they came to steal the crops and wares, the village Hinrooth was an ideal home.
The planet Haran harbored only a handful of cities, and nearly half the Pneuma
lived in rural isolation. Peck, the miller’s son, loved his small town. The boy
hauled bags onto a cart, bound for the granary, in the midsummer sun. Sweat beaded
on the brow of his wedge shaped head. His steely blue skin glinted with the
sheen of his labor. His tail twitched instinctively at the strange rumble and
his long neck tipped skyward.
Five sets of wings thundered toward Hinrooth, blotting out the sun. Their hides were of brilliant silver slashed on hip, wing, and shoulder with black streaks. The giant beasts disappeared from Peck’s sight behind rooftops in the village square. They boy dropped his grain sack on the cart and ran to see the creatures. They reminded Peck of stories the village bard told of the ancient Anki, a winged people with magical powers; but the Pneuma had killed most of them and driven the rest into the skies, in time out of mind.
Smoke began to rise from the village square even as Peck drew near. He began to fear what these gleaming marvels intended for their sleepy town. Screams rang through the alley, and the smell of burning thatch blasted his senses. Panicked women hustled their children past Peck and blurted warnings to flee. Curiosity compelled the lad to press on.
Amid the blaze and commotion two creatures lashed bread, cheese, smoked meat, dried fruit, and barrels of ale to a cart while the others fought back the village men. The villagers screamed their sonic blasts at the silver beasts, an assault that could stun even the largest herd beast, with no effect. Others gifted with the lighting breath surged, but the beasts seemed to shrug off the attack. The metallic beasts retaliated with spouts of flame. The skirmish ended abruptly and four of the beasts took to the sky with their prize in tow. The fifth stayed back a moment to set more of the village square ablaze.
Peck lost his wits in rage and stole through side streets out of the village after the giant marauders. As he reached the countryside the fifth beast beat silver wings and rejoined his posse. The miller’s son ran for nearly an hour in pursuit. More than once the monsters disappeared from view only to retake the sky after what must have been a short respite. Finally the beasts failed to rise airborne and Peck knew he neared their dwelling.
The boy scoured the forested landscape all afternoon and well past dusk before he spotted the telltale column of smoke from a cook fire. He approached the beasts’ lair silently, careful to avoid sticks underfoot and the slap of branches as he passed.
Peck’s jaw gaped as he stared at the five creatures which stood motionless, bellies slashed open to reveal empty cavities he could easily fit into. At the fire ring sat five creatures the same size as a Pneuma only long of limb with round hairy heads. Were these the beast’s masters? Had they slain the creatures? Peck peered at the feet of the creatures for evidence of gore, but saw none. The cart of his village’s provisions sat near the mouth of a cave. One of the creatures got up and attempted to push the cart into shelter. Unable to budge it, the being grunted a few harsh words and pulled himself into the belly of a silver beast. Its flanks knitted together and the creature came to life. It pushed the cart into the cave before disgorging its passenger.
Peck smiled broadly as he waited for the beings to enter the cave and dash out their camp fire. The miller’s son crept up to the nearest silver creature he copied the actions of the round headed being and after a moment of shock the boy realized he was peered out the silver creature’s eyes. Peck moved the beast's silver body with the power of his thoughts.
Screams from the cave mouth drew Peck’s attention. The beings emerged from their lair and made for the other silver creatures. Peck tried to yell and startle them but flame leaped out and two of the men dropped in a dead heap. The flick of Peck’s tail smashed the remaining three into a wall. It took the boy nearly an hour to articulate the silver beast’s fingers as he tied up the three unconscious bandits.
As the sun rose over Hinrooth a silver beast pushed a cart loaded with the village’s goods and three strange creatures bound and gagged on top of the booty. With Peck’s new machines, rebuilding the village square was simple.