The origin of the Guardians of ReythPart 1
3,326 years ago.
Taris stared out of the window, but saw little other than smoke and falling ash.
Exactly forty-three minutes had passed since the ground had rocked savagely beneath his feet as the final trap snapped closed out on the distant battlefield.
He felt the formation of a translocation nimbus in the room behind, and turned to greet the expected messenger; a woman appeared. She looked tired and her clothes were covered in dust and dried blood. The sick look in her eyes told him all he needed to know, but he asked anyway.
“Report, Messenger Erlin. Was the trap successful?”
The woman nodded. “Yes, Commander, it was. Totally. The foe is utterly destroyed and we are victorious.”
Although her words were the best of news, her voice sounded more as though she was reporting a defeat. She sounded appalled, shocked, and disbelieving.
Taris could understand that. They had designed the final trap to kill as many as possible, but their foe had formerly been their closest friends and family.
His people, known across the universe by a wide variety of names, but simply as The First to themselves, were hairless, light-skinned, extremely tall, slim and, compared to many of the younger races, looked physically frail. All of them were effectively immortal: they neither aged, nor suffered from illness. They did not eat or drink, but were able to absorb nutrients directly from the elements around them, and if injured could heal themselves as long as they were sufficiently conscious.
The final trap was designed to inflict such severe injury that the rebels caught by it would pass out and die before they could repair their wounds.
“How many of them were killed?” he asked, fearing the reply.
Erlin hesitated before answering.
‘Light!’ thought Taris. ‘Can it really be so bad?’
“Only one survived, Commander. All the others are confirmed dead.”
Taris gasped, he had expected large numbers killed, but…
“All but one killed?” he repeated, hoping that somehow he had misheard.
His own son, Ardel, had joined the rebels several years earlier, persuaded by the ideas of their leader, Keash. He would have been out there on the plain when the trap was sprung.
Erlin nodded. “Yes, Commander, all but one,” she confirmed. “He was badly injured and near death when we found him, but is now healed, warded, and under guard.” She paused and then finished, “His name is Xian.”
Taris nodded, and turned away, to stare out of the window once more. His mind filled with images from the past: a small boy’s delight when his Gifts began to appear, his rapid mastery of them, Ardel’s pride the day he took the Oath of Service to the Creator of all, and his pride at being among those chosen to protect this world.
Last to pass through Taris’ memory, was Ardel’s cold, determined, face as he announced that he was joining the rebels, and that when next he and his father met, it would be across the field of battle.
Somewhere out there, his son’s body lay waiting for him to claim it.
Unusually for his race, Taris had two other children, but neither of them had been among those chosen to protect this world while its young inhabitants matured. He thanked the Creator for that. They at least were safe and uncontaminated by the strange notions that had run through his inherited command like some form of plague.
He could hear Erlin’s breathing as she waited patiently behind him, and he knew that she was expecting a response from him.
He took a deep breath and turned back to her. “What of the Faithful? How many of our side did we lose to death?”
She answered that question more readily.
“Only three more departed life before they could heal or be healed; our Lord was with us today.” She managed a tired smile.
That was unexpectedly good news, and Taris forced himself to put aside memories of his lost son, and smiled back at her.
“That, at least, is good; we have lost too many over the last decades.”
He glanced out the window again, and then nodded decisively.
“I will view the battleground, Erlin, and see for myself the damage that we have done to this world in order to protect it from our own people. Later, I will see Xian, and decide what we should do with him. Tell Captain Brath that I will find him within the hour to discuss the problem. You may leave, Messenger Erlin, and thank you.”
She bowed and then translocated from the room. Taris concentrated, but was unable to create a translocation link to the battle field. Creator of all! Had it altered that much?
He pictured several places in his mind that were in the vicinity, but failed each time he attempted to create the link. Eventually he found a place, several miles from the battleground, which still matched his memory of it closely enough to allow translocation.
A second later he stood in the garden of a ruined building and stared in disbelief at the landscape before his eyes. The land, on which he stood, had once been at the edge of a plateau that overlooked a wide plain through which ran a large river. The river had flooded regularly each spring depositing silt onto the plain, making it a fertile and pleasant land.
It had been inhabited, Taris remembered, though he knew little of the folk who had lived there most recently. The sea had been clearly visible from this vantage point, the mouth of the river flowing into a large bay, beside which had been several villages. The battle had raged across that plain in recent months, laying w