01 – Felar
Felar charged forward, mentally embracing the surrounding space-time. She drew it in, the energy filling her like a breath. She crafted the growing power into dual mind blades, one springing into either hand. Their hilts felt solid in her grasp, the blades themselves light and nimble. “You take right,” she yelled, darting towards her own opponent.
Lothis moved in sync alongside her, mind dagger in his right hand. His small feet flew through the emerald grass, light and swift. He summoned a spray of glimmering mental shards and sent it zipping towards his foe, shredding it.
Felar reached her own adversary, easily sliding into long practiced combat forms. Human. Elrahi. Elrahi. Human, she thought, listing their origins. Her blades flared, producing devastating results. The arms and head of her practice dummy tumbled into the long grass. When she was satisfied, Felar stepped back, feeling her breathing and pulse quickly settle.
“You’ve caught on quick,” Lothis praised, his mind daggers vanishing as he moved away from his own target.
Felar turned to him, still unable to suppress the sick pain in her gut that always hit when she saw his dead right eye and scarred arms. He’ll never get his full vision back, she thought, making herself smile despite the sadness. “Yes, I think I have.”
“Why didn’t they teach you the way of the Blade when you were an Elrahi Sentry?” Wake interjected, walking over from where he’d been observing. “You obviously have a talent for it.”
“Sentries were prohibited from learning any mental combat disciplines. Our job was to secure the borders, to protect the Accord from other hostile nations and species. We were never meant for action inside our own borders. Since none of our enemies had psionic weaponry, it was deemed unnecessary training.” As Felar remembered more of her past life as Lek Tomun, the Division Chieftain of the Elrahi Sentries, she kept expecting a mental schism to form. The two existences were vastly different, but somehow they melded in a way that made her feel whole. From Felar’s conversations with the other Harbingers, she knew they felt the same about their own dual histories.
“And if the Sentries were given psionic training, in addition to their beam weapons,” Lothis added, “they would have been unstoppable.”
Felar remembered the heavy beam cannon, its violet light, and how it felt in her hands. What I would give to have one of them again…
“They could have rebelled,” Wake realized. They’d have had the power to wipe out the Protectors and capture the empress.”
“Don’t be silly,” Felar snapped. “The Sentries have no desire to get involved in the political bickerings of the Accord. We love our empress, our empire, and its people, and will do everything within our power to protect it from outside forces.” Felar realized she’d drifted back to a place and time that only existed in memory. “The Sentries were steadfastly loyal,” she finished, feeling foolish.
“I didn’t mean to imply they would,” Wake answered, looking like he regretted his earlier statement. “Just that it’s understandable why the Accord would have been leery.”
“Yes,” she replied, sighing, “the Accord was always wary of competitors, real or imagined.”
An awkward silence descended over the trio. Lothis finally broke it. “We are making good progress restoring our Elrahi fighting skills. Even those without much training to begin with have blossomed under instruction. I didn’t expect to be able to teach so much, especially since I started with such little skill myself. I wonder what we could have done with Cazz-ak as our teacher.”
It had only been a week since the battle with the Descended and their friend’s death. Felar still felt as raw as ever over his loss. Anger, despair, and pain flooded through her. She fought hard to maintain her composure, knowing it would be unproductive to express it.
“Lothis, you’ve done a great job getting us all up to specs,” Wake said, smiling. “I’m no soldier, but I think I might actually be an asset, rather than a liability.”
Wake’s upbeat demeanor over the past week simultaneously annoyed and comforted Felar. A large part of her wanted to fall into a hole of despair and grief, but she knew this would be both pointless and dangerous. Losing Cazz-ak is a massive blow, but we are still alive, and we must keep fighting the Breakers.
“Even Tremmilly has learned some skills,” Lothis said, smiling. “Not enough to go into full combat, but at least she can protect herself.”
The positivity of her friends buoyed Felar’s drooping spirits, and she felt her mood shift. We have done so much. And we took out all of Crasor’s blighthearted Descended. We sent him a message. We are to be feared. She smiled at both Lothis and Wake as they began walking back towards Dras’ ship.
As they moved through the tall, emerald grass, Felar kept a wary eye out for any of the horrible calath plants. She remembered all too well what happened when a human body came in contact with its sharp leaves. If Dras hadn’t used his nanites to flush the poison out, I’d be dead. The chaotic visions and memories the toxin summoned hadn’t been pleasant either. Stupid plant… Kicking it had been an accident, one that sometimes made her wonder if it had cost Cazz-ak his life. You can’t think that way, she told herself, trying to push her mind back to its earlier, positive trajectory. Battle isn’t that predictable. Even if the blighthearted calath toxin hadn’t incapacitated me, I might not have gotten to Cazz-ak and Lothis in time.
When they reached the sleek Heltasoth vessel, Lothis and Wake headed inside. Felar stopped, not wanting to leave the fresh air and bright light of Lith-elo-hi-rosh’s primary star. Such a beautiful day. It wasn’t that Dras’ ship was stifling or confined. Far from it. The small Heltasoth ship was one of the most beautiful and intricate things Felar had ever seen, especially its interior. But it does feel foreign.
Despite the fact Felar had grown accustomed to her Elrahi existence, to living on an Entho-la-ah-mine world, to sleeping in the spaceship of a sentient machine, she still felt homesick sometimes. And while the emerald green grass and blue tinted sunlight here were much different from her home-world of Qi-3, it felt something akin to familiar.
“You coming?” Wake said, popping back out of the Heltasoth ship.
“I think I’m just gonna sit for a while.”
At first, Felar almost turned him down, but then she decided she’d spent enough time alone in the past week. Besides, I’ve missed him.
“Sure,” she nodded, giving Wake a smile. They both settled in the long grass, leaning up against the ship for support.
Before Wake, Jaydon, and Maxar had left to find Dras on Traynos-6, she and the engineer had spent many of their meal times together, talking and enjoying each other’s company. Since he’d been back, Felar felt as if she’d barely seen him. He’d been sequestered in his room or the hold Dras had given him for a workshop. Felar had been busy training and trying to plan what the Harbingers would do next.
Minutes passed in silence, and Felar enjoyed the feeling of stellar light on her tanned skin. The Descended attack had destroyed their meager living spaces on Lith-elo, so Dras had invited them to live on his vessel. After they’d moved in, the Heltasoth had kept the ship’s hull structure opaque. Otherwise, Tremmilly and Maxar would have no privacy at all. Felar was used to barracks living and all that entailed, but none of her friends were. It’s for the best anyway. We are all intertwined enough already. It’s not like we need to know every personal detail.
Her mind drifted and her eyelids grew heavy. In a happy haze, she realized, for the first time since the battle with the Arche, the Descended attack, and the Entho-la-ah-mine massacre, she felt a semblance of peace. All her crushing cares and concerns still threatened to rush back in, but Felar kept floating in the bliss of the beautiful day.
“How much longer do you think it will take them to decide?” Wake asked. Rather than startling her or being irritating, the familiar voice was a happy addition.
“I hope it isn’t much longer,” Felar answered. “We can’t remain here, waiting for the Breakers to come back with a larger force, and neither can the Entho-la-ah-mines.” Talking about the Breakers brought back some tenseness, but Felar didn’t embrace it. “If they cannot bring themselves to leave, then we’ll have to go without them and do the best we can to stop Crasor before he comes back.”
Silence returned for several moments. A light breeze stirred, swirling loose strands of her light brown hair.
“There is something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Wake said.
His tone felt strange to Felar, so she opened her eyes. The engineer was looking off into the distance, unable to meet her gaze. He was biting his pursed lip, and his hands were fidgeting with a blade of grass.
“I—” he started.
“They’ve decided,” Tremmilly said, coming into view around the black hull. “They’ve finally agreed to evacuate!”
“What were you going to say?” Felar asked, as she rose to hug her excited friend.
“Nothing important,” Wake answered, eyes downcast.