Honor by Eric Johnson

Grengh saw Thirst split the sky asunder Clan Krenhj cowered as the clouds rained retribution From on high came Jhlark and his warriors The red madness was upon them None would escape the spear of righteous vengeance Clan Krenhj would be no more…
- Ballad of Khad’dan Khrig

Yazirian home world at the dawn of recorded history…

The gliding yazirian pulled his arms in. He was falling like a spear. The trees rushed towards him as the moons and stars fell away. The air simultaneously pulled and pushed him in protest of this violation. His eyes were watering. He didn’t know if this was from his feeling of overwhelming grief or from the wind.

Their village was in those trees below him. Clan Krenhj, who had less than a day before, had massacred his clan. The sixteen others, diving as he was, were all that were left of Clan Ghalmleur. Tragedy had charted the path before them. There would be annihilation this night.

Jhlark was short in stature but compact. His figure and bearing told others of his strength. The warrior wore only his mailed gauntlet, loin cloth, zamra, and his sheathed khad’dan, Khrig or Thirst in human tongue. His full brown mane was pulled back from the force of the air as he descended.

His vision was perfect in the twilight; however the red was creeping in as he loosed the rage that he had pent up. The chieftain could see his prey on one of the platforms below that held the village aloft in the trees. The place seemed peaceful and quiet with little to no activity.

Jhlark believed the initial assault would be shocking to the Krenhj. They had probably celebrated their slaughter of the Ghalmleur with a torrent of wine and song. The blood price of their power play for Ghalmleur territory was not fully paid.

The trees were close now. Jhlark braced himself and spread open his arms and legs. His fall was immediately slowed. The pain was excruciating as his patagium caught air and threatened to tear away from the rest of his body. He was going to be sore for days.

His target was a guard. Luckily the enemy had not heard anything during his breaking maneuver. He brought his feet forward as he neared the sentry below. Jhlark’s feet landed on the guard’s shoulder blades. The impact knocked the guard forward and down.

The startled enemy let out a surprised grunt. There was a sickening crunching sound. His shoulder blades were shattered. Jhlark immediately went into action.

Jhlark’s zamra cut the air in its harried flight. Another guard went down, his mouth agape. His chest was a ruin from the caress of the battle disk. No warning cry was issued.

The rest of the clan touched down like grim phantoms. The Ghalmleur spread out and began the grizzly work of avenging their dead. Every male was to be butchered along with any female who raised a weapon. The survivors would be added to the clan.

Jhlark looked down at the enemy that had served as his landing pad. The guard was going into convulsions. The new chieftain could see two deep impressions where his feet had been. He drew Khrig to dispatch the pathetic form writhing in front of him.

Images of his dead wife and daughter flooded Jhlark’s mind. They were savagely hacked apart. Even though they had ridden the wind to the lands of Gluna, the largest of the three moons, he still mourned. He stayed the death stroke and turned away. The red rage was now washing over him like a shower of hot blood.

Khrig was an honor blade. Jhlark had earned it by rescuing chief Gort’s daughter from grip of a dreaded lacari plant. The carnivorous foliage had mobile vines that it used to entangle and crush its victims. It was not unusual to lose one or two clansmen a year from lacari attacks.

Jhlark had freed her and killed the plant with a skinning knife. Gort had Khrig forged from the metal found in a recent falling star. The khad’dan’s blade was unusual in color blue-black. It was extremely light weight. It was considered equal to if not better than Gort’s personal khad’dan.

The slaughter had commenced. Numerous small fires burned. The surprised screams of the Krenhj could be heard. Jhlark, blade in hand, sought his next kill. The blood rage now consumed him.

The Ghamlmleur warriors issued no challenges or cries of battle lust. The roused Krenhj sprang at the unexpected enemy. The Ghamlmleur met them with the fury unleashed by their all consuming bloodlust. Jhlark engaged three of the yazirians. They could see his eyes were bright red like the coals of a forge. He killed the first as Khrig lashed out. The khad’dan split the warrior’s skull as his own weapon raised.

Jhlark side-stepped another’s thrust and parried a slash from the third. His face grimaced from the effort. Khrig darted out and sheathed its point in the exposed midriff of the second assailant. The yazirian let out an agonized gasp and fell to his knees. The third took the opportunity to press the attack. The furious rain of blows left Jhlark no opportunity to dispatch him. Jhlark stepped back in an attempt to get the defender to over extend himself. Worst case, the Krenhj would tire and then Khrig would drink again.

Around him, his kinsmen were pressing the attack and still held the momentum. The enemies were in an alcohol fueled chaos. They couldn’t manage an organized counter attack which worked to the Ghalmleurs’ advantage. Many Krenhj had been spirited away to the pits of hell beyond the sun. Many more would soon be joining them.

The opponent was starting to pant. His eyes were a study in focus. Every blow, no matter how skillful, could not get through Jhlark’s guard. His panting increased, the blows started to become erratic. Jhlark stepped back again in anticipation of the inevitable opening that would come. Jhlark almost fell over as his legs became bound in an unforgiving grip. He had forgotten about the gut stabbed defender.

The wounded guard held him with both arms from his kneeling position. Jhlark reached down and took a handful of mane. The other Krenhj started to circle to the left. Jhlark knew that he would soon be carried beyond the moons to join his wife and daughter.

The attacker licked his lips as he raised his blade. It came down in a deadly arc. Jhlark let out a bellow filled with grief, rage and fear. The hobbled warrior brought up Khrig futilely. However, the Krenhj did not strike true. There was a sound of metal on metal and the flash of sparks. The two enemies stared at each other in surprise. Then Jhlark noticed it. A zamra was protruding from his assailant’s side.

Jhlark beheaded the other guard. Whose lifeless body flopped to the ground. The new chieftain freed himself and assessed the situation. It was a fight to the death. The rhythm of violence filled the air. Shattered hopes and dreams littered the platforms that held the burning village.

The howling, panting mass of flickering blades surged back and forth. Weapons bit into flesh, blood fountained, feet tripped on the fallen. All was bathed in the flickering light and heat of the burning structures. It was the climax of over a half century old blood feud. The enemy was starting to become organized.

There he was, Grengh, chief of the Krenhj. Grengh was unusually tall. Two heavily muscled arms sprang from his barrel chest. The enemy chief was spattered in gore from the Ghalmleur that had fallen before him. His face held the look of desperation. The desperation of having a prize slip away that had been within his grasp.

Honor demanded a blood sacrifice. Jhlark voiced a sound that could have easily been mistaken as a challenge from one of the great jungle cats. He closed the distance rapidly.

Grengh saw the nightmare image of vengeance personified in the enemy warrior coming at him. He welcomed the chance to kill another of the hated Ghalmleur scum.

Their weapons met, clashed, and met again. The leaders’ furious action spilled over to the warriors around them. Both sides redoubled their efforts and the fray became more frenzied and desperate on both sides. In the turmoil and chaos the two became separated and engaged others who came within their deadly reaches.

Jhlark was like a hurricane hitting a pristine forest. He left behind a wake of toppled figures. Grengh went down under the weight of two of the Ghalmleur warriors. From there the rout was on. No Krenhj warrior escaped the merciless tide that was before them.

Jhlark accounted for his warriors after the fact. He had lost nine. The price had been high but the Krenhj were no more. Honor had received its sacrifice and was satisfied.

“Gather the females. We’re going home,” ordered Jhlark.

He stared at Khrig. It was covered in the blood of his enemies. He knew that other clans may sense weakness with the Ghalmleur’s depleted numbers. Khrig would be needed again shortly to defend them all.