HUMAN/SUPER First Contact 297

“Of course I did!” Galdrar said. “Verden is still your home, and you have a duty to your people. They need their king, now more than ever.”

“No, they don’t,” Eric said. “They made that perfectly clear when they killed the last one.”

“Things are different now,” Galdrar said. “The people have seen the error of their ways. They now recognize the need for strong leadership. Your family—”

“Is dead,” Eric said. “And they’re going to stay that way. You’ll have to find another way. I recommend democracy. It’s not perfect but it’s better than what you’ve got.”

“I don’t think you’re getting through to him,” Carmen said. “I could just kill him, if you like.”

The black tendrils wound a little tighter around Galdrar’s body. He writhed against his bonds.

“That won’t be necessary,” Eric said. “I think… you should try your spell again.”

“Clever boy,” Carmen said. “Angela, would you take hold of the wizard for me? I’ll need both hands for this.”

“You got it,” Angela said.

She set the wand on the table and spoke a word in an alien tongue. Her body changed, transforming into a taller, muscular version of herself. She stood behind Galdrar and held his arms in a vice grip.

“Please,” he said to her. “Don’t do this.”

“I’m sorry,” Angela said. “But you’re not exactly leaving us any choice.”

“Enough talk,” Carmen said.

She snapped her fingers and Galdrar’s jaw clamped shut. She tugged open the top of the wizard’s robes and transferred the paste from the dead man to Galdrar. She recited the spell once again.

Galdrar struggled against Angela’s grip but she was too strong for him. The mark on Eric’s chest glowed purple again, but the light didn’t spread this time. Galdrar moaned, his skin sizzling faintly. There was a flash of light, and Carmen stopped speaking.

“It is done,” she said.