This is Inga and Samil’s story. In it, Inga has to overcome what happened to her in Book One. This theme may be sensitive for some readers.
“Hurry up,” Padraig barks and I jump, glancing at the bigger Zmaj.
His bulk blocks out one of the suns and casts a long shadow. Grimacing, I nod and try to gather the meteorite glass faster. He is always so angry, though it’s been much better since he mated with Maeve.
“Be nice,” Maeve says, placing a hand on his arm.
Padraig’s hard visage softens when he looks at her and he nods. “Hurry up. Please,” Padraig says, but the look in his eyes carries the threat of the same consequences.
“Right,” I agree.
Maeve’s belly is swelling with child, but she was insistent that she come along. All the Tribe heard their argument, the human female doesn’t cower to the surly smith. She has tamed Padraig, something I would have thought impossible.
I wish I was as brave as her.
Kate, Penelope, and Inga pause in their work and share their water. The suns create a perfect halo of light around Inga’s light-red hair which seems to cast a radiance of its own. She smiles at something that Kate says and my hearts skip their beats.
She is so perfect. If only I was worthy of a mate like her. I know I’m not, I am not as strong as the other Zmaj, cannot hunt as well, and I am not as fast. Sadness is a roaring sand-storm raging in my thoughts. I have to accept the situation, no matter how much I don’t like it.
Shaking my head, I tear my eyes away and return to gathering the glass. No matter how hard I try though, I can’t quit watching Inga out of the corner of my eye. Padraig walks over to the group of females and Inga stops talking. The change in her is obvious, causing a flash of anger to race through my blood.
Penelope moves to stand between Padraig and Inga. I am grateful, the other female is doing what I cannot. Padraig moves away, and the females go back to what they were doing. Inga talks a lot when there aren’t any males around. I hear her sweet voice though I can barely make out the words because of the distance. The other females laugh often at what she says, and Inga is smiling. She’s funny, I like funny. I can be funny.
I try to keep my attention from straying but it’s impossible. There is an ache in my guts when I cannot see Inga. I do not know what it is and do not know how to stop it. I want it to go away. I need to concentrate on working so as not to anger Padraig, but Inga is like gravity, inexorably pulling me in.
I imagine how soft her skin would feel. The smell of her hair. Her laughing at something I say or do. That magical sound makes my chest swell even only hearing it in my imagination. Maybe I could become worthy of her? Prove myself to be a male worth of a mate?
The day passes while we gather the glass. Fortune smiles on us and we don’t encounter any Invaders. As the suns drop to the horizon and the shadows grow longer, I watch weariness come over Inga’s face. I would carry her load for her but how would she react?
She’s working a ways off from me, at the top of a dune, backlit by the setting suns. Something shifts close to her, jerking my attention to it.
“NO!” I yell, dropping my basket.
The sand by her shifts again and she looks back, her eyes wide.
“Run!” Padraig, who is closer to her than I, yells.
Inga flinches, raising an arm protectively over her face but she doesn’t move. Padraig leaps across the sand, wings spreading as he catches air currents. Inga cowers, dropping to her knees. I run forward, ready to face down both Padraig and the creature rising from the sand.
Padraig lands before I get close, grabbing her roughly and throwing her over his shoulder. He leaps away from that location, gliding down the dune. The sand erupts where she was a moment ago and five slender tendrils wave in the air.
If she’d been there, it would have captured her. I don’t know what this thing is but it tried to hurt Inga. Freeing my belt knife, I turn it so that the sharp point is aimed down and drive it into the thing.
A loud screech rips through the air as my blade pierces it. The thin arm-like parts of it flail at the air, slapping at me ineffectively. Twisting the knife, the ground shudders beneath me and the tendrils collapse, lying lifeless.
When I turn around, the other males are staring at me. Feeling strangely defiant, I meet their gazes, squaring my shoulders and not looking away. Bashir nods, a sharp barely noticeable motion, then he and the others resume loading the gathered glass on the transport.
Inga pushes away from Padraig and moves to stand with the other females. She doesn’t speak or meet his eyes. Padraig stares, harrumphing before he turns to help the other males. Penelope pulls Inga into an embrace and jealousy stabs through my chest. I should be holding her. I should be the one comforting her.
I’m not worthy though. She is a goddess sent to Tajss. I am not even a hunter.
With a heavy weight settling on my heart, I help the others load.