how she’ll feel about it,” Gotre conferred.
“I see, yes, that makes quite a problem,” Honfu whispered. A creek from the above bunk brought the Ipty brothers’ gaze up. Otly, on his way down from his bunk committed the clumsy action of stepping on Solomon’s leg. Solomon came awake with a startled cough. His hand still resting on Symone’s thigh. He looked up to see Otly staring at his hand and the three Ipty brothers looking like Sanbiki no Saru – the three wise monkeys, with Honfu covering his mouth, Penen covering his eyes, and Gotre covering his mouth. Solomon looked up to see that Symone had not awoken yet. He quietly removed is hand and tried to move himself away from the woman. Rew offered him a hand. With a yank Rew brought him off the bunk, “Took you long enough,” smiled the man.
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