The Kadeshi Crusade – Chapter 18 – The Children of the Unbound

Chapter 17 | Landing Page | Chapter 19

The Kadeshi Crusade

A Homeworld Fanfiction

by Crobato

Originally posted May 15, 2001

Chapter 18 – The Children of the Unbound

Was this but a dream?

The waves licked his toes as the soles of his feet grind the sand. The sea was grey, and Seejuk Liirhra knew where he was.

Here, long ago, Majiir Paktu ended the First Migration and changed Kharakian history for ever. Here he stood, in the shores of the great Majiirian sea.

On the sky above, like a new moon, the Mothership hang in orbit.

He too was about to embark on his own great journey. As a child he saw the Mothership lit the sky like a new moon, and wondered where it would go and how it would be like. He built his own model ships, then lit a propellent under them to see them rush into the sky. He developed an interest in archeology and planned pilgrimages to the fabled Somtaaw temples in the Khontala mountains. He dreamed to see the legendary Star Metal Scrolls of the Somtaaw, which he was convinced was an alien artifiact. He had been one of the most promising students in the Academy, specializing in ship engineering and archeology. One day, he will fly with the Mothership, as one of the precious few chosen for the journey.

His body was so much lighter now. His arms leaner but seem to have greater strength. Why does he feel like this? Why does he feel with so much energy now? He was in the body of young man about to begin his journey in life. The waves sang as they lapped the shores.

He thought he was much older, in a place so much farther away. He could not remember where that place and why. He thought that he had a companion, a girl, but again he could not remember who she was or what. Why does he think like this? Were these all dreams?

This, he thought, it all seemed real, so beautiful. He didn’t want to leave it. He stripped himself down and dove to the waters. The water was so cool and refreshing, and underneath teemed with strange and wonderful creatures. His breath ran out and he broke the surface, propelled by his muscular arms.

“Seejuk!” A girl’s voice shouted. Her voice was like music.

No, it was not the girl he thought he had vaguely dreamt. It was a girl in his past, one he thought who died and he would never see again. Why was he thinking like this again? She is here now, she is true, she is flesh and blood.

Hiraa Manaan.

“Hiraa! I am over here,” Seejuk shouted to her, waving for her to go into the waters with him. Hiraa was a beautiful creature. Her skinned was tanned like a desert nomad, but the color of her short hair was light and so were her eyes. She had a figure that was both lean and strong, and yet curved so smoothly. She dropped her robes as she ran, and her body sliced into the sea.

Their nude bodies met in an embrace, their lips against each other. Oh how much he missed her. He carried her with his arms and lay her back on the beach, still kissing. Their bodies rolling in the soft sand, washed by the waves, they made love for hours.

When it was all over, he stared at her face, trying to burn that image in his mind so he will never forget.

“I have some good news to tell you,” Seejuk said. ” I have been put in the Gold list for the Mothership!”

“I am so proud of you,” Hiraa hesitently said.

“Is there something wrong?” Seejuk asked.

Hiraa shook her arms, exasperated. “You are so thick! What is going to become of us? I’m sorry. I really should be happy for you. Not anyone gets to fly out into the stars. But I don’t think I can meet another one like you, Seejuk.”

“Nor will I, Hiraa. I love you very much, Hiraa. Let’s do this. Let’s get married before I go. We can have some time together before that.”

Hiraa shook her head. “If you change your marital status now, they may kick you off the list. I’m sorry Seejuk. Save the thought when you come back. How long did you say the journey will be?”

“About one to two years, Hiraa. I may be sleeping most of the time in cryogenic status.”

“One to two years?” Hiraa asked, one eye lifting its brow. “Are you going to miss me very much?”

“Oh yes, my dear Hiraa..”

“We can seal our love in marriage after you come back, Seejuk. By that time, you will be a big hero. You will have discovered the true origin of our peoples and a permanent place in history. I will have a husband to be proud of.”

Hiraa placed her hands behind her neck and removed her necklace. She showed the gemstone on the end of the necklace to Seejuk. “On the end of it is a black gemstone said to from the mountains of Khontala where the sacred temples of the god Sajuuk, Jaakul, and the goddess Kharak lie. It has been with our family for generations. I want you to have this to remember me by. This will seal our bond as lovers and soul mates forever.”

Hiraa placed the necklace on Seejuk’s neck. Seejuk threw her down on her back again, his hands sensuously touching the curves of her body, caressing her smooth skin and soft flesh. The sun was starting to set; the grey waters lit in red fire. He wanted to make love to her again, and she invited him with a long kiss in his mouth.

Suddenly he woke up. The white lights were blinding, and his pale black and bluish body was cold, cold…cold. The nurses helped him lift his naked body from the cryogenic capsule and placed a robe over him. “Welcome to Hiigara, Sleeper.”

“Am I? Am I really here, in the Homeworld?” Seejuk asked.

“Yes you are,” the nurse said. “There are so many things that have happened since you were asleep. The staff will brief you as soon as you are ready.”

When they deemed he was both physically and mentally ready, he was brought with all the other waking Sleepers into a room. There they were briefed what happened.

It can’t be, Seejuk thought. His voice and thoughts were drowned in the mass of anguished voices faced with the horrible reality that their loved ones, their families, their homes, everything they knew, were destroyed in the firestorm over Kharak.

Despite the objections of the staff, he quickly ran out of the room as fast as his still feeble legs could carry him. He stumbled, got up and ran, stumbled again but kept going. He didn’t know where he was going and couldn’t care. His family, his home…and Hiraa. Oh, not Hiraa! His dearest Hiraa…

He fell for the final time, tears streaming down his eyes. As he clutched the area near his heart, he felt something. It was the necklace, with the black gemstone from the Khontala mountains. Feeling it, he cried even more. The staff rushed down the corridor to retrieve him.

“Wake up, wake up!”

Seejuk saw a girl’s face amidst his teary eyes. “Hiraa? Is that you?”

“No! It’s me, Zha! You have been shouting this Hiraa’s name for hours! It was getting annoying frankly. Who is this Hiraa?”

Seejuk took moments to regain his senses. “She’s none of your business, Zha. Later I may tell you, but this is not the time. Let us just say she used to be a lady I liked a very much a long time ago and got a lot more class than you…”

“Ohhh…sounds like I touched something personal here,” Zha said. “How come I never heard of her for all this time?”

“Somehow I thought I had forgotten her,” Seejuk said. “Plus my life is not an open book for you teenagers to nose around.”

G’yela’s serene face watched over them. “It looks like you passed the rite. So many have become insane for it. I would have to congratulate you. You have faced your greatest pain and fear once again, the pain that still resides in your hearts. This is the rite of Cleansing, to cleanse your hearts. “

“That is one way to put it. I wish you could have told us ahead. By Sajuuk’s name, that is one hell of an experience. Does it mean, when we passed, we’re cleansed, we’re worthy, we’re honorable Kadeshi now?” Seejuk said.

“You can put it that way,” G’yela said. “It also means you have become worthy to be in the lowest rank of the Orders, the rank of Acolyte. It is the rank needed for you to be able to do the studies on the relics I require, to maintain and protect them. One final thing and you are done. You will now be required to recite the solemn oath as the Protectors of the Mother.”

Seejuk and Zha followed G’yela’s words as she recited the pledge. They were sworn to protect the Mother and all her sacred relics, and uphold Her teachings and principles. It was a weird feeling and they looked at each other. They may have recited the pledge loudly, but in their minds and hearts, they’re not sure what to believe in. They both guessed that they will do anything to stay alive and obtain access to what may be the greatest archeological treasure in the galaxy.

“We have prepared special quarters in this sacred Ark for you two to stay and accomplish your scholarly work,” G’yela said. “The Handmaidens shall lead you to your new quarters. The Salvagers will also bring new relics from the Graveyard ships and the four derelict warrior dreadnaughts for you to study. I will expect your results from time to time.”

“I have not been stoned like this,” Seejuk said. “What do you have in this Mother’s Blood?”

“Secrets that the Kadeshi have kept for generations,” G’yela said. “In the millennia, some of the ships that became trapped in the Gardens were either farm ships, or carried agricultural produce. We have learned to harness what we captured, and we developed agricultural facilities in the Arkships and made farm ships of our own. The drug was extracted from a plant whose ultimate origins in the Outside we do not know.”

“By Sajuuk’s name, that is one potent drug,” Seejuk said. He noted that the effects were not fully over.

“I still feel stoned…” Zha said. She seemed to have problems maintaining her balance. Seejuk noted that she had a much smaller and frail body mass and a younger age with more active hormones. The drug may have a stronger, more prevailing effect on her.

“I have spent enough time here and other issues await me now.” She gracefully left with two of the Handmaidens.

As they walked to the new quarters, Zha broke down, fell to the floor and sob uncontrollably. “This happens,” one of the Handmaidens said. “The effects of the Rite sometimes linger.”

“It’s lingering pretty strong now,” Seejuk observed. “She’s having a complete relapse.” Seejuk tried slapping Zha’s face. “It is better to carry her first to her quarters,” the Handmaiden said.

Seejuk lifted Zha, her face over his shoulder, and like a primate, Zha wrapped her arms around Seejuk’s neck in a tight squeeze. She was still crying heavily, and her tears were soaking his robe. In her tight hug, Seejuk felt a sharp metallic pain in his chest as she pressed her chest against him. He ran his hand to his chest, and felt the necklace he had carried for all this time. His fingers followed the chain to the orb at its end, and he grasped the black gemstone from Khontala. ***

“Are you alright now? Seejuk asked.

Zha shaked her head, running her fingers in her hair. “I think so. That was one powerful potion. If we can get the formula for that…”

“And run afoul with the law enforcement of thousands of habitable worlds? No thank you,” Seejuk retorted.

“Just a thought, okay, forget it,” Zha said.

Seejuk shook his head and buried it in the tons of work in front of a crude terminal. There were various small relics in his desk which he would occasionally lift in front of the light to better examine them. “Speaking of thoughts, you should start to get to work now, Zha. The stuff they have been keeping here in this ship they call the Khar’nak has to be one of the greatest archeological collections in the entire galaxy. This ship is practically a museum itself. It houses not only a lot of Hiigaran Pre-Exile artifacts, but ancient relics that may be long to the Taiidan and other races as well. There are things that even defy our known catalog of races. For generations, the Kadeshi trapped ships that may have come from all over the galaxy, and then kept what they perceive are the valuable and interesting things they would find in those ships.”

“G’yela is one smart person. She would have known that these relics defy interpretation by the best scholars of Kadesh. Only one from Outside of their Gardens could be able to put these relics in their right historical and racial context. There is another thing. The Orders have deliberately hid them away from any Kadeshi, because many of the things here could have profound effects on their religion. Some of the things here could easily lay basis for heresies and with it, civil wars. Thus no scholars or their own scientists would dare touch them. We are allowed to study them simply because we are not Kadeshi. We are not expected to go out and spew the things we find and alter their religion when we discover something. Yet for generations, the Orders collected and kept these relics. Why? It seems that they are themselves fearful of them. They were afraid that these relics came from the gods themselves and destroying them would incur some wrath. So they kept them, afraid to incur divine wrath yet unable to understand them.”

“Wonderful analysis, Seejuk,” Zha said. “I didn’t say this before but I deeply appreciate you coming to my rescue here. Now I hope you have a plan to get us out of here.”

“To confess to you, Zha, I don’t,” Seejuk replied. “The Kadeshi and the Kushan races are in a collision course that may eventually destroy each other. If I escape, I am afraid I won’t have a home to escape to. We have to see this to the end. We have to change that collision course.”

“How do you propose to that?” Zha asked.

“Plan B—We will improvise something,” Seejuk replied.

“By your god Sajuuk’s name, I oughta—-,” Zha shook her fists.

A thought came to her mind. Seejuk would never want to leave this “museum”. All he ever worked for when he wandered the galaxy in the mule…all he ever dreamt…they were all right here, in a single collected place. No one would turn their back when the treasures of history were dumped right in front of their laps. Instead of getting out, he would try to save them anyway he can.

That leaves her, somehow stuck, with no conceivable way of escape. She sighed.

Seejuk seemed concentrated on his work. But he couldn’t “feel” the relics like she could. The things here, they still echo the cosmic winds they rode on and the ghosts of the people who use them. If she had the time, she would want to feel them. Why does she feel they’re running out of time? Seejuk was right; the place is a treasure house, the sensations and the music of an entire galaxy collected.

“Our high priestess G’yela seemed fond of collecting and studying items pertaining to a certain theme,” Seejuk suddenly intervened. “They pertain to an ancient race of voyagers—“

Zha interrupted. “—-the Starfarers, I know. The Tiamat—one of the Unbound—revealed them to us. Before there were the Raiders, the Hiigaran and the Taiidan, before there were races that traveled the stars, there was the Unbound. They soared the cosmic winds and the vast spaces of the stars. Until they came to a planet—the one they say is the real but forgotten, the First Homeworld, of all races. They fell in love with the beautiful women they saw in that world, and intermingled with them. They committed the cardinal sin and broke the directive that the Unbound observed for generations. They were banished and became one with the Bound and mortal.”

“But their children would have the abilities to sense and travel the stars. As the race of the First Homeworld traveled to the stars, the Children spearheaded the expansion to the stars. They would become the Starfarers. In time, the primal race would split into different races. The Unbound as well, would become many—the Bentusi, the Tiamat—they are just two of the many races of the Unbound. The Unbound has continued to watch over the children.”

“Tiamat?” Seejuk asked.

“That is what the name they revealed to me and G’yela,” Zha replied.

Seejuk explained. “The Bentusi has been the most encountered of all the Unbound you speak of. In fact, we had believed the Bentusi is the Unbound, with no idea that there are other races of the Unbound as well. After the Homeworld wars, we had access to records and histories from Taiidan allies. It is revealed that there is another mysterious race, that like the Bentusi, had been playing strings with all known races. The records reveal an incomplete name—“

“T-MAT.”

“The Taiidani consider them to be evil. This is wonderful, and you have provided their complete name,” Seejuk said. “You have encountered the T-Mat, or Tiamat, as we shall call them now?”

“It is hard to explain,” Zha observed.

“Try me,” Seejuk replied.

“Before you came onboard, me and G’yela seemed to have met the Tiamat through spiritual projection. It seemed our spirits traveled through space to meet them. I know it sounds incredible…” Zha said.

“Why does it seem incredible?” Seejuk said. “There were myths that with the ancient Somtaaw, the priestesses of the ancient Oracle of Tala were said be able to transcend their spirits beyond their bodies, enabling them to talk with the gods and commune with nature not possible with their physical bodies. I’ve heard this with other myths of other races. Unlike some scholars, I keep an open mind to all possibilities, something we need now as we are faced with the greatest rush of discoveries. Did you see anything about the Tiamat?”

“Only voices,” Zha said.

“Nobody ever saw a real Bentusi too, so I am not surprised about that either,” Seejuk said. “If they were able to mingle with human form long ago, they must have had human bodies at a time,but were capable of transcending their senses and spirits from their bodies. I think this is what they mean by the Unbound. Not only have they become enigmatic and nomadic, but they are capable of transcending their physical bodies. After the Homeworld Wars, the scientist Baa’mut S’jet wrote that our present form we are not truly interstellar races as we are physically bound to our bodies and its worldly requirements. We are still bound to Homeworlds. The next stage of evolution would be a true interstellar lifeform, unbound from the requirements of planetary worlds, adapted to live in interstellar space. That is what he hypothesized the Unbound was. They have approached that stage of evolution.”

“Zha, you said the Unbound watches over their children?”

“Yes,” Zha replied. “The Starfarers are the Children of the Unbound. Me and G’yela are Children of the Unbound. Does it sound incredible?”

“When you disappeared after that battle, we thought you were dead,” Seejuk said. “Until the Bentusi came and told us to look for you. It was they who told me to come to the Graveyards. The Bentusi would not do this over a single individual unless for the reason you said, that they care for the Farers they call their Children.”

Seejuk flashed some text screens in his monitor. “G’yela knows this too. She left her own studies completely open for us to look at, as if she wanted to. There is something about her—maybe the religious part in her—that requires her to seek the ultimate truth, no matter where it leads. She has been researching, looking for clues, where the First Homeworld was, and if there, is still such a thing as the First Race as she calls them, the ones who provided the human half of the Starfarers. It is not Hiigara, and this is a quest that will lead way beyond the boundaries we know.”

“I also have been find out a lot of things too. It looks like the Unbound have been poking their nose into the Kadeshi affairs. Look here, this looks like Bentusi text, which was introduced to Kushan eyes during the Homeworld Wars. The Bentusi text was for guess what? The Swarmer schematics. No wonder there is some similarity between them and the Acolytes, the most important feature being the spinal support structure that ends with a tail behind the craft. That was why it was easy adapting the Bentusi drives on the Swarmers. Now these text here are similar to Bentusi, but are not Bentusi. Who could have they been?”

Zha looked at the text, and there was an instant sense of familiarity. “I have a strong feeling this is the Tiamat.”

“Could be, could be…” Seejuk commented. “Whoever gave mini ion beam, hyperspace inhibition and Needleship construction was one of the Unbound, but it wasn’t Bentusi, who would never pass weapons technology. I would go with your suggestion that it was your Tiamat.”

“They seem very interested on Kadeshi affairs, from what I recall with our strange meeting,” Zha said. “You seem to find out a lot. What about the Multibeam frigates?”

“Ancient Hiigaran design, not much different from Kushan corvettes, only much larger. They went and fitted the mini ion beam cannons where the turrets are supposed to be,” Seejuk said. “The Pods came from yet another race whose ships got trapped in the Nebula much later.”

“That’s not all, Zha,” Seejuk added. “There was something I found out about their Great Mother. It was something the Orders have suspected and kept hidden away from the Kadeshi people. When they encountered the Unclean Kushan for the first time, that something, that fear was revived. When the Kushan fleet offered the Kadeshi to join them in their odyssey to the Homeworld, the Kadeshi refused and attacked them instead, on clear explicit orders from the top Kadeshi religious order. Do you know why? “It was something I suspect for sometime now. This is something I have been digging up in the relics and interpretation of their texts.”

“The Great Mother is a Hiigaran.”

***

3000 years ago…

They squirmed in the sheets, their naked bodies tied in tight embrace.

“Captain Jakuul Pangu’t, where do you learn to make love like that?” asked the woman. Jakuul turned to her, eyed her soft streamlined curves that run from her head to toe, then turned to her eyes and flowing hair.

“Well Commander N’ua Helan, how did you become to be so good?” he told her. “One of these days, our encounters can be embarassing if the people find out. You are commander of the fleet and I’m one of the captains. That’s kind of a conflict of interest, won’t it?”

“Proud Captain of the Khar’toba,” she said. “If you are in uniform and married, that will be kind of a conflict. But we’re not right now. We are man and woman. Who knows what our future will be? If we die tommorrow, at least we find some love and desire today. If we live tommorrow, then we’re doing our duties to procreate in the name of the race.” She kissed his chest.

“That’s a funny way of putting it, N’ua,” Jakuul said. “But your commander, and I follow.”

Their solitude was interrupted as N’ua’s portable comlink flashed. “I guess your job is never done, Commander,” Jakuul said.

“Your too, Captain,” N’ua said. “This is a priority red signal we have here. Possible enemy ships. I better hurry.” Her naked body silhouetted from the background light, she quickly put on her uniform. “Coming right away,” she uttered to the comlink.

She took the shuttle from the Khar’toba to the carrier Khar’desh. In the docking bay, the officer await her.

“We detected a few Taiidan frigates on patrol,” said the officer. “But we got the new frigates ready.”

“Excellent,” N’ua said. The new frigates were based on current Hiigaran frigate design, simple and functional, its curved angular surfaces designed for maximum deflection of enemy fire.

“And the new fighters?” N’ua asked again.

“They’re ready too, but I wasn’t satisfied with aspects about their fuel range,” said the officer.

“Range is not important for defensive purposes. Speed of interception and sheer firepower is,” N’ua retorted. “I will be in the bridge and get ready to launch them!”

The officer saluted, as N’ua ran for the bridge. On the bridge, she watched the screens, as the ship captain notified her of the progress of the enemy frigates.

“If they’re not stopped, they would engage us,” he said.

“Everyone is tired of Taiidani harassment. It’s time to pay them back, courtesy of the new technology given to us by the Council. Launch the new frigates and fighters now. Intercept and destroy the enemy fleet. Terminate with prejudice,” N’ua ordered. “It’s time to pay them back.”

The first ever Swarmers launched from the docking bay of the Khar’desh, as the Khar’toba and the Khar’nak fell into rear formation of the last Hiigaran functional major warship still in existance. Then the new Multibeam frigates took formation, and headed out.

N’ua watched the screens eagerly. The Taiidan frigate fleet never knew what hit them as the Swarmers went for the first pass. The Swarmers maneuvered for a second attack run on maximum boost, and the enemy turrets were not fast enough to keep their aim up. The cannons from the Swarmers peppered the armor away from the enemy frigates, and after a few attack runs, the Swarmers disappeared, heading back to the Khar’desh to refuel.

The surprise shock attack left the enemy weakened and in disarray. Then coming out from the edges of sensor screens were frigates aimed at their direction. From each of the frigates, four ion beams lanced to their targets. In less than a minute, the battle was a rout. N’ua never seen a frigate vaporizing another frigate so quickly. She leaned back on her chair, sighing with a big wow. Her officers watch the scene with their jaws agape.

‘Looks like the prototypes pass the first test of combat in flying colors,” N’ua said. The new ships gave them new hope. If they were able to fight back, they can survive this journey. No, not only this journey, but in any new home they can come to. N’ua dreamt of even greater long term possibilities. In the long run, with power like this, yes, they can even retake back their empire, and Hiigara itself. *** 3,000 years later…

“Here she is, your Great Mother, Lt. Commander N’ua Helan of the Hiigaran Imperial Navy,” Seejuk flashed a screen image for Zha to see. “I have been reconstructing the records deep within the Khar’nak. This terminal here is an ancient relic that is still part of the Khar’nak’s computer system, which still functions. Either the Kadeshi maintained this ship very well or they don’t build ships like they used to. The Kadeshi has been very respectful of dealing with the ancient computer banks. I guess for them it is sacred Scripture, and preserved like the salvation of their souls depend on it. The computer system used in the Mothership and used throughout the Kushan fleets was modeled after the relic found in the Khar’toba. Which is to say, it’s pretty much the same as the one in this ship, the Khar’nak. A key here and a key there, wallah. I got the computers fully running. Even some of the commands resemble the ones used in the Kushan computer systems. Plus the fact that the Kadeshi never had a brilliant computer genius like me. “

“If the Kadeshi ever found out that their Great Mother was a blood and flesh Hiigaran, their entire religious system would collapse right there. That was why the Kadeshi fleet were ordered to attack the Kushan fleet in the Homeworld Wars. They fought to keep the truth from coming out.”

“You are a genius, Seejuk,” Zha said. “Is there no limit to what you can find out? But the Kadeshi people, don’t they deserve to know the truth?”

“Yes they do,” Seejuk said.

“Does G’yela know this?” Zha asked.

“I think she does,” Seejuk said. “She is too smart for such an obvious thing to miss. She knows this, and I can sense she carries the burden of knowing the truth and the need to hide it from her people. One of these days, the Kadeshi people will know, and it will be the end for her and their religious Orders.” * * *

Her recent visions had been more disturbing. The closer to the Truth she went, the more disturbing they become.

She had a vision of the Great Mother, dressed in the heathen’s uniform, leading a heathen’s ship. All their ancestors were heathen once, much like the Unclean Kushans. They were all brothers and sisters, the Unclean Kushans and the Protectors. Was it wrong in the eyes of the Great Mother, that they would battle? If brother had fought brother, sister had fought sister, and she, G’yela had guided them to do so, would she be committing the ultimate sin against the Great Mother. Did the Great Mother ever dreamed or envisioned for those that carry the blood of Hiigara that they should ever battle against each other?

She knelt and prayed. O Great Mother, I ask for your Guidance, she thought. I ask for Guidance.

Was it right for the Outsiders to see the relics of the Great Mother? By herself, G’yela could not stare at them further. The truth was there, and she saw it. To know the Great Mother was a leader, a daughter of the Heathen. That she was, flesh and blood, with the flesh of a Heathen. To know this, her very Faith trembled. But she hanged on. Maybe the Great Mother was telling her something, that all things are not like they seem.

That was why she let the Outsiders study the relics. She could not see them further, to finally see the truth and see that it was all a lie. She could not tell the others either. She would not let any living Kadeshi to see and study the sacred Relics. To know the truth is the end for the Faith that had guided and united all Kadeshi. To know that in all millennia, what they had protected and fought for, was all a lie.

Will she be the hand that will destroy her race, the millions that followed her. She had started a great war among the Heathn powers. The Faithful of Kadesh had left the Gardens that protected them. In the barren space, they are vulnerable. The dark space do not harbor the richness of the Gardens and already people in the Arkships complain about the lack of food. There were riots, and there were unrest. How long will the people hold?

The Protectors, now the Crusaders, had won victories, but for how long. How long before the might and number of the Unclean and the Heathen overwhelm them? How long before all of Kadesh was destroyed by her hand, by her foolish hand, the hand of a young girl who was led and fooled by a lie.

She ripped off her priestly robes, leaving only a thin white dress. Then she cried as she lay prone on the floor, her arms outstretched, asking for absolution and penance.

She prayed as she weeped. Great Mother, guide us all. Protect us all. I will offer my life if only to save my people. Do not let us down. Help us protect the Faith. Help your Messenger. Help this poor dirty street girl, who fed on the scraps left on your Temple steps, who now do not know what to do.

M’jor had been looking for G’yela all day. He found her in the ship’s official altar in the new section of Khar’desh, as the sacred images and icons in the old derelict section has been closed off.

She was prone on the floor, her priestly robes torn on the floor. She wore only in a simple pale dress that barely concealed the lines of her figure. She would look like an ordinary poor girl in one of the Arkships, if it were not her ethereal beauty and presence.

He dared not question her for what she was doing. He went ahead with the report.

“Holiness most high, I have come for our daily report. As you have known, we have sharp enounters with our auxilliary forces against Unclean Taiidan fleets. The Taiidans are using a new tactic that have brought great losses against our Swarmer formations. They have been pairing Defense fighters and Defense Field Frigates with their Missile Destroyers. These fighters and field frigates have a way of neutralizing our Swarmer attacks while the Missile Destroyer finishes our fighters off with a missile salvo. We found however the field frigates could not stop ion beams and missiles. We managed to beat the attacks off using our new Annointed class Beam Swarmers, but the supplies of ion beam cannons to make more Annointed Swarmers compete with the production requirements for Multibeam Frigates”

“So we have developed new tactics and improvised new ships. One of this is the Templar class Missile Swarmer. We based this on the Disciple Advanced Swarmer chassis, removing the cannon bays for a missile racks. We will use the old Advanced Swarmer Drive, as the Templar is expected to make a few attack runs only before it must return to refuel and reload its missile racks. It will be supported by a new Missile Pod ship, that can refuel and resupply these swarmers. A missile rack on these Pods can be used for the self defense of the Pods as well as to attack on its own.”

“Excellent,” G’yela said, struggling to find her voice.

“I learn well because I have a great teacher. I learn from you, the Mother Superior, the way you improvised new ships to deal with the ever changing tactical problems the enemy presents,” M’jor said.

G’yela stood up, troubled. M’jor always kept his eyes low, trying to avoid his stare at her. “You can look at me now, M’jor. You learned well. I am thankful that you have been a great bishop and leader of the Kadeshi. How much do you love your people? You can look at me.”

M’jor stared at the face of G’yela. “What do you see, M’jor?” G’yela asked.

“I see the Holiness,” M’jor replied.

“You see only a foolish girl,” G’yela said, “who managed to lead her entire people across a galaxy to possible ruin and destruction. I have sinned the sin of pride in front of the Great Mother, M’jor. Our last battle will require the greatest sacrifices and the outpouring of spirit from the Kadeshi people. It has been prophesied—and it is my penance—that the Messenger will be part of the ultimate sacrifice. I will not live through the last battle.”

“But your Holiness, you are our spirit and guiding light,” M’jor objected. “You saved us from the stagnation of the old Orders and brought us new hope and pride. If we prevail, not only do we stand in the threshold of a new, powerful order of Kadesh, but even a new empire. It is all because of you. You will stand with us in the final battle.”

“I will stand and sing with you in the final battle, M’jor,” G’yela said. “But there I will make my final sacrifice. All these have been foretold. All these have been irrevocable. You shall be promoted as Cardinal of Kadesh. When I am gone, you will abolish all the old Orders and beliefs. A new Kadesh must rise from these ashes, one that may even join with the Kushans to form a new Hiigara. You will lead our people not because of our old beliefs, but on the principles you believe what is right. That first of all, is the welfare of our people.” “The old systems can bring us to ruin. I have been blind and I have been misled. The day will come when the Truth is revealed and the Kadeshi will be liberated. I must pay the ultimate sacrifice for it.”

Chapter 17 | Landing Page | Chapter 19

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