Marta knew something was wrong with her. Her vision kept fading before a wave of nausea would hit her. She had a few episodes last night that lasted for only a few minutes but it has slowly become worse throughout the day. She stumbled down the darkened gray concrete corridor towards the faintly lit room. 'It was always so damn dark here' she thought. Everything was dimly lit and she had never seen a window since she arrived here. It's impossible to keep track of time but she guessed she had been in this concrete prison for six months. Of course they don't call it a prison but it's how she thought of it at times. She tried to appreciate the safe haven they have given her but she is not stupid and knows it comes with a price. She just hasn't figured that part out yet.
Marta walked slowly with her hand running along the rough walls to keep her balance while she swallowed back down a throat full of bile. She stopped every few feet to regain her balance before she continued towards the room. She had to find one of the Abettors. They would know how to help her if they would listen. She wasn't supposed to be out of her room. It was the quiet period which meant she was supposed to be resting in her room. She hated quiet time. She didn't like sitting around and be left with nothing but her memories.
The Abettors were human men who served the Kahnerians, but they were tasked with helping and supporting the women who were brought to the Kahnerian Sanctuary. She assumed the Abettors were all gay men because none of them showed a single ounce of interest in any of the women here which is hard to imagine. The women who were sent here were the healthiest, strongest and prettiest women she had ever seen. Marta knew she was pretty but she refused to use it for her advantage. Her life would have been much easier if she chose to play the dumb blond and let some rich man take care of her but it was against her very fiber. She didn't want to be taken care of. She wanted her own life. Marta was tall and leggy.
She was 5ft 10in tall and was mostly legs. She was too curvy for a life of modeling if there were still a need for modeling. She was used to men gawking at her because even she had to admit her curves were greatly exaggerated and she had to alter every pair of pants she had ever owned. She bought her pants large enough to go over her hips then she took in the waist and legs. Her thick white blond hair came to her waist and would wave up if she let it dry on its own which she rarely did because it took forever to dry. She had her late mother's bright emerald-green eyes in fact she looked exactly like her mother.
Marta's steps grew slower as her head spun and her breathing became shallower. 'She couldn't be sick' she thought. The women were poked and prodded weekly to ensure they maintained their health. She was a human pin cushion. Marta's hand reached for the open door frame and saw four Abettors running the latest blood samples from today's blood collection.
"Help me." She whispered then she collapsed to the ground and passed out.
"She is Zerian's. Get him quickly." Abettor Mathew said.
Abettor Mathew checked Marta's pulse rate before bringing out his stethoscope. He had been so hopeful that this time it would work. Marta's DNA sample was the best match they had found. They combed every human DNA sample that existed on the planet for months until they came across hers. She was watched and studied to ensure her temperament was well suited for this. They spent too much time on her. They could not fail.
He heard the soft padded footsteps sprinting down the hall followed by the much louder running sound of shoes. He was listening to her lungs and heart when Zerian entered. Zerian overwhelmed the small space with his size. Even for his race he was a huge male. He stood close to 7ft tall and he had to turn side ways for his shoulders to fit through the narrow door frame.
"What has happened?" Zerian's deep tenor voice boomed. He was frightened and angry.
"My lord" Abettor Mathew bowed deeply to Zerian before continuing. "She walked in here, said help me, then passed out. Her pulse is strong, but her breathing is very shallow." He moved his hands away from Marta as Zerian gently straightened her out on her back so he could examine her himself.
Zerian checked Marta's pupils before he moved his hand over her abdomen. He closed his eyes and breathed in her scents. Zerian loved her smell. She smelled of a fresh spring rain. His nostrils flared as he caught the other subtle scent that blended with hers. He spoke a silent prayer in his own language before he addressed the human men.
"It has begun. She needs to be removed from the other females." He gently stroked her long tresses as he spoke to them.
"Yes my lord." Abettor Mathew kept his head and gaze at his feet. He was struggling to keep himself from smiling. It worked. It finally worked. He cautioned himself that this was only the beginning. Many more months needed to pass before they could truly celebrate their accomplishment.
"Abettor?" Zerian called, as he rose to his magnificent height. Abettor Mathew looked up to meet his gaze.
"She will be protected at all costs. Do you understand?" Zerian was looking down at the small man with a lethal stare.
"With my life."
Zerian reached down and lifted Marta into his arms. The tightness in his shoulders softened as he looked down at her face. She was the one. He knew from the moment he saw her, she was the one who would save them. She looked more like a Kahnerian female than any other human he had seen. Her profile told him facts about her, but from the viewing room above the women's gathering area he learned more than any profile could give him.
There was a wildness to her; she hated being caged. He watched her pace often until he had them place exercise equipment in the room. She seldom sat around to speak to the other women during their gathering time. She was kind to all of them, but she was focused. The Abettors were all fond of her. Every day she would get on the running machine and he would watch as she tamed that wild spirit that wanted to run free. She was fast for a human and he couldn't help but smile when she removed her shoes to run. She was nimble and flexible. Yes, she was very much like a Kahnerian. It was a puzzle he found fascinating.
Marta blinked her eyes repeatedly at the unfamiliar brightness. She sheltered her eyes with her hand as she looked at her surroundings. Her eyes stopped on an enormous male being. He had to be a Kahnerian. They looked like a human but hairier and they apparently did not wear clothes. His arms were as big as one of her legs. Her eyes continued to wander over him. His ears sat slightly higher up on his head and were small and pointy. His eyes were light green, and reflected light like hers often did in the sunlight. She smiled at him when she noticed that and wondered if all green eyes did that. She couldn't tell where the honey yellow hair on his head ended and his body hair began. It sort of blended together, though his face, his neck and chest were free from any hair. She followed the line of hairlessness down his belly and quickly blushed. She brought her eyes back up to his.
Zerian let a corner of his mouth raise when he watched that ivory skin shade pink. He stood there proudly as any Kahnerian male would do and let her look at him. He didn't understand the human need for clothing. He waited for her to get comfortable and to speak first.
"Are you a Kahnerian?" her whimsical voice asked. Zerian tried not to smile as her voice sounded like music to him.
"I am." He answered simply. He wanted to hear her speak again.
"Do you have a name?" Marta asked. She couldn't help but to smile at him. He was handsome, huge, and she was completely intrigued by him.
Zerian inhaled the scent coming off her again. She was happy, more than happy. "I am Zerian."
Marta was already in love with his deep tenor voice. His presence should scare her from his size alone but the opposite was happening. He made her feel safe. "And I suppose you know my name?" She already knew the answer but she wanted to keep him talking.
"Yes, you are Marta." He said warmly. He kept his distance from her so she would not be frightened of him. He was being extremely cautious for their first meeting.
"Yes, I am sure you know everything about me. My name, age, race, blood type, shoe size, and you probably even know my bra size." She said amused with a tinge of sarcasm thrown in.
His mouth twitched before he held his mouth in place. Her eyes narrowed slightly on him so he was positive she noticed. She liked to watch people. He needed to remember that. "34DD" he replied with his own amusement.
Her reaction was exactly as he expected. Her face shown shock then she let out a small laugh. "Of course you do."
"I know many details about you."
Marta looked at him for a while and a dozen questions flew past her mind before she kept to a safe question. "Do all Kahnerians walk around without clothes?" she asked trying desperately to avert her eyes.
That did make Zerian smile. "Why do humans insist on wearing clothes? Or why do women wear contraptions that contort their bodies into unnatural shapes?" he countered.
"Modesty and anticipation to answer your first question. Women are told to look like a specific stereotype so they try anything they can to fit that image. Many women resort to surgery to look like some picture in a magazine that isn't even real. The pictures are altered to fit the stereotype. I sure as hell don't fit it. My breasts are too large for my tiny ribcage and waist. My hips are too large. Many men think my butt is too big." Her faced blushed as soon as the words were out of her mouth.
Zerian snarled, literally snarled. "Human men are ignorant. Females come in many shapes and sizes, especially on this planet, but your body is perfect." Marta startled at his reaction. She nodded at him and decided not to make any more negative comments about her body in front of him.
Zerian sensed he had scared her and calmed his tone back down. He didn't want her to be frightened of him. "Marta, to a Kahnerian Male you are perfect in every way. Of course a little more body hair would be nice." He grinned widely. "Shaving!" He exclaimed and shook his head as he noticed her smooth arms and legs. "Please explain your anticipation comment. I do not understand." He continued.
Marta tried to hide her smile from his compliment and her amusement from his reaction to her shaving. She could say the same thing about his body hair. She had to swallow down a giggle before she responded to him. "Well." she said slowly. "When you meet someone special and the two of you are going to be intimate with each other you wonder what they look like. The anticipation is part of the thrill. Of course it can completely backfire on you when you realize the man is the smallest man you've ever seen or I suppose it would also really throw you for a loop if you realized he wasn't really a he in the first place."
"You are amusing to speak with Marta, but I wonder how many men you have been intimate with? You are a virgin according to your medical records." Zerian was trying to sound as light-hearted as her, but he had an edge to his voice. He was already becoming possessive of her.
Marta blushed. "That's too embarrassing." she responded.
"Too embarrassing to tell me, or too embarrassing to admit you are a virgin." He insisted.
"Both, I guess. I'm sure a male who oozes virility has been with many females and can't relate. I'm twenty-five years old. Most humans lose their virginity by the time they are twenty, so yeah it's embarrassing to talk about it to a sex god for his race." She said as her face reddened more and her voice rose. She needed to learn to control herself.
Zerian felt a rush of pleasure go through him from her compliment. "Interesting choice of words." He said slowly. "Maybe I can guess. I have studied the human culture for a while. You had a high school boyfriend who you let him touch your breasts but never more. I don't see you going any further than that."
Marta stared into his eyes for a long moment. Zerian inhaled and knew he was right. She was his perfect human. "I sense this conversation is uncomfortable for you. Would you like to talk about something else?"
She smiled at him. "Yes, I would. Why are you here? Not the whole why are you on this planet or any of that. But why are you here in this room with me?" she asked while she tilted her head and watched him.
Zerian watched as she started studying him again. "You are not like the other women we have given shelter to. I wanted to get to know you more."
"You were curious about me? What makes me different?"
"Yes, I believe I am curious about you. Why don't you tell me more about yourself?" He chose to ignore her second question.
"There isn't too much to tell. I am like most of the women here. I am an only child and my parents are deceased now. My mother and grandmother died during the first uprising and my father might as well have. I like to say he died from a broken heart, but when I was sixteen he shot himself."
"Why would he leave you behind? His own child!" Zerian sounded outraged. Her records didn't indicate her father killed himself.
"My mother and I look exactly alike. I reminded him of her every single day. I guess it was too much for him to take."
"Can I ask what happened to your mother and grandmother? Maybe your father blamed himself for not protecting them." Zerian asked softly. There had to be a logical explanation for a father to leave his offspring behind by choice.
"He blamed me for having to live without them." Marta answered sharply.
"I don't understand." Why isn't any of this in her file? Zerian was growing angry and not knowing any of this new information. He was trying to control his anger which is not something he is known for.
"I don't know. I don't know anything." Marta replied quickly and closed down. She turned her face from his.
"I'm sorry for your loss. I too know of loss." His race had lost many and he did understand the hurt she was feeling.
"Thank you." she replied softly.
Zerian could tell she was done speaking for now. He turned to leave her room but she called to him. "Zerian, will I see you again?"
He smiled, "Yes. I will return. Please do as the Abettors tell you. We need to keep you safe."
"Is something wrong with me?" she asked confused by his words.
"No, nothing is wrong, but we need to be cautious." Zerian chose his words carefully and he saw the confusion on her face.
After Zerian left her, Marta sunk deep into her pillow and replayed her conversation with Zerian. She looked up into the dark gray reflective ceiling tiles and faintly saw her reflection staring back at her. She fanned her hair out above her head and over the pillow. She twirled her hair mindlessly with her fingers as she slowly stretched trying to get comfortable.
She wondered if all male Kahnerians looked like him or did they differ in size and color as much as human males did? Somehow she guessed he was unlike any others. Kahnerian males are definitely not modest or shy. If Zerian was going to visit her more often she needed to learn how to control her wandering eyes. Couldn't they at least put on a loin cloth or something?
She was frustrated by his other questions though. She missed her grandmother and mother dearly. She missed her home and wished she had her pictures to remind her of them. She seldom missed her father; his death was more of a relief. She didn't like to remember the man he became, after her mother died.
She tossed her blankets off her and sat up. She looked down at a hospital gown that had been put on her. She looked around her new room and paid more attention to the cabinets surrounding the bed. She didn't notice them when she first woke up, it was well disguised and she was distracted by Zerian's presence but she was in a hospital room. Still no windows of course! More cement walls but two things were new, bright wall sconces that flooded the room with bright light and strange dark gray reflective ceiling tiles.
She walked around her room and opened a few cabinets, sure enough hidden hospital equipment. She opened a closed-door and found a small private bathroom. That would be a nice change for a while. In the women's quarters they shared large bathrooms much like a dormitory. She looked through the rest of the closets and cabinets but did not see her clothes. She hated wearing the gown, she felt like she was draped in a sheet.
She looked at the door to the outside and found a lock. It probably had a keyhole on the other side if they needed to get in here, but it would provide her some privacy for a few minutes. She turned the lock and removed her gown as she walked over to the largest empty space in the room.
Her grandmother taught her many things growing up and one of them was something she called Nah Dehn. Some of the poses were similar to yoga and the movements were fluid like Tai Chi but done slightly quicker. The movements were a slow sensual dance that strengthened your muscles, heart and sole. It was a tradition that Marta continued to this day. It heightened her senses and made her more connected to her mind, body and others around her.
"My lord, is it safe for her to be doing that? I will go stop her." Abettor Mathew said as he and Zerian watched Marta begin to rhythmically move throughout her room from the viewing room directly above her room.
"No, leave her. It will not harm her." Zerian replied as he watched her move fluidly through the ancient art form. It was too natural to her for it to be something she recently learned. Who taught it to her?
His curiosity and desire burned as he continued to watch her naked form. "Leave me. Do not disturb her this evening." Zerian said with a hard edge to his tone. He ached to be in the room with her and was having a hard time controlling himself.
"Yes, my lord." Abettor Mathew bowed then left the viewing room.
She knew every position, every movement. Zerian was anticipating her ending pose. It would tell him much more. She would not be able to hide it from him while he walked directly above her. Her final move brought her into a back arched position with her legs pointed straight. Her chest was rising and lowering heavily as she cried out from the euphoric feeling that released within her.
She fell back to the floor and looked up at the ceiling. Zerian froze when her green eyes glowed up at him. They blazed with the full force of the Nah Dehn. That was impossible.
Zerian pressed a call button on the wall next to him. "Abettor!" he growled into the intercom.
"Yes, my lord." Abettor Mathew replied urgently and weakly.
"I want you to pull the records of Marta's parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I want full medical reports and complete histories." Zerian knelt and put his hand to the floor as he watched her walk towards the shower. He closed his eyes to squelch his desire to run into her room.
"But my Lord, there isn't much. When we first pulled her name we found very few public records."
"Then find the non public records. They lived, they existed. Find something." His voice roared and bellowed against the walls.
"Of course my lord." Abettor Mathew stumbled over himself to get off the intercom as quickly as possible.
'What secrets are you hiding Marta?' Zerian asked himself as he continued to watch her. He obviously should have been watching her at times other than during the women's gathering time. She should have been in this room months ago so he could watch her.
Marta took a long hot shower relaxing every muscle and relaxing her mind. Her thoughts were still on her grandmother and her mother when she dried off and put her gown back on but now she felt connected to them. She unlocked the door before she sat in her bed to start the tedious task of combing out her hair.
She closed her eyes while she worked on her hair and remembered the three of them going out into the hay field during the summer to perform the Nah Denh together. During the winter they went to the barn. Her father never joined them. It was only for the three of them. It was powerful the feeling that overcame them when they performed it. It strengthened their bond and made them inseparable.
Her grandmother lived with them her entire life and always taught Marta special family traditions. She drilled them into Marta so she would never forget who she was. Marta was proud that she has not forgotten any of them. She's been in here too long and is probably losing her touch in the kitchen though. Her grandmother taught her many traditional dishes from her homeland.
Abettor Mathew woke Marta up the next morning to check on her vitals again. "What happened to me yesterday?" Marta asked him.
"Your electrolytes are out of balance and you were slightly dehydrated. I need you to drink this liquid for me today and take a larger dose vitamin." Abettor Mathew handed Marta a large glass of purple liquid and her vitamin.
Marta took a sip of the purple stuff that was supposed to taste like grape. "Oh, that's horrible." Marta said as she wrinkled up her nose.
"If you don't drink it then I will have to give you an IV so please try to drink it."
"Is there a time limit?" Marta asked as her stomach started complaining.
"I will be back in a few hours. Please have it down before then."
"I will try."
Marta watched as Abettor Mathew left her room and she attempted another sip of the purple medicine and a huge shiver ran through her from the horrible flavor of the liquid. She sat the glass down and let the shiver run its course. It was going to take the full two hours to drink that crap down.
Zerian laughed to himself as he watched Marta's reaction to the medicine. He too hated the stuff.
"Come in." Zerian called, as he heard a knock at the door.
Abettor Mathew walked into the room with a folder in hand. "My lord, we have a little more information but it will take time to get a much more detailed picture."
Zerian took the report from him and started reviewing it. "There are no medical records for the parents or grandparents. What about from Marta's birth?"
He shook his head. "Our records indicate Marta was born at home and her birth was recorded by her father several weeks after she was actually born. Marta did not have a record until the new government required DNA samples before issuing identification cards. There is a birth record for her father, but there are no birth records for her mother or grandmother. There aren't even any official death records. As far as the government is concerned they never existed."
Zerian looked down at Marta for a long moment. "Search her home."
"Yes, my lord." Abettor Mathew bowed and left the room quickly.
"Zerian!" Marta called happily as he entered her room later that day.
"How are you feeling today?"
Marta shrugged her shoulders, "I'm fine."
Zerian didn't believe her. He walked over to the side of her bed. "Are you?" he asked.
Marta grinned up at him. "I'm just a little nauseated. It's not a big deal."
Zerian nodded and was pleased she was honest. "What shall we talk about today?"
"Tell me something about you. Describe your home to me." Marta asked.
"All right. Our planet is similar to this one, but it is dryer. Not as many trees. There are large vast grass lands on gentle rolling hills. That is where we have our cities."
"It sounds like my home." Marta whispered.
"You lived on a farm?" Zerian asked.
"Yes. I lived in a rich valley full of wheat and hay fields. It wasn't all flat. Our farm is on a small hill. I miss it. Gray concrete is a little depressing." She added dryly.
"I agree, but it is how we keep the sanctuary safe. What was your favorite part of living on your farm?"
"I don't know if I have just one favorite." Marta closed her eyes and could still smell the tall grass flowing around her. "My favorites I think are the smell of the fields, lying in the middle of the fields during summer evenings watching the stars, and running through the fields feeling the grass whip at my legs. Also the grass is where my grandmother, mother and I would...dance...together." Marta opened her eyes and caught her breath as Zerian stood inches from her. His gaze was intense as he stared down at her. "Zerian?" she whispered.
"Those are my favorite things too." He whispered. It was the only answer he could come up with quick enough. Where did this girl come from? "You seem to be fond of your grandmother. Tell me more about her."
Marta narrowed her eyes on Zerian. "My grandmother was beautiful, strong, ferociously protective of her family, and I miss her more than anything in this world."
"Do you look like her?" he asked with a smile. He sensed she didn't like talking about her grandmother.
"Yes." Marta sighed.
"I could send men to your home and bring back a picture if you would like." Zerian provided. He wanted to see the pictures for himself.
"Our house was ransacked too many times by looters. I have very little left." Marta answered. "Is my home, still my home?"
"Of course! We sold your animals and the money was added to your accounts. We have paid your taxes while you've been here. When it is safe your home is yours to return to." Zerian responded. Though he doubted it would be ever safe enough for her to return he did not want to hurt her by saying it. The other women have been able to return but her home is in the middle of the rebellion.
Marta was stunned. "I don't know what to say. Thank you."
'It's the least he could do' he thought grimly to himself. He only nodded to her.
"Can I ask a favor from you?" Marta asked.
"What would you like Marta?"
"Is there a kitchen here where I can cook?" she looked down at her folded hands. "It's what I do when I miss them and I would like to thank you."
"You want to cook for me?" Zerian asked startled. Does she understand the meaning of such an action within his culture?
Marta looked up to meet his eyes. "Yes, if you would let me. I'll even cook some of my grandmother's favorites. I promise you will like them."
"I'm sure I will." Zerian watched her for a quiet minute before he walked over to a cabinet and pulled out paper and pen. "Make your list of what you will need. Give the list to Abettor Mathew when he returns."
"I will, thank you."
"I need to leave now. Please get some rest today." Zerian's head was spinning and needed time to think.
Marta watched Zerian leave her room and fell back on her bed. She was thrilled that he agreed to have dinner with her. Her grandmother taught her there was no greater way to honor a man than to cook for him. She wanted this to be a perfect dinner. She carefully planned out her menu then wrote down the ingredients she would need. Abettor Mathew may have a hard time finding some of the ingredients. They were not easy to find.
After a long nap she found her list was gone from beside her bed. She went to her bathroom to clean up. She smiled when she found the ribbons and hair bands sitting in her bathroom. In the reflection of the mirror she noticed a garment hanging on the back of the door.
"For dinner." The note read. Marta's smile widened as she looked at the outfit.
Zerian watched Marta shower and shave. He took great interest in watching her shave. 'Of course!' he thought to himself. 'Why can't humans accept their true nature?'
After her shower she pulled her hair into elaborate braids with the ribbon worked through them. He knew she would know how to wear her hair. He didn't know who her grandmother was, but she taught Marta well.
He left the viewing room for his own quarters. He would shower and prepare for the dinner as well. He had instructed Abettor Mathew to take her to the officer's quarters and use their private kitchen. Zerian sent notice to the other males to stay away from her and not be seen.
"You look lovely Marta. I am here to escort you to the kitchen you will be using." Abettor Mathew greeted as Marta came out of the bathroom.
"Thank you. I'm not used to wearing so little clothes though." Marta blushed as she looked down at herself. Her skirt, if you could call it that had a strip of green silk fabric in the front and back that were connected by gold chains that sat loosely over her hips. It barely covered her. The top was shaped like a biking top and was also made of green silk and gold chains.
"You should not be embarrassed. The Kahnerians are not modest like we are. They look past nudity."
Marta nodded and followed Abettor Mathew through the hallways and up several flights of stairs. She was completely lost by the time they reached their destination.
"There is a dining room next door that you can use for dinner. Let me know if you need anything. I will leave you now." Abettor Mathew gave a small nod at Marta and left her alone.
Marta looked around her and found a very nicely appointed modern kitchen. Her ingredients were laid out on a center island. She went over and verified everything was there.
She divided the ingredients up between dinner and dessert. She started putting the main dish together first. It had many steps and would need an hour in the oven. She sang to herself as she slowly worked on the dishes. The main dish she was positive Zerian would like. He was a male and males loved this meal. It was a blend of fine cut meat, root vegetables, rare herbs and covered in a fluffy pastry. The side dishes were easy and simple to prepare. It took her very little time to get those cooking.
Dessert was the most difficult. It took her years to master the dessert. There was no measuring it was all done by feel, taste and smell. A minute too long and the flavor would taste burnt. She continued to sing to herself as the familiar smells took over the kitchen.
When everything was safe to leave unattended for a few minutes she gathered up the dishes to set the dining room table. She found a table cloth and cloth napkins in a side buffet within the dining room. She placed the crisp white cloth on the table and placed the plates, glasses, napkins and silverware down in place. She fetched a pitcher and filled it with ice water then placed it on the table as well before she returned to the kitchen to finish the dinner.
She transferred the side dishes to serving dishes then removed the dessert from the oven. She sat it on a wire rack to cool then whipped up the topping for it and placed it in the refrigerator to set up. She took the side dishes out to the table and smiled at Zerian who was already sitting and waiting for her.
"May I help you with anything?" he offered.
"No thank you. I will be right back with the main dish. Do you like anything other than water to drink with your dinner?" She thought he might like wine but she didn't feel right opening a bottle when it wasn't hers to open.
"Water is fine."
Marta nodded then went to the kitchen for the main dish.
Zerian noted everything Marta said and did. She placed their settings on the opposite ends of the table, a safe formal distance.
Marta smiled even wider at Zerian as she placed the dinner in the center of the table. She stood next to him. "May I?" she asked pointing to his plate. She wanted to serve him his dinner.
"Yes." Zerian answered simply and watched every movement she made.
Marta picked up his plate and dished up his dinner before placing it back down on the table for him. She filled his water-glass before she dished up her own dinner. He waited for her to sit down as he placed his napkin in his lap. Napkins are more of a human custom but one he liked.
Marta sat down and smiled at Zerian. "It looks wonderful and you look beautiful Marta."
Marta blushed and looked down at her barely covered self. "Why do you look embarrassed? You shouldn't be."
"I'm not used to wearing so little clothes especially in front of a male. I was raised to stay covered."
Zerian wasn't very surprised by that. It fit with the picture he had created to explain Marta. He's been thinking too much about her. He thinks he understands her background now and looking at the very traditional meal sitting before him it was just one more confirmation. The question is how much does Marta know.
Zerian took a bite of the main course and had to close his eyes. It was amazing. The best he ever tasted. Marta was very talented in the kitchen. "This is wonderful Marta. Do you know what it is called?" he asked probing for answers.
"Thank you. I have two names for it. My mother called it Lyriel's Meat pie. Lyriel was my grandmother's name. My grandmother called it something else. Let me see if I can remember. It started with Min...Mir...ah...Mizaine. I believe that's how she pronounced it. She had a very heavy accent and the "Z" was emphasized."
She was even taught the traditional name. Zerian was memorizing her grandmother's name so that he could research it later. "Where did your grandmother grow up?" Zerian asked between bites of his dinner.
"I don't know. She wouldn't tell me. She said it was safer for me to not know. That secret is what killed her and my mother." Marta sat her fork down and wiped a tear from her cheek.
Zerian wanted to reach out and wipe that tear away for her. He didn't like seeing her sad. "I'm sorry Marta. What do you mean the secret killed her?" he asked slowly.
"Zerian, I know I've just met you, but I feel I know you. I can't describe it, but I'm drawn to you. I trust you." Marta looked down at her plate and took a deep breath before returning her gaze to him. "My father left a suicide letter that left me with more questions than answers. He put the blame of my mother's and grandmother's deaths on me. They chose to save me by ending their lives. I don't know what that means. Do you know what that means? What could my mother or grandmother have done that would have gotten me killed? It's my fault they are all dead." Marta had too many tears flowing now. "I'm sorry." Marta stood and went into the kitchen.
She doesn't know. Her father was a weak human and Zerian despised him at that moment. If he wasn't already dead, Zerian would be tempted to kill him. Even in death he tortured his daughter. What an honor-less man!
'But am I any better?' Zerian thought to himself. 'She trusts me and I have deceived her beyond words.' He had no choice in the deception but it was going to kill him when she finds out the truth. Zerian was torn. He desperately wanted to go comfort her, but it would make it worse when she learned the truth. She is a proud woman and would prefer him to wait for her to return so that is what he did. He finished his dinner and waited for her.
Marta appeared in the doorway carrying a traditional dessert made with spices that are hard to find on this planet. She grew them on her farm. "I apologize for early. Please forgive me for ruining dinner."
"You do not need to apologize."
Marta smiled weakly and sat the dessert in front of him. Without asking this time she dished up a small plate for him and placed it in front of him. Marta sat down quietly and waited for him to eat it.
Zerian was amazed at the flavors he was tasting! It was sweet with a perfect amount of musky spice to counter it. He took another big bite and inhaled the incredible scent. The other officers were going to be beating down his door later. He was sure they could smell everything from their quarters.
"You are an amazing cook Marta. It has been a long time since I've tasted food this perfect. Thank you. Did you want dessert?"
"No, thank you. My stomach couldn't handle it."
"Well then please let me escort you back to your room." Zerian walked over to her chair and pulled it out for her.
"I should probably clean up my mess first." Marta said as she stood and pointed towards the kitchen.
"No, don't worry about it. It will get done."
"That's a nice change. I get to cook without all the work of cleaning." Marta said lightly with a smile as he walked her to the door.
When they came to the first closed-door Zerian paused. "Excuse me for a moment." Zerian went over and knocked on the door before he went inside.
"I am taking Marta back to her room. You may have the rest of her dinner. She made Mizaine and Kellis. It is very good. I'm impressed." Zerian said to a room full of his officers.
"How does she know how to cook a traditional Kahnerian dish?" His chief officer Kandin asked.
"I don't think she knows that's what she cooked. I need you to search our database. She said her grandmother's name was Lyriel. Her mother and grandmother killed themselves to keep Marta's history a secret."
"You think her grandmother was a Kahnerian? That would explain how well she's done. I will research it my lord." Kandin replied.
"Enjoy your dinner. It really is the best I've ever had and if you tell my mother I said that I will shave you clean."
Kandin laughed deeply. "I don't want to look like a human so I will keep my mouth shut."
"Give me a minute to get her off the floor then you can leave the room." Zerian directed then slipped back out the door.
"Are we ready?" Zerian asked as he watched Marta leaning against the wall.
"Yes." Marta replied with a small smile. "Are other Kahnerian males as tall as you?"
Zerian couldn't help himself and smiled back. "Not many, but we are all taller than your average human. Does that bother you?"
"No, not at all. I feel very comfortable and quite small next to you. Not a feeling I am used to."
"You are on the petite side for a Kahnerian female."
Marta started laughing. "That's one word I never imagined would be used to describe me."
"You have a nice laugh."
"Marta, can I ask you a serious question?"
"You have lived alone for many years now, yes?" He knew that to be true but wanted confirmation.
"You said your house had been looted a few times, how did you stay...safe?" He amended his words and went with the easiest for her to answer.
"I appreciate you trying to ease your words, but you really mean raped. I have good hearing and those idiots weren't elite soldiers like the men who came and took me away. I still don't know how I did not hear the soldiers. It happened too quickly and it's hard for me to remember too well." Marta looked away flashing back on the evening when she woke to five large figures in solid black from head to toe looming over her bed. They wore full face masks and were heavily armed. Marta shivered at the memory. "That night I thought I was going to be raped or worse. The other idiots made too much noise. If I were in the house then I would hide. If I were outside I would run and wait until they left. I can out run most people. I just had to be careful of the assholes who would shoot at me. They never stayed long. I don't have much left."
"You have a place to hide in your house?"
"Yes, the only things I care about are hidden there as well; Pictures mostly, a locket of my grandmothers, a few other things. Stuff that would only mean anything to me! I doubt anyone could find it unless they were told exactly were it is. My father built it when he built the house."
"So it is a hidden room and big enough for a human to hide in?" Zerian needed to send that information out to the men who were heading to her home. They should be arriving soon. There had to be answers in that room.
"Exactly, if a stranger came to the farm my grandmother would take me into the tiny space and hide." Marta shrugged and entered her room.
"Marta, thank you for dinner. It was wonderful and I appreciate it. I will leave you so you can rest." Zerian stayed outside her room as he said goodnight to her.
"I'm glad you liked it."