Dara Joy - Matrix 04

BOOK: Dara Joy - Matrix 04
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THAT FAMILIAR TOUCH

Those who will play with cats must expect to get scratched.

-Miguel de Cervantes

 

 

ONE

 

Planet M'yan, Familiar homeworld, 5187 m.u.

"He cannot stop me from leaving!"

Soosha was so angry she could feel the hair on the back of her head lifting. The signal usually was a warning that a full-scale battle was on its way. "Who is he to tell me what to do?"

"He
is the King of All Familiar." H'riar sighed deeply. It was a weary, drawn-out exhalation. This was the fifth time he had had this 'discussion' with his brother's daughter!

On occasion, the girl could be as stubborn as her older brother, Brygar.

Unfortunately, this was such an occasion.

He sighed again, shaking his head.

H'riar had always thought Soosha the sweetest and prettiest of his family's kits, with her smoky black hair,
aqua /gold eyes, engagingly inquisitive features and happy disposition. Normally she was the most even tempered among the entire family.

Except when her fur was rubbed the wrong way.

Then, beware!

"Yes, Soosha, he
can
stop you." H'riar reiterated that for the eleventh time.

The Familiar girl began to pace. Another bad sign.

"He is being unreasonable! I will be perfectly fine."

"Taj Gian disagrees." Recently, their king had recalled all Familiar back to their homeworld of M'yan, forbidding any off-planet travel.

Even trips to Aviara were curtailed.

Of course, he had done this for their safety. Karpon, the despotic ruler of Ganakari, had declared an all out war on the Familiar. He was systematically hunting them down and enslaving them.

Unfortunately, their people were considered by most to be a beautiful and sensual species- thus they brought very high prices on the auction block. Their extraordinary abilities in the art of pleasure-giving had seen to that.

H'riar knew that his people's gift of shapeshifting made them endlessly fascinating to others; for Familiar walked in two forms- that of man and cat.

But with this innate ability also came a vital sense of individuality.

His People refused to be contained or controlled. Regardless of the source.

Thus H'riar's current dilemma.

It had not set well with the King to issue such a proclamation. Yet taj Gian knew that, above all, he had to protect his people.

At first H'riar had not been sure about the course of action Gian was determined to take, but as the King's advisor, or
utal,
he came to understand and agree with Gian's decision.

Soosha did not see it the same way.

As a strong-willed female coming into her prime, she had other ideas. Being related to a king sometimes had its advantages. Soosha was under the erroneous impression that taj Gian's decree could not possibly include her.

H'riar, like every other male member of the family, had always been charmed by her beguiling ways. The fact that she was the youngest female in the family simply added to the winsome equation.

In other words, she was used to getting her way.

H'riar tried once more to make her understand.

"He is not being unreasonable, Soosha; he is trying to protect our people."

"Do you think someone will get the better of me? I can take care of myself, I assure you!" Her nostrils flared in a charming display of feline temperament.

H'riar tried not to smile. She was young and inexperienced in the ways of other worlds. Her bravado came from untried youth.

But it would not do to tell her that.

Soothing was by far the best tactic with an outraged Familiar woman. That is, unless your intention was to rile one up- which was always interesting under the right circumstances.

He smiled fondly at a memory of just such an incident with his own mate....

Soosha's howl of outrage snapped him back to the present.

"I have come of age! It is my time to travel on adventures,
H'riar. I have waited my whole life for this! It is unreasonable!"

To be fair, she was not the only one to have such sentiments. Many of their youth were tugging at the restrictions taj Gian had been forced to place on all of them. Although the people understood his reasoning and accepted it, the closing of the secret Tunnel on M'yan had been difficult for everyone.

They were a people who lived for adventure. No Familiar could stand a cage- even a cage as vast as an entire planet. Truly, it was the
idea
of being told 'not to' that made them 'want to' all the more.

This was the nature of any cat.

H'riar acknowledged to himself that they often were an infuriating, yet engaging people.

"I am deeply sorry that your coming of age has to be so confined. Yes, you will not be able to experience all that others have in the past, but, Soosha, there are things off world of which you have no comprehension. Terrible things. Your safety is too important to us. Please understand."

Now it was Soosha's turn to sigh. "Please try to understand
me,
H'riar; this is not simply a coming of age whim to adventure. My whole life I have dreamt of exploring other worlds! Other beings. I want to see how others live. How they think. I know it is unusual for a woman to want to go adventuring so afar, but I am not afraid to take this chance in order to experience new things. I should be allowed to decide for myself!"

H'riar rubbed his forehead. How could he get through to her? She would not be able to understand the depths of cruelty she could encounter. On M'yan she had known only
love and compassion. Male familiars were very protective of their mates and families. And for good reason. The universe was an especially dangerous place for them.

"Most of these beings you wish to meet do not think as we do; they not share our beliefs or even care about them. Did you know that in the Far Reaches there are beings who survive solely by dealing in the trading of captive beings? Familiars are highly prized by them."

Soosha paled but held her ground. "I have heard of this, H'riar. But it is males they seek. I would not be in danger."

"It is males they seek because they have not easily encountered any of our females. Would you risk being captured and sold like a piece of krilli cloth? Forced to do things so horrible you cannot even imagine?"

Soosha swallowed. Such a fate held little appeal. Still, she could not give up her dream.

"That would not happen to me. Furthermore, if our males are willing to take such a risk to adventure then I should be allowed to do the same. Besides, it is uncommon for Familiars to be taken. Our men have a way of escaping, do they not?"

"That has been changing. Furthermore, you know that the Familiar male is a born predator, Soosha. He has ways of protecting himself that you do not."

That gave her pause. While their females had some predator in them, they were not like the males in that regard. A cornered male was a sight to behold! If he was in the right mood, he would stand his ground and fight no matter how many he faced.

Still, females could often outthink their enemies; she was not about to give up her lifelong dream.

"What you say may be true, H'riar, but I have different
ways. Ways that are stronger - in some areas - than a male's."

Do we men not know that!
H'riar could not decide whether to smile at the charming girl or frown at her stubbornness.

"Nonetheless, my little Soosha, this discussion is pointless. Your brother would never agree to it and Taj Gian has sealed the Tunnel. He has commanded us
all
to remain planetside. You will not be going anywhere until the situation on Ganakari is cleared and their leader Karpon has answered for his crimes against us."

"But that could take years!" The girl wailed.

"So it could. Thus you will have plenty of time to enjoy your native land. Perhaps you will even mate?"

Her lip stuck out mutinously. "I will not mate before I adventure!"

"You are too young to realize that mating can be an adventure in itself." He winked at her. "I must get back to the royal abode, Soosha. I hope my visit has soothed your anxiety. Now that you understand that your wish to travel is impossible, perhaps you would like to come to the palace in a few days for a visit? Jenise would appreciate your company and Gian will not stop the men from showering you in gifts."

Soosha nostrils flared slightly at the innocuous suggestion, but she wished H'riar a good day and thanked him for coming.

Discussion over, the
utal
quickly took his leave.

Soosha plopped onto the nearest floor cushion.

H'riar actually thinks he can pet me into compliance!
She snorted delicately as she stretched across the silken fabric.
Come to the palace!
What did she care of gifts from
hopeful, vying males?

The whole thing bored her. And while she was very fond of the
tajan,
Jenise, she did not wish to wile away her time in the royal abode. She had exploring to do- and she was going to do it!

But how?

She bit her lip.

Since Gian had sealed the secret Tunnel, the only other Tunnel on M'yan led directly to Aviara. That Tunnel was heavily guarded on both sides: the Charl knights protected the entrance on the Aviaran side, and the clans rotated their best men to guard the entrance on M'yan.

No one was allowed through without official approval.

Hmm.
Unlike the secret Tunnel that had been sealed, the other Tunnel connected to the great Hall of Tunnels on Aviara. . . .

Although she did not want to be on Aviara, perhaps she might be able to slip away once inside the vast Hall of Tunnels and from there link to another world?

Once she was off Aviara, her journey would be assured. She need only take additional Tunnel jumps from that point.

Of course, it would be best to hide her course by going through several Tunnels so she could not be easily tracked.

It might actually work,
she reasoned.

But how could she get to Aviara without official permission? Would there be a way to get through the Tunnel gate undetected?

She didn't know, but she was going to find out.

Running up to her chambers, she quickly grabbed a pouch of clarified stones and one of her co
lorful sashes. She tucked the stones into a secret pocket hidden within
the
waistband, before wrapping the band around her waist.

Then she twirled a green hooded cloak over her loose
jatal-riaz.
The flowing, filmy material of the
atal-riaz
had been expertly wrapped around her thirty-nine times, then tied off in the traditional way.
The cool krilli cloth draped her body, moving as sensuously as she did. Just the feel of the silken fabric rubbing against her skin made her purr.

Familiar males would often stop whatever they were doing just to watch the beautiful, graceful vision of a woman as she passed by in
her jatal-riaz.

The simple green cloak was nowhere near as extravagant as the other ones she had and it made her sad to have to wear it on such a momentous occasion; but its plain lines would not draw extra attention to her.

Soosha gave a little mournful mew. Like most Familiar, she loved to preen in beautiful things; however, hidden beneath this traveler's cloak, she would easily be mistaken for a member of a trading caravan.

As
long as she did not look anyone directly in the eye.

The distinctive dual-colored eyes of her kind would immediately give her away- so she would have to be very careful.

Soosha stuck her head out the door to make sure no one was about to witness her slip away. Her eyes widened at the sight of a very old man walking up the hill to their family home. He was leaning heavily on a wizard's staff.

Yaniff.

What was that old Charl doing here? And why had he chosen this of all times to visit?!

The seventh level mystic would know in an instant what she was planning! She twitched her ears. What should she
do....!

She held her breath as Yaniff suddenly veered from the path he had been following and changed direction to head towards the royal abode.

Soosha let out a huge sigh of relief.

He must have been looking for H'riar and realized that the King's advisor was already on his way back to Gian.

Now that the path was clear, she quickly dashed out of the house and into the shelter of the surrounding vegetation.

A satisfied smile licked her lips.

Nothing was so delightful as darting out of a door as if someone might stop you at any given moment. Soosha was not sure why that felt so good
-
it just did.

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