“Entertainment is a weapon.”
-Yona Mythe, wife of Agus Aught
The knock on his cubicle door pulled Filx from his deep trance, awareness suddenly returning and replacing the strange depths of ancestral memories he had swum through. Despite hours of meditation and searching, he still had virtually no understanding of the images Wem’w had shown him, and his sense of frustration from before had only grown stronger with the addition of these indecipherable visions. Setting his confusion aside, the Weaver slowly stood and walked to the door, turning the small inset latch and opening it to receive his visitor.
He was only slightly startled to find the erect form of the Ovoa standing just outside, his black and grey robes hanging loosely over his tall, thick frame. Bulbous black eyes stared out at Filx through half-lidded nictitating membranes as he presented one of his trademark tooth-filled smile. Whether in mockery of this human trait or out of respect for it, Filx was unsure, but the act itself was always unsettling to look at. It was far from customary, even in the seclusion of their birthing ponds, for the amphibious species to display their vicious needle-like teeth to anything but their prey. Saudarkyn communicated with a subvocal, guttural language produced with a set of speech organs located deep in their chests, and therefore didn’t require opening their mouths to speak. In fact, most saudarkyn went their entire lives without another sentient being ever seeing their many rows of razor-sharp incisors, and after witnessing the Ovoa’s horrid ‘smile’ more than once, Filx could understand easily why. It was far too difficult not to think of oneself as anything but food when faced with such a terrifying visage. The involuntary chill which always accompanied the sight dissipated as the Ovoa closed his thin green lips and croaked out a greeting, his translator still emitting the common human tongue it had been set to since Filx had first met the smuggler/assassin topside almost six Viradian days ago.
“Weaver,” said the translator, its low tone distinctly male. “I have come to inform you of the humans’ decision.”
Filx bowed slightly as he backed away to allow the Ovoa entrance to his quarters.
“Please come in, M. Ovoa.”
Filx used the common human tongue as well to address the Ovoa as he bowed to enter the room. Filx had noticed during their initial meeting that the exile could understand the spoken form of this language without a translator, and, after the brief display in the crawler of his ability to use its written form as well, the Weaver had decided to employ it when conversing with him. Like most Weavers who ended up in leadership positions, Filx had long ago gone through the juxtaprinting of several of the humans’ primitive-seeming languages–twenty-six of them in all–in order to more readily communicate with ambassadors and other diplomats from the Seven Terras who (rarely, in the case of his home world) came to visit.
Filx crossed the room and released a slingchair from its recess for the Ovoa to seat himself in. “I hope that it was a good decision,” Filx said. “They have spent a good deal of time making it.”
The Ovoa extended his claws briefly in response to the bad use of sarcasm as he rested his large form down into the sling. The Weaver made an offering of refreshment, indicating the coldbox in the corner containing a variety of beverages.
“No thank you, Weaver,” croaked the Ovoa beneath his translator, “They have provided me with these liquids as well–,” a wet grunt escaped the amphibians’ throat which Filx took as a sign of disgust, “but they are rather unpalatable to my, ah, refined tastes, shall we say? Perhaps, however, you have some olvaroot from home, eh? I have heard the root farmers of Tempus Vey grow the finest olva in all of the Trinios!” Zevir nodded as Filx shook his head in that universally hominid signal for negative. “Ah, just as well. How my old, dry skin longs for Chor’u! Where the olvaroot cider ran like rain through the streets!” The deep, rhythmic croaking accompanied by the rapid extension and retraction of Zevir’s claws (his attempt at a human laugh) went almost unnoticed by the Weaver as his thoughts were pulled by the mention of the ancient city of thieves. For most of his life, Filx had heard legends told about Chor’u. The famous port city of smugglers, thieves and deviants was of personal interest to the Weaver, for reasons, he realized, that perhaps coincided with the Ovoa’s presence on this journey.
He smiled briefly, pushing thoughts of home away, and said, “Yes, in fact my great uncle’s family on my mother’s side have farmed olvaroot and zhin’po for many cycles, but I did not think to bring any from home. I was made to leave rather…hastily.” He spread his hands in apology.
“Ah, we understand, Weaver. The stresses of time upon a pilot are many, and wearisome. But enough with these banalities! I come bearing good news.”
“Then we may journey to Sun’s Well?” Filx smiled.
The Ovoa let out a small croak of pleasure. “Indeed! We will be traveling with the High Priests of Uul themselves! Imagine, Weaver, seeing the rare Viradian biclipse! It shall be truly inspirational, I think–”
“What is it, Weaver?”
“It’s–it’s nothing…” Filx replied, shaking his head slightly to clear it. An odd, violating sensation had overcome his orath suddenly, as if it was being pulled up involuntarily on invisible strings, stretching far above, then suddenly let loose and snapping back around him violently. The entire event had only taken a few nanoseconds–up and back–but his orath felt bruised and shaken, and he had no explanation as to what had caused it. He’d never felt anything like it before, nor had he ever heard of such a thing occurring, but decided to ignore the discomfort in the presence of the Ovoa. Despite the obvious tells of pain in his features, the Weaver said:
“Please, M. Ovoa. Continue. I’m fine.”
The Saudarkyn remained silent, apparently unconvinced by the Weaver’s words, but after a few moments it seemed he was satisfied that whatever had suddenly caused the pained look of distress to appear on Filx’ elven features had passed. Letting out a croak, he continued on in a more somber tone.
“Well, yes…anyway. I was saying that we have been given the honor of traveling with the pilgrimage from the Colony. Priests and merchants and such.”
Filx nodded in understanding, the discomfort beginning to ease.
“I believe it will be truly inspirational to witness the biclipse from within the Temple, yes? It is said to be quite a marvelous piece of architecture, Weaver.”
Filx had heard of this as well. It was said that the Temple of Uul at Sun’s Well was perhaps one of the most stunning achievements of terran architecture. The stories of its role in human theology had reached even the distant backwater of Tempus Vey.
“When shall we be leaving, then?” Filx asked.
The Ovoa croaked.
“Within the hour,” his translator module said.
The journey across the surface of Virada II from the colony to the Temple of Uul at Sun’s Well–approximately forty thousand kilometers through the dense swamp-like darkness at the base of the planet’s massive jungles–was very different from the one Filx, Ura and the Ovoa had taken from the treefortress to the surface, and it was with a newfound sense of curiosity that the Weaver now viewed the way humans had adapted to living on this strange and hostile planet. The seemingly endless caravan of giant insect-like transport crawlers swept across the marshy, lightless terrain at an amazing speed as it travelled along the causeways. Surprisingly well-maintained, the wide plasteel causeways were elevated above the swampy surface by a good twenty meters, and stretched across incredible distances along the planet’s surface, connecting the colonies and mining facilities scattered across the northern hemisphere. Lights blaring, the caravan of vehicles resembled a giant mechanical centipede over a kilometer long, and created a sound like a stampede which echoed off into the darkness. For all the shielding technology lining the elevated causeway, Filx knew that the noise the caravan created alone was a strong deterrent to even the largest of beasts hiding out in the mist-filled blackness. Nothing challenged the giant snake of crawling machines as it rumbled its way towards Sun’s Well.
At first Filx had been uncomfortable, his thoughts vacillating worriedly between the possibility of another encounter with one of the planet’s indigenous predators, and thoughts of what had caused the strange unexplained–and quite uncomfortable– pull on his orath back at Jex-La earlier in the day. His guarded attitude had not escaped Ura’s attention, however, and by the end of the third hour of his incessant pacing and flitting about the rather spacious cabin she had finally managed to calm him down some, explaining in detail both the shielding and automated weaponry the giant centipede-like transport crawlers were fitted with. She explained the further redundancies the causeway itself was equipped with: anbaric fencing and spaced turrets at critical locations, even manned fueling stations and guardposts. After confirming his thoughts about the defensive effect the sound of the caravan had as well, he finally settled back on the crashcouch and begun to relax a bit. He allowed Ura to prepare him some haleroot tea, and after a few welcome sips, his frantic thoughts of the violation of his orath–which he had not mentioned to the sous priestess, nor had the Ovoa–to come to a rest as well.
During the course of the next few Viradian days, the three companions ate and rested, watching the viewscreens on the cabin walls projecting images of the passing terrain and conversing on a wide variety of subjects.
Early in the second day of travel, Ura had pointed to one of the wall display viewscreens showing enhanced real-time images of what the transport crawlers’ visual sensors piped in. Looking over his shoulder, Filx saw that they had entered the edge of one of the enormous heat bogs, this one much larger than the previous two the crawlers had skirted earlier that day. Stretching off for kilometers were lakes of glowing green, orange and red earth, dotted here and there with fumaroles and cone-shaped sulfur vents spewing noxious gasses. The Weaver noticed how much larger the sulfur cones were here than the earlier bogs, the formations roughly circular patterns of concentric layers–cooled magma which radiated out from the central cone of calcified rock standing upwards of fifty meters into the steamy, glowing vern. These smaller cones in turn radiated outward along the fumaroles which stretched along the glowing surface, connecting what Ura called the ‘primer’ vents–massive sulfur cones standing over two hundred meters, towering over their smaller counterparts and spewing huge amounts of noxious steam into the air.
What caught the Weaver’s attention were the dark rounded shapes formed randomly over several of the smaller spumes surrounding the larger prime vent: huge bulbous, wooded things which had grown over the steaming cone-shaped vents, preventing the gases from escaping. Thick tendrils extended profusely from the lower halves of the round, woody objects, shooting down into the glowing mud or up into the steamy mists overhead, and the once-symmetrical cone vents, under the weight of the bloated wooden growths, had become distorted and bulbous, their height stunted, from the long exposure to the pressures from within. As the caravan drew nearer, Filx could see that the growths vaguely resembled in some way the creature which he had killed during their descent in the crawler, the bog soth. Yet these were easily ten times the size of the one they had encountered, and thankfully immobile.
Behind him Ura spoke.
“Those are adults.”
Filx noticed the vague similarities between what he was looking at and what had attacked them. Where the thick tendrils emerged from the central growth, he could just make out the hint of former symmetry, the scars where once eyes and mouths had been. There the comparison ended. Where the creature they had encountered had been obviously of an animate, animal nature with thick skin and fierce intent, these creatures looked like bloated tree trunks. Their surfaces were ridged and pitted, and looked as hard as stone and completely inflexible. The tendrils which shot out from them in every direction were in no way evenly distributed or symmetrically placed, as though the tentacles that had once allowed them to move with such swift ferocity through the dense growth now acted as anchors, and had moved to positions which best suited this new purpose.
Stunned at this morphology, he asked, “How is it they reproduce, Lady Ura?”
She pointed to a particular specimen. “A new tendril like the one you see there will be grown to extend across the heat bog to another adult until it has crossed the distance. It then slowly, over time, penetrates the outer layers of the hardened flesh of its mate, where it proceeds to extract the necessary genetic material needed to form a young soth at roughly the midway point along the tendril. The new bog soth takes most of its early nourishment primarily from the penetrated parent, rather than the initiator parent. This often kills the penetrated soth slowly. Soon afterwards the tendril to either side will start to dry and shrivel up, growing thinner as the last of the nutrients are absorbed. Eventually the weight of the new soth will cause the tendrils to snap like so much dry kindling, and the hardened shell at the center will fall and begin to mulch in the heated muds. Soon after the new soothe is capable of breaking out of its woody shell and going off in search of a new sulfur vet to roost over. The entire process can take hundreds of cycles, which is why they are almost never encountered in their animate phase.”
Filx thought of this process as almost parasitic in a way, one parent dying to create an offspring. How did they ever proliferate? He thought of his own parasite and the disturbing images it had shown him. He only paid partial attention to the following conversation which ensued between Ura and the Ovoa–a discussion about Engii and the various philosophical divisions within saudarkyn society in comparison to the polytheistic structure of terran society–until the talk gradually turned to the history and significance of their destination: Sun’s Well and the Temple of Uul which stood there.
“If I remember correctly,” Ura was saying to the saudarkyn, “it is only once every nineteen local cycles–each one approximately fourteen and a half standard cycles each–that Myrst and Loascia actually cross paths. That’s only once every two-hundred seventy-five s-cycles. Even with modern medicine most humans only live about seventy s-cycles, so…,” she paused, and Filx didn’t need to read her orath to know she had suddenly remembered that the Ovoa wouldn’t live half that long, “…and Sun’s Well is one of the only places on the entire planet where the biclipse can be seen from the actual surface. Well, that’s if you don’t include the view from the sea, but we don’t travel on the oceans.”
Everyone had heard of the deadly seas of Virada II.
“Anyway,” Ura continued, “the Temple, it’s about thirteen hundred standard cycles old. The Followers of Uul built it back during a time when exploring the planet was far more dangerous than it is today. There were no colonies, no causeways or any fixed settlements until about four hundred s-cycles ago, when Ergo Dalt started the mining industry here. Before then it was widely believed that Virada II was uninhabitable.”
The Ovoa croaked into his translator.
“How then did the Temple come to be built so much earlier?”
Filx was staring at the adult soths, only half listening to the conversation and thinking about that strange room of tanks Wem’w had shown him. Those things inside, floating in the green fluid…he felt almost as if he knew what they were, knew why they were. He couldn’t escape the fact that the vision was important to his willfate, important most likely to his task of protecting Ura. Look to Yaldoon, the Ahm Ushahd had said. Filx knew of no such place, planet or otherwise, with such a name. Yaldoon. He suspected, however, that it was a very old name.
A loud croak from the Ovoa brought the Weaver out of his reverie, the sally’s translator emitting a startled-sounding “WHAT!?”
More croaks and grunts followed, the little machine at his neck turning the Ovoa’s words into meaning. “You mean to tell me, human, that you knowingly abandoned that many of your own kind here? To fend or themselves? Achh! Your kind is maddening!”
Filx saw surprise in Ura’s eyes as she looked at the saurdarkyn. She was unaware of the ways in which the Ovoa’s species viewed such behavior, but Filx knew well of the fierce solidarity inherent in the amphibian race. Theirs was one of unbound unity, and the social structure of Engii was often misleading. In many ways, Saudark was almost a hive mind of sorts. They may eat their young, Filx thought, but they would never abandon one of their own to a threatening situation. Saudarkyn had very distinct beliefs about their mortality, and their behavior towards each other was by far the most communal of the three sentient species in the Trinios. Ura, thinking she had caused some offense, spoke in an attempt to defend her statements.
“Oh, no, M. Ovoa, you misunderstand. They chose to remain here when the ships left. It was entirely up to them to stay or leave…” Ura seemed at a loss.
“You misunderstand,” Filx said to her. “M. Ovoa is merely unfamiliar with the independent nature of humankind. His people would never conceive of wanting to be left behind, you see…”
“Achh!” The saudarkyn exile croaked. “I understand independence all too well, dryskin.” Despite the subtle reference to his status as exile amongst his people, Filx saw the Ovoa extend his claws, the sally’s equivalent of a laugh. “I did not mean to interrupt, girl…go on with your tale.”
“Um, yes…well,” Ura said, “As I was saying, the Followers of Uul had stayed behind to colonize Virada II, which they had little success in doing until around the time Dalt arrived to mine the planet. It was the first time anyone from off-planet had seen the work of the Followers. Though their numbers had never really grown, they had indeed managed to carve out a minuscule niche in the harsh ecology, learning how to climb and live in the trees where the sunlight kept the worst of the predators at bay. The treefortresses were but one of the many things the Followers had managed to create over the thousand-plus cycles left to themselves. In turn, Dalt and his ventures brought awareness of the other Terras and our inclusion into the Lehmerian Alliance with Nyva and Saudark. That was, of course, back when they were still trying to break ground at Oran, before they discovered that Pej was simply not inhabitable.”
Filx’ ears pricked up at the mention of the southern continent. While it was well-known how fierce the environment of Virada II was, few knew the varying degrees to which it’s dangers were manifest. Many knew, of course, that the seas were unnavigable, that creatures the size of deepships roamed the surface of the harsh waters as well as their depths in vast abundance. But few were aware that humans only dwelt on the northern continents of the planet. The southern hemisphere’s landmass–a single massive continent called Pej–was said to be completely uninhabitable to humans, nyvans or saudarkyn. Rife with a nearly limitless array of life forms, the most vicious species on Virada II made their home on the southern continent, where temperatures could reach above boiling. Only a handful of species from that massive continent had ever been recorded, and they were the stuff of nightmares.
The Ovoa croaked. “Pej?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “The southern continent of Virada II. Long ago, at the initial stages of prospecting Dalt and his survey crews had begun, a handful had taken up the task of searching the old sensor readings taken by The Virada–one of the three Exodus vessels–back when it had originally found the planet. They had noticed the high content of precious ores on Pej in those original deep-scan surveys, and had decided to mine there.
“At first, as the story goes, when they failed to make contact with the larger operations up here on Jassir, it was assumed that they wanted to keep the vast riches implied by the ancient sensor readings all to themselves. Others believed they had met with trouble, and yet others still believed it was simply communication problems. All of them sent teams to pursue the answers to these questions, but none ever returned.”
The Ovoa, draped over his slingchair and listening to Ura’s tale, let out a croak, asking:
“Of course you now know what became of them, I assume,” his translator module said. “How many failed to return?”
“Oh, hundreds, I would guess,” Ura replied. “It takes quite a bit of gear and personnel to strike down onto a fresh claim on Virada II. Dalt himself finally sent an army of remote crawlers to find out what had happened.” She paused, adjusting herself in her own crashcouch as she gazed at the viewscreen, the last of the heat bog passing away into the distance as she watched.
“So,” Filx prompted, “what did they discover?”
“Predators,” she said, turning back to the Ovoa and the Weaver. “Uncle Kahli had an old diskey with footage from the remote expedition to Oran, the site of the original first venture. He showed it to me once when I asked why we didn’t go to the ‘Downthere’, as we call it, when I was a child.” She visibly shuddered at recalling the memory, and Filx had to once again fight back the urge to touch her orath with his own. The feelings of jeopardy to his mission were part of the cause, he knew, but there was another, less clear reason behind his urges. One he knew would come clearer in time, and yet the thought of this eventuality did little to quell the anxiety it caused.
One thing he was certain of: he had little desire to meet the inhabitants of Pej.
The caravan moved on into the darkness once again, rumbling loudly at the hostile world around it. Filx knew that it was no idle threat. He had seen a virtual horde of creatures literally pour out of the jungle blackness not two hours after leaving the colony, throwing itself at the train of transport crawlers like a wild army. Without slowing, the long caravan of giant centipede-like vehicles had opened a rain of death upon the wave after wave of beasts. Bright lights, which often worked well as weapons against such creatures when confronted in small numbers, were obviously useless in such a case as the attack he had witnessed, as the sea of creatures–some nearly double the size of the huge transport crawlers, and many easily the same size–had been whipped into some sort of frenzied stampede, throwing themselves at the human caravan. Sound, as well, was obviously no deterrent in such a case, for the same reason. Filx had sat, stunned, as he watched wave after wave of creatures big and small be torn to shreds with projectile weaponry and laser fire, explosive rounds and electric bombs, even a few larger fuel-propelled rocket-like projectiles which created astounding amounts of damage to the largest of the beasts. The entire event lasted ten minutes, and the rest of the trip had been virtually uneventful compared to the firestorm of that first attack. When he had offered to help with the fight after the first wave of creatures had been mowed down, Ura had simply told him it was usual and prepared for and not to worry. He did anyway.
The rest of the afternoon and evening–by the clock’s telling on the flashscreen in Filx’ sleeping cubby–went by quietly. The Weaver rested for a bit before their evening meal while the Ovoa and Ura continued their discussion. The smell of roasted vegetables brought Filx awake and back into the main section of their cabin, the viewscreens showing a strange ocean of blue glowing light stretching off into the distance, bright enough to light even the high ceiling of the massive vern. Flying creatures darted across the strange surface, their wings leathery and thick. Dotted across the surface in random placement were huge glowing bulbs of angry red and purple, mottled green and orange. They appeared to grow out of the glowing blue soup, inverted pear-shaped objects ranging from the size of a transport crawler nodule down to the size of his head. Each glowing, colored bulb floated at a different height above the strange sea, tethered to the surface by a thick strand of fiber-like material. The flying creatures would dart above and around the floating bulbs, almost as if they were drawn to them, then flit away into the lighted night. The entire scene was mesmerizing.
Ura saw the Weaver watching the view and walked over next to him. She pointed to a flock of the leathery-winged fliers as they drifted near the caravan, their size much larger than he had assumed. Easily half the length of the transport, Filx saw that the creatures actually had two sets of wings stemming from the very front of the torpedo-like body, where a head or face would be. From the glow of the strange sea, he could see underneath a row of what he assumed must be eyes–glossy, unblinking jewels of a faceted red material–arranged along the center and stretching back from the wings. Where the eyes ended, a large joint connected a sort of tail to the main body resembling a tentacle with an opening at its tip which seemed to move about in a twitchy fashion as the creatures zoomed past the transport cameras.
Filx watched as Ura pointed again at a different group of fliers, these ones further off amidst a small cluster of the tethered glowing bulbs. They darted and swerved around the bulbs, swooping at them and then veering off at the last second. Pulling up a holopanel, Ura tapped in a command and the image zoomed in dramatically upon the group of fliers and bulbs. Framed in the viewscreen now was a handful of the brightly glowing bulbs, these ones all a lazy reddish color and roughly floating at the same height, which the fliers were buzzing and swooping around. It was hard to tell exactly how many fliers there were, but Filx guessed about thirty or so, each one dive-bombing the glowing bulbs and veering away at the last moment before another repeated the process. At this magnification, however, the Weaver could now see that with each pass, the flier spat a sticky substance from its tail onto the bulb before flying on. The substance, a clear mucus of some kind, coated the red bulbs completely, running in rivulets off their sides and down into the glowing blue sea below .
“What are they doing?” he asked.
Ura said, “Watch. They’re almost finished.”
The fliers continued for a few more minutes dousing the bulbs with goo, until Filx saw that they were beginning to slowly descend back down to the strange glowing ocean, weighted down by the mucus-like substance the fliers were secreting. As soon as this started to happen, the flock of thirty or so fliers took off, forming into a spinning circle high above the bulbs. Ura hit a command on the panel, and the sound came pouring through speakers set into the wall beside the viewscreen. The screeching caws of the fliers circling above the bulbs was horrendous and grating, a blend of scraping and crying the likes of which he’d never heard before. Yet, in the raucous din, Filx picked out another underlying tone, one which almost sounded like a form of speech. The fliers, it seemed, were talking to each other through the strange rhythms they were making with their screeches, rhythms which, when he listened closely, oddly resembled the call-and-response music of his people’s mating rituals. And their dialogue quickly grew to a frenzy, the underlying beats growing more and more frantic and desperate, until at last a crescendo was reached. At the almost triumphant sounding finale–a final, lone screech cried in unison which pierced the the giant vern, echoing off into the distance–was some sort of signal, and out of the circling throng flew a single flier, its wings placed flat along its sides as it shot straight down at one of the glowing bulbs like a missile.
The bulb, Filx saw, was now quite close to the glowing blue substance it was sinking towards, perhaps three or four meters, when the flier reached it. With a graceful swoop, the flier landed on the top of the bulb, small segmented legs emerging from its underbelly, and began to tap on the surface of the bulb with its tail and the tips of its leathery wings. The rest of the fliers continued to circle overhead, silent now save for the occasional squawk or screech.
“Any minute now…” he heard Ura say next to him, almost to herself.
Then Filx saw something happen which he had not expected. With a violent and sudden burst, something unbelievably huge came up out of the blue glowing ocean. From where they sat in the crawler transport, it looked to the Weaver like a giant mouth filled with concentric rings of quivering, undulating teeth attached to a massive spider-like body. Barely visible above this gaping maw were a row of omniscient-looking eyes set in ring from which the center emerged the now-fallow tether growing from the head of the thing. In less than a second it had erupted up into the air and eaten its own bulb, flier and all. The rest of the creatures circling overhead let out a mighty screech in eerie unison as they saw their fellow flier eaten. Why they would commit such a sacrifice to draw such a thing as the monster attached to the bulb was beyond Filx. The entire scale of the event was breathtaking, the huge fliers dwarfed by the giant beast they had lured out of the glowing sea. Yet even as the giant mouth-beast began to take itself back under the glowing surface it began to thrash and choke on the substance the fliers had coated the bulb with. The thrashing of the beast was mighty, creating huge waves of the milky blue liquid to splash in all directions, hitting the other bulbs gathered nearby. The impacts caused more of the enormous beasts to emerge violently from the depths, in turn swallowing their own bulbs. Yet unlike the first, these giant beasts easily sunk back into the glowing sea, while the first continued to thrash on the surface, seemingly in great agony as it bellowed what looked like smoke from its huge maw. Filx look up to see the fliers circling lower and lower, watching with their rows of jeweled red eyes as the beast died. As the last spasms ended and the smoke cleared, the other bulb creatures had departed for calmer hunting grounds, and the circling fliers descended upon their prey.
“Now they will eat, and lay their eggs in the carcass, using the substance they secrete to turn the dead bobber into a nest for future generations,” Ura explained.
“The beast they killed is known as a scaean bobber, or bulbfish. The sea is not water, as I’m sure you gathered, but rather a bioluminescent bacteria which can stretch for kilometers over beds of silica, which some miners believe is sentient. Others believe it is the silica which has the intelligence. Most don’t care.” She turned to Filx. “What do you think?”
“I wouldn’t know, Lady Ura. What would make them assume either hold intelligence?”
The Ovoa let out a croak at hearing the Weaver’s question. He had been eating a strange stew and watching quietly from his slingchair. Ura let out a laugh.
“Why, because of the angels, of course.”
Zevir Ovoa, the infamous exile of Enge Wahid, let out another long, slow croak and flexed his claws in laughter before digging back into his meal as the caravan of machines made its way towards Sun’s Well, and the e’Yashe ritual Filx would perform there under the two moons.