Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #General Fiction
Table of Contents
Rapunzel’s strange circumstances led to her being a housing for energy, her parentage made her a princess. With the fate of the next Xefar queen in her hands, Rapunzel must go on a journey with a strange Duke who’s interest in her hair sparks a reciprocal fascination. Arnolth is unlike any man she has ever spent time with…but that would make sense with her being raised underground in an ant colony.
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The Rapunzel Factor
Copyright © 2011 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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The Rapunzel Factor
A Trapezium Exclusive
“Rapunzel, come. The queen demands your presence.”
Rapunzel looked up from the documents that she was preparing. “I will be there immediately.”
The drone clicked his mandibles and waited for her. She was completing preparations for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ambassadorial summit that had begun her life. With the papers in order, she sealed them in her containment unit and followed the drone to their queen.
The path they took was not a standard tunnel. When Rapunzel was handed over to the queen as her heir, new pathways were built so that she wouldn’t have to climb and slide her way around. She still had memories of clambering through the tunnels, playing hide and seek with her nannies.
Their path took them directly to the queen and Rapunzel folded her arms against her body while lowering her head. “What may I do for you, my queen, mother of us all?”
The small box at her neck converted her speech into the clicks and whistles that the Xefar spoke. Rapunzel had tried to learn the language as a child, but her accent was atrocious.
The queen raised her head and spoke, her huge abdomen anchoring her to the royal chamber. “My dearest child, you are needed to obtain the strands for the next queen.”
Rapunzel looked up and met the multi-faceted gaze of her adoptive parent.
“I thought they were supposed to have sent that to you last week?”
“They were. The Jarok family has not responded to my queries. It seems a more direct approach is required.”
Rapunzel made her affirmation click. The one noise that didn’t irritate the queen. “When do I leave?”
“Now. Pack up whatever clothing you require for decency and find out what is delaying my strands.”
The tone of the clicks was frenzied and Rapunzel knew why.
Twenty-five years and nine months earlier, the leman of the youngest prince of the Jarok family had crept into the kitchen and found the heap of golden strands that were reserved for the young Xefar queen.
Tempted beyond reason, the woman fell upon the strands and consumed them, the high hormone spike imparted by the strands sent her into a frenzy and she had found her provider and kept him in his quarters for five days.
When the leman left her lord, he was exhausted and she was pregnant. Apologies were sent to the queen of the Xefar and in return for forgiveness, she demanded that the child born of the strand coupling be given to her when it could be separated from its mother.
The leman died in labour, the energy she was carrying within far too much for her human frame. Rapunzel had been offered to her father, but with his favourite companion dead, he rejected her after acknowledging her as the child of that frenzied union.
With a wet nurse, she was sent to the Xefar and from there she remained in a safe nursery until she was able to articulate that she was not edible.
Becoming a princess of the Xefar involved the queen’s heavy musk mixed with Rapunzel’s own scent being placed in the far reaches of the underground city. Her golden hair was embedded in the walls, glowing in a quiet pronouncement of her status.
“Of course, dearest mother. I will be gone within the hour. Will I receive a guide?” She kept her arms folded tightly against her body, her feet together. It was a basic sign of respect for the deadly mandibles that the queen wielded.
“We have arranged a soft escort for you.”
The queen’s use of the word
was derisive, but Rapunzel did not take it personally, it was simply the Xefar reference for the bipedal beings that spawned their princess.
“Shall I go?”
“Please, and, daughter?”
“Be careful. The soft world is not what you are used to. They may try to manipulate you into surrendering the strands to them, instead of giving them to me as is my right.” The queen reached out with one of her forelegs and stroked it down Rapunzel’s cheek.
The prickle and sting of the spurred leg down her face made her smile. It was rare that her mother gave her affection in front of the workers.
“I will be careful. You will have the means to lay the next breeder, my dear mother.”
“You have been an untraditional but helpful daughter. Enjoy your travel.”
Dismissed, Rapunzel returned to her room and quickly packed her wraps. The drone that attended her carried her pack through the tunnels until they reached the exterior access tunnel.
The cool air toyed with Rapunzel’s hair, lifting a few glowing golden strands to dance on the breeze.
She could see the vague outline of the warriors guarding the entrance to the Xefar collective. Their huge, three-lobed bulk kept other large insects out while allowing a free flow of oxygen.
She took the pack from her drone and patted him between the eyes, rubbing his scent sensors in goodbye.
“Take care, Princess. We await your return.” The clicks and hums of his tone made her smile.
“I will see you when I have completed my mission.” Taking a deep, shaking breath, she passed the warriors at the front entrance and blinked at the brightness of the sun.
Rapunzel quickly flipped her veil over her face, the delicate silk allowing for airflow while restricting the light that struck her eyes.
“Miss? Are you the one I am waiting for?”
She peered through the gauzy silk and took in the softy sitting on the rocks to the left of the Xefar colony entrance.
“I suppose that would depend. What are you waiting for?”
“I am to escort the princess of the Xefar to the capitol.” He stood and approached her, stopping when a warrior clicked in a proximity alert.
Rapunzel smiled and took a few steps out of the alert zone. “That is me, or I am she. Whatever.”
The clicking coming from her neck was distracting him. He kept glancing at the warriors with a worried frown. Sighing, she took a few more steps toward him and turned off her translator.
“May I ask your name, sir?”
“Duke Arnolth of Carria, at your service.”
“Princess Rapunzel. How long is it to the capitol?” She walked with him and stopped short at the two horses waiting for them. The last time she saw a horse, it was being prepared for her meal.
“It is two days ride. We will have to be careful, I have heard of a sickness in the city.” He extended his hand to her.
She blinked and tried to remember what he was trying to imply with the gesture. Timid, she extended her own hand and he wrapped his fingers around hers. She laughed. “That feels a little odd.”
His brow furrowed in confusion. “What does?”
“Hands. The Xefar don’t use hands for touch. It is usually feelers or sensors on their heads.”
Arnolth seemed surprised, but led her to the horses without another word. He took her pack and tied it to the saddle and then cupped his hands toward her.
“What do you want?”
“Put your foot here and I will lift you onto the horse. Please tell me you have ridden before.”
She stabilized herself on the saddle and placed her foot in his hands. He lifted, she pushed and in a matter of seconds, she was settled in the saddle. “I haven’t ridden horses, but I have ridden. We have a number of special events that I get taken to during the year. I ride the drone.”
“One of my mother’s husbands. He mated with her years ago and now that he is neutered, he is my attendant and guard.” She shifted on the peculiar piece of leather, her left thigh completely exposed, her bare feet mimicking his in the stirrups.
“Neutered?” Arnolth seemed a little distressed.
“Of course. He implanted the queen with his seed and his testicles are now within her, spawning a new generation.” She watched him closely and followed his movements with the reins. The horse started to move and she laughed in triumph.
“You are doing well, Princess. Please continue to face forward.” His gaze drifted from her veil to her bound breasts and the wrap that she wore from navel to waist. “Do you have any other clothing?”
“Yes. I have the formal wear that I use for occasions of state.” She patted the pack on her horse.
“Good. I enjoy the view, but the city folk are a little less understanding.”
She looked down at the clothing and skin that was exposed. “All of the human genitals are covered, I don’t see the problem.”
“Ah, well…never mind.” He kicked his horse into a light trot and hers followed suit.
They travelled for hours, barely speaking. Rapunzel was uncomfortable by the time they stopped. Her life in the tunnels was one that was usually lived on her feet. This much sitting was painful.
She was able to get her feet free of the stirrups, but she couldn’t move her legs enough to get them over the saddle. “Um…help.”
He chuckled and reached up, gripping her waist. She tumbled into his arms and collapsed against him. “Ow.”
With her body plastered against his, she couldn’t help but notice a ridge of interest in his trousers, it twitched and surged against her while she squirmed to stand on her own. Heat filled her cheeks and swirled in her belly.
“I am sorry, I should have stopped to let you rest.” He shifted his arms to hold her at arm’s length.
“It would have been nice, but we are on a timeline. I understand the urgency.” She noticed that he was trying to peer through her veil and smiled. Humans had a funny way around partial nudity and any scrap of fabric had to be removed or seen through.
He slowly parted from her and set about preparing their camp. She thought about his rank and had to ask, “How is it that you know how to camp? I thought dukes were all about fancy clothing and living in town.”
He grinned as he started their fire just as the light of the sun reddened. She flipped back her veil and hissed in sympathy as he burned himself. “Are you all right?”
He put his fingers in his mouth and nodded. “Thank you for asking. I just wasn’t expecting you to remove your veil. I thought it was a Xefar modesty thing.”
She cocked her head. “The Xefar don’t wear anything. Ever. I simply wear the veil because after my life underground, the bright light of the sun takes a few days to get used to.”
He blinked. “Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Most softies don’t.”
She blushed and hoped that the red sunlight concealed it. “It is a Xefar term for races that are not encased with exoskeletons.”
“I see.” He paused. “I have some food if you are hungry.”
“Please. Do you have any water?”
He cursed quietly and went to her saddle. He removed a bag and brought it to her. “I thought you knew what it was. I apologize.”
She smiled and took it from him. “I am aware of softy trappings in theory, but I have never been exposed to them for more than a few hours at a time.”
He sat back and she took in his physique as well as his striking features. His hair was many shades darker than hers, and his eyes were the same rich brown. Instead of skin that was pale gold, his was a darker bronze, making him seem like a softy statue come to life.
“Do all men in your colony look like you?” She blurted it out before she thought about it.
A soft grin spread over his lips. “No. I am by far the most handsome and the bravest.”
“Oh. You are a warrior then.” She was disappointed. Warriors were not for breeding and that meant that the stirring heat in her was going to remain unsatisfied.
“Only when I have to be. I prefer the role of lover to that of fighter.”
Rapunzel watched him shift closer to her. “I don’t understand. You can be both?”