Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga) (13 page)

BOOK: Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga)
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“I have to go—there is a battle looming.”

“A battle?”

“Yes. Staf is planning an invasion.” He pulled her deeper into the room, his lips close to her ear. “There is a traitor.”

“Who?” Tulani searched his face.

“Chanter Brault.”

“The chanter!” Tulani whispered. “Have you arrested him?”

V’sair pressed his fingers over her sensitive lips. “Not yet. We are waiting to flush out his accomplices. We are not sure where or when the invasion starts, but we are mobilizing.”

“I am scared.”

V’sair cupped her face. “One last battle and then we will be divided no more, not Darracian, not Quyroo. You and I”—he kissed her deeply—“will unite the planet and bring forth an age of peace and prosperity.”

“But the battle…”

“Will be over and the threat gone. We will prevail, Tulani.” He kissed her thoroughly, leaving her knees weak, her heart beating a frantic tattoo. She watched
his broad shoulders longingly as he left the room.

She touched her bee-stung lips, the taste of him lingering.

“How do you know?” she managed to ask the empty room after he left.

Chapter 18

Staf watched Darracia fill the screen as they entered the planet’s atmosphere.

“We arrive,” he said with satisfaction.

Lothen stood impatiently. “We have hours yet. I am waiting to hear from my contact. It is time to introduce you to Geva.”

It had been cold between the two leaders since they captured Zayden. Lothen simmered about the remark Staf had made. Plantans had an excess of pride that rankled him. They walked together toward a room beyond Lothen’s quarters.

It was larger than Staf expected. A caldron stood in the front, bloodstains dripping down it’s sides. Lothen motioned for Staf to stand next to him. Covering his face with his webbed hands, Lothen called out with weird clicks of his tongue, sounding much like the giant fish that swam in the Hixom Sea. The room was freezing, the frost clouding before
their lips. A keening wail sounding like one hundred voices answered Lothen’s call, filling the room so loudly that Staf covered his ears. Lights flashed; electric charges similar to jagged lightning sparked around the room followed by kettle-like clanging, so loud it hurt Staf’s ears. It vibrated through his entire body, thumping in time to his startled heart. Staf was afraid he’d never hear again.

Lothen pulled out an
x
-shaped dagger and slit his palm from one end to another. His eyes were so glazed they appeared white. He held his hand in the air, cocked his head, and turned to Staf. Swiftly, without warning, he grabbed Staf’s palm, slicing quickly, opening it as well. Staf hissed with pain, and would have slapped him, but the Plantan pressed their palms together. Instantly, they sizzled, and the room filling with the odor of burned flesh. A charge coursed between their bodies, sending them into a vortex of exquisite pain. Staf saw himself from outside his body, levitating, hand pressed to hand, as they began to spin in a dizzying circle. The room
erupted into a kaleidoscope of neon colors, the light penetrating his retina to stain his brain. He heard wild laughter, wondering whose it was, and considered that this far exceeded any graphen vision he’d experienced. As they slowed, a black cloud gathered above them to settle over their heads, lazily changing into the shape of a woman, her head covered with a nest of squirming snakes. She had bottomless black pits for eyes, and a mouth with hundreds of sharp, pointed teeth. Staf closed his eyes from the pain of the scorched palms. He expected the vision to disappear when he reopened them. He heard her laughter first; it was an evil thing, raking through his head, clutching his heart. Staf’s knees weakened, and his legs would have buckled if Lothen had not held him up.

“He is one of us, Geva.” Lothen spoke triumphantly.

“Staf Nuen,” it said, the voice a nasal whine. “We have waited for you to join our legions.”

He felt the hot gaze of the monster on his face. “You
are a welcome addition to our army,” she added. “The dark forces have been waiting for you.”

Staf was speechless. He stared open mouthed, no words coming out.

“Kiss him, Lothen. Give him the kiss of Geva.” The thing glowed red, the snakes on her head hissing and spitting.

Lothen grabbed his face, kissing him full on the lips. Staf felt his breath sucked out of his mouth, his body emptying completely. His knew his blood was gone, his bones so brittle that if touched they would turn to dust. His head was hollow, his skin a dry shell covering his depleted body. From sightless eyes, he watched Geva grow until she took up the entire room. Lothen still held his face, his palms caressing his numb cheeks, an evil smile on his face. Taking a deep breath, he felt himself fill up with the fetid air and knew he was back, but something was different.

“You and I are one,” Lothen told him. “Your soul belongs to Geva. We will rule the galaxy in her
name.” He released Staf, whose boneless body weakly leaned against a wall.

Lothen turned to the revolting creature. “Thy will is done.” He knelt reverently. Glancing up at Staf, he said plainly, “Kneel, kneel to your new goddess and know in her hands is your destiny.”

Chapter 19

“What happened?” Zayden groaned as he sat up. “Did I pass out?”

“Like a little girl.” Denita rolled her eyes. “You better?”

Zayden got up slowly and rolled off the cot to examine the door for a way out.

“Yes, we have to get out of here.”

“My sister is going to get us out.”

“How do you know?” Zayden walked the perimeters of the room looking for escape routes.

“She’s my sister; she is eminently resourceful,” Denita told him, as if that would be enough.

Zayden hauled himself up to open a vent. It was stuck fast. He searched the room looking for something to pry it open.

“What do you need?” Denita asked.

“Something sharp,” Zayden said absently.

The door rattled, then opened, Naje framed in the hallway, her face tense with fear. “This way…” she urged.

They raced through the corridors, toward a landing bay through the lower decks of the ship.

“You have but a small window of time,” Naje told them breathlessly over her shoulder. “Leave Darracia, go back toward Venturian. Forget this place.”

Zayden shook his head. “I can’t. My family is there. It is my home. I have to help them.”

“He may have to, but you don’t.” She locked her gaze with her sister’s. “They will be destroyed.”

Zayden shook his head. “The rocks of Darracia are too thick. Nothing will affect them. Your artillery is useless.”

“It’s not my artillery; this is not my fight. Lothen
will call on Geva, and she will crush Darracia.”

They hid in a hallway, watching guards patrol.

“Geva?” Zayden asked.

“The opposite of your Elements. She is the essence of evil.” She looked at Denita. “He goes to certain death if he returns to the planet surface. You could stay here with me.”

“Nothing is for certain.” Denita touched her arm. “You would chose slavery?”

Naje placed her hands on her abdomen. “I chose Staf Nuen.”

“I don’t understand you!”

“Shush! They will hear you.”

“Come with us,” Denita pleaded.

“I cannot.” Naje shook her head. “Whatever the outcome, my fate is tied to Staf Nuen.” She kissed her sister on the cheek, then pointed to the door to
the landing bay.

Chapter 20

Lothen’s eyes gleamed with icy resolution. He stood on the deck of the ship, Staf next to him, and gave the command for the three ships to begin their invasion. His communication officer interrupted his thought. “Highness…”

“Yes?”

“It is the holy man, Brault.” He pressed his earpiece tightly to the side of his head, listening through the static. “He is afraid they’ve been found out. They have captured some spies…the first cell is dead. Every member.”

“Just the first cell?”

The officer typed in a response. “He says he never met the others. He can’t swear that they are all in position.”

Lothen grunted, then nodded to the navigator to begin their descent.

The three triangular ships began slowly descending onto the choppy surface of the water. The Plantan’s strategy was to land on the Hixom Sea and bombard the city of Syos as well as the Desa. The population would gladly give up their weak king in order to have peace. He would install his puppet Staf Nuen on the throne, load him up with graphen, and strip Darracia of its resources. A smile of malice split Lothen’s face.

“Do you give warning?” Staf asked.

“What would be the fun in that? Lothen laughed.

“The Elements may react.”

“Let them try. That is why I have Geva! Let’s say hello to our new friends. On my command, begin the bombardment.”

“You mean to bomb? I thought this would be a raid,” Staf asked Lothen. “Darracia can withstand any siege—the city walls are impenetrable. Gunpower means nothing to us.”

“I don’t remember discussing strategies with you, my lord Nuen,” he answered frostily.

“We never talked using guns. You said it would be like your raids on Venturian.” Staf’s face was red with anger.

Lothen stood with both hands reaching toward the ceiling. “Geva! Silence this fool!”

Staf choked, grabbing his neck, the veins popping from lack of breath. His feet left the floor as he was held up like a wet puppy to be shaken ruthlessly. Lothen snapped his webbed fingers, and Staf collapsed to his knees, breathing hard. “The Elements…the Elements do not allow…”

“To hell with your Elements! You have sold your soul to Geva; to you, the Elements do not exist,” Lothen shouted, his mouth foaming. He came close to Staf, taking his shirt in both hands. “Are you with me, or against me?” he asked with a lethalness that chilled Staf.

Staf swallowed. “With you.”

Lothen turned to his gunner and screamed, “Prepare to fire.”

The orders were echoed, guns were aimed at the castle, and Lothen, calm once more, told his gunner to begin. “Commence fire.”

Chapter 21

V’sair heard about the formation of three Plantan ships landing on the Sea of Hixom. He raced to the Orbitus Chamber, meeting up with both Vekin and Swart, his hands on his hips, deep in thought. “Did they ask permission to land?”

The room had been turned into a command center. Uniformed officers rushed in and out of the chamber, relaying messages to the various commanders. Giant screens floated in the air, static interfering with transmissions. V’sair saw Seren’s worried face, explosions rocking the ground underneath him.

“What’s going on?” V’sair demanded.

“They’ve fired on us.” Vekin responded, then turned to give instructions to an aide.

“Fired on us? They are using guns?” V’sair asked incredulously.

“We have had no communication with them,” Swart
added.

“Have you tracked their radio signals?”

“They are trading dialogue with—” The walls of the palace shook as a salvo blasted against its surface but did little damage.

“What are they using?” V’sair watched the missiles hit the surrounding buildings, but the red rock was dense—strong enough to withhold their firepower.

“It’s old, but can be quite lethal for the Desa, or our population,” Vekin told him. “I will have two battalions head toward them.”

“With what?” Swart yelled. “We will be obliterated. We are no match to their guns.”

“The stone walls of Darracia will withstand their ammunition,” V’sair said with grimly.

“Our skin will not deflect their bullets!”

“It is the Desa I am worried about. Can we evacuate the Quyroos?” V’sair asked urgently.

Vekin shook his head. “Not enough time. I have sent soldiers in to guide them as deep into the Desa as they can go. Many of the older ones are stubborn and won’t leave. You know how they are.”

“It is their home. Bombardment is unprecedented,” V’sair replied. “This is an abomination.”

Swart growled, “I told you we should have bought the cannons the Pagilans offered to sell us.”

V’sair ignored the older man, then glanced at the giant screen, feeling his mother’s presence before she said anything. They stood together in mute horror, watching the enemy ships lob bombs into the vulnerable forests. “Have you tried talking to them?” she asked quietly.

V’sair shook his head. The screens lit up with Quyroos running wildly from their burning homes, scrambling through the trees to escape.

“Return all the shuttles to the Desa to evacuate as many as you can,” V’sair ordered.

“Sire, you may as well paint a target on their backs. The shuttles will just condense people into obvious groups for them to shoot.”

“We have to do something.”

“Let me go down there and speak to him,” Reminda offered, her hand on his arm in appeal.

“No, Mother.” He winced as another shot echoed off the strong rock wall of his fortress. He watched a spray of sparks ricochet. “It is too dangerous.”

“He is my brother.”

“You hardly know him.”

“He is still my brother.”

“I can’t allow it,” V’sair told her with finality.

The room was filling up with additional members of the high command. V’sair could hear his experts rapping out orders. The battle for Darracia had begun in earnest.

Swart came over to him and said quietly, “It is time for us to take Brault in.”

“We still don’t know who he is associated with.”

“It hardly matters now.” Swart shook his head. “He is an enemy that must be contained.”

V’sair nodded in agreement and watched Swart direct his men to take the chanter into custody.

BOOK: Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga)
8.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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