DAGMARTH AND THE ESCAPE FROM PALMAR
JOSEPH J. MICCOLIS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PROLOGUE – PEACE UNDONE
CHAPTER 1 – PALMAR
CHAPTER 2 – RETURN TO EARTH
CHAPTER 3 – MIRAMAR
CHAPTER 4 – MIDNIGHT WARNING
It was a marvelous night. Our people celebrated another year without war. The first year seemed complete so long ago. The kingdom had grand beauty in those days. Now, its grim state reflected the unforgiving destruction left by years of war. We lost the beautiful kingdom we remember from long ago. We lost the incredible architecture that represented our history as a people. We were left with remnants of a past world. A world that may never be restored. A result that left those alive grateful to be reunited and left alone. Tonight we recognize ten years’ peace. It’s the night of our Annual Feast of Peace in which the skies echo the rhythmic sounds of our deep-toned instruments. Our feet stomp the gravel with dance to show our happiness for being alive, and together. Our celebration is simple, but meaningful.
When we sat down for dinner, I enjoyed a special seat beside the throne on the royal floor. I shared laughter with King Asmoph and Queen Jessa. We heard stories of the gods and past victories from performers and enjoyed food and drink together. It was a feeling of ease I had not experienced in a long time.
King Asmoph said, “Solaris, I’m glad you could make it!”
“Your Majesty, I’d not miss it for anything.” I replied. “The peace seems unreal after so much time has passed.”
King Asmoph replied, “I forget that you’ve been around a bit longer than I, good friend!”
“Your Majesty, as you know I’ve been a part of the kingdom for several decades. I witnessed and took part in its growth as a community that flourished with the greatest minds and technologies. It was a utopia of people who created the impossible and built the impossible future. A future that appreciated a flourishing home for all. Your Majesty, I remain a humble servant of the throne, and your close friend. I only seek to best my service with my experience.”
King Asmoph replied, “Solaris, you are a dear friend. I ask that you not forget that. I have learned much from your teachings since my days as a boy. You and my father taught me about Dagmarth from references in the writings of the ancient scripture. It has been the stories passed down from one generation to the next that told me of the beliefs our ancestors valued for a community of diverse and intellectual minds.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. A community of immigrants from various planets who came to form a unique culture with the common purpose of building a better future for all.”
Queen Jessa replied, “The stories told of Dagmarth welcoming any mind that aspired to assisting this purpose. My favorite part is about the people who desired to use our technology to build an empire that followed control and obedience.”
Solaris replied, “Yes, Your Majesty. This desire created hostile enemies who formed various alliance that sought to conquer our kingdom by submission or defeat. I only knew of war through entertaining stories from my younger years, but surviving them is life-changing.”
King Asmoph replied, “Indeed, they are. We are now at peace, good friend. I hope you find comfort in that truth.”
Queen Jessa replied, “My father told me bedtime stories describing the fierce transformations that shaped our people into warriors. Dagmarth had no interest in swearing allegiance to its enemies. The kingdom trained its men and women in hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting. Our warriors were swift and clever, yet merciful. He explained that it was our instinct to avoid lethal force and this instinct became our greatest weakness.”
“This is true, Your Majesty. My bedtime stories were of the many battles our warriors fought, and how we won most. He sighed on the part that each victory left surviving warriors exhausted and in doubt. I felt sad learning that each loss reduced our military. My father would watch our military decrease until our forces could not protect them. Among his last words to me were that someday I would face the same reality with the kingdom. He explained that war is a never-ending conflict no matter how secure peace can seem among communities.”
King Asmoph replied, “Solaris, I have seen peace in most of my time on this throne. There have been few moments when war rose. Our warriors of my time have been quick to resolve them.”
“Of course, Your Majesty. I only say that peace is never guaranteed security. There is always a way back to war, especially by betrayal—those including your most trusted knights.”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “We will not speak of their names tonight!”
“Your Majesty, I did not intend to upset you. Please accept my sincere apologies.”
The truth is that capture led to harsh outcomes for the kingdoms in wars past, but the great betrayal of Lord Lazareth shook the kingdom to its core. He had been one of our greatest warriors, but he came to appreciate the idea of domination after several stints as a prisoner of war. Lazareth soon believed Dagmarth sought hierarchical order with its place at the top. Our enemies persuaded him that the alliance led by the Orthonian Emperor could create law and order. This system would form a unified and obedient community that frightened individual thought.
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Nonsense, Solaris! Now, I want to hear a story!”
I watched a knight standing guard at the throne summon the performers to His Majesty’s attention.
King Asmoph pointed to one of the performers.
He exclaimed, “You there!”
The young man replied, “Your Highness.”
I watched the performer bow and then kneel on one leg.
King Asmoph asked, “What is your name?”
The young man replied, “I am Soglis, Your Highness.”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Soglis, tell me a story. I want to hear of the old council!”
Soglis replied, “It’s my honor and a privilege to entertain you, Your Highness.”
I looked at King Asmoph who nodded for Soglis to begin.
Soglis said, “Members of the Hoods of Herald spoke of how the gods gifted two sacred items to the first king of Dagmarth.”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “A sword to represent the leadership of Dagmarth among all communities!”
Queen Jessa exclaimed, “A diamond to represent the balance between good and dark powers.”
Soglis replied, “Yes, Your Highnesses.”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Proceed!”
Soglis said, “The scripture is said to reveal a prophecy in which a Dagmarthian child would one day merge the items. The merge would create the most powerful weapon. A weapon that would help Dagmarth secure lasting freedom and peace or guide its enemy to complete domination.”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “The only mystery was whom this child would be—”
Queen Jessa exclaimed, “And which side the child would choose!”
I watched my king and queen share fierce laughter. I was entertained by the story, but knew that prophecies were not meant to be taken lightly. My king and queen still showed their childish ways by not believing these tales. It requires much experience on the throne to appreciate our history and the stories of our ancestors. Whether believable or not, these stories provide lessons, wisdom, and hope.
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Well done, Soglis!”
Soglis replied, “It was my honor and privilege to tell this story, Your Majesties.”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Now, be on your way! Someone fill this table more!”
The celebration progressed as the light blue sky faded into a dim grey shade. The starting hours of evening introduced cool breezes into the castle. We welcomed them in keeping us awake as we consumed a seemingly endless supply of food and drink with entertainment.
“Solaris, are you enjoying yourself this fine evening?” King Asmoph asked.
“Yes, Your Highness.” I replied. “This is a delightful celebration.”
“I may be reaching my end of the fun. Oh, this feast and drink did a number on me!”
My king had become a great leader of our people. I helped teach Asmoph the ways of our people when he was a boy until the day he accepted the crown. He managed to secure ongoing peace for our kingdom during his reign and had a long life still ahead. It was a happiness shared throughout Dagmarth that influenced his personality. My king became a man of joy, ease, and pleasure. I had never seen this side of him. It was much different from his serious attitude and relentless energy as a warrior. Love can change that. My queen brought an undiscovered side of him to life when they met. I watched his fierceness disappear the day he set eyes on her. Queen Jessa had a way with men and none had stood a chance of capturing her heart. Queen Jessa changed Asmoph in a way that made him humble and soft. It was a change that balanced strength with mercy which was fitting for a king. They discovered a love for each other that led them to marry. The kingdom embraced them together, and all communities welcomed their unified leadership.
As night fell, I grew fatigued. King Asmoph and Queen Jessa held hands as they slouched in their chairs, as if defeated by much food and drink. My body refused to rise as it still enjoyed the cushioned chair. I looked to King Asmoph whose eyes met mine.
“Solaris, my good friend.”
“Yes, Your Highness?”
“I think it’s time we retire our chamber.”
“I hope that you enjoy a deep sleep and late morning, Your Majesties,” I smiled.
“Goodnight, Solaris,” Queen Jessa said.
My king and queen helped each other out of their seats. Jessa burped as she rose, giggling out of embarrassment. While I imagined the warmth of my personal chamber, I heard a horn sound in the distance. I ignored my hearing until the horn resounded louder.
“My King, what is that?”
King Asmoph looked at me.
He replied, “What is what, Solaris?”
I watched as some of the King’s Guard broke from their posts. They began attacking members of the party.
I heard these guards exclaim, “For Lord Lazareth!”
King Asmoph pointed to these soldiers.
He shouted, “Traitors! Stop them!”
I watched other King’s Guard break from their posts and rush to the attacks. I forced myself from my chair and grabbed my cane.
King Asmoph said, “No! Sit down!”
Queen Jessa asked, “How did this happen?”
We saw messengers rush into the hallway with soldiers.
A messenger exclaimed, “The kingdom is under attack! We have been betrayed by many! Save the king and queen!”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Guards, protect the queen! She is the throne!”
He placed his hands in front of the queen and me as if shielding us from the attack. I watched as the traitors made their way to our seats as they murdered guests and performers who stood in the way. There were too many people in the chaos for guards under King Asmoph’s command to confront the traitors. The traitors who broke their posts near us were close by. Our guards changed direction toward us.
A traitor shouted, “Claim the king and queen! He wants them alive!”
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Guards! Everyone else drop to the floor!”
I saw more soldiers and messengers rush into the castle, bringing more chaos with them. It seemed this attack had begun everywhere near the castle. The guards under King Asmoph’s command reached us and formed a barrier in front of us. I saw the traitors between them, claiming innocent lives with their swords.
King Asmoph exclaimed, “Guards, escort us to our pod! Messengers, send all survivors on their way to the pods! All pods are to follow our lead!”
Voices shouted, “Yes, Your Highness!”
The attack came to the guards protecting us. I knew we would have to make the escape ourselves.
King Asmoph said, “Both of you come with me!”
He grabbed Queen Jessa’s hand and stepped by me.
He said, “Solaris, take her hand behind me.”
Queen Jessa and I followed his lead off the throne. I looked back and saw the formation had broken. Traitors defeated most of the guards at our seats and examined the empty cushions. They looked our way.
A voice exclaimed, “They’re heading for the pods! We must stop them!”
I refused to look back again. I followed my king and queen to the dungeons where the royal pod was docked on an underwater channel. We made a rushed effort to power it as many footsteps echoed in our trail. King Asmoph directed us to enter the pod once the door opened. I watched him instruct the navigational system for launch. Queen Jessa encouraged me to sit with her as the door closed. I saw our turned soldiers enter the docking area with their swords ready. The pod engaged launch and rose off the water. I looked through the windows as we ascended through the ground and into plain sight of Dagmarth. I feared we would not survive as King Asmoph controlled our flight with guidance. There were other pods soaring nearby and far with courses of direction heading toward us. The attack had come as a surprise to us all, and had been the worst of our history. I could not say how it was planned or by whom though I fear Dagmarth may be gone forever.
I escaped the attack on Dagmarth with Asmoph and Jessa in the royal pod. We led surviving pods into space, wandering passed planets. The late hours of night came as we traveled through distant solar systems. Our pods journeyed toward grim planets that we thought no one would want to inhabit. After observing their atmospheres, we concluded that Lazareth would never consider searching for us on any of them.
As Asmoph and I searched the cosmos, Jessa kept track of the small group of families that followed in our wake. While we led one group of survivors, many Dagmarthians sought refuge elsewhere. We knew that we had to spread out to make it difficult for Lazareth to hunt us.
After a look at the local navigation charts, Asmoph noted the presence of a mysterious planet hidden in the Doruk System.
“My love,” said Asmoph. “There is a small planet hidden among large planets in the Doruk System.”
“I didn’t notice it until the scan detected it.”
“Well,” said Jessa. “We’ve come far at this point. I suppose we could explore it.”
“Your Majesties,” said Solaris. “There are no other planets displaying in the charts and we must rest.”
“I agree.” replied Asmoph. “I can’t take us any further at this point. It’s been a long evening.”
“Okay, my love.” replied Jessa.
Asmoph set a course to the planet. When we began our approach into its atmosphere, the unrelenting haze forced us to rely on the pod’s radar and topography systems. Asmoph slowed us down with a series of gentle maneuvers, pinpointing a small continent to our west.
Our pods glided along a mountainside in a slanted path. All pods approached flat land away from the cliff top and soon met the surface to rest. Doors lowered to the ground as pods shut down. Several pairs of eyes looked through the windows, discovering a disappointing environment. I decided to beat the king and queen to the first step on this mysterious planet. I rushed to the doorway and looked down to see a rough, grimy surface. A terrible reek filled the air. A freezing chill overcame the warmth of my clothing. It was not the ideal setting for a new home, but there was no other choice. We needed to hide.
My king pressed a button on another display.
“Attention all. This is your king. I want all of you to close your door, activate security, and get sleep. We will explore the area tomorrow. That is all.” said Asmoph.
The next day came and all families gathered in front of the pods. Asmoph teamed each family with a Royal Guard for protection. He instructed each team to cover a short distance from our landing site in search of food, water, and shelter. Families grouped together and left in different directions. Asmoph stayed behind to examine the condition of the pods.
“How do they look, Your Majesty?” asked Solaris.
“I can’t say they’re in the best condition,” replied Asmoph. “But, I think they can take flight again.”
“Where will we go if we can’t go home?” asked Jessa.
“I don’t know, my love,” replied Asmoph. “I never imagined us in this situation.”
A group soon returned and reported sightings of wild animals spread throughout a nearby valley. A second group returned shortly afterward and reported sightings of wild berries on the other side of the mountain. The remaining groups returned one by one and reported sightings of trees, empty lands, and stone boulders. We arrived at the conclusion that our environment was sufficient for sustaining life. It was time to face reality and build a new home to survive. We regathered to explore our immediate area. Families spread into packs investigating the stone ruins scattered on the mountainside. We hoped for some sign of intelligent life, but found nothing.
Puddles of thick, gooey mud filled dozens of holes in the ground. The tiny creatures in them breathed hot steam as we passed by. We did not dare to disturb them.
A scouting party discovered a downhill path at the other end of the mountaintop. It led to a path of rolling hills that gave way to a rotting forest in the distance.
“Your Majesty, come quick!” exclaimed a Royal Guard.
“What is it?” asked the king.
“Your Majesty, it’s a place to build our homes!”
Once our small band had reorganized, Jessa and Asmoph led the way down the hill. When we reached the edge of the forest, we realized that the local area had become barren. We resolved to change our morbid environment from a wasteland into a sustainable village.
In our first gathering, we developed a plan for shaping the landscape. The elderly crafted tools and weapons from the fallen trees, branches, and stone. Our Royal Guard led the construction of a few homes and training facilities. The men hunted wild animals for food and fur. The women crafted clothing from the fur and cooked the fat and meat cut from the capture animals. The children gathered wild berries and cleaned the mud puddles to shape pots for storing the berries and rain.
Our true home felt so far away. The only wish was to find a new safe haven from our enemies. A place to hide from discovery. A place in the darkness.
It would be the start of the sixth year that a new prophecy came to me in a vision. I saw a future that showed us leaving this planet. A chain of events brought change to Dagmarth and the war. A boy gained the powers of the sword and diamond. He brought victories to Dagmarth and reshaped its home. It all seemed unreal. The last part of my vision showed an attack from the sky with quick snapshots of battle that faded with a white light.
I informed the king and queen of my vision. Asmoph decided to start evening patrols to keep sight on the night sky. We built a stone tower facing the cliffs to look toward the ocean. The Royal Guard paired into two-man teams to keep watch in the cramped high room of the tower until the end of the year. We followed this plan for five years.
It would be the next year that marked the beginning of a new hope, and our last chance to win the war.
I sat with my king one special night in the high room. The night was black and silent. Asmoph kneeled upon a stone block placed on the floor of the high room. He faced a cut-out window looking beyond the cliffs. Cloaked sleeves rested in a folded posture on a cut-out shelf in the wall. Each patrol kept looking for the slightest change, but there had never been any signs of disturbance.
Asmoph slouched back from the window. He fought Lazareth before hiding on this wretched planet. Asmoph longed to defeat Lazareth. The visions of a child leading Dagmarth to a victory sparked a sense of ease and excitement in him.
A fierce rainstorm brewed. A strong wind passed by the window. Lightning appeared over the cliff tops followed by a blast of thunder. The king looked up and leaned into the window. The clash echoed in the distance. He pressed his cloaked sleeves on the sides of the window. It seemed odd that natural weather patterns would happen now.
Was this the night that was foretold all those years ago?
Horns resounded from beyond the cliff tops. The figure rose into a standing posture and stepped back from the window. It drew a long, silver necklace from its cloak. A blue diamond illuminated the darkness as it dangled beneath the being’s right hand.
The figure knew that the coming events would begin with this night. The truth of the prophecy would lay a destiny far greater than any known to Dagmarth. A destiny for one child to embrace. It would bring change to this war and Dagmarth.
“We must leave this tower immediately!” I exclaimed.
“I know, Solaris,” the king said. “I’m just tired of running.”
“I’m sorry for your heavy thoughts, but we must leave before his fleet reaches the shoreline-or the prophecy will be hopeless.”
The King gazed out the window. He had finally seen the far spectacles of ships emerging from the clouds above. The ships sounded their horns again.
The king brought his hands to his hood and gripped the sides of his hood, pulling it back against his neck. The left side of his face shown as more strikes of lightning appeared. Bold, rigid features of his face emerged from the hood as black hair fell just below his cheek. The king had thick brows resting above green colored eyes. A tanned face appeared. A scar, reminding him of the horrors of war, laid across his lips. Asmoph learned long ago that war is best avoided because death is a terrible cost to pay. He had received the scarring reminder at the beginning of his reign. At that time, Asmoph led his most trusted knights through the Gorge of Aradel. The knights believed that they were several days ahead of Lazareth. They felt at ease, enjoying a peaceful stroll within the canyon. It would be short-lived.
Lazareth pressed his army forward in a rushed pursuit, catching the king and his knights in forty-eight hours. The horn blasts from above stunned the knights, forcing them to scramble in a frantic attempt to defend themselves.
Seconds later, Lazareth shouted his orders and a wave of flaming arrows landed in the gorge. While the Dagmarthians held their ground, Captain Selebius feared that the battle would soon become a slaughter.
“My king, we must escape!” he screamed. “We can’t stay down here!”
“I know, Selebius!” the king replied. “Let me think!”
Asmoph examined the many arrows.
Lazareth screamed a new command. Seconds later, flaming cannons smashed into the ground above the gorge. Soldiers screamed as some jumped into the gorge with their uniforms set on fire. Cannons landed in the gorge and got stuck in the narrowed space above the Dagmarthians. The king and his knights stared at the Orthonian soldiers enduring a slow burning death while others were smashed by a cannon for an instant death. Flickers of flames dripped from the cannonballs among the knights. The knights pressed against the walls in evasion. Orthonian ships launched more cannonballs at the gorge until our sight of the sky was nearly blocked by cannonballs and Orthonian bodies.
Asmoph remembered feeling his chest throb as he forced himself to think fast. The knights looked to him for any command. The Royal Guard had sacrificed much in the struggle for the diamond, refusing to give up in the name of the mission. Asmoph gazed at their faces, realizing that his brave warriors were on the verge of a rout.
He had to get his knights back to Dagmarth by any means necessary. Asmoph realized that a distraction was necessary for the knights to leave the gorge without taking further casualties. He realized the power of the white light could blind the enemy fleet. It would give the knights a moment before their enemy unleashed their next wave of attack.
Asmoph directed his knights to assume a crouched position as a powerful white glow consumed his body. The knights followed without speaking a word. Asmoph ascended from the gorge, attracting the eyes of his enemies. He landed on the rocky, hard surface on the opposite side of the Orthonians. The knights followed, landing just behind their king. The Dagmarthians felt they made the battlefield level.
“Deploy!” Lazareth screamed.
The Orthonian ships glided over the gorge and dropped soldiers by rope behind the Dagmarthians. They were reinforcements. Lazareth laughed as the soldiers gathered in formation several feet from the knights.
“Fire!” Lazareth screamed.
Asmoph stared at the enemy lines in horror and looked at the other side. The remnant of his army faced down a two-lined formation of steel cannons and pikemen. And in the center, Lazareth stood with a steel lance in one hand and a dark shield in the other.
Asmoph knew that Lazareth was eager to fight and he was eager to oblige.
“Captain!” exclaimed the king.
“Your Majesty.” replied Selebius.
“Form a loose perimeter! We have two fronts to fight!”
“Yes, Your Majesty! Dagmarthians, stretch a perimeter around the king!”
The knights sprang into action, spreading in a barricade around the king.
Lazareth shouted words from afar. As his artillery crews prepared for battle, his foot soldiers began their forward press. The knights held their ground around Asmoph. The knights swore a lifelong oath to give his or her life for the king.
“Dagmarthians”, Asmoph commanded. “Scorch the enemy—on my command!”
The knights spread even further apart. As their sleeves began to glow, they focused all of their attention on the soldiers.
It was war.
Asmoph examined the soldiers readying artillery.
“Now!” Asmoph ordered.
The knights raised their hands into the air, unleashed orbs of pure energy toward the soldiers. Some of the soldiers were hit and fell back off their feet.
“Fire!” Lazareth screamed.
The remaining soldiers finished readying artillery and launched the weapons. Cannonballs and gunshots launched toward the knights.
“Scorch the enemy at will!” Asmoph ordered.
The knights unleashed more orbs of pure energy toward the weapons. Some of the cannonballs and gunshots were stopped by impact, but few cannonballs continued and gunshots struck knights.
The enemy responded with a wave of arrows and cannon fire.
As the Orthonians advanced, more and more of their projectiles managed to break through the magical defenses. Asmoph knew that his knights could not maintain their position any longer. The knights closed with the enemy, engaging in hand-to-hand combat.
The king attempted to keep his formation intact and away from the edge of the gorge, but it was quite difficult.
“Dagmarthians, break off!”
Each knight abandoned formation, pulling away from the enemy force. The Orthonians accelerated their march in an attempt to catch them. Asmoph pressed his hand against his chest and felt the diamond near his heart. He would not let his knights embrace a fight without him despite his importance to the kingdom.
The king crouched to the ground, allowing the power of the diamond to course through him. In seconds, he ascended into the air, throwing spark after spark toward the enemy lines. He soon descended, watching s the magic struck cannonballs, arrows, and soldiers.
It was not near enough.
The king opted for an offensive stance, studying his surroundings before he returned to the brawl.
The knights fought for hours even as their numbers dwindled. While they fought bravely in the face of long odds, they were not clever as their enemies. Before long, Orthonian reinforcements arrived from the other side of the gorge. The Dagmarthians knew that the battle was lost.
“My king, we can’t hold a fight any longer!” Selebius shouted. “It’s a handful of us!”
“Your Majesty!” exclaimed Tynus. “Lazareth approaches our side!”
Asmoph turned as he heard Tynus nearby. The king identified the knight in the midst of combat. He noticed an unforgettable face leading soldiers into the crowded battle. A face of the traitor who led this fleet against the knights. Asmoph paused for a moment. Lazareth already noticed him. The traitor started walking among the enemy of fighters as if to face him. Asmoph assumed an offensive stance. He would not surrender.
Lazareth faced him with a sinister smile.
“Your Majesty,” Lazareth hissed. “You all will die today.”
“I’m not your king,” Asmoph said.
Lazareth swept his hand across the king’s face.
Asmoph stared at Lazareth.
“You were always skilled with surprise.” said Asmoph.
He spit blood from the cut on his lips.
Lazareth gazed at the short dagger gripped in his hand. Blood stained its side.
“By the end of this battle, you’ll be no one’s king.”
The traitor wiped the blade on his arm.
“You may be right, Lazareth, unless we escape again!”
Lazareth growled. He swung the dagger at Asmoph, who evaded the blade.
“Fight back, king!”
Lazareth drew his sword swung his weapons again and again at Asmoph, but the king kept stepping back. In time, the monarch spun around Lazareth, drew a short dagger, and slashed his backside. It formed a marking reminder. A reminder that the Dagmarthians would always find a way to escape his attack and infuriate him.
Asmoph plucked the diamond necklace from his hood, and slammed it into the ground. In an instant, a blue ball appeared a few feet above the ground. Lazareth attempted to rise to his feet, but a shockwave from the orb threw him back to the ground. He watched the blue ball stretch into a portal.
“Follow me!” Asmoph cried. “Into the portal!”
“You coward!” Lazareth screamed. “You can’t keep running from me!”
Asmoph led his remaining knights through the portal. Lazareth struck at the knights with every weapon in his arsenal, inflicting as many casualties as he possibly could. After the remainder of the Dagmarthians crossed over, the portal began closing itself. The king could hear Lazareth laughing as his soldiers crowded around the injured Dagmarthians. They beat and hacked the fallen knights to death, eliciting screams that would haunt the survivors for a long time to come.
“Your Majesty!” Solaris said. “Come on, before it’s too late!”
The king brought himself back to reality. He looked into the window. Massive ships came near above the dark sea. His eyes widened at the sight of the leading ship. While the ship was still over the water, he noticed that the hull marked it as the “Arken”. Steel horns rested in front of the ship like chained tusks, designed to ram through anything in their path.
“I will not let it fall into your hands, Lazareth,” Asmoph muttered
Asmoph remembered the Battle of Orion, on Acron. Blood stained the desert as blades clashed in combat. Asmoph avoided major injury, but those under his command were not so lucky. Lazareth killed many knights in his single-minded quest to claim the diamond that swayed on Asmoph’s neck. In the heat of battle, Lazareth made his way toward the king with reckless abandon, slashing through one knight after the other. As he approached the king, Lazareth raised his weapons, expressing his desire to duel to the death.
Asmoph pointed his sword to his enemy, welcoming an attack. Without a word, the two warriors clashed in single combat. They dueled for several minutes, but neither could draw blood. Lazareth grew frustrated over the course of the battle, but gained the upper hand when he realized noticed the king begin to sway. Lazareth knew Asmoph had become exhausted.
“Round two.” said Lazareth.
Swords clashed as Lazareth and Asmoph dueled again. Asmoph’s reflexes slowed and his movements dragged. Lazareth laughed. Asmoph could barely wail his sword now.
“You’re mine!” exclaimed Lazareth.
The traitor drew his sword toward the king, plunging it into his side. Asmoph shouted in pain. He stood for a moment, pressing his hand to the wound. Lazareth shoved his sword deeper inside the gash. The king stood as blood dripped from his hand and down his skin. Lazareth pulled the handle, sliding the sword from the wound. The man pointed the blood-dripping sword to the ground. He approached the Dagmarthians with a proud, sinister smile.
“I can always count on you losing focus, unlike you I know how to keep my eyes on my enemy. It was silly of you to believe what I said, have you not learned anything from our past encounters? But, to the important matter for why we are here. The diamond that hangs from your neck. It’s time I claimed it. You have kept from me for enough time.”
Asmoph stood gasping for air. Blood gushed from the wound. He swayed in his tiresome state. Lazareth extended his hand to Asmoph, reached for his neck, and plucked the necklace.
“Yes. I will keep this diamond safe,” the traitor said. “Consider it a relief, old friend. You and your families have kept it from me for long enough.”
Asmoph collapsed from his injuries. Lazareth pitied the warrior and king, but he did not wish for his death. It would be too easy. Lazareth kept the necklace clenched in hand as he walked away. With a wave of the hand, the Orthonian case that blue shockwave that seemed all too familiar in their struggle. The blast knocked the Dagmarthians off of their feet, clearing the way for Lazareth to pass them by. The Orthonians rallied around their leader, disappearing from the field in a matter of moments.
As the knights struggled to their feet, the uninjured rushed to aid their king. They offered water and checked his stomach wound, but Asmoph lost consciousness in the extreme heat. He would only awaken after nightfall. Although they had taken losses, the Captains of Dagmarth ordered their knights to pursue the enemy. The Dagmarthians pushed as far as they could through the desert, but some collapsed and died on the journey. The king knew that it would be impossible to carry the dead home, so he encouraged those remaining to carry on.
The group left the desert, taking shelter in an abandoned city with no sign of food or water. While their numbers dwindled, the knights pressed onward until they found their way out of the desert. They crossed through a forest and met a familiar mountainside, drawing much needed sustenance from the streams and plants in the area.
As the battered soldiers proceeded to the mountain, they were forced to push forward in the face of wind and rain. With the setting of the sun, Asmoph sensed they were close to their enemy. The king ordered his warriors to push up the mountain, and they were more than happy to oblige. Asmoph noticed a flicker of light reflected on the ground at the next corner of the mountainside. He remembered what came next from studying these great mountains as a child. The legends told of a cave that was discovered by Acron, a Knight of the Throne. Travelers often argued over the truth behind his disappearance, but there were only a few pieces that were agreed to be a matter of historical fact.
King Asmoph was certain that Lazareth and his soldiers had made camp within the cave. He hoped they were still there. The knights crept along the closest wall as they entered the cavern, one by one. Once inside, Asmoph noticed that a lantern hung on the rocks a few steps ahead. More lanterns lit the way as the passage veered to the left, shining light on an array of crooked columns. Footsteps sounded in the darkness beyond the columns. Asmoph signaled his knights to lay low and wait.
“Vitra, you better not be drunk!” Lazareth said. “It’s your turn to patrol!”
Asmoph looked back, noticing Henrick as he crept forward. He knew that the knight would accept any instruction, so he signaled for Henrick to strike down Vitra as quietly as he could.
The knight stopped at his king’s side timing his attack with precision. Vitra appeared out of the darkness, drawing closer to the knights with each step. After a few moments of observation, the Orthonian shrugged his shoulders, confirming no hint for alarm.
He approached the other wall, flicking each lantern along his way.
Henrick crept along the wall in his wake, approaching the crooked columns like a ghost. He knew that he had a limited window of opportunity to kill his quarry before the Orthonians were alerted to their presence, so he closed the distance, drew his dagger, and slit Vitra’s throat.
The man choked on blood, falling to his knees. Henrick laid the body on the ground. After confirming that the area was clear, Henrick waved his hand in front of the nearest lantern, ushering his fellows forward. They reformed a line behind Asmoph, sneaking further into the darkness.
After crossing into another chamber, Asmoph spotted several Orthonians around a small fire. Lazareth sat on a boulder at the far side of the fire, drinking from a bottle as his soldiers laughed. Tynus nudged his left shoulder, pointing out the necklace as it hung from a small lantern. It was difficult to see among larger lanterns, but Lazareth’s gaze seemed to be fixed upon it.
Asmoph summed Pantero, a knight renowned for his speed in the heat of battle.
Asmoph whispered, “Do you see the necklace on the lantern there?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Pantero knew that his king asked him to commit to a suicide mission. He would have ten seconds until he attracted attention, which would make it difficult to escape. However, his success would allow Asmoph and the knights to escape back to Dagmarth.
Despite the risk, he accepted the task without question. Asmoph signaled the other knights to move back to the entrance. Once he was alone, Pantero made a quiet approach, staying hidden as he made his way across the chamber. Ahead, a bottle shattered on the ground, forcing the knight to take cover behind a large rock.
“Risher!” Lazareth exclaimed.
“Relax, Laz,” replied Kroth. “The bottle was just about gone.”
“I told you not to let yourself slip this far. We have the diamond back in our hands, and I will not lose it from sloppiness. Get your act together!”
Lazareth pulled a short blade from his waist, pointing it at Risher.
“Okay, Laz. You made your point. Risher is just sharing our relief to have it back in your hands. It’s a fierce storm out there. No one would dare travel in it as we did.”
“Except those Dagmarthians!”
Lazareth peered into the darkness.
“Why has Vitra not returned? I sent him on patrol an hour ago. Find him!”
Sethos pulled himself up from the rock, moving toward Pantero’s position. As he led his group into the darkness, Lazareth paced back and forth. Risher fought the urge to sleep with all of his might, angering his commander.
Seizing the opportunity, Pantero plucked the necklace from the lantern, sprinting into the darkness.
“They have the diamond!” Lazareth screamed. “Kill them all!”
“Sethos! They’re here! One has the diamond! Stop him! Kill them all!”
As Lazareth drew his sword, Pantero followed the lanterns to a familiar corner. He slammed into an Orthonian, knocking the main off of his feet. He thought it would be enough to avoid combat, but was soon shot in the back by his pursuers. Stumbling over in agony, he gritted his teeth and fought through the pain. Luckily, a pair of hands offered aid, dragging him toward the entrance.
“Give this to the king!” Pantero exclaimed. “Hurry!”
“We have the diamond!” the knight shouted, taking the necklace.
“Let me up!”
The aiding knight slid his hands under Pantero’s arms and lifted. The King ran to the entrance with the diamond in hand. Raising his hand, Asmoph began to open the portal home. Lazareth and the rest of his soldiers rushed to confront the enemy, drawing weapons as they ran. Sethos approached his fallen comrade, pulling him to his feet. Before too long, he also discovered Vitra’s body at the other end of the cavern.
“Vitra is dead!”
The hooded figure helped Pantero toward the other Dagmarthians. Once they emerged from the cave, the portal opened up. Every surviving knight stepped through it and onto familiar gravel. Asmoph waved Pantero and his aiding comrade forward even as the Orthonians closed in.
“Hurry, you two!” he shouted.
Sethos rushed the portal, ordering his soldiers to form a line. The hooded knight saw sudden concern express on the face of his king.
“Take him home,” the knight whispered.
Asmoph nodded, extending his arms. The hooded knight pulled Pantero forward and tossed him to the king.
Asmoph backed into the portal and caught Pantero in his arms, falling back onto gravel. The hooded knight jumped toward the portal, only to be struck by multiple rounds.
There was nothing that could be done to save the hooded hero. The portal closed.
Sethos and his soldiers approached the fallen knight, staring at their defeated enemy. Lazareth pushed through the soldiers. He smiled, pulling the knight up before plunging his sword into his chest. The soldiers cheered.
“I will end Dagmarth! Knight by knight!”
He slashed the knight through the neck. He pressed the blood soaked blade against the hood. The hood fell back, falling behind the cloak and off the mountainside. Lazareth kicked the headless body, and they watched it fall of the edge descending out of sight. Lazareth turned back, looking at his men. They laughed.
The Orthonian horns roared, snapping Asmoph back to the present moment. The king could hear the wind whistling in the chilly, night air. Asmoph gripped the diamond in his hand. He looked down and closed his eyes.
“Spirits of Dagmarth, give us strength to hold off this enemy,” he said. “Let us escape the ill-fated doom threatened upon us. I beg you.”
Asmoph opened his eyes and looked back into the window. The closest ships had stopped in a line that spanned the entire shoreline. The king knew he had to follow Solaris’ advice.
“Your Majesty!” Solaris exclaimed. “We do not have any more time!”
“Alright,” Asmoph replied. “Let’s go!”
Solaris rushed to the door, pulling it open with ease.
The King approached Solaris. He gazed into Solaris’s eyes as if to remember them one last time.
Solaris urged, “Go!”
He pointed through the open doorway. Asmoph placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, descending the long ladder to the ground. The wind and rain pushed against him. He saw the black ships hovering in near distance beyond the cliffs.
“You may think you outnumber us,” he said. “You may think you’re on the right side of history, but your mind is clouded by dark influences. You may have the upper hand tonight, but you’ll not have the sacred items or the child.”
Asmoph glanced from one ship to the next. The attack was pending. The Dagmarthian waited for some sign of a weapon.
“Why do you wait Lazareth? Kill me. Kill us all. We can’t fight you again.”
Dagmarthians rushed from the cliff tops, hurrying past the boulders and into the darkness of the land. The Orthonian feel remained silent as they faced the cliffs high above the dark sea. Asmoph stared at the Arken, bringing his hands together in prayer.
“This is neither our home nor our planet. We built a new village here. A village that brought us peace since our greatest battle on Dagmarth. Lazareth, my fallen friend, I will never let you feel victory again. Dagmarth will fight you to its end.”
Asmoph pulled the necklace from his neck. It was time. The King dreaded that the ships would release fire as Solaris foretold. To his left, Orthonian ships surrounded the mountainside, but he focused his attention on the Arken.
“You’ll never win, Lazareth. No matter how much you destroy. No matter how much we lose. You’ll never win.”
The cannons ignite with blue flame.
Asmoph aimed the necklace at the leading Orthonian ship. A white light sprang from his hand, throwing the enemy vessel into chaos. In response, the Orthonians released a volley of blue fireballs toward the mountaintop. Some struck the stone tower, knocking it unstable. Its rigid blocks crumbled to the ground.
The attack began.
The ships rained flaming cannonballs down on the mountaintop. Asmoph ran from the fallen tower and made his way under the shower of cannonballs.
There was no escape.
“Solaris, where are you?” he asked.
“We’re waiting for you at the palace,” Jessa replied. “Hurry!”
“Are you okay, my love?”
“We are both well. The servants aided my birth to our firstborn during your patrol!”
Asmoph felt relieved, refocusing his mind. There was too much happening to navigate by food. The king had to move faster. There was one way, but it required a tactic that he had not used in over a decade. He scanned the land before him, finding a crumbled stone wall. The skilled Dagmarthian closed his eyes, imagining his destination, and disappeared.
Asmoph reappeared beside the wall, quickly stepping away to seek his next destination. He teleported to a broken down wooden cart. Over time, the Dagmarthian reached the other end of the mountaintop. Looking back at the chaos, he saw his people gathering their families and heading into their homes. The plan to escape had begun.
Asmoph realized that he could not just leave with the diamond. He had to get to the armory in the lower land. He teleported to the hilltop and made his way to the armory. Asmoph looked back, noting the progress of the enemy attack. Once the Orthonian ships depleted their weaponry, Lazareth would deploy his soldiers to kill all of the survivors and secure the sacred items. Deep down, Asmoph knew that the truth of the prophecy would make this their last and most memorable escape.
Future generations of Dagmarth would learn about it. The escape from Palmar. A fireball rolled toward the side of the armory. Asmoph rushed inside, looking for the sacred sword. The walls shook as the fireball came near, releasing some of the weapons from their docks. Once he stepped back, he saw the emblem of two white wings, a gold wreath, and a diamond impression that marked his prize.
It was a perfect design. A design reflecting the beauty of a lost age.
Asmoph reached for the tip of the blade, but fell to the ground when a fireball blasted through the opposite wall. He scurried onto the vacant docks above, secured the sword on his waist, and leaped back to the entrance. The king jolted forward, navigating an unmarked path home.
“My love, are you okay?” Jessa asked.
“I’m alright, Jessa,” the king answered. “I had to get it, and now I have it.”
“Wonderful, but hurry now. It’s only a matter of ti—”
A fireball zorched through the air past Asmoph. It headed in the one direction that horrified Asmoph, smashing into structures several yards ahead.
“No worry, Asmoph. We are far clear of it. Please hurry.”
Asmoph sprinted forward, evading rocks and still fireballs.
So much destruction, he thought, I will never understand the madness.
Asmoph looked up to the ships. It was clear that the only way of escape was above them. He met Solaris and Jessa at the ruins of the royal palace. Jessa cradled their newborn in her arms.
“How is the child?” Asmoph smiled.
“He is brave, my love”, Jessa replied. “Brave like his father.”
“What should his name be?”
“Kodus would be a fitting name for our firstborn. It’s one of strength, wisdom, and hope.”
Asmoph took the child into his arms, cradling him with a gentle sway. Kodus smiled and reached for Asmoph. A tear of pride trailed down Asmoph’s cheek. Jessa stood with her husband and admired their son. The baby voiced a small laugh about the attention from his parents.
“Prince Kodus, my son. Great adventures await you. Your destiny will come in time. I wish you could have seen the beautiful paradise we knew, but I believe you’ll build something far beyond anything we could imagine. For now, we must keep you hidden until you’re ready. A home far worse than this planet, I fear.”
A fireball smashed into the structure, destroying the ceilings.
“Your Majesties!” exclaimed Solaris. “This is a fine moment for your family, but the wrong place! We must go now!”
Asmoph looked back. The ships hovered closer into the mountain. He knew that they were readying to deploy soldiers. He could see no one else on the surface. All had followed the plan.
“Everyone is underground,” he exclaimed. “It’s time we were, too!”
Asmoph returned the baby to his wife. The royals followed Solaris to the other end of the first level as arrows rained around them. The knight looked back for a moment.
“Asmoph, do not distract yourself!” he said. “We must go! There’s no time!”
The elderly man pulled a hidden door from the ground. Jessa passed through it and Asmoph followed, proceeding under the surface. The knight followed, grabbing the inside of the opening with his other hand. A bullet flew into the structure and pierced his wrist through the door.
“Ah!” Solaris shouted. “It hurts. It hurts!”
“Jessa, keep moving,” Asmoph ordered. “Don’t stop!”
Asmoph tried to pull the wrist from the arrow, but the pain was unbearable. There was nothing that Asmoph could do.
“My friend, you must spare yourself. It’s too late for me.”
“I’m not leaving without you, Solaris. You’re family!”
He drew the sacred sword and lopped off the trapped wrist. Solaris placed a chunk of cloak in his mouth and bit down, voicing pain through his clenched jaws. Blood gushed from the amputated limb. Asmoph pulled Solaris into his arms.
“Now, we must go!” Asmoph said.
The Dagmarthians rushed from the opening. Solaris gripped the inside handle of the door and pulled it down, allowing Asmoph to carry him below. Jessa ran with Kodus through the hidden passage. They followed close behind.
“If we can just get to the pod, then we could escape!” exclaimed Asmoph.
“We still have to make it past the ships.” exclaimed Jessa.
The narrow corridor led a descending path to an underground dungeon. Lanterns provided dim light along the walls.
“Ugh, how I have hated this place,” Jessa muttered. “It’s not our home and it’s time we left this nightmare.”
Footsteps passed above.
“I fear they’re close!” exclaimed Jessa.
“Keep moving, Jessa!” exclaimed Asmoph.
“Don’t let them escape,” a voice shouted. “He wants them alive!”
The three rounded a corner in the dungeon.
“There it is!” exclaimed Solaris.
A shiny red pod lay in still water on the far side of the transport chamber. The Dagmarthians made their way to the ramp. Asmoph laid Solaris down and removed his necklace, transferring energy to the pod before it opened up.
“Jessa, get in,” he ordered. “Solaris, you’re next.”
“I fear we will not have time, Asmoph,” Solaris replied. “You still have to set a course and prepare for lift-off.”
Solaris now understood why his vision ended with a bright white light. He sat on the wooden ramp, gazing at Jessa as she stood by the lowered door of the pod. She looked sadly at him.
“You have someone else to look after now.” said Solaris.
Solaris prodded Asmoph with his cane, forcing Asmoph back. Jessa walked into the pod, looking back at the men. Solaris smiled as he pushed the king into the pod and pressed the top of his cane into the door control.
“Solaris, no!” Asmoph screamed.
“I’m sorry, friend,” Solaris said. “Your destinies await.”
A wide window emerged across the front of the pod as the door sealed closed. Asmoph stared at Solaris with his fists pressed the window. Solaris looked back to the dungeon, waiting for the soldiers. He saw the ground reflections of the lanterns flicker. Seconds passed. Soldiers appeared from the corner with swords gripped.
The elderly man laid his cane down on his side and waited. Asmoph and Jessa watched from the window. A blue screen appeared to their left in the pod. An array of buttons on a table emerged from a compartment below the blue screen.
“Destination, please?” a voice asked.
“Planet Earth. The Quicksand System.”
Asmoph and Jessa watched Solaris as the men approached him. He waved his other hand at them. A white blaze knocked the Orthonians backward, but the soldiers quickly returned to their feet. He chuckled and threw his cane at them. The soldiers approached Solaris, drawing guns from their waist.
“No!” Asmoph shouted.
Asmoph slammed his fists against the window and watched his friend get shot. The pod initiated power. The still water bubbled.
“There was nothing we could do, my love,” Jessa said. “He realized his destiny and accepted it.”
“He does not deserve this fate. He—”
Asmoph choked on his words.
Jessa placed her hand on his back. The pod engulfed in steam, shaking as it gathered energy. The soldiered grinned at Asmoph as he cried, kicking the body of his dear mentor into the water.
“Goodbye, old friend,” Asmoph said.
My king, Solaris said in Asmoph’s mind, we will meet again in the white light. We will join those passed.
“Your death will not be in vain. You were like a father to me, guiding me in life.”
Look for me in the stars and always in this light.
The pod rose from the water. The soldiers stood on the dock and watched the pod in disgust.
“My love,” Jessa said. “I’m so sorry for this loss.”
The pod accelerated.
“Brace for impact.” a voice said.
It broke through dungeon ceiling and emerged through the ground.
Dozens of Orthonian soldiers ravaged the land, but they were too late. The pod rose into the air, joining the other pods in formation. The Orthonians threw everything they had at the pods. Some at higher distances engaged warp speed, but others were destroyed.
“Jessa, my love,” Asmoph said. “I swear to you that if we survive, he will not find us for many years. I know he believes that we would never dare to go back to Earth. It’s the only place I know we can hide, but it will be only us. I’ve made sure of that. No one here knows our destination. I couldn’t risk it.”
“I understand,” Jessa replied.
Asmoph placed his hand on Kodus’ head.
“Kodus, your time will come soon. You’ll become the hero of Dagmarth. You’ll bring peace back to our people, our galaxy, and all galaxies. I’m sure of it.”
“Preparing for warp speed.”
The royal pod slipped through the enemy attack, leading other pods above the ships. The royal pod started to slow as the ground faded below. White energy surged to its bottom, zapping the pod in random spots. The energy gathered into a ball.
“Engaging warp speed.” a voice said.
The energy bubble expanded fast and then exploded. The pod shot up with great speed, plummeting into the clouds. It was out of sight.
The pod sped across the Quicksand System maneuvering around planets, a moon, and asteroids on a course for Earth. Asmoph and Jessa briefly dwelled on this planet in their younger years. It was a small, insignificant planet in a galaxy that was largely lacking peaceful communities. Stories reveal that past generations of Dagmarthians visited the galaxy while exploring far away from home. These stories describe troublesome quarrels between and among the communities of Earth that focused on territory and power. The Dagmarthians failed to show the humans how to find peace and it led to global warfare. A community in the western hemisphere revealed a secret weapon that it launched toward the east. None realized the impact of the weapon as its toxins spread through the air and water. The toxins eventually dissipated, but nearly killed everyone. Asmoph could never allow a weapon of mass destruction to reach Dagmarth or his enemies.
The pod approached the planet, breaking through gray rain clouds. Asmoph and Jessa watched the raindrops trail up and along the sides of the pods. Thunder sounded nearby, stirring Kodus awake with a cry.
Jessa hushed the baby with a smile, bobbing her arms to comfort him. Meanwhile, Asmoph approached the control console.
“I hope it will be better this time,” he said. “This place feels no different than what I remember of it.”
“That was many years ago,” Jessa replied. “I’m certain that things have changed.”
Asmoph could only smile at his wife and son. The king returned to his seat beside his queen, resting his right hand against Kodus’ forehead.
The pod descended through the clouds on its final approach. The king examined their course on the display.
“What is the matter, my love?” Jessa asked.
“The pod is detecting something,” Asmoph answered.
“What do you think it is?”
Asmoph pressed buttons.
“I don’t know.”
Asmoph flung backward as the pod spun out of control. Asmoph tried to get on his knees, pressing his hands on the floor to push himself up.
“Is it them?!” asked Jessa.
“Warning! Structure has sustained critical damage.” said the alert system.
“Report!” Asmoph yelled.
“Warning! Auto-pilot and navigation systems are now inoperable!”
Asmoph crawled to the control panel, grabbing the edge of the dashboard, and pulled himself up. After confirming the damage to the pod, the king activated the manual controls.
“AVANA, activate invisibility cloak!” Asmoph ordered.
“Invisibility cloak powering on!” said the alert system.
A layer of plasma slowly engulfed the pod, causing it to disappear.
“Do you remember the house that we built, love?” Asmoph asked.
“What of it!” Jessa yelled, struggling to quiet her son.
“Where was it?”
“AVANA, display coordinates for Miramar!” Asmoph ordered.
A notification showed a pair of numbers for longitude and latitude. Asmoph pressed numbers on the keypad.
“Coordinates confirmed for new destination! Manual navigation will be required!”
“Power up for travel!” Asmoph ordered.
“Charging for top speed!” said the alert system.
“No, AVANA, just some speed!”
“Current speed is set at twenty-five percent.”
Asmoph gripped a handle with one hand and placed his other hand on a sensory pad. He pushed the handle forward and slid his other hand forward. The pod dropped below the clouds and glided toward its destination a few hours away.
It was a long journey. Asmoph managed to land the pod at 5:28 in the morning on the outskirts of Miramar. The area looked so different.
Asmoph knew that Kodus would not live in accordance with the ways of Dagmarth, but he could use the ideas of this world to create a better kingdom. Each human community had a unique quality contributable to global peace. The western communities produced brilliant technologies they shared with the world. The eastern communities displayed strong leadership in alliances and followed pseudo-democratic systems. Asmoph could see the way these communities could unite as one, but no Dagmarthian had lived a human life to understand it.
Jessa rose from her seat. She walked to the control panel beside Asmoph.
“AVANA, report all damages!” Asmoph ordered.
“Navigational system at one-hundred percent impairment. Stealth system at fifty percent impairment. Defense system at one-hundred percent impairment.”
“How much time do we need to repair?” asked Jessa.
“A few years.”
“Well, let’s get to work.”
“First, let’s get to shelter. I saw a house over there as we landed. It may be vacant.”
Asmoph retrieved the sword and dug it into the window. The sword pierced through it. He kicked it until glass broke for an opening. Asmoph made a passageway and signaled Jessa to step through it. He followed and looked back.
“Go with Kodus to the cornfield,” Asmoph said. “I’ll stow the pod before someone comes through that opening in the trees. I don’t recall Miramar being the friendliest place.”
“No, we will wait for you,” Jessa replied. “That farmhouse is just a few yards from here.
Asmoph pressed his left hand on the pod and it transformed into a vehicle. He drove it into the farmhouse and returned.
“Now we can get going, my love.” Asmoph said.
“Yes, of course,” Jessa replied. “We will need to get tools for the repairs.”
“I agree,” said Asmoph. “We will need a plan for entering Miramar to get supplies. It may require interaction.”
“Whatever it takes, love.” Jessa said.
Asmoph and his family walked toward the meager house, taking great care to not destroy the food around them.
“I hope that no one is living here.”
“I think not, my love.” Asmoph replied. “If anyone was, there would be livestock in the farmhouse and water in the windmill.”
“If not,” Jessa said. “The windmill should be used for other purposes.”
“Yes,” Asmoph replied. “We could use a power generator.”
A rustle sounded nearby, alerting the pair.
“I think we are not alone,” Asmoph said. “Wait here.”
Asmoph and Jessa looked in every direction, but could only wait as the rustle came closer.
Jessa ducked to the ground, keeping Kodus safe in her arms. Asmoph pulled a knife from his legging, moving toward the rustling. After a few moments, he spotted the animal as it leaped from stalk to stalk, but could not tell if it was dangerous or not.
“Guide this weapon to end the threat that dares to harm my family!”
Asmoph tossed the knife into the air. The knife swirled in different directions as it ascended in the air, coming to a stop above the cornfield. The weapon dove to the corn stocks. The Dagmarthian walked toward the sight, where sparks flew. Asmoph spotted a dark-furred animal on the ground and pulled the knife from the wound.
“What are you?” he asked.
Asmoph pulled apart the fur, revealing machinery. He looked at the face of the animal, noticing red eyes.
“Is it dead?” Jessa asked.
After wiping his knife on his cloak, he placed his knife on the animal’s right eye and plucked it. The eye dangled from its socket, revealing wiring.
“We better get inside,” Asmoph said. “I think we’re being watched.”
Asmoph stabbed the animal until there was no sign of life. Jessa looked at the animal over Asmoph’s shoulder.
“What has happened to this world?” Jessa asked.
“I don’t know,” Asmoph replied. “I’ve not seen this before.”
“Let’s get inside,” Jessa said. “We need to be out of sight.”
The two Dagmarthians approached the back porch of the house.
“Wait here while I check it out,” Asmoph said, stepping onto the porch. He tested the knob and opened the door slowly. The king stepped inside, peeking around each corner. The rooms were vacant with cobwebs hanging from door hinges. He knew this house had been empty for several years.
“Okay, it’s clear!”
Jessa walked through the open doorway, examining the interior.
“It’s not much, but it’s a start,” Jessa smiled.
“Sir, you may want to see this footage,” said a soldier.
A general approached the chair of the soldier and looked at the screen.
“What is it, soldier?” asked the commander.
“Sir, we have possible hostiles in the area. A man and woman. The man destroyed a patrol camera.”
“They’re on the other side of the tree line, sir.”
“Send another patrol camera out there,” said the general. “I want them monitored.”
“Inform me if they approach the base.”
Sunlight cast into a plain bedroom through a wretched window. Worn blankets draped over an aged mattress. A nearby rooster voiced the start of a new day. The blankets rustled.
“Shut—up,” he said.
“Sweetie, the day is starting,” she said.
The boy rubbed his eyes and tossed his blanket aside.
“Ugh,” he muttered. “I want sleep.”
Kodus rose from bed, dressing himself in a ragged shirt and shorts.
After a yawn, he bounded down the stairs and into the kitchen. Jessa prepared a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, potatoes, and a tall cup of milk. She placed a plate before her son, who began to shovel it into his mouth.
“Your father is in the farmhouse,” she said. “When he returns, he will be asking for your help.”
“What does he do in there every day?” Kodus asked.
“Oh, honey. It’s just his place to work on things.”
“Father needs an entire farmhouse for that?”
“Well, you’re not of age to be in there and help him.”
“Have you ever helped him, Mother?”
“Yes, I have.”
“How do you help him?”
“I have ways.” Jessa laughed. “Special ways between a mother and father.”
“How would I help him?”
“I’m sure he will let you help him build, repair, and upgrade things when you’re older. The tools are too dangerous for your age right now.”
The boy huffed, but finished his food.
“Kodus, do not forget to clean your teeth!” Jessa said.
“Mother, I know!” Kodus replied.
Kodus dipped his finger into a saucer of grain paste, spreading the substance over his toothbrush. After brushing, rinsing, and spitting into the sink, he jolted past his mother and into the kitchen, running to his father.
“Whoa, easy son,” Asmoph said. “No need to run.”
“Father, why do we not leave the farm?” Kodus asked.
“What do you mean, your mother and I leave the farm often.”
“Father, why is it that I can’t leave the farm? I have never seen past the trees and you and mother leave only for supplies. What is out there—”
“Kodus, my son, your mother and I just feel it’s best to provide you an environment that best suits your interests. There are entities out there that we do not want you to meet. Things of a dangerous nature. Things that exist out of our control. Things that do not wish the best for you. Things that want to harm you. You’ll understand when you’re older. For now, let us begin your studies so you can complete your chores afterward.”
Kodus looked at his desk, controlling his unspoken thoughts. His father started to lecture about the modern English language, Mathematics, and courtship. He encouraged Kodus to writing and speak in modern English, solve mathematical equations, and practice social dialogue with charm, intellect, and confidence.
“Excellent!” Asmoph said.
His father nodded approvingly, allowing Kodus to set his notebook aside for lunch. As if on cue, Jessa walked in with two platefuls of chicken, corn, potatoes, and bread.”
“No steak?” Asmoph asked.
“You’re getting food,” Jessa smiled. “Hush.”
Her husband laughed.
Jessa slipped one of the plates onto his desk before delivering the other to her son.
Kodus shoveled the food into his mouth, gulping as he chewed. His father noticed when he was done, pointing toward the door as he chewed on a piece of meat.
“Ner go clee up n’ geh to wuhk,” Asmoph mumbled.
Kodus grabbed his plate, left his chair, and walked to the kitchen. His father gazed at the vacant desk as he continued eating.
“There is great strength in you, son,” he thought.
“I know we can’t isolate you here the rest of your life.”
“I only hope that you’ll have proper guidance toward your true destiny.”
Asmoph carried his plate to the kitchen, placing it beside the sink as his wife washed a wooden board.
“I hope we are doing the right thing,” Jessa said.
“I think we are,” Asmoph replied. “We do not know what happened to this planet, so we must remain hidden.”
Kodus bolted out of the back door.
“What do we do when he wants to venture off the farm and explore our surroundings?”
“We will figure it out together.”
Jessa kissed Asmoph, eliciting a smile as he returned to his work.
Days passed as Kodus live a routine, isolated life. He woke up, ate, studied with his father and mother, and did his chores.
As the months passed, Kodus grew in knowledge and wisdom. Lessons about modern English, mathematics, and courtship soon gave way to languages of worlds beyond, advanced engineering subjects, and multiple styles of self-defense. The Hemsleys welcomed a second son named Erik into their home. Kodus embraced his new brother, finding joy in his company. As the farm was struck by a surprise draught, his parents faced the choice of going to the military base in search of food. Kodus begged his parents to bring him until they agreed.
The day came when Kodus was raking fallen leaves near the white picket fence by the road. Jessa and Asmoph came out of the house.
“Hey, Kodus!” Asmoph said.
Kodus looked in their direction.
“How would you like to go on a little adventure with us?” Asmoph asked.
“We’re going to explore the other side of the trees.” Jessa said.
“Why?” Kodus asked.
“We think there may be a town over there,” Asmoph replied. “A town that may have food supplies.”
“I’m in!” Kodus exclaimed.
Jessa carried Erik in her arms as the Hemsleys walked toward the tree line, heading through to the other side. Kodus studied everything in sight. A dark-furred animal appeared from the branches, following behind them with cautious steps. A few minutes passed until the family reached the other side of the trees. Kodus stared at the gated entrance with tall walls built on its sides, spanning a vast perimeter.
“What is this place?” Kodus asked.
“I think it’s a military base, son.” Jessa answered.
Kodus sprinted ahead.
“Come back here!” Asmoph shouted.
Kodus approached the entrance of the base, reading a sign posted above the gate.
“Marine Corps Air Station-Miramar, California,” he thought.
“Kodus, get back here!” Asmoph shouted.
Kodus looked back, seeing his father running after him. Jessa followed in a hurried pursuit. The furred-animal ran passed Jessa and reached Kodus, going between the boy and the entrance. Sirens sounded behind the walls. A few seconds passed.
“This is General Strayton of the MCAS, Miramar Base Headquarters. Identify yourselves.” said General Strayton through an intercom.
“General Strayton, we are local farmers. We come only in search of food and drink. Our farmland suffered a severe drought.” Asmoph shouted.
“Who is with you?”
“Myself, my wife, and my two boys.”
“Are you armed?”
“Stay where you are,” said General Strayton. “I will send a unit to greet you and bring your family inside.”
“Thank you, General!”
The gates opened. A group of soldiers marched in formation toward the Hemsleys, forming around them.
“I’m Colonel Cass,” a soldier said. “Follow us inside.”
The soldiers marched back into the entrance with the Hemsleys secured. Kodus was amazed by his new environment. The base was live with soldiers, families, markets, and buildings. None of this could be seen over the walls.
“If you will follow me to Controls,” said Colonel Cass. “I’ll take you to meet the General.”
Asmoph nodded. Jessa walked closely beside him, staring at everyone in sight. Erik stayed asleep against her arm. The Hemsleys followed Colonel Cass through the base, reaching a building guarded by two soldiers at its entrance. The soldiers gripped their guns.
“At ease,” said Colonel Cass. “They’re with us. Farmers in need of supplies.”
“Yes, sir!” a soldier replied.
“Oorah!” Colonel Cass replied.
Colonel Cass looked at his accompanied soldiers.
“Resume your posts, Marines.” Colonel Cass ordered. “I’ll take them from here.”
“Yes, sir!” a soldier replied.
“Oorah!” Colonel Cass replied.
The Major led the Hemsleys into the building, guiding them through a downward path that led to a dungeon. Colonel Cass knocked in a unique sequence.
“Colonel Cass reporting for General Strayton,” he said. “Accompanied by four farmers.”
The door opened. Kodus studied the soldier speaking to Colonel Cass. Colonel Cass signaled Asmoph and Jessa to go inside, but stopped Kodus.
“Sorry, kid.” said Colonel Cass. “Protocol.”
A group of kids appeared from the room and stood against the wall, looking at Kodus.
“Now you have some company, kid.” Colonel Cass said.
The Marine entered the room and closed the door. Kodus looked at the other kids, seeing a few boys and one girl.
“Farm kid, eh?” asked a boy.
“Yes, I am.” Kodus replied.
“Why ya’ll been out there so long?” asked the boy.
“Ricky, mind your manners!” said the girl.
“Hush it, Nikita.” said a second boy. “You’re so bossy!”
“Tomson, mind your manners.” replied Ricky.
Kodus watched them bicker.
“I’m just asking him some things.” Ricky said.
“May I ask a question?” Kodus asked.
All eyes stared at him.
“I guess so.” Ricky replied.
“Why does your group have only one girl?”
“It seems that a group would be made of an equal number of boys and girls. A unit of Marines is made of an even number of soldiers.” Kodus said.
“Is there a particular reason there aren’t more girls in your group?” Kodus asked.
Ricky and Tomson stared at Kodus, failing to speak even one word.
Kodus looked at them and Nikita.
“Oh, I’m guessing from my understanding of courtship,” Kodus said. “You’re all in competition for her.”
Nikita laughed hysterically.
“Shut up, Nikita!” Ricky said.
“You know he’s right!” Nikita said.
“Not true, I swear.” Tomson replied.
“Pleased to meet all of you,” Kodus said, “My name’s Kodus.”
Nikita faced the wall, controlling her laughter with full effort.
The door opened. Asmoph and Jessa appeared from the room.
“Kodus, let’s go.” Jessa said.
“Mr. Hemsley, I believe we have an agreement?” General Strayton asked.
“General Strayton, it will be our pleasure.” Asmoph replied. “I’m grateful for the arrangement.”
“My Marines will see you out of the base,” General Strayton replied. “Miramar thanks you for your service.”
Asmoph shook hands with the General. Jessa signaled Kodus to come along.
“Alright, kids.” General Strayton said. “Back inside.”
“Sir, are they yours?” Kodus asked.
“These kids?” General Strayton asked.
“Kodus, mind your manners!” Asmoph snapped.
“It’s quite alright, Mr. Hemsley.” General Strayton replied.
“Kodus, they’re the kids of our high-ranking officers. I believe you may have met them. Nikita, Ricky, Tomson, Stoy, and Alex. Nikita, Ricky, and Tomson are the most vocal of the group.”
“Yes, sir. It became clear fast.”
“They all have crushes on me,” Nikita said. “None will admit it!”
“Oh, Nikita.” General Strayton said.
“Pardon us for the evening.” Asmoph said.
“Mr. Hemsley, I’ll expect you to return soon.” General Strayton replied.
“As we agreed.” Asmoph replied.
“Secure a departure for these friendlies, Colonel Cass.” General Strayton ordered.
“Yes, sir.” Colonel Cass replied.
“Oorah.” General Strayton said.
Colonel Cass escorted the Hemsleys back to the entrance.
“My orders are to escort you to the entrance,” Colonel Cass said. “Only to this point.”
“I understand.” Asmoph replied.
“Ma’am.” Colonel Cass said, looking at Jessa.
Colonel Cass returned to the entrance, leaving the Hemsleys to their walk home.
“Can I run home?” Kodus asked.
“Why?” Jessa asked, laughing.
“I just want to, mother.”
“Okay, son.” Asmoph said. “Go ahead!”
Kodus sprinted to the opening in the tree line and disappeared.
“So, how do you feel about the arrangement, love?” Jessa asked.
“I think we can contribute our skills to their technology,” Asmoph replied. “We need food and they have it.”
“What was the conversation,” Jessa asked. “I was busy keeping Erik asleep.”
“The General asked where we’ve been.” Asmoph replied. “I told him we’re engineers who hid in our shelter during the launch.”
“What did he say?”
“He asked how we knew when to leave the shelter.”
“And you said?”
“I said we understood the nature of the weapon,” Asmoph replied. “We estimated the timing of when its effects dissipated.”
“What did he say?”
“He asked the areas of our engineering skills.”
“And you said?”
“Machinery, equipment, other things.” Asmoph replied. “I made it clear that we are savvy in technology. Inventors.”
“We’re Dagmarthians.” Jessa said.
“I know,” Asmoph replied. “I need to get back to work.”
“Let’s go home,” Jessa said. “We have work to do.”
Asmoph and Jessa walked back to the farm.
“I’ll be in the farm house,” Asmoph said. “You should go into the house with Erik and Kodus.”
“I’ll check on you soon.” Jessa said.
One hour passed.
Asmoph muttered to himself as Jessa walked into the farmhouse. She approached the black curtain and lifted it, forcing her husband to scurry to meet her.
“Oh, I thought you were Kodus or Erik,” he said.
“Nope,” Jessa bit her lip.
“What is that smell?”
“Paint. It’s finished.”
Jessa curled her lips in excitement.
“Is it functional?”
“It should be,” Asmoph replied. “We can’t leave.”
“Do you really want to disturbed the peace we have found in this place?”
“We could go home.” Jessa replied.
“We do not know if it’s safe to do so,” Asmoph replied, “Kodus is far from ready and Erik is only a toddler.”
“What are we supposed to do?”
“You’re right, my love. Let us be getting back now. You have worked enough for one night.”
“I feel that I have a bit of energy still in me this evening.”
“AVANA, shut off.” Asmoph said.
“Power system shutting off.” said the alert system.
“Oh, Asmoph.” Jessa said, giggling.
Sounds of rustled clothing came from behind the curtain followed by kissing and more giggling.
Meanwhile, Kodus put his rake and pail away in the shed when he heard a girl calling his name from afar. He looked around, and noticed Nikita as she biked along the picket fence. Kodus stepped forward, studying her as she approached.
“Kodus!” she shouted. “What’cha doing?”
“What is that?” Kodus asked.
Nikita pushed a few strands of hair behind her ear.
“It’s just a bike,” Nikita replied. “Have you not seen one?”
“No, I haven’t.” Kodus replied. “There’s not much discovery around here.”
“I want to get to know you,” Nikita said. “You’re not like those guys. You’re—different.”
“I guess saying ‘no thanks’ would be making your trip out here a waste.” Kodus replied.
“You don’t even know me to say ‘no’ yet!” Nikita replied, laughing.
“I don’t think I have to ‘know you’ to appreciate you coming out here,” Kodus replied.
“Is that a ‘yes’?” Nikita asked.
“We can go on a walk—I suppose,” Kodus said. “Let me finish here. A walk would be nice in the cool evening air.”
“I rather we go on an adventure!” Nikita exclaimed.
“Doesn’t seem lady-like.”
“Kodus, I was raised by military parents on a military base in a military environment.”
“Are you saying you’re full of adventure?”
“I’m saying adventure is what I know,” Nikita said. “It’s why I have more boy friends than girl friends.”
“Boyfriends?” Kodus asked, smirking.
“Oh, my!” Nikita said, laughing. “Hush, you!”
“Well, let me finish for a few minutes.” Kodus said. “I’ll be ready then.”
Nikita leaned on the fence, watching Kodus finish his chores. She studied his figure, smiling with locked eyes. A few minutes passed.
“Alright, let’s walk.” Kodus said.
“I like when a man takes charge, oorah!” Nikita said.
“What does ‘oorah” mean?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Nikita replied. “The soldiers say it all the time.”
“Well, oorah!” Kodus said.
“To an adventure!” Nikita exclaimed.
Nikita turned her bike around to the trees and sat on the seat. Kodus tossed his gloves to the ground and jumped over the fence.
“Sorry if I don’t do something right.”
“Don’t worry about it. Hop on.”
Kodus wasn’t quite sure how to ride the contraption, but Nikita scooted forward a few inches.
“Come behind me,” she said. “Lace your feet into the pedals beside mine and then lean against my back. Place your hands on my shoulders.”
Kodus did as instructed, easing himself into place.
Nikita pedaled forward. They passed along the fence, moving toward the farmhouse at a modest speed. Kodus closed his eyes and felt the wind against his face, loosening his grip as the fear subsided.
Nikita pedaled on as they approached the trees. She veered to the left and headed for a small opening in the branches.
“Hold on,” Nikita said. “Duck!”
They ducked their heads, entering the trees.
“There’s a side entrance I use, avoiding detection.” Nikita said. “It’s not a big deal. I just don’t want the official welcome each time I come back. Security and all.”
“How do you know about a side entrance?”
“I made it.”
They reached the other end of the trees. Kodus wiped his face of fallen leaves, seeing the base among the branches. She pedaled along the tree line toward the side of the base. Kodus couldn’t see an opening in the wall, but enjoyed the cooled breeze against his body.
“It’s over there!” Nikita said. “Hold on!”
They approached a spot on the wall, where a small group of wood formed a patch.
“It’s not really shut,” Nikita said. “It was broken into so I made a wooden door with a nail that hooks it on the wall.”
“How so?” Kodus asked.
Nikita got off the bike, approaching the wooden patch. She lifted a long piece of wood from a nail, pulled the wood, and revealed a door.
“See,” Nikita said. “The piece is nailed to the door. It can be moved up and down to hook on the other nail placed here. The door is hinged on the wall to cover the opening.”
Kodus stared at the new contraption.
“Okay, let’s not get distracted!” Nikita said.
She returned to the bike, sitting on it in front of Kodus.
Nikita pedaled through the opening. She pedaled faster, weaving among people and carts. Kodus gripped her shoulders as he watched people juke them and shout. Kodus laughed. This was more excitement than he could imagine. He felt free. They shouted with joy as she pedaled into an alleyway and out into another crowd.
“This is amazing, Nikita!”
Nikita laughed, drawing a stare or to from the people around them. The teenagers rode past the crowd, racing further into town. Suddenly, a cart emerged from an alleyway ahead, but Nikita could not dodge it in time. As she plunged into the carton, Kodus flew over the cart, rolling as he hit the ground. Nearby soldiers rushed to them.
“Kodus!” Nikita shouted.
She hurried past the carton, seeing Kodus face down on the dirt.
Soldiers surrounded the boy, lifting him from the ground.
“Boy, are you hurt?” a soldier asked.
Kodus spit dirt from his lips.
“Kodus, are you okay?” Nikita exclaimed.
“The boy looks okay to me,” a second soldier said. “Just scratches and bruises.”
“Have the Major send for his parents.”
“Let’s get you cleaned up, son.” a soldier said. “I’ll take you to the Major.”
“I’m really sorry,” Nikita said, looking at Kodus.
“Hey, I had a great time with you.” Kodus smiled.
Nikita smiled, pushing hair behind her ear.
Kodus was escorted from the scene as the crowd dispersed.
“I’ll come see you again!” Nikita said.
“Sure, as long as it doesn’t end with dirt in my face again.”
“Maybe I’ll be in your face!” Nikita laughed.
Kodus didn’t hear what she said after entering a building.
“Colonel Cass, sir.” said the soldier accompanying Kodus.
“What is it, Marine?” Colonel Cass replied.
“I have a boy here.”
“The boy and Nikita caused a low disturbance in the area. I was ordered to bring him to you for instructions.”
Colonel Cass turned to face them.
“This is Kodus Hemsley,” said Colonel Cass. “He’s from a local farm.”
“Sir, I’m sorry for the disturbance.” Kodus said. “I can find my way home.”
Colonel Cass looked at Kodus, examining his dirtied face.
“Let’s get clean clothes for you.” Colonel Cass said.
“Sir, it’s okay.” Kodus said. “I’m from a farm.”
The Major chuckled.
“Very well, on your way.”
Kodus nodded, turning away to walk out of the room. He didn’t see Nikita in sight, and retraced his way back to the wooden door. Kodus walked home, hoping to sneak inside.
Jessa stood on the back porch, folding her arms.
“Where were you?” Jessa demanded.
“Mother, please.” Kodus muttered.
“What happened to you?”
“An adventure,” Kodus said. “A fun one.”
“Did you cause trouble?”
Kodus walked past Jessa, feeling his arm grabbed.
“Did you cause trouble?” Jessa demanded.
Kodus looked at her, feeling regret for coming home.
“Fine, you’re going back to apologize.” Jessa said.
“I already did!” Kodus shot back.
“You did cause trouble!”
Jessa pulled his arm, walking off the back porch.
“Where are we going?” Kodus asked.
“Back!” Jessa shouted. “Your father is with your brother inside. You can tell him what happened when we return.”
Jessa dragged Kodus back to the tree line, walking through the passageway to the other side. Hooded figures stood in the grass between them and the base. A light fog surrounded the mysterious figures.
Jessa stopped, frozen in motion.
“Kodus,” she said.
He stared at the figures, feeling her grip on his arm tighten.
“Mother, are those soldiers?”
“Kodus, when I tell you to go, I want you to run as fast as you can back home.” Jessa said. “You need to tell your father. Do you understand?”
“Mother, what’s wrong?”
“You must go, and I will be behind you.”
The fog rushed to them.
“Mother, what is going on?”
The boy stepped away from his mother. The fog swept toward them with great speed. Kodus ran away, fleeing for his life. A few seconds passed.
The boy’s fear fueled his energy. He could not think. He could not breathe. He could not stop. Kodus reached the fence of the cornfield. He found the will to look back, seeing the fog stopped at the entrance he rushed from. It slowly dissipated in the air.
Kodus wanted to return, but felt he had caused enough trouble.
Kodus crossed the tree line, dashing along the fence on his way home. Sweat poured down his face and drenched his shirt, but he disregarded his discomfort and focused on finding his father. He could not believe what his eyes saw.
“Father!” he cried.
Kodus approached the front door and banged against it with his fists. There was no response.
He looked to the farmhouse with hesitation, only to be stopped as his father appeared from the other side of the house.
“Kodus, what are you doing out there?” Asmoph asked. “Where have you been?”
“What is the matter son?”
“The figures…the fog…it came toward us…”
Asmoph and Kodus entered the house and sat down.
“Okay, this is…what happened…father.”
Kodus told Asmoph everything from when Nikita persuaded him to go to Miramar to the appearance of the hooded figures to the fog chasing him from the trees.
“Yes, Father. It was strange.”
“What were they wearing?”
“Um, uh, I… I don’t know. I don’t remember. It was all dark. I just saw a dark hooded person in a crowd under the lamp posts.”
“What else happened?”
The teen told his father about the fog and how his mother told him to run.
“Where is your mother, now?”
“I don’t know, father.”
“Son, what was the last thing you remember before you ran home? Did anyone follow you?”
“No, no, I don’t think so. There was a loud smack and then the hooded person knelt over her. It said weird things that I never heard before.”
As Kodus spoke of the disturbing sights, Asmoph retrieved his shotgun and sword from the master bedroom.
“Kodus, I need you to stay here with your brother.”
“Let me come with you.”
“No, son. I can’t risk you too. You should be safe here with your brother. Do not open the doors for anyone but me.”
Asmoph donned his cloak and rustled Kodus’ hair before he ran out the door leaving the boy to wonder what would happen next. Kodus was soon startled by the crying of his little brother, but realized that Erik only wanted attention in the nursery.
Asmoph ran by the farmhouse. He could not use the vehicle despite the urgency of time. He had to be unseen and unheard. The vehicle had to remain hidden as well. No matter the emergency.
Asmoph sprinted to the entrance of the tree line. He entered through the opening in the tree line, smelling the air.
“Someone should not be here,” Asmoph thought.
The king ran to the other end of the tree line and followed along it toward the base. He approached the side wall, leaping up to the top. Once over, Asmoph scouted Miramar. He followed the wall along the street. Asmoph kept a low profile as he jumped down and ran to the nearest alleyway.
He was only met with darkness.
“Where are you, my love?” he wondered.
Asmoph rested his head against the bricks. The rescue of his fellow Dagmarthians was not an unusual event, but he had no hint of who the perpetrator was and why this happened. He proceeded from the corner and rushed to the next alleyway spotting the crash site in the distance. The pumpkin splatter and broken cart were still there, but not Nikita.
Asmoph had a strong sense that something was wrong. He could no longer be silent about his search. He resolved to rescue the two at any cost.
Asmoph drew his shotgun and ran into the darkness. He heard and saw nothing as the terrain went downhill. The Dagmarthian rushed down the street. There was no sign of any of the residents, which made him think that they were asleep. He stopped for a moment, looking to the rooftops. He soon noticed an anomaly on one rooftop behind a house.
Something or someone was watching him.
“Hey!” he screamed.
Asmoph chased the figure downhill as it leaped from rooftop to rooftop. It seemed as if the mysterious figure stopped every few seconds to ensure that Asmoph followed it. The figure soon jumped to a large structure. The structure was not sturdy, so the figure fell through the rooftop. The Dagmarthian raised his shotgun and approached the building.
“Come forth and show yourself, creature!” he screamed.
There was no response.
Asmoph decided to enter the structure. As he stepped forward, the hooded figure emerged from the entrance.
“I demand to know who you are!” Asmoph screamed.
“Please, forgive me for leading you here,” the man said.
“It was you kneeling over my wife in the street back there.”
“Yes, my king.”
“What did you call me?”
“My king, we do not much time. I must speak with you about the dire events to come.”
“My king, you must come with me. The others await your presence.”
“What others? Where is my wife? What is your name? What am I the king of to you?”
“My king, there are knights who have occupied this land since before your recent escape. The queen is under our care and protection. She rests in a nearby cottage where I wish to take you. My name is Rathic, your humble servant, warrior, and brother of Dagmarth. You’re King Asmoph of Dagmarth, leader of the people, and protector of the peace. Now please, I urge you to come with me.”
“Show your face.”
Rathic pulled back his hood, revealing light blue hair.
“You must come with me, Your Majesty. Your safety is my mission.”
“So be it.”
Asmoph lowered his shotgun. He followed Rathic further downhill. The path narrowed as it zig-zagged between small buildings and houses.
“What is the distance to this cottage?”
“A small journey, my king.”
The cottage was nestled deep in the base. Rathic pushed open the front door and led Asmoph into a narrow hall. Halfway into the hallway, he pulled a board from the floor and stepped down into the tunnel below. The knights walked a narrow path, which brought back memories of Palmar and Dagmarth.
“Brothers and sisters, our king is here,” Rathic declared.
“Before we begin, I must see the queen,” Asmoph said.
The figures on the opposite side of the mount parted, revealing that Jessa slept on a cut-out bed in the wall. Asmoph rushed to her side, caressing her face as she slept.
“When will she wake?” the king asked.
“In a few hours, Your Majesty,” Rathic pointed out. “It will be enough for us to explain why you and your family are no longer safe on the farm.”
“What warning do you speak of?”
“My king, please join us at the mount so that we can explain it to you.”
Asmoph joined his fellow Dagmarthians at the mount.
“Your Majesty,” Rathic said. “Many of us who fled Palmar wanted to stay with you.”
“I didn’t see anyone following us far from Palmar.” Asmoph replied.
“Your Majesty,” Rathic said. “We used invisibility mode.”
“I see.” Asmoph replied.
“My pod landed behind the trees with many others as you did, Your Highness.”
“Why not land with us?”
“Your Majesty, we believed spreading provided more space for each family to build a home.”
“Agreed,” Asmoph said. “Why not come to us?”
“Your Majesty, the knights discussed this option and the majority chose to leave you in peace.”
“Why come to us now?”
“We scouted other bases, Your Majesty.” Rathic said. “We discovered one under attack few days ago.”
“We feared it may be Lord Lazareth, Your Majesty.”
“Why would he be here now?”
“Perhaps he had you followed in your escape,” Rathic said. “We may not have been the only vessels following behind you in invisibility mode, Your Majesty.”
“It would make sense why they could not follow after I activated invisibility mode.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Rathic said. “They would have to search each base.”
“I have dreaded this moment. Solaris spoke of it many times.”
“What are we to do?” Rathic asked.
“I will speak with Colonel Cass and General Strayton about relocating my family into Miramar. It is better to blend into the crowd.”
“Understood, Your Majesty.” Rathic replied. “We will escort you and the queen back to your home. I would suggest that you move into this residence within three days.”
“Let it be done.”
“Let us be on our way.”
Asmoph returned to Jessa, taking her in his arms. The knights escorted him in a secure formation back to the farm. As they approached, Kodus peeked out of the window and waved to his father. Rathic signaled for the knights to stop.
“We shall see you soon, Your Majesty,” Rathic said.
“Rathic,” Asmoph said.
“Yes, my king?”
“I’m grateful for your help. We will make necessary preparations with patience for him to accept his destiny.”
“I’m simply doing my duty, Your Highness.”
“I know, Rathic. Thank you.”
“May I ask where the diamond is?”
“It is on me, Rathic.”
“Good. I want it to stay in our hands.”
“I will see you soon.”
As Rathic and the knights departed for Miramar, Asmoph turned away and entered his home. He carried Jessa to the master bedroom and laid her on the bed. Asmoph sat beside her, waiting for the moment she woke.
Lord Lazareth has returned and seeks intergalactic dominance. His only obstacle is a new prophecy that foretells a boy named Kodus will stop him. Kodus knows nothing about Lord Lazareth or his true heritage as he has lived a human childhood on Earth. Now a teenager, Kodus falls victim to high school bullying that leaves him wishing for a better life. When he is given a powerful diamond from his father for good luck, it will be more than good luck that changes his life forever.