“Ji-i-i-n-n-da!” Chanted loudly, beginning and ending sharply, the cry was repeated over and over again. Jinda himself, alone amongst him people, smiled grimly. War Cry was not often heard even in this jungle.
Crisis had come. They had done what they could these last days to unravel the mysteries of murdered sentries and a missing prisoner. To himself, he admitted the mystery. Being an official god, however, he would in no wise admit to his subjects that they knew nearly as much as he did about these things. He must lead them to war, though he realized many might die in battle.
Fortunately for his people’s confidence, he did not fully share his forebodings. Being initiated in many things of which the ordinary Jindanian is kept ignorant, Jinda recognized that differences in technology existed between cultures. Such a difference had quite recently encouraged him as he considered pitting his seasoned shortbow archers against a people with no known long range weapons. Jungle bows had to be limited in length to function in close forest quarters, but they certainly had a lot more reach than, say, a longsword or even a thrusting spear. But now…now the enemy had several Jindanian bows in their possession, and it was not unnatural to assume manufacture of similar weapons would begin immediately.
It was essential to strike before such an industry could fully develop.
As to invisibility…his intuition told him it must exist, even that it was more than likely a mental technique learnable by more than a few, given proper training. Shrewd insight further told him Ptolia a whole did not possess such skill. Spies only, perhaps. Why, such a technique obtained for his own top warriors…his people would be invincible. They must capture and torture one who could tell them. Greed for such an achievement slyly wound itself into his originally clear thought process, subtly convincing him he could not fail to obtain his objective. Blinded by his own delusions, listening to the deceptive whispers of the dark Kal force, he finally pushed the last of his fears firmly away. They must strike soon….
Unconscious experience drew these warriors together. One and all, they were kindred Souls in ferocity, trained and tested through multiple incarnations, nurturing savagery while worshiping whatever system was available. From Earthly concentration camps in Germany and Russia, central Martian crusades against unbelievers, cruelty academies on Uranus, Arcturus, Plano Three, Disarba, Ganesha’s Imperialum, even ancient Ptolia itself.
Each one, slave to the negative power of sweet illusion, destroyed innocent and evil alike, being destroyed as frequently in turn. Refusing to learn freedom from anger, rejecting gentleness as weakness, they spilled together in this one life, for this one war. Physical power they sought, revenge, dominance.
Jinda’s personal favorite was Hargole, a stripling devoted to his godchief with a love far beyond the worship afforded him by others. Whenever permitted, Hargole traveled with Jinda, a few short steps to the rear. Thus it was that he now accompanied his idol by special dispensation, young pride bursting from his very pores, admired by every eligible female.
All this, Jinda saw. He felt Karma reach across space and time, felt briefly the web in which he and all his people were caught. Then it was gone, fleeting, vanished, and it was time to go to war.
“My people!” They hung on his words. “All know why we are here this night! Until recently, we believed all plains dwellers to be cowardly weaklings. Clearly, this is not so. They have struck hard. In my own wisdom, it is obvious we go against a formidable foe. Many may not return. Yet revenge requires war. We will take the plains, not cower here as caged animals!” Ah, what a stroke that was. Hinting at fear in his people was enough; every one would fight hard.
Spirit opened his memory again, stealthily, and a phrase he did not know burst from his lips. “It is a good day to die!” He could not know it came from earlier lives on other planets. The people liked it, though, and that was what counted. They took it up as a chant as he led his fired-up warriors from Evening Circle.
Dawn was just breaking as Jinda reached the first whotol fields. They were dry, very dry. He as a little surprised. All to the good, however; the drier the better. Along a line more than two miles in length, warriors knelt and fished coalpods from their back-bags. Wisps of smoke began to rise, then flames, tiny at first but snapping and crackling to great heights within minutes. Good. Plains dwellers would come running, ready for war. Jinda’s columns began moving again, angling away from the flames.