Chapter 1: Embrellon – 600 A.G. (After the Guardians were founded)
Chrylos, standing next to Gryton, his Skree life-partner, surveyed the mountain range where the Marn ship had crashed, through their psychic link, they both agreed, this was going to be a dangerous scouting. Joined at hatching, Chrylos and Gryton had been together for ten years. The joining took place on the hatching grounds, the Skree always did the choosing, the electric shock and fireworks explosion in the mind, followed by training and the use of the Tanzite crystal, bound them for life. They had been joined when Chrylos was sixteen, the age of joining the Guardians.
Chrylos climbed back up on Gryton, tightened the fighting straps, and prepared to fly over the crash site and look for survivors. On the ground below was what was left of the ship. Landing at what should be a safe distance, and going forward on foot, Chrylos drew his sword and warily went forward. Gryton, able to see further showed Chrylos the wreckage. There were dead Marn, about twenty, lying on the ground, and what was left of the ship’s hull was up ahead. It was dark inside, with the acrid smell of burnt electronics, smoke, and leaking fuel.
Upon entering the craft, Chrylos discovered a sealed life pod, and inside was the first living Marn he had ever seen. He told Gryton to alert the Guardians and send for their Leader, Jatar. Chrylos and Gryton removed the life pod, and studied its occupant. Different than the dead Marn around the ship, this Marn was smaller, more feminine, and in contrast to the usual grey, was gold in color and seemed to be sleeping.
Once Jatar arrived on Quilan, his Skree life-mate and first male in the pride, the leader of the humanoids was always paired to the first male, they examined the pod and decided that they needed to take this Marn to the High Council to be questioned by the Temple Seers. The Seers were exceptionally gifted female psychics, paired to female Skree, the Seers would be the ones able to see into the mind of the Marn. Jatar and Chrylos made a sling to carry the pod between their mounts, and flew to the Temple of the Guardians.
They arrived in a flurry of excitement. No one in living memory had ever seen a living Marn. They had stopped raiding Embrellon about three hundred years after the forming of the Guardians. It became too costly for them to try and take Skree any longer and many Marn had died trying. The humanoids were mostly of blue hair, violet eyes, upswept eyebrows and pointed ears. But on occasion, there was born among them a child with black hair, blue eyes and rounded ears and eyebrows, these were regarded as special because of the Earthman who had formed the Guardians, James Whitlaw. Chrylos was one of the few Embrellon who had that look. Whitlaw and Lara had been mates for life and had two children, twins, a boy and girl, the girl became the first seer, and the boy followed his father as a Guardian. That was six hundred years ago, today, was the first time that the Guardians of Embrellon would have a chance to question the ancient enemy.
They brought the life-pod in before the council and with the greatest care, opened the life-pod. After the swoosh of air at the opening of the life-pod, and the stirring awake of its occupant, all life on Embrellon was about to change. This wasn’t an enemy, this was a refugee seeking asylum and hoping for a new life away from Marn. But, this wasn’t a typical Marn, this was a High Marn, of the ruling caste, the daughter of the Supreme Marn Commander, Tygos, and he would come looking for her, Catya. They brought Catya before the Seers, who questioned her, and because of the psychic bond of the Guardians, were able to see what things she might try to hide. Chrylos was waiting for Jatar to gather the news about this Marn.
Jatar told Chrylos what had happened and that they were going to need to protect this Marn, because she could be the reason for renewed attacks by the Marn. They couldn’t kill her, that was not an acceptable act by the Guardians, or the Embrellonese, they regarded life highly and only killed in battle. Even the Skree were opposed to killing except for food or defense, all Skree were Guardians but not all Brellon were Guardians, not everyone was chosen, though all were candidates for the Guardians.
Chrylos asked if they were able to communicate with the Marn, and Jatar told him yes, through the Skree, and it would be his task to teach her their language. Him, a Senior Scout, was going to be in charge of the Marn. Shocked by this confidence, and excited about learning about the Marn, he asked why he was chosen, and Jatar said it was the High Council and the Seers who said to have him selected. Following the orders, he was given, Chrylos set off to collect his charge and take her in hand all the while asking himself why him?
Chrylos asked Gryton to tell their charge that they were taking her to get nourishment and to get her settled into their quarters. Gryton grumbled about being tasked with babysitting, but Chrylos chided him and they went about the task of teaching her the language.
Over the weeks that followed, Chrylos learned everything he could about Catya and the Marn, and as she was very adept at learning the language, soon they were talking to each other and Gryton grumbled less and less about being a babysitter and took keen interest in the Marn.
Chrylos discovered that not all Marn wanted conquest, most just wanted to live in peace, but her father, Tygos, was full of hate and he always killed his opposers. Catya wanted to be free of Marn war, and wanted to live in peace, have a family, and explore. But that wasn’t what her father wanted and he was going to mate her with one of his commanders to make sure of his loyalty.
The burning question was this; how long before Catya’s father would come looking for her, and why did she choose Embrellon? The answer was astonishing to Chrylos, and once he told the High Council, they would be excited, and hopefully, prepared. The Guardians were the only ones in the history of Marn to defeat them to the point they wouldn’t come to Embrellon. Her Father didn’t care, he would be crazy with rage and would expend all his forces to bring her back.
How long? The answer to that question gave them hope, the Marn ship and crew that brought her here were all dead, they didn’t want war and agreed to take here to Embrellon at the cost of their own lives. The crash wasn’t planned, but it worked in their favor, no one else survived and no one had transmitted their position before they crashed. Her father would have to search the sectors one by one until he found her, and that gave them time to prepare.
Catya shared with Chrylos that her reason for coming to Embrellon was to find out if a Marn could become a Guardian. If a Marn and a Skree could be joined, then they would indeed have a reason to come to Embrellon in peace. She asked Chrylos if he would ask the High Council if she could try to be joined at the next hatching.
Chrylos was excited about the possibility and felt a strange attraction to this young woman, who should be his enemy. He realized that she was right, a Marn Guardian could change things for all of Embrellon and for the Marn as well. Could this be the key to finally having a lasting peace with the Marn? The greatest obstacle would be Tygos, he desired conquest, not peace, and once he discovered she was on Embrellon, would not hesitate in sending all his forces here to force her return to Marn, and the marriage that awaited her.
The usual age of a candidate was sixteen. It seemed that for the humanoids on Embrellon, any younger and they couldn’t join, and most candidates were too old by the time another hatching happened. Catya was twenty and the age of 21 was the cutoff age for joining. Fortunately, there were eggs on the hatching ground, and there were thirteen females that she might be joined with.
Chrylos was nervous, he had never directly addressed the High Council before. That was usually something only the highest Guardians did. How would they react to Catya’s request? How would the Skree react to the request? Not since the founding of the Guardians had anyone not born on Embrellon been joined with a Skree, and the Skree had to do the choosing.
As he entered the great chamber, he stood in awe of the statues of past leaders of the Guardians, all the way back to the first Guardian, James Whitlaw. Whitlaw was an earthling, stranded on Embrellon when the Marn attacked his ship and destroyed it killing all of his crew. The Statue of Whitlaw, mounted on Regulus, the Skree who chose to join with him, was impressive, and almost looked alive.
Whitlaw had formed the Guardians with the help of Lara of Vela, and Regulus. Vela was joined to Regulus’ mate, Jarma, and for sixty years, trained, built, and led the Guardians. Now it was Jatar who led the Guardians, and Chrylos hoped that he would be able to help him sway the Council to grant Catya’s request. The High Council was made up of twelve elders of the Guardians, past Leader’s and Wing Commanders, who had proven themselves to be of the highest valor and lived and conducted themselves according to the needs of all Embrellon. Along with the High Council was the Senior Elder, and the Seers. Thirteen women with their Skree Life-mates, who determined what the Guardians did.
The Senior Elder, Joktar, former leader of the Guardians who lost an arm in a battle, and his Life-mate, Junta, who had lost an eye, was who Chrylos would need to convince. They were battle hardened veterans, who had no love for the Marn.
Chrylos began his address to the Council, “Esteemed Elders, Seers, Skree, and our esteemed Elder Joktar, you gave me the task to teach our language to, learn as much as possible about, and find a way to secure peace with the Marn, by taking Catya, the young Marn woman as my pledge, and I am here today to share with the Council what I’ve learned and to bring a request on behalf of the Marn woman Catya”, it was silent in the Chamber, and you could hear yourself breath, and Chrylos saw that Joktar was leaned forward intently eyeing him. It made Chrylos nervous, but he continued. “the woman, Catya, has shared that her father, Tygos, is the leader of the warrior faction of Marn, and that not all Marn’s regard Embrellon as a place of conquest, but would rather have peace. She came here to find us, and to bring a message of peace, as well as a request, she wants to join the Guardians, and by doing so, hopes that it will stop the aggression of Tygos, and bring peace to both worlds.” The Council was stunned, and Joktar after being silent, began to speak. “Not since the days of the founding of the Guardians has there been a joining of Skree to an off-worlder. The choice is always by the Skree and we don’t know if it can even be done with a Marn, an enemy for as long as the Skree can remember. If we do this and it works, then by all we know it would promote peace, but, if she isn’t chosen by a Skree, we need to brace for war.”
Then Jatar spoke, “Esteemed Elders, there are hatchlings due soon, and this is the time to make the attempt. I know that some may question the joining, but the alternative is all out war with the Marn, and the losses of life, which we are sworn to protect, would be devastating. The Guardians will give their lives to protect all Embrellon, but, if avoiding this war can be done, then we should do It”.
The High Council asked Chrylos and Jatar to wait outside while they made a decision. It was never wracking for Chrylos, the waiting and silence, but what was he to do. They had to choose the joining, they had to see the logic, and see that this opportunity to remove the threat, was more important than any prejudice towards the Marn. After several hours, Jatar told Chrylos that this was the single most important event in their history with the exception of founding of the Guardians itself.
Suddenly, there was a high pitched roar, the Skree were deciding, and with the Skree, the Council. The minutes felt like hours, and Chrylos began to sweat nervously. The Council chamber doors opened and Chrylos and Jatar were summoned. As they entered, they saw that the full council, along with their Skree life-mates, and all the Seers assembled. This was important, because it was a rarity for them to gather fully due to the link between man and Skree.
Joktar spoke, “it has been decided that we must make this attempt for all of Embrollon to survive. The hatching should be in a few days and the Marn is to be taken to the waiting chambers and spend time with the eggs until the day of the hatching.” Chrylos was relieved and excited, this was the outcome he had hoped for, and now he would tell Catya that she was to be given a chance to be joined to a Skree, the most incredible experience in his life, and something he hoped they would soon share.
It had been decided, Catya would be a candidate for the joining, and hopefully she would be acceptable to a Skree. The Skree always chose male to male, female to female. They all were similar in markings, the females smaller than the males, both had manes, the females with a smaller mane. One thing that was different was that they ranged in color from tawny to a deep brown, or in some cases, grey. This joining was bringing excitement that hadn’t been seen for some time. Joining’s were always exciting but this was the first time in six hundred years that an off worlder would attempt a joining.
It was quiet on the hatching floor, all the candidates were assembled, and a hush fell on the crowd as Joktar addressed the assembly of Elders, Seers, Guardians, and Candidates. “Today, we are gathered to welcome into our assembly the newly chosen Guardians. To defend our planet from all invaders, to protect the innocent and helpless, and to ensure the future of Embrellon. Today, we have an off-worlder, a Marn, and for the first time, we hope to join to our ranks Catya of Marn, who will be Catya of Embrellon from this day forward” with his final words spoken, the gong sounded and silence followed.
The first sound of a shell cracking followed shortly, as if this had been rehearsed, and the first Skree broke free, a young bronze colored male, and he chose his life-mate, a slim youth who seemed more out of place than most. There were 30 eggs on the hatching grounds and as each one broke, a candidate was selected, sixty youths, sixteen males hatched and thirteen females, and as everyone waited with hope, and desperation, the final egg cracked, and awe fell on the assembly, for this was a Skree like no other. She was white, with gold stripes, and with many candidates waiting she roared and paced in front of the candidates, like a lion ready to attack. She paused in front of Catya, and when she looked into her eyes, Catya was joined, the electric shock down her spine and the fireworks in her mind was just the beginning. Catya collapsed, and her life-mate, Zala, stood over her and roared at anyone who approached.
Chrylos new that Catya need help, the joining had been different for Catya, candidates never collapse, they become joined and take their life-mates to feed, and move into the training barracks where they stay for the next year, learning together the basics of being a Guardian. Chrylos approached Catya and Zala, and Gryton came with him, Zala still roared, but at Gryton’s urging, Chrylos bowed deeply before the female, and approaching slowly, was able to raise Catya to his arms and carry her from the grounds. Gryton followed with Zala and took her to feed, then they went to the training barracks to check on Catya.
Catya was awake now and Chrylos gave her the diadem that all Guardians wore upon there brow to help channel the thoughts of Guardian and Skree. This was the day they had prepared for but Zala was different than other Skree, here coloring made her unique. There hadn’t been a Skree of her coloring since Lara’s Life-mate Jarma. This was a day to remember indeed.