The Red Hand Part 23
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twenty Three An Offer
That’s the only thing this can be. The five red skinned lizards walk out onto the deck. Each warrior wears a black cape hanging from their left shoulder. Each wears a long sword sheathed at their hip. Their obsidian armor is decorated with detailed colorful markings.
I feel the air turn heavy around us. A quick glance at my squad’s faces tells me everything I need to know. We’re doomed. Who ever these guys are, five are enough to take us down.
The remaining blue lizards advance forward with new found confidence. There’s only seven of them left. Plus five of the red guys. There’s twelve of them. There’s only ten of us left. Two of the squad lie dead on the deck. Killed in the initial boarding.
Despite all of this, we’re going to go down fighting.
The blue warriors let out a war cry before charging us. Weapons held high. The lizard that had opened the door attacks me. He carries a large cleaver. I block his powerful swing with my ax. My legs absorbing the force of the blow.
“I’ll wear your bones!” He snarls.
He brings his cleaver around for another strike. This time instead of blocking his blow, I catch his cleaver blade just under the ax head. Near the crystals embedded in the handle. I concentrate, sending a little jolt through them and into his blade. He lets out a yelp, dropping his weapon.
“Witch!” He yells, rubbing his hand. He goes for his weapon. But I kick it away before he can reach it.
“Yield?” I ask.
He laughs, pulling a dagger from his belt. “Never.”
He rushes and I fell him with a swing of the ax. Another death. For what?
I look around and see my squad mates have all come through this skirmish alive. That’s when I notice them. The red warriors. They never joined in the attack, they just stand there observing us.
The tension is unbearable as we get ready for the final attack. Moving towards them slowly. Our weapons ready. The leader of the red lizards extends his hand.
“Hold. We have no wish to fight you.” He says.
We stop. What’s going on here? These guys can cut through us without breaking a sweat. Why would they want to surrender?
“We are not who we appear to be.”
He reaches into his armor and pulls out a small broach. He walks slowly towards a tense Second Gar.
“Be at ease. We do not serve the ones from the shining city.”
He hands Second Gar the broach, who takes it reluctantly. I see Gar’s other hand tighten on the hilt of his sword. Likewise the other red lizards appear to be ready for any trouble.
Second Gar turn’s the broach over in his hand. “What’s this supposed to mean?” He asks.
“There are those among you who will understand. For now know: You are not alone.”
“Who do you serve?” Second Gar asks.
“We serve. That is all you need to know.”
With that they jump over the side. By the time we get to the side and look down there’s no sign of them.
“Who was that?” I ask.
“I don’t know.” Third answers. “They wore the uniforms of Sildun warriors.”
“And if they had been we would be dead.” Second Gar says. “We still have a mission to finish. We’ll worry about them later.”
He’s right. The mystery of who those warriors are will have to wait. Second Gar sends a team to capture the bridge. While the rest of us secure the cargo hold. Down below we find the dead bodies of more blue warriors. Among them, hiding behind a crate is a cowering orange skinned lizard. Upon seeing us he immediately surrenders. Second Gar sends him up to the deck with a guard. He may have some valuable information. So he gets to live for now.
In the crates we find crystals, food, weapons and some building materials. I don’t ask, but I’m guessing this was headed to Kuma Torth. I wonder how far we’ve set back their project. Have we weakened them at all?
Those red warriors. I can’t get the image of them out of my mind. I thought we were alone in our war. But maybe not. There’s another power out there. The question is, what do they want?
After securing the supply wagon, my name for it, we head to the rendezvous point. A large formation of rocks next to the ruins of a stone tower. The beast riders are there waiting for us along with another squad of warriors. We have a small group of prisoners now. The orange lizard and the crew from the bridge. Four blue lizards. The first of their kind I’ve seen who aren’t warriors. We’ll need them alive to operate the wagon. The next step of the plan involves using it as a Trojan horse to take the crystal mines.
I find a familiar face among the other squad. Tenth. I barely can contain myself as I rush over to her and hug the life out of her. She laughs and looks somewhat embarrassed as I let go of her. I tell her about how we captured the wagon and the mysterious warriors. Third come bounding over and I introduce the two. After the prisoners are secured and the cargo unloaded we get a break. The three of us sit in the shade by the ruins. Eating a small meal and trading stories.
“These warriors you met sound fascinating.” Tenth says.
“They had a small broach they gave to Second Gar.” I say.
“In all my studies, I’ve never come across any stories of warriors like them. They dressed like Sildun. But I think that was a ruse,” Third informs us. She’s clearly excited by this new development.
I think about what they told Second Gar. “They said there are those among you who will understand,” Who do you think they meant?” I ask.
“The Reint perhaps,” Third says.
“Maybe,” Tenth says.
We sit for a while eating. It feels good just to sit here with the two of them. I’m tired from the battle. And there’s another battle on the horizon. This little breather feels like heaven.
“You look good sister,” Tenth says to me.
“She’s a good fighter,” Third adds.
I laugh at this. “I guess.”
Tenth notices my ax lying on the ground next to me. “May I.”
“Go for it.”
She picks it up turning it over in her hands. “Finely crafted.” She runs her hand over the blade. “The weaponsmith made you quite an ax. You should be proud.” She hands it back to me.
It’s good to see her again. All that resentment I had for getting dumped in The Rezar. That me died back there holding Sixth’s body in my arms. A shadow falls over us, blocking out the sun. I look up to see Second Gar standing over us. Holding his arms behind his back just like one of my old high school teachers.
“You both fought well today. Good work.”
“Sir. Thank you sir.” Me and Third say in unison.
He nods his head. “We have much work ahead. Rest well.” He walks away. He complemented us. That’s the first time he ever has. I must have done something right for once. I feel a bit of confidence swell inside me. If we can make it through the next battle, survive, then what? When will this war end? And these other warriors, my gut tells me they are on our side. From what I’ve learned about my friends’ people they’re pretty much hated by the other lizard races. So why are these guys wanting to help us?
“These Sildun warriors. They’re your enemy too, right?” I ask. “After the uprising?”
Third puts down a piece of dried meat she’s chewing on. Clearly happy to give me a history lesson. “Yes. When our people were banished to the desert. The others separated. The Sildun became great warriors. In our history we’ve only had limited battles with them. They kept separate from the Roka. Till now.”
“Those are the blue guys?” I ask. I remember Tenth saying that name. Way back in the valley. Back when I’d only been here a little while.
“Correct. They are our deadliest enemy. They were the instigators of the uprising. Along with the Troika.”
“The orange ones?”
“Yes. They served as the aides, the advisers and teachers back then. They were hungry for power and freedom. They spread the seed of rebellion. Finally the others joined them and they rose up.”
“There were some in the desert after I escaped Kuma Torth. They had green skin and acted very primitive.”
“The Drex.” Tenth says. “Desert nomads and scavengers. They try raiding our homes sometimes.”
“Drex. They were the lowest class in Kuma Torth. Treated no better the slaves.” Third adds. “It’s said they rejected the idea of civilization.”
“And now something or someone as gathered your enemies together in this Imperium.” I have a fairly good idea of who could be. Mr. White, Hagen Semenchko. I know deep down in my gut that I’ll be seeing him again. Whether I want to or not.
The next morning I’m standing on the bridge of the supply wagon. This is where they steer the huge beasts that pull the wagon. It looks like the bridge of an old pirate ship. There’s a large wheel that’s hooked up to large ropes tethered to the beasts. Our prisoners are up here with us. If we’re getting into the mine, it’s these guys who are going to get us through.
From the Intel gathered. The mine has a large gate with a guard tower that’s level with the bridge of the supply wagon. A few of us will be hiding. Making sure they don’t try to warn the enemy guards when they pass us through the gate. While the rest of the team will be in the cargo hold. Second Gar is going over the plan with Tenth and the bridge crew. While they’re doing that I’m looking over the side of the bridge.
The orange skinned lizard comes over to me. “They said you survived your jump. But how could that be? Who are you?”
“I’m just a girl. A girl from another world.”
“One who wants to return to her world?” He asks.
“Yeah.” I answer. What’s he fishing for?
“He could return you. He has that power.”
Mr. White tried this tactic with me. “And what would I have to do? Betray my friends? I’ve got the same answer for you that I had for him…No.”
He sighs, narrowing his eyes. “Your friends? Do you know what they were? What they did to us?”
“I know they were in charge, treated your people like crap. But your people wanted more power.”
“They kept us under their heel. We were beaten for speaking our mind. Starved when food was low. Forced to work while they lived in luxury and worshiped their false god. A god they forced us to pray to. You may think they’ve changed, but they haven’t. They’ll crush you under their foot when they’ve got what they want.”
“Shut up.” I grip the handle of my ax, hanging from my belt. “Get away from me before I do something I’ll regret.”
He starts to walk away. “Think about what I’ve said.”
I look at Tenth, Third and my squad. Betray them? Could I? Their society sends children like Third into combat. They knew we could die in that final test…like Sixth did. All I would have to do is help the troika and the other prisoners. What? Raise the alarm at the mine gate? Help them escape?
I’d feel like shit. But if I go home, how long before this was a distant memory.
No. No. No. No!
Don’t think that.
He made the same offer in the city. I didn’t then. I can’t now.
back to Fantasy