[Word count: 1097]
ASHES TO THE STARS
Siil was not accustomed to leading politically. Such a task was normally left to Vier, whose cleverness in such matters far surpassed his own.
He stared silently ahead of him, his gaze slowly sweeping across the faces of the Praetorians. His lidless, glimmering eyes, pinpoints of ghostly light that pierced the darkness of the inner chamber, slid back and forth as he slowly examined the small army of representatives that stood before him.
Their chestplates were burnished gold, and they bore the sign of the Triarch on their chest. If Siil could scoff, he would have- He doubted even the Praetorians realized the significance of this mark. But then, perhaps they did- They were here, after all. The intensity with which they stared back at him displayed no fear or hesitation.
Good. They were either foolish or brave. Either trait he could use.
He rose from his seat, a black slab of stone carved from the obsidian glass of the Labyrinth. The room, a half circle with rising stone that ascended in rings around the center, was always used by the Triarch to judge traitors- And here they stood now, the Triarch once again thronging its spaces amidst one they would have judged, now being judged themselves.
He stepped slowly forward, the metallic clanging of his heavy footsteps reverberating through the dimly lit hall. Before him were arrayed those who would be counted as the commanders of the Triarch forces.
“What do you see around you? What will you serve?” Siil asked, his metallic voice piercing the total silence like a knife.
The Praetorian paused. “I will serve a mighty nation who holds true to the precepts of our forefathers,” he answered confidently.
“You are a fool then,” Sill replied simply. He posed the same question to the second.
The Praetorian, seeing the failure of his comrade, paused a bit longer. “We will serve the old ways.”
Siil shook his head. “Your ignorance is insulting.” When he posed the question to the third of them, he was almost ready to order them all executed.
But the Praetorian did not even pause before delivering his answer. “We will strengthen a broken and struggling house, and bring to it the dominion it was denied eons ago.”
Siil looked at him. Perhaps there was something of worth here. “And who denied the Necrontyr of their birthright among the stars? Who took the galaxy from the only force to unite our people as a single force, and bring all others to heel before us?”
“And whose responsibility was it to look after the well being of our people?”
“And who failed in that duty and consigned us all to oblivion because of one mad fool’s guilt and love of his own weakness?”
The praetorian nodded. “The Triarch.”
Siil did not realize he had come mere inches from the Praetorian’s face. The anger and despair at the destruction of his people welled up inside him like boiling magma, and the shame of his own failures fell down upon him like an icy rain. “We are reduced to squabbling tribes over one blubbering fool’s self-loathing. And you followed him to the depths of madness and drove a wedge between our people.”
The Praetorian folded his arms across his chest slowly. “If you so seek to sate your thirst for Triarch death, I offer myself as the one to receive this ignominious fate as recompense.”
Siil cocked his head slightly. Was this mockery?
The Praetorian, seeing Siil’s wariness, continued. “We were deceived, as all were. Only after the great uprising did we realize the chaos we had sown among our people. Until Alalakh discovered you, we had abandoned hope that any still remained who held the true ways, who sought to return to a time when we were truly powerful.”
Some of the lower ranking Praetorians throughout the room became obviously nervous. They had simply followed orders, but it was becoming clear that something was amiss.
Siil noticed their fidgeting and hushed whispers. “Do you know whom we serve?” he asked. A correct answer would, of course, flush the dissenters out.
The Praetorian commander nodded. “You serve a C’tan. I know not which, but-“
One of the lower Praetorians leapt to his feet. “You serve one of the abominations!? You are a traitor to our kind!”
The commander wheeled to face him. “You will be silent! We are all traitors in one way or another!”
The lower Praetorian remained standing, but went silent at the order.
Siil crossed his arms, eyeing both of them. He had made sure to disarm the Praetorians, but the others were looking unsure. It was clear the decision had not been unanimous among the lower ranks- But they had been commanded, and obeyed, and ended up here. It was no matter to Siil. They would continue to obey orders.
He turned his gaze back to the commander. “You wish to restore order to the galaxy?” he said as he collected one of the Rods of Covenant from the ground where they had been laid. “What does this weapon represent?” he asked, as he examined the weapon.
“It is a sign of our covenant to the Necrontyr people. It is to be used to crush those who would destroy us from within.”
Siil handed him the weapon. “Then you will join us in this task.”
The commander bowed slightly, unfolded his arms, and claimed the weapon from Siil. He looked one more time at his new Phaeron, then spun around, pointed the weapon at the dissenting Praetorian, and fired.
The Praetorian burst into an orange plume as the bolt connected, molten shrapnel stewn about the spot he once stood. The commander turned his gaze slowly over the others, who stared at him, shocked.
“This is what awaits us. We have passed the point of no return. Should any attempt to rejoin the fleets of the traitor Dynasties, they will destroy you on sight. This is, of course, assuming I do not do so first. We will return to those we have wronged their rightful place in this galaxy, or we will die trying. I will not let our race be doomed. Not like this.”
Siil was impressed. “Disperse,” he ordered them simply. “You. What is your name?” he asked the commander.
“Khametef,” the Praetorian responded, humbly bowing his head.
Siil grew agitated. “Your pre-reformation name.”
The Praetorian paused. “Vora-Hame,” he responded, unsurely.
Siil nodded. “Hame. I have someone for you to meet,” he said, leading him from the room. The Deceiver himself should see this one.