The Deal - pt 1
Posted By: Slaskia<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 27 November 2009, 11:52 pm
Sangheilos, home of the Sangheili. The land of the planet was divided into provinces, which were themselves divided into numerous city-states. Each city-state had its own lineage, its own history and the inhabitants of these states lived in relative comfort, with only the threat of another city-states, or forces from beyond their planet, to worry about.
But not all Sangheili are privileged to live in a state. On the fringes of the state borders lived clans of nomadic Sangheili, who had to deal with the threats from the planet itself on almost a daily basis. These Sangheili were often outcasts from actual states that had banded together for mutual survival: outcast either by to their own hand or the hand of someone within their bloodline. Few choose this simpler life, where the technology their people have developed was of little use, or hard to come by. Such items were either stolen from trade caravans or in rare cases, traded for legitimately, for these nomads often had nothing of real value to offer in return.
Occasionally, a clan of nomads gets large, or bold enough, to chance taking over the land of an established state. These conflicts are often bloody and quick, the results either the decimation of the clan that did not prepare properly or underestimated the strength of their target, a successful take over, or ruin to both sides.
This is the story of one such clan, who saw an opportunity, and a bit of outside help, to form a state of their very own.
852 BCE, Sangheilos
For the first time in days, the triple suns of Sangheilos shone through the thick clouds. A sign that the rainy season was finally starting to abate. Yet, this was of little comfort to Nant. The high canyon walls of the small valley they were currently camping in allowed little sunlight, little warmth, into this dreary place. Those same walls also kept the dampness in and blocked the wind, keeping the valley damp and cold.
This dampness had caused a spike of illnesses among the members of his clan, especially among the weakest, like the old and the very young. Normally, this wouldn't bother Nant so much, as it was the Sangheili way, particularly the way of nomadic clans, to only allow the strongest to survive and breed. But misfortune had been haunting them as of late. Many children had died already due to lung illnesses and other infections caused by the unusually long rains. Worse, there had been a spike in childbirth deaths as well, for the horrid conditions had sapped the strength and will of the mothers, despite the medicine men's best efforts.
He supposed he could count themselves as the lucky ones of the nomadic clans of this region. Others have been even harder hit, either due to the war going on of which he could hear at times in the distance, or due to the same or worse conditions his own clan was in. Normally, nomadic clans avoided each other to prevent sapping the land of needed resources too quickly, or to prevent bloodshed. Lately, clans that had been all but completely decimated had been approaching him for admittance: Nant allowed these remnants to join his clan, for in these trying times, there was strength in numbers. Plus, it was always good to introduce new blood into the clan, so long as they respected his authority. However, unless things changed soon, the new members would do little good to ensure the survival of the clan.
Nant knew the best way to improve his clan's situation, but it carried a lot of risk. Not far away, was the State of Girvum, a smaller state in the province the clan roamed. Long had he coveted the land it stood upon: a vast valley with bountiful fields for the herds and safe streams for the herds to drink from. However, the Girvum's were well fortified against land-based assaults and Nant could very well lose most if not all of his warriors in an attack. Therefore, he waited, waiting for a sign, an opportunity.
That sign came, several nights ago. Streams of hot plasma had rained down from the sky, landing in Girvum territory. The enemies of the Sangheili, weak looking creatures they dubbed San 'Shyuum, had taken to bombarding the planet itself once again. It was due to these types of periodic attacks that were the reason Nant kept his clan in these narrow canyons and caves: plasma cannot go through solid rock. This time, it seemed the San 'Shyuum had done them a favor and he had sent a few scouts out into Girvum land to assess the damage.
As he waited for their return, he had noticed the sounds of war had gone still. What this ultimately meant he had no way of knowing. It could be a ceasefire for negotiations, or the San 'Shyuum had simply moved to a different area of the planet. This bothered him greatly, for if he did attack the Girvums and succeed, the San 'Shyuum could return and bombard their newly won land once again, ignorant that the land was under new management. It would be just his luck, considering how things were going now, for such a thing to happen.
Nant sighed softly and went back into his hut. Inside he looked upon his mate, Lun, whom was heavy with child. She was due any day now and she rested frequently to save her strength for the difficulty of childbirth. Nant prayed every day to the gods above that both she and the child would survive the birth and avoid the illnesses that were currently plaguing the clan. What disturbed him though, was that despite being covered with thick furs, she was shivering.
Without a second thought, he joined her under the furs and drew her close, sharing his body heat with her. "Nant
," she said softly. "You should be seeing to the others."
"When you are warm again, I shall," Nant replied, nuzzling her.
"I long for a real bed
"As do I
As do most in the clan. Someday
Someday that will come true," And hopefully very soon, he thought, but did not speak out loud. He did not want to give Lun false hopes over something that may not happen as soon as he hoped. Nant lay with her until her shivering stopped and she had fallen asleep once more. Only then, did he slip away and left his hut once again.
"Shuka," one of the guards said, coming up to him. "Some of the scouts have returned. They await you in the Flowing Hall."
Nant nodded his thanks and immediately headed for the Flowing Hall. Inside were two of the four scouts he had sent out to seek information on the Girvums. They must have ran all night, for both of them sat with mandibles wide, sucking in large daunts of air while trying to catch their breath. Despite both being exhausted, they immediately stood when they noticed his presence and saluted.
"What have you found out?" Nant asked them.
"The Girvum keep seems to have taken a direct hit or two, shuka," one of the scouts replied. "Even from a distance, we could see several structures burning and it is likely that some of their fortifications have fallen."
"Forgive us, shuka," the other responded. "We could not get close enough to verify: the Girvums know they are weakened and are on the alert. The other two scouts stayed behind to try to get closer."
"Let us hope they do not act recklessly then," Nant said. "If they are discovered, the Girvums will become aware that we know of their weakened state. I would much rather they return intact with nothing, then to ruin any chances of a raid."
"I am certain they will be cautious and return swiftly."
"I shall pray to the gods that they will do so."
He dismissed them, allowing them to go back to their own mates to rest and recuperate. Afterward, Nant wandered the camp, checking on his people. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits due to the suns finally having reappeared, but Nant knew they were not out of the woods yet.
"Shuka!" Someone called to him. He turned to see one of the sentries that had been posted in the narrow canyon access points to this small valley. "There is a stranger in the eastern passage."
"Stranger?" Nant echoed.
"Aye, shuka. An alien, with two Sangheili bodyguards."
"I am not certain, but most likely."
What madness is this? Nant thought. Why would my people guard the ones we have been fighting for so long? If this alien was indeed a San 'Shyuum of course. "What is their purpose?"
"They wish to speak to you, shukai."
Me? Why? What do they want of me? Questions coursed through Nant's mind, questions he did not have answers to. The most important one though was should he grant this creature an audience? It was plain they did not come here to attack, otherwise the sentry would have told him so, or be dead. "Very well," Nant said, curiosity getting the better of him. "Allow me to grab my kisan and shield, in case this is a trick."
"Of course, shuka."
He returned to his hut and retrieved the weapons of battle, slipping the shield over his shoulder and hooking the kisan to his belt. Nant looked down upon his wife briefly before leaving the hut once more and followed the sentry to where their 'guests' stood waiting. The other sentry, a hot-tempered male named Vun, looked ready to pounce upon one of the alien's guards: no doubt the guard muttered some kind of insult. It was to be expected: those that lived in keeps always looked down upon the keepless.
"Stand down Vun," Nant ordered. "If they did not come here looking for a fight, let us not give it to them."
"Yes, shuka," Vun muttered, straightening his posture, though he still looked tense.
Nant took a moment to study the creature the foreign Sangheili were guarding. It looked weak, atrophied even and sat upon a floating bowl of metal. Bulbous eyes sat in a small skull attached to a thin, wiry neck and it was dressed in a type of elegant robe. Weak yes, but there was a cunning intelligence in those eyes, a cunning Nant's instincts were saying not to trust so quickly.
Still, it did appear their claims were true, for no attack came. "Please forgive my warriors," Nant said politely, bowing slightly but never letting his good eye off them. "We are not used to having visitors that did not mean harm coming to our doorstep."
"In these trying times it is understandable," the creature replied smoothly. "No harm done."
"I am Nant, shuka of this clan. I am told you wish to speak to me?" A nod. "For what reason?"
"I wish to make an offer," the creature said calmly. "One that could benefit your clan greatly."
"I shall be the judge of that." What could this creature possibility know about his clan and what they needed? "Who are you, to claim to want to make such an offer when I have never seen the likes of you before?"
The creatures guards bristled and hissed, but the creature held up a hand and stilled them. Who was this creature that commanded his own people with ease? "I am the Hierarch of Transparency, a San 'Shyuum as your people refer to us."
So this is a San 'Shyuum, Nant thought with distaste. These weak creatures were what my people were fighting all these years? "Why are you here, San 'Shyuum, you are my people's enemy are you not?"
"No longer. The war is over. Your people and mine have signed a treaty a few days ago. We are allies now."
So that explained the ceasing of the sounds of war, but Nant was wry of this 'hierarch' none-the-less. What compelled his people to form an alliance? "And what do you want of me and my clan?" Nant asked. "We are outcasts, honorless in the eyes of those living in keeps. What would you gain by making offers to the likes of us?"
"I assure you I have my reasons," Transparency replied. "But first let us move to a more
Comfortable location for this discussion."
Nant blinked, scowling faintly. "Very well, but your guards stay here." The San 'Shyuum's guards again bristled and opened their mouths to protest. Nant quickly raised his hand to reassure them. "On my honor, your charge will come to no harm while in my camp."
"What does a savage like you know of honor?" One of the guards growled.
Nant rounded on him. "Mind your tongue, for I may know more about honor then you." The two stared at each other for a moment and eventually the guard backed down under Nant's intense stare. The San 'Shyuum was looking on, a slight amused expression on his face. It had to have been shameful for the guard, with the way his partner was giving him a mocking grin. Nant ignored them though and beckoned for Transparency to follow.
"A curious scar you have," the San 'Shyuum said as he floated beside him. Nant knew he ahd to be referring to the scar over his right eye, for it was the only one that was immediately obvious. "How did you acquire it?"
"In a battle for leadership," Nant replied simply. "I may have lost an eye, but my opponent lost his life."
"I am not so familiar with your kind's ways as of yet, but that strikes me as atypical for your people. Don't your people's elders elect the most worthy candidate for the role?"
"Such a system is reserved for those that live in keeps," Nant said with a snort "Out here in the wilderness, we do not live long enough to become elderly. Thus our leaders are chosen through honorable combat instead."
The San 'Shyuum only nodded, a thoughtful look on his face.
As he led his 'guest' toward the Flowing Hall, he noted the curious looks from his fellow clans people. He also noticed how Transparency was looking around, absorbing the situation of his people: it made Nant uncomfortable. At last, they reached the Flowing Hall and Nant held open the flap to allow the San 'Shyuum admittance. He entered himself once the San 'Shyuum was in.
"Now Hierarch, speak your offer, so I may judge it worth my time or not."
"Our forces fought each other for many decades," the San 'Shyuum began. "Bringing death and ruin to each side. If the treaty had not been signed, we would be fighting still and likely to both our extinction. You commanders and mine finally saw the pointlessness to the fighting and agreed to end the war, to join together in a mutual allegiance for the better of both species. Your people are to be our protectors, our military strength, while mine will offer technological and spiritual guidance."
"My people have their own technology and our own gods, why would we do such a thing?"
"We have a greater knowledge and understanding of the relics of the Forerunners, Nant, knowledge we are willing to share for the benefit of both. Many of your people have already converted into the belief of the Great Journey."
Transparency then told him about the Great Journey, how the Forerunners transcended into gods and left clues to the path for others to do the same. Nant listened with some interest, but was doubtful. "What good would this 'Great Journey' be to me and my clan?" he asked. "Or the technology you promise to share? We are nomads, savages that have no use for such things."
"You know of the land to the west of this camp?"
"Of course. The State of Girvum."
"That land could be yours, if you so wish it. Claim it as you own and be stuck in a life of savagery no more and to be able to receive the gifts I am wish to offer you."
"I have scouts investigating them as we speak, seeing if it would be worth the risk to my clan. I fear I am one-step ahead of you, San 'Shyuum."
"But how close can your scouts get without being discovered? How much can they uncover? I can offer you much more information about their situation, information vital to a successful take over."
"And what would you gain if we did take over the State?"
"What we would gain is greater stability of our allegiance, Nant. The Girvum is one of many that refuse to accept our alliance, our Covenant. If these dissenters are not convinced or otherwise removed it could lead to strife among your own. Strife that could lead to civil war. Your people are weakened, Nant, and such a war could decimate your people utterly."
"So you wish me to make war on the Girvums, to remove a source of descent from Sangheilos and ensure such devastation does not occur?" Transparency nodded. "Why not ask a keep that has converted to your faith to do this?"
"I had considered it, but feared such a thing would result in the same thing: civil war. No, it is far better if the keep appeared to be taken over by a rival, a new state born in the ashes of the old. In addition to information, I can also provide troops and weapons for this deed."
Nant made a purring sound in his throat, a light of desire in his eye, but his face quickly hardened. "I will accept information, but nothing more," he said. "Anything else would taint the honor of the deed."
"So you will attack the Girvum keep and claim it as your own?" Transparency looked almost elated.
"That, is not a decision for me to make, but my clan," Nant said smoothly. "Please understand, you ask us to abandon our old faith and risk our lives to take over a keep in an attack that may not succeed. It is, and will be, a lot for many of my clan to accept, despite the desire to live in greater comfort. I must convince them to agree to your terms first, before such an attack may be made."
"Then take what time you need to do so, but pray it does not take long. Even as we speak, the Girvum are starting to recover from the war."
"A fact that I am well aware of, Hierarch. Give me a day and night and you will have your answer."
"Very well. I will be in a camp to the east of here. When you have your answer, I will be waiting there."
Nant escorted the San 'Shyuum back to his guards, his mind in turmoil over the hierarch's offer. Should he take his offer? Risk his people's lives in what may be a fruitless effort? Would he really be helping his people as a whole by doing his part to prevent a planet wide civil war?
Nant's thoughts were snapped to the present when one of the women approached him, a look of urgency on her face. "What is it?"
"Your excellence, Lun has gone into labor."
All thoughts of the deal left his head as something more important to him took priority