"Firstly, Ri'Shard. Yes, it is true: the Sapien race were once the dominant life form upon this planet. And that is not the least of it. However, I will get to that in due time.' Je'Makh settled into his chair. Ri'Shard sat silently across from him; his posture one of still attentiveness.
"It was a very long time ago; at least six thousands of cycles, and possibly even nearer to seven. Even I have trouble recalling events from so long ago. There were more of us then: not as many as now, of course, but the Pyre were numbered in the hundreds, at the least. In that time, Sapiens were everywhere, crowded across the face of the world. There were so many of them; millions of Sapiens crammed together in cities. They were so easy to kill, and were never missed.'
"Even so, we were feared. The old race of the Pyre lived in the shadows, culling the masses for food. We were considered to be creatures of legend; Sapiens refused to believe that we existed. But still, they were terrified of the mythical Pyre that hunted during the dark hours. And, we were content for it to remain so. Life was easy for us; there was a plentiful supply of food to be had, and servants to wait upon us. We were content.'
"But no status quo, however evenly balanced, can be maintained indefinitely. In our case, it was a plague. It swept across the world, destroying millions. Sapien cities became vast charnel houses of the dead. The plague attacked the Sapien blood supply, destroying the cells. There was no cure, and was always fatal.'
"Even the Pyre were not immune to the plague, Ri'Shard. Our numbers also diminished, as we fed upon those who were afflicted. Sapien blood was what nourished us; had always nourished us. We tried to stave off the end by rounding up those Sapien we could find that were uninfected. We kept them, as they kept food beasts, breeding the strongest males and females with each other, in an attempt to rear a disease resistant strain. But always, sooner or later, the plague would flare up again, and another herd would have to be destroyed. All too soon, the Pyre numbered less than twenty, that we knew of.'
"What finally saved us, were the Sapiens themselves. Unknown to us, groups of survivors had come together. Sapien scientists had established a base in the coldest part of the world, and had constructed the beginnings of a vast subterranean city, dedicated to research. When the plague struck, they cut themselves off from the rest of their species, and became a self sufficient colony, of perhaps as many as five thousand. All of their resources were diverted into finding a cure, a way of saving their species.'
"What they eventually came up with, was Ichor.'
Je'Makh paused at the look of naked surprise that flashed across Ri'Shard's features.
"Yes.' He nodded once, at the unasked question on his companions face. "The Sapien race were responsible for our salvation. They discovered a synthetic blood serum that was capable of flushing the Sapien circulatory system, and thus the plague. It was easily manufactured in bulk, at low temperatures, and was self replicating, requiring minimal maintenance. It could be sustained easily, requiring little more than water and sunlight, plus a few basic nutrients in order to grow. The Sapien race was saved, it seemed. They named the serum Ichor; apparently, in their tongue, it translates as "the blood of the gods'; it was quite appropriate really.' Je'Makh allowed himself a small smile.
"However, before they could produce the serum, their Ichor; the remaining Pyre decided that they would not stand for a return of the world to the old ways. They determined that it was time for the superior Pyre race to rise up, and overthrow the Sapien. And this we accomplished: we enslaved the Sapien scientists, and all those unaffected that we could locate, and put them to work creating more vats, more than we could possibly need at that time. We also increased the size of the subterranean city, using the Sapien as a workforce. Many of them perished in the construction of what is now our city, but they reproduced rapidly, and we replaced more than we lost.'
"The task required some several hundreds of cycles to accomplish, but, finally, we were finished. Our city, the city we live in today, was completed. Fully a third of the world's surface was encased in metal, the rest allowed to return to the wild. The Sapien species was all but eradicated or enslaved to our will. Those still alive we enthralled, permitting them only enough mind and willpower to maintain the vats, and to reproduce. After several generations, we had produced the perfect worker; the Milari.'
"The Milari were-,' Ri'Shard stopped himself with an effort of will. He gestured to Je'Makh. "My apologies; please, go on.'
"Yes, the Milari were Sapien; once.' Je'Makh replied. He gazed steadfastly across the space that separated the pair. "But there is more; perhaps even some things that you would wish not to hear perhaps?'
"Perhaps.' Ri'shard acknowledged. "But, I think that I am in this too deeply now, to back out. How say you?'
"I think it only fair that you know everything: that you might see why the discoveries you have made are so dangerous to the Pyre. I mentioned earlier that I have placed a great deal of trust in you by merely coming here; this is more of that trust. Outside of the Council of the Eight, nobody remembers our origins, and that is how it must remain. I intend that you are aware of why this must be so.'
"Then, by all means, continue.' Ri'Shard said.
"Very well. The Milari, were created from the remnants of the Sapien race. However, there were some members of the Sapien deemed too valuable to be reduced to mindless slavery. The scientists and those original colony members responsible for the creation of the Ichor vats. We considered such fertile minds to be far too valuable a commodity to waste. And do not forget, the plague had reduced Pyre numbers to a dangerously low level.' Je'Makh paused momentarily, studying Ri'Shard as if assessing his reaction to what he was about to say next. Then he said. "It was decided that these prisoners would be assimilated, converted into Pyre, and the memory of the creation process wiped from their minds.' He waited silently for Ri'Shard's reaction.
Ri'Shard sat, his usually still posture one of a frozen instant in time. Then, he leapt to his feet with a speed that was unusual, even for the Pyre. For a cold moment, Je'Makh thought that Ri'Shard was about to launch himself at him; to strike him. But Ri'Shard remained where he stood, staring down at him as though seeing him for the first time.
"This is an untruth!' He hissed savagely through clenched teeth. "I am Pyre! I am not descended from those animals.' He trembled visibly, his dark eyes silvered in rage, mercuric argent, that flashed angrily. Je'Makh regarded him calmly.
"No. Not descended.' He said softly. "Ri'Shard, you are Sapien, or you at the least, you were, originally. We all were, even myself and the others of the Council.