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.
Far away, in the high spires of the desert mountains, sat two figures,
hunched over a map of Atriana. The news of the death of the young Unarran
spawn had already reached the mind of the decrepit old soldier and his young
apprentice. The fact that the spawn would have most likely supported their
plan and escaped the attention of both their minds, and most likely wouldn't
have impressed either of them.
"I tell you, it's a new generation over there!"
"That may be, but do not overlook the power of the old generation. The
still have the power to resist us and our plans."
"Yes, yes, I suppose, but not the power to actually STRIKE us. Don't you
see? There is no risk in our plan."
"Young one, there is always a risk. When I fought against the accursed
Tyrusin in the Nine Currans War, our commanders assured us there was no risk
in passing through the canyon of Bal'theor. Pah. Fools. All of them. One
hundred of the Atriarch's best soldiers went into that awful place. And it
was but your progenitor and I that emerged. Never, never, underestimate your
It was times like this when the young apprentice, Lartak, resented his
wise old teacher Sti'lari. He was assuredly the only Lokai on all of Atriana
that knew the path, the way to glory. But his experiences had made him to
wary at times. Any man with twenty Khanja stored in his home was sure to be
apprehensive before beginning any mission. Of course one must never
underestimate any opponent, but it was equally dangerous to overestimate ones
opponents. No matter. The old one would be convinced in time.
"In the name of the Three Moons…"
The scene was a grisly one. Mellor had seen the results of a Pikatan
attack often enough, but to see it happen to his own spawn. Behind him, he
could hear the sounds of Talib galloping up on his mount.
"Mellor! We must go! The crazed Pikatan is returning!"
"Help me grab his body!"
"No! We'll come back later."
"But, it will be… destroyed."
"Would you rather have us come back for your body too?' Below Talib, his
mount reared up its hind legs. The beast recognized the danger it was now
in. Whatever had spooked the Pikatan was still there, for the herd was still
straining to get away from the Unarra taming them. Worse, the Pikatan that
had attacked Atlak was no longer charging towards that hill, but it was
returning, and headed directly for Mellor.
"Frata is chasing down the Pikatan down now, but until he has it under
control, we must retreat back to the village." Frata, the village's
spiritual leader, was attempting to attach his hook to the Pikatan's neck.
It was extremely dangerous job to catch the runaway Pikatan. It was not
allowed for Frata to harm the Pikatan in bringing it back to the herd. Talib
and Mellor kicked their mounts into motion. As they rode away from the herd,
Mellor caught one last glimpse at the lone figure, standing atop the hill.
"Order! Order! There will be order! I apologize for any inconvenience this
meeting may have caused, but the problem that now faces our culture must be
dealt with quickly. Surely you are all wondering what this problem is, and
what the psychic disturbance that many of you felt this morning was. I will
first call brother Ezka to explain what the events of yesterday were, and
then open up the floor for propositions for a solution." The revelation that
the disturbance was going to be explained by Ezka sent a wave of whispers and
murmurs through the assembled delegates. Ezka was the spiritual leader in
charge of maintaining the Pikatan.
"Brothers! The disturbance you heard this morning was not one event but
many, strewn across the entire Unarran continent. This morning, there are
reports from nearly every village which maintain the Pikatan that at least
one, and no more than three Pikatan went wild, viciously attacking and
killing some who worked around them. The cause of these attacks are as yet
unknown and my agents are now being dispatched to learn more about some of
these incidents." The old priest sat down, an action that prompted screams
from the assembled council members. The Pikatan were easily the most vicious
of all the beasts that Unarrans maintained, and if this problem were to occur
on a regular basis, it could mean the crumbling of much of the Tresed
religion, of which many of its ceremonies were based around the Pikatan.
"Now then!" the council leader screamed. "We cannot vote on a response
until all of the members have been assembled, and we are still missing
council delegates, and we are informed that they are arriving in three…"
100 yards away, at the back of the Rotunda, a guard closed his eyes and
sent a message to his contact. He didn't know what exactly his contact
wanted, or why he wanted it, by he DID know that he was being paid handsomely
to simply report that the vote was being held in three days time.
The two figures that had previously been hunched over a map of Atriana
were now showing the same map to some high-ranking Lokai. Sti'Lari had
already impressed on those assembled how secret this meeting was. In short,
it never happened. No one directly connected to the Atriarch was present,
but Sti'Lari and Lortak were confident he would have no choice but to go
along according to plan. Alone among the Lokai sat a crass Unarra, Tallic,
formerly an apprentice to the Tresed. He was here to take what was his.
"My scouts now report that the delegates will be in place in three days.
The Warriors are now in place to proceed with the plan. All I need at this
point in time is your promise of support when the first stage of the plan is
The young apprentice watched as Sti'Lari presented his plan to the
assembled Generals and senior officials. He could hardly contain his smile,
thinking of the plan and what would surely result. The Tresed had the
greatest creatures and trainers on all of Atriana, and though they preached
non-combatant training, their skills, properly focused, could create an army
to rival even that assembled for the Nine- Currans war. Add Lokai support to
that, and the cursed Tyrusin race would become a hunted one.
The planned Pikatan attacks were but the first step. The Unarrans did
not stress easily; the Tresed did so even more stubbornly. They had, in
fact, NEVER called the Council that was now being called. There had been
meeting before to decide major policy issues, but never a full scale Council.
But when their sacred creature, the Pikatan suddenly became uncontrollable,
then surely a council would have to be called. The next step would be the
assassination of the assembled council, to be slaughtered by a band of
Best of all, there was only one Unarran that would remain on Atriana
which was properly trained to succeed the Council. That Unarran was Tallic,
and he was even now listening to the old ones plans. Tallic would rest power
and would promptly discover evidence, which would show the Pikatan attacks,
and the Tyrusin assassinations were the sole fault of the Tyrusin race. The
new generation of Unarrans cared little for the noncombatant ways of their
forefathers, or so Lortak's contacts told him, and they would surely go along
with Tallic's plans.
"…when the plan is complete and our good Unarran friend Tallic has rested
power, we will have pretext for the war, and the support of the Unarran race.
We shall then finish what was begun in the Nine- Currans War!"
The road was hard. The road seemed to wind on endlessly over the hills,
even though Mellor knew he was only a few hours ride to the Rotunda. Despite
his loss, his village had asked him to accompany the local Council delegate
to the capital. He could defend the delegate and serve as a witness to the
Council. The figure he had seen on the hill still bothered him. He knew,
instinctively, that that figure had SOMETHING to do with the Pikatan attack,
and the death of his spawn. Well, there was nothing to be done.
"How soon shall we arrive?" asked the old delegate
"Soon I suppose. By nightfall. I believe we'll be the last to arrive."
And that was that. The delegate hadn't said much. That was fine with
Mellor. He wanted to be alone, and there's no better place than the open
road, with a sturdy mount between ones legs for that. Of course, they were
entering settled areas now, and it was no longer the open road.
A few hours later, they came within sight of the huge Rotunda, the center
of the Tresed religion. It was odd; every time he had been here before he
had felt a great sense of awe. There seemed to be a stench here now, a void,
where he should have felt excited. Nothing. Out of the corner of his eye,
he saw a figure….
"Look out!!" At that, he dived off his mount, towards the delegate, just
in time to see an arrow whizzing past. It was the same figure he had seen on
the hill, and now, the arrows were coming more rapidly, from all around.
Suddenly, he heard a horn, long and sorrowful, it announced what Mellor
already knew: The Council had been ambushed.
At the Rotunda, the battle was pitched, and the Unarrans were losing.
The Tresed religion allowed non-lethal, passive defensive measures only, and
combatant Unarrans were an hour away, just now, waking up in their barracks.
The Tyrusin invaders would soon break through the inner wall, into the main
chamber, where they would slaughter the assembled delegates. The old
delegate Mellor was escorting had been hidden, placed in the basement of an
Eshlar's shop, and Mellor was galloping towards the battle. He was within a
mile of the Rotunda, and he stopped at the entrance to the main square. He
had climbed to a roof top shortly before, and had seen the battle taking
place. At this point, the Tyrusin were simply trying to break down the wall,
alternately heating and cooling it with their internal reserves. The wall
would soon crack. He knew the regular military had no chance of arriving in
time. His religion prevented him from attacking the invaders, but he had a
plan. He kicked his mount. There was not much time.
Things were looking grim inside the Rotunda. They could hear the attackers-
they did not yet know what they were- banging against the side. The
bioluminescent creatures they had had lighting the room had dimmed in their
fright. The shaft of the sun coming through the roof was their only light.
Ezka, who had come to deliver his brief regarding the Pikatan, was attempting
to calm the assembled delegates. He had been in the Nine- Currans war, and
was used to pressure. He was afraid though, deep down, inside. If the
delegates perished, there would be no one to succeed the Council, except….
No, not him. He prayed. He stepped into the sunlight and looked up to the
Gods. The sun felt good, it was warm. He wondered if this was what it would
feel like in his cocoon. Assuming there was enough left of his body. When
he opened his eyes, the room was dark. The chamber had been shut in!! The
invaders were closing up the top!
"Brothers!! Quickly! I am sending a ladder down!"
Wait, was that? The sun was revealed again, revealing a rope ladder, leading
to the hole in the roof. There, Ezka could see flying beasts. Hundreds of
them. Enough to… "BROTHERS! It is safe! They mean to evacuate us!" The
assembled delegates flooded to the ladder, climbing, one by one out of the
Above, stood Mellor, calm and steadfast, stringing another one of the ropes
that he and his spawn had made not one week before down into the chamber.
The sun made it difficult for him to see all of the animals. He had seen a
farm with flying creatures nearby the Rotunda. Quickly, he had convinced
their owner to release them to Mellor's command. Below, he could see the
Tyrusin invaders scurrying to get in before the delegates escaped.
All forty-nine of them were now on the roof and boarding various creatures.
Across the square, he could see the first beasts of war retaliating against
the invaders. Each one of the mighty birds simultaneously flapped their huge
wings and started into the air with a jolt, carrying one or two delegates to
a safe location. Inside, he heard the Tyrusin's finally break the wall, only
to see an empty chamber. With that, he drew his lines up, and boarded his
Mellor watched impassively. The two Lokai would be dealt with under
Lokai law, and they would surely receive the full force of the law. Sti'Lari
was a friend of the Lokai Atriarch, but the Unarran Atriarch had been
extremely clear. Tallic was led out into the square. As Tresed ritual
dictates, he would be released into a pen with a rabid Pikatan, where he
would be torn to shreds. Betrayal of the Tresed was the only thing that
could merit such punishment. It was a bittersweet justice for Mellor.
Tallic had been a friend. But his spawn could finally be laid to rest.