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aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
“Well, I guess I was jes anxious for yah tah see little surprise. I jes have dah house get little update so dat yah would have nice surprise when yah come home….Maybe yah jes nap wit meh little bit. We have counsel meeting tahnight."

Calysta looked around their bedroom and found herself without words for a moment. It was. Bright…bordering lurid. Illya had someone change their bed, frame and all, entirely. It was a big monstrosity of a thing piled with pillows in a variety of patterns and colors themed in gold. The blankets, like all the changes down stairs, were red and gold. A beaded curtain had been used to unsuccessfully hide the deep purple wall behind the bed itself and the smell of Chip incense and oil was stronger in the bedroom.

She raised her brow at Illya. “I’m definitely surprised.”

That was a true statement even if she didn’t quite mean it in the way he meant to. She wondered what had prompted the sudden make over and she almost asked why he had decided to have someone remake the entire house while they were gone without telling her. Bed was calling her name though and she wasn’t up to having a debate over the decor of their house at the moment.

He started making room for her on the enormous bed by pushing aside the gaudy, multitudinous pillows, and she smirked a little. “I think I will have a little nap with you, just make sure there’s a enough space for me,” she chuckled, as she attempted to mount the large bed, “Some of those pillows are as big as I am and I might get a little lost in the herd. .”

She grinned despite her fatigue and settled next to Illya, snuggling down in the mound of ridiculous pillows. With a sweet kiss to his cheek, she closed her eyes and it didn’t take long for her to drift off.

***************

Calysta left Helen and Edgar’s house feeling both better and strangely resolute. She felt better having gotten some of her concerns off her chest and for Edgar’s word that he would speak to the council so Illya could get some much needed rest. She felt resolute because, some of what they told her made sense and she wanted to help her husband. The best way to do that would be to suck up her own insecurities and talk with him. Not just once either, but consistently. She would have to talk with him about this belief on dying just to full-fill his duty. It wouldn’t be easy but she would do it.

She reported to the pre-council meeting dressed as an empress. Though she was sure it had not escaped the notice of the women helping her into her very heavy gold threaded dress that she was a little plumper than the last time she’d worn it. All the same, she looked fine in it for now and had her make-up done and the golden feathers put neatly into her hair which was partly braided in the Chippeqouti fashion.

Illya always looked good dressed as the Emperor. Especially with his diamond earrings in. She wished he could get rid of the turban so his handsome black curls could show, but the turban was traditional and therefore, they were stuck with it. He still looked very dashing in the outfit anyways and she couldn’t help stealing glances at him as they all assembled for the pre-meeting.

It was harder not to speak during the pre-council meeting. They had a hot debate on what to do with Moryn. Some of the council members were very angry and wanted to make her wait till the very end. She could tell some of these members, who she did know at least by name, were probably some of the ones causing Illya so much grief in the council. Others were more moderate and understood they were to be offended, but not so much so that they would snub an ally to an even greater degree. She wasn’t meant to speak, but she found herself biting her tongue at times when the more hot-blooded ones showed their anger. Rather than making a scene though, she took careful note of who was saying what until finally it was decided Moryn would be made to wait and watch for an hour before she was heard.

With that settled, among other issues, Calysta took Illya’s ring laden hand as he offered it, and walked out to face the crowds and council members waiting for them to make their appearance.

***************

Moryn nodded to Tiel's words of advice. She didn't want to make matters worse than they already were. It was highly important to get this right. Showing a respectful acknowledgment without bowing was very against her own tradition and when it was her turn to speak, she felt her stomach clench to start a careful bow. Fighting the urge, she looked up to the Emperor-General and the Councilwoman who was no longer the councilwoman, but a pale, but no less be-decked Empress by his side. They looked at her expectantly.

"To the honorable and bold Emperor and the kind and wise Empress of the Chippeqouti, I present myself with all do respect and candor to your court," she made a small, but deliberate sweeping motion, causing her flowing sleeve to trail gracefully at her wrist, "You have my gratitude for allowing me to speak on such short notice. I am a believer in short, meaningful words and I understand that my time here is limited. To that effect, I do not want to assume you and your council are unaware of the events on Ewen, however, before I speak further, I would recount them if you wish, Emperor. If not, I will move forward with what I will say."


The woman's presence caused a bit of a stir. Some of the people were angry she had come and others thought it was only fitting she arrived in person to apologize. Her greeting was a strange attempt, but it qualified as respectful anyway. At her offer to recount the event a young hot headed council member stepped forward and made his offer. "I would offer evidence to recount the events. There is hologram footage of this."

Illya clenched his jaw and he stared at the young council member before speaking. "I believe everyone here has seen this hologram you speak of. It is only fair to allow the delegate from Ewen to present evidence. She may possess information that is not to be found in the hologram." The rebuke sent the young council member back to his place shamed and red faced. It was certainly not Illya's intention for the young man to be shamed, but he was operating outside of the agreement the majority of the Council agreed to. "The delegate from Ewen will recount the events now."

Though the small spat was hardly uncommon in the Chip Court the importance of it needed to be relayed to Moryn. Tiel faithfully translated what was said and then stood back to make room for Moryn to gesture freely as she spoke.


Moryn did not realize she was on trial. She had offered to recount the facts because it was courtesy to people in the room who may not know them. The fellow who stepped up and spoke in harsher tones which were relayed through Tiel made her realize that perhaps some of the Chippeqouti felt it should have been a trial. The hot-blooded one would have to control himself. His own actions were considered borderline rude in her own culture as he had interrupted a question not even meant for him. She didn't look in his direction as the Emperor admonished him some. Instead, he gave her leave to recount the events on Ewen.

She did so with detail, but she didn't start directly at the flour incident or the incident. She started at their welcome ceremony and recounted the days and events on each with accurate times. If she was to be judged, she would be judged for all the actions on the trip not just the ones that caused offense but of the good. At the time the flour incident occurred, she recounted it in detail.

"The bridge is flanked on either side by water," she noted, "The roof was damaged the day before in a storm and the weather had prevented a proper repair on a small section of the roof before your arrival, despite several attempts during the night. The councilwoman was aware of the repairs and was not dettered from seeing the lake. It is the largest lake on Kaereal and something she had not seen before. Approximately. 25 miles from the end of the path loop, two children waited on the side and damaged roof top. When we passed, all of us were doused in water and flour, including myself and the attendees. The children were aware of who I was and who I was accompanying at the time. However, they are not old enough to fully understand the implications of what they had done besides play a rude prank at, what I know was the urging of their parents in the Heritage party. They parents were well aware that the Emperor and Empress would not likely ask for the traditional punishment for a crime of that sort, which is public shaming and flogging. Those same parents are also now in confinement for those actions among later actions."

She looked at the Emperor and nodded her head. "I would continue to the end, Emperor." Moyrn kept her eyes on the big, very over dressed Emperor and his Empress as she recounted the rest of the events, including the water dancing fiasco.

"Ewen takes matters of impropriety and dishonor seriously," she concluded, "There has been discord over what is considered improper, splitting our council. That is no longer the case and, ultimately, it is not your worry. It is no excuse for some of the events on Ewen, which is why I have come to ask that we treat as Alliance and as allies so that there is no ill will between us. That we may trade and live in peace."


The room remained quiet while Moryn gave a very long and detailed recounting of the events. Illya did his best to appear attentive and it was only accomplished through a fierce gaze. He was in fact bored out of his mind. This was an exceedingly boring thing to do.

While one Chip woman was waiting for her turn to speak, her child that stood at her side began to complain loudly that he was tired and his legs hurt with growing pains. The boy was barely older than 4 and perhaps still shy of strangers, but there weren't really any strangers among the Chippequoti and children knew that. It was the way they were raised.

lllya waived to Edgar and then had the man pass the news down until a council member spoke with the woman and got a little cushion and some toys for the child to be seated on. Even after the small distraction of having arrangements made for the boy, Illya found himself bored again. He was also getting hungry. Thankfully, the story was finished before the end of her hour.

Once more the hot-headed young man came forward and offered to show the hologram. This time Edgar stood and spoke. "I believe the council has seen the evidence offered. The delegate has presented her evidence well and if the Emperor and Empress can confirm the events as they are presented it will be the decision of the Emperor."

"Yes, these events are as the delegate states. As the Emperor I accept the apology on behalf of the Chippequoti. It appears that there were bad actors present and of which the delegate could not have known of their devious acts. The matter is settled and the Chippequoti will be satisfied to accept what the delegate proposes. We will treat Ewenians as fellow members of the alliance and trade freely and live in peace." With that part of the business done he signaled for a continuation of the meeting, but not before ordering Moryn to wait.

Moryn was starting to dislike the member of the Chippeqouti Council that kept interrupting her and the Emperor was well. He seemed bound and determined to show holograms that had already been seen and only served to inflame the situation. Luckily, a much older man on the council moved things right along, putting the decision to the Emperor who, to her relief, had no trouble clearing the matter. She tried not to show her relief on her face, but rather gave a dignified nod. "Ewen hears you, Emperor of the Chippeqouti and we are allies with no harm between us once more."

He replied, moving forward, but asking her to wait to the side. Tiel translated for her and she shifted to the side to allow for whatever proceedings would occur next.


The remainder of the time for the council meeting was absorbed with multiple matters . Most of the matters Illya assigned to the council as they were more than able to assist with the issues. A the end, Illya rose, still holding Kalizda's hand and walked out. Everyone cleared the room except Tiel, who advised Moryn to remain waiting. If the Emperor told her to wait it was because he intended her to be here when the meeting was done.


Moryn watched as the Emperor did his work. She noted that the Empress was silent except for an occasion or two when she would put a hand on the Emperor's and murmur something. She did this when several of the Pyrtan's had appeared to the meeting to facilitate some trade or other issue with the Chips whom they lived beside. She watched carefully and when everything was done, the Emperor stood with the Empress. Moryn took the moment to admire how much better the Chip attire looked on her rather than the Ewenian. It was an odd thought considering, she thought the outfits themselves were over-done and fairly gawdy.

The room emptied, leaving her oddly singled out next to her translator who advised her to stay seated. She nodded and waited in silence for a moment until she spoke to Tiel. "If I may, Honorable Tiel of the Chippeqouti Council, what were the names of the men who were speaking. The delegate near the Emperor? And the one behind me who insisted on showing the hologram?"

Tiel stood near Moryn though, she noticed the woman took opportunity to seat herself. "I am only Tiel, or if you choose to use proper title, Elder in training." A slight smile came to her face and she listened to Moryn's questions. "The young one is called by his proper title, Elder Gibur. The older is Elder Edgar. I am training under Elder Edgar."


Moryn nodded, remembering the names carefully. It was always good to remember who was helpful and who was not in the situations. "Tiel, then," she replied, "In return, it is appropriate to call me simply Moryn." She stole a glance at the door, but it didn't appear anyone else was coming in or out. "Elder Gibur was very out spoken. He reminded me of one of our own Councilmembers."


It seemed that the woman had noted the very poor manners of Gibur and Tiel nodded. "He is young and very ambitious." What was worse was that somehow he reminded Moryn of one of her own council members and Tiel could only hope that was not a bad thing. "Every council has members that are more ambitious." They had been waiting almost ten minutes more when Tiel heard the doors behind the council room opening and closing. "We stand now. The Emperor will be here soon."


Moryn couldn't help but think Tiel was well chosen for Elder when she used the term 'ambitious' to describe her colleague. They waited in silence for a few more minutes until the woman bid her to stand. She did so, smoothing out the front of her silken dress carefully. Outside, she could hear the rain pouring with renewed strength. The rainy season hear reminded her of home, though Pyrta smelled of sweet grass when it rained rather than lake water. She waited patiently for the Emperor to enter, hands folded to her front, as was proper.


Illya coughed loudly as he reached the door and waited to finish his coughing fit before going back into the council room. He had changed back to his usual clothing and took off the eyeliner. Theonly thing left was the earrings. Kalizda seemed to like them and he was planning on leaving them for her. Turning the knob Illya opened the door and then stepped into the council room with Kalizda close behind him. "Moryn, yah ready tah go see dah good stuff? I'm tired of dis meeting stuff. Food, pleasure house and tea. Dat's what sounds good eh?"

Unlike the very formal meeting, Illya came in with a cough and a very informal announcement that he was tired of all the meetings and ready to see the 'good stuff. He looked more like himself in casual attire and she noted the council woman behind him, bringing a finger to her lips to hide a bit of a smile aimed solely at her husband as she looked at him with a fond gaze.

Moryn couldn't help but smile and she nodded. "I think I'm ready for that as well. Food in particular. Though, if I remember from my studies the pleasure houses is very nice too." She glanced at Tiel and nodded. "Would you be joining us, Tiel?" It would have been rude.not to consider her guide and translator.

Tiel could see that Illya was back to his less formal self and she smiled at the offer. "I will nut. Meh family waits for meh for dinner." Quietly excusing herself she stepped out and held her extra scarf over her head as she dashed home. Illya couldn't help the slight disappointment at the fact that Moryn seemed to know what a pleasure house was. "Yes, dey are very nice. What yah know about dem?"

Moryn nodded to Tiel as the woman took her leave, and made a mental note to remember her name.

Illya seemed a bit strange when he asked what she knew about them. Tilting her head, she looked to him and smiled. "Only a little. I've never been in one, obviously, but my research suggests they are like relaxation parlors on Ewen, or perhaps the Terran equivalent of a spa. Despite what the name translates to."

"Yeah, you'd be right." Illya sighed and he shook his head. "I was hoping yah didn't know and found dah translation a bit offensive."

Moryn laughed good naturedly and walked forward. "I did research as was proper. I admit the direct translation was...surprising at first." Clearly he was hoping to pull a little joke of his own. That was fair given the circumstances. She raised a brow at him though and chuckled. "However, my husband is very much unaware of the terms meaning. I wouldn't take offense if you decided to surprise him a little with a trip."


At the offer to get Hale Illya laughed and then started coughing again. "Oh, I will surprise him. Where es he anyway?"

Moryn nodded to the door. "He came to listen to the proceedings but left because only I was asked to stay behind. He is probably waiting in the lobby area."

Calysta slid a hand into Illya's, and spoke something in Qouti to her husband in gentle whispers it sounded like a suggestion, maybe. Then the woman looked at her with cheery eyes the likes of which she hadn't seen ever before on her face. "I asked if maybe we'd like to eat at the new little Chippeqouti style spot in the village, then go to the pleasure house."

The timing for dinner couldn't have come too soon. Illya's stomach was starting to twist with hunger again and he hated that feeling. At least it wasn't any true discomfort of real hunger, just a want for food was all. Still, he liked to satisfy that kind of want as soon as he could.

Kalizda leaned in and she brushed her little fingers on the inside of his palm affectionately and whispered to him in Quoti about the new food house. With a hum and a nod of his head he agreed with her and then started to think of what they might get to do at home in their new bed. They would both be smelling good with all those oils, relaxed and the bed was big and full of pillows and soft sheets with beads in the room. It looked much nicer.

Almost immediately he was drawn back to the present and Illya still had the grin on his face when he saw Hale. "Hale, yah come experience good Chippequoti food wit us and den we all go to dah pleasure house eh?"

"Oh that sounds quite nice," Moryn said, "Why don't we go collect Hale, hm?"

She started walking with Calysta and Illya, though the latter seemed to be floating by as if on a cloud. He was smiling vaguely too. She wondered if this was another episode like what she had observed in the council meeting or if he was simply pleased to be going to dinner. When they came into the waiting area, she found Hale waiting as she thought. He must have heard her first steps because he smiled at her and rose to his feet. Before he could greet her Illya asked if he wanted to go to the pleasure house. Hale's smile went from from genuine to twitched with confusion. He furrowed his brow. "You're taking my wife and yours to a pleasure house?"

"Oh, aye, Kalizda likes et. I like et too. Yah definitely gonna want a man when yah go en. Dey're much better ef yah need a deeper massage tah work a few tings out."Illya found it a bonus that Hale was blind. He wouldn't be able to see the fact that Illya was clearly enjoying himself in this moment.


Hale's brows quirked upward in a show of clear surprise and his chin titled in the direction of his wife. "I may not be a genius, but I'd like to think I was smart enough not to open my mouth about pleasure houses in front of my wife."


Illya had to hold back his laughter and instead ended up coughing some more. "Eh, I dun worry about et. Kalizda likes et too. She dun tink she would like et so much at first, but now she's big fan. I tink Moryn might find et nice too."

Moryn bit her lip, trying not to laugh while Illya coughed and Calysta played right along. She'd always known the woman to be a more serious person, but here Calysta had playfulness in abundance. She wasn't nearly so shy as Moryn though either. "Aye, its very nice, but I prefer a woman instead. They tend to be more patient, hm?"

Hale choked out a surprised sound and his mouth opened and shut before he looked to his wife. "And you really want to go to this pleasure house?"

"Aye," Moryn nodded, "Its a Chippeqouti treat, I'm told."

Hale swept his glasses off, revealing white eyes with no iris o pupil, and wiped at his brow before nodded. "If you really want to, my dear. I'll go with you." He slide his glasses back on and let out a breath. "This isn't one of your girly tricks to get me to admit I want to go to a pleasure house is it?" He said to Moryn wryly.

It was obvious by Hale's reaction that he was nervous. "Yah know, et's probably easier on dah stomach tah get massage at pleasure house first." Illya offered because it was in fact easier on the stomach, and dinner would be more enjoyable if they got Hale's stress out of the way first. "I tink dat dah Chippequoti food house will serve on balcony on top so dat we can recline while we eat eh?" Illya loved reclining on a cushion while he ate. It was far more comfortable. "Yah say eat first or pleasure first?"

Hale offered his hand out to Moryn who took it, looping her arm around his gently. "Show first, I suppose? Then dinner. Though I admit shows like this are a bit wasted on me." He tapped his temple with a hesitant smile.

He wasn't sure he would have much of an appetite after that, but if Moryn really wanted to go, he wouldn't refuse her.

This was getting even better and Illya smirked. "Show? What yah talking about? Dis es hands on experience." This time Illya glanced at Kalizda to see if she was smiling as big as he was.

Hale swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing some as he did. "Ah," he said, "I don't know how hands on you're talking about, yeah? But we'll go so long as Moryn wants to." That was the safest he was going to get with his wife and two dignitaries with him.

Calysta slide her hand up Illya's arm and had her nose slightly hidden there to stifle a laugh as she grinned from their little joke.

"Don't worry," she said, "It will be something you never forget. You should try the tradition at least once, yeah?"

Moryn nodded. "Indeed. Will you lead the way, General?" (edited)

"Yeah, jes follow." Illya knew it wasn't far and he somewhat looked forward to it, but also had a sense of dread. His back needed work and his bullet wounds were bound to be sore, but they might feel better after this. "Dun worry Hale. Even a blind man can't miss wit dis. Yah jes get stripped down when we get inside and wrap towel around yah and select bed where yah gonna lay down. Dey are very experienced wit dere massage skills."

When they got to the pleasure house Illya grabbed Hale's forearm gently and pulled him over to the men's side. "Yah strip here. I put yah clotes next tah mine and I help yah find dem when we're done." As soon as they were both stripped, Illya grabbed a towel and helped Hale wrap it around his waist. "Yah also want glasses off. Dey will give yah head massage too."

Hale couldn't quite imagine what was running through his wife's mind when she agreed to do something like this. Perhaps it was part of making nice with the Chips after such a disastrous meeting on Ewen. His plan had been to stick close to her Moryn for the pleasure house but that life line cut off when she went off with the councilwoman.

The next step was, apparently, to strip down, glasses and all. He had the strange impression he was a kid at summer camp getting ready to be pranked by having his clothes stolen.

He hesitated and then slowly did as instructed. He wondered if he could convince the worker just to give him a regular massage. Tilted his head in Illya's direction he started to whisper. "I don't suppose I could just get a normal massage or something? Moryn is the only one I really want running around a few of those areas. Call it a blind man's trust issues, if you will."

By now it was clear Hale was nervous. Illya could sense it. Even if his eyes were only white he could see how the eyelids were slanted with worry and his eyebrows were pulled in tight. Feigning offense he let out a huff, "What dah hell are yah accusing meh of Hale? Yah telling meh yah tought dis was whorehouse?"

Apparently, this was the wrong thing to say, or at least offensive and incorrect. Hale's brow knitted together until he let out a whuffing breath of relief. "You mean its not?"

Illya started laughing and he clapped a big hand on Hale's shoulder, "No, et's nut. Et translates pleasure house, but ets only massage."

The heavy clap to his shoulder caught him off guard and he lurched a little but couldn't help but grin as Illya laughed. "Damnit, you had me sweating bullets in front of my wife and I bet she enjoyed the joke as much as you did." He laughed, though his cheeks turned a bit pink. "I'll get you both back for that one."

"I'm sure yah will. Yah gotta make et good. Yah dun have advantage of sight. I will see funny looks on yah face." Illya went over to the bench and sat down with Hale to wait for their turn to be called. Hale got called first and the worker led him to the table and made sure he got on safely before they started with gently massaging Hale's scalp. Then it was Illya's turn and he went to lay on the table. He almost regretted it immediately. The oils were clearing his airway, but his back was burning and they were barely rubbing in the first few oils to help loosen him up.

Hale smirked, "Oh. Don't you worry. It will be good. A joke like this deserves a good return, my friend."

Hale found himself called first and he took his cane in one hand and held his towel securely in place with the other until the fellow giving him the massage helped him up to the table. The scalp massage felt more than nice and he found himself dozing off until they worked their way down to his hands which were always tense from use. He kept his ear out for his wife but all he heard was the occasional grunt of pain from Illya.

Hale had his shoulders and back attended to as well as his feet. He had several crooked toes from multiple breaks brought on by tripping or stubbing them. Those tended to ache at times too.

The worker got to Hale's feet and he slowed down and rubbed some soothing oils into the soles of Hale's feet. "Yah hard on yah feet eh? I can get dem straight ef yah come back every day for mont."

Hale grunted a bit as the fellow hit a particularly tender spot. "Occupational hazard of being me," he said as he let out a breath, "I believe you could, but I dont think I will be here so long as that. I'm only a guest of the General and Councilwoman."

"Well, yah plan longer holiday and I fex yah feet." The man stated as a matter of fact and continued working until he figured Hale's feet had enough work for the day and then he rubbed in a soothing oil. "Now we jes rub out all dah tender spots and I put oil on tah make et smoot feeling. Yah go tah food house next and den tea house eh?"

Hale nodded and let out a an "Aye," as the man continued to work on his feet. When he mentioned where they were going next, Hale nodded again. "I believe so. I've heard good things about Chippeqouti food. I'm open to suggestions on what to try."

The man finished his work and helped him sit up. Hale smiled, looking much more relaxed and offered his hand out to the fellow to shake. "I feel much better, thank you," he said earnestly.

The worker smiled some as Hale seemed to be an amiable outsider. Even if he was related to the Ewenian, he was a good fellow. "Meh favorite es tree day meat. Very spicy, flavorful and filling. I ask meh agreed tah make some, but she tell meh she needs tree days notice and I forget tah ask her till I want some. So, I will have some en tree days." With a chuckle he shook Hale's hand. "Yah will enjoy dah food and tea. Chippequoti have best life."

Hale assumed 'tree' was meant to be three, given the man's accent and smiled with a chuckle. "Three day meat it is, then. I'll ask for it." They shook hands and Hale waited for Illya to be done. When they met back up with the women and went to dinner, he would be sure to ask for the three day meat as suggested.

The Chippeqouti version of a restaurant was interesting. Moryn described the room to Hale in low whispers as they walked arm and arm into a room that was lit by soft, multi colored lanterns. Tapestries and silks hung in graceful swaths from the ceiling and a long, low table stretched across the room. Smaller lanterns were stationed every so often down the length of the table and so were large, plush cushions.

Moryn helped Hale find a cushion and plop to his rear while Calysta and Illya lowered themselves to soft cushions across from them.

Hale hardly expected a menu that he could read either with his fingers or translated from a scanned image provided by his pad, as Qouti had not been universally translated and put into the software that allowed him to do that with other languages. “Not to worry,” he said, “It was suggested to me by the fellow at the pleasure house to order the three day meat. I’m always of the opinion that the locals know best. So, I’ll have the three day meet.”

Moryn smiled at him. It was a soft smile and she sat closer to him than was proper. In fact, she held his hand at times too. Here on Pyrta, she could dispense with some of the protocol she found too stifling and show Hale some public affection.

Some how the conversation turned to how they had met each other.

“I read all about you two met in the holo-zines,” Moryn admitted, sipping her tea, “I can’t believe you shot him. That’s an exciting way to meet someone.”

Hale titled his head and smirked. “Oi, I thought the way we met was plenty exciting.”

“Bumping into me with your cane?” Moryn laughed.

Her husband laughed and shook his head. “I think it was a bit more than that, don’t you?”

Moryn nudged him and snorted. “There I was, sitting on a bench at the University on Kinte, mind my own business, good and proper. “

“She was reading a holo-zine,” Hale interjected, “One of those scandalous ones.”

“How would you even know….oh….you….well, then something bumps into my foot and slides up my ankle,” Moryn continued, “I look up and it’s this man right here and he said to me. ‘Pardon me, I didn’t see you there. Nice leg though.’ I didn’t really look up at him at first and started to tell him to get whatever it was, off of me, then saw….that he couldn’t see….I felt a bit sheepish and my first reaction was to say ‘Uh thank you?’ And then this man has the audacity to look at me and say ‘I was talking about the bench leg.’”

Hale grinned and Moryn shot him a falsely offended and laughed. “Then he just grinned at me, and told me if he was going to compliment me, he’d start out telling me I had a beautiful voice instead. I still wonder if he did it all by accident or not.”

The mathematician shrugged lightly, still grinning. “I’ll never tell.”

****************************
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
Calysta walked with Illya into their house. Dinner with Hale and Moryn had gone well after the pleasure house. She dared to think Hale and Illya got along very well and seemed to have a budding friendship. It was something she would absolutely encourage too.

Now, it was time for rest and Calysta was more than ready to climb into bed, but before she did, she paused at their little dining room and considered it. "We'll be putting three more at that table this time next year," she mused to Illya, and she slid his hand around her back.

By the time they got back to the house Illya was tired out, but it was gonna feel good to sleep in his own bed. It was also time for one of the treatments and he was hopeful it would help him sleep better. Instead of heading straight to their bedroom he felt Kalizda pull his hand around her back and he slid his hand a bit further and then wrapped his fingers around her hip and gave it a slight squeeze. "Eh, yeah. I tink we need new house. Dere es nut enough room for dah animals and all dah extra room we need en dah house. Et will get more cramped dah older dah boys get."

"Aye," she nodded with a chuckle, "I think all of our boys will be like their Dah. Big and tall, yeah?" She felt the slight squeeze at her hip smiled, leaning into him more. "I'm glad we have our family. I was worried when we married that I wouldn't be able to give you one, and now, we'll have babies everywhere." She nestled against him some and chuckled. "Maybe we can look at building something together, yeah?"

"Yah plan on showing meh dah plans yah want? I tink I will hire dis house built. I dun have enough time tah build et mehself. Et will have tah be big house, much bigger den most Chippequoti ever make. We have small houses because et es uncommon tah have more den two babies at one time." Illya was sure he didn't have the time to build it, but he also knew he didn't have the money to hire it done unless he pulled out a few old things that might be considered valuable.

Calysta raised a brow. She knew it was tradition for the Chip man to build his wife a house wherever they went. It was a tradition she liked and found very sweet for new couples. However, they had children, careers, and physical limitations sometimes. Her hand slid up to his chest and she gave him a gentle squeeze back. "I know, love. It would be alot to do. We can hire someone to build it. Perhaps some Kaereleana and Chips? I'd like us to make the plans together though. Its our house together and you should have a say in it too. Then she chuckled. "I can't say I've ever been typical of anything in our marriage and I know its not entirely traditional, but we can have someone build it. We can buy the land for sale closer to the outskirts if you like."

The purchase of land was problematic too. Illya thought long and hard about it. He had one of the special coins left from Markus and he wanted to keep it, but the house and land were more important. Otherwise, he could make a trip out to Quoti to get some old jewelry he had for Isla and get it cleaned up and sell it. Most of anything he had of value was out there and a few pieces in Guoron, but he couldn't go to Guoron.

Illya took a deep breath and then coughed some before he responded, "Yeah, we buy land near dah edge ef et's nut good for farming and den we eh....we peck plans for house togeter. Dat will be fine."

Illya seemed less enthused and more tired than anything else when he sighed. She slid her chin upward and gazed at this from under his arm. "It shouldn't be too bad. Some of the land near the school isn't good for farming anymore really. And it might be a good thing we are close to the school. Land is expensive, but we've got plenty. I've been working and saving, hm?"

Illya frowned some when she said she’d been working and saving. “Well, I’m nut broke yet. I can still work and save too. I tink I have enough. Maybe we make some hologram meetings for when we are jes flying on tour and nut so busy. Den we can look at prices and start house before yah have babies.”

Calysta raised a brow at him curiously. She knew men had their pride. He might not abide by letting her pay for it all, though she very well could at this point. "There's no reason for you to be broke, love. You paid for our ship, yeah? We are partners. We can look at the costs and go from there. Maybe we can meet with a few people while we fly. If we're too tired though, we rest and we can take care of it when we come back." It dawned on her that he had never asked about her finances. She had just been doing them herself so he hadn't worried over them. "Tomorrow, I want to show you something before we leave to Reylia, yeah? It might make things a bit easier. Do you mind if we make a small stop before we go?"

The idea of looking at costs while they were traveling was attractive and Illya nodded, “Yes we do dis.”

Then she suddenly said she had something to show him and Illya quirked an eyebrow. Did she already have the land and a potential house plan picked out? “Yes, we will go see dis ring tomorrow. What es et?”

Calysta smiled. She liked it when he was intrigued. "Mmm...a project I've been working on for awhile. I want to show it to you, since we're here on Kaereal now is as good a time as any. I've been excited to share it with you for awhile and it might help with a few things, yeah? Its also much easier to explain if I show you.

“Yah keep meh en suspense?” Illya gave her hip another little squeeze. “Yah know I like mystery, but I also like answers.” He half hoped he could get the answer now, however, she might feel too squirrelly to give it to him.

Calysta chuckled and enjoyed his hand around her hip. It was warm and snug. "Aye, maybe just a little suspense, but it really will make much more sense to show you rather than tell you. I could think of a few ways to pass the time till tomorrow though, if you're interested." She stood on her toes and kissed the closest part of his jaw she could manage with a sweet peck.

Kalizda seemed to be determined to make him wait and as a distraction she added a kiss with a hint of more. “Ooh, yah try tah bribe meh now tah keep meh quiet.” Illya leaned over and kissed Kalizda on the lips before he decided to bend over a little further and pick her up. “Better carry meh little birdie up dah stairs.”

Illya got that gravelly purr in his voice he got when he was getting playful and flirtatious as she offered him a distraction. It made her grin into his kiss and squeak out a giggle as he scooped her up. "Aye, but there are worse distractions, yeah? The doctor said we were clear to have a little fun so long as we take it easy."

"Eh, yah cleared?" It was impossible for Illya not to grin at that thought. "Dat's good news for meh. We jes take et very slow. Maybe I pleasure yah first so yah have easier time eh?"


She could see his grin growing wider. It had been awhile since they enjoyed each other and Illya certainly missed it. So had she. He asked if she was cleared by the doctor and she nodded. "Aye" she grinned, kissing him here and there. The offer of pleasuring her still made her blush but she wasn't going to say no. It probably would actually help. "I think I would like that, if you're up for it." She smoothed down the hair at the nape of his neck kissed him a little more excitedly.

Kalizda sounded about as excited as he was and Illya nodded his head vigorously as he started up the stairs with her. "Oh yes..." He growled and gave a raspy chuckle.

****************

Being pleasured like that was something she had only experienced a handful of times and she had never enjoyed making love more when he did it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good without that, but with it, she reached her own peaks like he did. It felt good and the fact that he wanted to do something like that for her made her relax and enjoy it more. The only damper on the whole thing was he had a constant cough. She didn’t say anything though, mostly because she was both out of breath from their activities and she knew he wasn’t going to do anything about it until he finished too.

It had been awhile since either of them had enjoyed a love making session and he took his time in all things. By the time they were done, she was almost dazed. If he hadn’t had to take that treatment she’d have fallen asleep right then and there.

Calysta wrapped an arm gently around Illya's hip and hugged him close from behind as he attended to the treatment the Ehaui had given him. He couldn't talk, but that was okay for now. She kissed his shoulders and neck gently. She kissed on him for a good 10 minutes before she spoke, "You should know...I went to talk with Edgar and Helen," she whispered, "I didn't know they wanted me to come see them. We talked about a few things, yeah?"

She waited a moment, then kissed his neck. "I told them about the babies and they were very excited. Though I think Edgar was a little surprised." Chuckling, she continued her work for a few more minutes until he was nearly done with his treatment. "I'm a little nervous, but I think things will be alright, yeah?"

It was plain to see that Kalizda was worried when she saw his treatment coming out. However, it was helpful and he only had to take it three times a day for a week. That wasn't so bad. Kalizda was kissing on him through most of the treatment and then she talked some. Illya was glad he didn't have to say anything right away.

When the treatment was done he didn't get an excuse and he had to clean the machine, but he could do all that from his spot here on the bed and toss the used sanitizing wipes in the garbage. "Why yah nervous about dah babies?" He wanted to hear from her before saying anything.

She let him do what he needed to do, shifting away from him only when he was done and needed to clean the machine. Laying back, she let him work until he asked her why she was nervous. She had told Helen and Edgar she would try to be more honest. "Three is alot of babies," she said, "Having the twins was hard, though there weren't very many complications, thankfully. I'm nervous because I don't want my body to fail. I don't want to lose them."

Illya took a deep breath. Having just finished the treatment he did it without breaking into a coughing fit. His back was still to her as he finished wrapping the machine back up and setting out only what he needed for the morning. Illya then turned and laid back in the bed next to her. Grabbing Kalizda's hand nearest him, he held it between both of his hands and waited for almost a minute before saying anything. "If yah take et easy and obey dah doctors I tink yah will be ok. We jes work hard on shep tah be sure yah dun do too much. I dun want tah lose yah or dah babies."

He was quiet for a long minute but she didn't press him. Instead, she laid back her hand brushing at his back gently until he turned to lay down with her. He took the hand she had been caressing him with in both of his. She leaned forward and kissed him after he spoke. "Isnt harder on you though? Having to pick up my slack? I know you've been working very hard. I see it every day. It's been wearing on you, even if you tell me you're fine."

"Dah chores are divided between a lot of us. I only do one or two small tings each week. Dey are nut more den half hour or hour." Illya knew she thought it was a lot, but they had divided things so it wasn't that much for anyone. "Et's oter tings wearing on meh. Nut dah chores."

She nestled in a little closer to him and looked at him with soft eyes as she kept his hand with hers. "When you put it it that way, it isn't so bad," she admitted, "What is it that's wearing on you, love?"

"Just some stuff." Illya was going to try and write it off. It wasn't likely to work though. So, he tried making it sound less upsetting. "Few things from the past been popping up and uh...well it crosses meh mind and I try tah make sure tings are taken care of."

He was deflecting again and she knew it. Talking was hard for him, which she also knew. She was just going to have to be gentle and pursue. She smiled and gave his lips a soft peck. "What kinds of things are you taking care of?"

It was hard to kiss when he was feeling this worried. Illya still tried, though it was a bit wimpy. "Yah know I like taking care of yah better den anyting or anyone else eh?"

"Aye," she nodded, "I know you do." Her fingers stroked lightly at his and she gazed at him with her grey eyes through long black lashes. "What kind of things are you taking care of, love?" She repeated the question in soft tones, hoping maybe that might remind him what she asked.

Even if her voice was soft he still felt a shudder run through his body. "Dah war." Illya took a deep breath again and he tried his best to keep from shaking though his fingers trembled some. "Dere are tings now and tings past."

She felt him shudder a little and she gave him a moment. The fingers slowly crept up to cover his with a soft squeeze. She had never seen him quite like this and it was intimidating, but it also felt like a break through. She stayed steady, and then swapped to talking in Qouti. "What are the things now?" She asked holding him closer to her chest.

Illya squeezed his eyes shut for a long moment and he let out his breath. "We know the Federation was hit hard and they have been quiet. It is only matter of time before they strike again. Intelligence reports they are working deep in their territory to prepare for an assault. No exact locations. Just...they're coming. I want you and the babies to be safe, to have a home and place to live without fear. I don't think I'm going to survive the war."

She let him have a moment to collect himself for whatever he might say. When he spoke, she was surprised by the details he gave her for once. Enough so that when he stopped speaking emotion hit before more rational thought and she found herself wrapping her arm around him. She pulled herself him and pressed him close as she could as her throat tightened some. If she could comfort him with a fierce touch she would have done it. It was a moment of quiet before she replied, her nose nuzzled against his collar bone, until she lifted her gaze. "There is a chance you might die," she admitted, "But recognizing the chance you might die also begs the chance that you will live. I want our babies, and me, and you to live without fear one day too. There's life to be had after this war, my love. And so long as you fight to come with all you have, then I will be with you. You fight to come to me and your babies and when the war is done we'll live and do the thing we want. Would you want that?"

Just having to admit to her that he knew a storm was brewing was hard enough. He and the men had spent hours going over the information they had and he still didn't know where they were preparing this launch from. If he did, he would have already arranged sabotage units and missions. Kalizda's hug was the sort that he could sense her sadness and resolve in one. Then she said one of the strangest things he'd heard in a long time. "Huh..." With a grin he met her gaze. "I guess you got a different way of looking at it. I might live." Of course that brought a whole new set of problems with it. Things he didn't have answers for. "I want to know what peace is like. I want to be here with you, but my duty must be done."

Calysta looked at his grin. She loved that slightly crooked grin of his. It was encouraging to hear him say aloud there was a chance he would live. Then that encouragement evaporated when he spoke about duty. She remembered what Edgar and Helen said about that. Lifting her head some, she inched back to get a better look at him and with her most serious tone she told him the truth. "Illya, you don't have to die to fulfill your duty. You fight and you come home to me. You will protect your people even better if you live to tell about it and raise your children as they should be raised, knowing their heritage. That's as important as any sacrifice on the battlefield."

"I know that. I try to come home, but if my duty requires me to die then I will. It is the honor of the Elite to die in place of those weaker than themselves if it will preserve the Chippequoti." Illya met her gaze and his eyes flashed with a hint of anger and fear. "None of us want to die. If we did there are plenty of ways to do it."

He was giving her a sort of fierce look she didn't totally understand but she held his gaze nonetheless. "You find every way you can to survive and get the job done," she told him, "Don't leave me wondering when you're coming home and don't make me come looking for you, because I will. I've done it before. I'm afraid too. I'm scared that sometimes when you walk out the door it will be the last time I ever see you. It might be an honor to die, but if there is an alternative to death, any possible way at all, you take it. Please."

"I give you my word. I will fight with everything in me to come home to you." Illya clenched his jaw as he spoke. He couldn't promise he would come home, but he gave his word on what he could. "Will you want me if I'm maimed and you can't even recognize me?"

If he was giving his word, he meant it. He didnt lie about that sort of thing. It made her feel strangely better in some ways. "I'll remember your word and if I have to remind you, I will." At his next statement, here eyes widened in shock at such a question. Sliding nearly over the top of him, she wrapped him up as much as her small body would allow, then looked him right in the eye. "Love, I have stood by you when you curled your lip at me because you didn't remember me at all. I stood by you when you nearly died and lost your leg. I stood by you when the drugs left your system and when you hurt body and heart for the things that have happened to you." She was shaking a little because the feeling she had was so strong it was hard for her to handle all at once. "I will want you no matter what lies ahead for us. I want you no matter what happens. Severe injury or not. You're my best friend and my lover and my heart. I want you till the day I die and beyond."

She wanted him to understand that very thoroughly and while she knew it might be dramatic, Edgar and Helen had encouraged her to say what she felt.

Illya met her gaze and he held it steady. When she curled up on his lap he held her, but still watched her face intently. At the last of it he held her closer and rested his chin over her shoulder. Illya could feel his eyes sting and a mist settled in his vision, but he still held her. If she would take him back regardless of his condition then it would be worth whatever he faced to come back to her.

When he released her from the hug Illya smirked, "I'll do my best to keep my face pretty for you."

She hugged him back with all the might she had. She thought, briefly of Elpsbet smacking him when he had arrived home after a battle and telling him he should have died. It had made her angry then but it made her doubly so now. Of course, she wanted him to come home no matter what. His chin was tucked to her shoulder and she pressed against his chest, holding him close for a long moment. Neither of them spoke, she just let him hold her as he would until he leased her with a little smirk. She knew that smirk well. "Do your best to keep everything that belongs to you on you," she told him, "Your face included." She brushed the back of his fingers at his cheeks, then kissed him to make her point. "Whatever happens, love. I'm with you." She kissed him a few more times then rested her forehead into his uninjured shoulder with a bit of a smile. "You know, if you're still in doubt, I could kiss you as many times as you wanted just so you knew how much I loved you."

Now that they were settled into the bed more comfortably again Illya winked at Kalizda. "I know you love me. I love you too." Since they were in a talking mood, Illya shifted to cross his legs and just have Kalizda sit with him. "Now, we go back to conversation you start. You say you're worried that your body will fail. Why? Do you feel different?"

Calysta smiled and somehow managed to blush when he winked at her and told her he loved her so earnestly. She'd never get tired of hearing that. He shifted until his legs were crossed and she carefully took the cue to sit in his lap, especially since they were both still nude, and faced him. He had circled back to her original comment and while she didn't like talking about it, Helen had told her to speak about these things. "Its hard for me to talk about," she admitted,"You know it wasn't always something I could talk about as a half breed." She slid her hands to his barr chest and felt the warmth of his skin as she spoke. "Perhaps a combination of old habit and worry," she said, "Even now, sometimes its easy to remember when a cut stood a chance to kill me. Babies had been...out of the question then. Now, I'm the only person like me to ever successfully have so many children and live to tell about it. I dont feel any different for this pregnancy. Yet. But it is alot of children at once. The twins were difficult to bear and triplets will be doubly so. I wanted to give you more children but I dont know what my body would do."

The difficulty of her younger years was primarily in her illness and Illya nodded. "Your past is still hard. It is not the past anymore." With a grin he reached for her shoulder and gently rubbed it. He could feel a few goosebumps raise on her skin and he pulled some blankets up on her shoulders and found a way to get some on himself too. "You will tell me if you feel like your body is not doing well."

Calysta smiled when he did. He always managed to make her smile, even when she was feeling shy about herself. He wrapped a blanket around them and she couldn't help the automatic reaction of snuggling both into the blanket and into him. There would have been a time where such a move felt strange as if she didn't know what to do. That was that past though. And so were some of her fears about the babies. It was actually relieving too. In the past he hadnt been so close to her when she was pregnant. She had faced that fear alone for much of the time. Now, he was here and he wanted to be there. It made a difference.

When he made his demand of her, he couldn't tell if it was a Chippeqouti phrased question or an actual demand a husband might give to his agreed. She chaffed under the latter but understood the former. Either way though, it was well meaning and he had made promises to her too. And perhaps this might make him feel better too.

"I promise. I will tell you if I'm not doing well and...if it helps... I'll rest more like you ask, yeah? Will you promise me the same?" She asked.

It was comforting to hear Kalizda give him her word that she would tell him if she was not doing well. Illya was starting to relax when she turned it on him. "I think you already know when I'm not doing well. What kinds of things do you not know?"

He was a clever wolf, and she knew the way he had asked the question was probably meant to narrow the scope of what they would talk about. "Sometimes I do," she said earnestly, "But not all hurts show on your body. I'm not always good at seeing when you're stressed out in other ways."


Illya shrugged some when she mentioned him being stressed out in other ways. "Sometimes the stress is just work. You know I can't talk about that much." He didn't want to get too deep on this subject if he could help it.

"I know you can't," she said gently, "But I also know work isn't always the issue. You mentioned things about your past earlier. And while I still might be able to guess when you aren't doing well, its much easier if you're able to tell me even a little."

Letting out a long sigh Illya let his shoulders droop. “I can't sleep very much sometimes." His voice was low and he paused before saying more. "Not been sleeping more than a few hours for more than a month now. Keep getting nightmares." (edited)

She felt the muscles in his shoulders shift, losing their tension as he sighed. Calysta listened patiently as he spoke about his sleeping and his nightmares. Apparently this was a more recent development and the most major thing that happened roughly a month ago was the assassination attempt. She slid her hands up his chest and gently put them on his shoulder close to his neck to touch him with soft hands as it if might relief the tension that wasn't so physical. ”Since the assassination attempt?" She offered.

"No," Illya mumbled. He felt ashamed of how silly it was going to sound. After all this time he would have thought he would get past some things, but he hadn't. "I have dreams a lot. Sometimes I wake up and you know when I don't. Sometimes I have dreams almost every night and then sometimes I get good sleep for a few days or weeks. Just not sleeping good lately." The more he thought about it, she was probably right. The most recent string of rough nights was after the assassination attempt. "Maybe getting shot up and having meh chest hurt so much made the dreams worse. I don't know. I'm just tired."

She was familiar with the times he had dreams and didn't wake up from the well enough. It didn't appear he had thought about his rough sleep beginning after the assassination attempt though. She gazed at him as her fingers left soft touches on his shoulders. "Aye, it probably triggered a few things. Nobody is attacked like that and walks away feeling the best. I-" she cut off her words for a moment out of uncertainty and then let out a breath. "I still have that awful dream where you're in the back of that truck and you're dead....and there's nothing I can do. What happened bothered me and I wasn't even the one hurt." Even thinking about what happened and her nightmare made her shiver some and and she found herself grateful for Illya and the blanket. "I suppose what I'm saying is that it would be normal to have trouble sleeping after all you've been through. You're tired. I want to help. Do you think some medicine might help?"

A deep frown had settled on Illya's face and he listened to her. She was having dreams too and that wasn't good. He didn't want her to have dreams like that, much less see the things she did. They weren't good for her. "I don't know. I used to take medicine to kill the pain and make me sleep better. Only thing I know of that helps."

Calysta saw a frown etch onto his face and it was an expression that looked as if it shouldn't be there. Her fingers migrated to play with the hair on the nape of his neck. "Those wouldn't work since you're clean now," she said, "Maybe we can talk to the Ehaui and see if there are some different non-addictive things that will help, yeah? And we can try to relax you a bit more before we go to bed which might help."

"I already got that non-addictive pain killer." Grumbling under his breath he cursed a few times in Quoti. The medicine worked sometimes and other times it wasn't worth a bean. He wouldn't have even known he took it. "It's fine. I'll get past this. Just a rough patch is all."

He grumbled and started cursing under his breath and she let him before he replied. "I meant something that might help you sleep," she said, "Something natural they might recommend. It wouldn't hurt to try. And you will get past it, but you don't have to do it alone, yeah?"

"Don't want stuff to make me sleep. Can't take it. Need to be able to wake up and respond without being groggy." Illya tried to say it more slowly as if it would make him sound less grumpy. He felt a little like a grouch now and he didn't want to take it out on her.

He was starting to get snippy and she wasn't entirely sure why, other than he didn't like talking about what he had been telling her. She nodded in agreement. "Alright, then we look at more natural ways. Probably just having you relax before bed would help and be a good start."

"Ok." Illya agreed even if he felt skeptical of the results. "I didn't want you know what it looked like when people were shot at and killed." Searching her face he finally let his eyes gaze into hers. "If I can help it you won't ever accompany me or go into battle."
May 26, 2022

Calysta didn't wasn't sure why he agreed so readily to her idea unless it was because he was tired. Still, it seemed like he had more to say as he met gaze. She knew what he said was coming from a place of love even if it wasn't practical. "I'm your pilot, love. I know my limits and ground work is by and large one of them. I want to fly you. Not that I want to see those types of things, but I do want to be your pilot."

"Even if I'm hurt, I want you to stay on the ship and if you have to leave me you will do it." He knew she wouldn't want to, but someone had to be there for the kids. Illya still held her gaze. "If I can't make it and you won't leave me, I'll kill myself so you don't have to die trying to save me."


Calysta's turned stiff in his arms and her heart made a sudden thud against her rib cage at what he demanded of her. It caused anger from somewhere deep to well up and her fury shone in her eyes and she gazed at him. How dare he say such a thing! It wasn't entirely shocking but thinking that way made her all the more determined to protect him. "If you killed yourself because of me, I'd be angry at you and I would never forgive myself."

Her reaction wasn't quite what he thought, but he knew she was also a bit green to the idea of war and he found it harder to explain it to her at times, but he also loved that about. "Then," Illya answered her "You will leave me if I tell you to. Sometimes there is another way out. We part of the last defense. You will follow orders if you're going to be part of the last defense. I need to know that you'll do your part even if it costs my life."

"I will leave if you swear to me you will look at every option of getting out of wherever you are before you decide you're going to die," she said firmly, "Its important to me. Swear to me that you will do that if the time comes and I trust your to. I will go when you tell me to go."

Illya listened to her request and he nodded. "I will try everything I can. If I tell you to leave it is because there is no possible way for me to get to you. That doesn't mean I stop fighting. I always fight with everything in me and I don't hold anything back. When I fight it is to save my people, to save you, the children, my men, myself and to make sure there are fewer enemies for those after me."

She was shaking. These were things that scared her more now than they did before when she thought about it. Before Illya she had nothing to lose and now she wanted to cling to Illya and her children. They were her world in most ways and she never thought she would have any thing like them. She couldn't bear to lose them. At his words, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly as she drew in a wavering breath. "Then I will trust you and I will go when you ask," she said quietly into his shoulder.

Nodding some he listened to her answer and wrapped his arms around her. "It will be ok. Maybe they won't make a successful attack when they come. We can hope we're never called out."

Calysta breathed against him and welcomed his arms around her. "You're right," she said after a moment, "We don't have any details and until we do, there's no sense in stressing over things we that have yet to pass or that we have no available information on."
Despite her words, she stayed entangled with Illya and reluctant to move. "We'll be okay. I'm glad we talked about this."

"It was important. I can do my part better knowing you will listen if I tell you to leave." Illya really did feel better about that. It was something she never agreed to before and he needed to know she would listen and not get herself killed. "Why did you want to talk about this stuff so bad tonight?"

Her arms gave him a gentle squeeze and she sat up some to look at him, her eyes a bit misty. She blinked at him and gave him a shy smile. "I wanted to talk with you about alot of things, not just the serious things like this. But I thought maybe if I was brave and shared some of my fears and myself with you, that you wouldn't mind telling me what's been bothering you too. I really do want to know those things."

"Well, if you didn't want such a serious conversation maybe you shouldn't have asked such serious questions." Illya smirked a little and kissed her shoulder and then up the side of her neck till he reached her lips."Sometimes my little bird has a funny way of getting about things."

She laughed a little, though it came out somewhat garbled because her throat had tightened with impending tears for a moment. He smirked at her and then started kissing on her shoulder, then her neck which she titled some so he could reach her pale skin even easier. By the he made to her lips she was smiling some. "Aye, but when have I ever done things the typical way?" She kissed him and rubbed his shoulders some. "Maybe we talk more often, serious or not, yeah? The house seems like a good place to start." She kissed him, drawing each kiss out longer the last. "If you want, I have one more round left in me, hm?" It was an open invitation if he wanted it.

Kalizda must have been feeling wild indeed. She offered another round and that was not common. Illya grinned at the offer and he kissed her a little more. "That treatment helps with the coughing a lot. Maybe I won't all the way through it this time."

Calysta chuckled and slowly leaned backward, inviting him to keep his grip and follow her down to the bed again. "Only one way to find out," she smiled as she let him do as he liked.

****************

Illya slept better than he had in awhile and Calysta didn’t have the heart to wake him. Instead, when the sun came up, she slipped carefully out of his warm, heavy arms and started to get dressed. She tried to anyways. When she opened her closet, any of the clothes she’d had that were regular civilian clothes seemed to have vanished and only a three outfits hung in an other wise empty closet. Frowning, she checked her underwear drawer and found that was empty too. What in the Wilds had Illya done that this mystery decorator had cleaned out the entire wardrobe too? She cast him a look and shook her head. That would be a question for later.

Instead, she plucked up one of the Chippeqouti skirts and tops, a green and gold outfit she was sure she hadn’t owned before, and wrote a note for Illya in Qouti.

“Hey Love, I went out to get breakfast for us at the bakery and run an errand. I’ll be back soon. Wait for me here. -Love, Little Bird.”

She left the note on top of his medicine machine on the bedside table so he would be sure to see it. Then she left quietly so she wouldn’t wake him.

Her first stop was the Ehaui. She went to meet with the doctors, but when she described what she wanted, they said she was better off speaking to the Chip herbalist and pharmacist. So, she walked down to Chip village and, after getting some directions from Asher who was on his way to the bath house, she found herself at a tall Chip woman’s door.

Sherri was a tall and beautiful Chippeqouti woman. She also had unending patience when Calysta described that she wanted something to help Illya sleep that would not sedate him but was also not an opiate, narcotic, or addictive in any way. To her relief, Sherri was able to offer several solutions. The first one they would try would be a tea he would drink all day. It help soothe anxiety and hopefully offer him a better chance at falling asleep and staying asleep comfortably.

She thanked the woman thoroughly and told her to send the bill to her pad and whatever she asked for in payment for credits or work hours would be hers. On the way out of the door, she saw something surprising.

It wasn’t so surprising that a man was stopping by to see Sherri, she worked out of her home and she was very pretty. What did surprise her was who the man walking up to Sherri’s home with flowers in his hands was. Tiberius greeted her with a small and a nod. “Councilwoman,” he said in a friendly tone, before continuing his walk up to Sherri’s front door.

Calysta couldn’t help but smile a little. She doubted the Terran knew what he had gotten himself into, but then again, maybe he did and he liked it just as much as she did.

*********

Her next stop was the bakery. Not only had she promised Illya breakfast, but she had promised to stop by and talk to Priscilla who had requested to meet for lunch.

They went over the usual pleasantries like old friends. Pris was shocked about what happened on Ewen and the Colonies. She asked about the children and Illya too. In turn, Calysta asked about Sien and Ehud. When she asked about Ehud, the conversation took a turn and she could tell that was the major issue on her friend’s mind.

Priscilla seemed strangely specific about the questions she had at first. They sat down at one of the little tables inside the bakery and talked over tea and biscuits where Priscilla proceeded to pick apart her biscuit without eating much of it as she spoke about some troubles she had with Ehud.

Calysta understood those troubles in some ways. She had wanted to be close to Illya too but in some ways she didn’t understand those troubles. Illya had always been warm with her. Interested. Priscilla wouldn’t go into specifics, but it was clear the marriage had not been going well. She felt distant from Ehud and when she didn’t feel distant, she didn’t always understand him either. Then there was the surgery. Calysta hadn’t spoken to a single soul about that, but Ehud must have told her it was possible and she must have guessed that Calysta had it done too.

“Calysta,” Priscilla sighed, “I’m trying. I really am, but I don’t always know what is best when it comes to Ehud. He’s made mistakes and so have I. I care about him, but I don’t want to be just his ‘nice for now’ and I wanted….I want to build a future with him that he might have some sort of enjoyment in.”

“Enjoyment, happy, pleasure,” Calysta said, sipping her tea, “Are all very strange things to a Chip. They haven’t known very much of it in a very long time. Especially not Ehud, I imagine. What if I were to tell you that most of them don’t even think they will survive to have a future?”

Pris didn’t say anything for a moment, but Calysta could see her thinking on it for a moment. “I’d say that’s heartbreaking,” Pris replied quietly, “And very confusing in some ways. If Ehud thought that way, why would he bother marrying me? If he didn’t think he had a future, why bother going through all the trouble that’s me? Why say he wanted children and a home with me?”

Calysta put down her cup and looked at Priscilla. “I think you’re looking at it from the opposite way.”

“How so?” she asked.

“Instead of asking why did he marry me when he didn’t think he had a future, maybe think on why after 10 years of solitude, something gave him enough hope to try a marriage and have comfort again? What was it he saw in you that gave him the courage to take the chance on hoping for a future at all?”

Priscilla went silent for a long time and Calysta let her. She simply sipped her tea and plucked up another pastry, this time a croissant looking roll with warm, gooey chocolate inside.

“He wants a future with you,” Calysta said, “He wouldn’t have married you if he didn’t. Chip men don’t play games like that. He’s just afraid to hope. They all are. Sometimes you have to have hope enough for the both of you.”

There was another long pause again and Priscilla sighed. Calysta put a hand over her friends and smiled a little. “You’re not alone, yeah? Keep trying. You’re probably tired of hearing ‘be patient’ and ‘in time’. It’s lonely and frustrating like that. Take it from someone who spent alot of time alone. You aren’t alone. Just keep trying, keep your hope and hold on to it even when it sounds strange. As for the surgery, don’t go into it lightly. It does change you and you will have a long recovery time. But, if you were looking for a way to give Ehud more of reason to build a future with you, well, it's best to make sure you’ll be around for it.”

*********************************

Calysta went home to Illya with a box full of pastries of various kinds and the hope that she had said something helpful to Priscilla. She wasn’t very good at giving advice and especially not at girl talk or marriage talk. What did she know about marriage? All she knew was that Pris had to understand what she did and maybe that might help her.

She walked up the front steps and into the redecorated house. It didnt feel quite like home when it looked like this, but she wasn’t going to tell that to Illya. She pushed aside the beads in the living room and found Illya in the kitchen. Offering out the box of treats to him, she smiled. “Hi, love. I brought breakfast. Maybe we can have breakfast together, yeah? But I do have a question…why was our closet almost empty?”

*******************************

Priscilla looked at the paper the Ehaui had given her months ago with all the information on the bone surgery. It listed everything from the procedure itself to the after effects, side effects, and recovery. The paper had been sitting on her desk at work and now sported a little coffee ring, where at some point she had placed an errant coffee cup on it.

Now, she stood in their little kitchen waiting for Ehud to finish his Investor's Monthly Magazine article in the living room. She had found that Ehud seemed more…himself…when he had a chance to be left alone after work. That was something she found difficult at times. She had to curb her enthusiasm at seeing him and being home when he first arrived long enough to let him decompress. She’d been doing that for about two weeks with moderate success. Rather than waiting randomly around for him to finish, she busied herself with household tasks.

This time, she was waiting for him to finish though. When he was getting close to done, she took a deep breath and came over to sit on their still slightly glittery couch. She had been trying to practice saying things the way Chips say them, though she felt odd doing it. “We will talk now about something important?” she said, almost cringing at how awkward it sounded in Trader’s Tongue, “I have been thinking and I want to get the surgery. If you’re still willing to go with me to have the preliminaries done.”
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
Once they had finally settled down for the night Illya couldn't find a comfortable position to lay in. If he wasn't making something ache or throb he was feeling like he was suffocating. Even if the treatment helped, it didn't work overnight. A good bit of the coughing was under control and it helped soothe the ache in his ribs.

At some point he fell asleep and Illya woke up after a dream. His breathing only had a hitch in it when he woke himself up. He couldn't get rid of the images in his mind. It was as if the longer and harder he tried not to think about them the more he thought of them. Eventually he would fall asleep again and repeat the process. Thankfully, the dreams weren't so bad that he couldn't wake himself up. He worried about getting dreams like that. What if he hurt Kalizda, or the babies? Before a dream got that bad he would rather stay awake.

Without realizing it he drifted off again and this time he didn't wake up until he felt something stuck to the side of his face. He was mostly on Kalizda's side of the bed with pillows tucked around him. When he shifted the thing was still stuck to his face and Illya gingerly reached up and peeled it off his face. It was a note from Kalizda. She had left for a while.

Since he was supposed to wait for her, Illya took his next treatment, took a shower and then opened the closet. He was not finding what he was looking for, but at least Ahvah put some comfortable clothing in the closet for him. After he was dressed Illya took himself downstairs and then started to make some tea. She would be back soon and he didn't want to miss her.

The tea in the kitchen was a good aromatic tea with a mild sweetness to it. Ahvah knew how to stock a tea cabinet. There were plenty of other teas that smelled good too, but this was the one for today. It had a little bit of a flavor that reminded him of home and for whatever reason he was thinking more of home lately.

Illya was dressed in a long red shirt that was almost down to his knees with the sleeves rolled up and plain black pants. The pants were not quite tight on his legs, but they were close to him to help maintain body heat. When he heard the door open Illya instinctively stood to the side in the kitchen so he could see who had just come through the door. It was Kalizda, so he resumed pouring tea into both of their cups. When the beads pushed aside he winked at her. "Yah bring home good stuff eh? I make good tea."

Calysta raised a brow at him, not only appreciating the sleeves of his shirt rolled up against his biceps, but also at the smoothness in which he avoided her question about the clothes. "Aye, I did," she said putting the box of treats down on the breakfast nook table and then putting the wooden box of herbal tea beside it. "I have something else for you too, but I'm curious about this house make-over. Was it your intention to get rid of half of my lingerie and underwear?"

For a moment Illya thought he had successfully avoided that question of hers, but it came back around after she got him excited about whatever else she had brought for him. "Eh..." Illya rubbed the back of his head, "Nut quite meh intention. I guess yah have new dress now. Et looks good on yah." Giving her his best smile he even let his teeth show and the dimple in his left cheek showed. It only showed when he had a particularly large grin.

She had him dead to rights now. He was definitely avoiding her and that boyish grin with the admittedly cute dimple wasn't going to deter her...even if it did charm her. Two could play at that game. She wandered over and slid a hand gently around his hip and leaned up for a kiss. "I do indeed and it's very beautiful," she said truthfully, "Why were all my other outfits missing, love?"

Since she was going to insist that he answer Illya did. "Oh dey get trown away." Illya gave her a simple answer and then smirked. "Yah get new ones. Et's exciting eh?"

Calysta cocked an eye brow at him. He was playing games. "Very exciting. Maybe as exciting as the reason you had to throw them away? What happened?"

"Et make sense tah put new clotes en all dah closets when yah redo all of dah house. Look," holding up the tea pot he tried to grin though he was sure it was less convincing. "I even have all new kitchen tings for yah." With a slightly more serious expression he coughed and then cautiously proceeded, "Do I need tah have reason tah trow away all dat stuff?"

Calysta had heard better excuses from him, but she wasn't entirely sure why he was making them. Unless he'd done something to the house or something had happened to it and he didn't want her worrying about it. "Normally, I'd say no," she said, "But you get grumpy when I throw away a shirt with too many holes and mudstains on it, then suddenly you part with the contents of our entire house? Leads a wife to think something happened."

"Mmhmmm." Illya nodded and then took a sip of his tea. "Yah know, meh head hurts." As he suspected she gave him a look and he sighed, "Yah nut going tah let dis one go are yah?"

"Well, my entire undergarment drawer is missing," she chuckled, "So, I'm afraid I'm too curious now to let it go."

"I forget someting en meh pant pocket and et hatched and den bred around dah house and created a lot more of ets kind. Dey were everywhere and some died and some lived and dah house was very bad when I remembered dat I forgot snake eggs en meh pockets. Ehvan and Ahvah did nice job fexing dis. I owe dem a few tings." Illya could have slapped himself for forgetting something like that. He was fairly certain she was going to be annoyed at best.

"Snake eggs?" she repeated, her eyes widening, "You left snake eggs in your pocket and they hatched?" No wonder he had tried to keep her finding out and he'd even tried to get the house fixed for her too. The infestation must have been awful to have ruined the entire house. Despite how incredulous she sounded, she started to giggle. That sounded entirely like something he would do. Only Illya would have done something like that. "You left snake eggs in the house and of course they hatched," she snorted through giggles, "Wilds, Illya..." Shaking her head, she kissed his cheek. "We're checking all the pockets next time we go on a trip. All of them."

"Ugh...I woke up one night and remembered what I did. Meh heart was pounding and I jes try tah tell mehself et was nut so bad, but I sen hologram tah Ehvan and he tell meh et was very bad." Illya smirked partly out of relief that she didn't sound angry. "I agree dat we check pant pockets next time. Meh memory es little spotty wit some tings."

She could absolutely believe it was very bad given how much had been replaced. Even the little heated coffee table had to be replaced in the living room. It sounded like maybe Ehvan or one of the Elite had done the decor too. She decided not say anything about it. Some of it wasn't so bad, but the bedroom walls made the bedroom troublesome to look at. "Well, at least you remembered and got it fixed, yeah? We needed new cookware at any rate and new undergarments....well, you'll just have to go with me to pick out some later, yeah?"

Illya nodded and got quiet as he sipped at the tea. They had a few tasty little breads to eat and he had whatever Kalizda told him she had picked out. He wasn't sure what else he could say, or even should say now that they had talked about what she wanted to. If she had something else to say he was sure she would let him know. "Tanks for dah breakfast." That was one thing he could say and it felt slightly less strange now that he'd said something on his own.

They went about eating breakfast and Calysta sat across from him at the breakfast nook table and ate yet another pastry. She didn't really need one, but they were so good she couldn't resist. They had lapsed into a comfortable and normal silence between them as they chewed until Illya broke the silence to thank her for breakfast. She smiled. "Aye, you're welcome. Pris has some delicious things in that bakery. Did you have a pastry you liked best?"

The sudden question of preference was slightly alarming. Illya stared at what was left of the pastries and tried to recal exactly what kinds he had eaten and then he shook his head. "No, dey're all good."

Calysta nodded. "I thought so too," she said, "Though I'm partial to the ones with chocolate in the middle. She also had some big pastry puffs with thick cream in the middle. They weren't done baking when I came by but I thought you might like to stop by and try one. What do you think?"

"I tink dat would be nice after we go see what yah plan tah show meh." Illya was at least ready for that. "Et's good we jes fly more and I dun have any appointments tomorrow or later tahday. I tink I take nap wit twins."

Calysta brightened some at his mention of taking him to see something. "Aye," she nodded, "But where I'm taking you is off this continent. We'll be stopping by on the way to Reylia. So, we could stop by the bakery any time you like and we can definitely nap with the children." She said children because it was inevitable that all of them would join them in the end. "Did you sleep better last night?"

The idea of a nap was good especially since it sounded like he would get one sooner rather than later. Illya grinned a little and he took another bite of the pastry on the plate. Of course Kalizda asked about his sleep and Illya shook his head. "I dun sleep until early morning."

Calysta flushed a little and glanced down at her tea cup. "To be fair I kept you a little busy until at least after midnight too." She remembered the wooden box Sherri had sent her with and slid it across the table. "I took a visit to Sherri. She made this tea for you to drink through the day. She assured me it was not addictive, a narcotic, or a sedative, but will help you relax enough to fall into good sleep. You'll still be able to wake up just fine. She said to try it for a month, yeah?"

"No, et wasn't because we stay up late. I dun sleep for oter reasons." Illya tried to assure her it was not her fault and then glanced at the box she pushed toward him. "Maybe et will help. I will try et." Relaxing was only half the problem in his opinion, but if it helped at all it would be worth it.

She wished she could help more but she didn't know what else to do for now. She smiled at him and slipped her hand into his. "We'll work together, yeah? But for now, let's stop by the bakery and we can get some treats for the kids too, then go to the ship we can rest with them while the rest of the crew assembles. We'll have all afternoon."

Illya nodded at her suggestion. "Maybe we should get dah kids up. I tink dey are all tired and still on Ewen time." The time change was hard on the kids. They were bound to be a little grouchy, but they had to start working towards getting on Rey time and then they would be onto the next place. If they were going to be honest the time change was hard on everyone. "I am pretty sure dat dah crew es already assembled. Some of dem will meet us on Rey. Dane says dat he's ready tah come back en Saar's place, but I tell him tah rest and meet meh en one week before we leave Rey and he still insists because he wants tah go on hunt and so does Saar. I guess we have bot for now."

When it was something like that, Illya wasn't going to refuse the guys. They both deserved something of interest on the trip since they had put up with semi miserable conditions. Saar and Dane were a potent mix and putting them with Mihael was going to be even more difficult at times. Those three could just about make a man want to go crazy. The Elite were their own sort of dysfunctional family. It only took a moment for Illya to realize he was staring at nothing and keeping all his thoughts to himself.

"Et could be exciting wit dose tree on board. Dey are sometimes very close en tought and den oter times dey jes fight like broters. I might say dat I am guilty of same ting." With a sheepish grin he shrugged. "Et will be fine." The two of them finished their breakfast and then worked on getting the kids up.

Cypher emerged from his room looking like a mini of his father as did the twins. They were dressed in little red shirts with black pants. Lohgan was very pleased with her longer dress and green leggings. She found it particularly exciting with the red, gold, green and pink mixed in. She, of all the children seemed to be the least affected by the time change. The twins were just miserable, coughing and crying and leaving little strings of snot everywhere while they cried. Illya did his best to hold them both and found that Ahvah left a carrying sling for the boys and Illya put it on. Once the twins were inside and it was cozy and dark they fell asleep again.

The walk to the bakery felt like it was taking forever and Illya's back ached. He had tried sleeping sitting up most of the night and his back was telling him about it. That much sitting hurt. As soon as they entered the bakery Cypher had his eyes on two or three of the pastries and Lohgan was pointing out giant muffins she wanted.

Kalizda's idea of taking the kids to the bakery was a great idea and Illya decided to invite the crew to join them and get something tasty to eat before they left. Because they already had a large party, Illya got some food for Ehvan and Ahvah too. Then it was off to flying again and the first order of business once they were in flight was a nap.

*****************************

Ehud came home like usual after work and he grabbed his magazine to read. He felt more relaxed after he'd been reading for about half an hour and then he set the magazine aside. Priscilla came over to sit near him and she demanded a conversation. "Ok." Ehud replied and then waited for her to say what she wanted. It was a bit surprising after all the time that she had been thinking about it. He had come to accept the fact that perhaps she didn't want to be with him that long.

His eyebrows raised slightly, "You finally decided to have that done eh?" Taking a moment to think about it he grabbed his pad and started to work on when he would be able to fit that into his schedule. "We'll get that work done here in about two months if all goes well. I need to do a little traveling for work. Been trying to find someone and I've finally got their location, but that's bound to change soon. Need to get there before they move, or get killed. If I found them someone else will too." Ehud looked at Pris full in the face before he said more. "I expect to be gone almost a month. It's too dangerous for you to be there with me. We will do the preliminaries after I get back."
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
Listening to Illya talk about his men like they were brothers put a soft smile on Calysta's face. Dane didn't want to miss the grand hunt and neither did Saar it seemed. She didn't have the heart to deny them either and it was probably good to have an extra guard around at any rate. "Aye it will be alright. We'll find some space on the ship and they can both come, though it might be good to keep the people who are rooming together as they are since we haven't had any major issues. The hunt will be alot of fun...even if they guys are a little wild aboard." She winked at him and about that time the first child came wandering down the stairs.

Breakfast at the bakery was busy since the entire crew came along, but it was good to see everyone feeling more rested. They wouldn't have Koda again until they landed on Reylia as he had gone to see his daughter on Kinte and spend time with them. Otherwise, the entire original crew, plus Saar, had arrived. Akten, who had done very well in his position on Ewen, sat beside Wynry who kept smiling to herself. Saar, Dane, Illya, and Mihael started chatting about the anticipated hunt while the kids all either napped or ate their fill of sweet breads before they were ready for a nap.

Calysta enjoyed these moments. They were small, but here the world seemed small and more manageable too. She was among friends and safe. They would be on their way to an equally safe place among friends. She felt almost physically lighter at the idea that some of the hardest part of the tour were over. She felt so good, in fact, she smiled at Illya and kissed his cheek when it was time to leave. "I'm ready to fly," she told him, "We can get to the ship and rest."

**************
The talk with Calysta was enlightening to say the least. She hadn't thought of some of the things the woman had said and, upon further reflection, saw how her experience and mindset had not meshed with his. There was no doubt which mindset had to change too. She had to make the choice to see it in the way Calysta described. Ehud had hope and he wanted a future with her. Otherwise, he wouldn't have married her. She had something that had given him hope enough to try and that was a start.

When she got home, she took a long look at the painting on their tiny mantle. It had Ehud's feet in blue next to hers in lavender and Sein's much smaller toes dotted in Rocket Red. He'd made that with her. Came in on her painting and scooped her up, then joined her. She liked that memory with him. He had seemed happy, if only for a moment. She wanted to make more memories like that. In fact, she had been a little envious of Calysta when the woman had come in with her husband and all of her beautiful children. They were all happy to see her and treated her like an aunt of sorts. She didn't want what Calysta had with Illya so much in that she wanted their life. She wanted to build a marriage and a family that brought her and Ehud the same sort of joy.

***********************

Priscilla stared at Ehud with her cornflower blue eyes. He was going away? For a month? And it was too dangerous for her to go? A million other things crossed her mind at the same time. She didn't even have time to really process the fact that he wanted to do the surgery with her. Swallowing a little, she managed to get words to come out of her mouth. "A month," she said in a soft breath, "And it has to be you that has to go? Not one of the Elite?" Her eyes searched his with worry. He wasn't really a soldier and she knew that, so there was a higher chance of him getting hurt. Not to mention, a month would be the longest time he'd been away from her while on his medication.

The look on Pris’ face said everything he needed to know. She was worried about him going and he didn’t blame her. “No, the Elite can’t go. It’s too obvious and dangerous for my target. In bed to get them out without looking out of place. Don’t worry, I told the Ehaui I lost my last dose, so I already have an extra one.”

At least he'd thought about his medication, though why he'd lied to get an extra dose was beyond her. They might have just given it to him if he needed to do a business trip of some kind. "I know you can't tell me much but is there a time frame I need to be sending help? In case you don't come back on time?"

Ehud thought about it for a moment. Maybe he could have told them the truth, but that wasn’t how he did business in this situation. “You are the only one that knows I am leaving. If I’m gone more than six weeks with no communication then I’ll need help.”

"Who do I go to if that happens?" The idea of it made her mouth go dry but she had to ask these questions. He was going to go and there was nothing she could do about it.

“You contact Illya. He’s the only one I would trust with that information. Also, he’ll be mad if that happens.” Ehud shrugged, “In that situation I don’t think I will care if he’s mad.”

"What do I tell him? I wont know where you are or have any information to give him, will I?" she said softly.

“Tell him I am missing and he’ll know what to do.” Ehud didn’t want to get into much more than that. To tell her more could be very dangerous for all of them. “I think you would feel better if you started looking for a new house and planning the decorations for it. Maybe something with three or four bedrooms. If you like it a lot start the loan process. It will make the month go by faster.”

Priscilla blinked. He was swapping from talking about dangerous spy work to talking about houses. It was a bit of whiplash and she mouth dropped open a little before clamping shut again. "A house?" she finally asked, "You want a bigger house? I mean, we'll eventually need one...I just thought that you well, I wasn't sure how you felt about it. You built this house with Haza right?"

Ehud’s eyebrows raised. “I did not build this house. A bigger one would be nice though. I want an extra guest bedroom and some office space.”

Pris was surprised. She'd been under the impression he had it built it for Haza. "Oh." She knew that was probably a lack luster answer, but it took her a second to throw off the surprise. "Well, I think we can build a house...I could do that while you're gone. When are you leaving?"

“A house in that time would be pretty fast. If you want to build something you sure can. I think between the two of us a mortgage would be approved.” Ehud grinned a little. “Should be exciting.” (edited)

Pris saw Ehud smile a little and it seemed like the first genuine smile he'd had in a while. "It's very exciting," Pris agreed, "Just....make sure you come back. Please. I do love you, you know."

“I’ll be back. I really want to live.” Ehud smirked, “Besides, I’m interested in what house you build. Maybe make it a big house if you can get approved for it.”

Priscilla smiled and leaned against him and kissed his cheek before settling her head to his shoulder. "Well, I'll have to make plenty of room for at least one child, hm?"

“At least one. We still have Sien. We need a room for us, office for me, room for Sien, room for a baby and one room for guests. We need 5 rooms.” Ehud took a deep breath. That was a big house.

"Of course there will be room for Sien, he's my son too," she said. He sounded overwhelmed a bit at the prospect and she put a hand over his and squeezed. She wanted this to be something he looked forward too and it was encouraging to know he wanted to come home after all. He wanted to live. That was a good sign, wasn't it? "We'll get it taken care of. I'd get your input before I submit the plans though. But I think I can mock up a few plans and work with a designer while you're gone." She bit her lip a little and stole a glance at him. "You come home and maybe after the surgery we'll work even harder to have a baby?"

Ehud nodded at her suggestion. “We could work towards that.” He didn’t want to go back to Terra, but he had to get Eleanor out.

Normally, a man would seem more enthusiastic about that prospect, but it was beginning to sink that perhaps he just didn't want or like sex as much or often as what she was used to. It was something else she would just have to get over. She kissed his temple and let him go. "Good. Then I expect you to come home to me." Then she lifted off of the couch to her feet and shuffled into the kitchen to make dinner.

Did it totally matter that she felt most loved when he held he close or spent time with her? It wouldn't in time maybe. She would get used to touch not being reciprocated eventually. He was showing his affection in the ways he could. She would have to find the ways that best showed her affection that weren't physical.

Later in the evening, she settled beside Ehud as he was reading something in the bed. She smiled at him and pulled the covers over her silk gown before laying back against the pillows. "You'll come see me before you go, right? I know Illya used to vanish on Calysta at times with no good-byes. I don't want you to go without saying goodbye, even if I can't see you off officially."

************************

Calysta got the entire crew aboard and when they were ready to take off, Calysta handed Wynry a set of new coordinates written on a piece of paper in Kaerelean. The woman stared at them, and then gave her a puzzled look. "Wouldn't this put us on the old Heyrulian continent? The only piece left?" She was certain it was either the continent or thereabouts.

Calysta put a finger to her lips and Wyrny's eyes widened before she realized that she wasn't supposed to be talking about where they were going. It wasn't on the schedule after all. She plugged in the coordinates, then lifted them away from the highly guarded Pyrtan military dock.

It took 4 hours of flying to arrive at the old Heyrulian ruins. It wad been the only chunk of the continent that survived the vicious attack of the Reylian empire. Nearly all of the populace and their land were crumbled and over grown in the Wilds below. There remained a 3 mile span of rock, part of the underbelly of the original continent. It had no value for mining, it wasn't wide enough to sustain a village, and there was no life on it. Or there hadn't been for hundreds of years.

Calysta typed in the security clearance code and sent it to the ground crew of the small dock that had been created. Wynry glanced at Calysta in confusion. Why have a dock if there was nothing else here? And when had it been built? There was nothing else out there but rocky crevasses and small pools where rain water had collected.

The Councilwoman called the General to the doorway that the gang-plank was being attached to and waited for him arrive. Outside a ground crew in plan, unmarked jumpsuits were mooring the ship to the dock. The hissing sounds of the pressure releases continued gradually around the ship as the Councilwoman spoke to him softly. "I promised to show you something good and important," she said, offering her hand to her husband, "Just you and me and two guards, I think would do. The less people who see this, the better until after you've seen it. Then you can decide who you would like to tell and I'll trust your judgement, yeah?"
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
Ehud let out a long sigh as they laid in the bed together. She wanted him to say before he disappeared and he didn't want her to know the exact time, but he would have to tell her at least close to the time he would leave. Priscilla had a fair point and he couldn't quite fault her on it. Slipping his hand across the covers he laid it over her hand and gave it a squeeze before pulling her hand to rest under his on his chest.

Falling asleep didn't take long and it was nice to feel her hand resting on his chest with his own hands folded neatly over hers. Ehud could say that he thankfully didn't get many dreams and he rarely remembered them. Usually, they were blessedly vague and he couldn't even really tell what was happening during the dream anyway. It was one of those nights where he slept well, there was always a sense of alertness out of habit, but otherwise it was restful. He had a feeling in his sleep that he was back home in the mountains. There was a soft breeze, but he quickly reminded himself that he was on Pytra and it was the rainy season. That was the reason he almost felt like he was at home during the summer.

When morning came Ehud got up early as usual. Pushing the bed aside he grabbed a bag out from underneath the floor and then pulled the bed back in place. "Well, you probably guessed by now. I gotta go. Found my person and now I gotta retrieve them. Won't be coming home tonight." Stepping closer to Pris he gave her a gentle kiss and smiled. "It'll be fine. I'm good at this kinda stuff."

***************************************

Once Ehud arrived at his holding place on Kinte he set up his equipment and sent a small notification to Illya. It was simply a statement that he had business in Kinte and he sent a tracking number so Illya could keep up with him. Ehud then slipped a small thin wire into his arm. It left barely more than a pin prick, but it was going to make it easy for Illya to find him if he ended up anywhere Ehud didn't give him a heads up on. That was how he was going to keep himself from getting into too much trouble. The Elite could come watch him all he'd like, but he was going to be just sitting here on Kinte and waiting for his contacts to run down Eleanor.

More than likely if she'd lived this long on the run she wouldn't like a new face and he was more than aware of that feeling. He was someone who didn't like new faces either. He had his guys and they had their guys. It was almost a guarantee that they'd have her on her way off and feeling nervous, but she'd be secure and she'd be here in a matter of a month. He'd seen to it that she was already located and he was waiting for his first report.

Checking into his computer he set the background to a transport ship and he sent Pris a message with a roaming tracking number on his pad. "Hey just thought I'd check in and let you know things are going good so far. Don't try tracing, got encryption on that." With the first bit of contact to his wife done he let out a long breath and looked around himself.

It was a basic looking apartment. While he waited for contact from one of his guys it was probably a good time to start making contact about smuggling in some of the more rare goods he liked. Terran commodities were certainly expensive, but they'd arrive close to the same time as Eleanor and he'd have a good cover as a smuggler. She'd be used to following smugglers and being handed off from one guy to the next. She didn't have to know anything about him and he didn't have to know anything about her.

The real challenge was going to be getting her on Pytra. He could vouch for her, but it would take a bit more than that. Especially since Illya would already be skeptical of why he was gone for so long and why he would be on Kinte. Illya knew not to say anything to Pris and if this was the kind of move that got Ehud killed Illya would at least know how to tell Pris in a way that was tolerable.

***************************************

Illya joined Kalizda in the bay area with Dane and Saar. They weren't going to say anything and neither would Mihael, but Mihael seemed happier to do the cooking and even said as much. "Ok, I will jes be quiet on subject until I see what dis es dat yah show meh." Winking at Kalizda, Illya offered her his arm to her. Illya turned his head to the side and coughed before the door opened. It was sounding better after a few treatments with the mask and medication from the doctors.

She was a little relieved Illya swore to silence to readily. Feeling better, she took his arm and waited for the door to open with a final pressure releasing hiss. They were presented with a small dock and a flurry of ground crew doing what they needed to do. Beyond that there was nothing but wasteland. Dead rock and puddles against a blue sky. Calysta walked forward with Illya, gently guiding him through the docks and onto a small, hardly recognizable foot path until she reached a small valley hedged by two 10ft ledges on either side. At the end was a steel door designed so that it matched the rock. She stepped up to the imaginary rock wall and put her hand over a small pink stone. The rocky wall lurched open allowing them passage. The hallway was metal plate floors and rock hewn walls with lights at the top. "You might have to duck a little," she warned Illya and their guard, "It's a little low here." She had no problem passing though and lead Illya onward. The tunnel began to widen and the sound of voices and machinery began to echo through the stone until the tunnel ended in a massive open bay area. Lines of sleek, top of the line flyers were in neat rows as technicians walked around them, marking items on their pads and inspecting them carefully. One was being assembled nearby on a platform. "These are the new flyers for the Last Defense protocol and the Alliance fleet, eventually. Would you like a look inside?"

The door to the ship opened slowly and Illya followed Kalizda out onto a small path. He could see that the area was obviously a work area of sorts, but he didn't immediately see it. That meant it was likely hidden and what she was hiding he wouldn't know. As they reached the rock face he could see there was something different about it and Kalizda opened it with a sort of switch. When they stepped inside it smelled strongly of metal work and must. There was always a slightly musty smell in caves. "New flyers eh?" A gradual smirk came to his face. "Of course I like tah look inside. Good tah know what et will be like."

Calysta liked it when he smirked like that. It made him look wild and roguish. Like he was enjoying himself too. In fact, it was that same smile that had made her get all warm when she had first met him, as much as she hated to admit it back then. She grinned back and took his hand to guide him down the stairs to the newest completed flyer. It was silvery look, as if it had an outer hull of diamond paint that glittered every so often. The nose was narrow and the wings made a sharp V. It was built for speed, except for the fact that two stabilizer ports blending in on the underside allowed it to hover. "It has the latest and best engines designed by two of the top mechanics the Alliance has to offer, though this isn't a long range ship. No jump drive," she said informatively, "There's two sideboard doors that open into a inside pocket for approaches and disembarking parallel to an enemy craft and a hatch on the bottom for drop ins. There are two mounted plasma guns on either side, a underbelly mount and reverse cannon on the back, those are hidden in pockets and are small, meant only for self defense really."

She slide open the starboard hatch and allowed him to go inside first. The area was tall enough for him with roughly a foot and a half to spare. There was a bucket seat with a four point harness in the back. Across from that were cubbies marked in Quoti, traders tongue and Kaerlean. "Equipment rack," she nodded, "Can't fit anything too heavy but it holds a standard Chippeqouti Elite saber, both standard and Chip hand guns, knives, and several other items. Just in case. A Chippequoti engineer was consulted on making it fit for Chippeqouti Elite usage." She climbed aboard behind him and smiled as she slipped around him to the cock pit where shatter-less glass displays projected holograms of the crafts stats. "Those aren't the best parts though. Want to see the best feature? At least in my opinion? Step outside and close the door behind you."

The ship almost looked small from the outside and Illya had his doubts that they would be large enough based on the appearance. Thankfully that was no more than an optical illusion and a smart one at that. The ships would be deceptively larger than an enemy would think and it was always good to have a little mind game going at the same time if possible.

While they were checking out the interior Illya sat in the seat and rocked himself in a it a little to see how it might feel. "Mmm." Giving a satisfied grunt he unbuckled himself and then looked at the other things. It was nice that there were things written in Quoti on the inside of the ship. That would be helpful, especially if they were ever needed as the last defense. They would all be under pressure and being able to read in Quoti would be very helpful in being able to quickly react and identify the appropriate cabinet space for things.

As they stepped out Illya glanced at Kalizda with a half worried look. "What will happen when I close dah doors?"

Illya stepped out but gave her a half concerned look. It was her turn to give him a bit of a crooked smile. "You'll have to find out. Just trust me and stand a few paces where you can see me from the cock pit, yeah?"

Reluctantly, Illya stepped out of the ship and then set the door to shut and dashed away a few steps and then turned to watch. He winced a little as he waited for a loud sound or something shocking to happen.

Calysta saw him come into view through the cockpit window and the specs for his height and distance automatically displayed as the computer found him as an object in it's view. She gave him a gentle wave and smiled at him, then slide her finger across a black and blue button on the holographic display. The windows frosted over from the outside, and the ship itself vanished entirely. She knew the illusion would be so good because they had avoided sharp edges in the design of the ship allowing the holographic projectors to make a smooth reflection of what should be seen on the opposite side of the ship.

When the ship disappeared Illya chuckled. He felt silly for dashing off and then waiting for some big boom, but he also knew he was just feeling a bit jumpy. "Nut what I was expecting."

She was satisfied when she could see him laughing a little and then pressed a button that allowed her to use a small speaker outside the ship. "You can look at it from any angle and it will look like it isn't there, yeah?" She turned off the effect and then slide open the starboard door before hopping down from the ship. Gesturing to the ship, she looked at Illya. "So, what do you think of them?"

"I like dem." Illya answered when Kalizda came back to stand near him. "Jes make sure I can see dah shep when I need tah get en et."

Calysta raised a brow and chuckled. "Naturally. You'll be able to see it when its needed. I'm glad you like them. I worked very hard in designing them. Particularly the invisibility part. The Terran's had an interesting idea, but...it had some clear flaws. My design is better. Much better." Crossing her arms, she looked proudly at the little ship. "I wanted to show them to you because I hoped you'd like them and for another reason we'll talk about when we get back to the Silver Mountain."

Slowly, Illya nodded his head and he stared at the ship for a few moments longer. Kalizda was standing next to him and she said something about talking more and remained standing still and staring at the ship until his concentration broke and he tried to smile at her. "Well, I hope yah dun have anyting too serious tah talk about. Eh, I hope I dun do anyting wrong."

He didn't seem excited. If she was honest, she was far more excited for the civilian uses for what she had made. War was not something she enjoyed. Maybe he wasn't as impressed as she had thought? He was just staring pensively at the ships. His next comment left her puzzled and she tilted her head. "No, love. You didn't do anything wrong. I just wanted to tell you a bit more on the personal side of things that nobody really needs to be concerned about but us. I'd offer to fly you in one, but I know we're running behind to Reylia."

Everything felt so loud in his head. It was almost as if Kalizda were far away. Illya struggled to keep himself present for the time and he nodded. "Oh, well eh, dats good. We can be later. I like tah ride en one. What could anoter few minutes be anyway."

Calysta tilted her head at him. He was talking to her, but his eyes weren't on her. Still he'd told her he wanted to try riding in one. "It would only be a minute," she conceded, "You're sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure." Illya glanced at Kalizda and he nodded. She could get into the cockpit and he'd just ride in his seat in the back. Slowly, he approached the ship and took a deep breath before getting back inside and strapping himself in. Once the hatch was closed and he felt the engine start Illya closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He just wanted his mind off of the dreams and if she did some wild flying it might help.

Calysta nodded. "Alright then." He didnt sound sure. He sounded nervous when he kept taking deep breaths. "Don't worry," she said, giving him a smile, "The Wolf rides smooth." She climbed into the cock pit and made sure Illya was strapped in before she ignited the engines. She let them burn off a little, then hovered them out of the bay through a small opening directly above them. The sky was infinite blue and the sun was high. With a press of the holoscreen she tinted her windows slightly and sent them into invisibility mode. She didnt need any curious tourists after all. "Ready?" she said to Illya. When she got the green light from ground control, she started putting the flyer through its' paces. She had helped design the engines, the handling and interfaces. She had a hand in nearly all of its functionality in someway. It flew with an unmatched grace. It was built for stealth and speed and every move she made showed that design plenty. She rolled and pitched, climbed and dropped. All the while the engine was silent. "You alright back there, Illya?"

Everything started out easy. Just a hover, then shooting out of bay. Illya took a few more deep breaths and he clenched his hands into fists. Keeping his eyes closed he focused on the feeling of the ship. He was definitely off the ground and then they dropped. It was all so sudden and he felt his stomach jump. It felt like all his organs were being shifted about. By the second roll he felt the familiar itch and sting of the acid surging through the back of his throat. It was certainly a distraction from the thoughts he had before. Then Kalizda yelled back to ask if he was ok. Illya raised his hand and gave her a thumbs up. If he opened his mouth he was sure he would puke.

Her glance in the rear facing camera showed Illya giving her a thumbs up, though his head was ducked slightly in the position of someone who didn't particularly have the energy to sit up in the moment. She took it a bit easier. There was no sense in pushing the grav-caps too much for now. Calysta smiled a little and pushed them back into the bay, hovering them down into the spot they had left behind. "Do you think the guys would want a turn?" she asked nodding to Dane and Saar.

When they finally landed Illya slowly unstrapped himself and then carefully stepped out of the ship. His legs felt a little weak after the ride and Dane looked somewhat impressed with the ship. Kalizda's question didn't need Illya to answer, Dane and Saar both nodded eagerly for the chance to ride it. While Dane practically ran for the back of the ship Illya looked around and spotted the nearest garbage can where he promptly vomited.

Illya hopped out and before she could really ask much more, Dane was darting forward. She felt his heavy foot falls as he dove into the ship and thrust his rear into the passenger seat before strapping himself in. His enthusiasm made him chuckle as she glanced at him in the rear camera. Illya had vanished from her view. She told Saar she would be back for him to have a try in a few minutes, then proceeded to take Dane on a twisting, turning ride through the incoming clouds before launching them upward above the cumulations to see the top side of the clouds before coming back down.

Dane gave a hoot in the back with the twists and turns. He liked the wild rides a bit more. He especially liked them when they were rides for fun and not out of necessity. As they came down to land he unstrapped and ran out of the ship to swap places with Saar. Even if Dane was jogging his way through everything, Saar was not. Saar liked taking his time when he could and he had a more methodical approach as he strapped himself in and then spoke, "I'm ready."

Calysta found herself grinning with Dane's excitement. She liked flying fast too. Dane was tumbling out and replaced by a much more cool-headed Saar. She didn't know him as well as some of the others and he struck her has being fairly calm and observant. Surmising that, she took him up and sent them into a nearly vertical climb immediately until she leveled out into the mid afternoon sun, then she shot them downward below the clouds until they were hugging the mist shroud of the wilds. She took a tight cork screw pattern back to the hangar and landed them with the same precision. "What did you think?" she asked Saar curiously.

The flight with Kalizda was fast. Saar felt himself plastered to the back of the seat and he found himself holding his breath once or twice. When they landed he unbuckled himself and he slowly stretched his legs. There was no hurry at this moment. He could see that Kalizda was leaning heavily to the side so she could peer into the back where he was at. "It's fast. I like it."

Calysta grinned at Saar as she started the process of unstrapping herself from the seat. "Glad you liked it. It's important to have a little fun every now and then, yeah?" She stood from her seat and smoothed down her hair. "My hope is that these will have more exploratory uses rather than war, some day." She slid the starboard door open and hopped down to the deck below.

Her optimism on the end of the war was only matched by Saar's silent nod. He would not contradict her, but he did not think he would see the war finished. It had raged for more than a century and it would probably take even longer yet. He would eventually get killed in the war. It was possible his daughter and his son would die too. That was just a way of life in many ways.

She decided Saar was a man of few words and she didn't mind that so much, though she did want to make sure that it wasn't just because she was the impress at some point. She glanced around looking for Illya until she spied him a few rows down at a pit station. Smiling she walked forward. "So, you got to ride in them too. What did you think?"

Saar and Dane met up and the two of them resumed their usual positions. Illya grinned a little when Kalizda came over and asked what he thought. "I tink et will work very well for last defense."

Calysta smiled and leaned up to kiss his cheek. When she did she caught the scent of vomit. It was the unmistakable smell of freshly deposited bile. Leaning back, she looked at her husband. "Did you throw up?"

The lean for a kiss was automatic and Illya momentarily forgot about the fact that he just finished puking. Then of course she had to ask if he recently puked. "Mmmhmmm." Illya wiggled his eyebrows at her.

He seemed to be proud of the idea that he had just vomited and was still about to get a kiss, she laughed and nudged him. "I didn't toss you around that bad, I didn't think." Leaning in, he kissed his cheek and not his lips with a gentle peck. "Are you ready to head back to the ship or did you want another round?"

Illya accepted the little kiss on his cheek and then shook his head when she offered him another ride. Of course about that time Dane had to chuckle. All the men knew that Illya puked in anything that wasn't considered smooth flight.

Calysta smiled and took Illya's hand before leading the men back to the Silver Mountain, once they were aboard and in the air, Calysta made Illya a cup of the special tea made by Sherri and sat down beside him in the kitchen. "Its been very busy designing those ships. I'd been working off and on with the invisibility design for a couple of years before that, but when we went to train at Skycorp I reached out to a few people and we got a few things going. I helped design nearly every part of the ship and I own the means that makes it turn almost invisible. The patent for it anyways. I don't always make alot and I haven't accepted any money for my council stipend. But, with what I earn from the design we can live very comfortably Illya. I wanted to show you so it would all make more sense, plus...I was kind of proud of the design," she said, blushing slightly, "You were worried about how to start up a new house, I have enough to start up a very nice house and for us to live nicely on now for awhile. You don't have to worry, yeah?"

The ship shuddered about time that Kalizda was serving tea. They must have gone into hyper jump. It wasn't a heavy shudder, but it was a shudder considered normal for such a change in speed. Illya listened to Kalizda and he nodded. "Et's nut dat I dun have money, I jes need tah go round up dah rest of et."

Calysta gazed at him. She'd hoped that showing him their income might have put him at ease but apparently it hadn't. "Round it up?" She asked, her brow furrowed in confusion. "Even if you do have more Illya, I've worked hard to make sure it wasn't something we had to worry about. You've done alot for me..."

"Kalizda, I worry dat ef I die yah need yah money for yahself and dah kids. Let meh make sure yah have enough. Ef yah buy house I still need tah go back tah Quoti tah make sure yah have money." Illya knew she didn't like it when he talked like that, but it was a reality that she might have to face.

She nearly jumped out of her chair when he said he was wanting to go back to Quoti for money. Her back went ramrod straight and she stared at him with wide eyes. "Illya, that place is practically irradiated. It would make you sick or there would be traps," she said her voice picking up an octave if not volume, "Its not worth exposing yourself to that."

"I would wear mask. Et would be jes fine. Dere are tings I can do and limit meh exposure." Illya did his best to ignore her raising voice and he kept his low and calm as he could until he had to cough. "Yah dun need tah be so upset."

"Please, Illya," she said, "Please don't vanish on me and go back there. We have plenty, yeah. I wouldn't do well if you got sick no matter how many precautions you took just because you went back for money. I saw what would happen if you did get sick, you know. I think its something to be a little upset over."

"What do yah mean yah know what would happen?" Illya shook his head and he tried to remain calm though he could feel some tension rising. "I wouldn't disappear anyway. Et would short trip."

"The Elders showed me some things," she said, "Holograms. And Qouti is weeks away from here. It wouldn't be a short trip." She sighed and rubbed her temple. All she had wanted was for him to feel less worry over money and now it seemed like the opposite had happened. It was as if she couldn't quite get anything right and reminding herself of what the Elders had shown her and what she had seen on Illya's own holograms made her start to tear up some. She couldn't seem to help it. Sniffling and wiped at her eyes and tried to take a sip of her own tea.

"What tings?" Illya leaned forward slightly and he stared deep into Kalizda's eyes. He hadn't even tried drinking his tea yet. She was clearly upset and he could only assume it was because of what she said she had seen.

"It was a long time ago, before we were in agreed," she said, "They showed me some images of the war. What was happening on Qouti. I know they were making people sick through the water and the air with poisons. I saw Isla too." Now she couldn't help the tears brimming her eyes. They spilled over onto her cheeks and she swept them away with her fingers. "Please don't go back. It isn't safe."

"I already told yah I would wear a mask. I dun plan on drinking anyting when I'm dere. Kalizda, I know what's dere." Even if he was trying hard not to let her statement about Isla affect him it did make him pause. "Why are yah so upset by dis?"

"You know what's there and you still want to go," she said her throat tight. When he asked why she was so upset, she had to wrestle with the reasons herself and lapsed into sniffling silence for a moment. "For starters, I dont want you to get sick and die the way Isla did...I saw...I saw...that. It would break my heart. I thought by showing you we were okay, that you didn't have to worry about money it might make you relax more. Instead, I'm crying like an idiot making you worry more I think. And, well. I'm pregnant."

Her explanation barely made sense to Illya. "I won't die like dat. I take precautions dat are available. Besides, yah tell meh dat yah make modest money. Houses and land on Pytra are nut modest en price."

"No, but I have enough to do that much because I've saved it and it will come in steady amounts every month too," she said, looking at Illya in the eye, "Its not a large amount as what you might have but its enough to do what we want and live well. They will keep using my designs and I will keep getting paid from my company."

Suddenly it all started to come together. "So, dey keep paying yah for dis work over and over?"

"Aye," she nodded, "I made a company and for the use of my design, I was paid and will be paid in the future for its use. The contract is not with the Alliance government. Its private so there is no one to say there's a conflict of interest. I still had to bid like everyone else and did it. So long as they are wanting my design and using it, I will be paid. We will be paid. I didn't want you to have to worry about money when so much else was going on and I thought you might be pleased."

Illya slowly nodded his head. "Ok, I let yah handle dis." He wasn't going to argue heavily with his pregnant agreed. She was clearly emotional about this. "I trust yah wit dis part eh?"

What she had hoped would be something that would please him had turned out a bit disastrous some how. He seemed, at least to concede on letting her help with the money at least. He said he was willing to trust her. She slipped her hand across the table and put it over his big brown hand. "Aye, trust me, love. We'll have plenty. We can work at looking at a few things for a house when you're ready."

"I dun tink I em worried about meh being ready. Yah very upset Kalizda." No sooner had he finished saying that and he had to pull his hand out from under hers and cough off to the side of the table. When he finished with the coughing fit he met her gaze. "I dun understand yah worry so much when I agree tah yah idea."

She knew she was upset. She didn't get like this often when pregnant, but sometimes it happened. She was even more upset at herself for being upset to begin with. "I meant when you felt like you wanted to and had the energy to look over things with me," she clarified. She put a hand on her stomach and sighed. "I think we'll need the new space, ready or not for it by the time your babies arrive."

"Ok, I have energy after snack tahday." If they were going to be working an idea for a house he would rather get it done now instead of waiting especially since they were going to be having 3 more kids to add. "We dun have much time wit dah babies coming."

Calysta laughed a little though it was a bit garbled from her tearing up a moment ago. "We have about 8 months. Give or take." She had to admit a snack sounded good and she stood up to wander over to the fridge. Pickled one fruit and cheddar cheese sounded delicious. As she was plucking up the jar of fruit she looked at Illya from over the fridge door and smiled a little. Was he less stressed? She doubted it, but she was trying not to worry him despite her hormones attempt to sabotage her.

It was at least settled for now. Illya was still worried, but there was very little he could do to change it now. They were expecting three more children and he had to have a bigger house. She wanted it and she needed it too. Whether he was here for her, or not he had the responsibility to see to it that she had a home. His rings were worth enough to get her through hard times and Saar would take care of her very well if he were to survive and Illya didn't. Otherwise, the Elders would see to it she was taken care of. She was the Empress after all and greatly respected among their people.

Now that they were done with that conversation Illya decided to change his shirts. The uniform was uncomfortable to be trying to relax in. He also didn't want it wrinkled anymore than it already was. Illya had already changed his pants and he needed to get the steamer to straighten out the wrinkles in the shoulder of his uniform and his undershirt. While he was doing that he didn't bother putting on another shirt. He would put someone on before lunch. For now being in sweat pants was good enough.

There was a thunder of feet down the hall and a strong, commanding little girl's voice came along with it. "Mam! MAM! Yah in the room? You said I could paint yah toes!" Lohgan came barreling around the corner with her red curls bouncing and her bag of make up clutched in her tan hands. When she saw her Dah standing in the main part of the bedroom she paused and started to ask where her mother was. Instead of that she caught sight of her father's turned back. She'd seen it lots of times but only recently had she realized it looked different than the other men like him. Her nose crinkled and her brow furrowed as she studied her father's gnarly skin until her curiosity got the better of her. "Dah, why does yah back look like that? The other big men don't look like that. Akten doesn't look like that and Koda doesn't look like that."

The kids were loud. There was no surprise when they came bursting through the door. Illya kept on steaming the clothes he had on the hanging rack and he was about to tell Lohgan that Kalizda would be a few minutes, but she blurted a question instead. "Eh, meh back was cut many times and bones en meh back were hurt. Dat's why et looks different."

Lohgan knew it hurt extra when bones were hurt and she made a face. She clambered up onto the bed and unzipped her makeup bag before unceremoniously dumping all of her nail polishes over the covered. "Why was your back cut? Why were your bones hurt?" She asked as she started to sort the colors.

Illya let out a long breath as Lohgan seemed to be setting up shop on his and Kalizda's bed. "Meh back was cut because a bad man wanted tah hurt yah mum. I get cut on meh back tah protect her." Of course there was the part about his bones and he closed his eyes momentarily while he tried to think of how to explain his back. Kalizda's return from the kitchen couldn't be too soon at this point. "Well, I was hit very hard on dah ground when I was younger and et hurt meh back. Are yah painting yah mum's toenails en here?"

Lohgan was plucking up all the pinks and putting them in a pile, but while she worked, she listened. "Uhuh. Mam said I could paint her toes. Can I paint yours too?" She started on the greens next and showed him a nice teal color like an offering. "Why did they want to hurt Mam?"

"Yah can paint meh fake toes and dah whole leg ef yah want." That was the bonus of offering her his fake leg, it was easy to wash everything off of. "Dey want tah hurt yah mum because dey tink I would be nicer. Dat's nut how et worked. Yah dun hurt someone tah make anoter person be nicer."

Lohgan's eyes lit up and she started picking up lots of colors. Dah's leg was more fun to paint than Mam's toes. She listened, her red curls sliding into her eyes every now and then. "Yah don't hurt someone tah make another person be nicer," she repeated, "Did yah hurt them after they hurt you? Why did yah cuts look like that after? Mam always makes me put on a bandaid when I have a cut and it goes away."

The questions didn't seem to end and Illya desperately wanted Lohgan to stop, so he quickly finished steaming his uniform and put it i the closet. "I did hurt dem when I take yah mum away from dem. Dah cuts look like dis because dey were very deep and I need lots of stitches." Plopping on the bed he pulled the sweat pant leg up to the top of his prosthetic. "Now, what yah gonna paint on meh tahday?"

Lohgan had a handful of colors and grinned as her father plopped down on the bed next to her. "Aye. Dah. I paint yah something pretty so yah fake leg looks nice for dah hunt." She began un screwing the top to the teal color and began making large swaths up and down his leg. Her little tongue poked into the corner of her mouth as she worked in deep concentration. "Mam said stitches hurt. Dats why after that man shot yah on dah colonies, Mam said I couldn't jump on yah. Too many stitches." She started in with a bright pink, almost neon and about that time Calysta came through the door carrying Illya's tea from Sherri. "There you are love bug," she smiled, "Oh, Lohgan Brown Shepherd Monroe. Are you painting on the bed without a towel?"

Lohgan let out a giggle as she smiled guiltily and Calysta chuckled before scooping up a towel from the hook nearby. She spread it out under Illya's leg and the climbed onto the bed beside him, offering a meat snack. "I see you're being decorated," she winked.

At last, Lohgan seemed to understand and Illya smiled a little. "Yeah, I have too many stitches, dat's right." Lohgan promptly began working on Illya's leg and Kalizda stepped in. How Illya missed noticing the potential disaster eh didn't know, but he grinned and accepted the snack from Kalizda once he was seated on the bed with a towel safely tucked under his leg. "Mmm, yes, I need meh leg tah look pretty for dah hunt."

Calysta grinned and leaned her head on Illya shoulder as she shared her meat snacks with him. She had no idea what kind of meat. It was something Mihael had made when he caught her eating a snack of meat strips on Pyrta before they arrived to the secret dock. She chewed and chuckled. "Oh I agree. Every good hunter needs some paint to look fierce for his prey." Lohgan was making big daubs of pink now which were running a little. "Yah will have flowers and a sunshine. And meh favorite animal."

Calysta glanced down at Lohgan and nodded. "What about your Dah's favorite animal? Elephants?"

Lohgan shook her head. "Nah. Mine is better. Ets got claws."

It was impossible not to laugh when Lohgan mentioned her favorite animal had claws. "Ok, yah make yah favorite, but dah elephant has tusks. Dese are much bigger den claws. Maybe yah dun make elephant because et es too hard for yah? What yah make for meh enstead?"

Lohgan grinned and pointed to the green parts on Illya's leg. "A big tyrei wit yellow eyes and green fur and big claws. Everyone es afraid of tyrei's. Dats why dere my favorite."

Calysta was grinning and giggling. Her little girl was fierce and wild. All the best part of herself and Illya. More so Illya, but Lohgan was precious to her.

"Oooh." Illya nodded and smiled. "I was afraid of Tyrie too. Et bites meh leg and dat's why I have fake one now. Dey're very strong, but nut so strong as meh. I hunt Tyrie. Maybe dat's why I will hunt yah too when yah done wit meh leg. I go find yah and capture yah and gobble yah up!" He knew that would get a reaction from Lohgan and waited to see what she would do.

Lohgan knew the chase game well and he grin grew wider and wider as her father spoke until he was roaring about chasing her. It was fun when he did that and she squealed as she made to scramble off the bed. Calysta managed to catch the nail polish before it spilled over while the bed rocked with her daughters wild movements.

Illya's back flared with pain, but he still rolled off the bed and crawled after her like he was a bear and roared as he chased her out of the room and into the hallway. The twins of course came toddling to their bedroom door with all the ruckus and cried to be let out. Illy alet them out and gave them a few seconds to get ahead of him while he went crawling and roaring after the kids.

It wasn't long before Cypher heard his brother and sister. He poked his head out of the kitchen and launched himself in front of his Dah. "Run, I'll hold off Dah!" He called with fits of laughter to his siblings.

Calysta plucked up the nail polish and put it to the side before following begins her roaring husband. She watched as the kids ran and Cypher yelled over the squeals of delighted terror.

Illya was never so joyous as when he played with his children and Calysta watched until Lohgan came and dodged behind her, using her legs as a shield and giggling. "Yah can't get meh Dah!"

Cypher jumped in front and gallantly tried to save his siblings. Illya knew this was the time for a grand trick. Lowering his head he got it beneath the level of Cypher's knees and then gave a well calculated charge that resulted in Cypher being tossed onto his back. Proceeding into the living room he caught up with the twins and pretended to gobble each one of them as they laughed adn then tossed them on the couch before turning to catch Lohgan. "Are yah sure about dat?" Growling, he lowered his head and moved in closer.

Lohgan giggled breathlessly as her red curls stuck to her forehead. "Uhuh. You can't get me. Mam let's me hide!" Calysta titled an eye brow at Illya, and winked letting him know he could come get her anytime he pleased.

"Oh he's a mighty foe," Calysta chuckled, as she stepped further in front of Lohgan.

"I tink I'm like Tyrei. Yah mum es gonna let meh get yah." Illya started to work his way around Kalizda and he growled louder as he reached for Lohgan. He purposefully let his hand fall short and only brushed the edge of her dress with his finger tips.

Lohgan squealed and giggled, circling around her mother's legs to keep her father monster away.

"Yah not get me!" She teased. Her squeal spiked when he swiped out at her, brushing the hem of her dress. "Yah can't get meh!"

"I will!" Illya roared in return and he lunged forward again and this time wrapped her up in his arms and nibbled on her ear and her hair with his lips pulled into his mouth.

Calysta stepped to the side when Illya made his move and within a blink of an eye the girl was wrapped up in her father's arms being playfully nibbled by the ferocious tyrei. Calysta laughed until Lohgan started chanting. "Get mam! GET MAM!" Between wild giggles and squeals.

When Illya finished pretend mauling Lohgan he stood up and he looked at Kalizda for a long moment before he growled and snatched her up too. "Oooh, she's especially tasty." This time he didn't nibble with his lips pulled in. He gently nibbled her ear with his teeth and even snuck in a kiss or two on the side of her neck.

Calysta squeaked as she was swept up into the arms of her ferocious husband and kisses between playful nibbles. She laughed almost as wildly as the kids and proclaimed. "You got me, and we're all yours, mighty hunter." Lohgan laughed and piled in on them, begging to be tossed onto the couch with the boys so they could all watch a movie.

"Aye, dah Kalizda was a very good catch." Illya smirked and then let her go long enough to toss Lohgan on the couch and set the kids up with an adventure story on hologram. When they had that set up Illya kissed Kalizda gently and wiggled his eyebrows at her. "We should go rest eh?"

Calysta watched her children settle down on the couch in a pile like tan little lizards. They would probably fall asleep halfway through the hologram but that was okay. All of them were sweet and all of them were hers and Illya's too.

Illya came over and waggled his brow at her, grinning in a more adult playful way and Calysta's smile took on a crooked edge. "Oh? Ready for another hunt again?" She whispered. She was very sure he didnt intend on resting. At least, not at first. "You'll have to come catch me in the den."

She wiggled her small finger at him then turning to invite him back to the bedroom.

*********************************************

Laying on the bed breathing a bit erratically Illya checked his pad and coughed. "Mmm...time for dat treatment. Dat's sexy eh?" He knew it wasn't exactly what Kalizda wanted to see after they finished their fun, but he had to take the treatment. Recovering was necessary at this point. She needed him and she couldn't cancel the tour.

Getting himself hooked up for more breathing treatment Illya held an arm out and let her sneak in closer to cuddle while he just sat there with the mask on. Holding it to his face was still preferable to strapping it on. Somehow it felt like it was far easier to manage the bit of anxiety that went with the medical stuff. Illya felt Kalizda snuggle up under his arm and he glanced at her winked. It wasn't like she could see his face very well behind the oxygen mask that was all fogged up.

Since he couldn't do a lot of talking for the next half hour his mind constantly returned to the flyer Kalizda designed. It was a good design. He liked the way it felt when they went into the sky. Knowing that she had it designed to take him into battle started his heart thumping harder. She did it because she loved him and she wanted everyone in the last defense program to have the best chances of surviving. Later it would be used for exploration and that was also close to her heart. Despite the fact that he kept telling himself it was simply equipment he couldn't help the rising sense of dread. With the recent news about the Federation he was feeling on edge.

Almost as if it was timed to make all things worse he got a ding on his pad and saw that Ehud had moved to Kinte for some work. Ehud would visit Kinte regularly and that was considered within acceptable boundaries, but he was staying there for some time according to the coded message. Quickly shutting his pad again he tried not to panic.

Illya started to break out in a sweat. It was a horrible sort of feeling that had started to creep over him. Even the mild motion of the ship they were in reminded him of the transports. He remembered sitting in the large transport earlier in the war. It was hot, sticky, there was sand everywhere and noisy. The ship constantly thudded along with the gear that rattled in the cabinets above him. He sat on the bench and stared across the narrow walkway at the other guys.

They were a long ways from going home. It was just a transport out of a hot area to another hot area. The unit had been called to run a special mission. An enemy battalion was pushing toward one of the small towns near the cliffs. They could defend it if Ehaui held the air and they took the high ground. As long as they kept air superiority and held the cliffs the town was going to be alright.

The problem was that the Ehaui already said they were having trouble keeping the air clear. They were ordered to hold off the enemy ground troops until the town was evacuated.

Illya clenched his jaw and blinked his eyes. His eyes were dry from staring ahead so intently at the wall. He realized Kalizda was in his arms and he'd begun to hold her a bit more tightly to himself than he'd intended. Looking into her eyes he studied them for signs of fear or discomfort. Moving his mask away from his face he asked, "Are yah alright? I dun hurt yah?"
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
It surprised her when Ehud grabbed her hand and tucked it safely under his own. It was warm and only calloused a bit had his finger tips, the only evidence he had of being a tailor at times. She rolled in a little closer to him so she was tucked into his arm with her hand on his chest and enjoyed the closeness. They hadn't done very much of this kind of intimacy and it made her feel good. Almost like she was home. She didn't dare move or shift at all in case he got the idea she wanted him to let go. Instead, she kissed his cheek and settled further into him with her hand safely tucked under his.

She fell asleep easily with Ehud close but the alarm went off far too soon. She had to get up and go to the bakery and Ehud would be leaving. She got dressed in a pretty brown skirt and red blouse, then added some simple gold earrings. As she was putting in her earrings, which were actually a gift from Harry for her 20th birthday, she saw Ehud push aside the bed and grab a non-descript black bag. A go-bag. She'd had one too when she lived with Harry when he became president. Ehud was always prepared and leaving on a trip was no different.

"Well, you probably guessed by now. I gotta go. Found my person and now I gotta retrieve them."

Ehud spoke, bag in hand, but with a soft smile on his face. The announcement was abrupt and obvious, but she was sure that was because he didn't know what else to say. In fact, she was sure he might have wanted to leave without saying much, and had decided to say something after all when she asked him not to go without saying goodbye. The idea that he was saying goodbye for her made her chest warm a little and her red lips turned up into a loving sort of smile as she finished fastening her earring and let him come closer to her.

"Won't be coming home tonight. It'll be fine. I'm good at this kinda stuff."

He stepped closer and kissed her. It wasn't his usual, insistent sort of kiss. This one was soft and gentle and she closed her eyes as she snuck a hand around to his side. She didn't want him to go. Harry had sent her away and they had separated. Ehud's real work was even more dangerous than Harry's had been. He had to go though. Her grip tightened a little and she kissed him with a tender touch. If it was the last time, she wanted him to know she loved him.

"I'm going to miss you. You do what you need to do and come okay to me, okay?" she whispered after she released the kiss, "Can you walk with me to the bakery? Just a little more time before you go?"

He agreed to walk with her and she held his hand as they walked through the misty morning to the bakery. She flipped on the lights and put down her bag before turning to him and hugging him close. All the feelings she had when she hugged Harry for the last time had started bubbling up. She was afraid he wouldn't come home. As rough as their marriage had been, she wanted him to come home to her and the idea of him dying made her throat tight with impending tears if she lingered on the possibility too long. "Be careful," she said to him, "Please come home. I love you, Ehud Silver Leopard." She pecked him with a few more kisses and finally had to let him go out the door with a soft, hopeful smile that he would come home.

The rest of the day at the bakery was the usual. Dora came in and helped her start the breads and cakes. She made a few pies. The Terrans had specifically requested she made some fall pies, so she had rendered up dozens of boiled sweet potatoes and baked several large pumpkins to make filling for pies. She had even made a few custards and chess pies too. When Sien was done with school, he came to the bakery where he sat at the table and had a snack of nuts and an apple while he did his homework. When he that was done, she smiled at him and waved him to the back of the counter.

She was responsible for his well being all alone while Ehud was gone. Not to mention, Sien was her son in all the ways that mattered. He would be missing his dad soon. She wasn't sure how he would react to such a long absence since she had never been around him while Ehud was gone for so long. By her reckoning, a busy boy was a happier one though. So, she took him by the hand and brought him into the back of house before gesturing to a few bowls. "Would you like to help me make a birthday cake?"

Sien smiled at her and nodded. Seeing him smile in eagerness made her grin too. They set to work baking a two tier cake and decorating it together. "Hey, you're pretty good at this," she chuckled to Sien as he helped spread the icing on the finished cake. "You like the decorating, huh?" He nodded and she backed away from him, letting him decorate it. "It's for a little boy named Kito, he likes rocket ships and flyers. Do you want to help me make one?"

She was surprised at how Sien worked so patiently and seemed to really enjoy designing the cake. He must have gotten some of his creative side from his father. He looked like his father, but at certain angles, had some of Haza in him too. When he was all done, she praised him. He really had done a wonderful job for the child's birthday cake. By the time they finished and put the cake in the cooler, it was time to close up.

Sien helped the horde of children close up the front of the house, then helped her in the back of house. She set everything up for the next day but as she worked, she kept glancing at the door. Had she really gotten so used to Ehud? She kept expecting to see him come walking through any minute, his tall frame slipping through the door and his blue eyes looking for her. Instead, it was her blue eyes looking for him despite the fact she knew he wouldn't be there.

She tried not to think about what would happen if he never walked through that door again as she turned to Sien and took his hand. "Let's go home and get some dinner. Then we can watch a hologram." It would keep her busy and it would keep her son busy too. He agreed and they walked home together under the umbrella as it poured rain and turned slowly from dusk to dark.

************************************************************

They had a little, relaxing sort of fun, in their bedroom. Something Calysta was glad for, especially since her last pregnancies they couldn't have any fun at all. Illya was always gentle with her and it didn't hurt now that she had healed up from the procedure the Ehaui had done in lieu of a cerclage. In fact, it had left her in an outright cuddly mood and she wanted to stay that way for awhile.

She was sure Illya would have stayed that way for awhile if he hadn't needed to take his breathing treatment. He had gotten all worked up and it had caused him to start coughing. It was about time for the treatment anyways. He made a remark about it being very sexy and Calysta chuckled.

"I happen to think it's very sexy when you can breath," she joked, as she slipped up under his free arm.

He shot her wink and she giggled as she relaxed into him. Illya went quiet after a moment and she let him focus on the treatment as she played her fingers lazily across his chest. She was thinking about how they were going to possibly celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas aboard the ship with so many Elite Chips around, when the breathing treatment machine chimed that it had 10 minutes left. She had expected to see Illya move to turn the chiming off, but he didn't.

She reached for the machine to turn it off herself, and Illya's grip suddenly tightened. She grunted from the sudden force of being pressed in closer with his heavy arm. He had pinned her against him and she couldn't reach far enough to turn off the chiming machine. With every effort she made, his grip grew more fierce. "Illya?"

Calysta gave up trying to turn the breathing machine off and put her hand on Illya's chest, nudging him slightly. His only reaction was to tighten his grip around her. "Illya?" He was staring off into space still and for all appearances he looked to be deep in an absence seizure. Except for the fact that his grip grew tighter still until she was pressed impossibly tight against him and couldn't move away even if she wanted to. He was almost clinging to her. What was wrong? Her heart started to beat a little faster as she wondered if she should call for someone. She stared at him and said his name again. "Illya?"

After another long moment, he blinked and then looked down at her, asking if she was alright. His green eyes which had been playful just a moment ago were cloudy and full of concern. This was not an absence seizure. "I'm alright," she said, "I don't think you're okay though. What's wrong?" She wiggles her hips a little so he would loosen his grip but not let go entirely as she kept her hand on his chest.

The wiggling of her hips reminded Illya that he was still holding her tighter than what was probably comfortable or safe. "I uh..." Coughing off to the side he quickly placed the mask back over his face. He only had a few minutes left and he didn't want to talk about this right now. However, it was easy to tell looking at her that he would have to cut the treatment short. 2-3 minutes wasn't going to make that much of a difference. "I'm jes fine. Noting a little kiss can't fex eh?" Wiggling his eyebrows and winking at her he tried to shift gears.

He made a hasty retreat back into the mask to finish the last of the treatment and managed a passing flirt at her rather than really answering her. Whenever he was cheeky like that it always made her smile even if she was trying to ask something serious. She couldn't help it. She was a sucker for him and that's all there was to it. Of course, it didn't mean he was completely off the hook. Rather than call him out, she shifted until she could nibble at his ear and neck. "Oh? Tell me what my kisses are mending so I can make sure I'm thorough, love. What's on your mind?"

When she responded with a gentle nibble Illya started to relax. Maybe it was wrong to turn to physical affection like this when he was struggling. Then he got the shocking little follow up from her. She still wanted his answer. "Jes dah war. Tings dat are long past." Perhaps if he kept it vague and less relevant sounding she would let it be.

Calysta frowned into Illya's neck. He had never really had a flash back or anything like it while he was awake. It was concerning. She kisses behind his ear and caressed his bare chest before nodding. "Being stuck in a memory? You don't usually do that when you're awake, love."

"Ets ok." Illya moved his hand to rub her back and then kissed her on top of her head. "I dun let et happen again. Probably need tah make sure I check on a few tings." Primarily he planned on seeing what he could do to get some tea or something that would help him calm down. Dane might have something that wouldn't be addictive too. "Maybe I jes discipline meh mind more. I tink maybe et gets lazy."

The breathing machine finished the cycle and Calysta slid her way into Illya's lap. They were both still naked and his skin was warm against hers. Almost feverishly warm. A heavier than normal sweat had beaded over his forehead. She wiped the sweat away and cupped his cheeks as she looked into his eyes. "Its alright to tell me. You won't upset me or scare me. Let me help, yeah?"

"Kalizda et was only bad memories of battle from long time ago." Illya could feel his throat was starting to get tight and his jaw worked some before he spoke again. "I see what dah Federation does tah people dat are nut soldiers and et makes meh afraid for yah and dah children."

That was perhaps the most honest answer she had gotten out of him for awhile now. No wonder he had looked so up set and held her so tight. He was struggling even now to talk and she slid a hand to the nape of his neck, rubbing the tension gathered there with a gentle touch. "Bad memories you're worried will repeat themselves. I'm scared too. It was different when it was just me and I had no one. Now, I have you and the children. And I love you so very much." She didn't talk like this often and it was hard. It made her throat tighten some but she had promised not to get upset. She took a moment to and studied his face, her grey eyes wandering over him.

Illya only nodded when she responded and he took a deep breath before he coughed some. He was trying hard to put the memories away from himself. Kalizda's fingers worked at the back of his neck and then she pushed harder on his chest and she pulled away and looked into his eyes. Gradually his eyes tore away from the wall behind her and he followed her gaze. She was looking worried. He didn't want her to worry like this. "Dah Elite will do all dey can tah protect dah people. We will nut fail."

Calysta kissed him gently on the lips and kept her fingers gently rubbing the nape of his neck. "I know you will. The Federation will do what they do and we can't stop them from trying. But we can stick together, yeah? Because we're actually stronger together than alone. The Chippeqouti and the Elite are not alone anymore either. The whole of the Alliance is at our back. Things will not be like they were before because things have changed."

"Kalizda, ef yah fly meh tah battle I want yah tah stay en dah shep till yah land again. I dun want yah tah see et on dah ground." She had seen some of the war, but he didn't want her to see anymore than she already had. "Dah war hurts very much. Et's nut jes meh body. Sometime meh heart es sick for dah war and den meh mind burns wit bad tings. I get bad news about Federation and I suspect dis for long time, but hearing et makes meh feel dah pain en meh heart and mind eh?"

She looked into his green eyes and her heart ached. There was fear and sadness there. She had seen his eyes full of many things and seeing him hurt made her chest ache. She had over heard him talking to Bahn about not wanting her to see war. It wasn't that she wanted to see it. She just wanted to help protect him. Then again, maybe this was what he needed to feel more at ease. It sounded as if news about the Federation being on the move has triggered some PTSD too. No wonder he had been on edge. She nodded in understanding and held him close. "I promise I will stay in the ship, yeah? I promise," she whispered to him, "When your heart is sick and your mind burns, it's alright to tell me. War does hurt more than just your body. It's alright to tell me."

Telling Kalizda was somewhat of a bitter sweet thing. She loved him and he she did her best to comfort him. It worked to a point, but he also didn't want her worried. A wry sort of grin came to his face and he shrugged. "I tink maybe I jes tell little lie dat we bot like tah say. Et will all be ok." With war coming so near them there was a good chance it would not be ok. There was so much that could go wrong. "As long as yah and dah kids are alive and well at dah end of dah war I will be very tankful. I try tah make sure I live long enough tah see dat yah all safe eh?"

It was like her words did nothing. He found little comfort in any she said and went back to deflecting. What was worse was that he was back to sounding like he was doomed to death. She had made him promise he would do absolutely everything to come home. She couldn't find it in her to smile back at him. Instead, she was quiet as she looked up at him. "Well, you know they say the best lies have a grain of truth. We're alright and we'll get through it together. Dont you forget your promise to me."

There she was looking so worried again. Illya was feeling more stressed with the fact he couldn't get her calmed down. "I dun forget et. I always come back before. Ef I can I wil do same again." Finally he gave up and just let his arm slide off her back and fall on the bed. "I dun tink I can make yah feel better. Yah seem very upset wit meh worries tahday." (edited)

Calysta felt him let go of her as if he were defeated and it left her feeling suddenly cold. She gave an involuntary shiver without his arm to warm up her bare back. Tilting her head she looked at him in confusion, then leaned her head on his shoulder with a small, quiet laugh. "You've been trying to make me feel better?" She chuckled, "I've been trying to help you feel better. Though I don't think I've done a very good job of it, yeah?" She gave a little peck to his shoulder and neck. "I'm sorry, love."

The mutual confession was a bit odd and Illya snorted and coughed and then began to chuckle. "Eh, dat's dah way of et. We bot trying tah do dah same ting. Dat's why we dun do so well eiter of us. We should take turns at dese tings." It wasn't that the suggestion was realistic at all. However, a bit of humor wouldn't hurt. "I tink we should jes roll dice each morning tah see who gets tah be upset."

Calysta laughed and leaned in closer to him where it was warmer. "And miss out on hearing you chuckle and I kiss you anyways? Absolutely, not." She pecked his cheek and gave him a soft look with a little smile. A tinge of pink dusted her cheeks when she thought of how clumsy she still could be as a wife and expressing things. "I'm not exactly good at comfort, I know. But I'm honest when I tell you those things and I love you. Maybe that counts for something, yeah?"

The laugh was perhaps more comforting then anything and Illya smirked at her. "I win." He doubted she would know what it meant, but either way it was a win. They were both more relaxed now. "Yah do jes fine comforting meh. Yah gentle, soft, very small and yah nut so loud. Ef yah were opposite all dose tings yah would be a man and dat would be alarming."

Calysta raised a brow at his comment about "winning" and was about to ask when they had gotten into a competition when he mentioned she would be alarming if she were a man. The comment was so left field she snorted in sudden laughter. The idea of her being a man was so silly and idea, she giggled for a long moment before she wiped at her eye. "I wouldn't make a very good man. I'd be twice as alarming for always remembering to empty my pockets before doing the laundry and putting the toilet seat down too."

"Oh, dat's right. We needed tah finish talkinga bout dah new house. Wit tree more little ones we need more space eh?" Her talking of emptying pockets reminded him of the recent remodeling of their house on Pytra. "Makes meh wonder ef we get house wit more land eh I tink dah kids, dogs and bear would like et better."

He didnt laugh but turned the conversation again and this time it felt like more of a genuine turn in their chat. It seemed he was more relaxed now and she decided to roll with it. "Aye, I think that's a good idea. A nice big piece of land. We can even have some trees planted." Most of Pryta was flat plains of red grasses with very few trees and it would be nice to have some. "How big do you think you'd want?"

Illya rubbed the side of his head. "I dun know. Haven't tought about new house or land en long time. I would need tah do some figuring on et." Shifting on the bed he realized after a moment that they were both completely nude still and it was mid afternoon. "Maybe we could shower and tink about dat. Should probably get some clotes on too."

Calysta was still in his lap when he shifted and she pitched to the side a little. Her hands came up to hold on to his shoulders out of instict. She didn't want to move from where they were. Not really. Maybe it was the hormones or just stress but she really just wanted to lay there with him and talk. She knew it was selfish though and he had important things to do. Reluctantantly, she slid off his lap. "Aye, a shower would be good. Clothes...would be necessary to eat dinner in," she sighed, laying her head back on the bed. Her fingers brushed at his bare back gently. "You could think about it and tell me your thoughts on the house, yeah?"

As he sat up Illya threw his legs over the edge of the bed and he saw his boots. One of them was laying on its side and he frowned a bit and then shifted to sit in the bed again. Kalizda's fingers had been petting at his back and now he was laying next to her again. "Maybe I jes tink about it right now."

Calysta chuckled at her husband's sudden rise and return to bed. Maybe he didn't want to leave any more than she did at the moment. "Alright," she said, "If it helps. I know there are 5 acres for sale near the lake and the school, yeah?"

"How deep es dah lake?" Illya was interested in the property with the exception of the lake. "Lake es nut quite prime property for dose of us dat sink."

Calysta thought about it for a moment and as she did she slinked an ankle lazily over Illya's legs. "Its shallow for a long ways until it reaches about 15 feet I think. Its not terribly deep. And the property does abut to the lake. It would be within a mile or two though."

"Dat's good distance away. Sounds like nice size of space for us eh? Plenty of space even ef we jes live en tents while I build house." Illya smirked some. "Maybe we need very large house. I dun tink I ever make house dis big before. Maybe I make extra bedroom for yah fater. What es one more room when house es so big."

She tilted her head again at him, surprised to hear him say a few things. "Oh I think a spare bedroom is a good idea. For Dah or anyone else who happens to stay." She kind of wished he would put his arm around her again because it had been warm and comforting but she didn't ask, she just kept talking. "I was thinking, maybe it would be good to hire an architect and someone to build it."

Illya heard her talk about hiring a builder and architect. "Ooh, es dat terribly expensive? May be I jes work early en morning before work and after work again tah be sure dat we have house before dah babies are large eh?"Settling into the bed a bit more he pulled the top blanket over himself and Kalizda. "Ef we keep talking maybe I sleep eh?"

Calysta felt the top blanket settle over her and Illya mentioned a nap. A nap might be a good idea for both of them. She dared to shift a little closer and curl up to him. "I think the expense would be worth it. The architect and builders could work on a house designed just the way we want it while we're away. I know tradition is for you to build it but I think the amount of children we'll be putting into he house is...perhaps a bit untraditional, yeah?"

When Kalizda inched closer Illya couldn't help smirking some and reaching out with one hand under the cover to rest it on her waist. "Aye, we have many more children at one time den any Chippequoti I know. Yah might call et untraditional. I guess we can break anoter tradition. Can't hurt too much."

Calysta chuckled and saw his smirk as he put a hand on her waist. She took in a deep breath and enjoyed being close again. "I think hiring an architect who will ask what we both want then make it into a functional and nice house would be good and we can look at Chip sturdy features, yeah? The builders will build it and we can inspect. I will say there is one tradition we might want to do though. Even if we aren't building it ourselves, there's a Pyrtan tradition I'd like to do when it's almost done."


It had been long enough since the treatment that Illya could feel his lungs were less irritated and with it being so much easier to breathe he relaxed more. "What kind of tradition es dat?" His eyes began to droop some and he rubbed along her waist and hip. It was habit for him to do that and he was glad she didn't mind. Being able to have a hand on her and gently rub had always been soothing.


Calysta could hear him getting sleepy and he was starting to knead and rub her waist and hips lightly. He did that often and she enjoyed the touch. It meant he was there and relaxing. It also kept them close. "The Pyrtans take the last brick or stone to be placed and whisper what they want their house to hold. Love, safety, good, plentiful food. Many children. Then they place the last stone themselves to seal it in. Part of the house forever, yeah? It might be kind of strange but I like it."

"Mhmm...dat's nice tradition." Illya even managed a sleepy nod as he thought of what to say. "We already have dah many children, love and plenty. Maybe we jes wish for peace eh?"

He was falling asleep and she snuggled close while his hand stayed on her side. One of her hands came to his side where she held him gently. "Aye," she whispered, "Peace is good." She let him drift off while she stayed awake for a little while thinking of him and wishing she could give him the peace he wanted.

*******************

The rest of the trip passed by with out incident. Calysta was relieved to see that Illya had started to feel better and was even sleeping a bit better too. The tea from Sherri and the breathing treatments had done their work. Everyone was excited to be landing on Reylia too. The men were ready for the hunt and the children were ready to be off the ship and into some sun. It would be warm and late summer where they were landing in the main city of Cryn on Reylia, so clothing was light and comfortable. The kids were linen pants and tops and the crew had changed to short sleeves and lighter pants. She wore a pair of pants with a yellow, red, and black tunic to honor the colors of the falcons to disembark. Illya was expected to wear whatever was traditional for himself and Calysta had gotten him a pair of loose harem style pants and a red top lined with gold details. The Reylian's were much more relaxed than any place they had gone first and so long as they were clothed and looked presentable, Tikan would be happy to receive them.

The only person who was dressed more formally was Akten. He had donned his dress uniform along with his feathered cap, black cloak and his ceremonial weapons. "I must greet m' father and m' people as they expect t' see m'" he said with a small shrug, "It is m' honor t' be guard t' the councilwoman an' her family an' I must greet as m' father will greet ,eh?"

Wynry landed them without incident and they all lined up at the hatch door as it opened with a familiar hiss. A fresh, warm breeze buffeted them as they walked down the gang plank into the sun.

Tikan stood in his dress uniform which included a feathered cap like Akten's but a black tunic that carried much more ceremonial stylings and beadwork. He had his ceremonial was scythe, his sword and knives on his hips, and his black boots shone in the light. Behind him, stood a company of guards, all in dress uniform, but none so bright as the Chief's. Flanking on either side of them, the common people of Reylia cheered and waved fabrics of yellow and red like streamers.

Tikan's tan, scar pocked face split into a grin as he bowed to Calysta and then offered his hand out to Illya. When he took it, Tikan pulled him in close and smacked him with a hearty pat on the back. Tikan was all enthusiasm as he greeted the General and Emperor of the Chippeqouti. "Welcome back t' Reylia, m' friends," he boomed. Then he saw his son standing to Calysta's right near the children. Akten stepped forward and bowed to his father. Tikan looked at his son and grinned in approval before landing a heavy hand on his son's shoulder and shaking him in approval. "An' welcome home son."

Akten's quiet demeanor seemed to crack and he smiled. "Good t' see ye, Dah."

Tikan let go of his son and opened his arm wide, gesturing to the small city of houses and larger meeting spaces set between wide, cobbled streets. "We'll g' to m' home first where you'll b' staying an' then, we'll have a party, eh?"
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
Your package's expected arrival date is in 3 weeks and 4 days. Ehud read the message two more times to be sure that was what it said. So far the delivery status said that everything was on time and that meant that so far everything was going as planned. That was good, when things didn't go as planned sometimes the package would go missing or end up destroyed.

Ehud could almost hear Pris disapproving of the fact that her mother was labeled a package. However, he wasn't about to change the process or how he had managed to get things done over the last century. Changes were less than helpful in touchy transfers like this. To have some kind of excuse he had also ordered a mass volume of Terran fabrics that were harder to get here on Kinte. There were some he was sure Priscilla would especially appreciate if he made her some custom clothing.

Next time he planned on having Priscilla help him select some Terran fabrics. He wasn't above filling their home with little black market items. If she was going to be filling it, he would happily make a few contributions that would help it feel more like home for her. It would have a familiar tinge for him too. Terra had become a bit of a second home and he was more familiar with Terran lifestyle than he was with the Kaerelean ways. Sighing he set the pad aside and closed his eyes. There was a lot of work to do yet and he had a contact he would be meeting with in a few days. He would need to get at least one of his disguises on.

These kinds of jobs were in some ways the most stressful. He had to be ready to leave at an instant if something fell through and this was the best port to do it from. He would also just be sitting her like a stuffed duck for someone to shoot if things went well. There was always a chance that a contact might decide to turn.

There was also the concern about Pris' mother. It was confirmed several different ways that she was indeed her mother and not dead. The woman was well connected and he expected she would be if she had been alive that long without the Federation detecting her. It wasn't likely given what he had found on the woman, but she could be a sleeper agent that they would hope would eventually be found and brought into Alliance territory to assassinate important figures of the Alliance. Such tricks were not uncommon in this war and he was taking that chance, slim as it was, it was still risk and he was taking it.

********************

Wearing something more Chip was relaxing for this greeting. If there was one thing that Illya loved about the Reys it was their lack of formality. They had a bit of pomp and circumstance, but everyone had to. It was just kept to a minimum with the Reys. When the ship door opened and the gang plank lowered Illya could see the Reys all standing around and waiting for them to exit. Since they were a bit less formal Illya grinned. This was one place he loved to visit.

Of course there was the formal bowing that Calysta and Tikan offered. Then instead of bowing, Tikan offered his hand out and Illya took his hand. That was more his style of greeting anyway. When he felt a tug he stepped in closer to Tikan and the two of them gave each other a manly sort of chest bump/hug and slap on the back. That was how things should be. Then Tikan turned to his son. Akten was the man's pride as well as any son should be the pride of his father.

With the announcement that they were going to be staying in Tikan's house Illya glanced back at the Elite with him and the guys seemed to be a bit more stern looking till they caught his grin and then they relaxed a bit more. Walking near Tikan, Illya started in with a not so quiet assessment of Akten and the Reylian people. "Yah know I would gladly take Reylian warriors enta battle. Dah Reys fight like no oter Kaerelean. I tink Akten performs at level dat makes him proud warrior. Perhaps yah let meh keep him for remainder of tour eh?"

While the crowd couldn't quite hear him over the cheering and banners waving, the contingent of men and Tikan heard the comment just fine. The Chief of Reylia grinned and gave his some another hearty shake, clearly pleased at the comment. Tikan let go of his son, and looked to Illya with a nod, causing his feathers to catch brilliantly in the wind. "I'm glad ye find him a valuable member of ye' crew, General. Tha' is something every chief wants t' hear of his men an' every father wants t' hear of his son. If he is needed, then ye take him for the rest of th' tour. It is our privledge t' protect." Akten's light brown eyes seemed to widen some at the exchange between the two men. It was very high praise coming from a seasoned warrior like the General himself. He knew the Chippeqouti did not like bowing, as was appropriate for the situation, so instead, he offered his hand out to Illya. "If it's ye want tha' I continue, I will d' so with honor an n' only as an order from m' chief." He wanted Illya to know it wasn't just orders that he served.

It seemed that the compliment was well taken by the Reys that could hear him and especially by Tikan and Akten. With the offer to keep Akten, Illya nodded. "Aye, I will be pleased tah have Akten accompany us on remainder. He will come, eh." With the more serious side of business taken care of Illya wanted to move on to the more fun things. "I bring extra man wit. Dah Elite hear of dah hunting and dose dat work wit meh on dis tour request permission tah join dah hunt. Dey will nut be as body guards. I ask because dey are here as Chip warriors. Dey will also join games ef yah give permission."

Tikan nodded in great pride as his son, who had struggled with the finer points of being chief in some ways, accepted the offer with good words and pride. At the mention of additional men, the chief nodded and raised his dark brows. "Aye! It will be a good day t' stand b'side ye men. They are welcome t' all tha' we have an' the hunt too. Ye introduce m' t' ye men." Tikan gestured for them to follow him as he lead them down the crowd lined street. "They will stay in m' house as well as ye crew. I have a large house f' this reason. We will dance tonight an' ye will see the flight warriors at sunset for a show. Akten will b' joining them."

With permission granted for Dane, Saar and Mihael to join them as guests Illya smiled. "Meh men will introduce demselves when we get to dah house." A nearly boyish smile came to Illya's face as he called back to his men in Quoti. "Tikan gives permission for you to come as guests. You will be guests and enjoy yourselves." Dane gave a hoot and got a little extra spring in his step. The three of them though, mostly quiet exchanged a few grins. This was the part of trip they had all looked forward to, though they hadn't expected for Illya to give them leave to enjoy themselves. With the offer from Tikan for the remainder of the crew Illya decided he would ask when they got the house. It was more quiet when they arrived and Illya stepped aside with Tikan before counting the kids and the crew arriving. "I like tah be sure dat yah also pleased tah allow oters from crew interested en games and hunt?" While he was talking Mihael ushered the first batch of kids in and he held one of the twins and then offered a hand to Tikan. "Meh name es Mihael. Et es honor tah be allowed tah enjoy many pleasurable activities wit Reylians. Dah Elite dat are here before speak highly of yah people."

Tikan lead them to his home which was a beautiful almost bungalow style house on top of a shady- very defenseable- hill top near the northside of the city. Lyra greeted them with her usual smiling face and golden braids tumbling down her back. It had been several years since they had seen Lyra and while she was beautiful, she was getting just a touch of laugh lines near the corner of her eyes. She let them all in and Tikan spoke with Illya. "Aye," he said, "All of ye crew is welcome t' join in th' games and party. Ye safe here among m' people an' ye should take all the rest ye like. I was told ye will have one more man t' join. Koda Evynstar. He reported t' be a day out an has been given permission t' land." About the time all the children came bustling in and were immediately greeted by Lyra offering them Reylian sweets from a tray, Tikan was approached by a tall, young looking Chip with a child in one hand and his other hand stretched out in greeting. "Mihael," Tikan grinned, "Good t' meet ye. Pleasurable activities, indeed! Ye gone t' hunt Nyte beast before?"

A look of relief and a grin both plastered themselves to Illya's face simultaneously. "All meh crew will be glad tah hear dis." Rezna was doubtless going to be pleased. The greeting from Tikan and question in turn surprised Mihael. "Eh, I dun hunt Nyte beast before. I hunt Tyrei and oter large creatures for preparation." About time he finished saying that he grunted and stepped further inside. Lohgan looked a bit surprised that her pinch to the back of the man's leg actually got him to move aside so she could go get a treat and then she dashed past before anyone could say anything. Dane was next and he vigorously shook Tikan's hand. "I been here before and I will be anxious to join dah games and hunt." Wandering into the house he followed the kids and grinned at Lyra. "I get little candy too eh?" Illya caught a glance from Tikan and he shrugged, "Dat was Dane."

Tikan laughed a little as the red-headed little girl made the bigger man move with surprising haste and dashed inward to get a treat. Another man followed and shook his hand with wild enthusiasm rivaling his own before moving further in for a snack just like the kids. Lyra provided to him, lifting the tray up higher so he could reach. He seemed so excited he forgot to mention his name, which Illya filled in for him. Tikan remembered the man a little, not by name but a little by face. It had been years, but he was pretty good with faces usually. The last man stepped in. He was tall and a little more serious looking. Tikan offered his hand and grinned. "Welcome t' m' home. All is open t' ye."

Seeing there were sweets, Edgar started to open and close his hands and squeak in Quoti. Mihael couldn't possibly mistake the very loud request. "Mmm....I want!" Taking the boy closer to Lyra he whispered to Edgar in Quoti. "Only one." Edgar took one in each fist and Mihael took one from his hand and gave it to Tomas, who was toddling along quite happily. Then Dane rushed over and got a piece for himself. Momentarily, Mihael was unsure if he was supposed to have any of the sweets himself and then he tentatively took a small candy and nodded a hasty and polite thanks to Lyra.

Saar took Tikan's hand and he nodded respectfully, "Et es pleasing tah be here again. I am Saar." Not wanting to offend and since it seemed to be expected he followed the others to where Lyra was and selected a piece of candy and then smiled. "Sweets are someting I dun say no to."

Tikan grinned and watched as everyone, not just the children took a treat. His guests were open to all he had. Rezna ducked through the doorway and he greeted her just as merrily and warmly. "I think ye th' first Udine t' visit Reylia," he admitted, "I have met ye brother though an' he is a good sort of fellow. Honored t' meet ye an' invite ye to m' home." She grinned and shook his hand until she bumped her head on the lantern in the entry way. "I'm used to it," she snorted, as she grabbed the lamp to stop it from swaying, "I'd be more worried about the lamp breaking than me." She shuffled in and seeing the tray of sweets, took one too. Akten and Wynry followed. Akten walked in and went to his mom, taking a treat from the plate and kissing her cheek, though he had to bend a little to do so. "Aye, Mam. Ye made m' favorites. Oh, eh. This is Wynry, she's our pilot an' m' friend." Wynry stepped up, her eyes shifting from Akten to Lyra and Tikan and back again. "Hi, it's nice to meet you. Akten's told me alot about you." Tikan stopped the words in his mouth to Illya and glanced at Wynry, then at his son who was looking a bit wide eyed for a second. "I see, well I hope he told ye all the good things an' none o' the bad ones," Tikan joked.

Once all the crew and children were in the house and had their little piece of candy Illya was about ready to go get a piece for himself when he heard Wynry speak and then Tikan's joke. It sounded as if the Reys were equally open about these things as Chips were. "Yes, Akten talks wit her some when he es nut on duty. He has good luck wit Chip advice tah be bold ef he takes interest en woman." With a slap to Tikan's back he started toward the gathering of those around Lyra and he slipped his other hand around Kalizda's back. "Maybe we try little candies too eh?"

At Illya's words Wynry's face turned pink and she was clearly struggling with what to say. Akten chuckled and hooked his thumb into the side of his belt, an old habit when he was relaxed and in uniform. "Aye, I did. After ye dumped ye sandwich on me." Wynry's eyes grew even wider and she struggled with what to say to being so quickly outed. "This is m' Mam, Lyra and M' dad," Akten said, finally introducing them properly, "I wanted ye t'meet them an' t' come on th' hunt with us. Ye can talk t' them, yeah?"

Since it seemed everything was sorted out properly, Illya walked over and got a piece of candy for himself and one for Kalizda. Not that she couldn't get her own, but he liked get it for her. With a grin on his face he held it close to her mouth and waited for her to open her mouth and then he fed the candy to her. "Ok, Wynry and Akten yah have good talk. Rest of us get ready for tahnight."

*******************

With the freedom to wander the Elite were a bit nervous to start. They still felt on edge after all the other places they had visited. However, when the kids charged ahead and ran to join the other children in play it seemed to be all they needed to know. If Illya allowed his children to play with the Rey children freely and he allowed the Rey women in charge of watching the younger ones to watch the twins then they were safe here. It didn't prevent them from stopping periodically through the evening to check on the children.

Illya filtered through every hour or two, then Dane would filter through about half an hour after Illya and Mihael and Saar also checked. The children were checked on almost once every fifteen minutes. As they relaxed more Mihael sniffed the air some and then followed the scent of a roasting meat of sorts. He was eager to try some of the Reylian food. He loved trying foods of all kinds. A small serving for him was about the size of the average serving that was being given out and he liked that. It mean that he would have plenty of room to try other things as he found more foods. The first bite of the roasted meat elicited a sort of satisfied grunt from Mihael and then he thrust the plate back toward the server and asked for more. He wouldn't mind an extra portion of meat since they clearly knew how to roast something.

Since they were free to wander about Dane decided to look at some of the goods that the Reys had on display. His agreed was quite fond of the wooden beads and pretty things that the Reys put together. Perhaps he could put a little smile on her face and send her something that would remind her of home. "Yah sell dis beaded trow eh?" He was doing his best to change the tone slightly so that they would not think he was demanding. "Meh agreed likes dah colored beads and dis would look nice for bed en dah rainy weater." After he had his answer and finished up there Dane moved on and checked out some of the other things. He liked the Rey swords, but they were a bit small for him. However, they were still fun to look at. He was far more interested in observing the Reys than he was anything else at this point. Besides, he wanted to be sure he was ready for the hunt tomorrow. That was what he was looking forward to the most.

Saar wandered over to the games with Illya and they watched the Reys do a few fights on the poles before the two of them decided to jump in. However, since the poles were a newer idea to them neither of them took swords or weapons. It was strictly an exercise of strength, agility and balance.

To start each of them took a turn bounding around on the poles and then they started into a silent contest. Illya started with doing a single handstand on one pole and then Saar tried walking on the poles with his hands. From there they started trying flips and other things. Illya dared to try a spring from one pole and then curl on his way through the air and flip once before he attempted to land. The first attempt wasn't so smooth as he wished and he ended up hitting the pole with only part of his foot and he began slipping. He hit the right side of his ribcage on the pole as he slipped down it. Wrapping his arms and legs around the pole Illya caught himself part way down it and then recovered and made his way back up.

As long as they didn't touch the ground Illya and Saar decided that it meant they were still in the game. Saar did a smoother flip and then grinned and waited to see what Illya would do. Since Illya didn't want to be out done he tried something even more daring. Illya got both his feet on the same pole and then he slowly worked his body down the pole until all he had was his toes hooked on the pole and he kept his feet flexed and then tried stepping that way to the next pole using his hands to assist himself to the next pole.

Saar was able to do it and then the two of them started to grapple while upside down. After Illya managed to knock Saar off Dane joined. Illya practiced a few more flips and things until Dane had a feeling and they began to grapple. Soon the grappling turned to punches and kicks. One kick sent Illya slightly off course and Illya hit a shoulder on a pole and grabbed onto it and grunted as he was slammed into the pole. Dane quickly bounded toward Illya and kicked him in the head and stomped his shoulders till he fell off the pole.

Having lost to Dane, Illya decided to go over to the wrestling ring. He would probably try out the poles again later. For now he felt a little sore to keep it up. His head also hurt a little bit after that rough hit with Dane's heavy boot.
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
The Reylians were all happy to have the crew and the councilwoman among them. Elderly Reys sat in the sun watching the children and giving out snacks or making crafts while others filled the streets and waved to their visitors. The sounds of games came from all over the city and the Reylian warriors training fields had been open up for competitions of all kinds too. Red banners streamed from builds and yellow wild flowers were sitting the women's hair as they passed.

Calysta was relaxed enough here that she could let her children run off to play under the careful eye of the old Rey warrior women. It was almost strangely normal to be able to walk the streets so freely without someone at her back. She walked along, stopping at shops and greeting people as she went. Illya stayed by her side as she spoke with the people. It was relieving to see they were friendly and willing to talk with her. Some even haggled with her for a very handsome pressed leather belt with beadwork.

She stopped by one of the little stalls and a pretty Rey woman with dark hair and a cart full of beautiful wild flowers in all sorts of colors. "Would ye like some flowers in ye hair? I'll braid ye hair, yeah? Ye pick th' flowers ye like?"

Calysta smiled and squeezed Illya's hand. "Aye, I think that would be nice." She sat down on the little stool and let Illya pick the colors he wanted to see in her hair. She wasn't surprised when they all ended up being a beautiful crimson. The woman braided the bright flowers in her hair and she now had an intricate crown of black hair and bright flowers encircling her head when she was done.

About that time, there were cheers going up around one of the training rings and she grinned at Illya. "Sounds like some wild things happening over there. Shall we go check it out?"

They walked together toward a large arena with 10 foot drop encircled by a paddock where crowds had gathered to watch. In the ring sat tall wooden poles of varying heights which had been worn smooth by use and weather. On top of those poles were a few men, Rey warriors, and they were running a gauntlet of sorts. They started at one end and ran atop the poles through a barrage of leather balls and other projectiles battering them.

"A test of speed and agility!" an announcer called, "Next up will be the sandbox round! Last fall wins!"

Calysta was amazed at how fast the warriors could cross the tops of such small poles. She wanted to give it a try, but before the interest left her mouth, she glanced up at Illya and closed her lips. He was having such a good time and she knew it would stress him out if she fell, even if there was padding below. He seemed interested in trying the next round of sparring and she nudged him. "You should try it out, I'll stay here and cheer you on, yeah," she said in Qouti.

That seemed to be all the encouragement he needed to jump into the ring. When he did, a great cheer came up. Everyone on Reylia knew the General of the Chippeqouti and he was well liked. She cheered on her husband as she walked up to the railing. A few more Rey contestants joined and then Saar and Dane decided to jump in too. The Reys seemed all the more excited that they had been joined by the other Elite members. They all posted themselves on poles and a horn sounded beginning the round.

Calysta watched as all the men and women on the poles began to all move with a fluid grace she couldn't imagine having. Despite their size, the Chips in the group were just as graceful as the Reys moving from pole to pole and engaging in combat. She watched Illya from the side lines, her fingers gripping the railing, as Saar and Dane converged. All the Chips started moving in and out of each other with acrobatics, then with punches and kicks aimed at knocking each other down. Every hit aimed at Illya, made Calysta grip the railing even tighter. She shouted her cheers and stood on her toes, as if that would some how help her husband dodge the blows.

She nearly climbed over the railing when he fell, catching himself before he hit the mat. Dane was already on the move, seeing a weakened opponent. Calysta yelled as loud as she could. "Watch out!" Her voice was drowned out by the cheers of the crowd as Dane took Illya out of the competition with the heel of his boot, knocking Illya in the shoulders and head. She winced and her nails dug into the railing with each hit to Illya's head. It triggered something quite violent in her when she saw Dane stomping down and she was glad when Illya let go, dropping out of the fight. Her jaw worked angrily and she tried not to say anything about it as Illya came lumbering up rubbing his head. She didn't want to embarrass him in front of everyone by being overly fussy.

Despite the fact his head was ringing, he grinned at her and decided to try his hand at wrestling instead. She kissed his cheek and nodded. "Aye, lets go give that a try."

**************

Tikan came up to Illya and gave him a hearty pat on the back. "Th' show will start soon but ye feel like another try at th' poles? Th' warriors are callin' for ye an' I'm going t' have a go, yeah?"

If there was one good thing about the Reys it was the fact that they enjoyed parties and games as much as the Chippequoti and Tikan was no exception. Illya felt the man pat his back and he turned slightly. With so much noise and so many people around he had not seen Tikan approach. "Aye, I will give et anoter try."

Tikan grinned and lifted his fists in the air. As soon as he did, the crowd cheered, knowing Illya had agreed to try again. Then the Reys parted, making a clear way to the poles. Tikan didn't hesitate to take a running start before running up the side then grappling the top. Reys prizes flexibility as much as strength. One without the other did not make a warrior for all seasons. Once he was atop the pole, he waited for Illya before grinning and balancing on one foot with surprising lightness for the blocky man. "A race? Or acrobatics competition?"

The Reys cheered loudly and Illya knew he would be watched. THere was thankfully, no shame in this game. It was all for fun. Tikan was fast scaling a pole and Illya climbed one as well and when he reached the top he placed each foot on a different pole and then listened to the challenge. "Yah legs are short compared tah mine. I tink race would nut be fair. Acrobatics are more fun eh?"

Tikan laughed when Illya made a joke about his short legs and nodded. "Acrobatics is much more fun." Tikan rolled his neck and shook his arms some, loosening his muscles and then took a deep breath before releasing it and bending down. He flipped over. Grabbing the same pole he was standing on with one foot and curled until his feet were in the air. He wobbled some, his core strength catching him as he did a handstand both hands balanced on one pole. Then, slowly, he adjusted himself to lift a hand, leaving him balanced on one scarred palm.

Since Tikan was going to do a handstand and try to make it look fancy, Illya took it up a notch. Standing on one pole he began to lean back and reach for a pole behind himself. As he leaned his back began to bend and his stomach pointed toward the sky. Gradually he reached the point where he couldn't bend his back anymore and he lifted one leg and let his weight fall on his hand which he had stretched out to grab the pole. Thrusting off with his other foot he was now in a single hand stand. Slowly he bent the other way and let his back point toward the sky as he let himself down with his feet now on a pole.

The crowd cheered as Tikan and then Illya began their little competition. The General was flexible as a warrior should and the Reys couldn't help their excitement. Tikan lowered himself back to two hands, then curled himself in down, legs widening to a split, then around until his hands held him up and his legs were perfectly parallel to either side, holding in a supine sort of pose. The crowd cheered again as he grinned and pushed off with his too hands with a mighty grunt and leaped to another pole in the same position he had started in. The pole wobbled because he landed off center but he managed to stay up. Then he brought his legs down until his heels touched the pole and he was standing upright again. The crowd cheered at the show and then it was Illya's turn as Tikan gestured at him.

What Tikan did took a lot of strength and skill. An exact copy was never a good choice in a game of this kind. Illya nodded and grinned. It was a tough move to give a Chip equivalent to. After he thought for moment he came up with an idea that would take considerable strength and agility. It would be fun too if he could pull it off. Pulling the pant legs on his fatigues up just a little bit he gave himself a bit more room in the crotch of the pants.

Since he was prepared, Illya started the move. From appearances he was starting out stretching. Illya kicked his foot up in the air and leaned sideways till his leg was almost straight in the air. It was good to make sure he was stretched properly before trying this. Then he kept the leg straight and gave a little jump with his other leg and began to fall between the poles. He didn't let himself fall far before he pushed both his legs straight and caught himself in a position of the splits. From there Illya rotated at his waist to place both hands on the nearest pole and then he began to pull himself forward with his torso resting on his elbows and once his legs were no longer bracing against the poles he straightened them so he was a pencil for a moment. He needed the second or two to relieve his muscles on the inside of his legs. The moment of relief was temporary and he spread his legs into the splits again and wobbled slightly as he gradually rotated to push himself into a vertical position with his legs perpendicular to his torso. Illya decided to add to the challenge by making on one hand and then tilting to the side and catching one foot on a pole and pushing himself off with his single hand toward that foot. His ending was mostly smooth and he wobbled a little as he came to stand with both feet on the same pole. Looking at Tikan he grinned and nodded. Now he would see what Tikan would do.

The crowd watched and cheered wildly with every move. Tikan put his hands on his hips and watched his skillfully opponents display. The crowd cheered wildly again when he stuck the landing but none so much as his tiny wife whose voice could be heard calling his name. He knew that the Chips called her little bird and she was churripping his name just like one.

It made Tikan think of his own wife on the side line and grinned with an idea. He was going to do something bold. Lyra would hate it and she would love it at the same time. He shook out his arms and then launched into a dodging run across the poles toward his wife. When he reached the last set, he leaped in an attempt to do a hand spring off the pole and land it on the pole in front of where she stood. Instead, he had too much momentum and over shot like a cannon ball arching over the pole he was supposed to land on with his feet. He snatched at another one with his hands until he ground to a halt upside down and then quickly wrapped his legs around the pole to hold himself in place. He'd slid down the pole though, earning some splinters in the rear, but meeting his wife nearly a foot away. She shook her head and laughed before leaning over the rail to give him a kiss. The crowd laughed and cheered before the turn came to Illya again.

Tikan obviously decided to show off a bit and try to impress his woman. The attempt to impress his wife clearly didn't go as planned and Illya smirked. He was about to give something a shot for himself and he started to sway on his feet slightly and almost stumbled off the pole. Somehow he'd had a small absence seizure, but he wasn't about to let that stop him.

First, Illya tested the spacing on the poles to be sure he could keep a consistent motion and then he held a hand out and seemed to chart out a path to Kalizda. Running a few poles Illya got his speed up and then finished off with two handsprings that landed him almost in front of Kalizda. He somehow miscalculated his move by a whole pole. With a sheepish grin he stepped over one more pole and then stood in front of Kalizda. Holding onto the railing he decided to simply make a joke of the whole thing since he'd already messed up. Since they were close he kissed her and leaned in a bit further, but lifted his feet off the pole. She might not notice, but others watching would. With the next kiss he leaned in a bit more and braced his body on his elbows and his legs stuck straight out and then he grinned and asked for another kiss and then moved to be in a hand stand and asked for another kiss. With that kiss he rotated so that if he dropped down he would be out of the ring and then asked for another kiss. Illya chuckled when she complied and then he took a few steps with his hands till he was facing a guy and told him to get out of the way so he could get one more kiss. As he suspected it got a good laugh. (edited)

Tikan did a sit up and watched as Illya got the same idea to chase his woman down. She kissed him over and over quite fervently with smiles as she held his cheeks. The crowd was cheering and throwing their hats as he kissed his wife. They all laughed, including Tikan when someone got in between him and his wife's sweet little kisses. Tikan was sitting on the pole watching and clapping with a wide grin. Standing up on the pole, he walked over and offered his hand out to Illya. "Ye an agile warrior, m'friend."

After the last kiss Illya told Kalizda to make room and he dropped out of the ring. Tikan was walking over on the poles and offered his hand. Illya shook the man's hand and grinned broadly. "Aye, so are yah. I tink maybe meh men and I make little sword dance anoter night after we get more practice eh? Den we can show proper skill and appreciation for Rey pole dancing...eh pole stuff. Nut sure dat came out right."

Tikan grinned and the crowd around them laughed with Illya's comment. "Rey pole dancing," Tikan said, clearly amused, then he nodded, "I saw th' sword dance on Pyrta an' look forward to the opportunity t' see it again, yeah?" A low trumpet sounded off in three short blasts. Tikan glanced up and grinned. "The show will be starting soon, ye come and I take ye to the best seats."

It was good that Tikan stepped out of the ring. Neither of them would lose face, or lose the competition this way. Illya nodded and held one arm for Kalizda. Leaning to the side he gave her a quick kiss and skipped a bit just for show. "Oh yes, we like tah watch dis show. Bird flight es hard. I would know dat from experience. Et's nut so smoot dah first time."

Tikan nodded and waited for Lyra to join them. He took her hand when she arrived and she kissed his cheek. "Aye," Tikan chuckled, "I remember my first flight. I managed to arrive dead last." Lyra snorted. "He failed to mention that he only came in last because he went for the wildest falcon that nobody wanted to wrangle with. Big Red was the meanest bird in the flock." Tikan shrugged a little and gave her a playful smirk. "I had to impress you some how, yeah?"

A big knowing grin was plastered to Illya's face and he didn't even attempt to hide it. "Well, dat's one way tah impress a girl." Winking at Kalizda he decided to see if he could make her blush. "I'm nut much of flyer, but I manage tah come en first wit meh first bird. Dat's all dat counts."

Calysta was already rosy from all the kissing but she gave Illya a bashful sort of look and squeezed him closer to her. "Aye," she chuckled, "You're always my first and always my only." Tikan grinned and beckoned them forward toward a tall sky box. "Would your crew like t' join us?" he asked.

"Eh..." Illya glanced about after Kalizda answered and smirked. Nobody seemed to notice because she was so quiet and that was just as well. He was thinking about kissing her again when Tikan mentioned the rest of the crew. "Dey here somewhere. I dun know where dah hell dey are. Maybe dey find us and maybe nut."

On their way to the skybox, which was a large tower structure that had been placed on a rolling platform allowing it to be rolled away from the open field or stored elsewhere until it was needed. There were many of these boxes placed in a ring around a large grassy field. Wynry and Rezna joined along with Mihael to climb the stairs. Rezna had to squeeze and duck through the structure and smiled as she took her small seat which groaned under her large frame. "I've always wanted to see a Reylian Falcon show," she admitted.

Being smaller, Wynry and Calysta took some seats near the front and that left plenty of open space for everyone to see the bird in the sunset. It didn't take long for the show to start. Horns blared again, echoing through the city and hilltops as drums began a heavy beat.

Two flights of 5 falcon riders came in from opposite sides. The yellow female falcons seemed to glitter like gold in the evening light as they two flights swooped along each side of the area allowing everyone to see the riders and the birds up close. The riders seemed to move with the birds with ease. They wore traditional Reylian warrior wear with leather chaps and beaded leather armor with no undershirts. Both men and women alike had their hair braided or shaved on the sides with feathers stuck near the back. All had bows and arrows and knives on their hips.

A cheer rose up at their appearance and once they were done making the slow guiding circle, coming to face each other in the side ring. When it looked like they were about to collide, they turned to the side in a hard banking turn, one group going to the inside and the other going to the outside. It was smooth, fluid move before suddenly, the riders broke out into pairs of a scatter formation. The pairs rode as wing mates, simulating actual battle between the groups. Birds flew and banked on command, giving wild calls just like their riders. It took a moment for Calysta to realize the birds had blunted ceremonial tips on their talons which were roughly the size of chef's knives. The steel glinted in the sun as the mock battle carried on.

One particular rider, one with both red and yellow feathers in his air, climbed impossibly high in the sky, becoming a mere shadow against the orange of the setting sun, the made a purposeful drop from his mount's back. He plummeted in a controlled, helix with his falcon, the two intertwining a breath apart until they were unnervingly close to the ground. The bird dropped out of the helix fall and dove under the rider, snatching him death a mere 40 feet from the ground. The bird gave a mighty push and went skyward again as the crowd went wild.

At one point the "fighting" turned even more impressive and riders were making leaps to other birds either by dropping in from above or standing up in the saddles of their birds and in a steady glide, walking along the birds wings with quick, light steps.

The finale included another "trust fall" with five riders all diving at once from above. The birds caught them with ease and there was a thunderous applause that over rode the sound of the drums. The ranks split, but one bright red bird flew up and off on its own. It's ride swooped upward and Calysta recognized it as the one who had done the first trust fall.

He banked the bird up and up until it landed with a thud on the edge of their sky box railing. The large, metal glad talons took up nearly the whole railing as the bird held it's wings aloft and its beak high in a regal pose. The rider, who was very clearly Akten, son of Tikan was shirtless save for the beaded chest vest he wore and a band around one corded bicep. His brown eyes settled on Wynry and he held out his hand to her, inviting her to join him.

All eyes were on the blonde pilot now but her eyes were transfixed on Akten. He stretched out his hand to the star struck woman. "Fly with me," he asked. The bird gave a cry as its legs danced on the railing, leaving deep divots. Wynry stretched out her hand and Akten grasped her by the forearm. She braced her feet on the railing and he tugged her with one arm to sit in front of him. Wynry looked excited to the point of giddiness and the crowd cheered for their future chief as he settled Wynry in front of him and nudged his very large falcon. The raptor released its claws and free dove for several dozen feet before spreading its wings and banking away. Akten was taking Wynry on a victory lap for all to see around the arena.

When Calysta dusted the feathers from herself and looked to Tikan, he was grinning from ear to ear. The chief laughed and nudged Illya. "Aye, I think ye taught him some boldness alright."

**************

After the air show, Calysta found herself hungry. Akten and Wynry seemed to have disappeared for awhile and the walk out of the area was a bit lengthy. Normally, she wouldn't mind a long walk but her feet felt a little puffy. So, she found a spot of tables close to a food stalls and eased down next to Dane. Illya had gone to the bathrooms somewhere along their trek, and she decided to wait for him so they could eat together. Leaning back against the table she glanced at Dane. "It's been a fun day," she sighed, "But I think I'm ready for a little food. Illya should be joining us in a bit." She adjusted the crown of flowers in her hair since a tendril of hair had come loose from the wind in the sky boxes.

"Which reminds me, Dane," she said. Turning to the larger man who was eating his food with gusto. "I know Illya's head was in prime kicking position on the poles today....but if you ever have the chance to kick him in the brains again....I would like to ask that you didn't."
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
There were plenty of vendors about. Illya liked walking with Kalizda and just enjoying it. Plenty of times he got nibbles of meats and other good foods. Half the time Kalizda seemed to want to taste what he had. He wasn't sure when she started to enjoy meat so much, but he was fine with that. While they walked along he spotted a nice looking little booth that advertised tattoos. It had been a while since he had one. Perhaps he should get another one since the last one wore out almost 70 years ago.

As they made their way closer to the games Illya saw Kalizda pause at a booth where she could have flowers put into her hair. He was very pleased when she accepted the offer. It was even better when Kalizda asked him to pick out the flowers. There were around 3-5 different kinds of red flowers and Illya wanted them all in her hair. He watched with anticipation as the woman braided the flowers into Kalizda's hair and now her head was surrounded with aromatic flowers. When she rose he smiled broadly and leaned over and sniffed her head. "Mmm...yah smell very good. I like et." Pulling her closer he lifted her off the ground slightly and kissed her. "We go see more now eh?"

Illya tried to watch and see if there was anything else that Kalizda seemed to be attracted to. He wanted to get her something pretty she would like to wear and be comfortable in. She stopped for the flowers in part out of interest for herself, but he also knew she did it for him. Kalizda was funny that way. She didn't like to do these kinds of things for herself, but she did them if she thought it pleased him.

Eventually they came upon the games and Illya had to join. It was fun to play the Rey games and he knew Kalizda liked it when she did. She especially liked it if he won.

After the games they went to a prime spot to watch the flight demonstration. Illya quickly figured that the flyer who stood out and made the most spectacular display had to be Akten. There were plenty of logical reasons it would be Akten. First, he was highly trained, second he was the Chieftan's son and he needed to have that kind of skill, third, he would be taking the position of Chief soon and a display like this would provide a sense of security for the people and finally, Akten had every reason to show off.

A grin came to Illya's face when the end of the show came and he stood up and clapped loudly and cheered. The Reys seemed to like to have a similar fashion to that of the Chippequoti when it came to the things they admired and were impressed by. The grin only grew broader when Illya heard Tikan's comment on his son's boldness. "Chippequoti are nut shy and we tell him dat a girl likes a bold man. Ef a man es nut bold enough tah go after woman he likes den he will nut be bold enough tah protect what dah gods give him."

*********************

The roasted meat was good and Dane was merrily shoving bite after bite into his mouth. There was plenty to go around and he could have more when he wanted. The best part was that they were guests and he didn't have to do any chores for the days they were here. Kalizda joined him though she had opted to wait to get her food until Illya arrived. Nobody seemed to know where he was. He wandered off at some point and that was almost an hour ago. It seemed that Kalizda was taking this as a chance to make a statement and Dane paused only long enough to wipe his hands on a napkin and swallow before he answered, "Yah upset wit meh?"

Calysta was surprised when he asked if she was upset with him. That felt like a more complicated answer than just yes or no but she knee the answer leaned toward one more than the other. "I'm not angry, no,"she admitted, "It does bother me when someone is rough with his head though. I saw what happened when he was shot in the head. I saw what the Ehaui did to patch him back together. I got through the fact he had no memory of me at all. He might be stubborn and hard headed but he does have injuries."

She gave a very level headed and measured answer. Dane nodded and he kept his gaze on her. "Aye, I can understand. Dah Elite do nut consider injury reason to be gentle en dese situations. When we play games or train we trust dat we will learn from mistakes and learn tah be better and dat ef dere es injury dat could be worse dat dah one in danger will tap out. Illya let go enstead of fighting meh harder. I know he could take more and I know he would fight ef et was battle. He let go because he knows yah dun like his head tah be hit. For meh nut tah take advantage of situation would be strange."

This was the part she hated about the Elite at times and frankly, she knew the Reys and other warriors were the same. It was all perfectly logical to them and she knew it. How did they know he could take more? Illya was strong, fast, and sturdier than anyone she knew but all she could hear sometimes was the sound of the bullet that had stolen his memories and his bones cracking in his back. She had started staring at Dane, lost in her thoughts for a moment and the shook her head to dispel them. "I know it would be strange," she said, "Just know that it wasn't so strange for me to want to jump in that ring and protect him either. I know he wouldn't like it but I almost did." She leaned back let out a small breath, letting out some of the protective anger she'd felt earlier. "Call me protective if you want."

The information from Kalizda confirmed to Dane why Illya let go when he didn't have to. "Yah understand dis. He will become lazy warrior and more likely tah die ef I dun do meh best. We all do our best tah be sure dat we learn from mistakes. Illya will be better and because he drop off dah pole tah please yah, he will devise way tah come back up much faster and take less hits next time." Dane gave her a little smirk, "I expect tah be hit very hard next time someting like dis happens when we train."

Calysta swallowed, though her throat was a little dry and caught Dane's small smirk. Illya had let go for her sake. He'd figure out a way to do better next time it seemed. She knew pushing was the only way to get better, even if it made all the instincts in her head go into fight mode. The corner of her lip tipped up, reflecting Dane smirk. "Oh I expect you will be. I wouldn't expect any less of my agreed than to come back more fierce than before. I want him to live. I want you all to live."

"Yes, we would all like tah live." Dane agreed with Kalizda on that point and he ate a few more bites. While he was still chewing he saw Illya approaching and he pointed to him. "Aye..." He was a bit muffled as he hadn't swallowed his food yet. "Dere es Illya."

Calysta turned, her head swiveling around until she saw her husband walking down the sidewalk, a head above the rest of the Reylians. He'd been gone for a long awhile and she wondered if he was alright, or maybe he had gotten lost? She smiled and bit to Dane and gave him a pat on the shoulder before lifting to her feet to meet her husband. "Hey," she said in Qouti, waving so he could see her, "Where have you been, love?"

The pat on the shoulder was a good sign. Dane nodded and smiled. That meant he was still favored. He watched as Kalizda asked Illya where he had been. That was something Dane wouldn't have asked knowing Illya for as long as he had. However, it would be fun to see what kind of answer Kalizda got. "Oh, I uh...saw this thing I thought you would like and now you have a small surprise. It's useful. Then I saw a few other things and stopped to look and stopped one place for a while and then remembered we were supposed to eat together, so I got some meat trays for both of us." Grinning he presented a bag that was splattered with meat juices on the side of it. "Long lines, it took a little bit to get the food."

Calysta tilted her head as he explained where he was for so long in the most vague and honestly Illya way possible. The ghist of it was that he had gotten side tracked in the weeds shopping. At least he'd brought dinner on the return though. Her curiosity was peaked and she grinned as he presented her with a paper bag with meat juices dribbled on the side. It was so soaked she took the bag and held it up. "Dinner or the surprise?" she chuckled. It was hard to tell which it was.

"That's the surprise....I mean dinner. I have the surprise somewhere..." Illya trailed off as he started to pat himself down and he dug deep until he found the item. "Eh, here it is." Taking a small wrapped parcel from his cargo pant pocket he presented her with a carefully wrapped item and moved over to sit at the table with her so they could eat and she could open her surprise. He could hardly wait for her to see the cross body beaded belt and feather earrings and necklace. They were beautiful and not cheap.

Calysta watched as he patted himself down and then finally pulled a carefully wrapped parcel from one of the many pockets on his cargo pants. She took the parcel in one hand and the food in the other, then sat down with him at the little table beside Dane. He seemed eager for her to open the surprise first, and she hoped it wasn't something for the bedroom she was about to open in public. He wouldn't want anyone to see that, but he also might forget to think about her opening it in public too. So, she untied the twine gently and then slowly folded back the paper so she could peak inside before revealing the entire item. "Oh!" It was a beautiful beaded belt with matching cryn feather earrings and necklace. Naturally, he had chosen red feathers and she grinned as she picked up the necklace first with a gentle grasp. The beads were hand made and dyed in bright reds and pinks with silver work between the beads. The earrings matched. These were beautiful pieces and absolutely not cheap. She blushed a little, knowing he had been out shopping for her and then glanced up at Illya with a soft, pleased look. "These are beautiful." It was an earnest answer and she swapped seats to sit beside him. Calysta leaned up and delivered a kiss to his cheek. "Will you help me put the necklace on?" She wanted to show them off and this was the best place to wear them.

When she opened the gift Illya winked at her. There was an empty little scabbard on the cross body belt and a loop on it. However, she wanted to try on the necklace and earrings tonight and it was a good time for that. "Yes, I help you." Jumping up he eagerly helped her put the necklace on and then sat next to her and kissed her cheek. "Tomorrow, you will go to the shop with me and pick out the knife to go on the belt and the bow and arrows." There were a few knives to pick from that would fit the scabbard and some bows, but he wanted her to pick what she liked the feel of for herself. "You will want these for hunting eh?"

Calysta grinned. She was getting to go on this hunt and she would have some fun with it. It had been a long time since she'd been on one. She turned her attention to dinner. Her stomach felt like an empty pit and when he opened the bag, the smell of cooked meat wafted up. One of the meats was definitely nyte beast, but the other meats she wasn't sure about. Jaykal, maybe? It didnt matter terribly much because once she started eating, she did so with gusto. The meat was solid, juicy, and flavorful. She used a piece of yeast bread as a way to shovel up the meat into her mouth and hummed with satisfaction. It wasnt until all the meat was gone and she was using the bread to sop up the sauce that she realized just how fast she had eaten. Glancing up at Illya, she saw he was still chewing, though almost done. Her cheeks turned a bit pink. "I didn't know I was quite that hungry," she said, chewing her last bite of bread more slowly.

The way that Kalizda dug into her food made Illya feel slightly guilty. He lost track of time and she'd waited for him. With three babies growing inside of her she was probably horribly hungry feeling. She was surprisingly fast at eating the food too. Illya wasn't quite as hungry as he normally would be simply because he'd had snacks throughout the day with her. She, well, she was ravenous. Grinning a little he decided to joke with her about her eating so fast. "I like tah know dat meh little bird can tear ento meat and eat like dat. Dis means she es healty and her young will be too."

Calysta smiled shyly and started to tell him she was glad she impressed him. Instead a small burp escaped her and she clamped her hand over her lips with wide eyes. "Oh," she squeaked, "I think so do the babies. I feel much better." In fact, she knew as soon as the food settled in, she'd start feeling sleepy. There was so much left to see and do though. "It was good, love thank you for dinner and my surprise. What would you like to do after dinner, yeah?"

After the day's fun, Illya was feeling a tad bit tender. "Eh..." He thought about roaming around a while longer, but it would be nice to get sleep too. The kids would be needing to get tucked in. "How about we get some snacks and get the kids and take them to bed. It's been a long day."

She tilted her head, some as he considered and then gave his thoughts. It would be good to tuck the kids in. They would sleep very well given they had run around all day long. So had she and Illya, but sleeping right away wasn't on her mind just yet. "Aye," she smiled offering her hand, "Why don't we pick up a sweet or two for the kids and get them into bed. Then we'll see about ourselves, yeah?"

"That's good. I want sweets too." Illya figured that maybe she missed the part about them having more to eat too. The meat was very good, but he wanted something sweet to eat.

**********************

By the time they had the kids in bed Illya was tired out and his head ached. He finished brushing his teeth and he glanced at himself in the mirror only to do a double take. No wonder his head hurt. He had a black eye and a bit of swelling on the left side of his skull. The swelling was thankfully not visible, but he could feel the lump from where Dane kicked him.

Wandering into their room he saw they would be sleeping in a large, two person hammock. He was definitely going to have to find some way to do that without flipping them over multiple times. Instead of trying to sit on the end of the bed, he sat on the floor to take his boots off and his socks and pants. Illya was a little more careful when he pulled his shirt off and he gently prodded at the healing barrier over his tattoo. It was a large gold bird with red flames surrounding it. The bird was meant to look like little bird and she spread out over his ribs on the right side and the flames rose around her to cover his right peck.

While Kalizda was still taking care of her nightly routine he got into the bed and winced when it rocked. He really didn't want to hit his head on the floor in the middle of the night. Simply to avoid getting dumped out of the hammock he was thinking about sleeping on the floor. However, he could at least give this a try. Perhaps if the hammock was larger it would make sleeping in it better.

After what felt like a long time Kalizda stepped out and he sat up in the hammock. "Hey, ready for bed now?"
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
Calysta was brushing her long dark hair when she poked her head out of the bathroom. She knew if they had fun later, it would end up tangled again, but it could at least start out brushed. When she came into the bedroom , brushing the ends with a soft bristled brush, she nearly jumped when Illya sat up from the hammock with eagerness. When she snapped her eyes to him, she nearly jumped again. Her fingers stopped working on the end of her hair and she stares at Illya. There was a strange bubble, like a second skin over his chest and ribs. Underneath that was an outline of some sort of design. "Did...is that...a tattoo?" She said bluntly.

At first Illya wasn't sure what Kalizda seemed so surprised by until she asked about the tattoo. "Oh, uh, yeah. It's a tattoo." Illya responded in Quoti. "Been a while since I had one and they had some good artists. So, I decided to get another one." Cautiously he started to lean closer to her side of the bed and throw the covers back for her. "Gonna leave your hair out instead of braiding it before bed?" A smirk came to his face and he watched as she brushed the ends of it. He loved playing with her hair. She left it out a lot, but that didn't make it any less exciting to play with it.

That was entirely like her husband to reappear with something new and exciting. Whether it was was snake eggs in his pockets that he would forget or a tattoo he got on a whim. He smirked one of those charming smiles at her and flipped back the covers as he asked about her hair and she smiled. "Aye, I thought it might be nice, yeah?" She replied in Qouti. She padded over to the bed wearing her silky, very easily removable, night gown and sat down. Her feet automatically flipped off the floor, swaying to the side. She caught her balance with a nervous giggle and glanced over at Illya. "I didn't you know had tattoos before," she said, "I think I would remember seeing one on you." She was feeling all frisky now that she was in bed with him and she slipped an ankle over his. "And I know every inch of you enough to have noticed."

Illya tensed done when she got in the bed. He was glad they were still balanced. “Eh,” Illya rubbed the back of his head and grinned. “I think you know me pretty well. My last tattoo was probably gone about 70 years ago. They fade and usually disappear in about 15-20 years.” Angling himself toward Kalizda he set a hand on her waist. “Nice nightgown.”

She knew the silky little night gown was something Illya might find interesting. Is was light and breezy for the late summer heat and came to about her knees. It was a little tighter across the midsection than normal. Signs she was starting to put on baby weight...or perhaps it had simply been all the food she was eating. He settled a warm hand on her hip and she grinned. Now, she was all curious. "I thought you might like it," she smiled, leaning up to kiss him lightly on the lips, "70 years ago, hm? What was it? And whats the new one? Its very large." The patch over it made the color blurry and it was hard to tell quite what it was.

“I like it.” Illya leaned in a little and kissed her. Every move he made caused the bed to sway gently. “I think it was just designs of shape. This tattoo is a little bird.” Illya winked at Kalizda and he kissed her again. “I guess I was overwhelmed by her beauty and decided to memorialize it.”

She couldn't imagine having a tattoo fade so long ago that you couldn't quite remember what it was. He was putting on that wiley charm she liked and it was working. He'd gotten the tattoo inspired by the little bird. By her. It was sweet even if she had been shocked by it at first. The tattoo was rather large too and took up a fair portion of his ribs and right pec. "Its a very big tattoo," she chuckled, "Then again, soon I will be a very big little bird." She eased closer to him and it made the hammock sway more. How did Reys do anything fun in hammocks? Out of instinct she reached out and held on to him, grabbing part of the tattoo.

"It's not too big. I had bigger ones before." Illya smiled some and he winked when she said she would be a big little bird. "I like it when you get big because your pregnant." Moving his hand from her hip he slid it over to her belly. As she leaned closer and he no longer hand his hand on her hip they started to tip, but not enough to flip. It was enough however, for her to grab his tattoo. "Oooh, ouch." Illya hissed as he instinctively moved away from her. His motion was enough to keep the hammock turning and before he knew it they were both flopped on the floor with Kalizda on top and the hammock swinging back and forth overhead. Letting out a puff of breath he winced. That really made the ache in his head roar to life. "Well...." His voice was strained some because Kalizda also knocked the air out of him with her elbows planted firmly in his solar plex. "I was gonna ask when I could feel the babies moving."

The moment she grabbed his side, he tilted back and she was ripped from the hammock as it dumped them directly on the floor. Luckily, she landed on top of Illya instead of the reverse. Still, she felt the wind knock out of him and he winced as he tried to recover from the sudden fall. The next words out of his mouth were not a complaint though. She winced and tried to gingerly sit up so she wasn't on his tattoo. It was such a non sequitur she smiled. "A few more weeks. They're tiny right now," she replied, then she thought on it a moment, "But it you want to put your hand there, it still feels nice for me." She didn't usually state things quite so openly like that but she was working on it. "I get cramps as my belly grows, yeah? Your hands make them feel better if they are really strong."

They were still sitting in the floor and she reached up to smooth down his hair. "Why don't I walk to the ship and bring back the air mattress?"

Kalizda was at least informative in the sense that she told him that she liked the feeling of his hands on her belly. "Oh," Illya nodded, "I will hold your belly more. I like holding it and there is a way that Chip men can help their woman sleep if she is very pregnant and sore. Might have to ask Ahvah how to do it again." It had been a long time since he had tried and he wanted to be sure that he got it right.

It seemed that Kalizda was worried about the sleeping arrangement and Illya winced. "I hate to do that. Maybe we could ask Dane or Mihael to get Elite sleeping mats from our gear and then you and I can sleep on those."

Calysta carefully rolled to his left side so he could get up and sat next to him before rising to her feet. "I don't mind going," she said, "Would you like the mats or the air mattress better?" She wanted to do what would be most comfortable with him and his back.

"I'll get dressed and go with you. The mats are better." Illya knew they weren't terribly cushioned, but Kalizda half laid on him most nights anyway. He just didn't like that the air mattress let him sink and it got sticky when he sweat, it was unpleasant at best. "Maybe, we just...eh, yeah we'll get up and go get the mats."

Calysta nodded and gently kissed the top of his head. "Stay, I'll just put on a robe and go get them, yeah?" She padded over to get the matching robe that covered her down to the ankles and wrapped it around herself before tying it solidly around her middle. "I'll be right back," she said, glancing at him, "You're alright?"

"I'm going with." Illya got himself up off the floor and momentarily everything seemed to be a bit wobbly, but he kept himself upright. His head hurt after getting knocked on the floor. When he leaned over to retrieve his boxers it felt like a heavy load rammed into his forehead. While he was leaned over he grabbed his pants and slipped into his boxers and pants quickly. That was all he needed. "We is plural."

He didnt answer her question other than to tell her he was going with. He seemed a bit jerky with his movements and his next comment made her raise a brow at him. She'd never heard him phrase anything quite like that. "Aye, it is." She walked back over to him. He had a bit of a black eye and bruising on his shoulders from Dane's kicks. "Are you sure you're alright?" She settled a hand on his chest as he buckled his pants.

Kalizda’s little fingers rested gently on his chest and Illya shifted his gaze to meet hers. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

His eyes met hers and she looked at the bright green color in the dim light of the room. He was very good at hiding things from her at times when it came to pain and he would shamelessly try to avoid telling her sometimes. She slid her fingers from his chest, down his arm and settled her hand around her fingers. Her hand was too small to really wrap around his, so she hand had to settle for a few of his fingers in her palm. "If you're sure. I just know Dane kicked you hard," she added, "Lets go get the mats."

"I'm sure I would like to walk with you." Flashing a quick grin he moved his arm around her waist and gave her a little kiss. He could still feel her little fingers on his arm. "Do you like to walk with me?" Slipping his other arm down to her hip he shifted both hands to her hips and swayed gently.

Calysta knew he was deliberately avoiding her question now. His hands slid to her hips and swayed them forward some. She held on to him, looking up with grey eyes that studied his face carefully, though she couldn't help but smile. "I like to do all sorts of things with you, and walking is one of them. I like it when we're close." Again, she would have once been too shy to say much, but she was making an effort to say how she felt more. She stepped in a little closer and chuckled. " I also know you didn't answer my question about if you were sure you felt okay," she said.

That little smile was just what Illya loved to see. His own smile grew some and he was about to suggest they walk very close when she followed up on her question. Illya's smile slowly faded and he took a deep breath. "My head hurts. I'll have Dane make sure I'm fine in the morning."

She hadn't meant to kill the mood and seeing his smile fade made her feel like she had. She'd done it before and it never made her feel good, but was so obstinate sometimes! She looked up at him and nodded. "Alright," she said with a small breath, "He did kick you hard. I didn't think about it but you might have a concussion." She nudged him a little, trying to be playful with him. "I didn't think about it because you have a very hard head," she chuckled, "Maybe we get it checked out tonight...then maybe we can do a few more close things?"

Kalizda was worried about his head and he knew she would be. In some ways it was good. On the other hand, he was worried that she would turn to nursing mode. She sounded like she was still trying to playful and it gave him a little hope. “We can still do close things even if Dane says I have a concussion, right?”

Calysta slid her hands up his sides and pulled him closer to herself, careful not to touch the tattoo. He was so tall she had to really tilt her chin from this angle to look at his face. She didn't mind though and a smile spread across her lips. That was exactly how her husband sounded when he was alright, if a bit achy. She'd have worried more if he turned her down. "Aye, so long as you're wanting to, we'll do as many close things as we like."

"I think we better hurry up then." Illya leaned down and kissed her forehead. He was feeling particularly cuddly and he liked kissing her. A funny thought crossed his mind and he decided to vocalize it. "I should keep a note of every time I kiss you in a full day around the clock."

aryamajor — Yesterday at 8:01 PM
That seemed to put their evening back on track and she felt the soft peck of a kiss on her forehead. It made her smile. What made her smile even more was this random comment he made about keeping track of all the kisses he gave her through the day. She giggled a little and titled her head at him. "Oh? Why is that? I think it would be alot," she replied.

"I'm just curious." Illya shrugged and he started moving both of them toward the doorway. "Thought about it the other day and started to notice that I do it a lot."

Calysta stayed with him, shifting slightly so she could walk but still stay in his grasp. It was a certain comment fueled by curiosity and she was a little surprised. "Aye, and I like it when you do." She opened their wooden bedroom door and slipped into the hallway. She wasn't sure who was on guard duty or if Dane was even awake, but she knew he was at a room near the front of the hall. "I like it alot actually. I never really understood it when I saw other people wanting to touch and be touched sometimes. Not when I was younger. It made me a little nervous, I think. Scared maybe. I didn't know how to react all the time. That changed when I met you." She wasn't entirely sure why she was confessing such a thing to him, but the cat was out of the bag now. She sidled up to Dane's door and glanced up at Illya with a soft smile. "We should count it, yeah? For fun."

The confession from Kalizda was not surprising at all. Illya had noticed when they were first agreed and even in some years not so far distant that she had been a bit more nervous. However, it was good that it changed. He paused outside Dane's door with her and winked. "Starting at the change of the clock." That was a good time to start counting. "Dane!" Illya hissed loudly and pawed at the door.

From inside the room he could hear shuffling and then an answer, "What the hell are you doing?"

Calysta's smile widened as he said they would start counting at the top of the clock. It would be fun and the idea it made her snuggle all the closer to him as he whispered not do quietly at the Dane's door. An answer came and Calysta raised a brow and she added in Qouti. "Looking for a little medical opinion."

There was more shuffling around and the door flew open with a messy haired, barely clothed Dane. His face had pillowcase marks on it and he was squinting at the little bit of light in the hallway. "What did you do?"

Illya felt a little badly for waking Dane up. He forgot that Dane liked to get to bed earlier. "Eh, Kalizda wants me to get checked for a concussion. Fell out of the bed and hit my head."

Calysta felt a little sheepish when Dane came to the door looking absolutely disheveled and asleep. "Aye," she nodded, "I thought it might be a good idea because its not the only hit he took to the head today and I know sleeping with a concussion is not always the best idea. I'm not a medic though. Will you check, please?"

The man nodded and grabbed a jacket. "Yeah, we'll have to go to the ship to get the scann...nope. I got it with me for the hunting trip." Half asleep he set his jacket back down on the chair with his uniform and then wandered over to dig in his rucksack. After a few moments he pulled out a small scanner and he turned it. Without warning he stepped over and flashed it in Illya's eyes and then scanned his head quickly. It only took about as long as Illya rubbed his eyes for Dane to give a prognosis. "Yep, mild concussion. He's been up enough hours I wouldn't worry about it. Just wake him up every few hours and let him rest if he's tired." Shutting the scanner back off Dane shoved it in the rucksack and started to take his pants off. "Goodnight."

She hadn't meant to make Dane grumpy, but she felt better knowing why his head was hurting. Dane knew why she felt like that and, in honesty, he had been part of the reason Illya had a concussion in the first place more than likely. Dane started taking his pants off before closing the door and Calysta quickly averted her gaze before shutting the man's door. "Goodnight, Dane. And thank you."

With that done, she glanced up at Illya. "Perhaps we grab the mats and I can make some tea for pain if you like. Or we can just grab the mats and we can see about getting closer, yeah?" She had promised they would.

Dane almost flopped into the hammock and it swung violently, but he managed to stay in it. Illya glanced behind himself as the door was shutting and he smirked. "I think he was still mostly asleep." Of course he was met with Kalizda's lovely grey eyes and she offered to make him some tea. "Might be good." He wouldn't want to admit it, but his back was a little sore after all those fancy tricks and twisting around.

Calysta nodded and chuckled. "Aye, he might even think we were just a dream," she mused. Then she rubbed his back with a light, gentle touch, "C'mon, love. Let's get some tea started and we can make the bed."

*****************

Finding the Chief's kitchen wasn't hard. It was a massive round room built to feed an army if necessary. Judging by the amount of food in the cool box and snacks on the shelves, they did alot of entertaining. Calysta had no trouble finding a little electric kettle and turning it on before turning to the little box of tea leaves. She stole glances at her husband, looking him over with his new tattoo. She wouldn't want him to have too many tattoos, but the look of the new one on his ribs and chest was appealing. Especially, when she factored in the stud earrings he wore when he could. She was overcome with the urge to him close and talk with him as she stole her glances. Maybe it was fueled by pregnancy hormones, or maybe she just wanted to shower him with love and affection as much as she could. It was probably both. A little idea came to mind, and she smiled to herself.

She finished making him a cup of tea and placed it on the island countertop in front of Illya. "I'm going to the restroom before we get settled back down again. I'll be right back." She kissed him on the temple and shuffled to their room. Using the restroom took 1 minute or less, sneaking across the hall and getting the mattress pads from their packs to a minute more. She set them up nicely between the hammock and the windowed wall of the bungalow, then made them into a single snug bed with blankets and every pillow available. Then she took one last silky sheet and draped it over the hammock before connecting the ends to the window sill. With her pad projecting stars on top of the sheet, she'd made a nice little blanket fort.

Pleased with her work, she shuffled back down the hallway and slipped into the entrance. Illya was there finishing his tea and she smiled at him. When he finally noticed her standing there, she wiggled her finger at him. "Let's go to bed, yeah?"

********************

The next morning, she woke with Illya, dressed in her new Reylian finery, and was in the kitchen with Lyra pouring cups of tea and Reylian brewed roots. She smiled at Dane when he walked in looking sleepy, but blessedly clothed. "Good morning," she said, though she couldn't hide her small smirk, "Tea or Brew?" she offered.

A hologram playing the news report was chatting in the background quietly. Apparently, the entire city was abuzz and Calysta was grateful it wasn't about her or Illya for once. This was a rumor mill absolutely rife with gossip about Wynry and Akten. The more she listened, the more she understood what had been done and all the rumors made sense. Apparently, by wearing the arm band, and making such a bold move at the air show, he had made the claim he was no longer single and was unavailable to anyone else. Half the girls in the city were singing the woes of fan-girls with their hearts broken and the girly magazine, which had focused so much on her and Illya, finally had something else to talk about.

Lyra said nothing about the news playing, and continued cooking breakfast, however when Wynry came in, the woman's eyes swiveled to her and most everyone else looked too. As she was off duty, she was not wearing her uniform, and had decided to dress in a Reylian outfit with reds and yellows. A hand beaded vest sat over her otherwise bare shoulders and she smiled shyly before taking her seat at the table for breakfast. The petite blonde tucked a curl behind her ear and dug unto the offered plate without much to do.

Not long after she appeared, Akten came in wearing a similar style outfit and his beaded arm band wrapped around a well-muscles bicep. He sat across from Wynry and gave her a smile that clearly said he was smitten. It left everyone wondering if the two had spent more than just a flight together, but Calysta knew they hadn't. Wynry had slept in her own room that night and Akten had slept in his bedroom, though there were probably a million rumors about if they had done more than that.

The two awkward teens ate their breakfast, talking to each other as if everyone else in the room had vanished finally. Calysta turned to Illya. "Koda arrives tonight," she said, "We're going shopping before the hunt starts tomorrow, yeah?"
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
When they were back in the house Illya waited for Kalizda to make the tea. He probably should have done it for himself, but he didn't mind if she was willing to make it for him. It was kinda nice that she would do things like that for him. Illya watched her quietly move about the kitchen and he caught her giving him looks every now and then. Her cheeks were a bit flushed and he would have assumed she was overheated, except they just finished walking outside and he knew she wasn't. She was probably being shy because she was looking at him without his shirt on.

Illya accepted the cup from Kalizda and he winked at her when he took the first sip. "Mmm...yeah dats good." He could see she was watching him now and he couldn't help grinning about it. That look she was giving him made him feel wild inside and he wanted to be close to her. Then part way through the tea she got up and left.

Suddenly being left alone to finish his tea was a bit perplexing. Perhaps he'd read the whole situation wrong. Sighing he peered into the bottom of the mug. There was still a gulp or two left. Sipping at it and making eyes with Kalizda was a lot more fun. Maybe she just didn't feel up to much tonight and she didn't want him to get all riled up. They both knew it didn't take much. Illya decided to hurry up and be done with his tea and he tilted his head back to take a big swig. The motion was a bit painful as his head was still aching from all the activity. At least it was one night if she wasn't up to it that he could go without and not feel too badly about it. His head hurt and his back. Then he heard Kalizda tell him they should go to bed. She had a mischievous looking smile on her face as she beckoned him toward the room. Chugging down the last of the tea he got up and lumbered his way over to the sink and set the mug in it and then walked over to their bedroom.

Kalizda had stripped the hammock of all the bedding and it appeared that she made some kind of little tent for them. A grin spread over his face and he quickly took his pants off. She aimed to surprise him and she did. Closing the door behind himself he stumped his way over with his prosthetic clumping along. "Well, I dun sleep en a fort like dis since I was kid. Et's more fun dis way den when yah forced tah make little shelter for necessity."

Slipping an arm around her waist he pulled her close to himself and kissed her before scrambling into the little tent just ahead of her. Inside he snickered even if his head was pounding. She was going to be feeling wild now for sure.

************************************

Illya's head was still tender feeling when he got up for breakfast, but at least the sleep had helped take the headache down a few notches. Sleep hadn't done much for his back. There were some things that he was used to expecting and by now the back pain was one of them. He ate his breakfast mostly in silence. Occasionally, Illya would catch Kalizda's eye and he would smile at her.

She looked pretty in the morning. The more he thought about it he had to grin, she looked pretty any time of the day. Even when she was mad she was still good looking. It just wasn't smart to tell a girl she looked pretty when she was mad. Somehow that seemed to get them even more riled up. While his brain trailed through little memories of Kalizda he gazed almost blankly ahead. Illya broke his gaze eventually and he finished his breakfast. Once the breakfast was done he sipped at his tea. If there wasn't any hurry he was going to take his time and enjoy the fact he didn't have to go anywhere, at least not yet.

The mention of shopping caught Illya off guard at first. His brows furrowed and he blinked a few times before he realized she was anxious to go get the dagger to fit the sheath he had purchased for her. "Ooh, yeah, we go shopping. Yah want tah go now?"

Calysta nodded. "We're done with breakfast, yeah? I figured we could look around for a few things for the kids too. Maybe get a little something for Dah. He likes Reylian spices."

Sipping the last of his tea Illya nodded very slowly. He was trying avoid any sudden movements that would make it feel like his brains got jarred. "I dun know yah dah likes Reylian spices. Makes meh wonder how he's doing? Bahn dun say much about him when we talk. I tink Bahn es enjoying himself."

Calysta watched him nod slowly as if either considering or not wanting to move his head. She considered if she should mix up some of the tea for pain later on. She smiled at the comment from Illya. "Aye, he's messaged here and there but they are on different schedules. He's trying to leave hologram messages rather than wake us up, I think. He knows its been a difficult trip. Took all of the convincing I had to get him to go looking for Father Thompson. Did Bahn say they were having any luck?" She rubbed Illya's shoulder very gently and kissed his temple. "Dah would definitely appreciate some of the spices."

The kiss to his temple and the questions combined made Illya smirk. "Ha, I dun tink Bahn cares much ef dah fater tompson es found. He jes says dat yah dah has some good leads and dey work togeter. I hear more about dah good prices on a fun night den anyting else."

Calysta's brow quirked some. She was aware of what a 'fun night' might entail for someone who thought of monogamy as a guideline rather than an actual rule. She was sure her father was absolutely loving his guard. "That sounds like Bahn," she replied casually, "I just hope they are being safe. Both of them." She finished off her tea and placed it into the sink. Giving it a rinse she placed it into the dish washer and then dried her hands. "Ready?"

Somehow Kalizda sounded mildly irritated with Bahn. "I'm sure dey're safe. Bahn es very careful and he's very good at his work. I sent one of dah best men I have for dat kind of work wit Tomas." Illya slowly slid out of his seat and he joined Kalizda at the sink to place his mug in it. He hadn't even noticed the dish washer till he realized her cup was not in the sink. "Oh." Illya mumbled to himself and he placed his cup in the dishwasher and then grabbed one of Kalizda's hands. "What yah wanna go shopping for first?"

Calysta nodded. She didn't doubt Bahn's ability in the slightest. He was even more experienced than Illya. She smiled at her husband when he took her hand and she gave it a gentle squeeze. "Lets go see about a weapon first, unless we happen to see a shop we'd like to dip into on the way, yeah?" She guided them to the door of the massive bungalow and opened it, letting in the mid morning light with a warm breeze. "It's so nice here," she commented happily, "I can hold your hand as much as I like and nobody will whisper about protocol."

As they stepped outside Illya heard Kalizda comment on the protocol and he snickered and then leaned in to kiss her. "Dat makes 12 tahday already." They had barely started the morning and he realized that she'd already been kissed almost a dozen times before they got out the door. "I tink dah knife shop es over dere." Pointing with his free hand he started off with her. It was remarkably calm and quiet. Nobody was following them or trying to take holograms for a change. That was quite relieving.

She grinned even wider when he kissed her and announced it had been the 12th kiss of the day. She hoped they could break 100 kisses by the end if the day. "Well on our way to 100," she laughed lightly. The streets were quieter than yesterday due to the fact the party was over and, for a change, they weren't being followed and mobs by holographers. She walked along the stone laid sidewalk, feeling remarkably light. She hadn't known how much the pressure of everything had pressed on her until now. They set off in the direction of the shop Illya indicated. People waved friendly greetings as the passed on an occasion but otherwise they were left alone to enjoy the morning. Before they reached the weapons shop she paused outside a window displaying kites of all varieties, though the most beautiful ones looked like the flaming red falcons. A kite was such a simple thing but she remembered wishing she could fly one as a kid. "Do you think the kids would like one?" She asked Illya. "I always wanted one when I was a kid."

They were enjoying the walk and Illya hadn't even thought about the kids being with other people until Kalizda mentioned the kites. He knew the kids were having a good time and he grinned when he saw the kites. "We better go en and get some. I like kites when I was little. I still like dem. Maybe we get a big one dat we can help dah kids fly." It was always more fun if there was a big kite that they could help the kids with. "Maybe we get smaller ones for dah kids and dey can fly dose on dere own, but we help dem wit dah larger one. I wouldn't want dem flying away wit a big one."

Calysta smiled when he was all for the idea of kites for the kids. "I like that idea." She tugged Illya into the shop. It was a toy shop but the summer time supplies were out and that included a large supply of kites. She found a very large kite meant to look like a great serpent. It was called a wyrm from Reylia mythology but looked like some long dragons from Terran cultures, built more like a scaled eel. This one was bright green, shimmery, with large painted teeth and web like wings. It was also nearly 6 feet long without the accompanying streamers. "Oh this one is nice. What do you think?"

"Eh..." Illya stared at the kite and he stretched it out so he could see it more fully. "Dis es good kite tah fly wit dah kids. Very large. I hope ets windy enough." With a kite that size they would need a lot of wind to keep it going. "Looks like dey dun have so many little kites. Maybe dah kids like tah come tah shop tah find dere own toy eh? We get kite for us and we share wit dem." Leaning a bit closer he kissed her and smirked to himself. That was number 13 and he was sure if they found a windy spot the two of them could fly the kite and kiss a few more times.

Calysta nodded. "Aye. We can bring them back and let them pick. If we go into the hills, we can probably find a decent wind on top of them." He kissed her again and the shop keeper gave her a pleasant, knowing grin. It made her both happy and brought a blush to her cheeks. She liked getting these little kisses. Kissing him back, she squeezed his fingers in hers and then stepped up to arrange for the kite to be paid for and held for them to come pick up later. Then, she went with Illya out of the shop, hand in hand with her Chip.

There weren't a lot of places Illya wanted to stop. He wasn't familiar with shopping as a concept, but he liked doing it if he saw something useful for nice. When they stopped at the little sword and dagger shop he walked in with Kalizda and the man at the counter recognized him. "Eh, I bring meh Kalizda tah get her knife. Yah show her dah ones dat look nice wit dah sheat." He had paid in advance for the most expensive one and if she chose one that didn't cost so much he would have extra money at the store to let her pick out a few other things.

The Reylian merchant smiled and invited them to look at a case lined in soft material and parallel hooks to hold up various weapons. There were weapons with recurve, more for fighting than anything else, but there were also beautiful utility pieces too. Calysta looked at the shop keeper and asked a few questions. "I have this hunting sheath, yeah? What has the most durability?" She didn't just want a show piece and the shop keeper smiled in approval. "These here are the hunting knives. Durability and beauty is combined using Damascus steel techniques, forge welding Reylian steel with small plats of Goddess Ore." She looked at the knives which had a stunning pink and silver pattern through the blade. "They will never break, chip or bend," the woman told her, "Good for an all around utility knife, cutting bones, digging in the earth and, it required light and sharp for combat." She could see that was clearly the best choice but they were very expensive! The price tag made her want to cringe. She stepped to the side. "What's the next best?" She was pointed to a hunting knife with the same style of build, including the patterns of the two steels but without the Goddess Ore. It had a black, polished nyte beast horn handle with silver guard and inlay. It also had traditional beadwork melted into to the pommel for a color effect. ."That one," she nodded, "I think that's the one." Then she turned to Illya. "Do you see anything you like, love?"

Kalizda's eyes had lingered long over the several pieces and he knew she was secretly excited. She was trying to be so careful in her choice and he couldn't blame her for wanting to take her time. However, she did look at the most expensive knife and she almost went for it and then she decided against it. Illya could have almost jumped in right there, but he waited for her to look at him before he spoke. "I dun tell yah tah peck dah next best. Dere es enough money for yah tah have dah very best. I like meh Kalizda woman tah have very good hunting knife eh?"

Rather than saying if he liked anything, he made a point about her picking the less expensive knife. He'd done alot for her already with the pieces he'd gotten her yesterday and she knew he was concerned about money. Their eyes met and she knew he was sincere. Her cheeks blushed again and she smiled a little shyly. It sounded like he already knew which one she'd pick before she got to the shop. There was something comforting and sweet feeling when he wanted her to have nice things. She'd spent a long time of others telling her they were wasted on her because she would die soon. Illya treated her like she was worth the best things. She almost told him it was to expensive, but instead, she looked at the shopkeeper with a shy but soft smile. The merchant seemed to pick up on the change and stopped wrapping up the knife. "Have you changed your mind, Councilwoman?" Calysta nodded. "Aye, I think I'd like the Goddess Ore one with the pearl handle. Please." The merchant made no fuss about unwrapping the other knife and then selecting the beautiful hunting knife from the display case. "It's a beautiful piece and will serve you well. Since you're purchasing a one of a kind item, if you come back, I will do a customer order at a discount, yeah?"

Seeing her small blush and smile told Illya he had caught her in the act of trying to downgrade. He returned the smile and he waited for the shop keeper to finish wrapping up the knife. The offer for a discount had Illya smiling some. "Dat's very good offer." He didn't want to say much else in the moment so he winked at Kalizda. "Now yah will be ready for dah hunt and yah will look like fine little bird."

Calysta tilted her head up to Illya and leaned against him slightly out of affection as the knife was wrapped carefully. His wink made her smile more and she took the knife when it was offered. "Aye," she nodded, "It will be a good piece to keep for a long time. Reylian Goddess Ores last for thousands of years, yeah? I heard Tikan's war Scythe was one of Lyr's many commissioned scythes." She stood on her toes and tugged him downward just a little to kiss him gently. "Thank you," she whispered. They walked hand in hand out of the store and as they stepped out there was the sound of feet pounding on the hard stone path, running down the street. A short blonde woman came barreling down the hill and started toward them. "Wynry?" Calysta said as the woman drew nearer. She came up to them quickly and panting as if she had been running for awhile. "Can you hide me? The media men keep following me," she gasped.

The kiss from Kalizda only made Illya grin bigger and he nodded some. "I believe dah sword could be dat old. A good sword should last a long time eh? Et should serve more den one warrior. " Then they walked out of the store and he was thinking about getting some food to eat and then flying the kite and taking a nap when he saw Wynry running toward them. Instinctively he tensed and he prepared for bad news. Instead she breathlessly asked to be hid because of the media men. Illya laughed and he nodded. "Oh aye, we hide yah." Illya was thinking for a moment what they could do and he saw the tattoo parlor nearby. It was a good place to hide. Reaching out he grabbed Wynry and hoisted her over a few feet and then stood at her back and shoved her gently into the tattoo parlor. "Dey will never look for yah in here." Glancing at the shop keeper he grinned. "She might like someting."

Wynry squeaked as Illya hoisted her up and over into the doorway of a tattoo shop, then used his body to hide her from view of people passing her on the street. She looked at the heavily tattooed shop keeper with wide eyes. He had one thing right, they wouldn't look for her in here at all. The shop keeper laughed a bit and patted the tattoo table. "Anyone evading those pests is welcome to sit down for a large, time consuming tattoo," he said in a gravelly voice. Calysta was getting used to people chasing her and Illya and knew how to hide a bit better. She leaned in the doorway of the tattoo shop and plucked up a sample book, tilting her head down into the pages some as she pretended to browse. It didn't take long, perhaps 30 seconds before there were more footfalls and a group of competing media men came barreling out of the side alley. They clearly had broken line of sight with their target and were looking in quick glances all around. They didn't bother to check the tattoo parlor but one of them stopped by an elderly woman's bead making cart and asked if she had seen a blonde woman running down the street. The woman would certainly have seen them but she just shook her head and spoke to the clearly Kintenite man in Reylian he didn't understand. "You are like a fly and I will swat you like one, young nosy man. Unless you are buying something, leave. No woman wants to be pestered here." The man got a harsh earful and Calysta swallowed a bit of a laugh as he backed away. The media men searched here and there for a long moment, but never once considered the parlor. It took them several minutes to move on. Wynry remained stiff at Illya's front for a long moment and then let out a breath when Calysta whispered the men were gone. "They are awful!" she sighed, "As soon as I got seperated from Akten they started following me."

The reaction from Wynry was worth a chuckle and Illya hated to disappoint the shop keeper. So, now that the media men had passed by he was going to try and talk Wynry into getting a tattoo. "Yah could even get small tattoo ef yah want and et could take long time. Yah jes ask tah get tattoo en traditional way. Traditional tattoos are sometimes smaller because dey take so long. Yah would really impress Akten den."

Wynry turned a deeper shade of pink and swallowed. "Tattoos are pretty permanent, yeah?" The shop keeper shrugged casually. "Up t' ye. I got traditional needles an' tools of ye like. If ye lookin' to impress the Chief-son I can give ye a few recommendations, yeah?" Wynry shook her head. "Um...uh...no thanks. Maybe I'll come back?" The woman was clearly looking flustered and Calysta leaned closer to Illya. "Tattoos are a bit more permanent on Kaereleans," she mused.

When Wynry refused Illya couldn't help sighing. "Well, ets nut like yah planned tah have his name tattooed on yah body. Et could be someting like small falcon on yah hip. Dat would be very pleasing ef he ever saw et." Naturally the girl decided not to do that and he chuckled. "Well, maybe I like anoter tattoo and yah can jes go where yah like. I tink dey lost yah now."

Wynry sighed in relief and glanced up at Illya. "Thanks, Illya...Councilwoman," she said said gratefully, "Maybe I can hunt down Akten now. How do you two do this all the time?" Calysta put down the brochure and slid a hand to Illya's hip to gently tuck under his arm. "Mmm...good humor, skill, and frankly a little luck," she chuckled, "You should chat with Akten about it. He's probably used to it, but isnt thinking about the fact that you aren't, yeah?" Wynry bit her lip but nodded, "Aye. That's a good idea." She poked her head out of the shop, then dodged back in. There was a media man lurking at the end of the street, having double backed to the last place they had seen her. She winced and looked at the tattoo artist. "How long would a tattoo take exactly?" The artist grinned and shrugged. "As long as ye want it too." Wynry sighed and sat down in the chair. "Just help me pick out something interesting, I guess." Surprised, Calysta glanced at Illya and spoke in Qouti. "If they are looking for her we can probably slip out, yeah?"

It looked like Wynry was about ready to leave and Illya was going to wish her luck. She'd need if they were looking for her. Then the she poked her head out the door and decided to come right back inside. Illya felt bad for her for just a moment and he decided to try one more little gambit. For now he wasn't going to run away with Kalizda if he could help the poor girl. She'd eventually have to get better at this if she wanted to be with Akten, but he could help her this once. "Eh, maybe yah dun get one ef yah seem so reluctant. I eh...I go out and distract dah media man and Kalizda tell yah when et's safe eh?"

Of course there wasn't going to be any pleasing of everyone. Illya shrugged some. "I come back and get anoter tattoo. Probably bigger den dah one yah would put on her anyway." He was thinking of having another one and he liked the work from the day before. His tattoo was looking good under the cover and it was healing nicely. He'd taken the cover off that morning and washed it, so it was smooth and flat against his skin and it would be that way until he took it off in a few days. While he was standing at the door he tried to think of what he could possibly do to distract the man and then an idea came to mind. "I got et." The man was near a corner and Illya stepped out of the building and walked in seemingly the opposite direction, but he started jogging and then broke into a full run and rounded the tattoo parlor before running up behind the next building over and he came up behind the media man at a fast pace. Glancing behind himself as he rounded the corner he made sure it appeared to be an accident and then he turned to see the guy standing in front of him and began stumbling all over himself as he tried not to smear the man into the ground. "Watch out!" Illya yelped as he slammed into the man and he grabbed the guy and tucked him close with one arm and used his other arm to keep him rolling while not crushing the reporter. When they stopped he sat up and pushed the slightly shaken fellow of himself. "What were yah doing jes setting dere?"

Calysta raised a brow at Illya when he mentioned getting another tattoo for a second time. Now wasn't the time to mention her thoughts on that but she filed it away for later as Illya thought about what he wanted to do and then made his move. When he ducked behind the building, she figured he was going to get a better angle on the media man. She waited patiently until she saw him come crashing into the much skinnier man. The two went rolling into the dirt. Calysta grabbed Wynry's arm and hauled her out of the parlor door. "Duck down the side street now, go. Go on." Wynry didn't hesitate to dash away as the two men untangled themselves. The media man grumbled. "What are you doing running-..." he caught himself before he said more before he realized who he was talking to. "General!"

The grumble was completely satisfying as Illya saw Wynry duck and run down a street undetected. That was his goal. Then he saw the media man's face light up with recognition and Illya decided to simply answer his question rather than entertain other ideas the man might have. "I was running. Obviously, yah were standing on pat. I'm nut sure why."

"Looking for a girl actually. Blonde. Petite," he said, dusting himself off and rising to his feet, "Part of your traveling crew. All I wanted was to ask some questions but as luck would have it, I bumped into you. Mind if I ask you some, sir?"

The man seemed to answer in a genuine sort of way and Illya dusted himself off. "Huh," Illya glanced at him and tried to imagine what the man might possibly want to ask about Wynry that he could provide a decent answer for while not betraying her privacy. What he really wanted to do was ask the man why he was stalking Wynry, but he could save that for later.

The General grunted and didn't reply yes or no. The man decided to keep trying anyway. "How are you liking Reylia, sir?"

Somehow the sudden shift from Wynry to himself caught Illya off guard and he stared at the man for a moment like he had two heads. "Eh...I like Reylia. Ets good place, good food, good people and dere are a lot of fun tings tah do."

The media man nodded in approval. "You've been a long time friend of Chief Tikan, yeah? And his son?"

Illya shrugged at the man's next question. "I dun know ef yah say long. We are friends from meeting. I like dem bot. Dey are very courageous warriors."

The man nodded again and smiled at Illya. "You have a high opinion of them. And what of your pilot?"

It all came back around to Wynry and Illya couldn't help grinning. "I knew yah would get around tah asking dat. I only ask dose I consider among dah best tah accompany meh...eh dah Councilwoman and mehself for dis trip."

The media man smiled shamelessly. "I don't like to be entirely rude to someone I'm talking to, even if it's for something else. You consider her highly skilled, then. Did this relationship between the Chief-son and your pilot blossom while on the tour?"

An equally shameless smile came to Illya's face and he answered the next question. "I consider her highly skilled. Yah gonna have tah ask dah Chief's son and her ef yah can find dem. Have a nice day. I will go now."

The media man scrambled before Illya could leave. "Could I at least get your hologram?"

Illya laughed and he turned slightly. “Ef, yah dun mind meh looking like mess.” He waited while the man got his hologram machine ready and then left.

The media man eagerly took the hologram. It was true the man looked like a mess but that wasn't such a bad thing. He'd gotten a little information and a hologram on what was being a fruitless chase. That's more than what anyone else got. He recorded the hologram and the General left wordlessly. Calysta waited for Illya to wander back over and took the chance to dust off the front of his shirt. "It worked," she smiled.

When Illya got back to tattoo shop he was grinning. It was mildly fun to go tackle a reporter. Somehow it felt like it was more natural than some of the other things they had done on the tour. Kalizda's little hands swept at his shirt and he kissed her before she got too far away. "I had great idea. We should bot get tattoos."

He kissed her, first a soft peck then she made it a little longer, closing her eyes. "Fourteen and Fifteen," she whispered to him in Qouti. When he mentioned getting tattoos, and not just himself but her too, her eyes widened in surprise. "You want another one? Both of us to get one?" It wasn't an outright no, and she admittedly though the one on his ribs was sexy, but she didn't want him covered in tattoos either. "What kind of tattoo?" she asked raising a brow curiously.

The extra kisses were good and Illya wrapped one arm around her waist, "Mmmhhmmmm," he answered her question. Of course another tattoo sounded good. Then she asked what kind of tattoo and he smirked a little. "Dah kind dat ef we agree on. I tink someting moderate size. About size of yah hand. Where yah want et?"

He seemed to think he wanted matching tattoos. She wasn't unopposed to the idea of one tattoo, but she didn't want several. Thankfully her hands were small. "Maybe somewhere only you get to see with any sort of regularity," she said in Qouti, "I like the tattoo you got, but I don't like too many, yeah? It's your body and I wouldn't ever try to stop you if its what you wanted, but I do like some bare skin too. You have..." She trailed off, her cheeks turning a rosy color, "Dark, handsome skin that looks good."

Since she switched to Quoti, Illya followed suite. "I will make this last tattoo for a while. Until the tattoos fade and then I will think about more eh?" She was his agreed and she had a right to say something about his body and she had. If she didn't want him covered in tattoos then he would make a point not to get many. "Maybe you will like tattoo above your heart?" It would be just below the collar bone that way and not so noticeable.

She smiled, pleasantly surprised, though her cheeks were still very red. At least he'd listened to her on this and obliged. She didn't often ask things like that of him because it was his body. He could decide what he did with it. She thought about his suggestion and tilted her head. "Mmmm, matching? And...you know if I get one, it will never go away, yeah? You'll be stuck with me and the tattoo for forever unless I get it lasered off, yeah?"

"That's ok, I will like this tattoo and I will get one like it over my heart too. I will get it touched up so mine never leaves." Illya nodded toward the artist and he spoke this time in Trader's Tongue. "What do yah tink yah want?"

Calysta smiled. He didn't have one over the left side of his chest and choosing one would be harder than she thought. But it would be something they both wanted. "I'm not sure. Something simple but meaningful. No words...." She thought about it, biting her lip. She really wasn't sure. "What do you think?"

No words, that was a strange thing. Illya tilted his head. "Eh, we could have a bird perched on dah wolf's back." It was all the more he could come up with since she didn't want a name. "Dey would be standing on a mountain wit clouds near."

Calysta considered the idea. It sounded a bit bigger than the size of her small hand when he described it. "How about a wolf with a bird against the rising sun?" That could be done smaller and somewhat in silhouette so the smallness wouldn't be over detailed, but still look nice. The sun would be colorful. Then idea of a matching tattoo was interesting. She wasn't totally opposed to it. It would likely be the only one she ever got though.

The idea that Kalizda had was a bit strange, but it encompassed the idea pretty well. "Eh, yah like someting dat looks like new beginning. Yeah, we have colors of sunrise wit et." Illya liked the idea of colors in the tattoo. They would probably have to go get touch ups on the color every so often and he would have to do far more often than she would, but he was fine with that. "Ok, we good now?"

Calysta glanced at the chair. She'd never had a tattoo done before. Illya had them several times in the past and one just yesterday. It was her last chance to back out. The more she thought about it though, the more she found the idea interesting. Why not have a tattoo? She'd gotten her ears and nose pierced anyways and this was something she liked, not some throwaway design. She smiled. "Aye, we're good now. Want me to go first?"

"Yah could go first." Illya stood by and waited for the artist to begin drawing up the design and then getting her prepped. It was probably good she was going first. She was the most likely to back out of the idea. He made sure to stand far enough away that he wasn't going to be in the tattoo artist's way.

Calysta nodded and waited for the artist to work up a design. She made the wolf, big an strong looking and the bird sat on his shoulder. The sun rise colors looked good too. When he told her to sit, she did and she had to remove her side belt and her left arm from her shirt, pushing it down far enough he could get to the spot.over her heart and atop a very small breast. She was swabbed up with astringent then the artist.went to work with a multi needle machine. It would take less than 30 minutes. She squeaked a little when the machine started its work, guided by the artist. It wasn't pleasant but it wasn't the worst pain she had endured either. "Not so bad," she smiled to Illya.

At first Illya felt a tinge of worry when he saw Kalizda working her shoulder out of the shirt, but he realized it was necessary. Standing by quietly he watched the artist intently and occasionally looked at Kalizda to be sure she was still fine. The art piece looked good and he saw the artist begin to load the ink and pull out new needles after they swabbed Kalizda's skin. When they first started he reached up and put a hand over his mouth to hide the grin. Kalizda was pretty funny about that. He'd had most of his tattoos in the old days done the old fashioned way and a few of them took quite a while. Half an hour wasn't so bad. Meeting her gaze he slowly lowered his hand and he nodded. "Yeah, et's nut bad. Probably jes be gentle wit yah skin for few days."

She wasn't sure why he had his hand over his mouth when she looked up, but she slowly and carefully offered him her free hand, opening then palm over the chair arm opposite of the artist. "Aye," she said giving him a little wink, "It will be a little harder to get close for a day or two, hm?"

This time a big smile spread over his face and he shook his head. "I tink et will only be as hard as et was last night. I can be careful and yah have much smaller tattoo den I do."

Calysta swallowed a laugh when she thought about last night. "That's true. You know, I wonder what the house keeper thought when they came in this morning to a blanket fort." She kept still and winced only a little as the artist began the shading. He only stopped occasionally to wipe at her tender skin with a clean cloth to soak up any blood and oozing ink. When she was done, he put a healing bubble over it, obscuring the art, and she gingerly tried to put her arm back in her shirt. "You're next, love" she told him in Qouti.

The blanket fort made him snicker some. It was plenty of fun last night. They probably needed to set it back up, but perhaps not. When she was finally done he pulled his shirt off and sat in the chair. It seemed they had smoothed things over with the artist since they now got to do two tattoos instead of only one. Once he was prepped and the machine was ready Illya wiggled some to be sure he was comfortable for the next half hour. The needles hit his skin and his eyebrows twitched at first and then he winked at Kalizda. It was all good till they hit some of the scar tissue in his shoulder. Like the scar tissue on his chest it was plenty tender feeling and he frowned until they were past the scarring. When he was done the healing film was placed over that part of his chest and he slipped his shirt back on. "Ok, now we go fly kite eh?"

Calysta waited patiently. He was clearly well accustomed to a tattoo gun, though he seemed to hit a rougher patch for a moment until the artist moved on. When he was done, she grinned. "Aye, but on one condition first."

"A kiss?" Illya gave his guess and he hoped he was right. They hadn't even made it to thirty kisses and it was almost time for lunch.

She smiled even wider and her eyes met his with incandescent joy. "Aye, kiss 16."

Illya was more than happy to oblige and give her a kiss. Leaning over he wrapped one arm around her and pulled Kalizda tighter to himself. Her feet lifted off the ground and he kissed her more than once. "Mmm, I let yah keep count for while now." Kissing her again he was about ready to walk out the door and then remembered they had to pay the artist.

A sheepish grin came to his face and he cleared his throat and set Kalizda down. "Ok, eh, I will pay yah for dah tattoos eh?" Once that was done Illya was ready to get out of there and take a nap. His head was starting to ache a little more and he felt tired out. "Hey," Illya gave Kalizda a hopeful look "Yah like tah go fly dat kite now and have little nap?" Flying the kite would be relaxing and if they found a little shade after that he was absolutely going to take a little nap. She would not want to lay directly in the sun with him, but she would probably hang out in the shade.
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
Calysta grinned when Illya smiled at the blanket fort. She wasnt sure if he'd actually like it or find it a little strange. The fact that he stripped out of his pants and scuttled over to her made his pleasure clear. He kissed her and then they climbed inside. It was cozy inside and she laughed as he started wanting to snuggle right away. She returned the eagerness and soon it devolved into something much more than snuggling. They took their time with each other and when they were quite satisfied, talked a little. She chuckled as he held her close. "We should do this more often," she laughed, "I made these when I was well-enough at times when I was a kid. Always made me feel like I could be anywhere outside under the stars. Though I have to say, I never imagined I'd get to share that with someone. I'm glad I shared it with you."

They chatted until Illya started dozing off, which didn't take long after love making. She snuggled into him and they stayed cuddled in the blanket fort all night long.

*********************
Wynry listened to an audio book with her hearing aids before bed, her aids connected to the pad so she could hear with no problems. Some muffled sounds came through the aids though and after hearing several of them, she frowned and paused the book to listen. Was it her? No. It was sounds from the next room.

The General and the Councilwoman's room was right next door and the bungalow walls weren't exactly sound proof. At first, was just undistinguished talking. Giggling whispers and the occasional happy laugh. Then it became hums and mmms of pleasure. Then groans and breathy moans.

She laid in the hammock frozen to the spot, her face turning red. It wasn't that she hadn't heard them before. Everyone on the ship had. It was that the sounds had directly sent her mind to Akten. As soon as she thought of the man she squeaked and quickly unattached her hearing aids from her implants. She didn't need to be thinking on that right now. He'd already practically swept her off her feet in front of everyone and the sounds were only giving her...ideas...very tempting ideas...when she hadn't decided how she felt about the entire relationship yet.

With her hearing aids out, silence took over and she sighed, dropped her head to her pillow. She was in a mess and part of her wanted to be right there in the thick of it too. Sighing, she rolled over and tried to sleep with anything on her mind besides Akten Chief-Son and his falcon.

********************

Illya paid for their tattoos and she agreed with his idea of going to get the kids and flying a kite. The hills weren't far outside of the city proper and unlike Pyrta, were covered in lush green grasses instead of red tall grasses. They day was sunny and warm with a good breeze, especially on the hill tops. They collected the kids and she packed a quick picnic lunch with sandwiches, fruits and nuts for snacks and a whole container of lemonade offered by Lyra. There was no need to explain why she wanted the time to be just for her and the kids to Lyra or Tikan. They simply accepted it with a kind nod and helped her pack it all into a bag along with a thick picnic blanket. Walking up to the hills was a wild affair with all the kids running half way up and the deciding to roll down in the grass with wild giggles. They had climbed the hill twice over before she and Illya made it to the top.

She spread out the blanket and put the basket on top while Illya helped the kids put the kite together. The dragon was massive and Cypher was the most excited. He could hardly wait to get the kite in the air. Illya helped them get a decent running start and launched it into the sky. She watched as he showed the how to fly the kite and helped Cypher and Lohgan hold on to it in the warm summer winds. The same wind buffered against her, stirring her braid and smelling like grass and flowers. She took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. The feel of the sun on her back and warming her black hair along with the sounds of her children and her husband laughing made her smile to herself. The tour and everything else shrank to the back of her mind and her heart felt lighter. This. These were the things worth living for. It was so quiet and peaceful here with her children and her Chip. She was lucky.

After an hour long adventure of learning to fly the massive kite, which zigged and zagged in the breeze 15 feet or more above them, the kids got hungry and she became a cafeteria assistant. She handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to everyone along with the fruit and nut cups. Each child got a cup of lemonade too. They all sat on the blanket and filled up their stomachs. Lohgan and Cypher dashed off immediately to continue playing which included finding another group of Rey children which had come out to the hills for the same reasons. They weren't the only ones picnicking on the hill tops but other people gave them a wide berth out of respect for their space, choosing adjacent hills or to sit at the bottom.

Lohgan and Cypher were engaged in a play that looked oddly like 'cops and robbers' and she heard Lohgan laughing dramatically as the villain in whatever game they played. Calysta watched over them for a moment then looked a the twins and Illya. Her husband had stretched out on his belly and was warming his back in bright sunshine. Judging by his breathing, he had dozed off. There was no contest about where the twins would nap either. They flopped out in the sunshine next to their father, throwing a leg or hand on him. Edgar decided he'd rather be on top of his father's legs and plopped himself down with drowsy eyes. Calysta didn't move them or wake them up.

Instead, she retreated to the omne tree on the hill top. She enjoyed the sun, but would eventually have to move to the shade anyways or risk burning which didn't sound pleasant with a new tattoo. Calysta climbed up to the tree's lowest branch, which was low enough for her to grab if she gave a good hop, then she settled against the trunk where she could see all of her children and her husband. The breeze caught her hair and she took in another deep breath. This was life. Her life. And these moments felt as amazing or unbelievable as the other wild moments at times. Feeling relaxed, she leaned back and pulled out a book from her pocket.

Pris had lent her a book and she hadn't had time to read it. Wild Ways VI: The Ways of the Old Ones apparently had decent ratings, for a penny romance novel. She cracked open the book and smiled to herself as she indulged in the little guilty pleasure.

*******************************

Their afternoon was quiet and she was thankful that Tikan had arranged for a semi-quiet dinner too. This one was not a party in so much as everyone in town was invited. It was just the people living in the house hold and the crew. Lyra and their daughter Lyza had prepared all of the food. Even Akten had helped now that he was in the Chief's property and not being bombarded by media men in town.

They all sat down at the long table made from a single massive slab of Wilds wood and ate the spread of food in each other's company while the late summer sun slowly sank in the sky. There was roasted nyte beast and other meats. A massive snake from the country side had also been cooked up by Lyra in various ways, including fried, poached and put in a gravy like stew. "I heard you liked snake. Fresh snake," she told Illya with a smile, "We have large snakes here and Akten caught this one on falcon back this morning." Fresh breads with cream butters and fruits were put out on the table. Lyza, who was just a little older than Cypher by a year, proudly announced that she had made the bread and cut the fruit. There were fresh vegetables, steamed and roasted along with starchy plants made into a flavored mash meant to be eaten with bread and with fingers. There was fresh fish, fried and raw with grains.

"On Reylia," Tikan said with a smile, "Honored guests are given th' best th' chief has t' offer. Allies eat at my table an' sit by my wife an' children."

Calysta knew that was one of the highest honors a Rey Chief could bestow on someone. It was a show of total trust and that the Rey chief was at ease with the people he had allied himself with. "Thank you, Chief Tikan," she smiled earnestly.

He waved at her amiably. "Tikan, in m' house I am Tikan."

The air around dinner was light and happy with people chattering and utensils clinking. Calysta found herself eating a fair amount of nyte beast and fish. Some how it tasted so delicious, she almost ignored eating a vegetable or two in favor of more servings. Between herself and Illya, they got the children to sit down long enough to eat too.

Though the air was light, she did notice a few looks around the dinner table. Thankfully they were nothing to do with her. Akten made eyes at Wynry almost every chance he got while his father spoke to him and Wynry did the same when the Chief-son wasn't looking. Lyra watch both of them with utter bemusement.

After dinner was dessert and the spread of food was just as inclusive and delicious as the main course. She had to give it to Lyra and Tikan. They had prepared for Chip Elite and Chip children appetites well. She had a pastry looking item with a thick custard cream inside. The cream puff was Chip sized and twice as big as her fist. Some how she managed to consume the whole thing and still feel perfectly fine. Normally, she would have been more than stuffed by that point. A small burp escaped her and she gave Lyra a sheepish look. "It was delicious," she admitted.

She helped feed the twins a split dessert of cake which Edgar ate the lion's share of, his chubby cheeks rolling the cake around his incoming teeth. At one point he snatched another dessert made of chocolate off the a plate and chewed on it like a teething biscuit next to her. When Calysta saw him climbing down, bracing him with her arm so he could get off the bench, she noticed dark smudges smeared down his rear and front. "Edgar..." she said, her eyes widening in panic. Had he blown out a diaper? She did the only think a mother could do and hooked him by the britches with a finger before he could run off. He squealed, thinking it was a game as she leaned down and had to give his rump a sniff. "Chocolate," she sighed in relief, "It's just chocolate." Lyra laughed and shook her head as Calysta released Edgar to go play.

Once dessert was done, everyone dispersed to relax around the courtyard with full bellies and content, sleepy eyes. Tikan sat back in the netted chair that hung from the porch overhang and looked out over the courtyard of his home. The giant long table they had sat at to eat was still full of small desserts of both Reylian and other Kaerelean make. There were even a few Chippeqouti ones, though they hadn't been planned. Lyra had made such a fuss about not knowing any Chippeqouti deserts and upon finding one of the men was a cook, asked many questions. Now, she was chatting with Calysta and his potential new daughter in law at the table while the children ran around the court yard, giving off occasional squeals of excitement as Illya chased them.

The night was just settling in and the warm torch lights fueled by gas began to flicker on one by one. Eventually, another Chip man, Mihael, took over the chasing of children and Illya wandered near. Tikan nodded to him and offered a hand rolled smoke to him. "Cigar?" He asked.

When he finished chasing the kids down Illya coughed a few times. His lungs were much better than they had been and he was mostly through the Chip cough. It was nice to only cough once or twice instead of having an entire coughing fit. As he came up to the deck he sat down in one of the netted chairs and he felt it strain some. Illya adjusted slightly when he felt a piece of rope start to slip toward the seam of the back of his pants.

Once he was comfortable he noticed that Tikan was offering him a cigar. "Sure." Illya took the cigar and he sniffed it and then put one end in his mouth. "Been a while since I smoke anyting." It had been a very long time. There wasn't anything to smoke on Quoti and he hadn't really picked the habit back up on Pytra. They didn't have what he usually smoked. However, Tikan was offering and it was probably decent. Illya lit the cigar and he took the first deep inhale and he could feel his lungs already burning and the feeling crept up his throat. There was hardly time to cough and his eyes started to water. "Ugh...." Coughing again he started to laugh and he put the cigar back in the corner of his mouth and took a smaller inhale. "Eh, et's been a long time."

Tikan gave Illya a cigar and then plucked up one himself, clipping the end and lighting it with a match stick rather than a fueled lighter. He offered Illya the matches and clipper, then sank back into his chair again. He had taken a good, smooth puff before he heard coughing next to him. Steeling a glance at Illya, he raised a brow, then chuckled at the man's response. "Aye, I don't d' it often either," he replied, wedging the cigar end between his teeth, "Lyra doesn't like th' smell but tonight's a good night, yeah?" He let out a steady stream of pale smoke, puffing slightly until it turned into puffy rings that floated upward into the night. "These are made o' spices an' herbs from Old Rey on th' home planet. What was brought when we left t' come here. Th' longer th' plant is alive, th' more smooth it makes f' smoking. If ye want, I'll give ye some t' take along for th' trip, eh?" He watched Mihael chase the kids. Peals of laughter echoed in the courtyard and he grinned contentedly as he took in the scene. "I like t' see this," he admitted, gesturing to the courtyard. Another Rey wandered out to the fire pit and began a fire which would feel good against the cooling night. "Wives a' peave, th' children a' play, an' th' men t' appreciate it all an' protect, eh?"

The smoke was good if Illya kept the inhalation a bit smaller. He was going to have to keep it to a single cigar. He could feel his lungs were still angry. Apparently smoking after all the injuries over the years wasn't in his best interest. Tikan talked a bit more about where the cigars were from and he offered more. Even if he wanted to say yes, Illya figured he probably shouldn't. "Eh, I like dem, but eh...I dun tink meh Kalizda would care for dem much. I have tah admit, meh lungs dun like et nearly as much as I do. So eh, I tink I will enjoy dis one and say no more."

Both of them turned their gazes toward the kids in the courtyard playing and squealing as they went. Illya nodded when Tikan spoke. "Yep, I jes hope dey will be happy like dis when dah war es over." Children were resilient, but they too could be affected by war if it got too close.

Tikan nodded at Illya's refusal. It was all fine by him. He knew that sometimes, with injuries in particular, it limited things. He saw the world in a strange way after losing his eye and there are some things he couldn't do anymore. He would not trust himself to throw knives much anymore. Not like he used to. He was quiet for a moment after Illya's last comment before he gave a nod and sucked on the cigar, causing the end to burn brighter for a second as he took in the smoke and blew it out. "I hope so too," he admitted, "A Rey warrior is always prepared. M' son is among th' best. An' I know it will b' good f' my people with him as their chief in the future-" he paused and smirked a little, "-the long distant future...but I know grow 'n war times had an effect, eh?" He glanced at Wynry. "There's always a chance with the new generation."

"Akten es good warrior. I know dat dah war already affects him, but he will be able tah lead yah people well." Illya nodded as Tikan mentioned the new generation. "Yes, dere will be hope for dem. We jes need tah finish dah war before dey too must become part of et." A tired feeling began to settle in and Illya slumped further into the chair and puffed at the cigar. "Do yah tink dah war will be done en our lifetime?"

Tikan listened and didn't reply at first. He sat and pushed his bare heels against the patio, causing his chair to rock some as he thought about the question. "Aye," he finally said, "I do. Th' Federation is weakening, while th' Alliance is strengthening these past years o' moderate quiet. Desperation will force them out an' with all they have almost but there will be nowhere left f' them. Their movements have all th' earmarks of a cornered, bleeding nyte beast. Still dangerous, willing t' fight an' a chance at it against one hunter.. maybe two. But Rey's hunt in packs an' allies. I think tha' last push will break them, possibly f' good an' we will see it."

He ashed his cigar into a dish that was made of the bone of some sort of animal sitting on a small table between them.

"We will see th' end of this war, m' friend," he continued, "An what will happen after tha' I dont know." Glancing at Illya, he grinned a little, "But I'm thinking a week alone, no, maybe a month alone with my wife an' chasing some grand kids aroun' m' yard, eh?"

The man sounded confident and Illya kept quiet for a long moment. He couldn't imagine a time without war. It seemed so distant and strange. Yet, it might look like it did now, just without that fear that it could all end. "Maybe we see dah end. I tink dah Federation tinks same of Chippequoti one time. Dey believe we are cornered and dey had many fronts. War es strange. Yah never know what will happen." Even if Tikan felt confident, there was always that hint of caution that Illya carried.

"I dun like tah assume anyting until I see dah end." Perhaps it was just worries and perhaps not. "Dey will make move and I tink dat et will be someting dat Reys and Kaereleans have nut seen en long time. Part of meh wants dem tah delay so I can see meh kids get older, but den anoter part of meh wants dem tah hurry. I want dah war tah be done and I dun want meh boys fighting en et."

Tikan listened as he turned his gaze back toward the romping children dashing by the firelight and Calysta pausing in her conversation to dust of the chubbier twin boy who had asked for sweet and gotten some of it on his front. His son entered the courtyard. Akten had grown taller than expected and he smiled openly when he looked at his chosen woman. He sat down beside her and struck up an animated conversation. It made him think about Lyra and how he had chosen her for a moment before he considered Illya's comments. "I don't assume," Tikan said, "Anything can happen in war. A cornered nyte beast, if indeed truly cornered, is one of th' most dangerous an' vicious creatures. Unpredictable too. I can only base m' thoughts on what I see an' know now an' estimation. "

He gave the chair another causal push, then puffed on the half burned cigar. "The tides of war make waiting an' fighting hard. I don't want m' grandkids t' grow up in the shadow of th' Federation either. There's a hope, eh? Solid allies an' friends make it better."

Taking another puff of his cigar Illya nodded when Tikan spoke again. The man was far more hopeful sounding. Perhaps growing up with some sense of security and peace made people stronger. They had a hope he didn't. He didn't want to say anything further. There was not a reason to disagree with Tikan when he was at the man's dwelling and doing so could plant fear. For now he would simply leave it as it was. There were plenty of doubts in his own mind and he would keep them to himself.

"Well, I'm about tah get more food. Dere are times when I like tah tink being bloated wit food es nice. I will regret et later." With a grin, Illya leaned forward and got himself out of the chair and started toward the dessert table. He was promptly joined by the chubbiest of his babies and the boy held out his fat fingers and gave a sweet little 'please'. It was impossible to resist even if he knew Edgar had too much already. "Yah jes get one more bite eh? I give yah first bite of meh sweet cake and den I have dah rest."

It didn't sneak past him that the General of the Chippeqouti disagree with him. The silence and change of subject made it telling. He wasnt sure what part the man disagreed with, but he knew that the end of the war wouldn't come without a cost. He'd prepare and pay it if need be, but until that time came, he would look out over his courtyard and be pleased with what he saw.

When Illya walked up and Edgar knew he could get one more bite from his Dah, Calysta let him. He really didn't need anymore or he was going to get a belly ache. "Ooh you smoked," Calysta said, wafting her hand toward him, "I can smell it."

Edgar was taking as large of a bite as he could and there was a string of drool from his mouth to the cake as he pulled away with crumbles falling out from between his puffed lips. The boy's cheeks were full and he could barely chew without more food falling out. Glancing down at the mauled cake bite Illya cringed a bit. "Ooh, dat dun look as good as et did before." Gingerly, Illya lifted it to his mouth and dropped the rest of it in. His own cheeks puffed some, but it wasn't as bad as Edgar's. After a few chews he grabbed a second sweet cake slice and he went to check on Kalizda.

No sooner did he stand next to Kalizda and she was waving him away. "Et was only little bit. I dun tink yah can smell et dat well." Lifting his shirt Illya sniffed at it and shrugged. "I dun smell et."

Calysta raised a brow at him, "Because you've been sitting in it awhile." She dropped her hand and nodded toward the fire pit. "We can move to sit by the fire pit, yeah? That will cover it." Edgar was toddling around by her side and asking to be picked up again, tugging on her shirt tail. "Why don't we go by the fire and you can sit in my lap, huh, little man?" She stood up and stretched, giving Illya a contented smile, and took Edgar's pudgy and very sticky hand.

"Yeah, we go set by fire." Illya grinned some and he wrapped an arm around Kalizda and kissed her. "Can yah smell et any better yet?" He figured if she was going to comment on the smell he could joke about it. What man wouldn't?

Calysta felt Illya pull her close and she leaned into him. He did still smell like a spicy cigar but the wood smoke was already covering it a bit. He kissed her where she could taste it some too. Of course he had to ask her if she could smell it any better. She gave him a crooked grin. "Oh Aye. You taste like spice too. Kiss 55 was very spicy." Edgar squealed and let out an 'ewww' at the mention of kisses before he got distracted by his twin brother playing and let of her hand to waddle over.

Edgar's protest made Illya frown some. "I dun tink he was old enough tah care about dat yet. Maybe he jes listen tah Lohgan and Cypher too much." When they got to the fire Illya sat himself down on one of the benches and he let out a grunt under his breath. Somehow sitting again didn't feel as good as he thought it would, but he'd be fine for a few more minutes before he'd get up for another snack or some tea. There were plenty of excuses to move about as needed.

Calysta moved with him and chuckled when he mentioned Edgar's outburst. "He got it from Lohgan. She does that in all the princess movies when the princess gets kissed. Cypher likes girls. I think he might be as incorrigible as you when he gets older." They sat together and Calysta slipped her hand to his back and nestled up to him. "We'll be adding three more into our bunch," she mused, "I had fun today."

With Kalizda snuggled in close he relaxed a bit more. "Well, I uh...I tink tree more es gonna have us very busy. I told yah long time ago dat I wanted seven or eight, I jes dun expect yah tah fulfill dah orders so quickly."

She tucked her feet under her and leaned gently against him, then tilted her head up to look at him. "I neither did I," she chuckled, "I wasn't sure I'd even be able to give you one. I do enjoy all the practice though." She leaned up and kissed his jaw gently. "I think we should have more days like this, yeah?"

"I like practice too. Et's good for meh. Et's good for making babies too." Snickering a bit he kissed her again. "Well, I tink maybe dis es what et looks like ef dere es nut war. I could like dis very much. Et would be hard tah be bored of et. Dese are good days. We will have tree more running around wit dem soon. Dey will be very loud I tink." Straightening a bit he craned his neck so he could look at Kalizda. "Eh, we make some appointments tah talk about dah land and new house eh?"

She had relaxed against him quite eagerly and she grinned when she heard him snickering. It made her feel good to know he wouldn't get bored or tired of the slower days with her or the children. She looked up at him with soft eyes as he straightened and looked down at her. "Aye," she smiled, "I've made a few for when we are back on the ship. I wanted this time on Reylia for fun. We'll have time on the ship, yeah? I was thinking we'd like a space to eat outside too. I like the idea of it for the warm days. What do you think?"

"Mmm...I tink we have sun room tah eat en. Et would be like small garden around us. Dat will be nice. Warm en cold and cooler en summer wit all dah shade." Illya liked the outdoor eating space, but he wanted it to be enclosed so they could always eat outside.
July 19, 2022

Calysta nodded, her smile widening. "I like that idea," she agreed, "Herbs and some vegetables. We could watch the rain too. If we wanted something particularly wild, we could get a fireplace too for the rainy season. We'd have climate control but its a consideration since you like to roast." She gave him a playful nudge and winked, letting him know she was teasing him just a little.

"Mmm," Illya nodded and he shifted a little on the bench. "Dat's a good point. I tink I need tah turn and roast meh back now." He hoped having the heat on his back would help it loosen up. It was getting tight in the cooler air. "Maybe I roast meh back and den go get some tea eh? Yah like tea too?"

She shifted away from him so he could move the way he wanted, though he didn't seem particularly amused by her. Maybe he was getting tired. Sitting up, she nodded. "Aye, let's go get some tea and I'll warm up the heat blanket while he have some, yeah? We'll have to put the kids to bed soon." She glanced at her children scattered around the courtyard. "Even if they think they aren't so tired," she chuckled.

"We let dem run little longer." Illya tried to curl his back against the heat and he grunted. "Well, we should look at dat furnace for dah house. I tink et would be nice. I could have toasted little bird for dinner, or breakfast. Depends on what time she wants tah cook wit meh. Den we tink about recipe for new little buns for dah oven."

His back was definitely sounding stiff and she reached her hand behind him to rub it softly. When he spoke laughed and touched her forehead to his bicep. "You could. You can have me close anytime, love. Though I'm thinking we just practice the recipe but not bake for awhile after these buns are done." She knew she likely wouldn't have more children, but that didn't mean they couldn't have some fun. "C'mon love. Let's get some tea." She lifted to her feet and offered her hand to him

"Yeah, maybe we jes practice." Illya gave her a tired smile and he scooted his butt closer to the flame. Her hands rubbed his back and it felt good with the heat. However, that didn't last long and she offered the tea. "Tea es good, I still want dah blanket, but mostly ef yah en et wit meh." Slowly he stood to his feet and stretched his back. It still felt stiff so he twisted slightly to each side and it cracked. "Ooh, yeah, dat's what I needed et tah do all day."

She winced a little when his back cracked and shivered slightly even if if didn't hurt him. "Maybe if will loosen up now, yeah? Should be good for the start of the hunt tomorrow. Or some fun tonight." She the words casually and then stole a playful glance at him a she started walking towards the house.

"Oh, ets a very good start for tahnight and tomorrow." Illya gave a playful growl and took jogging step to catch up to her. Once he was by her side he shortened his strides and he grabbed one of her hands. "What else yah have en mind?"

Calysta laughed as she heard the growl from behind her and felt Illya's hand encase hers. Glancing up at him, she winked. "Oh I think we can start in our fort."

***********************************

The morning was bustling. It was the morning of the hunt and everyone was running around trying to gather themselves to go camping in the wilderness for several days. The kids would not be joining them, however, that didn't mean they didn't have some sort of preparation needs. She had originally intended to leave them with Wynry, Rezna, and Lyra, but now that Wynry was going on the hunt, it left them a woman short. Koda arrived last night after dinner and volunteered to stay behind. The kids were familiar with Koda at least and he didn't mind staying so Wynry could go since he had just come back from much needed leave anyways.

With the children taken care of, the equipment packed and ready, they met with the rest of the teams that they would be going hunting with. Tikan was calling out good-natured orders in the pale sunrise light. "I will be lead on team Alpha, Akten will lead team Beta," he said, "Jyrta an' Mikt ye will go with me. Hitlo an' Dan, will go with Akten. Dane an' Mihael with Akten. Illya, Calysta an' Saar with me. We'll load up an' get moving."

He was directing his men, of which there were two dozen nearly, and then walked over to Illya. He gave Illya a solid pat on the back and grinned. "Good day f' a hunt, m' friend. Th' men have been looking forward t' it. Are ye, ready?"
 
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Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
Ehud stared at his pad in disbelief. They had Eleanor moving a bit faster than he anticipated and missed reaching out at one of the stops. Now he was going to have to scramble to make sure she didn't sit in one location too long. If she'd made it this long with her contacts she would know being on the move when you were fleeing Terra was essential. She couldn't sit in the outlying space stations long without being found.

Letting out a long sigh he began to dig through his older deeper contacts. She was on her way now and the spot she was staying was good, but she needed to move by tomorrow at the latest. It was a contact he didn't want to use, but they'd do it if he asked. Dialing the number in the pad he saw a familiar female face. She looked a bit tired. "I need you to move a parcel for me. Probably gonna have to get it connected and dropped off at the usual spot. Can you get it done tonight?" The woman on the other side of the call pursed her lips and she nodded wordlessly. Ehud knew better than to say anything further he thanked her and then hung up. Igret would do it. She'd always been a good smuggler, though she didn't typically relish the jobs he gave her.

As soon as the call was over Igret got dressed and made her way through the station halls. They operated as a street since the station could only be so large. Her ship was in a dock nearby and she had a small cargo run, but she'd have to go out of her way to deliver this parcel. Who knew what it contained, or if it was a person. Whatever, it or they were, they would probably dislike the next stop. The man was a shady, creepy sort, but reliable.

*******************************

It was probably a bit silly, but Illya found he couldn't sleep with such a big hunt coming up. He was more than excited, this was the one part of the trip he'd been looking forward to this entire tour. It was too bad they couldn't stay here a month. When daylight first started to poke through the thin curtains he sat up. Illya was sure he'd heard someone moving in the house, and then he heard soft murmurs. Excitedly, Illya nudged Kalizda, "Get up, the hunting party will be leaving soon."

Illya washed himself quickly. This was the last proper wash he'd get before they returned. There was a good chance that the men wouldn't want to wash much on the trail after that. They would blend better in the outdoors if they didn't bathe too much on the second and third day. Just a little water rinse would be fine.

There was a little bit of a flurry in the morning trying to determine who would be going and Rezna traded with Koda so that all the men could go on the hunt. Illya promised a match with Rezna after the tour and then swung his pack with his hunting gear over his back. Outside, Tikan had already started dividing the men into teams and it sounded like he was planning on making sure all the Chips weren't on the same team. "Aye, yah want tah give everyone fair chance by dividing us eh?" Illya smirked and fist bumped Tikan and then Saar. "We'll win."

No sooner had Tikan asked if they were ready and Mihael caught eyes with Dane and then jumped in to make an exchange. "Wait, we're nut ready yet. I'm gonna give yah Dane. I need Saar over here. We dun even have a fair chance ef yah pair meh wit Dane. He's terrible hunter. He'll offset the advantage yah have wit Illya and I want Saar tah help us out over here." Dane scoffed at the joke and switched sides. "Eh, I'm nut dat bad. He's jes pecky. He tinks Saar es better. Wait till he sees what I can do."

Now that they were all sorted out and Dane was with Illya and able to keep track of him and Kalizda health wise. It was better if he attended to their group and made sure neither of them had any emergencies. With Kalizda pregnant, Illya's numerous injuries on the tour and Kalizda's general anxiety it was better that he go with them.

Illya made sure there weren't any other little things to change and then he nodded to Tikan. "Aye, we'll show dem what Dane can do. He's better hunter den Mihael knows. Yah lead way and we'll jes follow." Since this was Tikan's group and he was the guy that knew the land they would be hunting on, Illya was going to let him do the trail blazing. Besides, he was pretty sure if they were invited to the hunt that it was intended that Tikan would do the leading and he would get to show his skills.
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
Getting to Starseer base, the closest star base on the boarder of the embargo had been difficult. She was a few steps ahead of anyone on her tail, for now, but there was no such thing as true safety. Safety was a sliding scale that never reached its zenith and stayed there. There was always someone out there thinking in ways you didn't see.

She had managed to make it off Earth and to the Lunar base which was practically crawling with Federation. Things had gone far smoother than she had hoped but passing the tightly held lines from Federation space to Alliance space was going to be tricky. Her contacts were thin here and it had taken longer than before to find someone close enough to make the barest of communication with.

Hardly anyone knew the ancient radio language of morse code anymore. It was hundreds of years out of date, but in the underground, essential when you made your frequency sound like static to the very untrained ear. She was sitting in an network cafe sipping a latte as if she did so everyday. The brown haired wig made her scalp itch and her dumpy looking sweat pants and top made her feel slobbish. They were not her clothes at all. In fact, she'd changed appearances several times over the past few days. This one was her least favorite look, so it wasn't hard to sink further into her seat and pretend she didn't exist. She waited, casual and calm, until the reply came through to her wired headphones in soft whispers of morse code.

D.I.N.N.E.R A.T. 6. B.R.I.N.G. 7. H.E.L.P.I.N.G.S

She needed to be at the Dock at 6 in the afternoon, rush hour for ships and the code would be 7.

It was easy to find the dock where the cargo ship sat. A woman with blonde hair trapped in a circular braid around her head was hauling a crate into a modest cargo vessel. She didn't look directly at her, but instead kept walking by only to be bumped by someone passing on the crowded walkway. Of course, she dropped her bag, containing precisely 7 oranges which rolled away. Some of them were kicked around and she made a scramble to pick them up, coming near dock 6 and the woman. If she was indeed the contact, she would know.

An orange thumped against one of the cargo crates bound for the ship's hold. She scooped it up, looking a bit elderly and hapless as she dropped it once more. Nobody stopped to help her because it was rush hour on the dock. Everyone else had places to be. When she caught the runaway orange, she popped up to give an apologetic look to the woman, displaying the fruit in her hand. "Sorry. You didn't happen to see where the other ones went did you? I got shoved a bit and I had seven in total, but this one is the only one I could catch. It's very important for me to find them. I was supposed to bring them for dinner."

The woman shrugged some. It was a offhand gesture that anyone looking would see her as being dismissive. However, the woman had rolled her shoulders to pick up another crate and tossed her head to the back of the cargo area. Eleanor tried not to look relieved as she casually slipped around the ship and up the ramp. There were alot of people bustling about but nobody gave her any mind as she vanished. Now that she was aboard and hiding in the ship, she had to hope that her contact's contact was trustworthy.

Eleanor said a silent prayer as she slipped into a small holding area, invisible to inspection thanks to the heavy crates being piled ceiling high, and waited for take off.

*************

Priscilla walked down the street with one hand resting on her purse and the other holding up a blue umbrella. Rain plopped against the umbrella's nylon web and trickled down to the ground. Kinte was as rainy as Pyrta since they were on the same latitude nearly. She didn't mind the rain so much, though it was a bit of a pain to fly in. She'd flown to Kinte for the day to order supplies and meet with a highly recommended architect. The bank had automatically approved an initial loan amount so high, she'd almost choked in surprise. If she was going to be making a permanent house for herself and Ehud, she was going to hire a damned good architect to make it happen. Their first meeting would be in a coffee shop, but first, she visited the wholesaler for the bakery supplies and decided to do some shopping of her own.

There were alot of people out in the rain with umbrellas of their own or water proof ponchos. Locals were used to the weather and it didn't stop them from coming out. She didn't like being here alone with so many people around. Sure, she was an independent woman who could handle things on her own. However, the last time she had been alone on Kinte, she'd been stalked and kidnapped. That wasn't something anyone forgot easily, if ever. She could feel herself on edge, checking over her shoulder from time to time. She didn't linger anywhere long.

On her way to meet to eat lunch and meet with the architect, she decided to take a small detour and enter the little lingerie shop to take a look around. Maybe she would get lucky and find something that Ehud might like.

**************
Illya was excited. Calysta knew it because rather than snuggling in bed with her, he was tossing the covers off them both and piling out of bed with a grin. It was hunting time and she hadn't seen such a boyish, charming look on her husband's face in awhile. Seeing him grin widely like that made her heart flutter a little and she couldn't help but smile back as they got ready with their hunting gear and met in the bustling courtyard.

Tikan was assigning teams with the expectant ease of a commander but it didn't take much for Tikan to catch on to all the banter between the Chip men about why they should swap. They clearly wanted Dane and Saar to swap for whatever reason. He didn't care all that much if they swapped but their reasons for being more loud and equally subtle about the swap were their own. The chief glanced at his son for a moment and Akten hoisted his pack on his back.

"I'll take Saar, yeah? If he's good n'uff he'll offset Seybar," Akten said with a wide grin. The Reylia men laughed a bit and a few patted a wiry man with a warriors braid on the back. "Ye just won't let m' forget tha' one will ye?" Seybar grunted, though without any real anger in his voice.

"Not' a chance," Akten smirked.

Then the young Chief-son nudged Saar. "C'mon, I'll tell ye about Seybar an' th' big "Nyte beast" he caught once, eh?"

The men laughed again, promising a good story for the walk into the hills and later into the forest.

They departed in two skimmers and reached the small outpost on the edge of the large forests within an hour. Here there were two buildings. One a medical station manned by two workers and a roost where several trained falcons were kept by a falconer.

Calysta and Wynry were geared up on yellow feathered falcons and taught the basics of how to fly with the bird. The last time Calysta had ridden one, it had been without a saddle or harness at all. In comparison to that experience, this seemed much more tame. It was exciting to think she was going to be one of the few non-Rey people to ride the famous cryn. She could hardly wait to get in the air and have some fun. Calysta grinned at Illya from across the clearly as her falcon shifted restlessly on under her, then gave him a wave. He looked happy standing there in all his hunting gear. She hoped this hunting trip was exactly what they both needed.

Wynry seemed a bit nervous atop her female falcon. She'd never been on the birds before except for the flight with Akten, but she took the reins nevertheless and glanced over to the Chief-son who was chatting with a few of the men. He didn't see her looking at all and seemed very engrossed in whatever he was talking about. After a few minutes, they began to circle up and Akten lead her bird close to the circle so they could give the final instructions.

The instructions were simple enough to follow. One team would go one way and the other would comb in the opposite direction but not so far they couldn't reach each other by foot within a decent amount of time. They would use the falcons and, to her surprise, a few bird calls to communicate between the leader of each group. Radios would be used for ground to air communication.

When the instructions were given, Akten smiled up at her. "This is'a good falcon. Ye remember what I show ye, yeah? Of course, ye do. Ye will find th' biggest game first, eh?" She nodded and smiled a little. His confidence in her was surprisingly comforting. With everyone ready, the parties split. Tikan lead his hunting group westward, breaking into smaller two-man teams in a loose spread.

They walked along a small foot path for awhile, diving deeper into the hills and trees until they deviated for deeper territory where only hunters went for game. The sun was bright and filtered through the trees with summer heat. The leaves on the ground layered so thick, it muffled their footsteps as they walked in silence. Occasionally, a bird would chirp and Tikan would purse his lips and let out a return call that traveled through the hills.

After some time walking into the deeper parts of the forest and well away from any path, a familiar voice crackled in the hunting party's ears. It was Calysta using the radio from above. "There's movement to the north before the ridge line. It's big."

Tikan looked to Illya and grinned before he whispered almost too quiet to hear. "Ye little bird from above does well. Let's go."
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
It turned out the parcel was a person. They weren't big enough to be a Chip. Igret figured she was a Terran. This was a bit of a strange request, but her contact was good. Jordan had always pulled through and he'd gotten her out of a few tight ones. So, she was going to get this parcel to the next spot as he directed. "Parcel is loaded and is in transit." A response came in.

Apparently she was taking this one into Alliance territory on the fringe. It wasn't so rough. Maybe this person was someone important, or they had important information. Whoever Jordan took the job for, it must have been big. She'd wondered what happened, or if he got caught because she hadn't heard from him in a long time, but now she knew. He'd probably had to get quiet for a while.

Once she finished loading the ship and securing the boxes she submitted her code to leave the station and took off. Momentarily Igret held her breath. She never knew if a smuggle run would be her last. Another message came in from Jordan and he asked her to get the woman something new to wear before she entered Alliance territory and he wanted her to be fed and roomed comfortably if possible. Igret rolled her eyes. Such a tall order. What made this parcel so important she didn't know, but she didn't have to either. Her ship alerted her as she came into hyper space region and she typed in the coordinates before heading back to the cargo bay to find the woman huddled between boxes. "You might as well come out. Whoever arranged this has a nifty system. Used a contact of mine I haven't heard from in years. Don't worry, he's good. I've never seen a single project of his fall through."

Eleanor held her breath when she heard footsteps come into the cargo hold. She knew her contact had trusted this contact but one never knew until that trust was tested to some degree or another. She stayed among the boxes as the woman called out to her. Whoever her contact she hadn't heard from in years was, she knew it wasn't the contact that linked her to this cargo and its captain. Her friend must have had to pull multiple strings from his own network close by. Though that was only a guess. She was several degrees away from her most trusted people now.

She didn't appear immediately. Instead, she shifted to eye the woman between the crates. It didn't appear she had a weapon. "Are we at hyper speed now?" She asked instead.

There were a few ways to find out what kind of cargo she had. Igret decided that one sure way to find out was to try a few older tricks. The response always had a telling sign if someone was Federation. If they were Federation they tried too hard to look scared. If they were Alliance they typically had a natural fear in their eyes. "We're in hyper speed. Rumor has it Nathan is after you. Not sure why. What makes you special, or are you just unlucky?"

They were at hyperspeed. Which meant they, relatively speaking, were alone. She could handle one person alone, maybe. There was always a chance she was being taken to somewhere Federation too. She wouldn't be able to do anything about that if she continued to hide.

"I'm not all that special," she said, slowly coming out from behind the crates, "I'd consider myself lucky to have gotten this far off the planet without getting shot or captured for worse."

The woman was younger than she was, probably by 20 years or better. Or, she could be light Chip given her fair-hair and complexion.

Eleanor met the woman's eyes. "Nathan, huh?" She said, "That's the name of Shadow who makes people vanish?" She'd had friends and allies disappear by the hand of someone they called Shadow. Shadow loomed over you and eventually, caught up with you no matter how long you ran. Shadow stayed on your heels.

"Shadow? That's what they call him now." Rolling her eyes Igret smirked. "I imagine he'd be flattered by that." She could tell by the nervous sort of posture the woman had that she was worried about disappearing. "Don't worry, I've never been caught with anything illegal. I don't plan on this being my first. So what do you know about the little resistance rumor? I heard tell there's a man or organization called Taylor that somehow seems to keep ahead of Nathan or Shadow as you call him. Old story though, maybe Taylor is a think tank in the resistance." There were a few other common reactions for those Federation and those more aligned with the Alliance on this one too.

"I'm sure he wouldn't be flattered by the other names he goes by," Eleanor replied. There were several of the them for certain, Nathan being only the newest addition to the list. The mention of a resistance made her muscles stiffen, if only slightly. It was a fishing question, either measuring her up, or testing her further to see what she would say or do. Maybe she would give up her secrets, maybe she wouldn't be worth torturing. It was best to stick with the truth, though she didn't have to say much. "I don't know much about it," she said honestly, "There are alot if names for the same things on Terra depending on where you are and who you know. I wasn't high up enough to run elbows with anyone beyond who I knew."

"I guess there might have been more murmurings in the docks. People always like to have hope. Plenty told stories about a man called Taylor or others said the story of Taylor was around so long that if he were a single man he died by now and maybe he passed his work on, or that Taylor was always a group. Surprising for your story of Shadow you don't have a little fable of your own. How good defeats evil and Taylor somehow outsmarts Shadow." Igret snorted, "Not that I'd believe the stories anyway. Well, you might as well get out of here. It'll get cold in a while and we've got a long flight. My contact made a request that you'd be comfortable, fed and get a new disguise before you land at the next port. It'll be about a week. You'll be on the fringes of the Alliance and with one of the single most disgusting men I've ever met. You can call him Scooter."

Whatever it was this woman hoped to again, she was either satisfied or decided not to press. There were a stories of a resistance of this type, but it wasn't not called Taylor. She helped people through on the River with ferrymen to guide them to safety. It could very well be the same network with a different name. Not that she was going to say as much. It could easily be used to trick people in certain areas where that phrase was used. She listened to the itinerary. While she didn't fully trust the woman yet, it was hard to turn down food and a bed for a little while. She couldn't keep running on empty for much longer. Plus, she was right. It would get painfully cold in the cargo bay. She knew that from experience."Possibly, or not. Some people, like Chippeqouti are long lived." This time she was testing. "I would appreciate anything offered. A shower if its possible." She would just keep the pistol in her waist band by the shower if necessary.

Igret saw the hunger in the woman's eyes and she could see her slowly begin to let the initial coldness melt. There were multiple ways to test a person, but she was done for now. This one was likely part of the resistance, but if she were Federation she'd show colors pretty fast. Then she asked about the Chippequoti and Igret looked at her and shrugged. "Long lived if you don't kill them first. Seems to me the Federation found them. Dark skin, tall, and blue eyes. Hard to miss. You see any lately?"

Eleanor raised a brow at the woman. "Respectfully. I dont know you well. I put my trust in you because my contact does and I trust him. That's my life to put on the line. Even if I had seen Chippeqouti recently, I wouldn't tell anyone. I wouldn't put them or anyone else at risk with the knowledge." She if was Federation or double agent, she might decide to torture her for information, but the woman already knew was intelligent enough to put together the fact that she was indeed part of some sort of resistance, given who sent her. "Though we'll be spending a week together. You can call me Mary. What can I call you?"

"Fair enough," Igret beckoned for her to follow and led Mary into the galley. "You can call me Igret. It's my given name in this line of work. Got plenty to eat in the cold box and a few things in the cabinets. Clean towels and clothes in the bathroom down the hall. Bathroom is second door on the left and you got the room that is third door on the left. By the way," Igret smiled, "Not to worry about me. I won't remember you as soon as I drop you off with Scooter. I just do my job."

Eleanor followed the woman, Igret, out of the cargo hold and the temperature was only marginally warmer in the main ship space. She listened to the brief instructions and nodded. "And I will forget that an Igret flew me closer to where I need to go," she said, "Before I shower, what can you tell me about this Scooter other than he's the most disgusting man you've ever met?"

The woman seemed to be a bit curious about Scooter and Igret chuckled. "I guess spoiling the shock won't hurt. He's a pimp. You'll get dressed up like an escort and shipped across the Alliance. Sometimes he even accompanies his high profile escorts to their new home. So, if your fabulous contact is using me to bring a high dollar Terran escort he'll dress you like a high dollar escort and take you. Scooter will do just about anything for money and he'll make sure you get where your ordered to be. My guess is that your contact knows about Scooter's reputation on the fringe and they're using that reputation to fly you under the radar. I doubt Nathan will be looking for an escort. Especially one of your age."

Eleanor nearly choked when Igret mentioned who and what 'Scooter' was and further more on the comment of her age. "I'm fifty-five, not the Crypt Keeper," Eleanor grumped a bit, "If he can keep his hands to himself, it might be a better ride than hiding in a crate of onions like last time."

"I don't know what Scooter does with his escorts. Guess if they're high enough dollar he probably keeps his hands off them." Igret chuckled a bit more. "I'm not a cheap smuggler to buy services from. Guessing your contact paid Scooter to deliver you in unmarred condition at fifty-five or twenty-five. Guess it doesn't matter. The money all spends the same."

Eleanor raised looked at Igret. "Money always keeps things under the radar and moving. I have no doubt that my contacts contact will want some sort of reimbursement. I suppose I'll find out what that is when I get there."

She halted at the bathroom door. "I'm going to wash the onion stink off. And paid or not. Thank you."

********************************

A small alert came up on Ehud's pad and he saw Priscilla was coming into town. He knew that Igret had moved Eleanor into the main sleeping quarters and she was comfortable now. It was unfortunate that Scooter was such a disgusting cover, but using the man had worked and fooled plenty of folks for a long time. However, he wasn't about to change the momentary discomfort that Eleanor would suffer in being in the man's company. He would be the most likely to get her safely into the depths of Alliance territory. In fact Ehud was quite sure that he'd have Scooter bring her to him at the docks. There were few he trusted more than Scooter to do a job well and flawlessly every time.

Since he was not likely to hear from Igret again for another week he decided to go check out what Pris was doing on Kinte and to make sure no one was going to try hurting her. Strapping a prosthetic beer gut on, he poked it and watched it jiggle. It wasn't quite like a pudding, it was a bit more firm like a pound of flesh would be. Slipping on an undershirt and then putting on a button up shirt he then decided to grab his pants. They were the ones that were stained and smelled a bit like grease from a factory. The pants were too big for him, but with suspenders he looked the part of a chubby man.

There was a slight roll at the band of the pants right under his fat stomach and the button-up shirt pulled a bit around his stomach with a his stained undershirt showing. After Ehud stretched a few times he had the shirt disheveled and rumpled some and then he put on worn boots. The one boot had a heel worn very unevenly and he couldn't help the odd gait when he wore it. It was impossible to walk normally in the shoes.

The final touches to his disguise was to smear a bit of grease in his stubble and make sure the brown wash in dye in his hair wasn't showing on his skin anywhere. When that was all clear he slipped a pair of brown contact lenses in and then put on some thick rimmed glasses. Ehud grabbed a knapsack and toolbox and then started toward the downtown area. Pris was deviating slightly from the track he expected her to take and he walked a bit more quickly till he came within a block of the square. She was early for the architect meeting, but not at the cafe.

Ehud rubbed his grease stained hands through his now brown hair and kept on walking till he got to the square. Once he was in the square Ehud pushed the bridge of his glasses with his middle finger to get them back up his face. They slipped some when he looked down and it wasn't uncommon for people to have poor fitting glasses.

Sitting down in the square he stared at his pad for a long time as if he were reading. After about half an hour he rummaged around in his sack until he sighed with exasperation and shoved his pad into the rucksack. Ehud saw Pris walk into the small cafe and he decided to be bold and walk in after her. He could use his old card that would fail at the register. He hated this disguise, but he knew no one would recognize him in it. When he got into the cafe he was in line right behind Pris to get his order.

It couldn't have been timed better the second register opened and Ehud walked awkwardly up to the register and pulled out his grease stained wallet and thumbed through the worn cards before he tapped one and it rejected. "I swear I just got paid." Tapping the card again he heard the beep and his cheeks turned a little red. "Ugh..." the woman behind the register stared at him expectantly and he put the card back in his wallet before he tried the next one and it too got rejected. Finally, he sighed and put the other card back in his wallet. Ehud looked about the room sheepishly. He could hear the person behind him muttering and he briefly met Pris' gaze before he looked back at the clerk with red cheeks. "Maybe, I'll just have the coffee."

Sliding the second card into his wallet he thumbed through the meager number of credits in his wallet and he slide them across the counter to her. "I'll have to call the bank and see what happened." The woman gave him a dubious look and the guy behind him seemed to be thankful that he finally got to order. Ehud took his single cup of coffee and slid into a booth where he could watch Pris and sipped at his coffee.

***************************

The walk in the forest was nice. Illya remained quiet and he watched the birds when he could. Overgrowth made it hard to see the birds, but every now and then he'd catch sight of them. He hoped Kalizda didn't get dizzy up there. If he'd remembered that she got dizzy before she was in flight he might have said something.

Mentally he cursed his poor memory. Why couldn't he have thought of that before she got mounted. However, she seemed to be doing well with this pregnancy and it was still early. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. The doctors were not terribly comforting though as they seemed to chide her more than rejoice at the news of there being triplets. Putting those thoughts aside Illya did his best to focus on the fact that he was going to help his team win bragging rights for the hunt.

It was only a short while into the day when Kalizda messaged down to them about movement. Tikan's comment made Illya smile. He nodded in response and then began to move to the side of Tikan. The more ground they covered and the further they spread out the less likely they would be to miss the target and less likely several people would get gored.

While he enjoyed a good hunt, there was always a chance of someone getting hurt. The clinic in the woods near the beginning of their journey seemed to be indication that it happened frequently enough for a clinic to be nearby. While he waited silently the movement in the woods seemed to increase and he wondered if they had more than one Nyte Beast. If it were a small herd he might want to get himself perched in a tree so he'd be out of the way. Illya slipped into the tree and he waited patiently. His prosthetic ear gave him plenty of warning that this was a very large creature or many that were coming his way.
 

aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
"What can I help you with today, Madam?"

The lingerie store clerk gave her a friendly greeting as she meandered the wares. All of them looked fairly ordinary. Ones she already had in the closet, thinking that she might be using them when she was newly married, and none of which had gone over well.

"I'm just browsing for now," she said, plucking up an item and feeling the fabric between her fingers. There was a slightly unaligned stitch on the shoulder. It would probably be something Ehud noticed right away. She put it back on the rack and clerk tilted his head, inviting her to share what she would like.

"Most of these look the same for what I already have, I'm afraid," she admitted.

"Oooh," he said with an uptick of eyebrow, "Looking for something special for a partner, huh? What does he like? Dark colors and leathers? Softness and pastels?"

Priscilla bit at her lip. "I really wish I knew."

It was a bit of a lie. In part, she did know. She had been trying to clean out closets and pack away some items to make more space. In doing so she had found some more of Haza's wardrobe which included several long night gowns for bedroom attire. She'd thought briefly about trying something like those, which is why she had come into the shop. However, she didn't want to look like Haza. She wanted to be wanted because she was herself. Her own body and her own style.

The shop keeper seemed to take her comment as a personal challenge to find something spectacular and showed her garment after garment. She shook her head at each one. She already had an item like it, or similar enough, and Ehud hadn't been interested in any of them. After awhile he seemed discouraged.

"Maybe you ought to try some Urian love oil?" he offered hopefully, "We do sell it here."

The man looked distraught that he had tried to find her something to know avail. Even he didn't know what to do to entice Ehud beside some mood altering oils and her husband was already on enough of those. Still, she felt bad for having wasted the man's time too.

"Sure," she sighed, relenting, "I'll take the smallest bottle you have."

When she was done buying a small bottle of Urian love oil she paused near the back of the store and pointed to a long, galaxy blue gown with a high slit and dropped, scoop back. It was silk with a lace overlay over the breasts, but otherwise unadorned. It looked like something Haza would wear. Sighing one more time, she looked up at the clerk. "I'll take one of those, C cup. 30 inch waist band." Maybe it would surprise him, even if she didn't feel like it was a good idea.

When she was done at the lingerie store, Priscilla went to the café. The line was longer than she thought, but she was still early for her appointment. She stepped up and ordered her food while another man next to her seemed to be struggling. She glanced up at him briefly as he struggled with his card and he caught her eyes for just a moment. The look was brief but sheepish. Almost pleading.

She had seen men give her plenty of looks, even fumble over themselves when they were with her, but this wasn't the same sort of look. This man was truly embarrassed for himself.

Priscilla averted her eyes and didn't say anything further that might embarrass him. Instead, she sat down at a table and crossed one knee delicately over the other, her pad propped over her thigh as she scrolled through housing suggestions. What would Ehud like? Would he approve of what she might pick out to send him. She knew it was a small thought in comparison to what he might be dealing with wherever he was but she wanted to impress him. Get him excited for something. Give him a little hope. When her food arrived, she glanced up from the pad and thanked the waiter before asking if she could make another order.

"A sandwich, and a muffin," she said, "Oh and I don't want it delivered to this table. Bring it out to the fellow in the corner over there. The one in suspenders." He didnt look like he was lacking in meals considering his pot belly, but she had worked with several organization for homeless and indigent people. A pot belly wasnt always an indicator of enough to eat. "Do not tell him who ordered it. Just say you had an extra sandwich that someone left or something."

With that, she sat back and ate her own sandwich which was turkey, bacon and avocado. For dessert she splurged and had a delicious, coffee heavy, tiramisu. About the time she was finishing dessert a well dressed man with dark hair and a pad tucked under one arm walked in. She recognized the smartly dressed man and waved him over. As he sat down with a pleased smile, a waitress came by the table where the pot bellied man sat and put a club sandwich in front of him with a blueberry muffin. "Someone left their order, boss said it might was well not go to waste."

While Ehud sipped on his coffee he looked at the art on the wall and occasionally scanned the room. He felt for his rucksack on the floor underneath the table a few times with his foot. It was as if he wanted to be sure it was still there and hadn't been snagged out from underneath him. His gaze came to rest on her when she gestured to the waitress. He wasn't entirely sure what she was wanting to say to the woman further after her order was delivered, especially since she was being so quiet. The answer to that question came soon enough as he sipped at his coffee and did his best not to stare at the plates of food that others had. He knew how to play his part and he intended to use that distraction to listen in on Pris and the architect's conversation. However, shortly after the man arrived to speak with her the waitress came over to the table. Ehud looked up at her with a bewildered expression and nodded wordlessly before he muttered a quick thanks and picked the sandwich up and took a large, unsophisticated bite. A bit of meat tore off and hung out of his mouth momentarily before he put his sandwich down and shoved the meat in. Now that he could appear settled he decided to stare at the food on his plate between bites and simply keep his ears open to hear what they were discussing.

The architect sat a cross from her and unbuttoned his suite jacket as he did with a practiced hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you in person," he said, grinning a charming smile, "You've sent me a few ideas via hologram but I always find talking in person gives me much more to work with." He ordered a drink, but not before looking Priscilla up and down eagerly as she glanced away to sip her coffee. "Why don't you describe to me what you're thinking of and I'll write and sketch a little."

Priscilla sat down her cup and nodded. "I'd like to see something modern in functionality but cabin like in appearance. Four bedroom 2 and a half bath. Large fire place with stones. Raw wooden beams in the living area."

So far Ehud liked the design that Pris was choosing. She was quite thoughtful in her comments about design, as if she were trying to make a home for him that would feel more comfortable. The sandwich he was eating was also a reminder of her kindness and he wasn't terribly hungry, but he had to give the appearance that he was and so he picked it up once more. He was on his third monstrous bite of the sandwich and he held the sandwich now in a greasy hand. There were grease marks on the sandwich bread from where he'd picked it up and set it down the first two times. There was something he didn't like though, that was the way the man seemed to look her over. As long as he didn't do anything too stupid, or do anything besides look her over he would let it pass. Plenty of men looked her over and while he didn't like it, there wasn't enough time and nor would it be smart for him to fight every man that decided she looked good.

"That's quite the design," he said with another smile, "Central pit style fire place or along the wall? And what about windows? Do you want cozy or more open? A loft perhaps? I always enjoy a good open concept in my life."

Priscilla smiled and gave a thoughtful look. "Me too. Along the wall, I think for the fire place and I'd like some natural light in the living space and for the view. A loft style would leave a good open space. I think I would like the master bedroom on the first floor attached to a bathroom with a shower and garden tub along with double sinks. Exterior, I'd like to have a covered porch in the front and a screened porch in the back. There should also be a room with a shelving unite built in for craft supplies."

The man continued writing and sketching, then titled his head. "You're very confident in what you want, I like that in a woman and a client."

It seemed the man was going to lay the schmooze on and Ehud could feel himself getting irritated. He bit in the sandwich almost viciously, but he was nearing the end of it and it was fine to consume it quickly. That architect would be quitting this job after he sent the sketches to another architect to finish. There was no reason that Pris should be subjected to more of this than she already had been. When the sandwich was done he began to tear into the muffin and only took a small sip of coffee to wet his throat.

"I know what I like," she said simply, "And I'd like to think I know what my husband will enjoy too. He's very excited about the prospect of building a new home for us and our son."

That made the man's smile flicker and he straightened up a little in the chair not leaning forward so much. "I see, well, I think that's enough to work with. I'll have some sketches to you in few days." "I looks forward to seeing them. As soon as I get them, I'll look them over with my better half and let you know if agrees on my choices."

The architect cleared his throat and said his goodbyes shortly afterward. When he was gone Priscilla let out a sigh and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her temple. Sometimes men were all the same. Except for Ehud. He'd never treated her like an easy target. She missed him. With another sigh she gathered her shopping bags and her umbrella, then left the shop into the rain.

Ehud finished eating his muffin and he sipped at the coffee while the man finished talking with her. It looked like he was a miserable sort. Perhaps he would wait to see if Pris would even tell him about the man's behavior. If she didn't he would do something about it and if she did he would have a few things to say anyway and they would make the choice together to ask for the sketches and then fire him. Shortly after the conversation Pris lowered her head and just rubbed her temples. Ehud sucked down the last of his coffee and he began gathering his rucksack and other things when she swept past. It might be suspicious if he walked out right after her, but he wanted to make sure she got back to the dock safely. He stepped into the rain with his rucksack and Ehud walked behind Pris for a short distance. He had a little alley apartment he could slip into and watch her from the rest of the way, but he was prepared for her to begin walking faster and he would too because he was getting wet.

The rain was coming down a little harder as she made her way to the docks. Now even some of the Kaereleans were staying off the sodden pathways in favor of staying dry indoors. She couldn't stay too much longer because she would risk walking and flying home in the dark. Not something she wanted to do. Walking the rain alone made her miss Ehud. She had gotten accustomed to him walking her home at the end of each day. Rain or shine, tired or not. He was there and holding her hand. His absence beside her made her feel particularly alone.

As she made her way through the small apartments rented for frequent travelers near the docks, she heard a heavy splash behind her. It sounded like a footstep in a puddle and every alarm bell in her body rang out in sudden fear. She gripped her bags, ready to use them as weapons, and whirled around. Her umbrella slung a spray of water as she did. Behind her, she saw the pot-bellied fellow with suspenders. The sight of him behind her made her heart pound in a sickening cadence of fear. Was he following her? She had told the waiter not to say who had given him the sandwich. She gripped the umbrella handle tightly, her eyes wide as they locked on the stranger's. For a brief moment they looked at each other, both surprised at the sudden confrontation until he turned to the stair case and began pulling out an access card.

She was being silly. He clearly lived here and was probably a dock worker. "Sorry," she said over the rain. Over the rain sounds, she heard him call back over his shoulder a brief forgiveness as he went up the stairs. "No problem."

*********

At home with Sien tucked in and alone, Priscilla combed out her freshly washed platinum hair into soft waves. It was chilly enough she wore a warm top and fuzzy bottoms. She had also turned up the thermostat from 63, where Ehud seemed to think was a fine place to keep the temperature, to a balmy 72. Rain pattered hard on the roof top and thundered rumbled. She had put the love oil in the bathroom mirror cabinet and stowed the singular piece of lingerie in the very back of the closet before cooking dinner for Sien and herself. Now, she was all ready to go to bed and felt the same loneliness she'd felt earlier come back.

She snuggled into the blankets and read for awhile until she felt like it was time to turn off the lights. Just as she clicked the button, her pad gave a little chime. Someone was calling and it was Ehud.

After giving her code reply on a their secure frequency, she grinned. "Are you alright?" she said almost breathlessly.

Ehud seemed to be fine and couldn't talk too much about where he was or what he was doing. In fact, he seemed mor interested in what she had been doing. "I went to Kinte today," she said, "Did some shopping for the bakery. For Christmas. I met with the the architect too. He is going to send me his sketches in a few days. I'll forward them to you so you can see them too." She was grinning, even though he couldn't see her. She updated him on the bakery and Sien's schooling. "He's a wonderful and creative little baker. I'm actually very impressed. He's walked me home from work everyday too. Though I think next weekend I might take him somewhere. He needs a break to have a little fun since he's been working so hard." After they talked for a little while more, Priscilla's eyes began to droop some. "I miss you," she said to him softly, "I missed you especially today. Please be safe."

****************

With a few more directions on the movements of the herd from Calysta, Tikan guided them easily toward the beginnings of a very large hill that was almost bare stone a the top. A spring bubbled from one side of the hill, which is where all the movement was happening. It was clearly a very large herd.

"Rykan, Eyros, Lanio," he whispered, "T' the trees. Illya an' Dane on th' ground with m'."

They could see the herd of massive nyte beasts rooting around the stream bed, looking for food and drinking the cool water. Several of them were twice the size of a Terran brown bear. Those would be the ones they'd want. They would have the most fat and the tenderest meat. They also came with sword sized razor tusks on either side of their snouts. There were several babies and a couple of sows with fat teats hanging low. It was best to leave the females alive to have more litters.

Luckily for the hunting party, the large herd hadn't been alerted to danger at all. Tikan crouched a hundred feet away and stayed with Illya and Dane. "We need t' separate them," he whispered, "Falcon calls work well, but ye have t' run. If we lead them back t' the clearin an' climb th' trees, we can spear with th' team from above." Tikan gave Dane a wiley grin. "I know how fast th' General here can run, an Elite can make it t' those trees an' climb b'fore he takes a tusk t' the rear, eh?"

There wasn't much time for an answer. A crackle came over the radio again and a warning came from Calysta. "Movement directly south of you, headed in your direction by the stream. Trees are blocking some of the view, but it's big and fast."

Tikan glanced at the two Chip men. There were things that preyed upon nyte beasts. Things that were even bigger than the animals they hunted.

"What is coming will break up th' herd," he said, "Get ready t' move."

Not two seconds after the words left his lips, did a large creature explode into the creek. It was a large cat, though not like a Tyrei. This cat was sleek black with a greenish, oily sheen to its fur and long, tufted ears. This was a mountain cat. While not the size of Tyrei, they were just as deadly. It leapt from the low branches of the trees with a force that caused the branches to whip back and forth as it pounced on the nearest young nyte beast. It landed on the back of the nyte beast and sank it's claws in deep and began biting at the neck where it's strong jaws would crush the spine there. No tusks could reach it while it clung to the back of the unfortunate animal.

When the other beasts saw the attack and terrified wailing, they scattered, leaving the young one to its fate. A large male began thundering in their directions and Tikan bolted up. "Let's go!" They would lead it right where they wanted it. Provided, of course, they were fast enough not to get gored.
 

Silence

Anonymous Me
Mentor
Tikan was making last second decisions before the creature, or creatures emerged from the heavily forested area. Since he was invited to be on the ground Illya dropped out of the tree and he caught Dane's gaze. The other Chip looked more worried about the idea of running and possibly getting gored than anything. Dane wasn't particularly fond of running from animals and especially not ones that were stampeding. To Illya it sounded like a bit of fun. He was sure he could keep out of the way and maybe even get to keep the Nyte Beasts going in the right direction.

While Tikan was still talking the trees shook and they were off and running. The Nyte Beast they wanted was already thundering toward the clearing. That was good news. Illya ran along the edges of the clearing and he used his arms to fling brush out of the way as he plowed his way through. He even trampled bushes and jumped over some tree roots.

He was keeping up just fine and he glanced across the way to see Dane was scrambling for a tree. Apparently a Nyte Beast had turned on him and decided to be ornery. Dane's legs picked up a bit higher and he gave a hoot as he swung himself into the nearest tree and narrowly missed getting gored by a Nyte Beast. Illya could hear the trees moving and he glanced behind himself to see the large cat was overhead and he dodged to the side just in time for a Nyte Beast to decide the same thing and it slammed him with its shoulder.

Illya was thrown into the underbrush and he hit hard. The wind was knocked out of him, but he could hear more Nyte Beast were coming. When he tried to get to his feet he felt something slam into his shoulders and then feet of a Nyte Beast hit one leg very hard. "Agh...." Illya did his best to curl and protest his head and organs. As soon as the animal had passed he stumbled to his feet only to see he had unfortunately been tossed far enough into the brush that he was solidly in the stampede and he couldn't get to the tree in time.

Dane only saw Illya get hit by one beast and then try to rise again and get slammed into the ground for a second time. His eyes darted back and forth looking for anyway to get to where Illya was. There were so many Nyte Beast there. This was a good wild way to hunt, but it was a bit risky and somehow bad luck had caught up with Illya. Hopefully he wasn't going to be a mangled trampled mess by the end of this.

Rather than being slammed into by another Nyte Beast Illya did his best to mount the next one that was coming. Dodging and weaving, Illya grabbed a fist full of flesh and fur. It was the best he could do and he flopped and got slammed into another beast and then nearly wiped off on a tree before he got on top of the Nyte Beast and disappeared into the bush riding the wild animal.

As soon as it slowed a bit Dane got out of the tree he'd got caught in and he ran over to where Illya had been and found no body, it was maybe good and maybe not. "Illya!" There wasn't any answer and he glanced up to the sky. Maybe, just maybe Kalizda didn't know yet. That would be for the best. Jogging into the clearing a little ways Dane shrugged at the other guys. "Let's not say anything yet. His body isn't over there. He's probably alright." Even if Dane said Illya was probably alright it was almost a question.

***********************

Several hours later Illya came limping toward the camp dragging a small Nyte Beast with nearly 30 stab wounds near the neck and shoulders. He was tired, smiling and obviously bruised from the wild ride. "I win and dis time yah see dat oter guy. He definitely lost."

Dane burst into nervous laughter and ran over to look at the beast. "You mangled it." Glancing to Tikan he pointed to the animal. "Suppose we can still make use of some of the animal after all that?"

"Of course we can." Illya protested. He wouldn't have drug the whole carcass if he hadn't thought they could use some, if not all of the meat. "I almost got gored by this stupid thing many times over. I held onto it for dear life, couldn't jump off cause it was mad, it was bucking and swinging me around like a rag doll. After I nearly flipped over its head for the fourth time I decided to risk grabbing my knife and I started to stab it each time it tried to shake me. It eventually died. Kinda disappointing that a small one gave me so much trouble."
 
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aryamajor

Curious Adventurer
Benefactor
Tikan jumped and used his foot to push off into the lower hanging branches of a tree just as the herd of beasts came thundering below him. He squeezed his core and kept his legs out of their path as he held fast to the rough barked limb. In the distance he could hear the wild cat screaming as the its unfortunate nyte beast prey squealed with death throws.

While he dangled, he checked for Dane and Illya who had been close when the stampede started. Dirt and leaves kicked up in all directions but he could see Dane dangling from a tree not too far from him. That was one accounted for. So where was Illya? He scanned the trees, then the ground, and saw Illya's head pop up from the underbrush only for him to be slammed back down by another passing beast. "Shit," he cursed. He grunted as he slung his legs over the to the branch too, capturing it between his knees and scrambling to the top side in an effort to find the man in the chaos again. There wasn't any sign of him.

When the beasts slowed down, Tikan dropped down from his perch and met Dane nearly where their comrade had vanished. "No blood, no body parts laying around," Tikan grunted, "He might not b' trampled t' death or gored. Yet."

He whistled and the other hunters dropped from their trees nearby, not bothering to be stealthy. "Half of ye go report t' the coordinates for base. Ye make sure t' lay out medical pack. The other half with m' an' you too Dane. We'll follow th' wake an see if we can find our missing man."

Dane joined him and mentioned something about not telling the Councilwoman and Tikan raised a brow. "If ye don't want m' t' say anythin' I won't but when she finds out I'll send her in ye direction," he half-joked. Pressing on the radio in his ear, he called in their falcon rider. "Eh, keep a look out an help us track. There was a stampede an' we're looking f' movement." He didn't mention there was a hunter missing because she would undoubtedly ask who was missing.

Calysta frowned when she heard the call from Tikan on the ground. She had been enjoying the flight and beginning to see why Reylian's preferred to fly on falcon back over flyers. There was something exhilarating about being in the wind and the sun over head. Something powerful about commanding a bird many times over her size. It made her feel little more fierce and a little more wild.

All of that vanished when she heard there was a stampede. Tikan didn't sound concerned though and the hunt was still on. She saw part of the stampede in the clearing. Dust and dirt had kicked up as they rolled through and the tree tops seemed to shiver from above, following a somewhat jagged path southward. "I can see most of the beasts. South by south west. Should I pursue?"

"Continue t' fly and observe," came the answer.

So, she adjusted her grip and her bottom in the saddle and banked the beautiful falcon toward the south.

Tikan waved for the searchers to follow him in the wake of broken ground and bramble left behind in the hopes finding Illya. They tracked the beasts far to the south but then the stampede had ended. The beasts had found another open field well away from the trees where they could snoot around for food. There was no sign of Illya.

"We go back t' base camp an' send out a larger party with thermal scanners," Tikan said to Dane as he stood up and started gathering his crew for a retreat and regroup.

************************

There was a round of applause and laughter as Illya dragged himself and a half mutilated nyte beast carcass into the camp. More of the men gathered around the blood, mud, and sap sticky Chip with grins. Sure, they had all be worried, but seeing him come back alive on his own in such a state was more than amusing. Tikan came over and gave Illya a hearty slap on the back only to have his hand stick slightly to the ripped remnants of the fellows shirt due to all the gunk he has acquired during his wild ride. "Good t' see ye still have ye guts, eh?" He grinned.

Illya was promptly reminded by Dane nobody else spoke Quoti and while Dane was giving a quick reminder Tikan came over and gave a hearty slap to Illya’s back. “Aye, ets hard tah gut meh. I like all meh guys where dey are.” Glancing at the sorry excuse of a carcass next to him, he sighed, “Well, hope all of yah are hungry after search. Where’s meh Kalizda?” Illya gazed over the group and did not see her yet.

Tikan wiped his hands on his pants leg and waved a couple of men over to hoist the small nyte beast, or what was left of it, to the cooking ring. "No good for roasting but if th' guts are in tact we'll skin it an' chop it up for stew, eh?" At the mention of his wife Tikan wanted to cringe a little. Instead, he cleared his throat and scrubbed the back of his head. "She went with th' search party t' look for you. Insisted."

"More like demanded," one of men piped up, "Ye man tried t' keep her in th' camp." Tikan gave Illya a somewhat apologetic look. "Ye woman is with Akten looking for ye an' safe. I get a radio an' let m know ye back."

“Et should be fine. He’s stabs tah neck and shoulders.” Illya watched a few men hoist the beast and he cringed when Tikan said where Kalizda was. “Ooh nooo, dis es bad. Maybe I should go meet up wit dem.” Almost immediately Dane started in Quoti with an alternative plan and Illya frowned. “Yeah, maybe I wash and get cleaned up tah meet her.”

Tikan nodded in agreement. "Aye, that might b' best. Ye look...well, ye look like ye been on th' backside of a nyte beast." The men chuckled and grinned. "Aye," Seybard laughed, "The Nyte Ryet." All the Rey men started chuckling again and one of them tossed Illya a bucket and a towel. Tikan pointed to the hill below. "There's a stream down there...eh..its shallow." It was very well known now that Illya Blackwolf and his Chips sank like rocks. He didnt need the man to survive a trampling only to drown.

Illya shook his head and chuckled as he caught the towel and proceeded to drop the bucket. “Shallow es good.” Since it was only guys that Illya saw in the camp he took his shirt off and his belt. He was going to take his pants off after he got in the stream and probably just sit in his boxers and wash himself and his clothes.

Tikan let the man do what he needed to do and then made the radio call to the search party. He received an immediate reply from his son. They were an hours hike from the camp on the other side and then some of the larger hill they were camped on the base of. He was not envious of Illya's position at the moment. Not in the slightest. When he was assured that the search party was on the way back, he made his way down to the spring where Illya was wash up. "Oi, I talked t'm son. Th' search team is an hour west o' here. They'll be here a little close t' dark, yeah?"

Illya had most of the grime out of his hair. A little oil did a lot of good getting sap out of his hair and it wasn't sticky anymore. Now he was just washing his arms torso and moving onto his clothing. His legs didn't get that messy since he was wearing his fatigues. However, his clothes were a mess. They were covered in dirt, blood, grime and had a lot of holes. He'd have to submit a request for another set of fatigues. This year he'd done remarkably well and hadn't had to requisition so many fatigues as he had in the past. Hearing Tikan come over to where he was at, Illya looked up and he nodded. "I will be done washing soon and den I will walk tah meet dem. I tink meh Kalizda would feel better ef I could come tah meet her. Den she will know ets nut so bad." As he said that Illya noted the many bruises that were starting to show on his arms and ribs and a few welts. "Et's nut dah worst."

Tikan chuckled. "I imagine not. It'll all heal up. Ye just remember t' tell ye wife that." He wasnt about to come between the fierce little woman and her husband. "If ye want, I send one of' m' men with ye as a guide."

The offer for a guide was a bit funny, but also a good offer. "Ef et would give yah peace of mind tah know I would have guide I will accept." Illya scrubbed at his shirt a bit viciously and he rubbed his pants against a rock with his prosthetic foot to try and scrub out some of the more obvious stains. "What yah say to meh coming back for anoter hunt sometime after dah tour? I like tah hunt and next time I dun tink I will have bad luck."

Tikan grinned. "I always want to hunt. Ye welcome any time. The hunt isn't over though. We still have one day left t' catch a big one eh? I think ye earned ye new name too."

"Oh, dat's good. I will run tomorrow too. Dere es no losing for meh. " At the mention of a new name Illya felt himself almost groan inwardly. "What es dah new name I get?"

Tikan laughed. "Ye now Beast Rider. Ye n' gonna live tha one down f' long time."

The name was probably fitting and Illya grinned. "I imagine nut. Dere are lots of names dat I earn. Dis es nut meh favorite, but et's nut dah worst." With the shirt washed, Illya slipped it over his head and then worked on his pants with his hands. "I dun get much choice when I get hit by dah Nyte Beast dat trows meh en middle of stampede. I was worried for small moment and den after I get on beast I consider what would happen ef I let go. I hunt big animals before and yah must kill dem ef yah in dat situation. Dey become angry and gore man ef he tries to get away."

Tikan tilted his head in agreement. "Aye, the only way t' let go is t' know ye fast enough t' get ye ass up a tree before it can turn around t' get ye. I been cut up before about 20 years ago. Ugly scars, eh?" A call came up from the camp and Tikan glanced in that direction and laughed. "Looks like they got ye beast an' making meat balls."

"Aye, dah trees were nut near enough." Illya smirked. "Ugleh scars are jes part of meh work. Good ting I dun add anymore tah collection. Kalizda would worry much more." As he finished scrubbing his pants he heard mention of the meat. "I jes take slice, fresh before ets cooked tah eat on meh way tah find Kalizda. She dun like et when I eat et fresh. So, I do dat before I meet wit her."

Tikan smirked a bit at that and nodded. "Ye get what ye like an grab Seybard on ye way out to guide ye. Ye no get lost with him if it gets dark." Then Tikan left the man to his work and returned to the campsite.

**********

Calysta wiped at the sweat trickling on her temple. It wasn't so much hot as she was just tired. She'd ridden for hours on the falcon only to land and find out that the men had conspired not to tell her that the stampede from earlier had caused her husband to go missing. Tikan and Dane had advised her to rest and stay in the camp. She had very politely told them they could eat her socks and she was going to look for her husband. Tikan didn't argue with her and neither did Dane or Saar.

Their search party had canvassed several miles at this point, starting from the stampede site and radiating outward. Akten had elected to go as her personal guard and she had allowed him to do it. She'd asked Dane to stay in case Illya came back to camp and needed medical help or to just generally stay ready in the event he was found hurt.

Calysta kept walking and calling out Illya's name though she was feeling sluggish and her voice was going a little squeaky from yelling. The longer it took to find him, the longer he'd go with medical treatment if he was injured. Plus, it was getting dark and they would have to call off the search because the there were predators that hunted at night when visibility was low. She was starting to feel desperate to find him and she was glad the daylight was fading so no one noticed her wiping her eye. She had to keep a cool head to find her husband no matter what.

It wasn't until a voice came over the radio to inform them that Illya had returned to camp and was relatively unharmed. She felt relief flood through her and nearly tripped on a large tree root. Akten walked with her, though she felt a little light headed and sluggish as she padded beside him. He glanced at her from time to time, but said nothing. Illya was coming to meet them before they got to camp. That thought spurred her on as they wound their way back to the base camp.

A mile or two before they reached the camp, Calysta heard something crunching in the leaves ahead of them and a voice shouted out to them that it was Illya and another Reylian. Sure enough, the two emerged from around a large tree trunk. Calysta didn't hesitate for a second. "Illya!" She ran over to him, stumbling slightly until she jumped up and captured him in a hug. "You're okay?" she asked.
 
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