The Aliens They Summoned
Felix woke up in the usual cell. His hands hurt, and his mouth, his wrists, his legs... his whole body screamed in agony as he pushed himself into a sitting position.
The first thing he realized was that he woke up on the cold, cracked floor, not in his bed.
Then he looked at the cell.
All the fine furniture had been trashed, the walls had holes, and it looked as if a beast had raged through this place... from the inside.
This was definitely his cell.
Something had tried to break out but failed. The prison bars were bent to the outside, just like they had been at Lord Viktor's castle.
Felix trembled as he looked for the monster... but found none.
He shivered with a bad premonition, rising from the ground.
A man in shining armor waited in front of his cell, gripping his sword.
It was Sir Arthur.
He looked worried, wary... as if he suspected Felix to lash out at him, break through the bars.
Felix looked out the window.
It was morning, just like last time...
"What happened?" he finally asked, hoping to receive an impossible answer.
"You did this," Sir Arthur spoke slowly, moving in an attacking position. "You just turned back into a man an hour or so ago. I watched you ever since." He kept his distance, ready to attack at a moment's notice. "Is it gone?"
All of this went too fast for Felix.
What was it?
What did he mean?
"The beast inside you, the thing that caused you to fall into a rage, is it gone?"
The calm captain of the royal guard betrayed a hint of emotion as his voice grew louder, demanding, commanding.
"I feel nothing of this beast inside me... anymore."
This didn't calm Sir Arthur down.
"The king shall arrive shortly," he said, and Felix knew that he better stayed silent now.
The sun barely moved before King Gordan arrived. Due to Felix's state of panic, it seemed like a long time had passed since he woke up.
The King's eyes were glued to Felix even while he whispered about something with Sir Arthur, who did the same.
They didn't trust him at all.
After they exchanged a few words, Sir Arthur nodded, looked at his king, bowed, and marched away, making sure to throw another accusatory gaze Felix's way.
King Gordan allowed his presence to dominate the room, then his eyes fixated on the shivering figure of Felix, cowering on the ground.
This was the most stressed he'd felt since first meeting that beast.
"A nightmare, huh?" the King said, scratching his beard with a curious expression. "This seems like more than that, don't you agree, Sir Felix?" Felix couldn't answer. The King didn't seem to expect him to do so, either, as he kept on talking normally. There was no judgment in his voice. "We have assessed a few things about the state you're in, as well as the guilt that befalls you," King Gordan said, cocking his head. "We tried to communicate with you through your rage, but do you remember? Anything at all would be fine, even a dream-like experience like last time. Anything?" Felix nodded, frowning. There were some memories, but they were entirely not his own, they felt alien... like another's mind transferred into his. "Nothing, huh... It seems the beast raged too furiously for you to notice tonight. You see, Sir Felix, your dear Lord Viktor transformed as you did. All who have been bit transformed, or so we believe. The invading beasts that attacked the cities around your castle were the soldiers you sent there yourself. Unknowingly, of course, but their numbers coincide with the number of beasts attacking each location. I'm sorry to tell you, but that's not a coincidence. I hope you understand." Felix didn't understand. What was it he should understand? He began to tremble as the King kept talking, not allowing a reaction. "That being said, you have become a most fascinating creature, Sir Felix. You easily broke the shackles we used to keep you in check and proceeded to smash your body against the prison bars, bending them like rubber sticks. We were quite worried for a while, you know? I believe that were the night an hour longer, you would've been free... though I'm no expert, of course. That's merely my theory, an educated guess if you will. Don't mind it too much." King Gordan looked away, pacing the corridor in front of the prison cell with quick strides. Back and forth, forth and back, back and forth... again and again. "We were prepared to kill both of you, Sir Felix. From what you said, the first beast, we shall call if the Source Beast, for now, was able to rip the bars straight out of the stone as if it was nothing. Surely my prisons have more durability than those in your castle - you'd agree, wouldn't you? - but still, I have to wonder if you really are as strong as the Source... No, I don't need to ask. You aren't nearly on its level. That's the only thing that slightly frightens me. You heard me right, I'm frightened, Sir Felix. Our magic worked easily enough on you two, but should it fail against the Source, we might find ourselves with too small an army to fight back before we know it."
The King took a break, glancing out the window, mumbling something about 'the time the howling stopped,' and Felix took his chance.
"You used magic on us?"
"Yes, yes," the King confirmed off-handedly, not stopping his feet. "We had to come up with a countermeasure against you, didn't we? Something that could kill the beast... but back to your guilt. There is none. In the fair sense of judgment, all guilt befalls the beast. Now, Sir Felix, don't you see a predicament here? You are innocent, but your mortal body houses a beast that could kill every soldier at this castle. How should we go about this? What is your take on the matter, with your housing the accused, Sir Felix?"
It was a trick question.
That was all it could be...
But he didn't want to be killed...
"Imprison me every full moon in a cell such as this and keep repairing them with magic?" he suggested, deducing from the look on King Gordan's face that he guessed wrong.
The King shook his head.
"While it is true that this cell contained the beast tonight, the nights are long now. What will we do in the winter, when the full moon lasts more than half a day? Also, the beast is a problem. While it certainly is controlled by its anger and fury, there is a mind to it. It controls a human body, after all. We can't hope for the same containments to work repeatedly, I'm afraid... anything else?"
Felix felt like he was caught in an unfunny game.
The outcome of this game could determine whether he would survive, which wasn't exactly reassuring.
All he could come up with was... nothing.
Nothing at all!
"Maybe contain me with magic?"
"Do you know how exhausting it is for mages to restrain a struggling human, not to speak of a beast that can fight its way through stone and steel?" the King asked with a sigh, shaking his head. "If you don't have anything else..." Here, he waited, glancing at Felix through half-closed eyes. The knight's brain had stopped working. It was only his heart that kept pounding blood through his body. He had nothing. "See, I don't like this outcome, either. You were much more useful than your Lord Viktor, mind you. He kept on wailing about his family, insisting that we find them and bring them to him... well, we did, but that didn't make him happy. We brought him what was left of them, you see... it was difficult to identify among all the other corpses, so we expected some level of cooperation after that. Good for him that we had you... well, until tonight. There was no reason to expect anything from him, so we executed him while he was transformed. Did you know that the beasts stay when you kill them in their beast-forms? That's useful. Our physicians can examine him now... well, where was I?"
"You killed Lord Viktor?"
"Naturally. He was a dangerous monster, just like you... well, he died as one. You're right, his honor wasn't preserved, but after all his wailing and uncooperative behavior... you have to understand our exasperation. At least he'll serve a purpose like this, don't you think?"
Felix was trembling heavily now.
If they didn't hesitate to slay Lord Viktor, then he was next, wasn't he?
"How will it happen?" he inquired.
"So you know what must happen?" The King smiled gently. "I respect that. It's important to see the bigger picture. Let me do you a favor and reveal some secrets before you die. See it as my way of repaying the favor."
"My King, you shouldn't-"
"Sir Arthur, allow him this moment of glory." At some point, the captain of the royal guards had returned, looking worriedly from King Gordan to Felix. "Free him."
"I told you to free him."
King Gordan allowed no room for a rebuttal.
"Yes, your highness."
"Much better." Sir Arthur opened the cage, waving Felix closer. He had his hand back on his sword. "I don't believe that's necessary, either," King Gordan said, though he didn't move to stop Sir Arthur from doing so.
"My King, where are we-"
"To the cage of Lord Viktor. We will allow you to see him again. In the meantime, let me reveal a bit of a secret about our kingdom. Sir Arthur knows, too. I couldn't keep it from him if I wanted to. First of all, this isn't the first time strange creatures have appeared out of nowhere. They contaminated living people by biting them, just like the beast, turning the victims into its kin. There are some differences, of course, but let's address the issue of the peace in these lands. Our conflict with the Belarus Kingdom is false. A farce. Merely an act. Ever since the previous invasion by monsters, the four kingdoms have been allies, awaiting the day the monsters would strike again... it seems like this day has arrived. Well, one of those kingdoms has been overthrown, but the Nation of Paegan has been rather cooperative in this matter, so we shall ignore it. I fear it won't aid us in our cause, but three kingdoms shall be enough, I feel. Daghan, Belarus, and Gaundry. An ancient alliance. The world will tremble in our wake..." A self-satisfied smile crossed the King's lips, a disturbing expression, as Felix saw it. "The biggest weakness of the beasts is that they only transform on a full moon. We must march on the rest of them before the next one. Sir Felix, we exterminated everyone at Lord Viktor's castle and each of your soldiers in the cities they visited. I'm sorry, but it was for the sake of our kingdom." It was too much. Felix couldn't even feel anything anymore. His Lord dead, his friends dead, everyone he knew dead... "Their march was stopped by the Nation of Paegan, and the Belarus Kingdom made contact with them, slaying them all. A few outposts of Daghan were attacked, so that is where we shall march. I ordered our cities to look through the forests, and execute everyone with a bite mark immediately. It shall not count as murder. Those who heed this call will be seen as heroes... oh, there is Lord Viktor."
This wasn't Lord Viktor.
It was a beast, intimidating and dangerous, not as kind as his Lord... no, some of his features...
Felix knelt beside his master, mourning his passing.
He heard a sword being unsheathed behind him.
A quiet exchange between King and Knight happened as Felix thought back on the revelations of the last hour.
Somehow, he wished he had never heard...
For a moment longer, the thought loomed in the mortal realm, and as his head smacked his neck good-bye, it ascended to a higher plane of existence.