Battle of the Star Beast Ch. 06bykittys_pet©
Grand Valiente had been a green world once. Now it was a ball of brown and burnt orange. No longer could anyone land on the surface and swim in the crystal lakes. No longer would anyone climb the tall mountains and fly with the great silent birds. The laughing maidens were all gone. No longer would the wonder of a totally peaceful world be held up for other races to long for. Jake's battalion had just got to the planet as the Dark Empire forces were taking over the capital. They had fought a long and hard battle, hand to hand. This was not what Jake had signed on for. He was a pilot. A damned good one. He should be flying his ship and taking out the objectives from the skies. Everyone was pulled in to fight the ground forces. Pilots couldn't fly because they needed the hands on the ground. The losses were staggering. Of a world population of one billion there were now only four hundred Grand Valientes spread about the Alliance. Those had been pulled off the last day before the Alliance troops admitted defeat and fled.
Jake had seen his friends and comrades cut down in front of him by creatures out of nightmares. None of the modern weapons worked on them. Only the oldest weapons of steel would work. It poisoned the monsters. The rest would not leave a mark. Beam weapons just went straight through. Chemical weapons just made them stink more than they did already. Day after endless day of hacking at tall black bodies had taken it's toll on Jake. Young and already showing signs of superior sensitivity, he had suffered at type of battle fatigue seen only with those who had empathy. Jake's commander got him assigned to pilot one of the shuttles taking out the refugees before he lost control. His commander knew that he had a budding empath and that he was near a breaking point. He didn't want to lose his best pilot to the mindless rage of a fighter pushed beyond his endurance or to the inward turning of an empath who could no longer take the pain around him. If they survived he would send Jake out for training in the gifts of his mind.
He had flown out shiploads of scared, homeless children. The only survivors of that rout had been children. The adults had sacrificed themselves so that their children could live. They had walked calmly into the maw of the creatures destroying their world. They had made a bargain and they always kept their bargains. They would not fight if their children would be spared. It had worked for a while. But once all the adults were gone the creatures went on to the children. The older ones shielded the younger and fought with weapons no person of their world understood or had used in more years than Jake's people had existed. The oldest child left had sent out the distress call and brought in the Alliance forces. He could still remember the blank looks on the faces of the delicate children of the Valienteen race. Small ice pale faces, drained of all life, all hope. They didn't speak, didn't move as he strapped them into the seats. Children who held their younger siblings and would not let go. Not one of his passengers were over the age of six. Someone had hidden these little ones in a burned out building. He had found them during a scouting foray and led them out to safety just as the city had fallen. His was the last shipload of babies to leave their world. He could still feel the hatred that flowed through him at the sight of Dark Empire ships floating in the burning skies of Grand Valiente.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Derek sat and watched the play of memories in Jake's mind. The sense of despair that hung over those memories and the anger at his inability to help were strong. Derek understood. He had fought the minions of the Star Beast in the past. During his questing years he had traveled to the world Jake remembered. It saddened him that the beautiful crystalline people of that world were gone. They had had the most gentle of souls.
Yes, Jake knew of the Star Beast's creatures. But did he know what the Star Beast was? Derek gently nudged Jake's thoughts away from his memories and back onto the track he wanted him to follow. Jake turned his attention back out of his own mind and started talking again.
"The Space Rangers have been trying to find out just who or what is the Star Beast. Anyone we have gotten into his service has been sniffed out. Their remains are sometimes sent back to us with notes. And sometimes we just receive a note thanking us for sending them a tasty snack." Jake paused again with a sick look on his face. "There have been reports of small merchant ships who sometimes ply the trade lanes. Reports that the planets taken over by the Star Beast are no longer there."
"No longer there?"
Jake looked stricken. "They were gone, nothing. No rubble, no planet. Just a whole in space. Like the planet was . . . . . eaten."
Derek could hear the horror under Jake's words. With a quick probe he understood. Jake had gone back to Grand Valiente after the troops had pulled out only to find it gone. Nothing there. An entire green glowing world was gone as if it had never been formed. The solar system that had contained it was thrown into chaos. The old plotted courses no longer existed. As Jake came out of hyperspace he nearly bounced into a remnant of a moon. A system that once held ten planets and seventeen moons now was missing one world. The one missing was the world that had once held life. The only one in the system. The Star Beast had destroyed it utterly. If it hadn't been for the Space Rangers and their pilots, it would have entirely wiped out a race of lovely, peaceful people.
"So it's true. We weren't sure."
"We? We who?" Jake's attention was back on Derek entirely. He no longer saw the visions of horror behind his eyes.
Derek looked up. "Within the Gathering there are people who can 'See'. We have seen what will happen. We had hoped that the Beast wasn't doing what we saw. You have confirmed one of our worst fears." There was a sadness in his eyes for a moment, deeper than he had ever seen on a living pair of eyes.. It disappeared before Jake could be sure. "Time is shorter that we had thought."
"Derek, just who are you talking of? How did you know of the Star Beast? The Space Rangers are the only living beings that I know of who have information on it."
The elf sat with his eyes turned inward. Several moments passes before he started to speak. "Jake, there are beings involved in this war against the Star Beast that you have never met, with powers you have never dreamed of." He raised his gaze and Jake knew that he was going to learn something important.
"What I will tell you now may not make sense to you and I am only able to tell you part of what you wish to know. Until you and our lady in the next room past your tests I can not tell you all you wish to know."
Jake nodded. He understood giving partial information. He had many missions where the full import of it had not been disclosed until he had reached the objective. Or even after. This would be no different. The only confusing matter was that he didn't know just who Derek was working for. "Go on."
"The Gathering is just what the name implies. A Gathering of beings from the different races of Earth. We will all have a part to play in the war that is coming." He paused a moment and then continued. "The planet Earth once held more than the one race now believed to be living on the surface. There were Centaurs, Fairies, Merfolk, and others. We lived together mostly in peace. The humans outbred us and we found only one way to survive. We left." Jake nodded again. He had heard of disporias before. The more scientific and pressured races left the planet with the technology they had. But this was not what Derek was speaking of. Seeing Jake making the wrong leap of logic he continued. "Jake we didn't leave on spaceships. The mechanical sciences are at their height now on earth. We left another way." Now Jake was confused. How else could you leave a planetary atmosphere but with rockets or space ships? "We left by stepping sideways."
"Yes, starman. Sideways. You know of the overworld." Jake nodded once. "Well, there are many other planes of existence. During what the Humans call the mythic time my people and others found that the planet was surrounded by a myriad of other 'planes' that could be reached by the specially trained will." Since Jake was again making a connection Derek stopped him before he made the wrong one. "This was not done with the strength of the 'mind magic', it was made by the control of the fifth element, Magic."
Jake couldn't believe that the well spoken creature before him was speaking of a superstition. Magic was a delusion. Only the weak of mind believed in it. "Come on, Derek. You must mean by the control of psychic forces. Magic was proven not to exist over six thousand years ago." His voice dripped with contempt for those deluded enough to believe such utter nonsense. He laughed, thinking that Derek must be trying to lift his mood and to lead him astray in the typical elven way.
But he was wrong. Derek was more than what he seemed. Standing, towering over the young starman before him Derek pulled his Adept level powers about himself. The energy he controlled crackled and shown a brilliant white in the dim light of the room. "There is more to this world than you know, young Starfox. Powers that this world alone holds." He brought his left hand up and held it cupped before him. With a quiet word a door formed across from them. Derek reached out and pulled Jake to his feet. "Come with me." He said this with just enough command that Jake complied without comment. He didn't ask where. He could see through the crackling energies not the other side of the cozy living room they stood in, but a forest filled with life. Holding onto Jake's arm, Derek walked through.
After a moment of dizziness Jake blinked and looked around him. His eyes were dazzled, filled with brilliant light. As his vision cleared he could see large trees and plants everywhere. He could hear animals in the ground cover and birds chattering in the trees. The trees where of a size and type that were different from those he had seen just outside Sara's home. In fact he doubted that trees like these had been seen on Sara's world in eons. They were easily the three times as wide as Sara's house. This must be an illusion. It was a beautiful illusion. There was sight, sound and yes, after a deep breath, smell. He turned to compliment Derek on his abilities when his jaw dropped. Derek was no longer the same creature he had been laughing with back in Sara's living room. He now looked like what he was.
Derek stood next to Jake in all his elven glory. He was still the same height and build but he was entirely different. His hair which had been only just past his shoulders now flowed down to his waist and was a black the color of space shot through with stars. It moved in a breeze of its own for Jake could feel no wind. His eyes, which before had been the color of a storm tossed sea, blazed with emerald fire. His clothing had altered from the simple jeans and T-shirt he wore a moment before to silver chased mail covered in arcane symbols. At his side hung a sword, it's hilt containing a large ruby that glowed like fresh blood. Power could be heard humming around him. As Jake watched Derek brought his arms above his head and called out in a lovely flowing language. It was a greeting and Jake could hear the pleasure of homecoming in his friend's voice. Derek lowered his arms and turned to face the starman. "Now, we will try again, my young friend. You are no longer on the Earth but on the adjacent plane that my people moved to when we left. We are in Elvandor!." At Jake's skeptical look he laughed and swept his arm out. With a gesture he showed that he wanted Jake to try his perceptions here.
Jake walked over to the nearest tree and laid his hand upon it. Extending his senses he could feel the life running in the tree. The ancient power of the sap running in the bark. For just a moment he could hear the song of the ancient oak his hand rested on. He then knelt down and picked up a handful of the fallen leaves. They were crisp in his hand. He brought them up to his nose and sniffed. They smelled musty, like any fallen leaf would. No illusion he had been in before had the real feel of a world before. It was like and yet unlike the world they were supposed to be on. It felt older and deeper than Sara's home, yet it felt more shallow. After a moment he sat down and rested his back against the tree. Taking a deep breath he centered himself and used his prodigious mind gift to dispel the lovely illusion that Derek had woven. He opened his eyes and found that he was still here. He reached out his senses and found all seemed real. The world had no edge that he could detect, as if indeed they were on another world. Closing them again he send his mind out to contact his Telia. "Master!"
As easy as breathing his master appeared. "Yes, my son?"
"I'm trapped inside a very complex mind illusion. Help me!"
The gentle old man looked about and sighed. "Your wrong, my son. The world about you is not an illusion."
"The world you are sitting in is a different plane. Like the overworld, but much more solid. The elder peoples of Earth fled to this place......"
"You mean this is real? Other planes really exist?"
"Why didn't you tell me about them?"
"You weren't ready. And it wasn't part of what I was to teach you. The creature you are ignoring is to be your new teacher in the ways of other forces." Jake opened his eyes and stared at his master. After a moment he realized that he could see him standing just above the leaf strewn forest floor.
"Master? Are you really standing there?" Jake reached out his arm and touched the last being he truly respected. He felt the cloth of the robe on his master's arm. He pulled his fingers back like he had been burned.
"Yes, Jake, I'm really standing here."
Derek laughed. It was startling. The sound was so full of life. Jake and his master turned to face the elf. The tiny elder bowed to the elf, who returned the bow. "I see that we have given you amusement my lord. I hope that my student hasn't given you too much trouble?"
Derek smiled and proceeded to embarrass Jake with a list of his questions and reactions. Jake stood fuming for a few moments before he caught the twinkle in the eyes of the other two. "All right, I have been acting like an unfledged twidge. So tell me, what's going on, please."
"Jake, you are one of a small group of people who are destined to save this planet. You, Sara and a few others that you haven’t met yet. They are going through their own testings and will hopefully be ready in time.” Derek looked toward the small being he knew only as Jake’s Telia. “How much have you told him of the prophecy?"
"Not much really. I had only the part about him and the girl. Mother Tina kept the other parts to herself."
"Yes, she does that. She doesn’t do it to keep you in the dark but to protect those mentioned." Derek turned back to Jake. "You see, she is one of only four beings who know the full prophecy. And before you ask I can’t tell you it yet." Jake nodded. It was obvious that Derek knew the entire prophecy. "There is a danger to those who know too much. The prophecy has been kept a tightly held secret for many long years."
To be continued