Korom paced the command room at the Keep, unable to control the raging mist that flowed from his every pore. After searching the entire planet twice, Korom’s mist had returned to him with a deep, agonizing despair that seeped into his very soul.
How could she have just vanished? Who took her?
After his failed attempts to find his love, he had called Kurmar in a rage, demanding to know who would dare steal her from him.
Kurmar had been just as shocked as he was at the news, swearing that he had nothing to do with taking her and that he would do everything he could to help find Tulip.
Now, Korom, Bor, Tark, Keel, Paru, Oris and Tulip’s sisters all sat in the command room, trying to figure out where to search for her, and who could have taken her.
“There is no doubt she was taken by a Miasm,” Keel said, leaning forward in his seat, “yet there are so few of your race left, commander. Have you ever had any contact with another of your race besides Commander Kurmar?”
Korom shook his head. “Until I met Kurmar, I thought I was the only one.”
“We know that a small group of Miasm’s survived the destruction of their planet. Kurmar sent us the details on every single one of them. From everything I have read, they are a peaceful colony living deep within the Asmatar district. Kurmar said he searched the whole planet they live on. There is no trace of her.” Tark said, his voice filled with concern.
“There is another option,” Lady Lilly’s soft voice sounded in the room.
Korom paused his pacing to meet her eyes. He had to get his anger and fear under control. He couldn’t think straight, his mind splintering at the idea that she was lost to him.
“What is that, my love?” Bor asked, reaching over to take her hand.
Lady Lilly’s gaze never once moved off Korom.
“There is another Miasm we haven’t considered.”
Korom froze, his heart falling as the realization of who she spoke about became clear.
“My brother.” He breathed, wide eyes turning to look at Bor.
“Why would he take Tulip?” Violet asked.
“He wants to hurt me,” Korom whispered, falling into his chair and hanging his head, “I see no other reason to take her.”
“But why would he want to hurt you? You don’t remember him. I highly doubt he has a grudge against you from when you were a baby.”
Bor answered Violet’s question. “He could be angry that Korom had a better life than he did. If he is bitter about how different their lives turned out, he could lash out and want Korom to feel the kind of pain he did. I cannot imagine what Lorzarian’s life would have been like with the Pirates. If his mind is gone…”
Korom raised his gaze to meet his brother’s eyes. There was no hiding the emotion in them. He didn’t want to.
“How do we find him?” he asked.
Bor shook his head, “I do not know. Kurmar searched for him for weeks. He found nothing of the male. Only when Lorzarian called Kurmar mere minutes before Tulip was taken did he know that your brother lived.”
“We have to do something!” Rose shouted, getting to her feet, “We can’t just leave her out there with that asshole!”
“There is no way to find him. He has stayed hidden for over thirty years. Kurmar has searched every inch of the Decagon territory. Thousands of planets, millions of ships, and trillions of people were checked for the smallest sign of her. Nothing. Even The Eye is not able to search the whole universe.”
“This is bullshit! What the hell does he want with her? She didn’t do anything to anyone! I swear to God, if she so much as breaks a nail, I’ll tear off his fucking balls, deep fry them in hot oil and feed them back to that son of a bitch!”
Korom raised a brow at the vivid image of the female’s revenge. He had to admit, that sounded like a perfectly acceptable punishment.
His mind, however, came up with far more creative ways to make the male pay for taking Tulip. And if she was dead…
He couldn’t think of that. He had to believe that she would find a way to stay alive until he could find her.
“Is there no way to track his mist?” Violet asked, looking over at Korom.
He shook his head, “No. Unlike the drive signature of ships, Miasm mist uses a very different kind of energy. I asked the scholars to see if they can find a way to track it, but they have not come up with anything yet.”
“So what do we do?” Lady Lilly asked, her eyes filling with tears as she looked to Bor.
He sighed, “I don’t know. I have every warrior, every ally, trade partner, alliance member and freighter pilot looking for anything out of the ordinary. The Decagon is sending out more ships to search. For now, all we can do is wait.”
Lilly sobbed, burying her face into Bor’s shirt. He pulled her close, holding her to him as his eyes closed.
Korom looked down at his hands. The same hands that had held his mates warm, willing body only hours ago.
He clenched them into tight fists, not accepting the idea of waiting. He had to do something. Anything to help find her. If he didn’t he would sit there as his mind fell into despair.
Tulip was a very smart woman, with more strength and bravery then she knew, but this was not Earth. The Decagon could be a dangerous place for someone who did not grow up with space travel as an everyday occurrence. One mistake, one tiny misstep could kill her.
Unable to sit any longer, Korom rose from his seat and marched for the door. He ignored Bor as he called out to him, breaking out into a jog as soon as he was out in the hall. He burst through the large doors leading to the small back garden and sprinted for one of the Keep’s shuttles.
He just got to the door of the ship when he felt a hard hand on his shoulder. He spun, ready to fight anyone who tried to stop him.
Bor stood with Oris at his side.
“Did you truly think I would let you go alone?” Bor asked.
“I’m taking the command vessel.” Korom stated, silently challenging Bor with his glare to disapprove.
“No, brother. We Are taking the command vessel. We are going to search for her, and we will find her.”
“She is my mate, Bor-”
“And she is my sister. Tulip is just as much my family as she is yours. And so are you. No matter what happens or who we find out there, you are my brother... as I am yours.”
Korom pulled in a long, calming breath before he nodded. As much as he didn’t want to put his king’s life at risk, he was infinitely grateful to have his brother at his side.
As the door to the shuttle opened, he saw Keel and Tark running over with four large bags slung over their shoulders. They jumped onto the ship, giving Korom a nod, then settled into the seats as though this were any other mission.
Korom sat in the pilot’s seat, a grateful smile pulling at his lips. Bor eased his big body into the seat beside him, thick straps moving over his chest as the shuttle fired up and began to rise from the ground.
When the soft blue skies gave way to the vast darkness of space, Korom turned the shuttle towards the Command Vessel and pushed it as hard as it could go.
A ship the size of the Command Vessel usually needed at least a hundred warriors to run on long missions, but it was able to function on a very limited crew if needed. Not only that, but it was the most heavily armed ship in the Torian fleet. It was faster, stronger and more maneuverable than most other ships.
When the large black shape of the vessel came into view, Korom slowed their approach.
“There is something I need to tell you, brother,” Korom said to Bor.
“What is it?”
Korom turned to glance at Bor’s tight features, before he grinned and focused on the massive vessel in front of them.
“Violet has a fully grown, living Spinner male living on the Command vessel. His name is Spot. Don’t kill it.”
Silence filled the cockpit.
Korom turned, biting back his chuckle at Bor’s wide eyes.
“What did you say?” Bor finally asked.
“Your dear, sweet, little sister, Violet, has adopted a fully grown, mutated Spinner male that she named Spot. It is her pet. Her friend. It also lives on the command vessel and you are not allowed to kill it. No one is.”
Bor’s mouth opened, then closed. He narrowed his eyes at Korom, then said, “I have so many questions I don’t know which to ask first.”
Korom laughed. “Yes, I would think so. All you need to know is that the creature is no threat to us. In fact, I think it may be able to help us in this hunt.”
“How do you know this?”
Korom eased the shuttle into the open landing bay doors, gently setting it down in the designated area. He flicked off the engines and waited for the atmospheric seal to close behind them.
“Tulip told me about it the night before we returned to Toria. I was introduced to the beast and saw with my own eyes that it was not a threat to anyone. I know this makes no sense to you, brother, but if you kill it, Violet will hate you for the rest of her life. She cares for it. It’s not like the other Spinners we have fought in the past. Once you see it you will understand.”
“I think I’m going to have to have a serious talk with those females about keeping secrets from me.”
They stood, exiting the cockpit. Korom relayed the information about Spot to Keel and Tark, hoping that none of them panicked and killed the creature.
The doors hissed open and Korom jogged down the ramp. The moment his feet hit the sturdy metal of the landing bay, he heard the fast tapping of heavy claws on metal. Looking up, he saw a large black body barreling towards him on long, powerful legs. He dropped the emergency bag Tark had taken for him and braced himself for what Spot would do.
Once it got close enough, Spot skidded to a stop, almost knocking over a tall tower of crates, his larger body trembling with excitement. Korom saw the joy in the creature’s eyes at seeing him again.
When Bor and the others stepped off the shuttle, Spot slowly eased back, its large white eyes darting from one male to the other.
“Calm,” Korom warned both his brothers as well as Spot.
Bor stepped up to Korom, his long curved blades in his hands. “This is Violet’s pet?”
“Yes. Remember what she did to you in the medical room? She will tear you apart if you hurt this animal.”
Bor rolled his eyes, sheathing his blades at his hip.
“Violet is a child who is still unsure of the new world she lives in. But you I trust with my life. If you say this beast is not a threat to us, I believe you.”
“Watch,” Korom said, moving towards Spot.
Spot stayed still, his wide eyes fixed on Bor. When Korom got close enough, he stood in front of its face, blocking its view of the others. Spot’s eyes moved to him, the wide, fearful gaze sending a surge of pity through him for the animal.
“Easy, Spot. They will not hurt you. They need to see that you are no threat to them. If you behave on this trip, I will tell you all about Violet and what she has been up to.”
Spot shifted with excitement, his large head lowering so Korom could pet it. When his hand made contact with the scaled skin on top of his head, Spot closed his eyes, a low, deep hum coming from its chest.
Korom kept his hand on Spots head, gently stroking it as he turned back to the others. The looks on their faces almost made him laugh.
“See? Not a threat.”
Bor moved slowly as he approached, his eyes glued to the large beast.
“How is this possible?”
“I will tell you everything once we are underway.”
Bor nodded, raising a hand slowly to Spot’s head. He paused a few inches away, looking at Korom.
Korom smiled with a nod, silently telling his king that it was safe to touch the dangerous beast.
Bor eased a large hand down on Spot’s head, the amazement clear in his eyes. Spot hummed louder, twisting its head to the side to give them more scaled skin to stroke.
After a moment Keel and Tark did the same, chatting animatedly about the opportunity this gave the Torians.
Several minutes later they all left the landing bay, Spot following them on the wall to their left as they made their way to the bridge.
When they passed the main eating hall, Korom paused at the mess he saw inside.
Dozens upon dozens of torn open packs of food lay strewn all over the floors tables and chairs.
He narrowed his eyes up at Spot, who sat suspended on the wall beside the door. The creature shrank back, its eyes moving away from his glare.
“I see I will have to teach you to clean up after yourself.”
Spot met his eyes, the guilt easy to read in the white orbs.
“Our lives grow stranger and stranger with each passing day,” Bor mumbled as he watched Korom reach up to stroke Spot again.
“Let us not waste any more time. Tulip needs us.”
At his words, Spot tensed, its eyes darting between them all.
“Tulip was kidnapped from Toria by another Miasm,” Korom found himself explaining to Spot, “I need to find her. I fear her life may be in danger.”
Spot hissed, his long fangs extending from his jaw and his body tensed. With a powerful leap, it jumped over all their heads, running at an incredible speed towards the bridge. Frowning, Korom took off after it, knowing the others followed by the heavy pounding of their boots behind him.
When they reached the bridge, Spot sat on the massive view screen, its long legs spread out as it tapped its front claws over the view of space outside.
“I believe the beast is ready to find your mate, commander,” Keel said with a smile.
“As am I. Ready the ship.”