Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga) (9 page)

BOOK: Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga)
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“Drakko…” she whispered.

“I never left you, my love. I am right beside you.” His voice filled her with serene joy, warming her to
her cold feet.

“Drakko, beloved,” she whispered.

“When your grief abates you will see me and finish the work we set out to do.”

She felt his voice like a warm balm to her soul.

“I miss you…” Words were inadequate, so she thought it, and her dead husband smiled.

The ball of light expanded and she felt it’s comfort invade her body. She covered herself with both arms, trying to hold onto the feeling, as his voice vibrated inside of her.

“I am always with you, my life. I would never leave you or my sons. You have let emotions cloud reason, and because of this you are all failing in your missions.”

Reminda gasped as his hands covered her heart; closing her eyes, she relaxed into his embrace. For a second, she could smell him; she inhaled trying to
attach him to her.

Drakko chuckled. “You don’t have to do that. Strip your fears. Wash away doubt, and open your mind to see things as they really should be. Tell our son I understand how he feels and he is on the right path. I support his decisions. When I was in the physical, I thought I knew everything, but now I really do, and he is on the right track. Tell him not to ignore his heart, that the Elements are with him. If he opens his eyes, he will see the answers right before him. Know that I love you, Reminda, and you have always been the best part of me…” his voice started to fade.

“Noooo…don’t leave,” she wailed.

“I must. You have work to do yet, and then you will understand. Search your heart and you will feel me.”

The ball winked and disappeared, leaving Reminda in total darkness.

The queen sank to the floor, her face wet with tears. Curled into a tight ball, she felt her heart expand. He
was not gone, just in a place where she could not see him. If she did what she had to do, then they would be united. She felt lighter than she had in a year; the grief had lifted. She saw a mountain to climb in her head; now she knew what she had to do. Caught up in her own thoughts, she didn’t hear Tulani enter the cave, her braids hanging limply from the rain.

Tulani fell to her knees. “Highness.” She bowed her head reverently.

Reminda looked up, her face serene, holding out her arms. “Tulani, I have missed you.”

The girl needed no more invitation. She rushed into the queen’s embrace, as if she were her long-lost mother.

Chapter 10

Naje crushed the Magon beetles to make a paste for Lord Nuen’s wound. He was bound to be irritable tonight; she knew he hated drinking with Lothen. They were leaving tonight on Lothen’s lead ship, traveling to Darracia. In the privacy of their rooms, he complained about the climate, the food, the customs. She knew he missed his home, perhaps even what was left of his family. They didn’t share much. Glancing at the floor, she spied a box of graphen packets sticking out. Cursing softly, she kicked at it gently, pushing it in, so it wouldn’t be seen. She planned on taking them onboard the ship, and that was definitely against the law. Pausing, she reached down, took a few of them, and slid them underneath her shirt next to her breast. Dangerous, yes, but necessary, and at least she was armed somewhat. If she threw them against a wall with force, they would explode, giving her some sort of security.

She parted the curtains to look at the dying light, wondering if her sister knew she was relatively safe. Poor Denita, how would she manage without her? Denita was the youngest, though she was not a child, but she knew nothing of graphen or the business of a den. The graphen den did not belong to her. Denita was always the protected one. They had wanted a better life for her; Naje had been saving to get her off the planet and into an academy. Anything but staying on the cesspit they called home. After their parents died in the Fever of’27, she sold their butcher stalls. They were one of the numerous purveyors of different meats of Venturian, and Denita moved into the back of her sister’s den. It wasn’t what anybody wanted. It was a dirty trade, and she wasn’t proud of it.

The business had been purchased by her husband, Racin, killed like her dreams by his dependence on the drug, leaving her a poor widow running a vice-invested store. Did she miss him, she wondered, cocking her head, her dark hair falling to the side of
her face. She supposed not. They had married young, before they really knew each other. She had wanted to get away from the meat stalls, her overbearing father, and escape to start her life. Well, the graphen den was no escape, especially when Racin started using. He became addicted so quickly, so thoroughly, that soon he was smoking more than they could afford. Oh, she could have left him, but for what, to go home and tell her father he was right? Instead, she ran the shop, widowed young and cutting the graphen to make it stretch. She almost welcomed the invaders when they took her away.

Slicing some fruit, she knew it would refresh Nuen and perhaps put him in a better mood. He thought he was tough, Lord Nuen. Cried like a baby when she didn’t give him graphen. She had this forbidden stash of it hidden away. Highly unstable, it was not allowed on anything except for transport vehicles; certainly they’d kill her if they knew she had some on a royal barge. She could blow them all to Venturian and back with the amount she had.
Staf was easy to handle now that she knew his inner demons. Compared to the animals she handled in the graphen den, he was putty in her hands. As long as she anticipated his needs, he was relatively easy. She played up her hatred in front of Lothen, though. She would die before submitting to him again. Vicious, cunning, and without a soul, she hated the Planta leader and would have killed him if she could find a way. He was as ruthless as he was deceitful, and she knew nobody should turn their back on him.

The door slid open, and Staf entered without a word. He grunted some sort of greeting as he threw himself in his chair. Naje reached forward wordlessly to remove his boots and smiled slyly at his sigh of relief. Staf rolled his head back on the cushion, his eyes bleary.

“Your head aches, my lord?”

She placed her cool hands on his temples and kneaded them. His eyes were too yellow, and if he didn’t stop, he would soon be too far gone with
graphen. Though he was relaxed, his sharp eyes observed her.

“I don’t know why I like you.”

“Don’t you?” she asked, her teeth white in her caramel face.

“I was married to a princess. Beatha was granddaughter to a king.”

“You can call a hag a beautiful.” Naje shrugged. “But at the end of the day she is still a hag.”

Staf laughed, grabbed her hand, and kissed her wrist. “Indeed, she was a hag.” He pulled her onto his lap.

“I am not a princess.” Naje eyed him, pulling away.

Staf hugged her against him. “But you are beautiful.” He kissed her full on the mouth, smiling with triumph as her lips softened. “So beautiful.”

“But, alas”—she raised herself, holding his head with both her hands—“still a slave.”

“You are mine,” Staf whispered possessively, and the discussion was finished.

Mere hours later Staf found himself on the bridge of Lothen’s light cruiser. The Planta leader had three ships under his command as he embarked on the two-day journey to Darracia. Naje watched Planta shrink as they ate up the miles to deeper space. She was happy to see the back end of it. It was a filthy place, the sea a churning mass of acid, the land mass a tiny wasteland. It rivaled Venturian for its lack of charm, and although a better climate, the recent global warming from the pollution had made going outside impossible.

The ships flew in a defensive formation, the king in the lead vessel. They were by no means large or considered capable of intergalactic travel, but they were able to land stealthily on the sea, surprising and then destroying their victims before they had a chance to retaliate. The ships were triangular, with
easy maneuverability. They were known to zip in, create panic, steal what they needed, and take what they wanted. The Plantans painted the bows of their ships with fantastical creatures with frightening expressions. Mostly a male crew, Lothen balked when Staf insisted on taking Naje.

“She is a slave, my lord. You will get another,” Lothen told him.

“I don’t want another,” Staf replied with finality. He kept her in his quarters away from the bloodthirsty crew. Naje happily complied. She was there when Staf swaggered in, high from graphen, furious with Lothen for encouraging its use. Already, she had seen the Darracian’s hands shaking when he needed the drug, and although she warned him with long looks, he ignored her pleas. She shouldn’t care, she knew, but oddly enough, she liked him. He had an aura of power; as opposed to the waste of a male she had for a husband, she felt that with Staf she had a future, if he didn’t kill himself with graphen first. As long as she kept him under control, he’d be fine. She
shrugged. If he needed the drug, she would get it for him, but on her terms and in the dose that would keep him under her thumb and useful.

“What is the matter, my lord?” she asked as he stared sullenly out the portal into deep space.

“Geva. What do you know of their Geva?”

“I know nothing.” She kneeled and took hold of his face as he reclined on his chair. “And neither do you!” she said urgently. “She is foul, and evil. Please,” Naje begged him, “do not go to her altar.”

Staf sighed as he looked bleakly out the window.

“Staf,” she whispered, “she will steal your soul…”

Chapter 11

“I can arrange for a transport to take you to the surface, Your Majesty.” The stable master followed V’sair as he leaped into Hother’s saddle.

“No. I told you, I am going riding.” V’sair dismissed him, turning his mount toward the openings. It was still pouring. He didn’t care. His mother had gone down to the surface hours ago; he was going after her. He was sick of Syos and all of its inhabitants. He had just come from another meeting with Chanter Brault, and their heated argument frustrated V’sair. It had started innocently enough, first with a service in the temple, followed by a discussion in the chanter’s office. He respected the counselor about as much as the chanter liked V’sair. He missed the steady influence of Emmicus. Something in the older man’s eyes made him uneasy, and V’sair was beginning to have a decided lack of trust in him.

It was the same old thing as far as the young king was concerned. The chanter was white with rage
over the idea of a Quyroo crowning him. V’sair was tired of it all. Nothing was smooth. Even the relationship with his father’s most loyal servant, General Swart, felt strained. He knew the old man meant well; it was just that his ideas were antiquated. He was clinging to the obsolete notion of the Fireblade and Darracian strength. Sometimes it was too hard to keep swimming against the tide. He missed Tulani and her comforting arms with an intenseness that bordered on pain.

He turned to the four guards saddling their stalliuses behind him.

“No! You are to stay here,” he ordered them.

“Sorry, Highness.” One of them bowed his head respectfully. “We’ve been ordered to stay close to you by General Swart.”

“It’s fine. I will be fine, and I dismiss you.”

“He will have our heads.” The soldier shrugged, his eyes forlorn. “We will keep a distance,” he offered,
his palm up.

V’sair gave in as ungraciously as any twenty-year-old feeling burdened by unwanted watchdogs. “If you must.” He wheeled out of the stables quickly, smiling at his deft maneuvering, thinking he had lost them for a minute. The sky was deserted, the weather making most travel impossible. He heard the labored breathing of their mounts when they tried to make up the growing distance, Hother easily outdistancing them as she ate up the miles.

The rain stopped and the sky brightened, the dual rays of Rast and Nost creating a halo of light. A rainbow sprang up over Syos, painting the horizon a multicolored hue that framed the dormant volcano. He guided Hother toward the Desa. Brilliant sunlight blinded him momentarily; he heard the wickers of several stalliuses behind him. They said they would keep their distance, he thought with fury. He spun, rigid with anger, to come face to face with General Vekin, his father’s other trusted advisor. The older man had never recovered from the battle for
Darracia. His left arm hung uselessly at his side. He had lost three of his sons, leaving him without an heir. A fog of sadness surrounded him. His voice, raspy from a wound to his throat, stopped V’sair’s progress to escape.

“Relax, Highness.” The older man halted him with a raised hand. “Cannot you spare some conversation for an old friend?” He paused and gazed at the young man. “We used to be good friends, V’sair.”

V’sair tapped his pommel and sidled up next to the wizened man. He smiled warmly to the wrinkled face, fond memories of playing soldier with the general reminding him of the relationship.

General Vekin motioned for his own men to leave. “Give us space.” He motioned for them to fly in a formation a bit away from them.

Together they began a leisurely flight, their stailluses gliding together in a ballet of synchronization. They floated through the pink and orange clouds, above the condensation, so that they heard the muffled
sounds of the Desa beneath them. Hanging in suspension, they galloped over the Hixom Sea, watching the flying fish jump into the wet atmosphere.

BOOK: Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga)
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