Chapter 6

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"Here you go," Yaalon said as he handed a roasted fish to Agnez. The aroma drifted up to Agnez's nostrils and she took in a deep breath.

"Thank you," said Agnez, taking the fish from Yaalon.

Yaalon picked up a second fish from the fire-heated rock where he had cooked their lunch and tossed it a few feet away to Rockdog, who was laying in the grass eagerly anticipating a savory meal. Grabbing the last fish from the rock, he walked back to Agnez. Sitting down next to her, he asked, "So, are your parents back at the village we're heading to?"

Agnez looked down at her fish and picked at a piece of loose flesh with her finger. "No," she said quietly. "My mother is dead."

Yaalon looked over at Agnez. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean..."

"It's alright," said Agnez, still looking down. "It was a long time ago and you couldn't have known."

"Will you tell me about it?"

Agnez looked up at Yaalon. "Why would you want to know about my mother?"

Yaalon's silver-blue eyes softened as he looked at Agnez. "I just thought that maybe you'd tell me. I don't get many chances to get to know people. Not that I want to most of the time. Look, if you'd rather not, it's okay," he said, waving a hand at Agnez. "I understand. I know that losing someone can be painful."

Agnez looked into Yaalon's eyes for a moment and recognized the same pain she felt. She didn't know why this strange, scarred man had chosen to help her or why the world, to use his phrase, 'had other plans,' but for some reason she couldn't pinpoint, she felt that she could trust him.

"I was ten when she died," Agnez began. "My sister, Rajhani, was just a few months old. A fangcat snuck into our village at night and attacked us in our hut. Probably looking for food. My mother died trying to protect my sister. I put a knife in its belly. I was lucky. My training started when I was just a few years old--in my village our purpose is set when we are born--but I wasn't fully trained and I was small. After it killed my mother, it came after me. I just acted. I thought I was going to die."

"Where was your father?"

"The Ceasixus killed him about half a year earlier in a supply raid on our village. He was the only one that died." Agnez looked up to the sky and stared into the soft blue distance. "When I was little, he would tell me about the second planet."

"Second planet?" Yaalon sounded puzzled.

Agnez nodded, still looking up to the sky. "Yes," she said, "the second planet. It's right there," she lifted her arm and pointed up toward what Yaalon could only see was a blue sky.

"I don't see anything, Agnez."

"It's right there. Come here, look."

Yaalon leaned closer to her and followed the direction of her finger with his eyes, squinting. "What should I be seeing?" he asked.

"At night," said Agnez, "it looks like a star in the sky, though slightly orange. Right now, it's the tiniest speck of dark in the sky. There is something about it that draws me."

Yaalon straightened, leaning back from Agnez. Shaking his head slowly, he said, "Sorry, Agnez. I don't see it."

"That's okay. It's there. I'll show you tonight."

"I'd like that," Yaalon said softly.

"I'm going there one day."

Yaalon whipped his head around to stare at Agnez. "What do you mean you're going there?"

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