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
"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...
For days after Atlak stared into nothingness in wide eyed shock. Adob, a
friend of Mellor, tried to take care of him, tried to force the food down
his throat, tried to lull him into a sleep, but nothing worked. Atlak just
stared at the rafters of Adob's hut. And then
one day Adob returned to find Atlak's bed empty. Adob followed the
footprints in the mud outside his hut until they entered the forest and, to
his utter dispair, disappeared.
Time passed and Adob aged in years and rose in rank in the Unarra hierarchy
until he became very powerful and, as such, he was the first one the locals
came to when they found the massacre. He followed them to the scene of this
disaster, miles away from the village in an open plain.
He was unprepared for the scale of the catastrophe. The first thing he saw
was the Kompa, standing in an area completely devoid of vegetation. The
next thing that he saw, or rather, that he didn't see, was Pickatan. There
were no Pickatan! In all his years he
had never seen a herd of Kompa without Pickatan escorting them. He
suspected that no Unarra had ever saw a Kompa herd without Pickatan.
On closer inspection his earlier observations were proven false. There were
Pickatan, at least parts of them. Strewn for miles around were chunks of
them, all with great bites taken out them. Adob knew something had done
this, a species of animal that had never been seen before, and that seemed
to have a taste for Pickatan. What were they? Where did they come from?
And most importantly, how can they be stopped?
Days passed and Adob pondered this dilemma. He finally came to the
conclusion that he couldn't come to any conclusion until he had more
information. He got his opportunity when a shap and rider landed outside
his hut. It was obvious the rider carried news of great importance from the
way he stammered and tripped over his own words trying to tell Adob
"Just breath." Adob paused to let the rider follow his instructions before
continuing. "Now, what do you have to tell me?"
"There is a herd of great beasts heading for a Kompa herd." The rider
barely managed to control his voice.
"Take me there." Adob said and climbed onto the back of the shap. Moments
later the rider took his place and they took off.
They soared for many kilometers across the vast land beneath them. Then,
suddenly, the rider cried out and pointed at the horizon. Adob strained his
eyes and could just make out figures moving in the distance.
They were monstrous, twice the size of the largest Pickatan he had ever
seen. There were hundreds of them. Adob knew they were incredibly
dangerous, no Pickatan could stand up to these beasts. He tried to think of
a way they could be stopped, and then, with a
sinking feeling, he began to realize the Unarra could be just as helpless.
He was so distracted by the beasts he didn't notice the other occupants of
the plain until the rider pointed them out. There, far on the horizon, a
large herd of Kompa stood, with there Pickatan. Adob knew that he probably
only had a short time until they came into
the sight of those beasts.
He quickly instructed the rider to fly lower, and, with a wary glance
towards the lumbering beast beneath him, he complied. The great shap dived
down and began to skim low over the heads of these beasts. All plodded
ahead with slow steps. All heading in the direction of the Kompa.
Peering down at the beasts they all looked the same. That was until he saw
one of the most surprising things of his long life; there, on one of the
beasts sat a Unarra. When Adob came closer he saw who this figure was. He
couldn't decide if it was a dream come true or a nightmare lived out.
"Land there." Adob told the rider as he pointed to a place just ahead of the
"Are you insane! They will trample you into the ground!"
"Just do it." Adob's voice held the sure note of command. The rider
reluctantly agreed and Adob was deposited on the ground.
The beasts came onward slowly and Adob was sure that he was safe from them
until they suddenly started to charge. Adob almost turned tail and ran, but
he stood his ground. He began to think he had made a bad choice umtil the
peel of a whistle stopped the beasts. Adob could have reached out and
touched the fangs of the closest one.
"Greetings, Adob, you were not who I was expecting." a voice carried
through the Kompa herd
"I could say likewise for you as well, Atlak."
Adob appeared from behind the bulk of one of the beasts. He was tall and
lithe and somewhat ragged. He walked in a peculiar manner, probably from
riding the beasts too long.
"I know why you're here, and you'll fail." Atlak's voice had none of the
light heartiness of his youth.
"What is that?" Adob fained ignorance.
"You wish to stop me from going through with my crusade."
"Crusade against what? All you are doing is wiping out a species."
"A species which killed my father, and ruined my life!" Atlak retorted.
"They deserve to die."
"You are consumed by your rage, Atlak. You have obsessed about the Pikatan
since the day you left me haven't you."
"Yes! This is my life's work. The death of those vermin."
"You must learn to live beyond your rage, Atlak."
"As you yourself said this is what I have devoted my life to, the creation
of the shawahs," Atlak petted one of the shawahs, the giant beast cooed from
the praise "and the death of the Pickatan. To serve my father"
This was the opening Adob had waited for and he pounced open it, "You say
you serve your father even while you betray him?"
Atlak was clearly taken aback. "They killed him, they should die. Father
would want it that way."
"Your father loved you, he loved nature, and he loved the Pikatan. He still
loves all those things."
"Father is dead, he can not love. Just as I can not." Atlak was shaking.
His reasoning for his actions would not stand up to the scrutiny of another,
and he knew it.
"You can love, Atlak. There is more to you than rage."
"I can not."
"You love your father."
"I can not."
"Yes you can! Say it! Say you love him."
"Do you not love his memory?"
"Yes. I do love my father." Atlak whispered sullenly.
"Say it with meaning!"
"I love my father."
"I love my father!" Atlak's yell pierced the air and could be heard for
miles. The shawahs stirred from the noise.
"Will you attack the Pickatan?"
"No. . .my shawahs won't go any where near them." With that he slid back
into the herd.
Adob felt happy. He fantasized about Atlak coming back into society. He
thought that Atlak would get better, that everything was all right. Then,
he heard it. At first the noise was peculiar, but he soon realized what it
was. It was the sound of a large animal
charging. At first he was just curious about what had excited one of the
shawaws but then a horrible thought started running through his mind. As
the panic rose he tried to push his way through the herd. It was slow
going, they didn't part for him as they did for Atlak. He finally got into
the open and saw the charging beast, and it's target. Adob screamed. Atlak
stood, arms outstretched, facing the shawah and laughing.
"I'll be with you now, father!" Atlak shouted joyfully just before the beast