A Fathers Vengeance
The old priest stood upon the dais resplendent in his gold threaded robes. They were trimmed in the darkest of red and hung loosely around his bent and withered frame. Old scars creased the age-lines of his ancient features.
His mouth was dry and his lips were pursed tightly as if they held in a great many secrets. It was plain to see by the way he stood, that only with great effort did he keep his balance. He held inside of himself a great many torments. They were the kind of torments that plagued the soul and wore on the spirit and tested the emotions of only someone who had experienced them, could possibly understand.
His gnarled fingers turned the pages of an ancient book that was worn and stained by the ages of decay and use. To the people of Therra it was a holy book. Within its age worn pages bore the history, the scriptures and the prayers of those who had come before. They were the words of the prophets, the prayers of the lost and the records of great deeds done and the memories of those who wrought them.
The old priest leaned upon the rostrum, head bowed, eyes shut and allowed himself to remember.
For but a moment he stood in the place where he once had so many years ago. He allowed himself to remember the darkness, the smells and the screams of hell. He allowed himself to look into the faces of those who died in the depths of a world that none here… had even dreamed of.
He remembered the crucified bodies and the flesh that lined the endless halls of an industrial planet by the name of Rexis and the forge city of Bandon. He remembered the moment that most tested his faith.
Strange, the old priest thought to himself, that the testing of his faith was not in the battles or the death or the sights that caused many of his brothers to forget themselves and fall to insanity and death.
No, the testing of his faith came later, in the stillness of the night, in the darkest hours before morning and in the daily crush of duty; the knowledge that he had lived when others had died, coupled with the memories that plagued his every moment, whether sleeping or awake, was a weight that had nearly been too hard to bear.
The nightmares that harassed his dreams and the visions that stalked his every thought clutched at the throat of his inner man. The torments conspired to take from him the only things he had left, even after these many years; the trust in the Emperor and the honour in his heart.
The old priest shuddered from the memories. His shoulders heaved and he visibly restrained himself from pouring out his innermost cries of mourning. The morass that still gripped his soul would never relinquish its hold on him. Of this he was sure. It was but a small price to pay for those he now served.
Those gathered before him numbered in their millions but not a sound could be heard from any, such was the expectancy of hearing but a single word from the great one; the Father of the people, by the grace of the Emperor.
The old priest took a deep, long breath as he opened his eyes. He fought the tears that threatened to overtake him. This was not just another day, another service in which to remember or hear a great sermon or oration. This was the day of the remembrance of the history of those who died to heal the people.
The old priest, the Father of the people, as he was called, looked upon the open book and with a voice strained by age and the memories of the past, began to speak.
‘This is the history of the days gone past, the days that have gone by and the days to come. This is the song that has been sung for thirty generations. This is the account of the many reasons that our children now find themselves in the grip of fear and our souls now hunger for the peace that our forefathers once remembered and said that one day shall be again.
These are the viewings of the many paths of temptation that led our brothers astray. These are the remembrances of those who once lived and walked and laughed and sang the songs of victory, honor and destiny. These are the records of their grief, their sorrows and their many fears.
In the days of our forbearers the foundations were laid, the ground was worked and the stage was set for the beginning of the end. If those who had come before us had known what would come to pass they would have fallen into madness and thus sealed the fates of us all.
But praise be to the Emperor for his unfailing love. Praise him for unanswered prayers and bless him for the lack of the knowledge of the things to come. In times of darkness it is often good to be blinded by the shadows… and led by the hand.
Death is not the end, but for all of us it is only the beginning. Our forefathers taught their children the scriptures and the prayers and the history of their predecessors and in turn their children taught their children and so it has been from generation to generation and so it shell be from generation to generation until the end of time. Praise be to the Emperor of mankind for now and forever more. Amen.’
The great congregation responded with one voice and the earth shook by the combined weight of their voices as they shouted ‘Amen, Amen, Amen!’
The old priest could barely contain himself as he began to read from the ancient book, but he braced his inner man and began to fight the last battle that he would ever fight. It was not a battle of flesh and blood but of memories and terrors recalled.
‘This is the history of our people,’ he said. ‘This is how the lives we now live came to be. This is the reason we give for the wars we fight, for the hope we have and for the future we shall have. Hearken to the testimony of those who have gone on before. Learn from their transgressions. Glory in their victories and morn for them as we remember the price for the freedom we now dwell in.’
As the old priest began to read, his memories became clearer and much more focused. Those gathered saw an old priest; the Father of their world, but to him, in the memories of his mind, events sprang to life again and for all intense and purposes he began to relive the events that he had long ago lived through once again.
He spoke from not only the great book of history but from the memories that he himself had felt with his hand, heard with his ears, tasted with his tongue, smelled with his sinuses and absorbed in his spirit.
‘The war of the Tarsus planetary system and the Equan planetary system started when the Prince of Tarsus, Am’Asheid, raped the Princess Daughter of Equa, Leona’Emon, three days before their arraigned marriage.
Princes Daughter, Leona’Emon wept bitter tears as she told of the stripping of her virginity to her father. His cries of grief and outrage could be heard escaping from the open window of the King’s tower for three days as he pondered what to do.
His will for vengeance was great, but the peace of two star systems and nineteen inhabitable worlds, along with their satellites was paramount.
Open war against the primary world of the Tarsus systems would destroy everything that the leadership of Equa and Tarsus had fought so long to gain.
Billions would parish in the first few days and after that who could tell to what end. Gargoloman’Emon, King of the Equan worlds and all of its territories by the grace of the Emperor, traveled thirteen months and personally faced the ruler of the Tarsus systems, Rogash’Am’Asheid.
Accusations and veiled threats were leveled at each other, the ruler of Tarsus was taken aback at the accusation toward his only son, and the King of Equa was still reeling with rage because of the rape of his only daughter.
In the end a tribunal was discreetly raised in an effort to protect the fragile peace the two planetary systems still maintained.
The judges proclaimed Am’Asheid innocent… because the leaders of Tarsus paid the judges to hide the obvious truth of what had happened and not destroy the reputation of the Tarsus nobility.
The King of Equa hid his outrage and left Tarsus in a guise of renewed peace and hope for the future. He left on the best of terms as could be presented and no more word of the trial or accusations had been spoken of. A great feast was held in the King’s honor before he could leave and gifts had been exchanged.
There was dancing and marriages and great promises of future pleasures and trade. New shipping routes would be established and goals set. They would share their vastly different methods of gaining technology. They would develop new cures for the many plagues and diseases and types of cancers that affected the outlying industrial worlds.
Because of the union of the two kingdoms hundreds of billions of families would take part in reaping the benefits of wealth and creativity. Vast amounts of revenue would be gained.
Inwardly the king Knew that. He knew all would be well. The cost of his daughter’s honour and virginity, even his own pride would not stand in the way. Surly the prosperity and welfare of hundreds of billions was worth such a cost. He was sickened by that price, but he would make her understand.
As a father he grieved and longed for justice, but as a King and ruler he knew there was nothing he could do without breaking the piece. He hoped his lovely daughter would understand, but deep down in his spirit he knew she would not.
Inwardly he wept while outwardly he rejoiced for the peace that would be gained. The night ended and he was escorted by the ruler of Tarsus and his son, Prince Am’Asheid. It was all King Gargoloman’Emon could do not to pull his sword and drive it through the heart of his daughter’s assailant.
With goodwill and symbolic kisses upon the left and right cheeks the pact had been secured. At the cost of his only daughter’s humanity billions would be blessed.
Heartbroken and ashamed, he entered into his gleaming golden personal transport and left the atmosphere where he yoked with his star-cruiser and returned home.
The peace lasted for thirteen months, two days and thirty-six minutes…long enough for the King of Equa to return home, set his feet upon the rich soil and hear the news of his only daughter.
King Gargoloman’Emon of Equa, ruler of all the territories of the six planetary systems by the grace of the Emperor, stepped from the guide-ramp of his golden personal transport, took three steps and stopped. He could sense there was something wrong. There were no trumpets, no songs and no swarming happy crowds to greet his successful return.
The clouds were thick overhead and poured a baleful torrent that covered the ground in swirling currents that drained away into the cobblestone gutters that ran the length of the golden streets.
Lightning flashed brightly; its arc reflecting from the gold walls and diamond plated glass of the illustriously furnished buildings of his kingdom. All was as it should be in storm season, but he could feel a change in the very air, in the currents of energy that permeated the atmosphere.
Those who greeted him did so in the fashion of mourners. They were dressed in suede-black cloths that covered them from head to toe and they wept behind their veils.
No word had been sent to him upon his return. There had not been any messages from the trained psykers or the communications deck. The last thing he expected upon his return was mourners. ‘What has happened?’ he said, his voice quiet and contrite despite his powerful presence.
A mourner stepped forward and bowed before the King. The rain had soaked her garments and hung heavily upon her thin, tall frame. She did not seem to notice. She wept openly before the King. ‘My king, upon hearing the news of the unification and agreed alliance between yourself and the ruler of Tarsus, the Princess Daughter slipped away into her room and remained there for three days.
She refused to be seen. She refused all food and drink. Upon the fourth day her personal maidservant knocked upon her door. There was no answer. Upon the permission of the captain of the guard she entered the room.’
She began to weep even more and had to stop speaking for a time. The King’s heart felt like it would explode within his chest. Tears were falling from his eyes and mingled with the rain. ‘No! It cannot be!” he said.
His disbelief and shock gripped him like a powerful vice from which he could not escape. He screamed the scream of the damned even as he ran from the landing pad. He ran in the rain with no other thought except to hold his daughter once again.
All reason had gone. He wept and wailed without shame. All his crowns and gain were as nothing compared to the loss of his one and only child; his daughter; the sun that rose in the south and fell in the north.
He ran until he could not run any more. His breaths pounded from his mouth and his lungs ached. But he would not stop; grief-stricken, the King pressed forward, wheezing as his chest tightened and threatened to constrict him to death.
At last the King’s Tower came into view.
There had been transports and vehicles to take, but in his grief and shock he had not even thought of taking one. Upon seeing the balcony of his daughter’s room he fell to his knees and wept. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed even as the rain fell… but he did not notice.
The whole of Equa, its domain and its allies mourned for ninety days. There were no songs. No marriages and no calibration of babies born. The lights of the King’s city were not lit; the night in its darkness would be testament of the kings mourning.
When the end of the time of mourning had come to pass, King Gargoloman’Emon called for the assassins from the planet Therra to kill Prince Am’Asheid, which they did on the twelfth day of Isa, (the month of peace on Tarsus), by posing as servants of sustenance and song.
The Prince was at a feast where he danced and sang and ate and rejoiced in all of his father’s glory, knowing that one day all of Rogash’Am’Asheid’s wealth, territories and power would be his.
The assassins sang and danced and made merry along with all the guests. At the appointed time, the assassins served a special dish to the Prince. The dish was gold and the morsel of food that set upon it had been cooked to perfection. It was of the rarest of Tarsus meats and covered in creamy white gravy that was laced with the most glorious of seasonings.
The smell caused all who were near it to become mesmerized with the thought of having just one bite. Their mouths watered and their eyes glazed over as the aroma saturated their senses.
One of those near the Prince stepped forward and tried to grab the morsel of food from the golden plate but one of the guards reached out, grabbed the man’s hand and broke it in his augmented iron grip.
‘This is for the Prince only.’ One of the assassin servants said. ‘Take it and eat, for it is a gift from the most admiring of your lovers.’ said the assassin. The Prince reached out to take the gift, then stopped and looked at the servant. ‘And who would that be?’ he asked.
His expression was light and jovial but his eyes spoke of a cruelty that went into the deepest part of the soul. ‘If it pleases the Prince, I am not permitted to say until you have partaken…under penalty of death.’ He said. The servant assassin bowed low and abased himself before the Prince.
The Prince looked down at the servant for a long moment, then laughed and took the golden plate in his right hand and with his left he took the golden fork. He expertly cut a piece from the rare meat and placed it upon his tongue.
Prince Am’Asheid closed his eyes and stopped chewing. His expression changed into one of astonishment. All those in the banquet hall watched as the Prince took the bite. They watched as his expression changed. They watched as he sat down upon his small jade throne and seemed to lose himself in the moment.
After a long moment he opened his eyes and smiled. His eyes were glazed over from the opiates that had flooded his system. It was like nothing he had ever tasted before. He had to have more! He took another bite and then the last.
Prince Am’Asheid tried to stand up, but the power of the narcotic was too much for him. Instead he just leaned back, smiled and gazed across the hall as if he were seeing it for the first time. ‘Who?’ is all he could say.
The assassin servant that was closest to the Prince smiled as he stood up from abasing himself. ‘This gift is from the mightiest of Kings, save that of the Emperor and his throne.’ He said in a voice that was bold and strange.
The accent was different from all the Prince had heard before. It filled him with dread, but for the life of him he could not do anything else but sit there and smile and drool upon his own chest. All those in the room knew something was wrong but made no attempt to do anything because it seemed the Prince was in such bliss.
‘The great King Gargoloman’Emon has decreed that because of the rape and death of his one and only daughter, the Princess Daughter of Equa, that in seven days you will die. None shall save you and nobody will be able to redeem your blackened soul.’ the assassin said.
He spoke with a smile and a confidence none had seen before in the presence of the Prince. At once the guards pulled their weapons and fired them, killing the assassin instantly.
His chest exploded and blood sprayed those that were nearby. The shots panicked the crowd and caused them to scream and try to seek escape. As they sought their freedom from the banquet hall, some of the guests fell and were trampled underfoot.
The pushing, screaming and panicked guests crushed those who had reached the doors of the banquet room, for the doors could only open inwardly.
In the panic, the guards were distracted and had to move into crowd control. The alarms were raised and more guards came as fast as they could, but they could not get in because of the press of the crowd against the doors.
In the confusion the prince tried to rise but his body would not obey him. He could not stop smiling but he was terrified. One guard had chosen to stay behind and watch over the Prince. His hand gun was raised in a defensive position not knowing what to expect.
The screaming of the crowd, the alarms and the yelling of the guards had become deafening. Bodies and blood were everywhere. Some of those on the floor were dead but others were very much alive, their pain evidenced by their screams and tears as they sought to crawl to the outermost parts of the room. Some were screaming from their terror and others because of their injuries.
In the morass a servant approached the Prince and offered him a drink. The fluid was clear and yet swirled slowly in the crystal cup. The guard looked at the servant in utter disbelief.
When the servant saw that the guard was aiming his gun at him he raised both hands as best as he could without spilling the drink. The guard yelled to be heard over the din, ‘Get back!’
The servant motioned to the Prince and pointed to the cup he held. ‘Its wine; for the Prince. It will help fight the poison.’ The guard motioned for the servant to give him the cup. The servant obeyed the guard then quickly withdrew from the area.
He watched the guard sip the wine. Satisfied, the guard turned and served some to the Prince. The assassin smiled from the shadows and left from a secret door, the cacophony of screams, shouts and alarms dissipating more and more with each step he took.
The guard had been foolish. In his effort to help Prince Am’Asheid he sealed his doom. The wine he gave the Prince was just wine when consumed by itself or with most foods. But when combined with what the Prince had just consumed would become a fate worse than death.
The morsel of food which the Prince ate had been laced with the rarest of opiates, narcotics and something else entirely. If the Prince had had tasters, his life would not have been forfeited. The delicacy he had consumed possessed six small eggs that hatched inside his stomach as soon as the wine saturated them.
It took nine hours for him to notice the symptoms. Prince Am’Asheid had thought the attempt to assassinate him had failed. He had thought he had cheated death. His prideful boasting finally stopped when the cramps started.
On the planet Therra, there was an insect that planted its eggs in the glands of milk producing animals. When the farmers pulled on the udders and drew milk for their families, the eggs would be released and mix with the contents of the buckets. If the milk was not purified, the eggs would hatch inside of those who drank of it.
After three weeks, the person would begin having cramps, bleeding and finally, if not treated, go insane and die in the torments of their worst fears; but when mixed with wine the eggs would hatch within nine hours and begin to feed almost at once.
They would grow in the intestines and eat away at the organs of the body. After a short while they would make their way to the brain, release toxins and consume all they could.
In minutes from the moment they entered the host’s brain, the victim, whether animal or human would be dead. Prince Am’Asheid’s screams of torment echoed through the halls of the royal infirmary. The pain he was in could not be soothed by any kind of pain-killing drugs.
Any attempts at finding the source of the pain would end in worse trauma for the patient. His torment lasted for seven days before the insects finally made it into the brain.
Prince Am’Asheid died even as he bit off his own tongue, visions of darkness clawing into his mind, voices laughing, teeth tearing into his soul and flames striking like serpents at his spirit.
King Gargoloman’Emon followed up the assassination of Prince Am’Asheid on the fifteenth day of Isa.
Great warships from Equa, Caras, Bocee, Rexis, Seartas Primary, Mispiv Omega and Therra erupted from warp space from seven different directions. Almost at once they had begun a sustained bombardment of Tarsus that lasted sixteen days.
Equa allied themselves with these six planetary systems, their moons and satellites. They had always been faithful to the Emperor and the ways of the rightious. They had always been faithful to each other.
Tarsus burned for an entire year. None who had inhabited the world lived.
The allies of Tarsus, thirteen planetary systems whose strength was vast and had the power to crush all who opposed them sought to prevent war, but many of these planetary systems were already in conflict with the forces of Chaos and in some cases were being greatly influenced by the seductiveness of Chaos‘s power.
The rape and death of Princess Leona’Emon along with the assassination of Prince Am’Asheid halted the unification of the six and the thirteen planetary systems, their moons and their satellites.
That unification would have created nineteen planetary systems of power and grace that would have shone to the very throne of the Emperor. Together their combined power would unite against the forces of Chaos and uproot Chaos’s influence from among them; but this was never to happen because of the treachery of Tarsus, and it’s quickness to protect Prince Am’Asheid from the judgment that was due him.
The force and speed of the Equan assault on Tarsus left their allies in shock and on their back leg trying to cope with their would be ally, bringing hell on one of their own. By the time they gathered their forces to war and organized their military might, Equa had already begun siege on Temetrious III.
This is how the war between the Tarsus system and the Equan system began. Tarsus defended their Golden Son, Prince Am’Asheid; resulting in the destruction of an alliance that could have lasted a thousand generations.
Pride goes before a fall and Tarsus had been the proudest of all.
In the second month of the second year from the start of the war, diplomats from what was left of the Tarsus system, along with her allies, were sent to the Kings City on Equa with these demands, Saying, ‘The Equan revenge has been exacted beyond measure for what was said to have been done to the Princess by Prince Am’Asheid. Tarsus burns and now you have started a war with her allies.
Temetrious III has done nothing against you or your allies. We request, no, we demand that you end this aggression immediately! You will pay restitution or we and the allies of the Tarsus system will be forced to stop the Equan Empire and her allies at all costs.’
King Gargoloman’Emon of the Empire of Equa stood and descended the twenty gold and marble stairs with his scepter in hand. The throne above was set in diamonds and gold and the scepter of his power matched to show he was never separate from his throne or his authority.
The man he had once been had been stripped away and what was left was the very persona of emotional torment. It was a torment that burned in his very being like a fire that could not be quenched. It was a torment that demanded vengeance! It was a passion that could not be restrained.
As he descended the stairs, his eyes told the story that no amount of words could say in a million years. They told the story of a thousand deaths, a thousand murders, a thousand stabs into the very soul. They told the story of a single rape, and a single suicide.
His soul had been torn asunder and his world crushed. He was wrath and vengeance incarnate. The anguish in his voice was that of a million souls that had wept a million tears. His grief could not be held in.
He cursed the ambassadors in the Emperor’s name! His body heaved like a ship tossed upon an angry sea. He spat upon them, into their faces! The ambassadors flinched and looked at each other in terror, their boldness abated. Fear seized them, but they could not run, they could not hide.
They had come with pride and arrogance. Pride and boldness, the boldness of knowing they were of a stronger, more developed kingdom. At this moment, the pride they had come with had been replaced with the knowledge that this day they would die. They begged for mercy, they begged for peace.
Tears ran down the cheeks of King Gargoloman’Emon, saliva ran down his long gray beard. He turned away from the ambassadors as he tried to regain his composure.
He grew quiet for a time before he started to speak. When the King finally spoke, it was in a quiet, whisper of a voice. ‘You bring demands and threats. When you see that I am angry, then you beg for mercy and peace. You beg mercy? Peace? There is no peace.’ he said thoughtfully. ‘There is no peace!’ he screamed in a mournful, pain-filled burst.
Saliva shot from his mouth creating a momentary mist in the sun drenched air. He turned quickly and stalked toward the ambassadors. His eyes were cold and black like the deepest grave. ‘The Princess Daughter of Equa is dead! Did you not know? My daughter. My only daughter!’ He screamed. ‘My only child is dead! She is dead!
Tarsus has paid! Temetrious III is paying and in but a moment you will also pay. The souls of Tarsus and her allies will burn in the eternal fires and the wastes of the eye of terror.
My daughter is dead and now you will pay! When she lives again, then there shall be peace!’ With a motion of the King’s scepter, the guards surrounded the diplomats of the Tarsus system and her allies, and slaughtered them.
As the last one died, the sensor in his chest signaled the bomb attached to his spine and half of the King’s City disappeared in a flash.
Thus, war came to Equa and all nineteen planetary systems became emerged in a chain that could not be broken for thirty generations, both sides suffered losses in the hundreds of billions. Whole planets were lost…the Galaxy burned.
A good reputation take a long time to build, but only a moment to destroy. Wow, that's deep!
Check out the H.O.E.S. short story competition.
Other stories from Adrian.
Look up Adrian in the "Compendium" to find them. Thanks
Last edited by Adrian; 06-18-11 at 01:32 AM.