A/N: My lore skills are horrible and so are my lyrics. But never mind, onward with Queen Illexia! Up next is Takinom!
Queen Illexia sighed as she shifted through the piles of paperwork. Hundreds of rolls of paper and parchment were littered around her throne chamber. There was a pile for expeditions, another for the happenings of the Hive, and another for the war against the humans. Well, the war against Ore, the old queen amended silently, remembering the small group of humans living with her people.
In fact, she had just finished reading the weekly report from her five human caretakers. Lore's and Raznus's reports were generally boring: Lore's Ken was trying to get his hands on all the Danian's mugic while Raznus's Zachary was trying to explore every inch on Mount Pillar and map it out, including the areas that were prohibited from them. Same as last week and the last four weeks so Illexia didn't worry about them.
Skartalas's report on Imani was a little troubling, but then again, the leader of the saboteurs had a temper and a calculating mind. This week, she tried to hoard small but powerful Battlegear such as Liquilizers and Diamond of Vlarics and hide them around Skartalas's nest. Not only that, but she tried to take on Odu-Bathax, Junda, and Mallash at the same time at the beginning of the week. She ended up with several broken bones, torn muscles, a dislocated shoulder, the list went on. Odu-Bathax and Mallash both suffered broken antennae, Junda had bruises and a crack in his exoskeleton, Mallash had torn some muscles, and Odu-Bathax had two dislocated arms.
Illexia sighed again. She had hoped that Imani's time with Skartalas would ease the sting of being captured, but apparently not. The old queen drummed her fingers against the desk she was sitting at. Maybe Imani was one of those people that needed something to do or he or she would be destructive. Perhaps if there was a job that she could give the woman that would keep her busy…
Illexia glanced over at the war and tactics piles but shook her head. No, we'll just have to think of something else for Imani, she thought as she picked up Aimukk's report. The last few reports seemed rather tense, but Aimukk's human, Matthew or Matt as he insisted on being called, wasn't really doing anything except taking over Aimukk's kitchen. Queen Illexia quickly read it over, noting that while Aimukk was still tense, it wasn't anything that Matt was doing, as the human was busy cooking and training. Illexia figured that Aimukk was still getting used to having a nestmate and decided to have a personal meeting set up for each of her human caretakers.
She placed Aimukk's report on the "read" pile and picked up Wamma's report. She began to read it, her brows furrowing together as she got farther and farther into the report. Wamma had received two humans, mated pair Elizabeth and Thomas Cornwell, in hopes that he would be more responsible, but apparently not the case. The last few reports the Mandiblor sent to her kept describing how Elizabeth wasn't able to hold her breakfast down and throwing it up almost immediately after she finished eating. Her middle was becoming tighter as well. Wamma was trying to convince the woman to see Lore, but she was refusing. Thomas wasn't truly helping either; all he did was hold Elizabeth's hair back when she got sick and hide her when Wamma tried to take her to Lore or one of the healers. Illexia could tell that Wamma was almost hysterical with worry.
Illexia growled softly to herself. She slapped the report onto the "read" pile and a single paper from one of the other "read" piles escaped from the top. It floated down and landed next to her foot. She frowned, picked it up, and grinned. It was a mission request from one of the Scouts, asking for a Battlemaster and a company of Mandiblors for the destruction of an Ore base. She had looked over the drawings and markings of the area and saw that it was just a little processing base for titanium. It was big enough that force would be necessary to destroy it, but all that titanium would need to be stolen or be wasted.
She had just found something for Imani to be busy over for a while.
Quickly, she sent a Hive call to Skartalas, telling him to bring Imani to her immediately. His answer was swift and efficient: he'll bring Imani straight to her-as soon as he found her again. Illexia couldn't help but chuckle at Skaralas's trouble of keeping track of Imani while she's shopping for food.
It wasn't a very long wait, but Illexia still had some work done by the time the pair arrived. She heard them before she saw them; Imani was yelling at Skartalas about interrupting her grocery shopping and to not complain to her when they don't have any food and Skartalas was yelling back that the food stalls will still have the prime of anything and so on and so forth. Illexia shook her head as Imani and Skartalas entered.
Imani immediately quieted down when she stepped foot into Illexia's chambers. Skartalas did the same, a look of frustration on his face. They walked up to Illexia and bowed.
"Imani," Illexia rumbled, the "I-am-Queen-obey" tone in place, "step forward."
Imani gave her a slightly dirty look but complied. Illexia raised an eyebrow, but decided to scold her later. Instead, she handed the titanium base report over to Imani and said, "Tell me, what can be done with this base to destroy it and take the titanium."
Imani looked at her curiously before looking at the report. Illexia watched curiously as Imani snarled and walked over to her desk to snatch up a quill and ink pot. The human sat down on the edge of a step closest to Illexia. The old queen saw Skartalas tense up slightly and sent a soothing Hive message to him so that Imani didn't know. Skartalas sent one back, stating that he was worried that Imani would poke her in the side or something stupid like that. Illexia silently laughed and sent him reassurance that she wouldn't be offended.
Imani had grabbed a red ink pot and was scribbling on the map. Illexia watched curiously as Imani muttered several curses, Human and Perimian, under her breath. Imani tucked a few loose braids behind her ear and shifted so that Illexia could see the markings.
"All right," Imani began. "First off, unless you want to use excessive force, you don't need to send a whole company to destroy a single processing plant. If there were two or three, then a company would be good. Only three or four Danian squads could take care of this mess. Ore chose a poor spot for this plant. There's only one entrance and the base is set in a nice bowl."
Illexia leaned in to see the entrance circled in bright red, with other little circles dotting the actual base. Some spots on the bowl wall and base were marked with a Human "X." Pointing to the markings, Illexia asked, "And what about these?"
Imani looked at where she was pointing and explained, "The circles are entrances and possible guard posts. The 'X's are where charges can be placed to do the most damage."
"How long do you think it would take the squads to take care of this base?" Illexia asked, sending out a Hive call for the rest of the humans.
Imani shrugged and answered, "Within a moon, maybe a moon and a half depending on how sloppy they are."
Illexia hummed and let Imani prattle on about destroying food supplies and cutting off the water while she waited for the rest of the humans and their caregivers. It didn't take long for everyone to arrive. Imani stopped talk when Zachary and Raznus arrived first. Soon, all six humans were present, each bowing to her, and Illexia had shooed out their nestmates. Illexia turned her attention to Imani, who stood with her fellow humans. The report was still in Imani's hands.
"Now, Imani," Illexia said, "you said that it would take three or four squads of Danians a moon to a moon and a half to destroy this base. Tell me, how long will it take for a squad of Danian saboteurs to destroy and take all the titanium from that base?"
Six heads snapped their heads to stare at her. Illexia resisted a smirk; she had their full attention. Matt was the first to speak.
"Hypothetically, will we be using Drexus Fuses and grenades and C4?" he asked, becoming a little bit more excited with each word.
"And our rifles and pistols?" Elizabeth added, excitement shining from her eyes.
"And even use some of your Battlegear?" Ken practically squealed before realizing that he might have embarrassed himself in front of a queen and toned down his excitement. Illexia couldn't help but chuckle at the humans' excitement.
"Yes, yes, and yes. You may even build your own devices. I do ask that you build models before actually building the actual devices," she sternly said. She did not want a full scale device prematurely detonating inside Mount Pillar.
Imani spoke at last, asking, "How long have they been in that spot?"
"Apparently for a while, almost three moons," Illexia answered.
Imani smirked. "Two weeks. Maybe less. That base will be rubble by the time we're finished."
Illexia smirked as the humans became more and more animated. She said, "Sounds like you need to get ready. You may leave."
The words had barely left her mouth before almost all the humans raced for the door. Zachary managed to do a short bow before racing off. Before they could all exit, Illexia quickly called, "Elizabeth! Stay behind."
Elizabeth and Thomas both stopped and gave the same dirty look Imani gave her when she commanded her to set forward. Illexia met their looks with one of coolness. She would have to find out what those looks were about later.
"Vollash!" Illexia called. The winged Danian flew down from the ceiling and bowed. She continued, "Escort Thomas out and make sure that none of the humans listen in."
Vollash bowed again and did as he was told. He got between Thomas and Elizabeth and began to push Thomas out the door. Thomas began to struggle and protest but Vollash pushed him out and closed the door behind him. Now it was just Illexia and Elizabeth, with the rest of her guards remaining in hiding from the ceiling. Illexia wasn't worried about them; they were loyal to her and wouldn't breathe a word about her talk with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth looked at her suspiciously and asked, "What do you want with me that my husband cannot be present?"
Illexia settled down on the ground and patted the area near her. Elizabeth just stayed put, the suspicious look on her face on her face. Illexia decided to forgo her usual royal attitude and added, "Please?"
It was the magic word. Elizabeth dropped the dirty look, sighed and went over to her, delicately sitting down. Illexia waited until the blond woman was comfortable before speaking.
"Now," she began, "Wamma has told me that you've been sick in the mornings."
Elizabeth snorted and replied, "His reports have been telling you that, Your Majesty."
Illexia decided to ignore that and continued, "I know that there is something going on with you, so why don't you just tell me? Is it the food? An illness? An allergy?"
Illexia pronounced the word in Human, as Creatures didn't have a word for something that a substance or substances the body disliked and tried to reject, causing pain or even death.
Elizabeth sighed and replied, "Nothing is really wrong. I'm perfectly healthy, honest, Your Majesty!"
Illexia placed a hand on Elizabeth's back and said, "Wamma doesn't get worked up about 'nothing,' Elizabeth. It has to be something. Now, I know that I haven't spent much time with you and the other humans, therefore only knowing very little about you, but that does not mean that you are not a part of the Danians. You are and-and-and what is that?"
Elizabeth froze, looking up at Illexia with a horrified expression on her face. Illexia, however, didn't see it. She was too focused on what she was sensing. She could feel Elizabeth's heartbeat, pumping blood at a fast pace, but there was something off, something tiny. She went deeper, and felt another heart, pulsing strong for being a small size. Illexia frowned; the heart was in another body, but it seemed…unresponsive. It wasn't moving much….no, its little toes were curling and uncurling. It was alive…and connected to Elizabeth.
Illexia came back to herself and looked at Elizabeth, really study her. She was no longer seated next to the old queen. Her golden hair was tied back messily, her body tense and in a fighting stance, and her eyes were wary. But it was her dress that gave away the little bump of her belly. Illexia may be old, but her memory was still sharp as ever. Elizabeth didn't have that bump when the saboteurs were captured.
"Elizabeth," Illexia said gently. Elizabeth began to tremble slightly. Illexia continued, "Your baby is beautiful."
Elizabeth stood in shock before slowly dropping her fighting stance. Illexia observed as her shoulders slumped and she sat down at Illexia's feet.
"When do you think I should tell the others?" Elizabeth asked quietly. Illexia placed a hand on Elizabeth's back.
"After this mission," Illexia said. "No more missions for you after this one until your baby comes into this world."
Elizabeth gave her a half-amused look. Jokingly, she said, "And have me bored and pranking the people the rest of the time? The Hive will be so upset!"
Illexia patted Elizabeth's shoulder and replied, "I highly doubt you'll be bored for long. You have a baby coming! Now, focus on your mission!"
Elizabeth stood up and bowed before walking out of Illexia's chambers. The old queen watched her walk out and Vollash walk in. The flying Danian bowed to her before taking flight to the ceiling. Illexia allowed herself a little smile before looking at the paperwork pile again. She sighed and went back to work.
It had been a couple of moons since Illexia discovered Elizabeth's pregnancy. During that time, she scheduled regular meetings with Skartalas, Wamma, Raznus, Lore, and Aimukk. Aimukk was still a little tense about discussing Matt, but she could sense something going on within him. The others were fine, except Wamma was getting anxious about the baby. After a couple of sessions with her human-sitters, Illexia realized that while she was learning about the humans' antics, she wasn't learning about them. So, she set up more meetings so that she could have some time to relax and talk to her humans.
Today, it was Elizabeth and Imani's day. Illexia was clearing up the piles of paperwork and gathering up pillows so that the two women would be comfortable. She managed to get most of the pillows arranged before a Mandiblor entered her chambers. She looked at him and he bowed politely.
"My Queen, Elizabeth Cornwell and Imani Barley have arrived for their meeting with you," he announced. Illexia nodded.
"Thank you. Send them in," she said. The Mandiblor bowed again before fetching the two women. Illexia checked to see if there would be enough food for the three (four, Illexia thought as the baby popped in her head again) of them. The Mandiblor came in again, this time with Elizabeth and Imani. Illexia dismissed the Mandiblor with a wave of her hand while Elizabeth and Imani walked to Illexia and bow. Well, Elizabeth tried to bow, but Illexia could tell she was having trouble with the baby bump.
"Please si-Imani, what happened?" Illexia had finally realized that Imani changed her look. More specifically, she had her braids undone and her hair was a frizzy mess. She must have just finished washing because her hair was still damp. Imani gave her an amused look.
"I undid my braids so that I could soak for a while and not worry about knots. Unfortunately, I need to get my hair back under control. Er, I brought my hair things to…" Imani explained, fiddling with a bag at her waist. Illexia didn't even notice it and a quick glance at Elizabeth confirmed that she had a bag as well.
Illexia smiled and said, "It's all right. Please, sit!"
Elizabeth was quick to claim a pile of pillows for her own, on Illexia's right side. Imani took a pile of pillows and made a little nest for herself on Illexia's left. She dumped the contents of her bag onto another pillow, items that Illexia could recognize: a brush, a comb, a bottle of gel of some sort, and a mirror. Imani set up the mirror and began to brush her hair out.
Illexia turned to Elizabeth, who had her bag open and was pulling out books and scrolls rather than dump them out. She smiled and asked Elizabeth, "How many of the others have given you advice on raising your baby?"
Elizabeth snorted and replied, "Too many! 'Do it like this,' 'don't let her do that,' 'feed him this!' So many want to help, but I don't know whose advice to listen to!"
She flopped backwards onto the pillows, exasperated. Imani chuckled as she finished brushing out her hair and started to separate different sections of her hair, using the comb to keep the rest of her hair from getting in the way. Imani said, "Has anyone gotten into a fight on which parenting style is better?"
Elizabeth groaned from the pillows. "Yes."
"Two? Three?" Illexia asked, a little worried. If fights were breaking out among her people about how to raise Thomas and Elizabeth's child, then this could end up a serious problem. Perhaps she should put out an order not to harass the couple with advice about how to raise their child.
"Four, five at the most," Elizabeth answered nonchalantly. She must have seen the astonished look on Illexia's face because she quickly added, "Nothing physical! Just small arguments…that escalated into shouting matches."
Illexia sighed while Imani chuckled as she started to work on twisting two strands of hair in opposite directions before twisting around each other so that the two strands become one in a coiling design. She finished the long strand with twisting the two strands so that they become tangled together. Illexia stared at her as she started another strand of coiled braid, her nimble fingers working quickly.
"What is that called?" she asked, reaching over to poke and finger the twist. Imani finished the second strand quickly and moved away from Illexia's questing fingers. She started on a third twist and explained, "It's called a twist braid. A very simple but stylish form of putting up one's hair."
Elizabeth slowly sat up and said, "Can't do that with my hair. It's too short."
Illexia glanced over and saw that Elizabeth's blonde hair, while it had grown out since the first time she saw her, was still too short to do anything. The expecting human had settled into the pillows and had a scroll in her hands. Illexia picked up a book to check the title: Hatchlings for First Time Caretakers. She put it down and picked up another: How to be a Caretaker. Elizabeth noticed what she was doing and smiled. She explained, "Sometimes, you just need a book or two to reassure you."
Imani snorted as she continued to work on her twists. She muttered, "Or twelve that tell you the same information."
Illexia couldn't help but laugh as Elizabeth stuck her tongue out at Imani in retaliation. She couldn't help but notice that when she had two or more of her humans together, they acted like they were siblings, the exception being Elizabeth and Thomas. They would make inside jokes, bicker playfully, and occasionally get into fights that would degrade down to personal insults that hatchlings would come up with.
"How long have you two been a part of a team?" Illexia asked curiously. Elizabeth and Imani looked at her before Elizabeth answered, "Imani and I were on the same team when we were just rookies. It took a couple of months before we were assigned to a new team, where we met Ken and Thomas. Then we lost a couple of our teammates a year after we joined. Zachary joined our group afterward. It took some trial and error, but we started to work together smoothly. We were considered one of the best."
"Then we got Matt, just before we got here," Imani said, taking over the story. She gave a little laugh. "Boy, did our group hierarchy get all messed up. Matt wanted to do his own thing, and Ken and Thomas didn't like that. Zachary was all for Matt thinking outside the box. Elizabeth and I were driving everyone crazy so that everyone would work together and our missions would go down smoothly. It took a few more missions than I expected before everything went back to some sort of semblance of normal."
"And now you have a little one coming into your family," Illexia concluded. Imani shrugged, her fingers still twisting her hair into twists. Elizabeth smiled and said, "It's going to be interesting. We'll have to help Matt get over his fear over little children."
Illexia raised an eyebrow in question. Imani saw and explained, "He had a girlfriend back on Earth, but she had a boyfriend and was using Matt. The boyfriend found out about Matt and kicked the girlfriend out. Matt took her in, not as a girlfriend but out of pity, and everything was peachy until something happened with one of her kid relatives."
Illexia frowned and asked, "What happened?"
"Matt was trying to get one of her relatives down from a high place and he accidentally broke her wrist. Despite it being an accident, the former girlfriend blamed her relative's injury on him and claimed that it was his fault. He kicked her out, but the psychological damage was too late. He's scared he'll hurt another kid," Elizabeth said, her mouth in a thin line.
Illexia resisted the urge to growl. This "girlfriend" should have been grateful for Matt to take her in, even after what she had done to him! She was unfaithful, dirty, and foolish to think that Matt would have put up with her lying ways anymore! And to place blame on him from an accident? Disgraceful!
"And I am guessing that he paid for the medical treatment the child sustained from the accident?" Illexia couldn't help the icy tone of her voice as she asked. Elizabeth's silent nod as she reached for one of the snack foods was all the old queen needed to know. She growled under her breath and snatched up a snack.
"I have a feeling that Aimukk is going to help sooth Matt's fears, though," Imani said nonchalantly as she worked on another section of hair. Illexia stopped in mid-chew and stared at Imani. Imani noticed her look and raised a brow. She asked, "You don't know?"
Illexia finished chewing and swallowed before replying, "I noticed something different going on with Aimukk, but Matt had been acting normal when I talked to him last."
Elizabeth and Imani gave each other knowing grins. Illexia frowned, not liking being out of the loop. She was Queen; she must know what was going on in her Tribe. Before she could say anything, Elizabeth explained, "We think Matt likes Aimukk."
"And Aimukk has the hots for our Matty-boy," Imani snickered. "We have a pool on who makes the first move and kiss the other!"
Illexia looked at the two grinning women in surprise. That's what Aimukk was so tense about? He was starting to like Matt? Well now! This should be interesting.
"You think Aimukk likes Matt? And Matt likes Aimukk?" Illexia said for clarification. The women nodded. Illexia sighed and said, "That explains a lot. Hopefully, they don't go breaking each other's hearts."
Elizabeth and Imani looked at her, happily grinning. Elizabeth asked, "So, you're all right with a human and Danian possibly courting each other?"
"You humans are now a part of our Tribe. Why would I be upset?" Illexia explained. Immediately, Imani stopped her twisting and ran up to Illexia. The old queen stiffened as Imani hugged her. As she held her, Illexia slowly relaxed and returned the hug before Imani stepped back and said, "Thank you. For letting us have our freedom here."
Illexia smiled and squeezed her hand gently. That was all Imani needed and she sat down to finish up her twist braids. She, Elizabeth, and Illexia started to talk about the baby, the betting pool on the baby (Illexia was now down for a girl at seven and a half pounds), and gossip on the other members of the Tribe. As they talked, Imani finished her twist braids and let them hang down her back. Elizabeth cleared off an entire plate of snacks and made notes on a few things from the caretaker books.
When the girls' time was up, Illexia learned more about her Tribe's humans and felt more connected to them than before. The two females packed up slowly, trying to extend their time with her. But Illexia knew her duties were calling her, and set up another meeting for the three of them to enjoy some down time together. Imani and Elizabeth left to do other things and Illexia was alone as her guards brought her paperwork back and whisk the remains of snacks away. She sighed and began to go back to doing paperwork.
"We should find out what Ore is looking for specifically," Ekuud said.
Illexia resisted the urge to say a sarcastic remark as the other nobles began to ridicule him. They have been in this meeting for over an hour now, and the tension was building. Discussing how to better defend Mount Pillar and help the other Tribes against the humans was tiring and caused ideas to be shredded to bits.
Illexia quieted the nobles and said, "Ore has bases and factories for every known resource in Perim. It will be impossible to know what they are looking for specifically."
"Perhaps our humans would explain?" Tassanil suggested. Illexia frowned; she had asked each of their humans about why Ore was so interested in Perim's treasures, but didn't receive a straight answer.
Speaking of humans, out of the corner of her eye, Illexia noticed Ken and Zarchary standing at the edge of the meeting chamber door. She didn't let them know that she saw them, but she noted what they were doing. Zachary was motioning for Ken to go into the chamber while Ken looked uncomfortable, shaking his head "no" and making hand motions of panic. Zachary wasn't having any of it and shoved Ken into the room-and why is Ken wearing Lore's ceremonial robes?
Ohhhh, Lore's going to pitch a fit, Illexia thought, then added as Ken began walking toward the table, Or maybe not.
All the nobles were silent, staring as Ken climbed up onto the table. Illexia blinked a couple times to make sure that she was seeing things correctly. Not only did he have on Lore's ceremonial robes, a skirt make of black shredded fabric, but strange leaf things on his wrists and around his forehead, his chest revealed, and a couple of thick gold necklaces draped his neck. Ken looked very uncomfortable on top of the table as Zachary motioned at someone to step forward. A pair of Danian drums appeared as Odu-Bathax set them down just within the meeting chamber with a grunt. He stared at the nobles, stiffening when he realized where he was. Before Odu-Bathax could do anything else, Zachary took command of the drums and began to beat a rhythm, a horrible, out of beat rhythm, on the drums.
Illexia was frozen at her seat as Ken gulped audibly and began to dance. Swinging his hips from side to side and moving his arms level to his chest in a wavy motion, he "danced" and said in a sing-song voice, "Hi, everyone! The humans and Mandiblor, Squadleader, and Battlemaster friends wish to invite you to a cook-out in the Bird Cave. Bring gifts, bring food, come enjoy yourselves. It's Elizabeth's baby shower!"
With that, Ken bolted for the door and hid around the corner. Zachary did a little solo on the drums before laughing. Odu-Bathax was holding his side while laughing during the entire dance. While she couldn't see Ken, Illexia would bet any amount of money that he was completely red in the face from embarrassment. The other nobles couldn't help but laugh and clap at the redhead's antics. Illexia chuckled as well, receiving a message mentally from Odu-Bathax that he didn't have the slightest clue that the two humans were going to do that. She sent a reassurance mentally and vocally asked the two humans, "And who came up with this 'baby shower'? Elizabeth and Thomas? Not really their style to ask for help."
"Actually," Ken said, still hiding around the corner, "baby showers are a human custom in which the expecting's friends throw a party and bring gifts to help them out."
"So, it's tradition?" Tassanil asked. Zachary nodded and said mischievously, "We will only accept RSVPs by dance."
"Is this tradition as well?" Valanii Levaan asked scornfully. Illexia frowned at him, ready to scold him for being rude, when Zachary replied, "Not tradition, but it makes a good story later on in life!"
With that, he left the chamber door, and from the sound of it, Ken joined him. Odu-Bathax, unnoticed by the other nobles until now, quickly followed the humans with his drums. Illexia couldn't help but to think that the blue Battlemaster did not want to deal with the nobles at the moment. She decided that a little break was called for and commanded the nobles to leave and gain energy for another round of defense talks.
Besides, thinking on what to get the baby as a present needed silence; not grumpy, noble Danians who wouldn't go to the shower just because they would have to do a dance.
Illexia put another paper into her "read" pile and picked up a report, intent on reading it. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not shake the feeling something big will happen soon. Just as she thought it, a tremor ran through Mount Pillar. Immediately, a Hive alert went out with disturbing news: Ore was attacking. Illexia could sense all the warriors rushing to armory chambers for weapons and Battlemasters assembling their ranks.
"Vollash!" she called up to her guard. "Report!"
Vollash flew down and bowed to his queen. He answered, "Ore is right outside our doors, Your Majesty. Odu-Bathax has his men assembled at the North Gate, where the majority of the attacks are occurring, and Junda and his squad are starting to help the caretakers with the hatchlings."
"What of our humans? Where are they?" Illexia demanded. Elizabeth had been getting restless and slightly irritable the last couple of moons, the pregnancy finally getting to her. Having Ore attack the Danians would give her the excuse of going out and fighting. Illexia, however, didn't want her to fight; with the baby so close to being due, the queen wanted Elizabeth as far as possible from any danger.
"Matt and Ken are with the muges, covering them as they get mugic and Battlegear. Imani and Zachary are with Odu-Bathax, fighting. Thomas and Elizabeth are helping Junda, Your Majesty," Vollash replied. Illexia could not help but relax a little. Elizabeth and her unborn child will be safe with Judna. Quickly, she ordered two more squads to help Odu-Bathax and another, Wamma in it, to help Junda.
During the next half hour, Illexia was bombarded with Hive calls, alerts, and reports on what was happening. Ore was being increasingly stubborn at the North Gate, refusing to retreat or surrender as Odu-Bathax and his Mandiblors pounded them. Junda and the two squads with Thomas and Elizabeth had the caretakers and hatchlings in the library, near the middle of Mount Pillar and Illexia. But despite these, Mount Pillar still continued to tremble.
Frowning, Illexia was about to send a Hive call to see if anyone knew the cause of the shaking when an alert came: the North Gate attack was a distraction. A hatchling had escaped from his father and hid himself in time to see Ore drilling their way into Mount Pillar. His father managed to see everything and made the alert before rescuing his hatchling. According the Mandiblor father, there were fifteen men on the drill team.
Illexia immediately ordered that all civilians were to avoid these humans at all cost. She could sense her people growing alarmed, and soothed frazzled antennae by sending a squad led by Tassanil to deal with the drill problem. Now the battle at the North Gate had been going on for forty minutes.
"Ore really has lost its mind," Illexia sighed. While the Danians' reputation for being "humanly unbreachable" will certainly be tarnished, there was no way this driller team will make it of Mount Pillar alive. If Tassanil and his warriors didn't make sure of that, then Odu-Bathax will. And if not Odu-Bathax, then the civilians will kill the Ore humans.
Just as she thought this, a rapid knocking came at her door. She, Vollash, and the rest of her guards stared at the door in surprise. Vollash looked at her silently when the knocking came again. Illexia hand signaled for him to open the door, but to remain on guard for any surprises. Vollash nodded and flew to the door as the knocking came a third time, this time more rapidly than the other two times. Carefully, Vollash opened the door, only to be shoved aside as Wamma entered without permission.
Illexia was shocked, but her shock turned into anger. "Wamma, what on Perim do you-?" she began to demand, but it was interrupted by the appearance of Thomas, Elizabeth clinging to his neck and barely moving and groaning. Clear and red fluids ran down her leg onto her husband's arm from her skirt. Wamma was holding the chamber door open for them as Thomas guided Elizabeth in and toward Illexia.
"Here, here, here!" Wamma said as he raced over to Illexia's "dirty" pillow pile, pillows that were old and/or need to be cleaned of food stains and spills. Thomas began to come over, but Illexia hovered right behind Wamma, glaring. Her angry glaring alerted Wamma of her presence and warned Thomas not to come any closer.
"Care to explain to me what you are doing, Wamma?" she growled. Wamma quickly bowed and, not rising from his bow, explained, "Forgive me, my Queen, but Elizabeth is in a bit of an emergency situation and we need a place for her."
Illexia's frown grew and she turned to Elizabeth for clarification. Elizabeth smiled, her same humor-filled smile but with quite a bit of pain, and simply said, "My water broke."
The old queen knew she heard that phrase before. Confusion replaced anger as Illexia tried to remember what "water broke" meant. 'My water broke.' Illexia thought to herself. What does that mean again? 'My water broke', 'my water broke', 'my water'-oh! Now she remembered what that meant!
Illexia immediately jumped into action as Elizabeth grimaced and hissed in pain. "Wamma! Where is her bag?" the queen asked. Elizabeth explained to her earlier that she was going to have a bag made up so that she could just leave and go to the healers quickly. Wamma looked like he was going to panic a little. He answered, "Still at home!"
Illexia cursed to herself. Wamma's home was near the North Gate of Mount Pillar and the markets. Too far and too dangerous with the Ore drill team prowling around to get the bag. She sent a Hive call to see if there were any healers or muges nearby that could assist with the birth. The only one that was available on such short notice was Raznus. She ordered him to her chambers; he was an Overworlder once, and many of the Overworlders gave birth the same way that humans did.
"It's going to be all right, Elizabeth," Illexia soothed as she set up a better pillow and blanket pile for the laboring mother. "Raznus is on his way to help." Thomas lowered his wife down to the new pile before sitting next to her, his hand clasping hers. Never had Illexia seen such a worried face before on Thomas's face. He was always a happy man, and he did have his serious moments, but never worry. Illexia realized that Thomas could only do so much for his wife, and he knew it as well.
Elizabeth grimaced and groaned as another contraction hit. Illexia could see that she was squeezing Thomas's hand very hard; his hand momentarily went white. Illexia took Elizabeth's other hand just as another contraction hit. Mentally, Illexia counted how long until the next contraction hit as she offered encouragement. She was on her fourth fifteenth second when the next contraction hit. That was bad; the contractions were four minutes apart and Raznus was still not there!
"Wamma, go find Raznus! Elizabeth's just about ready to have a baby and he's not here!" Illexia demanded. Wamma saluted and ran for the chamber door. Just as he was about the open it, the doors swung open, walloping Wamma and knocking him out. Fortunately, Raznus was the one who opened the door. Illexia was relieved but slightly annoyed that Wamma was knocked out by the door.
"I'm here!" Raznus gasped as he rushed over to Elizabeth. "I'm here! How far along is she?"
"She's having a contraction every four minutes!" Thomas answered, worry now starting to turn into panic. Elizabeth was beginning to curse at him in Human and in Perimian. Illexia had to admit, some of the curses (or threats) sounded extremely painful.
"Let's see how dilated she is," Raznus said. Elizabeth screamed as another contraction hit. Illexia was sure that a couple of her guards fainted at the sound, and Vollash looked like he wanted to hide in a hole and not come out. Raznus shook his head and said, "Never mind about dilation, get ready to push, Elizabeth!"
Elizabeth nodded, huffing and puffing, and shifted around so that she could brace against the pillows better. Illexia felt Odu-Bathax's Hive alert, saying that the North Gate was secure and Ore gone, but she ignored it in favor of Elizabeth's soon-to-arrive child. Raznus told the woman to push, and did she push! Illexia was sure that her exoskeleton cracked a little from Elizabeth's squeezing. Before Illexia could recover, Raznus told Elizabeth to push again. She obeyed with a scream. Thomas was grimacing from the pain in his hand and his ears.
It took another five pushes to get the baby out. Each time, Elizabeth pushed and screeched in pain. Illexia wasn't sure if she would be able to hear properly afterwards, but she could hear clearly the wails of the newborn baby girl as she came into Perim. Raznus was quick to give the baby to Elizabeth to bond with. Illexia noted that blood and other fluids covered his hands as Elizabeth took her baby. As soon as the baby was Elizabeth's arms, the ambassador began to search for something to wipe the baby down with. Illexia mentally guided him to a stack of soft towels.
Quickly, the baby was wiped down, measured (a little longer than two nine inch reports), and weighed (Illexia had a scale that she measured taxes paid in crystals and gems with, and the baby weighed around three large crystals). All the while, Elizabeth finished her labor and both she and Thomas watched as Raznus handled their baby girl. Wamma woke up as Raznus handed Elizabeth and Thomas their baby back to them and promptly fainted again. Vollash and Illexia were fascinated by the little thing until a Hive alert by Tassanil brought her back to the present.
Apparently, the drill team of Ore humans all died while fighting Tassanil's group. It was a suicide run, and Illexia had a feeling that the original mission was the drill. Creating a hole into Mount Pillar would be an easy way for Ore to get in, and that drill was it. She would need to send a team to patch that hole.
But now, it was time to enjoy the moment of new life, snuggling into her mother and bonding with her father.
Illexia took a deep breath, feeling her people gather around her at the Queen's Gate. The Mandiblors were settling among the statues hanging from the tunnel ceiling and sides while the higher ranking Danians were in plain sight. Odu-Bathax, Tassanil, and their men stood behind her; they were to be honored for their part in Ore's loss. At both of her sides were the humans and their nestmates, including the newest human, Elizabeth and Thomas's little Sarah. Matt leaned against Aimukk and sported bloody bandages after disabling the bomb that was attached to the drill, designed to create massive damage to the interior structure of Mount Pillar. Matt was the first one to the drill, so he disabled it. However, a secondary device activated after Matt moved it out of Mount Pillar to dissect it for useful wires. Matt was lucky enough to be far enough away that he only received burns and cuts rather than be dead. Imani, Ken, and Zachary received cuts for their fights against Ore.
Today, Illexia was honoring those who were injured in the battle and to celebrate the birth of Sarah. The old queen had plans for the little babe. Plans that involve humans coming to Mount Pillar. She had a feeling that more humans will come for the saboteurs soon, and when they do, Illexia and the Danians will be prepared.
"My people!" Illexia cried, her voice echoing. "Thanks to our brave warriors, Mount Pillar will be safe for another night!"
Her people roared their approval. Odu-Bathax, Tassanil, and their men stepped around the humans to receive their rightfully earned praise. She knew that Odu-Bathax and Tassanil truly didn't care if they get public praise or not, but their men would enjoy being recognized by the public.
She waited for a little bit before motioning for quiet. Her Danians settled down slowly, the victory still fresh in their minds. They were still riled up that Ore foolishly tried to take on Mount Pillar. When everyone had settled down, Illexia continued, "We still need to be wary of Ore's intentions with Perim, but for tonight, we celebrate! A feast has been set up in Mount Pillar, starting in Danian Hall and continuing inwards! For not only are we celebrating our victory, we are celebrating our first Danian-born human! During the battle, our Elizabeth Cornwell gave birth to Sarah Cornwell!"
As she spoke, Illexia gently took little Sarah from Elizabeth, with her permission, of course, and raised the little baby up so that all of the Danians could see her. The Danian queen heard some mutters from the conservatives about how Sarah "wasn't hatched" and "isn't a true Danian," but ignored them for now. Everyone knew the old lore: "Once hatched during a battle, a hatchling becomes great." Sarah was born, the human way of being hatched, during a battle. Her parents had finally accepted being Danians, therefore, Sarah was a Danian as well. Sarah Cornwell had greatness written all over her.
As her people left for the feast, Illexia handed Sarah back to her mother. Imani, Zachary, and Ken had been dragged away by their nestmates to the feast. Aimukk had to help Matt get to the closest tunnel so that they could get a seat at the feast. Wamma, Elizabeth, Sarah, Thomas, and Illexia were the only ones left at the Queen's Gate. Wamma wanted to leave right away, the old queen could tell, but manners prevented him from going to the feast without his nestmates. Elizabeth and Thomas bowed to her respectfully, Sarah yawning in her mother's arms. Illexia had been a little surprised when Sarah only made happy gurgling noises when she presented her. But then, this was the Unflappable Duo's child, as the Danian citizens called Elizabeth and Thomas.
Wamma and the Cornwell's left her for the feast, and Illexia began to move towards the feast as well. Her guards remained hidden as she moved to her place at the nobility's table in Danian Hall. It was quite a walk, but it let her have some semblance of quiet to think.
She felt that more humans, not just military humans, were going to come to Perim. Illexia had Kolmo listen in quite a few conversations about the human's world, and she came to a swift conclusion: it wasn't going to survive, even with Perim's resources going into it. Ore was fighting a losing battle, and both it and the UN maybe believing in a false dream.
Humans will come, many more, and Illexia will need to be prepared for more negotiations. Her plans for Sarah were rather simple: to be a beacon of Danian living. But the statistics of success? Illexia would have to wait until the next meeting before seeing those numbers. For now, she would like to feast with her people, in celebration for a victory and for a little human baby taking a nap in her mother's arms.
A/N: Love it? Hate it? Review, please!