The War of Peace - Part 1
by Trina Marie Phillips
Something smelled wrong. Ardam flared his nose flange and sniffed the air. Amidst the scent of
trees and sun was something so pungent it almost made him retch. The realization that it was
coming from the direction of their breeding grounds set his seven hearts to knotting in
descending sequence. The last one pounded a furious beat. It was only the second birthing
season since he became Paramount and the future of the Family was at stake.
He let out a keening wail in the communal dialect and the caravan of five Families shambled to a
stop behind him. The breeding grounds were over the next rise. If they had been destroyed he
didn't want to inflict his fellow Cranthers with the vision. No doubt they smelled what he did,
but if there was something horrible to be seen, it was his burden to bear.
He sprinted up the hill before his advisors could break from their Families. In past seasons he
had made this run for pleasure. Now, he did so out of panic. The soft dirt squeezed through his
toes begging to be enjoyed, only to be kicked off the backs of his six pounding feet.
Cresting the ridge, the vision he saw was as unexpected as it was abhorrent. The breeding ground
had been invaded. He made fists of his three right hands. His first instinct was to race down and
protect the seedlings but the sight was so bizarre he had to stop and assess the situation.
Stark red structures rose from the ground. They were made of hard edges and were as tall as
trees. The settlement bore a resemblance to the homes of the Sanai in the south, but taller and
Perfectly straight, black trails ran between the red structures. Ardam had never seen dirt as black
as that. Could the seedlings still be alive underneath it? Where had it come from? More
importantly, with the Birthing Ritual only six days away, could their children be saved?
Ardam squinted his fourth eye, his distance eye, and saw the beings that inhabited this strange
town. They were tall and had only two legs and two arms. One head. At least they had that in
common. But why so few limbs? They couldn't be very fast like that. Maybe they were strong
instead, like the Oloths in the Doron mountains. The Oloths were easy to trick, but this new race
had built a town in less than two seasons. He didn't think they were so dimwitted.
Footsteps rumbled up the ridge behind him, his advisors. He contemplated stopping them, easing
the shock, but they would have to see eventually. Let them discover the situation as he had.