Alien Beast’s Fated Mate: Chapter One


My brain cleared as if emerging from a deep fog.

How much time had passed, I didn’t know. But it was enough for soldiers to be summoned, for me to be dragged up the winding roads of South Spoke that led to the imposing center of Terr and the arched entrance of the foreboding temple.

I heard the clop of siu hooves on cobblestones, smelled the rank animal odor of the draft beasts. Above me, Terr’s terraced rooftops and overhanging eaves crowded the stormy night sky. I realized I was lying on a wooden cart, propped up on a bale of hay.

My head throbbed; my jaw, teeth and nose were a symphony of pain. Blood clotted in my raw throat as I struggled to breathe.

“She’s coming around,” said a gruff, deep voice nearby. I blinked, slowly focusing on the three imposing spires of the temple looming above us.

“The old man really did a number on her,” remarked another man, his voice fading as he dismounted a siu and walked away. Then came the hollow, ominous knock of the round serpent’s head door knocker, slammed three times against the ancient bound wooden doors.

“Too bad,” continued the first man, the one who remained close by. “I’ll bet she’s a real beauty under all that blood and bruising.”

A blinding flash of lightning lit up the ominous temple façade an instant before a torrential downpour opened up. I blinked away the purple afterimage seared onto my retina and struggled to sit up on the hay bale.

Despite being ten feet tall, the imposing temple doors swung open without a sound. Beyond lay only inky blackness.

The soldiers immediately knelt, keeping their gazes fixed firmly on the ground. One held out a sheet of auto-scribe parchment in a slightly trembling hand. An impossibly slender pale hand emerged from the impenetrable darkness beyond the door, long fingers beckoning.

“Let’s get this over with and get the hell out of here,” muttered one of the soldiers nervously.

They returned to the cart and lifted me up. My legs were unsteady but I could stand at least. The soldiers kept their grip under my arms as they walked me toward that pointed black maw of a doorway.

I was utterly terrified, my heart hammering against my ribs. But I dared not resist. These men were afraid too, I realized. Fearful of whatever lay within that lightless temple.

“You’re afraid,” came a soft voice from the shadows. It wasn’t a question.

I managed a slight nod, unable to find my voice to answer.

“Come,” the voice commanded. Those long pale fingers emerged again, summoning me forward.

I wanted to run, to fight, to resist entering that ominous doorway. But the soldiers gave me a rough shove from behind and I ended up on my knees on a hard stone floor inside.

The light narrowed, then vanished entirely as the thick wooden door boomed closed behind us. Thin cold hands gripped my shoulders, stopping me from collapsing further.

“I’m touching you,” said the soft voice. It belonged to a woman, I realized.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim torchlight, I saw luminous amber eyes peering out from beneath a black hooded shroud, her skin almost glowing in the firelight.

“Your skin is like gold,” she murmured, those spidery fingers trailing down my arm.

I wanted to scream and demand answers, but terror shut my mouth. I couldn’t make a sound.

“You are afraid,” the pale woman repeated. She seemed pleased by this realization.

I finally managed to croak out a trembling, “Yes. I’m afraid.”

“Your response is appropriate,” she replied. Her tone was devoid of any warmth or sympathy.

Before I could say another word, more hands reached out from the surrounding darkness, grabbing me from all directions. My beautiful blue dress, my mother’s gift, was ripped violently from my body and disappeared from view.

I was lifted up, stripped completely naked, and carried swiftly through the blackness. Terror robbed me of my voice, leaving me mute.

In an unlit chamber, I was dropped carelessly into a water-filled stone tub. Coarse cloths immediately began scrubbing my skin, reaching every private place with complete disregard for modesty or dignity. I couldn’t slip free of the unyielding grip that held me down.

Just as suddenly as it began, I was dragged from the bath. Cold metal manacles were forced over my wrists and ankles. When I instinctively struggled against them, I found the bonds were strangely soft, yet utterly unbreakable.

Still held fast by these inexplicable bonds, I was taken into another room, this one containing a large rectangular hole in the floor. Nearby lay an angled stone slab, like the cover of a sarcophagus.

My captors forced me onto the slab, positioning me over the opening in the floor. I still could not see their faces in the oppressive darkness.

“What are you doing to me?” I finally managed, my voice rising in naked fear.

To my surprise, the water in the hole below was pleasantly warm, embracing my body instead of chilling me. Yet I still floated fully immobilized, with only my face remaining above the surface. When I tried to thrash my limbs, I found I was gently but firmly held in place, unable to move.

The pale woman’s face suddenly floated into view above me again. Her amber eyes were impassive, devoid of emotion.

“What is this?” I pleaded with her. “Please don’t hurt me.”

She tilted her head, considering me for a moment. “We only need to learn if you can learn,” she finally replied. Her words made little sense to my panicked mind.

“What? What does that mean?” I demanded, fresh tears spilling down my cheeks.

“The temple requires this,” she explained patiently. “We will attempt to train you, if you prove able.”

One spidery finger stroked my cheek in an oddly tender gesture. “You are present,” she murmured, seemingly to herself. “I’m never sure.”

My confusion only grew. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” I sobbed.

“You will be deprived of sensory input,” she continued, ignoring my distress. “Once you reach a calm, open state, the priests will attempt to impart esoteric knowledge directly into your mind. If you cannot fully accept the wisdom, there are…other uses for you.”

“Other uses?” I repeated. That single phrase filled me with unspeakable dread, even as her meaning eluded me.

None of the girls brought to the temple by lot ever emerged again. 

Was that what she meant? Were they used in some dark, sinister way I could scarcely fathom?

The slab I lay upon began sliding backwards with a grinding sound of stone on stone. The sarcophagus cover being positioned to seal me inside this liquid tomb.

“No no no, please!” I begged, thrashing weakly.

“Fear is your friend,” the pale woman said in her soft monotone. She showed no reaction as the heavy stone lid loomed over me, sliding relentlessly into place.

A flash of lightning illuminated the room just before the cover sealed shut. I shouldn’t have been able to see it this deep within the temple’s bowels. Yet the very walls shook in response to the tremendous crack of thunder that followed.

The woman suddenly threw back her hood with a moan, clutching her temples as if in pain. Sparks erupted from the slick black featureless walls around us.

I glimpsed her face clearly for the first time in that brief instant. She was slender, with short cropped auburn hair. When she blinked against the pain, I caught a flash of sea green eyes. And…were those freckles across the bridge of her nose?

She looked barely older than me. How could this seemingly ordinary young woman be complicit in such cruelty, such torture within these unholy temple walls?

“Error,” she murmured, blinking rapidly.

“Don’t do this to me,” I pleaded one last time.

More sparks burst from the darkness. She winced again, shaking her head. “Error,” she repeated firmly.

With chilling finality, the heavy lid came to rest over me, sealing me in suffocating darkness. I floated in the warm black void for a time, senses utterly deprived.

Then slowly, gently, colors and lights began playing across my vision. Vague shapes formed, then took on solidity. Scenes from my life played before my mind’s eye, summoned from memory.

My father, bouncing me on his knee on our terrace, telling me silly stories. My mother and I, slicing firin root and patat together as we prepared larendove pies. Friends from Four Ring, playing skip-tag.

My lecherous, lame betrothed, assaulting me violently within view of the temple itself.

A towering wall built from steel plates, set inside a deep mote.

Giants wandering a shimmering forest, ancient trees glittering.

Stars wheeling slowly across the night sky.

Whispers, soft as feather caresses within my ear.

Silence. Utter void.

And then…a presence. Not mine.

Danger, the foreign mind thought. Cautious, yet determined.

This presence sensed my own fear, my mortal peril, embraced me as it crawled through the rusted, blood-scented guts of some bizarre stronghold.

The passages we moved through were barely large enough to squeeze along on bellies. Slick, cold, greasy fluids dripped down as we slithered forward. Sometimes we crawled through grotesque, fetid muck, gagging but unable to stop.

This mind would not give up or turn back. It was here for me, my rescuer across impossible distances.

For many moons, it had dreamed of me, as I now dreamed of it. But those were just yearnings from afar.

Now, my terror and pain had forced its hand at last. I was no phantom, but real. Flesh and blood. 

What was this rescuer? Man or beast?

Should I feel jubilant relief or dread as it approached unstoppably?

Needing to understand, I reached out tentatively with my mind.

At my first probing touch, the mind’s reflexive growl was feral, primal. Savage.

Yet still we connected. Rage and fear fell away in a flood of stunned recognition, of yearning joy beyond words.

“My fate,” it whispered within me. “The missing bond of my soul. You will be mine.”

The tidal force of raw emotion was almost too much to bear. I pulled back, breaking the link…

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