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Religious Themed Stories / The Game of God - Chapter 9

    After the army of God has gone forth destroying all in its path. After those that blindly followed the Evil One have been brought low. In that time a prophet will come forth having the power of God with him. He shall have the power to destroy and to heal given to him from on high. None shall have the power to harm him except to whom it is given. For the world shall not have known a greater prophet save it be the Son. Unto the Son it was given to save the souls of every creature and break the bands of death forever. Unto the Prophet are the keys given to open the last dispensation when all the words that God has spoken shall be fulfilled. He shall proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder. - The Book of the Words and Works of God, the words given unto Tomarean Kel.

    

    Yoeith split his army in two. One part he sent to aid Tangoral and the other part went north with him to the relief of those in the cities. Great was the joy of the Green Brotherhood when they heard that KaZanna was defeated. Yoeith stopped at each dwelling of the Green Brotherhood along the way and helped with the repairs to the dwellings from the damage his soldiers had caused. No dwelling that fed his army of blue brothers ever lacked for food while the blue brothers were with them. Some of those dwelling counted this as a miracle for they were sorely pressed to feed themselves. Yoeith promised them that all would be well if they would trust in God and do as he asked. When the blue brothers left a dwelling, more often than not, the green brothers had more food than they did before the blue brothers arrived.

    

    “I remember you. Have you come to finish the job of destroying our dwelling?” the black brother asked.

    “No, I come in peace this time. Our war with the Red Brotherhood is over and I have come to repair some of the damage that we have caused you, and perhaps some of the damage the red brothers did as well,” Yoeith replied. “Do you have any food? I and my soldiers are hungry.”

    “We have nothing. The red brothers took what you did not destroy.” The black brother was not at all happy with having another army to deal with. He had heard of CaSanna’s defeat by Yoeith. He knew it would not be wise to antagonize Yoeith and his army.

    “Go and search your storerooms and if even a small morsel of food can be found it will be enough to satisfy our needs,” Yoeith said. “Trust in my words and God and if you do as I ask then there will be enough for all. I will wait here while you make your search.” The black brother stood looking at Yoeith for a moment before he turned to go back inside the dwelling in search of the dwelling clan leader.

    

    Tal Mare paced back and forth in his office as he listened to his guard’s report. The blue brothers’ army was to be feared. Some of the brothers from his own dwelling had joined the red army despite that army’s plundering of the dwelling. That was why he found himself in such difficulty at present. The small shunail herd that the dwelling had was scattered when the blue brothers attacked his dwelling. The herd alone would have seen his dwelling through until the next season’s crops would come in. Tal Mare was more inclined to turn the blue brothers away and if it were just a few of them he would have done just that. “…And he said that we should search our storerooms and if we found any crumbs he would be satisfied,” the guard finished saying.

    “Go tell him that we don’t have any crumbs,” Tal Mare said.

    “Clan Leader, I think he will know if we made a true search of our storerooms or not. He said if we trust in his words and God that there would be enough for all. Perhaps this is a test and they have food they are willing to share with us if we will do nothing more than find one crumb in one of our storerooms. I’m sure they know we don’t have any food. I think that they wish to see if we will follow custom. What will it hurt to do as they ask?” the guard asked.

    “You’re right; there is nothing to be lost to do as they ask. We can still seem to be hospitable as custom demands too. Make your search if you wish,” Tal Mare replied.

    

    Storeroom after storeroom was empty as the black brother searched the floors for a crumb but the floors were swept clean in each of the storerooms he had searched so far. He entered the last of the dwelling’s storerooms; at first the floors seemed as clean as the other storerooms. He held the lantern high to get a better look in the room and could not believe what he saw. The storage bins were full of all kinds of grains and dried fruit. He ran quickly and told Tal Mare. Tal Mare would not believe him and went to see for himself. It truly was as the guard described. The food in the storage bins was filled to overflowing and they were beginning to spill over onto the floor. Tal Mare’s first thought was that the blue brothers had done this somehow but he did not know how.

    

    Yoeith wait patiently as the dwelling clan leader came out of the dwelling followed by many of his brothers and sisters. “We welcome our brothers and will share our meager supplies with you,” Tal Mare said in greeting.

    “Even though you would have done otherwise but a few moments ago,” Yoeith replied.

    “A few moments ago I thought we had no food to share,” Tal Mare said.

    “A few moments ago you were thinking that you would have turned us away if there had been but a few of us.” Tal Mare began to tremble as he realized that this white brother could read his thoughts.

    “Please forgive me for thinking such thoughts,” Tal Mare begged. “We have suffered much on account of this war between you and the red clan. Many of our brothers went with the red brothers to fight against you and never returned. They did so against my advice.” Which was true enough, Tal Mare thought. “If we can set aside our anger for a moment. We will try and see to your needs the best we can.”

    “Ask God for forgiveness. You have no need of it from me. I understand how you must feel but know this, what we did to you we did to ourselves in order to deny KaZanna the food he needed to support his armies. Now, we are returning to support our clan leader. We will rest here for a few days before continuing on our journey. While we are here we will help you to rebuild your dwelling.”

    “How many of you are there?” Tal Mare asked.

    “There are about two hundred of us,” Yoeith replied. Tal Mare knew the food in the storeroom would not begin to feed that many brothers. “Have just a little faith in your God and there will be more than enough food to last our stay with you with food leftover. Now go and have the sisters prepare dinner that we may eat with you this night. While you are preparing dinner we will go out and try to find the shunails we scattered.”

    “We will do as our brothers ask,” Tal Mare said. We have little choice, he thought.

    “You do have a choice Tal Mare, but God may take back more than he has given you this day,” Yoeith said as he turn to give instructions to the blue brothers behind him.

    The sisters took enough food from the storeroom to cook dinner for all their guests and yet the storage bins always seemed full. The sisters did not question where the food came from but in their hearts they gave thanks to God. By the time dinner was ready Yoeith and the blue brothers had returned with a small herd of shunails. When he had the herd counted Tal Mare found that he had more shunails than he had lost.

    

    The days came and went quickly. With an army of blue brothers at his disposal Tal Mare had most of the repairs done to his dwelling before Yoeith announced that he and his soldiers would leave in the morning. Many of his fields were replanted. Things are much better than just a few days ago, Tal Mare thought. He tried not to think about where the seeds the blue brothers used to plant his fields came from. Just like he tried not to think about where all the food that he was feeding the blue brothers came from. He was afraid to even ask out of fear that it might all vanish. He simply gave thanks to God in his heart continually as did his whole dwelling. Tal Mare called a gather to thank Yoeith and the blue brothers for all their help.

    As gathers go none of the guests arrive on time even though dinner is started on time but at some point during dinner all the guests will be settled at their tables and eating. It was this point in time that Yoeith waited for when they would be ready to hear the words of God. “Tell me Tal Mare, do you not bless the food?” Yoeith asked.

    “I’m not sure what you mean,” Tal Mare replied.

    “Do you not have a patriarch to give thanks unto God for the food you eat and the claws that prepared it?”

    “There has not been a patriarch here in my memory, but do not worry that we are not thankful to God.”

    “Have you ever told him that you were thankful?”

    “I don’t know what you mean. I think with my heart and God knows that I’m thankful. Is that what you mean Yoeith?”

    “It is good to be thankful in our hearts continually but sometimes God wants to hear the words too. Even as your mates wish to hear you say, “I love you” once and a while. God wants to hear you say the words that are in your hearts.” Yoeith knew he was no longer speaking to just Tal Mare as more and more of the brothers and sisters were drawn into the conversation. Tangoral taught him more than just the secret of speaking the language of the Brachyura; he taught him also how to use his voice so that a whisper could be heard across a crowded room. “When you gather together you must always designate someone to give thanks onto God. Because you did not know this, there is no sin, but now because I tell you, you do fall into sin. Yet, you have not sinned if you should designate one to give thanks unto God.”

    “I know not what words to make to speak to God,” Tal Mare said.

    “If you will, I will give thanks to God for you,” Yoeith said.

    “Please do so that we might not sin in God’s eyes. My brothers and sisters,” Tal Mare raised his voice. “I have cause myself through my ignorance to fall from the grace of God, and not only me, but those around me that heard what was said. Indeed, I find myself ignorant of the ways of God. Yoeith wishes to give thanks unto God on our behalf that we may not fall from the grace of God. It is my wish that he do so.”

    “Oh our Father on high,” Yoeith began to say. He waited for silence before continuing. “Our Father of the most high heaven, glory be to Thy name forever. We give thanks unto Thee for the food that Thou has given to us in our hour of need. We give thanks for the claws that prepared that which Thou did give us. We give thanks unto Thee that our lives have been spared so that we may live to serve Thee. We give thanks unto Thee for Thy salvation through Thy holy Son that Thou sent unto the world to be a sign unto all. I ask, oh Father, that You look down upon us with a tender heart. Forgive our transgressions, as we are willing to forgive others. Lead us not on the paths of sin, but deliver us from the Evil One. Keep us on the straight path and rain down Thy love upon us. Unto Thee we give thanks and honor forever. This we do in the name of Thy most holy Son. May it ever be so.”

    “May it ever be so,” those at the gathering repeated.

    “So it shall ever be,” Yoeith said to complete the ritual.

    “What is this Son of God that you spoke of?” Tal Mare asked. “I know a little of the words of the prophets and I have not heard of this Son of God.”

    “Many of the words of the prophets have been lost and changed over the many thousands of cycles of the sun that have passed since the prophets wrote down the words God gave them,” Yoeith replied. “Yet, I say to you that the prophets did speak of the Son of God often. He is the one called the Christ, the most holy one before the Father, our Salvation, the Lord of our soul, these are but a few of the names the prophets gave to the Son of God. We have lost the understanding of the words that the prophets spoke. For this cause has he called another servant and sent him unto the world to declare His salvation through his Son. I am that servant and I have been given the records of the ancients.”

    “All the records and all the prophets testify of God and his Son and it has been so since the beginning of time,” Yoeith continued. “Unto that most holy name was given the power over life and death. The life and death of both the body and the spirit. This is the Christ, the Son of God, and the one whose name is so holy we may only whisper it. It is through him that our salvation is assured if we will repent believing that we are saved in Him. The Christ was given as a sign to all creatures great and small. In our arrogance, we claim that God is ours alone. I tell you that even the smallest bug can lay claim on God and God will hear and answer that bug’s prayers. With us, that bug will be reborn to be judged of God. We are all children of God, his sons and his daughters. Truly is the Christ more so because he was a true creation of God. Unto the Christ did God say, “Be,” and he was; being born in due time of a female that had not yet mated. Like the first creation to whom God gave his trust. The Christ was a true creation of God, a son of the most high God, the father of all creation. Whose name we do not even dare whisper except in holy places.

    “We have entered the last days before the coming of God. This is the time when all the words that have been spoken by God shall be fulfilled. This is the time when all the records that have been kept since the world began shall be gathered. Do you not think that the ancients had prophets that were sent unto them to give clear warning of the judgment of God that was to come upon them? God will do nothing save he reveal it to a prophet and that prophet must then warn those to whom he is sent. Those prophets wrote down the words and the works of God that they heard and saw of Him; for so it has been since the beginning of time. When God spoke unto one of His servants that servant was commanded to write the words that he heard and publish it unto the world or unto those to whom he was sent. So it was in the beginning, so it is now. God is unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What He did in the beginning He will do in the End. Out of the records, which the prophets have recorded since the beginning of time, shall the world be judged.”

    “The Son of God, to whom God has given all things, will stand at the gateway to Heaven and none shall pass him that is not acceptable to God, the father of all creation. The Christ is the guardian of Heaven’s gate. He holds the keys to life and death, Heaven and Hell. By our faith, our deeds, and the thoughts of the heart will we be judged. First, is our faith and trust in God, and in his Son, and in the servants that He has sent. Next are actions of faith, our deeds. To have faith is to act and to obey the words of God. One must obey all of His words. To fail in one small point of law is to fail all the laws and commandments of God. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of God. Straight is the path and narrow is the way to Heaven and only a true believer will ever find it. Last, are the desires of our heart, the true makeup of who we are really. Indeed, true faith in God should be the greatest desire of our heart. If faith in God is our greatest desire, then how can we not obey God in all things? If you would obey God then you would serve and love your brothers and sisters. There is no faith without actions, nor actions without true faith. True faith can only be born out of a true desire to serve God which causes us to take action in the service of our brothers and sisters.”

    “Without faith we cannot even stand before the gates of Heaven. With faith we can stand before the gates of Heaven to be judged by him to whom all things are given. Judged by our deeds be they good or evil, black or white. Before the judgment bar of eternal truth there are no shades of gray. You are either for God or against God. Shades of gray are the lies that the Evil One uses to entice a brother or sister to Hell little by little. The law says: do not speak falsely to anyone, but the Evil One whispers to you that there is no harm if you leave off speaking before the whole truth is revealed. In doing so, perhaps your brother is deceived, and yet, perhaps there is no harm done. Still, you deceived your brother with your silence and you are guilty in the eyes of justice for you did not tell the whole truth. Hence, you spoke falsely to your brother even though all you said was the truth. The intent of your heart was to deceive your brother. Thus you can see how you can transgress a small point of the law and still be guilty of the whole law. You can also see how easy it is for the Evil One to lead you astray by making you believe that there is some middle ground between black and white. It is small things that lead us down to Hell.”

    “If this is so then we must all be condemned and consigned to Hell. How should we ever face God being guilt of violating the law despite our best efforts?” Tal Mare asked.

    “It is through the Christ that we are saved from our folly,” Yoeith replied. “He took upon himself all the sins of this creation and became its savior. All creatures that look upon him for their salvation shall find it. Being sinless, he became a fitting sacrifice for sin so that all of this creation might find salvation through him. Justice demands that a price must be paid for transgressing the law. The Christ has paid the price for all our sins, and being sinless, justice could have no clam upon him. Now, it is up to us to lay claim on our salvation through faith in God and his Son. However, we must truly seek him, and how may we find him? We begin our search in seeking to obey the laws given to us by God. We find him by losing ourselves in the service of others. In this, only the true believers will find salvation. The intent of their hearts is pure, even though they falter in small matters of the law. A true believer will repent when shown the error of his ways and seek with all diligence to mend his ways. Therefore his heart is pure and justice cannot claim him. The Christ has already laid claim to the true believer having paid justice its due.”

    “Now, if you do not search after your salvation, how can you find it? I tell you that no one will find their salvation if they do not seek for it. If you do not come to know God and draw close to him, how shall God come to know you and draw close to you? Indeed, if you turn from your God, then God shall turn from you. Then if God turns from you justice must come and claim you and you have no part in the salvation of God. If justice claims you as its own, then justice will bind you and drag you down to the fires of Hell that await all unbelievers. Truly, all those who will not seek out their salvation with all their heart, and with all their mind, and all their strength are unbelievers. The command is to come unto God for your salvation. God will not bring his salvation unto you, but if you seek with all diligence, you shall find that thing which you sought. If you ask, it will be given to you the thing for which you asked. God will not give you anything if you will not ask. Nor will you find your salvation if you do not look for it. To be saved in the kingdom of God requires some work on your part. To say you believe means nothing if you do nothing. God tests the faithful to see if they are truly faithful to him in all things. If you say you believe and do not help those in need. Then in your heart you are an unbeliever. If you are an unbeliever in your heart then you will seek to deceive the world around you heaping up more damnation upon your soul.”

    “How shall we be saved in the Kingdom of God?” Tal Mare asked.

    “First, you must believe in God, creator of all things, and the Christ, his son and savior of all creation, and the Holy Spirit that bares witness of the truth to all creatures” Yoeith replied. “Second, you must repent and forsake your sins embracing the salvation of God through the Christ. Third, you must be baptized of water unto the remission of your sins. Last, one who holds clear authority from God must give you the gift of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, all things done on behalf of God must be done by one having clear authority from God. This so all things may be done in order according to the will of God. God is a God of order. Look at the world around you; where among God’s creations is there not order? Everything goes about its cycle of life in an orderly fashion. Even the stars must pursue their course through the night sky in an orderly manner. Howbeit, that God should not pursue an orderly course with regards to his dealings with us. I tell you that if he were to do so, he would cease to be God. However, God has not ceased to be God. All things pertaining to us are done in an orderly fashion by one who has clear authority from God. So it was in the beginning. So it is now and so it will be in the future.”

    “All that you have spoken we believe,” Tal Mare said as other brothers and sisters nodded in agreement. “What do we lack to become true followers of God and the Christ of whom you have spoken?”

    “The thing you lack is a clear knowledge of the words and works of God,” Yoeith said. “Without them how shall you even know to whom you look to for your salvation?”

    “Will you teach us?” Tal Mare asked.

    Yoeith took a new book from his healer’s bag. “Yes, I will teach you all that the prophets of old taught, from the beginning of time up to our present day,” Yoeith replied. Yoeith opened the book and began to read. “There is no beginning and there is no end to the works of my hands. Neither can they be known by man. If you can count the grains of sand upon this world or the stars in the heavens I would show unto you all my creations. No eye can behold all my creations but because you have asked in faith I will show unto you the creation of this world, and the end there of.

    In the beginning this world was without form in the great void. I said to those that were with me let us go forth and make a world and plant on it every good thing and we will make a creature after our own image to rule over this world that we will make. We will call the creature man. We will bestow upon him our trust to see what he would do with it.

    So the Gods went forth into the great void and gathered the materials they found there and created a world and gave to it its form. Of the materials that were found in the great void the Gods also made a great light to give warmth to the world that they had made and this light they called day. The darkness wherein the light did not shine was called night and God said let us make lesser lights that man may not stumble in the dark. So it was as God said and they waited to be sure that they were obeyed before they rested. So ended the first day…” Yoeith began to unfold all things of the teachings of the prophets to the black brothers. From the beginning of time and the creation of their world up to the coming of the Son of God and from the time of the coming of the Christ up to the present day. Then he told them of the things that were yet to come to pass. He laid before the black brothers and sisters the Great Plan of God. They all believed on his words and were baptized according to the Baptism of God. So began the restoration of the Church of the Son of the Most High God.

    

~~~

    

    “Ishihari, Tangoral is gone,” Ashorah said. “I went to ask him something and when I couldn’t find him I made a search of the camp. He’s nowhere to be found.”

    “Calm yourself my dear,” Ishihari said. “This is the time for evening prayers. Perhaps he has gone off to be alone. His new found devotion to God is as strange to you as it is to him. I have noted that he is more zealous with regards to the prayer times as recommended by the prophets than I or Tangalen for that matter. Then perhaps I only notice because I am not as devoted to the strict adherence of the prayer times as I should be, but then I am not one of the chosen of God. I suspect that makes a difference.”

    “I’m still worried about him.”

    “I worry about him too and if it will make you feel any better I will help you search for him.”

    “Thank you, if nothing else I will have someone to talk to while we wait for him to return,” Ashorah said.

    “Let’s go find Tragal and Doesen. If anyone would know where Tangoral is, it will be them,” Ishihari said.

    

    “Timmiss, slow down. Maybe you can see where you’re going but I can’t,” Tangoral said after he was slapped in the face by another branch.

    “I’m sorry. It’s not much farther now,” Timmiss apologized.

    “Not much farther too where Timmiss? Where are we going?”

    “We are going to meet with friends.”

    “Why?”

    “I am only a messenger Tangoral. That is for them to explain.”

    “It that all you angels are good for, being a messenger for God?”

    “There are many duties for an angel to do. Being a messenger is a pleasant break from some of our more normal activities.”

    Tangoral could see a fire ahead in the distance. “Head toward the light. I will leave you now. May the blessings of the Father be upon your head in all you shall do.” White light surrounded Timmiss just before he vanished. Tangoral did not miss the hint to what lay ahead from Timmiss’s parting words. When he finally reached the fire there were two hard-shells waiting for him.

    Greetings brother,” the white one said.

    

    “The clan leader would have my shell if I let you go into the forest alone,” Tragal said. Two females glared at him and Doesen. Tragal would not budge on this point.

    ”Ok, then you two will come with us and we’ll all go find Tangoral together,” Ishihari said. “It’s well past the evening prayer hour and Tangoral has not yet returned. We are going to go look for him and because you won’t let us go into the forest alone. I guess you’ll just have to come with us to help us look for him.”

    “Lady Ishihari, we’ll be happy to go with you, won’t we?” Doesen said looking at Tragal questioningly.

    Tragal groaned inside himself. “He’s an adult now. He can take care of himself,” he replied. A proper tree dweller attitude, Tragal thought.

    “He’s my son and we’re going to go find him, now,” Ishihari ordered.

    “Doesen, this is all your fault. This has all the feel of another crazy adventure and it is all your fault. At least I’m not going alone this time,” Tragal said as he stood up and glued his guns back on.

    

    “Let me get this straight you actually used Angela’s brain machine,” Tomarean Kel said. “I forget what she called it, a neural amplifier I think. How was it?”

    “A little too real,” Tangoral said. “Sometimes I wonder which is the dream, then or now. I have to ask myself all the time what’s real. It’s like having two memories of two different lives overlapping each other or like remembering some kind of past life so vividly that you can remember the smells of a given day. Kind of like when your stuck in a really long dream that never seems to end. Only I got to the end of the dream.”

    “I tried to use it once just before I left the science center to join the freedom fighters,” Tomarean Kel admitted. “You probably had to put it back together a little bit.”

    “Yeah, I did.”

    “It’s like a dream you always remember. I tried it twice actually. The first time I did it for just a moment to get a feel for what it could do from one of Angela’s demos she had set up with the device. The next time I wrote a program for it but again it was on for only a short time. I didn’t put that thing on and kept it on for a half a day like you did. What made you do that?”

    “I wanted to know everything about the world and now sometime I feel like I do. There is more knowledge stored in my head than the Brachyura could ever hope to use in a hundred lifetimes.”

    “What will you do with this knowledge?” BoTalan asked handing Tangoral another bowl of food.

    “Use it as wisely as I can to help the brotherhood,” Tangoral replied taking the offered bowl and setting it aside. He was full and tired of waiting. Neither of the ancient prophets had yet said why they had Timmiss come get him.

    “Patience is a virtue,” Tomarean Kel said sensing Tangoral’s mood. “All will be made know when the others get here.”

    “What others?” Tangoral asked.

    “They are already searching for him and will be here soon,” BoTalan replied.

    “Do you remember the words of the prophets? The one must become two, and the two becomes four, and the four, six, and the six, twelve, or something like that?” Tomarean Kel asked.

    “I know the passage, but I couldn’t tell you what prophet right off,” Tangoral replied. BoTalan pointed at Tomarean Kel with one of his claws. “What others?”

    “Now is the time to fulfill a portion of that prophecy,” Tomarean Kel said. “For the one to become two they must share the same power, and for the two to become four then two more besides Yoeith and yourself must hold an equal share of that power. So it goes until there are twelve that are equal in power, but under Yoeith’s direction. Even though you are all called to be prophets and witnesses for God there is only one head. Even as the Christ is at the head of the Church so too is there only one that stands between the Christ and the World. There is only one mouthpiece for God at a time in the world when there has been a clear line of authority upon the world on which we stand. God is a God of order. For if one cries here is God believe it, but if more than one says, here or there is God believe it not. Stand and listen to the voice of reason, the voice of love, the voice of your salvation. It is not a shout, but rather a small whisper that pierces the heart.”

    “The priesthood of God shall never be taken from the world again. For this cause shall we ordain you a High Priest in the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Christ, the Son of the living God. We shall ordain you first and the others later so that if Yoeith ever falls in the battle with the Evil One you will take his place as leader of the children of God and his church,” BoTalan said. “You are called to serve God. Do you accept?”

    “Yes, I will bow to the will of God,” Tangoral replied. “Who are the others we’re waiting for?”

    

    “Why is it that most of my adventures start out by me getting lost,” Tragal muttered to himself. He should have never have let them talk him into coming out into the forest at night. “Yep, here I am hopelessly lost, again. Nobody ever listens to me.”

    “Tragal, would you give it a rest,” Doesen said. “We don’t need a reminder that we’re lost ever few time parts. Ashorah, which way?”

    “I’m not sure,” she replied.

    “Aren’t all tree dwellers supposed to have a kind of sixth sense that prevents you from ever becoming lost?” Doesen asked.

    “This morning I’d have said yes,” Ashorah replied. “Now, now I’m lost and I shouldn’t be. Not this close to our camp.”

    “We go that way,” Ishihari said pointing down the branch on which she was standing.

    “How do you know?” Tragal asked.

    “I keep seeing a flicker of light in that direction,” Ishihari replied.

    “I’ll go first…,” Tragal said as he started out in the direction Ishihari indicated.

    “First to get lost,” Doesen interrupted in jest at the expense of his friend. “How did you ever keep from getting lost during the war?”

    “The same way you did, I stayed next to Tangoral,” Tragal replied giving his friend a rather annoyed look. “Doesen, bring up the rear.”

    “Do they always argue like that?” Ashorah asked.

    “They’re not really arguing,” Ishihari said. “They’re making fun of a bad situation by making fun of each other. It is what soldiers do to build courage in each other.”

    “Why would they need more courage than they already have? They are the bravest of the brave or Tangoral would not walk with them.”

    “A soldier always fears what lies ahead, but it is his courage that helps him to set aside his fears even in the face of death.”

    “So you’re saying that they are laughing at death even though they are afraid of it,” Ashorah said.

    “Pretty much,” Ishihari said. “Sometimes, if we can laugh at our fears we can overcome them.”

    “Quiet,” Tragal commanded in whispered tones. “One of the brothers ahead is red. I can’t make out the other one yet. There maybe a third I can’t see yet.”

    Tragal moved closer slowly. The third turned out to be Tangoral sitting between the two brothers. Tragal was unsure what Tangoral’s status was. He could be a prisoner but it did not look like the brothers were armed. Tangoral still had his healer’s bag and that was a good sign. The second brother shifted his position and Tragal got a good look at the white shell. Tragal had the strangest feeling that he had seen this white brother before. He just could not place where and when together in his mind. Tragal move a little closer. He still did not have a clear shot.

    

    Tomarean Kel threw more wood on the fire and watched as the new wood caught fire. He turned and looked out into the night. He stared right at Tragal’s hiding spot. Tragal tried not to breathe. “Will you all stay out in the cold hiding in the dark or will you join us and share our fire?” Tomarean Kel asked as his gaze shifted to Doesen’s hiding place. “We are not armed, and no harm will come to you. I give you my word as a brother.”

    Tragal and Doesen had to scramble to catch up with Ishihari and Ashorah as they stepped into the clear from their hiding places. “Please forgive us,” Ishihari said. “The war has bred mistrust in us all these days.”

    “There is nothing wrong with using caution in these troubled times,” Tomarean Kel said.

    “I know you don’t I?” Tragal asked as he stopped in front of the white brother.

    “You know of me, but I assure you we have never met.”

    Tragal was hit by the recollection. What he thought was impossible. This could not be that brother. He would have to be three thousand cycles old. “Electra,” Tragal whispered.

    “Now there is a name that I have not heard for a long, long time. That was indeed my name long ago, but I was born Tomarean Kel and that is the name I have gone by these many cycles of the sun,” Tomarean Kel replied.

    Tragal looked at Doesen. He was in just as much of a state of shock as Tragal. “Forgive my two guards,” Ishihari said. “They look like they have seen a ghost. I would have thought having seen Yoeith they would be use to seeing a white brother. I’m…”

    “Lady Ishihari, we know,” Tomarean Kel finished for her. “You have all been expected. I greet you all with a Holy Greeting in our Lord and God. I convey God’s love for each of you. We can now proceed with the ordinations.”

    “What ordinations?” Doesen asked.

    “You are all here for a reason,” BoTalan replied. “The Lady Ishihari’s faith allows her to see the ordination of her adopted son for he is called with the same calling as Yoeith. The mate-to-be of a prophet must also have faith if she is to support him all the days of his life. That is why Ashorah is here. You two have been called with the same calling as Tangoral. You are called to serve God as prophets and witnesses for God in all things.”

    “Why us, wouldn’t Tangalen make a better prophet than both of us together?” Tragal asked.

    “Tangalen will be called to serve in another capacity when the time comes,” Tomarean Kel said. “You are both brothers of great faith. You have been faithful in all things that God has commanded you through the words of his prophets. You have both seen and heard much of the workings of God and it has enlarged your faith. Is it any wonder that God has chosen two brothers as valiant as you two to be his servants?”

    Ashorah was totally confused by everything. She had no idea who these new hard-shells were. She did not understand what they were talking about. It seemed to be something good and frightening at the same time judging by Tragal and Doesen’s reaction to seeing these hard-shells. Fear was beginning to creep into her heart. She knelt down next to Tangoral and whispered, “Tangoral, I’m afraid.”

    While Ishihari was not afraid, she was very confused. “I don’t know who you two are and I’m not real sure what you’re talking about,” she said. “You’re frightening Ashorah, who is even more confused than I am. You’re having a serious effect on my guards and I don’t know why. I understand what you said but I didn’t understand what you meant. So would someone please explain to us who you are and what is going on.”

    “Mother, these are ancient prophets of God. The prophets we know as Kel and Tal. Tomarean Kel and BoTalan, I told you about them, remember,” Tangoral said. “Ashorah, these are servants of God who chose to stay when God hid the ancient city of the faithful of God. This is known to the People as the story of the home that fled the world to escape their enemies. Tomarean Kel and BoTalan wander our world as special witnesses for God. To them is given the authority to act in God’s name. Never in the history of our world has this authority been completely removed from the world. Prophets have been taken up to Heaven in the past to preserve the line of authority from being totally destroyed. This authority is the Holy Priesthood of God, and it is given to all worthy male members of God’s true church. Tragal, Doesen, and I have been chosen to receive this priesthood at this time. We have been called to serve as prophets and witnesses for God. We are called with Yoeith to be voices of warning to the world and to proclaim the gospel of the Christ. We are in the last days before the coming of God. This is the time when the truth of all things must be restored. As it was in the beginning; so it will be in the end.”

    “I’m still not sure what you mean Tangoral,” Ashorah said.

    “Ashorah, think of them as great healers.”

    “Are they as great as you?”

    “They are greater healers than I could ever dream of being. Now they wish to share all their secrets with Tragal, Doesen, and myself. Their time has past and we will be the healers of this time. It is like they have grown old and tired and now they wish to pass on their secrets before they make the great journey to the beginning of our world and fade from our memory.”

    “How could they be greater healers than you?” Ashorah asked.

    Tangoral smiled at her. “They have been alive for three thousand cycles of the sun and God whispers all the knowledge of the world to them. Compared to them I am yet unborn and know nothing,” he replied.

    BoTalan walked over to stand in front of Ashorah. He settled to the ground and took her hands gently in his claws. “We are not often allowed to talk with others without leave from our Lord and savior. We are normally silent observers of God’s creations. My brother and I have walked to and fro upon the world for a very long time. We began and fought in the war that freed the Brachyura from your ancestors more than three thousand cycles ago. One day servants of God came and taught us of God and his salvation. When we embrace the way of God we threw down our guns and would not take them up again. We placed ourselves and our loved ones in the hands of God. He became our protector and our friend. We became his servants. We learned to replace the hate in our hearts with love. The love that lives in our hearts cannot be expressed in words.”

    “Ashorah, you are our sister in this great creation of our Lord. As much as we love you God loves you more. Pure love, unconditional love, unremitting love is more than anyone can bear. It can reduce the strong to tears and is a refuge for the weak. As much as you love Tangoral and he loves you, there is one who loves you more. He is your father, and my father. He is the father of all that is, the Great One, God, the Father of All. I can see into your heart. I know your struggles, your doubts and fears as you enter the world that Tangoral has chosen to live in. Place all your fears and concerns in God’s hands. Let God’s love work in you until you can love all of God’s creations from the smallest to the largest. Then, when you look at one of us you will no longer see us as hard-shells but rather you will see us as your brothers and sisters.”

    “When I look at you I see a sister that I love dearly,” BoTalan continued.  “I see a child’s heart in a woman’s body. I see how much you have risked for your love for Tangoral. I see the love in your heart and know that you a capable of so much more if you’d just let go of those things that hold you back. Come to God and cast upon him all your fears and doubts. If you will do this then you will be free and you will be able to love all those around you more than you ever thought possible. This is part of the salvation that God offers you and every one. This is part of the love that Tangoral embraced when he became a healer. Now, he has come to fully embrace the Gospel which is a greater love for all of God’s creation. His heart is so full of love there is little room for anything else. He is now ready for the next step. His entire dwelling is ready for the next step but that must be done under his hand and Yoeith’s claws. We are simply messengers sent by God to lay our claws upon him and confer the authority that God gave us upon his head. Even as we did to Yoeith, we now do unto Tangoral, Tragal, and Doesen that the words of God might be fulfilled. To them and those that follow is given the task of building up the Kingdom of Heaven in these last days. It is your duty to help your mate in the tasks that God will give him in the days to come.” BoTalan could still feel her clinging to the things she was afraid to let go of.

    There was another way to reach past her fears and doubts. BoTalan closed his eyes as he held Ashorah’s hands. His claws tightened about her hands ever so slightly. Ashorah inhaled sharply as the Spirit of God touched her soul for a moment and she felt herself being filled with a feeling of pure love. For just a brief instant she felt BoTalan’s love for her as a child of God. She was his sister and he was her brother. God’s love for his daughter surrounded her on every side. When the moment past tears filled her eyes not only for all the love she felt but also for the loss of the love that had filled her up to overflowing. She had felt the truth of BoTalan’s words when the Spirit of God touched her soul. Ashorah bent forward and kissed the top edge of his shell. “Thank you,” she whispered as she wiped the tears from her eyes with her left hand. Now she understood how these hard-shells could be greater healers than her husband-to-be.

    “Let go of your fears. Embrace the salvation of our God and his love will fill you to overflowing every day,” BoTalan whispered back. BoTalan stood up and looked at Tangoral. “Tangoral, if you will please kneel over by Tomarean Kel. We can proceed with your ordination.”

    Tangoral knelt before Tomarean Kel. BoTalan walked over to stand behind Tangoral. Both of the ancient prophets placed their claws gently upon his head. “Tangoral by the power of the most Holy Priesthood of God that we hold,” Tomarean Kel began to pray. “We lay our claws upon your head and give to you the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God and ordain you to the office of a high priest with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of that high office. You are called of God to be an apostle of the Most High. You are called with a holy calling to be a prophet, seer, and revelator and to help in the building up of God’s kingdom while yet in your youth.”

    “Tangoral, God has molded and shaped you unto this end. He has given you a gentle heart, a healer’s heart. When trials come upon you God will give you the strength to overcome all your challenges and difficulties in life. God tests the faithful to see if they will remain faithful in the face of adversities. Great shall be your trials but if you remain faithful to the end you shall be rewarded with an unending reward, for so it is with all of God’s children.”

    “Tangoral, we bless you with peace of mind and that your mind should be freed from the effects of Angela’s mind enhancing machine. We bless you with the gift of healing and all other Gifts of the Spirit as you so desire. Continue to draw close unto the Lord and he will draw close to you. Continue to seek after knowledge but gain wisdom from God. Listen to the Spirit of God; let him be your guide in all things. Ever study the words of the prophets and pray always. Again, we seal these blessings upon your head by the power of the most holy priesthood and in the name of the Christ. May it ever be so.”

    “May it ever be so,” the others intoned at the end of the prayer.

    “So it shall ever be.” Tomarean Kel chanted back finishing the prayer.

    “Next,” BoTalan said.

    

~~~

    

    Adreeum had a lot of problems most of which dealt with having to get food into the claws of the starving brothers and sisters in the cities. The war had brought a halt to the flow of food and other goods to the cities. Adreeum was faced with sharing the stores of food the Blue Brotherhood had with the other clans or letting them starve. The Green Brotherhood had the help of the tree dwellers they had made friends with and so they were not in dire need of help. The Brown Brotherhood was not so fortunate. They had sided with the blue and green brothers in the end and if he were going to help any of the other clans Adreeum decided he would help the brown brothers first. The Yellow Brotherhood faired better than most of the other clans during the war, but they had diverted most of their extra supplies to support KaZanna’s army. Without their leadership to guide their clan, chaos reigned, and the yellow brothers in the cities were facing starvation with the other clans. The black clan was leaderless as were what remained of the red clan. The red clan had far fewer mouths to feed and they still had some supplies to draw on from a few of their dwellings that were not destroyed. While most of the red brothers had fled the cities in fear of the Blue Brotherhood the black, brown, blue, and yellow brothers still remained in the cities and order in those cities were rapidly breaking down. Adreeum was at a loss as to what to do to maintain order and get sufficient food into the claws that need it.

    Adreeum’s thoughts were interrupted by a soldier that came running into his office. “Clan Leader, our scouts have reported a giant metal monster, maybe six lengths tall, headed toward the city,” he reported with a certain amount of panic in his voice. “It will reach the city by tomorrow morning.”

    Adreeum remembered Zothor telling him about a similar creature that Tangoral had control of at his dwelling. Perhaps this is that creature or a similar one, he thought. “Has it shown any hostile intentions?” he asked.

    “No, not yet.”

    “Have our soldiers follow it at a safe distance. Do not engage the creature except in self-defense,” Adreeum said.

    “What if it becomes hostile?” the soldier asked.

    “Then God help us. If this is a similar creature to one Zothor described to me. It is capable of destroying this dwelling and everyone in it. Do whatever it takes to make sure that the creature does not feel threatened in any way. Don’t let it see any brothers with guns if possible. Try and keep everyone out of its path. It may be on our side or just passing us by on its way to somewhere else. In any case it’s best that we don’t do anything to provoke it.”

    

    When the guardian entered the city panic ensued. Brothers and sisters of every clan fled for their lives from the giant behemoth. A young brown sister stumbled in one of the fleeing crowds and was trampled. Before she could regain her legs the guardian reached her position and stopped. Almost as tall as a dwelling it towered over her. A giant hand reached down toward her. She did the only thing she could do, she fainted. When she regained consciousness she was lying in the palm of the metal monster’s hand. “Please do not faint again. I mean you no harm,” the monster said.

    “What do you want with me?” she asked.

    “I need directions to the blue Brachyura dwelling.”

    “If you put me down I will show you.” The guardian lowered the brown sister to the ground and she climbed off its hand.

    “You go that way,” she said pointing down the street with her claw. “It’s the dwelling with all the big round windows in it.”

    “Thank you for your assistance,” the monster said as it started down the street in the direction indicated.

    

    Adreeum waited on one of the many roofs of the clan dwelling. The roof was at about the same height as the metal monster now walking toward the dwelling. Adreeum hoped that Tangoral had control of this monster. Even as he hoped, he was frightened by the fact that a tree dweller so far away might have control of such a monster. This monster was the stuff of nightmares. Adreeum remembered tales of just such a monster that would come and devour bad little brothers, or so his mother told him when he misbehaved as a child. It was hard not to run even when the monster stopped in front of the dwelling. “I have come in search of the one called Adreeum, leader of the blue Brachyura,” the monster said to no one in particular.

    “I am Adreeum,” the clan leader said. “What do you want?”

    “I was sent by Tangoral to give you whatever assistance you may need and to act as a communication link with Yoeith, Tangoral, and Zothor’s dwelling,” the monster replied as it turned its full attention on Adreeum.

    Adreeum breathed a sigh of relief. “Do you know how the war is going? We have not yet received word on the final outcome.”

    “I will ask.” The guardian stood silent for a time before replying. “Clan Leader?” the guardian asked in Tangoral’s voice.

    “Tangoral?” Adreeum asked not believing his ears.

    “Yes Clan Leader, this is Tangoral,” the monster replied. “I see that the nearby guardian unit I sent you has arrived.”

    “Yes, it arrived and it nearly scared us all to death.”

    “Sorry about that. There was no way to warn you beforehand. The guardian said you wanted to know how the war is going.”

    “That is what I asked it. So how is it going?” Adreeum asked.

    “The war is over. KaZanna has been defeated,” the monster seemed to say. “Almost all the prisoners that you requested to see are in our custody at this time. We are on our way up to see you at present. We should be there in a couple of seven-days or so. Yoeith should reach you before we do. We are trying to undo some of the damage to the other clans that we caused on our way back or we would arrive there much sooner. I understand that the black clan leader was killed?”

    “Yes, he was, along with all his councilors.”

    “In that case I am bringing the prefect candidate for their leadership with me. After all the black clan is in no position to argue with us. Dar Noth chose to side with us and was banished for that choice. He and the brothers and sisters that chose exile rather that support the Prophet were a great help to us and should be rewarded for their efforts on our behalf, don’t you agree?”

    “Certainly, but I’d like to talk with him before I make that kind of a decision.”

    “Ok, there is one other thing that might prove to be a problem, though I doubt it. KarEena, KaZanna’s mate is claming leadership of the red clan. She says the sisters of the red clan have the majority and as the mate of a fallen clan leader she is claiming the right to lead the clan in his stead. She says that this is her right until the sisters of the red clan can choose another leader in her place. Tangalen says she maybe right. Zothor is not sure if she can do that, but he’s not sure.”

    “Clan leadership falls to anyone with a majority vote,” Adreeum said. “Brother or sister it makes no difference. Also, there are provisions that allow a clan leader’s mate to lead in his place when no other leadership is available to take charge of the clan at the time. If she is claming that right then she is the clan leader of the red clan until a vote of confidence is or can be taken. I’m sure that you have seen your dwelling defer to Ishihari in Zothor’s absence. Same thing applies in this case except on a much larger scale.”

    “The next question is, are we willing to back up her claim to the leadership of the clan with force?” Tangoral asked. “It maybe to our benefit to do so. Zothor thinks that KaZanna may appeal to Jonnaul and the Church for protection. I know the law in this case and Jonnaul would offer his protection just to spite us. Jonnaul could protect KaZanna from any other clan except his own. With KarEena as clan leader KaZanna would not escape punishment.”

    “If that’s what it takes to ensure that KaZanna will not escape punishment. Then my answer is yes,” Adreeum replied. “We have a small occupational force disarming the Red Brotherhood now. It would be an easy thing to poll the red sisters on this matter. If the red sisters are agreeable then it would add that much more weight to KarEena’s claim to leadership.”

    “What of the Yellow Brotherhood?”

    Adreeum sighed. “They are without leadership at present, but I’ve heard rumors that Jonnaul may assume the leadership of the clan. If not him then one of his councilors for sure. Either way Jonnaul will have control of the yellow clan. We are looking at the possibility of disarming the yellow clan as well just in case. Although I doubt that Jonnaul is as insane as KaZanna.”

    “That maybe, but he hates all tree dwellers and me especially. Even if we disarm him he will still find a way to hurt us. Let’s think on that. We might be able to do something on the way there. In the meantime, the guardian unit will do whatever you ask it. No other may command it except to get a hold of me through its communication system, Tangoral out.”

    “Tangoral? Tangoral?”

    “The transmission has ended. Would you like me to call him back?” the monster asked.

    “No, that won’t be necessary,” Adreeum replied. Now that he had his very own monster, what would he do with him? “What do I call you?”

    “Tangoral and his kind and the other Brachyura that I have encountered so far call me Sentinel. I really do not have a name as you would think of a name. I have a model number. I am a High-Brow 7000 computer. High-Brow is the name of the computer company that made me. Seven thousand is my series number. The higher the series number the fewer models built. There is only one of me being a high end number. There were millions of low end model numbers. So not really having a name I do not care what you call me. I will answer to just about anything. Do you wish to change my name designation now?”

    “No, Sentinel will be just fine. Is there any way we can talk without being overheard? I may not want the rest of the world to know what else we may talk about,” Adreeum said pointing at the gathering crowd of brothers and sisters below.

    “Yes, there is. The manual control station in this guardian unit is more suited to your species than the one Frothay is in. You could easily fit in that control station. Once the control station is sealed no one can hear what you say,” Sentinel replied. The guardian leaned forward tilled its head down. Two doors opened up, and a ramp extended out and down to the roof. To the brothers and sisters below it looked like the monster ate Adreeum. Just stuck out its tongue and slurped him right up.

    The doors slid shut silently behind him. The red cockpit lights came on as Adreeum turned around and looked out the windows in the door. “What do you call this?” Adreeum asked.

    “This unit was designed to carry cargo or a human operator. This is a state-of-the-art courier/guardian unit; heavily armored, all particle beam weapons, two plasma cannons and two quad-laser pulse rifles. Without the rockets and other guns mounted on fighter/guardian units this unit is able to attain higher speeds than other units because this unit is not weighted down by the additional weapons. The small room you are now in is the cargo bay. You may speak freely now. No one can overhear what you say,” Sentinel replied from the speakers embedded in the cargo bay walls.

    

~~~

    

    The army of the Blue Brotherhood had occupied the small brown dwelling for three days. They rebuilt much of what was destroyed and set right many of the problems that had plagued the dwelling for many cycles. Yoeith found many new converts among the brothers and sisters of this dwelling. Indeed, they were almost all willing to embrace the gospel of the Son of God. A little after the gather dinner to honor and say good-by to the blue brothers Yoeith found himself standing in the doorway to Petteaic’s dwelling. He was a simple field worker, one of many. “What brings a prophet of God to my humble dwelling?” Petteaic asked somewhat surprised that someone so important would take the time to visit him.

    “A personal matter,” Yoeith replied. He had after all gone a little out of his way to visit this dwelling.

    “Dannellma, come greet the Prophet who has come to visit us,” Petteaic yelled.

    Dannellma’s color was a little flushed and her soft sides were a little puffy. It was obvious to Yoeith that she was expecting her first child. Her color would have been closer to normal if was to be her second or third child. She was not due anytime soon or her sides would have been puffed out more than they were. Dannellma knelt before Yoeith when she entered the room. “You honor our dwelling with your presence,” she said.

    “Rise sister and do not kneel before me. I am your brother, not your God. I understand that it is the custom but I am your servant. It is not fitting that the one who is served should kneel before the one who serves,” Yoeith said taking her by the claw, helping her to her legs.

    “What brings you to our dwelling Brother Yoeith?” Dannellma asked. She was a little uncertain how to proceed now that the Prophet seemed to set aside custom.

    “A personal matter,” Yoeith replied again.

    “What kind of personal matter would bring a prophet of God to see us,” Petteaic asked.

    “Do you know a sister called Falleama?”

    “That is a name that I have not heard for a long time. It is a name not to be spoken of. It is the name of my sister who was cast out by the brothers and sisters of our dwelling many, many cycles ago.”

    “Have you ever wondered what became of her?” Yoeith asked.

    “The shame of what she did nearly killed our parents and they have long since moved away from here. I alone remained here. To answer your question though, yes, I have often wondered what became of her,” Petteaic replied. “Why do you concern yourself with such matters?”

    “Because there was a time when I thought to destroy this dwelling because of what was done to her.” Petteaic was completely taken back by Yoeith’s reply. He opened his mouth several times to say something but nothing came out.

    “Why would you want to do something like that?” Dannellma asked in her mate’s place. She too was shocked that a prophet of God would consider destroying the dwelling for a demirep.

    “She made a mistake and for that she was very nearly killed by the brothers and sisters of this dwelling. Show me a brother or sister who is without sin and zealous of the keeping of the laws of God. I know that none can be found. The economic and physical downfall of this once prosperous dwelling can chart its beginning from that time forward. God set his hand against you from that time until now.”

    “Still, why would you want to destroy our dwelling?” Petteaic asked finding his voice at last.

    “I was not born white Petteaic. I was changed this color when I stood in the presence of God and his Son. I was born brown to a sister in the forest with her legs still hobbled from being cast out of this dwelling. I am Falleama’s son,” Yoeith replied. The legs gave out on Petteaic and his mate at this revelation. They both sank to the floor. “The tree dwellers had more compassion on her than you did. By you, I mean the dwelling as a whole. She became the healer and leader of the tribe of tree dwellers that rescued her and her child from certain death.”

    “Is she still alive?” Petteaic asked after a few moments that it took him to gather his thoughts.

    “Yes, she is. It was my mother that gave this dwelling its warning just before the blue brothers destroyed your silos and storage rooms to keep whatever stores of food you had out of the red brothers’ claws. Until recently, she had abandoned all association with the brotherhood. She no longer calls herself Falleama.”

    “What does she call herself then?”

    “Banneesheanta.”

    “Is that a tree dweller word?” Dannellma asked.

    “Yes it is. It means The Lonely One That Cries in the Night.”

    “That sounds like such a sad name,” Dannellma said.

    “It is,” Yoeith said. “She cries for her mate to be, who died before they could be sealed together. She cries for the family she lost when they joined the others of this dwelling in driving her out. And, she cried for a small child that she thought she wouldn’t be able to care for in a time when she was hard pressed to survive herself. It is the name the tree dwellers gave her when she came to live with them.”

    “Has she lived with the tree dwellers all this time?” Petteaic asked.

    “Yes, she has,” Yoeith replied.

    “Why are you telling us this now?”

    “Because I thought you should know and because it is the one burden upon my soul.”

    “We were the ones that drove her from the dwelling. You are a prophet of God, why would you be burdened by this?” Dannellma asked.

    “Prophets are not without flaws. We are like everyone else. We struggle daily with the Evil One. Even though the Evil One cannot be seen with the eye, he is a very real creature,” Yoeith replied. “Many cycles ago when I visited this dwelling with the thought to destroy it. This was before God called me to a lifetime of service to him. I was an angry young brother on my way home from a short stay in the city. I could not speak our language as well as I do today.”

    “What is a home,” Dannellma interrupted.

    “A home is the same thing as a dwelling. It is what the tree dwellers call what you call a hive. As I was saying, I visited here on my way home from the city. I was rejected by most of the brothers in the city because of my poor ability in speaking the language of the brotherhood.”

    “But you speak our language quite well,” Dannellma interrupted again.

    “It was not always so,” Yoeith said. “A tree dweller helped me to overcome my speech problem. When I visited this dwelling, I found that God had already visited this dwelling with a far harsher judgment than anything that I could have done to you. I should have told you then that your sister lived Petteaic. Can you forgive me for that?”

    Petteaic could hardly believe that a prophet of God was asking him for forgiveness. He looked at his mate but she looked just as confused as he was. This was such a small thing and yet there was so much more to it than to forgive the brother before him for a simple omission. He had long wondered what became of his sister. He never thought that she might still be alive. Yet, she was never to be spoken of, or thought of, or remembered in any way, shape, or form. She was banished from the dwelling and the brotherhood forever. To forgive Yoeith was to embrace his sister once again. He was very young when she was banished. He could still remember her kind gently way and her love for him. He remembered being very hurt when she was banished. He remembered being made to throw things at his sister. Now, before him was a chance to undo all that. Tears filled his eyes as he looked at Yoeith. “I forgive you, my brother, child of my sister.” Dannellma wept with her mate as tears flowed from Yoeith’s eyes as well.

    “My mother is to be honored by the blue clan leader for her help during the war,” Yoeith said as they dried their tears. “Would you like to come with us?”

    

~~~

    

    Modifications had been made on the guardian that made the cockpit more comfortable. Frothay would not take any chances with Molateeia’s life. They practically lived in the small bubble on top of the guardian when they stopped at a dwelling. Most of the dwellings he had stopped at were somewhat hostile at first but when his small army began to help with repairs to the dwelling from the damage he caused during the war they were quickly won over. Scatter shunail herds were recovered, silos rebuilt, and fields replanted. The animosity most of the clans felt toward the blue clan was quickly being replaced with feelings of good will and thanksgiving for their much needed help. The green, black, and brown clans were more sympathetic to the position that the blue clan was forced into by the red clan. The yellow clan was far less sympathetic and they had sustained the least amount of damage of all the clans on account of the war. Frothay was at a loss as what to do about the yellow brother’s dwelling clan leader below him. At least he was smart enough not to offer Frothay’s small army any resistance.

    “Clan Leader, I don’t know what to do about these yellow brothers,” Frothay said seemingly to himself even though Molateeia was sleeping next to him. “He is almost daring me to step on him, and I’d like to.”

    “Well, resist the urge Frothay,” the speakers mounted in the cockpit replied softly.

    “What do I do in the meantime?”

    “Help them if they want help. Take any heavy guns and other offensive weapons from them if they are inclined to be unfriendly toward us. Other than that, leave them be. They don’t dare challenge us, but there is nothing to be gained by creating any more animosity between us than there already is, Adreeum out.”

    Frothay looked down at the yellow brother below him. “I’m to offer you our help,” he said.

    “We don’t want your help,” the dwelling’s clan leader replied. “Take your army, and your monster, and leave us be. You’ve already done enough damage to us.”

    “I only wish to help repair the damage we caused you. I don’t ask that you stand with custom and feed us. We know that would be a burden to you. We can feed ourselves. We simply wish to try and undo as much of the damage that we caused during the war as we possibly can.”

    “We don’t need your help. We do not want your help. Just go away and leave us be.”

    “If you will not let us be your friend, then my orders are quite clear. I cannot leave a potential enemy behind me armed. Bantan have a search made of the dwelling. Take any guns you might find. Leave a few light guns for hunting proposes.” Two hundred blue and green battle hardened soldiers stormed the dwelling in almost the blink of an eye. “For the sake of the brothers and sisters inside, I hope no one is foolish enough to resist,” Frothay told the dwelling clan leader.

    

    Bantan climbed up onto one of the two small platforms that replaced the empty rocket launchers. The top hatch of the cockpit slid back and out of the way. “Report,” Frothay said.

    “We’ve removed a hundred and ten guns from the dwelling with corresponding ammo. A search was also made of their storerooms. They are out of food and I mean out. They’ve been out for two maybe three days now. I can’t get a straight answer out of anyone. The pride of this dwelling clan leader will let the brothers and sisters here starve rather than ask us for help.”

    “Then we will help him whether or not he wants our help. Send out a hunting party and let’s see if we can round up some of the shunails we scattered here. Call a gather, I think that I will come down and talk with this dwelling clan leader. I want to meet a leader that would let his people starve rather than ask for help.”

    Bantan winced inside himself at his friend’s choice of words. “As you wish.”

    

    The brothers and sisters of the dwelling were informed of the gathering that Frothay called. A gathering in which they were compelled to attend. Some of the blue sisters and tree dwellers that were accompanying Frothay and his army cooked a simple meal for the yellow brothers and sisters. A lot of solemn faces stared at Frothay and the armed blue brothers around them. Frothay stared back at them. His adopted daughter stood next to him. Food sat on the tables untouched. Parents held their children back to keep them from eating the delicious smelling food before them. Frothay was disgusted by what he saw and he wondered if this was the dwelling clan leader’s doing. “How much is your pride worth?” he asked in a voice that carried to every corner of the room.

    “We don’t want or need your help, or your food,” the dwelling clan leader said.

    “So rather than ask for our help you’d let your brothers and sisters go hungry?” Frothay asked. “Are you so filled up with pride that you’d let the future of your dwelling starve rather than risk becoming obligated to an enemy. You may think of us as monsters but what kind of monsters are you if you are willing to let your children starve when food is laid before you.”

    “We are not monsters as you call us. We simply refuse to accept anything from you,” the dwelling clan leader replied. “Why can’t you just leave us be?”

    “How could I turn my shell on you knowing that your children are hungry? You may not want to stand by custom but I cannot so easily turn my shell on duty and honor. If there are any of my brothers or sisters in need how can I not help them? If they are hungry, shall I not feed them? If they are cold, shall I not warm them? If I shall not do this, then how can I lay claim to being an honorable creature? If you as dwelling clan leader here are willing to let your brothers and sisters go hungry, how can you claim to have their best interest at heart? If we, who you think of us as your enemy, have more compassion on your children than you do, what does that say of you? Where is your compassion for your children?”

    “You are out of food, you know it, and I know it,” Frothay continued. “If you are expecting help from your leadership it will be a long time in coming. Destroying the leadership of all the clans was one of the first things KaZanna tried to do. The leadership of your clan was completely destroyed along with the leadership of the black clan and many councilors from the other clans gave up their lives as well. No food will be forthcoming anytime soon. Your clan used up its reserves of food supporting the red clan’s failed war with us. None of your brothers that joined with the red clan to fight against us will ever return if they have not returned by now. We are not your enemy despite what you may think about us. Many thousands lost their lives in a war we did not want or start. Now, because of some animosity that you feel toward us, which we do not reciprocate, you would let your brothers and sisters and their children starve. So I ask again, how much is your pride worth?”

    Even as the dwelling clan leader contemplated Frothay’s words other words sprang to his mouth. “The food could be poisoned.” Molateeia leaving Frothay’s side walked over picked up a sweet ball from a nearby table and ate it. Molateeia’s eyes locked with those of a sister as she picked up another sweet ball and a meat strip. The sister whose mate was killed in the war let go of her child. The small child quickly ran to the table and began to stuff his small mouth with food. Other parents followed suit. Soon all the children were eating while the adults stood back from the tables watching their children eat. The dwelling clan leader was the last to let his own child go eat. “You win,” he said.

    “You still don’t get it,” Frothay said. “This is not about winning or losing. This is about helping those who are in need even if they are too blind to see that they need help. Look around at your brothers and sisters. You are willing to lead them to their deaths because of your pride and a little misplaced obligation to a leadership that no longer exists. Again, I question whether you have their best interest in mind. We did not start the war but it seems like we’re getting blamed for it. Perhaps it would have been better for us not to have won the war. Perhaps it was wrong of us to defend our way of life, but I don’t think so. The Grace of God, good fortune, and wise leadership saved us.”

    “Just whose side do you think God was on,” Frothay continued. “We were out numbered by thirty to one defending not only our families but the tree dwellers as well. You seem to hold it against us that we did not relinquish our lands and dwellings without a fight. If any thing we should have a greater animosity toward you who sided with and helped our enemies during the war. Yet, here we are moved to compassion for our brothers who now must face tough times because of choices you made and of a war not of our making. Yet, you still insist on playing out this little drama even if it means that your brothers and sisters would starve. What’s the point? What will starving gain you? You don’t want our help to rebuild your dwelling, fine, we will leave in the morning, but for now, everyone please join your children. Nothing will be served by starving to death.”

    “You are right in what you say,” the dwelling clan leader said. “My brothers and sisters you may eat the food before you if you so desire and it is my wish that you do so.” He sat down at the table with his son. The rest of the dwelling quickly followed his example. “You feed us today but what about tomorrow when you’re gone?” he asked.

    “We have already recovered more than seventy-five percent of your herds. I think you will be able to manage,” Frothay replied.

    The dwelling clan leader was stunned. He thought his herds were lost and gone forever. It would take a miracle to get that many shunails together that fast. “How?” was the only word that could come out of his mouth.

    “Another reason to have tree dwellers as friends. They know a quicker way to get shunails down out of the trees.”

    The dwelling clan leader put his claws over his shell in total submission. “You place a debt of honor upon us we can never repay.”

    “You are under no obligation to me. We are still at war. We are just mopping up loose ends trying to put everything back like we found it. Restoring order as we go,” Frothay said. “I only ask that you do not do anything to give us have a reason to come back here. There should be peace between us always.”

    “It will be as you say,” the dwelling clan leader said.

    

~~~

    

    Tangoral watched with Zothor as their soldiers stormed the yellow brothers’ dwelling. There were the sounds of a brief exchange of gun fire. Tangoral listened to the sounds from Tragal’s open microphone. “They’ll live, they just won’t be able to walk for a while,” he heard Tragal say.

    “Your armory guards resisted the demands of our soldiers to surrender,” Tangoral told the dwelling’s clan leader. “They will live but I doubt that you’ll be using them as guards again, not for quite a while.”

    “What part of we expect no resistance didn’t you understand?” Zothor demanded to know.

    “I can’t be held responsible for all my brothers’ actions.” The dwelling clan leader looked wildly about at the other members of the dwelling’s leadership for support. None was forthcoming.

    “Lie to someone else; I am a dwelling clan leader and a councilor to the blue clan leader. You are solely responsible for the actions of the brothers and sisters of this dwelling. If you’re thinking about challenging me, don’t. I am a recently retired clan champion of the Game, and as you’d be challenging the blue clan I could call on greater players of the Game other than myself to play in my place. Now I on the other claw, in the name of our clan, I could challenge you for the right to replace you during a time of emergency if I believed you were endangering the lives of the brothers and sisters here.” Zothor knew he had the dwelling clan leader backed into a corner.

    “Kitteen, take him up on his challenge,” the dwelling’s patriarch said. “That is one of the few challenges that mortal combat is still allowed. Let’s see what this ex-champion has to say about that.”

    Tangoral laughed. “That has got to be without a doubt the worst advice ever given especially coming from a patriarch,” he said. “It is the only recourse when one party or the other absolutely won’t accept the judgment of the Game. Only to be used in the gravest of cases when the interest of the clans is at stake. Then I believe the Prophet Morallen went on to list what he meant by gravest of cases.”

    “You know the Law of the Prophets?” the patriarch asked skeptically.

    “Better than you apparently,” Tangoral replied when he stopped laughing. “Kitteen, look at that soldier over there.” Tangoral pointed at Doesen wearing the new stick-on lightweight body armor. Camouflaged plates of tree sap and padding stuck to critical areas of his body and shell. Doesen’s gun pack was the same arrangement as Tragal’s, two of the modified heavy guns, and two of the new super-light guns. Kitteen turned his eyes in the direction Tangoral pointed. “You would be fighting him.” Doesen turned to face Kitteen at that moment. All four guns were aimed at the dwelling clan leader. “Or some other soldier of our choosing. You were challenged in the name of our clan. We get to choose our champion. We would challenge your fitness as the leader of this dwelling. We do not challenge the dwelling itself and so you would have to fight yourself to retain leadership of this dwelling.”

    “Again he does not say all…,” the patriarch started to say.

    “You mean someone might want to fight a battle hardened soldier for Kitteen so that he can remain the dwelling clan leader? I don’t think so,” Tangoral interrupted.

    “How can you as a tree dweller know our law so well?”

    “I have read the words of the prophets many times. How can you claim to teach the words of God if you don’t understand them yourself?”

    “How can you speak of such things, you who are one of the Children of the Evil One.”

    “Sarrays, you’re not helping,” Kitteen told his patriarch. The last thing he needed was for his patriarch to insult the blue brothers and the tree dweller.

    Tangoral took out his copy of the Book of the Prophets of God from the bag that hung at his side and opened it. “And in the last days before His coming He shall gather again the children of the fallen, and they shall be numbered with the army of God. Though their numbers are few yet shall they be victorious over their enemies. So was Christ given that they all should be redeemed in time.” When Tangoral finished reading he closed the book.

    “Those are the words of God given to the Prophet Morallen,” Tangoral said. “There is more that speak of our salvation; the salvation of not only a people but of all life, body and spirit. You have become so hung up on one point that you failed to see the next. God is a living God. His works are as endless as his words. They did not stop with the coming of the Game and Morallen. Even as the Children of the Evil One fell. They were promised salvation in a time yet to come. I tell you now that time has come and now is when we shall be recovered. All the prophets spoke and wrote of this time. Should I rehearse them all to you? The gathering of the Children of Light has just begun.”

    Tangoral opened the book back up. “God shall set His hand to gather His children out of the world where He did scattered them. The righteous, the Children of the Light, shall be brought out of darkness where they have fallen. God shall gather all who would hear His words and believe. His salvation is offered to every creature.” Tangoral closed the book again. “How much plainer could the Prophet Morallen have been? Indeed, how much clearer could any of the prophets have been? Do you think that God is the God of the Brachyura alone? Do you not know that God created the world and everything therein? Every creature in the trees, upon the ground, and in the depths below will bow before God in judgment. Salvation is offered to every creature not just the ones you like Sarrays. Even a rothar may lay claim to the salvation of God and God will lovingly bestow his salvation on him. How much more than rothars are we valued in the sight of God?”

    “You are taking what the Prophet said out of context,” Sarrays said. He regretted his choice of words almost immediately as Tangoral snapped his book back open.

    “For this cause was Christ given to all who would hear His words and believe. For indeed all who truly believe shall be called the Children of God…” Tangoral turned a couple pages ahead in the book before continuing. A true believer is anyone who believes in God and the Day of Judgment to come. He will believe in angles, and the prophets, and the words of God that they wrote down. He will spend of what God gives him in the service of his brothers and sisters in need. He will be steadfast in prayer bowing before God morning, mid-day, and night. The true believer will pray over all things and give thanks to God continually in his heart. He shall be charitable to all. He shall deal honestly with all his brothers, keeping all the promises he shall make. He shall stand fast in times of adversity when the intent of his heart shall be tested. All who stand fast during the trials of their faith, having endured to the end, shall be called the people of truth, the God fearing, the Children of the Light.” Tangoral close the book gently caressing the front cover.

    “What of the verse that says: Kill the Children of the Evil One wherever you find them. In the trees and upon the ground. For wherever you shall find them you shall destroy them. Other prophets wrote similar things as well. Would you have me believe that this injunction is no longer in effect?” Sarrays asked. “Shall the prophets words be made null and void?” Sarrays sought to trap Tangoral in his words.

    “The words of the prophets shall stand forever being the words of God,” Tangoral replied. “However, I would that you should turn the page and finish the verse. …for wherever you shall find them, you shall destroy them. Indeed, fight them if they fight you but if they come to you in peace welcome them in peace as brothers. If they should fight you again and you prevail against them. Then be compassionate if they should come to you begging for their lives and the lives of their children. After that, if they shall not keep the peace between you and them, destroy them utterly. This is the standard for all who come against you, but if any come to you in peace, welcome them as your brother or sister. The words of the prophets are the words of God and the words of God are unto every creature. Do you see how you twist the words of the prophets so you can justify the lie that you have been living. In so doing you pervert the words of God making them null and void in your heart. If there is no place in your heart for the words of God then there is no place for you in Heaven and the fires of Hell shall be your abode. Such is the state of the unbelievers, the Children of the Evil One.”

    Tangoral’s words bit into Sarrays’s shell and pierced his heart. Yet, he was truly given over to the inciting of the Evil One. As knowledgeable as Sarrays was he could not contend with the young tree dweller before him. He was supposed to be the defender of the faith and he found himself defenseless. While his heart was hardened further, there were others around him who listened and believed the words spoken by Tangoral, Kitteen was one of those. “We will no longer resist,” he said. He saw the utter destruction of his dwelling in the words of the Prophet.

    “Sarrays, I see in your heart that you will only stir up trouble as soon as we’re gone,” Tangoral said. “I cannot leave you here. So you will accompany us to see Jonnaul.”

    “What if I don’t want to go with you?” Sarrays asked

    “Then I will guarantee that you will not cause any more problems here,” Tangoral replied. “It would be better for you if you came with us.”

    “I have no wish to see Jonnaul…”

    “Sarrays, are you so blind that you can’t see?” Kitteen asked. “If they leave you here, they will not leave you here alive. Go with them.”

    A light seemed to go on in Sarrays shell. “Ah, yes, ah... I think perhaps, ah, a journey about now might be nice,” he said.

    “Dwelling secure,” Tangoral heard Tragal say in his ear.

    “The dwelling is now secure,” he repeated for Zothor’s benefit.

    

~~~

    

    Jonnaul lived in the dwelling of the servants of God as was his right as prophet. News of the Blue Brotherhood’s victory had just reached him. The other news was more alarming. KaZanna was captured and his mate was claiming leadership of the red clan. An exiled brother was to be the new black clan leader. Jonnaul’s world was coming apart. Adreeum kept challenging anyone Jonnaul would select to be clan leader for the yellow clan. He kept citing the fitness to rule in times of emergency clause in the law. None of Jonnaul’s candidates were willing to play the Game against Cantor the Blue Brotherhood’s champion and personal combat was not even an option any were willing to choose. All that did was leave Jonnaul without a clan leader to support him. Jonnaul wondered, no he knew how Adreeum found out about the fitness rule. It was the tree dweller. It was such an obscure little rule but it was tailor made for Adreeum. Jonnaul open the book before him and stared at the offending verse for the hundredth time hoping to find something he had missed.

    In times of trouble a clan may challenge the judgment of another clan leader. Even to the right to be a clan leader may be made answerable to another clan who feels the wellbeing of either clan is at stake. If any should dispute the Judgment of God in large matters, clan against clan, let it be as if the Game never was. For in small matters none may dispute the Judgment of God. If you call to question the Judgment of God, then you must fight, accepting the responsibility, to the death. There was nothing before or after that verse that helped Jonnaul’s cause. He knew this so he did not bother to turn the page. Jonnaul just stared at the passage in the book hoping some answer would come to him.

    

~~~

    

    “Are you insane Brother Amoonda,” Zothor demanded to know. “There are over three hundred soldiers surrounding your dwelling right now.” Zothor pointed at Moog as he ripped up a small tree and started to nibble on it. Moog had come along with them to see what one of the Brachyura cities looked like. “Do you have any idea what would happen if that great shunail just leaned against your dwelling?”

    “We will not bow to threats,” Amoonda replied. “We will resist if you try to storm the dwelling. We have little enough left for ourselves. We intend to keep what little we have.”

    “Brother Amoonda, we only want the guns. If you bring them out to us we won’t have to go in and get them.”

    “If I give them to you then we would be defenseless. If you try and take our guns from us we will fight you and many of your brothers will die trying to get into our dwelling.”

    “Tragal, when you finish getting suited up come over here,” Tangoral said almost to himself. “Brother Amoonda, most of our soldiers wear some kind of body armor. The few brothers we send into your dwelling will be in full battle armor. None of our brothers will even be harmed, but many of your brothers will be hurt badly or killed if they resist.”

    “That maybe, but are you willing to fight an all out war for a few guns?” Amoonda asked.

    Tragal walked down the branch to where Zothor and Tangoral stood talking with the clan leader of the dwelling. The body armor Tragal was wearing came with the new detachable rocket pack. Tragal walked over to stand next to Tangoral. He looked at the dwelling far below. “You wanted to see me?” he asked.

    “Fire your rocket pack at the dwelling,” Tangoral replied.

    Rockets began to streak toward the dwelling much to Amoonda’s dismay. Tragal aimed at nothing and everything. The water storage tanks at the top of the dwelling exploded even as the empty silos at the bottom edge of the dwelling erupted in flame. Tragal emptied the rocket pack in less than a time part. He pulled them from the top of his body armor. Setting the self-destruct, Tragal threw the empty rocket pack off the branch. The concussion from the explosion nearly knocked Amoonda off his legs. Although Amoonda saw all the damage that his dwelling had sustained, he also saw it could all be repaired very easily. “Amoonda, it won’t be much of a war,” Tangoral said. “Except for the guns, you don’t have anything we need or want.”

    Amoonda knew when he was beat. To resist was foolish, he saw that now. “If I give you our guns will you go away?” he asked.

    “Sure, we’ll leave right after we have repaired the damage we just caused,” Tangoral replied.

    “We can fix the damage ourselves. Just take the guns and go.”

    “Brother Amoonda, it is not often that you have three hundred brothers willing to lend a claw to help set things right,” Zothor said. “There is no reason to fear us unless you give us a reason.”

    “In a day or two we could replant all your fields,” Tangoral said. “In three days you will get more work done than your dwelling could do in two seven-days. All our brothers will be at your command. Whatever you want them to do, they will do.”

    “Jonnaul has not sent out an epistle forbidding you from accepting our help has he?” Zothor asked.

    “No, Jonnaul has not sent out another of his damn epistles. I can see that this is not just a simple matter of taking our guns is it?” Amoonda asked in reply.

    “It is and it isn’t,” Tangoral replied. “We are trying to repair much of the damage we caused and we are also trying to restore order as we go. We need to come inside and take a quick look around to see what kind problems you have and if you need help, then at least someone will know of your need. However, without your clan leadership in place any kind of help is going to take a while.”

    “I will need to prepare the sisters before I can let you inside our dwelling. It will take a while,” Amoonda said.

    “Take all the time you need,” Zothor said. “The last thing we need is for someone to start shooting.”

    Something was wrong, Tangoral could feel it. Then something Amoonda just said clicked in his mind. “How many brothers are left in this dwelling?” Tangoral asked.

    Amoonda looked down at the ground for a few moments before answering. “The dwelling clan leader, against my advice, joined with the red brothers in their war with you,” he replied. “Two thirds of the brothers went with him. Almost all the rest of the brothers here joined with the red clan later when we sent supplies to our brothers. None have returned.”

    “You’d have pitted trained soldiers in armor against the sisters of this dwelling?” Zothor asked in amazement.

    “No, not really,” Amoonda replied. “I hoped that you would not be willing to fight us if we made a show of resistance. I was hoping you’d think that we weren’t worth the trouble and go around us.”

    “It would have worked except that we have been commanded by our Clan Leader to disarm all the yellow clan dwellings we come across,” Zothor said.

    “Taking our guns really won’t have any effect. We can always make more.”

    “True enough, but it does give us a chance to showoff our soldiers. Having seen some of our soldiers in action, would you want to fight us?”

    “Heavens no, your soldiers are frightening. I’ve seen soldiers before of course, but your soldiers have an intensity about them that scares me more than a little. I saw the red clan’s soldiers and now that I’ve seen your soldiers I know why the red clan lost its war with you. My only regret is that we sided with the wrong clan,” Amoonda said.

    “What about Jonnaul?” Tangoral asked.

    “Jonnaul is a fool. He tried to meddle in the affairs of the clans despite the prophets’ warnings to the contrary,” Amoonda replied. “You cannot mandate the salvation or actions of anyone. To do so is to go against the will of God. Anything that affects the free choice of an individual is not of God. Jonnaul went beyond this not only trying to affect the individual’s right to free choice but the clans’ right to free choice as well.”

    “The gospel of God is a gospel of love,” Tangoral said.

    “Exactly, Jonnaul’s epistles were filled with hate. They could not have been the words of a loving God.” Amoonda looked at Tangoral strangely. He was surprised to find that the tree dweller he was talking to had knowledge of such things. “It was one of the reasons why I advised our dwelling clan leader not to get involved with the whole business, not that he listened to me in the end.”

    “I think that you will do,” Tangoral said as he walked off and started talking to himself or so Amoonda thought.

    “What did the tree dweller mean, when he said that I will do?” Amoonda asked Zothor.

    “The yellow clan needs a new clan leader and I think you will do too. Now let us go down and praise the sisters for being so brave in standing up against so many.” Zothor started to walk down the branch.

    Amoonda was stunned. To be clan leader was not something he thought he would ever attain to nor was he sure that he wanted the honor. “Wait, you can’t just pick me as clan leader.”

    “Sure we can. We won the war. The trick will be to get Jonnaul to submit your name as the next clan leader for the yellow clan.”

    “That will be a neat trick. Jonnaul doesn’t even know who I am,” Amoonda said. “Why would you want me to be clan leader anyway?”

    “Because you’re honest and you’re not one of Jonnaul’s stooges,” Zothor replied. “If you were willing to stand up against my army, then you will not be afraid to stand up against Jonnaul when the good of the clan is at stake. Your clan needs you even if it’s only for a little while until order can be completely restored to the clans.”

    “What of the sisters here? I can’t very well leave them unprotected and without a leader,” Amoonda said.

    “Don’t worry. I can leave a few soldiers here if need be,” Zothor said.

    

~~~

    

    Adreeum stormed into Jonnaul’s office with a half a dozen soldiers. “What do I owe for the honor of your visit,” Jonnaul said without moving from behind his desk.

    “The yellow clan is not cooperating with our efforts to disarm them. The red clan has been more cooperative. I want you to send a letter telling the yellow clan to cooperate with the leaders of our armies,” Adreeum said somewhat forcefully.

    “You come right to the point. I wish everyone who had demands on my time would do that. I could have a lot more time to myself.”

    “Cut the pleasantries Jonnaul. Just send the letter.”

    “Why should I?”

    “To save lives. I have reports that almost all of the dwellings of the yellow clan are resisting somewhat. We have had to hurt or kill some of the yellow brothers in order to take their guns from them. We’re still trying to take one dwelling led by one of your brothers. Maybe you know him, Amoonda?” Adreeum asked.

    “Never heard of him,” Jonnaul lied. He made it his business to know all the names of those that served the Church. Jonnaul knew who Amoonda was even though he had only heard his name a time or two.

    “Zothor’s army has been in a standoff for two days now. We really don’t want to have to blow up the whole dwelling to force compliance, but if we have to we will destroy the dwelling to set an example for the rest of the yellow clan.”

    “Why don’t you just challenge him like you challenged all my other clan leader nominations?”

    “He refuses to accept the challenge preferring to fight to the death instead.”

    “I will write your letter if you accept my next nomination,” Jonnaul said. If this Amoonda would fight the blue brothers instead surrendering like so many other dwelling clan leaders maybe he would make a good clan leader, or so Jonnaul reasoned to himself.

    “That would depend on who it is,” Adreeum replied

    “Amoonda.”

    Adreeum fumed for a moment or two. “I can’t do it. That brother has already been a problem to us. I don’t need him causing me any more problems. Pick someone else.”

    “If you want a letter from me then you let Amoonda become clan leader. Otherwise, I might write a letter telling the rest of the yellow clan dwellings to resist and even fight you like Amoonda is doing.”

    “That would get a lot of yellow brothers killed.”

    For once, Jonnaul saw that he had the upper claw. “Make Amoonda clan leader and I will write a letter that will get you all the cooperation you need from the dwelling clan leaders. That’s my offer take it or leave it.” Adreeum paced back and forth in front of Jonnaul’s desk thinking. “Give in a little Adreeum; it will stop any more killing.”

    Adreeum stopped pacing and slammed his claws down on Jonnaul’s desk. “Alright, you have a deal but if this clan leader of yours steps out of line even once you’ll need a new clan leader.” Adreeum stomped out of Jonnaul’s office trailing blue soldiers in his wake. Jonnaul was so pleased with himself for having won even a small skirmish against Adreeum.

    Adreeum afforded himself a smile as he left the Church’s dwelling. Jonnaul did exactly what Tangoral said he would. Let Jonnaul think he had an ally. By the time he found out differently it would be too late. Adreeum knew that sooner or later either he would have to challenge Jonnaul or Jonnaul in the name of the Church would challenge the Blue Brotherhood. Tied to that was the matter of KaZanna’s trial. KaZanna was sure to petition the Church for protection. That is when things were likely to get interesting. These were all problems that he would worry about when the time came.

    

~~~

    

    Terror swept through the city as a giant shunail passed through the space between the dwellings. No one ever saw a shunail the size of the one moving slowly through the city. It was almost as tall as some of the city’s dwellings. Despite its great size it passed through the city without injuring any of the brothers and sisters nor were any of the dwellings damaged. Many considered this a miracle. “What do you think of the city?” Tangoral asked after Moog reached the other side of the city.

    “Interesting, never knew flat ones could build homes so high,” Moog replied slowly. “I go home now.”

    “Thank you for all your help.”

    “Never have I so much to think about. Pleasure to help it was. Now I go.” Moog turned slowly and headed back to his home deep in the Great Swamp. Tangoral waived goodbye from the tree branch he had climbed up on from Moog’s back. Moog ripped a small tree out of the ground and waived it at Tangoral before stuffing it into his mouth.

    

~~~

    

    It still did not seem like home even thought it was. There was not a grand reception upon their return to the city. It was a very humble welcome by the blue, green, and brown leaderships. Ishihari was grateful for that. There was no joy in the deaths of the many thousands of brothers that had died in the war. All the tree dwellers that had accompanied them were very uncomfortable staying in the dwelling. A temporary platform was quickly constructed high in the tree around which the Blue Brotherhood’s dwelling was built. Almost all of the tree dwellers were staying up there. Ashorah, Saralashaw, and Tangoral were about the only tree dwellers that spent most their nights in the dwelling.

    There were a few soldiers of the brotherhood that could not handle being surrounded by so many brothers all packed within the confines of the city. They would often spend most of their time working with the tree dwellers high in the tree. Despite Bantan’s complaint against Frothay he was one of those that just could not handle the hustle and bustle of city life. Ishihari was worried about them but Tangoral assured her that what Bantan and the others were feeling was perfectly normal. Tangoral pointed out that the ones that chose to stay with the People were the ones that had spent the most time in the field. They were members of the original group of soldiers that Zothor brought with him to the city to hunt down Kittanota. Nearly two cycle of living in the solitude of the forest would not be something they would be able to shake off quickly, but they would readjust in time or so Tangoral assured her.

    Frothay and his army reach the city a full seven-day after Zothor and his army. Yoeith’s army arrived four days earlier without Yoeith. Those that were left in charge told Adreeum that Yoeith was in the city, but chose not to enter the city with his army. Syanor’s new dining hall was reconstructed. All those to be honored would be honored at a gather to be held in the dining hall. The gather was by invitation only of course. Ishihari would help her son coordinate the event. Dar Noth would be accepted as clan leader of the black clan by the surviving clan leaders the following day. A few days later KaZanna’s trial would take place. A lot of changes were taking place and Ishihari was just trying to keep up with them.

    

~~~

    

    “We’re closed,” Adamor said a little taken back to see a white brother.

    “Where is the owner of this establishment?” Yoeith asked.

    “My brother is not here at the moment and that still won’t change the fact that we’re closed,” Adamor replied.

    “That would make you Adamor. Your brother told me about you. I thought you had a small kitchen or dining hall in another city?”

    “I did, but the war changed all that. My kitchen was destroyed.”

    “Do you plan to rebuild?”

    “Maybe, I’m not sure yet.” Adamor could not help but stare at Yoeith’s shell. “Forgive my rudeness,” he said when he noticed that Yoeith caught him staring at him. “I have never seen a white brother before. Were you born that way, if you don’t mind me asking?”

    “No I don’t mind, I was born brown. I changed color a few cycles ago,” Yoeith replied.

    “Do they know why it happened?”

    Yoeith laughed. “I never needed to ask why. Yes, I know the cause of my change.”

    “What was it?”

    “When I visited this city long ago I was amazed at the number of sects that claimed to be the true church of God. I became embroiled in the battle of which church was right. I was a brother in search of knowledge and truth of things that cannot be seen, only felt with the heart. I spent many cycles in study of the words of the prophets. Then I read a passage in the Book of the Prophets of God, from the words of Kel. When you seek knowledge get wisdom also. Not the wisdom of the world for it is foolishness before God. If you lack wisdom ask it of God who will give to you whatsoever you ask of Him in faith. Ask in faith believing that you will receive and God will fill your heart with wisdom and knowledge to overflowing. In this you shall be able to know the truth of all things. This struck a cord deep in my heart although I must have read that passage several times before. I went out from my dwelling to ask God the questions that were in my heart. I spent the day in prayer and fasting. When I was about to finish my prayer, I found myself surrounded by a bright light. In that light I saw two creatures, God, the creator of all things and his Son, the Christ. God introducing his Son said, “This is my beloved son hear him.” I asked my questions of the Son of God and he answered me. Such great joy filled my being but alas one cannot stand in the presence of God for as long as I did and not be changed. What seemed like a moment to me were actually several days. The Son of God instructed me concerning many things pertaining to the great work that was about to come to pass. I was called of God and ordained a prophet by the prophets Kel and Tal who still walk the world until the time that God comes to judge every creature according to their works.”

    “You’re a prophet?” Adamor asked in disbelief.

    “I’m afraid so,” Yoeith replied. “It is most certainly not an honor I would claim for myself if I had a choice. I stood in the presence of God long enough to turn my shell the color it is now. Perhaps the color of my shell was supposed to be a constant reminder to me of my calling and the responsibility I have. In any case that is when my shell color changed.”

    “Adamor, it’s going to be a while before anybody can open back up not just us,” Balator said as he came through the kitchen door. He almost fell over a table when he saw the white brother behind Adamor. “Excuse me, I was unaware that we had a guest.”

    “He came to see you,” Adamor said.

    “Oh. What can I do for you brother?” Balator asked.

    “I am Yoeith, Balator, do you remember me?” Yoeith asked in reply.

    “You can’t be Yoeith. He was brown and had a speech problem.”

    “Indeed, I was brown and I did have a speech problem. Many things have changed since you last saw me. The least of which is my shell color. I see your dining hall has changed a little. Those two windows next to the entrance must have set you back quite a bit. I know the dwelling where they were made. They’re not cheap.”

    “They are when you know the clan leader of the dwelling. He’s my father.”

    It was Yoeith’s turn to be surprised. “Your father is Councilor Zothor?”

    “Yes, he is,” Balator replied.

    “That would make your mother Lady Ishihari.”

    “That’s right.”

    “It’s a small world after all,” Yoeith said. “I’ve spent a long time at your father’s dwelling. It was your adopted brother Tangoral who helped me with my speech problem. Have you gotten to meet Tangoral yet?”

    “No, not yet,” Balator replied. “I still find it hard to believe you are Yoeith.”

    Yoeith pulled a book from his healer’s bag walked over and handed it to Balator. “Do you remember this?”

    Balator looked at the book. It was an old copy of the Book of the Prophets of God. He opened the cover knowing what he would find there. In his own handwriting were the words of inspiration he had written long ago when he gave the book to Yoeith when he left his employ. “How?” was the only word that came to his mouth.

    “It is a story I’d be happy to tell again if I could get something to eat first.”

    “Sure, I still can’t believe your Yoeith. You’ve changed so much. We don’t have a lot of food on account of the war.”

    “Whatever you have will be fine Balator.”

    Balator hurried back into the kitchen for something to snack on. A moment later he came running back into the dining hall. “Adamor, you have to come see this,” he said as he turned and ran back into the kitchen.

    “Excuse me,” Adamor said to Yoeith as he turned to follow his brother into the kitchen. Yoeith smiled, he knew what Adamor would see.

    A few moments later Balator and Adamor came out of the kitchen and bowed themselves before Yoeith. “Rise my friends, it is not meant that you should bow before me or anyone save God and his Son.”

    “How shall we then honor a prophet of God?” Adamor asked.

    “By feeding the hungry, starting with the brother before you. If you open your doors and your hearts to those in need you shall never run short of food until this time of crisis has past.”

    “Whatever we can do we will do,” Balator said.

    “Will you be going to the gather to honor your mother and father tomorrow?” Yoeith asked.

    “We had planed on attending,” Adamor said.

    “Good, then I will introduce you to Tangoral if your mother doesn’t beat me to it. Now let’s get something to eat,” Yoeith said as he started for the kitchen.

    

    Zothor was surprised to see Yoeith arrive with his sons Balator and Adamor at the gathering. He was even more surprised to find that Balator and Yoeith had known each other. LaKento, Nabbinic, and their remaining councilors represented the green and brown clans. KarEena was no longer acting clan leader of the red clan. Adreeum while disarming the red clan had taken a census of the sisters. The results of which had KarEena sustained as clan leader by a large majority of the clan. While Dar Noth had not been sustained as clan leader of the black clan he was accepted by the other clan leaders as the acting clan leader until a better replacement could be found or he was sustained by the Black Brotherhood. Amoonda seemed more than a little in over his shell as clan leader of the yellow clan. He was at the gathering despite Jonnaul’s efforts to keep him from going. Zothor wasn’t sure that Amoonda would remain clan leader for very long, but he was sure while he was the clan leader of the yellow clan, he would be a good one. There were many guests at the gathering predominately blue brothers but there were a few economic leaders from the other clans as well.

    While there was plenty of food, it was a very simple fair. Ishihari thought that something more extravagant might put some of the brothers off during this time of great adversity. No one could forget that just beyond the guarded entrance of the dining hall were hungry brothers and sisters of all colors. The simple arrangement and presentation of the food reflected this. Ishihari wondered how her other two sons felt about Syanor’s new dining hall. Syanor had always catered to a different crowd than either Balator or Adamor.

    Balator and Adamor, may I present your adopted brother Tangoral and his sister Saralashaw,” Yoeith said.

    “Mother has told me so much about you two. I feel like I should know you anywhere,” Tangoral said.

    “Yoeith has told us a lot about you as well,” Adamor replied.

    “Mom wrote us of course, but it’s not quite the same as meeting you in person,” Balator said. “I seem to remember that Saralashaw was adopted into our family also.”

    “This is true,” Tangoral said.

    “I must admit that I was not too sure that I wanted a tree dweller as my brother much less as my sister. Then I’ve never met any tree dwellers until now,” Adamor said.

    “What do you think of us now that you’ve seen us?” Saralashaw asked.

    “You’re a little weird to look at but I suppose I could get use to that. You speak our language perfectly and that helps. Ask me again at the end of the night. I’ll have a better answer for you after I’ve gotten to know you both better,” Adamor replied.

    Saralashaw smiled and patted Adamor on the shell. “Well said, I see that some of your mother’s wisdom rubbed off on you.”

    “Balator, what do you think of Syanor’s new dining hall?” Tangoral asked.

    “He can keep it. I don’t ever want anything this big,” Balator replied. “My little dining hall affords me a good living. You can’t imagine the problems of running a dining hall this big.”

    “Actually, I can imagine the problems involved in running a dining hall this size,” Tangoral said. “I’m the one that designed this dining hall, but you’re right, I wouldn’t want a dining hall this size either. In fact, I think if I were to go into this kind of business I would do a couple of small kitchens with fast food specializing in take out and delivery services. Once I got going, I’d sell franchises. I might also consider a number of street vendors with only a few items and drinks on the menu; a kind of snack cart.”

    Adamor and Balator looked at each other not really sure what to say. The ideas that Tangoral just put forth had never been tried before but they could see the value in his suggestions. A whole new untapped market waiting for the right brothers to exploit it. Adamor looked over at Saralashaw. “I think that I am going to like you guys a lot,” he said.

    “Just what is it you do?” Balator asked.

    “I suppose you would call me an inventor,” Tangoral said.

    “He’s the inventor of the windows you have in your dining hall,” Yoeith said. “He’s invented many things. The pillows that the guests tonight will sit on, the work and dress vests that have become so popular lately, a new treatment for broken legs and claws, and the new guns and body armor that helped us win the war are just some of Tangoral’s inventions.”

    “Are you being honored tonight?” Adamor asked.

    “My friends you are talking to the commander of the Blue Brotherhood’s army,” Yoeith answered. “It was his plan that defeated the Red Brotherhood.”

    “Is that true?” Balator asked.

    “After a manner of speaking it is,” Tangoral replied. “But then Yoeith is to be honored too as the commander of our western army.”

    Zothor walk up on the small group as they were talking. “Hi Dad,” Adamor said.

    “I need to take Tangoral away from you all for a moment.”

    “Bring him back. He has a couple of ideas that Adamor and I would like him to expound on in greater detail,” Balator said.

    “Sure,” Zothor said. “Saralashaw, if my sons start to bore you lead them over to the food. That generally will take their minds off anything.”

    “That’s not true,” Adamor protested although he had been eyeing the food ever since he arrived at the dining hall.

    “Thank you,” Tangoral said to Zothor as they walked away.

    “For what?”

    “For rescuing me. A few more moments I’d have to sketch out a snack cart for them and I’d rather not have to do that this evening.”

    “What’s a snack cart?” Zothor asked.

    “It’s kind of a mini mobile kitchen that specializes in one or two items plus drinks. It would be about the size of a medium size cart. You take it and set it up in areas where a lot of brothers and sisters might pass by. Good for between meal snacks, quick lunches, holiday events, that sort of thing,” Tangoral replied.

    “Sounds like something that would work mainly in the cities,” Zothor said. “Not very practical in a small dwelling though.”

    “You’re probably right, but of course it would depend on how good the food was. A cart that did stuffed sweet bread balls might do well anywhere. All you would need is the dough, different kinds of stuffing, and a small stove. If you designed it right you could fry them in oil or bake them. It might even be possible to do personal size pies in the same oven. You would use the same stuffing. You’d just need a different kind of dough. You would need to have drinks too. That would be easy if I can come up with some kind of disposable cup that would be easy to make. I’ll have to do some more thinking on that aspect of the cart later.”

    “Sounds like something Adamor would be interested in. Balator might be interested too but for a different reason. While all my sons like cooking they are all different. Syanor likes the grand style of dining hall where he can mingle with the upper crust of society. Balator is more comfortable with serving the middle class. His dining hall is about half the size of Syanor’s old dining hall. He still makes a good living even though Ishihari gets a share of the profits from his dining hall. Adamor likes to interact with his customers on a more personal level. He use to run one of Ishihari’s dining halls. When she sold the dining hall Adamor moved to another city and set up a small kitchen in a very popular area. I helped him out and he did well enough to pay me back with interest. His kitchen was destroyed during the war. That’s why he’s here working with Balator.

    “Why didn’t he come to work with Syanor?” Tangoral asked. “The tips have to be better here.”

    “Size and the types of customers. This is not the kind of dining hall where a waiter or even the owner can become overly friendly with the customers,” Zothor replied. “The idea of a mobile kitchen would be very appealing to Adamor. I might be willing to invest in your idea to help him out again but design a large cart version as well. It also might be interesting to see how small you can get one of these snack carts of yours.”

    “Greetings, please join us,” Adreeum said as Tangoral and Zothor reached the table where the clan leader was sitting.

    

    “Clan Leader Dar Noth,” Yoeith acknowledged the new black clan leader with his mother as he walked up. “Mother, I have a brother and sister that have come a long way to see you.”

    “Who are they?” Banneesheanta asked.

    “Come and see for yourself,” Yoeith replied. “They’re on the other side of the room hiding. I fear that with so many of the clans’ leadership in the same room it has intimidated them more than a little. They feel very out of place here.” Dar Noth trailed behind Banneesheanta as Yoeith led them across the dining hall.

    

    Petteaic and Dannellma were trying to be very small in a room full of brothers and sisters with far more social standing. It was a very uncomfortable for them but they had promised Yoeith that they would stay. A young tree dweller with a small green monster standing next to her came walking by. She was feeling just as out of place as they were. “Is that a baby stalker?” Petteaic asked the obvious.

    “Yes, it is,” Ashorah replied.

    “You speak our language,” Dannellma said more than a little surprised.

    “All of my people here tonight speak your language.”

    “I never met a tree dweller before,” Dannellma said.

    “Is it dangerous?” Petteaic asked.

    “I would not have been allowed to bring Tallon with me if he was,” Ashorah replied.

    “Do stalkers make good pets?”

    “I suppose so. His mother was the nicest stalker I ever met but then she was the only stalker I have ever met.”

    “What happened to its mother?”

    A tear came to Ashorah’s eyes. “She died protecting us from the red hard-shells when they first attacked the blue hard-shell’s home.”

    “Is it trained? Can it do tricks?” Petteaic asked.

    “No, to both questions,” Ashorah replied wiping the tear from her eye. “Tallon does what I tell him but I have not trained him. Stalkers are like children even when they are fully grown like his mother was. Molaythea would follow Tangoral or Ishihari around almost everywhere they went. She’d get in the way watching what you’re doing if you didn’t tell her to go sit somewhere. Tallon is a lot like his mother and twice as bright.”

    “Will it let me touch it?” Petteaic asked.

    “His name is Tallon and, yes, I’m sure he’d let you touch him. Just call his name.”

    Petteaic was entranced by the cuteness of a baby stalker with all six arms and legs. It had always been one of his favorite monsters as a child. “Petteaic, are you nuts, that’s a monster,” Dannellma said a little frightened of Tallon.

    “But he’s a baby and he’s so cute,” Petteaic replied. “Tallon, come here please.” It never hurt to be polite.

    “Do you always go through life afraid of what’s around the next branch?” Ashorah asked Dannellma.

    “Well…, no,” she replied.

    “Then be brave and try something new,” Ashorah said. “Petteaic, waive one of the bread balls on your table and try again.

    Petteaic did as he was told. “Tallon,” he repeated waiving a bread ball with his claw.

    Tallon followed the bread ball with his eyes. “HO,” Tallon growled softly looking up at Ashorah.

    “You can go,” she said.

    Tallon walked over to Petteaic slowly. “HOOH,” he growled softly as the bread ball came to a stop in front of him. Tallon reached out, took the bread ball gently from Petteaic’s claw, and stuffed it in his mouth. “MMM,” he purred. Petteaic had picked a sweet ball. Tallon reached out and grabbed Petteaic’s claw. “MMMM,” he growled looking at the table. Petteaic froze.

    “It’s ok,” Ashorah said. “He just wants another bread ball. You can give him another one.”

    Petteaic handed Tallon the second bread ball when Yoeith walked up.

    “Hi Banneesheanta, Dar Noth, hi Yoeith,” Ashorah greeted her friends.

    “Yoeith, look at this I’m feeding a baby stalker. This is so great,” Petteaic said.

    Banneesheanta looked at the brown brother. “Don’t I know you?” she asked.

    “Falleama?” Petteaic asked after a moment not real sure the sister before him was his sister.

    “Petteaic?” Banneesheanta could not believe her eyes. “Oh my,” she said. She turned back to Dar Noth with tears in her eyes. “Dar Noth, this is my brother.” She turned back around. “This is my brother,” she cried.

    “Falleama.” Water flowed from Petteaic’s eyes. “Falleama, they made me throw things at you. I didn’t want to,” he just blurted out.

    Banneesheanta reached out and stroked the top of his shell like she did when he was a child. “I know Petteaic, I never blamed you.” Her tears had turned into small rivers. Banneesheanta looked over at her son. “Thank you,” she whispered to him as she hugged her brother.

    Banneesheanta tried to dry her tears without much success. “Petteaic, this is my dear friend Dar Noth, clan leader of the black clan.”

    “Falleama, Clan Leader, this is my mate Dannellma. We’re expecting our first child soon.”

    “I can see that. Do you know what you risk by talking to me?” Banneesheanta asked.

    “Nothing, your name has been restored and is to be held in honor among the clan,” Petteaic replied.

    “How, I was banished forever?”

    “By your clan leader’s command. Except for Yoeith you were the only one of your clan to fight on the side of the Blue Brotherhood during the war. Cut off from their leadership many brown brothers fought on the red clan’s side against the clan leader’s wishes. The Blue Brotherhood saved Nabbinic’s life. He owes the blue clan a dept of honor. Restoring your name was just a small favor in the grand scheme of things,” Dar Noth said.

    “You did this for me?” Banneesheanta asked turning to face Dar Noth.

    “No, but I knew of the decision,” he replied.

    Banneesheanta looked at her son. “It wasn’t me either, although, I had a talk with the clan leader,” Yoeith said holding up his claws in submission.

    “Does everyone know but me?” Banneesheanta asked.

    “Probably,” Dar Noth said. “Yoeith wanted to surprise you with that news and we all agreed. I didn’t know your brother was here until just now.”

    Ashorah smiled and slapped her leg with her hand. Tallon trotted back over to her side. She walked away silently completely forgotten by the others for the moment. She understood that this was a healing, and she even knew one of the healers’ names. It was a very easy thing for her to ask Zothor to ask Adreeum to ask Nabbinic for a favor.

    

    Adreeum stood in the center of the dining hall and held up his claws for silence. “It is fitting that we should gather here to honor our brothers and sisters,” he said. “It is here that the first shots of the war were fired. It is here that the first of our brothers and sisters gave up their lives in a war that cost the lives of many thousands of brothers of all colors. This dining hall though destroyed in the war was rebuilt to honor the memory of our dead. It is only fitting that we should honor the living here as well. We fought to preserve our way of life and then only when the need for fighting was forced upon us. In the future we must take steps to insure that something like this never happens again. Indeed, we have already taken the first steps in this direction. We are going to seek to eliminate all clan boundaries and establish new dwellings at the discretion of the clan leader of any given clan. This will give any clan the ability to grow without having to ask any of the other clans for their approval. We shall and have established a leader over all the clans chosen from among the clan leaders. This leader will serve a term of two cycles of the sun. Currently, my fellow clan leaders have agreed that I should be the first to serve the brotherhood in this capacity. After I have served my term as leader of the brotherhood, we will rotate. Each clan leader of each clan will in turn serve as the leader of the brotherhood with the other clan leaders as his or her councilors. In the future, we will create an army made up of all the clans. This army will keep the peace, and protect all the clans not only from each other but also from the rest of the world of which we are only a small part. We should never again fight among ourselves.”

    Adreeum picked up a cup juice off a nearby table and took a sip before continuing. “Councilor Zothor.” Zothor stood up and walked over to stand before Adreeum. “Zothor our clan owes you a dept of honor. It was you that exposed KaZanna’s plan that enabled us to prepare ourselves in time to save our dwellings, and our families, and our way of life. The dept of honor we owe you can never be repaid.”

    “Tangoral,” the clan leader called out the next to be honored. Tangoral came and stood next to his adopted father. “Tangoral, adopted son of Zothor and brother of the blue clan. Many of your inventions enabled us to gain the advantage from the very start of the war. I know your heart and I know that you wish that you had not given us this kind of technology. Yet, you chose to defend your adopted parents and your adopted clan and for this the Blue Brotherhood is eternally grateful. When it became necessary to actually fight KaZanna and his army. You commanded our small armies and led us to victory over our enemies even though their numbers were twenty times greater than ours. Like your father we owe you a debt of honor that can never be repaid. I would name you a councilor if I had an opening. I have listened to your wise council more than once and found that you indeed would make a fine councilor. I know that you are a leader among those that dwell in the trees and you speak for many. I ask that you tell your brothers of the trees that we of the brotherhood will no longer hunt them, but we will seek to make your brothers our friends. We do this not only as a reward for their help but because it is the right thing to do.”

    “Frothay and Yoeith,” Adreeum said naming the next to be honored. They both came forward to stand next to Tangoral. “Frothay, you led our forces in the East to victory. I know you suffered a personal loss of a good friend during the war. Soolayinna helped to save many lives. Know that she shall always be remembered by our clan. The names of all our dead shall be inscribed upon a wall in this dining hall and her name shall have a place of honor among them.”

    “Yoeith, you led our western army. Had I known that you were a prophet I would not have allowed you to fight, but what is done is done. What reward is there that I can give to a prophet of God? Except for your mother no other brown brothers or sisters fought on our side. If you have need of us call and we will answer. Your God is our God. Teach us and we will believe.”

    “These are the leaders most responsible for our victory. There are many other names we would honor this night. Councilor LaSanso of the green clan, he prepared the Green Brotherhood so that their losses were not as great as some of the other clans. Although he acted without his clan leader’s knowledge, it was for the benefit of his clan in the end. Newly appointed Clan Leader Dar Noth did much to help us. He and those with him helped to build a safe haven deep in the Great Swamp. This is where we sent all the sisters and children and any others that did not fight in the war. Councilor Rownan tireless efforts in helping to coordinate many aspects of our plans was much appreciated. Saralashaw, Tangoral’s sister, help us to communicate with elements not easily communicated with. She took messages back and forth often at great personal risk to herself. Falleama, Yoeith’s mother, helped with the many tree dwellers that were displaced from their dwellings. LaKayzin, a dwelling clan leader, who could not be with us this night, supplied us with a hundred soldiers to help with our defense of Zothor’s dwelling. Bantan, Frothay’s second in command, and many of the soldiers that Zothor first brought with him when he became a councilor spent more than two full cycles of the sun away from their families and friends. They acted first as spies gathering information and later as trainers of those that would later have to fight KaZanna. Then they themselves fought throughout the war. Tragal’s defense of his dwelling will forever be remembered. A claw full of soldiers against thousands of KaZanna’s soldiers, it was there that KaZanna was finally defeated. These are just a few of the many names that come to mind. Their help cannot be forgotten and honor demands that we remember their names. So they with our dead will be remembered here in this dining hall.”

    Adreeum, Zothor, Frothay and Yoeith returned to their tables. Only Tangoral remained standing in the middle of the dining hall. “On behalf of the People of the Trees that I lead and the many others that came to the blue clan seeking protection from the depredation of the red clan. I’d like to thank the blue clan for their help,” Tangoral said after the others settled to the floor at their tables. “Peace and friendship are true works of God that we can bring about ourselves. We value our way of life as do you. As we learn to live together in peace we will change and you will change. In time we will become inseparable friends and brothers. For God is the God of us all. Wherever there is any good done in the world you can see God’s handiwork. For all good things come from God and for these things we must give thanks to God.”

    Tangoral began the prayer that would end the gather. “Father of all creation hear the voices of Thy children as we give thanks unto Thee for Thy mercies which Thou has shown unto us. We give thanks unto Thee for the victory over our enemies that Thou did give us. We commend unto Thy care our loved ones that gave their lives that the rest of us might live another day to serve Thee. We ask that Thou would pour out Thy wisdom upon the leaders of the clans as they take steps to ensure that a war between brothers shall never again be fought. Strengthen Thy servants as they begin to gather those that were lost. Go before them and prepare the hearts of men and Brachyura alike. Now is the time when Thy gospel shall go forth unto the ends of the earth to be preached unto every creature as it was written. Some in this room shall carry Thy message of love to distant lands reclaiming that which was lost. Your gospel shall roll forth until it fills the whole world, and then, and only then shall evil be completely defeated in the world. This is the cause for which thou has given us our victory. This is the cause for which we give thanks unto Thee and we do so in the name of Thy most holy Son. May it ever be so.”

    “May it ever be so,” all those in the dining hall repeated.

    “So it shall ever be,” Tangoral finished.

   

~~~

    

    KaZanna had petitioned Jonnaul for protection or at least the presence of the Church at his trial. Jonnaul granted the request. He himself would attend KaZanna’s trial. When Jonnaul arrived, they were waiting for him. The tree dweller handed him the Book of the Prophets of God already opened and the pages turned. “Read the pages out loud,” he commanded. Jonnaul was still fuming about that when they led KaZanna into the center of the council chamber. He was shocked, KaZanna was missing a claw, a spit-sand cast was on one leg, and his legs were hobbled.

    KaZanna stood in the center of the room glaring at the clan leaders and selected councilors of the clans that surrounded him. “KaZanna, you are accused of causing directly or indirectly the deaths of many thousands of brothers of every clan,” Adreeum said. “You did this premeditatedly. What say you in your defense of these accusations?”

    “What could I say that would stay the death that you have already planned for me?” KaZanna asked contemptuously. “Let me hear the evidence against me. Then I shall reply.”

    “Very well, for more than a cycle before the war began you manufactured and shipped heavy guns out to all your dwellings. Councilor LaSanso discovered this, but lacked the ability to prove you had hostile intent toward your brothers in that you intended to use these weapons on them. Soldiers of the blue clan were engaged to spy on your dwellings. Those we first sent could only confirm that something was going on but they were unable to find out what. Later, better trained soldiers were again sent out to spy on your dwellings. This time they were able to confirm the nature of the weapons you were sending out to your dwellings and that you were training an army, an army that you eventually used against my clan.”

    “I was redressing a wrong done to our clan by your clan not so long ago. Where are your witnesses, my accusers? I know the law. Let them stand before me,” KaZanna challenged.

    “You say we have planed your death and there is some truth in your words. More than ten thousand brothers lie dead as proof of what we say, but if you need to have us parade witnesses into this room for further proof, we will. If you will accept responsibility for your actions then you will die quickly and with some honor. Otherwise, your death will be slow,” a voice said from the shadows. Tangoral stepped into the light so KaZanna could see him.

    “What is a tree dweller doing here? I object to his presence here at these proceedings.”

    “He is here acting as clan leader on behalf the tree dwellers. You objection is noted and overruled. Tangoral will remain here as the one who speaks for the tree dwellers who we will befriend in the future,” Nabbinic, clan leader of the Brown Brotherhood said.

    “You forget it was tree dwellers that destroyed two of my dwellings,” KaZanna accused in return.

    “It can be proved that you could have asked for our help much sooner than you did and if you had the brothers and sisters of those dwellings might still be alive today,” Adreeum said.

    “You could have destroyed that tree dweller anytime you wanted to. The blood of those in the dwellings is on your claws.”

    “Perhaps, but the tree dweller Kittanota stopped almost all your shipments of guns from getting through to your dwellings where you were training most of your soldiers. This enabled us to destroy many of the guns that you were trying to ship to your dwellings. Two of our soldiers could not have stopped Kittanota with his many followers by themselves in any case. The last dwelling you reported destroyed was in fact the first dwelling Kittanota destroyed. By the way, it was our soldiers that rescued the soul survivor from that dwelling. A small child three cycles old I believe. You had more than enough chances to ask for our help but you did not want our soldiers out snooping around. You knew that they would find more than Kittanota and his followers. They would have found your secret army in training. That would have forced you to fight all the clans before you were ready.”

    “It’s a nice story so far Adreeum but where are your witnesses?” KaZanna asked. “I was doing no such thing. I most certainly was training my soldiers, not for war, but in case the tree dweller attacked one of my dwellings. Which he did, I remind you. I know my rights, Adreeum bring forth witnesses against me or let me go. Who keeps the law at this trial? Jonnaul is it you?”

    “It is not Jonnaul, KaZanna,” Tangoral said. “I keep the law. If you are asking for a ruling then I would rule in your favor.”

    “You cannot keep the law. You are a tree dweller,” KaZanna exclaimed.

    “I am the only one here who can keep the law. I know both your laws, as given by the Prophet Morallen, and the laws of my people. The Prophet has a whole section on when two or more strangers meet. You should read it sometime, Jonnaul did earlier or he’d say something,” Tangoral replied calmly. “I ruled in your favor. What are you complaining about?”

    “Why don’t you just kill me and get it over with. This whole trial is rigged.”

    “That’s exactly what my people would have done, but you are on trail by your own laws. The longer this trial goes on, the longer you live. Who knows, maybe you can find a way out that we haven’t thought about and cheat death,” Tangoral said. “Clan Leader Adreeum, you must provide witnesses to substantiate your facts or the prisoner must be released.”

    “I call Brother Frothay and Brother Bantan,” Adreeum said. Frothay and Bantan stood up and walked into the center of the room. “Did you see what I just described to KaZanna?” Adreeum asked them.

    “Yes Clan Leader, we did,” Frothay replied.

    “One question, was KaZanna training his soldiers to fight tree dwellers?”

    “No.”

    “Explain why you believe this was so?” Nabbinic asked.

    “Not once did we ever see his soldiers climb any trees during the many training exercises we witnessed. If you’re going to fight the People of the Trees then you have to climb into the trees in order to fight them. We watched a lot of practice raids on dwellings though.”

    “Could you have been watching training designed to retake a dwelling already captured by an enemy?” KarEena asked. KaZanna looked at his mate. It was a good question and he wished he had thought of it.

    “Perhaps, but I spied on five of the red clan’s dwellings,” Frothay replied. “Several other brothers under my command spied on other dwellings too. A total of twenty-eight dwellings were each observed for a seven-day period and some were observed for much longer than a seven-day period. The only training that went on was training on how to assault a dwelling and ground fighting techniques. The red brothers never once climbed up into the trees so we were able to get very close to your dwellings. I would think that at least one of us would have seen some other kind of training going on if they were training to fight tree dwellers.”

    “Were you present when the first dwelling was attacked by the tree dweller?” KaZanna asked.

    “I was present at the attacks of both dwellings,” Frothay replied.

    “How many were with you?”

    “There was just myself and Bantan.”

    “Could you have stopped the massacres of either dwelling?” KaZanna asked.

    “No, and despite orders to the contrary we tried to help the second dwelling without success,” Frothay replied.

    “Could you have killed the tree dweller?”

    “We could have despite his being surrounded by bodyguards.”

    “Why didn’t you?”

    “We weren’t even supposed to be on the red clan’s lands without your permission. Our mission was to gather information about your clan’s activities without being detected and locate Kittanota if possible. Once located we were to keep track of Kittanota and his followers until such time as you asked for our help. Once you asked for our help. We tracked down Kittanota killed him and scattered his tribe killing any that might have proved to be a problem later. It would have been quicker and easier if your army hadn’t chased Kittanota all over the forest and into the Great Swamp. We caught up with Kittanota in the swamp. It was my bullet that killed him.”

    “You mean that all you did was watch as those dwellings were destroyed?” Amoonda asked. “There was no way you could have saved those dwellings, is that right?”

    “That is correct. Kittanota’s decision to attack the first dwelling took us a little by surprise,” Bantan said. “Up until that time he had only attacked the shipments of heavy guns on their way out to the dwellings. They set up and attacked the dwelling very quickly. Almost everyone at the first dwelling died within a few time parts. The second dwelling they attacked was preventable, but not by us. Councilor SoLayan and several hundred soldiers were in that dwelling waiting for Kittanota to attack.”

    “Frothay said you tried to help this dwelling despite orders to the contrary, is that true?” KarEena asked.

    “Yes it is,” Bantan replied. “Our orders were to observe only. Without our help Kittanota would have taken that dwelling without any loss of life on his side. They used a new weapon on that dwelling we never saw the tree dwellers used before, an incendiary device. Frothay decided that it was time for Kittanota and his followers to get a taste of what war was all about. We destroyed the stockpiles of this new weapon before all the weapons could be used on the dwelling. Even though many soldiers died as they tried to rush out of the dwelling and attack the tree dwellers. The remaining soldiers should have been able to hold the dwelling.”

    “What went wrong?” KarEena asked.

    “Bad leadership,” Frothay replied.

    “Explain.”

    “First, your soldiers rushed out of the dwelling in broad daylight right into the sights of waiting guns. They were almost all cut down before they could reach any kind of cover. Kittanota knew the soldiers were there and he was waiting for them. Instead of falling back inside the dwelling SoLayan had his soldiers keep firing at the tree dwellers from inside the dwelling supplying cover fire for those outside. Most of the soldiers probably died or were injured when Kittanota had the dwelling firebombed. It may have still been possible to hold the dwelling if those inside had not panicked. SoLayan must have left orders to destroy the armory to keep it from falling into Kittanota’s hands. It went up much too soon if there was to be any hope of saving the dwelling. Any brothers or sisters that remained after that found themselves without weapons facing an enemy that was not inclined to be merciful. A few of your soldiers escaped thanks to us, but those left in the dwelling did not. About a hundred tree people were killed or injured.”

    “You would have done things differently no doubt,” KaZanna retorted.

    “Absolutely, any study of the other dwelling would have told you that you would be surrounded by many guns. To rush out of the dwelling knowing this was foolish,” Frothay replied. “The People of the Trees are more intelligent than SoLayan gave them credit and that cost him his life and the lives of everyone in the dwelling.”

    After a moment of silence Adreeum asked, “Do you have any more questions for these witnesses?”

    “No,” KaZanna replied. “What good would it do? You all have already sealed my fate. You will twist whatever I say and provide witnesses to the same.”

    “KaZanna, we have no need to twist your words into some other meaning,” Clan Leader LaKento said. “I was there in the dining hall when you tried to kill us. There you claimed your reason for starting the war was revenge against Zothor and the blue clan. The witnesses so far have only established that starting the war was a premeditated act. You have yet to say anything to convince me otherwise.”

    “What can I say? I have soldiers and I trained and armed them. Zothor does the same and he has weapons far more powerful in his armory than anything my soldiers had. You cannot prove it was my intent to use them.”

    “Councilor Zothor, is what KaZanna said true?” Amoonda asked.

    “It is,” Zothor replied. “I obey the words of the prophets. I keep the watch and have a small group of thirty-four soldiers for the protection of the dwelling. I also require that all the brothers of my dwelling be so trained in the ways of combat in the event that I require more brothers than the soldiers that I have. I supply my soldiers with all the tools of their trade. I have a few cannons and rocket launchers for them to use and train with. My dwelling also has enough heavy guns to arm all the brothers of my dwelling.”

    “See, if he can do it, then I can do it too,” KaZanna said. “What was he planning to use all that firepower for anyway?”

    “Councilor Zothor, will you answer my mate’s question?” KarEena asked.

    “It was all for the defense of my dwelling and the clan. I also use it to show off for any of the clan leadership that may show up from time to time. It makes for a very impressive show.”

    “Have you ever had to use it?” Amoonda asked.

    “Except during the war, no,” Zothor replied.

    “Not even when you rescued our dwelling?” LaKento asked.

    “Not even then. We all used twin heavy guns.”

    “How long have you had this personal well trained army?” KarEena asked.

    “About ten cycles now,” Zothor replied.

    “Have you ever done the kind of training my mate speaks of with your soldiers?” she asked probing for some unseen thing. KaZanna could have kissed his mate. She had found a weakness in their case against him.

    “Yes, I have.”

    “For how long have you been training to take over dwellings?”

    “I’ve been training to retake my dwelling ever since we rescued the green brothers and had to retake their dwelling from the stalkers. We had some injuries in that incident but no deaths. I like to plan for everything so storming a dwelling was added to the training of my soldiers after that time.”

    “See, I have done nothing more or less than you have done Zothor,” KaZanna said. “I was trying to protect my dwellings from the tree dweller.”

    “You began your weapons business before you knew of Kittanota and his followers. Councilor LaSanso also began his investigation of you and the clan’s new weapons business long before we knew we had a problem with the tree dwellers,” Adreeum said.

    “It’s not my business. I had nothing to do with that business. That was SoLayan’s business.”

    “I find it hard to believe you had nothing to do with that business,” LaKento said. “The business records show that the red clan was the only customer it had. The records also show that you placed several custom orders yourself. Almost all the guns recovered from the red brothers during the war were made by SoLayan’s business. You may have thought yourself clever trying to hide how many and what kind of guns were being shipped. However, you have excellent shipping records. We know how many crates were shipped and where. We know approximately how many guns there were to a crate. Considering all the guns recovered so far. It’s not a real tough guess to know that all the crates contained heavy guns. We can account for more than eighty percent of the guns shipped at present. Another six percent were recovered from your dwellings when your clan was disarmed. I’m sure the rest of guns unaccounted for were destroyed or lost during the war. What would you have us to think? You are not some dwelling clan leader with a few toys for his highly trained soldiers to play with. You were a clan leader arming and training his clan for war.”

    “I was not the only clan leader training soldiers,” KaZanna said. “Adreeum was training his soldiers as well.”

    “Is this true Clan Leader Adreeum?” KarEena asked.

    “It is. We began training our soldiers shortly after we realized that your mate intended to start a war,” Adreeum replied. “We only trained our soldiers unlike your clan that trained all the brotherhood to fight.”

    “I point out that I only did what Zothor did and that was to require all the brothers of my clan to be trained,” KaZanna said.

    “Yes, but then you mobilized all your brothers and attacked the dwellings of every clan in this room,” Nabbinic said. “I hate to think what would have happened if the blue clan was not prepared for your treachery.”

    “Councilor Zothor, how many of your soldiers died during the war?” KarEena asked.

    “None.”

    “None of the blue clan’s soldiers died?”

    “None of my soldiers were killed. Eighteen brothers from my dwelling died protecting the dwelling. Sixty-three more tree dwellers and blue brothers died during the war. Most of the dead on our side were tree dwellers.”

    “How many red brothers died?” KarEena asked.

    “I do not know the exact numbers but I would guess around eight to ten thousand red brothers died. We are still trying to get an accurate body count. I expect that the total number of those killed to go above twelve thousand when the bodies of the other clans are counted,” Zothor replied.

    “So our clan was not the only clan that fought against you,” KarEena said.

    “Brothers of the yellow, brown, and black clans fought with your clan against us.”

    “So the other clans also seemed to at least agree with my mate. There was cause to fight. A cause so compelling that other clans would take up arms to fight against you as well.”

    “Lady KarEena, those of the brown clan that fought against the blue clan did so without my consent,” Nabbinic said. “If I could have contacted my brothers the blue clan would not have had to fight against your clan alone. I know from the clan leaders of my dwellings that KaZanna told them that I was dead and that the blue clan was responsible for my death. The same thing was told to the other clans too. This is how KaZanna got the other clans to fight on his side. As you can see I am not dead.”

    “The blue brothers did not attack any of your dwellings?” KarEena asked.

    “They did, but they only did so to prevent KaZanna from supplying his army with our food. When the war was over the blue brothers came back and repaired much of the damage they caused,” Nabbinic replied.

    “Once your mate was out of food he took what little food that the blue brothers left our dwellings to supply his army. The blue brothers restored to us more than ninety percent of the herds they scattered. There would be many brothers and sisters starving right now if they hadn’t done that,” Dar Noth said.

    “Despite poor leadership and a lack of consideration for others. My mate may have been justified in going to war against the Blue Brotherhood,” KarEena said.

    “How can you say that?” Dar Noth asked. “You above all should know better. You weren’t a prisoner, you saw their battle plans and you came and went as you pleased.”

    All eyes turned toward KarEena. “You did not let me finish Clan Leader Dar Noth,” she replied. “Tangoral, would you please tell everyone here what my status was while I was at your dwelling and then clarify a point of law regarding challenges between clans.”

    “Certainly,” Tangoral said. “Lady KarEena was our prisoner. We captured her at the beginning of the war. She promised me that she would not try to escape. In return she was allowed to go anywhere within our dwelling with an escort. Near the end of the war the escort proved to be no longer necessary. Which point of law do you want me to clarify?”

    “The part about what happens when a clan will not accept judgment. I know that if we had challenged you we would have lost the judgment. Your champion this cycle is the All Clan Champion and he broke all the records becoming champion.”

    “Your interpretation of the law is correct. If a clan will not accept judgment then combat is permitted. Generally it is between champions, but it could be construed to mean that the clans themselves would have to fight one another.”

    “See Dar Noth, I am correct. We could have legally started a war with the blue clan,” KarEena said.

    “Tangoral, a point of law,” Adreeum said. “What are the conditions of such a conflict?”

    “All sides must be evenly matched much the same as it is in the Game,” Tangoral replied.

    “Then the odds could not be say twenty to one?”

    “No Clan Leader, both side must be evenly matched and combat must continue until one side gives up or is killed.”

    “Then KaZanna went beyond the bounds set by the prophets when he used all his brothers to attack us and involving the other clans as well.” Adreeum said.

    “That would be correct,” Tangoral replied.

    “What punishment does the law require in such cases?”

    “Death.”

    “I did not out number you,” KaZanna said. “I know what your population is.”

    “Sisters, cannot be counted except in extreme cases,” Adreeum said.

    “War is an extreme case,” KarEena said.

    “Children may not be counted in any case,” Adreeum said.

    “Tangoral, what does the law say?” KarEena asked.

    “All would be counted.”

    Adreeum frowned at Tangoral. “We did not use all our brothers or sisters to fight against your clan.”

    “But you could have,” KarEena shot back.

    “Nor did we involve other clans as your mate did.”

    “But you did. I myself saw the green brothers fighting on your side.” KarEena looked at her mate and smiled.

    “That’s only one clan. Your mate had brothers from three clans fighting against us,” Adreeum said. “In that he stepped beyond bounds. Tangoral tell her.”

    “The law is unclear on this point, but it seems that in order to be evenly matched KaZanna could not have involved more than one other clan.”

    “The other night you honored members of three different clans. I know I was there and so were the other clan leaders. So you also involve more than one clan,” KarEena said. “We were equally matched.”

    “If we were to consider the weapons used during the war then we were not evenly matched at all,” KaZanna said. Adreeum smiled.

    “KaZanna, you really should learn to keep your mouth shut. I have no desire to see you killed by them,” KarEena said pointing to the others in the room with a sweeping gesture with one of her claws.

    “Tangoral, could evenly matched be considered to mean weapons also?” Adreeum asked.

    “It could extend into that area. If one brother had a weapon and the other did not then they would not be evenly matched,” Tangoral replied.

    “Your weapons were far superior to our weapons,” KaZanna said.

    “KaZanna, why don’t you stick another leg in your mouth and keep chewing,” KarEena told her mate.

    “KaZanna, you had more than forty thousand long barrel heavy guns,” Adreeum said. “The arsenals of the green, blue, brown, and black clans combined could not equal that. We had a few good weapons and a lot of ammo that we used effectively. Your army lost against a better trained and better equipped group of soldiers. I submit that although KaZanna may have been compelled to go to war against us. He did not do so within the bounds set forth by the prophets. We were not evenly matched. We are within our rights to ask that KaZanna be destroyed for the good of the brotherhood. What does the law say on this matter?”

    “The law would agree with you Clan Leader,” Tangoral said. “KaZanna, the law whose bounds you went beyond requires that you be put to death. Do you have anything further to say in your defense?”

    KaZanna was in shock. He thought his trial had gone well until that now. “Jonnaul say something. They are going to kill me,” he said.

    “What do you want me to say,” Jonnaul said. “They have made it very clear to me that I am only an observer here.”

    “You are the only one that can save me now. You saw how they twisted the words of the prophets to convict me. Are you going to let a tree dweller beat you and make a mockery of the law and the prophets? Protect me you have the right according to the law.”

    Jonnaul saw how he might be able to annoy the clan leaders by offering the protection of the Church to KaZanna and it might even upset the plans of the tree dweller too. “KaZanna, the Church will grant your request. You will release KaZanna into the custody of the Church.”

    “Not a chance,” Adreeum said. “Too many have died because of him.”

    “What does the law say?” Jonnaul asked knowing the answer.

    “The law would seem to agree with you,” Tangoral replied coldly. “Clan Leader, we must release KaZanna if we place any value on the law and the prophets.”

    “See, your keeper of the law agrees with me,” Jonnaul said. Most of the clan leaders looked shocked or stunned by KaZanna’s reprieve at the last moment. “I think I have seen enough. We can go now KaZanna.”

    “Jonnaul, my mate is not going anywhere with you! You maybe able to protect KaZanna from the others, but you cannot protect him from me,” KarEena said. “KaZanna is of my clan. There are many brothers and sisters of the red clan who would like to see my mate punished for leading so many brothers to their deaths. My mate is trying to use you to escape the death he so richly deserves. Well, he will not escape his fate so easily. I have something very special planned for him.”

    KaZanna lost all his color. He knew what his mate had planned for him. Now he understood why she was trying so hard to save him. “You can’t let her take me Jonnaul. She’s going to have me cooked and fed to the tree dwellers.”

    Jonnaul looked at KarEena. “Is this true?” he asked.

    “Whatever I do to my mate is my business,” she replied.

    “Is what KaZanna said true? I cannot very well turn him over to you if you plan to have him eaten.”

    “By law you are required to give him to me,” KarEena said. He was hers now and he was not getting away. “If you do not release him to me, then I promise you will one day share his fate. If he had accepted responsibility for his actions in the beginning then his death would have been swift, but now he will die very slowly for his many crimes against me and our clan. If he hadn’t asked for your help I might have been cheated of my revenge and for that I thank you.”

    “Adreeum, you can’t let her have me,” KaZanna begged.

    Adreeum held up his claws in submission. “It is out of my claws now.”

    “Nabbinic, LaKento, she’s going to let tree dwellers eat me. You have to save me.” KaZanna looked wildly about for anyone that might be able to save him from his mate.

    “Are you really going to let tree dwellers eat him?” Amoonda asked looking a little pale at the though of a brother being eaten by tree dwellers.

    “Look to your own clan Amoonda,” KarEena said. “There are more than eight thousand of my brothers whose blood cries out for justice for their murder. Their mates I’m sure would not like to see KaZanna die too quickly. I plan to see that he does not.”

    “Zothor, you have to save me,” KaZanna begged his one time enemy. “You can’t let her have me eaten.”

    “Why should I save you? You made it very clear in the dining hall what you were going to do to me, my dwelling, and my family. If I were made of stronger stuff I might be inclined to help cook you,” he replied. “Lady KarEena, please, not within the city.”

    “I understand,” KarEena said. “Amishton and his people are returning to their hive in the morning. I will take KaZanna and go with them. If a couple of your soldiers could come with us I would appreciate it.”

    “Frothay, pick four others to go with you,” Zothor said.

    

    “Clan Leader, do you think it’s wise to send Frothay with KarEena?” Bantan asked after the trial.

    “Bantan, Lady KarEena is going to have her mate cooked. She will probably have him cooked alive and very slowly. Could you sit by and watch such a thing happening without becoming involved,” Zothor replied.

    “I don’t know, but I doubt it.”

    “I know that Frothay will not offer insult to the red clan leader by interfering with her plans. That is why I sent him.”

    “He’ll probably help cook KaZanna,” Bantan said.

    “Perhaps, but I think there is still a brother in that shell,” Zothor said.

    

~~~

    

    “Quit squirming,” Frothay said. They were forced to carry KaZanna every step of the way.

    Amishton was glad to return to his home at last. Things were still as his tribe left them many moons ago. He had been through much with these hard-shells. He still had no real love for them, but he respected them. They gave his tribe many gifts of metal before he left their home and for that he was grateful. Still, he did not understand them. The healer Saralashaw came with the hard-shells. She would supervise the cooking of the wounded red hard-shell. He smiled at that thought. The hard-shells were going to cook one of their own kind as part of the celebration of the tribe’s safe return to their home. He would have never guessed that he would see such a thing in his lifetime. “Frothay, you can drop him anywhere,” he said.

    “Have you decided?” Saralashaw asked KarEena as Frothay dumped KaZanna on the platform none too gently.

    “Slow roasted with steamed vegetables. I’d kind of liked him baked. That sounds taster, but he’d die too quickly,” was the reply.

    “How can you do this to me?” KaZanna whined. “For crying out loud you’re my mate.”

    “I may be your mate, but not for much longer,” KarEena replied with glee. “I’m just repaying you for the endless torture that has been my life with you. This is payback for all the beatings and humiliation that I received at your claws.”

    “Frothay, you’re a brother, how can you let them do this to me?”

    “My best friend in the whole world is dead because of you. I should have listened to her and killed you when I had the chance,” Frothay replied.

    “Then kill me now. It would be better than what KarEena has planed for me,” KaZanna said.

    “KaZanna, Zothor picked me to come with KarEena for a reason.”

    “What reason?”

    “Being a brother stops on the outside of my shell. In my heart I am one of the People of the Trees. I have chosen to live out the remainder of my life among them. You see Zothor knew I would carry out any orders KarEena gave regarding you. When they have finished cooking you, I shall enjoy the meal with them. I do not have the stomach to watch as they prepare you for cooking though. My brothers and I are going hunting.” Frothay turned and walked away.

    “What are they going to do to me?” KaZanna shouted. Frothay did not even look back.

    “First, they are going to cut off your legs one by one and then your claw,” KarEena said smiling. “Then they are going to hang you over a fire. With any luck you’ll live for at least a half a day.”

    

    Frothay returned alone after KaZanna stopped screaming. The other blue brothers had no wish to participate in the festivities. Despite his resolve, the sight of a legless slightly charred brother hanging over a large fire was a little sickening. “You know you don’t have to participate. We will understand,” Saralashaw said.

    “I doubt that I will see such things often,” Frothay replied. “But, I need to see this through. I owe it to Soolayinna.”

    “I think that Soolayinna would understand too if you don’t wish to join us.”

    “Perhaps, but this is as much for me as it is for her.”

    “Tearing away the last vestiges of brotherhood?” Saralashaw asked.

    “No, seeing an end to a chapter in my life,” Frothay replied. “Did KarEena stay here the whole time?”

    “Yes, yes she did.”

    “Did she watch the whole time?” Frothay asked

    “She was a very active participant in her mate’s demise,” Saralashaw replied. “She helped cut off his legs and everything. He must have hurt her very badly.”

    “Will this heal her?”

    “No, but it is a start. In this regard she is a lot like you.”

    Frothay turned all his eyes on Saralashaw. “How?” he asked.

    “She will need to find love again. Someone that can make her forget the past.”

    “Not an easy thing to do.”

    “I know,” Saralashaw said as she ran her hand over the top of his shell.

    

~~~

    

    Not long after KaZanna’s trial, many of the blue and green brothers and their families returned to their dwellings. They did so after seeing their names placed upon the wall that honored all those that fought in the war, both living and dead. Saralashaw returned home with Frothay and Molateeia. They accompanied many of the brothers, sisters, and People of the Trees going with them or returning in the same general direction as they were. Saralashaw taught Frothay many things along the way. She was amazed how eager and quickly he was able to learn. Saralashaw could feel the love Frothay poured into what he was trying to learn and do. His love tugged at her own heart as she tried to fight what it was she was feeling.

    

~~~

    

    “Jonnaul you have to do something,” Cessons said. “Very few of the dwellings have sent their tithes.”

    “In case you haven’t noticed we just had a war,” Jonnaul chided his councilor. “They have very little to send. Things will be better by the end of next season.”

    “Cessons is right,” Pattish said. “The Green Brotherhood has joined the Blue Brotherhood in refusing to pay their tithes to us. Nabbinic and his clan will surely follow their example. KarEena has no love for us either. Amoonda may be of our faith but I’m not sure he can be trusted.”

    “What will happen if they all turn against us?” Cessons asked. “What happens when next season arrives and no one sends us their tithes? How will we survive? How will the Church survive?”

    “It won’t be long before we will need to use our emergency supplies,” Pattish said. “You should have never sent supplies to KaZanna. What’s done is done. We can’t worry about the past, but we do need to look to the future.”

    “What would you have me do?” Jonnaul asked. “The Blue Brotherhood has an army that defeated the combined armies of four clans. We cannot fight them.”

    “We can challenge them,” Cessons said. “We can call upon the greatest player to ever play the Game as our champion. We can set the points to favor us. Then we can rid ourselves of the tree dwellers and perhaps the blue clan as well.”

    “What would the stakes of such a challenge be?” Jonnaul asked. “I don’t see what good such a challenge would do us.”

    “We could ask for the deaths of all the tree dwellers,” Cessons replied.

    “I agree with Cessons. After we won we could turn all the clans against the blue clan,” Pattish said. “If the blue clan truly believes in God as they claim they do. They would be forced to accept the judgment of God. They would have to kill all the tree dwellers or accept banishment. Either way we win.”

    “What would happen if we lost?” Jonnaul asked.

    “How can we lose?” Cessons asked. “Cantor has no equal in the Game. It is poetic justice that their downfall should come at the claws of one of their own brethren. If we lost, we could say he threw the game to save his clan and we still win.”

    “You are forgetting who his father is,” Jonnaul said. “He’s play a game of judgment before and he played it against an All Clan Champion and won.”

    “I remember the game against KaZanna but he’d be playing against his son,” Pattish said. “If he won we could still say his son lost the game on purpose. If we set the points between fifteen hundred and two thousand he could never stay up with his son for that long. As it was he played the Game longer than any player before retiring. That was many cycles of the sun ago. He has not played the Game since. I doubt that he could play a full game, and certainly not a game that would go above a thousand points.”

    “How long will we put up with the Blue Brotherhood?” Cessons asked. “If we wait to do something it may be too late. We must strike before all the clans reject us.”

    “You’re right, we have put up with their disobedience long enough,” Jonnaul said new resolve. “But, we must take whatever steps we can to insure that we do not lose.”

    

~~~

    

    Once every seven-day Yoeith held worship services. As his notoriety in the land increased many brothers and sisters came to hear his words. The worship service on this day of rest of the Lord would prove to be more unusual than those brothers and sisters had come to expect. On this day a tree dweller sat next to Yoeith. Yoeith got up and held up his claws for silence so he could speak. “My brothers and sisters,” he began. “We are gathered today to give honor to God. We give honor to Him with our hearts, our minds, and our lips. The blue brothers fought a war for the cause of peace and freedom, the freedom to follow our hearts. We live in wonderful times for these are the last days before the coming of our God. These are the times that were spoken by all the prophets, when the lost and despised of God shall be gathered one last time. Those that will not hear the voice of his servants will be cast off. Every creature that will hear the voice of God and answer the call shall be saved in the kingdom of heaven. The same God that created us also created everything that walks, or crawls, or slithers upon the face of the Earth, and we are brothers and sisters with the same.”

    “It may come as a surprise to you that I have not lived my life among you my brothers and sisters. I spent most of my life among those you call tree dwellers. It took a tree dweller to teach me to speak our language properly. Indeed, I look upon him as my brother not only as one of the People of the Trees, but as a brother in faith and called of God as I too am called of God. What better instruments in the hands of God if we are to gather the lost children of God from out of the world where He has scattered them. My own story you have heard in days past. Why God should choose the least of the brothers to restore unto you the truth that has been hid from you is a mystery to me, but God delights in making great things small and small things great. Now, I would have you hear the words of my friend and brother.” A certain amount of murmuring could be heard as Yoeith settled down in his former place and Tangoral stood up.

    “I know how you must feel. There was a time when I was not too fond of you either,” Tangoral said. “It was blue brothers that murdered my father and mother as they tried to escape their burning dwelling. My anger was kindled against you and I went looking for a way to rid the world of your race. Anger and hate burned in my heart. In the face of love anger and hate wilts and fades away like dried leaves. A sister that became my adopted mother surrounded me with love on all sides so I could not escape. One rainy night all my anger and hate was washed away surrounded by the love and claws of the sister I now call my mother.” Tangoral smiled at Ishihari who sat with the other brothers and sisters who came to hear Yoeith. He could see the tears in her eyes as he wiped tears from his own eyes.

    “From that time forth I began to embrace your race,” he continued. “As I began to study your culture I came to know of your God. In time, I came to understand that your God was my God also. He is the creator of us all. I have read the words of the prophets many times since then. My heart delights in their words, the words of God. It was at this time that Yoeith came to our dwelling and called me into the service of God. I am a witness of the things that Yoeith saw and heard in the city of the ancients. There I saw an angel and he declared the words and works of God unto us. Even after all this I did not come to the full understanding of what it meant to be a brother though I had many close friends among the brothers and sisters of our dwelling. It took the death of one of my closest friends to show me what it meant to be a brother as he gave his life to save mine. Now, I have given over my life in the service of my brothers and sisters regardless what kind of creature they may be. I tell you that we, your race and mine, are not the only intelligent creatures in the world. They too must hear the words of God before the coming of God. The time has come when the truth of God must roll forth crushing all that stand in the way.”

    “We have seen how you will roll forth crushing all that stand in the way of your truth,” a brother amidst the other brothers and sisters said.

    Tangoral’s eyes found the brother who spoke despite his hiding behind the brother before him. “I have no doubt that you have seen the strength of God’s arm as it crushed his enemies that sought to destroy his work.”

    “It was not God that crushed the red brothers and invaded our dwellings.”

    Tragal and Doesen rose to their legs quickly expecting trouble. “What is your name brother?” Tangoral asked.

    “Sammatis.”

    “One of Jonnaul councilors,” Tragal whispered to Tangoral.

    “So is the other one in front of him,” he whispered back. “Brother Sammatis, God works through us. If a brother is hungry God will feed him through our service to that brother. If we help our brother in giving him those things he stands in need of then Heaven pours out blessings upon us for our service to our poor brother. If we do not help our brothers in need then we are cursed. This is the way of Heaven.”

    “We were not brothers in need,” Sammatis said. “Dwellings were invaded and destroyed. Do you deny that?”

    “No.”

    “You forced us to accept this truth of yours and what choice did we have with your guns pointed at us.”

    “What truth did we force upon you Sammatis?” Tangoral asked. “You supported the red clan in their attempt to destroy the blue clan. Now you complain because you lost. This is what happens when you oppose the will of God.”

    “We did not support the red clan’s fight with the blue clan but rather supported KaZanna’s cause to destroy your kind,” Sammatis said.

    “Perhaps you did, but this was not truly KaZanna’s cause, nor was this God’s cause. If God was truly on your side do you think that you could have lost? We were out numbered twenty to one. When KaZanna finally attacked Zothor’s dwelling we were out numbered by more than six hundred to one. Where was your God? Under what tree root was he hiding? More than ten thousand brothers of all colors died fighting us. Only eighteen brothers from our dwelling died during the entire war. Tell me Sammatis, if you can, whose side was God on?”

    “You would also have these brothers here believe that we destroyed dwellings during the course of the war,” Tangoral continued. “You know full well that we only destroyed storerooms, burned fields, and scattered your herds to keep the red clan from using your food to support its army. After the war we rebuilt what we destroyed. We replanted your fields and gathered the herds that we scattered. Yes, we invaded your dwellings to take guns from you that you may have been tempted to use against us. We also did this to the red clan, and we didn’t have a fraction of the problems from them as the trouble we had with your clan.”

    “Many of our brothers died in your attacks on our dwellings,” Sammatis said. “Is this the workings of your God?”

    “More than ten thousand brothers died, and yes, that was one of the works of God,” Tangoral replied. “Stand in the path of a falling tree and you will die, and that too is a work of God. If you question the truth of my words challenge me. Let us settle this question once and for all with the Judgment of God.”

    “You cannot play the Game, you’re a tree dweller.”

    “Where is that written? The Prophet Morallen wrote, any who are unable to play the Game may choose a champion to represent them, nor did he say that the game of judgment belonged exclusively to the Brachyura. Any who have something against their neighbor may bring their cause before God on the court of judgment. These are the words of Morallen. If you doubt my words challenge me. I have no need of a champion to take my case before God. I know the rules and I can play the Game as well as my brother.”

    “Who is your brother?” Sammatis asked.

    “Cantor, and my adopted father is Councilor Zothor,” Tangoral replied. Sammatis started to open his mouth and then thought better of what he was about to say. He glared at Tangoral for a moment before he turned and left. “Brothers and sisters, you must forgive me, I have departed from my message of God’s love toward you and all of His creations,” Tangoral said after Sammatis left the room. “The works and testimony that God is can be found everywhere for all things testify of God. His love is all around us and we can see it if we are willing to open up our eyes and look for it. I speak of our spiritual eyes. If you look through the eyes of the world at a flutterby, all you will see is a flutterby. You will miss the small silent testimony of one of His most beautiful creations. If God pours out his love upon a flutterby, how much more will he pour out his love upon us, who are also His children of this creation? If we look through our spiritual eyes we can see the love that surrounds us…”

    

    “Can I help you?” Zothor asked coldly of the yellow brother standing in his dwelling doorway.

    “I must be lost. I am looking for the Prophet Yoeith and the tree dweller,” the yellow brother replied. “Somebody said they lived up on this level.”

    “Why do you want to see them?”

    “I heard them speak today and there are questions in my mind that I would like to ask them.”

    “Neither of them are here at the moment,” Zothor said. “Yoeith doesn’t live here in any case. He lived his whole life among the tree dwellers. He is unable to spend long periods of time in any dwelling without feeling confined by the enclosed spaces of our dwellings. Some of our soldiers have had a similar reaction after the war. There is a platform high in the tree where he and others live.”

    “How do I get up there?” the yellow brother asked.

    “You don’t,” Zothor replied. “Only those of the blue clan and selected green brothers are allowed up there.”

    “Zothor, who’s the brother?” Ishihari asked.

    “I don’t know. Who are you anyway?”

    “I am Almmoni.”

    All of Zothor’s eyes came around to look at the yellow brother. “I know your name. You’re one of Jonnaul’s councilors aren’t you?”

    “Yes, I am.”

    “Just what questions do you have of my son?”

    “Yoeith is your son.”

    “No, Tangoral is.”

    “Then you’re Councilor Zothor. Please forgive the intrusion I should have never come here,” Almmoni said.

    “Brother Almmoni, I expect my son back at any time. You are welcome to wait here for him if you like,” Ishihari said. Zothor turned an eye on his mate. “An expected guest,” she told him.

    “I will take you up on your kind offer if Councilor Zothor doesn’t mind.”

    “No, I don’t mind,” Zothor said. “It seems that you were expected anyway. Now, if you will excuse me I still have some work I must attend to.” Zothor turned and walked off toward his study.

    “I was expected?” Almmoni asked bewildered as he settled down on one of the pillows.

    “That’s the trouble with dealing with true prophets. They always seem to know things others don’t,” Ishihari replied.

    “The tree dweller is a prophet too?”

    “Yes he is, but Yoeith leads them.”

    “Them? How many prophets are there?” Almmoni asked.

    “Four so far,” Ishihari replied.

    “Who are they all?”

    “There is Yoeith of course, he was the first. Then there is my son Tangoral, and then Tragal and Doesen. The one must become two, and the two must become four…”

    “And the four, six, and the six, twelve,” Almmoni finished for her. “I know the verse you speak of.”

    “Excuse me,” a voice interrupted from the doorway.

    “Rownan, come on in. You know that you are always welcome here,” Ishihari greeted the councilor.

    “Who’s the brother?” he asked as he entered the dwelling.

    “Almmoni,” Ishihari replied.

    “One of Jonnaul’s councilors,” Rownan said somewhat surprised.

    “You say that like it is a bad thing,” Almmoni said.

    “It is,” Rownan said. “I’m surprised to find one of you in the stronghold of the enemy.”

    “Be nice Rownan, Almmoni is a guest,” Ishihari said. “Almmoni, I’m afraid that Councilor Rownan is a follower of one of the New Age movements.”

    “That’s too bad,” Almmoni said. “I hope it’s not one of the groups that created a whole new translation of the words of the Prophets in order to justify their beliefs.”

    “No, I don’t belong to one of those groups. Our text was a simple effort to put the words of the prophets into modern language. It’s not a new translation.”

    “I have one of those. It makes the words of the prophets so much easier to understand.”

    “Exactly,” Rownan said. “What brings a councilor of Jonnaul’s here.”

    “I have come to see the Prophet Yoeith and Tangoral,” Almmoni replied. “I heard them speak today and I had some questions I would like to ask them.”

    “I’ve heard of Yoeith of course, and I’ve seen him, but I have yet to meet this so call prophet.”

    “Then I shall have to introduce you to him,” Tangoral said as he entered the dwelling followed by, Tragal, Doesen, and Yoeith. “You are the councilor of Jonnaul’s that stayed for the whole worship service today.”

    “Yes I am. I am Almmoni. How did you know that I was one of Jonnaul’s councilors?”

    “Jonnaul would never send just one of his councilors to spy on us,” Tangoral replied. “Rownan, the white brother here is the Prophet Yoeith if you haven’t guessed that already.”

    “So you’re the prophet everyone is talking about,” Rownan said.

    “Guilty I’m afraid,” Yoeith said. “I believe you were talking about the many translations of the words of the prophets that have sprung up as of late.”

    “We were. Which of the translations do you use?” Almmoni asked.

    “The oldest one,” Yoeith replied. “I prefer to have my text as close to the original words of the prophets as possible.”

    “Even though a more modern interpretation might be more accurate and easily understood?” Rownan asked.

    “The trouble with any interpretation or translation of the words of the prophets is the translator. They tend to inject their own beliefs into the translation or interpretation. This happens regardless of how careful they are. When the translator comes across a passage he’s not sure of he tends to fall back on his own personal beliefs when trying to understand and explain the passage.”

    “Give me an example.”

    “Consider this passage in the words of the Prophet Pol. I knew a brother that was taken up into the third heaven. Whether he was taken up in the body or the spirit I know not. He was taken up into Heaven and heard things that were not lawful to repeat upon the earth. Councilor Rownan do you know the verse I speak of?”

    “Yes, I do.”

    “Can you quote it from your modern interpretation?” Yoeith asked

    “Yes, I can,” Rownan replied. I know a brother that was taken up into the highest heaven. Whether he was alive or dead at the time I don’t know. While he was in Heaven he heard things that cannot be repeated.

    “Now let us consider these two similar verses,” Yoeith said. “How can you be sure that the third heaven is the highest heaven? In our society number one represents the best of something and a lower number is something not quite as good as number one. Hence the saying, on a scale of one to ten; one being the best and ten the worst. How can we be sure that the third heaven is indeed the highest of heavens? Perhaps the third heaven was the worst of possible heavens. Perhaps it was some middle heaven. The Prophet Pol was not sure whether the brother was physically taken up into this third heaven or whether he was taken there in the spirit. There is a difference you know. In any case, he was alive either way, whether he was taken physically or spiritually. The things that this brother heard can be repeated just not down here on earth. It is even possible that this brother was dead at the time the Prophet Pol spoke of him. You get none of these meanings from your modern interpretation thanks to the translator. This may seem like a little thing, but when your text is filled with hundreds of these little personal interpretations the truth becomes blurred. Once your vision is so blurred, how can you see clearly to find your way? You could walk off into a great abyss without knowing it.”

    “But the modern interpretation is easier to understand,” Rownan insisted.

    “Perhaps, but is it a true guide to Heaven or an easy way for the Evil One to lead us down to the fires of Hell?” Yoeith asked. Rownan started to say something several times but nothing came out of his mouth. Yoeith took two new books out of one of the bags stuck to the bottom of his shell. “This is the records of some of the most prominent prophets that the ancients had. The language has only been adjusted to compensate for the natural drift in our language. The record starts with the creation of this world and ends with the prophecies and historical account of the prophet Tomarean Kel at the time of our creation. I want you two to take this book home with you and read it. If these things are true words of ancient prophets then God will manifest the truth of these things unto you.”

    Yoeith turned and faced Almmoni. “The answers you seek are contained within this book. Now this day has been a long tiring day for me. When you have read the book we will talk again. Good night. Tangoral we will go out again tomorrow. Tragal, Doesen remember your prayers.” After handing Almmoni the book Yoeith turned and walked out the door and disappeared down the hallway.

    

~~~

    

    “Sammatis, would you mind telling me why Almmoni sent me a letter of resignation, packed up all his things, and vacated his dwelling?” Jonnaul asked his councilor.

    “Almmoni resigned?” Sammatis was as surprised by the news as the other councilors in the room.

    “So you don’t know anything that would cause Almmoni to resign his position with us?”

    “No Jonnaul, I have no idea what would cause Almmoni to resign. This is the first I’ve heard of this. We went to see the false prophet Yoeith as you instructed us. The tree dweller Tangoral was at the meeting we attended also. It seems like just another new age movement to me,” Sammatis said.

    “Was the tree dweller alone?”

    “No, he had a bodyguard of two blue brothers.”

    “Were they armed?”

    “I don’t know, they had work vests on. I suppose they could have been. Why do you ask?”

    “Just wondered.” Jonnaul half hoped he would be able to get brothers close enough to kill the tree dweller. “What did this false prophet have to say?” he asked.

    “Nothing that can’t be found in the words of the prophets,” Sammatis replied.

    “What does he call his cult?”

    “He calls it the Church of the Son of the Most High God.”

    “God does not have a son.”

    “According to this new prophet he does. They even have a new book that’s supposed to be a record of the ancient’s prophets.”

    “Did you get a copy of this book?” Jonnaul asked.

    “No, I haven’t,” Sammatis replied.

    “Get one. We need to find out more about this Brother Yoeith,” Jonnaul said.

    

~~~

    

    “Zothor have you seen Rownan?” Adreeum asked from Zothor’s office doorway. “He hasn’t been to work for a couple of days now. I went by his dwelling but he wasn’t there.”

    “He was at my dwelling a couple of days ago, but I haven’t seen him since. Something wrong?”

    “I don’t know, but I’d bet my shell that something’s up. We have not heard a peep out of Jonnaul since the trial. I expected him to challenge us at the trial, but he didn’t. I can’t help but wonder if Jonnaul is up to something, and I can’t help thinking that it may have something to do with Rownan being missing.”

    “Tangoral shut Jonnaul down pretty hard before the trial, but he kept the law fairly. Jonnaul had no cause to complain or challenge us, but I’m sure that sooner or later he’ll find a reason. Rownan will turn up.”

    “Dad, is this a good time, or do I need to come back later,” Syanor announced himself at the doorway.

    “It’s ok, come on in Syanor. You wouldn’t happen to have seen Councilor Rownan?” Zothor asked off the claw.

    “Sure, I saw him this morning,” Syanor replied.

    “Where was he?” Adreeum asked.

    “At Balator’s dining hall which is what I wanted to see you about Dad.”

    “If Rownan is already there, either the food or the problem is in good claws,” Zothor said.

    “Councilor Rownan was down there serving food to any brother that would walk in the dining hall’s door. How is it that that Balator and Adamor can get food and I can’t?” Syanor asked.

    “See there, Rownan got a hold of some extra food and went out to feed some of our hungry brothers,” Zothor said.

    “Rownan out there himself, I don’t think so,” Adreeum said. “He’d send somebody. He wouldn’t go do something like that himself.”

    “How much food did Councilor Rownan get a hold of?” Syanor asked. “They’ve been feeding anyone who walks, crawls, or is carried through their dining hall door for the last couple of seven-days now.”

    “Who’s they, of they’ve been feeding anyone?” Zothor asked.

    “Well, there is Balator and Adamor of course. Tangoral, Tragal, Doesen, and Yoeith are down there all the time. Cantor, Margeeum, and even Mom have been down there helping from time to time. Councilor Rownan and a yellow brother just showed up this morning.”

    “Was the yellow brother’s name Almmoni?”

    “I think so, how do you know that?”

    “I know that name,” Adreeum said. “He’s one of Jonnaul’s councilors.”

    “Not any more,” Syanor said. “He resigned and moved from his dwelling. That reminds me, Dad, you’re going to have a guest for the next couple of days.”

    “Maybe Rownan went down there to see the yellow brother,” Adreeum said sort of to himself.

    “Where is Councilor Rownan getting all the food and why can’t I get a little bit of it?” Syanor asked.

    “I don’t know, but maybe we need to find out,” Adreeum replied looking at Zothor.

    “I think, I’ll have to go down there and see what’s going on myself,” he said returning his clan leader’s gaze.

    

    Yoeith met Zothor and Syanor at the entrance of the dining hall. “I was wondering when you were going to show up,” he greeted them.

    “I heard Councilor Rownan was here with a lot of food feeding the hungry brothers and sisters of our city,” Zothor replied. “Adreeum sent me to see what’s up, and to find out where he got the food.” The evidence of abundant supplies could be seen in the packed dining hall and the brothers and sisters that spill out of the dining hall carrying food back to their dwellings for their children.

    “Rownan is certainly here helping out, but the food is not his.”

    “If he didn’t get all this food, who did?”

    “The food was provided to strengthen the faithful and provide for the poor and needy.”

    “Provided by who?” Zothor asked.

    “You know there is no food available. The moment you heard my name you knew the answer,” Yoeith replied. “Do I need to tell you what your heart already knows?”

    “Are you going to tell my Dad where you’re getting the food or not?” Syanor asked.

    “So that’s why your father is here. You’re jealous of your brothers,” Yoeith said.

    “I’m not jealous. I just want to be able to open my dining hall. I’m not making any kind of a profit with my dining hall closed, and I have a family to feed.”

    “No one is get rich here Syanor. Nor is Balator allowed to except money or any other thing in exchange for the food they are serving. I know that you and your family are not starving, nor do you lack for anything. Your needs are being met by the blue clan and your parents. As long as he heeds my words and does as I have told him Balator will never run out of food until these troubled times have passed.”

    “So you’re the one supplying Balator with the food here,” Syanor accused Yoeith.

    Yoeith laughed. “I am one of the People of the Trees Syanor. I have nothing of my own. All is held in common by the People. Where would I get the abundant supplies needed to feed all the Brachyura you see here? Unlike you, we of the trees only store enough food to last for a seven-day or two. After that, we have to go hunting. Most of the clans’ dwellings only have enough food for themselves. So I ask you again, where do you think that I am getting this food from?”

    “I don’t know where you’re getting the food from, but you’re getting it from somewhere that’s for sure,” Syanor said.

    “What if I told you we’re getting the food from God? What would you say then?” Yoeith asked.

    “I would say you’re lying to keep your source a secret,” Syanor replied.

    “If it is the truth, what then?”

    “I’d say prove it. Do for me what you have done for my brothers”

    “I would like to accommodate you, but you lack the faith that the rest of your family has. You could not abide the conditions I would place upon you.”

    “How do you know?” Syanor asked. “I can do anything that Balator can do.”

    “God has shown me your heart. I know that you would not do the things that I would instruct you to do,” Yoeith replied. “If I would do for you what I have done for Balator and you failed, a curse could come upon you.”

    “Hey, if you do for me what you did for my brother, and I don’t do what you say, you can have my dining hall,” Syanor said.

    “Done. By your own words if you fail then your dining hall will fall to your brother Cantor and he shall own your portion. Zothor you are a witness,” Yoeith said. “You will feed all who enter through your dining hall’s doors. You will do this for free. You and any who work for you may not accept any money, gifts, tokens, tips, or services for the food you will serve. Fail to feed any who walk through your doors, accept anything in exchange for the food and you will lose everything.”

    “Ok, it’s a deal. So when do I get my first shipment of food?”

    “Your storerooms will be full by the time you reach your dining hall.” Yoeith turned and walked away.

    Zothor just looked at his son dumbfounded. “Syanor, that is the stupidest thing you have ever done,” he said. “You didn’t just make a bargain with Yoeith. You just made a bargain with God. If you screw this up you’re going to lose more than just the dining hall.”

    “Dad, he doesn’t speak for God any more than Jonnaul does. Besides, all I got to do is give away food for free. How hard can that be?”

    “Syanor, Yoeith is a prophet of God, a true prophet of God. I’ve seen him bring a dead child back to life, and I have read the reports and heard stories of the things he did during and after the war. You just challenged a prophet of God. If you think you’re going to win this game you’re only fooling yourself.” Zothor followed Yoeith leaving Syanor standing in the doorway. He wanted to try and reason with Yoeith on behalf of his son. He followed Yoeith into the kitchen. Once in the kitchen Yoeith was nowhere to be found. Zothor thought he might have gone into one of the two storerooms. The first storeroom he entered was empty except for food stored there of course.

    The second storeroom Zothor thought he found Yoeith in the back of the room pouring food out of a sack into one of the storage bins. “You’re not Yoeith,” he said when got closer and realized his mistake. It was easy to see how he could make such a mistake in identity. The brother’s shell was as white as Yoeith’s except that he had black jagged lines streaking across his top shell.

    “No, I’m not, but I know of you Councilor Zothor. You are the adopted father of Tangoral and an ex-clan champion of the Game of God. Your faith and diligence in keeping the commands of God are well known,” the white brother said.

    “How would you know?”

    “I know Tangoral, and I know your mate, and I know God.”

    “Who are you?”

    “I am Tomarean Kel.”

    Zothor knew the name and he began to be afraid. “I’ve seen too much haven’t I?”

    “The faithful have no reason to fear God, and you have no reason to fear me,” Tomarean Kel said to ease Zothor’s fears. “Your faith is as great as your mate’s or you could not have seen me at all, but it is given that you should see and believe.”

    “So you are the one that is supplying this dining hall with food?”

    “No, I’m only emptying the bag so God can fill it again.”

    “We are here that you may see and believe more fully,” a voice behind Zothor said. One of Zothor’s eyes whipped around to see a red brother standing behind him. “I am BoTalan.”

    “What do you want with me?” Zothor asked not entirely sure he was not in some kind of trouble.

    “To all it is given to know the truth if they wish it,” Tomarean Kel said. “For most who ask to know the truth that knowledge comes as a still small voice that pricks the heart.”

    “For others visions are given and angels sent,” BoTalan said.

    “For a select few God himself or his beloved Son bares testimony of the truth,” Yoeith said from the doorway.

    “What is it you want of me? What would you have me do?” Zothor asked.

    “Nothing. It was in your heart to see and know the truth. It is your faith that made it possible. God cannot deny anything unto the truly faithful,” Yoeith replied.

    “One day you will stand at the head of your clan even as I once did,” Tomarean Kel said. “When that time comes you will draw strength from this moment for the trials still ahead of you.”

    “Even as you draw strength from this moment, strengthen your family,” BoTalan said.

    “I know that you fear for your son Syanor,” Yoeith said. “He does not have your faith. Cantor has no desire to run a dining hall and he’ll have to hire his brother to run it for him. In time he may even decide to sell the dining hall back to Syanor, but in the meantime Syanor will be taught a valuable lesson if he is willing to learn.” Yoeith walked past Zothor and picked up the bag leaning against a storage bin and emptied it into the bin.

    Zothor was shocked by the realization that the other two brothers in the storeroom vanished without his noticing. It was then that he noticed the bag that Yoeith folded and laid on top of another storage bin. It was the same bag that Tomarean Kel was emptying into one of the bins when he first entered the store room. “Were they angels?” he asked.

    “No,” Yoeith replied. “With angels, you see them come and you see them go, if they’re messengers. They are simply brothers that obtained a promise from the Son of God. They wander the world until his coming. Now that you know where the food comes from, what will you tell the clan leader?”

    “I will tell him that my tithes to the Church of the Son of the Most High God are well spent. What about Rownan? What’s his part in all this?”

    “The one shall become two, and the two shall become four, and the four shall become six. Soon there will be twelve witnesses for God. They shall go out and give warning to all the world and gather God’s children from the far corners of the world one final time.”

    “I doubt that Adreeum will understand that answer Yoeith.”

    “Then tell him he will need a new councilor very soon. God has other plans for Rownan,” Yoeith said.

    “I doubt that Adreeum will like that answer any better,” Zothor said.

    

    “Mom, you have to help me,” Syanor begged.

    “Help you do what Syanor?” Ishihari asked.

    “I’ve lost my interest in the dining hall and I have to get it back.”

    “What! You want to run that by me again.” Ishihari could not believe her ears.

    “I’ve lost my share of the dining hall to Cantor under an agreement with Yoeith. I don’t have a business anymore.”

    “What was the agreement?”

    “I was to feed anyone who came to eat at the dining hall for free. I was not to accept anything in return for the food Yoeith provided me with. One moment I had more food than I knew what to do with and the next moment it was all gone. You have to help me. Without the dining hall how will I make a living?”

    “Tell me what happen,” Ishihari said.

    “A customer left some money on the table. Without thinking I stuck it in one of my work vest pockets, and went to wait on another table. When I went into the kitchen to get some food the food was gone. I mean all the food was gone, not in the storerooms, not anywhere. The food was just gone. When I came back out of the kitchen, there was Yoeith with Councilor Rownan just coming into the dining hall. I asked Yoeith what happened to the food. Yoeith asked me to check my pockets. That’s when I found the money I picked up off the table. Mom, I can’t afford to lose the dining hall. I just moved into a new dwelling and bought a lot of new furniture. If I lose my job now I stand to lose everything,” Syanor replied.

    “What do you want me to do?”

    “You know Yoeith better than I do. Talk to him. Get him to let me out of the agreement.”

    “Even if I did, it wouldn’t do any good,” Ishihari said. “You made an agreement and now you must live up to it. If you had not been so jealous of Balator and Adamor you would not have lost your interest in the dining hall in the first place. Now you want me to fix it so you can back out on your word. I’m not going to do it. I suggest you go talk to the new owner.”

    “But, Mom…,” Syanor began to say.

    “But nothing,” Ishihari cut him off. “Be grateful that you didn’t lose your interest in the dining hall to a complete stranger.”

    

~~~

    

    “Jonnaul, forget about the tree dweller,” Cessons said. “Hundreds of brothers and sisters join this new church every seven-day. They feed the poor and heal the sick for free. We cannot compete with that. If we don’t do something soon we’ll be out of business. I like the way I’m living and I don’t want to change at this late date.”

    “The clans will send their proper tithes at the end of next season,” Jonnaul said calmly.

    “Jonnaul, already the Green and Blue Brotherhoods have pledged their tithes to this new church,” Pattish said. “The black clan is expected to follow in their steps. KarEena may not give her clan’s tithes to this new church but she damn sure won’t give her tithes to us either. That leaves only the yellow clan. Amoonda is not that friendly toward us. I suspect that he will leave it up to the individual dwelling clan leaders. If that’s the case then we could lose a percentage of the yellow clan tithes as well. We cannot survive on a percentage of yellow clan tithes alone.”

    “Sammatis, you have been studying this new church. Tell me what you have found out so far,” Jonnaul said to change the subject.

    “Well, first off, this white brother known as Yoeith claims to be a prophet of God,” Sammatis began his report. “He claims to have gone to the beginning of the world where an angel delivered unto him a book of the words of the prophets sent to the ancients by God. This is the new book that they have. Some of it is a copy of the words of Kel and Tal with a few minor changes in several verses and changes in the names of the prophets as well. The rest seems to chronicle the history of the ancients from the creation of the world until the destruction of their world and the rise of our own. It’s well worth reading, but there is nothing there that cannot be found in the Book of the Prophets of God. It could be that they simply found a history book and copied it and inserted some religious overtones into the translation and called it the Book of the Words and Works of God. In any case it must be a fabrication of some sort to justify the beliefs of this new church.”

    “They claim that God had a son, and as we all know God did not have a son. He did not come down and have sex with one of the ancients to produce this so called Son of God, as this false prophet claims. This Son of God is suppose to save us from our sins through some great sacrifice he made by letting the ancients kill him. This is blaspheme against God. Only God can save us from our sins. We have the true words of the prophets and there is no more. In any case, their book clearly identifies the tree dwellers as the children of the Evil One. By their own book the tree dwellers are condemned.”

    “Why do so many brothers and sisters join this new church if their doctrine is so strange?” Jonnaul asked.

    “Because this white brother is so slick, I’d bet mud doesn’t stick to his shell,” Sammatis replied. “Somehow, he has gotten a hold of some food and he’s feeding the brothers and sisters out of a small dining hall for free. He and his mother, who is a brown sister, are medical technicians and they’re working for free. Rumor is that his mother was a demirep and her name was restored by the brown clan leader for her help in the war on the side of the Blue Brotherhood. It looks like some kind of a deception to rouse the brotherhood against us, and I would bet the Blue Brotherhood is behind it. Where else could he be getting his food from?”

    “It sounds like a show designed to take away our followers and discredit us at the same time,” Cessons said. “I too see the Blue Brotherhood behind this. Jonnau,l they are out to get us and replace you as the prophet at the same time. We have to do something.”

    “We will do something, but I must wait until the next Grand Council meeting,” Jonnaul said coldly.

    “We can’t wait. Things are getting desperate,” Pattish said. “Several of our brothers have already defected of which Almmoni was only the first. Our supplies are starting to run low, and it won’t be long before we will need to ration our food supplies.”

    “We have to wait,” Jonnaul said. “Most of the clan leaders and their councilors are out of the city touring their dwellings. I can’t challenge them if they’re not here to be challenged. As for this new prophet, let’s see what can be done about him. The dining hall could catch fire by accident. Things like that happen. Let’s see if we can’t catch this prophet in his words somehow. Do we know where they’re getting their books printed? We could have some of our more zealous followers break into the print shop and smash the printing press if it’s a small shop. I’m sure we can find ways to discourage this prophet and his followers if we think about it. We have to be careful though. We cannot afford to have too many claws pointing at us. Let’s see if we can’t expose this so called prophet for the fraud he is, and hopefully implicate the Blue Brotherhood in the process.”

   


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