Xenogears:  Prelude to Destruction

Dark Angel

Chapter 21:  Council of Cowards

By Nightsong




Terisiare, Riven.


The Council Chambers of Terisiare were amazingly silent, considering that over fifty men and women sat in them.  The very oddity that not a one of them spoke was compounded by the fact that the marble walls and floors didn’t betray the slightest shuffling of feet, the tiniest adjustment of a chair. 


In the center of the room stood two explanations for the lack of noise.  Cynewulf and Meryl had been summoned before the Councilors of Riven to tell the story of how they’d come to the planet.  They stood nervously before the silent council, fifty sets of eyes staring at them from all over the room. 


The chambers were lavishly designed – obviously built in a period predating the Shi Kari menace – with ornate marble sculptures decorating pillars and banisters at every turn.  The room itself was a basic cylinder, with the floor where Cyne and Meryl now stood serving as a base.  The low-house Speakers of the Council sat in chairs on this level, separated from the council floor only by a thin partition.  Higher up, in what was basically a completely encircling balcony, the higher Adept house members looked down on the speakers from their comfortable seats.  These Adepts were the true leaders of Riven – they were the only ones who could bring forth a proposal, and their votes in such matters counted doubly over the Speakers.  To balance this, there were only eighteen Adepts; though their votes could overwhelm a unanimous Speaker vote, it would require that at least seventeen of the eighteen agree. 


It was the leader of these Adepts, the Mediator – as he was called – who first broke the almost anxious silence.


“The Council welcomes you to Riven, travelers.  But these are troubling times… I pray you understand that we must question you.”


Cynewulf nodded, though there was no need.  It did not matter to the Mediator whether or not they understood the need; the questioning would begin regardless.  He glanced over at Meryl, noting her nervousness.  Neither of them could be sure how the Hunters would react to their story, or if they’d even deign to believe it.


“First, for the record, state your names… and planets of origin.” The last was tacked on almost as an afterthought.  The Mediator was obviously not used to having to ask such questions.


“My name is Meryl Sara.” Meryl spoke up first.  “Originally of the planet Karonne.”


“And I am Cynewulf… also of Karonne.”


The Mediator raised an eyebrow, and looked for a moment as if he’d ask Cynewulf to state his full name, but finally shook his head.  “Very well.  Give us the approximate location of Karonne, so that we may look it up in our computer systems.”


Cynewulf’s memory banks held the easiest answer to this, so Meryl let him answer.  “The planet Karonne is located in the mostly uninhabited Karis System, in the fifth sector of outer Dominion space.”


There was silence for a moment as the Adepts – the only Councilors whose desks actually held computer systems – looked up the information.  The uneasy mumbling that followed did nothing to make Meryl or Cyne feel any better.


“You are aware the location you have given is very near to the unclaimed Lavoid Sectors, are you not?” the Mediator said, a bit more suspicious of the pair now than he had been a moment ago.


“Indeed I am.” Cynewulf said.  “But Meryl and I are members of the Seekers, an anti-Lavoid group similar to your own.  Our ancestors are from Earth.”


This completely destroyed the almost eerie silence that had engulfed the room before, but the assorted uncontrolled mutterings were hardly any more assuring.  After but a few moments, the Mediator called for order, and, surprisingly, he regained it quickly.


“Please explain yourself.  Immediately.” The Mediator’s voice had taken on an almost pained tone.


“Certainly.  Though this is not common knowledge to most of the universe, I am sure you’re aware of the fact that Lavoids were created on Earth.  When they took over the planet as their own, they did kill the vast majority of the humans.  However, a few thousand did managed to survive, and founded a resistance movement on the planet.  Those are the ancestors of the current Seekers.”


“Why… or how, rather, did your ‘Seekers’ come to leave Earth?”


Cynewulf sighed.  “There is very bitter irony this.  Forty years ago, the Seekers left the planet Earth chasing after the lavoid fleet known as the Shi Kari, who had mobilized for the first time since they’d been… changed.  However, they outran us, and we eventually came to found a new base for resistance on the planet Karonne.”


The Mediator shook his head, causing the black skullcap he wore – a symbol of his position – to seem to consider falling off.  “And just how can we be assured of your truthfulness?”


Meryl took a step forward, her boots clacking harshly on the marble floor.  “Merely weigh the evidence, Councilor.  I’m sure you’ve already sent people out to look at my ship… what’s left of it.  The things on it, though eclectic, will ultimately be traceable back to Karonne.”


The Mediator sat down heavily in his chair, and looked up at the ceiling.  “Let us suppose, then, that you are indeed who you claim to be.  Why did you come to this planet… how did you even find it to begin with?”


“That… is a long story, sir.” Cynewulf sighed, and looked around.  “I don’t suppose I might request chairs for myself and the lady?  We’re a bit tired as it is… and this could take a while.”


The Mediator nodded his approval, and waved off one of the servants to fetch some for their guests.  Less than a minute later, when the two were comfortably seated, the Adept stood back up and crossed his arms.


“Now, let’s hear this story of yours.”




“So, you’re basically saying these Farilii are either incredibly stupid, or incredibly powerful.”  Terra leaned back against one rocky wall of the cell she shared with Darrell, shaking her head.  Her arms were crossed, and the fingers of her clawed gauntlets clacked harshly against one another as she tapped them against her arm. 


Darrell was standing opposite her, trying for all he was worth to pry open the strange grate-door of their prison with one of the Ilinumbar.  The strange knife’s magic seemed almost entirely ineffective against the portal, though, and Darrell was breathing hard already.


“Basically.  Otherwise, they’d have taken away our equipment.” He cursed in pain as the knife slipped from the grate and hit him, hilt first, in the wrist.  He shook his arm furiously and turned to face Terra.  “I mean, they even let me keep the spellbook.”


Terra shook her head.  “It’s damned funny, you know?  I was screwed up pretty bad when I fell, but that lavoid thing, Mishra Bishop… he used some sort of healing spell on me.  And I can’t figure out a single reason why.”


Darrell cocked an eyebrow.  “Really?”


Terra blanched slightly at that, and let her eyes drop sharply to the ground.  “None that I’d care to dwell on, anyway.” 


“Point taken.” Darrell sighed, and looked over the grate once more.  “Let’s look at our options, then.  We can sit here and wait for whatever fate-worse-than-death is inevitably going to come, or you can watch me kill myself trying to open this door.” Narrowing his eyebrows, the young man cast a tiny point of flame at the door from one fingertip.  It disappeared instantly as it hit, without even a puff of smoke marking its passing.  “I don’t know what this thing’s made out of, but it completely nullifies all magic.”


Immediately, as if on cue, the grate flung itself open, drawing into the wall as if it had never been there.  Darrell, rather than moving forward, cautiously backed up a few steps, both daggers drawn and in hand.  Terra moved forward from her vantage point at the wall, fists clenched nervously, to see what was coming in.


Mishra Bishop and Talon Creed both stood before them, their amethyst colored eyes glistening darkly against the shadowy cell.  The former of the two stood almost nervously next to the door, his pale arms crossed in an expression meant to be intimidating.  It most certainly had that effect on the two Zionites.  Talon, meanwhile, had crossed directly in front of them, casting a disdainful glance at the Ilinumbar.


“I suggest you put your weapons down, humanhuntershanning.  They will do you little good.” The Doppelganger said, his deep voice seeming to crackle with power.


Darrell scoffed, and held his weapons tighter.  “Thanks for the advice, lavoid beast, but I’d just as soon hold onto them.”


Talon cocked his head at the man.  “Indeed?  What if I told you it was not a suggestion?”


“Then I’d have to suggest you shut the hell up.” Darrell returned grimly.  This response, though infuriating to Talon, seemed almost to amuse Mishra, who chuckled darkly in the background.


“Very well, Darrellshanning.  Hold onto your useless weapon.  Who knows that but it might prove amusing.” The thing cast a sidelong glance at Terra as he continued speaking.  “We have been sent here to speak with the two of you.”


“Oh, good.” Terra said caustically, tapping one foot on the stone ground as she spoke.  “I was just mentioning to Darrell that we’d like to have a chat with someone.  Good of you to keep us company.”


Mishra’s dark eyes fell on Terra as she said that, and the woman immediately fell silent, trying desperately to avoid the thing’s purple eyes.


“Why have you come to Riven, humanhunters?  There must have been purpose, deep purpose.  Did the humans here find a way to get messages to you?  You could not have had foreknowledge of this place.”  Talon’s eyes were intense as he spoke, his fists clenched tightly.


Darrell was amazed.  They honestly had no idea of what to make of their human prisoners, couldn’t fathom, for all their dark intelligence, what could have possessed someone to come here.  And they could not find out, it was certain.  Darrell said nothing in response, only smirked at the pair.


Talon was enraged.  He raised one hand to strike at the irritating human before him, but a dagger pointed at his throat met him halfway, halting the action instantly.  He’d been caught off-guard, had never expected the human to have the gall to attack.


“Tell me, Talon Creed - given that I gather that’s you’re name – why do you suppose you’re here?  And why shouldn’t I send you back to the Hell that spawned you?”


Mishra was in motion instantly, readying a spell of some sort to cast Darrell away from Shanning, but the young man just smiled at him.  “I’d ‘suggest’ you stay still, Bishop.  From what I’ve read, clean decapitation – such as I’m in a good position to grant – will kill your kind instantly.  And I doubt your masters would be happy if that happened, would they?”


The doppelganger cursed, but immediately halted his movement.  He glanced intensely over at Terra again, with those eyes that seemed to pierce her soul.  The young woman began sweating profusely, trying to concentrate her attention somewhere else.


“Now, how about I ask a few questions, eh?” Darrell said, moving his other dagger in position to pierce Talon’s neck if he so much as twitched a muscle, much less tried to gather energy for a spell.  “Why did the Shi Kari come here?  How could they have even known about this place?  From everything I gather, your Fleet was on Earth until just forty years ago.”


Talon would have spat, had he not thought it would cost him his life.  “I will tell you nothing, human.  There is no reason, no need.  You think yourself in a superior position, but you are mistaken.  There is no escape from this place… the Hive Mind knows exactly what you are doing, and shall as long as you are here, among us.”


Darrell smirked, moved his daggers a little bit closer to Talon’s neck.  Their edge ran up against his pale skin with alarming ease.  “Then why aren’t they doing anything about it, scum?” he shook his head, glancing over at Mishra.  The Doppelganger hadn’t moved a muscle – though he seemed to be staring rather intensely at Terra.  Darrell wasn’t sure he liked that.  “And, while we’re at it, tell your friend to close his eyes, if you want to keep your head on your – ugh!” Darrell crumpled in place, fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.  His daggers clattered to the ground next to him. 


Talon rubbed his neck, then bent down to grab the deadly weapons from the ground.  He cast a glance at Mishra, nodded approvingly, then looked at Terra Lyles, who stood before them as if in a trance.


Her eyes shone purple, the traces of lavoid energy within her evident in her clenched fists – fists wet with blood gained from striking that accursed Shanning in the back of the head.


“I’ve had enough of these two.  It is fortunate that you had the foresight to give the girl some of your power earlier.  It makes things… smoother.” He rubbed his neck again, and turned back to the door.  “Let us take them to the Lower Chambers, for the conversion.  We will glean any necessary information from their minds then and there.  The energy necessary for a mind probing will be less than that required to get them to talk.”


With that, they proceeded from the room, Chaos energy shining in their dark eyes and coursing through their cursed bodies.




A much more verbal form of chaos had descended upon the council chambers of Riven, with the telling of Cynewulf’s story.  There were cries ringing out of the obvious insanity of the Seeker, and of fear – fear that their landing would draw the Shi Kari to destroy Terisiare – and almost of madness.  It was a kind of bliss for the Hunters, who had dwelt so long on the edge of hysterical madness, to let go for just a moment, to let the panic and the fear settle in over their souls. 


But the Mediator, thankfully and hatefully, would not let them fall into the pit of madness.  His dark gavel rang out against his desk, like an alarm waking one from a deep nightmare.  He turned here and there, looking furiously at any who continued to talk.  Soon, all was silence, and he looked down on Cynewulf again.  “Let me get this… straight.” He said, slowly and deliberately.  “You and your friends have been wandering the universe in search of a Class B lavoid, for the express sake of killing it?”


Meryl nodded for Cynewulf, who seemed almost confused at the reaction of the Councilors.  “That is correct, sir.”


The Mediator sighed and shook his head.  “And what in the universe made you think that you could find aid here, on Riven?”


“As we said, sir,” Terra continued, “we came here originally with Darrell Shanning, who is originally from this planet.  He had the impression that you had the technology to track the Lavoids by their energy signature.”


The old councilor nodded and looked down at his desk.  “We do indeed, though it has not been used since this lavoid plague came upon us.  Shanning, you say.  The Council is familiar with the family… his father had nearly gotten the Hunter organization exposed to the Dominion government once.  Got imprisoned by the local government… we had to send a squad of soldiers in after him.” He shook his head.  “And then, since it was too dangerous for us to continue to operate there, the lavoid destroyed the planet.  Insane what people will do, thinking they’re protecting themselves.”


“That is the other reason we came here, sir.” Cynewulf spoke at last, his brow still furrowed, and his mind still obviously occupied with other things.  “We were under the impression that your organization was in the business of destroying Lavoids.”


The Mediator looked down on the cyborg, shook his head.  “Once, we were, lad.  Once, our idealistic hopes were grand enough to encompass the whole of the universe.” He closed his eyes, let darkness embrace his view.  It was comforting.  “It was a useless struggle.  There is a darkness to the lavoid race we could never have fathomed.  For every lavoid we killed, a dozen would spring up to take their places.  And that is not the whole of it.  Upon occasion, we even ran across identical genetic strains of the beasts – as you know, this should be impossible.


“It was through a vast amount of research, about a year before the Shi Kari descended upon this planet, that we found out we were fighting, for the most part, the same handful of Lavoids.”


“What?!?!” Cynewulf’s one human eye went wide, while the other flashed in confusion from the sensory overload the information had had upon him.  “What on…. Karonne are you talking about?!”


The old Hunter sighed.  “You are, I’d imagine, familiar with the concept of the lavoid queens, correct?”


Cynewulf nodded.  “Indeed… they proliferate on the Earth; the curses my parents taught me against some of their names are still in my heart and in my mind.”


“We discovered that these Queens, being capable of warping the time-space continuum, could simply manipulate it after a lavoid death, and bring the things back to life.  Thus, while we might succeed in saving a planet, their numbers never decreased – in fact, they rose exponentially.  The only organization that was ever truly capable of destroying them was the LEA.”


Meryl shook her head, her eyes wide.  “The Lavoid Exterminatorum Adeptus?  You must be joking.  They are a rumor, a legend.”


“No.  We have, in our travels, discovered evidence that they once existed.” The old man lowered his head silently, his eyes still shut tightly.  “An organization made almost entirely of beings permeated with lavoid energy… beings that hated their ‘parents.’  But note,” some of the other council members had put their heads in their hands, almost ashamed of their weakness, lost completely in despair, “that I say they once existed.  No longer.  Even the legendary Planeswalkers fell before the lavoids eventually.” He sighed.  “We decided, just before the Shi Kari landed, that we would make one final, hopeless run.  Our hope still blinded us.  We wanted to attack Earth itself, attack the damnable lavoid queens that had made our entire existence, the existence of an organization that had been around for centuries, meaningless.”


“But the Shi Kari interrupted that.  How?  Why?” Meryl asked, her eyes wide.


“We still do not know exactly how they found out, but we believe they came to stop us from making our hopeless, desperate attack.  It was as though they’d expected an attack on Earth, as if they knew that we would attempt one.  Perhaps they discovered that we knew of what their queens had been doing.  We shall never know.”


The Mediator opened his eyes, seemed deeply disappointed to see that the Council chambers still surrounded him.  He looked as though he wished nothing more than to find himself in his bed chambers, waking from some unpleasant nightmare.  “We do not care to fight the lavoids anymore, Seekers.  We simply want to survive, simply to live our days away from their scourge for what is left of our days.”


Cynewulf blinked.  “You would simply… shut your eyes to what they represent?  But what of your children?  Their children?  There will come a day when the entire Multiverse will be purged by these things!”


The Mediator shook his head.  “Your idealism is notable, but foolish.  We once held these ideas, boy.  No more.” He beat his fist on his desk in time with the two words, then repeated them softly to himself, as if to make certain he meant them.  “We cannot worry about the perhaps-fate of our descendants.  We do no good trying to change tomorrow… not when we’ve determined it to be fate.”


“Bah!” The burly cyborg Seeker yelled, casting his glance furiously about the room.  “There’s no such thing as ‘fate’!!  But by denying the truth before your eyes, by skulking in the shadows around these Shi Kari, you create your own prophecy!!  And your actions bring it about!!” he brought his robotic fist down on the chair he’d been sitting on with such intensity that the wood cracked.  “I have seen your people!!  You have the power to fight these Shi Kari, perhaps even drive them away!!  But do you launch an assault against them?  No!!!  You simply hide in the shadows, send brave and powerful warriors like Mathiu Racnarth and Kayla Narube out on ‘reconnaissance’, send them out to tell you how best to hide yourselves from the beasts!!


“You are like little children here, and I will not have any more of it!!” Cynewulf shook with rage.  “Perhaps you have given up your lives, perhaps the Council is afraid of tomorrow, but there is a new generation living here,” he looked around the room, and noted that no one under forty was involved with the Council, “one that is NOT afraid of what tomorrow brings.  You have grown old, and blind to your dreams, but your children would love nothing more than to carry them on for you!  Why do you not let them?!?”


The Mediator rose, held his shoulders up straight, held his head up high.  “Do not presume to judge us, newcomer.  You could not possibly understand.  We once felt that way… one of the young ones led a strike against the Black Tower.  Do you know what happened then, boy?!  This young one did not die, his followers did not die… they suffered a fate infinitely worse!!  They were made part of this disgusting, blasphemous race, and we very nearly lost what tiny bit of our lives we had left!!”


Cynewulf blinked.  “Blasphemous?  Sir, I can sympathize with you… I understand the darkness of the lavoid race, I understand your fear.  But if you cloud your hatred in religious claptrap, then it is no wonder to me that you cannot fight back!”


The Council was livid at this accusation.  “What could you possibly know, Seeker!?!  Your ancestors come from a planet that turned its back on the One, that turned its back on the truth of the gods!!  It is no wonder that you have no respect for fate, and no knowledge of good and evil!!  Do you think that we have not tried to fight back?!?!” The Mediator cursed, and let his fists erupt with flame generated from ether.  He wanted nothing more than to blast these two fools before them into ruin, but he could not.  “You could not possibly understood what these past twenty years have been like!!”


Cynewulf crossed his arms, shook his head.  “Very well, sir.  I will grant that I have not been here.  But I have lived in the shadow of the lavoids all my life… and I know what suffering is.  And I have learned, through that life, that ideals such as this “One” of yours lead to death, lead to complacency…” lead to this place, he thought, but he did not speak that aloud.  “Forgive me.  But I cannot huddle frightened on this planet forever.  I am going to the Black Tower.”


This brought out even more chaos in the room.  “You cannot!!  I shall not allow it!!!” the Mediator screamed, a wild look in his eyes.  “You will be taken by those… those things, and lead them right back here, back to the council… it will be Argive all over again!!!”


Meryl shook her head.  “You can’t just hold us here.  If there’s even the slightest chance that we can destroy that device that powers the energy star, we must take it.  Can you not see the chance it would give your people?  If you will fight no longer, then at the least this would give you a chance to escape!!”


The Mediator shook his head.  “It is not even necessary to call such action to a vote.  We shall not stand for it.  There is too much risk.  Do you think we are less capable of such thought than the two of you?  We have pondered such action… there is no chance of success.  And failure will end everything we have built up here.”


Cynewulf cursed, shook his head furiously.  “All you have built is a rat’s nest in the bottom of a toilet.  And the disease it brings is killing all of you.  As Meryl said, you cannot hold us here.”


“You may find you are mistaken on that count, Earth-child.  Cast what epithets upon us you will, but our power is certainly capable of keeping you from endangering us.” As the Mediator spoke, he cast one hand out in front of him, let it glow as he absorbed the ether energies that flowed through the room.


Cynewulf wanted desperately to cast a defensive spell – any defensive spell.  But there was no chance, and his mind was cluttered with rage and confusion.  Before he had a chance to react in any way, a silvery light lanced down from the upper balcony, encircled him and Meryl both like a serpent, then drew tight around their arms, around their legs.  They could not move; the hold of the light was stronger than steel.


The Mediator called several Hunter guards into the room to take them to a holding cell, then closed his eyes again, his brow furrowing in pain as he fought whatever inner demons tormented him. 


As Cynewulf was carried – albeit with some difficulty – out of the room, he almost felt like the blue hands of the lavoids had taken each and every one of these people by the throats.  And he knew in that instant, that deep down, every one of these men was already dead.  They clinged to a life they didn’t want, and cast everything that disagreed with them into the pit of their own dread. 


And there was Chaos.




‘You’re insane, Samah.  Your fear has driven you mad.’ – Orla, Serpent Mage, Book four of the Death Gate Cycle.



To Chapter 22


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