“You should know this isn’t how I deal with every Brutor I come across, not that there’s been many.” Hiva said melodiously as her fingers drew on my chest.
“Mmmhmmmm.” I grunted in return, only half awake. It had been a fantastic night with her, Brutor style. I would like to say it was elegant, refined, delicate, loving, but that just wasn’t the way of my people.
It was savage, fierce, sweaty, intense, aggressive, vocal, at times painful, draining, downright exhausting, swinging from vines jungle sex.
Her fingers glided over my chest hair, lightly touching the gouge marks she had left there; one of several places her nails had dug into me rewardingly.
“You’re the best I’ve ever had.” Hiva said dreamily, snuggling in closer to me. I wrapped my arm around her, wishing she would just shut up and let me sleep. I wasn’t in this for the emotional bonding or intimate sharing; I was in it because she was damn hot.
Breathtakingly gorgeous, from head to toe. Just thinking about her feminine muscularity, her body dripping with sweat as her back arched as she rode me hard, moaning and screaming my name, I found myself getting aroused anew, for the fifth time since last night.
I leaned my head over and kissed her beautiful bald head. Her hand ran down my stomach, ever lower, sending shivers up and down my body, until she stopped firmly on my good morning.
TWO HOURS LATER
When I awoke, Hiva was gone. There was a flashing datasheet on the bedside stand for me.
I’m still going to need some more time with the Blood Obsidian Orb, but I have managed to glean some information from it. My theory is that the orb acts as a protective case for something hidden inside of it. I’d hate to break open a priceless relic of the past, and I’m trying to avoid that situation as much as possible.
I rubbed my eyes, trying to focus before continuing. Even in her writing, I was already she’d just shut up.
Something was written on the orb as well, and I want you to go find what it is. There’s a tablet that goes along with the orb and supposedly tells more about its purpose. The Church of the Obsidian did not have this tablet, as far as I can tell, but I was able to decipher a code on the orb that told of the tablet’s location: the ruins of an old Ammatar church.
It was too early for this. I put down the note and headed for a quick steam shower. After a quick morning workout and some breakfast, I returned to the note, caf in hand.
The church is an ancient place, and a prime spot for archeology. Use that analyzer I gave you for the Church of the Obsidian. I expect there to be a lot of stuff to analyze in those ruins. Bring back whatever you can, but I’m especially looking for the Blood Obsidian Tablet. When you come back, I expect that I can crack this thing wide open… figuratively speaking, of course.
I genuinely smiled. “Crack this thing wide open” resonated within me. I had learned that was a skill Hiva definitely possessed in abundance. I was sure it was a double entendre.
My crew wasn’t entirely pleased to see me, as I had confined them to quarters for the night whilst I was out frolicking about. I didn’t know Tanoo very well, and didn’t want to take any chances. There would be time enough for rest when our task was done.
Once the Onslaught was prepped, we headed towards the coordinates Hiva had provided in the datasheet.
As expected, the Ammatar were waiting for me. I didn’t know if Hiva was working with them or not, and honestly it didn’t matter.
I was in the “post coital must kill something” frame of mind anyway.
Three Armageddons, an Apocalypse, and their support cruisers and frigates were quickly torn to bits by the Onslaught’s hunger for blood.
The single ship that stood out amongst the attacking fleet was the one still shooting at me, an Ammatar Navy Detective. I found it curious that their Navy would send a detective into this foray.
I left him alive for the time being, and began my analysis of the relics. Mark Yaqb had uploaded some training documentation to me after our last adventure together, and since then, I had done some studying and was now confident in my ability to use an analyzer.
The next few hours were one of wonderful, yet troubling, lessons in history, as I slowly found startling documentation about the Starkmanir, painting them in an entirely different light than what we had been taught.
THE EDUCATION OF THE STARKMANIR
A tattered document, presumably of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 12 – The Education of the Starkmanir” read as follows:
“By the end of his tenth year as Holder on Starkman Prime, Arzad had finished the educational infrastructure for the Starkmanir with the establishment of the final slave college on his continent. The focus of these education centers, aimed at young members of the Starkmanir tribes, was in assimilating the slaves into the greater Amarr society. The focus was primarily in basic business matters, science and technology, and all aspects of the Amarr religion. Attendance at this school was not entirely elective, and slaves were given time to study, though they would often have to make up for lost time in the fields. Despite this, many Starkmanir entered into the slave colleges in order to better their station in life, especially with respect to the high, holy Amarr religion.
The Starkmanir also educated their beloved Holder in kind, as well as other members of the Hamri family. The tradeoff in education was often mutual between the tribal leaders and Arzad. When the slave colleges began teaching business matters, the Holder learned ancient Starkmanir woodworking; astronomy education led the to the Starkmanir martial arts; and the teaching of the Amarr religion initiated Arzad’s own edification of the Starkmanir’s tribal spiritualism.”
Hmmm, I wondered to myself. Nilf Abruskur had sent me to Arzad previously by mistake. I wonder if this was actually a slip up related to the mention of Arzad’s name here? Just how much did Nilf Abruskur know that he wasn’t telling?
The next document was more revealing:
A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 1 – St. Arzad” read as follows:
“And so it was that Arzad Hamri, son of Ezzara Hamri, grandson of Yuzier Hamri, ascended to the title of Holder of the most holy grounds on Starkman Prime. Though only a young man, Arzad held the wisdom of the ages, granted to him by the celestial Maker, and carried with him the burden of creation.
His first act as Holder was to grant a day of celebration to all his slaves, calling the day holy by the Amarr religion. The slaves, members of the Starkmanir tribe, referred to that day as the ‘Hand of Solace’ or ‘Khu-arzad.’ Unlike his father before him, Arzad was instantly loved by his slaves, and his benevolence sowed the seeds of righteous love between Holder and slave.”
My stomach churned with pain wrought memories of my own enslaved past. I remember how easy we were to manipulate; how much enjoyment our Amarrian “masters” would take from breaking us, no matter what the method. Khu-arzad my ass. He was no saint, regardless of what these pages said.
A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 6 – The Benevolent” read as follows:
“The fields and hills of Starkman Prime are harsh and demanding, especially for those working indentured servants tied directly to the land by the holy bonds of slavery. Arzad Hamri understood their plight and pitied them. As a boy, he would often work alongside the Starkmanir in the fields, immersing himself with the tribe to better understand their customs and traditions, much to the chagrin of his father and elders.
As a Holder, Arzad offered many forms of restitution and bereavement for the Starkmanir during their often long and difficult days. Regular rest periods were common during his rule, as well as days of parlay and rest, including high holy days and other Amarr religious festivals, deeming these occasions to be too holy. The Starkmanir loved him for these decisions, often working extra hours when necessary because they respected Arzad and wished for him to be pleased with their efforts.”
Just when a part of thought maybe this Arzad was understanding the outright wrongness of slavery, the document had to end with his slaves going “above and beyond”, just to please him.
I could feel my teeth grinding, but I continued reading the recovered documents.
HAND OF ARZAD
A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 20 – Hand of Arzad” read as follows:
“The Hand of Arzad grew to become the most popular festival on Starkman Prime, so beloved was this day of rest granted by Arzad Hamri. On this day, Hamri presided as pastor of religious services, in which most of the Starkmanir attended. His sermons from these festivals were collected and distributed among the tribe, often used by the elders to educate the young people of the importance of benevolence and good grace to people of all stations.
The theme of Arzad’s sermons was almost always of the inherent dignity of the Starkmanir, their precious qualities, and the hope of salvation through servitude. This message did not fall on deaf ears, and many ambitious, young Starkmanir took his words as inspiration for independence and rebellion against the greater Amarr Empire, though Arzad was always able to quell the burgeoning pride and self-esteem of the slaves. ‘Salvation comes through servitude, the grace of your masters, the dignity of your being’, was Arzad’s common response, his refrain found throughout his sermons.”
I snickered. It almost seemed that Arzad, self-proclaimed ‘saviour’ of the Starkmanir, was having trouble keeping his ‘people’ in check. I anxiously read the next document.
THE FIRE IN OUR HEARTS
A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 37 – The Fire in Our Hearts” read as follows:
“Lord Arkon Ardishapur, though a longtime friend of Arzad, oversaw the popular Holder’s execution for treason and blasphemy. Arzad had requisitioned an Amarr symbol of authority, a scepter, as a symbol for lowly slaves. Arzad granted the scepter to his slaves as a symbol for enlightenment and salvation. Ardishapur ordered that all copies of this scepter – dubbed Wildfire scepters for its blood obsidian orb, a rock native to Starkman Prime – be destroyed. The Starkmanir were angry at his execution. Arzad’s book of sermons inspired the troubled tribe.
Three months after his death, Arzad appeared to Drupar Maak while the slave was alone in the fields. The Starkmanir youth was afraid at first, though once he saw the shimmering eyes of his former Holder, he was at peace. Arzad handed a Wildfire scepter to Maak, telling him, ‘The fire in our hearts burns for salvation, redemption, and grace. May the Word of God grant you the courage to save yourself and your people.’ With those words, Arzad disappeared, but the scepter was still with Maak. Years later, he would wield a similar item and avenge the death of his beloved Holder on the day of Khu-arzad. After that day, the scepter would be forever known as Khumaak.”
I didn’t believe in God. And yet my skin had goose flesh. There was something about this account that rang true, despite every protest my brain could muster.
If this story of Maak was true, then the rest would logically have to be true as well. I wasn’t ready to accept that.
We searched the final relic, finding the prize Hiva sought, the Engraved Blood Obsidian Tablet:
ENGRAVED BLOOD OBSIDIAN TABLET
A small tablet, made entirely of blood obsidian, engraved with writing. The words on the tablet are not entirely clear, and the dialect is familiar, though unreadable.
My heart was beating furiously for no good reason; completely unexplainable. I could feel myself sweating within my pod.
I decided to withhold the documents I had discovered from Hiva until I could employ some of my own resources to have their authenticity validated. It was just too much for my mind to handle right then.
I contacted Hiva about the orb. She was pleasantly shocked to hear from me so soon.
I can’t believe what you found among those ruins. This is a historian’s dream come true. Now that we’ve got the Blood Obsidian Orb and the Blood Obsidian Tablet, I think we can finally solve this mystery. We’re very close to uncovering the secrets of the Wildfire Khumaak.
By the way: Did you notice anything strange there? I could have sworn I saw an RSS ship flying about those ruins. Weird.
I had Aura go over the scan logs. I was very focused on the relics analysis, as well as what I had found in those documents. It was quite possible Hiva had been right.
Aura returned a negative result to the query, and I relayed that to Hiva.
She asked if I wanted to get together for dinner later, but I declined. My mind was focused far too much on other things.