CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me (4 page)

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
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It was easy enough to find where the hybrids were kept. I planted a suggestion in the minds of the guards that they’d been ordered to sleep through the night. Later, when they were held accountable, they would all swear to the same story and be able to pass a lie detector test.

I looked over the adult males, who were confined in single cells when they weren’t being used as proxies for conflict or for breeding purposes. They were also controlled by collars that delivered electric shocks.

I walked down several rows of boxes with bars, it would probably be more appropriate to call them cages. Every one of the adult males was magnificent, the result of selective breeding and culling. Each was also at the prime of life.

You might say it was sexist of me to look for a leader among males, but I suspected the hybrids would be operating on limited societal organization principles. In other words, might makes right. As I passed each cell, I looked into the face of the occupants until I found what I was looking for.

I can’t explain what that was. A hunch I guess you’d say.

Some of the males growled so softly I wouldn’t have heard it if I was human. Not that I blamed them. From what I’d heard about their treatment, they had every reason to growl at me. Some just stared without making a sound.

When I looked into the face of the hybrid who would become leader in the new world, I knew, or felt, that he was different. It might have been the spark of intelligence shining from deep green eyes or the presence emanating from his body. Regardless, he was the one I chose to approach. And it ended up being a good decision.

He was standing in the middle of his cell. To the casual observer he might have appeared to be relaxed, but I could tell that every muscle and sinew was ready to pounce.

One second I was standing in the passageway between cell blocks. The next I was inside his space. That caused a look of concern, but he’d worn a collar far too long and was too wise to respond to that unexpected event by lunging at me. He didn’t even bare his impressive set of fangs. He simply watched with a quiet wariness, waiting to see what I’d do next, exactly the sort of quality that would define a capable leader.

“My name is Kellareal,” I said. “I’m not human. I just appear that way for the moment because I choose to. I’m here to make an offer.” The creature blinked once, but stood as still as a statue, watching with a keen wariness. The intelligence in his eyes was unmistakable. “Will you give me a minute of your time?”

A slight movement of his head to the side adequately conveyed that such a respectful question was far outside the bounds of what he might anticipate. He stared for a full minute before nodding once slowly.

I waved a hand at his collar so that he would make a connection between my deliberate movement and the fact that his collar disengaged and fell to the concrete floor with a loud clang. He took his eyes away from me long enough to glance down at the collar, fallen close to his feet. His eyes jerked back to me as his hand came to his throat to confirm with fingers what his brain thought to be true, that he was unfettered for the first time since he’d been a child.

“An acquaintance heard that all the hybrids, people like you, who live in this world are going to be executed tonight.” He blinked again, but did not look away. “I’d like to offer an alternative. Am I speaking to the right person? If I make a deal with you that saves your people, are you capable of enforcing the terms?”

After a few seconds, he said, “What terms?” in a voice that was decidedly gruffer than that of most men.

“Here’s my offer. I will take your kind away from this place to another world where you will be free to build a new life. In exchange, you will protect the human inhabitants of that world from their enemy - hybrids, like yourself, that terrorize them.”

He vocalized a disbelieving harrumph, but managed to do it without changing expression or moving his mouth.

“I hear the derision in your response. Which part of that is hard to swallow? Hybrids terrorizing humans? Or being transported to a world beyond the reach of your captors?”

“The idea of
protecting
humans is… ludicrous.”

I smiled. Apparently the hybrids were either educated or exposed to vocabulary. “I see that and can’t blame you for the way you feel. But if the choice is that or death…?”

Without moving or changing his expression, the big male said, “Why should I believe anything you say?”

“We would both be taking a risk. You’d be taking a risk that I can deliver what I’m promising. I’d be taking two risks. First, that you are capable of leading your people so that your promise to me will be fulfilled. Second, that you will honor your promise.”

At that his head came up, just an inch or so, but the reaction was unmistakable. He was offended that I questioned his honor, which was entirely curious since he’d spent his entire life being treated like a dangerous animal.

“If I give my promise, I will enforce it.”

“If I accept your promise, you and your people will be free in every sense except that you will be bound to defend the human population from raids by native hybrids. To the best of your ability.”

He reached up and touched his throat where the collar had been most of his life. “My people will be free
and
together?”

“Yes.”

“Take me first to this new world. Let me see. Then I will give my answer.”

My expression remained blank, but I was secretly pleased with that response. “We need to hurry. There are, by my count, a hundred and sixty-three of you to move before morning. And there’s only one of me.” I reached out to take his shoulder in my grip, but he flinched and swatted my hand away. “I have to touch you to transport you.”

He studied me for a couple of seconds, as if looking for treachery, then nodded. A couple of minutes later we were standing on a hill overlooking a wide valley. It was dusk, but there was enough visibility to enjoy the view and make out the shape of buildings where the human city was concentrated.

“Most of the humans were killed during the hybrid uprising. There’s no nuclear or electrical power and the roads are little more than a memory.” I looked at his profile. “You could create your own settlement here, on this hill. The native hybrids, they’re called Rautt, live on the other side of a desert.” I gestured toward the north.

“And we’d be free,” he said in a tone that was unmistakably wistful. “Able to have families.”

I looked at him. “Yes. Families.”

He looked at me. “Yes, Kellareal. I give you my promise. For this we will defend the humans. I promise.”

I nodded. “Be ready to take control of your people. By morning they will all be here looking for leadership. I will help you with supplies to house and feed your tribe until you are self-sufficient.” I looked at the number on his shirt. “What do you want to be called?”

He looked away for just a second. When his eyes found mine again, his chin came up. “Free,” he said.

“Yes. You are. But what would you like your name to be?”

“Free,” he repeated like I was dim.

I laughed. “I see. A good choice. Suits you.”

Without waiting for a response I began the work of emptying the cells. Free assured each and every one that I was on the level and insisted that he be the last to leave. I transported all the males first deciding, in the interest of prudence and brevity, to leave their collars on until they reached what would come to be known as Newland. I left the explaining to Free.

That’s the story of how I spirited the Exiled away during the night. Their disappearance would be tops on the list of mysteries in Telstar culture for many generations.

It took eight hours to move the hybrids to their new home and several more hours to transport tents and food. Water was not a problem. There was a waterfall that fell into a series of pools near the spot where I’d delivered Free. It had pure, clear, clean-tasting water and would sustain a tribe much larger than the number moved to Newland by me. In other words, lots of room to grow.

It seems this narrative is also a confessional because I have to admit to a slight dalliance with the culture. There was no good reason to introduce motorcycles to Blanthekin, except that the Exiled needed transportation to do the agreed-upon work. At least I did my bit to keep the environment clean. I modified them to run on water and operate so quietly you could hear a rat pee on cotton.

As Fate would have it, my choice of Free as most likely leader was right on. He organized the unruly lot to enjoy times of peace and respond appropriately in times of conflict, which wasn’t easy, considering the animosity the hybrids held for humans.

They called themselves the Exiled. Not because they weren’t glad to be free of Telstar, but because Exile was all good from their point of view. They didn’t know how to read and write. So I provided some elementals who could maintain a disguise for several hours at a time. When they wanted to establish schools for their young, I provided books.

That was twenty-five years ago. Free mated with a lion-dominant hybrid who named herself Serene. Their first son, Carnal, had been born in captivity, but their second son, Crave, was the first child to be born in the new world.

Over the years, I developed a relationship with Free that could almost be called friendship. It’s hard to say since I don’t really have ‘friends’, but I know it made me sad when I first saw a streak of gray appear in his hair and knew that someday I would go on, and he wouldn’t.

When Rosie summoned me, the idea of putting her in temporary Exiled foster care was appealing for many reasons. Just as human parents like to give their children college, when they’re able, so their kids have a relatively safe place to finish growing up, Exiled might serve that purpose for Elora Rose. I hoped so. There was a lot riding on it.

At the time she was fourteen months old, but resembled a human of about twenty-three. She was expressing enough demon genes to be able to instantly understand and speak any language on contact with its culture.

I thought Newland would be a good fit. Rosie would get her ‘break’ and have some time away from familiar pressures. I hoped she would use that time to mature, gain some emotional control, some appreciation for her parents, and some empathy for the needs and desires of others.

Like the Exiled, Rosie was a pet project of mine. I’d been watching carefully ever since she’d been born to a mother who was half demon, half ninth-generation witch, and a father who was a quarter human and three-quarters demon. The event of her birth sent a wave of disturbance throughout the Earth plane and all its dimensions. The Council didn’t notice, fortunately, but it attracted my attention. If they ever discovered there was a creature, native to Earth, who rivaled their power, they would almost certainly kill her.

My hope for protecting Rosie was twofold. First, try to keep the Council busy indulging silly and relatively harmless preoccupations. Second, try to convince Rosie not to use the power available to her.

Both plans were precarious. To say the least.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

Rosie stood off to the side, where Kellareal had told her to wait, while he talked to the good-looking fiftyish man wearing a black Henley-style shirt and leather pants. When Kellareal pointed at Rosie, the man leaned out to get a look at her. It made her feel a little self-conscious, all of a sudden wondering if she had anything caught in her teeth. He was unapologetic about staring which, in her book, meant she had permission to look as well. He had longish black hair with a few streaks of gray. Rosie thought the gray probably made him even more handsome than he’d been without. The man nodded toward her and Kellareal smiled. She supposed that meant the two had come to an understanding.

The angel motioned her over.

“Rosie, this is Free. He’s the leader of the Exiled here at Newland.” Kellareal turned to Free. “This is my adopted niece, Rosie.”

Rosie jerked her attention to the angel. She’d never heard him suggest a title for their relationship before, adopted or otherwise.

“With your permission, I need a couple of minutes with Rosie to say goodbye. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to check on things.”

“Always good to see you,” Free said to Kellareal, in a gravelly voice that was strangely compelling.

The angel took her by the elbow and walked her toward the edge of the settlement, near the wall.

“So here are the rules.”

BOOK: CARNAL, The Beast Who Loved Me
8.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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