The Conqueror's Fall
Posted By: Walker<email@example.com>
Date: 26 October 2003, 3:53 AM
The War Master Elite Odan 'Takamee stood before the Council of Prophets, his hands folded before him. Though stripped of his weapons in the presence of his superiors, he still wore an extravagant combat uniform. His golden armor shone brightly in the dim light of the Council room, and the decorative black talons shimmered darkly on his shoulders, a display of gallantry and ruthlessness. Such things were revered by Covenant soldiers of all ranks, but did not impress the Prophets in the least, much less the Council that was made up of the leaders of the Prophets and the entire Covenant conglomerate. Only victory could draw praise from them.
'Takamee cast a glance on a figure emerging from the shadows at the far right corner of the room. A well-dressed Elite, armorless but still impressive, crossed to a platform a level beneath the pedestal where the Council was seated. That would be Evas 'Inomee, Speaker for the Council. 'Takamee made no expression of the disgust he felt, for there were fuel rod cannons waiting to blast him to pieces with 'Inomee's command. But it was hard not to hate such a one who hid behind the veil of the Prophets, not risking his precious skin to the glorious fire of combat.
'Inomee mounted his platform, and turned to the Prophets and bowed. 'Takamee had already performed the gesture upon his entrance, but after they acknowledged 'Inomee and turned back to him, etiquette and tradition and religion demanded he bow once more to the Council of Prophets. He obeyed.
"What are the results of your glorious expedition to the home planet of the blasphemous humans?" 'Inomee asked, his hands folded in front of him, claws long and flamboyant. His eyes bored into 'Takamee, boasting of authority and challenging him to question it.
"By the will of the Gods, the soldiers of the Covenant were victorious upon the battlefield of the planet called 'Earth'. The humans are no more," 'Takamee said. He remained still and waited for the second question.
"What losses were sustained?"
"Seventy percent, as the Gods would will it to be," 'Takamee answered.
"What troop and command emplacements have you made on the surface?"
"None, your Excellency." 'Takamee could feel it getting hotter.
'Inomee cast him a questioning look. "Then how do you expect to round up any possible survivors?"
Now the Prophets were gazing at him with hardened eyes. If need be they would question him themselves, but until the need arose, they were content to merely glare at Odan 'Takamee.
"There were no survivors, your Excellency," 'Takamee explained, trying to avoid the news he would have to deliver eventually. Who knew that in a time of war, in a position of power on the battlefield, one would also have to use their tactician's abilities in the political field?
"How can you be sure?" Now it was one of the Prophets that spoke up, a minor one. His tight lips and increasingly ugly face made 'Takamee feel like gagging, but he held his stomach in place.
"The planet was destroyed," 'Takamee said softly.
Now the Prophets all exchanged alarmed glances, and Evas 'Inomee spoke up in an outrage. "You were under strict orders to capture the home planet of the blasphemous slime intact!"
"I'm aware of that, your Excellency. But the humans—"
"The humans are of no importance! This is an outrage!" 'Inomee yelled, shaking his clawed fist at 'Takamee. He would not have done that before, even with his higher rank and in the presence of the Council. Apparently 'Inomee had taken leave of his sense of self-preservation, because, though 'Takamee would not harm him, it would only be so easy to simply reach his hand out and strangle the bastard.
"Why did you glass the planet 'Earth'?" the same minor Prophet asked, a bit calmer than 'Inomee, but obviously just as or more angry.
"I did not glass the human's planet, your Excellency," 'Takamee said loudly. "Nor did I destroy the planet in any other form. I flattened their cities, burned their population centers to the ground, certainly, but I was not responsible for the obliteration of Earth!" Raising his voice before the Council of Prophets was just close enough to blasphemy for 'Inomee to have his ass fried...
"Obliterated!" 'Inomee shrieked.
"The humans destroyed their own planet, Excellency."
"Impossible! Only the Halos have such power. If the Covenant cannot even master the power of the Forerunners, then how could the blasphemous slime?"
"From what our research teams indicate, it appears that the humans had built up an enormous cache of explosives near the planet's core. When it seemed that all was lost, as our forces had penetrated deep into the planet's central command center, as intelligence indicates, they set off this cache, which caused a chain reaction of explosions leading all the way to the surface, and thus obliterating the planet. The shards we managed to pick up are still being examined, but most of our information came from them. Shards of a dead race."
"Shards of an affront to the Gods, Odan 'Takamee. Your results are quite disappointing, to be sure." The Prophet that was the closest to the youngest Prophet was now speaking. "Perhaps this is as the Gods would will it, but if the Covenant are to survive we had to acquire the human's planet."
'Inomee was still shaking a finger at 'Takamee. "You have failed, Odan 'Takamee. You have failed in your task. Leave the Council now as the Exalted Ones pass judgment on your failure."
Two Elites, also unarmed, entered the Council room and escorted 'Takamee from the Council room, past the waiting room to a separate, enclosed room that was brightly lit. 'Takamee shied away from the light, and stood for five minutes as the Council bickered over his fate. Whatever the outcome, it couldn't be good. Still he stood proud before the two guards, chest out, the talons on his shoulders flickering as his body moved up and down as he breathed.
'Inomee had said he failed in his task. However, 'Takamee had been under the impression that his task was to eliminate the last of the human slime that they all found so revolting. Now he had been told otherwise, and, without meaning to, 'Inomee had revealed to him the true motives of the Council of Prophets... to acquire Earth.
It was a tremendous blow, to discover that his entire faith was a scam. To know that everything he believed, everything he fought for, and sent soldiers to die for, everything he taught his children and everything that ever meant anything to him... to know that was all simply justification for war upon a people who had something the Covenant wanted... that was the most shocking experience of his entire life. And for it all to have been revealed to him by a simple word: failure.
He looked to the two guards. Escorts, officially, but once passed judgment, they would become guards... prisoner guards. How much did they know? Nothing, of course. They were the same as he had been at that time in life. Young, soldierly and full of hatred and passion. Tell them the truth and they would not believe it. Who would?
And to imagine he had been a tool... a mere tool in all this. And such a powerful part he had played, too. Such a tremendously vital part, he knew, when he had been told he would command the final assault. That he would be a great puppet of the Prophets. Such honor in such an assignment... such glory, he thought bitterly.
A light flashed soundlessly on the wall. Time to go back in.
Evas 'Inomee watched solemnly, expressionless, as 'Takamee was escorted back into the Council room. He was placed in his former spot, now illuminated by a spotlight. The two Elites who had acted as guards retreated and stood by the hundred-meter high doors to the Council room. 'Takamee stood tall and proud in his place of shame, and directed a silent curse against Evas 'Inomee, the kind that mean the most. The kind that goes against the Gods and everything the Prophets had taught.
"Odan 'Takamee, War Master of the Covenant, you have been found guilty by the Prophets of insubordination, blasphemy, and high treason. What say you to these charges?" Now it was the center Prophet that spoke, the eldest of all of the superior race. He did not even look down at 'Takamee.
"You have been sentenced to death. You will be released into the depths of space, in a horde of predatory space creatures, with a tracker implanted inside of your bones. In one year's time your remains will be recovered and put on display in the Temple of the Gods. Your battle poem will be stricken from the records. What say you to this sentence?"
"I hope I make a good snack," 'Takamee said.
"Your family will be exiled to the mines, to work as slaves of the Gods to further the glory of the Covenant cause. What say you?"
Now 'Takamee died inside. His family was innocent. His family had had no hand in this madness. He had already lost seven sons to the war, and still had four serving on active duty. His mate and his youngest children, of which three were soon to be of age for military service, lived peacefully on the Covenant capitol world. They had done nothing but support the Covenant cause. And now they would be slaves to it.
"I say no Gods would put the children of a hero into bondage. I say that—"
"That is enough!" the elder Prophet bellowed. "Take him away!"
The two Elites lunged forward, and grabbed him by the arms. As he was wrestled into submission, 'Takamee smiled. The Elites had just placed their hands on his shoulders, to hold him still. They would pay the price for violating the most holy piece of his uniform. The claws harvested by his father, from the very space creatures he was to be devoured by, shot forth into the Elite's bodies, and tore them up from the insides.
They screamed as they died. 'Takamee laughed as they died.
Now a whole platoon of Elites sprang to take their place, including 'Inomee, though he stood behind with the hilt of a plasma sword in his hand. Once the guards had wrapped his arms beneath his back, they turned him to face Evas 'Inomee.
'Inomee powered up the energy sword, and the glowing blade extended from the hilt like a flicker of blue flame. He swung the purely ceremonial sword around, held it before his armorless face, and then slashed off 'Takamee's chest plate. He then mutilated the remainder of the War Master's armor with a skill that none of the Elites would have expected. When he was finished he told two Elites to carry the shards of once-proud armor away, then brought the sword to bear just below 'Takamee's chin.
'Takamee grinned, certain he was about to die, regardless of the Prophets' decree. But instead of decapitating the old soldier, Evas 'Inomee took a step forward, rotated the hilt of the blade in his hand, and smashed it down upon 'Takamee's unprotected skull.
The Elites holding him loosened their grips, and, no longer supported, 'Takamee crumpled to the floor. He felt the last drops of consciousness slipping away from him, and shook his head to try to clear the encompassing black. It didn't work. With a last thought, almost an afterthought, he was reminded of the fact that he wouldn't be remembered by anyone. He would die alone, in space, awakened suddenly by some shot only to be devoured by monsters. He would die alone. And for nothing.
Or for everything.