Aphelion Issue 244, Volume 23
October 2019
 
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The Solar 1 Incident

by C.A. Massa


Äsu-Tärra, the great ice-world of old, shattered from the tides of horrific wars from millennia past, no longer bore its most glorious, surpassing, beauty. The vast hoarfrost-mountains that at one time stood erect and bold, overseeing the brilliant ice fields of the globe, fell into oblivion. Nuclear explosions changed many of the world’s white plains into dark, burning pastures, causing them to be a burial ground filled with countless dead.

The crystal-rivers that flowed far from the regions of the North were no longer pure and arrayed with majesty, but they became gushing streams of fire mingled with blood and death. The charred bones of the fallen drifted within the fiery lakes, and anguish was written across the face of the waters.

The white plains which survived the fury of war became stained with the blood of the dead. The corpses of many races, some alien to the ice-world, and others terrestrial, were scattered throughout the fields; some were laid in tombs, others were burned by fire. In life, the alien beings foreign to Äsu-Tärra looked upon the ice-world and were in wonder and awe of its’ never-ending beauty and wealth. And they also looked upon the dwellers of the world, and in their hearts they spoke evil against them, for they hated the headstrong race whose name was the Inhabitants. They loathed the powers which were crafted into their very being, and they despised the wealth which was made abundant to them by the riches of Äsu-Tärra. But most of all they hated their beauty and glory that surpassed the magnificence of all species. Thus the Inhabitants’ adversaries began to speak openly to themselves of the hate they carried in their hearts. And it came to pass in those days that they united themselves with the different tribes and races from the farthest regions of the galaxy and galaxies beyond, all with one accord, and they said one to another, “Who are these that they are blessed with beauty and wealth? Who are they that the gods favor them, giving them peace for generations innumerable, while we do battle with our enemies? And who are they that the gods give unto them the world, Äsu-Tärra, for dwelling? Have we not done great deeds in the sight of the gods, and are not the spirits our allies? Have we not also the favor of the gods? Are we not great in their sight? Indeed! Let us then go forth and pour out our wrath upon them, that they should know the fury of our anger! And let us divide the spoils of their wealth amongst ourselves, that we may each take all which we rightly deserve.”

So it was that they descended upon the Inhabitant home world, with their mighty star ships armed with the weapons of war, and they brought terror to the Inhabitants, slaughtering thousands of their people and causing destruction to their cities and kingdoms, which for many years stood under the light of the New Moon, keeping well those who dwelled under it. And thus, in great rage, the Inhabitants rose against their enemies, taking up the lance, the iron blade, the syctïr, the ärstath, the hâthtär, the koltâth, the broadsword, the bladed disk, and the ilstathar, all of which were ancient weapons of their forefathers. And they fashioned those tools when they battled fiercely with the great beasts that terrorized their villages, in the first days of their race’s history. Now also as they took up arms, they summoned their powers which were sewn into the very fibers of their being, and with these they did great damage to their foes. They took in their hands the winds of the world, and with their mighty powers over the air they commanded the very blizzards of Äsu-Tärra to strike the attacking ships which hovered over their lands. And the storms were indeed great; the ships of the air fell to the snowy plains, and those within were either killed instantly, or slowly froze to death as the piercing winds gnawed at their flesh. But the ships that withstood the rage of the ice storms continued to soar with great might and bring about destruction to the lands. And the Inhabitants again summoned their powers, and they took in their hands the stars of the universe, causing great objects from the heavens to fall upon the massive ships. Asteroids and meteors of every size broke the crafts above into pieces, and they fell never to rise again.

Now a distance away from the ice-world, the remaining ships of the Inhabitants’ enemies looked upon the annihilation of their brethren and mourned bitterly for their dead. Thus, they sent out legions of armies in full force upon Äsu-Tärra; great ships hovered above the skies while their soldiers marched on foot upon the plains of the ice-lands. And the Inhabitants went out to meet them, with their weapons in hand, and struck down many of those who spoke evil against them, and dared to wage war upon their people. For many millennia the Inhabitants battled with all their vigor against those who rose against them. And their world, pure and white, became dark and broken, and its wounds of war were exceedingly great. But the Inhabitants pushed back their enemies; each species fell in defeat at the hands of the war-skilled ice-dwellers, and they arose not.

But in the far regions beyond the stars and galaxies, many other alien races beheld the war against the Inhabitants, and they gathered together and said, “Surely their wealth is great, and their powers almighty, but after countless generations of war, their powers have grown weak, and their strength has lessened. Come then, and let us go and take the riches of their splendor, and leave their bones to decay in the dunes of the world!”

Therefore, they descended upon Äsu-Tärra and tested the might of the now war-weary Inhabitants. For generations innumerable the dwellers of the ice-world defended their home lands from their raging enemies. Hundreds of their people suffered and died at the hands of their aggressors, but still they battled in pride, showing their invaders that they would not surrender their lands.

Yet again did the Inhabitants prove the greatness of their power and the force of their strength; their enemies were destroyed one by one, and as each passing victory was achieved, so also was the attainment of a long awaited peace which the ice-dwellers longed for.

And so it was in those days, when the enemies of the Inhabitants became no more, serenity once again came to their frozen lands. The Inhabitants had long since forgotten the feeling of peace, and delighted in the tranquility and stillness of their world.

And in the eras of peace, they rebuilt what their brutal conflicts had destroyed; they restored each kingdom and city; many of their broken lands healed over time, but the crystal-rivers and hoarfrost-mountains were forever dead. Nevertheless, the Inhabitants celebrated with great bliss! Children danced in the streets while their fathers laid down their weapons and took in their hands the trump, the cymbal, the sounding horn, the chimes of victory, the scyldûn, the flute, the organ, the seven bells, and the pipes, with which they made great sounds and music played throughout all the world for thirty days. And the mothers ran throughout the streets in glee shouting, “Rejoice! Rejoice! For our enemies are fallen! Sing, O sing, all ye Nations! Give thanks to the gods, for they have looked upon us and found favor with us, and destroyed those who rose against our home world! Sing, and sing yet again a song of praise; for the time of peace has dawned!”

And they dwelt in harmony for many generations. They put away their weapons of war, and taught not their children the ways of conflict.

But after countless millennia of peace, another species from the farthest regions beyond the many galaxies looked upon Äsu-Tärra with lust, for they yearned after the many treasures which were scattered throughout its’ globe. Their colossal ships hovered over the healed world of ice and snow, sending down troops and machinery for a sudden invasion. Tales told of their ruthless conquests made all other races tremble in fear, for this species was the dreadful race known as Man. And these beings glorified themselves above all others, showing that they were as gods unto all tribes and races of the universe. In great strength they marched upon the snowy dunes of the ice-world, proclaiming to the Inhabitants that Äsu-Tärra was now theirs, and that no place would be found for the dwellers of the mystical planet.

Thus, without warning, Man’s massive starships fired powerful laser beams that burnt numerous cities and kingdoms; and thousands upon thousands of Inhabitants were slain unmercifully. Children and newborn babes were taken, back to Man’s ships, there to be experimented on and slaughtered when they would be of no more use to the alien race. The youth were bound, and their hearts were ripped from their chests; and their fathers and mothers were slain by the firing weapons of the Humans.

The terrifying race crushed many kingdoms and empires, which the Inhabitants had built over the millennia, causing the ice dwellers to weep bitter tears the loss of their precious homes. But the Humans used their starship’s laser and nuclear weaponry wisely, making certain as to not obliterate the greater cities of the world, where they supposed that many hidden treasures of gold, majestic crystal, and special minerals used for the healing and growth of Men and all species, were kept.

The surviving Inhabitants, who escaped their enemy’s troops, fled to the Refuge City. There they held off the aliens’ attack, using only their wondrous powers to destroy any Human Troop that ventured near the great City. They also used the three mighty cannons, those which were built by their forefathers many millennia ago, and brought down many of the Humans’ attacking vessels. So great was the wrath of the ice-dwellers that the enemy had to finally order their troops and star fleets to retreat a good distance away from the world, safe from the Inhabitants’ monstrous cannons.

Mankind soon came to realize that the Inhabitants’ supernatural powers and destructive arsenal were much too powerful for them to withstand. But the Inhabitant Emperor, who was greater gifted in power than any of his brethren, knew that their enemy would return, only in larger numbers; thus he gathered his people to him, and with a voice like many thunders he said, “Let the word go forth to the remnants of the different Nations of our world, to divide ourselves into many regions of the globe and build for ourselves fortresses and strongholds worthy to shield us from our aggressors. And let us grow in many numbers so that our legions may be sufficient and strong, and let us do battle with those who have come from afar. Let us destroy them as your forefathers once destroyed their enemies, so that we may reign in peace evermore.”

And the word went out to all the survivors of the different Nations within the Refuge City. And they departed and quickly constructed garrisons, citadels, bastions, and fortresses worthy to shelter the Inhabitants within them.

Then, just as the mighty Emperor foretold, the Humans did indeed return in greater numbers, seeking vengeance against those who had refused them dominion over the ice-world. This time Man settled in various parts of Äsu-Tärra, which they had already given the name Solar 1, setting up their own fortresses and military posts, and strengthening their ruthless armies.

The Refuge City was brought under brutal attack, but the Emperor escaped the City before the Humans brought it down, so that it rose no more. Inhabitant armies were rapidly growing in number inside the walls of their citadels and bastions, which kept Man from slaying anyone within.

Soon, after many months of preparing their forces, the Inhabitants opened the gates of their citadels and fortresses, unleashing their wrath upon the Humans. Hundreds of Inhabitant armies became locked in mortal conflict with Man’s military, and yet again the blood of warfare stained the snowy dunes.

What began as a simple extermination, twisted into an unrepressed war. Nine long and merciless centuries of bloodshed passed, and many generations of both Humans and Inhabitants clashed over the world of Äsu-Tärra.

Now the final days of warfare drew near, and the fate of the ice-world and those who battled over it would soon be revealed…

****

Kyle Nairn II, Caesar of the Human Dominion, stood high upon the terrace of his Palace, gazing over the ice-covered plains beneath him. Brought to believe that Solar 1 belonged to Mankind, as did any other star in the cosmos, the Caesar remembered clearly as a child when his father, the late High Lord Nairn I, told him that Man “is the most potent breed in the universe, there is no other race, not one, that can equal his vigor.”

Nairn II believed with all his heart that Man was the center of all things. He believed that the heavens circulated around all Mankind, that he was the conqueror of all worlds, stars, and galaxies. Not once did Nairn wonder why his race departed from their own home world where they were wrought, he believed Man could do whatever he desired, whether it be good or evil.

Caesar remembered the First Humans who set foot upon the ice-globe many centuries ago, giving it the codename Solar 1, convinced that they would be in authority over the ice-lands within a few short months, or even weeks. He often thought of the prideful “ghosts” of those First Humans who had treaded the white grounds of the world. He pondered deeply what they would say if they could witness the horrors of the war over Solar 1. Those spirits would never be put to rest; they spoke through the mouths of the present-day government executors who stated that Solar 1 was to be taken under the control of Human authority, no matter how great the cost.

Kyle Nairn II was one of the mouths which the “ghosts” spoke through. He believed he did the will of his forefathers by slaughtering the many Inhabitant armies, and overtaking their sanctuaries. But still—he wondered what the ancient spirits of the dead would say; if they could, would they plead with the Humans to cease their useless conflict which cost nothing but blood, or would they enforce the terrible struggle over the ice-world? He mused over this ever since his blissful childhood.

But ever since he had taken the throne of his late father, the wonderful bliss had all disappeared. He had no peace, no joy. The war tormented him day and night; the blood of the Inhabitants staining his hands, he could not purify himself of their deaths.

Now, a man in his late thirties Caesar watched as the swaying winds blew the snow-crystals to the East. But though the temperatures were unimaginably freezing, its merciless sting did not wound Nairn. He had in his right arm a small electronic device that was embedded into his flesh by four, tiny, thin, needle-sharp points. This miniature machine was called an Organic Heat Shield; its procedure of performance was simple, yet outstanding at the same time. The OHS, as it was also called, was implanted in either the left or right arm by the four tiny “needles.” A tiny, micro-sized computer that acted as a brain, laid inside the mechanic body of the OHS. It knew when to heat up the body temperature of the Human if the climate became too cold, or to lower the temperature if the heat became unbearable. Harmless electrical currents would travel through the four “needles” of the OHS and into the flesh and veins of the Human, thereby controlling the person’s body warmth.

And with this special device as his guard against the raging storms, Caesar Nairn stood outside with ease. He had on his uniform, the one which all the High Lords were required to wear, and some colorful robes, but that was all. He fancied the title “Caesar;” he heard that the ancients used it when referring to their mighty emperor, who ruled a land called Rome. But those stories were of old, made up for children as bedtime tales. No proof known to Man told that such a land and its people existed. But Nairn didn’t care, he loved the old tales, and thus when he was crowned High Lord, after the passing of his father before him, he changed the title to Caesar, and Caesar he was for twelve long years.

He stood outside for over and hour when his wife, the Lady Helena, also went out, wearing nothing save for a nightdress long and beautiful, designed with many stars, constellations, and crests of the different Dominion Provinces of the Humans. She was a stunning woman, fair, five years younger than he, tender, soft-spoken, trustworthy, and the pride of Nairn’s life. He sought comfort from her when he was in distress, and she gave him reassurance in any way possible. But now—now something deeper brooded in the Caesar’s heart, something he could not understand, but had him pegged down as if tied with iron chains to cold stone wall.

“Come in, Kyle,” she said loudly, above the winds, yet still her voice remained soothing, “the night sky is fallen, come, there is nothing out here.”

Nairn didn’t even look at her, though he knew she had spoken to him; he just stood, like a man without hope, watching the snow dunes blowing with great force.

“You cannot stay out here all night,” she raised her voice, trying to be heard by Caesar, above the piercing winds. “Come in, and rest, tell me your heart.”

But Caesar did not move, instead he answered with a grave voice, his eyes heavy with exhaustion and, perhaps, worry, “The blizzards are growing worse. They’ve never blown this hard…” he paused uneasily, “not in these parts.”

Helena squinted her eyes as she too looked out into the ice fields; it was a whiteout, snow crystals blew everywhere. Below, the voices of Caesar’s men could be heard, shouting orders, moving special equipment, taking cover, and yet some had to stay outside, suffering in the bitter, wintry, conditions, and guard the Palace gates from intruders. “Yes,” she said, “it is strange.” She then looked at her husband, who had a countenance of distress upon him, and ran her hand through his salt and pepper hair. His locks grayed over years of stress which plagued him every hour as he ruled from his Palace, looking upon the war against their adversaries. “Come, Caesar,” she said again, almost pleading with him, “come inside, please…”

He then turned his head to face her, and looked deep into her crystal, starry eyes, how beautiful they were! He nodded solemnly, and the two of them ventured from the balcony and into their room. Once inside, Nairn pulled out a small remote from his pocket. He then activated a button on the gadget, and force fields (which acted as doors for his Palace quarters) were triggered. This kept their quarters safe and warm from the terrible blizzards that blew outside the Palace Walls.

“Sit here,” said the Lady Helena as she led him to his soft, relaxing chair by the massive fireside. “You always like this seat; it makes you so at ease. Tell me, Caesar, what distresses you?”

Nairn held on tightly to his wife’s hand and placed it near his cheek, “My heart,” he muttered, an affectionate term he used for her, “I don’t know…I feel as if everything will end very soon. All of it is in vain.”

“You’re weary from the war, this feeling will soon pass, if you let it.” she assured.

“No, my dear,” he said, staring into the blazing flames of the hearth, “This is a feeling I cannot let go of. I feel as if Death has crept up near the gates, preparing to take me, to take us all…” but he strayed off, remaining silent for a while.

“I’ll have some wine delivered,” the Lady said, hoping it would put him at ease, “CPU, a bottle of wine and two glasses on a silver tray.”

CPU was the Main Computer of the Palace. The High Lord Kyle Nairn I had ordered that such a unit be installed because he felt that a computer would help ease the workload and burdens of the many staff who labored within the Palace. He also ordered that the voice of CPU would be programmed to fit the ears of men and women; to a man CPU’s voice sounded like that of a beautiful woman, sexy, loving, unlike any soft voice they had ever heard before, but to a woman the voice was like that of a strong, firm, gracious man, elegant and regal. Powerful technology allowed them to perform such a task, indeed the voice of CPU fit the ears of both men and women.

The Computer responded to Helena by saying, “What year, My Lady?”

She looked at Kyle, who answered, “Make it a 2351.”

“Yes, sir.” The CPU said. And in an instant, a bottle of wine and two wine glasses all sitting on a silver tray appeared from nowhere. The tray hovered in mid air beside Nairn. The tray, bottle, and glasses were all very real indeed, even though they appeared out of thin air. The CPU was so well advanced that it could produce the particles of any object or liquid and the relocate them to anywhere it was commanded to do so; it could even age the wine to whatever date it was commanded to do so.

Caesar took a sip of the wine, although hardly enjoying it. “Where’s our son?” He asked darkly, still looking deep into the blazing flames.

“He’s asleep in his room; he is at peace, Kyle.”

“Peace.” Nairn took another sip, “There is no peace here; there never will be.”

Helena sat upon her husband’s lap, and placed her head next to his, “The day of peace will come, Caesar, and victory will come with it.” then with a kiss to his cheek, she said comfortingly, “They will come.”

Suddenly, there was a fierce knocking at the door, which was suddenly opened by a man with a large scar on his left cheek. The man was Drake Stalwart, the Commander in Chief of the Human Military Forces. He was the head over all the hundreds of men and platoons that were scattered across the face of the world, he had many generals and captains under him, all without number, reporting to him frequently on what was happening with the troops, and after he had received his news, he would then report to Nairn. They were close and childhood friend, like brothers, and cared for each other in the same way. A few years older than Nairn, his hair had not grayed at all as the Caesar’s had.

“Kyle!” Drake rushed in, only to find the Caesar and his wife sitting in the chair. “I beg your pardon, Caesar,” he said, apologetically, somewhat embarrassed by his rude disruption, “and My Lady, but I have urgent news.”

“What is it, Drake?” Nairn said, both and his wife getting up from their seat.

The Commander pulled out a note from his pocket, it was silver colored, and felt like a piece of soft silk. It was rolled up like a tiny scroll, and a purple seal with the figure of a goddess upon it bounded the note. “We caught one of them Inhabitants wandering ’round our zone, said he had a letter for you, from the Emperor.”

Nairn grabbed the little scroll and broke its seal. “What’d you do with the one who brought this?”

“In isolation to be questioned,” the Commander said, “Security’s watching over him now.”

After unrolling the note, he saw that the letters were very large and made of pure gold! Nairn had never been this close, not even a little bit, to the majestic treasures of Solar 1. He touched the golden letters, they were cold but very smooth. A few Inhabitant runes were also written in the letter, and these were made from fine crystal. Caesar did not understand the meaning of the runes, but he quickly read the letter, somewhat in fear:

Nairn Caesar of the Human Dominion—

I give you no greetings, Caesar—I have written this in your own tongue so that you may

finally understand the peril which your kind has wrought upon our civilizations—My chief

councilors and advisors and executors of the courts have informed me that should we wage

war upon each other any longer—this world shall fall under heavy destruction—The damage

which you have wrought here shall be repaid with death to us all—I suggest that you and

your people depart from Äsu-Tärra—depart with all haste and leave us be to rebuild what

your kind has destroyed—Emperor Scilom Artaeus

After reading that, Nairn angrily threw down his wine glass, causing it to shatter into many tiny pieces.

“What is it, Caesar?” asked Helena, “What does it say?”

Nairn’s eyes burned with anger as he crumpled up the letter, “He wants us to leave!”

“He’s threatened us, Caesar?” Drake asked, anxious for an answer.

Nairn shook his head, trying to calm down, “He said something about global hell or something of the like …” he stared into the hearth again, thinking. The flickering of the flames broke the unnerving silence that filled the room, until finally the Caesar turned to face the Commander in Chief, “Drake,” he said, with a hint of aggressiveness, “gather the Truce Forces, get them armed and ready to leave here by the morrow.”

“Truce Forces? Kyle…” concern filled Drake’s voice and expression.

“No,” said Nairn, “we’re not surrendering…” he paused for a slight moment, as if reassuring himself of what he just said, “we’re sure as Hades not surrendering.” He then looked Drake straight in the eye and added, “But we will be making a trip to Emperor Artaeus’ Palace and talk over a little business, if you catch my drift.”

“Kyle,” his wife pleaded, “Please, don’t do this! Death awaits you there.”

“She’s right, Caesar,” Drake said in agreement, “no tellin’ what the Emperor might do. He’s a mysterious one, always cunning…”

“Doesn’t make any difference,” Caesar answered roughly, “We’ll leave early in the morning with those Truce Forces, flashing the peace lights, the Emperor will know we don’t mean to fight with him, at least, not now.”

“But what if he’ll mean to fight with us? Ever consider that happening?” Drake snapped. He moved closer to Nairn, locking his eyes with the Caesar’s, and a solemn, beseeching, tone came from his mouth, “Kyle, brother, please…” his face turned somber, filled with a sort of sadness, and his lips began to quiver, which was very unusual for Drake, a man who not since childhood had shown any emotion.

Nairn placed his hand upon Drake’s shoulder, and remained strong, trying to hide any signs of worry, “What I must do, I must do,” and with that he removed his hand from Drake’s shoulder and stood tall as he could, upright and stiff, “Commander, assemble the Truce Forces.”

Stalwart, at first wanted to plead more with his brother, but he realized he was given an order by the Caesar of the Human race. His sorrow turned to disgust as he saluted, “Yes, sir, immediately, sir.”

The Commander in Chief turned to leave, but Nairn stopped him simply by saying his name, “Drake,”

Stalwart halted, but did not turn to face Caesar, “Sir?” he mumbled, through clenched teeth.

Nairn paused for a moment, as if trying to regain his voice, then, “Get in touch with Senator Lang, tell him…” another uneasy pause, “…tell him if anything should go wrong, he’ll be in position to be advisor to Christopher, my son, next in line to be Caesar.”

“Yes, sir.” Drake said in haste, and was about to leave but Nairn said something else that held his attention.

“This is the most important decision of my life, Drake, and probably the most important assembly in history…I want you there, with me, when it happens.”

Stalwart remained silent.

“We’ve been brothers for a very long time, Drake-O, if anything should happen, I want you, my brother, to be by my side.”

Drake turned; a hint of a tear was in his eye, though Nairn dared not mention that he noticed it, that would make the tough, robust, no nonsense Commander angry if anyone had seen that he showed feeling. He just looked right into Nairn’s eyelevel, with fists tightly gripped as if ready for battle, “When do want me to be ready?”

****

Strong and firm upon the highest peaks of the Last Mountains stood the mighty Palace of Emperor Scilom Artaeus. The snow covered mounts were so named because they were indeed the last of the High Mountains. The Inhabitants believed the Gods of the World resided there, looking down upon the ice-lands which they formed, peeking into the lives of those who dwelt within the lands. But since the end of the last war, with one of the enemy alien races, many of the High Mounts were destroyed by the arsenal of their foes, and the Inhabitants mourned the sudden destruction of their precious Mountains. But there came a time, when peace reigned over the ice-lands after the last war, the young prophet, Has-Karaphim, went unto the almighty Emperor in his earlierPalace, which at that time stood near the city of Hol’Sath, and told him of the remainder of the High Mountains which he had seen, those that survived the nuclear blasts and piercing laser rays from the star ships. Thus the Emperor journeyed alone with the prophet into the cold wilderness where the Mountains stood. And when he saw them, the Emperor prostrated himself before their feet, and gave thanks to the gods for shielding them from the wrath of war. And the Emperor, ordered that his old Palace be torn down and built anew upon the Last of the High Mountains. And he commanded the people to rejoice and be glad, for so long as the Last Mounts stood, so stood the hope of the Inhabitant Nations.

For many millennia the Palace of Emperor Artaeus stood erect and bold upon the Mountains. And a beautiful Palace it was indeed. Fashioned from crystal and stone, the mighty Palace looked upon the white wilderness which swarmed with Inhabitant fortresses and citadels, and many vast armies guarded the Palace Walls. Great lights came forth from the pinnacles of the Palace’s crystal towers, beams which shone brighter than anywhere else on the globe. They glistened various wonderful colors, and made the darkened, clouded, blizzard skies appear ever so wonderful and spectacular, like a parade of lights shining in the night on an eventful, special, day.

The majestic lights were the first things that grabbed Nairn’s attention as his private shuttle came into view of the Emperor’s Palace. His mind had been on Helena, and Christopher, his only son. He missed them greatly, already. Before he left, he and Helena embraced dearly, not letting go, with tears in both their eyes. “You are in my heart,” he told her as they held each other in their arms, “you always will be, forevermore.”

She, being a few inches shorter than her husband, looked up at him, “You’ve always had mine, and you live there, forevermore.”

Sorrow mingled with love flowed down their cheeks in tears; this would be the first time he would be this far away from home, into the lair of the enemy’s camp, perhaps never to return. “Should I die, tell our son that his father died for him, for the cause to fulfill what are forefathers longed to gain.”

“He will be told,” she said in sadness, “and it will be in his heart to the end of his days.”

Nairn held her closer, tighter, not wanting to leave her side. But he knew he had to. It was his duty as the steward and leader of all the Human race. He kissed her passionately, and after doing so whispered into her ear how much he loved her, and cared deeply for her. “Remember me,” he said, “should I never return, remember me.”

She closed her eyes, shutting out the stinging tears of grief, and nodded, and amidst the stings of her heart, through mournful sobs repeated, “You’ve always had my heart, and you live there, forevermore.”

Nairn didn’t know whether he would ever see his beloved wife and child again.

Now, aboard his shuttle with the Commander in Chief, he longed to hold her again, and his son, his firstborn, the pride of his years. The magnificent lights which illuminated from the Palace of Emperor Artaeus caused him to be in awe. Even Stalwart marveled at the beauty of the heavenly radiances; they seemed to put both men at peace, relaxing them, easing their troubled minds and hearts.

“Don’t believe I ever saw anything this pretty…” Drake said with astonishment.

The Caesar shook his head, “They’re almost…it seems as if they’re… somewhat…divine.”

“Divine…” Drake repeated, “…that they are, divine.”

Nairn kept gazing into the lights, which grew closer and closer to them as their shuttle neared the Palace. “Even in this storm we can see them clearly. This place is a freezing hell!” He ordered the captain of the shuttle to increase the heat.

“Can’t help much, Caesar,” Drake said, “Remember, these parts are the coldest on Solar 1. No Human can survive long out here, even with an OHS stabbed into his arm.”

“Terrific,” Nairn shivered.

Five other shuttles followed behind Nairn’s private ship. They were the Truce Force Shuttles; each ship contained thirty-three men, all well suited and armed with light artillery.

“Inhabitant bases on radar, sir.” The pilot reported to Nairn.

“How many?”

There was a pause, then, “Can’t say for sure, Caesar. There’re hundreds of them, all around the mountains.”

Drake pulled out a cigarette and lit it; “They don’t take chances when it comes to the Palace, do they?”

Nairn shook his head, “Do they know we’re here?”

“Don’t know,” the pilot said, chewing on some sort of strong gum, the kind not made for kids, “these cursed blizzards are making conditions terrible out here, our radar is failing…but they still might be able to pick us up.”

“Flash the peace lights,” Nairn ordered.

“Roger, that.”

Immediately, bright white beams came shining from Caesar’s ship, followed by the blinking of other peace lights that came from the Truce Forces Shuttles’. All six ships continued flashing their beams for the next five minutes. And a tense, long, five minutes it had been indeed.

No response.

Drake looked at Nairn, who seemed to be distant, away from all his surroundings, unaware, “Kyle,” he said, trying to bring him back, “Kyle, Caesar…look out there, look out there!…nothing’s happening, not a friggan thing!”

Caesar remained still and silent, keeping his eyes on the Palace gates, expecting them to open any second.

Nothing.

Then suddenly, the crystal pinnacles of the Emperor’s Palace became darkened, and the Inhabitant bases which covered the face of the snowy plains lit up with glowing white lights.

They had answered the Caesar’s call for a truce.

“Alright,” Nairn finally said, roughly, “let’s go.”

He ordered the six shuttles to land on a wide ledge upon the High Mountains, from there they could easily make their way up to the Palace gates. There were great steps, steep in height, fashioned from rock and iron, which led from the ledge to the mighty doors of the Palace. And on them were many runes which no Human could understand, their meaning held much mystery in the eyes of Men, and they did not know the secrets which they spoke of.

Nairn put on his helmet, which had a tiny microphone attached inside. His suited, bulky, military armor made it difficult for him to move about, yet he managed.

“Well, Caesar,” Drake said, putting on his own helmet, “this is it.” He then extended his hand and added, “Good luck.”

Nairn took Drake’s hand and shook it firmly, giving the briefest hint of a smile, as if to say they had already gained the victory. With that, he exited the ship and headed towards the peace troops that were already lined up in the bitter winds, awaiting orders. Their captains stood in the front of the lines suffering in the piercing, polar winds. The icy gales were so terrible that Nairn could barely see inches before him. The only things able to be distinguished were the shining peace lights from the Inhabitant bases down below. They provided somewhat visibility, but not nearly enough for Nairn to see plainly. All he could make out were the faint, blurry, silhouette shapes of his men, standing out in the freezing climates, in misery. The vicious wintry air was getting to them, and him, so he stopped about four feet away from the soldiers, and even then he had trouble seeing them. He spoke through his mike, ordering the troops to not fire upon anyone unless given the command to do so, “We don’t want any unnecessary conflict.” He added.

That said, he gave the command, and the Truce Forces, lead by their leaders, marched onward, up the frozen, slippery steps. The climb exhausted them to their limits, and a few of the soldiers plummeted to their death from either weariness or because their foot slipped on a patch of ice. The piercing cold of the air gnawed at their flesh even though they wore specially suited armor, and the mighty winds picked up speed as they ventured higher up the side of the mountain, the air thinning abruptly, forward to the Palace Gates of Scilom Artaeus, Emperor of the Inhabitant Nations. And when they reached the summit of the steps, they stood upon yet another ledge, wide enough for the men, who were in total 159. And the ledge led them to the Gates of the Emperor’s Palace, where there stood many Inhabitant Warriors and Elders, standing at the watch towers which were erect on either side of the great doors. The peace lights which flashed from the Inhabitant bases had died, and the Palace rays were once again shining in all their beauty. But though the men had enough light by which to see clearly, the swaying snow made things look hazy, so much that it was as if the men were looking with blind eyes. Yet they could vaguely make out shadowy figures in the distance, which stood atop the open-roofed watch towers. They were cloaked with many hooded robes, and their faces were hidden in darkness. The Elders of the Palace wasted no time when the Humans arrived, and thus began to question them with voices greater than the sound of a thousand thunders:

“Man-Warriors, why is it that you have come here in peace, while war still wages between our kinds, and the blood of our brethren is spilled upon the lands?” so powerful were their voices that the Humans fell to the ground, shrieking in pain; though their helmets aided in muffling the sound, their ears still couldn’t take the harsh punishment. “Speak! While yet the terrible storms rage on, we see you, and we hear every ailing word coming from your lips, speak and answer us, why have you come here?”

Nairn, however in torment, shouted back to them as loud as he could, doubting they would ever hear a sound coming from him, “We’ve come to see your Emperor!”

But the Elders heard every word, and asked, “Who are you?”

“Caesar, of the Human Dominion!” Nairn bellowed with all his might, hardly hearing himself over the roaring of the storms.

“What is your name?”

“Caesar!” he cried, for this was his title, as well as his name to them.

There was silence, and only the sharp whistling of the icy winds sounded in the ears of the men. “Hello!” Nairn shouted, “Speak! Let us in!”

“It is well,” a booming voice said from one of the towers, “enter then, Caesar of the Dominion of Man, but your troops will remain without.”

“I can’t just leave them out here!” Nairn hollered back, “They’ll freeze to death!”

“I give you no compassion. No Human Warrior shall enter these walls. Only Caesar may enter, for this is the command which the Emperor has given.”

Nairn beat his fist upon the iron Gate in anger, “If I order them to drop their weapons, can they enter?”

The Elders spoke amongst themselves for a moment; then one of them responded by saying, “No Human Warrior in times past has ever entered the Palace of our Emperor. But this day that shall be changed, for so the Emperor has willed it…”

The Emperor? Was he there, with the Elders? Secretly watching them from one of the towers? Nairn wondered.

“…indeed, they may enter in, but they’re weapons will not come with them. And if they so much as try to initiate an attack from within, you shall surely die.”

“You have my word as the Leader of the Human Dominion!” Nairn answered, “They won’t try to attack.”

“The words of a Human are worthless!” the Elder said with hate, “But enter in, and be warned.”

With that, the massive, titan Gates opened slowly. The Humans dropped their weapons and entered in, marveling at the open courts of the Palace, and the breathtaking creatures which played about in the courtyards. Their shapes and colors were beyond the imagination of Men, and they awed in amazement as they watched the creatures make merry with themselves. They were the Emperor’s beasts, and he loved them as though they were his own children. Here they frolicked and were glad, and the Emperor was pleased with them. Snow lay everywhere upon the marble floors of the open square, and many stone images of Inhabitant gods and goddesses stood in rows of three, opposite each other. And in between each row flowed a black river, filled with warm mineralsand many crystal stones from the northern lands.

Many Inhabitant Guards stood in the midst of the open square, and one of them greeted the Men of the Dominion with a bitter welcome, and hatred was in his tone, “You have come, and have entered into the Palace of our Emperor, so be it. You would do good to leave this world, never to return! Let us dwell in peace, just as in the days of our forefathers!”

With that, he sourly led them to the Chamber of the Emperor, where Artaeus planned to meet with them.

The Chamber was a large area carved from the underground mines of the Last Mountains. Icicles of many sizes hung from the high, dark, frozen, rooftop of the Chamber; they seemed to form a very complex, yet stunning pattern, like the complicated design of a quilt. And in the center of the many icicles there hung from the rooftop a cluster of many skulls, looking downward in every direction, with their mouths opened, and their empty eye sockets staring into nothingness. They were Human skulls, of hideous, grotesque countenances, like those of tortured souls lamenting in the bowels of hell, and these brought fear to the men who saw them staring down from above. Within the stone floors of the Chamber the Humans saw many frozen pools and streams of rivers, some narrow and some wide, and a mysterious vapor hovered over the floor. The Inhabitant Guard led the men around the streams and ponds, and through the thick mist which brought a sense of dread into the minds of Nairn, Drake, and the Truce Forces. He led them to the Northern Wall of the Chamber, and built there were three wide and strong ledges. On two of the ridges, rested twenty seats each, fashioned from crystal and stone, and these were for the Inhabitant Tribunal Leaders who were to listen to what Caesar had to say. But on the third ledge, which stood higher and farther upward than the other two, was the High Throne, where Emperor Scilom Artaeus would sit and hear the voices of his foes.

Nairn and his men wondered in amazement at the mighty Throne, standing in full glory. It had been strategically crafted from the black irons of the East, the white metals from the West, the shining emeralds from the North, the beautiful sapphire orbs from the South, the jasmine from the Seven Great Kingdoms, the topaz from the Land beyond the West, the diamonds from the magnificent and ancient city, Azbekum, the land which had been thought by many Inhabitants to never exist. Among the other such beautiful materials for the Throne, were the red crystals from the Sea. And it stood tall in height seven cubits, and on either side of it were three pillars filled with flame mingled with blood, but their base was fashioned from the coldest ice slabs from the High Mountains, that which no flame could thaw. The first of the three pillars on either side stood higher than the other two, five cubits in stature, the second of the three stood a cubit lower than the first, four cubits, and the third also stood a cubit lower than the second.

Below the three ledges there rested a river, darker and thicker than the streams of the open courts. And within the river, which many millennia ago froze to ice, were many sea creatures lying motionless, staring at the High Throne in wondrous fear. They were the fish of the Sea, the eels of the brook, the thaller of the far lands, and the casdian of the creek.

Five meters away from the dark river sat great rows of metallic benches, the Lowly Places were they called. And upon these would Nairn, his Commander in Chief, and the Truce Forces sit. They were cold, carved out of weighty metals and irons, and cracked. They were blacker than the dark river, and many strange runes marked them, similar to the ones carved upon the steps leading to the Palace Gates.

“Jeez,” Drake said as he sat down, trying to get himself in a comfortable position. “Sweet mother…” his words trailed off. His hulking armor wasn’t helping matters much either, “God. This is bull—”

Nairn interrupted, “Drake…”

Stalwart stopped, then cursed under his breath, there was nothing he could do. Nairn and the others also were uncomfortable sitting on the benches, but they had to make the best of it.

“Easy, men,” Nairn said rather quietly through his microphone, “stay calm, and for God’s sake don’t do anything drastic unless I give the order.”

The Truce Forces replied with a faint “Yes, sir.” Which sounded like muffled voices through Nairn’s helmet.

Immediately after that, the sound of a loud horn echoed throughout the Chamber, and through a few hidden gates which were hewn out of the rock, came the Forty Tribunal Council Leaders, and they sat themselves down on their thrones. They wore heavy white and blue robes about them, and their eyes were scowled, deep, and colorless. Their flesh was tough, like the hide of beasts, and many unsightly wrinkles were in their faces. They had shaven heads, and scales were set on their skulls in rows of three. The middle row of scales began at their nose, then went upward along the middle of their heads, and down their thick necks into nothingness. The second and third row of scales, however, began at the forehead from the middle row; one set of scales laid on its right side, and the other on its left side. And when the men saw them, they were afraid of their terrible countenances, and uneasiness built up within their hearts.

“Steady, men,” Nairn said, ever so hushed, trying his best to calm them. He could hear their rapid breathing through his helmet, and he felt their fear. After all, these men were aged only from sixteen to twenty-three, young lads from the many colonies of Solar 1, who were taken from their homes and put into the military for such a time as this.

Now, without warning, out of the shadowed doors came another, and he was above all the Tribunal Council Leaders both in power and rank. He was Scilom Artaeus, Emperor of the Inhabitant Nations, and enemy of the Human Dominion.

He was a terrifying sight to behold, and the Humans marveled at the horrific, and yet stunning features of the great Inhabitant leader. His had a long and narrow face, solid, firm, yet so very youthful looking. His hair, thick and long, white as snow, and shaped to the form of an Inhabitant skull, twisted with anger and hatred burning within. It had a terrible grimace on its countenance, which made even his own people to shudder in fear when he turned his back on them, so that they may see its form. At times, when his wrath was stirred, Artaeus would give life unto the mouth of the horrifying skull, and it would speak to his people with a voice similar to the Emperor’s, yet this voice was likened to that of a thousand souls crying out from their prison, in anguish and in pain, in rage and in abhorrence, in chastisement and in judgment. His eyebrows were also white, and frozen with the snow of the world; and this made him look demonic and fierce. His flesh had a silvery shine to it, which gave the appearance that he was titan-like, crafted from precious metals worthy of praise. His bare and muscular arms revealed the strength of his sinews, alive and full of vigor, but his skeletal and gaunt fingers looked like that of a dead man. Upon them he wore many fiery rings, rings which scalded him without mercy. These were the Rings of Sorrow, for they burned with the mourning and sadness of the Inhabitant people, who lamented for their broken lands and slain tribes. As the misery of the Inhabitants increased, so also intensified the burning flames of the scorching trinkets. He wore these as a symbol to his people, fulfilling to them his promise that if they had to endure by pain of woe, he too would suffer with them by pain of fire. And for many generations he wore the rings in agony, and suffered terribly with his people.

His dark, purple, fingernails extended thirty inches from his hand, and these he used as swords, which struck down anyone who dared to arouse him to anger. Cloaked was he in four robes, which signified his power and authority. The first was a lilac robe which stated that he was the Ruler of the Inhabitant Nations. Underneath that, he wore a garment of gold, that which symbolized his wealth and glory. And under that garment was a robe untainted and white as snow, representing his heart and soul, which he claimed were pure in every way. And fourth robe, bright red, stained with the blood of the Humans whom he had captured, signified his spirit of war which raged within him for many generations.

The men could feel his hate within their hearts, making them shudder with fear of this mighty Inhabitant. The Tribunal Council Leaders bowed low their heads when the Emperor sat upon his High Throne, and they began to shout in their tongue words which the Humans could not understand, “Praise to the mighty one! He shall live ever after! The Emperor is one! His nations are one! We are one!”

With that, the Leaders sat themselves in their seats, awaiting the words of Artaeus.

Nairn shivered at the hideous looks upon the faces of the Leaders, but none seemed more frightening than the terrible scowls of Scilom Artaeus, who was far greater than all the nations of his people. And as Nairn looked closely at the stunning features of the Emperor, his blood began to run cold. As he gazed deep into Artaeus’ face, he saw that the Emperor held no pupils within his dark, solid, blue eyes. Nairn’s mouth went dry and his body fell limp as he stared into those horrendous eyes, but the spell was broken when suddenly Artaeus looked away, and began to speak in the Human tongue, “Man-Warriors, in my heart I knew you would come here,” His voice was dark, hoarse, yet at the same time very deep and cold, like the tone of a damned soul, a devil perhaps, and the men quivered in terror when his words echoed throughout the Chamber, “Our races have been at great conflict with one another for many generations, and for many generations this world has been wounded by the blows of war which your kind, O Caesar, have wrought upon us! Thus, shall we all behold the wrath of our beloved Äsu-Tärra, as it dies in its misery, destroying us as well.”

The Humans remained silent for a while, until Nairn spoke up, his voice trembling, “If you want Äsu-Tärra to live, then give it over to us. It’s rightly ours!”

“Of what right is that?” bellowed Scilom like an angered beast, his voice shaking the very foundations of the Palace, which caused the Humans to fall upon the stone floors, quaking and covering their ears; all save for Caesar, who managed to stay in his position. “Of what right do you, O son of Man, have to speak such things? Of what right shall you insinuate to claim our home?”

Nairn, still afraid, replied loudly what his forefathers had always taught him to believe, his voice bouncing off the walls of the ice-mines, “We are Man. Man is the Heir to all worlds and stars; we are the center of all things beyond and near. Man is the Prince of the Outer Darkness, the Lord of the Void. We are the Sons of the Universe!”

The zealous words spoken by Caesar burned a surge of fire into his men’s hearts. They arose with a new hope, more sure of themselves than before. And they cheered their Caesar and his words with gladness, their voices making great shouts so that those above could hear them.

Scilom Artaeus and the Tribunal Leaders, however, held their peace until the men finally quieted down, and when they were silent and seated, the Emperor spoke again “Prince of Darkness…” he mused softly, “…yes…yes, indeed, Man is the Prince of all things dark and evil, for he lives in darkness and broods in its utmost wickedness!”

“No!” this time it was Drake who spoke up without thinking, “Man is the Prince of the Outer Darkness, not the evil garbage you’re shouting about; seems to me you and your people have already set up house there.”

“Indeed?” Artaeus looked at Drake with curiosity, yet without anger, “Son of Man, what is your name?”

“I am Drake Stalwart,” he said, realizing it might have been wiser to have kept his mouth shut, “Commander in Chief, from the Palace of Nairn Caesar II, of the Human Dominion. I was born on this piece of ice; I’ve got as much right to it as you have.”

“So do I!” shouted one of the Truce privates in response.

“And I!”

“And I!” came the rumbling echoes of the men.

Scilom Artaeus slowly shook his head in despair; as if he knew something terrible and dire, “Tell me now, Human warriors,” he said with a voice most grave, “from what world did your species begin?”

The men sat with blank looks on their faces; they didn’t know the answer. These Humans were born upon Solar 1, they knew nothing about their shadowed origins, but had only been taught to dominate the ice-world at all costs.

“It is clear you know not,” Then the Emperor widened his eyes as if staring into a void, and a vibration pulsated throughout the Chamber. The pulsation seemed to pierce right through the men, as if they were nothing but air. Yet it was silent, only a faint hum echoed eerily within the dark mine.

Nairn whispered to Stalwart, all the while keeping his eyes on the Emperor, but not looking directly into him, “He’s sending a mental call, I’ve heard stories of how the calls feel like a sudden throbbing going through you.”

“No kidding,” Drake said, sarcastically, yet quietly. After a while, he gripped his chest in pain and managed to cough out, “Don’t know how much of this I can take! Feel’s like my heart’s gonna rip out!”

“It’s the effects,” Nairn said, his own chest beginning to feel pain, “it’s what they do to Humans. He keeps it up any longer and this could be fatal.”

The pulsation stopped, to all the men’s relief, and from one of the shadowed doors appeared an Inhabitant woman.

She was the Empress Myssalda, wife of Artaeus. She was like him in many ways, her long death-white hair dropped to her ankles, giving her the appearance of a demonic, utterly terrifying being. Her colorless eyes held evil within their lids, and the men felt such darkness pour from her very soul, and they shuddered uncontrollably. But her facial features caused her to look almost Human, beautiful, enchanting, and seductive. Yet at the same time she was fully Inhabitant, cold, dark, a disgusting creature in the eyes of Humans. She wore one piece of silk clothing to cover her two, scaly, breasts, and a robe barely wrapped the rest of her rather lanky body. She had claws instead of hands, and fangs in the place of teeth, two serpent-like tongues came out of her mouth, and lengthy, sharp scales came out of her spine. Two long and slender horns rose up from her head, and they were of bone, and dry blood smeared them. The Empress, above all, even Scilom, hated the Humans with malice! She despised them with her every tainted breath, and pronounced curses over their tribes and peoples. The blood upon her horns was that of many men from numerous generations. And many generations she went out seeking her Human prey, hunting down those who lost their way, and slaughtering them for her own bliss.

Even now as she gazed upon the troubled men, rage and hatred burned within her, and Scilom felt her anger. He said something to her by telepathic communication, most likely commanding her to stay her striking hand, and she obeyed. She stood at the left side of his Throne, erect and still, scowling at the Humans. On the left side, for she was not his symbol of power as would be if she stood upon the right, rather Scilom Artaeus was the right hand, a symbol of power unto himself. “I am the right hand and the left,” he said to his people many times past, “I am the beginning and the end, I go before you and come after you, I am the first among all and the last among all. I am in the wilderness and I am in the kingdom, I am all-present at all times, and I know foremost the thoughts of my people’s minds. There shall be no other who is likened unto me, no other who is equal to me in power. This is my word, as I have spoken it.”

But now, in the Chamber facing his loathed enemies, he spoke different words, “Behold,” he roughly said, “the antiquity of Man! Empress, show them.”

Myssalda painfully stretched out her right arm to the Humans, for it was that arm which Artaeus had wounded many years before when she tried his patience. And in the outstretched hand, an image, like a screen, played within. The image was small, yet every Human in the Chamber could clearly see it as it were right in front of their eyes.

“You have come from a distant world far beyond our regions, and beyond the regions of the Darkened Voids,” she began with a voice unlike any they had ever heard before. Not because it was dark and cold, but because it played softly, beautiful, like the sound of a thousand harps in striking harmony. Every word she spoke was like a wonderful tune of music being played in the courts of mighty kings and lords. Sweetness played within her lovely, mysterious, soothing, sensuous voice. All of this appeared strange to the Humans, they wondered how such a terrible creature as she could speak with such radiance and majesty, “For many generations your kind has traversed the stars, from galaxy to galaxy, world to world, colonizing anything which you see fit to keep.”

The image in her hand played scenes of massive Human war and star ships traveling in deep space, hovering over many worlds and battling with other alien races.

“But every kingdom, every empire, every nation, every city, which you have built has fallen! Every star you have colonized has been broken into ash from wars with different species, or wars within your own kind, for the Human race is nothing but a tool of destruction and chaos!”

Emperor Artaeus then spoke, “Your kind began on the Third World, as it was so named by your forefathers. The Migrates of the Third World called it Earth, before they traversed into the darker regions of space. It is there where your species came into being. I know of this, for one of your kind made it known to me. The High Lord Terence III—of the Mûlz’Un dynasty, the clan that ruled the race of Man before the House of Nairn became sovereign—this was the man that did speak it to me. Ah, I remember him well, for it was he who the led the First Humans in the assault of our world. It was I who slew him when he came to meet with me, nine centuries ago, in this very place. For he angered me by speaking blasphemy, saying that his race was God Omnipotent over ours! Be vigilant, Man-Warriors, that you too do not speak such things, and test the limits of my wrath.”

The Humans, even Drake, remained silent, and fearful, being ever so careful to not arouse the beast, the being, of the High Throne.

“Behold!” Artaeus cried with a grievous voice, “The destruction of our world!” and the image in the Empress’s hand played scenes of terror, death, and destruction. Solar 1 burned with raging fires, erupting and melting into nothing. Thousands upon thousands of Humans and Inhabitants alike ran to and fro in great terror, trying to seek shelter from the horror that persecuted them. Poisonous rains pounded every part of the globe, electrical storms appeared in all places, the ice glaciers of the world broke into pieces and the bodies of the dead both young and old, Human and Inhabitant, were swept away by the oceans and rivers, and bones covered the face of the charred planet. Blood flowed in every area of Äsu-Tärra, drenching the lands with death, and covering the hills of the world with its thick fluid.

Nairn sat with a stone face, moved and yet unmoved by what he beheld, “So this is what will happen if we continue waging war?”

The mighty Emperor nodded with despair, closing his eyes in grief for his beloved world, “Indeed, what you have witnessed shall come to pass in the latter days of war. The prophets of old foretold of the Day of Desolation, in which Äsu-Tärra shall utterly grieve for her children who have been slain by the sword and by the hands of their foes. Thus she will take out her vengeance upon the doers of evil and cast clouds of fire over their nations. Dividing them abroad and sending down flames upon their legions of armies! And in the final hours of the Desolation, she shall perish from her own acts of retribution upon her enemies, slaughtering her children also and bringing them to the grave.”

Drake arose from his seat, acting a little more polite and showing respect than he hadbefore; fear gripped his heart; “Emperor, sir, may I ask a question?”

Even Nairn was surprised at the reverence Drake showed.

“Speak.” Artaeus replied, harshly.

“Well, sir, your Emperorship, sir, I was thinking…how do you know that this is the time when the Desolation Day will happen?”

The Emperor bade Drake to sit down, and answered saying, “I am beyond the age of the stars, indeed, even the galaxies of old are but passing vapors in my sight, and yet I am mortal. I have witnessed many wars, pestilences, and suffering, and I say to you: I have never seen such darkness, dismay, and bloodshed, as I have seen in these nine centuries past. Truly, the Day of Desolation shall happen when the darkest of wars shall be fought on the plains of Äsu-Tärra, and in the stars above it. These wars have been fought, and it is you and I who have fought them. Indeed, these are the days in which we shall see the great and terrible Day of Desolation!

“You Humans have been so blinded by your selfish quest for power that you fail to see your true path. Tell me, sons of Men, you want this world, to what purpose?”

The Humans couldn’t answer, because they truly did not know.

“Ah,” said Artaeus with a hint of mockery in his voice, “Have the mighty Humans gone silent? I shall tell you: it is Pride and Greed. Your forefathers, knowing not that there are treasures abundant beyond Äsu-Tärra, did not hunt after them, nor did you, their offspring go, for your pride chained you here to take dominion over Äsu-Tärra, no matter the cost. Man is a creature that lusts for power and dominion. He is full of pride and haughtiness, and is rooted with evil. Man was born in evil, and evil he shall dwell in until he is no more. You desire this world only because we have refused you authority over it, therefore you have struggled for control over Äsu-Tärra in vengeance against us, for as your forefathers once said: ‘No one refuses Man! If they do, they shall pay with their very lives!’ Evil! You are all evil! An abomination! Wicked sons of Men!”

Nairn, blinded by rage, jumped up and cursed Artaeus and the Tribunal, “This is not the end! We will have victory, and your Throne will be my Throne!”

Drake grabbed his brother and shook him, “Kyle! You don’t know what you’re saying!” and he pleaded with the Emperor to stay his fury, but it was to no avail.

Caesar all the more began to swear and speak of Human victory in the presence of the Emperor and the Tribunal. The Truce Forces became afraid, not wanting at all to try the wrath of Artaeus.

But it was too late; the Emperor arose and stretched out his arms in a cross-like position, “For these acts, you shall be punished, O Caesar, and all your servants who have come after you shall give up their spirits, forever.”

Now the Truce Forces were filled with panic, and they trampled over each other, trying to find an exit out of the Chamber, but discovered none. Their cries of terror echoed throughout all the Palace. But Caesar, it seemed, had lost his mind. He just stood in his place, ranting and raving, cursing and defying the Emperor and his people. Madness filled him, so that in many ways, to many people, he would not even be considered a man. Such was the insanity that lay hold of him. Artaeus, however, lowered his arms, and remained silent, and the Tribunal stayed in their seats, also not speaking a word. Their faces cold and motionless as stone.

Drake did his best to shut Nairn up, but the Caesar would not be stilled. His wrath burned, and his mind was no longer his own. Everything he had witnessed and experienced the many years of being Caesar had now caught up to him, no longer was he the Leader of the Human race, instead he became an animal, an unchained beast. He blasphemed Artaeus and all the Inhabitant Nations, until finally the Emperor silenced him with a loud roar which literally burst Nairn’s eardrums, “BE SILENT!”

Drake’s ears were ringing, but not fully damaged; he knew his brother and dearest friend was beyond help, therefore he ran, harder than he had ever ran before, just to be anywhere but in the presence of the Emperor and his Tribunal. The Truce Forces were trapped within the vast Chamber, though they were a good deal away from Artaeus, they still longed to get out of the terrifying ice-mine. The dense fog made them blind to where they were scurrying, and many stumbled into deep pits in the stone floors, and beasts of unknown origin devoured them alive.

As for Nairn, his judgment was now, and the Emperor opened his mouth and boomed, “You shall not claim Äsu-Tärra, nor shall you live to see your heir rise to the throne! But you, O Caesar, shall perish here! And the world of Äsu-Tärra shall not fall under Desolation, for we shall strike down thy kind and scatter them across the plains!”

Nairn fell backwards from the force of the Emperor’s voice, though he could not hear any sound whatsoever. Then suddenly, a great noise reverberated into a high-pitched drone, and white rays appeared everywhere within the Chamber. They pierced Nairn and his flesh tore open. Fire blazed in their rays, and they scorched him within. With his heart slowing down rapidly, and his blood gushing from his broken body, he looked up at the Emperor. For an instant, his state of mind had returned to him, and with his dieing breath he gasped out one word before he passed, one word that meant the world to him, “Helena…”

****

Helena Nairn awoke from her deep slumber; a disturbing feeling tugged at her heart. It grew stronger, more intense; it had happened, to her utter sorrow, her darkest nightmare had come true.

“My love…” she whispered, and tears streaked down her soft cheeks. “O Kyle…”

But she could not bring herself to finish her words, and she buried her face in her hands and wept bitterly.

And then, from a dark little corner in the room, came the painful cries of a little baby in his cradle; the son of Kyle Nairn II.

“Be still, little one,” she said, caringly, as she went up from her bed and stood over the crib, rocking it gently so the child would sleep in peace again that night. “hush, my child, be calmed, be still. Yes, you know…you know he is gone. Hush now, Caesar, be still for Mamma.”

So the reign of a great man had ended, and the dominion of another mighty leader would soon begin…

****

Emperor Scilom Artaeus stood atop the highest pinnacles of his Palace; what was done was done. The Caesar of the Human Dominion lay dead, and his Truce Forces remainedcrushed and devoured by the beasts of the Chamber. Nightfall had settled, and the blizzards of Solar 1 increased. The Emperor knew he did that which he had to, and was pleased. He then knelt to the east in reverence and worship, in the direction of a great idol, which stood half buried in the deep snow. The blowing flurry only made the image look like a hazy outline in the far distance, but Scilom knew what it was, as did all his people. It was the goddess Hârathalla, Queen of all Skies, and Mother of the Inhabitant race. She bore them, so they believed, and their fathers were the wicked gods of distant worlds, who had used her as a carrier to bear their offspring, so that they might use their seed as slaves to carry out their ruthless activities, thus did the legend go. All the chronicles and historical scrolls told of this event; of the mighty and ruthless divine ones each taking the fair and just goddess Hârathalla, and lying with her. Her seed became the Inhabitants, and all the gods who laid with her claimed possession of them, but Hârathalla did not want her pitiless masters to rule over her beloved offspring. Therefore she fled the world which they dwelt on, and gave birth unto the Inhabitants upon Äsu-Tärra. And thus the Inhabitants worshiped her idol which stood broken out in the distance, praising her for her righteous acts, giving honor unto her as their one and only goddess whose authority surpassed all deities. The image of her face had been destroyed by fire and snow and storm, so much that they could not distinguish her appearance. She stood arrayed in robes, a crown of spiked thorns sat upon her brow; in one hand she held a book, and in the other, lifted up a torch to the stars.

Remeth-Yâ-Annon Sicrül Tizs’Ar Alleth-Cû-Shavva

What Has Been Has Been, What Shall Come To Pass Shall Be Made Complete

The End


© 2007 Carmenn Massa

Carmenn Massa is a 12th year student in Canada whose nonfiction has previously been published in Spot On and Marinatha News. This is Carmenn's first published science-fiction story.

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