She came to him and laid in his arms, and as they began drawing closer and into the ritual of mating, she noticed that on the link, Gryton and Zala were there too, the combination of her feeling for Chrylos, the Skrees feelings for each other and their joining fueled the passion between her and Chrylos and when the morning came, she knew that no other would ever be called her mate. She would fight for Chrylos, live for Chrylos, die for Chrylos if needed, and he would do the same, they were joined in a way that she never knew could exist, and they were linked through the link as well. She now knew why the bonding was such a shock, it opened the mind to link with others share thoughts and feelings, and be together always.
When dawn came, Gryton told Chrylos that the un-joined Skree would arrive soon. As they waited, they were nervous, they didn’t know what would happen and could only hope the other pride leaders would agree to join them and come to the Great Temple to meet with the High Council. As they landed, Chrylos counted, there were fifteen prides represented, he had no idea there were that many un-joined Skree. Tambar introduced them to Chrylos, Catya, Gryton and Zala. Tegar, Zanda, Josan, Lokar, Jamtar, Zembar, Regon, Rismam, Darno, Detan, Daktar, Tregon, Torga, Tubar, and Tambar. As the discussed the situation and possible battle, probable interjected Catya because she couldn’t see Tygos not fighting, they agreed to accompany them to the Great Temple and speak with the High Council and Seers, and meet with Jatar and Quinlan.
They were three days’ straight flight from the temple, an easy task for the Skree, but with the two riders, it would take five days do to landing and rest for the riders. They left the next morning at daylight, and flew until well after dark, until Chrylos and Catya couldn’t stay in their saddles any longer. With each passing day, the feeling in the pit of Catya’s stomach was tightening. Could they defeat the Marn in a straight out battle? The only way to kill a Marn was take off his head, or completely destroying his body. Marn physiology was different, they had two hearts, and unless you took out both hearts at once, a Marn could continue to fight. Catya had told the Council this when questioned and it was confirmed in the Guardian records. Many times the only way a Guardian over-came a Marn in single battle was with the aid of his life-mate or by taking the Marn’s head.
They arrived on the fifth day, it was midday, and when they landed outside the temple, all progress came to a halt, everyone wanted to see them. They threaded their way through the city to the High Temple and came into the Council Chambers. All the High Council, life-mates, Seers, and Senior Guardians were in attendance, this was an historic day indeed.
Chrylos spoke to the High Council and made the introductions of all the Skree Pride leaders. Once they were introduced, Tambar spoke to the Council. “High Council of the Guardians, we have watched you from afar and have saw that you serve the good of and protect all who live on this world. We the pride leaders of the un-joined will join you in battle with the Marn. Today, we ally ourselves, and we will honor our allegiance in the future. There was an inaudible sigh of relief in the chamber, now, they could focus on how to defend Embrellon, and forge a new alliance with the Skree. Catya was brought in to explain for all how to defend and defeat a Marn, and the Skree wondered how a Skree could defeat a Marn without the aid of a sword, or a Guardian, Catya had the answer. To take the head, was difficult without a sword but, if the throat was ripped out a certain way, both hearts would pump all the blood out in minutes. Difficult fight, but possible and she was tasked with teaching all the Skree, joined and un-joined the technique. As she taught them she wondered how she, a Marn by birth, wanting peace, could now be thrust into the middle of a war that she was trying to avoid. Could she take the life of a Marn, could she do it for peace’ sake, or would she fail at the critical moment and jeopardize the lives of all on Embrellon. Only time would tell. For now, she must focus on the fight.
The Skree were excellent students for Catya. The battle techniques they learned quickly, their counterparts however had a much more difficult time because of the training it took with their swords. Their swords were made of Faron, a metal only found on Embrellon, it was easy to mold and work with, and when joined by the tanzite crystal in the pommel, had an almost indestructible edge, the metal itself was so strong that a wire the thickness of a horse hair could suspend and hold, without breaking or bending, one hundred kilos. When molded into a sword or dagger, it never scratched or dented and the Guardians armor was made of Faron as well and provided incredible protection.
Tanzite crystals also only found on Embrellon when shaped and polished were white with purple veins running through it. It had the ability to focus the link between the Skree and the Guardian. It enhanced the natural psychic abilities of the humanoids who wore them, and the natural psychic abilities is what the Skree looked for when they chose their life-mates.
As time went on it was Catya who discovered the reason the Marn came to Embrellon totally by accident. She asked to look at the life pod that she was brought to the Guardians in and discovered that the pod itself was made of Faron, and the power source for the pod was focused through a tanzite crystal. Now, the raids, her father’s desire of conquest, and the constant war on the Skree made sense. She shared with Chrylos what she discovered and when brought to the council, they were shocked. In the oldest Guardian records, were two references to the metal and crystals, and the Marn raids.
Over the centuries, they had let the meaning of the records lapse out of memory, it was just there, a reference, one by Whitlaw, one by his son Jason. Both were made after an exceptionally brutal attack and both referenced what the Marn took besides the young who couldn’t fly. Chrylos and Catya began investigating other properties of the metal and crystals and further examined the life pod. What they discovered was that the metal of the pod wasn’t refined in the same way and the crystals weren’t as polished. This led them to question the craftsman who oversaw the Guardians who taught the cadets to make the swords, and by bringing them samples of the life pod, discovered that the Guardian process used tanzite dust in the production of the metal and the Marn metal didn’t. this made the Faron the Marn used brittle, and the crystal was inferiorly cut and polished and couldn’t focus psychic energy, only electrical energy. But the metal was still stronger than any other metal on Marn.
Sitting in their quarters one night, Catya and Chrylos were discussing battle strategies and their ranging assignment, Catya said to Chrylos “I’ve been struggling with myself and whether or not I could fight a Marn.” Chrylos seemed puzzled and with a look, Catya continued,” I didn’t know if my desire for peace, and my choice of making this my new home, would be cast aside by my ties to Marn and Tygos. After learning about the raids, the Faron, Tanzite, and taking away the young, I decided that my allegiance was with my new home. I am no longer Marn by any virtue other than birth. I am a Guardian of Embrellon, and I will protect Embrellon with my life.” Chrylos smiled, he had hoped this would happen and over the preceding months since he had found her in the wreckage, that she would choose Embrellon, and him.
Now they had to prepare to leave on the most dangerous mission that he had ever undertaken, a ranger mission that would bring him face to face with Tygos, and the whole future of Embrellon hung in the balance. Could Tygos be reasoned with, and would he choose to abandon the conquest of Embrellon and turn his eye elsewhere?
As Chrylos and Catya finished loading their gear and prepared to leave, Catya decided it was time to tell Chrylos her news, she was anxious of his reaction, she was pregnant, and not just pregnant, it would be twins. “Chrylos”, she said, “I have something to tell, something important.” Chrylos looked at her and nodded for her to continue. “I’m with child, our children, that is” Chrylos was dumbfounded. He just sat there staring at her. She didn’t know what to say, he just sat there, suddenly his expression changed, grew softer, and then he broke into the biggest smile she had ever seen, “Children?” She looked at him and very shyly looked into his eyes and said “twins”.
Chrylos almost fell off Gryton, and said “twins, I hoped for a child, but to know it’s twins, that’s incredible news, Catya. Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m sure”, she said. “Does anyone else know?” he asked, “Zala knows, and she is going to have a litter of her own”, she laughed and Chrylos smiled. He asked Gryton if he knew of Zala’s news, and Gryton said “I was waiting to tell you until we left. Zala and I want to go to the ancestral home of the Skree, it was abandoned ages ago, but, we want to have the first of our children born there, and it would be the place that your children should be born as well.”
As Chrylos knew, the Skree all knew the location of their ancestral home, but none of the Guardians had been given that knowledge, and no one other than Skree had been there as far as he knew. So, it was settled, their ranging would take them first to the Skree home, and then they would prepare for what was to come. Chrylos wanted to be away already, but Jatar came and interrupted their departure. “Chrylos, I need you to take something with you when you leave”. Chrylos saluted, by placing his hand over his heart and inclining his head. “What is it you wish for me to take on this mission Jatar” he said. “I have something very ancient, belonged to our founder James Whitlaw, and I think it will be of use to you on this mission”, he reached in side his tunic, and brought out a dagger, it was unusual, wrapped in a skin, and when Chrylos opened it, what he found was dagger, the blade was made of Faron as expected, and had a curiously made hand guard, the pommel and grips were one piece of tanzite, shaped and polished, gilded with Faron, and the sheath was made of ironwood, and polished to a beautiful luster and edged in gold. It was an honor, he was chosen to carry Whitlaw’s blade, and he could feel the power flowing through the tanzite as he held it in his hand.
With that, Jatar wished him good ranging, and left them. They were off, finally, and he was ready. He almost spilled the news to Jatar, but Gryton warned him to be silent. Jatar, if he had known about the pregnancies, wouldn’t have allowed them to leave, and they needed to go to the ancestral land of the Skree. Gryton and Zala edgy. It was time to leave, and the sooner they got into the air the better, and their emotions were beginning to spill over onto Chrylos and Catya. The sooner they left the better.
Chrylos knew that Zala would lay her eggs as soon as they arrived at their destination, but what he didn’t know was how long it took for a Marn to have a child, and he realized he needed to tell Gryton and Zala to keep this private, and to warn Catya about thoughts traveling the link, it wouldn’t do for their news to become common knowledge until the time was right.
With all this on his mind, and realizing the urgency to leave, they departed. The Skree vaulted into the air and with down strokes of their huge wings, were aloft and headed North, and would travel North at a leisurely pace for a while, and then head west for a day or two, and then would be turning south, and going out over the ocean towards the island that was the Skrees ancestral home. The Island was 1500 kilometers southwest of the continent and there should be a few small islands on the way there to stop and rest along the route. No Skree had been to the island in 10 generations at least, and the Skree natural life span, was about 150 years.
The island known as Varna, was somewhat of a mystery, the Skree knew that they had departed the island because of a natural disaster, and the Skree that came to the main continent to find safety and preserve their race. Since that time only a handful of Skree had ever returned to Varna, and no one who went had ever returned. It was a dangerous journey, and Chrylos wasn’t sure why Gryton and Zala insisted on attempting the trip, but the way that they insisted on going made Chrylos wonder what was ahead. Catya seemed indifferent, she didn’t seem to notice the urgency, and was preoccupied with being with children.
As they turned west, Chrylos asked Gryton to land. He had noticed something and wanted to check it out. Gryton, who’s training as a Guardian was as ingrained in him as much as Chrylos’, so he didn’t argue, he just told Zala to land. Once on the ground, Chrylos told Catya and Zala to stay where they landed and he unloaded the gear from Gryton. And left it with them. He helped Catya unload Zala, and asked them to make camp. They might be here overnight.
Chrylos and Gryton left on foot, scanning left, right and ahead. The air had on unusual odor, sickly sweet, and musty, like something old had just passed before them. Ahead of them they found a cave and proceeding with caution, entered the cave. Chrylos was depending on Gryton’s ability to see in the dark when he began to feel the dagger that Jatar had given him pulsing, almost as if it was alive. He drew the dagger and to his surprise the tanzite handle began to glow.
They went deeper into the cave and in front of them was a statue. It was strange to see a statue here, no one lived here, not Skree or Brellon. The statue was of a woman, mounted on a Skree, the Skree was strange, it had no horns, and it was spotted instead of striped. The inscription read “Lantana and Braela, first Seer”. All Skree had horns, as far as Gryton knew, and this one was spotted not striped. He told Chrylos that in a bygone age, that Skree had had four different types. But, with the exception of Zala, there was only one type now. They explored the cave further and found more writing, and several large pieces of tanzite that had been carved and polished into curious shapes, depicting things that neither Chrylos nor Gryton had ever seen. They returned to Catya and Zala and told them to stow the gear and follow them to Lantana’s cave.
When they returned to the cave, they found a hearth, built a fire, and made themselves as comfortable as possible. It was odd, sitting in this cave that had clearly been used as a place of remembrance for Whitlaw’s daughter and her life-mate. But why didn’t any of the Guardians know of this place. The Statue of Lantana and Braela would have brought many Guardians to the cave to honor her. It just didn’t make sense.
As night drew on, and Chrylos and Catya slept, they began having vivid dreams of flying Skree, with their Guardian’s riding in full armor ready to battle the Marn invaders. There were Marn everywhere, seeking the young, Faron ore, and tanzite. As the visions continued, they saw young Skree being caged and loaded, and ships filling their hulls with the ore and raw tanzite. It was as they were actually in the midst of the battle, and they saw Lantana enter the cave to escape the Marn, and inside the cave she hid what looked like a medallion in a crevice at the back of the cave, and then she mounted Braela and flew to the temple.
Chrylos and Catya woke with a start. They looked at each other, and then they saw that not only were they affected but Gryton and Zala had also had the vision as well. They searched the cave and in the back of the cave, behind one of the statues, they found the crevice, and inside the crevice they found the medallion, wrapped in a curious skin. It had a map of an island drawn upon it and instructions to a temple, and the medallion was actually a key to a vault that held the answers to the Skree exodus, what happened to the other types Skree. Chrylos and Catya looked at each other and knew that getting to Varna was more important than they had imagined. They were hard pressed waiting for daylight. They had decided that even though the Skree could fly in the dark, they wanted to see where they were going and night flying was decided against, at least for the time being.
With daylight breaking, they packed camp, loaded the gear and mounted up to leave. It was just a thought at first, and then a deep drawing that took Catya back into the cave, she knew there was something else in the cave and they shouldn’t leave without it, she was almost in a trance, frantically searching until she placed her hand on base of Lantana’s statue, and it slid to the side. Under the statue was Lantana’s armor, and her sword, dagger, and shield. Catya took out the armor, and put it on, it fit like it was made for her. She belted on the sword and dagger, and picked up the shield and in the bottom of the hidden space, was Lantana’s diadem, it was beautiful, and the tanzite was an exceptional piece, it fit perfectly. With that, they left the cave and began flying south. The map was very detailed and even though nearly six hundred years had passed, the map was accurate. They made the first island just before dusk. It was beautiful, five hundred kilometers off the coast, the island was like a paradise, there were fruit trees, and berry vines, the large Kaba’s that Skree and guardians alike enjoyed eating. There were other animals, herd beasts of various types and sizes, and aurochs. The largest Aurochs that Chrylos had ever seen. The Skree took one down, it provided meat for that night’s dinner and plenty of meat for rations, as well as horns and a huge hide. This was going to be a lengthy expedition and they were hoping that they would find the same kinds of flora and fauna on Varna.