The nine most powerful members of the Rethan race sat calmly on their plain, wooden chairs, along a long, equally plain table. In the middle of the table sat the High General, Photeianos Photeianou. To his right sat Vice General Elkay Theanon and the three generals of the North: Rethais Rethianos, Lepidas Kapetanio-Ksifon and Emthion Matatheon. To his left sat the Keeper of the Libary Veeksiar Arkademon, and the three generals of the South: Rysos Teftanon, Lefterias Eletheriou and Omnos Somnenion. They all sat proudly, wearing their heavy, spiked armour, paper scattered all around them. None of them were armed, their weapons – swords, shields, daggers and gunstaffs, were all held in containers outside the room. There was no need for them here, these nine Retha were respected and had been in power for a long time, not to mention the fact that there were twenty seven Ksa – the generals’ personal bodyguards – standing outside the room.
Behind the Generals was a large one-way mirror, from which the entirety of Thre-Etas, the Rethan capital, was visible.
The lone entrance was barred by a single, wooden door that slowly creaked open. A Threan-type Rethan, Thitavee-en of the N-Class Ksa, asked if they were ready for their next meeting. A nod from Photeianos sent him scurrying out, allowing four Rethans to enter.
Immediately, Rethais and Elkay showed signs of alarm.
“Retvik?” Rethais asked, his eyes focused on the second tallest Rethan, clad in red and gold armour.
“Congratulations on your rise to power, brother…” Retvik tried to stretch, but his arms were bound by shackles, as were the rest of the Retha.
Rethais stood up. “How? You have been gone for so long and you return like this?”
Photeianos stood up, promptly forcing Rethais to sit down. He eyed the four Retha up and down. Retvik was a standard-looking Rethan, a former general before his disappearance. The second one was a Trehan-type, green with gunmetal armour and bright, nearly luminescent eyes, his arms wrapped with chainmail to stop him from unsheathing his arm-blades. The third was rather short, a young Threan-type, with black skin and bright yellow armour. This was the one Elkay had recognised, he had been one of his favourite Ksa.
The last barely looked like a Rethan, let alone an Ethran-type. Taller than Retvik but skinnier than the yellow Ksa. Its eyes were incredibly large and seemed to glitter, silver lines swirling across its irises. It had blue and grey skin, with matching silver and blue armour.
Photeianos glanced at each one once more, before turning his attention to the smallest one. “Rethan, what is your name?”
“Arkay Theanon, ser,” A snappy response. This one was used to being around generals. A marking on his neck, partially hidden by his chest-plate, proved that he was a Ksa.
“And how old are you?”
“Twenty three years old, ser.”
“Do you know why you have been brought here?”
Arkay hesitated briefly, trying to think of a response. “Because we have, according to those who arrested us, been AWOL for a long time and were rediscovered fighting off a large, black, gooey menace that threatened a small Rethan town in Hertany, Portalia.”
Veeksiar got up from his seat, carrying a long piece of paper. “Indeed, Arkay Theanon. Retvik Rethianos, Elksia Ksiou and yourself have been AWOL for twelve years, and with the unregistered Rethan here, were found having desecrated a Lanex tomb by a team of Vohran Kalsa warriors, resisted their arrest, fled to a small town then destroyed a large part of it while attacking a Zonta mass.” Arkay muttered something quickly under his breath, while Veeksiar carried on. “You in particular stabbed a Rethan infected by the Zonta mass and somehow managed to stop the infection from spreading, although you left him hospitalized. Should I continue, High General?”
Photeianos rolled his eyes. “I did not ask you to start, Keeper. But yes, your sudden reappearance has brought up a huge amount of questions, and I would rather not have all four of you rotting in jail cells or doing community service while we figure out what is going on.” Rethais raised a hand and Photeianos turned to face him. “What is it?”
“May I ask a question, High General?”
Rethais looked at the four Retha. “You were among the beings captured during the Vohran Abductation on Kolasi, back in 2013, yet none of you were among the returnees. Maybe we should start from there?”
Retvik smiled slightly. “Wise words, brother. But we were not captured by Vohra, nor did we manage to escape alongside everyone else. We held the barriers open so they could. Decisions were made and we remained.”
“If you were not captured by Vohra, as eyewitnesses stated, then who captured you?” Lepidas asked.
“We were captured by Kronospasts.” The tallest Rethan finally spoke. “They often shapeshift into the forms of Vohra. Deitics, particularly Kronospasts and Anexartitai, have been secretly capturing mortals for centuries, posing as Vohra, but normally in more discreet ways, rather than the accident back on Kolasi. The abductees only managed to escape because I helped them. None of us would be standing here had these three not come back for me.”
The generals muttered among themselves. Photeianos raised a hand to silence them. “So, nameless one, you are a Kronospast, posing as a Rethan. Perhaps you can explain more about all of this?”
“Former Kronospast. I call myself Tenuk these days.”
“Hm…” Photeianos paced in front of them, his wings furling and unfurling. “So you released the abductees. I am sure your superiors were not impressed.”
“No. After a short trial, I was sentenced to the Kronospast equivalent of death. Retvik, Elksia and Arkay managed to fight their way through and rescue me before all of my Deitic energy was drained. I realised they were special in ways that only I could understand at the time and used the last of my Kronokinetic energy to teleport us away. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we did not re-materialize in… present times.”
Again, the generals muttered among each other.
“It seems as though what happened to you four needs a proper investigation…” Omnos suggested. “Deitics are not supposed to interfere with us, not since the Dessaron Agreement.”
“I’m pretty sure we called it the Deitic and Mortal Exclusion Agreement…” Elksia muttered to Retvik. Retvik let a little smile sneak across his face, but tried to hide it. Unfortunately for him, Photeianos saw the smile.
“Retvik, Elksia, you both seem to know something and you are not sharing. Now, I have been rather calm, but we have a small crisis with the Zonta, with attacks increasing twentyfold during the time while you were away. If you have information, I would very much prefer if you shared it with us.”
The four Retha glanced at one another. Tenuk seemed unwilling to speak, but Elksia and Arkay both knew they couldn’t remain silent.
“We went back in time!” Arkay exclaimed, almost eagerly. “The Dessaron of legend are us. It turns out that the reason why they had no relatives or any trace of their existence back in TDR times is because any traces of a time traveller’s existence outside their proper time always erase themselves. Or something like that. We have only been back for like two days…”
Lefterias leaped up from his seat, making Arkay jump in shock. Tenuk pulled Arkay to his side, as if to protect him. “This is LUDICROUS. High General, these four are simply wasting our time. Making up pitiful excus-”
Photeianos spun around and glared at Lefterias. He didn’t need to say anything, the sneer on his jaws said everything. Lefterias quickly seated himself and shut up. The other generals did the same. Photeianos turned his attention back to the four Retha.
“That is a very unusual claim, little Ksa. How do you plan to back that up?”
Arkay struggled against his shackles. “Ser, that is a hard thing to back up, but we brought back with us the very weapons the Dessaron were depicted as using.”
“Or you could just look into our minds,” Retvik interrupted. “See for yourself the horrors we put ourselves through so you can all be free from Deitic control. I give you permission to do so, High General, and I am certain my friends do too.”
Elksia and Arkay both nodded. Tenuk shrugged, not sure whether anyvok would be able to see inside his former Deitic mind without screaming in terror. Photeianos though seemed uncertain.
“Elkay, be a dear and come look into Retvik’s mind for us.”
The Vice General wearily got up and drifted over to Retvik, sighing as he did so. He floated upwards so he was at eye level with the hulking Rethan and delicately put a clawed hand around Retvik’s right eye. Both Retha closed their eyes, but within just a couple of seconds, Elkay let go and fell back on his feet.
“By the Light…” Elkay stuttered and shivered, terrified by what he had seen. “H-How are you still alive?”
Retvik remained silent, his eyes still closed.
“What did you see, Elkay?”
“Pure horror. Pain. Suffering. Their claims are true, ser…” Elkay whispered, still struggling with what he had seen. He hesitantly wandered back to his seat, while Photeianos and the other generals pondered on what they should do. In front of them weren’t just four vok who had managed to take out a Zonta mass. They were… something else.
“Do you understand now?” Tenuk taunted. “Do you understand what you are dealing with?”
The High General strode back to the table, and the generals began quietly chatting with one another, discussing their thoughts, keeping their voices down. Meanwhile, the four Retha remained silent, unsure of their fates.
Finally, Veeksiar stood up. They’d made a decision.
“Retvik Rethianos, Arkay Theanon, Elksia Ksiou, Tenuk…” the Keeper announced, the strength having faded from his voice. “You are to remain here, under laboratory conditions, while we study you and find out what you are truly capable of. Until we are sure that you are not a threat and how you can assist the Retha, you will remain in captivity, or under the supervision of one of us generals.”
“So your plan is to imprison us forever?” Elksia growled.
“No,” Photeianos explained. “We just want to know what you are capable of.” The High General whistled, calling for his guards. Four N-Class Ksa appeared at the doorway, ready to take the visibly upset Retha away. “Ksa, take these four Retha to the R&E Cells. The High General and the Keeper will accompany you.”
As the Retha left, Retvik tried to call out to the generals, feelings of betrayal bubbling in his throat. “Why are you doing this?” he begged.
“What else would you do with dangerous beings such as yourselves?” Photeianos sighed as the doors closed behind them. “After all, you four are murderers of Deitics. God-killers, if you will.”