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The Aeolian Master - Book One - Revival
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fist. The purplish skin was leather tough, but the insides contained a sweet succulent pulp, which was edible
and tasted good. It was known as the 'Toral Fruit.'
There were groups of toral, located to the Northwest of the city, which roamed the twenty-five mile stretch
between the city and the mountain range. They got their water from small springs at the base of the mountains
and ate mostly the purplish fruit that fell from the trees. Seldom would they eat meat, nevertheless, on Ar, they
were man's most feared enemy.
During her twenty-five years of life Viella had never left the city, and in her early years she had spoken to
only a few who had had reason or the adventurous spirit to do so. Lately, however, when the mountain people
had become allies with the rebels, she had gotten to know some of them well enough to learn about life outside
the city walls.
The mountain-people loved to talk, especially about the mountains and the plains, about their way of life,
and about their battles against Nature for their survival. Before the discovery of the crystal, which brought the
city to them, they journeyed to the city for supplies on a regular basis. Because of this they learned the way of
the ferocious toral and over the years they had learned how to avoid the beast. But this knowledge had come
with deadly lessons. Many of their ancestors and their ancestor’s friends had been killed by the toral.
With conviction in the voice of the big mountain man Viella remembered his advice, "Never travel the plains
in daylight," said he. "The toral feed by day and sleep by night, but at night they are light sleepers. So, stay
away from the fruit trees, or they will either hear you or smell you coming."
Warily Viella guided the stranger around a rock and kept him going stealthily toward the next group of trees,
under which they would be able to hide for a few moments while searching the skies for patrollers. All the
while she kept scrutinizing the instrument in her hand, looking for little blips as the bright, green line swept in a
circle around the face of the scope. She could only hope the flesh detector would be enough to get them to the
mountains without being discovered by the toral.
Viella pulled on the stranger’s hand, guiding him toward a clump of trees, which had no toral beneath them.
“Did you know, besides the constantly frigid air, the toral is the main reason domes were built over the cities?”
She whispered as she looked at the man. She looked back at the scope and then to the front in the direction they
were headed. Outlined in the semi-dark, the mountains loomed ahead in the distance.
The man didn’t answer.
“That’s right,” she continued quietly. “Many years ago when the cities were first being built, they
constructed walls to keep them out, but the toral learned how to leap over them. So, later when mankind
learned how to build transparent domes and oxygen generators, he was able to keep the toral in the plains and
out of the cities.” She squeezed the man’s hand. “Great. Don’t you think?”
The man said nothing. She let go of his hand and concentrated on the flesh detector as they trekked on
toward the mountains. They walked for several hours. Twice they had to walk wide of toral sleeping under the
trees. Once they started around only to find another clump of trees with more toral, which made them circle
back, losing time to the coming sun and maybe the search of the patrollers.
They walked toward a beast tree, under which the flesh detector indicated there were no toral, and for good
reason — the branches were so heavy laden with fruit they almost touched the ground. Toral would not be able
to sleep under this tree.
Viella started around the left side of the low hanging branches when she quickly came to a halt, stopping the
stranger, and standing very still. Her heart was pounding in her throat and her breath became rapid while
breathing in and out the cold night air. There was another beast tree not more than forty feet away, and she
didn’t need the flesh detector to tell her there were toral beneath it. She could see them lying in a group, at least
twelve of them, with the moonlight reflecting from their shiny fur like a beacon of death. Suddenly one of the
toral snorted and stood up. He looked directly at Viella and the stranger watching to see what had made the
noise, to see what it was that had invaded his territory. His nostrils snorted the frosty, night air. He pawed the
ground several times and snorted again. Three of the other toral raised their heads from the ground, looking to
see what was causing the commotion.
Fortunately, the toral had poor eyesight, and even though their sense of smell was superb, the slight breeze
blowing across the plains was behind them blowing toward Viella and the stranger. A hunter’s wind had saved
the two intruders.
Viella stood like a statue, not moving a muscle, not making a sound, waiting for the toral to lose interest and
go back to sleep. It was unnerving; the toral kept looking at them for at least three minutes, which seemed more
like three hours. Viella’s feet started to hurt, her mouth was dry, and her heart kept pounding so loud she was