She slept but did not dream, waking often. Each time she did, she saw the boy with his back to her, crouched or laying and watching the curtained entrance. Eventually a red light crept in and chased away the darkness. In that pale light, they left the shelter, setting out at a careful walk. As they began, she saw him clearly for the first time.
He was probably her own age, perhaps slightly older but not by much. His hair was a dark red, turned almost fiery by the red light of Querra. Almost as thin as she was, he bore an olive complexion and eyes the color of the frozen lakes of Meda. Those eyes looked at her on occasion and he seemed to be on the verge of asking a question but remained silent. It was Aderyn who spoke first.
“Why what?” he said, looking back at her.
“Why did you save me?”
He frowned, looking like he didn’t understand. “You were a servant, a prisoner of theirs. We free those we find made to be servants or…” he blushed and looked away. “Or whatever else.”
He thinks I’m a groundling, a maid or…
She looked away from him to hide her shock and pressed dirty fingers to her lips, not trusting them to blurt out the truth. They would have killed me, would have left me to die if they knew! If they find out… If…
“What happened?” she said after she trusted herself. “At the War, I mean?”
He shrugged, still not looking at her. “We struck at them. We were given the time and location and so we freed them.”
“Of course,” he said, looking at her now with a quizzical expression. “Who else?”
She nodded, swallowing a sudden spike of fear. “And, and the nobles?”
His expression turned dark and he turned away. “We killed as many as we could but surprise only works for so long and we didn’t have too many bombs. We didn’t have enough power packs to really fight it out. We meant to free the groundlings and disappear.”
Bombs? Power packs? Like my hair clip? She licked her lips, tasting mud. She didn’t like the way it felt against her teeth, grainy and cold. Spitting, she tried in vain to clear it until the boy handed her a bottle of water. She took it in silence and washed her mouth with it before taking a sip.
“I’m Resh,” he said when she handed it back. “Thought you, well, might want to know.”
“Aderyn,” she said, giving him what she hoped was a grateful smile.
“Your accent, it’s not Querran. So you’re not part of Revnari’s House. Where are you from?”
Her heart suddenly started thumping loudly in her ears as she inwardly panicked. Of course he would notice her accent! She couldn’t tell him where she was really from, could she? Would he know of the Medani family and their Null daughter? So, hoping he couldn’t see how frightened she was, she lied.
“Hyperia,” she said. “I was… I was…” she blushed, thinking rapidly to the women who had bustled about within Ian’s keep. The boy, Resh, reached out and touched her arm. “It’s okay,” he said. “That life is over now. You won’t have to do any of that again.”
His concern, his sympathy, surprised her. He looked away from her before she could think of anything to say. Part of her felt sickened by this lie, this fiction she was constructing, but another part of her knew she had to. If he knew the truth, he’d kill her, or at best, leave her here alone.
“What will we do now?” she said after a time.
“We’re heading toward the tunnels. They’re not far but I don’t want to go straight to them. It’ll be dark before we get there though. Gets pretty dark early in this valley.”
“Where we’re hiding,” he said, turning to give her a small smile, his lips curving just slightly at one side. “We’ll be safe there. The resistance is based there.”
Resistance? She nodded quickly, trying to process this information. “You mean you’re fighting the Querrans?”
He nodded, once again offering that lopsided grin. “All the nobility actually. It’s pretty small right now, but we’re starting to communicate with some other worlds. Small ones at first but soon we might even have some groups on Orion.”
Aderyn nodded, staring up through the thick canopy of the trees. She didn’t know what to think. Resh and his… resistance killed Redrick and maybe the rest of them. Maybe even…
Aderyn gasped, her hands pressing against her mouth as the shock washed over her. Mother. The Queen! Oh the Queen! Did he know? Did any of them know who was in that viewing platform?
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
She couldn’t speak, couldn’t find any words to formulate some lie for her distress. What could she possibly tell him? She had to get away from this boy! Had to warn them, warn her father! The King! The whole galactic Collective!
“Aderyn? Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing!” she said, squeezing her eyes shut. “It’s just… my… my mistress was on that platform, and my… I…”
He touched her arm again, and she felt that gentle pressure meant to reassure her. “She won’t harm you again. They’re all dead.”
Inside, Aderyn wanted to scream.