Posted By: Cthulhu117<email@example.com>
Date: 29 December 2005, 9:26 pm
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Assault Carrier Regret and Remembrance
The Apparition dropship entered the open primary hangar bay of the Regret and Remembrance. Pausing several feet above the second level, the ship's troop carrying section opened and Orna got out. Eraa stepped clear of the cockpit, and the ship left, returning to the Sangheili who were soon to complete the trial below.
Eraa and Orna were greeted by an unsmiling trainer. Trying to dredge up a name, Eraa decided that this was Trainer Steramee'. Steramee', if it was indeed her, looked angrily at the two and spoke coldly.
'This way,' she hissed, pointing to a door that led to the bottom level.
As they walked in a stony silence, Eraa attempted to figure out what they were headed. Trying to remember the study he'd done was a welcome distraction from what looked to be a world-record punishment.
Orna already knew where they were going: the ship's muster bay. He didn't dare speak to Eraa; he was uncertain as to whether everyone was angry, or just the Trainer, and he didn't want to chance anything until he found out.
Eraa had also come to the conclusion that they were walking to the muster bay. Nearly as soon as he could decide this, the doors to the huge room slid open. Despite the size of the place, which had three levels, there was only one Sangheili in the room. He was tall, powerful, and wore silvery armor.
As the two Neophytes saw the warrior, Orna whispered to his brother incredulously. 'Eraa- that's Dana Vutbrugee'!'
Eraa already knew who it was. He had idolized Vutbrugee' somewhat when he was younger. Admittedly it was hard not to. Vutbrugee's Seven Principles of Strategy were taught at the training schools. Whenever a new war holo came out, it featured Vutbrugee', fighting and winning against impossible odds. Vutbrugee' was always held up as the shining example for the Neophytes. Eraa was meeting him now. The meeting would be the most important he ever made.
As Vutbrugee' heard the precise, measured footsteps of the Trainer and the awkward shuffling of the teenage Neophytes, he turned with the hint of a smile on his scarred face. His voice, however, showed no trace of the veneer of happiness as he glared at the Trainer.
'You may leave us, Trainer.'
'As you wish,' rang the Trainer's harsh tones. With a final cutting glance at the Neophytes, she walked out of the room. The two were left alone with the Special Operative Commander, the Supreme General of all the Covenant Grand Army.
'You two were quite lucky that I chose to be here for the trial this megacycle,' came the clipped tones of the Commander, so well known from thousands of holos from the war. 'I quite think the Trainers would have had your heads otherwise.'
'Why?' asked Eraa loudly. Orna elbowed him in the ribs. Belatedly, Eraa remembered his manners. 'Excellency,' he added.
'Why, you ask?' The speech of the Commander now had a hint of amusement to it. 'I don't know at all. After all, you only teamed up for a solitary exercise, one of you killed another Neophyte, you released the Drinol Beast, and then destroyed a very valuable piece of Covenant property! Couldn't be any of those.'
Eraa's voice shook. 'It's against the rules to kill another Neophyte, Excellency?'
The Supreme Commander made a dismissive gesture. 'Technically. But everyone does it anyway. In my trial, the toughest Neophyte killed six others.'
'What happened to him, Excellency?' This time the question was from Orna.
'He went on to become a Zealot. Very fierce fighter. Jama Staparee' was his name. He fought in nineteen major engagements against the Jiralhanae, all of them victories. Twenty would have been a record. But he never got it. In the twentieth fight, his forces had almost won when an Unggoy shot him in the back with a Fuel Rod Cannon by accident.'
'What did we destroy, Excellency?' Eraa asked.
'The Sharquoi, actually. Since it's not intelligent enough to take the Oath, it's Covenant property instead of Covenant member. Oh, and before you ask, you released it when you entered that cave, Orna. The rock that you pushed out of the way was supposed to be unmovable, because the Drinol Beast lived beyond it. It looks like they'll have to get a new one now. However, you need not worry about it. I have...taken care...of those who wished to punish you.'
'So what happens now?' inquired Eraa, this time forgetting the 'Excellency' altogether.
'You take the Oath, of course. You survived the trial. You even made it here first. So you become a member of the everlasting and almighty Covenant. Eraa, leave us.'
The Neophyte left, wondering about what he had seen. He waited beyond one of the many doors to the area. He waited for almost five units before Orna entered and told him to go outside.
Vutbrugee' sat there in a meditative pose. Hearing Eraa approach, he performed a complex twisting motion that landed him on his feet. When Eraa saw his face, it was deadly, hard and serious. His voice was icy.
'As you join this Covenant, you take an Oath. On the blood of your fathers and on the blood of your sons, you swear to uphold this Covenant, even to your dying breath. You swear to follow the Hierarchs wherever they shall lead. You swear to obey the articles and hierarchies of the ancient bond between the Ahlainga, that is the Prophets, and the Sangheili. You swear to follow the teachings of our Lords the Forerunners and the Gods that illuminated their minds. You swear that you will seek out and venerate the relics that our Lords left behind. You swear that those who would break this oath are heretics, worthy of neither pity nor mercy. You swear that you shall grind such foul heresy into the dust. You swear that wherever in the universe that the forces of the Demon be found, according to the prophecies of the Prophet of Revelation, you shall wipe them out as a holy messenger of the blade in the hands of the Forerunners that is the Covenant. Finally, you swear to make the Covenant stronger and stronger in preparation for the rapture of the Great Journey. If you believe in this, and you are willing to fall under the eternal protection and sway of the Covenant, say that you are.'
'I am, Excellency,' came Eraa's discomforted voice. He was scared now. A decision like this scared everyone, he'd been told. He didn't know what to say, or how to say it. His entire life so far had been focused on attaining this moment, and now that he was here, he didn't know what to do. He searched for the words, and then spoke with wisdom far beyond his thirteen years. Vutbrugee' was impressed many years later with just how good of an answer Eraa had come up with.
Then, however, it just sounded a bit like he was trying to sound important. The effect was a grand one, to be sure, but it was somewhat offset by his shaking voice.
'I will follow the almighty Covenant of the Ahlainga and the Sangheili to whatever end.'
The voice of Vutbrugee' took on a bored tone, as though he was repeating lines he had learned by heart. 'Then, Eraa clan Sam, know that as all Neophytes have been honored such since the first days of the Covenant, I pronounce thee Sangheili now and forever, and name thee Eraa Gamsam. Knowest thou the significance of such a name?'
Eraa knew it very well, but the expected response was a negative one, and what he said was, 'No, Excellency.'
The weary tone faded from Vutbrugee's voice as he spoke again. 'Eraa is thy name, the name which you were born by and known by and lived by. But no longer is it thine only name. Gam signifies cleverness, for thou art clever in your disregard for orders and laws, and the stronger because of it. Beware thee, however: break thou the orders of any who is short of temper and you will receive your deserved punishment. Lastly, and most importantly, Sam signifies that you are a member of clan Sam, and you are bound by honor and promise to those of this clan, for good or for ill. Thus is the honor of a Sangheili, and thus is your name. And your name will be great, Gamsam, for you have all the makings of a great warrior, and thus shalt thou be if thou mindest. I leave thee, then, as Sangheili, with your brother and this.'
As he turned and left the room, Eraa Gamsam looked at the object that Dana Vutbrugee' had pressed into his hand.
It was a short, curved blade with a word written on it in flowing Ahlainga script. It read 'Sangheili.'
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Sangheili Young Warrior Academy
Six Years Later
The process of becoming Sangheili was just the beginning for any who wished to become a warrior. Many of those who joined the Young Warrior's Academy were merely prestige-seekers, who wished to have the coveted -ee' suffix and command the extra respect that came with it.
These prestige-seekers invariably were coddled by the others all through their time at the academy. This was done so that, when they were sent into their first real battle, they would be killed instantly. Not only did the Trainers who ran the Academy not care about this, they encouraged it. Any of the status-seekers who had any brains started to work hard. Many of the Young Warriors were that sort. Quite a few were those who'd tried their hardest from the start. Some were those who were warriors in all but name.
As Head Trainer Jima Voshulee' walked through the Battleground, observing the Young Warriors sparring hand-to-hand, with wooden or metal staffs, or even with the Nikdar swords, he noticed one Warrior of this last type. A tall Sangheili, fighting one-on-one with an even taller Sangheili. The smaller one was winning, and in style. In two places, the purple blood ran down his black skin, but Eraa Gamsam was defeating Orna Fulsam without much trouble. At the sight of the Head Trainer, whom neither had seen since their joining the Academy six years before, Eraa quickly released Orna's left leg and both Young Warriors stood at attention. The Head Trainer seemed almost impressed as he looked at the blue-skinned Sangheili and asked his name.
'Orna Fulsam, Lord!' came the stiff answer.
'And your name?' hissed the Trainer, sweeping on to Eraa.
'Eraa Gamsam, Lord!'
Eraa's eyes were straight ahead, but he could instinctively tell that the Trainer had stiffened, even when the older Sangheili's back was to him.
'The Eraa Gamsam?'
'I was not aware that I merited such an honor as the one you have just conferred on me, Lord.' The slight touch of sarcasm in Eraa's voice went luckily unnoticed by the Trainer.
'You assume it's an honor. Do you know who I am? I am Jima Voshulee'.'
Eraa mentally ran through the one hundred and seventy-nine major houses of Sangheili, which he had dutifully memorized for a required etiquette course the previous year. Clan Hul was one of them, but not a very rich, or indeed very important one. They had only one member on the Council and no holdings in High Charity that he was aware of. Then a memory came back to him. Six years earlier. The first thing he'd ever killed. A mangled body, torn to pieces in a swamp. Crasta Hul.
Eraa's voice was cold. 'The father of Crasta Hul, I presume. I am honored...Lord.'
Orna would have congratulated his brother if he could have. Eraa had delayed the 'Lord' in such a way that Voshulee' could not complain of disrespect, although Eraa was still showing it.
But Eraa wasn't done. His voice fell to a whisper that made Orna's skin prickle as he looked Voshulee' in the eyes and contended, 'Are you looking to start a vendetta? A blood feud?'
Voshulee's voice was nearly as cold. 'If that is your will, then so be it, Young Warrior.' With that, he swept off, leaving a quiet Battleground behind him. As soon as he was out of earshot, Orna cursed Eraa with every curse he knew. The blood feud was a complex but legal type of massacre. The two affronted Sangheili would confront each other in single combat. The winner would be obliged to kill off every one of the loser's immediate family. If Eraa was killed, Orna would die as well. Of course, Orna was allowed to resist, but if he killed Voshulee' after the Trainer had already won the duel, Orna would be punished for murder.
Orna refused to speak to Eraa for almost a cycle, but two cycles after that night he found Eraa sitting in his dormitory room, sharpening a Nikdar sword. Before he could remember that he wasn't going to talk to Eraa, he had asked what Eraa was doing. The answer was curt and angry.
'Sharpening a blade to kill Voshulee'. Does it look like I'm not?'
'No,' Orna had to admit, 'but I don't think you'll have much chance with a sword. Remember, he has attained the rank of Major. He will be allowed to carry an Energy Sword. You will not.'
Eraa looked up for a moment, then resumed his sharpening. 'It doesn't matter. I'll kill him anyway.'
Before Orna could respond, the holopanel on the wall flashed into life with a war news broadcast.
'Attention! The Covenant has achieved a crucial victory in its war with the Jiralhanae. Several units ago, a report from Supreme General Vutbrugee' and Supreme Commander Righanee' was received which asserts that the attack on Hagja was successful. The Jiralhanae there were routed and their shipyards destroyed. But most importantly, the Jiralhanae Chieftain Tartarus was captured and taken alive in the course of the fighting. Tartarus escaped due to a cowardly ambush, but his weapon, the Fist of Rukh, remains in the custody of the Covenant. Without this weapon, Tartarus no longer has authority to rule the Jiralhanae. That is all that is currently known.'
Eraa barked in surprise. The Fist of Rukh was a deadly weapon, and one that he would give much to see. Before he could put this into words, a Trainer came into the room and spoke in a loud and arrogant tone.
'The Head Trainer Jima Voshulee' wishes to inform Eraa Gamsam that their duel shall take place in the Council Chamber as befits a duel of such importance under Canto Seventy-One of the Articles of Covenant. The said duel shall take place in four cycles.' He stood there, awaiting a return message.
Eraa practically spat with disgust. 'That fool needs four cycles to make ready? I will be there and ready to kill the old idiot in three. Go and tell the Head Trainer that!' With a nod, the Trainer turned on his hoof and exited.
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Four Cycles Later
Orna walked into the gravity lift alongside Eraa, wishing that he was anywhere but where he was. He constantly lectured his brother on the combat techniques they'd learned in six years of hard training. Eraa was also beginning to wish that Orna was anywhere but where he was.
As they stepped out of the gravity-lift, Orna finished giving his brother pointers. 'Okay, just remember to keep moving. He'll have an energy shield, so he's not going to go down easily. Oh, and try to relax. You aren't going to have anyone watch-' He broke off as the two stepped into the chamber to see the bleachers that often held the Councillors packed with hundreds of Sangheili. The chamber had a small capacity, but Eraa had no doubt that someone was going to take a holo of it. The two brothers stopped at the open doorway.
Eraa could see Voshulee' at the other end, clad in the red armor of a Hammer of the Prophets, wielding the hilt of an Energy Sword. Orna edged off to the side as Eraa drew his blade and slowly advanced. The Trainer was too far to see it, but there was no emotion in Eraa's eyes. His normally expressive face was blank and unreadable. He twisted the blade up into a salute position. Voshulee' should have returned the salute, but he did not. Several Sangheili in the crowd jeered at him.
As their jeering died away into silence, Voshulee' spoke. 'Sangheili! This fool and infidel has slain my son and brought devastation upon my house! Thus I shall refute him!' He brought his blade up and turned it on. Two wicked flares of energy cut through the half-dark of the chamber. The crowd roared.
Eraa stood tall and spoke more fierce and proud than he had ever done. 'Sangheili! Be my witness. Before today, I held small ill against this Sangheili. But today, I am his deadly enemy! Today, I fight for my house's life. Today, I fight against Jima Voshulee'!' The crowd roared, encouraging him. In the shadows on the farthest end of the Council Chamber stood Dana Vutbrugee', using optic camouflage to avoid being seen. Vutbrugee's face held a hint of a smile. He wondered if Eraa would think to use what Vutbrugee' had given him.
Eraa held the heavy sword straight out, unwavering despite its weight. Voshulee' carried his sword in the classic right arm straight position. They looked each other in the eyes. For a second, it seemed like they were communicating in an unknown fashion. Then Voshulee' raised the sword and charged the young Sangheili. He lunged at Eraa, who rolled over Voshulee's back and hit the ground swinging. The blow failed to connect, but Voshulee' knew the danger now.
Eraa steeled himself, then leapt in the air and brought the sword around with lethal speed. If his lightning strike had connected, Voshulee would have been cut in two. As it was, he was forced to dodge backwards with a sort of twirl to evade the sword. Eraa had not struck a blow, but he had learned several things from the opening encounters. Voshulee favored his left foot. He was cautious. He had good reflexes but poor agility. Lastly, he did not have an energy shield activated. Eraa had felt no barrier when he had rolled over the older Sangheili.
The two circled each other. Again, Eraa made the first move. He feinted to the left. As Voshulee's sword came down, burning the floor, he danced out of the way and gracefully leapt over the Trainer. He slashed out before he hit the ground. This time he struck well. A shallow gash opened on Voshulee's back, causing him to stagger forward. The watchers roared Eraa's name. Distracted, Eraa did not notice that Voshulee was swinging at him until it was nearly too late. He stepped back and brought his sword up to parry. He was ready to deliver a killing blow when he realized he was holding a useless rod of blunted and melting steel. He had forgotten momentarily that Voshulee had an Energy Sword. He dodged another fierce strike in time to thrust the red-hot metal staff into the spot in between the plates of Voshulee' chest armor. The older Sangheili screamed in agony as the molten metal burned his skin, but drew back his sword for a stab to finish the combat.
Eraa ducked just in time. The blade missed him, but Voshulee's heavy fist sent him sliding across the floor. As he looked around for something to use as a weapon, he felt something sharp in his loose jumpsuit's pocket. It was the knife he'd received from Vutbrugee'. Turning, he threw it without hesitation. The knife pierced Voshulee's hand, causing him to roar in fury. Eraa was weaponless again. He scanned the chamber as the Trainer charged him. And then he saw it.
Up against the wall of the Council Chamber was the Gravity Hammer. The Fist of Rukh. Eraa didn't know why it was there, but by all accounts it was a formidable weapon. Racing to it, he pulled on it, trying to free it from the energy binders that held it to the wall. The binders held as Voshulee' grew closer. He pulled with all his might. This time there was a flicker in the binders. Voshulee' was almost on top of him. With a roar of pent-up fury, Eraa grabbed the handle of the hammer. The sinews stood out like wire on his frame. The binders turned red and then hissed into nothing.
Eraa brought the heavy hammer around, grasping the grips as hard as he could. To his astonishment, energy of some kind built up on the end of the hammer. He released the grips as Voshulee' jumped toward him. He saw the older Sangheili's eyes widen in horror, but he could not dodge the gravitron pulse that flew from the end of the hammer and struck him cleanly across the chamber.
Eraa walked slowly to where Jima Voshulee' lay, paralyzed by the force of the energy wave that had struck him. Eraa bent into a crouch. Jima was alive yet, and clearly trying to regain his feet. Pressing him back down, the Young Warrior spoke.
'You know, your son was a poisonous bastard too. You're going to die almost the same way as he did. You're all alike.'
With that, he lifted the hammer and brought it down with all his might.
There was a sound that had not been heard in the Council Chamber for eons.
Eraa Gamsam walked from the hall, entered the gravity lift, and, still carrying the Fist of Rukh, dropped out of sight.