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[Age of Mouldwarp]

A Momentary Solace
Not all those upon whom greatness is thrust are born ready.  Trey the Conqueror was not, and he strove all his life to hide it.  Except on one occasion, he was always successful.  The Omoxi had methods to administer peace when there was none, and Trey was as expert in these arts as any who came before him and those who followed, out of necessity.  He had help, guidance, in the form of his lifelong mentor, the acknowledged Qantas, one of the elite of her people and the longest-lived authority they ever knew as a member of the Hypostasis for over a century.  The Hypostasis were as a monarchy in your time, figureheads of the government, of the Omoxian Emirate, but more influential in the sway of things.  No declaration of a member of the Hypostasis was ever questioned, or if it were the penalty would have been exile.

     For an Omoxian, exile was a fate worse than death.  It meant being cut off not only in body from your brethren but in mind as well.  The Omoxi believed this latter connection to be their claim unquestioned of supremacy in all the stars of the void, their claim to the right of superiority.  Trey struggled daily to reconcile both halves of this claim, and he needed the connection of the mind to do it.

     This is how the Omoxi decided to enter the reaches of the void: not out of curiosity but out of selfishness.  If the Quadian was now striving for understanding between all races, the Omoxi happened to join only after deciding that the void held its greatest spiritual attainment.  I say spiritual and not religious because the Omoxi believed that the spirit transcended religion, that the spirit in its purest form was stripped of confining notions such as delineations of good and evil.  Of all their methods at releasing the spirit, they found that weightlessness was the greatest facilitator, for it freed the needs of the body for confinement and allowed the mind free reign.

     The Globes of Mattene, as they became known, named after the spiritual matron of the Omoxi, were thus the first things placed in orbit, not as satellites collecting dust and data, but as vessels of the truly enlightened, or those seeking to be.  Mysticism as advanced as that found among the Omoxi allowed the mind in weightlessness to reach into the corners of the nether cerebral regions and explore the possibilities therein.  They mastered the sixth sense in this way, as no other method they tried over the millennia did.  

     Privileged as his upbringing was, Trey had access to the Globes from infancy, and from infancy Qantas trained him in their possibilities, and she never before and never again took such interest in any single member of the population.  Wizened beyond common limitations, she was the ideal shaper of the boy who would one day hold the fate of the universe in his hands.  She would place him in the Chamber of Featherlight, the once-vehicle for the ecstasy, and now training machine for it.  She taught him the movement of objects with his mind, the reading of others’ minds, and a linking from across infinite space of minds, all subjected to the need for the facilitator of weightlessness and a steady mind.

     Trey’s mind was steady, if not strong, but he would learn in time to control it.

     It was on the voyage to Mollwan, to what should be the last encounter with the rebel Vanadi faction called the Obdurate, in which Trey collapsed.  He saved the fall for when he was alone, isolated from the others of the Five, but it was an utter collapse.  He was alone as always in the Measures room, which he sealed to prevent any incendiary intrusion, however unintentional it might be.  He had, with his last breath of concentration, informed Rejon of his need for privacy, and Rejon took it rightly as a message to relay among the others.  Only Umecit questioned it, out of his pounding need for inclusiveness, but Lord Phan reproved him quickly into submission.  Haxed remained silent, perhaps saving his energies for Mollwan, where his words would be more essential.

     Turning off the gravity net in the room, Trey simpered as the trappings of natural law receded gently around him.  Everything but himself was secured, and he floated upward, his thoughts being cleansed by a steady focus forming within.  There was no instrument to guide him, no agents of elation or tools of assistance, and he did not need to enter a trance.  All the weightlessness achieved was a mode to work in, a canvas to paint on, and strokes in his minds were all that he needed now.  He began to reach with his mind, and to Qantas did he reach.

     (Hear me.)  She needn’t enter in the same state Trey was in to hear him, to respond.  Once a link was achieved, the minds could work in tandem.

     My child.  The years of labor between them had forged a bond stronger than mere mentor and student.  Trey hardly knew his own parents as well as he knew Qantas.  It was spiritual.

     (I need your guidance.)

     You have always been welcome to take it.

     (This task is wearying.  I do not know if I may complete it.)

     Yours is not to question your fate.  It is written in the stars.  It is bound to the planets that revolve around them.

     (I do not wish to fail.)

     Failure is not within you.

     (Failure resides without me.  How may I overcome this?)

     Dominion over all eludes all.  Do not concern yourself with it.

     (I cannot complete my mission if I do not have faith in others.)

     Faith in yourself should be enough.  Others will follow their own path, and what lies in yours should not concern you now.

     (But the responsibility is what taxes me.)

     Then release it.

     (I don’t know how to.)

     It is not yours.  What is not yours is not your concern.

     (But it is.)

     Only if you want it to be.

     (I would not be on this mission if I did not want it.)

     Your problem, then, is of your own making.

     (Where is the counsel that soothed me a thousand times in my upbringing?)

     Where it has always been.  Within you.

     (It has never seemed enough.)

     Appearances are what the wise learn to avoid.

     (Then it is wisdom that I need?)

     Wisdom you possess.  The ability to harness it is what I have strove to teach you.

     (You have been a good teacher, but I am not a good student.)

     You have always had the potential, but you have always feared to grasp it.  This mission, I fear, has taken it into light.

     (If I cannot turn to you for answers, then I am lost.)

     You are not.

     (Mattene defend me.  I have tried.)

     You have not.

     (Then trying isn’t enough.)

     It is not.  But faith in oneself is not always necessary.

     (It isn’t?)

     It is not.  You may find yourself at Mollwan a broken man; yet if you do not show it, let your other powers prevail.  Another day will come for your faith to find you.

     (I begin to hear you.)

     A beginning is as good as an end.  Follow it through.  I must leave you.

     (I thank you, as Mattene thanked the Omoxi by showing us our way.)  To consider what had been said, that was now Trey’s preoccupation.  Were he more skilled in the art, he might have conducted the entire affair in the cold embrace of the void itself.  Mind over matter, as you say, was something a select number of Omoxi were able to achieve.  More of what you would consider mysticism, though, among other things, conjuring was never on a list of priorities.  That was too petty a feat, devoid of any real meaning.  Omoxian goblins were elsewhere employed in more useful capacities.

     He began to let his mind wander.  The shape of the wall did not please him so he bent it, molded the metallic fibers themselves outward, so the room now seemed to bulge.  Haxed would later comment about it.

     Trey grew more at peace with each passing moment.  The conflict within him that had nearly prevented the conversation with Qantas slipped away.  He no longer cared.  Driving him now was the unseen will of his ancestors, who were the guardians of the weightless ecstasy.  He saw the future, of his own wicked end, of what would become of the Quadian’s labors two thousand years hence.  He saw the coming rift, and the time needed to mend it, between two great allies.  Trey began to probe the minds of the others onboard the Ardor.

     Vitell were easiest to read.  They had so little concern for external strife that even when that strife threatened the internal they did not blink.  That was what had led the invitation to the Quadian.  They were strong in their affluence, and that affluence would be used for the greater good.  Umecit did not notice at all.

     Vanadi had an inherent will that could withstand the harshest treatment brought up against them.  Their resolve complimented the affluence of their system-mates the Vitell oddly well.  We have always prided ourselves on that resolve, and the cohabitation with the Vitell, though discovered late in our own travels, has only strengthened us.  Trey could not read Haxed’s mind, his will being too strong.

     Rejon had always stood at a distinguished distance from Trey’s probing.  Whether it was in respect to a fellow Omoxian, or the memory of a former singeing from a previous attempt, for a mind among Omoxi filled with its own resources acts as a repellent and poison to a unreciprocated probing, Trey kept a respectful distance.  At times, it was difficult to imagine that Rejon was Trey’s inferior the way the two interacted.

     Tikanni offered no resistance at all.  That was the mind Trey sank into, Lord Phan’s.  He didn’t feel at all ashamed to do so, to a comrade-in-service.  No one quite knew why, but the Tikanni cared little about what others thought of them, or what others did around them, or to them.  Tikanni were known to be resilient.  Lord Phan was a pacifist by nature.  Trey could probe his mind for days, and it would not matter.  Tikanni knew how to keep secrets.  What they did not want let out did not find its way into municipal quarters.
     Trey was broken from his reverie upon stumbling on the tryst Phan had had with Kais Felrek.  That was not something he found particularly ennobling.  It was a wild card, and wild cards were not something he needed on this mission.  Omoxians did not trust the Hesslans, no matter which sect was involved.  It was a sore point in relations between themselves and the Tikanni, that the Tikanni had caused such mayhem in their previous enterprises in the void.  There were other examples of Tikanni meddling, but the Hesslans were the worst.  What was Phan up to?

     He hesitated to restore gravity.  The handless feeling that gripped him in an armless embrace was intoxicating in a way.  The sober life of the Omoxi left very little thrills to be had in life, and there was little play as well.  He spun around, flipped head over tail, soared across the cabin.  If Omoxi children rabble-roused, this is what he would be calling to mind, that nameless emotion quite removed from joy.  The moment lingered, his mind as ease, his body free from its usual restrictions.

     Trey pushed off of a bulkhead and reached out with a lazy hand to the control panel, suddenly mesmerizing in its blinking language.  He did not press the prescient key right away.

     He braced himself against the wall he’d warped, planting his feet downward as he wedged himself in preparation.  Another sign of his novice.  Elders of the practice could employ the last remnants of the ecstasy in a gentle return to the ground, a touchdown in splendor.  Trey tapped the key and breathed a heavy sigh.  He felt as if a heavy sack had been placed on him.  He was not used to labor.  He took a few tentative steps, noting more than ever how much walking was akin to controlled falling.  He felt like falling onto an unusually extravagant thing for Omoxi: a cushioned bed.  Alas he did not have one in the Measures room.

     The next step was to unlock the cabin.  He estimated that he’d been lost in the ecstasy for the better part of the day, and his stomach was beginning to growl.  Trey usually ate sparingly, and this time he was not remiss about it.  It was one of the reasons he rarely attempted the experience.  The Globes of Mattene, although always open to him, had not often enjoyed the pleasure of his patronage.  Qantas was never good about hiding her disappointment, but she did not disparage him over it.  She never disparaged him, but it was not out of the reverence afforded him by all of his people.  He sometimes wished that she would.

     The door slid open.  Lord Phan came strolling in, a look of scrutiny etched onto his ashen face.  "I hope I am not disturbing you."

     "You are not," came the reply.  "I have completed what I have set out to do."

     "There is more still to come of it," Phan posited.
     "There is," Trey acknowledged, now giving his own scrutinizing glance.  "It has come to my attention that you have been in contact with a Hesslan-Vaegan.  This does not accommodate security issues very well."

     "I have always answered to myself," Phan noted, before deciding to be more cooperative.  "Yes I have.  When it concerns the group, I will address it before them."

     "It concerns them now," Trey stated.  A wave of nausea suddenly overcame him.

     You are weak.  The voice of Qantas had returned.  Trey was baffled at her words.  You will fail.

     (No.  You have helped me past my doubts.)

     All that you have done, all that you have strived for, are for naught.  The Ollapodrida Assembly has recalled you.  Another shall take your place.  The words were hostile in a way Qantas had never been towards Trey.

     (They would not know what to do!)

     Phan observed Trey’s labored condition as the Omoxian stared absently in front of himself.  The Tikanni did not move against him.

     Branlor has been groomed to replace you.  Return immediately.

     (I refuse!  You are trying to trick me!)  Trey likewise had never taken word against his mentor.  He was beginning to suspect trickery.

     "Trey.  I need you to concentrate," Phan instructed.  "Close your mind."  He was well versed in the arts of the Omoxi.

     "I can’t!" Trey screamed, losing control for the first time in his life.

     Give in.

     (No!)

     Phan produced a device from his robes, and placed it on Trey’s left temple when the Omoxian’s flailing hands gave him the chance.  Trey immediately began to cool down.  "Now, release your burden," Phan ordered in a calm voice.

     He is not real.  He is a figment of your imagination.  He…

     The voice of Qantas faded away.  Trey stood for a moment, disoriented.  Phan said nothing for a while, then observed, "That was a side effect of your summoner technique.  It was a bubble of what you had just released from yourself.  It happens."

     "Phan…" Trey began, but could not finish.  He felt raw, exposed.  "Call Rejon to me."

     "I will, but first you must understand that I have no ill intentions for this mission," Phan said.  "Felrek will prove useful."

     "You know what I did," Trey stated as it dawned on him, in stages.

     "I know."  Tikanni prefer the passive approach, as it maintains the illusion of control.  Phan understood control.

     "Call Rejon," Trey repeated, and in a few moments Rejon was at his side.  Though he would not share his experience, Trey would use Rejon to understand it.  After Phan departed, the two Omoxi spent the next several hours discussing what had occurred.

     You may wonder how I have obtained such intimate knowledge of such a private happening, and I am more than willing to share my method with you.  Trey left behind when he passed away a journal, what he called his Wills, even though he did not leave anything behind to kith or kin, as is the Omoxian custom.  A few entries prove pertinent to the understanding of the events I now chronicle, but the Wills have remained out of public knowledge because of other matters discussed within them.  Trey was not a typical Omoxian, and in his writings he described all of the foibles he saw in his people, even the ones he saw in himself, and they are sometimes damning things.  Even a great man cannot be expected to be completely listened to.  You block out the things you don’t like to continue honoring your heroes.

     Following his session with Rejon, Trey assembled the rest of the Five, and prepared them for what they would find at Mollwan.  Treachery, deceit.  All of the things they found in Myrmidon, and more.  It would not be an easy task.

     Haxed insisted on accompanying Trey to the talks themselves, while Umecit would be left aboard the Ardor with Rejon to observe and assure that things went smoothly.  Phan requested a leave of absence.

     "This is absurd!" Umecit shouted.  "What is our most important hour, and you propose to not be present?!"

     "I must agree with Umecit’s somewhat exaggerated emotion," Haxed said.  "Now is not the time to go skulking in the night."

     "I will not be ‘skulking,’ as you put it," Phan said.  He was isolated from the others, as usual, in the Concave, standing across from the table in a lurking shadow as the others stood en masse in the opposite direction.  Trey alone bore a look of sympathy, however faint.

     "He has approved this venture with me," Trey said.  "There is no need for all of us to be there."

     "The need," Umecit began angrily, "stands as a show of unity when unity is what we are aiming for."

     "We will not all be on the planet.  Does that not also break unity?" Trey inquired.  Umecit did not reply.

     "If the efforts I set out to do not prove fruitful, then you may hang me," Phan added.  "It is for the greater good."

     "The ‘greater good’ is what Mollwan is about," Umecit said.

     "It is one step," Trey noted.  "One step out of many.  I know the value of each step.  I pray that you see them as well."  He was faltering in his breath, but he did not show it.  The experience had been taxing, and his session with Rejon equally so.  He wanted this meeting to end.  Seeking last comments before arrival at Mollwan, he bade them to their quarters once more and went back to the Measures room after seeing Phan off in on of the ship’s pods.  He watched the purple stream of light as the pod sped out of view, and then relaxed into a nearby seat.

     An urging to hear from Qantas crept into his mind.  

     Did I say earlier that Atelier was Omoxian?  He was not.  He was Vitell, and presently Umecit was compelled to consult with him.  The rebel spirit that set him apart from his fellow Vitell at times was quelling, and he needed an outlet.  Atelier was a warrior as he was, the alternate in that clan for Vitell representation within the Five.  He had lost favor, however, when he began to spend more and more time among the Omoxi on their satellite world of Etan.  His studies there had tempered a restless mind, but he was still a loose cannon.  That is why Umecit trusted him.

     Umecit had a private terminal installed aboard the Ardor for private communications, in the Measures room, and to this he now made his way.  He did not notice the reshaped wall then, but a latent memory of something wrong would resurface when Haxed did.  He always scrambled his signal, even within the ship’s own system, and the long-distance call to Atelier went unmonitored and unnoted.  

     "Greetings, my brother," he said as Atelier’s image flickered onto the screen.

     "It has been a while," Atelier returned.  "Is all well?"

     "If it were not, I wouldn’t simply be calling you," Umecit said.  "No, there is simply a troubling note in the air.  I am concerned that all will not be well for long."

     "The Vanadi?"  As strong as the connection was between the system-mates of Hoise, there always lingered a simmering of doubt.

     "No, the Tikanni.  And possible our fearless leader," Umecit stated.  "There is little to be certain of at this point, but perhaps both.  Trey has remained isolated from us for much of the voyage, and he has meetings with Phan away from the group.  Too often."

     "It has been suggested among the Council that there should be a sixth individual added, pending on the outcome of the Mollwan talks," Atelier revealed.  The Council was the collection of ambassadors of the Quadian races who governed all operations.

     "You are one of the selected?"

     "I am."

     "I have faith that you’ll be picked."

     "You don’t need faith."  Confidence was another Vitell trait, but it cannot be certain that confidence was behind Atelier’s assertion.  The conversation continued, right up to the first sirens in proximity to their destination.  Umecit gained assurances in the future of the mission, and all the while Trey overheard, his mind still sensitive to probing, however unconscious the engagement might have been.  He grew more concerned by the moment at the solution of the Five, but he said nothing.

     Final preparations were made, and Trey left with Haxed for the planet surface.  There they were met by the chief Obdurate delegation, one of the Grenegar family, Dryad; Lecithin, a representative of the Obdurate leaders themselves; and Sangaree, an independent figure, mandated by an agreement with the Vanadi Commonwealth.  Each wore the traditional negotiation vestments, neutral white, of their people.  Accompanying them was a retinue Trey could not distinguish into factions.  Perhaps it was a blend of all three, perhaps it belonged solely to the Obdurate.  This much was certain: Sangaree bore a vaguely apathetic look, which could have meant any number of things for the proceedings.  Lecithin was a blank slate, which Trey took for rapt determination.  Dryad was most troubling.  Unlike the family he had left behind on Stringfellow, he had the mark of sinister misgiving, of mistrust.  Trey wondered if any of this boded well.  He would find out soon enough.
     Trey was dressed in his best robes, the deepest orange on the Omoxian color schema.  Haxed, like his brethren, wore white.  Greetings exchanged, they retired to the debating foyer, a centrifugal room not fifty paces off from where they had stood upon arrival.

     Trey cleared his thoughts of all external concerns.      

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