Dark Return is the sequel to Belterra, Time After Time, and takes place about ten years afterwards. When Belterra was populated long ago by a select group of humans sent here by the ancients in the hope of saving the human race, the indigenous race of bat-like creatures called the Batrach were forced into the ocean and underground sea caves by a giant force field. The force field has now weakened. The Batrach have emerged from their watery prison and they want their planet back.
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“Neeka,” called Lira at her door. “I hate to wake you when you get so little sleep as it is, but you are needed.”
“What is it, Lira?” she asked, putting on her robe.
“Your father. He is ill. I can do nothing with him. Will you come and see what you can do?”
“Of course. I’ll be right there. Call Ana and Fen.”
“They are already with him.”
Neeka dressed quickly and made her way to her father’s bedchamber. She opened the door to find a very ashy gray looking Lord Mica. She edged toward the bed.
“Father, I hear you aren’t feeling so well. What exactly is bothering you?” she asked, noticing his breathing was shallow and rapid. His coloring was off, greyish, pale. She touched his hand and head. No fever, that was good.
“I am sick.”
“Yes, we got that part. Sick from…?”
“Sick from war, sick from death. Sick from looking into the face of the certain demise of our entire species. Sick from my inability to rectify this situation. My heart aches. My people look to me for leadership and guidance; they expect me to figure out a way to save us. I am the Warrior Lord, but I’m no good at this war stuff. We have lived in peace all of my life. I am no strategist. I can hold my own against any human adversary, but not these reptilian monsters. I am, my daughter, a blatant failure.”
“Ana, Fen, come here,” Neeka asked. “Help me.” She put her hand on his chest. Ana and Fen did the same. They closed their eyes and breathed deeply, sending their vibrations into his body. Soon Lord Mica was breathing easier and his coloring had returned to normal.
“May I speak with my father alone please?” Ana, Fen, and Lira left the room.
“Ashamed of me, Neeka?”
She sat down across from him and stared at him. This war had certainly aged him.
“Of course not. You are the Lord of the Warrior Clan, a man of healing and finesse. You know the ways of natural healing, of crystals, and light therapy. You know the natural cycles of the sun and the moon. You know the paths of the stars in the sky. You can predict the weather. And you can sense danger by sniffing the air. You know how to communicate with the plants and animals of our kingdom. You can handle any human problem that comes our way.”
“However, the problem facing us right now is non-human and I cannot understand or communicated with these damn bat creatures.”
“What does Lord Jamit say?”
“He’s praying. He’s cloistered himself away in prayer. He’s been praying for three days now.”
“How about Lord Milo?”
“Ineffective little punk. He never was leadership material. He takes orders well, but there’s not an original thought anywhere in his head. And Braedon? He’s the only one among us all who is a true leader and a strong fighter. He’s out there on the front line from dawn to dusk, doing battle with these beasts day in and day out. When I do see him, he looks so tired, so exhausted. Your husband needs rest. And maybe some loving attention from his wife. Your man needs time to replenish himself. Where is he?”
“He wasn’t home when I got back from the hospital. I really don’t know where he is.”
“Well, I do, daughter. He’s out there. If he’s not fighting, he’s carrying back the wounded before they can be eaten. He cannot go on like this. Insist that your husband rest. Take him by his ear and put him to bed.”
“Yes, Father, I will, just as soon as I find him. Now, back to you. Let’s see if I have this right. You’re having premonitions of impending doom.”
“You feel there is no way out of this.”
“You feel as our leader you have let whatever’s left of the human race down.”
“You feel we’re all going to end up dead.”
“Yes,” he shouted.
“And you’re making yourself sick over this.”
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Oh, Father, you are anything but a disappointment, to any of us. Yes, we have our problems. I, too, have had nightmares and premonitions that these beasts are gaining strength and have the definite edge over us in this fight. But, I know you’re going to find a way to pull us out of this. And you are not alone. You have your wonderful sons, the love boys, Lars and Omer and Vin and Emil by my stepmother, Lady Tela. You have your own personal fire-breathing dragon, my daughter, your granddaughter, Ana. You have Fen, My I’m-not-sure-what, but I know I’ve loved that young man since I first laid eyes on him as a sickly, lost, orphan child in Northford, and he grows more mature and intelligent and wise with every single passing day. You have Lira, the third woman you’ve bowled over with your kind, gentle, and loving ways. She is the absolute epitome of patience and devotion to you. And you have Braedon, my fantastic War Lord husband, and me, your wild, impetuous daughter. You aren’t carrying this burden by yourself.”
There was a knock at the door.
“I brought you some tea, My Lord,” Lira came in with a tray. “It will calm your nerves.” She poured and handed him the cup. He drank it down quickly. Lira stroked his head and smiled at him.
“Rest now, Father. Things will look better when you awaken.”
“Sleep, now, My Lord,” said Lira.
“I can’t sleep. I wish I could sleep, but I can’t, I’m so…”
“Of course you can, My Darling. I drugged your tea. Rest now. I will be back soon to check on you.” Neeka and Lira left and Lord Mica was soon sound asleep. Six hours passed. He was shaken awakened by his second in command, Cale.
“Lord Mica, something is obstructing the view of camera three on the force field,” reported Cale. “I don’t like it. No, I don’t like it at all. They’re trying to obstruct our view for a reason. They may be building something, some large apparatus to break down our force field, then swarm us, and devour our flesh while we’re still alive. Do you want me to ask Lord Braedon to look into it?”
“No, Cale. Braedon needs to rest. I’ll get up and go find Keng and ask him to take a team and find out what it is.”
“Do you want me to go find him so you can rest?”
“No. I’m awake now.”
Lord Mica got up and went to the dining hall and found Keng.
“Don’t you guys ever sleep?”
“We’ll sleep when this nightmare of a war is over, Lord Mica,” Keng answered. “We’ll eat like pigs, make love like crazy, get drunk, and sleep for a week.”
“I hope that day will be soon, my friend. Keng, something is blocking a security camera, number three, on the force field and Cale is getting all antsy about it. He thinks it’s a big batrach conspiracy to keep us in the dark until they find a way to destroy the force field. Do you think you could take a team and check it out?”
“Of course, Lord Mica. We’ll leave at first light,” Keng nodded. Keng looked around to find someone to go with him. He saw no one.
“Keng, what is it?” asked Braedon when he walked into the dining hall. “What’s the matter?”
“Oh, nothing. I have to go out and check a blocked camera. I was just looking for someone to take with me, and I can’t find any of our soldier clan.”
“I ordered them all to bed. Have you taken a good look at them lately? They are the most bedraggled lot I have ever seen. They look exhausted. But I’ll come with you. When do you want to leave?”