Once they go through the portal, Dallys’ question was answered. There were a few inches of snow covering everything.
Wincet looked over the cart. “Did you get everything on the lists?”
“I double checked while we waited for you to open the portal. Can we get out of the cold?” Dallys asked as she shivered. “I’m freezing.”
“Yes. Yes.” Wincet lead them back down the Traveler’s Bridge to the living quarters.
Tona was waiting in the meeting room when they arrived. “Nellis, I have something for you.” She held out a note.
Nellis took the note and read it. He laughed. “So that’s where you were. You were helping Izzie.”
“Yes and no. It was just a quick thing.” Tona looked at Wincet. “Should we tell them now?”
Wincet nodded. “You should do it.”
“I’m going home but it’s just for a few weeks. Izzie is coming to cover for me. When this thing I have to do is over, I will be coming back.” Tona glanced at Wincet. “With my husband.”
“You never mentioned a fiancé.” Dallys raised an eyebrow at her.
“It’s an arranged marriage.” Tona shrugged. “It was delayed when I left to be a mercenary but I just recently decided to go through with it. He is still willing to do it.”
“You’re going to have to tell me everything now. Can you get us invitations to the wedding?” Dallys pulled Tona by the arm down the hall to their rooms.
“Looks like you’re next, kitten boy.” Jace slapped Nellis on the shoulder.
Nellis blinked then grinned. “It will be good to have Izzie around for a while. Maybe she can make this her home base too.”
“We should have a little celebration.” Wincet grinned. “I have a batch or bang bang wine all ready to drink. Maybe the three of you can whip up something nice for dinner.”
“Uh.” Nellis shifted on his feet. “Wincet. I need to talk to you about something. We may have to put the celebration on hold until tomorrow.”
“Why?” Wincet gave Nellis a suspicious look.
“I literally bumped into an Exaltanese shifter. He told me that there are forty survivors of the destruction of Exalta. They’re on a moon of a gas giant in the Gax system. He wanted to know who destroyed his planet.” Nellis raised his hands in the air. “I didn’t tell him that I knew but I told him we could help him find out. I said I had to talk to you first.”
“What does he want to do? Hunt Trystana down and then what? Kill her?” Wincet gave Nellis a hard look. “I cannot condone killing. You shouldn’t have told him we will help him.”
“I agree.” Jace folded his arms and looked at Nellis.
“At least, I didn’t tell him who it was.” Nellis rubbed his head. “He said she needs to be brought to justice. I agree with that. Can’t we just get her and take her to them and let them sort it out?”
“Do you remember what happened when you went there to get the Star Breaker Wand?” Wincet looked at them. “People were killed.”
“Tona hasn’t killed anyone since then and we can be more careful this time.” Nellis insisted. “We have learned to work together and we can give the people that died on Exalta some peace.”
Wincet sighed. “We need to put it to a vote. Borne go get Tona and Dallys.”
Borne hurried down the corridor to their rooms and brought them back.
“Borne says we are going to take a vote on something.” Tona looked at the others as she and Dallys came in.
“Nellis wants to give Trystana to the survivors of Exalta for punishment.” Jace leaned against the table.
“I vote yes.” Tona sat down in a chair.
Dallys sighed. “What will they do to her?”
“We don’t know that but I would say they would probably kill her.” Jace looked at Nellis. “Their resources are limited and I don’t think they want to hold her as a prisoner.”
Dallys bit her lip. “I vote yes.”
“Dallys!?” Jace looked shocked.
“I vote yes.” Nellis said as he looked at the others.
Borne had been silent through all this. He finally spoke up. “I vote yes.”
“So the majority wants to turn her over to the Exaltanse.” Wincet nodded. “I will send you with our decision. Help them capture her but then I want you to come back. Let them do what they are going to do.”
“Rix said he will be back to his people within four hours. We should wait until he has had a chance to talk with his leaders.” Nellis suggested.
“Agreed. That is plenty of time to prepare a celebratory meal for Tona’s marriage.” Wincet looked at jace and Nellis. “I believe you two are on for cooking today.”
Jace nodded “Come on Nellis.”
Nellis followed Jace into the kitchen.
In less than an hour, everyone sat around the table eating a simple meal and drinking wine.
“What is he like, Tona? Is he a mercenary like you?” Jace asked.
“No he’s a scholar.” Tona pushed her plate back. “He doesn’t know anything about weapons. I suppose he could help Wincet when we go off world.”
“I would be happy for the help.” Wincet smiled. “It’s a shame we won’t be at your wedding. I haven’t been to an elven joining before.”
Tona shook her head. “His family is not welcoming to other races. They are barely welcoming to me.”
“Are you okay?” Jace asked Tona. “You don’t seem all that happy about getting married.”
“I’m happy. I’m doing what I should have done years ago.” Tona flashed a smile. “I will learn to love him in time.”
“Unless, he’s a bore then we can just leave him on a planet somewhere for you.” Nellis winked at her.
“I may take you up on that.” Tona laughed nervously.
Wincet looked over at the clock. “Well, we need to get back to work. You have a meeting to get to. Gather your things and I will meet you on the Traveler’s Bridge.”
In a few minutes everyone was on the bridge waiting for Wincet.
Jace looked down at Nellis’ boots and his orange and black socks. “Nice socks. Where did they come from?”
“Izzie bought them for me on my birthday before I came here.” Nellis looked down at his feet. “I found them in my bag when I came back from Caspire. She must have packed them.”
“Very snazzy.” Jace chuckled.
Borne looked down at Nellis’ feet with a frown.
“They’re hideous but I’m cold.” Nellis explained.
Tona looked down at Nellis’ feet and laughed. “Cute!”
Wincet looked at them then went to make the portal. “Come right back after your meeting and I will send you to Baikus.”
When the portal opened on the moon Talvan and Rix stepped back. Neither had seen anything like it before.
“Are you sure these people can be trusted, Rix?” Talvan shaded his eyes from the glow of the portal. “They are outsiders.”
“Yes. I’m sure.” Rix looked at the older man. “The fact that they have kept their word to me proves that they are willing to help us. That’s enough for me.”
Nellis and the others stepped through the portal and walked over to where they saw Rix and Talvan standing.
“Hello Grandfather.” Nellis bowed his head. “I’m Nellis and these are my friends. We have some information to tell you and then we will help you bring the destroyer of your world to justice.”
“You are from Caspire. You are a shifter like us but you associate with these lower beings. He isn’t even a creature. He’s a machine.” Talvan looked confused. “Why is that?”
Borne blinked but didn’t say anything. He was used to being singled out because he was an android.
Nellis shifted on his feel and looked uncomfortable.
“Lower beings?” Tona stepped forward but Jace pulled her back and shook his head.
“Grandfather, these people are equals. They help others in need and they are here to help us.” Rix whispered in the old man’s ear. He turned to the group. “Please forgive Talvan. He has lived a sheltered life in the monastery. What can you tell us about the person who destroyed our home world?”
“We came to tell you that we know who was responsible for the destruction of your world.” Jace looked at the older man. “We took the Star Breaker Wand from her so that she couldn’t use it again.”
“Star Breaker Wand? That’s a myth.” Rix looked at Nellis. “Isn’t it?”
“It’s very real.” Nellis sighed. “We have now tucked away in a safe place. The person that used it is Trystana of Baikus. She took it from the Metalis Alliance.”
“I remember that name.” Rix looked at Talvan. “She came to the Great Council claiming to be a priestess of great power. She wanted us to pay her tribute. The Great Council refused to pay her. That was several years ago. My parents laughed about her claim. They thought she was stupid to try anything so foolish on the Exaltanese.”
“I was there. I was attending Councilor Marlken.” Talvan shook his head as he remembered that day. “She had some magick but when Marlken challenged her she was no match for him. He injured her severely and her men had to carry her back to her ship.”
“Then that is the why, who, and the how of it.” Rix took a breath. “Can you help bring her to justice?”
Tona looked at them both. “We are here to help you capture Trystana. Just one thing, we should only bring one or two of your men. There’s no need to send more than that.”
“I will go.” Rix looked at Tona. “There is no need for anyone else. I lost all that was my heart that day. I need to see this through.”
Talvan nodded. “Go with them and bring this murderer back to us. We will have justice and give peace and honor to all that perished that day.”
“What is the plan?” Rix asked.
“We go in and take her from her fortress.” Tona shrugged. “Then we bring her here to you.”
“Shouldn’t we make a plan?” Rix asked.
“Just get your gear.” Nellis smiled. “We already know the layout of her fortress. We have been there once already.”
“I have all that I need on my person. When can we leave?” Rix asked.
“As soon as the portal is reopened, we will go to Centra and from there Baikus.” Jace told him.
Dallys turned and walked back to where the portal opened before. As soon as she got close another opened. She turned and looked at the others. “Shall we go?”
“How does your leader know when to create the portal?” Rix asked as he walked with Nellis.
“He watches for us with his scrying bowl.” Dallys smiled.
Nellis and Jace looked at each other and shrugged.
The Dark Army along with Rix stepped onto the snow covered Traveler’s Bridge where Wincet was waiting.
“Hello I’m Rix and you must be their leader.” Rix extended his hand to Wincet. “Thank you for your help.”
“I am Wincet and we are here to help those in need.” Wincet took Rix’s hand and shook it. “Now get ready and I will conjure the portal to Baikus”
Everyone came to stand where Wincet was standing. Wincet opened the portal to Baikus. He looked directly at Tona. “Please be careful this time.”
Tona nodded. She followed the rest of the group into the portal.
As soon as they stepped through the portal on Baikus, they took cover in the trees.
“Dallys, Nellis, and Rix, you are up first. Get in and get a look around then come back. We’ll come in and grab her when you find her.” Tona told him.
Dallys became a point of light and took off.
Nellis turned into a mouse and scampered off.
Rix looked at the others then shifted into a hummingbird.
“That was an interesting choice.” Jace squinted as he followed Rix with his eyes.
“Obviously, he hasn’t used his shifting for nefarious deeds like Nellis.” Tona smirked. “I suppose his people aren’t natural born thieves like Nellis.”
“Nellis is unique. Izzie is not a thief and she uses her shapeshifting abilities.” Borne reminded them.
Jace chuckled. “Nellis says she is a lot of fun when she plays shifties with him. I have a feeling I don’t really want to know what that entails.”
Tona grinned. “No, you really don’t.”
Dallys was the first one back. She changed back to normal before she spoke. “The place has been closed up. There are sheets over all the furniture and the shutters are locked. I had to let Nellis and Rix in. They should be back any moment.”
Nellis and Rix came walking towards them already in their humanoid form. They had an older man by the arms between them.
Borne, Jace, and Tona came out of cover and met them half way near the garden wall.
“We found the caretaker.” Nellis nodded toward the old man. “He was in a small house in back. He isn’t saying anything.”
“Oh really? I haven’t asked him my way yet.” Tona pulled a dagger from her boot and held it to the old man’s throat. “Where is Trystana?”
“She was taken.” The old man looked at the blade. “The man came in the night. He was wearing a uniform of the Metalis Alliance.”
“A human wearing a Metalis Alliance uniform? Borne, is that even possible?” Jace asked.
“Yes.” Borne confirmed. “There are a few humanoids in the ranks but I don’t know of any that would carry out a mission on their own.”
Tona backed the old man against the wall. “Where are the rest of the men? Where is Trystana? Tell me the truth this time.”
“I did. They have been gone for months. They were here but now they're gone.” The old man said. “The man came and took them. He came the last night of sadness. It was the time of mourning for the dead we found in the woods.” The old man struggled but Tona held him firmly against the garden wall. “He came in the night. It was all quiet then the door was open and the wind appeared, The candles blew and then they just disappeared.”
“Who was he?” Tona asked. “What was his name? Did you hear his name?”
“They called him Boc the Reaper.” The old man told them. “He’s a bounty hunter. Trystana was wanted by the Metalis alliance for stealing the Star Breaker from them. They saw the star explode and they knew it was her. So they came to take her away.”
“Then she’s dead.” Rix scratched his head. “The Metalis Alliance doesn’t put people in prison. They just kill them.”
“We’re sorry, Rix.” Dallys patted his arm.
“It just spares my people the trouble of doing it themselves.” Rix sighed. “I guess I should be thankful for that. I should be getting back I need to tell the others what we found out.”
“We need to get to the rendezvous point then Wincet will send you home when we get to the Traveler’s Bridge.” Nellis told him.
They all walked to the place they came into the forest and the portal opened. Rix looked around one last time before he walked through the portal.
Rix walked through the portal to the moon where his people were waiting.
“Did you not find her?” Talvan asked when he didn’t see anyone with Rix.
“The Metalis Alliance got to her first. She’s dead. She’s been dead for months.” Rix said to the crowd. “We may not have had the justice that we had hoped for but she has met her fate already. Let us mourn the dead and heal.
Talvan nodded. “While you were gone, Rix, we decided to name this moon Avia. It has now become out sanctuary similar to the one written about by the Scribes.”
“I like it.” Rix smiled. “It’s a perfect name for our new home.”
On a battle cruiser belonging to the Metalis Alliance. Trystana paced the floor of her cell. She had no idea why she was still alive. She should have been killed months ago. She knew she was going to die as soon as saw the uniform on the bounty hunter.
A commander walked up to the force field. “You failed to wipe out the Exaltanese. There are still some left. You failed your mission and you lost the Star Breaker. I would have killed you just for that but the General Tox wants you delivered to him alive. So I am keeping you alive against my better judgement. “
“I did as I was told.” Trystana walked toward the force field. “It wasn’t my fault that I lost the Star Breaker Wand. It was stolen when a group of mad men raided my fortress. They had a trained ursaur with them. They killed four of my men. We didn’t stand a chance against them. “
“Lies! I will let General Tox do what he likes with you. “The commander turned to walk away. I am sure whatever it is it will be unpleasant. He is a very unpleasant man.”
“Please! Just leave me on some unknown planet and tell him I died in transit. “Trystana begged. “I know exactly what he has in mind for me. Please help me!”
The commander laughed as he walked down the corridor out of the cell block.
Trystana sank to the floor. She knew what was coming. General Tox would enjoy himself as he ripped her apart as slowly as possible.