Authors: Glenn van Dyke,Renee van Dyke
Ashlyn moved slowly through her stateroom, lost in thought. Holding the sword in front of her, she looked at it with sadness. She’d only possessed the sword for a few hours, and she already hated it. It represented death. Ashlyn knew she could never look at it again without remembering the lives she had taken. She set the sword down, leaning it on the wall beside the bed.
Removing her bracelets and setting them atop the dresser, Ashlyn peeled back the blanket on the bed, and climbed between the sheets. The bed felt too large—too empty. Her head turned to the side, looking at Steven’s pillow. Taking it, she wrapped her arms around it, holding it tight. An ache spread across her chest.
“Keeper, dim the lights to level 1.”
In the dim light of the room, Ashlyn saw that the sword was radiating a soft white glow from within. Stretching to reach it, she grabbed it and slid it beneath the bed where she couldn’t see it.
Falling back into the bed, her eyes stared up at the ceiling as she thought of Steven. She reached out, letting her mind search for him. Her aura wandered aimlessly, unable to sense him. “Steven? Can you hear me?” The ensuing silence was crushing. Her heart felt the void of the fugue’s absence. His absence told her that he was inside the wormhole and on his way to Hadaesia.
As her eyes closed and she began to yield to sleep she whispered, “Can you forgive me, Steven—because I can’t forgive myself.”
The night passed slowly, nightmares of screaming children haunted her dreams. She was ever thankful for the alarm that awakened her.
“Lady Ninmah, I am sorry to disturb you, but we are nearing the time when we are to meet the Lords. They are beginning to arrive.”
“Thank you, Solon.”
Ashlyn rose and within minutes, she was back on the bridge.
Solon and the others were waiting—all of them armed and ready to accompany her groundside. “The meeting room within the D’kush ziggurat has been secured by Lord Enki’s guards. As you requested, all of the Lords are in attendance. They came alone—and without weapons. They are awaiting your arrival.”
“Let’s do this,” said Ashlyn taking a deep breath.
“Keeper, initiate the Spatial Transporter. Send all of us to the meeting room within the D’kush ziggurat,” ordered Solon. “Initiate security procedures after we leave.”
Ash heard the small initiating hum of the transporter, and her own body lightening as the air molecules evacuated around her. Their bodies faded, then reappeared in the meeting room.
“About time.” Was the first words Ashlyn and her guards heard spoken upon their arrival. Ashlyn’s team spread out, protectively forming a semi-circle around her.
The eyes of the thirteen men at the table instantly locked upon Ashlyn. They had never seen her in this form, and they were drawn to the fullness of her breasts and sensual curves. Her perfection was the most pleasing form they had ever seen in an Anunnaki woman. Her appearance alone had made it worth their time.
“The room is secure,” said the four guards.
“You have lied to us. You say no weapons, and yet you arrive with an armed escort. And where is Lord Enki?” said one of the Lords at the far end of the conference table.
Ashlyn moved past Solon and his team, walking to the head of the table. “Lord Malor, as promised, I have guaranteed your safety. My guards are needed to assure no harm comes to you. The promise will be honored.”
“Enki has no honor,” said Lord Malor in return. “He expects us to give up all that we have built.”
Ashlyn’s jaw tensed, her gaze hardening as she stared at him. “I have missed the sound of your voice, Lord Malor. I once owned an Allurian pig that whined like you.”
All of the Lords in the room chuckled, even those loyal to Enlil.
“I will not exchange words with his inferior woman,” said Malor, his voice displaying disgust.
“If your wife looked so inferior, perhaps you’d stay home more and stop visiting the human brothels,” said Hram, a Lord loyal to Enki.
“But who would satisfy your wife then?” said Malor in return.
Hram jumped up glaring at Malor, his hands knotting into fists.
“Silence, Lord Malor. It is not Enki whom you have disobeyed, but the Council. The decree ordered you to leave this world because of your abuse of power against the people. We created them. They deserve respect and nurturing, not torture and enslavement.”
“They are an abomination. They deserve no respect. We made them, we can destroy them.”
Giving a heavy sigh, Ash began walking, strolling slowly behind the backs of the seated men—dragging her index finger across the top of each chair.
The Lords were impressed by her casual, uninhibited boldness. When she reached the other end of the table and was behind Lord Malor, she came to a stop. The room went silent, intently watching her as she squared her stance behind him. Lord Malor’s eyes were facing forward, not daring to turn around and look at her.
Ashlyn drew the sword from its sheath. Grasping the hilt, the sword hummed to life—its white glow casting his shadow on the table. Malor’s hands closed, clenching into fists. He swallowed. His fearful eyes darted to the men sitting in front of him, looking for a small sign that his fear was unfounded. He did not find it.
Ashlyn put her right foot back, taking an aggressive posture. She hefted the sword. Sensing her readiness to swing, Lord Malor closed his eyes tightly and tucked his head, expecting to be struck down.
Ash swung the sword. Malor screamed as he fell backwards, sprawling awkwardly to the floor. Ash had cut the rear legs off his chair.
“You will be upon your knees for the remainder of this meeting, Pig Malor. Never again will you bear the title of Lord. From this moment on—you will be known to all as Pig Malor.”
“You cannot do such a thing,” said Malor. Scrambling to his feet, he whipped around to face her—his false bravado protesting her humiliation of him.
“Can’t I?” Ash tipped her chin down, her narrowing eyes locked onto his. Stirred by the powers within Ashlyn’s mind, a chill breeze filled the room. Quick, darting glances between the Lords showed their uneasiness. It was almost like a ghost was walking among them, looking for a host to inhabit. It found—Pig Malor. Ashlyn sifted her way into the deep recesses of his mind. Within seconds, she gained control over him.
“Piss yourself, Pig Malor,” said Ashlyn for all to hear.
Malor began to pee. A puddle formed on the floor around his feet.
“And what is the name by which we address you?” asked Ashlyn.
“My name is Pig Malor.”
The Lords all gasped. Whispers were exchanged. From somewhere in the room she heard the whisper of,
“Where is your tail, Pig Malor? I do not see it,” said Ashlyn.
Malor looked behind him and screamed. While reaching around behind himself, trying to find it, he bleated out, “My tail is gone. My tail, my tail.” He spun a circle trying to catch a glimpse of it.
“Enough. You are a tailless pig, Malor. And you will forever be ashamed of it.”
Malor’s eyes lowered to the ground in shame over his missing tail.
“And will you obey the decree issued by the Council, Pig Malor?”
“Yes, I support the decree. I will leave for Heaven immediately. I will apologize to Lord Anu and beg his forgiveness.”
Ashlyn’s head lifted. “Go to your ship, Pig Malor. Return home to gather your family, but leave this day by sunset or you will die.”
A trembling Malor turned and scampered away, his pee filled boots squishing noisily with each step on the stone floor.
Ashlyn, glowing sword in hand, continued her slow walk around the Lords, until she was once again at the head of the table. She threw Solon a glance and motioned him to come closer—where she then handed him the sword.
She turned to her captive audience. “I have but one question for all of you. Will you live this day, or will you die?”
From behind Ashlyn, the sound of blaster fire rang out. Her genetically heightened perceptions sped, allowing her to see everything around her as if it were happening in slow motion.
She saw Tirion at the back of the room, shooting the last of her bodyguards in the back. Solon lay on the ground, badly injured—the Sword of Truth still clutched protectively in his hands. Tara was running toward a dark corner.
The other four guards in the room, Enki’s guards, were trying to shoot Tirion, but their weapons were jammed. Somehow, the assassin had managed to disable them. As the last of Enki’s guards fell, the attacker turned to her. He’d thought her an easy target without the sword—an easy target because she was a woman.
Ashlyn contorted away from a shot sent in her direction, narrowly escaping it. Her quick reflexes helped her to avoid three more blasts as she spun, dove, and whirled away from each.
Enlil’s Lords were taking advantage of the chaos, attacking the outnumbered Lords that were loyal to Enki. Ashlyn caught a glimpse of them snapping the neck of Lord Bolten, Enki’s dearest friend. The Keeper had given Ashlyn so much information that she couldn’t help but think of Lord Bolten’s six children living in the nearby city of Ur. It felt like she knew them all.
More than a dozen people lay dead around the room. The ziggurat had become a tomb for them, a tomb of gods. The torches were throwing a shimmering golden light on the walls, floor, and table—calling attention to the splatters of dripping blood upon them.
Ashlyn touched the center of her pendant, activating her armor. It was none too soon as a blast struck her in the back. Ashlyn barely felt it.
She rose slowly, ominously. She turned around to face the wide-eyed attacker. Seeing her clad in black armor, he took a step back. Raising the gun, he aimed it at her head. Ash wagged a finger at him mockingly, as he took shot after shot. Ashlyn bent and pulled the sword from Solon’s hands, her grasp bringing the sword to life.
Ashlyn stood stalwart between Enlil’s men and the door, blocking their path. With the failed assignation attempt, their lives were now forfeit. Exchanging glances told Ashlyn what was about to happen. As one, the men charged at her, hoping that at least some might escape.
In a blur of motion, Ashlyn reeling and spinning, she moved through them, the sword taking them down. Not a one had laid a hand on her. As the last man came at her, she took him by the throat and lifted him off the ground. Only a second passed before she snapped his neck and let his body crumple to the ground—his dead eyes staring at the ceiling.
“Who are you?” Ash said to the assassin.
The man who had taken the form of Tirion, tapped a small button on a device about his wrist, deactivating the dampening field. Her attacker then shifted, taking the form of a young Anunnaki male.
“I am El’adin, Enlil’s son. I do not recognize the authority of Enki’s whore.” He spat on the ground.
“Like father, like son.” With her armor’s enhanced strength, Ashlyn pushed the large table aside, clearing the space between them. Moving forward, each step deliberate and resounding, she closed the distance. Ash raised the sword high off her shoulder, her two hands tight on the hilt, ready to strike.
El’adin shook his head. “Go ahead. Today, I bring honor to my father.” He then pushed a red flashing button on his wrist device.
Outside, Ashlyn heard a small explosion—followed by several more in quick succession. The building rumbled and shook as the concussion waves struck the ziggurat.
El’adin knelt and closed his eyes. “The sons of the Lords will rule Tiamat from this day onward, and my father will rule them all.”
Ashlyn brought the sword down, making a quick figure eight pattern. If not for El’adin’s severed forearms falling to the ground, so clean was the slice that it would have appeared that the sword had missed him entirely. But from between the thin lines that crisscrossed his body, blood started to seep out. His shoulders began to separate—each slowly sliding off each side of his chest. His eyes went wide, his face panic stricken as his head began to slip and tilt, following his right shoulder to the ground. His decapitated torso was spurting and bubbling blood into the air from the exposed lungs. Ashlyn poked the torso in the chest with her sword, toppling it backwards.
The explosions outside were growing more frequent, louder, stronger. Ashlyn realized that the red button, El’adin had pushed, had set off a bomb, destroying Destiny.
Dust was falling heavily from the ceiling of the ancient stone structure. Grabbing Solon by the feet, Ash dragged him into the corner where Tara was cowering. If there was any safety to be found at all, it would be in the corner, against the wall. Trying to protect them as best she could, Ash positioned herself like a shield over them.
Destiny exploded in a blast that shook the world around them. The ziggurat shuddered violently. One of the large stone blocks in the ceiling dislodged and came crashing down atop the table, shattering it.
Even deep inside the ziggurat, a strong blast of wind and heat found its way through the winding tunnels, blowing the torches out. Bathed in darkness, the automated twin lights atop Ashlyn’s helmet came to life.
Ashlyn’s stomach churned, as she pictured the unimaginable horrors taking place outside. Of little consolation, Ashlyn knew that for most, their death had been instant—without pain. But she also knew that there would be others on the outskirts of the city, perhaps thousands of others, that were suffering. Her imagination pictured all the horrifying details. Her thoughts drifted to the boats she’d seen in the harbor heading out to sea, and she wondered if they had been able to escape.
In the heavy dust, the light from her helmet casting spectral looking shadows upon the walls, Ash looked at Solon. He was unconscious; his wound serious. Ash gazed around the room.
“Tara, get me the torch over there.” Touching the pendant, Ash closed her armor. The light from her helmet disappeared.
Calling upon the flames, Ashlyn lit the torch that Tara was holding.
“Can you heal him?” asked Tara.
“I think so.” Kneeling beside Solon, she called upon the healing energy within. It came quicker this time and much easier. As Enki had told Ninmah in the beginning, she was just
As Solon became filled with the light emanating from within Ashlyn, his eyes opened. He could feel his wounds healing and his strength returning. Ash held his hand until she felt the healing power fade.
Solon looked up, his eyes grateful for what she had done. Though still weak, with a little help, he managed to sit up. Putting his finger into the hole of his leathers, he touched the area where his wound had been.