Dark Angel Chapter 21
Council of Cowards
The Council Chambers of Terisiare were amazingly
silent, considering that over fifty men and women sat in
them. The very oddity that not
a one of them spoke was compounded by the fact that the marble walls and
floors didnt betray the slightest shuffling of feet, the tiniest adjustment
of a chair.
In the center of the room stood two explanations
for the lack of noise. Cynewulf
and Meryl had been summoned before the Councilors of Riven to tell the story
of how theyd come to the planet. They stood nervously before the silent council, fifty
sets of eyes staring at them from all over the
The chambers were lavishly designed
obviously built in a period predating the Shi Kari menace with ornate
marble sculptures decorating pillars and banisters at every
turn. The room itself was a
basic cylinder, with the floor where Cyne and Meryl now stood serving as
a base. The low-house Speakers
of the Council sat in chairs on this level, separated from the council floor
only by a thin partition. Higher
up, in what was basically a completely encircling balcony, the higher Adept
house members looked down on the speakers from their comfortable
seats. These Adepts were the
true leaders of Riven they were the only ones who could bring forth
a proposal, and their votes in such matters counted doubly over the
Speakers. To balance this, there
were only eighteen Adepts; though their votes could overwhelm a unanimous
Speaker vote, it would require that at least seventeen of the eighteen
It was the leader of these Adepts, the Mediator
as he was called who first broke the almost anxious silence.
The Council welcomes you to Riven,
travelers. But these are troubling
I pray you understand that we must question you.
Cynewulf nodded, though there was no
need. It did not matter to the
Mediator whether or not they understood the need; the questioning would begin
regardless. He glanced over
at Meryl, noting her nervousness.
Neither of them could be sure how the Hunters would react to their
story, or if theyd even deign to believe it.
First, for the record, state your
and planets of origin. The last was tacked on almost as
an afterthought. The Mediator
was obviously not used to having to ask such questions.
My name is Meryl Sara. Meryl
spoke up first. Originally
of the planet Karonne.
And I am Cynewulf
The Mediator raised an eyebrow, and looked
for a moment as if hed ask Cynewulf to state his full name, but finally
shook his head. Very
well. Give us the approximate
location of Karonne, so that we may look it up in our computer
Cynewulfs memory banks held the easiest
answer to this, so Meryl let him answer.
The planet Karonne is located in the mostly uninhabited Karis
System, in the fifth sector of outer Dominion space.
There was silence for a moment as the Adepts
the only Councilors whose desks actually held computer systems
looked up the information. The
uneasy mumbling that followed did nothing to make Meryl or Cyne feel any
You are aware the location you have
given is very near to the unclaimed Lavoid Sectors, are you not? the
Mediator said, a bit more suspicious of the pair now than he had been a moment
Indeed I am. Cynewulf
said. But Meryl and I
are members of the Seekers, an anti-Lavoid group similar to your
own. Our ancestors are from
This completely destroyed the almost eerie
silence that had engulfed the room before, but the assorted uncontrolled
mutterings were hardly any more
assuring. After but a few moments,
the Mediator called for order, and, surprisingly, he regained it quickly.
The Mediators voice had taken on an almost pained tone.
Though this is not common knowledge to most of the universe, I am
sure youre aware of the fact that Lavoids were created on
Earth. When they took over the
planet as their own, they did kill the vast majority of the
humans. However, a few thousand
did managed to survive, and founded a resistance movement on the
planet. Those are the ancestors
of the current Seekers.
or how, rather, did your
Seekers come to leave Earth?
sighed. There is very
bitter irony this. Forty years
ago, the Seekers left the planet Earth chasing after the lavoid fleet known
as the Shi Kari, who had mobilized for the first time since theyd
they outran us, and we eventually came to found a new base for resistance
on the planet Karonne.
The Mediator shook his head, causing the
black skullcap he wore a symbol of his position to seem to
consider falling off. And
just how can we be assured of your truthfulness?
Meryl took a step forward, her boots clacking
harshly on the marble floor. Merely weigh the evidence,
Councilor. Im sure youve already sent people out to look
at my ship
whats left of it.
The things on it, though eclectic, will ultimately be traceable back
The Mediator sat down heavily in his chair,
and looked up at the ceiling. Let us suppose, then, that you are indeed who you
claim to be. Why did you come
to this planet
how did you even find it to begin with?
is a long story, sir.
Cynewulf sighed, and looked around.
I dont suppose I might request chairs for myself and the
lady? Were a bit tired
as it is
and this could take a while.
The Mediator nodded his approval, and waved
off one of the servants to fetch some for their
guests. Less than a minute later,
when the two were comfortably seated, the Adept stood back up and crossed
Now, lets hear this story of
So, youre basically saying these
Farilii are either incredibly stupid, or incredibly
powerful. Terra leaned
back against one rocky wall of the cell she shared with Darrell, shaking
her head. Her arms were crossed,
and the fingers of her clawed gauntlets clacked harshly against one another
as she tapped them against her arm.
Darrell was standing opposite her, trying
for all he was worth to pry open the strange grate-door of their prison with
one of the Ilinumbar. The strange
knifes magic seemed almost entirely ineffective against the portal,
though, and Darrell was breathing hard already.
Otherwise, theyd have taken away our equipment. He cursed
in pain as the knife slipped from the grate and hit him, hilt first, in the
wrist. He shook his arm furiously
and turned to face Terra. I
mean, they even let me keep the spellbook.
Terra shook her
head. Its damned
funny, you know? I was screwed
up pretty bad when I fell, but that lavoid thing, Mishra Bishop
used some sort of healing spell on me.
And I cant figure out a single reason why.
Darrell cocked an
Terra blanched slightly at that, and let
her eyes drop sharply to the ground. None that Id care to dwell on,
Point taken. Darrell sighed,
and looked over the grate once more.
Lets look at our options,
then. We can sit here and wait
for whatever fate-worse-than-death is inevitably going to come, or you can
watch me kill myself trying to open this door. Narrowing his eyebrows,
the young man cast a tiny point of flame at the door from one
fingertip. It disappeared instantly
as it hit, without even a puff of smoke marking its
passing. I dont
know what this things made out of, but it completely nullifies all
Immediately, as if on cue, the grate flung
itself open, drawing into the wall as if it had never been
there. Darrell, rather than
moving forward, cautiously backed up a few steps, both daggers drawn and
in hand. Terra moved forward
from her vantage point at the wall, fists clenched nervously, to see what
was coming in.
Mishra Bishop and Talon Creed both stood
before them, their amethyst colored eyes glistening darkly against the shadowy
cell. The former of the two
stood almost nervously next to the door, his pale arms crossed in an expression
meant to be intimidating. It
most certainly had that effect on the two
Zionites. Talon, meanwhile, had crossed directly in front of them,
casting a disdainful glance at the Ilinumbar.
I suggest you put your weapons down,
humanhuntershanning. They will
do you little good. The Doppelganger said, his deep voice seeming to
crackle with power.
Darrell scoffed, and held his weapons
tighter. Thanks for the
advice, lavoid beast, but Id just as soon hold onto them.
Talon cocked his head at the
Indeed? What if
I told you it was not a suggestion?
Then Id have to suggest you shut
the hell up. Darrell returned
grimly. This response, though infuriating to Talon, seemed almost
to amuse Mishra, who chuckled darkly in the background.
Darrellshanning. Hold onto your
useless weapon. Who knows that
but it might prove amusing. The thing cast a sidelong glance at Terra
as he continued speaking.
We have been sent here to speak with the two of you.
Oh, good. Terra said caustically,
tapping one foot on the stone ground as she
spoke. I was just mentioning
to Darrell that wed like to have a chat with
someone. Good of you to keep
Mishras dark eyes fell on Terra as
she said that, and the woman immediately fell silent, trying desperately
to avoid the things purple eyes.
Why have you come to Riven,
humanhunters? There must have
been purpose, deep purpose. Did
the humans here find a way to get messages to
you? You could not have had
foreknowledge of this place.
Talons eyes were intense as he spoke, his fists clenched
amazed. They honestly had no
idea of what to make of their human prisoners, couldnt fathom, for
all their dark intelligence, what could have possessed someone to come
here. And they could not find
out, it was certain. Darrell said nothing in response, only smirked at the
enraged. He raised one hand
to strike at the irritating human before him, but a dagger pointed at his
throat met him halfway, halting the action
instantly. Hed been caught
off-guard, had never expected the human to have the gall to attack.
Tell me, Talon Creed - given that I
gather thats youre name why do you suppose youre
here? And why shouldnt
I send you back to the Hell that spawned you?
Mishra was in motion instantly, readying
a spell of some sort to cast Darrell away from Shanning, but the young man
just smiled at him.
Id suggest you stay still,
Bishop. From what Ive
read, clean decapitation such as Im in a good position to grant
will kill your kind instantly.
And I doubt your masters would be happy if that happened, would
The doppelganger cursed, but immediately
halted his movement. He glanced
intensely over at Terra again, with those eyes that seemed to pierce her
soul. The young woman began
sweating profusely, trying to concentrate her attention somewhere else.
Now, how about I ask a few questions,
eh? Darrell said, moving his other dagger in position to pierce
Talons neck if he so much as twitched a muscle, much less tried to
gather energy for a spell.
Why did the Shi Kari come
here? How could they have even
known about this place? From
everything I gather, your Fleet was on Earth until just forty years
Talon would have spat, had he not thought
it would cost him his life.
I will tell you nothing,
human. There is no reason, no
need. You think yourself in
a superior position, but you are
mistaken. There is no escape
from this place
the Hive Mind knows exactly what you are doing, and
shall as long as you are here, among us.
Darrell smirked, moved his daggers a little
bit closer to Talons neck.
Their edge ran up against his pale skin with alarming
ease. Then why arent
they doing anything about it, scum? he shook his head, glancing over
at Mishra. The Doppelganger
hadnt moved a muscle though he seemed to be staring rather intensely
at Terra. Darrell wasnt
sure he liked that. And,
while were at it, tell your friend to close his eyes, if you want to
keep your head on your ugh! Darrell crumpled in place, fell
to the ground like a sack of potatoes. His daggers clattered to the ground next to
Talon rubbed his neck, then bent down to
grab the deadly weapons from the ground.
He cast a glance at Mishra, nodded approvingly, then looked at Terra
Lyles, who stood before them as if in a trance.
Her eyes shone purple, the traces of lavoid
energy within her evident in her clenched fists fists wet with blood
gained from striking that accursed Shanning in the back of the head.
Ive had enough of these
two. It is fortunate that you
had the foresight to give the girl some of your power
earlier. It makes things
smoother. He rubbed his neck again, and turned back to the
door. Let us take them
to the Lower Chambers, for the
conversion. We will glean any
necessary information from their minds then and
there. The energy necessary
for a mind probing will be less than that required to get them to
With that, they proceeded from the room,
Chaos energy shining in their dark eyes and coursing through their cursed
A much more verbal form of chaos had descended
upon the council chambers of Riven, with the telling of Cynewulfs
story. There were cries ringing
out of the obvious insanity of the Seeker, and of fear fear that their
landing would draw the Shi Kari to destroy Terisiare and almost of
madness. It was a kind of bliss
for the Hunters, who had dwelt so long on the edge of hysterical madness,
to let go for just a moment, to let the panic and the fear settle in over
But the Mediator, thankfully and hatefully,
would not let them fall into the pit of
madness. His dark gavel rang
out against his desk, like an alarm waking one from a deep
nightmare. He turned here and there, looking furiously at any who
continued to talk. Soon, all
was silence, and he looked down on Cynewulf
again. Let me get this
straight. He said, slowly and
deliberately. You and
your friends have been wandering the universe in search of a Class B lavoid,
for the express sake of killing it?
Meryl nodded for Cynewulf, who seemed almost
confused at the reaction of the
Councilors. That is correct,
The Mediator sighed and shook his
head. And what in the
universe made you think that you could find aid here, on Riven?
As we said, sir, Terra continued,
we came here originally with Darrell Shanning, who is originally from
this planet. He had the impression
that you had the technology to track the Lavoids by their energy
The old councilor nodded and looked down
at his desk. We do indeed,
though it has not been used since this lavoid plague came upon
us. Shanning, you
say. The Council is familiar with the family
had nearly gotten the Hunter organization exposed to the Dominion government
once. Got imprisoned by the
we had to send a squad of soldiers in after him.
He shook his head. And
then, since it was too dangerous for us to continue to operate there, the
lavoid destroyed the planet.
Insane what people will do, thinking theyre protecting
That is the other reason we came here,
sir. Cynewulf spoke at last, his brow still furrowed, and his mind
still obviously occupied with other
things. We were under the impression that your organization
was in the business of destroying Lavoids.
The Mediator looked down on the cyborg, shook
his head. Once, we were,
lad. Once, our idealistic hopes
were grand enough to encompass the whole of the universe. He closed
his eyes, let darkness embrace his view.
It was comforting.
It was a useless struggle.
There is a darkness to the lavoid race we could never have
fathomed. For every lavoid we
killed, a dozen would spring up to take their
places. And that is not the
whole of it. Upon occasion,
we even ran across identical genetic strains of the beasts as you
know, this should be impossible.
It was through a vast amount of research,
about a year before the Shi Kari descended upon this planet, that we found
out we were fighting, for the most part, the same handful of
What?!?! Cynewulfs one
human eye went wide, while the other flashed in confusion from the sensory
overload the information had had upon
him. What on
are you talking about?!
The old Hunter
sighed. You are, Id
imagine, familiar with the concept of the lavoid queens, correct?
proliferate on the Earth; the curses my parents taught me against some of
their names are still in my heart and in my mind.
We discovered that these Queens, being
capable of warping the time-space continuum, could simply manipulate it after
a lavoid death, and bring the things back to
life. Thus, while we might succeed
in saving a planet, their numbers never decreased in fact, they rose
exponentially. The only organization
that was ever truly capable of destroying them was the LEA.
Meryl shook her head, her eyes
wide. The Lavoid
Exterminatorum Adeptus? You
must be joking. They are a rumor,
We have, in our travels, discovered evidence that they once
existed. The old man lowered his head silently, his eyes still shut
tightly. An organization
made almost entirely of beings permeated with lavoid energy
that hated their parents.
But note, some of the other council members had put their heads
in their hands, almost ashamed of their weakness, lost completely in despair,
that I say they once
longer. Even the legendary
Planeswalkers fell before the lavoids eventually. He
sighed. We decided, just
before the Shi Kari landed, that we would make one final, hopeless
run. Our hope still blinded
us. We wanted to attack Earth
itself, attack the damnable lavoid queens that had made our entire
existence, the existence of an
organization that had been around for centuries, meaningless.
But the Shi Kari interrupted
How? Why? Meryl
asked, her eyes wide.
We still do not know exactly how they
found out, but we believe they came to stop us from making our hopeless,
desperate attack. It was as
though theyd expected an attack on Earth, as if they
knew that we would attempt
one. Perhaps they discovered that we knew of what their queens
had been doing. We shall never
The Mediator opened his eyes, seemed deeply
disappointed to see that the Council chambers still surrounded
him. He looked as though he
wished nothing more than to find himself in his bed chambers, waking from
some unpleasant nightmare.
We do not care to fight the lavoids anymore,
Seekers. We simply want to survive,
simply to live our days away from their scourge for what is left of our
blinked. You would
shut your eyes to what they
represent? But what of your
children? There will come a
day when the entire Multiverse will be purged by these things!
The Mediator shook his
head. Your idealism is
notable, but foolish. We once
held these ideas, boy. No
more. He beat his fist on his desk in time with the two words, then
repeated them softly to himself, as if to make certain he meant
them. We cannot worry
about the perhaps-fate of our
descendants. We do no good trying to change tomorrow
weve determined it to be fate.
Bah! The burly cyborg Seeker
yelled, casting his glance furiously about the
room. Theres no
such thing as fate!!
But by denying the truth before your eyes, by skulking in the shadows
around these Shi Kari, you create your own
prophecy!! And your actions
bring it about!! he brought his robotic fist down on the chair hed
been sitting on with such intensity that the wood
cracked. I have seen your
people!! You have the power
to fight these Shi Kari, perhaps even drive them
away!! But do you launch an
assault against them?
No!!! You simply hide in the shadows, send brave and powerful
warriors like Mathiu Racnarth and Kayla Narube out on
reconnaissance, send them out to tell you how best to hide yourselves
from the beasts!!
You are like little children here,
and I will not have any more of it!! Cynewulf shook with
rage. Perhaps you have
given up your lives, perhaps the Council is afraid of tomorrow, but there
is a new generation living here, he looked around the room, and noted
that no one under forty was involved with the Council, one that is
NOT afraid of what tomorrow brings.
You have grown old, and blind to your dreams, but your children would
love nothing more than to carry them on for
you! Why do you not let
The Mediator rose, held his shoulders up
straight, held his head up high. Do not presume to judge us,
newcomer. You could not possibly
understand. We once felt that way
one of the young ones led
a strike against the Black Tower.
Do you know what happened then,
boy?! This young one did not
die, his followers did not die
they suffered a fate infinitely
worse!! They were made part
of this disgusting, blasphemous race, and we very nearly lost what tiny bit
of our lives we had left!!
Blasphemous? Sir, I can sympathize with you
I understand the
darkness of the lavoid race, I understand your
fear. But if you cloud your
hatred in religious claptrap, then it is no wonder to me that you cannot
The Council was livid at this
accusation. What could
you possibly know, Seeker!?! Your
ancestors come from a planet that turned its back on the One, that turned
its back on the truth of the gods!!
It is no wonder that you have no respect for fate, and no knowledge
of good and evil!! Do you think
that we have not tried to fight back?!?! The Mediator cursed, and let
his fists erupt with flame generated from
ether. He wanted nothing more
than to blast these two fools before them into ruin, but he could
not. You could not possibly
understood what these past twenty years have been like!!
Cynewulf crossed his arms, shook his
head. Very well,
sir. I will grant that I have
not been here. But I have lived
in the shadow of the lavoids all my life
and I know what suffering
is. And I have learned, through that life, that ideals such
as this One of yours lead to death, lead to complacency
lead to this place, he thought, but he did not speak that
me. But I cannot huddle frightened
on this planet forever. I am
going to the Black Tower.
This brought out even more chaos in the
cannot!! I shall not allow
it!!! the Mediator screamed, a wild look in his
eyes. You will be taken
those things, and lead them right back here, back to the
it will be Argive all over again!!!
Meryl shook her
head. You cant just
hold us here. If theres
even the slightest chance that we can destroy that device that powers the
energy star, we must take it. Can
you not see the chance it would give your
people? If you will fight no
longer, then at the least this would give you a chance to escape!!
The Mediator shook his
head. It is not even necessary
to call such action to a vote. We
shall not stand for it. There
is too much risk. Do you think
we are less capable of such thought than the two of
you? We have pondered such
there is no chance of
success. And failure will end everything we have built up
Cynewulf cursed, shook his head
furiously. All you have
built is a rats nest in the bottom of a
toilet. And the disease it brings
is killing all of you. As Meryl
said, you cannot hold us here.
You may find you are mistaken on that
count, Earth-child. Cast what
epithets upon us you will, but our power is certainly capable of keeping
you from endangering us. As the Mediator spoke, he cast one hand out
in front of him, let it glow as he absorbed the ether energies that flowed
through the room.
Cynewulf wanted desperately to cast a defensive
spell any defensive
spell. But there was no chance,
and his mind was cluttered with rage and
confusion. Before he had a chance
to react in any way, a silvery light lanced down from the upper balcony,
encircled him and Meryl both like a serpent, then drew tight around their
arms, around their legs. They
could not move; the hold of the light was stronger than steel.
The Mediator called several Hunter guards
into the room to take them to a holding cell, then closed his eyes again,
his brow furrowing in pain as he fought whatever inner demons tormented
As Cynewulf was carried albeit with
some difficulty out of the room, he almost felt like the blue hands
of the lavoids had taken each and every one of these people by the
throats. And he knew in that
instant, that deep down, every one of these men was already
dead. They clinged to a life they didnt want, and cast
everything that disagreed with them into the pit of their own
And there was Chaos.
Youre insane, Samah.
Your fear has driven you mad.
Orla, Serpent Mage, Book four
of the Death Gate Cycle.