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Nostriya


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This is a why choose shifter romance where the main heroine collects noses (and the people attached to them) throughout the story. There’s romance, my fave tropes, and a made-up culture related to noses. This story featuring several people with colds will have the usual symptoms plus caretaking, slight mess, and contagion.
 

Veroz 

I moved deeper into the shadows, shuffling restlessly as I felt my vielta barrage against my insides, clawing at the part of my brain that enabled me to shift. 

“Our business is done. You may leave, Bil.”

My vielta was always close to the surface, always at the edge, enabling me to use my heightened senses even in human form, but it was becoming harder and harder to control the rabid beast now that I refused to shift. 

My muscles tightened and my teeth clenched as I felt another wave of power ram against me, looking for the tiniest crack, the smallest opening. Bil’s voice grated against my skull. 

“Come pick it up tomorrow. Vielta suppressors are illegal outside of authority-sanctioned use. Don’t let this fall back on me. Do I make myself clear?” 

His threatening voice to me was dimmed by the thrwp thrwp thrwp of him counting out the money I’d given him, but my vielta took issue at his tone as an anger not my own spiked through me. My vielta growled low in my chest, thrumming irritatingly against my raw, burning throat and clogged sinuses. It produced the worst tickle and I rubbed my nose vigorously. 

Bil glanced up at the growl and then quickly looked away as he saw my face in the shadows. A male nose was a very private organ and I didn’t wear a nosma like he and most Nostri males wore. I’d outgrown the one I’d been given as a child and I hadn’t been given one by anyone since nor would I disgrace myself by putting one on that I bought myself as some chose to do.  

“I said our business is done, Bil. Leave. And next time I tell you to come alone, do it or I’ll go after every tag-along I sense.”

Bil paled and nodded nervously, stepping back before turning around and hurrying away. With that distraction gone, my vielta drew all of my attention. I begged for a moment’s respite. It didn’t heed the plea and instead doubled down, clamping down on my control and shaking for all it was worth. Claws grew from my nails and my skin started to vibrate. I staggered out of the alley, breathing heavily and grimacing with the effort to push my vielta back. It mocked my effort, moving freely through me, pushing against muscle and sinew and jabbing into nerve endings. 

Shaking, sweaty, and too warm, I had passed only a few blocks when foreign honeyed words stopped me in my tracks. I turned to the voice. My vielta slammed against me so hard I almost fell flat on my face. And then it eased back through no push from me, scenting the woman but that’s it. I registered a deeply tantalizing, rich smell with notes of sweetness as she smiled at me and came toward me with a map.  

Her skin was the perfect shade to contrast the glow from the stars. Eyes that appeared black until you got close enough to see the warm hints of brown in its depths. Her soft lips looked amazingly plump even pulled up into a smile that made her eyes sparkle and her white teeth show. Her hair was braided at the top and then left to float in the wind.  

More of those foreign words I couldn’t understand came out, but on the map she was pointing to a hotel and looking at me imploringly.  

My face heated up, starting from the cheeks and moving down into my neck. My vielta was finally silent and still. I nodded and took her half a mile up the road to the hotel. Just as I turned to go, she placed her hand on my arm and then dug into her purse.  

Ret.” I declined, hoping she knew even basic Nostri. I didn’t want her money. She pulled out a tourist pamphlet with smiling Nostri people. She pointed to each male, specifically showing me the nosma they wore. She looked up at me and brought her hand up, index finger starting to extend. I grabbed her wrist, cradling it gently between my hand before she could shame me by pointing to the lack of nosma on my nose, and nodded that I understood. She smiled, retracted her hand from my grasp, and dug back into her purse….. and pulled out a nosma. 

The triangular cloth with a string on each side to tie to the back of the head wasn’t the usual, standard black or brown. It was royal blue and lavishly decorated to befit a king. She’d added colorful stones on the string to weigh it down perfectly. Not only had she handmade the nosma, but she’d staked her claim on the nose of whoever would wear it by sewing her name in bold onto the edge of it. Viera.

I felt murderous. I wanted to claw out the eyes of whoever got to wear it so they never saw her smile. I wanted to rip out their nose so that they never felt the silken feel or the ownership attached to the nosma

When the rage stopped blinding, I focused back on her …and then I froze. She was holding the nosma up by its strings and gesturing it toward me, even getting on her tiptoes. My knees buckled and then slid to the ground. As she came closer with the nosma outstretched, I felt a tickle. No, not now! Not when she was about to put it on me. Not when she’d deemed my nose worthy enough to hide and covet only for herself. Would she change her mind when she heard the messy sound she would have to deal with. I couldn’t stifle like most Nostri males.  

 Despite my best efforts to keep it at bay, the sneeze came like a stampede, rearing my head back and then forcing its way out.

AhhDJz-TsCHUU!

“Blaez uoo.” She said in her adorable foreign voice.  

I groaned as I felt another pulsing tickle zing into my nostrils.  

AhhDJz-TsCHUU!

“Blaez uoo agen.” She cooed and then waited, staring at my undressed nose for any more sounds. Then the nosma was fit around the top of my nose and she tied it at the back.  

It was finished. In the laws and eyes of the Nostri, we were bonded. But she was a foreigner. She didn’t know our ways. I could be a good man for once in my life and withdraw. She was fragile, delicate, breakable. I shouldn’t… 

She brought her hands back from around the back of my head and then frowned slightly before putting the back of her hand against my forehead.  

At the contact, my vielta swelled inside me like a great tempest, feeding my fierce protectiveness and the dark possessiveness in me, and then it did something for the first time in my 35 years of life. It spoke. 

 

Mate

 

She still had her hand to my forehead and now her other hand was on her forehead. Hope filled me that perhaps this was some form of a binding ceremony where she was from. 

She gasped and exclaimed in her native tongue.

“Uoo ave a feiverr!”

She grabbed my arm and tugged, indicating she wanted to go further into the authority’s territory with me. We went through the doors of the hotel establishment right to the front desk. 

 Immediately the air stunk of fear as I was recognized by hotel personnel. I wanted to sink my nose into her delicate neck and use her delicious scent to block out the pungent odor, but instead stood next to her as the hotel receptionist fell backwards in his scramble to get out of the hotel.  

My mate was a ball of confused frustration as she tugged me deeper into the hotel where we stopped at a room. 

She held up her index finger in a gesture I didn’t recognize and then slipped inside her hotel room, shutting it behind her.  

I puffed out my chest in pride. My mate already trusted me to guard her while she slept. Perhaps she did know our ways and chose me. 

 

Veria

 I hurried over to my things, hoping I’d remembered to pack a thermometer. 

I hadn’t. This one chance I would probably ever have to take care of a sick gorgeous guy and I didn’t have a thermometer. 

Okay. Plan B. I grabbed a translator book before heading back out to him. He was standing with his back to the door. I took a moment to admire him. He was so tall and massive, he would need to duck down to miss hitting the door frame and he would need to turn sideways so that his wide muscular chest could fit if I were to invite him in. He was even more gorgeous than the unfair attraction Nostri people as a whole seemed to possess. He turned, seemingly confused at my sudden appearance, and he bent down, sniffing my neck. I blushed. 

Thank goodness I had read the little information that was available on Nostri people on the way here. That was how I discovered only Nostri males wore nosma. At least the one I’d made to wear myself would be used by him. 

Also among my discoveries on the plane ride was that it was common for Nostri people to use their noses to smell information or emotion. It could be compared to how snakes licked the air to determine danger or nearby food. 

When he lifted his head slightly to look at me, I saw his nosma was slightly skewed and pushed up. I straightened it out and then beheld a glorious sneezy expression from his eyes that lost focus and his nose that started to scrunch the folds of the nosma as he backed away. He knuckled his nose under the nosma and that seemed to do the trick. 

Right. He was sick and needed medical attention. I flipped the pages of my American to Nostri translator book until I found the word for fever. Foeves. I showed him the word in my book. 

He nodded his head and then tilted it back and forth in a gesture that I didn’t know the meaning of. “Rala.”

His fever wasn’t a big deal to him for some reason. I’d heard Nostri males ran hotter than other humans so perhaps he had a light fever. Before I could figure out some way to ask, he stiffened and turned his head. I looked in that direction but no one was there. He turned to me and pointed to his ear and then held up three fingers. Three people. He then jerked his chin in the direction of my door. He wanted me to go inside. I hesitated, not wanting to say goodbye yet, and he leaned in and nuzzled his nose into my neck. A Nostri gesture to reassure. My toes curled, not used to the nuzzle he would see as no different than a pat on the hand even though it made my heart race. He was just telling me everything was okay. 

I nodded and pointed to myself. “Veria.” And then I pointed to him. 

“Veroz.”

I liked that. I lifted my fingers in a little wave goodbye. His eyebrows dipped in confusion and he placed his fingers on my palm, which stopped my motion. I guess hand signs weren’t universal. His fingers trailed up my palm and I shivered even though warmth filled me, heady and sweet. I fit my fingers in the gaps between his and then clamped down. His eyes lit up and a soft humming purr came from his chest. 

The rhythmic thrum stopped immediately and turned into a low growl as he turned his head again to an apparent noise I couldn’t hear. He seemed worried though as he crowded me into the door. He gently pushed me inside, but he stayed in the hallway, continuing to look in the direction of the noise.

 “No.” I protested, suddenly worried about who was coming and why and that he would have to face them alone. I held on to his arm. He dipped his head and trailed his nose up my neck and just under my ear. His chest rumbled loud and then continuously in a purr. I felt the vibrations against me.  

His reassurance was doing a lot more than reassuring me. I moaned softly and placed my arms leading up to his shoulder, not quite tall enough to wrap them around his neck. His hands locked under my thighs as he lifted me up. I used my legs to find purchase around his lower back. He took three steps into the room and I was thrilled, but then he stopped as he took in a sudden breath. 

His arms started to slide off me, but he re-tightened his hold when I started to slip. His muscles rippled with each hitch and his chest and stomach expanded in jerky increments right before he sneezed into my shoulder. 

“Hihhh ….ihhh… a-Ehh’DzJTschIU!  snrrrk heh….ihhh..Eh?EhhIShDjsch!

“Bless you.”

My toes hadn’t uncurled yet. He coughed harshly into his shoulder and then cleared his throat before sniffing and then speaking.

“Blaez uoo. Boresi kenseti. 

I nodded my understanding and admired how his language rolled effortlessly off his tongue. Poor thing couldn’t get a break from his cold though. Whether he sniffed or cleared his throat, coughed, or sneezed, I could hear the phlegmy coat to each action. He turned his head with eyes closed tight and his mouth slacked open, inhaling a bunch of air. 

“Hihhhhh…Hihhhhhh a-Ehh’DzJTschIU! ...EhhIShDjsch! a-Ehh’DzJTschIU!

His head lowered and he snuffled and sniffled with the congestion in his nose. 

“Boresi kenseti.” I blushed lightly at my attempt to bless him in his language, knowing my words had to sound butchered, but his eyes dilated and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. That low growly purr in his chest began again and it did things to me. The sound continued the whole way he carried me to the bed, while he was lowering me down into it, and as he was bringing the covers over me. I held on to his shirt and tugged before he could stand back up. 

“Kiss me already.”

He sat down on the bed.

“Kiz?”

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@starpollen I’m very happy this piqued your interest and thank you for letting me know! 
 

@solitaire-au I’m so glad you enjoyed the world building and steaminess. It was fun writing it! Thank you for your comment! 

 

Veroz

“Kiz?” I inquired over my vielta’s noisy purrs. It wanted her attention. It wanted to sidle up and get pets. It wanted to round its back like a docile cat instead of the beast it was so her fingers went deeper into its fur.  

Her eyes lit up in desire and she nodded. She leaned closer, angling her head, rising up on her knees to reach my face. I licked my lips in anticipation. She was going to mause me. She was going to use the tip of her nose along the sensitive spots in my nose! The feeling of the pressure from her nose and the feel of the silky nosma….I frowned as I felt the softest sensation move against my mouth. Sweet, buoyant, and full. I stilled as I realized her lips were on mine.  

She opened her eyes and smiled as she leaned back. “Tha’s kiz.” She said in her strange language.  

I ran my thumb along her bottom lip. I marveled at the fact lips could have more use than just forming words or indicating direction.  

 I tilted her chin and leaned down, experimentally moving my lips against hers. A low moan left me as I pulled her into my lap. Yes, this was the softness I wanted. I decided I loved kiz. I wanted another one. She giggled as I chased her mouth again and again. I gripped the blankets and just in time brought it between us.  

Ehh’ErrrhDzJTschIU!

My eyes watered at the spritzy tickle and I cupped part of the blanket around my nose as the tickle danced around the rims of my nostrils.  

Ihhh’DzJTschieuuu!

Ihhh’DzJTschieuuu! 

Viera rested her arms on top of my shoulders and gently scratched at the nape of my neck. She thought the tickle disappeared but she didn’t know the infernal annoyance was still there lying in wait. 

“Poour theeng. So sik.” She said in a soothing tone that made me calmer than if she’d brushed her nose against my neck. In that moment, I didn’t need to understand her words.  

My hitchy breaths turned vocal and I leaned back. I saw my mate through a blur lean over and grab something soft and white that she brought to my nose. Softness that I soaked.  

Ehh’DzJTschIU! …hihhEhEhhIShDjsch!

 I blinked out the irritated tears and cleared my throat as I cautiously looked at her over the tissues. It was too good to be true. This wasn’t done. A Nostri male tended to his own nose in private so that it would be later viewable to his partner. 

“Bloe.” She commanded, but it was her encouraging look and soft prompting tissued hands on my leaking nose that clued me in.  

Shocked wasn’t the right word, but my language wasn’t like other languages. We didn’t have a lot of different words that meant the same thing. In this moment, I wished we did so I could better express how shocked I was. And yet I wanted this. A deso te. 

I felt a little shaky and too warm, vulnerable as I did it, but I did it. It was too loud and thick to my ears and my face heated up in embarrassment, my muscles on either side of my neck bunched up tight, but I continued until she’d gone through three tissues.  

She smiled and rubbed my chest. 

“Kiz.” I demanded in return. I closed my eyes and soon after, I had my reward. It ended too soon and then I felt something wet and insistent along the seam of my mouth. Why would she want to put her tongue inside something as dirty as a mouth? It was inappropriate and unheard of. It wasn’t done in Nostri. It was — I groaned as she bit my bottom lip and pulled down slightly to open my mouth more. Then she dipped her tongue inside.  

Why didn’t everyone do this? She tasted glorious. Like the pheromones in her skin but slightly diluted so you just wanted more and more. I never wanted to stop, but a quick reprieve to breathe out of my mouth turned into a ravage wet coughing fit that overtook me.  

Veria patted my back until I stopped and then kizzed my cheeks before she left. She came back with a hot drink and more tissues that she set down on the little end table next to her bed.  

Se viduse.” I said gratefully and then drank the soothing concoction. She tapped on my shoes and then mimed taking them off. Intrigued, I toed them off and then understanding hit as she tried to move the blanket over me. My nosma came off next which she placed on the end table. I thought she would join me, but she went over to her suitcase and pulled out a silky shirt and silky pants with some other stuff before heading to the bathroom. 

She joined me a little later wearing the silk clothes with her head wrapped up in a scarf and smelling minty.

 

Remmerick 

I paced restlessly. How long had it been since a report came in that Veroz, the viscious warlord, had kidnapped a tourist, and yet we still didn’t know what hotel room he had her in. The front desk attendant didn’t have her name so he had to go through the records picture by picture to find her and get the room number.  

The attendant wrung his hands. “She came to me. She looked panicked, but I was so scared when I saw Veroz that I ran. Do you think he’s hurting her?” 

I opened my mouth to reassure him, but Qyren spoke up first.

“It’s possible, but there’s no way to know until we get in there.” 

I looked uneasily at Qyren, unable to see my friend I grew up with in his blank eyes and expressionless face.  

I’d gone to interpreter school; he’d entered into the rigorous grueling training to become a soldier of the authority. I’d come back speaking three other languages fluently. He’d come back a shell of a person, an emtis, his vielta beaten into dormancy and his emotions lost somewhere along his training. 

 We had something in common at least, not that we’d hung out so I could tell him. My vielta had left me too. 

Ten minutes later, we had a name and room number. Veria. We huddled around Qyren who was checking his weapons. The stick he was given had an electric field surrounding it when he turned it on. Just a tap would have a person on their back and convulsing in seconds. Roped cuffs sprinkled with vielta suppressants were attached to his belt in several places.  

“I’m going to subdue Veroz. When there’s an opening, Remmerick, you will go to her. Jon will guard you. Get her out of there and I’ll follow when I can. All right. Let’s move.” 

We found the room quickly and Jon lifted his foot and kicked the door in. We rushed in. A lamp was on and a woman  was pressing a cloth to Veroz’s forehead who was asleep. Oh no. Everything that happened next occurred in less than thirty seconds. 

Veroz woke up abruptly at the woman’s cry and launched himself at Qyren, slamming him into the wall. Jon and I ran to the woman. She whimpered softly,  scared of us, as she backed away. Veroz stopped his fight with Qyren and ran to her. Qyren followed in quick pursuit and pulled out his electric stick.  

Simultaneously three things happened. Veroz reached the woman, Qyren brought down the electric stick, and slim arms moved around Veroz’s neck. 

Veroz and the woman broke apart, both convulsing from the electrical current moving through their bodies from Qyren’s stick. 

The first emotion I’d seen from Qyren since he got back sludged across unused muscles in his face. Horror.

 

Veroz

I would never forget the feel of her arms squeezing my neck and then suddenly going limp. I gave a valiant effort to move, but my body needed more time to recover after the shock. My nose was starting to run and I couldn’t even lift my hand to stem the slow-moving tide.  

“Don’t touch her!” I barked out at the two males who earlier had ran for her and who now were about to put their hands on her. My voice sounded like a croak and rough coughs wrenched out of me after I used it. One of the two went unnaturally still, his hands inches from her. He looked panicked as only his eyes moved. “How did you do that?” 

The other one didn’t listen to me and placed his hand on her neck. “She’s a foreigner and doesn’t have a vielta. She won’t heal on her own like you. I have some healing knowledge from when I went overseas to train for interpretership. I can help.” 

He started pressing down on her chest. “I’m helping her heart pump until it can do it on its own.”

He breathed for her too, placing his mouth over hers and blowing before he started pumping again. And then back to breathing for her. I dragged my body over to her using my arms that had gotten feeling back in them. I dug my nose into my shoulder harshly, but the tickle was stronger 

AhhDJz-SsCcHUU!…. Ehhdjz-SHU! 

I sniffled and found a nearby towel, blowing until the tickle left and I could breathe a little better out of my nose. 

As the interpreter kept her heart pumping, I heard a crack.

“Careful. You fractured a rib!” I gritted out as I fought not to wring the interpreter’s neck. My vielta was rabid and frothing at the mouth to get out and to destroy everything and everyone because anyone could be a threat to Viera so why not take them all out. 

More feeling came back until I was able to crouch over my mate and hold her hand in both of mine. The warmth seeping out of her hand as the seconds ticked by was driving me insane. The soldier who hurt her moved up beside us and spoke quietly. 

“I’ll go before the authority. She’ll get her justice. Could you tell her I’m —”  

He gasped, his vocal chords trying to work around my fingers that had his neck in a squeezing chokehold. My claws pierced through his skin. My fangs came out, and I worked to talk around it. 

“The odly thi’g I’ll be telli’g her is that I avenged her before the authority could do it.” 

I let go of his neck as the tight control I had on my vielta’s reins slipped an inch. My skin rippled and I growled, my clothes tearing along the seams. The soldier grabbed his neck and then stumbled away. I locked on to my prey that had reached the door and was scrambling with the door handle. I moved to crouch with arms on the floor to get into the position of the vielta.

I am vielta no more. Stand when you shift.

I heard the sound of a lock clicking into place, and it was that exact sound and seeing the soldier still inside, guarding the door to try to stop my shifted form from getting out the room, that made me able to latch on and gain back the upper hand, to physically bring my flexible bones back together and cut off the shifting power. 

You’re not ready.

Whatever monster was inside me now stopped fighting, and I collapsed to the ground, sweaty and run down and like my bones were mush and couldn’t harden back together.  

“She started breathing again!” The interpreter whooped.

I went to her as fast as I could. The grey pallor was fading from her skin and I could hear her heart beat strong and stable. I listened even as the interpreter apologized to me.  

“I’m so sorry. We had it all wrong. You’re sick and she was taking care of you.”

The soldier spoke up next quietly, but it felt like knives in my ear because he was talking when my Viera could not at the moment. 

“We burst in on their intimate space, not some kidnapping.” 

I growled from the chest and then just managed to swallow the cough as I jabbed a finger in the direction of the soldier. “I would dever hurt a woman. That’s dow firmly written id your history.”

I felt better at the soulless emtis’ flinch.  I sniffed, trying to clear out my nose enough for my words to sound normal. 

“She’s a nostriya, isn’t she?” The interpreter asked and then kept talking when I looked at him blankly. “I read a story once about a nostriya. A woman that brings out a vielta’s full potential. I think she brought out yours. Jon’s vielta followed your command, Veroz, to not touch Viera. Qyren and I weren’t affected because well, our vieltas are dormant.”

If this was true and not a fairy tale, this put her in danger. I turned my attention to the one whose vielta I’d affected. I brought my vielta as close to the surface as I could as I made my threat.  

“You will dever tell adother soul what you heard id here.”

He bared his neck to me at an unnatural angle and I knew it was his vielta submitting to mine. 

 Now for the two who I couldn’t affect. 

 Qyren placed his hand on his chest. “For almost causing her death, I enact a life oath debt to her. I will not betray her.”

I turned my attention to the interpreter. He held his hands up. “I saved her life. I won’t put it in danger.”

“And yet you casually bentioned her…. hehhh bei’g ….a nostriya a-arou’d several …….AhhDJz-Tschh!….ears.”

 He guiltily looked down and then clenched his fists as he looked back up. 

 “I enact a life oath debt to her too on one condition. You can’t harm Qyren and you can’t command your people to do it.”

 “Fine. I’ll leave hib to the authority. Now leave.”

 Crimes against women, intentional or not, were met with the same punishment. Beaten, imprisoned, and then sentenced to death. 

 

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@funbusej Thank you for such a lovely comment! 
 

Lira

 “Hey, elta. Second in command wants you.”

 I attacked the stacked boulders with renewed vigor instead of slashing the warrior across the gut. I inhaled deeply and let out a frustrated sigh. It was always the shorter, smaller guys that were closer to my size that messed with me. The much bigger ones just ignored me. I walked by the warrior that had called me elta and bumped him so hard his shoulder popped out of joint. His cry of pain and then growl was the beat of drums to my ears. I turned back around to him, itching for a fight. He snarled out.

 “I’m not going to fight some half breed.”

 It was my turn to snarl. “You mean you’re not going to lose to a half breed again.”

 I left to go find the commander even though I was seething inside. Every day it was the same. No matter how high I ranked, no matter how many times I put my fellow warriors in the dirt, I would always be inferior to them. 

 Not to our leaders though. They knew I was capable. I knocked on the door of the second in command. Jeryl opened the door, ushered me inside, and then closed it. He looked ashen, and I wondered if he’d caught Veroz’s cold. He was the oldest among our den so we all worried about him the most. 

 “Lira, I’ve just received a peace plea offering extra land in exchange for no retaliation.”

 I helped Jeryl sit, even as I reeled from the news. 

 “What happened? Is Veroz okay?”

 So many emotions blazed in Jeryl’s eyes.  

 “For so long, we have been a mateless den but our leader, Veroz, has brought us through it. A woman last night claimed him, put a nosma on him, and one trained under the authority without intention electrocuted her. She hasn’t woken yet. I need you to take some men, find Veroz and our matiden, and bring them back here. Tell him about the peace plea.”

 I nodded my understanding and then left. 

 “Let’s go.” I told the men I’d chosen. I stripped and waited for my men to get naked. I singled out one guy, the one whose shoulder I’d dislocated. 

 “Gather our clothes and follow us. Whoever put your shoulder back can help you.”

 An hour later after pushing ourselves, we were in town and had picked up Veroz’s scent in the alleyway. We kept going and then we paused as a collective as the most delicious scent combined with Veroz’s scent. Our matiden. We stopped in front of a hotel. I howled loud for Veroz to herald our arrival and my men joined. I shifted back into first form just as an anxious man walked out of the hotel. He was tall and slim and pretty, but not muscular enough to catch the eye of a Nostri woman and too timid with how he blushed and averted his eyes from my natural form. 

 “H-hello, my name is Remmerick. Veroz is in room 32H. I’m an interpreter and his mate speaks English so I can go with you if you want.”

 I shook my head. “No need.”

 The two men I’d left to bring up the rear arrived with our clothes and we changed into them before making our way to Veroz. He opened the door before I could knock.

 I gaped at the nosma on his nose. It was stunningly beautiful. It framed his nose perfectly and was tight enough to show off his long bridge and the strong slope of his rims.  Veria gave him the highest honor not only making a nosma like that for him but stitching her name where anyone could see it. I turned to my men who were salivating over the nosma and trying to get a peek inside. “Take shifts guarding the door. Those not on shift buy food and water and some pain relief powder. Our matiden is hurt.”

 I stepped inside and then closed the door behind me, making sure I locked it. 

 “Veroz, you look like you’ve been on the other side of my sword. Have you slept?”

 He rubbed his face and shook his head. “I will dow that you’re here and cad guard Veria. Wake me as sood as she wakes up.”

 He pushed the two beds in the room together and laid as close as he could to her without disturbing her. He was asleep in minutes. 

 Curious, I approached her sleeping form. Her head was wrapped up like the queens of old and she was clothed in silk. Her skin was smooth and free of blemish except for fresh scriggly lines of scars that ran the route of some of her veins up both arms. A surge of protectiveness overwhelmed me at what was probably her first scars. My body was full of them as a warrior for Veroz.

I paused as she stirred and then she opened big doe eyes to me. I took her hand. And then I let go, backing up as a tickle bloomed in my nose all of a sudden. Ugh. And Nostri females didn’t even have beautiful noses to distract from the horrible sound of a sneeze like males did. I rubbed my nose, digging a knuckle into the little caverns to get right at the source of the fiery itch, but the tickle spread. For half a second I debated stifling for etiquette’s sake, but I never held back, and I wouldn’t start now. 

AerrhhhhhghhhSTcHeeew! 

 A wet, drawn out, body-bending sneeze left me.

 “Boresi kensiti.”

 My heart stuttered and then pounded double time at her words. 

 “Say that again.” I whispered, knowing I couldn’t have heard right. 

Her eyes widened and she tried to move. “Wow, you speak —”

“Wait! Don’t move!” I said too late as pain splintered across her face. She fell back just as I’d gotten my arms around her. “You were electrocuted. You’ll be very sore.”

She held on to her ribs and took shallow breaths. 

 “I’m Lira, your main guard, and my mother was American so yes, I speak English.” 

 “It’s nice to meet you, and it’s so nice to talk to….” Her words trailed off at my expression. I ducked into my shoulder to avoid spraying her. 

“…….hehhh..Errhhhh-STcHeeewAuuhh’KshhhU! 

“Boresi kenseti.” Veria said again as I lowered her back down to the bed. 

“Did Veroz teach you that?” I inquired carefully, wondering if she knew the meaning. 

“Yes. He told me it means “bless you.” Is that not right?”

I hummed in slight disappointment that she hadn’t known what she was saying to me. 

“Yes and no. There’s no equivalent for the phrase “bless you” in our language. We don’t acknowledge sneezes. We ignore them and turn away to give privacy if someone needs to tend to their nose in the presence of company. But when a woman puts a nosma on a male, she claims it. And she uses a phrase in declaration in regard to that claimed nose.”

“Boresi kenseti?” She guessed. 

I nodded. “Yes. The literal translation of boresi kenseti is “only for me.”

“Oh.” She sounded a little breathless and strangely not perturbed as she looked over at Veroz and bit her lip. Realization dawned on her face and she swiftly looked back toward me. “I claimed his nose when I put the nosma on him?”

She claimed much more than that from Veroz, but he wouldn’t force her into anything so it was a moot point. “Yes. But don’t worry. Veroz couldn’t be happier that you did.”

“Oh my goodness, I didn’t turn away to give you privacy and then I claimed your sneezes!” 

My voice took on a serious note. “That’s right. And I’m afraid I have to hold you to our customs. You’ll have to take responsibility for each and every one of my sneezes now. Those ornery things cause quite a mess for my nose.”

I could barely hold my smile back with her widened eyes and I was just deciding when I should stop teasing her and explain that only male noses were claimed when she nodded her head resolutely.

“You have a beautiful nose. I’d be honored. I’ll make you a nosma too.”

I startled, eyes darting to hers before looking away. I clenched my teeth as deep want coursed through me. A deso te. I didn’t know I’d wanted a cloth on my nose that badly until now. 

“I-I will go wake Veroz. He told me to as soon as you woke up.”

She held out her hand. “No, he’s sick and needs rest. And I need to use the bathroom. Can you help me?”

 “Yes. Always.” I bit my tongue. A little cloth talk and I was pledging my aid to her. She just smiled and looked relieved as she held out her arms. I lifted her to standing as gently as I could but tears still ran down her face by the end of it. When she went into the bathroom by herself, she whimpered in pain a minute later. I gritted my teeth. I couldn’t protect her from an injury she already had. 

I spoke to my men while she was in the bathroom. “Bring everything inside that you brought.”

I went straight for the pain relief powder and mixed some in a cup and then went back to the warriors. I should explain to them that although she’d claimed Veroz’s nose, she didn’t sign up to be the matiden for his people. But this fierce need to protect her that was inside me loved the idea of more people being able to protect her. And who knew, she might want to be a matiden. For now I would keep quiet and let things unfold how they would. And maybe she would make me a nosma.

________________________________________________

 

Qyren

A loud, slow metallic clang woke me. I turned away from the light streaming in. My body protested the small movement, bright stark pain lighting up my insides. Cuts not quite healed opened up again as I was pulled to my back. Chains dug into my back. 

“Qyren! The authority did this? Why?”

 Because above all, the authority believed in the law and no person was above it. I wet my dehydrated lips and whispered nearly intelligible words to Remmerick through a broken jaw. “How ……is …..she?”

“I heard rumors that she woke up. I’m going to ask her to intervene on your behalf. You’ll die at this rate.”

“Don’t …..shame ….me ….by ….asking …her ….that.”

“Shame you?” Remmerick was shaking. His emotions had always shown up in physical ways. He felt so deeply. “I’m trying to save you. I entered a life debt oath in exchange for Veroz not going after you! Do you even care? No, do you even feel?”

 I closed my eyes. Holding open the swollen slits was becoming too painful. Remmerick would be happy to know I felt everything now. Gone was the desensitization training the authority had tormented me through. I’d hated it at first and then I slowly just hadn’t cared as much and the pain inflicted had decreased to a dull ache. My vielta had been there one day and was gone the next. It had made me effective to not be clouded by emotions or distracted by my vielta. 

Soon as I’d entered that room though, my vielta had woken up, and my heightened senses came back with a vengeance. Extra pops of colors, sounds, tastes, and even the texture of the air felt different. And the smell! The most pleasant smell filled my nostrils. A delicate aphrodisiac, overwhelmingly tempting, beckoning me to follow, but what could be at the end of that scent? 

Mate.

Ironic that Veroz had slammed me into the wall just after the air had been knocked from me. Feelings I’d buried through authority technique barraged against me. Wonder, happiness, joy…

And then Veroz had run for her. Stark fear. Anger. I had to rescue my mate. I needed to get to her in time. My heart ripped a part again as the rest of the event unfolded in my mind. 

Mate. 

My vielta howled in grief. 

 ————————————————— 

Veria

I turned off the water after I finished washing my hands. Sore was an understatement. Everything ached and I still had no clue why Veroz and I had been attacked. I just knew two of those men had come after me and Veroz had protected me and gotten electrocuted for his troubles. And I’d come away from the experience with thin scars traveling up my arms, splintering off at different points. Big fat tears welled up in my eyes and then spilled over. It had been so scary. 

A knock sounded at the door. “Veria, are you okay?”

Lira. I quickly wiped the tears away just as she opened the door. She made me feel normal with her average height, but I knew from her stance, her gait, and the confidence pouring out of her that she could crush me with no effort. I sniffed as more tears fell. I couldn’t stop it. 

“What’s wrong?”

I felt silly, but I showed her my scars.

 She nodded. “Scars in Nostri are celebrated. It means you survived what you went through. Scars tell a story. Here, drink this. It has pain powder relief in it and it’ll have you feeling a lot better.”

I did so and was astonished at how quickly it was working. 

“Now don’t move around too much. You’re still just as injured as before. You just can’t feel to what extent now.” 

Lira sniffed as she finished talking. To anybody else it would be a regular sniff, but I could hear the extra wetness to it.

She rubbed her nose absentmindedly. Next she wiggled her nose, and awareness that she was about to sneeze entered her eyes before her face slackened and she took in a stuttered breath. Her head tilted back and she brought her hand up at the first vocal Ah.

EhhhnnGhh-Tschewww! Heh heh!

Hiii’Ghh-Schueeee!

“Bless you, Lira.”

She grabbed some toilet paper and patted her nose. I remembered too late that I should look away.

“You don’t need to look away. You claimed my nose, right?” 

I seemed to be unintentionally good at that. 

 “How many noses can be claimed by one person?”

 She shrugged. “As many as you want.”

 This sounded too good to be true. “And no one gets jealous?”

 She was shaking her head even before I got my sentence out. “No, Nostri culture is heavy on sharing, whether that’s food, sorrow, relationships, anything.”

 She was giving me her full attention now.

“What things does a person do with a claimed nose?”

There was slight bewilderment on her face as she processed my words. “You just look at it and admire it. You cover it with a nosma so only you can enjoy the sight. I can’t think of anything else there is to do with a nose. I was just teasing earlier about cleaning up the mess.”

 I smiled. This would be fun once I healed. 

 “Your nose is my responsibility now. Not just to look at it, but to take care of it. Boresi kenseti?”

A deso te.” She blinked and then shook her head. “I-I mean, I want it!”

“Good. Me too. Don’t use that harsh toilet paper any more. I’ve got a box of tissues. Come on.” 

I opened the door and a group of males in uniform stood in line. I went to the first man that was holding a cup of water. He watched me drink with a smile on his face. It was sweet. 

I pointed to myself. “Veria.” And then pointed to him. 

“Luq, a matiden.

“Se viduse, Luq.” I thanked him for the drink and watched as awe appeared in his eyes. 

Ret viduse deso, a matiden.

 That was the second time he called me that. Mateedin. My brain was caught on the words he said before though. Ret viduse deso. Ret meant no. Se viduse was thank you I’d gathered. I knew the Nostri language wasn’t too verbose so deso would be the general concept of want, desire, need. No thank yous needed. Fascinating. But I had a question. I looked up at Lira. 

“I thought thank you was ‘se viduse’. Is that not right?”

“Oh, viduse is thanks or gratefulness. Se is an enhancer used with words just like the word very in English enhances a word.”

Amazing. By the time I’d gotten to the end of the line, I’d learned more names, been fed, and one warrior had tried to reassure me with a nose to my neck, but Lira wasn’t having it. He’d ended up on his back with her shoe in his chest. I’d tried to tell her it was all right, but she’d just guided me to the bed and told me to get some more sleep. 

The next time I woke I could tell I’d been moved. I was laying on an incline. The spot was so comfortable and warm and smelled so good, but it was shifting, rocking against me, which must have been what woke me up. Someone, Lira I think, whispered words harshly in Nostri and mentioned my name. 

Reti aaze. Fe owase, Veria!”

“…ehDjzTscXx! Sien…HnnX’DjschUU!

..Se sien….

Veroz! I opened my eyes and immediately snuggled into his wide expansive chest and hugged him. He hugged me back even in the midst of his fit. I felt his stomach expand and then harden right before he moved me to the other side of his caging arms and sneezed to the side.

 Ehh’ZDjjhh’SCHIU! …. AhhDJz-TsCHUU!…. AhhDJz-TsCHUU!

“I told him not to hold you. And look, he woke you up with his sneezes.” Lira huffed and started mixing water with pain relief powder. She pointed her spoon at Veroz and spoke a string of Nostri. He looked guilty and his voice came out scratchy as he rubbed my back. “Se sien, Veria.”

I moved up on my knees so I could grab him on either side of his face and bring his heavy head down to look at me. There was a sheen of sweat on his forehead, eyes rimmed red with dark circles underneath, nose rimmed red with congestion so close to leaking out. “Ret sien deso, Veroz.” No apologies needed, Veroz. 

 Surprise flitted across his face and then appreciation and a slow smile of approval next. I squealed as he came in hot and captured my lips. He stopped only so he could go blow his nose. It was productive at least so he would breathe better soon. 

Lira took Veroz’s spot on the bed facing me and handed me the drink. I drank only half this time since I wasn’t as sore. Lira took it and guzzled the rest in one go. I raised an eyebrow. 

“I’m a little sore and my throat is killing me.” She explained and then cleared her throat. I looked at her nose. There was a pink tint to the rims of her nose and a small horizontal line on the bridge of her nose. I saw why a second later as she rubbed her nose upward. 

 “Are you feeling all right?”

 “I’m fine. My throat hurts from yelling back and forth with Veroz earlier about what to do with this peace plea. You were sleeping so I was trying to speak for you and what I thought you might say based on your American upbringing.”

“Peace plea?”

Veroz came back and between the two of them, they explained the misunderstood kidnapping, interpreter saving my life, and the resulting peace plea with land as the terms. Veroz wanted war. And Lira assumed I wouldn’t want war, which she was correct. Veroz was displeased when he heard that and he started pacing. He’d almost worn a path in the rug before he came back over and sat.

He took my hand and I understood how Belle must have felt holding the Beast’s hand. My long slender fingers and palm were dwarfed by his huge hand. He told Lira something in Nostri and then he talked to me. Lira interpreted his words for me. 

“I understand you’re not used to battle and that things are resolved differently where you grew up. I could even let this go for you even though it would eat me alive inside. But if I don’t retaliate in some way, my people will think I don’t value you enough to fight for you. It would be the greatest offense to you for me not to retaliate. I’m the leader of my people and you put a nosma on me. You are the most important person in my den, not to just me but to my people. They will protect you with their life, they will fight for you, they will feed you, protect you, provide you shelter. They will comfort you and listen to you. They will do everything for you and expect nothing in return besides hoping you’re happy. A matiden is everything to a den. And although I would never hold you to our customs, my people believe in it fiercely.” 

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. Could people that had never met me already feel that strongly about me? And yet I believed the words Veroz was telling me with such passion in his voice and with such steel determination in his demeanor. I felt a new burgeoning responsibility for his people as well to make sure they were prosperous and happy and safe too. I moved into Veroz’s lap and he relaxed a little as I hugged him. I couldn’t give him the okay for a war, but I would think of a solution that would make everybody happy. 

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Uh oh.  How many noses is Veria going to end up claiming?  And is Lira being honest with her?  Veroz is still my favorite though, it's good that Veria seems to agree. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ooh! I like where this is going!
 

One request though: a bit more physical description about what each character looks like?

Thank you!

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Been reading and writing snzfic for more than twenty years now and this is one of the best stories I’ve read. You are VERY talented! Please continue, this is amazing!

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  • 5 weeks later...
On 7/8/2023 at 6:35 PM, funbusej said:

Uh oh.  How many noses is Veria going to end up claiming?  And is Lira being honest with her?  Veroz is still my favorite though, it's good that Veria seems to agree. 

Thank you for enjoying Veroz! He is lovely! This is a polyamorous story and Veria will claim multiple noses/people. Lira is being truthful. 
 

On 7/20/2023 at 3:55 PM, solitaire-au said:

Ooh! I like where this is going!
 

One request though: a bit more physical description about what each character looks like?

Thank you!

Thank you! I usually tell people to imagine whatever they want, but I forgot to include that this time. I imagine vague blobs in my head because my imagination is almost nonexistent so it’s not easy adding details. Totally get if you can’t get into the story because of that. Thank you for reading so far! I appreciate that very much! 
 

On 7/20/2023 at 11:15 PM, Yaolita said:

Been reading and writing snzfic for more than twenty years now and this is one of the best stories I’ve read. You are VERY talented! Please continue, this is amazing!

WOW! This is such high praise!!! This comment means soooo much to me and I’m so glad you enjoyed the story that much! I’m thrilled! Thank you so much for letting me know. It made me soooooo happy to read that. That was super awesome! 
 

Viera

 

I sighed inwardly, trying to resist the urge to toss and turn. Veroz was a very light sleeper and I’d woken him up several times tonight with my restless movements. His congestion-filled snores continued as I carefully moved to a more comfortable position. I’d just laid my head on the pillow when he stiffened. Dang it. Soon his arms moved around me and he nuzzled into me.

 

“Sorry, Veroz. Sien.”

 

“No sorry.” He murmured as he leaned up on his elbow and ran a hooked finger up my throat. “Filu.”

 

“Filu?”

 

He brought my hand to his throat as he spoke. “Filu.”

 

He pointed to me and then lightly caressed my throat and then pointed to his ear. “Filu.”

 

“Oh you want me to talk?”

 

He scooped his arms under me and  deposited me on top of him. I giggled as I steadied myself. Once we were both comfortable, he looked at me patiently. 

 

I sighed and drew patterns on his chest. “I can’t sleep because I have to think of a way to both avoid war and disrespecting you and your people. I’ve been thinking all night. They offered land. That seems really great. More room for you and your people to expand. But you didn’t care about that. So what things do you care about? What will your people be satisfied with? I understand you solve problems a different way than I do. I’m trying to make everyone satisfied.”

 

I looked up and Veroz was knocked out. I chuckled. Poor thing. He was fighting a heavy cold. 

 

I heard a slight hitchy gasp outside the door. Frustration nipped at me at Lyra’s stubbornness.

 

AerrhhhhhghhhSTcHeeew! 

 

 

Hiiiiih’EeeghSTcHAA!

 

I’d already tried to get her to rest several times. All that had done was make her think I thought she couldn’t do her job, which made her want to prove to me she could. Veroz startled awake at the noise and then threw me a guilty look. I laughed and leaned in for a kiss. We both stiffened though and looked at the door as we heard shouts in Nostri. 

 

Lyra came in shortly after. She had gotten worse. 

 

“Sobeode is here to hehhhh …. Hiiiiih’EeeghSTcHizuuuu see you, Veria.” She got out in a very congested voice before she spoke in Nostri to Veroz.  

 

At Veroz’s head nod, Lyra opened the door and a very pretty man came inside. It took me a second to realize it was the interpreter who had saved my life. He looked at me with cautious hope for some reason. 

 

“I’m so happy you’re better.” The interpreter gushed out as he stepped forward. A swift hand slash from Veroz and the interpreter greyed as he stepped back with widened eyes. 

 

“Thank you. I’m Veria. What’s your name?”

  

Lyra spoke to Veroz low in Nostri and I assumed she was translating for him.

 

“Remmerick.”

 

“Remmerick. Thank you for saving my life. What did you want to talk to me about?”

 

He glanced at Veroz nervously and then started talking very fast. 

 

“Qyren. My – my friend. I saw him yesterday at the prison. He’s badly hurt and he doesn’t want me saying anything, but I have to because if I don’t, I think I’ll blame myself if he dies. I understand you won’t want to help him, but I have to try. They’re going to kill him and only you can stop it I think.”

 

Veroz was getting very agitated, but he didn’t speak. 

 

“Who’s Qyren and why do you think I can stop whatever is happening to him?”

 

“He’s the one that accidentally electrocuted you.”

 

Oh. My eyes dropped down to my scars. Veroz nuzzled into my neck, giving reassurance. I closed my eyes and gave him more of my neck. He kissed me and then looked into my eyes. I nodded with a small smile and then turned back to Remmerick. 

 

“I understand it was an accident. What can we do to help?”

 

“Really? Oh thank you! I know you were sent a peace plea. If one of the conditions could be that he is let go, I would be so grateful.”

 

I paused as my brain chose that moment to clue me in to a solution for my other dilemma. I cautiously thought through it and it seemed solid. I barely stopped myself from jumping up and down. “I will try my best. I don’t want anything bad happening to him over an accident.”

 

He breathed out a sigh of relief. “Thank you. Please let me do something for you in return. Do you need my interpreting skills?”

 

I smiled. “Yes, I need an interpreter and I also need help drawing up a new peace plea.”

 

Aeros

 

“Let’s go over it again, Jon.”

 

The putrid smell of sweat spiked with fear filled my nostrils. I hadn’t even done anything to him yet. He was afraid of something else, but of what I didn’t know yet. 

 

“I’ve told you everything I can. Please.”

 

“Everything you can, but not everything you know, right?”

 

“Yes.” Jon gasped out. “Veroz said —” He started gasping for air. I reached out to his neck and felt the way it turned at an unnatural angle. It did that each time he was close to telling me what happened. “Please, if I try again, I feel like I’ll die.”

 

I shook my head. 

 

“Not before you tell me what I want to know.”

 

Things weren’t adding up. Qyren should have been dead due to the injuries inflicted on him for hurting a woman, but he had recovered quicker than he should which meant his vielta was back. Jon’s vielta had come back and was running things, stopping him from saying something. Remmerick was nowhere to be found so I couldn’t question him about what he had seen and heard. 

 

Something was going on and I would find out what it was. I just had to think of a way to get around Jon’s vielta.

 

“I’m afraid you’ll have to go through training again. It’s the only way to get rid of your vielta long enough for you to tell me what I need to know.”

 

A knock at the door interrupted us. 

 

“I’m s-sorry to interrupt.” It was my father’s messenger. “We were sent a new peace plea by Veroz’s mate and your father wants your opinion on it.”

 

“Let me hear it.” I said, feeling my curiosity piqued. 

 

The messenger whispered it in my ear. I smirked and felt a little admiration for her. 

 

“Tell my father to agree if he doesn’t want a war on his hands. And tell him to throw a party very soon to celebrate. I want to meet her.” 

 

Viera

 

It took three full days of orchestrating everything before we were headed back to Veroz’s den, his community of thousands that were all waiting to see me. I felt a little guilty about being carried in the structured and covered platform that 8 men were currently holding up, but apparently they felt honored to do so. 

 

“You okay?” Veroz asked in accented English. It was the cutest thing. And he was wearing my nosma very proudly. 

 

“Rala.” I nodded as he wrapped his arms around me. He was doing much better with his cold. A sneeze here and there. Lyra was in the thick of her cold. She’d stopped being stubborn and let others guard me to get rest. She had headed back to pass a message on to Jeryl yesterday. And Remmerick was with Qyren and tending to his injuries in another covered platform that was being carried by hired hands.

 

We stopped moving after another half hour. Our platform was gently placed on the floor. I could hear the shuffling and moving and voices of thousands of people waiting. Remmerick stuck his head inside the flaps. I sighed in relief. At least I’d be able to understand Veroz’s people. 

 

Veroz spoke to me and Remi immediately translated as if he was Veroz in that moment. 

 

“Come meet my people, Veria.”

 

I took his hand and let him help me up as I brushed off my clothes. We walked out of the covered platform.

 

 My eyes immediately swooped up to a city that was just beyond a mass of people that had all stopped talking at once and were staring at me. I let out a relieved sigh to see they were all smiling and I couldn’t help but smile back. 

 

Suddenly, Veroz spoke in a booming voice to his people in Nostri. Remi was right there. 

 

“You all have heard what happened. My Veria was injured. I was angry. I wanted vengeance, and I know you all did too.”

 

He paused to let the crowd shout their agreement.

 

“But Veria decided to not seek vengeance but to choose to benefit our people. She sent her terms. Release all of Veroz’s people from the prisons.”

 

The crowd audibly reacted, gasps and voices talking over each other.

 

“I told her, they would never go for that. There are a thousand of our men and women in there. Do you know what she said? She said that they can either give us a thousand of our people or we can go to war and kill a thousand of theirs!”

 

The noise was deafening. Feet stomping and throat yodels and roars of excitement. And then there was a chant over and over started by one and then shouted by all. Matiden. Matiden. Matiden. 

 

I was in awe by it all and leaned into Veroz just as I started to hear the tread of a thousand newly released prisoners approaching. The crowd went crazy and started to move forward like a stampede. Veroz raised his fisted hand. Everyone stopped moving. 

 

“We will do this in order. Some will step forward at a time and say their names. Those that know them will step forward and state how they know them. We will take note and make sure extra food and resources are given to your family. If you don’t have anyone that was sent to prison, move to the back now.”

 

It worked very smoothly.

 

Five prisoners stepped forward and one spoke.

 

“Botez Lajine with my four younger brothers. Our crime was being in authority territory after the set curfew.”

 

A cry came from the middle and a woman in her fifties pushed through the crowd. All five of the sons ran forward and met her halfway, hugging her and kissing her and comforting her. 

 

My heart melted another time as a couple reunited. His crime had been selling wares without a permit. 

 

Not many women were prisoners, and the few dozen or so that stepped forward all had the same crime of getting into altercations with other women. The more injured party was the victim and the other was sent to prison. Lots of warriors stepped forward, including Luq, and there were cute reunions all around. 

 

My jaw was hurting from smiling so much and my throat was dry from continuing to say “no thanks necessary” in Nostri over and over. Around the halfway mark, food had been brought to us and we sat on blankets as it continued. Veroz tried to feed me, but my appetite was gone and I was sucking on ice chips to soothe my burning throat. 

 

Hih’Aiiiishhh! Ahhh’Tschu! 

 

I lowered my elbow. My nose was so tickly. 

 

“Blaez uoo.”

 

“Se vidu…” I raised my elbow before I could finish, vision blurring.

 

Hih’Eiiiishhh! Ehhh’Tschuiu! 

 

About an hour later, our attention moved to a group of people headed away from the merrymaking and near the covered platforms. Remmerick stood up with a frown. 

 

“Qyren is in there.”

 

I got up and ran with Remmerick. It must have loosened some congestion because I was a sniffly mess halfway there. Veroz easily caught up and then overtook us as he beat even the other people to the covered platform. We caught up eventually to everyone waiting for us. Remi slipped into his role as I started speaking.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

Veroz answered for me.

 

“They were planning on getting vengeance for you since they felt bad you couldn’t take your own vengeance because you chose to bring their families back.”

 

I was too run down for this. And I needed a tissue really badly. I strode right up to them and Remi translated for me. 

 

“Qyren is a part of the peace agreement. If anything happens to him, the peace treaty is broken and all of those 1000 people can be rounded up and taken back to prison. Breaking a treaty is a crime I’ve been told. And no it won’t be easy rounding up 1000 people, but what about 100 each year for the next decade? That’s a lot easier. Spread the word that he is to be left alone.” I cleared my throat, trying to get rid of the raspy quality to my voice. 

 

Half a dozen males turned their head at an angle and spoke together. “Rala, matiden.”

 

“I think you know what they said, but they are also showing their necks to you. It’s a sign of submission.”

 

“Oh, what do I do in return?”

 

“In other circumstances, you wouldn’t do anything, but you’re their matiden and they thought they were doing what you wanted. They probably feel horrible they displeased you.” Remi explained.

 

Moving forward, I rose up on tiptoes to place my hand on the first one’s neck. I softly rubbed in the same motion as a nose would for reassurance. The tension left him immediately, and the others kneeled so I could reach their necks better. Each one melted at my touch. 

 

I fanned my nose as a tickle bloomed and stepped away from them. 

 

Hih’Aiiiigshhh! Ahhh’xXTschu! ..hehhh Eiiiishhh! ……Ehhh’Tschuiu! 

 

“Excuse me!” I exclaimed as my cheeks filled with heat. I covered my nose and escaped into the opening of the covered platform. Then realized my mistake.

 

Qyren stood face to face with me. Besides looking like one big bruise, he had a hard jawline and strong nose, soulful hazel eyes and full lips. His hair was closely shaven, but he hadn’t shaved his face in a few days. He looked ruggedly gorgeous. No nosma. And he was holding out a tissue. 

 

I hitched, one eye closed and the other eye squinting, nostrils arching as my chest filled with air. I snatched the tissue. 

 

Hih’aAiiiishhhSHewwwwww!

 

My attempts to blow my nose were interrupted.

 

Hih’Aiiiigshhh! Ahhh’HiixXTschu! …..hehhh 

Eiiiishhh-U! ……Ehhh’TschOOO! 

 

And then I was lifted up. I gasped in air, both from shock and this relentless tickle and quickly buried my face in the depleted tissues. 

 

“Ahhh’ xXTschu! Hih’Aiiiigshhh! …..hehhh wh-what are you d-doing?

Ehhh’Tschuiu!”

 

Ugh this was a sneezy cold. 
 

He stopped and looked at me, raising me higher in his arms so our faces were very close. His face was a blank canvas, but his eyes told me everything I needed to know. They were filled with such remorse and guilt, such devastation. He sighed and lowered his head dejectedly. Our foreheads connected. 

 

I wish I could speak your language so I could tell you how I’ll never forgive myself for hurting you and that I know my wrongs are too big of a grievance to receive your forgiveness. I am so —

 

I gasped and shoved myself out of his arms, crumpling down to the floor. Ouch. I stood up just as Remi and Veroz barreled in.

“We heard a noise. What’s going on, Veria?”

I looked at Qyren in confusion and then to Remi’s concerned face. Suddenly Veroz was stooped in front of me checking all over. I placed my hands on his chest to still him and ducked around to Remi. 
 

“I - I think I read Qyren’s mind. And understood him.”

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This is such an interesting storyline and your way of writing brings it to life 🔥🔥. Excited to see what happens next.

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