Planet of Dragons
On the Other Side
There was a very brief disorientation and then John
and Maureen found themselves standing between two pillars in a small
clearing. The first thing
John noticed was the heat; it had to be at least ninety degrees. The second thing he noticed was the position of the sun.
When they had left Karturm, it was early afternoon; here it was
The two flutter-dragons flew off into the forest,
squeaking in delight. The
visions that came into his mind reminded him of a homecoming of sorts.
And he wondered if Karturm was actually their planet of origin.
John remembered Maureen mentioning once, some time ago, that the
lizards didn't seem to totally fit into the ecological scheme of things.
The term she used was anomaly.
Maybe this was their home world.
"There's a difference in time, apparently,"
Maureen said, letting go of his hand and walking across the clearing.
"The heat takes some getting used to, but it can't be any
worse than Priplanus, and at least there's more vegetation and water.
Will we have enough time to accomplish anything before it gets
too dark? Maybe we should
go back and wait until morning here on this world."
John stared toward the setting sun, pondering.
Her suggestion was tempting, but he didn't want to sleep under
the compulsion that had been plaguing him without finding out something,
no matter how small that fact might be. "No, not yet.
Let's at least check in the near vicinity.
Silverado mentioned humanoids that seemed friendly.
Maybe they will be able to tell us something about the ssHreana
that came through," he explained.
"I was hoping you might say that.
I don't know if it's the emotions I'm feeling from Maggie or not,
but I kind of like it here. It
seems very friendly," Maureen told him.
John grabbed her in a tight embrace, his pensive mood
having vanished. "Ah,
my dear, you are right," he said, laughing.
"It is a friendly place.
Let me be the first to welcome you to this new world."
And with that he kissed her.
After a few moments, she reluctantly pulled away, laughing.
"This we can do in the dark.
We only have a small amount of daylight left to check out our
Looking toward one side of the clearing, John noticed
a small stream. He walked
over to it and noticed many webbed footprints, which he assumed belonged
to Murreena's people. "Let's
follow this stream for a short distance.
There's a path running along it, and we can always come back the
same way if we don't find anything."
Most of the trees appeared to be deciduous with
broad, light-green or silvery-gray leaves.
The trunks had an almost shaggy appearance with rough, peeling
bark. Silverado and Maggie
floated between the tree trunks and around the prickly looking bushes
and shrubs, squeaking merrily. As
the sky began to darken, eerie shadows manifested themselves and tiny
sparks floated among the foliage.
"John, those almost look like fireflies!"
Maureen exclaimed, her eyes following those phosphorescent insects that
were floating nearby.
"Yeah, but these bite," he said, slapping
at his neck. John had been
tempted to take off his outer shirt and wear only his tee shirt, but was
now glad that he hadn't. Silverado
and Maggie flew closer to them, and the hungry insects backed off. 'Thanks,' he told them.
By whatever means they were able to persuade insects to stay
away, he was just grateful that they could.
Then he noticed motes of light in the stream.
"Look, Maureen, you're the biochemist, can you tell what
"Not in this light, but I could guess that they
are some kind of fish. Look
at the insects. Some of
them are heading right towards the stream."
Tiny splashes punctuated her remarks, and some of the
phosphorescent insects suddenly disappeared.
"Well, now we know why the stream creatures have that
ability, even if we don't know what they are," she added with a
"Guardian," a voice whispered from the
other side of the stream.
Startled, John jerked his head up and peering
intently in the direction of the sound, tried to see the speaker in the
deepening twilight. It was
an impossibility. "Who
are you?" he asked, reaching down and checking to make sure that
the translator at his belt was turned on.
"I am called Bralin.
I live a short way down this path in the home of my parents.
We would be honored to have you stay with us this night,
Guardian." The speaker stepped out from behind the foliage and John
could vaguely make out a humanoid roughly a foot and a half shorter than
himself. Silverado came
streaking into the clearing and landed on John's shoulder.
Maggie did the same with Maureen.
'Fine scout you
are. You didn't even warn
me that we were being watched.' John told the lizard testily.
was the puzzling reply and then a visual of a cozy, rustic home came
into his mind.
could have warned us,' John returned. Silverado
chirped penitently. 'I accept your
apology,' John added with a chuckle.
"It is almost too dark to see the trail.
Will you come?" Bralin asked.
"Silverado has testified to his good character,
and I can't detect anything unfriendly in his thoughts," John told
Maureen. "We might as
well accept his invitation."
"I'm not as good at this as you are, but I trust
him, too. Let's go."
Within a few minutes, Bralin had led them to the forest home that
Silverado had telepathically shown him earlier.
Two individuals were standing in the doorway, and they greeted
"This is my father, Garroween and his beloved,
my mother, Mreelon," Bralin said pointing to the waiting pair.
"Welcome, thrice welcome," Garroween said,
beckoning them to enter.
"We appreciate your hospitality," John
replied, ducking as he entered the house.
Their hosts glanced in alarm at the translator as it interpreted
the words for their guests. John
unclipped it and held it up for them to see.
"This is a translator.
It tells us what you are saying."
"Oh, you rely on words more than the
thoughts?" Mreelon asked. John
would have sworn that she looked slightly relieved when he gave an
affirmative answer. Feeling
that there was something more that he needed to know, he sought
Silverado's help and tried to pick out a few of Garroween's and
he thought in agitation. Thoughts
and emotions from these people were hard to pick up, but still, John
began to understand a little more about the gate and its keepers.
Maureen, sensing what John was doing, started
bantering with the three, commenting on their house and asking about
their planet. Then she
asked about the ssHreana, and the emotional output of the three almost
exploded in John's brain. He
shielded their thoughts out immediately.
Silverado squeaked and wrapped his tail more tightly around his
"I am not trying to do anything to hurt you, but
some of our friends were drawn by your gate and we are worried about
them. So I'm going to tell
you right up front that I listened to some of your thoughts and feelings
just now," John explained as gently as he could.
Even so, Garroween backed up in shock.
"So you are the Guardian," he stated simply.
"You do have a silver colored zanling, you can
communicate in the manner considered abominable by our race and you are
quite tall," Bralin stated.
"But come and sit down, have some comcreel.
Your friends, the fish people enjoyed it, so it shouldn't hurt
"Garroween, my name is John Robinson and this is
my wife, Maureen. We are
here only to find our friends and figure out why this gate has been
built on the other planet. It
appears to be designed with the sole purpose of drawing telepaths to
your world. I believe I understand the reason a little bit, but much of
what I have learned confuses and alarms me," John said bluntly.
"Maureen is your beloved?" Mreelon asked.
Maureen smiled at the use of the word.
"What a nice term. Yes,
I am John's 'beloved.' "
"You look much like us, except for the paleness
of your skin and the shape of your ears, Guardian's beloved."
Mreelon stated with a smile.
"Are you both of the same race?"
John pondered the question briefly and then realized
that with only slight variations, the three people before him were
almost identical in racial characteristics.
All had red hair, blue-violet eyes, swept-up pointed ears and
light olive-brown skin. And
all appeared to be approximately four feet, eight inches to five feet in
height. "There are
more drastic variations in my people than there appears to be in yours,
Mreelon. I have a daughter whose hair is dark like mine and yet my
other daughter's hair is lighter than my beloved's, a blonde color.
Eye color varies as well."
"That is extremely interesting, Guardian,"
Garroween said with a smile. Bralin
brought in two mugs filled with a cool spicy drink.
John took his and peered into it, wondering if it had
anything that might be harmful to their systems. Silverado, standing on his shoulder, peered into the cup as
well and then declared it to be fit for human consumption. John sipped the tart, cider-like drink, and looking over to
Maureen, noticed that she had heard Silverado's declaration as well.
"This is very good, Garroween, but, please, my
name is John. I am not this
guardian that you seem to think I am.
I am simply a human that had the good fortune to meet and bond
with the ....what did you call them?
"Whatever you say, Guardian," Garroween
answered with an indulgent smile. "And
yes, the creatures like that one on your shoulder are called zanlings."
John just sighed and sat back in his chair.
let's face it, you are destined to have many titles in your illustrious
Maureen thought to him. Looking
in her direction, he thought he detected a hint of laughter in her
message. The twinkle in her
eyes confirmed it. They
both enjoyed the cool drink and the evening breezes that began to drift
through the open windows of the little house.
"You seemed upset when I asked about our
friends, the ssHreana. What
has happened to them?" Maureen asked in the silence that followed.
"First let me explain something, Guardian's
beloved. Our people have
traditionally been fearful of those whose abilities included what you
call telepathy. In our
language it is called abomination.
But also what has developed in just the last hundred revolutions
is a feeling among many of the One Race, our people, that the
persecution of those having the abomination is wrong.
And that feeling intensified at the ascension of our most recent
monarch, King Reezel, the Sanctified.
Our king decided at his coronation that he was going to resume
what his great-grandfather started those hundred revolutions ago.
And that was to hunt down the abominations not only on our world,
Krimlon, but also on any other worlds.
"He searched for and found hidden archives and
repositories of old science, and with his ministers of Purity began
testing these old devices and reading the old writings. That is when he found that many of the zanlings and their
companions had disappeared to another world, using the science that he
and his ministers had just discovered.
Gates were set up based on the old writings.
Apparently the latest gate that was set up near here linked to
the world where the exiled zanlings were living." Garroween paused
to take a sip from his own mug. John
sat quiet, entranced by this story that though fascinating, was sad
"That would explain K'rthk'rnkl's repository of
artifacts and devices in the cave on Karturm," John murmured.
"Did you say K'rt'rm?" Garroween asked.
"Very interesting. That
is the word for 'exile' in our language."
"Bralin was harvesting the stickle nuts from our
orchard when he saw a group of other-worlders staggering across the
clearing between the house and the trees.
They didn't speak, but the thoughts that they sent Bralin were
those of death. They had to
have water or they would die. Their
skin was dry and cracked, and their eyes were sunken.
The day had been particularly hot and dry. Bralin, although fearful of abomination, still led them to
our pond. When we saw them
come out of the water again, the change was astonishing.
"Bralin offered to lead them back to the gate so
they could return to the other world.
They were fearful of being brought back by compulsion once more,
but accepted our offer of help. I
think they were planning on destroying the other end of the gate when
they returned." Garroween
paused once more while Mreelon replenished the mugs with comcreel.
John stared pensively into the mug, watching the spices swirl
around, but saying nothing.
"They never came back through, Garroween.
We found their spaceship empty except for their companions, who
are also dying because they have been separated from their
friends," Maureen finally said.
"No, Guardian's beloved, they never made it to
the gate. When the sun set
and Bralin scouted out the route back to the gate, he found some of the
Prince's guardsmen nearby, thereby cutting off their escape that way. Instead, Bralin led them to a path that would take them to
the Greel mountains and the Land of the Abominations. We don't know if they all made it or not."