Gazing out the window, the harsh light caused the female salamander to squint her eyes, but the sight was something of a marvel. The park below was filled with playing younglings, and supervising adults while merchants sold treats along the paths. None were affected by the cold weather, not even the naked younglings splashing in the fountain.
With a heavy cloak around her shoulders, Olivia's attention was only drawn when her brother was rising from the bed. He too huddled under thick covers, trying to retain the heat that hasn't escaped his body yet.
"It's too cold here," he grumbled, eyeing the room's old fashion heater. He stood to go sit next to it. "I don't know how you can stand looking at the unfiltered light."
"It's harsh but we'll get used to it," she replied, blinking several times. Her pupils were in a very narrow slit shape. "You should try to get used to it because we're arranged to meet with the diplomat later today."
"Is that today? The days here are so long," complained Oliver, standing to dress himself properly. "Our last 'rescuers' weren't so helpful once they found a new play thing."
"Don't remind me," remarked Olivia, remembering bitterly how Lucien's mission was ended before Olivia and Oliver were to the UDAS core worlds. "Aliens riled them up."
"I think it was something about another UDAS ship near their base that drew their attention." Oliver leaned to glance out the window too, his eyes squinting to the light. "What is it you find so fascinating out there."
"All the stories we've been told of how evil these 'weaklings' are completely false," answered Olivia. "Even if they are considered 'weak', how can this be worse than what home is like? No one is starving, dying or being abused here."
Oliver remained silent for the moment before he asked, "Where are we going for this meeting?"
"Some large estate close by," Olivia replied, looking away from the window. She sat on the bed for the, trying to keep what little warmth she gathered from the sun inside her body. "We weren't told a lot."
"I don't like that we never know who's controlling our fates," remarked Oliver. "I know you like it here but it'd almost be better if we stayed on Velmaria."
This time, Olivia didn't respond but instead stood to dress herself as well. Once warmly dressed in dark clothes to soak up the sun, both the salamanders were escorted by one of the many servants of the large estate into the park. The park was much larger than either of them anticipated, and it took nearly twenty minutes before they arrived in an open garden. A small round table with food was placed near the garden fountain.
Approaching the table, the servant asked them to sit but Olivia was focused on the familiar looking mustelid who greeted them.
"Hello Oliver and Olivia Theta, Prince and Princess to the Theta faction," she greeted them before gesturing to the vacant seats. "Allow me to introduce myself, I'm Sunee Fa."
"Fa?" asked Oliver, interested by the name.
"Sunee Fa," the mustelid repeated. "That is correct."
A silence passed for a moment before it came clear to Olivia that Sunee was waiting for a response. She knew her history too.
"Thank you for helping us make it to Canidera," Olivia finally said. "We did not intend to arrive so soon however. It was through necessity that we accepted your aid."
With both salamanders sitting at the table, she got a look at the food. The food was strange to Olivia but it was an obvious attempt of a recreation of Velmarian meals.
"I would have offered my assistance if you're situation didn't sound like it required immediate attention," replied Sunee. She sat down back in her chair too. "Please eat. I hope have food more to your taste. It has been a very long time since we've last received ambassadors from the Velmarian Empire."
"We're not ambassadors," said Oliver, eyeing the food suspiciously before grabbing some from a plate. "We're not what you expected. We're more refugees than anything. You're not quite what we expected either. Are you truly a Fa? From the ancestors who banished my people after the first Banished War?"
Sunee's reaction didn't change in the slightest way while she answered, "Yes, I am a descendant of that bloodline."
"Our stories tell us that the Fa's are ugly cowardly creatures who hide in shadows before they strike," remarked Oliver bluntly. His hunger became visible when he ate while he spoke.
"Do I fit your stories?" Sunee asked, her expression unchanged except for the smile hinting at her lips.
"No," answered Oliver, focusing more on the food now.
Olivia resisted the urge to roll her eyes at him before asking, "How did your son know that we were coming?" Sunee was obviously withholding information; testing them first.
"I believe you met my son and daughter already," Sunee answered. "Tang and Jun Fa are onboard the flagship Drach'n Fury."
"I knew you looked familiar," said Oliver with a self-satisfied chuckle. "They were Fa's too? I'm starting to see your point Olivia, our folk tales are completely off."
Olivia courteously reached for some food and took small bites from it. Sunee smiled and also started to eat some more herbivore-friendly foods. The folk tales of cowardly weapons such as poison still lingered in her mind however.
"I must admit, I admire the amount of risk you two made to make your way here," complimented the marten, piling food on her plate. "The trials who had to overcome sound tremendously difficult. It must have taken a lot of courage to overcome them. Now that you're under the protection of Canidera, I hope that your trials have come to an end."
"My goal was to escape but I also desire to protect my people," Olivia said somewhat shortly. "There are plenty of difficult tasks waiting for me."
"We wish to aid you where we can in your goal, Princess Theta," Sunee said with a friendly smile. "The Fa faction may have banished your people but it was against our wishes that all contacts were severed several hundred years ago."
"So your only intention was to put our ancestors on an inhospitable rock to struggle everyday to try to make a living?" remarked Oliver sarcastically. "Thanks."
"We always had the hope that your people would abandon the pirate tactics and possibly return back to live among us. After the final Banished War, many of the other politicians lost faith in that possibility." Silence followed again before she asked, "If you're finished eating, mind going to for a walk?"
They stood, Oliver more reluctant to leave the food, and walked along the trails in the park. More packs of younglings played nearby, still astonishing Olivia of the ease they have.
"How do you intend to aid me rescuing our people?" asked Olivia, watching the younglings play again.
"You broke free of your father's claws, survived the first alien attack ever and escaped that rebel organization," stated Sunee. "Your people can learn a lot from you. I can't offer any aid unless you have a plan that will be agreeable to the committee."
"You speak of our predicaments like you were watching us through a video screen," commented Olivia. A thought passed through her mind. "You said you helped us when it sounded like we needed help. Why didn't you help us in any of those situations? What really happened?"
"Would you really have accepted our help if there was another option?" asked Sunee, her tone dropping the false courtesies.
"No," said Oliver, as blunt as ever. He was, for the first time, noticing the difference in the park here than the market near the inn on Velmaria. Or staring back at the curious eyes of the Canidera citizens who haven't seen a reptilian body in person ever.
Sunee looked around before motioning the two to follow her to a more secluded area. "There was a message received from your planet. It's the first message we received that wasn't destroyed by attempts to block it in over a hundred years. It's from your father."
Olivia bristled. "What'd it say?"
"He doesn't know you're here, but he blames us for your disappearance anyway," answered Sunee. "I don't know how he knows you two escaped the planet, but he's holding us responsible anyway."
"Our fleets have been fighting each other for years," remarked Oliver. "There's nothing but flying buckets now that can't even enter a planet's atmosphere."
"Your escape has provoked the factions unite. Your father was recognized as the Emperor over all the factions."
"That's not likely to have happened," commented Oliver with a scoff. "There's no way the other Emperors would have given up their claim."
"The others are dead," snapped Sunee, growing impatient of the interruptions. "They're rallying for war."
"Recite the key events of each 'Banished War' since our expelling from our land," requested an aged lizard.
"We were banished from the star system in the first," answered the very young Olivia. She stood behind a table, scanning a dusty and ruined book under the hot sun.
"And the others?"
"The third war we bombed Lutracha and was defeated by underestimating a small fleet that snuck by our waves and decimated this planet," continued Olivia, without looking up. Nearby a guard grunted, displeased with her choice of words and glared threatening at the teacher.
"Our defeat was credited to a cowardly tactic, not because of an underestimation," corrected the teacher. "The last ditch effort from the furred cowards was immediately after we destroyed their fleets and core planet."
"They still beat us," remarked Olivia, taking her eyes off the book and looking up at the hazy sun. "Where's Oliver? Can I go now?"
The teacher cautiously glanced over at the guard, but received no response. "Your dismissed Olivia."
On her way toward the training compound, she saw the guard approach the teacher and place chains around his wrists. The guard struck him before hauling him off to the dungeons. Ignoring the incident, Olivia wandered through the palace districts in search of her twin brother.
"Oliver," she shouted when she found her brother, beaten and bruised after a harsh day of training. "Are you ready? Linda is already at the swimming hole."
"Alright, let's go," said Oliver. Without bothering to dress, he went with his sister who was dressed in heavy robes. Female showing too many scales was against an ancient law that her father didn't enforce to heavily but it attracted unwanted attention and opened the possibility of "voluntary rape" that the Emperor would overlook.
Eagerly they both left the palace grounds, and ran through the crowded and dirty streets to leave the city. In the midst of many huts, they found an oasis with half a dozen hatchlings playing in.
"Olivia, Oliver," they shouted, greeting the two young salamanders. "About time, we've been waiting here forever."
"Come on, let's get to the castle," Oliver suggested, splashing into the water, heading toward the small island designated "castle".
Olivia took off her robe, wearing nothing but her small clothes, like the rest of the females there. She chased after her brother to the island with a big commotion while the other hatchlings did the same.
They played and fought over the island, splashing in the water and warming up in the hot sun. When Olivia was relaxing on the shore of the island, she noticed back toward the huts a gang not much older than her and her friends.
From the distance, it was difficult to see what they were doing but it soon became clear that they were clawing at and kicking a smaller hatchling. Audacious insults were being thrown at the poor hatchling but nothing distinguishable.
She watched them and even though they often looked over at the island where they were playing, they never approached the oasis.
After soaking in the sun for a while, her friends encourage Olivia to rejoin them to defeat her brother who currently held the center island where the trees formed a rough fortification. An hour before the sun set, Olivia and her friend managed to reclaim the "castle" from her brother and the other males. With the final battle over, they all swam back to the shore and began to disperse back to their homes.
Olivia, with her heavy robes on again, walked with Oliver back up the streets with the sun setting behind them. Before they could make it out of the cluster of huts, a taller reptilian body stepped in front of them and barred their path.
"Have fun playing in my oasis today?" he asked with a threatening tone on his voice.
"Excuse us," said Olivia forcefully, pushing by the taller person. There were others laughing on either side of the street.
"I didn't say you can go," exclaimed the first bully. He placed himself to bar their path again. "You're not going anywhere unless I say so."
"What do you want?" Oliver asked, his tone also threatening.
"We have a tough one, do we?" another member of the gang walked over and shoved Oliver harshly. He stumbled and fell to the ground.
"Stop it!" yelled Olivia. "Get out of our way before I have my father add your tails to his throne room."
"Strong words from a whore," said the first bully.
"Take that back, you bastard!" demanded Oliver, putting himself between his sister and them.
Without warning, the one who shoved him closed his claws and punched Oliver across the jaw. He fell to his knees, blood splattered on the rocky ground beneath him. Another one kicked him in the ribs once he was on the ground while Olivia was grabbed and dragged away.
The tallest reptile, skulked away while they mercilessly beat Oliver and merely watched.
A stream of curses followed with kicks, punches and scratches landing harshly on him.
"Selfish bitch wants to keep his sister is own personal whore."
"Not so tough now are you? You weak son of a whore!"
Personal insults weren't spare to Oliver, as he was picked up and beaten down time after time. Blood swelling from his cheek, he was picked up again.
"When you're finished with me, you better hope I don't wake up again," threatened Oliver through his haze. They laughed, spit on him and with one final slug, Oliver hit the ground for the last time.
"Big words for someone who has such a small dick."
They turned to Olivia, still struggling against the stronger reptilian who held her in place.
"How long will you last before you join your lover in the dirt? I think we need to prepare her for her brother."
Several of them laughed but the tallest one didn't look amused and spoke quietly with them. Eventually, despite his obvious discontent, he nodded. The others smiled and disrobed.
"Nooooo!" screamed Olivia, struggling urgently.
The leader left with the only female in the group while the other three approached her, still held by the fourth. They laughed at her screams when they removed her clothes. She took the opportunity to finally break free, and before she could run, they grabbed her again.
Fighting back, she managed to use her claws to wound several of them but without having her own share of injuries. They managed to subdue her again, regardless of her rage.
"Release me," she demanded, her voice steady and heavy with demand.
With a strike against the back of her head, she nearly lost conscious and could no longer support herself. She was vaguely aware of what they did afterward but was helpless to do anything about it. A burning deep within her kept her conscious, something she's never felt before, but it faded when she was left by the others after they've finished.
Dreams of pain and death tormented her while she slept. She didn't remember what was real or not, and did not have any concept of how long she had been asleep.
When she did wake up, she could hardly distinguish any details about her surrounding. Her vision was blurred and all she could hear was a ringing. Only a distant commotion was heard before she nearly blacked out again.
"Wake up," demanded an unsympathetic voice. She struggled to open her eyes to see her father standing over her. "Can you understand what I'm saying?"
Olivia took a moment to comprehend what he was asking before she nodded.
"Good," he grunted. "Next time you want to go outside the palace, don't get yourself raped. You'll soon be old enough to carry my eggs and I will not have any abominations from you. Understood?"
She again meekly nodded, feeling that strange burning in her chest. It didn't hurt but felt like it was building pressure. Her father left so she closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep again.