The first time Ellie met a Swarii, it just happened to be Commander Graham Masterson. At that time she had been Jazeel’s prima, his favorite servant girl, for only a week. She had been his servant for much longer—ever since she was abducted from Earth, right out of her bed. Before then, she knew nothing of the Swarii, or Frians, or of any other alien culture, for that matter.
Earthlings didn’t believe the universe revolved around them exactly, but they did have a deep-seated yet unfounded belief that the universe as they knew it was only as old as their planet, and more than likely revolved around their sun. They also had come to believe that other species existing in the universe was surely on the impossible side of improbable, and that the probability of seeing one alien species, let alone MORE than one of them, was so astronomically minuscule it wasn’t worth mentioning, let alone preparing for.
Not that Ellie could have ever mentally prepared herself for the life of a prima, nor for a life as a simple maid. The moment she saw what she was expected to wear, she had wanted to crawl into a bag and die.
She had worked in her father’s garage most of her life, and quit high school to do it. She wore jumpsuits every day—it was all about comfort. Even her panties were larger than need be, mostly because she’d known nobody would ever see them.
Wearing what was all but a thong was something she knew she’d have trouble getting used to. It wasn’t actually a thong, but in Ellie’s mind the two types of clothing were close kin to one another. Her breasts were covered by light, white fabric, but her stomach area was completely exposed, her bare skin showing well below the top of her hips. Her only other garment was a gold-chain belt from which cloth panels hung down to cover both her front and her backside.
The outfit was humiliating, to say the least, to anyone born outside of ancient Egypt. And even there it might have been considered indecent.
She had been primped all morning—she had been scrubbed hard in a basin full of perfumed water by the other maidens. Her hair was conditioned, and all of her pubic hair was completely and most permanently removed, leaving her feeling more naked than she ever had before. And as if to intensify that awkward feeling, they even rubbed a soft layer of oil on her skin to make it glisten.
It was the first time in her life that she actually felt attractive, and what an unfortunate time it was for that.
She had seen her master before—he was tall, probably eight-feet in height, and he was humanoid, but he was also quite reptilian. He looked like something people were fighting in a video game somewhere. He had picked her right out of the line coming off of the merchant spaceship that very morning. She was actually frightened by all the deafening engine noise in the hanger. She could barely hear, only watch, and what she saw wasn’t any consolation. Her new master, Jazeel, had her led back to the palace by guards just as ugly as himself.
She didn’t know why the lizard wanted her to dress so sexy, but she was determined to put her foot down about it.
“Get into your clothes, lil’ girl,” the prime—the head man-servant, Peyton, told her when he opened the door and saw her wrapped in so many towels after her bath that he could barely see a bit of skin. “Jazeel wants to see you.” He walked to the nearby counter to pour himself a glass of water from a pitcher.
“Tell him to go screw himself,” she grumbled. “I’m not wearing that. Lots of the other girls are wearing more.”
He heaved a frustrated sigh, knowing that the girl was going to have a very rude awakening if that continued to be her attitude. Jazeel, nor any Frian he had ever met, was someone who would accept being told to screw off by anyone. “Those girls aren’t as pretty. Jazeel picked out this outfit for you himself. Wear it,” he ordered brusquely.
“You wear it,” she argued, crossing her arms firmly across her chest. She had been caged for the last month in a pen that even a dog would have felt cramped in, antagonized and poked by a man who looked like he had descended from something the Earth naturally got rid of 20 million years ago. The last thing she was going to fear was a human, not even one like Peyton, who, back on Earth, was not the type you’d want to enter a pig wrestlin’ contest with.
He slammed down his water cup and spun to point a firm finger in her direction. “Do it, little girl, right now. I can’t afford your disobedience.” It was true—he couldn’t. Jazeel wasn’t patient, and any of the girls’ disobedience was considered Peyton’s fault. He had the right and responsibility to force the girls to obey, which was not an easy task, but one that he had yet to fail at. If he wanted to stay in his house and in his privileged station, he needed to trust all the girls to cooperate.
“These are barely clothes,” she cried, waving in the direction of the outfit. “It’s ridiculous. I’m not Princess Leia. What if somebody sees?”
“Someone seein’ is the point. You have to the count of three.” Not that he had to bother counting—it was pretty clear that she was just going to glare at him throughout the countdown, as pointless as it was. Did she think she was going to be able to fight him off? Did she think that if she stuck to her guns, nobody would force her to do anything? Did she expect to get back to Earth this way?
One. Two. Three. To her satisfaction, he turned away from her, seeming like he was going in the direction of the door. Instead, he walked to a closet; he disappeared for a second before he came back out with a leather strap in his hand.
“Peyton…” she warned, her eyes widening with horror as he marched determinedly over to her. She backed up quickly until she hit the wall behind her. “Peyton!” she cried, as if she could wake him up from an evil trance. He grabbed her arm and forced her to the bed, easily plucking the towels from her body despite her struggles and letting them fall to the floor.
After that, she was more concerned about covering her exposed parts than keeping herself from being hauled over Peyton’s tall, sturdy knees. She thought only one thing: no man had ever seen her naked before.
CRACK. The leather came down on the soft, pale flesh of her bare bottom.
She screamed. She couldn’t have imagined leather striking her skin would hurt so much. She twisted around, trying to grab his arm to keep him from swinging the strap again, but he just pinned her wrist uncomfortably down with his other elbow. CRACK!
This stripe seemed to hurt more, somehow, than the one before. And then that nasty leather started smacking her skin in a rhythmic procession. She fought and screamed until she was suddenly struck by the pure hopelessness of her situation—she was not anywhere near as strong as Peyton. She was hundreds of thousands of light years away from her home. She was a slave. And there was nothing she could do about it other than to submit.
Whether because of this fact, or because of the pain, she began to cry heartfelt sobs.
Still, Peyton continued on for a while, despite the sobs and despite the shrieks. He was driving a point home—she needed to learn to shut up and obey for her own good.
It did end eventually. When it was over, he pushed her off of his lap and, grabbing her arm before she could nurse herself, shoved her in the direction of her outfit. “Dress,” he ordered. When she reached behind her to nurse her swollen cheeks, he snapped, “Don’t nurse yourself. Dress.”
He wet a washcloth and brought it to her. It certainly didn’t take long before she dressed—there was hardly anything to dress with. When she was done, he was standing next to her with the washcloth. “Wipe your face,” he told her. His tone was hard, but not cruel. It almost sounded exasperated. “If you didn’t like that,” he continued simply, “then I suggest you do as you’re told, an’ right quick! I’m told that Jazeel has a far heavier hand than I do, and he will punish you if you misbehave in his presence.”
His face softened a little as she sobbed. A true Texan, he didn’t like to see a crying woman; even if she did bring it on herself. “Wipe your face, don’t create new tears,” he specified. Then, after a moment of watching, he said, “It’s not as bad as all that. The workers in the mines barely see daylight, and don’t get to eat so well. The women in workshops are chained to tables. The farmers are sent out into the sun with no protection, and very small rations. We’re the lucky ones.”
That didn’t seem like much solace. But there was nothing to be done. She did stop crying, and as soon as she did, Peyton dragged her by her arm in the direction of Jazeel’s chamber as fast as he could walk.
“Peyton,” Jazeel drawled, looking annoyed as soon as the two entered. “I was beginning to worry that you’d forgotten my request.”
‘Maybe I should get rid of him. I’ve seen how the girls look at him—I should check their virginities again… It’s about that time, anyway, to see if he’s coupling with any of them. Though killing him would be too much of a waste—I’ll make him a bathhouse eunuch.’
Although she wasn’t positive, she was sure she hadn’t seen the alien’s mouth move. Yet she was certain that the voice just speaking came from him. The words came very quickly, but they were exceptionally clear… “I’m sorry,” she said as Peyton was looking uncomfortable. “I was being difficult, my lord.” She thought about what someone in Star Wars, or StarGate, Star Trek, or even Prince of Egypt would say. Surely, his species wasn’t beyond flattering.
‘My lord! I like that—respect comes with that title, I believe. Like their royalty. Perfect. I shall have all my servants address me as such. The words were coming so quickly, she wasn’t sure she caught them right, but she did feel like Jazeel didn’t know she could hear them.
Could she? Was she imagining it?
“Difficult, were you?” Jazeel looked quite interested about this. ‘Hopefully he had to give her a spanking. I love it when he uses force on the girls… I love watching their little legs kick, their faces blush… Something about it is so gratifying.’
“Yes, Sir…” she said, looking unsure. Her confusion was misinterpreted as torturous humiliation.
“Do explain,” he drawled, nearly sounding like he was purring.
“I…” She swallowed and made eye contact with Peyton, who looked aghast at her announcement, and how well Jazeel was reacting to her. “I wouldn’t put on my dress,” she admitted, lowering her head.
‘Look at her… Look at how remorseful she is. What a lovely sight.’
“This dress… Is a little more revealing than I’m used to, and it was too humiliating to put on.” She looked at Peyton again; he looked like he was about to pass out. “So he spanked me with a strap of leather,” she went on. “That’s why I made him late on bringing me here.” She wiped an old tear out of her eye.
“Did he spank you hard, my little pet?” he teased, still purring.
‘Oh, I hope she pouts. I love it when they pout.’
“Yes, Sir…” She pouted prettily.
“He left marks.”
The words coming into her head were so easy to hear now; she didn’t even consciously have to listen to them. It was as if they nestled comfortably through her ear and into her mind with such smoothness that they no longer had to make a sound. It was instantaneous, but not an actual voice. She seemed to know what he was thinking, and what Jazeel was going to do before he did it.
He patted his knee. “Come let me see, my poor little pet,” he cooed.
She hesitated—knowing how much Jazeel was going to enjoy this. The other maids had told her that the Frians loved to play sexually with their female slaves, and liked to ogle them because humans were strangely arousing to them, but they never had intercourse with their slaves. This was, the maids had guessed, because they didn’t have the same plumbing as the humans did, forcing them to only have sexual relations with their own species, much to the Frians’ obvious annoyance.
Peyton put a hand on her back as if to remind her to respond to Jazeel’s order. Slowly, she put one foot in front of the other until she was standing in front of Jazeel’s alien body. He gently took her arm in his silky, reptilian hand and pulled her across his lap. Jazeel’s race was very slender and very tall, and as soon as she was across his knees, she felt like her toes were constantly reaching for the floor.
He brushed the cloth panel which covered her bottom to the side and clicked his tongue with satisfaction. He dragged a finger across one of her welts, as if to judge how swollen it was. “Ooh, I bet that hurt.” He continued to trace along her bottom with his fingers.
“It still hurts,” she replied miserably, knowing it was what he wanted to hear.
“Mmm, yes, yes. I can see Peyton has kept you well in line. Very good, very good. I am very pleased, Peyton,” he congratulated sincerely, looking up at Peyton, who had been trembling mere seconds ago—Peyton was sure he was going to be punished for leaving marks on her flesh, thinking that the sight of it would not be pleasing to Jazeel. “I was beginning to think you were loosening your grip upon my house, not tightening it. I see that I was mistaken.” He put his hand across her bottom, luxuriating in the radiating heat.
Slowly, he began to play with her bottom hole. Her toes pointed and her mouth formed into an “O” as he quickly stuck his index finger up her bottom to the hilt.
She shrieked. “Please, stop…” Her face brightened red and she looked around. She avoided reaching back to stop him, although she knew he wanted badly for her to do so, to give him an excuse to spank her again. She hugged her arms pathetically around his knee. “Please, my lord! That hurts…” she whined, squinting her eyes so she wouldn’t even have to look at Peyton, who merely looked on, knowing there was nothing he could do.
Jazeel was practically chuckling with his new-found glee. “Responsive little thing,” he noticed, dipping his fingers towards her cunt, feeling the body on his lap cringe when he did so.
She began to sob again.
Jazeel merely laughed and finally let her up. “I will tell you what, my dear little pet,” he cooed, enjoying her tears immensely. He pulled the girl down to sit on his knee, and she winced as her sore bottom was pressed onto his hard thighs. “You can wear anything you’d like… But you must remove your clothing for punishment, always, and for me whenever I wish it, with no complaint.” He looked over at Peyton as he petted Ellie’s head and purred, “See that she gets whatever she desires, and that she learns how to serve all my meals to me.”
Peyton’s face was unmoving. He didn’t want to show any surprise, and was doing a good job of it. He bowed his head. “Yes, Sir.”
“Say yes, my lord from now on,” Jazeel said off-handedly, a small smile appearing on his reptilian mouth. “Direct the others to, as well. It does seem more appropriate.”
“Yes, my lord.” Peyton bowed again. “I will do so promptly.”
“Take my little pet with you,” he said, gently pulling Ellie off of his lap. “And make sure the seamstress makes her anything her heart desires. But remember, my dear,” he added, reaching up and petting her long hair. “The longer the rope I give you, the harder the jerk back will feel when corrected.” He was counting on this. Ellie could see the situations and scenarios already appearing in his mind—he wanted her to always blush, to never get used to punishments. He didn’t want to tame her.
“You are most gracious, my lord,” she said softly, knowing the words would please him, and they did.
“I know,” he agreed loftily, waving her away from him with his hand. She walked back to Peyton quickly and let him guide her out of the room.
The two didn’t say anything until they rounded the corner towards the kitchens. “I don’t know what that was about,” Peyton muttered. Ellie couldn’t tell if he was angry, incredulous, or amazed.
She rubbed her eyes, wondering whether or not she was dreaming what had just happened. It was too weird for words. “I know, it’s really hard to concentrate with all of that going on,” she agreed, hoping to hear some advice.
“With all of what goin’ on?” Peyton asked.
“You know…” she said, following him closely. “The voice… The one he doesn’t use his mouth to make.”
Peyton turned to her slowly, his eyebrows lowered. “What are you talkin’ about?”
“Don’t you hear it? You can hear what he’s thinking…” her words faded out as Peyton’s face grew darker and darker. “I guess… you don’t?”
“You heard… voices,” Peyton echoed.
For a moment, she thought that Peyton might take her in hand just for talking like a crazy person—or simply for being crazy. “No… Only one voice. Jazeel’s… You didn’t hear the part about making you into a… eunuch?”
Peyton’s eyes widened in horror at the mere prospect.
“That he thought you might be… you know… coupling… with the maids,” she went on, twiddling her fingers nervously. “He’ll be checking their virginities soon, something like that? No?” She swallowed hard. “Okay. Maybe I imagined it.” The look Peyton was giving her was so intense, she winced.
Only just then, another serving girl shuffled up to them from behind. “Peyton,” she breathed. “The master wants to check all of the girls to make sure we’ll all pure…” Her cheeks were blushing. “One by one. Before supper.”
Peyton looked slowly over at the girl, gave a singular nod and said, “Very well—inform the girls.”
The girl scurried down the hall quickly. Peyton slowly turned back to Ellie. “You—come with me,” he said, taking her by her forearm and pulling her, hard and fast, through the nearby kitchen and into a pantry. He closed the door behind them and began to speak with a very low, quiet voice. “You can hear Jazeel’s thoughts, then.” It didn’t seem like a question, so Ellie didn’t answer. “So… So am I safe, then?”
“Jazeel seems happy with you, now,” Ellie said, her voice even quieter than Peyton’s. “He likes it when you punish the girls… So, you can’t hear the voices?”
“No,” Peyton hissed. “Nobody can. Humans don’t have shal’ta!”
Ellie blinked a couple of times, confused. “Shal’ta?”
Peyton looked back and forth, as if to double-check they were alone. “When Frians speak to each other, they don’t use words or sounds. They use Shal’ta, they call it. Supposedly their thoughts naturally fly through the air, like words. If they want to, they can keep thoughts silent—so it’s sort of like…”
“Telepathy,” Ellie whispered, nodding. She cocked her head to the side, now looking more confused than ever. “Then why can I…”
“I don’t know, but if you don’t want your brain put under a Frian microscope, don’t tell him that you can hear him. Don’t let anyone know. You never know who’s listenin’, and you don’t want anyone to tell on you to get out of somethin.’ Keep this between you and me,” Peyton demanded, wagging his finger at her face.
“Why would I even want to read his mind?” Ellie asked. Really, she was disturbed by what she had heard already.
“I just saw you use it to your advantage! I’ve never seen him take such a likin’ to a girl before. You did everythin’ perfectly. I’ve been servin’ for four years now, and I couldn’t have done so well. He normally doesn’t give gifts to anyone. Besides, if you tell me what he wants, there will be less severe punishments. The best we can do is please him. If he’s pleased, we get rewarded, if he’s pissed, he takes it out on us. You can’t even begin to understand what the Frians are capable of. They’re soulless. We aren’t even slaves to them—we’re livestock.”
Peyton’s lip was curled with disgust, but Ellie could tell he was still excited. With reason—her freakishness was going to save his balls, literally. She was going to help him look around the corner, and make his life easier and less fearful. She could only hope she wouldn’t screw up.
* * *
After that day—really, after her first punishment—Peyton and she became friends… As much as one could become friends with Peyton, who ran the palace as if it was a war zone under attack. They both had one objective in mind—to do anything to keep Jazeel happy with them.
Ellie was ever-listening to his thoughts and his conversations. Jazeel was very powerful, she recognized, even where other Frians were concerned. It seemed the Frian kingdom wasn’t broken into provinces, like on earth, but by planets, and Jazeel was the High Ruler of his own—everything she could see from the windows was his. She served Jazeel however she could, pretending it was a game. He liked her looks, he liked her spirit, and occasionally he liked to nitpick her in order to have her spanked, which he greatly enjoyed as if it was a spectator sport. Peyton was on her team; when he spanked her in front of Jazeel, as Jazeel would have him do from time to time, he didn’t give Ellie more than she could handle, and she kicked and screamed and cried like an Oscar-winning actress. Ellie was never spanked by Jazeel’s hand. He simply never got angry enough with her; she never gave him the opportunity.
Peyton’s planned worked, as well—the servant girls were getting punished less and less by Jazeel. Peyton was finally able to understand Jazeel’s sadistic tendencies as if they were a sexual inclination, and acting on that, Peyton was able to constantly put on a show of the girls’ discipline without them actually coming to any harm. There were no more whippings. There were no more harsh punishments.
Jazeel enjoyed Ellie more than anyone else, and even made her prima—the head female servant—within the year.
* * *
There was a parade outside of the palace one morning—it showed up all of the sudden, and Peyton hadn’t mentioned anything about it. For a moment, Ellie feared that it was for the arrival of Lady Galaal, who was Jazeel’s betrothed, and who had the same sexual tastes for humans as Jazeel did—it was why he chose Lady Galaal for his mate, in fact. Yet Ellie thought she wasn’t expected to arrive for another few days.
She put on her best, figuring it was some special day or special celebration she didn’t know about, but hoping that Jazeel would be in a good mood because of it. A good mood for Jazeel normally meant gifts and rewards to the servants for doing the smallest of things for him. She nearly hoped to be called into his chambers that day—she could please him better than anyone.
She woke up and did her hair in a twisted up braid as it was how Jazeel best liked it, and wore pants that actually went to her ankles, but she knew Jazeel liked them, anyway. They were white, light, and flowy. And they were open in slits on the outer sides, which gave Jazeel just enough skin to satisfy him. She rarely was asked to take off her clothing anymore; she knew what his alien eyes liked to see even better than her skin.
She walked into the kitchens and found them empty of people. For a moment, she was certain that she had woken up earlier than she thought. She walked into the pantry to begin preparing Jazeel’s breakfast.
“GOOD LORD!” she cried, walking right back out of the pantry.
Peyton had been in there, with Mary, who had joined their house in the last six months, and who he had instantly become infatuated with. Ellie had only looked for a second, but that second was enough. She saw that Peyton’s fingers were pressed into her hips and she was pressing back against his groin to take his member more fully into her bottom, moaning with a mixture of pain and pleasure.
It took a moment before Mary scurried out of the pantry, adjusting her short skirt back into position. “I’m sorry, Ellie!” she pleaded, her face beet-red with embarrassment.
“Oh, God! My eyes BURN!” Ellie cried, rubbing her palms over her eyes.
“Shh!” Peyton hushed fiercely, following Mary into the kitchen, buttoning up the front of his pants. “Shut up, Ellie! Are you tryin’ to inform the whole palace?”
“Don’t get angry at me because you were doing the nasty in the pantry,” Ellie scolded back, putting her hands on her hips to face down the burly-armed human. “Gross, Peyton! Gross.”
He sighed and looked at the ceiling with exasperation. “Grow up. You know we have trouble finding a place. And everybody’s out watching the parade.” He shrugged unapologetically and hoisted himself up on the counter.
“What’s the parade about?” Ellie asked, her lip curling. “Nobody tells me anything!”
“It only happened last night. The Frians are celebrating the destruction of a nearby enemy base on Playana,” Mary explained innocently. “Supposedly there’ll be fireworks and everything tonight. It’s almost a holiday.”
Ellie knew better than to expect a holiday in the sense that she knew it on Earth. There was always work to do, and they were expected to do it. But the prospect of any sort of entertainment was exciting. Especially to Ellie, who was a bit of a partier back on Earth.
“Don’t get too excited,” Peyton grumped. “You’ve got work to do, lil’ girl.” He pointed his finger into Ellie’s chest. “Jazeel will want his breakfast the same as usual. I think he’s speaking with the leader of the prisoners in there now, or soon… Whenever they get here. I sorta lost track of time.”
“I can see how that could have happened.” Ellie nodded, her face deadpan. “And I know that you don’t like my advice, but you know what would happen if you stuck your thing in the wrong hole… errr… the right hole. Right is wrong,” she clarified. “I just don’t think you’d be the Peyton we’ve all come to love once you’d been neutered.”
She was right; he didn’t like her advice. Possibly because he didn’t think Ellie understood his suffering. He needed relief, and he loved Mary… Making love to her seemed natural; fooling around never seemed like enough. Anal sex was a nice respite, but Peyton knew he had to wait before he took Mary’s actual virginity—Jazeel loved checking to make sure the girls’ hymens were still attached, making everybody just as sexually frustrated as he was.
“Trust me,” Mary answered for him as both of them ambled over to the sink to wash their hands. “His balls are constantly in the forefront of both of our minds.”
“Oh, mine too,” Ellie assured sarcastically. She began to prepare Jazeel’s breakfast. The Frians, despite the fact that they looked incredibly different than humans, ate very similar fare: coffee, pastries, eggs, hams… And while she prepared it, she would eat her own breakfast from his platter.
“So,” Ellie said, noticing that Peyton was lingering about, staring down Mary’s blouse as she began to work alongside her, “why would he want to talk to the leader of the prisoners?”
“He wants information on other bases,” Peyton said as if it was obvious, sitting back up on the counter and comfortably sipping on his coffee and then munching on a couple of large slices of bread and ham. “It’s sort of ‘his way’ to ask nicely for information, and then bribe, and then torture. And then kill them, of course. There’re only a small handful of them that didn’t get killed during the raid on the base. If we’re lucky, the Swarii leader won’t do anything to piss Jazeel off. I don’t like cleaning up bodies.”
“The master’s in a good mood this morning,” Mary said in her usual chipper, sing-songish voice. “I don’t think he will kill anyone. It will be a good day, a beautiful morning!” Her optimism earned her a kiss on the neck from Peyton, who walked over just to hold her in his arms for a long moment.
“Oh, what a beautiful morning….” Ellie sang, mostly to make fun of Mary, causing the others to laugh as she picked up her silver platter of food and began to carry it out. “Oh what a beautiful day… Peyton, get the door.” He obliged with a grin on his lips that he couldn’t repress. She continued to sing out into the hallway, “I’ve got a beautiful feeling eve-ry-thing’s go-in’ my way!”
She walked down the hallway and stood outside of the doors to Jazeel’s largest chamber hall with the heavy tray in hand. She wasn’t singing anymore, she was humming; blissfully unaware of what was being discussed on the other side of the door until the two Frian guards let her into the room.
‘Fuck you.’ Was the alien, unrecognized shal’ta voice that strangely sounded to her as if it had an Irish accent. It was alarming to walk through the door just in time to catch a curse spit at Jazeel, though, true to Mary’s prediction, he had a wide, sharp smile on his face. Ellie stood in her tracks for a moment.
Her eyes looked straight toward the five prisoners that were now chained together and kneeling on the floor. It looked like they weren’t permitted to stand—they were being held to the floor by the rods the Frian guards had with them—the rods, she knew, would send a fierce electrical shot through them.
Still, because of what she saw, she did not move. She stood still, unable to breathe.
‘You’re a fool, Commander Masterson,’ Jazeel replied flippantly. ‘Your race is done for, anyway. Why drag out this process? Why don’t you all try to live as comfortably as you can?’ He looked straight at Ellie and broke into a wider smile. “Oh, my dearest Pet. Do not be afraid of these creatures. They cannot hurt you,” he said, beckoning her to approach him by crooking his finger.
The Swarii commander turned around and looked straight at her as she walked into his line of sight, and his body froze the same ways hers had. They stared at each other, hers with more surprise. She was looking into a large, yet brilliantly handsome, nearly human face.