Chapter Thirteen - Escape from Lord Nkume

Under the guise of capturing her, Agda had locked Zia and her brothers in the cage with Dala. Zia doubted the cage could hold her but she expected that Matya would be able to get her out either way. Matya had always been good at breaking Zia out of bad situations. So Zia was surprised when Agda came back with two strange aliens---who were dragging an unconscious and limp Matya between them. The two aliens threw Matya into the cage with Zia without a word, where Zia quietly fumed. She was, however, glad not to have to go and find Matya while the rest of them were making an escape. Their escape would have to be quick. Plus, Matya could break out anything, and Agda and Dala seemed trustworthy.

Agda and Dala had already come up with a plan for escaping, although they were struggling to find a way to keep Lord Nkume from pursuing them. Zia quietly hoped that Chardesh would swoop in and keep Lord Nkume busy, if only to keep her from harm. That was a gamble, though, so Zia and Matya would have to get the boys back to Chandara as quickly as possible. Their home planet had remained undetected for this long, so hopefully it would be not be on Lord Nkume's radar.

When Matya woke, Zia told her the plan. Matya immediately objected.

"We're not taking these two Domad, Agda and Dala, back to Chandara with us," she said, shocked even at the idea.

"The Domad are actively looking for Chandara. They will find it sooner or later. At least these two only want to go to Chandara because it is the only place that Ani'lli and Rielly will be safe," Zia said, "Even you can't accuse Dala of wanting to conquer Chandara."

"I don't worry that they will conquer Chandara, Zia, I am worried they will be killed," Matya insisted, "Or worse, that you will be killed for treason. Bringing any Domad back to Chandara could well be considered treason considering the legends."

"The Queen will reward the two Domad for protecting her lost children. She'll probably kill the ones responsible for taking the boys from her in the first place. I'm taking my brothers back to Chandara," Zia said, firmly, "Whether I stay or not is another matter. I am just going to drop them off, hand them and you over to my mother, the Queen, and then return to Chardesh."

"What are you talking about?" Matya all but screeched.

Zia sighed, "I promised Chardesh that I would come back if he let me escape."

Matya screamed her frustration wordlessly.

Dala brought them clothes similar to those that many of the backstage hands were wearing. During the night they changed into rough cotton shirts and pants, dark leather jackets, gloves, and tall, heeled boots. They looked just like Dala and Agda, except Matya and the boys were more slender.

"Let's go," Agda said, pulling them from their cages and pushing them forward, "Quickly."

They had already fine tuned the plan and the little rag tag group made their way quickly and quietly towards the hanger was. Agda had already prepared the ship that Zia and Matya had arrived in for departure, and had stocked it for the long trip. Matya had revealed that she could get them back to Chandara, although she was still truly angry with Zia for her secret agenda.

All Zia would say to her now was that she had a plan and that everything would be alright in the end. Matya had to try to have faith in Zia---but faith was not coming to her easily.

They got to the hanger without anyone noticing them. Naturally, that good luck did not last long.

An alien started to cry out in alarm with a sound that reminded Zia of a food animal back home. Looking for the sound, she saw that the creature had the hard pointed mouth of an Aveia, a bird common on Chandara, although unlike the Aveia's, that she knew, this creature was featherless. Its skin reminded Zia of old, wrinkled leather. She struck the alien Aveia abruptly, striking it in the throat. The cry of alarm was choked off instantly and it crumpled to the floor.

The short screech was enough, however, to alert three other mutant Aveia's that were huddled on the top of a high rafter. One swooped down towards Zia immediately, but Matya leapt at it before it even touched her. Matya sunk claws, fangs, and teeth into it as she took it down to the floor. The sound of tearing flesh and a screeching cry followed.

Adga was rushing Dala and the boys to the ship, but Zia saw him look back at the two of them. Of course, Zia thought, he can't leave without us because he doesn't know where we're going. The other two Aveia creatures swooped down at Zia and she felt the beak of one clamp down on one arm, before the second alien bird clamped down hard on her other arm.

They lifted her high into the air and then dropped her. Zia laughed and she twisted her body, without even thinking about it. Her tail and her senses helped to balance her automatically and, as her training had taught her, she landed elegantly on all fours before hissing her displeasure.

Agda returned after getting Dala and the boys safely onto the ship. He held up his weapon and shot one of the alien birds with the quick crackle of an electric shock. It crashed down to the floor immediately, but it began to scream relentlessly.

Zia considered launching herself into the air to take down the last Aveia, but decided it wasn't worth it. The creature attached itself to the wall and turned its head back to look at her and screamed. Zia smiled unpleasantly as she, Matya, and Agda rushed inside the ship. Dala must have already been at the controls because as soon as the door closed behind them the ship began to move.

"That will not go unnoticed," Matya said, blood staining her fangs and covering her mouth. She wiped at her face with one lightly furred arm.

"No," Zia snarled, "It won't."

Zia swore fervently in Sadesathis as Matya continued to clean her face roughly with her arm. She was well used to Zia's outbursts after a fight did not go the way she wanted it to and no one else on the ship understood the language of the Wildlands. For Zia it was more natural to swear in Sadesathis because she'd spent so much of her life traveling through the Wildlands.

Before running into the Domad, Zia and Matya had most often spoken in the royal language because it was the language that Matya was most comfortable speaking. Besides that, part of Zia's training required her to speak both Chandaran languages fluently so speaking with Matya in the royal language was Matya's way of making sure Zia stayed fluent.

But now, Matya reflected, so much had changed that she wondered if it mattered what language they spoke. Matya was very close to losing her faith in anything these days.

Matya piloted the ship long after everyone else retired to sleep. She had thought long and hard about the situation they were in. She had reconsidered and changed her mind and reconsidered and changed it---over and over again. It was the two boys that had given her hope and returned her faith again. The two had been through so much and yet they still possessed a kind and gentle nature.

Seeing Dala interact with the two zharli, each one a noble son, left Matya thoroughly doubtful of the Domad's evil nature. Her mannerisms with the two boys had spoken to Matya of love and great care.

Matya knew about conquering nations but she also knew that the Domad were growing steadily older and weaker. She began to plan on what could be done to keep the Domad, as a nation, from being too dangerous. She knew that the Domad would find Chandara eventually now that Chardesh knew that he needed to look for it---and the other one, Palmad, had seen enough of the ship's system that it was only a matter of time before they figured out roughly where to find it.

So, with deep regret, Matya let go of any ideas she had about trying to prevent the Domad from reaching Chandara. In fact, she began to entertain the idea that it might be in the best interests of all Chandarans for the Domad to discover the little planet soon.

The Domad were a dying race, for the moment. They were dying slowly, but without a planet to enable the survival of the species it was only a matter of time.

"Matya," Zia came up cautiously and quietly beside her. Matya continued to stare at the stars via the dash of the ship. She was really looking at a live video feed of the space around them. The screen stretched around the circular room from floor to ceiling, showing a complete view of the area around the ship, but opposite the door were the controls of the ship. The Domad ship had had raised controls, within arm's reach of a standing Domad soldier.

The Chandaran ship had nearly identical controls, the only real difference being that on this ship the controls were on the floor in front of round, fat cushions.

"We need to devise a plan, a strategy, that will allow the Domad and our own people to coexist in harmony," Matya said, quietly.

Zia nodded solemnly, "I know. I had thought to ask you what you might think of Chardesh. It may be in the best interests of Chandara to form an alliance with him, and through him the rest of his race."

"Only if he is the most valuable link you can forge," Matya cautioned, "And what kind of alliance can you offer him?"

"I can offer him myself. He desires to pass on his genetics, to gain power. Being married to a female of childbearing age who can have children will give him status within his society. If I can bear his children I can have a hold on him," Zia explained, "He is not an unwise choice. He has rank and privilege among the Domad people. I spoke to Dala and she was most helpful.

His mother gained power because she was the last female to give birth to a child. She used that short-lived status to marry one of the most powerful men in the Domad government, one of the Generals. Chardesh was raised as if he was the son of this General, though biologically he is not."

"It may be wise," Matya said, cautiously, "Have you mentioned this possibility for an alliance to him?"

"No, I only just discovered he had such a high rank among his people," Zia told her.

The two of them were quiet for a moment.

"Even if we do create such a small alliance with the Domad people we will need more," Matya said, "Chardesh is not a General, only the son of one. What else can we do?"

"We can try to explain everything to my mother, the Queen," Zia sighed, "We can only hope she will quickly see a solution to the Domad problem that will not destroy both of our peoples."

"That is one option," Matya said, "I had considered the possibility that the reason the Domad cannot survive on other planets might be for the same reason we Chandarans would not be able to reproduce on another planet. Do you know if the Domad had a creature similar to the Rasarara on their home planet, before it was destroyed?"

"They had legends of similar creatures," Zia supplied, "But why? I never knew Chandarans could not reproduce off-planet."

Matya smiled bitterly, "It was discovered because of the meteor that destroyed most of the other continents. We used to have Chandarans on both sides of our planet and not just one. After the meteor we could not have children on that continent, even though other species returned there successfully."

"Do we know why?" Zia asked, "Was it because of the Rasarara?"

"It was because of the Rasarara," Matya confirmed, "Without our cousins we would slowly die, as the Domad are slowly dying. It is one of the reasons we worship the Rasarara and call them literally Mother-Father. Something in the Rasarara makes the food on our planet sustain our reproductive systems. Even those who have studied it don't know exactly what it is that the Rasarara do, or have, or create but the effects cannot be denied. Where there are no Rasarara there can be no other Chandarans."

"So, the same may have been true of the Domad, although probably to a lesser extent," Zia said.

"We can reproduce without the Rasarara for some time, or with very few Rasarara," Matya added, "But a complete lack of them for years would be devastating to our numbers. With that knowledge one of our previous Queens forbade even the attempt at reproduction off-planet. It is another reason why Chandarans do not travel much throughout space."

"So, all we need to do is to give the Domad a few Rasarara?" Zia asked.

Matya shook her head, "The Domad will still want a planet, just to be safe."

"They wouldn't even like Chandara," Zia muttered, "It's wet and hot and humid nearly everywhere. The Domad prefer deserts."

Matya's eyes lit up, "Saikatara is a desert across nearly the entire planet. We could send the Domad there with some of the Rasarara, enough to start a new family line of the Rasarara. That would be about six hundred, which would put a small dent in the populace of our cousins."

"That's an enticement, but how will we convince them that Saikatara will allow them to reproduce? The Domad will know that they can reproduce on Chandara but they will not know the same thing about Saikatara," Zia said, then thought of something else, "And can we even convince the Rasarara to join the Domad on Saikatara?"

"We will have to convince them both somehow," Matya replied, "If Chardesh is willing to form the alliance you suggested perhaps part of the agreement should be that he will have to have his children born on Saikatara."

"Will I be able to do that?" Zia asked.

"Yes," Matya replied, "So long as we plan it right. It will take excellent timing. We'll have to keep you among the Rasarara for as much as possible while transforming Saikatara into a livable planet. If the Queen agrees to it we should be able to accomplish it before the Domad become desperate enough to wipe out all Chandarans in a bid for our planet."

"We have to try," Zia said, "It's the only plan we have. We need to get back to Chandara as soon as possible and contact the Queen."

"I've already set our course," Matya said, "I made the decision to take your brothers home when we first set eyes on them. I just couldn't admit it."

"Everything will work out, Matya," Zia said, placing her hand delicately on Matya's back. Smiling, Zia butted her head against her dearest friend's shoulder. Matya smiled as well, rubbing her cheek against the top of Zia's mane of hair. Scenting Zia was both a mark of Matya's protection of her and also of her love.