Six men gathered in a dimly lit chamber, they wore dark cloaks. Three chairs sat empty at their table, a ghastly reminder of their humiliation. Their faces carried hard lines, scowls that carved away once pleasant features. Their teeth and fists were clenched as they debated their next move.
"We have the power, so we must act now!", one shouted from his seat.
"I have made contact with the Ruan-Yafar," A dark haired man answered him, "They will arrive less than a mile from the palace within the hour."
"They will force the prince to flee," Another man said, "When he does-" The man flashed a devious smile, "Then we act."
"My brothers," The man with the dark hair said, "By this time tomorrow this planet, Eiraithia, and all her subjects will be ours to rule. And soon after that, we shall be all powerful."
Prince Saam woke to the sound of explosions. Loud blasts were rocking the palace, pictures falling from the walls, furniture rattling. Saam sat up in bed. He sat there only a second, the next explosion threw him across the room and to the floor.
Saam stumbled to his feet, breathing hard. The west wall of his large bedroom was missing. Dark smoke and cool spring morning air filled the room, an odd combination. He grabbed his sword and ran from the room. Malcolm and David were already in the hallway. "Prince Saam," Malcolm said, "The palace is under attack."
"Who!?" Saam asked.
"I don't know, but we won't last to long under such an assault ."
Saam thought a moment, then touched the intercom on the wall.
"All staff ; Prince Saam speaking, meet in the large hall at the center of the palace immediately," Saam switched the intercom off ,turning to David and Malcolm, "You two get down to the lowest level, turn on the emergency force field."
Then Saam sprinted down the hall, toward the center of the palace.
"We have suffered almost complete loss of offensive forces, the palace has rooming quarters for only a few dozen guards. Their quarters were the first hit." The general paused to take a breath, "Fires are all under control, but it will only be a matter of time before they undermine our force field. We will be finished. They knocked out all communication to the outside. Our relays and transmitters have been destroyed."
Saam sat in shock. An expression of disbelief covered his sweaty face.
"Who is attacking us?" he asked, confused.
"Difficult to say for sure," The general answered, "We believe it is the Ruan-Yafar."
Saam winced. The Ruan-Yafar were a race of mercenaries. They used complex technology that had long ago been denounced by the people of Eiraithia. Lasers, rockets, bombs and guns, when used in war they killed millions.
"Who could be paying them?" He asked.
"I've got a pretty good guess." Malcolm answered.
The council of nine. They alone were capable of this kind of all-out undeclared attack. After what happened less than a week ago at the meeting banquet a recourse was expected, but nothing of this magnitude.
"How large is the force we face?" Prince Saam asked.
"We estimate less than a hundred and fully armed, here," The general said, "But they appeared in several locations planet wide."
"Appeared?" David asked.
"Teleportation technology." The general said.
"But they don't have that technology." David said firmly, "All our intelligence says they are decades away."
"The Council of Nine does have access to teleportation devices." Malcolm said.
Saam thought a moment.
"Are any Ruan-Yafar ships in orbit?" Saam asked.
"No Prince Saam." The general replied.
"Good, load the women and children onto one of the freighters, fly them into orbit, stay there till you receive instructions." He said to the general.
"Sir!" The general protested, "My place is here with you, not hiding with the weak!"
"Your place, general, is following my orders and protecting the weak." Saam reminded, irritated.
"Load a second freighter with high yield explosives, fuel, whatever you can find. Have it fly low over their camp. Make a hard landing about a mile off." Saam paused, working out the details, "Then transmit a signal, from the other freighter, begging them not to harm the women and children on the freighter."
David smiled, understanding the plan.
"When they get close enough." David said.
"We remote detonate." Saam finished.
"Commander! One of their escape freighters has crashed."
The commander looked at his display.
"They send a message to us, Commander." The soldier said. "It begs us not to harm their women and children."
A vicious grin enveloped the commander's face. A face that greatly resembled that of a reptile, scale-like plates covered his lower jaw and neck. A dark green pebble textured skin covered the rest of his head, no hair, like all Ruan-Yafar.
"Take half our force," the commander barked, "Kill every one on that freighter, save Prince Saam himself."
Binoculars pressed close to his face, Saam watched from the roof of the tall palace. David, Malcolm, and what was left of the security force of the palace stood behind him, waiting in silence.
"About 40 Ruan-Yafar have broken off and are heading toward the freighter." Saam said, still looking.
Behind him the men strapped on their armor and sharpened their swords.
"David," Saam said, reaching out his hand, "Do you have the remote?"
David placed the remote in Saam's hand. Saam looked through the lenses, thumb poised over the button, his hand shaking ever so slightly.
Saam pushed the button, a moment later a huge ball of fire appeared on the horizon, Saam put down the binoculars.
"My friends," He said, "This is a day I never thought would come. We have been attacked without warning. We are outnumbered, under armed and unlikely to see victory today. I would dare not ask you to fight for me. Will you fight beside me?"
"We will," David said, stepping forward and handing the prince a sword.
The commander was furious. His tail lashed back and forth violently.
"We are tricked!" He screamed, "This is turning into an unprofitable venture!"
"Commander," Another spoke, "The prince and about 10 others approach, they carry bows, arrows, swords and shields."
The commander frowned, looking for an excuse to slap this fool for interrupting his rant.
"Are there any others left in the palace?" He asked
"No, scans say the palace is empty."
"Good," The commander said, "inform the council, and prepare for battle."
"They are coming out to meet us." David said, marching side by side with the other men.
"Yes," Malcolm said, "They outnumber us four to one. Why should they fear us."
Saam held up his right hand and stopped, signaling the rest of them. He knelt down and placed a small metal sphere on the ground.
"This," He said, activating the device, "will even the playing grounds."
Everything outside a hundred foot circle took on a slight blue tint. The force field was active, just in time too. A few seconds later they heard the high-pitched pings of weapon fire hitting the shield.
As the Ruan-Yafar crested the hill their huge shapes could be made out. Each of them, about nine foot tall, loomed like monsters of old. They held guns in their claw-like hands and their beady eyes stared straight ahead.
The Ruan-Yafar, still over a hundred feet away from the force field's edge, looked like a small forest of trees, David strung his bow and notched an arrow. He pulled it back pointing up and at the advancing army.
"Don't waste your arrows," Malcolm said, "No one could hit them at that distance."
David took careful aim and then released. He turned his head and looked at Malcolm, all the while the arrow arched through the air. Malcolm's expression changed from disapproval to one of awe as a distant figure collapsed to the ground.
"Amazing," Malcolm said, eyes bulging not believing the sight.
David smiled and notched another arrow.
The commander jumped as another soldier fell at his side, he could tell the men were nervous. They were only feet from the force field.
"Charge them!" He yelled.
The army ran and stepped easily through the force field. Almost in unison all the soldiers pointed and fired their weapons. Nothing happened. The guns made a slight electronic crackling noise. The shield was disrupting their guns.
The commander threw down his gun in disgust and in one motion pulled the blade off his back. It was about five feet long and an arc shape, its edge a jagged steel.
"Use your blades men!" He yelled, running toward the prince's army.
The quiet countryside turned quickly into a vicious battle field. Screams and war cries were deafening. Sparks flew as blades skirted one another. Blood stained the black soil.
After what seemed like hours of fighting only three were left Prince Saam, David, and Malcolm, shoulders pressed together in a tight triangle, surrounded by Ruan-Yafar.
"Put your weapons down!" The Ruan-Yafar commander bellowed.
After a moment of pause Saam dropped his weapon, then David and Malcolm did the same.
The commander walked proudly around the three warriors. He paused in front of David and picked up his bow.
"You do a lot of damage with this." He hissed.
David just glared.
The commander leaned close to him. David was overwhelmed by the disgusting smell.
"You see this?" The commander pointed at his shoulder where an arrow protruded and orange blood oozed.
"I didn't do that." David said, "Mine would have went here," He touched the center of the commander's forehead.
The commander took an angry breath in, enraged by David's defiance. He grabbed the arrow and ripped it out of his arm.
David swallowed hard, he had a pretty good idea where this was going.
The Ruan-Yafar commander notched his arrow and pulled back, pointing it at David's chest.
"Beg for you life." The commander hissed.
David stared for a moment and then spoke.
"I beg nothing of you, fool, know that I will kill you most horrib-"
David's words were cut short, he fell to the ground, arrow through his chest.
"NOOOOO!" Saam screamed, reaching down for his sword. He never reached it, he was clubbed over the head with the flat of one of the soldier's blades and knocked unconscious.
Saam opened his eyes, they slowly adjusted to the darkness. He was chained to a cold stone wall, spread eagle, stripped of most of his clothes. Other than his shorts the only thing Saam had on was a round medallion, a symbol held by the ruler Eiraithia. His head throbbed, iron fetters dug into his wrists and ankles. A single Ruan-Yafar guard stood nearby.
Saam surveyed the room, he knew it well. This was the basement of the palace, an old dungeon, never used. He heard footsteps coming down the stairs. The Ruan-Yafar soldier moved out of the way as a man in a dark cloak approached. He stood back a few feet from Saam, probably trying to see if he was awake. He held a lantern up to Saam's face.
Saam glared with as much spite as he could muster. The man let out a stifled laugh, he turned around and left the room.
The man returned with five other men all wearing dark cloaks. They stood in an arc all around Saam. In unison they took down their hoods.
"Prince Saam," A dark hair man said, "You know who we are."
Saam remained silent.
The man motioned to the Ruan-Yafar guard. The guard walked over, clenching a fist almost the size of Saam's head, and buried it in Saam's stomach.
He gasped and coughed, trying to double over but unable to because of his restraints.
The man in the dark cloak held up his hand, signaling the guard to back off.
"By now, young prince, we would thought you would have learned that opposing us brings pain. Perhaps you are a slow learner."
"Whatever you want," Saam said, finally catching his breath, "I won't give it to you."
They all laughed, it was a dark sound, evil and stomach turning. After the laughter stopped the dark haired man stepped forward.
"The only thing I want," He said, taking hold of the medallion that hung from Saam's neck, "Is for you to be awake for this moment." He lifted it off Saam's chest, and off of his neck. He looked at it smiling deeply. Then he put it on. The other council members laughed as Saam clenched his teeth and fought back the tears that welled up in his eyes.
The dark haired man leaned very close, less than an inch from Saam's face, he grabbed hold of Saam's hair.
"No one defies the council!" He shouted and then slammed Saam's head into the stone wall.
His view of the dungeon and the laughing men in dark cloaks faded to unconsciousness. A welcome sight.