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 am too shocked to return the gesture. I wasn't expecting her to look at me suddenly and see me staring at her. She is probably wondering what is wrong with me.
"Hi. My name's Krystal. I got here yesterday," she says after a long awkward pause and sticks out her hand.
I force myself to return the gesture even though I don't really trust any of these strangers. At any time, things could go south. A man or male alien could get angry at us. These females could turn on me and stop being nice at any time. I must stay cautious. This isn't home, but I'm not safe either.
"If you are afraid, don't be. The people here are really nice. Zalu has been nothing but kind," she suddenly says, and I can't help but grin.
"Am I that obvious," I mumble lowly, and she laughs loudly, drawing unnecessary attention to our table.
"A little," she replies after her loud laugh finally dies, and the purple alien places a hand on her shoulder.
"I will go retrieve our food," she says, and the human girl nods before taking a seat at the four-top table.
"So what's your story Fiadh," she asks, and I force myself to chuckle awkwardly.
"I was sick, and now I am here. I didn't have much of a life," I explain, and she glances toward Jali before looking back at me.
"What did you have," she asks, and a million answers zip through my head as I stare at her.
I had some sickness that caused blood to spew from my mouth, but I was never allowed to have a physician look me over. I had an abusive father and a fantastic mother. I had two brothers who wanted me dead....I..had...my eyes fall to the table as my heartbeat becomes almost painful.
"I don't want to talk about that anymore. I'm not sick now, and I want to move on," I whisper, and I can sense her discomfort as she looks away from me quickly.
"Are you from Ireland originally," she asks suddenly, and I nod?
Isn't she from Ireland too? How can she not tell by my accent?
"Your English sounds so American," she replies with a cautious smile, and utter confusion hits me before I look at Jali for an answer.
"It's the translator. Krystal sounds Irish to you, and you sound American to her. Zalu and I sound different than we normally do as well. The tone of our voice is correct, but our pronunciation is different. If you knew how to read lips, you would realize our mouths don't match the words you hear," Jali explains, and my eyes widen as I remember her messing with my head before pressing a couple of buttons.
"What other questions do you have, Fiadh," Jali asks, and I almost sigh out loud in relief for the distraction she is offering.
"Who is all in the tournament? What do they look like," I ask, not truly caring what the answer is?
"Okay, this is a long list, so don't feel bad if you don't remember everything," Jali says as the purple alien returns with two bowls of food.
I nod and hunker down as the purple being hands the human her bowl.
"The Vaals are a strong people with even stronger ties to their family. They resemble humans the most. They look like the people from the Earth's country, Africa. They have three participants in this Harvest. All three are brothers. The Coks are next. They are a resourceful people. They come from a hot and sandy planet. They live primarily underground to avoid the heat and to be close to their water source. They have fifteen participants in this Harvest. Due to the harshness of their planet, they are known to be excellent fighters which is why they have so many. Their skin is a tan color. The Hassins have six fighters participating, and like us, they range in color. Their tones are more metallic-like, and their features are sharp. Their planet is a cold one. They are thick beings and loud. They are typically the life of the party, as humans say. Shikazs are from a planet filled with tall trees. They are very uniform in color. Their skin is a rich brown, and their eyes are dark green. They enjoy solitude and have small families. There are five of them competing. Makskins have the harshest planet. But they have built domes that encapsulate their cities, so the environment is controlled. Their skin is typically a burgundy shade, and there are five of them competing as well. Glortinons have an interesting appearance. They are light in color ranging in pale yellows, but what makes them fascinating is their glow. Their skin has taken in so much UV light from their many suns that it literally glows. Their planet has no night. They have six competing in the harvest. Froles are fast. They come from a planet that has almost no trees. They are wild-like in personality and features. Their skin is striped from their head down to their toes. They are striped so they can blend in with the grass. They see great at night and are similar to the big cats on your planet when it comes to hunting. They typically choose females from their own planet. They have seven males competing. Next are the Bronkorks. They are the largest beings fighting on our side in the war. They typically stand over seven feet tall and have orangey skin. They come from a planet full of mountains and hills. Like the Hassins, they are loud and boisterous. They have five competitors.Last but not least are the Gaimos. Their planet is swamp-like. They have thin pupils and scales on certain areas of their skin for protection. They tend to be quiet. Three Gaimos are competing. Two planets had no competitors this harvest, and those are the Keas and the Peulos. The Peulos come from a watery planet and like to swim. They are blue or green in color. Kea's are all around you. We are the most colorful. We view everyone as family and hate conflict. Fighting in this war is hard for our people. That is why Keas host the Harvest. We are the most trusted," Jali explains, and I realize that I will have to bond myself to one of these creatures before too long.
"Wow," I breathe, unable to think of anything else to say, and the girls beside me nod in agreement.
"Oh, look. The other humans have all arrived. That was faster than usual," the purple one suddenly says, and I follow everyone else gaze to see three more humans walking towards us with a tall alien.
Two of the humans are clearly Asian, while the third is black. I can't get a read on them, so I drop my gaze.
"Fellow Harvestees, may I present. Zuri, Xiu, and Jia. They all just arrived," the blue Kea who just arrived says, and the human beside me stands up suddenly.
"Hi, my name is Krystal. That's Fiadh," she says easily, as if we have been friends for year's and I blush.
Krystal shakes their hands, and I awkwardly hunch against the table while trying to appear smaller.
"Where are you from," Zuri asks as Krystal sits back down with a flop.
"I am from Ohio. Umm, well, the United States. Where are you three from," she answers, sounding a little unsure.
"I am from Africa," Zuri answers, and my brows lift with curiosity.
I don't know much about Earth and its countries since my father doesn't allow me to go to school. But I have heard about a few of the big ones.
"China," Xiu says shyly, and again my curiosity flames to life.
"That's cool," Krystal says, and my ears ready for the last girl's homeland.
"California in the United States," She says, and I almost nod.
Figures there would be two Americans.
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
TERRAX POV "You dance beautifully," I say, and the stunning orange Kea in my arms smiles. "Thank you, Captain. I have taken dance lessons in preparation for the Harvest," she says in a soft voice, and I nod. I expected as much. Every one of my partners has been graceful and poised, all except the human. Fiadh...she has a natural rhythm but was as untrained as they come. "So, Captain, what are you looking for in a mate," she asks, drawing my attention back to her red eyes. "Someone with a kind heart and happy personality. I like the outdoors, so I want someone who is willing to be out of the house most of the time," I say, and she stares at me with a forced smile on her face. She nods to show she heard me, but I can tell from the look in her eyes she doesn't think that sounds appealing."What made you choose me for the final dance," she asks, poking to see how serious I am about this choice. I look away from her, and my eyes somehow land directly on the angel in white. Sh