A big chunk today.
All rights are the intellectual property of the author. No part may be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author.
***Warning. The following story contains erotic elements, explicit language and violence. Read at your own risk.***
“What’s the meaning of this?” Jarod held the red stone necklace clutched in his fist, an inch from her face. He’d just spent the last hour explaining to the widows of his murdered warriors how they died with honor to protect their people against the Kori. Then his wife strolled into camp dressed like one and smelling like one.
“You look like a Kori whore and stink of them. Yet you tell me you didn’t break Fourth night vows, you didn’t have sex with one? You went to the city for this?” He flung the necklace against the wall, scattering the rare stones like marbles.
The incense clung to the clothing, making her feel even cheaper. Tesza swallowed hard. She was a carrier. It was her duty if caught to follow through, even if it meant death. Even if it meant breaking her Fourth night vows. She shouldn’t have gone to the city. None of this would be happening now.
Rage moved over Jarod’s face and his hands curled into fists at his sides. He nodded to the guards by the door then addressed her father. “Leave us.” All left the room, shutting the door behind them.
Tesza shifted on her feet.
“You disobeyed me for that? You betrayed your people for that?”
“It was all I had of my past. I wanted…”
“It’s forbidden for you to go anywhere on Fourth day, you know this.” He glared shards of ice. “You met one of them? Who?”
Tesza nodded. “The Butcher.”
“Yet here you stand in front of me. He didn’t kill you. Why?”
“I don’t know. He believes there’s some kind of bond between us.” But it wasn’t a belief; there was a bond she couldn’t explain, one that kept her from hurting him as much as it kept Ursus from killing her.
“Why didn’t you infect him? You know who he is, how many of our people he’s responsible for killing.”
She could say it was because of tonight, but he’d know she lied. This time she shook her head. Her eyes darted to the door, desperately wanting to leave. How could she explain any of it? She’d not only betrayed her people, she’d betrayed him by feeling something for the enemy soldier.
“You knew you were forbidden the city, yet you recklessly disobeyed me. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, you betrayed your people.”
“You’re a traitor.”
Tesza gasped from the sting of his words. Pain knifed its way through her body, twisting her insides. How could she explain her actions?
Her entire life she’d been prepped to be his wife. She grew up with him. Played with him as a child, loved him as an adolescent. She loved him now. She’d been bred, raised and taught to please him in all her actions. Then on the eve of her marriage ceremony, she offered him disloyalty. She was a traitor.
“Please. I couldn’t. You have to understand.” Jarod once told her the last thing he ever wanted was to share her with another man. It was why he kept her close, kept her from her calling. He knew if she should get caught, her responsibility to her people overrode his wishes and desires.
“How could you do this to me? Your people? I loved you Tesza, I still love you.”
He reached out and touched her face, tracing the mark. “I forbid you the city because of this. I didn’t want you hurt, raped or killed. Do you have any idea what he could have done to you?”
Tesza swallowed. She had an idea. She’d seen the crying women and children. She was lucky to have escaped with her life.
“I can’t choose who nature picks as the carriers, but I can prevent you from throwing yourself into a dangerous situation. Gods, it was Fourth night. You left me on Fourth night and let another touch you. You were my wife. Did you feel something for him? Want him, Tesza?”
“Were?” Everything else he said faded away. One little word brought her life crashing down around her.
“You’ve forced my hand, broken our laws. This can’t go unpunished. Several died today. Their wives and children are out there. You can’t stay. How will I explain my own queen’s betrayal of her people? If you’d infected him, I could forgive you, they could forgive you. But this, this is nothing but disloyalty.”
“Shut your mouth before I have you executed for treason.”
Tesza’s mouth snapped shut. His demeanor grew colder. Tesza shivered. This was a side she’d never thought to see directed at her.
The king, her once future husband curled his lip into a snarl. “You no longer carry the honor to wear that mark.”
Tesza reached up and touched her face. It was a mark she’d carried from birth. The day she was sworn in as a carrier. A bringer of life to her people.
Jarod yanked her hand away from it. “You’re dead to us.” Pain flashed through his eyes. He spun and barked for her father, who stepped inside.
“You’re family is no longer among the nobles of the High Imperial House. You are to report to the lemans ranks, and wear the shame of your daughter there.” He stormed through the door. Soldiers filed in and snagged her arms, dragging her toward the exit. Tesza threw herself back and screamed. Nobody gave her a second glance or attempted to help. Even her father turned his shoulder to her and didn’t look again. Today, she became a ghost.
Beaten, dressed in torn Kori garments, Tesza was driven from her home with brick, stone and animal dung. In her mind she deserved death. Her bare feet were mangled from running across the crumbling ruins and sliced from glass and stone. Tesza sank down on a boulder by a stream and dipped the bleeding flesh into the icy water.
Pain sliced through her. She cried out and rocked back and forth. It hurt, but nothing compared to the pain in her soul and her loss of the one man she’d loved since childhood.
Being cast from the clan was one matter, she could possibly find sanctuary with one of the outlying families, but being cast from Jarod’s marriage bed was entirely different. No Kalos clan would have her. They were forbidden to even look at her. To aid her was to suffer her fate.
Tesza tied the torn strips of fabric over her breasts to keep her blouse closed. He face throbbed where the tattoo had been cut away. Crude stitches held it together. Already it began to fester. A scar could not be avoided. One look and the Kalos would know she was the traitor.
If Jarod had only listened. But why should he believe her? She was guilty. Guilty of caring for the enemy. Even if she hadn’t intercourse with the soldier, she’d craved it, wanted it. She couldn’t deny that she’d lain in bed with the enemy and let him touch her, caress her.
Then she walked away. She let him touch her without reason. Infidelity in Jarod’s eyes, betrayal in her people.
Tesza pulled her knees to her chest. She was as good as dead. Outcasts didn’t live long outside the clan. If the elements didn’t get her, the hungry beasts of the jungle or the Kori would. Ursus had been a rare exception and he was too deep within the Kori outpost to seek out without being seen.
Ursus. He’d told her to leave before he couldn’t let her go. Perhaps... No, he would be in as grave a danger if she hid there. The compulsion to be with him was too strong. She’d murder millions, perhaps billions if the infection got off-world. What a mess she’d gotten into.
Though all the pain and disgrace, she still could close her eyes and feel the heat of his touch and taste his lips. And damn, her body became aroused. Tesza slid her hand inside her blouse to touch the nipple that became hard. Gods she still wanted him.
She cupped the water and splashed it into her face. The image reflected back at her, bloodied, bruised and swollen. Nothing like the face she remembered. Even if she snuck into the encampment in High city, would he recognize her, want her with the way she looked?
Tesza slapped the water and screamed. How, how could she think about going back to him? She tilted her head back and glanced at the darkening sky through the canopy above. The flooding season was upon them. Soon the Kori encampment would be moving on and Ursus lost.
She’d see him one last time. Gods. She had to.
She’d back track and come through the underground. Tesza leapt over a fallen column. Bare feet left a bloody trail behind her. Bits of twigs and rocks stuck to her wounds, each step sent shooting pains up her legs.
“She’s this way. Follow the blood.”
Tesza paused and glanced over her shoulder, shadows danced along the side of a building. She dodged behind the corner of a partially collapsed wall, her chest rose and fell. They were getting too close. She couldn’t slip into the underground with them watching.
Bolts slammed into the ground off to the side, across the abandoned plaza.
“There’s another. Get her.”
Tesza narrowed her eyes. Another? Here? In daylight. Chances were good they’d kill her. No Kori had touched any of the carriers in years. Coming here didn’t make sense.
She sucked in a breath and backed away, stepping in a mud puddle, coating her feet in hopes of sealing them long enough to mask her retreat.
“No,” a young woman screamed. Tesza ducked low and watched as five Kori soldiers dragged her into the open. They looped cords over her wrists and fired their grappling clamps into a building and tree on either side of her. Tesza found herself entranced. They’d touched her?
The cords snapped tight, yanking her limbs straight. The sounds of cracking bone and shrieking filled the clearing. The force of the cables lifted the woman’s feet off the ground. Blood poured from cuts around her hands. She threw her head back and howled.
“Shut her up.”
One of the soldiers ripped her shirt down the front and tore it from her body. He balled it up, grabbed her hair and yanked her head back, stuffing the wad into her mouth.
Tesza froze. This was what she was supposed to have done. Let the animals touch her, give them the infection.
No matter the brutality of the situation before her, Tesza couldn’t bring herself to move from where she sat. Lure them away, stop them. The woman would probably hate her if she did.
She wondered why she pitied them the end that was coming. They may think they’d control with the Red-Clan woman strung up, at their mercy. But they didn’t. The woman knew this.
Skin stretched tight, showing the disconnected joints, enhancing the ball parts of the woman’s sockets. The pain had to be unbearable, but she didn’t fight. She didn’t kick or make any attempt to stop the direction in which the situation traveled.
“Do you suppose they can really drain our lives?” A soldier asked, sticking the tip of his lazr’ under her jaw.
The woman’s eyes watered, but she did her best to look brave, unaffected. She knew what she had to do. The mark on her cheek said it all. She was one of them, one like Tesza. Raised from childhood to be a carrier. Did she worry about the innocents as Tesza had? She made eye contact. No. She was ready to die to do what she must.
Tesza’s heart raced. She should stop this. They didn’t know what they were about to do. She steadied herself, took a deep breath and rose from her position. The soldiers were too occupied to notice.
The Red-Clan woman shook her head, warning her back, making it clear she didn’t want this stopped. The look on her face, branded Tesza a traitor.
“I say we have some fun. There’s nobody here to stop us and I think the stories of soul-sucking are just that. The Butcher touched one and lives. He touched six and nothing happened. What do you say? Is it a story to keep us from touching Kalos’s females,” the soldier asked the helpless woman.
She turned her head from him.
Tesza bit her lip. She could stop this, step into the clearing, lure them away. No one deserved to die like that. The woman made eye contact again.
The soldier unbuttoned her pants while she hung helpless before him. He yanked them down and used his knife to cut the fabric away, leaving her hanging naked except for her boots.
“Pretty for an evil bitch.” He shoved her and she swung back and forth on her dislocated arms. Tesza could hear the cries through the gag. Gods. They were going to do it.
“I still have my soul, whore. You can’t do it, can you?” The man reached for his belt and a blue bolt flew past him, hitting the woman. The soldier stumbled back and fell to the brick that paved the courtyard. The hanging woman lit and disintegrated, leaving only a pile of ash. The cables whipped loose through the air. One slammed into the building next to where Tesza watched, exploding part of the plaster wall. She dropped, covering her head, hoping they didn’t look in her direction.
“What’s going on here?”
Tesza’s head snapped up. A tall man in the uniform of an officer, walked into the clearing. He had a lazr’ pointed at the soldier on the ground.
Tesza caught the insignia on his collar and bit down on her lip harder, drawing blood. Colonel Pilot Calla. Walking evil. A horrific legend among the clans. His men slaughtered more of her people than any other Kori division.
“We were about to torture her for information.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me.” The officer squeezed the trigger and turned the soldier on the ground to dust. “Now, do one of you want to tell me what was really going on here?”
One of the soldiers opened his mouth and the officer spun on him before he got a word out. “Rape,” Col Calla said.
“Going to rape the wretched creature.”
More soldiers entered the clearing surrounding the group. “Do you know the penalty for this? For even touching one of them?”
“She was nothing but a Kalos bitch.”
“You didn’t address me as sir.” The officer raised his lazr’ and fired. The man dissolved. “I don’t tolerate disobedience within the ranks.” He turned his weapon on another and glanced over at the cable attached to the tree. “String them up like they did the Kalos whore. I want a visual reminder for those that think they can make their own laws. They’ll hang until they die.”
He spun on his heel to leave and stopped cold. His gaze riveted down to Tesza. “Well, what do we have here?”