The Eira stiffened the joints of every citizen, resulting in aches and pains. Even inside the Protector, the cold could not be denied. The sight of the citizens only registered as pitiful to Fei.
Straw placed in abundance to cover the ground and shield from the ice-cold stone beneath it. The groaning growing louder as each day passed. Sleet and hail seeping through the cracks in the ground during the day, to slowly freeze during the frigid nights. Food was becoming scarce during this everlasting winter, as only the privileged Vanakan Sentry were given the Iku.
The Sentry moved about the protector trying to comfort the citizens, providing help where they could. Breaking up small squabbles and bickering was slowly becoming the daily norm, along with making repairs at Ton’s direction.
The Sentry members were growing more irritated with their larger responsibilities as the storm droned on. The Protector was unraveling under the persistence of the winds and ice. Miniature breaches gradually allowing the Eira to harass the occupants. Most people huddled close together in the center on the ground level. The Protector’s winding interior consisted of many citizens struggling to survive the unsightly conditions.
Fei stood silently on the uppermost floor. His personal quarters even more unconducive than the rest of the Protector. His stone throne took up most of his space as it was constructed to fit his feral form, where he sat often delegating tasks for the Sentry.
Becoming more consumed by its visual, the longer he waited out the storm. Some nights he would even sleep sitting in his cold and uncomfortable seat. However, he kept an unphased demeanor.
Believing it to be a conscious choice to provide hope for his subjects, but in truth, he absorbed the pain and rough setting. Feeding his anger and hopelessness, as Fei sank deeper into depression.
12 and 15 of the Sentry rounded the structure to approach Fei. He had remained in his feral form since his encounter with Dara to speed up the healing process of his injuries. 12 and 15 shoved a woman at his feet behind him. “Our Sovereign.” They said jointly as they kneeled.
“We found this citizen. She murdered another for their rations.” 15 informed him. The woman jumped to a bowing position. Her head as low as possible and arms stretched out forward. “Please, your majesty. I didn’t mean to. I was only trying to feed my child. He has grown weak. He is only one season old.” She groveled, never lifting her head.
Fei remained motionless as she made her plea. The woman revealed her face, tears soaking her dry and soot riddled face. “Please, he wouldn’t have made it another day.” She cried.
“Whom did you kill?” Fei asked. The woman didn’t respond, trembling as she looked into the feline eyes of her Sovereign. “Sora. I will not ask again.” Fei lowly snarled. “It was Thomas your majesty. He has lived a long life and I….” Sora began to reason. Fei held up his hand.
Sora immediately hushed her explanation. “Bring Saren to her.” Fei ordered. Moments later Sentry 16 brought the baby boy. Sora sobbed, reaching for her child. 16 handed over her baby. Sora held him close as he blissfully slept. “Now.” Fei said, as he sat royally on his throne.
“Give him to me.” Fei finished. The woman shuttered at his words. Quivering and shaking her head in denial. “My Sovereign, I.” She began. “Your instincts mislead you Sora. It would suggest to you, that you possess a choice. You do not. I will not give a second order.” The woman knew better than to linger.
Since the Eira began, citizens and Sentry alike witnessed the shift in Fei’s behavior. Although not entirely ruthless he seemed to boarder on rage and tranquility from moment to moment. Even the Sentry, as helpful as they were, began to shift similar to his behavior pattern.
Sora hugged her son before finally relinquishing him to Fei. He cradled the boy softly, bringing his head to his nose. Fei took a long whiff of the baby, closing his eyes.
Fei rocked back and forth humming. “A strong warrior, powerful.” He softly sang. “Champion of peace, conqueror of war. You will fight forever. Leave no one behind. None to mourn. No one to be alone. Fight. Fight. Your solitude…….” His voice shaking, chin quivering. A tear fell from his eye as he finished the melody.
“Is our safety.” Fei cradled the child, with one arm, freeing his hand to wipe his eye. He examined the rest of the room. “A lullaby from Pratham.” He said. “Created for the great warriors. Would you like to know what it means?” Fei asked.
Sora nodded, understanding she had no choice. Unable to speak while Fei held her baby. “Warriors were not permitted to have loved ones. No companion. No offspring. Only war.” He said. His eyebrows narrowing. “I was the best warrior on Pratham. I was hailed as a Champion. A Conqueror. The Beast of Xeriel. I was their safety.” Fei slowly paced back and forth.
He began reliving the countless battles. He remembered the pressure of being the greatest warrior of his tribe. A pressure he happily accepted in the beginning. His love for battle was immense and still is.
“Until I wasn’t.” He said, facing Sora. “I found her. I found my safety. She was….so beautiful. We fled and hid. Abandoned the war, where all we were was their instruments of violence and discipline. We too had a baby boy.
Jesh was his name. Fierce features like my own. He would have become a far greater man than I. We retreated from the war, hid him from the tragedy that will always be our kind. We kept our love a secret from the other tribes, so Lale could strategically withdraw from her forces. We knew the risks.” Fei’s eyes swelled. He fought to continue his story.
“They took our child from us. The Council hunted us down, blamed us for a crime we never committed, to justify their mission. With all my power. I couldn’t save him. A Pratham blade pierced my son’s body. They threw him away like litter. I was defeated, unable to do anything.” Fei told the small group, as he watched the baby sleep.
“She was all I had left. I lived for her. My solitude has truly been for everyone else’s safety. We never wanted to return. We couldn’t. Deciding it was better to live in a world of our design far away from the pain. We always agreed on that. Never hiding secrets from one another.” He said.
“Yet, with her dying act, she hid a great power from me. She entrusted that power to someone else. To be betrayed by your own heart. I no longer have compassion for the dead. I envy them. I invite the feeling of unconscious or numbness. Still, I wish I could see her one last time. So, I could remove her heart from her chest with my bare hands.” Fei spoke plainly.
Sora doing everything in her power to refrain from making a sound. Fei observed Sora. “I still love her. Through the heartache and shame, she has caused me. I forgive her. She was right. I was unworthy of such power.” Fei said.
The baby sleepily awoke. His brown eyes met Fei’s. “No child deserves to die.” The woman planted her face back to the ground. Raising up and repeating the gesture. “Thank you, Sovereign! Thank you!” She cried out.
Fei gave a sharp glance to the Sentry. 12 and 15 seized the woman. Forcing her head back to the ground, exposing her neck. “Unfortunately, what we deserve, is endlessly decided by those superior. Someone else’s version of our merits. No more. Hence forth, we take it.” Fei proclaimed.
“I am the Subjugator of peace. The Vanquisher of war. I am the true Conqueror. Hail the only power greater than yourself.” Fei proclaimed and gave a nod. Sentry 16 drew a red sword from the back of his armor.
The woman’s scream was short lived as 16 swiftly executed her. Fei kneeled close to the body. The scent of blood occupying his heightened sense of smell. “It’s in light of these realities, the certainty of my power will become complete.” He said.
Fei turned his attention back to the child. The baby smiled, gently grabbing his chin. Fei extracted his long claws. He quickly forced them through the chest. He took a deep breath before laying the child by his mother. The Sentry members kneeled as he stood to his feet.
“Remove the bodies and gather the citizens. The Protector will serve as the demise of this type of conduct.” The Sentry carried out his orders without delay. Fei waited for the citizens to assemble. The great rally could be heard throughout the structure. The winding levels filled to the brim.
He approached the edge of his quarters, staring down at the masses. The Protector was poorly lit with small torches, some of which were blown out by the penetrating wind or ran out of oil to fuel the flame. “I think it’s time you all know the truth.” He spoke for everyone to hear.
His voice echoing in the massive tower. “Earth is the story of failure. And Pratham, the consequence of that failure, allowing the worst of humanity to escape Earth’s demise. I know why you have no knowledge of your heritage. Today, I will share that information with you.” Fei said.
“Earth’s Sun, a bright star smaller than your own, died. It was recorded to resemble a celestial blast, destroying the system in the process. The people of Earth prepared. Their primitive science allowed them to detect the Sun’s irregularity and successfully piloted one thousand ships to the far way planet Pratham. They were called Star Travelers.” He explained. The citizens listened, captivated by their history.
“The Grand Council of Earth’s Leaders decided the criteria for each ship’s occupants. The best of humanity. Selected individuals would continue the legacy of Earth. Entire races were denied passage. No criminals, no illness, no mentally unstable, and absolutely no exceptions to these standards.
It would appear your Traveler may have been intended to be left behind or destroyed. Your elders have no knowledge of these events and I fear over the centuries your identity and truth have been lost.” The air grew silent. Fei scanned the countless visible faces.
“The truth is, I was born to a woman imprisoned on Earth. Being a descendent of hers, annulled my opportunity for this new life. By these guidelines, I was envisioned to die off with the rest deemed unfit for the future. A baby. Deemed unfit to live, predicated on the words of so-called leaders. It would seem our stories are quite similar. We’re survivors.” Fei inhaled deeply.
Clinching his fist. “The war for survival commenced shortly after.” A tear sliding down his face. “My biological mother. Escaped her prison months before the exodus from Earth began. Forced to live on the streets, scavenging for the both of us.” Fei paused.
Holding the swelling of emotion at bay. The water slightly blurring his vision of the citizens. “She sacrificed her life to stow me aboard a ship……. I can’t even remember her face.” The sniffling of the citizens reverberated through the tower. Fei wiped his eyes.
Gathering himself. His mind ran through the events. His sadness swiftly transformed. “The best of Earth never left. She died on that planet.” He growled. “Pratham has been in constant war, even using the one who they condemned to death, as their best weapon against their enemies.” His voice raising as he continued.
“What fools! They equipped their most vicious adversary. I used to believe in a true paradise. The God or gods they say created Earth. But I beg you citizens, show me a god that allows his creation to circumvent his finality?” He asked rhetorically.
“I’m done with paradise! Pratham will fall. And you will all help me. I will not become that God. I am not deemed just. For justice is a lie. I do not grant choice. This storm is my cocoon. From within, I have struggled and suffered, but I have risen. I will break free. Hence forth, citizens of Tetcht, you will be one race! One Lineage! One Purpose! Warriors!” The crowd vocally wrestling with one another, some cheered in approval others fearing his words and some combating his ideal vocally. Fei raised his fist in the air.
“Everyone who opposes me will die. I welcome the former God, any gods, to challenge me!” He roared. “What God is silent for so long.?!” Some citizens continued to praise his words. “I assure you. I will never be silent! I will conquer it all! False peace accepted its death the moment I was placed aboard that ship. I am Order forever. There is no one and nothing else!” The uproar coursing through the protector.
Fei savagely beat his chest before raising his fist back in the air. “You must Fight for Order! You must Fight to Conquer! For you and this vision, I will Fight forever!” He roared. The crowd exploded, with most of the citizens supporting him.
“This is wrong!” Someone shouted from the crowd repeatedly. The celebration slowly hushed to reveal the culprit. An elderly woman called out to her fellow citizens. The crowd opened and encircled her. “Let her speak.” Fei said.
The woman observed her surroundings. She would be hard pressed to find a face of a likeminded individual amongst the people. Finally, meeting eyes of the would-be conqueror. “What need have we for another planet? What need have we for war?” She begged to question.
Fei searched the air for her specific scent. “Ah, Giradeen, you would have me to say none. But I know the dynasty of the malicious. I will end it all.” Fei retorted quickly.
“Why not let peace guide Tetcht?” Giradeen asked. Fei laughed sarcastically. “Peace? What do you know of peace? Elder, you are wise to know, by your previous reality, there is only peace in death. That is your destination for peace.” The woman observed the confirmation in the faces of the citizens.
Those who were actively speaking out, now hushed, or shied away from the confrontation. “You depict yourself wise and powerful.” She said shaking her head. “But your heart is vile and cruel. Someone of true power is not so easily threatened.” The woman admonished her leader. Fei continued to laugh at Giradeen.
“I possess power. It is this reason that I am commissioned to use it. I will gain all power and create a world by my design. Is that not what your God did?” He asked. “I don’t know the God in which you speak of.” Giradeen began.
“But I do know, when this universe is weary of your impudence, it is you who will know the destination of peace.” Fei’s laughter ceased. His eyes locked on the woman. Still in his feral form, he dropped down from his perch, into the circle of citizens as they avoided him. A loud thud accompanied his landing. It was well known Fei could leap great distances without producing a sound. This was meant to strike fear.
He approached Giradeen, striking more horror into her with each step. Fei could feel her heart pounding, feeding his anger. His body casting a shadow over her as he barreled down to her. “So confident in this universe, yet here you stand before me trembling. The universe has failed you.” A tear crept down her face, as she stared into his eyes.
“Sentry Three!” Fei called out. 3 dropped down from a higher point of the winding tower into the crowd, landed in the kneeling position. “Show her the rewards of her universe……Make it……Peaceful.” He ordered.
Sentry 3 nodded in acceptance before arising to carry out the duty. Reaching up into the air, a red staff appeared in his hand. The woman fell on her knees to receive her fate. Sentry 3 walked with purpose toward her.
Out from the crowd an armored figure leapt over the woman and kicked Sentry 3 in the chest. The powerful kick thrusted 3 directly to the ground. 3 scrambled back to his feet and into a defensive position.
The citizens opened the circle even further, leaving the two Sentry members, Giradeen and Fei inside. “Sentry Ten?” Fei looked puzzled at her defiance. “I will give you one opportunity to stand down and all will be forgiven.” Fei warned. Sentry 10’s helmet revealed her face.
She stood slightly taller than Sentry 3. She possessed exotic features and a yellowish tint to her lighter but soft complexion. Her long dark and very fine hair covering the shoulders of her armor. “I will not ask forgiveness. Nor will I stand down. She is right. Your misguidance has done enough damage to our planet. I tried to serve your vision. I fear your unbalance will destroy everything.” 10 said.
Waving her arm across her body, a red rapier materialized in her hand. “Very well. It is known the path to conquest is not about losing friends. But dispatching your enemies.” He said assuredly. Fei nodded for 3 to proceed.
Sentry 10 entered an offensive stance. She lunged forward brandishing the edge of her rapier at Fei, nearly missing a lethal strike as Fei’s head moved with perfect timing. Sentry 3 leveled her out of position with his staff before she could reach her target again.
10 rushed back to her feet to face her former comrade. The two combatants circled one another. The chatter amongst the Sentry link grew. Unbeknownst to the citizens, the Sentry tried to reason with 10. “He’s losing his grip on reality!” 10 begged her comrades. “We cannot serve him any longer. Help me stop him.” 10 pleaded to the rest of them.
Other members attempted to acknowledge her feelings while talking her out of her efforts. “Both Dara and her daughter are gone, 19 is gone. We can’t lose anymore 10. Please stand down.” Sentry 4 pleaded.
There was a moment of silence in their link. Sentry 10 looked around the large crowd, she no longer recognized her people. “I’m not 10, my name is Eada.” She said.
Her link with the rest of members severed. She could only hear her own thoughts; it was a welcomed quiet from the constant chatter of the Sentry link. 3 would not allow his new enemy to come closer to Fei. Finally, Eada attacked. Her blade moving at a blinding speed.
Her offense instantly put Sentry 3 on his heels. The refined whipping of her rapier preceding the even smoother swish sound. The swoosh of Sentry 3’s staff blowing her hair as he twirled it in defense. Neither warrior now giving an inch.
Eada seized an opening, slicing Sentry 3 across his shoulder. Her blade penetrating his armor, as a sizable piece of it fell in hay below their feet. A bit more precise and 3 would have had a new opening over his throat.
Taking a moment, the two looked for position over the other. Again, they engaged. Sentry 3 made a more visible effort to attack. Landing multiple thuds to Eada’s side and legs. She began to stagger backward. Both combatants breathing heavily.
A third bout ensued. Even more intense than the previous two. Sentry 3 swept Eada’s legs from under her. As she landed on her back she instantly rolled, before the twirling staff landed mightily on the ground where she was. The smack ringing through the ear drums of all the torn spectators. Springing back to her feet the former Sentry member pressed forward.
Eada managed to pin her rival’s staff to the ground immediately after a clash of their weapons. She landed a swift kick to his helmet with enough force to daze him. Sentry 3 stumbled back a few steps disoriented.
Eada didn’t realize the gap between her and Fei had grown so much. Realizing her second opportunity she ran as fast as she could to attack her former Sovereign. Sentry 3 came to his senses and reached out for his staff. It propelled itself into the air. Mocking a throwing motion, 3 threw his staff at Eada without it ever returning to his physical possession.
The staff connected harshly on the back of her head, rendering her unconscious. Her unresponsive body falling just a few feet shy of where Fei stood. Sentry 3 approached her, retrieving Eada’s rapier in the process.
3 turned her body over to expose her face. He knew his orders, but 3 decided to look up at Fei despite him knowing the outcome. Sniffling came from both inside his armors link and the crowd surrounding him. Everyone knew what must come next. Fei nodded to 3.
Using Eada’s rapier, 3 mournfully pierced her armor and divided her heart. 3 unsuccessfully held back his emotions, as tears betrayed his willingness to heed his orders.
Sentry 3 called for his staff again, this time returning it to his hand. He placed it on the ground in front of Fei, kneeling and presenting Eada’s rapier to the Conqueror. “Such loyalty deserves a gesture of loyalty in return. Keep the blade.” Fei said.
“Remove your helmet. Your face will forever justify your prowess in combat.” Sentry 3’s helmet dissolved to display his brown complexion, the shade of a freshly wet soil. He possesses shoulder length dark locked hair with a full beard.
3 would stand the same height as Fei in his normal form, with a very slender body beneath his armor. “Thank you, great Conqueror.” Said Sentry 3. Fei turned his attention to the elderly woman. “Sentry 3, please escort Giradeen two the unforgiving peace of the Eira.”
Sentry 3 motioned his hand to sheath the rapier, causing it to dissolve, holding his red staff he proceeded to carry out his instructions. He seized the elder woman by the arm and ushered her to the door of the Protector. Fei stood in the center of the monumental sanctuary. “If any others have a grievance, you will be heard at this moment.”