This is the thirteenth part in a serialized story. If you’ve missed any of the rest of it, you can find it here.
That night, as Avdonina slept, she was suddenly awakened by movement within their roughly made lean-to. Thinking at first it was Quenden, she rolled over to comfort him back to sleep. Instead of Quenden’s warm little boy body beside her, she found a rough hairy creature.
She jerked back with a small shriek and fought to sit upright. Quenden! She had to find Quenden.
Warm alien bodies pushed against her and something warm and sticky landed on her exposed arm. Paralysis crept over her. They carried her out into the deep chill of the night, conscious, but unable to move. She couldn’t even cry out or open her eyes to look for her brother. She couldn’t turn her head yet, but she thought she saw another grouping of dark shadows just on the edge of her vision carrying something. Please let it be Quenden!
Her captors took her into one of the large common buildings and dumped her on the floor. The second group added another body beside her.
A harsh bark of laughter met her, followed by Shihs’s rough voice. “Well, if it isn’t the junkyard dog and her whelp.”
Avdonina wriggled her fingers until she closed on Quenden’s tiny hand. Inch by inch, she pushed the muscles in her neck to obey. Slowly her head turned until she was facing her son, his chest rising and falling in even rhythm.
Shihs sniffed and spoke again. “It’s just us, you know. Everyone else is dead.”
He lunged up against her, whispering in her ear, “I gave you your cur baby brother, I let him live when I should have killed him. I asked you for one small favor in return. You couldn’t even do that for me. I feel no special reason to keep up my end of the deal when you didn’t keep up yours.” He leaned across her, reaching for Quenden’s throat.
Avdonina gritted her teeth, willing her body to respond. She arched her back and brought her knee up into Shihs’s face. It wasn’t powerful enough to hurt him, but it pushed him far enough that he loosened his grip on Quenden.
All at once, a furry body appeared in front of her and snatched Shihs by the hair and neck. More furry bodies grabbed Avdonina and Quenden, dragging them out of the building and into a circle of light brown four-legged natives.
Avdonina rolled over onto her side, curling around Quenden. His eyes were open and filled with fear. “Mmmmmmaaaah.” While she rubbed his cheek and patted his arm to reassure him, she scanned her captors.
They were close to the size of large dogs, mostly standing on four legs. Some, however, stood on their two hind legs, shifting back and forth in agitation. Their front feet and hind feet looked identical, causing Avdonina to speculate that they could grip things with the hind feet as well. They were covered with coarse brown fur and thick dock tails extended almost a full six-inches behind them. A giant groove that ran the vertical length of the face seemed to be a closure of two facing bone plates that opened to display two bulging eyes and a wide feeding tube that swiveled as they spoke. Occasional tiny heads poked out of marsupial-type pouches on the bellies of Avdonina’s captors. These were poked back in by the carrying parent. She couldn’t tell if all the natives had pouches, but they seemed to her eyes to be the only sexual identifiers within the group.
The religious shrine had to belong to these people.
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If you don’t want to wait to read the whole story, it’s available in “Sunlit Night, Coffee and Sweet Dreams“.