The Pikatan by Fazed of the eTc

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 marvelled 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.
Atlak recognised the figure, without being able to say who it was, but it
was the sense of ruthless doom that made him start screaming. He thought
his own death was foretold by that doom until he felt Mellor die. No longer
focussed on the hill his attention returned to the flattened form beside
him. The Pikatan had careened beyond Mellor into the rest of the camp and
was being brought under the influence of Atrokis.
Atlak looked at the hulking beast, spikes prominent, and again wondered how
such a murdering thing could be so revered. Its thumping course slowed
before it span in the air and came down facing him. He didn't breath but
watched transfixed. After a timeless instant its spines retracted, he took
a breath and it hopped forward again in a convex path, reluctantly avoiding
the place where he stood and Mellor lay unmoving.
The Unarran on the hill; he had known this was going to happen, he was
somehow responsible. Atlak turned to look for the figure but it was gone, a
flare of anger kindled inside as the desire to hunt and contain that which
had wronged him grew within. His mind began to work out what supplies and
mounts he would need for a long hunt of skilled prey. 
A wash of intense grief and pain suddenly hit him. Gylel, Fenet and Quies
the members of Mellor's chord had approached his body whilst he had been
formulating his revenge. The cold wave of sadness quenched his anger and
he returned his focus to the scene surrounding him.
Fenet was the youngest, with the honour of being a direct spawn, he was
treated as an elder, but known for playing practical jokes on his chord
mates. Gylel was the most serious of the chord, he didn't say a lot but
when he did the others usually listened. His face was memorable, the left
side crossed by a puckered scar. Quies was the one who was always fussing
over the others, making sure they had a drink, whether they were warm
enough, did they need anything to eat. His hand movements were quick and
neat, it was only when he walked that his grace was ruined by a limp.
Gylel was carefully rearranging Mellors crushed corpse and Fenet had
fetched some water and was cleaning away dirt from his skin. Quies
crouched, with a bundle of wrappings in his hand. Atlak could sense Fenet
trying to add hints of joy to the fog of sadness. Although not a member of
the chord he picked up the odd image of a younger Mellor riding through
brown and gold deserts with his four closest companions in all the world. A
feeling of joy; freedom and adventure; unfettered by later responsibility
and change.
Atlak did not want to speculate on what name the spawn would take. However
much the new one would know of Mellor he would not be him. Atlak sensed a
thread of hope in the sadness of the chord. They hoped the new one would
retain the essence of Mellor that made them all so close. As a direct spawn
the new one would come into the world knowing far more than Atlak had,
might even be giving him lessons soon.
As the sadness pulled him through nostalgic memories and deep thoughts a
small part of Atlak was still angry, and got even angrier the longer he
stood watching the death ceremony preparations. Eventually Quies gave him a
look that asked him to take his anger away. Atlak moved from where he had
been standing motionless and went to find Atrokis the current tribe leader.
Atrokis was with the Unarrans who were still taming the pikatan.
Atlak approached slowly and with respect, more for Atrokis than the
thumping, dust raising murderous beasts. They sensed his approach and his
anger, the leap of the one nearest became higher and desynchronised with
the rest of its herd. Atrokis froze with concentration and then spoke
loudly to Atlak whilst still facing the agitated Pikatan, "Get back Atlak,
I'll come over and talk to you when I've settled this one, and I don't want
you to come near the Pikatan for the rest of the day."
Atlak stepped reluctantly back, a surge of annoyance that made the Pikatan
buck a little as it leapt. He felt a short insistent plea from Atrokis and
then realised the seriousness of the situation; if they stampeded again it
would be his fault...
He walked to the other side of the camp and sat down propping his back
against a sun warmed tree trunk. On the far side Atrokis seemed to be
calming his Pikatan, it leapt more slowly and was almost in time with the
rest of them. Nearer and to his left Gylel, Fenet and Quies crouched near
Mellor. Half of Mellor's body was now covered with the green fibre cloth.
Sadness and anger warred. He did not want Mellor to be gone. His own
progenitor was on a trading trip with the other two members of his chord.
Atlak wondered if he would ever feel that closeness to another Unarran. He
had adored Mellor but was never his equal, never felt relaxed and happy
when the rest of his chord sat round the fire with them and they tolerantly
helped educate him; Mellor's grand-spawn.
Perhaps it was time he left and found something else, someone else. After
he'd tracked down the Unarran from the hill. He again lost himself in an
imaginary hunt.
"Atlak," said Atrokis from very nearby, "What do you need?"
Atlak jumped startled from his reverie. He stood suddenly and bared his
palm respectfully to his leader.
"I apologise for endangering the tribe." He said quickly looking at Atrokis
for his reaction.
Atrokis nodded. "I understand and I accept your apology for this. You will
need to practice your control."
Atlak nodded respectfully.
Atrokis smiled, "You need something important?"
Atlak paused and gathered himself in before he began. The anger was
withdrawn into a warm corner and the sadness gently draped over it, a
subduing blanket.
"I need to find the person who caused this." He said glancing at Mellor's
corpse, "I saw him on the hill before it happened, I need to find him."
Atrokis frowned. "You're sure then? You saw someone?" Atrokis looked away
and clamped down on his emotions until Atlak could sense nothing from him.
Atlak was alarmed, and that new feeling soon reached Atrokis.
"You will have to talk to him. He did not cause the death, but you will
have to learn that for yourself. You can take one of the clyft and some
trail rations. Come back when you can." He finished standing motionless for
a moment.
Atlak was bathed in an aura of genuine concern, affection and support. For
a minute he was as whole and unquestioning as when he had been plaiting
vines only short moments before, and then it faded leaving him with the
anger and sadness, but also a strong warm fire, flickering its light over
the other two emotions, changing them into richer feelings than they had
been before. Atlak cared about coming back, he would have a future, he just
needed to find the next part of the trail.
So with Atrokis's blessing and farewell from the rest of the tribe he rode
towards the hill and the place he had last seen the figure. 
Atlak rode to the hill and dismounted, then knelt to closely examine the
tracks of his prey. Unarran tracks. Unarran tracks that had not even the
simplest of trail hiding techniques applied. How could someone have been
raised in a tribe and not know that? He caught himself and shivered. So the
prey wanted to be followed did he? Time to watch for traps instead of
tracks, not that it would be hard to spot the tracks even while mounted.
He rode on, stopping carefully whenever the terrain suggested a possible
trap, but so far none had materialised. Atloos had reached its highest
point and was now well into its descent. Unusual prey, but Atrokis had
He stopped and mentally shook himself. Atrokis had said it was not the
Unarran on the hill. Atrokis had known who he was and was sure he hadn't
done it. He looked back in the direction of the camp, half a days travel
away and marvelled at the distance he had come before realising what had
happened. No wonder Atrokis was the leader, to be able to distract someone
from their purpose that much...
Although now fairly sure there would be no traps, a thorough upbringing
ensured that he still tested the most likely spots on the trail. Atloos
slowly finished its descent and darkness thickened the sky. The bright
light of Mantar glinted low on the horizon just above the tops of the
trees. Another light lower and warmer in colour caught Atlak's eye. It
vanished then reappeared as he passed another tree. A campfire; his quarry
welcomed guests; he did not intend to disappoint his host.
Approaching cautiously, downwind of the camp Atlak could smell wood smoke
and the delicious scent of retjar cooking. His stomach stirred reflexively,
this stranger knew him too well. Retjar was his favorite, a dish Mellor had
prepared for him whenever he did something particularly well. He stopped
his forward movement, and observed the figure that periodically leant
forward over the cook pot, slightly obscuring the light of the fire.
Uncertainty gripped him. Just then his clyft moved forward of its own
accord and headed for the fire. He reached out to stop it but the creature
had found something far more interesting at the edge of the fire.
"Well I am hungry." Rationalised a resigned Atlak as he made his way after
the wayward beast.
"Be welcome at my fire Atlak. " said Ryen Tallic, baring a palm to Atlak.
Atlak blinked, but manners took over, "I accept your hospitality." He
replied, baring a palm in return.
"It was you." said Atlak redundantly.
Tallic smiled wryly, " I was on the hill." Agreed Tallic. "Please sit and
eat." He added offering Atlak a bowl of retjar. "I will see to your beast."
Atlak looked unsure but could find nothing wrong, his stomach tightened
again, "Thank you." He said and sat next to the fire as Tallic unharnessed
the clyft and tethered it close by. "How did you know?" he asked as he
tasted the savoury warmth of the food.
Tallic looked over, his smile faded and he looked distressed, "I tried not
to know, to dissuade them from their choice, but it was no good. I left
because I didn't want to see it and at the end when the moment became
apparent I tried to warn him........" his voice trailed off. 
Atlak could sense his pain quite strongly. He swallowed his mouthful of
food with a gulp. He had meant the food, but what Tallic was saying was of
intense personal interest. "That wasn't a warning it was a....ruthless
notification of death." He stated.
"It's difficult," said Tallic, "after I bonded with them it has been hard
to separate myself when they are enacting their will. I still hoped I
might control them...." Tallic sighed.
"Bonded?" asked Atlak
Tallic looked at him, "This is not common knowledge, but part of the
training of the Tresed is to teach you to bond closely with a particular
type of creature. You will always be able to tame and protect them best of
"Pikatan?" realised Atlak suddenly, "You bonded with those dreadful
thumping murderous things?" disgust edged his voice. He sensed an immediate
and mixed reaction from Tallic, sorrow but then a growing feeling of anger.
"You will speak with respect." said Tallic tersely a glint of Mantar in his
Atlak put down his bowl and stood up baring both palms. "Yes, of course the
Pikatan are sacred...and they killed Mellor." He said evenly, the disgust
eradicated by a small jump of fear at what he sensed in Tallic, but unable
to abandon the simple truth.
Tallic's eyes cleared and the sense of anger diminished. He spoke again. "
The Pikatan kill it is in their nature, but the Pikatan will kill those we
hate as well as those we love." Again the pain of loss was unmistakable.
"I hope he returns as someone close to the person we knew for the sake of
the others at least." Added Tallic quietly.
"Those we hate?" prompted Atlak intrigued, " They normally just kill the
Kompa. I kind of like the Kompa."
Tallic smiled briefly despite his pain. "They would do normally yes, but
I....I interfered, when I chose to bond with them and asked them to join my
Atlak looked expectantly at Tallic.
"You remind me of him when he was younger, when we were all younger and I
the youngest of all." commented Tallic.
Atlak frowned. "Mellor? He did say you were his friend."
"Friend?" echoed Tallic, " That is true, but before that we were more, all
of us; Mellor, Gylel, Radga, Quies and myself. We were all in the same
chord. Before I chose to go to the Tresed for training, we spent many years
together, out there exploring Atriana, taking any mission that involved
travel and excitement, coming back to the tribe for a short while then
taking off again."
Atlak felt the surge of nostalgia, and picked up images of travel including
a familiar one of a brown and gold desert. His eyes widened and he didn't
know what to think.
Tallic laughed. "Mellor always used to make me Retjar, that's why I made it
tonight, in his honour. I wonder what name the new spawn will take? I hope
he will be similar enough to want to join Gylel, Quies and Fenet." He
paused and looked into the fire for a few moments.
"Fenet turned out to be so like Radga, is was like the chord too was reborn
and everything would be the same. But it was not to be. I couldn't let it
rest. My anger at what had happened and determination to have revenge. It
made them uncomfortable. I didn't leave to start with, I went to the Tresed
for training and they hoped it would help me get over it."
"What happened?" asked Atlak now entranced by the story, "What killed
"We were returning from a trip across the desert, we had just bought some
new maps that listed the migration paths and grazing areas of a number of
new herds from a Lokai settlement when we were ambushed. Rocks rolled down
the sides of a ravine and blocked our path and then a mixed group of
Tyrusin and Lokai and one hulking Eshlar attacked us. I don't remember the
exact details of the battle. Luckily we all stayed mounted....even Radga's
body. That's where Quies got his limp and Gylel his scar. Mellor took a bad
shock from a Tryusian, but clung on. I managed to get the clyfts to run
away from the fight and it was the speed that saved us. They couldn't keep
up and eventually they gave up the chase."
Atlak stayed quiet for a short while. "But you got revenge?"
Tallic nodded. " I went to the Tresed, I wanted to learn how to tame the
fiercest creatures I could on Atriana. But that was not what they did. No
training of creatures for War. They could sense my anger, but had patience
with me, much as it takes patience to tame a beast itself. Then I saw it.
Nothing really new, I'd seen it before, but a Pikatan attacking and killing
a trailing Kompa. The Pikatan were not war beasts, too unreliable, never
far from the Kompa, but they did kill, and in a blunt rage."
"So I saw my chance and began to bond with the Pikatan, I found their rage
at the slow and stupid Kompa and I merged it with my own rage at a herd of
murderous bandits."
Tallic stopped and looked at Atlak. "Eat the rest of your retjar before it
gets cold." He said and smiled briefly before his face resumed a serious
"It was easier than I had thought, with our rage merged we soon found the
bandit herd. They needed to be tested and they just didn't run as fast as a
Kompa. I enjoyed every moment of their abrupt and confused deaths.
Unfortunately so did the rest of my chord. Deeply attuned to me they found
the experience disturbing and were horrified by the change in me at my
moment of triumph. I was hurt by their reaction and angry that they did not
appreciate my efforts. I think now that the Pikatan sensed that and marked
them for testing. Of course they enacted a ceremony of separation and,
well, that was it, I was alone. The Tresed were not impressed either and
they made me see the full extent of my mistake. I had to spend several
years doing basic exercises and learning to separate myself from the
pikatan and their rage. Eventually they seemed to think I had learned my
lesson and set me loose. Ryen Tallic master pikatan tamer." Tallic stopped
and focussed his attention on Atlak.
Atlak wasn't sure what to say. Ryen Tallic had been in Mellor's chord? The
things that had happened....Mellor had never even hinted at....
"But the Pikatan - what will they do now they've killed Mellor? Go after
the rest of them?" Atlak asked.
Tallic was silent for a moment, then spoke. "No. It's done now the anger
has raged and gone. I came back for the Pikatan taming season hoping to
warn them again. But Mellor always insisted there was nothing to worry
about; the Pikatan were sacred. So the lessons they taught were sacred
Atlak found himself nodding. Despite himself he could see how Mellor could
be that stubborn. He realised he was no longer angry with Tallic and found
himself growing comfortable in his presence; whatever joy Atrokis had
infused him with had gone and he discovered he did not really want to
return to the tribe. Not now anyway and with Mellor gone it would not be
the same.
Tallic smiled, "You can stay if you like, I'd be glad for the company, I'm
going to head out towards the desert and see what other lessons the Pikatan
are waiting to teach me."
"I can respect them but I will never like them." warned Atlak.
"That is all they demand." said Tallic and reached over towards the cook
pot, "More retjar?"