News: I’m really sorry, but I’m running behind on ATM since tomorrow I need to help my grandparents with their company, moving boxes (they’re 80 years old). They’re moving things into storage, but I should have enough time to write it tomorrow. Just in case, I decided to write UE first today if I can’t get to it tomorrow.
PoV: Chief Kalix (Valdar’s great-grandson, young leader over the Delthax Clan)
Recap: We followed the Xaria of the Flex Clan, Iona, as she calmed down with her long-time crush Welix, the Xaria of the Delthax Clan. After some scathing remarks from her Chief/friend, they guided Elinor and her party to the Wixum Clan.
Before the entire clan, Elinor gave them two options, serve or die. Now, we finally come to the last clan, and one with arguably the worst relationship with our Empress, Valdar’s Clan, the Delthax that caused so many human casualties and permanent damage to women, teens, and children alike.
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Chief Kalix’s hardened purple eyes scanned the warriors, fortifying the village for an attack. Valdar’s group failing to meet their appointed return didn’t alarm him. However, his cousin’s premonition did.
Last night, Nina had awoken with cold sweats as The Jungle communicated to her the tragic event of their hero’s passing onto his final journey through the Great River in the Heavens. Valdar, the Hero of the Fire Wars, Grand Mystic of the Delthax, three times Former Chief, having been forced to come out of retirement to retake the position each time a Chief had lost their life, had finally died.
The Young Chief could hardly believe his cousin’s tearful cries, entering his tent in almost a manic state. Their great grandfather was more than just a legendary figure in the valley, but a pillar within the Delthax community, and with his loss, triggered a number of events that would plunge the valley into war.
Nina was eight years old, and the only Ri’bot in their Clan to have been born with the gift of Mysticism since their grandfather, slain during the tail-end of the Fire Wars by the forces of the Black King. Valdar had been carrying their Tribe on his back, keeping alliances and taking an active role in the direction of the Delthax every time a Chief fell, and now he was gone.
The vision The Jungle gave Nina had told Kalix several things.
First, they were left in Nina’s inexperienced hands as a young Mystic; Valdar was still guiding her through tapping into her unique skills, and now, she would have to take over their great grandfather’s place. Something she feared.
Second, Nina was told Valdar died a violent death, which meant there was a high probability of an attack.
Third, with his passing, they shouldn’t expect support from the other Clans.
Fourth, the storm that had shaken the very mountains the night before was an ill omen foretelling the anger of the Heavens, and it must have been linked to the Gateway their ancestors required them to combat.
It had been the perfect sign, Valdar promised; the uncommon event that brought great mysterious riches from foreign lands had sparked to life right as they were leaving for the meeting spot, not half a mile from the target location. Kalix had no doubt the Gateway had something to do with the sudden wrath of the ancestors. Prompting him to believe his great grandfather had failed in conquering the lands beyond.
Fifth, with the damage the storm caused, they couldn’t prepare for battle as swiftly as he’d wanted, yet knew the other Tribes would be in a similar boat.
Sixth, an alien force might be on the move through the jungle, and Nina wasn’t quite skilled enough to give him advice as a Mystic, meaning he would rely upon his three Xaria, Kole, Meji, and Ectria.
And finally, for the first time in decades, they might not support the Welix, and it was mostly their fault.
Kalix was young for a Chief, having taken the position at the age of twenty-two and led his people with Valdar’s support for two years now. They’d long enjoyed a growing and prosperous relationship with the Wixum, but things had begun to turn to the worst over the last five years, starting with their Former Chief’s favoritism toward Yimara.
Yimara was a likable girl, and with a surplus of Female Ri’bot in the Wixum Clan, there were more than a few joint marriages between Tribes, which only proved to strengthen their bond overall the last century.
However, their Former Chief, Vivine, had contracted a rare degenerative muscular disease. It had been decided between Valdar, Chief at the time, and Vivine, that they’d keep the information as concealed as possible not to alert the Flex or Lethix Clans of the trials the Wixum leader was undergoing, in hopes they’d find a cure.
However, four years passed, and no Healer in the Wixum or Delthax could cure Vivine. Over that time, she’d deteriorate into a shadow of her previous stature. The process was so fast that the people could hardly catch their breaths, and the most difficult thing to watch from outside the Clan was the rising support Yimara was gaining while acting as Vivine’s spokesperson.
When the Elders of the Clan finally came together during the night before Vivine’s Send-off Ceremony, which should have happened weeks before, they left the closed meeting with a shocking revelation. Yimara, fourteen years old, would be made Chief over the entire Wixum Clan.
At first, both Kalix, acting Chief, and Valdar thought it must have been some mistake. Yimara had never been taught military tactics; she couldn’t point out strategic defense points along their borders or so much as possible areas to stage ambushes within her own territory, much less lead a conflict.
Worse, she practically let the Wixum’s senior warriors, far less experienced than even the young Delthax Warriors, run the safety of the Clan without so much as questioning their horrible defensive layouts.
No, Yimara had chosen to essentially ignore the safety of their borders entirely to focus on building their Craftsmen over the past year, and the results had been more than a little aggravating for Kalix, but she refused to see the hardships her decisions were placing on the Delthax.
There was still a considerable distance between their villages; gathering, organizing, and executing supportive weekly units had been a nightmare with mixed messages between several of Wixum’s top warriors, which rarely measured to Delthax’s New Bloods, seeing roughly similar combat experience.
No, their relationship was beginning to take a horrible turn, but it wasn’t the Wixum getting upset about the changes, it was Kalix and his Warriors because Chief Yimara had figured that the Wixum shouldn’t have to devote so much effort into military power any longer because they had the Delthax to handle all their threats, including wildlife.
Thus, the burden upon his own people had been ever increasing. His warriors were spending entire weeks over their normally scheduled route at times because of the ever-increasing gaps in the Wixum defensive force that put their own land in harm’s way.
Over the past twenty years, they’d devolved from a militaristic force to border security, and recently, even that definition was pushing it. They’d all but abandoned the outer edges of their long-held territory lines, now only good for inner border security; Ancestors’ forbid they ever actually have a scuffle along the Flex or Lethix markers.
Kalix was stuck planning for a future that his great grandfather feared most; their rival clans hadn’t yet realized just how weak the Wixum had become in their combative strength over the past five years, Yimara influencing major decisions of the Clan as early as when she was ten-years-old.
A small minority could see the problem, which murmured amongst themselves, but no person had the tongue to speak out against the content majority, and everything Valdar or he spoke about was met with a polite smile but ultimately ignored since it was Wixum business, not Delthax.
Year after year, Kalix winced with every military cut the Wixum made, throwing more weight upon his warriors’ backs. Yimara continued to promote agriculture, the study of nature, and the exploration of strange utility devices while simultaneously discouraging young Ri’bot from joining their Security Core, and the only reason she’d refrained from outright disbanding their warrior circles was Kalix’s threat to pull his forces out of their territory entirely.
With the lack of Warrior oversight and weak leadership from the Chief, the Senior Warriors began seeing themselves acting with Chief authority to the Delthax Warriors, making critical decisions with their own warriors that counterbalanced any tactical decision Kalix or his Xaria made, leaving gaps in their own security.
Yimara had also enacted these new programs that were utterly ridiculous to a Clan facing the constant threat of physical conflict, calling for their already stretched Security Core to have the option to claim sickness as an excuse to leave their stations at any given time, and several had abused the action dozens of times.
Worse, they’d been forced to compensate for the eroding militaristic support from the Wixum, their selection process for Warriors had to be lowered, allowing more troops to fill their ranks, which brought certain behaviors that generally he’d take the time to train out of their soldiers.
The entire process was becoming hard to stomach. Yimara had a good heart, but that didn’t mean she made a good Chief; he could have seen her being appointed as a Senior among their Agricultural Division, but she didn’t have the strength, forethought, or steel to be a successful Chief.
Two weeks before, he’d had one of the most frightening conversations in his short life with his great grandfather. Valdar brought up several points that shook his image of the coming year.
The Wixum’s defense had been falling apart, their core weakened, and Flex, Lethix, and the Clanless were only becoming bolder.
Lethix had wholeheartedly embraced the Smithing craft, giving them far superior weapons and tools for gathering, which allowed all their people to be armed, sharing spears and knives with their brother clan. On the other hand, the Delthax obtained all their weapons of war from the Clanless fights with minor gains from skirmishes among the Flex and Lethix.
The two enemy clans had built up enough strength to reasonably contest the region, pushing with a lusting fervor to match the deceptive militaristic power they’d managed to portray from brandishing the image of their power decades past. Yet, they were no longer fearful of it, but high with morale as they sweat and labor to contend with their blood feud.
When they attacked, it would be a slaughter for all Clans, especially the weak Wixum, but Valdar, with all his experience, said that barring a miracle, the Delthax would be destroyed.
Valdar’s next prediction gave Kalix hope before sending a chill down his spine. It would be unlikely the Flex and Lethix would wage outright war from the start without first attempting to negotiate with their built show of force as their lead-in.
When they came to this season’s meeting among the surrounding Tribes, they’d threaten war if they didn’t receive a piece of the lake, among other things. His fear was with how Yimara governed; she’d agree without hesitation, or at the very least show how far the Wixum’s repellent forces had decayed.
Once their weakness was in the open, not only the Flex and Lethix would consider just taking the entire left section of the lower valley to themselves, but the Clanless would discover the truth, and they both knew their Clan couldn’t fight a war on three fronts in a territory not their own.
So, his great grandfather proposed a daring plan that would only work in the few years he had left to live; if he was going to execute it, it had to be now, and bring their centuries-old conflict to a close.
He was already well into his nineties, which many attributed to his Plant Caller lifestyle, but he denied the connection, pointing to the old Xaria Krava, one of the few Heroes remaining in the valley that took part in the Fire Wars. They had to strike a bargain with the Komath, Roxim, and, if possible, even the Clavex to take care of the Flex and Lethix once and for all.
None of the clans in the valley had that close of a relationship with the Clavex, seeing their departure from Ri’bot territory as a disgrace to their race. The cowards were licking the scaly hide of the Nalveans, and though they had respect for the creatures’ strength, that did not extend to the Ri’bot who had abandoned much of their honor.
However, the deal would be straight forward enough, a small section of land for an acceptable force provided, and perhaps they could even bring some of the tools they’d obtained from the Nalveans they served; the Delthax were extending a gracious hand to the fallen Clan.
The Roxim, on the other hand, was far more proud than any other Clan in the valley, which put them at odds with most of its residents, but they had the power to back it up and were continually refining their soldiers with their unique language and tactics.
There had been some recent questions about the veteran Chief suddenly allowing Clanless to join their ranks. It sounded utterly ridiculous had not a few reports been confirmed by reputable sources, but only Clanless that came from a notable lineage. Still, there had been murmurs about the dreaded warmongers going somewhat soft in their ideology.
The Komath Clan had a rough history with many of the elder Ri’bot among the Delthax, but many of those old grudges were for stupid reasons during the war’s tail end, which passed down a generation or two. There were small clusters of families drawn into feuds with Komath families, but it had been much more clustered than universal, like the Flex and Lethix. Now, all that planning and negotiation was meaningless, and a new dark cloud hung over their heads.
Kalix’s pink tongue slid across his lips, lingering against his teeth as he looked out across the valley, sitting at the edge of the cliff; the colossal fortress walls of the White God’s fortress was easily seen atop the northern shelf, thirty-five miles away, spanning over three-hundred square miles.
The towering centerpiece that reached nearly as high as the mountain itself was an ominous sight, even after the many years he’d spent looking at it. He recalled long days, sitting with Valdar as he’d explain the historical conflict that had shaken every known nation. There had been many lessons taught at this spot; the impossible structure stood as a constant reminder to his Clan that even powers as great as the Quen’Talrat can fall.
The loss of his great grandfather was somehow hitting harder than when his own father had passed on, but he knew the elder was being welcomed into his final rest to receive his just reward.
Repressing his tears, he turned his attention to their land. His Clan had long since made the shelf along the west side of the valley their home, building their main village in the nearby jungle for defensive purposes. It was a long climb up the valley to reach the upper layers, and only three possible routes a group could take unless you climbed the steep rocky wall.
There was only one place the Flex could attack from within their own territory, and the Wixum buffered the Lethix. Even if both armies used the path open to the Flex, there was a wide clearing between the jungle in that area with a river separating them; it was a problematic strategic point to advance uphill.
The second point of entry was near the center-left of the Wixum’s border, third being at its northern territory. They had enjoyed a long period of relative safety with Wixum’s aiding force, but times had changed.
Kalix wasn’t quite a Xaria, but he’d trained to the point were given a few more years, he could qualify; most Chiefs sought the title to prove to those that fought under them that they understand the sacrifices they’ve made as a Warrior of the Clan, and every leader needed to grasp the basics of military strategy.
His hands tightened behind his back as Ectria broke away from the throng preparing their defenses; she wasn’t the most attractive woman among the Clan with her spotty splashes of brown markings, showing somewhere in her genetics, her ancestors had consorted with the Flex, Lethix, or Gorlan Clan to the west of the mountain range.
While many of the males respected her talents and she was still the eligible age of twenty-seven, sadly, they didn’t see her as a potential partner on account of her skin discoloration, but he understood that point of view, too.
What she lacked in physical appeal, she made up with in speed; Ectria was the fastest Ri’bot in the Dalthax, but she usually reserved her energy for those burst moments.
“Chief,” she shouted, voice holding a slight lisp. “Some of the Warriors have returned! They’re on their way to report to you directly.”
“Good. Stay, I might need you to deliver a message to Kole and Meji.”
“Okay,” she swiftly replied, focusing on the valley far below. “Hmm, the rivers have increased a ton from last night. Oh, the new waterfalls are pretty!”
Kalix hummed, lips tightening as his purple eyes centered on the brightening valley. It was moving further into the morning, and any minor damages had long since been handled.
The wind and Ancestors’ Wrath had caused most of the harm, but they’d created drainage systems long ago for excess water coming down from summer runoffs, guiding them to shoot off the shelf’s edge to the lake below.
Valdar had an artificial lake constructed many decades ago that served as a reserve for their needs, but many of the ideas he had, based on the Quen’Talrat methods, were seen with high disapproval from the older generation during his time, and even two generations after him had moderate resistance.
Recently many of his visions for their people were beginning to take shape with most the adverse parties passing on. Now, he’d have to watch his works finished from the Great Jungle in the Heavens.
“It is … have you seen Plant Caller Nina?”
“Mmh,” Ectria scratched the back of her neck, vest holding her two sharp knives shifting with her movement, “Last I saw her, she was off with one of her attendants … Yupali, I think? I always had a hard time remembering the quiet ones.”
“I see.” So, she’s trying to commune with the jungle—again? Hopefully, she’ll learn something of interest. “How soon do you think a relief party could be sent to the…”
He trailed off once seeing the warriors returning; they must have run through the night, taking a beating from the Ancestors’ Wrath, but even that shouldn’t account for their haggard appearance with the distance traveled, and he noticed more than a few missing. Notably, the Torlim were nowhere in sight.
Several of their family and friends detached from the fortifications, rushing over to dump water over their muddy, bruised, and cut skin while bombarding them with concerned questions. They gladly took a moment to drink and ease their dry or damaged skin with cool water, but quickly circled Kalix as he moved to meet them, waiting for their report.
Jolah was the one to hop forward, her chest rising and falling with heavy breathes. “C-Chief,” she blinked while swallowed, “enemies are—are coming. They can’t be cut!”
“Woah, woah, girl, slow down!” Ectria cut in. “Take a moment to collect yourself, at least.”
Kalix calmly listened to the reports as several of the warriors cut each other off at different points, painting a picture of this terrifying creature with skin like steel and fur that could cleave a Ri’bot in half with a single stroke or pummel them into paste while still in the air.
The thing that caught his attention was that this seemingly invincible creature appeared remarkably similar to the things they’d brought back through the Gateway, causing his eyes to narrow as they continued explaining the full scope of events leading to Elder Chief Valdar’s death, and Senior Warrior Folcra’s surrender.
They conquered the Gateway, bringing back hordes of curious artifacts and treasure, but then one of these creatures resurrects a Quen’Talrat, and several dozen dead bodies to fight for her? This Elinor has powers to return those that passed on, and we’ve made an enemy of her?
That last insight granted to Valdar … he was having a vision of Elinor being attacked by the Unseen Eye, and she fought it off. More than one Mystic has been left utterly crushed by such an encounter, spirit swallowed up by the entity, yet she won, and the horrifying powers he witnessed with the added complication of this other creature…
“Are they going to come straight for us, attack us at any moment?”
Jolah hesitantly shook her head. “Not that I know of; I believe she was only sent to safely return the creatures we brought through the Gateway.” She nervously licked her lips, clearly holding something back.
“Speak your mind.”
“I—umm,” she glanced at her other warriors. “We just think—we tried taking different routes to confuse her if she did follow, but—but with everything we saw … it just doesn’t seem like the Ancestors—are we still in favor?”
Low murmurs swept the gathering crowd, and the returned warriors started whispering about different things they’d seen or heard.
“One of the Roxim Warriors said Elinor bled fire that healed her … body turning into smoke before restoring.”
“I heard she feels no pain.”
“She can’t die.”
“The one that can’t be cut, she wasn’t brought back…”
“Yeah, yeah, she just appeared from nowhere!”
“Did Elinor create her?”
“Elinor told Elder Chief Valdar that she was a ruler!”
“Are we being punished?”
“Enough!” Kalix shouted, hushing the crowd, but even Ectria looked at him with concern. “Give me a moment to think … everyone return to your duties, but Jolah and Xaria Ectria with me—and call Xarias Kole and Meji to me!”
The crowd swiftly retreated, breaking into groups as more rumors and stories continued to cycle, making his nose twist.
Morale is plummeting. This is worse than I could have imagined, a creature that walks into jabbing spears without a hint of fear? It sounds like a tall-tale. Even the Quen’Talrat would bleed, but my warriors are telling me these things are made of smoke? They can crush Ri’bot while flinging its hair about, and it wasn’t brought back through the Gate, but materialized from nowhere?
A quake shot down his spine, catching Ectria’s eye, but she gave no comment.
This thing sounded like a female … including this Elinor, but is that really the case, and if so, could they reproduce? No, that’s something for further investigation. This … Juggernaut was there to recover those taken … Juggernaut, an unstoppable force that is coming for us. It’s insane!
Is this Elinor a guardian spirit of these creatures? She turns to smoke and is reborn through the fire, unable to be killed, and more than likely can create powerful spirits similar to this Juggernaut in like manner while also having control over the deceased. That means … either the Supreme Chiefs are on her side, or…
His eyes were centered on the ground, Ectria and Jolah’s arms folded as they waited for their Chief to speak. Tongue sliding across his teeth, Kalix cursed, “By the Ancestors’ graves,” causing the two to flinch. “This is bigger than any war … more dangerous than the Quen’Talrat.”
“What should we do, then?” Ectria mumbled. “It took the combined effort of eight races with the interference from the Thélméthra devils to fracture the Quen’Talrat alliance before slowly whittling away the rest of their stupid flaming kind. If this is even more dangerous…”
Kalix’s nose twitched before he spat on the ground. “I know our history, Ectria. There’s only one thing we can do; prepare, and gather information. We cannot afford to send dozens upon dozens of our Warriors to a more than probable slaughter to attempt to save the Wixum that will more than likely just bow the moment they show up because of that girl.” He snapped, meaning the disrespect.
A shiver ran down Jolah’s body, arms tightening around her chest. “I have family there, Chief … many of us have relatives…”
“You don’t think I know that?” Kalix snapped.
“Y-yes, Chief,” she mumbled, eyes lowering.
“Ancestors’ strike,” he growled. “We cannot win if what you’re telling me is true. What are we even trying to fight? We’d need to lure that monster to a cliff and throw it off or try drowning it … crush it with a massive boulder, and we don’t have the time to make that kind of trap.”
He turned to the Xaria by his side. “Ectria, go warn the Wixum that they’re on their own, and there’s a potential threat coming that we cannot help with; it’s more mysterious and powerful than even the Quen’Talrat … in fact, the dead follow it. We’re preparing ourselves, and they should do the same. Linger around … these creatures are bound to show up, and report back to me when you’ve gathered sufficient data.”
“Yes, Chief!” Ectria hopped to the cliff’s edge and stepped off. Following her training as a Xaria within the Delthax Clan, she used her natural ability to stick to surfaces with expert control of her body to descend the wall, saving time.
His eyes met his two other Xaria as they arrived. “Kole, Meji, we have a lot of planning ahead of us.”
“I heard some … disturbing things on my way over,” Meji mumbled.
“We need to figure out how to kill something that a spear and ax can’t hurt.”
Kole’s brow furrowed. “Uh, what?”
“Yeah, come again?” Meji shifted to a more comfortable position. “You’re saying our weapons won’t work against the enemy that’s coming?”
Kole sucked in a sharp breath before exhaling. “Ancestors save us…”
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