Pride

The blood bond was wreaking havoc on her.

Maybe the reason none had ever seen or heard of a high-born having gone through a blood bond was because none survived it.

Saa whimpered at the river’s edge, the cup of water in his hands reflecting his worried face back at him. It had been seven turns since they parted company with the Muudok and the Mer.

Eela had tried to persuade him to let her stay with them but he had been too proud. He wanted to show Aloyce that he could care for his own mate without the help of non-Cagets. He wasn’t so sure of that now. He hated being so prideful.

Saa carefully carried the earthen cup back to the hollowed out Tabarcus tree. It was a large sturdy tree; its bark alone was usually used to make boats and walls. The wood usually proved to be too inflexible to manipulate. Only masters of wood working could use it and they rarely did. This particular tree was long dead, making it the perfect temporary den as they were forced to stop. The bark was dried making it impervious to the weather; the wood itself reinforced it making it near fire proof. The entrance was hidden by tangled tuft weeds which he also used for their bedding. And if the weeds were dried well they could be used as smokeless tinder for the fire needed for cooking and heat for when her fever came back. Which was often.

After Aloyce’s teeth fell out to be replaced with new ones, she began to have more serious changes. Her eyes became infected and swelled shut when they arrived in the Muudok territories. Oc stayed with them for another turn, but only to show Saa about a few herbs and roots to use for her pain. Soon after Oc left Aloyce started to slow down, her movements becoming sluggish and she was terribly sore from the way she reacted when touched. Aloyce tried not to complain but she could barely walk by the time Eela came across a familiar pod of Mers when they entered the southern tip of the Water Region.

Saa looked at the mound of furs and badly woven tuft weeds. Aloyce’s bandaged hands and feet peeked from beneath, blood stained due to her nails being painfully pushed out by erupting claws. The first night this new change began was the worse; Eela had been calmer than he had. She was the one that got the herbs necessary to help with pain. Eela was there when they found the Tabarcus tree and she helped them make it livable. She stayed with them for another two turns before Saa’s pride got the best of him. Eela retrieved some supplies for them before leaving their company. Clothing, dried fish and some pretty baubles to please Aloyce when she was able to open her eyes. After Eela said her goodbyes a couple of turns later Aloyce stopped talking and soon after that she couldn’t move.

But her eyes.

They had been beautiful when he first saw them, an uncommon rich brown color. Now they were fiery orange, it was as if her change took the color of his eyes and mixed it with hers to create this new coloration. When she was awake he couldn’t help but look at them, stare into them. They were so beautiful, especially since they were now the only way he knew she was still with him.

Saa carefully sat down near her head, placing the cup to her face watching her reaction to the coolness of the water. Her eyes opened slowly and he purred. Gently he sat her up and helped her drink hiding his frown as he touched her inflamed skin. He wished he hadn’t rushed Eela off. If he had someone to watch her he could leave for a Caget healer. They were only a few turns away from Median. Saa lowered her head to let her rest in his lap and soothingly purred her back to sleep. He could only hope that this was the way of the bond. With the pregnancy changing her body on top of the bonding he wasn’t sure how much she could take. His little mate had been through so much already and he didn’t think he could handle it if it got much worse.

Her slowed breathing told him she was asleep as comfortably as she could be. He put his hand carefully across her already growing belly, Her stomach had already started to harden. Her belly seemed to get bigger each turn while she seemed to only worsen. The previous turn had given him a scare, she was in constant discomfort. Her tears seemed to flow non-stop. Today was better, less tears, but she didn’t eat much. There were times when she would be unresponsive, her beautiful eyes staring out at nothing. His purring would be the only thing that would get her to acknowledge him.

Saa wasn’t sure what he would do if she died on him.

So for the past few turns he refused to sleep. Afraid that she wouldn’t …

Saa blinked and shook his head trying to clear it. He wasn’t too sure how much longer he could do this. Beyond the den’s entrance the sky was already lightening, sunrise was coming again. Had he fallen asleep despite himself? He sighed and looked down at Aloyce’s sleeping face. He gently brushed her braids from around her ear. She remained still. Saa gave a weak smile and purred.

Aloyce still didn’t react. He purred louder waiting for her closed eyes to flutter open giving him the small reassurance of her health.

Still nothing.

His heart thudded painfully in his chest. He caressed her check; her skin was cold. He swallowed hard and then purred once more. Aloyce’s eyes did not open and as the sun’s light filtered into the hollow it showed her skin to be an awful grayish color.

Saa howled mournfully.

It was still dark beyond the den when he opened his eyes. The echo of his howl loud in his ears forcing him to realize it had been a horrible dream. He had fallen asleep. Saa swallowed and looked down at his mate. He couldn’t help but feel greatly relieved and surprised at the tears that flowed from Aloyce’s eyes. Even the smell of her fear and the sight of her anguish at her inability to do anything for him were comforting. Her new teeth, her fangs, had pierced her lips as they were gritted in frustration. Saa bent over her and licked the bit of blood away purring to comfort her. He kissed her forehead trying to calm her.

“Ah sorry, mina. Peace, peace. It was ah dream.” He caressed her face, “A very bad dream, but just dream.”

She groaned and made the attempt to move. He tightened his hold on her.  “Stop.” He mewed, nuzzling her face. “Ahm sorry. Sleep. We both need sleep.”

“I-.” She frowned at him as he put his hand over her mouth.

“Quiet.” He stared into her eyes until her furrowed brows smoothed out. “Ahm good, mina.” He looked to the entrance of their den and searched for anything that gave their presence away. The opening was covered and tall tuft weeds covered the cracks. He wanted to get up and make sure all signs of their being there was hidden, he sighed. His exhaustion was creeping up on him again whether he was ready or not. The heat of her fevered skin and the softness of the the bedding made it difficult. Consciousness was slipping away. “We sleep.” He slurred out as he curled around her. Saa gave in and closed his eyes.

————-

Aloyce’s labored panting was loud as Saa raced to the river’s edge two turns later. Her heated body dangled limply in his arms as he stumbled twice to reach the night cooled water.

When would it be over?

With her suffering worsening every turn, Saa found himself unable to focus on his own issues. He was home. Not home proper, but the feel of the jungle beneath his feet, the air and scent of his birth place had awaken his blood. Soon the abilities that marked him, the reason for his brother’s jealousy would surface. But his control was lacking. Two orbits was more than long enough to forget.

Aloyce would be safe but others wouldn’t. He would mark the area to keep intruders out. Although none of the clans were this far out. He and Aloyce should be safe from discovery. They had to be. They needed time. Time to get used to their new lives and to each other. But only if she survived this. She was so weak and growing weaker every turn. He was quite sure the kit wasn’t getting what it needed with everything she was going through. If she went, his first born would too and he would follow soon after. The Tabarcus tree would become their grave.

But he didn’t want that.

He was trying his hardest to keep her here in the living. She wasn’t even able to eat the food he pre-chewed for her. She had lost weight since his nightmare two turns ago. He had slept well with her wrapped in his arms that night and she had as well. In relative peace they slept through the day, it was the night that brought problems. Her fever began to rise again. Her body was burning off the water faster than he could get it into her, he was losing her.

As Saa splashed into the river, the water soaked his tattered shorts chilling him, but he ignored it. He continued forward until it rose to his chest, covering her motionless limbs. The shock should’ve been enough to awaken her, but her eyes remained closed.

“Aloyce.” He whispered while scooping handfuls of water onto her chest and over her head.

Saa caressed her face watching for the tattoo around her eyes to lighten or darken giving a sign that she felt something. It remained just a couple shades darker than her complexion. “Mina?”

He looked up at the moon attempting a brief reprieve from this misery as his eyes burned with threatening tears. He slowly gazed down at her when the river tugged gently at her body, its currents trying to convince him to let her go, to stop the torture she was suffering because of him. He almost relented. Watching as the water buoyed her listless form out of his arms, he wavered.

Her soft moan convinced him otherwise, he hugged her tightly against his chest to make sure she didn’t get caught up and swept away. Saa sighed as he smoothed his hand over her face and into her hair and froze.

Large clumps of her braided hair came off between his fingers and disappeared into the dark water. His eyes widened as he watched as more continued to float away. What was happening now?