Jason and Lantana were preparing to leave the cave discovery with their Ranger Leader’s. The training was critical for any Guardian, and they were as prepared as they could be. They were heading to the Bonding Cave where their father and Regulus had been bonded. They knew that what happened that day twenty years ago, hadn’t happened in millennia. When Regulus had come there he was looking for Whitlaw, he had seen what had happened to his ship and seeing the Marn destroy his ship, he thought that he might find an ally in the battle against the Marn.
They had been enemies for so long, in their ancient homeland, before the Exodus, they had fought side by side with the companions until the Marn had developed a way to kill all the Brellon and only the Skree were left.
The Vela had come to their world as refugees and stowaways, and they hadn’t been trusted because they came in Marn ships. But Whitlaw was different. He came in a different kind of ship, and his people landed in odd looking vehicles that were described to him as shuttlecraft. Surface to space vehicles that they used for exploring new worlds. With his ship destroyed there wasn’t any way to contact his people for aid, or for a rescue. He was marooned here, and made this his new home.
They left travelling north, there shouldn’t be any Marn attacks now for at least a year, hopefully closer to two. This gave them time to explore, and prepare, and with the new find in the cave, they had hope. Their father’s weapons from space were long spent of energy and they basically hung in their apartments. He had traded a pulse rifle and phase pistol for a flying lion, sword and dagger. But he seemed completely happy.
They had come well provisioned and wouldn’t need supplies for at least two months. The Skree would fly and hunt, and always brought in fresh meat for camp, and with four Skree hunting, not much got away. They were incredible hunters. They could see for miles, and their sense of smell would let them know if their prey sensed them near. Their telepathic ability allowed them to hunt silently, and when a Skree was on the ground hunting, they were the most formidable opponent one could face.
It was two days flying to reach the bonding cave and once there, Jason and Lantana would unload the gear and set up camp while their Ranger FTO’s scouted the area to make sure all was secure. They were going to use the cave as a base at their father’s suggestion, and would be there for at least six months. Once their training was completed, they would rejoin the other cadets returning from Ranger training, and would graduate and become Guardians.
They would be eighteen in a few days, and even though in times past their mother had special parties for them on their birthday, this year, their father had decided that training was more important than a birthday celebration. They were grown and joining the Guardians, that to him, was more important. Lantana was sure there was a disagreement between her parents over this, but, their parents rarely disagreed, and she was sure that her father had convinced their mother that it was necessary, and they would just have to rejoin their parents as full Guardian Junior Officer, each carrying a lieutenant’s rank. That would be present enough and would satisfy their mother when they celebrated the event.
Jason had been silent most of the day, and with two days of flying to reach the cave, it made for a lonely ride. She wasn’t sure what had him so deep in thought, and he just rode by instinct. Their father had taught them to ride the herd beasts at an early age, and they had flown behind one of their parents on many occasions. He was so comfortable in the saddle, he could sleep, even while his bond mate was flying, and through the link, could alert him instantly to any dangers. Jason could wake up instantly alert, not her. It took her an hour to get out of bed, get dressed, and get ready for the day. Well, that was before she became a cadet. Now she could get ready in minutes and had become very adept at getting into her armor, getting Braela into her armor, saddled and ready. The only cadets faster, were Jason and Shandarro.
Jason suddenly sat straight up in his saddle, reached down and pulled the fighting straps tight, and advised Lantana to do the same on the link. Shandarro had seen something disturbing, and they were going to go down and investigate. Jama and Jana landed first. There in the clearing was the most unusual thing any of them had ever seen. It beehive shaped, at least eight meters tall and four or five across. It had a small opening on one side with what looked like a door. The Skree were wary, they had never seen this before either, and they were at least five hundred kilometers from the cave. They could contact their father or any other Guardian on link, but they had all been taught never to relay partial information. It could get someone killed. With that in mind, they dismounted and the eight of them approached very carefully and with caution tried the door.
Jason pushed the door gently with a gloved hand and the door swung in. they peered inside, they couldn’t see inside, so they would need the eyes of a Skree. Sitting inside at a roughhewn table was a Vatar Monk. He was in his hooded robe, with his medallion of faith around his waist, and he sat there in faint candle light. Looking up from his table he realized he had visitors, and an almost childlike smile came across his face.
He looked at Jason and realized who he was, and addressed him, “Young Jason Whitlaw, it seems you’ve grown into a striking young man”, he said with a smile, continuing “is your sister here with you as well?” Jason was surprised, recovering quickly, Jason replied, “yes, Lantana is with me, along with Jama, Jana, and our Skree Bond Mates” Yoran smiled, and exhaling slowly, rose from the table where he was seated, and said, “please, come in all of you, and your companions. I have been waiting for you to come for a very long time.” Vatarians were an unusual race, they stood three meters in height, had yellow skin, black hair, and luminous green eyes, with pupils resembling a cat’s. their hair was very straight, and they wore it braided into a que. They had five fingers and a thumb, and their feet resembled horse hooves. They had long canine teeth, and were beardless, and hairless otherwise. Their ears were pointed and catlike, and placed high up on their heads, much like a cats.
Vatarians were incredibly strong, most weighed at least one hundred and fifty kilos, and were so silent, that at some point in their history, they must have been incredible warriors and hunters, but they had denounced violence, and were vegetarians.
He had heard his father tell stories of the one Vatarian who had helped him in the beginning and had told his father when he was leaving that at some time in the future, when the twins would need him most, they would find him, and he would reveal to them great secrets that he carried that was for their ears only. It had saddened their parents to see Yoran leave, he had been a good friend, ally, and confidant. He told them that he must leave and find the place he would meet them in the future.
Vatarians had no inherent telepathic abilities, and they had never been able to bond with a Skree. The Skree were wary of most Vatarians, Yoran had been the exception. On several occasions he had saved the lives of Whitlaw and Regulus, and had given aid to many of the wounded Guardians in the beginning. He had trained the Vela healers to treat and care for the Skree, and how to treat most injuries sustained by the Guardians.
What the Vatarians did have though was foresight, they could see into the future, and it was a gift they shared with few outsiders. It made them seem sad, because all Vatarians saw their own deaths, and spent their lives preparing for that day. Yoran was no exception. He knew when he would die, but he never shared his vision with others. He had on several occasions saved groups of Guardian Rangers by telling them to avoid certain places or to leave certain places. He had been their friend, and to Whitlaw, he was as much a brother as Jama.
Jason and Lantana had heard the stories, and could remember him from their early childhood. They were five when he left, and he had waited for them for fifteen years. Lantana was intrigued by seeing him, she had almost forgotten how he had bounced her and Jason on his legs when they were children, and how he had protected them when their parents had to leave to defend the planet from the Marn.
Vatarians lived for several hundred years, and as far as anyone knew, the Vatarians on Embrellon were all male. They had never seen a Vatarian child or a Vatarian female. They lived in seclusion, and rarely interacted with the Vela, or the Guardians. They did however, commune with Skree regularly. The Skree considered them friends to all who lived on Embrellon and protected them as they protected all others.
Yoran was unique among them. He had chosen to help Whitlaw and was ostracized by the other Vatarians and was basically an outcast. He helped the Vela to develop the techniques to form the Faron alloy, and was instrumental in teaching the Guardians to make their swords. He wouldn’t carry a blade, he said he needed none for defense because he already knew how he would die. But he could see the need for the Guardians to have some sort of weapons, and helped them to develop the armor they wore as well.
He invited them to eat with him, and told them that he knew they all ate meat, and if they wanted to eat meat, he would remove himself while they ate, or they were welcome to eat outside. To him, meat smelled of blood, and Vatarians didn’t eat meat.
They decided to dine on whatever he ate and would excuse themselves during the day to continue their ranging, and would eat meat then, being careful to wash thoroughly before returning and they removed their armor and wore their leathers when inside his home. He was an amiable host, and shared his food readily. Milk, cheeses, greens, tubers, nuts and bread, and the nectar from a flowering plant that resembled honey.
They told him that they were going to the Bonding Cave, their eventual destination, and had brought their supplies for an extended ranging. Yoran said they were in training, and that Jama and Jana could train them there as easily as at the cave. His motives were unclear, but, they knew him well enough not to question why he wanted them to stay with him and train.
The third day, he asked them to stay at his home, and forgo ranging that day. They agreed even though it made Jana suspicious. That day after they had eaten, and had rested well from their excursions, Yoran asked them to join him outside. When they were all outside, Yoran told them that he would be training them in special skills that they would need and that once they had learned what he had to teach them they would be free to continue on their mission.
The Twins were excited, and Jama and Jana were guarded. They had no idea what Yoran was going to do, and being naturally defensive, they were wary. Yoran told the them to all sit on the ground, and they sat cross-legged on the ground with their bond-mates beside them. Yoran told them that he was going to help train them to not only use the link more effectively, but to fine tune their abilities.
Vatarians weren’t telepathic and Jason wondered how someone who was a null, someone with no ability to enter the link, could help them use their abilities more effectively. They were shocked when Yoran said, “today, we are going to learn many new things, the first, is that you can talk freely here,” directed to the Skree, “your secret is safe here, and you should only do this when your alone”. The Twins were confused, and Jama and Jana smiled. They understood exactly what Yoran meant. A Guardian and his Bond-mate could talk freely on the link, but few knew that a Skree had the power of speech, it was the one secret they guarded.
Braela spoke first, and when she did, the Twins were shocked. “Thank you Yoran, for helping us grow closer to our Bond-Mates, we never divulge to anyone that we have the power of speech, and it is something we hold as an almost sacred thing.” Lantana looked at Braela and said how long have you been able to speak?” Braela laughed and said, “from the moment I cracked the shell, but all Skree know from the time they are laid to never speak.” It was a curious statement, Lantana asked her if she had been able to hear her talk to her when she was in her shell, and Braela said “of course I could hear you, but until the moment we bonded, I couldn’t reply to you on the link.”
Yoran looked at Lantana and said, “When you visited the Companions Armory, something happened to you, tell me what it was.” Lantana looked at him and was surprised; the only people who knew what happened were the four of them and her parents and their Bond-Mates. “when I put the diadem on, I could hear all of the Skree in camp, still can, and then like a flood, I could hear all the Skree on Embrellon, bonded or free.” Yoran said, “I hoped that this had happened because if it hadn’t we would have had to travel back to the Armory and find out why not. From the time you were born, I had seen that you, Lantana would be the first of a select few to be able to hear and speak to any Skree on Embrellon. Your ability isn’t confined to just speaking to them, you can see through the eyes of any Skree you speak to, and you’re here for me to train you to use your new found ability.” He looked at Jama and Jason and said to them, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but only women have the ability to speak to a Skree other than the one she’s bonded to, but only a handful can speak to any Skree anywhere on Embrellon. Jana can speak on the link to all the Skree with you, but only for a distance of about one hundred kilometers, where Lantana can speak to any Skree on the planet.” With that he looked at them and asked if they had any questions, they were in stunned silence.
“Besides being bonded, and the Skree able to talk, is there any enhancements for the men that comes through the diadems?” Jason asked. Yoran replied, “Yes Jason, there are physical enhancements as well as a few other things that happen, like your armor becomes almost impenetrable when you wear the diadem and your swords and daggers become unbreakable, unbendable, and never need sharpening. You are also able to share your Bond-mate’s strength, speed, vision, and senses, through your link and won’t be flying blind at night anymore.” Jason and Jama were stunned. Flying blind was the scariest thing to overcome. You had to close your eyes and totally depend on the senses of your bond-mate when doing night flights, and it unnerved most to the point that they couldn’t do it.
With that said, Yoran began training them. They were amazed that someone his size could move with such speed and agility. They trained in hand to hand combat, sword and dagger fighting, building and using bows and making arrows, and putting tanzite crystals on the pommels of their sword and daggers. He also suggested they take one of the crystals and shape it as they had been taught, and then he had them split the tear drop shaped crystal in to from top to bottom, polish the edge, and place one half into the diadem, and the other half over the center of the breastplate in their armor. When they had done this, the link they talked to their bond mate on became completely clear and they could understand and see everything that the other saw, this completed the symbiosis started at the bonding.
Jason was amazed, and then he asked a question. “Yoran” he said “how do you know all these things, these amazing secrets, that no one else seems to know?” Yoran looked at him and then looked down at the ground, and with a heavy sigh, he looked up at Jason and then he spoke. “Jason, many, many years ago, my people came to Embrellon from Vataria. When we arrived here, the Companions resided on the Island of Varna, and that was their home. They protected the whole planet from there and were always welcomed by the Brellon who lived on the main continent. When we came, our ships were destroyed by the Marn and we went into hiding, On Vataria, not all Vatarians are like those here, we follow the principles of the Enlightened One, who gave up violence and began working for peace. We were sent into exile, and the ships we came in were the oldest, most travel worn, and outdated ships on Vataria. Most Vatarians are very warlike, and are extremely violent. When we left, it was with the understanding that we were exiled and never to return. Since that day, this has been our home.”
Jason and Jama had a new found respect for Yoran, they asked him other questions, and he told them that the natural life span of a Vatarian was fifteen hundred years, and they didn’t reach adulthood until they were five hundred. He also asked him about young and females. Yoran told him that all Vatarians were asexual. And that they laid eggs once every two hundred years after they reached adulthood. And usually only laid eggs twice. They were stunned by what they were learning. He told them that a Vatarian would go underground into their tunnels, hollow out a nest, and then they would lay approximately one hundred eggs, it took a year for the eggs to hatch, and the young were raised in groups underground until they were two hundred and fifty years old, at which time they would then join the adults above ground. They only reproduced when their numbers were failing, and they maintained a balanced population.
Lantana didn’t know what to say. She had never heard of a species that didn’t need a male and a female to reproduce. Yoran laughed when she said what she thought, and he told her that was why they had never seen any younglings or females among them. The younglings were underground and Vatarians didn’t have women or men, that was a stunning revelation that they spent the rest of the day thinking about.
They began to understand why Yoran knew so much about the Companions, they asked him how old he was, and how long he had been on Embrellon. The answer was a revelation. He told them he was eleven hundred years old and had been a youngling when the Companions and all the humanoids were wiped out by the Marn. They had died a horrible death. It began with a fever, and then they started losing control of bodily functions, and in the end, they began bleeding from the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, and eventually died. No cure was ever found and all the Brellons died. The only sentient beings left were the Skree and the Vatarians, and they had retreated underground and stayed there for one hundred years before the resurfaced, and when they did, there wasn’t a Brellon left on the planet.
Then Jason asked a question that Yoran wasn’t expecting. He wanted to know what was the reason that the Skree had warned all the Vela, and his father not to go to the Southern Continent. Yoran looked down at the ground again, and was quiet for a very long time, when he looked up, there were tears in his eyes. “When the Marn unleashed their weapon, and it killed the Brellon, any being who had survived the plague, was sent on boats to the Continent. Because of the virus that they carried it wasn’t safe for them to be around anyone who might come to this world. The last time anyone saw them, was just before the Vatarians went underground. They watched the last ship sail south, the Skree went north to where they now live, and we went underground. There were no other people on the planet for at least five hundred years, and when people began to come here, it was the Vela, and they were brought here as Marn prisoners, stowaways, and refugees. Then came Whitlaw, and you know the rest of the story.
Jason, Lantana, Jama, and Jana were stunned, they never knew a lot of this story, they were sure that Whitlaw and most likely Lara knew the whole story, but no one else did. Jason asked Yoran why he was here waiting for them, for fifteen years, why couldn’t he just stay at the Temple and wait? Yoran told them that he had to leave because even though he was exiled from the Vatarian temple, he was still watched by them, and to teach them what he needed to teach them required him being far away from them.
Jason asked him why there had never been a Vatarian Guardian, and he told him that the Skree were correct in saying that Vatarians were nulls, they had no telepathic abilities of any kind. That was something that the Tanzite amplified in sentient beings who had the abilities, and all Skree had the ability.
They continued training and learning, and understanding how things worked on Embrellon, and then Yoran shared the greatest secret of all, Embrellon was the only planet known to have tanzite and it was the tanzite that created the ability for the Skree to become symbiotic with the Brellon, it was in the purple ochre, in the water, the plants, the animals, all forms of life, flora and fauna had tanzite in them, but Whitlaw hadn’t been born or raised on the planet, and he hadn’t been here long enough to have absorbed enough tanzite to be changed, so his ability was unique, and it was why Regulus had bonded with him.
That all tied things up for them, and they were amazed at how the addition of the tanzite to their swords, daggers, armor and diadems had increased their abilities. They had become stronger, faster, abler to see in the dark, see further, and their link was so clear that it was amazing to them how they functioned before the addition of the tanzite. They had been basically blind.
They had been with Yoran for six months, they had learned better techniques for sword fighting, honed their abilities on the link, had become accustomed to their Bond-Mates speaking directly to them, and learned night flying, and night maneuvers on the ground, aided by the link, they had become better, stronger, faster, and more aware than any Rangers before them. And they would be taking their new found knowledge back to help the other rangers train.
They were ready to depart, when Yoran told them to wait until the next day, he wanted to show them something that night that would amaze them even more. When it was fully dark, he asked them to take out their daggers, and when they had done so, he told them to concentrate and to think of the stone in the pommel and to think of it glowing. At first, there was only a flicker, then all of their daggers started to glow, and they had a light source that they didn’t even realize was possible.
Yoran told them that the ancients had a way to make artificial light with the tanzite that didn’t need them to vision the tanzite glowing, but that technique had been lost to them. He told them that there was more to the armory than the diadems they had found. There were other things in there that they could use, but, they would have to study the writings to find out.
With that completed, they packed all their gear, ready themselves, said their goodbyes, and left Yoran in peace and seclusion which was his request. He told them that one day, his time would end, and it wasn’t too far away now. He had shared all he knew with them, and hoped that it would help them in their war against the Marn. With that, he turned and went into his house.