Prelude to Destruction
23: Scheming Ones
The Warhammer, Quadrant Five Dominion Space
Multani sat in the Captain’s chair of the battleship Warhammer today, something most out of the ordinary for the ancient mage. The ship was probably the finest in the Dominion fleet, of course, made entirely out of a rare and powerful metal that nullified most forms of magic, and was manned by the most elite of the elite pilots, gunners, and other assorted soldiers in the universe. It was Multani’s personal ship, and one he was incredibly proud of. But he rarely rode it in times of peace – he typically walked the paths of magic to travel.
he thought, ‘these are hardly times of peace.’
mission had been personally given to him by the Emperor Cain.
Find the mystery ships that interfered with the lavoid tests, and wipe
out their source. Normally, Cain
would have never given such an assignment to Multani, one of the most powerful
men in the Dominion and his own personal Archmagus.
No, normally such an assignment would have been doled out to a top
general or some such person.
the war was coming, the war to end every skirmish, battle, and attack that had
come before it. It would not be
like the petty offenses taken out on the Mystician Empire every few cycles. The word of the day was subjugation; total and complete
subjugation of the Planetary Union, most hated of the Dominion’s foes.
Multani smiled to think of that day, when they would land their
battleships on Torlose, murder the descendants of those pathetic individuals
that had seceded from the Dominion at a weak point a millennium ago, and
recreate order, recreate organization.
turned to regard his first mate, a man that had joined the Dominion nearly
thirty years ago. Multani had
picked him out personally a number of years ago, thinking him especially wilfull,
intelligent, and ambitious.
was something Multani loved in any individual, was probably the only thing he
loved. Wherever he saw it, he
nurtured it, coddled it. Sometimes
the results were positive, sometimes negative.
Ambition was a wonderful, chaotic thing; it made people full of life,
drive, energy… more importantly, it made them useful.
Too much, though, and you had a problem.
He remembered the last few mates of the Warhammer, since it’s initial
building nearly a century ago. They
had all attempted betrayal against him, somehow thinking they could have a
chance against one of the most dangerous mages in the Multiverse.
could they have known that Multani was a Wanderer, with centuries of life and
magical study behind him? How could
they know that simple mortals had no chance against him?
his head, he wrapped his left hand tightly around his ash wood staff, caressing
the crystal that topped it with a loving hand.
As he did, his dark green eyes regarded the mate of the ship with a life
that seemed to bely his age.
He said simply, pointedly. “Have
the coordinates we sought come back yet?”
had been a long search, this one for the renegade ships.
Multani had visited strange planets and lands that few in the Dominion
could testify as having been to, to places inhospitable to life.
He’d even wandered out of the Dominion, seeking answers in havens of
knowledge in the neutral sectors and even the Mystician Empire.
after a visit to a little-known planet in the Sol Quadrant – a mostly
abandoned area, thanks to the lavoid hive planet in the center of the quadrant
– the Emperor’s Archmagus had found his answer:
had heard the rumors of the Seekers; indeed, the Dominion Inquisitors had
brought back reports of members of their society upon occasion. From all such reports, though, they were nothing more than
fools engaging in an attempt to destroy lavoids, without even much benefit from
magic beyond a few ether weapons they stole from whatever ruins the Lavoid
Exterminatorum Adeptus had left behind. Cain
had labeled them ‘harmless’ about twenty years ago, and they were promptly
now they would discover the Emperor to be a capricious man.
thought for several moments before answering the Archmagus’ question, wanting
to make certain his information was accurate.
“Yes sir, just now. We
have word that the Seeker base is located on the planet Karonne, in the next
quadrant. We plan on making use of
the Warp engines and being there before 2300 hours… that’s the official
word, anyway. It is, as always, up
smirked. “Actually, I do have
something of an idea. Send some
advanced troops by way of the teleportation device we had installed to wreak a
bit of havok on site. Also, up the
time on our arrival to 2200 hours. We
can begin the attack this very night.”
first mate of the Warhammer nodded, and
grinned a bit himself at the thought. “As
you wish, sir. Shall I send one of
the mages along to make certain things go smoothly?”
Send… Cainus. Yes, I believe Cainus M’dralle would appreciate this
particular assignment at the moment.” Multani smiled darkly, and let a thin
bolt of magical energy wrap itself around his hands.
He reveled in the feeling of power as he began to gather his resources,
and could hardly dream of the elation he’d experience upon releasing his full
energy upon these… Seekers.
Outskirts of the
Mystician Empire, Neutral Zone.
Terin flipped a small device on the control panel of his ship, Nightwind,
and glanced over at his ‘guest.’ Mox
Garel had been traveling with him for several weeks now, and had started to get
over some of his initial fear. It
was a blessing for Grey, who wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand the
incompetent Elosian jumping at every little noise that went by.
course, Mox knew that he hadn’t stopped being afraid, really; what fool would
have? However, he had resigned
himself to the likely fate of death once Terin realized that there was
absolutely no reason for the two to be traveling together.
‘I wonder… will he jettison me into space?
Feed me to those lavoids? Maybe
decapitate me with that sword of his…” The
young man noticed he’d grown rather morbid as of late, but didn’t suppress
the feelings with this realization. At
least being morbid was better than doing nothing and watching the Wanderer do
all the curious things he did in the day.
right now, for example. Apparently,
the man – Mox defined the term rather loosely – was a spy for the Planetary
Union, but the things he seemed to be keeping an eye on were beyond Garel’s
comprehension. Rather than, with
all his extraordinary magic skills, keep an eye on the goings-on in the capital
on Nova, Terin spent all of his time searching obscure quadrants of space,
recording statements about lavoids and this and that and the other.
Certainly, after seeing what his government was doing with the lavoid
spawn that had attacked him, Mox could see some point behind all of this.
Not much, though, especially when they seemed to be looking through an
area that posed absolutely no threat to
the Union; the Mystician Empire. The
Empire was located on the other side of the galaxy from the Union, with the
Dominion set firmly between the two. Also,
the only people that the Empire ever seemed to attack were Dominion troops;
their ruler, Lady Asellus, was actually somewhat peaceful.
It was a stark contrast to Emperor Cain, who seemed to attack everything
Mox wasn’t all that sorry to have basically deserted the Dominion troops.
He’d always considered himself a citizen of Elosia above being a
citizen of the Dominion – of course, the planet was notorious for such
rebellious thought. Most of the
planet’s royal family, the legendary Triggaras, had been wiped out about two
hundred years ago in an attempted coup.
voice suddenly intruded on Garel’s wistful thoughts, knocking him harshly back
to a surreal reality. “Report
5222. Location in the Neutral Zone
between the Mystician Empire and the Sol Dominion… closer to the former at
this point. I have confirmed the
location of the lavoid Grendel. However,
it appears that Shanning and his allies have yet to arrive.
It is not completely clear where he has gone, though I have reason to
suspect that he may have gone to the Hunter home planet to discuss the situation
with his counterparts. It is
likely, looking at the timeframe of things, that he will end up here within the
next two weeks, or not at all.
for the lavoid, he appears to have entered a state of hibernation, probably on a
7th level meditation state, and is traveling at a very slow clip…
for one of his race. Current
trajectory suggests he’ll land on a Mystician planet in about… one month. More than likely short-term infestation, given the DNA coding
improvement made in those spawn samples I sent previously.
The battle… will take place almost in the Dominion, at coordinates
I’m entering into the discs associated with this report now.
There’s a thin corridor of Dominion space that they’ve managed to
secure in a recent battle… from the looks of coordinates, that’ll be nearest
where Grendel should be two weeks from now.”
dark Wanderer smiled; a rather chilling sight.
“And I shall return to you with Shanning, a lavoid, and an open hand to
receive my planeshifter. I’m sure
you’ll be glad to be rid of me at long last, Vanhele.”
shut off the recording equipment, and allowed his mind to slip into his memories
– he considered Mox Garel to be no threat whatsoever. He thought back to how he, as a young mage on a neutral planet
had found the device that had changed his life forever… for his life could
span something similar to that now, he had reason to suspect.
His dimension hadn’t been so different from the one he currently
inhabited, minus a great deal of the violent influences of the galactic powers
like the Sol Dominion and the Mystician Empire.
His hadn’t been a very happy childhood, spent as it was in failure.
The people of his planet – which they called Simulath, and the Dominion
called Didylos – were natural born mages, with their young mastering the arts
of short-range teleportation and other such matter-altering spells by ten or
eleven years of age. Grey had been
a… disappointment. Though he
excelled, like the rest of his people, at most of the wind-based ether magics,
the abilities of teleportation – indeed, any true matter manipulation – were
completely beyond his reach. He’d
been scorned often throughout his youth, and had grown cold and calloused as a
result. He took to doing insanely
dangerous things in an effort to make a name for himself, and increased the
abilities of magic he had with every free moment he had.
had been the first to venture into War’s Graveyard, an area of fallen
spacecraft that had been on the planet for nearly eight hundred years.
It was considered a cursed place, for these ruined ships were the remains
of what was rumored to have been the Lavoid Exterminatorum Adeptus, a ruined
part of their great fleet left over from some great struggle… a struggle they
had apparently failed in.
it was there that he had found it, the thing that would not only let him equal
his peers, but exceed them. It was
there that he found the end to his failure.
it was there that he found a working LEA planeshifter, a device the members of
this organization used to ‘slip’ through space and time.
It could be used not only to traverse incredible distances in a short
amount of time, but to even wander the alternate planes of the Multiverse.
wander Grey had, for nearly fifteen years.
He’d discovered bits of magic and other artifacts such as would have
made any elder on his planet look like an infant skillwise, and discovered the
secret of prolonged aging – one of the ‘trademarks’ of a Wanderer.
then, at the age of forty – though he appeared to be in his early thirties
then, as he did now – he returned to his home planet, returned to Simulath. And the screams of his people were music to his ears.
killed almost all of them, all the people of his hometown, from his worst
tormentors to his own disappointed parents.
Of course, these murders had had a heavy cost; the combined wrath of the
elders of Simulath was a bit more than he could bear.
He’d left his dimension permanently at that point, had wandered on
through the planes, finding magic and artifact and weapon here and there as he
centuries later, he’d come upon a small planet called Riven in an area left
unexplored by even the Sol Dominion. Its
people seemd kind enough, though they were all members of a rather fanatical
anti-lavoid organization. Join the
club, Grey could have said at the time.
stayed there for several months before things went sour.
A young fool, typical of the Hunter organization, named Olin Shanning had
seen his planeshifter. He’d
recognized the power of the Planeswalkers – the power of the lavoids – that
had gone into it.
jumped to the wrong conclusion about his planet’s visitor.
Hunter Council had demanded Terin’s immediate and uncompromising death,
without so much as a hearing – not that Grey would have attended one. And it was then that the Wanderer found that not everything
in the Multiverse was weaker than he. He’d
nearly lost his life on Riven, thanks mainly to the efforts of that same Olin
Shanning. He had managed to escape
the ambush against him, but only after his face had been disfigured beyond
recognition by use of incredibly powerful magic. He had taken to wearing a metal mask to hide those scars
after that, and considered leaving this dimension.
things were never that simple. He
still wanted to explore, to find some new artifact that was bound to exist
somewhere or other. And so it was
that he came to be on Zion. He had
known at the time it was occupied by a lavoid, but its surfacing was not soon in
coming – at least fourty years off at the time – and most lavoid-based
societies had powerful magic within them.
was not so here, but he found something else that pleased him deeply:
the young Teryl Vanhele. He
had been but a child at the time, one that had stumbled upon the dark, brooding
Wanderer by chance in the night. And,
oddly enough, he liked Grey. Almost
to the point of ‘hero worship’, even. The
Wanderer was not accustomed to such idolatry, and found that it soothed his
battered soul to no small extent. He
allowed himself to get close to this young one, allowed himself to be happy in
their secret friendship for a brief time while he continued a search for magic
he knew was fruitless.
in return for his kindness, Vanhele had stolen his Planeshifter and hidden it in
away far from Grey.
probably should have used the thing himself; Terin had nearly killed Teryl that
evening when he discovered it gone. But
the little beast, already a politician at heart, had been clever, had hidden the
device in a place such as he knew Grey would never find it. And he’d been using it for nearly forty years to bend Terin
to his will. It had led to many
things, from the construction and destruction of the Mammon Machine – Grey had
thought himself rather clever for suggesting the name of the device, as well as
the designs, from the legendary ill-fated machine of Elosia – to constant
spying on the Dominion. For Vanhele,
foolish though he was, was not as stupid as his fellow senators.
He had known since his youth that the Dominion would attack at first
opportunity. He had sensed their
recent quiet – they hadn’t been involved in any sort of full-scale war for
nearly a century – and knew it to be nothing but a lull before the storm.
now it was about to begin. Grey was
almost sorry he wouldn’t be sticking around in this dimension to watch Vanhele
die at the hands of the Dominion… though he still wasn’t sure whether or not
he’d kill the impudent senator himself. He
certainly would have enjoyed it… but it seemed likely that the wily senator
had some sort of trick up his sleeve, were he to attempt anything. Grey wanted out of this pathetic dimension far more than he
desired revenge, also; he didn’t care for the idea of regaining his
planeshifter, then getting himself killed.
what are we doing?”
voice came suddenly, startling Grey greatly.
He made that incredibly clear when he all but leaped out of his seat,
hand clenched around the hilt of his blade.
He let the breath that had caught in his throat out when he remembered
Mox Garel’s presence on his ship, and narrowed his eyes to thin slits.
“Is it important, Garel?”
young man scratched his head, as if pondering whether to be cowed by this or
press on. “Probably not. But I think I have a right to know, seeing as you’ve been
dragging me around the universe with you.”
Wanderer rolled his eyes. “That’s
not a very apt description. A more
accurate one would be ‘prolonging your miserable excuse for a life for an
indefinite period of time’… but what does it matter?
If you must know, we’re waiting.”
what, praytell?” Mox’s voice veritably dripped with sarcasm, the lack of
repurcussions on his previous statements emboldening him.
got over that sudden courage quickly when Grey reached over with one hand and
grabbed him by the collar. Without
even glancing in the young man’s direction, he lifted him off the floor –
all while sitting down. “On a
very important event.” He said simply, and cast the young Elosian to the
didn’t speak again, and in fact didn’t pick himself up from the ground for
several long minutes.
do you suppose they’re doing?” It was dark.
can’t imagine.” Cold, too.
Lord, it wouldn’t have hurt them to use some form of temperature
control in the dome, would it?
do you suppose they might be?” Where were they?
suppose anyone might be.” A
closet of some sort, it appeared.
ha. I’m just asking for your
opinion, smartass.” Multani had a damned funny sense of humor.
I guess if anyone could pull this thing off, it’d be those four.” Time to
get out of here. It’s too
cramped. If only those two would clear off…
what I thought, too.” Shut up,
and move! Why do you have to stand
next to a friggin’ closet all day?!
Oh, wonderful, someone else is coming in.
who is it, man?” What, is he blind?
Kyra’s calling us, looks like, man. She
said it was important.” Thank the maker…
sounds like they’re clearing off.
two Seekers walked out of a tiny coffee room in a building of the west sector,
Cainus M’dralle and four other magic-trained Dominionites burst out of a
closet that was far too small for five men.
Cainus himself let out a copious amount of curses as he straightened his
black robes and ran a self-conscious hand through his short brown hair. He cursed again as he regarded his men, who were looking at
him like this was his fault.
don’t blame this on me.
I didn’t set the damn teleporter.”
of the soldiers said a word, just kept glancing at him accusingly.
“What, you think I wanted to be
in that closet that close to you guys? What
are you implying?”
of that annoying stare. “What?!?”
one of them ventured, cautiously. “I
thought I saw you setting the coordinates before we left.”
young man shrugged. “You thought
wrong, I guess.”
another one put in, “I remember too. You
were cussing as usual, and saying something along the lines of ‘damn map’s
too hard to read.’”
blinked. “Well… um… you sure
you’re not thinking of a different time?
Teleportation can scramble a guy’s brains pretty bad.”
four of them regarded him with cocked eyebrows, their Dominion-issued visored
helmets obscuring the gesture somewhat.
was an accident, you guys! Hell, I
couldn’t help that some idiot made the maps!”
first speaker laughed a bit as he thought of something.
“Are you sure you just didn’t want to ‘come out of the closet’
for us, sir?”
others laughed uproariously at that statement, drawing even more curses from
Cainus. After he calmed down enough
to speak a sentence without blaspheming every deity that had ever been born, he
shut up, all of you. We’ll have
the whole compound down our throats before you know it at this rate… and
it’ll be a bit hard to stir up some trouble if we’re caught.
On top of that, I somehow doubt Lord Multani would be happy if he found
out we gave the enemy advanced warning of our attack.”
was silence for a long moment as Cainus thought about what to do. It was broken when one of the soldiers muttered a half-heard
insult regarding Cainus’ mother to another, resulting in another bout of –
somewhat muffled – laughter.
Shut the hell up, now! You
guys!” the young mage cussed them out every way he knew how – which took a
long time – even as the wheels in his head turned on how to make life
miserable for the Seekers during their last day in existence.
“Why do you call them evil, call us evil? There’s no such thing as good or evil. The only difference between men is in their viewpoint.” – William Shard, official Syndicate press conference #0015.
To Chapter 24
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