Planet of Dragons

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six-

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 almost sunset. 

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 surroundings."

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 those are?"

"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 laugh. 

"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. 

'Friend, hard to hear,' was the puzzling reply and then a visual of a cozy, rustic home came into his mind.

'Still, you 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 them warmly.

"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 Mreelon's thoughts. 

'Abomination?!' 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 companion's neck.

"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.

"Guardian??"

"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 you."

"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?  Zanlings?"

"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.

'Dear heart, let's face it, you are destined to have many titles in your illustrious life,' 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 beyond measure.

"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."

 

 

 

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