Far From Home

 
Ancient Wars
Months have gone by.
When I left the Veezal, I went back to the star where the captured probe was last seen.
Since then, I’ve searched through many of the inhabited worlds along this arm of the galaxy.
The worlds here are unsophisticated technologically, and know little of energy ways.
Many have stories or ruins of an older civilization.
The ruins I’ve found are contaminated with radiation.
There was a devastating war here, a long time ago.

At least I have a name for the enemy: Kizak.
It’s the word that Dilasa heard in her last vision, the name of the pink-skinned humanoids.
They have a large empire, and their ships visit the worlds here.
None of the creatures in this corner of the galaxy are part of the empire.
Some wish they could join, but the empire has no desire to include their poor worlds.

When I approach a planet, the AI deciphers one or more languages and teaches them to me in an accelerated simulation.
Then I take the form of one of the local creatures.

When I meet with the natives, I speak with them about the empire.
Then I show them an image of the strange, tall aliens that Dilasa saw caged in her vision.
The reaction is always the same.
They won’t speak of the demons.
After that, they won’t speak with me, either.

Finally, on one world, I meet with a group of large, bird-like creatures, and show them the image.
Most of the group scowls at me, and turns away.
A few are happy, even excited by my questions, but they keep silent.

I leave them all, and take a Gen form for speed.
My energy senses scan the planet, looking for more information on the alien.
I find an ancient temple, accessible through hidden caves.
Within it is a life-size statue of the alien, and an energy imprint of the alien pattern body.

I search for one of the locals who was happy when I mentioned the alien.
I sneak into his house.

“Who are you, and why do you enter my nest?”

“I’m the one who asked about the tall ones.”
“You know more than you’re willing to say.”

“You’re a fool, and your foolishness will soon be over.”
“I want no part of your trouble.”

I flow myself into the alien form.
He gasps, and a moment later he bows down to me.

The natural form of the Madar is black and smooth, about eight feet tall.
Their bodies are made of, or covered with, a tough, flexible material, more like cartilage than skin.
They have two thick legs, and a wide upper body with two pairs of arms, and manta-like great fins that spread out from their backs like a wide cloak.
Each pair of hands and feet has thirteen digits, seven on one side, and six on the other.
Their eyes are blood red.

“You are Madar, and free?”

“I am a cousin to Madar, from a distant place, and I search for them.”

He speaks openly now, but looks frequently at the door of his house, as though someone will enter at any time.
“Some of us still worship the image of the Madar, and hope they will return.”

“Why will no one speak of them?”

“The Madar are feared by all, but so are the Kizak.”
“No one except the Kizak are allowed to speak of Madar, on pain of death.”

Still, he speaks to me.

“For thousands of years, the Madar ruled in peace.”
“We called them the people of three faces, for they always traveled in groups of three.”
“One day, everything changed.”
“Each Madar walked alone, and turned wild and violent, bringing war and death to their worlds.

“A few hundred Madar remain, imprisoned among the Kizak.”
“When the red ones go to war, a Madar goes with them on the command ship, imprisoned in a crystal cube.”
“One, but never more than one.”
“Wild Madar are the empire’s symbol of Kizak strength and peace, since it was the Kizak who overcame them, and stopped the violence.”
“The red ones used a weapon called the cage that blocks Madar magic.”

The Kizak probes have attacked the web on Siksa and nearby worlds, using the weapon.

I don’t understand.
This part of the galaxy was the center of the war, yet the webs are untouched here!
Maybe the damage to the web wears off over time.
I can’t reach the minds of the inhabitants, but otherwise, my energy abilities are normal.
My energy sight is clear, and my listener is strong.

It has been centuries since the Madar were conquered, and the legends about them continue to grow.
It’s impossible to know which parts of the stories are true.
Still, it’s clear that the Madar can change shape.

The bird-man pulls an ancient manuscript from a hiding place in the wall, and shows me an ancient drawing of the Madar.
The creature stands on a great stone platform, wearing a black necklace with Sindar’s symbol on it.

“What is that necklace?”

“Something holy among the Madar.”
“Their high priest wore it a few times a year.”

“Where is it now?”

“The necklace was hidden away when it wasn’t worn, but the high priest tried to reach it when the Kizak attacked.”
“She almost had it in her hands when she was killed.”
“We believe that the Kizak took it when they killed the high priest.”
“Some say that it rests on the bottom of the ocean on the Kizak homeworld.”

“Where is the Madar homeworld?”

“They fought each other, and left it in ruins.”
“When the Kizak came, they shattered the planet.”
“Not even a stone remains.”

“One more question.”
“What happened to the Madar to make them turn violent?”

“Some kind of madness.”
“Perhaps a disease that only affects your people.”

“Go now,” he adds.
“You’re in great danger!”
“In the last few months, word spreads of strangers on many worlds who ask about the Madar, yet don’t know their name.”
“The Kizak are wise.”
“They have heard the stories, and they say that there is one stranger who takes many forms, a Madar.”
“They will find you, and cage you like your cousins.”

“It has taken them months to become aware of me.”
“I’ll be gone before they know that I was here.”

“No.”
“There are communication devices on this world, and many others, to contact the Kizak.”
“A week ago, they sent a message, promising a reward for the capture of any stranger who asks after the Madar.”
“Someone will seek the reward, and the Kizak will take your magic.”
“Go while you can!”

His face twists into a pained expression.
“It’s too late, master!” he shouts.
“Don’t you feel it?!”

So tired.
I know that I can’t flow or fly anymore.
Still, I’m able to raise my mind wall to protect me from the madness.

“It’s the cage, master.”
“They’ve brought it back.”
“My people are sensitive to magic though we have no skill with it.”
“That’s why we were such loyal servants to the masters in the old days.”
“How will you escape without magic?”

“I have other ways,” I tell him.
I remove a small disk from a waist pack, and signal the ship.
The AI lands in a courtyard behind the house, keeping the ship invisible.

“Take this,” says the bird-man.
“Star charts showing the Kizak homeworld.”

I squeeze into the ship and close the door.
“Get us out of this star system!” I tell the AI.
The healthy web surrounds me, and I change form as we leave the atmosphere.

We pass a large ship orbiting the planet.
It turns, and fires on us.
The shields hold long enough for us to get a safe distance from the planet, and activate the star drive.

 
Images
Keela walks with Berek along a quiet forest path.
“Is there any word from your father?” she asks.

“No,” answers Berek quietly.
“Six months have passed.”

“He searches for a powerful enemy,” says Keela.
“It will take time to find and approach the enemy, and more time to carefully discover his secrets.”

“You’re right, Keela, but I worry.”

“Of course.”
“He’s your father.”

“How is Ilaz?” asks Berek, changing the subject.

“The same.”
“His mind is sharp, and he is happy, but he remembers little of his old life.”
“I fear that his memories will never return.”

“Does it matter so much?”
“Ilaz is still your brother, and he can learn again about his family and Tshuan ways.”

“It shouldn’t bother me, but he’s so different.”
“This Ilaz is excited about becoming king someday.”
“His personality is nothing like what I remember.”
“The old Ilaz never told my father, but he didn’t want to be king.”
“He planned to let me rule instead.”

“It’s been a long time.”

“Yes, but I thought there would be some trace of the brother that I knew.”

“How else is he different?”

“He sits for hours, and draws intricate pictures of Tshuan.”
“The other Ilaz loved to be outside, and his handwriting was horrible!”

“What does your father think?”

“He’s concerned as I am.”

“Have either of you spoken to Ilaz?”

“No.”
“We wouldn’t bother Ilaz with these thoughts.”
“He has suffered enough.”

A sweet song surrounds them, and Keela stops walking.

“Do you hear it, Berek?” she whispers.

“Of course.”
“What is it?”

“Shh!”
“Be as quiet as you can.”
“It’s extremely rare, and avoids Jiku.”

They continue slowly along the path, and Keela stops by a huge patch of flowers.
The flowers have a dark red center, with yellow and purple bands of color around the edge.
A beautiful creature hovers over the flowers, watching us.
It looks like a cross between a praying mantis and a hummingbird.
Its mouth is closed, yet the song continues.

The mouth then opens wide, and, images stream out, circling around the creature.
Images from memory, colors, and shapes all mix together and spin around it.
One shape rises out of the mixture, clear and sharp: Sindar’s symbol.

Keela’s eyes grow wide in surprise.

The creature moves toward us.
“Is it dangerous?” whispers Berek.

“No,” says Keela.
“It’s not afraid, so we can speak normally.”
“Let’s see what it does.”

“What’s it called?”

“Liwah.”
“Seeing one is a sign of good fortune.”
“How wonderful that it displayed the royal symbol!”
“Good things will come to the kingdom.”

The images stop, but the Liwah continues to approach Berek.
He holds up his left palm, just below eye level.
The creature lands on his hand, and stares.

“Good day, Liwah,” says Berek.
“I’m a visitor in your beautiful forest.”
“Thank you for welcoming me.”

Berek sings to the creature, and it continues to watch him.
When he finishes, the Liwah opens its mouth, and shows one more image: the black necklace with the royal symbol.

“It looks like my father’s necklace,” says Berek, “except for the symbol.”
“My father gave it to me.”
“I was supposed to carry it as a shield for some future battle, but it’s gone.”

“The Liwah showed you the royal necklace, Berek.”
“It’s also called the shield.”

The creature rises from Berek’s palm, and hovers in front of Keela for a moment, before it flies away so quickly, that it seems to vanish.

“What a wonderful creature!” says Berek.
“How many of them are there in Tshuan?”

“No one knows,” says Keela.
“One is seen every thirty or forty years.”
“Come, Berek.”
“My father will want to hear of this!”

She activates her armband, leaps into the air, and flies toward the royal compound.
Berek follows.

The king is standing outside when they land, but he is lost in thought, and barely notices them.

“Father,” says Keela, “I have great news.”

The king shakes off his sadness, and focuses on them.
“Tell me.”

“We saw a Liwah.”

“A Liwah?!”

“Yes, in the king’s forest.”
“It showed us the royal symbol.”
“Then it landed on Berek’s palm, and it showed him the black necklace with the royal sign.”
“Isn’t it wonderful?”

“Come inside,” says the king, his face troubled.

“I thought you would be happy, father!” says Keela, after they enter the King’s office and close the door.

“I am happy, Keela.”
“Seeing the Liwah is always a blessing, and its promises come quickly.”
“Still, we must look to the images to see what sort of blessing it brings.”

“The necklace is a weapon.”
“The Liwah blesses the kingdom, but most of all it blesses the two of you for success in war.”
“War must be very close, a difficult war, full of death.”
“The two of you, at least, will survive.”

The king leads them to a small room, a sort of elevator that brings them to a cavern.
Then they walk down a long hallway and enter a room at the end.
The room is plain, except for a glowing red circle on the floor in the center of the room.
A box of clear crystal floats five feet above the circle.
The king’s black necklace is visible inside.

“Where are we, commander?” asks Berek.

“An old place,” says the king.
“I brought your father here once.”
“Touch the case, Berek.”

Berek reaches out, but the case opens before he touches it.
The necklace floats up, and comes to rest around his neck.

“Berek!” says Keela.
No one handles the necklace without my father’s permission.”

“You didn’t move it, did you, Berek?” asks the king.

“No,” he answers, reaching for the necklace to put it back.

“Keep it,” says the king.

“Father?” asks Keela.

“First the Liwah shows him the necklace, and now the necklace itself goes to him, Keela.”
He must guard it now.”

“Berek’s not part of the royal family!”

“You’re wrong.”
“Master Yagrin and his children have royal blood, the same as us.”

“What else is in this cavern, commander?” asks Berek.

“Keela will tell you what we know of it, and show you how to enter.”

“Do we give him all our secrets, father?!”

“Do as I say, Keela.”
“I won’t discuss it!”
He leads them out of the cavern, and back to the surface.

 
Secrets
The king sits alone at his desk, and looks at one of Ilaz’s drawings.
It shows a large public plaza, and a tall building.

A voice comes out of the desk.
“The girl is here.”

“Bring her in.”

He smiles when Tzina enters, and motions for her to sit.
“You sent for me, commander?”

“How do you find life in Tshuan, Tzina?”

“Your ways are different than ours, commander, and I miss the guild lands.”
“Still, my family is here now, and I’m happy to be teaching in the school.”

“What about your sister?”

“Dilasa loves it here.”

“I’m happy that she and Keela have become good friends.”

“They’re more than friends, commander”
“Keela treats her like a sister, and they’re inseparable.”

“Keela always wanted a little sister,” says the king.

“Dilasa is young, commander, but it’s hard to think of her as a child!”

“You’re right.”
“She’s so full of strength, like your father.”

“Yes,” answers Tzina quietly.

“Is there any message from him?”

“No, but he said that he won’t travel back and forth.”
“He’ll return after he finds a way to stop our enemies.”

Quiet settles on them.

“Commander, you called me here for a reason, not to talk.”

“You’re right.”
“I appreciate your directness.”
“I called you here for Ilaz.”

“Is he all right?”

“No.”
“I want you to look at his thoughts, and see if you find anything strange.”

“Commander, Ilaz can never be completely normal.”
“You know that we left part of his mind sealed away.”
“He seems surprisingly happy, considering all he has gone through.”

“Yes,” agrees the king, “but something is wrong.”
“He’s not my son!”

“Look at these,” he adds, as he passes her several drawings.
“Every one of these is a perfect image of what he sees as he lives in Tshuan.”
“He adds nothing.”
“Every tree, plant, and person is exactly what passes before him.”

“He’s talented, commander.”

“Why does he always sit and draw?” asks the king.
My Ilaz was so active, always rushing to do something.”

“I understand how you feel, commander, but is this what troubles you?”

“I asked him to imagine and draw scenes from ancient times when Tshuan ruled the world.”

“I can only draw what I see, father,” he said, “nothing more, nothing less.”

“Tzina, I cringe inside when he calls me father.”

“Why?”

“For many years before the accident, Ilaz called me commander, not father.”
“I know it seems strange to you, but it’s relatively common in the royal family.”
“Still, when Ilaz said the word, he said it with love, as though he was saying father.”
“The new Ilaz calls me father, but there is no love in his voice.”

The king passes Tzina two more drawings.
“I found these pictures, hidden away in his room.”
“If he refuses to draw from his imagination, Tzina,” asks the king, “then where do these come from?”

Tzina gasps, as she looks at the color sketches of an alien world, with pink-skinned beings, and the tall, black aliens.

“What’s wrong?” asks the king.

“The drawings show the aliens that threaten Siksa.”
“How could he see this?”

“Who knows, but we have to find out!”

“It’s deeply wrong to go into someone’s mind without permission.”

“Do we have a choice?”

“No.”

 
Refugee
Tzina finds Ilaz in an open room, empty except for a few of the king’s guards.
He’s sitting and drawing.
There are several finished sketches on the large table.

“Hello, Tzina.”

“Hi, Ilaz.”
“What are you drawing today?”

He shows her beautiful drawings of first light, and a nearby garden.

“Your sketches are amazing.”
“My brother and I also love art.”

“Really?” asks Ilaz, excited.
“Can you show me something that you’ve done?”

She shows Ilaz images of sculptures.

“Beautiful,” he says,
“It’s wonderful how you use energy.”
“I want to become a master of flow, someday, but I’ll have to leave Tshuan to do it.”

“The king wouldn’t approve.”

“No,” says Ilaz, sadly.
“He wouldn’t.”

Tzina only touches the surface of his mind, knowing that it’s dangerous to go alone into a broken mind.
“I’ll have to get him upset,” thinks Tzina, “so his thoughts come to the surface.”

She takes out the sketches of the aliens.

“Where did you get these?”

“Your father found them.”

I can’t be found out!
Where would I go?

“Tell me, Ilaz, where you saw these creatures!”

“I’ve never seen them.”
“I made them up.”

“Your father says that you only like to draw what you see.”

“I lied.”
“I thought he would be happier if he thinks that I don’t get too lost in my imagination.”

“You’re lying now, Ilaz.”
“I can tell.”
“These are dangerous creatures, and they’re coming here.”
“You’ve got to tell me what you know!”

“Kizak and Madar coming here?” shouts Ilaz.
“They’ll ruin everything.”

Tzina sees a memory of the alien world move through Ilaz’s mind.
She sees through the eyes of someone short, young.
He speaks in a strange language.
Finally, the view turns to a mirror, and she sees a pink-skinned boy, the same one who caught on fire, and disappeared.

“You can’t lie anymore.”
“I see your thoughts.”
“You’re the boy who caught fire!”
“How did you get here?”

“It’s not my fault,” he says.
“I come from a horrible place.”
“They hate everyone who has energy talent.”
“I was desperate to leave, and then the energy built up, and my body caught on fire.”

“I don’t know how I did it, but I came here, and entered this new body.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

“You killed his spirit.”

“No.”
“We were both trapped within the body, until someone freed me.”

“Time to go.”
“Ilaz needs his life back.”

“What life?
“His mind is broken.”
“Ilaz was a highly physical person, and never developed his imagination.”
“He couldn’t take being locked up inside for so long.”
“I was different.
“I spent most of my time as a child running away from the outside world, my father and his wars!”
“That’s how my mind survived that prison.”
“Where should I go, Tzina?” he adds, with a cry in his voice.
“Do you have another body for me?”
“Let me leave Tshuan, and go where no one knows me.”
“I won’t hurt anyone.”

“I can’t let you do that.”
“We freed your mind, and we can put you back where you were.”

He takes off the inhibitor armband, and throws an unfocused blast of energy at her.
He’s strong, but unskilled.
Still, she barely raises a shield in time.

The guards fire on him, and stun him.
He slumps to the floor.

“Lock an inhibitor on him, and call the king,” says Tzina.

 
Revealed
“What do we do, commander?” asks Tzina.
“I can’t free Ilaz without my father’s help!”

“I have a way to drive out the alien, but first we get information.”

The king leads Tzina into a room where the alien is tied up.
“Untie me, father.”
“She’s lying to you.”
“How could I be an alien?”
“Haven’t I suffered enough?”

“Tzina tells me that you came here through no fault of your own.”

“Yes.”

“Tell me about your people, and I won’t harm you.”

“What about Ilaz?”

“Tzina says that his mind is broken.”
“What good will it do me to put him back in control of his body?”
“You are far more useful to me.”

“You’ll trade your son for information about your enemies?” asks Tzina.

“Ilaz is already dead, caught forever in madness.”
“I must protect my people.”

Tzina glares at the king, but the alien relaxes.

“What’s your name?” asks the king.

“Harkus.”

“Tell me about your people, and how they conquer other worlds.”

Harkus speaks about the Kizak empire, and the weapons they use to weaken the connection with the energy web.

“Can the effect be reversed?” asks Tzina.

“Yes, but I’m not a tech.”
“I don’t know how it works.”

“How do we stop the attack?”

“You can surrender and let them take over the planet, but they’ll still put the cage on the web.”

“Cage?”

“That’s what they call the weapon that stops you from using the energy web.”

“Will they harm anyone?”

“Mostly those who resist, but they often kill the planet’s rulers, and their families.”

“What about the energy masters?”

“The Kizak find that on rare occasions, the cage doesn’t completely block a master’s power.”
“The army will typically execute the hundred greatest masters and their families.”

“What more can you tell us?”

“That’s all I know.”
“I was never interested in war.”

“Thank you for your help,” says the commander.
“We may have more questions for you later.”
“Where will you go when I free you?”

“Some place far from the cities where the Kizak will never find me.”

An old Tshuan man enters the room.

“Who is he?” asks Harkus.

“Just an old soldier,” says the king.
“He was one of my teachers when I was young.”

“Should I release the inhibitor?” asks the king.

“Yes,” says the old man.
“He can’t leave if it stays on.”

Harkus is surprised, but pleased that they’re letting him go.

The king releases the armband, and Harkus feels a great pain in his head.

“What’s happening,” he asks.
“What did the armband do to me?”

Then he realizes that the old man is doing something to drive him out of the body!

“Why is he still here?” asks the king.

“The web is too slow,” says the old man.
“I need more time.”

Harkus sends a wide blast of energy at the old man.
The master crumples, and the king with him.
Tzina is stunned, but her shield blocks most of it.

The guards fire at Harkus, but this time he has a crude shield ready to protect himself.
He flies out of the detention building, and disappears into the royal forest.

When Tzina regains her senses, she sees the king on the floor, with Keela and Berek standing by him.
“How is he?” she asks.

“He’s gone,” says Berek.

“Dead?!” asks Tzina.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t he tell me what he was planning?”
“I could have helped him.”

One of the guards steps forward.
“The commander wanted you to be shocked when he offered the alien his freedom.”
“He thought it would convince the alien that the offer was genuine.”
“It should only take a few seconds to cast out the traveler.”

“You could have told the sisters or Shazira so they could help if the plan failed!” shouts Keela.

“The king suggested it to his council, but they advised him not to put his trust in energy masters.”

“Fools,” says Keela, her eyes full of anger.
She pulls a knife and leaps at the guard.

Berek pulls her back.
“Let me go, Berek!”
“The guards failed to protect my father.”
“They deserve death!”

Berek spins her around, and looks her in the eyes.
“Keela,” he says quietly.
“They only followed the commander’s orders.”
“Save your anger for the one who killed your father.”

Keela’s wipes away the tears from her eyes.

“We’ll go together,” says Berek, “and hunt for your father’s killer.”

“Ilaz is still alive inside that body,” says Tzina.

“Yes,” says Keela, “but the alien must be stopped.”
She and Berek fly away.

 
Revenge
“Are you all right, Keela?” asks Berek, as they land outside the forest.

“I’ve been trained to push everything else aside when I have a mission, Berek.”
“There’s no time to grieve now.”
“We have to find the alien.”

“Harkus has strange energy patterns in his fire body, and I’ve tried to scan for them.”
“His shield blocks my view.”

“Then our equipment won’t see him either,” says Keela.
“How do we find him?”

The forest is already surrounded by guards.
Their captain approaches Keela, and bows.

“Princess, I suggest we send guards into the forest, and search every area.”
“Sooner or later, we’ll flush him out.”

A dozen of the sisters land, along with Tzina, Shazira, and Dilasa.
“Why are you here?” asks Keela.

“We’ve heard that the alien has energy abilities,” says Shazira.
“You may need our help to capture him.”
“We’ll position ourselves in the sky above the forest, so he can’t escape that way.”

“Keep your men outside of the forest,” says Berek.
“If they spread out inside the forest, the alien could easily kill many of them.”
“I’ll send him to you.”

Keela takes hold of Berek.
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” she tells him.

Berek smiles.
“Save your sympathy for him.”

“The area over the forest will be dangerous,” says Berek to the sisters and the guards.
“Stay in the air if you wish, but not over the trees.”
Some of the guards take up positions on the ground outside the forest.
Others hover in the air.
Keela joins the guards in the air.
The forest is large, so the guards and sisters are twenty to thirty feet apart.
“We can’t be sure of the strength of his shield,” says Shazira.
“It will probably hold up against the fire of a few weapons, but not dozens.”
“If you see him, message everyone with his position, so we can attack him together.”

Berek shapes a powerful hand weapon, and gives it to Keela, as she hovers.

“I have a weapon, Berek.”

“This is more powerful than anything in Tshuan, though it has limited range.”
“It may be able to penetrate an energy shield.”

“Where did you get it?”

“There’s no time to explain.”
“Be careful.”
“The alien will be desperate when he flies out of the forest.”
“It may make him careless, but he won’t hesitate to kill anyone in his way.”

Berek expects to have trouble raising a storm, but the weakness in the web doesn’t effect him today.
He spreads his listener on the web and touches the balance of the planet.
A lightning storm suddenly appears in the clear sky, directly over the forest.

The air is full of lightning strikes, all landing in the forest.
The guards stare in wonder at the boy who commands the storm.

Berek circles the edge of the forest, staying focused on keeping the lightning inside the boundary.

“Southwest,” cries a voice over the message disks that they all carry.
Everyone surrounds Harkus, with Berek taking a position next to Keela.
They all start firing at him.
His shield holds, and even reflects some of the energy back, killing a few of the guards.
Berek surrounds Keela with his own shield, but it prevents her from firing on Harkus.

“Don’t protect me,” she says, “if it means that I can’t fight him.”
Berek frees her from his shield.

Harkus starts screaming.
“Let me go!” he says.
“I just want to be left alone!”

Keela fires, and Harkus’s shield almost falls.
He flies straight up, pushing aside the guards with his energy shield.
The army pursues him, but soon fall behind.
The armbands can’t match his speed.
“Where is Berek?” wonders Keela to herself.
“Is he afraid to fight?”

The sisters and Berek’s family are no faster than the armbands, with the web as it is, and the group slows down as they tire.

Berek comes from behind and grabs Keela.

“Where were you?” she asks.

“I had to dissolve the storm, before it destroyed the forest, or any nearby villages.”
He holds on to Keela, and accelerates after Harkus, able to match and exceed his speed.

After a few hundred miles, the alien begins to slow down, as he loses his strength.
They are far from land, and Harkus grows frightened when he sees nothing but water.

Berek surrounds Harkus with seawater, cutting off his supply of Oxygen.
He watches with energy eyes for the collapse of the shield.
Harkus faints, but doesn’t fall.
Berek stops fifteen feet away.

“I’ve bound him to the web,” says Berek, returning the water back to the sea.
“He won’t fall until I release him.”

“Won’t he wake, now that he can breathe?”

“I’ve covered him with a layer of CO2, so he can’t breathe or wake.”

Keela pulls away from Berek.
“I can finally kill him, except now that he’s quiet, I can imagine that it’s Ilaz.”

Berek feels something hot against his chest.
It’s the necklace that he wears beneath his robe.
He pulls it out, and sees that Sindar’s symbol is glowing.

“Why are you handling the necklace, Berek?” she asks.

“I have an idea,” he answers.
“Don’t kill him yet.”

The necklace shines with a strange, black light.
Berek pulls at the light, shaping it into seven black spheres of energy that expand and contract, as though a heart was beating within them.
Then he throws each sphere at Ilaz’s body, filling the energy centers, one at a time.

The body convulses, and Berek sees a faint image of a red-skinned man for a moment.
Then the alien’s energy spreads out along the web and disappears.

Berek surrounds the body with pure oxygen, and pushes it into the lungs.
Ilaz starts breathing again, but stays quiet.

“What did you do?” asks Keela.

“I drove out the alien.”
“He’s dead.”

“Then why doesn’t Ilaz wake?”

“Tzina bound his spirit, and only she can release it.”
“Message her and the sisters to meet us at the school, but don’t expect too much.”
“Harkus wasn’t lying when he said the Ilaz’s mind is twisted.”
“I can feel his anger and hate, even with the walls that surround his spirit.”

Keela also messages the guards, and tells them what has happened.
Tshuan airships arrive, and the guards carry Ilaz onto a ship.

“Will you honor us, princess,” asks the ship’s captain, “and join us to bring your brother home?”

“I can’t.”
“I’ve failed my father.”
“Tradition demands that I kill his murderer, and I did not.”
“My presence brings no honor today!”

“You are the king’s heir,” says the captain, “and as heir you have first right to the kill, but only Master Berek could kill the murderer, and keep your brother alive.”
“There is no dishonor in that.”
“Besides, a kill by any member of the royal family satisfies tradition, and Master Berek is your blood relative.”
“Please join us, commander.”

“We’ll come with you,” she says at last, “but don’t call me that.”
“I’m not your queen until the ceremony.”

“True, you are not yet queen,” says the captain, “but you are the commander.”
“We followed you once into battle, and we’ll follow you, again.”


Empire of Stone -- 2: Lost SonsPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. King’s Son
  2. Lost Courage
  3. Far From Home
  4. Dreams of Life and Death
  5. Children of Fire
  6. Prisons of the Mind
  7. Beyond Darkness and Light
  8. Death of a Child
  9. Truth and Lies
  10. Fear of the Wild
  11. Sweet Waters

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