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THE BEGINNING: BARGAINS AND BETRAYAL
The wind howled and whistled through the trees. The nerve jangling noise combined with the crashing, foaming surf to block all other sounds. The man watched the tide swirling closer with each wave to the rocks where he stood. Even through the darkness he saw the whitecaps as they crashed against the large boulders thrusting toward the moon brightened sky.
Herma checked up and down the desolate stretch of beach he'd chosen for this meeting. The body of water protected his back from the approach of spies and the white sand would reveal anyone stalking him from the land side.
Stifling a shiver of distaste, Herma admitted he wanted to see this creature he planned to meet before it came upon him unexpectedly. He didn't trust it, but he needed it.
Herma wrapped his cloak a little tighter as another strong gust of wind blew in off the violent water. He hated the sea. The dark seething mass of water kept him trapped here with five hundred or so plebeian colonists. He sickened of the struggle to bring culture and order to the rough edged masses. He despised his long deceased parents for ever embarking on the exploratory journey that resulted in them being stranded on this barbaric continent. The most despicable thing about his existence here was the second generation of Realm dwellers he attempted to rule. Some of them actually seemed to thrive in this hellhole. Only a few, such as himself, longed for the leisurely life their parents had left behind. Why had his parents traveled to this saint's forsaken colony giving their young son no choice in his future? Damn them.
The warrior and hunter group disgusted himthe most. They protected the population from the native humans like barbarians. The warriors were little better than animals themselves with their big muscles and animal grace. Worse yet, some of them actually believed they could think on their own. Talk of one of them moving into a place of leadership as a member to the Realm Council filtered to him with each report of his own spies. Murmurs of discontent with his policies circulated to his ears. As if the common laborers had the intelligence to know what was best!
A brief flash of anger warmed Herma in the chill air as he recalled how one of the warriors had openly denounced his handling of exploration. He smiled as he contemplated the fate he planned for that upstart. Personal revenge and the removal of a popular leader who might someday challenge him would be quite a coup. With Juston Steele out of the way, Herma could place his own loyal man as leader of the warriors. The sweetest part of his plan would be the appearance that he acted for the good of all the colonists.
First he had to get through this meeting. Herma needed the mineral he could only get from this fiend. So despite his disgust, he waited in this awful place, alone and cold.
He shivered and scanned the tree line again. Nothing moved that he could see, but the twin moons created shadows under the tall pines that edged the sand. He pulled his cloak tighter against the tug of the unceasing ocean breeze and returned to his dreams and plans. If he collected enough redak crystals, he could reconstruct the power units needed to propel a ship across the vicious untamable sea.
Herma only felt gratitude to his parents for one thing. The books they'd left him contained all the scientific information he needed to build the redak engines. The original settlers had given up on returning to Pernia shortly after arriving on this revolting land mass. His parents had described their birth land as overcrowded and violent, rich in technology, but poor in morals and peace. They saw this new land as bountiful and beautiful instead of seeing it as a barren landscape of ignorance.
Something scraped against a stone nearby. Herma spun toward the noise. He suppressed his instinct to flee and waited for the creature to approach. It swung its long, heavily muscled arms as it lumbered toward him. Matted hair covered its arms, legs, and chest almost as thickly as the dirty mane on its large head. It wore no clothing so that even in the dark he could see its shrunken privates hanging between its legs. As if it fathomed his disgust with its nakedness, it used one of its large hands to scratch at its groin area. Though it appeared awkward and clumsy on the sandy beach, Herman knew the beast could move deceptively fast when it attacked.
The cloud cover scattered much to Herma's regret. Now he would be able to see the Savage's face when he spoke to it. "Good evening, Zar."
It grunted in reply, pulling its thick protruding lips back in a semblance of a smile. Its face was a hideous likeness to a man's features but for the large brow overshadowing its vicious, cunning eyes. That look of cunning had first led Herma to try and communicate with this animal. He had stumbled onto Zar on this very beach while searching for a secure place to start his project.
"I saw your sign for a meeting. What's the problem?" Herma wondered where he had ever found the courage to stand his ground and speak to Zar on that fateful day. It had led to this distrustful partnership.
"Your patrols hunt us. You were to slow them down. Many of my clan have been killed. The Blue Blade has taken many victims." The guttural voice was difficult to understand, but not the anger and accusation coloring the words.
"I have done the best I can for now. Some of the warriors go out on their own to hunt. I can't control them completely." A drop of sweat slid down Herma's back. He knew he walked a dangerous path, but he needed Zar. Zar could find him enough redak to power his engine. All Herma had to do was sell out his fellow colonists and the healer bitches that lived in the mountains. A small price in his opinion.
"If you can't control them, I have no use for you." The foul one stepped closer.
The swirling wind carried his rank odor to Herma. The moonlight exposed the telltale glassy sheen in the Savage's eyes. Knowing it had eaten some of the vinefruit before it met him started a ripple of fear crawling up Herma's spine. Ingesting the fruit caused these merciless beasts to become even more aggressive. Herma's hand tightened on the blade hidden beneath his cloak. A useless gesture as he had no chance of surviving if the beast turned on him.
Showing fear could be fatal. "I'll do as I promised. I already have a plan in place that will remove the one you call Blue Blade from the hunt. None of the other leaders will be able to replace him."
Some of Herma's fear dissipated as he pictured the moment and the aftereffects. Juston Steele, the sword slinger with the famous blue steel blade would be gone, and there would be no more talk of electing him to the council. "I have a meeting with the Solonians set up. They'll help us be rid of the Blue Blade."
A feral gleam appeared in the animal's eyes at the mention of the Solonians. A hunger. Saliva dripped from the corners of its wide mouth. A long thick tongue slipped out and licked at its rough lips.
Herma shuddered and his stomach roiled with distaste. The creature laughed, a sound more horrifying than its appearance.
"Did you bring me more redak?" Herma asked, hoping to gain control of the conversation and put the beast on the spot.
"No more until you fulfill your end of the bargain." The cunning glinted in Zar's small evil eyes. It reminded the man that though this creature appeared to be nothing more than an animal, it possessed an unknown level of intelligence. "Get rid of the Blue Blade that kills us, and I'll bring you more of that useless rock."
"Very well, Zar. Meet me here the next time both moons are dark. Blue Blade will be gone by then."
The creature grunted before lumbering away. Herma watched it go, pleased with his night's work. He lifted his medallion from inside his shirt where he had hidden it from Zar. It marked Herma as the Head Councilman of the Realm colony.
His smile remained as he contemplated how his side of the bargain would destroy his people's warrior hero.