“Did McKenna violate tradition by engaging his divine gifts? In the strictest sense of tradition, yes. But the treachery of his opponent was far greater, violating the heart of the Law.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
“I’ve waited a long time for this, Slann.” McKenna said as he and the warlord circled the floor. Awrann returned to his perch to get out of the way.
“Gentlemen.” Xiang Ti spoke up to get the combatant’s attention. “The rules are very simple. The last man to remain standing wins the right to carry out the stated challenge. Your only limitation is the prohibited use of battle frames during this engagement. This fight does not require a death strike to ensure victory. Are these rules clear, gentlemen?”
“They are.” Slann and McKenna replied in unison.
“Very well. Proceed.” Xiang Ti said with a crash of his gavel.
“It’s over, McKenna.” Slann growled.
“Funny, I don’t think the fat lady has even auditioned yet.” McKenna held back, waiting for Slann to make the first attack. He had never directly fought the warlord before, and needed time to assess his ability.
Slann studied his opponent as well. He’d taken the time to review unclassified security feeds of the gym where McKenna used to practice his katas. He’d observed the marshal using fluid movements, with sword strikes that would melt into follow-up attacks, and against an opponent, he would parry and counter attack with the same fluidic movement.
McKenna’s movements became more nimble as he warmed up. He could feel the adrenaline flowing as he waited for the warlord to attack. He looked directly into Slann’s eyes, and saw the fire of life burning with intense fury.
Like a cobra leaping from a statuesque stance, the warlord struck hard and fast, allowing McKenna only a split second to decide his defense. With a quick sidestep, he dodge the incoming warrior and swung around with the blunt edge of his sword, striking Slann’s back with momentum, forcing the warlord to the ground.
Slann tumbled and rolled, careful not to get caught up by his own sword. He rolled up into his feet in a crouch. McKenna slid back into a cat stance, one he’d learned from Dakkoth Starkiller in one of their many sparring sessions. He’d learned to incorporate many of the warrior’s unarmed combat techniques into his own style of swordsmanship.
Slann leaped from his crouch, sailing though the air towards his opponent. McKenna jumped as well, meeting the warlord in midair. With the shrill scream of their blades meeting, the two made contact.
Slann landed hunched over with one knee to the ground and sword extended out. McKenna was far less graceful, hitting the ground and rolling into the base of Xiang Ti’s granite podium.
McKenna felt wetness on his arm. With two fingers he checked, revealing a deep cut from Slann’s sword. He looked at the wound and before his very eyes, it healed! He then remembered his conversation with Migichina.
“Naw.” He said to himself, still not entirely believing her revelation. He stood and faced Slann. If this was happening, then maybe he could use it to his advantage, and perhaps there were other hidden ‘gifts’ as well. Holding up his bloody fingers for Slann to see, he addressed him.
“Looks like first blood goes to you, brother Slann.” He said with a slight smile.
“I assure you, it will not be the last of your blood that is spilled on this floor, outsider.” Slann cursed. “It is my pleasure to dispatch you, ‘brother’ McKenna. Tonight, you will be explaining your failure to the Goddess!”
Slann charged, but again McKenna used his momentum to send Slann face first into the granite podium. “Ouch.” McKenna said in mock sympathy. “I’d check to see if my teeth were all there, if I were you.” He said. Slann turned, his nose and mouth bleeding. The rest of his face was contorted in anger.
Slann attacked again, this time refraining from the charge. Slann fell into a pattern assault, forcing McKenna to parry, but not allowing him the chance to counter attack. Slann managed at least two swipes at McKenna’s neck, but missed on both attempts. McKenna broke his pattern when he dropped down and swept the Warlord’s legs, knocking him to the ground. McKenna himself dropped, bringing his own leg across the warlord’s chest. The blow caused him to convulse. McKenna rolled back up, as the warlord slowly fought to regain his own composure.
The attack cost McKenna the pain he now felt in his back, but he focused his energy on making the pain go away, and it did.
“Well I’ll be dammed.” He said, not intending for anyone to hear. Slann did, however.
“Damned, McKenna? Oh yes, damned to the pit to lick the sulfurous boots of Azmodius!” Slann backhanded McKenna, sending him across the room.
From her podium, Winter watched in agony. For the most part, the fight had been even, blow for blow. When it seemed to her that Slann had the upper hand, McKenna would come back, and visa-versa. She could do nothing, though. The rules of engagement between two Migichinan warriors expressly prohibited outside interference of any kind in a duel. She would have to sit back and hold in the tears as McKenna fell again under a brutal attack by Slann. The bastard even kicked him while he was down! She vowed silently to the Goddess that if McKenna died, she would call for the Rite of Vengeance and fight Slann herself.
“I expected better of you, boy.” Slann rasped as he kicked McKenna again. McKenna put all of his effort in regaining his stance. His eyes were bloodied by a gash on his forehead. He could barely see Slann, who again backhanded him.
“I just can’t seem to understand you, McKenna. I gave you the chance to stand down, many times even, but you refused to quit. Some noble idea that the Alliance would be safer in your hands. I find that hard to believe, as you lie here, soiling my floor with your vile blood. Yes, doesn’t the council agree with me?” He said, turning to look at them.
“Slann, you are not permitted to address the council during the Rite of Ascension, or had you forgotten?” Xiang Ti asked he slowly reached for his own sword. Slann backed off, knowing that the ancient Lord could cut him down in a heartbeat.
“My apologies again, Lord Prime, I do in fact seemed to have forgotten my manners.”
“Then do you intend to claim victory?”
“I do.” He spun around, driving his sword into McKenna’s Heart.
The last thing Zendista McKenna heard was Winter Ventrosia’s shrill scream of agony as the world around him....
All was white. There was nothing. Nothing but white. He looked around, but still saw nothing. Zendista McKenna looked at his hands, expecting to see blood, but there was none. He felt his chest, but Slann’s sword was not there. There was no pain, nor feeling.
“So this is death?”
“Not exactly, my brother.” A female figure walked out of what seemed to be a white mist. The woman walked up to him and stood only an arm’s length away. She was wrapped in a shimmering blue robe with gold trim.
“And you are..?” He asked.
“I am part of you. I was there at your beginning, and I have silently watched you throughout you life. I am your sister.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, milady, but I don’t have a sister.”
“Ah, but you do. I am she, and I am as real as you are.” She took his hand and placed it over her heart. He could feel its warmth, and its rhythmic pulse. With his free hand, McKenna drew back the cowl that covered her head. It was as if he was looking into a mirror to see a fairer reflection of himself, the same dark brown hair with white stripes at the temple, the same hawk-like facial features, but there was a softness in her expression that he had never seen in himself.
“By the Goddess...” He said in astonishment. The woman smiled softly.
“I see you have met your sister, my son.” Migichina said as she shimmered into existence. “Zendista McKenna, meet J’Laren McKenna. Cut from the same stone as you, but I decided to use a finer chisel and softer grade of sand paper.”
“Very funny, Migichina. As I recall, I was in the middle of kicking Slann’s butt when he decided to drive a sword through my heart. Now I believe in the laws of medical sciences, that would make me quite dead, but my ‘sister’ says I’m not. Care to explain?” He asked tersely.
A portal opened in the white mist, showing the darkened chamber of the council. Slann was standing over McKenna’s broken body, as Winter wept openly for her fallen love. He touched her image on the glassy surface, expecting to feel her warmth, but felt only the cold instead.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to win.” He muttered. Migichina said nothing.
The doors of the council chamber broke open, revealing Dakkoth Starkiller, in combat armor. Slann paused at the intrusion, and was dumbfounded when Dakkoth picked up the sword of Draesoneth. Now the fight began anew, a tired Slann facing the fresh fury of the Starkiller.
Dakkoth’s assault was fast and brutal, allowing Slann no time to defend himself. The cat-man, a full head taller than the already massive warlord, made Slann seem like a child compared to him.
In a normal fight, Slann would have won, but backed by his rage, Dakkoth tore into the warlord, giving no quarter. But that would only last a brief instant, as Slann found a hole in Dakkoth’s assault, and with one sweep of his blade, decapitated McKenna’s best man.
“NNNOOOO!!” McKenna screamed. “Damn it all, Migichina!” He put his fist through the portal, shattering it. He could bear to see no more.
“Slann is still under the control of Merid, thanks to Maxaa Branwyn.” J’Laren stated.
“We cannot break the spell, for we were not directly involved in the realm of its effects, but you were, my brother.”
McKenna turned to look at her. “Big fucking deal. I’m dead! Knowing that now ain’t going to do anyone any good.” He scolded.
“J’Laren, go home, for now. I will speak to my son in private.” Migichina commanded, J’Laren bowed and disappeared back into the mists.
“You should not blame her, Zendista. It was not her fault. If anyone is to be blamed, it is I. However, I have the ability to change things. I am, after all, a Goddess.”
“Not a very good one, if you ask me.” McKenna growled. His comment caused a tear to form in her eye.
“You are right, Zendista. I’m not a very good one. I set things in motion that even I could not control, and I have to answer to Chrysara for my mistakes, but I can set things right.”
“I don’t see how.” McKenna countered.
“Look again at the portal.” The scene was as McKenna first saw it. Slann gloating, Winter sobbing, and his body still on the floor, and still quite dead.
“No one’s moving. It’s as if time has stood still.” He observed.
“No, time shall run its normal course, but the place you are in now exists outside the space/time continuum. Time is irrelevant here, and is ours to do with as we please. I pulled you from your body as Slann drove his sword into your heart to save you. As we speak, I ready myself to return you to your body, so that you may proceed onto victory.
Slann must not win, for if he does, then the Alliance will fall and my brother will have the fuel he needs to take the galaxy away from us. At all costs, you must win.”
“Then Slann is not the enemy?” McKenna asked.
“No, he is not.” She replied.
“That’s all I wanted to know. Can you put me back there, a second or two after he killed me?”
“Of course. What do you have in mind?”
“Let’s just say I still have an ace or three up my sleeve.” McKenna said, looking at the motionless image.
“Your lover is dead, Winter Ventrosia. Yes, I knew about your relationship with him, and how simple it is for a person’s emotions to break tradition. That Ring around your finger betrays you, my dear Lord Admiral.” He kicked McKenna’s dead body again.
“Slann, the personal affairs of the Lord Admiral are of no interest to this council. As far as the council is concerned, she is free to have a relationship with whomever she desires. The tradition you cite is ancient and obsolete.” Xiang Ti rebuked.
“Her adultery with McKenna is known throughout the Archology! It cannot be overlooked!” Slann argued.
Xiang Ti looked over to the Lord Priestess Palto Zand, who was the final word in any interpretation of The Litany; the Alliance’s most holy of books.
“Winter’s actions do not go against The Litany, My Lords. Our Goddess favors love above all else. I find no fault in her actions.”
Slann growled in contempt.
“Well then, Slann.” Awrann said as he rose. “We may as well get this over with.” Before he left his chair, he tapped a code into his computer console. The Lord Chancellor walked down the steps, drawing his sword and mentally preparing to face the Warlord. He was already prepared to give his head to McKenna, but had no intention of allowing Slann to be victorious.
“I will enjoy this too much, Awrann. I have looked forward to this day for a long time.” Slann hissed.
“As did your predecessors. I’ll have you know, Slann, I took great pleasure in killing your father, Skathach, and I’ll be more than happy to remove your head as well.”
A blast of energy hit Slann from behind, sending the warlord back into Xiang Ti’s podium.
“No, sir. The pleasure is all mine.” McKenna said weakly as he stood.
“By the Goddess!” Came the intermittent whispers of all in the chamber. Winter, most of all, was in disbelief, but grinning from ear to ear. She was happy just to see him alive, but the energy blasts from his bare hands concerned a number of the lords in the chamber.
“Slann, I’ve had about enough of this.” McKenna said, standing erect. The chamber doors flew open to reveal Dakkoth Starkiller and Rhaine Quatralis both armed with Saurian Thump guns.
“Stand down, Dakk. I think I can finish this poor bastard off on my own.” McKenna said. Awrann picked up the sword of Draesoneth and handed it to McKenna.
“You’ve made me proud, my son.” he said. McKenna bowed slightly in respect to his mentor. He smiled as the Lord Chancellor moved away. Slann rose again.
“You ready for some more, Riskhad?” McKenna asked, his free hand ablaze in ethereal fire.
“You... You’re supposed to be dead! I killed you. I ran my sword through your heart!” Slann hissed as he limped towards the chief marshal.
“To coin a phrase, I got better.” McKenna replied. He brought his sword to the ready as Slann rolled, grabbing his own blade from where it laid. Still rolling he came back to his knees, thrusting towards McKenna’s abdomen. McKenna sidestepped, bringing his sword down to parry the thrust. He spun around in his counter attack, performing a roundhouse kick that connected with the back of Slann’s head, sending the warlord crashing into the polished stone floor. McKenna back flipped away from Slann as he got back up.
Slann was now certifiably angry, launching another series of attacks against his opponent. McKenna could not defend himself against all of Slann’s slashes, allowing one to cut him across the chest. He staggered back from the force of the strike, and Slann watched as the wound healed it’s self!
McKenna looked up and smiled wickedly.
“What’s wrong, Slann? Bit off more than you can chew? It’s over. Call it quits, and I’ll allow you to walk out of here honorably. Fight and you’ll be carried out in disgrace. Your choice.” McKenna held his sword relaxed, but ready.
Slann would not allow McKenna to dishonor him with his words and attacked yet again.
McKenna saw it coming, and channeled a portion of his newfound power into the sword of Draesoneth. Without thought, he spun. McKenna swung around and brought his sword to slash across Slann’s chest, cutting deep. Slann was stopped in his tracks.
McKenna withdrew the sword and spun again. He then thrust the blade through, impaling the Warlord. He then turned his back to Slann and pulled it out, allowing Slann’s limp body to fall.
McKenna wiped Slann’s blood on the fallen warlord’s shirt, then picked up the scabbard and sheathed the sword.
“Lord Prime! I declare victory over Riskhad Slann and claim the right to challenge Lord Chancellor Awrann. Shall anyone else object to my claim?”
Xiang Ti rose. “The Council of Lords deems you a capable warrior, and worthy of the challenge you have made. Carry on.”
Awrann walked around to each one of the lords, receiving a hug or handshake, and even a kiss from Winter Ventrosia. He then walked down to face McKenna.
“Lord Chancellor.” McKenna greeted him as he bowed.
“Chief Marshal Zendista McKenna. You have proven yourself to me. I see you as more than capable to take charge of the Alliance, and see to it that her destiny is as our Goddess has willed.”
“Lord Chancellor, it has been my distinct honor and pleasure to have served you and with you. I have learned from the best man to ever occupy the office.”
“Remember me in your prayers, my son. Tonight, I shall join my brothers in the hall of heroes, and dine with the Goddess.” Awrann kneeled down, offering McKenna his sword. McKenna accepted placing the Lord Chancellor’s blade in his belt. He drew the sword of Draesoneth, and in one graceful movement, and without second thoughts, severed Awrann’s head.
In a flash, he could see all of Awrann’s memories, his hopes dreams and deepest emotions. He could feel his own body change, as the Awrann’s battle frame matrix transmitted its data to McKenna.
“You’ll always be with me old friend.” He said as the Lord Chancellor’s body and head vanished in a blue, glowing light. “And I... will always be with you... my son.”
Xiang Ti rose. It was over. Slann was on the floor, defeated and close to death. Awrann had given himself to McKenna without resistance, and McKenna was now the only one left standing from the melee. The Lord Prime addressed the council.
“In accordance with B’Trel Awrann’s wishes, and as a result of this Rite of Ascension, the Council of Lords officially recognizes Zendista McKenna as the victor, and as the new Lord Chancellor of the Migichinan Alliance. Please, join with me in welcoming him to our ranks.”
Xiang Ti descended from his podium to shake the hand of his new executive officer, whom he would now have to trust the Migichinan Alliance to. Winter was next, however she had much more than a mere handshake planned for McKenna. One by one, the council came down to welcome their new Lord Chancellor.
Dakkoth Starkiller and Rhaine Quatralis called for a team of medics to remove Slann to an infirmary. As the new Chief Marshal, he planned to have Slann arrested and charged with numerous counts of conspiracy and treason. He decided that could wait. Without a doubt, McKenna would throw one hell of a party this evening, and he knew the new Lord Chancellor would order him to attend.
That party would have to wait, though, as McKenna collapsed into the arms of Winter. The man was quite exhausted from his ordeal, and would need his rest. The Lord Admiral looked over at Dakkoth, who with Rhaine Quatralis would take McKenna back to his quarters.
“Lord Admiral, I hate to spoil the joyous occasion.” Winter looked up to General Ferrin.
“But?” She said
“Word just came in from the Draesoneth. They’ve engaged the Humanis Federation.”