Joseph and Micah traveled rapidly in a westerly direction. The land inhabited by the Yelsig was two weeks away at their best rate of speed. Joseph, due to the expedition to the Tulari, was versed in rapid travel over hostile terrain. They carried most of the supplies they would need. Dried meat did not give the same mingled sense of power and magic that blood from warm flesh gave, but it still provided far more energy than the totally vegetarian diet they used to consume.
Joseph set the pace and chose the course, he had spent more time training with the new weapons introduced by Edwards than Micah and even had been trained in the use of, and entrusted with, a rifle. With that new weapon, and the speed and strength resulting from their protein-enhanced diet, there was nothing to fear from encounters with small groups from any of the other tribes.
Micah had spent almost all of the time, since the Humans arrived, studying under Jedediah or Aaron. He had traveled with Aaron doing missionary work, and was very successful and persuasive when it came to converting the Soessossins from simple acceptance of the Guardians natural authority, to the wonder and majesty of the Leviticans brand of Christianity. He knew what worked, and the key was that once a member of the tribe had his metabolism augmented and enhanced by meat consumption, the new message of purification by faith and fire resonated with a part of their psyche that previously had been hidden.
The first week of the journey went by rapidly as they encountered only twice others of their species. In both cases a few conversions were made and seeds were sown. They gained no knowledge concerning the Rogons and Humans who had landed at the camp of the Yelsig and kept going, drawing ever nearer.
Sister Martha, Sister Ruth, and the Dobswell women, Miriam and Ruth, kept to the center of the traveling party. They rode for the most part, as members that rotated in and out of the duty. As such Martha was sure everything they talked about was known to all and especially Jedediah and Brother Edwards. Edwards kept his wife Helen with him most of the time as he rode at their front with Jedediah. Aaron, as new head of the tribe should by right have been their also but he instead traveled amongst the other dispersed band, reinforcing his religious message and raising their spirits and bringing in a few more converts every day. His new stature did not seem to affect him much from what Martha could see, but then he had always seemed a bit unworldly in her view.
“How many of us are there Husband?” Sister Helen asked.
Edwards gave a short grunt and then replied, “Couple of thousand by now moving west. By the time everyone gets the word we’ll have twice that number.”
“What will we do when we finally reach the Rogon and Yelsig?”
“Aaron thinks he’s gonna have a giant revival and tent meeting. He figures to convert the Rogon and Yelsig, me, I’m just along for the ride.”
“That does not sound like you, being just along for the ride.”
“You just keep that kind of thinking to yourself now Ruthie dear, wouldn’t want anyone else getting’ ideas—now would we?” With that, Edwards slapped his scabbard then turned back to watching the route ahead.
Thinking… “He called me Ruthie instead of Helen,”… his wife tried to figure what that might mean.
* * *
Tulari, leader of the Tulari, faced Hosham, though they did not see eye to eye. Since the last encounter with the Agorah, the clan had gathered its strength, and along with their allies the Richirty, had moved ever closer to the Agorah’s main camp until only days separated them. The numbers at first were overwhelmingly on the side of the Tulari and Richirty but someway or another the Agorans had been slowly siphoning members from the combined group and Tulari could see nothing short of war that might stop the trend.
The former Agoran, who now claimed to be a member of the tribe of Aaron, stood a head taller and outweighed him by at least three hundred pounds. There was a muscular harshness to his form that was disquieting. Tulari was not prepared to go into mind-to-mind communications with the other as would have been usual. Too many times, in others, that had resulted in uncontrollably seditious thoughts and separation from the tribe. Tulari did not believe he would be susceptible but was taking no chances.
“I am told you bring a message.”
“A message and an electronic record.” Hosham held the viewer in his lower pair of arms and activated the playback.
When it was finished the Tulari leader spoke again, “The lights we saw in the sky, they were the ships of these creatures?”
Hosham answered, “Of that much we are certain. One of those ships came to our camp the next morning; after we had already fled, and inspected what we did not take with us. The Humans took hold of Agorah, who had stayed behind, and took him back to the ship. I will play the recording of what happened next. I will play this at a fast rate of speed but will slow down and repeat should you desire.” He turned the screen on again.
The view was from long range but still clear enough to make out most of the details. A Rogon came out of the ship and appeared to question the Soessossin Agorah and in the process touching it once with a short wand like thing. A few moments later the Rogon touched Agorah again and he fell to the ground. A fire was prepared and a feast ensued, the Rogon who had conducted the interrogation and a second one from the ship ate first, and then even a few of the Humans once the Rogons went back inside.
Tulari, normally unemotional, as were all Soessossins, felt so shaken that he had a hard time bringing himself to speak. “This is where your new ways would lead us to. This is why you must not prevail.”
Hosham was ready for that condemnation; he had heard its variants even before the Rogons arrival.
“The Book tells us what may be eaten and what is unclean. The Prophet Aaron teaches that it is an abomination to classify thinking lifeforms, those suitable for religious instruction, as animals. What you have seen is a great evil and we must do everything in our power to stop it. That is the reason the tribe of Aaron is now traveling towards the home of the Yelsig.
“I am here, doing the Prophets bidding, and asking that the Tulari and Richirty come with us to end this threat if the Lord should will it so.”
“And would you seek to convert us to your ways if we should travel together?”
“Aaron has said that we will not. Your own eyes will convince you once you see what the leadership of the Lord can accomplish.”
“Go and speak to Richirty of the Richirty, I will discuss this with the rest of my clan but I think, for a time we will go along with you.”
Hosham traveled to the camp of the Richirty, and in an uneasy alliance, all three tribes marched westward towards the captive Yelsig.
* * *
They were stopped for a short break when Cotton Edwards felt a slight vibration coming from a pocket sewed on the inside of his shirt. He looked over to Jedediah and Aaron said, “I am going to walk out to that rise up ahead to see what comes next. I’ll wait for you at the top.”
“You need your rest also Brother Edwards,” Aaron said.
“Don’t worry none, I’ll get mine and be waiting for the rest of you to join up.”
When Edwards was out of sight he took the small device from his shirt and plugged it into a port on his com unit. He punched through the security codes, almost at once the picture stabilized, and he saw for the first time in many months the face of Burt Buchanan. Before Buchanan could say a word, Edwards said. “Damn Burt, what the hell is going on!”
Buchanan was stammering he was shaking so hard, “You’ll never believe who I have been talking to.”