Jatar and the Guardians had had many battles with the Marn, for over a year, there had been skirmishes, night raids mostly, several ships had been destroyed, but the Marn kept coming. It seemed that every ship, and every trooper they destroyed or killed, another took its place. They didn’t have those kinds of reserves, if they weren’t using guerilla tactics, their losses would have been heavy. It took them two years to replace every Ranger that fell, and unless they could find a way to actually have a head on battle with the Marn, this war could last for generations, an outcome he couldn’t allow, but the alternative, was either to turn Catya over to Tygos, allow his home to be plundered and enslaved, or end with all life on Embrellon obliterated.
There had to be an answer somewhere. In some obscure record in the Archives of Varna, or in the Guardians Archive, there had to be an answer, but where to look? There were thousands upon thousands of records to search through, and the answer, if there was one, could be as simple as an unrelated reference that could be overlooked, even by the most astute. But with the alternative that they faced, they had no choice but to find an answer.
On several occasions they had tried to capture Marn weapons, to use against them, but whenever they had gotten possession of their weapons, they wouldn’t work. They were keyed to the Marn in some way that the Guardians didn’t understand, so for them, Marn weapons were useless. He had talked to Catya by the link and she told him that each weapon was keyed to each individual Marn, and that once that was done, the weapon had to be reprogrammed for another to use. That made finding a solution from Embrellon all that more important. The problem he faced was that other than faron and tanzite, there were few resources with which to make weapons. There was an answer somewhere, he knew it, they just had to keep searching.
Tanzite was an unusual mineral. It bubbled up from the ground like hot mud, and as it cooled, it formed the crystals that they used to make their armor, weapons, and diadems. Faron, they mined, and even though there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of the ore, they hadn’t found a way to use it other than making the alloy they used for the manufacture of just about everything they needed made from metal. Once it was refined and tanzite added to make the alloy, it could be shaped into just about anything, and once it cooled, it was nearly indestructible. There were no materials they knew of to make explosives, or build weapons like the Marn used. They had bows made from Aurochs horn, overlaid with faron alloy, and they had hand held cross bows as well, with arrow tips made from faron alloy, which were extremely effective against Marn soldiers, and they were constructing larger versions of the cross bow that could be used against their ships, but, nothing that would allow them to face Marn forces in the open.
They were experimenting with different ratios of Faron to Tanzite, to find out if changing the ratios which would alter the alloy’s properties, would make a difference. So far, they had found out that too much tanzite would make the alloy to brittle, and not enough would make it to soft. They had tried using tanzite by itself, and it would shatter, and the faron itself was so soft, that it wouldn’t hold its shape. He felt frustrated, and helpless.
In the Homeland, Catya and Chrylos had learned a great deal about the Skree that no one had recorded. They only had offspring when it was necessary for the pride to maintain its numbers. The Skree could reproduce every seven years, that was a normal cycle, but they would choose not to if it would create a hardship for the pride. The prides didn’t usually associate with each other, but once each year they would meet in conclave to discuss matters that affected all of them. From the number of prides, the need for sustainable food sources, not only for the prides, but also for the solitaires. All Skree were important to the prides, and they spoke at conclave, not on the link, which was interesting to Chrylos. They hadn’t known that the Skree had the power of speech until Tambar had spoken to the Great Council. It had changed things for all of them. Now, they could freely converse with all Skree, they were able to talk to their life-mates with ease, and it was less complicated to make things clear than when communicating through the link. There were places in the homeland that were so wild that only solitaires went there, it was surrounded by glaciers, high mountain lakes, raging rivers, vast prairies, and the variety of wildlife was astonishing. There were animals here that in all his years scouting, Chrylos had never seen before.
There were herds of Aurochs, flocks of Kaba, there were other birds that resembled the Kaba, only smaller, there were herds of rock whistlers, they resembled goats with large curved horns, they whistled instead of bleating, herds of Meer, a curious creature, it looked like a cross between a horse and an elk, with horse hooves, and the stocky sturdy body of a horse, long legs of an elk, with an elk-like head and antlers resembling a moose, and screeches. Screeches were the most curios of all the animals he saw. They were about the size of a tapir, except they lived in the trees, had large bushy tails and paws like a squirrel, and had a trunk similar to an elephant. Their diet was fruits and nuts, and according to Tambar, tasted better than aurochs. There was a great variety of fish species in the lakes and streams, and something that Chrylos had never seen before, there was a great snail, it would easily weigh five hundred kilos, and the shell was beautiful. Chrylos also learned that they ate fish, and he killed on when it tried to eat him. He decided to see if it was edible, the meat was blue, and its flesh tasted like kaba. The other was a huge bivalve that lived in the deep pools. It was at least two meters across, and inside was a tanzite crystal that looked like a diamond. He wondered if it was tanzite and when he brought it close to his diadem, it would glow. It was a curiosity, and he kept the crystal to be examined when they returned to the Great Temple or Varna.
He and Catya had been with the Skree for two years now, and they both were eager to return home, they messaged Jatar, and after a couple of weeks of silence, Jatar messaged for them to pack and return to the Great Temple. They were excited and sad at the same time. They had come to love this place, the Skree were incredible people, they had learned so much about them, things they hadn’t known, and in his things, he would be taking home Meer antlers, a shell from a small snail, the shells and crystal of the bivalve, and he a message for Jatar, the Skree had agreed to take a company of Scouts back to the Valley, to bring some of the new wildlife out to be introduced into the rest of Embrellon. Chrylos and Catya wanted to return with the scouts and bring some of the other things they had discovered with them. They had cloaks made from Screech hides, new boots and gear made from Meer hide, and eggs from the smaller birds that the Skree called Murk’s, they were waterfowl, about the size of a turkey, and they had eggs from the Rock Wattles, the smaller birds resembling Kaba, all the eggs were fertile, and had young in them that would hatch soon.
Just before they were ready to depart, Tambar came to see them, and told them that they would need to leave as they came, at night, in the dark once they crossed through the tunnel. At dusk, they arrived with their gear, and two younger Skree had agreed to help transport the additional gear back to the Great Temple. They crossed through the tunnel, and when they exited it was pitch black, they took off with the Javar and Vanda, and were headed home. They were wary, they didn’t know the current state of the war with Marn, and didn’t want to get caught out in the open. They only travelled at night, and when they came to the Great Temple, they landed and proceeded to the council hall. Jatar met them halfway there and told them to follow him. He wanted them to see something first. When they got to the square, sitting in the middle was the largest crossbow that Chrylos had ever seen. And when he looked at Jatar, he smiled, they had mounted ten of these at each installation, and they had brought down a large number of Marn ships with them. Enough he said that the Marn had left the planet four weeks ago. They hadn’t seen a Marn ship or soldier not for four weeks, but, the Skree had told them the ships were above the air, and circling Embrellon. When Chrylos showed Jatar the crystal, he told him that it was produced by the bivalve, and that Tambar told him that the Cudu, when they formed the crystals and they grew to about the size of a fist, would disgorge the crystal and form another, he said that would help them find the Cudu, by the crystals in the pools where they grew. Then he told Jatar to watch, he brought one of the crystals near his sword stone, and it began to glow. Jatar was not only intrigued, but when he saw the glow, he got so excited that he almost couldn’t speak. When he finally got clear words out, he told Chrylos that he may have just found the solution that they had been looking for.
He took the crystals, Chrylos had brought back two large bags of the crystals, and they went to the craft masters that made the tanzite crystals for the sword and daggers, and the diadems, to see what they could do with them. He also wanted to know if the crystals would glow on their 0own, or if they needed the crystals they used for the glow to happen. They discovered that a small tanzite stone would make the crystals glow, it gave Jatar an idea. He asked for them to make a necklace with a tanzite stone the size of a small egg, and then replaced the sword, dagger, and diadem stones that were Chrylos’. He learned that the new crystal in his diadem made the link clearer and more powerful, his sword was even easier to use, and that the crystals only glowed when he thought about it. Which was progress for Jatar. He sent scouts to look for the bivalves, and to gather as many stones as they could, he also told them not to kill any of the bivalves, they needed them.
He also sent word to the Archivists to begin searching the records for any references to the bivalves, or the crystals. He also sent the squad of Scouts back as Tambar requested with nets for transporting the animals that they wanted to share with the rest of Embrellon. Once the had the other animals, he knew they would have beasts to work with other than Aurochs.
The scouting missions searching for the bivalves, began reporting back that they had found several different areas where the bivalves were, and they were bringing back the crystals, they also noted that everywhere they found the bivalves, they found the snails, and they had harvested quite a few of the snails, told him that the meat was good to eat, and they were bringing in the shells, to be examined, they said that they should be further investigated, there was a peculiarity of note. When the crystals were brought into contact with the shells, not only did they glow, the projected an odd light. That excited Jatar even further. He knew there had to be an answer to the Marn, and he was beginning to have hope for the first time since Tygos’ arrival.
Once the first of the scouts returned with the crystals and snail shells, they showed Jatar and Chrylos the curiously odd light that projected from the crystals when they were brought into contact with the snail shells. The light was different than the glow brought out by the tanzite stones, and out of complete curiosity, he placed a stone, crystal, and piece of shell together, and they formed an energy barrier that repulsed a blade. Jatar was curious to see what the craft masters would be able to do with this, and so he and Chrylos took the materials to them, showed them the reaction, and then Jatar gave them the job of making this work for them to be tested as soon as possible. Time was of the essence, he knew that Tygos’ return was eminent, and he wanted a defense against Marn weapons and knew that this was the key.
When Jatar returned to his quarters, one of the Archivists asked to speak with him, he bade him enter, and the Archivist in a very hushed, excited tone, told him he found it, he found the reference they were looking for, and it was from the time of Whitlaw’s daughter Lantana. It said that they had discovered a way to use the crystals to create a weapon that would end the war with the Marn, and give their world peace. It said to look to Lantana’s tomb and the answer would be found. Immediately, Jatar sent out Scouts, they had been looking for the tomb for centuries. No one as far as he knew, had located the tomb, and now, with this reference, finding whatever was in the tomb became too important to miss.
He hadn’t said anything to Chrylos about the tomb before they left for Varna, and he reminded himself that as soon as he had some kind of answer he would send him a message. Right now he was so focused on finding the tomb as well as keeping the Craft Masters working on what they had found, that telling Chrylos slipped his mind.
Chrylos and Catya returned to Varna, their children were as excited to see them as they were them. Gryton and Zala went to see their children as well, children, the litter was grown, had joined the Guardians, and were preparing to go on maneuvers with the rest of the Rangers when the message arrived from Jatar.
He wanted them to search Varna for the Tomb of Lantana, there was a secret weapon or defense hidden in the tomb and they needed to find it. Chrylos told Catya they need to return to the Lantana’s Tomb, they took a squadron of Rangers with them and left that day.