by Resha Caner
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 appeared
in issue 253.
Chapter 2: I Look to the Future
part 1 of 2
Mythic religions often find their place on dusty basement shelves, or they are reduced to children’s stories. Never would a mature adult give them serious consideration. Jargos was forced to accept this as a young Graseq boy. His father’s dinner time stories seized his imagination, demanding to be accepted, yet the realities of life on Calmeron demanded something else.
Jargos believes a dragon has destroyed his father’s workshop, and he sets out to save his family and his village. Instead, he discovers something much worse — humans have arrived to take his planet. From the moment of their arrival until he is a young man, Jargos fights the humans and becomes the leader of the Graseq. Though his eventual defeat seems to be the end, it is really the beginning.
Condemned to the slave mines on the moon of Nemesis, a human sacrifices his life to save Jargos. As the number of enslaved Graseq grow, Jargos lays plans to make them into a new nation. Then someone arrives to show him that the old stories are not as empty as he once thought.
Aurelon fell upon Gralan Field, and the heart of Jargos fell with him. His arm continued to bear the sword, but his eyes were fixed on the blood creeping from behind Aurelon’s breast plate, and in that instant he knew all was lost. The Graseq were defeated, and humans would rule his people. He had failed.
With each stroke, the weight of the sword grew. When this all started, the Graseq outnumbered the humans, but the humans had more firepower. His Discer, the most fearsome weapon a Graseq soldier could carry, was empty. His artillery support was gone. A few Graseq had managed to steal laser weapons from the humans; they had scavenged them from the dead, but they held too few.
Jargos stepped back behind the shield wall and let his sword fall to his side. Brunac was rested and took his place. Always four warriors rested behind the shield wall with a commander, waiting to pick up the fight as their brothers tired, sixteen warriors to a Qartum, forming lines of Qartum that swelled into divisions and armies. Or so it should have been. But the Graseq numbers were exhausted. Jargos was the Raqturon, the grand commander of all Graseq armies. The golden horn hung about his neck, yet here he was filling the role of a foot soldier in a Qartum of eight with only himself having the opportunity to rest.
Even then, Jargos did not rest. He pondered Aurelon’s body. It still had some life in it, but he would never again serve as a Field Marshal.
“To Aurelon!” Jargos commanded. His men responded with a grunt and a roar, and the line surged forward to cover the body of the fallen general. It gave the army a fleeting moment of hope, but Jargos knew it would not last. Aurelon’s mouth formed words, syncopated by the rush of blood from his chest. The horrible grinding of war drowned the general, and Jargos stooped to hear his words.
“He has placed in me a fire, and no other shall stand upon my hearth.”
“Calz,” Jargos swore. “Do not quote Resha Bakun to me. Words are meaningless.”
“He will come,” Aurelon defiantly stated between rasping gulps of air. “If you would but humble yourself and ask for help, he would come.”
“Aurelon,” Jargos growled into the general’s ear. “Resha Bakun does not exist. He will not come.”
The general’s eyes grew wide with fear and panic. “Do not,” he struggled to rise as he spoke, “make all this blood meaningless.”
Jargos let go of Aurelon and took the horn in his hand. “Forgive me, brother.”
The general began to shake, and his breaths came rapidly as a tear formed in the corner of his eye. “You are not my brother.”
As Jargos rose to sound the call for retreat, Aurelon closed his eyes for the last time.
Both armies shuddered at the sound of the horn. It was a call that humans did not know the meaning of, and their front line hesitated, bracing for an unknown evil to descend. It was a call the Graseq had practiced but never used.
Brunac looked over his shoulder in surprise. Not until Jargos took a step backward did the warriors seem to believe the horn had sounded their defeat.
Qartum by Qartum the Graseq began to retreat. The humans pressed forward to close the gap. Jargos began to prepare himself for the possibility no mercy would be given. He clenched his teeth tightly together and flexed his arm to brandish his sword. One step. Two steps. Three. What were the human commanders saying to each other over their radios?
The Graseq had no need of radios. They were bonded together by the Maartos, and Jargos knew the disposition of his men. The horn had merely been a call to attention. His command had been given through the Maartos. The humans might find it eerie to see Graseq armies responding in perfect unison, but it was equally eerie for Jargos that he was unable to sniff out hints of human intention. They communicated through their radio machines, not as the Graseq did.
The answer of the humans was given. Their front ranks slowly and haphazardly stopped. They no longer closed the gap. The Graseq line continued to move backward, and the humans allowed them to disengage. The roar of death trickled away into a weak, pathetic bewilderment.
Jargos stopped, and let the Qartum part and retreat around him, leaving him standing alone upon the mud and refuse separating the two armies. He could feel the heat through his boots, and the stench forced him to lift his chin, giving him a haughty appearance.
Slowly he undid the buckle on his helmet and pulled it free. A long braid of red hair, tied with the traditional war weave, cascaded down his back. Eyes of deep green peered from a pale, square-jawed face. He was dressed in leather from head to toe, covered in bands of steel designed to move as his body desired. It is so strange, he thought, as he stared into the faces of his enemy, that we look the same, yet are so different.
A deep thudding sound rolled across the plain, followed by a growing rush of air. With only a slight turn of his head, Jargos looked upward toward the red clouds rolling by overhead. He knew one of the human flying machines was approaching, and it bore their generals.
The machine seemed to flaunt the ignorance of his youth. The Graseq had nothing more than stories to surmise what might lay beyond the red clouds lying thick over all their land. He had felled the first flying machine that came to Calmeron when he was a boy. The feat had earned him his title: Raqturon — Worm Hunter. He snorted at the irony. The boy foolishly mistook the machine for a dragon. The man knew which worm was truly his enemy.
The human soldiers parted to make way for the approaching craft. Jargos felt the nervousness of his men, but he refused to allow them to break ranks. He maintained his firm stance before a perfectly straight line of Graseq, like a statue honoring the past glory of faded philosophers.
The engines on the machine rotated to set it gently on the ground, and a detail disengaged from the human army to escort the generals from their craft. All were dressed in ceremonial uniforms useless on a field of battle. The only concession to practicality was to tuck their hats beneath their arms. The one with the most decorations strode forward with a grim look while blasts of air from the dying engines whipped the brown hair rimming his balding head. It reminded Jargos of a clown in a circus act.
Only four words were given, and those in the human tongue. “Are you Jahr Goss?”
Jargos turned and spat on the ground. He was yet to meet a human who took the time to learn his language, or even the courtesy of speaking his name properly — one word, not two. Refusing to concede everything before the negotiations had even begun, he simply nodded. Drawing a deep breath, he raised his chest as if to emphasize his height. At just over two meters, Jargos towered over the human general.
The general’s eyes narrowed, and his chin lifted slightly. Pursing thin lips, he turned to the aide at his side, and pointed at Jargos. Then he turned and headed back to his flying machine. The aide made several sharp grunting sounds that conveyed orders to the nearby detail. The soldiers immediately stepped forward, and seized Jargos.
“What are my terms?” Jargos bellowed after the general, his tongue clumsily tripping over the human words.
The human general stopped, but did not turn around. The aide answered for him, “We do not give terms to slaves.” The general nodded his agreement, and continued on.
The Graseq surged forward to support their commander, and the eyes of the men in the lonely detail grew wide with fear.
“No,” Jargos ordered. “We are done here.”
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Copyright © 2007 by Resha Caner