A Warrior s Desire - By Pamela Palmer

Chapter 1
I can't go back there. Slavery.Pain. Degradation. Her body controlled by another's mind, every action orchestrated by her master's intent, her free will ripped away. Eliminated. Destroyed.

I will not go back to that.

With shaking hands, Tarrys dumped the leftover coffee into the kitchen sink as the two brothers, Charlie and Harrison Rand, argued behind her in the living room of the small apartment she shared with Aunt Myrtle in downtown Washington, D.C.

Their every word scraped at her conscience.

"Dammit, Charlie, you'll never get through Esria alive.

It's suicide."

Charlie Rand made a sharp sound of disgust.

"It's not suicide.

Give me a little more credit than that, Harrison.

But even if it is, what choice do we have? If we don't stop the Esri, we're as good as dead anyway."

It was almost three in the morning, but the meeting of the Sitheen Resistance - the mere handful of humans who knew of the Esri invasion and could actually fight it - had just ended.

The others had left or retired to bed, the plan set.

When the gate into Esria opened at midnight tonight, Charlie Rand was going through.

And would almost certainly die.

I could help him.

Tarrys's stomach clenched painfully.

Shaking her head against the whispers of her conscience, she soaped the sponge and began cleaning the coffee carafe.

She'd prayed it wouldn't come to this.

Prayed the humans would find a way to seal the gate between the worlds, shutting the Esri out once and for all, leaving her on this side.


Because, though they treated her as one of them - as a human - she wasn't.

She looked human though, at five feet tall, a small one.

Her body might be slender, but for the first time in her life she had food aplenty and had started to develop true curves.

Even her hair had begun to grow and now covered her scalp in a sleek, dark cap of which she was immensely pleased.

Yes, she might pass for human easily enough, but she wasn't mortal.

She was Marceil, one of the slave race of Esria.

After knowing freedom and kindness, how would her heart ever survive slavery again? "There has to be another way to seal those gates," Harrison said.

"We'll find it."

"And how many more people will die in the meantime?" Charlie's angry frustration set the air to vibrating, quickening her pulse.

Tarrys grabbed the dish towel and turned to lean against the counter as she dried the carafe, her gaze drawn to Charlie.

While Harrison maintained an air of deadly calm, Charlie was living motion and muscle, passion and anger.

Like his brother, he towered over her in height, his hair close- cropped and sun-streaked.

But it was Charlie, with his mercurial temperament and his charmer's smile, whose presence dominated the room, heating her flesh and stealing her air.

It was Charlie Rand who made her wish she were human, a beautiful human he might want in return.

"In the five months since the Esri found that gate, they've killed at least two dozen people and raped who knows how many more."

Charlie's hand sliced upward.

"And that's with one gate open.

Now they've got all twelve unlocked... and we don't know where they are.

We can't guard them.

They'll have free rein of this world, enchanting and destroying at will.

If we don't get those gates sealed, the human race is doomed.

We can't wait, Harrison, and you know it."

Until five months ago, the humans hadn't known there was another world connected to theirs.

In ancient times, the magical Esri had enchanted their human victims, raping virgins and stealing children to fill the slave halls and harems of Esria.

Fifteen centuries ago, the Esrian princess, Ilaria, put a stop to the pillaging by sealing the known gates and leaving the keys, the seven stones of power, in the hands of the humans for safekeeping.

Over the centuries, the humans had forgotten about the keys and all but forgotten about the creatures of Esria, most especially the Esri themselves - the pale, cruel, man- size beings who had once struck terror into every human heart.

The terrifying tales evolved from generation to generation until the names the humans had once given the invaders, faeries and elves, were no longer whispered in terror but in joy and laughter.

The humans had never known that Ilaria had left one gate unsealed, though hidden.

And that the Esri had been searching for it ever since.

Five months ago, Tarrys's own master, Baleris, had stumbled upon the lost gate by accident - the first Esri to do so in fifteen centuries.

She'd been with him, along with a second slave.

Over the course of weeks, Baleris had