Tale – The Captured Castle

“How many?”

“Forty, Feyar.”

“Any deaths?”

“No. Just injuries.”

“And the target?”

“That… is rather hard to explain…”

Normally, Deyar would have been thankful for still being an active Ksa. He considered his duties as a member of the Arbiters to be one of the most important jobs around. So when Feyar sent the entire R-Class to a mysterious fortress on the skirts of Hertany, Portalia, Deyar was very confused.

He never thought that they would be facing an army of mind-controlled Ksa.

“Forty isn’t too bad. With many Ksa leaving home and going to neutral lands, I would have expected him to have recruited far more. We are… programmed to serve him, after all.”

“It was mostly N-Class and U-Class Ksa,” a voice echoed over Deyar’s radio. It was Seyar, the team’s medic. “Traditionalists. A handful of D- and L-Class Ksa too. Any of us would have jumped at the chance to serve Photeianos. I am thankful that the younger K, S and V-Classes all knew to stay well away.”

“They had not been approached yet,” Feyar tutted. “The majority of them are serving their respective generals’ legions, there was no way to. Now, explain what happened to the target.”

Deyar sighed, then closed his eyes. He didn’t feel sad or scared or anything. It was just to build a clearer image in his memory.

The majority of the R-Class had stood at the entrance, calmly waiting to be let in. Feyar and Ohmyar and Ioar had remained further way, with Ioar routing comms between them. They’d always had their own backup system, just in case, and here it was definitely needed. The second those huge, heavy doors opened, a horrible static ruined their telepathic link.

The team was greeted by Ayvee-En, the N-Class leader who had replaced Thitavee-En a while back. Behind him were ten Ksa, all wearing armour that obscured both their looks and their vision.

“We asked whether Photeianos was present and whether we could speak to him,” Deyar explained. “They refused. They refused even when we showed them our warrant to search the castle.”

“That was when our camera feed cut out, yes?” Feyar asked.

“Yes. We asked again, threatening the use of force, and Ayvee-En relented, but he insisted on everyone following us.”

The walls were bare and empty. As if they’d removed everything that made the place look vaguely comfortable. The entire castle reminded me of something from a Cassid fantasy horror film. Everything culminated into a massive spiral staircase that twisted down into a dark pit. At the bottom was a room that looked like the fanciest of Thrakian nests. Gold everywhere. Bones too.

“Rethan bones?”

“We’ll have to test that,” Seyar’s voice crackled on the radio. “But from the looks of things, it’s a mixture of life. Might have a multi-species murder case here.”

“Well, we pretended to ignore that. We were there for Photeianos. We showed him the official documents requesting he turn himself in. We showed him our arrest warrants. We did everything by the books.”

After that, things got hazy. Deyar remembered all the other Ksa turning on them. The R-Class of course fought back. Each one of them had brought a Dontric Darter, a type of gun ONLY given to the R-Class, used exclusively to take out other Ksa.

Their target was Photeianos though, and he was in the middle of… something. He was talking to a silver pool of water in what looked like a gold-plated bird bath, muttering strange words that only vaguely made sense.

“And that was when the… spirits… appeared?”

“No. Just the first one…” Deyar rubbed his eyes, trying to refocus. “We were mostly busy trying to put our fellow Ksa to sleep. They were brainwashed. They didn’t want to harm us, they were trying not to. This spirit though, it was as if it had followed us!”

“Like a ghost?”

“It was somewhat solid. Almost like a living shadow, with gold armour on it. Honestly it looked a bit like a Threan-type Rethan. Would have mistaken it for one had it not roared the way it did.”

Deyar closed his eyes again. The sight of the spirit was still there. As it flew by, it dragged its claws over the attacking Ksa, all of them falling asleep instantly. What was more unusual was that Photeianos was starting to panic. He’d grabbed a gun and was firing wildly at the spirit.

“Elar and myself threw some shields up to protect the fallen Ksa, but it was a stone cylinder of a room. Those bullets ricocheted. It was a stolen Cassid weapon, not a standard laser rifle or gun staff. That’s where Emar’s little injury came from.”

“So what about the other being?”

“I…” Deyar thought back. Everything had started to get blurry. A second being, an arm or something, exploded out of the silver water, reaching for Photeianos. “We all saw what it was doing. It was going to drag Photeianos into the puddle, pull him away.”

The black and gold spirit, it screeched and threw something. A Rethan gun staff. A ghostly, black one. It pierced Photeianos in the shoulder. But the first spirit hadn’t been fast enough. The large, silvery hand pulled Photeianos into the puddle and promptly disappeared.

“By the time we got to the bottom, Photeianos was gone. So was the water. The little basin was empty. The first spirit lingered briefly, I think it was checking on us. Then it flew out, via the way we’d come in.”

“That explains the black thing I saw…” Ioar muttered as he walked by, interrupting. “That was weird. Either way, the Circle is going to be pissed when they find out about all this…”

Seyar’s voice echoed through his comms. “That is why Feyar is interviewing all of you. We need as much detail as possible, and with those forty Ksa all brainwashed and not remembering what happened, this makes the Arbiters look bad. Everyone is checked out here. I’m heading back to you to clear up.”

“So what now?” Deyar asked, feeling rather tired.

“We take this to the High General,” Feyar growled. “After that, I do not know…”