Alien Beast’s Fated Mate: Chapter Seven


By midday, Grindi brought us to the steep, gray walls of the Canyonlands. She knew her way through the network of deeply cut rivers, guiding us unerringly towards Zashi. 

There were hidden drop-offs and pitfalls in the canyons, as well as many dark caves that could shelter predators. But the bagart’s senses were far keener than mine, and I trusted her to avoid any dangers. We passed the same cavern by which I had originally entered the alien city. Had that only been a handful of days? Another lifetime.

One without Lita.

There was no point in even remembering it.

After hours of traveling between the sheer, close-pressing walls, my mount led us out into the salt jungle beyond and towards the hypnotic roar of the sea. 

As soon as the claustrophobic canyons opened up into endless vistas, I felt Lita relax in the saddle in front of me. The set of her slender shoulders eased, and she took a deep breath of the briny air.

So far, she hadn’t spoken a word since we rode away from the bloody carnage of the bandit camp. Through our soul bond I could feel the numbness of her shock, the bone-deep fear and confusion that still gripped her. My unleashed Valti side had terrified her almost as much as her former life imprisoned in the strange temple.

How could I overcome this quandary? As much as I longed to calm my thoughts and control the Valti beast within, it was an intrinsic part of me. Perhaps the only solution was time and patience.

“The water,” Lita said suddenly, her voice hushed with wonder as she gazed out at the glimmering sea. “It’s so beautiful.”

I followed her rapt stare. “Yes. The coast has always been a place I come to find peace. At times, it’s good to be alone here.” 

She turned slightly in the saddle to glance back at me, the scent of her hair tickling my nose. “I’ve seen the Snarling Sea before from a distance. But I’ve never gotten to spend time alone by it.”

I frowned. “Snarling Sea? That sounds dangerous. We call it the Bright Sea.”

Grindi continued on tirelessly through the thinning trees. Before us, the alien crystal sands of an isolated beach spread out, studded with the swaying emerald fans of the dinva trees. The rich green of the sky met the deeper purple of the waters at a sharp, clear horizon.

The clever bagart made her way towards a small freshwater river that ran down to the sea, sheltered on both sides by tall reeds. When we reached it, I dismounted, then helped Lita down from the saddle. She leaned against me for a moment, her slim frame pressed to mine.

I led her towards an outcropping of tumbled boulders, isolated in the midst of the clear sands. 

“It’s so beautiful here,” Lita said again wonderingly as she gazed out at the perfectly flat expanse of the purple ocean. “I’ve never seen a sea that color before.”

“There is a vast creature that lives in the depths beneath the still surface,” I explained. “Some say it is bigger than a city, and has remained unmoving for eons like a stone. Its natural hue colors the waters.”

I clambered easily up the piled rocks and reached a hand down for Lita to follow. She took it without hesitation, allowing me to guide her up the boulders until we sat together atop the highest point, temporary monarchs surveying the alien sea. The soft pads of moss made a gentle seat.  

“Mmm, it’s so warm here,” Lita sighed in contentment, stretching her legs out and arching her back. The dappled sunlight played over her curves. She turned her heart-shaped face up to me, dark eyes dancing. “The rocks feel almost hot in the sun.”

I smiled back, the ever-present tension in my shoulders easing. “The Bright Sea is very shallow and calm near the shore. The water becomes heated by the sun.”  

Lita bit her full lower lip thoughtfully, still facing me. “Just how warm does it get?” 

I thought she might feel trepidation. Through our bond, I’d felt the almost unfelt waters of what she called the Tomb.

But did I catch a gleam of playfulness?

The sight sent a spike of heat through my own body.

“Well, there is one way to find out,” I answered lightly, and before she could react I had scooped her up in my arms.

“Drax!” she shrieked, though she was laughing now even as she swatted in protest at my shoulders. Her hair tumbled free around us both as I carried her down the boulders and waded into the surf. 

The water swirled cool around my legs at first, then warmer as we went deeper. Lita kicked and squealed as the foam lapped higher, wetting her feet. 

“It’s not warm at all!” she gasped dramatically, clutching at my neck. But she was still grinning, eyes dancing with mirth and thrill as I swung her playfully through the gently crashing waves.

I obediently moved closer to shore again until the water was only knee-deep, then set Lita down carefully in the wet sand. She kept one hand on my shoulder to steady herself as the surf tugged at her skirts.

“Alright, now you have to turn around and close your eyes,” she instructed, mock sternly. 

I raised an eyebrow but did as she asked, wading back out until the swells lapped my waist, then turning my back. “Why? What are you planning, little fish?”

“No peeking!” came her voice from behind me. I heard a splash as she slipped into the deeper waters.

After a long moment she called “Okay, you can look now!” 

When I turned around, Lita was floating serenely in the glassy waves, clad only in her thin white shift. Her dark hair fanned out around her, contrasting with her golden skin. She waved at me, then flipped over in the water, kicking up fountains of glittering spray as she swam with smooth, strong strokes. 

Her laughter rang out freely over the water. I watched her playfully diving and splashing about, seemingly without a care. She was captivating – joyful and unbound, more radiant than ever.

I quickly shed my own tunic and boots, stripping down to my breechclout before diving in to join her. The silky water closed around me, cool and caressing. As I surfaced, Lita swam nearer, floating before me with a dazzling smile. Her sodden shift clung alluringly to every curve.

“How did you know this is just what I needed?” she asked wonderingly, treading water. 

I could only shrug, taming a sudden urge to pull her lithe body against mine beneath the waves. “Perhaps we both needed this respite.”  

Lita tilted her head back, closing her eyes with a blissful sigh as she floated atop the swells. “I’ve only been to the lakes in the Infinity Ring before. But never have I been able to enjoy the water all to myself like this.”

I drank in the sight of her, committing this untamed joy to memory. But reality could not be ignored for long. 

“It’s still at least three day’s ride to reach Zashi, and true safety,” I said reluctantly. “We are exposed and vulnerable here in the open.”  

Lita’s eyes opened, her expression sobering before she nodded. “You need to turn around again,” she said.

I faced the horizon. Avians with great wingspans rode the air currents. One dove into the water, coming out with a wriggling fish.

When I turned, Lita sat on the boulders, swathed demurely in the wool once more, though it did little to hide her sodden state. Rivulets of water still dripped from the ends of her hair and the hem of her sheer shift. She bit her lip and hugged her arms around herself against the chill wind off the sea.

“I suppose we should get moving again before it gets much colder,” she said quietly after I’d dressed and joined her.

My heart ached at the thought of her shivering and miserable. Before I could think better of it I stepped forward and enfolded her in my arms, wrapping her in my greater warmth.  

Pressed together so intimately, I felt a swirling riot of emotion through our soul bond – hesitation, a spike of fear…and buried beneath it all, tentative desire. Those conflicted feelings surely mirrored my own maelstrom of longing and restraint as I met her fathomless dark gaze.

I had brought her into the wilderness, and now she had no choice but to rely on me. The trust implicit in that reliance humbled me. With a sigh, I loosened my embrace and stepped back, staring at clouds scudding nearer. “The storm will be on us. It’s time to find shelter.”

Grindi found a track through the jungle. Vines hung heavy with bright traveling flowers. Thick trees bulged, looking waterlogged. Undergrowth swayed with stalks of fat pink kernels that exploded when touched. Ripe fruit hung low from branches. 

I picked one as we moved beneath. When I offered it to Lita, she shook her head.

“It’s not healthy to eat food we don’t grow,” she said. “Its one of the rules of the city.”

Such a strange rule. But soon she would need to eat something. I would simply keep trying.

Biting into it, the sweet aroma drifted as juice ran down my face. I smiled and wiped it away. Grindi knickered.

“Here, feed her,” I said picking another dandrow and handing it to Lita.

She leaned forward, clucking to the beast. The bagart delicately took it before munching it down, pit and all.

Lita giggled. Then, she picked one for herself as we passed beneath. She took a tentative bite. I though she might throw it away, but she didn’t.

“It’s so beautiful here,” she said.

A brilliant mist of golden pollen danced in shafts of light between the trees. When we passed through, it clung to Lita’s hair. She turned to me and I saw it glittering on her features.

“Beautiful,” I said.

Distantly, I heard the crash of branches and leaves. Kicking Grindi to a trot, I scanned the foliage.

“What was that?” Lita said.

“The cold is coming. This will be the last chance for animals to fatten up. On fruit and each other,” I said, leaning against her back. 

She gripped the saddle horn as the bagart found her footing.

Daylight dimmed, unseen clouds moving in from the sea. Stiff, spear like leaves raked us on either side of the trail. 

“We shouldn’t try to move past the jungle rocks this night,” I said. 

“Why?” Lita asked.

In answer, the sky darkened swiftly. Almost at once, rain sizzled through the canopy. As we passed beneath the gaps, we were drenched.

Lita gasped as more and more water lashed through the leaves.

“There’s a cave I sheltered in on my journey here,” I raised my voice around the hiss of water. “It’s not far. Hyah! Grindi! Yah!”

The animal doubled down, sprinting through the narrow track surging beneat us. If some large browser or predator stalked the path ahead, we would be in trouble. 

I swiped water from my eyes.

Lita pulled up her woolly hood against the weather. 

Trees thinned out to the left. I made out a rise in the land, outcroppings of rock. Reining the bagart in, I guided her with my legs.

Briefly, we moved up a muddy hill. Then the sheer cliffs rose from the mist. 

I guided Grindi alongside, until a hollow opened up. The bagart eagerly moved under shelter.

Rain curtained the entrance as we dismounted.

I gazed around the dim space. “This is where I sheltered before. I think.”

“There’s a stack of dry wood,” Lita pointed.

She pulled her hood back. It hadn’t kept her from getting soaked. My heart ached at the sight of her face dripping and miserable. 

“You’re shivering,” I said. Unable to help myself, I pulled her close.

Souls bound, I felt a whirl of emotions. Trepidation. Repulsion… 


Those emotions were mirrored in her impossibly dark eyes as I gazed.

Yet I had brought her into the wilderness. She had to depend on me. There was no other choice for her.

“Let’s get a fire started and some food in you first. Then we’ll continue on before the weather worsens.”

I busied myself unsaddling Grindi and rubbing the bagart down. Lita moved closer to the shelter of the rocks and began gathering driftwood for a small fire, her sodden white shift clinging distractingly to every alluring curve. 

This was going to be a long, tempting journey to Zashi.

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