Actions

Work Header

Eating Your Gods

Work Text:


all peoples are driven / to the point of eating their gods / after a time

 

When the nights were long, and the days were deep, there lived a girl who swallowed a seed.

After that, things go awry.

 

Get up. Get up. Get up.

Everything hurts. Something in her middle is torn; her wrist is probably sprained; her teeth are grinding under the force of whatever it is that threw her head forward. A quick survey of her other injuries irritates her: she can’t feel it under everything else, but she knows the ache is still there, in her ankles, the small of her back. Her lip is split open, a hot sting across her mouth that's healing up even as she worries at it; she’s grazed her shins and chin. She can’t hear anything; somewhere something yawns open with a metallic screech. She feels it stretch wide in her bones. All the blood in her body is throbbing in her belly. She can’t think. It hurts. It fucking hurts.

Get up.

Dimly Kendry knows that the ship is under attack - the force of an explosion had taken her off her feet; she’d slid across the deck of the bridge, caught herself on the console step as the wall came in - and she knows she’s out of time. She has to move. She has to go now. She puts her good hand down on floor, tucks the other arm around herself, gets her knees under her as the ship rocks, hit once, twice in quick succession, braces herself, then gives one good push, up onto her feet, first left, then right before another explosion - her eyes skid over slave Hullen, Black Root, some Gander-like minion somewhere to her right-- makes a grab for the nearest standing surface, misses, keens forward, finds a wall, finds what’s left of the entryway, stumbles, catches herself, and keeps going.

The calvalry is here, but Kendry’s not out yet.

 


“Where’s Kendry?” Stepping out of the green to see Yala’s pet Jaqobis and no sign of Kendry reignites a rarely-banked fire in Aneela’s chest. “Where. Is Kendry?”

“Yeah, about that,” says the taller one, exchanging a grimace with his brother. “You might want to sit down for this.”

 

As the nights are long and the days are deep, Aneela knows she’s broken. Low in the cavern of her chest is a hollow that won’t be filled. Something is missing. Something is wrong. Why else does she still feel so much?

The green should perfect what it finds. It should strengthen what is weak. Every petty feeling in her flesh should shrivel and die, but they won’t. They never do. Whilst others cast off their blights and put aside their desires, Aneela only wants more; hungers more; feels more. It’s been centuries, and she’s never once been sated.

Gander thought she didn’t know her own mind, as though it wouldn’t be clear to her that she’s alone in all this just because there are slave Hullen about. But Aneela knows loneliness; knows it isn’t just an empty cube on a dead moon. Knows it’s about looking someone in the eye and accepting that they don’t see you. You can be loved by someone and still be alone. Papa taught her that.

And then there’s Kendry.

For the first time in many, many moons, Aneela has found someone whose hunger rivals her own, and it only makes her appetite swell. For every move she makes, Kendry counters with one of her own. For every curse, a caress; for every kill, a kiss. She could drink from Kendry’s mouth a hundred times and still be thirsty for more, but it isn’t maddening, not in the same way as the sadness. Aneela’s steered this ship alone for so long that to have an equal by her side is anchoring. She wants to show off to Kendry, show her what she knows about power, and what it means to wield it. She wants to hunt down the impostor and tear her heart out with her hands. She wants to eat her whole, and have Kendry watch; show her, this is what it means to win. This is victory.

To leave the green and find her gone is-- inconceivable. To lose Kendry a second time is not an option. No-one leaves Aneela behind. Not again.

 

“I’m taking your ship,” Aneela snaps, turning to head for the elevator dock. It was blown open when the Jaqobis came to answer Yala’s call, but they’ve buffeted their tin-can ship against the breach in the wall, and used the ship’s environmental controls to re-pressurise Necropolis.

“Like hells you are--” Little Johnny Jaqobi makes the error of blocking her exit, like his paltry half-broken bravado could be any match for her anger.

“--get out of my way!”

Yala’s firm grip stops Aneela from pushing Johnny out of her path. “You don’t touch him. Not ever.” She’s weaker than Aneela, but a lot happened in the green. Aneela grits her teeth in frustration, but relents.

“Anyway,” Yala adds. “We don’t even know where she is.”

“I can find her,” says Aneela. “She’ll be with the fleet. If the Lady has her--”

“--then no offense, but Lucy isn’t going to be much use,” says D’avin. “We need to regroup.”

Johnny scoffs. “And then what? Knock on the RAC, ask for volunteers? ‘Hey, I know we were just fighting a war for our lives but this crazy lady wants to hunt down our would-be conquerors to find the Qreshi bitch who tried to poison and enslave you all’.” He’s an ugly little thing, Aneela thinks. She’d like to crush him underfoot. It wouldn’t take much; just a little pressure at the temple and she could watch his eyes pop out of his skull. It could be fun. Kendry would love it.

“There’s no point,” D’avin says, interrupting her fantasy. “We’d never win against the Hullen fleet. They outnumber us ten thousand to one.”

“All the more reason to think of a better plan.”

Aneela bristles. “I take your ship, I board the fleet, I kill everyone.” She smiles sweetly at her twin. “How’s that for a plan?”

“Maybe we don’t need the whole RAC,” D’avin says. He looks at Yala, as though Aneela isn’t within paces of killing them all. “What if we can get our hands on a Falcon? We could infiltrate the Hullen, get Delle Seyah--”

“--Kendry--”

“--and get out. No mess, no fuss. Like serving a warrant.”

“‘No mess, no fuss?’”

He shrugs at his brother. “Mostly.”

Yala considers this. She takes her time. There’s a scream building behind Aneela’s ribs; like a solar storm it gathers force until her whole body trembles under its sway. She could fell cities like this; her rage is a sonic blast, powerful enough to decimate the J. Every second that passes the distance from here to Kendry grows immeasurably. She’s losing time.

“It’s better than nothing,” Yala says at last.

 

One small omission comes to light when they circle the necropolis and head back for the Quad.

“Why did none of you idiots tell me we still have my ship?

“Honestly?” Johnny says, “I’d kind of forgotten. There’s been a lot going on.”

 

Kendry’s been on three separate and distinct Hullen ships and not a single one of them is uniform in structure. Yes, every way she encounters is bright white; every room seemingly without a ceiling, but no two halls seem to lead the same way. Corridors amass upon corridors with chrome and grey floors and fixtures. It’s maudlin, Kendry thinks. A splash of colour wouldn’t hurt.

She turns a corner; spots a font of green at the far end of the passage.

On second thought…

The Hullen don’t have klaxons or sirens or flashing lights, but in the way of living organisms everywhere, the threat of violence has them running. Kendry is healing slowly, and she has her newfound weight to contend with. Three weeks of pregnancy and she’s still not sure-footed. She misses being able to swan about: balance is such a delicate thing in this state. It’s much harder to make that look alluring when she’s a walking-talking whale.

She hadn’t exactly planned on being captured. After the Jaqobis had jettisoned them all into space, Kendry’s primary concerns were getting back to Aneela’s ship without suffocating from a lack of air, and getting back to Aneela full stop. Two hours later, Yalena’s puppies proving as useless as she’d always assumed, Kendry was struggling against the hold of the Lady’s Black Root soldiers. Gods only know what happened to the Jaqobis.

She had thought the Lady might have her killed, or at least instruct her slave Hullen to infuse her with new green, but they hadn’t. Instead she’d been kept away from the bridge, not exactly in comfort, but free to move about as she pleased. It’s a ship full of Ganders, squirrel-faced men who look down on her when they cross paths, but mostly don’t look at her all. Kendry’s not stupid; she knows she’s bait. But with Aneela and Yalena in the green, Aneela disappearing under without a glance backwards, there’s been a lot of things keeping her awake at night. Not to mention she’s not exactly comfortable this close to full term.

It doesn’t matter; it must be Aneela knocking at the door, and if the Hullen in the fleet aren’t putting down their arms, then whatever happened when she went into the green didn’t fall in their favour.

The Hullen fleet is ten thousand strong at a passing guess; Aneela’s armada numbers only a fraction of that, assuming they all made it out of the attack on the Quad. Certainly the cruiser is still operational if the volleys sending shock through the ship are any indication, but Kendry doesn’t know if Aneela knows she’s here, or if this is a fluke. It won’t take long for the Lady’s fleet to assemble, and after that it doesn’t matter what Aneela can do with the green. The window is small. That’s fine; Kendry works well under pressure. The plan is simple: get on; get out.

As the slave Hullen scramble to fortify their position, Kendry decides to head down to the bowels of the ship. If she can get to the cargo hold, there might be a way out - or, more helpful, a way in. She’s certain she’s not injured anymore, but gods, her belly is still wracked with pain. It comes in intermittent waves, pours from her navel down and out. Every time it happens, she has to pause to catch her breath; stop from crying out. How do those Leithian chattel do this, Kendry wonders; it’s like taking a shiv to the gut except once the blade goes in it sweeps an arc across her insides and tries to make its way back out again. “Come on,” she grits out, “get on; get out.”

There’s a maintenance shaft nearby; a ladder that leads up to the hull, and down just as far to the dock. Between volleys and contractions, she takes hold of the metal rung and pulls down sharply, once, twice, a third time before it unlocks and extends.

“Mother always said,” she reminds herself, hauling herself upright, “if you want something doing, you have to do it yourself.” One hand on the upper rung, the other fisted in her skirts, she puts one foot on the ladder, and the other another rung down. Thank the gods her hands weren’t tied. She’d never have got this far if they were. It’s slow work, but she can do it, one searching step at a time. Metal shudders around her, but she ignores it. Step, get on; step, get out; again and again, down into the gut of the ship.

 

“So… what are your plans?” D’avin asks. “For the baby, I mean.”

Aneela cuts a glance at him across the bridge. Somewhere to the aft, Johnny is interrogating Dutch about their time in the green. Outside, her fleet is making inroads on the enemy Hullen. It probably shouldn’t be this easy. She doesn’t care.

“I’m just saying, this place doesn’t seem equipped? For children?”

“Why do you care?” she has to ask.

“Well,” he shrugs again. For all his military practice, D’avin Jaqobi has a nervous tick. He carries it ungainly in his shoulders. It’s less a manner of shrugging as it is an expansive roll of muscle designed to convey minimum investment, but the effort it must take belies his intent. Humans are so strange, she thinks. So many unnecessary details. So much embarrassment. “I mean, it’s my kid.”

“So?”

“So, fathers have rights.”

Aneela thinks about her father, and everything that he did to her - for her, ostensibly, though it never felt like that at the time. She thinks about Yalena; how she birthed herself out of the green. How she did it because she could, not because she should. She thinks about how well Yala kills; how strong she is. All because Khlyen loved them so well. It’s cruel, she thinks, what a father can do.

Everything falls, Kendry had said, from fathers to empires.

“It’s not your baby.”

D’avin scoffs. “It’s my DNA; it’s my baby.”

“It’s my DNA,” Aneela counters, “but it’s Kendry’s baby. Gander made her a vessel without stopping to ask her first. The least we can do is respect what she wants.”

Jaqobi inhales as if to answer, then stops. He tips his head in another odd shrug, considering and acquiescing in one gesture. This time it’s all face and no arms. What a strange creature. Aneela can’t understand Yala’s affection for these boys. They’re so...pedestrian.

Outside the ship, something explodes spectacularly. Aneela feels rather than sees Yala approach.

“Cutting it a bit close, aren’t we?”

“Should I show mercy?” Aneela asks, tone biting.

“You can’t save her if you blow her up first.” Yala answers. She turns to look at the Jaqobis. “Gear up. We’re going in.”

Aneela grabs her wrist. “Not without me.”

“Then get it together.” Yala steps into her space, feral and keen. “I didn’t come all this way to babysit your anger issues. You owe me, so reel it in.” She jerks her arm out of Aneela’s grip and turns away. “Let’s do this already.”

 

Papa liked to tell folk tales, and Aneela likes to hear them. The first time she entered the green, that’s what she thought it was: a world made up of all Papa’s tales. A place where desire manifests. There was a voice there, deep in the green, that called to her. A mother of sorts.

She was wrong about that.

Funnily enough, Kendry has stories of her own, all variations on a theme. It seems it was a Qreshi custom of old, to pass down history in myth.

“When the nights were long--”

“--and the days were deep…” Kendry laughs into the bed sheets. “I didn’t know the Hullen told stories.”

“We don’t,” says Aneela. She pauses. “I do.”

Kendry looks at her, the space between them in the bed a kind of green place in itself. It’s quiet there, and still, unlike so much of the universe. Aneela has seen so much of space, and nowhere has there been stillness like this.

“Tell me a story,” says Kendry, reaching tenderly for her face. “Tell me something new. Something you keep from the green.”

And so Aneela does. Mouth to Kendry’s skin she tells all of Papa’s stories one way or another, though sometimes she changes the details as they suit her. Not every story has a father; not every story needs one. Sometimes she breathes them as Kendry falls to sleep; sometimes she presses them to the secret folds of Kendry’s body - the nape of her neck; the valley of her breasts; the back of her knee. On one occasion she whispers them to the rising swell of Kendry’s belly, but Kendry shifts away when that happens; tries to cover her growing discomfort.

They haven’t spoken about the baby, only that Kendry is all of Aneela’s theories come true, but Aneela knows: she wouldn’t have chosen this of her own volition. The Qreshis developed curious ideas about childbirth after the War of the Nine. Hullen, of course, have no feelings on the matter either way, but Aneela does.

There are many ways to be born, she thinks, and the last two didn’t work out for her.

 

It’s five floors to the basin of the cruiser, and Kendry feels every step down to her bones, doubly so every time it ship takes another hit. What she knows about Hullen architecture is actually fairly detailed: she learned a lot from her lessons with Aneela, and the green is abundant with specifics. She knows the ship class, and its sum total of Falcons; she knows its propulsion system and how to access life support. She could even pilot it given the need. What she doesn’t know is where they are; whether they’re still in the J or beyond its boundaries; whether she can pilot a Falcon; how to get free.

She could ask. She’s seen enough pools of green, but the green on this ship belongs to the Lady, and Kendry can’t risk it, not when her own tin of green was confiscated on arrival. Aneela never told her enough about how the green functions to be sure that she wouldn’t give herself away in the process. Its sentience is apparent only when bonded with a human host, but even by itself it contains a world of data. No, not data; memory. The green is a living repository for our collective Hullen memories. We transfer all our experiences, all our knowledge into it. But not everything of Aneela’s was in the green, which meant there was an element of control to it; the pilot still plotted the course.

“It’s function, not feeling,” Aneela had said. “The Hullen have no need of emotion. It clutters thought. Every experience is objective when you take events as they are.” She’d caressed the surface of the green with a kind of yearning. “You’ll learn that soon enough. Everything will become… simple.”

Kendry doesn’t know if that’s true, or it’s just taking longer because she’s been fused with Aneela’s green instead of the ultimate source. Sometimes she thinks about what Gander took from her, and her whole body riots. But the Kendrys were a practical people. Did she expect to be pregnant? No, not in a million years. Is she she anyway? Yes, and as far as she can see, there’s no way around that. So she accepts it. No point crying over the immutable.

Somewhere above, something breaks; more metal yawns as it falls under its own weight. The volleys haven’t stopped. Something is wrong, she knows it like she knows her right hand. The cruiser shouldn’t be taking this kind of damage. Aneela’s armada is awesome but it’s nothing compared to rest of the Hullen fleet. Maybe she and Yala had won some minor victory after all. There are no guarantees, though, and Kendry is running out of time. Sooner or later she’ll come across one of the Ganders, and then she’ll lose any advantage she has.

She makes the decision to find a Falcon. Even if Aneela doesn’t come for her, she can fly her own way out. It can’t be that difficult. The sooner she gets away, the safer she’ll be, and if she can get off this damn cruiser, then Aneela can blow it to hell for all she cares. Whatever happens, she needs to go now--

Silence.

It takes a moment for Kendry to understand what that means, and then it’s too late. She pauses just a moment to see if it’s all over, and then she hears something dock in the landing bay; the tell-tale snap and rush of air as the bay decompresses and atmospheric controls realign. The cruiser is still protesting; broken wires spark off nearby, but otherwise it’s quiet. Everything comes to a stop.

Then all hell breaks loose.

 

In theory, the plan is simple: get in; get Kendry; get out.

In reality… well.

The moment they dock, Aneela sees red. There’s been an itch at the back of her skull ever since she exited the green, and it’s been growing every second she continues to be away from Kendry. It festers in her stomach, a curdling, burrowing hunger for blood.

She can hear Yalena calling her back; hears an array of weapons fire somewhere behind her scattershot across her violent trail as she steps over the threshold and into the dock. One of the Jaqobis yells. In front, a swarm of Black Root soldiers, each one petty and insignificant. The green in their veins sings like a bird at dawn, and Aneela reaches out, cuts off its song with barely a thought. No, she thinks, and death, indiscriminate in her search for Kendry. If the Hullen in front of her aren’t who she wants, she dispatches them. Bodies crumple to the floor like banks in a flood. Aneela steps over them; on them. Nothing matters but her destination.

From here to the heart of the ship there must be a hundred soldiers or more, each one under the Lady’s thrall, and every single one is dispensable. Most will heal, and those that don’t - they don’t matter to Aneela. She is the storm. It feels good to flex her muscles, like the work matters. There’s an ache in her shoulder that disappears before it’s begun; a burn across her left side where she’s struck by weapons fire that soon fades to obscurity. The Black Root come at her in waves, and she takes them down, scatters them, makes them run like rats from a sinking ship. Oh, desire is heady and cleansing. Nothing can stop her.

Yala cries out, cutting clean through Aneela’s focus, one searing, plaintive shout-- “Aneela, stop!

Too late. What Aneela can do with the green is unparalleled, or so she’s been told time and again, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be tricked. Papa did it to her so often, and even Yala hid herself in plain sight. Aneela doesn’t always see the wood for the trees, because she cares for neither. She only knows what’s in front of her, and usually what’s in front is benign. No-one has power like Aneela’s, but power isn’t the only thing a queen needs.

It was too easy to get on board. Too easy to find the fleet; even easier still to subdue the cruiser. Of course they took Kendry; Aneela’s only weakness is her loneliness, and that stretches back to Arkyn, back to Qresh, back to days when she put her feet in the sand of the shores of Qreshi tides and told Papa she was running away. Everyone leaves, eventually. Everyone is taken from her. She poured her sadness into the green, hoping it would take it away, and it never did. Aneela is full to overflowing with feeling, and every feeling is rooted in her misery. If you take something from her, she will hunt to take it back, every time. Aneela is jealous of those she considers her own.

It was too easy to get on board.

It takes a moment for the confusion to lift, and then she sees what Yala has already seen: Kendry, furious and impotent, held back by the Black Root, head pulled back, spike to the base of her throat. She looks tired, and ripe, belly fit to burst. She looks scared.

Aneela looks every soldier in the eye one by one until she settles on the Hullen officer holding the spike.

“Commander Aneela,” he greets, as though this is a diplomatic effort. “What a pleasure to receive you. She’s been waiting for you, you know.” He doesn’t mean Kendry, even as he holds her life in his hands. “We have something you want, and you are something we want. Why not be civil?”

“I will end you,” she answers, as sweet as the night is long.

“Of course,” says the officer, pleasant as a blue sky. “But for now, if you would? Please follow me.”

 

There is a science to the Hullen’s lack of empathy. As part of the bonding process with the human host, the the plasma does neural damage to the hypothalamus and the insular cortex. It kills a capacity for kindness whilst redirecting the brain’s capacity for communication. What a thing Hullen is: to kill connections whilst attempting to build them.

Kendry feels a healthy amount of fear, and she’s never liked to lose. She comes from a long line of people who know that when the options are kill or be killed, you don’t have to strike first, but you do have to strike best. Never let it be said that Kendry won’t get her hands dirty. The muck of the world is beneath her, but she’s a practical girl. Qreshi politics were an endless race to the top, and Delle Seyah that was didn’t care who she stepped on to get there. Aneela had scoffed at what she called Kendry’s ‘little intrigues’ but the fact is, she likes games. She’s good at them. With her eyes on the prize, she isn’t easily distracted. It’s why she excelled in her position amongst the Nine. Whilst the others kept to their petty squabbles, drawing alliances left and right, Kendry knew all truces were temporary. Sooner or later she would have to choose: Qresh or Land Kendry.

No choice. Too easy.

Aneela has a kind of tunnel vision. If you put what she wants in front of her, it’s the only thing she sees. Often what she wants is simple - a friend; her father; vengeance. For a while Kendry wanted to be sure that she was the only thing that Aneela would see, because then their desires could align. She hadn’t counted on that being so true. Now she knows that she and Aneela are the same. They had both lost something a long time ago and it had cut a hole where their hearts should be. Aneela had asked about it once, in the space between them in their bed.

“You’re awfully young for a queen, aren’t you?”

“I get that a lot.”

“Where are your people, Kendry? Where is your Papa? Your mother?”

“Gone,” she’d said, thinking of Mother at the end. What use was her crown on her deathbed? “Dead. It doesn’t matter.”

Aneela, sensing her distress, had cradled her close. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is now. What matters is us,” and then she’d slipped her fingers between Kendry’s lips until she met her teeth, and Kendry bit down, tasting flesh, and salt, and life, and she’d changed too.

She wants Aneela - Qresh, the Quad and Hullen be damned.

 

“I really hate standoffs,” Kendry says, head still pulled sharply back. The Black Root have taken them all to a chamber in the heart of the cruiser, a room as big as the bridge but without windows. In the centre there’s a pool of green so wide you’d need a bridge to reach the other side. Its surface ripples even without a breeze.

She can see Yalena from the corner of her eye, tousled up with D’avin on the floor, bleeding from her mouth and a reedy cut by her eye. Johnny must be close by, too. Where there’s Yalena, there’s always her pet Jaqobi. “Stalemate is boring, and breaking it always hurts someone’s feelings.” Kendry scoffs, as much as she can, all false bravado, her stomach in her throat. “It’s so messy.”

Someone jostles her to the ground, mindless of her belly; she looks up to see Aneela across the green, so close to how they’d first met that it confuses her for a moment. Aneela is seething, hands behind her back, resisting the hands that are trying to push her to the green. So close, and still so far. Kendry can feel a soldier standing at her back, just like before. The deja vu is startling.

Aneela only ever sees what’s in front of her, but Kendry’s sight is long.

It’s never sat right with her that the Black Root let her roam as she pleased. Not a one of them has ever tried to harm her. Even dead she made good enough bait, so why keep her alive? Her hands are never tied; her feet are free to wander. Even now, pressed to the floor, it’s only a hand that keeps her there, a firm grip, to be sure, but just a hand, not a prod, not a taser. They don’t want to harm her. They need her.

“When the nights were long and the days were deep, there lived a girl who swallowed a seed.”

Aneela looks up, surprised.

“The seed would grow a tree, and that tree would birth a forest,” says Kendry, “and in that forest would live a people for a thousand, thousand years.” She looks at Aneela and wills her to understand; braces herself against the floor; clenches her fists, her teeth, her gut. Her eyes burn with unshed tears; she’s shaking. She can’t stop. Her belly hurts, fuck it hurts so damn much, but Kendry doesn’t blink, just looks at Aneela; bores into her eyes from across the green.

“A wicked witch wanted the tree for her own, so she sent an army to take the girl from all that she knew - her home, her love, her queen.” Her hands are sweating; she feels hot all over, and desperate. Her chest hurts; her head aches. Every part of her is ringing with alarm. “And in the girl, the seed grew every day, until it wasn’t a seed but a sapling.”

There’s a flash of understanding in Aneela’s eyes.

“Dig it out. Cut it out from the root. Do it now!”

Kendry springs up, smacks her head back into the soldier’s unsuspecting face, and makes a grab for the shock spike at his side. Aneela pounces; all around her bones break. It’s a free-for-all. Yalena rolls to her side, then flips to her feet, hands still bound but able to move, and it’s something, it’s enough for her to catapult into a Black Root soldier and throw him sprawling into the ones behind him.

The lights go out.

“Johnny,” Yalena gasps, “you magnificent bastard. Come and get us!”

When they come back up, the board has changed. Aneela is flat on her back, the Hullen officer at her throat, resisting her overwhelming strength. There’s five Black Root soldiers at his side, pinning her down. Yalena and D’avin are back to back, guns drawn, and Kendry--

Kendry has her back to the far wall, spike in hand, pressed right up against her navel.

“Stop!” That’s the officer. “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

“I didn’t ask to be a mother,” says Kendry. “I honestly don’t think I’d be that good at it.” She presses a little harder, despite the pain. “I could kill this baby right now and swim into the green until I heal, and it wouldn’t bother me one bit. But you,” she guesses wildly, “you’d be in a lot of trouble I think.”

“Kendry,” and there’s D’avin Jaqobi with his hokk’s worth. “Think about what you’re doing.”

“They put a baby in a timebomb, D’av,” Yalena mutters. “What did you think was going to happen?”

“Hullen conquer because they can’t procreate,” says Kendry, “and out on the corner of the J someone worked out how to poison your well.” She thinks of what she knows about the failed conversion in the Quad; bristles at all that doomed history. “You need to know if this child is viable. You need to know for the future of the Hullen.”

“You’re forgetting something,” says the officer. “You are Hullen.”

“No,” says Kendry, holding Aneela’s gaze once more, searching deep and finding all the assurance she needs. “I’m a goddamned queen, and I command you to let. Her. Go.”

 

When the nights were long, and the days were deep, there lived a girl with love in her heart.

This isn’t her story, but it goes the same way.

end.