The dark one burst through the leather drapes protecting those inside the cave from the icy cold weather. He took in the figure on the pallet and the group of elders standing round it; noting one in particular, younger and taller than the others. The elders moved back to let the dark one through but this one stood his ground and met the dark one's gaze with a cold challenge.
The dark one pushed past him and knelt beside P'gark. "What happened?"
"He died of old age, what do you expect?"P'chak growled.
The dark one sensed that P'chak's words were false. P'gark's body was still warm, and the dark one thrust his hands inside the dead man's furs. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the body beneath his hands, finding a mental path to the site where nerves had been crushed. The man he had known as a father had been murdered, his spinal column fractured. He searched again, this time through the millions of neural paths of the brain, seeking the last memories. Then he heard it, in his mind; a faint quavering voice. "Boy, your time here must end. I can protect you no more. Something hit me in the back of my neck and I felt nothing more; I could not move. They say I fell but I do not remember falling. It is time for the teaching of the ancients to be fulfilled. If you stay, P'chak will kill you as I suspect he did me. Go while you can. Follow your instincts; you will know where to go. Listen to your heart and watch the skies, my son."The voice faded to nothing and the dark one felt the body begin to cool.
With tears in his eyes, the dark one rose to his feet and faced P'chak. "Why did you kill him?"
P'chak took a threatening step forward. "You accuse me of murdering my own father, you decrepit little alien?"
"I accuse you because your father's body told me so. You broke his neck then you crushed the nerves."The elders stepped away from P'chak, fearful of what the dark one would do next, having seen his uncanny abilities before; abilities that made some of the older elders regard him as a kind of god. P'chak decided his fate himself.
With a roar he charged the dark one but, despite his diminutive size, the dark one stood rigid in his path. The moment he touched him, P'chak uttered a scream of pain. His body shook with violent tremors as blue sparks of light coursed up and down and about his body. Finally, his eyes rolled in his head and he dropped to the ground. The elders stumbled back in shock as the dark one gazed down at the still form of his brother. "You have killed him,"one of them gasped.
The dark one raised angry eyes to glare at the elders. "No, I kill no one, you know that. I have put him to sleep so that you can bind him without fear for your safety. He needs to be transported to the nearest city to answer for his crime, but first you must choose a new leader from among you. As is my right, I will keep the first night's vigil; then I must go from here."
"P'chak has forfeited his right by his crime; you are now P'gark's heir,"one of them replied. "You must take P'gark's place."
The dark one shook his head, and pushed back the hood of his cloak, revealing the long blue black hair that gave him the name, Kidat meaning Dark One. "No; I have things to do. I cannot stay here any longer. I know many of your tribe do not like me; they are naturally afraid of me and what I can do. I still don't fully understand how I can do the things I do. It is time for me to learn about my abilities but I don't want to put anyone in danger while I try to control them."The dark one pointed in the general direction of the cave entrance. "Out there, on my own, I will hurt no one while I learn about myself and why I am linked to the words of the ancients."
One of the younger elders, D'moff smiled and shook his head. "They are just stories; myths to keep our children occupied."
"Are they? In your writings they speak of a period of change, of danger, and global upheaval. The Rogoch are becoming restless; something is disturbing them, and you know how dangerous they can be when something threatens them."
"We know you can talk to them. What do they tell you?"
"Only that something is coming from somewhere in the heavens. P'gark told me to watch the skies."
D'moff laughed dismissively. "And what else would come from the skies except more snow?"
The dark one smiled. "You obviously don't remember the story of how I arrived here."
"The Rogoch brought you here. Everyone knows that."
"Ah, but where did they find me? In an escape pod in a crashed spaceship, which you conveniently forgot to tell the government about. Was it because people would think you crazy with your belief that your ancients' prophecies were coming true? Or was it because you didn't want the authorities poking their noses in your little community in case they thought you were sub-normal and took your kids away? Your kids moved out anyway of their own accord didn't they; back to the cities and a better life? Had you not been so stubborn and gone with them, you would have learned that space ships have been in use for many years."The dark one watched the elders shake their heads and mutter among themselves, knowing they did not believe him. He moved towards the entrance to the cave. "Come outside with me and I'll show you something."
Pulling his hood up he stepped outside into the darkened village, turned round with his back to the biting wind, and waited patiently as first one then another elder followed him out. Once they stood around him he pointed upward. "You see that? What do you think it is?"
"A shooting star,"someone said. "We may be old but we are far from senile; we all know what they are."
"Look again, and watch the trajectory of what you call a shooting star. There, that one with a blue vapour trail. A shooting star travels in either a perfect arc if it's near enough to be affected by a planet's gravity, or in a straight line if it's far out in space. That one is changing course and is headed towards us, probably making its way to a landing strip near Home City on the other side of this planet. I came from somewhere out there, and I've had a feeling for some time now that I'm going to be out there again someday soon. Don't ask me how I know these things."
"Youthful dreams,"another elder scoffed. "The only time you'll fly out there is the day you sprout wings."
The dark one shook his head. "Not dreams. Visions maybe; or something out there sending me signals. Why do you think I spend so much time outside, offering to hunt for you instead of relying on P'chak and the others for food?"
"Alright, so what if all you say is true,"D'moff argued, "we have problems closer to home which need to be addressed. Begin your vigil, Kidat; we will hold a council and deal with P'chak here where he can give his own testimony and be judged by his own people."
Kidat bowed his head. "Very well, but watch him closely; I do not trust him."He watched them take P'chak away, already coming to his senses. Kidat and had a feeling that P'chak would very soon persuade his few supporters among the elders to believe his fabricated story. He wondered how long of his vigil he had before P'chak's followers stirred up trouble. Kidat shook his head as he entered the cave. He was about to leave the village so why would they bother? He squatted down by the dying fire and reached out his hands, concentrating deeply till the fire sprang to life. He tossed a few more dried Rogoch dung pieces onto it and moved to sit cross-legged by P'gark's body. He cast his thoughts towards the only father he had known; trying to extract more information from the now cold body, but there was no response. P'gark was no more; just a corps ready for the funeral pyre. With a sigh he drew himself into the state of meditation required of someone watching over a loved one, and after a time as he found himself in a different cave; this one deep underground and full of the sounds of crying and shouting. And all around him he felt sadness and despair.
As he watched, a group of prisoners, mostly human and clad in rags, stumbled away from a crowd of hideous looking guards; humanoid but of obvious animal origin. One of the prisoners, a blonde haired boy no more than twelve years of age tried to help a man who walked with the aid of a roughly carved stick. A guard grabbed the boy and yanked him away with a jagged toothed grin. The guard lifted the struggling boy up in the air and groped him, and then ripped the rags from his body. The boy fought him, hitting him in the face with his fists and kicking him hard. The guard just laughed and said something to the guards behind him. They laughed, confirming what Kidat suspected was about to happen. Then another blonde boy a little older than the first, and obviously his brother, launched himself at the guard. The guard tossed the first boy to another guard and grabbed the second one. At this the rest of the prisoners joined the fight but were beaten back with whips and batons. With the prisoners cowed and whimpering, the guards turned and went back the way they came with the two boys struggling between them. An iron door closed behind them and through it the prisoners heard the boys begin to scream. The boys were not the first to be taken and they would not be the last. Their mother crumbled, sobbing, into her husband's arms.
Kidat jerked back from the vision, his face wet with perspiration from the horror he had witnessed, to find someone holding the leathers back from the cave entrance. The light of early morning shone down on the dead fire. D'moff appeared by Kidat's side, his face full of compassion. "I am sorry, Kidat, you must come with us."Outside the cave, Kidat found a full council assembled in a semi-circle, with the rest of the tribe behind them. Someone grabbed Kidat from behind and shoved him forward into the circle to where P'chak stood among the elders, the expression on his face indicating triumph rather than that of a condemned man. Kidat looked round at the assembly, and saw the many unfriendly faces of those who supported P'chak. Those who didn't lowered their eyes and would not look at him.
P'chak said in a loud voice, "I have been found innocent of the crime you accuse me of, as the only evidence you gave was an alleged conversation with a corpse. The punishment for falsely accusing the heir of the tribal chief of the crime of murder is banishment from this tribe. As of this moment, you are no longer welcome here and must leave now."
Kidat nodded. "Very well, I accept my fate. I was about to leave anyway. I will collect my belonging and go."
P'chak smiled his triumph. "Oh no, Kidat; you came to this village with nothing, you will leave with nothing."He gestured to several people in the crowd. They came forward and waited until P'chak roared, "Strip him!"But Kidat was ready for them.
The first one grabbed Kidat's cloak and Kidat flung him away with ease. Three more tried to capture him and they too landed on their backs at P'chak's feet. Kidat smiled coldly at the watching council, many knowing his ability to protect himself. "The next one who tries to take me will not fare so well as these. I no longer wish to remain here but I will leave this village of my own accord. Just remember you will no longer have my protection against outside elements, be they natural or predatory; nor will you have the Rogoch to provide you with meat to sustain you or furs and dung to keep you warm. You are now on your own."
No one stopped him from entering P'gark's cave again to collect his hunting weapons and the supplies he had already prepared for this event.. He paused for a moment, gazing down at P'gark. "I'm sorry it has to end this way, father, but you did warn me this would happen soon; we just didn't expect the threat to come from our own kin, did we? Goodbye son of Gpuchk; I will always keep your wise council in my heart."When he stepped outside he found that most of those against him had moved away, leaving just a few of the families who he had come to regard as his own; and P'chak, watched from some distance away. They stared at each other and once more Kidat's skin crawled at the glowering hatred in his eyes. They had never got on together, despite P'gark's efforts to treat them as equals; ever since P'chak had tried to molest him, Kidat had been wary of him, knowing his brother's sexual feelings towards him. Lately, avoiding him had become a daily battle, only his hunting trips giving him any sense of safety. Baka had sensed all was not right between them and never strayed far from the village in case Kidat needed him. In a way, Kidat was happy to be leaving the village and not have to be looking over his shoulder all the time.
One little fur clad boy ran to him in tears, flinging himself against Kidat. "Don't leave us, Kidat. Please stay."
Kidat knelt in the snow to gather the child to him. "I have to go, P'pit; things are going to happen soon that will amaze you. Then you will know the reason I have to leave."
P'pit gazed up at him with leading eyes. "Will I see you again?"
"I don't know, P'pit. Maybe someday; maybe never; you will just have to watch the skies as I have been doing."Kidat rose to his feet and gently pushed P'pit away. "Goodbye, little P'pit; I will always remember you as my special friend."
"But where will you go? It's dangerous out there in the snow."Tears fell down P'pit's face.
"Don't worry about me, P'pit. I have friends ou t there; they will keep me safe enough."Kidat leaned down to place a light kiss on P'pit's right cheek before turning to walk away. He had a long walk ahead of him through deep snow and wild terrain, with only a few Rogoch for company. He felt one of them nearby and wondered of Baka had stayed close to the village, watching the events in the village. None of the villagers liked the idea of him being a friend of the Rogoch; even P'gark had warned against it, but where else could he find friendship as deep as Baka's? The white Rogoch and he had a deep bond stemming from their being suckled by the same mother before she brought him to the village. He knew he would have to rely on that friendship now if he was to reach his goal, wherever that was.
He had only been trudging through the deep snow a short while when he realised that he was being followed. He stopped and looked backed along the rapidly fading trail but saw nothing; but the feeling remained. He also had a feeling that he was not alone; something ahead watched him. He smiled as he hitched his pack further up his back. Whoever followed would have a nasty shock if he tried anything. Suddenly his stalker pounced and the attack came so suddenly and without warning, he had no time to protect himself before something hit the back of his head. Dazed he fell forward and felt the hood of his cloak being yanked back. Strong hands gripped his neck and pressed in, delicate seeking nerves. A ll feeling left him. His assailant flipped him over onto his back, and he saw P'chak grinning down at him. "I said you were to leave as you came, and I am here to see my wishes fulfilled."
Kidat could do nothing, could not raise his arms or move his legs as his P'chak ripped his cloak away. In seconds the rest of his furs lay about him in pieces, his body rapidly cooling in the snow. As P'chak gazed down at his naked body, his expression changed from hate to lust. "For years you have taunted me with your alien beauty. Had you not been my father's favourite, I would have claimed you as my consort. But no, you had to take my father's heart from me. Now our father is dead and he can no longer protect you from me."Shocked and immobile, Kidat could only watch as P'chak delved inside his own furs to reveal a fully engorged penis."You see this? This mighty weapon of mine is going to rip you apart and make you mine, and there is nothing you can do about it."P'chak flipped him over onto his stomach and his last desperate hope, as he felt the first penetrating pain, was that Baka would hear his silent call. Then the roar of an angry Rogoch ripped through the air followed by a scream of terror as the weight of P'chak's body left him.
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