End of Imperium
“Haka!” The last soldier alive of all those who had been assigned to her detail, screamed to bring his Mistress out of her shock. “Damnit!” His shout reverberated down the corridor as the fortified fortress shuddered around them. Part of her mind was somewhat aware of it as the stench of death, blood, and the unique piquant of divine wrath filtered through her perceptions.
Somewhere out there, outside of the shield her older sister Angel had died erecting, Chukwu himself hurled the full fury of his wrath upon the finial bastion of the Alluran. Chukwu was the being which was believed by most sentient beings to actually be the one true God. Somehow, he had turned the humans against Haka and her kin.
For twenty-five thousand years, the Alluran race had slowly rebuilt their civilization after the last time Chukwu had tried to eliminate this perceived threat to his supremacy. Half-brothers! She mentally snorted while her body was still dazed. It might have been funny if it hadn’t been so tragic. Mother was captured and trapped in the Eye of Eidon, Angel was dead. The Alluran Imperium had fallen. Now was the time of Man.
Tired! Haka was so tired. But the soldier wouldn’t let her rest. She was three thousand years old, weary despite her appearance of physical youth. He was all of thirty-five. Very thirty-five. Grabbing her roughly by the collar Marcus swung his Lady Liege round and slammed her bodily up against the partially slagged metal of the of the base wall. With an almost surreal detachment, Haka watched one beefy hand pull back atop of a powerful and well-formed arm.
“Snap out of it!” Spittle and some small amount of blood from a trickling wound on Marcus’s lip splattered across Haka’s face as Marcus screamed one last time before slapping her face. The force of the blow snapped her head around to the side. It was stunning. And it did the trick. Blinking, Haka finally shook off the malaise that had gripped her as she felt first her mother, then her older sister blink out of the universe.
“Thank…. Thank you!” She stuttered. Haka hadn’t stuttered since she was nine. It was on that first visit she had made to visit her Human father on Earth since she had left at the age of three.
“Focus Oracle!” Damn that psychic link! Haka had never much cared for the penchant her kind had for linking so effortlessly with any old male who happened to be her soul mate. More than once she had wondered at how this young thing (compared to her) could possibly be her soul mate. But that was why she had lived so long. The perfect mate intended for her by fate, wasn’t born for over three thousand years after her. It was a pity that she would be gone soon, and he would be dead.
“That’s not going to happen!” The guard shouted over his shoulder as he pulled her along behind her. “With Angel gone the Allura will jump to you as soon as Chukwu executes your mother…,” He grunted as the Oracle stumbled and he had to catch her and keep the weary woman from falling. How could such a being of Divinity and Grace be meant for him? The new formed link between their panicked minds frantically sought to secure its proper place.
The Allura was the indestructible weapon of the Alluran. So long as one woman from that goddess-like species still lived, the Allura would be reincarnated. “But it will kill me!” His mistress panted. “I never had my crystal heart removed. If I become host now I won’t be able to stop the reincarnation cycle.” Marcus knew what that meant.
The Allura parasite…? Spirit…? Whatever it was, didn’t want to play second fiddle in a full-grown body with its own established consciousness. It preferred to be reborn in an infant body that it could mature to whatever stage of development suited it. Haka would be consumed in the fire of its rebirth unless he could interrupt the transmission from her mother by sending her across the divine divide.
“I’m sending you to the other side.” Haka faltered in her step at the news. That wasn’t surprising to Marcus.
“How?” While the process of crossing over between the matter and antimatter halves of the universe was not known to most sentient species, the Alluran had invented the most stable way through. Stable for mortals that is; for Alluran there were sometimes unforeseen consequences. There were other ways as well, but there was no guarantee that she would arrive in the time or place where she intended.
“I was aiming for the Chronos Vault” Marcus explained. “If we can make it to the entrance in time…” Yet even as he spoke both knew that it was too late. The planet was crumbling around them. The individuals inside this base were the only ones still alive out of this entire sector of space. Chukwu’s wrath had no bounds or morality.
“The dark energy reactor just blew.” Massive explosions rocked the already unstable surroundings just moments after Oracle saw it happen. “We’ve lost the interdimensional bridge.” Oracle closed her eyes and braced for the backlash of psionic energy that had been released and was about to run through her unshielded mind.
“Haka…” Marcus just couldn’t give up on her. “I’m going to get you out of here.” Shaking her head with her eyes closed she just wanted to let herself go, give up and accept the end of her entire species.
“If dark matter containment fails the matter-antimatter reaction will obliterate everything within a sector.” It had been so long since someone had called her by her given name and not by her title that Haka had forgotten what it was like to be a person and not a minor deity. “The shockwave will blow through the next three levels of existence and tear at least one veil.” Defeat coursed through her veins and begged her to succumb.
“We can still save you. The emergency transport...quickly…this way!” Without waiting for her reply, Marcus was dragging Haka off in another direction while the universe burned down around her. Everything Haka had ever known in her life was ending. Even if they did survive, how could she go on?
“You don’t understand…” Haka fought lose from his grip. “If we transport directly to the other side, the explosion will be able to flow through our temporal wake and break through after us. We would cause a catastrophic failure of the primary veil.” Not intending to give up so easily, the guard grabbed the beautiful woman’s hand once again. “Everything would end. Both halves of existence would die when the matter and antimatter universes collide.”
“Then we’ll transport to one of the alternate realities on this side.” Oracle smiled at the thought.
“Mmmm…meet another you?” She teased despite the morbid circumstances. She tried sounding sexy, something she’d never mastered in over three-thousand years of life. But a little joke amid the soot and ashes was her only saving grace right now. “Breaking the ultimate taboo and travel through alternate possible realities; or sudden and painful death?” The sentence came out broken as the woman ran through the smoke and destruction. One of the routes her escort had chosen ended at a caved in wall where molten hot rock oozed through the breach.
“Will he be able to follow us?” Business as always, Marcus would not be distracted by levity as he backpedaled quickly to take another possible route.
“There’s no historical evidence that he has an interest in the alternates. But the only way to keep him from immediately following us is if we leave the antimatter half of existence. He can go anywhere on this side he wants. But Chukwu will have to return to Eiden and start out from the center for the other side.” Haka snorted derisively. “Some God! He can’t even transport himself between the two halves of reality.”
“However…” Her tired voice continued as the woman rested briefly against a wall. “…No Alluran has ever left the two causal timelines that border the primary veil. It’s the biggest taboo.” Smoke stung her eyes and Haka hacked and coughed convulsively for a moment before continuing. “I don’t even know if there are Alluran in the alternate realities. Mother would know, but she’s the Allura. She’s the one who fixes the breaches caused by tampering with the timelines and the fabric of reality.”
By the time the battered woman had finished the statement they had reached the emergency transport room. Heat damage had disabled the locking plate and Marcus was already pulling the maintenance panel apart to work the override.
“What aren’t you telling me Haka?” The voice was tired and hard. For the first time since the siege had begun, her guardsman was letting the frayed bits of his sanity show through with the roughened edge in his voice.
“The only place that he couldn’t follow us to at all is the Chronos Vault. It is a place outside of space and time. Chukwu can’t exist there. He can’t even conceive of the place. It’s a remnant from a prior universe. A good idea of yours to go there.” Sighing in frustration, Haka continued. “But we still have the problem of the blast following us.”
Shoulder deep in the mechanics of the wall access panel Marcus cursed, and then grunted in triumph. With a click and a hiss the door unlocked. Extricating himself from the innards of the base the guard joined Haka as she tugged on the manual lever to open the heavy blast proof door.
“What about a temporal jump? We could do a backwards jump into the Chronos Vault. By sacrificing some of our own personal timeline it would be possible to briefly displace ourselves into an alternate reality and then jump from there.” With a great heave the door inched aside. First Haka and then Marcus squeezed through the opening sideways rather than trying to fight the warped door frame.
“I can do that!” Exhilaration that they had possibly found a way to safety caused the exclamation to come out as a shout. The capsule for the emergency transport was small. Designed to be large enough for four people and a pilot, they fit without difficulty. There wasn’t time to program the coordinates. It wouldn’t have worked even if there had been time. Programming required two separate jumps.
For their plan to work, Haka would have to catapult them backward in time and then ricochet off of an interdimensional barrier completely out of the known universe and into a pocket universe created from a portion of a previous existence. But she wasn’t going to just be moving them back in time. This single jump would be powered with a portion of her timeline, her personal existence. One shot at this. And if she screwed it up then she would have never existed.
Taking the pilot’s position Haka shucked off the protective jacket she’d been wearing. Beneath was the skintight bodysuit characteristic of high-level telepaths, empaths, and the psionically gifted. A garment designed from a fabric meant to interfere with stray thoughts and focus their powers. All it did was accentuate the fact that she was burned, exhausted, and disheveled; but she was surviving. The semi-sentient micro veil-ship sensed her presence.
As Haka tuned her mind to the same frequency as the organic computer which lived within their lifeboat, the various connection points along her suit began to glow. A blue-white light suffused the cabin and telepathic umbilical snaked out from the navigation console before her. Quickly, too quickly for comfort the cords shot into her open channels, orifices, along Haka’s nervous system for linking with technology.
Ship and pilot were linked now. Two bodies one mind. Being a ship was one of the hardest things a person could ever do. It was easy to lose one’s self and become overwhelmed in the emotions and sensations of a living ship. There was all of space and time flowing around her, and Haka could fly.
When the Nefhilim half-human children of the Chaos Gods were first cursed to become undead Necromancers, no soul was safe from the ravaging of their hunger. In the war to defeat them, the battlefield spread to encompass all the known lands on the world of Olympus and the heavens of the Chaos Gods as well. All the mortal races of this world rose together to combat the life draining demons which the holy offspring had become, and it was a miracle to behold.
The Orcish Horde stood shoulder to shoulder with the humans upon whom they would feast, elves made peace with the vulgar centaurs, the animal people, sirens, dwarves and fairies all rose as one on the fields of war. The Witches of the Priestess Isles, descendants of the Ordered Goddess of Desire, were worshiped a thousand-fold for using their magic to protect more than just their small kingdom. Even the Chaos Gods and Goddesses came down from their glittering cities in the sky to lead their supplicants in splendorous glory against the tide and ever-growing armies of the undying Necromancers.
Yet even the gleaming Gods bedecked in otherworldly armor and wielding weapons more magnificent than the rays of the sun were nothing more than sustenance for the life-hungry Necromancers. The greatest army Olympus had ever seen, only fed the ever-ravenous wells of the soulless undead Neflihim. Thousands fled, billions fell; their life’s force consumed by the now wraith-like beings which had remained of the most beloved children of the Gods.
Once it was strong enough there was no way to kill a well-fed Necromancer. The great Necromancers; Ghandi, Zeus, Jesus, Shiva, and others of their ilk who had fed on their holy parents could only be killed by starving them first. So, the remnants of the armies turned to other works to save themselves from the Necromancers.
With the help of the surviving Gods a great trench was dug and the low lands between the Land of the Neflihim and the rest of the world were flooded. Only those who could leave the Land of the Neflihim were safe, for the Necromancers had drained the life of everything in their land. Even the husks of trees drifted to dust and there was nothing to build with.
Alone with their own kind the Necromancers fought and fed off one another until there was only one left, wandering a dead continent taking the life of whatever creature was unfortunate to come too close. The survivors of the warring races went back to their own homes diminished by centuries of terror and bloodshed. Of all the nations of man only one remained, fortified and protected by the Mages, created by the Gods to guard their people. The last stronghold against the Necromancers, it had been protected by the magic of the Gods when they were cut off from the secret ways back to their cities in the heavens. It would now protect the humans from their former allies.
As a precaution, the burgeoning Empire of Man decreed that no man or woman of Nefhilim blood could ever hold the throne. Even though the only Nefhilim who remained were far removed from their Godly ancestors or the Great Necromancers who had ravaged the world, the breeding and propagation of the Nefhilim was outlawed. Nefhilim could only have children with one who was not also of Godly descent diluting their blood further and lessening the chance of a second great war. But still the curse remained and, from time to time, some Nefhilim turned. Those who were a danger were killed quickly, those who did not turn eventually died.
Never welcomed in any town, Nefhilim were ostracized out of the civilized world, living in hiding and secret. The creatures which had allied with humans during the war, once again became their enemies as the Empire of Man expanded and flexed into lands which had never been theirs until they were cast out of the continent killed by the Necromancers. The Witches of the Priestess Isles became the sworn enemies of the Empire of Man as the Mages conquered their temples in the name of peace and order forcing them back to the Islands from which they came. The Gods were never seen again among the mortals, and so the Nefhilim were no more…
…and in the vacuum left by the Gods and the Nefhilim, new and beautiful creatures came out of the dark sky, offering sanctuary to those who asked for it from the Mages and their Empire…
“Suriel!” A young man’s voice echoed off the distant confines of the stark square hall. Bright white walls, floor, and ceiling serving only to frame the nine-foot statue of a single masculine angel at the far end. The creation was a true work of art, a being so perfect that every muscle and ligament was clearly shaped with loving care by the sculptor. Large wings of obsidian so black they sparkled arched out of broad immovable shoulders.
Its face had a strong chin and wide thick lips so realistic they looked like they were about to twitch in annoyance below heavy brows and stern depthless eyes. The young man hurried across the distance from the entrance, shorn head gleaming beneath the stubble of his short hair. His voice was still echoing the name he had called, prematurely shouted in his excited terror was more like it, as he ran up to the effigy hardly daring to look at it.
Then he stood trembling beneath it. Waiting for the glorious King of Heaven to awaken. So long the youth waited, he feared that it was a cruel trick that he’d been set to this task. Or that the angels he served had lost their collective minds and the statue of their great king Lord Suriel was just a statue. Perhaps it was a test…? Though his masters had been so fearful of this room…. A sound made his head tilt briefly up, unable to stop himself from looking despite the many warnings the servant had been given against it.
Suppressing a groan Suriel finally acknowledged this intrusion into his private domain. Reluctantly the immobile stone figure with a visage so devastatingly handsome as to be almost threatening, flexed his abysmally black wings and turned his head slowly from the vision he had been watching behind his eyes. The fact that he could move meant that he was not truly a statue; yet he was definitely not a living thing. Living things could die and that was not a luxury this being would ever be granted. Stretching his feathered wings of midnight and star-scape luxuriously Suriel menaced the messenger, a lowly human servant, with an ever so slight scowl and a flicker of star scape across his wings, a deliberate reminder of his angelic status.
The boy remembered to kneel humbly before the great being he had been sent to summon, trembling all the while with a combination of terror and repressed excitement. Of course, the others had sent a human. A neophyte of their order so that none of their more advanced preachers of rhetoric would be jeopardized by the insolence. Just because the humans believed that these winged denizens of their planet’s rings were the angels of their myth, did not mean that they were holy or good. The others no longer dared risk themselves on Suriel’s fickle wrath.
“My Lord of Healing.” The boy dared to glance up at the great countenance before him. Bold, yet stupid. Suriel could kill the child for his lack of respect. Unlike the others of his kind, Suriel understood the difference between disrespect and fear, or purposeful rebellion or plain old incompetence as opposed to inexperience. With a great sigh that shook the very foundations of his hall and whistled like the lilting of some unearthly flute, for lack of a better word, the angel turned his attention fully to the messenger.
“Speak boy. The Messenger has nothing to fear from me for the folly of his message.” Booming and ripping like thunder through the room. Suriel’s voice was difficult to contain. Over the last few million years his mutated form had evolved far beyond the confines of mere flesh, bone, and thought. The others had not. They would die someday. Suriel had no idea if he even could die. He alone of his fellow survivors felt no ill will toward the life which had colonized their dead world and made it live again. Nor did he feel the need to put on airs and try to gain dominion or power through encouraging them to worship him. Though worship him they did.
“My...my Lord. The others wish to speak to you. They... they say that they have found the path to salvation.” Worthless, idiotic, imbeciles; there was no salvation for them. All routes of the future led to their destruction. Some sooner than later. Only Suriel would survive, but he had hidden that fact from the others. They had not the gift to truly see. “Nimue has requested your presence to hear the Oracle of the Dead.” Suriel harrumphed in a most unholy way. The messenger might have been surprised if he had not been too frightened to feel anything besides dread. Suriel’s great sigh of reluctance shivered along the supporting arches of his magnificent hall and shuddered through the mortal standing before him.
Stepping from his pedestal, Suriel strode through the beautiful halls of the angels, his divinity both his herald and trail. Power surged from him for twenty feet or more in all directions, warping the fabric of space and time as he moved through it. There was no need to hide his strength here. This was the angels’ sanctuary, their home. Precious metals lined the walls. Mosaics of jewels from a hundred thousand worlds winked timidly against the radiance of the incredible beings which walked those hallowed halls.
Then out to the colonnades between buildings.
Their palaces hung in the shimmering rings that circled the planet below, strung between and among the debris which had once been a moon but was now a living conduit of magnetic magnificence. Even so far from the planet below this place was riotous with vegetation and creatures bounding through the nearly empty space between drifting rocks. It was their penance, Suriel thought. Their long life, their surviving when those they had betrayed had died so long ago with every other living organism on their planet.
Caring for and protecting the humans and their subspecies which had colonized and resurrected the Angels’ dead home, that was their punishment for trying to become Gods. Suriel’s fellows still believed that it was possible, that there was some final metamorphosis to their transformation which would let them fully become divine beings.
But Suriel knew that the angels were but pale imitations of those beings they had sought to emulate. Even the Gods had died in their own times. Eons before his own world first lived those beings had left the universe, but they had left behind their secrets and the one that had massacred them. The Lord of Chaos.
The Trickster, Death, Devil, Demon, The Visitor, Teacher; that one had a name in every language. Even the beasts without intelligence knew to fear him. Suriel had not. Suriel and his companions, his fellow angels had trusted that one. And everything that they had ever loved in mortal form had burned for it.
But there had been no respite for the men and women which had caused the death of their own world. Their hell had just begun. They could not die, but they could thirst, hunger, need rest, and feel pain. The transformation which would eventually leave them as what the humans called angels, would take millions of years on and around a planet devoid of all life.
The years before they had mastered teleportation and manifestation, the creation of or retrieval of the foods and goods needed for comfort, had been difficult. It had been the ultimate test of character though. What terrible thing would one do to quench thirst or satiate hunger which could not kill oneself? Not one of his brethren was worthy of being called an angel by the human definition. Even the angels’ use of the Oracle of the Dead, was a black mark against them. Yet if the resemblance was all that was needed to qualify, then Suriel was the pinnacle of angelic form.
Taken as a child and held captive as their telepathic slave. The Oracle was the most sensitive empathic telepath ever born in the solar system. And the “dead” she was oracle to, they were not truly dead. They were the living dead. Telepaths, empaths, clairvoyants, minds and bodies engineered for their abilities and held in suspended animation in an incredible gestalt in caverns deep below the planet’s surface.
With their bodies in a frozen state, their minds linked more acutely with the rest of existence. But they could not communicate in a meaningful way. The Oracle however, she was able to hear all that the “dead” could hear. In their desperation to escape, the “dead” screamed out to the only mind which spoke for them. She heard their pasts and could see the knowledge of their futures. It was a discovery of ancient and unknown origins far outdating his people’s existence upon this world.
Briefly Suriel phased his body from one location to another. One moment he was striding powerfully down the austere majesty of the colonnades shimmering beauty, the next he was passing out of his place of residence and into the hidden maze where the Oracle was kept deep below the surface of the planet among her gestalt. His underlings skittered to bow and prostrate themselves before him. Only a few of the angels had evolved to a point where they could behave toward him as if they were equals.
The Oracle cackled gleefully at the circus which most of the angels made of themselves. Suriel brushed aside the superfluous obsequious vultures of servitude that hovered around him with gnat-like tenacity. One more cackle of glee rang out as Suriel felt the Oracle’s feather light mental touch. That touch could cause pain and death if she were of a mind to. It could not kill one of the angels though and that was why she was still a prisoner. The creature could not kill them, and they could bring her back to life over and over again. She had tried and failed. She had died then lived.
“Hello Lord of Healing.” Somehow the Oracle always managed to make her words seem ironic, painfully ironic. The King of the Angels hid his involuntary wince as well as he could. Oracle saw it anyways and smiled with triumph that she’d gotten under his skin again.
“Tell me your name Oracle.” Suriel leaned close to her without a hint of menace despite the fact that he was considerably larger than she. With a sniff and a shudder, she snatched herself back from his close proximity. This was their game. How every interaction started.
“Only if you let me speak one of yours, My Lord.” Her voice was cracked with age today and she presented the form of a crone. Like the long dead Gods and Goddesses of the planet below, Oracle had the ability to change her form at will. The woman or girl as she might choose to be, seemed ageless. Suriel had been the one to bring her to the Maze of the Dead. She was a child then, before the arrival of the Gods in their metal sky fortresses.
How long had she been a child the day he abducted her, ten years…or ten minutes? There wasn’t a way to know. Oracle’s greatest power was her ability to hide her past as well as her future from every other prescient.
“Oracle,” Suriel sighed. “We both know that I am not what the humans originally defined an angel as.” Sitting down beside her he pushed their immediate space into the other sphere, that no-place no-time that let the beating pulse of the cosmos rush against their consciousness’s. Oracle sighed with relief looking out against the infinite cosmos which had blossomed around the pair.
“Thank you, Suriel.” Quickly her form phased into a something much easier on the eyes. She was lithe, strong, pale and blonde with eyes of sparkling blue, like water glittering off a tropical sea. Her beauty was stunning to that part of him that was still capable of being roused by the flesh. She chose this form often and it was possible that she did it because it was one he favored. Or maybe it was just one she liked, one she had worn before her time among the Angels? Though, she looked human, it was evident by her aura that she was distinctly not. “I’ve told you before Suriel, my name is Oracle.”
“Yes, you have.” Suriel gritted his teeth. “But what are you? Where do you come from? How old are you?” Oracle placed a delicate hand against the angel’s broad chest and pulled his hand onto her own heart.
“You are worshiped like a divine being, Suriel. Yet you have a heartbeat. Can you feel my heart beating?” Submerged in the glow of one as perfect as Oracle, Suriel felt the familiar sensation of dread as his control over the situation began to slide. If he were ever too careless she might find a way to wrest control of the other sphere from him. Here all things could end. This was the one place where he might actually be mortal. It was a theory he did not want to test.
“Your heart is different. Half of it is missing. There is something wrong with you. You should not exist.” The girl chortled with her silvery laugh.
“No, I should not exist.” Oracle clapped her hand on Suriel’s large knee in amused emphasis. “My mother should have died before I was born, but her lover cut her crystal heart from her chest so that the reincarnation cycle would be broken.” Suriel stiffened as he recognized the story. It was the story of the ….
“I can tell from your voice that you begin to understand. The mothers of space and time, The Guardians of Life; Alluran were the reason that any being lives.” Wanting to know more, Suriel let himself be guided into staying longer in the other sphere. Now that he knew what she was his choice was more dangerous than ever.
Alluran were made from the other stuff. Beings of Order and Divinity, they knit the fabric of reality together. If he lost control of her, she would escape him. No wonder this place was a relief for her, a being more divine than an Angel could ever hope to be. The mortal plane was not a comfortable place for them for long. Living in the Maze of the Dead must be like holding her breath but being here she was finally able to breathe again.
“Are there more or are you the last?” Here Oracle laughed heartily.
“Darling Suriel, you have hundreds of my sisters in the genetic stores you stole from the colonists. Some of your “dead” are my siblings.” A strange sensation filled Suriel. Feelings other than rage and base need flowed stronger than he had felt since the day he lost his world. Wonder. Oracle’s words had filled him with wonder and hope that he might save his new world.
“My people researched the ancient histories of civilizations which were gone long before the humans came into being. The Alluran were destroyed. God grew jealous of their power and killed them, so the queen’s beloved, Uchiter the Watcher, turned on him and destroyed God and all the angels.” Oracle nodded encouragingly like teacher to a pupil. Unbidden the memory of his previous life came back to him and the female instructor which had been his favorite as a child.
A memory he had been unable to conjure on his own for thousands if not millions of years, Oracle had brought it out with one little glance. Alive, the few unwatched moments he spent with her made him remember what it meant to want to be alive as a mortal being. He hated being at her whim, but he needed to hear what she knew, and she only ever spoke freely here. Here she let slip things she might not share in the catacombs
“You know your history. What you do not know, is that the Allura cannot be killed, she will always be reborn. But more importantly, she never died, she has always been reborn. Normally the Allura is reborn into a body as near to her own genetic makeup as exists, her own child’s body. But if there is no daughter, if there is no body and the Allura’s soul is simply drifting through space and time, she can be reincarnated in any female body and the very presence of her soul will transform it.”
“Like her beloved, the Devil, the World Ender, the Devourer of Souls. He too transforms the flesh he possesses.” Suriel recalled the day that creature had come to his home world so long ago, before the creature had tricked them into destroying it. They had called him Visitor and Friend.
“The Allura can also be called.” Oracle informed him “With the ova she left in the colony gene bank before that incarnation of herself knew what she was, the next time her body dies without an offspring to act as host, she will be pulled into a place and time where she is most needed, or…” the coy look oracle tossed toward Suriel made him blanch at how contrary to her nature it was “… most wanted.”
Suriel allowed himself to be lulled by Oracles words. It was a fantastic story. The Allura had been universal legend before sentient beings knew what the universe was. Every species had their own legends, mysterious beautiful women with incredible powers, doing good or threatening harm to those who preyed on the weak. Witches, sorceresses, goddesses, queens, there was always some truth to the fables.
It was too much to hope for. This was a carrot, a treat that Oracle dangled before Suriel’s eyes while she tried to find a way to escape. “Why are you so talkative, so sharing all of a sudden?” Once again Oracle smiled with the satisfied smirk she could not help every time she achieved something she wanted. “Silence or insults and trickery for centuries and now you want to help me?” It was like a terrible game of chess Suriel played with her, and all the world were their pieces.
“I know what you want. And what you want can get me what I want.” She glanced away nonchalantly then back with that saucy little smile. For the millionth time the angel wondered what the woman who taught her that smile had been like, or had she learned it on her own.
“If you are so sure you know what I want then by all means tell me.”
“You want to feel alive, you want to love and be loved, you want her, the woman you pretend to be human for sometimes just, so you can speak to her and watch her smile.” Careful not to admit anything, Suriel waited to hear everything she had to say. “After all these millions of years since you died and became an angel, you want your theories and beliefs to be validated. And most importantly, you don’t want to be alone. The Allura is the only one who can right the balance of power which the false Gods introduced into this world.”
“So…” The magnificent angelic being pondered this sudden turn of events “For thousands of years you fight me, you play games with me, you drive me in circles trying to get me to release you. What could I possibly give you now that would make you want to help me demon?” Always with the laughter, tinkling, throaty, lovely laughter from this beautiful woman that Suriel could not understand.
“Because Allura’s soul has been unbound from her body and I cannot stand to listen to her screams any more. Because your longing is so poignant that I want you to have what you so desire.” She paused and sighed dramatically sort of half shrugging with a tilt toward her right side. “Because empires are not made on the battlefield. They are forged in the alliances of those who have the most to gain and the least to lose.”
Then her words flowed quickly echoing softly without hesitation, the breath of prophecy forming a mist that curled out her lips in a thin stream of holy smoke. “Because a Nefhilim has born or will soon bear a child of Imperial blood and the mix of Chaos, and lack of Divinity, will draw Him to that body and he will go mad without a balance of Order and Divine light from the Allura.”
“That is what she was created for, to balance the Lord of Chaos. Because this forbidden child exists it has called the Lord of Chaos to your world. He will be reborn in its form soon or he has already been reborn, and he will want only one thing, to find his beloved. If she is not here, he will destroy this world to find her.”
“Another cataclysm is coming, My Lord Suriel. This I have foreseen since the day I first set foot upon this planet so ironically named Olympus. If the people you care for are to survive, if your angelic brethren are to survive, you know what you must do. You have to call her here.”
For what seemed like hours Suriel listened raptly to everything else Oracle had to say; how to bring the child into the world, how to imbue it with the divinity that would draw the homeless soul they needed to it. The child would need a mother, Oracle had stoutly refused. She was too old she demurred. Besides it would be disturbing to birth the body which held her mother’s soul.
But Suriel suspected that it was more likely the faint trace of pale glowing blue that had slowly began to grow in the center of her chest, warning her of her own mortality. The Allura was coming alright, and without a proper infant host, the lost soul would take any compatible body it could find. The Oracle did not want to be that body.
This plan would require that Suriel be heartless and cruel. He could be heartless and cruel. Once upon a time he was the most self-serving creature on his planet. The millions of years since then had changed him, yet he was certain, for the good of his charges, he could be that being again. Gradually he phased the Oracle and his self out of the other sphere.
Yet again his senses were assaulted by the incessant nagging and constant barrage of the witless multitude of angels that were scrambling to live just a few moments longer. Their fear that their immortality would reach its limit in the new cataclysm.
“Has the Oracle told you of our salvation?” One nattered. “Can you achieve that which is required?” Of course, he could achieve what was required, they need not ask. Ignoring the babble of his frightened subordinates, Suriel addressed Nimue.
“You know what is necessary already?” Nimue smiled her dark and brilliant smile at her father.
“I know My Lord.” She assured him. Eons ago, Nimue had been born, his daughter, innocent and sweet. Born of a mother who was a night elf; slim, petite, exotic, Nimue had inherited all those traits which had drawn Suriel to her mother, many called her beautiful. Suriel called her his little princess. “I would not have called you here if I had not verified as much of the information Oracle provided that I could.”
Suriel had no desire to know the means his daughter had used to verify the information. Her greatest attribute had been her kindness. When her mother had died, Suriel had brought Nimue, still young and beautiful looking as she had been at twenty a full one hundred and fifty years before, to live among the angels.
“And is there one which fits the needs we have of her?” Pixie-like, Nimue nodded in pleasure that she did have what was required. No longer the innocent and charming child, Nimue had taken over the breeding program which some of the less evolved angels participated in, manipulating the genetic lines of the creatures on the planet below to see if it was possible to recreate the circumstances which had created the angels and the Gods.
“Oh, Suriel. I have one which will meet your needs precisely. She is young and healthy. If you are patient, I should be able to generate circumstances which would to bring her to us willingly. Her fate has been made.” Clenching his jaw, Suriel exerted the effort to not shudder before the others. Nimue was an expert at manipulating the mortals…and as much as he hated to admit it, himself as well. Her slightly sadistic mind was perhaps his fault for being such a lenient father after her mother was killed by Imperial Mages, letting Nimue pursue any desire she had for so long.
“Then do it.” With that he left. There was no point in trying to be polite and walk out the door first before phasing. He couldn’t stand being here. He’d rather be on the surface, in his city, with the people and lives he protected. Suddenly he was standing on the ledge of Angel’s Launch. This was the place the humans had built for him.
With his senses outstretched, Suriel felt for those he could help. There was illness and sickness and infirmity here. Here he could atone for his sin past, present, and future. Human, elves, centaurs, whatever sentient beings happened to be near scuttled out of his way as the giant being strode purposefully forth through the streets. These people feared him, it was true, but they also knew that he meant them no harm so long as they respected life, peace, and equality.
Stopping suddenly, he turned on the spot to the house he had reached. This one. There was an ill person in this one. He had lost a leg in a building accident saving someone else from the same fate. Now the wound was festering and pestilent.
Suriel entered; when he left the man would be whole, all illness gone. Tomorrow this righteous man would walk on two legs again. Now fate had been changed. Not all that was predetermined, had to be permanent. Yes, fate could be changed. From the right place, at the right time, with the right tools, all things could be changed. Even things which had already been fated, even things which had already happened.
There were two beings which could change a timeline which already existed. This would not be his first meeting with the despicable being known as the Lord of Chaos or his consort the Goddess known as Allura. If he changed the role dictated to him, Suriel would change the fate of the whole universe. No longer would all of existence be held at the mercy of the one whose only joy was chaos and destruction. Instead that being would be at his mercy and no other world would have to suffer the fate of his.
Month 1 Midwinter – Week 1
“Empires are not made on the battlefield. They are forged in the alliances of those who have the most to gain and the least to lose.”
It had been yet another beautiful day in the tropics until news had come. Another successful assassination in the Temple Palace. Peace talks among the chiefs had broken down. Some didn’t like the new High Priestess or her choice of allies. As a result, Leilana’s mother, a neutral party to the proceedings, was dead. Palm trees swayed in a gentle salt breeze. Sun shone playfully on the lazy lapping waves just feet from her father’s simple fisherman’s hut. The air was clean with none of the excessive humidity which the mainland suffered from at this latitude.
It was one of those endless sunny days that meant nothing at all. Just fun times before she returned to the Matriarchy and her grandmother for her last term of school, debutant balls, and dreary responsibility at her mother’s side. This was not the kind of day that one discovered that their mother was dead. This was not the day one became heir to two monarchies.
And would someone just kill the Goddess-damned birds that were chirruping so cheerfully in the rustling fronds of the palms? There shouldn’t have been birds singing while her sister was sobbing quietly in the next room. Their room. For all Leilana could tell her father had never slept in it, even when his daughters weren’t visiting.
Most of his life before mother was spent in the Temple of Desire as priest to a Goddess who was gone from the world. A servitude that he been forced on him because of his gift but one he later chose willingly. Out of duty and honor. But his choices hadn’t let him sleep easily until he’d found his wife. Now he never would again. Her parents had been a perfect match.
He’d fallen in love with a woman who served her duty to country before family and had not a day of rest since. There was nothing of his in their room though the working room of the hut was full to bursting with the tools of his passion for fishing and littered with mementoes of his wife… promised… partner… capacitor…whatever they called what her parents had in this Gods forsaken country. Shit! Now it was her Gods forsaken country.
Mother had kept father’s gift grounded, kept him sane, kept him safe from the priestesses and their cult of magicians that ruled…quasi ruled…this war-torn country. With whatever he gained from being psychically joined with her it kept his magic under control and he was free from service to the temple as a priest. What would happen to him now? Would he be collared like a slave again and confined to the Temples of Desire? Would she and Leishan now have no parents? Did it matter?
So many thoughts swirled round her head. Her sister mourned. Her father had sunken in on himself the moment it happened, crippled with the pain his beloved had felt as she died. But no matter how hard she tried Leilana couldn’t not stop to mourn. There were things which must be done. Funerals to plan, weddings too. Arranged marriages to soothe egos and concession to grant angry houses. Before all that she, Leishan, and father would have to flee. Soon.
One faction or another would try to use the half-breeds from the Matriarchy as scapegoats seeing as now they were now next in line for both kingdoms. And how convenient, two sisters, two thrones to fill. Forget that their mother was a victim also, the sense of it sickened the girl. But there were the Angels to consider. Nimue herself, Angel-born daughter of the Lord of Heaven, had come as a welcoming emissary from the Angels to grant their favor on the newly stabilized kingdom for the High Priestesses coronation. Guess she wasn’t as immortal as her father, just very long lived. The Goddess only knew how many other delegates and officials from various nations had come as well.
It was too much. Leilana couldn’t stay still. Jumping up she ran for the door facing the ocean. Not even the uncomfortable impact of her feet on pebble-filled grass, nor the delicious shift of hot dusty sand to cool moist yielding sand calmed her nerves. Not until she had plunged into a cresting wave as the water rose around her thighs did the calamity cease within her head.
Keeping her eyes closed against grit and salt, she floated for several moments beneath the surface. It was all she needed, just the ocean. Just the water. Just safety of being a child for a few more minutes before she had to go back into the hut and grab her father and sister. Their emergency bags had been packed since they had entered the Priestess Isles. Just the same as every year.
There hadn’t been a year without bloodshed of the royal bloodlines in over a hundred years. But mother had always been a practical risk taker, hadn’t she? Curse her. Even in death, she couldn’t escape the strict teachings which the woman had fostered upon her. Her voice echoed in Leilana’s mind light and teasing, as if her words were a well-known fact and how silly that she even had to state it. “Empires are not made on the battlefield. They are forged in the alliances of those who have the most to gain and the least to lose.”
Empires could go suck a lemon. Submerged in the water where no one could see or hear, the waves dragging her long dark hair round her face like thin whips of kelp, Leilana screamed her rage and hatred out until there was no breath left and she had to float back to the surface for air.