After a few days, Endea and Tenshal arrived at a transfer yard. Tornoth and a coworker of his, a male Troll named Yellug, were also there with Gorfanth simply observing the whole thing. “Not taking part?” teased Tornoth.
“Not me,” replied Gorfanth. He noticed the officer talking to the engine’s driver. The driver looked incredibly angry while the officer, a human woman, was telling the driver what to do. The driver’s shoulders then slumped, and he slunk off into the cab before pulling out a flag with a germ symbol on it.
“You’re kidding!” shouted Yellug.
“I’m afraid not,” replied the officer. “If you lot were hoping to take the cattle on, you can forget it. They’re quarantined. Foot and mouth was found among this lot. We need to cure or dispose of them.”
“And I thrashed my engine to get here!” snarled Endea.
“Sorry, folks. Better luck next time.” The officer then left for her next job as doctors tended to the cattle.
“Well, now what?!” grumbled Yellug.
“I don’t know about you,” mused Tornoth, “but I’m just going to mosey around. I think there’s a job up at the Walek Lava Pit, so I’ll head up that way.”
“You need any help?” asked Yellug.
“No, it’s just a small job that needs to get to the castle.”
“All right, see you later.”
“Bye!” Tornoth and Yellug then started the carriages and took off in different directions.
“Now what’s Tornoth up to?” muttered Tenshal. “The only job up there is Yutt’s cattle train. It’s supposed to clear quarantine today and Wenshai’s supposed to take it.”
“Knowing my brother, he’ll try and take it from her,” muttered Gorfanth.
“You think he would?”
“Of course, the villain would. In a place that remote, who’d stop him?”
“We would,” answered Endea. “Come on, Ensign. We better make sure he’s up to only fair-play.” Endea got her horse to move and the cart followed Tornoth.
“Realmfleet people,” sighed Gorfanth. “Always wanting to play the hero. …Then again, someone needs to these days.”
Wenshai approached a farm with a cattle train sitting by it. “All right, there’s Yutt the mutt’s farm and…” she trailed off when she saw the quarantine flag. “Bother! It’s got infected cattle!” Just then, she saw an Inu farmer man talk to the officer standing by the train. They exchanged something and the officer took the flag down. “What the? So…it’s NOT quarantined anymore? Now that’s strange. Should I…?”
“Hey! You! Realmfleeter!” called the farmer. “Take me train up to the castle!”
“Who, er, me?” squeaked Wenshai. “Er, sorry, I can’t, Mr. Mu…I mean, Mr. Yutt. I’ve, er, got another job, so…I’ll come back later.” She then galloped off. “I’m not risking it, not me.” As she galloped off, she heard the horn of a horseless carriage and stopped to see Tornoth pull up.
“Well, well, well!” chuckled Tornoth as he stopped. “What’s a Realmfleeter like you doing out here?”
“Me? Nothing,” replied Wenshai.
“Don’t tell me you’ve come all this way for ‘nothing’,” scoffed Tornoth.
“No, Sir, I AM working.”
“You’re not hauling anything. You’re certainly not here for target practice, or your wand would have been out. What are you working on?”
“Well, er…it’s…it’s a secret Realmfleet project.”
“Secret? Don’t give me that! You went up to Yutt the mutt’s farm and found that his cattle train was waiting for clearance. What’s secret about that?”
“Sorry, like I said, it’s a secret Realmfleet project. I’m not allowed to give you the specifics.”
“Wenshai!” called Tenshal’s voice. He and Endea arrived in the cart. “Wenshai! Are you all right? You looked bothered.”
“No bothers on my mind,” answered Wenshai. “Just…a mystery. You see, Yutt’s cattle train WAS flying a quarantine flag.”
“You didn’t get near it, I hope?” asked Endea.
“I was tempted to,” replied Wenshai. “You see, the flag came down, but…”
“The flag came down?!” cheered Tornoth. “That’s your secret, huh?! It’s been cleared! Right! That’s my job!” He gunned the engine and his carriage roared off towards the farm!
“No!” called Tenshal. “Not if I’ve got anything to say about it!” He unharnessed the cart’s horse and mounted it.
“WAIT! STOP!” shouted Endea as she attempted to mount Wenshai. She then cried out in pain and fell to the ground.
“ENDEA!” called Wenshai. Tenshal gave up the chase and dismounted, heading to Endea.
“What’s the idea, gunning your own engine like that?!” he protested.
“Never mind me!” insisted Endea. “Ensign Tenshal, what were you thinking?!”
“I was trying to stop Tornoth from taking one of our jobs!”
“Even one that would have gotten you quarantined?!”
“You heard Wenshai, the flag came down!” Endea turned to Wenshai.
“Wenshai, you said ‘but’ before Tornoth took off. How was that sentence going to end?”
“Well, just before the officer took the flag down,” answered Wenshai, “Yutt spoke to him and then handed him something.”
“You see?” Endea asked Tenshal. “Yutt probably bribed the officer into clearing his cattle.”
“Oh, for Balmo’s sake!” snarled Tenshal. “Yutt, you mutt!”
“Endea, are you all right?” asked Wenshai.”
“Fraid not. My engine’s coolant pipes fractured. They had to flush the engine core with water. That means a replacement or, more likely, the end for me.”
“Not if we have anything to say about it!” declared Wenshai. “Tenshal, help Endea to the cart and harness me to it. You take the horse and run ahead to explain the situation to Denstra. I’ll follow you as swiftly and safely as allowed.”
Tornoth arrived at the farm and met with Farmer Yutt. “What are you doing here?” he barked. “Here to not take me cattle?”
“Abandon a client?” replied Tornoth. “Perish the thought, Mr. Yutt. The Galdredan Reliable Road Services NEVER forsake their clients.”
“Good,” grunted Yutt. “Take it to the castle and give it some speed.”
“At once, Sir.” Tornoth then chuckled to himself. “Eat my dust, Realmfleet!”
Once more, Arsha’s quarters were set up for a dream-weaving session. “Are you ready?” asked Falnii.
“Ready,” replied Arsha. She breathed deeply and shut her eyes, feeling Falnii touch the back of her head with her own, then felt Falnii’s cloud wrap around her. Falnii then chanted.
Dream your dream with me.
Tell your woes to me.
Show your troubles to me.
Dream your dream with me.
Arsha fell into a deep sleep once more.
Arsha woke up in the ruins as usual, but this time, she didn’t call out to her lovers. “I know you’re lurking somewhere!” she called to the monstrous version of her. “Show yourself! No waves, no flooding the fjord, nothing! Just show yourself!”
“Want to go off-script, do we?” laughed Monster Arsha.
“Your script needs a rewrite.”
“It’s yours as well.”
“Just show yourself, you freak!”
“As you wish!” Arsha was then struck from behind by one of Monster Arsha’s tails. Arsha picked herself up and forced herself to stare into Monster Arsha’s eyes. “A real nightmare, isn’t it?” cackled Monster Arsha.
“What brings you here?” asked Arsha.
“The truth, of course! The truth you’ve been denying yourself!”
“That you are unworthy! Unworthy of your lovers, unworthy of being a Captain, unworthy of your own pride! You think yourself a capable commander, but people still died! Dr. Borg still has a means of coming back from the dead! The Realmfleet Revenants are still undead! You know they DO blame you!”
“They told me otherwise!”
“Mere words! They still actually hit you!”
“Just to keep up the act!”
“And you never regretted losing them in the first place?” Arsha went quiet. “I thought so! Normally, I would have gnawed on your bones and soul! …But I sense you have a higher calling! There’s a spark growing within you! A spark of rage!” Monster Arsha then vomited searing hot liquid onto Arsha’s face. It burned Arsha and twisted her emotions.
“What are you doing?!” she strained. “What is this…this rage?!”
“You may have fought for the good of Realmfleet,” continued Monster Arsha, “but you still have five deaths on your conscience! They became Revenants because you didn’t monitor Dr. Borg closely enough after she told you she had developed a machine that transfers her soul to a new body! How can you ever forgive yourself?”
“I…I can’t!” gasped Arsha.
“Then BURN!” Arsha screamed in agony, the liquid searing her flesh. She got angrier and angrier. “Become vengeance! Learn from me!” Arsha almost took Monster Arsha’s hand…until she slammed her fist into the ground, forcing the liquid to evaporate. She then caught her breath.
“You’re right,” she gasped, “I DO hate myself for not paying enough attention to Dr. Borg. However, my willpower is stronger than my self-hatred!”
“Willpower won’t save you!” cackled Monster Arsha. Arsha then noticed the formation of the fjord. There was a pair of rocky, curved spikes on the highest hill. Arsha then grinned.
“No, it won’t. But who says it’s just my willpower that drives me?” Monster Arsha cocked an eyebrow. “My lovers have told me that my willpower inspires them. One of my biggest regrets is that I never told them that they have aspects that inspire me. Gorfanth’s steel-shaping strength, for starters.” It was then that the hill with the curved spikes…stood up! The rocks fell away and revealed a giant Gorfanth! “Then there’s Lardeth’s talent of on-the-fly innovation!” Another hill stood up and fell apart to reveal a giant Lardeth! “And there’s Malnar’s ability to keep a person’s spirits up!” More rocks fell away as a giant Malnar stood up. “Don’t forget Foresna’s hope in a bright future! I’m willing to bet that bright light that appeared as the wave came took his shape!” Rocks fell away as a giant Foresna stood up. “And let’s never forget the compassion Falnii is known for!” The last hill stood up and crumbled away to reveal a giant Falnii. Monster Arsha looked terrified! “You may be a part of me, but you will NEVER be dominant again!”
“The Realms you know and love are burning!” shouted Monster Arsha. “When they are ashes, you will beg for vengeance!”
“I won’t let that happen! Now go back to the darkest parts of my mind!” Monster Arsha hissed. “If you do, I promise you, I’ll let you out in the final battle.”
“…You mean it?” asked Monster Arsha.
“You may be the darker aspects I don’t like, but you ARE a part of me. I would be a fool if I didn’t acknowledge you.”
“…Arsha Royana,” purred Monster Arsha, “there may be hope for you yet! Until then, farewell.” She slunk off as the giant Falnii looked at Arsha.
“Awaken,” she said softly.