OldEarth Melchior Encounter Excerpt
Sterling let Nova and Cerulean lead the way across the dark terrain, his hands clasped behind his back, a frown exasperating his throbbing headache. These infants will soon drive me mad!
Nova seemed unable to stop talking. A child endowed with hyper-sensitivity who actually thought he cared how she felt and was taking the long road through her emotional state.
He glanced up. Cerulean had his head bowed low. Probably trying not to trip over this blasted uneven ground.
Melchior’s abode was silhouetted against the moonlight like a child’s toy left upon the landscape.
Sterling shivered. Mauve would certainly be waiting with open arms. So ready to embrace. His thoughts tripped over themselves, and he grimaced. Pretty much anyone.
Did that bother him? Of course not. He wasn’t possessive. Or territorial. Like one of these human barbarians. Though, the King’s nonchalance toward his own son did seem a bit too detached. Surely, it would be upsetting to murder one’s own offspring, even by accident. Especially—one would think—the son of the woman he professed to love.
Nova stopped in her tracks, slapping one hand into the other. “That’s it!” She grinned at Cerulean and then shouted, “They don’t mean to control me—it’s just that they have invested so much of themselves that if something happens to me, it happens to them!”
Cerulean peered over his shoulder and met Sterling’s direct gaze. Took her long enough. He cleared his throat and pointed ahead. “We should find them in Selby’s old home. It’s beyond the main house by—”
A group of horsemen exited the barn and sped into the valley.
Ducking into a ditch, Cerulean dragged Sterling by the arm.
Nova scuttled up close behind.
The murmuring voices faded, and Sterling shook himself free. He straightened and pursed his lips. “You forget yourself, Cerulean. I am the leader here. I tell you what to do. You don’t drag me out of the way of stupid animals.”
Nova smirked. “You’d have hated being trampled, even if it didn’t kill you.”
Cerulean faced his superior, ever the proper guardian. “I apologize. I was out of order, sir.”
With a huff, Sterling waved toward Selby’s hut. “Hurry up! I hope Mauve has arranged some decent comfort for us. I’m completely drained.”
Nova laughed. “She’s never cared for anyone’s comfort before. Why would she start now?”
Cerulean shot the mixed-breed a warning glance.
Sterling’s nerves tingled. He wiped his brow. She’s two for two. I’m beginning to hate this—
A figure pelted out of the hut and raced across the hard-packed earth; his arms outstretched. With the muscular build and pounding steps, it definitely wasn’t Mauve.
Zuri caught Nova in his robust arms and swung her in a circle.
At first, she yelped and struggled, then she plunged her head onto his shoulder and hugged back.
By the Divide! They’ll hurt each other holding on that hard. He rubbed his upper arm where Mauve had left bruises. Sadness pressed on his shoulders like a heavy weight. This is nothing like that.
The outline of a Cresta blocked the doorway. “Hurry and get inside!”
Being jostled along by Cerulean, Sterling followed Nova who clung to her father’s arm as if she had been lost at sea for a week rather than in his competent care for two days.
As his gaze swept the interior, Sterling’s insides dropped to nether regions. Where is she? He gritted his teeth. Not with another man, surely. Not now! After I explicitly told her—
“Sterling.” Zuri stared at him, beckoning to a chair beside a rickety table. His gaze had gone from ecstatic to pathetic in a remarkably short time.
Sterling blinked in the wavering light. A fire flickered in the tiny hearth. Exhaustion seeped over him. “Won’t someone investigate?”
Zuri glanced at Tarragon. “We dressed like beggars and I was given the night to rest with my sick friend.”
Tarragon swept two dirty cloaks in the air. “Amazing what humans will believe when given by a glimpse of off-colored flesh.”
Nova plopped down on the waiting chair. “Well, it’s good to stop stomping all over the kingdom. I thought we’d never get here.” She spoke to her father, jerking her thumb backward. “These two could’ve blinked here in a second, but they were nice enough go with me every step of the way.”
Shocked by this true—but kind—assessment, Sterling wouldn’t be left behind in generosity. “She’s a good companion. Shared lots of personal insights as we traveled.” He shot a glance at Cerulean who kept his gaze focused straight ahead. Rubbing his hands together, Sterling was ready to move on. “So, what’s next? I assume that Mauve has prepared proper accommodations and perhaps even a few refreshing—”
“Mauve is dead.” Tarragon stared fixedly at Sterling. It was an announcement. A fact. The moon is high. The floor is dry. Nothing more.
Nova gasped, her hand flying to her mouth in perfect imitation of shocked human grief.
Cerulean dropped his gaze, shaking his head. Another legitimate sign of grief.
Zuri gripped Tarragon’s shoulder above his right tentacle. “You don’t tell someone that the love of their life is dead like—”
“She wasn’t!” Sterling heard the words but wasn’t sure they had come from his mouth. But they must have. Everyone was staring at him. He shook himself. He was still here. In this shabby hut. On Earth. With these idiots. “She wasn’t the love of my life.”
Silence dragged on.
An owl hooted.
Nova shuffled her feet, staring at him with those perfect almond eyes of hers.
Cerulean looked up but said nothing, his expression properly grave.
Another owl hooted back. Nature was having a polite conversation in the night.
Zuri stomped up and gripped Sterling’s arm much too hard.
To his surprise, Sterling let the Ingot lead him out the door and back into the night.
Once they had wandered into a barn where a cow and calf lifted their heads in mild interest, Zuri leaned against the wall and crossed his arms.
Moon beams slanted into the room, highlighting the mama cow’s eyes, making them glitter.
“She thought that she could bargain with the mystery boy—even blackmail him. I guess he played a trick on her. Dropped her into the Cresta’s ship with barely any clothes on. So, she planned revenge. But he didn’t appreciate her attempts to allure him into her embrace.”
Is this nausea? Sickness? What humans are always ranting and raving about? Before he knew what was happening, Sterling vomited the bread and ale he had eaten at mid-day. It didn’t taste any better the second time around.
He felt Zuri’s hand on his shoulder. The instinctual desire to brush any gentle touch aside was halted by the mere fact that he felt too weak to brush a fly aside. Once he was certain that he could manage it, he straightened and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Then he instantly changed into fresh clothes.
Zuri stepped aside and leaned on the wall again. “I thought I lost Kelesta, remember? The worst hell I could imagine. Not having a chance to tell her that I loved her before she departed.”
Sterling sucked in a deep breath. “But she didn’t die. And she loved you without being told anything.” Something deep inside broke—free. “You have a remarkable daughter. I thought all mixed breeds were doomed to narcissism. But she shows true spirit. She actually cares about her parents. She just didn’t know it.”
Zuri shook his head. “I thought I was helping you deal with your loss.”
Sterling stood in the doorway and stared at the moonlight. “I can’t lose what I never had.”
Abbas dressed in a long white tunic in his human form paced before a shimmering essence in a brilliantly lit space. Rainbows glinted from a million facets surrounding them.
The shimmering form expanded as it spoke in a high dulcet tone, “You take these experiences too seriously. He’ll outgrow his mischievous nature. Just give him time.”
Halting, Abbas turned and faced the light. “You’re his mother, and you see nothing ominous in his murdering an innocent being without thought or repentance?”
A charming laugh tinkled like a small bell. “I was watching—everything! I saw the creature Mauve, and she is no loss to anyone. No caring parent, fond sibling, adoring lover, or needy child will miss her one bit. Even the Luxonian who kept her company cares little. Don’t worry.”
The tolling bells of doom rang in Abbas’ mind. “It was still wrong. He must not murder other beings.”
“You will teach him all he needs to know in time. Now come and rest with me. I’ve placed him into the care of others for now. Humanity won’t change a whit before you return.”
Against his better judgement, which he could not explain even to himself, Abbas let himself be drawn into her brilliant embrace.
His human figure dissolved, and the two beings shimmered like raindrops on a spring morning.
She cajoled him in merriment. “Stop brooding. No one will be upset. She was always thrusting herself into every experience to satiate her covetous desire for whatever pleasure she saw others having. She thought only of herself, a complete narcist.”
In an unprecedented move, Abbas buried his next thought deep in his interior. For if she knew the truth, it would destroy her happiness. You just described your son.
Books by A. K. Frailey
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OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ
OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI
OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)
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