Six years after the Andromeda War's conclusion, Master Br'klakkon returned within the bowels of Cathamera, taking the power hungry warlord, Volkarus Khaxvis as a host. Volkarus proved too strong-willed to be dominated dominate however, and instead Br'klakkon concocted a plan. For the plan to succeed however, he required assets to achieve it. And this proved the perfect opportunity to educate a man hungry for power and open to becoming his student about the twisted ways of the Mali'Nar.
Raloth'Shan was a captain of a Visterra class vessel moored in orbit on a planet within the territory of the Coalition. It had been several months patrolling the void of emptiness that was commonwealth space lanes and many of the crew felt they could do with a few weeks' shore leave. Two weeks in and the captain decided to visit a bar in the heart of the metropolis. An establishment famed for good company, fine strong beverages and a comforting attitude towards aliens. While some questioned the existence of the Unified Andromedan Navy, others embraced it. Nut in this particular bar, it was best to keep such talk to oneself.
The captain himself; a middle-aged Artharon with a dark gray coat, a short beard and a tattooed scarred face, drank an alcoholic beverage, looking inside the glass. His mood wreaked of misery and drudgery as he sat slumped at the bar counter.
Captain - Which day is it? One hundred and... gah. I've lost count. - the captain drank some more - I hate my job.
The local bartender, an Oriito who had migrated from the New Tertamian Alliance was cleaning a glass when he heard the captain mumbling. He let out a cough, attempting to draw the captain's attention. The captain turned to the bartender with a hostile glare, the look in his eyes indicating that he had little interest in social contact.
Raloth'Shan - What?
Bartender - You seem a little down. Something niggling at your mind?
Raloth'Shan - I'm tired. All these months, patrolling... and nothing happened. Not a pirate attack on my watch, not an anomaly, nothing. Not even an illegal vessel. I hate it. My family is a family of warriors. I do not want to die like that, rotting alive out of boredom...
Bartender - Naval melancholy huh. I see it a lot. Here
The bartender pulled the rag out of the glass and poured a dark frothy liquid into the cup from a tap, he then pushed theglass towards the captain with a smile on his face.
Bartender - Its on the house.
Raloth'Shan - Thanks, mate.
The captain grabbed the glass and took it all in a single, audible gulp. The bartender smiled. As the captain slammed the drink on the counter he heard a resonating thump. A disorienting feeling suddenly came over him as the glass rang discordant within in his ears.
Raloth'Shan - What...- the captain's voice became slurry; whispers poured into his head. By my ancestors' tail, what is this damn melody...
The bartender's voice became distorted and echoing as he spoke, his speech becoming less coherent. The room shifted and warped around him.
Bartender - Only the glass....hitting the bar...not that melodic...is it?
Raloth'Shan - The voice... gah! - the Artharon shrieked in pain - Thousands of voices, speaking of tens of thousands of needles peeling the surface of the heart that is black eyes, salt pouring into the wounds of screaming children...
Bartender - Can't...have been...that strong...
As the voices rang though his mind a central one began emerging, whispering "shameful" "a disgrace" "you are no warrior". Raloth'Shan doubled forward holding his head and drilling into his brain. They kept whispering, their words piercing like daggers into his mind.
Raloth'Shan - Show me your face! Do it, coward! If I die, I'll die standing!
As he snapped, the captain felt himself tossed by a large hand grasping his shoulder. He was pushed to have his back rest against the bar and he ended up staring into the eyes of a Draconis who looked at him with disgust. The creature's eyes shone like icy blue lanterns, his scales were a glossy black that covered his body, but the skin and the scales were arranged in such a way it as as though they were secured atop an exoskeletal frame of sorts. Raloth'Shan's melancholy and irritation became fear as his mind reformed the strange creature into something he knew.
Raloth'Shan - You... you... are a demon! Kern'el'jasan, the fiend of ash and rock! - the captain drew his blade, having mistaken the Draconis for a creature from his people's mythology - Challenge me! You will not take me alive!
Kern'el'jasan pushed the captain back and took several steps back, letting out an echoing and sinister laugh as he spread his arms wide.
"Kern'el'jasan" - Then I challenge you, dear captain. Prove to me that you uphold your family's lineage. Or I shall devour you here and now.
The captain stood where he was, beset by doubt. Fear overtook him, fear of things he did not believe - things he could not even concieve - before he came to him. Reluctantly, as if his hand was forced, he took an energised blade from a sheathe on his belt, waving it in front of the Draconis demon.
"Kern'el'jasan" - A warrior feels no fear, weakling!
Captain - I... do not!
The captain said this defiantly but unsincerely, running towards thecreature posing as Kern'el'jasan. Then, suddenly, another voice screamed inside his mind, much more powerful that the one that belonged to the Draconis - and much more ancient.
'??? - Look at you. Fear blocks your every thought, destroys your fury, your braveness, what makes you a man. Is it true? Is it that easy to make you feel fear?
The demon laughed and positioned himself in a defensive stance. He lifted his arm to block the captain's stumbled sword-swing and left its blade buried in his arm. As it rested there, the plasma field began to flicker and the clawed palm of Kern'el'jasan rushed towards the Artheron's chest, much to his shock and aversion. The voices continued speaking, filling his head and goading him to delve into his fears and hates.
??? - Relinquish your fear. Drown it in your fury. Drown it in pain. Only then you shall be able to vanquish your greatest foe.
Raloth'Shan - Drown it...? Who are you?
??? - Give up your fear, and truth shall be revealed to you. Open your mind. Let your fear go. Let it go. Let it go.
The captain had long since left reality. As the world around him twisted with a thousand voices singing inside his head, the entire bar crowd watched as he stumbled, flailing his sword, panting and throwing himself about. Patrons began to laugh at him and he began to hear it, a mocking laughter that seemed to resonate form the demon standing in front of him. it was taunting him, insulting him. The laughter echoed in his head, joining the cacophonous chanting that accompanied the voice.
Raloth'Shan - I do not fear you! I hate you. Do you hear it, Kern'el'jasan?! I HATE you! HATE!
The captain roared as he slowly lost his mind, relinquishing his soul to Mali'Nar corruption.
??? - Yes. Open your mind to hatred and it shall destroy fear. And you shall have your victory.
Kern'el'jasan jumped up onto the bar's top and growled towards the captain, smoke leaking from his skin as he jumped pack down and swung his arm to claw at the captain. The captain by now had descended into raving madness, now screaming incoherently. The Artharon charged at his demonic enemy, thinking of nothing but destruction - as the voice told him. Kern'el'jasan became surprised at the Artharon as the captain wildly swung his sword, hurting the creature more and more as he cut into limbs before finally sending a strike into the demon's thigh, sending it collapsing to one knee. The demon held up his hand, wishing for mercy from his opponent.
"Kern'el'jasan" - You have bested me mortal. And I have your respect...please...I ask for a favour before you finish me.
Raloth'Shan - Yes... yes... my mind is free now! I know no mercy! I know no fear, no shame! I am hate made manifest!
??? - And thus, your mind opens to us.
Kern'el'jasan looked at the captain and smiled devilishly at the Artheron before thrusting his arm forward and wrapping his hand over the captain's face. The captain felt himself slipping, his world growing dark as the beast gradually disappeared in black smoke in front of him, his entire world fading to black...yet the body still stood, the eyes glinting as he opened them and he looked around at the mess he had caused while he was in a drunken and maddened fury. All this time one of the Commonwealth marines who had been drinking at the bar had been tryingto talk to him.
Marine - ...Captain? Captain?
The captain shook his head and looked towards the source of the voice. he cleared his throat as his vision returned to normal. Yet something about him was off. Despite the amount of drink he had consumed, the captain appeared stoic. While it could be assumed he had a strong liver for such things, he also appeared disinterested, vacant as he looked towards the marine.
Raloth'Shan - What, what is it?
Marine - You... were swinging your sword all over the bar. Must have been the drink.
Raloth'Shan - Yes, yes those months on patrol must have weakened my tolerance to such drinks.
Bartender - Have you gone completely bonkers!? One of you is going ot have to pay for damages, you sodding shore-leave drunkards.
Captain - I'll have the bill sent to you. Marine, gather the others, shore leave is over.
The marine saluted and promptly left the bar. The captain took a quick and stern glare at the bartender, something about his expression prompted the Oriito to quickly stop talking, shutting his mouth quite abruptly. A moment after the bartender had done so, the captain gave him a smug smirk before leaving the pub himself.
Engine of Destiny
Volkarus, buried within the skin of the Artharon captain and controlling the alien like a puppet, was bringing yet another Commonwealth spacer - limp, but still breathing - to the ship engine room. The hyperdrive, which was now surrounded by a pile of dead - or dying - bodies, had changed its glow, from a white typical of the glow from Commonwealth hyperdrive to unnatural blue, emblematic of Mali'Nar presence, and was also covered in black, twisted growths that resembled ice, flesh and obsidian equally - a strange misalliance of flesh, machine and Essence.
Volkarus stared at the bodies, and in a single moment, flinched. Without warning, as the Draconis Mali'Nar was nearing the twisted sepulcher, his dying victim suddenly awakened - the look of absolute terror in his eyes. Mortified, terrified like an animal, he looked at his former captain in the face. Volkarus quickly turned his attention to the victim he carried and looked at him with cold glazing eyes.
Spacer - ...Captain... By the Goddess...
he dying crewmate, a Tertanai with greyish skin, coughed cyan-coloured blood as he tried to speak with the captain, the icy growths grew as if to reach towards his body. Volkarus looked down at the poor soul, apathetic to his fear.
Spacer - What is happening...
Raloth'Shan - A step towards destiny.
Volkarus - <Mentor... One of my past allies abused the flesh of the living and dead in a manner similar to this. And I decided that such abuse of flesh was unbecoming of the divine.>
Br'klakkon - Very well, acolyte. After all, it's not their bodies that we require - those can be disposed of the moment you so desire. It's their souls. It's their souls that we hunger for and desire for the arrival of the exaltation to come.
Volkarus - <Their souls, their essence...Yes I understand. Once we are done with their souls we shall dispose of their corpses.>
Volkarus let go of the dying crewman's withering body, standing back and embracing the moment as he felt the surge in power thoughout the room. He left the poor soul within the pile, watching coldly as the eldritch ice began encasing him within its pitch-black lattice. Concurrent to this, the black ice began expanding from the drive. Growing in magnitude with every breath that Raloth'Shan made, as though it was doing so under his silent command. it soon devoured the pile of corpses, whom it then consumed into its mass until they resembled crystalline statues, and then took over the entire room. The "captain" looked around, apparently in awe; although terrible to look upon, the corrupted room also looked eerily beautiful, alluring - like a twisted, surreal macabre painting brought to life. The room was evil made manifest, yet also given strange allure by the touch of darkness. Volkarus cracked a slight smile, indeed allured by the twisted beauty of this scene.
Volkarus - Our machine is ready. All that remains is control of the command centre.
Br'klakkon - I leave that to you, acolyte. Your destiny is for you to decide.
Volkarus nodded and in a flash of black smoke Raloth'Shan left the engineering bay, rematerialising in his false skin just outside the ship's command room. He straightened out his uniform before swiping his host's hand over a panel on the side of the door, causing it to open automatically as he strolled inside. He coughed to draw everyone's attention, prompting a "captain on deck" to be audibly uttered by one of the ranking officers.
Br'klakkon - Concentrate your will. Make the crew and the ship kneel before you - yes, even machines have souls - and have no mercy.
Volkarus - Attention crew, there has been a slight change in our route this patrol. The orders from the admiralty are confidential so all I ask is that you all follow my instructions without question. Are we all clear?
Br'klakkon - Do not think. Act. Obey the Catalyst of My will.
As Br'Klakkon spoke, an air of power radiated though his voice, pressing an overwhelming feel of submission upon the crew within the room. It was a difficult thing to explain but something in his voice made his orders mroe compelling to lesser men.
The command crew, intimidated by the strange voice their captain now posessed, shivered and bowed slightly, heading to their posts briskly and efficiently as the captain strolled to plant himself within the plush chair that was embedded on a raised platform in the middle of the room, smirking as he settled himself in.
He had telepathically fed the coordinates he desired into the ship's navigation computer and waited patiently as the crew worked the consoles, a loud hum resonated the ship as engines and FTL drives powered up. While seasoned and novice crewmen alike would have gained a sense of thrill from every chargeup of a ship's FTL drive, this vessel's engine felt strangely off. Those who walked past the engine bat felt unnerved about the vibes from within, often prompting passing crew to walk more briskly.
There was a ripple on the sensors, a pulse though space as the ship's advanced drive punctured a hole into the fabric of reality, forcing open a doorway to a distant part of the universe. Everything seemed normal as they passed though, a few shakes from the tidal forces, an intense blue tinge flooded the room via the fromtal holoscreen display but eventually the distortion passed. Once they emerged on the other side, the captain sat in contemplation, furrowing his brow.
Volkarus - Do you feel them? Is this the correct location?
Br'klakkon - Yes. That must be the time.
As Volkarus felt satisfied, a feeling spread amongst the entire command crew, immobilising their legs. There was nothing specifically wrong with their legs, but none of the crew on deck could move theirs.
Raloth'Shan - Well done to you all. Do not be afraid, you have done Andromeda a great service following my orders.
Br'klakkon - Good work. Do not put these worms to waste, acolyte. They might prove useful later on.
Raloth'Shan's body manipulated panels on the captain's chair, projecting on the main screen the image of a station in orbit around a barren moon. In most cases the structure resembled an Imperial battlestation with a taller central axle and a second rotary disk. The dry and short-furred lips of Raloth'Shan's cracked a slight smirk as the intelligence that controleld him like a marionette studied the structure with interest before he spoke out.
Raloth'Shan - We are here to collect some..."special" cargo. So please, do not go anywhere wile I see about collecting them. I do ask that the communications officers inform the station we are here to deliver supplies
Mutters and body gestures by crew were made to acknowledge his request as he stood up from his seat and headed off the bridge.
Aboard the station, the command crew were in surprise as the unidentified vessel approached. It was ignoring all attempts at contact it and simply drifted closer into a docking orbit. But to some of the command personnel, something was...not quite right abut the ship. As well as being off in feel, the ship was clearly a design no one in the room could recognise.
Commander - ...Not good. Not good. - a look of surprise appeared on the station commander's weathered, old face - Dertiana, analyse the incoming vessel. Material, technology, Essence signature. I have a bad feeling about it...
As Dertania - a young cadet dressed in a white uniform - looked over the ship's scanners. As she did, wisps of smoke began to collect around her ankles, rising up to her waist, everyone else appeared to slow down as a presence washed over her. Standing behind her was a vaguely-Draconid figure with luminous white eyes, his body shrouded in a nearby shadow. As he spoke, the commander looked over to see the shadow.
??? - Can you feel it? The darkeness that seeps though the hull.
Commander - ...Damnation. - the commander's face of discontent transformed into an outright grimace as he began searching for the side-arm held within a holster strapped to his thigh - Stand back, creature! Now!
As the commander drew a pistol and pointed it towards the shade, the entity held up its hand and shone a white light, revealing iridescant purple scales across advanced and elegant armour, standing as if it were cradling the light in its palm. The entity did not appear overtly hostile however, and merely stood with its palm illuminated.
??? - I meant not to startle you. I come with a warning.
Commander - ...A warning? From whom?
??? - I cannot disclose. Know only that the contents of that ship will only cause your deaths, should you stay - The entity's voice suddenly switched so that only Dertiana could hear him - Save for your cohorts, initiate. But you are still in severe danger.
Commander - ...What are we to do?
??? - The madness comes for the station's greatest prize. You must stop it, and the Manifest sent me to support you.
Commander - As you... decree, my liege. - the words "Manifest" triggered something in the commander's mind, forcing him to kneel almost instinctively - It shall be done.
??? - See to it that you succeed, commander. However, due to the nature of the threat you face, I shall assume command of this installation.
The crew nodded coherently and silently, making no question of the entity's strange and sudden orders.
Volakrus made no attempt to disguise his intentions. Any soldier on this station who got in his or his' thralls' way were quickly dispatched, minds destroyed or projectiles turned on their propellers. He threw shockwaves screaming down hallways, obliterating any who stood before him. He had a cadre move deeper and deeper towards the lower levels of the facility. The shade who had intruded on the command level watched from the shadows and the obscure places. His presence till somehow inspired the station's defenders; increasing their resilience, their determination and their accuracy
But in the end it was all for nothing. They stood as ants before a giant, at its utter mercy. Descending to the final levels, Volkarus reached the door to the main cell at the lowest level he stood with his legs spread wide. He rolled back his shoulders and cupped his hands, holding his arms outwards. Through a period of immense concentration, the metal of the door began to gradually bucke and creak. Cracks and warps began to form as he tore the door open. He continued to focus, and with enough time, he threw his hands out and tore the doors open.
Inside the chamber was... something even Br'klakkon could not completely comprehend. Not exactly a person - not anymore, at least. It was a presence. A phantom. A poltergeist. A certain malevolent spirit permeated the complex, growing in power as Volkarus reached deeper into it; ancient, unyielding, and yet - familiar. Br'klakkon's kin; not exactly immortal, not a true Essential - its ties with mortality severed, but not forgotten.
A Mali'Nar. Discord Supreme. A melody of madness.
??? - Never-ending discordant melody warping in constant disharmony and dissonance, the only stable constant being the principle of chaos; self, the chaotic self alone stands amidst this ocean betwixt subjugation and oblivion... What was... that? - suddenly, the dark whispers were interrupted and shifted their tone. The evil presence was evidently thrown into the state of confusion by the new visitor - Kin? Mali... Melody?
Br'klakkon - She... she is here.
Volkarus - I hear her. And she is indeed aware of you, mentor.
Br'klakkon - The Witch. When I was among the other Mali under Divin-Ra, I... heard her name mentioned by many of our kin. She was a schemer, a plotter the likes of which have not been seen since then - aside from us, of course... Yaomea. Yes, that was her name. Lady Yaomea Maltris.
Volkarus was suddenly surprised by the name mentioned, "Maltris". He was confused, was their target some distant relative of the house of the chancellor?
Valkarus - Maltris? Are you suggeting that she is an ancestor to the Imperium's present chancellor?
Br'klakkon - ...Yes. It is likely. Extremely likely. Ascendant bloodlines persist for a long time...
The voice of the Mali'Nar went quiet in silent contemplation, a moment of still silence as the final guardians gathered to prevent their charge from ever being touched. Br'klakkon's voice then reemerged in Volkarus' head.
Br'klakkon - Our powers are not inherited by blood, but the potential for them remains. The cunning, the lust for power... yes, I can see them being related.
Volkarus - She may be useful in controlling the chancellor...
Br'klakkon - Perhaps. If we take the throne, we'll need to take care of his second-in-command as well. However, his wife concerns me more. Alensia... is no mere royal dame. She might prove dangerous.
As Volkarus stepped though the door, he was welcomed with the guards standing alert. One of them fired a bolt of plasma into Volkarus' torso while two more shot at his escort. The blast that hit him however appeared to dissipate over his body and he smirked, while the crew were pushed bck by the impacts.
Guard - Take no further steps intruder!
Volkarus looked at the guard and thrusted his hand forward, the guard flew backward and slammed violently into the wall. The impact was accompanied by the violent cracking of bone and the thrum of metal warped and bent. The other guards looked on and fired back with plasma and coil shots. Stopping moments after to watch in confusion as he suspended the shots in an invisible wall in front of him. With a flick of his wrist the bolts flew back to their owners. The shots lodged themselves in the heads, shoulders and torsos of those who faced them, heavily wounding them all. Volkarus paced up to the neurosleep pod and brushed his hand over it, one of the surviving guards coughed and chuckled.
Guard - Go on brute, rip the casing off. Watch as that...thing writes in pain as her neurons are fried!
Br'klakkon - Brute? What a quaint simpleton.
Volkarus lifted his arm and the guardsman levitated up and towards VOlkarus' waiting hand. The soldier was helpless as the massive clawed hand wrapped itself around his throat very tightly, with the monster that held him looking deeply and piercingly into his eyes with an intense and demanding stare. His eyes flashed and the soldier's
Volkarus - Explain.
Guard - The pod...Without the proper procedures activated...it could send a discharge....cause...brain damage!
Volkarus gripped more tightly, constricting him more as he peered the soldier's mind. As the solder was on his last moment of life, Volkarus opened his palm and dropped him. Nodding out of courtesy before turning to the pod. As he looked towards it, a shrill phantasmic voice resonated inside his
Yaomea - Come closer. Allow me to peer unto your soul.
Volkarus closed his eyes and held his hand over the alloyed casing of the suspended pod. As time passed there were whirrs and motions as probes retracted themselves and systems shut down. At the final stage there was a blast of vapour as the pod decoupled form its fixings, allowing for it to be removed. Her voice still speaking in that shrill ghastly tone as he hheld his hand over the pod's lid, tearing it off with force.
Yaomea - What is it? What is your intent?
Volkarus flicked his wrist to toss the lid aside, looking inside to see a withered greyed body within, presumably she held a once graceful form which was now withered from untold years spent in a state of atrophy. The Khaxvis warlord peered inside and began uttering to her.
Volkarus - Your release, dear lady.
Yaomea - You seek something else. You lie. Lie.
The withered, bandaged, bleeding husk of a Draconis immediately leapt out of her tomb of a cell with strength unnatural for such a malnourished body - and then leaped at her liberator, throwing him on the ground. Her talons directly above his neck, she spoke to him in a voice that was now stronger and more commanding, her eyes burning icy blue like stars themselves as he fell backward. Volkarus was in surprise as he hit the floor with a resonating slam, for it had been years since he had been thrown about like this.
Yaomea - Tell me. Who sent you? Divin-Ra?
Volkarus - I was drawn by my mentor. He answers to the name of Master Br'klakkon.
Yaomea - The name is... unfamiliar to me. But I can sense him in your thoughts. He whispers and chants endlessly in the same melody as myself. Are you two Mali'Nar?
Volkarus - He is. I am merely an ally, but one willing to learn from him.
Yaomea - Good. I sense that you are not... of this world. Not of this dimension. Have you come... to take my soul? To sate your own melody?
Volkarus was silent for a moment, indeed he had come for the sake of power, a desire that had driven him for years now. Inside he felt he could not tell her as doing so would make her an enemy, as all creatures no matter how depraved or lost desired survival above all else. He stuttered, trying to think of an answer that would please her. it then came to him:
Volkarus - I...I-- No, I...devouring the body, i-it is.... it is beneath me!
the toothless snout of the Draconis woman twisted into the facsimile of a grin as she was given her answer.
Yaomea - A believable... lie. Very well. What do you seek... then?
She was still not satisfied, for her question had not been fully answered. Volkarus' apprehension turned into a devilish grin, his eyes narrowing as fear became passion, for he had come for the one thing all animals great and small craved, what drew many to the embrace of the Mali'Nar:
Volkarus - Power!
Yaomea - Now that's honesty. - Yaomea's smile opened a bit futher - I shall come with you for the time being. Perhaps this could become a mutually beneficial relationship...
As Volkarus smiled a flash of light emerged from the doorway and Sarec appeared, looking furious. Volkarus darted his head with a furious gaze to notice the intruder as he threw his hand forward to send a telekinetic blast towards Yaomea. Volkarus pushed Yaomea off his body and stood up to fire arcs of electricity at Sarec, who responded be reaching out his hand to catch the lightnging and channel it through his body to send it back, looking pained as he did so and shocking the man who threw the attack at him.
Yaomea - Isio'Nar!
The once-withered Draconis woman suddenly growled in a high-pitched, screechy tone, as thorns of black ice ripped from her flesh. Blackness surrounded her as she began whispering something feverishly. Volkarus buckled from the lightning. Sarec saw Yaomea and frantically cast two arcs of lightning towards her only to see it vanish inside her aura of shadow. Yaomea laughed in the face of this ineffective attack. Sarec's jaw dropped as he watched the lightning fade into Yaomea's shadowy aura, dissipating across the blackness that surrounded her.
Yaomea - Laughable. Is that whom Isio'Nar recruit now? Though in actuality... you have always been like that. Single-minded, slavish, mediocre, limited. Your manipulation of reality is only limited to the simplest forms you can so percieve. Electricity? Quaint.
Sarec - It is a taster.
Yaomea - Now see this.
With but a gesture, Yaomea suddenly created a sphere - or rather a bubble - of pure void around Sarec. As the former inquisitor peered into his new surroundings, he suddenly saw his old home. The place where he once lived - before the Isio'Nar, before the Inquisition. The slums of an Imperial city. Sarec looked about, vaguely recognising the skyline above him. Although it was familiar to him, the city was still warped to a significant degree, with buildings reaching crookedly into the sky, and what should have been a glimmering reflection of the sky reflected a blacker form of night.
Sarec - What are you trying ot achieve summoning a memory I have bear no significance to.
Yaomea - Try to escape it, child.
Shadowy, vaguely draconic figures coaelsced inside the ghost city - completely pitch black save for the blood red eyes they have. Their numbers grew and grew until Sarec found himself surrounded completely. Sarec looked around, still keeping a calm demeanor. He nodded and waved his hand in order to create a gateway out of the void and back into the room.
Yaomea - ...Impressive. You have steel. You can endure memories.
Yaomea snarled as Sarec stood at the mouth of the opening he had created; although freed, she still could not use her abilities to her full extent, too weakened by the prolonged stasis. She could only create illusion and weave lies. A pulse of force left Sarec's body, deflected by Volkarus with energies from his own body and sending Sarec sliding backwards.
Yaomea - Damnation. All the time inside that rotting tomb has... drained me of my power.
Yaomea spoke to herself in the deepest corners of her mind, keeping her thoughts concealed from Sarec, and, of course, her liberator. She could not allow herself to show weakness.
Sarec - You are making a mistake being here Volkarus.
Volkarus - You have no power over me, "inquisitor"
Yaomea - Volkarus. Prove yourself worthy of being Yaomea Maltris's ally. Strike this servitor of the Manifest down.
Vokarus - With the greatest pleasure.
Volkarus clutched nothingness around his hands, watching as Sarec began feeling claustrophobic, immense pressures exerting themselves on his body as he began gasping for air. TThe gasps became grunts as he felt pain. Yaomea watched this crushing display with a sadistic sense of intrigue, watching with hidden glee as the pain Sarec felt brought him to his knees. But at his lowest, Sarec took a glancing glare at Volkarus and summoned another shockwave from his body, tearing into the structure and forcing Volkarus backwards, who continued ot crush the Isio'Nar, exerting further pressure.
Sarec gasped further as blood trickled from his nose, he began shuddering as the extreme pressure and power Volkarus was exerting began to pressurise his blood to dangerous levels for any normal being. He used all his strength to summon one final shockwave, the power caused the bodies of the guards t oexplode and tore the room asunder as he vanished without a trace.
Yaomea gained her full strength and stood up, looking to the site of where Sarec stood. Her glee had vanished alongside Sarec's presence in the room, now disappointed that he had chosen to flee than suffer an agonising death. Volkarus rolled his shoulders and chuckled, turning to look Yaomea in her luminous eyes.
Yaomea - How cowardly of him.
Volkarus - He will return. he always does to interfere with us. I have a vessel to return you t owhere I came from, dear lady. We have both outstayed our welcome here.
Yaomea - Excellent. But first, introduce yourself. Lie or be truthful, I care not; names are powerful...
Volkarus bowed to her in an oddly gentlemanly like fashion.
Volkarus - I am Volkarus Erenus Khaxvis. Its head in a time beyond this one. I travelled forty millennia into my past in order to spare you from destruction and bring you to an age where you can continue to dominate with your kin.
Yaomea - You introduced yourself with your true full name. I am not impressed. - Yaomea frowned disappointingly - Name is what creates your presence within montespt'coganariag... the Mindstream, and to rely only on one is to have your soul undivided, vulnerable. Truly the Mali'Nar of your age have forgotten many secrets of our kind...
Suddenly, Yaomea's facial expression changed into a smile, as if sparked by some sudden revelation.
Yaomea - Our kind... Maltris... that means... yes... - Yaomea turned to Volkarus once again - Yes. Bring me into your world. I have much to learn and much to teach...
Volkarus nodded and walked up to Yaomea. He rested his hand on her shoulder and both vanished in twisting air t othe ship that VOlkarus had enslaved. Materialising o nthe bridge and silently commanding the crew, still stuck there by invisible means, to return home. As she and Volkarus materialised within the command deck of the stilen visterra-class vesel. The Mali'Nar spirit of Br'klakkon spoke directly into Yaomea's mind, his true form - a tall, slender Loron dressed in golden armour - appearing before her as an apparition.
Br'klakkon - Welcome aboard, the Lady of Yore. - - I am Br'klakkon, one of Divin-Ra's adepts and followers. Before us awaits... the Galaxy of New Dawn.
Disappointment And Purpose
Volkarus and Yaomea had returned to the leviathan that the Khaxvis lord was using a a centre of his operations. While not as large as the one he had commanded and lost during Operation: Red Snake Rising, it was more powerful that before, having been fitted with Andromedan Grox weaponry. He had instructed both his Chosen Few and other servants to treat Yaomea as if she were one of his personal commanders and retured to his palatial chambers in the heart of the spacebound city-ship. Yaomea walked with him for a time as they traversed its interior depths.
Yaomea - I am not impressed, Volkarus. Who are you in actuality? Is that what the great House Khaxvis was reduced to?
Volkarus - To what. Refugees? Outcasts? Pariahs? Unfortunately yes.
Yaomea - Hah! - Yaomea chuckled - How the mighty have fallen. And who, pray tell, reigns over the Imperium now? House Savenium? House Vex? House Vontarion?
Volkarus growled with his response, for it was one that he had grown to react with violently for many years now.
Volkarus - Ultanos. We came close to liberating Alcanti from their clutches once before, a few years ago, but were driven back by the alien allies they had gathered.
Yaomea - Alien allies? Since when has the Imperium gone so soft that now it has to pander to other powers in its own domain? The Vartekians? Did they come to house Ultanos's aid?
Volkarus - Hah. Sadly not. The Imperium has allies that are alien in your time, Ultanos rubs shoulders with infants!
Yaomea - How infantile? Ten millenia? Twenty? Thirty?
Volkarus - Merely a few centuries.
Yaomea stared straight at Volkarus for a couple of seconds, her face locked in a state of deep contemplation. Thoughts swam inside her head like small fish - predatory fish, of course, for such was the nature of her thoughts. Then, a sudden spark of revelation came upon her... followed by a slap on Volkarus's face. He adjusted his jaw in reaction to the shock of the flat, stinging impact across his face.
Yaomea - And these are your excuses?! With such pathetic creatures standing against you, you failed?!
Volkarus held up his hand and cupped it in front of Yaomea's face as black flame emerged from his palm, his clawed hands were like a brazier to it before he clenched his fist, extinguishing it instantly.
Volkarus - These infants bore power such as this, one of them - though I did not face her directly - was as that puppet is. One of them. I have stared at the void thrice and still I am here. Is that still pathetic!? I could have been slain on Alcanti but I survived, I grew stronger, and I struck back.
Yaomea - I want to hear your excuses, no longer, worm--
Yaomea froze mid-sentence into her berating lecture. Her dissatisfaction with Volkarus' past experiences were overshadowed by another matter. Her snout contorted as if electricity had struck her and sent a jolt of agonising pain all over her body.
Yaomea - them?...Who is she? How powerful is she?
Volkarus - I have yet to meet her. But she ressurected the current paragon, healed his wounds of my taint. And she has challened my mentor.
Yaomea - And vanquished him. How weak are the Mali'Nar of today to fall to Isio'Nar so easily?!
Volkarus - You and my mentor are better judges than I am. You speak as though the Mali'Nar of your day could not be challenged, yet when I discovered you, you had been forced into a comatose state by mortal engineering, trapped in isolation for Void-knows-how-long. What claim do you have to berate me for my failures?
Yaomea - Because, Volkarus, the Mali'Nar are ever-changing. Ever-evolving. Whereas they stagnate and rot in their pursuit of stability, we must grow stronger and stronger. Instead, you do nothing!
Volkarus - Fine. Now, I desire privacy. I have ordered my kin to treat you as an ally of mine. Satisfy yourself however you must. I advise you study my efforts before you accuse me of doing nothing, as twenty years ago I was like those that run around you. Vunerable, blind, mortal. But I have embraced my blessings. Study them in your own time.
Yaomea - So shall it be. Perhaps your kind is not as hopeless as I thought...
After discussing matters with Yaomea, Volkarus had left her to her own devices and had retured to his private chambers. As he entered his music player began playing a performance of a soothing nature while he lifted up his hand and pulled an e-book from an end table nearby, preparing to settle himself into a large and comfortable-looking recliner. He barely lay himself down as Br'klakkon's voice, filled with humour and a playful feel of reminiscing, returned once more. His emergence was met with Volkarus rolling his eyes.
Br'klakkon - Feisty, isn't she? Reminds me of my grandmother whom I found brutally murdered in one of... my species's gang wars.
Volkarus - "Feisty" is one way of describing her attitude. Are most of you "Mali'Nar" this way?
Br'klakkon - Some of us.
Volkarus snorted as a response to Br'klakkon's vague reply.
Volkarus - Her behaviour, her attitude, her expectations, Her delusion that I am fully one of you and her speeches on things she expects me to already know of you is beginning to wear against my patience.
Br'klakkon - The Mali'Nar do not accept just anyone, Volkarus. She means to test you, to see if you're truly worthy of being one of us. She comes from another time. The Golden Age of the Mali.
This peaked Volkarus' attention. He shut off his e-book and adjusted his position in his recliner. His frustration was replaced with intrigue at this revelation.
Volkarus - ...Golden age? Are you suggesting that the Age of Imposters was of their design?
Br'klakkon - Not exactly; but the two events are... interrelated. Come. Let me tell you the whole story.
Volkarus - I am listening.
Br'klakkon - As our... guest has noted, the Mali'Nar are in the state of constant evolution and advancement in our quest for utter perfection. Yet, it happens - happened - that we met... setbacks in the process. Our mission is to bend knowledge to our will to use it for power, but knowledge can be lost. Easily so.
Volkarus - Her capture predates the Inquisition of Drakon. So who exactly was responsible? How could such a potent individual be detained like that?
Br'klakkon - Its... mother. The Concord. Demon hunters of the worst sort; weak, cowardly alone, but together, and when gathered by the thrice-cursed Isio'Nar... Such is the nature of these protectors of order; they vanguard mediocrity and stamp out individuality. And while were strong, we were alone. Few of us survived the initial onslaught.
Volkarus - So your ranks were decimated by puppets of the Isio'Nar, and Lady Yaomea knows nothing of this embarrassment?
Br'klakkon - She was one of the few survivors... if you call that survival. With the old ones' loss, much of their knowledge was lost. We cannot bend the universe to our will the same way we do... which is why Yaomea is here. She can manipulate minds in the way no-one can. With her help, we could get closer to the Paragon's throne that we could ever have dreamed of... which is why we have to tolerate that insipid spinster. And from there, begin our plan...
Volkarus - Uriel has proved resistant before, but if Yaomea is as potent as you say she is...perhaps he will eventially meet his match. Fine, I will do my best to tolerate the crone. But I trust you, mentor, to assist me from becoming her puppet.
Br'klakkon - That you can trust me on. She might be ancient, but while I lack the knowledge she has, we are by no means lacking in wits...
Volkarus - You have a point. And at present I am unsure if she underestimates me or--
Volkarus launched himself up from his lounger in a state of panic.
Volkarus - Void's maw my records!!
Br'klakkon - Good. Either we become rulers of Andromeda or we die on out own ship. FUN.
Volkarus - The less she knows about me, the safer I will be... Why was I so incompetent!
Out of frustration, Volkarus clenched his teeth, causing vases and wine glasses to implode on themselves. If Br'klakkon had had a body at the moment, he would have smiled. But right now, all he could think of is watch his acolyte boil on the inside. Fun times were indeed to ensue.
To Abscond with Royalty
To get his mind off recent events, Uriel had scheduled himself a hunting trip to one of the frontier colonies of the Imperium, A couple of hours after arriving he descended towards the surface in a shuttle and disembarked dressed in a fabric that changed its colour to fit his surroundings. Grippied tightly in his hand was a sophisticated magnetic-induction hunting rifle that he was inspecting as the shuttle descended. After the shuttle touched down, Uriel looked ot his left and right into the wilderness as cool air illuminated under a bright blue sun hit against his face, and he trekked into the savannah of dark red foliage in order to relieve the tension mounting on his body with a few well-placed shots and some exotic game
After carefully tracking for half an hour, Uriel caught sight of some sizeable game 300 metres from him. Adjusting his scope he knelt down in order to provide himself a more stable stance for aiming and observed the trunk-noded hexapedal creature that was the focus of the lens of his scope. Feeling a rush of exitement, he narrowed his eyes, began to breathe slowly and calmly...
And then a jolt, as he had squeezed the trigger and sent a projectile hurtling otwards the beast's skull.
It was then when a strange, if elegant, feminine figure appeared in the horizon, close enough for Uriel to notice her yet not enough for him to recognise her figure or any of her features. Neverthless, despite the distance it seemed obvious that she was a noble - more of a noble, in fact, than perhaps even Uriel himself. A Draconis like the Paragon, she walked with grace and maintained a proud poise. She was dressed in a long robe from ages gone by - a visitor from another, darker but perhaps more romantic era. Who was that mysterious woman? The Paragon wished to know.
It was after the bullet impacted the skull of the alien beast and a flock of snakelike birds swarmed out of the tree that Uriel noticed the figure within the scope of his rifle. While normally he would have lowered the thing and run over to his kill, he spent a moment, mesmerised by the graceful figure that had made itself visible down the telescopic lens against his eye. Prying the lens from the close vicinity of his eyeball, he briskly paced over towards the carcass, bounding over the terrain of long crimson grass that swayed in the light breeze that hit his face square-on. Arriving at the carcass he knelt down and brushed his hand over the surface its girthful body. His eyes then looked up towards the figure who made her graceful approach. Unable to take his eyes off her.
The figure, however, did not seem to notice the Paragon, and stood motionless, like a statue, her eyes fixed on the brilliant sky of the wild world. For a second, Uriel doubted himself; was that even a real person or merely a vision, a hallucination created by the local flora's noxious emanations? He could not tell. The last few months have not been merciful towards the Paragon's body or mind, and he was growing weary. He stood up and cast a concerned eye over the figure. He stepped around the corpse and called out to her.
Uriel - It is a beautiful day, is it not?
??? - ...Yes. Truly so.
Much like her garb, the accent and manner of speech of the mysterious woman appeared to be antiquated - by several millenia, in fact. Even though she spoke to Uriel in High Dracid, a tongue that was literary by nature and thus resistant to change, Uriel still struggled to understand even the shortest phrases that she used. Her voice - reeking of ancient power, booming, echoing, yet, strangely, refined and eloquent in some way - certainly wasn't of much help either
??? - This world has changed so little, it seems.
Uriel - ...When was the last time you visited?
??? - Yore. Come hither. Join me.
Uriel let out a a slight "huh" from his lips and stepped towards he, but he was not dissapointed. He was intrigued by the way she spoke in High Dracid. He appeoached slowly and maintianing an air of grace that was somehow a mere candle to the air of grace she radiated like a luminous star in the night sky. He stood next to her, observing the refined features spread across her snout.
Uriel - I must say this was a surprising encounter. In all honesty... I was not expecting anyone out here.
??? - How unwise of you, little one. One should always expect danger when you are a man of your stature. And do you know why?
Uriel - Oh I was expecting danger: the odd predator, perhaps a dangerous plant, an onset of harsh weather. It is what I enjoy about hunting. That and I have survived a few assassinations in my time.
??? - Congratulations, young one. Dangers like this are not what awaits you.
Uriel - Young?
??? - Yes. Young. Young and blind to the darkness that lies over yon.
With these words, the strange woman at last turned to the Paragon, baring her teeth like some twisted predatory animal. Her eyes, pupilless and shining like two shards of hellish, demonic ice exposed to sunlight, reflected nothing but pure malevolence and anger. The beautiful stranger's true nature was revealed now - an ancient, dark evil from the depths of time, brought to the world of today by some twisted misalliance of machinery and sorcery. With a wave of her clawed hand, the being raised Uriel in the air and slammed him against the ground, black ice rising from deep beneath the earth and trapping the Paragon in its cold tendrils. Soon, Uriel found himself in a frozen prison, only able to watch as the demoness-Draconis smiled devilishly... joined soon by her new friend.
He strutted in his approach, tossing aside a blade that would have logically belonged ot one of Uriel's Blood Dragons and looked at the helpless Paragon with a smug look across his twisted features. Uriel looked in horror at his new appearence, his bright crimson scales now blackened with hints of a dark volet tinge. His blood-red eyes replaced by intense blue orbs, and his chest cavity appeared to glow with an internal light. He approached and stood next to the tempress Uriel was talking to not moments ago, chuckling
Vokarus - Oh Uriel, he always was a fool for women. I hope his charms did not disgust you too much, my dear.
Yaomea - They amuse me.
Volkarus - Perhaps you would enjoy his... "company" for a while?
Volakrus snapped a clawed finger and materalising within the air beside him was a hollow facsimile of Uriel. It stared at the inspiration of its image with vacant emotionless eyes.
Yaomea - Yes. Well done, my friend - creating a replica of your enemy is an intelligent move, most definitely. Still, you have to remember that this- - Yaomea pointed at Uriel, then at his dull, drooling simulacrum - and this are two very different things. One would have to be a fool to confuse one for the other. This, my friend, is a mistake we have to rectify. This vessel needs to be filled with the thoughts and the feelings of the true Ultanos.
Volkarus nodded. He turned to the absent-minded copy and rested his hand upon the top of its snout. he closed his eyes and ocncentrated, the shell's dilated pupils contracted and it began blinking rapidly before Volkarus took his hand away and the copy stepped back several steps, visibly surprised.
Yaomea - Remember the lessons I taught you, fool. Do not restrict yourself! Pry his mind open, but do not harm it. We. Will. Need. Everything.
Br'klakkon - ...This... technique? It has been lost for generations!
Yaomea - Which is why I am here, you imbecile.
Volkarus - His mind holds many secrets. Step back here!
The copy moved more normally and it hesitantly stepped up. Volkarus grabbed it by the arm and yanked it forward, slamming his palm on the real Uriel's forehead. The copy acted visibly distrought as its mind was twisted and warped with the influx of thoughts and memories
Yaomea - Remember, perfect replicae are much more difficult to control. You should be prepared.
After several minutes at the discomfort of both Uriels, a strange effect caused the duplicate to fall backwards, looking at Volkarus, feeling intimidated. He then turned his head to see Yaomea
"Uriel" - Why did you entrap me-- Him... What?
Volkarus - I have restored you. In exchange, you are indebted to me.
'"Uriel" - And what of...Her! - The copy pointed to Yaomea.
Volkarus - She is an accomplice. Why she did what she did should not be thought about. Perhaps you should return to Alcanti, your majesty.
The copy nodded and stood up, it brushed itself down and looked over to see the rifle that the real Uriel had dropped. It walked over and carefully picked it up.
"Uriel" - I would rather not leave without this.
Volkarus - Because you brought it with you. Yes?
"Uriel" - That and it was a gift from one of my uncles. It has a few rare mods to it as well.
Volkarus - Then you had best return before the guard send s search party. I will keep in touch...
The copy nodded and headed back towards the direction the original Uriel had come come, momentarily taking a moment to look back and gaze at Yaomea nervously. After he left, Volkarus felt confident with himself and gave a curious look to Yaomea whle Uriel looked up at her in horror from his prison of ice.
Uriel - Wh-what in the l-lifefathers name d-did you do!
Yaomea - You.
Uriel snarled. He struggled ot try and shake himself out of the ice but it was too solid. He appeared to strain while barely moving.
Uriel - You think my consort, my family and my friends will fall for your cheap clone!?
Volkarus - Oh he's no "cheap clone". Which reminds me...what. to do. with you.
Uriel pulled back his features further, narrowing his eyes and pupils.
Uriel - I hope the void opens up into realspace and swallows you two whole!
Volkarus strutted up and lowere his stature to get right into Uriel's face, showing a misture of sadistic glee and anger.
Volkarus - Let it. It will only spit me out once more!
Yaomea - His use is redundant for now.
Volkarus - Wait!" - Volkarus held up his hand to her, a look of exitement crept across his snout - I have the perfect solution...
Uriel - or rather the simulacrum that imagined itself to be the man - was attending one of the performance houses in the Pastaht district. It was normal convention for the elite to use such venues to meet and discuss business or the politics of the day but he had visited this particular one out of being drawn to the performance on show - an adaptation of Arustus Falmeor's Tellerion by Gerok Saahk, a rising star according to the rumours Uriel could hear from the mouths of the various nobles attending that evening, a few of which he had personally spoken to over the course of the performance. Despite convention, he kept getting drawn back to the balcony booth that had been reserved for him, entranced by the baritone voices of the Draconis performers onstage.
Among the other visitors was a regal-looking Draconis woman in a rather old-fashioned, bur neverthless stylish dress, looking at the rest of the watchers with a mixture of disdain and displeasure. She maintained a calm disposition and refrained from speaking or socialising, preferring to watch the scene from afar.
Uriel met with several nobles that evening, one or two from as distant a locale as the Bunsen colonies. Unlike the Draocnis woman, Uriel was more than happy to socialise and interact, but every time he looked in her direction he felt unsettled. He eventually plucked up the courage and stepped over to her.
Uriel - S-something unsettling you madame?
Yaomea - ...Ah? Nothing. Completely nothing, sir. Not at all. Zilch. Naught. Yes.
Uriel - Then I...I apologise for bothering you madame.
Vesperon - I hope I am not interrupting anything? - Out from the crowds, the rather dark, yet noble-looking figure of the Imperial Chancellor appeared, smirking - You have some security problems, my liege?
Some of the nobles looked in Yaomea's directoin, following Uriel's movements and gave her furtive looks before returning to their drinks. Uriel twisted around, slightly startled by the sudden interruption of Vesperon Maltris.
Uriel - Security problems? No not that I am aware. Why do you ask?
It lingered in the back of his mind who Vesperon may have been talking about, but Uriel did not want to be impolite.
Vesperon - Oh. I was just... wondering. You know, with the Resurgence... resurging and the Brotherhood terrorists on loose, one wonders what precautions must be made for the sake of safety. Do you not remember what happened during the Great War, or during the last Khaxvis attack?
Uriel - The blood dragons have served as a trustworthy shield for me so far. And since they attacked, Dagonris, was it? The Resurgence has not been seen since.
Vesperon was taken aback by Uriel's rather casual recollection of the events. He widened his eyes in surprise and did his best to keep his mouth from dropping as he composed himself from the surprise. Uriel meanwhile slightly dropped the cheerful curiosity he had, seeing how horrified Vesperon was
Vesperon - My goodness! Your own daughter was kidnapped there! Why do you treat this situation with such laxity? The situation in Andromeda is stirring with the events in Umbra.
Uriel - Chancellor - Uriel gulped out of concern - I assure you that I am fully concerned with my safety and the security of the Imperium.
Vesperon - Y-yes, of course. But... erm... - Vesperon raised his eyebrow in confusion - I was just surprised how stalwart you are in face of grievous danger. I mean, you lost your wing that day and now you brush off the issue... That trait is admirable in a leader, I assume.
Uriel nodded. The simulacrum had enough memories to now recall the pain of the incident and his right wing twitched in response t othe pyschosomatic feeling of being ampuitated. He kept his composure as best he could and turned his attention back to Vesperon.
Uriel - Considering the rpesent war in Drakonmi Terevus, it is best that we show strength and condifence in these uncertain times.
Vesperon - Indeed. Dominicus vintervaa.
Vesperon further shook, understanding the overwhelming feel of wrongness that permeated Uriel's words now, but not understanding the source of it. Seeing that the Paragon had some visible problems with his memory, he decided to test it:
Vesperon - Ah, speaking of which... today is the anniversary of your first hunt, isn't it? The day when you killed a blood-red Coarlatus alpha in the Ashkari mountains. I think I remember seeing it on holo when I was a senator and you were merely the Imperium's crown prince - it was broadcasted all over the empire...
Of course, there was no hunt, and no blood-red Coarlatus. What the Chancellor said just now was nothing but a lie he made up on the spot, the likes of which he so liked to weave around himself - it was natural to him, a member of the Imperium's high circle. Now Vesperon waited if the Paragon would realise a sham. Uriel was silent for a moment. But a smile began to creep across his face. Vesperon recognised this sort of thought: Uriel was about to convince hi mthe lie was true.
Uriel - It was a long time ago but...I think so. High up there, the wind in my face and the beast's roar echoing like the mountain winds. I did not recall it being so widely publicised.
Vesperon - ...Right. - Vesperon whispered to himself - Something's afoul, definitely afoul, right, right...
Uriel - Why the reminder, chancellor?
Vesperon - Just... thinking about you, my liege. Always loyal to the throne and the one who sits upon it. Speaking of which- I have just remembered that I have some urgent government matters that I need to resolve in the Senate... so... - Vesperon said in the most calm and serious tone he could master, so that his voice had acquired an almost shepherd-like intonation - I should go.
Uriel nodded respectfully and decided to return to his balcony to watch the next act of the performance.
A Good Doctor Is Never Far Away
With feverish urgency - which was now completely real - Vesperon left Uriel alone and left the opera hall to the crowd of courtiers socialising outside. His grey, scaly eyes moved from place to place, though the Chancellor maintained his cool, seeking the right person to talk to about Uriel's predicament. Walking from person to person, he observed the denizens of Alcanti discussing the same thing they've been discussing for many years already - politics, the Imperial family, the recent upheavals... empty discussion. Nothing he hasn't seen before. Deep in his heart, he hated the everyday routine of the noble circles, its shallowness and pretentiousness, the veil of culture concealing decadence and obscene wealth. Could it be because he wasn't born to aristocracy, and was thus alienated from it somewhat? Or perhaps because his job in the court was, despite his high title, that of a mere clerk, and other noblemen viewed him with despise? Either way, he was not happy about it. One thing he wanted the most at the moment was to get outside and have some fresh air, away from all this aristocratic wastefulness.
But his duty came first. He was not only the Chancellor of the Imperium, but also Uriel's personal confidante and advisor, and one of his missions was to ensure his safety and well-being. What worried him more is that outside of him, no one has noticed the Paragon's problems with memory. Shouldn't the Paragavess have noticed this first, before he did? For a second, Vesperon contemplated contacting her, but then decided not to. It was her fault, after all, that one of the Imperium's most important government officials had to waste his time resolving the Paragon's domestic problems. The Pastaht district, with it's golden towers and silver-spooned denizens, was no place to find someone Vesperon felt confident discussing with. Many nobles made this city home and he knew full-well what could potentially happen if any nobles caught wind of the thought that the Paragavatus was no longer himself.
Eventually, after ten imperial minutes or so of wandering the Angel's Glade - a sprawling sea of fertility within the bowels of the Imperium's illustrious capital - he finally found the right person to talk to: Aylos Orolitov, the royal court's terratrix physician, who sat on the rim of an elaborate and gushing fountain fountain, was discussing matters with a pair of alien representatives from the senate's science council. Somewhat bluntly, though still as gentlemently as he could muster, the Chancellor moved through the crowd and approached the scientist, looking straight into his eyes so close that the Terratrix shook a little.
Seeing the chancellor appear from nowhere Aylos widened his eyes and let out a brief chirp of surprise as Vesperon appeared seemingly out of nowhere. He bowed his head in slight panic, not expecting to see the chancellor so suddenly.
Aylos - M-my Chancellor. I didnt' think you had an appointment today...
Vesperon - No, it's not me. It's... our Paragon. Come, speak with me. Let's get to somewhere more private...
Aylos nodded. He made a hand signal to indicate for Vesperon to follow him. He stood up, turned to his peers and looked apologetically at his peers.
Aylos - Sorry gentlemen but I really, really have to go, state metters.
Aylos beckoned and after a short trip in a sky-taxi led Vesperon to the modernist apartment unit that he had not far from Angel's Glade. After entering he headed straight to the kitchen and took out a glass to pour himself a drink from his fride. He huffed as he was slightly annoyed. Vesperon clasped his hands over his stomach, pressing into his knuckles out of nerves he looked out of the panoramic window that dominated the main wall of Aylos' sitting room. As Aylos came in with his drink in hand, Vesperon titlted his head, a growing scowl his world-weary left eye pierced Aylos' confidence. For Aylos that one look certainly affirmed why the Draconis ruled the imperium as they did. For even though he was not in an intimidating set of armour or brandishing a deadly weapon, Vesperon's very presence was lordly in every way to the alien physician, who sipped in some air in worry as Vesperon inhaled in preparation to speak.
Vesperon - ...Now, sir, we have more than a few things to talk about. You see, our Paragon has... not been himself recently. I understand that Uriel has faced much stress recently, but his memory leaks go beyond mere anxiety.
Aylos - What kind of leaks are we talking? Beacuse understand, sir, I was in the middle of a discussion about the use of a new form of bacteria for use in cell regrowth.
Vesperon - He thinks slowly, he barely remembers the day when he was almost killed, and he remembers things that did not happen at all. That is extremely problematic, as you can guess, considering that the healing functions of the Imperial Throne should normally counteract such maladies. I believe this... illness might have a unnatural cause. I fear he could've been infected with a bioengineered virus, or, worse yet, poisoned by his detractors. Considering that the Imperium is currently at war with multiple powerful superpowers of the Gigaquadrant, we have more than enough enemies that could accomplish that.
Aylos - I can look him over, certainly, but wouldn't the cause be more of a concern for Intelligence?
Vesperon - Yes, but I would need your scientific aid to determine the cause of the malady. Frankly, I would like to do this without much noise. The Imperium is troubled enough already...
fter a brief swig Aylos guffed and set the drink on the counter, walking up to Vesperon as he summoned confidence with every stride.
Aylos - Alright, I'll visit the palace tomorrow and then I will transmit my diagnosis to you.
Vesperon - Very well. I honestly hope we'll get this over with soon.
Aylos nodded and took another gulp of his drink. He promptly left Vesperon to contemplate forthcoming possibilities out of the window. He left the apartment not long after, leaving Aylos to prepare for his checkup with the paragon.
You Know Too Much
A few hours after Uriel's examination, Aylos had returned to his study to look over the data he had gathered: Blood tests, MRI scans, DNA checks, EEG measurements, internal physical examinations, Aylos wasn't sure what he was being asked ot look for so to make sure he had taken a very thorough examination of his client. As Vesperon had mentioned, Uriel was always kept in peak health by the mechanics of his throne, although neither he nor Vesperor nreuly knew how it kept the paragon in such good condition - a secret known only by a special corps of engineers at the palace - so Aylos' duties were mostly to do with the more serious injuries Uriel suffered thoughout his life.
Kept awake by cups of Arolean Marissat (a blend of coffee made from beans cultivated by the Terratrix) he worked late into the night. Straining his eyes he slumped backwards in his chair and gasped with frstration as he hran his hands though his crest feathers: Uriel was quite normal; the memories were there even when he responded slowly. There were no toxins in his bloodstream, but it was in that moment of exasperation he noticed something off. He tilted his head to see the blood sample tube on the table.
That is, he thought that was the blood sample vial. The tube was designed to prevent the blood from deoxygenating and coagulating and he was sure that he had not gotten rid of any. Yet inside was a blackish, vaporous substance. WHen he picked it up and tilted the tube the substance flowed and churned like liquid. He spun in his chair and inserted the tube into a scanning machine on his desk and drummed his fingers impatiently as the device scanned the tube for what he thought was blood.
Instead however, the scanner registered it as a pus. But microscopic images revealed that the humors were much more free-flowing than any kind of pus he was aware of as he watched vabours twist about in the tube. Worse, despite the preservation systems, the substance no longer registered by DNA as the blood of Uriel Ultanos the Sixteenth. The computer itself found no match: No one in the royal family, no one on his client records, no known lifeform shared the genetic pattern that the blood had degraded into. "What in the arboral cycle is this stuff?" he muttered to himself. He was about to look into the matter further by going back to his MRI scans but then he noticed the coffee mug was empty. A couple of rief glympses and he gave out a shrug "better refill" he said ot himself as he stood up, scooped up the mug and walked int othe kitchen, resting his palm against his forehead and running his fingers though his feathers.
After activating his coffee machine he relaxed against the coutnertop's edge and sighed, arms folded. He thought about composing the message to Vesperon when there was a creak from within his living room. Letting out a huff he psuhed himself from his position and stepped outside of the kitchen. As he passed into the main room the light softly rose in intensity to sunrise levels, sparking confusion as he was sure he had always set this room to rise to daylight levels. As he took a few steps forward something didnt' feel right, he twisted around but did not catch a good glypse of his attacker before a large hand grabbed his shirt and tossed him to the side.
Aylos let out a squawk as he landed with a hard thud o nthe wodden flooring and watched as his shadowed assailant - by the looks of him a Val'Kar - stomped towards him. Aylos scrambled backwards, gasping frantically as the warrior stepped forward. Examining him, the warrior was clad in some outfit that appeared ot mimic his muscle structure, protected by a series of scale-like armouring His every movement accompanies by a creak that resembled leather. What was oddest was that Aylos felt like the throw had worn him down more than it should have. He stood up, grabbed a nearby lantern and attempted to smash it against the warrior. He was inches away howeve rbefore the warrior extened an arm and crushed the lamp with ease before slamming his palm against Aylos' chest, sending him staggering backwards into a wall.
Aylos - "What in the forests' name do you want from me!"
The warrior did not answer. He cracked his knuckles as he stepped forward, forcing Aylos against a wall. As the warrior was inches from Aylos' beak he saw a long, bony hand rest upon the warrior's shoulder. It spoke in a soft, nasally and chirping voice.
??? - Enough of that. We do not want him too broken.
Aylos - W-what is going on!?
The figure gently guided the warrior aside and stood in front of Aylos.He was a tall, slender figure with most of his profile obscured by a long silver-trimmed robe open at the front. The light from behind revealed him to have the peacock-like head-crests of one of the Kaelar; a relatively unseen species that had recently joined the Imperium. Despitewhat he had heard, this one was eloquent, and there was a malicious twinkle in his eye as he measured the physician up and down, standing proudly a head above his subject of interest. SLowly, the figure lifted a hand up and ran his fingers though the feathers on his chin, the light fro mthe room showing hi mgiving sly looks towards Aylos. In response, the Terratrix scowled and screeched at him.
Aylos - W-what in the great cycle do you want and how did you get into my home!?
??? - How we got in does not matter. You are close to knowing something you shouldn't and my benefactors would rather you not speak to the chancellor about your discoveries with the paragon.
Aylos - How did you know when I myself only discovered--
Aylos snapped his back shut and looked at the figure furtively. Suddenly realising that he may have fallen into an undesireable pit.
Aylos - Who are you anyway.
??? - Merely a man with the Imperium's best interests at heart. That's all that should matter.
Aylos - Right. Breaking into my home, knocking me for six then interrogating me is the Imperium's best interests.
??? - In the grand scheme of things, doctor, you are an ant.
Aylos - Charming. Are you always this positive?
??? - Only to those who press me, doctor.
The figure took two steps back and ran his finger along the top edge of the sofa, appearing to appaise Aylos' taste in furniture before turning his attentio back to the doctor.
??? - My good doctor, you are about to make a dangerosu discovery and so I kindly ask that you keep it quiet, especially to the imperial chancellor.
Aylos - What? - Aylos's features contorted into a look of confusion and horror - You want me to lie to chancellor Maltris? A man you serve?
??? - He is at risk of becoming a rogue element
Aylos - You're aware he came to me because he was the one suspicious, yes?
??? - And you will tell him that the paragavatus is in perfect health, his amnesia is merely due to a bout of stress, nothing to worry about.
Aylos - I gave an oath, whoever you are, to be honest in my work. I will not lie to the Imperial chancellor for your sakes.
The figure jolted his head to look at Aylos with a titled head with a quizzical look accentuated with a hint of dissapointment.
??? - Is that so?
Aylos - And before the thought enters your head. I don't take bribes. House Ultanos pays me too well for that.
??? - Oh I never planned to give you something for your trouble, doctor.
Aylos - Youwhat?--
??? - Oh no. I was about to suggest that if you don't do as I could ask, I could speak ot a few contacts, have your medical license revoked, perhaps have your record marked with incidents of malpractice.
Aylos stood up and took two furious steps forward. His eyes were narrowed and his fethers drawn back. He stopped mostly because the Kaelar's bodyguard took a ocnfident step forward, sending a cold rush down Aylos' spine.
Aylos - You wouldn't!--
??? - You have no power to threaten me, doctor. Either you follow my request or you become nothing in a single night.
Aylos - You apathetic, self-centred little-- - Aylos threw his arms in the air in exasperation - Gah, fine! I'l lie, I'll do what you say just...get out of my home!
THe figure tilted his head and a smile crept across his beak, one Aylos could have sworn was malicious in its nature.
??? - I knew you would see sense doctor. Ta-ta.
The figure and his guardian suddenly vanished in a burst of black cmoke, causing Aylos to cough and wave his hand. Once he understood the two were gone he headed to the kitchen, poured out his coffee and headed back up to his workstatio and looked at the data on the screen. Slamming the coffee cup on the table in frustration he gave out a heavy sight as he slumped in his chair. With a heavy heart he combined the data with data from previous diagnoses, stiching them together ot make it looked like Uriel had a relatively clean bill of health.
Compiling it into an email he had the data sent to Vesperon, the final click of the dispatch was followed by a final slump in his chair as he rubbed the ridges around his eyes in a combined expression of pain and guilt over what he had just done. After muttering a few choice expletives to himself regarding his situation, he decided the only thing to do now was retire to his bed.
A New Lord Admiral
Battlestation One. An ancient space station established in a long-archaic time, this station served as one of the primary lines of defence. For millennia it represented the bulwark of defence and for as long as anyone could remember, it was the headquarters of the Aetheral Talon Body of the Draconid Imperium. While politicians gathered in Minos'Drakon below, the Imperium's top officers and elite solders convened in the station's baroque halls.
Today was a special event however. And while the shadow of Larnus' sacrifice still lingered, this was not a sombre day. In an ampitheatre within the inner station, the Draconid Imperium's top officers gathered as well as the Paragon himself, who took his place at a lectern. In a common room next to the ampitheatre was Leondias Drevex, one of the Imperium's finer executive-admirals and though all he had been though, he felt nervours. Squeezed withi nhis palm as he lay o na lounger was a stress-ball. He panted with anxiety as he waited for the ceremony, to which he had been invited, to begin. As he eyed a bottle of vintage wine, a familiar figure for him entered the room. Dracia Ultanos had come in and fro mthe look on her face and the movement of her hips, she had come to provide consolence. She walked around him and caressed her hands along his back and to his shoulders. Leondias twitched as he felt her fingers press against the flesh of his shoulders, his eyes flickering as the sensation rushed though his body ,causing his hands to twitch, eyes to flicker and his let go kick sideways. Dracia leaned towards his ear with a subtle smile on her face, whispering into her ear.
Dracia - You seem tense. Are we having pre-show jitters?
Leondias - Rrmmm are you patronising me my lady?
Dracia - I did not mean to. You should be proud. My , now supreme comamnder of every soldier under our banner.
Leondias - I do not need this pressure-- gargh!
Leondias arched backwards, causing Dracia to back away slightly, releasing some of her grip but not fully removing her hands. After giving him a moment she closed back in.
Dracia - I said you were tense.
Leondias - Watch your hands next time my lady. It is a tall order that is being asked of me.
Dracia - The praetors would not have chosen you if they believed you inept.
Leondias turned around and grabbed Dracia's hand as he scowled.
Leondias - Do not play innocent, my lady. You had a hand in te decision, did you not?
Dracia - I--
Leondias - Did you. Have a hand.
Dracia - I-it was the paragavatus, Leondias. He p-put your name forward.
Leondias widened his eyes and loosened hsi grip, surprised at this news. Gently holding Dracia's hand he guided it away.
Leondias - He did?
Dracia - It took some discussion but the council came to udnerstand his position.
Leondias - The paragavatus...considered me?
Dracia - You are blessed. He wants you to be his hand, Leondias.
Leondias - I-- Give me a moment.
Leondias turned his head and saw the bottle. He took a few deep breaths to compose himself, it would be too soo nto celebrate with a drink now but the temptation was crushing. He shifted himself ot sit up as an attendant walked into the room. Leondias was reaching to grab the neck as the attendant wlaked in and his hand stopped suddenly with a gasp. Dracia brushed her hand alon his neck, a gentle smile on her lips as she caressed her fingers down the length of his neck.
Attendant - The paragavatus is closing his speech, sir. Three minutes.
Leondias - Yes, yes. I will be ready.
The attendant nodded and closed the doro as he left the room. Leondias slumped i nthe lounger and grunted.
Leondias - I feel like I am made of glass.
Dracia - You're not sending soldiers planetside, you're giving beings confidence in their new .
Leondias - Yes...Once we are done with this ceremony I can get back ot my duty.
Dracia - Exactly. Now, your peers await you, my parla'elmiladrus
Leondias shiffted himself and left the lounger. He stood before the door to the ampitheatre and shook himself down. After that, he straightened his dress uniform, took a deep breath, and waited. With an electronic buzz from a device next to the door, Leondias inhaled and walked though the door.
Dracia never mentioned how many had turned up. Some three hundred nobles and officers were sitting in the ampitheatre around the lectern. Leondius moved straight for the podium, where Uriel - dressed in his white ceremonial armour - was waiting for him, in his hand was his favoured greatsword; the blade gifted to hi mby Hel'Bre'K Ce'So'Va of the Fordan Empire. Behind him was his Blood Dragon retinue, clad in the signature blood-red gold-trimmed armour of the Empyrean Cohort; the part of the guard charged as personal wardens of the paragon himself. Leondias too ka chance t olooked into the crowd as everyone cheered, the roar of applause, the flap of beating wings echoed in the chamber.
Standing befoer his paragon, Leondias looked into his paragon's eyes, those emerald gemstones that almost glittered in the ampitheatre's lights. Thumping his chest, Leondias saluted.
Uriel - Submit yourself, elkath'elmiladrus
On Uriel's command, Leondias opened his wings to his side and lowered himself to one knee. Uriel, with his two hands clutched on the handle of the sword raised the blade from its standing position and twisted it to rest the flat on Leondias' left shoulder.
Uriel - Leondias Drevex. Do you accept the duties that the Grand Senate has entrusted upon you, to take up the banner of our Imperium and to lead our imperium ot victory?
Leondias - I do, my paragavatus.
Uriel - And do you swear, by your life and blood, that will do your upmost to carry out your duty. To safeguard citizen and ally alike?
Leondias - I swear
Uriel - And do you swear, that you will commit to your duties until the day the caretakers of the Lifefeather's garden carry you to paradise?
Leondias - I swear, my paragavatus.
Uriel - Then I grant you, Leondias Drevex, the title of parla'elmiladrus of the Aetheral Talon Body. I grant you all the authority and privelage that such a talent provides.
Uriel twisted the sword on its edge and lifted the sword to point dowmward. He planted the sword's point to the platform he stood on and extended a hand.
Uriel - Rise parla'elmiladrus.
Leondias used his sings to push himself up as he grasped Uriel's hand. He flt the paragon grip his hand firmly, giving the military officer a nod before letting go. A roar of cheers erputed from the crowds, prompting Leondias to turn around. He looked in his palm to see the paragon had placed an intricately-designed amulet in his hand. He took a moment to look at it before returning his attention to the crowds, absorbing the rush of their applause. Uriel stepped up next to him and solemnly whispered into Leondias' ear.
Uriel - Your signet. Wear it with pride.
Leondias nodded and and slipped the amulet into one of thep ockets of his dress uniform. He clenched a fist and thrusted it into the air, opening his wings to their fullets in the process and allowing the light from behind to shine though his membranes.
Leondias - Dominicus Vinterva Danvamus. Vinterva!
Leondias' chant let out a further roar of applause from the audience. His doubts had been washed away; the people wanted hi mto lead, and he did not want to let them down.
Art Of Illusion
Volkarus stood over his desk in his private chambers. Before him was a large multi-screened console that he used to oversee all operations conducted by both his operatives and kin in the Khaxvis Resurgence and the members of the Ambrosan Society. His lofty position granted him a rare quantity on the wealth of information available to anyone in the first gigaquadrant. The information on these screens rivalled the knowledge of emperors and spymasters, and all of it at his fingertips.
Volkarus had begun to revel i nthis sort of thing, for years he had come to enjoy the qualities Tyraz had bestowed upon him, but with the House of the Unseen Hand, he came to realise that money and connections were just as potent as any degree of mental suggestion or reality-warping. Far from rejecting his gift as some might, he came ot understand just what sort of game the Isio' and the Mali'Nar had been palying for all these years. And deep down, it thrilled him.
Volkarus's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Yaomea, who appeared in a flash of radiant purple that blinded Volkarus for a split second. The Draconis Mali'Nar walked to Volkarus slowly, surrounded by a dark halo, her eyes full of restrained anger.
- Yaomea - Khaxvis, you've proven to be a sloppy pupil. Once again you forget the time of your lessons and sloth in inaction. Such laxity is unbecoming of a Mali.
Volkarus growled and lowered his head, the light from the screens illuminating his dark body with a cyan highlight.
- Volkarus - You call this inaction? Mistress? I have been running a large, complex organisation years before you were brought to the present. My "inaction" is in fact assuring that what I have spent years building does not fall apart.
Volkarus raised his head and turned to Yaomea with a sinister glint in those white orbs of his and exitement on his lips.
- Volkarus - This is power today, my mistress. Empires bending to my will with coin, connection and silver tongues. Does this not satisfy you?
- Yaomea - Short-sighted. The ability to conquer an empire is insignificant next to the power of the Mali'Nar. And you will not learn the old ways unless you listen to me.
- Volkarus - Fine. I will take effort to better concentrate on my lessons, mistress. But understand that I cannot completely abandon what I have built. After all, I have learned so much already...
- Yaomea - It is of no importance. The time of your lesson is now. Now, let us begin.
Volkarus nodded and pushed himself away from his screens, turning full attention to Yaomea and approaching her with a raised eyebrow.
- Yaomea - First of all.
Yaomea stepped back a little from Volkarus, breathing slowly and keeping her eyes on the Khaxvis warlord. Once she was far enough, the Draconis Mali'Nar began moving her hands in arcane passes as torrents of purplish energy coursed around her, taking form of strange fractals and geometrical patterns that moved around her body. She seemed oddly amused by the dance of light around her, liking the allure of colour that surrounded her form, but the expression of her face was, as always, dead serious.
- Yaomea - Tell me. What do you see?
Volkarus eyes followed the dancing patterns, his eyes widening in confusoin as to what she was doing. He took a moment ot silently contemplate, looking at the patterns closely but coming to a slow conclusion.
- Volkarus - I see...Patterns, s-sequences in chaos, predictability in madness, expectation in disorder...
- Yaomea - Wrong.
Yaomea smashed her hands against each other, making the patterns of energy around her dissipate and vanish, and then looked at the Khaxvis with a disappointed stare. Volkarus was taken aback, for once he had thought he had proved ot her he was not some simpleton who took her psychadelic patterns at face value.
- Volakrus - Wh-- What?
- Yaomea - It was nothing. Nothing. Tell me, what did this performance of mine accomplish? Merely a show of power. You still see with your eyes and not your inner eye.
- Volkarus - You ask me to see with a sight beyond sight yet you tell me I was shown... nothing?
- Yaomea - A sight beyond sight does not necessarily mean you have to see things other do not. It also means you have to not see things others do. Fear is an illusion. Use it.
- Volkarus - I suppose such a technique can be used for more than inciting fear. But I understand your point.
- Yaomea - You. You used this... this... - Yaomea stopped, cupping her chin trying to find the right word, before settling finally for an archaic Dracid dialectism from her time - Zun'tyo in the past, did you not?
- Volkarus - Zun'tyo? Apologies, my archaic Dracid requires improvement, so enlighten me.
- Yaomea - What word there is in your tongue... sin, descent, decadence... nothing truly fits. I do not know what it is called in your time, but the word is referred by the Mali to the exotic Essences from foreign dimensions... ones which you have contracted once. I sensed it the first time we met.
Volkarus nodded, now fully understanding as to what Yaomea referred to.
- Volkarus - I understand what you refer to now. And Indeed, however I found it....destabilising.
- Yaomea - I and my servants once warred the beasts who wielded that power. They were powerful, ferocious in battle, but they... they lacked control. Their essence was potent, but at the same time wild and unpredictable. We Mali'Nar have no such flaws - or at least, the Mali'Nar of our time hadn't. Bah, Ascendants these day.
- Volkarus - I have come to prefer the talents bestowed upon me by you and Br'klakkon. I am done with the madness that once consumed me.
- Yaomea - Indeed, but you still have power of these energies in your soul, and a true Mali'Nar utilises all that is within their arsenal. This "Demon Form" that you once used - combine it with new powers that you wield, and not only shall you be able to call upon it, but also control it.
Volkarus nodded, pretending to accept Yaomea's words as if they were sage advice for the future.
- Volkarus - Give me a minute to compose myself...
- Yaomea - That inner demonic essence which you have attained through it. Try to make it come forth. Then, restrain it.
Volkarus took a step back. He had done what Yaomea had asked before, and with some practice it was trivial ot goad it out. With a flash of light from his eyes, his scales blackened and his muscles began to ripple. But this tiem however, the transformatoin appeared les smooth than before as he fought the transformative process. Instead of his scars illuminating themselves, his veins began to glow with a baleful light as despite all his efforts, he began the transformation.
- Yaomea - Mere mortal minds cannot face the unrestrained power of that transformation. But mere mortal minds are also limited. Your mind is extended beyond your body. Use it. Make the outer realms of your soul cage in the inner fire of the Demon.
As Volkarus strained to contain the demon, the same light that shoen fro mhis eyes began to radiate for mhis mouth, black smoke began to precipitate from his fingertips as he twitched to control the transformation. His twitching evident that despite his less restricted mind, he felt pain.
After a torturous moment, there was a shockwave of malevolent power from Volkarus' body and he emerged as something alien, something unlike himself. He observed his new form, looking at his arms and legs, his very presence darkened the air around him, which severely exited him.
- Yaomea'' - Now, Volkarus Khaxvis, reclaim your mind. Concentrate. Call out to the outer recesses of mind.
Volkarus nodded, and his form became pitch black, a shadow standing in a well-lit room. Emerging from the shadow was Volkarus as he was, the demon had been contained and his former mind was fully restored.
- Volkarus - Satisfied?
- Yaomea - You can speak. . You are perhaps not completely worthless. Now, you have to remember: power is nothing without discipline. You can make billions dread to utter your name or damn it ceaseless with ease as a Mali'... but true power lies in being able to command when or where they do it.
- Volkarus - I am fully aware of the virtues of control, mistress. But to fear my name, they must first know it.
- Yaomea - I believe there is an... excellent way to properly explain just what I am talking about to you. I might be able to take my revenge on the Grand Houses of the Imperium after all...
A Show and Dinner
Volkarus had used his contacts in the Society to secure theatre tickets for a presentation of Raising Quinthambra, an operatic ballad of a young woman who enamored with an affluent aristocrat pushed herself to learn their graces. The two of them watched as despite the young woman's dreams, the focus of her love cared little for her. This feeling of ordinary maximised in an upbeat song about how plain she was to him.
As the story progressed, the truth dawned on the aspiring lady. Quinthambra realised her lover wasn't interested, as he began seeing a much more affluent woman. Volkarus watched with interest, sometimes taking a glance at the audience, while Yaomea's features contracted in disgust. to Volkarus this performance was ancient, to her it was from the near future, but the story itself was timeless The climax said it all, as the unfolding events laid bare the divide that existed between those Draconis who felt themselves high-born, and those Draconis deprived of such privelage. Quinthabra stumbled to the floor after a feat of humiliation by the man she loved, with her the curtain descending as the man lamented how despite her dreams, there was more to nobility than wealth and luxury. What people dreamed of living, the aristocracy believed was an elegance that draped itself over the aristocracy's functional importance of managing the positions of office. For them. The man considered that to be highborn was to be endowed from birth with the responsibilities of leadership, while the common man only received such when time went by. With this, the curtain descended and the crowd applauded.
Yaomea however was far from awed. She sat next to Volkarus, her snout contorting form her scowl. She saw differently; for all this talk of privelage, it was but an excuse for many to preen their feathers, pretending they were important while playing dark games with each other. Within the appleause, Volkarus leaned towards her.
- Volkarus - Now. I believe we had another reason for attending this...intriguing performance?
- Yaomea - Oh, yes. This is where you see the Mali'Nar's true potential. Not an impotent show of power meant to feed one's self-love, but an actual force capable of bending the universe to one's will.
- Volkarus - When Br'Klakkon sought to break the leaders of the present government, he summoned forth simulacra of their most dreaded enemies. In doing so they focused on these phantoms instead of him.
- Br'klakkon - My creations were a most delightful work of art.
- Yaomea - Exactly. A physical show of power is potent. It can wreak horror into the hearts of man, sow death and pain and misery. But it has its weaknesses. Kill a million, and you will be hated. Kill a billion, and a trillion will hunger for your death. A phantom, a shadow - it has infinitesimally more power. Because instead of hatred, it begets fear.
- Br'klakkon - Now what happens when the two are combined...
- Volkarus - The fears of mortal minds become real, thew distinction between fantasy and truth break down as the essence of their imagination emerges forth to destroy its victims. Combine the potency of the physical and the aura of dread of the phantom...a thousand lost lives beget a sense of terror in billions.
- Yaomea - You learn well. Now, let us see what you are capable of in practice.
Volkarus smiled. As the audience applauded, he joined in adding a firm clap within the audience's cheers, in doing so causig the auditorium to tremble. He continued to applaud, and the rumbling became constant before the ceiling of the main hall was torn open and thrown above by a gigantic clawed hand. Descending from the hole was a draconic head many times the size of anyone sitting down, causing the entire chamber to scream in panic as the creature delivered a deafening roar, black smoke billowing from its mouth as those underneath its roar had their bodies filled with an excruciating sense of pain. The creature, a Coarlatus of immpossible size, pulled itself though the ceiling and flew towards the stage, its wings tearing into the booths as it settled, resting a large claw over one of the actors.
As everyone else panicked, Volkarus turned to Yaomea and smirked. The Coarlatus let out another roar, shattering glass and cracking wood. Some tried ot escape the theatre to find the exits were locked no matter how hard they pushed or manipulated the handles.
- Volkarus - What do you think to this rather unexpected conclusion?
- Yaomea - Somewhat clumsy, but nonetheless both plausible and improbable. A fear that does not require the supernatural but allows its existence nonetheless. Observe these people run screaming, trying to rationalise the happenings. They wish for their world to make sense - and they'll try to make it have sense. "It could happen anywhere!" - they would say! And in creating a justification like this, they would bring their fear closer to their own homes. For decades will they shiver in their own homes, grow madder and madder as the image of horror flashes again and again in their minds. For what could happen anywhere once. Could happen anywhere again.
- Volakrus - Perhaps they need a further nudge. Tell me, of today's actors, are their any whose performances particularly dissapoitned you?
- Yaomea - ...The one who played the hero's friend. - Yaomea's reserved smile transformed into a wide, diabolical grin - Yes... What do you intend to do? There is a myriad of possibilities...
Volakrus gestured in the man's direction. On his silent command, the woman to which the man of Quinthambra's desire ran for him screaming and clutching her head. She reached out and wrestled him to the floor and the two of them were joined by the razor-sharp teeth of the Coarlatus as it tossed them int othe air and clamped its jaws around them, swallowing their remains.
- Volakrus - I felt the harlot deserved to be punished as well. Might serve as a lesson to the aristocrats who think she had no part in the tragedy.
- Yaomea - You are trying to earn my favour through being a sycophant, are you not?
- Volkarus - Lifefather's Garden is that how you see me? I only desired for this visit to be memorable; after all it must have been a long time since you saw your last performance.
Volkarus shifted himself closer to her, smiling.
- Volkarus - Think of it as my reciprocation for your willingness to impart your knowledge with me.
- Yaomea - Your words do not change the way I see you. But I like how subtle you are in doing so... - Yaomea reciprocated the smile - Well done, boy.
Volkarus moved to reach out and red his hand on Yaomea's forearm. His smiled blossomed into a grin as he moved himself closer.
- Volkarus - It ia as you say though, the Mali' do not judge themselves based on what others say, do they? No matter what you may consider me, I am Mali. What I am is of my decision to become.
- Yaomea - Whether you stay a Mali for long, however, is in question. And I shall determine that throughout your education. You are doing quite well right now, though... boy...
- Volkarus - That is good to know, but you are not the only one who can determine that
- Yaomea - Do not overextend, boy! Your insolence will be-
With a swift moveVolakrus moved his other hand to firmly grasp Yaomea's face, his eyes became intensely luminous as he telepathically paralysed her and began digging though her mind, searching out secrets and, with Br'klakkon's aid and the power of the Demon inside him, Volkarus pushed against Yaomea's consciousness as he sought out every secret he could find.
- Br'klakkon - Excellent.
- Volakrus - There is more than one way to learn your secrets. Crone. But more importantly...your body has other uses!
- Yaomea - WHAT?! You... would not dare... - with her last strength, Yaomea tried to push Volkarus away, but was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer energy he now exuded - All the knowledge you have lost... you will... regret this.
- Volkarus - Be honest with me crone, how much of this knowledge of yours did you plan ot keep to yourself alone for eternity?
- Yaomea - The Mali will fall - because of you. Because of you. Because... of... you. - Yaomea's body finally fell lifeless on the ground and began decomposing rapidly, her dress's silky fabric draped across the room.
Volakrus gathered Br'klakkon's essence of mind within his hand, WIth a slam of his palm a rush of energy flowed though the corpse's head. But just as he had done so there was a concussive blast from the rafters. Looking up, Volkarus spotted Sarec in the rafters and called for the Coarlatus ot attack him. The beast narrowly missed Sarec as he flew down and sent a shockwave to push Volkarus back while the coarlatus smashed though the upper levels, pushing its way though the rest of the building to return. Discovering her mind, Sarec collected it by placing his hand on Yaomea's head and lifting it from her body, narrowly dodging a repulsive wave from Volkarus' torso as he stomped in preparation of tearing him apart.
- Br'klakkon - Insolent slave! Attack!
Focusing on saving himself, Sarec leapt from the booth and flew around the chamber, phasing though a wall that sent him though to the bowels of the Arcadium. The coarlatus however, had no such power and demolished the wall he had passed though a split second ago.
Finding an unused android body in the storeroom, Sarec gathered Yaomea's life-essenc ein his palm and inserted it into the android's bionic brain. He folded his arms as he waited for a moment for Yaomea to acclimatise herself with her new body.
- Yaomea - ...strings -- mechanisms - - Yaomea shook her head - Now -- free -- WHAT -- YOU -- DONE