Alternate End #4
“Where is Liz?” Max roared at Khivar again.
Khivar shook his head.
Max’s anger was almost beyond his control and Khivar’s refusal enraged him further. He took two steps, closing the distance between himself and Khivar, stopping just inches away from the other man. He gripped his throat and started squeezing. “Tell me where Liz is now!” he growled with deadly intent.
Again Khivar shook his head.
Max slammed Khivar’s head against the wall as he squeezed his throat tighter. “You will tell me, one way or another.”
A sort of strangled gasp escaped Khivar. “I don’t know.”
The answer infuriated Max. Khivar was playing with him even now. He tightened his grip and heard an audible crack.
“STOP!” Isabel screamed. “You’re killing him!”
Max’s attention swung to Isabel. “You’re both going to die,” he growled. “But how long it takes and how painful it is, is up to you!”
Isabel gasped with horror.
Max smiled, glad he was getting through to his evil sister. “Tell me where Liz is now, tell me what you did with her, and I’ll kill you both quickly.”
Isabel tried to get to her feet but winced in pain and sank back onto the floor. “If Liz is missing, we didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“What!?!” Max growled.
“Maybe Liz finally saw through to the real you and left,” Isabel said, “but we didn’t know anything about it.”
Max shook his head. “Nice try Isabel, but Liz didn’t leave me, she was taken.”
“You evil bastard!” Isabel shouted. “You’re going to kill us anyway. You don’t need any excuses, so just get on with it.”
“Not before I have Liz back!” Max shouted. He slammed Khivar’s head against the wall again. “Tell me now or I’ll kill him.”
Tears streamed down Isabel’s face. “I swear to you Max we didn’t take her, and we don’t have her. We would never hurt Liz.”
“I don’t believe you,” Max growled. “You have Liz and my son.”
“Your son?” Isabel gasped. “Liz is pregnant?”
Confusion crossed Max’s brow. “You didn’t know she was pregnant? How could you not know?”
Isabel smiled grimly. “We’re not exactly up on current events. We’ve been in hiding here since we were rescued from the execution, just waiting until it was safe to get out of the city.”
Max shook his head. “In hiding? Get out of the city? But you attacked the palace just tonight. You took Liz and the Granolith. You could use it to go anywhere.”
“We didn’t attack,” Isabel said. “We didn’t take Liz or the Granolith. You defeated our army, killed all of our men. We know we don’t stand a chance against you. Khivar and I just want to live the rest of our lives together, on another planet somewhere. Anywhere away from Antar and the wars and your evil.”
“My evil?” Max asked incredulously. “You and Khivar are the ones who started the wars, the ones who attacked us again and again. The five planets have been at war for more than fifty years because of you. This is all because of your evil, Khivar’s evil.”
Isabel shook her head. “We only attacked because you were evil. We were trying to save the people, save Antar from what you would have done to it.” She sighed as she sank back against the wall. “Mother saw that were evil in your other life, that’s why she helped us against you. But she believed in you and gave you another chance and sent us to Earth when we died.”
Isabel’s eyes when to where Max still held Khivar against the wall. “But you turned out twisted and evil in this life too. You…”
“Wait,” Max interrupted. “Our mother told you that Zan was evil, that I am?”
Isabel realized that she had inadvertently said too much and stayed silent.
Max continued without waiting for her answer. “Isabel, she told me that Vilondra was evil, and you are too. She told me that she killed Vilondra to give her another chance on Earth.”
“What?” Isabel asked incredulously. “That’s not possible.”
Max nodded finally understanding. “It was our mother who helped you and Khivar escape the execution. She lied to both of us, Isabel. She has been turning us against each other. Our mother caused the war, this whole thing.”
Kasha and Jaetus waited together, curled up in each other’s arms, for a message from their spy.
Kasha couldn’t keep the smile off her face. “Finally, today this whole thing will be over.”
She turned to Jaetus and touched his face gently. “Our years of patience and planning are finally paying off.”
Jaetus returned her smile. “Yes my love.
Kasha nodded. “Our original plan was good. We found a way to incapacitate Max, with a burst of energy from the batons. It would have made him easy to kill, but our best priests failed to get close enough to him to use them.”
“Yes,” Jaetus agreed. “It was a little different than we had originally thought, but it worked out even better. And the addition of Liz’s pregnancy into the mix will make us even more sympathetic.”
Kasha nodded. “When I first heard Liz was pregnant I couldn’t believe it. Max and Liz go at it like animals, but he told me he was going to wait until things stabilized until he would even consider having a child. So the pregnancy was a total shock. But I soon saw how to turn it to our advantage.”
“Yes,” Jaetus nodded. “Using Liz and the baby to lure Max to the building were Khivar and Isabel were hiding was inspired.”
Jaetus kissed her hard. “Yes my love. Today we will finally get what we deserve.”
Isabel shook her head, unable to come to terms with what Max was telling her. What he said seemed true, and she desperately wanted to believe that he wasn’t evil, but it was just so incredible. She’d seen Max do terrible things. He had attacked them and he was going to have the executed. “I don’t know,” she said wearily.
Max lowered Khivar to the floor and held up his hands in a gesture of peace.
He opened his mouth, starting to speak when suddenly General Darius burst into the room with Liz in his arms. “Your Majesty we found the Queen. She was in a secret room hidden in the back.”
Max rushed forward as Darius placed Liz on a nearby table. His gaze raked over her looking for injuries as he placed his hands on her. It was difficult for him to make a connection, but he pushed through the dulling effects of the drugs, sending his healing power through her body.
He was relieved to find nothing wrong with Liz or the baby and he easily flushed the drugs out of her system. With a gentle push of power he brought her back to consciousness.
Cupping her head he softly called her name. “Liz, come back to me.”
Liz’s eyes fluttered open. At first she was frightened, but as her eyes found Max she felt such a profound relief that she burst into tears.
Max pulled her into his arms. “Ssssshhhh, it’s okay,” he assured her. “Everything is okay now.”
Liz held him tightly. “The baby,” she gasped.
“The baby is fine too,” Max said. “He’s perfect.”
Liz collapsed against him, shaking with delayed reaction. “I was so scared, Max. I thought…”
“Ssssshhh,” Max cut her off. He cupped her head and pulled back to meet her eyes. “Don’t think about it.” Gently he wiped the tears from her face with his thumbs. “Everything will be fine.”
General Darius and his compliment of men had their blasters pointed at Khivar and Isabel. Both of them looked pretty bad, but he worried that they might try something while Max was focused on Liz. He waited as long as he dared before interrupting them. “Your Majesty,” he said loudly, “what about the prisoners?”
Max turned, allowing Liz to see Khivar and Isabel for the first time, and she gasped with fear.
“Lower your weapons,” Max ordered his troops. “They are not our enemies.”
“What!?!” Liz and Darius asked simultaneously.
“Khivar and Isabel aren’t evil,” Max said as he crossed to Isabel. He put his hands on his sister and healed her injuries before helping her to her feet. “They never were evil. The whole thing; the war, the killings, the years of suffering were all based on a pack of horrible lies.”
“Whose lies?” Liz gasped.
Max looked at Isabel. “Our mother.”
Isabel still wasn’t convinced. “You’ve done terrible things Max,” she said.
Liz instantly defended him. “Max only did what he had to do to keep us alive,” she said. “It was a war Isabel. You and Khivar didn’t exactly keep your hands clean either. What about using Tess and a non-existent son to torture him?”
Max crossed to Khivar and knelt down next to him. Khivar’s hand rested on his injured throat, his breathing raspy but even.
Isabel shook her head, wanting to believe but still cautious. She watched anxiously as Max put his hands on Khivar. “What about the things Khivar remembers Zan doing?” she asked shakily, afraid that the question might raise Max’s temper again. “The subjugation of conquered people, the torture and slaughter.”
“Do either of you know what Jaetus’ special power is?” Max asked.
“Of course!” Liz gasped. “Jaetus can mind warp, just like Tess. He can make you see things or alter memories.”
Max’s hands glowed with power as he healed the injuries he had inflicted on Khivar. The two men who had been enemies for more than half a century held eyes, and a new understanding was forged between them. Max rose to his feet and held out his hand, and Khivar unhesitatingly took it, accepting Max’s help.
Khivar stood shakily and Isabel rushed to him. They embraced tightly for a handful of minutes before they turned back to Max and Liz.
Khivar nodded grimly. “So the things I remembered Zan doing might not have really happened at all, or they might have been partially real and then altered in my mind.”
“Oh!” Liz gasped again. “I think at least one of the things you remembered did happen.”
She looked to Khivar. “The memory you showed me of watching Zan slaughter those people, I think that really did happen. But it wasn’t Zan who killed the people, it was Jaetus. I had a flash when he touched me a few days ago. I thought it was something from the war, but it really disturbed me. I saw Jaetus covered with blood, people laying dead around him and he was laughing like a madman.” She shivered with the memory. “Jaetus must have changed your memory putting Zan in his place.”
Khivar nodded. “That memory is so vivid in my mind. I can still hear the screams, smell the blood. It must have happened.” He met Liz’s eyes, “You must be right.”
Isabel smiled feebly. “She’s right. Her visions are always right.”
Khivar nodded again. He put his arm around Isabel and pulled her into his side. “Max, Liz I know it seems like a hollow gesture with everything that has happened, but I’m sorry.”
Isabel squeezed his hand. “We both are.”
Khivar continued. “We were trying to do what we thought was right.”
Max nodded. “I know. You were only trying to save lives, to save Antar. It’s not your fault, either of you.”
Isabel burst into tears and Max reached out to touch her arm. She threw herself into his arms and Max hugged her tightly as she spoke through her sobs. “I’m so sorry Max. I should have known.”
“It’s okay Isabel,” he soothed. After a moment he pulled back. “We both should have known. We should have held onto each other instead of letting things come between us. But we have another chance now.”
Isabel looked over his shoulder to Liz. “And Liz is pregnant?”
Liz nodded, her smile lighting her face. She attempted to get off the table but was still a bit unsteady and Max and Isabel were instantly at her side.
Isabel reached out to her tentatively. “You have to be careful with that little one.”
Liz smiled and took Isabel’s hand, placing it on her stomach. “It’s a boy.”
Isabel smiled back at Liz and they embraced, both laughing with joy.
Max smiled, watching Liz and Isabel together he felt a huge weight lift from his shoulders. He’d hated being at odds with Isabel and was more relieved than he could say to be proven wrong. Of course now he had to face the truth that his mother was the evil one. She and Jaetus had caused millions of deaths over the last fifty years, all in the name of greed and power, and now they had to deal with that.
Liz sensed his discomfort and instantly knew what it was about. “Max,” she said softly as she moved into his side, wrapping her arm around him.
He put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her forehead. “We have to arrest mother and Jaetus, and who knows how many of the priests were involved.”
Max turned to General Darius and the dozen men he had with him. It was likely that at least some of the troops were involved too.
Darius and his men had stood by listening silently, and he knew what Max was thinking. Instantly he dropped to his knee before Max and Liz, and his men did the same. “Your Majesties,” Darius said, “I had no knowledge of this plot and would have informed you immediately if I had learned of it. I can vouch for your senior staff and the men on this mission as well. I hand-picked the men, your most loyal and skilled troops. Every man here supports you unconditionally, and we would all willingly give our lives for you.”
Max nodded, hearing the truth in Darius’ words. “Thank you General. Please rise, all of you.”
The men stood and Max offered Darius his hand. “I never questioned your loyalty General. I only wonder how many of our troops support my mother.”
“I don’t know,” Darius said, “but it would seem likely that at least some of them do. How else would they have gotten the Queen and the Granolith out of the palace so easily?”
“I agree,” Max said. He shook his head. “They planned this well. Taking Liz ensured that I would look for her personally, and do anything to find her.” He looked to Khivar and Isabel, “Mother framed you and then suggested a way for me to locate you. And it almost worked. I was so close to simply killing both of you for taking Liz.”
Khivar nodded. “Kasha and Jaetus must have expected us to kill each other off. Then they could blame whoever they wanted and assume the throne.”
“But what if we didn’t all die?” Isabel asked.
Max grimaced. “Mother had no trouble killing you in our last life,” he said softly.
“Yes,” Khivar agreed. “I imagine if there were any survivors, they would be dealt with.”
“How could she?” Isabel gasped. “How could she kill her own children? And if she just wanted us dead why did she send us to Earth to be reborn?”
Liz spoke up. “Kasha and Jaetus probably meant for you to kill each other in your last life too, but something went wrong, so they sent you to Earth to give themselves another chance.”
Max nodded and squeezed her hand. “Why don’t we go ask her?”
Suddenly the communicators held by Max and the others sounded with an incoming message.
Darius switched his communicator on. “Report!”
“General,” the voice came through the device, “we have reports of thousands of men approaching your position.”
“Who are they?” Darius asked.
“They are dressed as priests,” the man reported. “And after what happened at the palace…”
Darius cut him off. “Those men are the enemy! Try and get an accurate count and bring all of your troops into the building to defend the King and Queen.”
There were sounds of many men running and a moment later the communicator sounded again.
“There are at least ten thousand,” the voice from the communicator reported. “And more are incoming in ships and transports of all sizes and descriptions.”
“Ten thousand!” Liz gasped.
Isabel shook her head. “But Max killed at least five thousand of our troops with a single blow in the war, he could…”
“He used all of his strength,” Liz said. “He passed out and was unconscious for hours.”
Khivar grimaced. “So even if Max did take out half of them, the others would simply overwhelm us with their numbers.”
“We’ll call for help,” Isabel said. “Max your army…”
Max shook his head. “They would never get here in time.” He turned introspective. “There are twenty thousand priests that I know of, and there could even be more. This is why they took the Granolith and lured me out here. I don’t have enough power to save us.”
Jaetus reached for his communicator as it signaled an incoming message and eagerly activated it. “Yes.”
“Our troops have reached the building and are engaging the enemy. Everything will be over in a matter of minutes.”
“Report when the area is secure,” Jaetus said, and switched off the communicator. With a smile he turned to Kasha and pulled her into his arms. “Everything is working out perfectly,” he said with a laugh. “It will appear that there was a huge battle between Khivar and Max. Our priests rushed in to help their King, but unfortunately they arrived too late to save him.”
Kasha nodded. “Khivar and Isabel will be killed in the resulting battle and blamed for everything, including Max’s death.”
She kissed Jaetus hard. “This is the day of our revenge, my love, and the first day of the rest of our life.”
Soaring With Angels |
Alt End #4 Part 3 - Alt End #4 Part 5
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