“It is not enough for the living to pass over without ceremony. Those left behind must say goodbye, to grieve, and to honor their fallen dead. Though gone from mortal life, they step into the wondrous world of eternity.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
“We are gathered here today to pay homage to three who have given their lives, so that we may continue on with ours.”
McKenna looked out to the thousands gathered all over M’Kaera’s Mount. All were silent as he spoke.
“As when the balance of power shifts, so do the lives of those involved. We are all involved. From the Lord Prime, all the way down to the children who work alongside their parents in the fields. To ascend is the duty of all. Whether in the ancient Rite given to us by the Goddess, or when our matriarchs and patriarchs pass the mantle of leadership down to their offspring. We are all leaders and followers. We are here today to pay tribute to a leader, and to honor the heroes who gave their lives so that new leaders can come to power and continue the Alliance in accordance to the Litany.
“B’Trel Awrann, patriarch of the house Awrann. For all but the early years of his life, he has served us as Lord Chancellor and as an officer of the law. B’Trel Awrann executed his duties with excellence and honor, allowing nothing to hold him back. He maintained fairness, even when he could have morally done otherwise. He treated his enemies with the same respect as he treated his friends, and even in the hour of death, his thoughts were not of himself, but of the family and the Alliance he would be leaving behind.
“As Lord Chancellor, B’Trel Awrann executed the duties of his office without failure. His actions continued to make the Migichinan presence in inter-galactic politics a force that would still be reckoned with, and as his successor, I intend to continue that legacy.
“In his honor, the life of B’Trel Awrann is worthy of mention, and a chapter shall be added to the third book of the Litany. In his honor.” McKenna shifted the papers on his podium as the crowd replied “In his honor.”
“Brigit Perrin. A woman who hailed of the clan Perrin, and an Alliance Marshal. This young woman gave her life in the line of duty so that others might live.
“Marshal Perrin was a bright young woman, with a personnel file that recorded excellence in the execution of her duties, and success in many difficult and seemingly impossible assignments. Marshal Perrin has been a role model to many young women, proving again and again that a woman can be as good as, if not better than any man. Perrin’s strength and courage has brought honor to her family and clan, and her Alliance. As Lord Chancellor, it is my honor to present to her posthumously the Order of Draesoneth, the highest honor a Migichinan Warrior can receive.” McKenna held up the plaque, bearing the medal and picture. Brigit Perrin’s parent stepped forward from the table flanking McKenna’s podium. They accepted the plaque. The father shook McKenna’s hand, and the Lord Chancellor kissed Perrin’s mother on the cheek, and whispered his thanks for her daughter to both of them.
“In her honor, the name Brigit Perrin shall be added to the Litany, joining her fellow heroes of the Alliance. In her honor.”
“In her honor.” The crowd responded.
“Finally, there is one more to speak of, one more to whom I personally owe my life. If it weren’t for this woman, I would have died in my apartment from a terrorist bombing. This young woman aspired to be what Brigit Perrin was, and repeatedly took the tests to become an Alliance Marshal. This woman, though unable to pass the exams, did not know the meaning of the word ‘quit’ and refused to throw in the towel, even when it was suggested that she should.
“This woman inspired me, by her deeds, to continue on even when things were getting really gruesome. When I wanted to quit, remembering the young woman who breathed life back into me, forced me to go on, and to succeed. I will always be indebted to her, and to the father that raised her. If it wasn’t for his care, love, and guidance, the Alliance would have fallen last night.
“Jenna Reese was brave and courageous, right up the point when she stood face to face with the assassin that would eventually take the life of Brigit Perrin. Jenna Reese knew the danger, and could have run in cowardice, but her sense of honor, duty, and loyalty to the Alliance wouldn’t allow her. And in dying, she was able to make known the name of the Assassin Janus D’Saad, and was instrumental in her eventual capture, an operation in which Brigit Perrin lost her own life.
“In her honor, it is my privilege to posthumously promote her to the rank of Alliance Marshal, as her actions were those of a Marshal, not of a security guard. In her death, she has also proven worthy of the Order of Draesoneth.”
Jenna’s father stepped forward, eyes wet with tears. McKenna stepped down from the podium and gave him the plaque. This plaque, adorned with the medal of the Order of Draesoneth, was also adorned with the Marshal’s badge next to the picture of his daughter.
“This would have meant the world to her. It means everything to me. On behalf of my daughter, thank you.” Johannes said, trying not to weep.
“No, my brother. Thank you. Thank you for her life, and thank you for raising your daughter to become a hero of the Alliance. Your daughter was a good person, and you’re a good man.”
Johannes Reese stood up straight as McKenna saluted him. Johannes returned the salute, and the two shook hands. McKenna returned to the podium.
“B’Trel Awrann. Brigit Perrin, Jenna Reese. Heroes, leaders, and followers. All living and serving in accordance with the highest traditions of the Alliance. We will now commit their bodies to the Goddess.”
McKenna descended from the podium as the crowd began to shift their attention to the three wooden platforms erected at the summit. Slann walked up to the Lord Chancellor and extended his hand to him.
McKenna clasped the Warlord’s hand. “Glad you decided to come.”
Slann smiled. “I did not want to miss your first speech as Lord Chancellor. Very Eloquent, yes. You certainly have a way with words.”
“Flattery won’t get you out of the tribunal, Slann.” McKenna countered.
“I had no intention of dodging any repercussions that are due to me, Lord Chancellor. I wish to atone for what has happened and carry on.” Slann conceded.
“That may be easier said than done. It’s going to take a long time for you to earn my trust.”
“I know.” As they turned to walk towards the mount, they saw General Ferrin standing close to the Lord Admiral. McKenna clenched his teeth at the sight, and Winter appeared to be visibly distraught. She looked back to McKenna, and her eyes pleaded for help. McKenna started towards them, but Slann grabbed his arm.
“Please, my brother. Allow me.” Slann said. He walked up to Ferrin and grabbed him by the neck.
“General Ferrin, what a pleasant surprise to see you here, you lecherous bastard! May I inquire as to why you were placing the esteemed Lord Admiral in such a compromising and rather un-lady like position?”
Ferrin began to sweat profusely. “Sl... Slann, I... I...”
“ANSWER THE QUESTION!!”
He threw Ferrin to the ground and drew his sword from his overcoat, as the general scrambled to his feet.
“McKenna has no right to court the Lord Admiral! He is not of noble birth!” Ferrin charged.
“Of his nobility that may be true, Ferrin, but you are entirely wrong. The Lord Chancellor by position has the right to court the Lord Chancellor, and as a hero of the Alliance, his nobility is not an issue!” Slann pressed the tip of his sword to Ferrin’s neck.
“As Warlord, it is my duty to protect the Alliance, and that includes the Council of Lords. The house Ventrosia and I have shared a long and lasting friendship, and I will be damned if I see one of their daughter succumb to your hedonist desires. The Lord Admiral Winter Ventrosia is spoken for, by the Lord Chancellor of the Migichinan Alliance. If you want her, you are going to have to fight for her, and I shall gladly be the first of the many you would be forced to fight in that endeavor. Will you make that challenge?”
Ferrin reached for his gun, and with a single movement, Slann decapitated him. “What a fine waste of an officer.” Slann motioned for someone to come and clean up the mess General Ferrin left behind in his futile attempt at Winter’s hand.
Slann turned to the Lord Admiral and bowed. Winter returned the bow. “Thank you, Slann. He tried to...”
“I know what he was trying to do.” Slann said as McKenna went to his woman’s side. “I was not about ready to allow you to fall into his hands. It was the least I could do to start the process of atonement.” Slann said as he replaced his sword in his over coat.
“Come; let us pay our final respects to those who have fallen.” Slann said as he made his way once more for the summit, leaving McKenna and Winter to stare at the man in complete astonishment.
Johannes Reese stood with Dakkoth Starkiller and Lord Prime Xiang Ti as three hover-hearses slowed to a stop before them. The police escort broke off to take a position not too far away. The vehicles carrying the fallen rotated on their centers of gravity until the back hatch was facing the men.
They opened the doors in unison, and withdrew the bodies wrapped in linen. Xiang Ti carried the body of B’Trel Awrann, Dakkoth carried Brigit Perrin, and Johannes Reese carried his daughter.
Johannes buckled under the strain, but was helped up by Slann, who had seen the man’s distress and had emerged from the crowd to render assistance. Dakkoth and Slann locked eyes, but Dakkoth smiled, nodding his approval. Slann returned that smile.
Slann lifted the body of Jenna Reese, as her father stood beside the Warlord. Together, the men started towards the summit, hundreds of feet away.
The crowd lined the path. Migichinan citizens and military alike turned out, tossing flower petals onto the ground, and some stepped out to place wreaths around the necks of the fallen heroes. That alone brought a tear to Dakkoth’s eye, remembering how much Brigit loved spring flowers. He looked over at Xiang Ti, who showed no emotion. He had done this before, but Dakkoth knew that deep inside, the Lord Prime must have been feeling the loss of his friend, just as he was feeling the loss of his partner.
From the crowd, Rhaine Quatralis stepped out, holding high a lit torch. Brigit Perrin’s parents and a few of the Perrin clansmen flanked her. They too held torches. Zendista McKenna came out to flank Xiang Ti, also joined by Winter, both holding torches held high.
Marshals who had also turned out for the state funeral brought their torches, and fell into a marching rank behind Slann and Reese. By doing this, they showed their acceptance of the fallen daughter of Johannes as one of their own. The waitress and friend of Jenna’s father, the woman who’d helped raise her, joined the weeping father and kissed him gently. All together, they marched to the top of the hill to the waiting Lord High Priest of the Alliance.
As they marched, the gathered crowd began to sing an ancient and mournful hymn.
Once at the summit, they all stopped to present the bodies of their fallen comrades to the priest. McKenna stepped forward to initiate the ancient Funeral Rite.
“Lord High Priest, embodiment of the Goddess who stands before us, we bring to you our fallen, so that they may finally join their brothers and sister in the Great Hall of heroes, and take their rightful place at the side of the Goddess. To love and to serve her.”
“To love and to serve her.” The crowd affirmed.
“And what have these three done to deserve the fate you have asked for them?” The priest asked.
“They have lived their lives in accordance to the Litany, they have committed themselves to their duties, and they have brought honor to their house, clan, families and friends. Most importantly, they have given their lives in the line of duty so that the Alliance can continue to grow and prosper.” McKenna said.
“And does the Alliance recognize these fallen to be worthy candidates for entrance into the hall of heroes?” The high priest asked the crowd.
“Yes.” They responded.
“Then so be it.” The Priest bent over and picked up a brass bucket filled with water. He dipped his hand in the water and over all three he sprinkled the blessed water.
“As our Goddess has instructed. With this water I purge the fallen of their sins and short comings, and forgive their souls of any misdeeds they may have carried with them to the grave, and deem them worthy of entry into the hall of heroes.”
He set the bucket down and stepped aside. Xiang Ti, Slann, and Dakkoth carried the bodies up the ladders to the top of the wooden platform and laid them to rest. All three were handed a sword from the attendants who stood at the bottom, and laid the swords on top of the bodies. They then proceeded back down.
Those who held torches lined the bottom of the platforms, and as the pipers began to play their solemn song of farewell, they lit the treated wood causing the platforms to erupt into flame. Some tossed their torches into the flames, others held on to them, wanting souvenirs of the occasion. All watched, hanging on to the ancient belief that the smoke from the fire would carry the souls to Migichina.
Dakkoth watched silently as Perrin’s body burned. Though he tried to hold it back, tears streamed down his furry face, realizing that his friend was forever gone. He felt a presence that clenched onto his arm. He looked down to see Rhaine Quatralis holding on to him. He maneuvered her into his arms and buried his face into her neck and cried. Touched by his sorrow, she held him tight and kissed him gently.
Johannes Reese didn’t fare any better. Not only was his daughter gone, the banks were calling in their loans as well. As her life was over, so was his. He wanted so much to jump into the flames to be with her, but the arms of his head waitress and long time friend held him back. McKenna walked over to him and put his hand on Joe’s shoulder.
“Joe.” He said. “I know this is hard, but Jenna would want you to carry on with your life. Don’t remember this, but remember the good times you had with her. Remember her smile. Don’t worry about the banks. I’ll take care of that, and when this is all over, I’d like to discuss a business proposition with you. One that I’m sure you won’t want to refuse.”
Johannes didn’t say anything, just nodded. The waitress smiled to the Lord Chancellor as she led him away. Winter walked up and hugged her man from behind. She watched as Mr. Reese was led off, and she hugged McKenna tighter. She was still shaken by Ferrin’s advance earlier, and his subsequent culling by Slann.
“Can we go home?” She asked.
McKenna turned and took her hand and led her away from the funeral pyres.
Two cloaked figures watched the Chancellor and Admiral walk to their waiting limo.
“We blew our chance to get them.” One hissed to the other. “There are too many people here. Let’s go.”
The other replied. “Not so fast, boss, or you’re going to miss the show.”
“What show... you didn’t? Did you?” The first one asked. The other laughed.
“Of course I did. Showed some leg and the chauffeurs went gaga. It was easier than trying to sneak into a museum.”
“D’Saad, you’re insane!” You could get us both killed, or worse!”
“Come now, Branwyn. I have every confidence in your ability to get us out of here if things go south.” D’Saad replied.
The assassin scanned the area, and then locked eyes with the last person she wanted to see.
The eye of Dakkoth Starkiller burned bright as he processed the images he received. Then he recognized just whom he saw. Pushing Rhaine Quatralis away, he drew his side arm. People saw the gun and instinctively dove for the ground, some screaming. He fired at D’Saad and Branwyn.
McKenna and Winter turned to see what was going on, as did Slann. Dakkoth walked towards his sworn enemies, firing shot after shot in rapid succession, with no emotion showing on his face.
Energy bolts riddled D’Saad’s torso as Branwyn dove for cover. Dakkoth continued to fire, the shots from his weapon literally tearing D’Saad apart. Even as he came to stand over her, he kept firing.
Satisfied she was dead; he switched his attention to Branwyn, who was weaving a spell to sweep her away to a safer place. Starkiller fired again. Branwyn’s spell was cast, but not before an energy bolt caught her in the leg, forcing the woman to the ground. She was gone before he could finish the job.
Dakkoth’s weapon steamed from heat as he stood at ease. McKenna, Slann and Winter rushed to the scene as marines and marshals took control of the crowd, keeping them away from the dead assassin and Dakkoth Starkiller.
“Goddess, Dakkoth!” McKenna muttered, looking at the scene. D’Saad was nothing more than a stained and burnt hulk lying on the grass, which was blackened and smoldering. Rhaine took Dakkoth’s weapons away with out resistance. He said nothing as he stared at what used to be D’Saad. Then looked at the limos in the distance.
“Goth, Brans!” Dakkoth yelled. Two marshals came running over to him. “Get the bomb squads. I want those limos inspected end to end and inside out.” The marshals headed off to carry out his orders.
“My my, Chief Marshal! I never thought you had it in you.” Slann said, slapping him on the shoulder. Dakkoth spun around, knocking Slann’s arm out of the way and hitting him with a hammer strike to the mastoid. Slann went down.
“Don’t touch me!” Dakkoth growled. Rhaine wanted to hold him, but the warrior stalked away.
“It’s over, for now.” McKenna confirmed. He looked down at Slann. “I think it’s time to start cleaning this place up, don’t you?” He asked Winter.
She nodded as McKenna stepped over Slann.