Two years ago….
“I was nervous the first time I bound myself to a female as well,” Dorian said, watching his best friend and current captain pace the room.
“What makes you think I’m nervous?” Synar asked, pausing to give his friend a strange look.
Dorian laughed at Synar and his blank expression. “What still shocks me is that Ania Looren passed up dignitaries, presidents, other ambassadors, and more warriors than I can count to tumble into your bed like a love stricken Earthling. I’m in awe of you turning out to be the one male in her entire life that she couldn’t refuse.”
“If you think I’m going to be indiscreet and brag about my bonding time with Ania, you are mistaken my friend,” Synar said, grinning at Dorian’s guilty look.
“Being a Siren, my vows are especially hard to endure, Liam. Today the most celibate planet in the Alliance is tuned into your mating vibrations, as am I. As your best friend, the least you can do is let me live vicariously through you once in a while,” Dorian teased. “I know you were her first breach.”
“Yes I was, but I’m still not telling you details. That won’t be happening. The first time is a private matter and a special sharing. Find your own female and start living again,” Synar ordered.
“I want peace, not another mate. It hasn’t even been a century since I lost the last one. I know not all creatures live as long as Sirens, but a century doesn’t feel all that long when you are grieving,” Dorian said, narrowing his eyes as his friend picked up speed. “Liam—you’re going to wear out your footwear if you keep that up.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me—can’t seem to stand still. I’m truly not nervous taking Ania as a formal mate, just impatient to get the public ceremony over,” Synar said. “My intuition is sending out massive warning signals, but I can’t tell if they are real or just a reaction to the events of this day. I don’t want to be an embarrassment to her in front of her family, so I haven’t said anything. I have a couple crew members observing the ceremony and looking for problems. They haven’t found anything yet.”
“Why are we even doing this ceremony anyway? I distinctly remember Ania saying it wasn’t necessary for her sake. She said you were too anxious to wait until after and that you had filed the legal mating forms before ever leaving the ship,” Dorian teased. “You and she belong to each other now in all the important ways. What will this ceremony accomplish?”
“Ania is a high-level Peace Alliance ambassador. You don’t just throw one of those over your shoulder and run off to your quarters with her,” Synar answered. “This ceremony is for her family. They’ve waited a long time for their only child to take a mate. My mother declined to come, which was just as well since she hasn’t spoken to me since my father died. I think my mother has more trouble believing Conor killed him than I do.”
Dorian could hear the pain in Liam’s voice without even looking at his energy. “Is your brother still exiled?” he asked quietly.
“Yes,” Synar said flatly. “And it will stay that way for at least the next century of his life. Mother will just have to deal with it and be glad that at least Conor isn’t dead.”
“Have you told Ania about your family and your inheritance?” Dorian asked.
“No,” Synar answered, adjusting the cuffs on his uniform jacket. “I asked Malachi to block her from knowing for now. Once Jonas is gone, the demon is going into the amulet until I can figure out the proper person to rule him.”
Skipping over the advice he wanted to offer Liam about the dangers of keeping such a large secret from the person closest to his spirit, Dorian instead focused on the main issue he saw as a problem. “How can you be so sure that you are not the proper person?”
Synar looked and held Dorian’s gaze until he was sure his friend saw the truth in him. “No one in my family is worthy to rule the demon any longer—certainly not Conor or me.”
“I can tell you sincerely believe that, but I think you are more suitable than you realize,” Dorian said quietly.
He glanced at the timekeeper on the wall of the room they were in and saw it was time for them to go.
“Enough of this morbid conversation,” Dorian said briskly. “This is a day to celebrate. There will plenty of time for you to mourn your errors later when you realize how much taking a mate is going to complicate your life.”
Synar snorted, refusing to laugh at Dorian’s teasing. “Your words offer me no comfort. Tell me why we are friends again?”
“Because I haven’t had children and having a much younger friend is the closest I intend to get for a while,” Dorian said. “I like your blind spots about your life and find them mostly entertaining. Plus I know you have no idea who you are mating today. You see only a very small part of the female who waits for you at the altar. It’s going to be interesting to witness your shocked reaction when you find out the rest.”
“Enlighten me then,” Synar demanded on a laugh. “That’s what friends are supposed to do about each other’s females.”
“I am an unusual friend. I consider that Ania’s task, not mine,” Dorian said with a knowing smile. “I have told both of you that I refuse to mediate your mating relationship. I confess it is amazing to watch two of the most intuitive beings I’ve ever met completely ignore their intuition about each other.”
“Maybe Ania and I know all we need to know about each other,” Synar said firmly, smiling as he looked across the room at the female standing near the altar, who turned and smiled at him.
He was attracted to Ania’s beauty, but also to something indefinable in her spirit that he sensed. All the challenges of their mating faded when he acknowledged that pull to be near her. He’d never felt it with any other female.
With Dorian following, Synar walked to stand at Ania’s side, feeling the respectful silence of the congregation descend around the two of them like a cloak.
Defying convention on her planet, Synar held out a hand to her, smiling as Ania placed hers in his without even glancing at anyone else. On a planet where all touching was considered something to do behind closed doors, her easy acceptance of his touch was more significant to him than any ceremony could be.
Synar glanced at Dorian standing taller than anyone else in the assembly and his first mate, Jonas, standing by Dorian’s side. He nodded his head to both of them that he was ready.
Then Synar formally inclined his head to the entire assembly, then to the officiate, and finally to the female facing him and smiling as she held his gaze.
“Ania Looren, before this congregation of friends and family I openly declare my sincere desire to be your mate for the rest of my life. All that I am and will ever be, I give into your power this day. Do you accept my offer and pledge?” Synar asked.
“Aye, Liam Synar. I accept your offer and pledge. All that I am and ever will be, I give into your power this day as well. Let us be declared as mates,” Ania said, pleased that her voice was as confident and sure as Liam’s.
“Let it be declared that this couple is mated,” the officiate said loudly.
“Joined by the will of the creators,” the congregation said, the sound of their common support rolling up the walls of the room and filling every fraction of space with its energy.
Then the celebratory music began, the vibration of it swelling.
Synar turned his head slightly and watched Jonas fall to the floor with stunned disbelief, a large hole blasted through him, his life force leaving rapidly.
“Malachi, come forth and stop those that seek to do harm,” Synar called urgently, watching the mist hover over Jonas as Dorian and two other crew members scrambled to find those responsible.
Hearing Synar call out to someone, Ania instinctively turned to the crowd and saw a weapon flash. Without stopping to think, she stepped in front of her new mate and felt a searing fire in her back.
“Liam,” Ania called in alarm.
“No,” Synar called out in shock, clutching her falling form in his arms. “Malachi—kill them all but one.”
It will be done as you command, Malachi sent.
Synar sank to the floor clutching Ania’s weakening body. “What have you done? Why did you step in front of me? That blast was not meant for you.”
“Take care for your life,” Ania said. “I believe I am returning to the creators. Do not mourn me long. I have long planned for this day.”
“No—this will not be, must not be,” Synar denied, looking around the room that was mostly vacant now except for the dead and dying bodies lying scattered across the floor.
When the mist appeared above him, hovering and waiting, Synar looked up in numbed surprise.
The attackers are all dead except the one being restrained by your Lieutenant Zade, though even that one is starting to wish he were dead. Let Zade finish him for you, Liam. You and I have a bigger problem to attend to because Jonas is no more, Malachi sent.
Synar looked at the male cowering by Dorian and at the carnage on the floor.
Are any of the Pleiadians who tried to stop them still alive, he asked?
One or two linger, but not for long, Malachi reported.
Go into the largest one for now, but do nothing else until I command you, Synar said. Do not reanimate him.
As you wish, Malachi said, heading for the best body he saw, glad that Liam was letting him choose his host this time. Jonas had been Synar’s choice and not his, though Malachi admitted to himself that he had grown quite fond of the easy going male host. Being in Jonas had been like taking a holiday because the Greggor male loved nothing better than bonding with females and making music.
Before Jonas, Liam’s father Bogdan had put him into an uneducated, giant stump of a male who was forever stumbling over things and getting so drunk he was unable to perform even the most menial tasks. Malachi didn’t even want to think about that host body and what it had done.
Synar lay Ania’s mostly unconscious form down on the floor and stood to walk over to the cowering male. His uniform was covered in Ania’s life force. The killer glared defiantly at him, but Synar also saw fear in his eyes. If there hadn’t been any, Synar would have made sure to put some there.
“Did my brother Conor send you to kill me?” Synar demanded. “I warn you your death means nothing to me now, so you might as well try to redeem yourself before the creators receive you.”
“Yes—Conor sent us. He wants you and the demon. He said to capture you alive, but kill everyone else that got in our way. The stun was meant only to wound, not to kill you,” he said.
“If my mate dies, you will die. If she lives, you will take a message back to my brother that killing Malachi’s host bodies won’t gain him anything. Your inept group left plenty more bodies for him to inhabit,” Synar looked at Dorian. “Will you take this coward away and send medical help to look after Ania?”
“Indeed,” Dorian said, grabbing the male by his arm and dragging him out of the room.
Synar went back to his mate. “Ania, can you hear me?”
“I feel the cold of dying, Liam. I don’t know why I did not intuitively see this coming. I guess all I could think about today was you,” Ania said, trying to reassure him with a smile, but her eyes closed and the blackness she drifted in claimed her once more.
“Malachi, come out and do no harm,” Synar called, his voice heavy, the pressure inside him to scream at fate barely restrained.
He couldn’t let Ania die when he had the power to stop it from happening. He just couldn’t.
“Damn me if you must—I don’t care,” Synar said, sending the words to the creators of all.
He looked then at the demon mist floating in front of him. “Malachi, Demon of Synar—enter this female’s body and lend her your life. She is your new host.”
You can’t mean to put me in a female, Liam. Malachi’s vibrations wavered as he protested the gender with both disdain—and shock.
“You will go into the host body I have chosen and do all I ask. You will repair her body and take no more from her than what is necessary for your survival. She is never to know you inhabit her. She is to remain just as she is,” Synar said, making himself put intent behind the words. “As I command, you will obey.”
This is a mistake Liam, Malachi chastised. I am to be put into warriors, used to fell armies, used to vanquish legions of evil. Why do you dishonor the sacred contract? There is no redemption for me in this enlightened female.
“It’s either go into Ania Looren or into the amulet, demon. If Ania dies, I will lock you away and drop the amulet into the volcanoes on Terris so that you will never be found again by any creature,” Synar said sincerely. “You can truly spend eternity in a fiery pit like many spiritual beings fear doing. Your spirit will not die, but you will never live in a host again either.”
Malachi hovered, flexed, and finally acquiesced. His tie to Liam Synar and his family exceeded his power to deny his current master. Cursing the creators of all once more, he resigned himself to a dreary existence in a female for a while. Malachi pulled his mist form together more tightly.
I hear and will do all that you command, he vowed, disappearing quickly into the body of the female while Synar turned his head away until it was done.
Moments later, Ania’s eyes fluttered open and Synar let out a ragged breath of relief that he hadn’t been too late to save what was left of her. “Ania—are you still with me? Help is on the way.”
“What happened?” she asked.
“We were attacked by an enemy. The weapon was fortunately not set to kill instantly,” Synar said. “You are severely wounded, but I believe you will survive.”
“Is everyone safe now?” Ania asked.
“Yes—but I fear this is not the end of it. I must leave you and go seek those that did this to make sure they will not do so again,” Synar said sadly. “You will be safe with your family. I will come back for you when I am done.”
“We just mated, Liam. Take me with you. I’ll heal on the ship,” Ania demanded.
“I can’t put a high-level Peace Alliance ambassador at so much risk,” Synar said, stroking her cheek, wanting nothing more than to do just as she demanded. “Heal while I am gone. Let your family care for you. Serve your planet until I return.”
Synar bent to brush her lips with his. “I know you don’t like kissing, but I need to reassure myself that you live.”
“I must be getting used to it,” Ania said, struggling to return the pressure of his mouth. “I didn’t mind that kiss at all.”
“Help is coming shortly. Let them repair your body. You will be weak for a while, but soon this will be nothing more than a bad memory,” Synar said.
When she didn’t answer, Synar realized that she had fallen into the healing sleep of the demon. Malachi was already working on her. Now Synar had other things to do to make Malachi’s efforts count.
Dorian came back shortly and found Synar and Ania still on the floor. “Help is on its way. They were afraid to come back inside. How is she?”
Ignoring Dorian’s concerned question, Synar raised his gaze to his friend’s face.
“We are taking the bodies of Jonas and the Pleiadian male Malachi went into earlier with us. Put both on the shuttle and take them to the ship before you come back for me. I will explain later. I will register the body we are stealing as host to my demon now. Then we are going to release the killer we captured and send him back to warn Conor that I’m going to be actively searching for him. If we check, I bet we discover Conor is no longer confined to the planet he was exiled to,” Synar said stiffly.
“Is the Pleiadian male joining our crew once the demon reanimates him?” Dorian said, the words distasteful, but the truth often was.
“No—the Pleiadian male will not be reanimated,” Synar said quietly. “The body is a ruse to fool Conor. I have given Malachi a more noble assignment.”
Dorian looked at Ania’s body then, seeing the energy signature but not wanting to believe it. “She was dying, Liam. Ania was prepared for that. Why did you stop her death? Do you know how much she would disapprove of what you have done?”
“Ania might have been ready for her death, but I wasn’t,” Synar said tightly. “It is done and I will not be changing it. I chose to tell you only because I need your help.”
Dorian saw Ania’s lashes flutter open at the same moment he heard help finally running in to their aid.
“Dorian—I forget sometimes how tall you are. It’s like looking at a mountain to see you from the floor. This sure hasn’t happened in a very long time,” Ania teased.
Despite his beliefs and his sense of foreboding about what Liam had done, Dorian smiled at his teacher and friend with great relief. She remained herself so far. He hoped that would always be true.
“I have never forgotten a single moment of my training at your hands,” Dorian said, smiling down at her.
Ania laughed, but it hurt to do so. Then she felt her eyes closing again. With a tired sigh, she entered the blackness calling to her.
Several healers rushed to them, and Synar slipped out of their way. He stood and looked up at Dorian. “Well?”
“I will help you,” Dorian said at last, thinking that he didn’t want Ania to die either. No matter how much the demon clashed with his beliefs, her death didn’t feel destined in that moment either. “May the creators forgive us both.”
“Pray all you want for forgiveness, but I don’t need any,” Synar said firmly. “I have no regrets.”
“Let’s hope that remains true,” Dorian said. “You go with Ania and see to her. I will take care of the rest.”
Synar nodded and followed the medical transport bed out of the building.
*** *** ***
After they were gone, Dorian walked over to the dead Pleiadian Liam had indicated, lifting him easily despite the dead male’s bulk. He cringed knowing his uniform would be ruined after this and need to be replaced. He didn’t want to even think about how messed up his energy was going to be.
Why had he promised to go along with something he knew Ania would be appalled to know was happening? Yes, he would have missed her if she had passed on, but all creatures returned to the source eventually.
Dorian couldn’t remember ever being so torn by an ethical decision before. Knowing his own motivations eluded him. Liam’s actions had a reason, but his were just as illogical. Unlike Liam, Dorian was sure he was going to live to regret his agreement to the deceit. He just hoped Liam was right about it deceiving his brother as well as his mate.
Evidently Conor Synar was more than Liam’s brother. They had learned today he also a formidable enemy. Dorian doubted Liam would ever underestimate his brother again because the price for doing so even once had been extremely high.
As he focused on the task of moving the bodies, Dorian realized it would take him a second trip back to collect the body of the first mate, Commander Jonas Tangier. Though Dorian was next in line and a logical choice to serve as first mate, he didn’t want the responsibility of leading.
Instead, Dorian much preferred serving as spiritual counselor and remaining third in the command chain. As spiritual counselor, he gave energy readings, cleared chakras, and helped crew members make decisions that would most greatly benefit them. Part of his gift was the ability to see a person’s most likely future, but when he tried to use his intuitive abilities to see what the future held for them now after their actions today, nothing would show itself to him.
At his age and advancement in his skills, Dorian knew there were only two reasons the future ever got blocked from his sight. One was when he had done something wrong and was being punished by the creators, which usually took the form of his gifts waning for a period of time. The other was because the creators of all didn’t want him to be cognizant of their plans.
As Dorian finished what he had committed to do, he pondered which one was most relevant to the current situation.