[Age of Mouldwarp]
In the vast reaches of the void, there are things known to only a few that would lend themselves graciously to a larger sector given the chance. There are wonders that are never known, are never told to any significant amount of the void's residents, and the void is a large place. You live in the void. You know it as the galaxy, yet that is a term that gives too much life to a thing which, on the whole, is more sterile than vigorous, and is therefore unworthy to support such a generous label. But there are stories. Oh, there are stories to tell of what does exist, and humans have barely scratched the surface. Today is your lucky day.
A millennium ago - by your present time - there were four races of evolutionary superiority to yourselves, known together as the Quadians. This is not an insult, as all things move at individual paces, and start when they do as well. The Quadians had time on their side. The greatest of them came from the Beyol system, untold lightyears from your own Sol System, and were known as the Omoxians to their brethren. They were the greatest because they belived it to be so, and no one else had the spirit to debate it with them. They were an arrogent, cruel, domineering race with only their own goals in mind, but they had competition. A race from the neighboring system of Hr'oh, the Tikanni,developed at the same rate, but with more distemper. In truth the Tikanni had grown to maturity first and subjected the Omoxians to a period of occupation, but left voluntarily when it became clear they were equals.
This all unfolded in a matter of a few paltry centuries for the two races, and when they became tired of being masters of their own space they branched out. They found two other races of equal maturity, the Vitell and my own kind, the Vanadi, and together they agreed to contrive the future of the void in their favor, which of course was only in the best interests of the galaxy's children.
The chief architect of this accord was an Omoxian known as Trey. He was as proud as any Omoxian, and with perhaps even more right, since he single-handedly forged the alliances with the Vitell and the Vanadi, long before my time. To detail the character of the one known as the Conqueror would be foolhardy. The sources we have today are deteriorating and questionable in origin, so what I have for you are conjectural accounts of his exploits. Given the fate of the Tikanni, it is more than likely that their kind had a bigger hand in things than we are sometimes led to believe, but Trey stands out, the smug Omoxian to cap all smug Omoxians,as the central figure for the tales to come. Lord Phan has long been praised as Trey's equal, perhaps based on the traditional relationship between the Omoxians and the Tikanni, but his stature has also always been downplayed. Perhaps we'll change that, hm?
Aside from Trey and Phan there were these souls: the calculating Umecit of the Vitell, always with a scheme to bring himself glory; my brother Vanadi sage Haxed, who was perhaps least suited for the adventures that awaited them; and Trey's minion and fellow Omoxian Rejon, who nonetheless distinguished himself for his insatiable want for stimulation. These five were the emissaries of the Quadians, the means with which the future would be interpreted for them. We know that they succeeded in their mission, but how will forever be a mystery. Still, it'll make a good story.
Which brings us to be, the storyteller. I have no agenda in telling you this story. The Vanadi are well known to have played an important role in the roots of what would come, so don't take what I'll say as a flattery for my people. You may call me Gaberdine; it's what suits me now and all you need know of me. It is not my story, so you should be content with what I have given you. I am a storyteller, and this is a grand story. You will not be disappointed.
* * *
The word gabion, lest you take it as another sign of vanity on my part, is defined in your terms as a large, cylindrical basket filled with earth or stones, and was once used in fortifications. In a manner of speaking, that is what I am talking about when I say this is a foundation myth, which I haven't implicitly stated as my objective already, but now that I've labeled it so, it seems to fit, doesn't it? All things need beginnings, even if you don't know what the thing is yet, but rest assured that this will follow in time. I'm filling this basket, then, with the elements of creation, and this basket is a seat of history.
The story begins on the world of Omox, located as noted before in the Beyol System, which had become known as the galactic Temperate Zone for the symmetrical division between each of its seven satellites from the dying Beyol sun. There was no wild distribution of climates such as seen in your own system; the Omoxians were cursed with a region of perfect hospitality with which to brood discontent toward nature. Theirs was a dark world that produced light offspring, the colors in between being savored for it. The architecture on Omox united in a severe fashion that struck foreigners as tacky, but the Omoxians were used to compensating. At the city of Shibal, the long-time capital of commerce for the Omoxian Emirate, things reached their ultimate flavor.
The landmark all Omoxians recognized from early childhood, as the crowning achievement of their society was the Son Prelar Oval, perhaps the only one of its kind in the known reaches of the void. It stood ornate at the midpoint of the outer ring that distinguised Shibal's layout, enshrined among poplar trees, or at least the Omoxian equivalent. Yoy may think it odd to have the landmark of your most heavily trafficked city outside the center, but for the Omoxians the center was the least important feature of any design. Son Prelar Oval, as it was at the time, was a shimmering structure of bronze-tinted glass, rippled in patterns of such complex articulation that an admirer might lose sight of the larger picture. Rejon, the lesser of the two Omoxians featured in this gabion, looked as if he were paralyzed in such a manner. He'd seen Son Prelar Oval countless times during his life, but the shock of its magnificence never grew old for him. It appeared that he was scarcely paying attention to his fellow Omoxian at all. Then again, with Rejon, this was often the case.
"...Precipice of great peril, to be sure, but the very thing we have come here for," Trey concluded. In his orange robes, this leader of the Quadian Five, as they were known, appeared a perfect match for the structure behind him, yet with his unusually bold eyes of emerald, he was set apart from his surroudings such that he always seemed to be the center of attention, Rejon excluded and the glory of Son Prelar Oval pardoned. When he was called upon to make speeches, Trey would do so reluctantly but eloquently nonetheless, the burden of his pre-eminence. My brother Vanadi Haxed was more the one for speeches, which he freely and ceaselessly delivered, but at this moment he heeded the floor to Trey. "There is a galaxy out there depending on our success. We cannot afford to fail it. With this in mind, let us pledge our lives to this quest, to our people, and to each other, bound with the knowledge that we are small men on a large stage on which we to unite in peace its actors."
He bowed his head in solemnity, Haxed following him and Rejon after, concluding with the Tikanni Lord Phan and the Vitell Umecit, who upon seeing it concluded had this to say: "Make no mistake, this is war. We are going into battle with the most primitive of opponents, and how we fair will resound beyond our graves." Trey, who was never one for fatalism, understood his comrade's sentiment, but cautioned for a lighter tone as his eyes crossed with Lord Phan's.
"The future is not our concern. If we fail, then the future will unfold as it would without us, but we are here and the present beckons us." Ahead of Trey stood a platform on which a starship of angular design rested. It was of Omoxian origin, so of course it's hull vibrated in the gloomy sky, an opaque texture over the intricate, and lively, machinery that indicated a thousand different functions in the ship's web of operations. It had no familiarity with the staff of other vessels; it was designed to serve the Quadian Five's needs independently. A hatch from the sloped dorsal pylan slid open, and Trey headed for it, the rest following.
The ship was known as the Ulados Oronus in Omoxi, but it was commonly referred to as the Ardor. Within a few minutes it began to rise as the Pasear Drive increased in upward momentum, remaining in a parallel plain with the planet surface for all of the initial progressions, until finally it had reached critical velocity in the upper atmosphere, where to the crowd that had listened to the Quadian Five's farewell speech it appeared only as a flash of light. The Omoxian Guard ushered the revelers away even as the Ardor passed through the system's boundaries.
"If I have to give one more speech," Trey began, seated in a curved compartment in a quarter of the ship designated for recreation, "I really don't know what I'll do. There's no law that says I can't pass this duty on to you, is there?"
Haxed, to whom it was agreed without much thought the question was directed at, perked his head at this, looking sideways in accord with the arrangement of the pentagonal counter between the five. "You Omoxians are too kind. One may start to suspect that you have an ulterior motive behind everything. Although I don't believe it would have killed you to suggest this earlier."
"That," Lord Phan added, seated across from Trey, "is a delusion. he is merely humoring you. One does not shrink from one's spotlight. One adds to it."
Across from Haxed, Umecit looked on in amusement. "Such squabbling is hardly necessary, Phan. Let trey speak for himself. If he wants to freely delegate responsibilities to others, let him. I see no harm in it."
"Spoken like a true warrior," Phan replied, with a sarcastic ring in his voice.
Trey looked annoyed at how things were developing among his charges. He supposed that this was what it would be like for a while, so he decided to play it out. "Who here has an idea of how to deal with this Myrmidon we are to convene with?"
"I believe I do," Haxed offered to no great alarm. "In Vanadi terms we are the Aquila, the chosen, and if we cannot barter an agreement with Myrmidon then it is hopeless. We should keep adversarial tactics out of this, for the reason that we have a reputation at stake, chiefly the one we are trying to build among the Quadian coalition. To strike with brute force would taint the image we are trying to forge, that of a welcoming union. As Aquila, I believe it to be our right to expect a peaceful resolution to Myrmidon's complaints."
"With you spear-heading the negotiations, Myrmidon would no doubt concede on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment," Umecit joked, eliciting laughter from around the table, even from Rejon, sequestered in the position opposite the empty point.
"I would despise to think I were the only one taking this seriously," Phan said after the atmosphere had cooled down.
"Of course not," Trey reassured. "Myrmidon expects himself to be taken seriously, and indeed we should hold him in such regard. Convincing him that the Quadian alliance is more benevolent that he has been willing to admit would be a tremendous endorsement of our validity."
"Then we go in with weapons uncharged, save for our wits. That alone is our true ally," Haxed said. They were headed for a small port world in the Hoise System, a large enough piece of the void to claim both the Vitell and we vanadi as comfortable powers. One might suspect the two to be related in some way, but we are so different anatomically that suspicions are forced into other directions. An aquatic and furred based disparity is hard to overlook. The world that the Ardor was headed for was at the outskirts of Vanadi space, where all the seedier elements reared themselves, at once degrading and improving our reputation, depending which end of history you are looking from. Were the others thinking straight, they might have suspected that Haxed was showing his own bias, but the Vanadi are known as relatively cool heads. Must be the fur, though the red tint does indicate otherwise.
"Sounds workable enough to me," Umecit stated. he certainly would not have objected to the other course of action available, but he understood the virtues of Haxed's plan well enough.
Trey was pleased as well. "Myrmidon expects us to come in firing, and in essence we will be. We can hammer out the specifics later, but as long as we are agreed on this?"
"No objections," Phan said. In fact, he did have some. To play by Myrmidon's own rules was foolish in the Tikanni nobleman's mind. He would rather have placed the dissident in a situation wherein he was forced to see his actions for what they really were, but Trey would have shot this down immediately as unproductive and adversarial. And Phan would have challenged it as the difference between the Tikanni and Omoxian mindsets, but he also knew that the goals were the same, so the ngines didn't matter so much as the results. He would play along.
"Excellent. We are thirty-eight hours away from Trevigall. I suggest some rest, whatever that means for each of you. The sleeping cabins are two compartments down, the Measures room after that, and the Artillary concave immediately ahead of us." The only one of that list you may not comprehend is the Measures room, and this is simple enough to explain. It held the library of the Ardor, an index of the accumulated knowledge from the Quadians. It was typically where strategies were formed, briefings held, and a place of genera enlightenment. Trey was the sole visitor there upon the conclusion of the assembly, while the others sauntered off to the sleeping cabins. Umecit was tempted by the concave, but he was able to draw himself from it with the knowledge that they would not need its contents for what lay ahead. That was his optimistic assessment, at any rate.
Trevigall fast approached, and Myrmidon made the first move. Trey was the first to hear the communications sensor chirp, so he informed the others while he entered the command hub above him.
"Greetings, Quadian emissaries. I have anticipated your arrival with great enthusiasm, as I'm sure you have in coming here," entoned Myrmidon's voice over the speakers. Trey was willing to wager that this was simple bravado, but he kept this to himself.
"It is indeed an honor to make your acquaintance at last," Trey began as his charges entered the hub around him. "We look forward to a civil discussion with you when we at last meet in person."
"That you shall have," Myrmidon replied. "It is not my intention to rob you of your ceremonies."
Umecit murmured behind Trey that it wasn't them who were engaging in ceremonies. Trey waved this off and said in return to Myrmidon, "I assure you that our intentions are far more substantial than simple histrionics. We wish to settle our dispute like gentlemen."
"Indeed," Myrmidon remarked before cutting transmission and allowing the Ardor landing privileges at the Trevigall ambassadors post in Mal'yn. There he personally greeted them in the traditional Vanadi fashion, Haxed alone performing the reciprocation correctly. Like the rest of Trevigall, Mal'yn was constructed as if there had been no real thought given to how each component would fit together. Each building and feature was exactly what it needed to be, meaning that aesthetic tastes need not apply to the whole.
Myrmidon led the Quadian Five down a series of dimly-lit corridors before they at last reached the conference hall, decorated only with a mural of Vanadi diversity I would have been proud to call my own and almost excuse enough to forgive the banality that surrounded it. There were no chairs for them to use, so they remained standing, the Vanadi, including the security detachment lining the exits, seeming most comfortable with this arrangement. Glancing at his companions, Trey started his appeal. "The Quadian realizes your objections are perfectly reasonable, yet we cannot help but be troubled that they exist. Our goal is to create a haven for all the species that welcome it and accomodate them accordingly. Anticipating factions within our own members rejecting our advances was taken into account and considered a priority in --"
"With all due respect," Myrmidon interjected, "our people have long since held a philosophy, the idea we call the Cynoc code, that states the void is in a perpetual state of disharmony. Any attempts to reverse this are doomed to failure, and that is the chief deterrent we face. How do you suppose to fix this?"
Trey saw the expression Haxed held at that moment, a mixture of understanding and revulsion that was unmistakable. He wasn't facing Myrmidon directly at that moment, but Haxed then turned in his direction and added for Trey, "That all people do not hold the same philosophy does not mean that they cannot cooperate. That is the point of the Quadian. Harmony can exist within disharmony; you seem to be disputing the size rather than the form of it."
"We are proposing a compromise," Trey stated. "Imposing our will was never our intention, so it is only natural to assume that we're willing to let you be. In the meantime, you must promise to cease your assaults on our colony worlds within this system."
"Then desist on your own indoctrinations. This seems only fair as well," Myrmidon concluded.
"You keep making assumptions as to our intentions," Umecit cut in. "Were we so dastardly as you assume us to be, then we wouldn't be here right now. We would be blasting this planet to bits."
The preoccupied mind of Rejon jumped for a minute. The confined nature of the conference room had been getting to him, and he caught Lord Phan's attention when he suddenly turned his head upward. Phan in turn understood what had distracted Rejon and pulled Trey aside, leaving Haxed and Umecit to continue the debate with Myrmidon.
"If I may, I don't believe Myrmidon's purpose here was to reach an agreement with us," Phan started. "He's been adversarial for the breadth of this expedition. It's not likely he'll relent to any significant degree."
"That's been my observation as well, but we can't afford to give up now," Trey replied.
"It would be in our best interests to. Today is not ours," Phan stated.
"Can I ask for an explanation," Trey enquired, but Phan indicated that now was not the time for it. Coming to Trevigall had been a mistake. After watching a single Vanadi security figure exit the room, the two returned to the bargaining circle.
"We mean no harm to you or your way of life," Trey said, interceding the negative tone that had become prevalent. "Mutual beneficence is what we're after, not abject domination. I'm sorry if you've misinterpreted us, but now we must put aside our differences. I can recede our territory away from your space if that's what you want, but we won't concede any further."
"That is acceptable," Myrmidon replied. He stared at Trey and his companions for a while, and then continued. "I see now your Quadian is an honorable collaboration. Perhaps I have underestimated you. It's a shame we couldn't reach a better understanding."
"It is progress, however," Trey said. He and Phan looked at Myrmidon with an air of wariness. The two were rarely in direct opposition to each other's thoughts on a subject, and that's what made the rivalry so puzzling. But that isn't the point of this story. Myrmidon agreed to stay out of the Quadians' way, in exchange for reassurance that they would be more discreet in the future developments. It was clear that this was nothing more than empty compromise, but it suited what each was looking for at that moment. The Ardor wasted no time in departing from Trevigall, in circumstances quite different from its last fanfar at Omox.
The basket in this case was filled with question marks, but this is normal for any newborn venture. In fact, any other result would inevitably bring about rapid dissipation of the outlying goals. Umecit would prefer a much more direct end to this particular gabion, as would any other curious participant in this game. As per Rejon's example, I am content to let it unfold as it will, and it is only fitting that his fellow Omoxian Trey gave voice to that very sentiment.
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the fiction here is © copyrighted 2001-2003 by Sean "Waterloo" McKenna