Prelude to the Mascot Trilogy – Book Two
Humans genetically modified with animal genes.
Created to lead – destined to liberate.
In Book One, The Purlieu Experiment, Donte's mate and children are killed by raiders from another colony on Planet Purlieu. In his quest to seek revenge, he winds up a captive in Nyumbani colony for six years. There, he fathers two more children.
In an attempt to save others, Donte kills the insane King Farasi. Kafil, a friend, convinces the government not to kill Donte. Instead, he is exiled from Nyumbani, leaving his two children with their mother. He is rescued in the desert by King Neirin and his men in Anialwch colony and meets a 9-year-old princess, Celyn, who has had a vision that he will exchange vows with her when she is 19.
Donte escorts Akira (sister of Lockfowk colony president, Sima) back to her colony and discovers his brother, Kenyon is still alive and a captive in Lochfowk.
Donte is named as successor to Pieter, the ruler of Bergen colony and exchanges nuptial vows with Rianne, the representative of Bosvrouwen colony. He learns he is the Anialwch Connection in a prophesy that predicts he and Celyn will lead Purlieu to freedom when the Oriel scientists return. He decides to join the service on Spaceship Moeder so that he can be better prepared.
Book Two, The Anialwch Connection, begins as Donte comes home from his 3-year service. He knows time is slipping away and must use what he has wisely. He has no idea what is ahead of him before the prophesy begins...or has it already begun?
When Donte stepped off the tram at the Bergen station, he felt excited to see Rianne and his daughter again and ready to assume the responsibilities bestowed upon him by The Prophesy. He had spent the last three years in service on Spaceship Moeder and it felt good to be free.
He looked around for Rianne. Instead, his grandmother met him, carrying his three-year-old daughter. He pushed disappointment to the back of his mind and smiled a welcome.
"She had a meeting in Bosvrouwen today. She'll be here on the evening tram."
If he had known, he would have waited for her in Bosvrouwen. As Bosvrouwen colony's representative, Rianne had an obligation. She didn't decide when the meetings would be and she had worked hard to attain the position long before they exchanged vows. Bosvrouwen permitted her to live in Bergen with her mate as long as she returned regularly for meetings. His absence while he was in the service had been an inconvenience to her for three years but she had supported him. He could hardly complain about missing a few hours of her company.
When Petra squealed and reached for him, Donte plucked her from Saskia’s arms and tossed her into the air. She squealed with delight as he caught and hugged her. Yet another victim of his absence. He had joined the service shortly after Petra had been born and had only seen her when on leave.
He kissed her cheek and let her sit on his arm, with one little arm around his neck as he turned to introduce his friend.
"Nana, this is my friend, Gerritt. Gerritt, this is my grandmother, Saskia."
Gerritt's blond brows lifted and he lowered his head in respectful acknowledgment to the mate of Bergen's Ruler and former Queen of Bosvrouwen. “I am honored to meet you, Nomi.”
Saskia smiled at him. “It is nice to meet you. Donte has spoken well of you.” She looked at Donte. “It is late. I assume you are both hungry? I have some food ready at the Groot Thuis.”
Gerritt rubbed the blonde stubble on his chin absently with one hand while his light blue eyes searched Donte’s face. “Perhaps I should go….”
“Come with us, Gerritt,” Donte interrupted. “I’d like Papaw to meet you.” He looked at Saskia. “They gave the troops a farewell celebration before we left the spaceship. Being a commander, I was one of the last to leave and Gerritt decided to wait for me so we could ride the tram together. I hope you won’t be offended if we aren’t hungry.”
Saskia nodded. “Maybe later.” She looked at Gerritt. "Do you live in Bergen?"
Gerritt looked uncertain. "I lived with my parents before I joined the service – about an hour from here by equine." He shrugged. "Donte invited me to stay with his family until I could get established in a place of my own." He gave her a boyish grin. "I love my parents, but I am the only boy and the youngest of five children, so my mother still thinks of me as her baby. It's time to make my own way."
Saskia smiled. "Well, you'll always be her baby. Don't fault her for that. What kind of work did you have in mind?"
He glanced at Donte. "I thought Donte could use some help."
Saskia sobered and looked at Donte. "I'm sure he could use some support."
Donte wasn't sure if she was signaling him that he wouldn't get much support from Peiter. His grandfather believed The Prophesy was folklore – or that was his official stand on the subject. Maybe he simply wanted to make sure it didn't distract him from his training as the future Ruler of Bergen. Papaw had agreed to the three years of service on spaceship Moeder because he thought it would give him insight and discipline useful when he became ruler. Hopefully, that would be a long time from now. The Prophesy was supposed to begin in only nine more years.
They rode a coach pulled by four equines up a cobblestone road to the Groot Thuis. Donte had been raised in Libertad colony, but the Groot Thuis had been home to him for four years before he took his first mate, Liana. The main building was a three-story rock structure that had been there for a couple of centuries. Inside, the polished wood of the spacious lobby gave it a warm glow. They took the lift to the second floor, where Pieter and Saskia lived. Pieter came out of his office in his wheel chair and grinned at Donte, his eyes twinkling with delight.
“Welcome back. It is good to have you home.”
“Thank you.” Donte introduced Gerritt to Pieter.
Gerritt shook Pieter’s hand and exchanged pleasantries. All the while Pieter was measuring him. Maybe Gerritt wasn’t aware of it, but Donte knew his grandfather. It annoyed him that Pieter didn’t accept Gerritt on the merit that he was a friend. He brushed the feeling aside. Gerritt wasn’t going to be staying with Pieter anyway.
“Petra has fallen asleep.” Saskia said to Donte. “Would you like me to put her down on our bed?”
She would probably sleep better on the bed than his shoulder, but he wasn’t ready to put her down. He patted her on the back. “I’ll hold her for a little while longer.”
Saskia smiled. “I thought that might be your answer. You seemed to be enjoying her.”
It was a statement that needed no qualification. He had lost a mate and three children already. It felt good to hold a sleeping child in his arms again.
Pieter’s critical gaze shifted to Donte, traveling up and down his frame; probably thinking he was too thin. Donte didn't have a stocky build like the people of Bergen. He didn't have the slender build of his father's people in Libertad, either. His build was somewhere in between, but Papaw always thought he looked too thin. Pieter's gaze landed on the badges pinned to his uniform. He studied them for a moment before his gaze lifted to Donte’s face.
“You have received the highest honors.”
Donte nodded. “Pheromones work wonders.”
Pieter frowned. “What?”
Gerritt glanced at Donte, his gaze holding a touch of humor. “He can’t seem to grasp that people like him for who and what he is instead of how he smells.”
Donte laughed. When he looked at Pieter, he was scowling at Gerritt. Donte explained, in an attempt to draw Pieter’s negative attention from Gerritt.
“I never know for sure. Ever since I discovered that the pheromones are intensified with the generations of mixing among Mascots of different colonies, I have wondered if people are motivated by my pheromones.”
Pieter’s gaze came back to Donte, minus the scowl. He was silent a moment; probably considering that information. He shrugged. “Does it matter?”
“Sometimes. If someone was passed over for me because of it; then it matters.”
A slow smile came to Pieter’s lips. His gaze shifted to Gerritt, as if sharing a thought with him. When his gaze came back to Donte, he released a deep sigh.
“Perhaps it is a good thing to have self doubt. It keeps a person humble. Nevertheless, I’m sure you have earned each of those badges.”
Donte shrugged. “Possibly; I know I worked hard for them.”
Pieter nodded. He changed the subject and never came back to it. They sat and talked for a while and finally Petra became heavy in Donte’s arms. Saskia lifted her from Donte’s shoulder and took her into their bedroom. Donte stood and looked down at Pieter.
“It’s almost time to meet Rianne at the station.” He glanced at Gerritt. “Would you like to join me?”
Pieter interrupted before Gerritt could respond. “Go on and meet her alone. I’ll entertain Gerritt until you return.”
Donte looked at Gerritt. He smiled. “Go ahead. I’m sure you have enough to say to each other without me tagging along.”
“You’ll be staying at our house, then?”
Gerritt nodded. “If you wish, but I can get a room.”
Donte gave him a wry smile. “Rianne would have my hide if you did that. I’ll see you in a little while.”
At the tram station, Donte selected a book from the shelf and sat in a chair to wait for the tram. He opened the book and looked at it, but his mind was on something else.
He had been offered a position as second in command of the Moeder. He felt deeply honored and, under different circumstances, might have accepted. It was possible that it would put him in a better position to defend the planet of Purlieu, should The Parliament or The Fontalo return. The Prophesy indicated that he and Celyn would lead the colonies to freedom, but it didn’t indicate how. In fact, he wasn’t certain whether they were supposed to lead the Mascots, the colonists or both. He could only take the facts he had and work them into some kind of plan. In the underground complex, he had been told that he would know. He had been waiting three years for an epiphany but so far, he was no closer to an understanding of his role.
He had thought that three years in service would make him better prepared, and in a way, it probably had. He had the experience and confidence that those years had given him, but there were benefits he hadn't realized at the time. In addition to establishing a working relationship with all the spaceship commanders, he had earned their support and valuable feedback. Not one commander doubted that Oriel would return – if for no other reason than to reclaim their spaceships. Adriaan, commander of the Moeder, had spent the most time talking to him about the Prophesy. They didn't always agree and, on some things, they had different perspectives. Still, they both agreed that some preparation would be required and it needed to be done in the next few years.
Donte looked up as the tram arrived from Bosvrouwen. He put the book back on the shelf and watched the passengers emerge into the lobby. One of them was Beier, a Mascot who had been a captive of the Lochfowk for 30 years. He spotted Donte and joined him, offering a palm up for the Mascot handshake.
“It is good to see you back, Monomi.”
Donte grasped his forearm. “It’s good to be back – for good.”
Beier released his arm, his gaze taking in the badges. “It looks like you did well in your training. I’m not surprised.”
Donte nodded, his attention shifting to Rianne as she came into the lobby. “I don’t mean to be rude, but Rianne has just arrived.”
Beier turned and looked at Rianne. “Well, I can’t blame you. I’ll talk to you later.” He turned and walked away.
Rianne joined Donte, never looking at Beier. She had to have seen him on the tram. It made him wonder if Beier had given her a reason to distance herself from him. She could handle it, he was sure, and if she couldn't, he had no doubt she would ask him for assistance.
Rianne hugged him. “Come on.” She grabbed his hand; tugging him into a secluded hallway.
He didn’t need any encouragement. Once out of sight, he pulled her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his lips; her own brand of welcome. She finally drew back, breathless. “I missed you so much! I’m so glad you’re home to stay.”
If she thought he was going to be at home all the time from now on, she was going to be disappointed. He wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while; not until he knew she was carrying that baby she wanted, anyway. Still there were many things they could do together and as a family. Petra wasn’t too young to benefit from travel – as long as it was safe.
“I’m eager to see all the changes you mentioned.”
She frowned. “What changes?”
“The new tram lines….”
“Donte.…” She rolled her eyes. “You’re never going to be content to be home with your family, are you?”
Oops. He pulled her back into his arms and kissed her breathless again. At that point he wasn’t sure if or how he should bring up the subject of a guest in their home.
“We’d better get back to the Groot Thuis. I left Petra there. She was asleep.”
Rianne smiled up at him. “Saskia has already made arrangements to watch her tonight so you and I can be alone.”
Oops again. Why hadn’t he anticipated this? Of course, she hadn’t related her plans any more than he had revealed his to her. He’d just have to talk to Gerritt. He would understand, though it would be awkward bringing it up.
“Still, I left a friend there.…”
Rianne lifted her brows. “Please tell me it isn’t a girl.”
He grinned. “It most definitely isn’t a girl. His name is Gerritt and he is a colonist.”
She smiled. “Oh yes, Gerritt. And you invited him to stay at our cottage.”
It would do no good to attempt hiding anything from her. It was as though she had a direct link to his mind.
“For a little while. I didn’t think you would mind. I should have asked first. I’m sorry.”
She took his hand in hers. “I don’t mind, and I’m sure you would love the opportunity to spend some time with Petra.” A twinkle came into her eyes. “I mean, I’ve got you all night long.”
He pulled her into his arms again. “And I’m looking forward to that.”
She laid her head on his chest and released a sigh of contentment. “I’ve missed you so much. It is going to be nice to have you under foot.”
He laughed. “We’d better go get Petra.”
When they arrived to pick up Petra and Gerritt, Saskia was trying to quiet Petra. Petra looked up when they came in; her eyes red and her face tearstained. “Daddy!” She screamed as she wriggled off Saskia’s lap.
Donte met her half way across the room and lifted her into his arms. He wiped a tear from her face. “What’s this?”
Saskia stood. “She thought you left again. I couldn’t convince her that you weren’t going back to the spaceship.”
Donte kissed Petra, a lump forming in his throat. The scene reminded him of the last time he saw Chiku, his daughter who died in Nyumbani. He spoke with a restricted voice. “I don’t have to go back anymore, sweetie.”
Petra hugged his neck. “Can I sweep wif woo tonight, Daddy?”
Rianne lifted Petra from his arms. “Mommy asked first.” Her facial expression and voice indicated she was serious, but the twinkle in her eye when she looked at Donte made it clear that it was intended as a joke between them.
Gerritt laughed. He had quite an appreciation for dry humor. He was going to like Rianne.
Donte introduced Rianne to Gerritt. Rianne shifted Petra to one hip and offered a hand to Gerritt. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Donte has spoken often about you. We welcome you to our cottage”
Gerritt gripped her hand and glanced from Rianne to Donte and back again. “Look, I don’t want to intrude on your homecoming. I can get a room here.”
Rianne smiled. “Of course, we don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable but you are welcome and certainly not intruding.”
“I think I’d feel more comfortable with my own room, if you don’t mind. Saskia tells me they are planning a celebration for the homecoming of all the servicemen and women. I’ll hang around until then.”
Donte glanced at Pieter, who was giving undue attention to a fingernail. What had he said to Gerritt? He looked at Gerritt.
“I hope you’ll be around after that. I thought we were going to work together.”
Gerritt glanced at Pieter, who was still examining the nail. Gerritt’s attention shifted to Donte. “We can talk about it later. I’m pretty tired now.”
Pieter looked at Gerritt, but not at Donte. He said nothing. Something had happened in his absence and he intended to find out what it was.
Donte shrugged. “If you would be more comfortable with a room, then that’s what we would like you to do. I do want to talk to you tomorrow, though.”
Gerritt nodded. “We will talk tomorrow.” Without further comment, he left.
Donte took Petra from Rianne and turned to Saskia. “We’re going to go now too. Thanks for watching Petra. We’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Saskia handed Donte a blanket. “It’s cold out there. Keep her warm.”
As they entered the lift, Rianne looked up at Donte. “What has he done this time?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why are you angry with him?”
“He said something to Gerritt. I’m sure of it. For some reason, he doesn’t like him.”
The lift doors opened and they stepped into the lobby on the first floor.
Rianne frowned. “How do you know he doesn’t like him?” She stopped and waved a hand in dismissal. “All right, I shouldn’t have asked that. You know; that’s enough. What do you think he said?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
She followed him through the lobby and outside. Donte waved to the coach driver and he whipped the equines into action, pulling alongside them. Donte gave him instructions and they climbed into the coach.
Rianne snuggled next to him. “What is Gerritt to you?”
Donte put an arm around her and kissed her forehead. “Maybe nothing, but I will make that decision, not Papaw. This has to do with The Prophesy. If I must lead, I cannot permit people to undermine me; not even Papaw.”
Rianne sat up and smiled at him. “I’m glad to see you are accepting it now. For whatever it is worth, I believe in you. I trust your judgment.”
He hugged her close. “It’s worth a lot. I can’t think of anyone I want to please more than you.”
The next morning, Gerritt stared out the window of his private room in the Groot Thuis, only aware of the falling snow in an abstract way. He'd never been invited to leave before and he wasn't sure what to do. Normally, he wouldn't think of staying someplace he wasn't wanted, but he had promised to work with Donte. He wanted to work with Donte and it sounded like Donte was going to have a battle on his hands with Pieter. That wasn't fair. Donte had enough to do without fighting Pieter every step of the way. Yet, Pieter was the Ruler, not Donte. Donte would have to do what Pieter said, even if it was giving up the notion of leading during The Prophesy. Gerritt had agreed to help Donte, but he didn't want to become involved in a rebellion.
In the service, Donte's ideas had sounded noble. Having all the spaceship commanders behind him had given his plans validity, but did all the colony leaders feel the same way as Pieter? If he helped Donte, would he be considered a traitor?
Gerritt wasn't sure if Donte was a genius or simply naive. He had to keep reminding himself that Donte was thirty-five, because he didn’t look a day over nineteen. In fact, Donte was not only over a decade older than Gerritt, but in some areas, had more experience than anyone else on Purlieu.
Donte was a remarkably handsome man with dark hair and deep blue eyes. His smooth cheeks were void of any whiskers, as all Mascots were. He was a head taller than the stocky people of Bergen, and had a lean build. Donte was a magnet for women. That didn’t help Gerritt much. Apparently, he was the other end of the magnet – the one that repelled them.
Donte had a deep voice and a soft way of speaking that caught and held the attention of those around him. He was kind and intelligent. Everyone liked Donte. He was the kind of person that people wanted to emulate; honest and loyal. Gerritt would trust him with his life...which was what he might be doing if he went against Pieter.
Donte had some big changes in mind and even Adriaan didn't agree with some of them. As Donte's friend and confidant, Gerritt had been included in many of their conversations.
Since Pieter didn't believe in The Prophesy, it was unlikely that Donte would get any support on those things from Pieter. Then what? He couldn't imagine Donte backing down. Pieter had made it clear that he didn't want Gerritt Donte's interest in the Prophesy encouraged. Gerritt had been sure of his future when he stepped off that tram yesterday, but today he didn't know what to do. He had to meet with Donte and he didn't know what to say.
Gerritt had never actually known a Mascot until he served on the Moeder. Anouk was a female Mascot from Vlaktes. Everyone liked her. Until he met Anouk and Donte, he always thought Mascots were aloof and lacked the emotions of colonists. He was wrong. When it came to emotion, Mascots were no different than colonists.
All of the colonies were currently ruled by Mascots, but Donte believed the colonists should have equal opportunity to lead. As a colonist, Gerritt agreed, but he was afraid Donte was going to get into trouble if he continued to openly express that concept.
After considering all the information, Gerritt was no closer to a decision. If he believed in The Prophesy, then he should stand with Donte – but what if it was merely folklore? Peiter would forgive Donte because he was his grandson and he loved him. If Gerritt went against Peiter, he might involve his family in treason or wind up being executed. If The Prophesy was true and Gerritt obeyed Peiter, he would be betraying a friend as well as his colony.
This was something that required some serious thought, but every thought train came to one station. Whatever he did, he would have to betray someone.