Sanctuary – Snippet 10
She wasn’t sure what he was doing, in any way she could have put into words. But as she continued the dance, she knew. She had perhaps never been closer to any person than she was in this moment to Sebetwe the Liskash.
She danced, and danced, and knew that Dakotsi danced to her left and Mareko to her right. All the tales placed the goddess of wonder and the god of caprice in tandem at such times.
Chefer Kolkin had recovered enough to be able to follow what was happening. More or less, from the outside. He had no sense of the complex weaving of minds that was transpiring between the still, kneeling Liskash and the whirling Mrem dancer. But he could see that — somehow — the Liskash was controlling the fearsome monster that had almost killed him. And he could see that — somehow — Achia Pazik was aiding and supporting the Liskash in its effort.
“What does she think she’s doing?” hissed Tsede Zeg. But it was a soft hiss, almost a whisper. “Is she crazy?”
“Be silent,” Chefer Kolkin commanded. The younger warrior obeyed. On this level, Chefer Kolkin’s authority was paramount.
Further up the slope, in the nest, Nabliz was as puzzled as the Mrem warrior below. He’d expected the effort to control two gantrak hatchlings to be enormous; quite possibly more than he could manage. Even as small as they were — small compared to their parent; each of them still weighed a third as much as Nabliz — and caught in the snares, they were gantrak. Ferocity incarnate. There were larger land predators, but none who would willingly face a gantrak in direct struggle.
And, indeed, so it had been at the beginning. But then, somethingâ€¦ happened.
Nabliz had no idea what it was, except that it coincided with the cessation of the noises of fighting coming from down the mountainside. The adult gantrak’s screams of fury had died, of a sudden. Thereafter — silence.
That silence was echoed, as it were, up in the nest. The hatchlings had ceased their own screeching and thrashing. Within a few moments, they’d become almost listless, as if they were half asleep.
Nabliz was pleased by the change, of course. Pleased and relieved. But some part of him worried all the more. Whatever else, the gantrak hatchlings had been a known quantity.
What was happening?
Finally, it was done. The gantrak rolled onto its back, exposing its belly. Its underside was not exactly unarmored, given the toughness of the monster’s hide. But it was covered with none of the spines and plates that made so much of its body almost impenetrable by any hand-held weapon.
By now, Sebetwe knew enough of the creature’s instincts to make the appropriate response. He leaned over, placed his palm on the gantrak’s belly, and then leaned on it with all his weight.
But only for a moment. This was no pet to be stroked! That one brief but firm touch was enough to close the surrender reflex cycle. Henceforth, the gantrak would be submissive to him.
Not docile, though. Docility was simply not in the nature of a gantrak. But the predator had accepted Sebetwe as his superior.
Might it be possible to actually tame the creature? No adult gantrak had ever been tamed by Liskash. For that matter, Sebetwe knew of only one instance in which an adult gantrak had even been captured alive — and that had been an instant in more senses than one. Within a short time, the monster’s captors had been forced to kill it before it managed to break loose from its bonds.
It was hard enough to tame gantrak hatchlings. More than half of those had to be killed also.
But if it could be doneâ€¦
The power and force of the great predator’s spirit, if it could be tapped by a Liskash adept, would be of tremendous assistance against Zilikazi’s mental power. It still wouldn’t be enough to beat down the noble — Zilikazi’s strength was incredible — but it would be enough to fend him off for a time. Perhaps quite a bit of time.
He decided it was worth trying. Providedâ€¦
He rose to his feet and turned to the Mrem whose dancing had given him such acuity, in some way that he still couldn’t fathom but knew to be true, as surely as he knew anything.
The only way to tame the gantrak would be with the Mrem’s continued assistance. Sebetwe had no idea how to persuade the Mrem to do so — even if he knew how to speak its language.
Which he didn’t. He knew none of the Mrem tongues. There were said to be dozens of them. Apparently, their mammalian quarrelsomeness extended to speech also.
But to his surprise — certainly his relief — the Mrem spoke in his own language. Even with the dialect of the Krek!
Somehow or other — she understood this no better than anything else — Achia Pazik had learned the Liskash’s language during the dance. Quite well, in fact, even if she didn’t think she was fluent.
“I am Achia Pazik. And you are Sebetwe, I believe. Of the Kororoâ€¦ I’m not sure if a ‘Krek’ is a tribe. But I know you are enemies of Zilikazi.”
The Liskash stared at her. “How did you know my name? And the Krek is a creed, not a tribe. All may join, no matter their origin. And, yes, Zilikazi is our enemy. Our greatest enemy.”
No matter their originâ€¦
She was pretty sure that sweeping statement had never been intended to included Mrem. Butâ€¦
It was worth trying. As bizarre as taking shelter among Liskash might be, they needed to take shelter somewhere. On their own, as few of them as there were, running through the wilderness, half of them would be dead before much longer, even if Zilikazi didn’t catch up with them.
She was not so naÃ¯ve as to believe that the enemy of her enemy was necessarily her friend. But, for the moment, she’d accept a simple lack of enmity. They managed so much right here on a mountainside, fighting together against a monster. Who was to say they couldn’t manage as much fighting side by side against a much greater monster?
“I learned your name — as I learned to speak your language — when our minds intertwined against the gantrak. Now, Sebetwe, I have a proposal.”
After Sebetwe accepted, she explained the situation to the others.
“You’re crazy!” exclaimed the Zeg brothers, speaking as one.
“Be silent,” Chefer Kolkin commanded. “Achia Pazik is our leader. She decides.”