That evening, Kaelyn walked out to Lake Mitchell. The water rippled, calm and black. Phobos was already high in the sky, and Deimos was rising above the trees. Twilight was fading fast. She wasn’t usually out this late, but the sooner she did this, the better. She found her rowboat in its hiding place. She emptied out the tree branches and tossed in her bag with the light sword. Then she pushed the boat out of the undergrowth.

The bushes shook and rattled as something burst out of the woods. It skidded to a halt at the water’s edge. Half of it was covered in slick, dark brown fur, and the other half in scales of the same color. This must be a lizard dog. The creature turned and locked its sickly green eyes on Kaelyn. It snarled, baring all of its sharp teeth. Its fur bristled. A hood of skin behind its head rose up and unfolded in a display of hatred.

Fear rooted Kaelyn to the spot, unable to free her eyes from the beast’s gaze. She couldn’t run. Instead, she reached into her bag and found the light sword. She had to hold her ground as best as she could. It was time to either fight or die.

The lizard dog suddenly howled in pain. Someone shimmered into view behind it, their glowing ax square in the dog’s back. Who it was, Kaelyn couldn’t tell. The dog wriggled free and leaped at its attacker, pushing them into the shallow water. It mauled them. The water churned as they struggled against the lizard dog.

Kaelyn knew they would drown if she didn’t act fast. Whoever they were, they had just saved her life. With a shout of courage, Kaelyn charged the lizard dog. She hit it in the ribs with the steel hilt of the light sword, knocking it aside. She heard the stranger gasp for air.

The dog leaped on Kaelyn and bit her right arm. The force nearly knocked her over. Through the intense pain, she could feel the dog’s teeth dig through her muscles to the bone. Still, she struggled to keep her balance.

The light blade appeared. The fur on the side of the lizard dog’s face sizzled as it burned away in the blade’s heat. It let go of Kaelyn’s arm and howled. With one swing of their ax, the stranger cut off the dog’s head. Purple blood sprayed out of the beast’s neck.

Silence settled onto the lake again. Kaelyn caught her breath and met the stranger’s eyes. Now that they were both standing in moonlight, she realized that the person standing beside the dead canine wasn’t human but alien. They were pale, like a pearl. Dark blood marred their left shoulder. They wore a toga of silver cloth with heavy belts crisscrossing their chest. They had a bald, egg-shaped head with large, black, almond-shaped eyes. Their nose and mouth were small, and they didn’t have any ears from what Kaelyn could tell. Their face reminded her of the strange skull she found on her last dive. Then she knew. This alien was one of “the others” – the ones whom Kaelyn’s ancestors fought on this very lake.

The other tensed up and their eyes narrowed. They raised their ax and approached Kaelyn. The edge of the blade ignited with bright blue light. It must use the same technology as the sword.

Fearing attack, Kaelyn shouted, “No! Wait!” She dropped the light sword, extinguishing the blade, and rolled it toward the other. “Take it.”

The other stopped. They looked at the sword, then at Kaelyn, then back at the sword. The light on their ax blade faded as they lowered it. They reached for the sword, but then they froze.

Kaelyn heard hoofbeats. Following the other’s gaze, she turned around and saw Coltan and the Yellow Falcons riding toward them. As they got closer, Kaelyn heard a shimmering sound. She looked back and saw that the sword and the other were gone.

The gang slowed down as they approached Kaelyn. Coltan brought four people with him – Nils, the bodyguard Kaelyn saw in the market that morning, and two teenage boys. Were they new recruits? “Hey, hey, Kaelyn,” one of the boys sang. “We’ve been looking for you.”

Coltan stopped the boys’ laughter with a stern “Shut up!” He, Nils, and the bodyguard dismounted.

Kaelyn cradled her bleeding arm, pressing it against her heart as Coltan stepped forward. He said, “I asked Jezper about that interesting thing you found. He didn’t have it. He had no idea what I was talking about. You’re lying to me.”

Kaelyn trembled in panic. “No, I wasn’t. I don’t have it anymore. I can’t get it back. It’s gone. It’s…”

She was interrupted by the clicks Coltan’s pistol made as he readied it. Finally, he aimed at Kaelyn’s head. “Tell your dad I said hi.”

A black arrow struck Coltan’s shoulder. He cried out in pain, dropping his pistol and falling to his knees. Behind him, Kaelyn saw the other reappear out of nowhere. They swung their ax at the bodyguard, hitting them square in the chest. The horses panicked and ran away, and the teens followed close behind.

“Cowards! Cowards!” Coltan shouted, clutching his bleeding shoulder. Kaelyn picked up Coltan’s gun and pointed it at him.

Nils fired her pistol at the other, but as far as Kaelyn could tell, none of the bullets hit. The air around the other zapped and sparked. Did they have an invisible shield that could block bullets? Nils carried the wounded bodyguard and ran, shooting at the other the whole way.

Two more arrows whizzed past Kaelyn’s head. She looked behind her and saw a second other emerge from the woods. They wore a similar silver toga, held a bow, and had a quiver of arrows attached to the belt around their waist.

As the Yellow Falcons fled, the others approached Kaelyn with their weapons at the ready. They assumed positions behind her. Guess they’re on my side.

Coltan looked up at Kaelyn, but then his eyes shifted onto the others behind her. “No. It can’t be,” he whispered. This was the first time Kaelyn had ever seen Coltan wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and afraid.

She adjusted her grip on the gun and mustered courage into her voice. “That interesting thing that I found – what Nils saw – it is theirs. I gave it back to them.” She fully expected Coltan to respond. Yet the Mayor seemed to be speechless. Kaelyn steadied her aim at Coltan’s heart. “If you leave and go home, we’ll let you live. But if you try anything, we’ll make sure that you never leave this lake.”

Slowly, grimacing, Coltan stood. His eyes narrowed into a death glare, locked onto Kaelyn. She kept the gun on Coltan and placed her finger on the trigger. She knew that much about firing a gun. But then Coltan took a few steps back. Finally, he turned and walked away.

Kaelyn lowered the gun. The black metal thing rested in her hands, now warm and slick from her grip. This was the pistol that killed her father. She didn’t want it. She didn’t want anyone to use it ever again. So she threw it into the lake with her good arm. It hit the water several feet away, making a loud, satisfying splash.

She saw the two others looking at her. The ax wasn’t glowing, and the archer didn’t have an arrow in their bow. Were they waiting for Kaelyn to do something? She was compelled to say something at least. As soon as she opened her mouth, she realized that they likely wouldn’t understand her, that her words would mean nothing to them. Still, she said, “Thank you.”

The other with the ax nodded. Did she get through to them? Both others pressed something on their belts and shimmered out of sight. Kaelyn heard them walk away. She returned to her rowboat, retrieved her bag, and awkwardly filled the boat with tree branches.

Kaelyn trudged up the road toward home, holding her bleeding arm close. Her mind spun. She was lightheaded with confusion and shock. Soon, she lost her balance, and the world went pitch black.

©2019 Joyce Lewis. All rights reserved.