Unchained


Chapter 1: Detour

Three moons were already climbing the dusky violet sky, and Ylana sat amongst the blue-veined ferns, watching with bated breath as the beautiful Nara bathed in the crystalline pool below.

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 @  FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Engaged to Jidan since early childhood, Ylana had been raised to follow the path of responsibility: marriage, multiple children, and a requirement of ten retirement years spent as a Kryllian host.  Sentenced to a life spent in the service of everyone but herself, her path was the precise opposite of everything that Nara’s life as a space renegade represented.

Nara already made her proposal, and Ylana need only climb inside that sleek starship to accept the adventures that always eluded her.  Close friends said that such actions were only a detour, that she must eventually accept her fate, but Ylana knew that some detours could last a lifetime.



Chapter 2: The Token

Ylana watched the ancient pendant, the ornamentation of Jidan’s clan proclaiming that she’d been pledged to him and him alone, tumble through space on its way into the upper atmosphere. 

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The pendant, carved from pewter-colored stone and fashioned to look like a gnarly tree, was also the symbol of the plague that swept the surface of the Rellian world millennia ago, destroying half the vegetation on the planet and threatening all life as a result.  The Kryllians offered them a cure in exchange for the right to take female host bodies from the chosen clans.

When the adult Jidan fastened the chain around Ylana’s neck on her fifth birthday, he whispered to her, “You are flawed, as we all are flawed, but you will find new life and be made whole through your sacrifice and devotion.”

Sitting beside Nara in the cockpit, Ylana recited her own ceremonial words: “I will make myself whole through my own choices and actions, so I return this token to my world in the hope that its charred remains may one day be reborn as something new and good.”



Chapter 3: Healing Hands

“There’s a lot of magic in this universe, but there are still no potions to fix the most agonizing of ailments,” Nara said softly as she stood at the galley counter, carefully stirring a cup of assorted wild berries and herbs that was supposed to cure a variety of infections.
Photo prompt taken from Lillie.
Originally obtained from here.

Ylana watched from her seat at the table, marveling at the level of expertise Nara exhibited in her work, along with the other traits that distinguished them from one another.  These women were from such different worlds, which could easily be determined by comparing Nara’s braided white hair and green skin with Ylana’s lack of body hair and light brown skin.

Nara was Hyposian, which meant she grew up learning herbal cures and how to apply a healer’s hands to everything and everyone she met.  She traveled the stars and delivered her cures to those who would have none otherwise, and Ylana silently wondered what contribution she could make to the universe now that she had so much open to her.




Chapter 4: Where To?
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When Nara pulled up the star charts in the cockpit, Ylana was entranced by the glowing red, blue, and green holographic lines, their elegant curves, and the way the light danced across the console.  With deft fingers, Nara pulled up a file that slowly cycled through different star systems in the neighboring regions, studying each one for particular qualities before moving on to the next one.

“Have you been to all these places?” Ylana asked, in awe that such a plethora of worlds could even exist.

“Most of them, yes, because at the end of the day, everyone needs some form of remedy or another.”  Then, with a nod and a satisfied smile, Nara added, “Here’s a good candidate for trade.”




Chapter 5: Hosting

At age ten, Ylana helped her mother pin her grandmother to the living room floor while a doctor pulled out a syringe containing the viscous blue sludge that represented the Kryllian parasite, another obligation thrust upon the women of the Imbara caste.

The doctor injected the foreign organism through the immobilized woman’s nostril, and as it attached itself to her central nervous system, she began to tremble uncontrollably. 

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“It’ll all be over soon,” the doctor assured Ylana, who had turned pale with horror at the sight, but everyone in that room knew this was a lie.

From that point on, the parasite used her grandmother’s genetic material to create new Kryllian parasites, which had to be removed from her body twice a year, and though the limit for hosthood was set at ten years, many couldn’t endure the demands of this grueling process for that long.

Ylana watched as her beloved grandmother’s body failed system by system, until seven years later the doctor returned to perform the final removal procedure, which ended with the medical man toting away the healthy Kryllian while the ravaged woman died on the floor.



Chapter 6: Business Plans

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Ylana ran the body brush over her hairless scalp, fashioning elaborate swirls of decoration from purple, yellow, orange, green, red and pink paints.  The business of the day would take them to the planet Nevaris, and she wanted to look her best when she set foot on an alien world for the first time.

“We’re going to be landing in a few minutes,” Nara announced from the open doorway of Ylana’s modest quarters.  “I’m sure this has to be exciting for you.”

With a nod and a conspiratorial grin, Ylana replied, “Nevaris is home to the greatest enemy of the Kryllians, so I have the feeling I’m going to be learning a lot more there than how to get the best trade for your medicinal skin cream.”



Chapter 7: Feasting

The main marketplace in the Nevarian capitol teemed with life from all over the sector, and Ylana only recognized a fraction of the species they encountered as they walked.  The Nevarians ran many of the shops and food stands they passed, and the odors of exotic roasting vegetables and meats teased Ylana’s senses so much that her stomach began to rebel.
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Noticing the obvious allure the food held over her companion, Nara pointed to a particular stand.  Pointing to the rotund, blue-skinned occupant, who was adorned in a flowing gold robe and an abundance of jewels, she said, “This is N’Goteth, and he’ll have you feasting for days on the amazing food he makes.”

As Ylana began to peruse the various breads and soups N’Goteth had to offer in his cart, Nara leaned over and whispered in her ear, “He also hates the Kryllians more than you do.”




Chapter 8: After Hours

Nara spent the rest of the day peddling her cures to stand owners (almost all of whom already knew her), and most purchased something without a second thought, confident these herbal cures could resell for a worthwhile profit.  Ylana was undoubtedly in awe that her friend indeed had a such a good reputation in this alien world, but she also found herself blissfully lingering on what N’Goteth told her before they walked away.
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After Nara proposed that they all get together for dinner that night, N’Goteth had turned to Ylana and offered her a wink.  Though this was a gesture that traditionally came from men who were trying to catch her eye with a bit of fun in mind, she sensed something more from this man who apparently shared the same goal she did.  “It would be a joy to meet after hours with such a lovely escaped Kryllian slave, especially since I’m sure we’d have so much to talk about,” he said with a smile.




Chapter 9: Time

“Growing up, I realized that time is the most precious commodity of all, and all of mine was already claimed by others,” Ylana explained as she wiped the corner of her mouth with a napkin.

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Flickr
N’Goteth nodded, his bulbous yellow eyes betraying a distinct glint.  “The Kryllians are experts at allotting the lives of others to satisfy their own devious ends, and your race is not the only one to learn that the hard way.”

“His people were once like yours,” Nara explained, her lips stretched thin in a smile, “but they broke their bonds with the Kryllians when they learned a crucial secret.”

Ylana’s heart jumped, and she leaned over the little food-filled table and whispered, “Like I said, time is precious, and I think it’s about time I learned this secret of yours.”



Chapter 10: The Devotion

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N’Goteth looked at Nara with a meaningful twinkle in his eye, and Ylana was sure this signified more than she could ever have guessed.  The three of them sat together in N’Goteth’s living room, which was adorned in decorations so exotic that Ylana shouldn’t have noticed the subtle communications passing between her companions.

“My colleague Orton will be joining us shortly,” N’Goteth explained as he sipped a fluorescent yellow beverage from a jeweled goblet.  “He’s the scientist who freed my people of the Kryllians by devising a way to permanently alter our physiology to be hostile to them, and he can do the same for you.”

Nara gazed at Ylana, and placing a gentle hand on her trembling knee, added, “Orton truly can help you, but you must be devoted to the cause, because his help comes with a price.”



Chapter 11: Cosmic Visions

Orton proved to be a tall, trim, and neatly dressed man, and when he spoke, his words revealed a level of sophistication rare outside the main trading worlds.  “I fear it will take several lunar cycles to complete my work, but should you agree to the terms I set forth, I believe I can use a sample of your genetic material to devise a proper Kryllian repellent.”
Image courtesy of Gramps/
RGBStock.




Ylana leaned forward and replied, “That sounds wonderful, but I hear there’s a price to pay for your work.”

“As there is with anything else,” Orton replied, his irises dancing between Ylana and Nara as he pulled a round, purple stone from his coat pocket.  “This stone is purported to produce powerful cosmic visions in members of certain races, of which you are one Ylana, and I need you to use it to complete a mission on my behalf.”


                                
Chapter 12: Another Link Forged

Ylana once again sat in the cockpit of Nara’s ship, twirling the necklace that held the little purple stone against her bare skin.  The flashes of vision came suddenly and at random times, always catching her off guard with their intensity. 

A woman cloaked in shadow, her mouth permanently molded by a blood-curdling scream as she met her brutal end, a partial view of a star strewn sky.

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This death, though not her own, was nonetheless part of Ylana now as she owned the task of discerning the how and why of this murder, using only the details lifted from these unwelcome images.

“Orton forged another link in a chain I thought I’d broken,” Ylana whispered to Nara as they flew beyond the boundary of the Nevarian solar system.



Chapter 13: A Barren World

“This world was destroyed by an energy weapon during the War of 1,000 Planets a couple hundred years ago,” Nara said softly as she peered at the image on the viewscreen.

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ylana studied the rocky surface of the small world, and she couldn’t imagine any life ever graced its surface.  She looked down at the piece of paper where she’d mapped out the star formation that she kept seeing in visions, and a similar configuration of stars was certainly visible from this system, yet this certainly couldn’t be the planet they needed to find.  “If no one’s lived here for that long, there’s no way this murder took place here.”

“I know that,” Nara said, wiping a tear from her eye, “but I wanted to show you what’s left of my homeworld.”



Chapter 14: Purpose

“Losing your homeworld leaves its mark on you,” Nara explained as they proceeded on their course through the Milas planetary system.  “You never feel like you belong anywhere, so you drift from place to place, looking for some kind of purpose to hold your life together, and at the end of the day, you wonder if you’ll ever find anyone who understands the person you are because of that loss.”

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Ylana rested her hands on her knees, hoping that the stone-induced visions would hold off as she sought the answers to new questions.  “If your world was destroyed hundreds of years ago, you couldn’t have possibly been alive when it happened, so how do you feel the loss?”

With a shake of her head, Nara replied, “I feel the loss because I’m a lot older than I look, and after witnessing the destruction of my home with my own eyes, I feel inspired to help people who, like you, cannot truly say you have a home of your own.”




Chapter 15: Forgotten Flowers

All indicators suggested that this planet, Renlatt 4, was also the world upon which the mysterious woman from the visions was murdered: the constellations were a spot on match, the vegetation of the planet resembled what Ylana saw day in and day out, and the triple moon system orbiting the planet was a dead-ringer for a rather intense dream from the night before.  Yet, when Ylana and Nara landed the small ship on a backwater continent, neither of them had a clue where to start.

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ylana stood on a deck at the spaceport restaurant, looking out over the treetops as she absent-mindedly twirled the necklace containing the purple stone around her fingers, while Nara sipped a bright yellow alcoholic beverage beside her.

Then, without warning, the image exploded in Ylana’s mind with such power that she actually fell backwards onto the deck. 

A bouquet of red flowers lay discarded and forgotten on a beach, the ocean waters buffeting them as the tide moved in and out, and from the hazy black periphery of the vision, a severed male head washed up and rolled on top of the withered petals.



Chapter 16Horror Enfolding

The decapitated head consumed Ylana’s field of vision until a pair of bare feet stepped into view, one of them trampling the flowers.  The feet were smooth and unmarred by the stresses of life, and their slender build made them appear decidedly feminine. 

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Long, delicate toes prodded the dead cheek, as if testing the head for any life that might somehow linger in its decaying recesses.  Then equally delicate fingers grasped the head by the hair and, lifting it into the air, brought it level with a face that nearly made Ylana’s heart stop: the murdered woman from the other visions, except here alive and well.

Ylana tried to pull away from the nightmarish image, but the vision held firm, and terrified she might never wake, she screamed, sending her desperate pleas ringing through a world populated only by ghostly recreations of the deceased.



Chapter 17: Fragility

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The feeling of terror reverberated through Ylana’s body long after the vision finally ebbed away.  Nara helped her out of the spaceport, and they spent the remainder of the day trying to discover the location of the beach from the brutal images that were now seared into Ylana’s brain.

Finally, after two days of searching and a few sporadic visions that added nothing except additional tension that Ylana’s worn mind could hardly take, the two of them stood on the shore.  Ylana looked down at the place where she’d seen the flowers and whispered, “Life is so delicate, so fragile, and it can all end in a moment.”

“And it ends even faster if someone’s determined to end it for you,” declared an unknown female voice.




Chapter 18: Purple Fever

When Ylana turned around, her stomach did an impressive gymnastics routine inside her body.  The voice belonged to none other than the woman in the visions instigated by the purple pendant around her neck: the woman who was supposed to be dead and who held the severed head in the most recent nightmare.
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Nara, who never saw any of the hallucinatory images personally, could only see the significance of this moment in Ylana’s face.  She rested her hand in the center of Ylana’s back, holding her steady when it seemed impossible for her to stand on her own.

The mysterious woman smiled when she saw the pendant around Ylana’s neck and proclaimed, “So now you’re the latest victim of my ex-husband’s purple fever.”




Chapter 19: Cherished into Death

 “How are you alive?” Ylana asked from her seat beside Nara on the woman’s front porch, grateful that her friend’s hand rested on her shoulder as a constant source of comfort and support.

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“I wanted my ex-husband to think I died, so I staged my death,” the woman replied simply as she buttered a freshly baked roll.  “When he and I first met, I saw that he cherished me in a way no one else ever had, so I finally consented to marry him.  I soon discovered that his obsession with me was . . . shall we say unhealthy . . ., and even after I left him, he may as well have been my shadow.”  The woman paused and gave a bone-chillingly mirthless laugh before adding, “I never realized that he would chase me even into death, or that I would have to kill so many victims of his ‘purple fever’ to protect my secret.”



Chapter 20: An Abandoned House

Ylana looked back at the woman in open-mouthed awe, frozen in place by the implications of all she’d learned.

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Nara stood and gestured to the rest of the woman’s house, which was nothing more than sagging beams, rotting wood, and disintegrating brick, and therefore scarcely suitable for human habitation.  “Is this so much better,” she began, meeting the woman’s cold gaze head-on, “living in an abandoned house to escape detection, living in constant fear of your ex-husband finding you or of authorities tracing all those dead bodies back to you?”

Seeing what her friend was trying to do, Ylana sat up straight as a faint spark of hope came to life inside her.

“And what would you propose I do differently?” the woman inquired, a hint of intrigue coloring her words.




Chapter 21: Emptiness

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ylana’s stomach twisted as she sat beside Nara on the beach, the moonless night bathing them in utter darkness.  Having cast the purple stone into the turbulent ocean, Ylana knew she’d never see it again, but the action satisfied Myrandia, the woman who might have otherwise killed them.

Unfortunately, casting the stone into the water also meant casting away her best hope for helping her people, leaving her with a nagging feeling of emptiness at her core.

“We’ll figure out another way,” Nara said softly, her voice carrying ever so slightly on the gentle breeze.  “If there’s anything life has taught me, you can get through any setback life throws at you if you don’t give up, and once we fulfill our promise to Myrandia, we’ll get back to fulfilling my promise to you.”



Chapter 22: Whispers in the Night

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Myrandia’s request might have been simple were she anyone with a less murderous past: free passage to a distant world where she could have a few genetic alterations done.  These alterations would give her a new identity so she could avoid being captured by law enforcement in the future, and the purple fever caused by her ex-husband’s purple stones would, in theory, lose the ability to record her activities, buying her the freedom she craved.

Late during the first night of the journey, Ylana leaned against Nara’s bed, conscious about how total the darkness felt when she considered the woman who now occupied what was once her room.  “I’m glad I’m sleeping in here with you,” Ylana whispered, “because I definitely don’t trust her.”

Nara, who was lying in bed, leaned over and whispered in Ylana’s ear, “I’m glad you’re here too, because with all the shadowy things we’ve been dealing with lately, it’s nice to have a little brightness.”



Chapter 23: Dreaming of Paradise

Nara sat in the cockpit of her modest little ship, aware that out in the dark depths of space, surrounded by a virtual vacuum devoid of life, that she now found herself occupying her place in life with two other women from entirely different backgrounds.  In the end they all had different goals, different dreams, though Nara’s was the only one who had no chance of seeing her greatest aspirations fulfilled.

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
She thought back longingly to her dead world and the childhood she spent climbing the purple limbs of the Burya trees, and tossing glittering blue stones into the crystalline waterfall behind her house.  Paradise would be to resurrect her world so she could walk beneath the orange sky, with her friend Ylana at her side, so she could share the beauty of it with someone she cared about.

Of course, even if that were a possibility, Ylana would still have her own world to attend to, and to fight for, so Nara understood that she had to file away her own fantasies and focus on the only purpose she had left.



Chapter 24: Dressed to Conquer

Myrandia sat at the galley table, carefully shaving her fingernails into sharp points that she intended to later dip into a tub of bright red nail polish.  The whole image seemed so ridiculous that Ylana wanted to laugh, and she didn’t doubt that this woman was merely doing this to play off the fears that she sensed from them both.
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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“We’ll be dropping you off in two days,” Nara announced flatly as she stood at the counter, pouring herself a steaming hot cup of Trinco tea.

“That’ll be just fine,” Myrandia said softly as she deliberately moved the nail file back and forth, dusting the table with white residue.

Though Ylana knew she shouldn’t stir up trouble when this shared journey was so near to being over, she found herself blurting out, “If you don’t mind me asking, are you embellishing your appearance like that because you want everyone to think you’re ready to conquer them, when you’re actually terrified that your life has spun so far out of your control you don’t know who you are anymore?”



Chapter 25: The Inner Flame

Landing on Plenitia 5 was supposed to solve so many problems, yet this dangerous woman who had no real qualms about the murders she’d committed to remain free of her ex-husband, made an odd request before Ylana and Nara could escape the gravitational pull of this backwater world: “Please, stay with me until I’m done with the procedure.”

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Myrandia’s voice sounded so sincere, even vulnerable, and even with her newly fashioned talons for fingernails, she almost looked fragile.  Though Ylana didn’t understand why, she felt an upwelling of sadness for her.

As they walked through the empty streets to the medical clinic where Myrandia would find the solutions to her immediate problems, she said, “Ylana, I think you’re fascinated with me, because you see a flame within me that you wish you had inside you.  Your people have endured so much, and you want to fight against that, yet unlike me, you can’t let go of the inhibitions that would allow you to get what you want for your world.”



Chapter 26: Lingering Words

Ylana couldn’t get Myrandia’s words from her mind, even after they finally left her behind two days later.  She couldn’t deny that on some level, even while this woman’s actions repulsed her, she longed for the simplicity of her actions, longed for the ease with which she’d taken control of the world around her.
Image from KireArtFish/
DevaintArt

Nara invited Ylana to once again spend the night in her room, hoping this would help dispel the unease that Myrandia left behind in her wake.  They spent the night sitting on the floor, talking about all the things that had been hanging over their heads, and about other things that might help lighten the mood. 

During a lull in the conversation, when Nara saw the weight of Myrandia’s proclamation settling on her shoulders again, she slid an arm around her and said softly, “Admiring certain aspects of her personality doesn’t make you a monster like her, and if anything, the fact that you worry about being like her proves that you’re not.”



Chapter 27For the Lack of a Better Plan

The idea of facing the scientist Orton was nerve wracking for the two women, mostly because they could hardly be certain of his reaction to the news they had for him, yet neither of them had been able to figure out a reasonable alternative to get what Ylana so desperately desired, so they made arrangements to see him.
Image courtesy of CNaene
 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net




As Ylana stood before Orton in his home, it felt as if Nara’s presence at her side were the only thing preventing her from tumbling over the edge of a great chasm and into the arms of a fiery death.  After all, this man had the knowledge to save her people from the Kryllians, but should he take offense at what they had to report, he could always decide to withhold that help.

After Ylana finished her tale, Orton stood for several moments in stunned silence before saying, “So, my wife hated me so much that she staged her own death to get away from me, and by continually sending people to determine what happened, I contributed to their deaths.  I think I need a stiff drink.”




                                       
 Chapter 28: Angles of Observation

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“I loved her so much, you know, because no matter which angle I looked at her from, she shone in a different, but dazzling way, like some bizarre, iridescent puzzle for me to solve,” Orton rambled.  He sat on the sofa with a drink in hand (his eighth in fact), slopping little droplets about the room whenever he gesticulated wildly to make his point.

Ylana looked at him with a mixture of sympathy and wonder, dazzled by the many faces of his character she’d been able to observe over the course of the alcohol-saturated evening.  Having started as the neatly dressed gentleman she’d first met, entropy soon began to rear its head, and as the pendulum of emotion swung him through moments of outrage, past hints of seeming indifference, and into prolonged moments of heart-broken longing, the toll the extremes took on him could not be denied.

“This may not make you feel any better,” Nara said soothingly, “but after learning about the grizzly things Myrandia has done, I can’t help but conclude that you’re ultimately going to be better off without her.”




Chapter 29: The Requirement

When Orton woke the next morning, it looked like he could only be a few steps away from his grave as the pain of what his ex-wife had done to him cast shadows across his eyes, informing and impeding his interactions with the world around him.
Blue Eye 
by Paramore Pixie on DeviantART

Even so, the brilliant scientist within him could not be felled quite so easily, and over a nice breakfast of pastries and some kind of exotic coffee, Orton explained to the women what he had learned about Ylana’s people since they last met.  “I think I have an idea of what I need to do,” he concluded, “but you must remain here so I can run a few tests.”

Ylana looked at Nara, who gave her an encouraging smile, and considered that while she did not particularly enjoy the idea of being a laboratory experiment, this brought her one step closer in being able to free her people, so there was only one answer she could give.  “I’ll give you what you need.”



Chapter 30: The Nevarian World Festival

Image courtesy of 

Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Though Nara was going to lose a lot of opportunities for selling her homemade medicinal cures by doing so, she agreed to stay with Ylana on Nevaris until Orton was done with his work, saying that she’d promised to stick this out to the end.

However, the Nevarian World Festival started a couple of days later, and Nara planned to set up a stand to help make up for lost sales.  “You should spend some time there too, because it could help you get in a little relaxation,” she suggested.

Ylana agreed, and though the festival was called a world festival, she was shocked to learn that it was so large it occupied its own continent.  “At night, you can see the multicolored lights of all the rides and venues from orbit,” Nara said excitedly, “so you’re sure to find something magical there.”




Chapter 31: The Goggles of Fate

Photo: Last Light/
RGBStock
Ylana walked the stone lanes that had been constructed across the entire continent for the sole purpose of travel during the Nevarian World Festival.  With Nara remaining busy with her booth, Ylana spent a lot of the time by herself, and though she could only hope to see the tiniest fraction of the festival, she was determined to see as much as she could.

When she happened upon a stand operated by an eight-limbed young woman with fuchsia skin, her eyes were drawn to a row of goggles.  They were black rimmed and standard in every way she could make out with the eye, but the young woman snagged a pair and offered them to her.  “Behold the goggles of fate,” she said softly, “which will light your way down the path of life by helping you make the right choice when the time comes.”


Chapter 32: Accident

Ylana perched her new goggles atop her head as she continued to move about the festival, her mind now preoccupied with how she might best use these goggles of fate (assuming they actually worked, of course).

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Her thoughts shifted, however, when a small red light on her festival admission bracelet began to glow red.  Ylana stopped in her tracks, vaguely recalling that this light would activate if someone was looking for her, because such a tracking system would be the only way to locate anyone in an event of this size.

A grim faced security guard soon caught up to her, and after he scanned her bracelet to confirm her identity, he got to the point.  “Your traveling companion Nara has been in an accident, and she’s asking for you.”



Chapter 33: The Charmer’s Wrath

Ylana’s hands and feet seemed oddly detached from her body as she stood above the bed inside the shaman’s tent.  Nara had lost consciousness by the time she arrived, and her bandaged face and arms hinted at just how severe this accident was, though she didn’t yet know the details.

Image "Burning Eye Hot Tears"
 by abdelrahman/deviantART
“Do you know what happened to her?” Ylana asked, the desperation she felt leaking into every word.

The shaman, a tiny tangerine-skinned man who only stood as high as Ylana’s waist, replied, “She accidentally got in the way of the Charmer’s Wrath, and it marked her as a result.  The Wrath wasn’t even meant for her, but she’ll have to pay the steepest of prices all the same.”




Chapter 34: Desolate Times

Charmers were clinically insane psychics who had powers that could both heal and damage the fragile flesh of those with whom they came in contact, but the Wrath was so much more powerful than the Warmth that a charmer could not undo the damage they inflicted.  Even if they could track down the charmer that harmed her, it would do no good, as the Wrath would steadily eat away at her until she was gone forever.
Source

Ylana sat at Nara’s side, her thoughts filled with desolation as she recalled the dead world that Nara once called home, and that her friend would soon meet the same fate.  Was there anything she could do other than sit there and watch Nara die?

Just as Ylana’s thoughts were about to turn utterly dark with despair, her hand found the goggles of fate still perched atop her head, and she felt a glimmer of hope emerge.


Chapter 35: Home of Nara's Final Hope

The goggles of fate were surprisingly lightweight considering the revelatory power they supposedly contained.  Ylana settled them in place as she knelt beside Nara’s bed, one hand resting gently upon her ill friend’s arm.
Image courtesy of adamr
 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The images in front of her began to shimmer and shift, and little fragments of the world around her rearranged themselves to create something new.  Now she gazed upon a dilapidated little house that was nestled at the base of a towering hill.

She didn’t know where it was, but a sense of conviction rose up in Ylana’s chest, and she knew that this tiny little home, wherever it happened to be, was Nara’s final hope of survival.


Chapter 36: Blades

The goggles of fate may have provided prophetic visions, and they even left Ylana a strong sense of where she needed to go to find the house from her vision that felt like a natural instinct, but they didn’t provide the while picture.
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Ylana stood on a dusty road in the pink light of daybreak, and she saw the house in the distance.  The image from the goggles had certainly gotten the house right, but it had left out the fence surrounding the property, an unnerving structure composed of rusted blades that stood three times higher than the top of her head.  They were connected by barbed wire, and judging by the low level hum she could hear in the background of this early morning nightmare, the fence was electrified.

In spite of the rising panic Ylana felt, she had to focus first on the pragmatic question of how to make it from one side of the fence to the other without stabbing herself, electrocuting herself, or contracting some form of unpleasant disease from the dirty metal.



Chapter 37: A View of Everything

As it turned out, someone inside the house must have seen Ylana waiting out by the fence, because within a few minutes, during which time she kicked uselessly at the foreboding blades that barred her passage, a tiny man came ambling toward her.

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He didn’t bother to ask who she was before he waved a hand, and the gate sprung open without a single touch.  “My name is Warberry,” the man, who only stood as tall as her hip, said amiably as he led her onto the property.

Ylana wondered why he had such a terrifying fence when he seemed to have no problem letting perfect strangers into his home, but she said nothing of it.

“I knew you were coming, and I know what you want,” he said, as if reading her mind, “because from this house, I have a perfect view of everything you could ever hope to know.”



Chapter 38: Flight

Warberry was an unsettling sort of host to have, but all things considered, Ylana had grown accustomed to interacting with unsettling people on a regular basis.

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“My people have the ability to enchant inanimate objects, to give them a special kind of sight, as it were,” he’d explained as he poured her a drink of some unidentified hot beverage, “and in fact, the enchantment that gives the goggles of fate their sight is one of mine.” 

He looked at her knowingly, and Ylana wondered if he truly knew all the details of how she had come to be here.  “You said you know why I’m here, so perhaps we should get down to business before it’s too late.”

“However,” he continued wistfully, “as certain as I am that I can help your friend, I am not sure that it would do her much good, because I have foreseen that something terrible will soon take flight, something that will set the skies ablaze.”



Chapter 39: Locked Away

Ylana froze as she processed these words of death and destruction, though they still refused to make sense to her tired mind.  She didn’t want to believe Marberry’s words of warning, yet she had to set stock in them, because if she couldn’t, then she couldn’t trust him to help cure Nara.
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“Is there anything you can do to thwart this dire future?” she asked simply.

Shaking his head sadly, Marberry replied, “I cannot, young one, for the secrets of how to hold back the will of the universe are locked away in some hidden corner of time; I see what is and what will be, but not how to influence it beyond the individual level.”

“Then please, help my friend, and if we’re fortunate enough to have her well again, she and I will fend for ourselves against any terror fate might bring.”


Chapter 40: The Elixir of Limitlessness

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The small vial Warberry had handed Ylana contained a soft pink liquid called the “Elixir of Limitlessness.”  Why it had to have such a philosophical-sounding name, she could only guess.  Maybe everything on this world had to have the air of mystery about it.

In essence, this elixir was supposed to, in limited cases, turn the impossible into that which is merely unlikely (apparently it would never be enough to save the planet from the supposed guarantee of doom-she even made sure to ask).

She hovered above Nara’s sickbed, ready to administer the treatment, her stomach in knots as she wondered where she would go from here should this fail.



Chapter 41: Bliss

Nara’s life to date had been rather disjointed, broken into two halves that seemed to have little to do with one another, the split having occurred at the moment her home world was so mercilessly destroyed.  The happy memories were mostly confined to the first half, of course, when she was surrounded by friends and family who had decorated her life from the beginning with laughs, praise, and the kind of support one needs to feel secure.

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Having lived many centuries, she’d seen the tides change on worlds inhabited by the shorter-lived species, and this reconfirmed for her once again the fragility of life.  So, when she fell under the wrath of the charmer, wrapped momentarily in a blaze of rage to only have it muted out by a blanket of pure white nothingness, this state of utter unawareness became for her a kind of blissful getaway that the tragedies of her life had made seem all but impossible.

Nara felt willing to embrace the nothingness, but eventually, something new invaded her sphere of awareness, coloring the white around her with swatches of muted pinks, greens, and blues; Ylana’s voice, pleading for her to wake up, became for her a new kind of bliss as it filled the void of family and friendship that had been left painfully empty so long ago.



Chapter 42: Learning Curve

Ylana had admittedly been an inexperienced young girl with a painfully limited education when she first set out on this adventure.  Her first education had admittedly been one of subjugation: she was taught how to be what others needed her to be, and that required her to purge herself of anything she might need or want.

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How she’d even had the courage to set foot aboard Nara’s tiny ship she might never know, but she did know that a spark had remained within her from childhood, something bright that could never be quite extinguished by those who continuously told her that she didn’t need to know anything other than how to deal with practical matters.

Ylana was still riding a long and strange learning curve and, as it was, she didn’t quite know how to handle the powerful emotions that spilled forth when she saw her friend’s eyelids slowly flutter open, but they were still preferable to the sense of panic she’d had to endure before.

“I’d say welcome back to the world,” Ylana said slowly, “but you may not be so happy about waking up when I tell you about our latest problem.”



Chapter 43: Torn Fabric

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The fabric of the world began to warp and tear, at the mercy of an unknown force, and the sky caught fire with tendrils of red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and violet.  They licked the starry heavens with ferocity, leaving all left behind on the planet to stare in awe and terror.

“What is it?” Ylana wondered aloud from her seat in the cockpit of their little ship.

Nara, who was undoubtedly exhausted by her harrowing ordeal, had wasted no time in whisking them into orbit when she heard of the impending doom.  She had the ship’s sensors running, measuring all she could in the hope of providing an answer to that pressing question, but all she could say in that moment was, “I don’t know.”



Chapter 44: Terrifying Beauty

“Beautiful,” Ylana murmured to herself as she watched the colorful tendrils enfold the world below them. 

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This observation may have sounded heartless to many, though no one but Nara was there to hear it, but if there was anything that Ylana had learned in her short life, beauty did not necessarily correspond with morality.  In her experience, if something good also happened to be beautiful, the relationship was incidental, or even purposely engineered.


Ylana’s thoughts returned to memories of her home world and the rituals the Kryllians mandated when a female of her species first became a host.  Though the blue sludge that flowed through the host body wreaked havoc beyond measure, the initial hosting ritual involved colorful banners, elaborate chants, decadent food, and a multitude of other distractions that were meant to keep the subjugated populace from recognizing the terrifying reality of what was required of them.



Chapter 45: Deadly Flower

The stunning, yet horrifying, light show continued to wrap and slither around the world below, and the two women in the were so entranced by it that they nearly leapt out of their seats when the ship’s proximity alarm sounded.  Nara immediately began tapping at the control panel in the, and Ylana was about to ask her about the readings when a movement at the corner of her vision captured her attention.

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An object hovered in the distance, and though it was so pale that the blackness of space threatened to swallow it entirely, she saw the outline distinctly enough to know what it was.  Ylana’s entire being filled with the deepest dread she’d felt since departing her home world as she gazed upon the ship.  Like a deadly flower, sections of the ship began to unfurl, revealing an inner core that glowed softly in the depths of space, a structure that revealed it to be none other than a Kryllian war ship.



Chapter 46: Urge to Run

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Michal Marcol/
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A wild, almost animalistic urge to run unfurled in the pit of Ylana’s stomach as the Kryllian ship continued to open, nearing the completion of its power-up sequence.  Once the death flower opened, the low light in the center would light up like a sun.  She had never personally witnessed such a thing, but she’d heard the terrible stories of the power the Kryllians had at their disposal.

“I wonder why they’re here,” Nara said softly, her wide eyes drinking in the bone-chilling sight, “because last I knew, the Kryllians had no interest in this world.”

“Maybe they know I’m here and what I’m trying to do,” Ylana whispered in reply, and her stomach sunk as she realized the deaths of billions may soon be on her hands.


Chapter 47: Sparking Magnetic

“Maybe they found out about our dealings with Orton, and maybe, just maybe, he was close to finishing his work,” Nara speculated, her eyes remaining fixated on the Kryllian ship.

“Even if that’s true,” Ylana whispered, “we’ll never be able to benefit from it, and all of those people down there will have died for nothing.”

The Kryllian weapon continued to penetrate the atmosphere of the planet below, the resulting magnetic disturbances creating the most dazzling light show either of the women had ever seen.

Just then, the proximity alarm sounded again, and Ylana jumped backward, too overwhelmed with horror to think rationally about what it could mean.


Image courtesy of elreviae at DeviantArt.


A much larger ship came into view, a shimmering tear in the fabric of space granting it entrance from whence it came, and though Ylana couldn’t begin to imagine to whom the ship belonged, she knew one thing for certain: it was not Kryllian.






Chapter 48: A Somber Celebration

The last day had passed in a blur, and Ylana, who’d yet to get any sleep, felt fuzzy in all her senses as she thought back to the appearance of the Kryllian ship.  Her heart stammered at the memory, but was quickly calmed when she recalled the way the Kryllians had abruptly shut down their weapon and prepared to flee.

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They, however, were not able to escape quickly enough, and the flaming wreckage of the death flower had streaked across the sky of the world below, the debris shooting through the colorful atmospheric disturbances before they finally ebbed out of existence.

Now on the planet’s surface, Ylana and Nara saw firsthand the damage that had been done (large sections of forest laid to waste, homes destroyed due to tidal and seismic disturbances), yet they saw also a somber celebration as fireworks and lanterns, dedicated to the memory of those who had been lost, decorated the night over the heads of a silent crowd.

Ylana jumped when a slim, long fingered hand gripped her shoulder, and she turned to see a tall, shimmering being whose words caressed her mind with a silent, but urgent communication: It’s time.


Chapter 49: Planetary Saviors

The Rehani were certainly a sight to behold, with their long, lean frames, and translucent bodies that glowed slightly, reminiscent of the way sunlight plays on water.

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Though the Rehani were an unknown species (at least as far as Nara, Ylana, and everyone else they’d spoken with were concerned), they had no difficulty with communication.  Their telepathic communications effortlessly leapt over every linguistic barrier, and their natural grace left Ylana enraptured.

The fact that they’d also swooped in and saved this world from the Kryllians, and the thought that they could perhaps liberate her people, added to her sense of reverence.

However, as she and Nara stepped into the meeting that had been arranged with the captain of the Rehani ship, neither of the women could have anticipated the shocking revelation that awaited them.



Chapter 50: Malicious Intent

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Victor Habbick/
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Ylana held her fists tight against her sides, because she knew if she gave herself even an inch, she was likely to attack someone.  “This is all your fault?” she growled, her voice lower and more menacing than it had ever been.

The leader of the Rehani bowed its head slightly as it replied, You must understand, we were a young and foolish race when we embarked on this project, and we never imagined we would spend millennia struggling to contain and remedy our mistakes.

Can there ever be a remedy for this? Ylana wondered as she shot a look to Nara, who appeared just as stunned and sickened as she felt.

The truth was indeed an ugly one: the Kryllians were genetically engineered by the Rehani to be soldiers, and they were made to reproduce with the destructive sludge because the necessity of a host species gave the Kryllians all the incentive they needed to conquer.



Chapter 51: Determination to Remedy

We hope to make amends for our mistakes, so we have been travelling across the galaxy, liberating any world that has been subjugated by the Kryllians, the Rehani leader explained.  It has been a long and slow process, but we have been impressed with the resilience of the races we have encountered along the way.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ylana’s mind whirled as she struggled to process the undeniable wrong that the Rehani had done, their determination to make things right again, and what these facts could mean for the future of her home planet.  It was all too much, yet within the horror of the moment was resurrected a gleaming hope that things could in fact be made better.


“My race has been wronged time and again by the Kryllians, and it is only because of this woman” –Ylana pointed to Nara- “that I am here at all, so I need to make the most of this opportunity by asking you to please, please help my people.”  


Chapter 52: Erasing an Identity

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“What does this mean for you?” Nara asked, her soft voice echoing through the still air of the Ylana’s darkened quarters.  Sleep now eluded them both, though this could hardly come as a shock given everything that had happened over the last few days.

The Rehani had deliberated over Ylana’s request for several hours, the issue at stake being more about timing rather than whether or not her people deserved to be helped, before coming to the decision that her home world would be their next destination.


“Searching for a way to stop the Kryllians has been my main focus for so long that I don’t know who I’ll be when it’s done,” Ylana confessed as she lay on her bunk, which now felt more comforting to her than the mattress she’d left behind in her old bedroom.  “It’s a bit like erasing an identity.”



Chapter 53: Dancing Beneath the Stars

On some level, Ylana worried about what their return to her home world would be like, and whether the Kryllians would put up more of a fight here, which could wreak havoc on the people caught in the crossfire.

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Sujin Jetkasettakorn/
FreeDigitalPhots.net
It seemed that the Rehani “death blossom” was actually a ship that produced a very specific kind of radiation, one that disrupted Kryllian metabolism so dramatically that they died on the spot.  The Kryllians must have known what it was, and that perfectly explained their hasty retreat last time.

On Ylana’s world, there was no time for them to escape, and all Kryllians who inhabited the planet perished quickly, and those who were hosted left the hosts free of their influence.


That night, while the freed women of her world danced beneath the stars in celebration, Ylana considered that their freedom came at a high price: the genocide of a race that had been created to be the aggressors in the first place.


Chapter 54: Picking Up the Pieces

Ylana spent the next few weeks reconnecting with old family members, many of whom despised her for her sudden, unannounced departure.  When she’d left, she’d been engaged, and her whole life had been planned out, a series of predetermined milestones that she had, at one time in her life, never thought to question.
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Stuart MilesFreeDigitalPhotos.net

Luckily, Nara had agreed to stay for a while, doing what she could to help her friend figure things out, though she did so with a hint of sadness in her eyes, and it was a sadness that Ylana could understand far too well.

So Nara announced that she would be leaving the following day, Ylana confidently asked, “Would you mind if I came with you?”

As it turns out, picking up the pieces of a former life is often all but impossible, but when Ylana saw Nara’s face break into a glowing smile, she knew that she didn’t need to rebuild her old life, because her current life suited her just fine.

2 comments:

  1. I love your mini chapters! Can't wait for the book.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And now a murder to be solved.

    The game is afoot.

    Cheers!
    JzB

    ReplyDelete