Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Paranormal, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Romance
"I mean…what kind of a man lives underground?"
Berenghetti dabbed at Nya's spilled wine with a napkin. "He isn't a man, he's a Draikyn. He's one of their sleepers. They scattered across the stars onto the planets that they found to keep their shifting talents alive. They went into a dormant state on the planets and waited until their mates were nearby. That wakes them."
"So, how did he put out the ultimatum if he wasn't awake yet?" Nya's slurring words required effort on the avatar's behalf, but she suddenly straightened with understanding.
"Oh, he communicated with Arcros on the psychic plane. They had long, long chats about you." Berenghetti poured her another glass.
"I can't believe that they did that to me. I mean, changing my lady parts and stuff without even asking me. That is damned rude."
"Damned rude. I agree."
"It's not fair. You are matching me one glass to two and you aren't even tipsy." Nya slammed her hand against the carpeted floor and winced at the pain.
"I am sorry. It just isn't possible for me to get drunk without Arcros's intervention." She was a little wobbly but nowhere near Nya's ass-to-the-floor state.
"How did you end up with such a cranky planet in your head?" Nya was making large slurping sounds as she drank.
"I crashed while fleeing an arranged marriage. My choice was a heinous merchant or life as a slave, so I made my own choice and ran for it. Arcros spoke to me across space and he offered me a position as his avatar. With my fuel gone and my ship out of control as it sped toward the surface, I readily agreed and here I am."
"Did your fiancé every come to find you?"
"Oh, he did and Arcros had a nice talk with him. He ended up neutered and on his way home without hope of finding a female to carry his genes and no way to deliver them." Berenghetti chuckled.
"Berenge…Ber…Br…Is there a short version of your name I can use?"
A low chuckle came from the avatar. "Call me Getty. It is what my younger sister used to call me."
"Getty. It's a good name. Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you had just stayed home?" Nya was feeling warm and relaxed, not nearly as enraged as she had felt earlier. She was sitting in her living room and leaning back against the couch, her legs splayed out in front of her, her robes spotted with wine.
"No. I know what would have happened. I would have been unhappy until I died. It would not have been a good life or a long one."
"I know. My life back home would have been boring. Just fixing scrapes between my family members over and over. I wouldn't have been happy and I never had a steady boyfriend, but to be handed over to a man I have never met just because of some property rights is a little insulting, not to mention kinda sudden."
She was getting sleepy and she nodded several times, a tune she liked to hum was playing in her mind.
"I think we need to get you to bed. Can you stand?"
Nya tried to push herself to a more upright position and failed. "Nope. 'sokay, just leave me here, I will wake up sometime in the morning."
Getty sighed and stood, leaning down to lift Nya in her arms.
"You are really strong."
"Side effect of hosting a planet. Now, let's get you out of your robes and into bed."
"Not without dinner and drinks…oh wait." Nya dissolved into giggles as she tugged off her gauntlets. She removed her head wrap when Getty sat her up on the edge of the bed and loosened her gown and robes. Some tugging, some cursing and a lot of laughter later, and Nya was in her bed with endless music playing in her head.
"Are you humming?" she asked Getty as she was leaving.
"No, that is Hyfor. It's a Draikyn courtship ritual to get the first mental contact between you. He will sing in your mind and then when he is here, you will be able to hear him when he is in his shifted form and cannot speak out loud."
"That is annoying."
Getty grinned at her as she turned out the light. "Tell him when you meet him. I am sure that he will be only too happy to adapt to your requirements."
"He had better. I am sure that I am more than willing to let him know exactly what I want and need." She hugged her spare pillow to her and smiled at the avatar. "Thank you for coming over."
"It was my pleasure, Antonya. Next time, I will bring more than four bottles."
Nya smiled sleepily. "Good plan. Night."
She stayed awake long enough to feel the tremor in the house as the door closed and locked behind her visitors. It was funny how one night and she was thinking that they were two separate people in that one body.
Nya attempted to track the singing in her mind back to its source, but she fell asleep when he shifted to a lullaby. Who could withstand a lullaby when they were already halfway to dreams?
Her alarm was blaring, her mouth was burning and her throat was working hard to keep the contents of her stomach inside. A litre of water and a tepid shower and she was feeling much better. Two cups of kaf and juice bolstered her even more.
Two wine glasses, two plates and eating prongs were washed and on the draining board. The previous evening came to her in a rush and with it, she lost the battle to keep her stomach contents.
As she completed her heaves and washed out her mouth, she wondered if she had simply imagined the whole explanation. If ignorance was bliss, she wanted to rewind the day and become unaware of her reason for being on Arcros.
Nya groaned and pressed her forehead with her wet hands. She had to get to her office and prepare for her next client. The appointment was in just over an hour, so she had to get her ass in gear.
Stumbling back to her bedroom, she opened the wardrobe and pulled out another complete uniform. The gown went on with only a mild fight and the robes and gauntlets with a light whisper of complaint. Against her normal style, she left her blonde hair down and grabbed another bottle of water on her way out the door. It was not going to be the most pleasant of days.
"So, if you will sign here and here, I will have those design rights registered within the hour." Nya's head was pounding, but she kept her smile professional as Zukra signed his registration paperwork.
He didn't require her as a mediator but as a notary and she was only too glad to simply scan, register and verify his designs for him. Within two hours, they had completed all the forms and he was on his way.
A pass with her hand activated her direct Alliance terminal for registering agreements and she scanned in the forms as well as the designs on a secure frequency. Once that was done, she filed the physical documents and sent a ping to her receptionist for a cup of tea.
Groaning, she massaged her temples and wished for time to speed past while she waited for the cup.
When the door opened, she reached out her hand blindly and accepted the cup from her assistant.
"Mediator Morris, I have need of your services." The masculine tone was not that of her chirpy receptionist.
She jumped, spilling some of the hot liquid on her hand. Hissing, she shook her hand while transferring the cup to the blotter of her desk. Her guest was Yargo Zenki. His avian eyes were looking at her hair with direct curiosity and she realized that her first client had shown the same interest.
"It doesn't move with my moods. I have to make it do what I want. How may I help you, Yargo?"
She gestured for him to have a seat.
"I have need of an official to perform the ceremony and it has been suggested to my clan that you are a suitable selection." He didn't seem enthusiastic but rather resigned to his query.
"I am flattered, but I have no idea why anyone would suggest that. I can do the ceremony, but we both know that you would rather have your clan elder do the ceremony. Why the sudden change?"
He exhaled, his feathers flat to his skull. "I was ordered to have you as my official. Apparently, the avatar of Arcros is insisting upon it and what she wants, she gets."
Apparently, Berenghetti was interfering again. "Just a moment and I will call her."
His feathers snapped up in alarm, giving him a midnight halo.
"Why not? I can tell her to stop interfering. She won't kick me off Arcros. She can't." Her words were grim, but they were accurate if her memory was correct. There was a creature digging to daylight who had an interest in her and Arcros and the Evians were depending on her cooperation.
"I…you are serious?"
She smiled at him, trying to put all of her calm into the curve of her lips. "I am usually serious about ritual matters. This is your wedding. Make it the one you want."
He smiled at her, his feathers ruffling back into a more casual formation. "I think I just found my official. If you were willing to risk displeasing the avatar of the world we walk on simply to give me a good wedding, then how could I choose another? Your invitation will be arriving tomorrow. Have a good day, Mediator."
He rose, bowed and left the room without letting her say another word.
She stared helplessly at the closing door and muttered, "I suppose I had better bone up on Evian ceremonies then."
Berenghetti helped her on the big day, sending the other attendants running from the tent. "This colour looks wonderful on you."
"Which colour? I am wearing a freakin' rainbow." Her body was covered with deep gem tones. A ruby gown, sapphire robe, onyx belt and emerald fingerless gloves took the place of her normally white clothing. It was the same style, but that was where the similarities ended.
"Their rituals are very colourful. The only bland ones will be the bride and groom." Berenghetti fluffed her hair out and smiled at her own reflection garbed in blue and gold.
"Is it time?"
"I believe so. I will be up front in case you forget anything. Arcros has officiated a number of times." Getty kissed her on the cheek and left her.
Nya counted to five and straightened her shoulders, walking at a stately pace in her citron-coloured boots.
It was show time.
"Do you have the feathers?" This was the key point of the ceremony. After two hours of meditation, singing and fluttering of feathers, it came down to Viisha removing one of her feathers and Yargo removing one of his. They handed the feathers to Nya and she set them into the vacated position, flicking the tiny regenerator in her palm. The blood from the wound healed and they now wore their mate's feather in their own head for the rest of their lives.
"With you now wearing each other's colours, I wish you happiness, prosperity and joy. Be good and kind to each other and to those you meet along life's journey. May all be well. I declare you Viisha and Yargo, bound for life."
At her final declaration, the families and friends gathered rose to their feet and whistled their approval. The happy couple nuzzled each other's cheeks and stood to greet their community as a mated couple for the first time.
Exhausted by tension, Nya wanted a cup of tea and a place to sit as soon as she could manage it, but first, she had to thank Getty for her help.
Finding the avatar in a gathering full of folk dressed in every colour in the spectrum was quite the task. As usual, she was a popular figure to see and be seen with.
A huge male was standing in the crowd, speaking to someone of average height and when the crowd parted, Nya made her way to his conversational companion.
"Getty, thank you for your help. I don't know how I could have forgotten those words. That song is embedded in my mind now." She ignored the large male, having not been introduced. It was rude to stare at Evian males and though she didn't get a good look at him, she knew he wasn't someone she had met before.
"Nya, this is Hyfor. Hyfor, this is Antonya Morris." Getty was so casual that it seemed she was oblivious to the rigor of the two creatures around her.
Nya stared into his sapphire eyes, his midnight hair a neat frame to his rough jaw and aquiline nose. The clear cut of his lips showed his tension, as did the flexing pulse on the column of his thick neck.
He was wearing a deep amethyst tunic in a wrap style favoured by the Enjels, his black trousers led to black boots and onyx accessories marked his wrists and waist. Now that she was staring at him, she noticed the peculiar protrusions behind him and her eyes widened as she realized she was looking at wings.
He extended his hand to her and she put hers on top of it in a formal greeting. "Pleased to meet you, Hyfor of the Draikyn."
"And you, Antonya of Terra. I have looked forward to this meeting for a long time." He lowered his head and raised her hand to his lips.
The tingle of her hand in his had already started her senses clamouring, but the moment his lips brushed her knuckles, her knees threatened to give way.
"I just found out about you this week. You have me at a disadvantage."
His smile crinkled the corners of his eyes in a very attractive way. "I intend to keep you there as long as I can."
It was now obvious to Nya why Berenghetti had forced the clan to make her an official for this event. It was the best way to dress her up for the Draikyn.
"There is a meal being served. Would you care to join me?" Being polite was always a good backup plan when you were thrown for a loop.
He didn't release her hand but slowly led her off in the direction of the guest stream. "I would be happy to."
Getty was beaming at them, the bright glow of Arcros in her eyes. Nya shot her an I-will-get-you-for-this look and let Hyfor lead her to the buffet.
They moved together in silence, making the same food selections and choosing the same quiet outer table for their meal.
As a server came by, Nya asked for tea and she noted Hyfor's grin. "Is there something funny about tea?"
"No, but then I have never known someone to have a two-day hangover before."
She paused with her fork halfway to her mouth. "You felt that?"
"It did make its way to me, yes. I think I need to explain something in the Draikyn mate-selection process. It wasn't random. Not any Terran would have done. I needed you. Your mind resonates at the same rate as mine. We share a frequency and I can tap into that frequency to sense your moods. For example, right now you are rather perturbed and a bit embarrassed."