Happy holidays everyone, and enjoy the chapter 🙂  Also, if you haven’t read Til Death Do Us Part yet, get excited- the audiobook comes out soon!!!

***

The Lear military followed Airomem to the bottlenecked entry point then stopped as she crossed the border, saluting her back as she entered Agrarian lands.  Four Agrarians waited for her at the end of the hallway, four that had stood there waiting since the deal had been made. Now they folded around her as an escort, encapsulating her in a bubble of foreign silence interrupted only by the shuffling of their bare feet on the metal floor.

“Touch me,”  She barked before they enveloped her, her voice hard and her hands on the two stun guns at her belt, “And I will ensure you feel the pain of the Lear.  That I will go down fighting, and the lights above will burn you as they burned your ancestors.”

But the guard’s faces formed scowls instead of answers as they led her deeper into the ship.  Deeper than anyone she had known, besides Prometh, had ever traveled.  And as she walked, she remembered his parting words with her before he left her at the entry point, his eyes turning dark as he reacalled his experience as a prisoner among them.

“Show no fear, and give up no ground.  They will do their best to unsettle you, and to pull you down to their level- resist both of these, and remember that you are Lear.  Lear *royalty*, untouchable to them, a goddess among men.  Let the idea that you are the same as them never enter their heads.”

Then he took Airomem by the shoulders, and whispered.

“Stay safe, student.  We can’t afford to lose a mind like yours.”

And remembering Prometh, she swallowed, keeping her chin high and her shoulders straight as the hallways began to reek with the stench of rotted flesh.  Gouges dug into the walls and floor, scratches of knives and unrepaired dents of bodies thrown against metal in their final moments.  The occasional red splattering marked the ceiling overhead, the dots elliptical in shape as they dried, their mark frozen forever in time.  And bones collected in forgotten corners, piling up in tribute to the people they had once lived within.

The guards led her three to four lengths of the Lear’s entire territory, crossing through fields filled with both stooped plants and people, dozens of sets of eyes following her and hands gripping shovels as she passed.  Tongues flicked across lips as jeers sounded from those far enough away that their words could not be deciphered, their harsh tone making her imagination race.

But then they turned, and the fields fell away, and they led Airomem into a large room with the same lashed together couch that she had seen carried by the crowd during the negotiations. Seated upon it was Sitient, his eyes upon her as she approached.  And he raised a hand to his mouth- not his own hand, but one that had been removed from an arm, and took a bite out of one of the fingers with a crunch.

They will do their best to unsettle you. Echoed Prometh’s voice in her mind, followed by her fathers, If you show but the slightest sign of weakness, they will rip you apart faster than the exterior forces of the ship. So she met his eyes as he took a second bite, her irises like steel, and spoke.

“Let’s move.”

***

Like the Lear, the Agrarians had heard the voice in the ship, and they had seen the other half of the ship coming closer through the windows.  Sitient’s eyes had narrowed when Airomem explained her destination was the bridge, and demanded to accompany her for two reason- first, of curiosity.  And second, that to reach the bridge they would have to transverse a small strip Aquarian territory.

Sitient was able to negotiate safe passage through two promises, that the Aquarian leader Esuri would be permitted to accompany them, and that Sitient would provide an exorbitant amount of food to the Aquarians in the near future.  Likely, he would turn on the deal once he had his hands on the stun guns, but it did not matter to Airomem.  All that mattered was that she reached the bridge, and she initiated contact.

Sandwiched between Sitient and Esuri, Airomem had waited for the airlocked door to open.  She had prayed that whoever was on the other side would prove to be a  powerful ally.  

And that perhaps, with each other’s help, they may survive.

End of Part 2.

Chapter 35

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