Chapter 24 The Winds of Ashtarma
“Tell me more.” I ask, rubbing the thin but strong skin of his wings between my fingers.
“I was running away from the intergalactic search, when I smelled Leot. At that point I was in so much pain of his rejection, and his desire to hunt me down, that I felt like turning myself in. So I put my spaceship over that city, Deikeren, and I went there. The strangest places, these human cities... I found weird things, but no Leot. Little did I know, the smell was coming from a human child, an abandoned offspring of Leot’s experiment. I tracked you down, and never left your side ever since. You are the closest I will ever get to him.”
Kallitris brings his charming face to mine, and we kiss in an erupted passion, as exceptional as it gets. His eyes turn yellow, then copper then bright red.
“Yes. I will fly with you.” I whisper, awash in feelings and a desire for tempting adventure side by side with the most sensual and spirited man I’ve ever known.
Do I think about Iris at that moment, having just consented to leave not only Earth, but Milky Way Galaxy, too? Yes, I do. The feeling of guilt poisons my happiness. But I made my choice, and remorse can’t hold me back.
“Very well, then.” He breathes out when the screen goes bright again, now showing silvery objects in the sky, flying fast among the clouds.
“Oh, no!” Kallitris exclaims “This is a full-blown military action! Now they’re flying to bomb Komkaran! We must hurry, Domiarn, before they destroy everything!”
I nod, ready for anything.
“Wait. What about Relemill?” I remember all of a sudden.
“We will have to take him with us. The treatment will take weeks, and we haven’t even figured out the cure yet.”
“OK. I have one condition. Will you assume a human form?” I touch him, and look into his eyes.
“Anything you want.” The sheirer smiles and his face, the shape of his head, and the size of his body change right away. He turns back into the attractive knight he was in Tirra when we went to save Relemill. The wings disappear, but his magnetic personality clings on to the new image.
I feel the ship move and the screens start showing the Kardiren mountain range growing ever so smaller, until it gets completely obscured by the fluffy white clouds.
No matter how much Kallitris loves spacecraft on high-octane fuel, no amount of that can get us into another galaxy fifty million light years away in a matter of several hours. He has to switch the ship to feed off the most powerful and nearly endless fuel in the Universe – the psychic power of creatures. Everyone on board allows the ship to plug into their minds. I’m only happy to chip in.
It feels like the spaceship is talking to me, sending me into a deep trance. It shows me Coma Berenices – the magnificent constellation we’re flying towards to – huge, bright, and much bigger than Andromeda. The smaller galaxy right at its edge is our destination – NGC 4565, or Needle galaxy, as sometimes called on Earth. It’s sharp edge pierces the darkness with blatant confidence, and its sight evokes tales of myth about an evil winged monster that dwells there…
“Where is the monster, Domiarn? Please let us know. He needs to be dealt with. He is not a nice guy you think he is. He is responsible for deaths, injustices, slavery, atrocities… There is a button of “emergency call” in your mind. All Leot’s creatures have it. Find the button, Domiarn, press it. This will pinpoint Kallitris’s location for us. Please press the button for the sake of the creatures of the Universe!”
I wake up screaming. What a horrible thing the ship is telling me to do! A button? To betray my only friend?!
“Bad dreams? We’re almost on Ashtarma.” A furry stick brushes away the hair from my forehead. It’s my buddy Salix. Usually erahis are hard to get close to, but Salix and I became friends long ago.
“It was not the ship that was talking to you. I intercepted a transmission from United Intergalactic Nations.” Salix sighs. Despite his weird shape he is indeed a humanoid, much closer to a human than Kallitris will ever be. I share a bond with this guy. He smiles and runs his hand on my face. His fur feels like moss that grows on trees – thick and prickly to the touch.
Then he suddenly jumps up and runs away. I follow him down the hall and into the bridge of the ship. Kallitris is there, tense and frozen like a statue. A human figure, but alien nevertheless.
“That’s why I beg you to exercise the utmost caution while landing, my lord! We don’t know what this object is and why it is there.”
I come closer and see a strange creature on the screen, talking in a hushed voice. It has a head with a greenish crest on it, a relatively small body and dark hollows instead of eyes. But those hollows are not empty. They are alive with moving darkness. The darkness inside also has an expression. It is an expression of deference, and fear.
‘I get it, Pieris. Tell everyone we’ll be there in five minutes.”
The creature flaps brownish-green wings, and looks directly at me.
I get an eerie feeling I’ve met this thing before.
“Ohhh! Tensartis! We are honored to see you again! You will be welcomed warmly. Over and out.”
The picture of the creature disappears. Kallitris turns to us, irritated. Salix runs away at once. Why? Why would not he maintain some dignity?
The screen shows what looks like continents on the surface of the planet, and we enter the atmosphere. My head gets filled with static and ringing. The ship flies straight through layers of some silvery substance, then clouds with some vivid colors I have no name for, and then it stops. Kallitris never lands his base on any planet.
We get into one of the small ships he calls destroyers, and fly down.
“We’re about to land on the light side of my ancient home, Ashtarma.” The sheirer’s gaze is fixed on the small screen in front of him. “The light side is called Komkaran. The dark side is called Blisperada. They worship me as god on this planet.”
At this moment a big flaming ball appears on the screen, and then hits us directly in the front of the ship, with a deafening thunderlike sound, causing us to twist in the air.
“Damn!” Kallitris is annoyed, pressing buttons and steadying the ship. “This was from a plane from Blisparada.”
“Must be a form of worship!” I rub my head. I hit it on something when were spinning in the air.
“Very funny.” My friend gives me a sad smile. “In fact, there is no prophet in his homeland. They all hate me. But Blisps hate me a bit more than Koms.”
We’re now over what looks like a field of huge flowers. They have sharp white petals, eight to ten to each flower, with a red middle part. Another plane flies next to us and releases a ball of fire. I get ready for the relentless blow, but the ball misses us by a hair, grazing the side of the ship, and flies over the picturesque landscape like a small stray sun.
Mesmerized by this sight I notice, that the ball falls into one of the flowers - directly in the middle. I’m terrified to see it explode. But nothing happens. The flower is still there, smoky, but colorful.
“These are anti-missile screens. The Koms never did get from under the ground since the last war, so now they are in a better position than Blisps, who live in traditional multi-family hills.”
We get lower and lower, and land into a flower right next to the one that got hit.
“What is this again?”
Kallitris opens the doors of the destroyer, and helps me out of it by giving me his hand. The wind blows very strongly, and picks up my beautiful lover’s hair. It flows in the wind of the world, alien to me, and dear to him.
He truly is glamorous, still dressed in a white shirt with laced collar and black pants with a large buckle on the belt. I do love him. I do not regret following him into a war zone.
“The city of Komkaran is underground, these are just the defense equipment.” He says, giving me a piercing glance of his fantastic eyes that constantly change color even in a human form.
All of a sudden I feel sharp pain in my lungs, and I can’t breathe. A hole right under our feet opens up, and inside I see a familiar greenish face of that guy, Pieris.
I fall to the ground, gasping for air, writhing in pain.