A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 51


"Our families were from Leningrad," she said, "They wanted to go to land where our people came from. We are Russian Jews. Well they were." She shrugged, "But they were caught and ..."

She shrugged again, "Slaves. It was long time ago. Where we traveled, some were sold and we never see them again. What is here -- us -- we are last ones and men buy us here. I never see Leningrad. I was born in wagon on road. We are the last anyway. Eyal and the others were here before us and so we are always treated as lowest of the low ones. I would be happy if I never see him again."

She looked at them, "What are you? I see demons, yes, but ..."

Mahkhad explained what he could to her and over the course of the next few minutes, he learned that there had never been any use in these ones forming pairs out of love, since they were owned and seldom had any chance to be together. Natasha said that she'd been raped several times and had given birth to two children, but that both had died, since she was never spared much if any time for them.

"I come here at nineteen," she said, "I am here almost ten years now. Today I am free, maybe for only a time, but I thank you, Mahkhad."

He felt pity for her, though it was a little clear that she didn't ask it of anyone as she turned and spoke with the others for a time. They were a range of ages from eighteen to perhaps thirty and about three quarters of them were women. It was clear to him in only moments that they all deferred to Natasha and she seemed to be the de-facto leader of the group. They turned when they noticed the other demons as they began to arrive with Amraish leading them.

"What now, Mirai?" Natasha asked, "We want to go with you."

Mirai smiled then, "Now you are free, my new friend and it shows. These others are to carry you. Is there anything that you want to take?"

Natasha looked over to see how Siroc climbed up, so she tried it with Mahkhad and when she looked back, they smiled at each other and the group rode off after the others figured it out for themselves.


The group milling around the mostly ruined settlement stared as Natasha's group rode toward them. Eyal was about to order those around him to open fire when he was seized and pulled into the air by Ghibli and Siroc and lifted high up.

"Tell them to lower their weapons, Eyal," Mirai smiled up at him, "or you fall in pieces. Natasha wishes to take what is theirs."

It took only minutes since they picked up only the few possessions that each one owned and some ammunition for their weapons. There were complaints that what was being taken would be needed, but no one tried to stop them.

"You should think of colder weather if you have anything like that as well," Amraish said and Natasha looked at Kalina, who grinned back and together they found the fallen-in warehouse that they sought among the others. Asking for a little help, they had fur garments for all in only minutes as well as unfinished furs which they sat on for now.

"No matter what happens," Natasha said, "Eyal will blame us for his failure, and what is here belonged to the dead ones anyway, not to him or us."

The man would have cursed her but he landed a little hard from about fifteen feet and when he'd found his voice, they were gone.

Minutes later, they arrived back to the pool and gathered at the entrance of the passageway that would lead them to the caverns and then on to the pathway which they needed to return. Natasha stared at Mirai as she watched bullets working their way out of his tough hide. When she remembered that there was another demon, she turned and found Mahkhad looking at her.

"Are you alright?" he asked her and she nodded. She said in English, "I never heard all of your names."

Mirai spoke for them, "I am Mirai. This is my sister Sheel, my brother, Amraish, and the females are Ghibli and Siroc. The young one beside you is our nephew, Mahkhad, whom you have already met.

You should think a little now," he said, "I know that you likely cannot go back now, but to come with us will take you all from your people for a time. You are in no danger from us."

Natasha looked at them all around her. Aside from the females, she felt a little like a child among them. She shook her head, "You're right, Mirai," she said, "but if we'd stayed, even if I didn't speak to you, we'd only have been putting our fate into another's hands. After I saw that Eyal really hasn't got a clue, I think I'd prefer holding my fate in my own hands instead. I guess there's really no point in going to that land that you spoke of, is there?"

"You can if you wish," he said, "I would take you there, but I will not go for a little while yet, There are things which we must do first, so it will have to wait for a short time. A small group would have been easier to bring there quickly. All of these ... I need to think on how many I can spare to take you. But Dakhete will be where we go now, She is the queen which I mentioned and you may speak with her there. We should prepare to leave. The humans will be back soon to see where you all went."

"Are you alright, Mahkhad?" he asked, "You moved a little slowly."

Natasha was astounded, most of the time, she hadn't seen him at all.

"Well enough," he smiled, "though I am a little stiff."

"These caves don't lead anywhere," Natasha said, "Where will we go?"

"We go to Um Qais. The northern tip of Jordan."

"Jordan?" Natasha asked, "How? How many days?"

"Minutes," Mahkhad corrected with a smile, "Minutes. There are paths for us."


The discussions were still going on when they returned to the large chamber. As everyone turned to look at the group who now walked down the long dark corridor toward them, Mirai nodded with a smile, "We have decided to join your cause, Anubis. And we have found some allies in these humans."

After more earnest discussions - some nothing more than attempts to fill in the newcomers, Anubis and the others all expressed their pleasure at meeting humans who seemed to want to take an active part in this and when he asked, Kalina shrugged and said that her whole life long, she'd been at the end of a tether. Now they were free and wanted to do something for themselves.

The next few hours were spent in Sheel and her brothers trying to fit together combinations of humans to demons, since there were variations in size on both sides of this. The odd thing was that after several trials, most of the humans asked for the one demon that they'd ridden there on anyway. They were taken to a huge chamber where there was an underground pool and the humans sat together and sorted out what weaponry they had.

Mirai looked up from his meal a day or so later to see Mahkhad and Natasha before him with an obvious desire to ask a question, so he nodded and Mahkhad spoke.

"Natasha and Kalina wish to return to the oasis with a handful of others to see what might have been left."


They left the pool and the waterfall as they worked their way up the sides to the rim of the place and from there, walked to the remains of the warlord's settlement. It was deserted and there was little to be gleaned there, though they did fine a few treasures like a case of military-grade compasses and some more ammunition. Kalina cried out and held up a compound bow that she'd found in a crate of twenty. Mahkhad looked at her quizzically, but Natasha smiled, "Kalina prefers to use a bow for many things and also, we must think of what will happen when we cannot find bullets anymore."

Deciding to follow the trail left by the others, they found them in less than a mile as a dark line on the horizon a few miles distant. Using the binoculars which she'd found, Natasha said that she saw no one moving. But after a moment, she saw some motion and they rode in that direction. As they got nearer, they saw that the motion had been that of crows, vultures and jackals.

Mahkhad shook his head, "He was leading them the wrong way. Istanbul lies that way."

All that they found were the slaughtered bodies and those of a few demons. Mahkhad looked for a moment, "These are not the ones that you saw in what my uncle showed you. These are the weaker ones who are afflicted with madness and fear -- and look at the mess they have made." They salvaged what they could -- mostly the few good rifles like the one which Natasha had been given by Mirai, and they gathered several satchels of ammunition as well.

They rode back to the oasis then, more watchful as they went and just as they rode through the wooded hills which surrounded the pool, they were set upon by about twenty-five howling demons. No one knew if it was by the madness which seemed to guide the demons, or if they'd been weakened somehow by hunger, perhaps, but what was gained in the short conflict was that the combination of demons and riders was effective, as long as the demons were low. Siroc and Ghibli came to the fore otherwise, forcing the attacking creatures to fly lower with their winds. With a thought and a gesture, the pair could clear the sky over the others, generating sudden gusts violent enough to break the thin bones in a flying demon's wing.

They returned to the passageways and made their way back to the cavern. Comparing notes, the humans learned that their new companions were intelligent and if one could get past the language issue -- if there was one between any particular demon and rider, they found that there was a lot of common ground and so they set about trying to find the best ways to work their relationships.

Saddles weren't really required, but something a little soft to sit on was a welcome addition. Noticing that all of the creatures had the horns of their shoulders in exactly the same place, Kalina and Natasha worked toward finding a way to keep one's seat when the demons moved so as to use their forelimbs in a fight, since they'd almost found themselves in the dirt more than once when it had happened.

What was really odd to Natasha was that, if she was seated and a little prepared for the motions, she'd found that all of the sudden course changes didn't really affect her all that much. As it turned out, the answer lay in the way that the rider could hold on with one leg around one of the horns which left both hands free to use their own weapons.

On Mirai's advice, the unfinished furs were turned into many articles of clothing, padding, mittens and such and, looking at a few scraps, Natasha caused a lot of raised eyebrows all around and a bit of laughter when she made herself some underwear which looked like a fur bikini.

"If you have enough," Mirai said, "I think that each of you should try to craft something such as this. I have been where Anubis tells me that we should go. Winter is ending there now, but it is still a cold place until spring truly takes hold. More than one layer of furs would be a benefit to your kind."

There was no superiority shown between the humans and the four-footed demons who'd befriended them. It wasn't the way that say, a human might ride a horse and at the end of it, put the horse in a stall in a stable and walk off for lunch. They'd just stop and the human would dismount and in most cases the two would walk off in conversation if that was possible for that pair.

Natasha was in the worst of her period and did her best to hide it, though she suffered for it. She'd always been one of those girls who really needed to closet herself away until it had passed. Her cramps were often debilitating and despite having years of it by now, she'd sometimes need to stop and do her best not to weep from the pain. It had lessened somewhat after the births of her children, but not all that much.

Mahkhad noticed and he asked his sister. She had a better clue, but there were large differences between what they were and humans, so together, they asked Mirai, who had perhaps the most experience of them. He explained what he'd seen before and the others listened closely.

Natasha sat in a corner of the chamber that Mahkhad used as his own and she groaned quietly in pain. This was now about the worst of a bad period for her and she just wanted to hide herself away. At least now she was free and didn't have to struggle through whatever task she'd been saddled with while this was going on. She could sit like this and suffer in her misery, feeling worse for not having a way to really explain it to Mahkhad.

She was finding that there was a quiet friendship being offered to her. Despite their differences, they'd found ways to joke and laugh a little, though one couldn't go too far with it before one or the other didn't get the humor and had to have it explained. But they spent a lot of time together and he allowed her to sleep in his chamber so that she had some privacy.

That was making her feel -- if not better -- at least a tiny bit comforted in her misery. She liked to look at him, often stealing glances where she could. She loved the deep sound of his voice, especially when he was being quiet when he told her things that were only for her to hear. The chamber was like any other here, in that it was always a constant temperature, but at the back of it, it could be a little cool for a time until Mahkhad had been there for a little while. It wasn't particularly noticeable to the touch, but in a closed place, his body temperature and the size of him could make it warmer.

Natasha smirked, despite the way that she felt. The warmth of him was one of her favorite things about him. Just before the onset of her period, they'd been walking deep in conversation as they usually were when she'd had a thought that had caused her to wonder if she was falling in love with him. She now often felt a desire to be near him and it was the strangest thing to her. She doubted that it could or would happen, but she'd found herself liking the thought for a number of reasons.

The others in the group of humans seemed to look on her and Kalina as leaders a lot of the time, and the two of them could do that without a thought. Natasha didn't know about Kalina, but there were times when she wanted someone to look toward herself, not to lead her, but to give her a comforting place to stand, and without their knowing it, Mahkhad had become that for her. She'd said as much to him the other day, and he said that he doubted it that she needed someone like that for her, but if it was so, then he was pleased and happy to be the tree that she leaned against then.

She'd turned and looked at him for a moment and before she could stop herself, she'd reached for him and kissed him. It had looked as though they were about to be presented with an embarrassing moment then and Natasha was already cursing herself for showing that much of herself to another, when he'd kissed her back, reaching for her with one huge arm to hold her to him. He moved his other hand then, taking the weight of his body onto his legs so that he could caress her head for a moment.

Above all, Mahkhad was careful to keep his kisses a little dry, since he'd spoken to his uncle who'd warned him that human females would not appreciate the wetness that demon females often craved.

Just then, Sheel had come to summon Mahkhad and Natasha was left alone, leaning against the cavern wall in amazement.

She'd sunk down to a squat very slowly as she thought about what she'd done, and then she'd just leaned back to sit down, her knees wide and her head back against the wall. She'd stared off into nothing for a time, her hands on the top of her thighs in repose and her hair a dark, copper- colored mess the way that it had been tousled, but her eyes were open and her face held a wondering expression as she sat thinking that she'd never been kissed like that before.

Now as she tried not to groan in her misery, she thought of the men that she'd known. Natasha had never been in love -- not really, anyway. When she was a teenager, there were boys that she'd liked, but nothing ever came of it, because the one who'd owned her than had seen it and sold the boy to another every time.

All that there had been for her was submission as the fat man had used her when he'd wanted her. No matter who had owned her, it had always been the same. Nobody owned her now, but she found that without meaning to, a demon was stealing her heart just as she was stealing his, and despite the strangeness of it, Natasha liked the thought and the way that it felt to her.

She looked up as he came into the chamber carrying a bucket of water and moving a little awkwardly on three legs. She asked him what it was for and he looked a little uncomfortable.

"We are different from each other," he said, "but I have learned a little. I know what this is that you suffer through in silence, and I know that females of your kind are the same as ours. At best, you would want to be away from everyone until it passes."

He set the bucket down in what might pass for a corner in the room and with a long touch of the water with his finger; it began to steam gently as she watched.

"I know that you will want to wash, and I have brought this so that you may do it unseen here."

She thanked him, but sighed and said that it was not that easy. "We are all a little different in how this comes to us. When I am at my worst," she said, "you're right; I feel dirty, but water then, like bath or waterfall back at oasis will make it to stop right away and cramps are even worse after."

Mahkhad looked at her, plainly wanting to do something to help her and she could see it. "Thank you all the same," she smiled, "it is a nice thought to know that you care."

He sat down against the wall and he very carefully picked her up, "Hold onto my arm for a moment," he said almost as a whisper when she asked what he was doing, "I know only a little, but my aunt has tried to teach me and I have done this for her when it was her time before."

He looked rather serious for a moment, "When Sheel is like this, I must be very careful near her. I am almost certain that she feels my footsteps in the very stone of the floor then and it bothers her."

Before Natasha could even register the thought, he'd pulled away the leather belt that she'd made and setting the rags aside, he sat her down facing away from him on his lap and pulled her backwards so that she leaned against his front. Natasha was about to protest when she felt the heat in his hands as he began to carefully and gently massage her sides and belly. The warmth was wonderful, and despite her feeing vulnerable, getting up was more than she could do besides offer her fading protests. She certainly couldn't have gotten up then, so after a moment, she just melted against him and leaned her head back against his huge chest with a sigh.

"Do not feel shame. You see me without covering all of the time," he said, "and I am lucky enough to be your friend. I want to help." He reached for a large blanket made of furs stitched together and he pulled it over her, "So that you do not feel so bare here. I cannot see much of you, but I thought that you would want it."

"But I think I am making a mess of you like this," she said.

"Likely not much and I can accept it," she heard him whisper, "and I am not as easily shamed when I wash. Just rest, Natasha."


Kalina knew of Nataasha's trouble and stopped by to look in on her friend. She found Natasha on her front in a bed of furs, still awake and aching, but not so badly now. She asked in Russian if it was a 'worse time' to visit -- as opposed to only a bad time, and Natasha smiled and invited her to stay for a little while.

"Where is Mahkhad?" Kalina asked.

"He went to wash. He has been so kind to me, picking me up to hold me and rub my belly and hips. He tries to make it bearable and I think it is better because of him."

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