Eltania Elis saw the end of the universe as she knew it. A largely devout woman – she was born just before the Unity Crusade, and grew up in D.A.’s shadow, basking in the myth and power of the Sattva – her Faith kept her listening to DECEM’s anguished, delirious ramblings, even as the same set of beliefs allowed the Revelation of the Endtimes to break her mind.
DECEN = Death and Destruction of Creation, not the Totality, the All Under DECEM. It is the end of all.
An end to be brought about by the Ten Plagues.
And the Plagues, as she knew, as the leaders of the Cora’s Primus Houses knew since they were not blinded by theology to the truth of the universe, were real.
During the Golden Age of Humanity, when the mighty forges and laboratories of Atlantis made wonders, and the intricate dojos and monasteries of Lemuria taught perfection, the Dis acted as the diplomats and emissaries of the High Council of the Taurian Alliance. The Hastatum were their generals and their Vanguards its heroes, the armies of the Alliance armed and trained by Atlantis and Lemuria. But the Dis kept order within the amalgamation of beings that was the Taurian Alliance. The powerful psionic creatures, having long ago removed violence and conquest from their minds, were the cement to the racial and cultural cracks of the Alliance.
For ages untold since the Shining Ones first stood against them and formed the Alliance, the Herodians have been trying to break it, their foremost rival for supremacy in the Milky Way Galaxy. At this point, the Herodians and the Taurians were at a stalemate, as the massed hordes of the former could not defeat the skill and power of the latter’s armies.
The position of the Herodians was further complicated by the fact that they were ravenous consumers. They arrived on a world and stripped it bare of all resources. The Herodian “empire” was nothing more than large “hive fleets” filled with the Herodians themselves and their Thralls, the planets of their domain lifeless, barren, depleted spheres orbiting bloated red giants dotted by collector organisms that siphoned off the last of the dying star’s minerals and energy.
Because of the stalemate, the Herodians were suffering from hunger. It had been a long time since they last Fed, and they were beginning to feel the effects of it.
And truly is desperation the mother of all invention, for it was in this context that the Herodians managed to develop the Arcane Virus. And they first tested it on the favored Forge World of the Alliance.
Earth’s loss was not that felt just then; although the Alliance lost access to the highest grades of weapons and equipment, and their foremost combat instructors, when Atlantis and Lemuria annihilated each other in an orgy of virus-induced hatred, the death of the planet was mitigated by many other factors. The armies of the Alliance fought on, although with the loss of the Terrans the Hastatum had no way of replacing their Vanguards (who were, at this time, almost totally composed of humans), or repairing the living, symbiotic armor that served as their primary weapon against the Herodians.
No: the Devourers of Worlds knew who to hit to weaken the Alliance and make it ripe for the taking.
The Dis knew this. They knew were the next targets.
The Grandmaster Forger, Leon, had somehow managed to escape the Wreck of Terra, along with a few of its Lords. Their home gone, their Race almost extinct, the Terran Remnant looked for a way to strike back at the Herodians.
A portion of the Dis who never really took to the pacifist thinking of their Race approached the Remnant with a proposal: to create living weapons such as that the Herodians have never seen before. Weapons so powerful, that they can overcome even the mighty Devourers.
But what can be made so powerful that even the Herodians would bow before them?
Leon and his wife Shelainon proposed the development of a Weapons System that involved evolving the Vanguard Protocols perfected by the Hastatum to a higher level, equipping them with the most powerful Dire Aspect Nexus Armament Systems Leon could design. And, Shelainon, the premier geneticist of the Atlanteans, would distill the very essence of the Shining Ones and infuse it to these warriors.
The Remnant put all their skills and talents into the crafting of these weapons. Because delicate psionics was needed both to forge their equipment and ensure the perfection of the whole process – called Transcendence – the Dis offered to build a facility for the Remnant on their home planet.
Time was of the essence though, as the Herodians managed to break the stalemate with the use of the Arcane Virus, making inroads into Alliance territory, smashing through both the regular armed forces of the Alliance and their Vanguards. And with every star system they captured, their power grew more.
Eventually, the seeds of evil that go before every Herodian invasion found those who knew of the Transcendence Project, and the Devourers found out that the hated Terrans and Dis were once more working together to thwart the Manifest Destiny of the Great Maw (as the Herodians called themselves). So, in a show of unbridled brutality, the Herodians diverted 60% of their warfleets and pointed it all to the swathe of Alliance space that was the home sector of the Dis.
It is told elsewhere how the Dis put up a long, hard fight and largely alone, as the other warfleets of the Herodians kept relief forces at bay. Eventually, the Dis were pushed back to their homeworld.
By this time, the first working prototypes of Project Transcendence were ready. All they lacked were the final element for each of the ten vessels: the minds and souls of ten of the most powerful Vanguards of the Hastatum. These ten had volunteered to sacrifice their bodies in favor of the ones Leon and Shelainon made, just so they can strike back with great justice at the Herodians.
When the final Herodian assault began, nine of the Vanguards had been “downloaded” – or Transcended – into their respective bodies, where their minds lay dormant until a Dis would “wake” them and guide them properly into their new forms.
It took the Project so long to come out with viable prototypes because the Remnant kept slamming into a “glitch” in the protocols: a downloaded being suffered from the trauma of transfer, and almost always went wild. Shelainon found out that a powerful enough psion – like a Senior Maester of the Dis – could “guide” the transferee and buffer it from the trauma of its new, more powerful body so that it did not go crazy. The Triad, three very powerful Vanguards, were the product of these early Transcendence protocols.
Before the tenth and last Transcendental could be downloaded into its body, Leon had excused himself from his wife and the other Remnant to assist the Dis in defending their planet. Although Shelainon was reluctant to let her husband leave the relative safety of the facility, he was insistent, reasoning that his work was done, anyway, since he completed the DANA systems for the Decade.
It was during the downloading procedure for the final Transcendental that a Herodian battleship bombarded the area of the facility.
Many of the Remnant and Dis and other Alliance personnel of the facility were killed in the vicious assault, including the last Vanguard who was to be downloaded to its host body, the “Queen” of the Ten. Worst of all, the Devourers had managed to land a strikeforce near the facility. And even worse for Shelainon herself, Leon stood alone against the incoming hordes of Herodian Children.
In grief and desperation, Shelainon moved her broken body to the transfer gurney and downloaded her own mind to the Queen. Before she did so, she engaged the activation protocols, and prayed to the One that the wills of the Vanguards and her own would survive their Rebirth.
Leon looked at the plains before him, and all he saw was his very painful death at the hands of the Children.
He’d fought these before, the vile interbred and inbred offspring of the Herodians. When the Devourers, prior to the Arcane Virus, wanted to ensure a world’s fall, they would send their Children. The very sight alone of these drove defenders mad, unless there were enough Vanguards to stave off the horror in their minds.
Inside his personal Titan Armor, Leon sighed. He’d seen the damage the initial bombardment did to the facility, but the signals from their main laboratory remained online, telling him at least that it wasn’t damaged enough to stop the work there. And he knew his wife was alive due to the psychic link they shared. He knew he had to buy her more time to bring the Decade online.
Leon put the pendant with their wedding rings on it to his lips, remembering the times shared with his wife, who he loved more than anything. And the Grandmaster Forger bade his beloved goodbye.
But as Leon charged the massive horde of Children (and how he wished he could use his DANA, but Shelainon was busy with the Decade to act as his Battery), ten forms burst from the facility and smashed onto the Herodian army. And began tearing it to shreds.
As a Vanguard of Commander rank, Leon had fought the Children themselves. Even a Legion of Vanguards with DANA systems would have a tough time dealing even with a battalion of the Herodian’s vile offspring, and the Devourers pulled out all the stops here, sending a whole army of them to wipe out first Project Transcendence, and then the Dis.
Yet those ten beings were, so casually, killing every last one of them.
And tearing the planet apart, it seems.
As was told elsewhere, with their defeat imminent, the Dis enacted a desperate ploy to save both their people and the Alliance. Ever after, Leon wondered that, if they were given more time to properly bring the Ten online, perhaps the Dis would not have to do what they did.
But at the time when the entity the Dis had somehow summoned into being was tearing the Herodian armada apart, Leon faced the Ten, and recognized the Queen for who she was.
Even if the Queen of the Ten could not recognize him.
Grief-stricken at what his wife had become – Leon would only learn the full details after, when he had a chance to return to the facility – the Grandmaster Forger had other immediate concerns. The Ten were using their powers to tear the planet of the Dis apart, and he tried to stop them.
“We are only doing what we were created to do,” the Queen spoke to Leon.
Leon looked back at the thing his wife had become, and choking back his tears, reasoned with the Queen, “This was not what we made the Decade for, my love. They were to be used against the Herodians.”
“And is this soil, that body of water, the very air itself now filled with Herodian taint?” the Queen casually replied. “The Herodians foul everything they touch. Everything. And we were born to cleanse what they corrupted. To the very last atom.”
Lacking the power to do anything, Leon just watched in horror as the Ten proceeded to wreck havoc on the beautiful planet of the Dis. He was thankful, in a sense, that every last Dis onplanet died bringing into being that entity that was eliminating the Herodian fleet.
But before the Ten could do more damage, the entity had finished with the Herodians and turned its attention to what was happening on the planet below. Using every facet of its being, the entity brought the Ten to heel.
Leon, his grief almost overcoming him, could only apologize at the entity for having failed so badly. The being, instead, comforted the Grandmaster Forger and told him all was not lost yet, and that the Ten could be put to use. It would exert control over them.
For eons after, the Ten helped the Alliance recover lost ground from the Herodians. But one day, the entity was brought to battle with the Lords of the Herodians themselves, and it is said that it was like a struggle between gods. Unfortunately, its wounds and the intensity of its struggle with the Herodian Lords forced the entity to lose control of the Ten, and they rampaged across the worlds.
Everywhere the Ten went, so long as there was a smidgen of Herodian taint, destruction followed. If a world had to be destroyed to the last to save it, the Ten would do it, so long as the Herodian taint was expunged.
As they continued their rampage, the people of the Alliance began calling the Ten by a name: the Plagues. For the scope of the death and destruction they wrought.
Leon by this time was wandering the galaxy. The last Terran from the Golden Age, doomed to go from place to place. He found it a fitting penance, especially as news of the Plagues reached him. He was still the Grandmaster Forger, though, and tried to do what he can to help those hurt by them, or to bolster resistance against the resurgent Herodians.
But in his mind, Leon was trying to think of a way to finally deal with the Plagues. Yet he was at a loss. He and Shelainon, and their Dis allies, had made it so that the “failsafe” to the whole weapons system was the human mind of its Vanguard.
With the failsafe a mess in itself, the Plagues used their powers without any regard for propriety or restraint. Even the most powerful of the Vanguards, the Champion himself, wielding the Zele-Kingesriche, the legendary Kingspear, barely stopped the Ten when they set their sights on this planet Leon now was on. Indeed, he was carrying with him the shattered pieces of the Kingspear and could not summon the will to reforge the mighty weapon. Leon had held his friend as the Champion breathed his last, asking if he had succeeded in keeping the people of this planet safe. Leon thought that this was one more soul on his ledger.
It was here that the entity found him and once again approached him with a task: create the antithesis of the Plagues. Where they wrought destruction, these new beings should be able to repair it. Or even bring new life to what was made barren.
Amidst his grief, Leon finally found a new focus. Something to assuage the hurt and guilt he was feeling since that day the Plagues first rose.
The entity provided him with a huge ship from which he could gather the materials to make these new beings. The Triad joined him, with one of them joining herself with the ship itself to act as its living computer and coordinator for the whole effort.
It took long ages for Leon to even begin making the processes. He was a maker of things; Shelainon had always been the one who specialized in living beings, and the process that allowed the Hastatum to turn beings into Vanguards was her invention. But Leon had the complete data from Project Transcendence, and he experimented along the way. The entity, and what remained of the Dis (there were members of the Race offplanet during the Herodian invasion), helped him in any way they can.
Eventually, Leon realized he needed two things: Human DNA, and large amounts of Halostone, the miraculous minerals from which the Shining Ones evolved from. He ordered his ship to prepare for the long return voyage to the planet of the Shining Ones to make his case. Most definitely they would not deny him access to Halostone if it meant ending the rampage of the Plagues once and for all. As for finding human DNA after the Herodians had been so thorough in eradicating his Race, Leon set that concern aside for now.
But as they made preparations for the first of many jumps to the core systems of the Alliance, a Herodian force appeared and ambushed them. With their escort ships destroyed and the Devourers attempting to board his ship with its data on Project Transcendence, and their calculations to the core of the Alliance incomplete, Leon ordered Themis to execute a blind jump.
The ship, badly damaged, crashed onto the desert of an unknown world.
While the survivors of his crew picked themselves up, Leon, after all these eons of wandering, smiled.
For his Vanguard senses detected that, somehow, this planet had Halostone in it.
Lots of Halostone.
Centuries later, Leon found himself facing nine other individuals on a lush, Earthlike planet. The entity had directed him to here, telling the Grandmaster Forger that he was to introduce himself to them as the entity’s emissary.
Leon felt amused looking at what were technically his descendants.
“I am Leonious, the Smith of Heaven, ordered by DECEM to come and assist you in any way I can,” Leon told the leader of the group.
“Thank DECEM for you, Master Smith,” D.A. answered, bowing and taking Leon’s huge hands in both of his small, delicate ones. “We will be in dire need of your skills in the coming years, for we have much to build and, unless my wife is wrong, to rebuild, before the Holy Numbered can achieve our destiny.”
True that, great grandson many times removed, Leon thought. And he couldn’t contain his joy at the things he learned from this planet alone, since he raided its scattered databanks before meeting with D.A. and his cohort.
Project Alpha Adam, eh? And they even found the Enoch.
Now Leon had the final ingredients to make the beings that can challenge the Plagues. Here was human DNA. Not the strain he needed – somehow, Leon had to find a way to bring that one about – but here was the start. Here be humans, and there be plenty more in the systems of the Alpha Adam Project.
The Orchestra would soon bring the Song of Creation and Rebirth to the Universe. And then, Leon hoped, he could finally make amends for all the death and anguish he caused.
Eltania Elis lay on a pool of her own blood, her life seeping out of a thousand cuts she made so she had something to write with, her ink having been used up long ago.
She saw the Ten Plagues of DECEM descend with holy wrath on the worlds of the Three Races (Three, Eltania thought? Are we not DECEM’s only children?). She saw them bring a shining fortress come crashing down from the sky, and worlds engulfed in flame and disease and the deluge, their skies blackened by smoke and pestilent creatures. She saw death and destruction follow in their wake. She saw him who wields the Zele-Kingesriche challenge them and fall, even as a bright angel of Light fought beside him, along with a being of pure, purple-colored steel .
Even DECEM’s Champion cannot defeat them. Who are they, my lord god, that we who are your chosen are but flies and fleas to their power?
Eltania cried. She knew death was near as her feeble fingers wrote that final scene, of the Bearer of the Kingspear falling, the Angel rushing to him to cradle his near lifeless body and try to heal it, while the being of Steel stood over them both, trying to protect them as the Plagues gathered for their final assault.
On that field littered with the bodies of heroes and armies, of broken golden war machines and the air thick with the dispelled essences of Anima, Eltania Elis heard the Queen of the Plagues pronounce the death sentence of the universe.
And then she heard song, coming from afar.
But it was the last thing she was going to hear. And write. I hear music, Eltania wrote.
And then she was dead.