Iced, page 1part #10 of Valos of Sonhadra Series
Valos of Sonhadra, Volume 10
Published by Regine Abel, 2018.
All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal and punishable by law. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This book uses mature language and explicit sexual content. It is not intended for anyone under the age of 18.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Valos of Sonhadra Series
Valos of Sonhadra
About the Author
TO THE FABULOUS AUTHORS who first thought of up this collaboration and welcomed me in to take part in this wonderful adventure.
To Ronika Williams and Nero Seal, thank you so much for the last minute save. You two are rock stars!
To all the beta readers, friends, fans, and supporters who helped made this, and all my previous projects, a reality. To my muse who hasn’t given up on me yet.
And as always, to my parents who are far cooler than any parents should have the right to be. Please don’t change!
Valos of Sonhadra Series
WHEN AN ORBITAL PRISON is torn through a wormhole and crashes on an unknown planet, it's every woman for herself to escape the wreckage. As though savage beasts and harsh, alien climates aren't enough, the survivors discover the world isn't uninhabited and must face new challenges—risking not only their lives, but their hearts.
Welcome to Sonhadra.
The Valos of Sonhadra series is the shared vision of nine sci-fi and fantasy romance authors. Each book is a standalone, containing its own Happy Ever After, and can be read in any order.
THE FATE OF HIS PEOPLE rests in her hands.
When the penitentiary ship she's incarcerated on gets sucked into an anomaly, Kira barely survives the crash onto an alien planet. Along with a handful of survivors, she finds refuge in The City in the Caldera alongside its Fire Valos inhabitants. But the sadistic experiments performed on her by the prison's scientist make the heat intolerable for her. When the opportunity to go to the frozen city of E’Lek presents itself, Kira believes she’ll finally be at peace.
Duke is confused by the strange human female. Like him, she’s cold, made for the icy lands of the Northern Valos. Her resemblance to the Creators and questionable friendship with a human hated by his people raises their collective suspicions. Yet, only she could save their lost tribes condemned to an eternal slumber. As his heartstone warms for her, Duke is determined to prove to the rest of the tribe that beneath her frozen exterior hides a compassionate female. His female.
The blood-curdling shriek of the beast pierced my ears and spurred me into running even faster. I looked around for Amber, but hail stabbed my eyes. The blizzard had risen too fast. One moment, dark clouds had loomed on the horizon. The next, thundering steps had shaken the ground as a giant beast, coming out of thin air, had come barreling down on us. As if summoned by the creature’s bellowing screams, the elements decided to join the fray.
Powdery snow swirled into a blinding, white wall around me. Through the howling winds, echoes of Pel and Mishal’s battle roars reached my ears, but I couldn’t say from which direction they emanated. The two Fire Valos were escorting Amber and me from their fiery city of Caldera to the frozen one of the Northern Valos. A hot palm closed around my elbow as one of them shoved me behind him. Fire glowed beneath the valos’ skins as they shifted into their battle forms, and then they disappeared into the snow to go face the beast.
In my panic, I tried to run towards the cliff. We’d been heading in its direction to seek a cave in which to shelter from the oncoming storm. However, between the sounds of the charging beast, a few falls, and the lack of visibility, I quickly got turned around. I couldn’t see any of my companions. Biting my lip, I repressed the urge to call out to them for fear of drawing the attention of the monster or any of its buddies.
The wind threw my hair into my eyes, and I stopped to catch my breath, pressing a shaky hand to my burning chest. I strained to hear anything besides the violent winds and the blood rushing in my ears. Had the valos defeated the creature, or was I too far out of range for sounds of the battle to reach me? Sheltering my eyes with both hands, I surveyed the frozen land around me for any sign of which direction to take. White... as far as the eye could see—basically two feet ahead—everything was blanketed in white. Even the damn cliffs had been made of white stone.
For the past five months, since the Concord had crash-landed on the planet Sonhadra, I’d prayed to never be surrounded by fire again. Yet, in this instant, I’d give anything to see the blazing flames of Pel and Mishal’s battle forms through the curtain of snow swallowing me.
The sting of hail on the exposed skin of my arms and legs set me moving again. The wretched things could pass for small rocks and pummeled me with vicious intensity. With my pale skin, easily bruised, I’d be black and blue in the morning. At least the cold didn’t bother me, quite the opposite. But this certainly wouldn’t qualify as enjoyable, more like getting sandblasted by small shards of sharp glass.
My heart jumped into my throat at a rumbling sound in the distance. I frowned, wondering if thunder or the guttural roar of another alien predator had caused it. I picked up the pace, hoping I wasn’t heading into the endless, frozen flatlands. At least the tightly packed snow made it easier to walk instead of trudging knee-deep in it as I had initially expected. However, my thighs started burning in no time from fighting the wind.
As the minutes stretched with no sign of the cliff, a gnawing fear grew in the pit of my stomach that I’d gradually gotten turned around. Calling out to the others at this point would be suicidal. This time, the hail and wind didn’t cause the pricking in my eyes. Blinking back frightened tears, I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other.
I’ll continue for a few more minutes, then turn left if I don’t find the cliffs.
No sooner did that thought cross my mind than the ground collapsed beneath me. My scream abruptly died into an oomph as my butt collided with packed snow in what appeared to be a tunnel ramping up to the surface. I slid down the sharp, bumpy incline at dizzying speed. In a moment of pure genius, I decided to turn on my belly and clawed at the ground to stop—or at least slow—my descent.
In two seconds, my tunic had ridden up and bunched up under my armpits while the frozen ground took malicious pleasure at scraping the skin off my belly. Each bump had my teeth rattling in my head while my bra scooped as much snow as it could along the way. After an eternity of the worst roller coaster ride in existence, I finally came to a stop at the bottom, dazed and battered.
I remained still while my brain settled down in my skull and took stock of my aches and pains. Nothing felt broken. Pushing myself up, I gingerly sat back on my
Or rather tried to.
So much snow had packed under my bra, I might as well have been a DD cup. Wincing, I shook out the offending, frozen intruder. The underside of my breasts and my tummy felt raw, covered in raised welts and scrapes. With my pale complexion, the angry contusions stood out starkly and would remain tender for the next hour, at least. Groaning, I got back on my feet, brushed my platinum-blonde hair out of my face, adjusted my bra, and pulled my tunic back down.
It fell almost to my knees. The alien fabric, delicate in appearance, was sturdier than denim but with the softness of cashmere. Looking at it, you’d never guess it suffered through the same tumble I did.
With a sigh, I took in my surroundings. A long tunnel lay ahead with offshoots of varying sizes intersecting along its length. The mostly smooth walls didn’t feel like natural formations or caves; something—or rather some things—had burrowed their way through here. No light lit the end of the tunnel, except for odd trickles of light cast here and there from holes to the surface. Feeling anxious, I held my breath and listened as hard as I could, seeking any sound of a potential lurker or critter nearby. The faint howling of the wind up above was all I could hear.
The slope that dropped me here had too sharp a curved incline to let me see outside. At least it allowed some light in, but I couldn’t stay here. I suspected a massive creature had dug that passage, seeing how I could stand upright with plenty of head room. That would explain how the beast that attacked us earlier had appeared out of nowhere. If this was its lair, or connected to it, waiting at the entrance to welcome it home didn’t strike me as a good idea. However, I’d never manage to climb back out.
I threw a sharp glance over my shoulder at the dark tunnel and chills rushed down my spine. Being alone in the dark featured on my long list of phobias, along with fear of speed and spiders—well, make that creepy-crawlers in general. I shook out the snow that had lodged itself inside my short boots, then dug into my pockets, relieved to find the two glow stones still safely tucked inside. Pulling one out, I held it aloft. Soft, pale orange light danced against the walls of the cave, reflecting deeper into the tunnel. I took a few tentative steps forward. I could see about twenty meters, in then peered into each of the four off-shooting branches visible in the lit area.
Two of them had light at the end. Despite my slim figure, one would be a very tight fit. Did I mention a bit of claustrophobia in my list of issues? But, more importantly, if something nasty decided to come at me from the opposite direction, I wouldn’t be able to turn around and probably couldn’t even crawl backwards—assuming I didn’t get stuck halfway in. The other one would allow me to walk slightly hunched over.
I hesitated for a moment between going farther down the tunnel to check out the other off-shoots or entering this one. Being able to walk upright would be better. A scurrying sound up ahead—real or imagined—made the decision for me.
Closing my palm over the stone to snuff its light, I bowed my head and hurried into the branching tunnel. If something was lurking in the larger tunnel, I didn’t need to draw its attention with my colored light. Walking hunched over was awkward. Constantly turning to look over my shoulder didn’t help, not that I could see much in the semi-darkness behind me. My imagination kept conjuring up fiendish critters crawling up the sides of the tunnel, right at the edge of my vision, making my stomach lurch with false alarm.
What awaited me at the end of the tunnel took my breath away.
My lips parted in awe as I realized the light didn’t come from an opening to the surface, but from a series of white glow stones. Whoever had carved that hallway had strategically embedded them in the stony walls of the same color.
I stepped into the partially engineered corridor, surprised that only the left side of the path had been dug into the white rocks. The right side, of which my tunnel had been a part, consisted of packed snow, ice, dirt, and rocks. I had no idea where that side of the hallway might have led but it had collapsed. The constructed side, maybe ten meters long, rose on a somewhat steep incline. It appeared to be a dead-end, although a fancily ornate one. Ignoring the couple of other offshoot tunnels on the opposite side of the hallway, I walked into the constructed tunnel and climbed my way to the back.
It dawned on me that these rocks had to be part of the cliff. The hole I fell into had likely been a stone’s throw away from my destination, hidden by the raging elements. It gave me hope I might reunite with the others once I found a way out, and the blizzard calmed down.
The hallway, at least four meters wide and three meters tall, ended with a perfectly flat wall decorated with swirly carvings. Some of them reminded me of symbols I had seen in Caldera. I suspected the stone wall contained a door; I just needed to find the switch hidden in the pattern.
In my five months in Caldera, I’d explored the city often, seeking a cooler environment to take refuge in and had familiarized myself with the Creators’ apparent obsession with hidden rooms, nooks, and crannies.
The Creators, as the Fire Valos called them, had apparently been an alien species that had come to Sonhadra centuries ago. They’d experimented on the local population, transforming them into elemental-like beings called valos and enslaving them. A thousand years ago, they had left without a word, abandoning their creations, and the cities the valos had built for them.
Having been experimented on myself, I could empathize with the valos.
The Creators had been tall, at least two heads taller than humans. I therefore searched higher on the wall—than where a human would have put a switch—to compensate for the height difference.
Trailing the carvings with my fingertips, it took me a few minutes to find the switch with the wall being so wide. Without my experience in Caldera, I never would have guessed the existence of a secret door and would have already walked away.
A section of the patterned wall the size of a small brick depressed beneath my touch. To my surprise, a door didn’t open, but the entire back wall slid aside with the loud, grinding sound of disuse. I cast a nervous glance over my shoulder, fearing the ruckus might draw the wrong kind of attention to my location.
As soon as the gap allowed me to get inside, I rushed in, sparing a brief glance inside the room to make sure no threat awaited me. To my relief, like in Caldera, a motion detector only found inside buildings was embedded in the wall near the door. Waving my hand in front of it signaled the door to open or, in this instance, close.
The absence of the stuffy, closed-up smell of long abandoned places worried me. No sound betrayed the presence of anyone within, but that didn’t mean they didn’t lurk about. According to the Fire Valos, the Creators were long gone and only the Northern Valos—a very peaceful people—dwelled this far north. Unfortunately, I had no reference from Caldera as to how this place should smell.
After the prison ship we were incarcerated on crashed on Sonhadra, a few other survivors and I had found our way to Caldera. The city had mostly been dead, with only a handful of Fire Valos still alive. As we reopened the city, the overwhelming stench of sulfur had followed me everywhere. And the heat... the blasted heat...
Standing at the bottom of a short flight of stairs with ramps on each side, I could only see the high ceiling of the well-lit cave. I drew in a steadying breath and began my ascent with careful steps, trying to keep as silent as possible, even if it didn’t make any sense. The door opening and closing would already have alerted anyone potentially living here to my presence.
As I cleared the landing, my jaw dropped and my eyes widened in horror.
When I’d found the hidden door, I’d believed it to possibly be the back entrance to E’Lek, the Northern Valos’ city. From what little I had gleaned, they had a large underground city, which made sense with the harsh arctic climate.
This was no city.
The large, mostly rectangular room carved d
While my mind inventoried these various details, the countless small chambers lining the walls caught my attention. With a mind of their own, my feet carried me closer. Each chamber resembled those statue alcoves found in churches and historical buildings back on Earth.
Except these alcoves didn’t contain statues but rather the Northern Valos people.
The one in front of me stood at least six-foot-four. From the neck down, if not for his dusky blue skin, the gaping hole in his chest, and some icy shards on his shoulders, this valos male could pass for an insanely sexy, buff man. Broad shoulders, sinewy arms, chiseled abs; if I wasn’t so freaked out—and a little dehydrated—I’d be drooling like nobody’s business. A loincloth covered his privates, preventing me from further assessing the similarities.
Bald, except for what appeared to be a single thick braid down the back of his head, the sharp lines of his angular face seemed almost carved with a blade. His eyes, almond-shaped and larger than a human’s, were closed. Crystalline shards formed his eyebrows. His practically non-existent nose bridge ended in what looked like a mosquito-bite-bump of a nose tip with tiny holes as nostrils. The plumpness of his bottom lip compensated for the completely flat upper one. His ears reminded me of seashells, flat against the side of his head with a tiny hole at the base.
My gaze dropped back to the opening in his chest. The silver-colored metal casing of the socket looked pristine, yet my trained eye as a former surgical nurse detected that the swelling and coloration of the skin directly in contact with it screamed of an allergic reaction. My fingers itched to touch the swelling to check its warmth level. I reached out for what looked like a glass door to their cryogenic chamber, but turned out to be a solid block of ice. These valos had literally been iced.
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