The Author of this story is Knife
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The Battle of the Hymn
Of Plagiarism and Monsters
Morlocks. I understand the prospect of plagiarism, but when we first encountered the creatures that we named Morlocks, we could name them none the less. Five years into our adventures into what we eventually called ‘Terra’, we encountered the creatures that we eventually named Morlocks.
Granted, in the world that most of us grew up in, the world that the majority of us called ‘Earth’, the term Morlock would recall images of H. G. Wells’s beloved piece of fiction. The fact that the majority of us have indulged upon an adventure that eclipses the author’s fantasy, goes beyond the musings of that most famous of author’s extremely exciting of happenings is of little relevance. For it seems that we are beyond such indulgence.
We, dear reader, are in the new realm of man. We are in what we call, Terra. The world that was given to us. But perhaps a few words of explanation are still needed.
Almost one and a half decades ago, such a small time in my opinion, have passed since our arrival. We do not know where or why, but the most esteemed of us believe that we are upon a new planet if not a new reality. A separate world in which we were thrust upon.
I awoke, as an example, from a restless dream. A vivid dream, in which I felt trapped, contained in a way that I could not respond to the world. When I awoke, I stood upon a sandy dune. A desert in which you would not believe, except if you have seen the destitute waste of the Expanse.
A desolate waste that encompasses sand dunes for leagues and leagues, until the mortal man can no longer contemplate survival, a desert to rival the Sudan upon our Home Planet. Awakening upon this realm, I immediately gazed upon this nothingness, this complete realization of hopelessness. And I must say, dear reader, I despaired. I succumbed to the nothingness for unknown moments, trapped in what I thought was a private nightmare, I accepted my fate. Was I to know, as I accepted such a mundane future, what was to come.
Glancing around myself, I noticed to my relief, my immediate family. My wife and children lay besides me as if still snuggled in their beds. However, as if part of my nightmare, they lay upon a sandy dune. My dear wife, fresh black hair and shapely form, lay beside me as if we were still in our bed. Our children beside us, tossing and turning in their disturbed sleep. They then awoke as one, awoke to a new reality. Not one of us in our nice tidy homes in suburbia. But a reality of nightmarish proportion awaited us in the new world we now inhabited.
To our relief, we did not awake alone. Far from it. We awoke with a groan to the vision of close to a thousand people amongst us. A grisly sight of unknown men and women, as they lay stretched amongst us in disturbed slumber.
Except we were not strangers. Far from it.
It came early in our confusion. A thousand people crammed in a small cramped space of sand and grit. Waking up to such confusion is to say the least, odd. Gathering my family close, I gained a perspective of what the situation was.
“Wha…?” Said most.
“Where…?” Was the response of others.
Crowds of people began to form as the mass of bodies began to rise. Knots of individuals formed as men and women tried to cope with the new reality.
“Tom?” Cried a woman, which for what ever reason, I remember vividly.
“Damn!” Exclaimer others as the group began to organize itself, even at a basic level.
Mere moments, as I recall, passed until the first revelation of our new world reveled itself.
“Mike, is that YOU?!?!” Asked a young man.
“Hey, I’ve seen your face before!” Exclaimed another.
All through out the crowd, claims of recognition echoed. Men saw women they knew, and women saw men that were recognizable.
“My God, we’re all here!” Exclaimed a notable British soldier that we would all come to respect.
And thus began our community. Three hundred or so people whose only connection was that of a computer aided community, and they’re loved ones, flat mates, and those who were with them when they were transported here. We were thrust together in a new world and, if you believe Durandal, a different world.
His research is some what conclusive. Some of us believe that we are still in a dream world. A world in which some believe we will awake from, but Durandal has pointed out various reasons why this is false and in him and the council, a majority of us trust.
Backed up by our Lord Wong, Durandal’s conclusion; that we are upon a new world, is hard to dispute. A world that closely resembles our own in size, shape, and of flavor. But a new one none the less.
A darker blue is our sky, and the vegetation is of remarkable difference. Violet are our tree’s. A deep purple that is quite astonishing. The grass upon the fields are of a color that I can not describe, but if forced to, resemble the deep hue of the ocean that I saw in my youth.
And the stars. A brilliant ensemble of glistening points of light. A virtual symphony of sparkles that encompass our night time sky. A theater of beauty, that is the only way I could possible explain it, forming constellations that are not familiar to any one of us.
The ground and dirt are of recognizable color, but the trees and foliage, not to mention the wild life, are more than enough for most to know that we are no longer upon our birth planet. This is not to dissuade some amongst us that we are still upon our beloved Earth, just in another time or perhaps another frame of reference. Thankfully, these people are in the minority. Thus the thanks in which we give to the ones who have placed us here.
An intervention, that is what we call it. An intervention that delivered almost a thousand individuals of above intellect, to this place. And perhaps with no thanks to the intervention, a place of danger.
Morlocks. That is how I started this tale. That is what united us. In the beginning we were diluted, a variety of opinion. So diverse in our beliefs were we, American, British, Korean, and Chinese, European and Russian. All of us stuck together in a scheme that, at the time, we could not fathom.
It was the indigenes creatures that eventually convinced the majority of us to come together in a time of need. For it seemed in the beginning we were doomed.
After our initial spout of terror at awakening, we quickly resolved ourselves to survive. Food, shelter, and companions drove us to come together as a group. We awoke to find ourselves, not only connected in theory but in reality in a land that was most suited to us.
Later, as we found, the desert we awoke upon was a catalyst that forced us into action. Mike, Lord Wong, quickly forced us into a loose organization to ensure our survival. As a group mind, we marched out of the desert. We moved out of the blistering heat of the Expanse and to our surprise, we moved right into the Valley. This Valley, aptly named, was a God send. A mountain range that apparently splits the realm, also created a valley that was too perfect to the more militaristic amongst us.
For it was a valley that stretched almost ten miles, eighteen kilometers for some of our brethren, in length. With a depth of around six miles, it was the perfect place to establish our form of civilization. In this valley, the ground was fertile, the mountains able to give up ore, and the eventual ability to give up secret routes of escape were found.
Not that all of this was discovered at the beginning. Oh no. It took years to force such secrets out of the Valley. Years to settle the belief that we should settle here instead of traveling outside it’s reach. But settle here we did.
Early on, did we establish the Night Watch. First and fore most was it a nightly watch of the people. A security measure that was put in place by the Commander, Jegs’. Reinforced by CMS Wilson, that I will hence forth name Rob.
Here in the valley did we eventually call home. On a rise in the center of the Valley did we create our place in this world. On a mound, a mesa if we are generous, did the City eventually grow.
In the beginning, we amongst the Night Watch convinced the people, to make their homes above the fields of the Valley and upon the small rise of the Mesa. No wall or fence was presentable at the start of our humble beginnings, those things were to come.
An enlighten society were we. A Hodge pogde of various political views were we at the beginning. Pacifists were we. Soldiers and economists along with an assorted jumble of people. Construction experts, engineers, math majors, and simpletons to boot. All awoke and marched into the Valley to begin the Civilization.
Civilization is what we wrought. One of agriculture, and of iron. We discovered iron early on. A valuable find to say the least. Tin and copper were to found two years later, Bronze our most favorable metal. Iron, our least used but most valued treasure was our fist find.
Not that Iron was our first need. We labored for weeks to discover what we could and could not eat in such a place. Dozens of people did we loose in those first months. Dozens amongst a thousand does not sound significant, but I assure you, even to this day, I remember all of the names of those first few who died to ensure our survival. Scooter and Walper. Azeron and Stewart. Horus, Kojikun and Shinji. All died to prove to us what was dangerous and what was not.
We found the equivalent of wheat and rice shortly after the death of our firsts. The first to die upon Terra. Those who made the first mounds outside the City and the Mesa. Small mounds of dirt, remarkable in only their plainness. Stone effigies that show the passing of time.
Those of us that are to come, I imagine, will ask, “What are those mounds of dirt outside of the Wall that we worship every year on Christmas?”
And every year we should answer unto them, “Those are the first ones. The ones who died to show us the way and those who died to give us life in the New World.”
My only hope, as I tell you this tale, is that one day when I lay to rest my wife and say goodbye to my children and grandchildren that I can lay amongst our hero’s. That when time calls upon my eulogy, I can be remembered with such esteemed company of these first ones. Regardless of the faults of their lives, they died in honor, extinguished their place in life, to show us the way in death. I wish to continue this trend and lay with my brethren, my fellow Night Watch. Those who protected us through those troubled times and who faithfully died to protect us.
May I, as I lay with them, lay in peace because we labored in life. May they feel peace because they ensured life. May I be with my friends and loved ones who I outlived if only for a scant few years. May I be with my own.
It seems that no matter what we tend to tell, we are doomed to discuss the Morlocks. In the beginning, the Morlocks were a ghost story. A modern fable to scare those of us who where susceptible. Some say that the mere mention of the Morlocks were the reason for the creation of the Night Watch.
Though we began as a hunting group, a bunch of hunters and soldiers that were forced into a new reality, was beyond some. War mongers. Haters and killers we were, if you listened to the more liberal of us. But it was us, the founding members of the Night Watch that stood guard against the unknown in the beginning, and us that brought forth the first of the meat, the meat of the Taun-Taun.
Another plagiarism of the old world, but one that exists none the less. Horses we did not have. Hairy lizards we did. Taun-Tauns, as we named them, were our first experience with Terran meat. Later did we use them as mounts and as beasts of burden. Once again, the name Taun-taun was a hold over, as was various names of things and creatures, from the old world.
It is plagiarism, but we didn’t think that the creator’s of the ideas would mind.
We found them in the plains north of the Expanse and East of the Valley. Hunting ever forcing us further out of the Valley where the game animals tended not to tread. In the west we found forests and pig like creatures, but not many. Mostly fruits and nuts were to be had in the forests of the west. The east was split north and south by Great Plains and the Expanse, the desert where we started our adventure here on Terra. In those plains we found the Tuan-Tauns. Lizard like creatures who stood on two legs and with two, more or less, useless arms. Kangaroos with hair they were. So much like the creatures in Myth that we named them as such and ever since we rode Tuan-Tauns.
Upon these new mounts, did we expand our knowledge of the realm. With mounts, the Night Watch became more than a simple security measure and evolved into a military unit.
We still hunted, but we explored and scouted as well. It is thus that we first encountered the Morlocks. Gangly creatures, they were. Grey in color, bent and misshapen. It was easy to name them from the lore and liteture of the old world, so closely did they resemble the Morlocks of the Time Machine.
We lost three of the Night Watch to the Morlocks before we understood what we had discovered. Before we recognized their boarders along the swamps and bogs days east of the Valley. Some could say that the Morlocks are what made us. After the creation of the most rudimentary of our forts and houses, the sightings of Morlocks forces us to make fences and walls surrounding the City. After the skirmishes east began to creep ever so closer to the Valley, did our warning find purchase and walls began to be built.
To be honest, sightings of the creatures we call Morlocks came earlier than remembered. Tales of ghosts in the plains and shadows in the dark are as old as our presence here in Terra.
Five years after our arrival, The City, sometimes jokingly called Gondor or Avalon, was a bustling place. Stone buildings on the Mesa with well worn streets of dirt. Our citizens lived in their own houses with their families and most had jobs and duties to attend to.
The Council, led by Lord Wong, managed the City and the fields bore food and the Smiths and Craftsmen created our technology to tame this world. And ever watchful both day and night were the men and women of the Night Watch.
Only one hundred strong at the time, we were split into three units on constant rotation. One group would be on Home Duty and responsible for daily and nightly watches of the City, both in and out, and light patrols of the Valley as well as a look out in the Eastern and Western passes.
The next group would be tasked with Ranging. Groups of four were dispatched east and west, north and south and tasked to scout and explore for a set amount of days before returning. A dangerous job in the new world but an exciting one none the less.
The last group was on leave and training. Morning rituals of sword craft, spear play, marching and riding. Classes on tactics and strategy. In short, practice on all that made the Night Watch the Night Watch.
I was in the central courtyard one morning of that fifth year. My section on leave and training, running my troops through shield wall tactics. My name is Cody, but most know me by Knife. I am a Captain of the Night Watch, one of three.
I saw the rider tear into the courtyard and disappear into the Great Hall that was the center of the government and thereby the center of the Night Watch. Talon, the rider and who once went by Enforcer Talon, but that hardly roles off the tongue, looked white in fear for the short time I saw him before he rushed into the doorway of the Hall.
Seeing something was obviously amiss, I turned the training over to one of my Section Leaders, Edi, and headed off to the Hall. As a Captain of the Night Watch, I was privy to most of the going on’s of the Watch and the Council.
I walked into the dim interior of the Great Hall and moved towards the rear, towards the offices of the Watch. Panicked speech could already be heard from the offices of the Command Sergeant Major of the Watch. Rob’s soft voice could be heard trying to calm the ranger.
As I entered the room, the speech cleared and I heard Talon reply to an unknown question, “They’re all dead!”
He broke down into sobs and I caught Rob’s eye.
“He say’s that there was an ambush. Dargos, Tom and Malecoda are dead.” Rob explained to me, almost deadpan.
Before I could reply, Coyote stormed into the room. The normally happy and carefree man was brooding and plain concern showed on his face. “What goes on here?” he boomed.
And thus I heard the story, Talon, with his group who was comprised of Talon, Tom, Dargos and Malecoda were on patrol in the eastern fields. They were following the herds of Taun-Tauns seeing where they were heading since all that lay beyond the Great Plains were the Expanse and the bogs and Eastern Marshes. They set up camp just shy of the Marshes for the night and expected to head back to the Valley the next morning.
Talon was awakened during the night by screaming. Malecoda, who was on watch, gave his warning with his death scream. The remaining three leaped into action. Both Talon and Tom and Dargos rushed over to where Malecoda’s freshly slain body lay upon the earth. His life’s blood draining out of a large slash across his stomach.
Talon, hearing the rustling of grass of to the left, tuned that way and was greeted by the sight of a Morlock. Grey and blue in hue, more or less human in shape, but with the appearance of a sickly man. Slightly bent over but rippling muscles gave a stark contrast.
The creature charged Talon, but the swift ranger drew his sword in time to repel the club that the monster swung down upon him. Dargos, swooped in at that point and the two Watchmen slew the beast.
They were, at that point, surprised as to why Tom did not assist them and the pair set forth towards where they last saw the Watchman. Lying in the small clearing where they first saw the Morlock was the corpse of Tom with two more of the grizzly creatures above him.
The Morlocks seemed startled at the approach of the two remaining rangers, they let out a terrible shriek and charged the two. Thinking that more than just those two were about, Dargos fled for the mounts with Talon right behind him.
As they jumped upon their mounts, a mass of creatures ran out of the grass trying to surround the Watchmen. Sticking his heals into the Taun-Taun, Talon galloped through the mass of gray cavemen like beasts.
Daring not to look back for long moments, Talon did not realize that Dargos had fallen to the creatures until he gained a small rise. Raked with grief at the loss of three of his friends, Talon turned west and traveled long and hard for four days until he arrived at the Valley.
“His mount died shortly after his return. Mostly due to exhaustion, but there were some wounds on the beast.” Mentioned Rob.
At this point, Jegs, the Commander of the Watch, and the three Captains, Coyote, Perinquus and myself inhabited Rob’s office along with the tired and grieving ranger Talon. The Command Structure of the Watch had now heard the story and the time for discussion was at hand.
“At the least,” boomed the Coyote, “we should go back in force and recover the bodies. To be buried with the First Ones.”
Nods of agreement went throughout the room.
“Patrols should be fortified and perhaps we should cease patrols and rangings completely until all units currently out in the field are notified.” Perinquus’ gift in life was a steady presence, a rock in which all could cling to in times of need. He was sturdy, not only in appearance but in emotion.
“The council must be advised.” Said I, “ Perhaps this is the time to get them to fortify the Valley. If the council is anything, they are defensive. Bring back our men, bring back the corpse of these beasts. Study them and find how we can outwit them. Prepare.” I ventured.
Jegs, sitting in the corner next to the small table that served as Rob’s desk, made his decision. “I see no reason why all three of those ideas cannot be invoked. Rob, get a patrol of thirty ready to depart and retrieve Dargos and the rest. Bring back any sign of the attackers. Coyote, you’ll be in charge of the patrol. Perinquus, cancel anymore rangings. Your group is up next week anyway. All patrols, minus Coyote’s, will be confined to the Valley and make sure your people are up and awake.”
“Knife, you and Rob sit down and make your proposal and when you’re done, you two and I will go before the Council.”
Four heads bobbed up and down in agreement and a muttering of “Yes sir.” filled the office as Jegs left with Rob close behind. I left the other two Captains and went back out to the courtyard. Rob would be with Jegs for a few more minutes, so I took the opportunity to brief Edi and get him to handle the rest of the troops for the rest of the day. It seemed that I would be playing politics for a while and I didn’t want my unit to suffer for it.
Later that night, as I remember, I arrived home. A small stone and wood structure that the majority of the people lived in inside the City. Inside my wife was finishing up with some work of her own. Jen, my wife, worked for the Quarter Masters. A job that was suited for her, she bounced from here to there. Always doing something different for it was her personal nemesis to become bored or fall into a routine.
She looked up from her scrolls as I walked in. “Something is wrong.” She stated, in no way a question.
“A scout group was attacked. We don’t know by what yet. By tomorrow, a large patrol should depart to investigate.” I said as I dropped into a chair made of wood and Taun hide.
Her round face looked shocked, “There has not ever been such a thing.”
I smiled at her to try to comfort her, “There is now. If there is something out there that can attack and kill three well armed and trained men, we need to know about it. A beast or predator should not be able to destroy such a force so it might have been something sentient.”
“We briefed the council only hours ago and half of them were salivating at the prospect of a sentient being on Terra.” I said.
Her head dropped to the side, mocking surprise, “Let me guess. The University are that half.”
I smirked at her disdain for the University. Her work brought her close to a lot of the Professors of the University and to most if not all of the Council. She seemed to have no end of stories of the demands and unreasonable requests of the men and women of the University.
“I got a laugh out of it myself, my sweet.” I replied.
Her look turned more serious now, “Ryan is applying to the Watch soon.” She said in plain concern.
Ryan was my son. My second son. His older brother was already an apprentice in Shepp’s Smith. He seemed bound to become a great tradesman and craftsman. Ryan, my youngest son, turned more militaristic. At the age of eighteen, he was of age and free to apply if he wished.
“He will probably be admitted.” I said. “It is his choice, one that I am not unhappy with, but his choice none the less.”
My wife was unhappy with that, especially if some sort of new danger was about to be revealed, but she knew I was right. Ryan was a man now. The decision was his. If admitted into the Watch, he would not be under me but I trust that the other Captains would keep an eye on him for me.
With some effort I then stood and started pulling of my robes and trappings of the office. I hung my sword on the wall, stored my black clothing that was the defacto insignia of the Watch and headed off to bed with my wife.
Tomorrow there was work to be done.
The Fourth Christmas
And so, ten days later, the long line of Coyote’s patrol returned to the Valley. At that point, all other patrols were in and all morbidly waited to see what monstrosity could kill an entire team.
While they were gone, Jegs and Rob, and myself, had appeared before the Council half a dozen times. Some by our request, others by their demand. They wanted to know what was to be done. What was happening and other answers that we did not process at that time. We wanted a free hand to manage the situation and they were weary.
It seems that the relationship between politicians and warriors are rife with such things. One not trusting the other unless given no choice. For years have the Watch advocated a fence or wall around the City. We being charged with defending the City from both within and without knew that a fortification could be handy in a lot of foreseeable situations.
But the Council thought it was a waste of resources. Even then, five years into our adventure, building large structures was a strain on our abilities. And a wall or even fence around the Mesa at that time would be quite an undertaking.
We were again arguing the point when word came of the arrival of Coyote and his patrol. Jegs pardoned us from the Council and we left to greet Coyote at the offices of the Watch. Councilmen Wong and Durandal followed behind.
In the courtyard, the broken remains of three of our brothers were covered and wrapped caringly in blankets and strapped upon a Taun-Taun. On a litter being drug behind, was the corpse of the monster responsible for our loss. It was the first time I had seen a Morlock, but I shall never forget it. In all the years to come I would have many a chance of seeing them again, both dead and alive. But my first look invoked in me a sense of revulsion.
The corpse of the Morlock went to the University, more of a research lab than an institute of higher learning, and that is where we learned most of what we know about them. Bipedal and apparently nocturnal. Their muscles were denser than ours, giving them greater strength. But their hide was no more resilient than ours, which meant that they could die just as easily as us, as shown by the dead corpse in the University Building.
And of our fallen brothers, we buried them at dawn the next day. They now lay amongst the First Ones, and we remember them every Christmas Morning and sometimes more often than that.
Christmas, or the winter solstice. What ever name you apply to it, it is a big occasion in the new realm of man we named Terra. Though, with the pomp and air that we render it now, you would not know it for the first few years. The fight for survival was fore most in our minds those first few desperate years.
It was on the fourth year that we attribute the first real Christmas in our new age, one year before we discovered the Morlocks. The first three years being dominated with relieving the starvation and the suffering, not to mention the ongoing emotional stress of being ripped away from everything we knew and awaking here on a strange world.
In those days, the City did not look as it does today. Some were still living in mud and wood huts, though construction was almost complete on the Great Hall. Our ability to shape stone was still in its infancy. The first of many water mills were being built to power the first lathes and grinders. We had just finished the irrigation canal, finally bringing the river into the Valley and thus making the collection of water mere minutes instead of half the day as well as powering the water mills and lathes.
For it was the fourth year that our agriculture became stable enough to feed the populace for the winter for the first time. Our local variety of rice and wheat, oddly enough the color of purple like the leaves in the trees, was stored for the winter. People’s spirits were, for once, uplifted by the fact that this years struggle would not be as tragic as the last few. For the field of the First Ones was growing. For three years have we seen our numbers slowly decrease as we fought to find a stable food supply. The Watch hunted and hunted, but feeding the likes of a thousand every day was a task, to say the least.
It was in this year, the fourth on Terra, that Zaia gave us our surprise. No one was accustomed to the idea of a celebration yet. Suggestions of a Thanksgiving were quickly shouted down only a few months before. The months being slightly longer here and the year around fourteen days longer than our lost home world of Earth, making fall longer than most were used too.
Time keeping being amongst the multitudes of first things done in those early years. Though in truth, it took one complete year to figure it out and one more to correlate it. Durandal over saw the project as well as other astrological concerns with various members of our group helping in all manners.
As it turned out, it took three hundred and seventy eight days for this planet, Terra, to orbit the star in this system. We added a few days to each month to compensate rather than add a new month. We also discovered that the orbital lean of the planet was not as extreme as Earth and our seasons were shorter because of it. Well, our winter and our summer seemed to be quicker, but the rains of spring and cold drizzle of fall seemed endless sometimes.
Even during the worst of times, it seemed like Durandal and to the most part, SirNitram and even Lord Wong himself seemed overjoyed at the ability to explore a new world and its solarsystem. They, and others, even I at times, would lie out under the stars at night. Moving rocks and sticks to mark the position of the sunset and rise. Chart the progression of the sun, moon and even stars. Giddy were they while they observed, even if by morning the reality of their situation seemed to move them to a melancholy.
So sensing our need, Zaia and her conspirators, quietly gathered what they needed and in secret prepared for the coming holiday. It is amusing to note that my wife was one of the first conspirators. And of course, as her husband, I had no idea what was being planned. Jen and Zaia had become close in the previous years. Similar of age and in temperament were they. Both being light of temper and caring.
Zaia, in the old world, was musically inclined. In fact she was gifted, to be even remotely humble about it. Her sweet voice matched perfectly with her sweet smile, which when matched with her compassion, invoked an impressive effect on a man.
So again, seeing our emotional need, and seeing the right time, she gathered her secret group and, apparently, daily went with her conspirators into the western woods to scheme and plot and practice. This went on for almost a month.
Even on this world, Christmas was on the twenty fifth of December. Though, I should note that the new month of December is of thirty four days instead of the original thirty one. It was during the morning of this, at that time, unimportant day that Zaia gave us our surprise.
I was up early, about on my chores. Seeing to my troops, setting up practice in the court yard and all other totally mundane things that are done in the early morning. The city itself was just awakening, the sun not quite up yet, but with the early morning light peeking above the Eastern Approach and the horizon of the Great Plains.
People were just starting to move around, to work, to the river for water, to the loo. It was then, as the City awoke and its citizens drearily wondered about for another day that a group of men and women approached the courtyard.
The courtyard was a wide open place, latter covered with stones and paved as well as we could, but at the time it was of beaten dirt next to the Great Hall, or where it would stand once completed. The Courtyard was the original meeting place for our group, and has continued to be an important place after our civilization advanced.
The knot of people who approached the court yard that morning wore long robes of Taun hide. They seemed to be caring a long wooden structure as well, but I was unsure at the time what it was.
They marched into the center of the courtyard, the cool morning wind making their robes flicker and snap. They stopped dead in the center of the open area and placed their long wooden object down. A couple of the conspirators fumbled with it a moment, then they raised it up into the morning sky.
A shaped and sculpted tree rose into the morning. A Blackwood from the Western Forrest. But this one, it seems, had been modified. Most of the violet branches had been removed. The selected pruning had turned the chaotic mess of the Blackwood into a rough triangular shape.
At uneven intervals on the tree, which stood about six feet tall, were small bits of tin and copper. Shinny little pieces of metal, decorating the make shift Christmas tree.
I stood there, almost in shock, not quite knowing what was happening. The group of thirty men and women finished setting up their tree, and then assembled themselves around the tree as if to worship it.
And then it came.
As the soft light of the first rays of dawn spilled over the horizon unto the City and the Court yard and its new decoration, a soft feminine melody rose throughout the normal clatter and bustle of the realm.
Ever so soft at first, almost a whisper that would easily be lost amongst the background noise of the City, the song started so fragile yet so beautiful. Quickly but confidently, the song gained strength as soprano and tenor voices added weight to the growing melody.
It was at this point, I do believe, that almost all activity in our small community ceased. All about the Mesa the inhabitants of our society froze, mouths agape at the flowing beauty of the Hymn.
I can not describe the utter beauty of the moment. It was as if angles had descended upon our home and sang of the glory of the universe. Soft female voices fluttering here and there inside the melody. Deep booming baritones with accompanying tenors filling out the song, adding power and strength. And there in the center of it all was our beloved Zaia. Singing and leading her group, lifting our spirits to a before unknown high.
Again, I will never be able to capture the moment in these pages, nor would I if I could. For I wish to remember such things as they were and I don’t think I have the words to accurately describe it. But I do know the song. It came with us from the old world. A song that was sung during Christmas on Earth. It was this carol that Zaia and her group sung to us that Christmas morning;
Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away
Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,
ding dong ding
that is their song
with joyful ring
one seems to hear
words of good cheer
filling the air
Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale,
Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send ,
on without end,
their joyful tone to every home
Dong Ding dong ding, dong Bong
With a deep thrum of male voices, the carol ended and a soft silence spread throughout the streets. For untold moments the people of the City stood there, transfixed at the sight of the Christmas tree and Zaia’s choir that surrounded it.
For her part, Zaia stood there quietly waiting the verdict of her bold move. Not knowing if the populace was ready for such cheerful indulgence. The chill morning breeze still blowing her long red hair about.
I remember her glancing around the crowd. Looking from face to face for some sign of emotion. Some sign of appreciation. I don’t know if it was my tear, the warm salty globe that was running down my cheek, that gave her an answer but an enormous smile erupted from her face and I started to look about the courtyard and noticed similar tears on all I could see.
I looked back up at the choir and noticed my wife among their number. She saw me and smiled as the group started singing again. Another carol, one of hope and the spirit of the season.
For almost an hour did they sing. Hymn after hymn, in a steady rhythm of harmony and melody. Almost to the person, did the entire city show up in the courtyard. A thousand strong, swaying back and forth to the music. It was a beautiful scene and one we repeated every year at Christmas.
So it was, one year later, we buried our brethren, Dargo, Tom and Malecoda, that we came together at dawn on the twenty fifth day of December and sang our songs.
We celebrated our lives, our stubborn fight to survive. But we also give tribute to those that came before us and those that we have lost.
Yes, Christmas is a very important time for us, in the new world of man. It is no longer just a holiday to celebrate the birth of some child on a now distant world. It is a time for us to be joyful that we are here. A time to remember that to get us to this point, it took sacrifices.
And every year, I shed a tear. Of joy or sorrow, I no longer know.
For over a year, after the first incursion with the creatures known as the Morlocks, there were sightings and a fair amount of skirmishes betweens us and them. However, they all took place out in the Great Plains.
It did not escape us, though, that each sighting and each battle between the Watch and the beasts, took place ever so closer to the Valley.
It did not escape the Council either. Our request for a wall or fence around the city, that which was first met with resistance, was eventually granted and was in various phases of construction. About a dozen half finished towers, littered the perimeter of the mesa on which the City stood. Their rocky silhouettes casting shadows down upon the city. Small stretches of the Wall were already built but other pieces were only half the desired height and were only as tall as the men and women that worked upon them.
There was a lot of concern, from some of the intellectuals, that the society had become quite militaristic and that the Night Watch was using the threat of the Morlocks as an excuse to gain power. Those claims were, of course, ridiculous but during those times there were some who listened to such rhetoric.
For it was the coming threat of the Morlocks that saw the expansion of the Night Watch. When it was first established, we numbered just under a hundred. Little did we grow in those first few years, but after the massacre on the plains, new recruits petitioned to join. So it was that in our sixth year of inhabiting Terra, the Watch numbered close to three hundred men and women. Each Captain, as I was one of them, commanded a hundred troops.
And these troops were the best. I know, dear reader, that to say that they ‘were the best’ is expected of their commander. But I tell you, they were. Men and women thrust across the universe on a new world they did not choose, who stood up and gave a solemn vow to give their blood so others would live.
But vows were not the only thing that they were armed with, oh no. Amongst the people of the City were those who had served in armies and navies from across the old world. Others were historians with vital knowledge of military tactics and strategy.
These are the people who we based our military on. Our technology might have not been up to the par of the old world so we made due with what we could. For example, I do believe that it took a grand total of three minutes upon arrival into the Great Plains on our trek out of the Expanse, for someone to sharpen a stick and form a spear all those years past upon our arrival here.
Two days after our arrival into the Valley, someone made a crude bow. Four days after that, someone had carved a stock in which to make a cross bow. In short, our technology made leaps and bounds over the short period of time we were here.
After the first couple of years, when we had some semblance of industry, and after we had found small deposits of iron and other metals, more elegant weapons could be made. I had originally asked some of the more knowledgeable among us if it was possible to create some firearms.
Let us just say, I was firmly rebuffed. Mike confirmed that in perhaps in a generation, we would have the capacity for such an endeavor but not then.
So a more primitive approach was to be made for our defense. To a medieval time did we turn for such things. Our aqueduct was of Roman flavor as were a couple of our buildings, but for the majority of our construction, middle age Europe is where we looked to for inspiration.
So it was that early on that Keevan Coltan made our first blades. Using the iron found in the northern slopes, bits and pieces that littered the ground and using his knowledge of forging and shaping such metals, Keevan made our first swords.
He actually made many blades, but unhappy with their form or shape or any other small detail, he melted them back down and tried again and again until he was satisfied with the result of his toils.
Iron, so rare due to the method of its collection upon the rocky cliffs of the mountains, was used sparingly in those years. Only the most important of projects was iron a part of. The swords of our defense were one of these endeavors.
It took Keevan years to equip all of the Watch with their blades. Each one a work of genius and a piece of craftsmanship. For simplicity sake, we settled on one style of blade. A singular specification and type. A multipurpose sword, a bastard sword, as it was called in ancient Earth.
The smithy of Keevan ran day and night for so many years, but accomplished his task he did. Each member of the Watch was armed with a glistening blade. So great was his work, named were the swords in accordance to the wishes of the owner and the whims of the maker.
Some three a half feet long with a steel blade and bronze hilt and pommel. The handles were polished Blackwood, though none could tell for the Taun leather that was wrapped around it. Along the spine of the polished blade, was written the name of the weapon. Mine, Hellsbane, was the fourth made by Colton.
The thirteenth blade was given to one of my men. Wilkens. A good man was he. Reliable and capable was he, though forever youthful in the face. An original Watchman and as good a friend one can hope for. To him went the blade named Warmonger.
It was he who came to me one day in early spring of the sixth year. Our new troops were finishing their training and rumors of excursions and a long ranging had reached the ears of every one.
Wilkens cornered me in the Great Hall and asked if the rumors were true.
“Aye.” I said. “It has been decided. The next series of rangings will not include the south, nor west. The entire company will ride forth onto the plains and root out the Morlocks. Too close to the Eastern Approaches they have come.”
“Captain,” He said, “Our Company is next up for their rangings. My lance is ready, let me strike forth.”
Smirking with a hint of mischief I replied, “Edi has already petitioned for that position, though you have beaten LoneStar in asking.”
Wilken’s seemed saddened at the thought. He was not a warmonger but was eager to do his duty and prove the ability of his troops. I could readily see the turning of his mind as he searched for reasons for his lance to lead the excursion.
“Knife, my troops are ready. Edi is still slightly under strength and his newer Watchmen are still unproven riders. All but four of my newer troops have already been out on rangings. My troops are the best suited to lead the way.” Went his reasoning.
Keeping my air of mischief, I replied. “So you wish to volunteer then?” He nodded.
“Good, for you are already assigned to the position. The decision was made last night though I enjoyed your discomfort this last moment.” I chided him.
“Your lance will take the middle. You will ride out due east while Lonestar’s lance will ride north for a day and then turn east. Edi’s will do the same but south, skirting the Expanse. All will be within a day’s ride of each in case things turn sour.
I’ll leave the ultimate tactic and strategy to you, but my wish is to drive the Morlocks out of the Plains. Go slow and do not expose yourself, memories of Talon’s ride still haunt the Watch. If things turn dark, set a blaze the blue grass and the other two lances will ride to you.
Come, we will discuss this in detail with Edi and Lonestar. There is much to do and we leave two days hence.” I took his shoulder in comradeship and led him away to my small office in the Great Hall.
And so two days later, the hundred troops that made my company left the safety of the Valley and passed the Eastern Approaches into the Great Plains. We split our forces into the three lances and made our way to our individual routes.
I rode with Lonestar’s lance in the north and a day behind Wilkens, so I was not there to see the things he and his troops saw until the end of it. I remember riding up to the boarder of the Marsh Land that served for the backdrop of the slaughter. It was there that Wilkens told me his tale.
He told me the story, then and there upon the gory battlefield. He began with how they rode for three days with out seeing nothing. Some of the Watch thought they say shadows in the deep of night or the quite of early morning but none would swear they saw a Morlock.
On the night of the third day, Wilkens being weary of nearing the site were Talons group was ambushed, decided to send out night patrols. The Night Watch of his lance silently probed into the dark. The Moons were over the horizon and the night was black as pitch.
All night did he run his patrols while resting his troops in shifts. Such tactics paid off for him for he later told me of the first sightings of the enemy. His silent patrols and listening posts found traces of Morlocks. Tracks here and movement there. Quietly they followed the beasts and returned to report on them.
They were in hiding amongst the small bunches of trees that littered the Plains. Moving from one bunch to another when darkness fell. Whether as scouts or raiding parties or even nomadic families, Wilkens did not know.
Come the morning, he put his lance in a wedge formation. Marching again he veered towards what his patrols said was the last hiding place of the Morlocks the night before. Moving as if to pass the bunch of trees that served as the refuge of the creatures, Wilkens hoped to catch them unaware.
On cue, his well trained riders that were the northern part of the wedge, peeled off and charged towards the outcrop of small trees. The other three groups of Watchmen spit off and quickly surrounded the hideout.
Spears out, the riders and their Tauns penetrated the trees and a god awful ruckus ensued. Wilkens later told me that he was sure he had caught them by surprise but when his troops came back out of the foliage he was informed that there was no one there.
It was not empty though. Inside, Wilkens was one of the first to examine a dwelling of the enemy. It seemed that the Morlocks were slightly more intelligent than we gave them credit for. Inside the small group of trees there was an even smaller domed shaped structure. Seemingly made from mud brick, probably from the surrounding plains, the igloo shaped hut was big enough for perhaps four men but only two or three of the hulking brutes that built it.
Wilkens later surmised that it was a lookout post. A shelter against the elements for those who were stationed there. Such thoughts had various impacts back at the City upon our return but that is neither here or now. Upon this discovery, Wilkens instructed his lance to search out every cluster of brush and tree as they continued their march for the Marshlands.
It was not long before the charges of the Watch into the splotches of trees amongst the Plains began to yield results. Not every group of brush and tree hid a Morlock post but after every few dozen the Taun charges would see Morlocks flee before them.
Quick searches of every post found, reveled the same as the original. Small domed shaped huts. Some with food in various states of preparation, others with no signs of habitation.
All that fourth day did Wilkens and his lances cleanse the Plains of the beasts and that night he made extra care for defense to guard against retaliation. He figured that if each of the posts he had cleared had fielded three Morlocks, then a score of them would be running around the Plains tonight.
But the heedless meanderings of the Morlocks was not what happened. Unknown to Wilkens, Lonestar’s lance encountered a small group of the scouts as they trekked north. We caught them early the fifth morning and slaughtered them having caught them out in the open. I feared for the fate of Wilkens and spurred my group forward towards where Wilkens should be.
The remaining Morlocks apparently fled east to the Marshland where we surmised they made their home and on the morning of the fifth day when Wilkens arrived at he very spot where Talon first encountered the beasts, the Morlocks turned back towards him.
Wilkens recounted coming over a small rise and peering the enemy lined up before the twisted trees of the Marshland for the first time that morning. As his lance crested the rise, a great roar erupted from the small line of forty or so Morlocks.
The roar was a signal, for at that moment the numbers of the Morlocks doubled as blue and gray skinned creatures seemed to spill out of the tree line. Wilkens was some what shocked in that the Morlocks formed a rough line and began to march towards him.
Quickly, Wilkens dismounted two thirds of his men. The twenty Watchmen dismounted and formed their own line, two deep with wooden shields facing the enemy and their bastard swords unsheathed.
The remaining thirteen Watchmen stayed mounted and settled in with Wilkens behind the line. Wilkens told me when I arrived that the sight of what we then thought of as mindless creatures forming into a battle line almost unnerved his entire lance. But training won out over fear, as it should, and upon the rise his lance stood ready for combat.
On came the Morlocks, with their clubs and maces swinging in the air. Horrible screams from their twisted throats filling the field. Wilkens let them close to with in twenty meters of the base of the small hill his troops inhabited.
With a motion from his arm and a sharp command from his usually soft voice, he ordered the attack. The front rank of his line dropped down and the second man behind them sighted in with their bows.
With the sharp sound, ten bow strings released a torrent of arrows into the unsuspecting enemy and those behind the line quickly lost track of how many volleys were launched into the mass of creatures.
Their roars of challenge quickly turned to screams of pain as the arrows tore into them. Wilkens pressing home his advantage and ordered the charge as the front line of Watchmen marched down the hill and into the host of Morlocks.
With a war cry, Wilkens drew free Warmonger from its sheath and charged his small group of cavalry down into the right flank of the now doomed Morlocks. They held for a short time but in the end they broke and began to flee.
But the Morlocks were not done for the day. As Wilkens and his men finished off the last of the Morlock line, a new wave of the gangly creatures came out of the tree line. Not quite as strong in numbers as their first party, it began to grow as the fleeing members of the first host were absorbed into the second.
Abandoning all pretense of a battle line, the beasts screeched and yelled and attacked in mass. No tactics this time, just a charge backed by hatred and all the brute strength they could muster.
Wilkens, his lance spread out engaging the remaining pockets from the first host, saw that he could loose all if he engaged the screaming, running mass coming for him. He ordered a withdraw back up the small hill and quickly remounted his troops upon their Taun-tauns.
As the approaching enemy climbed up the small rise, Wilkens conferred with his team leaders. The lance split into three groups. Sixteen stayed with Wilkens in the middle and they charged towards the enemy only to withdraw right when the creature thought they had him in their grasp.
The other two groups harried the flanks with bow and arrow as Wilkens drew the host of creatures first north, then south. Twisting them around and constantly teasing them with himself as he rode ever so close to them.
The Morlocks in their mindless hate of the enemy that was dangled in front of them never considered the very precise and deliberate maneuvering of the enemy. Even at the end it never dawned on them.
Wilkens keeping careful eye on where the other two flanking units were and where the small rise was, kept moving and enraging the Morlocks until the they lost sight of the flanking units.
His last feint towards the enemy turned their back away from the small rise and away from where half of his lance now stood upon. With bow and arrow, the Watchmen on top of the hill reminded the Morlocks of their presence and as one the tired and enraged creatures turned upon them forgetting the ever fleeing men on Taun-tauns.
This was their final mistake of a long day of mistakes. Wilkens seeing them charge up the hill rallied his men and charged after them. With spears out, the riders tore into the unprotected rear of the Morlock charge and broke them then and there.
The remaining half of his lance charged down the hill with sword and spear and met Wilkens in the middle. All told, as he related to me later, they killed some five dozen Morlocks that day with no losses of their own. Another dozen or so escaped into the Marshland, growling and fuming at their loss.
To this day, there has not been such an uneven victory for us. None died that day from the Night Watch upon the Great Plains and vengeance for the ambush of Talon’s group was finally had.
It was this scene that I rode up to some hours later. Dead Morlocks littered the field and the stench was horrific. Lonestar's lance spread out to reinforce the pickets of Wilkens tired troops.
Upon the hill that was the center of the battle, I found Wilkens. His face bloody, yet devoid of any hair as if he just finished shaving, he turned towards me, upon my arrival.
“Captain, I have accomplished my mission. I have routed the Morlocks from the Plains.” He stated as a matter of fact.
For my part, I could not find words to reply. I stood there shocked at the horror and gore that soaked the field before the tree line of the Marshlands.
Finally I told him, “Come my friend, let us return to the city. Where your troops can heal and celebrate and we can see what is to come next.”
Last edited by Stravo on 2005-06-10 10:17pm, edited 3 times in total.