As it goes, hope it flows – noway ready.
“With these rocks getting closer to the planet, Rafus, that may be all it does buy us, but I don’t have a better plan and no-one wishes to speak for the prisoners.”
His planned speech was interrupted by a rangy seven foot shape moving forward, “My name is Tolan.”
It’s feet and lower half were difficult to describe but its legs appeared to be wood and the lower areas above the legs stretched about five feet to its rear, but its chest was a foot in width but two foot in length and whilst it possess arms, they appeared to move as they wished, however its voice possessed a clear timbre and those arms if swung would deliver more than woodworm.
“We don’t have your style of Government, Admiral. We decide together what will happen.”
“What have you decided?”
“The seas haven’t reached us yet. The causeway is too hot. You have food and we all need to live – we wait and we will never be friends but we may be able to suffer each other. Some of our winged friends may extract meat from your herd but at a minimum and they will repay that. The choice is yours, Admiral, not ours. We need you but you surely need us more than we need you.”
“Your summary is correct although I don’t know what food we have to offer you?”
“Human flesh will be fine Admiral,” Tolan looked at Admiral Matira’s face, “I was joking Admiral, I actually each forest insects, which are actually very tasty. I suggest we make camp as best we can – some of us will be monitoring the movement of the seas.”
If Admiral Matira’s neck had stretched even more he would have looked like a newly born ostrich as he tried to draw himself above his five foot four inches but instead he look like someone who spent too long in the starch laundry. By now the prisoners were laughing; Guards were raising weapons and Tolan raised his hand, “The countryside is trying to kill us. Do we need to kill each other before it arrives?”
“Once again, Tolan, your words make sense. Let’s wait. We can always kill each other if the sea and land doesn’t?”
“We’ve tried enough times, Admiral Matira. If the clock was turned back and we could defeat your weapons, you would be dead but we all live or die together on this planet now! The planet is already trying to kill us which makes a change from your troops.”
“We need to come to an arrangement, Tolan.”
“We already have an arrangement, Martan. You took us – prisoners; shipped to a dying planet; killed, and we don’t trust you as far as I can eat a tree insect in the winter!”
“What do you want me to do? We were soldiers obeying orders.”
“Well this is an order, Martan Matira. Release the bounds and the mind-bonds you have placed on the Minuets. You have bound two of their eight legs and their telepathic abilities. Free them, so they can fly, see and help us. Free the Rocs as well. You have bound them so they cannot fly and cannot talk to each. So many of them Martan Matira, you have killed.”
“We didn’t know their needs as prisoners. We are Dwarfs.”
“Who attack innocent planets, enslave their people and don’t understand anyone’s life including your own?”
“We can argue all day but we need to decide something.”
“Free them, and then we decide,” then was a long pause and finally Martan managed to pull a long chain over his head and handed it to Tolan.
“Touch the jewel in the centre to each. Slow but it is all I have. It will free all bonds and restrictions.”
“There are thousands of us; this will take forever.”
“Then the sooner you start the better.”
Tolan handed the chain to another Tron, “notify everyone and use it to free them.”
Turning to Martan Matira, he said, “You keep your part of the bargain and we will keep ours. As soon as they are freed, the Rocs and Minuets will take off and check the sea-levels, flooding, and the heat of the causeway. That will tell us which way and how soon we must move. Now my people must seek food,” and with that brief statement, Tolan’s wooden feet made an almost clip-clop noise as he trotted back to the prisoners waving the chain and jewel.
“Touch this to your chains and then learn to fly again. Your muscles will probably be weak, so move slowly,” and he watched as the chain was applied by Yogush, his son to those bound in chains. Slowly chains started to fall off but Yogush held tightly to the chain – there were rivalries between the prisoners and Tolan did not want the chain and jewel withheld because of infighting.
Martan watched as well as wonder how David Jamesson and James Droga were managing. He had two sets of prisoners to handle; one with him know and another set on the other side of the causeway unless they had headed north. David Jamesson’s were only about ten mile from him but could held north towards to sea or west towards James Droga. The main issue for him was he’d watched the Armada Class ships explode and the rocks in the sky were still there although it looked as if they were now leaving this area but what the effect of them leaving would be was another matter.
The prisoners to the west had now managed some fifteen miles, moving towards the north but already the were bordered to the east and by a stretch of sea some twenty square miles in area, leaving them with a narrow escape of some eight miles before the seas to the west began. They finally halted and once again it was the Trons who took control, and stopping the march the spoke by telepathy to those could still hear and weren’t blocked.
“There is some land to the east which has not flooded and also a causeway is being raised to further lands to the east. It might be a better decision to head that way. If the sea sweeps in any more we will drown. This way we might survive and escape the seas.”
“I don’t know; perhaps for non-forest dwellers we might find fish but there are some four legged animals and my people are herding them towards us as we speak. Perhaps some of our Wolfen friends could butcher for us.”
At that moment from the Wolfen friends, Masketh the Tron received a very irate telepathic message, “We are not butchers; we only kill at need and we all have our front two legs in shackles. We couldn’t jump and bring down an animal if we wanted to but we will share your food.”
Masketh replied as quietly as he could using his telepathic abilities, “Does anyone have any weapons. We need to kill these animals humanely.”
“Then keep them away from the Dwarf butchers. They’d kill anything and anyone.”
Masketh stood there quietly. It was not going to be easy. He was still stood there when a Rock Troll finally managed to reach him. Once again the Rock Troll was shackled to prevent him from moving at speed.
The Rock Trolls were some eight foot in height and when they spoke you could almost taste the dust, “We don’t eat meat, Masketh and there are enough fresh stones for us but we can kill your animals for you.”
“Thank you, Strogged. We need to feed as many as possible. Your; and your friends assistance is very welcome. I suggest, given the speed we can move at, that we move to the east to meet the herds and away from the seas.”
The prisoners to the north-east were still arguing amongst themselves. Some wanted to move south to David Jamesson’s castle – which was closer, whilst others chose to move west towards James Droga’s castle but food, once again was a problem and in the light of this they decided to move south to Jamesson’s castle some seven miles away. There were still twenty thousand but all still shackled and they slowly made their way south towards the castle.
The prisoners to the south had lost a third of their number when the seas rose around the lodge but the reality of the flooding was that Destraight was virtually cut in two with only a gap of land to the west of some five to ten miles still intact at the midway point and the rocks might have passed overhead but they were in the sky; still moving to the west and what happened after that was any creature’s guess – even the Admiral’s. Martan decided to slaughter some of the animals so at least he appeared to be keeping his word but it was a long night and the noise for the prisoner’s camp seemed to increase by the minute as they regained their abilities.
By the morning the Trons, who for some reason did not have their telepathic abilities interfered with by the manacles – possibly because they were wooden and it interfered with the signals to a nervous system that was unknown – had communicated with the other prisoners who were now heading for the causeway.
Admiral Matira’s key was already releasing their leaders and the Wolfen – who took over the killing; Rock Trolls were very humane in their killing but the impact of the fists left traces of stone in the animals they killed although the Wolfen tended to kill the animals and then eat them – a compromise was being looked for and another compromise was going to be needed as one of the rocks left the sky and hit an area near James Droga’s castle.
It didn’t take much for them to see the red fire spring up, or to those who could fly – to fly – the seas started to sweep in towards but the causeway started to rise even more and it was hot. The prisoners saw the impact, and manacled, they tried to run. It took some time until the waters swept in towards the heat of the causeway.
They had felt the impact and watched as the skies darkened with the land vibrating; heat erupting; the seas swirling, but it looked as though the rock had missed the land and hit the deep sea.
Not to say it didn’t change the world but there seemed to be some protection in West Toshonia where the land had risen and was preventing the seas sweeping in from the south and the west but the water sweeping in from the north were low – the rocks were saving the prisoners who couldn’t fly around Martina Matira.
To the west where every prisoner was manacled, there seemed little that would save the prisoners as the waters carried on moving towards them. They wouldn’t need to worry any more about food, or fresh water and they watched as the waters moved in but their horror became worse as a torrent 10 foot high swept over them and headed towards the causeway. They were swept to the east and few who would survive in these waters would be smashed into the rocks.
James Droga in his castle watched at the waters hit the wall and swirled around. The walls held and he felt he would be one of the strongest left but with little more than his guard he didn’t fill that strong. Still, he was alive.
David Jamesson’s castle also held, making his problems were less. The prisoners approaching his castle also lucky. They were enough from the sea to survive unlike the prisoners to the south-west as they moved away from the sea to the west, moved towards it to the south and north where it had swept in and the rocks affected the tides and land.
Martin Matira watched the waters hit the causeway which now steamed. He could see bodies washing up and knew few would survive. That left some twenty thousand prisoners to the North; about ten thousand near him and maybe a few hundreds to the west, if they were very lucky. Already the air was full of Rocs swooping above the causeway and returning with anyone they found still alive. Eventually they started to return with dead animals which they dropped by the remaining prisoners.
Out of the sixty thousand prisoners who’d landed, there were probably thirty thousand still alive but worrying for Martin was that they would be allied to David Jamesson against the ten thousand allied to him, still the pleasant thought was that James Droga had nothing but his guard and could be taken at their leisure.
David Jamesson’s thoughts, however, were certainly different as he watched the prisoners approaching his castle. They might be slow with their manacles but there were enough to surround his castle and starve him out, and already some were herding animals to the front of his castle and starting fires.
He finally decided to face them and ignored the noise as he left the castle without guards. Once again he faced a Tron.
“My name is Sallesh. I have been appointed to speak for my friends and enemies.”
“You are in need, Sallesh, and so are your friends and enemies?”
The timbre of Sallesh echoed as he spoke, “We are not in need, Admiral Jamesson. We have food; the waters haven’t moved. We haven’t lost people and you have the key to free us, and we know that. You Admirals planned to keep every prisoner bound until he accepted you as his Lord and was freed from his manacles. You and your brethren would use us as slaves and then we would be your bondsmen. You need us – we don’t need you.”
“I don’t have a key to free you. That was on the ship.”
“We know Admiral Matira had a key and he has released that to his prisoners. If he had a key then so you would and Admiral Droga. We will split our forces and send some to Admiral Droga but some of us still have telepathic abilities and we Trons can speak within a certain distance to others and we will do that. You find might honesty of more use to you, Admiral Jamesson. We will eventually be freed, with or without your key.”
David Jamesson stood there, saying nothing. What the hell was Martan Matira doing. Each prisoners was supposed to accept personal bondage before being released. That had been the plan. Each of them would then have twenty thousand bond-men to work the lands and be ruled. Now they were aggressive, communicating with each other and already knew or had guessed at the Admiral’s plans. All because of Martan Matira; still the Matira’s had always been weak.
Jamesson now turned on his heel and surveyed his castle – with only one floor completed, he needed workers.
He could probably managed a hundred armed guards but they wouldn’t stay armed for long without power to recharge the side-arms and against twenty thousand prisoners … no … it was probably better to give the key up. There wasn’t much left anyway after the floods and who knew how badly the north had been hit. Let them be free – there would be time to rule.
Reluctantly he pulled the chain and jewel over his head and passed it to Sallesh, who took it, released his own manacles and then moved amongst the prisoners, who like the others just stood there looking dazed; the Rocs especially, who not had a chance to use their wings in some sixty years.
Some forty light years away, orbiting Dwarvia, five ships were being loaded with a further group of manacled prisoners onto the Armada Class Prison ships. The Admirals were once again chosen for their political affiliations and connections to the top families. They were also chosen as the High Council felt they were causing more wars than Dwarvia could afford, and with twenty thousand prisoners per ship, they were rid of another hundred thousand prisoners from Dwarvia.
Marcel Droga captained the Lloap; Stefen Matira the Mastra; Peter Jamesson the Noctra; Percival de Bowed the Speca, and Argus du Storme the Mightnare.
The types of prisoner were standard. The Trons – 7 ft by ft telepathic wooden creatures, considered peaceful by the Dwarfs, who still invaded their planets. The Minuets – 6 ft telepaths but with eight spindly legs. The Rocs again were telepaths but only 4 ft high, which did not prevent from carrying men and animals off to a great height. The Wolfen were again telepaths but 3 ft high four legged bunches of often violent fur. The Slurms were the most dangerous in terms of ferocity – they preferred darkness but Snake-like and almost transparent – they were the most feared and were covered with what seemed like a bag but were treated with extreme care as an escaped Slurm would cause havoc on a ship the size of the Armada Class. The remainder were Humans, Dwarfs and Rock Trolls who no-one could miss, and very seldom did.
The Armada Class ships were finally loaded and moved off.
As prisoners started to be freed and fed several of Martan’s new colleagues finally took off and landed by the Lodge – now completely encircled by water and containing some four thousand of those who’d landed with them. Immediately one took off to find the release key.
Ten thousand of them had been caught by the floods and with limbs bound, those who couldn’t find debris to float on, sank. Four thousand of those nearest to the Lodge had survived but survival was all they could manage and when they learnt that the Admirals could have set them free there were instant cries of vengeance.
Tona the Roc, finally managed to transmit a message to those who could hear her, “Barely a few survived of the twenty thousand to the west. They were dumped and left whilst James Droga headed to the north-west. They didn’t even have the option of the key. The crooks are Jamesson and Matira … I think they wanted everything and even betrayed their own. With yourselves there are probably thirty four thousand of us left and we need to work together to stop these Admirals from controlling us and using us as slaves.
David Jamesson watched the prisoner’s faces as freedom finally happened. Houses had been created around all of the castles and most of them were now under or near water but the rocks, apart from the ones that landed had now left this area of the sky and the waters were receding.
All that was left for the prisoners was the support from the land and the animals roaming it that had survived but even rotted carcases were being eaten by the Wolfen and this helped to keep disease down. Reluctantly half of the prisoners moved towards David Jamesson’s castle while the other half started the long journey to James Droga – some seventy miles away. Some mistook another castle from James Droga’s and detoured ten miles to the south to find it unoccupied although the gates were open and one floor of it was furnished. At low tide they were able to enter through the gates but didn’t linger as the tide started to come back in. They did find some fresh water lakes, however, en-route and that allowed them and the animals they were driving to drink.
It took about a week before James Droga looking out from his Manor saw ten thousand prisoners approaching. Due to yet another computer glitch, the build of his castle was some five mile away on the coast to the north-west from his Manor whilst his barracks were built some ten miles to the north-east, leaving the Manor completely isolated and defenceless … something that hadn’t escaped his attention and nor did ten thousand prisoners suddenly appearing on his doorstep; still they did have livestock and with no defences he decided to meet them and their leader – Sallesh, who having dealt with David Jamesson was selected to deal with James Droga.
James, who’d already received reports that most of the country allocated to him had been virtually washed away was not at his happiest when Sallesh demanded his chain and jewel to free the prisoners, still manacled but faced with instant death if he didn’t he didn’t bother to argue … it seemed to be his only chance of survival. He knew he’d been set up; either by the Admirals or the politics of Dwarvia.
The political parties of Dwarvia were so devious that families rose and fell in esteem and his was one of the foremost in invasion and wars … a lot of Dwarfs disliked the power his family possessed and he felt this was their revenge against his family by the weaker families of Matira and Jamesson.
The key was instantly used and Sallesh looked at him for a long time before speaking, “The other Admirals tried to bargain. You haven’t?”
“What is the point? I’ve been betrayed as much as you have. What do I have left? You have livestock; I have very little. My castle is miles away, as it my barracks and I cannot face ten thousand people, even if I wanted to.”
“At least you call us people; your other Admirals call us prisoners.”
“I accept life … they think they control it.”
“Where are the towns and other villages that other castles have.”
“I originally landed where I thought I should be but the scout ship had been programmed to bring me here. There are castles to south-east and south-west. They are probably swamped with water by now but the waters are starting to recede, I hope, and once cleaned up should be habitable but I wonder whether this planet was ever truly mapped. How many more rocks will arrive in the sky?”
“I don’t know, Admiral Droga but it looks as though you are as much a victim of Dwarvia as we are. There is fresh water here and in return we will leave some beasts. You gave your key willingly and for that, at least, we will consider there is an offer and our acceptance and that is an agreement. Do not break it!”
“Go in peace, Sallesh, the agreement will not be broken by myself.”
Sallesh looked around and saw that already fires were being lit; animals killed, and he looked towards the nearby forest for his own meal. They would wait and then head to the other castles.
Chapter II – Betrayal
Left to their own a life of sorts started to evolve. The Slurms essentially disappeared; the Humans, Dwarfs and Trons lived above ground although the Trons preferred the forests as did the Minuets who lived in the trees. The Rocs, Wolfen and Rock Trolls headed for the rocks and mountains. With telepathic abilities they were in communication at times and this left everything fairly peaceful. The one odd thing was Rafus Matira – a distant relative of Martan Matira who joined the prisoners heading for the lodge and onwards to David Jamesson’s castle carrying his books of magic.
Unbeknown to them, however, five Armada Class ships with a hundred thousand prisoners and a bunch of war hungry Admirals was on the way and this time the Admirals ensured they wouldn’t be landing in Scout Ships with a few guards. Each Admiral’s entourage was a thousand strong and their Scout Ships were Gunships. They were looking forward to resistance.
Life finally settled down in a spirit of co-operation. The floods receded, the causeway remained and, if anything, seemed to be wider – it was now ten miles wide and fifty miles in length, escorted to the south by a mountain range now inhabited by Rock Trolls and Roc birds.
Some green areas rose from the sea and still stayed above sea-level; a stretch of water from Jamesson’s castle to virtually the coast with Matira also stayed firmly in place.
The Lodge was now accessible to the degree that it was inhabited by four thousand prisoners and a thriving town was building up around the Lodge as other prisoners flocked to it.
The ex-prisoners still called themselves the prisoners – it seemed a good name and especially when dealing with the Admirals.
Martan Matira had now moved to Toshon and was trying to build a castle in front of the rocks to the south bit for now, life seemed to have settled.
Thirty light years away, five Armada Class prisoner ships halted.
The crews were now waking up the Admirals and the news was not good.
The engines should last the forty light years to reach Destraight after they had virtually failed, leaving five Armada Class Prison ships with malfunctioning engines some ten light years from Dwarvia meaning if they turned around, it would take forty to a hundred years to return to nothing or one hundred and forty to four hundred years to reach Destraight.
An emergency meeting of Admirals assembled on the Noctra. Marcel Droga from the Lloap; Stefen Matira from the Mastra; Peter Jamesson from the Noctra; Percival de Bowed from the Speca, and Argus du Storme from the Mightnare.
“Who did it?” Shouted Marcel Droga, “and to all our ships—”
“Someone fixed these ships before we left – they put degraded parts into our systems and they will degrade more as we travel. In essence, we’re abandoned in space. Forty years to a hundred years to return to nothing; one hundred and forty years to four hundred years to reach our target system and rule.”
“Thank you, Peter, but we already knew that,” Stefen Matira looked around the table, “who set it up?”
“What does that matter, Stefen. It was done, and before we left!”
“It matters to me, Peter! Who would have the ability to sabotage our ships to break down after we are too far from help but reduced to a crawl to reach any target and what target are we reaching for?”
“Anyone of the peace party, Stefen. They don’t want us to make people respect force; they want control and to throw away all we achieved … this way we are out of the way for between forty and four hundred years and by that time we returned, if we chose to, they expect to rule with no-one to challenge them.”
“Damn Politicians. We have the ability to blast these traitors on Dwarvia—”
“What would be the point, Stefen? It would take forty to a hundred and twenty years to get there and how would we prove they’d destroyed us and we don’t have the men to attack Dwarvia.
“—We’re fighters not politicians. We might as well sleep and make our own world to Destraight – we’ll just sleep a little longer. It won’t take much to clear it out and we have enough prisoners to start planet life as we decide. At least this time, we have brought women with us to make sure this world breeds good, healthy, dwarfs who will produce good, healthy, children and we will build our own empire.”
“We just destroy everyone else?”
“Then we might as well sleep, Marcel.”
The Admirals returned to their own ships and sleep. The crews put the ships on automatic and settled themselves down. They would either arrive or not and no-one monitored anything as they slept on a journey set for an unknown planet with no arrival time.
On Destraight, Martan Matira slowly built his new castle in Toshon with the rocks to the south of his castle and a town to the north. His new castle was fairly elaborate although it could improve with a good manager but unlike the computer glitched builds from the first planet landing, it possessed more than one habitable floor and its castle walls seemed to go on for ever in every direction.
Martan’s castle now nestled with the rocks stretching from the south-west to the south-east for as far as the eye could but with the salt lake, there was only a single person path to Matira and the east side of what was now known as Toshonia. Two people could use the path but only if they were very close friends. One was rocks you could climb over, the other side a salt lake you could paddle. The only route left in reality was the other end of the salt lake by David Jamesson’s castle.
David Jamesson had called his territory Ascania whilst James Droga spent most of his time trying to hang onto his undefinable properties to the north-east and the only names he thought of are those usually paraphrased using the 2nd level of the keyboard.
Between the three Admirals and the prisoners there seemed to be a quorum. The reconciliation board, when it met, comprised the three Trons who represented the prisoners, and the three Admirals with six Minuets taking notes for both sides.
Tron leaders also acted as telepathic links between the Admirals which frightened them to a degree as the Trons didn’t edit the true thoughts of the Admirals before they past them on but it worked. Honesty, when all the subtle games you thought to play are made public and documented by the Minuets as everyone laughs and you don’t like to be laughed at.
Life moved on, and people – a generic term for People on Destraight – built their own kinds of life and worked to build their own dreams.
In space however there were five ships that might interfere with those thoughts! Or then again, might never arrive to interfere.
Revenge is often a dish that changes much but often festers; distorts, and is disjointed as it moves through emotion, vision and belief until it almost becomes religion in its festering state and those Armada Class prison ships were as silent as the grave but the desire for revenge was never stronger. They slowly moved on with the engines failing by the day and it looked as if four hundred years for the journey was optimistic but everything and everyone was shutdown to save energy. The shields were still at full force but it seemed only a matter of time before they began to fracture although with everyone in stasis and everything reduced to a minimum, the power might last out or they would never know if it didn’t!
On Destraight life was fairly simple. The town around the Lodge was booming. The planted some kind of wheat, trees and had herds of animals held in pens whilst the united to force wolf like animals from the land and they were helped by the Wolfen, who were three times the size and communicated with the Tron leaders who everyone accepted. The Trons also communicated with the Admirals via other Trons and ensured issues were discussed and solved.
After its initial failures the land was finally developing. Mines were being opened up and quartz, iron and minerals were being hewn.
Destraight, however, wasn’t that careful and a lot of mines and deep holes were being left as they dug holes and left them. There was ore running into water supplies and contaminating them, and some of the mines were dug too deeply and poorly supported with them collapsing leaving miners buried underground and a meeting in the main plaza was being held as I write.
It wasn’t only the Lodge that was two hundred foot high; various element to the west and south were two hundred foot high. The town itself was a semi-circle around the Lodge which was its centre but like all of the computer builds from the first landing – odd.
There were streets, a court, some other buildings that range from a hundred foot to thirty foot in height. It had evolved as its people evolved and like them, seemed a mess but it helped as they led real and not fictitious lives. Some of them were strange and no-one asked the wooden Trons about their young or the Minuets – they both essentially lived in the forests and were only seen at meetings – and being telepaths often didn’t need to be anywhere but both were fundamental to the working of Destraight and were tolerated and trusted, even though they didn’t mix but life moved on, on Destraight and it did this for nearly five hundred years until once, they its people saw five red objects appearing in the sky and headed to their bunkers.
After the loss of life when the first rocks appeared in the sky the people of Destraight had, almost as a religion, created and buried supplies of water and food. This was changed regularly and used as animal feed. The safety buildings were designed to be watertight and could take, in theory, the earth moving, with emergency tunnels and exits leading from them.
The aim was to allow enough people to survive. The Trons being wood, would float, and the Minuets and Rocs could fly but the Rocs and Rock Trolls had taken refuge in the high mountains and should be safe against anything.
The biggest danger was to the Wolfen. No matter how people adjusted, they had never adjusted to the Wolfen who were now virtually driven to extinction although people claimed to have seen them at times.
The Wolfen for their part, could also claim to have seen people at times but they kept to themselves and the old ways and they knew how to hide, often calling themselves ‘the Old Folk’. They tended to only speak to the Rocs, Trons and Minuets so it wasn’t that surprising that they seemed to decrease in numbers.
Life just slowly moved on as Destraight worked; there were problems but when everyone is told what the leaders are really thinking it embarrasses everyone and agreements were usually quickly made.