I thought perhaps that most
would write about conquest or battle, so I hope a
little change will be nice for you. This tale is one
of introspection, reflection, and grief.

The Pikatan

The thundering paused every few minutes; the air
rose heavy in anticipation of the next assault upon
the soil. The rhythm was familiar to the groups of
Unarra tending to the various tasks of the day. Some
even used the noise to jolt them back awake after
falling asleep from a night spent playing too many
games of hyra. Atlak hated how the dust was stirred
into the air, how his feet vibrated afterward and
caused him to pause in his work to recover. Mellor
was perfectly calm, almost wholly synchronized with
everything around him. Atlak understood how that ease
came with time, but couldnít find the patience to
accept that. Tynel Mellor and Tynel Atlak were
lashing groups of vines together for the trainers'
use. Atlak knew his wise and experienced mentor Mellor
was watching him, and had often expressed satisfaction
at Atlakís dedication to his work, and how Atlak could
stay at the same level as other workers with no cost
to workmanship. Atlak saw this as a small thing, but
never failed to enjoy the attention drawn to what
Atlak had worked so hard for. 

Atlak could tell Mellor was tiring, although from
the work or from Atlakís constant need for the
knowledge Mellor held, Atlak didnít know. Atlak
paused only long enough to voice his frustration with
the rippling ground swells experienced while taming
the Pikatan. Atlak turned his attention back to Mellor
and decided to risk a few more questions, "...but if
Tallic had such obvious talent and empathy with the
beasts why did the Tresed relinquish him to apprentice
status for so long? Is that why he left? Some say you
were friends. What was..."

"We are still friends." Mellor said as he smiled,
leaning his head to listen to the growing tremors of
the Pikatan. "That is enough about Tallic for today my
progeny; the taming exercises have begun."

Upset that his questioning had ceased, Atlak tried
not to cough as the dust kicked up around him. "Of all
the creatures, what is so sacred about the Pikatan
anyway?" Atlak's scowl grew deeper and darker with
every leap and hard landing of the Pikatan.

Mellor looked amused. "Keep that up, Atlak, and
your face will become etched like that."

"Just once, I would like to stomp through their
valley and disrupt them while they are trying to get
work done."

"I suppose you would also want to be revered as the
Sacred Atlak too then?" Mellor smiled again, serene as
always. "Perhaps you would teach the Unarra about the
patience of taming as well?"

The comment hit him like a slap in the face, enough
of a berating to end his showing distaste for the
Sacred Pikatan, at least outwardly. Atlak loved the
old unarran, but sometimes envy overcame that, envy of
Mellorís skill, revered position, and most of all,
Mellorís true talent. Atlak wondered if he could ever
attain it, especially the serenity and acceptance
Mellor radiated. Atlak grumbled to himself as clouds
of dust mushroomed into the air not far from where
they worked. However, the thunderous quakes caused by
the Pikatan didn't stop this time. A telepathic
warning was sent to all nearby, but Atlak was
distracted by the sudden and chaotic rearing of the
Pikatan. Something was wrong.

Most of the Pikatan were rounded up before any
large amounts of damage were done. Yet, one crazed
animal, its eyes rolling in its skull, careened
forward with its strange loping leaps, dodging all
attempts at capture. Atlak's insides churned, a mix of
ice and painful heat as he looked up to see a
silhouette of a figure on a near-distant hill. Atlak
began to scream even before Mellor was trampled.

All eyes fell on the brutal crush atop that
near-distant hill. For one desperate moment the image
lingered frozen in their memories, a grotesque clarity
revealing only the one fatal failure of the beastlord.
They had become prey. Every Unarra semed to burst
into action, Atlak taking the bundles of vines and
heading to the hill, the trainers removing all their
extra gear and forming a moving circle around the
beast, herding him away from the hill. The trainers
said a silent prayer as each armed themselves, tears
welling in their eyes. The Pikatan had killed an
Unarra, it could never be trained now, and with no
herd of kompa nearby to rejoin, there was only one
choice. The circle tightened and Atlak turned away,
revulsion filled him. Atlak could not bring himself
to turn and watch as the Pikatanís cries of frustrated
pain knifed into the small group of Unarran. Atlak
kept his eyes shut as the bestial bellows turned to
muffled groans, and finally to the sounds of the other
Pikatan, alone, shifting nervously out of sight of the
spectacle. Atlak wasnít a trainer, but he realised
why the Pikatan must die. One predator, one prey. 
The Unarra trainers must be the dominant force, and
here they knew they must regain the alpha status, or
risk losing the other Pikatan. This realization
opened Atlakís eyes, in many ways, and Atlak stared at
the ground of the hill. Into the broken eyes of Tynel
Mellor.

Atlak kept searching for something of Mellor within
the still warm form lying so alone on top of that
hill. Where was his serene smile, his peaceful,
confident demeanor? Mellorís hands, still worn and
delicate, the hands of a master, were slowly losing
color as the other Unarra in the area filed around him
reverently. So quiet it seemed, like even the
movement of the air fell in reverence, the similance
of a peaceful sleep complete as an Unarra trainer
closed Mellor's eyes. The trainer who took care of
the sick or dying animals pronounced the obvious, that
Mellor was no more. Some trainers seemed moved, some
seemed sincere in their offers of kindness and shared
sorrow. They passed as one, each saying a word or
two, a mass of meaningless ignorance. What could they
know, now that Mellorís gone. How could such a bright
light, such a guiding force be gone so quickly. How
could this happen to someone as good and noble as
Mellor. For an answer, one only need look up at the
hulking obscenity bleeding out itís last a few strides
from the hill.

Blind, hollow rage guided Atlakís hands to a bundle
of vines at his feet, and added strength to Atlakís
shock-weakened stride. The bundle pounded
meaninglessly on to the Pikatan carcass, over and over
again, emptying Atlakís anger out on the dead shell. 
The Pikatan, sacred and holy, had taken from him what
he held most dear. The Pikatan, revered and honored,
had shattered everything he had known. He had been
right in hating it, in dishonoring it. Their was no
value in this beast of murder. Their was no purpose. 
And yet he knew it was all a lie. Atlak looked into
the dead eyes of the Pikatan, and saw only violence,
only the constant driving need of the predator. Kill,
eat, be strong to kill again. A cold acceptance of
things followed, slowly working its way into him, sure
and methodical. The Pikatan accepted the nature of
things, the cycle of things, and Atlak could only see
the corpse in front of him as an accusation, a mirror
of Atlakís cowardice and ignorance. Atlak fell to his
knees before it, alone, bowing before an idol to his
own failure.

As day slowly waned into night, Atlak could sense
the Unarra around him were gone. Atlak was dimly
aware that a few were taking Mellorís body away to
itís proper place. It didnít matter, Mellor was not
in that last bit of flesh, and Atlak had so many
memories to keep Mellor close. Such senseless loss,
to the community, to Atriana. And yet there was
something to be found in all this tragedy. Night grew
long, and Atlak began to realize the truth Mellor had
always said Atlak would never grasp. A new reverence
for the life they helped direct, a new understanding
of the sacred cycle of life took hold as he examined
the days events. Many were the times when Mellor had
given Atlak examples, guided Atlak's logic, only to
come to a conclusion that left his mentor unsatisfied.
Atlak grinned knowingly and thought of all the times
the two of them had fought over this, and reflected
again on how this related to Atlak, on this new level
of thought. Predator and prey. One must choose, and
one must hold that responsibility with honor. The
Unarra must play their role, and as predator, Atlak
must serve the prey. Atlak grinned, Mellor would have
wanted it this way, for lessons to be learned, for
knowledge to be passed on. Atlak would choose to
remember Mellor in this way, always the teacher, even
in death. Rising from the ground for the first time
in hours, charged with the energy of new discovery,
Atlak gazed down at the Pikatan and smiled .