The Savage King

By: Michelle M. Pillow

Lords of the Var:

Chapter One

Agent Ulyssa Payne grumbled and banged the communicator across her knee in a last

ditch effort to make the very expensive piece of junk work. Her campsite was close, but it

was cloaked so she couldn't see its exact location. She wouldn't chance revealing it until

she made sure the perimeter was secure. If anything, experience in the field had taught her

to be extra careful.

She knelt on the ground, looking up at the bright Qurilixen sky in frustration. The bluegreen haze of the planet's atmosphere shone through the gigantic leaves of the forest. The

planet was always cast in daylight due to its three suns, with the exception of one night a

year when everything fell into perfect alignment. The evening she'd arrived with a

shipment of Earth women on a Galaxy Brides ship, it had been such a night. She'd been

forced to haul her backpack through rough, dark terrain while the Draig warriors partied

with their mail-order brides.

"When I get back, I am so quitting the Agency," Ulyssa ranted under her breath, smacking

the communicator harder in her frustration. She would never really quit. The Human

Intelligence Agency was her life. It was her whole reason for being. "After this I am

definitely taking a vacation. I'm going to have a bath, a bottle of hard liquor, and a rare

steak as big as this forsaken hellhole, and a male prostitute--a mute male prostitute who

only knows how to follow orders. First I'm going to get clean, then I will get drunk, and

then I'm going to get laid."

It had been nearly five months since she'd had a man and he'd hardly been worth bragging

about. The sex had been mediocre and afterwards he'd wanted to cuddle. She had more

fun getting out of his bed than actually being in it. Ulyssa smiled, remembering how she'd

scaled out his window and down fifteen stories while he went to the kitchen to get her a


Part of the reason she'd been celibate since then was that she'd been in quarantine,

uploading her mission, and in training. As soon as she was finished, the Agency had made

her go undercover on a Galaxy Brides ship as one of the prospective brides. She'd spent a

whole month surrounded by nothing but women, morphed into a hideous character she

could barely stand, with a shipload of too-much-estrogen-producing females who talked of

nothing but the men they were going to marry.

"Ugh," Ulyssa snarled in distaste. "Why anyone would ever want to get married is beyond

me. Poor, poor, misguided fools. They really have no idea what they're in for."

The reddish trees of the alien forest were colossal, some of them spanning wider than an

Earth home. Yellow ferns spread out about her, growing wild in the red earth of the

planet's surface. She felt like a dwarf running around in the land of giants.

Only the inhabitants on the planet weren't technically giants, though they were quite large

and fierce. They were all shifters--nothing but male shifters. It was a little fact the Agency

had forgotten to tell her about. The northern half of the small planet was ruled by the

Draig, a tribe of dragon shifters. The southern half was ruled by the Var, a tribe of mancats. If not for seeing them quarrel from her perch in the trees, she'd never have known.

From what she gathered from the Galaxy Bride uploads, radiation from their blue sun

made female children rare. Over the generations, the radiation had altered the men's

genetics to produce only strong, large male, warrior heirs. Maybe once in a thousand

births was a Qurilixen female born. The fact that they had no women of their own was

why the services of corporations like Galaxy Brides were so invaluable to them. In return,

they would mine ore that was only found in their caves. The ore was a great power source

for long-voyaging starships, all but useless to the Qurilixen, who were not known space


Good thing she was extra cautious and masked her scent before leaving camp. Shifters

usually had a great sense of smell and the Draig warriors would have detected her

presence in the forest for sure--and if not them the Var would have found her. If she had

to choose, she was sure she'd rather be captured by the Draig. They appeared to be the

more civilized of the two creatures.

The Qurilixen were classified as a warrior class, though they had been peaceful for nearly

a century--aside from petty territorial skirmishes that broke out every fifteen or so years

between a few of the rival houses. The best comparison anyone could make is that the men

were like the warriors of Medieval Earth--the romanticized version anyway. The Qurilixen

worshipped many Gods, favored natural comforts to modern technological conveniences,

and actually preferred to raise, grow, and cook their own food--the true mark of a

primordial society.