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Reaver’s Claim: Chapter Five

Ryven

The look of betrayal on Kyla’s face tore at my heart.

“It’s for the best,” I told Tali as she glared at me, perched atop of the teaching chamber.

“I’m not happy about it either,” I insisted. “Maybe if you hadn’t torn up the token from Sarra, Kyla could’ve understood what I was trying to say.”

Tali didn’t answer, And for the first time the silence grated at me.

The hours Kyla and I had spent working together had been filled with wonder and surprise. 

The soft sounds of her voice, her quick understanding of every challenge.

Her laugh when I tried to explain the unexplainable through increasingly ridiculous gestures.

And with every passing minute I grew more desperate to know what she was saying.

To be able to actually talk with her. Explained to her where she was, where her friend was.

To find out every detail about her. Her past, her dreams.

This was the only way. 

It was for the best.

And still, the fear in her wide eyes hung before me, the roundness of her plump lips as she gasped in shock.

She was clever.

She would understand. 

Of course she would.

As I waited for the chamber to do its work I tried again to reassemble the torn token.

“Did you eat some of the pieces?” I asked Tali.

It was possible that the kit had whisked them away to another lair.

It was also possible that I simply could not focus on anything other than the chamber that held Kyla within.

I gave up, and sat, waiting for her.

Had we truly fixed it? I didn’t remember it taking so long with my clans cubs.

Perhaps there was a problem. Perhaps I should force the chamber open, take her out.

Even with a language barrier, it was better to have her unharmed.

Before I could make up my mind, the series of chimes sounded and the door swung open.

Relief bubbling in my chest I hurried to help her out.

“Don’t even try it, buddy,” Kyra snapped, pushing my hand away. “Don’t touch me, don’t talk to me.”

Thrak.

She was angry after all.

“You don’t understand,” I said quickly. “This was the only way to give you my language, to explain what happened to your friend.”

She froze, turned towards me slowly, her still face a mask for the anger that burned in her eyes.

“I understand you just fine now. The other woman? You said the other pod was empty.”

“It was,” I assured her. “There was no one around, certainly no one of your clan.”

She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t have a clan.”

“Did I misunderstand Sarra then?” I reached back for the largest fragment of the token, handed it to her.

“Three months ago, I left to search the dead cities. Instead I found that.” I pointed to the empty, damaged pod. “While I was bringing it down from the plains, I meant another member of the clan of Women.” Kyla’s lips pressed into a thin line.  “Her name was Sarra. She gave me this, asked me to watch for any others like her.”

Kyla turned the fragment around and around in her hands, then silently went over to the rest of the remnants.

“It’s a CheezE puffs box,” she said softly. “Sarah and her damn snack food obsession.”

Her eyes shone with unshed tears, and she bit her lip.

“You found her on these plains, and you left her there? Alone?” She didn’t look at me, her voice still low, but with a dangerous edge to it.

“Of course not,” I exclaimed. “Her mate was with her. One of the Sen’ki, the winged ones. As a match, he would be more than capable of protecting her.”

“Sarah doesn’t have a mate,” Kyla spat, the fragment quivering as her hands trembled. “If there was someone with her, he would’ve been a stranger. And you left her with him.”

I moved to where she could not help but see me.

“Kyla, I know you are angered with me. But I swear she was safe and happy. I could not have taken her from his side if I tried.”

“Your word means nothing to me,” she said. “But now that I know she’s out here, I’m going to go find her.”

She swept up the fragments into her hands, walked back to the pod she had emerged from.

“It is the rainy season,” I explained as I walked behind her. “And she is in the mountains of the winged clan,” I explained. “It is many days travel from here.”

“Then I’d better start making up for lost time,” Kyla answered

Kyla didn’t look at me, instead pulling out a small satchel from her pod, carefully placing the fragments at the bottom, added a flat dark box, then lined it with a thin blanket and more of the silver bars.

She went back to the table, grabbed the gray box that she had kept with her while she ate and savagely jabbed it into the bag.

“You cannot go alone.”

Snarling, she spun to face me.

“You gave up any right to tell me what to do when you put me in that thing.”

“But I needed to–“

Her hand flew up to seal my mouth with her fingers.

“No. You didn’t need to. You knew perfectly well I did not want to do that and you decided for me. You don’t get me to make the decisions anymore.”

Tali spraying to the tabletop, twined around Kyla’s bag, chirping.

“I’m not mad at you, little one,” Kyla murmured as her fingers rubbed behind the orkin’s ears. “But I don’t think I should take you with me,”

No. This couldn’t be happening. I thought I had been prepared for her anger, but for her to leave? To try to cross to the forest alone?

Unthinkable.

Her eyes swept the room, quickly resting on the door, a smooth mass of metal I had scavenged from one of the dead cities.

I had not meant to hide its presence by plastering the surface to match the walls, simply to dull its echoing.

She marched to the wall and shoved, but it refused to move for her.

“Is this the way out?” she demanded.

“Yes, but it is not safe outside.”

“Right now I don’t know how safe it is for me to be inside with you.”

I stepped back in shock. “I would never hurt you!”

“I’m not thinking about my own safety right now,”

Oh.

Despite her tiny size, the fire in her eyes made her intention very, very clear.

Kyla crossed her arms over her chest, pulling the soft jacket tight around her.

“Let me out.”

With a sigh I hefted the barrier out of the way.

There was no point in arguing, I could see that now.

With the ease of long practice I quickly fastened my weapons belt, adjusting the twin swords that hung at my hips so they would draw freely.

If Kyla wanted to go out, I would not stop her.

But I would not let her go alone and unprotected either.

“It’s dark,” she blurted as she entered the tunnel.

Wordlessly I handed her a basket of glow worms.

“It is not far to the surface.”

She nodded sharply and moved on, head held high and shoulders pulled back.

The short tunnel rose quickly, twisting sharply at the end, where another slab of metal sealed us from chill air.

I did not try to stop her, merely opened the door and stepped aside.

Kyla stopped under the overhang of earth that sheltered the door, peering into the rain.”Which way to Sarah?”

“The territory of the Sen’ki lies to the northwest,” I answered, pointing. “If she and her mate were successful in their quest, they will be there.”

“Right then,” she said, and proceeded to march away.

I turned to fasten the outer door behind me, and grunted as Tali landed on my shoulders.

“I do not have a pack for you to ride on,” I told the kit. “It is raining. You don’t like to be wet.”

But the orkin kit was apparently just as determined to have her own way as Kyla.

“Two angry females,” I muttered. “Not how I expected the day to go.”

The rain weighed down her curls, soaking through her clothes by the time she took shelter under the broad leaves of a hibichi bush at the foot of the hill.

By the time I reached her side she had pulled out the thin blanket from her satchel and wrapped it over her head and shoulders, pulling down a thin vine to tie it at her throat.

“Come back,” I tried again. “You’re not dressed for this.”

“I wasn’t dressed for my ship to blow up, my friends to be scattered to the Void and my entire life to get turned upside down either, but here we are.”

Hands clutching at the edges of the blanket over her head, she marched away, keeping a fairly constant line even as she wove around trees and bushes and thick undergrowth.

I would be impressed, if I was less worried.

She didn’t want to talk to me. 

She didn’t want to listen.

That was all right. I would wait. 

And I would watch over her.

Her path led up a steep hillside, the soil saturated by the constant deluge, the purple and blue striped grasses laying flat to the ground, slick with the runoff.

A third of the way up Kyla stumbled, falling to her knees, her thin shoes slipping off her feet.

I stood at her side, but she ignored the hand I held out for her, instead clawing her way back up.

She fell again, a second and the third time, and with each fall she turned away from me, spurning my help.

Aggravation coiled in my belly. She was going to make herself sick. I should pick her up, take her home, take care of her… 

The memory of the hurt in her eyes froze me in my tracks.

No. That was not the way.

I claimed to be clever, a solver of mysteries. I would solve this as well, would find a way to make it right.

At the top of the ridge she swayed, and despite my best intentions, I reached for her again. 

“Go away!” She finally spun to face me and I saw that more than rain wetted her face.

Tears coursed down her cheeks, making tracks in the mud.

“I trusted you!” she shouted. “I thought you were my friend!”

“I am,” I tried to sooth her. “Come back. I will take you to your friend, I swear it.”

“No! Leave me alone!”

Swollen eyes half close she lunged at me, arms outstretched, and knocked me off balance.

Tali sprang for safety as I lost my footing and tumbled down the slick grass, back the way we had come.

As I fell I heard Kyla’s sobbing gasp. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” 

Then her footsteps faded away.

And as I raised myself to my feet, shaking my head to clear it, I heard her scream.

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