In a world filled with warriors, Valentine’s Day means war for the creatures of Zanalia. Mina, queen of the disciplinarian tribe, is responsible for spearheading attacks on the land’s worst enemies.
Spike, Mina’s biggest adversary and the son of king Theo, no longer believes in provoking battles on this love-filled holiday. He secretly encourages the Zanalians to put away their weapons and spend time with their loved ones instead. The absurd suggestion goes against the territory’s oldest tradition and is rejected by many, to the point that Spike receives death threats. His father grows worried for his son and orders Mina to stage his kidnapping, then provide him with personal, around-the-clock protection.
Mina is infuriated by the mission as she’s being forced to protect a disloyal traitor. She vows to make Spike’s time with her as torturous as possible until she unwittingly finds pleasure in the pain she inflicts upon him, while he seemingly relishes her harsh punishments. Emotions run high between the pair, and Mina realizes that Spike’s wish to spread love this Valentine’s Day just may come true after all.
Mina held her head high, a huge smile spread across her smooth pale green face. She marched down the long stone hallway toward King Theo’s lair, proud of the way her spiked bronze teeth glistened while her wavy white hair blew in the wind. Mina was feeling better than ever as she prepared to give the leader of Zanalia a full report on her final week as the realm’s queen of the disciplinarian tribe.
On the way to his domain, she high-fived several of Theo’s soldiers, who cheered loudly while clapping their scaly webbed hands. Mina and her tribal warriors had just successfully completed one of their most difficult missions to date. The job was a personal one for Theo that involved his wayward brother, Horace, who’d defected from their sphere in pursuit of love in enemy territory.
Theo had warned Horace to stay away from the land of Raynalium, whose hate-filled creatures despised the superior Zanalians. Ignoring his brother's advice, Horace ended up being captured and tortured by the Raynali army. It was Mina and her disciplinarian tribe who snuck into the dangerous realm under the cover of night, attacking their entire militia and rescuing Horace from the slimy, menacing wilderness where he’d been held.
The successful mission wasn’t the only reason Mina was in such a good mood. After ten long grueling years of hard work and unwavering dedication, she had decided to retire from her post as queen of the disciplinarian tribe. Mina knew it would be difficult for Theo to let her go, considering he had no better warrior serving him. Along with her stunning, slightly human-like appearance, beguiling personality, witty intelligence, and innate sixth sense, Mina knew she possessed the strongest will to conquer that Theo had ever witnessed. But as a family man, she was sure he’d understand her desire to hang up her spears, settle down, and explore what other opportunities the galaxy had to offer.
“Great job, queen!” Jewel screamed, jumping up and down as Mina reached the end of the hallway.
Mina laughed at her friend’s excitement. She and Jewel had been extremely close for years, having met during their first day of training at the disciplinary camp. Jewel was a petite, adorable little blue creature whose pointy ears resembled those of an elf, while her fluffy gold wings could have been plucked from a fairy. Her endearing appearance was her best weapon, because while she seemed delicate and unassuming, Jewel possessed the strength of ten soldiers. Mina had nicknamed her casualty, because if anyone ever crossed her, that was exactly what they’d become.
Jewel grabbed Mina’s shoulder and whispered in her ear. “You have no idea how sad I am that you’re leaving your post as our queen.”
“Oh, come on. It’s not like I won’t be around anymore. You’ll still see me all the time. And guess what? I’m going to recommend to Theo that he choose you as my successor. Your entire existence is about to change in the most wonderful way. Buckle up, sister. You’re in for an amazing ride.”
Jewel’s tiny face fell as she dropped her head and sighed deeply. “Yeah, a ride I’m absolutely terrified to take. I can’t even fathom the thought of going out on these missions without you. Plus I’ll never be capable of filling your shoes, Mina.”
“No one expects you to,” she replied, running her fingers along the edges of Jewel’s wings affectionately. “Just be yourself, my little ruthless casualty. I bet you’ll end up being better than I ever was.”
“I seriously doubt that, but thanks for the reassurance.” Jewel punched a secret code into the glass slate that opened the door to Theo’s lair.
Mina quickly embraced Jewel and then stood in the threshold.
“Permission to enter, sir?”
“Yes, please. Have a seat, my dear,” he said, slowly stroking his long gray beard while gazing at several monitors.
Mina sat down across from Theo and wiggled in her seat, excited to discuss Horace’s successful rescue as well as the terms of her retirement.
“You have no idea how delighted I am to see you,” he told her. “If I may be perfectly honest, I was unsure as to whether you and the rest of the tribe would return from Raynalium safely, let alone recover Horace from that savage jungle.”
“Well, I am quite pleased that we were able to fulfill all of the above,” Mina replied, proudly bowing her head. “I knew that rescuing your brother was a top priority and our most important mission thus far. There is no way we would have let you down. Or him.”
“That is so wonderful to hear, Mina. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I do hope Horace learned his lesson. My guess is he will never defect from the land of Zanalia and enter into enemy territory ever again.”
“I would certainly hope not, sir,” she said, then took a deep breath. Just when she opened her mouth to mention stepping down from her post, Theo reached down inside of his desk drawer and pulled out a large black box.
“As for your payment,” he said, “you will be compensated handsomely.”
Theo pulled several semiprecious stones from the box and slid them across the desk. Mina gasped and covered her mouth while gazing at the glimmering stones.
“Your monetary funds have already been transferred into your account. Because of this mission’s level of difficulty, please consider these stones an added bonus.”
She reached out and ran her fingertips across the minerals’ cool surfaces.
“Theo,” Mina breathed, “these are absolutely stunning. They’re also too much. How can I thank you for such splendid gifts?”
“By not retiring just yet.”
She froze, hoping she’d misheard him.
“I’m sorry, sir. Could you please repeat that?”