“What are you doing?” Angie asked in a whisper.
As the Nakkoni were busy arguing in hushed voices, I turned to her. “They’re harmless.”
“Why strike a bargain with them?”
“We don’t know what we’ll find in that cave. If my sister is there, the pirate is there, too. And who knows if he’s alone.”
She shook her head. “You can’t trust them.” She looked at her bound wrists, and I could see that she was in pain. “That one had a dagger to my throat. Now he doesn’t. You could easily...”
“I have honor, Angie.” I discreetly loosened the rope without removing it. If anything went wrong and she had to escape, she could now. “I won’t strike them down after I’d just made a deal with them. Their time will come. These are young, naïve Nakkoni. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
“Yes. What did you think they were?”
She huffed. “I don’t know. Lizard men.”
I smiled. She had a funny name for every species she met.
“Let’s go, Zokunian,” one of the lizard men, as she called them, said. “We’re losing daylight.”
They waited for me to take the lead. I knew they were too scared to risk walking ahead and having their backs to me. It was fine. I wasn’t scared of them. I gently nudged Angie, and she sighed and started walking.
“You found my backpack, at least.”
“I promise you this will be over soon,” I said.
“What are you two talking about?” one of the Nakkoni asked.
I looked back over my shoulder. “I was just telling her to behave, or they’d be consequences. What about you two? What were you talking about back there?”
“That’s none of your business, Zokunian.”
“Where were you taking my slave? To sell her?”
Angie shook her head, and that confirmed there was more to these Nakkoni than they let on. I had to be careful and not underestimate them.
“Again, none of your business. Let’s just find the cave, take what we need, and become rich.”
I shrugged and continued walking. I would’ve picked up the pace, but I could tell Angie was having difficulties. I wanted nothing more than to stop, lay her down, and treat her wounds. I couldn’t do that, but I could carry her.
“What are you doing?”
I ignored the Nakkoni and lifted Angie in my arms. She snuggled against my chest and closed her eyes.
“She’s too slow.”
They grunted in approval, and we started walking faster. Her weight was nothing to me. As long as I knew she was comfortable and she could rest, I could carry her forever. I could carry her to the other side of the galaxy.
“I got you,” I whispered.
She smiled and relaxed even more.
“I’m so tired, Thev.”
“Sleep. I will take care of everything.”
“I don’t know how you can carry me so easily. I’m not exactly on the light side.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I guess you’re big enough... And strong enough...” She yawned.
I wanted to kiss her, but I couldn’t. The Nakkoni were trying to listen in to our whispered conversation. I heard them move closer, and I picked up the pace.
Maybe I should’ve gotten rid of them and not complicated things by taking them with us. But it was true what I’d said to Angie... I had no idea what was waiting for us in that cave, and three were better than one.
She was sleeping peacefully now, and I was grateful. I had her in my arms, she was alive, safe, and in one piece. Everything was going to be okay.