Spirits in the Mist (Part 1): Silence of the Air
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 28 May 2005, 1:18 AM
Soft moonlight drifted through fissures in the stone walls of the shrine, the soft glow illuminating precious little of the inside. One ray caught on the dead black armor of an Elite. The dark figure was almost impossible to distinguish from his surroundings. Only the steady rise and fall of his chest marked the kneeling shape as living. In the shadows of the shrine, the darkness seemed to come alive. Shadows separated themselves from the enveloping darkness, forming a circle and moving closer and closer to the kneeling figure. Still, the Elite did not move. The shadows drew closer and rays of moonlight revealed that the silent shadows were indeed living creatures and their armor identified them as Elites.
One of the shadows struck. There was no noise. Only the disturbance of the air caused by the shadow's swinging arm alerted the kneeling Elite to its presence. Just as quickly, the kneeling figure shifted to the left, bringing his right arm up to block the blow. There was a clash of armor against armor and for a moment, time seemed to freeze in the shrine. The air was still, hanging heavily. Then, the other shadows leapt into motion. The kneeling Elite rose to his feet, himself becoming a blur of blocks and attacks as he was beset on all sides by the shadows around him.
One of the shadows was sent flying back by a powerful roundhouse kick that caught it in the jaw. It landed in a heap on the stone floor of the shrine. The besieged Elite continued his futile resistance, sending another shadow reeling back into the shadows and sweeping the legs out from underneath another. But there were too many. One kicked him in the side of the head, sending him sprawling. The shadows prepared to pounce on his helpless form, to finish the task, but they froze when a deep, commanding voice echoed throughout the shrine.
The shadows backed away, leaving the Elite on the floor. He slowly regained his feet as the shadows faded away into the darkness that they had emerged from. The deep, resonating voice called out again, clear and forceful in the still air. "This night, we prepare to induct a new warrior into our ranks. He has proved himself worthy both in combat and out. As all assembled here can see, his skill and his powerful will to survive and succeed make him a deadly warrior despite the odds against him. One more obstacle stands in the way of our acceptance of him. Who among the assembled witnesses will sponsor Neka 'Rolinee?"
A shadow separated itself from the darkness, taking a few steps out into the dim moonlight. "I will sponsor Neka 'Rolinee. I believe that he has proved himself both worthy and ready for inclusion in our ranks."
The deep voice answered, "Who among the assembled witnesses will oppose Neka 'Rolinee?"
The shrine was perfectly still. Not a shadow moved and not a sound was heard other than the ragged breathing of the Elite in question. A whole minute passed by. Finally, the voice rang out again, "Before the gods and all assembled here, since none will oppose Neka's acceptance into the Mist Spirits, I declare Neka 'Rolinee the newest member of our organization."
Cheers broke out among the shadows, and several moved forward to congratulate the new Mist Spirit. Weary from the trials of the past few days, Neka sank to his knees in exhaustion mixed with joy. He had been accepted into the Mist Spirits. His life had changed dramatically, and there was no turning back now. He let himself absorb the praise of his new brothers and let himself bask in the glory of his accomplishment, but he knew that his new life would be hard and unforgiving. The trials ahead would be numerous and more difficult than any that he had faced before.
But he accepted them, assured that his new life would help him better serve the gods and the Covenant. Neka smiled in the darkness. None of the assembled Elites saw it, but it was there. And that's what mattered.
One year later, Ninth Age of Reclamation/
Covenant City Purity, Final Justice
Field Master Rema was playing a dangerous game. Across the table from him in the public garden was an important member of the dark caste, the criminal underworld of Covenant society. They were playing a holographic game similar to chess. Field Master Rema was very good at the game, but so was the dark caste Elite in front of him. The game was just disguise to hide the true nature of their meeting. Rema was making a deal with a member of the dark caste; he was playing a dangerous game indeed.
If his plot was discovered, it would result in a demotion back down to the bottom of the ranks at the very least. If judged by a particularly unforgiving Prophet, Rema might have even been kicked out of the military. With no life and no future, he would have been forced to survive by joining the dark caste himself. Rema shuddered at the thought.
The dark caste leader in front of him wanted armor and weapons for his comrades. Rema wanted money. The dark caste was not noted for its wealth, but since they were made almost entirely of ex-soldiers, they had certain skills that most criminal organizations could only dream of. They could and would get the money. They were willing to kill many innocents for their chance at new weapons and equipment.
Rema watched as the dark caste soldier moved his last remaining Elite to take Rema's Hunter. "You're finished. Your Prophet can't move anywhere without being killed," the criminal said.
Rema stared in shock at the board. He should have foreseen that move. He was losing his touch. He stood up from the board and bowed in capitulation. "I concede. Your skill in this game is admirable."
The dark caste soldier stood as well. "Your own skill has made my victory quite challenging. But on a more important note, I will produce the money. You only need to get us the equipment. We will meet again once we have completed our tasks. Then, we will arrange a time and place for the exchange."
"Good. The equipment should not be hard to acquire. The Covenant military is not known for failure to equip its troops. The warehouses are overflowing with spare weapons and equipment," Rema said.
With that, they went their separate ways. Field Master Rema walked slowly through the garden, following a winding stone path that he knew eventually lead to one of the exits. He continued his stroll, lost in thought, until something caught his eye. In the center of the path, right in front of him, was a mask. He thought he recognized it and felt a feeling a dread forming in the back of his mind. He cautiously stepped forward and picked up the mask. It was a mask used in modern Covenant drama to represent a demon. A mist spirit.
He suppressed an involuntary shudder as he realized who had placed the mask in the middle of the path. It had to be one of the infamous Mist Spirits. They were probably the most famous of the various secret societies and organizations that populated Covenant society. They were also the most deadly. They were lethal assassins. Trained to infiltrate, they were skilled in the art of not being seen. They never failed. No one knew where or how to contact them, but they seemed to be acutely aware of current events in Covenant society. Whenever someone did things that were damaging to the Covenant, they disposed of him. Sometimes that included killing Prophets. All the security in the world hadn't protected their latest victim, a Prophet who had been a little too much on the self-enriching side instead of on the serving the gods side.
Rema knew that they had found out about his little conspiracies with the dark caste. He turned the mask over and looked into the shadowy depths of the inside. He fought the temptation to put the mask on and turned it so that the light of the sun reached inside the mask to illuminate it. Rema felt a chill run down his spine as he saw two needles jutting out from beneath the eye holes of the mask. Studying them closer, he noticed that they were coated with a dark substance. It was definitely some type of poison. Whoever put that mask on would die a painful death.
It was a warning. Rema knew that they must be angry with him, disgusted that a high ranking Covenant soldier would stoop so low as to make deals with the dark caste. Rema looked around him in fear, studying the lengthening shadows of the garden for some sign of the Mist Spirits. There was none. Nothing moved. The air was still.
Rema dropped the mask and ran. He would get back to the barracks. He would be safe there. He would be surrounded by an entire Combined Arms Strike Team. They wouldn't dare try to kill him there. There was too much danger for them to try and infiltrate a military facility. He would be safe there. He held on to that thought as he ran, but that feeling of dread took root in his mind, telling him that there was nowhere to run.
Neka 'Rolinee crouched in the deep shadows, his black stealth armor blending in with the darkness, making him practically invisible. The armor was slightly modified from the normal Elite armor. It did not have shields but instead had an active camouflage generator in place of the shield generator. When the camouflage was not on, the armor was a dull black, meant to allow the wearer to blend in with the shadows even if the camouflage generator had failed. The armor had special padding that aimed to reduce the clank of the armor plates when the wearer was motion.
Neka looked at the array of weapons on the ground in front of him and picked up a small throwing dagger. He held the blade between the thumb and index finger of his right hand. He passed his left hand over the weapon and it disappeared into one of the special slots meant just for throwing daggers. He repeated the procedure, storing two of the daggers in each arm. He then picked up his deactivated energy sword and secured it to the side of his armor in a padded slot made for it. The slot prevented the weapon from making noise as it clanked against his side while at the same time allowing for easy retrieval of the weapon.
He did not have any conventional weapons like plasma rifles or needlers. His training for the past year made sure that he would not need the help of those weapons. Since he was operating alone, if he arrived in a situation where he needed a rifle, he was doomed anyway and the mission was likely to be a failure. And Neka did not intend to fail. Not on his very first mission as a Mist Spirit.
He had spent his first year in the Mist Spirits training constantly with the wide variety of weapons and methods of killing that his teachers knew. Now that a year had gone by, he had been considered ready for a strike. They had given him what they considered a small, easy job on a nobody Field Master. If he failed, he would likely be dead, but he would also be disgraced in the eyes of his comrades for failing such an easy mission.
Neka had stalked the Field Master, watching his meeting with the dark caste scum and then planting the mask in the middle of his path as a psychological weapon. It had worked. The Field Master had panicked and ran. Neka had followed him and now stood outside the barracks complex of the Field Master's unit. The corrupt field commander was a disgrace to the Covenant and deserved to die. If Neka succeeded, the Field Master would not be able to disgrace himself, his family, or the Covenant much longer.
Rema stumbled past the two guards that he had assigned to guard his office. He told them to stop anyone who tried to enter and not to let anyone in without his prior consent. Rema rushed into his office and hit the holopanel to close and lock the door. The doors hissed shut. He heard the reassuring sound of the doors locking. He adjusted the weapons he was carrying in his arms so that he could hit the controls for the lights. The lights snapped on, filling the dark room with pale light. Rema turned around and stopped dead in his tracks, his jaw dropping.
The weapons clattered to the floor. Standing by his desk was a black-clad figure, silent and imposing. Rema knew that he was a Mist Spirit. The assassin was tall, taller than Rema's own eight foot six inch height. Rema started to sputter a plea of mercy, but the Mist Spirit leapt into action. Rema saw a flash of light catching on metal before the throwing dagger found the gap between his chest armor and his helmet, the blade slicing his throat. There was a spray of blood as the dagger cut through his neck.
Rema collapsed to his knees, pawing at his throat with suddenly bloody hands. He tried to speak, but the dagger prevented the words from coming out. Instead, all that came out was a wet, ragged gasp of air. The poison that coated the blade began to act in his system. Rema fell backwards, his vision tunneling, the world fading to darkness. The last thing he saw was the faceless Mist Spirit standing over him, calmly observing his kill. A horrible death rattle filled the air and suddenly, the air was still once more.
Neka knelt next to the corpse of Field Master Rema and removed the throwing dagger, depositing the weapon back in its storage slot. Neka turned off the light and walked back to the desk. He leapt on top of the dead officer's desk and pushed open the grate in the ceiling that he had used to gain access to the office and avoid the guards. The grate lead to a ventilation shaft. He pulled himself up, replaced the grate and disappeared into the darkness.
Two days later, Ninth Age of Reclamation/
Covenant City Purity, Final Justice
Three dark caste members sat across from each other at a round table in the garden. From the outside, they looked like any other group of friends who had just happened to meet each other in the garden. They spoke in hushed whispers. One of them was the dark caste soldier that had negotiated the deal with Field Master Rema. He looked at his comrades and said, "It is very unfortunate that Rema was killed. We lost too many good Elites to get that money and now we are denied what we wanted to use it for."
Another dark caste Elite spoke up, "We can use the money elsewhere. We can use it to step up our trade in the black market or to try and bribe another Elite commander to get us the equipment we need. Either way, we will be ready."
The first nodded and said, "I'm not too worried about the weapons. What I am worried about is the assassin that killed Rema. Rumor says that the wounds matched weapons used only among the Mist Spirits. The investigators said that it looked like a small knife wound, not an energy blade. Nobody uses weapons of ancient styles except for the legendary assassins themselves. What I'm afraid of is that the Mist Spirits are aware of our plans. They obviously killed Rema because of his dealings with the dark caste. We can't be sure how much more they know."
"Rema did not know about the plans, did he?" another Elite asked.
"No. He only knew that we needed weapons and equipment, and lots of it. Of course, that doesn't sound too suspicious for the dark caste. Everyone knows that we have always been in dire need of new equipment. If they know about Operation Redemption, they did not get it from Rema."
At the mention of Operation Redemption, smiles broke out on all of their faces. "Jukka would be proud if he was still alive. Too bad he died on Eden during the Iron Hand rebellion. He would have been proud to see the dark caste rise up and strike back at those who torment us."
The other two Elites nodded solemnly in agreement. They continued to talk for a few more minutes and then they got up and left. The air was silent once more.
To Be Continued...