Authors: Jaymin Eve
I nodded once
, shrugging off her hand, but not in an angry gesture.
stood there, waiting patiently, and behind her were fifty or so others. We followed the group as they began to cross the great cavern before leading us into another set of tunnels. The entire underground on Crais was a rats’ maze. You could easily get lost forever in the depths.
We ended up in another large room, although it was miniscule compared to that first space. There were long bench tables and chairs which
were carved from the rock. They rose out of the floor and hundreds of the dark-skinned people were seated around. Channa led us to an empty section. I slid my legs over one side and sat facing the flat table.
“We do not have any servers here
. I will fetch some platters and you can choose what your liking is,” she said before walking away.
I spent the time watching the people, the way they interacted, talked and moved around each other. I could see no segregation
and no one sat alone. Most of the tables were covered in what looked like plates of greens and long lizard-type creatures. My stomach turned a little at the thought of eating a lizard. Especially while it was still whole.
“They aren’t going to bring us one of those animals camped out on the platter
, right?” Lucy’s pale features were taking on a green tinge. “’Cause I can’t eat something once I’ve seen its eyes.”
-huh, sure, Luce,” I said, knowing her eating habits all too well.
Ten minutes later, while ripping off large chunks of the succulent meat from the leg she held, Lucy shook her hand in my direction, flicking me with droplets of juice.
“Don’t get high
-handed, Abigail.” She took another bite, her mouth full for a moment, before she swallowed. “It was a lucky guess this time.”
laughed, my own hands full of creature. It was so tender and juicy, flavored with aromatic herbs and stuffed with greens. Delicious.
“We are delighted that you are enjoying our
tarakor lizard. It is one of the more prevalent creatures on Crais, living above and below the suns’ wrath.” Channa waved her hand. “But please, you must also eat the greens. Their nutrients are essential for survival. We insist.”
implied that this was a serious suggestion. We really did have to eat the mound of greens on our plates.
“None of the others left any food at all
,” Talina said in a low voice. “I like that they don’t waste. We also limit wastage on Spurn, especially from the Sacred Isle.”
, from my experience half of Earth used to starve and the other half – over-fed greedy wasters. Although the dark days had evened it out; everyone had to learn how to starve a little.
I’d finished my food, I felt an immediate increase in energy. Maybe there was something to this ‘greens’ theory.
, tell me of Jordan’s words and how I may help you on your journey.” Channa spoke formally. “And please tell me your story. Very little happens here. I’d love to know of your adventures.”
d gathered a small group of Crais inhabitants again. They were sitting on the stone benches surrounding ours, just listening in silence.
ll explain as quickly as I can, but we don’t have much time to linger. And we’re also interested to know as much as we can about your world as well.” I was curious as to what these tribes did all day, stuck under the ground.
at the beginning, explaining about First World and the six youngling planets. Lucy and Lucas chimed in with any of the facts I forgot. Talina was quiet except for small details about Spurn.
“Your world is almost all water?” Channa regarded Talina with wide eyes. “I can
not even imagine the majesty. The only water on Crais is that which runs directly through the centre of our world. The sacred lake, where you were initiated, is our largest reservoir, and everything else runs off it.”
“In a way our worlds are almost opposite
,” Talina said. “We have too much water and you have not enough.”
“If only we could share our resources between worlds. The two suns have parched our land of living creatures. But there are a few species who have evolved to survive. The nomads are the only humanoids. They need very little in the way of moisture and seem to garner energy from the suns’ waves.” Channa gesticulated with her hands. “There are the nomads, and the dragoonas who rule above. Other than that only smaller reptiles, insects and arachnids.”
If this is true, how was the tribesman who saved us out in the sun?” Lucas’s question jolted me.
hat’s right: he was above ground.
two cycles a day the suns eclipse each other. The larger is weaker, and blocks much of the smaller. This lowers the temperature so that we can walk in the shadows and hunt the lizards.”
ehind us, someone spoke. I spun around to find a young girl.
“Most of us do not venture above
. Only select groups of hunters from each tribe are permitted. For the rest of us, we know nothing but these caves.”
lowered her eyes, her reptilian skin shimmering in the mid-lights. Some of the tribespeople’s skins were more scaled than others.
Channa nodded. “That’
s true. But we’re grateful to have survived. Millions of our people did not.”
They seemed like such
a sad race. One would think, since they didn’t know any different, they wouldn’t resent the way they lived, but I could see they did.
“So you mentioned Walkers. Tell me more about this
.” Channa’s ivory teeth flashed in an attempted smile. I took a deep breath, before complying.
They’re a race of humanoids. They have no world so they walk amongst all the planets in the star system. They are both powerful and immortal.” And mischief makers, I silently added. “They didn’t believe that they could have offspring with any other than Walkers, but we’ve recently learned that one woman on each of the youngling planets had the power to conceive and nurture a half-Walker female. Talina and I are both halves and we are on a mission to gather the rest of the half-Walkers.”
“And Jordan believes Fury is your half?”
She didn’t show any reaction to my explanation of the Walkers or the news of these gods living amongst them.
at’s what he said.”
“What are you gathering them for?”
I took a deep breath
. I’d explained this many times and would many more after this. I should just carry a recording around with me.
When the original seven Walkers were created by the universe, an anti-seven also emerged to balance out the power. Known as the Seventine, they’re energy-sucking demon creatures and they are set to unravel the worlds. We believe ...” I hesitated, not knowing what I believed anymore, but determined to finish my mission anyway. “That the only way to defeat them is with the seven half-Walker females. Two Seventine have been released already, but if all seven become free, they will destroy everything. Every single world and their inhabitants will cease to exist.”
I wasn’t going to explain about the tethers
and how they were severing them to gather energy. It was too complicated.
“Well,” Channa s
aid, “sounds like we need to find Fury for you.”
Damn, these Crais people took bad news in their stride.
“Fury’s gone.” A man who had just stepped into the room drew everyone’s attention with his brief words.
a stood. “What do you mean, she’s gone?”
Yeah, I was kind of wondering the same thing.
“Nomads just stormed the entrance and made off with more of the females.”
ere they the blessed from the sacred grotto?” a female asked.
I looked around as panic spread through the group. Why had no one
mentioned having problems with the nomads before?
“No, just a few random
tribeswomen who were in one of the gathering rooms,” he said, taking a deep breath.
nd Fury just happened to be one of them?” I couldn’t help the suspicion that bled from my words.
He spun around to face me, I think for the first time noticing we were not local inhabitants.
His eyes widened as he answered. “Fury was not taken. She stole sacred leaves from the grotto and took off after the nomads.”
Now that sounded like Walker
“She said something about having a man on the inside
that may be able to help.” Having passed on the information, he turned to leave the room.
“Has the sun eclipse just started?”
Channa’s words halted him.
He spun his head
and nodded before leaving the dining room.
started to pace and I swear as her eyes flashed in anger it looked as if tiny flames were lit within them. “The nomads are a dying race. For some reason they cannot produce young, although this doesn’t stop them from stealing our women and holding them captive,” she practically spat out.
a glance with Lucy. Well, now we knew exactly what those poor women were being held for. I had a brief flashback to my life on Earth. The human smugglers and Gangers were the same, taking woman for their own sexual perversions.
hadn’t noticed at first, but I was absently running my hand along the knife strapped into my boot. I guess I was mentally preparing to castrate a few men.
“Do they have no women of their own?” Lucas asked the question
I wrinkled my nose
. He sounded more interested than concerned.
gave him a long look before replying. “I have never heard of any besides Fury’s mother. The nomads are born from our tribes. They come and take them from us.”
“How do you kn
ow they’re nomads?” Lucy asked.
“All nomads have hair of pure white
,” Channa said, and then with a flurry of gestures she ushered us from the dining room.
No more words were spoken as we hurried to follow the quick
-footed woman. My eyes had adjusted quite well to the semi-darkness, but still I had to keep a close watch.
Something about this whole situation stinks,” Lucy bit out. “Seems like a setup.”
Talina’s tone was dark.
Before I could help it I exchanged a worried glance with Lucas.
His face was calm, but the icy blue of his eyes didn’t hide his concern. Damn, Lucas never worried about things; something really did smell rotten here.
Channa led us through
a barrage of chambers, halls and rock landings. The decor never changed. Rock was definitely prevalent on Crais. Eventually she started to slow.
“Do not touch anything in this room
,” were her short words before she stepped inside.
e followed close behind.
A gasp escaped before I could even acknowledge what I was seeing. And I wasn’t the only one.
“Shut the freaking door,” Lucy said as she clutched my arm. “They have a damn oasis hidden here.”
We were standing in a forest
. The light was almost blinding after the darkness of the caves. I glanced up, expecting the roof to be open, but instead the rock stretched high for miles. The brightness seemed to come from a series of reflective surfaces scattered up the walls, beaming light from above and then all the way down into the forest. Channa picked her way gently through the foliage. There was a single stone path, and she never wavered or stepped onto any of the greenery.
“I get the feeling that this place is important
to the Crais people,” Lucas said drily.
“I see why they’re so excited about you being the next Emperor
. Your deduction skills know no bounds.” I threw him a cheeky grin.
According to Brace
, no one seemed to think Lucas was up to the job, and I felt it was my bitchy duty to point that out.
“Guess it’s lucky I’ll have your wise council, you know, as the future Empress.” He flashed me his shiny whites.
“She said she wasn’t interested. Might be time to take the hint; your desperation is starting to seep out.” Lucy gave him hard eyes
, interrupting my reply.
“Abby can fight the inevitable all she wants. But fate is decided and you can o
nly run for so long before you’re caught.”
I stepped forward, my plan to
punch him in his perfect nose, since words didn’t seem to do him any harm. But Talina spoke, halting me in my tracks.
“Walkers are bound by no one’s decision of fate. We make our own path and travel where we want. It might be time for you to step the hell back and let Abby decide. Pushing her will do nothing but increase your chances of being kicked in the face.”