Behold the Eyes of Light [Eyes of Light Series #1]
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by Geoff Geauterre
Description: A heroine born of legend travels across dimensional pathways and receives training at the hands of near mythical beings. She will need all the help she can get to save Ooroomooriss, the great cat world and her home, from extinction.
eBook Publisher: Twilight Times Books, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: September 2004
23 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [376 KB]
Reading time: 235-329 min.
She awakened just before dawn, troubled, eyes narrowed, teeth bared. It was yet another night of dizzying dreams. She shook her head tiredly. This had to be the seventh time it happened and it was making her uneasy. She'd tried meditation, fasting, and even a form of self-hypnosis, but it was no use. As a last resort she tried screaming at them, but they returned worse than ever.
She coughed in disgust. The most powerful of the clan having nightmares. Then a thought sent a chill right down to the tip of her tail. What would happen if others learned of it? She shuddered. If her mental stability was openly questioned that could be reason enough for a challenge, and the last time she was challenged for her position there'd been a killing. She didn't need anything like that now.
Thankfully, thoughtfully, her pair of mates had taken refuge in another den not too far away. There were times lately when she just needed to be by herself. Of course solitude didn't give her the relief she sought. What was happening to her? She was unapproachable, gruff, snarling and just four nights ago she came out of a deep sleep with claws unsheathed.
That was when her odd behavior became too much. Her mates looked at one another, coughed in disgust and stalked off. It was better for them to keep out of her fur, and besides, if she needed them all she had to do was grunt.
Yet on the seventh night of this torture, she couldn't take anymore, and rolling upright, she padded out into the star-lit chamber. She glanced around and wondered which direction offered a way to clear her mind. Maybe some fresh air?
Wearily she plodded upwards, paws treading softly in the silken sand, until finally she reached the cave entrance and took stock.
She was sorry she'd been such a mess lately. Her tail lashed out. Why couldn't she simply accept what she was and where she was and be done with it? Her teeth glinted in a silent snarl. Why were her dreams filled with impossible visions?
Golden green eyes fixed on the red tinted stars still visible in the sky. There was the trouble, right there. Right above her head. Those stars; she wanted them. It was as simple and as idiotic as that. She wanted the freedom they offered. She wanted to roam across the skies as she might her own territory. That was why her dreams plagued her so, beckoning her on and on.
Sitting still, tail curling neatly around, her mouth opened wide into a yawn, revealing great razor-sharp hunting teeth.
"Why do they draw me, so?" she asked of the night. "What is it about their glittering fire that makes my mind yearn?"
Behind her, unseen and unfelt, two pairs of eyes peered worriedly down from above. Both her mates shared the same troubled thoughts.
"There she is again, brother."
"What can we do? Her distress grows, and with each day the danger of a challenge creeps closer. Many are beginning to sense this change in her."
The other took a moment to consider carefully, teeth bared, glinting. "The clan has forgotten her gift. They forgot the day she vanished from one place and reappeared in another. They forgot the promise and the prophecy, and some have grown hungry waiting."
"So what do we do?"
The other shrugged. "We will wait, and watch, and protect. There is no other course for us."
Then together they got up and turned, making their way back to their den. They would need all the rest they could get. By morning's early light the northern branch of the pride would have to begin vacating the area. Those accepting the exchange of territories would come to inspect the holdings, each family taking part in the old, old ways.
Yet left behind was one whose thoughts were distractedly elsewhere. The matriarch of her pride sniffed at the air, her delicacy born of an aristocrat, her breeding and intelligence paramount in the way her eyes glowed, her head canted.
How did she get to this state? Her mouth dropped open in a chuckle. Simple: History. The history of a world where the climate grew more harsh every season; the history of a people, whose mental development seemed to have stopped a number of generations before; and her history, which was entwined within it like a knot in a tree.
A history where, as a kit, she'd been playing a game of tag and lost her footing, and had tumbled onto a shale-like slide overlooking the edge of a bottomless pit. She paused, remembering all too well.
Instinctively she cried out, and the other kits cried out too. The deep, endless looking drop lifted the back of their necks. The slide thrust into the side of a slippery runoff. It was far too unstable for her to climb, and too risky for anyone else to claw down to her to pull her up.
Her mother heard what was happening and rushed to the spot, perceiving immediately the deadly predicament. "Get up and out of there this very instant!" she'd screamed.
There was a hush of astonishment, as she melted into nothingness from the promised death in the rocks ... and reappeared, shivering and crying, at her mother's side. Without a sound the great cats, who had been drawn by the cries, knelt and whispered among themselves.
That's where it all began, she grunted sourly. That's when the story started.
When the Great One of their clan heard what had happened, she assembled her two mates and their best warriors, marched to the entryway of the den of the kit's family and demanded entrance.
When she was admitted, she hurried to the burrow where the kit was feverishly sleeping, and with an extended claw touched her upon the brow, searching through the other's preadolescent mind for an image of that moment, and when it came, she, too, was forced to kneel in the sand.
"So," she whispered hoarsely, "the legend is true." The others murmured thoughtfully, wonderingly, "The legend ..." they said. "And when she comes of age," the Great One declared, "she will take my place as our She of the North, and those of my bloodline will follow those of hers, and from this then comes our legacy."
That night, her mother, her mates, and the elders sat around the entryway to the cave and looked about them as if the world were a different place. They did not know how or when the great change would come, the Great Change that a seer far in the past had foretold, but now they knew that it would, and they knew who would bring it to them. 'For there will be a kit, as unlike any other, and She will bring us up from the hunt!'
But years would pass and the miracle of that moment only happened once, and as the kit became a leader of the Ooroomoorii, became their She of the North, she too waited for a sign ... a sign that seemed to take its own sweet time.
Then other matters took predominance. The pressures of running a great clan, the problems dealing with an ever-fretful growing number of crises made her tasks--even on a daily basis--more and more difficult to handle.
The questions she asked herself never seemed to have any answers. The people had developed mind to mind communication, and some even had the rare seer talent, but all were merely aspects of the same. The ability to communicate. Why no further? Why did it seem as if the race had come to a standstill?
What was really expected of her? She couldn't help the climate, or game becoming scarce, or waterholes drying up unexpectedly.
Was she supposed to be their sole means of deliverance? If so, how was she going to manage that?
These questions plagued her more and more often, and even now, here on this ridge, scowling into the darkness, she couldn't escape the fear that gnawed at her. What if she never discovered the answers? What if she was doomed to fail?
Of course, there were alternatives. They could begin hunting the great six-legged beasts in the higher northern areas, in the forests, or the mountain ranges, but she cringed at the idea. Those animals were dangerous. If they were annoyed enough, they could end up hunting you.
What about stalking the slim, weak creatures that flew in the tree lands? Yes, they could do that ... but something about that idea made her feel a bit queasy. There was something about those creatures, the way they would pause, and look at you, that made her feel ... they shouldn't be thought of as food either.
As the leader of her clan, she tried to subtly implement changes to help her people cope with the diminishing resources, but in some areas they remained intractable. It was their feeling that because 'She' was leading them, they had nothing to fear, and eventually all their problems would be solved.
But all their problems were not something she could snap a tail at and make go away. It was the result of over-harvesting, over-population and underestimating the danger signs. And the worst of it was losing their sense of awareness of the changing world around them. They were going to be caught short and she knew it.
It was also affecting her health. Half the time the stress of it all made it seem as if she were going to fall on her face, and several people began suggesting that she 'take it easy.' But she didn't just 'need a rest,' she needed answers. She shook her head.
Some thought she was going mad, especially when she started talking about 'herding' animals instead of 'hunting' them. Also, her proposal to lower birth rates? Didn't she know having kits was the true source of a clan's wealth?
Worse yet was when she raised the idea of redistributing territory, not by family holdings, but by family needs. Then there was her odd notion of collecting the hunted into packs and managing their growth? Or water conservation? Or moving a number of their clan in a sort of rotation of the territory?
She shuddered recalling the overall response: 'It would be the end of their way of life'; 'It would weaken the hunting instinct that was their birthright'; 'It would signal a need for a change in the hierarchy ...' and that remark was the one that put her on notice.
Yet she knew that if something wasn't done, the very existence of Her Pride would be in jeopardy. Thus, with the instincts of an intelligent hunter looking for a way out of a dilemma, her questioning started the process of logically seeking other means of dealing with seemingly insoluble problems. It was a daunting task.
What it came down to was this: the only way they could attempt to manipulate their environment successfully was through their ability to communicate mind to mind with everyone. That was a problem. There was an unwillingness to let down too many barriers. Besides that, each family and clan had secrets they did not wish to share.
Which raised another question: How was she going to convince a bunch of suspicious cats to cooperate with one another? On the surface the idea that their way of life was in jeopardy didn't seem credible. If she was the only one who saw a need for change, why change anything at all?
After months of discussions, where the struggle to uncover certain startling truths forced intransigent minds to appalling conclusions, it became clear change was inevitable. It was the only way they could hope to survive a shared predicament.
Thus finally, deliberate and sensitive negotiations among the most important members of the four great clans began, and crouched down in the Great Circle, they began to scheme how they might conserve what they had and prepare an entire race for restructuring. In her heart though, she knew it was too late.
Too much damage had been done by countless generations of neglect, and as the bones of long dead animals proved, when a species ran out of time, or when it was no longer tolerated, you were removed by the great claws of Nature and that was the end.
It was to be nothing less than a choice of wisdom over stupidity. She snorted. But if that failed, what was supposed to be her legacy? To battle destiny and see what came of it?
Her tufted ears twisted, casting for the sounds a feline hunter loves. The scurrying of a woods mouse; the rush of wings; the stamp of some beast in the tree line; the slithering leather-like slide of an eelskin creeping up the side of a swamp vine.
She looked round, then up. She could distinguish them all as no other hunter in the clan was capable of doing. Shouldn't those skills have been enough for her? But they weren't. She wanted to hear the burning howl of a star screaming in silent space. She wanted to know the turns of the dreaded sea beast in its deepest caverns. She wanted to be able to--and her mouth dropped open in an excited pant--to fly. To be one with the surging planet's breath when it moans with every crying twist it makes in the heavens.
Still, to be fair, she had been most fortunate. She couldn't have chosen two better males to father her kits. Both slightly older than her, but both handsome, brave, and cautious in the hunt. With their unstinting aid she'd been able to raise a fine pride, and a few of the younglings were even becoming mature enough to have dens of their own.
She had a right to be proud, having done what was expected of her, but still, she craved for more. She stared into the darkness, the eye of her mind casting itself across the realm of race memory. They'd come a long way, but not far enough. Not nearly far enough. Troubled, she turned and loped for the high ridge. There was someone she needed to see. Someone who could help her, if he would.
Several hours later, at the foot of the deep incline of a distant cave mouth, she spat in respect, crouched down and coughed. "Elder? Elder are you within?"
At first nothing, then the air seemed to part and a consciousness rose from deep in the earth. A quavering tone of a pure mind-thought emerged.
"Who are you?"
She tried a similar mind pattern in response, but something defeated her. "I am She," she replied softly. "She of the North, come to seek wisdom."
"I have nothing for you."
She blinked. "I am--refused?" Silence. "I've a great many questions!" Silence. "Have you nothing to offer?"
The thought that came then was direct. "Leave us."
She blinked again. Leave? Why should she leave? Also why did the Elder use a plural term? Which 'us' was he referring to? With a shake of the head she coughed indelicately.
"No!" She gouged out claw marks in the sand. "I need your assistance. I won't leave until I have it!"
The voiceless shout practically lifted her up and threw her back. She screamed hysterically, scrambled round in a panic and raced over the lip of the bluff, moving faster than she ever had in her life.
"I've never been so insulted!" The bitter admission made the confession all the more galling. "Surely he could have heard me out."
Her two mates looked at one another. Claw Selves coughed and shook his head. "Perhaps you caught him on a bad day?"
"Why didn't he say so, then?"
Claw Shreves considered it and rubbed at an ear. "I have never heard of a Great Elder turning anyone away before. Are you certain he meant what he said?"
She looked back at the memory of the experience and her fur sort of bunched up around her shoulders and there was a shake in her voice.
"I was picked up like a kit and sent skidding clear up to the ridge line. If I thought it nothing more than a story before, what this Elder showed he could do is incredible. Of our race, he is surely the most advanced. When I was a kit and saved myself from that fall, I had no idea what I was doing, but this cat knows what he can do--and does it!"
Suddenly aware of her surroundings, she retracted her claws, straightened up from her crouching position, and got a hold of herself. It hadn't exactly been the pose of a sound thinking adult. She licked at a spot on her shoulder.
"Perhaps another day?" Claw Selves offered hopefully, stealing a look round at the rising sun.
"But I wanted some answers!"
Claw Shreves nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, and your purpose was correct, but we are speaking about an Ooroomoorian who is three times older than any in the clan. He must be at least a 120. Perhaps living to such an age increases one's peculiarities?"
She sniffed. "What do you propose?"
"To wait," he panted, smiling gently, tail curling round. "Wait, and see what happens."
"I may never have my answers then."
"Patience is the hunter's way," he quoted the younglings tutoring passage, "it gains for him who waits, the food for clan and self."
There was a long moment of thought, as she weighed the pros and cons, then easing onto her feet she strolled over to them, and fondled and licked their faces one at a time. She was fortunate to have such wonderful supporters.
Seven more days were to pass as their pride prepared for the great trek south. Claw Shreves went scouting ahead to the coastline to ensure the way was clear of danger. Claw Selves had gone to the western slope, to mediate a dispute between three smaller tribes.
As a rule clan heads should not have to interfere in the petty squabbles of small families bickering over tiny holdings, but sometimes it was necessary to do so, especially if it soothed quarrelsome natures during a Migration. Anything that would help with the transfer of territory was acceptable.
Aside of this, heralds had begun to show up from the South, representing their quarter of the Great Pride. The inspectors who followed nervously examined the grounds their parents had given up fifty years before, but as far as they could see nothing was amiss.
Spoor tracks showed large herds of animals in the area. Waterholes were still plentiful, and living areas seemed comfortable and clean. There were coughs of approval and many sighed with relief. But those who thought less of what they had to offer narrowed their eyes. What would they be getting in return?
Missing from these engagements was their matriarch, the famed She of the North. Some of the newcomers respectfully asked after her and were told she was meditating. It was widely thought that the constant use of her talent taxed her strength. In reality, she had used that gift successfully only once. The few times she tried afterwards proved she had no control over the thing at all.
The concern of the elders of north and south was set aside. If She was meditating now, at such a crucial time, then something extraordinary must be taking place. True, a Matriarch always oversaw territorial transfers, but this Matriarch was far, far different than any before her.
Her mates, along with those who assisted them, were then allowed to do their jobs without hindrance and preparations for the great trek continued. The anticipated meeting between Southern and Northern Matriarchs, as their branches swept by one another was shrugged off. If She of the North didn't fuss over it, why should She of the South?
As it was between North and South, so then was it between West and East. Four great clans separated for the good of the whole, each tracking their own paths, each working for the moment, when the legend would come.
Lands and bloodlines would cross, and a time would be embraced with the great sharing, when families adopted newcomers into their den, and yearning eyes might meet, and all was offered in trust and safekeeping.
Upon the nineteenth day, after having meditated long and hard and coming to naught for all her effort, she struggled up to the foot of her cave, looked wearily round and sighed. So, what was this never-ending restlessness about? Couldn't she be satisfied with the achievements she'd already managed? The pride was in better shape now through some of the changes she'd been able to instill than it had been in a hundred years.
Their resources and food herds were being hunted with more wisdom instead of the stupid slaughters of bygone times. Others were beginning to listen to her when she spoke of living in harmony with the nature around them, instead of simply using up what resources were available as fast as they were replenished--and that alone, she recalled, had taken a lot of near-begging.
If that wasn't enough, was she to spend the rest of her life pining after something that couldn't be obtained?
Suddenly she sensed someone behind her. Whirling round, claws out, belly to the ground, she was about to lunge or jerk away--and froze. Before her was an Ooroomoorian who was unlike any she had seen before.
White coat, silver mane, august, he stood, or rather floated above her, looking down with eyes that glowed. He was more spirit than flesh.
"Greatest Elder," she coughed, groveling.
"Why have you not gone?" he asked, mind-voice powerful, resonating.
"Gone?" she asked, shaking her head. "Gone where?"
"You sought me out because you were troubled, were you not?"
She blinked, realizing then who this had to be. "Yes," she admitted, "I did."
His eyes looked down on her. "Well?"
For a long moment he looked down on her, and then shook his head sorrowfully. "I have waited three lifetimes to gain such insight and then to have it wasted on a kit!" He turned to leave, as if he'd said all there was to say.
The Elder did not pause, and walking upon the air as if it were ground invisible to the eye, he continued on and soon was out of sight.
"You never answered my questions!" she shouted after him. "What insight are you talking about? What did you mean three lifetimes? What did you want to say to me?"
As a wind howling from the depths of a storm, the response came back, rolling in a sort of deep thunder: "YOU MUST LEAVE US!"
With a lunge she came out of her sleep, fur shocked upright, eyes wild and wheezing like a Galomb thrashing about in a full panic. Then she became calm and realized it was nothing more than a dream. No, not a dream--a vision.
What did the Elder mean? If she left, where would she go? Troubled, she slipped out of the chamber and turned for the entrance. Just before stepping out she paused to stare into the night. She'd never been afraid of the dark until now. A shiver worked its way down her spine. There was nothing for it; she had to face her fears, no matter where they took her.
Head up she stepped out and stood in the light cast off by the doubled moons, sucking in the crisp clean air. Then a strange idea came to her. Could one become like a dream or a thought on the wind?
Her eyes closed, as if sniffing at the thought, studying it, weighing it by unsheathed claws. If one became a part of the wind ... her tail whipped back and forth in excitement. If the wind does not think--she cast aside the effects of the meditation--could we not impose our own will and make it think? If the wind had thought, could it not take us where we wished to go?
Her head straightened sharply, eyes opening wide. She knew her own limitations; knew herself to be nothing more than a speck in the stream of time, but with every living fiber of her being, she also knew--if they were to survive as a pride they had to change. It was that or extinction.
She snarled, taking up the challenge. Now she knew what the mystic meant. Her tail snapped back, her shoulders rose and her claws gripped bedrock beneath. The way was before her. With a slow growing, nerve generating growl of will, and calling upon every ounce of power in her--she let loose with an earth-shaking roar.
It couldn't have been more than a few minutes after that when her mates and kin came scrambling over the bluff in a panicked rush to the very spot. There they stood in wonder, staring down from the edge of the still smoking remains of the huge crater, and then fearfully, they looked round, and then up ... but She of the North was nowhere to be found.
What happens when Destiny acknowledges something unforeseen? Might some benevolent sleeper awake, and wonder, what is the cause of such a commotion?
An eye of extraordinary brilliance opened; the other remained closed, refusing to submit to a hasty whim. There was a whistling sound with breathy overtones mixed in the frigid air of that place, deep in the heart of the world. Crystal overhangs of ice tinkled from the upper stone galleries, resonating with the perfection of those who slept below ... and nothing more.
Wait, that wasn't right. It was not a 'nothing' that awoke her, and the eye narrowed--and the whistling suddenly shrieked.
"Hmm?" came her mate's query. "What's this?"
"Something has disturbed me."
A snort shifts the bedrock. "Oh, well then, thank you for ensuring I share in it and am disturbed also."
The sarcasm was ignored.
"See to it!"
The other groaned. Now two other eyes opened and brilliance poured forth. They glared this way, that way, until finally they changed character and dimension. Beamed up and around and froze. They'd found what the matter was and another snort erupted.
"This is nothing," he reported disdainfully.
"See to it!"
Resigned to the matter, his eyes closed, and the lights of cosmic fire dampened. "Very well." His mate's eye snapped shut and the last thought her lord and servant sent, was to one of their offspring. For such a little thing one of them could deal with it. The order was cast, thus *! Now whoever picked it up first ...
"Stop that!" the voice commanded. Instantly the feline's wails ceased, shocked at the sudden intrusion into her misery. She sniffled.
"Silly thing," followed the comment. "Shifting yourself about like this, without safeguards, is sheer folly."
"No questions. Just allow your mind to relax, relax, and I will physically draw you to me, back through that place you overstepped, back ... back ... drift with me ... drift ... drift ... to me!"
Across the black enshrouded veil,
through the wall of the tunnel of light,
in the realm
of night ...
Feline eyes peered through the raging storm, then scaled upwards, and froze. Upon the edge of a great cliff, staring down at her, was a creature as big as a mountain. Gripping the escarpment of cold granite with claws stronger than stone, there stood unmoved by the elemental violence about them, a horned, winged reptile that threatened to freeze the blood in her veins
Still she was not blasted at the sight of it. She was not destroyed. Taking hold of whatever sense she had left, she realized this was the being that drew her from that awful place.
"Grrowwll, grrowwll ..."
"Yes, little one," the great one above her murmured gently, "you are safe now, with me." Then he chuckled, and the chuckles rose until they became a warm laughter. The storm about them hushed for Storoth the Dr'gon was pleased with his catch.