She and Chrylos set out for Varna the next day, they decided to take a leisurely flight home, not just to think about the time frame that Tygos gave them, but to go to the tomb unseen. Chrylos knew that they missed something important in the tomb, and he couldn’t get it out of his mind. He knew that they had to go, and it would change the future.
As they made their way to the tomb, there was an explosion near their location, they followed the smoke and made their way carefully to the site. The Ranger training kicked in and they were on the defense. Chrylos and Catya crawled forward on the ground toward the smoke. As they crested a low hill they were using for cover, they saw what made the explosion and smoke. Before them was a ship, a three hulled ship, a Marn ship and they didn’t crash. They had fired one of their weapons to clear debris out of the way from the landing. Marn troops were exiting the ship, they were early. Chrylos told Catya to notify the Seers down the link. Marn had invaded. Catya told Chrylos this was a scout ship, not a heavy cruiser and she didn’t believe that Tygos had arrived yet, but that this wouldn’t be the only ship that had landed. If they were following Marn battle tactics, there should be at least a dozen more scout ships landing as well.
The Seers notified all the bases, everyone mobilized for war. It was fortunate that Chrylos and Catya were the ones who saw the Marn first, Catya would be able to coordinate the efforts of the Guardians and get the Rangers in place as quickly as possible. This wasn’t what she had been looking forward to, she had wanted to see Lantana’s Mausoleum and go to Varna not be in a battle.
It was a long day, scouting, following, reporting on the link to the Seers, passing the intel to Chrylos, Gryton and Zala. Preparing to fight, and knowing that she must be one with Zala to defeat Marn weapons. They were only four against at least one hundred. They had no one coming to back them in a fight, the others would have their hands full with battles of their own. She and Chrylos decided that the most efficient thing to do would to stay hidden until dark. Then if things went well, they could at least make it to a base before having to fight. Information was the most important thing they could provide at the moment. An all-out battle wouldn’t help anyone.
When darkness fell, they mounted up and headed for Varna, even though it was two thousand kilometers to Varna, they could only fly at night for the time being, which making the coast would be as far as they would get before daybreak. Once at the coast, they would need to find cover and stay put until the end of the day, and then on to Smyrna that night, then they could breathe a little easier. They arrived at the coast just before dawn, and Gryton found a place to hole up for the day. It would be cold rations and water today, he really could use some tana, but, they couldn’t chance a fire, not today.
The day drug on endlessly, they slept fitfully, coordinated information with the bases once they had slept a few hours, each taking watch in turn, while the others slept. The Skree required less sleep than the Brellon, but they were all weary from the flying and the need to stay alert at all cost. Chrylos relieved Gryton and waited and watched while letting Catya sleep more. She was key to the defense of Embrellon, they couldn’t afford to let anything happen to her, she could talk to any Skree on the planet without the link, something that not even the most adept Seers could do, which made it even more critical to protect her. When she woke, she had that lazy smile she always had for him, and then the reality of the day hit and she was wide awake. She spoke to the Seers to learn any news of other scout ships and if there were any skirmishes with the Marn. The Seers told her that two of the ships were engaged at daybreak out on the eastern edge of the main continent. Several Guardians had lost their lives in the skirmish, but they had defeated the Marn troops. The rest of the ships had been located and the Marn were now on the ready, they hadn’t expected two of their scout ships to be destroyed with all troops but, now they had sentries posted, were watching the skies, and were scanning for Guardians. It was going to be guerilla warfare tactics that beat the Marn invaders, not head on battle. The Guardians armor was great, the Faron was nearly indestructible, but even with that, it couldn’t withstand a direct point blank hit from Marn weapons. It would stop any sword, dagger, arrows, even spears. But Marn blasters at point blank range would penetrate the armor. It could handle a blast from their pulse rifles and phase pistols, but they needed to be at least ten meters away, anything closer, was deadly.
The one saving grace for the Guardians was even with the Marn advanced weaponry, and devices, they had no device that could penetrate the tanzite and reveal the Guardian bases or any of their craft halls, new schools, or the new Archive. They were all built on the pattern of the Varna base, and to the naked eye, looked as though it were just a mountain or hill, and without being able to penetrate the tanzite, would just show up as a large tanzite deposit, nothing more.
Still, it would be great if they could find a way to block the Marn blasters and force them into close order combat. In that type of fighting, the Marn were no match for the Guardians. Trying to withstand the attack of a Guardian and a Skree simultaneously, was no easy chore, and the Marn couldn’t defeat them on even ground. Without their energy weapons, they were an easy foe.
It was dark, they waited until it was fully dark, hoping to evade any scans as they made their way to Smyrna. The flying wouldn’t take as long today, the island was only five hundred kilometers off the coast, and the Skree could cover that distance in a few hours. They made it safely to the base, and were able to get a few day’s rest before they set out for Varna. They arrived at Varna and began to prepare battle plans. They were going to need all the skills that every Ranger was taught to battle the Marn, and prepare for the arrival of Tygos, which was still three weeks away. The Marn, always used this tactic and Catya felt a little embarrassed because she didn’t prepare the Guardians for this type of attack. She had become Brellon, and a Guardian, and no longer thought as a Marn. She literally had to force herself to think of Marn battle tactics to prepare the Guardians for whatever may come next.
The Marn could see in the dark, which made it more difficult for the Guardians. The Skree could see in the dark, and could see better than the Marn, but the Guardians were blind at night. So battles needed to take place during the daytime. The tanzite infused Faron that the Guardians armor and weapons was made from made them invisible to Marn scans, but they still had to attack on the ground. Skree were exceptional fighters, even greater fighters in the air, but massing troops on the ground wasn’t easy. How do you move that many men and Skree without making noise that would alert the enemy? It was why guerilla warfare was their only means of attack. They needed an edge, and until one was found or they were able to ambush the Marn, it was hit and run fighting.
Tygos was due to arrive any day, and as the day grew closer, Catya was troubled more and more. They could defend against ground troops, the smith craft hall had installed blast doors on all the installations and the doors were half a meter thick. That would repel anything short of a blast from a Marn ship. It would buy them time, but time to do what? No one had an idea.
Tygos arrived and was met on the plains west of the Great Temple, the Guardians didn’t want to give away the location of any base, and since the Marn knew the general area of the Great Temple, meeting them on the plains seemed to be the wisest choice. The Guardians also chose not to reveal Catya at the first meeting with Tygos. They wanted to hear what he had to say.
Three squadrons of Marn troopers came down the ramp and formed a processional walk way. Then several Marn officers came down the ramp. All of the officers were gold like Catya, and the Guardians could see that a caste system existed on Marn. The troopers were all heavily armed, battle ready. The officers on carried side arms and daggers. Their uniforms were extravagantly decorated. Gold braids, and gold embroidery on black uniforms, while the troopers were dressed in plain uniforms with no decorations other than what must be rank insignias. it was impressive.
Then a horn blast sounded and walking down the ramp was the most impressive Marn they had ever seen. He was a head taller than all the other Marn. He was heavily built. You could see the muscles bulging beneath his black uniform, he wore a gold sash over his right shoulder that gathered at his waist on the left, a sidearm on his right hip, highly polished black knee high boots with a dagger in each boot. He had green eyes on a golden face, with black hair, and a scar on his face the ran from the bottom of his left eye to the corner of his mouth, it gave him a cruel, but distinguished look.
He scanned the assembly, and his eyes took in every detail. The Skree in battle armor, the Guardians in armor, heavily armed and ready for battle. He raised his right hand, and all of the Marn snapped to attention, the Guardians tensed. They were astonished at his voice, they expected it to sound cruel and malevolent, but it possessed the qualities of someone used to command, well educated, without malice. He addressed them, “People of Embrellon, I have come to receive my daughter, and if you turn her over to me, I will leave you in peace. I want my daughter returned by this time tomorrow, but, if you choose to keep her from me, I will bring all the power of Marn against you, I will utterly destroy you, take your young captive and enslave your world.”
Joktar stepped forward, his eye blazing and defiantly he said “Tygos, your daughter came here of her own choice, we did not take her by force, we found her in the wreckage of her crashed ship, with all of the crew dead. We took care of her, provided for her, and she joined us of her own free will. She is a Guardian, with a Skree life-mate, and we will not allow you to take her by force. She belongs here, amongst the people she has chosen as her own.” There was dead silence after Joktar spoke. There was no expression on Tygos’ face, he just stood there looking at Joktar, and then, without a word or any warning, he drew his phase pistol and shot Joktar in the face and killed him. The Guardians were stunned, Tygos had moved so fast that the Joktar hadn’t time to react. The Guardians drew their weapons, and in the blink of an eye, the battle was joined. Skree roars, and the shrieks of the Marn troopers they killed was horrific. Tygos, unlike many others, never took cover, he stood his ground and battled the Guardians without fear. The Guardians had never seen a Marn fight like Tygos. He killed at least twenty before he and his troops withdrew into the ship and closed the hatch. The ship launched and the Guardians were left to deal with the devastation of the battle.
Tygos returned to orbit Embrellon, and with his officers, he began to assemble a battle plan for the conquest of Embrellon. He was a wise battle commander; he knew that the day’s battle was only a sample of things to come. He was impressed with the Guardians, he couldn’t remember facing an enemy who fought as passionately as they did, and he knew that the fighting wouldn’t be on his terms. They would use any tactics available to them to avoid a face to face battle.
He wanted Catya, and he would destroy and enslave this world to get her back. She was the key to his plans. Without her, he wouldn’t be able to become Emperor, which was his ultimate goal. He needed the marriage he had arranged for her to consolidate his power, and rule Marn.
The Guardians had been taken by total surprise, Joktar was dead, and Junta was dying, he had taken a point blank blast from a pulse rifle. It had blasted through his armor, took off one of his wings, tore through his hind quarters, leaving his organs exposed and part of them were on the ground. He wouldn’t live more than a few hours. His wounds were so severe that not even the purple ochre coursing through his veins would be able to heal him. Jatar and Quinlan would now ascend to his place on the council and it would fall on him to decide how to battle the Marn invasion and Tygos. One thing was certain, for both sides, Catya was the key, and all Embrellon would protect her from Tygos.
Chrylos and Catya were in the Great Temple when the Guardians returned carrying the bodies of the dead, and they brought Joktar and Junta into the temple with great reverence. He had served for sixty years, as a Guardian, Ranger, Elder, and head of the Great Council. Upon receiving the news, Joktar and Junta’s mates, Auria and Levan, fell dead, leaving all of Embrellon in mourning. No one expected this, and now it would fall to Jatar’s mate to take the lead of the Seers. Catya was devastated, and she was shaking, her nightmare was becoming real, and all she wanted to do was hide. Chrylos tried to comfort her and assure her that no one would let Tygos take her, she was blood of their blood, a Guardian, a Brellon, and that meant that no one, Brellon or Skree, would let her be taken, they would die to protect her, and all she could see in her mind was that Tygos would destroy them all, to the last being, to take her.