The Priestess and the Warrior - A Really Big Ring . . .
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 20 April 2005, 6:50 PM
The Priestess and the Warrior
AN: An illegal studying break - hush!
A Really Big Ring, Just What I Always Wanted
Kristassi eyed herself in the long holographic mirror image. The traditional red robes of a bonding ceremony accented her dark skin tone, and the gold jewelry hinted at extravagance subtly, just enough to point out that this ceremony was an exceptional one.
"Oh, Love," Fera' Talsamee clapped her hands on Kristassi's shoulders. "You look gorgeous. My son is the luckiest Sangheili in the universe."
Smiling, Kristassi glanced back at the hologram. "I am looking forward to it."
Talsamee watched her face sober slightly, and tapped her fingers gently over Kristassi's forehead in a reassuring manner. "So's my son, I assure you."
"I just wish . . . I just wish Karte' could have been here to see me."
"Hmm," Talsamee pulled her closer. "He is on his Great Journey, and there is no higher Honour."
"I know," Kristassi signaled to the Kig-Yar tailors. "But I miss him."
Sangheil The Ninth Age of Reclamation
Fulsamee was awake the moment he felt tiny, cold hands pulling at the covers and clambering over his back. He opened one eye and saw that Jalahass was trying not to smile.
Nyahasea curled up in between them, humming contentedly.
The sounds of the Unggoy servants were well muffled, suggesting that it was still early in the morning. They were doubtlessly searching high and low for the baby Nyahasea, suspecting that she had sneaked in with her parents, but not daring to pursue. His daughter's cold skin meant that she'd already been bathed and outside playing.
Still time to stay in this island of calm and happiness then. A few minutes before he or Saia' would have to get up and start to work.
Work. Oh there was so much of it. He was meeting with Galatash, Kanalee and a few members of the Council to discuss their strategy concerning the Human Demons.
When Covenant kind had first encountered the Humans their similarities to the Demon in Unggoy legend had been noted. It was not until these so called Spartans began to fight in their MJOLNIR armour that the phrase "demon" started to truly apply.
The pressing need to develop an effective combat strategy against the Demons was consuming Fulsamee. When Karte' was . . . lost . . . to the Great Journey, Fulsamee had taken a step back from the front line. His controversial think tank had solved more than a few problems. The irritating stubbornness of these Humans could often be exploited to the Covenant's advantage.
These Spartans . . . these Demons . . . they were entirely different.
"Stop thinking so much," Jalahass murmured. She opened her eyes and frowned at him. "I'm trying to sleep."
"Mother!" Nyahasea squealed in delight. She bounced onto her haunches. "You awake!"
"No I do not," Jalahass twitched her mandibles and hid her eyes with a long hand. "See? I'm sleeping."
"Mother!" Dismayed, the infant Sangheili tried to crawl underneath Jalahass' hand, growling as though she were about to go into battle.
Fulsamee dragged her away, tickling her ribs ruthlessly. "I'm hungry," he said. "Aren't you?"
Delighted, Nyahasea followed him to the villa's balcony, bouncing on the pillows as she waited for her first meal of the day. "Father," she began quizzically, "do you think we'll see Kristassi before the ceremony?"
Looking into his daughter's face, Fulsamee managed a shrug. "I do not know."
"I don't think I want to," Nyahasea sat down, folding her long limbs underneath her. "She's funny."
"Funny?" Fulsamee repeated. He could hear, in the distance, the noise of a Phantom.
"I don't think she likes me." Daughter and father regarded each other, the silence broken by the Unggoy servant.
"Excuse me, Excellency? But Hans' Galatash is here to see you."
"Send him in," Fulsamee said, not sure why the Unggoy hadn't done so already.
Shifting on its paws, the creature coughed politely. "He has company."
"Ah." Fulsamee stood. "Company."
Galatash's company was not the kind that you welcomed on the balcony. Pulling a robe over his shoulders, Fulsamee hastily dispatched a Grunt to fetch his Mate, assuming his most political state of mind.
"Noble Regret," he bowed low when he saw the Prophet. "To what does my family owe the Honour?"
Hovering on his chair, Regret's upper lip curled back, revealing a perfect row of teeth. "Exalted One," he said, with only the slightest trace of irony.
Galatash caught his protˇgˇ's eye behind the Prophet's shoulder, sharing a loaded look.
"I assume you are here on business," Fulsamee made to sit down on the day bed. "Would you care for some food? I had not ate yet."
Regret glanced up as Jalahass breezed into the room. She greeted the Prophet as warmly as a High Priestess ought to, ordering the Grunts about with the air of any aristocrat catering for one of society's elite. "Regret," she beamed at him. "I am so glad to see you. I had hoped to speak with you about the Bill of Lekgolo Rights . . . do you remember?"
Digging his fingers deep into the arms of his throne, Regret nodded once. "I am here for Fulsamee. The Hierarch has a mission for him."
The three Sangheili stiffened, Galatash going so far as to cough discretely.
"A mission?" Jalahass repeated. "What kind of a mission?" Tucking the ends of her Jiralhanae pelt robe under her knees, she eyed the Prophet.
"One that will bring him great Glory and Honour."
"You've found the homeworld of the Spartans . . ." Fulsamee stated.
"What?" Galatash dropped his composure, rounding on the Prophet. "The Demon Base?"
Fulsamee could feel his Mate's claws pressing into his hand, though it was the only display of concern. "You wish me to lead the assault?"
"On the Ascendant Justice, yes," Regret smiled, clapping his hands once in delight. "I am so glad you accept this, Fulsamee. You give our Covenant great hope." The Prophet paused, catching sight of the little girl playing on the veranda. "They love you."
"Because they know you've suffered," Galatash spoke through gritted mandibles.
Regret smiled. "We have all suffered, Galatash." With one final glance at Fulsamee, he hovered off, bidding Galatash to follow him.
"One of these days . . ." the Sangheili muttered as he left his old friends, "I'll make him wish he'd thought about his personal guard more carefully."
The Ascendant Justice Covenant Fleet Assembly Point Ninth Age of Reclamation
"They call it 'Reach'," Has' Yahnaa shook his head in disdain. "What sort of name is that?"
Fulsamee glanced at the old Warrior. Lifetimes ago, Orna' had been a newly recruited shipmate on the Solemn Thunder, and Yahnaa had made his life Hell. He would have wanted no one else commanding his companion ship.
Rolamee shrugged, biting into a select piece of fruit from the bowl on the table. "Perhaps it has some religious significance?"
"Does it matter?" the minor Prophet asked from the table's head. "So long as we Glass it?"
The congregation of ship commanders, aristocrats, and distinguished warriors, swivelled their heads to look at their Commander. Their Commander was stargazing out the window, listening to their conversation, although they would not know it.
"Is there a problem?" Fulsamee turned to face them, his hands clasped behind his back. He did enjoy this, as much as he tried not to. Power was addictive.
"Orna'!" Rolamee bellowed, laughing hysterically. "He is such a joker!"
Unsure, those who did not presume to know the Commander as well as Rolamee, were slower to join the laughter.
"Do you not think we ought to be careful?" the minor Prophet approached him later that night. "After all - this is the home of the Demons!"
Fulsamee glanced down at the unsure Prophet. "Careful, yes," he said calmly. "But one needs to possess confidence. Especially in a situation like this."
"How do you intend to fight them?" the Prophet murmured.
"In the same way I fight all my battles," Fulsamee told him. "In a way that I win."
High Charity Inside Covenant Space Ninth Age of Reclamation
Councillor Fera' Talsamee did not pause to acknowledge the Honour Guard as she entered the Convent. Nor did she notice one of them detach and follow her. She had considered bringing her daughter-in-law, but knew in her heart that it was a purely selfish motive. Jalahass was not so foolish as to be swayed by an emotional attachment.
Talsamee admired that in a political warrior.
Crai' Browdee physically blocked her path when she attempted to stride into the High Priestess's office.
"I cannot let you past until the High Priestess agrees," he said calmly.
Rearranging her pointed helmet, Talsamee delivered her coldest stare. "I will see the High Priestess now."
"Apologies, Councillor. I do not answer to you."
"Yet," Talsamee snapped.
"Let her through, Browdee." The door hissed open and the High Priestess beckoned her in. "She'd only set up camp."
Leading the way into the spacious office, Jalahass sat by her desk, sniffing at the cup of stew which had sat beside her for hours.
Talsamee glanced around, not expecting to see any of the old touches that still remained of her mother. Nor did she expect to see the jet black Brute pelt hanging on the wall, and another adorning the spine of the day bed. A little chill passed down her spine. It often shocked her how blatant the High Priestess really was.
"Did you wish to say something, Talsamee, or were you going to stand and stare all day?"
Talsamee collected herself, clasping her hands in front of her. "Have you heard the latest news from Reach?"
"The battle wages on," Jalahass shrugged. "It will not last much longer."
"Indeed it will not," Talsamee stepped closer. "It will be a great victory for the Covenant."
The High Priestess lifted her gaze to regard the Councillor. "What's your point?"
"Only that your own figure will be thrust once more into the limelight. Surely it would be . . . wise . . . to denounce these Heretics who have sprung up."
Jalahass frowned, her mandible twitching in thought. "I do not think I shall, Talsamee," she announced, as though this were a new decision.
"Jalahass, think!" Talsamee exclaimed in frustration. "What could you do with your daughter by your side?"
"Would Kristassi be by my side if I denounce the Heretics?" Jalahass asked.
"I could persuade her . . ."
"Then I definitely won't," Jalahass failed to hide a smile at Talsamee's indignation. "I disagree with my daughter on many accounts. She and I both know this."
"You lost your first daughter!" Talsamee exclaimed, her angry gestures dislodging her heavy head-dress. "And you give up on your other! You are a dreadful mother!"
"You would know, I suppose," Jalahass said. "You are the epitome of motherhood."
"High Priestess," Talsamee said tightly, "I bid you good day. And I hope that your entire family meets their end one day. I have always tried to help you!" Mandibles shaking with rage, the Councillor stormed off.
Browdee slipped into the office the moment he'd seen Talsamee leave the Convent's grounds.
"High Priestess?" he asked quietly.
The Sangheili female was standing by the window, conspicuously facing away from him.
"Is there anything I can do?" Browdee asked.
From her vantage point in the tower, Jalahass could see Talsamee disappearing into the city. "There is," she murmured. "You know of the Heretics?"
"Who does not?" Browdee approached the Priestess, a great breach of protocol, and the first instance he had ever done so. He laid a hand on her shoulder. "The Hierarch would have you condemn them."
"Times are tough for our Covenant," Jalahass murmured. "Moral is low. They wonder why we do not invite these Humans to join us. The Heretics are offering an alternative, and that, the Prophets can never allow." She sighed deeply. "Oh, Browdee, times are changing."
"They are, High Priestess. I do not know what the future holds." He frowned. "It . . . disturbs me. I do not know if my Guards can protect you and your family."
"Not here you can't." She turned to him. "I want you to take Nyahasea and go to Sangheil-"
"High Priestess . . ."
"No! Browdee, listen to me! You have to take her. Take her, and take everyone you can to Sangheil. Everyone under the Convent."
Browdee hesitated, he knew he was not supposed to know about them.
Taking his hand, the High Priestess raised it to her forehead. "I'll give you the Bottle of Smoke and we'll run cargo ships. I want everyone loyal to me to be out of this city and safe on Sangheil."
"I cannot leave the High Priestess . . ." he began, but he knew that he would.
"Please," she bowed her forehead against his. "Browdee I ask you as a friend . . . please get them out of the city."
The Ascendant Justice Reach The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Excellency!" Rolamee turned to him, his eyes bright with anticipation. "They are retreating!"
"What of the ship the Demons were on?" Fulsamee asked, scanning the readouts. So many reports flickered up at once, reporting destructions and victories on vast space-scape.
"It is setting co-ordinates." Rolamee hesitated. "Where is it going?"
"Send transmissions to the Truth and Reconciliation and pick another ship. We're going after them!" Fulsamee quickly inputted the co-ordinates to the Justice. "I want that ship!"
I'll have you yet, you son of a Kiggari . . .
"Transmission sent, they'll follow us, Excellency." Rolamee eyed him. "Is this wise, Excellency?"
"I am not losing the Demon!"
High Charity Covenant Space The Ninth Age of Reclamation
Jalahass was summoned.
In all her years of working with the Hierarch they had never once sent out a city-wide announcement, ordering her to their sanctum.
Had they discovered her underground operation? Had shipping them out been a bad idea? They had tried to move quickly and quietly, but there were hundreds of Sangheili to move, and the sudden increase of shipments to Sangheil were difficult to explain.
In a moment of weakness, she wished she still had Browdee. The Honour Guard escorting her would certainly do their job, but she missed her old friend.
Still. It was better that he was protecting her daughter. According to the Covenant staring at her in the streets, Nyahasea was still in the Convent. Jalahass would tell them that until the world stopped changing, and then she would allow her daughter back into the Covenant.
"High Priestess!" Truth turned when he saw her, rapture evident in every line in his body.
"Truth?" she was too astonished to be polite. She had never seen the Prophet so . . . happy. The others in the room, the entire High Council, a few members of the aristocracy, including Kristassi, were all gathered.
"You'll enjoy this," Truth said to her. He took her hand, gesturing to the holo-projector.
At first she couldn't see what the lines were representing. The long curve, the landmasses . . . and a representation of the Ascendant Justice in orbit.
"A live feed from the Justice," Regret's hologram smirked at her. She wondered where he was.
Kristassi dropped to the ground, quickly mimicked by the others. The congregation lay prostrate in front of the image.
Only Jalahass and the Prophets remained standing, even the Honour Guard had dropped their spears to lie in reverence.
"What do you say now, High Priestess?" Truth asked her slyly.
"Halo . . ." she whispered. "It's real." Slowly, as though she were being forced by a giant, invisible claw, she lay before it. Her mind seemed to detach, composing a communal prayer for the service she would have to give later today.
"Our Great Journey begins," Mercy whispered in awe.
Nice line, she thought. She'd better use it.
The Ascendant Justice Covenant Space The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Perhaps you ought to be praying more," the minor Prophet snapped at Fulsamee as the golden clad Elite passed him.
"Prophet," Fulsamee muttered, accessing a panel. "If I prayed any more there wouldn't be time to do the righteous killing."
Grumpily, the Prophet started to hum the words of a hymn under his breath.
"Of course," Fulsamee noted. "If you hadn't killed my second in command and put his head on a pike I might have more time to pray."
"You insist on dragging that up!" the Prophet flung his hands in the air. "How dare you question me?"
"I dare because I have a grounded ship down there with the Flood swarming all over it." Fulsamee spun, glowering at the Prophet. "I want that ship destroyed."
"The Truth and Reconciliation is a valuable piece of equipment!" the Prophet spluttered, following Fulsamee around the control room on his little throne. "I will not have it touched!"
"And I will not see it in the hands of the Flood. I only hope it's not too late . . ." Fulsamee hesitated, noticing the two Brutes who had slipped through the door. Why were they on this deck.
"I apologise, Fulsamee," the Prophet didn't sound sorry at all. "But I have my orders."
One of the Brutes leered at Fulsamee, growling happily to himself.
Fulsamee sighed, unhooking the Energy Sword from his belt and handing it to the Prophet. He removed his compliment of grenades and tossed the Plasma Pistol at the closest Brute. "You can't let the Flood off this ring," Fulsamee said quietly. "If you do . . ."
"Take him away," the minor Prophet wasn't listening.
The Brutes insisted on pushing him the whole way.
High Charity The Halo Ruins The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"It's an outrage!" Galatash stalked the floor of Jalahass' office. "How can you let this happen!"
"Hans' . . ." she was lying on the day bed, a cold class of rum pressed against her throat. "Please, there is nothing we can do until the trial."
"We should find his cell . . . " Galatash turned to her, incensed. "How can you just lie there!"
The Priestess turned her head fractionally. "My throat hurts, Galatash. I've talked my mandibles raw. There is no way we can get in to see Orna', trust me, I've tried."
The older Sangheili sat down with a thump. "I want . . ."
"You are old, Hans'," she murmured. "Go to Sangheil."
"You keep saying that," he muttered.
"Perhaps I'm trying to tell you something." She eyed him meaningfully.
Slowly, Galatash rose. "Be careful, Jalahass," he said to her. "Orna' would kill me if something happened to you." He flushed blue. "Well . . . I hope he'll be around to kill me."
"You'll find a transport ship, the Good Falcon, to take you off High Charity." Jalahass called after him.
"If I didn't know you better," he muttered, "I'd think you'd arranged this . . ."
The cell that Fulsamee was kept in was not uncomfortable. He'd lived in worse growing up, and he still had his armour. It kept him warm, kept him hydrated, there was little else he really needed.
Whatever punishment they dreamed up for him, he would not give them the satisfaction of beating him.
He knew that Kristassi had already renounced him. He had heard the public bulletin from the Honour Guard. It hurt him more that, if he was found guilty, Jalahass would be forced to do the same. And Nyahasea . . .
He closed his eyes tightly. Whatever punishment. Even if they killed his youngest.
To escape the shame he had brought upon his family.
He remembered now, a long time ago, Jalahass being forced to stand trial for her own heresies. There had been less at stake then. No children to worry about. And how often they'd argued about her 'activities'. Why wouldn't she make some public statement about the Heretics? Why did she have to leave it so ambiguous, stirring the situation up? By rights, it should have been her locked in this tiny, squalid cell.
He regretted thinking it, but a part of him argued that it was true. He was not a Heretic. The High Priestess was.
One of the Guard passed him, tossing a chunk of bread into the cell as he did so.
Quietly, Fulsamee moved to pick it up. He sat back against the wall and bit into it.
"Forerunner forgive me," he murmured. Just in case.