Last of The Fallen, Chapter 21
Written by mechjok :: [Saturday, 11 July 2020 22:06] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 18 July 2020 09:26]
Last of the Fallen
Alec left the three girls on the ramparts, went back for the Shal'kyrie- it was still hard to think of it as his sword. Yamar was standing next to the sword rack; he smiled genially at Alec when he approached. "Greetings, Archon."
"Lord Yamar," Alec bowed, retrieved his weapon. "How are the Kalrist- excuse me, the Kal- adjusting to life in the Citadel?"
"Truthfully, I would wish for somewhat less comfort," he admitted. "But it is good for the children to enjoy the luxuries that you have so graciously offered to us."
Alec chuckled. "Those luxuries you speak of are products of Kaldor, Lord Yamar. Without the Kalrist, we would be scrabbling in the dirt, as blind as the rest of the world. Thanks to your people, we have an opportunity to help make humanity… so much more than what we are."
"Perhaps," the Kal kept pace easily, despite his apparent age. "But the Order, no matter what you may believe, is heart and arm the product of humanity."
"Yet our soul is Kaldor," Alec slipped into his weapons harness. "One without the other is not complete. Victory comes only though strength and wisdom in concert."
Yamar fixed his eyes on Alec. "You are wiser than even Somack claims. Your actions speak of character far beyond the teachings of the Order; truly, the Lord has blessed our cause by providing you here, in our time of need."
"You flatter me," Alec looked away. "I do no more than any other would in my place. Look around you, My Lord. Honor's refuge is here amongst us; no member of the Order is a stranger to it's demands."
"I am glad you feel that way," the Kal stopped. "I have four hundred and sixty who ask that they be allowed to serve the Order. To serve the Archon, here in the face of our enemy. Three hundred forty-seven men, one hundred thirteen women. All of age of service. All eager to master the Disciplines."
Alec gasped, then snapped his mouth shut. "No."
Yamar blinked. "No?"
"No," Alec started away. "I will be no party to Kal genocide, especially not self-inflicted. The answer is no."
Yamar ran after him. "You cannot be serious…"
"I am. You have chosen your path; we have chosen ours. We will protect you. We will defeat the Kaldec. We will build the future to ensure that the Kal may live in peace. We are the Brotherhood- we are faithful."
"Of that there is no doubt," Yamar replied, reaching out to grab Alec's arm. "They seek to serve…"
"And I will visit no more tragedy upon the People. Almost five hundred from a colony of three thousand? An entire generation? I'm sorry, Lord Yamar. Your courage is beyond reproach," Alec smiled sadly. "but the answer is still no."
He dragged a hand down his face. "If you will excuse me, My Lord, I desperately need a shower."
And he was gone.
He was halfway through when a figure slipped in with him. "You made me wait two days. Are you going to make me wait longer?"
"I could ask you the same thing," he slung his hands around her hips, lifted her easily to face level, brushed her lips with his. "You're the physical juggernaut. I'm just the guy who fiddles with minds."
"I see," she put her hands carefully on his wrists, pried them off of her easily. She dropped to the shower floor, put one hand on his shoulder, forced him to his knees calmly. His eyes lined right up with her perfect breasts. "Now then. Please me."
He gathered her left breast in his mouth, stretching his mind into hers. She began to wriggle when he put his hands back on her hips, holding her still while he worked. Her nipple went steel-hard in his mouth, the fantastically powerful muscles in her bottom flexing as he guided his hands over her rump. Her breath caught more than once while he explored, his mind sending surges of pleasure through her body.
Julia felt her own mind racing along with her hormones. Lovemaking with Alec was like it was supposed to be, passion and desire and tenderness on both sides. Then she didn't think about it any more, lifting him to his feet, pulling him close, sliding him inside her.
His grin was all imp. "Pleased, Mistress?"
Once again, he'd reduced her to gasping tatters on the shower tiles. She shook her head at him, feeling the normal rush of strength coming back to her limbs. "How do you do that?"
Alec ducked out of the shower, came back with a towel for her. "The Kalrist invented tantric sex. It's a part of the Disciplines. Add in a mind that can inhibit biochemical reactions and stimulate pleasure centers, and it makes for a remarkably complete experience."
She took the towel he offered, wrapped it around herself, caught his arm before he could pull it back. She pulled him close to her, slipped one hand into his towel, holding him tight with the other. Her fingers found what she was after, prompting a slow smile.
"I think," she whispered, nibbling at his exposed nipple, "it's because you are all man. Ooohh- yeah, that's it."
He blushed. "That is having an incredibly beautiful woman with her hand in an improper place. Thanks for feeding the ego, though."
She didn't let go. "Are you having trouble controlling yourself, Archon?"
"Only with you, kelleha, only with you," he gently pushed her hand away, slipped from her grasp. She followed him into the bedroom.
"That's a new one," she commented, going to her own dresser; Cas had moved all of her things from her room into the Archon's suite before they had left from Seattle. "What does it mean?"
Alec stuck his head into his closet. "Nothing big. A term of endearment."
"Come on, what did it mean?" she plucked a t-shirt out, slipped it on. "Arwyn is going to teach me, but I want to know."
"It's just a cute little name…"
She stepped to his side, swatted his arm. Hard. "Spill it!"
He stood up, staring down at her from his eight inch advantage. "It means beloved. There, happy?"
He settled on a t-shirt, sweats, trying not to look at her while she groped about with her mouth open. "Julia, come on, it's not that big a deal…"
"Shut up and say it again."
He quirked an eyebrow. "Kelleha."
"What's the masculine?"
She nodded slowly. "Then I love you too, kellehan."
She pushed him down on the bed, climbed up on top of him, tried to push her tongue into his lungs. She wriggled her bottom around on top of his waist, grinding at him, then kissing hungrily along his neck.
Her ears caught a whoosh at the window the same second Alec felt two minds approaching. He slipped his hands on to her naked ass, rolled her off, a robe leaping from the closet to cover Julia's bare legs. He blew her a kiss, sliding out the bedroom door.
Arwyn leaned Kel into the living room, ducked in herself. Kel spied Alec, went bright red. "I told you they were busy. Sorry, Daddy."
Arwyn flushed as well. "Me, too, but Kel was too tired to walk up the stairs…"
"Only because I wasn't wearing an inhibitor," the Kalrist girl snapped back. "Some of us have to work for our physiques, thank you very much. And you were the one who wanted to fly!"
"I like to fly!" Arwyn replied plaintively. "What's wrong with flying?"
"Nothing, except I can't!" Kel retorted. "You suck."
Alec chuckled, walking to the kitchen. "You two want something to eat?"
Before he could blink both of them were sitting at the counter.
"Ribbon steaks!" Arwyn crowed gleefully.
"Twice baked potatoes!" Kel added.
"Ooohhh- german chocolate cake!" Arwyn chirped, Kel nodding vigorously. "Yeah, we could eat."
He went to work at the replicator. By the time he'd found juice for them, their meals were ready; he placed a plate in front of each of them. "Take them to the table, we'll eat together."
Julia dutifully appeared from the bedroom, took her plate with a kiss for Alec, a subtle slap on his rump, waited for him to bring his plate along as well. Kel bowed her head as he sat, murmured a short blessing, then all of them addressed dinner.
Alec glanced around the table at all of them. "This is a touch surreal. Sitting here, eating dinner, like we're… regular people."
Julia winked at him. "Who says we aren't?"
"I'm pretty sure the alien, the human computer, the telepath, and the superwoman covers the not normal part."
"If you put it like that…" her laugh trailed along.
"I think this is nice," Kel set her fork down. "I don't even remember my real parents, only the Augurs. They were kind… but a real family? Not really."
Arwyn reached across the table, gave Kel's hand a squeeze. "You have one now."
"And that's all that matters," Alec finished. He leaned back. "This is sick. I ate almost twelve thousand calories five hours ago and I'm hungry again."
Arwyn tapped the edge of his plate. "You better eat. I saw those scans in Medical. You're really low. Not gonna do anybody any good if you collapse in the middle of a battle."
"Gee, thanks, Mom," he snickered, giving her a grin. "Oh, wait, what time is it? Kel, what is going on with the Kal? Yamar wants to see all of us in the Vault at eighteen hundred."
She shrugged. "I have no idea. I haven't spoken to Lord Yamar in several days."
"If it's some manner of ceremony, I don't want to offend them by showing up in my armor…" he stroked his chin. "Is today some sort of Kal festival? Perhaps a religious event? Something like that, armor would be very inappropriate."
"The Colony converted to Christianity when the Order did; once that happened, most of the old festivals were subsumed by the Christian calendar," Kel replied slowly. "The only purely Kal observances that remain are the Tro'mak, the Day of the Dead, and the Tro'kyrie, the Day of the Compact. But that was in August. Tro'mak is in January, after the Feast of the Epiphany."
The door chimed. Arwyn hopped up, came back with three female Kal from the Colony in tow. All three lined up, carrying long boxes, bowed low from the waist. "We are honored to be in the presence of the Archon and his family," they murmured together, voices blending together in a strange fashion.
Alec stood, returned the gesture. "You do me honor with your presence. Please, enter my home, and be welcome."
The Kal straightened, smiling at the ancient mode of welcome. "Truly, Kaldor lives on here, in the house of the Brotherhood. Greetings, Archon, I am Herit, First Chancellor of the Council of Elders. My fellows Troshalla and Ahner."
"Greetings, First Chancellor," he also returned the smile. "My daughters, Arwyn and Kellehendra, and my… consort, Julia."
She glanced his way; he shrugged helplessly. She smiled, shook her head.
Herit ignored the byplay. "We have been directed by the First Elder to prepare your family for the ceremony this evening. By your leave, we would like permission to begin."
He gave each of the girls a glance; they all nodded. "Of course. Please. But if I may, what is the appropriate dress for this function? Lord Yamar has said…"
"Nothing?" Herit supplied, her two companions setting their burdens down, producing small rolls of measuring tape. "That is not surprising, Lord Archon. For this evening, you will require the armor of your station, and the Shal'kyrie. Nothing more."
"I see," he studied the woman for a moment. "You aren't going to tell me what's going on, are you?"
Another smile. "I am afraid not, My Lord."
He sighed. "Very well. I'll gather my armor, leave you alone…"
They merely smiled his way. Arwyn gave him a helpless look when he left; Connor was standing in the hallway when he came out.
"Oh. I was coming to look for you. Wanna grab a beer?"
"Yeah. Someplace else," he hooked the sword on his back. "What are these guys up to?"
Connor shrugged. "I dunno. One of them showed up at my door a while ago with a new set of armor. It's actually kinda cool- crimson and gray, with horns on the helm. I never did like the blacks."
Gabriel appeared, carrying a box of his own. "Crimson and gray? That's odd, mine's crimson and silver. Jian's is crimson and black; Morrigan said something about crimson and gold."
"Maybe today is Color-Coordination Day," Alec replied. "We switch to camo in the field anyway. I suppose if they want us to wear the colors, it doesn't hurt. That beer is sounding better and better; I can't figure these people out."
Four beers with Jian later, Gabriel rolled out of his chair. "We better think about changing. We're late to this, Yamar's gonna have to get in line to kill us."
Alec had already put his armor on; Connor went to work. "Is this a bring-your-weapons party or what?"
"What are you going to kill in the Vault?" Jian snorted, punching the crimson sphere and setting it on his neck. "Besides, all of us are gonna be there; something shows up that needs to be killed, it'll be take a number."
Gabriel laughed. "I'm going to get Morrigan. I'll see you down there."
Alec rose as well. "Gotta get the girls. Later, guys."
Torik called after him when he stepped into the hall; he waited for his old teacher to catch up. "I wanted to touch base with you before… this whatever they're doing. And no, lad, I don't know either. But I have this for you to approve."
He handed over a datapad. Alec keyed it on, scanned it. "The Initiate list, huh? Why do you want me to…"
"Keep reading, lad."
Alec stopped. "Well, now. That's different."
Torik nodded. "She made it formal this afternoon. Anderson came along with her; before Sorala could leave her chambers, Arwyn and Kellehendra made the same request. With your blessings, I understand."
"It was either give in," Alec grunted, "or listen to the both of them pester me every waking minute for the rest of my life."
"Sometimes surrender is the least painful option," Torik allowed. "Additionally, Marcus Sheridan has enrolled in the Initiate program. As have the Hamackers; what we're going to do with them and the Velorians, I have no idea.
"Marcus is going to prove difficult to train. Sorala isn't entirely sure he will undergo a metabolic enhancement, but his telekinetic faculties are already developing. His potential is narrow, but his strength is enormous. If we can harness his abilities properly, he will be a devastating opponent."
"My plate is full at the moment, Master," Alec handed him the pad. "Once we get these negotiations off the ground, we can look at Marcus more closely. You might want to talk to Connor- he'd suggested some metaboline applications when we were looking at Garret's file a few years ago. We might be able to jump-start Marcus's adaption."
"An excellent idea. I'll see you downstairs."
He went one way while Alec returned to his suite. The door slid open.
Arwyn, clad in a short, hooded robe, looked up when he came in. "What do you think?" she asked, getting up from the game she and Kel were playing to spin around.
It was crimson and cobalt, the exact shades of his armor, the hem of the robe nipping the bottoms of her kneecaps. The arms were cut full and loose, the bodice a touch clingy, the soaring eagle of a Knight on the front. A pair of cobalt boots stretched almost to her knees, the leather so brightly polished it almost glowed.
Kel stood as well, wearing exactly the same thing, gave him a twirl too. "Do we look okay?"
"You both look beautiful," he replied. "But it isn't because of the clothes. Where's Julia?"
She walked in from the bedroom. She had been outfitted in a modified suit of blacks, in his colors. The torso armor had been changed, a wide column of crimson running dead center down both arms, covering the shoulders, and right down the middle of her chest. The stripe ran down the crotch and inside of her (extremely) tight shorts, clinging to her legs to the mid thigh, the crimson glittering where it met the cobalt. All topped off with the gray-black boots he'd first given her in San Francisco, the eagle firmly fixed over her breasts.
"I look," she muttered, folding her arms stoutly, "ridiculous."
It took Alec a couple of tries to get a sound out. "Not…" he coughed, tried again. "Not at all. You… you look incredible."
She brightened slowly. "Yeah?"
"Oh," another cough, "oh, yeah. Isamu's gonna die. And so is everybody else."
Her hearing told her his pulse had amped up quite a bit at the sight of her, prompting her smile to grow even wider. She cocked her head to one side, studying his expression for a moment, then shook herself, went to one of the side tables. "Here. They left this before going away."
She scooped up a large swatch of cloth, unfurled it into a crimson-lined cobalt cape. Alec took it, staring at it quizzically. He reached back, drew the scabbard off his shoulders, settled the belt on his waist, then hung the cape around his neck.
"Okay," he mumbled. "now we all look silly. Come along, ladies, it's time to go."
He held his left arm out to Julia; she wrapped both hands around his bicep, pressed herself against him for a moment. He smiled, went to the door.
It hissed open. Six figures in the black and silver of the Order snapped to attention, warlances extending precisely. On their chests were the snarling lion's head of the Home Guard; all six were Kalrist warriors of the Order.
"Honor Guard," Jerek, son of Grils, snapped, "fall in!"
He and Kolmas, son of Bolta, stepped to the front, led off. Once the Archon and his party had exited their chambers, the other four fell in behind, marching in a precise column.
Jerek led them to the main lifts, the doors opening at their approach. The Kalrist ringed Alec and the girls in the lift, Jerek and Kolmas again leading them out of the lift.
The shaft had been dug deeper, opening now in the same catacombs where the Vault rested. Glowglobes now lit the bowels of the Citadel, making it no more oppressive than the Great Hall. The rough stones and vast arches danced in bright relief; Kel almost halted to stare them over, nudged along by Arwyn to catch up with Alec and Julia.
"My God," Julia whispered to Alec, scanning everything while they neared the Vault itself. "Everybody in the Citadel is down here."
He nodded. He could hear the murmur of thousands of minds, some familiar, many not, ranging from the disciplined, steady hum of Knights, Techs, and Activators, to the chirping singsong of children, with everything in-between.
The Honor Guard halted before the obsidian doors, the stone drinking the light into it's scrolled face. The rest of the Council- the rest of the human Council- waited before the entrance, all of them arrayed in their new armor.
Crimson was the only constant. Shield-arms, greaves, and tacgloves all matched in the color of blood, while their armor ran the gamut of the palette, from the stark crimson-over-white of Sergei's kit to the almost technicolor of Alec's uniform. Morrigan's armor, in crimson and gold, was cut as revealingly as Julia's, yet somehow still armor.
Gabriel drifted through the Honor Guard, sidled up to Alec. "What's going on?"
"I know even less than I did twenty minutes ago," Alec replied, keeping a genial smile on his face. "Why?"
"Everyone else went in the other entrance; only the thirteen of us are out here…"
Two more Kalrist Home Guard walked from the hallway, flanking one final figure. Dani stared all around her while she trailed the two Knights, her face breaking into an almost-smile when she spotted the group by the door. "Hello."
"Excuse me," Gabriel muttered. "Fourteen."
"Is this some kind of ritual?" Dani was clad in the same robes as Arwyn and Kel, looking more than a little out of place in her surroundings. "No one said anything to me, they just handed me these robes, told me to come with them. Is there something I should know? Something I'm supposed to do?"
Gabriel and Alec traded a look. "We… don't know either. But if no one's going to tell us, we'll improvise. Everybody, line up. Arwyn, Kel, Dani, Morrigan, one line; Horsemen and Thien another, you guys make the last. Warlances, right hands. If there's one thing we all know how to do, it's march."
The doors were opening; the Honor Guard formed up in front of Alec and Julia, started in. As they crossed the threshold, Alec's warlance snapped open, each row following suit.
Rows and rows of risers had been ferried down from the Challenge Court, climbing the spherical walls of the Vault. The Kal covered the far side of the Vault, covering the risers halfway to the ceiling, filling more than two-thirds of the dome. A narrow rank of risers straddled the door Alec and the others walked through, holding the rest of the Order.
Compared to the Kal, they were a mere handful- all told, the Order numbered less than nine hundred. Not the largest army in the world… but large enough.
Three hundred seventy-five Knights, counting the Home Guard. One hundred eighty Activators, one hundred fifty Technicians, and sixty Clerics. Always around forty Initiates in some stage of training- now including eight extremely unusual Adepts.
He glanced around, spotted Kara, Cat and Jason Anderson, Sharon Best and Deb Kincaide, all of them sitting by themselves in a corner of the grandstand. A fairly wide berth had been given them, save for Cas. He had a handful of Techs and Clerics grouped around him, Carter Sheridan and family among them, sitting a bare two spaces from Kara. Good ol' Cas- he always understood.
Sixty feet from the central brazier, the Honor Guard halted, split aside. Six young Kal came from the edge of the pit, three male and three female. The young men and one of the girls took Julia, Dani, Arwyn, and Kel's hands, drawing them gently away from the Knights; the two remaining women each took one of Alec's arms, guided him to the edge of the brazier. The rest of the Council followed him, clustering closely, warlances collapsed and set back on belts. Before they halted, Alec sent his helm sliding down his chest, resting on his belt.
Mazar, flanked by Yamar and Somack, came around the sheeting flames, stood in a precise line in front of the humans, facing Alec. Mazar paused long enough to study the rank of Knights, then nodded to himself, fixing his eyes on Alec.
"Kaldor had perished. We were a lost people, without a home, without a future, blindly questing across the cosmos for a new refuge. We were unworthy of partnership, broken, defeated, without hope. Without faith.
"Until your world beckoned. A shining beacon in the night."
Somack took up the story. "We were revered as gods by the peoples of the steppes of Tibet. They sought to earn our favor with sacrifices, until we took it upon ourselves to make peace with the humans in the traditions of Kaldor. We asked only that we be allowed to live here, in harmony with this world.
"Then the Scourge came. We were weak, and ill-prepared. The humans of this land rose up, took arms, and repelled the invaders side-by-side with our warriors. Not for any type of material gain, but because they believed it to be right."
"The Order was created from that courage, when it was discovered that the men and women of Earth could master the Disciplines," Yamar continued. "When the Scourge returned five years later, they faced not a savaged, beaten handful of Kalrist, but a ferocious, dedicated force of humans and Kal. They were routed, easily, and thus the Compact was born.
"Not a vassal to a master, but a bonding between two races- one on the cusp of greatness, the other finding it's way back to greatness. As in all things, two become one, creating symbiosis, making the whole greater than the sum of it's parts."
"To our shame," Mazar responded, "we have found ourselves lacking in our partnership with humanity.
"As the ages passed, the Kal turned their back on their pledge, divorcing themselves from the alliance of the Brotherhood, leaving our human family to shoulder the burden of Earth's defense. Never did humankind waver, simply taking the slack, forging ahead, facing foes from within and without with courage, with dedication, with honor."
"The Galen," Somack's baritone rattled the names off tonelessly. "The Diaboli. The Wiccan Magi. The Arions. The Fomor. The Sleshtak. The Kaldec. Regardless of the threat, without fear or hesitation, the Brotherhood stood firm. To no enemy, to no threat, did the Order bow.
"Even now, in the face of betrayal, the Kaldec massed upon this Earth, the Order stands. The Order fights. And the Order, the Order will win."
"We have dishonored ourselves," Yamar whispered, his voice carrying eerily around the silent Vault. "We have dishonored humanity's charity, humanity's sacrifice, humanity's courage. As the blood of your forefathers, Children of the Order, redeemed our fallen race, so now we offer our blood to redeem the shame of our people.
"We come to you now not as the equals we fancied ourselves to be, but as the vassals we have become. To you, Archon, we submit our lives, our children, our future, in the hopes that you will find it in your heart to protect us as the cowards we have become. If not for ourselves, then for our children, that they might once again understand what honor is."
"We are the Elders of the Kal of Earth," Mazar motioned Croslax and Geserac forward as well, the other Augurs taking their places at the ends of the line. "We are responsible for teaching truth, for teaching honor. We have failed."
"The only means to restore our honor," Somack knelt, all of the others following suit, "is to offer ourselves to restore the balance."
"Though we have no right," Yamar stripped his robes from his shoulders, laying them around his waist, "we beg of you this boon, Archon of the Order. Draw the Sword of the Compact, and restore what we have let fade."
Alec's hand settled on the hilt of the Shal'kyrie. He gripped it, drew it in one sharp, brief rasp, booming thunder in the silence. The snap of nine extending warlances echoed it, each of the Council balancing their weapon in their right hand.
He studied the men in front of him for one breathless moment, then jerked his arm, and tossed the sword aside. The Shal'kyrie clattered to the stones, joined in a heartbeat by nine extended warlances.
"I am the Archon!" Alec cried into the Vault. "I declare honor satisfied! Who among you dares challenge my decree?"
He couldn't even hear anyone breathe, much less raise their voice in challenge.
"Rise, Elders," he commanded. They did, slowly.
"We are the Brotherhood; we do not spill Kalrist blood. Honor demands no sacrifice. We demand no sacrifice. We are what we have chosen to become- we are the Order. We stand between the darkness and the light. We stand unflinchingly, we stand united, and we stand unafraid.
"We have fought to protect you because we choose to. We have stood beside you because we choose to. Honor's debt was paid long, long ago. By both sides.
"Stand alongside, or stand aside. The choice is yours. But the Kalrist will, forever and always, stand beneath the shelter of the Order. Come what may, until the stars grow cold.
"We are the Brotherhood. We are faithful."
Yamar stared. "But the Compact… we have broken it!"
Alec held his hand out. The Shal'kyrie leapt to his hand; he settled it in it's scabbard. "In your minds, perhaps," he replied. "Not in ours. We are still the Brotherhood. We are still the Order. And nothing will ever change that.
"It took both humanity and Kalrist to create the Order; it will take both to shatter it. We refuse to yield. Not now. Not ever."