One

One

A Chapter by Natasha Reams

           Darkness surrounded me on all sides. Confused I twisted and turned without finding a sense of direction. Then a great wind blew past, forcing me to cover my face defensively. When the wind had passed I looked down on an infinite number of stars in a galaxy with one blue arm and one red arm swirling around each other. As I watched in awe a black cloud began to form in the center of the galaxy. It spread outward quickly, soon blotting out every star. The light faded until only darkness existed. Once the galaxy was consumed, the dark cloud continued on into the outer reaches of the universe.

           You cannot stop this, an evil voice echoed around me.

           Darkness consumed my vision and I woke with a start. The familiar sight of my home cave greeted me. Outside its mouth the sky of Yievis was still dark. Despite this I quickly stood and strode onto the ledge just outside my cave’s entrance. Nighttime on Yievis was always freezing and this night was no exception. It was lucky I was ‘born to the cold,’ as the elder Vis said.

           Feeling the cool wind I extended the large white wings on my back and breathed deeply. As calmness spread through my Core, I stepped forward off the ledge. Air rushed past my reptilian body and blocked out all noise but the beats of my hearts. I opened my golden slitted eyes to watch as the rocky ground steadily grew closer and closer. This was the part I loved every time I flew: the exhilaration of falling and knowing it did not mean me harm. If I were not in such a hurry I would have let out a joyous shout. Instead I focused on the muscles within my wings and told them it was time.

           They flapped once and I was soaring upwards with ease. A few more and I was well above the ledge I had come from. Cold air blew past my scaled hide and filled my lungs. Below me the rocky surface of my homeworld stretched on into the night. Though the sight of it was hardly new, I still marveled at its beauty. Grey and brown bleeding together through shades, marbling the hard surfaces. It was similar to the blend of colors that created the sunset at the end of each day.

           Remembering my urgent task I tilted to the left and flew south. By the time golden beams of sunlight appeared on the horizon I was within sight of my destination. It was known as the Gathering Place: a tall pillar of rock rising high above everything else for leagues. The top was flat from many generations of Vis Gatherings. Rarely was such a Gathering called, but in my hearts I knew it was necessary. My only hope was that the Elders would not be too upset at the early hour.

           I circled the top of the pillar while I prepared my voice for the Call. It was an ancient technique known to all Vis should a Gathering ever be needed. Five generations had passed since the last Call was heard. That had been a prelude to war among ourselves; a black stain on the history of our race. Not many Vis would be eager to hear it again.

           Once I was confident of my skill I landed at the center of the pillar and lifted my head upwards. Opening my mouth, I released the Call. At first it was gentle, no more than a breath in the wind. Quickly it rose to a pitch that would deafen any other lifeform. The Call carried itself like a wave across the southern region as it sought out every living Vis. I ended it slowly so that it would echo long enough to ensure everyone had heard. Not long after it died out did I hear it return from elsewhere; the voice experienced and solemn. An Elder was returning it, meaning a Gathering was to happen.

           Nervousness entered my stomach as I stood like a statue to wait. Many would be angry for the disturbance, especially from a youngling like me. At one hundred and nineteen standard years for this galaxy I was only a year away from adulthood. However, I could not ignore what I had seen and heard. I have had dreamvisions before so I knew how to recognize them. The black cloud in my dream had been a symbol of the future; not just for the Vis, but for the universe. A future full of death, I thought to myself with my jaw clenched.

           It was a fact very few other lifeforms knew of: the Vis had the power of prophecy in addition to their control of a natural element. Just as each Vis controlled a different element, so did each have different kinds of visions. Some might see wealth while others might see misfortune. My own visions showed death. Because of this I was often avoided by the others. Possibly because they feared hearing me tell them of their own deaths. More likely it was because I also possessed the power of ice. In the history of Yievis only one Vis had ever been born with such a combination of power, and he had led to much destruction throughout the galaxy. Our historian, Horki, often spoke of how that Vis was the reason we had turned to seclusion from the rest of the galaxy. Horki was known for embellishing our history with his own opinions though.

           My thoughts were interrupted by the first arrivals to the Gathering. Two Elders landed nearby and nodded in greeting. It was Horki and the newest Elder, Vharri. They were often in each other’s company, his deep green scales paling next to her vibrant violet scales. The two had a habit of whispering as they leered after their fellow Vis. Both seemed less than pleased to see that I had initiated the Call.

           “What is the meaning of this, Saiyani?” Vharri hissed in disgust.

           I lifted my chin but did not meet their eyes. “I will speak of it when all have gathered.”

           She approached me angrily, likely trying to intimidate me, her dark talons gleaming in the rising sun. “What right does a youngling have to sound the Call?”

           “All Vis have the right,” I responded quietly. “And I have good reason for it.”

           Horki pulled Vharri back before speaking harshly to me, “I hope so, Saiyani. It would be unfortunate to have to tell of your foolishness.”

           The two moved to edge of the pillar to commence their whispering. I remained where I was with my eyes closed in an attempt to calm my irritation. Vis prided themselves for their calmness in all things. However, there were some who struggled to maintain themselves. I had often overheard some of the Elders lamenting the current generation. According to them, very few of the younger Vis actually seemed to uphold the ancient traditions.

            By the time the sun had risen fully the Gathering had begun. All three hundred of the Vis in this region stood or sat upon the pillar with me at the center. The Elders stood in a circle around me, a protective ring against the irritation of my brethren. Many were grumbling and baring their sharp razor teeth at me. Then the oldest of the Elders raised her voice into the Call. Immediately the noise died and all attention was focused on Krota.

           The old female kept her grey eyes trained on me. “A Gathering has been called. There will be silence! Saiyani, youngling, why have you called us?”

           In my mind I had practiced the words, but now found it difficult to even breathe. With wide eyes I tried to focus on anything to help me regain my thoughts.

           As I struggled, Vharri’s voice rose from the circle of Elders, “Her silence is deafening. Speak, youngling, or have you called us here for your own vanity?”

           “Quiet yourself, Vharri,” Krota chastised her smoothly. “Give Saiyani a chance to collect herself. Two hearts to blaze and calm. She knows this, as do you.”

           Krota’s defense gave me confidence. I had always struggled to balance the teachings of our ancient ways and the new laws made after our civil war. One heart blazes with passion while the other calms the mind and body. Even so I was the most successful of my generation in putting such words to practice. Besides, my dreamvision told of destruction not just for us but for all.

           “I have had a dreamvision,” I raised my voice just enough for it to carry across the pillar. “You know that I see death and in the night I saw much of it.”

           Krota’s intense gaze was grim, “Tell us of it.”

           “A black cloud, an evil thing, rose up from the center of our galaxy. It spread like a disease and consumed everything. Stars were blotted out and planets made no more. And from the darkness a powerful voice spoke: ‘You cannot stop this.’ Then the dark cloud finished consuming this galaxy, and continued to spread to every corner of the universe.”

           Silence followed. It felt heavy: full of tension and animosity. Vharri glared at me from her place as if I were the dark cloud.

           Finally Krota spoke, “This is grave indeed, and very much worthy of a Gathering. What you speak of affects not only Yievis, but all the universe and its inhabitants. It is likely this is the only warning we will get.”

           Horki looked around dubiously, “Are we even sure this was a real vision? It could easily have been a nightmare from one with a wild imagination.”

           “Yes, you would know all about wild imaginations,” A voice called out from the crowd. Horki scowled but fell silent.

           Without further interruptions, Krota continued. “Such an important matter will require much deliberation among the Elders. We will begin at once, and a second Gathering shall be called once we have finished.”

           I gaped at her, “But if we do nothing no others will! Only the Vis have visions. None of the other species will have a warning of any kind!”

           One of the other Elders, Erag, spoke up. “We understand this, Saiyani. Our deliberation will be to decide who should travel to warn the others and prevent the destruction you foresaw.”

           Immediately several voices rose among the crowd, volunteering for the task. Krota silenced them swiftly. Without another word she turned and extended her dull brown wings. As she and the other Elders flew away to deliberate in private, I was left among the rest of the Vis. Many were still angry at my rude awakening so I promptly turned and flew back towards my home cave.

           It is not fair! I thought as I flew. I was one of the few younglings in my generation to wholly accept the ancient traditions, despite my struggles. My knowledge would allow me to act as a capable representative of the Vis to the other species. Besides it was my vision. In the Ancient Days, when the Vis actively roamed the galaxy, our wanderings were for the purpose of seeking out the meanings of our visions. It had been a rite of passage to venture away from Yievis once you had received your first vision as an adult. However, since the civil war, none had ventured off-world no matter the vision. The Elders deliberating such a thing now was a marvel in its own right.

           Still it stung to be passed over so easily. None of the Elders had seemed to care that I was the one who had the vision. Likely some adult Vis with no idea of where to go or how to start would be selected. I would be forced to relay every detail of my vision to them and then watch as they left without me.

           In my frustration I veered away from the path back home. Instead I flew to a small valley in the east that rarely saw visitors. It was a peaceful place where I often went to vent the passions that churned within me. Today of all days I needed that. As I approached, however, I saw a strange sight from the direction of the valley. A column of black rose toward the sky. For a moment I was afraid, as it resembled the black cloud from my vision. Then a strange smell filled  the air: dry and acrid. Curious, I landed at the top of a ridge that looked down into the valley.

           Below was a crater full of metal and machinery. It looked to be some sort of spaceship, but not one like those leftover from our past travels. This one was bulky and laden with weaponry where the ancient Vis had flown sleek, single-person crafts. The ship must belong to a different species, not that it mattered much now. It was obvious the ship had crashed as the black column proved to be smoke from the multiple fires surrounding the vessel.

           I was about to turn and go inform the Elders when the wind carried a voice up from the valley towards me. It was a plea for help; or at least I thought it was. The language was one I did not recognize. Hesitation made me look back at the wreckage. With my keen eyes I could see several burnt forms lying close to it. Since those were likely dead already the voice must have come from within the burning ship.

           Even more reason to get the Elders, I told myself. Then the voice came again, sounding desperate and pained. My hearts ached at the thought of a being dying in there alone and afraid. One more look at the ship made up my mind. I leaped off the ridge and glided down towards the ship. The closer I got the hotter it became. Unfortunately, being born with the power of ice made me vulnerable to heat. I would have to stop the flames before I risked entering the ship, and I would have to do it without freezing anyone inside.

           “Hello?” The voice came from near the front of the ship. “Is someone out there?”

           “Be calm,” I called back, trying to remember the few words of Standard speech the Elders had taught me. “I will... help.”

           “Stop the fires!” The voice coughed and wheezed. “Quickly!”

           I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This would be difficult, but at least I knew where the survivor was now. At the very least I could extinguish the fires furthest away from them. After some concentration I opened my eyes and focused on the flames towards the back of the ship. In a single breath freezing cold air flowed out of me to coat the metal in hard ice. Keeping that one breath going, I moved my head so that the air passed over the other fires. When I finally stopped, most of the ship was covered in a thin layer of ice with no signs of fire.

            “Safe now,” I called out to the survivor.

            There was a pause before an already cracked glass window was broken further. From the opening came what I could only assume was a Vech male. He was broad and muscular as most Vechs were, and like others parts of his body were machine instead of flesh. From what I could tell his right arm and the left half of his head were mechanical. This made one of his eyes glow with an artificial blue light while the other was a simple grey-blue. He wore a uniform of some sort decorated quite well with commendations; as well as a large automatic rifle across his back and two pistols on his belt.

           For a moment the Vech looked about him in confusion. When he spotted me he stared curiously. As our silence stretched on I found myself growing self-conscious. I had never met another species before. Supposedly they used to call Vis ‘Dragons;’ some sort of flying reptile out of myths without any origin. Suffice it to say we were both extremely alien to each other.

           Finally he spoke in a pleasantly deep voice, “I am Captain Jace Ceroe of the starship Dawnbreaker. On what planet have I landed?”

           I tilted my head to one side, unable to understand most of his words. He seemed to be asking a question but the only part I had known was him stating his name. So he was a captain of something? Was that a special title to give him authority? Perhaps he was like an Elder.

           With effort I recalled a few more words in Standard, “I... Saiyani. This Yievis. Home to Vis.”

           The Vech frowned, though only half of his face really moved. “Yievis? Well, we were steered off course more than I thought…. You seem to know some Standard speech. How?”

           Struggling to understand, I tried a few more words. “You... crash. You Vech. Need help?”

           This seemed to upset the man, “I am an officer in the Vech star navy! I hardly require the help of a primitive lifeform like you!”

           What did he say? I thought worriedly. He seemed to finally realize that though I spoke some Standard I understood even less. With an exasperated sigh the Vech turned to examine the wreckage of his ship.

           “She’s a mess alright. I’ll have to fix communications first to reach the Dawnbreaker. Hopefully the survival supplies didn’t get ruined….”

           He began moving around among the ruins. Occasionally he would stop at one of the burnt corpses and mutter something I did not understand. Then he would grab something from around each of their necks. I watched for a while as he scavenged through the wreckage and began pulling some equipment outside. They were a mess of wires and strange metal boxes. Curious, I approached one and examined the various buttons and numbers on its side.

           The Vech seemed intent on doing some form of repair using the boxes and wires. He also seemed to have little interest in me or this planet. It was strange to see an alien up close and have them not be as enthralled as I was. Perhaps this Vech was used to meeting aliens in strange situations. I stayed to watch until the sun rose to its peak and the rocky surface of Yievis grew incredibly hot. My sensitivity to the heat required me to find shade, but I so wanted to stay and observe the Vech’s work.

           He too looked up at the sun, “High noon. Bad time for work in a valley like this. You there! Is there a place for shade nearby?”

           “Shade?” I repeated awkwardly.

           “From the sun,” He covered his head with his hands to block out the sunlight. “Shelter.”

           I nodded eagerly, “Home not far. We fly.”

           At first he did not seem to understand. When I approached him while extending my wings, though, his normal eye grew wide.

           “Uh, I think I’ll stay with the ship, thanks.”

           Since I did not understand, I assumed he was ready to go. Grabbing each of his shoulders and using my taloned feet to cling gently to his calves, I focused on lifting us up into the air. For the first minute or so he struggled, and then we were too high off the ground for me to just let him go. He seemed to resign himself to flying so I took off out of the valley towards my home cave.

           The flight was short but it still gave me time to think about what I was doing. It had been added to our laws after the civil war that no other life form would be permitted on Yievis’ surface. If any were found they were to be given to the Elders and then sent away swiftly on one of the many spaceships left over from our wandering days. The idea was to have as little contact with the aliens as possible, which in this case was already impossible. Yet I could not quite grasp what it was that had compelled me to keep this Vech away from the Elders. There was hardly any bond between us, but I knew there must be something about him to pique my interest so.

           I touched down lightly on the ledge in front of my cave before releasing the man. He seemed a bit stunned, but quickly recovered and examined the entrance to my home.

           “This is where you live?” He asked curiously. “Odd. I’d heard you Vis were reptilian and reclusive, but I didn’t expect you to literally live under rocks.”

           Since I did not know what he had said I smiled and led the way inside. My cave was simple compared to others. There was no decoration in the way of appealing rock formations or etchings on the walls. Only sheets of ice climbed my walls and covered the ceiling; a simple way to keep the cave from becoming too hot. The raised rock on which I slept sat in the center, indented and shaped to my body from years of use. Other than that there was a hollow in the very back of the cave where I kept my store of the nutritious rock we Vis eat. Other aliens call it obsidian, but we referred to it as Yuein. Yuein is the only natural food source on Yievis and the best thing for a Vis to eat. It forms in great numbers so that we rarely have to worry about food shortages.

           “Home,” I announced to the Vech. “Safe. Cold.”

           He glanced at me, “Cold?”

           I nodded, “Cold. Have cold power. Must stay cold.”

           He nodded as if he understood. Then he began to wander around the cave examining it. I watched him as I grabbed a shard of Yuein and began eating it. Every once in awhile the Vech would look over at me curiously while I ate. I tried to offer him some, but he refused and showed me his teeth. They were so frail and dull! How did the Vechs eat anything with such teeth? Vis teeth were razor sharp and harder than even the Yuein. Another strange difference between us.

           Soon the Vech had seen all there was to see, and so we sat silently on the ground across from each other. It was an excellent time to talk of plans and explanations. If not for the language barrier we might have been well into a conversation by now. Unfortunately I could not take him to someone for translating since the only ones experienced enough in Standard speech were the Elders. This would have to be done between the two of us, which would slow progress tremendously.

           “Must speak,” I thought aloud. “Must learn speak.”

           He seemed somewhat surprised. “You want to learn Standard speech? Why?”

           “Must speak,” I repeated. “Teach.”

           “I have to get back to my ship. I don’t have time for this.”

           “Help me, help you.”

           He narrowed his eyes, “What do you mean?”

           I frowned. This wasn't going anywhere. The best way to get him to understand was to show him what I meant. But how was I supposed to show him teaching me his language? Or that after I had asked my questions I would take him to the Elders and they would help him off this world?

           We were interrupted suddenly by the sound of the Call. I jumped to my feet, recognizing Krota’s voice. The deliberation was done so quickly!

            Turning to the Vech I pointed at the ground and said, “Stay. Must go alone.”

            Without bothering to make sure he understood I ran out of the cave and straight off the ledge. Instead of enjoying the fall, though, I quickly spread my wings and made my way back to the Gathering. Already most of the Vis were there when I arrived. Krota and the other elders stood together at the center this time so I landed as close to them as possible.

           Krota lifted a hand to silence the murmuring crowd. “Our initial deliberation is over. We have concluded that this vision means death for this galaxy. It is in the interest of all living beings that one of us venture offworld to discover the cause of this threat and end it. The Elders will deliberate more to decide who of us shall go.”

           A voice lifted from the group, “But the one who had the vision is supposed to pursue it. It is tradition!”

           Other voices threw in their agreement. It was well known that the reason for our star wandering long ago was so that each Vis could pursue the meaning of their visions. Many would go out, whether for themselves or another, and in some way influence lives. There were some who never returned to Yievis though. None knew if that was their choosing or because they met an ill fate, but the fact remained that such journeys were not taken lightly. Even back then a Vis could not pursue any vision until they were considered an adult.

           I was not an adult yet, though I only had a year to go. Yet such a task could not wait. If I could not go then someone else must whether I liked it or not. And I did not like it one bit. As the best of my generation I had been nothing but loyal to the old traditions. All of those years of listening to the Elders tell the history of our people; of learning to fly, defend myself, and what is expected of a young Vis. In all that time I had proved myself more loyal and worthy than any other in my generation to pursue a vision. Now those very traditions would keep me from the privilege.

           “Saiyani will not go,” Krota decreed clearly. “She is young and has much more to learn. One with more experience with off worlders shall go.”

           I doubt any others have an off worlder in their home right now, I thought grudgingly to myself. Just because I was too young did not mean I was incapable of completing my task.

           Thoughts swirled around in my head, battling for dominion. As a Vis I must follow tradition. As Saiyani I must prevent the death of this galaxy and beyond. Why would I be given the vision if I were not meant to stop it? In the midst of my mental chaos I turned from the Elders and took to the air. It was disrespectful to leave a Gathering before it was dismissed, but at the moment I did not care. There was too much conflict within myself for me to bother dealing with the others. All they could do now was talk. Meanwhile the galaxy was in danger.

           I made it back to my cave just before dark. The Vech sat inside with a pointed rock making drawings in the rock dust on the ground. At my return he looked up. Whatever he saw must have interested him because he stopped his drawing and stared intently. Seeing him somehow made up my mind and silenced my battling thoughts.

           Sitting down across from him I spoke seriously. “Teach me.”

           He looked puzzled. “Teach? Teach you what?”

           “Speech,” I answered, only somewhat understanding the question. “Teach me speech. I help you home.”

           The alien considered this carefully. “You’ll get me back to my ship if I teach you Standard speech? That hardly seems fair.”

           “Teach me speech. I help you home,” I repeated determinedly.

           He stared at me for several minutes. Then, folding his arms over his chest the Vech nodded decisively. “Fine. Let’s begin.”





© 2017 Natasha Reams



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Added on September 20, 2016
Last Updated on May 13, 2017


Author

Natasha Reams
Natasha Reams

Anderson, AK



About
Hi, thanks for reading my stuff in advance. I LOVE with wolves, and supernatural romances are my favorite books. I have two dogs (one of which is named Samwise Gamgee so I'm pretty nerdy) and I used t.. more..

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