Prompt Short Story: Allies

Elysa was collected from Yan’s shop by a fresh-faced and eager messenger, who chattered the whole way, pointing out buildings and sights that she was far too exhausted and tense to take in. Yan provided a constant translation, which likewise meant nothing to her. But the talking was somehow comforting, so she tuned out the words and let her eyes fall on the things they wished.

Everything in this place was surrounded by the same metal machines that made up the wall. But everything was also built from the machines, so it was hard to distinguish one building from another. Yet they were all different in colour, in shape, in style. She supposed it was easier to learn and recognise those differences when you were used to it.

Her companion stopped so suddenly that Elysa almost crashed into his back.

“Here we are,” Yan explained as she pointed out a place that looked much lke all the other places, to Elysa. It tok her a few moments of careful study to discern the shape of ths building from those around it, but when she did, it looked to be made of better materials, with a more shaped stature. Beyond those differences, she was clueless, but it gave her something to reference at least.

The messenger bowed slightly and left them at the door.

Inside the building was carved, as much as the materials would allow, into a domed entranceway, leading through into a sizeable hall. To the left was a smaller room, and it was here Elysa was led.

This room was essentially a simple box, except that a table and chairs had been somehow fashioned to rise out of the ground for people to sit on. These were surprisingly comfortable, whatever soft material could be found having been recycled in order to cushion them.

Even more surprising, to Elysa, there was a vase on the table, with a spray of flowers so fresh she could still smell them. She tried—badly—to hide her shock, and gave up when chuckles came from around the table.

A Council member spoke and Yan began translating immediately.

“Many citizens have patches of land on which they can grow things or keep animals. I believe beauty to be as important to our wellbeing as vegetables and meat, so I grow these. Look at the yellow flower in the centre. Only one, as its colour and beauty would unseat the rest if there were more, but this one instead heightens the beauty of those around it. As this flower, so our tribe.”

The speaker smiled warmly, “I am Tokro. These with me are Bryn, Malaya, and Esomé.”

He gestured to each as he named them, and they bowed their heads.

As far as Elysa could tell, they were typical of the others she had seen on her way over. Dark of skin and eye; loose, colourful clothing that she could not figure out how they didn’t constantly catch on the sharp metal edges of things; either bald or almost; and scant but well made jewellery.

Elysa gave her name in return. Though they would already have been given it, she needed a touchstone in this moment, and a familiar (if rarely performed, given her solitary life) social ritual helped.

When prompted, she next explained the circumstances surrounding her crash-landing in their territory. It seemed clear that any questions around this were perfunctory. As long as no trouble was caused, they were happy to have come to her rescue (the implication that most wouldn’t came through loud and clear).

Elysa asked if she could return to her ship to fully gauge the damage, so she knew what she would need.

Apparently it had been brought here as she rested, and their top mechanics and engineers were already going over it thoroughly. They would provide a report and allow Elysa to confirm or request changes, and then they could draw up an agreement.

Of higher importance, they eventually explained, was that Elysa was still Wanted for the murder she had committed.

Rolea was the scion of one of the “Noble” Families. Those quotation marks came through even in translation and she couldn’t hide a grin. The Council grinned back.

These families claimed to be the first-arrived, and therefore superior to everyone who had landed or been born on this planet afterwards.

Enough people fawned over them that they had luxurious lands, the scrap that built their tiny empires far out of sight so they could pretend to be clean and shining demi-godlike beings.

The loss of the only child of one of these families was egregious. The Triarchs—the leaders of the families—had little better to do than feud with whoever was closest, so being unable to provide a child heir was akin to wiping out that line, and beginning a civil war wothin the remaining lines. This was, of course, also a good time for other families to act against the weakened ones.

Elysa’s eyes had glazed over long before this point, and Bryn put out a hand to stop the talking. Boiled down, she explained, the loss of this person would cause a lot of upheaval amongst those families. And as far as this tribe was concerned, that was just fine. They didn’t care about the petty squabbles of people who had soft hands and softer brains. Elysa would be safe here, and should a someone visit who might know her (servants, usually, who would come to buy materials)  she would be hidden and kept safe. Should anyone try to take her, she would be freed.

This was the Council’s vow for as long as she remained here, and didn’t kill anyone else important—this being said with a laugh, Elysa grinned back. She understood.

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