posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:08:49 PM
Title: Kalila
Rating: R to NC-17
Author: Nicole
Disclaimer: ROSWELL does not belong to me.
Summary: Past life fic. Zan falls in love with Kalila, it starts a war. How the Pod Squad came to be on Earth.
Kalilabanner-vi

Kalila

First of all, character list:

Main Characters:
Liz Parker is Kalila (means "well-loved")
Max Evans is Zan (means "one who protects mankind")
Kivar (means "intelligent")

Secondary Characters:
Maria DeLuca is Ria (means "graceful")
Michael Guerin is Rath (means "quick and agile wolf")
Isabel Evans is Vilandra (means "light sky")
Nicholas Crawford is Niko (means "those who conquer")
Tess Harding is Ava (means "spring")
Tynan (means "dark")
Ariann (means "full of grace and mercy")
Alex Whitman is Lexus (means "helper")
Kyle Valenti is Kayl (means "one who is handsome")
Serena (means “calm”)

Minor Characters:
Thane (means “king’s follower”)
Kathana (means "pure")
Larak (means "one who is crowned")
Courtney Banks is Cora (means “maiden”)
Nasedo is Nero (means “swimmer”)
Kal Langley is Kalib (means “one who is faithful and bold”)
Vanessa Whittaker is Vanea (means “white wave”)

Mentionables:
Ryley (means “courageous”)
Maxim (means “superior”)
Sero (means "blue-eyed ruler")
Hannar (means "merciful")
Ida Crawford is Idelle (means “industrious”)
T. Greer is Gren (means “watchful one”)
Walt Crawford is Wallache (means “stranger”)
Carlin (means “strong”)
Hal Carver (means “a robust and sturdy man”)
Galen (means “wise healer”)
Chordae (means “womanly”)
Briant (means “a strong leader with power and virtue”)
Shane (means “peaceable”)


[ edited 7 time(s), last at 1-Sep-2002 8:12:38 PM ]
posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:11:14 PM
KALILA Prologue

He rode his Gem horse through the dusty streets of the Zion province. It was the last of the eight provinces the new Emperor of Paerhna had to visit. His journeys to the previous seven had been most rewarding. He had succeeded in gaining support for the rebellion against Antar from the governors.

He had also managed to re-establish the traditional wife-giving ceremony, and had seven of the most exquisite specimens of femininity available already on their way back to his palace, to form a harem.

Now he was on his way to see Thane, governor of Zion. He had heard the man was fair and just, but weak. He would be easily persuaded to join the uprising. He might also be persuaded to provide adequate mounts for Paerhna’s warriors, seeing as Zion had the largest supply of Gems in the universe. Yes, Kivar thought, this province would be highly profitable.

He glanced lazily around the crowded market area, not noticing the lowly people rushing to get out of his way. His violet gaze skittered over small shops and loud merchants, and came to a sudden stop on a pair of girls.

One was fairly tall, possibly seventeen, with light brown hair that was almost a dark, dirty blond, and dark gray eyes. She was pretty, he supposed, but he bypassed her immediately. She was nothing compared to the vision beside her.

He felt a tightening in his loins as he watched the petite girl avidly. She was gorgeous. Utter perfection. Dark, rich, lustrous brown hair fell to her mid-back, deep brown eyes glittered in the sunlight, full lips begged to be kissed…But she looked so young.

He decided her age was of no consequence. Maturity would come, and he would be there every step of the way, molding her into the perfect companion, the perfect wife…

The perfect Queen.

He turned to the escort Thane had provided. “Who is that?” he demanded, pointing to the girl.
*~*~*

He followed the direction the Emperor’s finger was aimed at and saw the two girls. He figured Kivar was asking about Serena, the province’s beauty. He paused a moment to admire the long clean lines and ripe curves of the older girl, before answering Kivar.

“That is Serena and her sister. They’re the governor’s daughters,” he paused, then added, “Sweet girls, best in the province.” He nodded, secure in the knowledge that he had helped his Emperor.

“Really?” Kivar said, though it really wasn’t a question, “That’s interesting.”

He prodded his horse faster and the guard had to scramble to catch up, wondering the whole time why the Emperor looked so speculative.
*~*~*

“Do you understand my point of view, Governor Thane?”

“Yes, your Imperial Highness,” he responded eagerly, “Those Antarians need to be shown what for! I’d be honored to participate in disposing of that smug Tynan.”

Kivar smiled at him, and Thane began to feel that thrill of pride in serving his Emperor. He hadn’t had that feeling since becoming governor ten years ago. He fully admired the new ruler and was extremely pleased to be included in these plans of his.

“I thank you for your support Thane. But I’m sure you realize that as a new leader, I’ll need certain…reassurances, from the provinces.”

“Reassurances?” Thane questioned uneasily. What sort of reassurances was he talking about?

“Oh, don’t worry, nothing big,” Kivar said smoothly, assuaging the governor’s fears. Thane began to relax slightly, but tensed back up at the Emperor’s next words: “They’re just in exchange for protection.”

“Protection?” he asked guardedly.

“It’s a large world, war can sometimes…blur the lines between friend and foe. Personal guards stationed around could prevent a misidentification or an ill-fated incident,” he leaned forward, “Are you catching my drift Governor?”

“Y-yes, your Highness.” He cleared his throat, “What would reassure you of Zion’s loyalty?” Kivar smiled.

“That’s really, very easy. I simply wish to take possession of your daughter, Serena. She will become one of my wives, join the harem at the palace. I assure you, she will have the best of everything: food, lodgings, clothing, whatever her heart desires.”

Serena, Thane thought dully. This might not bode well for Zion. “I’m afraid that is quite impossible, sir, Serena is already betrothed.”

“Betrothed?” the Emperor frowned deeply, unnerving the governor.

“Yes, to a lord on Vaina. It would not be wise to break the intended marriage.” He sincerely hoped the Emperor would not push the issue. The up-coming nuptials would form a good alliance that, if Kivar’s plan did not succeed, might be useful.

“Well,” Kivar’s voice was dripping with fake sympathy, “That is unfortunate for you. Isn’t it governor?”

He felt his eyes widen in distress as the Emperor rose to leave. This would not do. He could not afford to alienate his ruler. “Wait,” he called, nearly frantic. Kivar turned, iced amethyst eyes watching him impatiently.

“What?”

“Mayhap…Mayhap we could strike a different bargain?” he suggested desperately.

He raised an eyebrow at the plea. “Very well,” he offered, “What do you have in mind?”

Thane thought quickly. “Wha-what if you took my second daughter instead.”

The intrigue in the purple eyes faded. “Is that it? From what I’ve seen, you’re other daughter is not worth my time.”

He gritted his teeth at the insult, but knew he couldn’t afford to offend the Emperor. “I’ll add a hundred Gems to sweeten the deal.”

Kivar appeared to contemplate the addition. He looked to be on the verge of saying ‘no’, but he couldn’t fool Thane. The governor knew that the horses were going to be needed. There was no way Kivar wouldn’t accept the gift of one hundred Gems, if he did, it would end up doing more harm than good.

“Very well. I’ll expect the horses along with the girl in two weeks. Good-day governor, it was a pleasure doing business with you.” He gave a fake smile and swept out the door, leaving behind a very stressed Thane.

“What have I done?” he asked himself wearily, picturing his small daughter in the arms of a man like that. He rose from his seat, a man with an unwanted burden, and prepared himself for carrying out the distasteful task.

He would have to tell his beloved child of her fate.
*~*~*

Kivar descended out to the gates of the palace in a foul mood. Today was the day that chit came from Zion. Imagine the nerve of that governor to even think a substitute would take the place of his dark-haired desire. Like he would even touch the dirty-haired sister! Although, the horses would serve him well. That, at least, was something.

He vaguely heard the guardians announcing his presence to the caravan from Zion, but the one thing that brought him from the dark depression was the sound of a low musical inquiry. He looked up, and stood stock still, hoping beyond hope that the sight before him was not a hallucination. Turns out it wasn’t.

The tiny brunette before him was very, very real. He wondered if the betrothal had fallen through or if Thane had just changed his mind. But it didn’t matter, he had his beauty, and that was what counted.

She curtseyed deeply, cleared her throat, and looked him straight in the eye. He found himself enveloped in the darkness. “Your Imperial Majesty,” she began, the speech obviously rehearsed, “My father, the Governor of Zion, Thane, has asked me to convey his deepest apologies that my sister, Serena, was unable to comply with his Majesty’s request. He asks instead that you be kind enough to accept the gift of myself, his youngest daughter, and the one hundred Gem horses agreed upon previously. My father humbly begs forgiveness and, in no way, wishes to displease his ruler. Thank you.” She curtseyed again.

He smiled, finding her completely enchanting, and stepped forward. “My dear, I am happy to accept your father’s offer, and I would like to welcome you to your new home.” He extended his arm, reveling in the warmth she gave off as she took it, and proceeded to lead her into the palace.

“I don’t believe you’ve told me your name, little one?” he said gently. He looked at her sideways, watching as a blush overtook smooth cheeks.

“I am called Kalila, your Highness.”
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:12:20 PM
KALILA 1

History Lesson: The Five Planet Alliance consists of the five inhabited planets in the Whirlwind Galaxy. Dagon is headed by Larak, Vaina by Sero, Claren by Hannar, Gorganin by Kathana, and Antar by King Tynan, to be succeeded by Crown Prince Zan. Antar is split into two portions; that of rich, fertile lands, and that of desert land. The desert portion is known as Paerhna, and is ruled over by Emperor Kivar (but Kivar is subject to Tynan). In Paerhna, there are eight governors, one for each of the divided provinces (to make sure Kivar doesn't have total power, but, there's a catch...). The Paerhnians are fed up with the Antarians, they want the good land, and stable environment, and they certainly do not want to put up with the overbearing Tynan as head of the planet.
*~*~*

The Emperor Kivar of Paerhna was on his usual rounds of the palace grounds, all the while plotting an attack on the neighboring kingdom of Antar. Paerhna was a desert kingdom, and the resources were all going into military and defense. Antar was rich, in resources as well as wealth, and Kivar wanted it.

He also had a fierce desire for the Princess Vilandra, but that was easily sated. However, at the thought of the beautiful blond warrior princess, also came thought of his wives. He decided to take a break at his royal harem before continuing on to the city.

He entered quietly, watching as each of his most treasured possessions went about their daily activities. He had eight wives, every one the most alluring in their respective provinces. They had been given as gifts to their Emperor by each province's governor in return for protection once the wars started, as they most certainly would.

One was bathing, water dripping down luscious curves, two were primping in front of gilded mirrors, two more were pampering each other, doing hair and nails, another was dancing, while the seventh clapped delightedly and selected more fruit from the dish beside her. He looked around for his eighth and most-beloved wife.

She was sitting on a windowsill, watching the last of the suns set. The colors caressing her face, making her glow. he sighed, loving to watch her. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted Vilandra, and that was saying something.

But he had never touched her.

Kalila was young, only fourteen when she had first come to stay a year ago. He had fallen in love with her then, but had been afraid to tell her. He didn't want to scare her, so he merely spent as much time as possible in her presence, trying to make her comfortable with the idea of being married to him. He took her on long walks, asked her opinions on certain matters, and held intelligent, philosophical discussions with her. She was so serious and intense, and yet carefree and innocent at the same time. It was a stunning combination. She was the one person he valued more than himself. When he became King, she would rule beside him as Queen...

His daydreams were interrupted by excited whispers. Six of his wives gathered around him, chattering on and on about how he never came to visit anymore. The one bathing, Ria, gave him a sultry smile and wink as she stepped from the gigantic tub. She was another one he didn't touch, she was too feisty. He liked to be in control, and she didn't allow for it.

Kalila turned from the window and gave him a small smile, but it was obvious her mind was elsewhere. He felt a flash of jealousy for whatever had her attention, and gently disengaged himself from the clinging women to make his way toward her. He heard disgruntled mutterings from the background, but pushed them aside.

"What is so fascinating, little one?" he asked softly.

"The world," she replied, her voice equally as soft. "There is so much to be seen, and I have only been here in Paerhna. There are other kingdoms, other planets...There is a whole universe to explore, and I can do nothing about it." Her big brown eyes were filled with sadness. Something he had never wanted her to feel.

"We have been invited to a Summit in Antar. It is not much more than here, but it is the most I can do at this time. Would you like to come?"

It would be good for her to see more of the planet she would one day rule. She could not see all of the universe, he couldn't bear it if she were too far from him, but perhaps this trip would placate her.

"Yes!" she exclaimed, then, remembering decorum, lowered her voice, "Yes, I would like that very much." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Then, blushing, she slid away and hurried to help Ria dress. He stared after her, a dreamy smile playing about his lips.

He had Kalila, and soon he would have all of Antar.
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:13:11 PM
KALILA 2

She was in love. There was no doubt about it. She was lost the moment she set eyes upon it.

Antar. She had heard tales about it, mostly those of embittered traders, but nothing had prepared her for the real thing. The land was lush and fertile, and so green, she had never seen so much green...

She gave a small sigh of delight, which seem to capture his Imperial Highnesses' attention.

"It is beautiful, is it not?" She blushed at Kivar's question.

"I have never seen such beauty," she breathed, but then, afraid of offending him she added, "But Paerhna is still lovely, and it is-" She broke off at his chuckle.

"Do not worry of offending little one, I know Paerhna does not compare, but Antar is not the most beautiful thing I have ever seen." He was staring at her intently, and she again flushed. She did not understand his kindness toward her. His other wives were so much more gorgeous, especially Ria, but he never seemed to spend as much time with them. It was actually putting her in the bad graces of the other women...

Ria always laughed at that. She was Kalila's only friend in the harem. The bright, vivacious eighteen-year-old, with her flashing green eyes and long blond hair, Kalila had yet to figure out why she would chose to adopt a small, unworldly fifteen year old, but she wasn't complaining. Ria had told her stories every night when she first came, dispelling the homesickness for her small province of Zion, and still she stood up for her. Ria was the fire, and Kalila was the heart, and together they were an unbeatable team. Ria said the other wives were jealous, perhaps that's why they had started to shun them...

"Take the Gem Horses for instance," Kivar pointed out. She brought her full attention back to her Emperor, ashamed that she had let her mind wander while he was talking.

"Yes," she agreed hastily, "They are very beautiful." She glanced down at her own Gem, Ember. The mare's hide rippled gold to a deep, brick red with each step, like a flame flickering...

The Gem Horses were Paerhna's only real claim to fame. The horses were a rarity among the five planets. They could be found only in the Midlands of Paerhna, their colors reflecting each possible shade of the rainbow, ranging from red to black in the most glorifying arrangements. To see them from a distance was to see a veritable treasure chest of jewels, thereby receiving their name... The horses were wanted everywhere that was inhabited, but were only granted to a select few.

Ria pulled her own Esmeralda next to Kalila, "You wish to see beauty? Look before you." She pulled up, gasping in awe at the sight of the city before her, and did not notice Ria and Kivar exchange glances over her dark brown head. Ria's amused, Kivar's worried.

A large palace loomed over the surrounding area, giving off an air of protection and divine inspiration. The city itself was bustling with activity, people calling out greetings, haggling over prices...She glanced to and fro in wonderment, she had never seen so many people! Ria laughed at her and Kalila looked at her sheepishly.

"What?" she asked defensively.

"Nothing, little one," Ria responded, using Kalila's nickname, "I just cannot wait to see your reaction to the inside of the palace. But do not worry, I will help you pick your eyes and jaw off the polished marble floor." Kalila glared at her friend and then started to giggle.

"Shush, we're here!" one of the others hissed. Kalila quieted immediately, suitably chastised, but Ria kept on giggling and stuck her tongue out at the wife.

"Emperor Kivar! We are so pleased to welcome you to the capital!" The voice was seductive, designed to melt hearts. Kalila peered curiously at the owner.

A woman, no more than twenty, with dark blond hair, twinkling brown eyes, and a perfect smile. "The Princess Vilandra," Ria informed her as Kivar dismounted and kissed the lady's hand, exchanging pleasantries. "They're having an affair."

Kalila looked up at Ria, startled, and then looked back to the two lovers. Vilandra was beautiful, Kivar was naturally attracted to such, and he himself was quite handsome. His hair a bleached blond from the sun, eyes a vivid violet, an Emperor...Yes, they were a perfect pair.

She sighed longingly, wanting someone to love.

"Come, let the footmen take your horses, rooms have been arranged for your use, I will escort you myself." The Princess hooked her arm into Kivar's and began leading him away. The harem followed dutifully.

Kalila was a trifle dismayed at herself, her jaw did drop at the sheer loveliness of this paradise, and Ria, of course, laughed at her.
*~*~*

"Hurry, little one," she urged, "We must prepare for dinner."

"I am hurrying," Kalila argued, pulling on the dark red outfit. She moved to help Ria fasten her sheer green veil, and then Ria returned the favor.

As she snapped the last gold clip into the masses of silky hair, Ria pointed out lightly, "The Prince is to be at the dinner, I've heard tell he's the most handsome man in all the known universe. Comparable even to the god Eros himself!"

"Ria!" Kalila gasped, scandalized, "That's sacrilegious! Besides, no man can be that beautiful."

"We'll see, little one, we'll see."
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:15:48 PM
KALILA 3

Small note: the table is round, so everyone can look into each other's eyes. King Tynan is at what could be considered the "head" of the table, Zan is to his right, Ariann to the left. Vilandra after Ariann, Kivar after Vilandra, followed by Kalila, Ria, 1st wife, 2nd wife, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th, all the way to Rath, who is next to Zan.
*~*~*

The Crown Prince Zan of Antar followed his father and mother to the dining hall. His best friend and second in command, Rath, walking beside him. His sister was already with their guests.

Guests. He felt like laughing. The Paerhnians were neither guests nor friends, but had to be treated as such. His father had explained the matter in detail.

This Summit was to end in an agreement between Kivar and Tynan to stop the raiding on the border. Kivar would have to keep better tabs on his people, or a war would break out, and war was something that could not be afforded.

"Oh!" The small group came to an abrupt halt in front of the entrance to the hall.

"What is the matter Mother?" The High Queen Ariann turned to her son and his friend.

"Yes, Ariann," the king said impatiently, "What is it?"

"Hush, Tynan, this is a matter of etiquette. Boys, the Emperor has brought with him an entourage, including his wives. Now I realize that the concept of multiple marriages is intriguing as well as..." she paused, searching for the right word, "...odd, but it happens. Each of the eight women will be joining us for dinner. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT look any one of them in the eye. You will be given the girl as a gift. As tempting as it sounds, and as beautiful as the girls may be... Don't do it! UNDERSTAND?"

"Yes, Mother." "Yes, Majesty." The young men responded in unison.

She nodded in satisfaction and gestured for the herald to announce them. The room before them fell silent as they entered, and presented to his eyes was the enemy of his people.

Kivar.

Zan inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement to the bow. He sat in his designated seat next to his father and Rath, and studied the man across from him closely.

Kivar was fairly tall, white-blond hair, and piercing purple eyes. He seemed to be always smiling, but it never reached his eyes. The man gave off an air of easiness, cloaking a devious mind.

He would have to be watched.

His eyes swept over the table, not meeting the gaze of the women, except his sister's, but she was not paying attention to him. All of it, in fact, was focused on the spider beside her. He frowned, not liking the implications. He did not wish to distrust Vilandra. She was his confidant. He told her things he couldn't even tell Rath, he didn't want that camaraderie to disappear into a tangled web of lies...

The table count registered. Two people, two wives, were missing. And by the quick glances and small frown on Kivar's face, this worried him. But the expression cleared instantly into a soft smile, a real smile, as girlish giggles were heard from the halls.
*~*~*

He relaxed immediately as soon as he heard her sweet laughter, his worry at her disappearance was starting to show through, and weakness in front of an enemy wasn't condoned.

The door opened quietly, and in sauntered the unrepentant Ria and a meek Kalila. He drew in a breath sharply at the sight of his beloved, and consciously willed himself back under control. He could not betray himself now.

But she was so lovely. The silk outfit clung to curves, and the gauzy red floated dreamily about her, making her skin glow. The gold jewelry chimed softly as she moved, emphasizing her grace...

"Where have you been?" he demanded, directing his attention on the green-clad Ria. Kalila must have read his displeasure, because she stepped forward quickly.

"It was my fault, your Highness," she stated in that breathy, earnest voice of her, "I was overwhelmed by everything, and took longer than necessary to dress. Ria stayed behind to help me, she isn't to blame. Honest."

He couldn't help but give in, and he felt his face soften. "See that it does not happen again." He rose, holding out the chair for her, which she sat in gratefully, eyes downcast. Ria just plopped down and winked at him, her sassiness never quenched. He re-seated himself, only to look up in alarm at Kalila's gasp.

She had been amazed by the sheer beauty and power in Antar so far, staring wide-eyed at nearly everything, but he had never heard such an awed sound come from her. And, as he found out the reason, he wished he never had.

Kalila was staring straight at Zan, and he was staring right back.
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:17:00 PM
KALILA 4

By Eros! she thought, No man can be that beautiful! But he was. She had no idea who he was, but she knew he was the most handsome man in the universe.

She could see well-defined muscles hidden beneath a loose shirt, strong shoulders, thick black hair, straight nose, sensual lips, and soulful golden-brown eyes. Oh Eros, those eyes...

Kalila quickly realized her blunder. She was looking into a man’s eyes. A man who was definitely not Kivar. She trained her eyes on the golden plate ware in front of her, praying no one had seen her staring.

But how could they not? It was so blatantly obvious, and someone had seen. Kivar’s next words recognized all her fears.

“Do you find my wife very fascinating, Commander Rath?” She looked at her husband fearfully, and then realized he was not addressing her god, but the spiky-haired man next to him. She had not noticed him before.

“Well…Well…” The man called Rath stuttered, “She’s um, she’s very…lovely.” He finished lamely. Kalila couldn’t help a small smile as he turned red.

“Lovely,” Ria whispered in her ear, sounding a bit offended, “I’m more than lovely. You think he’d at least use spectacularly beautiful, but he obviously doesn’t have that extensive of a vocabulary.”

“Ria,” Kalila scolded softly, glancing around to make sure no one had heard. They hadn’t. Everyone was focused on the conversation between Ria’s admirer and Kivar, except…

He was looking at her!

Kalila felt her heart speed up, and her body started to heat up…She wanted to drown in those eyes…

But she couldn’t. She would not shame Kivar, no matter how much she wanted to be with Zan. That had to be who he was, the Crown Prince of Antar, if the other man was the second-in-command…And he fit Ria’s description perfectly…No! Kivar had been kind to her, he deserved her loyalty, so…She averted her eyes.

“Please accept her as a gift.”

“Oh. Oh no, I couldn’t possibly deprive you of-“

“Nonsense,” Kivar waved away his protests, “She will be replaced as soon as we return to Paerhna.” He glanced at her, his purple eyes apologizing softly for the loss of her best friend.

“The Commander would be pleased to accept your offer, Kivar.” The queen’s tone held gracious acceptance, warmth toward her guest, a welcoming to Ria, and a warning directed at Rath.

“Yes, um, delighted,” he agreed, a bit reluctantly, but catching the queen’s reason for accepting. Kalila caught it, too. Ariann wished to avoid any confrontations that could lead to more serious problems at a later date. She was a true queen, so she accepted the unwanted offer for the reckless second.

“Ria, take your place beside your husband. We will perform the bonding ceremony after dinner.”

“Yes, Highness,” Ria, in an un-Ria-like manner, meekly replied.

Kalila stared at her friend in confusion. Ria squeezed her hand gently, looking at her in sympathy, and glided over to her new seat. Her eyes followed, she was at a loss.

Shifting slightly away from the other wife as she sat down, she felt a hand on hers. Kalila turned her head in surprise. Kivar was looking at her again, eyes silently begging her forgiveness.

She moved her hand from under his and went back to studying her plate, furious with his decision. She had lost her only friend. Now who was she to tell her secrets to? The other wives? She couldn’t, they detested her. Kalila felt tears well up and she met Ria’s gaze in helpless rage…
*~*~*

He couldn't stop watching at her. Try as he might, he just could not take his eyes off of her.

It didn't help that she was also sneaking glances at him. He felt caught in the dark depths of her eyes, freeing himself only when she looked away or Rath elbowed him.

He could hardly believe Kivar was taking no notice, when even someone who was definitely not the sharpest wit in the world did. It was unbelievable really.

He looked up again, meeting her stare for stare, but she diverted her eyes once more. He felt another sharp jab to his stomach, and decided it might be in his best interest, health wise, not to direct his eyes towards her.

Although, that might be exceedingly difficult, he thought, catching himself before his gaze landed on her yet again.

In fact, it might be well nigh impossible.
*~*~*

The ceremony was short, but she could feel his eyes on her the whole time. The intensity burning through her. She couldn't help it, she looked over at him. Zan’s golden-brown eyes widened, and he glanced away quickly, following his family to their quarters.

She shivered with the new sensations he had bestowed upon her. She didn’t know what was happening to her, but all her thoughts were of him as she flung herself onto her bed with a dreamy sigh. She didn’t even see Kivar speaking with the head wife, and glancing toward her every so often.

Turning over on her side, she opened her mouth to tell Ria of the feelings she was experiencing, of the fire running through her blood, threatening to melt her. Then she realized Ria was no longer in the harem.

She was all alone.
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:18:28 PM
KALILA 5

She followed him obediently, being the perfect wife. Or, at least pretending to be.

A smirk crossed raspberry lips as she sized him up. He was tall, muscles in all the right places, and his ass…

She was determined to have fun tonight. She hadn’t been with a man in two years! Kivar hadn’t appreciated it when she turned into a nympho. The man was too much of a control freak to attempt something new.

But thinking of Kivar brought her thoughts round to Kalila. The poor girl. Ria hoped she’d stay strong with only those annoying old hens as company. Maybe the new girl would take pity on the shy little one. Maybe the new girl would also take Kivar’s attention away.

She frowned. Kivar had ignored the goings-ons between Kalila and the Prince, focusing instead on her. That, of course, could be expected. Kivar wasn’t fond of her, and he absolutely adored Kalila… But to ignore tradition…

It could only mean one thing. Kivar was going to step up his courtship of her young charge.

The frown turned into a grimace at this. Kalila was only fifteen. She had left her province before she had a chance to discover the wonders of the male species. She had spent the past year in the harem, away from any males, except for Kivar’s occasional visit. She had no idea how to please a man. She was too innocent to understand what would happen.

Thoughts of Kalila came to a screeching halt as her new husband opened a door. He wasn’t looking at her, so she slowly stepped past him and into a large sitting room. She peered around, observing two more doors. One leading to a bathing room, and the other to a bedroom.

She headed to the bedroom.

Ria observed with pleasure a huge bed. A naughty grin crossed her face. It had better have a firm mattress. She erased the grin at the sound of him clearing his throat. Turning, she kept her gaze to the floor in a coy manner.

“Um…” he gulped, and started turning red. “Y…you can have the bed.” She nodded and sat down on the fluffy comforter. “I’m going to sleep on the couch.”

That wouldn’t do. Oh no, not at all. She wasn’t going to put up with not having his full lips on hers, or his big hands all over her body. Denying herself that would be too cruel. She needed a way to make him come to bed. Thinking quickly, she formulated a plan.

“But, my lord, the couch looked so uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you rather sleep in your bed?”

"Oh, um...But you're in it." Ria wanted to scream. Did the guy not get the point?!

"That would be the point, my lord. It's our wedding night. There are certain...things, a man should expect on his wedding night. No?"

"Oh." He turned even redder, and just sort of stared at her, speechless. She felt like smiling. He was just so cute! "But I hardly know you!" he burst out, "How can you want to do...I mean, with someone you don't...With me?"

Ria bit her bottom lip and fiddled with a catch of thread on the comforter. She looked up at him shyly from beneath lowered lashes.

"My lord, I am your wife. My main duty is to please you." She forced some tears. "If...If you do not want me. If I am not desirable to you, please tell me, and I will bother you no longer." She bowed her head and let the tears drip down her cheeks.

"No! It's not that," he said, coming closer to her. She held back a smirk. Guys just couldn't stand to see women cry.

"Than what?" She lifted her tear-streaked face to his unhappy one. He sighed and sat down next to her on the bed, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder, then she tilted her chin upwards.

"It'd be weird."

"Oh," she breathed quietly, the air expelled flitting across his cheek. He looked down at her in surprise, lips millimeters from her own, further implementing her plan.

"Yeah, so I'm just gonna go..." He trailed off, still staring at down at her, not moving.

"Will you kiss me goodnight?" she ventured. He nodded slightly, and brushed his lips against hers. The kiss was meant to be brief, but she wouldn't release him.

She kept the kiss going, and just when she was starting to give up, he began to reciprocate. Finally! she thought, smiling slightly against his lips. She deepened it, her tongue crashing against his, she pulled his into her mouth, and then began to pull away. He gave a slight groan of protest, and she knew she had him.
*~*~*

The attack came unexpectedly. One minute he was sitting, lip-locked with the golden-haired seductress, and the next thing he knew...

He was lying flat on his back, with her hovering over him. Her kisses came harder, became demanding. He no longer had any doubts about taking her and making her his own. The one thing he'd been wanting to do since he laid eyes on her.

He hadn't meant to do it. The queen's orders were strict, and he meant to follow them, he really did, but her fire-filled green eyes were something he couldn't resist. Then suddenly, BOOM, he was married.

And the green-eyed spitfire was straddling him, hands frantically ripping off his clothing. Of course, his hands were equally busy.

Her alabaster skin was soft underneath his fingertips, her soft moans were music to his ears, and he pulled her head down for a kiss. Apparently, she didn't agree with that.

She tore her lips from his, giving a low growl, as if to scold him, and trailed open-mouthed kisses down his neck. Her puffy lips and hot tongue made their way down his chest, over his abs, and down...

His hips bucked upward suddenly, against his will, and a laugh was her response. He took one look at her cocky smile, and realized that she'd planned this. Planned on making him lose control! The little...He'd show her who was boss...

Pleasure flared up, and the thought vanished. She had taken him in her without his knowledge! He groaned loudly at the feel of her silken walls tightening around him as she began to ride him. He watched her, straddled over him, pale skin a rosy pink color, eyes shut tightly in ecstasy, and then his eyes rolled back as more pleasure coursed through his body.

His hands cupped her breasts, marveling at the feel, and moved down to grasp her hips, pumping her faster. And then he realized what was happening.

He'd been with a lot of women, including Vilandra, who was definitely a tough act to follow, but none of them had made him feel this way. He was beginning to feel complete, in a way he'd never known before. The girl was taking him over.

Rath growled, and twisted her beneath him, pounding into her harder, increasing their pace. No woman got the better of him, not even this one. He felt her clamp down on him, and he released into her, repeating her name over and over against her neck as she screamed his name.

She buried her nose into his neck, and he could feel her smile. "Wow," she murmured.

"Yeah," he agreed. He reached down and pulled the covers up over their sweat-soaked bodies. He spooned her sleeping form against his, and started to nod off himself, one thought reverberating...

He liked being married.
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:20:48 PM
KALILA 6

Kalila relaxed slowly in the rose scented bath water, relishing the soothing quiet. Suddenly she felt hands in her hair. Jerking away, she crossed her arms in front of her chest and turned to face her attacker.

It was another wife.

"What're you doing?" she asked the woman. She wasn't sure who the wife was, having never bothered to learn names. When she had first inquired, only Ria had answered, the others had just ignored her.

"You must be properly bathed," she snapped.

"I am quite capable of bathing myself!"

"Not tonight!" The woman had a secret smile on her face. It was not a nice smile. "Kivar has ordered us to prepare you...specially."

"Prepare me for what?" She was curious, but had relaxed slightly. Kivar was nice, it couldn't be a bad thing if he was involved.

"Why!" the woman looked shocked. Of course, Kalila heard the mocking in her voice plain as day. "For your wedding night of course!"

What!! Kalila froze, eyes wide, totally numb.

"Come here!" the woman ordered, sneering down at her. Kalila moved unconsciously toward her, not aware of the vanilla shampoo being massaged into her hair, or of the soft sponge that ran over her body, or even of the other wives' tittering.

Wedding night?
*~*~*

Zan tossed over again, sighed heavily, and finally gave up on the concept of sleep. He couldn't get that girl out of his head.

He kept fantasizing about taking that sheer red veil off, of covering those pouty lips with his own, of her silky brown hair tumbling down from clips...brushing seductively against his hands and bare chest...Of taking each skimpy piece of cloth off her glowing body, and running his hands and lips over the soft skin revealed. He let a soft moan escape his lips, unable to stop imagining the taste of her sweet skin.

Stop. He had to stop. There was no way he could be fantasizing about that girl. She was a wife of his enemy. A harem girl whose only job was to pleasure her husband.

He felt a murderous rage come over him at the thought of Kivar touching her. Of even looking at her...He wanted to rip the man apart limb by limb for what he was probably doing to her right now! Probably...

NO! Stop Zan, he ordered himself. He couldn't think about Kivar. Couldn't think about...her.

He smiled dreamily as his mind conjured up images of the tiny temptress. Again the fantasies came.

He saw himself laying her down on his bed, covering her. He could feel her small body beneath him, her soft lips pressing wherever they could reach...Her hands running up and down his back. He could hear her quiet, mewling cries of pleasure, driving him insane...Practically see her big brown eyes widen as he slid gently into her. Her eyes...

That had been his mistake. He had looked into her eyes. The one thing his mother had warned him against, but the dark orbs had drawn him in, captivating him, making him hers. He hadn't been able to look away.

Zan was incredibly surprised when they weren't caught. It had been so obvious...

Not that he would have minded being given her as a gift. No, he wouldn't have minded at all...

Frustrated, he grabbed some clothes and threw them on. He decided to take a walk in the gardens. He needed to clear his head of thoughts of her, and his bedroom wasn't the best place to do that. The tranquility the gardens provided would be a much better environment.
*~*~*

His heart beat a little faster at the tentative knock on his door. This was it. She was here.

"Enter," he called, wincing as emotion shook his voice. The door creaked open slowly and she slipped in. He almost stopped breathing.

She was breathtaking, and he felt his body reacting. The pale pink top ended just below ripe breasts, the thin straps barely holding it up. He caught glimpses of the pale skin as her chest rose and fell. His tongue flicked out, anticipating licking and suckling that particular skin.

His gaze traveled lower, and he sucked in a breath. The skirt was barely anything, it would provide flimsy protection against his onslaught. Two panels of pink silk, hung low on her hips, covered front and back to her ankles. The only thing holding it together was the criss-crossed cords that stopped above her knees. She wasn't wearing any undergarments. Oh Eros, FINALLY!

Finally he could have her. All of her.

Stepping closer, he noticed her bowed head. Her long hair in thousands of braids, ribbons embedded in some, gems adorning others...Oh, to run his hands through that hair. He also noticed her twisting her hands together in front of the body he had so long desired.

"There is no need to be nervous little one," he told her softly, tilting her head up. He gasped at the sight of her tears. "Oh Kalila! I will not hurt you," he promised earnestly.

She nodded. "I know majesty. I am sorry."

He smiled gently and wiped her tears away. "It is natural to be nervous your first time, but do not worry. It will become easier with time. And," he added, "You must call me Kivar."

"Yes emp-, Kivar, as you wish."

"I do wish." He leaned forward, taking her lips with his. He sighed with pleasure as he tasted her. He drew her closer, pressing her body to his, seeking to sate the throbbing.
*~*~*

She was frightened. Never in her life had she been so scared. She had never suspected Kivar wanted her like this. She had thought he had made her into a little sister type, but now...she didn't know what to think.

His tongue felt like a violation. The bulge against her stomach made her want to vomit, but when he started to take her top off, she snapped.

"NO! I cannot do this!" she cried, and shoved away. Then she fled from the bedchamber. From him.

Her bare feet echoed quietly on the cold marble floor, her tears blinded her. She had no idea where she was, she just kept running.

Hearing footsteps, not sure if he had followed her, she ran faster. And then she came to a dead end.

Glancing around through tear-filled eyes, she put her fist to her mouth to stifle the sobs. She saw a long corridor to the right and a window to the left. She ran to the window.

It was only a few feet to the ground, and she paused to catch her breath before taking off again. She ran through bushes, groves of trees, and large flower plots before her feet landed on a stone path.

She followed the path, running until she finally stumbled and collapsed in exhaustion by a large fountain. She heard neither the footfalls, nor the small, sharp intake of breath, over her ragged breathing and pounding heart.

"Are you all right?"
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:25:15 PM
KALILA 7

"What's the matter," he continued, concerned. Her head came up suddenly and she gave a small gasp. He wanted to gasp himself at the sight of the tear-stained face, but he kept himself in check. Her face took on a slightly frightened aspect, and she brought her hand up to cover her eyes.

He frowned and walked closer. What was she doing? "Hello?"

"I cannot look at you." Ah-ha! That's what she was worried about. The whole gift thing.

"Don't worry," he teased, "I won't tell if you don't." He gave a low chuckle as she slowly lowered her hands and peeked up at him. She gave a little laugh too and wiped away her tears.

Sitting down next to her, he leaned back against the fountain, and decided to use the subtle approach. "I don't believe we were properly introduced at dinner this evening."

"No," she agreed, "We were not." She moved, sitting cross-legged in front of him. His mouth went dry at the sight of smooth thighs that were revealed as she switched positions. It was the first time he noticed her outfit, so focused as he had been on her distress, and the state of practically undress nearly did him in as his fantasies of early came back to him full force.

He tore his eyes from her body and refocused them on her face. She made no move to reprimand him, or even to speak, she just looked at him. He decided to take the initiative.

"I'm Zan," he told her, "Crown Prince of Antar." He extended his hand in the age-old gesture of peace. She placed her small hand in his and returned the firm shake.

"I am Kalila, from the province of Zion in Paerhna, eighth wife of the Emp...Emperor...Kivar." She said her husband's name in a hushed tone, her voice trembling with what he could only call fear, and tears started to well up again.

He didn't think, he just pulled her into his arms, and tried to ignore the feeling of perfection he got from the contact. He ran his hands over her silky dark hair, trying to comfort her as she sobbed into his chest.

"Ssh, ssh, it'll be all right, I promise. Just tell me what happened."
*~*~*

She lifted her head, and found herself drowning in the amber pools of his eyes. His concern for her obvious. That shivery, tingly feeling began to take her over again. "I got your shirt wet," she breathed.

"It'll dry,” he said, his tone matching hers, his eyes never leaving hers. Oh Eros preserve her, she wanted never to move. "Now don't change the subject," he playfully scolded, smiling at her.

Her mind wandered back to her confrontation with Kivar. She shivered at the remembrance. And it wasn't one of those nice shivers that she got when thinking of Zan, it was one that chilled her to her very bones. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to dispel the coldness that was squeezing her heart.

"Kalila?" Strong hands shook her from her trance, and she again found herself in Zan's arms. She warmed up immediately.
*~*~*

Her vacant stare had alarmed him, and he pulled her out of it, and back into his embrace. She gave a small sigh and snuggled closer. He smiled and placed a small kiss on the top of her head, so soft she didn't even notice, and held her tighter.

"Your gardens are very beautiful," she murmured.

"You're trying to avoid the subject again." He had almost forgotten what he was trying to accomplish, but her voice brought the knowledge back to him. "Tell me," he ordered, letting his royal background show through.
*~*~*

She took a deep breath, and then proceeded to tell him of the nightmare that was her wedding night.

"It started earlier. I was taking a bath, when the other wives came over and told me tonight was to be my...wedding night-"

"Wait, wait," he interrupted, looking confused, "You've obviously been married to him for longer than a day. Tonight couldn't be your wedding night. That makes no sense."

"I have been married to Kivar for a little over a year, since I was fourteen, but he never made any...advances, toward me."

"Until tonight you mean?"

"Yes. I was so surprised when he kissed me, I wanted to push away, but I remembered my duty. I was his wife, I shouldn't have any objections, but when..." she gave a little sob, "when he started to...to...undress me, I...I just couldn't take it!" She buried her head against his neck, hot tears slipping from her eyes to his skin. "I ran from him. I ran from my husband." The gravity of what she had done hit her. "Oh Eros, what I am to do? What will happen?"

"Hey," her chin was being forced upward, "I told you everything will be all right, and I meant it. I wouldn't let anything happen to you. Promise."

"I believe you." And she did. There was something about him, about the way she felt safe around him, that made her trust him, believe in him.

"Good, 'cause if you didn't, I would have to reconsider the value of a promise made by a prince, now wouldn't I?" She giggled at him, amused by his attempts to cheer her up. She couldn't understand why he would care so much about a person he barely knew.

Maybe...maybe he felt the same way about her that she felt about him!

But no, that couldn't be it. There was no possible way a nice, handsome, intelligent, sexy man would be interested in a small, nobody girl like her. Especially a man like Zan. He could probably have any woman he looked at. It would be foolish to get her hopes up.
*~*~*

He watched as her face fell. What had happened? One minute she was smiling, happy, and the next...

"Come," he said, rising. He pulled her up beside him and dusted himself off. He was tempted to do the same to her, but she had been manhandled enough for one night, and he didn't want her thinking all men were like Kivar, with only one thing on their minds. Of course, he did have that one thing on his mind, but she didn't need to know.

"It's late," he continued, taking his mind off that dangerous track, "You should be in bed." Okay, that really wasn't the way to do it. Images of her petite body wrapped up in the satin sheets of his bed rose up unbidden, and he had to squash them quickly before his body betrayed him. He came to a halt as she wrenched her hand away from his.

"I'm not going back to him!" she stated forcefully.

"Of course not!" he said, in shock. How could she think such a thing. "I didn't even suggest that." Her defiant eyes relented, and she seemed to visibly relax. Smiling sheepishly, she reached out for his hand, but then paused.

"A...and you won't make me go back to the harem? I couldn't stand it. Those women are insufferable, and they'd turn me in to Kivar..." she trailed off, those liquid velvet eyes pleading with him.

"No, not to the harem."

"Then...where?" He knew where he wanted her to stay, the only problem was whether she wanted to or not.

"Um..." Shit, he was blushing. Please be to dark for her to see, please... "My bedroom."

He waited with baited breath for her response.

"Okay."
*~*~*

Kivar was worried. Livid, but worried. His Kalila had not returned to the harem, and she did not know her way around the palace. What would happen if she stumbled into the living quarters of uncouth soldiers? He shuddered, not wanting to think of his gentle Kalila in the hands of such brutes, such...ruffians.

This was his fault. He should have prepared her more, should have let her known of his interest. But he had wanted to let her discover her feelings for him, let her realize that she loved him on her own...He had wanted to wait until she was older, at least another year, but when he had seen her staring at Zan... That pompous, over-muscled, annoying, ugly...Antarian! He had felt his blood boil over, and he had needed to claim her as his. His wife, his lover, his queen...his, and his alone.

And she had fled.

He was hurt, he felt as if his heart had been torn from his chest and stepped on, but it was his own fault.

"Where are you?" he muttered out loud.

"Right here lover." Arms came around his waist, and he spun. Coming face to face with Vilandra.

"Vilandra." He forced a smile, realizing too late that he had walked into the royal section of rooms.

"I was just on my way to see you, I figured it would be safer if I came to you. But I had no idea you were so eager to see me that you would risk the wrath of my father and brother."

"Ah, yes, but actually, I am looking for my youngest wife."

"Your wife," she repeated, face falling.

"Yes, we had a slight...misunderstanding, and she ran off. I have looked all over, and I have yet to find her. She is so young, I fear the worst if she were to get lost."

"Of course, but I'm sure she'll be fine. You can take a few...hours away from the search, couldn't you?"

He wanted to wince at her insistence, but resisted the impulse. Sure, the sex was great, but Kalila was missing. He had no time for her games. "I'm afraid-" He broke off as the one thing he had wanted not to see, came crashing around the corner.

Prince Zan, walking with Kalila. Holding her hand.

No, no, no, little prince. Not a chance!

"Kalila!" he called, too relieved to keep his voice down. She started, and looked at him, her face a mask of fear. That alone hurt him more then her running. He could understand that reaction, it was her first time, of course she'd be nervous, but scared...

She was afraid of him.

He walked forward, not really noticing Vilandra trailing behind him. Zan shifted, shielding Kalila from his view.

He ignored the arrogant young man, reaching instead for his wife, only to have his arm blocked.

"Don't touch her." He stared in amazement at the Prince's impertinence.

"This has nothing to do with you, your Highness. I merely wish to take my wife back to her chambers." He went to take her hand again, but this time was not only blocked, but shoved away.

"Over my dead body," Zan snarled.

Rubbing his wrist, he looked down his nose at the boy. "That can be arranged."

"Zan? Vilandra? What are you doing up? Emperor Kivar! What's going on?"
*~*~*

Her gaze went from one face to the next. She took in the guarded look of her daughter, the narrowed purple eyes of the Emperor, and the angry, tense posture of her son. Then she noticed the slight slip of a girl cowering behind Zan.

With queenly instincts, she quickly determined that she was the cause of the trouble.

"You'll pardon the noise Queen Ariann, I just wish to bring my wife back to her proper quarters." Kivar's tone was strained, and he didn't take his eyes from Zan's. He reached an arm out for the girl, who she could only assume was his wife, who flinched back. A frown crossed her face.

The child seemed frightened to death of her husband.

"And I told you, that that wasn't going to happen." Her son's voice was even, but she could hear the hatred seething behind the calm words. Ariann looked at his defensive stance, and the way the girl was staring at him in adoration, and realized that he had made himself her protector.

She sighed. One day her son's noble and caring nature would get him into trouble, she just hoped this wasn't the day. She figured she could diffuse this situation with minimal or no bodily harm inflicted on either party. But before she could speak, Vilandra did.

"But Emperor, I think it is obvious that Zan has looked into your...wife's..." Ariann heard the hesitation and looked sharply at her daughter. Oh no. Vilandra was in love with Kivar. That could prove a very big problem. "...eyes. In which case, she would no longer be your wife, but a gift to Zan. That is the tradition, correct? I mean, it wouldn't be right to foist one wife off on Rath, and not on Zan if he broke the tradition, too."

"Um, well..." Kivar seemed uncomfortable. He obviously did not want to give the girl up. "This is the Crown Prince, it wouldn't be right to inconvenience him with trivial things. The rules don't really apply in this situation," he rambled on, to her amusement. Ariann felt like laughing, she saw the determined glint in Zan's amber eyes and knew Kivar's excuses would be no use. "I'm sure Zan wouldn't want-"

"I don't mind," Zan said, cutting him off.

Ariann chewed on her lower lip in distress. She knew Tynan would be angry if she let this happen, but, looking at Zan, she couldn't let his efforts go to waste. Something big was going on, and if Zan won, it would be a hard blow to Kivar, she could tell.

First rule of war: hit your enemy low, and hit him hard.

Whether under peaceful pretense or not, Kivar was the enemy. But...Tynan wouldn't agree with her reasoning. She had to at least do something to show that she had tried to prevent this.

"Now Zan, Kivar is partially right."

"Mother!" She winced at the sound of betrayal in his voice. Please, my son, understand. Please...

"Does she have a dowry."

"Dowry? No," Kivar said hastily, gleefully, "She has no dowry."

"I believe you are jumping to conclusions Kivar. Do not say such important things so quickly, it only shows that you're lying."
*~*~*

Ria smiled prettily at her former husband as he turned to her.

"What are you talking about Ria," he asked suspiciously. She laughed at him.

"Kalila has a dowry, a very formidable one at that, or don't you remember how you acquired her?" She saw confusion, then comprehension dawn on his face, quickly masked.

"Acquired?" She looked to the Prince, who had, it seemed, stolen her best friend's heart. Ohh, he was yummy! However, she didn't feel the attraction that she did with her own husband. She took a quick peek behind her at her sleepy lover, and grinned.

"Enlighten us, please, my child," the Queen asked kindly.

"Of course, Majesty," she said, enjoying watching Kivar squirm. She smiled innocently. Three bonuses in one day: a new husband, hurting her old husband, and helping her friend. Boy, things just couldn't get any better.

"Originally, Kivar had chosen a girl named Serena to be his bride from Zion. There was a problem however, Serena was already betrothed. In order not to incur the Emperor's wrath," her husband snorted, "Not you, dear. The governor, her father, sent instead his second, and youngest daughter, along with one hundred Gem Horses, in hopes that that would be enough. It was. But, it's my way of thinking that the horses would be more than adequate as a dowry."

"Yes dear," Ariann agreed, "I do believe you're right." She turned to Kivar. "The terms are acceptable. You may perform the bonding ceremony."

"Of course," he said tightly, "As her Majesty wishes. Kneel before me."

"Oh!"

"Little one?" Ria asked. Everyone was looking at Kalila in alarm.

"I cannot get married in this," she said, gesturing to her clothing, "I must change."

"Yes, we'll go to the harem together. I still need to gather my things. If everyone will wait here, we will be back soon." She swept out, tugging Kalila along, and headed to the guest rooms.
*~*~*

"Do you think this will do, Ria?" she asked quietly, hoping to not wake the other women. Ria looked up from where she was packing up their belongings, she stared critically at the white lacy top and matching skirt, and then she grinned and gave a low whistle.

"You look gorgeous little one, he'll love it."

"Am I that obvious?"

"Only to me, hon."

Kalila sighed, hoping Zan didn't realize how she felt. She didn't want him feeling sorry for her and giving her a 'just friends' speech. He was just doing this to be nice. There were no ulterior motives, it wasn't like he was in love with her or anything, not like he felt one ounce of the things she did when he touched her...

"You okay?"

"Yes, Ria, I'm just a little nervous."

"Well don't be. The Prince seems really kind. He's also to-die-for hot..."

"Ria!" Kalila exclaimed.

"I'm just kidding, Rath is about all I can handle, and believe me, me with my hands full isn't easily accomplished." They both laughed. "Come on, your love awaits!"

"Ria!" she scolded, giggling, but partly scandalized. Some of the things Ria said! "Ssh!"

"Oh, ssh yourself. The henpeckers deserve to be woken up at the crack of dawn!"

Kalila looked out the window nearby. It was really dawn! She hadn't gotten any sleep. Oh well, she thought, thinking of Zan, it was worth it.

"Let's go!"

"Coming!"
*~*~*

Zan stared at her as she sat on his bed, trying to forget previous fantasies.

His mother had sent them to his room after the ceremony. She had told them to get some sleep, she would make excuses to his father. It was then that he realized he had been up all night, and he had agreed readily.

Kalila was now looking at him curiously. He looked back at her steadily. She had this pretty little blush across her cheeks, making him wonder where else she was blushing. He shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts. He was her husband now, and there was no way he was going to scare her or force himself upon her like Kivar.
*~*~*

"Where are you going?" she asked, alarmed as he turned towards the door. Was he that repulsed by the thought of her in his bed? He turned back around, looking surprised.

"I was going to sleep on the couch."

"Pl...please don't," she stuttered.

"What?"

"I said," she repeated, raising her voice, "Please don't." He just looked at her. She hastened to explain her request, staying away from the topic of making love. "I just, I get homesick easily, and I've never actually slept alone before. It was always my sister, but I left, and then it was Ria, but she's gone now too. She used to tell me stories when I first..." she trailed off, looking at him, and biting her bottom lip.

"You want me to sleep with you," he stated, in what seemed almost like disbelief.

"Yes." She nodded in affirmation. He shrugged and climbed up onto the huge canopy. He settled down next to her, putting an arm around her and pulling her closer to him. She inhaled the warm masculine scent of him, and cuddled closer, wanting to be inside him.

"Now, what story do you want to hear?"

"Anything," she murmured drowsily, her sleepless day and night finally catching up to her.

"All right," he seemed to think a moment, "Once upon a time..." She yawned against his chest, and fell asleep to the soothing sound of his voice.
*~*~*

Zan heard her breathing even out, signaling her exit into the land of dreams. He adjusted her slightly, making their position more comfortable, and decided to join her.

The second sun had just finished rising.
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:28:26 PM
KALILA 8

"I don't believe this! I warned you! I ordered you not to do anything, and what do you do? Huh?" His son just stared at the floor, unanswering. "Oh, let me guess. It just slipped your mind! A direct order from King and Queen, and you just went ahead and did whatever you felt like! And you," he said, rounding on his wife, "Condoning his actions! It's outrageous, it's, it's-"

"Tynan, calm down," Ariann told him gently, "Zan did what he thought best. The child was terrified. He was just being the prince you tried to raise him as."

"Me?!"

"Yes you. You, who have drilled into him over and over how it's royalty's duty to help the helpless. She was helpless, and he helped her the only way he could, he married her."

"Exactly my point! He married her! I agree with the concept of helping, but going so far as to marry a poor girl whose probably been had by every...stable hand on the planet, and giving her the title of princess! It's ridiculous! It's a crime against the crown! A prince should marry for political advantage, not on some...some unfounded, spur-of-the-moment whim!"

He huffed some more, and gave his wife and son his most effective glare. He expected them to quake with fear and scramble about to do his bidding, but they didn't. They just sort of looked at him. His wife seemed amused at his outburst, and his son, well...

The expression on Zan's face was one he had never seen before. It was a mix of anger, determination, and shame. At least one of them had sense enough to see the wrong in what had happened. He pointed to his son.

"That's right. You be ashamed of what you've done." Zan stiffened and looked his father straight in the eye.

"First of all father, I am not ashamed of myself, I am ashamed of you.”

Me?" he asked in shock, “What do I have to be ashamed of?”

“Your behavior.”

“My behavior? MY BEHAVIOR! I am behaving as a king is supposed to behave when his son screws up!” He was trying very hard to contain his anger. Why could his son not see his point of view?

“Father, you are behaving as a two-year-old might if he has been thwarted of his favorite toy. I am eighteen years old, I am not a child anymore. I made a decision, as an adult, and you need to respect that.”

“Respect it?” He was almost speechless, almost. “It was a decision based on your hormones! You are a prince Zan, you cannot afford to think with your loins. You must think with your head! If you had, you would have realized what a colossal mistake you were making when you married a slut!”

“SHUT UP! You have no idea what you’re talking about. Kalila is a sweet girl, and she was in trouble. I helped. It’s as simple as that,” he paused, and Tynan was surprised when his face closed off, masking the rage in his eyes with ice, “And for your information, my wife is a virgin!” And with that he stormed out, leaving a proud mother and stunned father.

“What was that all about?” Tynan asked, turning bewildered brown eyes to his wife.

That, was your son standing up for himself.” Her blue eyes were sparkling with happiness and pride. He just looked at her.

“This is your fault, you know,” he told her dully, “if you hadn’t encouraged him…”

“Someone needs to Tynan!” she burst out passionately, “He said himself, he’s eighteen, and you still treat him like an eight-year-old! He is to be King one day, and he has realized on his own that there is more to that position than sitting on a throne and handing out orders! He is the one in the city everyday, the one in the fields, helping his people, gaining their trust, their loyalty! He is the one the people will rally to when the fighting begins, Tynan. HIM! Not you!”

“There won’t be any fighting Ariann, that’s what this peace talk will prevent,” he explained to her rationally, trying to calm her.

“Peace talks!” Her tone held so much scorn that he flinched from the derision. “Nothing will come from the Summit except empty promises made by Kivar. The only reason he even agreed to this meeting was to judge the scope of your incompetence and figure out a way to exploit your weaknesses! And just so you know, your Majesty, your son gained you a victory already. That girl appeared very important to Kivar. So important that he would have discarded both tradition and decorum to start a fist fight in order to remove her from Zan’s presence!”

“That is not a victory, that is merely an early addition to the problem. He has not gained anything except a whore for his bedmate! You should have thought of the consequences before agreeing to the transaction, you should have protested…It’s bad enough with Rath, but Zan…” his voice became tired, resigned, “He is Crown Prince, Ariann, he has obligations to consider in marriage. He can’t just marry the first girl that catches his fancy. He has to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. The gain against the loss. There are plenty of women out there who are both beautiful and wealthy, who would be willing to give anything to marry him, and what does he do? He marries another man’s wife who comes with no benefits, and absolutely no way of contributing to the planet.”

He wanted her to see things from his side, but her expression made it obvious that she had no intention of agreeing with him. Eros, the woman was insufferable! He felt like throwing up his hands and screaming in her face, but that had never got him anywhere. He cursed the day his father had announced the unexpected betrothal. And Zan…No matter how much the boy resembled him, he was all his mother. Thank Eros for Vilandra. At least she had some sense, not regarding men, but in affairs of state. He wished the laws allowed a daughter to inherit the throne- His wife interrupted his thoughts.

“Tynan, we originally came in here to inform you of the union and it’s terms, unfortunately, you started ranting before we were able to finish. You know the Gem Horses?” He nodded. He wanted those horses so bad, and for so long, that going to war just to gain them would be reason enough. Why was she bringing it up? “Yes, well, I have secured one hundred of them.”

“H…how?” he managed to choke out. One hundred Gem Horses! That was enough to breed and sell, oh-ho, the possibilities…

“It was part of the arrangement. I insisted the girl have a dowry, so you see I did not just sit back and let this happen, and Ria, that’s Rath’s wife, she…reminded Kivar of the deal he made awhile back. The deal that caused Kalila to belong to him, and I judged the exchange acceptable. I mean really, one hundred of the most expensive horses in the known universe just so Zan could take his wife off his hands in order to preserve his honor, I figured it was worth it. Don’t you?”

He just nodded again, dumbfounded. She rose from her seat and made her way to the door, but paused before leaving.

“You really shouldn’t jump to conclusions and toss accusations out if you don’t know the whole story, it only makes you look bad. Zan managed to get you something you wanted and get himself what he wanted at the same time. If that’s not good politics, you should rethink your guidelines. By the way, you owe your son a large apology.” She swept out the door regally, and left him alone.

He stared for some time at the closed door before remembering the Summit.
*~*~*

The tension in the room was so thick, it could be cut with a knife. He glanced around at his opponents, weighing their moods.

The Second appeared happy. Very self-satisfied. The permanent smile on his face ranged from smug to dreamy, and back again. Obviously Ria had done a number on him. He was fairly thankful to be rid of the dominant blonde. He didn’t understand how Rath would condone her controlling actions in the bedroom. Some men, he supposed, were just used to feeling inferior. He shrugged imperceptibly and turned his attention to the King.

He was easy to read. He was feeling determined, giddy, and sheepish at different intervals. The sheepish looks were normally accompanied by quick glances at his son, which were being ignored, and speaking of Zan…

His eyes met those of the third member of the table facing him. The boy was glaring at him with hate. Not that the emotion wasn’t returned tenfold. He wondered idly what would happen if he just jumped up and slit the young prince’s throat. He’d probably be killed within seconds, but it would be worth it to see the red pouring from that smooth throat…

In fact, the prospect seemed more and more appealing as Kivar’s mind supplied him with descriptive images of possible outcomes of last night’s bonding ceremony…The thought of Kalila with that pampered little…He took a deep breath, trying to control himself. This Summit was for peace, a chance for him to lull the Antarians into a sense of security before his people attacked.

Before, the soon-to-be war had simply been for political gain, now, Zan had made it personal.

He couldn’t wait. In the end he would triumph, and he would have Kalila by his side again, where she should be, and Zan would be executed before his very eyes. Maybe he’d even do it himself. Heck, executioners shouldn’t get to have all the fun. After that, Kalila would realize her folly, and she would agree to be his Queen. Easy.

“Is something funny, Emperor?” Zan asked, his voice free of any emotion except polite interest. A tone that was completely contradicted by his swirling hate-filled eyes. He cursed silently, unaware that he had been smiling, but how could he not? The thought of Zan dead after begging for mercy was too enjoyable.

“I was merely thinking of one of Kalila’s past exploits, it’s a very interesting story. Would you care to hear it?” That’s right Zanie-boy, he thought as Zan’s eyes flashed, you think about me and Kalila and we’ll see who has the last laugh. The princeling’s no doubt scathing reply, was cut off by his father.

“If we might get down to the subject at hand?”

“Of course, your Majesty.”

“Raids have been made by your people on our borders, Emperor Kivar, it really must stop.”

“You’re absolutely right, I will discover the responsible parties and punish them properly.” Reward them, actually. He felt like chuckling at the ineffective king. Zan might have been competition if he had power, but Tynan was a pushover.

“Good. Well, that settled, I think-”

“I think,” Zan interjected, “that we may require more that your word Kivar. No offense or anything, but I really don’t trust you.”

Tynan looked at his son warily. “Y-yes. Zan may be right,” he said slowly, “Perhaps an ambassador?” An ambassador? He smiled in easy agreement. He’d send Niko. The man was nearly as cunning as he himself was.

“Of course, I’ll send him with the agreed upon Gem Horses at the end of the month.” He watched Tynan’s face light up at the mention of the Gems.

“Yes, yes,” he said eagerly, “I wasn’t going to bring it up yet, but that’s perfect. Just perfect.” Eros, could this man be a bigger idiot?

“Good. We’ll smooth over the details at an informal meeting tomorrow and I and my companions will leave the day after.” He saw Zan frown out of the corner of his eye, obviously displeased at his take-charge attitude, but the boy didn’t say anything. He shook hands with Tynan, and left the conference room, reviewing his plans in his head.

Niko would have to ingratiate himself to Vilandra. She was angry with him and ignoring their past…rendezvous. She would sleep with Niko in an attempt to make him jealous. He would order Niko to stay in her good graces. The woman was prone to pillow-talk, it would be easy to glean information, and she was in on all decisions regarding the monarchy.

Everything was going according to plan, except…The loss of Kalila. But that would not last long. He would regain his Queen, and his planet, if it was the last thing he did, and no smooth-talking, hormonal-driven boy was going to get in his way.
*~*~*

In case anyone is wondering about ages, Kalila is 15, Zan is 18, Ria is 18, Rath is 19, Vilandra is 20, and Kivar is 23. Niko will be probably be 21. And, important, Ariann and Tynan didn’t know each other when they got married. And after they were, they didn’t like each other. The only reason they have two kids is because of that law, otherwise they would’ve stopped at Lonnie, and then where would our hero be?
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:29:25 PM
KALILA 9

Update: This starts three years after part 8. Zan is now 21, Kalila is 18. Niko has come, he’s reporting all of Antar’s actions (via Vilandra) to Kivar, who is back in Paerhna. Paerhna is declining more and more, and the invasion is set to begin as soon as Kivar gives the word. Kivar has acquired two new wives to replace Ria and Kalila, but he hasn’t touched them. He has, in fact, abstained from all women until he has Kalila. In Antar, Kalila and Zan are out among the people nearly every day. They are widely beloved by the whole of Antarian society (excluding Tynan, he still doesn’t like Kalila).
*~*~*

“Good morning Princess!”

“Good morning,” she replied happily to the merchant.

“And where is his Highness this morning?”

“His father called him in for a meeting. I’ve been stalling before going home, his Majesty’s news is never good news, but I fear I must return now.” She sighed heavily. Whenever Zan talked to Tynan he normally came back upset and would never tell her what the matter was.

“Well, then I’ll bid you a good day.” He gave her a smile so bright that she had to return it.

“Good day to you as well, I hope business picks up.”

“Oh, it will, it will. It always does.” He waved her off, smile still in place, and turned to help a new customer.

Kalila continued through the busy market, slowly making her way toward the palace gates. Greetings came from all sides, greetings that she returned enthusiastically. She loved being among her people, and they were hers now too, Zan had insisted upon that. What was his was hers, and what was hers was his. It was only natural.

It had been strange at first, being surrounded by so many people, but she had come to love it. Days of a quiet, lonely childhood and isolated harem were long forgotten. Her old life seemed a dream to her, the only thing real to her was when she first viewed the city from atop Ember. She smiled contentedly in remembrance. That moment, when she fell in love with Antar, and later its Prince, that was when her life began.

The guards at the gate gave her a quick salute, which she returned with a slight nod of her head, flashing them a radiant grin. Making her way through the winding halls, she met up with her mother-in-law.

“Zan’s meeting with Tynan is over, dear, I believe he’s in your chambers.” Kalila smiled in thanks and picked up her pace. The door was partly open, and she pushed through to the sitting room, nearly tripping over bags placed in front of the door.

“Zan,” she called, shutting the heavy door, “Zan?” She frowned, not liking the implication of the luggage.

“I’m in here, Kali,” his voice responded from the bedroom. He sounded so tired. Her frown turned from one of suspicion to one of worry, as she headed toward where he was. He was sitting on the edge of their bed, he looked like a man who was on the verge of giving up.

“Are you all right?” she asked, concerned, “What happened at the meeting?” He didn’t answer right away, just sort of looked at her sadly. “Zan?”

She was caught by surprise as he suddenly reached up and pulled her into his arms, but she relaxed immediately and snuggled closer, sighing happily. She felt like she could just melt right into him…

Everything was right in the universe as long as she was in Zan’s arms.
*~*~*

He buried his nose into her hair, memorizing the feel of her fragile body in his arms, the texture of her silky hair, the smoothness of her skin, of the scent that was just Kalila. He couldn’t believe he had to go a whole two weeks without experiencing the touch of her hand, or the sound of her laugh, or the softness in her eyes. His father had probably planned this whole trip to Gorganin just to torture him.

“I have to leave,” he told her quietly, his lips still muffled by her long dark tresses. She lifted her head to stare him straight in the eye, her own questioning.

“Why?”

“Father says it’s a political thing. Rath and I are leaving tonight with him, we won’t be back for two weeks.” He wished he could stay. That’s all he wanted, just to be able to spend time with his Kali, but his father always found some way to disrupt all his carefully laid plans. It continually amazed him how his father knew right when Zan was on the verge of getting somewhere with his wife, and purposely screwed it up. He took it back, it wasn’t amazing, it was frustrating and increasingly annoying.

“Ria and I aren’t allowed to come along?”

“No, he’s forbidden it.” She normally went along with him for all ambassador missions. She had been to three of the four other planets in the Alliance, and the people there fell in love with her too. Of course, there was no possible way anyone could not love Kalila. She was so gentle and giving, so perfect in every way. Anyone who didn’t fall in love with her as soon as they met her would have to have something seriously wrong with them. Which explained his father. The man was totally brain dead.

It wounded her, he knew, that his father didn’t accept her. But how was he supposed to tell her that the king deemed her unworthy to be his son’s wife? That he considered her nothing more than a whore? That all the times he came back upset from seeing Tynan was because his father was trying to convince him, yet again, to annul the marriage between them?

He couldn’t. He just couldn’t bring himself to inform her of that. He wasn’t going to be the one to bring that devastation into her beautiful eyes. He never wanted to see a look like that in her eyes, and Eros help him, he was going to make sure he never did. If that meant he had to give in to Tynan on a few things, he would, damaged pride and all.

“But…With Ria in her condition, surely he wouldn’t separate her from Rath?”

“We’ll be back before she’s due. I’ll make sure of it.” He smiled down at her slightly doubting face. “Don’t worry, Kali, Rath will be present for the birth of his first born, promise.” The clouded look in her eyes cleared, and she smiled at him. It nearly did him in.

His thoughts at that moment were not on the trip, or Rath and Ria, but solely on his wife. On the way he wanted to lay her down on the bed and make love to her. He wanted to conceive a child of their own. He wanted to see her small body change to accommodate their heir. He could see it, her breasts plumper, riper, her belly growing gradually, a part of him and her growing inside…

The very idea of her pregnant with his child was enough to make him want to throw away duty, and obligations, and the whole rest of the universe! But he couldn’t do that, not if she didn’t want it too, and he was pretty sure she didn’t. He was pretty sure she thought of him as a brother/best friend/protector, but not a husband, and definitely not a lover. So he did the only thing he was able to in the role he believed she had assigned to him. He gave her a soft kiss on her forehead.

Unfortunately, his lips seemed to have a mind of their own. They didn’t seem to want to stop at a brotherly kiss to her brow, they traveled down further, over closed eyelids, the tip of her pert nose, and down…

His mind had gained back a little more control, and he managed to just brush over her soft pink lips, instead of the full-out, devouring one he more than likely would have given her if he was still out of control. But it was just enough, he managed to retain the sweet taste of her on his own lips.

He set her on her feet quickly, imagining a small sigh of regret from her as he lifted her off his lap, but of course, it was only something his mind had made up. He himself stood, and, taking her hands, he brought one to his lips. He met her stare for stare, but, sure that she would catch his longing for her, he looked away.

“Walk with me to the launch pad?”

Her only response was a silent nod.
*~*~*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 4:32:11 PM
KALILA 10

She stood beside Zan, watching Ria and Rath wistfully. They looked so happy together. He had one hand on her huge tummy, feeling for the baby inside. She assumed the child had kicked, because a delighted smile appeared like magic on Rath's face. Ria laughed and covered his hand with hers. Kalila was a fair distance away, but the love and contentment surrounding them was obvious.

She sighed heavily and tightened her grip on Zan's arm. Her husband looked down at her and smiled sadly. He wrapped strong arms around her tiny waist and pulled her to him. She wrapped her own arms around him and just breathed him in, trying to imprint the feeling into her memory.

She saw King Tynan glaring at them, disapproval in his eyes. She ignored him, not having time to spare to wonder why he didn't like her. She needed to concentrate on Zan right now. On her last moments with him. It's only two weeks, she chided herself.

"I'll only be gone two weeks," he said, echoing her thoughts, "I'll be back before you know it. You probably won't even have time to miss me." She smiled half-heartedly at his attempts to cheer her up. He was so sweet.

A flight technician walked over to the passengers. "We'll be ready for take off at the fifteen mark, your Majesty. You may wish to board now."

"Yes, of course. Zan, Rath, hurry up." Then he walked away without even a by-your-leave to Ariann.

"Bye, sweetie," Rath whispered to his wife, "And you," he told the baby, "don't come out until I return!"

"Yes, sir!" Ria gave him a mock salute and Kalila burst into a giggle fit. Rath gave Ria a gentle kiss, and followed his king to the ship.

She quieted quickly, realizing Zan was going to be leaving now. She had to fight the urge to cry. Her chin was being tilted upward, and suddenly she was looking deep into golden-brown eyes. Eyes that mirrored her sadness.

"It won't be that bad." But his words had an undertone to them. She had a sudden, wild thought that maybe he'd miss her, but pushed it aside. Zan thought of her as a little sister. It was obvious in the way he kissed her.

Over the years they'd kissed a lot, but he always stuck to the safe places. Her forehead, her cheeks...only occasionally would his lips brush over hers.

Like earlier, she had been sure that he was going to really kiss her, but he hadn't. It was getting fairly frustrating.

"TEN MARK"

"You have to go."

"I know." But he didn't move. He just stared down at her, or, more specifically, at her lips. Her eyes widened in surprise as she saw his own darken slightly. Her whole body seemed to become hyper-sensitive as he leaned down...

Their lips met fiercely, and she yielded immediately when his tongue demanded entrance. She felt him pick her up, her feet swinging above the ground. Her hands moved from his back, traveling over his perfect abs, to twine around his neck...
*~*~*

He wanted to devour her. He wanted to take every single part of her and make it his completely. He wanted to claim her as his own in every possible way.

He held her closer, kissing her harder, deeper. His tongue dipped into every crevice available to him, tasting her. He wanted to know all of her, needed to know, craved it...

"ZAN!" His father's voice severed the moment. They broke apart, Zan closed his eyes in displeasure at his father's interruption, and Kalila bit her bottom lip uncertainly.

He leaned his forehead against hers, trying to regain his bearings. The tiny girl in his arms just threw him for a loop. She somehow managed to make everything around him, other than her, disappear.

He stared at her, and she stared right back up at him. Her brown eyes filled with wonder. He looked closely for any hint of disgust or revulsion, for any of the terror she had projected when Kivar had first kissed her, and her didn't see any. He only saw acceptance. Relief flooded over him.

"ZAN!!"

"Coming," he whispered, still focused solely on his wife.

"FIVE MARK"

He glanced over to the ship's hatch, and then back at her. "Kali..." He didn't want to leave her. Not now, not ever. Two weeks really was too long to be away.
*~*~*

She closed her eyes against the pleading in his eyes, hating the soon-to-be absence just as much.

"Good-bye..." She felt the warmth he provided fade away, and an aching emptiness started in her heart. She opened her eyes to see his figure retreating into the space ship. Again she had to hold back the prick of tears she felt lurking behind her eyes.

"Bye..." She kept her eyes glued to the ship as it took off, wanting to be on it. To be with him. The loneliness was overwhelming.

She finally looked away as it disappeared into the never-ending blackness of space. Blinking rapidly she glanced around the spaceport, trying not to think about her husband's departure. So she thought about the incongruous nature of Antar.

It really was intriguing. The high-tech society was hidden away in favor of a more traditional, court society. Some of the other planets relied solely on technology, but not Antar...

"Little one," the soft call broke through her rambling thoughts. She turned to Ria, who was watching her with silent sympathy. She gave a tremulous smile and headed over to her friend, who enveloped her in a big, comforting hug. "Don't be so sad, it's not as bad as it seems."

"I know." And she did. Who cared if it was the first time they'd been separated in the three years they'd known each other? Who cared if they'd just had their first real kiss? Who cared if she felt hollow and alone? Who cared that the 'not as bad as it seems' speech was making her want to choke her best friend? Not her. It's not like any of it was that big of a deal, nope.

"So." Ria again tore her away from distracting, self-pitying thoughts.

"So what?"

"What's with you and Zan?" she asked, smiling conspiratorially.

"What do you mean?"

"Well...If I didn't know any better, I'd think that that was you guys' first kiss."

"It was," Kalila told her defensively, blushing furiously.

"No way! You've been together for three years! And he never made a move?!" She looked shocked beyond belief as Kalila nodded. "That's like so impossible. He is totally in love with you, and I know you fell hard for him...How did you manage not making love?"

"Yes, dear, I've been meaning to bring that up." The two girls turned, surprised, to the Queen.

"Ariann?" Kalila asked. She loved her mother-in-law, loved her kindness, loved the fact that she actually liked her. Enough, even to be on a first name basis.

"Your Majesty?"

"Kali," Ariann took her arm, guiding her along, as Ria walked a demure ten paces behind. "I think it's obvious that you and my son haven't...consummated yet." Kalila felt her cheeks start to burn. She couldn't talk about this with her mother!

"I...I, um..."

"Don't worry dear," the Queen smiled gently, "I realize you had a bad time of it previously. But my son has very strong feelings for you, and I believe that you feel the same. And I realize that you might not be ready, but-"

"I am ready," she interrupted eagerly, "I've been ready since I first laid eyes on him, I just never thought he was ready." Ariann gave one of her little musical laughs.

"Oh, goodness, I believe Zan has been more than ready for the same amount of time. When he returns, make sure he understands your...desires. Antar needs an heir."

An heir. That's what she wanted too. Not just for the planet, but for herself. She wanted Zan's child. She had been jealous of Ria for a long time, wanting what she had, well...Her mind was made up.

When Zan got back things were going to change. For the better.
*~*~*

He sighed, his eyes never leaving the small blue and green planet. She was on that planet. Waiting for him to come back. She was missing him as much as he already missed her. As bad as it sounded, the thought made him happy.

He had told her that it wouldn't be that bad, that the time would be over quickly. He knew he had been lying, and he knew that she knew, but they had pretended just the same. And then he had kissed her.

He knew it had been wrong, but he had needed to do it. Something in him had just demanded it, and he had done it. And it had been wonderful.

He could still taste her. Her sweetness. Made all the more sweet by her response to the kiss. When he came home, things were going to be a lot different. He'd make sure she knew how he felt about her, and he'd make absolutely sure that she felt the same way about him, that the kiss wasn't a fluke. He was pretty sure it wasn't, but he needed to be careful with her.

Her experience with Kivar had made him take things slow. He never wanted to frighten her the way that brute did. His blood began to boil at the remembrance...

"Zan?" Rath patted his knee to get his attention.

"What?"

"We're landing on Gorganin at the five mark."

He nodded. Good. The sooner they got there, the sooner they could leave.

He stepped off the ship behind his father, Rath at his side, to be confronted with the whole of the Gorganin court.

"King Tynan, welcome!"

"We thank you for the invite Queen Kathana. I don't believe you've seen my son since he was two, have you?"

"No, I don't believe I have. Zan, It's a pleasure to see you again." She ran appraising eyes over him and smiled, extending her hand. "And all grown up."

"The pleasure is mine, Majesty," he responded automatically, brushing his lips lightly over her hand. She laughed.

"Such a charmer." She beckoned behind her, and a short, blue-eyed, blond stepped forward. "Prince Zan, may I present my daughter, the Princess Ava?"
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 2:46:11 PM
KALILA 11

"Damn it!" He threw the note down on his desk. So close. He had been so close.

Zan and Tynan were away, the capitol city was undefended, vulnerable. It would have been the perfect time to attack, but for one thing.

Kalila. She was still in the palace, and he couldn't take the chance of her getting hurt. Or worse yet, killed.

He closed his eyes in frustration. He'd have to wait longer, until he could figure out a way to make sure she would be absolutely safe.

Taking up a piece of parchment and a pen, he drafted out a letter to Niko, ordering him to keep eyes and ears open, and a warning to keep the Princess Vilandra unaware of their plot.

Just a little bit longer. He could feel it in his bones. Soon everything would be going according to plan, and he would have all of Antar along with his Queen.
*~*~*

She sighed, looking around the bedchamber. It seemed so empty without him. She walked dejectedly toward the bed and turned down the covers. But she didn't get in. She stood there, staring down, wishing he was here.

Turning away, she hugged her arms around herself, trying to warm up. She headed to the walk-in closet to find her nightclothes.

She had switched her old harem outfits for the style of dress used in court. It had taken awhile to get used to the confining bodice and thousands of petticoats, but now she enjoyed the swish of long skirts against her ankles.

She had kept her old outfits however. Not because of some emotional attachment, but because they really showed a lot of skin.

She loved the feel of Zan's arms wrapped around her when they cuddled together in bed. The skin to skin contact was electrifying, and she never quite figured out how she managed to fall asleep with all the feelings his hands invoked, but it was always the most relaxing sleep. Just being with Zan soothed her soul and all the petty little troubles of the day dissolved the minute he climbed into bed beside her.

She sighed longingly and dropped the clothes currently in her hands. She stripped quickly and turned to rummage frantically through the laundry bin. She smiled as she found the long shirt Zan had worn yesterday. Slipping it on, she buried her nose in the fabric, inhaling his scent still lingering on it.

She slid to the middle of the bed and burrowed her face into their pillows, pulling the covers up tight around her.

"Good night, Zan."
*~*~*

He sighed wearily, rubbing his forehead. Reaching his assigned room, he hit the doorpad angrily. He didn't understand why his father had brought him to Gorganin.

So far, there had been no talk of war and politics, no discussions of Summits. There were just parties and more parties, and flirting by girls who couldn't hold a candle to Kalila. All in all, he was incredibly irritable, and his father's cajoling attempts to get him to entertain the Princess Ava, Rath's whining about Ria, and those annoying women, were not helping.

He was on the verge of screaming that Ava was a big girl and quite capable of entertaining herself, that Rath had just thank his lucky stars that he had a pregnant wife, and tell those...those sluts to find some easy prey.

He just wanted to go home to Kalila.

Collapsing onto his bed, he hugged Kalila's pillow to his chest. He smiled, her vanilla-rose combo clung to the silk, calming him instantly.

He had discovered the first night here that he couldn't sleep. He had spent all night tossing and turning and wanting his wife anchored to his side. The next morning, as he had finished unpacking, he had discovered a small silk pillow in his bag. One of Kalila's. She must have snuck it in while he hadn't been watching.

He smiled as sleep started to overcome him. It had been just the thing. The reminder of her lulled him into a euphoric state of mind, making sleep come easily. He wondered how she had known he would need it.

He wondered what she was doing right now.
*~*~*

Kalila wiped dirty hands on her pants. She shaded her eyes and peered across the newly planted field. Satisfied, she turned to the people waiting patiently behind her.

"Everything looks good, I think we'll have a good harvest this year." She smiled as expressions of relief passed over their faces.

"Aye, Princess," one farmer spoke up, "We thank you for your help. We probably couldn't have gotten it done in time for the rains if not for your Highness' help." He gave her a toothy grin.

"Yes, thank you so much," his wife agreed, "Now you head back to the palace. You've been here from dawn 'til dusk every day for the past week. You must be tired. Besides," she added, "the Prince should be home tomorrow night, and you'll want to be at your best." The older woman smiled slyly as the young princess blushed a rosy red.

Kalila couldn't help the dreamy smile and blush that accompanied her words. She knew her love for Zan was no secret among their people, considering the first week after his departure she never came to the market and was reported to do nothing but mope around the palace all day.

Ariann had finally convinced her to take a walk, and she had overheard several conversations about how behind the planting was. It had snapped her out of her Zan-less daze. She had been selfish when her people needed her the most!

The next morning she was up bright and early and ready for some hard work. They had welcomed her with open arms, and she had spent the rest of the second week gossiping and laughing with the city girls and the adolescent boys who were trying to catch their fancy. They had finally gotten everything done, and it had taken her mind off Zan's absence. But he was coming home tomorrow!

"If...if it's all right with-”

"Fine! Fine, dearie, shoo." She laughed at the woman's gestures and skipped her way back up to the palace gates. She cheerily saluted the guards, not stopping to chat, and missed the amused exchange of looks they gave each other behind her back.

She woke up the next day in a spectacular mood. She soaked abused muscles in a rose water bath, scrubbing herself clean. She smiled as she leaned into a jet. Her muscles were going to be even more abused after tonight, but it would definitely be worth it. She blushed, even though she hadn't said anything out loud, but just to think such thoughts...

Oh pooh! Girl, shape up. You told yourself things were going to change and they are. She was determined that they would.

Tonight she was going to erase any misunderstandings that Zan had about her feeling for him. She was going to show him how much she loved him, Eros help him, she was!

Dressing in her new gown, she did her hair up in the latest fashion, imagining Zan slowly releasing her long locks from confining clips...His hands undoing each clasp on her dress...

Heat rose up throughout her body, from both want and embarrassment. Stop, she scolded herself, you’re a woman grown and you want your husband to make love to you. There was nothing wrong with that.

But what if she couldn't please him? What if he wanted someone experienced? What if he had met some beautiful girl on Gorganin and didn't want her anymore? What if he hadn't ever wanted her? What if Ariann and Ria were wrong? What if...

She pushed the doubts aside. She'd just make him want her. She'd make him fall in love with her. It was as simple as that.

She walked confidently to breakfast. Ria and Ariann smiled at her as she sat down.

"Good morning Mother, good morning Ria," she greeted them. She gave an amused smile as Ria mumbled something through her food. She hoped she never had any of the weird cravings Ria did when she was pregnant.

"Good morning, dear. I trust you slept well?"

"Oh, yes, very well, thank you. I'm just a little nervous about tonight. And more than a little excited," she confided.

"Don't worry," Ria told her, gulping juice, "It'll be great." She nodded, reassured that at least two people supported her endeavors.

The door opened and boomed shut.

"Vilandra, you're late," Ariann said sharply to her daughter.

"So sorry Mother," she replied, not sounding sorry at all, "This came for you." She tossed an envelope across the table as she sat down. She gave Kalila a look at distaste before digging into the food on her plate.

Ria rolled her eyes at the princess. She found the snotty, stuck-up girl a nuisance. She had told Kalila on more than one occasion that Vilandra thought it was her fault Kivar had snubbed her, and so forced her to settle for Niko. A small sound came from the Queen, distracting her from her contemplation of her sister-in-law.

"What is the matter?"

"It is a letter from Tynan. He says they are enjoying their stay on Gorganin too much and won't be home for another week."

Kalila's face fell. Zan wasn't coming back yet. She closed her eyes against the tears. Why did Tynan continually try to take him from her?

"Well, isn't that just like a man!" Ria burst forth, "I bet he forgot the baby was due! That is so typical of him! Well, you can just bet that I won't be speaking to him when he gets back. No siree, not me." She nodded decisively and turned back to eating.

"May I please be excused Majesty?"

"Of course, dear," the Queen said kindly.

"I wish you all a good day." She fled quickly back to her room, landing face down on the huge bed as despair overwhelmed her and she finally let herself cry.
*~*~*

Zan whistled happily. His bags were packed, now all he had to do was find his father and Rath.

He was going to be back in Kali's arms tonight, and he couldn't wait.

Arms slipped around his waist and a sickeningly sweet giggle reached his ears. He had to work hard to stifle a groan. "Good evening Princess."

"Oh, Zan," she giggled, batting lashes up at him, her blue eyes adoring him, "How'd you know it was me?"

There was a lot he could say in response to that. None of it flattering, but he couldn't be rude. Not even if her presence was starting to ruin his good mood. So he shrugged.

She gave that insipid giggle yet again and looped her arm into his. "Walk me to dinner?"

"With regret, Princess-"

"Ava," she corrected.

"Ava," he agreed, and removed her arm, "I'm afraid I am leaving tonight. If I stayed for dinner I would miss my flight."

Her clouded expression cleared. "Silly, you know you're not leaving for a week."

What was she talking about? Another week? She must be the biggest ditz in the universe if she couldn't remember a simple thing like when he was leaving.

"Didn't Tynan tell you?" His father? No he wouldn't... "He told my mother just yesterday that you'd be delighted to stay awhile longer." He would.

Zan sighed. "My father was misinformed. I'm afraid I really can't stay. It's imperative that I leave tonight."

"But-"

"Make excuses for me? Thank you." He gave her a soft kiss on the cheek and his most dashing smile, hoping to leave her too flustered to protest.

His efforts were rewarded when she gave him a dazed smile and lifted a hand to her cheek.

"Bye, I had a wonderful time, really," he lied.

"Bye," she whispered weakly. Giving him a small wave as he ran off to his room.

He hauled his luggage to the ship after ordering the captain to prepare for take-off. Settling down into his chair he gave a large sigh off relief at a clean getaway.

"Hey!" He jumped nearly five feet out off his seat at the gruff voice. Turning fearfully, he saw a laughing second-in-command.

"Rath!"

"You didn't think you could leave without me, did you?" Zan shook his head ruefully. "Didn't think so. Ria's gonna need me soon. What was you father thinking?"

"I have no idea. I just want to get back to Kalila as fast as possible." Rath nodded in understanding.

"Well, this ship better take off soon, 'cause Tynan doesn't look too pleased."

"What?!" He followed Rath's gaze to the window, and saw a very irate father storming through the port.

Just then the ship jumped to life, leaving his father behind. Thank Eros!

The men separated ways as they returned to the palace. Rath going to Ria, and Zan to Kalila. He opened the door carefully, trying to be quiet. It was late, he didn't want to disturb her slumber.

His efforts were obviously wasted, because when he looked up, she was staring right at him.

His desire for her flared up immediately. He couldn't help it. She was so beautiful. He took in her dark hair, lying smoothly on her head, her wide, surprised eyes, her parted lips, her heaving breasts...

"Zan?"
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 2:48:10 PM
KALILA 12

She couldn't stop staring at him. She couldn't believe he was really here. "I thought you weren't coming home until next week?"

He gulped and walked forward slowly, his eyes never leaving hers. He shook his head, his mouth working, but no sound coming out.

"No," he finally managed, sounding hoarse.

"No?" Her whole body was tingling from the way he was staring at her. His amber-dark eyes penetrating into her soul. Why were they talking? she wondered. They shouldn't be. They should be ripping each other's clothes off.

Again, her naughty thoughts made her blush.

"C...Couldn't stay away that long," he rasped, finally on the bed. She threw the covers back, inviting him to lie beside her. He didn't take the invitation.

He crawled up the bed, eyes still locked with hers, until he was kneeling between her legs.

Oh Eros! She could feel herself readying for him, for his touch, his loving.

One of his hands slid through her hair, and he leaned down slightly...She closed her eyes, tilting her head to accept his kiss...She felt lips brush over her forehead...

NO! That was not what she wanted! She was on the verge of attacking him, when his lips again descended. They were everywhere on her face except her lips!

Finally, finally, and ever so slowly, he yielded to her wishes without her even asking. His kisses were soft, hesitant...

"I missed you," he told her softly, in between kisses, "
So much."

She brought her hands up to clasp his as they framed her face. "I missed you too." She felt him smile against her lips, and then the kisses became more demanding.

Her tongue met his, probing deeper. Her arms came around his neck wanting him closer. He broke away, kissing a path down her neck. Teeth scraped teasingly over the bone at the hollow at the base of her neck, followed by a light sucking.

"Zan," she moaned in pleasure, before forcing his lips back upon hers. Again, tongues clashed, dueling for dominance, until she gave up full control to him, gasping in delight as his hands ran up and down her back.

The need for air became too great, and they parted, just slightly, lips still touching as they took deep, heaving breaths. Then he frowned.

"Are you wearing my shirt?" he asked, pulling away to look her over. She blushed under his hot-eyed scrutiny of her garments, turning pink for another reason as his eyes darkened even more when he came to where the shirt ended at her mid-thigh.

"Yes," she said sheepishly. "I could take it off," she offered, "Or," she closed her eyes, not believing she could be this forward, "you could do it." She peered at him from under her lashes, hoping he wasn't put off by her brazen attitude, but she thought he needed a little push.

He was still staring at her thigh, a shocked expression on his face. "Zan?" she asked, a little worried. He finally looked up at her, and she knew her efforts would be rewarded. The look in his eyes...

"I...I think..." he stuttered, "...I think it would probably be best if I did it."

She nodded in complete accord. "Probably."

He rested his hands on her ankles, looking up at her for permission. He seemed encouraged, because he slid his hands further up her legs. She shivered in anticipation as his feather-light touch made its way up her thighs.

She watched him, taking in each reaction his face showed. He paused slightly as the fabric of the shirt caught on his wrist, but he took a deep breath and continued. His pace no faster, no slower, just nice and easy. She saw his eyes widen as he realized she wasn't wearing any underwear, she saw them darken even more when his hands came in contact with the curves of her breasts.

The shirt was off. She closed her eyes, feeling her hair settle back down on her shoulder, and finally found the courage to open them.

She hoped she was enough for him.
*~*~*

He closed his eyes. He couldn't help it. He wanted to cry at the sight of her naked body. She was completely perfect.

He opened his eyes, to see her looking at him, slightly nervous and embarrassed. He cupped her cheek. "You're beautiful," he whispered, seeking to reassure her.

She smiled happily and turned her head to kiss his palm. He sucked in a breath, and then gave in to his desire to kiss her.

He pulled her body flush against his, never releasing her mouth. She gave a soft sigh, and then he felt her small hands press in between them. She worked quickly on the buttons of his shirt, taking attention away from his kisses every so often to concentrate on what she was doing.

At the moment, she was trying to push it off his shoulders. He gave a low growl of frustration and sat up so that he was again kneeling instead of lying on top off her. He finally managed to shrug the fool thing off, and was rewarded by caresses from those tiny hands. She leaned up, pressing soft, teasing kisses to his abs and chest.

He groaned, and pushed her back down. She lay, dark hair fanned out across the pillows, her hands on either side of her head, breasts rising up and down in an erratic rhythm. His attention was captivated easily, and he bent down to explore.

He took one into his mouth, licking and suckling, the other he gently teased with his hand, before switching so that the other could receive equal attention. She was soft and firm at the same time. He licked the hollow between her breasts, and then proceeded on down, until he came to the edge of her femininity. He stopped, the scent of her leaving him wanting more, wanting to taste her. But he wouldn't give in. Not tonight.

He could tell she felt his attention shift, because she arched up. "Zan," she pleaded, her velvety eyes begging for his touch. He made his way back up her body leisurely, listening to her mewling cries. The soft noise aroused him even more.

He heard her intake of breath as she felt his response to her. He winced, afraid to frighten her, but his fears were pushed aside when he felt her hands reaching down, fumbling for the clasp to his pants. He pushed them aside, quickly undoing the button himself and throwing the offending garment to the floor.

He looked up to see her reaction, and was surprised by her fascination. She reached out again, her cool hands on his fevered skin were like torture.

"Kali, please," he begged. She looked at him and nodded, eyes wide.

"Make love to me Zan."

He nodded, and kissed her deeply, positioning himself to enter her. "Are you sure?" He had to make sure she was ready, he didn't want to hurt her in any way.

Her eyes meeting his were full of certainty. "I'm sure."

He took a deep breath and captured her lips again. He slid into her easily. He groaned with pleasure. She felt so good!
*~*~*

She sighed happily as he slid further into her. He fit into her perfectly. It was as if he was born to be inside of her.

He moved his lips lower on her body, pleasuring her in ways she couldn't believe, and on so many levels. Eros please let it be like this always.

She had a feeling it would. That everything would always be this wonderful as long as she was with him.

She felt him pause slightly as he reached her barrier. She bit her bottom lip, knowing what was coming.

"Kali?"

"Hurry," she told him, wanting to get the pain over with. She felt him nod against her neck and he thrust hard and fast through her maidenhood. "Zan!" she cried, her grip on his shoulders tightening for an instant, but the pain was quickly gone, lost in a sea of other emotions.

He had stopped again, waiting for her to get used to him. He was watching her carefully for any signs of discomfort, his golden-brown eyes concern. She smiled, and rocked against him experimentally.
*~*~*

He continued, knowing she was going to be all right. He kept their pace smooth and steady. It was the first time for both of them, and he wanted it to be perfect.

He knew it would be. With her, it always would be. He lifted his head to gaze down at her. Her eyes closed in ecstasy, her body flushed a rosy red, her lips all puffy and pink from his kisses. He took pride in the fact that he had caused that look of contentment, that he was the one to bring her so much pleasure...

She was his, and he was hers. And that was the way it would be for eternity.

He was coming closer to the edge, so he pulled almost completely out of her and waited.

Her eyes flew open. "Zan?"

"I love you," he told her, and he thrust deeply into her one last time. Her silken walls tightened around his length and he cried out her name as he released. His own triggered hers, and she came, writhing with pleasure beneath him, his name on her lips was like music to him.

He collapsed gently on top of her, breathing deeply. Her arms came up around his back, cradling him like an infant.

"I love you too, Zan," she told him. He looked up and smiled at her. She returned the gesture and they kissed sweetly.

He rolled off of her, his body feeling the loss of her warmth immediately. So he pulled her into his arms, grabbed the comforter so that she wouldn't get a chill, and buried his face in her hair as drowsiness overtook him.

They fell asleep wrapped around each other.
*~*~*

She awoke with a feeling of completion like she'd never known before. Her long lashes brushed across golden skin, and she smiled, snuggling closer.

It hadn't been a dream.

Zan had made her a woman last night. He had made her absolutely and totally his. And right now, she was more than content to stay wrapped up in her husband's embrace.

She thought back to yesterday morning and her grin widened. She had been right, her muscles were even more sore. Not that she was complaining, not at all...

He stirred slightly against her, and she felt him tightened his grip on her. "Kali," he murmured. Then, as if everything had suddenly just hit him, he pulled away slightly.

His face looking down at her was anxious, he was probably wondering if she regretted last night. Well she didn't.

“Good morning," she whispered, smiling shyly.

His face relaxed. "Morning," he whispered back.

They kept smiling at each other, his hand stroking her arm lightly, neither willing to break the quiet spell that had found it's way into their bedchamber.

"ZAN!!"

The door burst open, and they both bolted upright. Zan shielded her body until she pulled the covers up to cover her breasts. They both stared at the intruder.

Rath didn't notice that he had interrupted anything, he was pacing back and forth on the carpet at the foot of his bed, mumbling unintelligibly, a panicked look on his face.

Kalila wondered idly if Ria had made good on her threat of no talking, and later, the no sex one she had made up when she had come to comfort Kalila.

"Rath, what're you talking about?" Zan asked, obviously bewildered.

"Haven't you been listening to a word I've said?" Rath demanded of his friend, his expression one of such comical despair that she wanted to giggle. "RIA'S HAVING THE BABY!!!"

"Congratulations," she exclaimed, "that's marvelous!"

"Yes, thank you. But what in the name of Eros am I supposed to do?" He started pacing again.

"Um," Zan said mildly, "You should probably be with her."

Rath turned to stare, a look of comprehension dawning. "You're right!" And with that he dashed off again.

Kalila looked at his retreating back, and then looked at her husband, who was looking at her.

They started laughing.
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 2:50:29 PM
KALILA 13

"Aaahhhh!" she screamed. She clenched the sheets in between her fingers, trying to stop the pain.

"Alright, alright, just breathe honey, please...Just calm down and breathe!" Rath pleaded with her.

"CALM DOWN!! CALM DOWN!!" She grabbed his shirt, the pain and discomfort she was in only fueled her temper. "Don't you DARE tell me to calm down, I'M HAVING A BABY FOR EROS' SAKE!!!!!! You have a baby, honey," she gritted out, "And we'll see how CALM you can be!"

He winced at her tone, and she smiled, happy that she had succeeded in intimidating him. But her triumph was cut short by another contraction. She screamed again, causing all the people in the birthing-room to cover their ears.

"Ria?" came a soft inquiring voice. She glanced toward the door to see her hesitant best friend and her husband peering in.

"Oh! Little one! Zan! Get your asses in here. Someone needs to get my stupid lug of a husband out of here before I rip him apart for all the pain he's put me in!" She glared at Rath, who at least had the decency to look away, but then ruined it by talking.

"The pain that I put you in?!" he responded, outraged.

"Yes you! You...you...Spiky-haired, over-muscled, thickheaded...MAN, you! The one time..." she looked imploringly to Kalila, "You will not believe it, little one. The one time. ONE TIME, I let him be on top, and he gets me pregnant!"

"RIA!!" Rath thundered, turning an interesting shade of red. He seemed about to continue when she gave another tight-lipped scream.

"Ria?" Kalila asked worriedly, stepping to her friend's bedside.

"Oh, don't worry, hon," Ria said, through clenched teeth, as the contraction slowly faded, "I'll be okay, as long as you get the cretin who did this to me out of here!" She made a quick movement toward her husband, but was quickly restrained by the nurse and healer.

Rath backed away from his murderous wife until he was grabbed by Zan and pulled into the sitting room outside. "We'll be back as soon as she...well, you know," the prince stuttered, and ducked out, closing the door.

"Well," Ria sighed, "at least one of our husbands have some sense."

"Yeah," Kalila said softly, still looking at the spot where Zan had disappeared, blushing softly. Ria stared at her suspiciously, taking in the color in her cheeks, the new glow, the way she shifted a bit uncomfortably.

She cleared her throat and Kalila turned to her, "Aww, girl, you got some!" Ria exclaimed joyfully, heedless of the medical staff.

"Ria!" She responded, wide-eyed and scandalized. She sent a fearful glance at the healer, who was smiling gently.

"Oh, bother them. So, how was it?" she asked curiously.

Kalila got this dreamy look in her eyes, and she gave a deep, happy sigh. "It was wonderful," she told her, "But," she blushed, "I'm a little sore," she finished in a whisper. She bit her lip and looked at Ria, as if anxious that something was wrong.

"That's natural after your first time, it'll go away quickly." She glanced toward the door. "What do you suppose those boys are up to?"
*~*~*

"It's awful quiet in there man," he told Zan, "I hope she didn't kill anyone." He stared at the door fearfully.

Zan laughed at his friend, "I'm sure everything's okay. But it's Ria, you know how she dramatizes everything."

Oh yeah, he knew all too well. "Yeah, but…Zan...You saw her too, when that contraction ripped through her...She was in so much pain, I don't...I don't want her hurt, no matter how much I want a baby. I don't know if it's worth losing her."

"You won't lose her Rath, and you won't lose the baby. Everything will be fine, birth is a natural thing, and Ria is definitely strong enough to handle it."

"Yeah," he agreed, grinning in remembrance of all the uproars his spunky wife had caused over their married years. "Do you think it'll be a boy?" he asked, abruptly changing the subject to a more pleasant one.

"What do you want it to be?"

"Well, not an it." They both laughed. "I don't know. I mean a boy would be great, but a little Ria running around would be cool too." His grin widened at the image of a miniature green-eyed, blond-haired spitfire running around the palace.

"Oh no," Zan put in, eyes wide in mock alarm, "I don't think the whole of the Alliance could handle another Ria in the universe."

"Yeah," he laughed, "You're probably right." Besides, it probably wouldn't happen. Ria was one of a kind, couldn't be duplicated, not even by a daughter. "I think I want a boy," he finally decided. Zan just nodded in complacent sympathy.

"RATH!!!" The scream reverberated through the room. He stood up nervously, eyeing the door to the bedchamber.

"Do you think it's safe to go in?"

"Well," Zan cocked his head, obviously thinking, "Either she needs you, or she wants to kill you."

"RATH!!!" Ria's wail broke through his uncertain thoughts.

"I think I'll take my chances," he told his friend, striding determinedly forward. The scene that greeted him was one he had expected. The nurse behind the healer, who was kneeling before Ria, calmly giving her pointers. Kalila was holding her hand, whispering assurances. When she saw him she gestured over.

"Rath's here Ria," he heard her whisper before they switched positions.

He held onto Ria's hand firmly, letting her know he was here and he wasn't going anywhere. She opened pain-filled green eyes and looked at him.

"It's really happening isn't it? We're having a baby."

"Yeah," he soothed, "It's really happening, honey." He saw her smile through the pain.

"Good. I love you Rath," she whispered, clutching his hand harder as another wave hit. He kissed her forehead.

"I love you too, hon, now listen to the healer. Breathe deeply, calmly, try not to faint."

"You try not to faint," she made an attempt at humor, "You're more worked up than me!" He laughed softly, knowing that, in a way, it was true.

"Good Lady Ria, we need you to push."

"Did you hear that hon? They need you to push."

"I heard, I'm not deaf," she said irritably, swatting at him with her free hand.

"PUSH!"

"I AM PUSHING!" The arguing went on, and on, and on. But if it gave her something to focus on besides the pain, then all the verbal abuse was worth it.

A cry suddenly echoed in the room, and Ria collapsed gently onto the bed. "Thank Eros that's over," she murmured.

"Congratulations Lord Rath, Lady Ria, you have a healthy son."

"A son," he repeated, awed.

"A son?! All that work and all I got out of it was a boy?!" Ria complained. He looked down on her in consternation, and found her grinning up at him, happiness radiating out from her emerald eyes. "That's perfect." He smiled down at her, running a gentle hand over sweat-streaked cheeks.

"What're you going to name him?" Kalila asked eagerly as the baby was given to Ria.

"Um," he contemplated, "How about Terril, or Davin, or...or Arden, or...Yeah, Rath Jr..."

"Shut up," Ria smacked him, "We're naming him Ryley, and that's it! Got it?" She raised a threatening eyebrow.

"Got it," he replied meekly.

Zan gave a hearty laugh. He glared at his so-called friend. "Just wait until it's your turn," he threatened. Zan's laughter tapered off, not because of fear, Rath saw in disgust, but because of the swoony, moony-eyed way Kalila was looking at him.

She had that boy whipped, thank goodness he wasn't susceptible to Ria's attempts. To just roll over and heel like some...some trained animal. It was disgraceful to the male race! Completely-

"Rath! Get your ass over here and meet your son!" He, of course, quickly complied to her wishes. Not because he was on as short a leash as Zan, but because he really did want to see his son. Plus, he didn't want to make her mad.

He looked down at the small bundle in Ria's arms. The boy had a full head of brown hair, just like his dad! He smiled joyfully and finally looked at Ria.

Her blond hair was limp and hung flat against her shoulders. She was pale, but there was a slight rise of red high in her cheeks, and her green eyes were sparkling. She had this serene smile on her face as she watched her baby.

She had never looked more beautiful to him than at that moment.
*~*~*

Zan smiled down at Kalila, wanting to whisk her away back to their room and make their own baby. And, by the look on her face, she was thinking the exact same thing.

"Hey, little one!" Ria called. Kalila looked away from him. "Remember what I said about never letting a guy touch you again?"

Kalila nodded, blushing, and not meeting his eyes. Zan was on the verge of thinking that Ria might not be the best influence on his Kali.

"I take it back. It's worth all the pain." Ria's gaze drifted back to her small family, and away from the new lovers.

Zan looked back down as his wife fit herself into the curve of his arm. He tightened his hold, bringing her more firmly against him and met her star-filled eyes. "We'll have a baby of our own someday," he whispered.

"Soon?" she inquired softly, blushing deeply.

"Soon," he promised, kissing her softly. He wanted desperately to deepen it, but this wasn't the place to do it.

"Let's head back to our room," Kali suggested huskily.

"Yeah..."
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 2:53:21 PM
KALILA 14

He strode through the spaceport in his typical "I rule all" manner. The flight technicians and repair workers all scrambled to get out of his way, bowing and tripping as they went. He didn't deign to acknowledge them.

He was a man on a mission.

The hover pad seemed to be going extraordinarily slow. He tapped his fingers impatiently on his armrest, anxious to get to the palace as quickly as possible. He had a rebellious son to deal with.

He couldn't believe Zan. The nerve of that boy to just skip out during a political visit, and he succeeded in taking Commander Rath with him! Those to were lucky he stayed behind to soothe the Queen Kathana. War with a military planet like Gorganin was something to be avoided at all costs.

Fortunately, the conferences with Kathana had proved...profitable. He smiled slyly, Zan would have to comply with his wishes on this matter, and there were added bonuses. A compliant son, and a chance to get rid of that Paerhnian whore he called a wife!

The hover vehicle stopped, landing gently outside the palace gates. He exited quickly, walking as fast as possible to his war room.

It was the most imposing room in the palace. It spoke of power and control. Two things he would need in order to make his son back down, for the boy would argue. He just had to make sure Zan didn't win.

Seating himself behind the large desk at the forefront of the room, he called in a messenger.

"Your Majesty?" inquired the timid man, obviously in suitable awe to be in the presence of his king. That was as it should be.

"Fetch Prince Zan and bring him to me," he ordered, not looking up from the documents he was examining. He heard a small squeak and lifted his head, frowning in a menacing manner.

"Um...Majesty-"

"WHAT? What are you still doing here?! I gave you an order! Go get the Prince!" He waved his hand at the door imperiously.

"That's...that's just it, your Majesty, P-prince Zan gave...gave orders that he and the Princess Kalila were not to be disturbed."

Princess Kalila? Who was Princess Kal- It hit him instantly. That little slut was going around giving herself airs! Titles above her station! Well that would soon be remedied.

"Very well, fetch the Queen."

"Y-yes your Majesty!" The small man fled the room, trembling.
*~*~*

Ariann took a deep breath before knocking on the heavy door.

"Come in." She entered quietly, shutting the door firmly behind her, and turned, making sure she had a smile pasted on her face.

"Tynan! You did not send word that you were returning. We would have made proper preparations; an escort, a party..."

"Do be quiet. You know very well that you would not have cared whether I returned or not. I want to know what's been going on in my absence and since Zan's return. You are going to tell me." She clenched her teeth together, refusing to let him get to her.

"Well," she paused, enjoying making him wait, "Ria had her baby."

"Ria? Who's Ria?" Eros, was the man really that dense?

"The Lady Ria is Commander Rath's wife," she told him, as if speaking to a small child.

"Oh, another one of those whores from Paerhna." Her back stiffened at his condescending tone, but she didn't say anything.

"It was a boy."

"What was?" he asked, uncomprehending.

"The baby. It was a boy, they named him Ryley."

"Ryley? What kind of name is Ryley? It sounds common. Of course, I would expect it from a woman like that." He shook his head, tone disgusted.

You are a Queen, she reminded herself, screaming at an insufferable husband is unseemly.

"Not much else happened that was notable, Tynan."

"Oh, well, I didn't want to hear about it anyway. Tell me what Zan and this...Kalila, have been up to."

Oh! Zan and Kalila! Her favorite subject. Those two were just too precious!

"Well," she started, leaning forward excitedly, "When Zan came back, the first thing he did was go to Kalila, and..." she paused and lowered her voice, "Since then, the only time they've come out of their chambers was for Ryley's birth and for food. With any luck, that heir you've been wanting Zan to have will be along shortly." She leaned back, satisfied that she had managed to stupefy him.

"Do you mean to tell me that they are having sex at this very moment?!" he asked, outraged.

"No, they are not having sex," she said calmly.

"Oh, good-"

"They are making love!"

"WHAT?!"

"What, what?" she asked irritably, "I thought you'd be pleased. I thought you wanted him to have an heir."

"No, yes, but...With a proper wife, not a whore!" That was it! She refused to listen to him belittle Kalila like that.

"Kalila is not a whore," she told him, stalking up to his desk and shaking her finger in his face, "She is a sweet girl who is as head-over-heels for Zan as he is for her, and you will not do anything to ruin their happiness!"

"I am KING, I will do whatever I want!" She stood her ground, not backing down at his menacing tone.

"Not while I'm around." Then she turned her back to him and walked calmly to the door.

"Ariann." She paused, but didn't turn around. "Send Zan to me," he commanded.

"I am not your servant Tynan." And with that she left.
*~*~*

She gave a low cry of pleasure, and came, writhing before she collapsed against him. He ran fingers over her wet back, planting kisses on her cheek, whispering his love over and over. She smiled against his neck.

"Zan," she whispered, sitting up. She was still straddling him, and the sight of her bare breasts made him harden within her immediately. Her eyes widened at the feeling of him filling her again.

He stood, and wrapped her more tightly around him. She tightened her legs around his waist, gasping as the change in position shoved him even more deeply into her.

He groaned as the change in temperature caused her nipples to harden. Leaning down, he suckled gently at her soft smooth skin. Her head fell back in ecstasy and she clung to him harder.

Making his way from the bathing chamber to their bed was of no difficulty. She released her death hold on his neck and he laid her down on the bed, careful not to dislodge himself from her depths. Their wet bodies began to soak the sheets, but they really didn't care.

He slowly removed the clasps in her hair, fanning the long dark strands out on the pillows. He had wanted to let her hair down before, but wet hair was just as hard to run his fingers through as when it was up, so he had let her keep it up. But now it was his turn, and he wanted to bury his hands in the silky mass.

"Zan," she said, pleading with him. Her big brown eyes begging for completion. He brushed his lips over hers.

"I know, Kali," he whispered. He started their pace slow and steady, taking his time, savoring each little sound of joy that escaped her lips.

They had spent the past two days making up for those wasted years, and he was enjoying it thoroughly. He loved making love to her. Loved reveling in the perfection, loved the way it just kept getting better each time.

They had managed to perfect perfection.

The concept was his Kali in and of itself. She became more perfect, more beautiful, more alluring every time he looked at her. He gazed down at her now, as he exploded her. He watched her parted lips as she gave a soundless scream, watched her flushed cheeks, her fluttering eyelids.

She opened her eyes and met his, she wrapped her arms around him tighter, pulling him closer. She kissed him softly. "I love you," they said softly against each other's lips.

He almost loved the intimacy of the afterglow the most. Almost.

A knock interrupted the moment. He rolled his eyes in annoyance and slid out of her reluctantly. He leaned down and kissed her in response to her soft mew of protest.

He grabbed a pair of pants and pulled on a shirt as he made his way to the door. Mumbling about the horrible deaths he would subject the intruder to, he flung open the door to see a cowering servant.

"I believe I gave orders that I was not to be disturbed," he said icily, glaring at the trembling figure, "What is so important that you had to disregard those orders?"

"Oh...um, well, your Highness," he stuttered, "His Ma-Majesty has returned, and he has requested your presence in the war-war room. Immediately." He gulped, obviously awaiting a curt dismissal or a harsh punishment. His father must be in a bad mood.

"Zan?" Kalila inquired softly. He turned to see her walking into the sitting room, fully dressed, finishing putting her hair up. She joined him in the doorway, glancing curiously between him and the servant.

"Your Highness," he said, bowing. She smiled kindly at him, a gesture that he returned happily. She turned back to Zan.

"My father is back, and has...requested my presence." Kali's smile dropped, and she seemed to pale.

"Oh, then you better not keep him waiting." He nodded and gave her a soft kiss, suggesting that she go visit with his mother. It was her turn to nod, and then he turned to the servant, who was looking at the floor, seemingly uncomfortable with his liege's display of emotion.

"Let's go."

"Yes, sir." He started forward quickly and Zan followed, a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He glanced back at his Kali and wondered why his father wanted to see him.

It couldn't be for something good.
*~*~*

Ariann watched as Kalila gratefully sat down in the cushioned chair. She had explained that Tynan had wanted to see Zan, so she had come to see Ariann. Ariann smiled. It had taken Tynan an hour to realize that his wife had openly defied him.

"I was thinking, that since the King's lectures normally take up a large quantity of time, that we could go to the market together."

"That's a nice idea, I haven't been to the market in such a long time," she paused, "I haven't really spent all that much time with you lately."

Kalila blushed a deep red. "Well...um...I, Zan...we..."

"Don't worry little one," Ariann laughed, "I heartily approve of you and Zan's new pastime."

"Oh!" She blushed even more furiously and looked anywhere but at her mother-in-law. Ariann laughed harder.

"Come, dear, it's off to market we go."
*~*~*
posted on 11-Jul-2002 4:22:57 PM
KALILA 15

Zan stared at his father in disbelief. “You’re not serious?”

“I am always serious, Zan.”

“Y-you can’t do that. It’s ridiculous, I won’t…Absolutely not.”

“ I’m afraid that the deal has already been settled. There is no going back.”

“Well you better find a way to break the stupid deal, because there is NO way I’m going to comply with the terms!” he said decisively.

He really did not understand how it came to pass that this man was his father. He was slow, ineffective, and a total moron. How he even came up with this scheme was beyond comprehension…Well, one thing was for certain, Zan would not go along with it!

“I believe you were the one who said I shouldn’t take Kivar lightly. I thought you would be happy that I was taking your precautions so seriously,” Tynan stated smugly, feigning surprise.

Zan narrowed his eyes, choosing his words carefully, “I am…pleased, that you are taking the threat that Kivar represents to heart, however, I do not see how this…agreement, that you made with Queen Kathana, will help.”

“Zan,” his father sighed, acting as if he were wit-deprived, “Gorganin is a completely military planet. If we form an alliance with them, we have a steady supply of weapons and well-trained, hardened warriors. Kivar will not stand a chance. So you see the need?”

“No,” he replied defiantly.

His father gave another world-weary sigh and Zan had to resist the urge to punch him, so he settled for clenching his fists. “If there is a war, Dagon will automatically side with us, due to the long-standing friendship between our planets’ rulers, and Vaina will, more than likely side with Paerhna-“

“Because of all the betrothals the lords on Vaina made with the governors’ daughters,” Zan finished for him, nodding in understanding. Kalila had told him of her sister’s planned marriage, and those of other daughters among the provinces in Paerhna. She had told him that she would also have been given away in such a fashion had Kivar not acquired her. He had just held her close, thanking Eros that, in whatever manner, fate had chosen her to end up with him, safe and happy and loved.

“Exactly,” Tynan beamed at his son, “With the addition of Gorganin to our ranks, Claren will follow along with her sister planet, and Antar will have the winning side, so you see, we need Kathana’s support.”

“But surely there is another way,” Zan pleaded.

The king shook his head in false sympathy. “These were the only terms Kathana would agree to. I’m sorry Zan,” he continued, obviously anything but, “but there is no other alternative. You have to weeks to prepare, have everything in order by the time the Gorganians arrive.”

Zan recognized the dismissal, however, he did not acknowledge it. He stood, straight-backed and tense at his father’s high-handed demand, in front of the large desk. Gritting his teeth he waited for his father to notice his presence. Tynan looked up about a minute later and frowned.

“Yes, Zan?”

“I will not marry Ava.”

“Zan, you do not have a choice. If you do not agree to the marriage than Gorganin and Claren will aid Kivar and Antar will be lost,” he paused, than added slyly, “Which is more important Zan? Your planet or your whore?”

A white-hot fury ripped through him then, and he snapped, lunging at Tynan. A sword point halted his advancement. He glared at his father, just waiting.

“You will hold your tongue when you think such thoughts about my wife. Father or no, another slur on your behalf toward my Kali and, Eros help you, not even a sword will stop me from initiating your death.”

Tynan slowly lowered the sword he had so hastily torn from its sheath, his hand shaking as he placed it on his desk. “Your actions could be misconstrued as treason my son,” he warned, “However, due to your unnatural attachment to the girl, I will allow her to remain in residence in the palace, but you will marry the Princess Ava. I am commanding you, as your king, and as your father.”
*~*~*

Vilandra jumped back in alarm as the large doors to her father’s war-room boomed open. She stared in shock at her angry brother. “Zan?”

“What are you doing Vilandra?”

“I’m…I…I wanted to speak with Father.” Her eyes darted frantically around, trying not to meet his penetrating amber eyes. If she did, he’d know she was lying.

“Really? Cause it appeared to me as if you were eavesdropping,” he insinuated. She blushed a deep red.

“Of course I wasn’t Zan!” she exclaimed, feigning hurt, “How could you even assume-“

“Don’t mess with me right now, sister dear,” he retorted, “I am not in the mood for your attempts to probe into my confidence.”

“What are you talking about Zan?” she asked, confused.

He gave a short bark of laughter, causing her to flinch. “I don’t know Vilandra? Maybe the fact that you’re sleeping with the enemy has given me some concerns as to where your loyalties lie.”

She gaped at him, stunned. She had had no idea that she and Niko were being so blatant about their relationship. “Niko isn’t the enemy. He’s a good man, who-“

“Forget it Vilandra. Niko works for Kivar, Kivar is our enemy. Any information you ‘accidentally’ spill during late night chats finds its way back to Paerhna and into the uprising’s plot. Both of them are playing you for a fool, and you’re too naïve to see it.”

“Me? Me?! What about your ‘wife’, huh? How do you know she’s not the one spilling Antar’s weaknesses?”

“Kalila would never betray me!”

“So you say, but you don’t know that Zan. She has you wrapped around her little finger with her wide-eyed looks and maidenly blushes, the same way she had Kivar. Don’t fall for it Zan, she’ll be your downfall in the end.”

“Eros, you expect me to believe you? You’re a traitor.”

“I am not! How dare you accuse me of such a thing?! I wouldn’t ever hurt you Zan. I love you too much.” She reached out to her beloved brother, her oldest, closest friend, and placed a hand on his arm.

His shoulders slumped, and he hung his head in defeat. “I’m sorry Lonnie,” he said, using her childhood nickname, “I just…there’s so much going on, and I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s okay,” she whispered, hugging him, “But Father’s right Zan, marrying Ava is the right decision. It will keep Antar safe, and it’ll keep treasonous whores away from you.”

Zan violently pushed himself out of the sibling embrace. He stared at her as if she had struck him, then a black mask descended over his features, concealing his emotions, blocking her. “You’re one to talk,” he snarled scornfully.

She watched, frozen, as he turned on his heel and strode away. Her brother had just as much told her she was a whore. Stinging tears welled up behind her eyes and she ran back to her chambers.

This was all that girl’s fault.
*~*~*

Kalila pushed open the door to her and Zan’s bedchamber gently, she walked in, glancing around. She sighed heavily when she realized it was empty, she had expected Zan to be back by now. Shutting the door, she made her way further into the room.

A low sob broke the quiet, and she spun around to see her husband curled up in the window seat.

“Zan?” She quickly crossed the floor and was at his side in an instant. “Zan what’s wrong?” She placed a hand on one of his drawn up knees, beyond concern. His shaking shoulders, and muffled sobs were distressing her more than anything. Zan was crying. He never cried. “Zan, please?” she begged.

He lifted his head, his bloodshot eyes looking into her worried ones. She ran her hand over his cheek, wiping away his tears. He gave a choked cry and she found herself pulled into his arms.

He held her close, closer than ever before, as if afraid she would disappear. She held him back just as tightly, sensing his need. “Please, Zan, tell me what’s happened.”

“My father has finally chosen to acknowledge the problem of Kivar, and has enlisted Gorganin’s help.” His voice was hoarse, unhappy, she didn’t quite understand the problem.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” she inquired.

“I’m not done.” He took a deep breath, running his hands through her hair. “In order to receive Kathana’s support my father promised…” he took another shuddering breath before continuing, “…He promised my hand in marriage to Ava.”
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 4:26:44 PM
KALILA 16

He watched her expression carefully, tightening his hold on her, lest she try to flee. She was blinking rapidly, a small frown on her lips.

“What?” she questioned, bewildered.

Zan swallowed hard and he shut his eyes as he answered. “My father is forcing me to wed Ava.”

“But we are already married.” She sounded so lost. As lost as he felt. He opened his eyes to stare into hers, trying to convey the magnitude of mistake his father had made when he agreed to ruin two lives.

“I know.” He sounded broken, even to himself, and he knew, that no matter what horrors he might see in his future, nothing would compare to the bleakness that marred Kalila’s beautiful eyes.

“B-but why?”

“He says,” Zan started bitterly, “that this was the only way to gain a true alliance with Gorganin, and we need Gorganin’s support when Kivar attacks. Which is true,” he admitted, thinking aloud, “We do need Gorganin, but I can’t help thinking there was another way to do it that father purposefully chose to ignore.”

He frowned now, realizing all at once that Tynan had manipulated the whole situation to suit himself.

“Because of me,” Kalila said slowly in a small voice. He shifted his gaze, from contemplating the carpeting to her shiny eyes, quickly understanding that she had deduced his suspected reasoning in the king’s logic.

What little he had.

“Because he doesn’t think I’m worthy of being your wife. Of being a Prince’s wife.” A tear dripped down her cheek.

“NO!” he told her fiercely, cupping her face and forcing the haunted eyes to meet his, “Don’t think that! Don’t ever think that! You are my wife Kalila. My wife! And I love you. More than everything.”

“I love you, too, Zan, but-“

“No,” he cut her off, “no buts. How I feel for you, and how you feel for me is all that matters.” He kissed her gently, trying to take all the problems away.

“I wish I could believe that,” she whispered shakily.

“You can,” he said earnestly, resting his forehead against hers, “You can, because it’s true Kali. It’s true.”

She shook her head, and he pulled back slightly, confused by her resistance. “But it’s not all that matters Zan.” She blocked his protests with a finger to his lips. “If we were…If we weren’t who we are. If you weren’t Crown Prince of Antar, and if I wasn’t…a Paerhnian whore,” she spat out. Zan’s eyes widened in alarm, but still, she wouldn’t let him speak. The anger in her brown eyes faded and her voice grew soft. “Then maybe I’d be willing to let you defy your duty…But we’re not. We’re not. You are Crown Prince, Zan, and your duty is to your planet first.”

“But, I don't want-“

“I know. I don’t want you to either, but it’s not about us anymore Zan. It’s about Antar.”

He was silent, knowing she was right, but not wanting to believe. They just looked at each other, holding each other close, letting, but not wanting, reality set in.
*~*~*

He kissed her fiercely. Urgently demanding that she give him everything, and she did. Willingly.

She needed him at that moment, needed him as badly as he needed her. She wrapped arms around his neck, pulling him closer to her, kissing him harder…

Her body was on fire, a fire his lips and hands created. A fire he fueled every time he looked at her. A fire that could never be quenched. They couldn’t take that away, whether they took him away, their love would always be. Sparking, flaming, burning…it couldn’t be put out.

Their love would never die.

Kalila felt soft material come in contact with her back, and she realized with surprise that Zan had moved them to the bed. She had been too focused on him to notice, but now…

Now she was hyperaware of the satin comforter. Of the skirts of her new white dress foaming up to the naked skin of her thighs. Of Zan’s large, loving hands running up and down her body…

His lips came in contact with her neck and she arched upward, sighing his name. His hands fumbled slightly with the tiny buttons on the front of her dress, he gave a muffled curse, and the next thing she knew, her dress was torn open.

The expensive fabric was ripped, buttons went flying in every direction, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was Zan’s mouth on her breasts. He continued his assault, the gown being ruined in the process, but hey, she was doing a little damage of her own. His shirt was hanging off his shoulder, holes where her fingers had caught…His back would be covered in long red scratches tomorrow morning, she mused.

She didn’t object to the roughness he showed when he pounded into her. She needed it, and she knew he needed it too. This wasn’t the leisurely lovemaking they had been experiencing recently. This was him staking his claim on her.

She was his.

Zan was just making sure the world knew it, even though the world would never see the inside of their bedchamber.

She felt the first shiver of release course through her, and she bit down on his shoulder, leaving teeth marks.

Marking him as hers.

He pulled nearly all the way out of her before plunging back in. He cave a hoarse cry, her name on his lips…She held him tightly as he tensed and relaxed, collapsing on top of her, burying his face in her neck. She felt deliciously crushed beneath him.

He raised his head, tear-filled amber eyes, and he gently tucked her hair behind her ear, a startling contrast to his frantic actions of only moments earlier. She kissed him sweetly, knowing he was going to apologize for hurting her, but not wanting him to.

“I love you,” she told him softly.

“I love you, too,” he replied, his tone equally as soft.

“They can’t take that away from us.”

“I know.”
*~*~*

Kivar stared at the letter from Niko, then glanced over at the wedding invitation that displayed the Antarian and Gorganian royal seals. He smiled.

“Interesting. Very interesting.
*~*~*
posted on 11-Jul-2002 4:28:23 PM
KALILA 17

They clung together silently, dreading the coming morning.

It would change everything. The separation ceremony would take place at dawn, before the Gorganians awoke, in the afternoon Zan and Ava would be married, followed by a reception, and then…the wedding night.

Kalila made a small sound of distress at the very thought of another woman in their bed, in her husband’s arms. Yes, but he won’t be your husband, a little voice reminded her sadly, he’ll be Ava’s.

“Love?” She gazed up into Zan’s pain-filled eyes and felt tears well up in her own.

“They can’t do this, Zan. They can’t take you away from me!” she cried.

“Ssh, ssh, Kali, I’m yours. Always. No matter what my father does, no matter what he says…You are my wife. Only you. Forever,” he tried to reassure her.

“Forever?” she sniffed.

“’Til death and after,” he promised. She nodded, feeling a teensy bit better. “We love each other Kalila, and you said it yourself, they can’t take that away from us.”

He was right. She knew he was right, but her insecurities wouldn’t go away. “But what if you fall in love with Ava?” she asked, so softly that she wasn’t sure he heard her. But, of course, he had.

“Never,” he swore, looking at her as if she were crazy, “Never, ever, EVER! The woman is a brain-dead idiot, much like my father, who couldn’t hold a conversation if her life depended on it. Her skin is too white, her hair is too blond, her eyes are too blue…In effect, she is the very antithesis of you, and if I ever feel anything for her…I will die from pure shock.”

She stared, stunned by his passionate declaration, and then began to giggle. She couldn’t help it, the situation they were in was not a laughing matter, but the fact that she had doubted him was just funny. Come to think of it, she’d been experiencing mood swings a lot lately, going from mad to happy, or crying for no reason…

He was still looking at her funny, but there was an edge to his expression, an anxiousness for her to understand. She sobered immediately and reached up, brushing his cheek. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, “I don’t doubt your feelings for me, and I have no idea what I was thinking suggesting-“

“It’s fine,” he interrupted, smiling gently, “This whole…thing…is just…”

“Overwhelming.”

“Yeah, we’re both kind of stressed, emotional…”

“But we’ll be okay.”

“Yeah, we’ll be okay. I’m not going to let them take you away. He can’t make me forget. He can’t make me feel things I don’t really feel. She’ll never be you, Kali, and he’s a fool to think she could ever replace you.”

She felt herself tearing up again. “Oh, Zan, I love you. I love you so much it hurts sometimes!”

His lips brushed over hers. “I know what you mean Kali. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t touch you, or hold you, or kiss you, I love you so much,” his voice trailed off into a hoarse whisper.

She gave a muffled sob and kissed him fiercely. His response was just as passionate, and the spent the last of their time as man and wife together, exchanging vows of faithfulness and never-ending love…

Until the knock rang out against their chamber door.
*~*~*

“The bond is severed,” he announced, not bothering to mask his triumph. He glanced down at the newly separated couple kneeling before him, who weren’t doing as tradition dictated and unclasping their hands.

Their hands were still locked together, and they were staring soulfully into each other’s eyes. He wanted to hurl. The nerve of the princeling, manhandling his Kalila! He stepped forward angrily, grasping Zan’s hand and exerting pressure on the nerve, causing his grip to loosen and Kalila’s hand to fall away.

Zan rose quickly to his feet, a murderous expression on his face, Rath placed a restraining hand on his arm, and Kivar just smiled at him. Behind the prince were Tynan, obviously pleased, and Vilandra, who was grinning at him seductively. Her earlier frosty attitude over his past transgressions ended. And then there was his future Queen…

His smile faltered as he looked at his beloved. Her sunny smile and innocence was gone, instead there was a small girl with big, sad eyes that were shiny with unshed tears. Ariann and Ria, with an obnoxious brat on her hip, were comforting her.

As if she needed comfort. Thankfully he had just taken the first steps to rescuing her from the Antarian Prince’s clutches. As soon as she was back in Paerhna, with him, she’d return to normal. He’d remedy whatever emotional scars that brute she’d been bonded to had caused.

She was free now, and he just had to make her realize his love for her, and hers for him, and everything would be all right.

Soon, a month at the most, and everything would be all right.
*~*~*

He came up for air slowly, the heavy, silver liquid of the purification bath running down him. He was using this time to think, but all his mind could dwell on was his Kali’s face as Kivar ripped their hands apart. She had looked as devastated as he felt, the light surrounding her nearly diminished…

And now…Now he was going to be married to another. A girl he didn’t like in the least, one he couldn’t stand, all for the sake of Antar.

He hated being Crown Prince.

He began swimming over to the stairs leading out, but pulled up short, standing up fast, the liquid barely covering what needed to be covered. He ducked down further, and she pouted cherry lips.

“What are you doing here, Ava?” he demanded.

“Just wanted to check up on my husband-to-be.” Her eyes raked over him hungrily, licking her lips in anticipation. Zan suppressed a grimace, but couldn’t manage to stop the wince.

What had ever given her the impression that he wanted to be with her?

The door to the bath opened. “Zan!” Ah, yes, his father, that must’ve had something to do with it. The king slowed, surprise and then a grin crossing his face at the sight before him. Zan groaned inwardly. “Princess Ava, what a pleasure, what has caused you to grace this room with your beautiful presence?”

Yes, Ava, he thought sarcastically, whatever could the reason be?

She gave Tynan a simpering smile and giggled at bit. Eros kill me now, he pleaded with the god. “I was just visiting Zan, wanted to make sure he wasn’t getting cold feet.” She looked back at him, but his gaze was locked on his father’s.

“I assure you Princess, Zan has NO intention of leaving you at the altar.” The prince heard the king’s command, and bowed his head.

“Well, fabulous! I’m just going to go find my mother and finish getting ready. I’ll see you in an hour, Zan,” she called as she walked away.

“Yeah,” he replied sullenly.

“Zan.” He raised his head. “Get dressed. It’s time.” Tynan spun on his heel and strode back the way he came.

And the Prince felt like his world was ending.
*~*~*
posted on 11-Jul-2002 4:30:46 PM
KALILA 18

Larak watched his old friend carefully. He hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to Zan in the years since he’d become King of Dagon, but the Prince visited him on occasion. And on the last visit he had brought along his new wife.

What had happened, Larak wasn’t sure of, but he knew that Zan and Kalila had been it love. When they had come to Dagon, it had been obvious with every look and touch between the two, and that had only been a year ago.

And now Zan was marrying another. He was marrying that self-absorbed Princess from Gorganin. Larak wondered if Zan was losing his mind. Sure, Ava was pretty, in that I’m-a-dumb-blonde-doll sort of way, but she wasn’t Zan’s type.

Kalila was Zan’s type, with her sweet dark looks and soft breathy voice…And, he realized, she still was Zan’s type.

The Crown Prince was not looking at his bride as he made his vows and exchanged rings. His sorrowful eyes were locked on the pale, sad-eyed girl sitting beside the Queen and the Lady Ria in the first row. She was looking back at him, her breaking heart and eternal love shining clear from her velvety eyes.

He felt tears sting his eyes at the depth of the emotion between the two. It was obvious, as the holy man blessed the union and the new couple walked down the aisle to the doors in the back, that this wedding had not been a voluntary act.

Larak followed the other planetary leaders out to the waiting hall, exchanging glances with them, he saw the knowledge within them as well. They knew Zan and Kalila would never willingly part from each other. They also knew that Kathana would never have agreed to the marriage if Zan had not been free.

Therefore, Kathana must not have known of Kalila. An unspoken pact was made at that moment, one not to tell. If Zan had agreed to this, he must have had good reason.

The question was: What reason could he have had, that would cause him to give up Kalila?

He pulled Zan aside, sending Ava an apologetic smile. The young man gave him a smile out of sheer gratitude.

“Thank you,” he whispered, shooting a quick glance around, his eyes resting a second on a certain girl before focusing on Larak.

“Think nothing of it. What are friends for, after all? Now then, how did this happen?” He listened with keen interest as Zan related the whole story, and was suitably outraged to learn of Tynan’s part in it.

“You mean-“

“I’m sorry, King Larak,” Ava interrupted, as she came up and hooked her arm into Zan’s, smiling up at him, “But I must steal my husband away. His family wishes to make congratulations.”

“Ah, of course Princess Ava.” He clapped Zan on the shoulder, gave him a sympathetic smile, and walked away.
*~*~*

She led her new husband back over to her new family, smiling winningly at all her guests. This was the happiest day of her life. She stole a glance at Zan, and realized with concern, that he was looking a little pale, his eyes locked on the group of people they were approaching.

Ava tightened her grip, trying to assure him that everything would be all right. He was no doubt worried about whether his family would accept her, but she knew they would. Indeed, King Tynan had said she would be welcomed heartily. Zan was so sweet to worry for her though.

The first moment she had seen him, she knew he had to be hers. His dark hair and warm eyes had just drawn her in, and then when she had discovered what a sensitive and caring nature he had, she had fallen even deeper in love with him. And his shyness was so adorable!

Her mind drifted back to earlier this morning, when she had come across Zan in the purification pool, the silvery liquid flowing over smooth, sleek muscles. She felt herself shiver and grow hot all over at the memory of the hard, clean lines of his body.

A body that now belonged to only her.

Her arousing thought disappeared at Tynan’s booming voice. “Ava! Wonderful!” She found herself in a crushing embrace and then put back on her feet. “Welcome to the family!”

“Thank you, King Tynan,” she replied, blushing.

“Yes,” Vilandra stated exuberantly, “I’ve always wanted a sister!” Ava’s smile widened. She had always wanted a sister too, or even a brother, but she was an only child, and her mother had never remarried after her father had died. The smile faded a bit when she saw the dirty look the green-eyed woman in the back sent the statuesque Princess. But then she was turning to greet the Queen Ariann.

The Queen was a lovely looking woman, with a soft, motherly smile on her face, but it seemed distant, as did her eyes. And her hug was not firm, her brief word of welcome almost forced. Ava was puzzled by her polite, but cold, demeanor.

“I’m Rath, Zan’s second,” the spiky-haired man said when it was his turn, “and this is my wife, Ria, and,” his voice filled with pride, “our son, Ryley. Welcome to the palace Princess Ava.”

“Thank you, Commander Rath.” She turned to his wife, a bit taken aback by her narrowed eyes and suspicious attitude. She held out her hand. Ria just looked at it, and then back up at her, one eyebrow raised, but made no move to take it. Ava dropped it self-consciously, then made an attempt at peace. “Your son is very handsome, Lady Ria.”

“I know.” Her voice was hard and unyielding, but her eyes softened when she looked at her son. Ava sent Rath a helpless look, but he was rolling his eyes at his wife in an affectionate sort of way, obviously used to antics such as this from her. But Ava would not give up, she was so hungry for Zan’s family’s approval.

Ava reached out, hoping that if Ryley accepted her, his mother would warm to her as well. But the boy let out a wail as soon as her hand brushed his small head. Ria jerked him away, glaring at her, then focused on the baby, her voice a mix of scolding, exasperation, laughter, and love.

She felt her face fall, and realized this was a battle she was not going to win. Ria just didn’t like her for some reason. It was so unfair. Ria didn’t even know her, she didn’t have any right to be making snap judgments.

“Ava?” She turned at Tynan’s inquiry.

“Yes your Majesty?”

“It’s time to start the reception.”

“Of course.” She gave him a soft smile and turned to Zan, who was no longer by her side. She glanced around frantically, finally spotting him conversing with his mother a few yards away.

She strode towards them quickly, happily calling out Zan’s name. He turned towards her, and then she noticed the tiny girl beside the Queen. She had dark hair and these huge brown eyes. And she was looking as if it were the end of the Five Worlds.

For some reason, Ava felt a small stab of jealousy, but shrugged it off, taking Zan’s arm possessively. The girl looked no more than fifteen. She was too skinny and too flat chested. There was no way a man like Zan would find a runt like her attractive.

“I don’t believe we’ve met?”

The girl shook her head. “No, Highness, we have not. I am Kalila.”

She gave a fake smile, “I’m pleased to meet you, Kalila. What do you do here?”

The girl’s eyes widened even more if that was possible. “I-“

“The Lady Kalila serves as a companion to myself and the Lady Ria,” Queen Ariann defended smoothly.

“Oh, that’s fabulous. Perhaps I might use your services sometime?”

“Of course, Highness,” she curtseyed, “It would be an honor.”

“Yes, it would.” She turned to her husband. “Zan, your father told me to tell you that it’s time to start the reception.”

“Okay,” he said faintly. He led her towards the ballroom, looking back at his mother once. He was still pale, she noted anxiously, and a slight sheen of sweat coated his forehead. She hoped he wasn’t falling ill.
*~*~*

Zan felt like he was suffocating. He was sitting at the head table on the dais, with Ava on his right and his father on his left. Tynan was displaying him like a trophy. ‘Oh look at my power, I can control my son’ Yea, go Tynan.

He hated this, he wanted to be in his bedchamber right now, with Kalila. Preferably beneath him, her hands on him, her lips being ravaged by his own…But that wasn’t happening, not thanks to his father.

He looked over to where she was sitting beside Ria. Her eyes met his, and he felt his heart shatter into another million pieces. It happened every time he looked at her, the pain in her eyes was killing him. He hoped his eyes were telling her of his love, of his misery at being apart from her.

She gave a soft smile, mouthing the words, and Zan smiled back in relief. He couldn’t say it back though, his father was watching him at the moment. So he just sent her a look and nodded, still smiling goofily.

His smile faded and his eyes narrowed as he caught sight if a blonde-haired, violet-eyed man lurking close behind her.

Kivar.

If that…If he even laid one finger on Zan’s Kali…He’d be dead. Zan would make sure of it. He couldn’t believe his father had invited the Paerhnian. Of course, it was probably another of his power trips, letting Kivar know that they now had more support then him.

But Kivar did not look nervous. If anything, he looked speculative, almost happy even. What was he up to?

“Zan!”

“What father?” He turned his attention away from his rival and to another one.

“Kathana was just telling me how wonderful it was to see her little girl happy, and what a wonderful couple you two make.”

“Oh,” he said uncomfortably, “Thank you?” he finally offered.

“Yes, now I was also thinking the same thing as well as what a good idea it would be to grant your new bride a kiss.”

“Um…” he was blushing furiously, not wanting to offend, but the idea was making him physically ill, “I’m not sure-“

“Let’s do it,” Ava interrupted eagerly, forcing him to turn to her. He suddenly became aware that the party had stopped, the couples no longer dancing, people no longer chatting, all eyes were now focused on him and Ava, and the scene unfolding.

He swallowed and looked back at his demanding father, than at Kalila who seemed about to cry, but she nodded bravely and looked away. His heart filled with love for her, for understanding the situation.

Zan finally allowed his gaze to rest on Ava’s hopeful face. He lifted a shaking hand, to her cheek, feeling really sick, and bent down, closing his eyes.

He meant only to brush lightly across her lips, but she had other ideas. Her tongue snaked into his mouth and she exerted pressure to keep him from breaking away. He was going to vomit, he really was. This was nothing like his Kali’s kisses, this was just like…lips.

Nasty.
*~*~*

Kalila’s hand unconsciously clenched around her dinner knife, and watched with a morbid fascination, somehow unable to tear her eyes away from, the gruesome sight before her.

Zan kissing another woman.

She shuddered as they broke apart to approving applause. The Princess looking pleased and Zan looking dazed. His gaze swept toward her, and she read the apology in it as well as his disgust and disturbance at the act that had he had just committed.

She felt an enormous sense of relief when she realized he was still hers. That he hadn’t even liked kissing another woman, even one as buxomly beautiful as Ava.

“Little one!” Ria exclaimed from beside her.

“What?”

“You’re going to hurt yourself!” Her friend reached over, taking the knife away from Kalila, who had just realized that it was very close to piercing her skin.

“Thank you,” she whispered sheepishly.

“No problem. Hey,” she said giddily, “Wanna find a way to teach that slutty little whore a lesson? We’ll teach her to take your man!”

“Ria, no,” she told the excited blond sternly, knowing Ria was serious, “This had to happen, as much as we hate it, it’s necessary.”

“I still think we should find a way to make her miserable,” Ria muttered, then, “Ryley, no!” She managed to stop her small son from starting a food fight. Kalila laughed as Ria reached over the boy to smack her husband. “You were supposed to be watching him!”
*~*~*

Kivar watched her silently from across the room. He watched her dance with Larak and Sero and Rath, watched her decline an invitation from Niko, watched her avoid Tynan, and play with Ryley.

He watched her watch Zan.

He didn’t try to approach her. She would only find a way to avoid him. Kivar smiled and set off to find Vilandra.

Soon avoidance would be impossible.
*~*~*

The reception was winding down, practically over, and the guests were filing out the doors, past the newly wed couple, offering more congratulations and well wishes. She followed, staying toward the back, not wanting to be noticed.

But as she passed the doors, she felt a hand brush her arm, sending warmth throughout her entire body, and a husky voice whispered, “Kali…”

She looked back and met his amber eyes, bottom lip trembling, love flowing between them, and then she was swept away in the crowd of tired people heading toward to their provided guest chambers.

She didn’t want to think of what might happen between Zan and Ava tonight.

Their wedding night.
*~*~*

Her wedding night! Ava thought joyously. She followed Zan blindly as he led them to their bedchamber. Their bedchamber!

They were standing by the bed now, Ava waiting for him to say something. But he was staring at the large bed, sorrow in his eyes. “Zan?”

She gasped when he turned to her. He was visibly shaking, his eyes darting here and there around the room, sweating heavily. The thought of illness returned to her. She had not noticed during the reception, but she had been distracted, and the half-formed notion had disappeared in the excitement, but now it came back to her.

“Zan, are you ill?”

“No,” he said quietly. She reached up, and he flinched when her hand touched his brow.

“You are.” She looked at him, incredibly worried. He was burning up. “Get in bed, hopefully your fever will be gone in the morning.”

“Ava…I need to tell you something.”

“It can wait.”

“No, no, it can’t, you have to understand-“

“I’m not going to listen to a word you say tonight. You could be delirious! Now get in bed!” she ordered. He appeared about to argue, but she pointed to the bed, and he got in without a fight. She slid in against him and he stiffened.

Wrapping a hand around his arm, she tried to get him to relax, but he just lay there, back to her, rigid. She sighed and settled down, trying to dispel the keen disappointment about the fact that he wouldn’t be making love to her.

Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.
*~*~*

Tomorrow, he thought, tomorrow he had to sit her down and explain to her that he couldn’t be the husband she wanted him to be. He had to tell her of his love for Kalila, and only Kalila. He felt bad about deceiving her, she really was a nice girl, just not for him.

He waited until she was asleep, then carefully pried her fingers from his arm and got out of bed. He made his way to the back of the closet and into the secret passage.

Zan had discovered the passage when he was about eight. They led to an unused chamber where he had often hid to escape his father’s lectures. He had had no idea at the time that he’d be needing it for an entirely different reason when he got older.
*~*~*

She shivered. This was her first night in her new room. Away from Zan. Intense pain welled up at the thought that right now, at that very moment, Ava would be in her bed, with her husband.

Kalila felt like crying. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to sleep without Zan next to her in bed, without his light snores and warm body soothing her. She was alone tonight for the first time.

The room had been unused for a long time. Ariann had suggested giving her a chamber already decorated, but Zan had been adamant about her having this one. So they, Ariann, Ria, and herself, had spent a lot of time getting it prepared for her. Well, mostly Ariann and Ria, she and Zan had been busy…

She sat up abruptly, her gaze homing in fearfully on the wooden wall directly across from the bed. A scratching noise seemed to be coming from behind the tapestry…
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 4:33:11 PM
KALILA 19

She clutched the sheets tighter to her body as muffled swearing was heard. Then she relaxed as she recognized the husky voice and the black head poking out from the tapestry.

Zan fumbled some more with the heavy fabric before finally freeing himself and spinning around to face her. By this time she was jumping off the end of the bed and running to him.

“ZAN!”

He made an “Oompf!”ing noise as she flew up against him. She would have giggled, but she was too busy kissing him.

“Zan, Zan, Zan, Zanzanzanzan,” she chanted between kisses. He caught her lips firmly, his tongue searching every recess of her mouth. Eros! It felt like it had been an eternity! She wrapped her legs around his waist and allowed him to carry her over to her bed.

He never released her, he followed her down onto the bed, kissing, kissing, hands caressing every inch…Her brain was fogging up, completely absorbed in the sensations he was creating within her.

Sensations she never thought she’d feel again.

Abruptly the dense fog started to dissipate. “Zan,” she gasped, trying to sit up while pushing him away, “Zan, stop. We have to stop.”

“Why?” he asked plaintively, but he complied with her wishes. He didn’t, however, let her go. He held onto her hand as if she would disappear if he let go.

“Zan…” she looked away, trying hard to work up the courage to ask… “Did…Did you? I mean, with…” She shook her head, it was coming out all wrong, but she just couldn’t seem to find a way to make it right. Kalila watched him out of the corner of her eye, seeing the confused look on his face, feeling his hand tighten on hers as his eyes widened in sudden understanding to what she hadn’t been able to say.

“No! No never!” he grasped her chin, forcing her to look in his eyes, eyes that reassured her more than words, “I never touched her. I will never touch her. I promise, Kali. I promise on our love for each other, that you are my one, true wife,” he grinned, “The only woman with which I will ever perform my husbandly duties.”

She smiled in spite of herself and threw her arms around him. She still couldn’t believe these ridiculous fears of hers. She wasn’t normally this insecure…But she was gaining weight, and she really wasn’t that pretty…And Ava was almost perfect, her attitude left a lot to be desired, and then there was the small fact that she had stolen Kalila’s husband…Pushing those thoughts away, she concentrated on Zan, giving him a radiant smile.

“Where were we?” she asked innocently.

His grin turned devilish, and he leaned her back down, settling himself between her thighs. “Right here, beloved,” he murmured, lips brushing against hers, “I believe we were right here.”
*~*~*

He had nearly fainted when first he saw her. She was wearing one of those harem outfits she had kept from years before, something that he had never complained about. They gave him plenty of chances to touch her soft skin, and then recently, she hadn’t been wearing anything at all to bed, so it really didn’t surprise him that he had never seen this particular one before.

But Eros, he wished he had.

The whole, or really half, thing was a pale, pale silky green. Barely covered everything that needed to be covered, ending approximately an inch below her nicely rounded bottom, providing easy access. Thin straps held it up, two on each side. One over both shoulders, and the other falling off of them…Leading to a low cut, very tantalizing neckline.

He groaned and frantically started to help her undress him. Finally removing himself from the dress pants and shirt, being that he had never changed after the reception, he slid deeply into her welcoming heat.

She gasped her pleasure as he began thrusting smoothly into her core, slowly inching her sleepwear over her head. She fell, arching back against the pillows as he continued stroking her womanhood, and began feasting on her sweet breasts. Moving upward, he once again captured her puffy lips, replacing his mouth with hands.

Surprisingly, it felt as if her breasts were fuller, fitting more firmly into his palms... He contemplated the meaning of the development, never slacking in his penetration of her. He believed he almost had grasped the significance, something Rath had said about Ria months ago that he hadn’t wanted to hear, but he lost it immediately as her satin walls clamped down on him and she screamed his name.

His absolute possession of her was what triggered his own release. The feel of her body shivering beneath him, the knowledge that he was the only man to ever have her…made him feel more of a man than any duty his father bestowed upon him, more than being a hero of war, more than anything.

“Kali…” Saying her name was a reflex in him, it was an automatic inquiry to what she was feeling, even as he was drifting into slumber. She didn’t say a word, as she was already asleep, but she cuddled closer, and he could feel her smile against his chest.

He woke up hours later, just as the first sun was peeking over the horizon. He gazed down at his love, memorizing the adorable way she looked all ruffled with sleep, and adding the picture to his ever-increasing collection of Kalila memories.

Then he sighed, remembering with distaste that he had to leave her. Reaching over, careful not to disturb his sleeping beauty, he grabbed his clothes from the day before and carefully put them on. He froze when she moaned a bit and turned over, frowning slightly. Then realized with relief that she wasn’t waking up just yet.

Zan didn’t want to see her face when he left their new bedchamber to go to Ava.

He was already dying inside. Slipping lightly out of bed, he kissed her forehead, then brushed lightly over her lips. “I love you, Kalila,” he whispered.

“Zan.” Her murmured call stopped him in his tracks, and he turned to see her tossing slightly until she had wriggled over to his side of the bed, relaxing instantly as his scent washed over her.

He wanted nothing more at that moment than to climb back into that bed and hold her forever, screwing his father over in the process. But he couldn’t, so he regretfully finished his ascent into the secret passage.

He was Crown Prince of Antar, as he had often been reminded, and duty to his planet came before all else.

Even before duty to his heart.
*~*~*

He listened carefully, patiently, as his Emperor explained his plans. He let no expression show on his face, neither a frown nor a smile.

To tell the truth, he wasn’t completely sure which he wanted to do. The fact that this whole plan revolved around Kivar’s obsession with the girl, Kalila, made him uneasy. Especially since Zan was equally, if not more, obsessed with her.

He wanted to smile because if everything went off without a hitch, the Paerhnians would soon hold all of Antar instead of the small, unprofitable, desert land they now roamed. Plus, it would allow him to continue his liaison with the lovely Princess Vilandra.

True, she was naïve and easily lured into compromising situations in which she revealed top secret information, but that was just part of her charm. Her trusting nature and closeness to her irritating father, had proved quite valuable to Kivar’s cause, unwittingly given or not. And the new feud between her and Zan was prompting her to take him deeper into her confidence.

And, of course, one couldn’t forget what a wild lover she made.

He chuckled lightly as he headed toward Tynan’s war room, where the king was found more and more often.

Time to put this plan into action.
*~*~*

“I don’t believe I understand, Ambassador?”

“It’s quite simple, your Majesty, Kivar wishes to…reacquire, I think the word would be, his former wife.” The young man smiled coldly at Tynan and the king suddenly felt very unsure.

“He wants that whore back?” he asked incredulously.

Niko coughed. “I do not believe my Emperor would wish his beloved to be addressed in such a fashion, King Tynan.” He inclined his head toward Tynan, smile fading a bit.

“Uh…Of course not,” he paused, not understanding why the little slut had captivated so many powerful men. She had both Kivar and Zan wrapped around her finger, the Commander was fond of her, and now both Larak and Sero were barely being civil to him, an obvious aftereffect of Zan’s marriage to Ava.

A thought popped up unexpectedly. “Would I get to keep my Gems?”

Niko looked surprised, then he gave an empty sort of laugh. “For some reason, I don’t believe Kivar wants the horses, he has thousands. He just wants Kalila back in Paerhna. That’s all, your Majesty.”

Kalila, that was her name. He kept forgetting. “Why should I have her returned to Kivar? My son is incredibly fond of…Kalila.”

“No doubt. She is very pretty. But Zan is now married to the Princess Ava, she will be the one to bear the future heirs of Antar. Kalila is of no use to either Zan or yourself, she is of use to Kivar.”

“What use?” he asked sharply.

“Quite simply put, your Majesty, he’s in love with her,” he demurred quietly, “I understand you’d have some reservations, I mean, she’s been here what? Three years or so, and no doubt most of the palace as well as the city adores her. I mean, I know whenever I went to market, the talk was nothing but how kind and thoughtful Princess Kalila was, what a good queen she’d make…But she was quite happy in the harem, and well-loved by all she met all over Paerhna, in every province, and Kivar wishes for her to come back to that peaceful life as his wife. She’ll be guaranteed the best of everything, you’ll never have to worry about her well being. My word, as well as Kivar’s, on that.”

Tynan studied his serious face carefully before responding. “As much as I’d like to see the girl out of Antar and away from Zan, I have promised my son that she could stay in the palace. And I have broken too many promises to him lately to break another. I’m sorry, but Kalila will be staying here,” he finished firmly.

Astoundingly enough, Niko did not seem the least bit perturbed by his answer. In fact, it seemed as if he was smiling slightly.

“I see, I’m sorry you feel that way. But in any case, Kivar expected just such a reaction and planned for it accordingly. If you’ll send for Prince Zan, I believe I have something that may change your mind.”

Tynan stared, slightly unbalanced at the turn in the discussion, and wondered what he had just gotten into.
*~*~*

posted on 11-Jul-2002 4:35:11 PM
KALILA 20

Lexus quickly harnessed his assigned Gem, luckily accomplishing it without too much contact with the beast. It’s not like he didn’t like horses, they just sort of scared him, in that big, able-to-trample-you-flat kinda way.

He sighed, trying not to wince as he flung himself into the saddle, and spurred the color-shifting horse into a light canter.

If he had just been able to apply to the Fine Arts Academy, he could be a bard now. But his father had put his foot down, saying that no son of his was going to end up a lily-livered string plucker trying to earn a living in a hovel of an inn.

So Lexus had enrolled in the Military Academy and now served as a Palace Guard under Lieutenant Kayl. And now he was on a very important mission to locate Prince Zan, wherever he was in the city, and bring him back to the palace.

To think, he could be composing music, but no, he had to look for the errant young man so that his father could give him another lecture. Probably. There really was no other reason for Tynan to want to see Zan, and everyone knew about their infamous “talks”…

Suck it up, Lex, he told himself, you signed on for this. Boredom and all.

He surveyed the multitude of people in the marketplace and groaned inwardly. This was going to take forever.
*~*~*

She practically ran down the hall in the Royal Quarters, trying desperately not to look at her old chambers. She was almost past, and just starting to breathe easier, when an annoying voice stopped her.

“You there!” She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face Princess Ava, who was peeking that bright blond head of hers out the door of Kalila and Zan’s rooms. “It’s Kalila, correct?”

“Yes, your Highness,” she whispered, keeping her eyes down and curtseying deeply. She gritted her teeth against a sharp response, knowing that it was not befitting in her present station as companion.

“What are you doing in this section of the palace?” she asked curiously, looking down her nose at the girl.

Kalila straightened, still focused on the floor. “I was visiting with Moth- the Queen,” she amended quickly. She peered up from between her lashes, hoping the Princess didn’t catch the slip. She kept forgetting that Ariann was no longer her mother.

“Well, I’m assuming you’re finished, so come along and help me with my hair.” She disappeared back into the room without waiting for Kalila’s assent.

“Yes, Highness,” she muttered.

She hesitated as she stepped through the door and into the sitting area. She closed her eyes and let the memories flood over her. She remembered the time, before Zan had made love to her, when he had run into this room while she was reading and scooped her off the sofa, twirling her around until she was dizzy, and then informed her that he was taking her with him to Dagon.

She had been thrilled. It was her second most cherished dream to see the universe, and he was giving it to her. Her first dream was, of course, that Zan would fall in love with her.

He had made all her dreams come true.

She recalled another time, one only a week or so before, when the quiet evening alone had turned into a passionate night of ecstasy on the couch…and the chair, and the rug…

“Are you coming?” Kalila winced as the voice pierced through her memories. Ava was grating on her nerves.

“Yes, Highness,” she replied automatically. She walked forward, her steps unsteady, the bedchamber door looming…Taking a deep breath she stepped in the room.

Everything was the same. She saw no evidence that Ava was even living here except the woman’s presence in the room. Which was easily ignored. She allowed her eyes to scan the room, flashes flooded her, filling her, and she felt the corners of her mouth turn up a bit.

“Ahem!” She spun, turning her attention to Ava, who was tapping her foot impatiently. “I realize that this amount of wealth may astound you, but please do not drool on my carpet.”

Kalila had to bite her tongue down on another sharp retort. She tilted her head forward so that her flashing eyes were hidden from view. “Yes, Highness.”

Ava moved, and sat herself down at the vanity, watching Kalila through the mirror. Kalila followed her over and picked up the brush Ava handed her. Silently she began to brush.

She began to start styling, twisting and coiling the Princess’ blond hair around her head. Suddenly, Ava spun, ruining her work, and studied Kalila through narrowed eyes.

“Is something wrong Princess?” she asked, trembling.

“Are you pregnant?”

Kalila, surprised by the question, looked straight into Ava’s eyes. “No!” she told her vehemently. What a thing to ask!

“Are you quite positive?” she pressed.

“Quite,” Kalila responded frostily.

“All right then. I was just wondering, because you’re fat and very shiny. I was just thinking of a reason for it.”

“Well it’s the wrong reason,” she said firmly. But she couldn’t help wondering. She had known she was putting on weight, but she figured it was stress, not a baby. She stood, wide-eyed at the thought, clutching the hairbrush to her chest. If only…If only she really was pregnant! She could practically see a miniature Zan running around, looking adorable and…

“Are you going to finish or not?” Ava demanded. She was frowning at Kalila from the mirror. She snapped back to attention and began reworking the woman’s hair.

She was developing a strong dislike for the Princess Ava.
*~*~*

She sighed despondently, the girl was taking an extraordinarily long time to do her hair, and she was getting bored. She looked into the mirror, noting the complimentary style the girl was putting her hair up in. She was obviously very good at what she did, but Ava still didn’t like her.

Maybe it was the way she had denied being pregnant. It was so obvious. Anyone looking at her would know instantly, the glow surrounding her…

But she was what, like fifteen, sixteen? And a very controversial noble, her status would drop once word got out that she was caring a servant’s child. She wondered what servant would dare actually. It was an unbelievable situation.

She was about to comment again when Zan strode into the room. He took no notice of her, instead going straight to the closet. She pouted and waited, unmoving, for him to come out. The girl had started to hurriedly finish her job, obviously not wishing to be in the Prince’s presence.

“Finished, Highness,” she spoke quickly, stepping away, “May I take my leave?”

“Of- Zan!” She stopped talking to the little girl and focused on her husband. He froze at her reprimand, but he was looking at the brunette and not her. “Zan,” she said again.

“Huh? What?” he asked, finally looking at her. Ava glanced back at the girl and then at Zan, noticing the adoring look in her big brown eyes. She smirked.

The child was in love with the Crown Prince.

This was priceless. Ava wondered if she had been imagining Zan when she was sleeping with her lover. If she was pretending the child was Zan’s. The whole thing was completely laughable.

But then she saw that Zan was returning her stares, and she realized that the girl was really very pretty, and that her being around Zan was not a good idea when Ava hadn’t staked her claim yet.

“You may go,” she dismissed snappily.

The girl’s line of sight moved to the floor and she curtseyed. “Yes, Highness. Good day, Prince Zan.”

The way she said his name…Ava wanted to throw something. She had practically sighed it, as if his name was too holy to say aloud. Eros! Ava decided then and there that that girl was never going to be in the same room as Zan ever again!

“Zan?” She moved to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. He snapped out of his staring contest with the door.

“What?” He stepped away, out of her embrace.

She ignored it. “Where have you been?”

“The market,” he said absently, “And now my father has summoned my presence in his war room.” He seemed to hesitate. “But first…Ava, I must speak with you.”

“What about?” She watched him curiously. He seemed to find the floor fascinating. “Zan?”

He sighed and finally looked at her, and suddenly she didn’t want to hear what he had to say. “Ava…I…I can’t be, the husband you need me to be.”

“Why not?”

“You know last night, when you thought I was ill?”

“Yes.” She remembered waking up with concern when she discovered he wasn’t in bed with her, remembered her relief when she spotted him sitting in the window seat, staring at the second sun as it rose. “You said you were fine,” she was now alarmed, “You said nothing was wrong.”

“I know, but I lied. Sort of. I wasn’t ill, Ava, I just felt…physically sick. I couldn’t get into that bed with you, knowing what you were expecting to happen. I just couldn’t do it. I felt like a traitor, and it just manifested itself…I don’t know how else to explain it.” He looked at her helplessly.

“Why would you feel that way?” she asked cautiously, not sure where he was headed.

“Because I’m in love with someone else.”

Not the direction she wanted to go. She felt her heart beginning to break. “What?”

“Look, I don’t know what anyone’s told you. I don’t even know what my father said when he arranged this whole…thing. All I know is that two weeks ago I was told that I was going to be separated from my wife and married to you. I fought against my father about this. It wasn’t fair to you. It wasn’t fair to me, and it most certainly wasn’t fair to my Kali, but I wasn’t giving a choice in the matter.”

Wife. She thought dully. He had a wife before me. One he loved. He doesn’t love me. She was going to cry. She was really, really going to cry. “Why?” she croaked.

“I’m a Crown Prince. My first duty,” he said bitterly, “is to my planet. You understand that, Ava. I’m sure your mother drilled it into you as my father did to me.”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “So I agreed. But I still love her, Ava. Can you understand that as well? Can you understand that I’m not going to be able to love you like a husband should? Can you understand that she’s going to be my only one for all eternity?”

This time she shook her head. “I love you.”

“No you don’t”

“Yes. Yes I do. I do."

“No. Ava you don’t even know me. You don’t know what I like, you don’t know what I dislike…You don’t know who I am, you don’t know Zan. So you can’t be in love with me.”

“But I am. I fell in love with you the first time I saw you Zan,” she told him, “and I can learn. I can learn everything-” A finger to her lips cut her off, and she looked up at him, pleading with tear-filled eyes. His expression was inscrutable.

“What did you first think when you saw me?” he asked finally.

She blinked, not expecting the question. “I thought you were the most handsome man I’d ever met in my life,” she stated.

He smiled ruefully and shook his head. “Thank you. But that’s not love Ava, that’s attraction.”

“How do you know? How do you know what you feel for this Kali isn’t just attraction? How do you know it’s not just some wild affair and that you won’t fall out of love with her in a year or two?” she demanded.

“She’s my soulmate,” he said simply, as if that explained it all, when he saw her confusion though he continued, “I’ll admit, it started out as attraction. I glanced at her once, and then again, and then I couldn’t stop looking at her, hard as I tried, and I did try. But she was so beautiful…” His smile turned dreamy, his eyes warmed, turning into liquid honey, “And then our eyes met, and it was just…Everything. I could see into her soul, she could see into mine…And I knew it was forever right then and there. I knew that no matter what, she was it for me. She held my heart and soul in her hands, just as I held hers…”

A knock at the door interrupted his speech, and the slow deterioration of her dreams. She looked with bleak eyes as a blue-eyed, dark-haired man in a Palace Guard uniform entered the room humbly. “Um, Prince Zan, you father is getting impatient…”

“Of course, Lexus, one moment.” He turned to her, bent down, and lightly kissed her cheek, but the thrill was gone. “I’m sorry, Ava” he whispered. Her eyes met his, and she saw the honest regret in his eyes. She nodded.

“Me, too.” He backed away from her, then spun and followed the guard. Ava watched him disappear and then she flung her self onto the bed.

She cried. She cried as hard as she could. Cried for what never happened, for what could have been, for herself, for Zan, and even for this Kali that he loved so much.

She cried until she could cry no more, and all that was left was an emptiness in her that wasn’t filled. An emptiness she now admitted that Zan hadn’t filled, as much as she had been certain her would. And now she had to face what she really desired, and it wasn’t a loveless marriage.

She wanted to find her soulmate.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 8:48:32 AM
KALILA 21

Zan followed Lexus quietly, contemplating his talk with Ava. He felt bad about hurting her. She was just as much a victim as he and Kalila, and had just had some harsh reality thrown in her face.

But he couldn’t have let her continue fooling herself. He couldn’t let her believe she was in love with him and he with her. That he would be the perfect husband. It wouldn’t be fair. And now that she was aware of his feelings, she could forge ahead and find her real beloved.

Zan nodded absently, not paying any attention to his surroundings. Therefore, when he found himself walking into a wall, he should not have been surprised.

“Prince Zan are you all right?” his guard asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, yes I’m fine.” He frowned at the wall. “I just didn’t see the wall.”

“R-right. Because it wasn’t there before. I bet they just built it this morning.” Zan looked at the older man sharply, surprised to see his serious face. He narrowed his eyes. Finally, the blue eyes began to twinkle and Lexus burst out laughing.

“Guardian Lexus, I merely meant I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking.”

“I realize that, your Highness, I was just trying to lighten things up. Really man, you look like the fates of the worlds are resting on your shoulders.”

Zan smiled ruefully, “It sometimes feels that way, Lexus.”

“It’s Lex.” He shrugged and turned to continue onwards. Zan paused for a moment before following. The man’s humorous attitude was a welcome change from court formality. Normally the only non-related people who treated him with a level of familiarity were Rath, Ria, and Larak.

He decided he liked Lex. “To my friends I am just Zan.”

The guard stopped and swung to look him in his eyes. “We just met, how can you consider me your friend already?”

“I have a feeling you would make a good one.”

“Oh. Well, then thanks, Zan.”

“You’re welcome Lex.” They smiled at one another and finished the rest of the journey in a companionable silence.
*~*~*

Tynan kept his eyes on Niko. The younger man was someone to be on guard with. He seemed to glance about him with a speculating gleam in his eyes, as if weighing each object in the room and determining its price. Very disconcerting.

“My King? Crown Prince Zan has arrived.” He waved the servant away as Zan entered. Taking his gaze from Niko’s, he turned to his son, who was glaring suspiciously at the Paerhnian.

Well at least he wasn’t a failure at everything.

“You wanted to see me father?”

“Actually, Niko and I were discussing a proposition of Kivar’s. I naturally refused on your behalf, but the Ambassador wanted you here in person. I had to comply.”

“What proposition?” Zan’s attention was now on the shorter man, who was smiling smugly.

“Kivar merely wishes Kalila returned,” he stated amiably.

Tynan watched as his son’s expression went from suspicious to unbelieving to murderous in a matter of seconds. He belatedly recalled the sword he had been forced to point at his son’s throat only a few weeks ago, and he realized that no one was going to be able to fully take that girl away from Zan without a show of massive strength and brute force.

“I thought as much,” Zan snarled, “Well you can tell him the answer is NO. There is no way in the vastness of the universe that I will ever give Kalila to that manipulative, rebellious, disgusting son of a bitch!”

A brief flicker of emotion, anger, flashed across Niko’s face, but it was gone in a second. Hidden again behind the cool, detached smile he always wore. “Kivar suspected you would refuse and gave me leave to offer his ultimatum.”

“Ultimatum?” Tynan repeated anxiously. This had not been mentioned before.
*~*~*

Zan ignored his father’s predictable reaction. The man was a coward. “What is it?” he bit out. There was nothing Kivar could do to make him give back his Kali. Not one damn thing.

“It’s fairly simple. You give him Kalila or we declare war.”

“WHAT?!” his father exploded. “That’s…That’s ridiculous. You can’t wage war over a WOMAN! It’s inconceivable! He’s not being serious.”

“Oh I assure you, my Emperor is quite serious, King Tynan. He’s not one to joke.”

“But…but…Not over a woman. And this woman…The whole thing is ludicrous. It’s impossible I tell you, impossible…” He continued to babble, muttering incoherently, not even noticing that neither Prince nor Ambassador was paying any attention to him.

Zan stared defiantly into Niko’s eyes. He knew what this was about. It was a power play. Kivar wanted to show Zan that he had the power and therefore he would have Kalila. Not happening, Kivar, he thought, not while I’m alive and breathing.

He knew how Kivar’s mind was working on this. He knew the Paerhnian knew this would go one of two ways. Number one: Zan relinquished Kali to Kivar and Kivar won. Number two: Zan refused and Kivar won anyway.

He also knew Kivar was expecting him to accept the deal. He figured Zan would be a good little boy and meekly submit to whatever demand was made for the good of the planet. Just as he had with the Ava situation. Well not this time.

Kali was his.

“No.”

The commotion Tynan was making suddenly ceased. He stared at his son, almost gaping in horror. “Zan-“

“Very well.” Niko stood calmly. “I shall inform the Emperor of you response.” He bowed stiffly and walked out, ignoring the king’s protests.

As the door shut behind him, Tynan finally burst out. “What were you thinking?! Now we’ll be at war! Kivar will go through with it, you know he will, he never backs down from a challenge. Why? Why, Zan, for a woman!”

“Don’t be naïve, Father,” he said, not deigning to face the King, “this isn’t just about Kali. He just wanted an excuse to start the fighting. He’d find a way to make war anyway. I’d just like to stop procrastinating and get it over with. The wait is getting boring.”

“Are you mad.”

“Quite possibly,” he said quietly as he exited. His life was falling apart, it was definitely a possibility.
*~*~*

Kalila hugged him close to her as he slept. This was her only time with him now, these midnight meetings.

He had been so intent upon her tonight. So passionate and demanding, and yet tender and giving. He was upset over whatever had happened with his father. He always made love to her in such a fashion after a talk with his father. It had always seemed to her that he was trying to prove his possession of her. She didn’t know why he needed to.

She was his. Heart, mind, body, and soul. His and his alone.

Her hand ran through his jet-black hair, she smiled gently. She had not been able to relay her suspicions of a child tonight. He had been so…focused. So completely absorbed in making love to her, that he wouldn’t have been able to pay proper attention to her words, so she didn’t say anything.

She wasn’t sure yet. She had to make an appointment with a healer, then she’d know for sure. But she had a feeling it was true.

So much could be explained by a pregnancy. Her over-emotional state, the weight increase, her breasts getting larger, the fact that she missed her last monthly cycle…And, Ava obnoxious questioning.

She wondered if Zan had told Ava about her and that was why she was so rude, but then decided she didn’t want to know. Kalila snuggled down next to her husband.

She just wanted to be with Zan.
*~*~*

He read the three letters over again. Niko’s was a fantastically funny, and detailed, report of his meeting with the Antarian leaders. The second was Tynan apologizing profusely for his son and a request for him not to take offense. And then there was the third.

It had provided him with vast amounts of amusement. Zan’s refusal was quite clear. It was also quite vulgar. He chuckled, enjoying the anticipation of the soon-to-be-kill. Of course, the boy’s stubbornness would force him to adjust his plans slightly.

Originally he had planned to gain Kalila and then find another reason to declare war. But now…Now he could use Zan as a scapegoat. That was a plus, but he still needed to get Kalila.

Making a decision he stood and began to walk to the small technological wing of his palace. He would make one more, persuasive, offer to the princeling. Just to see if he couldn’t convince Zan to unintentionally give him both of the things he wanted. He pulled the thick curtain back, revealing the entrance to the computer lab.

A hologram might make a more effective means of meeting his goals.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 8:52:49 AM
KALILA 22

The message ended, leaving the audience with an extended view of Kivar’s self-satisfied smirk. Niko strode leisurely to the holo-device and turned it off, then looked each of the silent people in the eye. Ava realized he was judging their reactions, and finding them exactly as he had been expecting.

She, herself, was apathetic. True, she found the idea of a war fought over a lowly born girl was rubbish, but the demands would be met, and peace would reign. She glanced across the room, taking in the way the brunette was staring at the floor, one hand placed protectively on her stomach.

A sudden thought occurred to the Princess. What if she had been wrong and the child was not a servant’s, but Kivar’s? That would explain everything, the sudden need to have her returned. Kivar had discovered that the girl he had dallied with was pregnant with his heir and now he wanted her in Paerhna!

Ava couldn’t say she’d miss her. Well, perhaps just a bit. After all, she thought as she patted her hair, the girl was more than capable of doing her job as companion. But companions were easily replaced.

“The answer is still no.” Ava looked in surprise to her husband as he pushed himself up from against the wall. His eyes were iced over, expression angry, mouth drawn in a tight line, and body rigid. She was surprised at the attitude, surely he would see the necessity in granting Kivar’s request.

“Absolutely,” Ariann agreed, “The suggestion is utter nonsense. Kalila belongs here in Antar.” Now Ava whipped her head to look at the Queen, even more taken aback. Zan’s refusal she understood, he would want to spite Kivar in whichever way presented itself, but her Majesty?

“Are the two of you mad?” Tynan demanded, “This is a matter of war! We must hand her over!”

“Quite right, I agree with Father,” Vilandra put in.

“Thank you, my dear,” he said, smiling at her.

Zan mumbled something, which sounded to Ava a bit like ‘traitor’, and then all hell broke loose. Zan, Ariann, Lady Ria, and Commander Rath against Tynan and Vilandra in a verbal dispute over the issue. She just sat, slightly stunned at the venom of argument. Niko, she saw, was still watching, obviously amused, and Kalila was frowning slightly, her eyes darting over the players in the drama before her.

“STOP!”
*~*~*

The commotion came to a complete halt. All eyes turned to her, and she stood gracefully. Turning to Niko, she inclined her head, and, as calmly as she could, spoke to him.

“Tell Kivar I will come.” The silence abruptly turned back into a deafening noise, but one voice came out crystal clear.

“No.” And suddenly he was there before her, amber eyes staring into her soul. “No, Kali,” he whispered, voice hoarse. His large, loving hands cupped her face, bringing her forehead to rest against his. She could feel him shaking his head, even with her eyes closed, his denial to her response showing with every move he made.

“I have to, Zan,” she told him softly. Not that it would matter, the whole room was trained on their private conversation, but the situation seemed to call for quiet.

“No, no you don’t. You’ve already done enough…given up enough. You don’t have to do this. We don’t.”

She smiled bravely up at him, almost blinded by tears. “But I do. We can’t be selfish Zan, this is the fate of the millions of lives here. Antar’s not completely prepared for war, if Paerhna were to attack…It would be the end of the world.”

“We’ll go to war anyway, it’s inevitable.”

“We can’t risk it. This will buy us time, maybe enough time.”

“Kali…” he trailed off, still shaking his head.

“I’m doing this, Zan.” He must have read the determination in her voice, because a defeated look came into his eyes and he nodded. He dropped his hands from her cheeks and twined them into hers, obviously not going to let go until he had to.

“Send word to Kivar that we accept his…proposition,” he said, talking to Niko, but his eyes never leaving hers.

“Thank Eros!” Tynan muttered, “It’s about time that boy showed some sense.”

Niko smiled pleasantly. “I’ll send a courier to the Emperor informing him of your decision. Lady Kalila, be prepared to leave in the morning.”

“Morning!” Ria screeched.

“Yes,” he said impassively, “Kivar anticipated your answer, he knows his former wife’s moral obligations quite well and knew she would agree to return to her homeland.”

“So why the courier?” Rath inquired.

“His Imperial Majesty wished to have suitable time to prepare for his beloved’s arrival.” Kalila felt Zan tense and squeezed his hand in assurance. Her heart belonged only to him. He knew that, so why the jealousy?

“Ria and I will take care of the packing, little one,” Ariann said gently, “You and Zan go.” She gestured to the door and Zan took off immediately, dragging her along. She sent the mother of her heart a grateful smile before following her lover out.
*~*~*

She sat, still fully dressed, on the bed, the puzzle pieces finally coming together. Kalila, Kali, it was a short name. So simple, and yet she hadn’t even suspected…She had been pitying the poor girl for falling in love with the Prince, and he had fallen right back. It explained the looks just those few days past right here in this room.

The day her happy illusions of love were destroyed. Ava shivered in remembrance. He was with her now, hadn’t been apart from her since they left that meeting. She was jealous.

Jealous of their love.

Zan may not have been her soulmate, but he was her husband, and he should be in his bedchamber at this very minute, fulfilling his husbandly duties, but he wasn’t. He was with her, a girl not worthy, and he was probably making love to her as if she was still his wife. As if she was the mother of his heirs. As if-

Oh Eros! The child! It was Zan’s!

Kalila was pregnant with Zan’s child! She felt her heart nearly shudder to a stop and then start going at an accelerated speed. He couldn’t know, she must not have told him. He wouldn’t allow her to leave if he knew, Tynan probably wouldn’t even let her leave if she were carrying the next Crown Prince of Antar.

Well, Ava certainly wouldn’t be the one to tell. Spite and overall dislike of the small girl, who was barely out of childhood herself, would keep her quiet. Jealousy was a very powerful, very dangerous, emotion.
*~*~*

Zan held his Kali closer, feeling that if he kept her close enough, then she wouldn’t be able to go. It was an irrational thought, but he couldn’t help it. This wasn’t another room in the same palace, it was another part of the planet. His grip tightened even more.

He was probably leaving bruises on her skin, but she didn’t tell him to loosen his hold, and he wasn’t willing to release her yet. He’d never be willing.

He made a decision then and there: this arrangement would not be a permanent situation. It would be temporary, very, very temporary. Kivar was NOT going to get a chance to hurt her again.

“He’s not going to win this,” he said abruptly, fiercely, “He’s not going to take you.”

“No.” Her response was slightly muffled, but then she lifted her head from where it was buried in his chest, staring at him deeply with those dark eyes. “I’m yours, Zan, only yours. For beyond eternity.”

His answer was in the form of a crushing kiss. How many times had they promised this? And it still held true.

They belonged to each other.
*~*~*

She watched him sleep, playing with the black hair hanging on his forehead. He looked like a little boy, so, so innocent. Her hand went unconsciously to her stomach. Wondering at the tiny, precious life inside.

She hadn’t had a chance to visit the healers to know for sure, but instinct, as well as comments, led her to believe it was true. She was pregnant with Zan’s child.

And he would never know.

She hadn’t told him. She had planned to do it tonight, but then that hologram had come and everything was ruined. Now she could never tell him. He would make her stay, and she couldn’t put Antar in jeopardy like that. This whole thing was so much bigger than the two, well, three, of them.

She kissed his forehead tenderly. “I’ll make sure he knows you, Zan. I’ll make sure he knows you love him. And you remember that we both love you. Always.”
*~*~*

Cora waited patiently to be introduced, glancing around occasionally. This Antar was a strange place, there was too much greenery, but lots of new people. She loved new people, they were so interesting, of course, she was a social butterfly and was always making new friends. She wondered who she’d meet here.

They dark-haired couple the emissary was addressing must be Kalila and Zan. They had to be. There was no reason to be that sad otherwise. She took note of the other people gathered around before her eyes landed on a powerful-looking man.

He had brown eyes and spiky hair and great muscles. Her body warmed just thinking about him. The experience was another something new. She had never been attracted to a man before, and never had any…interludes. Kivar seemed to show no interest in his wives, so she had never known even his touch, but she knew what she was feeling now.

A footman was suddenly extending his hand to help her down off the borrowed Gem Horse. She hadn’t bothered getting attached, she couldn’t keep it, and Kalila would be riding it back to Paerhna for her. The introductions went quickly. She was obviously a surprise to the Antarians, but they handled it well and welcomed her graciously enough.

She watched as they said good-byes, peering at the Prince. Kivar had told her to keep him occupied, but it looked as though the short blond had that angle covered, so she would concentrate on the man called Rath. Cora felt herself frown as the green-eyed woman beside him passed him a small boy and ran to Kalila.

What was this?
*~*~*

Kalila hugged her best friend tightly and said good-bye.

“Be brave, little one,” Ria told her. She nodded and then gave King Tynan and Vilandra a curtsey, receiving small nods in return. She had already bid farewell to Ryley and Rath and Ariann. Now it was time for the one thing she had been dreading.

She had to say good-bye to Zan.

The kiss was passionate, renewing every vow they had made to each other. Their love was eternal, nothing could end it. This, this…what they were together, would live on forever.

She felt his breath on her ear when they separated. “I’m coming for you, Kali,” he whispered. He stepped back, eyes blazing gold, “I love you.”

“I love you,” she echoed, putting every once of love she felt for him in those three small words. Then she was swept up onto a horse and taken away at a full gallop. She craned her neck backward, ignoring the braid that was whipping into her face, and watched him until he disappeared, and then even a little longer.

Zan, her soul cried, Zan…
*~*~*

Kali…His whole being screamed her name.

His family shuffled back into the palace, all except one. He could feel the presence behind him, waiting. Zan said nothing, only kept his eyes trained on the sight his love had disappeared to.

“What happens now, Zan?” Lexus asked, finally breaking the silence. Zan’s eyes shifted toward his voice, but the rest of him never moved.

“I have to save my wife.”
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 8:54:48 AM
KALILA 23

Zan was frustrated. Really, really frustrated. He bounced Ryley on his knee, trying to keep the drooling smile on the little boy’s face. How had he gotten roped into babysitting? He had things to do, plans to put into motion. The Paerhnians would be a day ahead of him, and that was too great an advantage.

He had to get to Kalila before Kivar.

Gravel snapped behind him and he whirled around. “Zan…” Lex trailed off. He smiled with relief and then glanced at the man beside his friend.

“This is Kayl, my commanding officer. He’s the one you want to talk to.” Zan nodded his thanks and Lex took Ryley from him and over to a patch of grass across the way. He watched as, from out of nowhere, Lexus pulled out a small flute and began to play, to the obvious delight of the baby.

“Lieutenant-“

“Kayl’s fine.” Zan narrowed his eyes, not completely trusting the man in front of him, and not sure why. He was about the same height, golden hair and blue eyes…Maybe it was the odd resemblance to Ava in coloring.

“Kayl, then,” he agreed, “This is a matter of utmost importance. I need you and Lex to be guarding the back gate tonight, it’s the only chance I have to get away undetected.”

The lieutenant started. “Highness-“

“This is a request Lieutenant, but if I have to I will make it a royal order.”

“Highness, forgive me, but if this is about the Princess and the Paerhnians…Would it not be best to comply with her wishes?”

Zan glared at him, steadfast, revealing nothing. “It is no wish of the Princess Kalila’s to go back to a monster such as Kivar.”

“Assuredly Highness, but-“

“She wished to avoid a conflict between our countries, she didn’t understand that the war would happen anyway. No one understands,” he finished to himself. Kayl winced at Zan’s scathing tone.

“I will do as you command, Highness,” he relented

Zan gave him a quirky smile. “I have commanded nothing as yet, Kayl. You may go.” The man bowed and retreated. Zan watched him leave before heading back to Lex and Ryley.
*~*~*

He played yet another little ditty on the flute, watching the boy clap his chubby hands together, his green eyes sparkling and laughing. He continued playing even as the Prince sat. He looked at Zan, who seemed impatient and hassled. He needed a little cheering up himself.

Lexus stopped playing and began singing, just one of those sweet little love songs that so many bards had wrote for the royal couple. He was officially singing to Ryley, but the song was primarily directed to Zan.

He tapered off, letting the last note linger in the rapidly cooling air. He glanced again at Zan, who was now lying down, eyes closed, a slight smile playing about his lips. He was content, at least for a moment.

His mind flashed back to another time he had comforted another royal child in this garden. He could see the dirt-smudged face and tearful brown eyes again, blond hair straggling into a rosy face as she divested herself of her troubles to a ten-year-old boy she had just met. Lonnie, she had told him to call her. Lonnie…

The Prince gave a long, drawn out sigh and sat back up, emotions masked as he picked up his honorary nephew. “Thank you for your help, Lex,” he said softly.

Lex looked at the other man. “The people will fight for her,” he stated, staring at the setting suns. Then he squinted at Zan.

The guarded mask was still in place. “I know,” he responded cryptically, “And they will, more than likely, still get the chance. But this will preserve their lives for a bit more time.”

“And very likely endanger yours,” he interrupted. Zan gave him a rueful grin, propping the tired baby up against his shoulder.

“It is worth it. My Kali is worth everything.”

He studied the younger man closely in the twilight, then finally nodded in acquiescence. “Then it is my pleasure to serve you in this mission, my friend.”

“Thank you again, Lex,” Zan repeated unnecessarily. They gripped hands for a minute. “I will see you later, but for now…” He trailed off, turning his attention to a sleeping Ryley. “Now I must return the small commander to his parents, whether they be willing to take him or not!”

They shared a laugh, both knowing exactly what the parents had got up to with a child-free night.
*~*~*

Ria rolled off her husband, sleepily satisfied. He grunted a bit and pulled her back into his arms, unwilling to let her go.

She knew what had prompted this uninhibited day of pleasure. It was a natural reaction on both their parts to reassure each other of their love. The way that Cora girl had been staring at him, and after Kalila had been taken away from Zan…

Was it selfish that they were so happy to just be together?

Ria suddenly realized how unfeeling it was to have just foisted her son off on Zan to spend the day with Rath. He had lost Kalila this day, lost his love, and to hand over Ryley…It was just a horrible reminder of what he would never have with Kalila.

Never have a child of their own, made from their love.

She clasped Rath tighter. “Ria?” he questioned.

“Maybe we should relieve Zan of Ryley,” she suggested lightly.

“Why?” he groaned, “This is the first time we’ve been free of the little bugger in two months.”

“Rath!” she scolded, getting out of bed to dress. He watched her through hooded eyes from the bed. She smacked a naked thigh and headed for the parlor door.

“Ria!” he whined, “Come back to bed, we’ll get him later!”

She shook her head, her husband could really be the biggest idiot at times. He wasn’t even thinking about the predicament his best friend was in. Poor Zan… Knocking sounded at the door even as she opened it.

“Zan! I was just coming to get him.” She smiled at him gently as he handed Ryley to her before turning anxiously away. “Zan…” She placed a hand on his arm. He turned, looking at her questioningly. “I didn’t think earlier, I’m sor-“

“It’s fine,” he said tersely, “Good night Lady Ria.” His manner became impersonal as he strode away stiffly. She sighed, biting her lip, he had taken her apology the wrong way. She would have to fix that snag tomorrow.
*~*~*

Rath listened to his wife from the next room. He smiled at her mindless cooing to their son. Wrapping a sheet around himself, he climbed out of bed and walked toward the small room they had designated as Ryley’s.

“Ria?” he whispered. She smiled at him, laying the baby down gently. He felt pride swell in his heart at the sight of his little family, his sweet wife and child. She reached down at swept the brown hair from the tiny forehead and kissed the place her fingers had touched. Rath looked down as the boy curled up, smiling in his sleep, one drool covered fist in his mouth.

“Well,” Ria commented, as she moved the hand away, wiping at it gently with a towel draped on the crib, “He’s obviously your son.”

“Yeah,” he agreed happily, not catching the dry tone in her husky voice. She laughed and he glared at her. “Ssh,” he reprimanded, leading her from the room and back to theirs. Wait…

Was she implying he drooled?!

“Hey!” he protested, too late. Her laughter increased and he pulled away miffed.

“Aww, poor baby,” she teased, “Come here.” He came. He knew an order when he heard one. “Let’s see if I can’t make it up to you.”
*~*~*

Ava was still frozen on her bed. She hadn’t moved from this spot except to see the horrid child off. Small pleasure though it had been.

Zan had yet to return. He had been watching Ryley all day and the night and day before that with Kalila. Always with Kalila. She felt a bitter smile cross her lips.

The little whore was gone now. For good, hopefully. Zan would come to her now, turn to her for comfort in his grief. She would do her best to take that grief away. She would make him fall in love with her, she would make him her soulmate.

It was just a matter of time.

She smiled for real this time and crept under the covers to wait. He would appear in the morning. There was no one to keep him up late now. No one except her.

Soon he would be hers, she was his wife after all, his destined Queen. He would see that soon.
*~*~*

Zan tread softly into the stables. They were a day ahead. That was too much. He would need a swift horse to catch up, a clever horse to keep them close yet a safe distance away.

A horse that could carry two people.

He headed to the Gems stabled near the back. Their bright hides rippled, lending again to the family of fire they were beholden to. For some reason the warm colors were more reliable.

They whinnied in alarm as he approached. “Ssh, ssh,” he silenced, holding out a sugar cube and letting them sniff and lip at his hands, letting them comprehend the familiar scent. Three of them crowded closer. “Yes, pets, I’m going to need your help.”

The choices were slim, the decision seemed already made. Kalila’s Ember was too small and delicate for a journey such as this, and her colt, Torch, was still too young. He hadn’t been properly trained and had yet to grow into his legs. He turned to his stallion. Flame whickered quietly in response to his master’s unspoken plea.

The two of them seemed to be able to read each other’s minds sometimes, even with the difference of species. The herd leader nipped his consort and colt back until Zan had enough room to open the pen door without obstacles. Flame walked out and stood, an eye still on his herd.

His mate stuck her head over the door and Flame blew at her in reassurance as Zan saddled him, working as quickly as possible, trying not to wake the stable boy. He switched sides to mount and gave Ember a quick pat. “We’ll bring her back, girl,” he promised.

She nodded at him, backing away slightly in mincing steps, snorting at him. Her affinity for Kali was overshadowed only by Zan’s. She loved her mistress as well as her mate and son. Zan smiled at the horsey blessing.

He rode away to the back gate, where Kayl and Lex waited. “Watch your back, man,” Lex told him, hitting his leg.

“Yes, Highness, be careful.” Zan looked at Kayl and was surprised to see him smile. “We are trusting you to bring our Princess back safe.”

He smiled. “I will,” he said, “I will.”

“Then go with all of Antar’s blessings as well as those of Eros.”

“Thank you, my friends,” he whispered, oddly choked up. He spurred Flame forward, not sparing a backward glance. Soon he was past the cobbled streets of the city and on his way to the desert after his Kali.

He gave the Gem another kick, speeding him forward, closer to his destination and his heart.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 8:57:04 AM
KALILA 24

He still hadn’t returned. She had fallen asleep and when she awoke, he still wasn’t in the room. She had dressed and searched their chambers, then the rest of the wing. He wasn’t around.

She decided the gardens would be the next likely place. He spent a lot of time there, most of it trysting with that…Kalila. But another extensive search produced no trace of her dark-haired husband.

This was too much. Where was he?

Giving up, she headed for breakfast, hoping one of the other royals had seen him. Ava sat silently and glanced around the mostly solemn table. Only Vilandra and Tynan were chatting, everyone else was looking sad and staring at the table, picking at their food. Zan wasn’t here either.

“Has anyone seen Zan?” she asked, smiling sweetly.

“What?” Tynan responded.

“Zan, I haven’t seen him since yesterday morning. He never came to bed last night and he wasn’t anywhere in our section of the palace or the gardens.”

Everyone was looking at each other in bewilderment, obviously trying to recall the last time they had seen the prince.

“Maybe he’s in the city,” Ria offered.

“The market doesn’t open for an hour,” Rath pointed out, finding the fault in his wife’s argument, “he wouldn’t be there.”

“How do you know?” she demanded, “He was looking tense and all stressed out when he dropped Ryley off last night. He probably didn’t want to sleep and went for a walk to burn off his energy. And if he did, then the city would have provided the most space to pace in and if he got tired, the villagers would have offered to let him spend the night. They love him, they’d do anything for him, and they know he’s going to be overwrought…Losing Kalila and all…” she got quiet and sniffed. Ava saw tears form in her eyes.

For Eros’ sake! Did the child have the whole universe at her feet?!

“In any case,” Ria continued, “We should give him a few hours to compose himself and return to the palace.”

“Quite right,” Ariann put in, “I admire your thinking Ria. This is going to be a difficult period of adjustment for Zan. We all must be patient and caring and put up with sudden moods and disappearances.” She stared around the table, finally focusing on Tynan. “I expect you all to give him time. There will be no pushing.”

“But-“

“No, Tynan. We wait.”
*~*~*

“It’s been a few hours!” he exploded, glaring at his wife. “He’s not home, and I am tired of waiting!”

“Tynan…”

“No. I will tolerate absolutely no more excuses from you on his behalf, Ariann. RATH!”

The door opened and his son’s best friend and the commander of the Royal Guard walked in. “Majesty?”

“I want the Guard combing the city. I want Zan found and brought to me as soon as possible. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Majesty.” He left the room.

“And if they don’t find him?” Ariann questioned.

He turned to her. “Then I guess it would be safe to assume he went after that Paerhnian whore.” He watched her shocked expression and smiled grimly. The thought had obviously not occurred to her. Maybe that would make her think twice before accusing him of not knowing his own son.
*~*~*

Rath couldn’t quite comprehend the why of Zan’s disappearance. If he was this upset over Kalila leaving, why had he let her agree to it? And why hadn’t he come to him to talk? They were best friends, Zan should have trusted him enough to confide in him.

But that was uncharitable, Rath thought guiltily. He hadn’t been a good friend recently. Zan had had a lot to deal with, the whole father hating wife thing, as well as the divorce and marrying Ava, the demands of Kivar and losing Kalila for good…The stress had obviously been too much for him to handle and Rath had been too preoccupied with Ria and Ryley to notice.

When they found Zan he’d sit him down and have a nice long chat about everything, just like they used to. But for right now…He had to actually find Zan.

“Kayl!” he called to his first lieutenant. The blond man turned away from his dark-haired companion, looking at his commander with unease. Rath would contemplate that reaction later.

“Yes, Commander?”

“Prince Zan is missing,” he told him.

“Really?” he asked, though the surprise seemed a planned response. Rath narrowed his eyes, watching as Kayl and the young man exchanged glances.

“Yes. King Tynan has ordered us to search the city for him. I’m leaving it up to you to get everything ordered appropriately.

“Yes, Commander.” He turned to go.

“Kayl.” The lieutenant stopped. “Don’t let Niko discover Zan’s absence.”

“Yes, Commander,” he said, with obvious relief. He walked away, the other man following, looking just as pleased to escape Rath’s scrutiny as Kayl. Something was definitely up. He’d have to keep an eye on those two.

Now, to find his best friend…
*~*~*

Zan spurred Flame faster and faster, but not fast enough to wear him out. He needed him as fresh as possible to make a quick get away. He was just anxious to get to Paerhnian City.

He didn’t want to give Kivar a greater chance than possible to get to Kalila. His Kali…Flame suddenly jumped into an all out sprint. There was no way he was going to give Kivar that much time. No way.
*~*~*

To say he was nervous was an understatement.

“Relax,” Lexus told him, lounging languidly in a chair next to him. He, himself, was straight-backed, rubbing his sweaty hands on his pants in an effort to calm himself down. It wasn’t helping.

“Relax?” he hissed, “This could put a black mark on my record. I could be demoted! How am I suppose to relax?!”

Blue eyes regarded him with amusement. “First off, it was a royal command, so you didn’t do anything wrong. Second off, they’ve got no proof besides the fact that you’re acting like you are. You’re gonna give us away if you don’t calm down.”

“Do you do this often?”

A smile was his only response. “I’ve been keeping royal secrets since I was ten, Kayl, the practice has only just resurfaced, and I’m good at it. That’s all. But you’re gonna need some work if you want to get past the queen. She’s really…um…observant about things like Zan.”

He didn’t have a chance to talk back, the door opened and Rath beckoned them inside. He walked in first, with Lexus following, as was appropriate with their rankings. He was startled to find himself confronted by, not only the Queen, but King Tynan, Princesses Vilandra and Ava, Commander Rath, Lady Ria, and their son.

Needless to say, his nervousness increased.
*~*~*

Lex wanted to roll his eyes, he really did. He never would have believed that anything could turn his calm, cool lieutenant into a stammering idiot, but he was wrong. Being confronted by the entire Royal Family set him quivering in his boots.

He should have told him before they walked in to let him talk, but it was too late now, he’d just have to interject when he got the chance.

“And you didn’t see Zan leaving?”

“No, sir,” he replied easily to Rath before Kayl could talk.

“His Gem is missing from the stables, it’s a quite noticeable Fire, are you sure you didn’t see anything?”

“Not a thing, Commander.” He smiled at his leader, “May we go now?”

Rath looked at them, everyone looked at them. He met Vilandra’s gaze steadily, giving her a wink before focusing again on Rath, who was still obviously suspicious of them. “I don’t believe you, I’m telling you that now, and I’m gonna be watching you two, but we don’t have anything on you, so I’m letting you go.”

“Thanks,” he said sarcastically and turned to leave.

“Wait.” They stopped and turned again. He looked at the king, bored.

“I have a feeling Zan went after…” He snapped his fingers, trying to come up with something.

“Princess Kalila?” Lex offered.

“That’s it. Yes, he went after her. I want the Guards prepared to ride out after him in an hour.”

“Yes, Majesty,” Kayl said nervously and then he bowed and ducked out.

Lex gave them all a sweeping bow and then left, grinning. Hopefully they had managed to stall enough so that Zan had time to get Kalila out.
*~*~*

“Tynan this is ridiculous. You’ll never catch up with him.”

“So little faith, Ariann.” He ignored her as the handlers brought his chosen mount. The finest specimen in the stable. But he couldn’t ignore her fearful gasp.

“Tynan you can’t be serious!” He turned irritably to his wife, about to say that he knew exactly what he was doing, but she was staring at the Gem in horror.

“What are you complaining about now?” he demanded.

“You can’t ride Torch!”

“And why not?”

“He’s still a colt! He hasn’t been broken into a saddle yet and he can’t carry a rider!”

He snorted and looked at the horse, who was currently fighting his handlers. He strode over and grabbed the reins of the Fire Gem. The horse quieted beneath his touch.

“See, nothing to worry about Ariann, he just needs a proper rider.”

“Tynan…” she warned.

“Hush, Ariann,” he stated harshly as he mounted. He missed the smoldering look in Torch’s eyes. The horse was still as he adjusted to the king’s weight. Tynan looked around at his company of Guards and nodded to Rath before spurring Torch.

The next thing he knew, he was falling hard as Torch reared upward. He stared in horror as flashing hoofs came down on him. Blackness started to envelope him.

He heard distant sounds of screaming, felt the stomping stop, and could envision the general chaos of the courtyard.

This was a definite set back in his plans.
*~*~*
posted on 13-Jul-2002 8:58:58 AM
KALILA 25

Night had fallen just as he reached the outer limits of the City. He had traveled steadily throughout the day and had managed to sneak in and out of provinces undetected… Paerhnian City would present a bigger challenge.

Flame blended in easily, the Gem a common sight in the country, but Zan…not so much. He left his horse outside a shop that was still open and slipped away to a housing district. He didn’t like the prospect of stealing one little bit, but he needed a disguise if he was going to be able to approach the palace.

Finally he spotted a dark house, the occupants gone or asleep, and took some of he clothing from where it hung to dry. Hiding, watching carefully, he stripped and pulled the new clothes on. They were an okay fit, obviously belonging to a larger man than he, but they would do.

Zan replaced the stolen garments with his own. They were of good quality, the owners of the house would be able to remake them or sell them. “Thank you,” he whispered as he crept back to his waiting Gem.

Now to rescue Kali.
*~*~*

Something was happening.

She could feel it, all around. Expectations, apprehensions, and something else, something like…hope.

Since coming to this palace a year or so ago, all she had felt was sorrow, that was her own, and the storm of war. This was new, these emotions swirling around, the sorrow was now not just hers.

Her sister had come.

Just yesterday, her sister had come.

They had spent most of the day talking about their years apart. She had explained to the smaller girl about her husband’s death…and about their father’s. They had wept together, and then Kalila had told her about her separation from Zan.

Her baby sister had been so sad.

Serena restlessly got off her couch. Kivar had given her his condolences and offered to give her her own set of apartments in his palace. She had accepted his offer and had moved in after burial plans had been made for her father. She had kept her eyes and ears open since her arrival and had no doubt that Kivar had a hand in Thane’s death as well as her husband’s.

She would be going to Antar as soon as she had enough information for the Prince, but then Kalila had been brought here and her plans had changed.

Now she would have to rescue her sister and escape before Kivar could get to her.

Unfortunately, she wouldn’t have the information she needed to help Antar’s people.

Serena had yet to inform Kalila of her impending rescue, it had been a spur of the moment decision and she didn’t have it properly thought out yet. But she was out of time.

She walked out of her rooms and headed to the part of the palace Kalila was being held in. Luckily, Kivar had not assigned guards due to the lattice work of the room. He hadn’t wanted any other man to lay eyes on his little princess.

Surprise sliced through the air, and Serena froze at the overwhelming power in it. She barely had time to register movement where there should have been none, and then the surprise became her own.

There was a knife at her throat.
*~*~*

“Who are you?” he demanded, making sure the point of the knife didn’t cut her. He didn’t want to hurt her, he just needed to scare her into submission. Eros, help him. “What are you doing here?”

“I am Serena and I’m going to see my sister.” Serena. That was Kalila’s sister’s name! And she was going to see his Kali, she could help him! Hopefully.

He released her and she turned to face him, gray eyes fearful but determined. “And who are you, sir? No man should be lurking about these quarters, Kivar has forbidden it. Unless you are an assassin, come to murder Kalila…” She backed up, fear now radiating from every part of her.

“No,” he shouted, then lowered his voice, stepping forward earnestly, “No, I would never hurt her.” She was now looking at him closely. “I am-”

“Prince Zan!” Her demeanor suddenly changed and she dropped into a curtsey. “Thank Eros! You have come to rescue her?”

“Yes,” he assured her, “How did you..?”

“Your eyes, Highness, Kalila is very good at descriptions. I am glad you have come. I was going to return her myself, but this way, I may stay behind.” She was rambling, and he didn’t understand half the things coming out of her mouth, but the gist of it was she was going to help him get Kalila out of here. “I will come to Antar when everything is ready.”

“What?”

“We do not have time. Continue down this corridor. The lattice room at the end holds my sister. Tell her I love her and I will see her as soon as I am able.”

“Serena…” The blond woman turned back to him, gray eyes compassionate and sad.

“She loves you a great, great deal, and I can tell you return her love equally. Take good care of her Zan, she needs you.”
*~*~*

Turn. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Deep breath, turn, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

Fifteen steps to each pace. She kept counting, kept pacing, trying to numb her brain. The thought of what was going to happen tonight made her sicker than the dizziness pacing had caused. So she tried not to think of it.

It was impossible.

The room was down in lurid reds and garish purples. The huge bed reeked of seduction. She felt trapped in the lair of a beast. A beast bent on having his way with her.

She was prepared this time. She had begged for a day to ready herself, to rid herself of the desert grim coating her. He had allowed it, thereby giving her a chance to gain her bearings and regroup.

She would fight this time. She was no longer a trembling child who felt the need to submit to her husband, no matter how much he disgusted her.

She was a woman now. A woman who had known the love of the greatest man alive. A woman who was carrying a child. His child. Just as she was his.

And she would protect what was his.

A rustle of fabric caught her eye. She stopped pacing and stared at the shadowed figure through the lattice work. It was a man. He was now at the door, trying to get in. It wasn’t Kivar, he would have a key. Fear struck her. Who was this man? What did he want from her?

A fist smashed the intricately designed wood, somehow managing to pry the door from it’s hinges. Kalila stood in the middle of the room as the door swung open. For some reason, a quiet calm had stolen over her, banking the terror.

The man silhouetted in the door way went still as his head came up to look at her. His tense body relaxed. It was a body she knew more intimately than any other, a body she had clung to during the darkest of nights, a body that was her rock, a body that belonged to her savior. Her Prince, her lover, her husband.

Brown eyes met amber in a rush of unspeakable joy.

“Zan.”
*~*~*

Her sweet, sweet voice called to him, and he rushed over to her, able to move from his state of frozen shock.

His Kali was back in his arms again, where she belonged, where she would never again leave.

Her lips were latched onto his, sweet lips that kissed him as if she had never kissed him before. Her hands wove into his hair, his hands explored her, searching for any signs of hurt. For any signal that someone would have to die tonight for touching her.

“Kali, Kali, Kali…” Her name sprung from his lips and as his mouth opened, her tongue slipped in, demanding he give her everything. He groaned heavily, they didn’t have time for this, but they had to finish this now. A week apart had been too long.

He pulled away, ignoring her protest, his blood was pounding in his head. Not the floor, not the bed…Little hands reached up his shirt, a tongue ran over his throat. With a low growl of frustration he captured her hard up against him and they dropped onto a large pile of cushions placed on the floor for lounging purposes.

Her long dark hair fanned out over the gold and lavender pillows, she stared up at him, her rosy lips swollen from his assault. A momentary guilt swept through him at using his gentle wife so callously, but her hands were again at work and any inhibitions were gone in a second.

He needed her. NOW.

She had succeeded in removing his pants enough to free him, and he pushed her skirt up to give him access to her heat. He plunged desperately into her hot, welcoming depths, and she screamed in pleasure.

Abruptly, he remembered that they could not be caught and he covered her mouth with his, swallowing each noise she made and effectively muffling his own as he stroked her inner walls.

He was rapidly losing control, but managed to find her sweet spot, sending her into writhing ecstasy before poring himself into her. His collapse soon followed, crushing her into the pillows, and he wanted so badly to give into the oblivion of sleep. After so many sleepless hours of riding, he just wanted to remain buried in his Kali and let everything drift away.

But that could not happen.

Regretfully he disengaged himself from her small form and straightened up his clothing. “Zan?” she murmured. He helped her up, cleaning her up as best he could and trying not to let her fall down, though his legs were rather wobbly themselves.

“We must hurry, love,” he told her in a whisper, kissing her gently, “If we are to get out of here before he comes, we must go now.” Zan took her hand and led her back the way he had come.

“Zan?”

He looked up at her as she clutched at Flame’s mane to steady herself. “Yes, sweet?”

She smiled down at him, “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He swung himself up behind her on the Gem. “Now lets go home.” Her warm body snuggled back against him as he directed Flame out of the City and back into open desert.
*~*~*

He fiddled with his robe once again. He was nervous, so very nervous. His last attempt at a wedding night with Kalila had been ruined. She had fled straight into that princeling’s arms.

This time would be different.

She knew what to expect this time, and had not flinched from the duty, merely asked for time to prepare.

He wouldn’t scare her this time. He wouldn’t let his excitement rule him. He would go slow, gently giving her pleasure as he took his, letting her know the ecstasy of a man's embrace.

There was no doubt in his mind that the selfish Zan had simply used her, never trying to please her. It wasn’t in an Antarian’s nature to care about their wives. He had probably hurt her.

Jealousy and rage reared up. That…boy would be taught a lesson soon enough.

He turned and strode from the room. He walked calmly down the hallway, turned right and continued down another hall, turning right again and then left, and followed the dimly lit corridor to the small den at the end.

Frowning, he noticed no light or movement from inside. He hoped she hadn’t gone to sleep, she had known he was coming tonight. He had given her the requested day, she should be prepared for his arrival…

The door was open.

The room was empty.

He stood in the center of the room, clapping on the lights. The bed was made, looking like it had never been slept in, and there was a wear mark on the carpet. He glanced down at the pile of silk pillows he had placed in the room for her to relax on.

They had been used. The smaller pillows were dislodged, spread around the room in an almost frantic manner, and the largest gold pillow had a stain on it. A stain caused by a woman in the midst of passion.

A glint of metal on the floor caught his eye and he knelt, picking up the piece of jewelry. It was a ring, a man’s ring, with the seals of Antar and Gorganin intertwined, a ruby gem and a light blue one set in the gold.

It was a ring he had seen once before. At a wedding. A wedding where a golden-haired princess placed it on a black-haired prince who was staring at a small, brunette with big eyes.

His hand clenched, trying to crush the ring as he would crush the black-haired prince.

Zan would pay.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 9:01:05 AM
KALILA 26

The first rays of sunlight somehow managed to slip between his lids, forcing him from his peaceful slumber and into the world of the waking. He opened his eyes reluctantly, but the sight that greeted him caused him to catch his breath.

Kalila was curled up beside him, small and delicate and bathed in the rose and gold glow of the dawn.

He reached his hand out reverently, letting his fingertips trace over her perfect features, lingering on her full lips…Lips that had loved him so generously.

She stirred, and her lips parted, her tongue peeking out unconsciously to touch his finger and then her mouth opened wider and she sucked gently. Zan groaned, and, unable to help himself, replaced his finger with his mouth and tongue…

And thus he woke her, his sweet beloved. She opened her dark, neverending eyes and kissed him back until they were both breathless.

Her smile banished the chill the desert night had instilled in him, and the touch of her fingers made him quake.

“You came for me,” she whispered softly, pressing light kisses to his throat.

He swallowed hard, “I told you I would.”

“Yes,” she agreed.

They lay like that for awhile; her body resting on top of his, staring into each other’s eyes, small, adoring smiles on both their faces. Zan ran his hands through her hair, hardly daring to believe they had actually made it out of Paerhna alive. But she was real, and they had done it.

They had set off from the city at a dead sprint on Flame, traveling slightly to the east and not directly toward Antar. He hadn’t wanted to give Kivar an easy chance to catch them. They had taken shelter last night in an oasis when a windstorm had started abruptly. It had been a stroke of luck to have both come at such a fortuitous time. The storm would cover their tracks and they would be safe for the night.

“What do you want to do?”

“What?” she asked.

“We have a choice. We could live out the rest of our lives together as desert nomads,” he grinned, “Or we can go back to a life of drudgery and misery where forces beyond our control want to tear us apart. You decide.”

“We have to go back.”

“What?!” he demanded, sitting up so suddenly she went tumbling from his lap and landed with an “Oompf” in the sand. “Kali!” he exclaimed, “Are you all right?” He rushed to her side. “I am so sorry, you have no idea-” He stopped talking as he turned her over, she was laughing.

“I’m fine Zan. But I was serious, we have to return to Antar.”

“Why?” he questioned in disbelief.

“You’re Crown Prince, Zan, you have duties.”

“Screw duties.”

“Do you want to screw your people too?”

He paused. “No,” he whispered.

She nodded at him. “There’s going to be a war now Zan, you know that, and the people are going to need you, not Tynan. You’re the one they respect.”

“I know.”

The staring contest began again, broken only by Flame’s impatient whinny. The looked over at the Gem, who stomped his hoof and snorted at them. He wanted to return to his mate and colt.

Zan heaved a mighty sigh. “Guess we should probably go then, huh?”

Kalila smiled, albeit sadly, and she rose to her feet, extending her hands to her lover. He accepted her help and stood before her and kissed her gently. “It’ll be all right, Zan,” she told him, “We’ll make it all right.”
*~*~*

“Niko! Where are you going?”

“I need a refresher, I’ll return in but a moment my sweet.” He strolled out of the bedroom, tying his robe in the process, and into the parlor area where a tall blond sat on the sofa. She rose, blue eyes submissive.

“You sent for me, sir?”

“Yesterday,” he said shortly, “and keep your voice down.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’ve been busy.”

He snorted derisively. “Trying to seduce the Second, Cora?”

She stiffened but gave no defense. Her eyes darted to the bedroom door. “Only to gain information, much as you do with the Princess.” Her tone had a touch of mocking mixed in with the challenge.

“Vilandra is a willing participate, Rath is rather…preoccupied…with his wife. Don’t you agree?”

Iris eyes narrowed and she drew in a breath that was much like a hiss, but he waved away his barb with a flick of his risk.

“It does not matter. The Princess has just divulged the very information we’ve been waiting for. Zan has not shut himself away in his rooms like a pathetic imbecile as we have been told, he has in fact, gone after the girl.”

“Just as Kivar planned.”

“Precisely.” He smiled coldly, “And now I think we’ll initiate the rest of that plan. We’ll start with the Commander and his family and make sure it cannot be traced back to us. And also, don’t give any sign of our knowledge of Zan’s departure.”

“Yes, sir.” She made to leave but Niko stopped her at the door.

“Oh, and Cora?”

“Yes, sir?”

“It might be a good idea to keep close to the Rath. He’ll need someone to turn to when he’s grieving over the deaths of his beloved wife and child.

“Yes, sir.”

“Niko?” Vilandra called from the other room as Cora left the room.

“Coming my sweet.” He hurried back into the bedroom, confronted by a very naked Princess who was staring at him lustfully. He smiled, aware of the intense pleasure he was about to receive. Niko loved his job.

“Is everything all right?” she asked as he lay down beside her again. His hand ran over her thigh and he pulled her toward him, capturing her lips in a rough kiss.

“Everything’s perfect.”
*~*~*

To say she was thrilled was less than adequate. She was nearly delirious with happiness. Rath was going to be hers!

Cora had wanted him from the moment she had seen him and the desire hadn’t abated when she discovered he had a wife and child. She hung around him a lot, went to training practices and oohed and aahed over his troops to gain his attention.

He was always pleasant to her, his smile made her weak in the knees, but his wife was a problem. The Lady Ria never allowed her near Rath when she was around. She’d glare at her with those unblinking green eyes and intimidate her out of the Commander’s presence.

She didn’t like Ria.

Which is why killing her would be so much fun!

Cora had decided poison would be the best solution. She had brought with her an herb found only in Paerhna that was undetectable and deadly. It didn’t go into effect right away, but made the dying process seem natural, like an incurable flu, and poison traces wouldn’t show up until six weeks after administering. By which the victim would be dead and buried.

She felt a pang of remorse for having to snuff out Ryley’s little life…He was such a precious baby, but… It was best that all ties to Rath’s previous life be severed.

She wanted him to be totally dependent on her…

She needed him to turn only to her…

Otherwise Kivar’s plans would be ruined.

Otherwise the hidden rebellion’s plans would be ruined.
*~*~*

Ariann sat beside Tynan’s bedside. They had practically transported a hospital wing into his bedchamber. She found the whole thing giving her a constant headache.

He was still out cold, but the doctors had high hopes of a full recovery.

Oh joy. Oh rapture.

While she didn’t want her husband dead…She didn’t really want him conscious either. He was so much easier to deal with while he was in a coma.

She was now acting ruler of Antar until Tynan woke up or until Zan’s return. She was hoping for the latter, as was most of the planet.

She had delayed the Guard in it’s persecution of Zan, she was sure that he had found Kalila by now and was on his way home. Thank Eros!

“Your Majesty?”

She looked over to the messenger who was hovering at the doorway. She glanced briefly at the nurse and excused herself.

“Yes?”

“Our satellites have detected a ship just entering the Whirlwind Galaxy.”

She frowned. “A ship?”

“Yes, Majesty. One of ours. The scientists believe it’s the expedition ship we sent to Terra twenty years ago.”

“To Terra?”
*~*~*

Satisfied blue eyes swept over the constellations of his home galaxy. Soon he would be back on Antar…Maybe he’d even take a trip to Gorganin and look up that red-haired girl he’d tumbled before he left.

That had been a good time…

His time on the planet Terra, or “Earth” as those filthy humans had called it, had been a waste of time. Nero shuddered in remembrance. Luckily, the mission had been completed, and he would delight in informing the King that it was an inferior planet and the humans would make…diligent slaves.

The planet itself was disposable.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 9:04:48 AM
KALILA 27

They had just come out of the dense foliage surrounding the capital, the sight of which had given the two of them renewed hope, and were now on their way to the palace. So far there had been no sign of Kivar and his armies and Zan wanted to warn his father and mother of the upcoming siege as quick as he could in order to gather the necessary reinforcements before the attack.

A ripple of silence descended over the people as he and Kalila rode through the gate in the outer wall. Zan halted Flame, who danced around a bit at the sudden stop, and met the gazes of the staring market-goers. They looked up at the two of them, every color eye imaginable fixed first on him and then on his petite wife.

A sudden cry went up and the people surged forward, surrounding them. He felt a stab of panic but quickly realized that they were shouting in joy. They were escorted to the palace amid jubilant exclamations and smiling faces.

Everyone was thrilled that their Princess was safe and home.

The Palace Guards opened the gate without a word, grinning at them, their eyes twinkling. Zan saluted them and grinned back, then shot a look over his shoulder at where Kali was waving happily back at her people. He felt a swelling of pride at the celebration going on. Proud of his people’s loyalty and love…

Proud of his beautiful wife.

“ZAN!” His head swung around to see his mother and Lex striding swiftly toward them, expressions of delight and relief on their faces. “Zan, thank Eros you’re home safe! And Kalila!” She rushed over and gave the younger woman a motherly hug before squeezing the life out of Zan. “Guardian Lexus just informed me of the riot your arrival started.”

“It wasn’t really a riot, per say, merely an uproar.” He smiled cheekily down at her and she smacked him lightly.

“Well, all I can say is thank Eros again. You returned at a most propitious time. Something has happened to Tynan.”

Zan felt a brief chill and tightened his grip on Kali’s hand. “What happened? Is he hurt, ill, dying?”

“He’s a…a bit unconscious at the moment, the healers don’t know when he’ll wake up. It could be two minutes from now or a year from now…He may have permanent brain damage…” Zan raised his eyebrow and she gave him an exasperated glare. “In any case, you are acting King now, and there’s a lot going on.”

“All right, I’ll be there in and hour or so, I want to take Kalila to the healers.”

Ariann, Lex, and Kalila looked at him questioningly. “Why?” they all echoed each other.

“Just in case.”

“But nothing happened!”

“Kali, you’ve been vomiting a lot, and it doesn’t seem natural-”

“Zan,” she cut in, “there’s a perfectly logical explanation for that.” He looked down at her, wondering how on Antar her being sick was logical and explainable.
*~*~*

“Well, then, if Kalila is fine we can proceed onward,” Ariann said.

“No, I still want her to go,” repeated staunchly, frowning at her. Ariann sighed heavily, he got his stubbornness from Tynan, no doubt about that. Thankfully that and looks were the only things they had in common.

“Zan this is important and Kalila says she’s all right,” she pointed out gently. His expression was in the ‘I am the mighty Crown Prince, do as I command’ mode that he had used as a child to bully Vilandra and to try to stay up after his bedtime. It was best to approach him calmly when he was in that mood.

“Well I-”

“How ‘bout a compromise?”

Zan glared at the Guardian for the interruption, but she looked at him politely, thankful for a rational point of view. “What do you mean, Guardian Lexus?” she inquired.

“Well, if you need Zan, I can take her highness to the hospital wing and that way, both things get done.”

“But I don’t need to go to the healers!”

“Sweet, I just want you checked out.” He turned to Lexus. “Lex, you may escort her, and please don’t leave her side, I’ll summon you later to go over details of the examination-”

“Zan!”

“And I also wish to discuss another…project with you.”

The dark-haired man nodded and then bowed to Kalila and she started walking, giving a miffed little sniff to Zan when he told her he’d see her soon. Ariann looked at her son in relief, he was home finally, now things could get done.

“Come Zan,” she beckoned, heading towards her husband’s rooms, “Kalila will be fine with Lexus, he’s been trained to protect the Royalty.”

“I know Mother, and I trust him completely, but I don’t like leaving her…”
*~*~*

Disbelief was the foremost reaction in Kalila’s mind, followed closely by annoyance, both at her husband’s thick-headedness. She was perfectly fine!

She sighed and shot a look at her escort, who was whistling in a corner. He caught her look and winked at her, grinning. She snapped back a bit, surprised at his boldness, but then gave him a small smile in return. He seemed nice.

“How long have you been friends with Zan?” she asked, trying to spark a conversation. The silence was a bit awkward.

“Coupla months. We kind of hit it off after he walked into a wall.”

She blinked, then stared at him closely, uncomprehending. “A wall?”

“Yeah,” he said seriously, “We were walking to the war room when BAM! Right into a wall.” He nodded a bit, obviously remembering. “I made some smart-ass comment and Zan said I could be his friend. Of course, that was after I said he could be mine."

This made her burst out into giggles and he grinned at her again and gave her a double thumbs-up. “And may I be allowed to be your friend too, Guardian Lexus?”

He looked her up and down, frowning slightly, as if judging her worthiness to be associated with him. She giggled again, unable to stop herself, and finally he responded. “I suppose you could…” he said graciously, as if bestowing a great honor upon her, “If…”

“If what?”

“If you stop with the Guardian Lexus crap, it’s just Lex.”

“All right, Lex it is. And you can call me Kali.”

“How about Kalila, I think Zan would see red if I seemed too familiar with you, and he’d definitely blow a gasket if I started calling you by his pet name.”

She mulled that over, and nodded agreeably, Zan was very possessive of her. She rubbed her belly softly, wondering just how much more possessive he’d become when he found out she was pregnant.
*~*~*

Blackness. With the occasional white spots. Sometime some yellow or red, but only in sudden bursts. That was the extent of his vision. And hearing…he wasn’t going to go into it. He felt black and blue all over, his head was spinning, and he couldn’t move an inch. He wanted to scream and shout and order people around, but nothing seemed to be connecting in his body.

A least his brain was still functioning.

Tynan concentrated on that, his mind, and tried to develop outward from there. Ooh! Ooh! Something…something…he was hearing something! What was it? He focused now on the voices, there seemed to be two of them, a man and a woman…What were they saying?

“What do you mean he tried to ride Torch! That has got to be the stupidest-”

Ah-ha, words, actual words, now he was getting somewhere.

“I know, dear, but you know how he is, even with the warnings he just up and jumped into the saddle-”

Oh. He recognized those voices now. It was his disobedient son and his insufferable wife, and they were obviously discussing him. Right there in his room, in front of his bed! The nerve…How rude!

“I wish you wouldn’t speak of me as if I weren’t here,” he said groggily, trying hard to form the right words. He opened his eyes now, and the two blurry figures gradually grew more distinct and he could see Zan and Ariann staring at him.

“You’re awake,” she said blankly.

“Obviously,” he retorted, irritated, “What’s going on?”
*~*~*

“You won’t tell him?” she asked anxiously, for about the millionth time.

“No, I promise I’ll let you surprise him,” he reassured her, for about the millionth time.

“Good.” She smiled up at him gratefully. The healer who had examined her had informed her that she was with child, confirming Kalila’s earlier suspicions. She was half relieved and half worried.

Relieved that now she knew for sure and that she was in Antar with Zan. Relieved because now she could finally tell her husband the wonderful news.

She was worried because she didn’t know how the rest of his family would take the announcement. They weren’t married anymore, and the child could be named a bastard and denied his birthright. She knew in her heart Zan and the Queen wouldn’t allow that to happen, but pregnancy was making her think some irrational thoughts.

Plus…war was on the horizon. What kind of life could she provide for this child? What safety could she provide?

“Little one!” The shriek of happiness echoed over to her, knocking her out of her daze. Before she knew it, she was being choked to death in an overzealous hug. “You’re back! Zan did it! Hurrah! We should have a parade or a party or something…”

“Hi Ria.” Green eyes sparkled, but her hair had lost some of its luster and she seemed rather pale. “ Are you all right?” she wanted to know.

“Oh, yes, we’re fine.” She sneezed and then picked up Ryley from where he had toddled over to her, looking worse than Ria, Kalila noted with concern. “It’s just a cold, it’ll be gone in a couple of days, but I want to make sure. Better safe than sorry.”

“Right. Well, I have to go find Zan…I have something important to tell him.” Her fluttering hands came to rest on her slightly pudgy stomach once more.

Ria stared at her shrewdly, and she lowered her hands self-consciously. “Little one, are you..?”

“Yes,” she affirmed, fuzzy feelings coursing through her, “Yes I am.”

“Ooh,” Ria squealed, “Zan’ll be so pleased!”

“I know…But, Ria…I want to keep this low-key for awhile…so don’t-”

Her best friend waved her hand, “Don’t worry, I know when to keep my mouth shut if the need arises, and this is a special thing…Congratulations.”

“Thanks, and you two start feeling better, my baby’s gonna need a bestest friend.” She patted Ryley on his soft brown head and gave Ria a quick good-bye squeeze before turning back to Lex, who had stepped back a few paces to give them room.

“Let’s go.”
*~*~*

Zan paced the length of the bedchamber, awaiting Kali’s return. She’d been gone for an awful long time…What if something was wrong?! What if she needed him?!

He heard the door to the parlor open and he strode into the other room in time to see Kalila come waltzing in arm and arm with Lex, laughing their heads off. He felt a bolt of jealousy but shook it off, gathering her close and kissing her softly.

“Hi,” he whispered.

“Hi.” Her lips were pliable against hers, and he could feel her tiny smile as he nuzzled her neck.

“Ahem!”

Right, they had an audience. “Lex,” he said, I have something important to discuss with you, could we-”

“Actually, I should go, I think Kalila has something she’d like to tell you, so I’ll just catch you tomorrow.” He threw them a wink and a wave and backed out the door.

He turned worriedly to his wife. “What is it? What’s wrong? Did-”

She placed a finger on his lips, ebbing his words, and chuckled throatily. “Nothing’s wrong, Zan.”

“Then what did you want to tell me?” She took a deep breath and he watched her closely, loving the flush in her cheeks and the excited shine in her eyes.

“I’m pregnant!”
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 9:09:02 AM
KALILA 28

She waited for a bit, letting his brain register what she had said. She knew he had gotten it when his eyes widened slightly and his mouth started smiling involuntarily.

“You’re pregnant,” he stated, “We’re pregnant! We’re going to have a baby!” She laughed at his enthusiasm as he picked her up and started twirling her around the room. She stopped laughing when she realized that he was seriously in danger of tripping over a piece of furniture.

“Zan! Zan, stop!” she ordered, “Put me down.” He did as told and just held her, grinning. She smiled up at him breathlessly, trying to stop her head from spinning.

“I’m going to be a father.” His amber eyes were shining as he looked down at her and placed a gentle hand on the barely noticeable bulge of her stomach. “Hey, little one, it’s your father…”

“Zan,” she said fondly, “He can’t hear you.”

“I know, but- He? We’re having a boy? Did the doctor say? How’d-” She put a finger to his lips.

“No, the doctor didn’t say, but I have a feeling…Call it mother’s intuition, Zan, but I know we’re going to have a son.”

“A son…” His rapt gaze on hers suddenly sharpened and a frown creased his brow. “How long have you known?”

She bit her lip and let her eyes slide uneasily away from his penetrating glare. He was going to be angry with her, she knew it.

“Kalila…” his tone held a tinge of a warning.

“For awhile,” she finally replied, “I didn’t think much about it at first, but…It grew more noticeable and I knew I was…”

“You weren’t going to tell me.” He sounded hurt, and she risked a glance at him, only to look away quickly, her heart nearly breaking at the confusion in his beautiful eyes.

“I was,” she protested, “But things kept coming up and then that hologram…I thought it’d be easier for you if you didn’t know.”

“Kali…Love, nothing could have made your departure any easier, but…” She looked up at him, on the brink of crying, and he trailed off. Large loving hands wiped tenderly at her eyes and he gave her a soft smile. “It doesn’t matter,” he told her, “it’s in the past and done with. Now,” and he swung her up into his arms, “I think we should celebrate.”
*~*~*

They were lounging in their bed when a knock came from the other room. Groaning he slowly got up, Kalila echoing his movements languidly. “One moment,” he called to the intruder.

They helped each other dress, causing a great many sighs and giggles, and finally opened the door to the sitting chamber where Lexus was sitting on the couch. His grin was a knowing one and Zan felt his face flame and saw a blush appear in Kali’s cheeks.

“You wanted to see me, your highness?”

“I did, yes,” he nodded, recalling his need to speak with Lex. “Obviously Kivar’s going to be upset.” He pulled Kalila nearer to him, wrapping a protective arm around her waist. “I want to have guards posted over those in nearest danger.”

“Guards?” he asked.

“Yes.” Kali was looking at him curiously. “I, myself will keep Kalila safe, and I know Rath will do the same for Ria, but I’m going to need your help as well as Kayl’s.”

“Why? I mean, Kivar’s after Kalila, he’s not gonna bother with anyone else.”

She whimpered a little and cuddled closer to him, Zan kissed her forehead. “Kivar wants all of Antar under his dominion. Yes, he wants Kali as his queen, but he can’t do that without help. Which brings me to my sister and Ava.”

“What about them?”

Zan sighed, heart heavy with the betrayal he knew Lonnie was capable of. “Vilandra has slept with Kivar, and is sleeping with Niko now. She believes herself in love with Kivar, and I believe she would help if he asked it of her. I want you to watch her. You’re trustworthy, Lonnie will appreciate that, and you can report to me any meeting with Niko or anything suspicious.”

“Okay,” he agreed, “But what about Ava?”

He scrubbed his face and Kalila clutched one of his hands tighter. “She’s in love with him,” his wife told Lex quietly.

“She says she’s over it, but…” he trailed off, “I just don’t trust her, and I don’t know enough about her to pinpoint what exactly she’d do to get what she wants.”

He looked into to Lex’s honest blue eyes. “I want my family safe, I want my son to grow up on a planet free from hostility. Will you help me do that?”

“You know I will,” his friend replied, then he grinned, “Congrats on the rug rat, by the way. I’m happy for you, and so will be the rest of the planet. When are you going to announce it?”

Zan frowned, “I have some things to take care of first. Could you inform Kayl that I wish to see him?”

“Sure, when?”

“As soon as possible. If I’m not here I will be collecting my things from my old rooms.”

“I’ll tell him.” Lex got up to leave and Zan and Kali escorted him to the door. “I hope everything works out,” he said seriously.

“It will,” Zan responded, grinning. He hooked Kali under his arm and stared down into her beautiful brown eyes. “I’ll make it all right.”
*~*~*

Ava started up from her vanity when the door boomed open. Zan strode in, not looking at her. “Zan? You’re back! I was so worried- What are you doing?”

She watched him as he dragged a bag out from under the bed and put it on top of the bed, then headed to the closet. Clothes came flying out, landing on the bag.

“Packing,” he told her shortly.

“Where are you going? I didn’t hear of an embassy trip.”

“That’s because there isn’t one.”

“Then why are you packing?” She was feeling lost, not sure of where this conversation was headed.

“Because I’m moving.”

Moving? “Where are we moving to?” she asked.

"I'm moving Ava, not you. And I, me as in singular, am moving in with my wife.”

“But I’m you’re wife,” she reminded him.

“You’re my bride, not my wife, and even that won’t be for long.”

“What?” She was so confused now. Zan looked at her finally, his eyes trying to convey something.

“Kalila is pregnant with my heir. As such, we will divorce and I will remarry her. That way you are able to go back to Gorganin and find a man you love, and marry him.”

“But…” She trailed off. So they child had finally told him of her pregnancy. She sighed, knowing that the fortuitous arrival of that ultimatum had been too good to be true. That leech of a girl just never went away. “Where’s your ring?” she asked, suddenly noting it’s absence.

“What?” he questioned, looking taken aback at her change of subject.

“Your ring,” she tried to clarify, grabbing his left hand and showing him the lack of wedding band on his ring finger. “The one that matches mine.” She held up her own hand, their planets’ seals delicately set together upon it. “Where is it?”

“I don’t know,” he said, pulling his hand out of hers.

“What do you mean you don’t know? That’s our wedding band! It’s sacred-“

“Ava!” he exclaimed, “It doesn’t matter, okay? We’re getting a divorce anyway. Now I’m sorry I lost the ring, but-“

“I never agreed to a divorce,” she interrupted him.

“Wha-“

“Prince Zan?” Zan looked up and she swung around. A handsome, attractive man stood uncertainly in the bedroom doorway.

“Thank Eros, Kayl.”

“What? What’s going on?” she demanded.

“Lieutenant Kayl, this is the Princess Ava. Ava, this is Kayl, he’s your bodyguard.”

“What?” Zan didn’t say another word, just grabbed his bag and headed out the door. “Zan!” she cried.

“I’ll send someone to gather up the rest of my things!” he called back.

“Zan!”

He didn’t come back. Ava looked at Kayl, and he looked at her, shifting uncomfortably. “Um…Hi,” he offered.
*~*~*

“I don’t need a bodyguard!” she shouted.

He blinked blue eyes and responded calmly. “Be that as it may Princess, I have my orders.”

“Well you can tell Zan to stuff it! I’m not going to be watched over like some common criminal. I am a Princess of Antar, and I will not be subjected to such humiliation from anyone. Especially my stuck-up, hen-pecked, annoying, little brother!”

She tossed her long blond hair and glared at the tall man in front of her, daring him to challenge he will.

He dared.

“I’m not so much a spy as protection,” he told her affably, smiling at her. She opened her mouth, but was speechless at his impudence. She stared at him as he grinned at her, his eyes impassive, but she suspected him of laughing at her from behind the mask.

She remembered him from that meeting about her brother a few days ago. How he’d lied to her father’s face as well as his commanding officer’s. She remembered how he had winked at her, as if they were old friends. She had been amazed at his nerve, and now realized he wasn’t brave, just stupid.

She was about to chew him out, so that he was at her knees, begging for mercy as she destroyed him emotionally and physically, but then she paused, realizing his grin seemed more familiar than even just those few minutes allowed.

“I know you, don’t I?”

His grin grew, “The name’s Lex, and we met when we were ten…Lonnie.”
*~*~*

Rath lay, his wife asleep on his chest, and he listened to her labored breathing with a sense of panic. She had taken herself and Ryley to the healer’s this afternoon and he had said they just had a cold, but…

They weren’t getting better. If anything, they seemed to be getting worse. He stroked her hair back, and kissed her fevered brow. She was burning up, and he felt helpless. He was a warrior, he was supposed to protect people, but he couldn’t even keep his own wife and son safe.

A thin wail came from the other room and Rath gently put his wife on her side of the bed, tucking her in tightly. Then he headed through the open doors to his son’s room.

Ryley had finally gotten to sleep an hour ago, and Rath had hoped he’d sleep through the night. But obviously not. “Hey little man,” he whispered, lifting his crying son out of the crib, “What’s the matter?”

He cradled him gently and rocked him, yet the whimpering didn’t abate. Rath walked him around the room, humming Ria’s lullaby underneath his breath. Ryley gave a little hiccup and stopped crying.

Rath breathed a sigh of relief and went to put his son back in his cradle. Then he realized his son wasn’t making any noises, he wasn’t moving at all. “Ryley?” He looked down at the tiny, still body, and began to panic. “Ryley?” He started resuscitation, pumping firmly but gently onto the tiny chest and breathing for him. “Please,” he begged, “Please!”

But his son didn’t start breathing again, and Rath stayed there, kneeling with the baby’s chilling body in his arms, numb.

“NOOOOOO!”
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 9:11:56 AM
KALILA 29

She let the last notes of the dirge die away, and watched as her son’s casket was lowered into the ground.

She finally let herself cry.

Her baby was gone. She felt her husband’s arms come around her and she leaned into him, hiding her tears in his shoulder. She felt weak, she felt empty, and the only light in her soul right now was holding her, grieving with her.

Ria had never been one to cry. When she was a little girl, she never bawled when she fell off her Gem. When Kivar choose her from her province, she never sobbed from missing her family. But since she had come to Antar…

She cried the first time Rath had told her he loved her. She had cried when she brought Ryley home. And now she was crying as she laid him to rest.

She hadn’t allowed her tears to fall until now. There had been too much planning, too much to do. And she had to keep her vocal cords relaxed in order to sing his lullaby…

“It’s over Ria,” Rath whispered, he was crying too, “Let’s go home.”

She followed him wordlessly, coughs racking her frail body, until he picked her up and carried her back to their rooms in the palace. She didn’t notice her best friend staring after them worriedly, or the sad, sympathetic looks of bystanders, all she saw was white nothingness. And she heard only silence.

It was all over. She was dying. She could feel it. She’d be with her baby again soon.

Rath wouldn’t accept that though, and she wasn’t sure if he was strong enough to be left alone, but Eros had taken the decision away from her when he gave her this sickness.

She felt the softness of a bed beneath her, felt her husband gently taking off her clothes, trying to make her comfortable. “Rath,” she croaked.

“Ssh, Ria,” he replied, voice harsh with held back tears, “Just get some rest.” But she shook her head, grabbing the hands that were trying so hard to cover her up, and pulled him weakly down beside her.

She held him as he finally let everything go, she kissed away the furrows in his face, and she made love to him in the stillness, letting him feel her flesh…her warmth.

They needed each other right now.

They needed to feel alive.
*~*~*

Vilandra wiped tears away angrily, not knowing why she was crying. She didn’t like Ria, Rath had gotten distant since his marriage to her, and Ryley had always just annoyed her with his baby-like presence, but….

He was just a little boy, not even a year old…And he was gone. Just like that. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.

She had tried to explain this to Niko, but he had just frowned at her, dismissing her tears. He didn’t understand. He never saw Rath and his family, he hadn’t even come to the funeral, but he was supposed to care about her. He was supposed to care that she was sad…

A white square of cloth came into view and she looked up, surprised, into understanding blue eyes.

“Are you okay?”

Lonnie gulped her tears back and looked up, wiping her eyes, and not caring about the dirt she had managed to smudge in the act. She had come to these gardens as a sanctuary, no one else should be here! “Who are you?” she demanded imperiously.

The little boy grinned widely and held out his hand. “I’m Lex. Who are you?”

She felt her jaw drop. Who was this boy who didn’t know the Princess of Antar when he saw her? She was about to reprimand him about respect due to her as a princess, but paused, arrested by his guileless blue eyes. “I’m Lonnie,” she finally told him, holding out her own hand.

“Well, now that we’re acquainted, what’s the matter?” he asked.

She sniffed and sat up, pulling foliage out of her short blonde hair. “My brother is the matter,” she told him, anger starting up at Zan again.

“What’d he do?”

“He killed Reagan.”

“Wait…He killed someone?” Lex looked incredulous.

She nodded, “Reagan was my favorite doll. And he smashed her! He said dolls were for babies, but he’s only eight! What does he know?”

“He does seem a little spoiled,” Lex offered sympathetically.

“I’ll say,” she muttered, “Just ‘cause he’s Crown Prince, Momma acts like he’s Eros, and Daddy just doesn’t have time for me anymore.” She sniffled again, and looked at her new friend for consolation of her plight. But he was just staring at her with wide eyes.

“Eros bless,” he whispered, “You’re Princess Vilandra.”

She blushed and bit her lip, “I am.”

“Wow. That’s cool.”

She shrugged. “Sometimes,” she said modestly.

“So… How long have you had Reagan?”

She breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn’t going to harp on her status. “Daddy got her for my 10th birthday,” she told him, “So I’ve only had her for three months, but she was so pretty, and she even talked. It wasn’t right for him to do that!” she exclaimed, shredding a leaf hatefully.

“No,” Lex agreed, “It wasn’t.”

She peered at him through her bangs. “Can you keep a secret?” she asked in a hushed voice.

He nodded and raised his right hand. “I can.”

“You swear?”

“On my flute.”

“Flute?”

He pulled out a little, whittled flute and played a ditty. “Yup, it’s my most prized possession. I made it myself.”

She gazed at him earnestly, and he met her brown eyes, serious. She finally nodded, satisfied with his promise. “Sometimes I hate my brother.” Lonnie looked around as if to make sure no one was spying on them.

“Sometimes I hate my father,” he told her. They stared at each other for a moment, in complete accord, until their haven was invaded.

“Lonnie!” She looked up at her brother.

“What do you want?” she demanded. Zan looked at her sheepishly, and ran a hand through his black hair. He gave Lex a sidelong glance and she grabbed his hand, letting her brother know he wasn’t going anywhere.

“I wanted to apologize for what I did to your doll,” he said quietly, looking her in the eye, “And I wanted to give you this.” He held out the other hand, the one he had hidden behind his back.

Lonnie gasped and took the doll reverently. It was beautiful. It was the doll from the milliner shop in the market place. The really expensive one that Momma told her she couldn’t have, even though they had more than enough money. “Oh, Zan…” she breathed, “How did…How could you…afford this?”

He shrugged sheepishly, “I used my savings, I know how much you liked her so…”

“Thank you,” she said, hugging the doll and pulling her brother close for a kiss. He turned red and pulled away.

“I gotta go, Rath’s waiting for me…so…” He gave a little bow and scampered off.

“I guess he’s not so bad after all, huh?”

She looked back at Lex and smiled, looking at her gift. “No, sometimes he’s not so bad.”

“I wish I could say the same for my father.”

“Why?”

Lex didn’t respond, just brought his homemade flute to his lips and played. Lonnie listened, spellbound, to the music he produced, the magic he weaved. When the notes finally faded away she applauded loudly.

“That was wonderful!’ she complimented him, “Are you going to be a bard?”

He shook his head, “Father says I can’t. That’s why we’re here, to enroll me in the Military Academy.”

“But- That’s such a waste,” she protested.

He snorted, “Tell that to my father.”

“LEXUS!”

The two children jumped in surprise and Lex scrambled to his feet. “I have to go.” He gave her the flute. “Here, I won’t need this anymore.” Then he saluted her and was gone.


Vilandra took the handkerchief and gave him a small smile. “Thank you,” she whispered. He shrugged and sat down at her feet, leaning against the wall of the window seat. Then he took out a silver flute from a hidden pocket and began to play the melody from a time long ago.

She closed her eyes and listened, letting him take her away to a time when things were simpler. A time when love and politics didn’t matter, and her main focus was a tea party for her dolls. A time when she was happy, content, with her life…
*~*~*

“How long until Ria goes?”

She shrugged, “Not too much longer. I’m surprised the boy managed to live this long.” But not really, his father was strong, obviously Ryley would have inherited that strength. She sighed, sorry to have caused her beloved Rath so much pain.

Niko turned away from the food platter on the table and looked at her. “You’re ready to initiate the second part of our plan?” he asked. She nodded. She was ready, but she wasn’t doing this for Kivar. She was doing it for herself, for her cause, for Rath, and for the good of Antar.

He would be King.
*~*~*

Kali cuddled closer to Zan. She wanted to go see Ria, but knew her comfort wouldn’t be helpful at the moment. She sighed, and her husband kissed her head, wrapping his arms protectively around her abdomen, as if he could ward off any trouble that could potentially hurt her or their unborn son.

“I don’t think we should announce it yet,” she suggested to him.

“Announce what?” he asked, fingers tracing circles on her skin.

“That I’m pregnant. I think it might hurt Ria and Rath.”

She felt him nod against her neck. “You’re right. We’ll wait, but not too long. I want to get away from Ava as soon as possible, and the people are going to need some hope, Kali. So much has been going wrong lately…”

“I know, I just… Why can’t everything go back to the way it was before Zan? When nothing was bad…everything was just perfect…Why can’t…?”

“’Cause life doesn’t work that way, Kali. Especially not for the royal family.”

She sighed again and wiggled back against his body, needing to feel him closer. “Serena told me things were going to get worse before they got better,” she told him, remembering her sister, still trapped in Paerhna with Kivar and his minions.

“Probably,” he agreed sleepily, “But we can’t predict the future, Kali.”

“I wish we could,” she said, almost to herself, “Then we could change what’s wrong and save the world.”

Her husband chuckled, “What would you do to save the world, Kali?”

“Anything,” she replied vehemently, “I’d do anything to keep you and the people I loved safe.” Zan didn’t reply, already asleep, but she stayed awake much longer, just listening to him breathe.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 9:15:54 AM
KALILA 30

Zan entered his father’s chambers unannounced. He was nervous, knowing that his father would be difficult, regardless of the good news. “Father? I must speak with you.” Tynan looked up at him from the bed and gestured the scientist beside him to depart.

The two men waited until the third had departed before looking at each other again, amber eyes the mirror image of each other. “Well?” his father demanded impatiently, “What is it now?”

“Kalila’s pregnant!” he blurted out, smiling broadly.

His father didn’t reply, just sat stock-still in his bed and stared, his mouth hanging open. “You got her pregnant?” he finally hissed.

Zan frowned, “You don’t seem pleased.”

“Pleased?” Tynan repeated, “You want me to be pleased that you got that whore with a child? That you have now ruined everything I have worked so hard to achieve? Tell me, Zan, what am I supposed to be pleased about?!”

He clenched his hands into fists, feeling that blind rage he got whenever he was in his father’s presence appear, and he had to concentrate to keep from shouting. “I have told you before, Father, do not speak of my wife in such a manner.”

“Your wife,” Tynan laughed, “Ava is your wife.”

Zan shook his head furiously. “Did you not hear me? Kalila is pregnant with my heir. The heir to the throne, to Antar! Obviously I will expect a divorce from Ava.”

“Well you’re not going to get one,” his father commented blithely, turning back to look at the papers spread out on his lap.”

“Father-”

“No, Zan. You divorce Ava and Gorganin will withdraw its support and Claren will follow. We cannot risk that now, not with that stunt you pulled going into Paerhna like that…Kivar will be on a rampage soon.”

“Hannar loves Kalila, he won’t abandon us if she becomes my wife again,” he told his father reasonably.

“No doubt he loves her because she allowed him into her bed,” Tynan pointed out cynically. Zan stiffened.

“Take that back,” he ordered, voice dangerously calm. His father looked at him, surprised.

“Why should I?” he inquired.

“Kali loves me, she’d never allow another man to touch her,” he staunchly defended his beloved.

His father shook his dark head. “If you believe that you are a fool,” he said tiredly, “Love is nothing when royalty and titles are involved Zan, you remember that.”

“And what do you know of love?” Zan demanded harshly.

“Don’t take that tone with me young man, I’ve been in the same position you were once.” At Zan’s shocked look he nodded grimly. “That’s right. I was in love once…” he trailed off, eyes clouded with remembrance. “Her name was Chordae, and she swore she loved me. I was going to marry her, but my father forbade it. She was poor, and therefore nothing in my father’s eyes, and Ariann’s family had already agreed to the betrothal. When Chordae found out she told me it didn’t matter, that she didn’t care about being Queen. She vowed she’d never love another…”

“What happened?” he asked, feeling a little curious. His father had never spoken of anything like this before.

“A few days after the wedding, I went to see her, and…” he swallowed hard, unexpected tears coming to his eyes, “She was in bed, with a Lord from my court.” Zan didn’t say anything, he could think of no words of comfort. “So you see,” Tynan continued, “With us, it’s always about politics Zan. Your little bedmate has no place in our world, not as your wife or as future Queen.”

“Father, just because Chordae didn’t love you, doesn’t mean that Kali doesn’t love me. It doesn’t mean she staying with me just to get the throne.” He threw his hands into the air. “If she wanted a throne she could’ve stayed with Kivar, he’s willing to do anything to be King!”

“Don’t say that!” his father yelled, “Kivar will never have Antar, not as long as I live!”

“Well,” Zan said wryly, “At least we agree on something.” They glowered at each other for a bit. “Father, she is pregnant, with my son-”

“How do you know it’s male?”

“Kali says he is.”

Tynan snorted, “She’d say anything to get you to remarry her.”

“NO! Damn you, listen!” he insisted stridently, “I love her! She loves me! We’re having a son, I don’t see why you can’t just accept that and let it happen!”

Tynan pursed his lips and stared at his son in distaste. “And how does Ava feel about this?’ he asked calmly, “Does she follow your rationale also?”

He sighed loudly and scrubbed his face. “Ava’s being weird, I told her, but…”

“Well, let’s clear this matter up then. Get the guard and order her to come here.” Zan glared at him, but do as he was bid, telling the man stationed at the outer door to fetch Kayl and Ava.
*~*~*

Ava stepped demurely into her father-in-law’s chambers. She dropped a curtsey to him and then stole a glance at her husband. Zan was slumped against a wall, wearing a rebellious expression, but his eyes were pleading with her for something.

Kayl had offered to come in with her, but she had declined, knowing what this meeting was about. Zan had finally told Tynan about his precious Kali’s baby. She didn’t want Kayl coming in on this discussion, it was private, and as much as she had come to trust him, he didn’t need to know about this.

“You called for me, my King?” she asked softly, voice sweet.

“Indeed. My son here has just informed me off some disturbing news. It appears his former wife is pregnant with what she believes is a male child. Zan has also informed me he already told you this.”

“He did, your Majesty,” she agreed.

“And why did you not ask for a divorce?” he inquired inquisitively.

She shrugged her delicate shoulders, “I did not want one.” Zan pushed away from the wall angrily, staring at her hard. She ignored him.

“Why ever not?” Tynan asked.

She gave another little shrug. “I am quite content in my marriage. And plus we have no guarantee that Kalila truly is with Zan’s child, male or no, at all.”

“The healers confirmed it,” Zan put in.

Ava smiled at him gently, as if he were a naïve child. “And did they also confirm the child was yours?”

His face darkened with resentment, and she shivered, feeling the hidden power deep in him. The power to hurt. “And who’s else would it be?” he drawled, daring either of them to say it.

“Well…” she started, then looked to Tynan, who nodded encouragingly, “In the time that I’ve been here I’ve noticed more than a few men willing to go even behind your back to get to her. I believe they see it all as a part of the Court intrigue, you see. You have nothing but her word that she remained faithful.”

“I trust her,” he stated simply, truthfully. She felt jealousy rise up again. Would nothing make him doubt her love? Would nothing stop him loving her?

“I will not agree to a divorce,” she told them stiffly.

Tynan’s grin was one of triumph, “Then I shall not permit one.”

“No! You cannot-”

“Zan!” the king interrupted, “Do not tell me what I cannot do. I am King, I may do whatever I wish, and I do not wish to grant your petition.”

“I will never give you an heir then,” he whispered furiously, “Not with her.” He pointed at Ava and she felt tears sting her eyes. Why wouldn’t he just accept the fact that she was his wife? His Queen.

She saw Tynan’s eyes widen at that statement, and her stomach dropped, knowing something was going to change.

“No, you won’t, will you?” he observed quietly, “If nothing else you are true to what you love Zan, whether or not it accords you the same award.” The king shook his head. “A compromise then?” he offered.

“Compromise?” Zan echoed warily.

“You remain married to Ava, and I will allow Kalila to stay with you in the palace and to bear your child. If it is male, he will be the heir. If not, you do your duty by Ava.” Zan opened his mouth to protest. “Otherwise, she will be taken from you and you will never be able to find her, or the child. Is that agreeable?”

Ava nodded. Tynan turned his riveting gaze on his son. “Zan?” he said questioningly, voice hard behind the pleasant demeanor.

“Fine,” he said tersely.

“Good, then you two are dismissed.” He waved them away and Zan strode wrathfully away, Ava running to catch him.

“Zan!” she called, grasping his arm. He swung around and she jerked away, scared of the expression in his eyes.

“What?” he hissed, “What else in my life do you want to take away from me, huh?”

“I-”

“No,” he interrupted, “No, I don’t want to hear it. I thought you understood,” he whispered, sounding hurt, “I thought you comprehended what I told you when I said she was the only one I’d ever love. That she was my soulmate. My heart…” he broke off, “But you didn’t. I bet you didn’t even try. And you know what, I’m tired of trying to be your friend. From now on, you leave me alone.”

Ava watched him walk away, frozen where he left her. He just didn’t get it. Why didn’t he get it? They were destined to be together, she just knew it.

“Princess?”

She turned to Kayl, feeling vulnerable. He led her back to her suite, and she waited until he had closed the door before she burst into tears. And then he held her, rocking her gently, and she clung to him, the man she had started to think of as a brother, and she let herself go.

Why didn’t he get it?
*~*~*

The door slammed shut and she winced, knowing what that meant. “I’m taking that to mean it didn’t go well?” she asked gently as he came into the room. She put down her book and held her arms out to him.

He came to her, tears dripping silently. “I’m sorry Kali,” he whispered, laying so that his head was cushioned on her breasts, ear to her round stomach. “I’m sorry.”

She wiped away his angry tears. “What happened?”

“I had to agree to remain married to Ava. They would have taken you two away if I hadn’t.”

“But what does that mean?”

“It means you’re allowed to stay here, and our son will be my heir, but we won’t be remarried. And you won’t become Queen.”

She laughed. “That doesn’t matter to me, Zan. As long as I can stay with you and raise Maxim, everything will be alright.”

“Maxim?”

Kalila felt a blush brush her cheeks. “I thought it was a good name. We can call him Max for short.”

Zan smiled at her, “Max…I like it.”
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 3:57:25 PM
KALILA 31

The news was proclaimed throughout the five planets: the Princess Ava was pregnant with the heir to the throne of Antar.

The people of Antar didn’t believe it. They knew their Prince, and they knew there was only one woman in the universe for him: Princess Kalila. They came to the conclusion that Kali was the one who was pregnant and the King was being his usual self and not handling the good news well.

The rulers of three of the other planets had come to the same inference. The Kalila was the one who was pregnant and Tynan had something to do with the non-truth of the announcement. Larak, in particular, wondered why Zan was letting his father get away with it, but was busy with preparations for the upcoming war and dropped it.

On Gorganin people were celebrating in the streets. The Queen Kathana was engaged in packing. She had decided that she wished to be there to support her daughter and help her out through this difficult time. She remembered how hard childbirth had been for her, and she wanted Ava to know she had a mother who wanted to aid her. Unlike her own mother…

And on the other side of Antar, the Emperor of Paerhna ripped the announcement to shreds. This was going to far. Kivar was well-aware Kalila was the one Zan had dared to impregnate, and he was not going to stand idly by. He sat done to write a coded message to Niko, things needed to start as quickly as possible. Which meant, now.
*~*~*

Rath sat alone in the darkened room. Ria had been laid to rest a day ago, and he had yet to move from his position of a grief-stricken slump. Zan and Kalila had been to visit, but he hadn’t been in the mood for guests, especially as seeing Kalila reminded him of Ria round and glowing with their son in her womb…

A choked sob was emitted from the Commander’s throat. Why had this happened? What had he done that Eros would take away the most important things in his life?

His hand strayed to the leather cord tied around his neck. There was a silver locket dangling from it, it was simple, no engravings or markings, just straightforward and plain. Ria had gotten it for him years ago. She had told him it reminded her of him.

But now it was his reminder of her. A lock of her golden hair was trapped safely inside, the last part of her he had. Tears leaked down his face as he remembered all the times he’d buried his face in her sweet-smelling hair, wound it around his fingers, tugged on it to annoy her, the way it would fall around him like a silk curtain when they made love.

He missed her so much already. The way her eyes flashed when she was angry, or the way they shimmered when she was happy, the musical sound of her laughter, the softness of her lips…

He wanted her back. He wanted Ryley back. He wanted life to go on the way it had been before all this mess screwed it up.

A knock came on his door and he clenched his fists, not answering the timid voice. The door opened anyway. He kept his head averted, knowing it was either Zan or his wife, and they’d fuss if they saw he had been crying.

There was the soft whisper of skirts touching the carpet as the intruder walked closer to him. “Commander?”

His head whipped around. This wasn’t Kalila, or Ariann, or even Vilandra. This was the Paerhnian girl… “Cora,” he stated, voice harsh.

She smiled at him, flicking her shoulder-length blonde hair out of her eyes. Eyes that had shifted from blue to green in the unlit room. Rath was painfully reminded of Ria just looking at her. “Do you need anything, my Lord?”

“I’m fine,” he told her, “Thank you for asking.” She nodded, and he turned his head away, but she still didn’t leave. “Did you want something?” he asked bluntly, startling her.
*~*~*

Cora bit her top lip, hesitating to say what she needed to. And endeavoring to keep from blurting out that she wanted him. “Actually…Rath…” she started, kneeling down and placing a hand on his knee, “There was something I wished to speak to you about.”

“And that is?” he asked stiffly. His whole body had tensed when she touched him. She looked up into his shiny brown eyes and tried to order her thoughts into something logical. Something he wouldn’t send her to prison for.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, as Commander of Antar’s defenses, that Kivar is plotting to overthrow the King and Zan,” she said slowly, watching him.

“It’s common knowledge the Emperor of Paerhna is discontented with the current monarchy,” he agreed blandly, eyes inscrutable.

“But it is not common knowledge that a large number of people do not want either the monarchy or Kivar ruling over them.” He raised one eyebrow at her and she continued. “The people I work with want both disposed. They want you on the throne of Antar.”

“What?” he exclaimed, rising to his feet.

“Rath,” she protested, following him up and grabbing his arm, “Think of it. Tynan and Kivar are both unfit to rule, and Zan… You could do so much better than him. So much more for your people.”

“This is ridiculous, please leave,” he said, gesturing toward the door.

“Won’t you at least-“

“No,” he interrupted, voice hard and unyielding, “I’ll pretend this never happened if you leave now.”

Cora stared at him a beat and then nodded. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” she whispered, knowing that there would be no way to help killing him now. She kissed his cheek gently and walked sadly back to her chambers.

There was no hope for her cause now, not unless Zan royally screwed up and Rath saw that he was needed to protect Antar. But she had no way to make something that cataclysmic happen. It just wasn’t in her power, and so Kivar would triumph.

She sighed, feeling helpless for the misfortunes Antar would have to endure under the men presently fighting for possession of the throne. The planet was doomed.
*~*~*

“You shouldn’t have to much trouble getting in,” he told her. Vanea nodded her bronze head, gray eyes regarding her Emperor with a cool, detached look.

“After all,” she put in, “I’m just visiting my beloved little brother.” Kivar grinned at her, lilac eyes shining in amused appreciation.

“Niko has missed you Vanea, and so have I.” She smiled gently, allowing warmth to creep into her eyes. She had missed her brother a lot, and Kivar, who had grown up with them, was practically a brother too.

“I missed the two of you also,” she concurred, “But I am much more valuable as ambassador to Vaina, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Of course,” he said, “I never implied else wise. In fact, you match me in political brilliance, if we weren’t both already taken, I’d suggest an alliance.” She blushed a little and accepted the glass of wine he had just poured. “Congratulations, by the way,” he added, “Lord Shane is a fine catch, very…influential.”

“He’s also very sweet,” she retorted, hackles rising. She loved Shane, whether or not he lacked in the looks department. Kivar raised his arms, signaling defeat.

“Let’s get back to business shall we?” he asked, “I don’t want to get on your bad side Vanea, it hurts too much.” They laughed at that, recalling times past when both he and Niko had wound up incapacitated for days.

“I deliver your message to Niko, and prepare for your arrival. It’s not rocket science, Kivar,” she rolled her eyes at him.

“Not like you’d have trouble with that either,” he pointed out.

“Oh,” she slapped him playfully, “Stop it! Just because you didn’t end up first in the Academy doesn’t mean…”
*~*~*

Serena left at this point in the conversation. She had heard enough. Kivar was ready to start his campaign against her sister’s husband and his family, which wasn’t something she would allow.

She’d have to go about this carefully. She wasn’t sure of the exact date of the final strike, but if Kivar kept up having important military conversations in easily eavesdrop upon places, she would soon enough.

She would need to be ready at the drop of a pin. She needed to pack, um…exercise Marina, avoid Kivar, and figure out some way to get into the Antarian palace without being waylaid.

But then, she could just take a page out of Kivar and Vanea’s book and say she was just visiting her sister…
*~*~*

He had finally figured it out.

He had it all planned now. Everything would be right soon enough. He just had to get the right people started on the project now. Struggling to sit up, Tynan rang his bell for service.

A servant came running in immediately. “Yes, my King?” the boy squeaked.

“I wish for you to inform Nero and Kalib that I wish to speak to them in an hour.”

“Yes, your majesty,” he hurried to agree, bowing deeply, “OH! And the Queen, she said to tell you that Queen Kathana of Gorganin has just been reported to have landed in the spaceport for a visit with Princess Ava.” That being said, the boy ran from the room faster than he had come in.

Tynan growled, he’d deal with Kathana later. Ariann could handle her for now. He had big plans that would require both Chylians. Nero for his knowledge of the primitive planet of Terra, and Kalib for his expertise in science and space travel as well as managing people.

He knew there had to be some reason he had allowed the shape shifters to reside on Antar when they had come seeking haven. It was a shame Chyli had imploded like that, they had had a large amount of resources available.

Oh well, all’s well that ends well.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 4:01:22 PM
KALILA 32

Ava fluffed up a pillow resting on the couch and then paced around the room again. She sent hateful glares at Kalila, who was curled up on a loveseat with Zan, his hand resting on her stomach, a loving expression on his eyes.

Her mother was here! Couldn’t they at least try to keep up pretenses? But no… They probably wanted her mother to get mad and take Ava away. Well, she wasn’t going! And there was no way to make her. Zan would see soon enough that she was meant to be his Queen.

But right now, she was worried about a different Queen. Her mother-in-law had gone to the spaceport to meet Kathana, and Ava was sure Ariann would refrain from telling her mother the truth, which meant when her mother found out…she’d be angry. Really angry. And her mother could throw temper tantrums with the best of ‘em.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” she muttered, “Why couldn’t she just have stayed on Gorganin? Why?” But Eros didn’t answer her questions, her archrival did.

“It will be all right, Ava,” Kalila told her, voice soft and sweet. Ava winced, she hated the sound of that perfect voice. “Everything will work out, you’ll see.” And the other woman smiled at her sympathetically.

“For you,” she shouted spitefully, “You have everything you ever wanted! You have people who love you, you have Zan, you have your baby… What do I have? I have nothing except a title!”

Kalila blinked rapidly, obviously taken aback, and Zan glared at her over his mate’s head. She glared back, refusing to let him see how much he was hurting her.

“That’s not true,” Kalila protested, “We would have been your friends, but you didn’t want us to. And your mother obviously cares, or she wouldn’t have rushed all the way here when she heard you needed her-”

“But I don’t need her,” she interrupted ruthlessly.

The girl shook her long, dark hair, and Ava hated the way it moved just so, making it flow like a waterfall. She also hated the way Zan stared at it, entranced. “It’s the principle that counts Ava, she came when she thought you needed her. She loves you. And Tynan and Vilandra are very fond of you, and Kayl can say nothing but good things…”

Ava blocked everything out from there. She didn’t want to listen to anymore of Kalila’s moralizing drivel. Though it was true that Tynan and Vilandra liked her, but Tynan was incapacitated and Vilandra was…busy, with matters of state.

And then there was Kayl. He had become her best friend in the few weeks they’d known each other. She was surprised to hear he’d been talking about her, but of course that was why Zan had assigned him to watch over her. To keep an eye on her. Disgruntled now, she flopped down on the couch and met Kalila’s eyes.

“And you have one thing I never will,” Kalila said.

“And what’s that?” Ava demanded, not believing her.

A deep, abiding sadness formed in the dark eyes. “You are Zan’s wife, acknowledged by law. I will never have that.”

“Kali…” Zan murmured, and captured the woman closer to him, her growing bulk not seeming to be a problem. Ava thought she heard a sniffle coming from the bent head and rolled her eyes.

“So you want to be Queen?” she expanded scornfully.

“No,” she replied, tears in her voice, “I just want to be Zan’s again.”

“You’ll always be mine, Kali,” Zan told her, lifting her head up to meet his eyes. “We promised each other, for beyond eternity remember?”

Kalila nodded, “I remember. I’m sorry, it’s just hormones…” And then they got lost in each other’s eyes and Ava sat, watching them with revulsion. How could they just pretend they were the only two people in the room? It was ludicrous, she was here, had made her presence painfully obvious, and now it was like she didn’t exist.

“Could you two just stop?” she asked, “For just a minute could you think about the fact that my mother is here to support me in my non-existent pregnancy and that if she sees you all…together like that, she’s going to know Zan hasn’t been faithful.”

They just stared at her. “But I haven’t been,” Zan pointed out, “What’s the point in lying? She going to see you’re not pregnant and Kali is, the rest is obvious.”

“She’ll make us get a divorce.”

“I want a divorce.”

“Well I don’t,” she argued, turning red.

“Well-” he broke off as noises were heard beyond the chamber door. The three occupants froze as the door opened and Ariann entered with Kathana following, commenting about the castle architecture and décor and whatnot.

Her mother broke off as soon as she saw her. “Ava!” she cried and enveloped her daughter in a tight hug. Ava allowed herself, for one moment, to believe she was a little girl again, and had done something to make her great mother proud.

“Hello Mother,” she whispered.

“Well, let me see you!” Her mother stepped back, holding her shoulders and looking her over. “You’re not showing that much yet,” she mused, “Ariann are you sure it was wise of Tynan to announce it this early? What if there are complications?” At Ava’s eyes widening, she continued hastily. “Not that there will be sweetie, there’s nothing for you to worry about,” she reassured. “Now, where is that husband of yours?”

Her mother turned and looked for Zan, who was no standing up, beside his mother. “There you are Zan…” her ability to speak diminishing as Kalila rose also, Zan carefully helping her to her feet.

Ava looked anxiously from her mother to her husband, where he was still fussing over his noticeably pregnant mate. Kalila bit her bottom lip and gave a little curtsey to Kathana. “Mother,” Ava piped up, “There’s something you should know.”

“Who is this?” her mother demanded.

“This is Kalila,” Ariann said quietly, “My son’s first wife.”

“First wife?” her mother repeated faintly, sitting down on the couch. “What is the meaning of this?”

“I fear my husband was not completely honest with you when he arranged for Ava and Zan’s marriage, Kathana. You must not be angry with the children.”

“Tell me.”

“Mother, Kalila’s the one who’s pregnant, not me.”

Her mother’s green eyes blazed and she glared at her daughter. “You mean to tell me he has been with this woman while married to you? And he got her pregnant?”

“Yes, Mother,” she replied meekly.

Kathana closed her eyes for a moment. “And you didn’t see anything wrong with this?” she inquired calmly, “Didn’t even think of requesting divorce?”

“Your majesty,” Zan started, “I did ask for one, but my father wouldn’t grant it, and Ava did not want one.”

“Is this true? He cheated on you and you didn’t want to get away from him?” Her mother now sounded incredulous.

“I wasn’t cheating on her,” Zan protested, “I was never with her to begin with.”

“You never consummated the marriage?” Her husband shook his head in response to her mother’s question.

“Then this situation is easily rectified. You two will have an annulment and I will take my daughter home.”

“No!” Ava cried. Everyone turned to look at her. “I don’t want to go home. And I don’t want an annulment or a divorce! I’m his wife!”

“He doesn’t love you!” Kathana shouted back.

Ava stopped, tears coming to her eyes. She looked around the room and met everyone’s eyes. She kept hers trained on Zan’s, which were so hopeful as he clutched at his beloved. “I…I’m staying.” His eyes darkened, face fell, and he turned away from her. But she stood her ground and met her mother’s infuriated gaze. “I’m staying, Mother,” she repeated, more confidently this time.

“Fine,” her mother spat out tersely, “But know this Ava, you are no longer my daughter. And Antar no longer has Gorganin’s support.”

She pursed her lips, but nodded. “Then this is good-bye Queen Kathana.” Her mother didn’t respond, just gave Ariann a curt nod and walked stiffly out the door. Ava stood staring at her departing back until the commotion of Zan and Kalila leaving took her attention. They said not a word to her as they left, but Zan’s rage crackled in the air around him.

Finally she was left with only Ariann. She turned to the Queen, eyes pleading for her to understand, but Ariann’s eyes were a cold, ice blue. “You’ve destroyed us all,” she whispered, and then she left too.

She stood there a while longer, before everything hit her, and she ran, crying for Kayl. She needed Kayl. He was the only one who believed in her…
*~*~*

He stared at the man he acknowledged as his King. Tynan had allowed him, and his fellow escapees, refuge when their planet, Chyli, had imploded in a nearby galaxy. As a result, he and his fellow shape shifters stayed on Antar, doing various tasks for him.

Nero had recently returned from a brief stint on the planet known as Terra to the Universe and as Earth to its primitive inhabitants. Tynan had finally called him in for a debriefing on the trip, but he had no idea why the scientist Kalib was here.

“So they are humanoid in appearance?” his King inquired.

“Yes, your Majesty, they have the same basic body as us, but are much more primitive. They do, however, possess a greater potential for brain development. From what we observed, they are capable of doing a lot if they could access the proper portions of their minds.”

“Did you bring back samples?”

“DNA only, your Majesty, the humans would have panicked if we had taken one of them. They are a very suspicious species.” He frowned, allowing his disgust to show through. There had only been one human he could stand and that had been a small boy who called himself River Dog. The boy had taken him in when he had been injured one night, to the utter displeasure of his tribe.

“Can you work with that Kalib?” Tynan asked the other man.

“I believe so, Sire, if there is enough.”

“Good. Nero, would you be willing to accept another mission?”

He held back a sigh, did he have a choice? “Of course, my King.”

“Then here is what is going to happen. Kalib has been working on a top-secret project in which to speed up our space travel and to clone our people. How is it going by the way?”

“Very well, I’ve found a large energy source in the Granolith,” Kalib said, eyes shining behind his wire glasses.

“The Granolith?” Tynan repeated, sounding surprised, “It’s nothing but a religious icon for Eros.”

“No my King, it holds a vast amount of power. I have been discussing its prospective uses with the priests, and the Keeper says if you had the right control crystals, anything could be possible. I have began working on making those crystals and an instruction book for the Royal Four when they grow enough to use it-”

“The Royal Four?” Nero interrupted.

“My son and daughter,” Tynan explained, “As well as the Princess Ava and Commander Rath. We’re going to mix their DNA with that of the humans’ to insure they will fit in on Terra.”

“They’re going to Terra?”

Tynan sighed. “We are cloning their essences and sending the developing embryos to Terra so that when the time comes they can come back as a unit and defeat Kivar. Because Eros knows we won’t win this time.”

Nero gaped, “Why don’t you just clone yourself? Or let someone else crush Kivar?”

“Because,” Tynan said snippily, “I am tired of being King, and I refuse to let another family on the throne of Antar. My family was the first and it shall remain the only.”

“But-”

“Enough. I am tired. We will continue this conversation as soon as preparations proceed further. Leave me.”

The Chylians exchanged glances and then bowed to their King. They parted ways outside, Kalib going who knows where and he to his rooms to rest and mull. He had a strong inkling his King was a bit mad in the head.

He shook his head, not paying attention to where he was going and barreled into a small body. The woman went tumbling to the floor and he quickly knelt to help her up. “Are you all right?”

“Nero?” she asked, green eyes shocked.

He started and her name popped into his head. “Ana?”

She rose, brushing of her gown and fixing her red hair. “It’s Kathana, actually.” He froze and she gave him a small smile. “Queen of Gorganin.”
*~*~*

Kathana watched the man who had gotten her pregnant as he digested this information. She had been on her way to see Tynan and inform him with righteous indignation that Gorganin and Claren would no longer be his allies. She wasn’t going to join with Kivar either, but she wasn’t going to help.

Nero hadn’t changed much in the twenty plus years she’d last seen him, but then again, he was a Chylian, and you could never tell with them. Blue eyes became guarded, eyes that were mirrored in Ava.

Her anger came flooding back to her then. “It’s been a while,” she said frostily.

“I’ve only just returned from Terra,” he told her.

She shrugged, as if it didn’t matter. “You’ve missed your daughter growing up.”

“Daughter?” he gasped.

“Ava. She’s yours. And I’ll leave you to deal with her, because I have no time for her foolishness. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to see Tynan and head back to Gorganin. Good-bye.”

She turned and flounced away, leaving a flustered lover behind, and concentrated on making her fellow ruler pay for his transgressions.
*~*~*

Niko left his sister and minion discussing a shopping trip and strolled toward the Royal Quarters, to see Vilandra. Cora had said Rath was being suitably pathetic with the loss of his crazy wife, and Vanea had brought him a message from Kivar telling him to begin drawing Vilandra to their side.

He knocked on her door and opened it when no reply was heard. He paused in the doorway on the antechamber, frowning at the sight before him. Vilandra was dancing around the room while a Royal Guard sat in her chair, strumming a lute, but never taking his eyes off the Princess.

Niko cleared his throat loudly and the lute player faltered, the discordant notes causing the Princess to stumble onto the couch, where she lay, laughing, red from exertion. “Your Highness?” he inquired politely.

Vilandra was up immediately, appearing disheveled. “Ambassador Niko, what an unexpected surprise. Have you met Guardian Lexus?” She gestured to the man, who nodded his head imperceptibly. A sign of rudeness on his part. Niko frowned again.

“I wish to speak with you, Princess.”

“Of course,” she said, “Lex, would you please excuse us?”

He rose and bowed to Vilandra deeply. “As you command Lonnie, I’ll be in the hall.”

She nodded, smiling at him, and Niko watched as her eyes followed him out the door. As soon as it shut, he was at her side, arms twining around her waist. “Ah, Vilandra, it’s been two days.”

“Niko.” She pushed away from him and seated herself on the couch, fixing her hair and not looking at him. His brow furrowed. Kivar had said she was flighty, but she had never shown signs of straying from him except when his Emperor came into question. He was feeling a little betrayed, and was startled to realize he cared more deeply about her than just as a bedmate.

“Vilandra, this is important.”

“What is it?” she asked impatiently.

“Kivar wishes to take your father’s throne.” She blinked and frowned. “He wants peace, Vilandra,” Niko continued, “With Zan and your father…Wars would happen every day, civil and intergalactic. He wants to unite Antar and Paerhna by marrying you and your children will intermarry with the other planets and we’ll achieve universal peace.”

“I don’t know…” she said, “And Father would never let me marry him.”

“Vilandra…Sweetheart, you know Zan won’t make a good King. He fawns all over that girl instead of attending to matters of state.” Her expression darkened. Got you, he thought. “You were born to be Queen, Vilandra.”

“I…No! Not…No, go away Niko.”

“Vilandra-”

“Go!” she shouted, looking torn.

He nodded and bowed. When his back was turned, he smirked, knowing he had planted the seeds of doubt and soon they would grow. He opened the door to find the Guard staring at him coolly. He met the blue eyes forthrightly and smiled. Lexus didn’t reply, merely walked past him and went back to his Princess.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 4:06:31 PM
KALILA 33

“Zan? Could I speak with you?” His Prince looked over at him and nodded then kissed Kalila and told her to get some rest. Kalila smiled and gave him a small wave good-bye.

“What’s up?” Zan asked.

Lex shifted, not sure how to put this. “Um…well…”

“Lex?” his tone now had a slight edge to it, “Is it something to do with Vilandra?”

He nodded, “Yeah.” Biting his bottom lip he looked at Zan, who appeared worn and defeated. “Niko came to see her.”

“Niko often goes to see her,” Zan retorted sarcastically.

He winced, knowing some of Vilandra’s past sexual exploits. And there was no use in denying the fact that she had slept with both Kivar and Niko. “Not for awhile. And Vilandra didn’t look too happy to see him this time.”

Zan snorted, “She losing interest so soon?”

“Stop it,” Lex ordered. His Prince looked at him, surprised, and he blushed. “Sorry, it’s just…She’s not bad person, she’s just confused about a lot. She feels like you’ve betrayed her and your father. All of Antar…”

“What?” he demanded, “I’m not the one sleeping with the enemy!”

“But that’s just it,” Lex protested, “She thinks you are. To her Kalila represents the same as Kivar or Niko, and she thinks you’re being hypocritical about the whole thing.”

He shook his head, “Kalila loves me.”

“I know that Zan, but Vilandra believes Kivar and Niko love her. She doesn’t see them as using her, she sees them as men she could potentially fall in love with and marry.”

Zan was quiet for a while, and it was obvious he was thinking. Lex hoped he had gotten through, because what Lonnie really needed was to sit down with her brother and know that he still trusted her. “Tell me what happened,” Zan commanded quietly.

He sighed, knowing he hadn’t gotten through. “Niko came, I was asked to leave, I left, I eavesdropped, Niko asked Vilandra to join with Paerhna in overthrowing you and Tynan, Vilandra said no.” And then he waited.

“She said no?” Zan repeated as if he couldn’t believe it.

Lex nodded, “She did, but she was hesitant about it.” He hadn’t wanted to say that, he had wanted Zan to have full confidence in his sister again, but he couldn’t leave Zan unwarned.

“And that means she probably wasn’t planning on coming and telling me of the offer,” Zan concluded wearily. He rubbed his forehead. “All right, I’ll deal with this.”

“Zan, if I could be so bold as to make a suggestion?” Brown eyes regarded him amusedly, as if asking when had he not been overbold, and he grinned sheepishly. “Don’t confront her. You’ll put her on the defensive and she’ll attack you right back. If you want her to listen, you need to talk to her, don’t order.”

Zan smiled, “Sometimes it’s hard not to yell at her, Lex, she can be so dense sometimes.”

Lex made to leave and Zan walked him to the door. “I mean it Zan,” was his parting shot, “You can’t play the King card with her.”
*~*~*

Zan pinched the bridge of his nose and pondered over what he was going to do about his sister. He didn’t know what had happened over the years that their relationship had deteriorated as much as it had, the way it did, and he had no idea how to fix it.

When they had been younger they had gotten along great, sure, there was the usual sibling rivalry, but nothing that wasn’t forgotten by the next day. Then Lonnie had hit puberty and suddenly she was “Vilandra”, she wouldn’t respond to her nickname anymore. And then she was too cool to hang out with him and Rath anymore, and that’s when Kivar had come into the picture.

It was too late now to change the past, but maybe he could make sure she was taken care of now. He had to find some way to protect her from Niko’s influence and Kivar’s false love. They would be her downfall if she didn’t wake up and see they were using her.

It hurt to think she might betray him, their mother, their planet… And why? Because she believed herself in love with a man who cared nothing about her except her value as pawn in his game. Couldn’t she see he wanted Kalila?

Zan walked into his bedroom and looked down at his sleeping mate. The wife of his heart. A small smile graced his face and he gently lifted her up so he could place her beneath the covers.

“Zan?” she murmured, eyes fluttering.

“Ssh, little one,” he whispered, “Go back to sleep. I have to see Rath, I’ll be back soon.” He kissed her forehead softly and she sighed, snuggling deeper into their bed. He watched her for a while, losing track of the time. This was his Kali, who was pregnant with his son. Pride swelled in him as he stared at her, just taking in the way she breathed, the way her lips parted just so…He’d done it a thousand times before, but he never got tired of it. She was so amazing.

The bell tolled five mark five, startling him out of his reverie. He frowned at the timepiece and gave one last look at her before leaving and heading done the hall to Rath and Ri-Rath’s rooms.

He knocked once and entered a still dark room. Rath was still sitting in the same chair he had been in the last time Zan had visited, in the same position, in the same clothes. A tray of untouched food lay at his feet.

“Rath,” he sighed, walking forward, “You have to stop this. Ria…you know she wouldn’t want you mourning like this. It’s been weeks, you need to get out of this room, you need to eat something… Take a shower, whatever… But you’re killing yourself acting like this.”

“That’s sort of the idea Zan,” Rath said sarcastically, his voice hoarse.

“Rath, I still need you.” It was the only thing he could think of to relieve his friend of this funk, to tell him he was still Commander and he still had a duty to fulfill to his King and his planet. “Kivar’s starting to make his move, I need you to be my Commander now Rath, I need my Second.”

A spiky head turned toward him and blood-shot brown eyes met golden-hazel ones. They stared at each other for a moment, not as King and subject, but as friends. Finally Rath nodded and stood up.

“What do you need me to do?”

Zan smiled, “I need you to take care of Lonnie.”
*~*~*

“What?”

“Kivar’s trying to get to her and Lex can’t keep an eye on her all the time. I need you to take care of her,” Zan expanded, but Rath still wasn’t getting it.

“I don’t get it.”

Zan sighed, “I know this isn’t the best plan, and I know it’s a hard after…after Ria, but Rath, it’s the only thing I could think-”

“What is it Zan?” he interrupted impatiently, ignoring the pang his wife’s name brought.

“A betrothal.”

“Still not getting it.”

“You and Vilandra.”

“No.”

“Rath!” His Prince pinched the bridge of his nose. “I realize it doesn’t seem feasible, or even hypothetically feasible, but you wouldn’t have to actually marry her, just…Just keep an eye on her.”

“What brought this up suddenly?” he demanded.

“She’s been talking with Niko,” Zan sighed, “And I don’t know what to do. If she’s betrothed to you, then Kivar won’t have any ground on that front, and she knows you, so it’s not like I’m shipping her off to some foreign planet to marry some guy she’s never met.”

“She’s not going to go along with this,” Rath informed him. He saw the need of what Zan was saying. He didn’t like it, but he’d do what needed to be done.

“She’s not going to have a choice,” Zan stated firmly, eyes hard.

Rath gave a long whistle. “Not a good idea Zan, you know she hates you playing heir. She’s not going to let you bully her, she’ll just lash out.”

“That’s where you figure into this. Keep her safe, and keep me safefrom her.”

“Tough.”

Zan grinned at him, “You can handle it.”

Rath’s mouth quirked into a tiny smile. “I won’t have to marry her?” he asked.

“Nope.”

He chewed at his cheek, thinking. Finally he gave his friend a curt nod. “I’m in.” Zan’s grin grew. Rath watched him closely, this was his Prince, and Lonnie was his Princess, he had to protect them, it was his duty as Commander. And, Ria would have wanted it.

“Now I have to tell Vilandra,” Zan said, eyes wide with fear at the prospect. At his look Rath laughed, for the first time in weeks.

“Sucks to be you,” he offered, still chuckling. Zan glared at him and stalked out, head high. He collapsed on the floor giggling and wishing Ria had been here to see the look on Zan’s face.
*~*~*

Vilandra stalked through the palace corridors in the dead of night. The three moons were glowing softly in the sky, illuminating her path and creating shadows to hide in when the guards crossed her path.

She was mad.

Her brother had again decided to rule her life and had announced her betrothal to Rath, of all people! She didn’t even want to know what Zan was thinking, but she wasn’t going to put up with his hypocritical insanities anymore.

She slipped into Niko’s room easily because he always left the door unlocked for her, and walked stealthily to his bedroom. She stared down at him for a long moment before shaking him awake.

“Wha? Huh?” He shot up, hand going to his bed head of brown hair. “Vilandra,” he stated, looking at her with sleepy eyes, “What’s wrong?”

“I’ll do it.”
*~*~*

“You are not being serious.”

“Read the message Ariann,” her husband ordered. She glared at him fiercely and glanced down at the written speech.

“I am not saying this. It’s ridiculous.”

“It is not ridiculous, and you will do as I command. Now read!” They stared at each other for a beat, amber eyes into blue, and then she relented.

Not because she was giving up, but because she had formed her own plan. She just had to talk to Zan and then she’d get her scientist working on it right away.

“If you are seeing me now it means that you are alive and well. I take this form because it will be familiar to you, and it will help you to understand what I an about to say. You have lived before. You perished in the conflict that enslaves our planet, but your essence was duplicated, cloned, and mixed with human genetic materials so that you might be recreated into human beings. My son, you were the beloved leader of our people. I have sent with you your young bride. My daughter, the man you were betrothed to, and your brother’s second-in-command. Our enemies have come to Earth. You will know them only by the evil within. Learn enough to use your skills, your knowledge, your leadership, to combat the enemy so that you can come back and free us. And that I may once again hold you both in my arms. I live for that moment. Help us. I love you.”

The hologram clicked off and Tynan placed it in an orb, sealed by the Antarian crest, and handed them to a scientist on hand. “It will be activated when Zan and Vilandra come of age, their orbs will trigger each others and the message will be played,” he explained.

“How do you even know they won’t make it?” she demanded, angry with his lack of faith in their son.

“I am not as dense as you would believe me Ariann, I see what’s going on. I see that Vilandra is sleeping with the enemy, that Zan cannot get over his whore.” He waved a hand to cut off her protest. “I see, I know. This will change things. They’ll be chemically attracted to their true mates and nothing will get in their way of fulfilling that destiny.”

“They don’t want that destiny Tynan.”

“They will when they don’t know any better,” he said breezily, “You may go now Ariann.”

“This won’t work Tynan,” she made an attempt.

“Of course it will.”

“No, it won’t.”
*~*~*

“Will it work?” he asked anxiously, glancing at the door that held his mate and their unborn son.

“The transfer will,” his mother told him, “But we can do something to prevent the other part.”

“I won’t be separated from her Mother.”

“I don’t expect you to be. We’ll take some DNA from her, some from Ria. It will set things right.”

“Lex and Kayl too,” he told her.

“Why?”

“Vilandra is more herself around Lex, and Ava seems to rely heavily on Kayl for emotional support. If we can provide someone for them… Maybe we won’t go down the path we’re on now, again.”

His mother nodded her blonde head and gave him a sad smile, “I’m sorry everything blew up in your face.”

“It’s not your fault Mother, Father just… He doesn’t understand that I don’t want to be him.” Zan sighed, feeling a sense of regret for the lack of relationship between he and his father. He had given up trying to be the perfect son years ago. He never seemed to please Tynan, no matter how he had tried, so he just stopped trying. “I should go wake Kali up. We’ll meet you in the lab along with Rath, Lex, and Kayl.”

His mother kissed his forehead gently. “I love you Zan, and I’ll make things right, you’ll see. Everything will work out all right for you and Kalila. I promise.”

He watched his mother leave his rooms and then went to the bedroom, watching Kalila for the thousandth time that day. Everything had to be all right. He had promised her it would. He had promised her nothing would come between them. They were Zan and Kali for eternity.

She was his destiny.
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 4:08:26 PM
KALILA 34

“How is the procedure coming?” Ariann inquired as she entered the sacred Granolith chamber at the Temple of Eros. She had a hard time coming to terms with the desecration of this most holiest of places, but if it kept her son alive she’d willingly go along with anything.

“Quite well, your Majesty,” Galen told her, “But we may have some glitches on out other ‘project’,” he whispered eyes dodging around the scientist-filled room.

“What’s wrong?” she asked anxiously once they were out of earshot.

“There is no way to create more embryonic pods, my Queen.”

“What?”

Her old friend sighed. “The King has ordered another set made. The first were too…off, I guess the word would be. The blending of DNA and essences didn’t mesh as hoped, so Tynan has commanded us to try again. We have purchased Gandarium crystals from Dagon to help the melding along. It provides a suitable medium-”

“Galen,” she interrupted, “Please get to the point.”

“I’m saying Ariann, that there will be no surplus of genetic material or Gandarium. There won’t be any way to make the Princess and the others.”

“But there has to be a way,” she protested, “I promised Zan that Kalila would follow him to Terra.”

“We’ve already cloned their essences,” Galen told her, “I suppose if they were injected directly into a human subject it might work, but we don’t have the resources to test that hypothesis.” He waved an arm in an all-encompassing gesture. “And there’s only a slight possibility of it actually working.”

“But there is a chance?” she prodded, feeling a tiny spark or hope flare to life.

“Slim to none,” he agreed reluctantly.

“Then that is what we shall have to do,” she said decisively, “Yes, that is what we’ll do.”
*~*~*

“Mother, this cave doesn’t seem very sound,” Zan said, holding on to Kali’s arm tightly as they maneuvered their way after his mother.

“It’s perfectly stable Zan,” she assured him cheerily, turning back to watch them with sparkling blue eyes. “And it’s just right for what we want to use it as.”

“You honestly expect to live here for who knows how many years?” he demanded, catching his mate as she stumbled, “Kali! Are you all right love?”

“I’m fine,” she replied, giving him a small smile as she regained her footing, “And so is Max.” She placed a slender hand on her round tummy and he positioned his own over hers, feeling their son kick.

“He’s so strong,” Zan whispered, awed, as he gazed down at the bent head of his lover. She tilted her head up, pink lips quirking slightly to the side, brown eyes full of laughter.

“Just like his father,” she said softly, her expression changing from amused to admiring and he felt his breath catch. It had been so long since they had been together. There was just so much for him to do, and she was tired often with the baby…

“Kali…” he breathed.

“When we return to the palace Zan,” she responded, as eager as he for their joining.

“Zan! Kalila! Hurry!” the Queen called from farther down the passage of tunnel. Zan let out a groan of disappointment, but grinned ruefully at his wife’s peal of laughter. They slipped their hands into each other’s and continued on their way until they came to a large, open cavern.

“Wow,” Kalila said, gazing around the large room. It was well lit, with many smaller access tunnels extending in a network around them, through which people were popping in and out of. And in the center of it was a small, one-person spacecraft.

“It’s like a miniature city,” Zan said.

His mother beamed. “Exactly. We have food and shelter and access to aboveground should the need arise. Everything’s set.”

“Good,” Zan murmured as he wrapped an arm around Kalila, “Because something’s going to happen very, very soon. I can feel it.”
<><><><>

Nero was passing the telecommunications room when a series of hushed voices cause him to pause. He peered into the dark room, where a man was seated before a blue screen, talking to another man.

He narrowed his eyes, staring at the man on the screen. He had pale blonde hair and dark purple eyes, and he was an enemy of the state. It was Kivar, and the man in the chair was another Paerhnian, Niko. What were they doing?

Pushing the door further open soundlessly he concentrated on the serious, private discussion, knowing it was integral to Antarian society as he knew it.

“Tynan’s been a busy boy, hasn’t he?” Kivar said.

“Indeed, your Imperial Highness, the ship is all set to depart to this Earth place with duplicates of Zan and his cronies in tow,” Niko replied, sounding disgusted.

“Well, we can’t have that, can we?”

What was it with this guy? Did he always speak in questions? Nero shook his head, not liking the implications with this deal going on.

“No Kivar, I don’t believe we can.”

“Very well Niko, start the preparations, we’ll depart in a day. I’ll deal with these…dupes as soon as Antar is in under my control.”

“As you command, so it shall be.” Niko bowed to his Emperor and his hand reached out to flick off the telecom unit.

“Wait!” Nero cried before realizing he spoke aloud. Both men turned they’re eyes on him, surprised.

“Who is that?” Kivar demanded.

“I am Nero, a pilot.”

“Well, Pilot Nero,” Kivar sneered, “Give me one good reason why Niko should not end your life and maybe I’ll let you leave this room.”

“I’m pilot of the ship going to Earth, with the pods…”

“Continue,” Kivar ordered, looking interested.

“I could deliver the Prince, Princess and Commander to you, if…”

“If what?”

“If you allow Ava to live.”

“And what would I want with Ava?” Kivar asked, looking condescending.

“She is my daughter, Emperor, and I would have her live,” Nero stated quietly, “If not, I am quite capable of mind-to-mind communication with my fellow Chylian, and he is extremely loyal to the current Royal Family.”

The violet eyed Emperor stared at him a moment and then looked to his advisor. Niko pondered, they exchanged looks. “It could be wise,” Niko suggested, “Bring them back for a public execution…”

Kivar nodded and turned to the pilot. “Very well…Nero. Ava will live, but on two conditions. One she delivers Zan, Vilandra, and Rath into my hands, and two, when she returns she is pregnant with Zan’s heir.”

Nero gaped, “But that Kalila girl is already pregnant!”

The purple eyes hardened to black. “You will do as I command and not ask questions, or your daughter will die. Understood?”

“Yes.”

“Wonderful.”
*~*~*

Serena slid around the corner from the communications room and hurried to her own. She grabbed the bag that had been packed for weeks and hurriedly made her way to the stables, carefully keeping an eye of for Kivar’s sentinels, who wouldn’t believe she was out for a midnight ride.

She saddled Marina quickly and quietly and led her from her pen to the open desert. She had tonight. Kivar was moving out tomorrow. Of course, she supposed she had a slight advantage, being as she was only one person and he would have a whole army to lead. Hopefully it would be enough, and she’d arrive in enough time to warn Zan, and Antar would be prepared for the invasion.

But fate didn’t seem to be on her side tonight. She struggled to maintain a steady pace and course, but Marina wasn’t used to long desert treks, and it was a dark moons night, with Dimaras barely giving off enough light to see the hand in front of her. She shivered as the winds picked up.

“Please Eros don’t storm,” she pleaded of the god, but her prayers weren’t heard, or, if they were, they were ignored, for a few hours later a swirl of sand descended on Serena and her mare, causing utter confusion and absolute chaos.

And when she awoke the next morning, sand in her hair and mouth, her horse gone, she was hopelessly lost.
*~*~*

Kivar surveyed his troops with satisfaction and gave the signal to ride out as soon as the first sun rose in the sky.

He’d have Antar now, as well as Zan’s head.

But most importantly, he’d have his Kalila back.
*~*~*

The door banged open and Zan sat bolt upright in bed, instinctively moving to protect the nude form beside him.

Rath stood in the doorway, panting, eyes wide. “What is it?” he demanded, still quiet, for Kali slept on, oblivious.

“He’s on the march.”
*~*~*

“I want the guards doubled,” Tynan was shouting when his son finally got to his chambers. “Finally!” he exclaimed, “We’re under attack boy, and what do you do? Sleep-“

“Enough!” Zan roared, “I’m here, let it be.”

They stared at each other for a beat. “I’ve ordered extra security around the palace and city, but we don’t have enough soldiers now that Gorganin and Claren have pulled their support, and Larak can’t get his people assembled in time to be any help.”

“And Kivar’s probably been prepared for months,” Zan finished. He sighed, “Eros bless, it’s too fast. Everything’s changing too fast.”
*~*~*

posted on 13-Jul-2002 4:12:54 PM
KALILA 35

She was sneaking around again, but this time instead of fury in her heart, there was dread. She didn’t know how things had come so unraveled, that she was required to perform such horrible acts in order to bring peace back to her planet.

The defense of the palace and city had been increased, but that had been expected and planned for. She moved around following each change of guard, hiding in shadows if she did happen to be passed. Luckily most of the guards weren’t used to staying up so long and seemed to see everything through a sleepy haze. It was also lucky that she was adept at slinking around from seeing her lovers late at night.

Her first stop was her father’s chambers, then on to the front gate to let Kivar in. Niko had laid out the whole plan for her. It was a simple matter of disposing of her father and taking Zan and Rath into custody. Then Kivar could marry her and take over the throne by right, and therefore be in a position to smooth things out with all the other planets.

Vilandra watched her father sleep and felt a pang of guilt. He wasn’t a kind man, nor a wonderful father, but he had always treated her as the princess she was and respected her avid interest in politics. He had always told her that if it had been possible he would have made her heir to the throne, but Zan had been born and the title had been denied her.

It was her biggest regret that Zan would be robbed of his birthright. Her brother was adored by everyone. He had a good heart and a loving soul, complimented by an intelligence and compassion that would have made him the greatest of all Antar’s kings. If only that girl hadn’t come along.

As far as Vilandra was concerned, Kalila was the root of all evil. She had turned her brother’s head from his duties and responsibilities, she had twisted Zan’s love for his sister into contempt, and, worst of all, she was using him to gain the throne.

To Vilandra, Kalila was the reason behind any betrayal.

And now, looking down at the face her brother had inherited, she squashed down any misgivings. She had signed on for this, and regardless of the small amount of affection she felt for Tynan, she would do what was needed. For the sake of Antar.

She picked up one of the pillows that had been haphazardly thrown from the bed in one of Tynan’s fits, and sat on the bed, clasping onto it tightly. “I’m sorry father,” she whispered, and placed the pillow over his face in order to suffocate him.

Tears pricked her eyes when he woke up, fighting with her, hands desperately trying to dislodge the thing that was killing him, but she held on. She held on until the strained moans ceased, and his hands released her now bruised wrists. And then she stood, tossing the pillow back on the floor. She gave him a quick kiss on the forehead and walked out the door.

She made her way out of the palace and to the gate blindly, trying not to think about what she had just done. She kept her eyes focused on the destination, the large iron entryway at the end of the stone lined road. And when she reached it, she rested, unclean hands griping the bars.

“Lonnie?”

She gasped and spun. Lexus was standing behind her, in formal Guardian garb, watching her with a puzzled smile. “Lex! What are you doing here?” Go away, she told him in her head, leave and escape, please.

“I’ve duty,” he replied, “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, um…” she trailed off, flustered, “I’m, um…walking. Yes, that’s it, I needed a walk.”

“Really?” He raised an eyebrow, “This late at night?”

“Yes,” she responded primly, sweeping her skirts away from him. The nerve of him, questioning her actions! She sniffed at him disdainfully, feeling peeved. “This late at night.”

“Well, why?” he inquired, grinning now. She knew he liked to provoke her a little, it was his way of making her open up, of tempting her trust him. “Guilty conscience?”

That wiped the beginnings of a smile from her face, and she felt herself pale, but before she had the chance to laugh off his joking accusation, two arms wrapped around his neck. A piercing shriek of panic escaped her throat and she leaped forward, scratching at the arms holding her friend prisoner.

“Vilandra!” was the harsh grunt, “Stop it!” And one of the arms pushed her away, but the loss didn’t give Lex a chance to fight. She fell to the ground and looked up, stunned into the furious eyes of Niko. “You’re going to signal the guards that something’s amiss.”

“Let him go!” she pleaded, staring at the man who was going limp, his blue eyes dimming, “Don’t kill him!” she cried, voice rising.
*~*~*

“He’s merely unconscious Vilandra,” he assured her coolly and nodded at his second, who let the man fall to the ground. His once lover rushed to the fallen Guard and frantically checked his breathing. He curled his lip in disdain for her tears and sigh of relief when she realized he lived.

“Come Vilandra,” he beckoned, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and drawing her up against him. He began to lead her towards the palace, annoyed when she kept glancing back anxiously. Kivar shot a glance behind him, purple eyes signaling Niko to kill the unconscious man once they were out of sight.

Vanea followed behind him, the army she had let in at the gates came up the rear. Niko would trail behind the stream of hardened, battle-ready men and join up with his Emperor later. They met up with Cora in one of the open corridors surrounding the palace and he began to delegate responsibilities.

“Cora, you take Niko to the Commander, Vanea, see if you can discover the location of the Queen. Vilandra will take a squadron to find the Princess Ava and her lieutenant guardian. I will find Zan and “escort” him to the throne room. The rest of you know your jobs,” he gazed at his people and smiled, “I want this done tonight.”

They let out a low cheer, the chant of “For Paerhna” echoing, before they all left to complete their individual duties. He himself was out for Zan’s blood and started forward, eager for the conquest, but he paused and turned back to the unmoving Vilandra, his restless men fanned out around her. “Princess?”

“You won’t hurt them?” she inquired worriedly, “We’re just capturing, right?”

“Of course, my love,” he told her, lying through his teeth. Her expression immediately cleared and he resisted the urge to frown at her weakness. She would unfortunately need to be disposed of also. He regretted the loss of such a skilled lover, but soon he would have Kalila back, and Vilandra would never cross his mind again.

And with the thought of his beloved in his mind, he went in search of the Prince of Antar. For today was a good day for Zan to die.
*~*~*

The insistent knock roused Rath from his fitful slumber. He lay in bed for a moment, grateful to escape the nightmares, but then another series of knocks sounded and he groaned, rising from the lonely bed.

He fingered the locket medallion at his neck as thoughts of his wife invaded his head. They had taken DNA from the lock of her golden hair enclosed within it, and recreated her essence. He wasn’t sure of the process, all he knew was that when his…clone woke up on a distant planet, Ria would be there too, and they’d be together again.

The banging was giving him a headache. “I’m coming,” he roared, and flung open the door. Cora flinched and cowered back at his thunderous expression. “Cora? What is it?” he inquired, frosting over his expression with one of cold politeness. He didn’t have time for any more of her treasonous ramblings.

She gulped a little and bit her lip. “The palace is under attack,” she whispered.

“What?” he demanded.

“The Paerhnians are inside, my lord,” she elaborated. He stood immobilized for a second and then snatched up his sword, heading for the door and his Prince. Cora moved into his way. “It’s too late Rath. I’m sorry.” And she fled, tears in her blue eyes.

Without warning, a glint of silver came crashing down upon him and he barely had time to bring up his sword to block. Niko burst into the room, sword flying, thrusting at him until all he could do was parry. He tripped suddenly and his weapon went skidding across the floor. Glancing after it, he gave Niko his full attention, and just when his opponent began his downward stroke, triumph glittering in those cold brown eyes, He twisted and rolled across the room.

The swords met in a shower of sparks and he rose on one knee, hooking his blade around Niko’s hilt and sending it flying from his grasp. He went in for the kill, and then stopped, arrested at the sight of a gun in Niko’s hand, pointed at his heart.

His lip curled up in disgust at the sight of a weapon considered cowardly on any planet. Guns were impersonal. There was no honor in using one. “Always taking the easy way out, huh, Niko?” he inquired, contempt dripping from his words.

The other second just smiled. “Whatever gets the job done, Commander.”

Rath kept his grip on his sword and kept his eyes open, letting Niko see the derision in his fierce gaze as the other man began to squeeze the trigger. His last thought was of his wife and son.
*~*~*

The door burst open and Kayl and Ava were on their feet in an instant, Kayl’s knife half drawn. “Vilandra?” Ava gasped.

Her sister-in-law had her shoulder pressed to the door, she was breathing heavily, her hair mussed from what appeared to be a run. The door was slammed from the other side, making Vilandra wince. “Kayl, your knife, quickly,” she panted, gesturing for the Lieutenant to pass her his weapon.

Her best friend hesitated for a second and then tossed the shining blade to the capable warrior Princess, who then allowed the door to open and soldiers came pouring in upon them. “No!” Kayl shouted.

“Kayl!” Ava screamed as he was felled and then she was beset, helpless and unarmed.
*~*~*

“Kali stay here,” Zan ordered, grabbing a weapon from his closet and strapping it around his waist. She watched him apprehensively as he checked the fastenings. “If you hear anyone come, hide. I’ll be back for you as soon as the way is clear.” He looked at her, amber eyes vulnerable. “I love you, Kali.” He reached for her, kissing her deeply.

She wrapped her arms around him, the bulk of her stomach making it slightly awkward, but the kiss was no less passionate than any other they had shared, maybe even more so. Zan was going out into danger. The enemies had breached their home and now he was trying to get her and Maxim to safety with Ariann in the hidden stronghold.

“I love you, too,” she murmured, “We’ll be waiting, come back safe…and soon.”

He smiled at her, kissed her forehead and rubbed a hand across her abdomen. “I promise,” he replied and then went carefully to the door leading to the sitting room and then out into the hallway.

She waited in the silence for a long while, her thoughts with her husband and berating herself. She should have gone into hiding when Ariann had, then Zan wouldn’t be in this predicament. It was all her fault.

“Kalila?” She froze at the call and stifled a fearful exclamation. Instead she calmly walked to the open closet and hid herself way in the back, among the clothes, as Zan had instructed. “Kalila?” the voice called softly again, “I know you’re here, little one, just come out.”

Closing her eyes she mouthed prayers to Eros, begging him not to let Kivar find her and her son. But it was as if just thinking his name in her head drew him to her and she was pulled forcefully out of the wardrobe and into the light of her bedroom. She cried out in protest at his hold on her arm and he loosened his grip immediately.

She looked up, frightened, into his vivid violet gaze. His eyes were wandering over her body, sneering at her obvious pregnancy, but when he reached her face he smiled and cupped a cheek in the palm of her hand. “Don’t worry, little one, I’ll let you keep the bastard.”

Anger rose in her and she jerked away from his touch. His own expression darkened and he grabbed her again. “Come Kalila,” he said, voice now harsh, “I do not have time for this. Tell me where Zan is and let me have you escorted somewhere safe.”

She looked at him, eyes wide with disbelief and revulsion, “I am going nowhere with you, and I will never betray my husband.”

He seemed to recoil at her vehement proclamation and gaped at her, a hurt look coming over his face. “Why do you always choose him? He is nothing. I am your true husband.”

Shaking her head aggressively she looked him in the eye. “I love him,” was her simple response.

“But I love you. And in time you will learn to love me back, once I get you away from his influence.” He took her hand again and began to tug her to the door.

“You don’t get it Kivar,” she said, ripping her hand from his grasp, “Can’t you see what he means to me? He’s the love of my life, my soul mate… You can’t be him Kivar. You can’t take his place. You’ll always just be second best.”

“You loved me once,” he said desperately.

“I loved you as a sister loves her brother, not as a wife loves her husband. Not as I love Zan.” Her tone had gentled now, and as much as she knew about him, about how deadly and twisted he was, she also knew that the man who had taken her for rides and made her laugh was still a part of him. “Please understand that, please.”

He stared at her, into her earnest, tear-filled eyes, and shook his head. “No. He’s done something to you. But I’ll take care of him. You’ll never have to worry about him again, my love.”

Her objection was stilled in her throat when Vilandra breezed into the room and froze at the sight of Kivar and Kalila. She begged with her eyes to Zan’s sister, begged her to go for help, but all she got was hostility.

“Ah, Vilandra.” Kivar let her go, turning to the Princess with a smile. “Watch our charming captive here while I search out her lover.” Vilandra nodded and moved forward, blocking any chance of an escape Kali had thought to make.

“Don’t harm him,” she pleaded. Kivar’s eyes feigned surprise at the thought and Kalila knew he was planning to murder her lover. She racked her brain, not able to get the picture of Zan dead out of it. “If I agreed to come with you, without a fight, would you let him live?”

Kivar smiled, and the smile told her she would be coming with him whether it was peaceably or not. And then Vilandra finally spoke, “He won’t hurt Zan,” she told her, voice sounding as if she were trying to convince herself, “He said he wouldn’t, so he won’t.”

Kalila stared in dismay at her one time sister as the woman’s brown eyes followed the Emperor’s exit from the suite of rooms. She couldn’t believe Vilandra had betrayed them all, she couldn’t believe the world-wise Princess was being so naïve about this whole thing.

Kivar wanted Antar, he wanted her, and the only way to get both was to eradicate Zan.
*~*~*

“Five mark,” he shouted as pressure built up in the cabin. He looked over at Nero, who was copiloting the ship to Earth, the man was pale, and kept glancing back nervously.

The hangar hadn’t been attacked at the first go and they had managed final preparations for the journey in record time, it was lucky that the Granolith and pods had been safely installed only days before, and now they didn’t have much time before the Paerhnians entered the docking/take-off bay of the space port and Kalib had plans to be gone long before than.

“Mark! Punch it!”

And suddenly they were launched through the atmosphere and into the dark, star-filled sky. Kalib breathed a deep sigh of relief and sent a grin Nero’s way to relax him. The response was a weak one, but at least it was something.

“Set coordinates for the Earth and plan a flight path, we’re in this for the long haul.”
*~*~*
She turned, eyes on her rival, filled with malicious intent. The knife she had hidden in the folds of her skirts flashed with light and silver, burying itself in the abdomen of the younger woman. Kalila made a small sound, one of surprise and denial, and she looked up at Vilandra, brown eyes huge with pain.

The Princess felt righteousness fill her. She had done it, she had destroyed the thing that had caused this war. Caused the fighting and betrayals. She had done what both her brother and Kivar could not have. She had seen the truth, she had confronted it, and she had won.

A smile twisted her lips as Kalila gazed at her, shock still written in every line of her delicate face. And then those dulling chocolate eyes went past her, love permeating the pain. “Zan,” she whispered, and Vilandra narrowed her eyes in anger. How dare she invoke her brother’s name! She twisted the knife and in one vicious movement, tore it out of her once sister-in-law’s body.

The tiny body seemed to slump backward, one hand clutching her stomach as if to staunch the blood flow. “NOOO!”

She spun at the bellow, so close behind her, and the hand holding the now forgotten knife was flung wildly in an effort for protection. The scream of protest was cut off to a gurgling noise and Vilandra watched in horror as her brother grabbed his neck, the same lost look on his face that had been on Kalila’s.

He looked at her for an infinitesimal moment, as if he were really seeing her for the first time. “Zan,” she breathed, “No…No, Zan, I’m sorry. I’m sor-” But his beautiful amber-brown eyes weren’t focused on her any more, they were centered on the woman lying on the floor.

“Kali,” he murmured, his voice breaking. He fell to his knees beside her, bloody hand reaching for hers, another wet sob escaped his lips, his almost purple lips…Vilandra watched in terror as he tried to breath, tried to speak, but he was dying, the light fading in his eyes… “’Til death and after," he managed to get out before he collapsed, "Promise…"

He finally lay, hand still entwined in his heart’s wife’s, head resting between her breast and his unborn son, as the life went out of him. Oh Eros strike her, she had murdered her brother.

The knife slipped from her numb fingers as she collapsed to her knees, weeping uncontrollably, begging Eros to bring her brother back, to make him live again…

And that’s where Kivar found her hours later.
*~*~*

He entered the room where he had left his beloved in a state of rage. He had searched the whole palace, which had been successfully conquered, but the irritating princeling was nowhere to be found. Kivar knew he had to be somewhere though, he would never leave Kalila alone in the middle of a takeover, even Kivar could not believe that of him.

The tableau that presented itself to his eyes arrested him mid step. He drew in a shaky breath and finished walking to the bloody scene.

Vilandra looked up at him, eyes red and puffy, one hand picking uselessly at her brother’s stained shirt. “I killed him,” she informed him, voice raw with pain, “Oh Eros,” she wailed, “I killed Zan!” She bent over, sobbing again as Kivar knelt beside her.

He stared numbly at his adored Kalila’s lifeless body, her wide, unseeing eyes, and his gaze drifted downward, to where Zan’s hand was clasped in hers. Together even in death. The thought brought a black fury into him and he reached down and picked up the bloodied knife lying on the blood-soaked floor.

“You killed my Kalila,” he asked, sounding vaguely disinterested and he examined the knife, eyes flicking to her every so often.

“Yes…” she hissed, “She deserved it. She distracted Zan. His obsession with her blinded him to anything else.” She sniffed and he saw her glare at the other woman, “He called me a whore once, because of her.”

“And in the end she distracted him to death,” he concluded, knowing denial was going to set in and he didn’t want it to, he wanted her to die knowing what she had done. Knowing that she had killed her brother. Well, at least she performed one task he’d needed to accomplish, though he would have preferred executing the boy himself. “And Vilandra,” he muttered, stabbing the knife into her heart, “You are a whore.”

She didn’t say anything, didn’t even cry out. She pulled feebly on the knife hilt, trying to pull it out, but he had embedded it within her using too much force. She eventually gave up and lay still, one arm flung toward Zan and Kalila’s intertwined bodies.

He rose, his heart hard, and headed out of the room, through hallways littered with the massacred bodies of the Antarian Guards and servants. He’d have to get a clean-up crew in here before he moved in.

As he entered the Great Hall his people let out a cheer. He smiled victoriously and walked up the carpeted pathway and seated himself in the King’s throne. “Report.”

Niko grinned, “No problem at all, everyone possible of fighting back was taken out. Kayl, Rath, Ava, all the Guardians…” he trailed off, looking at his Emperor, and now King.

“Zan, Vilandra, and-” his voice broke, “Kalila…are also out of the way.” He saw Niko’s eyes darken at the mention of Vilandra’s death, but the other man nodded and stepped back. His older sister now came forward, an expression of apology on her striking face.

“I regret to report that no sign of the Queen was found.” She frowned, “It’s as if she disappeared without a trace.”

“It doesn’t matter Vanea,” he waved away her concerns, “She will present no opposition to our rule. No one will. Tomorrow we announce our occupation of Antar’s capital city and control of the planet.”

“The Alliance?” Niko spoke up.

“They’ll submit no challenges to my reign, they’re all weak, and none of them were very happy with Tynan’s idiocy.”

“Even Dagon?”

“Larak will go along with the rest, he doesn’t have enough military resources to try something. My people, Antar is ours!”
*~*~*

“My Queen.” The herald bowed, face grave.

“What news?” she demanded.

“Kivar has usurped the throne.”

Ariann closed her eyes, fighting to hold back the grief. “My son?” Oh Eros, not Zan…not Kali…

The man hung his head. “He’s dead, Majesty, every person in the palace died,” grief thickened his voice, “A ship was launched though, the one carrying the pods.”

“Then there’s hope,” she said softly, shocked, “Hope for Zan’s return.” She nodded, “We must not give in yet, we must continue with our plans. My son will need his Queen and his loyal people when he returns.”

And so the rebellion was born to counter the ramifications of the Alliance’s most infamous military coup.
*~*~*

posted on 14-Jul-2002 8:28:10 AM
KALILA 36

The Caves of Kane.

Serena slumped down under an outcropping, closing her eyes for the coolness the shade provided. She’d had to trek across the desert on foot, all the way to Antar. She had had no idea which way she was going, but she had followed her gut and it had led her in the right direction.

She was on the outskirts of the City. Unfortunately her gut instincts had not led her through the jungle on the direct route. Oh no, it had brought her to the Caves of Kane, and going around them would waste more time then she had, so it was through the vast, winding maze of stone that she had to go.

She had read about the Caves when she studied Antar, A History. It had been a fascinating book, only it hadn’t gone into much detail. All she knew was that the Caves were named for the warrior, Kane, who first banished the Paerhnians to the desert. He had used the Caves as a hideout, and trapped many enemy soldiers in their depths, leaving them lost to starve to death.

And chances are she’d be subjected to the same fate as her ancestors. It had been nearly two days since she’d last found a brindlebush to milk, and a week since she’d really eaten. All her supplies had been lost when Marina bolted in the sand storm. And if she fell into one of the fissures in the Caves, there was a chance she would never make it out.

All in all, it seemed hopeless to keep going. She should probably just give up and die right here…

But she couldn’t. If there was a possibility that Kalila was still safe, that Kivar hadn’t attacked yet, even if it was small…She had to keep going, had to warn Zan…

The flash of surprise caused her to jump up off the ground and spin around wildly. Her heart was beating overtime, but she put that out of her mind, concentrating instead on the emotion she was receiving from another person. “Hello?” she called, voice cracking from the dry heat it had been forced to endure during her journey, “Who’s there?”

Serena moved toward the location she thought the flash had come from. Abruptly, five men popped up out of the ledges, all pointing firearms at her. She raised her hands above her head, fingers spread wide so they could see she was weaponless.

They exchanged glances, in wordless communication, and she could sense it when they all reached an agreement. She held her breath and waited, hoping the conclusion hadn’t been death for the prisoner. One stepped forward and three others moved in closer around her.

“Move,” one commanded from behind her. She took a startled step forward and they followed, the circle foreboding, leaving one man behind as a guard.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked, frightened. She couldn’t read them anymore, and she didn’t know if they were friend or foe, and for that matter, how would they know which side she was on…

They didn’t respond.

The small group walked on, a confused Serena in their midst, they had ducked into the Caves and marched as if they knew where every opening and boulder was. She felt slightly reassured that her captors knew where they were going, because she most likely would have wandered over a sinkhole and fell to her death.

After walking for what seemed an eternity because her feet were bare and burnt and cramping from her already long trek, she saw, incredibly, a light ahead of them. Her jaw dropped open in disbelief when they walked into a monstrous cavern, teeming with people. Serena watched, wide-eyed, the inhabitants running to and fro, building things, reading, eating… Oh, Eros, was that stew…?

She ran into the back of one of her guards when he stopped abruptly, her mind still on the prospect of real food, and then shot him a sheepish smile when he glared at her. “Majesty,” he said, and a woman seated at one of the tables rose. Her captors all knelt, and tugged her down to kneel too.

Her eyes met the curious blue gaze of the one termed ‘Majesty’, and a sense of peace stole through her body. She’d be all right.

“Majesty,” the spokesman said again, “We found the prisoner near one of the entrances, we-”

“Are you Queen Ariann?” Serena asked, interrupting. The woman met her sister’s description…

“I am,” she replied calmly, then gave a little frown, “And who are you?”

“I’m Serena. Kalila’s sister.”
*~*~*

Ariann ushered her guest into her private chamber and gestured for her to seat herself on the bed, the only other sitting surface in the sparsely furnished cavern was a rickety old chair. The Queen sat herself beside the young woman and took her hands, “Tell me everything,” she commanded.

Serena took a deep breath, “It started, Eros…I guess the day when Kivar first saw my sister and I in the marketplace in Zion. He went to my father and demanded my hand, but I had been betrothed to Lord Briant on Vaina, so my sister took my place. Kalila was only fourteen, she was a child, I don’t know what my father was thinking, but…He let Kivar have her.”

The girl pulled her hands from Ariann’s and tucked her dun-colored hair behind her ears, it reminded Ariann of Kalila, and tears stung her eyes. There were not many similarities between the two sisters, Kalila being small and dark-eyed while Serena was tall and gray-eyed, but little things about the two made it obvious they were sisters.

“My father, he was Governor Thane, he died a few months ago and I came back to Paerhna for the funeral. My husband piloted, it was his hobby, and he was going to come get me after a week was up, but word came he had died on the flight over. It was then Kivar insisted I stay at his palace, and I began to suspect he had a hand in my father’s and Briant’s deaths.”

She drew in a shaky breath and Ariann handed her a handkerchief and patted her back lightly. It was obvious Serena had cared very much for her husband, and had yet to have time to grieve properly. Ariann had already indulged in a small period of mourning for Tynan, but had yet to fully acknowledge the deaths of her children.

“When he brought Kalila back, I knew. He’d orchestrated the whole thing so that I’d be there for her when she returned. He was trying to use me to force her hand. We talked a lot, Kalila and me, when we managed to buy her some time, she told me all about you and her life here in Antar,” she smiled, “She wouldn’t stop gushing over Zan for the longest time…”

Ariann smiled too, memories of Kalila’s innocent laughter and Zan’s adoration of his small wife drifting in and out of focus. She couldn’t believe she had lost both of them. Oh, her poor babies…

“Anyway, I knew what Kivar wanted from her, and I had a plan to get her out before he could get to her, but I ran into Zan on the way to the rescue. He’d come for her, she had known he would, I could feel her hope…” Ariann shot her a sharp look. “I’m an empath,” she explained, “I get emotions, that’s how I felt Zan, his surprise.”

She nodded repeatedly, “I told him to save her, that I would stay behind and when I had concrete information on Kivar’s battle plans, I’d come to Antar to tell him. I left a day ahead of Kivar and his troops, but there was a sand storm and I lost my Gem. I walked all the way here, and I was too late…”

Her voice broke off and she dissolved into tears. The Queen wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders, “Maybe not, dear.”

Serena raised her head, gray eyes wet with tears, “What do you mean?”

“We’ve cloned Kalila’s essence, along with some of her friends. Zan wanted her to be able to be reborn on Terra, oh, um,” drat, she always forgot the report’s term for the planet, “Earth, with him. You see, Tynan sent my son and daughter, along with the Princess Ava and Commander Rath. Their essences were combined with human DNA via Gandarium crystals from Dagon.”

“You mean, another Kalila’s developing right now?” Serena inquired.

“Well, no,” Ariann admitted, “But we do have the potential, and the plan. You see, there wasn’t enough Gandarium or genetic material to recreate Kalila, Ria, Lexus, and Kayl, but it is possible to implant their essences into human subjects. The result would be the same, only without the advanced brain capacity. They’d be themselves, only human, with no memory of their pasts.”

“I don’t fully understand,” Serena said.

“If we can get their essences to Earth, and inject them into the humans, they would be reborn, with Zan and the others.”

“But how do we get them to Earth?”

That, my dear,” Ariann said, “is the question.”
*~*~*

He dug his fingers into the wet ground, letting the smell of rain and soil invade his senses. He fancied he could smell her light, fresh scent floating to him from below. The rain fell soft and warm on him as he knelt on the newly dug grave.

The Antarians had all been piled together in a pit and burned, but he had given his Kalila a proper burial, and now she lay, six feet beneath him, death creating a contented mask on her beautiful face.

Rage filled him at the remembrance of Vilandra’s final betrayal. He could see her small body vividly, soaked in blood, brown eyes dull, hair strewn across the stained floor, hand in Zan’s…

It always came back to that, to him. The pitiful princeling. If only he had had the satisfaction of killing Zan himself, of watching the life drain out of him… Kalila would have seen then just how weak her chosen champion was, she’d have realized Zan would never compare to him…

You can’t be him Kivar. You can’t take his place. You’ll always just be second best.” Her voice seared his brain, always, always…

Oh, Kalila…

“Your Imperial Highness?”

He gave the intruder an impassive glance and rose to his feet in one smooth motion, trailing a hand along the cool surface of Kalila tombstone. “What did we talk about Niko?”

His Second gave a wry smile. “So sorry, your Majesty.”

Kivar smiled and they began walking back to the palace. “Much better. Now, what news do you have?”

“Our scientists have developed a protective coating, a Skin, if you will, that will allow us to live on Earth without damage. They last for approximately fifty years, which should give us enough time to locate the Royal Four. I’ve taken the liberty of beginning flight preparations so that we can pick up the Antarian ship’s ion trails before they dissipate.”

“Good.” He nodded thoughtfully, “I’m handing over the control of this mission to you. You’ll be my representative on Earth. You will speak for me in all matters. Vanea will of course be going as your second-in-command, and you have your choice of officers for the rest of the duties. Have anyone in mind yet?”

Niko nodded his brown head thoughtfully, “There’s Gren, he showing a lot of leadership potential, and he should do all right away from home for a long period of time, and then, I have to bring my mother or she’d throw a fit, and she'll drag Father along…”

Kivar smiled, knowing full well how protective Idelle was of her son and daughter. She’d never let them out of her sight for more than a month, and then she’d be tearing the planet up looking for them, Wallache in tow. Yes, Idelle would have to go with. Well, that settled…

“Any information on the Queen and the missing villagers?”

Niko frowned and shook his head, “None, Kivar, it’s almost as if they’ve disappeared from the planet.”

A frown marred his own features, “They’ll turn up eventually, Niko. We just have to be prepared when they do.”
*~*~*

“Well, that’s that then,” Ariann stated, “We’ll just have to steal one of these Husks, and then steal a ship.” She frowned, “Unfortunately, we cannot steal a pilot…”

“I can pilot a ship,” Serena piped up from beside her, “Briant taught me. If you can get me on it, I can get it to Earth.”

They stared at each other for a moment, surprised that everything was falling together so nicely. Ariann turned to the informant and sent him away with a smile, and then turned back to her new friend and began to revise their plans.

“We’ll need a diversion,” the Queen mused, “My people can manage that, and one of them can get you to a small, personal craft… You’re sure you’ll be all right piloting that great a distance by yourself?”

Serena nodded, gray eyes showing confidence, “I can do it, I promise. And I want to. If it means Kalila gets another chance to live… And I need to be there for her if she does. Your place is on Antar, Ariann, mine is with my sister.”

Ariann bit her bottom lip, but finally nodded, “Let’s do this then.”
*~*~*

posted on 14-Jul-2002 8:30:57 AM
KALILA 37

The spaceship carrying the two sets of Royal Four was approaching Earth’s orbit at a rapid speed. Kalib smiled broadly at the view of the blue-green planet. It looked fascinating. He couldn’t wait to start exploring the surface, find all about the denizens running around down there. He couldn’t believe Nero detested it so much, the studies he’d made from the view-screens showed humans to be an extremely potential race.

As the circular disk-like ship grew closer, final preparations for landing had to made. The healer in the medical ward beeped him over the com-link and requested his presence in the pod chamber. He gave up control of the ship to Nero and headed toward the back.

The eight pods were glowing red, signaling they were still in the developmental stage. He gave them a quick glance, giving the Gandarium crystals they were embedded in a wide berth.

“You wanted to see me?” he asked of Carlin, who was one of the other passengers on this vessel. (There were two others in the medical ward, but both were deformed Antarians, made for menial tasks, and were of no consequence.) She headed up medicals, he doubled as scientist and pilot, and Nero acted as mechanics and co-pilot. They would all be acting as protectors as Four grew up. Carlin would be judging them as they grew into adulthood, picking which set would return to Antar as the reigning monarchs. He and Nero just had to make sure they stayed alive.

“Yes,” she said, “King Tynan asked me before we left to find a way to ensure you and the other Chylian’s loyalty to his children.”

Kalib frowned at her unfriendly attitude, “I beg your pardon?”

“Hold out your arm,” she ordered, and he complied, still frowning, as she injected some type of serum into his vein. “That will make sure you do your job.” She gave him a cold smile, “You are answerable only to Zan. Anything he asks, you must answer. Anything he commands, you must do. Now go, and send Pilot Nero to me.”

“Umm…”

She glared at him, “You have been dismissed, Pilot Kalib.”

He scowled and opened his mouth to tell her off, she was a disturbingly blank personality, when they flew into each other as the ship jolted. “What the…” He steadied Carlin and then leaped to the communicator. “Medical to Bridge, medical to bridge…Nero, what happened?!”

“Systems malfunction,” came the crackling reply, “I need you on the bridge now! We’re entering Earth’s atmosphere and I’m losing control!” The com-link went dead and Kalib spared Carlin a glance where she was working on securing the pods for an impact, and then raced to the bridge.
*~*~*

The sabotage had been a success. Of the five passengers, only three had survived. The two malformed Antarians had died in the crash and their bodies had been taken, along with the pods, by the humans. Kalib had not questioned him about the details, and Carlin was too distraught over the loss of the pods to say anything other than prayers to Eros and premonitions of doom. He shook his head, damn Antarians.

“They took them to Eagle Rock Military Base,” Kalib was saying when Nero tuned back into the conversation, “We can go in and get them back, we’re much more powerful than them. Our brains are more developed, we can use that to our advantage.”

“What about the Granolith?” he asked.

Kalib sent him a surprised look, but it was Carlin who answered. “The Granolith can take care of itself, the fetuses cannot.” She sent him a dirty look, shivering in the protective suit that had been designed for her. Her fragile Antarian body couldn’t survive on Earth’s filthy atmosphere, so Kalib had designed a suit for her to breathe and protect herself.

It was glowing white in the Earth environment, it had two slits in the general nostril area to take in air and purify it to Antarian standards, and large, dark elliptical lenses over her sensitive eyes to protect her from the new sun’s rays. The suit was very noticeable in contrast to he and Kalib’s passable human-like bodies.

“Nero and I will take the extra suits as a disguise and sneak in. We’ll get the pods out, find hiding places, and integrate into the population,” Kalib continued outlining his plan.

Nero rolled his eyes, unseen under the cover of night, and then agreed with the idea, “Let’s go now, there’s no sense wasting darkness. Carlin can wait for us here.”

“That’s Chief Medical Examiner Carlin to you, Pilot,” she sniffed at him.

“Whatever.” Antarians were just as bad as humans in his opinion. “Let’s go.”
*~*~*

Hal Carver, Captain in the 509th Bomb Group, crept around the base until he got to the infirmary Betty Osorio had specified in her note. Then he used the key she had left him and opened the door. The sight that confronted him was out of the ordinary.

Jiminy Christmas, he thought. There were eight pods, the ones he and Dodie had transported from the crash site, they were separated into two groups of four, and they were looking like human fetuses.

He moved further into the room, careful to avoid the dead bodies on the floor, a silver handprint on both their chests, and lifted the camera to take a picture. The American people had a right to know what their government was keeping from them.

A movement caught his attention from the corner of his eye and he spun around to be confronted by two of the very type of being that he and Richie had “run over” the other night.

Aliens.

Hal stepped back awkwardly, hands up, afraid. They looked at him, and then their big, black eyes turned to the pods and comprehension dawned on him. They didn’t care about him. They wanted the pods, like a mama bear with her cubs, willing to do anything to protect them.

He walked backward even more, hands still up, showing he meant no harm, that he wasn’t going to get in their way. “Save them.”

And then he left. Noise came from down the hall and three officers started to approach the room. He couldn’t let that happen, the aliens needed to get their ‘children’ out. His eyes fell on the fire alarm and he pulled it. “Hey!” he shouted, grabbing the attention of the officers, and then he ran for it, them close behind.

He got out of the compound rather quickly, but had to waste time climbing the wire fence surrounding the base. And to top it all off, he dropped the camera on the other side. His pursuers were just coming over the hill, not quite in shooting distance. He reached through the links in the fence, straining for the camera, but then they were in range and he wasn’t quite prepared to be dead.

The base was on full alert as he packed his bags and took off, he could hear the alarms going in his head for days. And failure rode him like a favorite horse. The one time he stuck his neck out to save anything, and it all went to hell. Nobody could have gotten out of that base on red alert, not even aliens. And he didn’t have one shred of proof against his government.

Betty had died for nothing.
*~*~*

He and Nero had reverted back to their base forms and were huddled with Carlin around the pods they had just rescued, in the back of the human vehicle they had stolen. They all looked at each other, wondering what to do now.

“We need to get them to safety,” Carlin finally said, checking the pods with a touch of her hand, “Without the Gandarium the growth process will take longer, they’ll be in this state for years.”

“How many?” Nero demanded.

She looked at him, the dark lenses blocking her expression, “I don’t know, I’m a healer, not a scientist.” Her head turned to him, “Pilot Kalib?”

He gave them a bleak look, “Decades maybe, more than probably…” He bit his lip inside the suit he was still wearing, the fetuses inside the pods were still small, “Forty to fifty years, human standard time.”

The other two looked away from him, to the pods, where the helpless children who were supposed to Kalib whispered to Nero, “We need to get them to safety. The question is…” he shot the pods a glance, “Where?”

Nero met his gaze, “One set here, right under their noses. Another set somewhere with a large population, where finding them would be difficult.”

“So, we’re splitting up?” he asked.

A nod, “Yes. I will stay here with the second batch, Carlin will stay too, to supervise. You take the imperfect set either to Los Angeles, California, or to New York City in New York. From my surveys of the planet last time, they are the most densely inhabited cities in this country.”

Kalib nodded and started loading his set into the covered truck. Nero would be able to take care of his set as well as Carlin. He knew this planet better than Kalib did, after all, he’d been here before, had lived here for a long time to study this amazing place.

Kalib would have to learn as he went.
*~*~*

He raised the inferior human viewing equipment to his blue eyes. Binoculars, hah! Still, it was lucky the boy, River Dog, had been able to lend them to him, otherwise he’d never know what was going on in that confounded compound.

The FBI, as these humans called themselves, had captured he and Carlin on their way to the reservation after hiding the Royal Four’s pods in the desert. There was a crag there, leading them to it, and it had a natural cave in it that Carlin had been able to use to set the pods up in proper order.

They had been obnoxious, per usual, asking ridiculous questions about hostile alien takeovers and what not. They had discovered that the FBI agents had experimented on the Antarians that had died in the crash, and were quite excited to have two live ‘specimens’ to study.

Nero, or Nasedo as he was known on the Mesolika Reservation, a name River Dog had given him, it meant ‘visitor’ in their native tongue, had managed to escape. He had hung around the compound for a while, memorizing the layout of the base in order to avoid detection. He hadn’t managed to rescue Carlin, not that he’d tried much, but…

Finally, risk of recapture had become too great and he had fled to the reservation. For the past three years, he had lived alone in a cave among the hills, visited only by River Dog, and going out only to check on the compound where he had been held.

Today a body was being dragged out in a child-sized coffin. Carlin had been a small woman. He frowned and turned away. It was time to get going. Without Carlin to distract them, they would be coming to find him again. The head agent, Lewis, of this ‘Special Unit’, was a real jackass, to use human slang.

He told River Dog he was leaving, and the boy nodded solemnly, listening to the visitor’s last words with grave attention. He left the cave, with its map painted on the wall, he left the healing stones and a piece of his broken protector’s pendant with the boy. Then he made a stop at the local library in Roswell, hiding the Destiny Book the King had commissioned within its walls.

And then there was one last trip to the desert, to bury the remaining orb (the FBI had taken Carlin’s), and he checked on the pods, running a hand over his daughter’s. He’d collect his hidden items when he came back for her. He’d make sure she led the life she deserved before he had to fulfill his bargain with Kivar.

But, right now, he had to lead the FBI on a goose chase. A smirk twisted his lips as he drove down 285 South. Texas, here he came. “Yee-haw,” he drawled sarcastically, glancing in his rearview mirror.

He hated this planet.
*~*~*

Kalib, once scientist and pilot, now street rat and great protector to the Royal Pods. He crawled out of the sewer/subway home he had made for himself, mounting the pods against the wall in the abandoned tunnel of track. He was beginning to detest his dull routine, and nearly everything about Antarians, holding him to this ridiculous position.

But he found humans fascinating. In the twelve years he’d been on this planet, humans became more and more an obsession for him then ever before.

He eyed a blocked off section in the street ahead of him with curiosity. It wasn’t often New York streets were closed for anything other than a ten-car pile-up. And he saw no flashing blue and red lights to indicate that, but the crowd was pretty big.

Kalib slid between the onlookers and stared with bewilderment at the scene in front of him. There were people in weird clothes, saying the same things over and over again. There was a lot of arguing and shouting of ‘cuts’ and ‘action!’, and it finally hit him that they were actors wearing costumes, they were making a film!

His jaw dropped. He loved movies, they were the most amazing things he’d ever seen in the universe. And one was being made right in his chosen city!

“I quit!”

Kalib turned toward the yell and stepped a little closer. One of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ workers was storming away, and a very important-looking man was spewing profanities after his back. The man spun around and caught Kalib’s eyes, “You!”

“Me?” Kalib asked.

“What’s your name?”

“Um, Kalib…” he looked around wildly and his eyes lit upon a street sign (he’d never needed a last name before), “Langley. Kalib Langley.”

“Well, Kal, you just got yourself a job as a clapper loader, get over here.” Kalib, now Kal Langley, a clapper loader, didn’t bother to correct the director, and leapt to do his bidding. This was so exciting!

At the end of the day, as the crew was loading up, the director approached him. “You did a good job today, Kal,” he said.

Kal practically glowed as much as those pods of his, “Thank you, sir!”

“We’re heading back to Hollywood tomorrow, want to come? You got a bright future ahead of you.”

“Really?” He grinned fit to split the moon, a grin that faded a bit at the thought of his responsibility to the unborn Royal Four, but then came back full force. He still had a least three more decades until the hatched, he had time. “I’d love to.”

He was gonna be in pictures.
*~*~*

Serena swore under her breath and frantically tried to right the error. But to no avail.

“Warp-drive malfunction,” the computer’s voice repeated over and over, “Warp-drive malfunction.”

“I realize that you piece of…” she trailed off and hit the control panel in her frustration. This would definitely put a kink in the Queen’s plans. Well, there was nothing she could do. She checked the navigation path, and the ship was on course for Earth, and it appeared to be staying that way.

She engaged the autopilot and got up, heading toward the back of the one-person ship. She made sure the vials of essence were secure, and then checked on her mature Husk, or Skin, or whatever those Paerhnians had called it, and the one still developing. They were safe.

Cracking her back, she lay down on the small cot and stared at the rounded ceiling of the spaceship. Who knew how long it would take them to get to Earth? She sighed, “Computer, engage Chryogenic Status.” A shield closed over her head, encasing her in a type of pod, and she felt the coldness of induced sleep creep up on her.

“Wake me up when we get there,” she murmured as she slipped into oblivion.
*~*~*

posted on 17-Jul-2002 11:53:36 PM
KALILA 38

“I want the town taken out,” Niko commanded from the bridge. “Every one of those sniveling humans need to be gone. Dust.” He looked over at where his sister was consulting with Gren. “Vanea, Gren!” They turned their attention to him, “We’ll be landing shortly, brief the crew on their duties.”

They gave him curt nods and scurried off to do his bidding. Ah, it felt good to be in charge. He looked out the bridge window at the view of Earth and sneered. They’d have to go in stealthily, land somewhere obscure, and take over that small town quickly, before the suspicious humans knew anything was up.

He left the bridge and headed back to his quarters. Flopping down on the bed in the small cabin, he opened his provided closet and stared with distaste at the being he would be. The Husk was a young human male, inconspicuous, a fact that would serve Niko well if authorities came sniffing around. Humans were gullible, he’d be able to fool them easily.

The transfer of essences was really, very simple. He hooked the wire from the back of the protective vessel, where it was attached to the ‘destruct’ button, into his own Paerhnian skin, and let the electric current stimulate his brain into ‘otherness’ until his personality, his soul, could be switched to the other body.

When he opened his eyes, he was fourteen again. Small, compact, ambitious. He left his room and traveled back to the bridge, where his people had gathered, all in their Husks, waiting for his orders.
*~*~*

The study they had made of the human race was extensive. Each and every person had made a complete research into everyday life, government, etc. And now they were putting that knowledge to work.

The entire population of the town of Copper Summit, small as it was, had been incinerated in a matter of minutes. They had swept down in the dark, raided the homes, and accomplished their task to perfection. Now they were moving in.

The house his family had moved into was an old farmhouse. It was filled with old furniture and thousands of knick-knacks his mother cooed over. The red mailbox said ‘Crawford’ on it. So they discarded their Paerhnian names and took up human ones.

He went from Niko to Nicholas Crawford, Vanea to Vanessa Crawford, Idelle and Wallache to Ida and Walt Crawford. And they, the Skins, settled in on Earth.
*~*~*

The first order of business had been to find a place to hide and protect their precious Husks. Finally, one of their number, a boy with curly black hair and brown eyes, spoke up with the idea of a wax museum.

So, they set to work on setting one up, hiding the now growing Husks in the basement, where they would mature for use during the next fifty years. Not that Nicholas was planning on staying on this filthy planet for that long.

Then came the discussion about how to find the Royal Four. The decision was made to set up an organization to handle the problem. Nicholas delegated the responsibilities to Gren, who now went by Theodore Greer. Under Greer’s leadership, the ‘Vilandra Project’ was formed.

It had been a collaboration of ideas between Kivar and Niko to go for Vilandra. She was the weak link of the Four, the malleable one. And Niko missed her. He could hardly wait to see her proud stance, her long blond hair, and flashing brown eyes… He was afraid he had fallen in love with her…

The Friendship Committee, as Greer had labeled it, because it was unthreatening to humans, had dispensed followers throughout the United States. They had already combed the desert for the supposed UFO crash, that Nicholas was sure was the Royal Four’s ship, but no trace had been found.

So they expanded. They had operatives across the country and even in other countries. They needed to find Zan and the others so they could go home. And they needed the Granolith to get home, their own ship was deteriorating in the Earth’s atmosphere, and they had no technologies to repair it.

Vanessa, sad at the loss of her betrothed, was occupying her time by looking into the U.S. government for answers. She had always had a knack for politics, and had discovered a secret ‘Special Unit’ that had been created when the spaceship had crashed last year. She felt it could be useful and determined to keep her eye on it in the future.
*~*~*

Cora, now known as Courtney Banks, was also looking out for her future. She had fifty years before she would require a transfer of Husks, and she was resolute in using it to her full advantage.

Antar had failed because Zan had been in control. She was not going to let that happen another time. Rath should be King. He deserved to be King!

Her people, the rebel group of Paerhnians within Kivar’s rule, had told her to find the Commander again and bring him home to rule. So she began her own search here on Earth, striking out on her own, disobeying Nicholas, to find her true King.
*~*~*

posted on 17-Jul-2002 11:55:40 PM
KALILA 39

Well, this was just perfect. She stared with disgust at the now useless spaceship that had decided to die out right as she was entering Earth’s atmosphere. Luckily she had managed to activate the landing boosters and she had landed, with her precious cargo, safely. Only now she was stuck with the hunk of metal.

Serena found herself in the middle of a desert, similar to the one she had grown up in, and completely lost. And to top it all off, she had no idea where on Earth she was. So, she decided to leave the ship where it was. After all, when the time came to go back to Antar, she’d be using the Granolith with her sister and the Royals.

She tucked the vials of essences into the belt strapped around her trim waist and then dragged the child-sized canister housing her growing, back-up Skin out of the ship and hoisted it into her arms. She looked over a few yards to the small cave in one of the numerous scattered rock cliffs and hauled it over, hiding her protection for the time being.

Once the spot was marked, Serena checked the vials again to make sure they were intact and then picked a direction and started walking. Hopefully she’d find some semblance of civilization on this planet.
*~*~*

The year was 1983, and she’d learned from investigating, that there was a supposed UFO crash that occurred in 1947. She was thirty-six years too late. Damn that system malfunction!

But there was nothing she could do about it. She had no doubt that the Paerhnians had already landed on Earth and had already started their search four the Royal Four. She’d just have to find them before their enemies could.

Unfortunately, she had business to take care of first. She had settled down in Roswell, New Mexico, a small town not far from the crash site, under the name of Serena Zion. She had managed to achieve a position at Roswell Memorial Hospital, and was now working on finding suitable vessels for the precious essences, as well as maintaining a search for anyone resembling Zan, Vilandra, Rath, or Ava.

As yet, there had been no sign of any of them and Serena was deathly afraid they had already been born and had grown to adulthood without their true mates. She needed to implant her sister’s soul quickly and then perform a more extensive search. She had to find Zan. She just had to.
*~*~*

October, 1983

The first opportunity presented itself a few months after she had settled. Young Deputy Jim Valenti, and his pretty wife, Michelle, had come in for an ultrasound. Serena could tell by the vibes surrounding the couple that they were worried.

They explained to her, as she set up the equipment, that Michelle had been going into false labor contractions, and she was only in her fifth month. So they had scheduled this appointment in hopes of discovering if something was seriously wrong and finding a way to prevent it.

Serena smiled at them calmly and assured them that there was probably no complications, that false labor often occurred in women with their first child, but that she’d check just to be sure.

She spread the gel across the small woman’s abdomen, ripe with pregnancy, and then started to search out the child within. She stared at the image on screen with a nurse’s intensity, judging the child with both her eyes and her empathic mind.

The parents were also staring with rapt attention at the tiny figure revealed. It was a boy, large, which accounted for the false contractions, but it did not have a strong spirit. She gave a small frown, one that caused Michelle to grab her arm.

“What is it? Is something wrong with my baby?” she demanded.

Serena gave her a reassuring smile and sent out soothing vibes to the woman. “No Mrs. Valenti, nothing is wrong with your son.”

“A son,” Jim whispered, then he grinned, “Ha, told you Michelle.”

His wife rolled his eyes, “Fine, we can name him Kyle James.” But then she gave a little pout.

Jim smiled at her, and then turned to Serena, “She wanted it to be a girl, hand a whole list of names planned out. Finally decided on Kayla. Kyle was the closest I could come up with to suit her.” He gave his wife another smile, and this time she smiled back.

Serena smiled too. “Your contractions are caused by his size, he’s got the makings of a football player.” If he survived, and she was determined he would, as Kayl.

“That’s my boy,” Jim crowed.

“Deputy Valenti, if you could please step out of the room while I get your wife cleaned up…” Serena suggested, “It might be best if you make sure the bathroom down the hall is clear, I’m sure Mrs. Valenti has a full bladder by now that desperately needs relieving…”

Jim looked to his wife, who nodded and he rushed from the room to find the bathroom for her. Michelle gave Serena a grateful look. She returned it with a half smile and took out one of the vials, the one housing Kayl’s essence. She removed the cap and then turned to Michelle, who was trying to sit up.

Serena helped her up and took a cloth over her belly to clean up the gel, resting the hand containing the vial on the now clean area of skin. The uncapped needle pierced Mrs. Valenti’s abdomen easily and painlessly, puncturing straight into the dying boy’s little body.

Then she took her hand away and handed Michelle her jeans, opened the door and pointed in the direction of the bathroom and anxiously waiting husband, and said good-bye.

One down, three to go.
*~*~*

March, 1984

The second opportunity came a month after Kyle James Valenti, Kayl’s resurrection, was born into the world. It came in the form of one nineteen-year-old, spunky, girl that went by the name of Amy DeLuca.

The auburn-haired young woman had come in for the results of her pregnancy test, and was now fidgeting on the examining table while Serena listened through a stethoscope to her still flat stomach.

She closed her eyes and concentrated. The tiny being just forming in this girl’s body had just began to have its heart start beating, but it had not yet formed its soul. It was still a vessel, waiting to be filled, and Serena suspected Ria would be more than a match for the talkative Amy.

“I can’t believe I’m pregnant. This cannot be happening to me. My mom’s gonna kill me. Oh my God,” she babbled, “And Tom isn’t gonna want to keep the baby…”

“There is the option of an abortion,” Serena put in, hoping Amy wouldn’t take it.

Her mouth dropped open and she stared at Serena with horrified blue-green eyes. “Are you actually suggesting I kill my baby?” she demanded in an unnaturally high, shocked tone of voice.

“It’s just an option,” she pointed out gently.

“Not for me,” Amy declared, “I don’t care what you say, or my mother says, or even what Tom says. This is my baby, and I’m keeping it.” Her voice rose slightly in pitch. “And don’t think I can’t take care of it. I can. I am more than capable of providing for this child.” She nodded decisively. “That’s right, I don’t need Tom, or my parents.” She looked down at her stomach, hidden by the paper apron. “Just you and me baby,” she said.

Serena raised an eyebrow as Amy continued ranting. She took Ria’s essence vial from the remaining three, of which she always kept close at hand, and uncapped the needle, and turned back to Amy, who was still rambling on.

“I hope it’s a girl,” she was saying, “I wouldn’t want to go through all this business of being pregnant for a boy. Boys are trouble, that’s what my mom says. Now, if only I had listened to her. Then I probably wouldn’t even be in this mess. I hate that,” she said crossly, “I hate it when my mother’s right. It’s so annoying, she gets all self-righteous and all, ‘Amy, I told you-’ OW!” she shrieked, jumping away from Serena and rubbing her abdomen. “What was that for?”

“That,” Serena said, smirking, “was to calm you down.”

“Oh.”

Serena smiled, “You’re all set Miss DeLuca. Just put your clothes on and pay at the front desk.” She made her way to the door.

“Nurse…” Serena turned, curious. Amy looked at her, arms full of clothes, “What would you name your baby, if you had a girl?”

Another smile, “Maria.”
*~*~*

June, 1984

Three months after Amy DeLuca had come in, Serena was in a birthing room, assisting a doctor with an older woman’s labor. She looked to be in her mid-forties, not an ideal time to have a child, as it made the birth more difficult.

As was proving the case in this instance. Sarah Whitman was bleeding to death from a hemorrhage, and it was obvious to Serena and the doctor that neither the mother, nor the child were expected to survive.

Charles Whitman was holding onto his wife’s hand as she screamed, helpless tears running down his cheeks. “I love you, Sarah,” he whispered.

Serena felt like crying herself, this man would never hold his wife again, and there was the extreme possibility he’d never be able to hold his newborn son either. Inspiration struck and she moved slightly away from the bloody scene, where the doctor was ordering Mrs. Whitman to push.

She found Lexus’ vial and uncapped it. Mrs. Whitman gave one last shout from the hospital bed and Serena whirled as the woman went limp and lifeless on the bed. The doctor turned to her, eyes solemn, and held out the stillborn body of the child. She took it carefully and turned again, placing it on the cleaning table. She could hear the doctor sighing and talking softly to a sobbing Mr. Whitman.

Blocking the painful sounds of his tears, Serena slowly and delicately inserted the needle into the baby’s cold skin. She waited a few moments for Lex’s soul to permeate the tiny body, and then sent a swift prayer to Eros and God alike and raised the baby by the ankles, giving it a light slap.

The cry of a healthy baby boy echoed through the room, and the doctor and Mr. Whitman looked over to where she stood, screaming child in her arms, identical expressions of amazement on their faces.

She walked over to the distraught husband and laid the blanket-swathed little boy in his father’s arms. Charles stared down at him in awe.

“It’s a miracle,” the doctor whispered.

Serena ignored him and gave Mr. Whitman a gentle smile, “What are you going to call him?”

“Alexander,” he replied absently, playing with the baby’s small hands. He looked at his dead wife and tears sprung to his eyes. “Sarah…Sarah wanted to call him Alex.”
*~*~*

December, 1984

It was ten months since Kayl had been born again, six since Lexus, and one since Ria. And yesterday, December 7th, 1984, Elizabeth Parker had been born to Jeff and Nancy Parker.

It was dark in the Intensive Care Unit as Serena stared down at the premature infant. She was so tiny, and yet so exquisitely perfect. She reminded Serena of Kalila when she had first been born, and figured it was no coincidence that this child would die without Kalila’s strong spiritual influence.

Very carefully, she took out the last vial of essence from its hiding place and uncapped the needle. Then she reached her hands into the gloves, the needle piercing through the material, and injected Kalila’s soul into the little girl.

There, she thought, now they’d both live. And she kissed the case keeping the baby safe from outside infections. “Hello, little sister,” she breathed.
*~*~*

Once Serena had made sure the babies would be safe she began preparing to leave. They would grow up human, normal, but with the souls of those who had lived before. She knew where the Parkers, Valentis, Whitmans, and DeLucas lived, and she had little doubt they would be moving from Roswell, so she could check up on the children if the need called for it.

But she couldn’t stay in Roswell. People would notice when she didn’t age, and she did need to look for the Royals. She needed to bring them back to their soulmates. So she safeguarded her Skin in the desert cave and went on her way.
*~*~*

posted on 28-Jul-2002 10:45:06 AM
KALILA 40

He couldn’t breathe. It was the first thing that came to his now conscious mind. He was aware of his surroundings, thick and oppressive. He extended his arms through the heavy fluid and clawed at the membrane barrier that was keeping him stuck, dying… It resisted, and he pushed harder, frantic to escape.

His head came through first, and he took his first breath of the life-giving oxygen with relief. Looking up, his eyes fell on two other beings, one impatient, the other just staring at him mournfully.

When he was finally free, the little girl with her sad eyes smiled and held her hand out for his. He hesitated, and the impatient boy opened a door and left. Still, he waited.

Turning now, he placed his hand on the pod beside his, the sticky goo leaving a trail on the green casing. He stared at the female being surrounded by amber light, still asleep and unaware. He was confused, without even knowing what confusion was, and therefore could not label the feeling as such, but he knew in his soul.

She wasn’t right.

As she was of no consequence, not being that whom he sought, he finally took the other girl, his sister’s, hand, and she led him fearlessly into their new world.
*~*~*

They were lost. She acknowledged this to her brother without words, and he agreed. But still they wandered; tired, hungry, and hot and cold by turns.

She was always on the lookout for the other boy, the one that had left them. She knew he belonged with them. He was another brother.

When he found them again, she could tell he was scared, and so could her brother. So he scrambled up the rock face to the defiant boy and brought him back down to her, where she embraced them both.

Then they clasped hands, her first brother in the middle, for she and her second brother knew instinctively that they had to keep him safe, and they began walking. She was content. Everything was all right now. They were together.

Hours, though she had no sense of time, later, when the dark had come again, the three were walking hand-in-hand beside a strange substance unlike the crumbling ground beneath their feet. A low, rumbling noise came, and bright lights appeared behind them. Her second brother bolted, frightened, and she could tell her first brother was scared too, but he stayed, gripping her hand tighter as they turned toward the two spots of light.

She felt no fear as the two large beings came toward them, exclaiming in a language she couldn’t understand, and picking them up. She gave her brother a smile when they had to let go of each other. They clung instead to these new beings, looking at each other, and then she shot a look into the darkness they were leaving and caught sight of him, staring after them.

She wanted them to go back, and tried to tell the woman carrying her about the brother they were leaving behind, but she couldn’t make her understand.
*~*~*

Diane Evans waited impatiently, pacing the length of them room over and over until her husband finally took her yellow sweater-clad arm and made her sit down. “It’ll be all right, honey,” he soothed, “I’ve got everything all worked out.”

She didn’t look at him, just stared at the door that her children would be coming through as soon as they had packed up their meager belongings. She didn’t see the point, she had everything they would need at home, she had made sure of it, now she just wanted her children back in her arms.

It had been nearly two years since she and Phillip had found the two naked children abandoned on the roadside. They had taken them to an orphanage just outside Roswell, and the little girl had clung to her as the officials took her away. Diane had looked into those imploring eyes and felt her heart break.

“We’ll be back, sweetie,” she had promised, “We’ll be back and we’ll take you home and you’ll never have to leave it again.”

The girl just looked at her mutely, but she seemed to relax a bit. Diane had been worried, these children couldn’t speak, they didn’t seem to know anything about the world, they… She couldn’t believe someone had just left these two precious children alone to wander the desert. But it didn’t matter, they were hers now, she’d make sure of it.

When they got home that night all Diane had done was look at her husband and he knew. “Diane,” he said cautiously, “You know we’ve only just started thinking about adoption, and there are other kids…Ones in China and Korea who need more love and attention…”

She bit her lip, knowing it was true, but… “Phillip, I want those children.”

He gave a deep sigh and gave her a smile that crinkled his eyes, “So do I Di, so do I.”

Phillip began making full scale inquires, but no one showed up claiming the two kids, and he rushed the adoption papers by using contacts in the Departments. Diane would normally berate him for pulling influence, but she was encouraging him ever step of the way on this one, she wanted those two in her house, calling her Mom, smiling at her…

Finally, Phillip had told her to find something to do, that she was annoying him, so she decorated. She redid two guest rooms in the big house, lavender for the girl, and dark blue for the boy.

And then finally, after so long, the papers had gone through and now they sat, waiting.

She flipped nervously through the folders again, wanting to know everything about their time here.

They had named the girl Isabel, which she thought appropriate, for Isabel would indeed be a gift to her. Isabel was outgoing, she had taken to everything quickly and made a lot of friends, but was extremely protective of her brother. They had judged her age, when found, to be seven. So that would make her nine now, Diane mused.

The boy was called Max, and he was very shy, but very intelligent. He didn’t speak often, and then only to his sister or to the adults, but it was always in a quiet way, but the tone was very self-controlled, and almost commanding. He enjoyed looking at the stars, and had already read every book in the orphanage library. He had been judged to be a year younger than Isabel, which would mean he was eight now.

Teachers provided at the orphanage had home-schooled the two, teaching them to talk and count and do other things that came naturally to kids their age. Max and Isabel had absorbed it all in a minimal amount of time and had been deemed able to start school in the correct grade this year, which only gave Diane about a month to register them, buy school supplies, a whole new wardrobe…

The door opened and the two children were escorted in by their social worker. Diane and Phillip stood and met them halfway across the room. She knelt, eyes on Isabel. “Hi sweetie,” she greeted, “I’m Diane, and I’m going to be you’re new Momma, would you like that?”

A sweet smile broke out in Isabel’s small face, her brown eyes began to sparkle, and she threw her arms around Diane. “I would like that very much,” she said softly, in perfect English. Then she stood back and looked at her brother. “This is my brother Max,” she stated, poking him in the arm, “He’s shy, but I’m not. I’m Isabel, by the way.”

Diane looked at Max now, who was regarding her and Phillip warily. “Hi Max,” she said gently, because he looked about ready to bolt, “I’m Diane and this is Phillip, you remember us, right?” He gave a reluctant nod. She smiled, “Well, we’re going to take you home now, and we’re going to be a family. Is that alright with you?”

He didn’t say anything, just stared at her with those unearthly brown eyes, the flecks of gold and amber in them turning to liquid. She felt like he was trying to see into her soul, to judge her, and she held his gaze, hoping he could understand they were trying to help. To provide the love, protection, and family he and his sister deserved.

“Max!” Isabel burst, sounding exasperated. She put her little hands on her on hips and tossed her short blond hair, tapping her foot impatiently. Diane repressed a smile at her attitude, but noticed Phillip couldn’t, and she gave her husband a light smack. Isabel was talking to her brother in a hushed, hurried tone, and Diane only caught snippets of the conversation. Isabel said something about the sun, a family, and don’t mess this up dork, before Max rolled his eyes and turned back to Diane and Phillip, ignoring his sister.

He stepped forward, glancing between the two grown-ups, and took Diane’s hand. “We’ll come.” Tears suddenly sprung to her eyes and she had no idea why. It was something about his tone, quiet and confident, as if… Yes, she looked into his eyes as Phillip picked up Isabel and they made their way to the Evans’ car, Max had an old soul.

There was something in him she’d never be able to touch, something in him that didn’t need a mother, but until he recognized that part of him… She’d be there for him, holding, comforting, loving…

Because from this moment on, he was her son.
*~*~*

He muttered fitfully to himself as he entered the pod chamber. Those damn government agents had delayed his return. Insufferable humans! One day he would have to take care of that pesky Agent Summer. The man was a hound. He could only hope-

Damn, damn, damn!!

Nasedo let out a long string of expletive phrases and stalked over to the last remaining pod. His daughter hung in suspension, blond hair floating in the stasis gel, eyes closed. But all the other pods were empty. Prince Zan was gone, Princess Vilandra was gone, and Commander Rath was gone…

He cursed again and stuck his murderous hands through the membrane. Ava’s eyes shot open, startling blue against the paleness of her face. Panic crossed her sprite-like features and he pulled her out.

She clung to him as she desperately sucked in oxygen. He cleaned her off as best he could and picked her up. They would have to lay low for a while, the Special Unit was still hot on his trail, and when they were safe as he cold manage, they would start a search for the other three.

He would have to fill her head with stories of her and Zan, get her to believe in her destiny, and then she would get pregnant with his child, his heir, and Nasedo would be able to seal his deal with Kivar.

Nasedo had already made plans in a small town in Montana, where the recently widowed Edward Harding would show up with his small, motherless daughter, Tess. He would get a consulting job with the incompetent government, that way he could get details on the Special Unit and decide which moves would work in his favor.

He’d plot more later, but right now… He did a quick shape change, turning into a middle-aged gentleman. Ava, no, Tess, stared up at him. He had to remember human names, the Paerhnians would be looking for an Ava, not a Tess, and he had no intention of letting Nicholas find them until he had Zan in his pocket!

Ed Harding picked up his daughter. He had clothing in his rented car, and then he would get plane tickets, and he could take her away. He had a long road ahead of him. He would need to teach her English, essentials, destiny, and the inferiority of humans…

He told her all this as they drove toward the Albuquerque airport, hours ahead of the pursuing agents. She didn’t understand a word of it, she merely watched him with his eyes, trusting him to protect her.
*~*~*

It was the first day of third grade, and already Michael thought school sucked big time. In fact, his whole life sucked big time, it had all gone downhill when he let go of her hand.

A rancher outside town had found him, drinking out of a cattle watering hole. The rancher had brought him to the local orphanage and since then he’d been bounced from foster home to foster home. He’d been a bouncy ball for two damn years!

And now he was with Hank. Hank who lived in a trailer park. Hank who only kept him around for the monthly checks. Hank who used that money, not for taking care of Michael, but for beer. Hank who came home drunk every night and beat him.

And now this. School. Where the other kids snubbed him because he had torn jeans and ratty black T-shirts. Where teachers either looked at him with those pitying smiles, or glared at him suspiciously.

Mr. Trevors was of the latter group. That was why Michael was taken out of the lunch line arguing with him.

“The cafeteria will not take your food stamps,” he told Michael.

Michael narrowed his eyes. “They’re for food, aren’t they?” he demanded. Food stamps got him food, it was as simple as that, and he was starving right now, he hadn’t had any breakfast this morning, or dinner last night. To hell with this guy!

He felt himself tense up. He hated Mr. Trevors. He hated the way he talked to him, the way he treated him. He hated his scraggly mustache and that stupid, stupid comb over. He hated-

The lip under the scraggly mustache was curling, and Mr. Trevors gave him an angry glare. “I don’t take lip from welfare punks,” he snarled.

That uncontrollable anger welled up in Michael. He wondered what Mr. Trevors would do if Michael kicked his balls up into his throat, and was about to find out, when he felt someone watching him. It was like someone had turned a heat lamp on on the back of his neck. He turned around, and there she was.

She was sitting at a table, all by herself, and she was staring right at him. Michael left Mr. Trevors huffing by the lunch line and walked over to her. It was like he was being drawn to her by some unseen force. They had a connection. He sat down and they stared at each other some more, and then a sparkle crept into her big brown eyes, and she pushed her tray over to him.

“You can have my lunch,” she said.

Michael stared at her in awe and then snatched the tray, afraid she’d take the offer back, but she didn’t. She watched him eat, smiling, and he knew she was different. She wanted him around, and people only wanted you around when they liked you, or if they wanted to use you, but he didn’t have anything to give her, so she had to like him.

“I’m Isabel,” she told him importantly, tossing her blond head, “Isabel Evans.”

“Michael Guerin,” he mumbled around the food.

A bright smile lit her face. “Michael,” she repeated.

“Isabel,” he acknowledged.

Her smile grew and she reached over, giving his hand a squeeze before moving it back to rest on the table in front of her. “My brother’s name is Max. He couldn’t come today because he was up all last night. He’ll be sorry though, we’ve both missed you so much.” Tears came into her eyes, but she was still smiling. “I’ve been so worried about you.”

Michael’s jaw dropped, and he realized abruptly that the girl sitting next to him was her. That she was the hand-holder he had run from. And she had been worried about him, she had missed him, and so had her brother, the little boy he had felt the need to protect. They were both different than.

And just like that, Michael Guerin’s life changed.
*~*~*

Max Evans stared out the window of the bus, concentrating on the landscape flying by in an attempt to ignore Isabel’s incessant chatter. She kept going on and on about how fantastic her new friends were and what was considered the “in” style, whatever that meant.

Max didn’t care. The only thing remotely interesting she had said since she came home yesterday was that she’d found him, their brother. His name was Michael Guerin, she had said, and Max would meet him today.

They were different, the three of them, he and Isabel had known it and had made a pact never to tell. Michael would have to promise too. They couldn’t do anything to call attention to themselves, and they couldn’t trust anyone but each other.

Isabel argued with him on that point, she wanted to tell Mom and Dad, she said they could trust them, but Max said no. They had made their pact, and they would keep it, it didn’t matter that they weren’t in the orphanage anymore, they were still different, and there was a possibility their new parents wouldn’t understand that. He didn’t want them to be afraid of him and Isabel, he didn’t want them to stop loving them.

His thoughts drifted back to the night before. Momma had come to his room and handed him a present. It was a toy house, small but detailed, and she had told him that it was a magic house, and that if he held onto it, it would take him home.

He knew she had only done it because she was upset that he was crying every night. She hadn’t let him go to school yesterday because he hadn’t gotten any sleep. He understood he needed to stop, but sometimes, at night, everything just seemed so wrong, and he couldn’t help it. Momma or Isabel would come in and hold him, but they felt wrong too…

Max didn’t know what it was. Isabel had cried for a few weeks at the beginning, because they had lost Michael, but she had gotten over it. Max couldn’t. He wanted to go home, where everything felt right, where someone was holding him in her arms and she felt perfect...

But that house would never be able to bring him home, because he didn’t know where home was. He couldn’t remember anything but the feel of being in her arms… Whoever she was.

“Max,” Isabel said, tugging on his arm as the bus began to slow, “We’re here.” He got up and followed his sister down the bus steps, annoyed with her enthusiasm and the kid behind him for pushing. They jumped to the ground and stood a few feet away from the bus door, him uncomfortable, and she impatiently.

He had missed the first day of school, the one where Momma would have driven him and taken him to the office, and today she had an early brunch scheduled with Grandma, and so he had to rely on Isabel to get him settled, which she was happy about because she had the need to solidify her base of friendship with the popular girls, or something…

He sighed and gave a half-hearted look around the playground. There were screaming masses of children everywhere and he was feeling kind of intimidated, he was shy. Or, as the psychology book in his dad’s home office stated, anti-social.

Max turned his head in another direction, and caught Isabel looking around wildly, he had the impression she was looking for Michael, and turned to follow the direction of her abruptly still stare. There was a brief glimpse of a small dark figure under a tree, before his attention focused wholly on a tableau in front of it.

The scene wasn’t anything special, there was a blond girl and a brunette playing rock-paper-scissors, which was a game Dad had taught him recently to settle arguments with Isabel so that she didn’t feel the need to hit him over the head with a shovel the next time he said something to bother her, and they were laughing…

But he suddenly felt something click within him as he stared at the brown-haired girl. He understood now what Momma meant when she said Isabel was beautiful. This girl was beautiful, with her long dark hair and laughing chocolate eyes.

This girl was right.
*~*~*

posted on 28-Jul-2002 10:50:40 AM
KALILA Epilogue

Liz Parker balanced the tray carefully, she and Maria had been working at her parents’ diner, the Crashdown Café, since they turned fourteen, first as busgirls, and now as waitresses, and she pretty much had the balancing act down, but sometimes people’s lunches felt like falling on the floor.

She steadied the tray and continued walking, an easy smile on her face as she faced the customers. “Okay, I have got one Sigourney Weaver, that’s for you, and one Will Smith.” She set the food down and gave them another overly-happy smile. “Can I get you guys anything else? Green Martian Shake? Blood of Alien Smoothie?” She put a hopeful little lilt in her voice, and it was working, they were looking at each other indecisively…

But then the weird guy in the glasses shook his head, “No thanks, we’re good.”

So much for that, Liz thought, now she’d have to rely on the old ‘picture of an alien’ scam to get a bigger tip. “Are you guys here for the Crash Festival?” she asked, lowering her voice.

The woman nodded, “Yeah, can’t wait. So… Does your family come from Roswell?”

Liz held back a triumphant smile, they were making this so easy. “Just four generations,” she said modestly.

They exchanged another look. “Uh,” the guy began, “Well, does anyone in your family have stories about the UFO crash?”

Show time! She bit her lip hesitantly, and looked around. Her dad would kill her if he caught her, but he wasn’t there… Liz leaned forward conspiratorially, “Well,” she whispered, “I guess it would be okay to show you guys this…” she trailed off and placed an old black-and-white photo between them. Her friend Maria passed and gave her a headshake, she just smiled back.

“Refill?” She heard Maria ask.

“No, get outta here,” was the rude reply. Liz wanted to roll her eyes at Maria’s bad luck. She always got stuck with the scary weirdoes, whereas Liz got the harmless, gullible ones. Speaking of…

“My grandmother took this picture at the crash site right before the government cleaned it up,” she told them, voice still low.

“Do people know about this photograph?” the guy demanded eagerly.

“Well…I know about it,” she said, laying on the secrecy thick, “and now you know about it…”

“Woah,” the woman said, staring amazedly at the picture, “Wow.”

And she had them, she thought in satisfaction, she would receive another big tip to go into the ‘Harvard’ fund. “I’m gonna be right back, don’t show that to anyone,” she warned.

“No,” the blonde woman assured her in a hushed tone, and Liz walked back to the counter with a smirk on her face.

Maria joined her and placed the coffee pot back. “You are so bad girl,” she scolded, “Oh, and Max Evans is staring at you again.” She said the last part nonchalantly, as if it were an everyday occurrence.

“No way,” was Liz’s quick reply. She leaned against the counter and allowed her gaze to slide over to the booth where Max was sitting with his best friend Michael. “Maria, that is so in your imagination.” But then, he was looking at her, and their eyes met for an instant, and then those gorgeous honey-brown eyes slid away.

Max couldn’t like her, could he? Naw, there was no way. She was Little Lizzie Parker, of too big eyes and too small chest, the girl obsessed with science, her only claim to fame was dating Kyle Valenti, captain of both the basketball and the football JV teams. But Max… Max was the dark-haired, soulful-eyed, mystery man every girl in Roswell wanted to unravel.

And he was her lab partner. He was in a lot of her other classes too, but in Biology… He was hers to monopolize for forty-five minutes. She could memorize the line of his body as he bent over a microscope, the way his muscles played over his arm when he wrote notes, she could accidentally brush up against him when setting up the lab station, and she could stare at him all day through the corner of her eye as she took her own notes. Liz was good at multi-tasking. And it was true, she did happen to catch him staring a lot, and then she’d wonder for the rest of the day whether she had got pen on her face of something.

“Max Evans?” Liz repeated, “This?” She pointed to her face, which was a mask of disbelief, “No, uh-uh, it’s not-”

Maria interrupted, “And with those cheeks! Preciosita tan linda!” She reached up to pinch Liz’s cheeks, and Liz pushed her away, laughing.

“Maria!” she scolded, but then her tone lost it’s playfulness, “And…and even if it weren’t, I’m going out with Kyle. I mean, he’s steady and loyal, and he appreciates me.” And that was about the extent of good things she could say about her boyfriend, because boring wasn’t exactly a compliment now was it.

She was being harsh, Kyle was a great guy, and she had been thrilled when he asked her out the last day of school freshman year, but now…Well, there were only so many pairs of shoes a girl could lose to barf caused by extreme drunkenness.

Max wasn’t like that. True, she didn’t know a lot about Max, but she knew she’d never get tired of him, he’d never let her. And that was it, that was the truth. There was just something about Max Evans. Something about him that made her feel like he needed her. Something that made her want him to need her.

Maybe it was his “aura” as Maria termed it, his “vibe”. He seemed so shy and sweet, but he had this presence…so strong and commanding, but vulnerable too, as if sometimes he just needed someone to hold him when keeping his secrets got to be too much. And Liz desperately wanted to be that someone. For some reason she had the idea she was the only one who could provide him the solace he was looking for. But maybe that was just her obsession talking…

“Sounds like you’re describing a poodle,” Maria informed her dourly. Maria didn’t like Kyle. She pursed her lips as Maria began another round of patron checking.

“…you ask me to give you another day?!” one of the rude guys in Maria’s section exclaimed, standing, “You’re running outta time!” He put one beefy arm across the table and swept the plates and cups off, which shattered as they hit the floor.

“Liz!” Maria shrieked back to her, whether in warning or for direction Liz couldn’t figure out. She felt frozen, never before had the Crashdown witnessed a scene.

“I want the money today! Not tomorrow!” the first guy was shouting again.

She needed to do something, she needed-Oh God. Her brain became a muddled mass of confusion as the second guy pulled a gun. The men struggled with each other and everyone ducked for cover, but Liz couldn’t move, and then the gun was pointing right at her, and everything was fading…
*~*~*

The gunshot roared above his head and Max felt panic clench his gut. He heard the bell above the door jingle and looked up to see the shooters making a run for it. Everybody else had heard it too and were rising from their seats.

“Liz…”

The whisper of Liz’s best friend Maria echoed over to his ears and he swung his head to where he had last seen his dream girl standing. He saw only white tennis shoes and smooth legs. The panic began again, beating in his head. Max got up, he needed to help her. She needed him.

A hand was suddenly on his chest, holding him back. He looked at Michael furiously, “What are you doing? Let go of me.”

“Max, what are you gonna do?” Michael demanded tensely, afraid Max would reveal their alien status to the world because of some girl. Max just pushed past him. He was going to do whatever was needed to keep Liz safe and alive. He kept his eyes on the girl he loved.

“Call and ambulance,” he ordered Maria, dragging her away from Liz. Then he knelt beside Liz, hands hovering for a moment over the blood-stained dress, then he ripped it open, and stared down at her. “Uhh,” for a second he was arrested by the sight of her bra, it was white, with red polka dots, and a spot of blood…Reminded of his mission, he tried to reassure her, “It’s gonna be okay.”

There were people in the background, Maria calling the ambulance, tourists, Michael keeping them back, protecting Max just as surely as he was protecting himself. Max ignored them, keeping his attention on Liz.

“Liz, LIZ! You have to look at me,” he told her urgently, “You have to look at me.” Her lashes fluttered wearily, and her dazed, but beautiful, brown eyes met his. He placed a hand on her abdomen and it was soon slick with her blood, and then he allowed himself to fall into the depths of those eyes, to form a connection.

Images flashes through his head of Liz as a child, one of her in a cupcake dress and another, of him, caught his interest, but he pushed them aside, concentrating instead on finding the bullet and repairing the damages it had caused in her.

He disconnected with a sigh, awareness of his surroundings suddenly seeped into his consciousness. He could feel Michael at his back, and a crowd of people beyond him, but mostly he could feel Liz, warm beneath him. He met her eyes, which were teeming with questions and some warmer emotion he couldn’t name. “You’re all right now,” he told her, “You’re all right.”

They were close enough to kiss…

“Keys! Now!” Michael called, jerking Max from his fantasy of what it would be like to kiss Liz Parker. He sat up and tossed the keys to his friend, then he looked around for a cover-up.

He grabbed a ketchup bottle and broke it on a shelf, dumping it over her, “You broke a bottle when you fell, spilled ketchup on yourself,” he met her confused eyes, pleading, “Don’t say anything please.”

He stood and ran for the exit, looking back at the door to see Maria standing beside her, asking if she was all right. Their eyes met again in that instant, she was staring at him with wonder, and he knew she wouldn’t tell.

Liz Parker was different.
*~*~*

In every ending, there is a beginning…