Relic Knights: Calamity Comes, Chapter 6
Nozuki's Rage, Dragon Fleet To Slave Barge
Kasaro To, Beloved of Nozuki, Slave Master of Dragon Fleet To, and sole Relic Knight of the Noh Empire, strode through the bowels of his ship. Like the holds of all dragon ships, Nozuki’s Rage was hot and humid, the air stank of death and fear, and rang with cries of both as slaves toiled and were sacrificed to slake the Hydra God, Nozuki’s Endless Hunger.
At his side was the being known as The Herald of the Void, her feet never touching the ground as she was ever held aloft by wings spun of pure energy. Her title spoke of power for one seemingly so frail, but Kasaro knew never to underestimate his adversaries, even when they looked as soft and supple as this one. Besides, the serpent priestesses had spoken; this one was favored by Nozuki and her goals were his own.
The two stopped before the pens of the Kyojin. The berserkers were chemically sedated to keep them under control. Nozuki’s dark whispers had driven them insane, their only desire to sate their God’s Hunger. Even in this state, they were wracked by nightmares and visions of carnage. Their nails tore at their own flesh and they chewed upon their own tongues to taste blood, even if it was their own.
“You are certain they can stop them?” the Herald asked. “My Lord’s plans must not be interrupted.”
Kasaro growled. “Their devotion is to Nozuki and I am his will made manifest. The dog Mamaro,” he spat the name, “may not be able to keep the Kyojin in check, but I am their master and they bend to my will.”
Beneath her expressionless helmet, the Herald smiled. “Mamaro To is still warlord of your fleet, you would do well to remember that.” Kasaro snarled at the rebuke. “Besides,” she continued, “this is not a helpless colony you will be facing. The pirate has gathered two Relic Knights to his cause. One is the paladin, Cross. He brings with him the might of his order. An order which, I remind you, has kept your fleets in check for millennia.”
Kasaro’s face contorted in rage as he drew himself up to his full height, towering over the floating Herald. He shook his head, his immense white mane and massive tusks giving the impression of a demonic lion shaking struggling prey in its jaws. The Herald could see blood red entropy esper physically course through his body. Instinctively she flinched, correcting herself immediately, wondering if she had pushed the great beast too far with her goading. Despite the speed of her recovery, Kasaro’s quick eye took in her moment of hesitation. His brutal maw broke into a cruel grin. “Never doubt me, Amelial,” he cautioned, using her given name, “there are none in the universe who do not fear my name, and those who do not are fools.”
Lucky Chance, Doctrine Lembos-Class Reconnaissance Ship
Kisa sat cross-legged in the center of her small ship, her tail’s slow swishing the only movement she made. The comfortable room doubled as command center and bedchamber. Its walls were layered in rich drapes and tapestries, the floor covered in plush pillows of maroon and gold. The ceiling had been receded, leaving only a thin force dome between her and the black of space. In her lap a black tabby cat reclined, her cypher, Scratch. It watched the Knight meditate with dreamy eyes, sharing in her trance. Mihos, Kisa’s relic, itself a great cat that appeared to be carved from polished obsidian, slept atop a mound of pillows against the wall, small wisps of yellow essence esper escaping its nostrils with each slow breath. Before Kisa was a small crystal array that seemed to grow from a graceful jade and onyx urn. The brightly colored crystals glowed softly, their hues flickering with Kisa’s thoughts as she guided her ship through the quiet of space.
“What did Squall have to say?” Kisa asked without opening her eyes. Behind her, Fiametta smiled, the top of her pointed wizard’s cap swaying as she approached. Fiametta made no pretenses to stealth, but no one could sneak up on the Doctrine Relic Knight.
“She says the Star Nebula Corsairs have located the Source.”
Kisa’s eyes remained closed. “The Source is a myth.”
“Well sure,” Fiametta continued, “but Squall isn’t one to make up such things; especially not to me.” She hesitated. “Don’t you think it’s a little strange she’d contact us and not alert Calico Kate? I mean, she was exiled from the Doctrine years ago. Source or not; it must be something pretty powerful if she’d rather see it in our hands than Kate’s ... powerful or dangerous.” Kisa remained motionless, but Fiametta could see the Relic Knight was deep in thought as the crystal array in front of her shifted colors rapidly.
“There’s more. Squall was in a rush when she sent her communication. It looks like it was intercepted by Alliance Security.” The crystal array turned deep red. “They’ve already dispatched a ship and ordered that we rendezvous with it immediately or leave Alliance space.”
Kisa cursed, her concentration breaking for a moment. The crystal array grew dark, and the force dome above their heads flickered from existence. The cold of space gripped them as the air rushed out and Fiametta felt her feet leave the floor. In an instant, the ship’s safety protocols enacted and the physical ceiling snapped into place with a hard clang. Kisa turned to Fiametta. “Well then, I suppose we’d best prepare the welcome mat.”
Marianna, Star Nebula Corsair Galleon-Class Ship
Alarm klaxons began to sound throughout the corsair ship as Sebastian’s corvette, Divine Triumph, approached. Harker leaned back. To his side were the ever-present Noh, Kenobo, and the noblewoman called Moffet. Joining Malya at the table were Rin and Betty. The group sat in Harker’s stateroom. A regal room, with rich carpets and deep, dark-wood furniture and bookcases filled with tomes that seemed ancient beyond words to Malya. The whole place smelled of aged leather and expensive spirits. “Are you prepared, princess?” he asked.
Malya’s face blanched. “Are you sure it has to be me? I mean, I pretty much ran away to Cerci to avoid this sort of diplomatic stuff.”
“Yes, it must be you, princess. Sebastian Cross is the First Paladin of his order, he would never accept the word of a mere pirate like myself. However, you are a fellow Relic Knight, and despite your attempts to the contrary, remain the heiress of Ulyxis, an Alliance Forum world. Your words will carry great weight with him.”
Malya drew a deep breath, her eyes wide as she expelled it slowly. “Okay... I’m ready.”
Sebastian’s bridge snapped into view, the two-dimensional vid suspended above the table. Sebastian’s stern features filled the screen. “Captain Harker, you and your crew are accused of piracy and kidnapping. We stand ready to deliver The Peers’ justice. Release the princess, unharmed, and I will see that it is considered in the determination of your sentence.”
Harker merely provided the paladin with a thin, humorless smile before silently nodding to Malya. She bit her lower lip and took a deep breath. “Uh, hi... Um, we weren’t exactly kidnapped.” Sebastian scowled and she swallowed hard, his disapproval somehow providing her with a measure of strength. “We came along willingly.” This was a bit like defying her father’s wishes. “In fact, we came along gladly!” She was picking up steam. “Actually, it should be you who’s up for justice for interfering with our little pleasure cruise with the fine Mr. Harker.” Sebastian’s face darkened in anger.
Harker, sensing their opportunity slipping, interjected, “You must forgive the princess. Nonetheless, she speaks truth. Indeed, we are embarked upon a task of some importance; one which I would greatly appreciate your assistance with—I have discovered the location where the Calamity will appear in this galaxy.” Sebastian could not hide the shock from his face. Harker held out his hands in deference. “I would suggest we discuss these matters in person.”
Sebastian studied Harker and Malya intensely. Even across the gulf of space, it felt as though his eyes were peering into their souls, rooting through the darkest corners and discovering their deepest secrets. Malya squirmed uncomfortably, but Harker met the paladin’s gaze with unwavering confidence. Sebastian nodded. “Request granted.”
Thirty minutes later, Harker, Malya and their companions were guided into the paladin corvette’s situation room by Sebastian’s cypher, Rook. The taciturn cypher had been polite, his voice comfortable and reassuring despite his helmeted, knight-like features being entirely inscrutable. Sebastian, unwilling to walk into a potential trap, had refused to travel to Harker’s vessel. The ship’s interior was sleek functionality, no surface or curve wasted. Despite this emphasis of function over form, it had a calm reassuring atmosphere; a surprising warmth that spoke of discipline and strength of resolve.
“Origin Point,” Harker said. A small asteroid lit up on the holographic display and he continued, “Origin Point is an asteroid that has broken free of whatever gravitational field it was once part of, and now it sits on the rim of the galaxy, deep in wildspace, outside of Alliance or Doctrine protection.”
“Origin Point?” Malya laughed, “what sort of name is Origin Point?”
Harker’s brow furrowed. “That is simply what it is. The origin of the Calamity in this galaxy. You would prefer something more exotic?”
“Calamity Junction?” a bright voice offered. It belonged to a young paladin girl, in the armor of a paragon. A miniature lion curled around one of her feet, her cypher, Gallant. The cypher had grown bored by the meeting and fallen asleep, growling softly as it dreamed.
“Enough of this. Paragon Jeanne, this is no time for humor.” Even without his massive relic, the Knight Sebastian Cross was an imposing man. The angry scar running the length of his face lending an ominous weight to his words. “Continue, Captain Harker.”
Harker nodded. “In each galaxy, the Calamity is preceded by two events. The rampant growth of esper crystals, their raw energies spilling out, wild and uncontrolled into realspace. We have already seen them in this galaxy, but now entire planets are being choked by the crystals.” He paused. “The second event is the arrival of a Herald. A being of unknown species who travels throughout the galaxy preparing it for destruction. Wherever the Herald goes, death follows. Previous galaxies did not recognize these Heralds for what they were, or if they did, they did not recognize them in time. But I have identified the Herald of this galaxy. She is a creature known as Amelial and she has, through coercion or guile, rallied the Noh Empire to her side. Specifically, the Knight, Kasaro To.”
A low growl emanated from Kenobo at this information. Malya looked to Rin and Betty at her side. “Sooo... you want us to go fight the entire Noh Empire? Because that kind of sounds like suicide.”
“Nothing quite so bold, princess,” Harker smiled his emotionless smile, “as I said, I have discovered the location where the Herald will begin the Calamity in our galaxy. We simply must beat her there and stop her from triggering the event.”
Betty scoffed. “I doubt it’s as simple as that.”
“Indeed,” Sebastian responded. He scrutinized each person in the room, taking each of their measures. “If what he claims is true, we can expect significant resistance from the Noh and any number of unknown foes once we reach this rock. My capital ship is inbound, but still several days away, leaving us only a few score paladins, a handful of race mechanics, and an unreliable corsair crew as backup until it arrives.”
“You are correct, Lord Paladin,” Harker said, “the task before us is anything but simple. Several hours ago, I dispatched a shuttle to scout the asteroid.” He paused. “They still have not reported in. In all likelihood, the Herald and her forces have arrived before us.”
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