|Your cart is currently empty|
I had two choices in life—to be a breeder, or to be a soldier. To create life, or to destroy it.
I had chosen poorly.
The Earth’s thermostat is all but frozen, leaving two opposing factions, the Pennas and the Cyans, to spread throughout the forbidding tundra of a planet forever cast in a dark and deadly ice age, seeking only power and control now that the world has become a frozen ball of ice.
I was one of the Penna…until I could take no more. Science had almost destroyed our world, and I foolishly helped them continue in this quest. So I left and walked alone on the icy land until the Cyan found me.
Until HE found me.
Commander Rigby Moss was the leader of the Cyan army, and I was now his captive. Forced to learn the art of submission, as well as the art of war, I became his soldier. From the moment I was captured, I became a mighty warrior amongst a cast of men.
But I had a curse that haunted me daily. I was nothing but a mutant who possessed the answer for warmth, waterproofing, and ultimately, survival—feathers. They marked my skin, forever branding me as a Penna no matter how hard I tried not to be. I hated them. They shamed me. And although the feathers kept me alive, I was dead on the inside.
But I was HIS. And he would do whatever it took to battle my demons as we battled the enemy.
Could a dark and broken woman come to terms with friendship, trust, forgiveness and love? Could a woman taught to remain strong at all times, learn to submit? Could I let go of the darkness, the hate, the death, and all I knew? Was it possible to truly be his DARK FEATHER?
USA Today Bestselling Author Alta Hensley brings you an erotic and dark post-apocalyptic story that transports you to a gritty, icy and ruthless world.
Disclaimer: This is a standalone novel, and is a greatly revised, expanded and newly edited version of a previous book entitled 'Lady Templar' by the same author. Dominance, submission, and erotic discipline elements are weaved throughout, including breath play. If such material offends you, please do not purchase this book.
~ This is an Amazon Exclusive title ~
The crackle of smoldering flesh overspread the sky with a ghostly-colored haze—a reminder of those who had died and surely would forever haunt the land. We had won this battle, but I felt nothing but an almost suffocating defeat.
Taking a deep breath and staring at all the carnage around me, I finally got the courage to verbalize what I had wanted to say for months. “I’m leaving,” I announced to another soldier, who was assigned with me to guard the remnants of the convoy until the cleanup crew came to collect materials and any parts they found useful. I couldn’t really remember the soldier’s name, not that it was that important. We were groomed from childhood not to get attached to anyone, and he was nothing more than another faceless soldier.
“We’ve been ordered to stay here until the scavengers come,” he said in a squeaky voice.
He annoyed me.
“I don’t care. I’m leaving.”
I pointed at a dead body lying face down in the snow. “I killed that man.”
“So?” The soldier shrugged and pointed at another bloody body staring up at us with lifeless eyes. “I killed that man. What’s your point?”
“They didn’t do anything to deserve this.” I bent down and reached for my bow and arrows resting on the icy tundra. “I’m leaving.”
The soldier tried to stop me from leaving my post by placing his hand on my chest. “You’re going to desert? They execute deserters.”
I shrugged. “They would have to find me first.” I brushed his hand away and walked out toward the barren terrain of nothing but swirling snow, icy land, and freezing temperatures.
I walked a solitary passage from my deserted post—no longer willing to be a mercenary of the Penna. My wrecked body swayed slightly, dried blood of others crusted on my uniform and exposed skin. I had fought beside my fellow team of killers as a whole Cyan convoy was slaughtered by our merciless hands. They had only been trying to deliver nutrient-rich algae to nearby villages for food.
How could we kill with no mercy? Why did we murder?
The memory of the gore was forever ingrained in my soul, only to add to the nightmares of the many other battles I had fought in the years past. As a Penna, and a woman, I had two choices in life—to be a breeder, or to be a fighter. To create life, or to destroy it.
I had chosen poorly.
Continuing my stride with the smell of death rippling in the air all around me, I could hear the screams and the moans of the suffering Cyans echoing inside my destroyed consciousness. Enough. I had had enough.
Marching forward, with the cadence of my thoughts pounding against my skull, I glanced down and saw a broken glass vial with remnants of frozen algae clinging to the shards. I crushed whatever glass wasn’t already broken with the bottom of my boot in resentment, listening to it grind against the icy ground. Algae—the cause of the war. Algae—the cause of destruction. Algae—the cause of the apocalypse. Algae meant life, and at the same time, algae meant death. Especially when it came to the Penna and the Cyans.
The Penna, deadly activists of a frozen planet—just a group of brutal warriors and not much more. Their culture was one built and framed by science and human evolution. The birth of the Penna may have been based on intelligence and advancement, but clearly had ended with hate and destruction. Geniuses to some, and devils to others. From what I could see, they didn’t have a need for all life, though they argued the opposite. They only took, used and abused. There was no sense in preserving lives they did not need, or land that did not provide the coveted blue-green algae. The Penna had one purpose, and that was to grow, harvest, and dominate the production of the algae. It was the key to evolution and survival.
It was rather simple science, actually. Algae required carbon dioxide. The more blue-green algae the Penna created, the more carbon dioxide vanished from Earth’s atmosphere. CO2 kept the Earth warm… until all the algae sucked the warmth away. So why did we need all the algae? Humans had discovered the cure to Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases. The most revolutionary discovery, however, was how blue-green algae held the answer to the cure for every form of cancer. A defense against oxidation damage to red blood cells and plasma was where it all began.
Science had finally won. Or had it?
The demand for blue-green algae grew far beyond what the planet could yield. The only way the mass amount required could be produced was via algal blooms—a rapid increase in density of algae in the aquatic system. The water of the world was by far more priceless than gems themselves had ever been.
Hence the Battle of the Waterbodies. Decades of war. Decades of death. Humans destroying each other as science destroyed the world.
Two factions were eventually formed. The Penna and the Cyans. The Penna fought for science, and the Cyans fought against it. The Cyans harvested the algae for a completely different purpose. For food. Blue-green algae was the most nutrient dense food on the planet, and with the world’s climate changing at a rapid speed, the Cyans wanted all the algae to go toward the basic needs of sustenance.
So, as the Battle of the Waterbodies raged on, the planet launched its own war and the waves of annihilation began.
First wave: huge storms, heavy rainfall and flooding.
Second wave: snow and blizzards as the solar radiation vanished.
Third wave: permafrosted tundra plains, barren land, large moving glaciers relentlessly crushing any civilization in their path.
Fourth wave: Earth’s thermostat all but frozen. The beginning of an interglacial period. An icy apocalypse, not quite merciful enough to take all human life, but rather keeping us all alive to be forced to live on this ruthless landscape.
Even through all this, the Penna spread throughout the icy tundra of a planet forever cast in a dark and deadly ice age, seeking only power and control of a commodity rarely found now that the world had become a frozen ball of ice.
I was one of the Penna… until today. I had finally had enough. I could not condone this any longer. I believed in the Cyan way far more than I did the Penna. Science had destroyed our world, and I was helping them in this quest. Or at least I had been. I would rather starve to death than watch another Cyan die before me.
A clash of swords reverberated in my mind and echoed in my heart. Guns and other forms of advanced weaponry had eventually been swallowed up by the ice age the same way the world had, leaving us all in a medieval darkness of primal living. In the eyes of my fellow warriors, Penna—the most intelligent of humanity—were the only ones worthy enough to possess the algae and had been overcome by greed, power, and a fatal arrogance. That had to be the only excuse for their behavior. It was the only explanation for the death and brutal carnage caused by the mercenaries. For the Penna, the sort of bloodletting the Cyans suffered meant something more. The rapid coldness of each kill sent a message that the Cyans deserved no mercy for being the leeches of the Earth. They were not worthy, and therefore should not exist on what was left of Earth.
I was a headstrong and righteous woman to any who knew me, with an unwavering spirit and an unwillingness to back down, no matter the odds I was facing. I was truly a threat. An archer by choice, I was rarely found without my bow at my side and a large supply of arrows at the ready. But I could no longer fight for a side I did not believe in. So I left. I simply walked away from the camp and into the snow that swirled all around me.
The withered remnants of a long ago battle surrounded where I trekked. The icy landscape was now riddled with what was left of death from so many wars—human bones picked clean by wild animals. A fire of pain swept throughout my sturdy legs, and yet I had no choice but to continue on. There was no turning back. I inhaled a breath of blustery air as it gathered speed against my back. I held my hand over my watering eyes, desperate to shield them from the punishing sun and freezing air. After walking so long in the cold, I almost felt as though I’d been caught in a waking dream. The weight of my weapons hanging from my back filled me with an obscene sense of comfort so they would remain where they were, even though without them, the walk would have been much easier.
Avoiding the sting of the biting wind by squinting my eyes as much as I could, I spotted something dark teetering far away in the distance. I hunched down, moving my hands slowly over my shoulder to my back. There was nothing but broken pieces of frozen wood scattered about. Nothing of significance to hide behind. If it was the Penna thundering through the icy dunes, they would find me, ravage my flesh, and set what was left aflame—all in the name of Science… their science. I was now a deserter, a traitor, and their enemy. And if it was a Cyan, my fate would very likely be the same. Either way, I was alone without a side to call my own. But I would not die without a fight—that much was for sure. I would hold my head high, shoulders back, and I would maintain my pride as the metal of the sword pierced my flesh. My hope was that it was merely a scout whom I could kill before he would run and inform the others of my whereabouts.
Pulling a wooden arrow from my quiver, I nocked it, curling my fingers around the heron feathers, but seeing nothing but the steep tip on the other end. Now or nothing. I raised and drew in one fluid movement, teeth bared as a cold snake of fear coiled around my stomach. The arrow flew free from my steady hand, striking my target in the distance. Strangely, I didn’t hear a yelp or a high-pitched scream. I ran forward, leaving footprints after each step. My knees sank into the snow at the side of my kill. Silent and reeking, the creature must have already been dead for some time.
A snow fox, a shrewd ice age creature, lay with half of its body exposed above the snow. I looked in all directions, laid my hand on its black shiny nose and stabbed it in the gut. All I felt I had time to do was fill my flask with its blood, and my starvation would hopefully be held at bay until I could find another source of food and sustenance. I closed my eyes and took a deep soothing sip, ignoring the bitter, metallic taste. Brushing the snow off my knees, I yanked my arrow from the thick shag of its hide and buried it in the quiver against my back.
When I turned to walk away, I stumbled as the carcass flopped down a man-made hole—a hole created to trap game. The fox had been set there by a crafty huntsman to lure animals to their demise. The stony snow rattled underneath my feet. I charged forward at lightning speed, but everything else appeared to stop, as if time had slowed down. Snow sank under my feet, and the earth crumbled beneath me. I fell into the trap, following the dead fox.
“No!” I screamed, as if anyone could hear my cries.
A shower of snow filled my mouth. My body lay completely still, but my thoughts scurried wildly in my head. A cool light covered my body as settling frozen particles cleared from the air. When the powder clouds evaporated, my mouth hung open in shock. A colossal sinkhole sent me down to my deadliest peril, but somehow I survived. My dark hair was tossed over my shoulders like matted rope, small scrapes, beginning signs of bruising, but there was nothing broken and I was still alive.
The only way out was up. “Fuck,” I wheezed before eyeing my environment with hopeless wonder. I cursed under my breath again.
I scanned the hunter’s trap, seeking something ready for me to grasp. Tension pumped through my bloodstream. Frustrated and frightened, I craned my neck to see out further. I closed my eyes and tried to regain my composure. This trap would not be my demise.
I glanced at a rope hanging from the top of the hole—no doubt for the hunter to use to retrieve his prey. My arms were too sore with potent agony to climb. A sense of panic tingled in the pit of my gut. The growing nightmare had my blood running hot like a fever. Or maybe it was the actual feeling of starving to death setting in. Either way, the fear of dying alone in this hole almost paralyzed me on the spot. My fate was to die in battle… or so I once believed. I closed my eyes again. But once I opened them, I tuned out the thoughts of terror blaring in my head, and found my inner warrior.
Taking a deep breath for strength, I managed to find my second wind and rushed underneath the swinging rope. I jumped and grabbing hold, wrestled up, locking my legs by the ankles. By now, the sun had started to set, and dusk was not far off the horizon. The knowledge that I would die here if I did not keep my body moving powered me on. I could do this. I would do this.
Before long, I had writhed my way to the middle of the frayed rope. Looking at my hand, I could see my skin was rather pale and sallow. Fear of fainting worried me, but I’d be damned to give up and die in this trap. I had but two choices: get out, or get buried in my new icy grave.
Everything around me shook and tumbled. The walls of the hole seemed to be on the verge of caving in. With the fear of an avalanche looming, I glanced up and plunged ahead toward the opening, toward survival. Briefly, I turned back to see the place that could have been my grave and gave a large sigh of relief. I would live. I would make it. I didn’t survive fifty-two battles to die in a hunter’s trap like a wild boar.
My aching hand slapped the top of the glacial surface, and then I just as rapidly heaved myself from the snowy depths. Dark, violet moonlight bathed my body, and a toothy smile spread on my face. I stared up at the path before me and refused to lie down any longer. Many obstacles had crossed my path, and this was just another one I had conquered.
I labored through the sparse and quiet vastness of the arctic land. With each step more excruciating than the last, I focused my energies onto why I made the impossible trek in the first place. My chapped, sunburned, and frostbitten lips cracked in the corners. My thoughts made me smirk. What would the Penna think if they found me? The once powerful mercenary, now barely walking, merely holding onto the life I had left.
I peered down at the shining granular crystals gleaming by full moonlight under my feet. I blinked hard, and this time gazed more intently at the snow. I stopped abruptly, crouching to press my hand against its soft surface. The impression of trek marks from a snowmobile was obvious in the grit. Very likely someone was waiting out there in the night shadows, stalking their prey, waiting to make the kill. I reached behind my back, grabbing my bow in one hand and an arrow in the other.
“Go on, come and get me. I promise I will make your death so grueling you’ll wish I knew mercy!” I screamed my threat with as much force as my wrecked body allowed.
“Who the hell are you?” I heard a deep man’s voice from afar call out.
“A former Penna. I come in peace.” I swallowed back my fear and waited for him to reply. If they were the Penna, I would soon be dead for using the word former. But if they were Cyan, I would be dead for not using it.
Instead, I heard the snap of fingers. As calmly as if it were absolutely normal, men drove out on snowmobiles, once hidden behind scattered snowdrifts and piles of ice. A tall man, with dark brown eyes and even darker hair, drove up next to me and glared at me—a runty, snow-covered woman in comparison to his muscled build. I kept my eyes squarely on his outerwear, much heavier than any Penna would wear. The bulky weight of material needed for warmth gave away that this man was definitely not a Penna. My heart nearly stopped in my chest when I recognized who he was—a general in the army of Cyan. I stood tall and proud, but hoped I didn’t look ominous and ready for a fight. I knew it was a fine line between enemy and victim, and I didn’t want to be considered either. He had a regal arch in his neck and sat upright with a brooding glare in his eyes, and I knew he was sizing me up and carefully considering his next move.
“I’m no longer a Penna, and I’m just trying to find my way to a village,” I said, practically holding my breath as I spoke.
An eyebrow rose as he asked, “How are you no longer a Penna? You either are one or you aren’t.”
“I once was, but my situation has changed,” I countered.
He glanced at my bow and arrows and asked, “An archer?”
I nodded, a part of me wishing I had ditched my weapons long ago. At least then I could claim to have been a breeder rather than a mercenary, but there was no use in lying now. “Yes, a mercenary… or… at least I once was. But if you will let me, I would rather leave and never look back.”
One of his men drove up next to him and said, “Rigby, a fresh storm is setting in. We need to head back to the encampment before we get caught in it. Unless she’s hiding food under her clothes, she is of no use to us. Leave that Penna filth to her own demise.” The man looked at me in disgust. “Better yet, kill her now and put her out of her misery.”
I bit my tongue to help fight back the urge to tell the man to go fuck himself, and as much as I hated to admit it, the urge to kill all Cyan still sizzled within my bones. I still had my bow and arrows and the high-level skill to slaughter these men before they even saw it coming, but I was done with that life. I did not want to be a Penna any longer, and murdering these men—or at least trying to—was the act of a true Penna mercenary. Yet I would not allow them to kill me either, so if it came down to it, another battle it would be.
My turmoil of thoughts was interrupted by a wail of screams of combat exploding far off in the air. Rigby’s two men drew their swords, scanning the area for the enemy.
“The Penna aren’t far, and she may have led them straight to us. Take her,” Rigby demanded as he held his sword of blood-stained steel before him, poised for attack.
“She’s a God damn spy!” one of the soldiers called out.
“Kill and gut her so her fellow Penna see what happens when they try to trick us by sending a so-called traitor female our way,” another shouted.
“I’m not a spy. I’m simply trying to find my way to a village. I swear this isn’t a trap!”
Rigby turned and stared at me with fury in his eyes. Getting off his snowmobile, he took a few strides my way and towered over me. His eyes studied every inch of my body, practically burning a hole into my very presence, as if the man was deciding right then and there if he should slice the blade of his knife through the flesh of my neck.
“Tie her up, and take her with us,” he ordered. “Let’s move out!”
Two soldiers grabbed my wrists, clasping my arms in a thick rope knot. One of them removed my weapons from my back and patted me down, finding all my hidden knives. They then yanked the bonds forward, dragging me every step of the way.