Therian Priestess, страница 1часть #0.50 серии Therian Heat
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2017 Cyndi Friberg
Cover art by Dar Albert
Editor: Mary Moran
Electronic Book Publication, June 2017
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author, Cyndi Friberg.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Prequel to the Therian Heat series: In the time before recorded history, Jatara is a faithful priestess of the Mother Creator, Bellin. Like all Therian women, she is empowered to absorb the animal nature of the male who defines her. But her father has ordered her to mate with a rival clan’s leader, which will destroy her connection to Bellin. Angry and frightened, she rebels, determined to live on her own terms.
Jatara’s bravery impresses Bellin, who promises her a new destiny. She will become the first Omni Prime, a specially gifted Therian who will work to free all her kind’s women from oppression. To claim her power, she must surrender herself to the mighty god Khonish. Jatara yearns for the joining with the sexy and intriguing god. Until she meets the mortal man destined to be her mate.
Note from Cyndi: This is not a typical romance novel, and it’s very different from the other books in this series. It’s a detailed mythology explaining the origin of the Omni Prime. Jatara has numerous obstacles to overcome, and an unavoidable sacrifice she must make, before she can live happily ever after with her mate. If you prefer a more traditional romance, you might want to skip this book and start with Therian Prey. If you’re up for a sexy adventure, than enjoy. Also, this book was published a few years back under the same title and author name.
Before written history began
With her arms outstretched and her face raised toward the night sky, Jatara waded into the sacred pool. The water was warm and ripples from her slow entrance were the only disruption upon its glassy surface. Moonlight surrounded her, caressed her, as she prepared her mind and body for what was to come.
“Hear me, Mother Creator.” Even her whispered words seemed loud in the stillness of the secluded glen. The location of the primeval sanctuary was a closely guarded secret, one only shared with Bellin’s most faithful priestesses. “Accept my humble offering and empower me to serve you more completely.” She carefully knelt, her toes and knees sinking into the pool’s muddy bottom.
Her plan was rash and reckless. Could she really expect Bellin to bless such unconventional actions? The thought made her smile. Bellin, the Mother Creator, had been known to be rash and reckless on occasion. On many occasions, if the truth be told.
Jatara scooped up handfuls of water and dripped them upon her head as she tried to clear her mind and calm her spirit. In the time before time, Bellin’s brother Khonish had gathered the strongest and best mankind had to offer and gifted them with the ability to transform into animals. Khonish called them Therians and scattered them across the face of the earth so their animal natures would not make war upon each other.
Bellin convinced Khonish to share his gift with a select group of human females as well, but she wanted each female to choose her own animal nature rather than be bound by the clan into which she was born. Khonish saw no reason to deny his sister’s request, so he created Therian females with the ability to transform only after they had chosen their animal nature.
Jatara was such a female. Her Therian blood would enable her to transform, but first her animal nature had to be defined. And the choice of which animal she wanted to incorporate into her being was at the heart of her uncertainty.
She had been born into a tribe of powerful jaguar-shifters, but her father had accepted the offer of a man who would one day rule a massive tiger clan. If she bowed to her father’s will and accepted the tiger prince as her mate, she would be expected to leave her rainforest home and sacrifice her purpose for living. For all of Bellin’s priestesses were unmated females.
Jatara indulged in a heavy sigh and then waded out of the sacred pool. With or without the Mother Creator’s blessing, Jatara would reclaim control of her future tonight. She wrapped a clean seroje around her hips, tying the tapered ends in a snug knot. The colorful material clung to her damp skin as she dragged a wooden comb through her wet hair. Once the dark tresses were manageable again, she rolled the comb and her dirty clothes into a tidy bundle and stashed it beneath a bush so she could retrieve it later.
Tossing back her waist-length hair, Jatara let the balmy night embrace her. Instinct guided her steps as anticipation sped her pulse and overshadowed her mind. Though dense and perilous for those not acquainted with its dangers, the rainforest held no secrets for Jatara. This was home. She knew its sounds and smells, its cycles and rhythms. Her people had lived here for generations, in harmony with their verdant surroundings, taking only what they needed to survive.
She rushed along the barely discernible path, anxious yet excited for the coming events. This was no ordinary night. Before the sun rose above the far horizon she would transcend childhood and begin her life as an empowered Therian. It would take the blood of a Therian male to define her animal nature and establish the abilities she would command in human form. And she had chosen the man she wished to participate in her definition.
Strong fingers caught her upper arm, spinning her around in time for warm lips to stifle her instinctive cry. For just a moment she resisted the embrace, then Montega’s familiar scent filled her nose and she melted into his arms. Her bare breasts pressed against his chest and she wrapped her arms around his neck. Tall and sleekly muscled, Montega was the most powerful warrior in her father’s village. All the unclaimed females longed to share his sleeping mat and bear his children. Jatara was not immune to the temptation, but she knew her feet were meant for a different path.
“You should be more careful,” she whispered as he finally separated their lips. An odd heaviness compressed her belly and her nipples felt tight and sensitive. “What if someone had heard me scream?”
“After tonight it will not matter.” He boldly cupped her breast, his thumb lightly teasing the beaded tip. “You will belong to me, body and soul.”
A chill skittered down her spine and she eased away from his hand. “I belong to the sacred forest and Bellin, mother of us all. I thought you understood that.”
He crossed his arms over his chest as his handsome features tensed. “If you surrender your body and allow my blood to define your animal nature, by clan law, you will be my mate.”
“Our bodies cannot join. You know I am a priestess. If I bind my soul to yours, Bellin will send her visions to another.”
His eyes narrowed and he scoffed, his expression suddenly harsh and disbelieving. “You would rather have a goddess in your mind than a man between your legs?” He reached for her but she twisted away, quickly putting space between them. “You are just frightened of the unknown. I will be gentle until your body becomes accustomed to mine.”
Defining a female often stirred the male’s lust. Jatara had witnessed the ritual often enough to know what to expect. That was why she’d agreed to touch Montega and allow him to touch her until he’d found release. But she’d agreed to nothing more.
“I cannot mate with you,” she reminded him.
She backed away as he advanced, shocked and angry. How could she have misjudged him so completely? Montega had always seemed kind and respectful, brave and honorable. She’d believed him when he agreed to help her avoid her father’s thoughtless plan.
Montega held out his hand, his lips parting in a calculative smile. “There is no reason to be afraid. I will not hurt you.”
If she screamed, the village guards would come running. But her father would be on their heels. She could not challenge his plans for her life until her animal nature was defined.
Montega lunged and she darted to the side, narrowly avoiding his advance. “Go back to camp.” She did her best to sound authoritative, but her heart was solidly lodged in her throat. “We will pretend this never happened.” Spinning on the ball of her foot, she darted toward the trees.
His arm circled her waist from behind and he dragged her backward. “I have never been good at pretending.” He grasped the back of her neck and buckled her knees, taking her down with the weight of his body. She landed hard on her hands and knees, his big body pressing against her back. Then she felt the unmistakable bulge of his arousal rubbing against her buttocks.
She slammed the back of her head into his chest. “My father will…kill you if you force this on me.” A sob shuddered through her voice, ruining the threat. Montega was tall and starkly muscled, yet she’d never seen his size as a threat. Warriors protected the village, ensuring the safety and happiness of those entrusted to their care.
“Stop fighting and this will not be force.”
The amusement in his tone sickened her. This was a game to him, an unimportant obstacle to his pleasure. “I will kill you myself if you do not let go!” She jabbed him with her elbow and launched herself forward. He caught her hips and repositioned her body before she could push to her feet.
Panic welled within her, ringing through her ears and drying out her mouth. She couldn’t stop him. He was too strong. He would shatter her life and steal her future with one thrust of his wretched cock!
She clawed the earth and sucked in air, meaning to scream down the heavens. But golden light shimmered in her peripheral vision and Montega’s hands suddenly left her hips.
“You dare threaten my priestess?” Musical yet lethal, a female voice sliced through the night.
Montega muttered something unintelligible then whimpered like a child. His obvious panic calmed Jatara, yet her confusion remained. She paused for a much needed breath then slowly turned her head.
A female being of unearthly beauty stood beside Montega. He huddled at her feet, arms raised, protecting his face. The pulsing nimbus surrounding the woman stung Jatara’s eyes and still she couldn’t drag her gaze away.
“Bellin?” Jatara whispered as she sat back on her heels. A gentle smile curved the woman’s lips and warmth cascaded through Jatara. She felt soothed and calm as if she’d just been embraced by a trusted friend.
“Fear not, my child. I mean you no harm. But I am tempted to drain the life from this worthless creature.” Amber light flared within Bellin’s eyes as she turned and studied Montega.
Jatara bowed her head, unable to escape shame’s swelling heat. “I must share the blame, Mother Creator. I set this scene in motion.”
“You led him to believe you were willing?” Bellin’s tone was tight and low. Was she angry or disappointed? Jatara could barely think past her frantically beating heart. She was in the presence of the Mother Creator! Her mind refused to accept what her eyes clearly saw.
“No, Mistress. I clearly stated what I would allow, but he was not satisfied with what I intended.”
“Then how is this your fault?” Bellin definitely sounded angry now.
“I invited him to meet me here. Unclaimed females are not allowed to be alone with unmated males for just this reason.”
Bellin’s derisive snort drew Jatara’s head back up. “If every unmated male falls into rut simply because he is alone with an unclaimed female, then men are even more useless than I imagined.”
Jatara wasn’t sure why it was so important, but she needed Bellin to understand her reasoning. “Even if he had finished what he was trying to do, I would ask you to spare his life.”
That seemed to surprise the goddess. She glanced at the cowering man then returned her gaze to Jatara. “Explain.”
“Despite his behavior tonight, Montega is our best warrior. That is why I chose him. It would leave the tribe weakened if you take his life.”
After a thoughtful pause, Bellin accepted the explanation with a nod. Then she pivoted toward Montega and shot a stream of shimmering light into the juncture of his thighs. He screamed and rolled to his side, drawing his legs up to his chest. “That should slow down your lustful pursuits. Now get out of my sight before I change my mind and eviscerate you!”
Montega scrambled to his feet and stumbled into the surrounding forest, hands protectively cupping his groin.
Jatara tried not to feel sorry for the warrior, but pity gripped her all the same. What he’d attempted to do was unforgivable. Yet she’d known him her entire life, even considered him a close friend. Besides, his behavior was in no way unusual. Men forced their will on women every day.
Bellin slowly faced Jatara, the golden glow from her eyes making it impossible to read her expression. “You said you had chosen him. Was I wrong to intervene? Did you secretly want that man inside you?”
“No, Mistress. I wanted his blood. Nothing more.”
Bellin’s brows arched then her gaze narrowed. “You meant to trigger your definition? Yet you obviously did not want him as mate. Did your father know what you intended?” All Jatara could manage was a quick headshake. “Not only is he your father, he is your king. Why would you risk his wrath?”
“Because he bartered me to the highest bidder!” Frustration and pain propelled the words from her lips. She had never felt so helpless or betrayed as she had when her father told her what he intended. “Father expects me to leave your service and mate with the tiger prince.”
“And this was arranged without your knowledge or consent?”
“Consent?” Jatara laughed, but she found the concept anything but funny. “He does not need my consent. He is male, my father and ruler of my tribe. Asking my opinion never occurred to him.”
Bellin shook her head, clearly upset by the information. “That is not the way it is supposed to work. Therian females are empowered with an undefined nature so they can control their life path. Each female should have options and alternatives, not be bound by the situation into which they are born.”
“Unfortunately, most Therian males do not see it that way.” Jatara sighed, feeling sad and drained. “They use our undefined nature to their advantage. We are traded like possessions and forced to obey.”
“I should have realized.” Bellin held out her hand. “I cannot undo what has already been set in motion, but perhaps I can balance the equation.”
Jatara had no idea what that meant, but it didn’t matter. This was Bellin. No one questioned the Mother Creator. With trembling fingers, she took Bellin’s hand and struggled to her feet.
“I offered to punish the man who had nearly ravished you and your first thought was of the welfare of your tribe.”
Uncomfortable with the praise, Jatara brushed the leaves from her knees and tightened the ends of her seroje. “My father is king. It is right that I think first of our people.”
“It was not a criticism. I am pleased by your selflessness. But this world does not need martyrs, it needs champions.”
Jatara took a deep breath and looked into Bellin’s eyes. “I would fight to the death for my people, but that will not right this wrong.”
The balmy night breeze wafted across Jatara’s face, playing through her long hair and making her shiver. She wasn’t really cold, just unnerved. Tonight was supposed to have been a triumph, a bold maneuver allowing her to regain control of her life forever. Instead her failure and fear had summoned the goddess she served and shamed her and her people.
“What would you have me do?” Afraid she would shed the tears burning her eyes, she averted her face and gazed out into the darkened forest.
“You were willing to put the needs of your tribe above your personal safety. Are you willing to go even further? Will you fight for the freedom of your sisters everywhere?”
“My sisters?” She knew Bellin meant all the other Therian females who were being degraded and abused, but she had no idea how such a battle would be fought. “What can I do? I am just one woman.”
Bellin gently touched Jatara’s chin and turned her head until their gazes met again. “You must be willing and brave. What I have in mind will not be easy.”
Hope gradually eroded her uncertainty. If even one woman could be spared a life of degradation and sorrow, was it not worth any risk? “I am, as always, your servant. Tell me what to do and I will do it.”
Bellin smiled and her golden light expanded, surrounding Jatara in tingling warmth. “You came here to define your animal nature. I say we see it done.”
“You are meant for greater things than a trembling coward. I have something far more daring in mind.” The goddess glanced into the distance, her exquisite features blurring for a moment. “Do you trust me, Jatara?”
“Of course, Mother Creator.” She started to kneel again, but Bellin caught her elbows and shook her head. “I wait only for your command.”
Bellin inclined her head and released Jatara’s arms. Then she spoke in a low, urgent tone. “I shall create in you a power that has no rival, but it will require a great sacrifice.”