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, tho his cries did nothing to slow the Pikatans mad dance.

He remembered his teaching finally and subdued the creature, though overwhelmed with grief as he could do nothing else to aid his mentor. When finally the Pikatan stood quiet, though still at full alert, he knelt to Mellors crushed form. A low keening escaped his throat, almost breaking his focus on the restless beast, when he saw the extent of Mellors injuries. His split focus left no room for reaction to the shadow that grew behind him. Then, miraculously, the sacred animal was silent and calm, eyes lidded and content as if just gorged. The physical shadow behind became a tangible shadow within Atlaks mind, and then there was nothing.

As consciousness crept toward Atlak, his first thought was that he had been eaten by the pikatan, the feeling of warmth and confinement combined with the constant rolling thump. Slowly his mind felt for the surface of things and emerged between heavy lids to see the high clouds and smell the unmistakable odor of kompa.

" So you probably want to know where you are, let far away be sufficient as an answer." a voice beside him said softly, " Let that be the answer to all your questions for now, far away."

"Tallic? " Atlak managed from behind his fog.

No response was spoken, but Atlak knew it to be so, and wondered in a disjointed way whether the others had seen them go.

" I have given you my answer to all, now be silent and learn the truth behind the shadows the tressed have allowed you to see," spoke the voice again," I do not question my old friend Mellors choice in you, though he has held you all to far back from the light of life , for fear youu would be burned."

The voice continued, though no words were caught by Atlak as the clowds receded and the light began to engulf his mind. It seems whatever the world held, he was to get more answers than he had ever found questions now.


Following The Drifters' Wind