She had to pull on her hand to make her face her, the young Rin's face so hard to read when in natural form. The fur hid so much and the alien planes of her face hid even more, her strangely shaped body gave so few indications.

"We have to move, Kaja. His sacrifice can't be in vain."

She reacted as she had so often before, when HE had struck her, called her by what was once an affectionate shortening of her full name, made her conform to whatever HIS whim of the moment had been: the Rin's head bowed her shoulders slouched, her wings dipped down to nearly brush the ground, and from her lips came words, as they had from so many other females on that world, that Keitana herself had learned to passionately despise...while also find far too comfortable, in the now-poisoned part of her soul.

"Yes, Mistress."

She had to fight back the urge to lash out in anger; it would only be further proof of how strong the Tegatane's influence truly was, proof to the young Rin that no matter where they ran, Tegatane's shadow would always haunt them. And even though she HATED doing it, she would have to still address her like when they were HIS slaves.

"No. We are free now, S'Kaja' not call me Mistress anymore."

The Rin just nodded numbly, and Keitana felt something...yet again...die within her, as she realized her friend might never recover. Her eyes turned to gaze down the road, toward where the killers had dragged him, her friend, Kaja's beloved...their replacement. Dragged him toward whatever fate awaited him, now that he had openly accepted the price, right in front of her own eyes...

...and in it, she felt the danger. Further and further, the hatred and rage growing within, for the self-styled 'Dragon Emperor'...until she felt what had been before, at the tower. Felt HIS humor, or at least the echo of it. The echo of death. And in her heart...something went far beyond icy chill. She didn't know how to stop feeling it. Didn't know how to not HATE, and...

Kaja dropped gracefully to her knees. Keitana felt it the instant it happened, through the senses the Tegatane had forced to be heightened, day upon day; felt Kaja's submission, her surrender, the only defense the Rin had been allowed to have against the pain. The only defense Kaja had been allowed to have against HER.

She wanted to grab the painfully young Rin, and throw Kaja to the side; throw the child anywhere, just away from her, away from the memories Kaja brought of the Tegatane's sting and wrath, HIS demands for more anger in her. To get Kaja to stop, she'd have...then she stopped, herself. Always there; always seething. And now...ready to grind her soul to powder, if she let it.

Hers, and perhaps the Rin's as well, that is if HE hadn't finished the job already on her, just by being around the poison he'd created.

"Not on your knees, S'Kaja'a...we need to go home now. Home to Em and Lume."

Maybe they could help her; maybe they knew someone else who could...another Rin, Kaja said there were more of her kind, just not here, not under Tegatane's rule,or maybe another being like themselves, whatever. Someone who could FIX...them. Both of them. Once more, she knowingly failed Em: failed the dream he brought, failed the idyllic world he sought to create, echoes of his lost homelands of ancient time: she cursed Tegatane in her heart, and wished him naught but death, and pain.

"Yes Mistress."

Kaja's voice; her 'pleasing' tone, the one designed...designed by HIM, in the show pleasured compliance, willingness to do whatever she was told to do, and with relish. Yet another of HIS damned lies from the blackest hells. Yet another of Kaja's desperate attempts...echo, of her desperate not think about HIM; not focus on HIM, only the Mission. Only the Goal, set by dread king, and how to obey it's letters while violating it's spirit.

Kaja rose, her eyes shadowed, darkened. There was no fight in Kaja, no resistance whatsoever. She once more looked down at Keitana's feet, ready to follow her wherever she went. Up ahead the others were waiting for the pair. Waiting to guide them home. Kaja, for one brief moment, looked back over her shoulder and make a small sound, or was it a word? Then her shoulders hunched as if to block a blow or take a great weight and she waited for Keitana to move.

Keitana closed her eyes against her friends pain and the rage it brought and stepped forward, into the waiting ship. Knowing that for both of them the hardest part was yet to come. They would have to learn again how to be people, instead of the creatures Kovus wished them to be. Keitana wondered once more if she do it. HE had said she wouldn't be able to, that she would now be a frightful thing to her friends. But she had to do it. For Herself, for RAE, even for the young-old woman who even now wouldn't look up, who truly did believe now that she was nothing more than an animal.

Keitana sat down in one of the seats, Kaja curled up at her feet, still not looking up, still not letting her shoulders un-hunch. Kaja was rail thin, nothing more than whipcord over bone, even Keitana could see it. No wonder Chren had refused Kaja's pleas for him to just take her and go. Keitana reached out and touched her cheek like she'd seen Chren do so often.

Kaja's reaction was startling, for one moment the Rin just froze, from muzzle to hooves, from wingtips to clawed hands, she didn't move, frozen as if terrified, then her eyes tilted up and looked, truly looked at Keitana's own, and her cheek rubbed against her palm.

"Are you hungry S'Kaja'a?"

The at once younger and older female nodded and Keitana looked what was available that she knew the Rin would eat. There was almost nothing. Then again, it was likely that they didn't know they would be getting Kaja out too. then she saw the medi-kit.

"Would you like some..." She wanted to say blood but knew it would upset the girl more finally she remembered the word Chren used, "S'ta'shin?"

"Yes Mistress, thank you Mistress."

Keitana bit her lip to keep the anger from her. Damn him, damn him to the darkest most painful of hells. Once Kaja was bright, vibrant, full of life, confident when among friends. Now she was a terrified shadow, afraid of stepping the least bit out of line. Keitana remembered the young girl who defied the generals to bring Em the information he needed to find a weapon against Tegatane. A weapon Em was still learning how to use to it's full advantage. This wasn't her anymore, would it ever be that brave and caring woman again?

"You there, bring me a unit of H-type whole, doesn't matter the R-Factors, it just needs to be fresh."

Keitana was surprised at her own voice once more, it had changed so much, harsh and cold, it sounded like his when he gave an order, brooked no argument, demanding obediance. one hand started to stroke Kaja's mane, her thumb going behind the ear and hearing the pleased almost purr a Rin would make when they were content. It soothed her irritation. How could such a simple sound do it. She could remember HIM doing much the same thing with Kaja when she did please HIM. Was that soothing sound why HE did so?

One of the crew of the small ship brought her the bag of blood she had requested, a slightly disturbed look on his face. He had to be a new recruit into the Spirius, Em never tolerated such attitudes for long. Though with Kaja being so private it was harder to break people of such with her. The young man looked at the woman and the Rin who was kneeling, wings folded, hands crossed, at her feet. Kaja had shrunk down again and Keitana scowled.

"No need to be afraid," Keitana put her arms around the girl for a moment to reassure her, "he's not going to hurt you, we are free. Please believe me S'Kaja'a, we are free."

The young woman shook her head, "HE never lets anything go Mistress, oh no, he never does, not Master Tegatane."

Keitana shudders again at that name. She knows how right Kaja is. But Chren paid for it, surely HE would let them stay free for that reason. Wouldn't HE?

Kaja didn't look up, just held the bag as if she didn't know what to do with it. It had been so long since she had partaken of blood this way, HE liked watching Kaja drink it from the throat of her prey, sentient or animal. Keitana remember when she first learned of Kaja's relatively unique dietary requirement and the price she would pay if it wasn't met. It troubled her that the little Rin wouldn't touch the blood even though she held it in her hands. She didn't need the young woman to go feral, and given how thin she was and how little she was eating, Keitana was surprised she hadn't gone feral already.

"S'Kaja'a, you need to eat, please."

"I'm sorry Mistress, I am suddenly not hungry. Forgive me."

Now THAT didn't sound good and Keitana took the bag away from Kaja and lifted her chin, "What if I did it like Chren used to. would that help."

For a moment Kaja looked stricken, she made that same sound she had earlier, it had the feeling of a word, but Keitana couldn't catch it. Then Kaja slowly nodded, and Keitana pierced the bag and spread a little bit of the blood on her arm, letting Kaja lick it off. At first the young Rin was nervous, her moves hesitant, like they always were around those of tainted blood, but soon she relaxed.

Keitana had done this a time or two for her before Kovus had taken them both, the first time she had let Kaja have some of her own blood, had cut her own arm to give it. She knew it was actually easier on Kaja to lick the blood off a surface, when she was in her natural form, than to have to drink it from the bag. Soon the Rin was once more pressed against her legs and making the soft purring sound. Oblivious to what was happening around them.

Keitana found herself relaxing once more. It was often amazing to her how Kaja could relax her so quickly the few times they had been allowed to be together. Her purrs, the way she could somehow still trust. Keitana kept a steady stream of the red fluid flowing down her arm for Kaja even as she started to rub one of the delicate ears, helping the girl to relax more as well. soon the bag was empty and Kaja's head was resting on Keitana's knee, the young female's eyes half lidded. "Do you think Chren will be alright Mistress?"

Keitana bit back another command for Kaja to stop calling her mistress and focused instead on the question at hand, "As long as he knows your safe, Chren will survive. He'll find a way to get back to you. You know it."

Kaja nods then, her shoulders shake with suppressed tears. How long had it been since Keitana had seen Kaja cry. it seemed like cycles. Was it one year or two. "S'Kaja'a if you change into your Arrahn form I can hold you in my lap. would that make it easier for you?"

Kaja looked up once more and then said in a voice that held no clue of the pain her shaking shoulders said should be there, "You know I can no longer cry Mistress. I lost that ability within a few months of being taken." And that was true, though it angered HIM as much as it suited HIS purpose. Keitana knew that Tegatane had wanted Kaja to rage, to scream, to cry and to fight, instead the young Rin had done what so many abused children did. She hid deep inside herself. Sometimes Keitana wondered if her mind was still whole or if she had split into different people.

Still the Rin shifts from her natural form to that of an Arrahn and does sit in Keitana's lap, her head resting on Keitana's shoulder, and Keitana rocks her gently, crooning to her softly. "I know, S'Kaja'a. I know. Your so very brave. You did good, young one, you did very very good."

"No I didn't Mistress. I am broken and I know it, you know it. And the moment I step off this ship so will...he."

Keitana gritted her teeth again, forced herself to speak softly despite the burning rage she felt. she KNEW that the monster had forced Kaja to watch Keitana's own training and punishments until Kaja would finally give in to that sick bastards twisted demands, if only to buy Keitana a moment's peace. HE took great pleasure in showing Keitana afterwords when she could do nothing about it, and those memories haunted and filled Keitana with the blackest rage. And it only got worse, the price higher, once it was Kaja's serving meekly, tamely. Finally she had to choose which to hunt, a parent or a child.

It was Keitana's most horrified memory, because it was the only time she had been present for when Kaja fought back. She had never seen the young Rin in combat. It was a lesson in why other races sometimes called the Rin demons. 8 limbs working on concert, 4 legs with powerful razor sharp hooves, two wings capable of lifting the body of a Rin twice their own height into the air in one powerful down-stroke. and the strong hands wielding twin knives. The combat had been brutal. Keitana wondered how much more brutal it would be if Kaja was fully adult, and had been trained by her own kind instead of a series of aliens.

It was a lesson to Keitana in just how close to an animal Kaja really was, because in the end Kaja used her powerful hunter's jaws, not on the innocent mother Kovus meant her to, but on the Warlord holding her. A move that nearly killed Kaja.

It wasn't until that moment that Keitana truly understood why Kovus had always been so careful of using his blood and power on Kaja. The effects on the She-Rin had been truly horrifying. it wasn't that it ate at her skin like acid, the effect it had on most beings. It didn't, but rather it reminded Keitana of the one time she had seen someone die of radiation poisoning, but so much faster. Kaja loosing feather and fur in huge clumps whenever anyone touched her. And they had to touch her if they wanted to stop her from killing, or at least attempting to kill, them

And the looks that came across each of their faces. Kaja actually was smiling happily despite the pain, and Tegatane. She didn't have words for the look on his face, but she could hear him call for a medical team immediately. And Kaja fighting to hold them back. If only Keitana had known then what she knew now, she would never have pleaded with her friend to stop and let them help her, let them save Kaja's life.

Such things would fuel Keitana's own rage and grief to almost legendary proportions. she could feel the bitterness in her heart for what HE had done to them both. She had to remember to be strong, for all that Kaja had lived so many years longer, she was still, in the end, so much younger. "I know S'Kaja'a, I know and saw. And believe me, I'll let anyone who thinks your weak know the truth. There are few in the Spirius as strong as you."

Kaja shivers again, but not one drop of wetness was to be felt on Keitana's shoulder. "I'm not strong, I'm weak and I know it."

"Hush S'Kaja'a, Hush. Believe me, you are strong, and you will be free. I promise you that."

Kaja was so strong, stronger than Keitana had given her credit for at first. The battle between her and Tegatane fought on so many levels. Keitana watched her struggle to hold on to her soul, even as Keitana slipped deeper into the monster's clutches. Was it the fact that Kaja was still so childlike that let her hold? She seemed to often stymie Tegatane in her innocence, in her simple faith. Yet Tegatane kept her alive, kept her as healthy as he could, but for what?

Keitana held the shaking Rin child in her arms and whispered again, "Your strong, braver than even I."

But Kaja just shrugged then slowly slipped into sleep. Keitana listened to her breath in her lap and without realizing it she soon followed Kaja into slumber. Hopefully when she wakes up she'll be...home?