“She’s coming around.” A voice said. Gala sprang to her feet. Her vision slightly blurry from the startled awakening. She felt her wrists, making sure she still had access to her armor. To her surprise, nothing had been confiscated. It did not take long for her to recognize the people of the Salum.
Often dressed in tattered and swarthy garb. Long ago ditching the traditional mesh attire people of Pratham wear. Only two people stood before her. “What happened?” She asked abruptly. Gala scanned the small tent, trying to grasp her current circumstance.
“PTong, saved your life.” The old man replied. Next to him stood a slender man, with the skin color of sand, and short thick brown hair. PTong wore a long white tribal shirt that covered most of his body with a dark brown robe to cover his shoulders and back.
Atop his head, a dressing that connected to his mask that covered his face from the mouth down. “Forgive my ignorance, but isn’t there supposed to be only one Healer in your tribe?” Gala asked. “PTong is the healer. His predecessor has since left for brighter shores.” The old man answered her.
Gala bowed her head toward PTong. “Thank you, for helping me. Unfortunately, I have no favors to give and am in a bit of a hurry.” Gala said. PTong raised his hand, cutting her off. “I am aware of your plight. Rumors have spread of your rather eventful exodus. However, your ship was destroyed upon your rather rapid return onto the planet’s surface.” PTong said.
His voice was calm, soothing and raspy. He spoke as if there were peace everywhere around him. His sound like running water in no rush to level out. “I am also aware; your reentry has sparked the attention of your father. We have been on the move while you rested for 3 days. Avoiding the detection of your father’s scouting party. Even more pressing, the Muetus clan’s attempt to be rid of our tribe permanently.” PTong informed her. Gala was shocked how long she was out. It was unlike her to rest so heavily.
“I am doubtful your father will have patience for my involvement, despite however accommodating I have been.” He continued.
“The war has not been beneficial to any of the four tribes, but most all the Salum, and secondarily the Xerial. Those of my people who have refused the Iku remain the beings of old. They hunger and grow ill. My powers of healing are limited to aid them all. Without Da-Xia, our militia has dwindled and become ineffective against the antagonization of the Muetus clan. I fear they will overrun us soon. Your arrival here can be no coincidence. Please, will you help us?” PTong pleaded.
Gala could only take in his eyes, but she believed him. She considered for a moment that his mystical gifts could be coercing her thoughts to be more sympathetic. But his words felt true. Since the denominations split, the powers of the Salum Healer weren’t well known and even less discussed amongst those not in the tribe.
Even Da-Xia rarely spoke about her many sessions with the former Healer. “I would agree this war has drudged on long enough.” Gala said. “But I have no influence with the Council. Not even my father. The war is far from being decided by diplomacy. My friends need me. I have to get back to them.” She answered. PTong nodded in understanding. “That is most unfortunate.” The Healer responded.
“Please! If we are annihilated, the balance may never return.” The other Salum elder urged, clutching at her arm. “My dear elder, be at peace. We will not keep her. If she feels she can be of no aid, she will be allowed to leave peacefully.” PTong reasoned.
The older man angrily exited the small tent the three were sharing. Gala waited a moment making sure this was not a plot against her. “Before you go. A question?” PTong insisted. Gala nodded. “Which is greater to you? Power to defeat your enemy? Or Compassion to understand them?” PTong asked.
Gala pondered for a moment. “I don’t know. I guess, if you have power, the need for understanding may be less; with compassion the need to fight may be unnecessary. I guess dealing with humanity, they only understand power.” She answered honestly.
PTong considered her answer. Gala was unsure how he received her response. PTong’s eyes were constantly focused. During conversation he never broke eye contact, even if the person he was conversing with did. It was extremely uncomfortable for someone outside of their tribe.
“There is more power in compassion. Humanity has yet to truly learn. Now, our evolution may never resemble anything humane ever again.” He said. Gala thought, of all the stirring stories she had heard from other soldiers and her father about the peculiar ways of the Salum tribe.
The secrets of healing they kept. But in the present of one, she hadn’t felt a dangerous vibe in the slightest. “Thank you for saving me and taking me with you. But if you’ll excuse me. I must get back to my friends.” Gala said with a polite bow.
PTong stepped aside to allow Gala to leave, before he aggressively seized her forearm as she attempted to walk by. “The war is over. I assure you. The victor haunts from beneath. The Lion’s roar will usher forth a Leviathan of the ancient past.” PTong whispered, his eyes intense, not so gentle.
He released her arm, staring into what felt beyond her eyes. Gala swiftly left the tent to begin her journey back to her crew. She couldn’t help but wonder what PTong was eluding to. She finally understood what her father meant. Peculiar indeed.
There were many jokes about the Salum tribe being radically insane. Their denomination stemming from the more religious sect of humanity. Gala started to leave the Salum encampment. On her path out, she witnessed the horror of their suffering.
Children starving, and their most recent dead piled up away from the masses. Her mind reflected on the stories Da-Xia would share with her. To put a face with the stories was causing physical pain. Unbeknownst to her most of the Salum tribe had refused to take the Iku, choosing the much shorter road of a normal life.
Gala broke out into a complete sprint away from the camp. The grass lands were vast and beautiful. The tribe hiding in plain sight, as they had all but given up fighting the war.
Their disregard for security exposing to their willingness to be exterminated. A couple hundred meters away she finally heard the arrival of the Prathaman scout. Two light ships approached and landed just outside the Salum camp. “Father must not be aware how close to extinction they really are.” She thought.
Gala stood for a moment, looking at the camp from atop a small hill. The scout was led by a Captain, possibly a newer promotion, for she didn’t recognize his face. The war had opened up many new opportunities of growth, as many soldiers and leaders died or were shipped off to another planet.
Suddenly, a creature pounced on her causing the two of them to tumble down the hill. It clawed her shoulder, blood seeping profusely from her fresh wound. Gala activated her armor as her tumble came to a halt at the end of the hill.
She attempted to scramble to her feet when another creature latched onto her. Their growls and grunts were vicious. Several tentacles sliming and squeezing around her arms and legs. Claws at the end of each appendage, with a piercing beak where they all came together.
One pulling at her foot the other attempting to continue the assault on her wounded shoulder. Gala retrieved a blaster from her armor, struggling against the strenuous pull the topside creature had on her arm. She flicked her blaster in the air tapping her palm with her middle finger to fire.
The blaster responded and placed a shot between the eyes of the creature attacking her feet. The creature trying to maul her shoulder quickly retreated up the hill. Gala witnessed it transform back into a human. “Aghhhhh!” The woman yelled. The Muetus clan was beginning their strike.
Gala ran toward the city knowing the two weren’t just assailants and would not be alone. The woman shifted into a large stampeding animal. Its elongated nose and brown rough fur accompanied by two large sprawled out antlers. The Muetus tribe were attacking.
Her head start would not last long, as the large animal came barreling down hill now joined by a horde of other animals and creatures. Gala took blind shots behind her that were it any other shooter would have missed very poorly. However, each shot landed clean on one of her many pursuers.
The few remaining Salum warriors split up between the Pratham battalion and Muetus invaders. Gala tried to evade more than engage, as she reached the camp. She actively avoided arid attacks from the Salum militia, trying her best to thin the herd of the other tribes.
The Salum would surely be slaughtered today. Gala assumed the precision by which the two tribes appeared seemed less of a coincidence and more a coordinated attack. But the three-way battle suggested otherwise. The captain laid waste to Salum and Muetus soldiers alike.
If it was some sort of momentary alliance, the moment had past upon their arrival. The melee spilled into the tents of the defenseless. There were growls of the animals and thuds of large creatures and objects as the Muetus soldiers shifted.
The swift push of wind by the rushing Muetus troops running through the camp were met with the stout stand of the Pratham soldiers. Gala took out as many threats as she could, making her way to PTong.
The Pratham army and Muetus tribe were too overpowered for the small militia to make a difference in the massacre. Gala entered the tent, just in time to fire the saving shot preventing the Pratham captain from killing PTong.
“Come with me!” Gala yelled over the commotion. She seized his hand and headed for the Pratham ships. She cleared the way to one of the ships, firing left, right and center. Every shot from her blaster a perfect headshot. One of the light ships remained dead ahead.
The other overrun by fighting Muetus and Pratham soldiers. This put to rest her theory of cooperation, as the two remaining forces battled it out. Gala escorted PTong aboard the ship and settled in the pilot seat. Lifting the ship into the air and leaving the Pratham soldiers to the same fate as the rest of the Salum tribe.
The Muetus had gained a great victory effectively wiping out the Salum. Gala began entering the coordinates to Tetcht, when a flashing light signaled a communication attempt. She quickly denied it.
After another attempt, the ship allowed an external override. Which she understood meant one thing. The signal ceased. “Father.” She spoke. “Clearly, things have gone array.” Magnus responded, surprised to hear his daughters voice.
“Well, your attack failed after the Muetus arrived. The Salum have been eradicated and your soldiers left for dead. I managed to rescue the new Healer though. PTong saved my life. You know, the Salum doesn’t seem as bad as you made them out to be. My crew could use a man like him.” She said smugly. “There are many deadly things that have a peaceful appearance my child.” He retorted, unphased by her taunting.
“Gala, please abandon these rebellious antics. Come back.” Gala continued entering the coordinates. “Now you know I can’t do that. I’ve committed treason multiple times.” She said in a joking nature.
“Jesh will grow stronger. He will become his father. There is no future where both he and I exist. We’ve always known that.” Gala halted before jumping into light speed travel.
Her thoughts dwelling on her friends and her father. She knew he was right. A tear welled up, but she refused to let it fall. “Yea. I’m still working on that.” She said. “If the Salum are gone, things are worse than I previously imagined. I need your help. I can’t win this war without you. I’m stretched too thin.” He pressured.
Gala’s hand hovering over the lever to enter lightspeed. “I’ve found a way to win the war. I can show you how we end it all. Please. If you don’t believe me after, I will give you my personal vessel to return to your friends.” Magnus Paused.
Gala tried to fight the urge to stay, but if there was a means to save his life before her friends returned, she wanted to try. She knew exactly who her father is, still owing him nothing, she decided to turn his heart. “I will have no issue taking the Nova with me.” She said, before cancelling her jump to lightspeed. Gala turn the ship around and headed toward the capital.