Listen well young Wraithling, for when you wake grown from the Long Sleep and breathe your first taste of sky, and feel the Hunger burn in your fingers you would do well to use more of your mind than the Instinct.
Out there in the Hunting Dark is more than even the Wisest of Thinkers could understand. Not even the Queens of old ever claimed to understand all the wonders of the Universe, and it contained more wonder -- and more terror than they could ever have thought possible!
Imagine now, reach into the great past-dreaming and see the awe when that famous mind Kailish of the Watchers-Hive first discovered that the great Hungry One was no mere thought by a Thinker, but looked for the first time on one of the infinite Hands of God in the night sky feeding on the very stars themselves.
Then, wraithling of my hive, this was a Great Thought and all Hives shared it, trembling with fervour, rejoicing that they alone of the Universe had been given proof of their superiority. In the Cycle of Wonder, they feasted, claiming as their natural right all life as their food. Through the Cycles to come, more Queens were birthed, and the Wraith became the lords of creation, as was their destiny. They conquered all and abandoned that which had shackled their ancestors. The galaxy was theirs!
But then, in the Cycle of Night, the Thinker Quirna of Heart-eater Hive dreamt another Great Thought as the Hives shared the Long Sleep. If our God was real and manifest, then logic and instinct would state that his spirits of retribution which we had dismissed as mere fancies would have faces here and not merely abstract form. Would there not be punishment for those that defied the laws of the Hungry One? Where we had broken old rules and laws confident in our Right, would that not be a call for retribution?
When the Hives woke then, many were troubled that they had defied laws of the Wise ones and there were Thinkers who spoke of the inevitable turning of all things, from glory to dishonour.
That Cycle was followed by the Cycle of Longest Day and all too soon Thinker Quirna's Great Thought was proved true. In this Cycle, Spirits of vengeance walked, their names a horror, touching Wraith with the anger of the Hungry One and examples made of those who had lost honour.
You will have heard the names, young Wraithling, perhaps thought yourself stronger and braver than those who fell to their silent minds. Young minds dream of glory, of defeating these monsters when all else have failed.
You would be the one to slay them? They are but prey? Then read on young Wraithling, for the spirit of the Hungry One touched them and they are the final judgement...
The Sheppard, The Mckay, The Beckett, The Em-ma-gen, The R'non, The Ai-den
Whikeran of the Dark-Hand Hive was a warrior of great pride. Tall, and fine among his brothers, he was known as one who would gain rank, serve finally in the Queens hive. Perhaps, they would say, if he was brave and daring, he would find the golden tusel drink presented to him and serve then in the Queens chamber in the ultimate honour! There were few among his brothers who would not have claimed him worthy of that honour or set themselves above him. As you might've realised, Whikeran of the Dark-Hand thought greatly of himself. He was the strongest, the fastest, the most handsome, cleverest warrior and his dreaming spoke strongly of this to anyone who touched minds with him.
However, Whikeran Dark-Hand had a grave fault. He delighted in satiating the Hunger, and wasted much prey that others of the Hive would have fed on by taking the finest and draining quickly, spilling out a life with careless feeding. What did it matter, he would say? There was much prey and he was strong and if he tracked in the Hunting Dark surely he deserved the finest taste of life, flavoured with sharp delicious fear.
His hive-brother Herakan, paired of the same egg, told him that indulgence was wrong and reminded him of the duty to the hive as was proper. Whikeran would laugh and joke that he had the blessing of the god in his hunger and he too was strong enough to feed on the light of the stars like the Hungry One.
Herakan was much upset by this, seeing his brother's thoughts that he cast carelessly into the dreaming. They twisted cruelly as he realised that Whikeran would not share his kill even if he had been wounded protecting him! "But what of your brothers and the Hive? We are Warriors, leaders and it is our responsibility to feed the Hive and protect each other," he said.
Whikeran laughed arrogantly. "What brother of mine would make themselves weak to cast their kills before Thinkers, Dreamers and Drones? We are the strong, Herakan, and we stay that way by taking the best that there is. There is always more."
Herakan shook his head. "The Teachings of the Wise tell us to not waste our prey and to respect it."
"The Teachings of the Wise told us not to feed on sentient prey and yet they are the sweetest of them all," Whikeran replied smugly, for he was that way inclined. "Now, I go to hunt. If you feel the Hunger, my brother, you will come with me. "
"You do not need to feed, neither do I," Herakan replied. "Not this time, brother. You will hunt alone. Go, drink another life. Perhaps finally you will find your limit."
Whikeran laughed as he flew away, away to a jewel green planet that hummed with life. "My brother is a fool," he said. "Still, I will only take one. There are so many."
Well, as we know in this Cycle, there were not so many. It was the cycle of the Longest Day and prey was scarce, making Whikeran's behaviour even more terrible. There were those hungry in the Hive while Whikeran was letting half drained prey die!
Well, as we all know, The Hungry One abhors waste and he saw this arrogant warrior and with a long reach, he saw that Whikeran would be punished. One of the spirits of vengeance was summoned and more would follow.
The spirits of vengeance looked like ordinary humans, but in their very selves were powers that would make any Wraith tremble. But then, they had shown themselves and their names were not yet the terror they became later, and Whikeran felt there to be little danger to him. Who could with stand a warrior in his prime?
So it was he hunted on that green planet unaware that the Hungry One had summoned one of the worse of its servants against him.
Well, Whikeran scouted, and hunted and what should he see? Yes, a lone Human, a male... strong yet plump with life. Already he could smell and taste with the edges of his mind his sweet spicy fear and oh, yes.. that would be worth the effort.
He stalked his prey, the pulsing anticipation maddening him even as he pounced on his prey. "I will taste your fear, hot and sweet.." he growled preparing to feed.
"Oh, I don't think you'll be tasting anything much, son," the human said suddenly with a smile and a voice that lilted strangely and in that moment worked his spirit magic and the mighty Whikeran crumpled before this prey.
"Well," said the Beckett revealing himself. "That was bloody easy."
There are some that say that the Beckett is the worse of the Spirits. Many a strong warrior quails in his heart and bleeds his fears into the dreaming because of the Beckett.
What could be so terrible about the one called the Healer? There are many who do not understand why the wise Wraith fears the Healer.
Then listen well to the fate of Whickeran Dark-Hand.
Such are the powers of the Beckett that while the proud warrior lay at his feet, he bore him away to the dread city of our ancient foes and tore from him bit by bit his pure white skin from his still living flesh. His moonlight locks were torn from their roots, his varsa slits peeled back until his whole face was ripped away. His hands were blocked, choked with death and then the Beckett stole and bottled his Wraith-mind, his Wraith-heart and cut his ties to his brothers -- yes even to Herakan of his own egg.
They say for his own delight the Beckett placed his skin in jars to float and flutter forever. They say that he took the warrior's blood and saved it as a trophy and to work his dark magics -- what else would he need it for?
Surely this would've been torture enough but that was mere play for this spirit. The Beckett's true work revealed his vengeance. His magics drew a skin over the Wraith and Whickeran was unaware as the Beckett spoke. "This is a cure, son, and you will be glad of it."
Of course, it was the worst lesson of Whickeran Dark-Hand's life. For when he woke, he did not know himself, he could not hear the dreaming and the Beckett had done a terrible thing. He had made a Wraith into.....prey!
Yes, Whickeran Dark-Hand had been changed into a Human, the very form he had wasted and abused, for such is the justice of the Hungry One. No more could he feed, or be with his brothers for they would eat him as soon as look at him now. He would know fear as no Wraith had before him. Such was his punishment!
What happened to him? Well, you may ask young Wraithling, and that will be a tale for another time. But before you think all is lost I will tell you the name the Beckett gave him and reveal another great mystery.
Beckett named him Michael -- ah yes, now you realise who he is, but this is before he met Halden Star-eye.
That is yet another Tale.
In the Cycle of Longest Day, there was a young wraith called Jorstan of the Feeding-Dream Hive who had seen only two cycles and only in the last Long Sleep developed from Drone into Warrior. It was a surprise to many of his elders as they expected him, even as a Drone to become a Dreamer as he was taken to great flights of fancy in the dreaming, his thoughts showing vivid and clear even then. But a Warrior he became because the Hive needed Warriors for the Cycle of Longest Day and there is none that can question the ways of Queens. The Feeding-Dream Hive was large and had prospered through the Cycles, producing many great Warriors, Dreamers and Thinkers. Their Queens had their memories stretching back a hundred cycles. back to near the birthing of That-which-is-Wraith and were accorded respect by other Hives because they strove continually to be better than everyone. They would produce the best Dreamers, the finest Thinkers, the most powerful Warriors. and so it was there was fierce competition for glory within the Hive.
In those days, there was a Warrior-Hero called Huskaera Feeding-Dream who was more commonly known as Half-Lock, for he had lived in the Cycle of Victory when the Wraith defeated their mightiest foes, those which were called Ancients. One of their dread weapons struck him even while he destroyed the last of their warships and since that time, through the thirty cycles he lived, one side of his starlight locks never returned. As befitted his status, he was a commander and there was not a Warrior from his Hive that did not vie to be placed in his command.
Jorstan Feeding-Dream vowed he would be the youngest ever Warrior to be assigned to Half-Lock's command, for it was well known he would not take one who had not survived five cycles.
"I shall be the first!" Jorstan Feeding-Dream informed his brothers, and they were so used to his arrogant blazing ambition that they merely laughed at him and agreed that of course he would be... while patiently waiting for that thought to replaced by something new.
Well, it is true Jorstan tried very hard. He worked and worked but there are things that only the passing of time can teach you and he saw over and over other warriors selected to serve and himself passed over.
"I need to stand out," he thought in his own-self thoughts where his brother could not hear him. "I need to be noticed. So, the commander enjoys the sport of Runners. I will become good at this and then I will be noticed and chosen."
And again, he worked hard and for a youngling, he did very well, for the runners were picked to be the strongest, the most cunning, the sharpest of prey and he found his imagination added him and he claimed three to his own honour in his first year. This was good, but not exceptional and still, Jorstan Feeding-Dream was overlooked.
So, then he became even more eager, and then he slipped from the path of a warriors honour to further his ambition. When they hunted he would say to his brothers "Look! I saw him over there!" and so sharp were his dream-thoughts of their runner prey that his brothers would rush away and leave him with no competition believing his images.
This cunning was against the unspoken bonds between brothers, and after it had happened more than once, there was mutterings among his fellows.
"How is it that Jorstan has ten kills now, and we have only three between the rest of us?" they complained. "How is it that a human that is less fast than we are is over there and then somehow over here again swifter than we can run?"
And they would look on as Jorstan placed another deactivated transmitter ring on his belt and filled the dreaming with self-satisfied thoughts and that most terrible of things; a seed of distrust was planted within their brotherband.
Still though, despite this terrible price, this exceptional achievement did not get more than a mere glance from Half-Lock Feeding-Dream and no order came to summon the young warrior to serve with Half-Lock's own brothers.
Gnashing his teeth, Jorstan plotted even more. All Wraith knew of Half-Locks obsession with a runner. Or perhaps we should say as we know now... The Runner.
It is said that he created the R'non when he besought the Hungry One for a worthy prey, for everything had seemed dull and repetitious in his dreaming and waking. That is the way of those that have lived through many cycles. And Half-Lock was no different for all he was a hero of that Cycle of Victory. He had even outlived the Hive's queens not just once but twice and he was weary through being chosen as a Waker through the last part of the Long Sleep. It was then he had turned to honing his skills in the Hunt by loosing Runners into the Hunting Dark and chasing them down. Still, it came easy to him as a warrior of legend and even the hunt can pall if there is too much ease to it.
The Hungry One no doubt heard his heart-dreams for there came a time when his ship harvested and he sought a new batch of Runners.
Half-Lock heard the delight of one of his brother-warriors over a fine specimen he was about to feed from in payment for the death of many of his brothers, seeing glimpses of the devastation this one had wrought. For the first time he held curiosity and through the dreaming stayed his Warriors hand, claiming this one for a Runner.
The R'non is a Wraith inverted. The opposite staring back from the mirror reflection of the Hungry One. Where the Wraith is moonlight and water, the Runner is darkness and earth. Where ours is hair of silver, his is locks of ebon black, our skin pale, his dark. His strength rivalled that of any group of warriors, his will and anger so strong it can be tasted on the breeze as his spore. Half-Lock knew not what he had unleashed when he set the Runner loose in the Hunting Dark but he got all he wished for and then more.
All this Jorstan Feeding-Dream knew, as did all his brothers. They knew that though it had been easy to take the others, none had ever taken that one known as R'non. Every warrior who had taken the challenge had perished save Half-Lock himself who, the warriors bespoke amongst themselves, had only been saved from that fight by the direct command of his Hive Queen who forbade him to leave his post to continue after him.
By the time Jorstan had been woken into this Cycle of the Longest Day, the R'non was already a legend and the tale of Half-Lock's obsession spoken of often in the dreaming.
"Then this is the way. I will devise a means of being the one to take him as a kill. " Jorstan thought in his self-thoughts far from the dreaming of his brothers. "Or perhaps I will present him as a gift to Half-Lock. For that he must grant me a place in his command. Perhaps even as one of his own brothers."
Well, no one could ever say that he was not ambitious or that he did not have cunning and the bright thoughts of a Dreamer mixed in with his Warrior mind. It was this that gave him the plan. He broke with the tradition of the hunt and negotiated with prey as he had heard could be done from the dreaming. There were hives who did not hunt but permitted prey to give of their own for fear of their own lives. Many Wraith-Hives disapproved of this for such was the nature of the prey you could be sure they would not give their best but in times of hunger it was an idea of merit and so survived in the dreaming. Jorstan knew there were worlds he had been where Half-Lock, enraged by being thwarted in his hunt for the R'non, had culled the humans there and he knew enough of them that they would bargain their own. He was patient, patient and more patient even though the Runner could no more be traced, and though it was said he was dead there was more than one Warrior wondering what if ...what if...
Then came the summons and Jorstan rejoiced to hear that one of his traps had been sprung. This would be it! His plan, though not the Hunters' way, would get him what he most wanted for his ambition had not dimmed in the years of being a warrior. He would be the one to bring the R'non to Half-Lock and all because the Runner had trusted his own kind.
His brothers were not best pleased when he told them what he had done. "This is not the way of the Hunt, Jorstan," they said. "This is not a true capture. A true kill."
It was true and he could not deny that. "This I know, my brothers, but with this I will ensure that all of us will become favoured by Half-Lock and be his Warriors and be new Legends to be heard of in the dreaming for Cycles to come."
It had not been his first plan, as we well know, but in those years together his brother-band had become closer and also... Jorstan felt he could return to his old ways. Perhaps he could ask for the honour of joining a hunt party to finish the Runner and he could say once more, "He is there!" and steal the glory for his own.
When Jorstan claimed the R'non, he was made prideful by the way the Runner was already unconscious and easy to handle. "See brothers? He is nothing more than meat!"
One of his brothers was uncertain. "The humans say that he gave himself up to them for the sake of his brothers."
And as we know young wraithlings, the brothers of the Runner are the Thinker, The Healer, The DreamWalker and of course the Warrior. But then they were thought only to be humans and humans did not know proper behaviour.
"Humans lie. There are none that would take the Runner into a brother-band," Jorstan replied. "They say this to deceive us. So we will give them the reward they deserve. Cull this place and we will go to Half-Lock immediately."
Well, the Wraith warriors did as Jorstan said and then they took themselves to the warship of Half-lock Feeding Dream and their thoughts were bright with their triumph as they brought before him the unconscious body of the Runner.
"Commander Half-Lock, I have brought you the prize that you have longed for," Jorstan announced. "Through the planning and bravery of myself and my brothers have we entrapped your most hunted prey."
Then it was that Half-Lock looked upon them and they felt the enormous presence of him touch them for the first time.
"I see that you have. Was he taken in the hunt?" he asked them and Jorstan had to admit that he had been trapped by trickery.
Half-Lock stood then. "I see. And what did you hope to gain from this?" he asked, his thoughts sharp and unforgiving.
"Your favour, commander. For my brothers and myself. We wish only to be called to your side. To assist when you hunt this one to his rightful end," Jorstan replied, his thoughts filled with a excitement and desire to serve. "It struck me that a final hunt where this all began on the homeworld where you first made him Runner would be....appropriate."
Well, you can see how close to being a dreamer Jorstan really was for these were the sort of thoughts that would come from them, but Half-Lock sat back.
"He has been a worthy prey. He deserved to have a chance to die as he should. We will make him Runner once more and take him to his homeland. It is fitting that he will die where he was born," Half-Lock told them. "However, our Queen has declared that I should not hunt this one for fear of neglecting my duty."
"Then let us join your brothers, my commander," Jorstan said smoothly. "And we will slay him for you. The action of one brother is an action of all his brothers."
The hero of the Cycle of Victory agreed. "It will be so. We will set course for the planet of Sateda, and his long Hunt will end in honour."
And thus did Jorstan Feeding-Dream secure his place with the brothers of Half-Lock and rejoiced for he planned then to emerge in glory through using his skills of misdirection.
The Hunt was planned and the Runner was transported to the surface and all of Jorstan's brothers were now convinced he was the finest leader that could ever have been. They had come further than all that had ever come before and all they had to do was take one runner. Each of them had taken many runners over time and this seemed as nothing and a Hunt with the prey already caught and killed in their minds.
Jorstan began the hunt with his brothers and those of Half-Locks and on the wreckage of that culled world, his ambition rose up dark and ugly.
First it was that he incited one of the older Warriors to take him alone, knowing more of this Runner's strength than others. He suppressed his glee into his own-self thoughts as swiftly the Runner took Warriors spirit and cast it into the hands of the Hungry One. Over and over this happened, as he misdirected them just a little to places that aided the runner before finally he and his brothers were allowed their chance.
Then it was his ambition overcame his sense for he forgot he was Wraith and treated his brothers like prey, fooling them with his commands so he could get closer.
Then it was he discovered a terrible thing. He discovered as he crept closer following the spore of his wounded prey that the Runner was no longer alone. He had his own brothers with him.
Well now we know that there he saw the Warrior and the DreamWalker there to aid the Runner, but, they were just humans to Jorstan. Still, they were unexpected and his brothers were heading into danger.
"Brothers, beware. There is a trap that waits. Fall back!" he called to them through the dream, his thoughts as sharp and bright as ever.
But here he reaped the legacy of years of dreaming misleading thoughts to them all.
"Of course there is," replied his brothers laughing. "Come now, Jorstan, we heard you do this to the others. We will not be fooled again. You just want the glory for yourself."
That he might have done, but what was glory without brothers to share it with? Jorstan begged then. "Please, this is the truth my brothers. Do not go into the building! There is more than the Runner that waits."
"How could there be? The Circle-Hand has been closed, and we would have sensed any ship. This is an empty world! We will not listen."
And all his brothers entered that building though Jorstan bewailed his warning desperately.
And there it was that the R'non showed his true power. He tore through that brotherband, killing, killing, killing, taking their spirits for the Hungry One with motions too fast for a normal human, his rage a towering emotion that roared around them deafening them to his exact location like trying to find a drop of water in an ocean.
Jorstan was transfixed with horror. He had treated his brothers poorly but he never wanted them dead! But by the time he reached them it was too late. He ran as he felt the last of their spirits slip from his mind and turned to fight, to face the Runner and in that moment realised his death was at hand.
None could look into the eyes of the Runner and live.
With his dying thoughts he reached out and heard the roar of rage of Half-Lock and went to the Hungry One ashamed that his pride had called such wrath upon all he loved.
Well what happened to the Runner? As I am sure you know, young Wraithling, the knowledge of such carnage lured Half-Lock Feeding-Dream to break his Queen's command. And there was such a battle that took place. The very ground shook with their falls, the buildings fell as they clashed, blood and life bled from them and it was as Half-Lock had asked. A foe that could withstand him, could challenge him, and his joy in living rekindled as he unleashed his skills and was winning!
He had sensed the presence of them all watching, honouring the combat, but at the moment of his victory, he was struck down by a bolt of purest power called forth by the McKay and the Beckett, though the Warrior had respected his fight.
He died then, sending his thoughts to his Hive Dreamer, at the hands of more than a mere Runner. At the hands of a servant of the Hungry One and there was no disgrace in that passing for a Hero of our people. But for Jorstan the Deceiver there is nothing but shame.
So remember young Wraithling, do not send false dreams to your brothers for should they grow accustomed to the taste of lies, they will spit out the taste of truth!
Now, my young Wraithling, we all know well That-which-is-Wraith could not survive without those who are Dreamers, for they are those that weave the pathways between us all so we share in the dreams of our brothers and hear the commands of our Queens. All who are Wraith have the gift of Dreaming but the Dreamers themselves have a sacred duty, for they weave the Long Sleep, store the souls of those Wraith who pass to the Hungry One and loose the thoughts of all into that space where we live most of all. They share with us those things that have happened, and dream for us things that could happen, or that might never happen. Who can forget those first moments when we close our eyes and then find ourselves flying as spirits to the cities of light that the Dreamers weave for us in the dreaming? How filled with richness, the dream holds everything we desire and we are free of the hunger for we are fed within the dream and are as Wraithlings once more, satisfied with what we consume, filled with wonder as legends walk amongst us, thoughts and memories are made real and on those special times the Dreamers let loose the selves of those who died in the Wake to be with us before fleeing to the Hungry One. The Long Sleeps are where we love, we tell the tales, we learn, we think, we grow and it is where, as some of the Thinkers say, we are the most alive, and the Wake is where we are slaves to our bodies and the Instinct.
I remind you of this because perhaps then you will think on the horror that is the Em-ma-gen, the DreamWalker spirit. The Hungry One created her from the pride and arrogance of Wraith Thinkers from Cycles long past who thought they were doing good for the Hive by breeding stronger, better prey. It was the fact they blended that which is Wraith into that which is prey and then thought to hide from their mistake that brought down this wrath from the Hungry One. The Hungry One teaches us that a truth denied bears a very bitter feeding and so it is with the Em-Ma-Gen.
Though bearing the form of a female human it was not until she became accepted by the Warrior into his band of brothers that she showed her true nature for the horror it was.
Warsarek of the Shadow-Waker Hive was one of the Queens' own Dreamers. He had been so for some time for he was strong in his talent. He could create wonderful creations of thought to please the queen and the Hive; he could reward Hive members with dreamtimes filled with wish fulfilments indistinguishable from reality. He had in the past been one of those that would dream with the ship and control its responses as if it was his very self that was soaring through space. Of the Dreamers of the Shadow-Waker Hive, he was the one most often summoned to drink the golden tusel drink and attend on the Queen so more Dreamers would be born to the Hive of his blood. Indeed he often accompanied her on those trips into the Drone quarters where she would press her hands in ritual blessing to the females' stomachs and pass them the sacred gift of a child from a fertilised egg from her own body while he sang them the dreaming that would stir their own maternal instincts.
In the Cycle of Longest Day, the activities of the Warrior and his Hive were just being felt and though the tragic passing of the Queen of the Sacred-Hand roused all Wraith from the Long Sleep it was thought that the action of the Warrior had been but an unfortunate accident for no human had ever killed a Queen before.
Who would possibly have the temerity to stand against the Wraith? Well, as we know there was one in the Warrior, and in his brother-band he selected in secret those also touched by the Hungry One, and one of these was the Em-Ma-Gen.
Hers was the means to trespass into our dreamspace which no other mind has done before. And it was into the mind of one of the Shadow-Waker Hive warriors that she first crossed and we knew of the presence of this dangerous spirit. The Warrior knew nothing, sensed not her alien presence, but to Warsarek, trained to a Dreamer's sensitivity, the intrusion was a horror and akin to bright light across sleep-gentled eyes.
"What is this?" he said into the dreaming of his Hive. "There is one who is Not-Wraith in our dreaming!"
"Is it perhaps another Hive?" asked one of his brother Dreamers. Warsarek was not particularly tolerant of their stupidity.
"Chewer of Food!" he berated him as a young Wraithling, "Did I not say that this was Not-Wraith?"
"But there are none that are Not-Wraith who can do this," his brother replied, a little annoyed. "Not even those that we call the Defeated ever managed to walk our dreampaths."
Warsarek cast the memory of the wraith warrior before them all. "Examine this, and tell me I am incorrect."
Well, of course none of them could. And none of them would dare.
There was much discussion then, for Dreamers are fond of discussion, almost as fond as Thinkers as they wondered that this strange presence that had appeared and if it were dangerous and if the taint of human was real or a disguise.
Warsarek had been silent during this and even as they talked, they all felt the shiver of the dreamspace around them as someone stepped in from Outside.
"Brothers! To me, for together, there is no mind that can harm us," Warsarek commanded and they blended themselves together and then Warsarek knew he could act, for only a Queen's compulsion was as strong as that of trained Dreamers working together.
Eagerly then they tracked that thought and hungry in the dreamspace, they hunted and seized control of that questing presence; and in that moment, Warsarek took from the Em-Ma-Gen many thoughts and bore them away as proud as any warrior, before the DreamWalker wrested her control away again.
Like precious treasures, much of this was placed to one side for consideration, while they concentrated on the fact that they had acted in glory and the Queen herself had noted their brave actions. For Dreamers, glory is a heady drink, as intoxicating as a new life under the hand.
"You will discover more," the Queen bespoke them. "My Warsarek, first among the dreamers of the Wraith Hives, you will do more than drive off, you will find out more, you will cause her to turn upon her brothers for this grievous crime of trespass. You will twist her mind and not heed her cries for mercy for she has killed one of my sisters and we go to take all of them. And the one who slew a Queen will be mine to make an example of in a way that even humans will remember for many Cycles to come."
As you might've noticed, young Wraithling, the Queen of the Shadow-Waker Hive was not best pleased, and the intrusion had driven her to frenzy. But the feel of something alien in a Hive's dream was unsettling to the point of interfering with rational thought.
Warsarek Shadow-Waker bowed his head, and he and his brotherband of Dreamers remained vigilant, ready to act at any time.
Well, such a battle ensued then between the DreamWalker and the Dreamers of the Shadow-Waker Hive. Not a battle of blood, fire and metal, but one of thought, dream and will. Back and forth the advantage was torn, and they were weary but determined. They threw contempt at their enemies, possessing the body for moments and longer moments and struck at the other spirits using the body of the Em-Ma-Gen. Thus it was the Beckett was felled with a blow, and they dared attack the Warrior himself! In their dreampath struggles, they perhaps did as much as any Warrior had done and were rightfully proud of their role.
It would seem that there was a triumph just waiting to be plucked, and the mythical rich feeding grounds would be soon within their grasp. And it would seem that this spirit was far from the terror that the others could be.
Warsarek was convinced they were succeeding for he had wrested information about a second base from the DreamWalker's mind. He pushed and pushed their advantage, trying to haunt her dreams and body, to strike at his enemies from afar.
Wherein was the power of this spirit? Well, my Wraithling, think of this. While they thought to ensnare the DreamWalker, she had woven her own spells upon them. So deft was she that while they took thoughts from her, she had taken from them and they had not noticed. She lured them to a trap in the First Battle and in the first conflict though they felt they had done well in pulling knowledge of mines; but in the end, one Hive was destroyed by a weapon of the Defeated ones, and another by the first strike of the Warrior.
And then, even as the Hives gathered to beat the shield of that ancient city-hive down as they had done before and were called from the dreaming by the most ancient of the dreamers who had lived in the Cycle of Victory and could recall those thoughts of the Hive then, the DreamWalker once again pushed into the dreampaths and her thought were blazing and clear.
They would cleanse the city-hive of Atlantis with purifying fire rather than let its secrets become that-which-is-Wraith's. The venom in her dreaming was enough to bring shock to Warsarek, and he felt the intent, the will, the power...
Pushing, he warned his Queen, and she cursed pushing to see if they could take those secrets before such a terrible thing could happen.
But alas, it seemed that the DreamWalker had been sharing a bitter truth, because there was an explosion like that which that had destroyed the Hive of Grasping-Night and then there was nothing.
So it was the First Battle of the Cycle of Longest Day was declared both a Victory and a Defeat in that the Wraith were denied their prey, but defeated an enemy. And with that they resolved to be content and turn their Thinkers to the task of finding other galaxies and feeding grounds.
But, my young Wraithling, you have not heard the terrible truth. The DreamWalker had woven a dream of deceit indistinguishable from truth and then spread a dream of empty destruction where their Hive should be and thus all who looked would see nothing but the floating debris of opportunity lost.
So they say of the Em-Ma-Gen that she can walk the dream seen and unseen, she fights like the Hungry One's own demon, she steals that which makes Wraith That-which-is-Wraith, can best the greatest Dreamers and convince all of a terrible untruth.
So beware when you dream young Wraithling, for when you look into the eyes of your brother, perhaps it will be the Em-Ma-Gen staring back at you!
Well now young Wraithling, there are some among the Wraith who say of what worth is honour? It does not feed us; it does not build, or give us anything of worth and of all the edicts of the Hungry One it was surely the easiest to abandon. And it would seem that in the Cycle of the Longest Day there were more Wraith than not who felt that honour was something to be ignored at will.
This is why the Hungry One sent the Warrior, to remind us of times when we were more than slaves to Instinct, when Honour held it in check. It is also a well-known fact that you cannot talk of the Warrior, without talking of Haldan Star-Eye.
Haldan Star-Eye was of the dominant hive at that time, for the Queen Getherin had borne seven other Queens within her own body, nourishing them and creating for them their own Hives, complete with Warriors, Dreamers and Thinkers before casting them into the deep of the Hunting Dark. As such, she had the support of her daughter Queens, and their daughter Queens. She, by common assent in the Dreaming, was Queen of Queens and it was she that decided That-Which-is-Wraith
Halden began as Halden of the Darkstar Hive, and he was an unusual Warrior in that he matured as a Warrior, but could also have been a Dreamer or Thinker. This is a rare thing, to be born with so many of our talents, and Halden Darkstar rose through his deeds and honour to be one of the elite. He along with a brotherband of the finest Warriors of all of those Hives beholden to Getherin Darkstar -- which as we know was a great many -- formed a special brotherhood.
These Elite Warriors bore a sacred mark that declared they had put aside their own Hive bonds and stood only for That-which-is-Wraith. They were marked with a black stylised star about their eye, the symbol of the Hungry One's own feeding Hand that was shown to the universe. When other Wraith saw this, they knew no matter the taste of the others' dreaming that they were one of the brotherband that stood for the Queen of Queens of that time.
In this, they were all special, the best Warriors of all Wraith. Their honour was unstained and valued, they would practice the Giving, that most noble sacrifice of the food of their life to their brothers should battle strike them down. They were spoken of often in the dreaming as the Immortals, as those who could not be saved, would give the rest of their life to their closest brothers and live on within them.
Halden wore the mark of the Immortals with courage and honour and was widely regarded as a Hero of the Wraith who would be spun among the dreaming for endless Cycles. But then there came a day when he stood as a Waker for his brotherband before the Cycle of Longest Day, and he was part of those sent to cull that race of humans that were called Genii.
The Genii had the worst of all human traits. They killed their own and not for food, or for the Hive. They betrayed their words, they deceived all who met them, and they used all those who would aid them, even those of their own kind. They were bad enemies and even worse friends and were shunned by other humans for they had no honour at all. And if you should ever doubt why honour is important, then read all tales of the Genii and wonder no more.
Unknowing of this, Haldan flew his dart-ship with two others, to glean a few humans for those Wakers of his Hive and all information had told them that the Genii were barely more than beasts with crude shelters.
Well, young Wraithling, Haldan and his brothers were betrayed, for the Genii were nothing if not cunning. Without warning, their darts were shot down and Halden felt the pain as his brothers died in flame and fire, even as he hit the ground. So it was he was rendered unconscious before activating his self-destruct that would have allowed him to cast his spirit and memories to the Dreamer of his Hive before his body was destroyed and his honour preserved.
Not so, for the accursed Genii took this from him, and he woke shackled, imprisoned and was doomed to a miserable torment of existence as he was starved and then used by these most terrible of prey to torment and break their own kind. Still he plotted to escape, but as he became weaker and weaker through their torture and his hunger, over time he was no match even for a single human! There it was then, on an unknown world, far from the dreaming of any Wraith that Haldan lay in unbreakable chains for unending years wishing for an end to the hunger and to his own existence.
Now, young wraithling, you must know that there was a warrior of the Genii who was mortal enemy to the Warrior. Even the Wraith tell tales of their battles, for Kolya of the Genii Hive and the Sheppard clashed many times before their final confrontation.
This time was far from the last as we now know, but then it must have seemed close, for such was the cunning of Kolya-Genii that he managed to pluck the Warrior from the very midst of his brotherband and overwhelm his efforts to free himself with sheer numbers.
Haldan once Darkstar, even weak as he was could sense the blazing life of the Sheppard before he even saw him. Then he thought it was the grip of hunger distorting his judgement, but later he realised how wrong he was.
He felt little in the way of pity then, for the hunger was filling him so and had started to try and consume himself. His only interest then was in the fact this one would be his prey and he relished the moment when he was permitted to feed, though he knew it was pain they wanted him to inflict as they chained the Warrior tightly, unable to escape his hand.
Oh, and what it was then, a rush of pure clean energy, spiced with anger rather than fear and so much in such a short space of time and he barely noticed that which controlled him as he was dragged away. He watched with interest as the Warrior was taken back, for many died from the shock after a first raw feeding, and it was a waste. Cocooned food might be less pleasurable than eating raw, but they were less likely to die and all within the Hive kept to the rule of fifteen days between feedings.
But the Warrior showed no signs of dying and Halden was filled with the fire of his strength, enough to spit defiance at him, and the Warrior declared him enemy though he, too, was wronged by those who kept them. And that, Halden once of the Darkstar Hive considered, was as it should be. Wraith were Wraith and humans were food and that was the natural order and what Instinct demanded.
Despite Halden's bitter words, he was struck by one thing. The Sheppard had a faith in his brothers that would rival of that of a Wraith in his brotherband. This was a disturbing thing. All the humans he had ever fed upon or encountered had been animal and vicious with cunning. Capable of thought, but wasters of it and life. Never had he met a human who fought with the courage of a Wraith and believed implicitly in his brothers despite his own dire straits and hopeless situation.
This then is the first mystery that was the Warrior that was discovered by that of Halden. Before, the Wraith knew of the Sheppard through the grievous blows he struck them. His first act as a dread warrior was to slay the queen of the Sacred Hand and signal the start of the Cycle of Longest Day and the coming of the retribution of the Hungry One. He destroyed an entire Hive with a single blow and escaped it miraculously with his life intact. He defied the Queen of the Hungry-Heart Hive, and claimed something that was not true in her presence. Then he caused the Hungry-Heart Hive and their allies the Dreaming-Song Hive to destroy each other! He slew many Warriors in battle face to face or in the skies and it became known that to face the Sheppard was to face no mere prey.
But Halden Star-Eye, for his brothers had not come for him so he claimed no Hive as his own, found in the Sheppard the first of three amazing things. And this first, was the honour of a Wraith.
The second was the strength and spirit of a Wraith, for within the course of less than a day he survived not one but three feedings, and each time Halden was filled with strength and power the likes of which he had never experienced. All others had died beneath his hand with much less, their life rank with fear. But strength without wisdom matters little and the strongest Wraith alive can be felled if he has no thoughts in his head.
Well now, it was the Sheppard who showed a warrior's virtue, for after the second feeding, though still in pain, he said:
"We could get out of this together, you and I," and offered the one that had caused him pain the hand of a brother.
Still then Halden Star-eye disbelieved. This was his enemy, this was a prey he had fed upon -- to offer himself as an ally had to be false. He tested his resolve, his faith and found it intact.
"You and me?" Halden replied, doubt colouring his voice. So long he had been without the dreaming that he was accustomed to using words of speech.
"What have you got to lose?" The Warrior replied.
Halden had to consider. He had been stripped of honour, of his brothers, his Hive, his duty, his dignity. There was very little left save one thing.
"My life," he replied. For still, he did not want to die alone and have his thoughts lost to the Dreaming for all time. If he died like that, then he would be little more than an animal, and die like one.
The Sheppard confronted him. "Which is worth nothing down here," and Halden was angered at his words. This did not stop the warrior from continuing. "It makes sense. We have a common goal."
But even then Halden was pressed down by years of imprisonment and would not agree even as it was time for the next torture of the Warrior.
He listened not to the words of Kolya, as he tried to coerce the Weir-Queen of the Warrior's Hive. Instead, he listened to those words in his mind and felt that he could not trust him for he was prey, and prey is fickle and will do anything to save its own life.
So once again he fed, and he delved deep, and deeper still feeding from the Sheppard's hidden self until, there in a dazzling myriad thoughts and a rush of energy a strange and amazing thing was discovered.
He tasted that which is Sacred in the life of the Sheppard. It was enough of a shock to halt his feeding, dizzied with the rush of revelation. Even as he was returned to his cell, while the Warrior lay unconscious he sifted through the images that had been drawn from the mind of his prey as he had delved so deep. Usually they were things to ignore, thoughts of other times of pain and fear, their flavour of more importance than their contents. But now he looked deep to see if he had been mistaken.
And he found the third and final mystery staring back at him. The Warrior had been Chosen by one of the Sacred Ones. Their most ancient ancestor who had been guarded by the Hive of the Sacred Hand -- the first Wraith Queen the Warrior had slain. He had been taken and chosen by a Sacred One, he had been drained and died and come back, summoned by the hand of the Beckett even as the mourning Hive of the Sacred Hand took their slain Queen and took her to a Hand of the Hungry One and delivered her into the event horizon and to her final rest from hunger.
Not only that, but he had become a Sacred One, their living ancestor as many Wraith legends in the dreaming spoke of happening in the distant past. And once again he had become human at the instigation of the Healer and his mastery of all things that live.
Halden Star-Eye was shaken. He could feel the taste of ancient memories in his blood and he began to think that yes, perhaps the Sheppard had not been lying, for none had ever survived such a feeding and lived. Perhaps then there could be escape.
When the Sheppard roused, Halden could not help but consider him with some mixture of doubt and hope. For he had survived, and yet he looked like other prey, drained and weak. But it was then he decided the Sheppard had been right. This was not the way for a warrior to exist. It was better to die trying to escape than to be used again and he had been offered a way of honour that had been long denied to him.
"You are strong, Sheppard," he said. "Stronger than any human I have fed on." And with that he committed to plans of escape.
If the Sheppard betrayed him, then his hope and revelations would be the weakness of his dying mind. If Sheppard stayed true to the Wraith way...well then. His sacred blood would also be proven.
So it was he agreed to join forces to escape and they talked of many things in that time, before the Sheppard feigned weakness near to death before they fetched him for what would surely be his last feeding.
Then battle commenced and Halden saw that what sort of warrior the Sheppard could be, even drained and injured. He saw how instead of flinching back, he handed him a weapon and trusted his word. He saw how when Halden was pierced and bleeding, he killed one of his own kind to protect his brother warrior.
So, though sore wounded, Halden Star-Eye did not feed from him and was humbled when he heard him say words such as that which he had used on new recruits to the Star-Eyes. They were much alike and both weary but Sheppard promised him that they would both get home alive and he could sense the power of that faith even through the tiredness and pain -- even as Sheppard maintained that humans did not leave their brothers behind. And what was more, when he asked if they should live and go their separate ways, Sheppard did not hold him to a life-debt, but freely gave him his choices as to what would happen should they meet in the future!
Outnumbered, the unlikely brothers settled for the night, with Sheppard watching for the Genii.
But it was Haldan Star-Eye who woke in the morning to the sound of many Genii approaching and he knew that grievously wounded as he was he could not fight them. But if he had strength to heal, he could. So he woke Sheppard, told him of the enemy and then without warning fed upon him again, for a fourth time. It was in this feeding he felt the betrayal and disappointment of the Sheppard that he had turned on his brother and taken him to the verge of death despite his word of honour. It was then he understood that the Instinct could make Wraith seem as animals to other races and he marvelled anew at the impulse that had caused the Warrior to bridge that gap.
Then it was he felt shame and refreshed and invigorated by the gift of the Warrior's life he lay in wait, his strange human-brother acting as bait. He knew there was an answer to his honour's dilemma and he found it in the lives of the men come to kill them, as he killed and fed on more than he needed. Then and only then did he return to the Sheppard and was amazed to find him even conscious let alone with the strength to command him to finish him rather than leave him to die like that. His honour was clear; he owed him his life, his mind, and his body raged with extra life. They gave this gift to their brothers and the Sheppard had acted more like a brother than his own Hive. So he pushed life into his pain-wracked body, and for the first time heard the Warrior cry out with the shock of it.
And then it was the Warrior's own brothers appeared, summoned from nowhere, and he realised Sheppard's faith was well placed. They were all there, the Runner, the DreamWalker, the Healer, and the Thinker and even then, fresh from death, the Sheppard stayed the death-dealing hand of the Runner. But then he raised his weapon and struck Halden down and his last thoughts were that perhaps he had been deluded to trust in the honour of prey after all.
He woke on a far world with only the Sheppard with him. He had been tested and had passed the test. He had maintained honour, and had been rewarded with freedom and the gifts of the Warrior, for he still had the beat of the Sacred Ones he had taken from the Sheppard thundering in his blood.
The Sheppard honoured him as an enemy and vanished even as he reached out his thoughts, a blossom of the dream unfurling and touched the edges of the dreaming of fellow Wraith his long exile over. Then it was that Halden Star-Eye knew he had been in the presence of more than prey and that he would be forever changed by the experience. For that is the way of the Warrior, young Wraithling. He tests, and is tested, he gives never bargaining to receive, he has faith and hope where there is none, but most of all he has honour where all other honour fails. Of all the spirits of the Hungry One, he is the one that the Wraith cannot deny, for to deny him would be to deny themselves. This then is the value of honour, young Wraithling. It is at the centre of what Wraith should be, because without it we are nothing but chained animals led only by instinct.
Halden Star-Eye returned to the Darkstar Hive a changed Wraith and as we know, it was not his final meeting with the Warrior. That last meeting determined a very different meaning of That-Which-is-Wraith and is a story for another time.
It is the nature of Warriors to underestimate Thinkers, Thinkers to do the same with Dreamers, and Dreamers to do the same with Warriors. In this there are many truths, young Wraithling. for each of them values as a strength that which is a weakness in others. A Thinker cannot be a Warrior, or a Warrior a Thinker. As warriors say, those that Think can hunt only thought and would starve. And Thinkers say that Warriors only obey orders and bring nothing new to the Dreaming and they eat too much anyway.
The Spirit known as the Thinker for this matter is often dismissed by Warriors and Dreamers as a lesser threat than the Warrior, or the Runner. Many fear the Half-Wild more and give no thought to the McKay save those who are Thinkers themselves.
Krilstaren of the Heart-Eater Hive was a Thinker who served in the brotherband of Quirna, he of the Great Thought. Thinkers and Dreamer learn through the Long Sleep and it is there that most of their thinking is done, each idea given thorough examination and discussion through the dreaming. Krilstaren was declared to be a sharp mind, making leaps and bounds in comprehension during the dreaming. Quirna declared he would make more in the waking time for then he would practice the ways prescribed by the great Thinker Kailish.
In Cycles past, young Wraithling, That-Which-Is-Wraith did not write their wisdom, did not need to, for all comprehension and thought can be shared in the dreaming. And this was the way it was done and progress was slow for the Wraith until the Great Thinker Kailash realised something of importance. When information is shared by thought, then the one sharing it limits the shape of the idea with his own comprehension. When it is written and read, new ideas start from every mind. One is the gift of a full-grown tree, the other a single seed that can be tended and grow something fresh. So young Wraithling, when you complain as every Wraithling has before you that it is quicker to learn in the dreaming rather than from dead words, you know why. You also know why it is that the McKay is such a dangerous Thinker. To the McKay, the thoughts that take many years to complete in a Wraith, to examine and work with, he comprehends in an instant! He can read words and there are no secrets too vast that he will not confront with his mind and bring to his control.
Not only this, but he was beloved of the Sheppard, and this was very strange to the Wraith. Warriors of a brotherband join that way, and it is part of the way of the Wraith but a Warrior and a Thinker? Most strange. Not only that, but a brother to the Runner, the DreamWalker, the Healer and yes, even the Half-Wild.
However, Krilstaren was an example of the finest of Thinkers at that time. As such he wished only to talk to other Thinkers for the thoughts and dreams of other Wraith were very tedious to him.
"They cannot comprehend more than one thought in a hundred!" he would complain to Quirna. "How is it that I can communicate with those so stupid?"
"Patience," instructed Quirna. "Do not believe that just because they did not awake from the Long Sleep as a Thinker that they do not have something to teach you."
"Hah," thought Krilstaren in his own-self thoughts. "What they have to teach me I do not wish to learn." And he would continue, confident in his superior thinking, which of all the Hives' most rivalled that of the McKay.
Well, so it was that those of the Heart-Eater Hive were those to take in that one who had been Whikeran Dark-Hand who bore still the marks of the punishment of the Healer. His shape and body was reshaped and tormented into that of prey though he was still That-Which-Is-Wraith in many ways. Forever altered, he kept the name of punishment that had been given to him, for the Dark-Hand Hive would no more recognise him, and though he was tolerated, he was not welcomed into the Heart-Eater Hive.
Krilstaren looked at he that was called Michael and felt nothing but contempt. Even before he had been so changed by the Healer, Krilstaren Heart-Eater would've despised him for being a lesser Wraith, and now when even Drones regarded Michael as beneath them, he would barely acknowledge his existence.
"He will be little of use to any of us," he declared and took delight in the fact that since his changing, Michael did not join the dreaming as easily and could be talked of without his knowledge. Even as Michael offered to the Queen of the Heart-Eaters that most terrible knowledge that they had been tricked by the Em-Ma-Gen at the first battle and the fate he had suffered, Krilstaren insulted him publicly on the dreaming without remorse.
"He is no longer Wraith, my Queen, " he assured her through the dreaming. "He advises Alliance with these ones, knowing food will be our concern.... What rubbish to ally with prey! But there will be advantage for us if we do not tell the other Hives."
"Of what do you speak?" the Queen replied even as Michael continued unaware that he was being barely listened to.
"He speaks of being turned into human prey and turning back. You could Ďally' with the city-hive and the Weir-Queen he talks of, and they could give us the means to become the dominant Hive, to become Queen of Queens...and at the same time, we could find those coordinates for the new feeding grounds and there you will be the Queen of Queens over a vast empire of hives!"
Well, needless to say young Wraithling, the Queen was much impressed by this argument, for no matter which route she decided upon, her Hive would benefit.
"Then we will tell this one that we will ally and you, Krilstaren will devise a means to get the information we need." The queen said in the dreaming. "When you have it, then we will approach these humans who would do such things."
She said aloud to Michael "You bring us news of great interest. You will talk with our Thinkers and we will consider the implications. It would be good for our Hive not to go hungry."
"My Queen..." Michael replied, and Krilstaren wanted to smirk at the stench of relief that rose from him, just like that of prey.
So it was that Michael thought he was working for the betterment of his new Hive and working for acceptance once more into the Dreaming -- for truth be told, his presence in the dreaming was disturbing, much like that of the DreamWalker and many found it distasteful to share dreams with him for he had changed.
Krilstaren was too absorbed in his work, for once Michael had informed him of the McKay and that he was more intelligent than any Wraith Thinker, he had become obsessed with proving his superiority over the McKay, the Beckett, the DreamWalker, the Runner and yes, even the Sheppard. He was certain he was superior to the Warrior, Dreamwalker and the Runner, for what Thinker was not better than any Warrior or Dreamer? And he was sure any Wraith thinker knew more of biology than a healer... which was a totally foreign concept. What need did Wraith have of healers? They had scientists that could breed the hive ships, fix and enhance them. Wraith did not become ill.
But the Thinker.... well now, that was different. Unaccustomed as he was to finding anyone of any type to be more intelligent than himself, he dismissed Michael's tales up to the point they put their bold plan into action. His bold plan, full of devious twists and turns. He could not see how they might fail to win no matter what happened.
Well, they used Michael, with his stench of humanity on him as a cover for their actions. Perhaps the humans did not have the dreaming in full measure but they would detect an obvious lie. Therefore it was his thought to send them one believing in his own words.
His Queen was delighted when it worked. She was amazed by the magics of the Beckett that would make Wraith prey, even as it secretly disgusted them all, and Krilstaren still felt superior. And then they met the McKay. Krilstaren realised with dismay that the mind of the McKay was perhaps a rival to his own.
"This cannot be...I am the most intelligent of Wraith, and perhaps he is the most intelligent of prey, but he is still prey." Krilstaren would say to himself. "Perhaps he has thoughts that crackle like lightning, but I have mind that feeds on thought like the Hungry One. And when I walk through the city of the Defeated, I will learn even more than him."
So it was that Krilstaren and his Queen were allowed to Atlantis and the Thinker was impressed with the technology that was there. Here were the magics of the Defeated and ignorant prey despoiled them. It was a tragedy. And even more was the tragedy that he had to tolerate the idiocy of the Healer and another of the thinkers as they endlessly talked and worried about their weapon. Everything was so obvious. It was all Krilstaren could do not to gnaw on his braids in frustration.
"How do they ever accomplish anything?" he complained to his mentor Quirna. "They are meat, bleating and wailing over the simplest of things! As if I do not know what a gas is, or explosions!"
"Patience," Thinker Quirna replied. "Patience. There is something to be learned in everything that lives. What Wraith could've conceived of the idea of making Wraith into prey? We could not have done so for the thought is not in us. Being smarter is not the same as being wiser."
But Krilstaren was frustrated and impatient and once his queen had seen the magics of the Beckett she was enraptured and amazed.
"We spoke what we thought were lies but it is the truth! This one can indeed transform Wraith to prey. Imagine that!" she exulted. "Perhaps after all we will try and take the Hive of the Star-Eaters, for they have been rivals for many years. Yes, we will do such a thing!"
Krilstaren was dismayed. "My Queen, this will not work, it is too soon."
"Nonsense!" she declared. "This is my command. You will make it so."
And who can deny the command of a Queen? Even when the command is not of worth?
Alas, Krilstarin was correct and it was a failure when Wraith turned on Wraith in such an unnatural fashion. The Star-Eaters were too experienced and challenged the envoys and the plan collapsed and his own Hive limped away from the encounter, forced to seek refuge with the Weir-Queen and her Hive once again.
However, Krilstarin was ever prepared for the stroke of opportunity and devised a plan of great guile and deceit. He knew information would be offered and created his own magics born of his own thought to creep unseen into the Weir-Queen's Hive and sabotage them when he so wished it. For they were Wraith! They would take what food they pleased and not be constrained.
Krilstarin was amused at the one called McKay, not stricken with fear when he came onto their ship and assisted them with repairs and the weapon they so wanted. He plied him with false words and flattery, pitying him for a dream-blind fool.
But over time, unfamiliar thoughts found him as he was forced to remember that the McKay had not seen such systems before, but far surpassed even a Thinker of their own kind who had been studying them for many cycles. He was forced more and more to compete to outthink the McKay, his own thoughts bright and fast in the dreaming. He realised that what he would do, so would that other Thinker, and he planned for that. He planned to override his overrides with his own, and then his victory would be complete when they went to this teeming paradise of prey that spawned such a Thinker.
He hatched the plot that would bring glory from recklessness. "My Queen, opportunity is upon us," he said. "We should contact our allies, the Song-Feeder Hive. We will lure the human-prey into a trap, take their weapon, be unbound from our word and take that ultimate prize, the location of new prey, new feeding grounds from beneath their very eyes."
"Speak on," his Queen said with interest. "For I am not best pleased at how our previous plan turned out."
"We were not ready then, my Queen, but now we are. They have located the weakness to exploit, but are overconfident, for they feel they can best our shields. When you gave them information, I planted a creation of my own in the stream and it has been giving me information they do not wish us to see." Krilstaren was feeling very smug. "Soon I will have the location of this place that is called Earth that teems with more life than this galaxy. Then, we can lure them into an ambush with the allies they think we will be trying to destroy, and run to the new feeding grounds."
"But why must we risk an ambush?" his queen asked and he had to counsel patience to himself in his thoughts.
"If we do not, their warship will chase down our own, for all we have made vast improvements." he said. "This will cripple them."
She considered a while. "Very well. Make it so, my Thinker. I will have the new feeding grounds. I will be the Queen of Queens and with such rich food, we will become strong!"
So it was Krilstaren brought his plan to bear, and was pleased and amused when the McKay was aboard his Hive, trying to outthink him guarded by the R'non sent by the Warrior himself.
Perhaps this should've warned him to the degree that the Warrior valued the McKay in his brother band, but Krilstaren was filled with arrogant pride, because in every moment he felt he was outwitting the best of a human mind. He blocked their escape, he used their information, all the while claiming as a Thinker's right this greatest of victories. And when it came time for them to seize them and attack the human warship? Well, he personally arranged for the McKay and the Runner to be half-cocooned so they would taste his own personal victory over them.
Then when he had humbled them, he would perhaps feed on him and possibly turn him to a worshipper where he would feed on his thoughts as well as his life.
Well now young Wraithling, it was this own pride and belief that he was superior to even other Wraith that was to be his downfall. And the other Wraith of that Hive were no better. For Krilstaren was a Thinker and believed he understood Thinkers most of all. He did not understand that the Runner was not merely there as a guardian but was of the McKay's brotherband, for the bickering and irritation he sensed when he monitored his captive told him that they too were stricken with the divisions between those who hunt prey and those who hunt thought.
Perhaps he was right, but the Thinker was part of the brotherband of the Sheppard and beloved of him in the way that only a bond-brother could be. The R'non was also of the Sheppard's brotherband -- a most strange thing where Thinkers, Warriors and Dreamers were all brothers.
And herein lay the great secret. For in this brotherband, the Thinkers learned how to be Warriors, and the Warriors how to be Thinkers. Warriors could also Dream with the Dreamers, Dreamers Think with the Thinkers. What chaos and confusion this seemed to be to That-Which-Is-Wraith! An impossibility!
So though he had been prepared for traps of thought, or the Runner's brute strength, he did not count on the Runner thinking, or the bravery of the McKay.
He also did not realise that the Sheppard would come for his brothers and in vengeance for the Honour they betrayed, thinking their word to the Weir-Queen was not binding. Nothing would stop him then, not even the might of two strong Hives. He threw his fury at the Hives alone, one Warrior against two Hives and damaged them both before numbers overwhelmed him. But the Warriors who flew against him dreamt to each other that this one showed honour, and determined not to kill him. Not there and then.
However, while the Sheppard was being so daring, young Wraithling, it would seem that the Thinker and the Runner had managed to escape! How was this possible? Well some say that the Runner chewed his way out of the cocoon, for it is well known there is nothing that will contain him for long. Some say that the McKay destroyed it with the sound of his never-ceasing voice.... but how it happened is nothing against the fact that it did.
Once again, Krilstarin underestimated them. He would never have believed that a Thinker would've taken a Warrior's route to honour, sacrificing safety for victory. But this is what the McKay did, my Wraithling, not just once, but many many times. For his race, for his Hive and most of all for his brotherband and the Sheppard.
And so it was he found his work undermined, the Hive itself in peril as the Warriors of the Weir-Queen found them, lying idle in space and before he knew it their allies of the Song-Feeder Hive were destroyed by the golden stings of a warship of the Defeated and they themselves were hard pressed, for the Thinker had caused havoc in revenge for what they had done.
It was with horror he cast his thought out into the dreaming and found his prey gone, lead by the one called Michael he had had ostracised and isolated. For Michael had dealt in honour, and the Sheppard stayed the hand of the R'non for that sake and took him with them.
It is said once they had found their way back to their warship, the Sheppard asked of him how he could reward his honour and Michael replied that his punishment had made him not Wraith and not human. A creature between both worlds and without brothers.
And this troubled the McKay and the Sheppard for they were well pleased to be reunited, and it seemed wrong that their ally should suffer so.
And so it was that the Thinker entreated the Beckett that if the magics that had changed him so could not be taken away or made permanent, then so it should be that others should join him and be the brother of the one they so despised.
With a stroke, the deed was done, the Beckett once more turning Wraith to prey and then to different again until Michael had not just one but two-hundred brothers who knew only each other.
He did not know then the boon this was to That-Which is Wraith, but it was then that the true Wraiths were born, those who would be found by Halden Star-Eye before steering into the Hunting Dark, to find their own home and a new place.
Not even the Thinker knew this, though he worked out the plan to do this. And how to steal a Hive ship and allow the Dreamwalker to dream with the ship, though it would fight anyone save its own Dreamers, and steer them where they wished to be.
He did not know that Halden Star-Eye, in years to come would declare that a Brotherband should include Warriors, Thinkers and Dreamers all working together, for in this way, there was much success and happiness.
And for Krilstarin? He was one of the brotherband of Michael and served him well, changed into a very different Wraith by the magics of the Beckett, but that is as it should be. For That-Which-Is-Wraith is more than appearance and many of those changed became truer Wraith at the end, given the example of the McKay and his brotherband.
For many Cycles, my young Wraithling, That-Which-is-Wraith had reigned supreme over the hunting Dark. And they became overconfident and held no fear for any creature that lived. They were the rulers of the galaxy and their reach and their hunger was undeniable and over the many Cycles they lost their Fear.
No great loss you would think. Do we not value courage? Do we not value strength?
But courage is not a lack of fear, it is a victory over fear and without it, Wraith were doomed to rash arrogant decisions.
So it was the Hungry One determined that even as he had given us the Warrior to teach us Honour, the Thinker to teach us Wisdom, The Runner to teach us Caution, the Healer to teach us Humility, and the DreamWalker to teach us to Dream, he created the Half-Wild to teach us Fear once more. Not caution, not hesitation but the Fear that a prey feels when a predator stalks them and there is no quarter.
The Half-Wild was a beloved brother of the Warrior and served with him for some time, the bonds between them pure and strong. His brotherband name was Aiden and the Sheppard trusted him as his own hand. Some say that before the Thinker, the Warrior shared himself with that of the Half-Wild and this is what the Warriors often believe. Others say this was not so... the Warrior merely felt that strongly about all his brothers and reacted as any leader of a brotherband would when a promising Wraithling was snatched away from them. For it is said, when it came time for the Aiden's death, the Hungry One did not take him.
Instead it changed him to be its messenger of Fear, to teach That-Which-Is-Wraith that for all they feed, they can also be fed upon if they are not strong, or wary.
Some say that as Wraith tried to end his life, and he that of his enemies, he learned the Wraith way. He learned how to suck life from his prey...only his prey was not scampering humans, but Wraith Warriors, Thinkers, Dreamers and Drones.
They say not even the Beckett could master him, he who had worked those magics that changed Wraith to Human. It was said, not even the Warrior could leash him though his voice would sometime gentle him to a remembrance of who he had been. Perhaps, some whispered in the quiet dreaming, not even the Hungry One could stay his hand. It mattered not if a Wraith was worthy, it mattered not to the Half-Wild that he had honour, they fell beneath his knives and hands as prey.
There was one, Taranka, a Warrior of the Asking-Night Hive, who with his brother band hunted the Runner to a dread planet of searing light where the sky hated them, as did earth and all. But he was a dedicated Warrior, and sought the unobtainable -- to carve the tracker from the Runner's flesh and wear it with his other trophies on his belt. Taranka was close, chasing and hunting, feeling alive and about to take the Runner for such was his skill. He had been patient, he had courage to face the traps the Runner excelled in setting, cunning and strength to chase down this finest of preys. If there ever was a worthy warrior, then Taranka Asking-Night was such a one.
And then from nowhere the Half-Wild appeared and Taranka met his match. For death came swiftly -- but not swift enough -- from a creature that walked like prey, but in one dark eye shone the blackness of the Hungry One.
Death in itself is not terrible, for That-which-is-Wraith cast our dreaming-self to the Dreamers of our Hive and in the Long Sleeps, our spirits walk until we face the Hungry One again. But sometimes the shock of a death or injury can prevent this and such is the terror of the Half-Wild that this is most often the case.
It is said after he slew Taranka Asking-Night, he would've turned then on the Runner, but instead turned to feed upon the fallen warrior as if he were nothing but the lowest of prey. Sometimes with a knife, sometimes with his blunted teeth he would rip at Wraith sankara organs, and take that most precious of fluids as his food. The Half-Wild fed upon the literal strength of the Wraith, as fear will do, and with it he consumed the Hunger that is a part of all Wraith -- the Hunger that draws us into the unthinking actions of instinct, sometimes against our own will.
Forever Hungry, deadly and terrible, the Aiden was then the scourge of all Wraith.
Oh, the terrible carnage he wrought when the Asking Night Hive thought they had captured the killer of Taranka for justice! He stalked the corridors of the Hive, a nightmare made flesh, hunting in deathly dream-silent stealth. Wraith would sleep, touch those other in the dreams and then vanish between one word and the other.
When Warriors came, they would find them dead, their sankaras torn and ripped with teeth and blade, and they would know then that the Half-Wild was stronger still.
Firenka was of the brotherband of Taranka, and had vowed his purpose to be the destruction of the Half-Wild.
"You shall have all the warriors, Thinkers and Dreamers you need," Yutherin, his Queen vowed. "For our dreaming is ripe with fear and dread and such a thing has not been known. We do not know who will be struck where or when. Sometimes it is a Drone, sometimes a Thinker, a Dreamer or the finest of my Warriors."
"My Queen, I will rid you of this creature. I will search every passage of our ship, you will be guarded night and day by never dreaming sentries who will watch with their eyes and not their minds," Ferinka vowed. "It will not be long before this Half-Wild thing is dead."
And there, young Wraithling, you see how the Half-Wild was named as such. More than a beast, more than prey, untamed and driven insane by the presence of the Hungry One inside of him. Imagine, when you grow old enough to feel it... Imagine the strength of your First Hunger all the time. That it would not die back, or be tamed by sleep. This is the hunger of the Half-Wild a thousand-fold and now you know why if you ever faced this spirit, there would be no quarter, no alliance, no staying of the hand at another's order. No, the Half-Wild would move with a speed to match our own and feed upon your very life and strength.
Well, as you might've realised, the Half-Wild proved to be more difficult to kill or capture than these confident words suggested. Accustomed to using their dreaming to cast flickering shadows to herd fearful prey, it became the Wraith of the Asking-Night Hive who jumped at shadows! And still they fell one by one, their last sendings to the Dreamers being the image of a dark eye that absorbed all light like that of the Hungry One.
Ferinka was becoming more and more unsettled, and saw not how to defeat this spirit of fear. He tried sealing all quarters in the hunting hours, but that just meant the Half-Wild's victims were cornered for him, unable even to run and flee as prey does.
"This is enough!" he declared. "I shall close others to safety, and walk the corridors myself until this creature is gone. For he has slain a full fifty of my Hive and feasted upon them in front of us all!"
You see, my young Wraithling, Ferinka sought to make himself bait to lure the Half-Wild. A brave deed, a noble deed but fruitless. For even as he paced alone, the taste of fear unfamiliar and bitter in his mouth and painful over his hands, the Half-Wild scented him and tracked him invisibly and saw his moment to pounce. But Ferinka had arranged it so that movement sent them over into the place of the Winged Flyers, for he reasoned that nothing that had human even as part of it could live through such a fall.
Down they tumbled, down and down and he was sure that the Half-Wild would not survive the impact but he was wrong for even as he struggled to stand he saw then the Half-Wild standing as well.
"You will die!" Ferinka vowed and the Half-Wild just smiled and replied, "In your dreams!" and Ferinka felt fear touch him, for the Half-Wild was threatening to slay not just his body, but the dream that made That-Which-is-Wraith. He had no choice but to fight for his life and his very self.
And what a battle ensued! This was no dance of warrior skill, but a tearing and ripping as in the oldest of cycles. The Half-Wild tasted like prey and like sankara, and when he ripped at him he pushed at him with the touch of the Dreaming that Warriors use. It was then that Wraith discovered what had been unleashed on them! Insatiably hungry, strong as many Wraith, unforgiving, not seeing them as anything save prey, merciless and cunning... the turmoil of the Hungry One focused into one being.
As well a Wraith should resist a Hand of the Hungry One than deny the force within him! And then it was that in those moments, Ferinka saw the image of the one that could sway the course of the Half-Wild even for the barest moment.
For in his mind, the seed of who he been before the restless dark of the Hungry One claimed him lay embattled. Images of the Warrior, the Thinker and the DreamWalker flickered, the bonds of a brotherband frayed but still present.
Ferinka tried to press the self-destruct mechanism in his armour, but the Half-Wild was prepared for this and with a deft movement rendered it useless and Ferinka despaired, his plan awry.
Then it was, even as the Half-Wild tore at his sankara he spoke and said. "I know of the Sheppard... the Mckay..."
And the Half-Wild stay his hand for a moment. "Then talk," he ordered, "or I will feast upon your flesh."
Never had he thought so rapidly, so sharply. "They have been taken by another Hive," he lied. "A Hive that are our rivals -- those of the Singing-Hand. The Queen seeks to torture them for their information, then feed. My Queen was displeased."
These were all lies, but they stayed the hand of the Half-Wild.
"Then you will take me to this Hive." The Half-Wild growled and Ferinka rejoiced that his deception was bearing fruit. Perhaps the hunger of the Half-Wild could not be stopped but it could be redirected. The Half-Wild would leave their own Hive and turn his attention to that of their enemies.
"For my life, I will show you. For the safety of your commander and brotherband, I will show you, if you will only do this thing and spare me," Ferinka said and the Half-Wild snarled his hunger fighting with the last of his once-self.
"Do it. Now."
And so it was Ferinka lured the Half-Wild to a Winged Fighter, and said. "Here...you must fly this, you must leave and it will take you where you need to go."
"You will come with me," the Half-Wild demanded in a growl.
"There is room only for one pilot. If you wish me to fly and you are dematerialised...." Ferinka offered seeing the Half-Wilds expression change.
"No. I'll fly your damn dart..." the Half-Wild declared and got in. "I'll work it out."
Ferinka was sure that he would not, but he wanted him to leave and go far from them, so he took a moment to place commands in the Fighter that would take it far, far away.
One fighter to save the Hive was an acceptable sacrifice and even as the Fighter rose and flew from their Hive and he wished fervently that it would crash into a flaming death for the Half-Wild, somehow he was still sure that nothing like that would kill this dread spirit.
Once he had left, Ferinka returned to his Hive. He was a Warrior who had been defeated, who had not slain his opponent and yet....
And yet his voice was spoken of in the dreaming as Legend, for he had stood before Fear and survived and he had learned its most valuable lesson.
What were the lessons of the Half-Wild, young Wraithling? What is it that fear teaches us aside from weakness? Well for one, Fear can force a Wraith to find a way that had not existed before. To walk different thoughts, differing dream-paths, reach beyond the normal into the extraordinary. In that moment, Ferinka Asking-Night devised a solution wrought of pure physical courage and subtle thought. The Half-Wild was gone and set upon their rivals in one fell swoop because of the inspiration that fear stirred in him. In those moments, the Hungry One inside the Half-Wild might stay his insatiable hand.
Or then again he might not.
You have listened , young Wraithling, to the tales of the Cycle of Longest Day and you know there are many more in that time of Legends. Perhaps you think there should be more tales told than these pages contain.
What of the time when Halden Star-Eye and the Sheppard met again you ask me? Or when Michael in his rage turned that hurt upon the Healer not knowing his final destiny? Or when the McKay used his magics to defeat an entire race of machine killers and save his brotherband through a Warrior's courage? Or the Runner and the Lost Ones? Or the return of the Defeated and the rebellion of the Weir-Queen? Or how Halden Star-Eye had his Revelation and how he became leader to those Wraithborn and took Michael as his closest bond-brother. Or the stealing of the child-queen Intheria by the Em-Ma-Gen, and the gift of her by the Healer to Halden Star-Eye for the life of his brotherband? The Sheppard and the Half-Wild fighting to save all from those-called-Ori? Or the final Change wrought by the Warrior himself that changed That-Which-is-Wraith forever, or destroyed them with the wrath of the Hungry One?
But you don't want to hear about that, nor the long trek through the Hunting Dark to our new home, do you? Because you will have heard those stories from the mouths of many before now and how we have become something more than those Wraith that listened only to Instinct and not Honour. For here That-Which-is-Wraith is revered -- not through fear, but beloved of other races. But we will remember how we became that through the lessons and actions of the spirits sent by the Hungry One and those that we carried with us in our Dreaming and those other tales?
Well, my young wraithling... they will be stories for another time.
The Warrior, the Thinker, the Healer, The DreamWalker, the Runner and the Half-Wild.