Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Romance, #Adult, #Science Fiction Opera
Traded to the Anvin as a bride, she doesn’t have the heart to tell them she has already chosen.
Sobi enjoys the solitude of darting animals to track behaviour and migration. When she heads home for a quick check-in, she is a little perturbed to find that her presence is required for the Anvin dignitary in need of a wife.
She dresses appropriately, and when she faces the man behind the shadows, she recognises the man that she linked herself to years earlier.
Midnight is a silly nickname, but Aloss is willing to let the Protheans call him whatever they like as long as they hand over his mate.
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Bride of Midnight
Copyright © 2014 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Bride of Midnight
A Sci-fi Fairy Tale
Sobi paused at the top of the ridge and lifted her canteen to her lips. The unlikely unity of four suns lit up the bright skies of Ikar and that made scouting thirsty work. There was never a night sky to be found.
She stared out at the heat waves across the sand and looked for movement. She settled her canteen back on her hip and lifted her crossbow. Her lenses measured distance and the moment she saw the stirring of dust, she fired.
Sobi reloaded and checked her monitor. A slow grin spread across her face when the steady beep began and the dot began to move with the cloud. “Gotcha.”
She laughed and settled on her cycle, kicking the engine into motion on the downhill slope. With a satisfied grin, she returned to the dark dome of the city. The hunters would have easy targets for their hunts later in the day. If they chose to monitor the traffic patterns of the creatures she had tagged, they could do that too. She didn’t care; it was time for a shower and some sleep.
Passing from the blazing light to the relief off the darkness was always a surprise. She flicked up the shaded lenses on her goggles and her eyes adjusted to the dimness within Shadow City.
Sobi drove through the streets and pulled up outside the tagger station. With a jaunty grin, she swaggered inside and handed over her crossbow and her remaining charges. “Here you go. I tagged nine groups of desert animals.”
She unbuckled her tracking unit. “Here, the tags were all solid sets, so they should still be transmitting.”
Goran was a Prothean, like Sobi. He sighed and shook his head. “We are going to miss you when the call comes.”
Sobi blushed and her stomach went cold at the same time. “It hasn’t happened yet. I am just in the candidate pool.”
Goran’s assistant chipped in from the back of the station. “The commander from the new city arrived today, so you know that he has to be hunting for a wife.”
Goran wrinkled his nose and shrugged in acknowledgement. “That is the rumour. You might be called upon.”
Sobi felt a headache coming on. “This time I came here first to drop off my weapons.. I am guessing that that was a mistake.”
Goran chuckled, checked the tracking signals and transferred her payment to her account. “Thanks for the hard signals. Most have been dropping.”
“The other taggers just don’t want it enough. All right, I need to get a shower and head to dinner. I am starving.”
“Job well done. You earned a few days off before you head out again.” Goran winked an invitation.
“Let me know what my energy level is like tomorrow.”
It wasn’t a no, but it wasn’t a yes.
She hoped he was satisfied with the answer as she slipped out of the tagger base. Back on her bike, she took the short trip to her home and parked the cycle in its pod. Once she had taken care of her treasure, she took the lift up to her apartment and loosened the straps of her coveralls on the way. She was about to unzip her suit as the doors opened to her quarters, but there was a stranger standing in the middle of her living room.
“May I help you?”
The man turned, and he was obviously not Prothean. He looked her over from head to toe and didn’t say a word.
“Anvin emissaries don’t often break into my quarters. What are you doing here?”
“You are Sobi Nurala?”
“I am. Tagger extraordinary.” She smiled.
“Your presence is requested at the main hall this evening to meet the Midnight. You are his best match.”
She winced as her earlier conversation reared up to mock her. “Ah. When?”
“They wished me to bring you now so they could dress you properly, but I am guessing that you could take a solar blast and change to a fresh suit.”
She grinned. “I decline. Let’s just go and get this over with.”
He blinked rapidly, his midnight skin and silver eyes showing his surprise. “Very well. My skimmer is waiting.”
Sobi nearly argued to bring her cycle but realised that she would be wearing some kind of gown. She had better stick with being driven around for the day.
She dropped her pack and tool belt, nodding for him to lead the way.
“That is all you need to do?”
“If you want me to take more time I can, but I would rather that we get this over with. I have been on duty for a week and you don’t get much sleep out there.”
“You have been outside the city?” He escorted her back to the lift and they got inside.
“That is how you tag the creatures of the sand. You have to stand in the sand and figure it out.”
His dark features twisted in a smile. “The logic is sound.”
“I think so. I am one of the best at what I do. So, why now?”
He blinked at the sudden switch in topic. “Um, I don’t know why the Midnight has shown up. It could be that the city is finished.”
They exited on the main floor and he walked with her to his vehicle.
Sobi had to admit that the Anvin had nice technology. The city around them had been cobbled together in a few months, using the ship that brought them as building material. Sobi had heard of the Anvin city across the sand, but there were no images of it available on the vid screens as no Prothean had yet to set foot in it.
The few shadow makers that lived with the Protheans could often be seen looking longingly in the direction of their people.
was supposed to land near the Anvin city, but it had suffered a fuel failure and crashed instead. Shadow City was dependant on the shadow makers for her people to survive, and provided that the Protheans held up their end of the bargain, her people would be safe.
Sobi was one of the women selected to carry out a portion of that agreement.
She settled in the transport as her companion lifted off and headed for the great hall. The city skimmed by outside the windows, the buildings hiding the fact that the Protheans had gone under the city for their food and energy. It wasn’t a secret. The Anvin had done the same thing according to rumour, but they had the shadow makers, and those men could keep a comfortable dimness over the city.
When they arrived at the hall, she waited for her companion to open the door. She had attended a few candidate events, and if she opened doors for herself, the Anvin got all twitchy.
She waited and got out of the vehicle when he opened her door, then walked with him through the doors of the great hall where two bots immediately bustled up to her and bullied her to a preparation room.
Sobi put up with having her clothing peeled off, her body scrubbed until her skin tingled, makeup applied and her hair twisted up in a loose bun that exposed her neck. The dress that they brought out was ancient Prothean formal wear that the Anvin had decided was appropriate for the candidates. Sobi could understand it. It both concealed and flattered while keeping men at a distance. They literally could not get closer than two feet or they bumped into the skirts. There was less problem with accidental contact and Sobi could enjoy the mild protection as well as the support of the heavily boned bodice.
The only part of her on display was her neck, collarbone and upper breast. The cleavage on parade was her only insecurity. She lived her days in heavy coveralls. This was definitely a departure.
The bots put leather slippers on her feet and helped her to stand. “You are ready, miss, but you are late. The dance is about to commence. Please follow.”
Sobi took a final look in the mirror and grinned. They had even managed to disguise her sunburn. The lower half of her face was always shades darker than the rest of her.
She followed the bot into the interior of the hall where six other women lined up. She smiled at a few familiar faces and the nervous women smiled back.
She stood with the rest of her gene group and took up a calm pose with her hands folded across her waist. The timing was close. She just finished settling when the doors opened and the shadow makers and their wives walked in.
Sobi smiled as the couples welcomed the candidates. She knew two of the women from the first landing, and they greeted her warmly.
“I am so glad you made it, Sobi. We were getting worried that you had been lost to the light.” Dori grinned and hugged her before she made introductions. “This is my mate, Driz.”
Driz inclined his head. Anvin were careful not to touch Prothean women. It was something learned a decade ago when the first Prothean woman ran into a match on an Anvin warship. It had started a cascade of interest in getting Protheans near the genetically altered Anvin. Sobi and Dori had been in cryo tubes until the Anvin could dig them out. It had taken them five years to work into the depths of the wreck where half the available females were. It hadn’t been deliberate; no one expected them to crash.
“Pleased to meet you formally, Driz. I hope that Dori hasn’t been too hard to get used to.” Sobi inclined her head.
“It has been a pleasure to learn about the habits of Prothean women. A little odd at times but a genuine pleasure.” He put his arm around Dori’s waist and she blushed.
Sobi grinned, and they continued on to the next candidate while she greeted the couples and they took their position on the far end of the receiving line after they greeted all the candidates.
Sobi suddenly realised that she was going to be the first one to greet the visitor, and she winced. She really should have had a snack when she got home.
There was a murmur in the crowded building outside the door and Sobi stood straight, her skirt swinging.
A moving shadow glided through the doorway and across the floor of the hall. Sobi stiffened. She knew that smooth pace. She had seen this man before.
As he approached to a distance of four feet, she curtseyed as she had been taught. “Welcome to Shadow City.”
“Thank you for your welcome.” There was a smile in his voice. The shadows surrounding him dipped for a moment.
He moved on to the next woman in line, and the same scene was enacted.
Once he had completed his round on the receiving line, the signal was given and the invited crowd of Anvin shadow makers and Prothean couples were allowed to enter.
The hall filled, tables full of snacks were brought out and Sobi surreptitiously eased away from the other candidates and headed for the food.
It wasn’t proper to leave the other ladies, but she was hungry, and besides, who would notice?
She was on her third tidbit when she heard a voice beside her.
“You just won’t follow the rules, will you, Sobi?”
Sobi froze mid-chew and turned around with her cheeks puffed. She swallowed with haste. “I thought that was you.”
A shadow maker of truly spectacular proportions stood near her. He wasn’t wearing his shadows anymore. In his Anvin uniform with his dark hair braided tightly against his head, Captain Aloss Wikiar was a very dashing figure. His shoulders were twice the width of hers, the muscles of his arms straining the fabric of his uniform. Yup, he was just the way she remembered him when he hauled her out of her cryo tube and ran with her ahead of the fireball that should have consumed her.