Dark Realms 11: The Beast Among Us
Word Count: 5026
Brought to you by puzzleprompts
The Dark Army gathered in the common room when Wincet summoned them.
“Isadora has a mission for us.” Wincet said as they walked in. “It may be nothing but I think it’s worth checking it out.”
“In the mountains of Gracea on Castilane, there is a legend of a beast with a hunger for the blood of humans. It has killed many times and always comes and goes without a sound.” Izzie started. “This month alone it has killed ten strong men. They were found without a drop of blood in their body floating in the nearby lake. The only wound is a bite mark on their neck.”
“It sounds like a vampire but they’re just tales. They aren’t real.” Jace said.
“This one is.” Tona confirmed. “I heard about it when I was working for the Sholar on Castilane. No one in his army would go anywhere near the mountains and they were the most trained and deadly army in that sector. I heard that he hired three men to go into the mountains to track it down but they were never heard of again.”
“Yes but they aren’t the infamous Dark Army that everyone whispers about.” Izzie grinned. “You all have quite the reputation in the universe these days. You are equally feared and admired.”
“Flattery aside, we do have a unique skill set.” Nellis looked around at the others. “We can find it and bring it out of the mountains into the light of day. That way no one will have a reason to fear it anymore. They’ll see if for the beast that it is and stop thinking its something evil.”
“Won’t that just it turn to ash?” Jace asked.
They all turned and looked at him.
“On my world, if a vampire comes out into direct sunlight it turns into ash and blows away.” Jace explained.
“That is the silliest thing that I have ever heard.” Tona shook her head. “That must make your people feel a lot safer but I don’t think that’s true. Most of the men were fed on were taken at the shift change for the guards and that is mid-day when the sun is at its peak.”
Jace made a face. “So no ash? That’s disturbing.”
“I propose that Nellis Dallys and I go in and find it then Tona and Jace can come in and capture it then bring it out.” Izzie looked around for approval.
“Basically, I’m the bait and Tona is the one that takes it down.” Jace plopped down into a chair. “Lovely!”
“Well, I don’t think it will eat an elf.” Izzie looked at Tona. “Is that what you heard?”
“As far as I know it only eats humans.” Tona nodded. “At least, that was all that had been reported by the commander at the garrison at Gracea when I was there.”
“Doesn’t the Exaltanese trade with Castilana?” Wincet asked. “Maybe Rix can get us more recent information.”
“I’ll send him a message on the sub space.” Nellis walked over to the communications device and tuned it to the frequency that Rix was known to use.
“The rest of you gather your gear.” Wincet shooed them to their rooms. “I want to send you out as soon as Nellis finishes talking to Rix. Tona! A word please.”
Tona reluctantly walked back to where Wincet was standing. “I know what you want to talk about and I have nothing to say. He can sit in that room and rot.”
“You married him. Don’t you think you should try to get along with him?” Wincet asked.
“No! Tona exclaimed. “He still thinks that he’s my master and I’m his slave. He actually brought me his dirty laundry and demanded that I wash it. I told him to do it himself. If he wants clean socks then he needs to clean his socks. He wanted to marry me and not take the currency I offered him then he will have to be happy with what he has.”
“Tona, you need to make peace with him or at least try to be receptive to him.” Wincet said.
“Now you sound like my mother.” Tona sighed. “Just open a portal and I’ll toss him back home then he won’t bother anyone here anymore.”
“You could just ask him to leave.” Wincet put his hand on Tona’s shoulder. “He’s miserable. He may just leave on his own. Try to talk to him, without trying to kill him, please.”
“Maybe you should speak to him.” Tona wrinkled her nose. “I don’t think I can look at him without wanting to kill him right now. Not after last night and the stunt he pulled.”
“What happened?” Wincet asked.
“He had the nerve to come into my room last night while I was sleeping and get in bed with me. I woke up and nearly slit his throat.” Tona wrinkled her nose. “He said he was there to take what was his and I told him there wasn’t anything in my bed that was his. He stormed out then he slammed his door.”
“So that’s who did that.” Wincet grinned. “I thought Nellis and Isadora were having another argument.”
“No. They were playing shifties in her room.” Tona made a face. “They were really loud too. Do you know how thin the walls are in this place?”
Wincet chuckled. “I see that I will have to put a sound proofing spell around each of their rooms. Shifties?”
“That’s what they call it but it just sounds like sex to me.” Tona shuddered. “Gross!”
Wincet laughed then sighed. “Go talk to Barth. Maybe, he has changed his mind about holding you to this arranged marriage now that he knows things won’t be happening as he wanted them to..”
Tona shrugged then walked toward the living quarters. She was almost to Barth’s room when Jace came out of his.
“Going to ask the husband for permission to leave?” Jace smirked.
“No but you might want to come with me so that I don’t kill him.” Tona grabbed Jace by the arm and pulled him down to Barth’s room. She opened the door without knocking. “Barth, I need to tell you something.” She glanced back at Jace.
“What do you want to tell me that you haven’t already?” Barth stood up and glanced curiously at Jace.
“I will never love you because I love Jace.” Tona grabbed Jace’s face and planted a big wet kiss on him. “There I committed adultery now you can divorce me without shame.”
“I have grounds for having you beaten, you mean.” Barth glared at Jace. “But I know that will not win you over to me. If a divorce is what you want then I will give it to you. He may have you. Tell the sorcerer to send me back and I will have the marriage contract voided.”
“And my parents?” Tona asked.
“They will not be harmed.” Barth promised. “They provided me with a wife as contracted but I was not prepared for you. I will have to find a woman less difficult to marry.”
“Thank you. Now, we have to go.” Tona grabbed Jace by the arm and pulled him back down the hall. “Thanks for the assist.”
“Any time.” Jace smiled. “Get your gear. I will tell Wincet that Barth wants to go back home.”
Tona rushed down the hallway to her room to get her gear as Jace turned to leave the living quarters.
Everyone started to assemble on the Traveler’s Bridge. Wincet looked around. “Where is Tona?”
“She was getting her gear when I left her.” Jace said. “Barth agreed to give her a divorce and he wants to go back home. You might want to send him after we leave so that he won’t be here when she gets back.”
“I will make a point of it.” Wincet nodded.
Overhead there was a small craft flying low. it looked like a small cargo ship. It landed near the main buildings.
“That’s not Rix.” Nellis said. “His ship is bigger. Borne, do you know what kind of ship that is?”
“It is a shuttle craft not a cargo ship. The markings are in the Oldene language.” Borne told them. “Perhaps Hestrick is here to make peace.”
“Or steal something.” Nellis looked at Wincet. “We better go see what’s going on.”
Nellis and Jace headed back to see who it was and what they were doing there on Centra.
Inside the living quarters, Tona had started to collect her gear when the door opened and someone stepped inside. The intruder didn’t say a word as he stood in the doorway.
“I’m almost ready.” Tona said. “I have to find my ….”
A knife flew through the air and hit Tona in the back. She crumpled to the ground with a whimper. Her eyes closed and she was still.
The intruder walked over and pulled out the knife then left her to die. The intruder left as quietly as he came.
The craft took off before anyone could reach the end of the bridge. Jace and Nellis looked at each other and started running.
They reached the common room and nothing seemed disturbed.
“I’ll check the living quarters and you check the workshop.” Jace suggested. He didn’t wait for Nellis to object he ran to the rooms and went straight to Tona’s room. “Tona!?”
Jace opened the door and found her on the floor. She was bleeding badly from a wound on her back. He knelt down to check her pulse and was relieved to find a weak one.
“Please don’t die. I’ll be right back.” Jace rushed back out of the room. He met Nellis at the entrance to the hallway. “Nellis! Get Wincet Tona is wounded. I’m going to check on Barth.”
Nellis nodded and hurried back the way he came.
Jace went to Barth’s room and found it empty. All of Barth’s clothes and belongings were gone.
That bastard did that to her then ran. Jace slammed his hand on the door frame. He looked down the hall and saw Wincet go into Tona’s room. He went back down the hall to see what was happening.
Dallys blocked his way into the room. “Jace, there was nothing Wincet could do. She lost too much blood.”
“No!” Jace tried to push past Dallys but she held him back. “She had a pulse when I was in there. Please check again. She had a pulse.”
Nellis grabbed Jace and pulled him out of the doorway. “Where is Barth?”
“He’s gone.” Jace closed his eyes to gain control of his emotions. “He must have left in the ship. His room has been cleared out.”
Wincet came out of Tona’s room. “Dallys, you and Isadora clean her up. I will take her body to Tolkarian myself. Nellis, where was Rix when you spoke to him?”
“He was two systems over getting building supplies for the settlement on Avia.” Nellis told him. “Do you want me to see if he can catch up with the ship?”
“Yes.” Wincet nodded. “Have Borne give you the ships name and registry information. I want Barth brought back here. I will deal with him myself.”
Nellis rushed off to the communication device to get in touch with Rix.
Jace looked at Wincet. “He didn’t have to kill her. He could have just divorced her. He said he was going to divorce her. Why did he kill her?”
Wincet put his hands on Jace’s shoulders. “He will be punished for what he has done. He made the mistake of harming one of mine and he will pay.”
Jace nodded. “Yes he will.”
“Come, let the women take care of her now.” Wincet pulled Jace along with him into the common room. “Nellis, did you raise Rix?”
“Yes.” Nellis came over to where they were. “Rix was already off the planet when I got him. He saw the craft on his monitor and he’s in pursuit. Do you think Hestrick is behind this?”
“It’s not showy enough for Hestrick. He likes his work to be noticed.” Wincet shook his head. “Besides, he doesn’t know Tona’s real face. She was disguised as a boy when he saw her.”
“Whoever it was knows Barth and was in contact with him.” Nellis rubbed his head. “I’ll check the communication logs to see who he was talking to. What about the mission?”
“The beast can wait for now. We need to find Barth and find out what happened.” Wincet said.
“He killed her that’s what happened.” Jace dropped into a chair and held his head in his hands. He let his tears fall. “I should have stayed behind with her.”
“You didn’t know what he had planned.” Wincet sat down next to him. “He must have been planning this from the time he arrived.”
“Could you have saved her if I had reached her sooner?” Jace asked.
“No. It was a mortal wound to the heart.” Wincet shook his head. “No one could have saved her from that. Besides, he pulled the knife out to speed up the bleeding.”
“It doesn’t make sense at all.” Jace wiped his face. “That’s what a trained killer would do but Barth didn’t seem trained at anything except being an ass.”
“You have a point.” Wincet nodded. “That’s why we need to find out what happened from Barth. He’s the only witness.”
Nellis walked over and sat in the chair next to them. “Barth was in contact with a merchant name Fin on Oldene. I talked to the man and he said that Barth’s father did business with him on a regular basis. The ship we saw is his but he loaned it out to Barth’s father, Helis.”
“So the bastard called his daddy to come get him?” Jace started to get angry. “I wonder whose idea it was to kill Tona, Barth’s or his father’s.”
“From what Tona told me, I would say it was the father.” Izzie sat down on the arm of the chair next to Nellis. “She’s ready Wincet but I think we all need a few minutes to say goodbye to her before you take her home.”
Wincet nodded. “I agree. It will be difficult enough for her family without strangers there at the memorial service.”
The communication device alert went off.
“That’s probably Rix. I’ll handle it.” Nellis said as he got up and walked over to the communication device.
“Nellis, are you there?”
“I’m here Rix. What’s up?”
“I see them. I’ll let you know what happens after I make contact with the pilot. I hope that I don’t have to use these new pulse cannons I just put on. I'm not sure all the bolts are tight. Rix out.”
On the ship, Rix sent a message over to the other ship. The pilot slowed down and then the communications device sounded.
“Well, this is either going to go really well or really badly.” Valn said as he sat in the copilot’s seat.
“It better go really well.” Rix said as he slowed the ship to match the other ships speed. “We need the Dark Army’s friendship. They are the only people that will help us when we need it without expecting something in exchange.”
“I am Captain Phiks of the Oldene merchant fleet. Who are you and what do you want?” The pilot said.
“I’m Rix, captain of the Avian Wing. Did you stopped at a planet called Centra?”
“Yes. I picked up another passenger.”
“You have a murderer on board.”
“You must be mistaken. I have a merchant and his son on board. They are on their way to Oldene for a meeting. There’s no murderer here.”
“That merchant’s son’s wife was murdered just before you took off. Look friend, I’m here by request of the Dark Army. Do you know who they are?”
“Yes … Everyone knows who they are.”
“The woman that was murdered was a member of the Dark Army. She was in her quarters, unarmed, where she thought she was safe. She was stabbed in the back as she was preparing for a mission.”
“You’re saying that one of these idiots killed a warrior from the Dark Army in cold blood?”
“Yes and you are helping them which makes you a target for the Dark Army too.”
“Come get them. I don’t want any trouble from the Dark Army. I’m not paid enough to get a price on my head because to these fools.”
Rix looked over at Valn “I need you stay here and open the refrigeration unit. We’ll put them in there it’s the only compartment that locks from the outside.”
Valn nodded. “Good luck and be careful.”
Rix docked his ship with the smaller ship and went aboard. The captain met him at the hatch. “You’re an Exaltanese!”
“Yes. Where are your passengers?” Rix didn’t have time to chat. He knew his best chance was to take them by surprise.
The captain pointed to a door a few feet away. He walked over and opened it.
Rix turned into a rhinsa and knocked both men out before they could move against him. Rix turned back into his normal state and looked at the captain.
“Help me get them on my ship then you can go on your way.” Rix went to pick up the older man and saw blood on the hem of his pants. “I think I found the murder right here.”
Phiks picked up Barth and threw him over his shoulder. “A find mess I’ve gotten myself into. Tell the Dark Army that I had no idea what they were about.”
“I will, friend.” Rix shoved Helis through the hatch to Valn and turned to get Barth. “Valn find something to tie them up with. Use good strong knots. We don’t want them to get loose.”
“Wait here and I will get their things.” Phiks turned and went to get their bags. He brought them to the hatch. “I want nothing of theirs on my ship.”
Rix shoved Barth through the hatch as he waited on Phiks. He took the bags the man brought him and tossed them through the hatch to Valn. “I will tell them that you were very cooperative.”
“Thanks. Now, I guess I should get back to Oldene. Phiks nodded goodbye and sealed the hatch once Rix was back on his ship.
After Barth and his father were safely tied up and inside the refrigeration unit, Rix looked in the bags belonging to the two men. One bag was full of currency and the other two were personal items.
“That’s enough to live on for the rest of their lives.” Valn said as he looked at the currency.
“Let’s head to Centra and Wincet and the others are waiting for these two.” Rix closed the bag and headed for the controls. “I’ll let Nellis know we have them while you turn the ship around.”
Nellis had been waiting by the communication device when Rix signaled him.
“I’m still here, Rix.”
“We have them we are on our way.”
“Thank you. I’ll tell Wincet.”
Nellis turned and found Wincet standing near him. “Rix is bringing them here. What are we going to do to them?”
“I will be the one to punish them.” Wincet said. “The rest of you need to grieve then we all will have to find a way to move on from this.”
“This is going to leave a gap in our skills set.” Nellis said. “Tona is going to be hard to replace.”
Wincet nodded. “I know. They will be here soon. We will leave for Tona’s home world after I deal with them. You should go say your goodbye.”
Nellis nodded and went into the living quarters.
In Tona’s room, Dallys stood by the bed where she and Izzie had put Tona after they had cleaned her up. She wiped the tears off her cheeks before she knelt by the bed.
“Tona, you were like a sister to me. I am really going to miss our late night talks and the way you made our kitchen duty fun.” Dallys bit her lip to keep from crying again. “I will miss you and I will remember you always.”
Dallys looked up and saw Borne in the door way. She went over and patted him on the chest. “I’m done. I’ll let you say goodbye now.” She walked out of the room leaving him standing there.
Borne walked over to the bed and looked at Tona. His face was expressionless but his eyes were full of grief. “Tona, I have always respected you. You were a soldier like me. You understood what duty and honor meant to me. I do not know if I shall ever have that again. Safe journey to your land of renewal.” Borne bowed his head and walked out of the room.
Izzie and Nellis stood in the hallway holding hands. They watched Borne pass them with his head down.
“Come in with me, Nellis.” Izzie pulled Nellis in by the hand.
Izzie went over and knelt by the bed. “Tona, you were an inspiration to me. You made me believe that I was capable of anything. You and I were only friends for a short time but I was honored to call you my friend.” Izzie looked up at Nellis.
Nellis knelt beside Izzie. “Tona, it’s not going to be the same around here without you. You were always a lot of fun and someone I could always count on. In my life… that is a rare thing.” Nellis glanced at Izzie. “I’m glad we got to be friends. Come on Izzie. I think Jace wants to be alone with her.”
Izzie nodded and let Nellis help her up. They walked out of the room and found Jace waiting. Izzie hugged Jace then she and Nellis went into the common room.
Jace walked to the door then hesitated. He wiped his face and went to the bed.
“Just like you to say that you love me then leave me to wonder what might have been.” Jace knelt down. “I have never been as close to anyone one as I was with you. There was something about you, Tona. Something that I could never put my finger on. I thought it was because you were an elf but now I guess I will never know exactly what it was. I did love you. Strong, beautiful, and fun. That was you and that is the way I will remember you.”
“Jace, they’re almost here.” Nellis called down the hall.
“I have to go. Rix caught them trying to escape. Wincet is going to make sure they pay for doing this to you.” Jace stood up and leaned over to kiss Tona on the lips one last time. “Goodbye my sweet.”
Jace walked to the door and closed it on his way out.
Rix was just landing when Jace went out to where everyone was waiting. The hatch opened and Rix came out of the ship.
“Was there any trouble?” Wincet asked.
“Not a bit. The Oldene captain had no idea that he had a murderer on board and as soon as he heard the words ‘Dark Army’, he gave them up without hesitation.” Rix said as he walked up to Wincet. “The older one has blood on the hem of his pants. We put them in the refrigeration compartment. There’s no lock on the inside. I’ve been meaning to fix that but I just haven’t got around to it. They were carrying a bag of currency with them. It doesn’t look like they planned on going back to their home world.”
“Keep the currency.” Wincet said. “Consider it your bounty.”
“Thank you. It will help my people a great deal. I will use it to pay for food and supplies.” Rix took a breath to steady his emotions. He turned to the open hatch. “Valn, bring the prisoners.”
Valn brought the two men to the hatch. They were both tied and gagged. Helis glared at Wincet defiantly while Barth hung his head and avoided looking at them.
Wincet pulled the gag off Helis. “Why did you kill her?”
“She was unsuitable. Barth told me that he was planning on giving her a divorce. That would bring shame to my family name and I could not have that.” Helis glared at Wincet. “The only way to end that marriage without disgrace was for her to die.”
Wincet looked at Barth. “Did he know what you planned to do when you came here?”
“No.” Helis glared at Barth. “He was ready to give her a divorce. He didn’t realize what that would do to our standing. He is weak that is why he could not control her. I had to put an end to it for him.”
“You son of a bitch!” Jace started to lunge forward but Borne and Nellis held him back.
Wincet looked over his shoulder at Jace. “Nellis, you and Borne take Jace inside. The rest of you go with them.”
“Wincet?” Nellis hesitated.
“It will be fine. Go now.” Wincet waved them away.
Everyone left Wincet with the two elves and went inside.
“I was really sorry to hear about this.” Rix looked at them. “Tona was a fine woman.”
Valn nodded. “You have our condolences.”
“Thank you.” Dallys sighed. “One of us needs to go see what Wincet is doing. I don’t like him being alone with those two.”
“I will go.” Borne didn’t wait for anyone to object he went out where he had left Wincet but he wasn’t there. Borne looked toward the Traveler’s Bridge and saw a portal open. He walked over to see what was going on.
“I refuse to go through that. I have no idea where it will take me.” Helis struggled against Wincet’s grip on his arm.
Borne grabbed Helis by the arm and started to drag him to the portal.
“Borne, you should go inside.” Wincet said. “I will handle this.”
“No. She was my friend.” Borne pushed Helis through the portal then turned to face Wincet. Borne pointed to Barth. “Do you want him to go as well?”
“No.” Wincet shook his head and closed the portal. “He will have to come with us to Tolkarian and explain what happened to Tona’s parents. Keep him here and watch him closely. I will get the others ready to leave for Tona’s home world.”
Borne nodded and held Barth by the arm as Wincet walked off.
“He sent my father somewhere. Do you know where he sent him?” Barth asked.
“No.” Borne squeezed Barth’s arm. “Silence.”
Barth winced and complied.
Thirty minutes later a portal opened on Tolkarian, Wincet led them through into the same garden that Tona had stepped into just a few weeks ago.
Manse greeted them. He was dressed in all white as was the custom for grieving. He walked over to the litter carrying Tona’s body. He glanced at Jace and Nellis then lifted the thin veil and looked at Tona’s face. “Thank you for bringing her home.”
“I believe that is what she would want.” Wincet glanced back at Borne holding on to Barth. “Helis was the one that took your daughter from you. I have dealt with him. You may do what you wish with him.”
“I will deal with him shortly.” Manse looked up at the sky. “We need to perform the ritual before the sun moves too far in the sky. It must be at its peak to be effective. Come this way.”
Manse led them up a mountain path to the glass and stone temple of Tolkar. He stood by the altar where Tona’s mother, Stara was waiting. “Please put her here. Manse pointed to the altar.”
Jace and Nellis lifted the litter and put her on the altar. They backed away. Manse started to say a spell to summon the winds of time then a beam of light came through the crystal at top of the temple. It slowly moved from one end of the altar to the other. It turned Tona’s body into a fine ash that started to blow away in the soft swirling breeze.
Manse and Stara watched as the breeze took their daughter away from them. Stara let out a sob and Manse comforted her by putting his arm around her.
Wincet and the others were silent. Izzie and Nellis held hands. Dallys leaned her head on Jace’s arm. Borne was still holding on to Barth.
When all of the ash was gone, Manse turned to them. He pulled a ornate dagger from under his tunic and walked up to Barth.
“Wait! I didn’t know he was going to kill her. Please!” Barth pleaded.
“You didn’t protect her either.” Manse plunged the dagger into Barth and twisted it.
Barth gasped and fell to the ground, choking on his blood until he died.
“Now she is avenged.” Manse stepped to Wincet. “What did you do to Helis?”
“I sent him to a planet where he will die a slow and painful death from radiation and starvation.” Wincet said. “I wanted him to suffer for taking the life of such a magnificent woman as Tona.”
Manse nodded. “Thank you. Thank you all for caring for our daughter. it is time for us to grieve in private.”
Wincet nodded. He turned and led the others back to the garden. He conjured the portal to send them back home. He watched as everyone stepped through but Jace.
“You sent him to Exalta?” Jace asked.
“Yes. He will suffer for a few days before the radiation or hunger kills him.” Wincet put his hand on Jace’s arm. “Should I have killed him quickly like Manse killed Barth?”
“No.” Jace shook his head. “Tona would have made Helis suffer if he had killed one of us.”
“I believe she would have.” Wincet patted Jace’s arm. “Let’s go home. We have to plan our next mission.”
Jace nodded and they both stepped through the portal to Centra.