Selati, a big construct forced to work in the cobalt mines of Ilmare, is terrified of the overseers. Danger dogs his every breath, somehow the leader of his ragged work crew, and he finally has enough when the mine itself almost kills him. Humans or no humans, he refuses to let his crew die down in the dark. As his crew takes their stand in their bid for freedom, rescue comes. Freedom in the light and a whole new life awaits.
It’s a duty Aleledai takes great pride in, saving his fellow Caniean. Humans might have created them to mine and nothing more, but like all things, the Caniean are not the mindless beasts humans intended to work to death for resources. Selati’s rescue is probably his greatest accomplishment, because something about this one becomes everything Aleledai was missing, that made freedom perfect.
Humans don’t let go of their things easily, though and war is coming, no matter what the Caniean want. The price of freedom is always high. Aleledai only hopes the price isn’t everything he’s found worth living for.
As they came closer to the artificial lamp, sitting the center of the humans' circle, Aleledai lowered down to the ground, chest in the dirt. His team followed his lead and they moved in silence, hand over hand with tails coiling and uncoiling to help them forward. At the perimeter of the light, Aleledai reached out a hand for the leg of the nearest camp chair. Fingers brushed the cool metal.
The human opposite to Aleledai shrieked and threw the large bottle at him. Pain sparked as it shattered on his shoulder blade. Aleledai hissed at the human and rose up to his full height. More humans jumped out of their chairs. Spears flashed as Srahuni and Opati jabbed at the closest humans.
Aleledai knocked the nearest human off her feet with the swipe of his tail. She hit the dirt and rolled toward the mine opening, where the humans scrambled to stand. Aleledai shifted his grip on his spear and stabbed the human. The sharp head imbedded in the meat of her shoulder. She yelled and writhed, dirt flung in all directions. None of her human companions could help her though.
Caniean boiled out of the pit behind the humans, one easily the same size as Opati and another only a hairbreadth smaller, shabby picks in hand. The big one sank his weapon into a male stupid enough to stand right in the mouth of the tunnel. More Caniean came out after the first two.
Zerai was on the move already, and Aleledai circled around the edge of the battle. He wanted to see all of the workers himself, assess them, and urge them to stand down until the fight was over. The first two into the fight were impressive, but he doubted all of the work crew were in the same condition.
A human landed right in his path. Aleledai kept going, felt his weight crush something in the soft body under his bulk. It wasn't the skull, so Aleledai didn't stop to worry about the human. Two final Caniean were out of the mine, one bracing the other.
If Aleledai had counted right, that made ten total in the work crew, the standard number. The injured worker had a nasty, wicked gouge taken out of his beautiful green and black hide, foamy red in the garish light. The wounded worker's helper was a creamy pink-gray, skin and scales, with the milky eyes of a Foreseen. Aleledai approached with caution, but he didn't try to hide.
The Foreseen grinned at Aleledai. The injured worker glanced at his friend, then over to Aleledai with an expression so pained and hopeful in his green eyes, it broke Aleledai's heart. He glanced at the skirmish, the success of his team evident from the number of trussed up humans littered around the ground. He gave the workers a smile, soft and sincere. "One more minute and we'll have this lot finished."
Vunei and Srahuni worked in tandem, dispatching two of the last three humans with precise hits from the butts of their spears to delicate skulls. The last human on his feet charged at Aleledai and the two strangers.
The human's stumbling run brought him too close. Aleledai pulled his arm back and let fly, his closed fist scoring a hard hit to the nose of the human. Cartilage crunched against his knuckles. The human flopped back in the dirt, spread out and unconscious. Zerai hissed as Aleledai registered the pain in his hand. Red-black blood gleamed in the lamp light, skin split over the sharp bones.
Aleledai shook his head when Zerai reached for him, in time with the faint pulse of his injury, easy to ignore. He laid a careful hand on the injured Caniean's shoulder, the one with propped up by the Foreseen. "Tend to this one first."
"There's nothing I can do for him, Aleledai. He's used that nasty glue on it." Zerai directed his attention to the wide gash in the stranger's hip, just below where porcelain skin melded into scales.
Dark red bubbles were trapped in the injury. From a distance, it looked as though the wound was still open and bleeding, but up close he saw the matte shine of the glue at the edges of the gash. Aleledai had seen plenty similar measures taken in his time. Humans tended to not notice when the Caniean were injured, so they were forced to fix their own bodies with whatever was handy. In the mines, it was the glue.
Aleledai frowned at these two strangers. Such an injury would make travel difficult, slow them down, but at least the glue would keep him from bleeding out on the trail. "What are your names?"
The Foreseen smiled, milky eyes glancing at Aleledai's face. "I'm Tahahi and this is Selati."