“Eli! I’ve found it! I found a way to the surface!” Excitedly, I run toward him and the others. “It’s a tight fit, so we might have to widen the opening some, but there’s a small, natural looking path that’s far too narrow for the Groyin. You can see daylight just a little way into it.”
Elikel wraps his arms around me in a tight hug. “Good job, Monrenth. Now we can place another radio beacon, and if anyone is in the sector…”
He releases me and looks back at the others, Alim Gouhr at the head. “Once we get the mouth of that opening widened, we’ll establish a proper camp and get that beacon fired up. We need to run a pump line back to that spring we saw a while back as well. I don’t want to leave the camp except to use the beacon.”
“What about Kenlyi and Janil? Surely we can begin searching for them properly once the beacon is set up. We could even use the device to try to tap into their communication.” Gouhr says, frustrated. For the past two days, he’s been upset at Elikel’s inaction regarding our missing men.
“We have lost enough men, Gouhr. To act now with our numbers so few is suicide. We will have our revenge, but we must bide our time. Trust me, friend, we will make them pay for what they’ve done, but our first order is survival. Regardless, they use very little conventional communication because of their telepathy.” Elikel looks back at me and nods.
Over the next few hours, we begin establishing the camp. Two engineers work on the radio. Fortunately, with the opening to the surface being high up on the mountain range, we’re able to set up a nice and clear signal, even connecting to all of the other beacons we established.
“Come in, anyone. This is Alimari Dekor seeking any Camfurdian. Come in.” I watch the transmitter as Dekor speaks, hoping to see some sort of movement on the readout, some sort of response. Of course, we see and hear nothing.
“I guess that means the factory camp has finally fallen. Damn.” I say with a sigh. There was no way that we could have transported the wounded, so leaving them to defend our old position and to cover our escape was the best plan that Elikel could come up with.
“I’d been holding out hope that they’d survive. Damn.” Dekor looks at me sadly. “Do you think Alim Elikel made the right decision?”
“Of course he did, Dekor. Without Eli’s judgment, we’d all be dead now. He’s given us the best chance of survival. Do not dare question him.” My tone remains calm and steady. I… owe Elikel everything. I trust him implicitly and I know he’ll see us through.
“Monrenth!” I hear my yarl’s familiar voice and I rush to him.
“Yes, dominus?” I gently lower my head and shoulders in a submissive gesture. Oh, how I long to be away from this warzone, so that I could bow to him instead.
“We’re going out. I want to scout the hillside, and see if we can set up another beacon. If there’s any sign of Groyin, we’ll fall back to the tunnels.” Elikel grins. A scouting mission isn’t quite his forte.
“You… don’t think I can handle it alone?” I watch my yarl with a little skepticism.
He shakes his head and I can’t quite read the meaning behind his wry smile. “It’s not that at all. I’ve been all talk lately. The burden shouldn’t be all on you, my love.” Eli grabs my shoulder.
Curiously, I nod. “Who am I to question your decision? I’d be happy to have your company.”
“Get ready. We’ll leave shortly.” Curiously, in spite of his command tone, he plants a kiss on my forehead. I… can’t help but to smile. After all these years, I still love this man.
Within an hour, we’ve assembled our gear and are making our way toward the surface.
“How do you think Janil is holding up?” I ask as we continue to march toward the opening.
“Scared, probably. I can’t imagine those creatures are treating him well. If he’s escaped, he’s probably even more terrified. But… Janil has faith. I hope he knows that I’m coming for him. I… miss him, Monrenth.” Eli sighs takes a swig from his canteen.
“I do, too. When we’re back together, all three of us… and we’re away from this nightmare, we need quality time together. I… didn’t always find him attractive, but he grew on me. I’d like to show him a good time. He deserves it.” I laugh quietly. Sex is one of the least important things right now, but given how long it’s been and the circumstances… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t craving.
Elikel laughs as well. “I agree. It’s a shame that the four of us, me, you, him and Kala… that we never had a chance to enjoy each other as a group. We’ll make it right this time. I’ve… got a lot of things I want to make right.” This sigh is much more subdued.
Finally, we’ve made it to the surface. As I emerge from the hole, he grabs my arm and pulls me up.
“Yes, my yarl?” I look at him, and slowly lower to my knees.
“I didn’t bring us out here just for the radio.”
I smirk and nod. “I know that, Eli. You… brought me out here for some privacy.”
“So, let’s enjoy it.”
He lowers down to his knees and kisses my lips. The next thing I know, I’m being gently lowered to the ground.
Oh, how I love this man!
After a little while, we begin to clean up and get dressed. “If me or Kala had done that with someone, Janil even, you’d have bitten our heads off about how dangerous and reckless it was.” I laugh quietly, my eyes locked on his.
“You’re right. How could you let me do such a dangerous and reckless thing, Monrenth? We have a job to do.” He smirks as his tone drips with sarcasm.
“I’m being serious when I say this, Eli. What’s gotten into you? Because this… isn’t like you.” Sure, Elikel has had a bit of a playful side at times, but not in these kind of circumstances. During times like this, he’s deadly serious.
Elikel sighs and looks down. “I realize how hard I was on everyone, especially Janil and Kala. For the first time in my life, I’ve wondered whether or not I was going to survive. I’ve always found ways to survive, but I’ve never been in a situation this dire. I’ve never lost loved ones like this.”
He grabs my hand and squeezes. “I… wanted us to have a moment to remember, just in case we never get the chance again.”
“We will, Eli, and Janil will be with us.” I lift his hand and plant a kiss on it. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”