They flew straight to the Bonding Cave from Yoran’s house. It was a quiet flight, they had learned so much from the Vatarian, and he was ready now for his life to be over, and had done as much as he could for the Guardians, and for all of Embrellon. He was one of the few people on Embrellon who had enough vision to see what Whitlaw was trying to accomplish and his desire to help him had sent him into exile from his own people. They owed him more than they could ever repay.
Once they arrived at the Bonding Cave, they entered and set up camp. They scouted the cave and with their new light source, was able to search without torches and smoke. They found a clean source of water in the rear of the cave. A natural spring fed the pool and it was deep enough to bathe in, and the water cleared itself regularly with the water flowing into the ground over the edge of the pool.
They found engravings in the cave of Skree and Brellon bonding, and the engravings showed the whole process. They also found several Steele in the back of the cave and they told the story of the first bonding, and how the Skree and Brellon had bonded and went to the Skree homeland and there established the Companions. They were the defenders of Embrellon for Eons, until the Marn had destroyed the Brellon with their weapon.
They discovered that the Brellon actually resembled the Vela a great deal and that the main difference between them was the hair and eye color. The Vela had blue hair and violet eyes, and the Brellon had purple hair and green eyes, other than that there wasn’t much difference between them.
They had learned so much about the history of Embrellon and as they settled in and scouted the area around the Bonding Cave, they found that it was a large tanzite deposit, covered on the outside by faron ore, and the entrance to the cave was very well hidden. There was plenty of game in the area for meat, and a large assortment of harvestable foods, plenty of water, wood for fires to cook with and to keep warm. They were pretty well set to remain for an extended period before returning to the Great Temple. They still had their mission to complete, and to them that was as important as meeting Yoran and learning what he had to teach them.
Their mission was to stay at the Bonding Cave for a year, six months would have to do because of the time they spent with Yoran, and they were to try and connect with the Free Skree and ask them to come and meet with Regulus and Whitlaw. He wanted to forge a treaty with them and get them to join in the battle against the Marn. Since the day of Whitlaw’s Bonding, no one had chanced upon any Free Skree, and Regulus thought it was because they retreated into the Homeland and weren’t venturing out any longer.
He was sure there were several thousand Skree in the Homeland, and most of them rarely ventured outside the borders. The attack a millennium ago had caused them to flee their ancient home, and after the exodus, they had rarely ventured outside their homeland. A few, like Regulus, had Pride leaders who believed in the old way, and wanted to form a new group of Companions. With the arrival of Whitlaw, Regulus led his whole pride out of the Homeland and they established the New Guardians, the Great Temple, and had made a new life with the Vela.
Regulus and his pride couldn’t return to the homeland, nor could they take anyone there. That was decided by the Skree when Regulus asked their council of Pride Leader’s for permission to leave the homeland and to form a new group of Companions. The Pride Council told Regulus he could go, but his whole pride would have to agree to go and they weren’t to return for any reason. This made it up to Jason, Jama, Jana and Lantana to make the treaty happen if they could. With Rhela and Braela, they hoped to make it happen. Braela was the only Skree that was white with spots, a black mane, and no horns, all the other Skree they had ever seen, and all the Skree they knew looked like Regulus, bronze colored with black Stripes and a black mane, with huge horns. The Skree being sexually dimorphic, with the female Skree looking the same except smaller in size and had smaller horns, other than that, they all looked the same. The striped patterns were unique to each individual Skree.
Whitlaw had told them that Regulus couldn’t provide any more information about the homeland other than what they knew. Go to the bonding cave, make camp, scout the area, and look for any Skree that might appear and attempt to make contact.
Regulus knew there were other Skree that were not against resuming a relationship with the humanoids who had come to live on their world. They had a healthy respect for the Vatarians who had been on their world for several millennia, and they were never a threat. The Vela for them were different. They had been on the planet only a few centuries, and even though they had never shown any aggression towards the Skree, they didn’t know enough about them to warrant an introduction. Whitlaw was different, his people had come, scouted the planet, taken samples, cataloged the various species they saw and hadn’t posed a threat. When the Marn had destroyed his ship, Regulus saw him as a potential ally.
Now, twenty years later, they needed to rediscover anything that the Companions had left behind. Yoran had been a great help. He had shown them how to work faron and tanzite to make stable metals, to work the tanzite into usable crystals, and how to make homes in the tanzite deposits. It was their one defense against being scanned by hostiles. The scanning devices only showed the tanzite as large deposits, the scanning devices couldn’t penetrate the tanzite and that kept them hid. There were no cities or buildings on the surface, and anyone looking for the places they lived could only find them if they were followed. This gave the Brellon a great deal of protection.
Jama and Jana took turns taking the twins out on excursions, sometimes together, or they would take them separately for individual training. They were far exceeding the expectations set for them. They were adept with their weapons, bow, sword, dagger, and their ability to use the link since Yoran had shown them how to amplify it was nothing short of incredible.
Trying to find Skree when they didn’t want to be found was exhausting. Braela had been scanning, and Lantana had tried to feel any activity on the link. She could speak to any Skree, and they were silent. It was hard to find someone who didn’t want to be found especially when you didn’t know where to look. They had a general idea. The Bonding Cave was supposed to be near the entrance to the Skree Homeland, that was all they knew. Beyond that they had flown countless sorties and still no luck. Lantana was expecting Jason and Jama back at any time, hopefully with news. Today she and Jana had been exploring the cave, looking for anything that could help them, and the only thing they had found was an obscure reference to Varna. They didn’t know anything about Varna, and their Bond-Mates didn’t either. They were frustrated, and tempers would flare if they didn’t get a breakthrough soon.
They settled in for the day, made something to eat, had some kaba, and went to work repairing gear, oiling saddles, checking their weapons, and archery practice. The cave was large enough to set up a target field and practice inside. If Marn invaders showed up, they didn’t want to get caught outside.
The bows were remarkable. Yoran had taught them to make the bows, he said that it would come in handy especially in the future if all the Guardians carried them. He showed them how to laminate the arms of the bows with alternating pieces of Auroch horn and one of the soft woods that grew with a tight, straight grain. Once the laminating was done, then the shaping was next. They shaped the yoke, then the arrow rest, and then came the assembly of the bow, and the curving of the arms. The bows were reinforced with the same faron alloy used to make their armor. And once the arms were curved, they made the bowstrings out of braided faron wire. It was the strongest wire known. Fine strands no thicker than a hair, were wound together to make a string and then the string was wound back on itself to form the eye loops. The arrows had faron alloy heads and shafts, and the arrows were fletched with Skree feathers. The Skree shed feathers regularly and made for an abundant supply for arrows. The arrow nocks were made from Auroch horn, and the glue for the whole process was made from the boiled down sap from a tree.
The bows were light, and the draw weight was designed by each individual, the length of the bow to match the height of the bowman, and the draw the length of the arm. That made each bow individually fit to each person, and the range was virtually the same regardless of who the archer was. It was the first long range weapon that they had. Before this, they were confined to sword fighting or dropping boulders from above. It would change things considering that Faron tipped arrows would penetrate just about anything.
Yoran had also given them designs for crossbows of different sizes, not meant to be carried by guardians who needed agility and speed, the recurve bows fit that, but for when fighting on the ground. They had made one crossbow each, and they hung from their saddles. The could be used for hunting as well, but not in a forest, the crossbows could outdistance the recurve bows by five times at least, and were perfect for what they were intended for, to shoot their enemies on the ground from a distance safe from the Marn weapons. Yoran told them that Whitlaw had given him the idea for the weapons, and left it up to him to figure out how to make them from the materials available on Embrellon. He had far exceeded what was expected. He had given them the designs for wheel mounted crossbows that could be placed as batteries for defense of the Great Temple, any place the Rangers made a permanent camp, he also had given them more designs with complete instructions and diagrams to build other weapons.
Jason and Jama had returned exhausted, tomorrow Jana and Lantana would be on patrol, but tonight they ate, enjoyed kaba and had roasted tubers and fresh berries and nuts. Alcohol had never been fermented on Embrellon, they didn’t need it. The kaba was more than enough. It tasted like coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon, and had enough kick in it to wake anyone up. It was made from the kaba root, and it was thick and dark brown. Rhela and Braela had brought down one of the beasts that looked like a turkey but was the size of an ostrich, and they had roasted it whole. It was a small one, enough for the four of them, their bond mates rarely ate with them, they usually hunted together, ate, and brought something back for the Guardians. They only ate every four or five days, whereas the Guardians needed to eat several times a day. A source of amusement for the Skree. Only a newborn needed to eat that often, it was one of the things that the Skree had a hard time understanding, they just accepted it as fact.
Jana and Lantana left before daylight. With the enhanced link they could see through the Skree’s eyes and night flying was no longer a terror. It was easy, you could keep your eyes open, and the enhancements had increased their night vision. They weren’t able to see as well as their bond-mates, but the starlight was all they needed, it was like looking around on a hazy day, they could see up close very well, and when the sun came up, they could see better than ever in their lives. Now that they could see clearly, they noticed that towards the east, there was an unusual formation of rock just below the snow field. They decided to investigate before they called Jama and Jason. They landed on a ledge right below the snow line and found the entrance to a large cave. They were an hour’s straight flight from the Bonding Cave, they entered and took out their daggers to provide light and were astonished when their eyes adjusted. Right inside the cave, about twenty meters in was a huge statue of a Skree. It was an ancient statue, weather worn, and the inscription was barely legible, no telling how long it had been there. They decided to call for Jason and Jama, they sat and waited for them to arrive.
When they arrived they looked at the statue and made out the inscription, “Saurus, last of the Companions”. They were full of questions now. If this Saurus was the last of the Companions, then they must be near the entrance to the Skree Homeland. They searched the cave for more clues, and when they found nothing else, they returned to the ledge and started looking around for anything that might indicate a trail, a stair, something to show them where to go.
After searching for an hour, they found what might be a trail and followed it up the face of the mountain side. It was just big enough for the Skree to fit on, and it was at least a kilometer down if they fell. When they reached the top of trail, it leveled out and there was an entrance into another cave but it was hidden behind and outcropping of tanzite. They entered the cave and were surprised to find three Skree males inside waiting. Things could go very wrong, very fast if the Skree didn’t want them there.
Braela reached out to them on the link and Lantana spoke to them directly. “We came here looking for you, we need your help, and Regulus said that if we found you, that we would need to make our own case without his aid. We know your people were upset when he chose to leave and to try and form the new Companions, of which we are a part. He has been with us now, and he bonded with my father, James Whitlaw, who is from the planet Earth.” There was silence for what seemed like hours, but was only minutes, and then one of the Skree spoke. Not on the link, but with his voice. He said “I am Regulus’ litter mate and brother Regulon, we agreed that he should be the one to go, and I have been here since watching and waiting for the day that a Companion came. That day seems to be upon us. Do you speak for the leader of the Companions?” he waited for an answer, then Lantana said “my brother and I do. He sent us with a message, to let the Free Skree know that we, the Guardians would be honored if you would form an alliance with us, and help us protect this planet for our mutual enemy the Marn,” they waited almost breathless for the answer.
Regulon said “I cannot speak for all the Prides, but I can speak for the three of us, we will help. You must go now, just have Regulus speak to me on the link, and I will come.” With that, he and his fellow companions turned and walked away, leaving them to decide to follow, and possibly get killed, remembering what Regulus said about not entering under any circumstances unless invited to do so. At that they decided to leave and to head for the Great Temple and share what they had learned.