The young woman stared out across the expanse of the Wraith homeworld from her vantage point on the highlands, face pale and solemn. Her lips were white and thin but her eyes were wide, naked and grave as a child's. Somewhere in the background, someone was whispering furiously for her to get down, something will see, but she couldn't hear them. There was only her heartbeat in her ears, slow and dull and stupid, pushing blood throughout her body with sluggish, haggard effort. Thud-thuuuuud, thud-thuuuuud.
The Hive was.
The Hive was gone.
The hours imagining the moment of their return turned to sour ash in her mouth and all she could do was stand and stare, dull and stupid and astonishingly surprised. Somewhere in a dimmer part of her brain, the buried rational part, she had always known Hive ships were meant for flight. Used for hibernation, yes, a home, yes, yes, but also in rare cyclical moments, for a spaceship. A long time ago, she had flown in one—a scout ship, meant for short culls, nothing like the ponderous heaviness and vulnerabilities of a home-ship. To her, the Hiveships would always remain on the ground, always ready for their arrival. What a fool she had been. She should have known the hostile take-over of the rival Wraith Hive would bring about changes, but this? Abandoning a much-coveted world? The Wraith are starving, Althea thought as she looked at the ravaged valley. She could see where the ships had ripped out of the ground like grotesque children from their subterranean womb and towards the heavens. Of course they'd leave. They needed food. Even from her distance she could see where the ships had nestled, slumbering. All what remained were yawning, dark scars in the landscape.
Lynex moved besides her. Althea had a little start as the Wraith she had known since childhood moved towards a path leading away the highlands. He ignored her, his footfalls a high-ranking Wraith's grace, swift and noiseless. Only his leathers made any sound as he disappeared into the pines but even then her ears had to struggle to pick them out. There was no question where he was going. It was less of a question if she would follow him.
Althea did. She looked back and in that same hazy disconnected shock, realized she had forgotten about the Atlantian crew—Sheppard, Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon. They still crouched on the rocks, varying degrees of frustration and aggression on their faces. There were stormclouds on Sheppard's brow, and Ronon's leer had never looked meaner. Teyla was expressionless but it was Rodney who summed up what they were thinking the most eloquently.
"Where's he going?" he said, looking around in pale, wide-eyed sweeps. "What's going on? Shouldn't we wait—where's he—why are we—"
Althea stared at them, trying to remember why they were there in the first place. Did it matter? Whatever reason she and Lynex had for 'employing' the Atlantians was meaningless now. With the Hives gone, there was nothing to take back. No battle to win. No army to vanquish. Nothing remained now but bleak reality and a raped landscape. She realized the Atlantians could escape whenever they wanted. Truthfully, she really didn't care if they did. And now, looking at Ronon's hatred, she suddenly regretted having them around at all. She gave Sheppard a quick glance, a head-to-feet-to-head-again look before ducking after Lynex. She moved a little quicker, inwardly shuddering at the sneering grin on Ronon's face. She could hear something hissed in the humans' jelly language behind her. An oath, perhaps, a human curse. A heartbeat later she could hear them following her, their strange earthen boots making little crunching noises in the sand on the rocks.
Very little broke the oppressive silence as the group made it down the highlands and to the valley below. Althea gave up trying to keep with Lynex; the Wraith was waiting for no-one, his white hair bobbing between the trees. Behind her, she could hear one of the Atlantians—Rodney, undoubtedly—huffing and hawing under his breath. More than once a reedy little whine started up but, whether it be Ronon or Teyla's influence, it would quickly cease. Not a sound came from Sheppard; she could feel his gaze on her, the What are you leading my team into and if it's anything bad oh girly you are going to hurt burning at her back. He didn't carry a weapon, none of them did, but that did little comfort her. If Sheppard wanted to, he could do worse than kill her. Althea shuddered, and quickened her step.
The air was cool but warming as the sun rose over the southern horizon. The soft wind in the pine neither picked up nor abetted but remained a welcome companion to sweaty brows. The sun, a distant and white class-A star, burned the blueness of the dawn into the bright, clear colours of mid-morning. There was little cloud cover in the curved sky. They reached the valley floor. Overturned boulders and uprooted trees filled the pockmarked view and made trekking slow-going. The craters, no more than fist-sized up on the highlands, were now monstrous holes several miles in breadth and width. Birds flew in and out, peppering the air with their faint week-week-weeeeeeek calls. Rodney chattered in the background, his curiosity piercing the overhanging wariness of the group. Althea could pick out some words like "flying" and "reason" and "cull," but the rest were beyond her. She heard Ronon pitch a string of growl-words, low and curt. She didn't understand any of them, but the intention was clear enough. She moved away, picking her way through the disturbed ground and towards the figure clothed in black.
Althea found Lynex standing at the foot of one such crater, his back to her. She watched him for a moment, noting the modified pistol in his slack grip. After the barest of pauses, she made her way to him with slow, deliberately loud steps until she stopped abreast to him a few feet away. The ground fell away at her feet, giving her the impression she was on the edge of a precipice. Wind rushed up at her. The smell of gritty loam and wet mud was so strong it was as if she had a clump of soil in her mouth. Lynex moaned. Althea was shocked to hear such a quiet, minuscule sound come from a roughened throat, so unlike the hot, shattering grief from before. He did it once, then went quiet. She stood next to him, the rising sun warming half her face. Without speaking she leaned and pushed her shoulder against his upper arm, lightly. She felt him tense in surprise but didn't look at him when he turned his head to her.
"I'd hate to break this little party up," a voice behind them said, "but shouldn't us people without guns get out of the open?"
Althea stiffened and turned around. Sheppard was not a stone's throw away. At his elbow was Ronon, glowering and smiling in his unnerving, mindless kind of way. At Sheppard's other elbow was Teyla and Rodney. Teyla was tense and thin-lipped. All at once, Althea realized where she and Lynex were and felt an overwhelming need to get away from the crater's edge. If Lynex heard anything, he made no move or sign of it.
"—amazing, really, how Wraith hyperdrive systems work. If we could only figure out how they can remain dormant—"
"Rodney," Sheppard said, all sharp edges and authority. His eyes never left Althea's. The Canadian blinked into surprised silence, face pale. He seemed to become aware of how everyone was situated, how charged the air had become.
"Oh my—oh my God," Rodney said, rolling both his head and eyes, "really? Are we really going to resort to violence ag—"
"Shut UP, Rodney—"
"Get out," Lynex said.
"Excuse me?" Sheppard said.
"Your presence is no longer required," Lynex said, still not turning around. "Leave."
Sheppard sputtered. He took a step back. "Leave?" His eyes narrowed. His lips curled. "Leave? Let me get this straight. You ambush us, knock us out, leave us weaponless, keep us tied up in caves and damn near frog march us to this—this—this world. And then you just want us to leave? Like—like we didn't just get shot and hogtied?"
"I say we kill im. Him'n'her." Ronon flicked his eyes from the back of Lynex's head to Althea. Althea felt a chill as blood left her face. She recognized the word "kill" easily enough.
"Hey, woah, woah, woah!" Rodney said. "Easy, killer! God, why must everything be killed or maimed with you!"
Ronon ignored him.
"I've kinda been toyin the idea, yeah," Sheppard said. His eyes darted to the pistol in Lynex's claws.
Rodney's head snapped around. His rodent eyes bugged further. "You can't be serious! We're not seriously—"
"Rodney," Teyla said, voice strained.
"No! No, you listen to me!" Rodney's voice reached a panicky screech. "How do you propose we do it, Mr. I-Like-Killing-Things? In case you haven't noticed, we don't have any weapons! What are we going to use, rocks? Sticks? Our bare hands?"
"Done it before," Ronon said. He had his eyes locked on Lynex. "He don't look that strong. Probably a while since he's last fed." A hungry, nameless tension enveloped his entire body as Rodney spluttered. His shoulder tightened. His arms corded. His hands fisted. A lifetime of hatred and fear and pain boiled to the surface and became a mask of malevolence. Sheppard would have no more control over him than he did a mad dog.
Althea shot Lynex a frightened glance. His profile was to her. His eyes were closed.
"Lynex? What are they saying?" she said. "I can't understand what they're saying. Lynex? I can't—"
Althea didn't have time to scream before a clawed hand shoved her to the side. The thrust had been with a Wraith's strength and she found herself slamming down on the ground ten feet away, wind knocked clean from her. She looked up in time to see Ronon grapple with the Wraith. Everything was a blur of brown and black leather, of human and Wraith limbs. Snarls and heavy breathing filled the air. Rodney and Teyla retreated, although Teyla now had two sticks in her hands and had positioned herself in front of the scientist. Sheppard stayed on the outside, ready for any clear opening. Where was the pistol?
With a mighty heave Lynex threw the rugged warrior off of him—away from the crater—yet staggered under a renewed onslaught as Sheppard threw himself into the fight. The Wraith, his breathing already ragged, evaded several hand-to-hand blows before repeating the same thrusting move he had done on Althea. Sheppard landed hard on his back several feet away, grunting. He remained there, more stunned than hurt. Lynex, as if finally recognizing what Althea had noticed from the start, began to run away from the crater's edge. He had barely gotten four strides in before he suddenly, inexplicably, clutched at his head. A shattering snarl left him. He fell to one leathered knee. Althea looked up and saw Teyla focusing an intense expression on him. Wheezing for breath, Althea ran to her feet and rushed at Teyla. She never made it as Rodney collided with her away in a blitz attack. It was an overcommitted rush, wild, but for the second time in ninety seconds, she found herself on the ground. Rodney had toppled over with her and was scrabbling to get back to his feet. With a guttural scream, Althea grabbed a rock the size of a duck's egg and hurled it at the tribeswoman. The rock hit Teyla's shoulder in a brittle sound. The older woman re-awoke with a pained grunt and Althea saw Lynex struggle to fight back under the heavy onslaught of Ronon's punches. The rugged warrior was above, raining blow after blow with mindless intensity. The meaty sound of fist smashing flesh again and again and again filled the valley.
"STOP!" Althea screamed. She didn't know whether she spoke in Wraith or human tongue but she was on her feet again, running, sprinting, hurtling to save the only thing she had left—
Someone tackled her from behind. The moment she hit the valley floor and felt the weight on top of her Althea began to kick and scream, bite and claw. Something was being said above her. Human words. Human curses. She turned on her back. A fist to her head, aiming to knock her out but missing the temple. Blood, hot and surprisingly copious, gushed from her forehead and down her face. Another blow, this time to her side. Something cracked inside of her and she couldn't breathe and then came the gray waves of pain pain pain PAIN—
The weight previously holding her down was torn away and suddenly she could gasp for breath. Blood stung in her left eye as she held her side and wheezed, unable to take more than the shallowest of pants. Something was roaring. At first she thought it was her heartbeat in her ears but after a moment realized it was Lynex. The Wraith had Sheppard by the throat, flailing him as one would a rag doll. Then, in a blink of the eye, Lynex threw the man away to punch Ronon with all his strength. The rugged warrior crumpled more than he fell, pole axed into stillness, even if it would be for a few moments. The Wraith's narrow chest heaved, his green-almost-black eyes glittering in savage menace. One cheek was mashed and bloody, oozing the dark ichor of Wraith blood. He bore a cut over an eye ridge. From where Althea lay, she saw her childhood companion and partner warped and hardened and terrible. He had been forged in fire. Now, he was truly Wraith.
Still sweeping belligerent glares at the groaning bodies and fixing Teyla a particularly aggressive stare, the Wraith bent down. Althea could smell him before she felt him, the normally dry scent of cobwebs now one of battle musk, rangy. Her wounds were fresh enough for her to stomach the pain as he hefted her on her feet. As she steadied herself against him, she could feel him trembling through his clothes. She didn't mention it. She could barely breathe as it was. Ronon was groaning louder now. Sheppard rocked to his knees, regaining his strength faster than safe. Lynex walked away without another look back, holding Althea up with a vice-like grip on her upper arm. Behind them, Sheppard roared,
"THE NEXT TIME WE MEET, IT'S A BULLET IN YOUR BRAIN! YOU HEAR ME! I WON'T MISS!"
Althea gasped. "Lynex—"
"Don't look back. Keep going."
And Althea did, one hobbled step at a time. She fled with Lynex deeper in the valley even as Sheppard's roars of anger and frustration hounded them again and again and again.
Her side was a flame of glassy agony. Every breath was another stab of pain. Her head throbbed. Her feet ached. Her stomach kept sending hunger pangs that did little to settle the rising nausea. When at last Lynex allowed her to sit, Althea collapsed in a heap, gritting her teeth as her breath whistled between her locked jaws. She hardly paid attention to the sunlight all around her, or the small brook by her feet. Had Lynex brought her back into the forest? Althea felt cool hands examine her head wound, turning her chin this way and that. She hardly resisted. When the hands dropped to her side, however, she hissed and tried to flinch away.
"Be still; I must look," Lynex said, somewhere above her. Althea could barely keep her eyes open. The pounding in her head had gotten worse.
"Can't . . . hurts . . ."
There was a rough croon, unaccustomed at gentleness. The cool hands peeled Althea's smaller ones away and prodded where her middle ribs lay. She cried out. Lynex retreated, low growls on his breath. Althea looked up at him and made an effort to focus on his face, swimming in the waves of the oncoming migraine.
"What . . . is it?"
Lynex laid a hand on her lower side but didn't prod it. "Your ribs are either broken or out of place."
Althea looked at him in panic. "Will I die?"
Above her, the Wraith looked away, as if some noise had caught his attention. A muscle in his cheek worked. "I do not know."
Althea closed her eyes and settled back against the cool ground of dead pine needs, attempting to ride out the pain and not focus on anything else. Maybe Lynex knew and he wasn't telling her the truth. Or perhaps he was being truthful. Suddenly, the very real possibility of death loomed over her. Despite her efforts, her breathing quickened. She struggled to remain lucid.
"Is Sheppard gone?"
Lynex stiffened and a snarl curled over his lips. He didn't answer her. Althea assumed that meant 'no.' She lay back down, fighting to find a way to breathe with the least amount of pain. Behind her closed lids she could feel Lynex shift around her.
Then get up.
Then was gone.
Althea fell into delirium as the migraine swelled.
When the young woman woke again, at first she thought she had gone blind. She couldn't see her hands even when she held them in front of her face. Had she died sometime during the day and this was the Afterdeath? But even as she realized she still felt the throbbing stabs of her broken ribs, her eyes grew accustomed to the inky darkness. Her hands became indistinct shapes in the dark. She looked up and saw the silhouette of trees against a slightly-bluer sky. There were stars and wind. Night, she thought. The twin curves of the amethyst moons hung low in the sky.
Suddenly, she felt very alone.
"Lynex?" she said. Her voice was a rasping whisper. She couldn't see anything, couldn't feel him, couldn't see— "Lynex? Lynex, are you there?"
"I am here."
The voice came from her left, towards her good side. She turned her head, groping the wilderness with her blind eyes. Something in the dark shifted. Althea heard Lynex sit down closer besides her before feeling the brush of his leather. She reached out, blindly, and hung on tight to what was his wrist. In the night, the Wraith tolerated the touch without a barest murmur.
"I need to feed."
Althea nodded. What else more could she do? She relaxed against the ground as much as she could. She must have slept the migraine out; though her head still ached, it was nowhere near as punishing as it had been. Althea didn't know how long she lay there. Neither spoke, though she didn't remove her hand from his wrist. Despite the pain in her side and head and the tight hunger in her stomach, a resigned calmness swept through her. She looked up straight ahead, towards the stars and distant suns and far-reaching worlds. Her mind rested briefly on the idea of the Hive somewhere out there, but to her surprise, didn't focus on that thought for too long. Instead, she understood she was dying, and perhaps she would never leave this world alive. Perhaps Lynex would use her life to extend his own, and continue the search without her. It would make sense. Perhaps it would be the only part of her life that would. She kept her eyes open, trying to look past the vast blue expanse of space, trying to imagine where she would go when she died. Would she become nothing? Everything? It was a tiring thought. She fell asleep, her hand still gripping Lynex's wrist.
If this is the Afterdeath, I never thought it'd smell so good. Althea slowly opened her eyes, blinking against the mid-morning sunlight in her face. The sounds of juices sizzling and spitting roused her more than the actual desire to wake. She turned her head and saw Lynex crouched around a fire, tending a spitted carcass of a rabbit. He didn't glance at her, nor made any indication he noticed her, but began to cut away strips of meat and put them on something behind him. His cheek was still oozing. He needs to feed, Althea thought, a strange emotion stealing over her. Last night, when she had been so sure she was dying, she wouldn't have minded being fed upon. Now, with the possibility of survival, the idea of self-sacrifice didn't seem as glorious nor as painless. If noticing Althea tensing, Lynex made no sign of it and continued minding the rabbit. When he was done stripping the carcass, he got to his feet and wordlessly he handed her first an actual Wraithian plate and Wraith-wrought goblet. There was water in the cup, still warm from its purification treatment. Althea's eyes widened.
"Where'd you find this?" she asked. She held the goblet in a hand, admiring the blue glass in the light. It made fractal patterns on the rust-coloured ground. It had come from a high-ranking Wraith's quarters.
Lynex motioned over his shoulder with a jerk of his head. He crouched a few feet away. "Abandoned scout ship. Some supplies left over."
A ship? Althea thought. Could it be . . .?
As if sensing the woman's line of thought, the Wraith said, "It is stripped of everything. No fuel. No comm. systems. No weapons. Some medicine, though."
The little blush of hope subsided. But she couldn't stay subdued forever, and began to swallow huge draughts of the water. She tore into the meat and burned her tongue, but she didn't stop until all what remained was hot grease on her fingers. She licked them clean, relishing in the gamy taste of rabbit. When she was done, she glanced to where Lynex held himself. His frame was tense, his hands tight. He purposefully kept his gaze away from her. She could see his wounded cheek, still fresh. Still unhealed. For once, she didn't know how to bring the topic of feeding up. Almost without her knowing, she rubbed her chest, right on the place where Lynex had threatened her on the tundra. Lynex snapped his head around and caught her before she could move her hand away. His pupils thinned to needles. They met her eyes. Althea looked away, a faint heat on her cheeks.
"How . . . are your ribs?" Lynex asked. He sounded miserable.
"Better," Althea said. "Haven't died yet."
Lynex grunted. He said nothing else.
Neither of them would look at each other.
"I'm going to relieve myself," Althea said, suddenly struggling to her feet. Lynex twitched, as if moving to aid her, but remained where he was. He stoutly kept his attention away as Althea gritted her teeth and hunched her way deeper into the forest. The pines creaked all around her. Though a short distance would have sufficed, she kept walking, developing a stooped rhythm as she went. She recognized where she was: it was the foot of the highlands, on the lee-side of the valley. She could feel the ground beneath her slope upwards, where the stunted spruce trees and rock cliffs would replace the tall pines and spongy soil. She stayed away from the hike but kept straight, resting every so often to regain her breath. She tried to ignore glimpses of the abandoned valley below. Were the Atlantians—Sheppard, Rodney, the tribeswoman and the hateful warrior—still around? Probably not, she thought. No doubt they'd left by now, back to their Floating City.
Althea winced, rubbing her side. Suddenly a darker, more ominous thought took root. What if they come back? she thought. She stopped. What if they come back to finish what they tried to start? I know Ronon would look forward to killing Lynex. And me? What would they do to me? Probably kill me as well, she thought. She imagined the hills crawling not with rival Wraith but with Atlantians, hurting and bent for revenge, with Sheppard in the lead. There'd be no mercy the next time Althea and Lynex crossed paths with them, she was sure of it. I have to tell Lynex, she thought. We have to get off this world before they come looking for us.
Althea was turning around and preparing to limp back when she heard a twig snap underfoot. She froze. She was quiet for a moment, senses straining to pinpoint which direction the sound came from.
"Lynex?" she said. Her eyes darted. The forest was empty. Sun dappled through the pine trees. A bird sang in the distance. "Lynex? If this is you, it's not funny. Lynex?"
The crackle of disturbed underbrush came directly behind her. Althea whirled around and caught a stunning backhand full in the face. Althea tumbled down the slope, slowly picking up speed before falling heads-over-heels. There was no pain, not yet, but white shock, a sense of weightlessness. Her body crunched and fell and scratched and when it finally came to a rest at the bottom of the valley, she could only lie on her back, immobile with surprise. Then the pain came, slowly at first but quickly building up pressure, until all she could do was moan aloud. She rolled her head from side-to-side, mindless under the onslaught. If her side had hurt before, it was enflamed with agony now. She could taste blood as the back of her throat. Maybe this time I'll die, she thought. No. Not when she was so close to living. She struggled to get up before realizing she couldn't move. It hurt too much.
Crisshsh. Chrrissh. Chrrrissh.
Whatever the thing was made its stately way towards the fallen woman, one step in front of the other, neither hurrying nor slowing. Little by little, a female Wraith stepped out of the woodwork.
Althea moaned again, willing her body to move. The she-Wraith was an emaciated, haggard thing. Snarled dirty hair hung in a mockery of a plait in front of her sunken chest. Her cheekbones jutted like knobs under the stretched skin. Large, lavender circles hung beneath the overshadowed eye sockets. Her hands hung by her sides like dead white fish. The thing wore the remains of what looked like a dress. At one time if may have been blue, but now it was a ghastly mélange of stains. Althea almost didn't recognize the she-Wraith under the dirt and grime until she noticed the female had only one, gleaming, yellow eye. She-Wraith and human looked at each other for a moment. Then the she-Wraith attempted to smile. It came out a terrible leer. Betrayal and some other emotion lurked in the single eye.
"You," One-eye said. "The one called Little Dagger."
Althea tried to keep breathing, her side afire. She could feel something not right inside her, something sharp and jagged poking something it could shouldn't. The she-Wraith stepped closer. At her angle, Althea could see the she-Wraith's feet and legs were bare. Dark, bleeding—unhealing—scratches laced up the gray shins and calves.
"You're a little late for the battle," One-eye said. She spread her rotting arms wide. "You missed the take-off and everything."
"Please . . . we came back . . . too late—"
The she-Wraith, the same one who had tried so hard to replace the old Queen, stared down at the pitiful human at her feet with a blankness more terrible than any passion. Althea remained ramrod stiff, too terrified to move. Though starving, Althea could feel the she-Wraith's awesome presence like a malignant wind. Lynex, please. One-eye cocked her head, still wearing the disturbing expression of detachment. "You humans are all the same," she said, voice a croak. Drool strung from her mouth. Who knew how long she had hidden in the valley, watching her home get ravaged in the ivy woodwork of the forest. "You are rodents, forever multiplying and surviving. Little,"—lifted a foot—"honor-less,"—drew it back—"rodents." She kicked out hard, catching Althea in the hip. Althea cried out in pain. Her chest stabbed. Corkscrews of pain went off behind her eyes.
"You speak our tongue and wear our clothes but you will never be one of us!" the she-Wraith screeched, lashing out again with her foot. There was rage, yes, terrible rage in the she-Wraith's voice, but it sounded as if she were crying, too. "You're worse than a traitor, worse than a rodent! We sheltered you, fed you, clothed you, then you run away when your Hive needed you most! I stayed! I remained! Betrayer! Coward! Coward! Coward!"
A kick punctuated each 'coward.' Althea began to hear rather than feel the meaty thud of abused flesh, and was more frightened of the strange detachment than of the she-Wraith. She tried to regain herself, tried to remain tethered, but it was becoming harder and harder. Was this how Warrior, the Wraith who raised her, felt under Sheppard's bullets? This slip-slip-slipping?
I love you, Althea thought.
A dark shadow blotted out the sun.
Althea heard a terrible screech rent the air—horrible, agonized—then low, dying moans. Beneath it all were strange, slithery sucking noises. Hungry noises. Feeding noises. Someone's feeding, Althea thought. She blinked, trying to understand all the brightness in her eyes and why her body wouldn't listen to her. Each breath was fire. Is she feeding on me? I can't see, but it doesn't feel like it. Little by little, Althea gave a herculean effort to rouse herself. She saw in time Lynex step back, chest heaving worse than after his fight with Sheppard and Ronon. He stood over the twisted corpse of the she-Wraith. He looked at his offending hand, at the dead she-Wraith, then back to his hand. He shuddered once before turning to her. Althea looked up at him as if from a great distance, unable to see any detail of his face. Wraithicide, she thought. Everything was fading.
"Don't listen to her, Little Dagger," Lynex said, so quietly she almost didn't hear him. "Don't you listen."
But she couldn't be sure whether or not it had been a pain-induced delirium, and when she sank back in the grass, she floated away.
Althea roused only once. She blinked her puffy eyes and peered in the cool darkness of what looked to be the interior of an abandoned Wraith scout ship. Someone was rummaging in what sounded like a case of little metallic tubes. For some reason, she was content where she was sitting, bundled in what looked and felt like cobwebs. She couldn't move, but again, the odd mood swept all her cares away. At that moment, if someone told her fish grew on trees and water flowed upstream, she would have believed them without question. Some part of her struggled for rationality, struggled to surface and get out of the chair but the greater part, the new haze, kept her still and stupid.
She must have made a noise or made a movement because the rummaging stopped and footsteps approached. Althea blinked slowly. A creature with long white hair and bluish green skin—Wraith, her mind said—crouched eye-level with her. He was a handsome creature, with flawless cheeks and cat-slitted green-almost-black eyes. Althea stared at him fearlessly, somehow knowing she had nothing to fear from this being. Something told her she had something important to say to this creature. Something, but what was it?
"I must get you to a healer," the Wraith—Lynex, her mind supplied—was saying. "A human healer, someone familiar with your physiology. I have given you what little drugs I could find to take the pain away, but it is not enough. Little Dagger? Can you hear me? Little Dagger?"
The three words came again to her mind, unbidden. She must have said them out loud because the Wraith—no, Lynex—stilled, dark eyes widening.
little dagger? little dagger, what did you say? can you hear—
But Althea felt warm and content and drugged, and slipped back into the comforting darkness, and knew no more.
A.N: The immediate sequel to this is called Lonely Divides. After much deliberation, I decided it was the only way to finish Diaspora.