Chapter Fifty-Seven – Revelation
Marsaxlokk was rudely awoken by the sound of laser mines exploding in the cold hour before dawn as Meral and Cilla began their combined attack. The agonizing screams of hundreds of dying female berserkers, mixed with the frenzied war cries of their advancing sisters, echoed across the ancient city, as they charged towards the ramparts through the tangle of mines and booby-traps. Deadly showers of jagged stone from the exploding Semac and molecular charges cut the advancing berserkers to ribbons before Meral finally sounded the retreat. Her army of two thousand now numbered less than fifty, most of them walking wounded. She sent a runner to Cilla with orders to bring her remaining warriors back to where Meral now stood, licking her wounds.
Cilla found Meral seated alone on a hill less than a kilometre from Marsaxlokk, angrily surveying the scene of destruction before her. “They’re too strong for us, my queen,” Cilla said, as she stood with Meral looking at the ramparts across the bloody battlefield.
Meral’s scarred face twisted into an evil mask. “What are you saying?” She delivered the words like a cobra spitting venom, covering Cilla’s battle scarred face in a shower of spittle. “Are you suggesting we retreat?”
Cilla saw the hatred in Meral’s eyes and lowered her head, avoiding her queen’s stare. “I’m not saying that my queen. But you were right, they do have weapons more powerful than ours. What do we do now?” Meral gradually calmed down. Her brow furrowed and the vicious pink scar that marred her otherwise beautiful face, twisted as she searched the dark recesses of her insane mind for ways to overcome the Nephile defences.
Cilla crawled forward under cover of darkness, carrying out the suicidal command of her insane leader and friend. She slowly worked her way through the bodies of her dead sisters until she was within bow shot of the ramparts. She sat for the rest of the night awaiting her opportunity. The early light of dawn revealed the defenders on the ramparts. A lone figure stood on the top of an ancient tower, silhouetted against the sky. Cilla selected an arrow from the meagre supply in the quiver beside her. She placed its nock against the bowstring and held it between the first two fingers of her right hand as she brought the bow up and aimed. Geb toppled lifeless from the tower, his throat torn out by the arrow, before his body smashed into the paving stones below. Disrupter rifles fired blindly into the gloom by the defenders, sent showers of razor sharp rock fragments flying as they searched for the unseen assassin.
Sefani let out a terrifying berserker cry when Geb’s limp body was carried back by Max to the garden. Meral shivered when she heard the cry. The Nephile community was totally unnerved by the sudden change in the sweet young woman they all loved and admired. Talia tried to comfort her, but it was too late. The terrible anger within Sefani was once again rising to the surface; she would not rest until she found the murderer of her sweet love, Geb. Sefani stripped her clothing from her body, arming herself with sword and shield, and ran to the ramparts. No one, not even Goran or Max, dared stop her.
She began her hunt through the tangle of ruined buildings. Cilla was soon cut off as Sefani circled behind. Meral watched as she closed for the kill. There was something very familiar about the naked young warrior easily dodging Cilla’s arrows as she closed for the kill.
Cilla dropped her bow and drew her sword to face the oncoming young huntress. Sefani stood in the light of the early morning sun, her hair shining as the wind gently blew it back over her olive skinned shoulders. “Fight me you murdering bitch, come out and die!” Sefani’s hazel-green eyes flashed with such intensity, they sent shivers of fear up Cilla’s spine.
“Who are you, little one?” Cilla asked, quickly regaining her composure as she prepared to fight.
“I am Sefani, daughter of Goran and Talia!” Meral gasped as she heard the angry words.
Sefani closed with her quarry as they circled each other. Her beautiful eyes blazed with hatred now, as Cilla probed her defences. From both sides of the battlefield the sound of the women’s swords striking against each other’s shields rang out across the ruins. Meral watched with a mixture of fear and pride as her granddaughter and her champion fought in the heat and dust.
Cilla was no match for Sefani’s inherited natural swordsmanship. Soon she lay in a growing pool of blood at Sefani’s feet, having never seen the vicious blow that ended their duel. Sefani dropped her shield and raised the sword in both hands before delivering the coup de grace, severing Cilla’s head.
She picked up the head and held it high in the air screaming out a berserker cry of triumph. Then she swung her arm and threw it towards where Meral stood. “Meral!” she screamed. Silence fell across the battlefield below the ramparts. Meral shivered. “Come grandmother, or are you afraid to fight your only granddaughter. You tried to murder my parents when you had them thrown into Etna’s crater, but they survived. Now you’ve murdered the man I love. End this madness here and now Meral. Surely you’re not frightened of one woman standing alone, are you?” Sefani’s angry challenge echoed across the field of battle.
Both sides looked to where Meral stood. Her remaining warriors stood down, with their swords and shields slung on their backs. Max and the defenders all watched from the ramparts, looking at the beautiful young female warrior standing bloodstained in the harsh Mediterranean sunlight. For the first time in many long years, Meral knew she was alone. None of her berserkers was going to lift a finger to help her. She sat for a long time absent-mindedly caressing the sharp edge of her sword as she looked across to where her naked nemesis stood patiently waiting. In one of the lucid moments in her otherwise insane frame of mind, she thought back to the dark days of her youth on board the ship when Pashtek had taught her and her two brothers the evil lessons that had ultimately led her here. She thought about her son Merak and her daughter Talia and about Kalma…
Everything became clear. Merak and Goran had to be one and the same person, they had to be! Even if she was mistaken it didn’t matter, she would use it as a weapon. If Sefani was her granddaughter then she was the offspring of siblings. Meral began laughing insanely as her tortured mind took over once more and she rose to her feet, slowly picking up her sword and shield. She may die today, but she had one evil task left to perform. “Very well, Sefani.” Her voice changed, taking on its more familiar venomous tone, but with an added icy chill. “I’ll face you my dear. But before we begin there’s something you should know about your lineage child, something that not even your parents know!” Meral’s hideous laughter rang out across the ground towards Sefani as she stood prepared to fight her insane grandmother. “Your precious parents, Goran and Talia are my children; your father’s real name is Merak. He was conceived in the empty depths of space; his father was a Khaz. I ate the father of Talia, I don’t remember his name. Your parents are half brother and sister!”
The shock of the announcement stunned everyone who heard it. Talia ran from Goran with tears of shame flooding down her cheeks. Goran sat totally stunned by the shocked realization of what Meral had just said, remembering the day long ago when Max had jokingly questioned his berserker heritage. Finally, he understood why he and Talia had such a close bond between them. Max sat beside him with his arm around his shoulder, while Neit, Shaila, Het-Heru, and Bast ran after Talia. Tihke sat dumbfounded on the wall of the ramparts. Ausar and the rest of the Nephile defenders watched from the safety of the defensive ramparts, angered by what had happened to their sanctuary, unfairly blaming it all on the beautiful tall blond young woman and her family. Their unspoken thoughts had already decided Sefani’s fate, should she survive today.
Next time – Chapter Fifty-Eight