Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Sci-fi, Paranormal, Futuristic, Romance
Nasha Fano has lived her adult life as the host of Ithena, red star of the northern sky. Refusing to believe that her deceased father sold her to Lord Kalowell, she fights for her freedom and the survival of her people. Caught on the wrong side of the wall between her people and the invaders, Nasha is made a captive by the Lord who wanted the avatar of Ithena, but he has no idea that she is the very woman he seeks. Learning about him, his people, and the course of events that brought them together is humbling, but the star inside her will not come out to confront the other avatar or the star he holds. Frustrated, Nasha gives in to the last thing she wanted and embraces the power of his touch in hopes it will rouse the star within.
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Captive of the Stars
Copyright © 2011 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Captive of the Stars
Hashka Chronicles Four
To the readers who supported me and let me get to story 100. Thank you for your kindness and support over the last few years and I hope we have many more together.
Nasha trembled with a sick eagerness. Either she would live free or die brutally. The moment was rapidly approaching when it would be decided. She clutched her long and short blade, waiting for the attack on her family's holdings.
"Hold the line. No one will think less of you for leaving now, but if you break the line, I can and will gut you myself. If we are defeated, I will do what I was born to do."
The house guards looked at each other and then back at her. They all nodded their solidarity. They would stay.
She was the last member of her family, but she stood by the marking on her foot. It was the mark of the Fano house and she would defend it with pride. Her other foot was marked with the icon of Ithena and the service to the goddess of honour and virtue was the primary focus of her life.
Nasha watched the line of men approaching, some on foot and some with war beasts. The warriors of Kalowell were forging inexorably forward.
Her father had been unable to tell her why the men had come from Kalowell to ravage their lands, but they were here now and her father had passed away before it boiled over into war.
She mentally applauded the men who stayed with her. They all had families and friends that they could be hiding with, but they chose to stay and hold the gateway to the villages beyond the Fano gap. It may be that no one would escape the Kalowell, Nasha Fano had to try and buy them that opportunity. It was her duty. It was her destiny.
The fight was short, bloody and when it was over, Nasha could only do what she was born for. She sealed the Fano gap with her mind. She crawled through the bodies, her short blade beside her, tunic shredded and bare feet caked with blood and muck. Her hand struck the stone, nails torn and bloody, skin abraded. Blood coursed down her forehead and coated her vision as she pulled the energy out of her body and poured it into the stones.
She vaguely heard a shout as the grinding of rock on rock became her whole world.
Please, Ithena, please, just let them be safe.
They will live, Nasha. As will you. Now, you have done your duty, go and rest. Do not fear what will come, it is your destiny.
As her mind blanked, she smiled. It was her destiny and now she could rest.
When a hard arm gripped her around the waist, she shouted and struck out. Her blind thrashing caught flesh and she heard cursing. She saw a large blurred object before her head exploded in pain. Apparently, it was time to rest.
* * * *
Damn, he had struck her too hard. The woman in his arms was barely breathing. Blood covered her from head to toe. Thorn Kalowell scowled down at the slight figure and pity warred with fury. He was supposed to have claimed his mate on this land and instead, he found betrayal and a dead keep that was to have housed his betrothed.
"I have a live one. Send for the healer!" He carried her over the dead and dying. Her clothing was nothing but rags. He could only guess that she had been one of the peasants of the Fano.
A healer came running and his eyes widened at the woman in Thorn's arms. "This way, my lord."
A tent was quickly erected a safe distance from the final battlefield. None of the Fano warriors had survived. They had been men too young to be in guardsmen's uniforms. Their defence of their people was charming, but it was a futile effort.
The goddess always chose a woman of Fano for her avatar and he would not rest until he found his chosen mate. Thorn's star had moved him to this moment, Eshkar wanted to have what Ithena promised him, a child of the stars.
Centuries ago, they agreed that when they both had the perfect avatars, they would join them to breed a Hashka with its own power beyond the stars. A power to lead its people and protect them from the marauding population who were not worshipers.
Eshkar was completely fixated on this being the right time and the right place. Lord Fano had dangled his daughter in front of Thorn for a price. Thorn had paid the bride price gladly, but when he came to claim the woman, Lord Fano had passed on. No one knew the woman that he was speaking of and he had fought long and hard to get as far as he had.
This bloody battle was not supposed to have happened. He was supposed to be spending the first week with his bride. Thorn cursed and laid the woman on the small cot. "Do what you can for her."
"Yes, sir. Do you know why she is unconscious?"
He grunted and scrubbed his hand over his face, spreading her blood on his skin. "I struck her when she attacked me. She crumpled in my arms."
The healer muttered, "That would do it."
"Is there any major damage?"
"I can't tell. She is covered in blood, my lord."
"Then wash it off."
The healer called a page over and sent for water. "Her hands are abraded, my lord. There is also a gash within her hairline."
Lord Thorn scowled and strode to the tent opening. He watched his men trying to find survivors, but there was a curious lack of civilian casualties on the field. "Where are the villagers? The people of the keep? The servants?"
General Alsco came up next to him. "What do you mean?"
"The first time we came to the keep, there was a village of hundreds, over fifty servants in the keep. Where are they?"
Alsco looked confused. His dark blue brow furrowed. "We didn't see any large groups of that kind."
"I know. Where are they?"
A scout came running up. He knelt at Thorn's feet. "My lord. The Fano gap is gone."
"The gap. The division between the public lands and private. The tiny pass into the Marshkar valley. It's gone."
A tingle of hope ran through Thorn. "Show me."
The scout swallowed and nodded.
They moved across the field of death and the wall of rock greeted them at the end of their destination.
Ithena was here recently. She touched this stone and closed the gap.
Are you sure?
Do you think I do not know the feel of my destined mate? It is Ithena. Her avatar lives, you only have to find her.
It is not as easy as you think. She has hidden this long, do you think she will run to my arms after I slaughtered her people?
She made the choice to hide and her people sacrificed themselves to keep her safe. It is touching, but she needs to understand that you have the contract signed and sealed.
I seriously doubt that it will make it easier for her. She is a lady after all.
And as a lady, she will do what is best for her people. Question the peasant woman that you found. She will know something. At least you can get a description of your mate.
Thorn sighed as Eshkar receded. It was always uncomfortable to have the star speaking directly in his mind. He supposed he had never given into the star completely. He wondered if Ithena's host was doing the same. It would certainly explain why Eshkar could not locate the presence of the other star.
Grimly optimistic, he made his way back to the command tent. The woman with the healer might be his best chance at finding the avatar. He was not going to let her out of his sight.
Nasha smelled the healing herbs before she opened her eyes. A healer was at her side the moment that she shifted on the hard bed. "Where am I?"
"You are in a tent on the edge of the Fano lands. We are headed back to the Kalowell holdings." The healer adjusted the bandages on her hands and touched her forehead. He had the paler skin of the northlands.
She held up her gauze-wrapped hands. "What is wrong with my hands?"
"You gouged them with something during the battle. If your jaw is sore, you were knocked out while trying to attack one of our people."
She touched her face with her wrapped hand and felt the soreness he mentioned.
"Let me help you sit up." The healer put an arm around her and sat her up without waiting for her agreement.
"Thank you. Why am I here?"
"Our lord did not want you to die on the field. He carried you to this tent and then moved you to a wagon when we started our ride."
Nasha blinked. "Your lord saved me?"
"Yes. Lord Kalowell. One of the mightiest warriors on the continent. He came to Fano to claim his bride and found that the deceased lord had not told her of the arrangement. He was met with a sword instead of open arms. It was not an honourable situation."
Nasha grimaced. "He came and demanded the lady of the manner attend him. It was offensive."
"He has the agreement signed by Lord Fano before his death. She had no right to refuse him."
Nasha sighed. There was no arguing with their outlook. They believed he was in the right and that was that. In her lands, the moment that a man died, all uncompleted agreements died with him.
"Why am I being hauled along? Why didn't you just leave me in the village?"
A huge man brushed the door to the tent aside, the healer stiffened. The newcomer removed his helmet and looked her over. His voice boomed over her and she blinked at the effect that it had on her system.
No, no, no, no, no, no. Not now.
She cursed as he continued to speak.
"He is taking you along because I want you with us. When you have recovered, I have some questions to ask you about your lady. What is your name?"
"Haella." She swallowed and begged Ithena to push the burgeoning heat away. There was no answer from the consciousness of the star.
"Well, Haella. Once you are well, I will expect you to earn your keep. You will have a position in my keep and a safe place to sleep. No one will molest you while you are within my care."
She swallowed again, "You are Lord Kalowell?"
He nodded. "I am. I regret the loss of life, but Eshkar will not be denied. I will find Ithena's avatar and she will fulfill her promise to my star, but it will go better if you assist me in finding your lady."
A casual glance at her feet showed that they were covered by the blanket. "I have no information to give you."
He nodded. "I will be ready when you are. Please get into the wagon. We are preparing to continue our journey."
She pressed her lips together and looked at her damaged hands. He must have taken it as a bow of submission because he left without another word.
With the healer's help, she wrapped the blanket around herself and walked stiffly to the wagon. A pallet was ready for her. "May I sit up? Wagons are rarely comfortable to ride in flat out."
The healer nodded. "Just don't grip anything with your hands. Your skin is healing well, but a few more days are needed before you can use them properly."
Nasha sat carefully and watched the tent she had just been in get folded and packed away with astonishing efficiency. Within ten minutes of her being told to get on the wagon, they were underway and the knoclars were walking with all six feet landing with light thuds in turn.