A longhaired, square-shouldered man with a thin scar under his eye, wearing a short leather tunic and fibrous sandals, paced toward a rough cave entrance at the top of a steep rise. Gripping a carved walking stick in his hand, he pounded it against the rocky ground with each step.
A barefoot, slender woman with a pile of black hair coiled atop her head, wearing a thick, woolen tunic traipsed along behind. Tripping on a sharp stone, she yelped and reached out.
The man spun about and grabbed her hand. “Itali!” With a snort of caution, he nodded to her feet. “Careful. It gets rougher.”
Itali cupped his hand in hers and let him pull her closer, directing her to a smoother path. “Etum?”
Pulling her along the rise, he studied their path. “What?”
“Am I the first?”
Halting in mid-stride, Etum stopped and turned. Caressing her soft cheek, he grinned. “No one but you.”
Smiling from ear-to-ear, Itali dropped his hand and raced up the last steps to the cave entrance. With a rosy blush, she charged in.
A dark shadow falling across his face, Etum trotted after her and entered the cave.
The darkness beat the light of day to the edge of the cave entrance. A musty smell and a pile of leaves alerted Itali to the cold fireplace. Squatting, she stacked dry leaves with a practiced hand and laid twigs with strategic skill.
Etum knelt to her right and worked the flint, raising sparks, which soon kindled an infant fire. As the flames grew stronger, he trotted deeper into the cave and bundled broken branches into his arms. Laying three pieces in tripod fashion over the fire, he sniffed in satisfaction.
Itali caught his gaze and grinned in daring merriment. “Now?”
With a nod, he stood and clasped her hand. They turned and stepped to the right, facing a smooth wall. The flickering firelight illuminated a painting depicting a man with a spear before a large, horned animal. Itali gasped, sending a grin bounding across Etum’s features. Etum clasped his hands behind his back, his chest thrust forward and his chin rose. “You like it?”
In rapture, Itali clutched his arm and squeezed. “It’s beautiful. The best yet.”
Holding her close, Etum pointed to the place directly behind the painted man. “I’ll add you in if you’d like.”
Tilting her head, she scowled. “But how will anyone know it is you—or me?”
“I’ll tell them.”
“But when you’re not here. In the time to come?”
Etum considered the painting through brooding eyes.
Lifting a soft finger, Itali traced the scar on his face. Suddenly, she spun around, grabbed a stick from the fire, and knocked the flame dead, leaving only a sharp, smoldering tip. She handed it to him.
Etum frowned. “With this?”
“Draw—so all will know the master’s sign.” She pointed to a blank space near the man.
Leaning in concentration, Etum pressed the blackened stick against the cave wall, drew a face and seared it with a double wedge on the left side.
Itali took the stick and gestured to her hair. “When you draw me, add this, so all will know it is me.” She turned the stick so the wedge formed a peak at the top.
As the fire grew, so the gleam in Etum’s eyes brightened. “Now—I see.”
Teal, a Luxonian light being in the form of a tall, angular, middle-aged man with thinning blond hair strode through his bedroom doorway and laughed at his wife. “You’re in bed already?” Plunking down on the edge of a curved couch, he clasped his hands together and sighed.
Violet, shimmering in her Luxonian light form as a lavender Bhuaci beauty with striking almond-shaped eyes beckoned with one finger. “You look terrible. Why didn’t you come home earlier? You know how exhausted you get with them.”
With a shrug, Teal shook his head. “I couldn’t leave. You’ll never believe what my artistic couple has discovered.”
Smoothing back the silky sheets, Violet rose and prowled to Teal’s side. Sliding herself under his arm, she snuggled in close. “You’re right; I’ll never guess. So tell me.”
Teal leaned back, pulling her tight against his chest. “Writing. They caught onto the idea. A signature today—tomorrow—who knows?” He ran his fingers through her sumptuous hair, smoothing it under his chin. “You smell delicious.”
Violet arched one raven eyebrow and tapped a scar along his chin. “Well, at least you’ve healed up. Those blasted barbarian—”
Kissing her palm, Teal chuckled. “It was an accident. They meant no harm. I approached too quickly and scared them.” Lying back again, his gaze rose toward the round ceiling window studded with brilliant stars and the glow of three moons. He sucked in a deep, cleansing breath. “They have remarkable qualities. No telling what they’ll learn—in a few thousand years.” His gaze met Violet’s. “I’m recommending to the Supreme Council that we continue our observations. I believe that this species has great potential; someday they may even be in a position to help us.”
Violet lowered herself onto Teal, purring as she slid snugly into place. “That’s why I love you so much. You always see the best in others—even humans.”
Novels by A. K. Frailey
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN
Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm
Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg
Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu
Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00