The Queen's Consorts

By: Kele Moon
Dedication


To my three beautiful children, who each in their own amazing way make me believe in a better tomorrow.

Special thanks to:

My husband for being my hero—always.

Laurann Dohner for being the best CP in the world! Thank you for everything you do! My books are always better because of you! I appreciate you so much!

Lori Toland for always being there for me even when I’m curled up on the ground crying because I can’t get a scene right. I’m so lucky to have a BFF who “gets it.” J

Karen M. for all your support! Your enthusiasm for my books, and my success means more to me than you’ll ever know. Thank you so much for being my friend.

Lissanne for all your help! It meant so much to me, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Sa for your amazing insight. You gave me the push I needed and I thank you for it.

Saritza for being that extra pair of eyes when I needed them.

Maryam for being the most amazing editor I could ever hope for! Thank you for all you do to make my stories the best they can be. Working with you is always a joy!





Chapter One


Planet of Auroria

The Capital

Solar Cycle 1114

“In the days before the darkness the sun shone so brightly flowers grew right out of the ground,” Sari said softly, making her voice compelling on purpose. “Just like magic.”

Then she smiled at the little girl who had introduced herself as Aria when Sari found her searching for food in the disposal bins in the market earlier. Now the two of them sat huddled in the corner of an alley sharing the box Aria called home.

“Without glass or artificial light?” Aria clutched the threadbare blanket—her only protection against the cold—as she stared up at Sari with wide blue eyes.

“No greenhouses required.” Sari’s smile grew broader as she too got caught up in the fantasy. “Flowers sprang up everywhere. Anyone with fingers was allowed to pick them and enjoy their beautiful scent.”

“How lovely.” Aria sighed. Her blonde hair was stringy and greasy, her skin unnaturally pale in the alley where no artificial light glowed and only the vast gray from a sun hidden by endless clouds was there to make things visible. “The flowers for sale at the market smell so good. Sometimes I wish I could touch them, but I wouldn’t dare.”

Sari resisted the urge to take Aria to a shelter, knowing there was usually a far worse fate than a life on the streets for young, unclaimed females. Being much more rare than males, if a girl was unfortunate enough to be orphaned and alone, they were usually seized for the underground sex market that was saturated with males. A female was prized and worth far more.

What this little one needed was a place where she could grow to adulthood, then find a pair of males who would cherish having a female to form a union       with and start a happy family. But if Sari hadn’t found such a haven for herself, she certainly couldn’t help Aria find a place to claim the dreams orphans shouldn’t dream without risking a life filled with disappointment.

All she could offer were the fairy tales her grandmother had told her before she died. Like this little girl, Sari had never seen flowers magically grow out of the ground either.

“One day when our queen is found and returned to her throne in the Sacred City, flowers will grow again,” Sari assured her. “It’ll be a glorious day.”

“What if she’s never found?” Aria asked in concern.

Rather than betraying her own doubts in the matter, Sari forced cheer into her voice. She repeated the mantra of the believers who held faith in the queen’s return no matter how dark things became. “She’s our queen. The gods guard her and guide her. She’ll return home to her consorts, who will protect her and please her for our people. The sun will shine when the gods deem it time and not a moment before.”

“What are consorts?”

Sari winced, not certain she wanted to go into that with a young one—no matter that she made her home on the streets and probably knew far more than she should of adult matters. “They’re lifemates who serve the queen and make her happy.”

“Like forming a union      !” Aria was clearly proud of herself. “One day I’m going to form a union       with two handsome lifemates and wear a yellow dress with flowers in my hair for the ceremony.”

“A noble dream,” Sari agreed, happy to hear it because by the time she was Aria’s age, she wanted nothing to do with males even in passing and certainly didn’t entertain the fantasy of finding a pair of them to form a union       with. “I wish it for you, lovely Aria. May the lifemates you bind yourself to be kindhearted and strong as well as handsome and fond of the color yellow.”

“What happened to the queen?” Aria asked as if it was something she pondered and never had someone to ask. “Where did she go?”

“There was a coup. A group of Rayians who craved the queen’s power for themselves rose up against the old queen and cut her down while she slept in the arms of one of her consorts. The evil Rayians, those of the queen’s own blood, then tried to kill the baby queen as well, but her other father was swift and brave. He fought back against those who would kill his daughter and her two young consorts as they slept peacefully in the nursery. The baby queen was saved, whisked away in the dead of night to be hidden until the time is right for her to return.”

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