The Priestess and the Warrior - Demons of Lore
Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 20 March 2005, 12:01 AM
The Priestess and the Warrior
AN: Dark, dark, dark subject matter kiddies. Drug abuse and severe angst. Don't read it if your Mommy says no.
Demons of Lore
Fulsamee was aware of the ship around him. Of all of the ship. It throbbed with the power it gathered in its core, screaming to be let loose.
For this is the will of the Forerunners. That we annihilate the abomination from this plane. Only once the galaxy is cleansed, may the divine wind carry us to our Great Journey. For when we find the Sacred Rings, our prophesy shalt be fulfilled, and our righteous place be taken, by the side of the Gods.
The Zealot leaned closer. "Excellency," he repeated. "The order to fire?"
Fulsamee sucked in a deep breath through his mandibles.
These humans had put up a fight, though they were terribly outmatched. Someone, it might have been him, had given the order to gun down the escaping cargo ships. They would have been carrying children.
Orna', that plasma scoring on her chest was no accident, what are you doing!
For the Gods punish those who dare to flout their laws.
And this is my repent. That no more of my children may die. Fulsamee blinked. "Glass the planet," he said.
The small congregation in the control room cheered as the Blade of Justice let loose on the planet beneath them. The human colony of Harvest.
"Very well done, Excellency," the Zealot confided. One of Truth's loyal fools.
"Thank you," Fulsamee inclined his head graciously. "When the last of the survivors have been killed, inform me. I shall leave to inform the Hierarch of our victory."
Once inside his darkened quarters, Fulsamee removed his gold helmet. Stripping his armour down he cleaned it, presented it on the specially made stand, and when the time consuming task was down he went to bathe.
With rigid order he cleaned himself, finding little luxury in the warm pool. Scrubbing his skin with the soap sand, he worked hard until the skin was raw, and blood seeped from the tips of his clawed fingers.
Retreating once more to the darkness of his sleeping chamber, he lay on the bed and the thick, expensive sheets. Resting his head on the gravity pillow, he screwed his eyes shut, waiting for sleep to come and claim him.
And the time dragged past, his heart pounding and his breaths ragged.
Hating himself more every passing second, he reached out. With his eyes still close, his fist closed around the glass of Jiralhanae Brandy that sat on the stand. He With his other hand he found that he had the little pod all ready. He didn't remember doing that.
Just to help me sleep.
That's all the Medics said.
He flipped the pod open, and still with his eyes closed he dropped a capsule into the Brandy. Swirling it, he sipped from the glass and waited for sweet oblivion, for his daughter's face to fade from his mind.
Sangheil The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Kristassi, what a pleasant surprise."
Kristassi eyed her Mother and unfolded from the day bed. Jalahass' flat tone didn't surprise the daughter, but nor did she find any comfort in it.
"Don't worry yourself, Mother," she said. "I shan't stay long."
Deflating, Jalahass watched her daughter stalk from the room. "I just didn't expect you, is all," she muttered.
Removing the light travel robe, Jalahass glanced around her home, trying to remember where the cloak room was. She gave up, dropping the swathe of material over the day bed.
"High Priestess?" An Unggoy underling approached, her eyes wide. "May I help you?"
"Yes," Jalahass stared for a moment at the little alien, before she gave up trying to put a name to the face. "I require food. And a drink."
"Certainly, High Priestess," the Unggoy paused. "Would you be needing anything else?"
"Nothing that you can help me with," Jalahass replied.
She sat down on the daybed and found herself staring out at the beautiful, orange skies of Sangheil.
In a fraction of the time it took her to exhale, the comm bleeped and a hologram of Solitude appeared in her home. He smiled at her, nestled back in his chair with a warm, thick blanket wrapped over his shoulders.
"High Priestess," he spoke warmly, but his voice was frail.
"Noble Solitude," she bowed her head. "How are you feeling?"
Jalahass chuckled, waving his grumbles away. "You used to say that when I first met you. I feel old!"
"Pah," Solitude sniffed haughtily. "You are such a short lived race. I believe that was what gave the Prophets the edge in the Prophet- Sangheili war." Eyes gazing skyward, Solitude seemed lost in his thoughts. "I have recently been to the Jackal Monastery and I was reading of the Sacred Scrolls. The Prophet- Sangheili war was much shorter than we had first supposed, and I believe the stalemate on both sides has been greatly exaggerated - Did you know that Sanghyl has its roots in the language of the Forerunner and that-"
"Noble Solitude," Jalahass intervened. She saw the old Prophet blink at her, slightly confused. "That was a long time ago, remember? You went to the Monastery before 'Hara was born."
"Oh." Suddenly, the Prophet was showing every one of his years.
"I'll come and visit you tomorrow," Jalahass told him. She nodded to the Grunt that was approaching, bearing food. "But I'm tired now."
"Of course you are," Solitude nodded, regaining his confidence. "I shall see you then."
High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation
Truth pinched his jowls and calmed his mind before he paid Tartarus any attention. Brilliant, as the Brutes were for raw muscle, thinking was not their strong point. Truth almost missed the days when an Elite Guard would see fit to question him with a cutting remark. Brutes had no such finesse.
"Tartarus," he said smoothly. He turned his chair around to view the Brute that stormed up to him. "What may I do for you?"
"We need to speak." The Chieftain glanced at the Honour Guard on either side, growling low under his breath, like a Wakkan dog.
With a tired sigh, Truth waved at the Guards. They left, very reluctantly. Of course, Truth knew that if they were truly opposed to the idea of Tartarus ripping the Prophet limb from limb, they would have stubbornly refused to leave. Further reason to quickly remove them of the responsibility of guarding the Hierarch. There was too much dissension among the ranks. The recovery of Fulsamee into Truth's bosom had only alienated the High Priestess further, and her support was growing. A likeable character, who empathized deeply with all members of the Covenant, not just the Sangheili, her opinions were highly valued by the public and until she supported the wars against the humans, the Covenant would remain fractured.
Fractured was not good.
"What is it, Tartarus?"
"I have been disrespected," Tartarus admitted. His fist was clenched, the memory clearly painful.
"How so?" Probably some Elite snubbed him. Pride was such a weary thing.
"The Honour Guard Crai' Browdee refused to allow me access to the convent. I wished to speak to one of the Priestesses." Tartarus growled louder. "He said I was forbidden to enter. This was not our agreement, Truth! I demand respect!"
"I cannot control the Sangheili," Truth told him. The High Priestess does that. I must do something about this situation. I wonder if I may speak with Kristassi? I should send Talsamee, she would form a bond with young one. "All I can do, Tartarus, is tell you to be patient. Your time of glory will come."
"It had better," Tartarus threatened. He stormed out, denting the door panel when he thumped it with his fist.
"Or what?" Truth snorted. He had to maintain a calm, respectful demeanour in front of Tartarus. Still, the Brute posed about as much of a threat as . . . as a Granech fly. The real threat came from a far more peaceful source.
Blade of Justice, Orbiting Human Outer Colony Harvest The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Excellency?" San' Kanalee leaned over the sleeping Fulsamee and sniffed. He could smell the sweet hint of thenadrine, and his commanding officer was still deeply asleep.
"Excellency." He shook Fulsamee's shoulder and sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Excellency? . . . Fu- Fulsamee?"
Orna' slept on.
Kanalee leaned closer, removing the glass that was clutched in his commanding officer's hand. "Wake up!" he yelled.
Fulsamee jumped from the bed, grabbing Kanalee's wrist and snapping it downwards. In retaliation, Kanalee automatically kicked out, sweeping Fulsamee's legs from under him. Fulsamee hit the deck with a resounding thud, his eyes focussing for the first time.
"Kanalee?" he spluttered. "What . . . what in the name of the Forerunner do you think you're doing, you worthless son of an Unggoy?!"
"Excellency, I apologise," the scarlet clad Elite bowed his head. "It was rather difficult to wake you." His eyes slid to the bed and the glass that was nestled in the covers.
"I could have you killed for your insolence," Fulsamee snarled, climbing to his feet.
"We have a Human."
Clothed in his gold armour, and drinking a fruit juice, Fulsamee stalked through the hallways. He was followed by an entourage of assistants, Kanalee trailing behind. The Zealot that was with him, Hackasan, was grinding his mandibles in anticipation of meeting the Human.
Giddan, the Unggoy Intelligence Officer, was running along beside them. "We intercepted the Human craft, called a - and this is a rough translation - 'Flying insect'. The Human appears to be male, although it's difficult to tell. There are a few minor differences in their reproductive organs, mostly concealed, but their physiology is peculiarly similar."
"Unnatural," Hackasan snorted.
"Keep your opinions to yourself, Zealot," Fulsamee snapped. He handed his empty glass to the Jackal and turned back to Giddan. "What has the Human revealed."
Giddan laughed. "Name, rank and number. Asides from that, its been uncommunicative."
"Name, rank and number?" Fulsamee paused outside the interrogation room. "Why?"
"It appears to be all they're authorised to reveal," Giddan shook his head. "Foolish."
"Well, they are different to us." Fulsamee stepped inside and saw the Human for himself. "Very different," he admitted.
The Human started to chatter in its incomprehensible language.
"Turn the translator on," Fulsamee ordered. He stepped closer, lowering his head in a sign of peace.
"Oh God!" the Human wailed.
"Is he calling upon the Forerunner?" Kanalee asked. The Sangheili circled the Human, watching the creatures frantic eyes follow him around the room.
"Please don't kill me, oh please, God, we can work this out, we can make peace! Don't kill me!"
Hackasan roared. "It disrespects its dead! Dishonouring the memories of those who have fallen by begging for its own life." Hackasan spat.
Fulsamee said nothing. He looked down on the pale skinned, oddly plain appearance of the Human. There was something so . . . sculpted about them, as though they were not natural. Instead they looked as though they had been created.
"They look like the Demons from Lore," Giddan whispered. Even his analytical attitude had been shaken by the Human.
Kanalee nodded. "I was trying to think what it reminded me of. But it does, doesn't it?"
Hackasan surged forward, but Fulsamee flung his arm out, stopping him in his tracks.
"Don't presume to know my orders before I give them," Fulsamee snapped.
"The Hierarch ordered that all Humans be destroyed," Hackasan growled.
Stepping forward, Fulsamee reached out to touch the Human. The Human tried to pull away, but was too tightly restrained. For the tiny moment before his fingers brushed the Human skin, Fulsamee felt the fear of the Forerunners in his heart. He forced his fingers to meet the Human flesh, and he wasn't incinerated by its demon powers.
"We can't let it live," Fulsamee acknowledged. Freeze it in the pods, try to keep it alive. I'll transport it in the Smoke back to High Charity. "Zealot, you have command of the Blade."
"Excellency," Hackasan bowed his head.
Back in the corridors, Fulsamee felt his hand beginning to shake. He wanted to clean it, and then he wanted to return to sleep . . .
"Excellency?" Kanalee called, hurrying to catch up with him. "Will you be okay to take the Human with you?"
"Do you question my abilities?"
"Yes, Excellency," Kanalee replied honestly.
Fulsamee turned to him, growling.
"Excellency," now the scarlet Elite appeared nervous. There were now grounds enough to have Kanalee killed.
"If your concerns are so overpowering," Fulsamee sneered, "you may escort me. Is that satisfactory?"
Bowing profusely, Kanalee escaped, and Fulsamee was left in the empty corridor.
Sangheil The Ninth Age of Reclamation
Hans' Galatash waited in the reception hall of Solitude's home. The Unggoy had barely departed to inform the Prophet of Galatash's arrival, when Jalahass came hurrying through.
"Galatash," she gasped, bumping foreheads with him. "I'm so glad you're here."
"I came as soon as I could. Your message said it was urgent?" He followed her through the halls, noting that the shutters had been pulled across all the windows and the temperatures were stifling.
"I went to see Solitude the day after I got home, last week. He was confused, but no more than he has been usually."
"Usually?" Galatash stopped, blinking in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"He's old, Hans', and in the past year he's been so easily muddled. It's as though he doesn't know who he is anymore."
Galatash reached forward and touched the Priestess' shoulder. "I had no idea."
"Yes, well," Jalahass set her lower mandibles, trying not to display her anger. "You may be trying to distance yourself from Fulsamee because it hurts you that he's turned his back on your teachings, and perhaps you don't visit my children any more because it hurts you so much that Lyueem is dead, but life goes on. And it's gone on too long for Solitude, he's dying."
"Jalahass . . ."
"Don't," she muttered.
Once inside Solitude's private chambers, the smell of old flesh knocked Galatash on his back. He blinked in the darkness, approaching Solitude's bed cautiously.
"Solitude?" he asked.
"Ah . . . Galatash." Solitude smiled up at him. "How is your lovely Mate?"
Glancing behind him, to Jalahass, Galatash decided to let it slide. He knelt beside the Prophet's anti-grav mattress and took his hand. "How do you feel, Noble Solitude?"
"Quite well, this 'flu . . . so bad . . ."
Galatash turned to Jalahass and mouthed "'flu?"
The High Priestess shook her head. "He had the Unggoy 'flu before Fera' Kianall was inaugurated."
"Terrible storms we've been having," Solitude coughed, his tiny body wracked with pain. "Bad omen, don't you think?"
After an hour of disjointed conversation, Solitude slept.
Galatash left the room quietly, finding Jalahass sleeping on a rug in the public rooms. Crouching beside her, Galatash noticed the discoloration around her neck, the obvious signs of stress and illness and constant worry.
"Jalahass," he murmured, reaching out to shake her shoulder.
She woke quickly, focussing on him and leaping to the worst conclusion. "Is he - ?"
"Sleeping." Galatash helped her stand, and asked for food from the Unggoy servants. "Do you think we should send a message to Fulsamee?"
Jalahass shrugged, smoothing the front of her robes. "I doubt that he would care."
"You don't think that's an unfair assumption?" Galatash asked.
"I haven't spoken with him since Lyueem's ceremony." She picked up a piece of fruit from the bowl on the low table. Chewing a small piece off she tried to ignore Galatash's gaze.
"Is that because he chose Truth's view on our religion, over yours?" Galatash asked, not unkindly.
"No," Jalahass replied, equally condescending. "It's because he abandoned me to raise my children in the middle of war time while I'm fighting to keep some semblance of peace between the deeply unhappy Sangheili public and the Councils. It's because he's been so deeply affected by our daughters death that he took the first ship out of Covenant space to escape his other children. It's because -"
Galatash let her rant on, placing a comforting hand on her forehead as she cried. When she had finished, he repeated his thought that Fulsamee should be informed.
"Fine," Jalahass relented. "But you're doing it.
High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation
Kanalee remained a few steps behind Fulsamee during the long walk towards the Hierarch's Sanctum. He watched Fulsamee holding his golden head high. The journey on the Bottle of Smoke had been fraught. The demon like creature frozen in the cargo hold had set Kanalee on edge, though Fulsamee took it in his stride. It was the time ticking by that seemed to offset this Commander. He spent much of his time asleep, and though he tried to hide it, Kanalee knew it was a sleep aided by thenadrine.
The plant extract was a perfectly legal substance, usually used for administering field pain relief in Hunters, Brutes and - very occasionally - Elites. It's ability to eliminate entire days from existence, with relatively few side effects, was highly prized by medics.
Kanalee had found himself reviewing the notes on thenadrine on the Smoke, and had found no reference to physical addictions. He didn't want to believe that Fulsamee was capable of being emotionally dependent on the stuff, but it seemed the most obvious conclusion.
When Kanalee had been a young trainee, Fulsamee had hand-picked him, along with a few disadvantaged others, to serve on his ship. It was traditional for Fulsamee to give the poorer Sangheili a helping hand, and Kanalee had been grateful. He doubted that Fulsamee knew Kanalee was one of the hundreds who had been helped.
"Orna'," Truth said warmly, holding out his hand for Fulsamee to touch with his forehead. "You have brought our scientists a Human."
"I have, Noble Truth," Fulsamee said. He nodded to Mercy, and bowed to Regret.
Regret barely acknowledged him.
"One of the Unggoy drew a comparison to the Demon from their legends," Fulsamee informed the Prophets. "The Human appeared scared to me."
"These humans are Demons then . . ." Truth said slowly, thoughtfully.
"Demon," Fulsamee corrected, eyeing the Prophet. "The Legend of the Unggoy Chosen tells of the sole Demon that had to be fought."
Truth was blank for a moment, before he nodded. "Indeed it does."
"Do you ever wonder," Fulsamee said when he and Kanalee were outside once more, "if the Prophets truly understand our religion?"
"In fairness, Excellency, I would not have known there was only one Demon in the Legend."
"You are not a religious figurehead," Fulsamee told him. He trailed off as one of the Honour Guard approached. It was Crai' Browdee, and their relationship had been strained of late.
"Excellency." Browdee showed him the utmost respect and bowed so low his helmet threatened to topple off. "Hans' Galatash sends word that you should meet him on Sangheil."
"Galatash?" Kanalee said inadvertently. The greatest hero of the Brute wars was sending for Fulsamee and Fulsamee wasn't making all haste to join him?
"What does he want?" Fulsamee asked.
"Only that you meet him there. The High Priestess is on Sangheil also," Browdee said, "so that you know."
Sangheil The Ninth Age of Reclamation
The palace that Solitude resided in was decked out in dark purples and blacks, and all of Sangheil was in mourning for the much loved Prophet.
Fulsamee had arrived a day too late to speak with the Prophet and it grieved him more than he could have guessed. Walking through the hallways of the palace, he turned to Kanalee to point out a particularly prestigious Councillor.
"So many Sangheili owe their successes to Solitude," he murmured.
Kanalee nodded respectfully. "He was a great leader, and we shall be the less for him," he replied formally.
"Oh, Kanalee, you have no idea," Fulsamee exhaled.
The younger Elite hesitated, catching sight of Hans' Galatash across the room.
Noticing his companion's awe, Fulsamee felt the beginnings of a smile inside him. He remembered hero worship. Almost missed it.
"Galatash," he greeted his mentor stiffly.
"We need to talk," Hans' was blunt. "You and I have been greatly misguided." He glanced at the dignitaries milling around, and placed a hand on Fulsamee's arm. "And I think we ought to be somewhere else."
"My villa?" Fulsamee suggested.
"Can you call it that?"
Despite Galatash's observation, they returned to Fulsamee's villa. Fulsamee noticed a few odd little changes, additions that he knew Jalahass would never have agreed to. She always hated those ancient Unggoy skulls that were so fashionable, and there were two sitting on opposite sides of the dresser in the public room. Someone else was living in and running this villa.
Fulsamee wondered who it was.
"I haven't spoken to your Mate in quite some time," Galatash admitted. He stood out on the balcony, watching the night fall upon the mountains. "When she called me to Solitude a few weeks ago, I realised how long it had been."
Fulsamee stayed quiet. There were no rugs and pillows on the balcony, which was odd. Jalahass loved sitting outside.
"I used to tell myself: she works so hard at the convent, she's always busy; she's not even related to me, not my daughter, or even the Mate of my son; she has been so unreasonable about the war with the humans; that I don't agree with her personal beliefs . . ." Galatash trailed off in disgust. "And the children. I had promised Kray' a place on my ship when he had finished training, but I thought that it was so dangerous. " He sighed deeply and rubbed at his throat. "In truth, I didn't want to see him and think of Lyueem."
Orna' closed his eyes.
"The thought of seeing Kray' and Hara' and Karte' and Kristassi . . . I knew that all I would be able to think about was your clever little girl and the sacrifice I know she made. The sacrifice that I can't say anything about, because then another of your wonderful children, or my children, would be endangered. And I was angry that Jalahass had the courage to keep offending the Hierarchs."
"It was my fault," Fulsamee interrupted. He opened his eyes, blinking back tears. "I convinced Jalahass to let Lyueem become a Priestess."
"I didn't know that," Galatash said softly.
Shaking his head, Fulsamee stared down at the canyon beneath them. "She wanted it so much, but Jalahass was always opposed to the idea. I wish she'd fought me more. She could argue me down over every single matter, except for the one that cost our daughter her life? Why did she choose to back down then? Why?"
"Perhaps because it wasn't our choice," Jalahass murmured behind him.
Galatash quickly made excuses and left.
"I know I'm wrong," Fulsamee told her. "But I can't help thinking it and I wish I could."
Jalahass laughed hollowly. "Yes. You and Galatash. So sorry for your terrible troubles and how it hurts you both. I wanted so much to stop her but I didn't because she wanted to do her First Rites. She was scared, did you know that? But of course you don't, you weren't there. You weren't there when I had to decide whether or not to go against the law and the Gods and give her a plasma pistol and you certainly weren't there when I saw that my 'helping hand' had been what killed her."
"No, Jalahass . . ."
"Don't!" Jalahass tugged away from him. She sat down with a thump on the stone floor and stared at the house. "I know I can't blame you," she said. "Because you were just doing your job. And you've been a better parent than I ever was. Kristassi won't even look at me. She hates me. Apparently she and Talsamee have been in contact with each other."
"Talsamee?" Fulsamee sat down slowly.
"Yes, your betrothed, remember her?" snapped Jalahass.
"I remember perfectly thank you very much. The one you usurped." The joke fell flat, possibly because Fulsamee really wanted it to hurt her.
"Oh yes, of course," Jalahass drawled. "That old story. I am so tired of being the cause of all your problems, Orna'. It gets stale very quickly."
They sat in silence, feeling the night wind biting at their skin.
"Do you really think that?" Fulsamee asked after a long while.
"Think what?" Jalahass whispered.
"That I blame you for all my problems?"
Jalahass glanced at her hands. "Yes . . . it feels like that . . . sometimes."
"I'm taking thenadrine to help me sleep," Fulsamee told her. "The Practitioner on the ship gave me some. Whenever I'm awake I see her."
"I know the feeling."
"And I remember that I was the one who forced you to accept Lyueem into the convent. I remember that I was the one who took all your children on a deep space mission so that you didn't see them for years on end. That I nearly had you convicted of blasphemy." He glanced at her. "I don't blame you for anything. It should be the other way around."
Jalahass blinked. "I miss her so much."
Shuffling closer, Fulsamee rested his head on her shoulder. "I know, Saia', I know."