It had been easy for Max to take the Granolith once he had discovered where it was. He and a handful of men had simply traveled toward the palace until Max was close enough that he could pull the Granolith’s power into himself. Then he had simply opened his mind and the energy had rushed through him, mixing with his own, filling him like never before. And instead of using a control crystal to direct the Granolith, Max had simply used a thought.
He felt it whir to life, filling with even more power as it spun faster and faster and then it burst through the palace wall. It rocketed through the atmosphere, and within seconds landed next to Max. He heard gasps of awe and surprise from the men around him, but he ignored them, turning to examine the Granolith closely for the first time.
It had always seemed so foreboding, so alien, but in actuality it was his salvation. He reached out to touch the smooth surface and felt the power radiating from it. Never before had he sensed anything from it and the thought passed thought his mind that he hadn’t been ready.
With another though Max pushed a command into the Granolith, and almost immediately found himself and his ten men inside as it once again whirred to life. There was a sensation of tremendous speed, and a moment later they were all standing near his headquarters.
A few of the men fell to the ground, unsteady after the trip, but Max felt invigorated. The Granolith’s energy melded with his perfectly. The amount of power rushing through him was incredible, unlike anything he had ever experienced, and it made him feel so invincible. He knew he had never commanded this much power, even in his other life, and he had no doubt that he would bring the war to a quick and successful conclusion.
His Generals and the priests rushed to gather around him, many of them falling to the ground bowing. The soldiers were still on a high from yesterday’s triumph over Khivar’s men and Max could hear the buzzing excitement rushing through the camp. Over the last year he had learned a lot about being a leader, but today was the first time he truly felt like the King. With the power of the Granolith, he would lead his people to victory.
His mind automatically reached out to Liz, inviting her to come and share in his newfound power. What he really wanted to do was surge into her receptive body with all of the energy rushing through them, and bring her to completion again and again. But that would have to wait for later. He knew they should take advantage of the chaos that the Granolith’s disappearance would cause, wiping out as many of Khivar’s troops as quickly as possible.
He heard Liz’s voice in his mind. But later you promise the sex.
Max turned to her, knowing she was approaching. It’s always a promise, he answered with a smoldering smile.
Liz crossed to him, wrapping an arm around his waist, and together they turned to look at the Granolith. It was the first time Liz had ever seen the Granolith and she examined it curiously. It looked relatively innocous but she could feel its incredible energy pulsing around them.
She grasped Max’s arm tighter and looked up into his face. You did it, she said with satisfaction. I always knew we were meant to defeat Khivar.
Max met her eyes nodding. You did, didn’t you? You never doubted it, never doubted me.
Of course not, Liz said, I love you. She motioned around them. All of this couldn’t have been for nothing.
Max pressed a kiss to her forehead. You’re right, and the sooner we start this, the sooner it will all be over.
Khivar’s troops haven’t come near us today, Liz said. They are probably still trying to sort out what happened yesterday.
Max nodded. Then we’ll take the battle to them. “Darius!” he called out, “Jaetus!”
The men rushed to him, both dropping to one knee.
“Ready the men,” Max ordered. “We’re taking this fight to the enemy and we’ll shove it down their throats.”
Jaetus and Darius smiled. “Yes, your Majesty.”
They hurried off, shouting orders and Max turned back to Liz. “Ready?”
Liz nodded. “Always.”
(The Royal Palace)
Khivar looked at the messenger dumbfounded. “What do you mean the Granolith is gone?”
“It just suddenly started spinning and burst through the wall,” the messenger said. “The guards were helpless to stop it.”
“Max!” Isabel gasped.
Khivar nodded. “Undoubtedly.”
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Isabel said, panicking. “Max will come for us.”
Khivar shook his head. “There is nowhere on this planet, in this solar system, we can hide. And after everything I’m not just going to give up and hand Antar back to your brother.” He turned to the messenger. “Order all of my troops back to the palace to defend it.”
The messenger bowed and left.
Khivar turned to Isabel. “We face him or die. It’s the only way.”
“But Khivar…” she protested.
He cut her off by pressing a finger to her lips. “We’ll throw everything we have at him and hopefully force him to overuse his powers and wear him down.”
Tears started in Isabel’s eyes. “We don’t have a chance do we?”
Khivar touched her face gently and spoke with a firm tone. “It isn’t over yet and I still have a trick or two up my sleeve.”
Max’s troops traveled quickly toward the capitol city and the palace, meeting little resistance on the way. But as they climbed the final ridge approaching the city, they could see why. Khivar’s troops fanned out between them and the city, tens-of-thousands strong.
Max halted their progress and looked down on the scene before them. Khivar had obviously recalled all of his troops to defend the city, and it was an awesome sight. A seemingly endless sea of Khivar’s soldiers stood between them and their final goal, but Max wasn’t worried. He had a large army as well, and with the power of the Granolith they would be victorious.
He turned to Liz and they shared a small smile. Liz was worried, he could feel it through their connection, and he squeezed her hand reassuringly.
Liz nodded. She knew the Granolith gave Max a huge amount of power but there was always the possibility that something could happen to him. She would just be glad when it was all over.
Max’s troops were still pumped-up from their overwhelming victory and the fact that Max had taken back the Granolith, and the excitement rushed through the ranks. At first it was a dull mummer but it rose into enthusiastic shouts. Max used a single sweeping motion of his arm, lashing out with his powers, lifting hundreds of Khivar’s men off their feet and hurtling them through the air, sending them crashing into the soldiers behind them.
A roar of triumph raced through Max’s troops, and with another motion of his hand, Max ordered them into battle. Max’s men released a terrible battle cry and rushed forward, eager to engage Khivar’s troops. Wave after wave of soldiers ran past Max and Liz, down the hill and across the open field, the frenzied light of battle shining in their eyes. And as the two armies collided, there was a mighty eruption of sound, swords and bodies crashing together.
Again Max sent out a burst of power throwing more of Khivar’s men aside, making a path for his troops. He had an overwhelming desire to pull enough of the Granolith’s power into himself to completely fill him, and use it to kill as many of Khivar’s soldiers as possible. He could see it clearly in his head, almost like a vision, his power snuffing the life out of thousands of their enemies in an instant. It was intoxicating to think that he could end the war that quickly, but he held back. He was wary of overloading his powers and passing out again. It was true that he could take out thousands of Khivar’s troops, but he was afraid of what would happen if he blacked out.
So instead he wielded smaller bursts of power, using the Granolith’s energy to supplement his own. Max used the power to throw Khivar’s troops into each other, crushing bones, smashing bodies. He used his shield like a blade, cutting through the enemies, slashing them in half. And he used his healing ability to pull the life from hundreds of soldiers at a time.
His troops were slowly pushing forward and Max was pleased with the progress they were making. If they continued at this pace the war would be over in a matter of hours. He was just about move his command center closer to the action when suddenly a high-pitched whine was heard above. Max recognized it immediately even though he hadn’t heard the sound in over six months. Both he and Khivar had started the war with a fleet of ships but they had been quickly wiped out. But the hum of many engines was proof that Khivar had somehow replenished his numbers.
Max spun toward the approaching ships and quickly noted that there were at least twenty. He outstretched his hand and used his power to alter the course of the first ship, sending it crashing into two others causing them to explode in mid air, raining down flaming debris. Two other ships didn’t react quickly enough and collided trying to avoid the explosion. One ship clipped the wing of the other, spinning it around out of control, sending it diving into Khivar’s troops. The other bounced off and struggled to stay in the air, trailing a lengthening plume of dark smoke.
The rest of the ships dodged the collision with a series of evasive maneuvers and took their places back in formation as they continued toward their destination. They fired a volley of shots as they approached Max’s position.
Max pushed his power out raising a shield to block his troops from the laser blasts, and as the ships flew overhead he thrust the shield up slamming it into four more of the ships, bringing them down. The remaining ships continued and swung around for another pass.
As they approached again Liz shook her head. “What could Khivar be thinking? He knows that ships are too vulnerable.”
Max shook his head as the ships neared them again. “I don’t know,” he said, lashing out with his shield again. “Maybe Khivar is desperate.” Max brought down three more ships and watched the others fly into the distance and turn for another pass.
His brow creased in confusion. “They haven’t inflicted any damage. Why aren’t they shooting into the troops? They’re concentrating all their firepower on us.”
“Maybe they’re hoping for a lucky shot,” Liz suggested. “Or trying to tire you out.”
The ships approached for another pass and suddenly the truth became apparent to Max. He grabbed Liz, pulling her close and swung around, looking for signs of danger. “The ships are a distraction,” he said. “They’re keeping us occupied while something else happens.”
He threw his shield up again as the ships flew over and then whirled around to see three of his soldiers approaching Liz and himself. They were dressed in his livery but Max didn’t recognize them. Of course he didn’t know every man in his army but he could tell immediately that something was wrong. He addressed the senior man, “Report Lieutenant.”
The three soldiers dropped to their knees, the Lieutenant in front of the others. “Your Majesty, we wish to report…”
Suddenly the two men behind the Lieutenant drew their blasters and fired at Max and Liz.
Max reacted instantly using his shield to block the laser blasts, and he pushed his energy into the soldiers, pushing them to the ground as he drew their life from them. “Assassins,” he hissed, his anger growing within him.
But he didn’t have time to pause because the remaining ships raced toward them again. With an anger-fueled roar Max used a single gesture of his hand to pull the dozen or so ships from the sky, sending them spiraling into Khivar’s troops.
Liz’s shout of alarm spun him around again just in time to see several more soldiers dressed in his colors rushing toward them. Max lashed out with his left hand, knocking the men to the ground, sending their weapons skittering away. With his right hand he drew his sword quickly slashing through throats and piercing hearts, ending their lives. Instantly he looked around, alert for more attempts on their lives.
Shouts echoed around them as Max’s men realized what was happening. “To the King!” Jaetus ordered. “To the King!”
Instantly Max and Liz were surrounded by soldiers and hooded priests, but Max growled with rage and pushed them aside. He turned to Liz and reached for her hand, and through their bond she knew exactly what he intended. She put her hand in his and together they started forward, walking toward the battle, the Granolith floating behind them.
Max pulled the Granolith’s energy into himself and sent his power out in a green burst that passed through his own troops but slammed into thousands of Khivar’s men like a solid wall, crushing their bodies and lifting them off their feet, propelling them through the air.
A roar of triumph raced through Max’s troops, and as it started to die down, Max called out, “Show them what real power is! Nothing can stop us now!”
Another roar went through the troops as they raced into battle.
(Antar date 05.30.71306)
The bloody battle for the capitol city had raged for three days and tens-of-thousands of men lay dead. More and more men on both sides had joined the fray from the other battlefields across the planet, concentrating the fighting around the capitol. Everyone knew this was the final battle of the war and Khivar was rapidly loosing. The number of his troops was dwindling quickly, mainly because of Max’s Granolith-fueled powers.
Max had used his powers to cut an ever-widening swath through Khivar’s troops, moving continually closer to the palace, and now he was stopped outside his final goal by the palace gates. Khivar and Isabel were trapped inside and Max was eager to finally put an end to the fighting.
With a negligent motion of his hand, he pulled down the front gates. The priests went in first, thousands of the robed figures quickly dispatching the few of Khivar’s men they encountered. Then they rushed into the palace, searching for the usurper and his Queen.
“Take them alive!” Max ordered.
The sounds of battle were heard throughout the palace and the light of laser blasts flashed through the windows. Max was about to follow them into the palace to help with the search when he received a call on his communicator.
“Your Majesty,” General Darius’ voice said, “Khivar’s troops are massing on the southern ridge.”
Max turned his attention, noting the thousands of soldiers gathering above them. Lashing out with his powers he pushed his energy into the side of the ridge, weakening the ledge and bringing the whole thing crashing down, sending thousands of Khivar’s troops falling to the ground below. Max’s soldiers rushed forward easily slaughtering the injured men.
More of Max’s troops rushed Khivar’s men still on the ridge, closing in on them from both sides, and Max watched as his men quickly eliminated the last major force of Khivar’s army.
(The Royal Palace)
Khivar held Isabel as Max’s troops pounded on the solitary door separating them.
She shivered with each hit. “We’re not going to make it, are we?”
Khivar stroked her hair gently. “It’s not over yet, my love,” he said reassuringly.
With another few slams, the door burst open and hooded priests rushed in. Khivar pushed Isabel behind him and sent out his power. Bright blue electricity leapt from his fingers slamming several of the priests into the wall.
More and more priests rushed into the room and Khivar threw them aside as quickly as he could. Isabel joined in the fight sending her power out around her. But there were too many priests and by their sheer numbers they easily overwhelmed Khivar and Isabel.
The priests forced them to their knees as Jaetus entered the room.
Khivar struggled against his captors but Jaetus held a sword to Isabel’s throat, addressing his comments to Khivar. “I have orders to take you both alive usurper, but accidents do happen.”
Khivar stopped his struggles and looked to Isabel, holding her eyes. “Have faith.”
Isabel nodded with understanding, and they both allowed the priests to wrap them in chains.
Max turned to Liz and together they started back to the palace to help with the search when a call came over his communicator. “Your Majesty,” Jaetus reported, “we have captured the usurper and his whore. Do you wish us to bring them before you?”
Liz squeezed Max’s hand reassuringly, knowing how much he was hurting.
When Max didn’t answer Jaetus’ voice came through the communicator again. “Your Majesty?” he asked.
Max scowled and depressed the button on the communicator. “No, I don’t want to see them. Lock them in the goal to await their execution and make sure they are secured, then clear the rest of the palace.”
“Yes Your Majesty,” Jaetus said.
Max returned the communicator to his pocket and turned to Liz with a reassuring smile. “It’s finally over Liz. Finally we’re free to do whatever we want.”
(Antar date 06.08.71306)
Max’s troops continued to root out the remnants of Khivar’s men in the capitol city. The palace was cleared of enemies and the priests quickly repaired the damage caused by the fighting. Max, Liz, Kasha, Jaetus and Max’s closest supporters moved into the palace, and Max installed the Granolith into a new secure room.
The citizens of the capitol city had been celebrating the end of the war and gradually started to rebuild their lives.
Yesterday morning Max and Liz had been remarried in a public ceremony and officially crowned King and Queen. Larek and Hanar and their other supporters had attended, and the celebration had lasted late into the night.
Liz awoke late to find Max already up watching her. She smiled at him. “Good morning.”
“Good morning my love,” Max said kissing her gently on the forehead. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up. I have a surprise for you.”
Liz sat up. “What kind of surprise?”
Max smiled and shook his head “Hurry and get showered and dressed and I’ll show you.”
Liz did as he asked and he led her into a part of the palace that she had never been in before. “Where are we going?” she asked.
Max stopped Liz before a pair of ornate doors. He enfolded her in his arms from behind, leaning into her. “I found this a couple of days ago and I wanted you to see it.”
“What is it?” Liz asked curiously.
“Close you eyes,” Max whispered.
Liz closed her eyes and allowed Max to lead her into the room.
He stopped them inside and stood where he could see her face. “Okay, you can look now.”
Liz opened her eyes and gasped with delight. They were in a huge domed greenhouse that rose a hundred feet above their heads, the sun streaming in through the transparent roof and walls. It was filled with foliage and trees of all kinds and a large variety of flowers. There was a winding path made of stone and several small waterfalls and fountains that fed into a gurgling brook.
Max watched the flicker of emotions across Liz’s face greedily and smiled as her eyes met his.
“Oh Max,” Liz gasped, “it’s so beautiful.”
“Just like you are,” Max said. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her gently, but it wasn’t enough. Liz’s sweet scent and taste intoxicated him and he drew her lower lip into his mouth, urging her to open to him.
Liz wrapped her arms around Max’s neck and opened her mouth, inviting him inside with a flick of her tongue.
Max immediately plunged into her mouth, seeking her tongue, stroking it softly with his own. He gripped the back of her head in one hand, holding her to him while the other hand trailed down her neck to her breast. Through her blouse he used his thumbnail to stroke her nub, causing it to harden and jut into his hand.
He loved how responsive Liz was to his every touch and it enflamed his desire for her. Max deepened the kiss, devouring her mouth as he slipped his hand inside her blouse. He pushed aside her bra, taking possession of her breast and caressing the soft skin.
Liz moaned her desire into his mouth and pressed against him. His simple touch on her breast was causing shivers of reaction to rush through her and she felt her lower lips damper, but reluctantly she broke the kiss. “Max,” she protested, “the walls are all glass. Anyone could see us.”
Max shook his head with a smile. “I used my powers to change the glass so we can see out but no one can see in.”
Liz smiled back. “Oh, so you planned this.”
Max nodded. “I never did get to have you outside, and while this isn’t exactly outside it’s pretty close.” He took her hand and led her along to path a short way where he had laid out a blanket near several tall trees. Smiling he pulled her to him gently. “At least I can have you completely naked with the sun illuminating every inch of your beautiful body.”
“Max!” Liz gasped, feigning shock at his suggestion.
Max’s smile widened as he closed the distance between them. “I believe it was your idea in the first place,” he teased. Slowly he reached out and touched her cheek, his hand trailing down her neck, and his smile was replaced by a look of smoldering intensity. “It was your idea,” he whispered, holding her eyes, “but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.”
Liz leaned into him, reaching for the top button on his shirt. “Well I guess we should do something about that.”
As she continued with his buttons, Max leaned down inhaling the fresh scent of her hair, allowing its silky length to slide through his fingers. No matter how often they made love, he never got enough of Liz. But it wasn’t just the sex. Max always craved everything about her; the scent of her hair, the taste of her lips, the softness of her skin, her intelligence, strength and passion. He wanted to be with her all of the time, touching her, feeling her love for him.
Liz finished with his buttons and Max let the shirt slide down his arms to pool on the ground. Her small hands went to his chest, sliding over his skin and Max shivered in reaction to her touch. He cupped her cheek in his hand and took her lips in a searing kiss.
Liz wrapped her arms around Max’s neck, immediately caught up in the kiss. She didn’t even realize that Max had picked her up until she felt the blanket beneath her back.
Max placed Liz on the blanket and slowly kissed a trail down her neck until he reached her shirt. He used his teeth to graze the hardened nub of her breast through her clothes, smiling when Liz groaned. Careful not to touch her breasts, he reached for her buttons quickly undoing them and placing a soft kiss on each new exposed area.
When he finished with her buttons he lifted her slightly so he could remove her shirt. And with a small burst of his powers he released the hooks on her bra, sliding the straps down her arms and tossing it aside.
Max leaned down to place an open-mouth kiss on her stomach and reached for the fastening on her pants. He felt Liz’s hands caressing his neck and shoulders and he knew he was driving her wild.
He lifted her hips and with a single pull removed her pants and underwear, sliding them down her legs and slipping her sandals off as well. Taking her small foot in his hand he kissed her instep and continued kissing a trail up her leg. Liz writhed under him, but as he approached the juncture of her thighs she stilled. He knew she wanted his mouth on her but he wanted to take his time.
Max pushed apart her legs exposing her to him and let his gaze take in the sight of her. The sunlight streaming in through the glass illuminated the delicate petal shape of her lower lips, pink and flushed with desire and starting to glisten with her juices. The scent of Liz’s arousal was almost overwhelming but Max curbed his desire and settled for placing a single kiss on her clit. Liz moaned, her body arching up and Max watched her reaction greedily.
Settling on the blanket next to her, he simply let his eyes roam over her exposed body. He reached out to brush the hair off her face. “You’re so beautiful. I could stay here forever and be perfectly happy.”
Liz cupped his hand in hers, turning her head to place a kiss on his palm. “Me too.”
Max caressed her cheek and trailed a feather’s touch down her neck and between her breasts.
Liz reached up to his shoulders and brushed her hands down his pecs and across his stomach, going for the fastening on his pants. Max had barely touched her but she was almost desperate to have him inside.
Max let her get his pants undone and then he quickly shimmied out of them, kicking his shoes and socks off too. He moved over her pushing a knee between her legs and leaned down taking her lips in a searing kiss.
Liz raised her knees cradling him in her thighs and wrapped her arms around him pulling him to her.
Max let his lower body settle on her, his erection pressing against her slick lower lips. A shiver of desire raced through Liz and Max smiled as he took her breast in his mouth. He licked and sucked her delicate skin, grazing her hard nub with his teeth.
She wriggled her hips causing Max’s hard length to brush through her wet folds. “Max,” she gasped needing him inside.
He understood her instantly because he wanted the same thing, and with a small movement he positioned himself at her entrance. Holding her eyes, Max slowly pushed forward, sliding into her tight, hot passage, burying himself to the hilt. He had intended on taking things slow but once he was fully sheathed within her, his tight control broke.
“Liz,” he groaned as he withdrew almost all the way and plunged back in.
Liz grasped at his back urging him to go faster. “Yes Max. Yes.”
He obeyed her instantly, setting a steady pace. His hands roamed over her breasts brushing her peaks with his thumbs. Again Liz moaned and Max gritted his teeth with the effort not to come. The sight and sounds of Liz pleasure turned him on more than anything and he concentrated on bringing her to climax.
They were both so aroused that their motions became almost frienzied. Faster and faster he surged into her and Liz lifted her hips up to meet each of his thrusts.
Reaching between them he rubbed her clit in circles, pushing his power into her. And with only a few more thrusts Max felt Liz’s inner walls start to flutter around him. He surged into her again and she exploded, crying out her release.
With a final thrust Max came, emptying his seed into her. He buried his head between her breasts attempting to catch his breath as they rode out their orgasms together. Gently he caressed the soft skin of her shoulder, and as his breathing returned to normal he placed kisses on her chest.
Liz touched his face and he looked up to meet her eyes. “So did that fulfill your fantasy?” she asked teasingly.
Max smiled. “It’s a start.” He traced lazy circles over her collarbone. “It’s so nice to be together like this again, not having to worry about being interrupted by the war, able to take our time and savor every moment.”
Liz motioned in the direction of the doors. “Any minute someone could come knocking, trying to drag us back into the world.”
Max shook his head. “I left instructions for us not to be bothered unless there was an emergency.”
Liz’s hands roamed over his powerful arms, and she wrapped her legs around his pulling him even deeper inside. “Then I’m sure we can fulfill every aspect of you fantasy.”
He kissed her briefly as he felt himself harden within her again. “We have all the time in the world.”
(Antar date 06.09.71306)
Tomorrow Isabel and Khivar were scheduled to die. Max was adamant about not wanting to see them, but Liz had to see Isabel one last time. She had to know why Isabel had turned against them. Liz knew Isabel had loved Khivar in two lifetimes but to betray her family and friends for her love still didn’t seem like something Isabel would do.
Liz descended the stairs into the dungeon where Isabel was being held. She had been surprised to find that there was more than one goal inside the palace walls, but she remembered what kind of man Khivar was and tried not to think about the many innocent people who had been imprisoned and tortured over the years. Khivar and Isabel were being held at opposite ends of the palace and Liz found herself somewhat disappointed. She had never seen Khivar or any pictures of him, and she wondered what a man of pure evil looked like. Could you see it in his eyes, or sense the evil around him?
Liz shivered and pushed the thought away as she continued down the corridor to where Isabel was being held. Stopping outside the cell, Liz saw that Isabel was turned away from her and took the opportunity to study her sister-in-law. Even thought Isabel had been in the cell for a week she still looked perfect, Liz noted. Her hair was long and lustrous, her clothes in order, and she sat straight and tall still possessing that royal bearing. Liz expected to see hatred or fear on her face, but all she could see was a weary sorrow.
Tentatively she called out. “Isabel?”
Isabel turned dark eyes to her, and for a moment Liz thought she saw a flicker of something, regret perhaps, but then it was gone.
“Liz,” Isabel said. “I’m surprised you came.”
“I had to know,” Liz said. “I had to see for myself.”
Isabel nodded. “You had to know why I chose Khivar over my brother.”
Liz nodded. “You’re in love with Khivar, I understand that, and you made the mistake of believing in him. I know you’re not a traitor to Max.”
Isabel nodded. “But I am. I colluded with Khivar willingly in our other life to kill my brother and I did it again in this one.”
Tears pricked Liz’s eyes. “No.”
Isabel reached out to touch Liz’s hand as tears came to her own eyes. “Liz I love you and I love who Max used to be. But he isn’t my brother any more.”
Liz shook her head sadly.
Isabel continued. “Max used to be a good man but you must have seen how all of this has changed him.”
“It’s a war,” Liz said. “He’s had to do things he would never normally do.”
Isabel smiled sadly. “He was changing even before we left Earth. I think his power and his recovered memories, combined with Alex’s death started pushing him over the edge. You saw it too Liz, the way he treated you, he forced me not to go to college, and it just got worse after that.”
Isabel shook her head, “Khivar showed me the truth, that’s why I turned against Max. We killed my brother in our last life because he was evil, and the same thing is happening again to Max.”
Liz shook her head again. “No Isabel…”
Isabel met Liz’s eyes. “Would the Max you know have me executed?”
Liz held Isabel’s eyes. “Michael and Maria are dead, and so are thousands of soldiers that might be alive if you hadn’t helped Khivar. You betrayed your brother, you King.”
“So you think I deserve to be executed?” Isabel asked.
Liz sighed. “You’ve done terrible things Isabel, but I think maybe you weren’t really responsible for them. I think Khivar has done something to your mind.” She shook her head. “I’ll talk to Max and tell him what happened. He’ll understand and rescind the order for your execution.”
“Are you sure?” Isabel asked.
Liz hesitated. “I…” she trailed off knowing the extent of Max’s anger about his sister’s betrayal, and she then nodded. “Of course he’ll change his mind. It will all be okay. We’ll get you some help to fix what Khivar has done to you. You’ll see.” Liz sighed. “I know that Khivar has convinced you that his lies are the truth, but you know Max. He’s a good man.”
“Liz,” Isabel said softly, “I don’t remember everything from my other life, but I remember enough, I remember the truth. I know that in our other life my brother tortured and killed people, a lot of people, and he liked doing it. But Khivar was one of his advisors, he could tell you the whole story.”
Liz shook her head, “Isabel I…”
Isabel cut her off. “Even if you don’t believe me about Max, you’ve never met Khivar, the supposed black-hearted usurper and murderer. Aren’t you even curious?”
Liz had been curious before she had talked to Isabel, and even though she knew Max wouldn’t want her anywhere near Khivar, she had to see him for herself. She didn’t really know what she was expecting, a maniacally giggling villian, complete with pointed beard and dark hat perhaps, but she was surprised by his appearance. Somehow she had thought his evil would be apparent, but he was simply an ordinary man.
He was tall, she could tell even though he was seated, he had dark-golden hair and deep blue eyes, and he was handsome. Not handsome in that too-beautiful-to-be-real way. Khivar had a strong face, a kind face even, and instead of the anger or hatred she expected, she saw only fatigue and sorrow perhaps.
Khivar stood when he saw her, giving her a half bow. “I am honored by your presence, Liz Evans, Queen of Antar.”
Liz’s eyes narrowed. “How do you…”
Khivar smiled. “Isabel and I share everything. She has told me all about you. How Max healed you and made you a hybrid, how you helped them many times to avoid disaster and saved their lives. And how you are the best person she has ever known.”
Liz looked down, embarrassed by his words.
“Beautiful and modest too,” Khivar said.
Liz met his eyes. “Isabel suggested I talk to you, and I have to admit I was curious to meet you.”
Khivar nodded. “She suggested you talk to me about Max.”
Liz nodded. “You’ve done a masterful job of turning Isabel against her brother and her family. I wanted to hear what you had to say.”
Khivar studied her face. “What do you want me to say? That Max is evil? That he’s a tyrant in the making?” He shrugged. “Surely you must have witnessed Max’s cruelty, his evil, for yourself. Or are you so much in love with him that you are blinded to the truth?”
Liz shook her head. “It is a war. People are forced to do things that they would never otherwise do.”
Khivar nodded. “But some people believe that there are crimes so heinous they shouldn’t be committed, even in war. Your country on Earth believes that, do they not?”
“Of course,” Liz agreed.
“I believe that as well,” Khivar said. “But some need no excuses for their atrocities. Some rule by fear, torture, the slaughter of innocents, genocide.”
“Genocide?” Liz asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Did you ever wonder how this war between Zha’an and myself was started?”
Liz nodded. “You wanted his throne.”
Khivar grimaced. “Much more than that. I was Zha’an’s advisor and knew him from the time he was a child. I watched him grow into a man and take the throne, and I supported him wholeheartedly. I believed he was the true King and he was doing what was best for Antar. I believed it until Zha’an started to systematically wipe out the common people.”
Khivar shook his head as he continued. “On Antar the people are divided into classes determined by how powerful the family is. And when I say powerful, I mean the amount of mental powers and abilities they possess. The common people have little or no powers, and Zha’an came to believe them to be inferior. He felt that they contaminated the purity of Antar and he didn’t think they deserved to live. He proposed that they be eliminated.”
“Some of noble families agreed, but a large number of them were uncertain. The slaughter of women and children made them uneasy and they wanted to find another solution. I myself advised against the plan but Zha’an was unyielding. He went ahead with his plan without the support of all of the families. He destroyed whole cities, tortured, maimed and killed thousands with his own hands. That was when I saw him for what he really is, and realized the legacy of evil left behind by his ancestors.
“And Vilondra agreed with me,” Khivar said. “Zha’an controlled her life completely. He kept her a virtual prisoner in the palace and he forced her into an engagement with Rath. But we were seeing one another secretly. We loved each other so much, but Zha’an would never have allowed us to be together. So Vilondra and I worked together, and with the help of the noble families that opposed him, we brought Zha’an to his knees.”
“I didn’t want the throne,” Khivar said. “I wanted to end the bloody rule of the Zha’ans and bring peace to Antar.”
Liz was dumbfounded by his story, surprised that he could twist the truth so artfully to make himself seem like the hero. But his last statement caught her curiosity. “The Zans?” she asked. “I thought Zan was his name not a title.”
Khivar nodded. “For five thousand years all male heirs in Zha’an’s line have been given the name Zha’an,” Khivar explained. “Their line is unique. Every male has the power to heal, but more than that, they have the power to bring someone back from the brink of death. No other line in the history of our planet has had such power. Tens of thousands of years ago the people thought their family must be gods and they were made rulers of Antar. Some were good rulers, some were not, but Antar thrived for the most part.”
“But five thousand years ago it all changed. One of Zha’an’s ancestors discovered the Granolith in an ancient ruin that dated back almost a million years. No one knew who the people had been or what the Granolith was, but they soon discovered it had vast amounts of power. At first it was used by the King for good, to grow crops, to heal the sick, to bring rain to drought areas. But as the years passed, the King started to use it for other things, to destroy houses and property of those who spoke against him, and for conquest.”
“With the power of the Granolith that King ruined worlds, enslaved millions. Like the others in his line he had the power over life and death, but more often he used his touch to kill. He became the first Zha’an.”
Liz leaned forward. “When you say Zan, it sounds like two words, like the priests pronounce it.”
Khivar nodded. “The priests are in the service of Zha’an, they have been for thousands of years. They call themselves the Order of the Angel. They believe the Zha’ans to be gods, or the closest thing to it, and worship them and the Granolith. Over the years the word Zha’an has come to mean ruler or King, and the priests often use the word for god. But you are right. Originally Zha’an was two words from an ancient Antarian language in the region where Zha’an’s ancestors came from. It means Angel of Death. The Zha’ans adopted it as their name and it eventually became one word. Most Antarians don’t even remember the origins and use the single word Zan.
“And most of the Kings have lived up to the name,” Khivar continued. “Your husband’s father was as close to a good man as any of them. He could be ruthless but he was also practical. The wars stopped, Antar was rebuilt. We were on the verge of a golden age. But he suddenly died and Max’s former self came into power.”
Khivar met her eyes. “Some Zha’ans were worse than others, but your husband’s former self was the worst, most evil of them all. He was Zha’an the sixteenth, known as Zha’an Etua Cellat. Zha’an Slaughterer of Millions.”
Suddenly Liz’s head was filled with memories of the past. Max’s increasing cruelty, the torture, the killing. But she shook her head furiously trying to clear it, knowing Khivar was using his considerable power of persuasion to manipulate her emotions. “You’re lying. Max isn’t like that.”
“Isn’t he?” Khivar asked. “You must have some doubts about Max, otherwise you wouldn’t be here talking to me. You’ve seen the joy he takes in torturing, in killing. I know you were there when he killed Tess, his own former wife. And he is having his sister executed for treason.”
“No,” Liz argued. “We’re in a war, Max had to kill. If Max hadn’t killed Tess I would have done it myself for what she did to all of us, especially Max.” She met Khivar’s eyes. “And Max won’t really kill Isabel. He’s just angry that she betrayed him again, but when I tell him what you’ve done to her...”
Khivar held her eyes, smiling sadly. “I am so sorry for you Liz, you really are a good person. There may have been a time when Max was a good man and deserved your love, but he is becoming his former self; twisted and evil.” He shook his head. “Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if Max had never come here, if he hadn’t gotten involved in the war, the killing again.”
Tears gathered in Liz’s eyes. “Max has had to do terrible things to keep us safe, but he will be okay. Now that the war is over, everything will be okay. Everything will be like it used to be.”
“You know in your heart that isn’t true,” Khivar said softly. “Rath once thought as you did. He was Zha’an’s best friend all of their lives, and even though he knew exactly what Zha’an was doing, he couldn’t admit that Zha’an was evil. A group of revolutionaries tried to get Rath to turn against Zha’an and take power. Vilondra and I even tried to make him see reason, but Rath wouldn’t betray his friend and King, and in the end it caused his death. Rath and Ava were executed as war criminals along with Zha’an.”
“We didn’t find out until it was too late that they had been cloned and sent to Earth,” Khivar said softly. “One of the shape shifters sent with the Royal Four was a traitor to Zha’an. He sent a message to us giving us the coordinates of the planet and outlined the plan in its entirety. He said he was going to cause the to crash, hoping to destroy the pods and the Granolith. After the crash he sent another message saying that his plan hadn’t worked, that pods and the Granolith survived. He was sending new coordinates to where the pods and Granolith were hidden but the message was cut off and we never heard from him again. So I sent Nicholas and the others to finish the job.
Khivar shook his head. “The power of the Granolith has corrupted Max just as it has done to all of his ancestors who possessed it. And with the Granolith, Max will continue his reign of terror, his genocide of what he considers the lesser beings. I believe the Granolith is pure evil. Eventually it will destroy us all. I think that is what happened to the ancient race who left the ruins. They didn’t die out, or leave, they destroyed themselves because of the Granolith.”
“But you’ve been using the Granolith,” Liz pointed out. “Why weren’t you corrupted by its power?”
Khivar nodded. “You’re right, I have used it. But I only used control crystals to direct the Granolith. I believe it is only dangerous when its power is taken inside. That’s how the Zha’an’s used it, poisoning their line for generations. Your husband was the worst. He would draw power from the Granolith into himself all the time, and it made him incredibly powerful but as his power grew so did his evil.”
Liz nodded. “You are very good, very convincing. That’s a very persuasive fairytale you’ve created. You’re trying to confuse me, using truths to couch your lies because I don’t know everything about the past. I can see how you persuaded Isabel to come to your side.”
“I didn’t have to persuade her of anything,” Khivar said smoothly. “She saw the truth for herself.”
“And what about Tess and Larek?” Liz asked. “Larek was a life-long friend of Max’s family but he never mentioned the evil Zha’an. And Larek was always helpful and perfectly charming.”
“Yes,” Khivar said, “Larek’s family and Zha’an’s are friends and allies, and have been for generations, and Larek has always supported Zha’an because Zha’an makes him very rich. And why shouldn’t Larek be charming and helpful to Zha’an, he wants things back the way used to be, and if that includes the slaughter of a few million commoners then so be it.”
“As for Tess,” Khivar continued, “she claimed that she betrayed Max because she remembered what he had done in the past, his atrocities.” He shrugged. “She may have even believed that, but I’m sure her reasons were much more basic. In her other life Ava was a very spoiled, self-centered child and I doubt she cared about Zha’an’s politics or his actions. He was very handsome and she loved him, or thought she did, and she wanted to be Queen.”
“But her life with Zha’an didn’t live up to her expectations,” Khivar said with a shake of his head. “Zha’an never loved her. He only married her to relieve the pressure he was getting from his mother and the priests to produce an heir. And Ava only turned against him at the end when she discovered that not only didn’t he love her, and he had been maintaining affairs with at least a half dozen women, but that her father had owed Zha’an a great deal of money and she had been part of the settlement. She was simply a bribe that her father had included with his payment so Zha’an wouldn’t kill him.”
Khivar shrugged. “It was her choice to be with him, no one forced her to do anything. But it was only after she learned the whole truth that she claimed to be loyal to the new republic we were trying to create. But I never believed her and had her executed with the others.”
Liz sighed. “And how do you justify using Tess to torture Max with those horrible visions of his son? That is not the work of a good person.”
Khivar met her eyes. “I knew if Max regained his full powers, we had no chance against him. So I used any means at my disposal to weaken him and rid Antar of the greatest evil it has ever seen.”
He motioned toward her elegantly. “If you had the power to go back in time and eliminate one of your world’s greatest tyrants and save millions of lives wouldn’t you use any resource you had available? Let’s say it was Adolph Hitler. What if playing a few mind games on him would save all of the people he slaughtered?”
Liz shook her head. “You have an answer for everything, but I’m not so easily persuaded.”
“You are loyal to your husband and that is commendable,” Khivar said softly, “but don’t let him be your ruination Liz. Max will corrupt your pure heart and drag you down with him.”
Liz didn’t answer and Khivar continued. “Max will execute Isabel and myself tomorrow and at least this will be over for us. And perhaps she and I will be together in the next world.” He leaned forward. “Will you tell Isabel that I love her?”
A frown creased Liz’s brow. “Aren’t you going to try to get me to help you escape or something?”
Khivar smiled. “Would it do any good?”
Liz shook her head.
Khivar shrugged. “Then why should I waste my time?” He held his hand out through the bars. “You will tell Isabel I love her?”
“Of course.” Liz said, nodding. Automatically she reached out to touch his hand, and when their skin met, she received a flash.
Suddenly she was inside the dream that Max had been having, but it was subtly different.
She saw Max’s former-self Zan, standing in a battle-ruined street filled with smoke and smoldering fires. Zan was surrounded by priests in black robes who guarded twenty people on their knees.
Zan walked to the first man, and with a touch, split his chest wide and reached inside ripping out his heart. Blood sprayed over Zan but he ignored it, crushing the heart in his hand and holding it above his head. The priests cheered and a chant of Zha’an broke out.
Zan moved to the next victim, a small child who trembled and cried before him. “Silence,” Zan roared. He used a swift kick to the child’s chest to send him to the ground and withdrew the large curved sword from his belt. He stabbed downward into the child’s stomach, twisting the blade, causing the child to scream piteously. Zan laughed at the child’s screams, his eyes glowing blue briefly before he brought his sword down upon the child’s neck severing his head from his body.
The next man Zan simply eviscerated with his sword, roaring in triumph.
He used his powers on the next victim, using his healing ability to burst, one at time, the vessels in the man’s brain, causing him excruciating pain and a particularly slow death.
Zan moved from victim to victim, simply killing some and taking his time torturing others. He eviscerated many with his sword, seeming to enjoy that method the most, and when he had single-handedly killed them all, he was covered in their blood.
The priests started the chant again. “Zha’an. Zha’an,” calling out his name louder and louder.
Liz dropped Khivar’s hand with a gasp. “How did you see that? You were there?”
Khivar nodded. “As Zha’an’s advisor I was witness to many of his atrocities. That was a ritualistic killing he performed, the slaughter of what he considered inferior people, to prove his power.”
“I’ve seen pieces of that before,” Liz said.
“In Max’s memory,” Khivar prompted.
Liz nodded as tears filled her eyes, and she collapsed to her knees. “Oh God, it can’t be true.”
She felt Khivar’s comforting hand on her shoulder. “I am sorry, Liz,” he purred softly. “I am so sorry you had to learn the truth this way, especially from me. But now you see why you have to help me.”
Khivar’s sympathetic tone jerked her back into reality. Liz scrambled to her feet, meeting his eyes accusingly. “You did that! You planted that vision in my mind! It’s all just more lies.” She shook her head backing away from him. “Why did I listen to you? You’re messing with my mind, trying to turn me from Max. You’re the killer. You’re the evil one.”
Khivar’s face hardened. “So be it.”
Soaring With Angels |
Part 15 - Part 17
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