Images flashing so quickly, one blurred into the next. Some as familiar as his own arm, others like a distance memory of another. As if he were reliving someone else’s life before switching yet to another, then back to his. Before he could catch his breath the images would carry him away again, spinning wildly. The only constant were a pair of hazel eyes that looked at him with such love that his very heart hurt from a loss he did not understand. Sometimes she lay in his arms, content and safe. Another she lay in someone else’s. Someone he felt he knew as if he were his own brother. There she to was content, but he felt as if there was a hole in his soul. One that only those hazel eyes could fill.
Soon those foreign memories began to override those of his wife and daughter, pushing them to the side as if they were of no consequence. The harder he tried to hold onto them, the quicker they slipped away. Like sand through his fingers. Wars he had never fought in, peace he never understood. Beautiful places he had never seen that left him breathless. Barren rock as far as the eye could see, desolate plains with winds filled with sand that could scour the very skin from your bones. Hell in its true form.
When Tanis woke, he was drenched with sweat and in a room he had never seen before. A strange shiny surface made up the walls. Some sort of light came from the edges of the ceiling, illuminating the dim room. A strange thin material covered him, silky soft, as were the pillows at his head. There were voices, hush and harried. A female voice desperate in her fear because he was not healing fast enough. That someone called the emperor would be furious if his fever did not break and he did not wake soon. Another, deeper, calmer, voice assuring the female that all would be good. Somehow they knew he was a healer, and that his body would not allow him to die. Not if the wounds were not fatal, and the blow Tanis receive to his head was not fatal.
Where was he?
He tried to remember the last thing he saw. It was a pair of pale blue eyes in a face that he had never seen before yet seemed familiar. Those eyes held curiosity and behind that a lot of fear. Power radiated off that being, so Tanis had no idea why he would fear him. Then images that felt fresh, new, as if they were happening as he lay on the floor seen through beautiful hazel eyes assaulted him. Legs, arms, bruising fingertips, pain, pleasure, a hunger that felt as if it would never be satiated, not for food, but for what those surrounding her bodies could give her. A circle of pain and pleasure, never ending unless they let go of life itself. That above all else had frightened Tanis. The one who belonged to those hazel eyes was losing their will to live. Somewhere deep inside Tanis, he recognized who that feeling belonged to, and to lose her when he was so close to holding her in his arms again clutched his heart painfully.
All of those images, the emotions, jumped from him to the being who touched him and the sudden clarity of who he was, what he was, almost sent Tanis into oblivion, but he fought it off because he had to warn the male doubled over in front of him.
“He’s awake!” the female cried in relief, interrupting Tanis’s thoughts.
Turning his head, he sought out the source of the voice. She seemed young, and the white uniform she wore was very unflattering to her slightly plump body, hugging in places that only emphasized that plumpness. Her brown eyes matched her brown hair that was braided away from her face in rows and held back by a band at the base of her neck. He only knew this because some of the strands fell over her shoulder. Her light brown skin was foreign to Tanis. He had never seen anyone with that color skin, but it was the other physician that truly alarmed him. That person, being, demon – Tanis was not sure what he was looking at – was a deep purple bordering on black. The red eyes and pointed ears that peeked out of shocking red hair only convince Tanis that his assessment of demon was true. When the creature smiled pointed teeth at him, he shrieked and scrambled backwards, falling off the other side of the bed with a loud thump.
“Oh my,” someone exclaimed mildly.
There was a long suffering sigh. “Really, Addy. How many times must I remind you not to smile at the patients. Especially the ones who are visiting.”
“I was merely trying to be friendly,” Addy pouted.
“There is nothing friendly about pointed teeth,” the other scolded.
Tanis lay on his back, trying to will the world to stop spinning. While most of his injuries were healed, his head was still tender and the jar from the fall had not help things. Neither had that embarrassing shriek. Did that really come out of his mouth. Way to make a first impression.
The dark skin female popped her head into his view, her smile gentle and without pointed teeth. “Sorry about that,” she apologized. “Addy keeps forgetting that not everyone is like her, but she’s harmless. She only eats every few days, and she had a huge breakfast this morning of raw dragonia and some fish native to her world. I was with her so I know she ate her fill.”
Was this suppose to make him feel better? What hell had he been dragged into? The only response that Tanis could muster was rapid blinking of his wide eyes.
“Come on, then,” the girl coaxed coming around the end of the bed to stand before him, holding out her hand. “My name is Fotina. I am so glad you are awake because we need to get you ready for the ceremony.” She gave him an appraising look, one eyebrow raised high on her forehead, and when she continued her voice had dropped a few octaves and sounded more sultry than cheerful. “And as much as I am enjoying the view, the emperor would rather you go clothed.”
With a quick glance, Tanis realized he wasn’t wearing any clothes. A quick grab and yank, and the thin material that was half on and off the bed was covering the more embarrassing parts.
She gave that long suffering sigh again, only this time it was tinged with regret. “If only we had time…”
“Tina!” Addy admonished, slapping her on the shoulder as she passed her by. “Put in back in the pants, girl, or you’ll lose more than your head.”
Shaking his head at the weirdness of the conversation, Tanis allowed the two females to help him to his feet then to the edge of the bed, where he sat down gratefully.
“Where am I?” he asked hoarsely, his head in his hands.
“You are on the star cruiser Rising Tempest,” Addy answered.
“Look at me,” Fotina ordered gently.
Tanis raised his head to see her knelt in front of him, that same friendly smile on her face.
“I need to check your eyes for any sign of damage,” she explained holding up a small metal wand that held light. When she saw Tanis’s eyes narrow in suspicion, her smile widened. Taking the light, she flashed it on her hand. “See. It won’t hurt, unless there is damage. Then it might not help any headache you may have.” To show him, she flashed it in her eyes. When she seemed unharmed, he grudgingly allowed her to do the same to him.
When the light hit his eyes, the images he had seen earlier came crashing back, engulfing his senses. When they cleared, he was staring up at the ceiling on his back and both Addy and Fotina staring down at him, frowning. He also knew that the female who was being abused was somewhere on this star cruiser, whatever the hell that was.
“What happened?” Fotina asked.
Tanis pushed himself up off the bed.
“Whoa,” Addy cautioned, standing in front of Tanis with her hands on his chest. “Just where do you think you are going?”
“I have to find her,” he answered hoarsely.
“Find who?” Fotina asked.
Tanis opened his mouth to answer then closed it. Who was he looking for? In all the images, there had never been a name attached to those hazel eyes. Only different shapes of faces.
“I don’t know,” Tanis frowned. The world spun and he sat down hard on the bed, bouncing. “All I know is she is on this ship and I have to find her before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?” Addy asked.
“To save her,” Tanis whispered looking up at them.
The two females looked at each other and something passed between them. Some knowledge.
“You know who she is,” Tanis accused standing. Addy promptly pushed him back down on the bed.
“Hold on there, sparky,” she chided. “You aren’t going anywhere. Not without an escort, and certainly not without clothes.
Tanis decided she had a point, so after he has washed the blood and grime of Maura’s dungeons off him, he allowed the two healers to help him into the strange clothing that seemed to be common. Only instead of white, his were black. Somewhere in the middle of lacing up the strange shoes, he asked Fotina, “What is a sparky?”
Fotina laughed. “Just some slang that Addy picked up on some small planet we visited.”
“Didn’t you know? A star cruiser is a ship that travels in the stars between worlds.”
Tanis sat on the bed unable to wrap his mind around what he had just learned. A ship that travels through the stars? He once again asked the questions that no one seemed to answer to his satisfaction.
Where the hell was he and why was he here?
It seemed forever before an escort arrived, which gave him time to heal the rest of his wounds, but instead of allowing Tanis to look for the female that was haunting his every thought, he was escorted through the strange metal halls to what he was told was the throne room. Finally something he understood. It still did not ease his fear the further he traveled through the strange city. He’d never seen anything like it before. Smooth metal panels with no handles slid open without a word leading into rooms. Lights turned on the moment you stepped into a room. The room they called a bathroom, where they showed him how to work the strange buttons that caused hot water to flow in abundance from a metal disk embedded in the ceiling. There was a magic wall they had called a replicator that when told what you wanted to eat or drink within seconds materialized on the small shelf embedded in the wall. Most of the people he saw hurrying up and down the halls wore something in their ear with a long slim metal piece that reached down their cheek, and when they talked into it apparently someone talked back. They called it technology, a word Tanis did not know or understand. What he did know was that nothing on Krynn prepared him for what he had experienced since he was taken from his home world. And when they passed a row of windows and he saw the blackness of space dotted with the stars of the heavens and his planet far below them, he stopped in awe. Yet there was something familiar about it.
Another memory through someone else’s eyes, yet familiar somehow. Looking out a window similar to the one he stared out now, only the stars were stretched into streaming lights. He was on a much smaller ship, speeding through space, running from something. Or was it running to something? Whichever it was, the tension in his body was high, his muscles taunt. What they were doing was risky, but it was the only thing he could think of to keep her safe.
Hands smoothed around his waist and up his chest. A feminine body pressed against his back as her arms tighten around him, holding him close, soothing him. Closing his eyes, he hugged those arms to him and relaxed into the embrace. Within those arms he felt powerful, complete. He felt as if nothing could harm them, which was a lie. Someone could harm them, could harm her, and he had to make sure that never happened.
“Why are you so tense?” she asked. “He cannot find us here.”
Tanis opened his eyes to stare out at the streaking stars. “You are a magnet to him. No matter where we go, he will find you. It is only a matter of time.” He turned in her arms to stare down into hazel eyes warm with love. Cupping her cheek, he gently brushed his lips with hers. “I cannot allow him to touch you. Not after what he has done,” he breathed resting his forehead against hers.
She sighed. “That is what I don’t understand. Why would he do such a thing? Never in all our lives has he ever done any harm to me, yet now…,” she struggled to put into words what she knew was true. Opening her eyes, she looked up at him with worry and fear. “It is as if he sold his soul to the devil himself.”
Tanis smiled at her metaphor. “You spent too much time on that backwards little planet,” he chided. “Their version of evil does not exist. It is only fairytale and myth to scare their weak into following the power hungry zealots.”
“Where that maybe true, you know as well as I that there is darkness in every corner of the universe. That it prays on the weak, promises them riches and immortality if they do its evil bidding. No matter what you call it, it is there. Waiting.”
“True,” Tanis sighed, “and I fear you are right. Somehow it has snared our brother, tipping the scales in its favor. I do not know how to….”
The ship rocked violently, sending them slamming into the glass wall. Just as suddenly it stopped, as if a hand grabbed it, yanking to a standstill. It threw them through the air, down the hall. They landed on the floor sliding a few more feet before stopping against another wall.
“What the hell was that?” Tanis snarled pushing himself shakily to his feet. Glancing outside he saw they were at a complete stop as the stars were no longer streaking by and there was the blackness of space looming before him.
“I don’t know,” she groaned rolling over onto her back, “but it hurt.”
A male dressed in white ran around the corner towards them, relief on his face when he saw they were alright. “Sir!” he called as Tanis helped her to her feet. “We’ve been hit!”
“By what?” he asked.
“Them,” the male answered pointing out the window.
They turned to see a massive black ship looming before them. Not their brother’s ship, but one just and deadly. Tanis had time to turn towards the woman beside him and utter, “I love you,” before the world turned fiery red.
Suddenly Tanis was standing on the deck of the star cruiser staring out at his home world. The sudden change was disorienting, and he had to grab onto the wall to keep from falling.
“Pretty impressive, is it not?” the elder who introduced himself as Commander Wells said stepping up beside him to stare out the window, misinterpreting Tanis reaction as fear of where they were.
“Who are you people?” Tanis whispered, his voice shaky.
Commander Wells moved his gaze to Tanis, his eyes showing humor as he answered calmly, “We are not so different from you.”
“I beg to differ,” Tanis scoffed pointing at his planet. “We cannot travel the heavens. You have this…technology that we do not.” Which was true, but it did not explain why at the same time it seemed familiar.
“We did not always have these…luxuries. Once, we were like you. Living in the dirt, off the land. We have just learned over the years how to make and use what was giving to us, as your world will one day.”
Tanis found that hard to believe. Looking back out at his planet, an emotion not his own engulfed him, making him stumble once again against the cold clear surface. An overwhelming sense of loss, of desire to end the pain. Surrounding that emotion were others that were desperate to keep whoever was willing themselves to die to live. The urge to find that person, that…female flared within him. Tanis felt if he could only see her, touch her, he could somehow heal her, protect her. That she was some vital part of his existence he needed to survive, but that was impossible. Tanis had not even seen the female so how could he feel as if he needed her like he needed air to breathe.
Wanting to understand, Tanis tentatively reached out to see if he could figure out what it was that drew him to her, if she was the same female that he saw in those strange memories. Just as the edges of his mind touched hers, something powerful slammed into his brain sending him reeling. The guards behind him caught Tanis before he hit the floor easing him down.
Commander Wells tsked him as if he were an errant child. The condescending tone did nothing to alleviate the irritation that bloomed inside Tanis. He was tired of being treated as if he were something lesser. He was a healer and a…what was he? Frowning, he tried to grasp the words that kept alluding him. Somehow he knew, if he could only grasp them, everything would become clear.
“You were trying to find her, weren’t you?” Wells chided squatting down next to the reeling healer. “You were warned about using your powers without the express permission of the emperor and now suffer the consequences for disobeying.”
“I do not know your emperor and owe him no allegiance,” Tanis hissed holding his head in his hands. It was if a hot knife had been shoved into his brain and continued to burn.
Using his thumb and pointer finger, Wells rubbed his eyes and sighed wearily. He had one stubborn male to deal with already. He did not need another. With a fair amount of irritation in his expression, he said in a calm tone he had learned in the years dealing with Aden’s mood swings, “A word of advice, son. The sooner you accept your fate, the less she will suffer for it.”
“Who will suffer?” Tanis snapped glaring at the male. “Why won’t anyone tell me why I am here? Who this female is?”
“You can sense her, can’t you,” a familiar voice breathed behind him.
Tanis turned his head to see the young lord that was on the planet. The one come to collect him and bring him here. Again the sense of familiarity slammed into him, but it was different than the female. She he felt as if he had known far longer than his short lifetime. This male had something familiar about in him his features, the feel of him. As if he was a part of Tanis, which would be impossible because Tanis had never met him before and they were from two completely different worlds. Yet.
Aden stopped before Tanis, staring thoughtfully down at him. His emotions were mixed and all over the place. On one hand he wanted to kill the bastard before him because he meant the end of his world. On the other, he knew he could not. Not so much because his master would be furious, but because he knew what this male was to Kara, and he would do everything in his power to see no harm came to her. Unfortunately, there had been very little in his power these last years.
“You sensed her on the planet. You knew what was happening to her,” Aden finished.
Tanis frowned up at him. What was he talking about? Did he mean the female he felt dying?
“Will you tell me who she is and why she is haunting me?” he asked.
“No,” Aden answered.
“Because it is not time,” he answered absently. Without another word, the young lord turned and continued down the hall. “Do not be late,” he ordered before disappearing through a door.
“Yes, my lord,” Wells acknowledged. Turning to the men, he ordered, “Get him up.”
As two of the guards dragged Tanis to his feet, Commander Wells stared at the door Aden had disappeared through, thinking about the barely controlled rage simmering under the young lords calm façade. He knew Aden well enough to know it was his way of hiding his fear of what was to come. God only knew what would happen once the ceremony began. He managed to suppress the shudder that the memory of what Aden had become when Kara had been sent away. What would happen to him when she was completely ripped from him.
“Be glad the emperor has need of you or you would be dead right now,” Wells commented wearily, making a show of straightening the cuffs at his wrists so Tanis would know he was not important enough to warrant the commander’s full attention.
“Why does he hate me?” Tanis asked his breathing still ragged as he shrugged the guards off. “I have done nothing to him.”
“It is not what you have done, but what you will do,” the commander answered ominously, the smile sliding from his lips. When Tanis opened his mouth to retort, Wells cut him off. Repeating once again, “It will all become clear soon.” Ignoring the male’s narrowing eyes full of frustration, Well motioned the guards to follow.
Tanis stood unmoving, his anger being quickly replaced with trepidation as the memory of the female’s pain filled him. What would this emperor do to him? The question went unanswered as one of the guards shoved him forward. Glaring at him, Tanis followed the commander into the unknown.
Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes