After a week, they had thirty staffs, and now it was time to test them with the cadets. Jatar wanted the cadets to test it before he introduced it to the seasoned Guardians. His reasoning was if an unskilled cadet could use the staff, then a fully trained Guardian would be able to use it as well.
It took the cadets several tries to get the beam, but they needed practice and direction on calming themselves to get the beam through the energy shield. Jatar picked up a staff and focused on raising the shield, and then attempted to fire the beam as Chrylos had, he succeeded, but it took a tremendous amount of calm and focus. But it did work.
He had the Craft Masters continue manufacturing staffs, but his hopes weren’t up. This was a great undertaking and both of his son’s lives were hanging in the balance. He needed a solution and he needed it soon. This would give him a weapon, but it was taking far too long to get them made, but he knew from his own training that the manufacturing of the Faron had to be exact or the metal was useless.
Chrylos and Cartan continued the training, the ground force that erected the shield wall were doing very well, they had learned not only how to create the wall, but now could extend the wall up and over a group of Guardians, protecting them from above as well as in front. They could even form a dome of energy as needed, which if they had to battle the Marn and needed to protect Brellons who were with them, they could.
The Cadets who were working with the new staffs were making progress, they could fire tight beam energy through the shield wall and it was effective out to one hundred meters. He wanted them to make it effective further but it seemed that one hundred meters was the limit of the range.
He had received thirty more staffs this week and now had ninety staffs but this was too slow of a process to make it work effectively, and soon he would have to command the link shut down and that pained him greatly, Jazar was in the field with a shrinking force, and he would need to get him reinforced soon. He asked Chrylos how many he could send to Jazar, and he said twenty-five are field ready. He dispatched them to Lantana’s Tomb and told them to wait there until Jazar met them. From there, they would be his charges, and they would see how ugly war really was. There was no glory in dying, it made for great songs when someone died heroically, but they were dead all the same, and that was something he didn’t want.
He had sent his other son Jaxar on a secret mission and he had to protect him as well. He was in the Marn camp, and he was being taken to Tygos, he had gotten a message from him that the mission was going as planned and that he was doing his best to give them time, and to keep the Marn chasing Jazar, but he knew men had died and that he would be called a traitor for a time, but it had to be this way, or they wouldn’t have the time to get prepared to end this permanently.
Jazar was with his Ranger forces in the field. As Jatar had thought, Tygos returned with a vengeance. He was gone for a fortnight, and when he came back, he was in full assault mode. He attacked relentlessly, they barely had time to breath before the next onslaught came. The Rangers had done well. The shields absorbed the blasts from the Marn weapons, but not without casualties. They learned the hard way, it took total concentration to deflect the Marn blasts, anything less, people got hurt or killed. The hard part was holding onto the peaceful place while in the midst of a battle. The Skree were of great help, they could help the rangers hold their concentration, but, the men hadn’t been able to hold it continually. He’d sent messages to both Jatar and Chrylos, in an appeal for help, instruction, anything that would keep his men safe. They kept saying the same thing, clear the mind, focus on the shield being impenetrable, and keep fighting, they needed more time to train the Guardians.
Their only reprieve was at night. The rangers couldn’t see to fight, and their armor kept the Marn from locating them by scanning, if they found them it was totally by chance. So each night they would fly five hundred kilometers in the opposite direction hoping to tend their wounded, bury the dead, and get at least one day of rest. They had endured times where the Marn would keep troops out firing non-stop, through the night, those days, they would be pinned down, or would have to try and make it twenty kilometers on foot in a forced march.
Their energy weapons were deadly, but with limited range. The pinpoint blast would kill up to one hundred meters, the wide beam was deadly at close range, about fifteen meters, but beyond that, it would only stun or slow down the Marn. It was better than trying to fight with swords at close range, and the Marn weapons, their pulse rifles were good to about one hundred meters and the phase pistols about twenty meters, so the weapons were evenly matched. The difference was the Marn had no shields and the Guardians had Skree. When they could take flight, they would.
Still it was hit and run tactics, Guerilla warfare at best and the Marn had ships that were faster than Skree. Five hundred kilometers to a ship that could travel to space was nothing. It kept the Guardians grounded except at night. They needed the shields. They would absorb the Marn weapon blasts point blank or at one hundred meters, it was the same. But getting the upper hand in a battle was difficult at best. They had a limited number of troops, while the Marn could send down another ship with fresh fighters. His troops, Brellon and Skree alike, were exhausted.
He had gotten news from Jatar that they were making progress and that he needed Jazar to give him some more time to train. They needed another fortnight to be ready. Jazar counted his troops, he was down to fifty-five able to fight, twenty wounded, and twenty-five dead. They always counted the Brellon and Skree as one Guardian, not two. He had sent the wounded to Varna to heal, and they had buried the dead as they died. Usually, Guardians were given celebrated funeral rights, cremating them at the end, and placing their effigy in the Hall of Souls, but war made that impossible, so they buried them, marked the graves, removed their diadems, bracelets, and necklaces, and buried them with their armor and weapons. He vowed to exhume the bodies for proper burial once this war was over.
This took only a few seconds for his mind to cover, he needed to clear his thoughts, and prepare to move out. This had been a hard day of fighting, and they were on the move at dark. They depended on the Skree’s ability to see in the dark and rode them until they were clear to fly. They had learned to keep their armor and weapons tight until they got at least ten kilometers out of range, the Marn had exceptional hearing and the Skree were silent on their feet, even in the dark. As they travelled this night, Jazar noticed that there was an unusual light at the Marn ship they had engaged and decided to send the men on and see what he could find out. He stripped off his armor, and went forward on foot. His boots were soft hide, and made no noise as he moved in for a closer look.
As he inched his way forward, Zavan, his life-mate, told him to hold. He said he could see that there were ten Marn not more than ten meters away and one sound would have him captured and vulnerable. He barely breathed. Once the Marn moved on, a night guard on patrol, he went back the way he’d come with only questions and no answers about that unusual light. He regained his armor, mounted Zavan, and they were off as quietly as a Skree could travel. When they had gone at least two kilometers, he contacted the troop to find out which way they had gone, and they gave him coordinates, and he told them to wait for him and rest. He caught up with them an hour later, and they left as quickly as they could. They got out to ten kilometers and flew out three hundred kilometers before making camp. They had come north, almost to the glacier fields when they stopped. Jazar knew enough history to know that they were near where Whitlaw had first met Regulus, and wondered if they could find that cave the history spoke of. He knew from the history Archives that the cave was pretty large and that it would probably hold his whole company, and give them some protection to have a fire, and maybe a few days’ rest or even a week. They had no injured to attend to, they were in Varna now, they had a good water source if the Archives were accurate, and they carried plenty of rations and the Skree could hunt, and possibly bring back an Auroch for the men. He sent the men out in pairs to scout for the cave, he knew they should be able to find it, they were close. After a couple of hours, one of them found the cave.
They got everyone inside by dawn, and they settled in for some rest. They needed it. The men were all exhausted, and the Skree were thin from a need to eat. They stripped the gear from their life-mates and sent them to hunt. They had discovered that the Marn basically ignored the free Skree. Taking all the gear of their partners would let them hunt in peace and bring fresh meat for the men as well. With the exception of Chrylos and Gryton, all the Rangers in the group were single men. Jatar thought that it would be better if they didn’t have to send females to battle. Not that they were any less a warrior than the males, but, procreation was still necessary, for both Brellon and Skree.
The Skree had brought down ten large bulls. They never hunted females, and never took the alpha bull. They knew the terror of losing a leader, and that extended to their prey. They had to eat, and taking out an alpha bull, destroyed a herd. Aurochs were still the main source of food. The other animals brought from the homeland had adapted well, but they didn’t hunt them yet, they wanted the herds to grow. They brought two bulls back with them. One for their partners to cook, and one to preserve to add to their rations. Fresh meat was always better than battle rations.
Once they had everything in place, found that there was a clear pool in the rear of the cave with fresh water, they settled in for a good week of rest. The rangers were in good spirits. Not having to fight from daylight until dark, not having to sleep in the saddle while the Skree got them away, and actually being able to relax, contact their friends and family, spend time out of their armor, repairing gear, and just resting, was the best medicine for them all. Moral was up after a couple of days, and then they were gaming, wrestling, and other things that Guardians did in their off time. One thing that they were all told, was not to reveal their location to anyone. No one knew if the Marn had a way to tap into the link, but, Catya was Marn by birth and she had linked. Until they knew for sure, no information was to be shared about where they were. Nothing to give away their position.
Jazar, was the only one who said anything to anyone, and it was to Jatar, all he said when asked where they were, was Whitlaw’s Cave. That was the only information Jatar needed to know about where they were. He told them to enjoy the rest, but be ready to move out soon. He still need training time and was depending on Jazar to give it to him. He also told him they had twenty-five new men for him, and that they would be waiting for him at the tomb. He knew where it was at, he hadn’t had the opportunity to visit Lantana’s tomb, but this would give him the opportunity to do so when they arrived there to regroup with the new men. This would be something to share, he had found Whitlaw’s Cave, stayed there for a week, and now he would be travelling to Lantana’s Tomb, the daughter of Whitlaw and Lara, and they would actually see the statues that Chrylos had talked about in person. Chrylos said the tomb was huge, and it was filled with statues, and writings that all Brellon should read.
They had been in the cave for six days, and Jazar told the men to get their gear together, they would leave tonight. The plan was to fly five hundred kilometers west, find a hiding place, then go south until they reached the tomb.