Prologue: The Lost ContinentEdit
On Ageriul, most main areas of the planet have at least one large city. There is one place, though, that has none. It's an entire continent that's virtually uninhabited. It's the continent known as Jaekiul. Around the size of Australia, it is large, flat, tropical and treeless. Why isn't it inhabited, you may ask?
Well, there's a simple answer. You see, in the dirt, massive creatures hide. Creatures the size of whales that rise to feed on vegetation and then sink back into the ground, shoals of deer-sized herbivores create striped patterns in the dirt, with all of them churning up the ground...
And feeding the terrible, monstrous Robekas.
Chapter 1: Arriving with CamerasEdit
Tamun kept speaking to the camera as they walked down the spaceship's ramp.
"So as I said, this is my first time on Ageriul. I can't stress how wonderful a planet this is, and how much I've wanted to come here ever since we met the Urahob. The animals here really are fantastic, and they really are alien!"
Kala shot him a testy glare. "Be a presenter later. Be a guest now."
The Ageriulan welcoming party was rather large, and they waved to the Zyrothans as they approached. There were a few Irkaputh, but they were mainly Urahob. The Zyrothan ambassador and his escort stood beside them.
"Welcome to Ageriul! I've seen some of your programme- I am honoured that you would desire to explore our planet and show the galaxy our wildlife."
Tamun smiled wide. "Oh, it was only a matter of time. A world like this?"
The Zyrothan ambassador spoke up. "Welcome indeed. Your rooms and luggage are now prepared- please, make yourselves at home!" He guided the group to the coach, and they got in.
Also on board the coach were two Alxen- scientists, by the looks of it. They moved over to join the group. One extended his hand to Tamun.
"An honour to meet you. I'm Dalro and this is my brother, Vaus."
Vaus nodded in acknowledgement.
Tamun took the hand and shook it, smiling broadly. "I had no idea so many people watched my show!"
"When most HV is sitcoms and soap operas? Please. Your programme is a vestige of sanity in a world that's falling apart under its own gluttony."
"Thanks." Tamun was positively beaming.
Kala handed the presenter a vidpad. On it were pictures from around Ageriul, of various biomes and creatures.
He contemplated them for a few seconds, then pointed at one, calling the others to look with him.
"What's this area called?"
"Oh, those are the creed plains. I don't think they're the best place to-"
The Zyrothan silenced him with an elaborate raise of the hand.
"We shall go there first."
Chapter 2: A Brief Lesson on the PlainsEdit
An Irkaputh stood at the front of the vehicle. His chin flaps began moving, and the translator attached to the front of his jaw began to work. "Greetings. I'm Chieftracker Elet of the Moreg tribe," he said. "Due to the fact that you're going to explore an area of Ageriul that has barely been explored before, there's a few things you'll have to learn about the place."
He hopped to a small machine, and a finely-made hologram appeared on the screen. "Irkaputh tech. We're good at making high-quality but small devices." Elet hopped back to the hologram.
"The first animals you're going to see are the Quekrel," he said, as an image of the herbivore appeared on the screen. "It's best to try not to disturb them too much if you're filming, so if you're using aerial probes, don't get too close. Many animals will use these to find a threat, and you'll either see nothing at all or everything that wants to kill you."
He went to the next image. "This is an alhturel." he said, pointing at the predator that had appeared. "These are the large predator you're most likely to see, as they're the only above-ground ones. They are large and bold, with one even going so far as to attack an israphel (questions later). They have gone after Urahobs, too, so if they decide you're food, THIS will happen-:" He flicked a button, and a recording of an alhturel attacking a Brilla appeared. It clearly showed the large amounts of blood that had spurted out from impaling. "Treat it with caution."
"Next creature is the most charismatic of all creed-plains creatures, the rihglid," he said as another image was swapped in. "This is the creature you may want to focus the expedition on. They're the second largest land organism on Ageriul, with the largest being one I would've reccomended going to see, the aaark. They're hard to spot, since they're underground. We have some recordings of their calls brought along, which may just bring them to the surface long enough to get some film."
"The rihglids have a smaller and more common relative, the tuareteh," Elet said as the herbivore was shown. "These are shoal animals, and extremely dumb. They're similar in size to an Urahob or Brilla. If you want to see them, the best bet is to look for these patterns-" The screen showed a pattern of stripes on the surface of the creed. "These are caused by their feeding."
Another image appeared. "Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is what we do NOT want to see," Elet said. "No doubts about it. Unless you're the sort of person who'd go after an underground carnivore that's eleven metrons long and won't stop eating. The robeka is one of the most deadly organisms of Ageriul, and little is known about it. Some believe it may even be a sophont."
He turned off the hologram.
"Now, any questions? Keep it short, because the synthetic voice is annoying even me."
Chapter 3: First SightingEdit
"That should be fine. Thank you, though." Tamun nodded gratefully at the Irkaputh tracker.
Dalro pointed out the window. "There, our first Quekrel flock."
The creature flew ahead, in formation. Despite their size, they were not clumsy and manoeuvred elegantly as a group, wheeling around in the sky, forming strange shapes as they surveyed the ground below.
"Bigger than any flyers back home." Mused Kala.
Tamun wasn't listening, though. He had opened the coach's top hatch, and now he and the cameraman were filming the animals from the vehicle's roof.
"These are the first animals we've seen on the creed plains- the Quekrel. Quite remarkable creatures, they can have wingspans of-" he checked his vidpad- "three metrons. They eat the creed, which they skim from the ground using their protruding lower jaws."
He pretended to watch them for a few seconds while the cameraman angled the device upwards to focus on the flying animals.
Elet spotted something of note. "I think that one's carrying a baby!" he said, pointing it out. Sure enough, as the camera moved to focus on it, the image of a smaller shape on the adult's back became clear.
"I imagine that they are like the Aborean ashlaton, giving birth and caring for their young on the wing. Amazing creatures."
There was a gentle shaking of the ground under the coach, and some dust came up on either side. Tamun had to hold on to the hatch to keep from falling.
"What's that, Elet?" He asked, his voice distorted by the vibrations.
"I'll go check; it's either really good news or really bad news," Elet said before jumping off of the side of the coach.
Chapter 4: The First of the DiggersEdit
After a few tense moments, Elet came back up and landed on the roof again. "Really good news," he said, eyes wide and chin-flaps relaxed in the Irkaputh equivalent of a smile. "Slow down the coach! We've found a herd of rihglid!" Sure enough, below the coach were a herd of subterranean behemoths, interested in this strange new object that had entered their environment.
As the coach stopped, a titanic, whale-sized bull surfaced completely, and gave the coach a gentle hit with his tail. It created quite a loud noise, which startled the animal slightly, making it retreat back under the ground. It then poked its head back above the surface, and made a low grumble. The rest of the herd closed in, and began investigating the vehicle. "We better stay put until they move away, in case we accidently run over one," Elet said. "Until then, this is probably the best bit of rihglid footage you're gonna get."
He looked upon the strange thing that the smaller unbeasts had been using as a means of transport. It rotated on some objects that rolled. He ruled out that it was a natural animal, as it would tear its own muscles to shreds if it span that many times. He'd caught a slight scent of the noxious smoke that had come from its rear, further supporting his decision on what it wasn't. It couldn't be a Rebeast, either, as the Gods would not send a Rebeast unless it was a matter of the highest importance. Carrying around unbeasts would not be of the highest importance. So, what was it, then?
It was created... And if it was created, then it must have been created by the unbeasts.
The unbeasts were not unbeasts. They were people. Unpeople...
He burrowed back under the earth, to tell the Rivermother of this.
Chapter 5: Base campEdit
The cameraman slowly panned across the herd as they moved past. "A brilliant shot. We'll have good negative space up at the top due to the darkness of the sky in that quarter under this exposure."
Tamun sighed. "Make sure to get shots with animals of different sizes in them. Keep things varied."
"Driver, let's move along with the herd for a while. Can you match their speed?"
"Of course," the driver replied. The coach, when the Rihglids were all far enough in front for them to be able to not run them over, began to move forwards.
He arrived at the river, calling out the Rivermother's startsong. He felt her approach, her powerful being moving towards him as she acknowledged him with a clack of the jaw. He sang his startsong, then though of what to say. "Rivermother," he began, "I come with news. There are unpeople in our lands."
"Unpeople?" she replied. "Surface, so we may see each other."
As they both tunnelled out of the ground, he saw the Rivermother's face and jaws. She had a large set of jaws, with short but sharp teeth, showing her age and that she was still in good health. She was larger than any person he had seen before. "I saw a noncreature with the unpeople," he said. "It moved by spinning its track-fins on the ground, and spewed noxious gas. It carried the unpeople as well. No Rebeast or unbeast could do that."
The Rivermother thought for a second, then nodded. "Show me where you first encountered these unpeople. You shall tell me more of them as we travel."
Aaee clacked his jaws twice, acknowledging the end of the conversation. They began to travel through the earth, away from the river and towards the unpeople.
After following the Rihglids for a time, the sun began to set. One by one, the beasts disappeared from sight, until they were alone in the creed again. Elet flitted to the front again, to make another announcement. "Since the sun's setting, we'll need to make base camp. We've got to put down a vibration-absorbing sheet, which will help stop anything noticing us while we're asleep. Unfortunately, this involves having to step on to the ground, which may alert carnivores to our presence. I'm too small for such a job. Who's up for it?"
Vaus nodded. "Sure. I wonder if we could throw objects far from the coach to lure carnivores away."
"Well, the main factor that the local carnivores will search for is vibration," he said. "If you've got anything that can make loud sound, that might keep the carnivore's attention focused on it. However, they'd probably go after us anyway once they decide that the object isn't food. It's best just to try not to make vibrations."
"Alright. Could you pass the sheet?"
Elet nodded. He flew over to a compartment at the back, and landed on top. He bit one of the handles, and tugged it upwards, then let it go. The door of the compartment swung downwards, hitting the other part with a 'CLANG'. He then looked at the size of the bag. "Bit bigger than I expected," he muttered. He turned back to Vaus. "You'll have to get it yourself, I can't carry it."
"Alright." Vaus took the sheet in hand and moved to the door. He laid it outside, then walked along on it to its end. Once there, he pushed it out as far as he could, taking care to stay on it. "This far enough?"
"Looks like it," Elek replied, gliding out of the coach and on to the sheet. "Hang on..." He walked to the edge of the sheet. "Looks fine," he affirmed. "We should-"
The Irkaputh leaped into the air as some sort of burrowing animal lunged at him. Unlike an apodothere, though, it had four large sets of claws, like a mole. Its mouth contained a large and spiky collection of teeth, set in two spiralling lines along its jaws. "New species!" Elet shouted. "Unfortunately, it's probably big enough to eat one of us!"
The spiral-toothed creature crawled up on to the sheet, roaring like there was no tomorrow. Ten metres or so away from the sheet, a second one surfaced. Elet realised it had not four, but six legs. Twenty metres, a third one was on the scene. More surfaced, until there was at least twelve of them, creating one of the loudest packs on a hunt that anyone there had ever known. Elet dived, slicing one with a knife he had on him, drawing blood. "Okay, that should do for proving their existence!" his translator shouted. "Now we have to figure out how in creation we're gonna-"
The heads of those that weren't on the sheet snapped suddenly to the north. They started chittering to each other, slowly backing away. They started galloping the other way, before diving under the ground once more.
"... I have a feeling that's bad news."
Chapter 6: StalemateEdit
To everyone apart from Elet, there had been a deep rumbling roar. It had simply been too low for an Irkaputh to hear. As Elet looked around in confusion, he spotted something.
"OH KRAGGING SCRAF-TORN SLAG PILES."
For there, in the distance, six heads were watching them.
The massive, unmistakeable jaws of the mightiest predator in the continent were aimed in their location.
It was a group of Robeka.
"INSIDE!" he shouted at Vaus, as the predators dove under the soil and their location was unknown once more.
Vaus leapt into the coach with uncharacteristic speed. He then turned to look back at the mat, shaking uncontrollably.
"That.... has never happened to me before..."
Elet stared out of the window, looking for any signs of the predators. "The best option is probably to get out of here ASAP," he said to the coach driver. With a nod, the driver replied. The engine was started, the accelerator was on the floor, the wheels began to spin, the coach began to move forwards as it struggled to get speed on the slippery creed...
"They appear to be leaving," the Rivermother said calmly. "I would prefer if they didn't." As the madebeast began to leave, one of her bodies dug up to the coach's front and bit, utterly wrecking the front of how the Unpeople had planned to escape with a sound of shattering glass and tearing metal and the scream of the frontmost Unperson. As an afterthought, she plucked the screaming creature from the coach and dropped it in front of her. Its track-fins had been injured, so it wouldn't be able to flee. She looked at it, and said to it, "Who are you?"
The younger Robeka dug up to it with all of him, and slammed into the side repeatedly. The madebeast began to tilt, until it was too far for it to balance, and it fell.
The coach rocked from side to side, throwing its occupants against the windows, and then it went too far and crashed down upon its side.
"On to the top of the coach! The new top!"
They scrambled out and climbed onto the windows. The cameraman dropped his camera in the hurry, and then reached down for it. Tamun took his wrist.
They moved back, away from the edge.
The other five robekas had moved to the driver, and all of them were making a digeridoo-like sound at him. One of them lifted the camera in its jaws, and...
Put it on the coach?
"We were getting nowhere," the younger Robeka said to the Rivermother. "If they know of us, then maybe this will get them to do what we were planning. After all, they must all be different yet still able to talk to one another, so they must have something to let them," he also reasoned.
"Very well," the Rivermother replied. She bit in to one of the wheels, wrecking it completely.
"That's... different." Tamun smiled quizzically.
Vaus stood up. "Remarkable. They may have a complex communication system!"
"Well... get your translator out. Put it on 'learn', and see what it picks up."
"You know, if these guys are sapient... the rulebooks may just have to be rewritten."
"And, more importantly, this footage is going to get me a lot of money."
Vaus narrowed his eyes at Tamun, and then turned back to the guide. "Can you get them to keep talking?"
"I can only hear the back ones talking, and they sound like digeridoos," he said. "But I'll try." He attempted to copy their language, which resulted in a high screeching cry that sounded sort of like a nest of squabbling baby alhtupuths. But it did the trick.
The Rivermother looked up at the Irkaputh, which flinched slightly. It was understandable. She turned to the creature that appeared to be the leader, the six-legged creature with the long snout that wasn't carrying the eye-like device. "Are you able to speak in any way, shape or form?" she asked. Some sort of device made a communicative noise as she said that. She eyed it with interest. "I shall take the creation's reply as a positive answer. I am Swimmer of the Stream of Earth," she said, with her name being as a song, like all Robeka's.
"My startsong is Bite into the Flesh," the male said. "I saw that your locomotion device was neither an unbeast or Rebeast, so I guessed that you created it, and decided you were Unpeople. I told Swimmer of the Stream of Earth, the Rivermother, that you were here, and we decided to attempt to communicate."
"Well, it's made sense of... something. Let's see."
He pressed a button.
"You speak shape shape path? Taking response creator plus question. I swim river soil."
The male robeka's translated voice, now. "I rhythm begin bite food. Eyes machine mover not nothing animal or resurrected animal, so assumption engineered, assumption nothing species. Told swim river soil, swim ancestor female, that in this place, and assumption attempt relay information."
Tamun raised an eyebrow. "Well, that makes no sense."
"It seems that whatever our words came across as made no sense," the Rivermother said to Bite into. "At least we have an answer to our question." She turned back to the sapients. "We are the Robeka. Our people live throughout the continent. We are not as able to create things as you seem to be, but we are equals, as all people are. I have the task of looking after the nearest river, which is sacred, and I am the Rivermother for that. I may be of importance, but my soul is equal to every other's. We apologise for any aggressive actions our race has taken against your kind before, as you are different to any Robeka. Welcome to Jaekiul."
"They're not going to get a word of that."
"Our dictionary never sense manufacturing. Minimally possess answer route question." The Robeka turned back to them. "We Robeka. All through partition world our persons. We not as proficient construction as you, but all people same value. Career of mine steward of water runs, holier be, swim ancestor because that. My soul same value aliens, even though high role. All non-peaceful actions sorry for, like you are alien to all Robeka. Welcome Jaekiul."
"Not word grab."
"Knowledge of mine."
Tamun smiled. "More sense, even if there's basically none. Let's see if it works the other way."
He picked up the translator.
"Ahem. Thank you for your welcome. We agree with your principles of equality and hope to be on good terms with your kind, in which all of our races may prosper. We humbly offer our friendship." He turned to whisper to the cameraman. "I hope you're getting this."
The cameraman nodded vigorously, holding the camera up.
"Is this a record for number of natural sapiens on one planet?" Elet asked, turning off the Irkaputh-to-Robeka part of his own translator.
The two Robekas listened as the device began to work, and the Unperson's voice was translated into the familiar, digeridoo-like sound that they used as speech.
"Give praise for welcoming. We yes about people's thoughts of same level and hope to be on friend level with your kind, in where every of kind may better. We simply offer our friend." He turned to whisper to the cameraman. The two Robekas ignored this last part, as it might have been the creature's thought-speak and thus rude to listen. Swimmer of the Stream of Earth simply replied, "Yes. Let it be."
The younger male Robeka said, "Please ignore my words for a second, I'm thinking." His three bodies conversed between each other, and Bite into's dominant body spoke to the Unpeople again. "How do your kind think?" he asked. "There seems to be too few of you to think as we do, with all of our three parts coming together at decisions to form a person."
The translator was working comprehensibly now.
"We think by ourselves, I guess. Or talk to each other."
Swimmer of the Stream made a slight noise, probably an equivalent to a nod. "I believe we must be gone now," she said. "At the next chance you have to travel here, I shall be at the river. I will be able to call Bite into the Flesh to us when you arrive. Goodbye." And then, as soon as they came, sixty tons of sapient went underground and vanished.
Leaving a wrecked coach behind.
Epilogue: Meeting againEdit
The Alxen and Zyrothan ambassadors had both driven down to the riverbank, and were stood there conversing as Urahob and Irkaputh representatives gathered.
Tamun and his cameraman were there too, making sure to get footage of the first official meeting with the Robeka.
And, after the long wait, three heads surfaced. Three others appeared as well, and even more began to pop up. There were about 7 Robekas in total, giving 21 bodies of large subterranean carnivore.
"Greetings," the Rivermother said. The translators had been modified to not translate the Robeka's spoken thoughts. "To those of you who do not know of me, I am the Rivermother, my startsong being Swimmer of the Stream of Earth. I have brought Bite into the Flesh, as well as those who had reasonably close for their size." There was a male larger than Swimmer of the Stream, a child male who was half the size of the rest of them and three more old females. She introduced each of them. "We hope that the first intended meeting between our own species and those of all of yours, and in extention the future of all our races, goes well."
The Zyrothan ambassador nodded. "We will do everything in our power to ensure the best possible outcome for each race here."
The Alxen ambassador looked at the Robekas uneasily. "Indeed. I hope all our kinds will benefit from this relationship."
And as the light of Ageriul's sun shone down upon the creed plains, a new future was born for the mightiest predators of the creed plains, and for the Zyrothans, Alxen, Urahob, Irkaputh and every other of the Robeka's new equals.