Graham Brammer was born in Brisbane in 1944 and through necessity left school at age 13 to join the workforce. He enlisted in the Army in 1966 to support the Australian Government’s commitment to the war in South Vietnam under the South East Asian Treaty alliance. After two operational tours of South Vietnam in 1968 and 1971 with the 2nd SAS Squadron as a patrol member and Patrol Commander Graham continued to serve with Special Forces as an instructor and Staff Officer until his discharge in1995. Since retiring, Graham has written Uncertain Fate, a novel based on the operational experience of the Australian SAS in Vietnam, and been involved in the corporate sector as a facilitator on Leadership Development programmes. He is now completely retired from participating in strenuous undertakings but continues to produce entertaining stories.
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‘Zendy!’ The female voice woke the hunter from a deep sleep. He sat up, rubbed his eyes and used his spear to lever himself to his full two-metre height. He cautiously scanned the forest around him and saw nothing, but the voice persisted. ‘Zendy! Great danger approaches, and your people will need you.’
Fear gripped him, but he closed his eyes and took several deep breaths to steady his nerves. What danger approached and why would his people need an outcast? The only danger to him in his land was his own people. He scouted his immediate area and looked deeply into nearby dark patches of forest and found nothing but peaceful quiet. Females did not go into the forest. They cooked and made wraps from animal hide or tilled the soil to plant yellow seed and other vegetables to harvest. The planet Wan had appeared on the horizon and everyone was at the feast to celebrate the beginning of Jadland culture and he decided that everything was as it should be. He began to relax, when a piercing scream of triumph filled the forest.
Zendy recognised the cry of a Moralee, the giant bird of prey respected by his people for its connection to Jad, their creator. He remembered that there were many of her kind when he was young but she was the only one that remained to patrol the skies above his land. He dashed from his forest shade to the edge of a clearing where knee-high grass swayed in a light breeze.
He lifted one hand to shade his eyes against the harsh glare of Zod and muttered, ‘Her hunt is successful.’
Slowly he searched a blue, cloudless sky and saw her massive form rise above the opposite tree line with a large Rungul grasped in her talons and quiet admiration tumbled from his mouth. ‘What majestic beauty.’
Moralee fought to control the struggling animal and he watched in awe as she gained height slowly until she was high above the clearing. Her body twisted briefly when she released the Rungul. Loud, fearful baying accompanied its descent. The carcass bounced almost to waist height when it hit the ground, and a massive gush of air escaped its body.
When Moralee didn’t descend immediately to claim her prey, he realised that she was aware of his presence. She circled until a thermal updraught lifted her gracefully to a point where she hung, suspended on the warm air, to watch, and to wait for him to make the next move.
The female voice was back. ‘Go to Moralee, sit by her kill; she has a message for you.’
A ripple of fear swept his body. The voice was in his head and he glanced in every direction without finding its source. The old ones spoke of Moralee as Jad’s companion and protector of the high places. He began to wonder about her connection to Jad when a compelling force gripped him.
He lost control of the muscles in his limbs and was powerless to resist the strange force that guided his actions. His fear intensified when he found himself striding purposefully towards the carcass. He ignored Moralee as she screamed in protest and he never flinched when she swept across the dead Rungul to warn him off, and to mark the carcass as her kill.
His muscles would not respond to commands yet his body eased into a cross-legged, sitting position less than a spear length from the carcass without a signal from his brain. The spear ended across his lap without conscious effort and he began to shake with fear.
He slowly gained control and his fear abated as he stared at the Rungul. In an upright stance, it would have reached his lower ribcage. It was a large animal, almost half the size of a man. Stubby six-point antlers and penile sack confirmed it as an old male of the species.
His muscle control returned but something held him to his place near the carcass and a question nagged him. Why am I here?
The voice was no longer in his mind but he was afraid to disobey its message. He looked up with dry-mouthed anticipation as Moralee made a low-angle approach to the carcass. Despite his fear, her graceful beauty sent ripples of pleasure through his body as she flared her massive wings to control her descent. Her eyes were on him for the entire time, except for a brief moment when her talons struck the carcass.
He’d never been this close to Moralee and was in awe of her power. Her head was the size of his head and chest combined and her frame was large. From head to tail, her body was twice as long as he was tall, and each wing was easily as long as her body. She settled on her prey for several heartbeats to secure it, and then lifted her massive head so that her dark eyes engaged his.
The full impact of her stare touched his mind with soft, melodic tones. A vague vision of a hunter making a ceremony with blue stones appeared briefly in his mind. It disappeared quickly as words formed in his consciousness and warmth swept his body. He was transfixed by the thrill of the pleasant sounds until a piercing, triumphant screech shattered his bliss. Reality returned in time for him to see Moralee unfold her wings to full spread. Then, with powerful downward thrusts she lifted the dead Rungul clear of the ground.
Zendy’s body trembled with an aftershock of sheer elation. He watched the creature gain altitude and head for her eyrie above the tumbling waters of a giant waterfall, high on the snow-capped mountain his people called the Mountain of Jad. The feeling faded slowly and concern filled his mind. What was the voice in his head? It was not the language of his people, yet he understood the meaning of its words and wondered how it was possible. The voice in his mind was female and so was the Moralee. Was it the voice of Moralee he heard?
He rose slowly and continued to watch the distant figure grow smaller as she made her way towards the mountain. A small disturbance in his mind caused him to shudder. The great airborne hunter was still in his head, her words were clearer now. ‘You must go to the feast that celebrates your beginning and make a ceremony with the blue stones.’
A more violent shudder swept his body and he shook his head to clear it. The blue stones were sacred and only used for special occasions. Drek, their man of ceremonies was the only one permitted to handle the blue stones. What did Moralee expect of him? It wasn’t possible for him to make a ceremony with the stones. Even if it were, what ceremony would he make? These thoughts tormented him as he made his way across the clearing to the forest.
Inside the tree line, he eased himself onto the grass with his back against a tree and pondered his contact with the creature. The old ones told how Moralee was protector of the high places and principal companion to Jad. Did it mean that she was Jad’s messenger? Was Moralee the spirit of Jad in physical form, and was the echo in his mind a message from Jad himself?
He closed his eyes and tried to clear his head. For a fleeting moment, a female face flashed into his mind. The image startled him and the warm feeling he felt in the clearing returned. He opened his eyes and quickly scanned the area to reassure himself that no one was watching. It was a female face he knew, but he dare not think her name. He swallowed hard as fear tugged at his heart. If anyone knew of his visions and thoughts of her, he would be sent to the rocks of punishment.
Fear left him quickly as a he fought to recall the beautiful vision. When it returned, he was stunned by the fine purity of her soft, white skin and the lustrous shine of her light golden-blonde hair. Uncertainty gripped him. Surely this was not who he thought it was. The one he knew had skin bronzed by the rays of Zod and hair that was tousled by the constant breeze. Despite the differences, he knew this must be her. Who else could it be? Perhaps their all-powerful creator enhanced her image to stir his feelings, and to convince him to heed the message?
Zendy drew a deep breath and reflected on his dilemma. He rarely took part in the feast to celebrate their beginning. It was the reason he was here at this cool place, away from the mocking voices and contemptuous stares of his fellow Jadlanders. He was a virtual outcast from society and for reasons he would never know. Memories of past visits to the feast entered his mind and convinced him not to attend, no matter what message was delivered by Moralee.
Immediately his decision not to attend was made, an ache invaded the base of his skull. It crept upward in an increasing spread to encase his mind in a stifling shroud that slowly transformed itself into a mass of pain so acute that it penetrated his brain with frequent sharp probes.
Zendy felt sudden, dreadful fear grip him. He’d experienced nothing like it in the twenty-seven orbits of the planet Wan across the face of Zod since his birth. He grasped his head in his hands and pressed hard with his fingers to relieve the agony, but it did no good.
An image of Moralee invaded his mind. It came closer until her massive head filled his focus and the strange words again touched him. This time there was more. ‘The blue stones are vital to your future. You must feel the power of the stones against your heart.’
He was about to vent his agony in a scream when he realised that the pain was no longer with him, replaced in his mind by the echo of Moralee’s message. Deep sobs welled in his chest as he fought to understand what the new message could mean. One thing was clear. To ignore the message would result in further pain.
Zendy picked up his spear and came wearily to his feet. He studied the sky through a thick canopy of leaves and was shocked to find that Zod was halfway between its zenith and the mountain. He must hurry if he were to reach the caverns of Jad before Zod’s light left the land.
He set off at a brisk, rhythmic trot to cover maximum distance with minimum effort and emerged from the forest near the crest of a hill. He stopped briefly and stared at the scene before him. The Caverns of Jad appeared as dark holes in the base of distant cliffs, and the glow from community fires flickered in faint contrast against their darkened voids. The lower cliffs between caverns were still lit by Zod’s light and swarmed with specks that he knew were the forms of his people. The scene reminded him of ants scampering about on a disturbed nest and he smiled wryly.
He shaded his eyes against its glare and looked towards the horizon to check the position of Zod in the sky. Far out to the left of a point where Zod appeared for each passage across the sky he could see a dark dot. An involuntary shudder swept his body. The appearance of Wan on the horizon marked a change in weather patterns. Soon Jad would send water from the sky to prepare the land for females to plant their crops.
He set off at a fast walk for the mountain, his mind filled with troubled thoughts. Each appearance of Wan was significant. It was a time to celebrate the beginning of their culture, yet Zendy felt no urge to celebrate. The strange message from Jad so dramatically delivered by Moralee concerned him. He was resolved to take the blue stones and make a ceremony with them. It was the only way to keep the pain from his head, but he shuddered again at the thought of what would happen to him if he were caught.
He relaxed a little when he crossed a small stream and realised he was closing rapidly on his destination. There was no rush to reach the caverns. As long as he was there before Zod’s light disappeared as darkness was not a time to be about the land.
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