Chapter Eighteen: Escape

“Damn them! Damn them to the deepest, darkest pits! I’ll slaughter them all if I must!” Elikel slams his fists into the cave wall repeatedly.

“Eli, just… take a deep breath. You and Alim Gouhr have got to figure this out, but there’s no way we can afford to press the attack.” I say with a sigh.

I jump as Elikel’s hand snaps around my throat. I scowl and my eyes widen, but I do not struggle against my yarl even as he starts to lift me off the ground.

“Do not presume to tell me what I can or cannot order, Monrenth! If we die trying to eradicate these fiends, then we die! I will not stand idle and allow these creatures to draw breath! First, they took Kalarai, so I took their young. Now, they steal Janil from me? I’ll not suffer any of them to live! They’ll die, Monrenth. They will die!” Elikel releases me, and I immediately lower to my knees, gasping for air.

“Yes, my dominus. If… you wish this… we’ll find a way.” I… don’t have the heart to stand against him, even if it’s basically suicide. I’d lay my life down for him a thousand times if I could. This man… flawed as he might be, has shown me the importance of family, respect, and duty time and time again. I will not fail him.

As I lower my head to him, still kneeling. He reaches down and strokes my head. “I’m tired, my love.” He heaves a sigh. “I failed both of them.”

“Kalarai died proud, Eli. Janil… he’s resourceful. Observant. For all we know, he could be our greatest asset right now. He’ll seek us out, I know it. He’s sly enough to escape, too. I agree. We’ll kill all the damned bugs. We’ll torch the planets from orbit if we have to. But for now, Eli… we have to be smart. We have to be quiet and careful.” I keep my head lowered, and thankfully, he continues to stroke my head.

“I know. You’re… probably right. We’ll have our revenge, but it must be on our terms, and… you’re right. We can’t do that right now.” He pats my head one more time before offering his hand to me. “Come here.”

I take his hand and he helps pull me up to my feet. For an awkward moment, we both look around the cave. The passage is sealed off from the way we came, having brought down the supports in the larger egg cavern. The fact that the air is still quality ensures us that there’s an exit somewhere and we can still access it. The handful of us that are left are huddled together with their yulas and closest friends, realizing these may be our final moments.

“We’ve lost too many not to be careful. You’re right, Monrenth.” We look back at each other.

Elikel’s eyes are sad, pained, and as he said, tired. Still, as he looks at me, I can see how thankful he is to still have me with him.

“I… need you, Monrenth. I can’t handle any more loss.” He shakes his head and I can start to see tears welling up in his eyes.

I reach up to touch his cheek, and gently down his neck. “We’ll find Janil. He’s… too young to want to take his life, and he’s been through too much to not want to escape. We’ll find him. In the meantime, Eli… I’m here, and I’m yours.”

My yarl smiles. He strokes the back of my head before gently pulling me in for a kiss. His kiss is passionate, almost desperate as if he wants to have a kiss he’ll never forget. My hands wrap around his waist, pulling him closer. As I grind against him, his tongue slips into my mouth, giving me the chance to tease him even more. We both want much more, but we will savor this as long as we can right now.

Finally, he starts to pull away from me. Gently, I tug at his lip, gently pleading with him, quietly telling him how much I need him, too.

He rolls his lips together as if he’s trying to savor the last taste of me. After a moment, he starts to smile. “I love you, Monrenth.”

“I love you, Elikel. My yarl…” I say the last word with emphasis, a quiet admission of my submission.

“I… need to speak with Gouhr. We need to come up with rules of engagement at this point, since we clearly underestimated the power of their hive mind and telepathy.” He sighs as his mind is finally returning to the task at hand.

“I’ve been trying to reach out to Janil telepathically, but he’s either unconscious or simply too far away, or just not practiced enough with longer telepathy. I think he’ll find us, though. He loves you too much to not try, Eli.”

“I… wish I could have comforted him more. He did so well. I… hope he knows how proud I am of him. I’m going to spoil that boy when we get out of here, give him everything he desires. He deserves it. I… never should’ve let him come here.” Eli clenches his fist, angry at himself.

“No, you and Arahni made the right choice in laying down the terms. If you hadn’t, he would’ve never started to grow, to mature. We would’ve never had the chance to see the love between those two blossom, and you never would’ve gotten to see how devoted to you he was. He loves you, Eli.” I grab his fist and gently coax his fingers around mine.

“You’re right, and I love him. We’ll find him, or he’ll find us, and we’ll get things right, Monrenth. I swear it.”