Brethren by SeverianofUrth
Brethren (part 1)
Date: 25 June 2004, 12:00 AM
'Rakomee sniffed the air, and felt... nothing. Not a single misplaced trace of a smell that might betray the hidden. There was something wrong here, he knew. The sheer absence of mistrustful odors itself raised his suspicions about this place.
Especially as this place did not permit the use of shields. He felt naked; although he still wore the chiliads-old platings, without the plasma shieldings he felt vulnerable, weak... He remembered the history of this planet's discovery, and felt angry at himself for thinking this way, this... weak way. After all, even the filthy Brutes and the contemptible Grunts fought without them... Not that they coveted the shields.
The ice storms of the planet negated what charges the shieldings had. They became useless; this was fatal to the first survey teams the Covenant had led with the ships the Prophets had endowed to the lesser castes. Unknowing of the native race, a rock-walrus species with magnificently thick and hard carapaces to endure the flesh-stripping wind, the first teams of Elites had been obliterated by their giant adversaries. With the protection that the shielding had endowed to them, they- they, the warriors, the zealots- had grown complacent.
What came after the first disastrous landing was a pogrom. Effective eradication of the planet's species. Theoretically they were supposed to convert other, lesser species to the fold of Faith; but after this humiliation, the High Citadel deemed that this planet was sent to remind them of their weaknesses, and that this would become a training ground...
About two chiliads (centuries) after the first landing, the natives had been killed off, by hand-to-hand combat. The last native was slain by the infamous Prophet-Warrior, who slew it with a plasma-charged spear, traditionally used for religious ceremonies.
But that was the past. 'Rakomee, trained since youth to fight with the shields, to rely on it's ability to absorb what damage was thrown, and to recharge afterwards, had gained an uncanny ability to predict the ebb and flow of the battle, so that he might take breathers in between... Which were useless here, in this gods-forsaken planet.
He was patrolling the perimeters, a duty best left for the Brutes. The filthy monkeys, so similar to humans, 'Rakomee had once wondered on whether or not the monkeys would actually defect the Faith to join the humans. Not that the humans were contemptible; secretly, like many of the Elite brethren they considered the humans a challenge. A welcome challenge. So physically and technologically inferior, and without even the gods to provide protection, they fought on still. So unlike the Grunts, and the Jackals.
The lack of smells discomforted 'Rakomee, who gripped his carbine carefully and surely. 'No more musing,' he thought.
He got back to the barrack after a cycle of walking the perimeters. Not that there was anything to look for... the humans had been trapped in their home planet, so besides wanton treachery, nothing would attack this planet. "The Shedding of Blood," he remembered. The title of this planet.
"I have sunk so low as to count the passing units, 'Rakomee. Surely you might relive my unshed boredom? What do you say, brother, to a duel?" 'Dekarmee, a fellow Elite brethren, said. 'Rakomee nodded, his jaws unhinging in amusement.
"Your unshed boredom might possibly cause your blood to be shed, brother."
The dueling grounds. Being a warrior caste, Elites kept places of dueling in every station that a brethren might be sent towards. The duels were fought with only the hand-held bludgeons traditional to the Elites' dim past. Unrelived stress caused by extended periods of inactivity tended to ignite in hot words and even hotter bolts of plasma being traded between the Elites, so this way- the hald-to-hand way- was deemed safer and more... right.
'Rakomee grasped the club, the staja, a black limb of the pithtrees of home. Supple, hard, and plentiful, this was the traditional dueling weapon, for Elites were usually too resilient to be killed by it. Other races didn't reckon in their tally.
'Dekarmee grasped a staja also, and faced 'Rakomee. He smiled.
"Ready yourself, brother."
The staja that he held became a black blur as 'Dekarmee lunged towards 'Rakomee. 'Rakomee jumped aside, and with subtle, feline grace he slashed towards where 'Dekarmee was.
"This planet has dulled our skills," said 'Rakomee.
'Dekarmee wiggled in silent agreement.
The duel resumed.
Stajas whirled and blurred against the backdrop of hanging tapestries and holo-statuettes. 'Rakomee felt in his head again the exhilaration of one-on-one fighting- the truly honorable duel between evenly matched warriors. 'Dekarmee obviously felt the same; his jaw had unhinged.
The black clubs blurred, clacked and screeched through the air, like some banshee foretelling doom. The two warriors fought on, with passion without hate, without aggression.