oun Shi’ehl D’jir Ya’ihone turned on his sleeping platform and gave a luxuriant stretch. In one day, they would be saved, his people. The people he guarded for Ya’ih, the Almighty God of Pain and Death. He had another name as well, didn’t he? Ael. The aspect of suffering and terror. As Ael’s priest, he was called oun Shi’ehl D’jir Aellus. Praise be the dual-faced God!
He rose naked from the platform and walked to the tub that was filled with filtered water and the blood of the sacrificed. Immersing himself in the lukewarm water, he bathed as he prayed. He felt the heated gazes from nearby Deuili who guarded his sanctum. He smirked as he took time to wash his sexes. When his ablutions were done, he fully immersed his head under the water. He recommited himself to his deity before rising to reach for the drying cloth. A silent bouel assisted him out of the water, taking the cloth from him and gently dabbing the beads of moisture from his skin. Ignoring the lesser being, D’jir turned and strode to his garments chest, where he chose an appropriate attire. The Sha’jeen needed little sleep to regenerate. Once, in their distant past, they had been hunters and warriors, had lost their way for a time, and then returned to their roots. They were a hardy race, strong and resilient, with enhanced senses. The Sha’jeen could see well in the dark, for their eyes were serviceable in both daylight and darkness. Their eyes glowed at night, so they wore goggles to hide the shine of their eyes. They possessed deadly speeds and agility. It had been what allowed the Sha’jeen to decimate all other sentient beings fighting for control of resources on their long-ago abandoned planet. Unfortunately, the Sha’jeen had not been preservationists, and they depleted their planet as well, launching into the stars to seek other worlds.
In the absence of any competitors, the Sha’jeen, for a brief time, forgot their purpose, turning into scientists instead, but the God had sent down a plague, hadn’t He? In the form of a tiny organism that they could not contain nor battle. It had almost been the death of their kind. Until they found a planet with a fierce god named Ya’ih, a God of Death, of Destruction. The Sha’jeen married Ya’ih to their ancient deity, Ael. Ya’ih-Ael became a dual-faced deity. And the Sha’jeen had recalled their place and their purpose in existence.
D’jir turned to his study area and sat crosslegged on the mat on the floor, opening their precious tome, Ya’ih doahn shal, and finding the place that spoke of the bloody harvest. The Harvest of Blood, Meduh’ Nin’h, the most sacred of rituals. The ground of the planet would soak the sacrificial blood and become holy. Then the true work would begin. The work of finding a way to stop the decimation and obliteration of their kind. Time to leave the stars and settle on a world. Time to conquer and harvest.
The God had told one of his ancestors, a High Priest like himself: “Let the sacrifice of lesser beings make a holy ground for the home of the High Priest of the Warrior People. Drain all bodies of blood, burn the bodies so that the God may partake of the essence of Life. The fire should be hot with special oils and it should burn bodies for three entire days and nights. Feel nothing for the sacrificial being, for it is as nothing, worthy of nothing but death. Any Sha’jeen who harbors empathy and compassion shall be excised from the people and made an example of. Hang the heretic by their feet and drain the body of blood. Let the body rot, the spirit never allowed to reach the God of Blood and Pain. The smell of rot pleases the Lord.
The Lord shall lead the Warrior People to a planet suitable for habitat. The Lord shall provide an endless source of sacrifice to please Him.
oun Shi’ehl D’jir looked up and out the window of his cabin. He could feel the proximity of the world and all it’s hapless inhabitants. The Sha’jeen would strike fast and hard, swinging the Holy Scythe and leaving bodies littered in their wake.
He closed his eyes and prayed. The visions he had seen of these beings were strange: they were bulky and slow, these people. Mere chattel. oun Shi’ehl D’jir looked forward to seeing their structures and if they would be serviceable for the Sha’jeen. If not, all would be destroyed and the planet’s resources would be used to built appropriate domiciles for the conquerors. The people of the world would provide labor for the accomplishments of the Sha’jeen. He smiled to himself: it would be pleasant and agreeable to break every being on that planet. He had been born in an auspicious time and he bent his head and gave thanks to the God that his role would be the greatest for a High Priest in several generations.
oun Shi’ehl D’jir hissed.
“Forgive our trespass, oun Shi’ehl. We approach the planet.”
“Do you jest, aun Deuil? Would you like me to eviscerate you?”
The guard did not flinch. oun Shi’ehl D’jir was impressed and his sexes signalled their interest in the guard. He filed that away for a future time.
The guard bowed. “I jest not, oun Shi’ehl. We had miscalculated the time it would take to reach the planet.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir hissed again and rose smoothly. “Close the sails and find an anchor in a point between the planet and its satellite.”
The guard bowed. “At once, oun Shi’ehl.”
Excitement coursed through oun Shi’ehl D’jir. He hurried to the control room through the maze of hallways. Mostly aun Deuili occupied the control room, although oun Shi’ehl Nema captained the fore ship and gave orders that were relayed to the other four vessels that followed in its wake.
oun Shi’ehl Nema turned and bowed to oun Shi’ehl D’jir. “oun Shi’ehl: behold.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir turned to the window directly ahead. The solar sail had been retracted, allowing for an unencumbered view of the blue and white planet before them. Further away, the satellite hung in space, smallish and unimpressive.
“Find the point in space where we can dock,” oun Shi’ehl D’jir told his counterpart. “We must begin and soon.”
oun Shi’ehl Nema frowned. “Of course, oun Shi’ehl. Right away.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir found an uninhabited chair and sat before a console. He watched avidly as the ships were maneuvered to the points in space where the gravity between the planet and its satellite would anchor the ships. His eyes returned again and again to the untarnished world. It was beautiful enough for their kind, he supposed. The gravity would prove difficult for a generation or two, but eventually they would become adapted to it. They would have to leave the ship en masse and leave a skeleton crew to maintain the ships. Eventually, when the world was depleted, they would once again leave its devastation and return to the stars to continue their search for immortality and perfection.
oun Shi’ehl D’jir signalled to oun Shi’ehl Nema. oun Shi’ehl Nema approached deferentially and bowed.
“How many beings inhabit the world?” he asked Nema.
Nema considered. “There are innumerable wild life for hunting and poaching, oun Shi’ehl. The combined populations of the sentient beings number in the 200 millions, oun Shi’ehl.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir gasped. “So many?”
Nema bowed. “Ye, oun Shi’ehl.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir considered. They could not defeat all those beings and they didn’t want a wholesale slaughter. They needed to harvest the planet slowly, so their numbers could recuperate. He knew their own people numbered but 3,050. Of those numbers, boueli numbered 2,287. Deuili numbered 510 and Shi’ehli just over 251. For years they had led a precarious existence, keeping the boueli ruthlessly under control, teaching them nothing but spoken language. They must never know they outnumbered by so many the Deuili and Shi’ehli. They would have rebelled a long time ago and would have outright killed any and all the others, effectively ending their race.
oun Shi’ehl D’jir considered the circumstances in silence for a few minutes. The God did not speak to him or guide him unless he went into a trance. Perhaps a trance was in order. He rose gracefully.
“I’ll speak with the God for guidance,” he told his counterpart. “Do nothing until I return.”
oun Shi’ehl Nema bowed. “Of course, oun Shi’ehl.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir strode back through the maze of corridors, his thick claws clicking on the bare metallic floor. The Sha’jeen had millions of years ago evolved from an animal on their home planet. The animal had had thick claws on all four feet and a tail. Only the Shi’ehl and the Deuil still had the remnants of claws and tails. The boueli, being lesser beings, had no claws and no tail. oun Shi’ehl D’jir kept his tail tightly wrapped around his left leg. His tail was particularly expressive and gave too much away. He preferred not to signal his willingness to be mounted or his excitement about anything. He liked being remote and distant. It added to his superior nature and mystery. It kept his guards confused and curious. He never allowed his tail to stray to a Deuil to signal that copulation was required. oun Shi’ehl D’jir had not gone into heat in at least three solar years. It was worrisome and would perhaps one day signal his death. Each ship had a High Priest. Each High Priest was charged with conceiving clutches of young for the colony. Other Shi’ehli had conceived, although infrequently. He knew his position precarious indeed. Other Shi’ehli viewed his position with greed and envy. Already they questioned him, pushed him, challenged him, doubting his visions. Soon they would have him killed. He needed to orchestrate a victory for the warrior people. His very existence depended on it.
When he reached his quarters, he had the guards withdraw into the hallway and sealed himself alone in his cabin.
With a sigh, he removed his robes and unwound his tail. He knelt on the study rug and bent his head. He prayed for guidance.
Going into a trance required putting himself in danger, for he would be incapacitated and vulnerable. But it was necessary to see what the God desired and demanded.
It took a precious hour this time. When he attained the trance-like state, he fell forward onto the rug. His body twitched and trembled as the trance took hold.
D’jir opened his eyes and looked around. He stood on a plain of wild grass. The air was sweet and clean, green with the scent of crushed grasses. D’jir looked around, awed by the hugeness of the planet, the expansiveness of the sky.
“My lord?” he said to the sky.
Laughter shimmered through the cool air.
You are a fool, oun Shi’ehl. I am no God. I am the Goddess of this world. The Warrior Goddess Atana.
D’jir flinched. “This cannot be.”
Then how do you explain me?
“I cannot. Deceiver!” He spat on the ground.
The air rippled again.
You will be defeated and your own people will destroy you. Where is your God now, oun Shi’ehl?
Fear clutched at D’jir for the first time in his brief life.
Fear not and embrace the truth and the way. If you come in peace, there will be salvation for your race. If you come to destroy, your race will end. You have been warned.
oun Shi’ehl D’jir gasped and blinked his eyes open. He slowly came onto his hands and knees, reaching with a trembling hand for his robes. He pulled the robes over his body, wrapping his tail around his left leg. He pulled in a shivery breath and sat cross legged on the study rug, reaching for the Book of Life.
“Where are you, God?” he whispered.
He looked through the tome for clues to the God’s behaviors. Was he being tested by the God? Did the God send a mirage to test him?
There was a signal from the cabin door.
He squared his shoulders and rose smoothly. Beyond the door stood five Deuili.
The middle guard bowed. “The captain requires your direction, oun Shi’ehl.”
oun Shi’ehl D’jir masked his growing terror and bowed. “Please lead the way to the control room.”
The guards bowed. oun Shi’ehl stepped into the hallway, half thinking a knife would be plunged into his heart, but no such thing happened. He released his breath and followed the guards down the maze of corridors