The Priestess and the Warrior - Only the First Temptation
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 27 January 2005, 4:49 PM
The Priestess and the Warrior
Only the First Temptation
"What's he like?"
"Is he tall?"
Jalahass laughed, shrugging off the questions from her friends at the convent. "I'm really only here to collect some new robes, Priestesses, I don't have time to answer all these questions."
"Is he good?"
"Really!" Solatta gasped, turning to the young Priestess who had spoke. "That is no question to ask!"
"But it's one to be answered," giggled another.
"I'm leaving," Jalahass grinned, turning from them.
"Oh don't go just yet!"
Solatta swept to her feet, scowling at the others. "See, you've chased her away. Come on, Jalahass, I'll escort you to your ship."
High Charity's docks were clean and presentable, always kept in perfect order by the Engineers working there. Solatta had no issue with taking a long route through them to give her more time with her old friend.
"Will you miss living on High Charity?"
"Fulsamee's taking me to Brilliance to tie up some business there. Now that I am Bonded," Jalahass giggled, "I have to take care of the Lineage's Holdings. Or at least, the ones that I have sole control over."
"Surely you could employ someone to do that for you?" Solatta asked.
Jalahass thought of the complicated job and the ease with which certain figures could get 'lost'. "I prefer to do it myself."
"Well, fair enough. So is your Mate going to be with you at all times?"
"I doubt it. If it doesn't evolve an explosion of some kind, Fulsamee gets bored rather quickly." She grinned as she spied him up ahead. "Fulsamee! Isn't that right?" she yelled.
"Is not what right?" Fulsamee asked.
"Uh . . . I agree." Fulsamee smiled at her, knowing full well that he wouldn't if he knew what she was talking about. He greeted Solatta formally. "It is good to meet you Priestess, under less . . . terrible circumstances."
"The Passing of Hope grieves us all," Solatta replied in her best 'official voice'.
"I'll be back soon," Jalahass promised. "But I'm having too much fun in the stars to be cooped up again."
"Jalahass," Solatta touched foreheads with her, "I do not think that you'll ever return to us at the convent. Be that as it may, I hope you enjoy yourself this time too."
The Smoke circled the city's airways, waiting for her flight path to clear. She was the only ship of her class in the air, and her silver sarrowheadhape drew quite a bit of attention from those in the docks.
In the cockpit, Fulsamee tried to make out Solatta's form in the pinpricks that represented the Covenant down below. "One day," he said, "I have to introduce you to Lia' Wuanna."
Jalahass glanced at him. "A friend?"
"Since we were recruits together," Fulsamee replied. "He tried to kill me on our first day."
"Charming." Jalahass curled in the deep seat. Richly upholstered, deep and low, it was perfect for Sangheili. "Solatta was my body guard, of sorts. She was ordered to look after me."
They sat in silence as the Smoke was finally allowed to break free. She popped out of normal space with a jerky, awkward movement.
"Is everything well with you?" Jalahass asked, keeping her eyes trained on the view of nothing.
Glancing at her, Fulsamee's claws twitched in conformation. "I am fine." He turned to face her. "Why would you ask?"
The eerie quietness in the ship pressed in on them.
Rebel Outpost Free Dreamer The Ninth Age of Reconciliation
The frozen planet Free Dreamer was in the grips of a particularly vicious storm. The frozen blocks of ice were scooped up by the wind and hurtled over the planets surface at deathly speeds. There was no light to speak of, the thick, frozen clouds blocking out sun, moon and stars.
The only visible light was an emergency up-light, the kind used by the Covenant army. This one was out of date, its purple beam barely breaking through the flurries of snow.
The ship that struggled through the gales to follow the path lit by the purple haze was carrying a very precious cargo.
The long underground bunker ended in a deep, cavernous bay. The waiting Jiralhanae shivered in the cold, the heat from the ship's engines melting the icicles on their thick, fur coats.
With a deep hiss the gangplank opened and the Brutes inside trudged out. They were battle weary and wounded, their moral low.
Medusa was patient as she watched the soldiers disembark. Her son was borne down on a stretcher, his skin tight from the burns he had received. She stepped closer, leaning down look him in the eye.
"Tartarus . . ."
"Mother. I have failed you."
Glancing at the others, Medusa signalled for them to take her son to the medical facilities. "You have. Pray that you may regain some honour."
Colonised World Brilliance The Ninth Age of Reconciliation
"Jackal Monks," Jalahass whispered to her mate as they entered the monastery. "Don't say a word."
Fulsamee squeezed her elbow to show he understood, before he prostrated himself before the Kig-Yar Holy Ones.
In the huge, domed structure, the Kig-Yar Monks lived a simple life. They tilled the land, spoke nothing but their native tongue, and served as the Jackal equivalent to the Sangheili Priestesses. In this bare room, they received their visitors for their holy ceremonies, or blessed important visitors.
As a Priestess, Jalahass had little problem with the Monks blessing Jackals. It felt . . . wrong . . . that they should bless Sangheili as well. She would carry out a service for any member of the Covenant, but the connection between the Forerunner and Sangheili was a special one, it should not be dismissed so easily.
Of course, in the Ages of Doubt, when the Prophets had introduced the Jackal Monks, it had been a necessary move. The Priestesses of the time had fasted for years in silent objection. Many had died.
The details were all in the library of scrolls, back on High Charity. Jalahass was very interested in seeing some of the Monk's scrolls about the time period, but she doubted she would be allowed in to see them.
The Monks blessed them in their own tongue, sending them on their way.
"Well," Fulsamee said as they exited the monastery. Outside, Brilliance was lit by her single sun, two of her moons rising above the skyline. Notorious for her peaceful environment and abundant wildlife, Brilliance had become a fast favourite of many Prophets choosing to live planetside. As a result, the planet was heavily populated, with large, sprawling cities.
They took a glass walk way through glittering silver spires, not hurrying to Jalahass' next appointment.
"This isn't going to be more Hatchlings, is it?" Fulsamee asked after a moment.
Laughing, Jalahass leaned closer. "I can tell you'll be leaving any future Hatchlings in the crèche."
With a grunt, Fulsamee flexed his mandibles in distress. "Any Hatchlings of mine shall be better behaved."
"Well, to reassure you, Excellency, the House of the Blessed Young is not a crèche, or a nursery, or a hatchery." She grinned. "It's a children's hospital."
"Oh . . . Forerunners," Fulsamee groaned.
With a delighted trill, Jalahass pushed him. "I'm not looking forward to it either. We'll visit, and then shall we go to eat?"
"Sounds like a battle strategy to me."
On the escort ship, Lithe Assassin, the crew were going about their daily business. They did not think much about the general news transmissions as they chatted in the common room.
It was when one of the younger Sangheili noticed who was speaking, a recently disgraced aristocrat from that Sangheili's homeworld, that they paid more attention.
"Who is that?" Lia' Wuanna sneered.
"Hal 'Arumaa," replied the young colleague, blinking. His expression was grave.
The others were showing more interest now.
"The one imprisoned for alleging with the Brutes?"
"He did to attack the Priestess, we all know that."
Wuanna growled low in his throat, kicking a passing Unggoy in his anger. "How dare he. Orna' Fulsamee is a personal friend of mine."
"What's he saying?"
'Arumaa was saying quite a bit.
Demurely seated in his cell, 'Arumaa spoke softly and comfortingly to the Unggoy reporter. "When I heard about the Holy Bonding between Priestess Saia' Jalahass and His Excellency Orna' Fulsamee, deep in my heart I knew there was something wrong. What I did was unforgivable, but I have faith in the Forerunner who guided me to my path. They wished me to take action, and I did. I am only sorry I could not fulfil their desires."
"What on the Sacred Rings . . ." laughed one of the others. "He's mad!"
"Is he?" asked the young Sangheili. "I mean, what if he's right?"
"Yeah, Fulsamee broke off his engagement to Councillor Talsamee very quickly."
"Because the Priestess commanded it!" The Commander was snarling now, unhappy with this conversation.
Wuanna stayed very quiet, gnashing his mandibles.
"The Forerunner's decreed it, it's common knowledge . . ." an Unggoy spoke respectfully, eyeing the doubters with a hint of warning in his eyes.
"You know the Jalahass'! They'll do anything to get what they want. A good Lineage and you think you can do anything,"
"Like 'Arumaa, obviously," Wuanna interjected. "Turn off the audio from that transmission. I tire of it. I do not remember 'Arumaa being declared a Holy One at any point. Do you?"
Grudgingly, the others conceded his point. The young Sangheili giving the transmission one last, longing look, before it was cut off.
Watching the transmission for the third time, on another bulletin, Jalahass felt the righteous indignation begin to slide away. She stood in their streamlined quarters, the city rising up behind the windows, and felt cold.
"Don't watch it," Fulsamee called from the baths.
"What's he trying to do?" She shivered.
The Priestess remained transfixed by the interview as the splashes in the next room ceased and Fulsamee plodded out, dripping wet. He crossed in front of the holo-viewer and cut the feed.
"He's trying to regain some stature," Fulsamee dismissed. "Maybe he wants the Smoke back, who knows?"
Jalahass was unconvinced, so to distract he shook himself thoroughly.
Squealing, Jalahass ducked from the spray of water droplets, laughing despite herself when Fulsamee grabbed the back of her robes.
"Let me go!"
"No!" Fulsamee sniffed. "You smell."
"I do not!"
Leaning closer, forehead almost resting on her shoulder, Fulsamee sniffed again. "Yes you do. Go have a bath and stop worrying." He realised that she had frozen, uncomfortable with the intimate gesture they had almost made. Hesitantly, his grey hand released the smooth, rich fabric of her robe.
"Don't let him get to you," Fulsamee murmured.
"Thank you," she said softly, hurrying away.
Taking a square of material from the railings, Fulsamee towelled himself dry. He stood by the window, looking out over the advanced city. Talsamee had always spoke very highly of her time on Brilliance, but Fulsamee had bored of its clean lines. He missed Sangheil, and the hodge podge of war damaged architecture there. It didn't seem right to have buildings constructed entirely from metal and glass.
He didn't feel safe there.
The holo-viewer chimed quietly, a private transmission.
Fulsamee grunted his acceptance and a tiny hologram appeared on the pedestal.
"Talsamee . . ."
"Orna'," she spoke warmly, beaming up at him. "I wanted to talk with you. To warn you."
"Warn me?" Fulsamee was taken aback, the words did not seem to match her happy demeanour.
"Yes, 'Arumaa is pressing for a Hearing, he wants to be convinced of Saia' Jalahass' holiness." She clasped her hands together. "If Jalahass is found guilty, your bonding will be absolved!"
Fulsamee's stomachs churned. "Talsamee . . ."
"It's a legal proceeding," Talsamee assured him. "If there's even the remotest chance that Jalahass betrayed our Faith, shouldn't we do something about it?"
Silence was Orna's only answer.
With a shake of her mandibles, Talsamee corrected her eager tone. "If you could remember anything, Fulsamee, 'Arumaa would like to speak with you. He told me that he had noted Jalahass contradicting you."
Eyes downcast, Orna' found himself fascinated by the insulated flooring.
"Orna' - I know you'll do the right thing here. Truth told me he has faith in you."
"I have to go."
The hologram fizzed out, leaving Fulsamee staring at the plinth.
High Charity The Ninth Age of Reconciliation
The Council chamber rumbled, there were so many muttered conversations. Sangheili and Prophet Councils alike stared at 'Arumaa, wondering at his audacity.
"And so," 'Arumaa concluded, bowing his head respectfully before the two remaining Hierarchs. "Priestess Saia' Jalahass has corrupted our Faith for her own ends. Can that be allowed?" His eyes were wide, and in his prison garb he looked every bit the humble, pitiful servant of the Forerunners.
Solitude leapt to his feet. "How dare you decry Heresy! Your actions resulted in the death of Noble Hope!"
Falling to his knees, 'Arumaa wept.
"A fact," Truth began, "'Arumaa did not know at the time. The Forerunners will do with him as they see fit. Our issue is with the Priestess."
At the right hand of the Hierarchs, Fera' Kianall stepped forward, her body clearly failing her strong mind. Withered and stooped under the weight of her headdress, she cut a pathetic figure.
"The Priestesses are under my jurisdiction. I have no reason to doubt Jalahass, she has been a close and trusted friend."
Truth nodded slowly, his eyes crossing the room to rest upon Councillor Talsamee. "Councillor," he began. "What do you feel?"
Standing, the young daughter of Kianall was proud to lift her head and say: "Only that my engagement was broken. My personal feelings are clouding the issue, and I cannot say for certain what should be done. I would believe the same is true for my elderly mother."
"You . . ." Kianall snarled, "I am not going to be relegated to the sidelines for age!"
"High Priestess," Mercy spoke, a little surprised. "There shall be no slander in the Council Halls."
"Apologies, Hierarchs," Kianall's mandibles curled. "My daughter knows not her place."
"I speak not as a daughter, but as a Councillor. My view is objective, yours, High Priestess, clearly is not."
Fury stood, waiting for the rabble to die down before he spoke. "I see no alternative but to proceed with a trial."
"I repeat -" Kianall began, before coughs wracked her body.
"If Jalahass is innocent, then there is no need to fear."
"It's insulting," Solitude snapped, his concentration on Kianall.
"It's dangerous to have a Priestess who is possibly subverting the Faith." Fury shrugged. "A trial is the only way forward."
Solitude slumped in his seat as the Councils roared in agreement.
Orna' Fulsamee ignored the looks he got as he walked through High Charity. He would not pay any attention to those members of the Covenant too ignorant to respect his privacy.
The docks were busy as usual, but Hans' Galatash looked out of place as a furious set of shining armour, pushing through the crowds with no care to their safety.
"I heard," he grunted to the younger Sangheili. "It's a disgrace. How is Jalahass?"
"She worries," Fulsamee replied. "Were you brought to testify?"
"I was indeed," Galatash cursed and kicked at the closest crate. "How dare they? What gave 'Arumaa the idea?"
"He's trying to absolve himself of blame," Fulsamee soothed him.
His expression quizzical, Galatash tilted his head to the side. "Do you think Truth could have . . . pushed him . . . in that direction?"
"I could not speculate," Fulsamee said respectfully. "Solitude is waiting for you in your chambers. He wishes to speak with you."
Galatash glanced winsomely out to space, then nodded. "I see you still have the Smoke." He pointed to the beautiful ship, just visible many tiers above them.
"I don't intend to give her back."
"Galatash," Jalahass bowed her head towards the commander when he entered the convent. "I am glad to see you again."
"Would that it was under better circumstances," Galatash said to her. He turned to Kianall, swallowing roughly. "And you, High Priestess."
Kianall smiled. "The slow poison does its work well, does it not. I appear ancient. Do not fret, my mind is still sharp."
Fulsamee glanced at Solitude, then he trilled gently to catch their attention. "Our presence is required in the Council Chambers. We should go now."
"Yes, young Fulsamee, you are quite right." Kianall nodded to him. "Shall we?" She put a hand on her young Priestesses back to comfort the grave Sangheili. "With hope, this shall be over quickly."
Fulsamee stood towards the back of the chamber, along with the other witnesses and an assortment of guards. He could see Jalahass' profile on the stand, and hear her calm voice as she explained, again, about the visions she had received.
It was her word against 'Arumaa's.
Why was there so much trouble? Why were so many siding with the traitor on this issue? Galatash had said it was because the chance to slander a member of the prestigious Saia' family was too good to resist.
It sickened Orna'.
He noticed that Talsamee was watching him from her seat in the council. Her eyes peeking out from under the silver helmet.
Orna' slipped backwards into the shadow, a strange sense of shame stealing over him.
The quarters they were staying in on High Charity were fit for a Prophet. However, the hour was so late when they got back from the trial that neither Fulsamee or Jalahass were willing to relax in luxury.
"I could . . ." Jalahass began as she removed her headdress "I could admit that I lied."
"You did it for Solitude." Fulsamee shook his head. "No, that would not solve anything. You'd be imprisoned and so would Solitude."
"It would help you." She turned to face him. "I know this is difficult for you, to blasphemy like this."
"Jalahass, no. 'Arumaa will not prevail." Sighing, Fulsamee rested his forehead on hers.
She broke away. "If I act now I at least save Solitude. The trial is going so badly - 'Arumaa is cunning. You'd have Talsamee back, and you wouldn't be betraying the Forerunners anymore, isn't that what you always wanted?"
Fulsamee was silent.
Convening again, the trial proceeded to its second day. The issues were clear. Since no one could be sure if Jalahass had a vision, no one apart from 'Arumaa was prepared to directly contradict her. Some official and important figures, including Truth and Talsamee, were willing to state that they 'had an ill feeling' concerning the bonding. That, combined with the death of Hope, appeared as a bad omen.
"Surely," Wisdom was questioning the young Priestess, "you see that as the Forerunner's sign to us. Their sign that you have betrayed them?"
Speaking calmly, Jalahass politely denied that. "If anything, I would take it as a sign from the Forerunners that Hope was a great Prophet. He is with them now on his Great Journey."
The Hierarch Grace lifted his head at that thought. "Interesting, Priestess. Do you blame 'Arumaa for Hope's death?"
"A controversial issue, Hierarch," Jalahass said. She paused for a moment. "You see, as a Priestess I believe that any death which is needless should be grieved for. Death, from a proper manner, such as war or sacrifice - these are deaths to be celebrated. I . . . know . . . that 'Arumaa's actions resulted in Hope's death. I believe that Hope's death has led him to his Great Journey, and for that there should be no blame. However, it is also my belief that the Journey was not 'Arumaa's choice to make for Hope. And for that he should be punished."
"A definite perhaps," 'Arumaa snorted. He stood by the pillars, between two towering Honour Guard. "You are no more in touch with the Forerunners than an insect."
"The Forerunners treasure all of their life forms equally," Jalahass replied sagely.
"Perhaps, 'Arumaa, it is you who are not 'in touch' with the Gods," Orna' Fulsamee found his mouth working independently of his brain. This was not proper conduct, and the stares from the council reinforced this.
Surprisingly, Orna' did not care. He marched down the long walkway to stand by Jalahass.
"After all," he said. "I have not seen the mantle of Priestesshood on your shoulders. Perhaps I am blind."
The attention of the chamber was on him now. He had already spoken, assuring the Hierarchs that the Forerunners had not sent him any visions or feelings that would put the integrity of his bonding in jeopardy.
'Arumaa growled quietly, but not quietly enough.
"For you see," Fulsamee continued. "The circumstances surrounding Hope's death are incongruous, are they not? Saia' Jalahass certainly cannot be blamed for them, can she?"
The murmur that rippled through the Council was a grudging affirmative.
"Nor can she be blamed for the loss of the Solemn Thunder, in fact, her actions on the Thunder were commended by Supreme Commander Hans' Galatash."
Grace and Mercy glanced at each other, wondering where this was going.
"So, you, 'Arumaa, accuse my mate of fabricating a vision to disrupt my engagement to Councillor Fera' Talsamee. These are the facts, are they not?"
"She did," 'Arumaa growled.
In the stands, Truth and Solitude were unable to tear their gazes away from the young, scarlet-armoured Sangheili on the floor.
"Then the only being affected by this so-called fabrication is myself, is that not true? Someone of Councillor Talsamee's stature does not need to worry about not finding a suitable mate. Her parents, the Honourable High Priestess Fera' Kianall and his Supreme Excellency Hans' Galatash have registered no complaint. As I am the only remaining affected party, any complaints will come from me. I have none. My bonding to Saia' Jalahass has been a great blessing, and I truly believe it was the Forerunners who engineered this. I thank them with all my soul."
There was a moment of silence.
"We shall discuss this in private," Grace said, his voice shattering the peace. "Would the impartial step outside?"
Jalahass reached the hallway and her knees seemed to collapse under the strain of holding her up.
"Are you well?" Galatash demanded as he and Fulsamee lunged to catch her.
"Thank you," Jalahass said to Fulsamee. "Thank you, Orna'."
Galatash slid away, pulling Kianall forcibly from the scene. "Privacy, High Priestess, is an Honour."
"I wanted to know what they were saying to each other," Kianall grumbled.
Glancing down the corridor, Galatash broke into a smile. "They're not saying much at all."
The jail cells on High Charity were highly guarded, but it was surprisingly easy to creep in.
One camouflaged Sangheili could easily make it down the grav-lift with the proper codes.
Recently defeated, 'Arumaa was curled in his cell, the Honour Guards paid him little attention. There was no reason to. Now publicly defeated, what would he do if he escaped?
A blur of invisibility slipped through the door as the Guards walked out, chatting to each other about the result of the Jalahass trial.
The bars of 'Arumaa's cell slid up, and the aristocrat unfolded, peering into the darkness. "Truth . . . ?" he half wondered, hoping that his master had come at the final hour.
Orna' Fulsamee blinked into existence by 'Arumaa's side. He struck so fast that 'Arumaa had no chance to react. The soldier's palm crushed 'Arumaa's throat, effectively muting him for life.
"I know Truth put you up to this." Leaning so close to 'Arumaa that to be heard he barely had to whisper, Fulsamee placed his other hand on the vulnerable chest of his victim. "I know targeted my mate for the sake of his election to Hierarch."
'Arumaa was sweating so much it was difficult to keep a hold of his slippery, leathery skin.
"You won't dare do that again, will you?" Fulsamee whispered.
'Arumma shook his head frantically.
"You can't I suppose," the soldier reflected. "You can't speak."
Confused for a moment, 'Arumaa settled on twitching his mandible in an affirmative.
"I won't take the risk." Plunging his fist deep into 'Arumaa's rib cage, Fulsamee killed him instantly.
Closing the cell once more, Fulsamee waited, camouflaged, beside the door. As the Guards came in, he slipped out.
Fulsamee flinched, he had hoped to sneak in unannounced to their chambers.
Jalahass was having none of it. She glowered at him, taking in his full battle armour and the energy sword hilt that hung on his belt. "Where were you?"
With a thump, Jalahass sat on the embroidered day bed. "I don't want to know," she whispered.
Grunting in approval, Fulsamee removed his armour. "There won't be an inquiry."
"No." Jalahass agreed. "There won't be." It would be the view of most others in the Covenant that 'Arumaa had got what was coming to him. Fulsamee had only acted to preserve his Honour. Any member of the Covenant could understand that viewpoint.
"I do not think we should make a home on High Charity," Fulsamee was saying.
Jalahass blinked. "No. Probably not. Orna', I'm sorry. I shouldn't have . . . it was my actions that caused all this trouble."
He crouched beside her. "I have no way to justify my actions, or your actions, or the actions of Truth."
"I'm sorry." Jalahass sighed shakily. "Your faith was so pure. And now I've destroyed it."
"I love you," Fulsamee said, very quietly. He rested his forehead on her shoulder, palm of his hand on her abdomen. "Saia' . . ."