A Midsummer’s EveBy Riodan O’Duffy
On this mid-summer’s eve the stars of the T’koreth galaxy blazed in a great white arc across the sky of Vior’la; while the three moons called Káu'yr'ejii, Tsip, and Kiik, shone their pale golden light down upon the resort village of Seri’basiin. The resort was situated high on a plateau of Mount Otgon’ten’ger; where the temperatures were cooler, and the rainfall more plentiful. The village consisted of clusters of housing pods, spas, small eateries, little shops, and tiny government buildings. Seri’basiin was nestled in a wooded vale between a coldwater creek on one side, and the primordial forest on the other. The resort’s entire layout, having been arranged in accordance with the fio’siorral principle of harmony with the natural environment.
Banners hung on every door in the village to celebrate the coming of the Young Children’s Festival, or the Eaji’ma T’onutsek; which happened each midsummer. In the moonlight, the banners looked like faerie streamers; while the round clusters of housing pods shone a silvery gold. The glittering clusters were made up of four inter-connected family housing pods; each with its own small garden, hedge, and patio.
The three moons’ golden light shone through the windows of housing unit #36-47. The pod’s energy curtains pulsed back and forth; allowing nothing to enter the house, save the cool evening breeze. Inside the unit slept two fire caste families. The first family was composed of an adult male and an adult female, along with their young son and infant daughter. The other family was composed of an adult female, along with her young daughter and infant daughter. In one bedroom slept the male and one female; while in the next bedroom slept the other female with the two infants. Finally, in the last bedroom slept the two small children. The boy and girl slept cuddled together, safe and warm under their traditional quilt. The boy’s full head of dark hair lay tossed about his head cushion; while the girl’s full head of red hair lay in heaps over the blanket. Outside on the south-west corner of unit #36-47, safe and warm in their own little animal pod, slept a mother yowla and her kittens.
Across the housing pod’s hedge was a wide field of tulko grass. Here is where the children spent their summer days hunting for dragon wing insects, and pretending to be legendary heroes from the pre-mont’au Romance of the Seven Warring Kingdoms
. And beyond the field lay the forest of ancient chu’maq trees, their gnarled and knotty trunks rising high into the sky. Their expansive branches and thick leaves, created a virtual living roof high above the forest floor. This summer’s night the tiny iridescent anuk’pia birds flittered about hunting for the glowing esho beetles. The insects’ bioluminescence making a second sky of stars beneath the leafy canopy. On the forest floor, beneath this second sky, the nocturnal zaraas rooted through the decayed leaves for worms, insects, and new fungus. The night air was filled with the sounds of the chirping mon’tsox beetles, the trilling calls of the anuk’pia birds, and the ever rustling of leaves, as the wind moved through the branches of the trees.
The animal sounds had ceased, and except for the rustling of leaves, all was quiet in the forest. Now deep among the thickest stand of trees, and far from the field of tulko grass, appeared a tiny speck of blue light. At first it was no brighter than the glow of an esho beetle; but it began to grow quickly in size and intensity. Growing ever larger and larger, until it became a shimmering blue disc, twice the height of an average Tau. The gossamer blue disc hovered in the darkness for only a moment; then exploded in a silent flash, and was gone.
Something had stepped through the disc.
In the forest there arose an uncanny darkness; which extinguished the light of the esho beetles, the stars, and the moons alike. It was a weird fog that came from everywhere and nowhere; but yet it wasn’t a fog at all. This darkness, or mist, now began to drift towards the resort. And if one had been so unlucky, as to have been standing there that night, then you would have seen nothing of this dark mist. You would have noticed the sky becoming darker, and the light of the stars and moons becoming dimmer; but only when the mist was gone, would the vaguest notion occur to you that something, or someone, had just passed. Then, just as the darkness reached the treeline, it paused. The mist's invisible edges becoming almost visible, almost perceptible; but still without definition or form.
As the wind passing over the field of wild tolku grass, made ripples like on the surface of a lake. The glowing lights of the esho beetles, seeming to dance on their tall strands. The tiny blue-green lights, being but a faint reflection of the stars above. But as the imperceptible mist drifted across the field, the light of the beetles went out. As it drifted across the field towards the village, shapes tall and vague, seemed to move within it.
Along the west side of the village ran a narrow rivulet; which joined the creek that ran along the east side, just to the south of the village. As the mist rolled over the rivulet, the chirping songs of night mon’hui’la birds, and the trilling calls of the little baxa amphibians stopped. The dark mist then slid silently across the small foot bridge, and then slowly up the bank to the tall hedge. The kyrn’yedi hedge was the pride of the village, and had surrounded the resort since it’s founding some one hundred tau’cyr ago. The mist now crept slowly along the hedge, finally stopping at housing pod #36-47. The mist lingered there for a moment, before slowly seeping through the hedge. It moved along the ground, then rose up to the windows, and up over the doors; finally it enveloped the entire housing pod. Like a some ephemeral, but deadly sea creature; the mist swallowed the housing unit whole. Then all at once the mist was gone, and everything was back to normal. Except for the mother yowla, who snapped her head up, and turned her ruby coloured eyes toward the hedge.
At 02:60:03 motion detectors activated the infrared sensors on the west side of housing unit #36-47. Surveillance holocams made a series of scans to cover the entire grounds. The system recorded a gap in the west hedge line; but no other movement was detected. A notification was sent, to the Public Safety Office and to the Animal Control Services, of a possible intrusion by animals scavenging for food from the rubbish bins. At 02:62:00 the infrared sensors for housing unit #36-47 were deactivated. ***
At exactly 02:62:00, Y’suke found himself wide awake and staring into the darkness. He listened but there was no sound. Nothing. No sound of movement, no talking, no doors opening, and no yowla moving about inside or outside the pod. Nothing. He heard no sound except that of his own heart beat. Y’suke realized that he was sitting up in bed. ‘What woke me up? Why am I instantly conscious?’
Thoughts raced through his head, ‘What triggered my combat reflexes?’
Y’suke felt a cold churning in both of his stomachs, and the cir’etz scales along his spine stung. Then as beads of sweat began to form on his forehead, he realized that he was afraid. ‘But why? What am I afraid of?’
Then the thought came to him, ‘Is this another anxiety attack? Is my iur’tae’mont – combat neurosis acting up again?’
Then it hit him, ‘No, no wait this is different! There’s no sounds coming from outside? There aren’t any baxa singing in the creek? And why can’t I hear the anuk’pias trilling?’
A cold jolt ran up his body, blood started to pound in his head; and sweat now began to roll off his body. ‘Something was indeed wrong!’
Still sitting in the dark, he struggled with what to do next; but then his training kicked in, ‘First task, secure the perimeter…’
Y’suke logged on to the housing pod #36-47’s security network. His cybernetically enhanced brain linking up to the network via the housing pod’s wireless connection. Y’suke then began searching the feeds from the exterior holocams; checking each one of them as they were projected onto the inside lenses of his augmented eyes. Eleven exterior feeds showed nothing was amiss; except for that gap in the west side hedge timestamped at 02:56:17. A notation read: ‘Possible intrusion by animals scavenging for food…’
Y’suke saw that it was almost the same time he woke up; but there weren’t any animals on the grounds. Then on the twelfth and last holocam feed, the one from the animal pod; he saw the mother yowla staring with her spine ridge of cir’etz quills quivering. ‘Hiya’te! Something’s sure scared her, so I’m not the only one?’
Reassured that it wasn’t just him, he moved to the second task, ‘Ensure the safety of all mission personnel…’
Y’suke minimized the views of the exterior holocams, and expanded those of the interior holocams, his hands making the motions in the air in front of him. Now viewing each interior feed, he found every room in the housing pod to be secure. In the living quarters there was nothing out of place, or amiss. The same went for the kitchen and the dining room. In the next bedroom he could see that Nersuu and the two infants were asleep; while in the children’s bedroom, Temu'jin and Li’xiu were both fast asleep. Y’suke wiped the sweat from his face, and closed the interior holocam feeds. He looked down at J’hal’yi, who lay in the bed next to him snoring and thought, ‘What is wrong with me, everything is fine?’
But the fear and anxiety didn’t abate, and so not knowing what else to do, Y’suke now logged onto the unit’s Health Monitoring System. He began checking everyone’s vital signs: breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG brain patterns. But everyone’s vitals where within the normal range; his own vital signs being the only ones off kilter, with both elevated breathing and heart rates. And of course, those of the mother yowla, who had an elevated adrenaline levels and heart rate. ‘So now what?’
thought Y’suke lying back in bed. The entire viewing process had taken less than a raik’or; but the panic and fear were still there, only worse. His entire body was now damp with sweat, and his cir’etz scales tingled so badly, they hurt. He watched as his heart rate and breathing continued to increase and thought,‘I’ve got to do something!’
So slipping out from under the blanket, Y’suke stood in the middle of the room. Inside his head he could hear himself talking, ‘There is nothing wrong Shas’El’Vior’la Yr’Volgan, get the snae’ta back in bed!’
Y’suke’s Tau eyes had no trouble seeing in the near total darkness, as the dim gold light from the moons filled the room. And except for J’hal’yi snoring in the bed, everything was quiet. But Y’suke found himself now standing at his closet door, and deactivating the lock for the built in dresser. ‘In the name of the Tau’Va, what the kisun’shas are you doing shas’el?’
Opening the top drawer, he removed his armoured weapon case; while the voice inside his head yelled, ‘Stop Y’suke, what the snae’ta are you doing?!’
Setting the case on the floor, he sent a wireless message with his identity code and password, and the case silently opened. Then the voice yelled, ‘Stop, you’re having a panic attack…a flash back from combat. Do-not-do-this-shas’el!’
Y’suke pressed the release on the magnetic clasp, and easily extracted his pulse pistol from the case. Y’suke’s fingers found the two energy cells, and removing one, popped it into the weapon. The pulse pistol was always loaded; and now all he needed to do to arm the weapon, was to touch his right thumb to the biometric activation pad. The voice inside his head screamed, ‘If you activate this weapon, the Public Safety Office will know it immediately!’
Y’suke quietly slid the case out of the way, and crouched down besides the bedroom door. His heart rate was now dangerously high, and his head was pounding, giving him an intense headache. A bright orange health alert message scrolled across the bottom of his vision: ‘Danger an elevated heart rate and blood pressure can be the warning signs of an impending heart attack or stroke, please seek medical attention…’
The voice in his head screamed, ‘You are endangering the lives of your family, and that of your ta’lissera sister…STOP THIS NOW!’
With his heart beating hard, and his cir’etz scales on fire, Y’suke swallowed hard and put his hand on the door; but looking back, he saw the moonlight shining into the room. Immediately he ordered the room’s energy curtain to maximum opacity. ‘Keep operational security. No reason to give the enemy a target by silhouetting myself against the light from the window…’ ‘STOP THIS NOW SHAS’EL!’
the voice in his head was now screaming so loud, that Y’suke thought for sure the enemy could hear it. ‘Wait a raik’an, what haven’t you done yet? Think Y’suke! You might have missed something? Think, think…Wait I didn’t check the housing pod’s physical security. What a snae’tas fra’k you are!’
Y’suke cybernetically opened the Grounds Security program, and scanned over the floor plan of housing unit #36-47. There at the bottom was a table labelled, Access Points: Windows and Doors
. Y’suke ran his eyes down the list until he came to #4 West Bedroom Window
; and there was a flashing purple icon that read, ‘Energy Curtain: OFF LINE.’
Y’suke stared at the icon. ‘OFF LINE…OFF LINE…OFF LINE…OFF LINE…,’
it flashed. Then coming to his senses, Y’suke quickly brought up the holocam feed for the children’s bedroom. But the feed showed the room was filled with what a mist?
Or was it smoke? ‘No, that’s not smoke, the holocam is obscured somehow?’
Y’suke stood up, and with his back flat against the wall, slowly cracked open the door. Then peering through the single tor’il wide gap, saw light coming out from underneath the children’s bedroom door.
The light wasn’t the blue-white of the room’s illumination panel, and it wasn’t the pale gold moonlight from outside; but instead it was an ever changing dance of colours. First there was green, then magenta, followed by yellow, blue, red, and violet. Then a shadow fell across the dancing lights and Y’suke realized, ‘Someone is in the room!’
Y’suke slid the door back just enough to slip through, and silently glided across the living room floor in his bed slippers. He paused at the door, and putting his forefinger on the trigger, raised his pulse pistol. But yet Y’suke kept his thumb off the biometric pad. He checked the bedroom feed, but it still showed nothing; however, the health monitor showed the children were still asleep. Just then, his son Temu’jin’s vital signs showed him waking up; and Y’suke decided he had to act. But as he reached for the door handle, he heard someone speak.
His fingers froze on the handle.
Y’suke couldn’t tell whether the voice was male or a female; but whoever it was, they weren’t speaking in Tau’sia. Rather the voice spoke in some strange and unknown language; which was both melodious and wonderful to hear. Now another smaller voice answered the first voice; but this one was definitely speaking Tau’sia. ‘That’s Temu’jin talking!’
thought Y’suke, and flinging open the door, levelled his pulse pistol at the shadowy figures standing in his son’s bedroom.***
Y’suke sat blinking his eyes at the morning light streaming through the bedroom window. From the floor he could see the small Young Children’s Festival banner make soft tapping sounds against the wall, as it swung back and forth in the morning breeze. Then looking over at the bed, he saw Temu'jin and Li’xiu sleeping together and thought, ‘What am I doing in the children’s room?’
There was a scratching sound at the window, and Y’suke saw the family yowla scramble on to the sill, holding a kitten in her mouth. He watched as she leapt across to the bed, and then deposited her kitten between the two sleeping children. Y’suke saw she already had a large pile of kittens laying there. ‘The energy curtain is offline? How strange?’
Y’suke felt something heavy in his right hand, and looking down saw that he was holding his pulse pistol. He saw that his index finger was on the trigger, but the thumb was clear of the biometric pad. Then a vague notion of the night before came back to him and he panicked, ‘What time is it?’
He checked his ocular display and the time read 04:03:67. ‘Almost two decs? What the snae’ta have I been doing sitting here all night?’
Y’suke sprung up to check on Temu'jin and Li’xiu, and could see they were both still asleep. Gently he examined them, but by all appearances they were fine. ‘What happened last night? Was there really someone here…or was it a flashback.’
Then he felt the yowla gently rub her body under his chin, giving him a small chirping, ‘Yaow.’
She then rubbed up against him a few more times, before settling down with her kittens between the two sleeping children. Curled around her babies she now gave off a low, ‘Muur-murr-murr-murr.’
Y’suke looked down at her and asked quietly, ‘Do we have all our babies now Little Mummy? Well, I count eight, so it seems so.’
Y’suke went online and activated the energy curtain for the bedroom window. And then he darkened the opacity of the energy curtain; but before he did though, he paused to take a long look at the sleeping children. After which he silently slipped out of the room. ‘I’m so lucky, I didn’t harm either of them!’
Y’suke quietly entering his darkened bedroom and found J’hal’yi still asleep. So he squatted down to find his weapon case, but then paused. Sitting alone in the dark, a queasy feeling came over him; and a nagging thought kept running through his mind, ‘Why did I go to the children’s room armed? What made me do that? Something must of happened last night?’
But his memories were all jumbled, and he could recall nothing; but a vague sense of danger. He was certain that something had woken him up, and because of that, he gone to the children’s room. But that was all he could remember. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something dangerous, had come their way last night. Was it an unconscious expression of his combat neurosis? Or was it a real threat? It was something he would definitely need to see his physician about.
Y’suke now removed the pistol’s energy cell, and returned it, and the pistol, to their slots in the case. Then he reset the pistol’s magnetic lock; then closed and re-locked the case. Finally Y’suke stood up and returned the case to the top closet drawer. He was about to lock the closet, when the gnawing sense of passing danger came over him again. Looking westward, the feeling became even stronger. ‘Was this real? Was there something here last night?’
Unable to resist these feelings, Y’suke removed his bed slippers, and pulling out an undersuit from a drawer, put it on. He threw on a pair of pants, grabbed a jacket from the closet, and left the room. He was still pulling the loose strands of his hair through a plasticine loop, when he stepped out the front door. Turning right, he exited the common courtyard of the four conjoined housing pods, and walked quickly around to the west side of the surrounding kyrn’yedi hedge. He walked between the hedge and little rivulet, all the while looking westwards towards the forest.
Vior’la’s twin stars were already above the tops of the trees and the air was already getting warm. The tulko grass was gleaming a metallic golden-green in the morning light; as small insects buzzed, and in the rivulet the baxa chirped. The forest treeline stood out against the morning light, and to Y’suke, it seemed ominous. His heart beat faster and his breathing increased just looking at the forest. It called to him, beckoning him to enter; but Y’suke felt nothing but dread. This was the very same forest where he took the children on hikes. The very same forest under whose boughs he had walked, slept, and dreamed since childhood. Now it only gave him a sense of deep foreboding.
There was the sound of footsteps behind him, and looking around he saw Shas’Vre Fyra stepping off his hover disk. The middle aged Fyra presented a sharp appearance in his crisp terracotta uniform. He smiled at Y’suke and said, ‘Tau’va’ea, Commander.’
‘Tau’va’ea Constable,’ replied Y’suke.
Chief Constable Fyra stood next to Y’suke and the two of them looked west towards the forest.
‘Having a morning meditation are we sir?’
‘No, wish I were.’
‘Sleep well last night?’
‘No, I didn’t sleep well.’
‘I ask this because at 02:71:47 this morning, you activated your pulse pistol, then deactivated it a half raik’an later at 02:72:07. Where you aware of that?’
‘I did?’ replied Y’suke’s his face turning grey. ‘No, I wasn’t aware of that…’
‘If don’t mind me asking sir; are you feeling alright?’
‘No, no, I’m not.’
‘Well, sir you’re activation and deactivating of the pulse pistol, seemed like a glitch in our system; so we put it on the bottom of the actionable list. For which I’m going to catch kisun h’kek’an mind you
. Anyway Commander, can you tell me what happened last night that you
‘No, not really. I don’t remember much of last night. I didn’t even know I had the pistol until this morning, when I found it in my hand…’
‘Was that when you woke up in the children’s bedroom?’
‘Well sir, can you tell me what do
Feeling both exhausted and confused Y’suke said, ‘There’s a lot I don’t remember, but I woke up and found myself sitting up in bed. Then, I heard someone talking…or maybe moving around…in the housing unit. Then I was outside the children’s room…Wait that’s it!
That’s when I heard the voices! But the one voice spoke in a different language…and when I opened the door…I saw them.’
‘I don’t know? I can’t remember exactly…I saw shadows of someone…more than one person I think. Can’t remember much more of it.’
‘Commander El’Yr’Volgan this what we know at the Public Safety Office. At 02:56:17 the security system for housing unit #36-47 picks up a possible intrusion by a scavengers through a gap in the hedge. No animals are detected. Then at 02:62:00 you sit up in bed and wake up. You check the holocam feeds at 02:64:16, and then check everyone’s vitals signs at 02:65:71. Your vitals are elevated, but were rapidly getting worse. Then at 02:67:14 you get out of bed and retrieve your pulse pistol from the closet drawer. At 02:68:77 you approach the west side bedroom, carrying a fully loaded, but not yet activated pulse pistol. At 02:70:07 you pause at the door for a raik’or-and-a-half, activating your weapon at 02:71:47 and enter the bedroom. Here we loose track of you, as the west side bedroom is obscured on the holocam. You deactivate you weapon at 02:72:07.
Strangely, the children’s west side bedroom became obscured the raik’an, when you first switched away from the holocam feeds. You are in the west room for a full two raik’ors, but at 02:73:52 the holocam feed is suddenly free of interference; and you are seen sitting on the floor with the pistol in your lap. Both the children are shown to be in bed and asleep. And almost two decs later at 03:71:22 the family yowla is seen on the holocam bringing in her first kitten through the open window. You know the rest from there.’
‘I am sorry Shas’Vre Fyra, but I can hardly remember any of that. You do know sir, that I suffer from iur’tae’mont? I…I have flashbacks sometimes, and sometimes I have periods of disassociation
; where I don’t know where I am, or what I’m doing.’
‘The Public Safety Office is well aware of your condition sir, it's in your medical records after all.’
‘Vre’Fyra I will be seeing my medical provider for a follow up as soon as possible.’
‘Xmm, well that was to be expected, but thanks for letting us know.’ Fyra looked at the ground and then back to Y’suke. Then in a grandfatherly way said, ‘Well, for what it’s worth shas’el, I believe you, when you say there was someone in your housing unit last night.’
Y’suke blanched and teetered on his hooves.
‘Are you alright sir?’ asked Fyra catching him by the arm.
‘No, I’m not alright. The thought that it might in fact be real, was all too much for me.’ Y’suke pointed westwards and said, ‘In the forest…out there in the forest. That’s where you’ll find them.’
‘Out there? Find who?’ asked the Chief Constable looking at the forest and then at Y’suke.
‘Whoever it was, that was here last night.’
‘Sir, might I ask that you go home now? Go and get some rest before the day really starts. The bairn will be wanting to go to the festival and all. But before you go, do I have permission to change the password to your pistol case?’ asked the Chief Constable turning Y’suke around, and walking him back towards the housing unit.
‘Yes, you have my permission.’
‘In the mean time Constable Dau and I will have a wee look-see around the grounds, and see what we can find? T’oh, here she is now.’
Y’suke looked up and saw Constable Dau land her hover disk next to the Chief Constable’s.
‘Ui’Dau, please escort the shas’el back to his housing unit, and then rejoin me here.’
‘Yes, Vre’Fyra…You come along with me sir,’ said Constable Dau to Y’suke.
The weight of his emotions, and the fatigue from the night’s events exhausted Y’suke, and he staggered into the house. Still, he stopped just inside the foyer to dip each hoof into the traditional foot bath, and wash them in the bubbling water. He scrubbed them against the brush mounted next to the foot bath; and then stamped each foot on the drying mat. Making his way towards his bedroom, he entered as quietly as he could. He pulled off his clothes and threw them on a bed stool, and then climbed into bed without even putting on his bed slippers.
Y’suke?…were you up already? I wanted to get in the saddle with you
…one more time. You know…while the children were still sleeping…,’ mumbled J’hal’yi snuggling up to him.
J’hal’yi’s naked body felt warm and wonderful, and wrapping his arms around her, Y’suke fell asleep.***
‘Eji! – Mummy!
Ava’Y’suke – Uncle Y’suke!
’ shouted Li’xiu jumping on the bed. ‘Get up, get up it’s Midsummer’s day, the Young Children’s Festival!’
‘Aji – Da!
Get up, get up!’ shouted Temu'jin even louder, as he bounded onto the bed.
Y’suke felt like he was made from some dense metal, and could barely open his eyes. Turning his head, he saw two sets of small eyes staring him in the face, one set was fiery orange and the other set was sapphire blue. He could hear J’hal’yi say, ‘Let your father sleep some more Temu'jin. Let’s go and make breakfast first. Li’xiu let’s go and help your Aunty Nersuu make breakfast.’
‘Happy Young Children’s Festival to you too my wee ones!’ he replied, but then to Temu'jin said, ‘Go with your Aunty now Xumxa.’
Temu'jin smiled when his father used his “special name,” and he leapt off the bed with a bang, and ran out of the room.
‘Aye, I love you too my bonnie lad,’ said Y’suke drifting back off to sleep. ***
Y’suke woke up to the smell of warm food, and the sounds of people talking. Getting up from the bed; he did his personal cares and got dressed. Entering the living room, he saw the two toddlers sitting at the table having a breakfast of hot b’nim porridge and a cup of warm tai’tisan. Y’suke smiled as they shovelled the hot food into their little mouths. Meanwhile the two babies nursed at their mother’s breasts; while their mothers, Nersuu and J’hal’yi, each had a breakfast of traditional flat ge’ta bread, kootai eggs, and byas. Y’suke turned and saw the family yowla was in the pet bed nursing her kittens.
‘Hoi, looks like everyone’s eating already! Even the wee kittens are eating,’ said Y’suke.
‘We couldn’t wait for you, the barins were all hungry!’ complained Nersuu to her husband.
‘No, no that’s how it should be, everyone happy and eating,’ he said touching his forehead to his wife’s; but then he nibbled his nursing daughter’s little hooves. He turned and touched his forehead to J’hal’yi’s forehead; and then gave her daughter’s little hand an oon’selt or love bite.
‘The b’nim is good?’ he asked the children sinking into a chair.
‘Aye, Aji!’ replied Temu'jin.
‘Yes, Ava!’ answered Li’xiu.
‘Did you let in the yowla last night? I found her and the kittens on their bed this morning,’ asked Nersuu giving him The Look.
‘T’ahh, yes. A long tailed elbenx got through the hedge last night, and was digging around the rubbish bins. Didn’t want her to loose a kitten.’
‘Being a good Da then were you?’ smiled J’hal’yi.
‘Aye, I suppose so…’
The door alarm chimed and Nersuu ordered the security unit to, ‘Open the front door.’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ came the reply.
Chief Constable Fyra and Constable Dau then entered the living room.
‘Happy Young Children’s Festival!’ shouted Li’xiu and Temu'jin at the two constables.
‘Happy Young Children’s Festival to you too kids!’ answered Fyra and Dau.
‘Would you like some hot vi’tisan, sorry there are no drones to pour your bowls?’
‘Thank you very much, but no worries, we can pour our own,’ replied Dau as she took the pot from the heating unit, and filled a bowl for herself and the Chief Constable.
‘How may we help you Chief Constable?’ asked Nersuu shifting her infant daughter to the other breast.
‘Heard you had problems with a family of elbenx in the rubbish bins last night? Found a gap in the hedge where we think they came through,’ answered Fyra dropping a tetrahedron of sucrose into his bowl of hot tisan.
‘See, I told you!’ said Y’suke taking a bite of his kootai eggs.
‘Did I say I didn’t believe you?’ replied his wife.
‘Excuse me ma’am, but I also came to speak to your husband on another matter,’ said Fyra motioning to Y’suke with a jerk of the head.
Y’Suke and the Chief Constable stepped outside and stood under the festival banner at the front door. Fyra took a drink from his bowl, and giving Y’suke a firm look said, ‘Well, you were right, there was someone here last night.’
Y’suke let out a sigh and leaned back against the door.
‘Dau and I found the gap in the hedge, and it was far too big to be made by a family of elbenxs. The gap is taller than a person, and wide enough to scoot sideways through. The problem is the gap goes through the hedge at a diagonal, and there was no way for the holocam to pick up how wide it was. But here’s the thing, it was just like you said, they came from the forest! Dau and I found a faint trail that led over the rivulet and straight across the open field to the treeline. It appears they came and went by the same route on foot. We found definite foot tracks, but non-Tau foot tracks mind you!
In any case, whoever these intruders were, they made it back to the forest, only to be ambushed by someone else. This second group attacked almost immediately upon them entering the treeline. Quite a firefight by the looks of it, with lots of kinetic rounds fired, and some energy weapons as well. No bodies though. We notified the Prefecture Public Safety Office and they’re sending a Special Investigation Team. They’ll be here by this afternoon.
Shas’el, if it makes you feel any better, we can now safely say you were justified in activating your pulse pistol.’
‘I don’t feel any better Chief Constable, in fact I feel worse!’ said Y’suke taking a long drink of tisan before speaking again, ‘They were in my house, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them!’
‘Aye, well we don’t know what they were after. Maybe you interrupted them?’
‘Who knows?’ answered Y’suke rolling his shoulders, but then leaning in close to the Chief Constable he added, ‘But if weren’t for my condition
, maybe I’d have stopped them.’
‘Shas’el, maybe it was because
of your condition that you woke up. Just think what might of happened if you’d instead slept through the night? We might never have known what happened here?’
‘Chief Constable, do we know
what happened here?’
‘Well, no, not really.’
Fyra motioned that it was time for them to get back, but as they re-entered the house he asked, ‘Did the children say anything? Have you asked them at all?’
‘Haven’t had the chance yet.’
‘Let me ask them will you?’
Y’suke sat back down at the table, and Fyra sat next to him. The Chief Constable took a slice of ge’ta and spread some byas on it. Smiling at the children he asked, ‘Li’xiu had an exciting night did we? See anybody come by your room last night. Besides your mum, or your aunty and uncle I mean?’
‘No,’ answered Li’xiu nodding her head.
The two fire caste women looked at the Chief Constable and then at Y’suke, but he just touched a finger to his chin.
‘How about you Temu'jin? See anyone in your room besides you mum and dad, or your aunty?’
Temu'jin was digging into his b’nim with vigour, his face was pink from the koki fruit syrup in his porridge.
‘Aye, there were,’he answered shaking his head.
‘Really?’ the Chief Constable glanced over at Y’suke, and then at his mother and aunt. The two women seemed shocked at this news.
‘You mean your pet yowla? Was it her that came into your room last night?’ asked the Chief Constable leaning over the table.
‘No, it weren’t her.’
‘Xmm, so who was it then that came into your room?’
‘The faeries,’ answered Temu’jin looking up from his porridge.
‘Aye, faeries.’ ***
Y’suke and the Chief Constable sat back in astonishment, but the two mothers were indignant and there faces showed it. Fyra looked at them and also put a finger to his chin; but then gestured for Constable Dau to come over to the table.
‘Which faeries were they Temu'jin?’
‘The Empress of the White Faeries, and she were tall!’ he said tilting his head back and pointing at the ceiling with his spoon. ‘And she were beautiful!’
Temu'jin then went back to eating, which left everyone flustered.
‘Go ahead and tell us what happened Temu'jin,’ asked Y’suke gently.
‘Tell you what?’ he asked looking up from his porridge.
‘Well, what did the Empress of the White Faeries want?’
‘T’oh, she wanted a wee bit of Shas’onei’s hair,’ he said pointing his spoon at Li’xiu.
‘Who’s Shas’onei – Flame Eyes
?’ asked the Chief Constable.
‘It’s just my son’s love name for Li’xiu,’ smiled his mother blushing.
‘Starting a wee bit early there, don’t you think son?’ laughed the Chief Constable, while directing Constable Dau to the girl.
‘I luv him!’ squealed Li’xiu leaning over and grabbing Temu'jin.
‘Let the Constable have a look at your hair now Li’xiu!’ said J’hal’yi pulling her daughter away from the boy.
‘Hoi, there’s a strand of hair as thick as my thumb that’s been lopped off in front,’ said Dau holding up a short piece near the scalp.’
‘Weren’t trying to hide it were they,’ said the Chief Constable to Y’suke.
‘Who wasn’t trying to hide it?’ asked Li’xiu’s mother J’hal’yi.
‘The faeries?’ replied Y’suke straight faced.
‘Aye, the faeries they took it last night they did!’ shouted Temu'jin.
‘The Empress had long golden hair, and things like this on her head,’ he held both hands up on either the side of his head. ‘And she had a thing on her face, like this!’ he said putting his hand in the middle of his face.
Temu'jin suddenly became expressionless, and he stared straight ahead as if in a trance. ‘The Empress’s eyes were sky coloured. And little lights danced around her fingers, and she were beautiful. She had firewarriors with her, all in green with jaggedy swords, and eyes like bugs...’
, were you afraid of the Empress?’ asked Y’suke.
‘Did she tell you why she wanted Li’xiu’s hair?’
‘She wanted to make her something special…for later.’
‘Was that all she wanted?’
‘Did she say anything else?’
‘Aye, she asked me if I loved Shas’onei, and I told her I loved her very much. She said that if I loved her always, that we would both grow up to be great firewarriors. And that someday, we’d be married.’
‘That sounds good Xumxa, I think your mother and your aunty would like that very much. Did she say anything else?’
‘Yes, she told me that when I grow up, that I’m going to go far, far away. But that Shas’onei would come looking for me…’ Temu'jin then turned and looking his father in the eyes and said, ‘…And when she found me, she would kill me.’
‘Aaagh!’ cried Y’suke, and staggering to his feet, stumbled out the door.
‘Both of you mothers stay with your children! Constable Dau you check on the boy! I’ll go after the shas’el!’ shouted Fyras chasing Y’suke out the door.
Outside Fyra found Y’suke bent over with his hands on both knees and breathing hard.
‘Are you alright sha’el?’
Y’suke turned and looked at the Chief Constable, his face a ghastly grey, ‘I…saw…them…I…saw…her… I…remember…it…all.’
Fyra shooed away some concerned neighbours, and putting his arm around Y’suke, let him put his full weight on the Chief Constable.
‘What do you remember shas’el?’
‘All…of…it. I remember…all of…last…night. It all came…back to me all…at once. Waking up…checking the holocam feeds…checking the vital signs...getting my pistol and going…to the children’s room…arming my pistol and opening the door…I remember it all.’
‘How did you manage to remember?’
‘When my son spoke those last words…it hit me all at once. Like a damn breaking, it hit me all at once.’ Y’suke’s breathing was easier now, and Fyra now allowed him to support himself. He looked over at the Chief Constable and whispered. ‘I saw them Fyra!’
‘What are you talking about Y’suke?’
‘I saw them when I opened the door…I can remember it now. She was in a gown of green and white…Skin like snow, hair the colour of pure gold, and eyes the colour of the sky…and glowing runes dancing around her fingers…Her ancient warriors, were clad head to foot in pale green armour…eye lens shinning like amber…chain swords like the gue’la’s, but finer…’
‘Who is she?’
‘…But what’s more, I heard her talking to Temu'jin. He’s not lying Chief Constable, because I heard it all.’
‘But you said you couldn’t understand their language? How do you know what she said?’
‘I couldn’t…but I understood her words nonetheless. They were inside my head, not like a transmission, but…like she was standing there inside my head. I heard her tell him, “When you and Li’xiu are grown up, you’ll both be great firewarriors; but then you will leave her, and go far, far away. But Li’xiu will come looking for you, and when she finds you, she will kill you.”
Fyra nodded his head in disbelief and said, ‘Who are they? Who is she?’
‘They are…they are the Ar’cea, an ancient race that wanders between the stars.’ ‘The Ar’cea, an ancient race that wanders between the stars,’
said the Chief Constable staring off into the distance. ‘But why did they want a piece of a little girl’s hair?’
‘I don’t know?’ replied Y’suke rolling his shoulders and standing up. ‘We’d better get inside, those two women are experienced firewarriors; and they won’t wait long for an answer. I’ll need your help explaining all of this.’
‘Best of luck with that shas’el.’
‘We have the Tau’va for that Chief Constable; we have the Tau’va.’
The two fire caste men turned, and slowly entered housing pod #36-47, knowing they would face a barrage of unanswerable questions.***
At this time of year Vior’la celebrates its Midsummer’s Young Children’s Festival, or the Festival of Eaji’ma T’onutsek. The festival itself is a traditional celebration, and goes back over a millennia to ancient T’au. The name of the festival, however, is a reference to Vior’la’s three moons: Káu'yr'ejii, Tsip, and Kiik. And is a shortened form of Eaji’ma t’onutsek’sti toglok, or Mother-watching-her-offspring-at-play
. At this time of mid-summer on Viro’la, the two smaller moons of Tsip – Bite
, and Kiik – Nip
, rise and set with the larger moon of Káu'yr'ejii or Experienced Hunt Mother
. The close proximity of the three moons at this time of year, reminded the early Vior’lan settlers of the story of Káu'yr'ejii and Her Children
. In the Tau folk story, the fal’kinot Káu'yr'ejii can be seen at night watching over her pups as they played. The symbol of Káu'yr'ejii and her playful pups, was therefore chosen as the symbol of Vior’la’s Festival of Eaji’ma T’onutsek. At this time of the tau’cyr, many colourful banners and streamers carry this symbol; and can be seen hanging from the homes, businesses, and official buildings alike. – Excerpt from the pamphlet: The Festival of Eaji’ma T’onutsek. Reproduced here with the permission of the Vior’lan Board of Tourism.FINIAuthor's Note:
I apologize for the abrupt ending, which is why you have an excerpt from the Vior'lan Tourist Board. This is a one off story, but will reappear in the future as part of larger series. All I can right now is that the series may have something to do with the Fourth Sphere of Expansion. TM