Lacerta: The Final Gift

November 5, 2008
Szalor looked up at the sky and saw Lacerta shining in her brilliance. He whispered a prayer to her promising to grow stronger today, and began running until he could no longer smell the musk of his own clan. There were three strong scents in the air Astuns, Chamans, and Roburlans. After a few moments he followed the Roburlan scent, heading deeper in the lighted side of the planet. He sprinted through the marsh until the scent grew stronger. Then he slowed and began to creep slowly through the water dotted with lily pads. He continued onward searching for a lone Roburlan when he heard a noise.
This noise was unfamiliar to him and so he turned to investigate. He slowly walked into the dank of the swamp and followed the noise. After a few moments he stopped. A shiny ship descended into the swampy water. Szalor froze. As he watched he saw a section of the ship open and a heavy mist seeped onto the water. From the mist stepped large metallic creatures. Szalor had never seen these creatures before. He studied them hoping to discover a weakness. The robots surrounded the ship. Szalor leaned forward to see the new invaders better. Just as he moved a large siren wailed and the creatures began to move. Afraid that the creatures had seen him Szalor ran back about 100 yards into some small foliage. The creatures continued to march at a steady pace. One of Szalor’s claws slipped and broke the surface of the muddy water. One of the creatures turned their head, alerted by the small noise. Without thought Szalor sprang from his hiding place just before a beam of light reached his hiding place. Looking over his shoulder he saw that the plant was gone and only a small mound of smoldering ash remained.
Szalor continued to run as fast as his legs could take him through the slush of his marshy hunting grounds. At this pace he quickly outran the slow-marching creatures. He ran until he came to his home, the city of Rotker. He ran to his father’s tent, the tent of the war chief. “Father, Father” Szalor cried. “What is it spawn?” his father asked. “Lacerta sends a dozen shiny beings that wield deadly light to test us,” Szalor quickly related. At this Szalor’s father quickly sent sentries out to patrol the boarders of the city. Quickly he gathered his forces and prepared to defend their home.
After only minutes a large boom sounded the likes of which rattled Szalor’s skull. He scurried around and saw the walls of his home torn asunder. Slowly the creatures marched into his home, destroying everyone and everything with their beams of light. He watched as the warriors surged toward the 12 metallic creatures ready to engulf them in a mass of teeth and claws. Szalor watched as the small band of enemy warriors held against the tide of his warrior-brothers. Szalor tensed readying himself to pounce on the creatures when a firm hand pressed on his shoulder. He turned to see his father standing over him. His father said “Today is gone spawn. Take flight and ready the rest of Lacerta’s children for these creatures. I know you are a warrior but you must head my words. Now Follow.” At his father’s biding he turned and ran. He joined a small band of hatchlings and females that his father gathered and ran with them toward the opposite gate. His father pulled the gate back to let them through. After Szalor passed he turned just in time to see his father struck with one of the bolts of light. He watched as the life vanished from his eyes and he fell to the ground. Szalor took a step toward him but, remembering his father’s final demand, he turned and led the group away. Hatred unprecedented boiled inside of Szalor and he swore vengeance on the metallic demons.
“War chief” a small chaman said as he stepped into his tent. Awakening from his day dreams Szalor turned to face him. “What did you come for,” Szalor demanded. “You asked to be notified when the new troops were ready for inspection,” the Chaman stated almost a little too timidly. Szalor rose without saying a word and exited the tent. He strolled with the long, almost lunging strides his species had. He walked through his camp until he came to a spot unpopulated with huts. In the clearing there stood a large group of soldiers. The group contained Chamans, Roburlans, and Astuns, Lacerta’s three children, the only sentient species on the planet. He headed onto a platform in front of the clearing. The group of warriors stilled and stared at Szalor, waiting for his words. “In the beginning there was Lacerta” he began. “She created many children. She set her children against each other to test their strength, for Lacerta is strong and demands that her children are too. When only three of her children proved themselves strong enough, they were given gifts from Lacerta. The Robulans were given Lacerta’s strength, the Chamans were given Lacerta’s stealth, and the Astuns were given her cunning. We are her children. We were given this rock as a place to live and prosper. Lacerta continued to test us by sending other enemies to try their hands in battle. When they dared land on Lacerta’s children’s home they burned in her awesome presence. Those that were not torn asunder by her brilliance were cast down by her children. We conquered all of them and have stolen their strength and become more powerful.” The fever pitch of Szalor’s speech could be felt throughout his audience. When they were on the verge of cheering Szalor stopped and took a calmer tone. “We have not lost a war ever. Our foes have always been weak. But now a new enemy presents itself. These creatures of metal, wielding light as a weapon, which refused to fall to Lacerta’s presence, have challenged her children. These are the strongest of all our foes, but they are not as strong as us. When they lay broken at our feet she will raise us to immortality. With the decree of Lacerta and the promise of lasting life we take up arms against these Mechanoids, we’ll fight them, and we’ll defeat them.”
At this the group cheered, their zealotry peaked. He turned and walked back toward his tent. Before he got there he was stopped by a hatchling. The young Chaman relayed him orders to report to his tent. Puzzled, Szalor obeyed. On the way he wondered why he would be ordered to his tent. The only people on Lacerta that had enough authority to give him an order were the war priests. Despite the constant wars between the three prime species and the tribal wars amongst species, her children would nearly immediately unify if a common enemy presented itself. During a state of war between any non-Lacertan species all the priests of Lacerta’s children would gather at the capital city of Gravis and elect a war priest from each of the three Lacertan races. These priests had absolute authority over all of Lacerta’s children. The priests were stripped of names, clan, and even race. Afterwards they performed a ritual and the war priests were possessed by the spirit of Lacerta herself. They were always changed in some way or another. War chiefs was the highest social and military rank in all of Lacerta save for the war priests who were regarded as the avatars of Lacerta, if not Lacerta herself. They would lead the combined might of Lacerta’s children.
Szalor strode toward his tent on two legs. His claws dug into the ground, churning the dark, rich soil. His tail would gently swish to and fro unconsciously. The fins above his eyes were a red that contrasted with the green of his scales. He wore the brand of war chief on his right shoulder. Scars littered his entire body but the most prominent was the one going across his face. This constantly hurt and so he was always reminded of how he acquired it, but that is another story. His claws were a little smaller than an average Astun’s. He was not a strong as some of the other Astuns of his clan, but none would ever think that a fight with him would end in any way besides their demise. While he may not have been the strongest of his clan he was, by far, the most fierce. He was always quick to anger, quicker than most Lacerta’s. His temper had only escalated since the death of his father.
As Szalor entered the tent his suspicions on the identity of who awaited him were confirmed as he saw the three war priests standing in the tent. He kneeled to them and gave them the Astun salute. After the formalities were finished the war priests began to tell him the nature of their visit. “We come because we have granted our children a final gift against your enemy.” said one of the war priests. “This gift will turn the war more in your favor, but the path to victory is still long and bloody.” said the second. “You will still need to summon all of your strength to defeat this foe” said the third. Szalor, his curiosity peaked, asked them “what is this gift you grant us?” “The gift” the war priests said in unison, “will be found four days from now. As the enemy approaches, they destroy with light. This gift will not yield to their light. We grant this and demand you cast these enemies of yours into the deepest, darkest oblivion.” Szalor lowered his head and said “I vow to vanquish them from every realm of existence with this gift. Where can I find this gift war priests?” After only a few moments pause the war priests answered “Go now to the Chaman city of Fatum. The enemy seeks its destruction. Go now and take up our gift and banish your enemy from the home we granted you.”
Szalor nodded and turned to leave, but before he reached the opening of the hut the first war priest said in a forceful, authoritative tone “Szalor!” He turned and waited to see what he wanted. “Remember you fight for Lacerta war chief” the second war chief warned. “Do you question my devotion,” Szalor asked. To question a Lacertan’s devotion to Lacerta was the greatest offense one could give to a Lacertan. Szalor could feel rage billowing inside of himself but forced himself to suppress it. The war priests did not answer his question but instead walked past him without any form of acknowledgement.
He had heard of the enemies approach toward Fatum. With his new recruits his entire force was only about 1500 troops. The enemy would outnumber him three to one. Just after the sun began to climb down from its peak he was marching them toward what logic dictated was doom. As he and his army journeyed forth Szalor’s thoughts turned to his father. Had he not have died that day it would have been him leading this army. Szalor did not shirk from his family’s legacy as war chief. His family had won the competition to become war chief every time the previous one had died since the foundation of his clan. The loss of his father was a blow to him, but no Lacertan would let something as petty as emotions to interfere with the betterment of Lacerta’s children. So he marched, suppressing the useless feeling of emptiness and filling himself with empowering hatred. It was this hatred that fueled his desire for the Mechanoids death.
Nearing the city his forces became more and more silent, more and more focused. Roburlans began sharpening their claws on the nearby trees and Chamans began to scout ahead. The atmosphere became both tense and volatile. At any moment they would come across their target and likely a horde of enemies to kill. The tension was so high then when a lone Chaman was discovered stalking through the bog he was nearly killed. The Chaman was actually a messenger who had been sent to tell of Fatum’s impending demise. Realizing how close they were to Fatum, Szalor ordered the army to march to the city.
The city was walled in as all Lacertan cities were. The towering wall made of the local trees which seemed a bit darker than those on the lighted side of the planet. When the army entered they were greeted with cheers and welcomes. Food was passed between the army and prayers were murmured to Lacerta. The prayers were not prayers of thanks but of acceptance that Lacerta saw it necessary to send more warriors. It was the closest thing to gratefulness that a Lacertan would ever express out loud.
Quickly the army took up positions to defend the city. They waited only 30 minutes until they saw the glint of the sun reflecting off metal. The Astuns began to spit a corrosive acid at the Mechanoids. The acid could not corrode the indestructible metal, but if it came into contact with the circuitry beneath it then it nearly immediately disabled the robots. The rest of Szalor’s forces fired crude weapons looted from defeated enemies. Szalor stood on top of the hill in the center of the city watching the battle with the Chaman leader. He watched as they threw bolts of light against the city walls. But Szalor was struck dumb when the light receded and the walls still stood. The robots continued to throw their beams but to no avail. Eventually the robots realized this and began to bash against the gates. When they came through the Roburlans dropped their weapons and pounced on the robots. The robots had only a small hole in the wall to get through and so the Roburlans easily held against the assault. The robots were not well adapted to this kind of warfare. Eventually their leaders ordered a retreat. The army cheered as they withdrew, and in frenzy began to chase after them. Szalor ordered his troops to remain.
The battle was over and it was a Lacertan victory. Szalor quickly set about gathering the tree that would not yield to the Mechanoids light, the Loricatus tree. This would be turned into armor for his soldiers and walls for his cities. The discovery of the Loricatus tree was a milestone in this war. After a few days of celebration Szalor and his army left for the capital city of Gravis to inform the war priests of his discovery. His soldiers heralded this event as the beginning of the end of this war. Szalor knew however that this was only the end of the beginning.

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