Galactic Year: 3008
It would seem that as the Terrans finally ventured from Planet Earth out into other solar systems beyond their own Region 806, they came into contact with the RAWR star system containing the planet now called Er-Da. In ages past, their neighboring planet with three moons suffered long periods of intercontinental warfare, plague, famine, depopulation, and even some natural disasters. A few of the survivors were found and taken to nearby Er-Da by some of the first Terran space ships that reached the solar system. The Terrans then joined with those from other star systems in colonizing and repopulating the abandoned planet.
I have compiled here a number of detailed accounts of life there during the first of the more refined stages of development. It is remarkable just how similar their existence could be to life on Earth, and just as remarkable as to how in so many ways it could be different. Many of the original records are lost, but many have somehow managed to survive to be stored in the Er-Dan repositories for such links with the past. It should be noted that many of the inhabitants of this planet still trace their ancestries to the nearby three mooned one. It is perhaps for this reason especially that these accounts must continue to be preserved.
In as much as possible, all documents have been translated directly from their original languages without editing. Names became changed from the original Earth forms to more modern Er-Dan styles, but this was done by the newer inhabitants themselves. And, after much conflict resolution with the Galactic Censorship Board, almost all of the original narrations have been permitted to be left intact.
In the time yet to happen, as more of the original texts are located, perhaps more of these stories can be forthcoming. There are currently no serious reasons why this should not be so, and thus, in the meanwhile, these can certainly be enjoyed by all. The Imperium notwithstanding!
I would like to thank the preservers of the Galactic Library for their patience with my team of scholars interrupting their normal routines. I also owe enormous debts of gratitude for the many generous grants provided to my academic department, by the archival research offices of the various space exploration and discovery agencies, throughout the Galaxy. This would not have been possible without all of you.
GLOSSARY OF TERMINOLOGY
Actiongroup = military unit composed of several sectiongroups, or about five hundred warriors
Battlegroup = military unit composed of several actiongroups, or about fifteen hundred warriors
Er-Da = planet of two moons orbiting the Solar Star near to the Planet of the Three Moons
Legion = military unit composed of several battlegroups, or about five thousand warriors
Section = military unit composed of about a dozen warriors
Sectiongroup = military unit composed of several sections, or about a hundred warriors
From the ancient Er-Dan chronicles (Codex 1335), as translated by Ed-Mon:
Along the southernmost region of the largest continent, on the planet of the three moons, there lies the large and distant Land of Synd. There were many tales of adventures beyond the wildest dreams of many, and of terrors far too frightening for most. And this is only one of these.
The young female leaned against the side of the carriage and looked down the River of Ind. It was near to the Winter Solstice, and in the dawn she had been cold. Now the midmorning Solar Star warmed her and sparkled on the river and made her screw up her eyes. She saw boats moored in the stream, and a Wryten engineer working over a plane table on the far bank. That was where the bridge would go up. From behind her, from the other side of the carriage, a sharp voice cried out.
"Enya! Enya! Where are you? We are waiting."
There were warriors around her, talking in many languages, and transport beasts grunting, but the young female picked out her mother’s mood and rebelled, staying silent where she was.
After a moment she cried aloud, "Oh gods, it is no good," and stood upright.
"I am here, Mother."
"Where have you been? Your father is waiting. This is not our carriage."
"I know, Mother. I am going riding today. You said that I could."
"Oh yes. With? Very well. Good morning, Actiongroupleader Helyng. You are sure that you do not mind Enya’s company?"
"It is an honor, madam."
Actiongroupleader Helyng was already mounted. The young female watched him smiling down at her mother, and detected her mother’s controlling smirk. The Actiongroupleader’s good left eye, on Enya’s side, twinkled cynically. His voice was soft and his mouth hard.
He was forty-eight. His right hand ended in a stump and a fake hand. The ungainly column was already on the move. The travelers wound out in due order from the ferry head, their faces to the northern frontier of Synd.
The wheels, the hoofs, and the boots pounded the road. Enya’s groom helped her to mount. She adjusted her hat and robe, took her crop from the groom’s hand, and was ready to go. Her father had been posted to the garrison of Pashwyr, and she and her mother were going with him.
She looked at the river again, and at the huge sharp rocks by Adyk.
And she exclaimed, "It is the filthiest place that I have ever seen."
"You will see grimmer."
"I do not want to. Look at that horrible steep cliff."
"That is called Jelyl. And the one on the other side is called Kemyl. They are named after heretics whom an ancient emperor had thrown into the whirlpool. That has a name too."
He was a strange thin male, with unexpected humors and odd enthusiasms. She watched the engineer at the table and listened with half an ear to her companion. The engineer was little more than a vision in the distance, but she imagined his face and warmed towards him. He was building a bridge. The bridge would carry a roadway across the River of Ind. Then the roads would reach forward again and bring peace into this desolation.
These travelers who pressed forward now about her were the forerunners. They were not settlers, but they brought peace and law, with guns in their hands and musical instruments in their baggage. There were warriors, mountaineers and Synds, marching in step. There were officers’ families, with wardrobes and chests and trunks full of curtain material, linen, and crockery. The families traveled in carriages or on riding creature. Their chattels filled a string of beast carts.
She watched the carts, and behind them saw a sectiongroupleader and his wife Adyna in a carriage, and waved shyly. Adyna wore a heavy veil to protect her complexion from the Solar Star rays. Perhaps she had not seen the wave. Actiongroupleader Helyng gestured, and his eyes flashed.
"Ishkandyr the Conqueror crossed the river a few kilometers upstream . . ."
It was funny how, as she grew older, she could tell by the sound of a male’s voice whether he liked her, and in what way. The land was trying to speak too, in the rustic of a dry wind over barren earth.
It was a low, harsh voice, saying, "Remember, before you forget."
She remembered the dawn, those few days back, where the roads ended. That was in the Panjyb, where peace had already settled. In that dawn the frost made the grass white, and the mountain warriors blew on their fingernails and chased each other between the roadways like youths, yelling to keep warm. and the little Synd swung their arms around and stood hunchbacked and stamped their feet.
Back there in Synd males tilled the fields and females lit the cooking fires. This seventeenth day of the last season of the year 2879, she had crossed the River of Ind. Synd lay behind her. The rest of the largest continent ahead. Yesterday she had seen a shimmer of white suspended in the sky above the northern horizon, above the dust, above the clouds.
She touched her riding creature’s flank with her heel and trotted up the road. Actiongroupleader Helyng fell into place beside her, and soon they caught up with her parents’ carriage. Her mother looked up crossly, but Enya knew she would say nothing in Actiongroupleader Helyng’s presence.
The Actiongroupleader was mature and a bachelor, so Enya had to be treated as a sensible, grown young female of twenty-three, fully ready for the responsibilities of marriage. One day her mother would say so in as many words. Then Enya would seize her opportunity.
Across the scrub covered plain approached males with riding creatures. The males had the faces of hunters and walked with a long, slow, lifting stride. One of them looked up as he passed by. Enya smiled at him, expecting the greeting and the answering smile of an ordinary Synd wayfarer. But this was not Synd.
The male stared her down, from pale green dark rimmed eyes. He carried a long weapon slung across his shoulders. A female, shapelessly swathed in red and black cloth, swayed on top of the riding creature that he led. A youth of fourteen walked behind the riding creature. The youth had no beard, but his stride was an exact imitation of his father’s insolent lilt. And he too carried a weapon.
Enya stared after them, a little angry, a little frightened. The dust of the road slid back eastward under her riding creature’s hoofs. To the right, out of sight today, the ramparts of the largest continent rose up. Tier upon tier, in her imagination, as clear in her mind’s eye as they had been to her sight that day when she had seen them.
To the left the River of Ind plunged into the Adyk gorge. And after that flowing on down between rocks and deserts to the sea. Behind her lay such peace and security as Synd knew. That was a good life back there. Sym was there, and Rabyr had been in Sym.
Rabyr was out in front, to the west, now. In front the land was jagged, and the inhabitants harsh and the sky unrelenting.
Together they threw a challenge into her face. It was here that she had to live and make her home. They were still riding near the carriage, and her mother raised her voice.
"That is a beautiful animal that Enya is riding, Actiongroupleader. It won the females’ jumping contest in Meryt last cold weather."
The Actiongroupleader turned to Enya in mock awe.
"You must be good."
Enya smiled thinly. She might as well be a piece of prime meat in a butcher’s shop. Not that she disliked Actiongroupleader Helyng, really. He was infinitely better than most of the older males her mother seemed to approve of.
Hylda cried, "It is so kind of you, Actiongroupleader, to ride with us, and tell Enya all about this."
She waved her hand at the bleak landscape. Her voice rose to a scream as she strove to make herself heard above the clop of hoofs and the creak of carriage springs.
Actiongroupleader Helyng exclaimed, "Ah, Hylda, you do not know what a pleasure it is to have such a charming listener."
Enya tried to keep her face straight but she could not. The Actiongroupleader’s voice was just correctly unctuous, as if, from the bottom of his heart, he meant what he said. She caught his eye. It was on the side hidden from her mother, and it winked slowly. Her father looked up from the several days old news report that bounced and fluttered in his hands as the carriage jolted onward.
"Seen this, Helyng? Bad news from Kebyl. The Commander was right all along. I wonder what the Vyzas will do. Whether they will try to push in, or not?"
"So do we all, sir."
"That is your job, is it not?"
"No, no, finding out."
"In a way."
The two males began a pointless, shouted conversation. Hylda eyed her daughter and made hidden gestures that Enya should smooth down her robe. Enya pretended not to see, and in turn watched her father. He was fat and had become hot, and his eyes bulged, but he was nice.
She turned her head and looked out over the low hills on the left of the road. The slopes were bare of trees, the rocks treacherous and black and green. Here and there a small bush sprouted in a patch of yellowing grass. She saw no inhabitants, no crops, no animals.
The land was hostile to males. No such males as the one with the eagle face and the green eyes would stride over it and enjoy its barrenness that matched their own. The land was hostile to females and all that females wanted. She sighed.
The sounds of the males and females moving down the road drowned the faint voice of the wind. They would all live in dwellings in this ferocious wilderness. But could they or she or anyone actually come to like it?
Rabyr had once said that he knew he was going to like it. But when he said that he had never been up here. Where he was now, beyond the Kebyr, it must be worse. There, over the passes, in the snowbound sloping deserts under the Mountains of Kysh. The land must be as cruel as the fanatic Efhyn priests it bred. The priests who sacrificed living persons to their cruel gods.
She heard a popping sound and looked around to see where it came from. Her father ploughed on with his diatribe about the Vyzas. Her mother made a pretense of listening to him. Actiongroupleader Helyng had turned his head to the south, and his face was strained. He looked like someone who is trying to hear two conversations at the same time. Again-pop! pop! The sound came from the hills. She heard a louder, different crack! emphatic as a snapping stick, then a long metallic whir overhead that was at last lost in the creak of the carts and carriages.
Actiongroupleader Helyng spoke brusquely, "Listen, Hylda. Shooting. Do not be alarmed, madam. Sectionleader!"
He waved his fake hand at the sectionleader marching beside a section of mountaineers just in front of the carriage. Enya’s heart beat faster. The popping had sounded so far away, the long whir so close. Her father put down his news report, and stared with a comical mixture of rage and alarm at the empty hills.
Hylda screamed, "Sit still, husband, do not you dare leave us I oh, Actiongroupleader Helyng what is happening? Why does not-?"
"I do not know, madam. A blood feud, probably, and nothing to do with us, or they would have been much closer. Sectionleader, there is some shooting going on over there."
"Yes, air, we heard it."
"Get your troopers ready for action, just in case!" Helyng ordered.
"Very good, sir."
A warrior of Synd had come running, and Actiongroupleader Helyng spoke to him briefly in the Synd language. The warrior saluted, hitched up his sword, and ran back down the road. No excitement communicated itself to the riding creatures. Solar Star beams radiated down on the road, and the wagon driver jumped down to hold the carriage riding creatures’ heads.
Breathless, Enya dismounted. The groom took the reins from her, and she stood in the middle of the road and stared at the hills, one hand to her throat. The sectionleaders shouted orders, the beast drivers screamed at their transport beasts. the sounds echoed back, redoubled, from the rocky hillside.
The crest of the nearest low ridge ran parallel to the road and about three hundred meters away. Solar Starlight and shadow and outcroppings of rock broke up the surface of the ridge into a thousand patterns which seemed to move, dancing, as the air shimmered over it. Suddenly Enya saw a male running along the ridge. From somewhere out there-she could not place them exactly-more shots came in over the road.
Near her a mountain warrior yelled and fell to his knees, his arm swinging limply and his face twisted. Helyng dismounted and ran up the road. A group of Synds panted past, led by their unit leader. It had to be an ambush, like they had on the western continent. But who would be stupid enough to try and rob a convoy that included a hundred warriors, all armed? She wanted to run as the males were running, to shout and scream and join in their active excitement, but she did not know how to begin.
She remembered the frightening whir of the beasts and slid down to sit in the shallow ditch beside the road. Her mother was in the carriage still, shouting furiously at her father. Her father swung cautiously to earth and lumbered forward to join the warriors.
Enya snapped, "Be quiet, Mother, and come down here!"
But her mother did not move. She had not seen a single "enemy" except the one running male, and he had disappeared. One of those pictures in the public news reports would have made it quite clear. Tribal warriors with knives rushing down that slope. Warriors standing there in a line. Tongues of flame spouting from the weapons. But it was not like that.
Some of the warriors knelt, some stood. Bursts of vile language and, incredibly, laughter came from them. The shooting had stopped. She saw the running male again, this time clearly, and she saw the long weapon in his hand. Her throat tightened so that the words she tried to scream came out as whisper.
"There! By that rock!"
Actiongroupleader Helyng had gone, her father had gone, her mother was blowing her nose. No one was listening. Enya caught up her robe in her hand and ran along the ditch towards the warriors, scrambling over the uneven surface, stumbling as she turned her head to keep her eye on the running male. She saw him crouch and raise his weapon.
The Solar Star caught the metal bands around the long muzzle. But his aim was across the hill, away from them all on the road. Besides, he had dropped down to the left of a rock for shelter. from the road anyone who knew where to look could see him clearly. Whoever his enemies were, they were farther over to the right.
She stopped, panting, looked in the direction the lone male was pointing his weapon, and caught a glimpse of fluttering gray cloth and, for a moment, the jerk of a male’s head. She found two Synd warriors beside her. They held her jacket, tugging at its hem gently and grinning shyly. They pointed back down the road and exclaimed together, "We must go, miss. We must go."
Their Synd language sounded as angular and awkward as her own. Well, it would be. Synds came from the distant highest mountains, Rabyr had told her. She caught one’s arm, pointed at the lone male on the hill, and yelled out.
"Oh dear, that one. Is he a friend?"
Then she pointed to the right, screaming, "Bad ones there! Not here, there!"
The warriors at once saw the lone male to the left of the rock. They lifted their weapons while Enya shook her head and screamed, "No, no!" and looked around for someone who could interpret. There was no one.
She saw the mountaineers and the rest of the Synds struggling up the right-hand part of the slope. If they went on in that direction they would come to where the lone male’s enemies lay hidden. She saw her father’s broad back up there. And on the hill close to him the bare bottom of a mountaineer whose tunic had been pushed up, and his trousers down, when he had stumbled on the rock.
The mountaineer got up. And the wind blew the laughter and the clattering of arms, and the vile obscenities down to her.
She heard Helyng’s voice raised. Swearing, ordering, becoming fainter as the warriors worked farther away across the hill. Out in front of them a shot was fired, then another. The firing grew to a fusillade. The warriors stopped to fire, then ran forward behind her father, swung right, and puffed over the ridge and out of sight.
The lone male still crouched in full view on the hillside. On the road the beast drivers hissed soothingly to their animals. A female in green knelt in the ditch to tend the wounded Mountain private’s arm, and Enya saw with surprise that it was Adyna, whom her mother called "fast."
Then, from straight up the hill, four Pethyns broke cover and ran down on the lone male with the weapon. He twisted around his rock, aimed, fired, and dropped down again. One of the running males fell. The others came on, bounding from rock to rock with their robes flying and the Solar Star light in their fierce faces.
The warriors, over to the right, could not see them. The lone male rose, turned, and threw himself with desperate steps down the hill towards the road.
"He is looking for shelter, he wants help!" Enya screamed.
The two Synd warriors once more raised their weapons. One of the running trio of Pethyns dropped to his knee, steadied, and fired. The lone male curled up like a shot rabbit and fell headlong. Where he fell, he crawled and writhed forward still, and still held to the long weapon in his right hand. Wriggling by jerks and spasms, he reached a cleft of the rock.
Enya cried, "Save him!" and found herself running up the hill.
She forgot the beasts and the tightness in her throat. Her mind was empty of everything but the lone male’s face. He had been so close to safety when the beast from behind smashed him down. He was not young, but his face was the face of a male lost, a male far from mother or wife or daughter.
She stumbled up the hill. The running Pethyns came on. The two Synds began to shoot, hurrying a few paces, shooting, reloading, running again, yelling to her to come back. She understood the sense, although the words meant nothing. Her mother began to scream once more.One of the three Pethyns went down, shot in the head by the Synd to her right. She saw his bearded face melt, and he was gone. The other Pethyns made to stop and shoot, but after a fractional hesitation they changed their minds and ran on. She and the Synds could not reach the lone male before his enemies did.
Her breath pumped in her lungs and her face grew scarlet. The lone male lay sprawled on his stomach. A red stream of his blood trickled down the stones. His right hand moved aimlessly across the bare face of the rock slab below his head. He had let go of the weapon.
The Pethyns reached him when Enya and the warriors were still twenty meters away. Knives flashed, and the Pethyns swooped. A long steel glitter ended in the lone male’s back. The Synds’ weapons exploded by her ear, but their hands were sweaty and unsteady, and both shots missed.The Pethyns, without stopping their headlong pace, snatched up the lone male’s weapon and swerved around and bounded like stags back up the hill. They ran with tireless, irregular strides, jumping, separating, coming together again, their robes flying.
The Synds fired twice more each, but the Pethyns ran on. Then they were gone. Enya sank slowly to her knees beside the lone male. She did not feel the sharp stones beneath her. She caught hold of the knife handle in his back and pulled. The blade grated on bone, blood bubbled under her fingers.
If she had been told to do it she could not have, but it did not seem horrible now. He needed all she could give him. Anger against his enemies nearly suffocated her. The blade grated free. For half a moment the blood oozed out through the lone male’s robe, then it stopped.
Enya lifted her head, the tears wet on her cheeks, and saw the two Synds standing beside her. They looked down, their mouths hard. One of them stirred the wounded male with the toe of his boot.
"This little shit eater is dead," he stated.
And he shook his head and wrinkled his nose.
Enya whispered, "It does not matter. We have got to carry him down."
She made motions of lifting the male, who lay still on his stomach, his head turned to one side. She saw that his eyes were open and expressionless. His mouth hung open, but he could not move hand or foot. He had lost his cap, and the blood was clotting under his long hair. Boots crunched closer along the hillside towards her.
Actiongroupleader Helyng leaned, panting, at her side, his good left hand on his thigh, sweat pouring down behind the black patch on his right eye. Five or six mountaineers came, gathered round, and peered down at the wounded male and up at the hill.
One of them shouted, "Well, you surely killed that son of a whore!"
And he clapped the Synd on the back.
"No!" Enya cried. "He is not dead. And he was not shooting at us. It was him the others were after!"
Helyng frowned and ordered curtly, "Get a blanket. Hurry."
One of the mountaineers shambled away down the hill. Helyng bent over the wounded male and spoke to him softly, insistently, in a harsh tongue. At last he stood up.
"He cannot speak. I am afraid he is paralyzed. I wish I knew where he came from. He is not from around here. Nor are the others, the two dead up there. If they were, it would be easier." Still frowning, he stood there, his fake hand against the metal of his belt buckle. Enya sat down suddenly and put her head in her hands.
Through her dizziness she heard Helyng ask, "What was this male doing, Enya, when you first saw him?"
His voice was alert, a little hard. He had taken off his helmet, and she saw the gray in his thick dark hair and noticed how hunched he was in the shoulders, how middle aged now and tired. She liked him better than she had ever done. She told him all that had happened.
Helyng shook his head slowly, looking down always at the robed male on the rock, whose bleak eyes were fixed across the road towards the north. The male lay absolutely without motion or stir. Enya saw that he was still breathing.
Helyng asked, "They took his weapon? In every other way it seems like a blood feud. But why should they risk so much for such an old thing? You are sure it was not a modern weapon?"
"It was one of those long old-fashioned guns with brass bands around it."
"H’m. And they certainly were not trying to rob the convoy, Those are not quite ordinary Pethyn clothes. He is from farther west somewhere, from over the passes. Here he ought to be a Pethyn. But he is not."
The mountaineer returned, carrying a blanket. And with the help of three other warriors began to lift the wounded male, not gently, on to it.
Helyng snapped, "Careful there! He is badly wounded. And he is not an enemy."
When the warriors raised the male Enya saw the blood on the rock where his body had lain, and she knew then that he could not live, and began to cry again. His blood formed patterns, lying in a pool in the center, in streaks at the edges. The streaks looked like letters of the Eryb manuscripts she had seen pinned up in Synd market places. Like the lettering in the stone of old temples.
She asked hesitantly, shaking her head to free her eyes from tears, "Is that not writing?"
Helyng knelt quickly and peered at the face of the rock. It had been in the shade of the cleft where the male had lain. Enya remembered his hand had been there once, aimlessly moving. On the gray rock, in darkly shining outlines, she saw the signs:
"Atlyr," Helyng read slowly. "Riding creatures, in Typ, or something similar to the Typ language. Riding creatures."
He stood for a moment longer, then added, "Come down the hill now, Enya."
She did not want to ask any questions. The two Synds stood solicitously over her while she was sick. Then she was back on the road, and her father was there, scolding and puffing. And her mother was there, talking, talking
The lone male was there, stretched on the rough blanket on the floor of a beast cart, his open eyes staring at the roof. Helyng was there in the beast cart, sitting by his head. Her father handed her into the carriage, and she felt the gruff admiration in his voice.
"Silly young female ... brave ... lie back, lie back."
She heard voices up and down the road, Actiongroupleader Helyng’s among them.
"We must reach Nawshyr tonight. Push on."
The carriage wheels creaked. She half fainted, half slept.