A very big man was walked along the shore, like he did every morning, seeing what the tide had brought in. He found some shells. A boot. Some driftwood. He saw a strange beige lump on the beach ahead.
“Ah, Sweet Thing, what happened to you?” He checked for a pulse. No. None. What a waste! She was very beautiful. Wait. A pulse. Yes, but very faint, and erratic. “Come on, Sweet Thing, let’s see what I can do for you.”
He turned her over and patted her back vigorously. She coughed up some seawater. He picked up a barely conscious, naked Neeka and carried her to his dwelling. He had found a pack on the side of the hill with provisions and some women’s clothing earlier. He would dress her later. But for now he just covered her with the blanket. From the looks of it, she had seen some bad days at the hands of the scientists. A giant scar up the middle of her body, still red.
“You’re okay, relax, everything is okay.” He rubbed her back, but softly now. All of a sudden she moved and groaned.
“It’s okay, Sweet Thing, you’re safe.”
She sat up, backed away from him, and clutched the blanket she found covering her. She looked around. She was lost and afraid.
The big man stood up, put his hands up in the air and spoke slowing and softly. “Relax. Calm down. I will not harm you. You are safe. Do you understand me?” She just stared at him.
“I found you washed up on the shore. I thought you were dead. Now who in his right mind would throw YOU away?” She smiled. “Ah, so you understand me!” She nodded. “My name is Robb. I live here at the seashore alone. Can you speak?” She tried. She held her throat. She croaked out some sounds.
“That’s okay. Maybe you will regain your voice later. Are you hungry?” She shook her head.
“Thirsty?” She nodded.
“This is my own special blend, coconut milk and pineapple mash. I like it. I hope you will, too.” She took a sip. Then another.
“Like it?” She nodded.
“Now, Sweet Thing, what am I going to do with you?”
Braedon and Anton searched the land South and West from Lord Jamit’s domain to Lord Mica’s. They looked for signs of her. Nothing. Braedon tried to think of where she might go. Nobody had seen her.
“The ocean! She would make her way to the ocean, where the sea lavender grows.” They rode to the southern part of the West, where Neeka had introduced his men to the ocean. Anton and Braedon walked down the seashore searching for clues.
Neeka felt his approach. She ran for Robb. She had a terrified look on her face. He hugged her.
“Swee, what is it? Trouble?” Robb said. She nodded. She covered her head with her hands.
“You need to hide?” She nodded.
“Come.” They ran. He took her to a cave on the southernmost tip of the shore. They went in. He lifted her to a second level shelf in the cave.
“Lie here and be quiet. Ha! That’s funny. You’re always quiet. I’ll put branches in front of the entrance. But even if someone would come in here, they can’t see you up here. The ledge is higher in the front. It’ll cover you. I’ll come back for you. Don’t worry. You’re safe here. This is my special hiding place. I’ve been safe here since I was a little boy.”
He kissed her forehead and patted her arm. On his way out, he put branches and rocks at the entrance and brushed away any tracks.