Hers to Choose

By: Patricia A. Knight

Acknowledgements



Writing is the product of rich interior life. Imagination fires the mind and fingers capture those elusive wisps of thought and transfer them to paper. But what feeds the fires of imagination? Well, it helps to start by being bat-sh*t crazy. But, in my case, it is an amazing group of authors and critique partners: my sweet “Em” and Travis, lovely Aliya and Stephanie and Kayla. And finally, to my long-suffering lover of many years who lets me sit at the keyboard typing while his dinner burns on the stove. Gotta love a man like that.



Thank you to Skylar Faith at TruenotDreams for the stunning covers and to Troll River Publications for, well, everything. You are beyond awesome.





To Dan,



You are where all my heroes begin.

Nothing makes sense without you.






Prologue





Isolated, far from the interstellar trade lanes, hundreds of light years from any civilized planet, Verdantia marooned the Earth colonists on her surface—then she spoke to them.





After decades searching the vast Hyperion Galaxy for a home, after the fierce elation of finding the perfect jewel of a planet, the Nuovo Terrans found themselves stranded on Verdantia. To their consternation, the planet itself interacted with them.

A genetically select few were able to connect with the planet’s sentience while having sexual intercourse, and thereby tap into and manipulate the enormous energy within the planet. These elite became the aristocracy of Verdantia, the magisters and magistras. Through arduous sexual sacraments known as the Greater and Lesser Rites, these elite enhanced many facets of everyday life, from encouraging crops to grow to heating homes.

To the space-weary colony settling her surface, the shocking discovery had been their salvation. The energies radiating from Verdantia’s vast underground diaman pipes disrupted technology, rendering it so unreliable as to be useless. The superstitious called it magick. The well-educated recognized a unique combination of electro-magnetism and harmonics guided by a primitive sentience. The green Eden that was Verdantia lived.

For centuries, descendants of the original, space-faring colonists studied how to harness the enormous forces produced by this sexual congress between the settlers gifted with this ability.

Of foremost importance to the resource-rich, isolated planet, their sexual energy powered an impenetrable shield protecting the planet from off-world invasion. The energy wall flowed from soaring towers housing diamantorre—highly-charged, crystalline constructs. These strategic stone towers dotted the planet in a grid, their connecting web energized by the Great Rite. Only one area on the planet was devoid of the diaman pipes and not sheltered by the sigil towers—the desert wasteland of the Oshtesh. It was in this isolated pocket of forbidding landscape that the Verdantians built their spaceport.

In the High Enclave, the stone-walled complex where docenti taught the high-level magicks, elite geneticists, the L’anziano, arranged marriages between highborn houses, to maximize advantageous matings of magickal bloodlines. Centuries of strict breeding by the L’anziano produced the thirty-two noble houses sitting in Verdantia’s House of Lords.

The widespread revelation of the potent aphrodisiac cinnagin, the extract of a tree unique to the forests of Verdantia, transformed the isolated planet's galactic status from quaintly primitive to the prized crown jewel of the interstellar economy. A mere gram of cinnagin would purchase an inter-stellar yacht on the pleasure planets of Telleria and Vxloncia.

For a rapacious race of scavengers, slavers and drug runners, Verdantia and the allure of her priceless cinnagin presented an irresistible target. In a well-organized use of vicious, overwhelming force, the Haarb invaded Verdantia through gaps in the energy shield. Brutal torture revealed the secrets powering the diamantorre and the Haarb butchery of the aristocratic magisters and magistras began. At the end of a cruel three years war, the Verdantians re-established the planetary shield and repulsed the Haarb.

The staggering cost to the Verdantians could be counted in the millions of missing or dead inhabitants. The Haarb had depopulated vast sections of the planet, selling the inhabitants into slavery on the asteroid mines or pleasure planets. The genetic markers, carefully bred into the population for over five hundred years, now resided in only eight bloodlines—and only two women of child-bearing age. The Verdantians stood to lose the only link to their sentient planet.