Synopsis

For refusing to kneel to the Dominion, the hardy Granok of Gnox immediately found themselves at war. With their overwhelming military and technological superiority, the Dominion expected their victory to be swift and decisive. Instead, Granok warriors led by Durek Stonebreaker used their own weaponry against them, driving the battered empire back to Cassus. But their victory was short-lived, and soon Durek was called before the Granok elders to answer for his actions...

1221 AE The War of Gnox

Synopsis List
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Part One Judgment Day

Astride a shattered Dominion halftrack, Durek watched as the dispirited columns of weaponless (and mostly wounded) Cassian soldiers limped towards the security fence enclosing the starport, their expressions dazed and uncomprehending. Defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those unacquainted with it.

Scaling the hillside for a better view, he paused at the place where months ago, at the start of the war, a Dominion projectile had almost blown a hole through his abdomen. He hadn’t noticed the blast or wound at the time, so great had been his fury. He had merely staggered upright, torn away the tank’s access hatch, and proceeded to wreak havoc. It had been a savage, visceral joy. But even that hadn’t held a candle to the ecstasy he felt at this moment. The invaders were leaving. They had won. Gnox was free. Why then did Durek feel such a hollow pit in his stomach? He knew the answer.

Silently, he watched the damaged Cassian ships rise skyward in wobbly ascents. Beneath his grim pleasure at the sight, dread at tomorrow’s onerous task gnawed at him. He felt the somber gaze of his second-in-command Krull boring into him from further upslope. Krull had lobbied hard but in vain for armed escorts to see the Dominion survivors out of the system, in the event they plotted reprisals. But Durek had denied this request. He knew a beaten foe. He saw the defeat etched in their demoralized faces and formerly resplendent armor. They might return someday, but not for a long while. Hopefully long enough for him to persuade the Council to change their minds.

Towards evening, the contrails of the final ships began winking out as the sky turned umber and the stars appeared, exceptionally bright after weeks of pale obscurity from the unrelenting curtains of smoke.

“We should have killed them all,” Krull muttered sourly, rousing Durek from his gloomy reverie.

“The dead do not remember,” Durek rumbled. “Only the defeated.”

Krull shook his head. “And when millions of them return?”

Durek shrugged. “We’re lookin’ pretty good on ammo.”

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Part Two A Strong Refusal

For eons unnumbered, the Granok had followed the Way of Stone, a set of tenets as immutable and unchanging as the planet’s mantle. So it had been for tens of thousands of years. So it would ever be.

Until the Dominion arrived.

In keeping with their customary protocols, the Mechari had flattered the Granok, their blandishments dashed with a touch of intimidation. They had tendered their generous invitation to be assimilated into the most powerful empire the galaxy had ever known. They had demonstrated tokens of their wondrous technology and offered assurances that only races of true merit were ever considered for such a high honor. Their price was but a trifling formality: they asked only that the chieftains kneel and swear eternal loyalty to the emperor.

The Granok warlords were unimpressed. They had peremptorily responded by crushing the emissaries into smoking piles of scrap. Tortuous weeks of war had inevitably ensued, dragging on for months, with both sides taking heavy casualties. Gradually, however, the Dominion’s superior technology began to assert its primacy.

Alone among the Granok warlords, young Durek refused to accept defeat. In a series of daring raids, he led sorties into Dominion camps, commandeering weapons, armor, and vehicles that slowly turned the tide. And for the first time in their history, the Dominion found itself on its heels.

But even as the battered Dominion military came apart, the Granok chieftains had coldly commanded Durek’s forces to assemble outside their tent.

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Part Three Pariahs for Hire

Ignoring the guarded looks of rebuke from the more pious in his immediate vicinity, Durek lit his cigar as the din of a war-horn shattered the deep silence of Blackridge Plain. The immense horn had been fashioned in antiquity from the head of a beast that had not roamed Gnox’s rugged plains for eons. Even back during that beast’s era, the Way of Stone had been ancient, and not a syllable of its screed had been amended since.

Surrounded by a heavily armed throng, the tribal leaders of the Seven Nations emerged from their tent and stood gravely before the murmuring crowd, their threadbare robes stirring limply in the arid wind.

"To betray the Way of Stone is to renounce what makes us Granok," the high elder rasped. His father looked Durek directly in the eye before continuing. "It chips away our identity. Only misery and death can follow. You are banished from Gnox. Forever. There will be no reconsideration."

So be it, Durek thought as he and the other elders filed away. For saving their species from extinction at the hands of ruthless invaders, a fitting reward.

Durek turned to the sprawling assembly at his back, their chiseled faces grave with stoic acceptance of their fate.

“All right, stow your gear and get ready to move out,” he growled, firing up a fresh stogie recently taken from the corpse of a Cassian officer . “We got work to do.”