A Quest For Love
Saving the planet is a daunting job. Add mage abilities going haywire and a shapeshifting bodyguard that can melt her heart with his kisses to the mix and stopping general Varal could be the least of Arian's worries.
Release Date: March 2019
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
An anguished cry filled the air as Arian dropped to her knees beside her father’s bed. “No, Papa, don’t leave me.”
The doctors, who stood around the royal bed in the spacious medics’ suite, watched father and daughter silently.
“Sa, it’s okay.” He gave her a watery smile. “We knew the risks.”
The young woman dashed at the tears spilling down her cheeks at her father’s endearment. She hated this room. It smelled of illness and death. “I can’t do this without you.”
“You must!” He grabbed her hand, and pulled her closer, his voice barely a whisper. She hoped it was too low for the security system to pick up. “You are the only hope now. Go to Drahar. Find Dresuer. Stop this madness.”
She nodded her agreement, against her better judgment. Her gaze slid to the soft blue gauze curtains that hung from the ceiling, the only spot of color in this stark white room. How could she leave her father to die while she pursued this crazy quest?
The doctors started murmuring to themselves. Several moved toward her. “Princess, we must try again.”
“No.” Her violet eyes glittered with unshed tears. She stood to face them. “He has been through enough. Let him be.”
“I will not stand by while you subjugate him to your cures. They make him weaker, not stronger. Leave us now. I want to spend the last few moments of my father’s life with him, alone.”
Although several looked at her in shock, and she heard at least one sharp intake of breath, they did as she requested.
“Why must I do this now?” Her iridescent white gown rustled as she knelt back down beside her father.
“You know how much I love that necklace.”
She brushed her fingers against the small round, polished crystal that rested against her skin. Arian had gotten it as a gift from Dresuer when she lost her mother. It allowed her to have a little privacy when she was surrounded by her ever-present guards and servants. Recently she had used it to keep the general from hearing what she and her father spoke about. Touching the globe in the right places she created a small shield that would allow them to speak freely.
“Why can’t this wait for the proper time of mourning to pass?”
His hand, which used to be so strong and callused from hard work, softly patted hers. With each of his movements, light glinted off the small monitors attached to him. “Sa, if you stay here, your life will be in grave danger. If you don’t leave immediately, you might not have another chance.”
“And how will my absence be explained? The people will think I abandoned them, and General Varal will take control anyway.” Tears started to slip down her cheeks again.
He shook his head slowly, as if it took a great deal of effort. Pain etched his face. “You are going to the mountains to follow the ancient Taree. Once you fulfill the burial rites, you’ll have six lunas to complete your mission.”
“Six lunas, Papa, what if I fail?”
His frail hand lifted her chin. “You can’t fail, Sa. Too many lives depend on your success.”
* * *
Arian stood rigidly on the platform near the craft that would take her to the mountains. The arid morning air penetrated the long traveling cloak that covered her clothing. She tugged on the soft felt hood concealing her face. Everything was packed, and neatly stacked in her hover craft.
The wails of the priests lamenting the loss of their king filled the air while they watched the urn being secured in the craft.
She watched them silently. Her nerves tight with fear. If the general had any inkling of what she hoped to do, he’d kill her instantly.
One of her young hand maidens led her Miran to the platform. The young woman knelt before presenting the leash to the new queen.
Taking the supple leather strap from the girl, Arian petted the Miran’s thick fur, using soft clicks and whirrs to calm its aggressive nature. The large beast settled at her feet, slowly rubbing its massive head against her calf. Arian tried not to react when its long whiskers tickled her sandaled feet.
The soft fur on the Miran’s long tail wrapped itself around her leg, sending a tingling sensation all the way up her back. She rubbed under her beast’s chin in response.
“Everything is ready, my Queen,” said one of her attendants.
She nodded. Following the protocol for mourning, she remained silent, kept her face hidden in the hot cloak, and climbed aboard her hovercraft. With a punch of a button, she sealed herself in, and engaged the autopilot to the mountain retreat. The engines thrummed softly as it left the platform and picked up speed.
Absently, she rubbed her chin against the Miran’s neck. Everything sped by as the hovercraft flew across the land. “Orla, how am I going to fulfill this vow? I have never left the palace before today. What do I know of the galaxy?”
The Miran tilted its massive head and looked at her intently. A soft shimmer surrounded the animal. In just a few moments, instead of the massive feline, sat a beautifully sculpted, tawny skinned man. Deep turquoise eyes, framed with thick raven brows that flowed up to his hairline, watched her. Thick black hair that looked more like a mane, flowed into brown, then tawny gold, with the shoulder length ends white. Full sensuous lips curved in a smile, revealing straight white teeth. Arian could see the feline in him when he smiled. His human shape, just as massive as the Miran form, displayed broad shoulders, thick arms, a lean waist, and long well-muscled legs.
Arian bolted out of her chair with a gasp of surprise. Her reaction to the rare times she witnessed Orla’s shape-shifting. Although her heart beat a little faster, she recovered quickly, sinking back into the chair. “I’m sorry, Orla, but, but I have never gotten use to your metamorphosis.”
“Do I frighten you, Mistress?”
“N-no, of course not.” He shifted so rarely, she had witnessed it only twice before. Orla had been her pet since she was an infant. Dresuer gave her the Miran as a gift the dura they were betrothed. Her pet had shared a bed, and bathed with her, but never in his human form. Seeing him as a man made her stomach do weird little flips. “It’s just, well, you’re unclothed.”
Orla smiled at her. Another slight shift in his aura and he wore the typical clothing of the warrior caste of her planet. A heavy flap of leather covered his loins, large metal bands encompassed each well-muscled bicep. “Is this better, Mistress?”
“A warrior, Orla? How will the off-worlders react once we leave this planet?”
A low growl rumbled in his throat. “We will be the off-worlders then, Mistress.”
She nibbled on the soft pad of her index finger. “I know. Yet, I don’t know what to expect. How am I supposed to act? What am I going to see?”
He gave her another smile. “Spoken like a true adventurer.”
The heat of a blush rose up her throat and into her cheeks. “I am curious.”
“That is natural, Mistress.”
She nodded. First, they had to set up their camp in the ancient caves of the Taree. Once she contacted the temple to alert them of her safe arrival, no other contact would be made until she completed her time of mourning. “Father cleared the path for us to get off the planet. After that, we are on our own.”
“Mistress, I mean no disrespect, but General Varal could have learned about your father’s plan.”
Arian sighed. “You’re right of course. So how are we going to get off this planet?”
“I am your older brother, escorting you to your wedding on Drahar.”
“But it is so simple!”
“Exactly. General Varal will be looking for something your father could have planned, or some elaborate cover-up. Who will question a brother and sister from a small farm on their way to a wedding?”
She leaped out of her chair and hugged him. “That is perfect.”
* * *
Orla was glad he had set up everything the last time he had gone off on his own. He knew her father was ill and spent his last time traveling to set up several scenarios for them to use. Varal wouldn’t find them easily.
What he didn’t understand was why her father never explained who Dresuer was to her. It was a title, not a person. The man knew why he had been given to Arian as a cub after the betrothal. He had questioned his father and hers, trying to figure out why no one had told her the truth. Neither gave him an answer that satisfied him. All he knew was it was to protect her. Something he agreed with. She needed to be protected at all costs.