From my perch on the low hillside, I could see the remains of the once great Abbey across the rolling plains before me.
I could make out the Wind Riders in their long column as they flew back toward Falling Deep, almost a day’s ride away. I noted the information in the pad, it would be added to the Holy Tome when I returned. Well, if I returned.
The Abbey of the Lost was built almost a thousand years ago by humans.
It was said to have been a wondrous structure filled with great knowledge, and the Abbey was sought by many as a place of learning, wisdom, and refuge.
I had been watching now for more than a fortnight and the Azure dawns and sunsets alone would bring one to appreciate the beauty of this land.
The surrounding lands, once fertile and planted with the great crops of antiquity lay fallow now, their tenders long gone, all their structures but the Abbey removed, its ground slowly healing the great wounds of war.
“Ka’gapa, quit your dawdling and get to work, or the humans will serve ya for dinner they will!” My mother’s favorite saying. I could see her in my minds eye now, that funny little smile when she was done. For years I thought she meant it too.
I looked to the Abbey, all was quiet as darkness descended like a curtain being lowered across a doorway of a small room. The gloom set in as the chill of the night air started to creep up on me. I slipped down into the small underground shelter and drew the cover. I then conjured up a small blue flame to leech off the fire rock and the chill was quickly gone.
I settled back on my haunches and picked up my most treasured possession, The Tome of History. A copy of our tribe’s record from the creation by the humans, to our recent destruction by the Wind Riders of Falling Deep. Another tribe also created by them, but the evil destroyers. If I am correct, we number less than one hundred now.
I slowly open the Tome, its leather creaks. I finger the bookmark to the last section I read, The Rise of Destiny. The section I am about to read concerns the Abbey. Destiny and Chaos clash head to head.
FA date: 3512.5.11
Lord Destiny, the supreme Abbott called forth his devoted followers and after much prayer and comfort, he called the meet to order. “Today we released our latest creations upon this fair land, the Wind Riders. Brother Harfgill, would you read your report please?”
Brother Harfgill was a short, well-plumped, balding scientist, his specialty was bioengineering and he loved his work. He stood, cleared his throat and began the long report. “Brothers,” he bowed to the members, “Lord Destiny.”
He turned and bowed to him. “Today I released 5000 Wind Riders into the wilds. Their DNA and Gnom patterns are solid and the pattern repeats with consistency through what is now the fourth generation. IQ looks about 110 average.
All the brains were built from our stock of brothers here to ensure purity. The only serious challenge was adapting the Condors bodies and human brains to be able to function as one living being. I feel these will be as great as Brother Hispatha’s experiment of dog/human.”
I glanced up at the little flame. Yes, we were the Hispatha tribe, if they only knew then…
I stretched out and stared at the fire, remembering the massed raid against my village, the coldblooded slaughter the Wind Riders had done as they swooped down with their swords and axes and spears, and we died. Mother had picked me up and was running, then a spear was sticking through her, almost next to my head and she fell. Never to move. That day I learned a new word, hate.
I picked up the book and continued reading.
There was a round of cheers as Brother Harfgill finished up. Lord Destiny thanked him and then saw Brother Chaos had raised a hand. Grudgingly, Lord Destiny acknowledged him.
“Brothers, Abott, and Brother Harfgill.” He bowed to all. I fear a grievous error has been made. As all know, I worked with Brother Hispatha and we released only after eleven generations of stable offspring were recorded yet these Wind Riders were released after only four?
Also why? The report clearly shows grievous abnormalities were still being produced. I refer to Brother Harfgill’s own report, page 879, bottom of Paragraph two…I quote:
The predicted 163 kDa GNOM protein has a conserved domain. Mutations in conserved regions, seven partially complementing alleles have premature stop codon mutations and two non-complementing alleles have splice-site lesions.
“This is not acceptable and you know they should have not been released.”
Chaos put down his copy of the report and slowly looked to all in the room. “Since when has it been our goal to try and outdo each other? I thought the founding Brothers made it clear our goal was to produce highly evolved, extremely diverse, sentient beings for development and use on other worlds where humans like us can’t compete?”
Lord Destiny had enough. “Brother Chaos, we went over this in chambers already and I forbade you mentioning it! Cease your fear-mongering or leave at once!”
Again I paused reading. So it was known even then? How prophetic this human was.
I marked my page and removed the fire. I slept with terrible nightmares.
I slid back the cover to yet another beautiful sunrise, if all held true the Wind Riders would not appear for two more days now, coming only every three days for a quick flyby of the old Abbey and acquire more stone blocks.
After a morning meal I relaxed in the slowly warming sunlight with the book. I hunkered down for a new read and gingerly opened it, finding myself at a new section, The Great Calling.
The Witness of the ritual was observed by the peons Gal’let and Hong’pa of tribe Hispatha and is recorded here, as they saw it.
“We was deliverin’ the food baskets directly to the Abbey. We was way early for they was just wakin’ up or goin ta bed,” Gal’let said.
“Ya, an’ in the main room near the big box was Lord Destiny hisself, and we stood in awe as he called to his gods and a great stair appeared in the floor, some humans went down and he called again and it vanished.” Hong’pa said.
“I remembers he says somthin’ like, ‘Father, guide us in our endeavors as we strive for perfection through another day of toils.’ and he waved his little button wand to makes that stair appear and vanish. It was truly wondrous,” Gal’let said. “Then they sees us and we gets chewed for sneakin’ in. We delivers our goods and leaves. Them humans is powerful with magics.”
Note: Validity not established nor visions ever duplicated.
Again I find I look to the Abbey in wonder. Yes, we evolved beyond those simpler days, but did they actually have hidden staircases near the alter? I recall no record of anyone testing this old fable out.
Dare I? What to gain? Knowledge. What to Loose? At most my life and with no mate and a dying tribe, that wasn’t as big a fear as one would imagine. Almost a blessing. I had to balance cause and effect. Yes, I had to see for myself, I would go.
Now that my plan was laid I returned to my hidden den and sealed out the day, I slept on and off until dark, gathered my water-bottle and pad and my fire conjurer, and was off at a light run. I found my perspective had been off. This meant the Abbey and the Wind Riders were far bigger than I thought, because it took me most of the night to get there instead of a few hours.
As I arrived, the grandeur and enormity of what this had once been crept into my very soul. Even battered to rubble, the beauty of what it once was is clearly evident as the grand spires still standing against time were ornate and far surpassed anything our tribe or the Wind Riders had ever built.
Finding the alter was the easy part, just walk through the center arch and below what must have been three of the largest glass structures ever assembled. The floor was littered with little colored shards. The Wind Riders had long ago taken all the bigger pieces.
Slowly they strip the Abbey of its once greatness, hauling off blocks, every three days. A few more generations and I feel even this majestic reminder of our roots of origin will disappear.
To the back of what was a huge room the box sat its now lonely Virgil. I had to clear a bit of rubble but a careful check of the box on all sides showed no scars or telltale on movement. What I did find, under the rubble was the partial remains of bones, not ours, not the hollow wind Riders, not anything I’d seen so I feel they are human bones maybe?
It takes me an hour to uncover the crushed skeleton. They were big beings compared to us. In its hand was a black rectangle full of buttons. The wand mentioned in the book?
I picked up the artifact and blew off the dust. Me, to have found an ancient treasure, me, a nothing, to hold in my hand antiquity and cunning far beyond our dreams. The sun made the little blue square across the top glimmer. So pretty. I set it on the alter while I searched the once elegant, and now rotted rags. As I touched them they fell apart.
All I found, other than the box was a ring, bigger than any I could wear. Well, one mystery solved. I could read it, so we were taught their language.
A large Red cut stone was mounted in a gold casing and written along the outside was: Academy Of Sciences Class of 3424.
Interesting then, today was FA 4031.3.3 so if our current dating system was the same then this was only a little over 600 years old, not the thousands hinted at. I placed the ring in my pants as I wondered if perhaps this was the Abbott himself, Lord Destiny? No, I feel lofty enough without further inflating my pride.
I sat on my haunches and took up the box of buttons. Some I understood, some beyond my abilities. On/off, pretty simple. Four buttons below the now glowing blue panel say Input: A, B, C, D respectively.
The center said: Sequencing, and had the standard numbers and a bunch of what I suspect were forms of math symbols, a few vaguely familiar.
At the bottom were three more buttons, I almost shook. Door, Lights, Alarm.
I had a long debate with myself and won the day. I pushed the door button. At first nothing happened, then there was a squeaking and grumbling as a section of floor lowered near where I was and opened to stairs. Bits of rubble falling into the abyss. I was curious as to what mode of power they were using to do this.
I steeled up my nerve as I descended the stone steps. Just beyond the light they turned to metal then to a spiral heading down into the bowels. I felt afraid, yet elated also. Ancestors story of magic doors confirmed.
As I descended even I could no-longer see. I scrutinized the box and pushed the one I thought said lights but nothing happened. I backed up the stairs so I could see and realized I’d hit the one that said call by mistake. As I mashed the lights button there were pops and sputters, a series of long tubes radiated brilliant white light, it actually hurt.
Although different than anything I could conjure in my mind, it was clearly a laboratory of some type. There were several desks, and sitting at one was another skeleton bone pile. I saw several more scattered around the room below. I continued down, then remembered the door and when I hit it again the world I knew disappeared above. I wanted no wind Riders behind my back.
I was careful. All the equipment was strange, some words or signs I knew, some like Particle Density Laser I had no clue as to what it was or did.
The bone pile had a ring too. Same type, blue stone and Class of 3428. There was also a sheaf of paper with writing. I picked it up but it was brittle and cracked so I carefully laid it down. I took my pad and copied it word for word.
May God forgive us.
He was wrong! He was so wrong. Chaos had been right all the time. They turned to evil, they turned against us, their makers, and now we are doomed!
Brother Destiny was the developer of the Wind Riders. Not Brother Harfgill, he was just his understudy. God forgive us our vanity!
When they attacked and destroyed our ship he moved us down here, he would stand alone, they wouldn’t harm him. They worshiped him, he said.
I had to carefully slide that paper off and continued reading,
Brother of Science, Third Class
William J. Farmsil
Mars Dome seven. exiled
I looked down at the button box. Such an innocent looking thing caused the deaths of our gods of old, those we called humans?
I collected more rings from more bodies, each the same type with different years, I soon had 23 of them.
I went near the staircase and pushed the door button, it was almost dark, I needed to go. The Wind Riders would come tomorrow and I had disturbed enough that they would know someone had been about.
As I left the tomb of humans I turned out the lights and after the door closed I spread debris about and generally made a mess of having been exploring the remains of whole Abbey, then I spent the night running back to my den. As first light crept on the horizon I slid my cover in place and fell asleep with new type nightmares and demons to battle.
I spent the next day laughing at the Wind Riders. They knew something had been there, they spent hours spiraling around, further and further out, but nowhere near far enough to be a concern to me.
As I watched them I spent the day redoing all my notes and drawings, setting my tale in logical order of happening. With few embellishments it was done. I finished copying the final markings of the symbols from the button box to paper.
As I finished I placed all the items in my wooden box with my book, closed the cover, and found I was still tired. I watched as the Wind Riders gave up, took their stones and flew off into the sunset. I wasn’t sure, but it looked like maybe one sat perched atop the high rail between the spires. Let him watch. I closed up my den and was soon asleep.
I was instantly awake, the ground shook and vibrated. An earth tremor? I’d heard of them. As I opened the den the night was day. I looked up as a thing descended on a huge tongue of flame, long and thin with little wings and bubbles.
The very earth where it landed melted to a smooth slag as it sat there. Oh I knew, we knew. The sky belchers, the space ships. But to see one, to know it exists beyond a few words in books.
It sat now, silver in the moonlight as my vision returned. Making noises of cooling, little crackles and pops. I watched it as the beginnings of another beautiful azure dawn began appearing on the horizon.
I also saw the hated Wind Rider and I went back to ground, closing all but the smallest crack. It flew in, around, and left back toward the Abbey, but I suspect it would continue on to its home with the warning.
Hours passed as I watched various apparatus pop out of the little bubbles and disappear again. I suspect someone was analyzing our air.
Near noon a hatch and stairs unfolded from the base of the ship and two figures emerged, humans!
One I knew was a male, the other was different, I could smell them on the air. It smelled similar to what I remembered my mother as. A female. If that was what she was, she had golden hair and bright blue eyes.
They both wore a single piece suit of some type, Green, with a yellow section running from one shoulder down to the opposite leg. Both carried equipment, and both had a weapon of some type on their hips. I almost fainted, humans, me, I see humans!
The female was looking at a flat metal pad of some type and was slowly rotating, then she pointed right toward me and the man started walking with her. What to do? In a few minutes they would walk right over me. Shaking like a leaf, I slid my cover back and stood up. The male instantly alerted and held his weapon toward me. I was fearful as I squawked, “I mean no harm Lords, honest.”
They froze and looked at each other then the girl approached slowly. “You speak our tongue?”
“As you taught us at our creation, we still speak it.” I was scared as she gave a curious look to the male.
“Academy work,” he said. “Another abomination.
“Please, I do not feel I am an abomination, just a lonely Hispatha. But you may be right, soon we will disappear, there are but a hundred or so of us left.”
“Say that again? The name?”
“Lords, we call ourselves Hispatha after one of our two creators. Brother Chaos being the second.”
“Well I’ll be damned, I’ll be god-damned!” The female said. “The legends are true then, he did make some.”
Now I felt confused. “Who?
The male said, “Long story involving one of our Lord High Council members, Lord Chaos. Later perhaps. We received a distress call from just behind you, why?”
“Lords, I do not know. I was in the Abbey and found the secret laboratory and the magic box, perhaps I did something wrong?
The female said, “Please, I am called Eve, he is called Steve. May I see this magic box you speak of?
Without thinking I dove into the den and retrieved my box. I placed it at her feet and removed the lid. “The book is mine, a history of our tribe. The rings I found among the skeletons, this is the button box that opened the door.” I handed it to her
The male laughed. “My god that is old! I saw one in the museum. A solar powered Stevenson gnom compiler and remote combo.
The female smiled, “Don’t mind him. Let me see, humm, she hit a few buttons and several lit up. “Input D it is.” Then she watched her pad as she slowly hit various buttons. “No modifications that I see, all straight up.” I watched as she hit the call button. “Yup, that was it. It’s off now.”
I invited them in but it seems a dirt hole in the ground wasn’t to their standard, but I was honor bound to offer.
“Why don’t you come with us, we can eat lunch and talk, if permitted I’d like to read your book as well,” the one called Eve said and smiled.
“I am a creature of the earth, I have not bathed since the last rain, as there is little water about. I would stink your ship with my presence.”
“If that is all that stops you, then come, take a shower, refresh, get new clothing and we shall eat and talk.” She held out her hand and I found trust as I took it. The male followed up the rear with the box.
Oh mother mine, can you believe? Humans!
The inside was as imagined, metal and other things beyond imagination. The water ran forever, warm and wondrous, disappearing in a little hole and spilling out from lots of them above.
I toweled off and even got to comb out my fur, something not done in years. Steve had me stand on a platform as lights flicked up and down and new clothes materialized on a holder. Yes, there was no doubt, all was true, they were gods with god toys.
After I managed to describe what we ate, the warm smell of food ran past my snout, smells I hadn’t sensed since but a pup in my mothers house. I dined with the gods as the female, Eve, read my book.
She had the pages flying and at first I thought she was skimming, but when done she started asking questions. Many beyond my knowledge but a few I was able to answer.
“Well Steve, this all matches what Lord Chaos said, almost verbatim. He left the Academy when they went even beyond the covenant of life.” She looked at me, “What can we call you sir? A name?
“Sorry my Lords, I am called Ka’gapa, or Long Root of the tribe Hispatha,” I bowed my head.
“Do not bow to us, we are but workers and are neither Lords nor Ladies,” Steve said and Eve punched him.
“I beg your pardon? What am I then? A lady of the night or something?” She smiled but I wasn’t sure what was up.
“You know damn well what I meant,” he said.
As soon as I felt I was thoroughly confused they started asking questions about us, how come so few? What were the Wind Riders? Did we not fight? How many were there of these Wind Riders? Did we feel humans were bad or good? I spent the rest of the day filling in what I could, giving philosophical beliefs, and what I thought of religion and God and the original people of the Abbey.
“So they will come back to the Abbey in two days?” She asked.
“One saw you land, if he was fast, maybe tomorrow afternoon or that night.”
Next they asked too take samples of my fur, skin and blood. I consented of course, to refuse a god? Not me.
“Okay, all is in the crunchers and I’ve sent a report to council, so we wait. Ka’gapa, you may remain here if you wish, or return to your den, your choice. It is time for us to sleep,” Eve said.
I stayed and was given a mattress placed on the floor, I was in heaven as the lights were extinguished and I dreamed dreams of gods and dogs. The next morning, after a hardy breakfast, Eve laid it all out so even I understood it.
“Council is ecstatic we found the old stronghold of the Academy. Even more so to know they are all dead.” Eve was smiling. “His tests are done, Chaos was right, he did the impossible, the only known case of true manipulation and cloning that reverted to nature.
There is absolutely nothing in his DNA or Gnom patters that can be linked to human.” I saw her smile at me, “For all purposes you were not cloned abominations of humans, you were manipulated dogs, given a depreciating amount of human intelligence which allowed you to develop your own species to the level of sentient being.
“No,” I said. “We were made in the humans image for human purposes. It is all in the book.”
“True, you were originally dogs, modified to human brain patterns, and opposing thumb type hands, but that is where Chaos and Hispatha were genius’. The human brain was designed to devolve as your own abilities evolved. You are normal, intelligent dogs now, and as such are recognized as the only truly alien sentient race known,” She smiled.
I heard what she said but not sure it mattered really. “We are dead regardless, and the Wind Riders will come to destroy you if you stay.
“Let us worry about that shall we?” Steve the human said as I felt the ship come alive and I felt sick as I saw the ground receding out the bubble window. All he did was land just outside the Abbey.
Steve carried various pieces of equipment out while Eve had me show her the laboratory. She seemed to know exactly what each piece of the strange equipment was. I asked her what was going on and she smiled. “We will fight them, and destroy them. It is what we do. If there is power here I will restart some machines and we will release another 5000 of you into this Ecosystem unless you desire to be the last of your kind?”
We hadn’t seen him come up, but I heard him.
“No Eve, you know the rules. No exceptions, no cloning, ever.”
She went and kissed his cheek, “No cloning, we won’t clone. All I shall do is start a few machines, set a few numbers and we shall leave. No cloning, no anything, honest, we make nothing new.”
I caught on to what she meant and I could tell he probably did too.
She checked out something called a reactor to insure proper functioning after so many generations then took the remote and went off to some Computer panel. “Man this technology is old!” She laughed and was soon flying over a thing called a keyboard. As I watched, the lab started coming alive, things clacked and clanked and were being turned on.
Steve asked Eve, “You’re a Bioengineering major too?”
She smiled and her eyes flashed, I saw them. “I am what I need to be. You forget, Steve, my few greats ago grandfather was Chaos and he never married.” She turned and winked at me.
They were death to the Wind Riders and life to the Tribe. She was every bit the human god of our legends, with vast knowledge and ability. I sit in a chair, rocking a pair of healthy pups in my lap as what is now called my granddaughter smiles from her couch, and I see it in her too, as her eyes flash.
I shall die content, circle completed and I am lonely no more.
“Will they ever come back?” My granddaughter asked innocently.
“Maybe, if needed, who can question the workings of gods?” I had to smile. They took the button box with them when they left.