It was early, the Sun had just risen. Dawn was fading and the early morning mist was dissipating. Lantana stood at her window, looking outside and wondering what today would bring. She was sixteen, and today, she would be on the hatching ground hoping to bond with a new born Skree. Her father, James Whitlaw, leader and Founder of the Guardians, would be expecting her and her twin brother Jason to become bonded as he and their mother were. Her Father’s life-mate was Regulus, Skree Pride Leader, and reason that Brellon and Skree together were able to defend Embrellon from Marn invasion and attacks upon their world. She didn’t know if she had the ability to bond with a Skree. Only the Skree could tell and they did the choosing. That would be later today, for now, she needed to bathe, dress, eat something, and talk to Jason.
They had been born during one of the most severe attacks by the Marn. Her mother was in labor and her father had to hide her in a cave to keep her safe from the Marn. While he was in the midst of battle, the babies came. Risa, her closest friend and fellow Velan, was the only help she had to deliver the babies. When they came, she told James, and that made him fight even harder. Her father, born on Earth, had come to Embrellon to see if the world was capable of sustaining a human colony. He had been marooned here by the Marn when they destroyed his ship and crew. He and Regulus bonded far to the north, and it was the first time that Skree and Brellon had bonded in millennia.
She and Jason were Identical twins. They both had their father’s black hair and blue eyes, and their mother’s Velan features, pointed ears and upswept eyebrows, oddly, her brother was a head taller than she was, and heavily built, like their father, where she was very feminine like their mother. To her, Lara was the most beautiful woman on Embrellon and she had captured her father’s heart almost the day they met. Her father had rescued her from a Marn attack before she was bonded. After that, they were inseparable, except when she was giving birth to the Twins. Her father had formed the Guardians with the help of his bond mate Regulus, and afterwards her father had helped defend his new world for the past twenty years. Now, she and Jason would be standing on the hatching ground hoping a Skree would accept them and become bonded. Regulus and her father were both adults when they were bonded and it was Regulus who had determined after several failures at bonding, that the best way to achieve success was to bond at the hatching. He also recognized that in humanoids, unless they had strong telepathic traits, that the best time to bond was between sixteen and twenty-one. The success they achieved became the standard way of bonding and had been done that way now for twenty years.
She knew Jason would bond today, he was the top of his class in just about everything. For herself, she didn’t know. The Guardian ranks were filled with both men and women who were so well trained that they often were on Ranger assignments for months at a time. Rangers went out in pairs, usually a male and a female, especially if their Skree bond mates were mated.
The constant attacks by the Marn had halted the development of Cities on Embrellon. All communities on Embrellon were located in tanzite caves that provided protection for the peoples of Embrellon from Marn scanning devices. The properties of tanzite would prevent the Marn from locating their encampments. Her father dreamed of building cities but without a way of protecting the inhabitants from future attacks, the people would have to live in the extensive cave structures that had been excavated. There seemed to be endless deposits of tanzite to excavate but their certainly must be a better way to live. Enough of that for now, she needed to focus on the task at hand, today she wanted a successful bonding to happen.
As she came down to eat, Jason was already waiting. They were so close, almost inseparable, and had been since birth. They had done everything together, and once they reached their teens and began the rigorous training to become Guardians, they had grown even closer. He was so much like their father, the training for him was easy, she had to work hard to keep up with him, and they both had graduated at the top of the class, and today, if they bonded, they would go to the cadet barracks where they would train to become Rangers and Guardians. This would be a special day.
As she came into the room, Jason greeted her and she could see the underlying excitement in his eyes. He was a handsome young man, with his black hair flowing back, his steely grey-blue eyes, and upswept features. He was very charismatic, and could draw people to him. At any celebration, all the young girls wanted to dance with him, and would listen to the stories of the Guardians he told with bated breath. She never felt so safe as when she was with him, unless she was with her father.
As they ate she thought about all the Bonding she had witnessed in her short years. She had seen candidates who she thought would bond, the strong, intelligent, good looking young people overlooked by the Skree hatchlings, for an awkward, gangly youth, or a shy, quiet, reserved girl selected instead. Her father had told them over and over, “It’s the Skree that do the choosing, not the candidate.” How would the Skree hatchlings view her and Jason. Would they find them acceptable for bonding, or would they be rejected? Only the day’s events would tell. One thing her father had said was that the Skree chose individuals with telepathic ability. Whether they knew it or not, and the Skree would know. It was instinctual for them.
She and Jason talked about everything that morning but the bonding. She could see that he had just as many questions as she did, but he didn’t want to show her that he had any doubts about the outcome of the day’s events. She knew him as well as he knew her. Neither of them would admit it, but they could read each other so well. It seemed to them that they were linked somehow, always aware of each other. They had never been able to keep secrets from each other, it was so easy to see that the other was hiding something, so they didn’t try.
As they entered the assembly room for candidates, they were all given green robes and told to wait until called. This was the nerve wracking part, waiting for the procession to begin. There were forty-five candidates assembled, fifteen young women, and thirty young men. They all knew one another; the community of the Guardians was a tight knit group. There weren’t any candidates from outside the ranks of young people whose parents were Guardians.
They filed into the hatching grounds and took their places in a wide semi-circle about the eggs. They had all been to the grounds and had had the opportunity to touch the individual eggs. When the eggs were laid by the Skree females, they were leathery, and as the young grew inside the egg, it got larger and larger. It was about half a meter in diameter when lain, and it would grow to a meter and a half during the incubation, then the leathery shell would begin to harden and once it fully hardened, the eggs would hatch twenty-one days later, the total time from the eggs being laid until they hatched was about six months, and the Skree always had guards over the eggs. Once the shells hardened, the guards would then leave and the candidates would then take turns guarding the grounds. It was during the last three weeks that the candidates would come daily and spend time with the eggs, trying to impress a hatchling to choose them when they hatched. Some would talk to each individual egg, others would choose an egg and try to claim they had touched the mind of Skree inside, but, it wasn’t always the case.
On the hatching grounds were thirty eggs, ten females and twenty males. It was easy for them to know which were which because the Skree would arrange the eggs before the hatching. The female eggs were a slightly different color from the males even though to the untrained eye they resembled a large ovoid of Tanzite. The eggs were white with purple veins running through the shell. The female eggs had larger purple veins than the males. This time though, there was an unusual looking female egg, it had the usual white with purple veins, but it also had purple spots, which none of the Skree could remember an egg of such a color.
Once the Guardians were assembled for the hatching, the Matrons came in. One by one, they filed past the candidates, between them and the eggs, stopping to give reverence to each egg as they filed past. Lara, the leader of the Matrons and mother to the twins, filed in last. To Lantana and Jason, she was the most beautiful woman on Embrellon. She had come here from her homeworld of Vela which the Marn had destroyed. She was with the other refugee’s when their father, James Whitlaw, was marooned on Embrellon during a Marn raid. He was the first Guardian, and his bond-mate Regulus was the leader of the Skree. When Regulus had bonded with their father, a hundred Skree had joined them in the journey south. They bonded with the refugee’s that were able to bond, and their mother had bonded with Jarma.
That was twenty years ago, today, it would be Jason and Lantana who stood on the hatching grounds and learn if they had the necessary ability to bond with a Skree. Suddenly, the eggs began to rock. Slowly at first, and then the pace of the rocking picked up to the purring of the Skree, then, there was a crack and the first of eggs hatched. It was one of the male eggs and as it paced back and forth locking eyes with each candidate, it made its choice. It had chosen Jason. No matter how many times they had been told of what to expect in the bonding, no one was ever prepared for the electric shock down the spine and fireworks in the mind as the two beings formed the symbiotic relationship required. They had become bond-mates. Jason, looked up at the gathered group and proudly said “His name is Shandarro”. Jason was now one of the bonded and had gained entry into the Guardians. She hoped she would be as fortunate.
The eggs began cracking and rocking more quickly, and nine of the females had hatched, all but the unusual egg, and all of the male eggs. Lantana was nervous, she was still un-bonded and there was one egg and six girls on the hatching ground. Then, with a sudden furry of rocking the final egg broke, and everyone was shocked. This hatchling wasn’t bronze with black stripes as was how all Skree looked, this hatchling was white with gold spots. Everyone was shocked, then, without hesitation, the new hatchling bonded with Lantana, and Lantana’s life changed.
“Her name is Braela, and she is my bond-mate”. Lantana had experienced the greatest thing in her life. The electric shock had run down her spine and the explosion of fireworks in her brain as they became bonded, was nothing compared to being linked for life with another being, who shared your every thought and feeling. Braela let her know she needed to feed. They went to the feeding grounds and she fed. Then they went to the Cadet Barracks, and settled in the female quarters. Her training as a Guardian would begin the next morning, and they needed to sleep if they were to perform well in training tomorrow.
The Skree hatchlings had wings proportionate to their bodies. They couldn’t fly yet, their muscles for flying had to develop, all training for the next six months would be ground combat training until the Skree could begin flying. Then the elder Skree would train them in flight maneuvers until they reach one year of age at which time they would train to fly with their riders. Once they reached eighteen months, they would enter ranger training and would be full Guardians at the age of two.
A Skree could reproduce at the age of two but usually waited until they were fully grown at the age of seven, and would reproduce every seven years afterwards until they reached the age of fifty-six, at which time they would continue on as Guardians until the end of their life, or the end of their bond-mates, at which time they would simply lay down and go to sleep, never to waken again.
Their wing feathers weren’t fully developed at birth, they had lead feathers and they weren’t large enough to support flight. It was during the first six months of life that a Skree was most vulnerable. They couldn’t fly, they needed to be protected by the adults in the pride, and once they gained the ability to fly, they would endure rigorous flight training, learning to fly long distances, dive, land, battle maneuvers in flight, and how to hunt. Skree were sentient beings, they only hunted to satisfy the needs of their bodies, and to feed the pride. A Skree only needed to eat every four to five days, and when they fed, they never ate so much that they were gorged beyond flight.
At the age of two, the Skree had horns developing and when fully grown the horns would measure a meter or more in length. The horns looked like the horns of an Ibex, they curved back and provided protection for the neck. All Skree had horns, as well as manes, male and female, with the female mane being smaller in size. Braela was different, she was white with gold spots, and she didn’t have horn nubs, the small buttons of horn about ten centimeters long that all Skree had at hatching. No living Skree could remember seeing a Skree without horns, or one that wasn’t bronze with black stripes. To the Skree, this made Braela special, and because she was special, it made Lantana special in their eyes.
Cadet training was a brand new life for the Twins. Jason took to the training, he excelled in everything. Sword making, dueling, hand to hand combat, the physical training courses, the classroom instruction, he was a natural. Lantana excelled as well, even though her smaller stature made the physical training courses harder, she would duel with Jason and the other candidates, she learned battle strategy, and as much as the Guardians knew about the Skree. She desired to learn more about the Skree, she felt that they had secrets that would benefit all of Embrellon, and she wished that they could speak like the Brellon, instead of only on the link. To talk to the Skree, the Brellon had to talk through a Guardian and his Bond Mate, that made for tedious communication. Sometimes, she wished that she could talk to all Skree and bypass the need for the Guardian go between, but so far, no one knew of anyone who could talk to a Skree beyond their own Bond Mate.
It had been six months since the bonding, today, they would be separated from their bond mates for the first time. The Hatchlings would begin flight training today, and they would begin advanced tactics and strategy. Jason wondered if he would still be able to hear Shandarro on the link while he was off learning to fly. It surprised him when he realized that not only could he hear Shandarro, but he could see through his eyes all that was taking place. He asked Shandarro if he was aware of the things he was learning, and Shandarro said “its symbiotic, what I see, you see, and what you see, I see”. They were learning together, and to Jason’s surprise, he could feel the exhilaration of flight, and he could feel the wind as it flowed over Shandarro. This was an experience his father hadn’t told him about. They would have new things to discuss the next time they saw each other.