'I have no intention of harming your temple, Re'Nuck. I have come to harm you.'
Apius can feel his own face grow pale, the threat of violence meted by Asha this morning about to come to an unlikely conclusion. He can feel his body tense, but does now know if it is in readiness to run or fight back. How would he even fight back? The wooden rake may not be much of a weapon, but it is more than he can bring to bear. He tries to stutter a reply of some kind as Asha mounts the steps to the altar itself. One of his braver followers, a man he cannot name, leaps up behind Asha and tries to launch a crude attack of his own. Apius never finds out what his intention was, because she turns quickly and lashes out the rake. The clash sends shivers through the Re'Nuck, and the would-be attacker falls by the wayside, knocked silly by the force and hatred behind the blow.
'Do something, brothers and sisters! Take this despoiler away!' Apius finally wrenches from his throat, but the words bring no action. Asha turns to the timid flock, knowing they will do nothing. Many are still transfixed by the prone form lying on the floor, a livid bruise rising on the face. They have never seen an act of violence before, and Asha finds herself delighted by their fear. With a wolfish smile, she says, 'I suggest you leave now. This is between me and your precious leader.'
Apius dives to the floor, as though the altar can offer him some protection. There are only one way out of the temple, and the front door is blocked by Asha's coiled form – and Apius can hardly believe the sight of his followers leaving him behind! They are afraid, he tries to tell himself, they have no experience of such things. They must be forgiven. I will forgive them. If I survive this, he adds morbidly.
She continues her climb of the stairs to the altar, amused at the sight of the Re'Nuck cowering without the strength of numbers to fall back on.
'It is no use trying to hide, Re'Nuck. You would give yourself more honour in facing me.'
Apius gathers all his courage to stand before the feral, aggressive spirit of the Noukari given flesh. Swathed in mud, ready to explode into violence, Asha makes a sight to chill the strongest of their number.
'Thank you, Re'Nuck. At least now you may die with some dignity. Your death will mean the death of your religion, and all the darkness it brings.'
'Animexianism will survive. Someone will step into my place.'
'From among your loyal followers? Those who fled at the first risk to themselves? They are unwilling to put themselves in the line of danger for their precious gods.'
'You speak of darkness, but you are about to commit the darkest of all acts.'
'Do not moralize with me, Apius. My act is the lesser of two darknesses. I have no doubt of that.'
Title: The Last War
Author: Alex Davis
Born from the genius of the Animex, the aliens of the Noukari seek to gain a foothold on a savage planet. But the greatest danger to their existence lies within them – a powerful gift of telepathy.
As the tension grows between idolatry and admiration of their creators, and the Noukari come to understand the latent powers within their own minds, a species created for peace are about to succumb to brutal violence.
In a galaxy torn by conflict, will the first battle between the Noukari also be their last war?
“The Last War is a remarkable study of reason and faith, morality and practicality, pragmatism and idealism. With sharp, unfussy prose, Alex Davis draws the reader into an endearing nascent civilisation, and then takes it apart before our eyes. Unpredictable, challenging and rewarding.” Gav Thorpe, New York Times Bestselling author of Angels of Darkness Deliverance Lost.
Alex Davis is an author, editor, publisher, creative writing tutor and events organiser based in Derby. His debut novel, THE LAST WAR, is out in July from Tickety Boo Press and is the first in a science-fiction trilogy following the aliens of the Noukari. He is co-ordinator for Derby’s annual Edge-Lit event – running this year on the 11th July – and also part of the management committee for this year’s Derby Book Festival. He also runs Boo Books, Derby’s independent press, aiming to promote regional talent along internationally known authors. Their latest release is The Electric, available in paperback for the first time. For more information, visit http://boobooks.net/
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