domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2011

Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Karson had landed the flyer behind a screening grove of trees, leaving the semi-conscious Hyas strapped to his seat. The restraints pulled tight against his body, restricted his feverish movements in order to prevent the huge man from causing further harm to himself. Kalum wondered whether this was from some new altruistic sense, or rather that Karson was merely trying to ensure his own acceptance by the Tauran and his shadowy allies.

When Kalum made as if to follow Karson out of the flyer, a peremptory wave of a hand forced him back to his seat. At first there was no explanation, but as the big man buckled a pistol to his belt, he spoke.

“Right now, it’s better that you remain here and take care of the Tauran.” said Karson, as he opened the flyer’s main door, “If Lepus has found his ship, there will be bloodshed, and a substantial amount. You will only get in the way.”

Feeling affronted, Kalum petulantly turned away, but a strong hand gripped his shoulder, “I .. am not used to diplomatic discourses, forgive me, my Lord,” petitioned Karson in a much softer tone, “Your safety is my first concern and may well need to be the other Karson right now. With no concern except the death of my enemies, I can be more efficient. I will return for you both, as soon as I can.”

Indicating his understanding with a smile, Kalum moved to Hyas’ side, as Karson made his way out of the craft. “Karson ... ?” he called, arresting the big man’s movement and bringing a look of impatience to his face, “Take care...”

The face of Lepus’ brutal ex-Leftenant coloured, embarrassment warred with a new found pride, but Karson’s only visible response was a curt nod of acknowledgement as he jumped down to the ground.


A breeze gently moved the leaves, their gentle whispering belying the potential for violence expressed by Karson’s stealthy advance. He was not fooled by the idyllic setting, nor the seeming absence of sound or lack of obvious danger. It was exactly this silence which worried him, caused him to drop to the ground and inch forward towards the top of the nearby rise in the ground. Peering through the cover of vegetation, he could see Hyas’ ship, its camouflage blending it in with its surrounds, yet it was impossible to completely hide it.

Now he waited, patience was extremely important, although difficult to maintain under such stressful conditions, however, this was not the first time he had needed to follow such a course of action. Breathing slowly to calm his adrenalin-enhanced body, he made himself as comfortable as possible and watched carefully for any betraying signs of unusual activity.

Karson had almost convinced himself that everything was fine, that no-one with a murderous intent lay in wait. His muscles had bunched in preparation for his planned movement when he heard an incongruous sound. No bird-call, nor susurration of wind, but the sharp explosion of a sneeze. It had come from the other side of the Tauran’s craft, seemingly echoing out from underneath the stubby landing slides. Relaxing his tensed muscles, Karson slid slowly to the ground, rolling away from his cover down the rise, until he could once more regain his feet.

Now his actions were quick and assured, as he skirted the landing site and approached the vessel from the other side. In his hand there was no pistol, but the thin stiletto blade of his knife. His concentration was immense, each footfall could announce his presence and leave the boy on his own. This was a new sensation for Karson, he had never worried about anyone, or anything in his life before. Yet, the astonishing news of the boy’s identity and the implicit trust in which Kalum held the big man, had shocked him to the core. There could be no mistakes, he needed to find and eliminate whatever threat there was, permanently.

Finally, he was within striking distance, hidden amongst the thick vegetation, as was his enemy. The distinctive sound could not help him further, right now he needed his foe’s exact position, so he waited, tensed, his muscles quivering in anticipation. Like a hunting cat, his weight was evenly balanced, body ready for instant reaction. Then it came and without thought Karson struck, his blade sliding easily into human flesh, once, twice and then a third and final time. There had been a whisper of cloth, a flicker of movement and Karson had leapt to the kill.

Slowly he lowered the body to the floor, recognising the man as one of Lepus’ soldiers. He knew however that there would not just be one of them and the obvious place for another, would be inside the craft itself. The man’s rifle lay by his side and Karson retrieved it, checking the state of its flechette charge, then ready once more, he moved to the partially open entrance.

No sound nor unexpected movement alerted him of the impending attack, rather it was his senses, attuned over the years to the nature of such deadly encounters, that drove him into a long flat dive. His trajectory carried him through the door, the rifle tucked in close to his body, as he used his shoulder to break his fall, rolling over and upright. Instinctively his finger tightened, sending the wicked metallic needles whickering outwards in a horrific arc. A grunt, followed by a scream told him that he had struck his target, but he had not stood still waiting. Already, he had followed the first burst from the weapon with another and then slammed into the dark shape before him, a moist and pliant body collapsing before him. Mistily he felt the caress of liquid against his skin and the swipe of his forearm, across his face, not only cleared his vision, but left a salty taste on his lips.

Using his boot, he rolled the corpse out of his way and prowled further into the craft. Lepus was a fool, but Karson was a known and deadly commodity. He would be insulted if this was the limit of the troops left to deal with him.

Kalum watched the slow and even rise and fall of Hyas’ barrel chest. The Tauran’s wound appeared to have stabilised, although the make-shift bandage and black and congealed blood around the wound, spoke graphically of the trauma experienced. Now and again, the boy dabbed at Hyas’ forehead with a cool cloth, the little that he could do from his limited experience. It was as he left forward, to wipe away a little of the accumulated sweat and grime from the Tauran’s horns that he felt the hand grasp the back of his collar and wrench him backwards.

Shouting in fright, Kalum was dragged across the door towards the exit. His scrabbling fingers caught onto the side of one of the control panels and he hung on for dear life. A voice cursed and the butt of a pistol was smashed down onto is fingers, the pain causing him to let go of his handhold and his precipitous journey began again.

He bumped his head against one of the door surrounds and felt himself twist, as his assailant propelled him out of the door and sent him crashing to the earth. Looking up, he could see the face of his attacker and its demeanour did nothing to encourage him. Blood shot eyes stared out of a scarred and bitter face. The man spat onto the floor, raising the weapon in his hand and pointing it determinedly at Kalum.

Another man approached from behind a tree, buttoning his trousers, before wiping his hand on the back of his combat fatigues.

“Killing him right now, would be pretty much unadvisable,” he said, his voice curiously cultured and at odds with his appearance, “Lepus wants to know where the object is. If you kill him, then ask him where it is, getting a sensible and intelligible answer, may be a little difficult!”

“What .. ?” snarled his companion, changing the angle of his weapon.

“I said ...” began the first man, his reply cut short, as he looked down curiously at the steel blade poking out of his chest, his subsequent liquid cough announcing the spurt of blood which flew from his mouth. He looked somewhat disconcerted, his hands spread pleadingly towards his companion , who even now opened fire, his projectile weapon spiting forth rounds which slammed into the dying man’s body.

Kalum buried his face in his hands, appalled at the violence being played out before him. The second soldier had once more trained his rifle onto the young boy, his face contorted in anger as he pulled the trigger. None of the expected pain of impact arrived, rather the soldier’s body flew outwards from the doorway, his weapon discharging harmlessly into the air. An axe stuck deep into his back became visible as he collapsed lifeless to the floor and Kalum saw the figure of the Tauran which stood momentarily in the doorway, before crumpling to the floor.

As he made to rush to Hyas’ aid, a hand pushed him back down and fear struck hard at the boy. His frightened glance, though, revealed the large figure of Karson, who stood over him, blood dripping onto the boy from his gore-covered figure. Somehow he had inherited this man, this machine of destruction and Kalum was only too glad that Karson was on his side.


“Why hasn’t Lepus attacked us?” asked Kalum, as they relaxed in the Tauran’s craft, “If he knows that this is here, why wouldn’t he just use those same weapons that he did on my village.”

“Probably, because he doesn’t know where we are,” answered Karson, staring deep into Kalum’s eyes, his gaze making the boy feel uncomfortable, “these men were sent out to find Hyas’ ship and wait for your return. This was done before my own crew and I found you and knowing those involved, they would have kept the location to themselves.”

“Why?” inquired a perplexed Kalum, his abrupt submersion into the dangerous political waters occasioned by his alleged ancestry, leaving him floundering.

“Nothing too noble”, responded Karson, turning to the main control board to begin preparations for take-off, “Lepus’ men, but mirror their Master’s traits; avarice, theft, murder, extortion, and any other anti-social behaviour he can get away with. They would have first of all thought of how much they could extort from Lepus, then would have been afraid of his actions and finally would have been bored. Your arrival gave them something to do to entertain themselves, eventually they would have killed you.”

“Eventually ...?” came Kalum’s querulous question.

“You really don’t want know,” advised Karson, as he punched the launch sequence into the controls and the engines roared into life, “believe me, you really don’t..!”

The vessel shuddered as it shook itself free of the ground’s restraint, the landing sleds drawing quickly into their housing. Karson swung the ship around, bringing its offensive and defensive systems on line as he aimed the craft upwards.

“Hold on,” he said, as the ship gathered speed, “this could get a little bit rocky!”

Kalum watched the clouds streak by, their velocity increasing rapidly, this was potentially the beginning of his journey, or, he thought to himself as alarms screamed into strident life, the end of it.


“There they are!” shouted Lepus, pounding his fist on the arm of his chair, “Target them directly! Blow them into a million pieces!”

“But, My Lord, the object!” protested his second-in-command.
In one swift movement, Lepus drew his pistol and shot the stunned Officer right between the eyes. As the man’s body slumped backwards, blood and brains spraying over the astonished Bridge crew, Lepus stared coldly around, “Anyone else care to challenge my orders?”

He was met first by silence and then a frenzied activity, as his men rushed to obey him. The welcoming feel of the ship’s engines vibrating through the hull, was followed by the Gunnery Officer’s report of his readiness. A hideous smile sat for a moment on the man’s face, before he gave his next command, “FIRE!”


“As predictable as a whore at a Two for One sale ..” muttered Karson, as his hands flew across the control panel in front of him.

“A what ...?” asked Kalum, momentarily distracted from the threat of his imminent demise.

“Eh .. nothing” responded Karson sheepishly, “Now do something useful. Watch this screen and tell me when the crosshairs on it turn gold. Can you do that?”

“Of course I can,” stated Kalum, slightly affronted by the big man’s condescension, “Then what?”

“When the centre circle goes green, press this button,” here he indicated a red button, set below and slightly to one side of the screen.

“What does that do?” asked Kalum eagerly.

“You’ll see,” grinned Karson, “let’s just leave it as a surprise until then, why don’t we?”

Guffawing, he turned away and Kallum concentrated on the crosshairs, which even now were closing into the centre of his screen. They turned gold, a bleeping sound increase in tone and pulse, becoming constant as the circle flashed green. With an almost savage glee, Kallum punched the button, a series of lights to his right flashing briefly in concert.

“Got yer!” crowed Karson, as a synthetic voice chimed in, “Missiles locked on target, impact in ten, nine, eight .....”

miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2011

Chapter Four Part Two

An imperious barrage of sound struck the door of the Cardinal’s room, causing him to look up from the fireplace in which he was burning the last of his papers. The banging became more insistent, until a round was discharged against each of the door’s mounts, and the wooden barrier was slammed to the floor.

Stately, his anger restrained yet obvious, the Cardinal turned to face the men pouring through the now open doorway. Church soldiers, fanned out, setting up a cordon around the opening, their weapons unslung and pointed at the Cardinal.

His cold gaze caused a number of the soldiers to step back and involuntarily lower their weapons, but a shouted command bolstered their courage and once more they took up their positions. Two men strode through the broken entrance, one covered in the opulent blue silken robes of the Priesthood and the other in his green and gold House colours.

“What do you think you...” began the Cardinal, but a snide laugh, cut across his attempted bluster.

“Well, well,” sneered the small, rat-faced, man whose green and gold clothes hung limply from his frame. A small scar ran down the right-hand side of his face, finishing at the corner of his mouth, seeming to give him thin and extremely elongated lips. “My cousin said we would find you here, plotting, and so we have.”

Krun ignored him, turning to face the cleric by his side, “What do you think you are doing Seiben?” he asked, quite calmly, “I will have you stripped of your priesthood for this!”

The man stared at Krun, his dark, soulless eyes seeming to look through him. He turned to his companion and waved him forward, before turning to face Krun once more. “You, my dear Cardinal,” he said in a flat monotone voice, “have as of now, zero power to do anything. Having been found guilty of heresy, summary judgement will be handed out by the highest-ranking Church Official present, that is to say, me.”

He made as if to move away, and then as though he had forgotten to say something, turned back to face his soldiers. “Kill him!” he spat, continuing on his way, as the sound of pistol fire rang through the room.

The first shot struck Krun high in the chest, spinning him at an oblique angle to the remainder of the volley. Rounds struck him, but not fatally, allowing him to reach for the small box he carried, in the pocket of his voluminous robe. He quickly depressed a number of keys on the box in a pre-determined sequence, sighing as the bleeped acceptance of his signal was received. This was just before the second wave of fire shredded through his flesh, punching him back into his chair in a parody of his earlier comfort. The Cardinal felt his life ebbing out, almost in tandem with the dripping blood which fell from his hand, as it lay draped over the arm of his chair. Each deep-red drop, first ran as a small rivulet across the control box he still held in his hand, before gathering in its lower corner and then softly falling to earth.

A soft scuffing sound, brought Krun’s attention back to the moment and it was now his turn to smile. Lepus’ man would have to make sure of his actual demise and it would give him the opportunity for a little revenge, however petty it would be. As the hot, foetid breath of Lepus’ Leftenant struck against his cheek, the Cardinal flipped a tiny switch on the rear-face of the box in his hand.

His shout of laughter, caused all in the room to stare and so they were able to fully appreciate the splendour of the explosion which consumed the Cardinal’s body, before reaching out its greedy fingers for them too.


Frere Seiben looked up in frightened wonder, as the top floor of the building he had just left was wracked by a shuddering expansion wave and then wreathed in licking flames. He saw the roof collapse downwards, smashing the rooms below and watched the rising plumes of smoke and powder, billowing out in puffs and starts.

He had never expected such a reaction, his life had been spent within the bosom of the all-powerful and manipulative Church. There had never been such sheer defiance and it worried him. The information from Lepus had been clear and damning, the Church’s reaction swift and decisive. Even now, he knew the last remnants of the Order and the insidious Brethren were being excised, like any cankerous sore. Seiben just hoped that it was going a little more smoothly at the Chapter House.


Just as the Captain’s outstretched fingers caressed the butt of Franklin’s pistol, the Knight acted, rapidly flipping the pistol over and pulling its double triggers. A percussive round struck the Captain full in his chest, blowing him backwards and then the needle-like shards of metal, from the flechette round shredded the flesh of his neck and face, sending a spray of blood outwards in an arc, as the body twisted away.

Franklin had not waited for the rounds’ effects, rather he had dropped and spun, drawing both of his short swords. His left leg speared out, even as the right bent forward, supporting Franklin’s lunge. The sword in his right hand plunged into the first soldier’s chest, his left-hand blade balancing his movement. Bunching muscles drove him upwards, his previously idle weapon shearing through fingers and hand, as it knocked an upturned rifle aside. Its unfortunate owner had little time to recognise the pain, as a razor-sharp edge sliced across his throat, effectively ending any cognitive processes.

Veteran Church Soldiers as they were, the remaining two men stood little chance. They were used to a cowering populace, not an angry and extremely skilful opponent. Even as they reflexively pulled the triggers of their rifles, Franklin was past them. Silvery flashes, followed by pearl-like strings of blood were all that showed the blindingly fast movement of his swords. Surprised faces looked down on now gaping wounds and limbless stumps, before they crashed down to oblivion.

Sir Franklin stared briefly at the men, checking them over quickly as he retrieved his pistol. Then, his bared swords held firmly in his hands, he disappeared into the Chapter House, the dead forgotten as he concentrated on the hope of finding some of his Brothers still alive.


It had been a useless and frustrating search, the Chapter House itself was damaged beyond recognition, yet there were few bodies. Franklin could only hope that the Brethren had been warned and had made good their escape. Those corpses he did find were of old Knights and servants, interspersed liberally with Church soldiers. Something was strange in all of this, the small contingent at the gate were perhaps not waiting specifically for him, rather any stragglers. This was a mystery he would not solve rooting around the refuse and detritus left by the departing soldiers. His news would have to wait to be shared. The burning priority was for him to make it to the Starport and the waiting Cardinal. A thought suddenly struck him, that was if the Cardinal had not been targeted as well!

Rapidly he exited the building, his half-run carrying him past the now cold corpses and down the steps. The sound of weapons cycling and the roar of an air-car’s engines stopped him in his tracks. Looking up, he recognised the Church’s livery on the vessel, as it settled lower, its automatic cannons whirring as they locked onto his position. Fighting human soldiers had been one thing, but a this close range, he was already dead. Even so, he grasped his swords tightly, determined to at least meet his end fighting.

A door on the side of the vessel opened, its ramp touching lightly to the floor, as the air-car maintained its hover. There was a shout and an Officer, in the now hated livery, hung slightly forwards and beckoned urgently as he quickly scanned the area. Sir Franklin shook his head, his weapons moving into ready position.

The man turned and shouted something into the vehicle and was then quickly joined by another, but this time in the welcome raiment of the Order. A smiling face urged him on and without further thought, Franklin sheathed his weapons and leapt on-board. Firm hands gripped his and, tears stinging his eyes, the Knight effusively shook hands with his friend and Master, Lord Shorn.


“So, what trouble have you been getting yourself into, my son?” asked the Order’s Master, settling himself as comfortably as he could into one of the bucket seats, bolted against the wall.

“It’s been a day of shocks and surprises,” commented Sir Franklin, a wry grin on his face, “you could say that I’ve had an epiphany, my Lord.”

“You met with the late Cardinal Krun then?” asked Shorn quietly, waiting for the news to sink in.

“How did you? ... the late?”, stuttered and stammered the Knight, finally just standing there, staring at his Master and waiting for some further information.

Once he had regained a little of his composure, Lord Shorn bade him take a seat and as the air-car raced across the sky, hugging whatever cover it could use to camouflage its precipitous flight, the Master detailed what had happened and where the rest of the surviving Brethren were. Sir Franklin sat quietly, overwhelmed by the depth of intrigue and conspiracy laid out before him, and of whose existence he had absolutely no idea. At times he had wanted to interrupt, to question his Master, but a quick glance of admonishment from the older man was all it took to silence him. It had ever been his way and Franklin once more felt like a callow youth, under the stern and challenging gaze of his teacher and mentor. Therefore he listened, fascinated as the story unfolded, the noise of their flight receding into the background under the mesmerising power of the narration.

lunes, 25 de julio de 2011

Chapter Four Part One

Smoke rose wearily from the hastily made fire, as it spluttered in its grate. Whoever had attempted to light the mish-mash of wood and sticks was no expert, and small flames licked futilely at the oversized blocks in the fire’s centre. Large drapes were pulled tight against the windows, blocking the ingress of all but the smallest of lights and candles burned waxily on the central table.

A large, overweight man in a stained cassock sat in the room’s single chair and gazed pensively at the young man in front of him. In contrast, this individual’s dress was pristine. A brilliant white surcoat overlaying what appeared to be a chainmail vest. On this surcoat was emblazoned the seven point design of those belonging to the Church’s Militant Order, the Brethren. Close inspection would have shown the pistol holstered in the man’s belt and the pair of short swords crossed and held snugly against his back.

“Cardinal Krun,” the young man began arrogantly, his disdain for the obese and food-spotted clergyman obvious, “you summoned me?”

Krun smiled depreciatingly and then spoke, “Sir Franklin, that is true, and yet you actually came.”

Sir Franklin snorted in disgust and replied, “You are an instrument of the Church, My Lord,” he pointed out.

“Yes, and such a disreputable one, my dear Franklin,” replied the Cardinal, ineffectually trying to straighten his cassock.

“What is it that you want, my Lord, “ asked Franklin flatly, “there is much for me to do yet this day, so I would appreciate it if you were brief.”

Cardinal Krun laughed, his eyes glinting dangerously and belying the carefully maintained impression of ridiculous incapacity for his lofty position that he cultured.

“You,” he said flatly, the timbre of his voice changing, “will make time for me, sir!”

Surprise flashed across Sir Franklin’s face, but Krun held up his hand, forestalling further speech.

“And, you will do exactly as I say,” he spat viciously, “if, Sir Knight, you damn well know what is good for you.”


The Church and the One True Faith had begun as more of a political exercise. During the time of Urion, there had been clashes between the priesthood and Urion’s followers. This had basically been over wealth and power, more explicitly, the control of such. Urion had won, as he had in many other things, the debate by might of arms. He had ruthlessly forced the corrupt religious leaders to bow to his commands and had allowed them to practice a reformed version of their Faith. They worshiped the Great One, or at least the general populace did, the Hierarchy of the Church, in fact, only worshipped what they could personally see and touch and ruthlessly exploited their followers.

Urion had needed money to fund his campaigns and he had taken over the Church, filling his coffers with their followers’ donations. It had neither been his best, nor one of his most well-publicised acts, but it had in fact served as a real tool for change.

Militant Orders had been created whose function was two-fold; to fight at his side in the name of the Great One and also keep the machinations of the higher members of the Church in check. As time passed, these original purposes had been lost to all but a select few as the decline of Urion’s Empire signalled the rise once more to the power of the Individual Houses. Within that rise, was also a return to the exploitation of the masses by the priesthood, and in particular their return to the battlefield of politics.

Within the Church, there now remained one true arm of the Militant Orders, the Brethren, who prided themselves on their strict adherence to the tenets set down by Urion, and as such this explained the arrogant attitude of Sir Franklin, towards the overly proportioned Cardinal.

Krun, however, was not all that he seemed, he was also a member of a secret Order. They were the one’s responsible for spiriting away the last of Urion’s sons and keeping his family’s existence hidden. Unknowingly, it was them that Hyas worked for, as they kept tight control of the whereabouts of the holder of the fabled Belt.

Had he but known it, and the capacities of the Cardinal before him, Sir Franklin would have started his conversation with the man differently. Unfortunately, it was now too late, and the overbearing Knight was due a rapid and very rude awakening.


Cardinal Krun’s chubby fingers closed around the neck of a golden goblet, which lay at rest on a small table by the arm of his chair. Picking up the vessel, he swirled the ruby-coloured liquid within it gently, sniffing appreciatively before delicately sipping at it. Sir Franklin sneered, his contempt for the over-sized man before him poorly masked. This was, however, yet another of Krun’s little games; the liquid was nothing more than fruit extract, prepared to look exactly like the local wine, but with zero alcoholic impact.

Sighing contentedly, the cardinal smacked his lips and gently placed the goblet back on the table, his lips stained slightly with the rich colour.

“Oh, this is ridiculous!” snarled Franklin, turning sharply to leave.

“Enough!”, roared Krun, the irate Knight spinning back to deliver a cutting rebuke, but any such retort died on his lips as he stared into the open mouth of a flechette pistol. Neither was it just any such weapon, its deadly lines spoke volumes and the rock-steady and confident manner in which it was held, caused a rapid re-evaluation of the situation.

Involuntarily, Franklin’s hand strayed towards the butt of his own pistol, but the slight shaking of the Cardinal’s head forestalled any such move.

“You will listen to what I have to say,” stated the corpulent cardinal, “think carefully on your response and then give me your opinion. The manner in which you comport yourself and the basis of the aforementioned opinion, will determine your fate. Now, make yourself as comfortable as you can under the circumstances, and I will begin.”

As the Cardinal began to speak, Sir Franklin’s face displayed incredulity, dawning comprehension, amazement and then awe-struck wonder in swift succession. At last the large man finished and waited expectantly.

Tears formed in the Church Knight’s eyes and he crashed to one knee, his head bowed. Gently, the Cardinal reached out his hand and placed it on the now contrite Knight's head, “I know, I know,” he said gently, “and he needs you and your Order as much as his ancestor ever did.”

Then, more business-like, he continued, “I have a ship waiting, to take you to him. You can only bring a small contingent with you, for now. A full mobilisation of the Order would ring every alarm bell the Church has ever owned.”

“The Order has waited many years for this,” replied Sir Franklin, the change in his demeanour striking, “a short while longer will cause no harm.”

“Good, then it is agreed,” confirmed Cardinal Krun, “be off with you then, my boy. Get your men and equipment and meet me at the Spaceport, we will leave as soon as you are ready!”

Krun watched the Knight stride out of the door, his arrogance temporarily banished by jubilation. That won’t last, thought the Cardinal as he chuckled to himself, but it will do for now.


Sir Franklin took the front steps to the Order’s main Chapter House two at a time, his exuberant demeanour spilling over and affecting his normally reserved and respectful facade. It was his self-congratulating behaviour which blinded him to the strange situation facing him; the presence of Church soldiers guarding the front entrance to the Chapter House was more than unusual, it was impossible.

He was brought back to his senses by the flat of the hand placed against his chest, barring him entry. Looking up, he saw that the hand was attached to a Captain, whose white uniform, with blue piping clashed with the dark wood entrance.

“Halt!” commanded the representative of the Church, “and state your business!”

The Cardinal was not mistaken, the Knight’s arrogance surged to the fore, as he batted the restraining hand aside, ignoring the insistent official. A barked command set four armed soldiers in his path, their rifles pointing unerringly at the Knight’s chest and the sneer on their faces saying loudly that something had changed. Never would they have dared to impede the work of the Order, unless...

Franklin turned to face the now smirking Captain, his quick glance through the doorway revealing a slumped figure against the wall, a dark stain spreading around its feet. Apart from the Captain, the other four soldiers were the only visible Church presence, but he knew that this would not last for much longer.

“Your weapons!” snapped the Officer, his hand waving imperiously, full of confidence.

“Of course,” responded Sir Franklin, a disarming smile on his face, as he slowly withdrew his pistol and held it out by its muzzle.

sábado, 11 de junio de 2011

Chapter Three

The storm gradually blew itself out, whatever destruction it left behind was little compared to that meted out by Lepus. Not only had Karson followed his Lord’s command to the letter, he had actually enjoyed himself whilst doing so. Where once there had been a small, pathetic, yet still functioning village, there now was little left but blasted earth.

There was no need to land their craft and search for any survivors, when Karson wiped something from the face of the earth, he took pride and pleasure in his work and ensured that not even the most minute of traces remained.


“So, what now?” asked Kalum, unselfconsciously stuffing his face with food. His manners had never been gently refined via the loving touch of his parents, and as such he seemed more wild beast than young boy.

“I think we need to get you off this planet, as quickly as possible,” said the big Tauran, merely toying with his food, Kalum’s antics having robbed him of his hunger.

“Leave? Why?” asked Kalum, both showing the masticated contents of his mouth, and liberally spraying crumbs onto the table in front of him.

“The reason?” Hyas replied, “I would have thought that obvious, son. Lepus is still out there and he will scour this land in his search for you. We need to get you somewhere safe, and quickly.”

“But I live here!” Kalum whined , his fear of the unknown evident.

“Not any more,” retorted Hyas, his manner now gravely serious, “by showing his hand, Lepus has taken that option away from you.”

“My things,” mumbled Kalum, his food temporarily forgotten, “I need to get my things.”

“Very well, we will get your precious belongings,” Hyas agreed, rising from the table, “but once we have done so, we leave.”


“Isn’t it about time you came clean?” asked Karson, watching Lepus as he scurried around the control room.

“How many times do we have to go over this?” Lepus said in a time-worn voice.

“Even after all these years, with me doing your bidding, do you still have no confidence in me?” queried Karson petulantly.

It was a game they seemed to play after every dirty deed carried out by the brutish man. Lepus had been waiting for the question. He was ready with his standard responses and knew that soon enough that Karson would give in.

“Very well,” he said, “let’s play your little game, but in order for things to go quickly, I’m going to answer everything all at once.”

Karson’s brow furrowed, he was not one hundred per cent sure that Lepus really intended to insult his intelligence. Ninety nine per cent was not enough for him to release his rage and smash the smirk deep into the horrible little man’s face, but he was getting closer.

“We are looking for one of my family heirlooms, one that my brother stole. No, you don’t need to know exactly what it is. Yes, with it in my possession I can once and for all prove my claim as heir to the House. Hyas is working for other interested parties and yes, you will be richly rewarded when all of this is over. Does that about take care of everything?”

It took a huge effort for Karson’s hand to remain calmly by his side and not instead to draw the pistol holstered at his belt. The answers as usual were unsatisfying, but Karson had done too much in Lepus’ name, to be able to reinsert himself into normal society. In fact, the only way he could have the wealth and position he craved and felt he deserved, was to go through with Lepus’ plan.

He knew that there was much more to this than Lepus would ever explain and once again he realised that he had no other choice, but to accept his predicament.

With a disgruntled snort, he turned away, so that he missed the calculating glance Lepus shot at him. When this is done, thought Lepus, then Karson will be just so much excess baggage. It would have to be done carefully, but Karson was one problem that would just have to go away.


“It’s just over this hill,” said Kalum excitedly, “look you can see the smoke rising from the chimneys of the village.”

“Wait,” cautioned Hyas, restraining Kalum with a firm hand, “something’s not right!”

Kalum shook off his hand and started a shambling run up the hill, Hyas quickly catching him and pulling him back.

“I said wait, boy!” he snapped, Kalum cowering away as if expecting to be beaten, then, calming himself Hyas continued more softly, “That’s not wood smoke Kalum, trust me.”

After a long and cautious crawl, they finally reached the top of the incline and looked down on what remained of Kalum’s village. Where before there had been houses, livestock, at least some kind of industrious activity, now there was nothing, literally.

The ground was scorched, no tree nor blade of grass remained. Charred wooden fingers poked timidly skyward, smoke rising sullenly. Here and there stone had remained for resilient and vague outlines of buildings could still be seen. Whatever had happened here, it had been cataclysmic.

“No lightning strike did this,” gasped Kalum as he stumbled forward, “my mother, her friends, the village, all gone!”

“Lepus!” was all that Hyas said, the word spat angrily from between his teeth.

“Why?” asked Kalum, staring awe struck at the decimation before him.

“He was looking for you,” replied Hyas, watching the boy for any reaction.

“M-m-me?” stammered Kalum, the fact that anyone would do this just to get rid of a deformed village boy incomprehensible to him.

“Yes, you,” stated Hyas, “now do you see why we have to get out of here?”

“Yes and no”, answered Kalum, staring wildly about, “I know we have to leave, but I don’t understand any of the rest of it.”

“All will be explained in due time,” said Hyas, taking the boy’s arm and beginning to lead him back to the safety of the underbrush, “but right now, we need to move.”

It was then the Tauran heard the sound he had been dreading, that of the type of vessel no-one on this world could own.

“Run!” he roared, shoving Kalum towards the safety of the tree line and drawing his axe.


“There’s the whelp!” snarled Karson, aiming his flyer directly for the village and the defiant Tauran.

He pushed one of his men out of the way and grabbed the controls, this time he would make certain of them, personally. Aiming the craft’s weapons directly at Hyas he fired, the twin beams of energy striking the huge man unerringly. Hyas’ arm was burnt away by the raw power of the first strike, the second glancing across his hip as he fell. His axe span harmlessly away and he lay there, bleeding.

Kalum ran back towards him, trying to turn the big Tauran over, but his weight made it impossible. Helplessly he watched as Hyas’ blood pooled all around him, soaking Kalum’s rude clothing as he desperately tried to staunch it.

Footsteps crunched nearby and Kalum raised his tear-stained face to look into the eyes of a murderer.

“There’s no point in crying over him,” growled Karson, drawing his pistol and aiming at Kalum, “not when you’ll shortly be joining him down there on the ground.”

Something came over Kalum and he stood over Hyas’ body, defiantly defending his only friend.

“I won’t let you!” he squeaked, his voice betraying his fear.

Karson flung his head back and roared with laughter, “You … won’t… let… me?” he gasped, “Now that’s a good one.”

“But,” he said, his voice turning businesslike and deadly serious “enough of the humour, it’s time to die boy. Now just hand it over and I can be on my way.”

“Hand what over?” asked Kalum, now completely confused.

“Don’t play games with me!” barked Karson, “The family heirloom, the thing that your Uncle Lepus wants!”

“My uncle?” he had thought his family dead with the destruction of the village, but now he found out that he had an uncle, and not only that, but one that wanted him killed.

“Yes, yes,” spat Karson, “no time for family reunions, just give me whatever it was that your father wanted you to look after for him.”

Comprehension dawned on Kalum’s face and involuntarily his hand strayed to the front of his tunic and the belt, still hidden by his ragged cloak.

“Steady, boy!” warned Karson threateningly.

“It’s just his belt,” Kalum said perplexedly, “why would anyone want it?”

“Show it to me!” commanded Karson, leaning closer, a strange look on his face.

Carefully Kalum peeled the cloth away from his battered belt, the one his father had left with him, to give back on his return. The one with the strangely indented buckle, the leather around it all scuffed and worn.

As it came into view, he heard a sharp intake of breath and then two vicious cracks from a pistol. He squeezed his eyes shut, expecting to feel the impact of the rounds in his body, but nothing happened. At last, he found the courage to open his eyes and what he saw there before him, shocked him to his very bones. Both of Karson’s companions lay sprawled in undignified death and the vicious killer knelt on one knee in front of Kalum, his head bowed.

After a brief pause, he looked directly into Kalum’s eyes, tears streaming down his face, and said in total reverence, “My Lord!”


Karson had wanted to leave Hyas where he was, but Kalum had insisted, revelling in his new found power. Between them they had ripped clothing from the dead bodies and used it to bind the Tauran’s wounds. Together they had half carried, half dragged Hyas back to Karson’s flyer, the groans from the injured man at least testifying that his grasp on life had still not been totally released. There was no doubting though that Hyas was close to death and needed medical attention urgently.

It was impossible to take them back to Lepus’ vessel and that meant they had to find the Tauran’s craft. Mercilessly, Karson had roused the half-dead Hyas and managed to convince him to release the location of his ship. At first Hyas had steadfastly refused, but then Karson had shown him something and the Tauran had relented. No matter how hard he tried, Kalum could not see past the hunched form of Karson to see what it was, but miraculously it had worked. Even now, they were speeding towards the Tauran’s vessel, skimming dangerously close to the surrounding treetops and hugging the contours of the land where they could.

Apart from explaining the urgency of their flight, Karson would say no more. He believed that they had a slight window of opportunity, whilst Lepus still thought him loyal, in which to affect their escape. He had irritatedly snapped at Kalum, before apologising in a gentler fashion and asking that he be allowed to do his job.

Kalum now sat in one of the chairs in the cabin of the flyer, gazing back at Hyas’ body slumped in and strapped to another of the seats. It had been a strange day and things promised to get even stranger still.

Lepus knew that he had been betrayed, yet even now could hardly believe it, certainly not of the cold-blooded and hate-filled man who had stood by his side. He had never questioned the sketchy and ill-detailed history of the man who had become Karson, having rescued him from death in one of the Church’s jumped-up heresy trials.

A grateful brute had religiously followed each and every one of Lepus’ orders, in fact had seemed to relish taking the spiteful noble’s whims just that little bit further. So what had happened, how had the worthless boy got through to the murderous animal? Had he answered some deep protective streak within the man? Not possible, the only way that Karson could have or even would have changed his allegiance was for money or power. That was it! He had seen the ragged cloth, its mangled holes and the ill-shaped thing that was his brother’s boy and had put two and two together. Even now he would be plotting the ransom, either directly from Lepus or a Church determined to protect herself.

Satisfied that he had worked out the ex-monster’s motivation, Lepus called for his new second-in-command, giving orders for his craft to take up a stationary position, just off-planet. Whatever happened, Karson would have to try and get past him, and when he did Lepus would pay him exactly what he deserved.

martes, 21 de diciembre de 2010

Chapter Two

The storm lashed heavily against the shuttered panes; rain tattooing madly, wind howling angrily as it unsuccessfully tried to rip its way inside, and the villagers huddled shamefacedly in front of the central fire. One of their own was outside, ridiculed into braving the maelstrom of wind and water.

None had pleaded with him to stay and truthfully none would miss him, yet they were not heartless people and their actions had been brutal and surprisingly out of character. Kalum, the malformed son of the dead gravedigger received no love from his fellow humans. Even his mother, now remarried, avoided him when she could, a servant bringing the poor youth food and clothing on an irregular basis. His own mother carried the shame of his birth and the obvious evidence of the gods’ disfavour. She sat, pinch-faced, wrapped in her cloak next to her new husband, slightly apart from the others.

A frightened silence gripped them. They neither prayed nor cursed, stoically waiting for whatever the storm would ultimately bring.


The boy did not run, he rather hopped and shuffled, his misshapen right leg and foot, his bowed back and oversized head, were not conducive to speed. On such a night, when speed was of the essence, he felt himself handicapped even more. Lightning bolts flashed to the earth, searing the ground in their actinic fury. Horizontal rain stung the boy’s face and arms, even though he kept his thin cloak wrapped as tightly around his body as he could, the wind driving the water through each and every tiny gap.

Pealing thunder rolled menacingly and the storm intensified, as though the gods themselves were angry. This Kalum could understand. It had been beaten into him since he was a small child. Crops failed, milk curdled, animals were still-born and all of this was laid at his door. Deep down inside he accepted it; had not his own mother cursed the day he was born, wishing she had never laid eyes on his father?

Kalum was glad his parents had met, even if his mother’s love had turned to vile curses and hatred. He had at least some remembrances of his father, of his love, and he clung onto them with all his might. Doggedly he toiled onwards, the cemetery coming ever closer, with each painful and hard earned step. It was the one place that he had shelter and solace, among the remnants of both his and his father’s life.

An explosive concussion threw him to the ground, and he rolled over and over, down a slight incline until he was brought to an abrupt stop by the bole of a spindly tree. Looking back, he saw the ground on fire, heaving and boiling from the titanic strike. This was the mother of all storms and he had somehow walked into hell itself.

Another bolt screamed downwards, driving the breath from his lungs with its overwhelming pressure wave. Again the earth complained and molten fire arced upwards in angry response. This was unreal, never had he seen so many lightning strikes so close together, and the colour, not the usual blue-white but a bright orange-red. Climbing to his feet and shaking his head to clear the ringing in his ears, he started off once more, leaning into the wind as he fought his way forward.

Suddenly, Kalum was knocked to the ground by a running figure and a third bolt flew close overhead, tearing into a standing rock and smashing it into tiny pieces. His vision blurred, Kalum strained to see his rescuer, the rain running in rivulets down his face. A flash lit up the sky and he saw him; reflexively he tried to scream, but a huge hand was clamped over his mouth and the boy sank gratefully into unconsciousness.


Hyas gazed down on the crumpled form beneath him in wonder, could this really be him? The boy’s cape rolled open as Kalum stirred and Hyas gasped in astonishment, the belt! It lay there before him. His search for the scion of the House of Urion was over.

He roared in pain as the needle round struck him, blood spraying outwards. With a snarl he turned, reaching over his shoulder to draw his axe, but his enemies were hidden by the storm. Weapon held firmly in one hand, he grasped the back of Kalum’s cape and dragged him away, bent double in order to minimise his enemies’ target.

Twigs slapped against his face, as he turned away from the lashing of the rain, his long curly hair plastered against his forehead. Another flechette round struck a nearby tree, sending shards of bark spraying in all directions. This would not work, he needed to see them if he was to negate their threat.

Leaving Kalum propped against the bole of a nearby tree, he hunched down and waited, his axe gripped firmly in two huge hands.


“Did you get him,” Lepus whispered to Karson, as he peered into the storm-tossed night.

“Yes, but not fatally,” replied Karson, his fingers tapping restlessly against his rifle stock. “He can’t have gone far, though.”

The big man waved peremptorily at his men and a group of them moved away in an attempt at flanking the Tauran.


Kalum slowly regained consciousness, his eyes blurry not only from his befuddled state but also from the torrential rain still pouring down. He wiped a grimy hand across his face and stared at the bulky shape of the man crouched next to him.

Lightning flashed, highlighting his saviour and Kalum gasped in shock, the noise causing the man to turn and gaze down at him.

“W-w-who are you?” asked the boy, scrabbling backwards away from the frightening apparition.

The man laughed in a deep bass rumble and then smiled. If this was meant to calm the boy, it didn’t work. His chest bare; the man’s huge muscles rippled as he moved, flicking sodden and curly hair away from his face. Droplets scattered every which way as he shook his head; the pair of curved horns jutting from his brow, showering the boy with the displaced water.

“My name is Hyas,” he said, bowing slightly, “I am a Tauran, as you can see.”

Blinking slightly in perplexity, Kalum said nothing, waiting for any sign of this Hyas’ intent, for good or ill.

“Don’t worry,” Hyas grinned, “I won’t eat you!”

The boy’s widening eyes told Hyas that Kalum had only just considered that possibility, and he laughed again.

“I’ve been looking for you for a while now, following Lepus on his search. Thankfully I got here in time, at least to avoid them turning you into some sort of burnt offering.”

“W-w-what …?” gasped Kalum, completely bemused.

“Don’t talk,” said Hyas concernedly, “you’ve had quite a bit of a shock, and we need to get you out of this, before Lepus and his cronies catch up with us.”

He raised his hand, as Kalum began to speak and looked quickly out into the darkness.

“Time to move, boy”, he said, his great axe now visible in his right hand, “we can talk later.”

Not really understanding why, Kalum followed, the strange looking man radiated confidence and he at least seemed concerned about the deformed creature that was Kalum. It was the first example of genuine interest that anyone had showed, since the death of his father.

Then, distorted by the wind and rain, he heard voices and scurried to catch up with Hyas.


“We’ll never find them in this,” whined Lepus, clutching his drenched cloak more tightly about himself, “Let’s get back to the ship and wait out this storm. They can’t go anywhere either and if Hyas does take off, we’ll quickly spot him.”

“But my Lord, “protested Karson, “we’re close, I can almost taste him!”

“Almost, ALMOST!” shouted Lepus, “Well that just isn’t good enough. Now, back to the ship, that’s an order!”

Karson followed Lepus, grumbling under his breath all the while, whilst from the shadows Hyas watched, his hand gripping tightly onto the axe’s shaft. They had been very close, too close for comfort. He needed to get the boy safely onto his ship, and then they could work out what to do next.

“Oh, and Karson?” mentioned Lepus, almost in passing as they slogged their way through the now muddy ground.

“Yes, My Lord?” responded Karson, still muttering as he toiled along behind his Master.

“There is one more thing we should do tonight. The kind of job you like, and one that will cheer you up no end.”

“My Lord?” queried Karson, puzzled at the change in Lepus’ manner.

“Once on board,” said Lepus, his voice hardening, “I want you to personally take charge of the destruction of the boy’s pathetic village. There is to be no trace left of my brother, anywhere on this planet. The whelp we will deal with later.”

“Yes, My Lord!” grinned Karson, in an almost cheerful manner, “Anything you say!”


At last, Hyas and Kalum reached the Tauran’s ship, the big man activating the entry code and almost pushing the boy on board, his eyes wide as saucers as he saw the myriad of flashing lights and inexplicable machines.

“As I said,” commented Hyas, “There’ll be time enough for explanations later. Let’s get dried off and I’ll sort us out some warm food and drink. I get the feeling we’ll have some time to kill.”

Kalum winced at Hyas’ choice of words, but he was really only too glad to get out of the storm. The only thought in his head now was of the warm food and drink. As with most young people, he lived in the now and thought little of the consequences of his actions, and certainly not how they might affect other people. In this instance, he could not have known; the evil machinations of someone like Lepus were well beyond his simple comprehension.


“Ready, my Lord,” smirked Karson, his fingers hovering over the control panel in front of him.

“Just get on with it,” sighed Lepus already bored with the idea, “then we can continue our search for the brat, with at least one loose end tied up.”

Karson viciously slammed his hand down on the panel, the energy beams already locked on their targets. Once more the night sky was rent by the lashing force of strikes, the power of lightning, in this case, harnessed by man.


None of the villagers had changed position. Grouped tightly around the fire, they sat in a less than companionable silence. Kalum’s mother’s lips were set in a tight disapproving line. She could not understand why she had to belittle herself here with the rest of them. Her thoughts briefly turned to Kalum, who she also blamed for this, as she did everything. True to her nature, the last thought that ever crossed her mind was a cruel and spiteful one.

martes, 10 de agosto de 2010

Chapter One

Sweat dripped off the man’s face as he strained in a rhythmic time worn motion; blade of the shovel striking earth, pressure of foot, heave of shoulders, relax. The gravedigger found this monotonous repetition soothing, it freed his mind from all but the appreciation of the dawning day. He always started early, preparing the ground long before the funeral cortege arrived, leaving the earth banked symmetrically so that the green-dyed cloth he used would mask the recently broken ground. Mourners needed no more reminders of the finality of today’s ceremony and he took pride in his work.

Adair had lived here now for what seemed a lifetime. He had arrived with the intention of losing himself and instead had found a pretty wife and loving son. Granted his boy’s infirmity caused talk around the village, but Adair rejoiced in Kalum’s happy and carefree existence. He loved the boy with all his heart. His wife though had become ugly with bitterness and self-pitying shame; they had fought again this morning and he pushed the remembered taste of her anger to the back of his mind, losing himself in his work.

The first indication of trouble came with the sound of approaching footsteps, which interrupted Adair’s peace and quiet. No-one came here, myths and stories kept the curious away and at this time of the morning those awake were tending to their animals or making their slow and steady way to the fields.

A shiver of premonition caused him to glance quickly at the small sack tossed carelessly near to his overcoat. Chastising himself, he shrugged the feeling off and continued digging, determined to maintain his sense of tranquillity for as long as possible.

“You there!” hissed an oddly sibilant voice, “We are looking for the one called Adair.”

The owner of the voice was unknown to him, but not the distinctive intonation; they had found him.

“He’s not here,” Adair responded in as surly a fashion as he could, hunching his shoulders to avoid showing his face, “said he was sick, so I’m here, doing his work for him.”

“How droll,” said another voice, one which this time Adair recognised, its cultured drawl all too distinctive.

Stabbing the spade into the ground, Adair slowly turned, his raised hands now close to the sack where it sat innocuously by the side of the half-completed grave.

“Hello brother,” he said, instantly taking in the three armoured men who had fanned out around the dug over area, “very kind of you to visit.”

“Adair, Adair,” replied the tall, skeletally thin man, “always the joker.” He brushed a loose strand of hair away from his face and looked around distastefully. “Did you think that you could hide forever?”

“I’m not hiding Lepus,” said Adair as he made to jump out of the hole, but his brother raised a hand in protest, and his men instantly gripped their weapons tightly.

“Not a good idea, brother dear,” suggested Lepus, poking a toe at the recently patched overcoat where it lay on the floor, “you really have come down in the world, haven’t you?”

“What do you want Lepus?” asked Adair flatly, his hand now lay next to the neck of the sack.

“You know,” replied his brother, “tell me where it is and this will go easier for you.”

Adair laughed derisively, “Lepus you’re going to try and kill me anyway, so what’s the point of playing games?”

“Yes, but there’s ways and then there’s ways….,” he began, then stopped, a puzzled frown on his face, “did you say try …..?”

He was already moving as realization dawned on Lepus’ face, hand snaking inside the bag and grasping the butt of the pistol concealed there. A quick tensing of his finger sent needle-like flechette rounds spraying outwards, slicing into the first of Lepus’ soldiers and sending him screaming to the floor. The other two ducked for cover as Adair fired again and he saw Lepus scurrying away, waving his arms frantically; what was he doing?

Something slammed heavily into his back and Adair tried to twist away, but it was too late. A second blow hammered into his shoulder, numbing his arm and causing him to drop his pistol. One booted foot smashed into his head and a roaring blackness enveloped him.

“My Lord?” said the huge man, offering his hand to Lepus and dragging him to his feet.

“Is he dead?” asked Lepus, brushing fastidiously at his now crumpled tunic.

“No, My Lord,” responded the man, hefting the wooden stave meaningfully in his hands, “but he easily could be. You only have to say the word.”

Lepus looked disdainfully at his henchman and sighing moved to stand over the prone figure of his brother, “No, I do not want his blood on my hands and besides we still don’t know where he has hidden it. Can you make him talk?”

“With time, My Lord,” said Karson, scratching his beard, “but time is something that we just don’t have. We’ve lost them for now, but it won’t be long before they rediscover our trail.”

“Very well,” responded Lepus,” search him quickly and then toss him and his meagre belongings in the hole he has so thoughtfully prepared for us. We know where his hovel and brat are and once we’ve lost our pursuers, we can always return.”

“And once he’s in the hole, then what?” insisted Karson.

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll think of something, dear boy,” replied Lepus, moving away and smiling mirthlessly, “I’m almost positive of it.”


They found the body four days later, after an extensive search of the area, having tried to complete the excavation begun by Adair. His broken and crumpled corpse was left where it was and re-covered, there was no money for anything else. A simple wooden marker was placed over his resting place and the only tears shed were by his young son, his wife refusing to demean herself.

She tugged fitfully at the boy, trying to pull him away, but gave up when she saw the others watching.

“Stay here then!” she snapped shrew-like, “See if I care! In fact I’d be better off without you!”

Adair’s son watched uncomprehendingly as his mother left; she was to be true to her word, she never returned for him and in the ensuing years he would cry himself to sleep, wondering what he had done to so offend the gods.

For now, he just wept, crying desolately for the loss of the only person in the world who had really cared for him. Sniffling to himself, he remembered his father’s parting words as he had passed his worn and curiously fashioned belt to his son that morning. The boy’s own belt had snapped, unable to cope with the constant tension of restraining his deformed and misshapen body.

“Look after this Kalum,” he had warned him, “one day it could well save your life!”

He had asked his father why, but Adair had only smiled, ruffling the boy’s long curly hair and carefully avoiding the bony stubs which it covered. Then he had left, whistling cheerfully and promising to explain everything when he returned that evening. That had been four days ago, and now he would never be coming back.

Kalum rubbed the strangely formed belt buckle between his fingers, his digits unconsciously finding and picking at seven curiously shaped holes within it. Now he would never know and would never see the bright smiling face of his father again. Wailing in semi-hysteria, he flung himself full length onto the ground as his heart broke in two.


Hyas sat in the control chair of his craft, scanning the viewscreens around him. A constant stream of data scrolled across them, and he watched intently until he found what he was looking for. Staring more closely, he checked and rechecked his numbers before grunting in quiet satisfaction. It had taken him many years to decipher what Lepus had been doing and particularly where he had gone, but finally he knew.

His fingers flew across the keyboards, control string after control string being entered and subsequently verified, until at last he punched a final key and his ship once more began its journey.

With a surge, space itself folded around him and his tiny craft sped onwards, hour after hour, yet he never left his chair. Each moment meant that he was closer to his goal and the task he had been given nearer to its fulfilment.

At last the big man stretched and rose to leave the room, with one last glance at the course now locked into his computer and the star flashing brightly on his screen.


“Where is he? Where’s that thrice damned Tauran?” asked Lepus petulantly, as he read the information on his data pad, “there has been no word of his pursuit of us for far too long. Do you think….?”

“I do indeed, my Lord,” agreed Karson, standing sloppily to attention, “it was only a matter of time before he deciphered the convoluted trail we had left. No-one ever said that Hyas was an idiot.”

“Then it’s time to go back?” Lepus asked, biting nervously at an already splintered fingernail.

“Yes, My Lord,” said Karson, “and with all the speed we can muster. It would not be in your interest for him to get there first.”

“Fine!” snapped Lepus, abruptly flinging the data pad against the wall, “Then get on with it!”

“At once, My Lord,” said Karson, backing away carefully from the indignant figure in front of him.


In another part of the galaxy, a brilliant blue-white star shone down on one of its favoured planets. Its rays warmed the frosty earth, already having dissipated an early morning mist. The day promised to be mild, no rain clouds scudded through the sky, only wispy trails appeared now and then, which were quickly sent on their way by an intermittent breeze. Then the peace and tranquillity of the day was shattered.

Bells rang and symbols crashed as the procession slowly wound its way up the incline towards the temple entrance. Pure voices were raised in prayer and joyous celebration as the white robed acolytes fulfilled their annual pilgrimage. Unusually the wide streets were empty of people, normally they would be filled with screaming crowds, madly waving national flags and religious banners.

Today was different, as a curfew had been instigated by the ruling House, effectively forbidding the congregation of more than three people at a time and clearly stipulating when citizens would be allowed to leave their homes.

The church orders had always been outside the law and they did not see any reason for this to change. After all, were they not celebrating His own day, in the first temple consecrated in His honour? Unfortunately, politics and religion, although usually inextricably meshed had today taken clear and separate paths.

A loud roaring was heard, the sound of engines pushed to their limits and a ground car careened onto the wide boulevard below the hill. The driving of its owner was erratic and frenzied, the car slamming into and bouncing off the low walls that lined the main thoroughfare.

Its journey was abruptly ended as a beam of energy lashed downwards, spearing through the glassed cockpit of the car. Smoke poured from the vehicle, a mute testament to the fate of those inside and an armoured aircar floated slowly downwards, stopping to hover just above a nearby grove of trees.

The acolytes continued on their way, secure in their faith and belief in the strength of their leaders. It was then the aircar, painted in House colours, opened fire.


Excerpt from A History of Urion: Man or Myth

Centuries passed and internecine war changed to intergalactic war with the Tauran Confederation ever expansive. Solar system after solar system fell until they ran headlong into the seven systems which made up the loose association of the Ori.

Seven separate Houses, each claiming descent from the Great One himself, attempted to physically convince their neighbours of the folly of their ways. The Taurans’ arrival provided the catalyst for the birth of the greatest figure within known history.

Stories vary on where he came from, one tells of a meeting of the Great One with a poor farmer, who fed the hungry giant. Afterwards the farmer was asked what was his greatest desire and he said a son, he had worked hard all of his life and had never found anyone willing to share in his hardships. The Great One took pity on him, and asked him to bury the remains of their meal in one of the farmer’s most fallow pastures. As the poor man slept, the Great One returned and breathed life into the bones and meat that lay between the earth. The following morning, the farmer found a mewling babe there and gave praise to His Mighty Lord.

This was then used to explain the differences seen between Urion and other men, how he was marked out for greatness from an early age. Although scholars expostulate that Urion was in fact a half-breed, born from a union between the Taurans and the Ori. This theory has been denounced by the Church Orders as heresy and the relevant scholars excommunicated.

Whatever his meagre beginnings he rose rapidly, commanding men and then armies. He united first one planet and then another, driving the Tauran invaders from his home world and continuing his campaign until he was proclaimed defender of the Faith and given the first of the seven sacred jewels. Here was where his legend was born.

The sacred jewels have been studied and written about in other texts, their miraculous powers have become the property of the Church and no-one can be certain of their true nature. It is written that they were a gift from the Great One himself and given to Urion as a means to unite the people. Whatever they really were or what powers they truly held has been lost in the mists of time.

Tauran fleets strove to exert their dominion over Urion’s forces and system after system joined his banner, until all of the seven Great Houses bowed before him. For each House was crafted a singular jewel, and each jewel was endowed with mystical power.

Urion was reputed to be a giant of a man and the jewels were fashioned into one spectacular adornment which he carried with him into battle. They were set into the buckle of his great belt, on which hung his divine sword. There was no-one who could stand against him and he smashed the combined Tauran fleets in one epic battle.

Urion led his forces against the Tauran Confederation and all fell before him. A lasting peace was enforced and Urion led his people into a golden age. In time Urion was crowned ruler of all known space and he took unto him a wife. Their seven sons grew strong and were given the rule of the Houses of Ori.

This caused much discontent and signalled the start of the First Civil War. Urion reunited his forces and put down the rebellions, in so doing he was forced to kill six of his seven sons, who had been swayed by the entreaties of the corrupt Houses.

Only the youngest of his sons survived, and foreswearing all claim to his kingdom and his rights, he took his young family and was lost from all records..

It is during this period that historians diverge in their recounting of Urion’s life. Some claim that he was mysteriously taken to the Great One’s bosom and rests there still. Other, less religious men talk of poison, even regicide, but the only thing that can be confirmed is that Urion and his belt disappeared. The jewels themselves still reside with the scions of each great House, waiting it is said for Urion’s return.

Of the belt, less is known although this historian would like to believe the story held by the Rigelians, who claim that a loyal servant spirited it away and fled to Urion’s youngest son’s side. The belt is so held to be with the line of Urion’s only faithful son and, one day, will be returned to his long suffering people in triumph.

As this historian has said, it is his fervent wish that this would be true, although being a pragmatist, this writer in truth holds no hope for this occurrence.

In the following chapter, will be described the rise of the seven Great Houses and their dominion over the Tauran Confederation.


Our dim lit halls cry out your name,
Broken buildings alight with flame,
Ragged flags lie limp with pain,
And tears run freely as the rain.

Where art thou Lord, what do you do?
Your people hope with faith anew,
To run, to laugh, to hear, to see,
A dream come true, our heartfelt plea.

They struck you down, in all your might,
Our golden dream then put to flight,
A heel that crushes hard, that smears
The brightest star, expands our fears.

Come home to us and raise us high,
Your warrior’s roar becomes our cry,
Enemies will quake with fear,
When once again you draw us near.

Urion your people wait,
Here in front of death’s dark gate,
Lead us is our clarion call,
And watch how our dreaded foes do fall