“Lochfa?” Tassark laughed. “This is the best the Sprytath could send?” The lochfa were a ceremonial guard — a token force at best. Farmers clearing new land saw more combat dealing with durgee warrens than the lochfa saw in their temple duties. He looked to his own guards and smirked. “Try not to damage them too much. We could use more hands to pull weeds.”
The battle lasted seconds. Tassark’s smirk faded to slack-jawed gawping as his guards lay on the ground around him.
Those who rushed in for a physical attack were engulfed in a white light and fell unconscious mid-run before they had gone three steps. They fared better than the casters who were set on fire or frozen in ice by their own spells rebounding off lochfa shields summoned right in front of them. The few casters who had summoned their own shields before attacking were the last standing, but lochfa spells blasted through their shields as if they were no more than party lights.
Tassark reached to his belt for his own knife. He knew he could not defeat the lochfa, but winning wasn’t his intent. Alfath do not allow themselves to be taken prisoner, so one way or another, he must escape or die. His fingers had barely brushed the dagger hilt when another white light flashed around him.
He came to laying on the ground, his arms bound behind his back. He craned his head to look around, but couldn’t make out much. All he could tell was they were no longer at the worksite.
“He’s awake.” A voice behind him announced. Hands grabbed his shoulders and pulled him to his knees. He looked up to find Aerin standing over him. She now wore the armor of the royal guard.
Tassark looked around, confirming there was no sign of his guards. “My people?”
“Are no longer your concern.”
“You wouldn’t have killed them. You Sprytath don’t have it in you to be killers.”
Rage contorted Aerin’s features as she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him up until his face was very close to hers. Her other hand pressed a knife to his throat. “I learned much in your keeping,” she snarled.
“Hold, Aerin.” A deep voice ordered from behind him.
She froze a moment before withdrawing the knife and throwing him back down to the ground. She stepped back to bring her anger under control and bowed her head as the speaker joined her. “Lord Faytan.”
Faytan put a hand on her shoulder. “The slave master will pay for his actions.” He turned to look at Tassark. “But he has a job to do first.”
Even Alfath commoners knew the name of the Sprytath prince and heir to the throne. Faytan was tall even for a Sprytath, and his white hair, pale blue eyes, and translucent skin all combined to give him the appearance of an ice demon. But this demon wore the armor of the lochfa commander, and Tassark had to fight to keep his voice steady. “Kill me now because I won’t do anything for you.”
Faytan ignored the declaration and placed his hand on Tassark’s head. “You will return to Amarrah with a message. The Sprytath have never sought violence, but we will no longer tolerate Alfath abuse. Release our people. This is your last chance for peace.” He stepped back and nodded, and someone freed the foreman’s hands.
As soon as he was free, Tassark scrambled to his feet and fled the camp, muttering about Sprytath weakness and his need to reach The Court.
◊ ◊ ◊
Amarrah sighed as she withdrew from the foreman’s mind and sat back on her throne. “Well… you really fell into the grik hive, didn’t you?”
Tassark’s cheeks flushed red. “I swear, my lady, I had no idea she was one of the royal guard.”
“The Sprytath don’t avenge their warriors or leaders. They believe the risks are the cost of rank.” She shook her head. “It was the boy. He was nobody of importance, and the Sprytath will destroy any who prey on the weak or innocent. That you murdered him at one of their holy sites makes your crimes that much more horrific in their eyes.”
Tassark smirked. “But they still let me go.”
Amarrah’s gaze hardened. “No, they did not. You never learned Sprythian but it was all you could speak when you arrived at The Court. You could only repeat the same phrase over and over: ‘Hear the words of the Sprytath.’ Faytan knows I can’t allow you to live now that he’s altered your mind.” She raised her eyes to her guards and nodded.
The chamber doors opened and the escort detail entered once more to drag Tassark away.
Amarrah heaved a weary sigh as she rose from the throne, stepped to the back and removed the crystal from it’s holder.
◊ ◊ ◊
The images and sensations faded, leaving Caelynn, Collin, and Lincon staring in shock at the now dormant crystal.
“That… that…” Caelynn stammered before lifting her eyes from the crystal to Lincon. “He looked like…”
“It’s just a coincidence,” Collin cut her off. “It has to be.”
“A coincidence that my singing, magic-casting father looks just like the singing, magic-casting leader of the Sprytath?”
“Caelynn, this took place eons ago.” He gestured to the crystal. “There’s no possible way they could be connected.”
“You can’t deny the resemblance, though,” Lincon spoke up.
“The Sprytath are dead.” Collin’s cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry, Caelynn, but it’s a fact — a horrible, ugly fact that I wish I didn’t know about our history. The Sprytath didn’t drive us away from the planet. We left because we cast a spell to kill them — all of them. Fleeing the planet was the only way to save ourselves from the genocide we unleashed.”
Caelynn gawped at Collin. “This is the legacy I was supposed to help reclaim?”
Collin shook his head. “No. Peter’s dream was to reclaim our lost home, but even he was ashamed at what our ancestors did out of spite. People like Thyla, on the other hand, would not hesitate to burn the world if it meant she could toast mellowpuffs.”
Lincon scooted over to sit next to Caelynn. “Dayne once told me the Alfath history of violence has never really worked out in their favor. He said he hoped you would be able to lead them down a new path before they wipe themselves out. That’s why you’re here, Heartsong, to make your own legacy.”