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.
Tynel Mellor and Tynel Atlak were lashing groups of vines together for the
trainers' use. Mellor marveled at his spawn's ability to work
single-mindedly, and had praised Atlak on many occasions at the amount he
could accomplish in one day, even in comparison to such experienced workers
as Mellor himself.

Mellor had hoped the long day would slow the relentless questions from his
curious spawn, but such was not the case. 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 continued
probing, "...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 was thankful for 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 was 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. "Perhaps you would teach the Unarra about the patience of
taming as well?"

The reprimand was enough to keep young Atlak from continuing to outwardly
show his distaste for the Sacred Pikatan. Atlak just 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...

The stinking knowers were always present and now there was pain where the
Pikatan should feel a fullness. His place in the hierarchy was gone and the
Pikatan's mind boiled in a fury of disgust. All was wrong, the rhythms of
the pack replaced with stinking knowers. The ground was trampled and dusty
and he longed to spur the pack to fresh ground and fresh nourishment. But
the knowers were always present pushing the pack in his rightful place and
he yearned to challenge them but none would stand. The pack moved in knower
rhythms that blended with their own more and more every light and soon none
would know the old ways of the flat fresh ground and death struggle with
prey. This day was the worst for the pain inside, and he lost status with
each charge to the knower's prompts, the strength of his charge was weakened
but the pain strengthened a desire run on fresh ground. He would rage
against the stinking knower's rhythms in this light and at this moment or
never challenge again.

He charged in lead position all morning in defiance of the pack eldren and
his pain. Once he had even felt the fear of the knowers. The eldren would
follow he had only to turn the rhythm to his beat, show them their strength
and ignore the pain. Now he charged to his own rhythm; the eldrens and the
pack followed. At once he felt the knower's fear and he aimed the pack to
the one that was most unsure. With each leap time slowed. The pack broke
through lines of snares and the knowers moved too quickly to understand.
The eldren railed in confusion and broke their leaps into the stench of
knower snares. They did not know their own strength and he made himself
resolute. He broke three snares charging straight ahead, a fourth trailed
on the ground still wrapped around his neck in two leaps he would trample
the unsure knower.

Their fear was a screaming smell now. The unsure knower stood against his
charge but was small and afraid. With his challenge leap the pain stabbed
in concert with the fear smell into his head. He was through and over the
challenged knower on fresh ground but no eldren had broke with him. The
pack was scattered behind him and had no common rhythm for him to echo ahead
of, all were wrapped in their own fear and duty none recognized his
successful challenge of the knower. He turned to take account the free
Pikatan that followed and saw the trampled knower move. All was lost the
knower was not cowered the pack did not follow as closely as his pain. He
leapt mightily for the sky away from the pain and sadness and a light burst
in his eyes as he fell back to earth. Every muscle tensed, his spines
evulsed and pierced fresh dirt. He screamed his last breath ...

Mellor had stood still in the confusion. The collision between charging
Pikatan and Unarra looked much worse than it felt. Mellor's hand was broken
along with a rib, the breath was gone and he bled from various cuts and
scrapes. The breath would return soon enough and the bruises were fair
payment for survival.

Later Atlak would tell of that day, saying the Pikatan had leapt far higher
than the sacred grove tree. It had seemed to hang in the air in front
Devar, the moon of fire, for far longer than would seem ordinary for a leap
and a fall. The Pikatan had crashed to ground in silence but its last scream
seemed like a thunder from the stone deep beneath the surface of Atriana.