Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chapter 5

"No." As soon as V-Naia saw the familiar blue Gomphid in the company of a dancer she didn't recognize, she launched herself from her perch to protest in Epepreo Tribal.

"Oh yes," replied M-Nev, calmly shifting her wings in Tribal Alighted. "He is an accomplished sentry in his own right, and he will get you past the border."

"But we captured him. I personally fought with him. Now you ask me to ally myself with D-Proi of the Gomphid?"

"It's not a request, V-Naia, and it is not up for debate."

D-Proi tried to interpret the unfamiliar dialect, but not being a linguistic scholar, failed miserably. So he interrupted, pulling away from his escort, and inserting himself between V-Naia and and the Elder. "I have answered your summons," he signaled stiffly in Common Flight. "What is it you wish of me, Elder?"

"Sentry, you are to join a squadron in need of a member. Together you will venture into your old tribal land."

"Need I remind you that I can refuse this?"

"You may, but surely you have a mate you've been longing to see?"

D-Proi backed away a distance, and rose a bit. "I do miss my mate, but I can't betray my people."

"He has a point," offered V-Naia.

"Not a good one," countered M-Nev, not leaving her perch. "His people are dying. He loses nothing by taking rank."

"No, just his dignity."

"Your people are sending nurturers to the front lines, D-Proi." M-Nev turned her attentions back to the Gomphid. "Nurturers, keepers, dancers… You could lose your mate tomorrow. You may have lost her already. Can you live with the not knowing?"

D-Proi lurched, but retained his poise. "Well, that is war, isn't it?"

"Oh, by Fate," G-Siol swan dove into the center of the triangle of debaters. "Gomphid, you join the Blindsiders for this one mission. M-Nev, you allow him to leave if he chooses, once that mission's done, and stay with his tribe, much good that will do him. And V-Naia, be a captain and deal with it. Fair?"

"Fair enough, G-Siol. I agree to that." M-Nev's wings twitched in amusement. "D-Proi, do you agree?"

"I suppose I don't have much influence in the matter. Yes, I will agree to that. One mission only."

"Agreed, then." V-Naia surrendered her hover to an air current for a moment, allowing the atmosphere to sigh for her. "D-Proi will take N-Centh's rank. Fourth officer. We will have our goodbyes and then reassemble by N-Centh's pool. G-Siol, you will be D-Proi's escort until further notice. Are we clear?"

"We are," the present Blindsiders replied, almost in unison.

"Good. Until dusk at the Pool Fed by Falling Water. We'll depart from there. Oh, and sharpen your spears," V-Naia relayed her final orders of the day.

"Fate be with you," M-Nev signaled the squadron, launching herself from her leaf. She had more responsibilities to tend to, after all.

"And also with you," replied V-Naia. And the Blindsiders dispersed.


They had once been modest kettles, carved by glaciers only extant in some distant ancestral memory, danced out like slithering ghosts in tribal lore. Since that long ago age, Phaneros had drifted into warmth, and the kettles had tested their banks, growing their own lobes, reaching through soluble minerals for greater depths. Their territory had grown accordingly. Like giant amoebas, they covered perhaps five to ten acres of surface area each. They maintained themselves with the gentle, scattered but reliable rains, and sometimes pulled additional fluid from hidden underground springs. They lived.

The Pool Where Trees Cradle the West Moon was the northernmost of the Epepreo pools. Spring and rain-fed both, it was the largest of the three productive waters. Its three primary outlets converged into a stream that casually meandered south through soil and stone, gathering discharge as it went. The surface was almost unmarred by eddies, and the crystal waters revealed a pebbled surface that leapt and rolled with rhythm and method.

It was all the more surprising, then, when the stream made its plunge. By the time it met the precipice, it was about three meters wide. The scarp itself was at least twice that in height, its strata looming over white, bubbling water. The daily rains, who had reduced themselves to halfhearted mists, met the spray at the knickpoint.

Sunlight usually shown through the water just so, hinting at the overhanging rock behind the shimmer. Today, however, the light leapt through the mists just so, unfolding into an astonishing array of color. V-Naia perched opposite the waterfall, her wings completely still. Radiant ultraviolet gave way to blues and greens, ultimately fading into dull near infrared. Ph-Lyre shared a leaf with his mate. She was mesmorized by the radiant arc, but he was not so calm.

"Do you think it's an omen?" he twitched, in broad exaggerated strokes, trying to catch her attention.

"An omen? Of what?" she finally replied.

"Of... of anything, V-Naia. Good or bad."

"I don't read omens. Ask a dancer."

"Look at me, V-Naia."


"This may be the last time we see each other. You're leaving tomorrow?"

"We are, yes." V-Naia broke away from the falls, finally turning her attention to her mate. Ph-Lyre glimmered with minute water droplets that resembled clear jewels on amber. "But we'll return. You'll see."


V-Naia could only guess. Instead, she began a standard prayer, her wings brushing against Ph-Lyre's as they moved. "We have given of ourselves unto the water."

He offered the response. "The water has given unto us the sky."

"We have given of ourselves unto the sky."

"The sky has given unto us the light."

"We have given of ourselves unto the light."

"The light has given unto us vision."

"And sighted we ride Fate as wind," she concluded.

They fell again into stillness, not comforted but filled with acceptance. Her duties dictated that she go, and his that he remain home. They had chosen their life courses and would not change them in midstream.

The sun set. The rainbow faded. The sentry and the nurturer had been blind to everything but each other and the falls. That blindness faded, too, in time for V-Naia to see her squadron approaching in the distance.

"So, it's time?" asked Ph-Lyre, again restless.

"It is. Take care of our nymphs, Ph-Lyre."

"I will. Keep them safe, V-Naia.'

"I will. Fate be with you."

"Fate return you to me."

"It will. Trust it." Her wings touched his one last time, and then she arose from the frond, tightly clutching her spear and her hopes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chapter 4

"Yes, I know it's all chaos. Give me an audience." A dancer actively blocked V-Naia's path, determined to follow protocol in time of war. She hovered, brilliantly red in the morning sun. At her left, her second lieutenant gleamed copper, and at her right golden G-Siol hovered. Together they were a sunset at the Sunset Cycad.

"Tell me again why..."

"We have a proposal for M-Nev's eyes only. An audience, please!"

"I can't let you by unless I know why."

"Just let us the hell through," huffed G-Siol, flying forward, posturing. The dancer, undaunted, moved to block the sentry.

"G-Siol," V-Naia warned for the dancer's benefit. "Look, dancer, this is important. We would not be requesting audience with M-Nev if it were not."

"V-Naia, is it, of the Pool Fed by Falling Water?" M-Nev, who had been issuing orders nearby, inserted herself between the dancer and the sentries.

"Southern Fern-Shaded, Elder M-Nev," replied V-Naia, dropping altitude in deference to her Commander. A-Pol and G-Siol followed suit.

"Of course. F-Enek, you may go. Fly with me, all of you." The Elder Sentry was a robust female, impossible to ignore. Her exoskeleton was a deep green, striped in dusky orange and etched with evidence of a thousand battles. They had been as sand carried on the wind, and she a desert stone.

"My squadron is downed with two injured, or we'd still be fighting. Elder M-Nev, the Gomphid are too many. Too many for a dying two pool tribe."

"It is true." M-Nev wheeled through the air, motions erratic with Flight Language and travel. She kept the focus of her great green jewel-faceted eyes on the ballet chatter of the dancers around the Cycad. "Most of our reserves are committed to the defense of our lines. We suspect that the Gomphid have bolstered their own force with hunter recruits."

"That would not explain the numbers, not completely." V-Naia shot ahead of her Commander, leaping in Flight before settling onto a leaf of the Cycad and fading into the wing twitching of Alighted. M-Nev joined her, choosing an adjacent leaf. G-Siol and A-Pol remained aloft.

"Other castes too, then, none of them learned in battle but determined enough to fight." M-Nev's shining lenses met those of V-Naia, whose deep red eyes followed the complex wing motion. "What is your proposal?"

"G-Siol suggest we go around."

"Go around what?"

"The border. We go to Gomphid skies and find a weakness," G-Siol explained, fiddling with his spear, slightly unnerved in the presence of the Elder.

"A reconnaissance mission. We've sent scouts, G-Siol. They have not returned. What makes you think you would succeed where they have failed?"

"We are Blindsiders, Elder," interjected A-Pol, as though that explained everything. He kept his own spear at ease.

"That we are, that we are!" P-Ten darted into the field of view, flying with an enthusiasm that belied her recent injury. Clearly she had had a refreshing rest. Subdued F-Ness followed her closely for the sake of caution and under the orders of a healer.

"Do you even know what they're talking about?" demanded F-Ness, her amber-gilded amethyst a blur keeping up with her bright fuchsia charge.

"Well, no, but I assume they'll fill us in." P-Ten managed to stop before colliding with A-Pol, though it was probable she'd cut things close on purpose.

"P-Ten! Good to see you flying again," V-Naia greeted her first lieutenant.

"Yes, good," managed a slightly vexed A-Pol. "What of N-Centh?"

"She will live, but she may be in pain for the better part of a long cycle, the healer thinks," answered F-Ness, flying in a shallow mutter. "C-Epon is with her. We have moved her from the east magnolia wood to poolside. She is resting."

"But will she fly?" V-Naia needed confirmation. She'd had high hopes for the youthful officer, and did not like to see them dashed.

"Yes, she will fly, but not with us. Not soon."

"So we fly at six."

"No, you will fly at seven," M-Nev interjected. "You will take on the mission you've proposed, and you will have full rank."

"What is the mission? Will somebody tell me?" P-Ten leapt, performed a frustrated barrel roll and concluded by violating G-Siol's personal airspace.

He reflexively backed away, and repeated, "We go around."

"We're taking on a reconnaissance mission, infiltrating Gomphid skies," explained V-Naia. "But, Elder, tell me how you wish us to fill our ranks?"

"Wait a few beats. You'll see soon enough.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chapter 3

The first lieutenant dove from above at an otherwise distracted Gomphid squadron. She cut through the seven-member V-formation and grabbed one member on her way down, fracturing the enemy team into three parts. P-Ten and the Gomphid fell, twirling and lashing at each other with their spears, into the grasses and ferns below.

"P-Ten! Fewmets!" V-Naia tried to focus on her remaining squadron. They were nearing the end of the third short cycle, and after three dawns and dusks, they were making mistakes. P-Ten, for instance, was more reckless than usual. At least it seemed as though she'd taken out the rival captain.

"Before they come together, A-Pol, lead against the four! N-Centh," she signaled her youngest officer, "we'll take the other two."

The second lieutenant split his group of four in two, joining one of the pairs. The pairs wove back and forth in a figure-eight pattern toward the four Gomphid. One Gomphid, weary or inexperienced or both, fell into the trap, attacking an officer only to find herself at the end of A-Pol's spear. A Gomphid lieutenant quickly responded, calling for his two strays to rejoin the squadron.

"Don't let them go," warned V-Naia, as she and N-Centh attacked their marks. Just as she said this, her opponent seized the moment and answered his lieutenant's call. "Keep on yours!" V-Naia yelled to her officer as she sped after the enemy.

She overshot her opponent. Perhaps she misjudged her own speed, or perhaps the Gomphid simply slowed, but either way it was a tactical error. Trying to correct this, V-Naia decreased her velocity, and quickly found herself in a mid-air vertical roll, opposite an enemy doing the same thing. V-Naia attempted to block his spear with her own, all the while mimicking his speed, but they were evenly matched and approaching the primary skirmish.

"On alert!" A-Pol ordered his three, who dove out of the way, as did the three Gomphid. C-Epon, the first officer, then dove back in the way, timing it well and picking off V-Naia's Gomphid as they tumbled by.

V-Naia managed to right herself and return to her squadron. The remaining Gomphid had retreated to recover their wounded. "Wuff. Nice work. What are our numbers?"

"P-Ten is down," A-Pol reported, "and three Gomphid. Where's N-Centh?"

N-Centh, no match for the more experienced (not to mention bigger) Gomphid officer, had fallen. V-Naia did not know where that fight had ended, but she did know where it had started. "A-Pol, go after P-Ten. I'll find N-Centh. F-Ness?" she signaled her third officer. "Come with me."


A sparse wood of sweet magnolia preceded the eastern borderland of Epepreo territory. It spanned almost as far as the northern border, but petered out in the south, giving way to the vespin hive field V-Naia and her Blindsiders had been defending. The canopy of this wood was usually thick for all the individual trees kept their distance, but at the moment many limbs were stripped of choice twigs and leaves, and the last sunlight of the third short cycle shown through it.

A sentry lay upon a leaf on the floor of this wood. His wings were crumpled beyond repair. His legs curled stiffly inward and hemolymph had pooled and long since congealed beneath him. His formerly emerald exoskeleton already seemed dusty, even in the dying light.

V-Naia tried to ignore it, choosing to focus on her own sentries. P-Ten and N-Centh clung steadfastly to life, though they remained unconscious. A-Pol had flown after a healer, and the rest of the Blindsiders huddled around their fallen, among endless rows of casualties on leaves.


The red moon, in waxing crescent, had risen above the treetops before A-Pol returned with a healer. P-Ten perched limply upright on her leaf, asleep but stable. N-Centh, her left hind leg twisted strangely, lay without comfort on her side, her wings askew. It was her the healer tended to first.

"Sentry," said the healer to her in subdued Alighted. N-Centh, now awake but groggy, barely noticed. "Here. Chew this." The healer offered a small bit of odd vegetable matter, and the officer took it in her mandibles. Its juices flowed through her and she soon slept again.

V-Naia watched over P-Ten, and kept an eye on N-Centh with her peripheral vision. A-Pol held N-Centh's leg straight as the healer carefully applied a poultice. The rest of the squadron just watched. A sentry's knowledge of field medicine was minimal at best, consisting primarily of stabilization and transport techniques.


Not long after the healer had left for other fallen, the night lepido emerged from their arboreal nooks. They were sparrow-sized shadows on wide graceful wings, and they spiraled from one flower to the next, navigating the blossoms with long feathered antennae and sipping nectar with longer unfurled tongues.

They were easy prey.

Five Blindsiders sat by their fallen comrades, munching their midnight meals. "This is futile, isn't it?" V-Naia's wings twitched as her mandibles cut through an unfortunate lepido's thorax. "We can't win this way."

"It's not over yet, Captain," replied A-Pol, also chewing.

"It will be over soon if something doesn't change."

"We're one squadron. One downed squadron. What are you suggesting we do?" asked F-Ness, the third officer.

"We go around, that's what we do," suggested G-Siol, the second officer.

V-Naia rose on her tarsi, setting the remains of her lepido in front of her. "That's good. That's what we do. But around what, G-Siol?"

"The front, the border. Into Gomphid skies. We go around and find a weakness."

"And if there isn't one?"

"There's always a blind spot, V-Naia. Isn't that what we train to find?"

"He has a point," chimed in A-Pol, finishing his dinner.

"Hmm. So he does. We may go around the line, but we will do this by the lore. G-Siol, A-Pol, come with me to Council at first sun."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chapter 2

P-Ten clung fast with four tarsi to the back of a desperately bucking chiron. Her fore and mid-right limbs were devoted to thrusting a spear at the neck of the creature. V-Naia kept an eye on her first lieutenant as she, the captain, faced radar ears, great nearly blind eyes and razor-sharp canines. The chiron screeched, lunging at her, but she feinted, knocking it on the side of its skull with her weapon. Twice as big, and at least four times as massive as the Aeshnida, the chiron were potentially formidable predators. Luckily, they were also loners and predictable, hunting primarily at dusk. They flew on cumbersome membranous wings, and they could generally be outmaneuvered by a standard seven-member squadron.

This particular chiron dodged to the left, into the spear of a flanking officer. It pulled right again reflexively, and into the spear point that gave the formation symmetry. The officer on the behind that spear stumbled backwards, absorbing the force of the chiron and turning to fight gravity. The second lieutenant, who covered the back of the formation, noted that it was time to finish the skirmish. "Take it down," he signaled to the two officers waiting above, and P-Ten, who still stuck to the back of the chiron. A-Pol, the second lieutenant, dove after the dazed right flanker as the rest of the squadron chased the creature into the lush grasses and ferns below.

"Good work," V-Naia approved, allowing P-Ten to take the finishing stab and the first morsel. "By the lore." The rest of the squadron followed P-Ten's lead, taking bits of meat from the muscular area just behind the chiron's wings. These they would carry impaled on spear point to those of the tribe who could not hunt for themselves. The rest they left to the dipter and other scavengers, a signal to other chiron that the northern borders of Epepreo land were not safe.

Just as V-Naia took the seventh morsel, a flash of yellow and deep brown appeared over head. "Who goes?" demanded copper-tinged A-Pol.

"M-Bene of the Epepreo, Southern Fern-Shaded Pool," the dancer replied with her learned flourish. "M-Nev bids your squadron meet at the Sunset Cycad. It is a Gathering. Make haste!"

She did not stay for conversation, flying off instead to find the next nearest sentries on chiron patrol, looking not unlike a vespin with the bands of alternating color along her abdomen.


B-Leon, another dancer, navigated the southeast vespin hive field. A dry night breeze rustled through the thick, tall grasses, and the ruby male was a bundle of nerves. So close to the border, he fretted to himself. Most keepers and sentries had been evacuated from this area already, leaving a skeleton crew to patrol in the temporary calm before more strategic security could be devised. But B-Leon had two more individuals to locate before he could call his assignment complete. "Have you seen M-Ela and Z-Geph?" he called out to a distant keeper.

"Sunward a few beats," the keeper replied.

"Thank you!" B-Leon took a sharp turn westerly, and soon realized how he'd missed the pair. Z-Geph, a pale yellow keeper and M-Ela, a dull orange hunter, were deep in conversation amongst a thick swarm of vespin returning to hive for the night.

"Where have you been?" B-Leon asked, flying headlong into the swarm and dispersing confused vespin left and right.

"Would you be careful? How'd a klutz like you get to be a dancer, of all things?" retorted the hunter.

"Stop. He's just excited," Z-Geph admonished. "I was just relinquishing a weak one for feed," she explained to the dancer. As if to confirm this, she corralled a lone vespin that tumbled through the air. B-Leon's charge had apparently been its last straw.

"I see," answered the dancer. He let the other male put the vespin out of its misery before passing along his message. "What I am here to say," he gathered himself, "is that the Elder Council bids you meet at the Sunset Cycad. It is a gathering, and you're late, so hurry!"


Its base was a brilliant reddish-orange, inside and out, and this vivid color extended to the its male cone. Its leaves were black at their tips and lightened in an irregular gradient as they broadened nearer the center and ground. The effect was indeed that of a sun sinking into the horizon, and that the Sunset Cycad was rooted deeply in a steep western hill was probably just coincidence. The Elder Council perched staid on its crown of leaves, and a flock of dancers hovered around them, waiting to remember history. One stranger, red and brown, hung poised above the cone. All around the rise, in innumerable restless strata, were Epepreo of all castes.

Satisfied that quorum had been reached, M-Nev, the Elder Sentry, rose from her perch. The bright twin moons illuminated her striped orange and green form in spite of the new night. "The Gomphid have sent to us, in their Elder Sentry's stead, a herald. C-Fas," she turned to him, "you have the honor of the message."

C-Fas obediently rose so that all could see him. "In the name of S-Fon, Elder Sentry of the Pool of the Gingko, and in the name of my people, I C-Fas of the Double Moon Pool declare war upon you the Epepreo who have but cannot spare the stuff of life."

"Will there be parley?" questioned M-Nev.

"The time is past. There will be no parley," replied C-Fas.

"No parley," repeated the Elder, for the benefit of those gathered. "Then we take you into custody, first prisoner of war C-Fas." She signaled in Tribal to a pair of nearby sentries, who approached the Gomphid in the center of the cycad. "Take him to the west magnolia grove and keep him there. Treat him well." The sentries did as they were told, flanking the dancer and escorting him to a distant cluster of red-leaved trees full of fragrant white flowers.

When C-Fas was out of sight, M-Nev continued her duties as Commander in Chief, sending perhaps half of her sentries to the battle lines, and to the vespin hive fields as security detail. She kept a reserve force in the vicinity of her pools. The other Elders distributed their respective castes accordingly. R-Tem sent many of her hunters to the borderlands to watch for chiron and other creatures who would take advantage of war if they could. F-Uan sent contingents of his keepers to aid in protecting their vespin. A-Sclep and H-Mes assigned certain healers and dancers to accompany the sentries, to act as field medics and heralds and historians respectively. V-Sta kept her nurturers at home.

Almost as an afterthought, M-Nev summoned an unassigned dancer forward. "M-Bene of the Southern Fern-Shaded Pool," she asked, "are you willing to go in trade to the Gomphid, to confirm Epepreo acceptance of war and no parley?"

M-Bene hesitated, thinking of her pool and her people. "I am willing," she finally replied.

"Go then, M-Bene, and Fate be with you."

"Fate be with us all." M-Bene sped off into the east, in the direction of the sentry force, the battle lines and the Gomphid.

"Indeed. Fate be with us at sunrise."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Chapter 1

Dipter, aerialists in their own right, swarmed. Their pale, veined wings and halteres carried them in unlikely bounds and barrel rolls; what this meant to the dipter, nobody quite knew. Their round multi-faceted eyes glinted blood-red in the sunlight, betraying no hint of intelligence. The small, dark creatures swam the currents of the air, dodging misty raindrops and predatory Aeshnida.

A youthful female, variegated in emerald and violet, was less interested in the scavengers than the carrion they consumed. All around her, fellow Gomphid Nurturers gently added their limp young to makeshift tombs. N-Argi had not been a part of the preparation of the graves. The deep depressions in the soil had been carved, with great care and over many long cycles, by industrious platinum coleo (all of whom had been forcibly evicted by Gomphid Hunters.)

"N-Argi, come away from there." A large silvery male sidled up to her, his wings frayed but functional. Focused as she was on the dead, she saw him without seeing him. He continued, trying to grab her attention. "This isn't healthy. Come on, you need a break."

He finally registered. "S-Pehn," she replied limply. "Go where?"

"Anywhere but here. Come on." He dipped away from the proceedings and on towards a pool. It would be a better place. Not by much, but it would be better. N-Argi trailed behind him, ignoring the other traffic between the pool and the vacated coleo nests.

The pair finally hovered over the Double Moon Pool, and S-Pehn considered that, maybe, this hadn't been his best idea. Raindrops hit the surface of the water with punctuated splashes, radially pushing aside a crowd of white dipter larvae who quickly moved to fill the vacancy again. The surface was thick with them.

The vespin had started dying a long cycle ago, possibly more. Without them, and the benefit of pollination, the riparian flora dependent on sexual reproduction died off in the cool season only to have no new growth to offer in the warm. Nymphs of the pool lost the respite of the shade the leaves provided, and the extra oxygen the foliage exhaled. They could not survive. The dipter, however, thrived. The imagos feasted on scavenged flesh, and used the extra energy to produce aquatic eggs in quantity. The maggots, for their part, loved the heat.

"We couldn't save them," N-Argi muttered. "There was no place else."

"No," S-Pehn agreed. "The Pool of the Ginkgo is almost as squalid."

"And other tribes, with better pools, they couldn't help. Or wouldn't."

"They're probably afraid."

N-Argi considered that, her attention on a reddish gold female who dove to pull a first instar hatchling from the water.

"They're probably afraid, but D-Proi was not, and neither am I."

S-Pehn noted that some of the old vigor had returned to N-Argi's motion. Mission accomplished, he thought to himself before replying, "Whatever happened to your mate, anyway?"

"Scouting mission," she clipped. "He went forward with two others, and never did come back." With that, she charged away from the stagnant place, nearly colliding with three other tribemates in quick succession. By the time they recovered, she was out of view, and they joined S-Pehn, continuing in that grimmest of recovery efforts.


A great cycad grew, deeply rooted, at the top of an escarpment. From there it overlooked the territory of the Gomphid and beyond. The fronds were black as midnight with the exception of the deep ruby veins that cut through them. At over four feet at their broadest points, and with nearly three times that in length, the leaves curved gently out. The resulting platforms were perfectly proportioned to Aeshnida landing platforms. It was there, at the Dying Star Cycad, that the Gomphid Elder Council met.

All six of the Council were convened, facing the brilliantly scarlet male cone in the center of the plant, when the young Nurturer arrived unannounced in front of them. The Elder Healer, olive-green and world-weary, saw her first and rose to attention. "N-Argi, what is the emergency?" asked the Healer.

"Emergency? Have you not seen the pools?"

"Of course I've seen the pools, N-Argi. We've all seen the pools," she answered. L-Ydia, a minute creature with red-striped wings, was patient as always.

"And we know how you feel," added the Elder Dancer, S-Vul. Her brilliant orange whipped through the air with the eloquence only Dancers came to achieve. "You fed them lore as well as meat. You knew them."

"We all knew them," N-Argi protested. "Story time or not, we all knew them. And without them we are nothing."

A third Elder, the color of an overcast sky, answered now. His left forewing had long since been crippled, and so he used a limited form of Common Alighted, moving his other three wings as best he could. One attendant, another Dancer, translated. "Do you believe we are doing nothing? Did we not bid the Gomphid stop circling over water when we saw the vespin start to fall? Have we not sent scouts into Epepreo skies to find new life?"

"And has that worked? D-Proi is not back. Nobody is back," N-Argi replied.

"D-Proi is your mate, correct?" asked the third Elder, who was in fact the Council Sentry and knew the caste under his command.

"That is correct, S-Fon, sir. Will you be sending somebody to look for him?"

"No," he answered after a moment. "N-Argi, we are convened here today..."

The Elder Hunter, A-Cya, interrupted. "With all due respect, sir, is this the wisest time to announce?" She hung in the air with her question.

"The ire of even the gentlest of Nurturers is risen. What better time? We have convened here today," he repeated, "to take the most drastic of actions. We declare war upon the Epepreo, who have but cannot willingly spare the stuff of life."

N-Argi let that sink in. "About time," she finally replied.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Great domes of deep red earth, speckled with dead, paper-like foliage, loomed above the grassy fields of Phaneros. Three scouts wove among them, examining their structure (full of small entry and exit holes), and the pale crimson terrain below. The inhabitants of the domes were elsewhere, for the most part, presumably on reconnaissance missions of their own, but there was still a bit of traffic in and out of the structures, and a low hum emanating from within them.

This was a deliberate incursion into enemy airspace, but the scouts found themselves too preoccupied with gathering intelligence to notice they'd been discovered.

Looking like the East Moon following the rising Phanerosian sun, the captain of an Epepreo squadron appeared in front of the invader. She held a long wooden spear expertly in her right foreclaws. The Gomphid leader noted that it was considerably longer -- and sharper -- than those issued to a standard scout.

The captain flew a field signal to her two lieutenants, who moved to shadow the remaining scouts. Her four officers covered the scouts' potential exits, above and below, left and right. V-Naia approved. Her squadron was responsive, and made talented use of "blind" spots which, for a race blessed with near 360 degree vision, were few and far between.

Switching from Tribal to Common Flight, she demanded, "Who comes forward?"

"D-Proi of the Gomphid, Double Moon Pool," he replied, keeping some attention on the spear she held at its length, hovering at ready.

"Your mission?"

"It is not for me to say to you."

A warm, water-heavy breeze blew between red and blue as V-Naia considered. With no indication of diplomacy, her options were in fact few.

"Then I cannot offer. Forward or back?"


"So be it." The air became a blur as the Gomphid attempted retreat, and the Epepreo met the challenge. V-Naia took the leader alone, as was proper, but her six took on the two. Spear met spear, and spear met exoskeleton, and almost as soon as it had begun it ended, no hemolymph drawn.

"Forward or back?" V-Naia asked again, her abdomen heaving.

"Forward," conceded the equally fatigued scout.

V-Naia bowed, giving up altitude, then retaking it. "To Elder Council," she signaled to her team in Tribal. And forty long wings beat forward, twelve of them in custody.


Ph-Lyre rested on a fern, and watched the deep pool before him as it churned with nymphs first hatched, near-adult, and every molting in between. He also watched his mate as she told her story. His wings quivered with the subtleties of Common Alighted. "Is that all?" he asked.

"No. It was a routine mission. We easily apprehended the Gomphid. But Ph-Lyre," she replied, still aerial, "this is no less than the fifth mission of its kind for us in as many days."

"What do they need?"

"The vespin. According to the elders, the vespin of the Gomphid are dying, and nobody knows why."

"And with the vespin, the pools."

"Yes," she replied, finally landing on a broad leaf beside Ph-Lyre.

"Can we spare?" he asked, after a moment.

"No, we can't spare, especially if the death may spread."

"And what of the Gomphid?"

"They will keep scouting for territory. It will come to more than three at a time."

"The Gomphid you captured."

"Oh, those," her wings twitched. "Two we sent forward and away. The one, the leader, we kept on. His information may be valuable and besides, new blood."

"Of course. Which are ours, do you suppose?" he wondered, abruptly changing the subject.


"Of the nymphs. Which are ours?"

"All of them are of the Epepreo."

"No. Ours."

Now she knew what he meant. It was not a thing V-Naia often thought about, but as a nurturer (resting at the moment), she supposed Ph-Lyre considered it rather often. Which nymphs had been given to the Epepreo by them, by their circling above the pool for those moments.

They would never know. She couldn't find it in herself to express the obvious.

A small swarm of vespin flew by, from one flower to another. A breeze rustled the leaves shading the pool, and Ph-Lyre arose from rest to assist an older nymph who had ventured from the benthos to the surface, after a wriggling dipter larva.

Meditating on the glimmering, falling water that fed the pool, she wondered if that nymph was hers. And why the vespin were dying.

Author's Note

Before I begin posting (regularly, I hope) this work in progress, I want to thank some folks for the inspiration for the story outlined in mostly broad strokes in my college-ruled notebook:

  • Kalinara and Ragnell, for the prompt needed to create the primary character and a world for her.
  • Willow, Mallet, and a non-comics online community (you know who you are) for inspiration and feedback.

Yes, I know, acknowledgments seem strange, heading up a story that isn't nearly finished yet, but when thanks are due, then they are due. And I wouldn't even be attempting to write original fiction if it weren't for those mentioned above.

Whether you assign those mentioned blame or not is up to you, the reader.

I reserve the right to go back and revise chapters. And I welcome constructive feedback.

Thanks. Enjoy.