Saved from Betrayal
The door to Alena’s room burst open, and a gray-clad sailor stood before her. “I am sorry, young lady, but you have to come with me.”
Alena started and turned to the sailor. She had washed her face and tied a thin piece of cloth around her forehead to stop her wound from bleeding, but she was still shaken from her near fall into the Divide. She stared at him. “I need to come with you?”
“Yes, our captain requests it.”
Alena nodded and followed the sailor out the room and down a long hallway. As they walked, Alena caught several glimpses of the battle outside the 2B. The round aircraft that had raked the sides of the double-berthed ship had begun to pull back as ordered, but the imposing cruiser they returned to loomed over the battered 2B like a dog hovering over its defenseless prey. Alena shuddered slightly. She had heard the captain give the order for surrender, but she didn’t want to believe it. That order was essentially the death sentence for her and all those around her. She wondered where the rest of the Kinrin in her group was. Alena hoped she would at least see them again before she died.
This hope, at least, was fulfilled. The sailor made one last turn and led Alena out onto an open deck on the front of the 2B, and she saw a small crowd gathered on it. The crowd consisted mostly of sailors, but she saw that it included several of her Kinrin friends. Jalen and Kiran stood side by side, and Nayele was a short distance from the siblings.
“Hello, Alena,” Jalen said as she diverged away from the sailor and towards them, “we were coming to get you when these sailors summoned us. I am sorry that we had to leave you alone.”
“It’s okay; I am fine,” Alena said quickly, her eyes not meeting Jalen’s as she searched the crowd. “Where are the other three?”
“We were supposed to meet them in the cargo hold, but these sailors changed our plans,” Kiran said. “I bet we will see them here before too long.”
“I don’t think we want to see them here,” Nayele broke in urgently. “I have heard some of the whispers from the crew. They say that their captain means to turn us over to the Heirum! We must make ready to fight!” Nayele moved her hand towards her Double Blade, fire in her brown eyes.
“Nayele, don’t be crazy,” Alena responded just as urgently but in a quieter voice. “We are outnumbered by far too many, and what benefit does it do to the captain to turn us over? We are essentially turned over to the Heirum with the surrender anyway, no matter what the captain does.”
“Ah, good, I see you have summoned the young Kinrin.” The voice that broke into the Kinrin’s council was calm, but Alena felt as if there was an added edge to it. She turned to see a bearded man standing before her, the captain of the ship. Their eyes met, and Alena wavered under the fierce glare of the captain and looked down at the deck. The even composure of the captain was gone, replaced by a sneer.
The captain took a step closer, still looking intently at Alena. “Ah, you must be the girl that a young man tried to bargain for last night, trying to save you. I can see why he deemed you worthy of saving, but alas, it was all in vain. The young man, I doubt not that you know who he is, failed, for I will kill you.”
“You will have to kill us first before we let you strike down an innocent girl!” Jalen and Kiran unsheathed their Double Blades and stepped before Alena, who still looked down at the deck. She was trembling. This was all Nayele needed, and she too drew her Double Blade.
The captain laughed. “Perhaps I worded that the wrong way. I will be the cause of your death, true, but I will not be the one to actually carry the deed out. The Heirum will take care of that for me after I turn you over to them. And I hope you are not thinking of fighting us,” the captain added as Jalen raised his Double Blade, “unless you plan on dying early.” He gave a command, and the thirty or so soldiers around him unsheathed their swords and formed a circle around the Kinrin. “Drop your weapons.”
Jalen and Kiran dropped their blades to the deck of the ship, seeing that to fight was to die, and Nayele slowly let her Double Blade slip from her fingers. Alena Looked up from the deck, and this time she held the captain’s glare. She was still trembling, but she spoke calmly, “You have betrayed us, captain.”
These calm words seemed to jar the captain, and he turned his back to the group. There was a short silence before he spoke again. “It is the only thing I can do to save this ship and my life.” The captain’s voice, subdued close to a whisper, sounded almost apologetic. The captain turned to his sailors, and his voice strengthened. “Bind them.”
The sailors did as ordered and roughly tied the young Kinrin’s arms behind their backs. They pushed them to the edge of the deck, and there the helpless Kinrin stood, facing the fierce ship that would soon receive them. This task completed, the captain gave another order to his crew. “Search my ship for the other three Kinrin. We must turn them all over.”
Lucas motioned for Finiah and Eoryn to stop and held his fingers to his lips. The sound of footsteps coming towards them grew louder, and the three Kinrin pressed themselves against the wall. A short, humanoid figure rounded the corner and almost ran right into Lucas. A Double Blade descended on the figure before it could give a cry of alarm, and it toppled onto the floor.
Eoryn stepped forward and nudged the body with his foot. It gave no signs of life. Still using his foot, Eoryn turned the body over onto its back. Two empty eyes stared back from a pale, almost yellow face, and a scruffy beard clung to the side of its face. Eoryn, disgusted, turned away from the Heirum, for that of course was what it was. “They are even worse than in the stories.”
Lucas nodded. “They are ugly things for sure. Let’s get the body out of sight.” Eoryn grabbed the wrist of one of the Heirum’s claw-like hands as Lucas grabbed the other, and the two of them dragged the four foot tall body till they found a convenient doorway to stuff it in.
This task completed, the Kinrin set off down the hall again. They had for some time wove their way through the hallways of the Heirum cruiser, and as of yet, they had remained undetected, only having to dispatch several Heirum along the way. Eoryn guessed that their luck was due to the enemy being preoccupied with the battle. He knew that a good number of the Heirum had occupied the Laser Pods, and that most of the rest were making ready to board the 2B to claim their victory. In any case, the halls were essentially empty.
Suddenly Lucas, who had took the lead again, stopped, this time without warning the two Kinrin behind him. Eoryn and Finiah nearly slammed into Lucas, who gave them a sharp look and shook his head. He had stopped just before a doorway, and a voice came from it. “You have come, good. I summoned you to learn of the cause for the alarms going off. Has one of our engines been blown out?” Whoever owned the voice spoke with authority.
“Our far left engine has been destroyed, my lord, but it is not a cause of concern. I have the other left engine powered up to compensate for the loss. The report I received said that the explosion was caused by an ACVOT slamming into the engine, a suicide mission, apparently, for the driver has not been identified. We are still on schedule.”
“All the arrangements have been made?”
“Yes, my lord, we are ready to receive our guests. We have prepared a nice, reeking place for them to stay for as long as they are living, and the long ships are all filled with the boarding party that will escort them here, as you have ordered.” This second voice was clearly spoken from a subordinate to the first voice, but there was also a sneer to it.
“Good,” the first voice replied. “The captain seems to be complying with the plan?”
“Yes, very much so. The port for the attack craft has been closed, and the captain waits with the Kinrin in custody on the first deck of his ship.” There was a pause. “Lord, if I may be so bold, why did our Laser Pods wreak so much havoc on the 2B? I thought it had been agreed that we would not harm the captain’s precious ship if he followed orders.”
The first voice laughed. “That was actually the plan of the captain, believe it or not, to justify turning the Kinrin over. He thought that if his crew saw how hopeless it would be to fight us, they would not so easily be infuriated with him turning a handful of his passengers over into our welcoming hands to save his ship. That is why he allowed us to sneak up on him in the night and attack in the early morning light. But go; release the long ships so that they can receive our prisoners.”
“Yes, my lord.” There was a sound of footsteps, but suddenly they stopped. “My lord, I suppose you will let us have some fun with the Kinrin before we finish them?” The sneering voice had a hopeful tinge to it.
“Yes, you may have your fun. My master said nothing about not torturing them, only that he wanted the Kinrin dead. Do whatever you like to them, as long as they are dead in the end.”
“Thank you, my lord.” The footsteps began pattering again.
Lucas jerked his head for Eoryn and Finiah to get back, and they turned a corner just as an Heirum walked through the doorway and past them. “Let’s follow him,” Lucas hissed after the Heirum was well down the hall. “He will lead us to the control room.”
The three Kinrin set off after the Heirum, trailing him by some fifty feet. “The captain of the 2B is going to turn us over!” Eoryn whispered as they walked. “He would betray us all to save his ship.”
“Yes,” Lucas said, his voice low. “We have got to stop the long ships from even setting out. We cannot let the Heirum board the 2B.”
Up ahead, the Heirum they were trailing opened a door at the end of the hall and entered. Lucas, Eoryn, and Finiah picked up their pace and strode to the door. “I think this is the control room,” Lucas confirmed quietly. “Let me go first.”
Lucas moved like a shadow through the door. The lone Heirum inside turned at the slight noise, and a piercing screech flew from its mouth as it saw Lucas moving forward with his Double Blade unsheathed. Lucas closed the last few feet between him and the Heirum and plunged the dual blades of his weapon deep into the creature’s body. “It looks like you will not have your fun after all,” he hissed fiercely as he wrenched the Double Blade free and let the Heirum fall to the floor.
Eoryn and Finiah stepped into the room, and the three of them walked to a row of slanted counters on the far side of the room that held row after row of panels of switches and buttons. Eoryn stared down at all the controls. “Okay, what now?”
“If we could find the switches for the engines, we could shut them all down,” Finiah said, running his hand over one of the panels.
“Yes, but—” suddenly another piercing alarm went off, interrupting Lucas’s reply. The three Kinrin jumped and turned from the panels, looking around the room. The Heirum Lucas had impaled had crawled to the edge of the room, and its claw-like hand compressed a large red button. It stared fiercely back at the three Kinrin, a triumphant sneer on its face.
“I may yet have my fun, I may yet,” the ugly creature said, its voice weak but defiant. The Heirum’s dark eyes broke off from their stare and rolled up as its eyelids fluttered closed, and the Heirum slumped back onto the floor, this time breathing its last.
“Close the door and wedge it shut!” Lucas exclaimed. “The alarm has been raised. I should have made sure that foul creature was dead!”
Eoryn sprang forward and slammed the door shut, and he and Finiah used several heavy cases to barricade it. At the same time, a high-pitched voice crackled over the speakers in the control room. “Long ship berth to control room, what is your alarm? Awaiting further demands, whether to send aid or launch the ships carrying the boarding crew.”
Eoryn ran back to the control panels and grabbed the radio receiver. “Don’t send aid!” he shouted into it. “But do not launch the boarding party yet! Wait for further orders while we clear this minor alarm up.” He doubted that he sounded very convincing.
Footsteps, many of them, echoed in the hallway opposite the door, and fists began pounding on it. “Open up, or we will break in!”
“Here it is! I have found them!” Lucas exclaimed, pointing to four large levers. Eoryn looked where he pointed and saw the words “engine control panel” above the levers.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s power off the engines,” Finiah said, striding over. Behind him the thuds against the door turned to loud cracks as the Heirum began using their weapons to try and hack the door apart.
“Wait,” Lucas said, grabbing Finiah’s shoulder. “Eoryn, steer the cruiser to the left and point it just above the 2B.”
Eoryn nodded and clasped a large, horseshoe shaped piece of metal near the middle of the room, the steering device. He turned it, and the cruiser began to bank to the left, right at the 2B. He tilted the steering device back, and the nose of the cruiser slowly lifted, pointing over the top of the ship before it. “And your plan is?” he called back over his shoulder to Lucas.
“I am just making sure we get back on our ship,” Lucas said. He jumped up on the control panels and began smashing open the huge glass windshield of the control room with his Double Blade. Glass fell onto the control panels around him with a shattering sound, and wind rushed through Eoryn’s hair as the windshield was destroyed, leaving a gaping entrance to the air outside.
"Okay, Finiah, now would be a good time,” Lucas urged, looking back.
Finiah nodded, and grasping one of the levers firmly, he pulled it down. He quickly did the same to the other three (though it was unnecessary for the engine that was already destroyed), and immediately the cruiser began to move through the air more slowly, quickly losing its velocity. Finiah then set to hacking at the engine control panel, making sure that the engines would never be turned on again.
There were enraged yells and screeches from the door as the Heirum perceived what was going on, and suddenly the door yielded and burst open. An Heirum, broader and taller than any of the scum Eoryn had seen before, stood in the doorway with a mace in hand. He knew immediately that this creature was the lord of the Heirum.
Eoryn turned, leveling his Double Blade at the door, and purple flame arced from it, chasing the Heirum back out the door. He then jumped forward and stood before the doorway. Several Heirum scrambled towards him, but he swung his Double Blade, leveling them. Suddenly, though, he was thrown off his feet by the force of an impact. There was a loud sound of metal running across metal.
Lucas grabbed Finiah’s wrist and helped him up onto the control panels. “Go,” he yelled, pointing to the now glass-less windshield. “Jump!”
Outside the windshield, empty air no longer stretched below. The Heirum’s cruiser had slammed into the top of the 2B and now slid across its top, losing speed but still moving. Finiah jumped from the windshield and ran quickly to the side across the top of the 2B to avoid being run over. Lucas followed.
Behind them, Eoryn got back to his feet and made for his escape, but a metal object smashed into his back. Eoryn reeled under the pain and dropped to his knees. There was an exulting cry behind him, and he turned to see the Heirum leader closing the distance between him. It was empty-handed, having thrown its mace at Eoryn.
The Heirum leader grabbed Eoryn by his throat and jerked him up, slamming him into the edge of the control panels. Eoryn fought back the pain, clenching his teeth. He struggled with all his might to free himself from the Heirum as it gripped down on his throat, its claws digging into his skin, but the creature was incredibly strong. The Heirum stared down at Eoryn and smiled maliciously at the Kinrin struggling in vain. It squeezed harder, strangling Eoryn. “This one, at least, will not escape unscathed for the damage it has done to my ship. Turn the engines back on, now!”
“We can’t, my lord. They have destroyed the engine controls!” a small Heirum whined.
The Heirum leader roared and flung Eoryn across the control panels. “Make him bleed!” it yelled. “Kill him!”
A horde of Heirum descended on Eoryn as he gasped in a lungful of air, and he swung his Double Blade desperately, trying to keep the Heirum back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the Heirum cruiser had slid almost all the way across the 2B. If he didn’t get out soon, he wouldn’t get out at all. He would suffer the same fate as the Heirum. Eoryn swung his Double Blade fiercely again, and another Heirum screeched and fell into the growing pile at his feet. He jumped up desperately and tumbled out of the windshield. He landed on the very edge of the 2B and teetered precariously, nearly falling over the edge.
Eoryn stumbled to his feet and ran sideways, trying to avoid being pushed into the Divide by the cruiser sliding towards him. He nearly made it, but the corner of the heirum’s ship smashed into his side, throwing him off balance. Eoryn jumped forward as his momentum carried him towards the edge of the 2B, and he fell on his stomach, his legs hanging over into the open air. Right next to him the cruiser tipped downwards as it reached the end of the 2B and plunged into the Divide.
Eoryn flopped forward several times till his feet touched the edge of the roof and stood up. He looked down at the fierce ship descending into the Divide. Faint shouts and screeches echoed up to him from the Heirum. It seemed to him that the Heirum’s cruiser descended slowly, but he knew even now it was picking up speed as it fell into the depths. There would be no escape for the Heirum.
There was a noise beside him, and Eoryn turned to see Finiah and Lucas at his side looking down into the Divide at the disappearing ship. “We did it,” Eoryn said, trying to elevate his weary voice to a happier tone. “The Heirum are defeated.”
“Yes,” Finiah said, “we have our Creator to thank for our victory; we could not have done it on our own. The Heirum will perish, all of them, and we will reach the Crystal City. Are you okay, Eoryn?” Finiah continued in a concerned voice, looking his friend over. “You seemed to get the worst of it.”
Eoryn’s back throbbed, as did his side, and he had various small cuts and bruises, but he shrugged off his friend’s concern. “I am fine—better than the alternative, for sure. Let’s get off the top of this ship.”
Lucas, who had grown restless during this short conversation, nodded and pointed to the long gash the cruiser had made as it slid along the 2B. “I think the cruiser made a convenient way down for us over there.”
The three of them walked to the gash, and indeed the bottom of the cruiser had ripped a gap in the roof in several places, revealing a hallway below. “It looks like we can jump down into that hallway,” Lucas said, but then he paused. “I suggest we proceed with caution, guarding ourselves carefully. Though we have defeated the Heirum, I don’t know what the captain’s reaction will be. He could very well still put us in chains.”
“Yes,” Eoryn agreed, “we will guard ourselves. We need to find the other Kinrin in our group and keep together.”
Lucas nodded and jumped into the open gash, landing on his feet in the hall. Eoryn and Finiah followed, and the Kinrin began running down the hall. Lucas ran the hardest of them all, and it was a task for Eoryn and Finiah to keep up. Eoryn knew the reason for this, though he did not want to admit it.
They reached the front part of the ship, where they knew their friends would be if the captain had indeed gathered them, and they burst out onto an open deck. The captain and most of his crew were there, and the other Kinrin stood in a group a little to the side.
The captain immediately made towards Eoryn, Finiah, and Lucas when he saw them and practically kneeled at their feet as he bowed low to the ground. “My brave young Kinrin, you have saved us all. Even as I despaired for my ship and called for surrender, you embarked on a valiant quest that ultimately led to victory. You single-handedly defeated a host of Heirum, and for that you have my praise. I will never forget this, and I—“
A Double Blade was pressed to his neck, and the captain stopped abruptly. Lucas stepped forward, looking down the weapon at the captain. The hand that held his Double Blade was trembling, and his eyes were hard and glinting with rage. There was an exclamation from several of the sailors, and they stepped forward with swords unsheathed, but Lucas motioned for them to stop, pressing the dual blades even closer to the captain’s neck.
Lucas spoke, and his voice was low and strained, “You would have had us killed, captain, and it is only because of our valor that we are saved. Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you now, treacherous snake!”
“Lucas!” Eoryn exclaimed, grabbing his arm, but Lucas tore himself free, his eyes still locked on the captain.
“It was all I could do! They would have killed me had I not turned you over,” the captain pleaded, almost blubbering at Lucas’s feet. “Please, I will give you whatever you want, anything I can offer, just don’t strike!”
Lucas yelled fiercely in return and raised his Double Blade, but Eoryn sprang forward and grabbed Lucas’s sword arm with all his strength, keeping the blow from descending. “Lucas, listen to him! If you strike this captain down, our lives that we just saved will be lost. Come to your senses!”
Lucas lowered his blade and stepped back, and the fire dissipated from his eyes. “You will give us anything you can offer, even with the men gathered here testifying to this vow?” he asked the captain, his voice cold.
“Yes, anything,” the captain affirmed, slowly rising to his feet.
“Then take us with all speed to Gorendel as it was originally planned. If you again try to betray us, then the witnesses here will hold me justified in taking your life. Agreed?”
“So be it.” The captain, humiliated, turned and walked away without another word.
The tension lessened, and the crew began to disperse, most of them immediately put to assessing the damage done to the ship. Jalen, Kiran, Alena, and Nayele joined the three other Kinrin. The captain had ordered their bonds cut as soon as he had seen the Heirum ship fall into the Divide. All of them looked weary, but there was deep relief in their voices as they spoke together. The Kinrin told their stories briefly, Eoryn, Finiah, and Lucas telling of how they had conquered the Heirum while the others expressed their gratitude. In turn, the four other Kinrin told of their capture by the captain.
Eoryn nodded as Jalen expressed what they all hoped: that they would reach the other side of the Divide without any more trouble. He looked around the group. Already they had been through so much, and they hadn’t even reached the other side of the Divide yet. Eoryn felt that in one sense the struggles had been beneficial, though, for they had drawn the group together so close that Eoryn knew he would give his all to protect each of the Kinrin around him, even to the death.
His gaze stopped at Alena as he looked around the group. She had been talking a moment ago, but her warm green eyes looked back at him now. Eoryn smiled wearily at her, and she opened her mouth as if she was going to speak to him, but Lucas stepped forward, standing between them. He touched the piece of cloth tied over Alena’s forehead. “Were you wounded?”
Eoryn turned and walked off the deck, not hearing Alena’s answer. His steps were slow and heavy as he headed back to his room. If his bed had escaped the battle unscathed, he had determined to allow himself a long nap. He hoped that some sleep would relieve the tiredness that coursed through every part of his body, and he desperately wanted to escape the dejection that had suddenly replaced his joy at escaping their peril. He resolved then and there on that weary walk that he would be around and talk to Alena as seldom as possible.
Four days later the battered 2B limped into the harbor of Gorendel. The captain had been true to his word; there had been no trouble since the battle with the Heirum. The journey across the Divide was complete.
During these four days the Kinrin had been given enough time to recover from the battle, and all of them felt a new energy at the conclusion of this journey. Needless to say, they were all glad to be back on solid land again and to finally move ahead in what they had been called to do. “Well, we have reached Gorendel at last,” Finiah said to Kiran and Eoryn as they walked down the bridge connecting them from the ship to the docks hanging over the Divide. The other four Kinrin had gone to fetch their lone remaining ACVOT.
Kiran smiled and shifted the pack he carried from one shoulder to the other. “Yes, it is over at last. I grew so tired of the seemingly endless days aboard that ship—except for the day of the attack, of course. I will be fully happy to see this 2B making out of the harbor again, and I dread boarding another of these ships when it is time for the return journey.”
“The return journey . . .” Finiah said quietly, his voice trailing off. “Do you think there will be one? Look,” he said, pointing to a tall tower, “the Light Tower is empty. The Creator’s light has been removed even here. And who knows how many Kinrin are here from Srinmoor to help us in the defense of the Crystal City? There might be very few of us.”
“There might be,” Eoryn replied, “but then again, there might be more than we expected. We will find out soon. Regardless, I think we will find the citizens of Gorendel much more hospitable than those of Erailindor, even if the Light Tower is dark. As a culture they have always been welcoming of Kinrin from Srinmoor.”
Kiran suddenly stopped and pointed to the crowd milling about on the docks below them. “There is a man there below. He has been watching us come down this bridge, and he is making towards us.”
Eoryn searched through the crowd below and found the figure Kiran pointed out. He was a young man, though he looked to be several years past his coming of age, and his fine face was indeed turned up to the Kinrin as he walked towards the end of the bridge they were heading down. “I don’t know why he is making for us,” Eoryn said calmly, “but I wouldn’t worry about him. He looks like a decent enough fellow, and there are three of us and only one of him anyway.”
The three Kinrin resumed walking down the bridge, and they stepped onto the dock just as the man reached the spot. He smiled at the Kinrin. “Hello, friends, my name is Darias. I doubt not from the looks of you that you are Kinrin making to help defend the Crystal City? Is this correct?” The stranger shook each of the Kinrin’s hands firmly, and any suspicions Eoryn had had about the man vanished.
“Yes, sir, that is correct. We are loyal Kinrin headed for the Crystal City.”
“Then I welcome you all as my brothers. I was put in charge of gathering together the groups of Kinrin from Srinmoor here in this city by the Elders, and I will lead us into battle when the time is right.” Darias put his hand on the shoulder of a young women standing at his side. “My wife, Evelyn, will lead you to where we are stationing the Kinrin that have come so far. Are there others in your group?”
“Yes, four more,” Eoryn said, shaking Evelyn's hand. “They should be coming soon in an ACVOT.”“Very well,” Darias said, “I will make sure to find them and point them in the right direction. There is much to do.”