Home > Varnog (Xian Warriors #6)

Varnog (Xian Warriors #6)
Author: Regine Abel







Loud grunts, war cries, the clank of speared-limbs clashing, chitin armor cracking, and the agonized groans of the dying greeted me as I approached the Kryptid training arena. Located deep below the surface, hidden in the bowels of Kryptor, the Workers of the rebellion’s nest were busy training their future General. Likteek was one of the eight clandestine bases still standing—from the original fourteen.

Decades ago, Kryptor’s excessive overpopulation had forced the Workers to dig deeper and build higher in order to accommodate their overflowing masses. The late Queen Aitxa had ordered General Khutu to find a low population, primitive planet to settle. Instead, he had started a conquest war against the galaxy that had now lasted for more than eighty years. The population had been decimated in those senseless wars, leaving vacant countless dwellings such as this one. Too numerous for anyone to keep track of them all and too deep to be easily detected by surface scans, they provided the perfect hideaway from a ruthless dictator.

The sound of my footsteps was muffled by the padded softness of the organic membrane that covered the floor and the lower half of the cave walls. At first, it had struck me as odd to have the living tissue usually used on liveships covering what mostly served as a ‘residential’ facility. But elderlies had originally lived in these great depths as they no longer needed to travel around for work. The membrane didn’t require any maintenance as it self-repaired by feeding from any organic refuse. It helped prevent mold formation from all the condensation, eliminated the need for a sewer system and—on a more morbid front—made morgues useless. Thankfully, the damp and musty scent normally associated with the membrane was barely noticeable.

The glow stones adorning the ceiling ahead intensified their illumination as I approached. Their smooth, soft surface was far more appealing than the wart-looking organic lights the General often used on his ships. Still, I doubted I would ever get used to the heaving constellation of tiny bumps covering the ceiling. They were in fact the lungs of the Likteek hive—literally. Each bump was an alveolus, except that instead of expanding from filling with oxygen, it absorbed the carbon dioxide and other toxins in the air and expelled clean oxygen for us to breathe.

Everything about Kryptid technology was created to be sustainable and efficient, but it still creeped the fuck out of me.

The white membrane that served as a door automatically parted when I walked up to it. It opened into a large room where the elder Kryptid Worker Lekla and a couple more females were bearing witness to the training of their young, new General Daeko. It was a refreshing sight from all the pathetic ones they were attempting to raise in the other secret bases.

Although still clearly many months from being mature, the young General already had broad shoulders, thick and shiny, black chitin armor covering his strong body. His Deynian horn, tall and half-moon shaped rose proudly from his forehead. His multifaceted eyes gleamed with energy and determination. He hopped around deftly on his three-segment legs while dodging and skirting around the basic holographic enemies of the training program. Despite being thin and somewhat short, the chitin lances protruding from his forearms promised to grow into stronger and more lethal appendages once he reached full maturity.

As soon as she noticed my presence, Lekla lifted her insectoid chin proudly and puffed out her flat, ant-like chest. Like her male counterpart, the female Kryptid’s body was covered in thinner chitin scales and a smaller version of the Deynian horn. Her disturbingly tiny waist, even smaller than the male’s, swayed in an otherworldly fashion as she took a few steps towards me.

The prickly female had grown on me over the past few months of my stay with them. She was the head of the blossoming Kryptid rebellion. However, having celebrated her fifty-ninth birthday two months ago, it was becoming an increasing concern that she wouldn’t live to see the final battle against the General. After all, the Workers—the sterile females of the Kryptids—only had an average lifespan of sixty years.

“Impressive,” I said as sole greeting to the elder female.

“Indeed,” Lekla replied with undisguised pride. “Before he became the abomination he is now, General Khutu had such a formidable shape as this young male. We must protect General Daeko at all costs. Along with our new Queen, he will bring back my people to its former glory.”

“Why is he so different from the others?” I asked. “I have been to five of the other secret hives, their Generals are pathetic, and their Queens are just as bad. They are scrawny, their chitin flimsy at best. Why is this one so strong? Did you change his diet?”

Lekla gave me a smug smile. “We had noticed as well that our plan was failing fast. Within the first month from enhancing a couple of Generals and a Queen, we knew they would be weak. Reports from the other hives confirmed the same. We’re still raising them, but we needed to find an alternative.”

She gave the young General an assessing gaze—one might even say an appreciative gaze—before looking back at me.

“We realized there would be no hope enhancing the latest brood from General Khutu and Queen Rahissa. So, we went to our laboratories and sought some of the frozen eggs the General had requisitioned from both himself and Queen Aitxa dating back a decade ago. It was a miracle they had not been destroyed. But back then, he was still healthy and so was she.”

“Clever,” I said with undisguised admiration. “You need to raise more from that batch.”

“We intend to. And that’s where you come in,” Lekla said with a teasing smile. “We had to make sure it was a viable plan before we risked reaching out to the other bases. Your own travels there expose them to potential discovery. But if we do, discovery is inevitable.”

“What about—”

I was interrupted by the discreet sound of another set of organic doors at the back of the room opening on three Workers escorting the most stunning young Queen I had seen in a long time. She was more beautiful even than the late Queen Aitxa had been.

But never as beautiful as my beloved sister Pahiven.

Hatred filled my heart at the thought of the horrible fate that the General had visited upon my younger sister. I cast a glance at my own skin, a darker shade than my natural light blue Mimic color. I was a Mimic no more, but yet another of the General’s failed experiments. He had planned for me the same thing he had done to my sister. He had forced her to shapeshift into a Kryptid Queen to lay endless Kryptid eggs. Khutu had hoped the resulting larvae would inherit our mimicking abilities and the various other powers his experiments had granted us. Instead, he’d turned Pahiven into a vegetable that laid one mutant egg after another, abominations that had to be put down. I would see him dead, slowly and painfully for all his wrongdoings.

But this young beauty, Queen Xerath, was the key to exacting that vengeance and granting freedom to her people from the tyrant the General had become. Although far from full maturity, she already possessed the regal stance of her station. Her long and slender torso with a delightful narrow waist—not the scary, tiny one of her Workers—broadened into sensual hips and long, almost spider-like legs if not for the fact that she had four of them. I wouldn’t quite say that her lower body compared that of a spider’s, but her legs were elegant, not creepy.

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