Legend of the Ihai
Kol'eu stared silently out from his position behind the Master. The Great Hall spread out beneath them like a plain beneath a mountain. The Hall was packed, and the audience spilled out of the main door and down the stairs, as well as down innumerable passageways which debouched into the Great Hall. The Audience was largely of the upright, bipedal variety, though a few quadrupeds could be seen lurking at the back. An Audience so different from the Audience they had interrupted on the day they arrived fifteen years previously.
"...May they speak or forever hold their peace." As the Master started to finish up the proceedings, Kol'eu made his first move since the entire affair had begun a day and a half previously. Kol'eu move was to turn his head to glance at his Second-in-Command, Toran Duchiev. Toran did not return the glance and so Kol'eu made a second move and turned his head to follow Toran's line of sight, which ended on the prisoner who stood isolated in his small box.
The Prisoner, who seemed to have no name at all, was a thin man, curiously birdlike in the proportion of his limbs. A thin, hatchet face was made a mockery of by the huge eyes that seemed to almost burn. The man had an air of fragility, and having touched those limbs Kol'eu knew that the man was dangerously undernourished, and that likely the bones would break as easily as they looked like they would break.
"I have protestation." The voice was soft and raspy, dragging Kol'eu's eyes from the prisoner and down to the floor. The man who pushed forward was ancient, wisps of white hair topped his head, the wrinkled skin looked like old and mis-used parchment, the blue eyes clouded and fogged by age and suffering.
"Halan, take back your protestation." It was the first time the prisoner had spoken, his voice was deep, soft, and weary.
"Kihairu, I cannot ... my conscience forbids it." The man, Halan, leant heavily on his stick.
"Halan, they do not wish for protestation and they will merely kill you if you do?"
"My conscience demands it Kihairu." Halan seemed to lean even more heavily on his stick. "I commend my life to the Ihai, but I must make this protestation, for their sake, even if for no other reason."
"Protection is granted and the Protestation is recorded." The soft voice hesitated for a good moment before speaking.
"I thank you Kihairu." The man knelt for a moment then turned towards the Master.
"Who gives you right to give or take the Protestation?" The Master turned towards the Prisoner, anger in every line of his person.
"No one gives Kihairu what is already his." It was Halan though who answered the question. "Beware, Men of Llarnya, Calarny is upon us. Without Calarny this planet cannot live.....and with Calarny no life upon this planet can live. Learn the Lore of the Gold-Vein if you wish to live, for only by departure, or understanding, can you survive the coming of Calarny."
"Seize him." The order slid from the Master like a snake and wrapped its way through the air. Kol'eu was on his feet immediately, as was Toran and the other Guards scattered through the Great Hall. But faster than Kol'eu was that blaze of blueness which lanced out and formed up around Halan's emaciated form.
"Halt!" Kol'eu enunciated the order as quickly as he could, they had met this fire before and Kol'eu had no wish for more injuries.
"I said seize him." The Master rounded on Kol'eu, clearly angered.
"Master, we dare not, that consumes all which touches. If we try to seize Halan we will die." Kol'eu held the Master's stare levelly, his commonsense engaged in a full-war with his training.
"Too late now anyway." It was Toran Duchiev who broke the silence, and as he spoke Kol'eu became aware that not only had Halan vanished, but so had the prisoner who had been so still and silent.
"Witch-craft." The whisper raced around the room, and with a grim smile Kol'eu acknowledged to himself that even if the pair had departed, they would be returned. The Kan'Rae were not feared by all for nothing, and the primitive people of this world seemed to be responding very well indeed to the form of civilisation they were undergoing.
Kol'eu sighed as he stared out the window, the arable lands spread out below his window like a thick green and gold carpet. To the west lay the wet ocean, a name which had puzzled the Kan'Rae until they had made the discovery of that which was called the dry ocean. The people of the planet were staid and unimaginative, and the process of re-education had been slow and painful. The dry ocean lay beyond the Chai'Tor Mountains and it had taken the Kan'Rae months of agonising searching to confirm that the Legends were in fact Legends, not the reality the people of the planet said them to be. The Legends...
Kol'eu shook his head violently to clear it, then turned sharply as his door swung open. The intruder was Toran who didn't even look at Kol'eu as he crossed the room and accessed the computer.
"Problem Toran?" Kol'eu came and glanced over Toran's shoulder, but the glance had little interest. When it came to computers Toran was in a world of his own where no one could follow him.
"I don't know." Toran pushed hair out of his eyes. "Halan von Teran has been making very peculiar communications for the past hour and a half. I'm hoping your mainframe access can help me pin where they're going."
"Communications?" Kol'eu abruptly became interested and frowned at the pulsing wave which beat in a small box at the side of the screen.
"This is the signal and no decrypter we have makes even a dent in it." Toran tapped his fingers restlessly while the screen opened the new command screen.
"You're sure it's a communication? It looks more like a beacon pulse."
"It is a beacon pulse, but it's a beacon pulse with nothing receiving it."
"Sorry?" Kol'eu eyed the side box which was now mapping across the country. The pulse signal was on an incredibly tight beam and Kol'eu wasn't about to start asking how Toran had found it to begin with.
"It dies out here, midway through the Chai'Tor Mountain Range. It dies out because the signal range is set to that length. Why would someone spend..." Toran stopped as the signal stopped.
"Why would someone spend an hour and a half pulsing across barren country?"
"You alert the detachments in the area?"
"The have seen nothing, neither has anyone else." Toran sighed and started shutting the computer down when he abruptly stopped and frowned. "Kol'eu, did you have any important files on this?"
"Because some sneaky sod has calmly come and rifled all your files."
"When?" Kol'eu frowned and looked at the file log which had caught Toran's attention.
"While I was investigating that pulse....sneaky sod!" Toran looked immeasurably irritated.
"Why does that worry you? They won't have got anything?"
"How do you know?" Toran snapped in impatience. "I built our flaming security system and I never saw this sod even though I was using the computer at the time."
"Then I suggest we take a walk."
"Where too?" Toran did not look happy.
"I feel the need to visit Halan von Teran." Kol'eu picked up his coat. "I think he is an ... acquaintance we should cultivate."
"What's bugging you captain?" Toran retrieved his own coat.
"Like you said, you were on that computer when it was raided and you didn't know." Kol'eu responded quietly as they quickly descended the stairs.
"You ever get the feeling that this place is familiar?" Toran was navigating the last steps of the Hall when he made the query.
"Don't tell me you do?" Kol'eu looked up at Toran.
"I'm afraid so, rather like a forgotten memory if you want the truth of the pudding."
"Well we'll deal with that when we return ... and no, you're not the only one with that problem, I haven't needed a map since I arrived here." Kol'eu lengthened his stride before abruptly stopping and frowning. "Correct me Toran, my eyes seem to be seeing two objects moving at high speed directly between the sun and any of our sensors."
"You are not seeing wrong." Toran responded having found what had caught Kol'eu's attention.
"Except that we have to find out, I don't actually wish to know what they are ... they are very big and they are sentient."
"Well we get to find out, they've just decided to come pay us a visit." Kol'eu drew a cautious breath as the 'birds' turned and were dropping in a distinctly stone like manner toward the planet. Even if the sensors decided something was their, they were moving much too fast for a sensor to get a lock.
"They'll be short." Toran was shading his eyes.
"I had actually realised that." Kol'eu had given up shading his eyes and was now just watching. "They're going to Halan von Teran's house ... whatever they are."
"I think we should give up on this visit Captain." Toran turned as he spoke.
"So you're getting that feeling too are you?" Kol'eu glanced at his subordinate.
"Which particular feeling is that?"
"The feeling that ever since that prisoner was caught a month ago our nice and peaceful integration has slowly been blown back in our faces by someone who seems to be laughing at us."
"Rather, I think we're dancing to someone else's piping, my Captain. It is a feeling I do not like. I think we were meant to find the pulse. Find the fact the computer was visited, decide to go visit Halan and then see those ... birdies. I do not like it my Captain, I think someone is entertaining himself at our expense, and using it to keep us distracted while he does something else."
"He?" Kol'eu frowned.
"If you read the legends there is one she and two hes ... and the hes seem to be the ones who toddle around absorbing the energy balls."
"You saying you think the legends are not legends?
"I do not know what I am saying my Captain, but I think the legends might bear further study. I also think we should be careful. I do not like dying Captain."
"Kihairu." Halan leant heavily on his stick, nodding to the first figure which descended.
"We thought you might like some visitors after that transmission."
"I was going to have visitors until you arrived." Halan took the small box Kihairu handed him.
"Just two, Kol'eu and that techie type Toran who very kindly let you into their computer system."
"Toran's the number two in their hierarchy. What happened to them?"
"Kol'eu caught sight of you as you began descent deviations and after watching for a bit, they turned back."
"Were they called back, or did they voluntarily turn back?"
"I don't know ... though I think it was voluntary for they received no signals."
"Well, we'll just have to wait and see then." Kihairu turned back to the Androzanii, stopping by the first one to gently rub the fur behind its beak and speak to it softly. The Androzani gave a nod, then leapt into the air, driving furiously for the line where it could slow down and not worry about the sensors.
"Layn, you gave our bond-word to Halan von Teran ... yet he remains at risk." It was a soft whisper which only just reached Kihairu.
"I know Tasa ... but we cannot take him to the cave."
"I can work from here."
"We wait for K'thas to return." Kihairu started removing boxes from the remaining Androzani.
"Mihaira, your pardon, I had forgotten about you."
"It was noticed Halan." Mihaira brushed herself down and gave a small smile.
"You haven't been seen for a while."
"I've been unwell unfortunately." Mihaira gently brushed her forehead before frowning. "Layn..."
"Get into the house." Kihairu interrupted her, ruthlessly forcing both of them into the house and slamming the door. K'Stas, the second Androzani went soaring to the sensor line at the same time.
"We have visitors." Halan was bent over a small screen built into the wall of his hall. The screen flickered and glimmered, turning that ancient face a sickly green hue.
"Unidentified yet, but they're from the castle."
"Let me see." Mihaira was bent over the screen in a flash, fiddling away competently. "Toran, Kol'eu and Mishk ... original names and all. What are they back here for?"
"I do not think we'll know unless you wish to try and walk out there and ask." Halan gently pushed back to the screen.
"I couldn't even if I wanted to." Mihaira settled down on a nearby seat. "He's got a field up and he's wa-ay better with those than I am."
Toran was studying his feet somewhat morosely, had they not met Mishk they would now be back in the Castle. Had they not met Mishk they would not now be standing in front of the house of Halan von Teran faced by the bird-like man who had not been seen since he vanished from the great hall. Had they not met Mishk he would not have had to turn off all communicators because they had walked into a static field.
"Going somewhere?" The birdlike man was looking up from a small scrap of garden, and for the life of him Toran could not remember the man's name.
"We wished to speak to Halan von Teran." Kol'eu responded coolly, his expression darkening while he responded.
"Halan is currently not for speaking to." The man rose to his feet, his attention drifting away as he scanned the sky. "Calarny is coming and your master would be wise if he were to find out about it."
"Calarny holds no fear for us, bird-man." Mishk spoke harshly, and Toran felt fear curl in his stomach.
"Calarny holds fear for all Mishk, for Calarny is fear." The large grey eyes ceased their study of the sky, passed over Kol'eu and Mishk, before they turned to stare at Toran. "Toran Duchiev, remember that the digitals cannot lie."
"What are the digitals?" Mishk was scowling darkly, he did not like failing to understand a conversation.
"They're ... digitals." Toran gave a helpless shrug, but his mind was whirling in high gear. There were digitals on this planet?
Not only digitals, but the predecessors of digitals, and the predecessors of the predecessors. Only the descendants of digitals can lie. It was husky and dry, and certainly not how any of his thoughts had ever sounded like. In fact it was an utterly strange voice, and Toran never forgot a voice once he had heard it.
"Toran!" The hand shook violently and Toran blinked in perplexity at the sky over his head.
"You passed out just before that weirdo departed." It was Mishk who responded. Toran turned his head and saw Kol'eu looking back towards Halan's house. Kol'eu's posture spoke of his uncertainty.
"He departed?" Toran started to struggle cautiously to his feet, but for some unexplained reason his legs were powerless.
"A very large ... animal came by and he caught a lift." Kol'eu finally looked at Toran and wrinkled his nose. "It was remarkably cat-like ... except it was bigger than a house."
© 2002 Copyright held by the author.