I could see the hesitation in Cradix’s eyes, but he took the man’s left forearm in his hand, their hands covered up each other’s beacons, it was the ultimate sign of trust among Survivors. They literally held the other’s life in their hands. Mejo smiled and laughed, Cradix smiled as well, they hugged, and clapped each other on the back.
“I was beginning to worry that you were not going to make it,” Mejo cried, he laughed and waved his men to undo our cuffs, I stood and rubbed my raw wrists, Mejo walked up to me and abruptly hugged me. “Fang it’s been too long.” He let me go and I nodded, “Are you harmed,” He asked looking at my wrists.
“No,” I answered, “Just sore,”
“Well good,” He said, turning to his men, “I would have had someone’s beacon if they had hurt you my dear,” He smiled at me and went back to Cradix, “Come and sit with me,” Cradix followed Mejo up onto the dais to sit in a smaller chair beside him and talk.
Ruin indicated we could sit at a large long table set to the side of a roaring central fire. I sat closest to Cradix watching as he and Mejo negotiated. Ruin sat across from me and Kabr to my left. Skull sat to Kabr’s left and was whispering in his ear about something I could not hear. My attention was on the men on the dais, Mejo’s expression had gone from one of enjoyment to one of the serious ruler of his tribe. Cradix waved his thick arms in the air in frustration, his brow furrowed and his eyes were turning gray with anger, he glanced at me, I shook my head, he waved at me to come and join him.
I rose to my feet and climbed the three stone steps to the dais proper, I collapsed to a pillow at Cradix’s feet. “Tell her what you have just told me,” He barked, Mejo looked from Cradix to me.
“I’m not sure I should,”
“Anything I know, she knows, she is my second,” Cradix stated, he crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat he was stubborn that way, unwilling to give anything if he did not get return.
“Very well,” Mejo consented, he turned to me, “I have been able to learn from a vision with the Hosts that our Ark maybe in great danger,” He said, I looked at Cradix.
“How we only just got here, the Shadow and Divine have yet to arrive at all,” Mejo nodded.
“Yes well we still have a few weeks but it will not be as long as we have been used to,” Mejo said a tone of disappointment in his voice. “This Ark was supposed to be stable and we were supposed to have a home here for a long while,” I nodded, I remembered being told that while in the Lobby.
“How long do we have,” I asked.
Mejo shrugged and leaned back in his throne, “I’m not sure about that, I am sorry to say,” He did not sound sorry. “I assume as with most things on the Ark we will be given a limited amount of time to prepare for a wipe.” He shrugged, “And as always I plan on making the most of each day here.” He leaned forward, “I heard something else,” I was to interested, not to want to hear what an Admin had heard from a Host. “Our instructions will be different on the next Ark,” He whispered to Cradix and me, “The Divine Knights will be given allowance to attack the Shadow Knights openly without provocation.” I glanced at Cradix.
“You’re sure of this,” Cradix asked, Mejo nodded, “We should prepare while we can then.” I nodded.
“So do you agree to my deal,” Mejo asked, Cradix waved his hands at him.
“Yes, yes you can have half,” He paused and thought for a moment, “On this Ark,” He leaned forward and held out his left arm, Mejo glared at Cradix, but nodded and took his arm.
“This calls for celebration,” Mejo cried out, he stood and waved his large hands at his men. “Prepare the banquet hall, our Nomadic friends are staying the night.” He yelled, they scurried off to do his bidding. “Would you like the tour?” He asked, we shrugged. “Excellent,” He waved for the two of us to follow, but when Kabr and Skull made to come with us, he waved them back. “We will meet you in the banquet hall.” Kabr looked dejected, Skull looked furious, his shoulders were shaking and his fist were clenched.
We stepped through a doorway and out into the sun, we were on a small island, crescent shaped with a bay facing north towards the mainland. South Haven, it made sense the small island was secluded yet well provisioned with a fresh water supply and plenty of plants. It was an ideal place to build a compound if one could get to it.
“I have claimed Herbivore Island as my own,” He laughed, he indicated the cliff above us, “My fliers,” He had five quetz all different colors, and a flock of pteranodons. He indicated the bay, two brontosaurus browsed the trees, stegos and trikes wandered the yard. “My herd,” He said.
I glanced back over my shoulder at the compound he had constructed, a large stone structure that appeared to be built right into the cliff face, rising up four stories. The top of the facility was a large balcony for overlooking the island. Smoke rose from the western corner in a lazy spiral. Men marched to and fro along the parapets, rifles at the ready, who were they afraid of?
“You will stay the night, and in the morning my men will take you back to the Oasis, they will give you all the supplies you need to build a proper shelter, so that you can truly begin your work as builders.” He laughed, he stood between us and put an arm around each of us and marched us inside.
“So, Cradix when are you going to make our dear Fang your Queen like you promised her so long ago?” Mejo asked, a grin on his dark face.
“I promised to make her a princess of my kingdom,” Cradix corrected him, glancing over at me. “And she is, she knows that I cannot give her a kingdom like yours but she knows she is the light of the Oasis.” I gave him a smile.
“Ah yes, a princess, not a queen,” Mejo said, he leaned his head towards me, and whispered loud enough for Cradix to hear. “If you were mine you would be a Queen.” I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Yes, well I am not yours, I am not even his, I am my own, and I am and always will be a Nomad,” I growled.
“You weren’t always a Nomad,” He whispered, a thumb brushing my cheeks.
“No but I am now,” I retorted.
Mejo gave me a grin, “Yes always and forever a Nomad, the smallest and poorest of the main tribes.”
“Poorest?” Cradix snapped, I shook my head, great this old argument. “Compared to whom, yes we might not control a whole fourth of the Ark, and we may have the smallest tribe but we are a family. What is your tribe, fifty or a hundred random men, who have sworn that they will try to tame as much of the Ark as they can?” Cradix growled.
“Well yes, and don’t forget the distillery for the finest mejo wine on the Ark.” Mejo grinned, he did not care that Cradix had been offended by his comments, he did not have to it was one of the many advantages of his position.
“I think what Cradix is trying to say is that poorest in wealth and land does not matter when you have friendship and family. You could control every tribe and the whole Ark but be poor in spirit,” I said, I pulled away from Mejo and put a hand on Cradix’s forearm, he was shaking, but he turned his steel blue eyes to me and slowly they soften back to their normal blue.
“I would rather have land and wealth,” Mejo laughed as he left us to return to the banquet hall.
“Well it is a good thing that we are not in his tribe,” I whispered to Cradix.
That night we feasted on grilled fish, and red meat, glazed with every berry found on the Ark, fresh grown vegetables and rare blue flowers. There was wine, so much, that the men drank it freely, I do not like the taste nor the feeling of inhibition, so I did not drink anything but water and fresh juice. I had to help Cradix and Kabr to their beds for the night. Kabr fell to his cot in the barracks easily, his hand finding my ass as I turned to rejoin Cradix at the door. I swatted his hand away and leaned over to give his forehead a kiss, his hands went to the sides of my face to pull me down to his mouth but in his drunk state he was easy to fend off. I hooked my arm around Cradix and helped him climb the stairs up to the private rooms. I was nervous about taking him to his bed, alone in a single room. It brought back memories of when he and I had shared a room in the Hidden Valley. He fell to his bed, his eyes half closed. He reached up a hand to me. I took his hand in mine and sat on the edge of his bed beside him.
“You could stay you know,” He whispered, his voice slurring from the wine. “We wouldn’t even have to do anything.” I smiled down at him, holding his hand in mine, I looked down at his hand, and traces the calluses there. Hard and scared from countless days working as a builder, some scars faded when we died or respawned, some, those that defined us did not. I blinked back tears, he had been mine once, and I his, but that was a long time ago. I leaned over and kissed his cheek, resting my temple against his for a brief moment.
I left him there, watching as I left his room. I found my way to a private chamber that Mejo had provided for me.
Tomorrow we would head back to our home and truly start our new adventure on this Ark, too bad we already knew it would not last long.
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