Genres = Science Fiction, Space Opera, Fantasy, Romance
The Daemon’s Change
***Also Available to be Read in Kindle Unlimited
LENGTH: 116,650 words/354 pages
In 2000 years, she’s the only female who ever mattered to him. But is he too evil for her?
Book 5 continues this epic space opera with Malachi, the Demon of Synar, still searching for the only being he’s ever encountered that is more powerful than him.
Despite being energetically compelled to do so, Malachi is tired of chasing after a physical body with the wrong female spirit dwelling inside it. What was the point? The real Rena Trax was back in her form while the feisty Emissary of the Creators he longs to encounter again is still nowhere to be found on the ship.
The elusive female left him with a million unanswered questions about her purpose in his life. Without her presence, there no worthy being to debate the answers. His host Ania has too many problems of her own to worry about his.
But why does he even care about the missing female? He is an alien spirit and inherently evil. He is the Demon of Synar. No female, regardless of how powerful or alluring, can change his destiny.
Plagued by concerns he didn’t understand, Malachi hadn’t been able to stop himself from checking on her multiple times a day. He could sense Rena Trax wished to avoid him but knowing her preferences did not alter his goals. He’d tracked his quarry to the Liberator’s meditation room, one of her favorite places to weep. His mist form offered him discretion as he seeped around the door edges.
Near the front of the room, the sniffling Ethosian knelt in the middle of a Rylen meditation rug. Her penitent posture frustrated him.
Most of the time her spirit’s energy floated above her physical form. Going out of her body was so typical of the way most creatures used depressed states to escape their corporeal lives. But in Rena Trax’s case, Malachi knew she actively sought the disconnection. To a trained medic, she would be considered suicidal. To a daemon, she was an energetic mess of jagged shards untethered to form.
Rising higher in the room, he floated all the way to the ceiling, ignoring the symbols meant to ward off all manner of wickedness. Dorian Zade’s energy in the room was strong, but he no longer feared the Siren’s spiritual power. If anything, he had developed a great admiration for him. Zade was a fellow male who had suffered a long-term, unnatural celibate state for the sake of staying true to a single female. It was an unhappy fate and one he was currently suffering himself.
Though given tentative permission to indulge his physical urges if it pleased him and some willing female to do so, Malachi hadn’t so far been able to exercise that sort of freedom. Oh, there were plenty of accommodating females on the ship, if novelty was all he desired. And true, he couldn’t yet imagine how pleasant it would be to enjoy his host body’s reactions to bonding without having to share the pleasure with its original owner. Certainly, satisfying that curiosity passed through his thoughts now and again, but only long enough to be discarded as not worth the trouble.
Plus, it would not be received well if he took advantage of all those grateful females they had rescued from Lotharius. This was especially true when yet another Siren, their newest crew member, was practicing celibacy as well and turning them all down. The former Captain Ji Warro, now Lieutenant Warro on the Liberator, used stimulation videos for self-gratification while he dreamed of bonding with the unsuspecting Lieutenant Seta Trax.
Unfortunately, the Trax sibling he felt compelled to assist hadn’t survived her physical form’s second brush with death any better than she had her first one. The emissary who had saved Rena’s body the first time had long since disappeared from it, or at least that appeared to be the case. Rena repeatedly refused to let him go inside her to confirm that truth, but his observations led him to believe it even without proof.
Rena’s very appealing Ethosian body, one that still caused a desire in his, was now filled with a subdued, thoroughly uninteresting female spirit. Unlike the disrespectful emissary, the real Rena called him “daemon” in the same fearful manner most beings did. But while there was fear and loathing in her voice, there was also morbid fascination in her gaze. She avoided him, and yet he could sense that she looked for him as well.
Obeying the internal command to watch over her caused him no issue. He knew its source, and in the two thousand years of his mist form, he had learned to obey when the urge to act was that strong. Perhaps his frustration simply stemmed from the fact that his mist form normally allowed him to be virtually omniscient. He simply wasn’t used to not knowing the full truth of any matter he chose to know. Even Ania had learned a way to keep secrets from him, a trick none of his hosts before her had managed.
“Come forth and speak if you must, daemon. I feel you behind me,” Rena said.
Drifting down nearer the floor, Malachi shaped his mist into his original physical form. “Yesterday, you wept over all the minor sins you committed as a child. Why do you weep today?” he asked, unable to rid his voice of scorn.
The clear voice he generated for Rena’s benefit caused his misty form to quiver. With barely a drain on his power, he could destroy and absorb the molecular structures of a battalion of warriors, yet creating a resonance of understandable words while mist drained his energy quickly. He had long ago attributed it to the Creators having a strange sense of humor. In the beginning, he had cursed them for not allowing him to speak whenever he chose. They had paid no attention to his complaining then, nor did they now.
Rena bowed her head. Though she owed the daemon no explanation concerning her actions, her compassion was engaged for his loss. “Today I remembered my death. Flashes of insight pierced the fog in my mind. I remember a light inside me that seemed to talk on its own. Then I recalled watching Seta lift a knife into the air. She killed our Ethosian mate, or whatever you choose to call the male who purchased us from our father.”
“However deplorable he was, I would at least call him a male with good taste in females. Do you weep for his death?” Malachi asked.
“May the Creators forgive me but . . . No.” Her tone was adamant as she shook her head. “I weep because of memories—because of my abuse at his hands. And I don’t understand why I can’t keep these things away. What good comes from me recalling that my alleged mate traded use of my body for material goods? Seta was traded less, but that was because she always fought her abusers and had to be restrained. I remember his death the way you remember waking from a nightmare. But I am absolutely certain that when the knife came down, I felt nothing but profound relief to hear that male take his last breath.”
“Recognizing evil and being glad of its demise does not make you less good,” Malachi said.
Rena frowned as she stared at the gray walls in the room. She could feel the daemon’s compassion reaching out to her. She could feel his anger over what she and Seta had suffered. It had crossed her mind that perhaps such a powerful being might be used as an instrument to end her current torture. Perhaps like the emissaries, the daemon had the power to set her energy form free once more.
“Why would the Creators force me to endure this limited life again?” Rena asked.
Malachi’s form wavered. Her hurt-filled past could not be changed. The suffering female was back here inside her original form. The males that had hurt her and Seta were out of reach. He too found himself pondering why she was remembering all the pain when absolutely nothing could be done.
“Joke?” he offered. The still wet-eyed female turned a tortured gaze from the meditation mat to him.
“I do not find it funny if that is the case,” she said.
“Not a good joke,” he summed up, trying to sound as stern as possible.
Rena smiled tightly at the daemon’s strange attempt to cheer her. “Why do you pursue me each day? You know I am not the one you seek.”
“Let me check to be sure,” Malachi suggested. “I can make you forget your Ethosian mate. I can release you from your pain.”
“No. I bow to the Creator’s higher purpose in my suffering,” Rena answered, lifting her chin.
His mist form quivered in frustration. “We all bow to them, but I see no purpose in what you are enduring.”
Rena bowed her head to the mist. “I appreciate your compassion for me, Daemon of Synar. For both our sakes, I wish your emissary was here instead of me. Yet I am also ashamed of not handling this trial well. I cannot find peace with such contradictory feelings.”
“There is no need. Nothing happening is your fault. Ask Lieutenant Zade. He will tell you this is a profound truth,” he declared, streaking out.
Her desire to leave her body greatly disturbed him. Both the emissary and the real Rena Trax hated the exact situation he’d come to think of as a reward for his redemption.
No sooner was he back in his host body than the com unit on the wall of his quarters blinked. He rose to press one long Norblade male finger on it, admiring his masculine arm and hand. Since Liam was still squeamish about permanent alterations, he had been diligently working out in the training room to increase the muscle dimension of his inherited form. Conor Synar had been a handsome enough male of his kind, but he’d been rather on the thin side.
“Malachi here,” he answered.
Chiang’s animated, irritated voice came booming over the line. The Greggor’s energy as sharp as any one of the laser knives the healer often used. “Where in Helios have you been? We need you in Medical. Come at once.”
Malachi sneered when Chiang cut the connection before he’d even been able to answer back. Rolling his eyes at the Greggor’s dramatics, he followed the action with a laugh about the mannerism nearly every officer on the ship had adopted. Rolling one’s eyes was favored by their volatile Earthling commander to show her condescension.
He strolled to Medical instead of rushing. He wasn’t about to let the Greggor doctor start demanding his presence every time the least little crisis occurred. That’s what junior medics were for.
Walking into Medical humming, Malachi’s mirth ended when he saw Ania strapped to a medical table and unconscious. On tables around her were assorted ensigns, Dorian Zade, and Gwen, all with various wounds. Liam also lay on another table letting a subdued Boca treat him.
Frozen in place, Malachi surveyed the damage, shocked that his master and his host could both have been harmed without his knowledge. His eyes flashed red as he took it all in. “What happened?”
Chiang shook his head. “We don’t know. Ania and Gwen were sparring for practice. Gwen said a bright light flashed in the room and then Ania seemed to lose her mind. Fortunately, Zade and Synar were nearby and heard Gwen yelling. It took all of them to restrain Ania from trying to kill Gwen. In the end, Zade had to knock her out.”
Malachi looked at Zade in surprise, clearing his throat of tightness before asking his question. “Lieutenant? Do you know what’s wrong with Ania?”
“Her spirit was in so much turmoil I couldn’t read it well enough to tell. That’s why we needed you so urgently,” Dorian said. “Did you not feel anything when she did this?”
“Nothing. I felt nothing,” Malachi said quietly, still unsure how that could ever have happened. “I was in mist form checking on the weeping Ethosian until moments ago.”
“It doesn’t matter where you were. Find out what happened now,” Gwen ordered, wincing as a senior medic tightened her arm bandage. “Ania nearly broke my arm. Her eyes went red and then bright blue. She looked at me in shock and then lost her freaking mind. That’s all I know.”
“Blue? Her eyes went blue?” Malachi repeated in alarm, already lifting from his body to head into Ania. Only he couldn’t get inside. There was a block. He tried all he knew, but something or someone was keeping him out. He knew of only one being capable of overriding his will, but she had left the ship. Hadn’t she?
Returning to his body, Malachi moved his attention to the other table. “Liam? Can you talk to me?”
Synar opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. “Something is inside her.”
“The energy of the emissaries causes their host’s eyes to blaze blue,” Malachi said, not drawing any conclusions yet, but offering what he suspected. “I sincerely regret I wasn’t there to help.”
Synar shook his head, swallowing past the lump in his throat. His mate had tried to kill him. The intent had been in her gaze. Gwen had probably saved him by turning herself into the nearest target, even after he and Dorian got there.
“I called, but you didn’t answer. Go inside Ania and see what you can find out. She tried to kill me. She tried to kill all of us. We need to find out why.”
“I already tried to get inside her, Liam. I can’t get in. There’s an energy I can’t identify blocking my way. It’s stronger than I am,” Malachi admitted. His jaw tightened and his gut clenched. He had always hated failing, and it rarely happened to him in daemon mist form.
“What can we do then?” Synar asked.
Malachi looked away. Compassion for his mate was indeed Liam’s greatest weakness and could incapacitate him. He remembered the support Liam had offered him on Lotharius when he had feared for the emissary that had been hosting Rena’s body.
He put a hand on Liam’s shoulder and met his worried gaze. “I think we need to keep Ania’s physical body from being able to act. The entity might leave her when it realizes Ania’s form isn’t able to be used anymore.”
“What about everyone else on the ship?” Synar asked. “Ania’s skills exceed even Dorian’s. I saw that for myself today. I can’t let Ania hurt anyone.”
“No, you can’t, but I don’t know what else to do if I can’t get into her to find out what’s going on.” Malachi paused, then got an idea. “Rena Trax once hosted an emissary. We can ask her. I also suggest we contact Kefira to see if she left one of her shiny, self-righteous beings behind when she vacated our ship.”
Synar nodded and reached out a hand to let Malachi pull him up to a sitting position. “A part of me never believed Ania’s stories about her past. I definitely met the ruthless warrior today. Ania held off all of us. Finally, I surprised her and Dorian was able to subdue her. She screamed in rebellion as she crumpled to the floor. I regret not taking her more seriously.”
Malachi nodded. “I discovered what she was like over those two years we were alone together. Liam, this is very bad timing, but there’s something else you don’t know about your very unique mate,” he said carefully, wishing he had confided in Liam when he first felt their stirrings. “I don’t think Ania even knows this yet, but she carries your children. There are two faint life signs within her. I’ve been watching over them.”
“Children? Ania and I have created children together?” Synar swung his startled gaze to the female on the table.
Malachi sighed and lifted a shoulder. “Since she was not yet ready to deal with the reality, out of loyalty to her, I said nothing to either of you. Perhaps it was wrong of me to hope their existence would unfold in a more joyful manner.”
Synar was shaking his head, almost unable to take it in. “No, you were doing the right thing. Ania continues to claim that she is not ready to start a family. I just wish…” Pausing, Synar looked across the tables to see Gwen and Dorian staring at him in sympathy. With no other recourse, his gaze reluctantly swung to meet Chiang’s. “Would it hurt the gestation process to put Ania in stasis?”
Chiang frowned as he nodded. “Ania would be fine, but it would put the children at risk to halt their growth. I don’t recommend it.”
“Sedation then?” Synar suggested.
“Not good either, but it’s a better option than stasis. Are you worried restraints and sedatives won’t work?” Chiang asked.
“I can tell you for certain that restraints won’t work,” Dorian said sharply. His gaze jumped between the two concerned males. “Ania can escape anything. She is not just Khalsa. She is the highest master of their skills. No one else has her level of training. I didn’t get that far myself.”
“Can she escape the trance state you put her in?” Synar asked.
Dorian nodded sadly. “Yes. She is the only warrior I ever knew who could. Even now, I feel her fighting the hold I have on her. Anger rules her energy at the moment while she fights what is within her. When she remembers to cease her struggles, she will release herself from my hold.”
Synar swallowed hard as he looked at Ania’s restrained form once more. Then he looked again at the best of his crew, which his mate had almost defeated without any help. He couldn’t let his compassion for Ania keep him from his greater obligations to protect everyone else. Hopefully, his mate would one day forgive him for yet another time he had to choose the ship’s welfare over hers.
“Call the Paladin, Chiang. I think they’re still within hailing distance. A Guardian-level ship might have some of the sedatives her captors gave her on Terris Rein. We know that will keep her under for at least a few days. Maybe we can figure out what the Helios is going on in the meantime.”
“I don’t know what kind of long-term effect the sedative will have on her or the children,” Chiang warned.
“There’s no other choice,” Synar said sadly, sliding off the table to the floor. “Gwen, call Warro. Bring him up to speed and tell him he has the bridge tonight. Then you and Dorian go get some rest. You need to heal quickly. You’ll both be on the bridge for the duration of our trip to pick up the Guardian 13.”
“Maybe the weepy, creepy Trax sister can tell you something about what happened,” Gwen said, flexing her sore arm as she slid from the medical table. It was bad, but the compression bandage helped. “I don’t buy Rena’s story about coming back from the dead. I got a feeling there’s more going on with her than we are seeing. Unless she’s just some whacko mental case.”
“I agree there is much we don’t know about Rena’s situation. That’s exactly why Malachi and I are going to go have a little chat with both Trax siblings as soon as I can arrange it,” Synar said. He looked over his shoulder to see Malachi frowning down at Ania’s unconscious form. “Malachi, do whatever you feel you need to. I want this figured out.”
Malachi’s gaze rose to his master’s. Liam should know better than to give him free rein. “Be careful how much control you offer me, Liam Synar. I would hate for you to have to put me in Zorinda’s amulet after all. Because if the emissaries are doing this, I’ll make sure they suffer for the pain they have caused her. I no longer fear what they will do to me. I saw Ania best one in a contest of wills.”
“I know how you feel because I feel like that too. But I was there. Ania attacked Gwen on reflex, which is second nature to her as I have painfully learned. It’s possible that Ania had no idea what she was doing. It’s also possible that the entity—emissary—or whatever the creature was that went into her, may have overreacted to being in Ania as well. Or I could be trying to think objectively so I don’t overreact myself,” Synar declared, blowing out a frustrated breath.
Malachi closed his eyes, nodded. “You are right on all those points and that overreacting will not help this situation. Calm thinking is required. Let’s begin with interrogating the Trax sisters until we are assured they have told us all they know.”
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