The Prisoner of Nimm
He woke in a small dimly lit room. His body had been washed clean and his hair washed and combed. He could feel dressing on his wounds. Someone had taken great care to rub oil on his body, taking away the tight, dry, stretched feeling. A light throw covered him, and it was soft. His hand closed gently around it as his fingers savored the texture against his body. He lay on something akin to a real bed. The material was soft and it had been stuffed with what smelled to him to be animal wool. It felt good. His bed in the dungeons of Brigodda had been a stone slab and the blanket he was allowed was coarse in texture and always made him itch.
Movement caught his eye and drew his attention. He remembered making it to just a little more than half way to Galan. He remembered the dart. As he struggled to sit up, he felt his stomach tightened as a spasm ripped through him so powerfully that it dropped him to the floor. He gripped the edge of the bed while his body began to heave. There was nothing in his stomach to throw up. Bile burned in his throat as his body wrenched over and over. It felt like several minutes had gone by before the tremors began to subside. His body shook as the last of the drug that she had shot into him came to rest.
By the Maaz-ra-dune, he was sick of drugs and the way that they controlled and ripped at his body and mind, stealing his life and crushing his spirit. He felt as her hands gripped his shoulders in an effort to help steady him. That’s when he felt the exotic rush of sensation fold around his body like a warm blanket on a cold night.
Drawing in a deep breath, taking in her scent, it was wild and sweet and feminine. Then, he felt the drugs that had been implanted in his body release its toxin into his blood. Bracing himself for what was to come he felt it crawl through his skin as the beautiful exotic turned into lust…ugly and criminal.
He fought the urge to grab her, throw her to the ground and rip off her clothes and take her, and then take her again, to pin her under him and press his weight to her. Feel her hot and wet as she sheathed him inside her body. He struggled to keep his body from moving in her direction. He fought with his mind, his emotions…his lust. His words were forced through clenched teeth.
“Get away from me. Do not touch me.” He felt her withdraw and suddenly regretted his words, spoken only to assure her safety. His body cried out for the feel of her hands on him once again.
He leaned against the edge of the cot trying to force down the demons ripping at his body. He pulled himself to stand and found himself in front of her. He stood at least a head and a half taller.
She stepped back.
The roughness to his voice had started her. His accent was similar to her next fathers. For a moment, she had been trapped by it. He had a commanding, strong voice…much like his body. The handsome stranger stood with his hands balled into fists in an effort to keep from reaching out to her. He was struggling for composure.
She had now taken several steps backwards, moving herself across the small room away from him. She watched as he struggled and knew the battle that consumed him. Very few even tried to fight it.
Several of the guards looked in…she motioned to them to stand down. They reluctantly obeyed. She watched as he turned his back to her, moving his body to stand straight as he drew in a slow, deep breath. His arms moved out away from his sides, parallel from the ground, palms forward, then, as if there was great resistance between them, he slowly pushed his palms together as he released his breath. As they met, his exhale ended. Quickly, he pulled them into his body. Palms still pressed together in the fashion of prayer. He raised them to his forehead, paused and then moved back into his original stance and began the physical discipline of the Tzubu-Itzu, a way to clear and focus the mind. It was a restorative art of mind, body and spirit. It was taught by the Varda to all of the Sangues upon his home world of Beddia.
She watched his body moving. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. He was perfect. He stood at least six foot four, his body slightly underweight but heavily corded with muscle, not even his wounds could flaw him. His skin looked a deep golden brown, as if he spent time in the sun. But she knew it was his color.
He had been unconscious when she had bathed him… and she had seen…all of him. Recalling this made her body tighten. She could not make herself look away. After a moment of watching, she realized her breath had stopped and she had begun to feel dizzy. Forcing herself to take a breath she watched as he continued the strange ritual. His movements had become fluid and graceful. She watched as his total concentration was fixed on his body, his breath and his movements.
She felt suddenly embarrassed as she remembered how her hands had bathed him. How slowly she had moved and how she had had such need to touch all of him, over and over. When she had dried him, she found that she could not draw her eyes away from his utterly masculine beauty. His hair was magnificence itself, so long and silky once cleaned. Its color so amazingly dark it appeared black, but had highlights the likes of which she had never seen before. The darkest, richest browns weaved their way through it. His features were perfectly symmetrical, his eyelashes absurdly thick and long and dark.
She recalled fastening the loincloth around him and how her hand had grazed over his manhood…his wonderfully well-endowed manhood…his extremely well endowed manhood. She knew this by the way that it had reacted when she had… accidentally… brushed the back of her hand against it. She remembered that she had tried to close her eyes just to keep from watching in fascination. Even her eyes had betrayed her. They had opened of their own accord and had gazed upon it.
Her mind joined her renegade eyes as it began to imagine what he would feel like pressed against her. It had been difficult to resist touching him. Actually, she had failed. She had allowed one single finger to slowly caress its length. She had wondered briefly if she would be able to close her hand around it. In her own defense, she had managed to resist examining its circumference.
She had distracted herself by moving to palm his face. Her hands moved across his jaw to feel the stubble growth of his whiskers, three or four days worth easy. Her thumb had traced his lips. The excuse she used was that she needed to determine just exactly how dehydrated he really was. Her fingers had traced the ripple of muscle over his abdomen. She told herself she was examining the scratches from his climb over the jagged rock face. She could not find an excuse for the way that her hands had caressed his chest, amazed at the way his nipples felt under the pads of her fingers.
When she had turned him over to wash his back, she felt her breath rush from her at the sight of his buttocks. He flinched. She felt dizzy. She had oiled his body…twice. Her hands had massaged the healing oil down the length of his legs over and over and had savored the feel of the hair that glazed over them. She felt her face flush at the recollection. She had bathed men before but she had always hurried and had never deliberately looked, and always she had required an assistant. This time she had sent her assistant to care for her brother Galan. She had never wanted to look or touch beyond a simple cleaning and attending to any medical treatment that might have been required.
But with this man, when she was finished cleaning him and dressing his wounds, she had been sad. She felt like she could go on touching him forever and then she realized she was staring at him. A dangerous thing to do. She looked away quickly as heat flushed her body. She glanced to Galan to be sure he had not watched her momentary lapse into the reverie that was the strangers’ body. He slept quietly. She waited until the strangers disciplined breathing stopped and his body stilled. Then, very gently, his voice came to her.
“My apologies, I meant no disrespect.” His words stunned her. For a moment, she stood confused trying to collect her thoughts. Why was she there? Oh, yes. She reached for the water and held it out to him.
“Drink this. You are badly dehydrated.” As he reached for the container that she offered, he looked to Galan in an effort to keep from looking at her. In an attempt to distract himself from what her voice was doing to him, he asked.
“Thank you. How is Galan?” He swallowed the precious liquid with relish as relief washed over him. The cool sensation slid down his throat to squelch his thirst and he could feel the muscles in his back begin to relax, his brain cool and his blood thin. She watched his Adam’s apple rise and fall with each swallow and how his lips framed the edge of the cup. Her eyes followed to his hands holding the cup. They had seen both labor and refinement. His fingers were long on strong hands and she wondered what they would feel like grazing slow and easy over her body. Her eyes moved to his arms. There was just something about a man that had well developed arms.
Her eyes continued their perusal following up to his shoulders. Strength shown in the muscled structure and rock hard biceps and deltoids and she wished she could be wrapped in them, pressed against his chest. That magnificent chest! She stopped her mental review of his attributes. She had been doing this since she first saw him in the tunnel. What had gotten into her she could not imagine She had seen men before…many men. Nothing special…just men. Well…maybe not all men were just men. Some were special. He was special. Shut up! Answer the man!
“Galan sleeps. His wounds are healing nicely. He told us that you risked being recaptured to help him.” glancing to her he saw she was dressed in the fashion of a desert tribe. Her pants that were made of some kind of reptile skin fit to her body snugly. Her tunic covered her arms, and ended just slightly above mid thigh and was loosely belted at the waist. Both tunic and pants were the color of the rock. Camouflage, no doubt. It did nothing to hide the curve of her.
She was endowed with full lush breasts, her waist small, and her hips slender and perfect. Her pants tucked into boots that pulled over her knees. The skins that they were made from had no pattern to them. He could tell that whoever made them knew what they were doing. The craftsmanship and design of the boot was not just functional but could also be considered…fashionable. An intricate tribal design was hammered into them. It began around the top of the boot and maybe three inches deep. It then ran down along the outer sides and ended where braided straps wrapped around her ankles. Skill had made these boots.
He could see where blade scabbards hid in the design at the side of each boot. They were empty of their weapons, a precaution no doubt to keep him from taking them or using them on her. He knew the way the drugs worked. The sight of weapons had been used as a ‘trigger’ for the release of the drugs. And in him, with a duel implant, the other drug caused extreme sexual aggression at the sight of a woman.
His eyes followed the line of her body. She was neither tall nor small at maybe five foot five or six. She would fit perfectly tucked under him, her naked skin warm against him. He wondered what her legs would feel like wrapped around his waist or draped over his shoulders while he…Quickly, he drew his eyes away before the drug could surge again. The back of his hand moved to wipe over his mouth as he cleared his throat. He tried to pull himself away from the critique that his mind was making of her body.
“He is young and has much life ahead of him. I knew him from the pit as a good and strong warrior. I have seen him fight. Someday, if he has a good teacher and studies hard, he will be great.” His neck ached and he reached to rub it. His fingers traced the sore and swollen area where the dart had entered.
“Why did you drug me?” With great effort to hold his anger at bay, he tried to bite back his next words. He failed.
“I have enough drugs burning in me? I hate it. Being controlled, spurred constantly by something that possesses and manipulates, steals your right mind and twists you into either a creature of darkness, or a mindless shadow of one’s true self with no real will of your own. It is a hateful feeling.”
She had moved to bring him a tray of food but with his words, she had stopped. The vibration hit him again, the chemical implanted inside him released its potion and a sexual current ran strong through him, she saw it in him. His posture changed, sitting quickly and looking to the floor, he struggled with it as he gripped the edge of the bed as his knuckles began to turn white.
She stayed still and waited to see if he would win or lose his test of control, waiting to see if he would move on her. Beads of sweat began to show on his forehead as if he did battle with the darkness itself. With great effort, forcing his words out between clenched teeth,
“I am sorry. I will not hurt you. It is the drug that moves me. Galan has them as well.” She began to move forward again, slowly, still watching cautiously.
“I too am sorry. We could not allow you to know the tunnels. Not yet. Not until we know you. We must be alert to the possibility of traitors. Spies. I am familiar with these drugs. We have made this room a cage for those that we find that have been abandoned to the desert until we are able to remove them.” She gestured to the alcove that they occupied before proceeding.
“It is a dangerous procedure. Removing them is difficult. We have a healer, but he travels the desert in search of those in need. He is very skilled. We try to wait for him to come but sometimes circumstance makes that option unavailable to us. There is one other that knows the healing ways, but he has gone to help gather those that made their escape. It might be many days before his return.” She saw that his eyes were on her, following the line of her body. She spoke a warning.
“There are guards just outside, I have only to call out for them.” Torrein shook himself. He reminded himself that this was freedom and it was she, and these people that offered it. He tried to smile at her but his control was hard in coming to him.
“Then I will try to control myself. You could distract me by offering me some of that food.” He wished he could see the color of her hair. A Renddi covered it completely and the veil that extended from it wrapped from one side to the other to cover her face. The material was thin and he could make out her basic features, but still he wished for the details of her to be known to him. He wondered what color her eyes would be. She carefully avoided eye contact but still watched his every move. Gloves made of the same leather as her boots covered her hands, but they had been designed to expose the last two pads of her fingers. Her nails were cut fairly short and were clean. He could tell that they had been rubbed and oiled.
It was in that moment the strange wave of vibration that had swallowed him earlier came to weave its way around him. He had knowledge of the bonding pull. He had seen it in his brother Aidan when he was to be bound to Jazadeem. But this was different. It was stronger, more pure. There was nothing lascivious or lustful in it. He tried to shrug it off, grappling with the difference in his mind. The drug had never felt this way. The sexual aggression that it caused was rank and spurred by darkness. He justified that it could just be his mind playing tricks on him. There had been a lot of that while in Lord Fallon’s possession. She handed him the tray.
“You said your name was Torrein and that you were from Beddia. Is that correct?” She held her voice soft and steady. It held a tinge of authority and knowledge. Still trying not to look at her, he answered.
“Yes. I am from Beddia.”
“Then I apologize for the food. There are many here from Beddia and I have found that they find meat distasteful. We have more meat than plant growth here. There are many creatures in this place and they look at us as food. We must kill them. We eat their meat and use their skins as clothing.” She watched as he took a bite, as his lips fit around the meat and his teeth gently pulled it from the bone. The expression on her face became transfixed as she watched him chew, watching as his jaw worked, as his eyes dropped closed as he savored the flavor.
Her eyes moved down his body. His skin was so very touchable and she wanted to touch it so badly. Just once more. Her body reacted to his attire and made her face flush. As warmth crept up her neck to her cheeks she was glad that she wore the veil so he could not see. She moved to step back, away from him.
For a brief moment he stopped chewing and very slowly began to take a deep inhale of the air around him. Even through the scent of the meat, he could smell as her pheromones surged and swirled through her blood. He knew what this meant and it caused a small smile to come to his lips. He kept his eyes shut. He was hoping that she had not noticed that when he had drawn in her scent the simple loincloth that had been placed around him had gotten impossibly tight. Her voice cracked slightly when she said.
“I will see to it that you get something to wear, once you have been properly cleaned and the implant removed.” Well, so much for her not noticing. She straightened the veil that hide her face and asked.
“How long were you in the dungeons?” He swallowed before saying.
“I think, just about half a standard League year. We, my brother and I, we were separated in our escape. We were kept in the deep dungeons and could not witness the cycle of Beddia or her moons. I saw your brother for the first time just a short while ago. How long has he been missing?”
He took another bite, welcoming the nourishment. He kept his eyes shut as he tried to pace himself and not gulp what had been offered. Dulci watched his jaws work as she listening to him breath. By the Maaz-ra-dune, he absolutely took her breath away. His hair that was parted just off center fell over one shoulder framing his profile in darkness. She watched him. Yes. She could believe that about him. He was stealth and shadow…darkness and danger. Yes, she was sure that he was more dangerous than any other man that had ever been held in this flimsy prison. How foolish they all were to think that it could contain him if he chose not to be contained.
She found that with her thought, she had stiffened. Suddenly she did not feel as confident as she had. Always her skills, the ones taught to her by her father and her next brothers, had been enough. She could easily best any men but doubted that this would be the case with this one. Even with that realization fresh in her mind, she had to resist the urge to reach out and stroke the stubble growth on his face as she had done while he lay unconscious. His face was fixed in concentration. She realized that a moment had past since he had asked his question.
“He was taken one complete moon cycle ago, along with several others that had gone out scouting. He did not fair as well as you. How is it that you are in so much better condition having been there for so much longer?”
He could not answer her. He was of the bloodline of the Varda. Their genetic traits were unique in the universe. And always dominate in a breeding. The traitor, Mandusa, had tried to use him as a breeder to capture the gifts of his kind, to use his offspring as an advantage…and as leverage. He had gotten none.
Once they had been taken into Lord Fallon’s custody, the Overlord had used them in this way as well. Councilor Mandusa had been furious with him. The traitor of dark spirit knew what ‘family’…what ‘blood’, meant to those of his kind. The thought of this shadow creature of evil acquiring one of the Varda bloodline and raising them, using them, their gifts of mind, their gift of tela-pathia, was the worst thing that he could think of. The gift of the Shift... teleportation, was innate in them. Still this had to be taught, just as a child must learn to walk.
He could not imagine a worse nightmare than this enemy having a ‘place shifter’ under their control. He shivered at the thought of any child being in the custody of this creature Lord Fallon, or the betrayer, Mandusa. No…these monsters would never have sought to kill him or his brother, they were far too valuable. They only tortured them with the possibility.
Mandusa had been cleaver to implant both him and his brother with a device that interfered with his ability to make the shift. If he could locate it and remove it, he could then shift to Beddia and enlist not only his brothers but the Ezdras as well. They could then come back with him and begin their search for Taial.
However, he would also have to find the right place and time of day to make the shift. The ferocious night storms of Renaj made it impossible to make the shift while they were raging. Not to mention that there were places on Renaj that had a strange Wyrding effect, also inhibiting the shift. He found himself answering.
“The constitution of my kind is strong. We are descendant of a Pride.” Torrein suddenly remembered that Galan was accounted for, but,
“Brindle…where is she? Where is the Draco that brought us here?” His mind began to search for her, his eyes drawn to the meat in his hand. Then relief found him as he found her mind. She was standing beside a large body of water. She was relieved they had found their way to this place, but saddened by the absence of her Nimm. But to his surprise, she was with others of her own kind. He wanted to ask how it was they had come by Dragons of the Nimm, of Tyria-talonda, but now was not the time. He could not allow her to know that he was a reader. It was easy for him to see into the minds of others, and sometimes easy to make suggestions and plant images into those minds.
Few others in the OtherVerse had this gift. On his home world, it was unique to the Pride of Aubudon and to the Kirran Pride. The Obej of his world were required to take this as a study within their order and develop at least some proficiency at it. The Nimm of Tyria-talonda had this gift as well. The Nimm spoke to each other with their minds. The Nimm world was one of three moons to Beddia, and closest to Beddia. It was also a shielded moon. No one came or went from there.
The young woman, Allura of Nimm had occupied a cell between him and his brother. She had told him that she had jumped through a portal flux in hopes of escaping their dieing world. The portal had brought her to Renaj-cou-daia, a hostile and enemy moon to both Beddia and Tyria. Allura had been captured by Rue-don, the supreme ruler of Renaj-cou-daia, who then promptly traded her to the Overlord of the Venoche’, Lord Fallon. Dulci’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Your beast is fine. She is with the others of her kind. She is not one of ours, but has been well trained. She guarded Galan with her body. We believed that the Fire Rim was the only place to have beasts such as this. Where did you acquire her?” Her words surprised him. The beast, the creature that was not quite bird nor bat but called Dragon or Draco, belonged to a Nimm. Were there other Nimm in this place? Had there been other Nimm that had risk their lives to jump through an unstable portal flux? He found himself saying.
“She is a Dragon of the Nimm. They make their home on the shielded moon of Beddia, Tyria-talonda. These beasts are the caretakers of these people. Each Nimm has their own to watch out for them. It is their way. There was a Nimm in a cell between my brother and me. Her name was Allura of Nimm, and the beast belonged to her. She was separated from us when we escaped as well. Are there Nimm here on Renaj?” He watched her hopefully. She stood leaning back against the wall, her arms folded in front of her. A protective posture. She continued,
“I have never heard this word, Nimm. We call them the beasts Urray…the wind. They are the Wind Dragons, because they can fly. We have glider bats as well but they are the only one’s we know of…the only one’s in this region to have the gift of flight. The glider bats are very large and they hunt us. They come at the transition times between the day and the night, and night and the day. They are very dangerous. There are other creatures here that spray venom that will eat the skin away.” She noted the look on Torrein’s face. She was rambling. He was smiling when he spoke.
“Brindle is very intelligent. When the quake came, she knew enough to use the strength of her body to lay finish to the cage that held us prisoner so that we could make our way out.” He took another slow deep breath to confirm what his exhausted mind had spoken to him upon first entering the caverns. He could barely believe what his mind was telling him. Then with a small shake of his head he said,
“You have water here. I did not believe Galan when he spoke it. I believed that he hallucinated it.” He could not see the expression on her face behind the veil she wore, but his statement seemed to surprise her.
“How do you know this? How do you know we have water?”
“I can smell it. There is much of it.” Dulci pushed herself away from the wall, her arms dropped to her sides. He was hiding something.
“What do you mean? How can you know this? Are you one that can scent? Or do you speak to the mind of the beast? Are you a reader?” His need to speak only the truth to her was strong. But he could not, not yet. Not until he knew more about these people.
“You do not believe that there are such things as readers do you? It is a bedtime story told to children to empower an illusion. Can anyone really speak to the mind of a beast?” Yes actually. Her next brothers could. Dulci was slowly nodding her head. This man had tela-pathia, the same as Father and his sons, ‘next brothers’ to her and Galan. They too could see into the minds of others. They could speak to each other with their minds. Father had even taught her how to play a chant in the back of her mind to throw off anyone that might come to them with this unique ability. Father had been teaching her for years how to speak to the minds of both he, and her next brothers. She had studied hard and was beginning to have some success with it. It was an intimidating discipline. She had never known anyone else with this ability. It both excited and frightened her. She had also noticed that this man had chosen not to give a direct answer to her question. Now she knew why. She would allow him his comfort zone for now and let the question slip away. He asked to distract her and take the conversation in another direction.
“Are you the one who cleaned me? Are you the one who washed and combed my hair?” She was suddenly on the defensive and trying to hide the feelings surging through her renegade body. Not to mention the fact that she had done a little bit more than just wash him. What if he was a reader? What if he could look into her mind and see? She had a brief moment of panic before she began to play the background chant her father had taught her inside her mind.
“It is my responsibility to see to it that those who make their way here are cared for.” She tried to make her care of him seem unimportant to her.
“Thank you.” It was a simple declaration of appreciation. Even though the potion from the dart had shut his body down, it had not put his mind to sleep. He had heard her mind’s curious inquiries regarding his body. He had felt her hands… admire him. He had scented her chemistry jump and surge with feminine desire so strong that his body, even through the drugs that had immobilized him, had responded to her. As he recalled her touch, the strange moved to swirl around him, through him, inside him. It was not the drug. He was in control of it in this moment. The Vibrational saturation that the Witches of Sindra had taught him about churned around him. It was Hui-lu Shai-eia…The bonding pull. There was no doubt in his mind that he was looking at his life mate, his other, his Seid-deed…and the sensation rushed him. It rushed not only his mind, but in his body and soul as well. It was now unmistakable to him. His eyes moved to her, following the line of her body. His breath moved in his chest and felt labored as his skin rippled with heat. He had not realized that he had slowly stood up while still watching her. His eyes sought to see beneath the veil. His voice, deep and masculine whispered her name to her mind. ‘Dulci’. She heard him clear as a bell. Her body stiffened as she glanced to the entry of the cavern alcove. He could see her posture indicated that she was about to flee, possibly even call out to the guard. In the next heartbeat, she did just that. She made a break for the door. She did not see him move. But she did see that it took to the count of three for his shadow to catch up with him. He was just there, his body pressing hers to the wall, his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming, his eyes still searching for the details of her face. She instantly stilled, her body relaxed. She knew the way the drugs worked. Any physical resistance would only escalate the situation. He drew in her scent. Fear and desire mingled. Confusion and resolve fought. He whispered close to her ear.
“I will not hurt you. I will not attempt to take you…but I will see your face, Dulci. Please, do not fear me.” As he spoke, his hand had slipped around to the small of her back. His cheek rubbed against her veil and the rough tangle of his whisker growth caught it, moved it. She could feel the heat of his body permeating hers. And in that moment, Hui-lu Shai-eia swallowed them. They stood together for what seemed liked an eternity. She had not noticed that her hands had betrayed her and had moved up to come to rest at his hips. Her face had tipped upwards and her lips had parted. She became aware of her bodies betrayal when she licked her lips. She felt his erection pressed against her belly and almost groaned. But for a brief moment she could have sworn that he had. She caught herself and stopped, quickly she pushed at him. With all her strength, she pushed at him. Unaffected, he seemed not to notice and she hadn’t moved him an inch. He stayed still pressed against her and it took everything in his willpower not to grind his erection against her.
“Do not struggle Dulci. Your actions will only make you fearful. You have nothing to fear. I could never harm you.” His voice was a whisper of liquid heat that poured directly into her brain and continued to flow down into her stomach and then lower. Her need of him exploded as the chemicals of life surged uncontrolled through her body. He could smell them in her and it made him smile. Then…the drugs released into his system. He growled, almost painfully. He released her and stepped back. His hands balled to fists. His voice sounded like gravel when he said,
“Run. Leave here. I am dangerous to you now. Leave.” He stepped back, turned and stepped away from her. Oddly, she wanted to comfort him. She could see him struggle. He had not hurt her. He had not attempted to throw her to the ground and rip at her clothes. He had not even reached to grope her breast… a favored gesture of men that came to them with the drug implants. She asked softly,
“How did you do that? How did you move so quickly? It was not…human…what you did. How is it possible?” She watched as he did battle with the drug, as his posture faltered and then stiffened. As his hands stretched and then balled into fists. She listened to his breathing as he struggled to pace it and draw full even breaths. A small pained sounded escaped his throat. Suddenly she was fighting tears. She could feel him, his pain, his struggle, his need. She realized that she had just suggested that he was not even human. She desperately wanted to sooth him, reassure him that everything would be okay. He spoke as he moved to the center of the room and began, once again, the strange body discipline he had performed only a short while ago. He answered her question.
“It is called the ‘Swift’ and was taught to me while in the Sangue of the Ezdras. It is a division of our military.” He could not tell her it was a trait of Varda, another gift that the betrayer had hoped to harvest. He could not speak that it was the Varda that tutored the Ezdras in this skill.
“And this discipline you use to control the drugs, did you learn this in your military as well?” She heard a soft chuckle. Instantly it put her at ease and she smiled.
“No. This I learned from a Priest of the Obej. He is council to my father and is as a brother to me. It is called the Tzubu.” As he moved, he could feel all of his petty wounds. His hands and feet had been ripped to shreds by the jagged rocks as he had climbed first to save Galan and then again as he searched for water and safe shelter. There were several sharp, deep cuts on his hands. His chest had taken its share of abuse…as well, his knees. The stinging wound from the dart was most irritating. They were healing, but not quick enough. If only he could shift his shape to that of his Kirran wolf, it would help his wounds heal quickly and temporarily flush the drugs from his system. Then he could regain his strength. His Kirran wolf was another gift of the Varda. Shifting his form would allow wounds to heal absurdly fast. It would transmute anomalies in his system, such as drugs, poisons and potions. The healing agent in his saliva was also a gift of his Kirran animal. It was also what had saved Galan from the vicious wounds the Goblei had inflicted. But he would wait. He had to wait. He did not want to scare her or these people with the shape shift. These people, here inside the Fire Rim, came from many worlds, not just Beddia. The slavers did not care from whom they stole, only that they were paid for it. These people could, would, have many superstitions. Yes. He would have to wait. But as soon as she was gone, he would use the healing agent in his saliva to speed his recovery. He would need all of his strength to go for help…or back for Taial. He heard her voice from behind him as he continued to move through his discipline.
“I am told that once my bloodline was of Beddia.” He stopped then and turned to her.
“Are you Tribe or Pride, Clan maybe?” He wished he could see her face.
“I don’t know. It is told to me that my mother was stolen, brought here to…” Her words fell away. She could not say what he already knew. Her mother had been stolen by the Renajian Raiders and taken from Beddia to Renaj-cou-daia to be won in the ‘game’. It was a belief among the Renajians that a man’s ability to produce offspring was directly related to his prowess, his ‘Greatness’. The more children a ranking officer produced, the more rewards, favors, and rank he would acquire. Women were used only as breeders. He asked her,
“Do you wish it of me to take your scent, to find your origins upon Beddia?” Her eyes grew wide at the prospect. He could not see them for the veil she wore, but he could feel her. Already she was a part of him. He moved to sit down on the edge of the cot. And…whoops. Now she knew he could scent.
“Can…can you do that?” His eyes watched her. Her eyes watched back. He sat with his legs spread in an age-old masculine stance. His forearms rested on his thighs. His body almost gleamed as the sear of the heat moving through him shown itself.
“I will need for you to trust me.” He already knew her origins. Her scent was clear and known to him. To draw in her scent had been the first thing that he had done once he had found his composure. He moved the tray away and sat waiting for her decision.
“Yes.” She said it with more need than caution. As she stepped quickly to him, she braced herself. He sat watching her, not moving. She realized that she was going to have to come to him…all the way to him. Closing the distance of the room, she knelt down in front of him. A dangerous thing to do. He leaned in, close to her neck. She closed her eyes as she felt his finger touch her skin leaving a trial of fire as he swept back the portion of the veil that covered her. She could feel the heat of his breath on her neck. She had to steady herself as he drew in her scent. Then, with another deep breath, he inhaled her deeply once again. He could smell the blood rushing in her veins. He could smell her fear and her desire. He could feel her heat as he tried to focus. His eyes dropped shut, his mouth opened. The tip of his tongue swept over his bottom lip. He would give anything to taste her…just one small taste. He slowly leaned closer not wanting to alarm her and then almost as in slow motion he licked her neck. He heard her sharp inhale of breath as her body stiffened. He tasted her alarm. He spoke quickly to take it away.
“You are of a Pride. You are of the bloodline of the Kennador Pride. It is located on the continent of Imera-Cara. Your people are the tenders of the Great Forest of Kennebah, I can smell it in your blood, and it is strong in you. You must be first born generation to Zaa-quel.” She flinched at the word Zaa-quel. She pulled away from him, and then she pulled at the renddi that covered her hair. It came off and long red blond hair fell. The veil came off with it and he saw her eyes. Soft and dark…brown eyes found his. A rich olive skin tone that was flawless adorned her face and framed her lips. Her lips. They drew a smile from his. Her lips were full and perfect in their symmetry. They were punctuated by a small beauty mark just above the right corner of her top lip. His eyes fixed on the color of her hair. It reminded him of the sun blaze at its setting and the way that it streaked the sky. Several shades of reds and blonds blended together to make a mystery of how it had ever come to be this…these…colors. Dark, medium and pale reds and subtle blonds flowed together to form tight, frizzy long curls that fell down her back. As she sat kneeling in front of him, it almost touched the ground. Its abundance had literally exploded from the renddi. Her hair was typically Renajian. But her skin and facial features were Kendori of Beddia. He heard his own breath force its way out of his chest. He reached for her hair to touch it. As he took it into his hand and savored its softness against his cheek, she heard him draw in the scent of her hair. She allowed him the moment as she watched him once again comfort himself with the feel of her. She spoke breathlessly.
“My mother never spoke it. After we were cast away, she seldom spoke at all. What do you know of this Pride?” Her dark, soft brown eyes had grown large. She asked with a stab of urgency to her voice.
“Do you know of my line?” His eyes watched hers and he could see how important it was to her.
“I know of your Pride. Of your line, I am not sure. Do you wish me to speak it?” The intensity and the need of that moment brought Hui-lu Shai-eia to wash through them, and it was strong. He watched Dulci as she turned her eyes away from him, her head down. He looked into her mind. She was feeling it. He released the handful of hair that he had kept hold of and moved to lie down. He thought it might be safer if he did not look directly at her. He focused on recalling details of her bloodline in an effort to help him fight the need to reach out and pull her to him. His mind was rioting with thoughts of how it would feel to lay naked in bed with her and tangle in her hair’s wild abundance. How it would feel against his skin, how it would fall around him as she rode him. He stopped himself from wondering to a place that he knew he could not go. He found her hand and pulled it to his chest.
“Dulci.” It was just barely a whisper. He opened his eyes, they pleaded with her and she knew what he wanted. She could not bring herself to pull away from him. Then again, his eyes dropped closed. As she sat watching him, she thought about the way he had touched her hair. She had touched his in this same way, and she had had all of these same thoughts.
“Be quiet now. Your time in the dungeon has finally found you. Your struggle has been long and you need rest to allow your wounds to heal. I will return later.” He did not release her hand but pulled it tighter to his chest. She did not move to leave. Why did this feel so easy for her? Why was his simple holding of her hand so comfortable and familiar?
“Dulci, do not leave me. I will speak to you of your people.” He mustered a smile but kept his eyes closed while keeping a firm hold on her hand.
“Your people are called the Kendori, and are what we call a Lessore’ Pride. They have great long life spans and their constitutions are amazingly strong. They harvest and trade the Soui…the mushrooms of the forest, and the golden moss that hangs from the trees in the darkest of places in the Kennebah. They are considered delicacies and come at a great price of barter.” He pressed her hand to his chest, eyes still closed.
“They breed a cat called the Kendi, to help them find the mushrooms that grow almost underground. The Kendi cats are also considered a prize. They are quite large, their ears even larger and their dispositions are playful. They have great beauty.” His voice dropped low.
“Beauty. Like you, they are beautiful. Their eyes, like yours, are shaped like the almond.” He tried to smile as his voice trailed off.
“Beautiful.” She stayed kneeling beside him, her hand ensconced in his. She sat watching him. His profile was striking. She wondered if this was what one of the Gods of the fables of ancient Eden might look like. She wondered how many women had come to worship him. A sting of jealousy bit her. She flinched. She did not even know this man. She felt a momentary brush of anger at herself for even thinking in those terms. He was inside her mind, listening. She thought he had fallen asleep until he wet his lips, and cleared his throat. He asked softly,
“How did you come to this place? It is spoken in the dungeons that this place beyond the Fire Rim is more hostile than any other part of Renaj. Who thought to come here?”
“Father, he came here to flee from the dungeons, the work camps and the ‘pit’. He spoke that he believed anything to be better than being in the hands of the Renajians or the Goblei. He escaped before Lord Fallon came to power. He organized a few that believed that there was something better for us. Father has spoken that he was once of Beddia. He was stolen from his home there and taken to the work camps of the Zaa-quel. He was very young. After he came to this place and knew his way around, he went back into the desert to search for refuges. There were many small bands of people, mainly in the Bryce Canyons. There is food there and water can be reached from inside a few of the catacombs. Also, the configuration of the Bryce allows for shelter from both the heat of the day and the storms of the night. Many of the women and children there had been discarded by the Zaa-quel. Father brings them here to safety. He found my mother and my brother and I in this place when we were small children.” Torrein found himself once again reaching to rub at the scalding bite left by the tranquilizer dart. Suddenly she felt bad for him and wished she had not done it. But how was she to know his character? He could have been hostile, should have been hostile with the implant in him. Still she felt awful because she could see that the wound was swollen and red. She knew that it hurt him so she kept speaking in an effort to distract him from the itching and burning she knew that the dart and the drug was causing.
“If the women and children are not collected quickly they are trapped by the Goblei, and even though Lord Fallon had forbid them to have human women the Goblei still hunt for them. But any that Lord Fallon catches doing this faces the death sentence. I remember the Goblei from when Galan and I were just children. They are the foulest of creatures. I know this all looks humble but to us it is a better life than what we would have in any of the great cities. Father…KoMahn, speaks that the women are used only as breeders and for the pleasure of the Renajian soldiers or used as servants in the Zaa-quel households and that is as terrible a fate as any other here on this world. The women of Zaa-quel are even more cruel than their men. Father also speaks that sometimes the Zaa-quel rewards their Goblei with the gift of a woman. Lord Fallon has no control over what Rue-don does, as he is considered ‘Supreme Ruler’ of this world. But word comes to us that this is changing…that Lord Fallon’s grasp has become more powerful than even that of Rue-dons. Certainly, Lord Fallon’s holdings have become more considerable. Everyone holds their breath and waits for Rue-don to move to smite Lord Fallon down. Father says that if this happens, Lord Fallon would most likely win. He uses the men as slave workers to make brick and build to expand his cities and to make it safe from attack. Rue-don uses his people in the ‘pit’ for entertainment and on work details to gather the desert offerings.” She stopped suddenly. Had he asked for any of this information?
Torrein’s mind had caught on the name…KoMahn. It was a name that was familiar to him. But how could it possibly be? She was suddenly agitated at herself for rambling on so. What had gotten into her? Her eyes moved over him quickly and then away as she fought the urge to move closer to him. Maybe he would touch her again. That was what she wanted. That was why she was so irritated. Why did he have to be so handsome? How did his body get to be so perfect? Her mind flashed back to how she had cleaned him while he was unconscious. How she had ‘accidentally’ brushed against him. How she had deliberately peeked. Torrein saw the agitation in her mind that was momentarily unguarded. He saw her critique of him and was pleased. Moving to sit back up he forced himself to keep the smile from his face. This action put her between his legs. She sat on the ground looking up at him. His dark eyes looked down into hers. Before the realization of where she was exactly positioned could come to her, he spoke to distract.
“For the most part your father speaks truth. However, Lord Fallon still offers entertainment. Rumor speaks he participates in the ‘game’ as well.” He caught himself and stopped his dialog. He was speaking to her of a cruel Renajian sex game…one that her own mother was probably forced to endure. The Varda in him should have shown much better manners.
“Please forgive me my manners, the subject is inappropriate. It has been long since I have had a normal conversation with a woman.” His father had always told him that there was no excuse for bad manners so he stopped trying to make excuses. His eyes found the tray. His head tipped to gesture in its direction.
“Have you eaten?” His concern jolted her and his words stunned her. Those that had found their way to this place had taken a long time to recondition. They were usually hostile and greedy, suspicious and conniving for quite some time, either that or submissive, passive and easy to control, for whatever reason it seemed there was no in-between.
“Yes. I have eaten. This food is for you. But you must take it slowly or your body will try to expel it.” He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, in an effort to maintain his control. She watched as a smile came to his lips…lips so perfectly formed and full, lips that looked so soft and warm and in such bad need of kissing. Lips she wanted to feel on her body…everywhere on her body. She cleared her throat in an effort to break the spell his presence was weaving around her. His smile had grown almost as if he could see what she was thinking. Quickly, she began the chant inside her mind and spoke to put him on the defensive.
“Again I must ask…how is it that you are in such better condition than Galan, having been in this place for so much longer?”
“Allura of Nimm was cared for and feed with regularity. She was given blankets and water. No one had ever seen a Nimm before. Their world is shielded. She was viewed with great curiosity. The Zaa-quel Over Lord Rue-don had trapped her. Then he gifted her to Lord Fallon. I do not know why he did this thing. I believe that the Renajians are superstitious about the Nimm. I think that they are somewhat afraid of them. He never used her as breeder. Her scent was always pure. Her cell was between my brother and me. She shared her supplies with us. And also, as I spoke, it is the constitution of my bloodline. We are strong by nature.” He pushed the tray away and then moved to sit back on the cot.
“Thank you. It is the first real meal I have had since being brought to this world. In the dungeons, we received only one bowl of some kind of diluted meat soup every day or so. Sometimes it was just diluted, no meat.” He smiled at her and his eyes caught the light and sparkled.
“While we were in the custody of the Zaa-quel food only came to us before a ‘performance’. All of the energy that it provided was used fighting in the pit. Hunger was always there. And like the air…” He laughed,
“it was just as bad. It feels strange for my stomach to be full.” His hand moved across his stomach. She felt hers tighten. He observed her reaction. Pulling back in her thoughts, remembering once again that he could possibly be a reader. He continued,
“After Lord Fallon took us into custody we were fed more often. The food was not bad. Before that, we were always hungry…hungry, hot or freezing cold, and usually in pain. It amazes me what the mortal body can endure.” The strange energy shimmered around them. Her hand reached for his thigh…a dangerous gesture, but she could not stop herself. She laid her hand on him gently. He could hardly believe that she had touched him this way. She said,
“Thank you for the life of my brother. I hope that you find yours.” He picked up her gloved hand, only the tips of her fingers shown. He brought them to his lips. She watched as his eyes drop closed. He savored the feel of her fingers tips at his mouth as he ran them slowly over and over his lips. She had no fear of him as she watched him make what she saw as a curious gesture. He released her, suddenly pulling back. She did not move away but kept her position in front of him. He asked,
“Do you know how far the Benija outpost is? Galan said it would be watched, but there must be some way to get to it. I must get word to my father that we have escaped. I must find a way to help my brother. He is somewhere alone…in the dark and he is in pain. He is twin to me and I can feel him, I have always been able to feel him. There must be a way to get to the outpost.” When he had pulled back, she felt a loss, cold and abandoned. She had just met this man and didn’t even know him, but her need to comfort him was great.
“The guard that encompasses the outpost is permanent. It is said that it is guarded by all three factions…Zaa-quel, Venoche’ and the Goblei. It would be folly to even try. No one has ever made it there to ask for asylum. It is only an outpost, more a symbol of a trade agreement with Benija. It is said that when the Over Lords or their representatives come to barter, this is where they stay. It is home world soil to them and forbidden to touch. The perimeter is heavily guarded and traps lay everywhere. The Zaa-quel take it personally when someone tries to escape.” As she had spoken, Torrein had reached to pick up her hand again. He began running the softness of her fingertips over and over his lips as his eyes listened intensely to her words. It was an oddly hypnotic gesture. She realized that he was comforting himself with the feel of her fingertips. His simple gesture had made her happy.
“We escaped from the Venoche’…does Lord Fallon take it personally as well?” While watching the way he held onto her hand there was no sexual aggression in his touch. Not yet.
“I only know what comes to us from the outside. But it is said that Fallon is even more easily offended. He hunts. He sends trained soldiers in small groups to constantly hunt, ever widening his perimeter. Fallon also takes what Ruedon, what the Zaa-quel do, very personally. He sees all Venoche’ as his property and the taking of them, a violation. That is why the games. If he cannot barter to get them, then he will compete to win them. As I said before, he uses them as labor to build his city and make it strong. Men, women and children, they must all toil. But to be in the Venoche’ city is at least to be safe, not only from the game and from the pit, but from the storms and hunger. Still they are only slaves. Later when Father comes to speak with you, you can ask him if he knows of a way to help you. If there is a way, he will know.” Torrein cast his eyes downward, his lids felt heavy and his eyes felt dry. Dulci knew the way the darting drug worked, she moved to stand and gently coaxed him with her hands to lie back down.
“The drug will make you dizzy and tired for a while. You should be lying down.” He moved to oblige her and lay back onto the cot and then promptly reclaimed her hand, pulling it to his chest. He asked in an effort to keep her close,
“While we wait for your father, will you tell me of life here, in this place?” Then he let go a sigh and drifted into a gentle light sleep. The darting drug was continuing its path. He would be in and out of sleep for the next few days. It was just the way that the drug worked. Lethargy and hunger was a byproduct of its use. Slowly she withdrew her hand from his and it promptly found its way to his hair. She laced her fingers through it. Her eyes fell to his lips. Why were they not cracked and broken from dehydration like Galan‘s? She watched him for a few minutes, just to be certain he was asleep before she leaned forward ever so softly, to run her tongue across them. Her spontaneous gesture surprised her. What in the name of the Maaz-ra-dune had gotten into her? Then, his lips parted and his tongue traced the path of hers. It was so oddly seductive. The tiniest smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. He did not move but whispered,
“Dulci.” She could hardly believe what she had just done. Never in her life had she acted on impulse and she had never kissed Fillip. She had never even wanted to. But this man she wanted to taste. This man she wanted to savor, slowly, over and over again. She thought about what it would feel like to lay beside him, her body stretched out alongside his, feeling his body warming hers. He had been held prisoner inside a dungeon for near half a standard League year. He had been implanted with dangerous drugs to make him aggressive so that he could be used in the combat games…and he had survived, saved her brother and still after all of his struggles he lie before her the most beautiful, perfect, most gentle man she had ever seen. Her fingers traced the line of his muscled stomach. She felt her hand flatten across his chest and then move to his face. Again, his lips whispered her name. She closed her eyes and felt joy. The strange energy washed over her again. Pulling away from him and stood. The stranger had gifted her with the origins of her bloodline. She was elated. Gently, quietly she checked her brother. He was still sleeping. She made her way out of the room. Three of guard sat beside the door. She said to them,
“The stranger is Beddian and he knows of my origins there.” One young man smiled back.
“That’s great Dulci, how does he come by this information?”
“He is able to scent, like my next brothers. He recognized the origins of the Pride of Kennador in my blood. I, we, Galan and I are of the Pride of Kennador. I must find father.” Suddenly she felt almost overwhelmed. Her world had just changed. Another of the guard spoke.
“You take chances Dulci. You were to close to him. It could have provoked the drugs in him. Your father would have your hide…and ours if he knew.” Her smile was so big it hurt her face. Her cheeks pressed at her eyes and soon they would squeeze out tears of joy. She began a slow run and turned to called out
“This one will not hurt me. Not ever.”