“Foxes & Hounds – Part 5”
“We’re almost there”, the voice of Valaran softly echoed in the pale darkness. Athalla carefully followed the monk and mercenary down a narrow staircase which seemed to plunge into the depths of nothingness. Ancient smells lingered in the stale air as did their footsteps. The random crackling of a lit torch lighting the way forward was the only other sound. Leon’s apprehension seemed to increase the further they descended into the dark abyss. He couldn’t discern the reason at first, but as stone gave way to soil and then to rock he was suddenly gripped with fear as the bodies of the long departed begin to appear entombed within the rocky walls of the staircase. The monk was leading them into some sort of ancient catacomb. The air chilled as they continued filling the pilot with a sense of dread. Instinctively, Leon placed his hand at his side to locate a weapon only to discover it was missing. He had lost his phaser sometime earlier and only now realized his vulnerability. Could this monk be trusted? Who was trying to kill them and why? What was Aev keeping from him? Questions he had no answers for clawed at his consciousness as they descended the answers elusive as the light around them.
“This way”, the monk called out. Leon strained to see beyond into the darkness, but it was all consuming the monk’s torch a mere spark in an endless sea of obsidian black. The walls of the staircase soon faded as the party entered some vast underground complex with no beginning and seemingly no end. They walked in silence for several moments as Leon brushed past dusty stone tombs inscribed with intricate carvings and writings. What was this place?
“Here.” Leon stopped as the Monk brushed aside a layer of dust and cobwebs. “These are ancient burial grounds. My Vulcan brothers above would likely be most annoyed if they found us here as this is a sacred place that dates back a thousand years or longer and houses the remains of countless individuals who have dedicated their lives and resources to the pursuit of logic and the teachings that led the Vulcan people out of the chaos and darkness that threatened to consume them so long ago. The world above has changed. Vulcans have changed. The universe continues to evolve, progress, and unfold, but here time is nearly meaningless. This place preserves what was without regard to the present.
Bodies are laid to rest here and yet the katra lives on tied neither to flesh nor bound by the shackles of time. I too buried my past here. I thought that it would remain here forever and yet it seems I cannot escape it. Perhaps my sins are far too great to merely be buried and forgotten.”
Valaran’s voice drifted off for a moment. “However, if the tools of my past can somehow be used to benefit the future then perhaps I can find some small measure of comfort in that knowledge.” Passing the torch to Aev, Valaran pushed open a large stone capstone which enclosed an ancient tomb.
“This tomb was never completed. Even the monastery’s most ancient of records do not tell us who or for what this was constructed for. It was here some eighty years ago I lay down the weapons of war and embraced the path of logic and reason forsaking my past, my family, and my people to atone for what I had done as a soldier of the Star Empire. Even to this day those scars run deep. And every day I seek to atone for the lives I extinguished in service to the state.
Aev, what you require is in there. I cannot bring myself to touch them again.”
The mercenary said nothing and slowly reached into the tomb as Athalla looked on. He withdrew a large metallic case which he sat upon the ground. Valaran took several steps backwards unwilling to be near that which he loathed and perhaps feared.
The dusty case was opened.
Athalla looked on in fearful wonder as a museum of antique weaponry was exposed to the light for the first time in nearly a century.
Aev picked up a Romulan rifle whose flawless, jade green exterior glinted in the flicking torch light. The weapon appeared untouched by the hand of time. “It has been awhile”, the mercenary softly said brandishing the weapon with a reverence Leon did not understand.
“We were kings in those days and these were our scepters. The weapons of today have lost their souls to efficiency and practicality. With this weapon you truly knew you were Romulan.”
Valaran moved toward the mercenary and extended his hand which waivered over the rifle. Leon skipped a breath when the monk’s hand suddenly grasped the weapon. Valaran’s face flickered in the fire with a grotesque expression almost as if the weapon was somehow burning him or causing the man great pain.
“Keirianh. You and I parted ways that day. We both chose our paths. Whatever our destiny holds for each of us I beseech you to not use this weapon in vain. Do not take the lives of the innocent. It already has the blood of too many upon it that did not deserve death. If you intend to use it, it must be for the cause of justice. If it is revenge, hatred, or malice that drives you it will forsake you. It will no longer tolerate evil.”
Keirianh solemnly nodded. “You have my word old friend. The one I seek is responsible for the death of many lives both here on Vulcan and I suspect elsewhere as well. They deserve nothing but the swift and merciless hand of death. They have forsaken the living and embraced death. I will ensure they find that which they seek. The Black Reaper awaits them.”
“Whoa there”, Leon suddenly interrupted. “I have no clue what you two are talking about but you Aev still must live up to your word! We’re doing this my way remember? Hunting these people down was not part of the plan! This is Vulcan! We are on foreign soil. It isn’t our duty nor our right to endanger others in this madness. We can do what we can to find these people, but it is up to Vulcan security to stop them!”
Aev turned toward the pilot his dark eyes flickering in the dim torch light. He approached the pilot and placed a firm hand on the pilot’s shoulder.
“Leon. You are a skilled pilot and a cunning soldier. Your human compassion and friendship in recent weeks has managed to melt the ice around my soul which I believed to be impenetrable. You gave me a reason to live again and for the first time in ages I have felt the warmth of hope within me. For that I am eternally in your debt.”
“Listen Athalla. We both share a bond as soldiers. Human, Romulan, Vulcan – our race has no meaning. We are fighters. I’ve seen the pain in your eyes from some past events which mercilessly tortures your soul. You hide from it behind jokes, alcohol, or women but you cannot escape it. Do not let it consume you Leon. If you give in to hatred and fear you will lose yourself to a fate far worse than those you have killed. Look at me! Do not lose that compassionate spark within you that has shown me friendship. That alone defines you as a soldier from that of a heartless killer. You cannot forget the past, but you can change the future. Use your abilities to atone for your mistakes however great and those in the past will grant you forgiveness.”
Leon stood motionless unable to speak or even breathe. How..how did this Romulan know of his past? Who was he?
“Leon”, the mercenary interrupted. “Remember my words. And forgive me for my actions. Where I must go you cannot follow.”
With a swift, sure move, the mercenary brought the rifle down upon the pilot’s neck. Leon looked up at Aev with eyes filled with confusion and emotion before his body crumpled to the ground.
“Valaran, take care of the human. I entrust his well being to you.”
“I will look after him”, the monk replied. “And what of you?”
“I have a mission to fulfill and a contract to complete. I have much to atone for. My heart and my soul have been frozen for too long chilled by the betrayals of my past. This lowly human who I could kill without so much a thought somehow managed to cut through decades of pain, anger, and despair. He has shown me the error of my ways and the path I must now walk.”
The monk nodded. “Perhaps the Elements have not completely forsaken you Aev. There is always hope. We must learn to open our eyes and search it out even in our darkest hour.”
“Forgive me Leon Athalla. I hope we can meet again someday.”
Aev turned to Valaran. “Goodbye old friend.”
“Take care Aev Keirianh. Seek the light and truth of logic and do not give in to the temptations of dark emotion. May the elements watch over you.”
“And you also. Jolantru, old friend.”
The mercenary turned and moved off disappearing into the darkness of the catacombs.
Valaran knelt down near the body of the human. How ironic it was that their old enemy had been responsible for breaking the shackles that had for so long bound his friend. Perhaps human soldiers had far deeper qualities that he had ever thought possible. Surely Aev felt that they did.
He lifted the male onto his shoulder and headed for the exit. He would require days of meditation to process recent events. He was unsure if there was any logic that could fully explain what he had just witnessed. Perhaps he would be forced to resign himself to the feelings and emotions of his heart however illogical.
He could only pray for the safety of his friend. If the Elements were gracious perhaps he might even be allowed to see him again even if in his heart he knew he had seen the last of Aev Keirianh.
[ To Be Continued… ]
Lt. Leon Athalla
Combat Pilot, USS Charon