Posted By: Cthulhu117<email@example.com>
Date: 20 January 2006, 12:21 am
To be fulfilled, a prophecy needs lots of flexibility.
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Jiralhanae Shipyard Hagja Prime
Covenant Battlecruiser Mercy and Righteousness
As soon as the the shuttle entered the hangar bay of the Covenant battlecruiser, Eraa was all business. One of the things he'd learned in his life was that your joy, your grief, your fury were all second to your duty. His blue armor glistened with blood and perspiration. Orna marched wearily down the entry ramp of the shuttle. 'Timraee was there, an expression of dismay on his face.
"Our sensors only registered five people,' the Zealot said concernedly. "Who didn't make it?"
"Lakturee,' Orna said mournfully. "And one of the Honor Guards. I didn't know his name, Excellency."
He saw something out of the corner of his eye and jumped in surprise. Eraa had silently come up beside him. He spoke too low for the Ship Master to hear. Even Orna could barely make out the words.
"You should have known. My father's dead. I thought you might have cared a bit more, seeing as how he was your father as well." There was deep bitterness in his speech.
Orna swore loudly. "Oh, no," he growled. "Why didn't you tell me who he was, Eraa?"
"I tried, but you were too busy trying to rip my arms off," Eraa hissed.
It was a somewhat subdued group of Sangheili that made its way to the bridge. As they entered, 'Timraee gave a start and spoke.
"Damn, I almost forgot! How did the negotiations go? I'm going to assume they failed, from the looks of it."
"Tartarus might have believed us, actually,' Orna said. "We never found out, though. He wasn't with the pack that tried to kill us. I wonder why he decided to kill us."
Eraa spoke slowly and coldly. "Tartarus had nothing to do with it. His pals took him out before they went after us."
Orna swore again, even more loudly. A passing Unggoy tittered. 'Timraee glared at it. If looks could kill, the Unggoy would have been cut to shreds.
"Do you think the Jiralhanae know you left?" queried the Zealot.
A huge explosion rocked the ship. Eraa kept his feet with some difficulty, then gave a sour chuckle. "Yes, I think so, Excellency."
"Raise shields!' barked the Ship Master. "Charge plasma torpedoes!"
The computers registered his voice and hastened to do his bidding. The energy barriers surrounding the ship activated. Weapon ports throughout the ship glistened with terrible energies. 'Timraee rushed to a holopanel and punched up a three-dimensional holoview of the two ships maneuvering around each other. "Fire plasma torpedoes!" barked the Zealot.
Half a dozen rays of fiery blue malice cut the starry sky.
Watching the holoview, the Zealot gave a yell of triumph as the torpedoes struck home. Four of the blasts ruptured and melted the warship's chassis. The other two hissed wide. The Massacre's engines vented gas as a plasma torpedo boiled away their armor plating.
On the bridge of the Massacre, Orthrys cursed viciously. He had just been informed that his slipspace engines had been damaged badly by the latest blast of enemy fire. "Fire a sonic missile!" he howled, saliva dripping from his fangs. A Jiralhanae within earshot gave a war cry and pressed the fire button.
"Shit, sonic missile inbound!" shouted Eraa from the opposite side of the bridge.
'Timraee lunged for a control panel a second too late. The shields were still up when the missile discharged its pulse. 'Timraee said something unintelligible as the electric charge flung him from the raised command platform. He fell heavily to the floor, unconscious. 'Gajturee ran to his superior. He reached for the shield generator. He had to deactivate the shields in order to check for a pulse. As soon as he touched the shield generator, however, a massive residual charge struck him to the ground, where he lay unmoving.
'Gamsamee gave a bitter laugh and turned to his brother. "Well, Orna, you've got your first command."
Orna did not speak, but his hands flew over the holopanels. "What are you doing?" Eraa yelled as another explosion struck the ship.
"Programming a slipspace destination!" Orna shouted. Eraa was so surprised that Orna would run that he actually came over to look.
"Orna!' he bellowed furiously. "Those are our present coordinates, give or take!"
Orna shouted something that could have been "Trust me!"
The next second, there was a shuddering rush that sounded almost like a gale. The ship's gravity momentarily deactivated, and Eraa rose slowly into the air. Suddenly, his vision blacked out. He woke about a second later. Orna stood over him, looking concerned. The gravity was back.
"Where are we?" groaned Eraa.
"Right where we were, actually,' said Orna brightly. "Only we now have a slipspace vortex surrounding us. I got the idea from the Jiralhanae."
On the Massacre's bridge, Orthrys gave an enraged howl. The Mercy and Righteousness had apparently and suddenly disappeared from the sensors. "Find them!" he barked at his lieutenant.
"Sir, we're being hailed!" the lieutenant reported.
"Visual link!" snarled Orthrys.
Eraa gave a thin, glib smirk as he saw the general. "Greetings, traitor. Killed any superiors today?"
Orthrys was too surprised at seeing one of the negotiators alive to reply. Eraa continued. "You don't know where we are, Orthrys. You have five units to join the Covenant. At the end of those five units, we'll open fire. And this time, we won't miss."
All Orthrys said, however, was "Impossible!"
Eraa allowed himself a cold smile of satisfaction. "Not impossible, general. Just improbable."
Then he realized Orthrys wasn't talking to him. He wasn't even facing him. He was facing Tartarus.
The Chieftain looked like death itself. A huge wound in the center of his torso was very much in evidence. He was covered in injuries and lacerations. But he was alive. He was facing Orthrys with a grenade launcher in hand. Actually, the launcher was more in stomach than hand. Tartarus wasn't even holding onto it anymore. Its blade was buried to the hilt in Orthrys's abdomen. It took the treacherous general a few seconds to realize what happened. Then he slowly collapsed.
If Eraa was surprised, he did not show it. "My offer stands, Chieftain," he pointed out.
The Jiralhanae Chieftain's answer was immediate and negative. "No. Give me the Fist."
Eraa took a quick gamble on a bluff. He figured that Tartarus would be a bit too dull to guess the emotions of a Sangheili simply from a visual link. "Not unless you surrender. Or do I have to fire?"
Tartarus growled loudly. Eraa's face darkened angrily. "Orna, charge plasma torpedoes and get a firing solution on the Massacre."
There was a short pause. More of a staring match, actually. The Chieftain blinked, then gave a defeated grunt. "Very well. My Jiralhanae will stand down. We'll join the Covenant if we have to. But I will have the Fist of Rukt."
Eraa gave a curt nod. "A small force comprising myself and three others will head over to your ship in a cycle. We will give you the Fist of Rukt at that time.'
Tartarus nodded back, and closed the link.
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Jiralhanae Shipyard Hagja Prime
Jiralhanae Warship Massacre
One Cycle Later
Eraa almost spat on the floor as he walked through the squalid main barracks. He had thought that the stench of Jiralhanae innards was bad. He had been somewhat mistaken. The stench of the rest of them was worse. He was being conducted through the ship by an ill-favored and squat beast who seemed to take every opportunity to make entirely crude jokes. No wonder the Honor Guard had called them brutes.
"And this, Sangheili, is the engineering section," pointed out the Jiralhanae guide. "It is where the ship's power is generated and refined."
Eraa was about to point out, none too kindly, that he knew what an engineering section was for, but the retort died in his throat. The structure before him was not a typical plasma generator. It wasn't any kind of known power generator. But it was magnificent. A long structure, shaped like a pyramid. It was almost skeletal. Yet every inch of it sparkled and shimmered with energy.
Eraa barely heard himself speak; his undivided attention was focused on the structure. "Where did you get this?"
The Jiralhanae gave a patronizing chuckle. "It's not standard issue. It is believed to be an ancient Jiralhanae power station. Tartarus had it incorporated into the Massacre in order for more efficient p-"
Eraa's eyes glinted dangerously. "I know what it is. Where did you get it?"
Behind him, Orna attempted to explain to the creature. "This is an ancient Covenant ship. These were used in the Age of Reconciliation. It's about a thousand generations old...your race can't imagine how much this means to the Covenant."
"I don't have a clue as to where Tartarus got it," the Jiralhanae shrugged. "About ten years ago, he replaced the ship's fusion reactor with this."
Eraa and Orna held a quick conference with the two Majors who had gone with them. One was Kyndja "Bayatsee, the armorer of the ship. The other was Carza 'Denlinee, the chief junior officer on board the Mercy and Righteousness. "Bayatsee spoke quietly in her fluted baritone. "We ought to check with the Ship Master and the Holy One."
'Denlinee was young, but a notoriously skilled sniper. "Explore it immediately is what I say. I trust your judgement, Minor. Of course, if your judgement goes against my wishes I can overrule it, so I suppose I don't really trust it. But you take my point."
Orna spoke concisely and in his calm tenor. "We should inquire what the Jiralhanae wish first. We can't walk in there with no permission."
"Technically, we could,' challenged "Denlinee. "We have a higher standing in the Covenant. We could do whatsoever we feel like here."
"They, on the other hand, have a shaky alliance to the Covenant, and they outnumber us three hundred to one in the event of a fight. Use your brains, 'Denlinee," rebuked the armorer.
Eraa watched this with some amusement, then activated a portable holocom unit. The minute figure of the Prophet of Truth appeared on the comm unit's projector. 'Timraee stood nearby, looking somewhat the worse for wear from his electric shock.
"It's you.' remarked Truth. "What have you found? If anything?"
Eraa seriously considered making an extremely disrespectful remark, then thought better of it. "Maybe you'd better have a look, Holy One."
The holocom was cheaply made and poorly designed, particularly the sound system. Nonetheless, Truth's gasp of awe was evident. "An ancient vessel. Third Age of Reconciliation, most likely. It is simply amazing that such an ancient relic has survived the eons. Do you know how the Jiralhanae came by it?"
"No, Holy One," Eraa admitted. "Tartarus may know. Ought I to question him? What are my orders?"
"Timraee bent to Truth's ear and whispered something. Truth made a negative gesture, then spoke. "Explore the ancient ship, Minor. The reactor of the ship must still be active, which suggests a resilient power core. You should retrieve the core."
Eraa nodded, switched off the comm unit and turned to the others. Orna massaged his forehead. "Is he insane? If we turn off the ship's reactor, this thing will lose power. Air recyclers specifically."
"Somehow I doubt that there even is an air recycler on this bucket," laughed 'Denlinee. He started to laugh, until he noticed that Eraa, Orna and Kyndja were all staring at him with serious faces. "You people are devoid of appreciation for good humor," he mumbled.
Orna pulled out a sensor chip out of the battered second-hand armor he'd been given. "This thing must be broken."
"Why do you say that?" asked Eraa. The Sangheili took great pride in the fact that they armor could be torn to shreds and still function. Kyndja was looking murderous at the concept that she didn't take care of the armory properly.
"I'm detecting two massive power drains in the ship. One is the main energy router. The other one must be...I do not know what. It's almost like a holocom, but on a much larger scale."
Eraa switched to infrared viewing. Sure enough, there were two power drains in the ship. "Well, we will not find out unless we go in there. We'll follow the Hierarch's orders, I suppose."
The Sangheili set up a perimeter around the ship. The first one to find a way in would call the others. After a few units, Eraa heard a shout from Orna. He rushed to his brother's side. Orna was pointing at a sliding door that was partially embedded in the Jiralhanae warship's chassis. Next to it, in hologram letters that flickered with interference and age, was aan ancient script. It was the Ahlainga language, Eraa thought, but it was too archaic for him to read. He ran the holocom over the letters. After a few seconds the holocom's computer spoke.
"Archaic Ahlainga dialect. Dates from Ages of Conflict and Reconciliation. Translate into modern Sangheili dialect?"
"Please," Eraa said.
"Translation is as follows,' enunciated the machine, "Dignified Peace."
Neither of the Minors said anything, but a significant look passed between them. "Verify," Eraa told the holocom.
"Verified," the holocom informed him instantly. "No error in translation."
It was a few seconds before Orna spoke. "What do you think?" he asked. "Could this really be the Dignified Peace?"
'Denlinee gave a snort. "What in the name of the Forerunners is the Dignified Peace?'
'Bayatsee groaned in exasperation. "Didn't you ever pay attention in your class on Histories of the Prophets?"
"No," said the tall Major cheerfully. "Neither did you, as I recall. You spent all the time talking to the boy next to you...who was he again?"
'Bayatsee blushed distinctly and spoke bitingly. "The only difference between your study habits and mine, I believe, was that I cared enough to do make-up work. You didn't, so you probably never knew or cared about the Ancient Hierarchs.'
She made a strange noise of annoyance, somewhere between a whistle and a hiss, and began a history. "This was the Prophet of Revelation's ship. It was he who engineered the Ahlainga-Sangheili peace treaty at the start of the Ages of Reconciliation. He, with the Prophets of Peace and Beauty, became part of the first Hierarch triad. When Peace died, the Second Age of Reconciliation began. When Beauty died, the Third Age began. The triad now consisted of Revelation, Hatred and Wisdom.
"At one point in the Third Age, Wisdom reported that he'd found an artifact of great antiquity on an asteroid. He asked that Revelation came to look at it in person. So the Prophet of Revelation set off with a small crew in his cruising ship, the Peace and Dignity. He is believed to have arrived at the asteroid. Before he returned, however, he disappeared somehow, and was never seen again.
"After a long search, the Prophets of Revelation and Wisdom were given up for lost, and the Fourth Age began. The people were not sad to see the back of Wisdom, for he had been foolish and cruel. But Revelation had, unlike many of the Prophets, the gift of prophecy. He could foretell many things. His seven hundred and seventy-six prophecies are in the library of the Prophets. Many theories have been made about the fates of the two Prophets, each as unlikely as the next. If this is indeed his ship...I don't know what might be inside."
"Well, only one way to find out!' said 'Denlinee brightly. "What are you all waiting for?'
The truth was that none of them knew. However, Eraa's instincts were telling him that it is generally a bad plan to go into a ship which is supposed to have disappeared thousands of years ago with all hands. Nevertheless, they had their orders. He stepped forward and pressed on the door. It slid open. A blast of freezing air rushed out. 'Denlinee cursed loudly as his sensitive reptilian eyes were stung by the torrent of vapor.
Eraa crouched under the door, which was jammed about halfway open. Then he straightened and stood where no one had stood for more than twenty thousand years.
It was an ancient ship design, but inside it was quite recognizable. The oily purple sheen of the ornate metalwork was something that Eraa knew very well from his experience with warships. But this was more similar to the Forerunner artifact that powered High Charity, in a way. Strange patterns dotted the walls, which were paler, a more silvered colored than the rest of the ship. He surveyed what looked like a command deck of some kind. Several consoles were in the room, but most were damaged, and one had been ripped out of its foundations.
Eraa's eyes strayed to the chair at the helm. It had been torn to bits. Some terrible force had smashed and ripped it. Eraa bent closer, but was unable to ascertain what sort of object had done the damage. As he looked further, he saw, quite clearly, a stain of faded old blood. It was a pale brown. He judged it to be the blood of a Prophet. He stood and told 'Bayatsee. She also looked at the blood, then pronounced a verdict.
"It's ancient," she said. "If it weren't so cold in here, it would have disappeared millennia ago. It looks like the Prophet's blood. He didn't die in his sleep, that's for sure."
Orna was exploring the corridor that led to the ship's bow, while 'Denlinee looked in the aft hold. Eraa pushed a holopanel on the main console. He was surprised to see that it was till working. He pressed the button again, and a holodisc record appeared. He pressed the button a third time, and the disc started to play a speech. It was certainly a Prophet's voice, but Eraa could not distinguish any words. It was too ancient a dialect for him to recognize. He placed the holocom unit on the console. For a second or two the holocom beeped, then it spoke.
"Archaic Ahlainga dialect. Dates from Ages of Conflict and Reconciliation. Translate to modern Sangheili dialect?"
"Do it," Eraa barked at the unit. A holographic figure appeared on the holocom's projector. It was the AI that resided within, and it took the form of a Sangheili in green armor.
"There's no need to get angry," said the AI huffily. "If I didn't have to translate this for you, I wouldn't."
"But you do have to, so do it!" bellowed Eraa. He hated AI constructs. His small experience with them had proved most to be arrogant and irritating. The AI gave a sniff of disgust, then the figure of a Hierarch sitting on his gravity throne appeared. This, however, was not the type of throne that Truth rode in. It looked far more ancient. The Prophet cleared its throat and began to speak, although it seemed agitated, maybe even afraid.
"To any who may come after: the Most High Prophet of Revelation speaks. I warn those who wish life to stay far from the coordinates following."
The Prophet's figure disappeared for a second and a set of coordinates flashed into view. The Prophet reappeared and began to speak again. "We have been attacked by-"
There was a crackling hum, and the record died away. The AI appeared, looking somewhat put out. "Due to its great age,' he stated, "the holodisc is damaged. You will not be able to watch it in its entirety. I will attempt to compensate it, but a part of the disc is irreparable."
Eraa groaned in dismay. It always happened. Whenever he wanted to watch a holo, it was broken. "Play the rest.'
The Prophet reappeared and continued, his voice distorted and his image uncertain. "I believe this will be the last transmission that I can make, so I must be brief. I have found an an enigmatic and mystical relic that must predate the Covenant by several millennia. However, through the fierce beasts that guard such a relic, I could not bring it away. I scarcely brought away my life."
The record stabilized. The Prophet's image stopped flickering. The voice evened out, but at the same time grew almost panicky. "The last prophecy I will ever make is upon me. It concerns the Sangheili, and the One who shall set them free forever from heresy."
The Prophet's voice lost the constant overtone of fear. It became low and lyrical, in what sounded like a version of the chant the Hierarchs delivered their sermons in. Eraa could tell that certain words in the prophecy would be capitalized, had they been written out.
"In the years of Civil War, a Hero shall rise up from among the Sangheili Warriors. He shall smite the Heretic and the Demon, and strike them down. He will lead the Sangheili from those who oppress them, and he shall rule them as a just Lord. The Signs that make him known will be these: He is the Breaker of all Laws, the Fierce and Brave, the Resplendent and the Avenger. All shall die for him, for it his destiny, and this alone, to become Seraphima. All the Covenant should be broken before he should die. You are to know his great enemies thus: the Heretic will use the creations of the Ancients to spread his lies among the Covenant, converting many to his will. The Demon shall be great and dark, and yet the color of life and growing, the color of new grass. Mighty shall he be, a Warrior and Commander of Evil. The Seraphima shall come. Wait for him. He shall set the Sangheili free."
The chant ended. The Hierarch did not speak. The record disintegrated into some static and distortion.
There was silence in the command chamber. Eraa found Orna and the others standing at his shoulder. Orna was the first to speak.
"Well, Eraa, is it you or me?"
'Bayatsee did not look amused. If she had looked serious before, she now looked twice as serious. "Would both of you kindly explain what the hell you are talking about?"
Eraa spoke slowly now, and more thoughtfully. "Quite a few of the words in that prophecy are part of our names. Eraa means fierce. 'Gam means clever. Sam means resplendent. That could have been referring to me. But Orna means brave, and 'Ful means avenging, so it could be either of us. Or neither. I think it's Orna. Orna is always something strange."
'Bayatsee gave a snort. "You think that 'Fulsamee is a fabled savior of our race? Pardon me if I harbor doubts. Besides, it talked about a civil war. That's ridiculous. The Covenant could never split."
Eraa was tired. He did not bother to point out that the Civil War might not necessarily be the Covenant's war.
But when they returned to the Mercy and Righteousness two cycles later, thoroughly confused and resolved to return, Eraa made sure to bring the holodisc with him.