Before Jazar was to leave with the Rangers, Chrylos asked Jatar if they could have a meeting, there were things he needed to discuss with Jazar, and wanted Cartan and Jatar in the meeting. Jatar didn’t know what Chrylos wanted, but it was plain he was up to something, and it had to be important, or he wouldn’t have asked for Cartan, Jazar, and himself to be in the meeting. He had also asked that their bond mates be there. Which was odd, because you couldn’t hide anything from your bond mate, and they didn’t have to be in the room to know what was said, they could listen via the link. Then it struck Jatar, he didn’t want what he had to say on the link.
When they were all together in a room fully inlaid with tanzite, it would prevent anyone on the outside from hearing via the link, Chrylos looked at them and releasing a long breath, he began, “Cartan and I are tasked with training the men to either raise the shield, or use the energy blast. That as a task seems simple. What I really need to do though, is to train a squadron of men to raise the protective barrier spoken of in the record left behind in the room inside Lantana’s tomb. I can’t help but believe that there are more secrets in the tomb, and we just didn’t find them. I believe that my first task though, should be to train another group of Rangers that can manipulate the energy blast with the shield up.” There were a few moments of silence, and he continued on, “I believe that if Jazar handles this assignment the way I’m about to suggest, he will give us more time to train the Guardians, it comes with a price though, men are going to lose their lives in the process and that is something no leader is ever prepared for. Jazar, I have complete confidence in you as a leader, and I know you will do all that is expected of you, this assignment is more important than you think. I need time, and I need you to give me that time. You have to make Tygos’ forces chase you all over Embrellon, and I need several months to accomplish the task that Jatar has given Cartan and I.” It struck Jazar how sincere Chrylos was, he meant he what he said. This would be his hardest assignment ever. Chrylos continued, “When Catya and I were in the Homeland, we were shown many things, some, we gave our word to Tambar to keep secret, others I can freely share. Jazar, when you’re on this assignment, if you need help before I can get a relief force trained, try to find or contact Tambar, he will come to your aid when you need it most.”
Jazar had a look of astonishment on his face, Tambar he thought, the Pride leader of the Free Skree, Protector of the Homeland, and Honored member of the Great Council, a position given him by Joktar, his paternal Grandfather. He had some questions and now was as good a time as any to ask. “Chrylos” he said, “I need to know some things before I leave on this assignment, and I believe that you and Gryton are the only ones who can answer them. I need to know the location of Lantana’s Tomb, and I need to know where Whitlaw’s Cave is at. I may need to hide my men at times, and I know that those two places could provide the needed cover.” Chrylos looked at him and said “I can give you the exact location of the tomb, but I don’t know of anyone who knows the location of Whitlaw’s cave, no one has been there in six hundred years.” Everyone had a general idea of where it was located, in the northern end of the plains, but exactly where, no one knew.
Then, Jatar spoke, “Jazar, you have a hard task before you. I’m sending you on this mission because I believe that you are more than capable to carry out the mission. I’m also going to make sure that Chrylos and Cartan have the men trained to send to you. When it’s time, they will meet you at Lantana’s Tomb. Do not go to the Tomb until I contact you and tell you the men are there waiting. I would rather not risk Tygos finding the Tomb, and possibly destroying it, or worse, finding some secret yet to be discovered that would turn this war around.” He turned to Chrylos and said, “I have something for you to do as well, the first training is the relief or additional forces to send to Jazar, and those should come from the Academy. Once you have sorted out who can join Jazar, then I need you to take as many men as you can, and train the shield force, and the blast force, but, I believe the shield force to be more important. All of us can raise the shield easily enough, we need that combined shield the tomb spoke of, and with that being the case, I want you and Cartan to go to Lantana’s tomb and see what you can find to help you train the force to raise the shield wall.” Then he dismissed them and sent them to carry out their missions.
Chrylos and Cartan arrived at Lantana’s tomb and began searching behind the statues, in the corridor, the secret room where he and Catya found the bracelets, the corridor went on for another twenty meters, and even though they didn’t find any more rooms, he was sure they were there, they just hadn’t figured out how to open them. Just as they were about to leave the corridor and exit the tomb, he saw and odd tile on the wall, it didn’t quite fit, it seemed to be out of line with the other tiles.
He turned the tile clockwise, and to his surprise, it slid inward and locked in place. When it did, it opened to reveal a secret inset a meter square and a meter deep. Inside the space there were three books one was about the shield, one was about energy blast, and one was about combining the two. He was glad that they had returned to the tomb. This was what he and Cartan needed to speed up the training. So far, it had been trial and error, more error than success. With the books in hand, they left the tomb and headed for the Academy.
It was hard at first, the Cadets, who were ready for Ranger training had to be evaluated, and Gryton had a lot of Cadets to scan to see who would be the best candidates to train to send to Jazar. He needed as many men as they could send. It was disappointing, out of one hundred and twenty Senior Cadets, they had twenty-five who could raise the shield and control the energy blast. That wasn’t near enough men, but they had no choice but to train and send them, and hope that Jazar didn’t lose to many men. He had the hardest job of all, a hit and run guerilla war, with few men to add to his ranks. They wanted to test some of the Junior Cadets as well but Jatar said no, twenty-five would have to do. They needed to be able to raise the shield wall, and train the others to use the energy blast so that they could face Tygos and end this war.
Once they had the men trained and they left for Lantana’s Tomb, Chrylos and Cartan focused on the task of raising the shield wall. The books were invaluable, they sped the process up greatly, and within a month, they had a force who could raise the shield wall, but they weren’t ready to meet Tygos. Training the men to stand behind the shield wall and send out controlled energy bursts wasn’t going well. The Guardians were used to fighting as individuals, and usually fought melee style. Flying, attacking, defending, and sword fighting on foot and mounted. This was different, they needed to stand behind the other Guardians, and fire a blast through the shield wall and it had to be able to take out Tygos’ forces on the ground. So far, they couldn’t control the blasts well enough to face anyone, let alone Tygos. It was frustrating.
Chrylos was at a loss. He had read and read the books, followed every direction listed, yet they couldn’t get a controlled burst, let alone sustain a burst well enough to penetrate the shield and hit a target. For some unknown reason, the energy burst would get absorbed by the shield, according to the book, it should have gone through the shield. It must be their focus, or they were missing something. He decided to try a new approach. He had a small group of Cadets who could raise the shield and fire the energy, what if he had them focus only on making the finest point of energy possible, and see if it would penetrate the shield with deadly results.
The Cadets prepared to do as instructed, and once the shield wall was up, the second row of Cadets were tasked with creating as tight a beam as possible and try to send it through the wall. The new direction he tried had better results. They could fire through the shield, but the effect would only stun, the shield reduced the force of the blast. It was better than nothing, at least they could stun their opponent, and finish them off with a sword. It wasn’t the solution he had hoped for, he wanted to keep his men from having to face the Marn with only swords. They had no idea how effective the bolt would be at stunning them. They already knew that the Marn were able to withstand a lot, had something to do with their physiology being different than a Brellon.
He asked Gryton if he could sense anything from the cadets that might be limiting their ability to send out a deadly blast. Gryton said that they were all focused, and that the blast should work. He told Chrylos to have the men stand and fire the bolt over the shield with the same intensity as trying to fire it through the shield. When they did, it was extremely effective, but exposed the men to the Marn weapons. This wasn’t working. He consulted the Archivists, Craft Masters, Jatar, the Seers, everyone he thought might have something to help, but it was to no avail.
He had tried everything, what was he missing? He had the Cadets continue training with Cartan supervising. He was going to his quarters, and reread the books, he had missed something and if he didn’t find it, he wouldn’t be able to produce the force that was needed. People would die needlessly, and that was something he wouldn’t allow. He would keep at this until he made it work, found some missing part of the process, or got the men so disciplined that they would be able to send out the bolt.
As he read the book on controlling the energy blast, he saw a reference to a focusing staff. It didn’t give instructions on how to build it, but it did say the staff would focus the beam and that it could penetrate the shield without losing its effectiveness. He was excited. He contacted Jatar, and asked him to come to the Academy, and to bring the Craft Masters who worked with Faron, the crystals, and had studied the bracelets that he and Catya found in Lantana’s Tomb.
Jatar arrived a week later with the Craft Masters and they set to work on the creation of the focusing staff. It was an unusual thing for them. They weren’t used to creating something without much of a reference, and then one of the Craft Masters had an idea. They had been working on something to create a light that could be carried and used instead of a torch. They brought out the prototype of the crystal torch. It was half a meter in length, it was made of Faron alloy, and it had a crystal fixed at the end on a base of tanzite and snail shell. It made a great light, it didn’t give off heat, and the light only required someone to point it in the direction they wanted to see. He didn’t see how it would help, but it was a start.
Gryton looked at the staff intently, and then he made a suggestion. The staff had the wide end of the crystal at the top, and it sent out the light easy enough, but couldn’t focus the light into anything that could be used as a weapon. What if they turned the crystal over and mounted it with the narrow end pointed out?
The Craft Master looked at Gryton and realized that what he said would, by the very nature of the crystal, create a tighter light. He went to the Smith Craft Hall, and made a new staff, this time mounting the crystal as Gryton had suggested. It took two days to make the new staff. One of the drawbacks of the Faron alloy was once it was made into something, you couldn’t reheat the alloy and reshape it. They had to make a new staff.
Once it was completed, they brought the new staff back to be tested. In the hands of a Brellon who wasn’t bonded to a Skree, it was just a fine point light, but, when Chrylos took the staff in hand and focused for the energy blast, a fine beam of concentrated energy blasted out of the staff. The first blast seared a hole through a full meter of Faron alloy, and was still deadly for a full thirty meters beyond the metal. They had the staff.
The problem was to produce a sufficient number of staffs to arm the Guardians before they met Tygos in the open. It had taken a Craft Master two full days to produce one staff, even if they pulled all the Smith Craft Masters into producing staffs, it would take months to create the number of staffs they needed. They had the solution if the cadets could use the staff as easily as Chrylos could.