Chapter Seven: Trance

They will pay!

They will pay with their lives!

All that they hold dear, I will crush. Every town, every beautiful sight, every building. Every man, woman, and child. Every last one of their filthy egg sacs! I will crush them all. I will make them pay!

I look down at Kalarai’s beautiful but broken body. His killer lies dead next to him, and yet I feel no satisfaction in the bug’s death. Its death cannot bring back my beloved. Nothing can. He will live on in my mind and in my heart, and his memory will be the fire with which my vengeance burns.

I pick up my second’s limp body and rush to the eastern entrance. Monrenth is the first to meet me. His eyes are wide as he realizes what’s happened.

“Oh no. No, no, no…”

Monrenth buries his head in his hands and fights back tears in spite of the battle raging on around us. He looks at me with indignation in his eyes, awaiting some response from me. I stare into his burning eyes. “The Groyin who did this is dead. Kala’s wounds were too great, though. I… did not allow him to suffer, Monrenth.”

“Thank you, Dominus. He… will not have died in vain, then. We will make them pay.” My second’s voice is shaky.

“I’m taking him inside. We will have our vengeance, Monrenth. I swear it. Support the fire team from the catwalk, but be careful. I won’t lose you, too.” I give a firm nod to him before he takes off. Hurrying, I head around the building and back inside. One of the lessers winces as he sees me with Kalarai’s body, but he motions me in the direction where other fallen have been taken. I lay Kalarai’s body down next to the rest of them. He’s the fourth dead in this attack.

I focus my mind on Alim Karuis and I can only feel stress. Karuis, how goes the battle on your side? We’ve sustained losses here… my Kalarai. I sigh as I touch my second’s cold cheek one more time before returning to the fight. I check my ammunition and sprint towards the catwalk.

We’ve lost two. I am sorry to hear of Kalarai, but we must mourn later.

I know. We must abandon this position soon, Karuis. If we can break their ranks and force a retreat again, we need to fall back to the caves we found in the mountain range. As I climb the ladder to the catwalk, I realize that… this is all my fault. I’ve tried my best to be the yarl that my family deserves, and I think I’ve done well. At least, I’ve done well up until now. Did I push things too aggressively? No… this isn’t the first time I’ve led men into battle. These things happen. It just hurts more when it’s someone you love that pays the price.

I growl as I take aim and fire at one of the foul insects in the distance. I can’t help but to think of Kalarai earlier. Skillfully, he dispatched bug after bug, never hesitating. I think back to the scene as I lined up the shot on his killer. The damned thing was looking down on my beloved. I know not what was said, but I could feel Kalarai’s mind racing. I… cannot believe that he would beg for his life. That wasn’t like him. Was the Groyin gloating? Just what was going on in Kala’s final moments?

I suppose I’ll never know.

I begin to fall into a trance with each pull of the trigger. The familiar chorus of men battling surrounds me. The gunfire builds to a crescendo that follows the beat of the distinct thumps of the anti-air weaponry. Growling still, I fire again and again and again. One after another, they fall. Eventually, the fiends begin to disperse.

When the last of the bugs is out of my weapon’s range, I flip the safety and climb down the ladder. I realize that I’d lost track of the men around me in my trance. Kalarai and the three others from earlier are now joined by five more. This is the costliest battle we’ve been in since we attempted to take this moon.

This is war. It is a universal constant. For all that my kind revels in the art of combat, we do not take joy in the fact that war is a necessity. We do not kill to flaunt our power, but we will kill to bring order and unity. One day, we will lay down our weapons of war and know that we have done our part to establish a new universal peace. We may lose men, but we will never lose the war.

Kalarai, I’m sorry. I should have been able to do more, but I swear, your death will not be in vain.