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The Captive of Embrellon – 4

Lantana had felt Shamira and Knala fall, it shook her to her core. She ran out of the Seers room as fast as she could run. Braela hot on her heels, they cleared the main doors and jumping into her saddle with her weapons on, she and Braela took flight. They were headed to where they had fell. She broadcast for Rangers to converge on the sight and alerted Whitlaw to what had happened. She knew that Shamira and Knala were dead. She could feel the grief on the link from both Jason and Shandarro, and the rage. With tears streaming down her face, and Braela roaring, they sped towards where they fell.
She reached out for Jason and just as she felt his and Shandarro’s minds, she saw them being captured, stripped and chained and loaded onto the ship. Before any of the Rangers or Scouts arrived, the ship had left Embrellon and was gone. She scanned for Jason as long as she could feel him and with the aid of the seers, was able to keep in touch with his mind until long after they had been taken. Lantana had witnessed the first interrogation, the beating, and the whipping that Jason had received and then nothing. Not like he was dead, but that he was beyond her range to keep in touch.
She and Braela landed next to Knala, Shamira’s bloody corpse was laying there beside her and she had been heavy with the twins. They hadn’t survived. She was heartbroken. She told her father and shortly after, he arrived with their mother and took her body and carefully wrapped it in a burial blanket, then they went and collected Jason and Shandarro’s gear. His armor was there and his diadem, but his weapons were missing. The Marn had taken his sword and dagger, but left the bow and the crossbow. He wasn’t sure why they would leave the other weapons behind, unless they took the sword and dagger as prizes. They hadn’t seen them approach and Whitlaw knew why. They had dropped out of hyperspace just outside of orbit and landed immediately. They then took off just as quickly. This was a surgical strike meant to take a captive. He hoped Jason and Shandarro would survive.
The Marn were known to be cruel and malicious. Their very nature was malevolent. They had no mercy, no honor except in a duel, and no care for life, their own or others. Whitlaw had never known a race of beings so evil in all his travels through the galaxy. Not even during the war that ended at Epsilon. That enemy was reptilian, and they were looking for conquest as well, but they treated their captives with dignity, and had never shown the complete lack of feeling the Marn did. He wanted a reckoning. He would make sure that the Guardians made each and every Marn ship that landed pay for coming to Embrellon.
Regulus told him that Shandarro had been filled with rage and despair at the loss of his mate. If they took him to Marn and put him in the arena as they had boasted, he would most likely kill anything that they set against him. That made Whitlaw pause, he had never known a Skree to wantonly kill, they were sentient being who observed the creator and valued all life. He had no reply, he just cataloged the information for later thought. Lantana was devastated, her brother captive, his mate dead, Knala dead, Shandarro captured, and where were they being taken and why? She had no answers.
They gathered the bodies and the gear and Lara gave her Shamira’s bags she wanted her to have them. They transported the bodies back, and after the funeral, Lantana asked her father if he was going to add her effigy to the hall of heroes. That was what the Guardians had begun to call the hall where Jama’s statue stood. He looked at her and considering her question, said yes. That seemed to comfort her somewhat. They were all disheartened. No one would have thought that Jason and Shandarro could have been captured, and it was just as surprising that Shamira and Knala had been killed so easily. They were the best archers on the planet. Their weapons weren’t even unsheathed; this had happened that quickly.
When she returned to her and Jamar’s quarters, she took the bags and sobbingly went through them. There were clothes she had made for the babies, different dyes and cloth, her light, and emergency gear, and in the bottom on the bag was a book. One she had never before seen the likes of. It was covered with a soft fine leather, and the pages were of the best quality she had ever seen. The text itself was a history of the Companions, as well as a detailed map to Varna. She had hoped to find something like this many times, but this was the greatest treasure she had ever discovered. She started to call her father and Braela said “No, this isn’t the time, and it may not be the time for many years to come. We need to focus on the present dangers, and showing that map to anyone would bring great harm to the people. We haven’t stopped the Marn. We need to keep this a secret until such a time as we defeat them, or we have no other recourse but to make for the island.” She couldn’t argue with her logic, and she was too heartbroken to try. Braela tried to comfort her, and she caused her to sleep a deep restorative sleep, she had literally turned off the link. Something that no one had ever known to happen before.
After she woke, she reached out for Braela and the link was back on. She kept the book a secret as Braela had suggested, they had a lot of work to do. They needed to find out how Jason was taken, and then they would need to be on their guard in case of more attacks. She felt that they had been too relaxed because of the five year lapse of attacks. That one was on her. They would never allow that to happen again. Starting today, there would be three Seers in the room at all times, and they would be scanning off world. With that settled within herself, she fed her sons, and then took them to Lara. Whitlaw was already up and in his ward room, and Jamar was with him. They needed intel, and they needed it badly. If this was the beginning of renewed attacks, then he wanted to be prepared. It was odd for her to look at her father, and realize he was sixty-five years old. He had lost none of his vitality, his strength was unreal, and he still had no grey in his hair, not even in his beard. He seemed immortal.
He assured her that he was not, and that sixty-five was still considered middle aged on Earth. They had extended the life span to almost one hundred and eighty years through medical science and anti-aging breakthroughs. He assured her that he had a long life ahead of him, short of getting himself killed. That seemed to quiet her fears about him, now on to the current problem, where had they taken Jason and Shandarro, and why? Lantana told him that she was still able to feel Jason and Shandarro on the link but that they couldn’t communicate. How far out from Embrellon they were she couldn’t guess, but the ship had a star drive and hyperspace skewed the link. Whitlaw accepted it as fact. He asked if there were any Marn ships in the area, and she told him no. He told her to go back and keep the Seers diligent. They should have gotten some kind of warning before the attack and capture. She assured him she was already on it, and had put the Seers back on alert status. Three a shift, around the clock. That seemed to satisfy him.
He started to go back into his discussion with Jamar when he noticed that she hadn’t left, he could feel that she was hurting and being a good father, as well as a good leader, he took her into his arms and let her sob until she was done. They had things to do, but he needed her whole and healthy, and she needed to cry. He let her. Later on that day, he went to see her in the Seers room. He wanted to know if she could still feel Jason and Shandarro. When she said she could, he called for Yoran, and asked her to bring in the rest of the Seers. The room was full of Skree and Seers shortly and when Yoran arrived, he told them what he wanted them to do.
He wanted all of them to focus on Jason and Shandarro, he wanted to get a message to him and with that he told them to follow Yoran’s instructions. Yoran had them all take their seats, then he had Whitlaw and Jamar go to the couches, he told the Seers to focus totally on Jason and Shandarro, once they were focused, he had the Seers raise their staffs towards the orb in the ceiling, and when they all lit up, he told them to talk to Jason and Shandarro. Lantana had tears running down her face, they had made contact, and Jason and Shandarro were alive. She told him not to give up, that they were here and that somehow someway, they would have to make an escape plan on their own, but that they were here and would be watching for their return. Then Whitlaw had them give Jason his message, learn everything you can about them, the world or worlds they take you to, their defenses, their ships, and what drove them to Embrellon. He thought if they could remove the reason they came, they would stop coming altogether.
Jason got the message and that was the last time they were able to make contact. They tried several times, but he was too far away and the effects of hyperspace had prevented them from keeping contact. They were on their own now and didn’t know how long it would take for their return, if they didn’t get killed in the process. They were incredibly practical, as was their father, you didn’t spend your life refusing to accept what was a fact. Their faith made them strong enough to survive any hardships, and the skills they had testified to it.
Lantana dismissed all the Seers but three, and then she followed her father to the ward room. She had an idea and wanted to discuss it with her father. They had just used their staffs and the orbs to contact Jason and Shandarro in hyperspace. She already knew from the interrogations of Shagos and his men that at least some of the Marn were telepathic. They didn’t use it, or didn’t seem to know that it was there, but if they were, she could read them if they weren’t in space. Whitlaw was impressed, she had come up with something no one else had, not even Yoran. How to use it to their advantage would need some thought, but it was a place to start.
She left him after that and he sat at his desk, feeling old. He wasn’t old, but he carried the weight and burden of a whole world on his shoulders, not just the Brellon, but everyone, including the Vatarians. He hadn’t tried to speak to them in years, he just left them to their own devices and they went on with their lives. Now, he needed to speak to their leader, and he didn’t speak Vatarian. Yoran was the only one he knew who did. He sent for him and when he arrived, he asked him to sit. Once he was comfortable, enjoying some hot kaba, he asked after Risa, and he told him she was well, and that she was at her weaving. Then he said “You didn’t call me here for small talk, what is it you need?” To anyone else, his manner of speech could have been offensive, but he and Whitlaw understood each other, and Whitlaw told him “I need to speak to the Vatarians and I need you to interpret.” Yoran was surprised, Whitlaw knew he had been exiled, never to return, and here he was asking him to interpret for him. “James, you know I am not allowed into their settlement, I am an exile, as far as they are concerned I no longer exist. I chose to help you, and that was the price.” Whitlaw replied “I wouldn’t ask this if it wasn’t important. The Vatarians know about the Marn, the Vela, and other races we still haven’t been exposed to. I know that they were exiled here because the no longer wanted to follow the way that most Vatarians live. They follow the one who chose to set aside all violence, and live a monk’s life, and became vegetarians. I don’t want them to change their lives, I, we, need information and they are the only ones who have it.” Yoran couldn’t argue his logic so he agreed. They decided that the next morning would be the best time to approach the Vatarians. It was never easy to approach the gates of their compound. They wouldn’t fight, they would ignore you as though you didn’t speak.
They met at the center of the temple compound and Yoran told him that they would have to attempt to get Yondor to speak with them, he was the leader of the Vatarians. They went to the compound, and Yoran asked to speak with Yondor, the Vatarian at the gate ignored him. Once more, Yoran asked to speak with Yondor, but this time he added some kind of superlative, that got the Vatarian to respond and send word for Yondor. Whitlaw wanted to know what he said and Yoran told him he asked for Yondor, and told him he wanted to be cleansed. That was a new term for Whitlaw. As far as he knew cleansing was either washing, or being spiritually cleansed, but he was ignorant of Vatarian customs. Yondor came to the gate and Yoran took a deep breath, he wasn’t looking forward to this, but, would endure this for Whitlaw.
Yondor speaking Velan, asked Yoran if he was sure he wanted to be cleansed. Yoran said he would endure the cleansing provided that Yondor gave Whitlaw the information he required. Yondor was astonished, the ritual of cleansing was brutal, it involved stripping the Vatarian and then washing them, cutting off their que, and then binding them to a wall, and each member of the conclave would then strike him upon his back ten times with a cane rod that was native to Vataria. It was brutal and few survived it. They weren’t considered cleansed unless they made survived the beating. This Yondor explained to Whitlaw, and asked him “Is this information you require, worth the possibility of Yoran losing his life?” Whitlaw looked at Yoran, this was his decision, and he would abide by it. Yoran said “yes.” Yondor asked him what do you want to know? Whitlaw told him he needed all the information they had on the Marn, their world, their social structure, and if they knew, where it was located. Yondor gave him the information he asked for, and then told him, you have no ship, so your purpose, whatever it may be, is mute. You cannot go there. He told him thank you all the same for the information, and that it was invaluable. Then Yondor told him, it is our custom that when a Vatarian chooses cleansing on behalf of another, that they be present for the cleansing. Whitlaw felt horrible, not only had he put Yoran in their hands, but now he had to watch him be humiliated and beaten, possibly to death. Yoran looked at him and assured that he would survive the cleansing.
They opened the gates, the first time in twenty years, and Yoran and Whitlaw entered the Vatarian compound. It was one of the most truly beautiful places he had ever seen. The sculptures, the plants, the fountains, everything was incredible, and beyond a second set of doors he saw the harshness, there in the middle of the courtyard was a large stone, with chains mounted in it. There was dried blood on the stone, and he knew that this was they were headed. Yondor told Whitlaw that he wasn’t interfere in any way, nor was he to speak to Yoran during the cleansing. This was their ritual, he was a guest and should behave like one.
The full contingent of Vatarians entered the courtyard. They were all reasonably the same size with the same general appearance, the length of their que’s the main difference, and their robes seemed to bear symbols on them, each one different. Then they came forward and stripped Yoran. They took all his clothes, his robe and breechcloth, then they washed him from head to toe, and taking a wicked looking knife, cut his que off at the base of his skull. He had never seen Yoran without his robes, he was massive, his muscles were huge and rippling, and his legs were covered with thick, course hair, and his hooves were solidly built. He was a genuine specimen of pure, brute force, and he wondered how he had survived dueling with him with a staff. Clearly Yoran had been holding back. It would have been nearly impossible to hurt or kill him without a long spear, crossbow, ballistae, pulse rifle, or phase pistol. He truly had a new profound respect for his friend.
Once they had finished the cleansing of his body and taking his que, they chained him to the block of stone, the chains were the thickest he had ever seen and were a testament of the strength of the Vatarians. Yoran had been silent the entire time. Then the Vatarian monks removed their clothing as well, they stood their naked, and they were all like Yoran, if they had decided to conquer Embrellon instead of living here in peace, the only thing that could have deterred them were the Skree. Then Yondor, stepped forward and read the ritual in Velan, for his benefit he was sure, then he picked up the “stick” he had described. It looked like a tree trunk or a huge club. Yondor took the club, and he proceeded to administer his ten strikes, these weren’t just strikes, they were two handed blows given with all their strength.
One by one, the Vatarians took their turn. He had never known how many there were until that day. There were forty monks here, and they each had a turn. That was four hundred strikes. It would kill most at forty. Yoran had one left to go. This one was the oldest Vatarian he had ever seen, he actually had grey in his hair, and was slightly stoop shouldered, if Yoran survived he would ask him who this was that went last. He had tears running down his face when he came to stand behind Yoran, and he whispered something in Vatarian to Yoran and he nodded his head. Then the ancient one took the club and started his swing, it was the most powerful strike he had ever seen. Then another, and another, until he had struck him nine times, Yoran was beginning to sag and the chains had helped him keep his feet. Whitlaw said a silent prayer to the Creator, asking for his friend to survive. The last blow struck, and Yoran sagged to his knees, he was still breathing, that meant he might survive. The ancient one took the club and flung it across the courtyard cracking the fountain inside. He may be ancient and stoop shouldered, but he was more powerful than all the others. The ancient one came and stood in front of Whitlaw and spoke in perfect Velan, I am Goran, I am the elder here, and I am Yoran’s parent. You must be very important to Yoran for him to endure cleansing for your sake. From today forward, the Vatarians will help you, you have never shown the useless need for killing that most show. We know that killing at times is the only option, and I have watched you for twenty-five years Whitlaw of the Guardians, and have found you to be a man of honor. I will heal and restore Yoran to you, no longer will he be outcast, and you and your Guardians will be welcome here any time.
He didn’t know how he was going to explain this to Risa, she would want to be here. He told Goran as much, and Goran smiled, “My son has always been a forward thinker, perhaps, this is the time for us to open our doors, send his Risa to me, she is welcome here.” That resolved that. She was still going to be livid with him. He knew how she felt about her giant, and when she sees what he went through to get the information from Yondor, she would never forgive him. He had to face her and he made his goodbye, and headed straight to her weaver’s shop. When he told her she burst into tears and ran to the compound, the Vatarians were gracious with her and took her to Goran’s quarters.
She was in tears when she came in and saw Yoran laying on his stomach with a loin cloth on and nothing else. She was the only one she knew who had seen him undressed like this, sitting in a large chair beside his bed was an ancient Vatarian, and he rose from his chair, and introduced himself as Yoran’s father. He told her that Yoran would need to rest for a few days and that he would be good as new in a week. She found that unbelievable, and asked why they had done this to him. He told her that Yoran had been exiled by Yondor, his brother, for associating with Whitlaw. According to their customs, the only way to be accepted back into the community was to be cleansed. He assured her he would heal quickly, and in a few months, his que would be completely regrown. She wasn’t worried about his que, she wanted him healthy. Goran told her that the que was a symbol of adulthood in their society, and since all here knew he had survived cleansing, they would ignore the fact that he didn’t have a que.
A week later, Yoran returned with Risa, she was still furious at him and Whitlaw, he had assured her he had suffered no real harm and was already healed completely, she found it hard not to be angry. Once they returned, she went to her loom and returned to work, hoping the weaving would relieve her of the anger. Yoran tied his hair with a thong, made sure his shop was in order, and then went to the ward room. When he walked in, Whitlaw was dumbfounded. He had watched the severity of the beating, and knew that a human wouldn’t have lasted more than then blows, and here he was, smiling and acting as though nothing had happened. Yoran told him that Risa was still angry with them, more like furious, but she would see that no harm had come to him. Then Yoran told him the rest of the story.
“When I first met you and saw what kind of man you were, I tried to get the Vatarians to help you. They refused and Goran had told me in private that if I felt this strongly about helping you, that I had two options, challenge Yondor, or become an exile. I had no desire to fight my brother, so I chose exile. When I was cast out, Yondor told me that the only way I would be welcomed back as a Vatarian was to be cleansed. Our father accepted his decree, and I left. What you witnessed was my apology for shaming my family and race, and receiving forgiveness for doing it. I was supposed to take Goran’s place when his time came, but because I chose exile, that passed to Yondor. Even now, he will take Goran’s place, but, he has to deal with our father still being the elder, and now, you have forty Vatarians to help you develop ways to defend our planet.” Whitlaw didn’t know what to say. They wouldn’t fight he knew, but they would share their knowledge and engineering skills to make life better, make their homes safer, and give them hope.
He asked him “How do we use this to our advantage Yoran? What knowledge do your people possess that you haven’t already shared.?” Yoran looked down at the floor for a few minutes, and then he looked up at Whitlaw and replied “You know that I am already over one thousand years old. How old do you suppose that Goran is?” he waited for Whitlaw to respond, when he looked at him blankly, he continued, “Goran is the oldest living Vatarian in the galaxy, he is the one we followed here, he is the one who chose to turn from killing and conquest when he was seven hundred and fifty years old. I and Yondor were born when he was one thousand.” Whitlaw was stunned, Goran was over two thousand years old, he would never have guessed considering how hard his blows struck Yoran. Now he understood, Goran could tell him more about the Marn, the Companions, and any other race of beings in the galaxy.
He asked Yoran how they would use this new wealth of knowledge. Yoran told him that his father could tell him what he wanted to know, and had said he would hold nothing back from them. What was foremost important to him right now, that would be the place to start. He considered what questions he would need to ask, and it settled on the Marn. He asked Yoran “Is there a way that we can write down and store all this knowledge? I have seen no archives here, and have seen no one writing or recording what has happened. We need to record our history, and to keep good records. I have some here in the ward room. Records I have kept and a journal I write in daily. But we need real archives, specialists in the field. Persons whose sole duty is to make sure our knowledge and history are preserved. That made Yoran smile, he already made paper and ink, binding the paper into blank books would be simple, all the Guardians could read and write and most all the Vela as well. Then he left it in Yoran’s hands to recruit the archivists and historians and to make sure they had the materials they needed and a safe way to store the records.
When Goran came to his ward room, he made sure he had someone there recording what was said, the history, information, and any designs that were shown. All was recorded. They were becoming a real society in his estimation, and they were now composed of several races working together for the same ends. When he talked about the Skree, it was with great wonderment, he told him that of all the sentient creatures he had met, the only ones that could take the Vatarians was the Skree. They were more than tough, strong and resilient, their bones didn’t break, and neither did their horns. Not even the Vatarians had been able to kill one with ease. That surprised him. He knew how strong they were, but to have a Vatarian say that they were the most fearsome and dangerous creatures in the galaxy was saying a lot.

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