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Reaver’s Claim: Chapter Seven

Ryven

Kyla had put aside her anger, was here in my home, safe and warm.

That should have been enough for me.

But knowing that underneath the faded tapestry of the Makers was nothing but Kyla’s silken skin had sparked lightning in my blood. Her sweet lips as they softly said the word “mate” filled my mind, made me hunger in ways I’d never dreamed about before.

A craving nothing would satisfy but Kyla.

But that was my own problem. Right now, she needed comfort.

“I would have you tell me everything,” I assured her. “But first, that does not look very secure.”

She clutched the edges of the blanket tightly around her.

“It works, but maybe you have a belt or something I can borrow?”

An easy enough request to fulfill.

Strips of leather that I had laid aside for a new weapons harness easily transformed, wrapping around her curves until the cloth was fastened securely, hiding all of her but her arms and lovely face.

“And now, one other request.”

“Anything.”

“I don’t suppose you have a comb I could borrow?”

I ran my fingers through my short wiry hair. “A comb has never been a priority for me, I’m afraid.”

She giggled. “I can see that. No worries, finger combing won’t hurt.”

She divided her hair into sections and then slowly worked her fingers through the ends, separating the curls from each other.

“Let me help, while you tell me of your world,” I offered, pulling the second chair up behind hers.

She stopped, gazing up at me.

Uncertainty stayed my hand. “Unless touching your hair is also taboo?”

“Not exactly,” she said slowly. “But,” she bit her lip then nodded. “It might help. I’ve never been very good at getting the back. Just be gentle, all right?”

All of my focus drilled onto one section of her curls, and slowly, with the care I normally reserve for taking apart the machines of the makers, I began to work through it, one finger’s width of time.

She had not said it, but clearly this was a special task with which she had entrusted me. I would not fail her.

“If anyone had asked me two days ago if I’d let a giant red scaled alien warrior comb out my hair I would’ve laughed in their face,” Kyla murmured softly to Tali who had sprung up and to take advantage of a lap by the stove.

“Should I stop?” I asked.

“No,” she answered. “Just thinking of all the ways life has changed. I don’t even know if I can say two days ago. I’m not sure how long I was in the pod. There’s no clock or anything. I guess they figure that whoever pulls you out will know.”

I moved to work on another curl, pondering. “Perhaps I can help. Did you go into your pod at the same time as Sarra?”

“Yeah, the whole group of us did. We didn’t have any choice.”

“I met Sarra and Dakath over two months ago,” I told her. “I do not know how long she had been with him, or how long she had been in her own pod before they met.”

“Two months,” Kyla said softly, then sniffled.

My hands froze in their work and I wished I could see her face. “Did I hurt you?”

She reached back to pat my leg. “No, not at all. Just hadn’t quite realized. Two, maybe three months sleeping in that thing. All that time, just missing.”

I tried to imagine it. Some beasts spent the cold season sleeping, dozing in their dens. But it did not seem like this was a behavior normal for Kyla’s clan.

“What drove you to take shelter in the pod? It doesn’t seem as if you meant to be there.”

“Not in a million years,” she sighed. “The trip was supposed to be just another gap year job,” she waved her hand, and Tali chirped in annoyance. “A way for me to learn more about different computer systems used by members of the Galactic Alliance.”

I tapped her lightly on the shoulder. “You know I understand none of that, don’t you?”

She turned to look at me, and I was pleased to see her smile was returning.

“Let me try again.”

I didn’t claim to understand all of her story, but enough was clear. Her clan had been on a vessel. The vessel had some sort of mechanical problem and her clan had been left behind, cast down from the sky in their tiny pods.

Later I would ask her to explain the words ‘solar flare’ and ‘computer systems’ more thoroughly.

For now, it was enough.

“This vessel, I would know more about it. Where it came from, where it was going.”

Gently I coaxed her head to tilt back so that I could more easily move up the curls towards her scalp.

“None of that seems important now,” she answered. “I’m here. And unless another Alliance ship passes by anytime soon, better start thinking of this is my home. This is what I need to learn about. This world.”

As I ran my fingers over her scalp, she closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh. “You’re really good at this.”

A trill of pleasure hummed in my gut. “You know all about my world now that you have been in–“

The teaching chamber, I caught myself.

That was perhaps not the wisest topic of conversation

Kyla cracked open an eye. “I’m still kind of mad about that,” she admitted. “But I understand you didn’t feel like you had a choice.”

“I did not.” Truely, how could I have told the story of her friend with just hand gestures?

Her eyebrows raised. “Just make sure the next time you do something that you don’t feel like you have a choice about, that you’re not taking away my choice. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” I assured her, and hastened to change the subject. “You know about my world, the cities and the clans. What else is there to know?”

“I know what some history book shoved into my head wanted to tell me,” she replied. “But I also know that history books don’t tell you everything. Why are you here, all alone? Where are the cities that I saw?”

My fingers faltered.. It was true. The teaching pods did not explain the disappearance of the Makers.

“There was a sickness. Many people died.” At least, that was the story I had been told as a cub.

“No one alive now really knows what happened. The Makers were there, the clans kept in their cities, ready to fight their wars. And then the Makers were gone, and each clan found themselves on their own.”

My mind reached back to my own past, the cub that I was with endless questions. There were no answers.

“The Vak’ki, my people, moved to the forest when our city became uninhabitable. We took with us the tools and artifacts from our barracks. Did our best to re-create the life we had.”

I stopped, stared at my hands, listening to the crackle of the fire in the stove.

“But that was generations ago. None not are alive now that know the secrets of those machines. If they fail, my people will not survive.”

The weight of my task hung heavily on my shoulders.

“No one else seems to believe the danger. So I am here, struggling to wrest the secrets of the Makers from their works.”

Kyla turned in her chair to face me. “That’s what all of that is back in the workshop?”

“Some of it.” I shook my head. “But there is so much I do not understand. My people were made for battle. Not something like this.”

She turned in her chair, encasing one of my hands with her own. 

“How you’re born doesn’t have to limit what you do with your life.  If you taught yourself everything back there, there’s no reason you can’t figure the rest of it out.”

Holding her hand, for just a moment it all seemed possible.

How could it not be? Anything could happen. 

She was here. 

That itself was proof.

“Perhaps, but first we need to figure out how to get you to your friend. Preferably while staying dry.”

“That’s probably for the best,” she laughed. “Let’s see what you’ve got for raincoats.”

In the next few hours we fell back into the easy working rhythm we discovered while repairing the teaching chamber.

My clan had long used the felted bark of the savia tree to stave off the worst of the rainy seasons onslaught.

“Luckily the process is mind numbingly dull,” I explained to Kyla.

Her own clothing now dry, she peered over my shoulder at the full chest of felt.

“And that’s lucky how?”

I rubbed my horn, only a little embarrassed to admit the truth. “It gives me something to do when I’m figuring out a problem.”

“It’s a pity I don’t know how to knit,” she laughed. “I’ve often thought it would serve the same purpose.

The felted bark was heavy, one side waxy, the others still slightly abrasive.

I had never worried about it before, but I frowned, thinking of how it would irritate Kyla’s more delicate skin.

“We can line this with the blanket,” I decided, clearing off enough space on the floor to cut out pieces for her coat.

She pulled the fabric back from me before I could lay it over the largest piece of felt.

“Are you sure? She asked, frowning at the faded images woven into the tapestry. “It looks like it might be something important.”

I shrugged. “Anyone who cared about it is long dead. It may as well serve some use now.”

“Fine,” she said reluctantly. “But first, let me get something.”

She returned with the smaller of the two boxes she’d taken from the pod. “I just want to get some photos of it, just in case.

Her box admitted the strange flash of light, and I peered closer at it, intrigued.

“What was that?”

“My tablet,” she answered. “It’s just another device, that’s all.”

I peered at the thing she handed me, a smooth cold surface that now showed an identical image of the tapestry.

“It is for making images of real things?”

Looking between the image and the cloth on the floor, I could find no differences.

“Sure, but that’s sort of only part of what it does.” 

I handed it back to her. “Show me. Show me everything.”

She grinned. “Look, it has the manual for the Dream, the vessel I was on. Tells you everything you need to know about it.”

She tapped at the side of the box and immediately the screen turned pale, black markings marching across the page, broken by drawing after drawing.

And none of it was anything that I could understand.

“We’d need a teaching chamber of my own for you to be able to read this, wouldn’t we?” Kyla quickly realized.

“It would seem so.” I watched, fascinated as she showed other images, like the stored memories of my people’s history, but these were of a world and a place I had never imagined.

“Wait! That is her!” I pointed to the screen.

With a quick snap of her fingers the image enlarged.

“Yep, that’s Sarah. Now just to find her.” Kyla’s voice quivered as she gazed at the face of her friend.

“We will start in the morning,” I assured her, then unhooked the panel from the wall that concealed my bed, pulling it down and testing the legs.

“Our journey will be long. You should rest.”

She eyed the bench warily.

“Two questions. Where are you going to sleep? And where do you…well..” She bit her lip, and looked to the ground. “Where do you go to take care of your bodily functions? I think my system is finally catching up with me.”

Once she had reemerged, I motioned her to lay upon the bed.

“You still haven’t answered my first question,” she protested. “Where are you going to sleep?”

“I still have a few things to pack up,” I explained to her. “Nothing you can help with. I promise, it would not be the first time I have bedded down in the workshop after a late night stuck on some puzzle of the Makers.”

Kyla smiled. “I’d be lying if I said I’d never fallen asleep over a project myself.” She climbed up into the bed

“Will it do?” I worried. “Your body is frailer than mine, and I do not know what you need. Perhaps something more like a nest, like Tali?”

She yawned sleepily rolling over to her side to face me.

“I never thought I’d want to go to sleep again. But right now I’m so tired you could probably stuff the mattress full of nails and I wouldn’t notice.”

Gently I pulled the covers over her as her eyes drifted closed.

“I promise, no nails were involved in the making of the mattress.”

But I don’t think she heard me.

As she slept I tacked together the side seams of her raincoat and fastened the hood and laces.

Not perfect, but it would work.

Now for the next pressing problem.

The journey to the mountains of the Sen’ki would take many days of walking.

Kyla could not be barefoot.

And while the idea of carrying her the entire way was tempting, I knew full well I’d need my arms and weapons free.

Besides, I suspected she would argue.

I gathered together various pieces of leather I had saved from projects, some heavy and thick, others more supple to the touch.

It would not be the first time I crafted a pair of boots, however there was one small difficulty.

I had no idea what size to make them.

I returned to the living quarters, watched her sleeping, her breathing even and peaceful.

“Stay and watch over her,” I told Tali, who leapt up to press against Kyla’s side.

Grabbing my own raincoat I slipped out the front door, closing it carefully behind me, then went up the tunnel and out into the night.

Breaking into a run I retraced our path until I found one of the light impractical coverings she’d worn on her feet before.

Useless as a shoe, but it would work perfectly well as a template.

Snatching it from the grass I sprinted back to the house.

A sleepless night was nothing, but there was much to do before daylight.

As I returned, I heard Kyla’s voice.

“Tali had better not be bothering her,” I muttered to myself as I opened this panel that led to the kitchen.

But Kyla wasn’t awake.

Tali stood at her shoulder, pressing her small orange head into Kyla’s shoulder as she twisted and turned on the bed.

“I can’t make it stop. Why can’t I make it stop?” 

Kyla’s voice was tight, filled with panic and frustration.

“Everyone’s going to die if I can’t make it stop.”

I dropped the shoe to the floor and hurried to her side, kneeling down beside her.

“It’s only a dream,” I whispered. “No one died. You did well.”

True or not, I didn’t care, only that the look of anguish that contorted her face went away.

In my soul I knew it was the truth. Whatever tormented her, Kyla had done her best.

I laced my fingers with hers, murmuring soft words until she quieted.

Silently I went to gather my tools, set up near the bed.

I would not leave her side again until she woke.

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