1997 - 2006 G. Dallman
June 11, 1997 Version 2.0
Revision Date: 05/21/2006
The Hymn Of Dawn
* * * *
Through Mechanisms of Celestial Geometry
Along Gravity's fluid Curves
By Will of Fusion's Might
Hydrogen's Glory abounds.
Now comes the Light upon
The Fur of Night's dark Face.
Now chant to God the Blessed Hymn of Dawn.
The Prelude to The Hymn of Dawn
From The Collected Chants and Rituals of Foundings and Beginnings
The N'Saarll Priesthood on Teff (Standard Year 9441)
(Translated by Howard F. Ripley)
* * * *
A meter-wide holographic image of the Earth/Moon, as seen from SoulRipper, floated in the air before Heffnss. His mental state was obvious from his incessant pacing and the way his short tail lashed the backs of his legs.
"It is the planet of the Progenitors, yet it is unblessed," growled the Feline priest. He stood alone in his quarters and to the casual observer, it would seem he was talking to himself.
/Is it truly ours to treat so?/ Came the disembodied voice of ShipSoul.
"If we do not, these Humans surely won't! They possess no sense of value of what they have. Even their name for this world profanes it…Dirt!" Heffnss' tufted ears flattened against his skull with indignation.
/They had not the Ta-Kee to teach them better./
"Are we not the Children of the Patrons?" Shouted the Priest. "These Humans may not know better, but we do. I feel it's my duty. It's Our duty, ShipSoul!"
/If this were a barren planet I would agree, but it is not. If these benighted Beings elect to live on an unblessed world, it is by their own choice./
"I feel it in my teeth, my old friend." Heffnss once again began to pace in agitation, he ears remaining flat against his head. "Their time is short, T'Roann. I sense that again the Seeds of Bitter Regret are at hand. I fear the Feltah will come and this world will go into the Night unblessed. Who shall protect it? The Synod will not lift a claw to defend an unblessed planet."
/You see but one Future, Heffnss. It may not be so./ The Living Machine's voice betrayed uncharacteristic concern for its friend.
"Upon my Soul, I cannot take that chance. If, in all that is Sennal, there is one holy place, it is there," agonized Heffnss, stabbing one long, black claw toward the hologram.
/And there lies the problem. While in times past it was the Home of the Progenitors, the Humans rule it now./
"The Progenitor species grace it still. It was theirs long before Humans evolved. It is for the Progenitors' sake that I cannot be at peace until I stand upon its soil and chant the Hymn of Dawn."
/That is not our mission here./
"I know our mission, and it shall be done. The S'Challh is secured and has within him the Power to forge the Portal. For this alone it would be propitious to seek the blessing of this world before Alignment. I find it unseemly that a child of Tirrnn should tread upon unblessed ground, or that The One should be the scion of an unblessed planet. As you see, my friend, the facts come around to this again."
ShipSoul was quiet for a long moment, as Heffnss restlessly watched the Earth/Moon hologram imperceptibly revolve about its mutual axis.
/You fears bring new factors to the equation I had not fully considered. Heffnss, I must tell you there are hidden implications that will effect the long term results of what we do here. I now see that your desire has become an implicit part of our mission and is intertwined with my greatest hopes. Listen well and tell no others. This I command you./
Heffnss stood perfectly still, ears raised. The faint luminescence of the Terrestrial hologram scintillated from his emerald eyes. Over the span of a handful of minutes, the T'Roann told him of its recent audience with Howard Ripley, and of the crucial part the Human was to play in forestalling the dire future it foresaw. The priest had seen glimpses of that appalling timeline, both past and future, and while not overwhelmed as most other Sennal Beings would be, the implications nonetheless burned his Soul with a dread, cold fire.
"So," whispered the Feline, "my Student is in every way S'Challh."
/Yes, but as you can see, he has yet to come to grips with its full ramification. Perhaps in this you can help./
Heffnss was very quiet for a long while before he sighed loudly. "This is a thing of great pain, with much more to come. I will do what I can. If my Student survives the Forging, then he may well have strength and courage sufficient to do as you foresee. Let us pray that Fate has chosen well."
/Your invocation of Fate unbecomes you, Heffnss," chided the Living Machine. You of all Beings know that the Quantum paths of all Life have many branches. It shall be your job to see that the probability of the S'Challh's existence taking the appropriate path is enhanced. You shall ensure that The One shall BE as he must to accomplish that which only he can do./
Heffnss remained silent for a long while, as he examined the depths of his inner Being, searching for the illusive spark of un-reason that sullied his logic with the false and unproductive abdication of Will called Fate. At last, with a vast sigh, he gave up his unfruitful inner examination.
"You are correct, T'Roann. As my Student, its is my duty to mold the Human into the creature required to fill the deepest need of all that is Sennal."
Neither T'Roann or Sasskal were entirely pleased with what the future required of them, but their duty to the Sennal Races and the dire future that threatened if they failed demanded that they suborn any personal reluctance to manipulate the life and destiny of one Howard F. Ripley.
/Enough! We digress,/ intoned the T'Roann. /I agree that you must descend to yonder planet and chant the Hymn of Dawn. What must be decided is when and where./
"When is soon," answered Heffnss. "As to where, I will consult my Student. He will know a location which will meet the requirements of the ritual. In doing this he will learn. For after the Portal is forged, and our presence is known, I will repeat the ritual again for the Humans, if they wish it."
/I have summoned the S'Challh./
* * * *
Several minutes later, a rather sleepy looking Howard Ripley made his cautious entry into Heffnss' quarters. Standing in the doorway, the Human was dwarfed by the four meter portal. As he peered into the dim precincts of his Teacher's quarters his eyes were drawn to the terrestrial hologram that floated in the air in front of Heffnss. From his vantage point the projection was indistinguishable from the view of Earth as seen from SoulRipper's forward observation chamber.
"Ah, enter, my Student," growled the Priest, beckoning with his tail. "I have need of your knowledge concerning your planet."
At Heffnss's urging, Howard entered and crossed the distance between the door and the marvelous hologram to stand beside his Teacher.
"My Student, among all the locations on your planet, which is the single most beautiful? The enterprise on which we shall embark requires the one location that esthetically differentiates your world from all others."
Howard was momentarily taken aback by the question. So much natural beauty! How could he select one place to be the signature for the entire planet! Minutes passed as he pictured in his mind all of the marvelous scenes that he had either visited or seen in pictures. Finally, an Ansel Adams picture came to mind: A moon-lit Half Dome in the background, framed by snow-covered trees, with an arc of the Merced river in the foreground. The image in his mind was agonizingly beautiful to the point of generating waves of homesickness.
Heffnss waited quietly as the Human rifled his brain, finally staring intently at his Student when an unbidden tear tracked down Howard's left cheek.
"My Student has his answer?" prompted the Sasskal.
"Yes, my Teacher. It's in a place called Yosemite. There is a lovely glacial valley there. It's beautiful beyond words."
"Show me," said Heffnss, motioning Howard over to the hologram. "Touch the area you wish to see."
On the simulated Earth, dawn was just passing over the Allegheny mountains as Howard reach toward the display and touched the hologram in the area of northern California. Suddenly the viewpoint rushed toward the planet at an apparent speed many times that of light, stopping at a vantage point less a hundred kilometers above the ground. At this magnification it became apparent the projection was no simulation, but rather a real-time view of the planet. Clouds and the shadows of clouds could be discerned above the pre-dawn landscape and Howard had no difficulty seeing the changes in illumination as the week-past full moon cast its wan light on the cloud-tops. To the south, the bright webs of cities and freeways were visible, illuminated by a million headlights. Another touch and the view appeared to be about three thousand meters above the Yosemite valley. Howard searched for a moment and touched again. The next view was at ground level, a frozen Half Dome dominated the scene, its shear granite face bathed in moonlight. All about, snow covered trees and ground reflected second-hand sunlight. Though the moon was in a different position than in the Ansel Adams picture, the effect was startlingly similar.
Heffnss made no sound save a slight hissing intake of breath. For a long while he studied the scene, he tawny head cocked to one side. "My Student chooses well. This is indeed beautiful beyond description. I have stood upon many planets and never have I seen such a sight. Upon this spot, in one day-cycle, I shall chant the Hymn of Dawn."
"What is that, my Teacher?"
"It is an ancient ritual, used since the days of the Ta-Kee for the binding consecration of new worlds into collective Soul of the Sennal Empire."
"The people of Earth do not even know about you, my Teacher, how could they consent to joining your empire?"
"It is not the Humans who are involved, my Student, it is the planet itself."
"Should Humanity not have some say in this, my Teacher?"
"In time you will, my Student. For the present, the consent of the planet is all that matters."
"How may a planet or any other non-living body give such consent, my Teacher?"
"Who is to say that astronomical bodies do not have consciousness of their own, my Student? Do they not form part of The ALL? Quantum consciousness is in all things. You will experience this tomorrow. I will ask your world to accept us as its Children, and it will answer, unambiguously. Such bodies may not be sentient, but being billions of years old, most have evolved to consciousness.."
Howard was not sure if he believed Heffnss, but tomorrow would tell.
"Permit me another question, my Teacher," asked the Human with some hesitation.
"Ask, my Student," growled the Feline.
"What is the need for this undertaking now, my Teacher. Why do you have to do it so soon?"
Heffnss moved to stand behind the Earth/Moon hologram, spreading his huge arms to encompass it like a Feline Hercules.
"Your world is very close to the star systems of the Feltah. If you are discovered, your species has no protection. Your technology offers you no hope of defending yourself. My student, our very presence here increases the risk that you will be discovered by the Feltah. Then, your world and all upon it will go violently into the Night. This planet is the home of the Progenitors. I have sworn a Vow that this will not be permitted to happen unopposed. After Gendas III is brought into the Empire, it will be entitled to the protection of the fullness of Sennal might."
"My Teacher, you said that… later, Humanity will be offered the opportunity to offer its consent. Who will ask?"
"You will, my Student."
* * * *
Silently, the small armada of six landing craft pulled away from SoulRipper, quickly accelerating toward the blue planet two million kilometers distant. Four of the vehicles held the entire Organic compliment of SoulRipper, less the eight beings in the other two craft. Those two shuttles each carried an armored assault vehicle and crew of four. In accordance with tradition, the Hymn of Dawn ritual would be carried out in the presence of all those aboard SoulRipper. For the first time in years, the living vessel was devoid of Organic beings.
After the near-instantaneous acceleration to three percent light-speed, the trip from SoulRipper's orbit to Earth was completed in less than four minutes. Another ten minutes of orbital maneuvering and entry passed before the six Sennal ships, moonlight glistening off their white hulls, silently descended to a snow covered meadow. In the distance, Half Dome glowed beneath its cold backdrop of winter stars, framed by snow-dusted trees.
In accordance with Dirhal military methodology, the landers were arrayed in an arc, with their endgates facing the imposing granite mass and their forward ends resting within a few meters of the bank of the Merced river. Within seconds of settling into the shallow snow, the massive seventeen metric tonne iridium portals on all six vehicles motored open, impacting onto the frozen ground with a chorus of muted metallic *thud*s. Immediately, the two assault vehicles silently glided out of their landers and took up stations hovering about twenty meters over the landing site.
As Howard descended the endgate of his shuttle, he was again amazed at the startling similarity between the view before him and the Ansel Adams photograph in his mind. In the pre-dawn moonlight the scene had the same sharp monochromatic quality of the black and white photo. While the Human stood admiring the view, the remainder of SoulRipper's compliment silently filed from the landing craft around him. For all but a few, this was their first opportunity to set foot upon the most sacred planetary real-estate in the entire Sennal oligarchy; the Home of their Progenitors.
After a few minutes the entire Sennal compliment had disembarked the landers and arrayed themselves in a semicircle with Heffnss at its focus. In all there were two Gashkas, seventy-nine Dirhal (including the eight crewing the assault craft), ninety-one Toccal, one Sasskal and one Human.
Heffnss stood silently for a moment, breathing the cold, intoxicatingly sweet night air. Moonlight reflecting brilliantly from the Scholar's Blade at his back, almost gave the appearance of a halo as it was defused by the short mane of fur about his neck. After another minute, Raall separated from the assembled ranks and walked to stand at the priest's left side.
Heffnss sniffed the air again and looked to the imperceptibly brightening sky in the east. Soon. Very soon.
Howard stood silently with his companions, his feet were beginning to ache from cold but he had resolved not let himself betray his discomfort any more than the others around him, who stood unclothed, silent and unmoving. The only sounds from the 165 beings about him were those of quiet respiration. As in SoulRipper's Ker-Rruh, at the moment if his momentous self-discovery, the air seemed alive with expectation.
The Human looked at those around him, feeling the fleeting warmth radiating from their furred bodies. Aarrl stood silently on his left while a female Dirhal TwoRing, who's name he didn't know, stood but a few centimeters to his right, seemingly enraptured by the power of the moment. In the midst of this Alien multitude Howard suddenly felt more alone than at any time since he began his desperate odyssey on that cold mountainside a thousand kilometers to the north.
Silence. For that brief instant not even the wind stirred. The atmosphere had reach perfect thermal equilibrium. The eastern sky was rapidly becoming noticeably brighter. In a slow, fluid motion, the Sasskal Priest raised his left hand, pointing to the easternmost corner of the imposing granite monolith before them. As though on cue, the cold stone began to glow with its first photons of the new day. Heffnss' deep voice resounded, echoing through the valley. For the first time in the history of Planet Earth the unrestrained vocal patters of Sennal speech boldly rent the silence.
"We stand upon a new world, the Home of our ancient Progenitors and of he for whom the Child of Tirrnn longs. In the Name of our Ancestors and after the manner of those who created us, I now ask that the Sennal Pattern be joined to the Attractor of this World."
That said, the Priest turned to fully face the mountain, as He addressed the Earth itself in the language of his creators.
"Awake O Hydrogen's Child! Awake to Fusion's brilliant splendor!
In Time's dark Sea was the Matrix of thine Birth Ordained
Great Attractor's Pull thine Place predicted.
Your Matter endures until Time's last Echo
Sentience calls You for Its Own
For a brief while we tread upon thy Face
Claim us now as thine Own.
With those fifty-three words Heffnss proclaimed Earth a vested part of the Sennal Empire, now fully entitled to all the rights and bound by the obligations of a Sennal world. This proclamation wasn't as much the Sennal taking possession of the planet as it was the planet taking possession of them. Earth's chances of survival instantly increased a thousand-fold.
Next, Raall who had stood silently at the Priest's side, took a step forward and looked directly into the frontal cameras of the closest assault vehicle, which were recording the entire procedure. In a loud and steady voice, he proclaimed:
"I, Raall, of the line of Talliat and fifty-seventh of the name; PackCaptain of Imperial Watchers; commander of Sennal forces in the Gendas III system, do witness and verify that: Upon the eighth sub-cycle of the one-hundred and thirty-sixth day of the fourteen-thousandth, two hundred and ninth year since the loss of Blessed Teehem, Lord Heffnss of the T'Saarll Priesthood on Teff, has duly performed in the presence of all these assembled, the Rite of the Hymn of Dawn, while standing *here* upon the soil of Gendas III. In the name of Tirrnn, Empress on Taahas, I command the binding of this sacred world to the Empire of Senn."
From speakers mounted on the exterior of the two assault craft came the voice of ShipSoul. / I SoulRipper, T'Roann and immortal, before the sight of God, command it. As it is spoken, so has it been done. The records of these words and deeds are here-by registered in the Hall Of Vows on Taahas. Until the end of all things Sennal, shall they endure./
* * * *
For most of his adult life, Scott Rogers had been a park ranger at Yosemite, landing his first job cleaning restrooms while he was still in collage. Every morning for the last nine years it had been his habit to rise early and greet the dawn in a small clearing on the banks of the Merced river, at the foot of his beloved Half Dome. It was in that exact same spot that Ansel Adams took his famous photo in the winter of 1939. For the last three thousand, three hundred and fifty eight consecutive days the ranger, without fail, arrived in this small meadow to enjoy the brief moments of pre-dawn solitude and witness what was for him the most beautiful sight on the planet. He *Belonged* to this place.
As he rounded the last turn in the trail, Scott discovered that he was not alone that morning. Arrayed in a semi-circle two rows deep, exactly in his favorite spot, were over a hundred and fifty creatures like he'd never imagined existed! Quickly, the ranger scurried to the side of the trail, concealing himself as best he could behind the scant cover of a winter-defoliated bush. His heart pounded. His mind raced. Who (What) were they? What were they doing? Where had they come from?
From his frozen vantage-point, Scott peered through the frost covered branches, the hairs on the back of his neck were starting to practically stand up and wave with excitement and no small amount of fear! 'Who are these people?' he again thought to himself. They certainly weren't Human. Oops, he corrected himself, one of them was. At the farthest end of the semi-circle stood a lone Human, a huge grizzly bear-like creature stood next to him on his left and a very wolf-like being stood practically shoulder-to-shoulder with him on his right. As a matter of fact, the entire population of the outer row was composed of the wolfen creatures. They were anthropomorphic in form and stood about two meters tall to the gray tips of their ears. Aside from the Human and the two huge Ursines, the inner row was composed of what looked to be about a hundred smaller beings with the general body shape of bipedal otters. At the focus of the group was a *huge* saber-tooth cat-like being. A proportionally large sword was slung across its back, reflecting the cold moonlight. The entire group stood in utter silence, all eyes on the granite monolith.
Behind the Alien assemblage were six, gleaming white, bus-sized vehicles, obviously shuttle craft of some sort, and above those hovered two sinister looking tank-like machines. Scott was unaware of it, but his heat signature had long ago been detected by the instruments on board the assault craft. Being alone and with no detectable weapons, it was decided that he was harmless. Besides, it would have been extremely inauspicious to be blasting away at the autochthons while at the same time reciting the Hymn of Dawn, ostensibly for their benefit!
Just as dawn's first rays touched the corner of Half Dome, the Feline creature spoke, addressing those assembled about him. His voice, while unintelligible, sent chills racing up and down Scott's spine. It was deep and rich, the cultured voice of a singer or priest. Under the circumstances, 'priest' seemed most likely. After speaking to the beings gathered around him, the Feline turned toward the monolith and commenced what could only be described a chant or prayer.
The chant lasted less than a minute. With every intonation, Scott's sense of belonging increased, the chant grabbed his soul and Pulled. He had to fight to restrain his body from getting up and running to join the Alien gathering. Through the soles of his feet, the ranger felt the Earth itself whisper to him. There were no words, but oh, the feeling of… Place. It was as though he had taken root where he crouched. He Belonged, the Earth told him. More-so now then ever before! Not only did he belong to this place, but now these strange creatures did as well. As Scott watched, the lone human suddenly looked toward the ground, his face registering great surprise. Slowly he sank to his knees, placing the palms of his hands flat against the frozen ground, as though maximizing his contact with the planet. Scott had no doubt that he too felt the wondrous and totally unambiguous message radiating from within the Earth. All too soon, the Feline fell silent.
Moments later, the large wolfen-creature standing next to the Feline stepped forward and spoke. His voice was deep and rich also, but seemed to Scott to hold a presence which spoke of one who commanded. His speech lasted considerably longer than the Feline's as he gestured first to those gathered about him and then to the ground at his fur-covered feet. Soon he also fell silent.
The glade was quiet for a moment until another voice seemed to boom out of thin air and while totally lacking emotion, none-the-less gave the impression of absolute authority. After this last voice spoke, the gathered Aliens began to relax a bit and each turned about, examining their surroundings in the ever-increasing morning light. It was plain that they were immensely enjoying the cold, fragrant morning air, as there was a lot of deep breathing. The high-pitched voices of the otterish Toccal echoed through the meadow.
After several minutes of reveling in nature and talking amongst themselves, the creatures in the meadow began to file into the shuttles. The Human was the last to board and seemed to hold back for just one last long look and probably would have tarried longer had the huge feline not gently but insistently grasped his elbow, guiding him up the endgate. Scott wondered again what part the lone Human played in the extraordinary drama that had unfolded before him. . Something in the back of Scott's mind greatly envied his fellow Human. What must it be like to be in the presence of beings that could command such a response from Nature itself!
A few minutes after the last endgate closed, all six shuttles silently rose in unison from the meadow and with the two assault craft in the lead swiftly climbed into the still morning air. As the closest assault vehicle silently passed over Scott's position, the sighting laser on its ventral pulse cannon briefly painted an unmistakable symbol on his chest and winked off. For three seconds, the universal symbol of life, the DNA double-helix, glowed in red on his green jacket. Life greeting Life. 'As good a way of saying goodbye as any,' thought Scott.
After gaining about a thousand meters in altitude, the eight vehicles assumed a diamond formation and banked in a tight curve about El Capitain, heading west, rapidly gaining altitude and speed. Soon all that remained of the strange visitors were marks in the snow and a long, rolling sonic boom. A final bright glint of reflected sunlight flashed in the far western sky and they were gone.
Scott stood for a long moment, staring into the patch of sky where they'd disappeared, his right hand slowly caressing the front of his jacket where the red symbol had briefly glowed. In the center of his soul a small voice told him that his life would never be the same.
* * * *