Unus by Stephanie Burke

Unus by Stephanie Burke

Unus
Coven Series Prequel, Book 1
by Stephanie Burke

Loose Id

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61118-577-5

Cyprus spent a lifetime training to be a warrior, not a woman, but that’s what she gets when she transforms. Then she met a male who made her want to be female. But could she be female enough to make a Prince give up his life to be the first in her Coven?

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Chapter One

Out!
Have to get out!
It was too tight! It was too dark!
Can’t…breathe!
With heart racing and fear mounting, the panicked being struggled against the thick bindings that encased and restricted shem’s movement.
No one ever said that the conversion, the physical change would be so…so…there were no words!
Cyprusurakaliesupreidesa raked long nails against the membranes, shem’s limbs moving slowly through the pale pink fluid that filled the sack.
Cyprus could hear the boom of the voices above, echoing down through the fluid.
That is Cypusupriaratizaor Raitza, this Coven’s Master. Cyprus’s fevered mind latched on to that thought and held fast, using it as a talisman and a calming tool.
Coven Master was there. Coven Master was there!
Why is the Coven Master not offering aid?
It was enough to make Cyprus want to scream, to lament shem’s physical imprisonment, to demand release.
So that was what Cyprus did, buried the fingers of both hands in shem’s long flowing hair, the hair that entrapped almost as well as the casing surrounding Cyprus, opened shem’s mouth and…choked.
Out! Out! Out! OUT!
The thoughts of escape swirled through an even more terrified mind as anxiety grew. Fear and frustration ruled, tearing through shem’s mind and flowing through shem’s consciousness until Cyprus thought for sure shem would be swallowed up by a sea of black and red fury. Madness! Cyprus recognized its teasing call, the fall into the mental state where nothing existed but pure emotion. Right then, that emotion was rage. That rage, that taste of madness, scared Cyprus almost as much as being locked in this cocoon. It was the fear of that yawning, tantalizing unknown that lent Cyprus the strength to shove at the liquid thing holding shem prisoner.
Cyprus clawed and scratched at the membranes, kicking and twisting, fighting until the nails of one hand pushed their way through the thick rubbery walls.
Yes, there was a way out. Cyprus dug at the tear, using both hands now, pulling and jerking until a sudden waft of cool air caressed shem’s fingers.
“Not long now.”
Coven Master was still there. Cyprus could hear her speaking.
She must be speaking with my Damshire. The thought comforted Cyprus, calmed the chaotic thoughts streaking through shem’s frantic mind. That both Coven Master and Damshire were waiting for the completed emergence enhanced a sense of calm, but also reignited the desire to be done with the whole process.
Yes, that’s right. The emergence. How long had it been?
Cyprus couldn’t remember.
Cyprus’s last memory was of bathing with shem’s six siblings, laughing and joking with the youngers about the change, exchanging knowing glances with the elders, knowing that shem’s Sibs understood the excitement and the mounting fear.
And then as shem made a comfortable nest of bankets that night with the siblings, the light of the setting suns caressed Cyprus’s face as shem stared up at the darkening sky through the large windows that surrounded the crèche room.
The large yellow moon glowed in the rich purpling of the growing night sky. It seemed so close that Cyprus reached out a hand to caress it, knowing that change was going to happen and somehow feeling in harmony with the ever-changing face of the first moon.
Cyprus remembered that much, remembered hearing the waves crash against the beachfront of their domicile. Cyprus remembered hearing shem’s Damshire cavorting with the five other Coven Ravens, remembered hours earlier when all seven fully grown adults, shem’s parents, had seen them comfortable in their crevans and bankets, making sure the netting in their soft silken hammocks was properly padded with pillows and that they were comfortable.
They were all getting a bit old for such childish treatment, but it was a ritual they had all come to appreciate and their Damshires came to crave, knowing that soon public displays of affection would cease, as one could not rear fearsome warriors by coddling them.
Cyprus chose to sleep in the crevan this night instead of retiring to shem’s own rooms, desperate for a little coddling of shem’s own, despite having already started walking the warrior path by surviving shem’s deployment to Earth.
Though their triumphant return had been only days before, Cyprus still had not felt restored, not even back once shem returned to familiar climes. No, what Cyprus had felt was more akin to extreme agitation even among the loving arms of shem’s blood Coven.
Cyprus had cleaned the special house weapons that had been used during the Earth Campaign several times over, had regaled the younger siblings about the “humans” and how the Persaw still made the occasional attack. Shem told tales about hiding in plain sight while human technology advanced and grew, which made it much easier for their kind to do their appointed duty and keep the Persaw invasion from advancing farther in the universe known as the Milky Way. Yet even after spending several human hours answering questions and clarifying points for the youngers, Cyprus still felt keyed up, frustrated, out of sorts.
The Ravens had begun to look at Cyprus with knowing and amused expressions in their eyes. Finally shem’s eldest sibling pulled Cyprus aside to explain calmly what had been happening, why shem was excited and exhausted and out of sorts at the same time.
And of course Cyprus had been shocked! Surely, there were several years left to go before the change had to be faced. Shem’s elder sibling had explained that for some strange reason, a warrior having their mandatory time on Earth caused a curious effect on their kind. Whether through the stress and trials of combat in an active war zone or some other reason, the result of mandatory time fighting on Earth for the warrior class resulted in the advancing of maturity and developmental stages, causing the change to come about much faster.
No matter what the cause, his explanation for Cyprus’s malaise had been clear. Cyprus was going into Goda, and nothing anyone could do or say would stop it.
Coven Master had seemed pleased, as was Cyprus’s Damshire, at an early Goda. It was seen as a sure sign of the strength and character of the individual experiencing it.
But for Cyprus, taking on those responsibilities, of being First in a Coven, of being a regulator—the thought caused more fright than pride.
“It is a demanding duty tempered with love,” Caza had explained. “Being First is a great responsibility, young one. You do not get to do half of what the other Ullah do; you never get to completely release or lose control over your body or your emotions. But if your experience as First is tempered with love, love for your Coven Master and fellow Ullah, you will find that the position is more than worth the pain and sacrifice.”
Cyprus took his words to heart, knowing that their family had produced a long line of “Firsts,” and it was expected that being a First was what Cyprus’s place in the grand scheme of things would be.
Cyprus remembered thinking over all that shem had learned and staring up as the second and third of the triple moons that covered shem’s planet’s oceans rose majestically out of the horizon. Shem remembered hearing the waves crashing against the sand-covered beaches near shem’s Coven’s familial domicile and the sounds of the Ravens cavorting together.
To see them again, to feel the warmth of their connection, to feel the love that they so freely shared… Shem had to have that again. And in order to have that, shem had to break out.
Escape. To be free. To cast off the binding and to swim in the warm waters of home, to tease and fight with siblings, to bask in the comfort and love of the Ravens, to protect and nurture and to love.
Cyprus had to be free.
With one final lurch, Cyprus felt the membranes tear and felt the blood-hot fluids flow away, leaving shem coughing, cold, uncomfortable and almost strangling in a tangle of wet hair.
Cyprus struggled to breathe but coughed up more of the thick fluid, shuddering as it ran from shem’s nose and mouth, freeing shem’s lungs to take that first vital, rasping gasp of air.
Then there were hands, warm and familiar, easing shem off of the cold and damp, and the voices being raised in an ancient song of praise and thanksgiving. And…and there was shem’s banket, wrapped around shem as drying cloths were wiping away the wet.
And then—then there was the sudden hush as the beautiful voices fell silent and those warm and comforting hands, the hands of the Ullah, of shem’s parents, fell away.
Cyprus looked up, blinking with stinging eyes that had grown unused to light as the Ravens and the Sibs backed away.
“Well.” Cyprus heard shem’s Damshire Redisaton, the one who contributed a direct piece of his soul to shem’s existence, speak softly, walking over to shem and enveloping shem’s body within his dark, muscular arms. Cyprus knew that this was Redisaton by the long golden hair that fell about his body in waves and the large amber eyes that closely examined the changed body Cyprus now possessed. “This was wholly unexpected.”
Shem’s shaky mind began to stabilize, to function out of panic mode. Yes, this was shem’s Damshire, the one whose soul primarily went into Cyprus’s creation, the one to which shem felt most heart kinship.
Cyprus looked up in confusion as he gathered Cyprus deeper in his embrace, holding shem almost protectively, while Coven Master Cypusupriaratizaor reached out and began to caress the sodden golden hair that clung to shem’s face.
“Unexpected?” Raitza looked down on shem before speaking to the rest. “This is so unusual that I am not sure how The Family is going to take it.”
But then Coven Master Raitza was gathering Cyprus up in her arms, pulling shem away from shem’s Damshire. Her golden skin was soft and warm as Cyprus remembered, and then she was wrapping a banket around Cyprus’s quivering form.
The others were gathering around slowly, looking abashed and wry, smiling sheepish smiles as they once again were touching Cyprus and the new body shem had developed.
“Oh Cyprus,” Raitza whispered softly. “You of all my children never cease to amaze me.”
“Wh-wha-what…?”
“Shh,” Raitza soothed, quieting Cyprus’s stuttering attempts to speak. “Shh. You have been through a great change, my child. Allow yourself time to recover.”
Then shem was being lifted and carried out of the room.
Cyprus could vaguely make out the faces of the Ravens: Caza, the First, with his silver-white hair and purple eyes; Onnah, the second, with his almost red skin and black hair. There was shem’s Damshire Redisaton, with his deep brown skin and golden hair right beside it while Acktla, number four, began to sing the ancient Songs of Welcoming, his pale skin almost glowing against his bright red hair. Kimshire, the fifth, was looking a bit dazed, his brown, braided hair contrasting with his pink eyes, but he had a small smile upon his lips as he walked. And finally Quar, with his silver eyes, silver hair, and onyx skin, joined in the song, a wide, welcoming smile on his normally stoic face.
They were moving, following Cyprus and Raitza through the domicile and toward the private rooms in the back, the rooms reserved for special ceremonies and for Goda nights that the Ravens shared.
They were rarely allowed to enter this room, and at first Cyprus began to struggle in protest. But then Raitza shushed shem again, carrying the large body as easily as one would a young child of a few seasons.
“Rest, my child,” Raitza soothed as they entered the forbidden territory of adults.
The room was made of pure ash-stone. The natural stone softly glowed a warm golden color and contrasted with the pale brown and cream grotto that their domicile had been built around.
Instantly the humid atmosphere helped infuse the air with the rich scent of earthy growing things. It replaced the odd absence of scent Cyprus had grown used to while entombed.
But now it was as if Cyprus’s brain had to relearn everything!
It was frustrating, scary, and intense, having to force shem’s mind to sift through what should be automatic responses and then try to remember how to categorize new stimuli and respond accordingly.
Cyprus felt a strange burning in eyes that had remained closed for so long and lifted one trembling hand to discover a warm wet trail flowing from them.
Was shem sick?
Shem turned quickly to look up at shem’s Coven Master, lifting shem’s hand to show the fluid that was steadily flowing from both eyes.
Shem whimpered in fear. Had something gone wrong? Why was the change not complete?
“Normal,” Raitza whispered, hugging shem tighter to the soft swells of her own bosom. “It’s all perfectly normal, Cyprus.”
Oddly enough, the embrace worked to relieve some of the growing anxiety.
Shem settled down in those loving arms and gave over to the luxury of being carried like a youngling.
There was a soft splash, followed by several others, and shem jumped as shem felt the almost painfully hot waters flowing up from shem’s bottom. Slowly it began to envelop shem’s body as Raitza sank down in the large ceremonial pool, carrying shem with her.
“We welcome you, Cyprusurakaliesupreidesa, first and only Coven Master born to this line.”
What? Coven Master?
Cyprus tried to open shem’s mouth, to demand an explanation, but the singing of the others drowned out the small noises she made.
Yes, a Coven Master. A she.
Cyprus had gone through the Time of Change and had endured the natural conversion her people, her species, had to endure to mature and become a contributing member of their society.
Cyprusurakaliesupreidesa had served time on Earth and had returned a valiant warrior with many Psawren kills and heroic deeds accredited, given a warrior’s welcome and status, and all the rights and privileges that it entailed.
Cyprus, third child of its Damshire Redisaton born of Cypusupriaratizaor who had gone through its first Goda and survived to appear at the Time of Choosing, had emerged from encapsulation…a female.
“No!” She tried to scream, though it sounded like a gasp that was lost in the songs of welcome.
“Shh,” Raitza soothed. “All will be well, my child.”
But it was a lie.
Cyprus was not the glorious warrior who would be first among his Coven, given the duty of regulating the energy flow of his fellow Ravens to their Coven Master while ensuring that their domicile remained a place of peace and contentment.
Instead Cyprus was a Coven Master, a female who would have to lead her Coven, to bear the brunt of its gauntlet of emotions, to ensure that she always had enough energy to share and keep her Coven’s power level flowing and recharging, to deal with the council, and scariest of all, to bear the Coven children.
Not only was she now an anomaly to her whole family line, an oddity that their people had never experienced, she had to exist with a set of jiggly breasts and a slit between her legs.
The Creator must have a sense of humor, because only the Great One could see the humor in this.
She wished her life was over.
Cyprus was a female.

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