Lost in Barbarian Space(7)

By: Anna Hackett


“It’s a pleasure to meet you Warlord Mal Dor. I’m Niklas Phoenix, Director of Acquisitions for the Institute of Historical Preservation.” The man came forward to shake hands. “My cousins have…had a lot to say.”

Kavon’s teeth flashed. “Aurina’s brothers are not particularly thrilled she mated me and stayed on Markaria.”

Niklas smiled. “That would be putting it mildly.”

Aurina sniffed. “My brothers are…overprotective.” She raised a brow at her mate. “Unfortunately, my husband is as well.”

“They love you,” Niklas said. “We are extremely excited to be here. We’ve been studying the information and images that Aurina sent through regarding the discovery of the ship of the Earth explorers. The First Warriors. Fascinating stuff. And—” the man’s blue eyes gleamed “—we’ve found some extra information that should prove very interesting for you, Warlord Mal Dor.”

“Call me Kavon.” When Aurina elbowed him, he glanced at her, then back at Nik. “Please.”

The astro-archeologist smiled. “Kavon. But before we go any further, let me introduce my team.” He lifted a hand at the tall woman by his side. “This is my partner, Nera.”

The woman didn’t say a word, just gave a slow nod.

Colm’s instincts still itched. He would not turn his back on this one.

“Seriously, you guys don’t want to mess with Nera.” The pink-haired one called Lala blew a huge bubble that snapped with a loud pop. “She might not be as big as you guys, but she’ll make Tanari hash out of you with her sword quicker than you can say—”

“Lala,” Nik said with exaggerated patience.

“Sorry.” The girl’s smile said she was nothing of the sort. “Nera is badass, especially if anyone tries to hurt Nik.”

Nera looked at Lala.

The girl’s mouth snapped shut. “Right. Quiet now.” She made a zipping motion across her lips. Then she leaned toward Colm, a conspiratorial look on her face. “I think I just wet myself a little bit.”

“This is Lala,” Nik said. “She’s a student assistant on this trip. It’s a part of her studies.”

The girl nodded. “I haven’t decided what I’m going to specialize in yet. Explosives, weapons creation, astro-archeology, cooking…I’m keeping my options open.”

Nik rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and even the woman, Nera, looked like a faint smile was threatening.

“And this is Agent Honor Brandall.” Nik swept his hand at the other woman.

The blonde stepped forward.

“She’s Nera’s second-in-command on the security team on our ship the Magellan.”

Kavon nodded. “I would like to introduce my second, and your guide for your expedition on Markaria. Colm Mal Kor.”

Colm let his gaze touch on all of them, lingering on the blonde. Her gaze was direct. “Kavon has informed me we are going to welcome you in the Markarian way.”

“And what way is that?” Agent Brandall asked. She had a smoky voice that Colm liked.

“Swords, ale and food.” He locked his gaze with hers. “Do you like fighting, Agent Brandall?”

She shot him a smile laced with challenge. “I just happen to love it, Warrior Mal Kor.”


***

Honor stood with her hands behind her back and listened to the clash of metal on metal.

Sunlight glinted off the swords swinging in the open-air arena. Many locals were seated on the long rows of stone benches, watching the impressive display.

She wasn’t sure if they were there for the sweat-slicked flex of hard muscles, or the exceptional sword-fighting.

Honor was watching the sword-fighting moves. For big men, the Markarian warriors moved surprisingly well. She shouldn’t be surprised. She’d heard all about the nanami their bodies were infused with. She had a report about the microscopic organisms on her Sync, and apart from knowing they improved the Markarians’ speed, strength and reflexes, she didn’t know much else. Honor hated having a gap in her intel.

She saw a warrior block the swing of another. The two men strained against each other.

She didn’t use a sword. Nera did, but her boss’ blade was nothing like the huge swords the barbarians had. Honor had to admit, the weapons were gorgeous—long, straight blades with decorative points near the hilts that could easily cause injury to an inexperienced user.