This very special Forsaken Stars Tale of A Soulless Christmas takes place in Captain Sera Besh’s youth. You know, before she was a Captain. To begin with Part One, click here.

Emilene and Samwell fought all night about Nieve, and Sera was told to stay in her room and forbidden to come and listen at their door. But she had her father’s gift for tinkering, so she MacGyvered a parabolic mic from an old datatablet, helmet mic and a large metal food bowl she’d forgotten to take to the kitchen after wolfing down an impressive amount of cinnamon-topped Moltenmeal while watching vintage animations. While most of their conversation was in inaudible whispers, occasionally their voices would rise and she caught the following:

“He was cursed by a High Priestess!” Her mother shouted.

“We can’t damn him for what was done to him,” her father replied.

Then, later,

“You’ll be no better, Samwell Besh, using him for your own agenda.”

“The difference being that this is the right thing to do, and his recompense will be his freedom. And passage, on any spaceliner, isn’t cheap!”

And finally,

“You know Sera won’t be able to stay away from him. She’s far too curious about the world. Perhaps we shouldn’t have sheltered her so.”

“Emmy, the girl is strong and I daresay she can take care of herself even at her age. And I’m not saying I want those two anywhere near each other, but, if it can’t be helped, who knows, I have a feeling she might be a good influence on him. Core knows she’s softened me in what by all rights should have been my cantankerous years.”

“Oh, you still have some cantanker in you, Sam. Lord help us.”

* * *

The first three days Nieve was kept on ice. Partly to allow him to heal from his injuries, partly to keep him out of sight from the rest of the farmhands and villagers and any Ohm Patrolmen that might come asking after the downed ship, but mostly because Sam wasn’t sure if he’d done the right thing letting him stay. He wouldn’t let Sera into the workshop at all, but she would sometimes practice her ballet just outside and catch snippets of the conversations in which her father and the beast-made-man engaged. Much of it was politics. Sam felt the Ohm Empire was an old decrepit thing and that it’s rule over the Republic of Humanity was nearing its end, and that the Soulless merely needed a push from the neighboring Delven, Mechan, Crystallin and Ravien races. Nieve would laugh and say that the Humans and Gothams, who came from the same Soulless ancestors, could barely work together, what hope would they have of garnering “alien” assistance to topple their own umbrella government? And on and on until Sera got bored and went looking for Twotails the cat to see what it had caught this time.

On the fourth day, Samwell took Nieve out of suspended animation and put him to work repairing the barn. When it was clear the animals wouldn’t stand for that, Sam reassigned Nieve to general labor around the farm. Sera was sequestered in her room that day and told to make it a marathon study day, and that if she did as she was told, Nieve would be asked to dine with them that night.

She’d never studied so hard in her life.

By the time dinner came around, she was starving, but found she could not eat because she had so many questions for Nieve. “What is it like on your world? Is the gravity heavier? Do you have a mother and father? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you have a girlfriend? Does the curse hurt? How do you get your hair to look so shiny?”

“Sera, let the Wolfen eat in peace.” Emilene said.

“No, no, it is quite alright. I am as curious about you as you are about me,” Nieve said, taking a tentative bite out of a snowpig shoulder—one of the downsides of hiding him out was that he ate nearly as much as a tri-bull! He spoke while he chewed, “My world is a beautiful and terrible place, with canyons and jungles and mountains that stretch to the horizon. Rivers and waterfalls miles long and high, treacherous and breathtaking.

“The gravity is greater.

“I have a mother, Verana, and a father, Autumnus, a great Hunter-Warrior.

“I have three sisters–Agua, Minerva and Ciel; and three brothers–Lumbre, Relampagio and Viento.”

He paused long enough to take a draught of Milkwine from the biggest stein out of Emilene’s cupboards, took another bite of meat and continued.

“I have no she-bitch I call friend. But I was promised to one called Cancedulce. I imagine the contract is broken now and I do not know if I will ever breed.”

Emilene cleared her throat, preparing to quickly change the subject, but Nieve continued.

“The curse does cause me pain. Have you ever been tucked too tightly in your bed? Or been locked in a small room? Or found your head trapped in a bag and could not draw yourself out? Or been held down by someone much larger than you?”

Sera nodded, her eyes wide with empathy.

“It is like that.”

There was a moment of silence as they cut their meat or spooned potato mash.

Nieve practiced a smile and said, “My hair is shiny because I roll in the eggs of meadow chickens.”

Laughter followed.

Come back for Part Four on Friday!

Leave a comment below and be entered to win a free sketch right out of this story! Drawing will be held on Christmas Day! Good Luck and Happy Holidays!

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