The Priestess and the Warrior - A Rebel Base
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 7 January 2005, 3:10 PM
The Priestess and the Warrior
A Rebel Base
"I had no idea there were any rebels." Orna' Fulsamee lifted the two nadier above his head, crossing them to avoid the blow reigned down by Hans' Galatash.
"More than you might think," Galatash replied. He backed off, swirling the nadier in his claws. The ceremonial iron rods were the length of a fully grown Elite's arm and as thick as ones wrist. Their grips were cushioned with blessed ribbon, cut precisely by Priestesses. The nadier had been Galatash's gift to Fulsamee the previous year. He had said he only wished a sparring partner, but the sacred art of fighting with nadier was one that not even Nakaka knew. Galatash had been one of the last to learn from the great masters. Now he taught Fulsamee.
"Jiralhanae," Fulsamee shook his head. "Why force them to join the Covenant? We're better off without them."
Galatash huffed with laughter, lunging forward with his nadier held under his arms.
Defensively, Fulsamee swept backwards, hitting the wall. Had he retreated so much?
The surprise of his opponent gave Galatash the opportunity to whip one rod out and buckle Fulsamee's knees. "You must learn to attack, Orna', you're getting nowhere."
Fulsamee grunted, rolled and blocked the next blow. The polished nadier slipped off each other and Fulsamee lost his balance.
"Your dead," Galatash pointed out, two rods pushing down on Fulsamee's rib cage.
Backing off, the tutor let his pupil recoup. "The Brutes rebel because they do not believe in our cause that females should not fight."
"It is not a females place," Fulsamee shrugged.
Laughing again, Galatash dived forward. "I agree that our females should be kept safe and honoured. How would we ensure our Lineage to the next generation if we endangered them?" He delivered two quick blows to Fulsamee's back. "Attack me! By the Forerunner, boy!"
"Yes, Excellency." Panting, Fulsamee pulled himself to his feet. He paused, drawing breath to compose himself but Galatash attacked again.
"Then get up and fight me!" Galatash roared.
Staggering upwards, Fulsamee swung half heartedly at his commanding officer, losing balance and stumbling past. Galatash scored three hits in succession.
"You're tiring," he crowed. "Come on you motherless son of a Grunt, get up and hit me!"
Fulsamee hissed through gritted mandibles, fighting for control over his emotions. He twisted, blocking the next blows almost in spite of gravity.
"You're still worthless," Galatash goaded, dancing around him. "Am I supposed to worry about you?" He turned his back, still blocking Fulsamee's attempts. "Pathetic runt!"
"Why do Brutes wish their females to fight?" Fulsamee grunted. He kept low as he moved, twirling the nadier.
"They're unnatural, heathen beasts," Galatash replied. "A bit like you, Jackal-Bait."
Fulsamee grinned at him. "Insult me all you wish, I do not care."
"The stink off you . . ." Galatash only got that far before Fulsamee lunged, whacking his master twice across the chest before he had a chance to defend. Galatash was pressed backwards by the furious ,onslaught only stopping it by crunching his pupils neck with the nadier crossed.
"Now . . . that . . ." Galatash panted, on the floor, "is how you ought to fight."
"I hope I'm not interrupting," Saammee approached. He extended out his claws to help the two to their feet. "Look at him, Hans', you've beaten the down off his back."
"Contemptuous beast," Fulsamee twirled the nadier in mock anger. "I lost my down long ago!"
"Of course you did, young one," Saammee grinned.
"Well," Galatash rubbed his skin down with a towel. "He did very good. Down or no."
"Good. And now I rescue him from your clutches. Fulsamee, I want you to be on my team that escorts Wisdom and Fury to the Brute Rebel Base."
"Me?" Fulsamee gasped.
Galatash grinned. "An excellent choice, Field Commander." He slapped Fulsamee on the back. "I'm sure we on the Thunder can spare you a few weeks."
"The negotiations will take that long?" Fulsamee asked, deflated.
Saammee laughed. "My thoughts exactly. The quicker we get those Prophets down there, the quicker they can work the will of the Forerunner and the quicker you can get back to this suicide."
The Solemn Thunder was out of place among the hodge podge of Brute vessels orbiting the ancient space station. Orna' Fulsamee looked out over the immense space scape, marvelling at the structure.
"Noble Prophets," Saammee turned to them. "Our Phantom is going to dock in five minutes. You may wish to secure your chairs."
Fulsamee nodded to Rolamee, and the two stepped forward to help the Prophets.
"Why, thank you Soha'," Wisdom said to the richer Elite.
Fulsamee stepped backwards, wishing Galatash had not riled him so yesterday.
"This is very important for us," Fury addressed the Phantom's crew. Field Commander Saammee, the Spec Ops Grunt Narney, Soha' Rolamee, Gorgon the Brute Captain, a contingent of Jackals and Fulsamee himself. Relations were understandably strained.
Gorgon had never forgotten that night, years ago, when Fulsamee had dropped in unannounced in Gorgon's first formal dinner. Rolamee was stung at Fulsamee's constant promotion, which was of course unrightful and contrived. The tiny fact that Rolamee owed Fulsamee his life twice now, was insignificant. Narney and Saammee were Fulsamee's companions. Narney often telling him to change his line to special operations, Saammee also. Fulsamee knew, however, that he was technically the third in command on this mission. Not that it would mean anything.
"Docking now," Saammee announced. He nodded to Narney and Gorgon who took point at the door. Fulsamee positioned himself with Rolamee, to the front of the Prophets.
The doors opened and the foul stench of Jiralhanae filth filled Fulsamee's nostrils. He glanced at Rolamee and the two fought the urge to slap the airlock closed again.
"May we present," Gorgon announced to the committee awaiting them, "their most Noble Highnesses, Wisdom and Fury?"
"Pah!" An gargantuan female Brute laughed at them. "Minor Prophets. Until they send those of the Hierarch, we are not interested!"
Their airlock cycled closed and Fulsamee was left, along with the others, trying to placate their furious Prophets.
"This is a problem," Galatash agreed from the command room of the Solemn Thunder.
"The Prophets are demanded we return to High Charity," Saammee told him. He glanced over his shoulder as Fulsamee approached. "I do not want another ten years of bartering before we obtain another opportunity like this."
"Have you spoken with the Prophets about trying again?" Galatash asked.
Saammee shrugged. "I think that with Rolamee's help, I may be able to coerce them. Lana, the leader of the Rebels, is another matter. She won't budge."
"May I ask a favour?" Fulsamee piped up.
The older Elites looked at him curiously, before Galatash nodded his consent.
"I would speak with Lana. The research indicated that the Rebels are not so . . . antagonistic towards Elites as our Brutes are." He glanced at Saammee before continuing. "Saammee has tried, Gorgon has tried. What is left to ruin if I fail?"
"What indeed," Galatash agreed. "You have permission. Please do not stay in this stalemate for much longer. It is not a favourable state of play."
"An Oath of Silence . . ." Jalahass mused, pacing her large chambers. "And yet you manage to go and get yourself paired off."
Solatta glowered at her, claws crushing the delicate fabric of her dress.
"Stop that," Jalahass commanded. She folded her arms and took a step back to regard Solatta's appearance. "Don't you think more lace would be . . . oh, I don't know . . . prettier, somehow?"
The Kig-Yar attendants raced to their kit and pulled out a great swathe of lace.
"Is that okay with you?" Jalahass asked her mentor as the Jackals began pinning to the cloth. Content with Solatta's stoic silence, Jalahass walked towards the balcony. She leaned on the rail and looked out over the city of High Charity. "It feels strange to think that you will be living somewhere else. I've gotten so used to you being down the hall." She blinked, refusing to look round and see Solatta's face. "Still, Commander Neb' Sunn is a very Honourable Elite. I'm sure you two will get along perfectly."
The Jackals glanced at each other as they worked. The two Priestesses were sniffing and crying, and as much as duty and respect bound them, the Jackals couldn't help a little laugh at their expense.
"You may leave."
The Jackals scattered, talons over beaks, in fear.
Solatta waited for their complete departure before she sat down on Jalahass' bed. "I don't know how to run a home! Preach, that I can do! But live?"
"It's easy," Jalahass rested her hand on Solatta's forehead. "I promise no one is more suited to terrorising her offspring than yourself." She kneeled before her sobbing friend and sighed.
"I don't want children," Solatta shivered. "All I ever wanted was this. The convent! But my parents arranged this. Sunn's dowry has been paid." She sniffed. "If I had been . . . richer," she whispered, "my parents wouldn't have needed the dowry so much . . ."
Jalahass hesitated. "I know, Solatta, I know . . ."
Fera' Kianall turned as Saia' Jalahass ran up to her, a hand on her crown to steady it. "Yes, Priestess?" she said archly.
"I need to speak with you," Jalahass panted.
"Very well." Kianall glanced up and down the corridor. "My office?"
In the large sanctum of the Senior Priestesses office, Jalahass perched on the day bed, moving the brightly coloured pillows aside. When she had been younger she had loved the dizzying colours of the convent. Nowadays she longed for something beige.
"I have been gifted with a vision," Jalahass murmured, her head bowed.
"A vision?" Kianall took a deep breath. She circled her desk and poured herself a glass of Brandy. "Please, go on."
"I stood upon a beach." Jalahass had intended for something far more straight forward, but she realised Kianall would expect something more. "And the waves were beating down on the sand. I looked to my feet but . . ."
"Take your time, remember every detail," Kianall soothed.
"My feet were covered in blood. There was a great thunderclap and I was at some sort of celebration. Yet still I saw the bloody seas." She hesitated, how to link this to Solatta? "I went to ask one of the Sangheili what they were celebrating, but they were all tied together and I could not make them speak to me."
"This vision," Kianall said. "When did you have it?"
"During private prayer, Priestess."
"This is grave." Kianall slugged the brandy. "You say that none of the guests would speak to you?"
"None. I sensed that they were refusing to speak, rather than unable."
"I shall ponder this vision," Kianall smiled at the younger Sangheili. "You may leave. Oh," her eyes widened slightly. "You will be attending Solatta, preparing for her Bond Ceremony?"
"Indeed I will. It will be a wonderful party," Jalahass smiled at her. "Thank you, Priestess. This vision has left me quite uneasy."
"Yes, but no worries now my dear. Go. Have fun."
"Oh Mighty Forerunner I have done only what I think is best." Lying by her altar in her private chambers, Saia' Jalahass felt tears welling in her eyes. "If I have angered you, my Lords, it was not my intent. I wished only to see Solatta happy and this bonding was not for her! Her misery cannot aid you. I do not wish to go against your will."
She waited all night for the Forerunner to strike her down.
They did not.
Fulsamee tried not to inhale as the Brutes escorted them to the conference room. While the Prophets had rained down praise on Fulsamee's head for arranging the meet, it killed him that he had to suffer for his brilliant negotiating.
"Oh, the stench," Rolamee hissed.
"Ssh." Fulsamee did not want to cause a social gaffe.
Their conference room was in the most ancient section of the station. It was a long room, its window looking out at the nebula, with the Solemn Thunder still visible in the distance.
"Prophets," Lana, the female Brute nodded to the two Prophets as they entered. "Welcome aboard."
Her feral grin did not sit well with Fulsamee.
Once everyone was seated in the large Brute chairs, and the Jackals stood in their lines behind the Prophets, Lana began to list her terms. The unification of this faction of Brutes would not be an easy one. For one, Lana wanted to be able to fight on the front line on equal standing with male Brutes.
"You understand that the Covenant teachings prohibit this," Wisdom told her. He lifted his hand to stall any further arguments. "Surely the enlightenment of the Great Journey is enough to placate you?"
Lana cackled. "Your Great Journey will mean nothing to me if I cannot live before I step on the road."
"My dear child, that is simply not so. The Great Journey will rescue you from you wretched existence and you shall live forever in glory and honour. On the Great Journey you may do as you please."
"Pah." Lana spat on the table.
Fulsamee swallowed roughly, catching Saammee's eye and twitching his upper mandible. The tiny sign of amusement buoyed them both and they resumed their patient wait.
"I assure you!" Fury exclaimed, "we do not intend to incorporate you into the Great Journey - you - you heathen!"
Fulsamee felt the tendons in the back of his eyes strain as he rolled them for what felt like the hundredth time that hour. 'Heathen'. Lana cared less, he was sure.
"How long has this been going on?" Rolamee whispered at him. "My knees ache from these seats."
"Silence, Rolamee," Orna' Fulsamee understood his pain. He wanted to get up, have a big stretch and a bath. The filth of the Brutes seemed to be clinging to him.
"And to be sure," Lana leapt to her feet, the other Rebels following her. "We will not join this Covenant!" She upturned the table in her rage, sending the Prophet's chairs spinning.
Fulsamee and Saammee dived forward to block the Prophets from the Brutes. No one in the room had been allowed weapons, but a rampaging Jiralhanae was just as dangerous.
"Rolamee," Fulsamee growled, his eyes fixed on Lana and her Rebels. "Gorgon, Narnay . . . go."
The Brutes sneered as the Prophets retreated, covered by their tiny task force. Bringing so few had been a mistake, but the Prophets had been so confident . . .
"Do you believe you can escape?" Lana asked, growling low in her throat.
"You have much to learn about the Sangheili if you wish to fight beside us," Saammee growled. He glanced at Fulsamee, trusting the young Elite to stay with him, distracting the Brutes as the Prophets escaped. He only hoped the Jackal guard would be enough to get them to the Phantom.
"I will never fight beside an Elite," spat Lana. She hefted the mace that her companion handed to her. "Fools. You come unarmed into an enemy stronghold."
Saammee grinned. "An Elite is never unarmed."
Fulsamee dived, low across the shining floor, and tackled the legs of the Brute beside Lana. The kneecaps broke and he drove his fist into the back of its head, wincing as blood and brain oozed over his fingers.
Saammee was wrestling with Lana's mace, his back exposed to the others.
Pouncing, Fulsamee rolled with the mass of knotted fur. Two Brutes came out on top of him, pounding him with their fists. His shield flickered and his blue armour started to take hits. He opened his mouth and bit down hard on the jugular of the Brute directly above him. It roared, throwing itself upwards and dragging Fulsamee off the ground with it. The young Elite let go, flying across the room and hitting the long oblong window. He dropped, registering pain and confusion.
"Kill it!" He heard words, but they didn't result in his death.
Opening his eyes he caught sight of the Brutes setting upon the golden armoured Elite before him. He watched the final battle of Hoj' Saammee, completely helpless to move.
Shaking blood and sweat from their fur, the two remaining Brutes turned on him.
He took a moment to thank the Forerunner that Saammee had been able to slay Lana, before he had started his Great Journey.
The Brutes shook the floor as they stomped towards him, as injured as he was perhaps. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lana, her dead hands clutching her broken mace.
Fulsamee waited for the Brutes to stoop, their grubby paws reaching out for his body, before he kicked off against the wall. His shields skidded over the shiny floor and he collided with the pile of bodies at the far end of the room. Grabbing both ends of the mace he broke it over his knee. Raising the two shafts over his head he took a deep breath, steadying his stance,.
"Come get me," he growled.
The Brutes charged. It was easy to defeat this enemy with the grace and skill that came from learning nadier. The broken mace shaft worked just as well and the satisfying crunch of shattering skull soothed him.
With all his enemy dead, he crouched, lifting the dead body of Saammee over his shoulders and fleeing the room.
"Fulsamee!" Rolamee sounded surprised to see him, and his jaw dropped when he caught sight of the dead warrior slung so casually over Fulsamee's shoulders.
"Where are the Prophets?" Fulsamee demanded. He ducked round the corner to avoid a plasma bolt and saw the two Prophets. They were cowering behind a bulkhead, protected by a random scattering of Jackals.
"Where is Gorgon?" Changing tact, Fulsamee scooped up a plasma pistol from a fallen Jackal and flung Saammee's body under the chairs of the Prophets. He ignored their squealing and grabbed Rolamee's shoulder. "Where's the Brute?"
"He left us," Rolamee growled. "We're dead, Orna' Fulsamee. Look around! What are two Junior Officers and a Grunt going to do against this entire station?"
Fulsamee turned away from him, panting. The Prophets were watching him reproachfully and a Jackal was crouched behind his shield.
"Get up, you," Fulsamee snarled, kicking at the shield. He grabbed the Jackal by the shoulder, suddenly elated as an idea came upon him. "You wonderful creature!" Swinging the confused Jackal around, he signalled to the others. "Get all of you together and use your shield like a shell. The first row crouch down, defend the bottom. The next row hold your shield to protect their heads. And the next row, same idea. Noble Prophets, get behind those Jackals!"
He pushed Rolamee and Narney to the back, to shield the Prophets.
The Jackals started creeping forwards, pressing close together as plasma bolts rained on their 'shell'. One weakened red and flickered out of existence, Rolamee shoved another Jackal into the void left by the fallen.
Fulsamee tagged behind, dragging Saammee with him. Their little task force was slowing down, sliding closer together as they moved deeper into the Brute territories.
This wouldn't do, they were being forced into submission. Fulsamee stamped his foot, chanting under his breath. "Wort! Wort! Wort! Wort!"
Rolamee took up the call up too. Even the Prophets joined in, the regular rhythm keeping them moving.
"We're nearly at the Phantom," Rolamee hissed. They flipped over, the Jackals catching on quickly and reversing their march order to shield the Prophets on the other side as they approached the dock.
The two Elites charged the Brute guarding the airlock, taking him out with little difficulty.
Fulsamee leapt behind the forcefield as it sprung up, watching the Brutes charge the closing airlock.
"Hail the Thunder. Tell Galatash we need cover fire." He pushed past the Prophets, leaning over Rolamee as the other Elite steered them out of dock. The Solemn Thunder, true to her name, loomed closer. Her cannons fired on the station, drawing enough fire to allow the Phantom an escape.
Fulsamee fairly pushed the Prophets off of the Phantom, sending their chairs spinning onto the deck of the Solemn Thunder. He waited until everyone was off the tiny ship and lifted Saammee into his arms, staggering from the darkness into the bright docking bay.
"Excellency," breathed a Junior Officer, falling to his knees as Fulsamee's feet touched the Thunder's deck. Only one rank above, Fulsamee did not deserve the Honour, but it wasn't for the dead soldier in his arms either.
He allowed the other Sangheili in the bay to prise Saammee's corpse from his grasp, and someone removed his helmet.
He blinked at Nakaka, stumbling as the Thunder shuddered violently.
Nakaka placed a hand on his shoulder. "Go with Narney, he'll take you to the medics."
"I can still fight," Fulsamee growled.
"Go." Nakaka watched him retreat, swallowing as he turned back to his old friends corpse. "Take him to the morgue," he ordered. "We'll have a service when the Brute Rebels are dead."
Those in the room cheered this statement, but Nakaka left with a heavy heart.
"Excellency," Fulsamee bowed before Galatash. The Commander stood in his plush office, watching the nothingness of slipspace. He glanced round as the younger Elite entered, and felt his soul warm.
"Saammee would not want us to grieve for him, Orna'," he said. He touched foreheads with Orna', beckoning him to sit. "A drink?"
Fulsamee hesitated. He had never quite felt at home with Hans' Galatash, for all the Commander called him 'brother'. Yet he had watched Saammee's fall and he had seen to it that Saammee would be afforded a proper Death Ritual by returning his body. The Prophets he had rescued were promising him great glory and riches. Even Rolamee had praised him unconditionally in his report.
Still, it did not make up for the death of someone, a great Brother, who had died to defend Fulsamee's life.
Hans' Galatash sat on the day bed, watching the struggle play across Fulsamee's face in the twitches of his mandibles and claws. He hoped the younger Sangheili would say 'yes'. Hoped the younger Sangheili would understand something Hans' had been trying to teach him for years.
"Rum. If you have it."
"I always have it," Galatash beamed. He poured the drinks and set them on his desk, pondering how best to approach this next issue. "We return to Sangheill. I believe you will have even more females throwing themselves at your feet than last time."
"If I can escape the Prophets blessing me for long enough," Fulsamee replied.
Laughing softly, Galatash scratched his soft skin. "Fulsamee . . . Orna' . . . my daughter has asked for your spirit in a Bond."
Fulsamee froze, not daring to look up from his drink.
"She wishes to be your mate, Orna', what do have to say to that?" Galatash pressed.
"Fera' Talsamee . . . wishes to be my mate?" Fulsamee repeated. "In a Bonding?"
"Yes." Galatash stretched leisurely. "I would be . . . delighted if you would agree. You have been the Honourable son I never had."
"Hans' . . . I have no dowry," Fulsamee whispered. "None rich enough for your family at any rate."
"That does not matter," Galatash chided. "Come, son. Shall we send a transmission to your betrothed?"
Fera' Kianall found herself slightly lost as she traversed the great libraries of the convent. Here all the most ancient of Sangheili texts were stored, most written in an archaic form of their language, incomprehensible and full of pagan interpretations of the Faith.
Here, Saia' Jalahass had been entombed since her vision.
Kianall sensed that the vision had disturbed the young Priestess, and it saddened her. Such a gift from the Forerunners should be nurtured, not feared.
She rounded an archive and found the Sangheili, engrossed in a scroll. The language was indecipherable to Kianall, but Jalahass seemed to read it easily enough.
"Jalahass? Dear, what are you doing here?" Kianall crouched beside her, patting the back of her head.
Jalahass smiled. "I've taught myself this language. This," and she touched the scroll deferentially, "is an original document detailing the Oaths of the Prophets. Nine Ages ago, Kianall . . . think about it!"
"Impressive," Kianall's eyes widened. "Very impressive. And you can read it?"
"Priestess," Jalahass recovered herself and her respectful tone. "I can."
Thoughtfully, Kianall rocked back on her heels, gazing up at the other texts. "This may be your next Oath. The Oath of the Scholar."
"For my next level?" Jalahass asked.
Kianall smiled. "That is what I wished to speak to you about. Your vision has come to pass. There was a terrible attack on the Prophets Fury and Wisdom. I think it is good that we cancelled the Bonding between Solatta and her betrothed when we did. Obviously it did not please the Forerunners."
"Obviously," Jalahass whispered.
"So the Prophet of Solitude wishes you to be accelerated to a higher level. Jalahass, you are a remarkable gift to the Covenant. We will not waste you."
Jalahass watched the Senior Priestess leave, and felt her sins weigh heavily upon her soul.
Her lies had been woven into truth and scripture.
She looked down at the scroll she was reading.
And ye shall not fear the Arm of the Prophets, for he shall wield the Blade. Said verily unto him, by Truth in his self, "go forth childe and conduct my will". Thusly the Arbiter did approach the Untamed, giving unto them the Oaths of the Prophet, and relaying the command of Truth.
And as did the Arbiter fulfil his task, no sooner was he struck down by the Blade he wielded. The Oaths of the Prophet being too heavy a burden to carry at once.
Jalahass rolled up the worn hide parchment and returned it to the hollow bone that it was stored in. Returning it to its home, she took a deep breath. Time to begin the preparations for her Third Level Priestess rites.
What Oath should she undergo this time?
A thought sprung to mind as she left the library, the Oath of Fasting was traditional, but not compulsory. If Jalahass were to undertake the Oath of the Scholar, a lessar used Oath, she might unearth more of these scrolls.
And she would not be 'wasted'.
And her power over Kianall would grow.
Feeling slightly chilled, she left the library and its temptations.