Chapter 8

Riselle instinctively closed her eyes and ducked, waiting for the first bullet to strike her body. But the blow never came. She cracked one eye open to see a hazy film surrounding her and not just her, but her entire contingent of guards. She turned to see the Admiral in the center with her hands extended above herself. The protective bubble was her doing. Darenowski winked at Riselle. Of course they would send another Talent to look over her. It all made sense.

Riselle turned back to the Queen, who was glaring down at her with rage, incensed that her daughter had escaped the slaughter. Something inside Riselle died at that moment, but she didn't have time to examine it too closely. Darenowski was slowly inching back towards the palace foyer and Riselle had to move to stay inside the bubble. The bullet fire slowed down and soon ceased. One of the closest soldiers pushed on the bubble and to his surprise, and everyone else's, his hand passed through safely. Riselle looked towards Darenowski in horror.

"It only stops things above a certain speed." The woman grunted, the strain of keeping up the force field evident. "You'll have to take care of them."

By now the soldier's whole arm was inside the bubble. Riselle quickly grabbed him and brought his arm down on her knee, snapping the bones in half. The man howled and fell backwards out of the force field, but the damage was done. As soon as the others saw that they could get inside the force field, they came at them from every angle. Riselle knew what she had to do. It was risky and might mean her death, but they would never make it off Luminaria at this rate. She took down the two soldiers in front of her, inhaled deeply, and stepped out of the force field.

She felt her body heating up as she gathered her energy in the palms of her hands. Bright blue flames roared to life, engulfing her arms. She reached out towards the nearest pack of soldiers and pushed. The blue flames shot towards the men and enveloped them. Piercing screams and the smell of burning flesh filled the air, but Riselle didn't stop. Soon every last soldier was either dead, dying, or had retreated into the shadows of the throne room and the foyer. The Queen and Lilette had long been gone. They were hustled away as soon as Sir Nikileri had realized that this might not be the blood bath the Queen had been intending.

A bullet whined past her head and Riselle ducked. She stepped back into the force field and soon they were all hustling down the sidewalk back to the ship. Riselle shouted as she ran.

"People of Royal City, and Luminaria! This is your Queen! Not only is she shooting at her own flesh and blood, but we have come under the banner of parley! She has disregarded the olive branch which was extended and has betrayed the diplomatic rules of parley! She taxes outrageously to live her own lavish lifestyle with clothes never worn twice and festive banquets while the rest of the Kingdom starves to death! And with this newest action, she had brought war upon you all! Vengeance will come, swift and sure! And you will all be caught in the wake of her destruction!"

They reached the boarding ramp quickly, where Darenowski stopped. The force field now extended to the ship.

"In you go," Darenowski said. Riselle looked at her and suddenly she realized what the Admiral was going to do.

"Not without you!" She said forcefully.

"I can't hold the force field around the ship from the inside!" Darenowski said quickly. "And I can't hold it forever either. I'll stay and give you enough time to get into orbit. After that you'll be on your own, but you'll be able to hide easily enough. Now go!"

"Admiral-"

"Go now Riselle! Don't make my sacrifice be in vain!" Darenowski all but growled. Her arms shook and Riselle knew that she wouldn't be able to hold up the force field much longer.

"Thank you." Riselle said, her heart breaking.

She turned and ran up the boarding ramp, slapping the panel to close it after her. The soldiers had already fired up the ship and it slowly began to rise as Riselle ran towards the bridge, which had an almost 360 degree viewing platform. As Riselle ascended upwards, she saw impact of a missile bloom across the force field. The ship rocked slightly, but there was no damage and the ship continued to climb towards the sky. Riselle turned to see Darenowski still on the platform and slowly shrinking. Another missile was launched from the palace and Riselle watched as it plowed into the force field, the explosion mushrooming across the hazy film. She turned back to Darenowski's last stand. The woman's full focus was now on the ship and she didn't fight the soldiers that were running up to the platform. She watched as Darenowski staggered from a blow to the head and the force field around the ship flickered. Another blow and Riselle could see that the force field around Darenowski was now absent. As the ship ascended into the clouds, the soldiers raised their rifles. Riselle couldn't see anymore but as they broke through the cloud barrier, the force field that had been protecting the ship was gone.

A tear ran down Riselle's face, but there was no time to grieve. The Queen would be sure to have launched several Orbital Fighters to take them down, and sure enough, as the blue atmosphere began to give way to the inky blackness of space, she spotted them.

"Evasive maneuvers!" She cried out, and then stumbled as the pilot immediately banked to the left.

"Princess, you're bleeding." A small voice came from her right and she looked down to see a diminutive woman standing there. "Please, come with me."

Riselle waved her off. "I can't, we need-"

"The soldiers can fly without you present." The woman said sternly. "They've been doing this their whole lives. Now come with me."

"It's probably not even my blood, look…" Riselle looked down to see bright red blood covering her entire left flank, the red in stark contrast with the white of her diplomatic suit. "Oh." She felt woozy.

"Princess!" The woman cried in horror, but Riselle was unconscious before she hit the ground.

Everything was quiet when Riselle woke. Monitors flashed in the darkness of the room and a glowing terminal sat in the corner with the small woman in front of it.

"Wha-" Riselle tried to ask, but her mouth felt like someone had stuffed cotton balls in there.

The woman was up in an instant. "Try not to move too much. You lost a lot of blood."

"What happened?" Riselle finally managed to choke out.

"You got shot. You're lucky I noticed when I did. You wouldn't have made it if you lost any more blood."

"Where…are we?" Her eyebrows knit in concentration.

The woman sighed. "I don't rightly know. We managed to get away from those fighters, but we sustained a hit or two. We weren't able to get back to Pantaleo, or any of the Free Planets. We've set down in one of the outskirt planets and somehow managed to avoid radar while doing so. But we're stuck here."

Oh no, please not Wess again, Riselle thought. Wouldn't that be ironic though? She tried to sit up, but pain flared through her body.

"No, no dearie. You need your rest." The woman gently pushed her back down and patted her hand. "You can't get up for at least a week. You need to heal or else you'll just reinjure yourself. I'm Darla, by the way."

"Is anyone coming to get us?"

The woman looked at her sadly. "Our communications array was damaged in the second hit. We did manage to get one message across, relaying what had happened on Luminaria, Admiral Darenowski death, and that you had been shot. But that was about it."

Riselle felt sick. The Admiral had sacrificed herself for nothing. They were going to be caught anyways.

Just then, the door to the medical bay slid open and the tall captain of the ship stepped through. "How are you, ma'am?" He asked, his dark eyes unreadable.

"I'll survive." Riselle hissed as she struggled into a seated position, earning herself a glare from Darla. She ignored it. "Do you know where we are?"

He nodded. "A planet called Katern. It's mostly swamps and marsh land. I have no idea how we're going to get out of here though."

Riselle's jaw dropped. "I think I do." She said after a moment.

He was sleeping peacefully in the large room of the house that was always given to the Lord of the planet. Thus he didn't notice when a small dark shape in a hooded cloak slipped over the windowsill and crept across the floor. The shape hovered over him for a second before making it's way over to his bedroom door and shutting it quietly. Then it made its way back to him. It hesitated, then in one swift motion reached down and placed its hand over his mouth.

He woke up with a start and tried to scream in terror when he saw the black mass above him, but the thing pushed down harder on his mouth and only a muffled noise came out. He drew in breath to scream again when he realized it was speaking.

"Elimar, Eli, stop! It's me! It's Riselle! Eli STOP!"

Slowly he quit struggling and just stared up at her. She took her hand away from his mouth hesitatntly and slowly removed her hood. She looked different, much different from the last time he had seen her, but there was no doubt that it was her. He'd recognize those fierce green eyes anywhere.

"Riz?" He asked, confused. "What are you doing here?"

Her mouth formed a hard line.

"We need your help."