Bright colors paint the walls around me as I try to figure out where I am. One thing is for sure I am not in my dark bedroom, and I'm not in a hospital. The bright green person touching my head is definitely not a doctor...not a human doctor. The thing smiles at me, and I see little pointed fangs where its canines should be.
"Please...where's my Mam," I whisper, and the creature holds up a finger before stepping towards a bright panel.
It presses something and steps back toward me cautiously.
"Please remain calm," it says, and my eyes widen.
"Where's my Mam," I question as my muscles instinctively prepare for pain.
"Your Mam is on Earth. You have been transported to Kea. My home planet. Your illness and injuries have been healed. You have been sent from your planet to participate in a Harvest tournament. I am your correspondent, Jali (jail-ee). My job is to inform you of rules and traditions relating to the Harvest. I understand you have many questions, but your body needs sustenance," the alien says and my brain practically explodes.
"Wait...my Mam? Why am I here? I'm...worthless...sickly. I can't compete. Please, I can't abandon my Mam," I beg quietly, and Jali gets a sad look on her green face.
"You are not worthless, Sweet girl. I have healed you. You are no longer sick, and your sickness won't return. Please, follow me. I will explain as soon as I have food in you," Jali says in a voice so kind my normal defenses crumble.
I nod before cautiously moving into a sitting position. Jali smiles at me, but I drop my eyes to the floor quickly. Her fangs scare me.
"You are safe here. I know you weren't conscious...and you must not have been able to consent, but you are safe. Your injuries...whoever hurt you...They can't hurt you anymore. I promise on my life," Jali whispers, and I look up to find her watching me with a look of comfort.
But no amount of comfort from this stranger can save Mam. The devil will kill her for sure this time. There's nothing I can do now. I won't even be able to meet her in heaven. If Jali is telling me the truth and I am healed on some alien planet...dying and being with Mam isn't in my near future.
"My Mam...she will get hurt," I whisper back, and the alien's face crumbles as she hears my words.
"I wish I could save her. She obviously saved you...She is very brave," Jali says after a few silent seconds, and tears begin to slide down my face.
Internal pain instead of external makes me cringe as I silently cry for my mother. She was my one rock. My defender and protector. My savior. She didn't abandon me. She fought to keep me. Then she fought to keep me alive. Now she will suffer that cruel man alone.
"Please, dear one, come with me. I will get you fed, and I will explain more," Jali whispers, and I manage to scoot myself off the bed.
My tears don't stop, and I am too depressed to wipe my face. I don't know what they did to my body, but I feel stronger. My legs don't shake from having to support my weight anymore, and my lungs aren't burning to cough. But no magical alien technology can heal the pain in my heart.
"What is this tournament," I croak after a few seconds of following her with my head down.
"The Harvest is a tournament set up to ensure future peace between the allied planets. There is a war going on between the worlds, Fiadh. Humans have been deemed to physically weak to fight against our enemies actively, but under the terms of the peace treaty, Earth is still required to send five women to Harvest. The Harvest is where the Galaxy's strongest compete to win the hand of a female of their choosing. With every pair bonded due to the Harvest, the ties between the allied planets grows. Earth sends women so your people will continue to receive protection. With every human female sent, Earth makes ties to the other planets," Jali replies before stopping, and I glance up to see we have arrived at some sort of cafeteria.
I wipe the drying tears from my face quickly before letting my hair block my face once more.
"Come, I will get you some food," Jali whispers after a moment, and I follow her legs like an obedient dog.
Her answer about what the Harvest is swirls within my mind. I understand very little about politics, but it sounds like my life was saved for a political reason. Earth needed women...unwanted women...
"Here. Let's sit over there," Jali says softly as she hands me a bright orange bowl.
I take the massive dish, and my eyes bulge. I have never been given this much food in my entire life. I don't have a clue what is in the bowl or what it takes like, but I am sure I will love it.
As I sit, Jali gives me another smile and gestures with her long green arm for me to eat. I dive in happily and moan as the juicy fruits explode in my mouth. Jali chuckles quietly, but I ignore her. I can feel her strange yellow eyes watching my every move, but I can't seem to concern myself with her. Not when I have this much food to consume.
"One human has already arrived. She was near death as well. Earth only sends women who are dying...Your leaders want to keep the other planets from you. They believe it will keep the peace," Jali says quietly, and I slowly swallow.
"So I was sent because I was dying," I ask, and Jali nods.
"Yes. A few more seconds and you would have been lost. May I...who hurt you," Jali asks, and I freeze as my father's face flashes in my mind.
My hands freeze on my bowl, and my stomach instantly feels sick. Pain, bruises, and bloody moments fill my thoughts. My body begins to tremble, and Jali grabs my hand.
"I'm sorry. Push that from your mind. You will never have to suffer abuse again. You are safe here, and once you get a mate...not a living soul in the Galaxy will touch you. You are safe," Jali says, and my eyes snap to her concerned face.
I swallow down the bile and gently pull my hand from hers.
"Tell me more. Distract me," I whisper, and she nods eagerly.
As Jali explains basic Harvest practices, my peripherals catch two figures heading our way. My ears immediately tune out Jali's words, and my body goes on the defensive. I don't know if the approaching figures are friends or foes, so I keep my eyes on Jali and my body ready. When they stop inches from the table, Jali looks up with a smile, and my nerves ease a bit. I give the two a few timid glances, and I am shocked to see what appears to be another human. Since her eyes seemed trained on Jali, I let myself look her over. She seems to be the same age as me. She is super pretty with her dark hair, green-bluish eyes, and straight nose...I wish I were as pretty as her. "Morning Jali, I see your harvested has arrived," the tall purple being says, and Jali nods smoothly. "This is Fiadh (fee-ah). She was the closest to death I have ever seen. We were just discussing the tournament," Jali says, and the other human looks at me for the first time. She practically beams at me, but
I snuggle deeper into the blue blanket I pull from my massive bed and sigh. Tranquility is as foreign to me as the beings around me, but I am finding I like both. A shooting star catches my eye, and I smile as I watch it zoom passed this oddly beautiful world. Deep rich hues of color are everywhere you look. From the people to the soil, this world is like a rainbow. I know I won't be able to sleep in the massive bed, so looking out the window until I grow drowsy will be fine. There is so much to look at. I lean my forehead against the glass, and within seconds, a soft knock vibrates off my door. I freeze on instinct before slowly thawing. I am no longer trapped in my father's home. I am safe. I whisper those three little words over and over as I climb to my feet and straighten out my nightgown. I take even measured steps to keep my heartbeat down before opening my door to find the tall chocolate-skinned human I met at breakfast. "Hey Fiadh, right," she says, and I nod as my finger
"You seem happier," Jali says softly as she hands me another small book. I smile, and nod. I don't just seem happy. For once in my life I am happy. I am safe. No one has hit me. I have friends. I am allowed to read and learn. Everything is perfect. "What else would you like to know about the Harvest. It's only four days away," Jali says, and I shrug as I open my book. I haven't asked about the Harvest very much because whatever happens I don't have a choice in the matter. I am apart of an alien competition, and when it ends, a male will ask me to be his. "You don't have a single question," she asks, almost desperately, and I look at her. "If you had a choice, what planet would you want to live on," I ask, and she smiles. She sits down at the small table and leans forward excitedly. "During our training they have us tour the planets and get familiar with each planet's customs. I really enjoyed it. My favorite places were Shikaz, Glortinon, and Vaal. The planet
My breaths are coming out in short pants, and my legs won't stop pacing. I haven't been this scared in two weeks. "Fiadh," Jali says softly, but I still flinch. I twist the beautiful white fabric of my skirt even harder in my hand as I force myself to meet her worried eyes. "Meeting the females will be stressful, but do not forget you have four other women who will be standing beside you...including Zuri. She will protect you," Jali says, and I nod as a sliver of calm slips down my spine. She is right. My friends will be with me. They will be nervous too. We will be a team...Like mom and I were. "I don't like thinking about how outnumbered we are," I whisper, and Jali nods as she approaches me with a bottle of liquid. "This is a nice fragrance spray," Jali says, and I nod as she mists the front of my dress. "Think of each group as its own. Technically you all are equal. It will be planet vs. Planet in that room. Not everyone against the females from Earth," Jali says,
"Attention, after meeting with your next group, you may retire for thirty minutes. For the last switch, please listen up," the male Kea says, and the chatter around our table halts. The rest of the room falls silent also and I lift my eyes from my lap. I have been avoiding eye contact for the last two rounds. I am emotionally exhausted. Every group since the Froles has been pleasant, but I have never been exposed to this many people. I feel like my energy has been zapped away from me. I want to make friends. I really do, but I don't know how to interact yet and my anxiety makes me tired. The male Kea lists the names and colors just like he has this entire time and I breathe out a rather loud sigh of relief. This is the last group. Then I get to escape to my room and scrub my face. I get to curl up on my soft bed and read a beautiful book. I grin as my mind conjures up the image of my escape, but I quickly regain control. I don't want my friends thinking I dislike spending time
"We have to go back," I softly whine, and Jali nods while giggling. "Yes. If you had paid attention, you would have known that," Jali says, and I gaze at my bed longingly. I was hoping I could shower and jump into bed after meeting with the females. I completely forgot we were expected to eat dinner with the males. "I'm exhausted," I mumble as she fusses with my hair. She nods and dabs at my cheeks with something I can't see. "That's normal," she replies, matter-of-fact-like, and I groan. I am quickly realizing I can't get out of this. I am going to be stuck eating dinner with a whole bunch of guys. Males make me uncomfortable on a good day; then factor in my exhaustion, and this is a recipe for disaster. "But I'm not hungry. We had a bunch of finger foods while meeting the other women," I grumble, and she laughs. "While I am enjoying you showing more emotion, I can't excuse you from this. This is day one of the tournament, Fiadh. Everything must go according t
"The rest of the evening is all about enjoying each other's company and getting to know one another on a more intimate level. Have fun," the male Kea says, and I watch as the males begin to approach the females rather eagerly. Xia and Zuri get asked to dance almost immediately and disappear into the thick crowd. Jia and Krystal get asked next, and I start to get nervous. I don't find the idea of attempting to dance appealing, but I don't want to be left standing here, either. As I begin to chew on my bottom lip, I see something rather large out of the corner of my eye. I turn to see what it is, and I find a massive orange man looking at me with brown eyes. The fact that he was able to approach me so stealthy is rather alarming, but I try to keep the fear from showing on my face. I told Jali I would try, and I intend to uphold that promise. "Evening Fiadh of Earth, would you care to join me for a dance," he says, and I give him a forced grin before nodding. He offers me his elbow,
FIADH POV A small smile tugs at my lips as I watch the crowd of new pairs gets set. Everyone appears to be having a good time. There is no tension and no yelling. Most of the women are smiling, and none of the males seem to be in bad moods. I could really get used to this. "Good Evening, Fiadh of Earth. I was wondering if you would care to dance with me," a gentle male voice asks, and I turn to see a male from Glortinon. His striking appearance freezes the yes in my throat, so I just nod before taking his warm hand. When he positions us amongst the other couples, he moves his hands to my waist, and I blush. He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen. I can't believe I didn't spot him during dinner earlier. With his luminous yellow skin and white hair, he definitely stands out. "Thank you for agreeing to dance with me. My name is Terrax. Captain Terrax, that is. I heard you decline the offer from that champion from Frole last round. It surprised me. I don't think a