If you missed the first chapter of my novel, you can find it here! Here is Chapter Two, one of the more dramatic and darker chapters of the novel. The fate of an entire world has changed forever. You can download this chapter as a PDF file by clicking here. Chapter three will be posted tomorrow.
“Eladria“ is officially published on 31st May, and you can buy/preorder it from multiple places in both paperback and ebook format. Click here to visit my website and order.
THE NEW ORDER RISES
“I have nothing to say to you,” Eladria stated defiantly. “The House of Chaldeen does not negotiate with terrorists.”
“Is that what you think I am? A terrorist!” Estaran smirked.
Eladria remained silent.
“I’ll tell you what I am,” Estaran said, grabbing her arm and pulling her toward him. “I am now your ruler and what I say, you will do.”
After eyeing her up and down lasciviously, Estaran let go of her and she pulled back, glaring at him with contempt.
The Ha’shon General rejoined Narat, who looked visibly uncomfortable. Narat had clearly been in league with the Ha’shon and had made some kind of pact with them. But it seemed events hadn’t transpired quite as he had imagined. Nevertheless, he still appeared willing to co-operate with the Ha’shon invaders and he listened intently as Estaran briefed him. Eladria was unable to hear what was being said.
As she stood rooted to the spot, her eyes were drawn to her father. Although regal with his golden crown and long navy robes, he looked pale and defeated; a shadow of the man she knew. Was it just the shock of what had transpired, or had they somehow broken him? And what had Estaran meant when he said that her father’s fate was sealed?
At Narat’s orders, the security officers directed Eladria and Zinn to the elevator, guns pointing straight at them. It was hard enough to believe that Narat of all people would do this, but it was astonishing that all of his men were in compliance. She’d never have imagined that any of them would be capable of pointing a gun at a member of the royal family. What had Narat done to convince them to commit such treason? Was it just this set of security officers, or would the rest of the palace guard be prepared to stop them?
Eladria and Zinn were herded into the elevator, along with the king, Estaran and his men. They were joined by Narat and four of his guards, who kept their weapons trained on the captives. At Estaran’s command, Narat set the elevator to take them directly to Central Control.
Not a word was spoken as the elevator ascended, the gentle hum punctuating the strained silence. Eladria stared at Narat disbelievingly. She wanted Narat to look at her, to assure her that this wasn’t as bad as it looked, that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her or her father. But he avoided eye contact, keeping his eyes fixed upon the ground, his olive-skinned face set in an expression of grim determination.
As the elevator made its way up the heart of the palace, Eladria felt like a bird imprisoned in a cage, simpering with desperation and determined to do whatever it took to escape. Surely there must be some way she could outwit her captors? But as she surveyed the palace guards and the Ha’shon terrorists, all of whom were armed and had Eladria, Zinn and her father locked in their sights, she realized the situation was hopeless.
The elevator finally reached its destination and, just as the doors were about to open, the Ha’shon and palace guards readied themselves for possible resistance. Eladria wondered if the control room staff were aware of what had transpired in the landing terminal. There were security cameras in all areas of the palace, but it was possible that Narat and his co-conspirators had taken steps to disconnect them. She realized that it may not have been coincidence that the long-range scanners were inoperative on this very morning. It would seem this whole operation had been meticulously planned in advance.
The moment the elevator doors opened, the Ha’shon and palace guards stormed the control room, weapons blazing. The control room personnel hadn’t been anticipating the assault, for they were wholly unprepared and had no opportunity to react to the sudden barrage of fire.
Eladria had to avert her eyes as the control room officers and technicians were mercilessly gunned down.
She looked up at Narat whose face was taut and emotionless. How could he let this happen? These people were his friends and colleagues.
It took only moments for the Ha’shon to secure the control room. The battle for control of the palace was over before it had even begun and it had been nothing less than a massacre. The Ha’shon had deliberately spared two of the control room technicians, who were rounded up and given orders. Clearly these terrified-looking technicians were needed to operate the computer systems. Faces drained of color and their bodies trembling, the technicians nervously set about their orders, all too aware that there were a half dozen guns trained on them.
Estaran stood at the center of the control room and with a sadistic grin, surveyed the bodies strewn across the room. “This was even easier than I thought,” he exclaimed.
He turned to Narat, who stood by his side, and put a hand on his shoulder. “We could never have done it without you, young warrior. May the Divine Father bless you. You’ve helped initiate a new era of greatness, an era that will put an end to the war and degeneration that has torn this world apart for centuries.”
“Just so long as there’s no more killing,” Narat said flatly. “It wasn’t necessary to kill all these people.”
“I determine what is and is not necessary,” Estaran said in a low voice, his face darkening. “And you’d do well to remember that, or you might quickly find you’ve outlived your usefulness here.”
“My men would never follow you if anything were to happen to me,” Narat responded sharply.
“I’ve no doubt,” Estaran said, clearly unfazed by Narat’s threat. “But if today has taught us anything, it’s that loyalty is far from immutable. It can be bought, and allegiances can shift in the blink of an eye.”
Narat was silent for a moment, before he answered in a hushed, indignant voice. “Just so long as you remember our deal, General.”
“Oh, I remember,” Estaran responded. “A Ha’shon never falls back on his word. By the virtue of the great Shon, I honor my deals.”
Eladria couldn’t help but wonder what kind of deal Narat had made with Estaran that would possibly justify his betrayal. Not that she really cared. Any remaining love she felt for him had instantly turned to hatred the moment Narat had allowed his men to slaughter the innocent men and women whose bodies littered the room. She could never forgive him for this.
Estaran had the remaining technicians activate the holographic display screens and they watched as a string of Ha’shon raiders approached the moon and streamed into the bio-dome. Estaran then opened communications and ordered the fighters to implement “order six”.
The black, quadruple-pronged attack craft took formation over the royal city and began circling above the streets, houses and domes like ravenous birds of prey. Eladria watched in horror as they then opened fire. Weapons fire rained down upon the city. Buildings exploded and crumbled to pieces, sending flames and smoke billowing up from the smoldering metropolis.
Eladria cried out as she was forced to witness the carnage, pleading for them to stop. Even her father, who to his point had been silent, stepped forward and begged the Ha’shon to show mercy. “Please,” he beseeched Estaran, his hoarse voice filled with desperation. “Those are innocent people! Spare their lives!”
Estaran turned to his captive, his face contorting into a sadistic smile, revealing a row of gnarled, rotting teeth, several of which were missing. “So, the king makes a final plea, does he?” scoffed the Ha’shon, clearly enjoying every moment of the horror. “It’s sad that it must fall on deaf ears. The Ha’shon have planned this operation for many years, your Highness. The royal city is to be laid to ruin and any remaining resistance will be quelled. This moon will be ours and from here we will control the entire planet.”
“It won’t be as easy as you think,” the king countered. “If you believe the planet will accept a Ha’shon dictatorship, then you’re even more deluded than I imagined.”
“Oh, I know we won’t simply be accepted,” Estaran laughed. “Our True Way adversaries will fight us to the bitter end, and I expect retaliation from those military bases we haven’t already infiltrated. Yes, there will be much bloodshed. But we have the advantage and, in the end, we shall emerge victorious. It has been written; it is our destiny! With the Divine Father Shon shining his light upon us, we are unstoppable and we shall be triumphant.”
“Even if you are triumphant,” Eladria glared at the zealot. “By the time you’ve gone through with this, there may not be a planet left to rule.”
“Whatever be the will of the Divine Father,” Estaran responded, his eyes blazing with fire. “He shall not forsake us.”
There was little point arguing with a Ha’shon. It was impossible to reason with someone who believed their every action to be sanctioned by a seal of Divine approval.
Eladria’s attention returned to the assault upon the city. Her heart shattered as she watched the glorious city being pounded to rubble. She noticed several of the raiders targeting the headquarters of the Tahnadran Royal Military, a silver pyramid-shaped installation distinguishable as the second-largest building in the city, dwarfed only by the palace. It was home to the command hierarchy of the TRM, as well housing most of its weaponry, air force and soldiers.
Unprepared for the assault, the Royal Military was slow to retaliate. They tried to repel the attackers with anti-aircraft fire and launched a squadron of fighter craft, but the Ha’shon, having had the element of surprise, maintained their tactical advantage. A furious battle was being waged, with several craft on both sides already destroyed or disabled.
Eladria knew their only hope was that the Royal Military could overpower the Ha’shon invaders, secure the moon and re-take the palace. But this was not to be.
Estaran, incensed at the loss of several of his raiders, ordered his fighters to implement “order nine”. His fighters pulled back, disengaging the military craft and hovering in formation above the TRM headquarters. Following the lead Ha’shon raider, the attackers simultaneously fired missiles straight at the heart of the installation.
Upon impact, the missiles exploded, shaking the entire moon. Eladria lurched as the ground moved beneath her feet. She watched in horror as what remained of the TRM installation was consumed by the aftermath of the explosion. The shockwave rippled across the city, tearing buildings to the ground as though they were made of sand. Most of the TRM fighters were caught in the explosion, while the remainder were targeted by the Ha’shon attackers.
Eladria reached out and took hold of her father’s hand, desperate for some kind of comfort, for she knew that many of her friends and loved ones were dead or dying out there. Unable to stand the scenes of carnage any longer, she averted her eyes and looked down at the ground, her vision blurred by tears.
When the attack was complete, Estaran ordered all Ha’shon fighters to the palace. His men were to then fully secure the building and eliminate any resistance. No prisoners were to be taken.
Estaran directed one of the technicians to commence a planetary broadcast on all communications frequencies. The technician began operating the communications console, her whole body trembling as she prepared to initiate the planet-wide broadcast, something that was only ever done on the rarest of occasions.
With Estaran’s attention elsewhere, Eladria looked up at her father. “Father,” she whispered. “What shall we do?”
“There’s nothing we can do,” he said softly, a tear trickling down his face. “We must co-operate and hope to minimize any further loss of life.”
“There must be something,” Eladria implored.
“It’s over,” the king said with a shake of his head. “I’m sorry. I should have been able to prevent this. I’ve let you down. I’ve let everyone down…”
Eladria squeezed his hand tightly. She didn’t like the way he was talking. Why was he resigned to defeat? There had be some way they could stop these terrorists.
The technician informed Estaran that the communications channels were open and the planetary broadcast had begun. Estaran stood upon the central dais of the control center, his chest puffed out and head held aloft and, in a loud voice filled with authority and self-importance, he began his address.
“People of Tahnadra, this is Halon Estaran, First General of the Ha’shon Liberation Army. I speak to you from the Royal City on the third moon of Tahnadra. On this momentous day, the Royal House of Chaldeen has fallen. In its place a new regime rises. Tahnadra is now under direct control of the Ha’shon. By the grace of the Divine Father, Shon, the Ha’shon shall now lead Tahnadra to a new era of glory.
“The prophecies have been fulfilled. We now take charge and commence the restructuring of our world. We declare war upon all True Way degenerates and call for the complete eradication of their twisted and blasphemous religion. Those that surrender willingly and agree to convert to Ha’shon doctrine shall be spared and, indeed, shall be welcomed as our prodigal brothers. Those that refuse to repent must be destroyed, for their own sakes and for the sake of our world and its continued survival. The call goes out to the whole of Tahnadra: join with us, and be a part of this great new beginning. And let all who oppose us die!”
The general turned to his prisoners and ordered one of his men to bring the king to him.
“Behold, King Dulaan!” Estaran announced, gesturing to his prisoner, who was dragged alongside him on the central dais. “Last of a weak, ineffectual monarchy that have sat above us for centuries, doing nothing but simply watching as our planet descended ever deeper into chaos. They tried to compromise and placate, too weak to align themselves with either side and all they’ve done is prolong the agony, and intensify our suffering. They’re responsible for the state of our world. For generations they have stood in the way of the Ha’shon rising to take their rightful place. But no longer!”
Eladria was unprepared for what happened next. It happened so quickly that her brain struggled to process the images her eyes relayed to it.
Estaran reached down to his belt, lifted his machete and plunged it into her father’s chest. The king gasped and staggered back, while Estaran pulled out the blade and again thrust it into his torso.
Eladria screamed and tried to race toward him, but one of the Ha’shon restrained her.
With a cruel grin, Estaran twisted the blade and then retracted it. The king fell to the floor, clearly dead by the time his body hit the ground. A pool of blood poured from his wounds, running down the dais like a red river.
Estaran turned to the front of the control room, where his image was being instantly relayed to the planet below. He held the blade above him and roared triumphantly. “The king is dead and the old regime dies with him! The Ha’shon rule triumphant!”
Eladria’s legs collapsed under her weight, but she didn’t fall to the ground, for she was still being tightly held by her Ha’shon captor. She hung there, her chest and stomach knotted and convulsing in waves of sharp, spasmodic pain. As she stared at the lifeless body of her dear father, slumped in a pool of his own blood, she felt as though she herself had been stabbed in the heart.
Estaran’s victory speech continued. His voice was filled with fire and venom, all the time becoming louder until he was shouting at the top of his lungs, in a voice filled with rapture and rage. “Let the nonbelievers try to stop us as we march to total victory!” he cried, waving his blood-soaked blade like a trophy above his head. “Let them come! Let them taste blood as we wipe them from existence. The Ha’shon have prepared for this day and have amassed an unstoppable military arsenal. Nothing can stand between us and world domination. Tahnadra is now ours! All praise to the Divine Father Shon!”
With that, he called an end to the transmission.
Eladria was barely aware of what was going on around her anymore. Eyes fixed upon the body of her father, she slipped into a strange state of delirium, only vaguely aware of disconnected snippets of what happened next.
She heard Estaran warning of possible counterstrikes by both the True Way and the remaining Royal Military forces. Their immediate priority was to secure the palace and seal off the moon. Upon the display screens she saw a stream of Ha’shon aircraft continuing to enter the bio-dome like a swarm of insects ready to devour a ripened crop. She was vaguely aware of Estaran ordering his men to take her to a cell.
Having lost all strength and feeling in her body, she could barely walk and was dragged along by Estaran’s men. The last sight her eyes beheld as she and Zinn were removed from the control center and bundled into the elevator, was her father’s body lying upon the ground like a discarded garment casually tossed aside.
The lurching of the elevator made her nauseous. Still unable to stand of her own volition, she hung from the guard’s arms like a limp doll, aware of little else but the shock of her sudden, devastating loss.
As they exited the elevator, Narat’s men led the Ha’shon and their captives toward the palace security station. Along the way, they encountered some resistance from a number of palace officers and security guards who, unlike Narat’s carefully selected group of turncoats, were still loyal to the house of Chaldeen and who fought valiantly to repel the invaders and their dissident allies.
A fight ensued and Eladria was certain that she and Zinn would be caught in the crossfire as the two forces fiercely battled. Unfortunately, the Ha’shon managed to kill most of their opponents while the rest fled in retreat.
Hopeless. It was all so hopeless.
They reached the security station and Eladria thought of Narat, for she would often visit him here while he was on duty.
Narat, why…why did this happen?
She and Zinn were led to the holding cells, which were dimly lit, furnished with a single bench and enclosed by metal bars.
By the time Eladria was deposited in her cell, she had just about drifted into unconsciousness, which was at least a reprieve from the grief that tore through her like a thousand sharpened blades.
Eladria slept, her mind drifting into a fluidic realm of images, memories and imaginings.
She found herself wandering the empty corridors of the palace, desperately searching for her father. But he was nowhere to be found. In a rising panic, she began running through the labyrinthine corridors, crying out for him. For some reason she felt drawn to the control room, but when she arrived there it wasn’t her father that she found. It was her mother. She was encased in a beam of light so bright that Eladria had to shield her eyes.
“Mother!” she cried, overcome at finally having found her mother after all these years. “What are you doing here?”
“I need you,” came the pained response. Her voice sounded weak and distant, as though an entire universe separated them. “Please, Eladria, please…you must help me.”
“What can I do?” Eladria pleaded.
But before she could answer, the scene shifted. Eladria was now on the planet surface, in the midst of a deserted city street, the sky overhead dark and stormy. She looked around, trying to ascertain where she was. As she wandered the eerily vacant street, the ground beneath her began to shake. Buildings started collapsing all around her, crumbling to the ground, sending up waves of dust and debris.
She stumbled and fell. Just as she was about to be crushed by a falling temple, the scene again shifted.
This time Eladria became aware of a whole other world: a world existing across an infinite void, closer than a heartbeat, yet an eternity away. It was a strange place, utterly unfamiliar to her, but it was somehow calling to her.
She saw the face of a young man she’d seen so many times before in her dreams, a handsome man with dark hair and dark eyes, a crystal amulet hanging around his neck. She didn’t know who he was or why his face haunted her dreams, but he was calling to her…
Eladria felt as though she was been pulled in different directions. “Where do I go?” she cried. “What do I do?”
But there was no answer.
She found herself spinning into an infinite, all-consuming abyss of darkness, ensnared by its unrelenting gravity and unable to break free. All she could hear were the words of the seer, which echoed relentlessly through her mind as she was devoured by the void of blackness:
“Darkness will fall. Your entire world will be lost.”
Eladria was awoken by a brusque shake. She opened her eyes and tried to throw off the lingering disorientation of sleep. She found herself lying on a bench in one of the security cells. The barred door was open and there were two men in the cell and another two standing outside, weapons in hand.
The Ha’shon…it all came back to her in an agonizing wave. One of the Ha’shon knelt down and was shaking her awake and the other stood over her, arms folded, an expression of glee upon his lined and twisted face. It was their leader, General Estaran.
“Wake up, Princess,” Estaran said as he looked down at her.
Eladria sat up on the bed and pushed the Ha’shon away from her. He stepped back and stood by Estaran’s side, hand resting upon the leather holster that housed his firearm.
“What do you want?” Eladria looked up at Estaran, a tone of repugnance saturating her voice.
“I came to see that you were all right,” Estaran answered. “I realize this must be a traumatic time for you. Contrary to what you might think, I abhor violence. Unfortunately, in this world, it is often a necessity. It is the force that drives change, the agent that initiates revolution. But although I had no love of your father, I derived no joy from taking his life.”
Eladria stared up at the Ha’shon and felt a wave of hatred rising up within her. “I don’t believe a word you say,” she said. “You enjoyed every moment of what you did, because you’re nothing more than a sick, twisted murderer.”
Estaran’s face darkened. “In accordance with the Sacred Texts, I hold all life sacred,” he retorted. “What I do, I do because it has been ordained by the Divine Father. The nonbelievers must be subjugated and brought to the loving arms of Shon, or else purged from this world. The end times draw near and in order to save this world we are called to take whatever action we can. We do so in the name of Shon. He forgives us and washes us of all sin, because we follow only the sacred word.”
“That’s meaningless nonsense,” Eladria shook her head defiantly.
Estaran bristled. It probably wasn’t wise to push him, but she was determined to hurt him in any way she could. If she could have leapt up and strangled him on the spot, she would have done so. But her body was weak and her senses dulled. She knew that if she came within an inch of him, his men would strike her down in an instant. But she was fuelled by an insurmountable rage and the very sight of this Ha’shon butcher sickened her. Why should her gentle father have lost his life to this brainwashed abomination?
“You now have a choice, Princess,” Estaran began as took a step closer, standing over her threateningly. “You can either repent and embrace us, or you will die as your father did.”
“I will never join you,” Eladria answered with as much fire as she could muster. “And it doesn’t matter what you do to me, because you won’t get away with this. People will rise up and stop you. Even your precious ‘Divine Father’ won’t be able to save you. You’ll be made to account for your crimes and you’ll suffer for every man, woman and child you’ve slaughtered here today.”
With a cold smile that didn’t touch his eyes, Estaran reached down and stroked Eladria’s face. She grimaced, sickened by the touch of his hand.
“I admire your strength, your fire and courage,” he purred softly. “You certainly didn’t inherit them from your father. He was weak and indecisive, whereas you’re strong, spirited and alive. I shall regret killing you. I’d much rather have had you by my side. But you were offered the choice and you chose death over life and eternal damnation over salvation. You poor, deluded child. First thing tomorrow, I will again address the whole of Tahnadra, and once more I shall demonstrate our supremacy. With the entire planet watching, I shall execute you as I did your father. The message shall be clear and unmistakable. The old sovereignty has perished. The new order has risen.”
Eladria sat with her back hard against the cell wall and she looked up at Estaran defiantly. She had nothing to say. A small part of her was fearful and compelled her to apologize, to plead for her life. But the greater part of her was resolute: she would not disgrace her father’s memory by capitulating to this man. She would stand firm until the end and, if she was destined to die at the hands of the Ha’shon with the entire planet watching, then she would accept her fate.
Estaran frowned and shook his head from side to side, clearly disappointed by her reaction. Without another word, he turned and left. His subordinate closed the cell door with a loud clank. He input a code on the control pad at the side of the cell and with a reverberating click, the cell door locked. With that, they departed.
Eladria sat huddled on the bench, feeling more alone than she’d ever felt her entire life. Her thoughts turned to her father. How she yearned for him to come and save her…
Only he was gone.
Overwhelmed by an immeasurable grief, she lay on her side and cried for what felt like hours. Eventually her tears subsided and she lay motionless in a state of numbed emptiness. The faint hum of the ceiling light pierced the silence and there was a timepiece on the wall opposite the cell. It would soon be morning. Her death got closer with each rhythmic tick of the mechanism.
But what did it matter? She didn’t know how she could go on living now. Not without her father. Not after her city had been blown to pieces, along with all of her friends and family. Not knowing that the world she had inherited was now under occupation by a cruel and insane dictatorship. And not knowing that the man she had loved was the one responsible for all of this.
No, after all that had happened this nightmarish day, she didn’t want to go on living. There was nothing left to live for.
ELADRIA is published May 31 by Cosmic Egg Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. Available to buy in paperback and ebook format. Click here for more information and to order.