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Waking Christmas by Viola Grace (1)

Chapter One

 

 

“This is Pod One requesting permission to drop personnel.” She waited for the response. She had been incredibly lucky to get authorization to leave; now, she had to return, and the same bureaucracy loomed in front of her.

“This is Dremarai communications. Identify the personnel.

“Elite Master Healer Minya Bosun, child of Elite Master D’hai Bosun and Elite Healer Myka Michaels.” She smiled. “And your third sister, Tim’ha.”

“You can’t currently reach me, Minya. Glad you are home. Now for the formal agreement. Elite Master Healer Minya Bosun, you are cleared for arrival on Dremarai. Be warned, there are weather issues, you may end up off course. Don’t worry, we will find you.”

She smiled. Their sister was still roaming the stars with her mate, but Minya was not one to leave home. She went, she learned, and she headed home as soon as she was qualified in her specialty of healing. She had learned a lot from her mother, but her mom had sent her to learn more.

Knowledge was never wasted in her household, and her father had no choice but to send her off when her mother asked him. A skilled healer was an asset to their people.

“On target, preparing to drop.”

“See you on the ground, Minya.”

She smiled briefly but concentrated on the targeting, “Three, two, one... drop.”

She hit the trigger, and the unmanned vessel she was attached to released her. The slow drift of her pod was tracked by her instrument panel.

Her propulsion unit was returning to the ship that waited outside the legal boundary of Dremarai space.

The pod fell silently and slowly toward the planet rotating beneath her, and she closed her eyes to feel the rocks and slight turns of her conveyance.

She had been away from home long enough to want to hug the hell out of all of her siblings and her parents.

Minya had enjoyed learning, enjoyed her classmates and the folk she had been able to help using mechanical and talented methods. She had touched lives and had enough time to focus on what she wanted for her own future.

It wasn’t quite fair to say that she wanted a man like her father, but she did want one who was secure enough that she could stand on her own two feet and he would have her back like her mother did.

She grinned at her thoughts and confirmed her harness was in place. Three more minutes passed, and the ride began to get rough.

Minya crossed her arms over her chest as she felt the atmospheric strikes against the thin hull. She was battered and knocked for what seemed like hours, but the frantic impact alert got her into her landing position.

The pod bounced, creaked, and rolled across the surface of Dremarai. At least she knew that she would be home in a few hours. The magic of the world under her would have her family at her side the moment they figured out where she was.

Minya groaned and flicked on her com unit. The bright lights that should have been there were dark. The pod was silent.

“Balls.” She grunted and tried to use an external scan. Nothing.

Minya rubbed the back of her neck and tried to think of what to do next. The pods weren’t outfitted for extensive use. They dropped and were retrieved and refitted until the next time one needed to fall from the heavens. She was pretty sure that her pod was a lost cause.

She came to a decision and unclasped her harness, moving with a confidence she didn’t feel. She got out of her seat, and she moved with shaking limbs. She got to the door, and it didn’t respond to her command, so she checked the temperature. It was cold. There was an icy sensation on her hand when she touched the seam of the ship.

Minya sat back in the pilot’s seat and pulled the surround down again. If there was ice outside, she was either in the mountains or at one of the poles. Balls.

The pod was right-side up, so she had that on her side, and she was wearing her armoured suit, so she had insulation but not nearly enough. With no electronics, she had no way of getting out of the pod, so she was going to have to resort to extreme measures.

Just to be on the safe side, she buckled in her harness again, reached down, and pulled the handle that yanked the cable that triggered the shaped explosives. The door blew out, and the icy air rushed in.

She unbuckled her harness, put on her gloves, and got out of her chair. She had just terminally air-conditioned the pod.

Minya left the pod, and she gasped at the icy air. Her heart sank; it wasn’t one of the mountain ranges near her home. She had been blown to the end of the world.

“Dammit.” Her mother’s language was useful when you wanted to express displeasure. Her own use of the Terran phrases had made a few of her classmates laugh. They had one parent from the same world, so they understood her perfectly.

She tucked her arms close to her body and tried to reach out to find her family. There was nothing. The magic that had tied her to them her entire life was suddenly gone.

“Well, I am here, and they will find me. I am sure of it.”

She nodded, looked around at the white and icy landscape, and decided to head out to the distant hills. There was a curl in the air that might be steam or smoke. It was steady, so she focused on that one abnormality and took her first steps into the unknown.

The crunch of the snow under her feet became an echo for her heartbeat. There was no use calling herself an idiot. She was supposed to be home with friends and family by now. The irony of dying on her homeworld wasn’t lost on her. She had travelled the stars and was going to die where any members of her family could transport to her in a matter of minutes.

 

Her frost-covered lashes must be blocking her vision. She saw a dark line of something on the ice, and it was coming toward her rather quickly.

She kept walking toward the curl of smoke that didn’t appear to be getting any closer. It had been two hours of hiking so far, and she guessed she was going to end as a frozen statue in the dead zone of Dremarai.

Minya kept walking, and the dark line got closer and larger. She heard barking and kept plodding forward.

When the group of men and dogs surrounded her, she simply walked past them, sure that her mind was creating this bit of hope out of desperation.

“Stranger, come with us, or you will die,” one of the men spoke.

Her jaw was locked from tension, so she continued to walk.

Hands gripped her arms, and she was bodily lifted and set onto a covered sled. She was wrapped in furs, and the men turned back the way they had come with their large, fluffy canines pulling the sleds.

She kept herself awake, but it took superhuman effort. Her body felt temperature like her mother’s. She wasn’t nearly as sturdy as a native-born Dremarai. Her internal thermostat was a lot hotter, so when she lost body heat, it really had an impact.

Minya went through the stages of hypothermia in her mind. She could still survive if she could get a slow and gentle warming from the inside out.

The haunches of the dogs were distracting, so she burrowed into the bedding that she was wrapped in and pulled it over her head, reciting the location spell that would get her family to her.

Feeling threatened on her world was a strange feeling, so she brushed it aside. She would be threatened when something warranted it. Right now, she needed to focus on her body shaking and trying to get itself warm. It was definitely peculiar to triage her own needs first.

 

When the sled stopped, she peeped out and stared up at jagged and deadly crystals hanging from the cavern’s ceiling. The scrape of doors closing behind them ceased the flow of cold air in an instant. The room they were in was comfortable and warm in a minute or two.

The men took care of the dogs first, and then, one pried her out of her cocoon. “Come, stranger.”

She tried to stand up, but her muscles had been rigid for too long. She had the strength of a boiled bean.

“How long were you out there?”

“Two hours before I first saw you and half an hour after that.” She accepted his help when he lifted her out of the sled and kept her up with an arm around her waist.

She was walked into an inner cavern, and that is when she saw her first djinn females. The women murmured and clucked to her, taking her temperature with a hand to the forehead, and then, they started plying her with tea.

Sitting and sipping tea when the women wouldn’t speak to her was very peculiar. She was the guest, so to speak, so they were obligated to greet her, and no one had even tried.

This was a very peculiar society. Not like any of the Dremarai people she had known during her lifetime.

She took another cup of hot tea, and her hands shook violently. It took focus, but she got the tea to her lips, and she drank it.

She started a violent round of the shakes, and she deflected all attempts to give her more tea until the shaking stopped.

When she was stable, she reached out with her cup and accepted a refill.

It took her over an hour to regain her even body temperature. When she slid the blanket from her shoulders, the women got excited. Out of nowhere, they produced a crown of dark green leaves with white berries and a sash made of spiked leaves and red berries.

She blinked and was at a loss of what to do next. The women smiled and ushered her to the back of the area they had been inhabiting. Minya went along and followed them to a cavern that had the elevated humidity of a bath.

Since no one was talking to her, a bath was right up her alley.

 

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