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Chapter 14 - Congregation

With all haste, I polarize my atoms towards the anchor nearest the Great Founts northern pole, where the Eldest awaits. The elder who was interrupted quickly does the same. Moments later, I sense as all about the Great Fount, every Kindred mirroring my actions. Regardless of age, eyes or size, when the Eldest commands, you obey.

Within a few revolutions, I see the form of the most venerated of the Flock crest over the horizon of the Great Fount. Larger than any other by orders of magnitude, the Eldest has achieved a size great enough to create their own gravity well.

Congregations are rare enough events that this will be the first one I have ever personally participated in. I did trade an elder for their memories of a past congregation out of curiosity. It was nothing so special. Merely to coordinate an observation effort on a piece of foreign matter.

The research ultimately ended with little new discoveries. The foreign matter turned out to be nothing but an amalgam of rock, ice and a few frozen gases. No elements that are beyond our own ability to forge with the Great Founts heat and pressure. It was quite a beautiful sight though. As the object approached the Great Fount, the methane and ammonia gas began to burn away, creating a mesmerizing trail. In truth, It was nothing worth calling a congregation over. But, apparently since the Eradication, the Eldest has been a bit… cautious with unknown interstellar objects.

I reverse the polarization of my atoms and propel myself away from the anchor and towards the Eldest. I make small adjustments to my velocity to stabilize my orbit around them. As I do, I witness a sight rarely seen. Nearly a thousand Kindred, all drifting in to swirl about the Eldest.

As the constant flow of Kindred slows over the next two revolutions, I decide to make use of this rare opportunity. Being so close to the Eldest provides just the excuse I need to observe and study their form. I should have a revolution or two to do so while those on the far side, furthest from the Eldest, lag behind. This is my first time in such close proximity to the Eldest, but surely they will not take offense at some subtle observations?

I surreptitiously extend my senses past the many low orbiting scribes managing the Eldest’s profound thoughts and adding them to the repository. The Eldest keeps their skin an opaque black. I imagine from a distance, they might look like a sunspot, gliding across the surface of the Great Fount. The Eldest’s skin is also surprisingly free of ancillary eyes.

Most elders take great pride in their number of contributions. They line their cranium and tentacles with eyes for every barely noteworthy addition they make. The Eldest, however, simply has a single pair of massive, lidless eyes. Each one larger than any elder’s whole body.

As I orbit around to the opposite side of the Eldest, I get a good look at their tentacles. Their appendages are tucked tightly behind themselves. At the Eldest’s size, without a great expenditure of energy, the Eldest’s gravity keeps the seven massive limbs pressed firmly against their body.

In fact, much of the Eldest’s anatomy has been altered to accommodate their own gravity. Most apparent is how they have made themselves much more spherical in overall structure, lest any protrusions be flattened by gravity. I would be willing to trade much to be able to examine the Eldest’s cerebral matrix and capacitor lattice.

While I was performing my superficial examination, enough of the Flock arrived that the Eldest has deemed it time to begin the congregation. A staggering amount of power concentrates around the Eldest before rippling outward. The strands of power simultaneously connect from the Eldest to the minds of every Kindred. Then, even more bafflingly, they forge mental connections, not just between themself and every Kindred, but between every Kindred and every other Kindred.

Creating a mental tether is one of the simplest skills, but to do so on such a scale as this would require immeasurable power and finesse. With the minds of the many made one, the opening ceremony of the congregation may commence. A simple but undeniable command races along the tether to the minds of all. Begin.

At the Eldest’s invocation, their skin bursts to life with color, briefly outshining the Great Fount itself. The Eldest’s skin transforms into a kaleidoscopic vision of beauty. They then twist and contort radiation of all wavelengths into strange and abstract images to start the ceremony. The Flock obeys and reciprocates with dazzling displays of their own. Magnetic fields are generated, gamma rays are jettisoned out, and electrons are excited all about the Eldest.

Every Kindred, no matter their age, leverages their power in shows of creativity. Each Lending their comparatively meager minds in contribution to this auspicious occasion. Even I, as one who is rarely moved to emotion, find myself momentarily overtaken by the splendor that fills my eyes.

As the ceremony crescendos, I do my own part as best I can, but among so many venerated elders, my own contribution is rather subdued. As is the case with all of the youngest generation. All too soon, the ritual comes to a close and one by one, the lights die out. The myriad rampant energies are carefully extinguished and a profound stillness settles in.

The Flock continues their orbit and waits in eager anticipation for the Eldest’s thoughts. Another burst of power and a new idea is planted in the minds of the Flock. Invaders. The idea of outsiders, of trespassers and violators, echoes throughout our collective minds. Before the Flock can process the severity of the concept, the Eldest fills our eyes with their own sight. All of the Flock have their own sense of sight replaced with the Eldest’s. Through their potent eyes, a distant object is elucidated. It is irregularly shaped, clearly not of natural formation. The structure is oblong and tiered. It is made of some kind of metallic matter and most amusingly, is being propelled by some crude form of combustion.

Another pulse of information from the Eldest brings a memory. Not just any memory, but what appears to be one of the Eldest’s own. In this memory, instead of a single metal structure, like the one currently approaching the Great Fount, there are hundreds. They fill the void as densely as the stars.

With a shock, I realize I recognize this scene. Well, not personally, but I know what I am looking at. These are the hollow vessels that carried the invaders to our home and initiated the Eradication. The vessels from the Eldest’s memory bear a passing resemblance to the craft that the Flock has once again redirected its focus to. Although, those from the Eradication were much less jagged and crude in appearance.

Could this vessel carry the same trespassers from 3,000 revolutions past? A worrying prospect. Yet of even more concern, is the idea that these new invaders are unrelated to the Eradication. If there are two different entities that seek to conquer us, then how many others might there be in the void beyond.

However, there is some good news. This time, there is only a single vessel. What could that mean? Is this new group so confident that they think to displace the Flock while so outnumbered? Could these beings be powerful enough to warrant such confidence?

Then, perhaps in response to my own private questions, the Eldest provides the answer with a new communication. Pilgrims. A group of wayfarers, is it? I wonder, by what means does the Eldest know the intentions of these creatures? The Eldest’s memories stretch back tens of thousands of revolutions. Combined with an unequaled understanding of the forces of the universe, there is no way of knowing how the Eldest arrives at their conclusions. All we lesser Kindred can do is trust in their wisdom.

The congregation buzzes with the shared thoughts and emotions of the Flock, each Kindred eager to have their thoughts known. Some, like the elders, are genuine in their recommendations for a course of action. They council caution and vigilance. The most ambitious of the Flock, usually the juveniles, mature but not yet old, merely spout whatever they think the Eldest would wish to hear. They feverishly project constructed visions of annihilating the intruders throughout the congregation’s shared mind. Each one seeking to outdo the other with the creativity with which they swear to destroy the invaders. The younglings, such as myself, remain quiet as we are expected. The lack of emotion from some of the elders informs me that there were some among the Kindred who were already privy to the invader’s presence before the congregation.

The tumult is brought back to silence with a single thought of the Eldest’s. Behold. Without further warning, the Eldest moves. They slowly and deliberately free one of their tentacles from their gravity well, and bring it to bear in the direction of the invading vessel. Then, the Eldest amasses a vast concentration of low frequency electromagnetic energy. The energy is conducted along the massive appendage and concentrated at its tip. With a burst of light, a thin beam of energy explodes outward towards the trespasser.
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