I could feel her getting closer. She wasn’t seriously hunting me yet, but it was only a matter of time. At least, I assumed she wasn’t giving it her all to catch me. Her path had touched mine briefly weeks ago when I wasn’t being as careful as I should’ve been. That little bit of sloppiness had smartened me right the fuck up, and I was now moving around the dream world with a level of carefulness that bordered on highly paranoid. Given my mental state, that could’ve been worrisome, but I knew without a doubt that it would also keep me alive.
I expected somebody to be sent for me when I started to slip, but not someone of her calibre. I knew who Phaedra was by reputation, and I was flattered and horrified that the Shal-hazal Council felt I was dangerous enough to have her set on my tail. There was only one person better at Litch hunting than Phaedra, and if Litch Hunter Sunki had been sent after me, I was sure I’d already be dead.
Yes, I was the Litch Will of my House, making me one of the thirteen most powerful Litches around. Yes, I had forty-three sanctioned kills to my record. Yes, I’d been on active duty longer than any Litch in recent history. I really didn’t think that warranted sending someone like her after me though. I wasn’t that far gone. Yet. I was still in control of myself. The voices hadn’t won and taken me over. I could still let one of them use my body for brief periods of time without fearing I wouldn’t be able to wrest it back.
All Litches knew the names of the Litch Hunters. We also knew who were fresh off the training grounds and who’d been out in the fields doing their jobs. Phaedra was very, very good. She’d been trained by Litch Hunter Sunki, and that was both a very deep honour and something reserved for the best of the best. Litch Hunter Sunki personally picked the Shal-hazal Warriors she trained, and to her credit, none of the Litch Hunters she’d trained had ever been killed by the Litches they hunted, a record no other trainer could boast.
The only reason I could realistically come up with for having Phaedra set on me was that I’d pissed off somebody on the Council. For the life of me though, I couldn’t think of a single person that I’d offended to that level on the Council. My duties as Litch Will for my House and my seat on the Council had been suspended at the same time that the death order had been slapped on my head.
Thank all the gods above and below that my walking disaster of a sha-ter’bil, my half-brother through our shared father, Moswen, had caught me up in brawl the afternoon before we were to go to the Council for the regular monthly meeting. Fighting was commonplace on Awh’an and nobody cared much who fought whom or where it happened. Half the time, a crowd formed and cheered on the people who were fighting even if they had no idea who the fighters were or why they were fighting. Awh’anise simply loved a good fight whether they were watching it or participating in it. Fights are a good time for all.
Except when the fight sends you through a plate glass window and into a bakery. Every single piece of pastry, cake, pie and cookie ended up getting smashed, crushed, stomped into the floor and eventually involved in a food fight with a good dozen and a half other people. I smiled at the memory of grinding Moswen’s face into a four-tiered cake and stuffing a cream-filled pastry down his pants.
That little bit of fun had landed me and Moswen in jail for several hours for destruction of personal property to the tune of several thousands of dollars. Our nebil, Femi, the Warrior Will of our House, came and bailed our asses out while chewing us new holes for our stupidity. I let her do it because it would’ve been so much worse if my sho, the Healer Will of our House, had shown up.
But my sho was already at the Council meeting, and Femi had been running late when we managed to get hold of her just as she was heading out the door. It was the same Council meeting where my death sentence was handed down. The meeting where the Council planned to hold me instead of having to chase my ass down in order to kill me. Neither my sho nor my nebil were supposed to warn me and if it ever got out that they had, they’d be facing some serious discipline. But when I got the message on my comm that simply said ‘Run!’, I ran.
While I wasn’t thrilled with having to shell out that much money in fines and bail for something that wasn’t my fault in any way, Moswen’s utterly screwed up karma had saved my ass by getting me tossed into jail. His karma kept Moswen from going to that meeting, too, and he’d helped me get off Awh’an and to have a head start on Phaedra. If the Council ever found out he’d taken me to another world through dreams when he knew I had a death sentence on my head, they’d flay his striped ass. He’d taken a huge risk to help me escape, but we were family, and family stuck together, no matter what.
I was starting to go crazy and the Shal-hazal Healers that monitored the Litches mental health noticed and reported my deterioration months ago. No further contracts came my way once that little bit of information made the rounds. Instability was eating at my brain. I knew it, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. Just the fact that I had made it all the way to the ripe old age of twenty-eight was a testament to my mental strength. That strength was finally failing me now, and I was pissed off, frustrated and depressed that things had reached the point where they were now.
I closed my eyes, and my mind drifted despite my best efforts to stay focused. Tiredness pulled my mind into sleep between one breath and the next. I slipped through the dream world unnoticed by everyone. The exception to that would be Phaedra, of course, but I didn’t get the sense of her anywhere near me at the moment. She would be able to read my passage when she eventually found my tracks, and I had no doubt that she would be able to find them given time. I had no destination as I walked the dream world, but I was still trying to erase my presence as much as possible. There was no point in my running from her if I wasn’t going to take the steps necessary to stay at least a few leaps ahead of her.
**Run faster. She’ll catch you and kill you. **
**Stop and face her. You can take her. **
**Steal another’s mind, and you’ll have enough power to kill her. **
**Beg for your life. You didn’t choose this. **
I forced myself from the dream world, my eyes snapped open, and a growl was on my lips. The voices were stronger in the dream world, and there was only so much of that chatter that I could take without feeling like my grip on sanity was slipping away faster than it already was. To make matters even worse, the voices that taunted me were all in different languages creating a racket that made me want to stick knives in my ears to make it just stop - not that it would help since the voices were inside my head and not something I was hearing through my ears.
They were real and not a product of my mind. They were all that was left of the people I’d killed in my duties as a Shal-hazal Litch. They weren’t echoes or memories that tormented me either. As a Litch, I absorbed the actual minds of my targets into mine. I was privy to every single scrap of knowledge and memory they had. They remained aware and retained their personalities, too. They knew their bodies were dead, who I was and what I’d done to land them where they were. To say that they were unhappy with me and their current state of non-corporal being was an understatement of epic size.
The occasional whispers I heard when I first started working as a Litch became constant murmurs and eventually the regular tones of voices I now heard when I was in the dream world. In a few more months, I was sure they’d be screaming at me in the dream world, demanding I do what they wanted. Soon I’d hear them loud and clear in the waking world, too. From there, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d start listening to the voices, my resistance worn down from the constant battering of dozens of people all wanting control of my body.
Nothing good ever came of listening to the desires of those voices either. I wasn’t randomly sent out to suck away the minds of the average person. That was a waste of my abilities. Because a Litch had a limited amount of time before going insane, we were only sent to retrieve the top officials and leaders. So, I currently shared head space with some of the most despicable, slimy, evil, psychotic, sociopathic, tyrannical, megalomaniacs I’d ever had the displeasure to meet. My fondest wish was to be rid of the voices. I’d happily do my job as a Litch if there was a way to get rid of the person from my mind once the information I’d been sent to get was taken.
My head felt heavy with fatigue and my thoughts sluggish. Despite the tiny slide into sleep earlier, I wasn’t rested. It’d been weeks since I’d gotten a complete night’s rest. A few hours here and there were not enough, and my senses were becoming dulled. The Litch Hunter would find me through my own sloppiness and madness. Phaedra had almost ten years of experience on me. I had desperation on my side, but eventually, not even that would be enough to escape her. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be driven insane either, but that was already in the works, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I slumped into the captain’s chair and rubbed a hand over my face. I could feel the self-pity welling up and simply lacked the energy to batten it back down. Life just seemed so fucking unfair. I was of the Bloodline. For all their rarity in the general population of Awh’anise, Shal-hazal were plentiful in my extended family. There were currently six of us out of twenty-seven immediate family and that was a virtually unheard of number. Hell, there were even two Vi’deshron in my family tree and those were even rarer than a Shal-hazal. There were families that went for hundreds of years without a Shal-hazal being born. Some have never had one.
My family tended towards either the Healer class or Spirit class with a Warrior thrown in every now and again to add variety. When I’d been born with the Neksha on the back of my neck, there’d been hopes that I’d be a Warrior since my nebil, Femi, was the only one that’d been born in my extended family in almost a two hundred years. When I was old enough to understand the meaning of the mark I carried, I’d been excited to be able to follow in the footsteps of my sho and nebil.
I passed my novice training with flying colours, scoring the highest in my conclave the last five years. I studied hard and earned all kinds of praise from my teachers. I drove myself to excel at hand-to-hand combat, sure that I was going to be revealed to be a Warrior class Shal-hazal. I remember feeling excited and nervous about the fast and Dream-Walking encounter with the Fire Snakes to find out for sure what I was destined to become. What did I turn out to be?
A Litch. A gods damned Litch.
I was the only Litch in my family and the first Litch in my conclave in almost two hundred years. I know I was the only Litch to last over ten years in active service. And now, that service was done. Killing an insane Litch is the only way to deal with us. Despite all the efforts of Shal-hazal Healers and Awh’anise doctors, no one had been able to figure out how to prevent or cure our insanity. The obvious answer was to get rid of the voices in our heads, but we’d yet to work out how to do that without dying or going crazy even faster. The voices didn’t want to die either, so they did whatever was necessary to keep the Litch host alive until the time that they could take over the body and subdue the Litch’s mind.
I sighed heavily, my pity party moving into full swing.
Phaedra was letting me run. I’d be easier to take down if I was tired and harried. I knew that, but I ran anyway. I could boost myself temporarily by sucking up someone’s mind and be able to find and kill the Litch Hunter before she even knew what hit her, but that would speed up my approaching insanity and death. There was also the chance that I wouldn’t get to Phaedra before she realized what I’d done. The extra power was time sensitive, and if she found me after it was over….
It would also be a random killing, and I wasn’t that far gone yet. I still had some morals left, shaky as they were. Taking my own life was almost impossible. The voices of the people I killed that lived on in my head refused to allow that. They didn’t want to give up even the barest of existence they had or the possibility of gaining a body. They refused to die, and so I couldn’t die by my own hand. It was almost funny when viewed that way.
I needed sleep. I needed to rest and re-group. If I got some sleep - actual sleep and not Dream-Walking - I could better fight the voices. I could resist them and what they urged me to do a little longer. I was willing to do almost anything to slow my descent into madness. I couldn’t stop drowning in insanity but I could fight against it with everything I had.
But sleep wasn’t my escape anymore. My mental torment was stronger then. The Litch Hunter waited for me in the dream world. She hadn’t found me yet, but she was tracing my footprints, and every time I went to the dream world, I could feel her getting closer. Time wasn’t on my side, and I wanted to scream my rage at the unfairness of it all. I felt my eyes slide closed again as exhaustion finally overtook me. The space ship I’d stolen faded away as the dream world opened to me and the voices clamoured in my head.
A promise of peace whispered through my mind, calling me. I couldn’t quite make out exactly how that promise of peace would be fulfilled, but I wanted it with every fibre of my being. The soft voice was different from the caterwauling of the voices in my head. The whisper was gentle and soothed my frazzled nerves. The urge to find where that whisper came from was so strong; there was no way I could stop myself from trying to find the source.
I knew with rock-solid certainty that it wasn’t one of the voices in my head. I knew all of them intimately. This new voice drew me, hinting at things that I had no business wanting or deserving. My curiosity wouldn’t let me ignore it though. A feeling very much like a compulsion had me casting around the dream world for where that peaceful whispering was coming from. I caught a hint of it and I started to follow the whisper. I needed to find it. I knew wandering off after some random voice was stupid as hell and could allow Phaedra to find me, but that voice was compelling beyond all reason.
I felt that if I found that whisper, I’d find my salvation.
My dreams were my escape. In my dreams, I was free to be whatever I wanted. No one ran from me in my dreams. There were no whispers behind my back here. No pointed looks of revulsion or disgust. In my dreams, people gladly shared my time. I think that my dreams helped keep me sane. They were certainly far different from the harsh and depressing reality of being hated and feared by my own people.
I travelled along a road- alone. I didn’t know where I was going or why, but the trip felt important. There was a feel of something life changing about this dream, and I laughed at myself and the silliness my mind was capable of producing. The dream was just a pleasant escape from the cold, lonely world in which I lived. Sure, there were times when I would’ve loved to just stay in a dream where I was treated to friendly smiles and affection, but I was also realistic enough to know that eventually I’d tire of something that wasn’t real.
The weather was comfortable, and the sun shone in the sky. Birds sang in the trees, and small animals leapt from branch to branch, following and chattering at me. A stream meandered next to the road and eventually became a river that churned and foamed along. I walked around a curve in the road and spotted a figure standing at the edge of the river.
I’d never dreamed of anyone who looked like him and I wondered where I’d come up with such an idea. He was roughly four inches shorter than me and looked several years younger. He wasn’t Laiokian like me or any of the other species I’d dealt with in my job as a negotiator. He was very striking in appearance, but there seemed to be something not quite right about him that I couldn’t put my finger on. He didn’t seem to be a mish-mash of species that my mind had thrown together. He was too… complete for that. He felt like more than just a construct of my mind. He felt like a real person, which was ridiculous as this was just a dream.
I walked up to the person and felt a violent storm of emotions that almost made me back away in surprise. At the same time that I wanted to back away from him, I felt drawn to him and wanted to ease the torment he seemed to be under. I had always wanted my dreams to be as calming as possible. This was, by far, the strangest thing I could remember dreaming, and I had no idea why I would’ve dreamed him that way.
His eyes, when he turned to look at me, were a pale green and had elliptical pupils. His skin was lightly tanned and a long tail, tipped with a brush of dark, chocolate-coloured hair, twitched back and forth behind him, almost hypnotically. His hair was a warm chestnut that lightened to a honey colour at the tips. It fell in gentle waves to the middle of his back and looked silky soft. I was surprised that I wanted to touch it to see if it was as soft as it looked. I rarely touched people first and people almost never touched me, even in my dreams. But the impulse was still there to touch the captivating creature in front of me and that, in itself, was odd.
He had talons on his fingers that sheathed in and out in what looked like a nervous gesture as he stared at me. On any other person, I’d have said it was something that should’ve made me afraid, yet it didn’t. The look he was giving me was intense, but instead of feeling nervous from such a concentrated stare, I felt… comfortable having him look at me so forcefully. The delicate points of his ears peeked out from his loose hair. His ears were nowhere near as long as mine, but mine were considered freakishly long, bordering on obscene, by my people’s standards. I thought his were cute because they were so small. He was utterly fascinating, and I just had to congratulate myself on dreaming up such a wonderful specimen. There was simply no way someone this interesting could be real regardless of the impressions of emotions I was getting from him.
“Come walk with me. It’s a beautiful day, and I’d like the company,” I said as I gestured to the road and started to walk.
He hesitated before following me. He seemed tense, like he was waiting for disaster to strike or somebody to jump from the bushes and attack him. But he also made sure to keep pace with me, as if afraid I’d vanish before him. He kept looking at me like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, and the curiosity coming from him was intense. I got that sensation again of him not being a product of my mind and frowned a little but eventually let the thought go. Of course he was just a figment of my imagination. What else could he be?
We walked in silence for a while until he eventually began to relax. He was grace in motion as he walked, and I had to keep jerking my attention back to the road or risk tripping and falling flat on my face. I’d never been so… entranced by a person before. Certainly not by one that wasn’t even real--more importantly, by another man. He seemed to be giving off subtle waves of sensuality and I found myself wondering what it would be like to kiss him. I had no idea where that thought came from. I may have noticed on occasion how attractive some men were, but it had never been in a sexual way. I was obviously much more in need of a little company between the sheets than I realized if I was starting to wonder what it would feel like to have his body pressed tightly to mine. We continued strolling in a comfortable silence for some time before he spoke. I was instantly charmed by the musical quality of his accent. I had really outdone myself in dreaming this gorgeous creature up.
“You shouldn’t be here with me. It’s dangerous,” he said as his eyes scanned the horizon.
I laughed at that. This was a dream. It was my dream. How dangerous could that be? Besides, he was something I dreamed up for my own amusement. I wouldn’t dream up something or someone to hurt me. Although, I did wonder why I had made him so striking or even made him a him if I was starting to think sexual things about him. If I wanted a sexual experience, why hadn’t I dreamed him as a her and put us in a lovely room with billowing curtains and soft, seductive music in the background?
“Nothing is real here. This is all something I’ve dreamed up to amuse myself. What’s your name?”
“Dreams are more real than most people think. This world isn’t completely a construct of yours.”
What in the world did he mean by that comment? If my dream wasn’t completely mine, then who was the other person sharing ownership with me, and how would that even be possible? He intrigued me so I studied him from the corner of my eye as we walked. He seemed visibly troubled by something. I was once again hit by the complex emotions roiling in him and that jolted me even more than his getting me to question my dream. I never dreamed people with emotions like those I was feeling from him. I got enough of them in my waking moments and looked forward to my dreams as a place where people were just people to me and not the roiling ball of emotions I dealt with on a daily basis.
“You still haven’t told me your name,” I prodded. “Or do I make one up for you?”
“Tyhlian,” he answered reluctantly.
“And what is troubling you, Tyhlian?”
He shot me a startled look and was about to deny anything was wrong. I held up a hand to stop him.
“Even in dreams, Tyhlian, I know when someone is having emotional trouble. Why I decided to dream you that way when I’ve never done that before… I don’t know. Call it my curse to sense these things. Tell me what’s wrong. I can make whatever is causing you to feel this way stop.”
Those weren’t idle words. Because of who and what I was, I could make whatever emotional problems Tyhlian was having go away, especially if he was a figment of my imagination. This was the most bizarre dream I’d ever had. Why I’d chosen to give Tyhlian emotions, never mind emotional upset, I had no idea. It seemed a cruel thing to do even if the people I usually interacted with might deserve it because of how I was treated. That I’d do that in a dream even if he was a product of my active imagination seemed very out of character for me. Maybe I wasn’t sucking away enough of my anger with my void, and Tyhlian was a manifestation of that. That made me feel rather passive-aggressive, and I didn’t like that.
The distress in Tyhlian surged, and he actually stopped walking, his entire body tense. It was almost like he was fighting within himself. He hissed something lowly in a language I didn’t understand, which was odd as I spoke over a dozen languages and had a universal translator implanted in my head. He started walking again, but the relaxed air from a few minutes ago was gone, and he was back to coiled tension.
“I shouldn’t be here. I only came because it felt… calm. I was following something -- a whispered promise.”
“Of course it’s calm. That’s one of my other talents and what helps me to be the excellent negotiator that I am. But why shouldn’t you be here? What kind of promise? That makes no sense. I created you. I created this world in my dream. You know, you’re really fascinating -- sexy even -- and I’ve never, ever said that to a man. I’ve no idea why I’m saying it now except this is a dream so I can say whatever I want. I’ve never seen an alien like you before, and I’ve seen lots of them in my line of work, so I have no idea how I came up with you.”
He laughed softly at that. Warmth was in his eyes, and he looked even more handsome when he smiled. Right at that very moment, I wanted to kiss him to see what it was like. I was puzzled when he didn’t pull me into his arms and do just that. I’d dreamed him up. He should’ve kissed me.
“Thank you. You’re very pretty yourself, and if circumstances were different….” Tyhlian sighed softly, and his smile faded. “I’m as real as you are. I’m an Awh’anise Shal-hazal. We walk the dream world. It’s what I do.”
“But this is my dream,” I protested. There was no way what he was saying could be true.
“This is mostly your dream,” he corrected softly. “I’m manipulating some of it. Nothing to harm you, just to keep my presence here muted. I was drawn to this dream because of the peace and the compulsion I felt to find the source of the whisper I heard. I’m still not sure where that whisper came from. I didn’t mean to stay this long though. I have to go before I put you in danger.”
I felt myself oddly reluctant to have the dream end. I wasn’t sure I believed Tyhlian -- that he was real. People didn’t enter other people’s dreams. They couldn’t. I reached out and touched his arm, intending only to stop him from leaving. I wanted to hear more about walking the dream world. Even if it wasn’t real, it was a fascinating concept.
As soon as my hand touched him, voices screamed at me. Dozens and dozens of them. Different languages and sexes. Young and old. They whipped through my brain in a frenzy, catching me off guard, and I cried out. The anger and pain of the voices were staggering, and my hand contracted in a fierce spasm and gripped Tyhlian’s arm with bruising force. Surprise and wariness spiked from Tyhlian, and pure instinct had me try to send my innate calm through him. I was utterly shocked when it didn’t work. The backscatter calm of my void always worked. I’d never encountered a species on which it didn’t work, and I’d literally met hundreds of different species. Nerves made my heart rate jump, and my hair reacted to my emotions. It wrapped around Tyhlian, snaring him in a strong web from which he had no hope of breaking free. He made a startled noise of protest and started to struggle against the strands.
“Stop. Moving. I…” I said through clenched teeth as the voices battered at me. Instinct took over, and I closed my eyes and relaxed while opening the void that existed inside me, beckoning them towards me.
I felt the first few rush at me, perhaps expecting to invade me as they seemingly had invaded Tyhlian. They were full of anger, violence, hate, madness and dozens of other emotions that whipped through me too fast to categorize. That all melted away into nothing as they encountered the void inside me and ceased to exist. The other voices shrieked and howled but didn’t come closer to me mentally. They milled about at the edges of my awareness, confused, angry and scared. They weren’t quite so willing to be reduced to nothing as the other voices had been.
Tyhlian was now shaking in the firm grip of my hair. I opened my eyes and stared at him intently. Madness lurked in his eyes. He struggled against it, but I could see it clearly now. He knew insanity chased him, and he was fighting it. Tyhlian also knew it was a losing battle. Shock was on Tyhlian’s face, and a little flicker of hope slid through his emotions. I realized then that he wasn’t something that I had dreamed up. He was real, just as he had said.
“What are you?” I whispered as I forced my hand to release his arm. Getting my hair to let go was a more difficult task. It didn’t want to let go which meant that I really didn’t want to let go of him either. It was responding on a more instinctual level that I had very little control over.
Every Laiokian has sentient hair that responds to our moods and emotions by moving and changing colour from light to dark. It’s very hard to cut and we can actually lift our own body weight with it if all the strands are used at once. We can sense basic things like heat, cold, pain and even pleasure through the strands. Because of that, our hair was cut only under special circumstances and almost never bound as the first was very painful and the second uncomfortable after a rather short period of time.
Except for very young children, control of the movement of our hair was absolute. Because of my genetic quirk, mine didn’t change colour and often reacted in unexpected ways that other Laiokians didn’t have to deal with. Usually, denied instincts or emotions made the ankle-length strands do things I didn’t want them to do -- like refuse to let go of Tyhlian. The harder I tried to make myself release Tyhlian, the more they wound around him.
Tyhlian shivered but stood perfectly still as I finally managed to control my hair enough to begin to slowly draw it from his body. His lips curled back, and I saw upper fangs in his mouth as my hair slithered over his skin. The claws on his fingers sheathed in and out quickly, and his tail tip twitched madly. His emotions shifted and swirled chaotically before not only his emotions but also his whole being went unnaturally still and his focus on me became intense.
His chest heaved, and his mouth dropped open as he drew in quick breaths. A low rumbling growl sounded from him, and for the first time since meeting Tyhlian, a spike of fear shot through me. The emotions I felt coming from him surged in shock before they twisted and changed into something I rarely felt directed at me so intently, be it male or female.
The hair that remained tangled around him tightened in response to my little spurt of fear at the sudden shift in Tyhlian’s emotions. He growled louder and licked his lips as a predatory smile slid across his face. The lust from him increased until it was the only thing I could feel from him. Knowing he was real and that his actions couldn’t be controlled by me or that my calm didn’t seem to have an effect on him frightened me.
“Lor’fei,” he said in a low voice that sent shivers over my body. The want and possession that was packed in the alien tongue was staggering.
I once again tried to push out the calming aura I naturally gave off even though I was almost certain it wouldn’t have any effect on him. Something in his demeanour had drastically changed between one moment and the next, and I was at a loss to what had caused it. I didn’t understand the word he said but I recognized the feelings and emotions he was giving off. He was looking at me in an entirely differently light now, and I was suddenly even more nervous than before. His eyes were almost entirely green with only the barest slit of his pupils showing. He looked like he wanted to pounce on me and ravish me, and god help me, but that sent heat through me to curl low in my belly at the same time that it scared me spitless. A deep purring sounded, and he licked his lips again as he reached for me.
Instinct finally kicked in, and I flung him from me using the strength of my hair. He twisted mid-air and landed gracefully on his feet. His tail lashed the air behind him, and I heard him growl before barking out a low, dangerous laugh. Much to my embarrassment, I gave a frightened squeak as he moved towards me with incredible speed. I forced myself awake through raw willpower alone. I heard an echoing bellow of rage ringing in my ears as my eyes flew open. I sat up, slapping the bedside light on and rubbed a shaking hand over my face. My hair coiled tightly around my body, reacting to my scare. I had goosebumps over my entire body and was shaking like a leaf in a wind storm. My cock was also impossibly hard, and my balls ached with the need for release. I had zero explanation for that.
Whoever or whatever Tyhlian was, he was real and he was dangerous. Fascinating and sexy but dangerous. Although if I was being perfectly honest with myself, I didn’t feel like he would hurt me on purpose. I would’ve bet the entirety of my next commission that he had no idea he’d alarmed me so badly. I had absolutely no evidence to back those feeling up, and I knew he was dancing around the edges of insanity, but I would’ve double sworn on the blade of my fikdeas that he had no intention of causing me harm.
As my heart slowed it’s frantic pace and the adrenalin in my system ebbed, I became aware of a sharp, stabbing pain near my temple. It hurt enough that my stomach was trying to decide if it should throw up or not. I reached up with a trembling hand to touch the place that felt like it should be a gaping hole in my skull and drew my fingers away slicked with blood. Threads of panic swirled through me. I threw off the blankets and staggered into the bathroom; sure I’d see bone and torn skin.
The mirror showed me nothing but a slightly swollen area the size of a small coin at my temple. I poked gingerly at the spot and hissed through my teeth at the raw, irritated feel but couldn’t even see so much as a nick or scratch that could’ve led to the blood on my fingers. I was even more spooked now than when I’d forced myself awake. I retreated back to my bed but left the light on and picked up a book to read. My head hurt, and concentrating on the text was going to be difficult, but there was no way in hell that I was going back to sleep this night.
My eyes snapped open, and a snarl twisted my lips. My body was primed for a mating fight, and the object of my sudden desires was well beyond my physical reach. I had been so close to grabbing hold of the man from the dream that my fingers had brushed against his cheek before he forced himself awake. A scream of frustrated need left my throat, and my talons tore through the heavy canvas of my seat. I knew I was irrationally angry at being denied the man in the dream, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I wanted to smash or tear something to release some of the aggression rushing through me.
My hands clenched, and my claws pressed hard into my palms, almost breaking the skin as I fought the urge to put my fist through the metal of the console in front of me. I felt something cut painfully into my finger and smelled my own blood. The urge to fight and rend and break something died down at the small, distracting pain I was sure I hadn’t caused. I narrowed my eyes as I brought my newly injured hand close to inspect the damage.
Wrapped around one of my fingers and trailing to the floor were roughly a dozen strands of very long hair. Half the strands were a translucent pearl that shimmered in the strong lights of the ship’s cockpit. The other strands were a black so deep that it seemed to absorb the light, shifting from red-black to green-black to blue-black to purple-black and all the colours in between. It was one of the most entrancing things I’d ever seen.
I caught the trace scent of blood other than my own when I brought the strands close to my nose. The smell teased my senses and actually made my mouth water. A soft little growl twisted from my throat when the mental image of biting the man and marking him as mine zipped through my head.
I ran my hands along the silky strands until I found the loose ends. The hair slithered and twisted through my fingers, shifting around on its own. I thought that had been a product of the dream world as I’d never met anyone whose hair moved by itself. The feel was just as erotic in the waking world as it had been in the dream world.
I had absolutely no idea how I’d managed to bring the hair with me from the dream world to the waking one. I shouldn’t have been able to do that. Only a highly skilled Shal-hazal Spirit could physically move through the dream world. They could take others with them, so it was entirely possible that they could also exit the dream world with something of the dreamer’s as well as long as the item in question was a real thing and not a product of dreams. I knew of one such Shal-hazal Spirit who could do that, but Moswen hadn’t been anywhere near me or the dreamer. I’d have known if he was.
I held the ends of the hair and sniffed, trying to find the source of the other blood. The coppery scent of blood was mixed with another exotic smell, and it took me a few deep breaths to place it. Once I did, my cock throbbed almost painfully with desire. The scent was almost exactly the same as a rare incense that was burned only on the highest of the holy days. It spoke of power and dark, hungry, sexual needs. The erection I’d gotten while Dream-Walking when the man’s hair had wrapped around me and caressed my body twitched in response. I closed my eyes as the scent shot heady lust through me, pushing my already strong arousal even higher. By the gods above and below, if my mystery man actually smelled like this even half the time, he’d end up damn near permanently attached to my cock, and I’d fuck us both into exhaustion.
If he really did smell like the hairs the curled sensuously around my fingers, it was a very good thing that fragrance didn’t exist in the dream world. If I had scented this when I joined his dream, I would have committed the most unforgivable act for an Awh’anise to do to another person. I would have forced myself on the man from the dream, and that scared me. I was walking a fine line between dangerously crazy and gently crazy. I really wanted to stay on the side of gently crazy. I didn’t think I could live with myself if I crossed that line. Then the voices would certainly win, and I probably wouldn’t be able to fight them anymore.
The hair tickled across my ankles drawing my attention to them again. I groaned as I inhaled the scent clinging to the hairs, torturing myself with the arousing smell. The man these hairs belonged to was enchanting enough without the added bonus of what was basically the most powerful aphrodisiac known to an Awh’anise.
I’d never seen anyone who looked like him and I’d seen more than my fair share of aliens in my line of work. While it was true that in dreams a person could choose to look like whatever they wanted- and I had seen some pretty freaky things- as a Shal-hazal, I could see through that to the dreamer’s true form. I was a little surprised that his dream-self looked exactly like his real-self did. Then again, he was entrancing, so why would he want to change that?
He was taller than my six foot height, yet I was sure I outweighed him by a good twenty pounds. For all his height, he looked delicate, almost ethereal. His skin, when he touched me, was satin smooth yet his grip on my arm was surprisingly strong. He called out fierce protective instincts in me, but I had the sneaking suspicion that he had an inner core of steel. I’d be an idiot to underestimate him although he looked like a stiff breeze would knock him over.
He looked a little older than me, but there was almost a virginal air to him, and gods help me, I wanted to take that from him with a good, hard fuck that left us both sweaty and exhausted with stupid grins on our faces. His eyes were a stunning rainbow of colour, but so pale as to be almost colourless at first glance. There was a silvery metallic shine around the rainbow colours of his eyes and no pupils that I’d seen. I felt like I could’ve stared into his eyes for hours, watching the colours swirl and shift. It was damn-near hypnotic and had my softening erection firming from just remembering how pretty his eyes were. Then again, I was fairly sure everything about him would make me hard.
His hair was beautiful. I finally understood the phrase “hair lust”, and blessed stars, I had it bad. It was primarily black and reached his ankles with the translucent pearl-coloured strands shot through it. It had been silky soft and reminded me of the highly prized, downy underbelly fur of a min’kut.
The feel of all that hair moving and caressing my skin had been a carnal pleasure, and when it tightened almost painfully around me, capturing me, lust rushed through my system so fast it almost made me dizzy. His skin matched his hair, an opalescent black that shifted colour depending on the way the light struck him.
Want rolled through me. I wanted this man. I wanted him with startling force and it was more than just the desire someone felt at seeing an attractive person. He was my Lor’fei and the one person in all the universe that was my ultimate match. I never thought I’d hear the call of the Lor’fei. Generally, a Litch was too short lived both in time and sanity. It did happen, but not often. A wry grin turned up the corners of my mouth when I wondered if Moswen’s bizarre karma had rubbed off on me yet again and set the wheels in motion. Quite literally, stranger things had happened to those around Moswen so I couldn’t entirely discount the idea.
It seemed a rather cruel thing for me to feel the pull of a Lor’fei now when my life could be measured in months, if I was lucky. I was surprised that I had found him so quickly. From what I’d been taught, it could take weeks or even months to find the trail of the summoning Lor’fei never mind the individual himself. I’d heard my Lor’fei calling me in the dream world and found him immediately. As far as I knew, that’d never happened before for any of the Bloodline.
A Lor’fei was only heard by one of the Bloodline, a Shal-hazal or a Vi’deshron, and only when the need of one of the Blood matched the need of the Lor’fei summoner. The Lor’fei was the caller, the act of calling and the one being called. The word literally meant soul on fire for the beloved and for a Shal-hazal, that’s what it felt like. The need to find and claim a Lor’fei burned through a Shal-hazal until it was all they could focus on. Typically, a Shal-hazal was suspended from duty, with pay, until they found their Lor’fei, as an unfocused Shal-hazal was a danger to not only himself but to whatever dreamer he stumbled on. The Shal-hazal would do everything in his power to locate and reach out to the one calling him. It was an undeniable compulsion. Granted, a Shal-hazal wasn’t always sure why he felt the driving urge to follow the call, but he always tracked down the source of the call.
Some of the Blood wished they’d experience it while others prayed it would never touch them. The Lor’fei was a life-long commitment that one of the Blood couldn’t refuse. A Lor’fei was a person who was everything needed and desired for a Shal-hazal. He was a perfect partner, and the one of the Blood who heard the call was their perfect partner. While that sounded wonderful, once the bond was completed, a Shal-hazal’s very life was bound to their Lor’fei. When a Lor’fei died, so did the Shal-hazal and that’s what made some pray that the Lor’fei never touched them.
The Lor’fei summoner usually had no idea he was calling out to be found. He was almost always shocked to have a Shal-hazal show up and refuse to go away. Generally, another Awh’anise was accepting of Lor’fei status. Aliens… were a little more difficult to convince of the bond. Once we’d achieved space travel, alien Lor’fei started to be found, but it was still a very rare occurrence among an already rare occurrence. I’d heard of less than two dozen alien Lor’fei since space travel had become possible for the Awh’anise, and those spanned nearly four hundred years.
The attraction, possessive attitude and protective instincts were instant for the Shal-hazal, but the emotional reaction to one’s Lor’fei was different with each individual. Some fell instantly in love. For some, it was an unreasoning lust and drive to possess the one that called him that turned to love. Sometimes it was something that fell between the two extremes. A Shal-hazal never knew how he would react until he actually laid eyes on his Lor’fei.
The summoner faced no such restrictions or conditions. He could, for a considerable amount of time, refuse the one he called if he had strong will power. Eventually though, he succumbed to the Lor’fei as well and would come to love the Shal-hazal who claimed him. After all, how long could any reasonable person hold out against having someone who matched you perfectly, wanted to be with you, put your safety and well-being above their own and was completely devoted to you?
Now that I had found my Lor’fei in the dream world, I needed to find him in the waking world. He was mine, and the compulsion to track him down, stake my claim and defend him wound through my brain making it hard for me to think of doing anything else. I could try and stay away from my Lor’fei, but it would be a wasted effort, and I’d end up going to him anyway. I wouldn’t be able to leave him alone even if he pulled a weapon on me and told me to fuck off. Hell, he could probably shoot me, and I still wouldn’t be able to leave him be. One of the Bloodline under the influence of the Lor’fei was basically a very intense, very focused stalker. I so didn’t need this complication in my life right now. I snorted softly. My Lor’fei probably didn’t need that kind of complication either.
I waited for the voices in my head to start their insidious whisperings of how easy it would be to take someone weaker than me. How it would be child’s play to subdue him and use his body to slake my desire or how, because he was my Lor’fei, it was my right to have him. It wouldn’t be the first time the voices had tried to drip similar poison into my thoughts. The additional knowledge that he was mine on such a deep, personal level would be an added bonus for them to use and torment me with. I waited but heard nothing from the voices.
I poked at them and felt them scurry away almost as if they were hiding. I frowned and ruthlessly dragged each voice forward, questioning them and trying to find out what happened to make the normally aggressive voices suddenly subdued. I dug through my own mind, going over some areas multiple times, not believing what I was finding.
Or not finding as the case was.
Three voices were missing. Not hiding, not quieted but gone. I knew each voice trapped in my head intimately. One of the oldest and strongest of the voices as well as two of the newest voices were simply… not there. I remembered them, obviously, and still had their memories, but that’s all it was. There were no voices urging me to do things that I didn’t want to do or even think about doing in my most twisted, deviant times. The memories were static, like looking at pictures or reading about an event. I was worried and excited all at once.
Garis, an Awh’anise child slaver, rapist and weapons dealer and my very first kill, was gone. He was cagey as hell and strong so it was a bit of a shock that I couldn’t find him anywhere in my head. Not that I minded that the sick fuck was gone in the least little bit. Ektrell, a meglomaniacal torturer-for-hire, was also gone. I could sort of see why he’d vanished as he was one of the last contracts I’d fulfilled and hadn’t quite grasped all the finer points of sharing head space with not only me but everybody else, too. I smirked a little when the third voice missing was Fanshay. She’d been my last contract before I was removed from active duty, and I’d certainly appreciate not having to listen to her ranting about her stolen drug cartel empire or the religious war she’d been waging that I’d interrupted. Stars but I hated fanatics.
The other voices had no answer for where those three had gone. They were certain those voices wouldn’t be coming back though. I was pretty damn sure about that, too. There was a certain feel to the voices being quiet and withdrawn. The missing voices weren’t quiet or withdrawn but actually gone. That was what made the other voices quiet- frightened even. Apparently, there was a way they could disappear from my head and probably die, yet I wouldn’t. I was ecstatic at the thought but also worried about what the voices might make me do to my Lor’fei. I needed to do a little damage control before they got together and tried to figure out how to make me kill their would-be killer.
‘Listen up all of you. The man who took away Garis, Ektrell and Fanshay is my Lor’fei. Search through my mind for what that means and you’ll see that making me kill him will buy our immediate deaths. Trying to keep me from him will send us all into a madness none of us can escape. Doing anything to stop me from completing the bond will doom us all.’
The voices were frightened and wary, but generally, none of them were stupid. The ones who weren’t Awh’anise would go hunting through my brain to find out about the Lor’fei. The ones who were Awh’anise would probably be shocked and curious but they knew a little of what the Lor’fei entailed. I couldn’t lie to the voices, my privacy non-existent from them, so it’d be easy enough to verify what I’d said. How could I lie to someone who can just go check every corner of my mind to find the truth?
I sat in the captain’s chair and stroked the strands still wrapped around my finger and thought. The man from the dream had to be responsible although I didn’t understand how. The best minds of Shal-hazal Healers and medical professionals had been trying for literally a thousand years to cure Litches without success.
I’d felt the voices rush him when he touched me, and when I woke some of those voices were gone. I sucked in a sharp breath as my mind leapt ahead, drawing conclusions. If all the voices were to leave me the same way those three had, I wouldn’t be pushed into the insanity of them taking over my will. I wouldn’t have to be killed. My heart sped up at the sudden possibility and realization opening up to me. If what I was thinking was true, my Lor’fei was even more perfect for me than I could’ve dreamed possible.
The strands twisted around my fingers and wrapped around my wrist giving me a little squeeze that I found unbelievable sensual. I rubbed the hair between my fingers and a small possessive growl left my throat. I wasn’t in love with my Lor’fei. Yet. In lust? Most definitely. Claiming him as my Lor’fei was going to be an unbelievable pleasure. I brushed the strands of his hair over my lips and licked them to see what would happen. They actually quivered and gently explored my face in a strangely erotic caress. The ends that had been trailing upon the floor slithered over my legs and slipped under the open sides of my pants. They glided to my still hard cock and squeezed lightly, pulling a lusty purr from my throat. Damn, that felt amazing and even better than it had when it had only travelled over my arms and chest in the dream world.
Another pleased purr rumbled from me as I pictured my Lor’fei in my mind, all that glorious hair of his flowing over and around me, and stroked myself a few more times before I stopped with a torturous groan. I could jerk off all I wanted, but I’d get no real relief until I had my Lor’fei. The strands of hair untangled themselves from my cock almost as if they could sense that I wasn’t going to do anything about the raging hard on I had. They teased over my chest, brushing over my nipples and taking full advantage of the fact that I only wore an open vest before they coiled and twisted around my left arm from wrist to shoulder.
The hair tickled as it wove itself around my arm, and I watched in fascination as it formed complex loops and knots. The hair stopped moving, and after a few moments of staying motionless, I tried to gently untangle them, not wanting to break the strands. The hairs tightened painfully around my arm, almost cutting into my skin. I stopped trying to remove them, and the pressure eased to a ghost-light touch. I stared at the strange light and dark strands that wound themselves in complicated patterns over my arm and wondered at them.
I flexed my arm and twisted it around but the intricate pattern remained unchanged. It wasn’t hurting me and actually looked rather pretty against my tanned skin so I left it alone. I figured that in a day or two, whatever allowed the hair to move would die or stop working, and I could remove the armband then. I was a little disappointed at that thought but dismissed it as simply not wanting to get rid of a beautiful thing.
I didn’t know the man’s name or where he was. I didn’t even know if he would help me. But he was my Lor’fei and I need to find him and be with him. I also now had the possibility of getting rid of the voices without losing what was left of my sanity or dying in the process. Once that was dangled in front of my face, I couldn’t just ignore it. I couldn’t ignore the urge of the Lor’fei either. I had his scent in my nose now. Because he was my Lor’fei, I’d be able to find him in his dreams no matter how hard he tried to mask himself. He would continue to mentally call for me until I found him physically.
I turned my attention to my ship and studied the random course I’d plotted out the previous day. One of the voices had been a ruthless starship captain involved in pirating. I owed my piloting skills to him. Being able to use the knowledge of the minds I pulled into my own was the only good thing about being a Litch class Shal-hazal. It bought me precious time since the Warrior chasing me had to hire a ship to come after me. And continually explain the random course changes. I smirked to myself over that.
There was a limit on the distances a Shal-hazal could dream walk. So while I was just barely out of range of my hunter, I was well within the range of my mystery man. He had to be fairly close to me for me to have picked up on his calm in the void so quickly. I started the ship’s computer on the task of giving me the most probable planets to search in a specific radius. I was going to find my Lor’fei and he was going to help me get rid of the voices in my head. And if I was very lucky, right after that, I was going to claim him and ease the lust he had fired to life in me. I growled lowly and a shiver raced over my skin as I thought about stripping him naked and sliding into his body. Or letting him mount me. I didn’t really care which of us did the fucking as long as it happened. The hair on my arm rippled in a caress that was gentle and erotic. I caught the faint whiff of the incense-like scent again, and my cock twitched hard, pre-come making a wet spot on the front of my pants.
I needed and wanted to find my Lor’fei desperately and I hoped like hell that the possible list of planets he could be on was mercifully short.
I opened the folder again and read the contents even though I already had them memorized. The record was quite impressive. It was a damn shame that I needed to hunt down this Shal-hazal Litch. I wasn’t exactly sure why I was being sent after him though. Nothing in the file I’d been given suggested that he was lost to insanity. He was on his way to mental instability according to the Healers that monitored the Litches mental well-being, but he was still in reasonable control of himself.
He was certainly worlds less crazy than some of the Litches I’d been sent after, and I didn’t believe he needed someone of my calibre chasing him at this point. It could’ve been a good training mission for a new Litch Hunter to even just find him. But I didn’t hand out the assignments and when an order came directly from the Council, it was never questioned. All Shal-hazal did whatever they were ordered to do and kept their questions to themselves unless they really had no desire to climb the ranks. The Shal-hazal were a branch of the Awh’anise military, and it wasn’t healthy career-wise or sometimes even physically to ask why someone was doing something or being sent somewhere.
Even though I wasn’t in the habit of questioning my commanding officers, I still thought finding Shal-hazal Litch Will Tyhlian would’ve made a good, challenging training run for a new Hunter, and I’d had a hellacious time keeping my mouth shut about that. The fresh off the training ground Hunters needed to learn that just because the Litch was crazy didn’t mean they were stupid, a classic mistake many new Hunters made. Failure was not an option for a Hunter. You failed and you either became a mindless husk or the Litch kills absorbs your mind and you get the added bonus of being trapped in the crazy Litch’s mind until another Hunter comes along and set you free by killing the Litch.
Then again, I was one of the best Litch Hunters around, and he had me chasing my tail all over the back of butt-fuck nowhere following leads that were often anything but. It was frustrating as hell, but I admired his skill in staying several steps ahead of me.
Litch Will Tyhlian was very good at what he did. He’d been called gifted by some of his instructors. Notes in his file expressed the hope that he’d turn out to be a Warrior or possibly even a Healer or Spirit class Shal-hazal. He would’ve made an excellent Warrior and probably would’ve had the drive and talent to become one of the top Litch Hunters. Healers were always in high demand, so that would’ve been an equally good class for someone with his talent level. If he’d been revealed as a Spirit class, given his test results, I didn’t doubt that he would have been able to achieve the difficult skill of physically moving himself and others through the dream world with relative ease. Instead, he was a Litch, an exceptional Litch, but still a Litch.
How he’d somehow managed to keep his madness at bay for more than ten years, I didn’t have the faintest idea but I was very impressed with his mental strength. He’d lasted five years more than any other Litch I knew about and that was simply amazing. I frowned as I thought of the colossal waste of talent. It was a damn shame but there was no way of choosing what class of Shal-hazal one was. It was simply something inside each of the Bloodline that decided without any conscious input and paid no mind to what the individual wanted. No one could refuse to be what he or she was born to be either. Fighting our destinies only made things harder, and in the case of a Litch, made them fall into madness faster. An untrained Litch was possibly the most dangerous thing on the entire planet of Awh’an and that was saying something when a good eighty percent of the animals and plants would eat you if you let your guard down for just a few critical seconds.
I knew Litch Will Tyhlian thought I was letting him run and would pounce when he was exhausted. It’s usually what I did when hunting an insane Litch that wasn’t too far gone. In reality, I was actually having a hard time keeping up with him. I’d never had that happen before, and I was pushing the limits of my abilities to keep hold of the faint markings of where he’d been. I was almost tempted to call my teacher and ask her for help; he was that good. I wouldn’t as I had a reputation to uphold, but it was damn frustrating to be where he wasn’t anymore or had never been in the first place.
He used the information he got when he absorbed his victims minds unlike every other Litch I’d hunted. In my experience, Litchs got the info they needed from their targets and then shunted the people off to a dark corner or whatever in the back of their minds. Litch Will Tyhlian appeared to be using skills and knowledge from his kills to help him stay a half dozen steps ahead of me. That could’ve been a desperation move, but I didn’t think so. There was ease and familiarity in his actions that spoke to me of years of practice at doing such a thing. It really made me think that I was missing entire reams of information on Litch Will Tyhlian.
The extra years he had as a Litch and his natural skills gave him an edge I could’ve done without. Litch Will Tyhlian was already a smart man before he started to absorb the minds of others. The additional knowledge and skills he’d absorbed elevated him to the level of a genius. He had forty-three sanctioned kills to his record. As with every Litch, there were likely a few more that hadn’t been recorded of which I would have no idea what skills those kills gave him. He used every scrap of knowledge in his head to keep just a few crucial steps ahead of me.
I was impressed, and I didn’t impress easy.
Stealing the spaceship had been brilliant and worth the risk of getting caught. I knew he had a pirate sharing head space with him, but I hadn’t seen that move coming. I should’ve given what I knew about him using his former target’s knowledge and I was angry with myself over that. With his own ship, he didn’t need to rely on paying a captain to take him where he wanted to go. He had a hacker-for-hire as one of his kills, too, so I assumed money wasn’t going to be a problem for him. Even knowing about the hacker didn’t help as I had no idea what identity he’d use, where to start looking or what I’d be looking for. I could keep tabs on his personal accounts for clues as to where he was, but that’d likely be a waste of time as Litch Will Tyhlian was smart enough not to go anywhere near his accounts when he had to know that I’d be watching for that among other things.
My job of tracking him was harder than I’d been lead to believe when I’d initially been handed the assignment. I wondered not for the first time who had it in so badly for him that I was being sent after him this early in his madness. I sighed heavily and closed the folder that told me absolutely nothing useful. The only one who knew where he was going was the man himself. I had no dreams of other people to search for clues because he wasn’t interacting with anyone. He was beyond careful in the dream world and unless I got extremely lucky, I wouldn’t be able to get more than vague hints of his location from there. A growl of irritation left my throat and I wanted to punch something to relieve my frustration.
His stealing the spaceship had initially prodded me into reading over his file until I could recite it backwards and forwards, hoping I’d missed some vital clue. The file detailed whom he had killed and what skill sets each had given him, but it didn’t help me anticipate his moves much. I was determined not to be caught flat-footed again like when he’d stolen the spaceship. Having Litch Will Tyhlian pull a move like that on me wounded my professional pride for not anticipating his actions.
While the file was quite thorough, I had the suspicion that a lot of little somethings were missing from it, and that annoyed the hell out of me. I couldn’t say exactly why I thought information was not there. It was more a gut feeling than anything else. I had a few questions that I wanted answers to, but questions to the Council likely wouldn’t get me anywhere and could lead them take me off the assignment if they thought I couldn’t handle the job. My stubbornness and determination reared its head, and I muttered under my breath knowing I couldn’t let this job be taken from me and handed over to somebody else.
The biggest question I had was how he managed to slip the noose the Council had been ready to drop over his head and to get off Awh’an without any alert being sounded. Something about that really bothered me. The Council didn’t seem to really care how he’d left as long as I caught him and killed him. I thought leaving a loose end like that was dangerous as fuck. But I wasn’t the one in charge, so what I thought wasn’t even considered no matter how right I probably was.
I knew I was getting close to Litch Will Tyhlian though. The last few trips into the dream world had pointed me in the right direction. He was being careful, but his creeping madness was making him sloppy. I was finding his footprints even though he tried to hide them. It wasn’t easy, and I was pushing my own skills to the limit but I was hunting him down. He probably moved like a ghost when he was at his peak before madness started to take him over. I would’ve loved to have seen that.
I watched carefully for signs that he was killing randomly. He could easily slip away from me if he took just one life. Or he could use the energy boost from a kill to come after me, and I’d probably never know what hit me before he absorbed my mind. Even if he didn’t kill randomly, with his own transport, he could realistically hide from me for years as long as he kept quiet and didn’t attract attention to himself. Although he’d had the opportunity, he hadn’t taken another life in the months I’d been hunting him. I wasn’t sure if that made him stupid or smart. Litch Will Tyhlian seemed to have more control over himself and the voices that drove him closer to the edge than I’d been led to believe.
As soon as I did pin-point his location, I wasn’t taking any chances on him slipping away from me. I’d already contacted the Council about having a Spirit class Shal-hazal at the ready for when I discovered where he was. It was a little underhanded to use a Spirit class to drop me at whatever location Litch Will Tyhlian was, but I didn’t think I’d get a second chance to catch him off-guard when I did finally find him.
I hoped he didn’t decide to come after me in a last ditch effort to stay alive. I was good, but so was he, and I wasn’t sure which way a fight between us would go. It was a very bad thing for a Litch to devour the mind of a Warrior. Because of the dangers of what we did, Litch Hunters had fail-safes implanted in our heads. The last thing I wanted to do though was trigger that. The fail-safe switch wouldn’t kill me, but in my opinion, I’d be better off dead than a mindless husk barely able to eat and drink without supervision.
Then again, the prospect of being trapped in an insane Litch’s head with all the vile, corrupt and downright evil people he’d killed didn’t hold a lot of personal appeal either. I grumbled in frustration and put the folder away. I needed to wander the dream world again and see if I could pick up his trace. The captain of the ship I’d hired was probably going to think I was the crazy one when I came to him with course changes yet again. There was no help for that, and I was paying him a tidy sum to bounce around the galaxy like a demented ball. I closed my eyes and slipped into the dream world, stretching my senses for the tiny clues of where Litch Will Tyhlian had gone or, better yet, still was.
My mystery man was hard to track down, but it was something I was damn good at and had spent the better part of my life learning how to do. Finding and hunting down a target was part of the job description of a Litch. We were stealthy assassins and information retrieval specialists, and our targets weren’t always the easiest people to find.
Generally if somebody wanted you dead badly enough to hire a Litch, you wouldn’t be broadcasting your location to the universe at large. Just finding dreamers who knew of where a target was holed up was an exercise in patience and hard work. The dream world was a vast place, and finding one individual in all that space was like standing on a street corner during rush hour and looking for a middle-aged left-handed male with green eyes among all the people passing by. The parameters were fairly specific, but it still left a large number of individuals that needed to be considered. You might get lucky and see the one you were after right away, but it was more likely that it’d take days of careful observation and elimination of possibilities before you found the individual you were looking for.
A name and physical description wasn’t necessarily the most helpful information either when dealing with the dream world. Dreams were things of imagination and subconscious desires, and what a person really looked like didn’t necessarily have any resemblance to what their dream-self looked like. The appearance of a dreamer could even vary from dream to dream and sometimes changed even while still having the same dream. While I could see the true nature of a dreamer regardless of how he saw himself in a dream, I needed to focus briefly on the individual first to do it. Although that didn’t take long, it did take time and was exhausting to do over and over again for an entire night or however long I worked on finding an individual.
Finding my Lor’fei in the dream world would be beyond simple, though, because of what he was to me. Finding him in reality with very few clues was going to be hard as hell. But the fact that the enchanting man was my Lor’fei made it an obsessive need on my part to find him. I highly doubted he would try to hide from me, thank the gods. He may even doubt that I was anything more than something he’d dreamed up. Even if he did believe I was real, chances were he thought he was perfectly safe from me since he’d never told me his name, where he was in reality or what he did for a living. For most people, that would make finding him a daunting, if not impossible, task.
Fortunately, I wasn’t most people and I had no qualms with using my abilities to find him.
In the time since the Awh’anise achieved space, the instances of other species being Lor’fei had increased, but it was still an uncommon thing. I’d heard of it happening only a half dozen times in the past fifty years. The call of a Lor’fei had to be within the range of a Shal-hazal or it wouldn’t be heard. The range of a Shal-hazal was unique to an individual with the accepted minimum range of a Shal-hazal as planet wide. Some powerful Shal-hazal had ranges that spanned a small galaxy. I wasn’t quite in the galaxy range, but several solar systems wide was still a damn good scope.
I had more than a few advantages over the average person with regards to finding my Lor’fei. I had a general area to look in since I was well aware of my range to Dream-Walk. It was a very large area of space to search but a lot of that space was not habitable so it narrowed the field considerably. From there it was a simple matter of getting my resident hacker, Raini, to check databases on all the populated planets, moons, asteroids and stations for me. On the off chance that my Lor’fei was on a space ship passing through the area, I had Raini check all passenger manifests for ships that’d been in my range as well.
She was exceptionally gifted at hacking as were the majority of her people, and I thought it was partially because they resembled giant spiders and were used to physically plucking and spinning delicate interconnected webs. Raini said it was almost the same process except with numbers and data strings and she simply needed to feel the vibrations of the threads she plucked to find what I needed to know. I had a general idea of what she meant because we shared head space, but I knew when to leave things to the professionals and not poke my mostly ignorant fingers into the situation.
As a whole, the people trapped in my head weren’t thrilled with my needing to find my Lor’fei, but give one of them the opportunity to do what they’d liked to before I ended their life, and that individual was surprisingly compliant. The rest of the individuals… not so much. There was plenty of the usual bitching and moaning and shouts of “unfair” when I asked Raini to find what I wanted and gave her temporary control of my body, but I’d learned to ignore the others’ complaints for the most part, knowing they’d eventually settle down. Even as good as Raini was, it still took her almost an entire day to discover the identity of my soon to be lover.
Dakvir Nigidvo was his name, and he was currently conducting peace negotiations for two mutually hostile planets on a neutral planetoid. The news channels said the talks had been going on for a week and that it appeared progress was being made with the possibility of a deal being finalized very soon. Apparently, that was big news in that sector of the system as the two planets had been antagonistic towards each other since they’d both discovered space travel over a hundred years ago. Some news castors were calling Dakvir’s work with the two warring planets a miracle, and I couldn’t help but feel a rush of pride for my Lor’fei.
Dakvir was from a planet called Laiok that dealt in providing skilled labourers and craftsmen for hire to interested parties. The information on Dakvir said that he was very good at his job and the fees he commanded were enormous. No deal Dakvir brokered had ever been broken. He had a list of recommendations and repeat clients the length of my arm. His professional accomplishments were long and detailed, but there was almost nothing about his personal life which I thought was odd. Aside from a brief physical description, a god awful government picture and his schooling credentials, there was nothing about the man himself. It was almost as if he didn’t exist outside of his professional capacity among his people.
I wanted to know more, so I had Raini turn her attention to the data available on his people. What she found made my interest in Dakvir stronger. Laiokians came in all colours of the rainbow. No one colour took precedence over another. The only colours left out were purple and black, but no reason was given for that in the public data. I would’ve loved to have Raini dig into the government databases of the Laiokians, but I was trying to fly under the notice of everybody and hacking a classified government system was pretty far from low profile even if Raini could probably get in, poke around and get out without anyone knowing she’d been there. Even knowing that and as tempting as it was, I decided to err on the side of caution since I figured the mystery of the missing colour spectrum wasn’t a critical thing for me to know. I could always ask Dakvir myself if I was still curious when I finally saw him.
The colour of a Laiokian was uniform over the person. Skin and hair were the same colour and sometimes even the eyes matched. Their hair was sentient and reacted to their moods and emotions. They could also feel basic things like heat, cold, pleasure and pain with their hair. It changed shades from light to dark depending on how the person felt, like an emotional barometer. They had control over the movement of their hair and it was apparently considered incredibly rude to caress another person with their hair unless that touch had been invited. I smirked a little as I thought that Dakvir had been one very naughty man to have felt me up like he did in the dream world. I hoped that little bit of wickedness continued in the real world. Their hair was also incredibly strong. A typical Laiokian could lift their own body weight with their hair. Cutting it was extraordinarily rare. The pain was described as having a chunk of flesh gouged out with a ragged blade.
One of the voices in my head, Visolela, had been a brilliant, but psychotic, Awh’anise xeno-biologist and found the descriptions of the Laiokian people utterly fascinating. She lamented the fact that she had never run across one in her work. Visolela felt a Laiokian would have made an intriguing specimen for live vivisection given the nature of their physical make up. Hearing some of what she talked excitedly about doing to a Laiokian made me feel decidedly queasy before I tuned her out. The world was a safer, saner place without Visolela in it, and I was glad that I’d killed her. I wasn’t so happy about having her as one of my permanent mental companions.
I looked at the arm band I now wore and felt a little guilty. I didn’t mean to tear out any of Dakvir’s hair and remorse filled me at causing him pain, as unintentional as it had been. I didn’t even know that I’d pulled some of his hair out until I woke up in my ship with the strands wrapped around my finger. I still had no idea how I’d even managed to do that, but his being my Lor’fei was as good a reason as any for me somehow bringing the strands of Dakvir’s hair from the dream world into reality. Nevertheless, I was going to apologise for doing that when I saw him. I wasn’t going to give them back though.
The strands had woven themselves into a beautiful, complex design around my left arm from wrist to shoulder and, even after several days, hadn’t come off or loosened. I couldn’t pull them off either. Every time I’d tried to remove the hair, they’d tightened to the point where they pressed uncomfortably hard into my skin. I was unwilling to cut or break them, and they weren’t causing me any harm, so I let them be. They were silky under my fingers when I stroked over them and tightened briefly as if giving me reassurance. The voices quieted immediately and stayed that way for almost half an hour at a time whenever I caressed the strands. They were obviously still rattled by the fact that some of them had been obliterated from nothing more than the casual touch of Dakvir, and I wondered how long that little benefit would last. Given all that, I wouldn’t be giving back the hair for any reason. Dakvir would just have to deal with me having an armband made of his hair.
The information Raini found also stated that Laiokians carried a personal scent that was different for each individual. Most species found it faint and barely noticeable. I was finding the scent that lingered on the hairs almost addicting with my keen sense of smell. I just hoped I didn’t embarrass myself by jumping the poor man as soon as I saw him. Erotically enticing was one way to describe the scent and what it did to me and my libido. I didn’t even know if he’d welcome the sexual attention of another male, never mind that of another species.
With all the contact I had with other species, I knew bi-sexuality or even same sex preference was not the norm out in the big, wide universe. Some species actively banned or outlawed sex between men, and I knew of one species that actually sentenced a person to death if they were discovered to have lustful thoughts about someone of the same sex, never mind if the sex actually happened or not. Nothing in the public databases of the Laiokians suggested that it was against the law for men to fuck each other, but law and someone’s sexuality didn’t have to agree. There were also cultural taboos that wouldn’t be written down anywhere, and I wouldn’t know about violating one of those until I actually did it.
If Dakvir wouldn’t have a male partner, that was going to be a problem for us. I had no control over my reaction to my Lor’fei, and I’d never heard of a platonic relationship with one. It could probably happen as anything was possible, but Lor’fei partners would have to have sex at least once to finalize the bond. Once we physically met, we absolutely needed to finalize the bond- not just to satisfy my urges, but to protect others from my increasing levels of possessiveness and violence where my Lor’fei was concerned. Until we did, I’d get more and more aggressive towards anyone that approached Dakvir until I reached the point of actually killing someone regardless of whether there was sexual intent or the person was just asking if he knew what time it was.
I could try and complete the bond through sex in the dream world, but I was pretty sure that’d be a stop-gap method at best. As far as I knew, the sex needed to happen in the real world for the bond to take hold. I would never force Dakvir into sex, but I also wasn’t above begging him for it, and I was perfectly willing to have him fuck me. Sure, my preferred position would be to have him under me, moaning and panting for me to do him harder, but as long as we had sex and I pledged myself to him, I didn’t care who did who.
Thinking about sex with Dakvir made my cock hard, and I groaned. My hand slipped under the open side-fold of my pants, and I hissed in pleasure as I stroked myself. It was a little bit of torture to jerk off since I wouldn’t get any real relief from what I was doing. I would come, but there’d be no lessening of sexual tension. Until I met Dakvir in person and had his delightful ass or he had mine, I’d stay in a state of heightened arousal. Even knowing that, my eyes closed, and I couldn’t stop myself from stroking my cock and picturing Dakvir naked and on his knees, his lips tightly sealed around my cock.
“Wouldn’t you like to see him bound while he’s on his knees for you?”
I growled at the voice, and my cock twitched hard at the erotic picture that flashed in my mind.
“Oh yes, isn’t he pretty and helpless like that? White rope against black skin. All that hair pooling around his body. Tears making his eyes shine as you fuck his mouth,” said another voice.
I growled a warning at the voice even as my nipples tightened, and I jerked off faster, my lust climbing higher at the mental image.
“Yes, yes. Can you feel him struggle against you? Can you see the bloody lines your claws have already left on his skin? Can you feel the heat of your hand from when you slapped his ass over and over again?” Yet another voice joined in.
I panted hard and snarled at the voices to shut the hell up even as the things they said cranked my desire higher. Pressure built in my balls, and I could feel my orgasm barrelling at me. The voices laughed manically in delight having found a new way to torture the hell out of me. I groaned as mental images courtesy of the voices flooded my brain and had me pump my cock faster.
“Come in his mouth. Make him swallow. Whatever doesn’t make it down his throat will spill over his lips. He’ll be even more beautiful with your spunk dripping from his mouth. Do it. This is what you want, what you crave.”
The image of Dakvir bound in white rope, my hand fisted in his hair to hold him where I wanted him, his lips swollen from sucking my cock and my come a startling white against his black skin as it dripped off his chin burned through my brain. I cried out as my balls drew tight, my hips jerked up and my cock pulsed. My roar of pleasure bounced around the cockpit, the smell of my arousal and seed thick in my nose. I sagged in the pilot’s chair, panting hard.
The voices laughed manically in my head. While the wank had felt incredible, the reactions of the voices were stealing the pleasure of the act from me. I was also still highly aroused. I actually felt vaguely dirty, and not in a good way, for listening to the voices and letting them sway me into having violently sexual thoughts about Dakvir. I growled at them to shut up and fuck off while doing my level best to tune them out and struggle with the desire still moving through my system. Just when I thought I might have achieved some measure of calm, Jawhar, a jealous male harem slave who’d made the mistake of pissing off wife number one by calling her nothing but a baby machine to her face, spoke up.
“It’s going to be so much fun breaking this man. We’ll introduce him to all the depraved pleasures that hide in the depth of your brain. I especially like the idea of keeping him on the very edge of orgasm for hours before shoving your hand up his ass and making him orgasm that way. Delicate thing like him will probably scream and beg you to stop hurting him even as his cock spurts all over his belly.”
I snarled at the voices, my temper exploding at the implied harm to Dakvir. I hurled them all violently into mental cages regardless of who’d been egging me on and locked everybody down tight. I couldn’t keep them there forever because the mental effort was too great. Several hours was the best I could hope for. The voices would be extremely pissed at basically being tossed into jail. When my control weakened and they could burst free, I’d pay big time for what I’d done. For now though, the blessed silence in my head was beautiful.
My anger quickly drained away, and tiny fangs of guilt nipped at me because what Jawhar said wasn’t entirely off the mark. I would love to tease and arouse Dakvir for hours before bringing us both off. I wanted to press my fingers into his ass as I coaxed a powerful orgasm from him. However, I never wanted to hear him begging me not to hurt him. That would be like driving a jagged knife into my guts.
I sighed and glanced down at my crotch. I had cooling come dripping off my fingers and smeared into my pants as well as stray spots on my belly. My balls still felt uncomfortably full, like I could come again if I just stroked a little longer. Another sigh left my throat, and I pushed myself up from my chair to go clean up, a bone deep certainty telling me that jerking off wouldn’t do a damn thing to knock my lust back.
I hadn’t really believed that I’d feel a constant state of arousal once the Lor’fei took hold. Granted, an Awh’anise sex drive was already pretty strong, but to orgasm and not really feel much relief… no wonder a Shal-hazal ended up focused solely on finding and claiming his Lor’fei. I swore softly when I fully realized the difficulty of approaching an alien and telling him we needed to fuck because it felt like my balls were going to burst if we didn’t. That sounded like the worst pick up line ever created even if it was one hundred percent true. Another Awh’anise would shrug his shoulders and say okay without missing a beat before he dropped his pants. I was damn sure I wouldn’t get the same reaction from Dakvir. I’d probably be lucky if he didn’t take a swing at me. Not that a little roughness wouldn’t be fun and arousing with him, but I knew very few species viewed fighting as foreplay like the Awh’anise did.
Cleaned and with a change of clothes, I went back to the cockpit and slouched in the pilot’s seat staring vacantly at the screen showing the stars flowing past. I really needed to talk to other Shal-hazal who had Lor’fei partners. They were the only ones who could give me some insight on how to deal with the constant arousal that burned through my veins. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option for me as any contact with another Shal-hazal was as good as a having a giant blinking sign over my head announcing my location to my Hunter. A tiny growl trickled past my lips, and I wanted to punch something out of frustration with my situation.
My thoughts circled back to Dakvir, and I licked my lips as the image of him formed in my head. Stars, but he was beautiful. A groan twisted from my throat, and I tried desperately to keep my mind off Dakvir because the second I thought about him, I got hard. In an effort to keep myself from mentally undressing the man and making my frustrated desire worse, I focused a little desperately on the business of my House that I’d left hanging when I high-tailed it off Awh’an to save my neck.
Because I was the Litch Will of my House, all Litches in the House, whether they were full Shal-hazal or trainees, were under my direct command. Part of my job as a Will was also to teach the trainees what being a Litch was about, and I felt horribly irresponsible for abandoning them. I had good, stable Litches that could take over the duties I had left behind, but I still felt guilty as hell. The Litches under my command, full Shal-hazal or trainees, wouldn’t fault me for running, because they’ll do the exact same thing when their time comes, but it still didn’t help my feelings of guilt lessen.
There weren’t many Litches in general, and the number of trainees was just as low. My House had what was considered an average number with four confirmed Litch trainees and five full Litches, including me. Out of the one hundred unconfirmed trainees in the House, it was possible that another ten Litches would be revealed after their dream quest. Out of the trainees that discovered they were Litches during their dream quest, maybe two or three would choose to continue their Shal-hazal training. The rest would deliberately get lost in the dream world to avoid having what was basically an early death sentence handed down.
My mood drifted downward, and I struggled to shift mental gears yet again. The thought of losing so many potentially good Shal-hazal because of something they had zero control over was depressing, and given my current situation, I didn’t need further misery smacking me in the face.
I picked up a data pad and cued up the family pictures I had stored on it. It was a bit of torture to look at my family pictures when I knew I’d probably never see them again, but it was also a comfort, too. The first picture was a group shot of the Wills of the House of Hedya. Huyana was the Healer Will and she had her arms slung around my shoulders and those of Moswen, the Spirit Will. Femi, the Warrior Will, was laughing and ruffling Moswen’s hair. We were all family running one House, which was almost unheard of given the rarity of Shal-hazals, but there was a hell of a lot of Shal-hazal in my family. I personally thought Moswen’s screwy karma had something to do with that oddity, too.
Huyana was my sho, my mother, and Moswen was my sha-ter’bil, my brother through a shared father. Femi was Moswen’s nebil, his mother’s brood-mate. I also had identical twin sho-ter’bil, sisters through a shared mother who were unconfirmed trainees in my House. Chinua and Chike were thirteen, and I felt a little pang of disappointment that I probably would never find out what they were going to be although their time to go on their dream quest was coming up soon.
I flipped to the picture of Chinua and Chike and smiled. The camera had caught them making silly faces and trying to push the other out of range. The picture was fairly recent, and at thirteen, they were still too cute for words in my opinion. The next picture was an old one of my parents and Moswen’s mother, Fayina. It had been taken shortly after Fayina and Dukker, my father, had the brood Moswen was part of. Dukker looked a little shell-shocked as he held two of the six kits. My mother held another two kits, and Fayina held the remaining two kits. Both women were laughing with their heads close together. The next picture was of me, Telek and Tohan. Telek had his head turned in the picture and his mouth was open in a shout at his five kits rolling around and pouncing on each other in the background. Tohan was grinning straight at the camera and holding a leftover sweet stick against his leg. I’d been trying not to die laughing at what he’d done. There was nothing quite as much fun as hopping up your brother’s kids on sugar just before they went home.
I advanced the picture, and a huge group shot of all my immediate family filled the screen. Given that Awh’anise reproduced in broods of up to six kits at a time, the size of just the immediate family of siblings, half-siblings, children of siblings, parents and their siblings was generally pretty big. Families also tended to get complicated very quickly considering Awh’anise weren’t monogamous as a rule. Permanent pairings did happen, but they were the exception, not the norm.
I flipped through a few more pictures before I ended up closing out the photo album as my mood shifted even further into the low end of blackness. It wasn’t just that I was missing the closeness of my family. I was missing the touch of someone else. I hadn’t felt real contact from another individual in weeks and didn’t count the people I encountered in the dream world. That wasn’t real no matter how real it felt at the time. The Awh’anise were a touch-addicted species, and my going without the feel of another’s skin against my own like I had endured since I started running was actually considered an extreme form of punishment on Awh’an. Not having any contact with another person over a prolonged period of time had actually driven some Awh’anise insane from loneliness.
A harsh bark of laughter escaped me when I realized that I was unintentionally punishing myself by trying to stay alive a little longer. No wonder Litches who ran ended up going crazy even faster or took stupid risks just for the slim chance of having a little skin on skin contact with someone. It didn’t even need to be sexual to satisfy the desire to be touched. A simple hug or stroking of my arm would do. I did have an advantage over the majority of the Litches who ran though. I had a newly found Lor’fei, and I was positive that I could manage to sneak all kinds of touches, sexual or otherwise, once I found him. I snorted softly as desire curled in my belly again, and my cock firmed at the thought of feeling Dakvir’s skin against mine. Apparently, avoiding thoughts of Dakvir was like trying not to breathe. I shrugged mentally and decided to stop fighting where my brain wanted to go.
Thoughts of Dakvir and what would happen once we were together had my mind turning to some of the problems we might have. It was potentially dangerous as hell to go to Dakvir regardless of how strongly I was compelled to not just for me but for him as well. While my Hunter wouldn’t purposefully hurt my Lor’fei as they did have a code and rules they needed to obey with regards to hunting Litches, I was sure that she’d have no problem keeping Dakvir away from me to get me to do whatever she wanted. She could make him think she’d cause him harm if he didn’t do what she wanted, and he’d have no way of knowing she was lying. It wouldn’t hurt either one of us to be separated, but I’d be frantic to get Dakvir back, and my Hunter would know that. Whatever it took, my Hunter could never find out that Dakvir was my Lor’fei, or she’d do her level best to keep us apart until she achieved her goal of killing me.
A low growl vibrated through my chest, and my claws dragged against the already torn canvas on the arm of the chair at the idea of being separated from my Lor’fei once I’d found him and the possible fear he’d be subjected to at the hands of my Hunter. I needed several deep, calming breaths to sheath my claws and drop my anxiety level over something that was completely a figment of my imagination.
“You over yer snit yet?” asked Zeki, the sociopathic space pirate.
I startled, and my heart rate shot up when I realized that my attention had completely wandered from keeping the voices shut away in my mind. The solid hold I’d had on the locks of the prisons I’d thrown the voices into was now open. They were struggling out of their cages in my mind, and the majority of them were not happy. Raini was hurt at what she thought was unfair treatment when she’d helped me find Dakvir and hadn’t been one of the voices suggesting I do violent things to him. Zeki was damn near impossible to ruffle and never took any group punishment to heart. Narilla, a double-crossing spy, shrugged and went back to whatever she’d been doing before my temper tantrum. The rest of the voices were… upset was too mild a word to use.
Dozens of them screamed at me in several languages. Accusations of unfair treatment and threats of what would happen to me in retaliation bounced around my head. I hissed and squeezed my eyes tightly shut as I waited for the voices to run out of steam. Depending on how riled up they were, it could be minutes or hours, and I didn’t have the mental energy left to make them shut the hell up. I was tempted to try stroking the strands of hair to see if that would put the fear of… something in them, but I didn’t want to take the chance of winding them up even more. I didn’t think my brain could handle that. They ranted and raved for gods only knew how long before they finally wound down. I felt completely wrung out from the mental bashing and sagged in my chair.
My mind was fuzzy from the stress of keeping ultimate control of my body as the voices mentally beat on me. I needed sleep but was hesitant to try for some. I carefully weighed the pros and cons of getting the rest I needed. I eventually said fuck it and thought my need for sleep was greater than any risk the voices posed. I used the last dredges of mental energy I had and blocked control of my body from the voices before allowing myself to slide into pure sleep. I didn’t dream walk for once, instead getting the rest I desperately needed if I was going to remain anywhere within walking distance of sanity.
Although I didn’t sleep long, I felt refreshed and more in control of myself. I put my plans in motion to go to Dakvir. Under the direction of Zeki, I made the final course adjustments and received permission to land my ship on the small planetoid that was being used as neutral territory for the trade negotiations. I left the gaudy robes of a Shal-hazal packed in my bag. People would remember me if I stepped foot in public in the hideous thing. Dressed in loose pants and sleeveless vest, I could easily pass for just another alien stopping to re-fuel and re-supply.
The air in the base was warm and had the chemical tang of the frequently recycled. I knew where Dakvir was conducting the trade talks and I knew when they would end for the day. The location of his rooms had been harder to come by but Raini had chittered softly in amusement when I asked her if she could find his room number and made short work of the hotel security codes. I smirked to myself when I realized that I was treating this like a contract; except, I had no intention of killing Dakvir. I had other, more pressing, needs with him.
I had time to waste before he finished for the day, so I arranged to have my ship stocked up. Raini was always more than willing to help when I let her steal money. Since I needed money and couldn’t touch my accounts without alerting the Hunter chasing me, I gave Raini a free hand with the stipulation not to attract attention by taking too much money. Of all the voices in my head, Raini was the least depraved and the easiest satisfied with the occasional bit of computer thievery. With the minor concerns of my ship and finances taken care of, I made myself comfortable in the hotel lobby where Dakvir was staying and settled in for a long wait.