Authors: Michelle M. Pillow
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Life on other planets, #Fiction
Lords of the Var:
THE SAVAGE KING
Michelle M. Pillow
© copyright by Michelle M. Pillow, March 2005
Cover Art by Kat Richards, © copyright March 2005
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Author recommends reading books in order of release. Also check out the Dragon Lords series, which take place before the Lords of the Var.
Dedication: To Amelia and My Readers. May you all find the one true Prince, who will give up everything in the galaxy just for you. (loincloth optional)
"To be ruled by a woman is to be ruled by weakness and kingdoms are only as strong as their rulers. A King must stand alone, beholden to none."--King Attor of the Var
Agent Ulyssa Payne grumbled and banged the communicator across her knee in a last ditch effort to make the very expensive piece of junk work. Her campsite was close, but it was cloaked so she couldn't see its exact location. She wouldn't chance revealing it until she made sure the perimeter was secure. If anything, experience in the field had taught her to be extra careful.
She knelt on the ground, looking up at the bright Qurilixen sky in frustration. The blue-green haze of the planet's atmosphere shone through the gigantic leaves of the forest. The planet was always cast in daylight due to its three suns, with the exception of one night a year when everything fell into perfect alignment. The evening she'd arrived with a shipment of Earth women on a Galaxy Brides ship, it had been such a night. She'd been forced to haul her backpack through rough, dark terrain while the Draig warriors partied with their mail-order brides.
"When I get back, I am so quitting the Agency," Ulyssa ranted under her breath, smacking the communicator harder in her frustration. She would never really quit. The Human Intelligence Agency was her life. It was her whole reason for being. "After this I am definitely taking a vacation. I'm going to have a bath, a bottle of hard liquor, and a rare steak as big as this forsaken hellhole, and a male prostitute--a mute male prostitute who only knows how to follow orders. First I'm going to get clean, then I will get drunk, and then I'm going to get laid."
It had been nearly five months since she'd had a man and he'd hardly been worth bragging about. The sex had been mediocre and afterwards he'd wanted to cuddle. She had more fun getting out of his bed than actually being in it. Ulyssa smiled, remembering how she'd scaled out his window and down fifteen stories while he went to the kitchen to get her a snack.
Part of the reason she'd been celibate since then was that she'd been in quarantine, uploading her mission, and in training. As soon as she was finished, the Agency had made her go undercover on a Galaxy Brides ship as one of the prospective brides. She'd spent a whole month surrounded by nothing but women, morphed into a hideous character she could barely stand, with a shipload of too-much-estrogen-producing females who talked of nothing but the men they were going to marry.
"Ugh," Ulyssa snarled in distaste. "Why anyone would ever want to get married is beyond me. Poor, poor, misguided fools. They really have no idea what they're in for."
The reddish trees of the alien forest were colossal, some of them spanning wider than an Earth home. Yellow ferns spread out about her, growing wild in the red earth of the planet's surface. She felt like a dwarf running around in the land of giants.
Only the inhabitants on the planet weren't technically giants, though they were quite large and fierce. They were all shifters--nothing but male shifters. It was a little fact the Agency had forgotten to tell her about. The northern half of the small planet was ruled by the Draig, a tribe of dragon shifters. The southern half was ruled by the Var, a tribe of man-cats. If not for seeing them quarrel from her perch in the trees, she'd never have known.
From what she gathered from the Galaxy Bride uploads, radiation from their blue sun made female children rare. Over the generations, the radiation had altered the men's genetics to produce only strong, large male, warrior heirs. Maybe once in a thousand births was a Qurilixen female born. The fact that they had no women of their own was why the services of corporations like Galaxy Brides were so invaluable to them. In return, they would mine ore that was only found in their caves. The ore was a great power source for long-voyaging starships, all but useless to the Qurilixen, who were not known space explorers.
Good thing she was extra cautious and masked her scent before leaving camp. Shifters usually had a great sense of smell and the Draig warriors would have detected her presence in the forest for sure--and if not them the Var would have found her. If she had to choose, she was sure she'd rather be captured by the Draig. They appeared to be the more civilized of the two creatures.
The Qurilixen were classified as a warrior class, though they had been peaceful for nearly a century--aside from petty territorial skirmishes that broke out every fifteen or so years between a few of the rival houses. The best comparison anyone could make is that the men were like the warriors of Medieval Earth--the romanticized version anyway. The Qurilixen worshipped many Gods, favored natural comforts to modern technological conveniences, and actually preferred to raise, grow, and cook their own food--the true mark of a primordial society.
Although, it seemed times were about to change. The forest literally crawled with both races. She wasn't stupid. She could tell the planet was on the verge of an all out war. The last thing she needed was to get caught in the middle of it.
This was definitely a primitive planet, perhaps one of the most primitive she'd been assigned to in a long time. As far as she could tell, her campsite was on Var land. It didn't matter. It's not like she'd stopped to ask permission to set up camp. In fact, neither race knew she was there. She preferred to keep it that way. If Galaxy Brides went looking for her, their lost bride, all they'd find was a ghost trail to a woman who never existed.
Ulyssa growled under her breath, swearing every dark curse she knew. She needed to report to headquarters--if the damned communicator would ever turn itself on--and tell them her mission was over. Realizing she'd gone through the Galaxy Bride torture for nothing didn't make her happy. But, on the bright side, she'd gotten some permanent hair removal done and a few itchy battle scars removed, although such foolish luxuries hardly made her present situation worth it. Shaving had never been a primary concern and she would only collect more battle scars to replace the old ones.
Picking at the dried mud caked to her tanned skin, Ulyssa grimaced. She so needed a decontamination unit. Hell, she'd even try a primitive water bath, just so long as she could scrub clean.
Suddenly, the communicator lit up. She sighed, not liking the fact that she had to report to her superiors that her mission had been fruitless. She liked less the fact that she was trapped on a barbaric planet until one of the company ships could swing by and get her.
"Hello?" a sweet, elderly voice asked from the communicator.
"Agent 596," Ulyssa answered. The unit clicked.
"Report," a grim voice ordered from the small handheld unit, replacing the first computer generated operator.
"Ulyssa 596, codename Gena, Qurilixen," Ulyssa said into the unit.
"Go ahead," the voice answered.
"Target dead, killed by his own." Ulyssa pulled the unit back to add a bitter curse. She had just spent the dusky night in the forest, huddled by a tree while the Medical Mafia clones packed up camp. Her target, a leader in the Medical Mafia, Doc Aleksander, was killed by his daughter in self-defense. They assumed Doc had been on the planet to make a trade for some of the precious ore. "Daughter has disbanded family line, no information to be had."
"What?" another voice demanded, harder than the last. Ulyssa recognized the mission director, Franklin. She rolled her eyes. "What do you mean she disbanded the family?"
"Are we secure?" Ulyssa asked, careful to keep her voice soft as she glanced around the forest. The trilling call of a sofliar came from the dense underbrush, carrying over the hum of insects. All was peaceful.
"Yes, Agent, speak plainly," Franklin said.
"Doc is dead. Nadja has married one of the Princes from the Qurilixen House of Draig. She's disbanded the family and left everything to her mother. The Aleksander branch is ended. I'm transmitting a full report now." Ulyssa stopped talking and pressed a button. When the report was sent, she demanded, "Now, get me off this damned floating barbarian rock, Frank!"
"Got it," Franklin answered. "Good work."
Ulyssa snorted. She'd hardly call a fruitless mission good work. "What about my ride?"
"Well, Agent," Franklin cleared his throat, "to tell you the truth you don't have one. We didn't expect this to happen. The seers didn't predict Doc's death, only that he'd be on the planet. We were planning on having you there a lot longer than a few weeks."
"How long Frank?" Ulyssa asked, her voice hard.
"The closest ship is three months from there."
"Three months!" Ulyssa hissed. "I didn't spend a month on that damned Galaxy Brides ship, simpering like a morphed bimbo fool, grabbing my breasts and making inane comments, just to spend three hellish months on this nowhere planet for no darned good reason! You get me a ship faster!"
Franklin chuckled. "What? We'd thought you'd like pretending to be a girl for awhile 596."
Ulyssa frowned. Great! Here come the 'you're worse than a man' jokes. Kick a little male behind, never call them back after you have your way with them, and you get branded a heartless bitch.
"Ugh," she groaned. "I so need to get some action. This is getting bad."
"What was that, 596?" Franklin asked.
"Nothing, sir." Ulyssa fought the urge to laugh.
"How are your supplies?"
"I'll be fine."
"I know, Agent." Silence came over the intercom, but she knew he was still there. Very quietly, Frank said, "You take care of yourself, kid."
"Don't worry about me, Frank. I'm just like a cat, always landing on my feet."
"I know, Agent, I know. It's not the landing I'm worried about. It's those nine lives of yours. Don't use 'em up. You owe me a date when you get back."
"Dream on, sunshine." Ulyssa laughed, eyeing her rustic surroundings in displeasure. She kept the irritation from her voice. She knew if Franklin could get her off the floating rock sooner he would. "But I will let you buy me a drink. You owe me at least that."
"Done," Franklin agreed. "Contact only if there is trouble, otherwise call in eleven weeks."
"Know the drill, 596 out."
Ulyssa pressed the button to the communicator and watched it turn off before moving to latch it onto her belt.
"Three months," Ulyssa began with a dark frown. "Just gre--"
Suddenly, she froze, holding very still. The birds weren't singing and the forest had gone quiet--too quiet. Slowly, she reached for her leg, feeling blindly for her gun. Her thumb hooked around the leather strap, flicking in the dried mud caked over it.
A loud roar resounded from the trees, as she drew her weapon. She frantically pulled the gun, falling on her back as she turned toward the noise. She was too late. Two thick paws pressed into her shoulders. Fangs snarled at her from a hot mouth.
"Oh," she gasped, nervous. From her place on the ground it looked to be an overgrown mountain lion. "Nice kitty. Easy, big fella. Take it easy."
The cat snarled at her soft words and lifted a meaty paw to the side of her head striking her. As the paw made contact, it wasn't claws and fur that smacked her, but a very human feeling fist. Her visions swam. Pain shot through her face from her cheek. Blood trickled into her mouth, spilling over her pale skin in little rivers. When she looked back up, she gasped. It was no longer an animal that pinned her down but a naked man. His bright blue eyes glared into her with lethal intent.
"Look what I found wandering around in my kingdom," the man said with a dark laugh that left her cold. "A dirty little gwobr."
Without warning, he jumped to standing, hauling Ulyssa up by her wrist. Her feet flailed in the air before landing awkwardly on the ground. On reflex, she kicked. Her foot hit the man's very muscular waist. He dropped her wrist with a grunt, but did not double over. Ulyssa smiled, but her victory was small and short-lived.
Right as her foot landed back on the ground, a dozen half-dressed warriors poured out from the treetops as if falling from the sky. She squared off to defend herself, but she was outmanned by the gathering of blond Vars. They fought back with a liquid grace she'd rarely seen in a species, sleek and smooth of motion like ancient Earth ninjas. She tried to fight back, kicking and punching as she found her mark on hard steely flesh. But, within seconds, she was subdued.