Excerpt: Voyage of the Valrhysians

Here is a snippet of a Space Frontier romance I am working on. The Valrhysians leave their homeworld for the Space Frontier following a civil war.

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Chapter One

Rated R

Ronan needed to get away. His brother Roel’s body lay in state in the King’s chapel, looking far too young to have his life over. Mother, dressed in floating black, so unlike her bright florals, was in constant attendance as were most of his brothers, those at least unlucky to find ‘emergency’ work. And since his own work was miles off planet in the space station docking bay, he had nothing to do. His hands were idle; that made him tense.

Rilian was the luckiest there, since his work with Saragnza earth wards kept him busy as they warded all the traitors’ lands against them, making it harder for them to hide.

Rees his youngest brother, was also lucky; as boon companion to the hero of the battle, he spent most of his time accompanied by his sweetheart Michonne, in the Infirmary where Tarrel was recuperating from his winning duel with the traitor Vegrish. Rainie, now formally betrothed to Tarrel, was also there, though with that pregnant belly they should already be wed.

After the funeral, Mother said. Right after the funeral, if he and his brothers had anything to say about it. His father just looked amused at their insistence. “Tarrel not marrying your sister is the least of my worries. You have seen them together, have you not?”

He had. Made him a little queasy to see his baby sister wrapped around the boy.

The palace was full to bursting since so many noble families could still be in danger by the remnants of the Blood Hand army. They had all moved in, sleeping four to a room, which was a little amusing considering the wealth of the noble familes. But the crowd was oppressive, emotions ran high everywhere and Ronan found the bouts of laughter, the storms of anger, the copious weeping, exhausting.

As a mechanical engineer on the Sarganza spacedock, he was used to spending hours alone, this constant crush of people was irritating, especially now that he wanted to be alone somewhere in his grief.

He sought the stables. Not the King’s stables with the steeds of the nobles. Instead he sought the carter’s stable. Big heavy Sarganza horses in plain stalls with minimal attendants. And no one bothered him. His red wavy  hair was well known throughout the land, Valrhysian hair, so people everywhere he went tried to figure out which son he was. Annoying.. None but family had the same shade, thickness or shine, it was unique to the clan. Since the war went to Tarrel, the Valrhysian clan was now at the top of the nobility heap, since Tarrel had fostered with them since childhood.

In one of the back stalls he found a girl brushing a long haired goatlet, accompanied by two herd vrills. Three other goatlets were already done, their hair divided into braids and tied with twine, and a few more waited for their turn.

“Hello.”

She blushed. With her round baby face and snub nose, she was not a fashionable beauty, but she had stunning eyes of caramel brown, surrounded by lashes so long they looked fake. He recognised her after a bit. Grannik’s granddaughter, from the estate that bordered Valrhysian land to the north.

“Hello.” Her voice was feminine and had a sweet quality that made him take second look. She was small and round, wearing a baggy grey gown, suitable for this mourning period.  Her hair was dark and pulled back plainly. She’d been chubby as a child but he suspected now she probably had a fashionably full figure. “I am Ronan Valrhysian. I just was looking for a quiet spot.”

She smiled a little. “I am Sahanna Bo, granddaughter of Grannik Bo. Our lands border.” She looked him directly in the eye. “I am very sorry about Roel. He was two years ahead of me in school. He and Rixby, well, everyone know who they were. I hope Rixby is going to be all right.”

Ronan swallowed hard over the sudden lump in his throat, thinking of his shattered brother Rixby, who had lost his identical twin.              .

“I hope so too. They were never apart even for a day.”

She nodded and went back to the rhythmic brushing.

“Do you mind if I stay here  awhile?”

“No. It is nice here. Quiet.”

“May I help?”

She smiled without speaking and handed him a hand brush. She snapped her fingers and the two herd vrills fuzzy ears perked up and leathery wings unfurled. “Bring Misty.”

The vrills flapped over to a pale grey goatlet, teamed up behind the goatlet and herded it to Sahanna with small nips and nudges to its hind quarters.

“Did you train the vrills yourself? They know the goatlets by name?”

“Yes, with some help from our head herder. He doesn’t use names, just color, but my herd is small so I gave them names.”

The  grey cloud of hair approached her. “She likes to be brushed. I had a stable hand bring them to me in a cart, since we might not be home for a while. They will need clipped before then.”

“Do you do it yourself?” He grabbed a handful of the fine, silky hair and began to stroke with the brush slowly, as she did.

“Yes, I selected the goatlets with the finest hair and had them pastured together. I process their wool myself for projects I do. I’d like to breed them for their coats.”

They brushed the goats and he braided sections like she did. Her hands were mobile and agile.

“You helped the healer during the battle,” he said. “I remember now I saw you caring for friends of mine.”

“I did minor things, ointments and bandages, sutured wounds that were small.”

“You sewed my brother’s hand.”

“Rees? Yes. I knew him in school. I am in Rainie’s class.” She paused. “We didn’t have many classes together, but Rainie was kind. She gave me her older textbooks so I could see what the other classes were like.”

“You only took traditional classes?” Back in his school days they made fun of those girls, daughters of traditional clans, who usually left school young for marriage and motherhood, taking classes on household management and textile care.

“Yes. But my betrothed was killed in the wars, so I was allowed to finish school.”

“I see. I suppose your grandfather is working on a new marriage contract?”

She nodded, wrinkling her nose. “Since Hervy died, he has decided it was because he was young and foolish, so now he is looking at older men.”

“Hervy Goodwin?”

She nodded. “I only met him once, at our contract settlement. He died at Breed’s Creek a month later. I’m sorry he died, but I didn’t really know him.” She tied a piece of twine around a braid. “But at least he was young. He didn’t seem mean.”

“You think your grandfather would marry you to someone mean?”

He was appalled at the idea. His parents would gut anyone who was mean to Rainie. Sahanna flicked a glance at him and shrugged. “If the price was right, he would. None of them seem mean though. Just old and cranky.”

It was hard to imagine being forced to wed, but Sahanna didn’t seem too upset. He was glad. Honestly, he was not up to a maiden rescue right now. She was restful in the midst of all this chaos. He met her every afternoon until the funerals. Nothing carnal— she was the age of his little sister! Just small talk and goatling care.

***

The funeral was a pompous  affair of the noble family members lost in the war’s final battle. Final until the Blood Hand had a few years to regroup, Ronan thought. He wished it could be just family. That was how they had always lived, as a large rambunctious family in their old cobbled together manor out in the country, far from the King’ palace. Father said they would have a private ceremony at home. This was just one more thing they had to endure.

The day of the funeral was hard. He hated every minute of it, especially the pale, lost face  of Rixby. Tarrell was up but moving slowly, still recovering from a battle wound, but he would fully recover. After the funeral Father put Mother and Rixby to bed with a sedative.  Rainie and Terral went to their room— his parents let them share even though they were not yet wed.  Rees was with Michonne, his sweetheart. Rilian and Alette disappeared into their private room.

Ronan was restless. He had no desire to go down to the banquet. They had stayed just long enough for the formalities, but father wanted to get mother somewhere quiet. Rees and Michonne intended to drink, by the look of the bottles they were putting on the table. Not a bad idea.

Ronan grabbed a bottle of Stellar Mist and headed to the stables.

After the funerals Sahanna was expected to go to her room. There would be some heavy drinking tonight at the king’s expense and grandfather wanted her safely tucked away in bed. But it was only late afternoon, and her companion Cassandra was nowhere around, probably still at the banquet. Sahanna suspected she wanted to trap her widowed grandfather in marriage. Well, hopefully she would be wed and somewhere far away if that occurred.She grabbed her crochet bag, slipped out the door and headed for the stables.

Maybe Ronan would visit. She would like to see him one more time before they traveled home. He would go back to his work on the space station, and she would marry Pomrey or old Lord Oates. She wished— no, there was no point in wishing. She learned that as a child. Her parents, for whatever reason, had set up a traditional guardianship with Grandfather. The world had changed, so many young women had autonomy. But some clans also kept the old laws,  those more traditional families like hers. Her life had been full of directions she  wouldn’t have picked if she’d had the choice. Ronan was something she had no choice about. Grandfather wanted someone rich. Not a second son of a family of modest means who worked on the space station for a living.

Ronan…she’d known at a glance he was a Valrhysian when he first showed up. Something in the square of their shoulders. And hair. They all had terrific hair, thick, shiny and curly, even if it wasn’t always the same color of blond. Rainie had silver blond waves to her butt and grey eyes, how perfect for someone named Rainie. The twins were caramel blond, worn collar length, with curl, Rixby clipped short, Rees usually hanging into his eyes. The oldest brother, Rilian, was the same shade as the twins, but wore his hair shoulder length. Ronan had butter blond curls, clipped short as the manner of military men, but he had dark eyes, like chocolate.

Sahanna had a crush on him, she knew that. But what could it hurt? In a few days she would be back to Grandfather’s estate and preparing to wed one of his old cronies. It would be a small, pleasant memory for the years ahead. She heard his step, already familiar to her, before the door of the stall opened. Goatlings, always affectionate, came up to greet him.

“I was hoping you would come,” she said quietly. “We are leaving soon and my goatlets will be carted back tomorrow.”

He slid gracefully to the straw next to her. “We are staying two more weeks. The healers want to check Tarrel every couple days, and he has a great deal of estate business go over. But most people are leaving so the palace will be less crowded.”

He opened the bottle and took a swig. “Want some?”

She grinned. “Young ladies of good family are not supposed to drink hard spirits.”

He grinned back at her. “I’ll never tell.”

She took the bottle and the cold liquid burned in her mouth, but she took a good swallow. She coughed and sputtered and he laughed. “Ugh. You like this? It tastes like paint remover.”

He grinned. “Well. you don’t drink it for the taste.”

*~*

Three swigs later and a few chuckles Ronan’s stomach unclenched. She was so cute when she took a sip. The face she made!

Her formal black gown had a black satin bodice, and her breasts were hard to miss, high, with deep cleavage showing under the black lace shawl. Her vrills were sitting on her lap, curled together, napping.

“It is strong. I am used to wine.”

“Yes. I may drink it here and spend the night with the goatlets. Avoid the crowd.” He took another swig. “How did you get away from the banquet? Your grandfather is seated at the King’s table.”

“He sent me and my companion to our rooms. My companion slipped away. I tucked some pillows under my blankets in case she checks, but I think I have several hours of freedom.What about your family?”

“Father put mother and Rixby to bed with sleeping draughts. Rillian disappeared with his  lovely wife. Rees and Michonne are playing dice. I think they plan to drink. I know her mother thinks she is staying over with Rainie, but Rainie is already tucked in bed with Tarrel.You know she is pregnant? They will be wed as soon as we return home.”

“They were always sweet on each other. I believe they will be happy.”

“Did you know he inherited five estates? The bankers will need him to spend days going over his accounts and holdings. Only the king owns more land.”

Sahanna frowned. “I hope the king does not see him as a rival. I would hope for days of peace now that the Usurper is dead.”

“Me too. I missed most of the war, being up on the space station. My military assignment was there, and then I got out and took a private job. It was business as usual up there.”

“You miss it.”

“I miss working with my hands, I get tense, there is nothing to do. And I am used to working alone, in quiet. I do maintenance in engineering. All these people drive me nuts. The only thing I have done since the battle was brush your goatlets.”

His hand were gripping the bottle so tight. Sahanna reached out and drew a caressing touch over his fingers, to comfort him. He wasn’t prepared for the magnetic quality of her touch on his skin. Softer than he expected. Hot.

He dropped the bottle and pulled her against him, his lips finding hers, hard but not so hard that he might scare her. Her lips were so sweet, soft. Her hands crept around his neck and at his tongue’s insistence she opened her mouth. His head spun out of control and his already hard cock throbbed with heat. A moment later the laces on her bodice were loose, his mouth finding her delicious pink nipples, her hands removing his shirt until they were naked, skin to skin, his heavy erection throbbing against her belly, and then there was the tight uncomfortable, breathless moment where he crooned to her, stroking her hair and pressing soft kisses all over her face until the tension in her body relaxed,and he was in her, deep and strong.

Ronan had a hard time getting to sleep despite the alcohol. He worried about Sahanna. What an idiot, to take her there in the stable.  Desire swept through him again. He hoped she was all right. They took no precautions. And here he’s been thinking dark thoughts about Tarrel and his sister. At least Tarrel was a kid like her, not some older guy who should be smarter. Sahanna was going to meet him at a sandy cove on Beech Creek in three days. If something happened they would deal with it then.

In the middle of the night he walked on unsteady legs back to the family suite in the palace. He passed the guards and headed toward his room and a hot shower.

There was a thunk followed by a woman’s cry. Rainie? Had Tarrel fallen? He ran down the hall. Rees and Rixby right behind them. “Rainie, Rainie!”

He had to kick down the door.

Rainie stood at the open window, shooting a plasma bow into the dark night while Tarrel lay on the floor, a bloody gash on his head.

Ronan rushed to grab the bow.

“No, I’ve got it,” Rainie snapped. She drew the string and an arrow whizzed through the air, down to the courtyard, lighting a path as it flew right through the thigh of a man running away.

Where had his baby sister learned to shoot like that?

Rainie whirled on them. “Go! Get the men I shot and get a healer here.” She dropped down on the floor next to Tarrel, who was conscious.

 

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