Return of the Matka-Zem (The Sorain Chronicles)

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Return of the Matka-Zem

 

By

DJ Chanley

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2014 DJ Chanley

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Prologue

The girl watched the Krysa twitch the whiskers at the tip of its nose when the creature stuck its head through the crack in the wall. The small rodent chirped in protest before scurrying across the floor towards her. When it reached her, it softly chirped again and nervously rubbed its first pair of paws together. The girl smiled down at the six-legged creature, pleased with herself. She was finally able to command small animals with only her mind. Slyly glancing around the long hall for prying eyes, she squatted beside the rodent. The girl drew a deep breath to calm her senses then placed a finger upon the creature
's wedged head.

"
Grow!" the girl spoke the word with authority and felt the familiar surge of power flow from her finger into the Krysa. She giggled in excitement when the animal swelled before her. When the creature doubled in size, she lost her smile, for she hadn't intended for the rodent to grow so large. With a slight frown that wrinkled her nose, she stood and again touched the creature's head with her index finger. "Stop," she commanded in a firm tone—but still the rodent grew. To her dismay, the creature continued to grow to the size of a small canine. "STOP," the girl ordered with more authority. Her eyes widened in surprise as the Krysa expanded to the size of a horse. In fright, the girl hurriedly stepped backwards until she felt the wall against her back.

When small, the Krysa were cute animals, docile and commonly raised as pets. At this size, the rodent was a formidable creature. As the monster slowly turned its four huge, black eyes towards her, she gasped in alarm. The Krysa
's chirp became a roar that vibrated through her body. Drool streamed from its elongated jaw. In an attempt to escape from the monster she'd created, she slowly slid towards the closed doors at the far end of the hallway. A terrified squeal escaped from her lips when she saw the rodent's hind legs tighten, readying to pounce. She closed her eyes and raised an arm to block the creature, but when she did not feel the sting of the rodent's sharp talons tear into her flesh, she peeked from behind her arm to find the beast frozen in place.

As if time stood still, the Krysa had abruptly stopped, just inches from her. In slow motion, a tip of a steel blade pushed through the monster
's chest. Time sped to catch the present as a curved sword effortlessly sliced through the animal as if the Krysa's body was warm butter instead of flesh and bone. A stream of foamy blood trickled from its maw as the beast screeched in agony. The echo of the Krysa's death cry stung her ears as she peered into the rodent's huge eyes, and saw death darken the four black orbs. When the huge beast crashed to the floor, its dark blood spattered onto her green slippers.

A rough-looking man in his early twenties, dressed in woodland traveling clothes, stood behind the creature. Although she was grateful for her rescue, she wished her savior had been someone else, instead of her personal guard, Thane. He was a Mlinzi
—a guardian of Sora. Thane had been her guardian for a year and he reminded her of a large Paka, with his tall, sleek body of a predator. The only thing missing was the Paka's retractable claws and sharp fangs. A single braid of chestnut-brown hair flowed down his cloaked back, barely brushing the floor. She believed the stories of her guardian braiding barbs into his hair before traveling in the wilds and she suppressed a shudder. Although young, his face didn't depict his age, for he looked stern and the lines of his face reflected years in the elements. She fought the desire to step away from her guardian when his luminous yellow eyes turned towards her. To her dismay, his vision was both nocturnal and thermal that allow him to see in pitch black. Combined with his keen sense of smell and acute hearing, eluding her personal guardian for any length of time had always been a challenge

"
Now look what you've done, Thane," she whined as she peered down at her feet, intentionally dismissing the dead animal. "These are new slippers."

"
You should be more respectful of your power, Princess Valencia." Thane's soft voice held a firm, disapproving bite and his glare held reproach as he pulled the bloody sword from the creature's body

"
Why should I?" Valencia spat, in the fashion of a spoiled Torpek aristocrat. She glared at the guardian and dared him to challenge her authority. "I have to practice my Gift. Besides, that's why you're here, Thane—to protect me."

"
This was a senseless killing, brought on by your carelessness," Thane growled back, as he cleaned the curved sword with a red rag he carried on his belt. The blade rang as the Mlinzi sheathed the deadly weapon at his hip. In spite of the Mlinzi's size, he was as quick as a striking snake and he swiftly closed the distance between them, grabbing the upper part of Valencia's arm as he continued his lecture. "You are the Matka-Zem, Princess. You should know better."

"
I don't need a Mlinzi telling me what to do." Valencia cringed at the idea of the Mlinzi being right, but she refused to be humble. She yanked her arm free of his grasp and glared at her guardian. "Especially, one who just passed his trials a year ago."

"
We have no time to play this game today, Princess." Thane grabbed her arm again and practically lifted her off the floor as he pulled her down the hall. "All my years of training—wasted!"

This wasn
't the first time she had heard Thane curse under his breath about his dumb luck for landing the assignment to protect her. Valencia tried to stop her giggle, but it escaped anyway. She had to admit she enjoyed irritating Thane even though her father had warned her to be careful. He had explained how the Mlinzi trained at a young age to maintain the balance of nature throughout Sora. Her father frequently cautioned her that formidable warriors like Thane should not be trifled with.

"
I'm a warrior, not a babysitter," Thane continued to rant. "My skills belong in the field, not chasing after a wayward girl like you."

"
I'm more important than anything on Sora. You should be honored to be in my presence." She had to run on her toes to touch the floor as the tall Mlinzi hurriedly pulled her towards the huge golden doors at the end of the hallway. "Besides, I should have an experienced Mlinzi to protect me, not you."

"
One day, much less one year, is too long to be in your presence, Princess." Thane roughly yanked her to a halt and sneered into her face. "No Mlinzi in their right mind would voluntarily guard you, so I'm stuck in this post." With an angry grumble, the Mlinzi hauled her down the hallway again. "Now stop trying to get away. The Regent is waiting for you."

Even though Valencia twisted and squirmed, she couldn
't break the Mlinzi's hold on her, so she finally conceded to let the tall man lead her to her father. Only when they reached the double doors did he release her from his steely grip.

"
You really should be nicer to me, Mlinzi," Valencia demanded in a not-so-sweet tone as she rubbed her arm. His painful grasp had surely bruised her flesh and she planned to tell her father on him. "I am the Matka-Zem, and once I'm old enough to join with Sora, I will be in control of your future."

"
Only if you survive the Batu," Thane hissed back as he glared down at her. Understanding his meaning, Valencia swallowed hard and felt her face sag with worry. She knew how her mother and grandmother died, becoming lost in their minds after the bonding. She also heard the whispers about her questioned fate.

When a thin smile curled the corners of the Mlinzi
's mouth, Valencia proudly raised her chin and glared back. In a battle of wills, they stared at each other until Thane snorted his amusement at her stubbornness. He pushed the heavy, arched doors open and stepped back to allow her to enter. The octagonal room was bare except for a few tapestries on the walls. The magnificent stained-glass dome, illuminated by the twin suns, beamed scenes of historic events down upon the people below. The only chair was a high-backed, cornflower blue throne, carved to resemble the Tree of Life. Around the wooden throne, grew the Mort Groc vines. Rarely found in the wilds, the vines bloomed with beautiful yellow flowers as large as a man's hand. In spite of its beauty, the plant was deadly, spraying acid toward anyone who dare approach the throne. Only she, the Matka-Zem, could safety sit upon it.

"
I'm going to be a great ruler." Valencia proudly raised her chin as she peered at the glittery throne.

"
I doubt that, Princess," Thane snickered.

"
Why do you say that, Thane?" She spun around and gave him a hurt look.

"
In order to be a great leader, you have to care for your people, Princess." Thane sadly shook his head. "And you don't."

"
I do care . . ." Valencia spun away from the Mlinzi, knowing she lied. She was thankful to see the Regent and his two advisors standing upon the pedestal.

"
Father." Valencia forgot her quarrel with the Mlinzi and raced into her father's arms.

***

"There's my girl," the Regent Aeson laughed as he saw his daughter running towards him. When she reached his side, he knelt to pull the princess into a close hug. He held her tight, longer then customary for a simple greeting, before he gently pushed her away. When his daughter stuck her tongue out towards the Mlinzi, Regent Aeson choked back his laughter, as he watched the young man roll his eyes skyward. With a sad smile, he placed a protective hand on his daughter's shoulder and rose to address his two advisors. Being of two different races, they tended to have opposing viewpoints and since the death of his mate, the last Matka-Zem, he valued this even more than in the past. "We need to do this swiftly to prevent a panic," the regent stated firmly, knowing in his heart he would change his mind if he waited too long. For her own good, the monarch had already decided to send his daughter into exile, yet one of his advisors tried, once again, to convince him to change his mind before it was too late.

"
I don't like this one bit, Aeson. The Matka-Zem needs proper training, and to be educated about the needs of her people, not hidden away on some faraway planet, with only an aged Mlinzi to protect her." The Ipatx Ambassador, Seth Altxor, was a stout man with a rotund belly that protruded from behind his long, greying beard. He tapped a chubby finger against his bulbous nose, as he tried once again to stop the madness of the regent's decision. "Mark my words, Regent. This decision will be our undoing. There will be civil unrest without the girl here."

"
If the rebels capture the girl, they will try to corrupt her to their cause, Seth." An elegant woman of middle years placed her long, slim hand on the short man's shoulder. Ambassador Uzuri Zupan was tall, beautiful, and fair of skin, like the entire Torpek race. Aeson watched Uzuri's crystal blue eyes glance at Valencia before she continued. "If they can't turn the child, they will kill her, and Sora will die with her."

"
Father?"

Aeson glanced at his daughter and saw fear in the princess
's usual haughty features. He gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze for reassurance.

"
We don't know that, Uzuri." Seth irritably shrugged off the woman's hand. "Sora could birth a new Matka-Zem if the girl perished."

"
Uzuri is right, old friend." Aeson's mouth went dry at the possibility of his daughter's death. "The decision has been made. The Matka-Zem must be protected at all costs."

"
At least tell us what planet you're sending the girl too," Seth pleaded, but Aeson only gave a slim smile in response. "I don't understand why you have to keep the location a secret from us, Aeson."

"
The fewer people to know her whereabouts, the better her chances, Seth." Although he had a suspicion, the regent didn't know the exact location, except that it was across the universe—which could be any number of inhabitable worlds.

"
We are ready at the sanctuary, sire."

Everyone, except the young Mlinzi, Thane, jumped at the sound of the female
's firm voice. No one else had heard the old woman enter the throne room, and she was already mounting the steps towards them. She was well past the age of being a guardian and bore the insignia of the Mlinzi council on her earth-toned robes. Aeson watched Thane raise his right fist to his heart and respectfully bow his head to his superior. The old woman nodded in response before turning her weathered face toward him. "We await your orders."

"
Is the Minne-Estrilla really necessary, Naji?" Naji was a Xeral Mlinzi, who had reached the respected age of sixty. Very few of her order were the elder woman's age and even he, the Regent of Sora revered her, though he wondered why she had volunteered to be the girl's guardian, at her advanced age. When he peered into her hard eyes, Aeson swallowed his question. His hand involuntarily tightened on his daughter's shoulder, hard enough to cause the girl to squirm with discomfort. "They are known to cause irreversible memory loss," he said to Naji.

"
New memories can always be made, your regent," replied the aged Mlinzi in a monotone voice. She reached inside a hidden pocket of her robes and retrieved a clear glass ball about the size of a cherry. "It's imperative the princess stays hidden. If she uses her Gift, the rebels may be able to locate her. This is the only way." As if she sensed his uncertainty, the old woman straightened her bent frame to peer deep into his eyes. Her stony expression flickered with emotion for a brief moment. "I swear, with my last breath, the child will be safe." The old woman raised her palm to Aeson, presenting the glass ball to him.

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