Lost in Barbarian Space(4)

By: Anna Hackett


Kavon’s golden-brown gaze zeroed in on Colm. There was a shrewd intelligence there, and an unwavering determination. It was those qualities that had made Colm pledge allegiance to this man, far more than Kavon’s legendary sword arm.

Colm was so very sorry that soon, he would have to break that allegiance.

Colm shook off his bad feelings and hid them behind a smile. “I’m sure there are some ground hares to be found.”

Kavon muttered a curse.

Colm’s smile turned real. No warrior would ever deign to hunt hare.

“Maybe mated life has made you slow, my friend.” Colm pressed his tongue to his teeth and finished cleaning his sword. “A beautiful woman in your bed has made you lazy. You need to be faster next time.”

Kavon snorted. “I think you are jealous, Colm. You cavort with whatever female takes your interest and toss her out of your bed the next day. You cannot seem to hold on to one. I’ll take Aurina in my bed every night to hunting a wulver any day.”

Colm liked the free-spirited skyflyer Kavon had claimed as his, but Colm knew he would never have a woman of his own.

Couldn’t ever claim a bondmate.

His gut hardened, like a rock had settled there. He sucked in a breath. It didn’t matter. He enjoyed a variety of pretty females when it suited him.

“How about we get this wulver home? You have your grand feast to prepare for.”

Together, they hefted the beast up, and set off through the trees.

“The skyflyer ship from the Institute of Historical Preservation is already in orbit,” Kavon said. “It is an honor to have them here to study and learn more about the First Warriors.”

Colm already knew. Everyone in the village, across Kavon’s lands and beyond, had been talking about it. It made Colm scowl. He’d known Kavon’s mate, Aurina, would change their lives, but he didn’t have to love it. Kavon and their King, Corant Mal Rann, were controlling outside access to Markaria, trading for advanced technology—like medscopes, that could cure all manner of injuries and disease, and personal computer devices like Syncs.

But Colm was a warrior. He lived to ensure the security of his people, and knowing there were more advanced peoples out there—and some of them were interested in his world—made him uneasy.

“They want to explore our world,” Kavon continued. “And I want you to lead them. I’m assigning you to be their guide and protect them.”

Colm stopped. “No.”

“Colm—”

“No.” Colm shook his head and stared at Kavon. “I am not a babysitter.”

And he had his own issues—issues he’d kept secret from Kavon—that would only be exacerbated by outside influence.

Kavon tugged on his end of the wulver and they kept walking. The tense silence was only broken by their heavy treads.

They cleared the trees and ahead their two hargon beasts waited, grazing on the grassland where they’d left them. The large, muscular animals were favored by warriors. With their tough, black, leather-like skin, sharp horns atop their heads, and spikes down the back of their long necks, they were excellent animals for a warrior to ride into war or a fight.

“Colm, you are my friend and my best warrior. Aurina’s cousin is the leader of this group and I need you to ensure he doesn’t get eaten by a darken beast or get lost in the Darken Wilds. Our world is not what they are used to.” The warlord turned to look out across the meadow.

Colm followed his gaze. In the distance, the spiked peaks of the Grimore Mountains in the Darken Wilds were visible. The Wilds were a dangerous place, especially at night. They were home to all manner of beasts and desperate raiders. Kavon also had mines there and his warriors worked hard to protect the miners.

The highest, most jagged peak caught Colm’s attention. Mount Furioso. It was where their ancestors, the First Warriors—explorers from old Earth—had crash-landed thousands of years ago. It was where they had gone on to use their advanced technology to create the nanami and give birth to the modern-day Markarians, from the wild, primitive animals they’d been before.

With Aurina’s help, they’d discovered the crash site of the First Warriors’ ship on a wild, daring adventure into the Wilds that had almost cost Kavon his life.