By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Copyright June 2013
They arrived on Garent in the middle of the day, and Ledo took in the light from the double sun, the smell of damp air, and the increased gravity . . . and he smiled; Garent was the seat of the Fifty-Fifth Alliance.
It was a busy time. Training, getting updates on the state of The Alliance, getting reports on new and old enemies, on potential friends, and on the mood of his future empire. On the third week on Garent, he went to visit Lynd at the detention center.
“Lynd,” Ledo smiled as he spoke, “you’re not looking too well.”
The girl rose with some effort, did a small bow, and answered with a curt “My Lord.”
“I remember both you and your queen arrogantly stating no one would get near me while under your protection.” Ledo did not give the girl permission to sit back down, and with some effort she continued standing as he paced the cell.
“I nearly died.” Ledo stopped in front of her, and stared down at the small figure. He knew her to be a fierce fighter, but not now, not in her present state.
“Guard!” He turned as one of the FARs appeared to his side. Ledo pointed to the girl. “See that she is fed, and restored to good health. I want her in peak form for what I have in mind.”
With that, he turned and headed to the other cell.
Ereynd was already standing when he entered the cell. The FARs wanted to put themselves between Ledo and the long-haired, black-eyed Evanor Queen, but Ledo waved them off. What had been a fit physique was showing the strain of incarceration, but he knew she was still a capable fighter. Perhaps no match for his current state of training and physical fitness, but not someone to be underestimated.
And he also knew she cared for what he once had been. She would not move to strike him.
Besides, the consequences to her planet would be dire.
~ ~ ~ ~ o o o ~ ~ ~ ~
Ereynd watched Ledo using her peripheral vision, avoiding direct eye contact. It ached to see him so. Taller, stronger, fitter . . . not her Ed. He began to speak, and walking a circle with her at the center. She did not move.
“Queen Ereynd . . . You showed a weakness I would not have imagined of you.” He walked around the silent figure, and stood directly behind her. She could sense his presence, his physical strength, but she did not move, nor did she reply.
“You had real feelings for Ed; you let yourself feel for a weak, ignorant, and limited male.” Ledo resumed his circle, and came to stop in front of her. “It nearly got me killed.”
Ledo let the words hang, but Ereynd did not respond. The words hurt to a depth she did not want to admit, and it was all she could do to keep her eyes fixed at a point on his chest, and not look up to meet his own. She was afraid of what she would see if she did. No, not afraid; she knew, and did not want to see it. She wanted to keep her memories intact.
“I have devised an entertaining and fitting punishment . . . I want you to get fit, and regain your strength; you will need it. Do not think of rebelling; you know who I hold.” He waited a few moments for a response, then smiled, turned, and walked out of the cell.
Ereynd let her breath out slowly once the cell door locked shut. For a brief moment, her shoulders sagged, grief welling up. Then she thought of her sister. Of Lynd’s sister. She straightened as the cell door was once more unlocked.
A young FAR entered, carrying a much better meal than had been offered for the past month.
He set the meal on the small table, then came to stand in front of her. His eyes she did meet, and saw no malice in them.
“My name is Loretu. My Lord commands me to help you regain your fighting form. You should know, we will not fight to the death, but we will fight hard. We commence in three days.” He turned, heading for the door, but stopped before exiting.
“Lynd will be training with my sister Morean. In two weeks, we’ll switch places so as to vary the training.”
The young man hesitated, then slightly bowed. “Queen Ereynd; your sister is fine, as is Lynd’s sister. You should get some rest.”
Ereynd contemplated the door that has closed behind the young man. She forced herself to remember not all subjects of The Alliance were evil . . . just the one she loved.
Training began as promised, and while a bit rusty, plenty of food and rest helped her regain strength and speed. She threw herself into her training as a way to bury the hurt.
In the second week, Loretu missed a day. When he came back, he was healing from a wound. She did not ask, but he volunteered the answer to her unspoken question.
“An attack on Ledo. We stopped it.” He looked at her. Ereynd did not think she betrayed any emotions, but after a few moments, Loretu continued. “Ledo is fine.”
Her emotions were mixed. Ereynd knew Ledo was not Ed, but the silly hope borne out of love had a part of her care for the physical remnants of what was no more.
Another week passed, and then she met Morean. Morean was a lot like her brother. Dedicated to her task, but with an underlying . . . humanity was a good word. Ereynd had learned the meaning of that word while on Earth, and she liked its foundation.
Morean told her Lynd was nearly recovered. Due to her lower station, she had fared worse than Ereynd, and consequently required more care. Ereynd doubted that very much; Lynd liked having her adversaries underestimate her, hence her purposefully smaller stature and young appearance. Her augmentations had not been cheap, but Lynd’s family had indulged her; if their only offspring was going to be a warrior, she would be the best warrior their money could buy.
During this final week of training, she learned of another attempt on Ledo’s life. This time he was alone, and he dispatched all three assassins without suffering any injury. Ereynd guessed he was at his peak, with all enhancements fully deployed.
Three days later, Morean came to her, and asked her to prepare. She would be brought to see Ledo. Ereynd hated her involuntary elation at the news; quickly suppressed, but a reminder she still had feelings. On an intellectual level she knew it was hopeless and silly. Never having experienced love before, she knew she was subject to a heightened intensity, and equated her involuntary reaction to that of a silly schoolgirl. And yet not . . . the hurt saw to that.
Loretu and Lynd were waiting for them in the hall. It was the first time she had seen Lynd since Earth; they exchanged an imperceptible nod. With Loretu and Morean at their sides, they walked the length of the hallway, heading toward two massive doors.
Two FARs swung them open as they approached, and she and Lynd walked into a small arena, the doors closing behind them.
They walked toward a raised platform. Ledo sat at the back center of it, and off to his side sat the Eleven Lords of The Alliance. On the side of each Lord, standing slightly behind them, were their personal bodyguards. To Ereynd, they looked soft.
“Welcome to the judgment.” Ledo’s words brought a murmur of approval from the assembled audience.
Ereynd had argued against The Alliance, and no doubt part of the reason the Lords were assembled here, was to witness her fate. It was a good diversion from last minutes meetings before agreements were formalized, and the ruling body for the next one hundred years came into power.
Ledo continued. “You might wonder what I have planned for you.” He pressed a button on his chair, and two guards emerged from a side door. Between them stood her and Lynd’s sister.
Both she and Lynd made a move toward the girls, but Loretu and Morean had drawn their short swords, and stepped just forward of them, facing them.
“You would never reach them in time.” Ledo motioned, and Loretu and Morean backed away, then turned, heading to the girls. They took the place of the two guards who had brought them in. The guards backed away, closing the doors as they left the arena.
Ereynd eyes finally took in the details of the arena. Other than Loretu and Morean, no FARs were present. The twenty two bodyguards made up for that.
“This is how it will be. Queen Ereynd,” he bowed slightly to her, and did likewise toward Lynd before continuing, “Lynd; you two will fight to the death. The loser’s sister,” Ledo pointed to the girls at the side of the podium as he spoke, “will be killed. The winner will also be killed, but her sister will be spared.”
He paused. If he was waiting for a reaction from them, he would be disappointed; neither she or Lynd showed any reaction. She was not going to provide him the satisfaction.
“I want to see a good fight; anything less, and I give the order to kill the girls.” With that, he rose, grabbing Lynd’s tomahawk and short sword from the side of his chair as he did so.
Ereynd did not need weapons. She was a weapon.
Deliberately, he walked toward the pair.
Ereynd calculated the odds, worked out scenarios, contemplated possible actions.
No good; the bastard had it pretty well worked out. She had no illusion about the survivor’s sister living through this.
So be it; whatever portion remained of her love was now barricaded behind a cold curtain of hate. The last act of her life would be to take Ledo with her. She could sense Lynd’s tension, and knew they had reached the same conclusion.
She watched Ledo approach, calculating the moment she should make her move.
Ledo stopped within arm’s length of the two. He looked at the pair, and if he noticed the barely restrained tension in them, he gave no notice of it. He also ignored the glow beginning to form at the edges of Ereynd’s nails.
His face relaxed. And then he winked. He probably did not know it, or maybe he did, but that saved his life as both she and Lynd held their attack.
He spoke to them in a soft tone, inaudible to the group on the platform.
“Evelyn, Lynd; wait until I am back at my seat, and then charge into the group. I’ll hit them from the side. Your sisters are armed, and my bodyguards are there to help them. We have the element of surprise, but there are a lot of them, and we can’t afford to let any of them live.”
To their credit, Evelyn’s and Lynd’s reactions were confined to their eyes. They stared at him for a moment, then both blinked in unison.
~ ~ ~ ~ o o o ~ ~ ~ ~
Ed threw the tomahawk and sword at Lynd’s feet, and headed back up the platform. He did not hear Lynd move, but heard the weapons clang as she picked them up. He heard the sharp intake of breath from one of the Lords, and guessed Evelyn, his Evelyn, was transforming into her fighting form.
He too had learned about humanity, first hand. He had learned the beauty of it, and the determination of it when someone threatened the welfare of those one loved. A new order was about to come to power, but not the one dreamed of by these Lords.
He sat, hand on his weapon, looking relaxed. Lynd’s tomahawk was a blur as it sailed from her, striking the Lord farthest from him. Lynd and Evelyn were not far behind it, tearing into the far end of the group. That left his side unguarded as everyone’s attention was drawn away from him. Morean, Loretu, and the two girls had little to do as Ed, Evelyn, and Lynd finished the last traces of The Alliance.