Earth date: November 13. 11103
Location: Prion, Empire of Prion
Perseus Junction, Deep Core
Imperial Palace Approach,
Valley of the Empire
The hologram flickered in the dark of the transporter; Raven did not recognize the man in the call. The man wore a stylish black uniform with military standard medals in full display on his chest; the man was advanced in age and seemed to be in a hurry to speak with Sorath. Sorath gave the man a very affectionate smile when the hologram appeared to them. The droning of the craft’s engine was a constant whine in the background; Sorath made sure he brought the device close to his ears to make sure he heard the man.
“Archon Tristius.” He said happily. Tristius nodded in the hologram, evenly happy to see him.
“It has been a very long time, my son.” Tristius was as compassionate as he could be towards the son he helped grow into the man Sorath had become.
“I hope you have not called to make me abandon my mission?”
“On the contrary, Sorath.” His voice almost in sync with the craft's engines made it extremely difficult to hear his old frail voice. “I’m actually at the Imperial Palace awaiting your arrival. I do understand that you have been detained as a conspirator to the throne… Well, this entire show of might has come to an end, my son; you will not be hindered to walk as you please.” Archon bowed his head. “I await your arrival.” He completed his turn, without warning or chance for Sorath to answer, the hologram ceased.
“Who was that?” Although Raven knew Sorath’s father, that was not the man she remembered.
“Archon Tristius K’unn. He’s been my mentor since I left you here on Prion; I know no father other than him.”
Sorath lowered his head; Tristius was honor-bound to death; he would never betray Thanatos. But, as Tristius was a father to him, Thanatos was a father to Tristius, the man could not be persuaded to turn on his master.
“I love that man, though I don’t think I’ll ever see him again after all this is done. He will never follow Iphis.”
“What will you do?” Although Raven’s words were sincere, she could sense great anguish within him. She placed her hand on his shoulder in support.
“I hope he plays it safe, he is a good man, and I don’t want to see him on the wrong side when this is all over and done with.”
Sorath placed the device back in his pocket; he paused for a moment, thinking deeply. The Order was the only home he’s ever known; as Izzar, he grew up not knowing his parents, and having a personal relationship with them was a forbidden law he adhered to. Though he spent way more time with Iphas than Izzar did, he pretty much knew just as much as Izzar about their mother. He knew the laws were clear, the possibility of Iphis failing to dethrone Thanatos was high, and he would be amongst those who would suffer in the purge that might follow. He knew his grandfather very well; he was not a level-headed man when it came to disorder and disloyalty within the ranks of his empire; everyone knew the price to pay for such actions was death. Though Sorath did not believe he would face the same fate, his would be far worse than anyone else.
“We are at the Palace.” Raven’s voice disrupted his thoughts. He stood up facing the door at the very back of the craft as he felt they were descending. First, he was transported to the palace to be imprisoned; now, he was unsure what kind of welcome he would have at the court. Finally, the ship landed, the engines cooled down, and within minutes the back door opened. Beyond the landing deck stood the Royal Imperial Guard, Raven’s division, with them a group of elders standing around Tristius and the Palace guard Captain in full uniform. Tristius, old and skinny, moved like a well-animated skeleton. Sorath was shocked to see his old friend this old; the holograms clearly did him justice when it came to his appearance.
“Archon Tristius K’unn. I acknowledge you.” Said Sorath as he bowed.
“And I, you.”
The two men embraced one another in an affectionate embrace, not letting go for a good couple of seconds. Then, finally, Tristius stood back; his eyes were red; he had been longing for this meeting for a very long time.
“We have business to discuss.” The old man had a task from Thanatos; he was determined to see it through. His personal feelings never got the better of him, so it was straight to business.
The group of elders approached them with much interest. There were five men and women, advanced in age and dressed in traditional Imperial Advisor robes. Sorath understood that once he met these five advisors and gained their blessing, he would be crowned the next emperor of Prion. Though they were in Thanatos’s employ, Tristius might have gotten to them first, persuading them not to accept him as their new ruler.
The entrance to the palace from the landing docks was equally as impressive as the main entrance from the grand gallery. The halls inside were lined with Prionian gold and built with the solid Uvul stone only found on Prion, though mining the stone had become impossible since there was no access to the surface. The statues of previous emperors were lined up in every hallway in the palace, depicting a rich history of prosperity and control. Only to finally be ended by the assassination of the last emperor of the millennia-old bloodline that ruled the vast Empire.
Sorath has been in the palace once before, many years ago, he had forgotten the majesty of the structure. The atmosphere within the place was somber, they had buried the last Emperor to their millennia-old dynasty, and the throne stood open. The possibility of the Empire collapsing was more evident than ever before; many worlds lost their confidence in Prion to rule. Nevertheless, Sorath firmly believed that the empire would be better off ruled directly by the Order, which has not been something it’s known to do. Many, including Sorath, could not grasp the massive impact the empire's fall would have on the galaxy; frankly, he didn’t care much.
“What is the most important rule of the Order?” Tristius mused. The room around them was dark; they would always meditate and learn more about their galaxy and the order they served. Sorath was old enough to understand the brutal nature of the universe; he had seen countless murders and sabotage to people’s lives for the sake of the Order; it was Tristius’ task to educate him on the more subtle aspects of the organization and the duties that were expected from him.
“Always remain faithful to the order.” Sorath truthfully did not know what the most important rule was; it did not interest him. Tristius knew this; he was trying his best to teach the boy what he needed to know. Iphis had given him explicit instructions that his training should be specific to ruling and not a soldier.
“One needs to be loyal to a cause Sorath, and to be loyal, you need to learn every aspect by yourself. I cannot teach you unless you already possess the necessary knowledge.” Although Tristius has always been compassionate towards Sorath, he could not be hard on the boy. Iphis believed that it kept Sorath from his true potential.
Tristius went on to teach him the importance of his role and how countless lives depended on his training. Eventually, after five years of training, Sorath lost his identity and faded into the gray background of the Order, becoming like the others, becoming someone he never wanted to be.
“I will always protect you, be there for you. You are like a son to me, a son I never had.” Tristius had always looked out for Sorath, never leaving him to his own demise. Thanatos was planning on murdering Sorath, something Sorath did not know to that day, but it was Tristius who went against his own principles and pleaded for the boy’s life. Sorath owed him an outstanding debt for this, a debt he didn’t know he had.
“One day…” added Tristius, “We will be faced with a challenge that will make you resent me, one that will test us both beyond our abilities, and you will be left with a choice.”
“I will never choose anything but you; you are my father, I will never let you down.” Sorath pleaded; he was sure Tristius was testing him.
“I’m afraid it will not matter on that day.” Tristius’ voice was somber; it predicted a day of loss and betrayal. Sorath never understood this until now.
At the end of the hallway, they reached a large room for private meetings with the emperor outside the public's eyes. The palace was still in a state of mourning; no one from the public or press was allowed into the building. Ulri and his handful of advisors were already in the room waiting on them. Ulri and Tristius were also friends; Tristius was the contact he had in the Order as it was Tristius’s territory.
“Welcome to the palace, my old friend.” Ulri held his arms wide above his shoulders, greeting the elderly man; Tristius was evenly happy to see him.
“What brings you here?” Ulri asked. “Not the matter on the heir of the Empire, I hope?” He continued.
“Epsimus Thanatos is a wise man, a just man. He would not presume that the great empire of Prion cannot choose their own emperor loyal as the last.”
“Then tell me, Archon Tristius, why are you here?”
“I have come to free Sorath, a great misunderstanding took place earlier today, and I wish to come and clear any charges laid against him.”
Ulri laughed; close to him on a table was a glass of something substantial, maybe alcohol by the looks of it. He picked the glass up; it seemed to fit snugly and at home in his small grubby hand; he took a sip and put it back down.
“He is walking free, is he not?”
“Indeed he is.” Tristius was curious as to why. He had no doubt in his mind that Ulri would comply with releasing him but doing it even before he saw him was a surprise.
“I need to speak with him.” So continued Tristius, turning to Sorath and leading him back into the hall outside.
“Do you trust me?” Whispered Tristius to Sorath. Without hesitation, Sorath nodded; not knowing what Tristius was going to say next, he instinctively knew it was something that would benefit them both, something to do with Thanatos and Iphis.
“You need to convince Iphis to call off her attack on Dessix. You are the only one she’ll listen to.” Tristius was sincere; his heart weighed heavy.
“I love you as a son; I don’t want to lose you the way I lost my….” His voice trailed off to another time, one far gone and something he wanted to forget.
Sorath did not answer; instead, he thought about what he had just said; he couldn’t stop Iphis even if he tried. His mother had a mind of her own. Though he knew Thanatos was behind this, he couldn’t believe his old mentor would turn against him like this; his choice had been made for him already, he couldn’t back down anymore.
“I can’t.” He said without emotion; the plan was already set in motion. There was no stopping it now. If Thanatos knew about the imminent attack on Dessix and Iphis was persuaded to call off the attack, the purge of all traitors would most certainly happen, and he would not survive it.
“I will protect you….”
Tristius was interrupted; outside the building, the loud noise of engines racing towards the palace alerted everyone; alarms went off at every corner, making everyone run for cover. Raven had left Sorath with the group of older men earlier and attended to her division elsewhere, Sorath knew he would see her again, but at that moment, he was worried that something terrible was about to happen and he won’t be able to see her again.
Shots smashed the windows around them, and within moments, landing pods crashed through the roof, destroying everything around them; shots were fired from the royal guard towards the pods in hopes of destroying them before whoever was in them emerged. As the pods opened and the inhabitants immerged, Sorath and Tristius recognized them immediately. They were Order Assassins. Iphis must have sent them to murder Ulri and the government to force them to accept him as the new ruler; Sorath was confused, Tristius was furious. Both took their weapons concealed in their cloaks and started firing at the assassins, taking cover behind anything they could find.
Shot after shot landed around them; the hail of bullets made it impossible for either of them to peek up and return fire. Millions of shards of debris flew around them; it was nearly impossible to imagine that only a handful of assassins were able to release such an impressive amount of bullets.
Tristius stood holding a medallion of the order above his head in hopes that they would stop, but as soon as he immerged, their fire turned to him. Bullet after bullet hit him, he quickly fell to the ground. Sorath was furious. Taking advantage of the chaos, he stood up and shot one after the other assassin until the remainder of them ran for cover. Sorath wasted no time; he ran over to Tristius to find his lifeless body lying where he once stood.
The entire world around him went dark; it felt like no one around him existed as he looked down on the lifeless body of Tristius. The old man was bound to his duty to his last breath. He believed the order would save him. But, instead, it did not protect him. Sorath wondered if all of this was worth it.
The hail of bullets firing brought him back to the moment; there was only one thing he should do, he thought to himself. Tristius was loyal to the end; he never deviated from his duty; he gracefully executed each and every task given to him by Thanatos over all his years. His example was the only thing he had left of him. So Sorath returned fire; tiers and sweat poured down his face as he killed one assassin after the other. His fury knew no bounds; he had to teach the ones who killed the only real father he knew that he was not to be messed with. He hoped that it was Thanatos and not Iphis behind this attack.
More assassins seemed to appear out of nowhere, the flying bullets seemed to intensify. There was no way he would survive this without backup; he wondered where Raven was and whether they might be engaged in fighting somewhere else. Finally, his gaze fell back to Ulri; he hid behind a large metal room divider at the end of the great hall. The shooting sounds were so loud that Sorath could not hear Ulri when he tried to shout something to him; from where he was, there was also no way for him to reach Ulri either. His personal guard was around him, but many of them had already fallen.
Falling glass and the sound of breaking tiles above the shooting made it unbearably loud, so much so that Sorath hadn’t noticed Raven and her division flooding the hall and returning fire. When he finally saw her, he was relieved; he didn’t know how long he could have still lasted alone. Most of the palace guards in the area had already expired, leaving little to no resistance between the elders, Ulri, and his advisors. The relief Raven and her division brought was of great value.
Raven jumped up from her cover, taking a single hit to her breastplate; the bullet nearly bounced off of her like her armor didn’t even register its existence. Prionian Titanium was one of the strongest forgeable metals found in the galaxy, all of the elite guards of Prion whore this metal as armor. However, the rest of the lower-ranked guards were not as fortunate. The metal was costly to forge due to its molecular structure not being prone to changes in heat. She swung her arm over her shoulder and grabbed a sword from her back; she hadn’t used it in combat for a very long time. The assassins seemed to join her in melee combat, immediately abandoning their weapons; Sorath knew they were far more proficient in the martial arts than firing a gun. They were not trained to fight in wars but rather in close-quartered combat as in assassinations and personal protection for the Order's leaders.
As Raven and the assassin's blades crossed, Sorath quickly realized that her efficiency in sword fighting was equally if not more impressive than his own. Her whole body armor assisted her in blocking multiple blows from every side, helping her concentrate on one weak opponent at a time. Sorath grabbed Tristius’s sword and joined the fight; he hadn’t noticed that he was shot twice in his side. Blood was rushing quickly down his leg, making him feel light-headed as he lost more blood. The fight continued. One after the other, the assassins fell, Raven’s division fired upon the assassins, making it extremely difficult for them to gain the upper hand. In no time, they killed each and every assassin leaving no survivors. For Sorath, it was standard; he knew not a single one of them would have remained alive at the end even if they tried to keep them alive; it was customary for someone to commit suicide once they were caught.
Sorath fell to the floor; he felt the life draining from him, he couldn’t understand why. His body was immune to pain because of years of rough training; he felt nothing; he never even realized it when the two bullets hit him on the side. Then, the adrenaline left his system, causing him to fall. Raven rushed to his side; Ulri was there too.
“You saved us!” Said Ulri shaken up. The elders and his advisors joined them. “Someone, get a medic here right away!” He continued.
Right away, someone in Raven’s division came with a medic bag.
“This is only going to sting a little bit.”
Sorath did not even feel the needle enter his skin. He could feel the life slip within his body; he had no idea death would feel anything like this. Raven held his hand tight; she was crying too. He looked up at her with a smile.
“At least we got to fight together again. I regret leaving you.”
Her tears rolled even more; she couldn’t help it. It was a sign of weakness to cry, but she didn’t care, not at that moment. Instead, she took a deep breath, wiped her tears, and looked him in the eyes. She bowed down towards him and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek but didn’t pull back.
“I need to tell you something; please don’t die on me.” Sorath put his arm around her, using every bit of strength he had.
“I’m listening.” He managed to mumble.
“You have a son.” The words seemed to fade into darkness as he slipped into a deeper sleep. He tried with all his might to hold on, but he couldn’t. Finally, with that last thought, he found some kind of peace, and he let go.