Posted By: Cthulhu117<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 26 December 2005, 3:01 pm
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Neophyte Training Facility
Eraa Sam woke suddenly. For a second he wondered why he had woken up, and then he realized it was because a pile of rocks had fallen on his head. Looking stupidly up into the sky, he was rewarded with the sight of his brother Orna sitting on top of the boulder that Eraa was lying against, making piles of pebbles and then kicking them over. It was a very childish thing to do, and Eraa guffawed loudly as Orna started on another pile.
Orna jumped. 'Finally!' the tall young Sangheili said. 'I thought you were going to sleep through the Great Journey. Or at least the trial.'
'Yeah, the trial...the trial!' yelled Eraa. 'We need to start again right now, or we'll never make it to the endpoint before the rest!'
'The other Neophytes? It's not bloody likely, to be honest. I don't know what the trainers were trying to do when they sent an artificial blizzard, but it would have to be one tough Neophyte who went all night through the storm. Actually I'm not convinced that anybody could have survived going on in the storm. Except me, and maybe Crasta.'
'Just you, then.'
'Crasta...isn't going anywhere.'
There was a hiss of air as Orna breathed sharp and fast. 'He's injured, then? Or-'
Eraa interrupted him without even realizing it. 'Dead. Yes. I- I think I might have killed-'
Orna grabbed him by the shoulders. 'What do you mean, might have? Either the bastard's dead or he isn't. Now what did you do? Shoot him in the back, drop him off a cliff, beat his guts out?'
Eraa's mandibles began to click together in uneasiness. 'Beat his guts out? No. Someone had already done that for me.'
Orna hooked his upper mandibles up over his top jaw. It was a sign of deep disgust, and Eraa had never before seen his brother use it.
'We have to keep moving. The trial isn't over yet, and we're going to finish it.'
They kept jogging towards the end of the trial all day. Eraa was tired out by the end of the first few miles, but Orna kept the same pace, unperturbed by the panting breaths of his brother. At what Eraa assumed was about six miles, Orna called for him to halt. Eraa wished with all his heart that there was something to eat. He wondered if any of the other Neophytes had died- or been killed- yet. Taking a look back at the terrain which they had crossed, he saw a fast-moving figure. He called to Orna.
'Jorda Por,' muttered the tall young Sangheili. 'I never knew he was so fast.'
'The trial brings out something in everyone,' Eraa remarked. 'Or anyway, one of the trainers told me that before we started.'
'Huh, at least your gave you a motivational statement. Mine gave a kick on the ass.'
'You shouldn't talk about the trainers like that, you know.'
'Come on,' grunted Orna, changing the subject not-so-smoothly. 'We have to keep going. At a full run this time.'
Eraa groaned as he heaved himself up off the ground. 'How much longer is it?'
Orna considered this for a few seconds before answering, 'Eight miles or so. We made pretty good time.'
They ran for a long time. Supposedly a strong Sangheili could run a mile in under four units, but Eraa had never even been able to come close to this. After nearly forty units, they stopped in the shade of a large, twisted tree.
'Just a few more miles-' panted Orna. Even he was tired now, and Eraa was nearly dead on his feet. Eraa took a few seconds to look back at where Jorda should have been. But no Sangheili silhouette was visible against the horizon.
'Where did he go?' wondered Eraa aloud. Orna rose to a crouch and looked back. Certainly there was no Sangheili there. But coming up on them with terrifying speed was a cloud of sand and the light snow. Orna cursed loudly. Both the Neophytes had heard of the trainers setting a storm of some kind on the front-runners. However, neither had ever thought of actually having to face one.
Orna and Eraa got up, their bones creaking in protest. Turning their backs to the ever-nearing cloud, the two brothers looked at each other. Orna spoke, his tired voice cutting through a silence broken only by the whipping winds of the storm.
'Well, I think that we raced too hard to get here. If we don't make it, Eraa-'
But his brother had already interrupted him. 'We are going to make it, Orna. And as for our racing to get here...now the real race is going to begin.'
The two of them were off, eerily silent across the flat wasteland. The only sound came from their hooves striking the snowy ground. They crossed a river, leapt over rocks, and jumped a canyon, all with the same silent precision. And yet the storm followed them still. As Eraa hit the ground on the other side of the canyon, he was halted by his brother. Both of them looked back. The storm was still coming, and it was no true storm. Inside the cloud rested the cause of it. A huge creature, nearly twice as high as a Sangheili, thundered across the packed snow with unearthly howls.
Two words escaped from Eraa's mandibles, almost too quiet for Orna to hear.
Orna took the message. Even the most foolish Neophyte had heard of the mighty Sharquoi, the rampaging Drinol Beasts of the Saldurian plains of Guihja. The Sharquoi were not great in number, nor in intelligence. But for sheer destructive force, nothing in the galaxy could equal a Drinol. As they hid behind two fallen trees in the area, hoping to be spared by the Drinol's poor eyesight, the two conversed almost silently.
'Why is there a Drinol here?' hissed Eraa.
'It must have been the final test,' volunteered Orna.
'Then why is it back here?' Eraa asked in horror.
'Probably broke out, or something like that.'
Just then, an object sailed over the tree Orna was hiding behind and landed with a disgusting splat, spraying violet ichor everywhere. It was the upper half of Jorda Por. Throwing caution to the winds, the two Neophytes sprang out of cover and ran. There was a thundering crash as the Sharquoi jumped the canyon. It stared stupidly at the two running Sangheili for a few seconds, and then its minuscule brain decided it would be best to kill the pair. It followed with all the speed it could summon.
The Sangheili in question ran like they had never run before. Eraa had the momentary and somewhat random thought that he could easily run a mile in under four units if a Sharquoi were chasing him. Sprinting, however, he found impossible to keep an idea in his head, except that of the two mutilated Neophytes he'd seen. How many others had fallen prey to the Drinol? He made up his mind that he wouldn't join the list.
As the two dashed in front of the Sharquoi, he heard a shout of disappointment from Orna. The two skidded to a stop ahead of a wall that was at least thirty feet high and was hissing with electrical energy. Orna turned and faced his brother.
'You know, I'm starting to think that the trainers really are trying to kill us all.'
Then the Drinol charged them from behind. Eraa and Orna dove to the sides as the huge creature slammed into the wall. Then everything was a cacophony of howls of agony from the Sharquoi. The thing toppled backwards and fell with an earsplitting crash. Eraa looked at the wall in surprise. He had hit it while jumping away and received no shock. It looked like the Drinol had short-circuited the system. The two Sangheili climbed up carefully. There were few hand-holds on the wall and nowhere that a Sangheili's hooves could fit.
Eraa was the first to reach the top. As he heaved Orna up over the edge, he suddenly became aware of a vast force pulling Orna away from him. Looking over the edge, he saw the single yellow eye of the Sharquoi glaring furiously at him. Its claws had fixed in Orna's leg. As Eraa watched, the Sangheili in the monster's grip struck out with his left leg. The Drinol groaned in torment as the heavy hoof ground into its one eye. Orna kept pushing down relentlessly. The Sharquoi howled louder and louder, but it refused to let go. Finally, Orna pushed down so hard that there was a splattering of blood and other fluids and the Drinol beast gave a howl that made Eraa's mandibles shake. Orna scrambled up over the top of the wall.
Eraa was looking ahead as they ran from the blinded Sharquoi. He could see an Apparition dropship scarcely a thousand yards off. That was their ticket to the carrier overhead where they could rest from their trial. He dragged Orna to his feet.
'Come- on- just- another- few- units-' the Neophyte groaned in pain.
His breath came in labored gasps now, and perspiration streaked his bleeding face. There was another howl from behind; the Drinol was over the wall and hunting by its keen sense of smell. Orna was running ahead, and Eraa knew that Orna, for all his toughness, didn't know how to fly a dropship. Eraa did, in theory. He had never actually tried to fly one. But Orna didn't even know how to. Eraa had to get there first. He quickened his step beyond what he believed was possible.
Then he was at the dropship. He pressed the deactivation switch for the forcefield that covered the cockpit, and tried to jump up into the cockpit. He was rewarded with a burned head. The forcefield was in lock mode. He couldn't get it open without the proper codes for it.
His voice was almost hysterical as he called to Orna.
'There's no way out! The forcefield's closed!' he screamed.
Orna grinned and raised his plasma sidearm. If Eraa didn't know that the smile was sarcastic he would have been much more at ease. Orna aimed the pistol and plugged five shots into the activation panel. The forcefield dropped quickly. Eraa climbed into the pilot's seat. Orna took the gunner's chair.
Eraa knew what he was going to have to do. He rubbed his hands together in trepidation and then hit the power button. The ship's stabilizer plasma field activated. Eraa waited a few seconds like he'd been told to, and then hit the button combination green, green, red, black. The ship rose and then stopped rising with a terrible shudder.
Eraa cursed and looked at the nav-screen. The Sharquoi had the dropship by one of its troop-carrier prongs. 'Get on the gun!' he yelled down to Orna. His brother dropped out of sight into the gunner's seat, then reappeared.
'I can't!' roared Orna, striking the wall in frustration. 'The power core's out, probably intentionally so we couldn't just kill everyone in sight.'
Eraa cursed the Drinol's parents for making it, its parents' parents for making its parents, whichever trainer it was that had thought to put a Sharquoi in the trial, and the gods for making such an incredibly stupid and destructive creature. Orna leapt back with a cry of surprise as the Drinol beast's huge slimy hand, which could comfortably have held Orna and Eraa at once, reached in through the sparking remnants of the forcefield. The massive, faintly greenish claws had purple bloodstains on them as the hand maneuvered throughout the cockpit. They were a yard from Eraa- now two feet- now only one-
Orna gave a battle-howl and leapt onto the back of the Sharquoi's hand, biting deep with all four mandibles into the creature's disgusting flesh. The Drinol gave a bellow of pain and retracted the hand, pulling Orna with it. Eraa looked on the floor of the cockpit for a few micro-units before he found it. Orna's plasma pistol. Lifting the weapon, he leapt out of the cockpit, falling twelve feet to the ground below.
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Carrier Regret and Remembrance
In the carrier's control room, two Sangheili warriors watched the brothers attacking a Sharquoi. There was a smile of amusement on the face of the taller one. He wore the silvery armor of the Energy Blade of the Prophets- the Special Operative Commander. He was called Dana Vutbrugee'. The other had an expression of deep disapproval. In the yellow armor of a trainer, some Sangheili looked formidable. Others, like Duga Mouraree', looked stupid. Mouraree' clicked his mandibles at the sight of Orna dodging the heavy blows of the Drinol while Eraa circled the creature, trying to get in a shot. A plasma blast landed at the base of the thing's skull, and it howled, spun and caught Eraa a blow that knocked him head over heels. There was a sharp intake of breath from Vutbrugee', but on the plasma-screen, Eraa got up again.
As the Commander watched, the Head Trainer of the Neophytes spoke quietly, so as not to distract the veteran warrior who stood before him. 'We ought to aid them in their battle with the fierce Sharquoi. I cannot condone the wanton destruction of two Neophytes because of your release of the Drinol Beast, excellency.'
The reply was a soft and clipped rebuke. 'And yet, you condoned the earlier murders of Crasta Hul and Jorda Por and Natha Gro without a problem. The two of them,' and here he gestured to the pair on the screen, 'had no problem with seeing two of the three of those dead, so I don't see why you do.'
'But why do you do this, excellency? Surely it serves no purpose to kill as many of the Neophytes as you can-'
The tall Sangheili's face was eerie in the purplish light of the carrier. 'Perhaps you don't wish to follow my orders any longer?'
The Trainer's voice trembled shamefully. 'If you will hold me no ill, I do not.'
Vutbrugee' gave a hiss of displeasure. 'And if I do hold ill against you? Then will you follow me yet? You disgust me, Mouraree'. Get yourself from my sight.'
The smaller Sangheili hurried to obey. Dana's attention was drawn again to the screen. He spoke to himself, to quietly to be easily heard by the four Honor Guards that patrolled the room.
'Those two are marked. If they kill the Sharquoi, then, by all the gods, I will have two new Special Operatives before the Katchir tree flowers for the tenth time.'
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Neophyte Training Facility
Orna was under attack from the Sharquoi. That was no mean thing, for the Drinol Beast, though blinded, could tell where the Neophyte was by smell. However, it was beyond doubt that the creature was tiring. The great eviscerating swipes of its claws no longer fell with such ferocity, and Eraa kept blasting at it.
As Orna dodged another swing, Eraa jumped onto the Sharquoi's head and fired as many shots as he could get in. The thing bellowed maniacally and swung an arm that by chance struck Eraa off the Drinol and into the side of the dropship. There was an ominous crack as Eraa slid down and fell unconscious.
Eraa woke again just a few seconds later to find himself right near the dropship. Climbing into the cockpit again, he pressed red, blue, red, green to raise the dropship some ten feet off the ground. Then he held down the white acceleration pad until a red warning message blinked in the corner of the nav-screen. Releasing the pad, Eraa dove out of the cockpit. And not a moment too soon. The Apparition shot forward at full speed, striking the Sharquoi in its broad chest. The dropship's safety mechanisms pulled it to a stop, but the damage was done. The Drinol's blind eye tried to stare down at the depressed ruin its torso had become, and then it smelled Eraa close by. It started to shamble slowly towards him, only to hear a crackling hum and smell ozone in front of itself.
Orna stood there with an overcharged plasma pistol and an inordinate amount of confidence. In fine dramatic fashion, he spoke in a cold voice.
'You're not going anywhere.'
And released the shot, straight into the Sharquoi's open mouth. The beast gave a moan of torture and fell to the ground so heavily that Eraa could barely keep his feet. Yellow blood with a syrupy consistency fountained everywhere, including Orna. He sat there, knocked over by the force of the shot, and now dumbstruck by the tidal wave of gore that had come out of nowhere to paralyze him.
Eraa burst out laughing. He couldn't stop until he told his brother to get in the dropship. But Orna only swore loudly at him, and went behind a rock to dry himself off. Eraa started chuckling again. When Orna came out from behind the rock, he smelled considerably better, although he looked rather wet. Eraa climbed into the Apparition. This time, he hit the yellow button to set the ship on any preprogrammed course. The dropship rose into the air above the dead Drinol Beast, and headed into the main ventral docking bay of the carrier Regret and Remembrance.