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Little Grey Men



What would happen if you came face-to-face with a creature that you thought only existed in your nightmares?


With October being the month of spooky monsters, witches, and such, I thought it an excellent time to introduce one of the strangest creatures from Raiders of the Dark Coast. The party comes across these bizarre grey beings along their search for the legendary rune scrolls.


Balthazar is the first to run afoul of the little grey men. Here is a short excerpt that describes that encounter:


As the chairs spun about, Bal found himself face-to-face with creatures he thought only existed in nightmares. Two greyish humanoids peered back at him, each with a pair of large black eyes inset into their bulbous heads.

Zeta Reticulum? The word sent chills up Bal’s spine.

Zeta Reticulum were supposed to be a myth—creatures from outer space that elders used to scare little children. Yet here were two of them staring Bal right in the face.


Further lore about the Zetas is revealed when the others come across them as well:


“That’s a Zeta Reticulum,” Elladan explained. “They’re boogie men used to scare little children—or at least so I thought until now.”

“Same here,” Bal agreed.

“Where did it come from?” Thea asked in a hushed voice.

“Legend has it they’re from the baleful moon,” Elladan continued, “and might have been responsible for the plague of madness.”

Seishin never heard of these space creatures, but had heard of the plague of madness. It started when the baleful moon first appeared in the sky and plunged the world into a thousand year long dark age. The madness came to an end with the fall of the baleful moon, but the resulting collision broke the world and sent Seishin’s ancestors southward to form the nation of Isandor.


So, these creatures of legend are supposed to be from outer space. This may not be so hard to believe after one faces off with them. Bal soon gets firsthand experience as to why the Zetas are the stuff of nightmares. Here is an excerpt detailing the battle between Bal and one of the Zetas:

 

Bal slowly backed out the door, his mind still in shock at seeing creatures straight from his nightmares. One of the Zetas rose and followed him as he backed out into the hallway.


Other than the bulbous grey head and the large black eyes, the creature looked basically humanoid. It had two arms and hands that ended in long, slender fingers. He could not see if it had legs, however, as it wore floor-length robes.


An alien voice sounded in Bal’s mind. Who are you brother?


Back in the room, the Parthian officer had not budged an inch. All of a sudden, everything made sense to him. There was no way the Parthians had the know how to build either of these ships. For once, they were not the aggressors. They’d been enslaved by the Zeta Reticulum, creatures who could control the mind.


A wave of empathy passed over the Lanfor lieutenant. He called out to the Parthian officer, “I am here to help, friend. I will save you from your persecutors.”


An unearthly laugh echoed through Bal’s brain. You amuse me, brother. You have such a delicious mind.


The creature motioned to Parthian officer. He rose and came out into the hallway. Bal noticed the sword hanging at his side and decided to retreat just in case. Briefly concentrating, he switched to his magnetic armor and climbed up onto the ceiling.


My oh my, what unique talents you have, the Zeta practically cooed. Still, I wonder if can you handle this?


As the words echoed through Bal’s mind, a blast of pure mental energy leapt at him from the center of the creature’s forehead. Bal threw up a mental shield just in time. The attack bounced harmlessly off of it, the rebounding force rippling through the air around him.


Very interesting, the creature murmured. What is your name, brother?


I am called Bal, he answered cautiously, careful not to give it his true name. In his studies he’d learned that knowing a thing’s true name could give you power over it.


Welcome, Bal, the creature practically purred. You would not be able to pronounce my real name, but you can call me—Fred.


Bal noted how it cleverly circumvented giving him its true name in turn. It was then that he noticed the humming of the ship had stopped. A blast abruptly reverberated throughout the vessel. It was almost immediately followed by a loud explosion which resulted in the entire ship rocking around them.


Thankfully Bal’s magnetic greaves and gauntlets held, but he still felt a bit shaken, nonetheless. ‘Fred’ nearly fell over, but his Parthian ‘slave’ caught him. Once the rocking subsided, Fred stood back up. Though its expression was unreadable, Bal could sense the creature’s discomfort.


Fred peered back up at him. So, Bal, what business brings you out here? And who are your friends? They seem rather—creative.


Bal smiled despite himself. This creature didn’t know the half of it. He decided to push a bit to see if he could get a reaction out of it. They are. Perhaps more than you can handle.


Fred stared back at him, its expression still unreadable. After a long pause, it calmly slid down the corridor beneath him to one of the doors he had passed on his way here. It motioned to him as it entered the doorway. Come, Bal, let’s talk.


Bal hesitated for the briefest of moments, but then thought better of it. That attack before was merely a test. It definitely wanted something more from him or both creatures would have come at him at once. Curious to see where this was going, he decided to play along.


Bal climbed back down the wall and went to the open doorway. Inside, he found the Zeta seated in a comfortable looking chair behind a small table. He noted that its right hand was hidden beneath that table.


When the creature did not immediately speak, Bal decided to ask a question of his own. Tell me, Fred, what business do you have with the Parthians? They obviously did not build this ship.


Fred shrugged. It was the first humanoid reaction that Bal had seen the creature display. They are a convenience—for the moment. They’ve supplied the manpower and resources we need to create this ship—and others.


Bal suppressed any surface reaction to the Zeta’s words, but his insides screamed at the thought of more ships like this. If the Parthians had a fleet of these things, they’d decimate the Lanfor navy.


Still, they are only so useful, Fred continued. Someone like yourself, with a mind akin to ours, would be a much better suited ally.


Bal narrowed his gaze at the Zeta. Now they were getting to the crux of what they wanted. What would such an alliance entail?


Fred’s expression did not change, but there was a glint of excitement in its dark black eyes. There would have to be allowances on both our parts. We would provide you with access to the same technology that went into building this ship. It would make your country the most powerful on the planet.


And what would you want in return? Bal thought back at the creature.


Fred hesitated the briefest of moments before answering. An audience with your Queen is all we ask. Once we explain our goals to her, I’m sure she’d become a—pliable ally.


There it was. They meant to use their mind controlling abilities to take over the Queen. Even the power of the Amber Crystal might not hold up against such an attack.


Bal railed at the thought. That’s never going to happen.


Seeing the truth behind his intent, Fred made no further efforts to convince him. Instead, it waved whatever it held beneath the table.


Bal found himself suddenly paralyzed. Unable to move a muscle, he almost panicked as the Zeta rose from its seat. Finding a shred of calm at the very core of his being, Bal latched onto it and focused solely on his armor. Just like he had done in the Kaniron vault, he poured more and more energy into it until it began to visibly glow.


Fred halted in its approach, sounding suddenly quite concerned. Whatever are you doing?


Pushing the armor to its limits and beyond, it suddenly erupted in a violent flash of pure psychic energy. The wave fanned out in all directions, sending Fred flying against the wall.


The backlash knocked Bal to the floor as well, but afterwards he found he could move again. Rising up onto both elbows, he spied the Zeta at the base of the wall lying there unmoving.

 

That ends Bal's encounter with the little grey man. If you'd like to read more about the Zetas and/or Balthazar, ebook and print copies of Raiders are now available at multiple book stores. In the coming months, I'll share one or two more excerpts from Raiders, as well as an audio clip from the Baron's Heart. Beyond that, I will get to the promised teasers from Tomb of the Gods, the next book in the Rise of the Thrall Lord series.


See you here next month!

F.P.

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