Kingdoms of War: A Trial by Fire

Lieutenant Jim Harkness has found himself face-to-face with demons.... And now he must confront his own.


3. Lots to Learn

"Lieutenant Harkness?" I'm Captain Maria Fierro, commanding officer of Freedom's Light. I've come to ask a few questions, and hopefully, answer a few of yours too." She smiled warmly at him, but Harkness caught the weariness in her dark green eyes, and lines of age were forming what appeared to be prematurely upon her face. This was a woman who had embraced command, and therefore the burden of it.

"I don't really know where to begin Captain. I am... perhaps it's best if I try to answer your questions first."

"Okay." Fierro nodded. "You say you're from Eshurg? What can you tell us about Eshurg? It might help us find it."

Harkness felt a pang in his chest at the thought of home. "Three islands, each one roughly the same size, with a handful of smaller ones on the edges of West Eshurg, located just above the northern hemisphere's main continent of Raphscala. North Eshurg is noted for being somewhat cooler, not helped by the cold air that comes from the mountains, whilst the other two are more or less on par with one another." How can she not know this though?

"I see, and what planet is Eshurg located on?"

What planet?! "The world is referred to as Acheron. Please tell me you know of this place." His voice became a little anxious.

Fierro paused. For a fraction of a second, Harkness caught the hesitation on her face. "There are many uncharted worlds out there, lost colonies and so forth. I can't say I know the names of every world out there, but I can't say I've heard of Acheron either."

Harkness digested that. "Well, I suppose that offers me some hope of seeing home again."

"When you... arrived here, you were fighting something. Something powerful and dangerous. Can you tell me anything about it?" It was the turn of Fierro to sound a little worried.

Recent memories ran through Harkness' mind. "I saw... a creature of shadows and smoke, step out of the darkness within the powder magazine of a Antyan warship. I was on a mission... a mission I was not meant to return from, to set the powder ablaze and destroy the ship from within, so my own vessel could deliver an important message, but this... demon, was snuffing out the fires I had started. I fought it, and it tried to escape, then the magazine did indeed catch fire, and... and..." Memories of pain hit him hard.

"It's alright. The... being, whatever it was, is dead. It turned on my crew when it appeared but we dispatched it. I was hoping you knew something about it."

Harkness thought for a moment. The monster had triggered something primal in him, a remembrance of something... but what?

Then it occurred to him. His mother had told him stories as a child to persuade him to stop misbehaving and go to sleep. Stories of wispy, evil creatures that would snatch badly behaved children away and press them into service of a greater evil. When he had become upset, his mother had assured him she was just telling him a story to frighten him, but he couldn't help but wonder... 

There had been a word, a place, where the children were taken. A dark kingdom... 

"I... I recall my mother telling me stories of cloudy, malevolent beings... and they would take naughty children to a place... Kallis! The place was called Kallis! I had believed it to be a story... but the more I think of what I saw, and the way it made me feel..."

Fierro looked him in the eye. "Kallis. I can't say I've heard of that either, but I'll run a search for it. In the meantime, we need to discuss what happens next. Lieutenant, with injuries such as yours, we normally have two options. We can trigger your body to regrow what it lost, or we can replace your lost limbs and eye with cybernetics. Doctor Hanson informs me that your body would reject the drugs needed to regrow your eye, arm and leg, which leaves us with the cybernetics."

"What are... cybernetics?" Harkness sounded confused. 

I should have realised... "Cybernetic... mechanical replacements for your missing limbs and eye. Normally you'd be expected to pay for such a procedure - it's effectively an upgrade - but in your circumstances, it's the only option so we'll waive the fee. A new, prosthetic leg will fitted and intergrated with your body, and we'll do same with your eye and arm. I'll let Doctor Hanson explain in more detail - I don't really understand the medical stuff too well. Lieutenant, if you recall anything else, either about where you are form, or the creature you fought, please, tell me right away. In the meantime, I have to go - duty calls." Fierro gave him a small smile. "I have to say, you're bearing up to all this far better than I would."

It was Harkness' turn to smile. "Believe me Captain, under the surface I don't know whether to be simply confused, or downright terrified."

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