Last week's episode ended with Regan learning Max and Addy had been at the incinerator plant. He's not far behind them, now. Will he catch up to them at the Tuniit village? Find out in today's episode.
An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.
Addy had slept in dreamless peace the rest of the day and through the night. When she awoke late the next morning, she shared the midday meal with Ahnah, Yakone, and Max, who seemed distracted with his thoughts. He barely spoke and didn’t make eye contact with her the entire time they ate. Though Max had informed her that Kaskae would supply food for their journey but not transportation, something more seemed to trouble him.
“What’s wrong?” she asked him when they were alone outside.
She folded her arms across her belly, tilted her chin down, and cast her eyes up in an I’m-waiting-for-the-truth pose.
“What do you want, woman?”
“I want to know what the plan is.”
“The plan is to leave tomorrow with or without transportation.” He gazed off into the distance, his eyes revealing more than distraction. Max was annoyed. Angry. “We’ll have to spend another night here. You need the rest anyway.” He strode off to join a group of men, probably to see if anyone had an umiak available for trade.
“Qatqain,” Ahnah called.
Addy turned to face her. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Qatqain. Come. I show you village.”
Addy spent the rest of the day in Ahnah’s village visiting the woman’s friends. Everyplace she went, she was offered food, drink, and lively conversation even though she couldn’t understand anyone except Ahnah when she translated. The Tuniit were a hospitable people and curious about the newcomers.
By the time darkness filled the sky, Ahnah had led Addy up an intertwining path in Ice Mountain. They rounded a corner and stopped at what appeared to be a scenic overlook. Out on the horizon, thousands of lights littered the ground and sky. From this distance, the spacecraft taking off and landing appeared the size of fruit flies. The two crescent moons hung like quotation marks over the Hyborean city.
From here, it all seemed peaceful. You couldn’t tell what was going on inside the city. You couldn’t tell whether there was another HuBReC. You couldn’t tell if a human was free, held against his will, or abused.
Wind rustled loose powder over the ice.
“It’s beautiful,” Addy said.
“Yes.” Ahnah watched the city with longing. She blinked her eyes as if holding back tears.
“You weren’t born a Tuniit.” Her English had been too good to have learned it from passing visitors. Though it was a little broken, she suspected at one point she had spoken it fluently.
Ahnah didn’t look her way. She stared out at the distant city and shook her head. “Was born with High People.”
“How did you come to live in the village?”
“I was little girl when living with High Hyborean family. Hyborean children were good. They fed me. Played with me. One day, my family left and no come back. I was alone. So scared. Long time with no food and no water make me sick. Hyborean find and bring me to shelter. Next family take me home. Meet Kam. Good man.”
From Ahnah’s dreamlike gaze and sad smile, Addy knew she pictured Kam in front of her right now. It was the same look she’d seen from time to time in her mother’s eyes when remembering her lost love.
“But Hyborean children bad. Master bad. They hurt me. Kam protect, but they hurt Kam, too. One night we escape. Get lost in wilderness. A Hyborean find us. Kam hide me in snow bank and tell me stay, he come back for me. He run, and Hyborean chase. I so scared being alone, I not come out from hiding three days. Kam never return.”
Tears slid down Ahnah’s pink cheeks forming tiny crystalline trails. A familiar pain stung Addy’s heart. She, too, had escaped abuse. She also knew exactly what fleeing into a wide-open wilderness felt like. And she knew the pains of loneliness.
“I came out from hiding to find food. But I was cold and tired and fell down in snow, dying. I heard wolves. They stopped nearby, and Hyboreans took me to Tuniit village. I safe now.” She stared out at the city and wiped her tears. “Every day I pray Kam safe, too.”
The loss in Ahnah’s pained voice made Addy’s chest tighten. She wanted to cry for her new friend.
Ahnah’s thick, furry glove flew to her mouth. “I no speak any of this before. Not even Yakone.” Fear and pleading sprang to her eyes. She was scared her husband would find out she still loved another man.
“I won’t tell anyone. I promise. Truth is, you and I aren’t so different.” They both had been taken from their homes and thrown into a cold, heartless world alone. Both carried babies of men they didn’t love. Neither were free.
Wrapping her arm around Ahnah’s shoulders and pulling her close had felt natural, as if they had been friends forever. When Ahnah rested her head on Addy’s shoulder and cried silently, she knew Ahnah had felt the same.
A need Addy couldn’t explain rose within her. When she had come to this planet, she had constructed a dam to hold her emotional reservoir. But the amount of stress forced on that dam had weakened it to near-breaching point. Now, here—under a peaceful night with twinkling lights, both Hyborean and nature made, her arm around a Tuniit woman who was sure to understand—Addy could safely open a spillway to her reservoir.
She told Ahnah her story. All of it. From her abduction and HuBReC to the breeding box and Max. Addy told her about the pregnancy, Duncan and Tess, the Yard and Regan, Xanthrag and Ferly Mor. She told her about the escape, the incinerator plant, Lucky, and the days trekking the frozen wilderness.
Countless lights landed and took to the dark sky while Addy’s spillway became a floodgate.
She left out nothing. She couldn’t. As soon as her mouth opened, her life story poured out, releasing the tension and ache in her muscles, making light her body and spirit, somehow fortifying her with renewed strength and optimism.
What was it about a stranger that allowed a soul to purge?
Meeting Ahnah had been a refreshing gift. “I’m sorry to have unloaded my story on you, but thank you for listening. It really means a lot to me. You’re going to make a great mother.”
Ahnah’s embrace both warmed her soul and scorched it. How was it possible to love her new friend after knowing her for only a day?
Addy turned her head in the direction of approaching footsteps. Light from an oil lamp cast a soft glow on a nice-looking older man. It was Yakone. He picked up his little pregnant wife, and she snuggled into him, making him smile before he carried her away down the darkened mountain.
Addy stretched, stood, and made her own way down the snowy trail, grateful Yakone had left her the lantern. When she neared the base, a shadow crept along the ice cavern’s wall on the path below.
A shiver that had nothing to do with the frigid temperature danced on her spine. The shadow stepped through a beam of moonslight.
Why the heck was Max sneaking around the ice cavern’s entrance?
She dimmed the lantern, hurried down the mountain, and followed him inside.