The Dark Empire, Page 57-61 by Wolfenshire ()
Cæs. Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Cæsar!
Cin. Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!
Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets.
The Dark Empire, Page 57-61
Jasai stood on the front platform of the train engine and watched the gate. Raen and Boae was guarding the open gate to ensure nobody got too close. Walking through the gate right now would be a cold and lonely death, frozen in void between worlds. This was the furthest distance she had ever opened a gate – it had been open now for three hours waiting as Master Aestar traveled from the Mathor desert world.
She hadn’t realized just how far they had traveled since leaving the ranch, and she hadn’t been aware they were on the very border of the Crystal Universe. Beyond this point was the untamed and brutal Land of the Ancestors - there was no telling what lived out beyond this point. It was perhaps good fortune they had been stopped from going further.
The hatchlings and cubs were line up along the walls, waiting, though with much horseplay as they attempted to amuse themselves as they waited for Aestar to arrive. Even Farmer Seth and his family were waiting the very Being of legend they had only heard myths of in the darkness of night around the hearth. There was a mixed air of festivity, trepidation, curiosity, and a little open hostility from those waiting.
Jasai checked her watch, it was time. “Okay, everyone,” she shouted. “Move against the wall, the ship should be arriving in a few minutes.”
A hush grew over the tunnel as everyone lined up as if waiting for some dignitary to arrive from an important and distant world. Jasai straightened her hair and cloak, but remained on the train’s forward platform. She wanted to be able to quickly run back along the side walkway to the pilot room if some emergency arose.
Raen and Boae moved to the sides of the gate – Raen holding a Needle rifle, and Boae fading into a shadow. Moeth was prone on top of the train with the second Needle rife in a sniper position. They couldn’t be sure if Aestar would arrive alone, or with an army of the rival Sherata. Jasai didn’t think Aestar would do that, but caution won out and they had all the Temple Ravens deployed in positions to defend if necessary.
The ship slipped out of from the event horizon and slowly came to a stop halfway between the gate and the train. Jasai gasped. The ship was beautiful, it looked a little bit like a Darai Splinter Ship, but it was like comparing a child’s cardboard box play space ship sitting next to a real spaceship. Aestar’s ship was the most beautiful and sleek design she had ever seen.
The side of the ship flowed open. Jasai’s jaw dropped open, the ship was made from liquid metal. She could understand why he had given her the train, he didn’t need it. The train was ancient technology compared to a ship made from liquid metal. The Daiami had been experimenting with liquid metal, but they had had only had limited success; Raen’s wings being one of those successes.
Jasai realized he could have gotten here on his own, but it would have taken weeks. But, why hadn’t he built gate technology into his personal ship? She could only guess, but maybe because he had never needed it, being that he had the train for long trips. She guessed he would make it a priority now to build gate technology into his ship. Aestar probably hadn’t meant to allow her so much power over him by taking the train and using it to run away.
Aestar stepped out of the ship and waved at the hatchlings and cubs. He got a mixed reaction from the cubs, some growling and snarling, some lunging forward with teeth bared, and others holding back from fear. Aestar represented the masters that had enslaved the Sherata, and also the masters the Sherata had rebelled against and murdered millions of their own Riders.
Maseth roared at the cubs lunging forward. “Stop this right now,” growled Maseth. “This is not how Father would want us to greet a guest.”
“He’s a Creator, he hates us,” said Casath.
Tarabeth roared. “You will behave,” said Tarabeth, then turning to Master Aestar. “I apologize for this poor behavior.”
“You have your father’s eyes,” said Aestar. “I am pleased to see you.”
Maseth approached Aestar. “I do not ask this to be rude, or accusatory, but I must ask it. Did you have anything to do with the attack of the rival Sherata Clan against us, or the kidnapping of our Father?”
“I neither knew of the attack beforehand, nor of the kidnapping of Batheba, but I cannot break the treaty with the Sherata to recover him,” said Aestar. “I am giving this ship to Moeth, she will bring your father home.”
“Mother Raven will find Father,” shouted Grath.
Jasai looked at Moeth. “He’s Batheba’s cub? I thought only Maseth and Tarabeth was Batheba’s cubs.”
Moeth was absently stroking the head of one of the cubs. “Not too long ago I was accused of not understanding the Sherata. I made an effort to learn more about them. They are all Batheba’s cubs. Maseth and Tarabeth are Batheba’s from the Alpha female, the others from various Beta females. The Beta cubs are raised by the Beta females’ mate, and usually only permitted to call the Beta male, father. Batheba would not normally interfere with the Beta cubs, unless there was great cause.”
“Oh, such as he was trying to get them to safety because when they were attacked, the rival Sherata would go after all of Batheba’s cubs regardless of their ranking,” said Jasai. “I understand.”
Jasai turned back toward Aestar and was surprised when a Tarlock Priest with the rank mark of a Hatchling Priest emerged from the ship. Aestar hadn’t said he was bringing anyone with him, but it made sense. Tarlock Malic was a surgeon, not a hatchling care specialist, he needed help with so many hatchlings here, and especially with Nineveh, the blind infant.
Tarlock Malic went to greet the new Tarlock and the two went off together. Jasai walked with Moeth to the ship. Boae was already there waiting.
“Have you read the technical specifications I sent you?” asked Aestar.
“I have,” said Moeth. “This ship isn’t all that much different from a Splinter ship.”
“I shouldn’t wonder,” said Aestar. “The early Crow explorers stole the design for the Darai Splinter ship from a disabled Dragon Seed Ship.”
“I did not know that,” said Moeth.
“I want my ship back in one piece,” said Aestar.
“Would you like me to wash and wax it also,” replied Moeth.
Aestar frowned but refused to be baited. “Everything I know of where Batheba and Kabath are located is on the computer in my ship, good luck.”
Jasai tipped her head. “What? You’re bringing Kabath back?”
Aestar looked at Jasai. “Kabath is innocent of the betrayal you think him guilty. Batheba would not still be alive if it were not for Kabath.”
Jasai remained silent. Aestar’s tone made it clear she was in trouble, it would be best not to anger him further by arguing. Moeth and Boae walked aboard the ship. The hatch flowed closed, and a moment later the ship entered the gate and disappeared.
Aestar turned to Jasai and frowned. “Should we get the next part over with?”
Jasai nodded and dropped her head.
“Where is Sern and Koael?” asked Aestar.
“I’m here,” said Sern, peeking out from around the train.
Koael was sitting on the forward train platform. “I’m here, you can see me.”
“Rebellious as always,” said Aestar. “Come along then.”
Aestar stepped to the side wall and pressed a panel Jasai hadn’t know was there, and a door slid open. Aestar ushered the three inside and was about to close the door when Roael put his foot in the door and prevented it from closing.
“I don’t think so,” said Roael, a touch of anger in his voice. “I know your intent, you plan on scolding them for being rebellious and running away, but that is not going to happen. I don’t care how old you are, or how powerful you are, or who you thing you are, they are not your children. You are the aggressor, the kidnapper, and are guilty of stealing our children. They ran home, as they should have.”
Aestar had an amused expression on his face. “So, the Shadow Father finally emerges.”
“Keep your Shadow titles to yourself,” said Roael. “You are not their father, and I will not let you influence them further until I know everything, and then I will decide how much contact you will be permitted.”
“I am no longer amused,” warned Aestar.
“If you thought getting Moeth out of the way by giving her your ship would remove all obstacles to your plans, you were mistaken,” said Roael. “I am the eldest here now, and as such I am the Lord Raven in this place. Do you understand?”
Aestar looked at Raen pushing his way into the room. “And do you agree, is he your Lord Raven?” asked Aestar.
Raen tipped his head to Roael. “My Lord Raven, if I may.” Raen faced Aestar. “You were running circles around us for a while, but that would only continue to work if you could separate us from each other.”
Moeth entered the room next and glared at Aestar. “The moment you thought I was gone, you went right back to your plan to get Jasai, Sern, and Koael alone and try to get them back on your side.”
Aestar’s jaw clinched. “I saw you leave, and Jasai wasn’t in the train to operate…Zil! He switched the gate location.”
“I’ve been to the mainland and back,” said Moeth.
Zil stuck his head around the door with a guilty expression. “Body protector,” said Zil.
Aestar looked sadly at Zil. “I believe the humans have a saying for this moment; Et tu, Brute?”
Moeth smiled, the smile of spider that has finally captured an allusive prey. “Interesting that you should reference one of our favorite off-world works of literature. You misunderstand and underestimated us completely. That moment of betrayal by Brutus was so perfect and beautiful in its purity that it has been a true inspiration to all Ravens for thousands of years.”
Zil dropped his head and repeated, “Body protector.”
Aestar nodded. “It wasn’t the Ravens I underestimated,” said Aestar. “It was how deeply a Mathor gives his heart when he finds true love that I underestimated.”
“The Raven Goddess is just as old as you are, yet she made the same mistake and underestimated my love for Moeth,” said Raen. “And for that sin I literally destroyed the Temple to protect Moeth. We’re still willing to listen to you, but we want full discloser, or you can get in your ship and leave, and we’re done with you.”
Aestar turned away from Raen and went to an old dusty chair and sat down. He leaned back and closed his eyes. “I am so very tired,” said Aestar wearily. “I intend Jasai to be my heir. I’m giving her the Crystal Universe.”