Several times in the past Yulik had been reprimanded for keeping food in his pack. The seniors had always had the rule that food was not to be kept outside the laboratory. The trouble was Yulik was always hungry and as he could never be certain that food would arrive when he required feeding he had kept a stash for needs must.
Yulik was a fast growing specimen and had outstripped the rest of his group having had several growth spurts in the last few weeks. Tallest of the entire group Yulik had to duck his head under the ceiling beams or bruises the colour of night appeared on top of his snout which was unbecoming to an up and coming. The seniors were keen to have Yulik as an example of excellent growth for his group and their peers on all levels. But food was an issue that required discipline in this place where there was only enough to go around for everyone once a day. To some it appeared that Yulik had another source of food that enabled his appetite to be sated more than once a day. He did. Yulik had a forbidden secret. At night Yulik always went for a glide into the country outside this place and he would always come back with a full pack. He went alone after everyone was asleep.
One night shortly after Yulik’s latest reprimand, quite by accident, Yulik was spied by an eminent senior, gliding from the highest launch tower platform. Even as he watched, with shock at such a willful act, the senior registered admiration for Yulik’s gliding technique.
After learning of Yulik’s nightly forays the senior committee decided he would be followed. Another source of food would be welcomed by everyone. Also another food source would explain Yulik’s splendid growth spurts and his expertise coordinating such technical takeoffs from the highest launch pad. He was very young for this level of expertise.
The night he was followed his stalker was almost caught by Yulik on leaving the platform. Yulik’s attention was drawn by the noise the spy made as he cleared the edge of the launch pad. He obviously did not have Yulik’s expert technique or practice for jumping the safety rail around the rim of the pad. The stalker thought he was safe but Yulik remained suspicious as he continued his majestic glide over the land. High take-offs were required as the wing span of a Grell was as wide as his length from snout to the end of his tail and Yulik was a tall one when standing, towering well above all his mates.
The life of a modern Grell was short compared to the ancestors. The ancestors had very long and distinguished careers as gliders in the land. The Grell of today was shorter and less robust. This was due to population of course, but it was necessary to keep on producing offspring for future generations to continue the lines. Perhaps Yulik was a throw-back in the ancestral mold. It seemed to the Senior following him that Yulik also had greater intelligence because he had sought out another food source, he also had the courage to explore away from the reach of the disciplines of the laboratory.
Yulik was traveling fast in the direction of the mountains which was the outer limit of Grell territory. He dipped his lower body and rose up to enable an air passage across the mountains. As it was he would just skim the upper reaches. There were glaciers, rivers of ice cutting their way to the valleys below. Yulik knew the way having traveled here so many times before. He skimmed over the icy waves of an upper glacier, which had carved a pass between two steep mountains, pleased he could maintain this height in the freezing air.
The Senior following was anxious and confused. Grell training, instilled since birth, had been that never under any circumstances leave the territory of the Grell. Because of this edict it was rumoured that unspeakable things would be seen, terrible injuries would occur, and as a matter of course dire consequences would fall upon your head from the members of the senior committee. As he approached the pass a strange independent thought struck the Senior; that if Yulik does this often and thrives unlike the rest of Grell, who are undernourished under-achievers, then hanging on to old traditions and fears needed to be a thing of the past. As he thought this through he too was over the glacial pass and Yulik had left his line of sight.
The Senior was lost in a panic. He would be driven from Grell even if he returned now with Yulik. Then he saw a flash of Yulik’s wings – what? Yulik’s wings were beating up and down and he was gaining height. How? The Senior would need to start beating his own wings or crash land in strange country outside the border of Grell. Unused muscles screamed as he tried to beat his wings up and down. Slightly, slowly he gained height and followed in Yulik’s direction. Beating wings were not forbidden in Grell territory it was just that no-one knew this was possible and so no-one had tried. As the Senior followed Yulik he was in pain and fear and very worried about what all this meant for the future of the Grell.
Yulik supposed he had lost the senior over the pass and he continued on no longer gliding but flying. He had discovered here on the other side of the mountains that he could beat his long wings and gain height; he had also discovered his long tail acted as a rudder for direction. This discovery had occurred out of necessity as he had been careening out of control into the furthest edges of the glacier one night and in an attempt to save himself his wings began an automatic and spontaneous beating motion that had saved his body from crashing and to his astonishment had enabled him to gain height, change direction, take off without a tower, land with grace and even circle in the thermal currents above the mountains on this side of Grell territory. Somewhere deep inside Yulik’s core centre he knew that Grell were supposed to do this: fly free. He was convinced that the laboratory was an aberration, an abomination that had become a prison for the noble lines of Grell.
As he flew on further from Grell territory he knew where he was heading, not much further to the pastures of the southern plains. There was food there that was just waiting to be plucked up by his giant feet as he dangled in the air above the ground.
The Senior amazed at his own temerity as he continued following Yulik across the sky was getting used to the beating of his wings. His body seemed to take over the task naturally and almost like second nature his tail helped to guide him in that direction. Slowly the Senior began to realize that he was actually enjoying himself.
Yulik was approaching the pasture he had frequented for a long time. He chose a different location every few nights so that the food did not deplete. He did not wish the supply to stop growing. The spores had to take root and continue. He traveled further this night than ever before.
The Senior watched Yulik approach the ground. Yulik seemed to hover above the surface – he didn’t land. His big feet dug out a huge chunk of vegetation and as he rose into the sky again his huge tail swished to the side and Yulik gracefully pirouetted in the air and headed back to the mountains. The Senior would be seen if he could not hide. Senior saw his chance and swooped behind a huge rocky outcrop which gave him time to allow Yulik to proceed on his way.
As he neared the mountains Yulik saw ahead in the distance the gaping soft black hole looming darkly against the craggy face of the tall mountain a long way west of the pass and he made a direct flight for the hole. The hole was so big Yulik didn’t have to duck or maneuver at all he just sailed right in. It was an easy landing as he stepped of the chunk of vegetation. Yulik picked up the chunk in his arms and scattered it widely on the floor of the dark cave then he followed the line of the cave into the rear and the food. The spores from the previous chunks of vegetation had taken root here in the dark. He pulled a big piece of flesh off the solid trunk beside him and feasted. The taste was similar to the food made in the laboratory but there the similarity ended. This food was nutritious; it had substance, chewiness and flavour. When Yulik had finished eating his fill he put another smaller chunk in his pack to take back to the laboratory for breakfast. He would have to hide this carefully. The rules were so entrenched in everyone’s psyche he couldn’t understand why he was so different. He hadn’t been stifled by the rules or made fearful of the myths, the history that made the Grell feel inferior and unworthy. No wonder they believed the stories and upheld the restrictions placed upon them to the point of starvation and weakness.
Yulik was not prepared to starve or stagnate for the sake of historical continuity. The Senior landed in the cave although not with the same grace as Yulik. As he looked around the outer cave he could smell the food. That was when Yulik asked him if he was hungry. He was. He was very hungry. He hadn’t heard Yulik approach from the rear of the cave and he felt silly as well as hungry. Yulik beckoned the Senior to the rear of the cave and broke another large chunk off the stumpy trunk he had just eaten from and gave it to the Senior Grell. The Senior ate and then ate more when it was offered.
At this point the Senior needed to ask questions about the food and the cave. Why food could be grown here and maybe in other caves from the spores generated by the many pastures full of the vegetation that Yulik had been harvesting. Yulik warned that he had only fed locally and had no idea what lay beyond the pastures that bordered the mountains. Nor had he any notion as yet as to whether the area was inhabited. He thought perhaps it was inhabited and that was why the Grell were confined to the territory on the other side of the mountain pass, but he hadn’t had time to explore further or during the hours of light. He felt that the native inhabitants of the area here would be active in the light hours. The Senior was curious about all this and decided that as he was a senior in the council after all that they should stay and explore. The council knew he had followed Yulik and whilst they would be angry and anxious that they had not returned they would not send a search party beyond the mountains and would wait for their return. When it was agreed by both parties to work together they settled for some sleep but only after the Senior placed himself in the entrance of the cave.
The dawn woke Yulik and he ate his fill. In the light he could see the spores growing into the sides of the cave where he had scattered the vegetation. He had been doing this now on a regular basis for about a year and he noticed that he always scattered the spores near the mouth of the cave but harvested from the back in the dark, dark even in the dawn and daylight here at the front of the cave. It seems that the spores moved by themselves into the darker areas before they matured. He wondered why the Grell had left this place and why, at least, they hadn’t taken the pasture with them?
After the Senior had eaten his fill they were anxious and curious to be on their way. Yulik and the Senior flew further south until midday and all they could see from horizon to horizon was uninhabited pastureland, no dwellings or workers in the pasture. From their vantage on high they did see a vast expanse of water to the west. It was so big they couldn’t be sure if it was a lake or a sea. So turning west they decided to investigate the shoreline and fly a square pattern that would take them back to the cave in the mountains before nightfall. As they approached the shore they flew higher and out over the water and as they turned to look at the shoreline there were high cliffs as far as the eye could see. Majestic cliffs covered with dark patches that when they got closer they realized were caves just like the one in the mountains. Hundreds of caves littering the cliff face all along the shore. They flew in closer to the shore looking for the inhabitants of the caves.
Then the Senior gave voice in surprise. There on the rocks below the cliffs was a figure. Yulik hailed the Being below. As they came closer Senior was worried about the reception two strangers flying in would receive. He had just cause. As Yulik began to land the figure on the rocks shouted out an alarm call and in seconds the rocks and cliff face, and even along the cliff edge above was bristling with Beings that looked like Grell but with a few differences they had short tails and no wings. Yulik could clearly understand what they were saying so they had the same language. There was terrible fear here and the Senior realized more quickly than Yulik that these Beings were afraid of them. It seemed they were very afraid of their cousins as ancient looking armaments were being hastily trundled out of some of the caves. Big machines that threw spears into the air, thankfully not with great accuracy, as the warning shot missed Yulik by yards. It was time to go and until they could see a safe way to communicate with these Grell-but-not-Grell there could be no answers to their questions.
The opportunity came days later when the Senior, out on patrol, spied a lone ‘not-Grell’, as Yulik had come to refer to them. The Senior approached on the ground with his wings folded, walking upright on his legs and with his long tail draped, relaxed across his shoulders. He hailed the stranger, in a friendly yet formal manner, from a short distance. The strange ‘not-Grell’ was startled and cautious but not antagonistic. He waited until the Senior came closer. The stranger had heard that winged Grell had escaped the territory beyond the mountains and had been elected to check out the situation. He was a brave one indeed and he had been schooled in the ancient history of why the winged Grell had originally been banished to the territory.
The Senior and the stranger, after formal greetings, began to answer each others questions and sadly the Senior heard the history which was unknown or forgotten in the territory. They were all Grell. The strangers name was Morec and the senior was only ever called the Senior.
Apparently many hundreds of years ago there was a mutation born into the land of the Grell. Because she was the only one born with wings and a long tail it was thought only an aberration and a mistake of nature. However more and more were born with wings and long tails as the years went by. When some of these winged Grell grew to maturity their ability to fly shifted the power in the community where they lived. Before long there was a terrible war and many lives were lost. Eventually the non-winged Grell banished the winged ones into the territory beyond the mountains and over time fostered the belief of cursed country outside the territory into the folklore of the winged ones who were contained there. It was written in their teachings. Morec spoke with conviction as he told the Senior that the two could never mix again as there would be more wars.
The Senior spoke of the harsh life and starvation in the territory and of Yulik’s discovery of the food in the pastures and the cave on the mountain. A solution needed to be found, and fast, thought Morec as he left to consult his community, before the territory Grell escaped in numbers and war surely followed.
The Senior told Yulik of the meeting with Morec and Yulik worried with the Senior about the outcome. They both felt powerless. Powerlessness was the life long lesson in the territory. Territorian Grell only glided. On his nightly forays Yulik only flew after he crossed the mountain pass. The powerlessness was so entrenched it was of itself sufficient to keep the winged Grell subdued. Days later Morec came to the pasture below the cave and waited for the Senior and Yulik to come down and hear their verdict.
Morec, on greeting them both was very conscious of Yulik’s size and the difference between a better fed Yulik and an underfed Senior. The non-winged Grell were right there was a possible danger here. Morec proposed a treaty.
Vegetation for the pastures on the territory side of the mountains would be provided to enable more food for the Territorian winged Grell. The mountains must remain the southern border of the territory of the winged Grell. There would never be further communication between the two Grell communities on pain of war. Morec stated that the border would be watched and if needs must the ancient weapons would be revived and trained on the mountain passes.
Yulik and the Senior took note of this dire threat. Morec did however, from the kindness of his heart, suggest that the land to the north and east of the territory was uninhabited except for the Dirrell a grazing herd of small creatures that kept to themselves. The Senior negotiated for the pasture vegetation so that the spores could be farmed and harvested in the laboratories of the territory.
Yulik was sorry he could not come south again without causing problems for all, but he could understand Morec’s concerns and fears. Yulik stood head and shoulders above him. What would the winged Grell be like if fed properly from birth? Yulik felt he would be very happy to see one like that in the future.
Now that the Senior and Yulik were on their way home to the laboratory they decided: never to return where they were not wanted, never to go to war with their ancestors, and to convince the council of seniors to move north and east allowing them to become a powerful community, finding other pastures to grow the spores and actively farm the vegetation on the neglected pasturelands within the territory instead of trying to reproduce stunted spore trees in the laboratories. The pasture spores had much more flavour and nutrition.
As the Senior and Yulik flew back over the pass and into the territory the beat of their wings became stronger and stronger and Yulik was more determined than ever to explore new places.