“What are you DOING here?”
For over seven hundred years, the chambers of the Tavran Grand Palace of Colour had been free of Temthan soldiers. Decades of peace and sustainability were only moments away from potentially being destroyed.
Aspras, Arhontas and leader of the Tavrans, stood his ground as Temthan warriors approached from every angle. By his side were his fellow Temthan diplomats, a handful of bodyguards and his four elite soldiers, the Heroes of Tekhroma.
Everything had happened so quickly, in just a few short hours, the Temthans had crashed ships through the city walls of Barva, and before anyone could work out what was going on, a Temthan army had stormed through the city, mowing down Temthan guards and marching straight into the Grand Palace.
“Arhon, what do you want us to do?” Kitrin asked as he readied his shield and gunblade.
“We should attack! Fight until-” Nikos’s warcry was interrupted by the oldest of the Heroes, Galazin.
“Their ranks open up. If they wanted us dead, they would have killed us already…” the bright blue Tavran growled.
Aspras nodded in agreement. He raised his hand, silencing the Tavrans around him. The Temthan soldiers lowered their weapons, making way for an elegantly-dressed female, wearing a halo-like crown. Her clothes were made of simple wraps of translucent fabric, which only at first glance appeared to hide her breasts and other sexual parts.
“Arhontas Aspras, it is nice to see you again!” the Temthan grinned, teeth sticking out of her jaw.
“Neraida…” Aspras spat.
“Empress Neraida, to you, silly!” Neraida smiled.
“Last time I saw you, you were draped around the legs of your previous empress. Preaching your spiteful religious beliefs…” Aspras sighed. “Now, you have brutally murdered all your opposition. I assume you wish to spread your beliefs further. Breaking our old deals.”
Neraida continued to smile as another Temthan, obviously male, approached behind her.
“No, not to break our deals…” Lenik, Emperor of the Temthans, gently growled as he put his arms around Neraida. “We are here to make new deals. Deals beneficial to us all.”
“They are here to spread falsehoods!” Galazin interrupted. “Your corrupt Dragon of Time. Fake promises, as always.”
Both Neraida and Lenik decided to ignore the Tekhroma Hero and his outburst.
“I love the way non-believers always call them fake. Makes me smile when we prove them wrong…” Neraida’s smile only grew. “Unlike our previous beliefs, this one… this one is grounded in genuine blessings. Lenik, please hand me your blade…”
Lenik did as he was asked, removing the dagger from his cloth belt. Neraida took the blade and held it to her wrist. She carefully cut into her arm, but as she did so, her body almost instantly healed any injuries she’d made.
“A Deitic blessed you with fast healing. Why does this mean you must break our deal?” Aspras growled.
“Because we want to give you our immortality!” Lenik explained, unable to comprehend why these Tavrans were not falling in line, like they had all those centuries ago. “This is not like before. This is the real deal. The Whenvern will bless us all. All he asks in return are our souls. Which, if you do not mind me pointing out, you Tavrans do not believe you have.”
Aspras sighed. He looked up at his Tekhroma Heroes, who all seemed concerned. But they all knew Aspras had little choice but to comply. As strong as the Tavrans were, it was three hundred million against billions and billions of Temthans, not to mention their fledgling races. A war would destroy them, and Aspras could not face having his people tortured, raped and killed. Not over petty beliefs.
“We change the deal. We set up temples for your Time Dragon. We have weekly sermons towards your Time Dragon. In return, you leave us alone. As you did before with your old ways. The rest of the deal remains the same. Is this suitable?”
Neraida’s smile turned into a large grin. “That will do perfectly. We will leave a small force here, to make sure that you comply with your half of the deal. We will also leave a hundred Raptorans and Raptesses, to teach you our new ways. I think we can all agree that this deal is better than any alternatives, yes?”
“Yes, Empress…” Aspras sighed. He hated himself for giving in like this. He could feel anger clawing at this throat. He wanted to send out his army, his Heroes, kill them all. But that would only get them killed instead.
“Is that everything?” Neraida turned to Lenik.
“I believe so, my dearest.”
“Very well. We shall let you have your day back. Sorry about the city walls, Aspras!” Neraida’s grin was so smug, it was all Aspras could do to not hit her. The Emperor and Empress both spun around and disappeared into the ranks of Temthan soldiers. As they did so, the soldiers all followed, returning to their ships.
Once the Temthans had left, Aspras threw down his blade.
“I am not worthy of Tavran leadership…”
To his surprise though, the Tekhroma stood up behind him.
“You minimized casualties. No one else has to die now,” Mauvan tried to be optimistic.
“We can just pretend. Like we’ve always done!” Kitrin added. “The deal is no different. Different religion, same old pretending. Maybe in seven hundred years, they’ll give up. Stop bothering us with their silly religions.”
“Or maybe we can do something now…” Aspras muttered under his breath, before turning his attention back to the Tekhroma. “You four. I have a mission for you. I need you to find the Gold-Tongue. Perhaps he will be able to help us…”