Chapter 1

Cynthia Rodgers was helping her bonded mate, Virathea Tzilank, to board the shuttle that would take them to the transport starship waiting in orbit above the planet Sapphire. Normally Virathea was the type of Dizyntk who would refuse such help due to her own stubborn pride even though she was only just able to walk due to the wounds she was still suffering from. But this was the one whom she had pledged herself to in front of her Princess and her friends and in front of the Goddess herself. She belonged to Cynthia now in every way imaginable. Therefore she did not even think of complaining as she felt Cynthia's hands help her into the ship.

As she was helped into her seat, Virathea winced slightly from the pain in her back. Her healer, Sister Oriakana, had only grudgingly given her permission to undertake this trip home. She knew that Virathea's best hope of fully recovering lay with her family even if she was worried about letting her travel with her injuries. So now, only three months after suffering the wounds that nearly killed her, Virathea was going home for the first time in four cyankas. She was also bringing her new mate with her. There was no possibility that she would be separated from her now. Virathea leaned back as the shuttle lifted off and she felt Cynthia take her hand. She smiled and closed her eyes and thought back to the ceremony that had taken place two weeks previously.


It had not taken as long as she had feared to recall the entirety of the Pledge. She had first learned it, as all Dizyntk learned it, in her childhood. Now she was ready to exchange that pledge with another. She had her finest dress uniform on for the occasion. It was the color of a dark blue sapphire with silver trim. Silver inlay was also used for the Royal Crest on her left shoulder and her House's crest on her right. It was the most beautiful clothing she owned and this was only the third time she had ever worn it. The left sleeve had had to be pinned up and she needed help from one of the priestesses to get it on due to the complexity of it and her injuries, but she was finally in it. She was able to walk, slowly, into the corridor leading to the main courtyard of the Temple on her own. The pain was shooting up her back and she almost growled loudly when she saw Cynthia come out of the room in across from her. All she could do for moment was stare at her. The pain was forgotten.

Cynthia had insisted on wearing a human dress that she had a design program for. When Virathea had glanced at it on screen, it had looked even more complicated than her dress uniform. She was also unsure why it had to be all white. But Cynthia wished to wear it and that was all that mattered. Now she was standing there in front of her. It was made of a material similar to silk and had lace sleeves and a veil and Cynthia looked beautiful in it. Virathea hobbled to her and touched her face under the lace veil.

"You look beautiful in that Cynthia. Is this what all human females wear when they bond?" she asked quietly.

Cynthia smiled at her and replied, "Not exactly this but something similar. It is called a wedding dress. I always wanted to wear one even if this was not the way I originally imagined doing it."

Cynthia took Virathea's hand. "Let us go and do this, my love. I want to call you mine as soon as possible. I will help you walk to the courtyard."

"I can do so on my own..." Virathea started to protest. Then she saw Cynthia narrow her eyes at her and decided to let Cynthia have her way on this one. "As you wish, my love."

With Cynthia's aid, she had walked slowly out to the altar at the center of the almost empty Temple courtyard. At this point, only Velakari was present and waiting for them. It was nighttime and the light from the larger of Sapphire's moons was streaming in at an angle through the skylight directly above the altar. It was coming down precisely where the two of them were to kneel before the priestess in order to recite the Pledge to each other. There were lights inside the Temple but they had been turned down to allow the moonlight to be accentuated. The scene made Virathea feel as if the Goddess herself was paying particular attention to this bonding.

The two of them knelt on the ground in front of Velakari and Cynthia took Virathea's hand into both of hers. Virathea was transfixed by the sight of her lover bathed in the moonlight. The dress she had on appeared to shimmer. She almost looked like the Goddess herself and Virathea would have been unsurprised if Cynthia sprouted wings at that instant. She did not, of course, but it still took Velakari's voice to bring Virathea out of her trance.

"The two of you have come before me and before the Goddess in order to be bound to each other." Velakari stated as she began the Ritual of Bonding. "Once the bond has been made, it cannot be unmade. Once the two of you recite the Pledge, you will belong to each other for the rest of your lives and none may change that. Therefore I give you a minute to contemplate the seriousness of what you are about to undertake."

As was custom among the Dizyntk, those about to be bonded were given a minute to consider whether or not they truly wished to go through with the bonding. The reason for this was simple; there was no such thing as divorce in Dizyntk society. Once you were bonded to someone you were bonded to them forever. This was the reason that the only ones in the courtyard were those being bonded and the priestess performing the ceremony at this point in the ritual. The potential bond mates were allowed to consider this with just themselves and with no pressure from family or friends. In fact, this was the third time this day that Velakari would ask whether they were sure about this. This was also customary but it was also the last time she would ask them. As the minute came to an end, Virathea felt Cynthia squeeze her hand between the two of hers and saw her smile and nod at her. She returned the nod and smile and they both looked up at Velakari.

"The minute has passed and I ask you for the last time, are you both prepared for this?" Velakari asked them.

"We are." the two them said in unison with each other.

Velakari smiled gently at the two of them and looked up and said in a loud voice, "Let the doors to the inner courtyard be opened."

At this point the three sets of doors that led from the courtyard to the outer Temple were opened and those who were there to watch the ceremony walked in. For the most part these were normally friends and family of those being bonded; although any who wished were allowed to view the ceremony. In this particular case it was just friends as the two being bonded had no family residing on Sapphire. Still, the number of witnesses filled the courtyard. A few were friends with Cynthia but the majority of those filing into the inner courtyard were those Dizyntk that were friends and acquaintances of Virathea. Even she was shocked as she noticed how many individuals that she knew were here. It was a tribute to how respected Virathea was that there were more Dizyntk here to witness her bonding than would fit in the courtyard.

More would have been able to fit except that the front of the courtyard, the part by the center doors opposite the altar, had been cordoned off for the Royal Family. Virathea and Cynthia could see that the Queen and the Princess, along with their families, were all there as well as those of the Palace Guard that had survived the attack and were well enough to be here. The scene was enough to make the two of them just stare, mouths agape, at the gathering crowd. Even after it was apparent that no more would be able to fit in, Virathea and Cynthia still just stared around them. It was a soft clearing of her throat by Velakari that got their attention back to the business at hand. It also caused a small ripple of laughter through the witnesses.

Velakari looked seriously out at the assembled onlookers and the ripple of laughter quickly died out. "We are here this night to enact the most important of all the ceremonies that the Temple performs. These two will exchange the Pledge of Bonding." Velakari said in a clear, strong voice. She then held a pair of four inch wide silver bracelets that almost looked like manacles above her head. "At the end of the Pledge, they will have these bracelets attached to their wrists. Each is inscribed with the name of the wearer's owner, for in reciting the pledge the one to whom you recite it becomes your owner in all ways that matter. That is why it is recited simultaneously by those being bonded. This is the way it has been done among Dizyntk for over a thousand cyankas and we continue that tradition this night."

She lowered her hand, stepped forward even closer to Virathea and Cynthia and looked down at them. "You may begin the Pledge." she said in softer voice.

Virathea looked into Cynthia's eyes and the two of them took a deep breath to calm themselves. They then nodded and began to recite the Pledge of Bonding to each other.

"I have chosen you as my mate. From this day forward, your pleasure is my pleasure; my body belongs to you. To use and to enjoy, to touch and to hold, to create new life. For your pleasure is my pleasure, my body belongs to you."

This was the first of the three verses of the pledge. It was the part that made you physically the property of the one to whom you were reciting it to, as well as the promise of conceiving offspring in the case of male/female mates. It also clearly states that your body is always available for your mate's sexual pleasure. This verse is one of the main reasons for the openness that Dizyntk have towards sexuality.

"I have chosen you as my mate. From this day forward, your life is my life; my blood belongs to you. To mix and to mingle, to shed in your defense, to bring forth new life. For your life is my life, my blood belongs to you."

The second verse was the promise that even your life and blood belonged to the one whom you were bonded to, as well as the promise to defend your mate even unto death. The life being mentioned was referring to the act of childbirth, which involves blood as well. Again, this was only important if there were mates of opposite sex involved but it was still part of the Pledge no matter the sex of those being bonded.

"I have chosen you as my mate. From this day forward, your happiness is my happiness, your sadness is my sadness, my soul belongs to you. To share in times of joy, to soothe in times of pain, to share in the life that I will create with you. To be with you, to love you, until the end of all things. For your happiness is my happiness, your sadness is my sadness, my soul belongs to you. I have chosen you, as you have chosen me, for I am now your mate."

This was the final verse and, arguably, the most binding. The pledge promises that you will not be separated even by death as you have promised even your soul to the one whom you are reciting the pledge to. It is also the part that acknowledges that this is a mutual pledge, that all reciting it are equally bound by it.

After the reciting of the Pledge, Cynthia lifted her veil and the two of them leaned in and kissed each other. While they were engaged in the kiss, Velakari attached the bracelets to their right wrists. Traditionally they were attached to the left wrist but Virathea's missing left arm prevented this and Cynthia had requested that she have the bracelet on the same arm as her mate. In old days the bracelets were sealed shut by a bead of solder, but this was done by a small laser welder now. It was one of the things that priestesses had to be proficient at and Velakari completed attaching and sealing the bracelets in less than a minute. The only way to remove the bracelets now was by cutting them off. As they were a titanium-silver alloy, this was easier said than done. The Dizyntk were nothing if not serious about their Bonding Rite.

Cynthia stood and helped Virathea to her feet. The two of them embraced each other. They turned then and walked together into the crowd. After about an hour, they retired to Virathea's quarters in the palace and would spend the next three days alone.


It took another ten days and two operations before Sister Oriakana would agree that Virathea could go home to finish her recuperation. Now they were nearly to the starship that would take them to the planet of Arlintk, although they would be stopping at Ashal-Kendant along the way. They had boarded and were already relaxing in their room when Cynthia asked something she had been curious about. Cynthia had understood that Virathea's family was an old and respected one among the Dizyntk and found it odd that their home world would be such a remote one. Virathea explained how it had come about. Her family had originated on Dizyn, like all family lines, then moved to Sapphire when the Asarazyntk's claimed it and rose to ducal status.

The Tzilank family had been a warrior family that had served House Asarazyntk for almost three hundred cyankas. This had begun before the Dizyntk had discovered star travel and had continued right up until the end of the last civil war. After House Asarazyntk had claimed the Imperial throne, one of the earliest acts of the new Empress had been to promote the Tzilank family to the status of their own noble house in honor of their long service. She also asked the new house to transfer their allegiance to the Empress' most important ally, the new Royal House Zerleen which was to watch over both the Asarazyntk's planet of Sapphire and the entire Second Star Cluster as well. Shortly after this, the Queen at the time gave a large tract of land on the new colony world of Arlintk to House Tzilank and the family moved there. Although still sending its best members to serve as officers for the Royal and Imperial militaries, the Tzilanks also served as overseers of part of the new colony world for their Queen. Thus Virathea had been born and raised on the colony world of Arlintk and this is where most of her family still resided.

"Each cyanka, in the spring, all the twelve cyanka olds compete in a combat tournament. The top two are sent to the Second Cluster officer training facilities on Kalantk." Virathea told her mate.

"Not the Royal Guard?" Cynthia asked.

"Oh no, my love, one cannot just enter the Royal Guard not even from my family. One must join the regular military and earn their way in." Virathea replied.

"Let me guess, you were number one in your cyanka." Cynthia said while smiling at Virathea.

Virathea laughed as she shook her head. "No, I was not. I was third, so you can imagine how upset I was."

"Third? But then, how did you get in?" Cynthia asked in genuine surprise.

"I did not get to be sent to officer school, but there was nothing that said I could not join as an enlisted soldier. That is exactly what I did two days after the tournament." Virathea said as she smiled at the memory.

"How long did it take for you to make it into the Royal Guard?" Cynthia asked.

"Almost two cyankas. In fact neither of the ones who defeated me in the tournament was ever accepted into the Guard. It was not all about hand-to-hand ability after all and I knew that." Virathea said.

"I take it that there are a lot of your family in the Royal Guard though." Cynthia said.

"No, there are not. You would think so, all things considered, but I am the only one right now. There are many of my relatives in the military and even two in the Imperial Guard, but only me on Sapphire." Vira told her. "There have been several in the past but my only other relative in the Guard transferred almost a cyanka ago. I suppose they will have to transfer someone in until I am healed. It is unheard of to not have a Tzilank in the Guard."

Cynthia smiled and laughed lightly at her mate's comment. They were lying together on the bed in their stateroom. She was lightly tracing the pattern of the tattoo that had been applied above and to the side Virathea's left eye just before they had been bonded. It was not unattractive and it was a mark of bravery in combat, or so Vira had told her. Though she had not asked what the two earrings that now adorned Vira's right ear signified. She decided to rectify that.

"I have been meaning to ask, what are these two ornaments for?" She asked as she ran her fingers lightly up to the tip of Virathea's right ear.

Vira smiled for two reasons. The first because Cynthia's fingertips felt good playing with her ear and second for the pride she felt in the decorations. "The smaller silver one with the sapphires near the tip of the ear is a personal commendation from the Queen for my services. Normally you only get something like that when you retire or die in service. Exceptions are sometimes made though."

It was indeed a rare honor to receive the decoration while one was still in service and Virathea was especially proud of it. It was a silver and sapphire depiction of the Royal Crest with Virathea's name etched one side and Queen Kiasyphia's on the other. She had almost been too embarrassed to talk when the Queen had personally presented it to her along with the other earring and pierced them into her ear.

"And this one?" Cynthia asked as she traced her fingertips back down to the larger golden star suspended from a ring halfway down on the outside edge of the ear.

Virathea shivered for a moment at her mate's touch. She smirked at Cynthia because she knew her mate was doing that on purpose.

"That is a medal for valor. It has the name of the battle etched onto the front and my name onto the back. The ruby chip on the left top arm of the star signifies that is the battle I lost my arm in." Vira told Cynthia.

Cynthia shook her head slightly at the thought. She personally thought that such a reminder of losing a limb was a bit morbid. She also understood, however, that her mate's species thought differently. Such a reminder was something of great pride to Virathea, Cynthia knew. She would just get used to it. "At least it is pretty to look at." She thought to herself.

Cynthia leaned forward then and slowly licked the tip of her tongue between the two decorations. Virathea gasped at the feeling generated by this. She could feel Cynthia's fingers tracing slowly up her thigh. Her hips came up slightly and this caused Virathea to growl a bit at the brief pain that shot through her lower back.

Cynthia stopped immediately. "I am so sorry, Vira, I didn't mean to..."

Vira reached up and pulled Cynthia's face down and kissed her on the lips, interrupting her mate's apology. Vira pulled back a little. "No apologies, my love. The pleasure you bring me far outweighs the pain. Just make sure we do this gently."

"Of course, my love." Cynthia replied before she reengaged the kiss.

Cynthia was much more comfortable playing with Virathea's body now than she had been when they first became lovers. She slowly and carefully touched and rubbed her mate; tracing her fingers around her pussy, kissing and licking her lips and neck and breasts. Cynthia could also feel her mate returning the affections. Vira's hand was gently rubbing and kneading on her breasts. Cynthia spread her legs a little so that Vira's tail could lightly brush back and forth across her lower lips and flick against her clit. Vira's tail was the one thing that Cynthia was jealous about in regards to her lover's body. She wished that she had one has well.

Over the next four days, as the ship made its way to the Ashal-Kendant system, Cynthia would help Vira with her exercises in the day and play with her body at night. Sister Oriakana had told her that the former were vital for Virathea to recover and that the latter would be ... helpful as well. Cynthia was happy about it being helpful but would have done so anyway as long as it was not harmful. Virathea probably would have insisted on it in either case.


As the ship had come into orbit around Ashal-Kendant, Cynthia could not help but stare. It was her first time here and, although she had seen pictures of the planet, seeing it in person was something else entirely. Even Virathea, who had been here several times, could not help but admire the beauty of the planet and its glittering rings. The planet was mostly known as a vacation spot and had many resorts and tourist facilities. It had many areas that were very popular with lovers as well. Virathea wanted to take Cynthia here for a vacation after she was fully recovered, but that was not why they were here right now.

In addition to its many tourist amenities, Ashal-Kendant was also known for one other thing if most Dizyntk stopped and thought about it for a minute. It was home to the largest and most advanced medical company in the Second Cluster, Ashal-Kendant Medical Manufacturing. They made everything from simple bandages and spray on skin patches to advanced auto-healers. They also had a sub-division that specialized in making robotic prosthetic limbs. It was for that reason that Virathea was coming here today. They would be here for only two days while Virathea was fitted for the arm and tests were done so that it could be made for her.

They entered the building housing the artificial limb fitting center shortly after landing on the planet. It had been designed to fit in nicely with the surrounding buildings of the planet's capital city, Tisklnal. Most of the large buildings in the metropolis were covered with a crystalline lattice that had the appearance of glass but functioned as photovoltaic cells for the buildings they were attached to. They could also be colored to the tastes of the building owner. In the case of the AKMM's buildings, they were a white cream color that made them seem all the cleaner. Cynthia and Virathea were greeted in the lobby by a Dizyntk male wearing a powder blue lab coat and an I.D. badge that said Lead Engineer Relanverad.

"Colonel Virathea, I presume." He said and bowed his head slightly.

"Yes, I am." Virathea responded. "You must be the technician that will be making my new arm." She returned his greeting head bow.

He smiled at her and replied, "Yes, that would be the case." He motioned for the two of them to walk with him and he turned and headed into a hallway. "I rarely perform such tasks myself but Princess Feyalisa personally requested our best arm design and that would be our Mark Eleven. It is brand new and you will be the first recipient of it. I designed the arm and am currently the only one that is familiar enough with it to run the calibration tests. Besides which, I would not miss the opportunity to install it on its first user."

Virathea was a bit taken aback at the information that she was receiving the highest model arm the company made and that the Princess herself had requested it for her. Even after all this time, Virathea still had a difficult time accepting the fact that Feyalisa considered her to be an extension of her family. Cynthia, on the other hand, did not find it such a difficult concept and was unsurprised that Feyalisa had made such a request.

Virathea had arrived at the facility shortly after it had opened for the day. Even so, the calibrations had not been fully completed by the time it was due to close. Relanverad had said as much when they had first begun fitting the test arm. Still, Virathea had to admit that the arm was better than she had feared. Early models had had limited tactile sense. According to those dizyntk Virathea knew that had one, they felt like your arm was half asleep all the time. This had improved in the most recent models but the numbness was still there. This one was the same but still better than the previous model. Relanverad had hopes that this would fade as Virathea got used to the arm but he could offer no guarantees.

It took only half of the next day for the calibrations to be completed. That left only one thing and Virathea had to decide it.

"You need to decide whether or not you will have an artificial skin and fur covering on the arm or not." Relanverad said.

"Will it make any difference as to the performance of the arm?" Virathea asked.

The technician shook his head. "It is merely aesthetics. Some individuals prefer for their arm to blend in and not be noticeable. Others do not care about such things."

Virathea looked at Cynthia and asked, "Do you have a preference, my love?"

Cynthia thought the matter over for a minute. "Truthfully, I am not sure. While I think it would look better with the covering, I would not care either way as long as you are happy with it."

Virathea leaned over and gave her mate a soft kiss on the lips. Afterwards she turned back to the technician. "Since my mate thinks I will look better with the skin covering, I will go ahead and have that done as well."

Relanverad nodded. "Very good then. I will have that added to the construction order. The arm will take two weeks or so to complete. The tests were required so that we could customize it for your body. I understand that you will not be waiting for it?""

Virathea nodded. "Yes, that is correct. I have to rehabilitate the rest of my body first. I will be back in half a cyanka or so to pick it up. Will I need to retake the tests at that time?"

Relanverad shook his head. "That should not be necessary. An adult's body and brain should not change appreciably baring injury to either."

Virathea nodded, stood and bowed her head slightly. "Very well then, Engineer. I will be back in eight months. I look forward to seeing you then."

The Engineer stood as well and returned the bow. "As will I. It will be ready and waiting for you."

Cynthia and Virathea left the facility and returned to the hotel they were staying at. They would spend one more night and leave on the next transport in the morning. They would be traveling on a smaller vessel to reach Arlintk as large passenger ships did not go there. Five days travel away was the family the Virathea dearly loved. It was also the family that she had to convince to accept her new mate. Not all of them pf course, but there were several members that she knew would take some talking to. For right now, however, she was lying next to that mate and nuzzling against her as Cynthia wrapped her arms around her.


Located twenty light years from Ashal-Kendant was the Arlintk system. Arlintk had first been settled only four cyankas prior to the outbreak of the civil war that led to the crowning of the first Empress. That made its oldest city, Halkant, 125 cyankas old. The planet contained 5 main land masses. Only four of them were really habitable as one of them sat squarely over the planet's northern polar region and was encased in ice cyanka round. The planet's population was still small, all things considered. Only 200 million Dizyntk called the planet home, almost two-thirds of them on the continent of Geraltn on which Halkant was located. The city itself had a population of four million. The other three continents varied in their populations but all were sparsely populated and had large tracts of wilderness. It was on one of these, the continent of Salakina, that House Tzilank's lands were located. In fact, the continent was named in honor of the matriarch of the family at the time it had received the lands.

As the ship she was traveling on came into orbit around Arlintk, Cynthia Rodgers had her first view of her mate's home world. In truth most habitable planets looked very similar. The only differences usually being the shape, size and location of the continents. Arlintk was no exception to this. It was a blue, green and brown planet with clouds strewn through its atmosphere. Still, it was always nice to see a new planet from orbit. The ship soon came over the larger of the two southern continents, Salakina.

Cynthia held Virathea's arm and leaned her head on her shoulder. "Where is your family's land?"

"The central third of the western coast." Virathea answered.

Cynthia lifted her head a bit. "The entire central third of it? How far inland does it stretch?"

Virathea motioned with her head. "See that mountain range? It goes to those mountains."

Cynthia's hold on Virathea's arm loosened as she looked at the land with her trained eye. Being a starship pilot, she was pretty good at judging distances from orbit. She could see that the tract of land Virathea had indicated stretched about 1600km along the coast and went 200km inland. The amount of land was vast.

She turned and looked at Vira. "What do you do with all that?"

Virathea laughed at her mate's surprise and kissed her on the forehead. "You must understand, Cynthia, when the Queen gave the land to my family the planet's population was less than a third of what it is now. There were also no Dizyntk living on that continent."

Cynthia turned and looked again out the viewport. "But still, that is a seriously large chunk of land."

Virathea nodded. "Yes, it is. Over the cyankas we have sold some of it to various individuals and companies. We have also given several tracts away to encourage the formation of towns. You must understand, my love, that while the land was given to my family, it was done so with the understanding that we would be stewards of it in the name of the Queen. Of course we are allowed to profit from it in order to maintain our House."

Cynthia turned back to her mate. "I never would have guessed that your family was so wealthy. I mean you are in the military and serve as a bodyguard. I would not have thought."

"Is it unheard of among your people for those of means to serve?" Virathea asked, truly curious.

Cynthia replied. "I mean, it does happen, but they are the exception not the rule."

Virathea understood and comforted her mate. "There are many noble houses among the dizyntk that do not have any representation among our military. It is just that my family has been a warrior family for hundreds of cyankas. Nothing about our rise in station would change that."

Something occurred to Cynthia then. "What will they think, your family I mean, about me? I am human and all. Will they be mad at you for bonding with me?"

Virathea hugged her mate to her with her one arm. She had been thinking about this herself to be honest. "Some of them will be unhappy with me for doing so." she said softly to Cynthia. "But that does not matter. They will have to learn to accept it. You heard what Velakari said; once the bond has been made it cannot be unmade."

"Are you sure about that, Vira? Are you sure they cannot find a way?" Cynthia was becoming a bit frightened at the thought that Virathea's family might find a way to separate them.

Virathea could not help but laugh a little at her mate's concern. She knew that Cynthia did not yet fully comprehend the authority of the Temple among the Dizyntk. "Very sure, my love. Not even the Empress herself has the authority to negate the bond. Besides, the only members of my family whose opinions on this I care about, my mother and father and their mating group, already know and have no particular problem with it."

"They already know?" Cynthia asked, feeling somewhat relieved.

"Of course they do. I could not have bonded with you in good conscience without at least telling my parents what I was about to do. I sent them a message the day after you asked me. I received a reply from my mother two days before we were bonded. Much to my relief she basically said that she was fine with anything that made me happy." Vira explained.

At that moment an announcement came over the ships speakers letting them know that the ship was about to begin its descent. They both then returned to their room and prepared for landing.


The ship settled smoothly into the landing cradle at the Halkant spaceport. There were only twelve other passengers aboard other than Velakari and Cynthia. That made disembarkment a very easy thing. They walked together out of the ship. Vira was still walking a little awkwardly as her injured back was still giving her fits. Cynthia was handling all of their luggage and would not let Virathea carry a thing. Just as they made it onto the tarmac, they heard a voice shout out. "VIRA!"

They turned and Virathea hobbled towards the Dizyntk that was running towards them. Cynthia did not know who the Dizyntk was, but she could make a good guess. She was an inch or so shorter that Virathea and clearly older. However, she had the exact same color eyes and very similar fur and hair. In addition her facial features looked remarkably like Virathea's. Cynthia was unsurprised therefore when she heard Virathea's response. "Mother!"

Virathea's mother wrapped her arms around her and hugged her tightly. "Welcome home, my dearest."

Vira's mother stepped back slightly then and put her hands on Vira's shoulders. "Now let me look at you."

She ran her right hand down the remains of Virathea's left arm. A look of sadness flashed across her face but did not remain long. She looked at her daughter and smiled as she began tracing the pattern of the tattoo around Vira's left eye.

"Bravery in combat against the enemy, successfully leading other warriors into combat against that enemy and completing your appointed task against great odds." She said while tracing the various parts with her finger.

"That says all that?" Cynthia asked in a low voice.

Virathea's mother turned her right ear towards Cynthia, followed by looking at her. "Indeed it does." She turned to face her completely and walked up to her.

Virathea looked and said, "I know you already realize this, mother, but this is my bonded mate, Cynthia."

"Indeed I do realize it, dearest. Why else would a human, of all things, be here on Arlintk." Her mother replied. "So, you are the human that has changed my daughter's view of your race. I am Carathaya." she said to Cynthia.

"I suppose that I am." Cynthia then bowed her head. "It is an honor for me to meet you, Carathaya. I would like to thank you for consenting to let your daughter bond with me. Forever shall I fulfill the pledge that I have given her and I shall always protect her family as well."

Cynthia had practiced this line for weeks. She knew that Virathea's family was a very tradition oriented one. Velakari had told her this and had also told her that this line would be received particularly well. It was said in an older version of Dizyntilin and had a few difficult words, especially for Cynthia who was not fully fluent in the modern version quite yet. She had managed to say it perfectly however.

Carathaya's eyes widened in surprise that this human would know such a thing, much less be able to say it properly in the old way. She looked over at her daughter but could see that Vira was as surprised by it as she was. This caused a smile to creep across Carathaya's face.

"You show me deference by such words. It also shows your commitment to my daughter to have learned such a thing in the old tongue." Carathaya said to Cynthia.

Carathaya stepped even closer to Cynthia and hugged her gently. "I welcome you, Cynthia Rodgers, to our home and to our family. May you and my daughter always be happy together."

These were the words that both Virathea and Cynthia had been hoping to hear. Cynthia returned the embrace and whispered, "Thank you."

Carathaya stepped back and smiled at Cynthia. "You are most welcome." She then turned and looked at her daughter once more. "As to the reason you have returned here, my dearest, I suspect it has more to do with your injuries than introducing me to your mate."

"Yes, mother." Vira replied. "As you noticed from my walking, my injuries still restrict my movement. I have come to rehabilitate my wounds that I may once again serve the Royal Family."

Carathaya nodded in understanding. "You have come to put yourself under the care of your Uncle Rardenalan. He will be most happy to hear it."

"He is well, I hope." Vira inquired.

Carathaya laughed loudly. "Oh yes, yes he is. I do not think that anyone as stubborn as he would ever be unwell." She looked at Cynthia and explained. "He is my older brother and the one who trained Vira in combat when she was a child. It was also from him that she got her stubbornness. He is also an accomplished physical therapist so he will be in charge of assisting Vira in recuperating from her wounds."

"I understand." Cynthia replied. "We will be staying with him during this time?"

"Yes, we..." Virathea started to say before her mother interrupted her.

"I will not hear of it, Virathea. You are my daughter and you will stay in my house while you are here. My brother will just have to stay there as well." It was quite clear from her tone of voice that Carathaya would accept no argument on the matter. It did not appear that Virathea was unhappy about it anyway.

She smiled at her mother and bowed her head. "As you wish, Mother. I dutifully obey your wishes."

Carathaya snorted in amusement. "Since when have you done that, my dearest?" She turned and motioned to an aircraft nearby. "Come both of you, we still have a ways to travel yet before we are home."

She began walking then to the craft. Vira and Cynthia looked at each other, smiled and took each other's hand. They followed Carathaya to the craft and went inside. Cynthia was looking forward to meeting the rest of her mate's family. She knew that she would have to win some of them over, but she did not mind that. In fact she was looking forward to it. She would prove to any of them that doubted it that she was fit to be Virathea's mate.

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