Chapter 15

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GUARDIANS

Shoahn’Fal struggled up the last rise between him and the valley where the Pyramid stood. Its blue aura of light rose just above the top of the rise, promising him his prize. Driven on by the seething hatred growing inside him and his unslakable thirst for revenge, he dragged the case through the sand as he pushed down on his walking stick to take another aching step towards the top. His mind was fully immersed in the forbidden as Dren’Vil consumed his very soul. He had already lost control of it all and seemed to be more a servant of its will rather than his own. But it seemed so right, that he gave into it now and swam freely in its currents. The forbidden told him to take another step even as his body screamed for rest, just a moment of respite from the searing pain cutting through his muscles. He dug the stick into the sand. He dragged the case along. He took another step.

Cresting the hill, he fell to his knees as he looked down into the valley and saw the Pyramid standing as he had left it so many years ago. It was as if time had not passed. The blue glow permeated its surface, telling him it was still alive. His eyes wandered to the base, where he saw the shallow alcove etched into its side leading to a sealed portal. Nobody had ever really known what was behind it. Until now, they hadn’t known how to open it, either. Until now, nobody had even thought of doing such a thing. It was forbidden. His parched throat croaked when he scoffed at the thought. The forbidden had become a gateway to a newfound power he never knew existed. Why he had believed it was something to be hidden and controlled he no longer understood. He now knew that the forbidden made his the true heart of a Shoahn’. This is who he was. This is who his people had been long ago. A twinge of sadness ran through him when he realized this is all they would ever be and that it was too late to save the rest. For that, the humans were going to pay – all of them.

His eyes scanned the ground around the Pyramid and his heart sank when he saw them. Eleven of the human walking war machines stood neatly in three groups next to the pyramid. Humans were scattered around them, working under the lights they had erected on thin poles to look down on the machines. Another group with weapons slung over their shoulders walked past the portal he had come to open and then turned to walk along the side of the Pyramid.

He was suddenly aware of how tired he was. The pain that had consumed him now became a dull numbness that made him feel so heavy he didn’t know if he could stand back up. He let go of the case and reached into the ragged sack slung over his shoulder. He pulled out the last morsel of clay root that he had brought with him and gnawed its tough hide to release the scant juice inside and let it trickle down his throat. A part of his old self flickered inside him, thankful that the Shoahn’ could extract far more strength from a bit of clay root than the human invaders. What they needed to live for a day would carry him for seven. Next, he pulled out the plastic bottle of water that he had stolen from the Terran Guard compound before entering the Fallen. This, too, would last him far longer than it would have for any human. The bottle was nearly empty, but he only drank half, saving the rest for the next day.

He turned away from the Pyramid and sat quietly in the sand, letting the nourishment revive him until he felt strong enough to stand up. As his strength returned, the glimmer of his old self faded and the Dren’Vil returned, stoking his vow to kill every last human left on his world. But it told him something else, as well.

He needed them to help him do it.

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©2016 Michael J Lawrence