This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.
The gentle sun warmed the courtyard as small, winged animals flew from flower to flower, gathering sweet nectar and pollinating the future of their food source. A light breeze wafted with thick floral scents, creating an intoxicating dream world of sights and smells. Even the few ornately trimmed decorative trees swayed to the unseen music of nature, the walls of the sacred temple binding the energy within, charging life with its invisible threads of magic. A cascade of water from the surrounding mountains offered its own tune to this dance, and the sweet smell of moisture permeated the sacred walls of the temple, completing the idyllic picture of paradise.
Raksh grew nauseated from the riot of nature surrounding him. As an Onyalum, everything he saw screamed against his very existence. Peace, harmony, beauty, these were not things he appreciated, his desires were more deadly. But his mission was clear, woo the natives with promises of security, riches and knowledge, secure the planet as one more outpost against the damnable lizards. If the Issgire won this world, it would severely cripple the Leran efforts in this sector. He must succeed by peaceful means if possible, by force if necessary.
The locals called their world Minerza, which in their language meant Garden. Raksh sneezed from the effluence of pollen, the sickly sweet smell troubling his mind. The people of Minerza were a religious lot. Every man, woman, and child worshipped the same ideological nonsense centering on the connections between them, the planet, and all things in the Universe. Mumbo-jumbo. Raksh thought.
His only connection to this Universe was whatever body he currently possessed. In this case, it was a Nand called Hosha that had fallen in battle. As General of a scouting unit, Hosha had been a promotion for Raksh, and he was fitting into his role superbly, though peaceful negotiations were still challenging. Nonetheless, his belief the Leran would ultimately win the contest kept him loyal and willing to adjust his natural inclinations.
The leader of this world was a priest and his words were commandment to everyone on the planet. Convert him and the planet would fall in line. However, negotiations had been elusive. When Raksh spoke with the man, the priest had a way of talking such that it appeared progress was being made, but afterward, it was apparent nothing had actually changed. Raksh’s patience was running thin and he hoped today might finally be the day the leader capitulated.
He had brought only a small garrison of Leran elites, but war wasn’t on the agenda. It was only sufficient to show the technological superiority of the Leran armies without overtly threatening the local population. As protocol dictated, several of his troops were visiting hospitals to help treat the sick and injured with their more modern methods. A promise of a society free from illness was a powerful temptation to a primitive world like Minerza.
He waited in the courtyard with two of his subordinates, and though neither were Onyalum, they, too, appeared uncomfortable basking in the glowing beauty around them. Raksh eyed the warm red walls of the temple and was impressed with the artisanship that showed in ornate reliefs and precision stone cutting that formed the walls. Primitive yes, but impressive for a world without technology. That was their weakness, no weapons or technology to save them from being taken over by the Issgire.
Naturally, Raksh had shown them propaganda holographs of the Issgire and their oppressive rule of all who entered or were acquired by the empire. Though their tactics had changed and a softer approach was being employed to new worlds, the people of Minerza wouldn’t know this. They would only know what Raksh told them, and he hoped it would be enough to persuade them to join the growing alliance of the Leran.
They offered technology, weapons, medical advancements, and increased food production in return for a foothold base being established on their world. If they so desired, their people could join the crusade with the Leran and help repel the hoard of reptiles trying to take over the galaxy. Though all Onyalum knew the final outcome of this conflict, those worlds that fought alongside them were oblivious to what was really behind the wars. Raksh appreciated that deceit and tried desperately to emulate it in all his dealings. After all, he worked for Kiirgatt and his own desires, caring less for followers of the Leran.
The sound of a bell signaled the end of the temple prayers and deliberations, and Raksh sighed with relief that soon his role on this world would be completed. Once the agreement was reached, he would turn it over to the units responsible for upholding the Leran end of the bargain. His own troops would move on to new worlds, spreading the gospel of the Leran as they fought against the Issgire.
The door to the courtyard opened and attendants signaled all three to enter. Raksh went first as protocol dictated, walking past the diminutive attendants, towering over all the people of this world. Once inside, they were led down a long corridor with open windows and detailed murals on the interior walls. The murals depicted exactly what was seen through the windows, a peaceful world of beauty and calm. As they turned down another corridor, he spotted a large mural dominating a far wall. In it, people sat beneath a large dais with arms intertwined chanting, singing or praying to some mystical power. On the dais, a person held their arms upward as a ghostly image appeared to be leaving their body, floating into the heavens above.
It sent a chill up Raksh’s spine from the similarity to the spirit of an Onyalum leaving a body. Clearly they believed in some form of afterlife, a person’s life-force moving on to something greater. He grinned. The only thing you’ll move onto is another hapless being without any memory of your former selves.
Only Onyalum had the power to live endlessly in body after body all memories intact. Everyone else was relegated to a short life before being dispersed like smoke into the giant vacuum of space. Their existence was pitiful, and Raksh had nothing but disdain for them. To him, they were play toys created for his amusement. Something the Creators brought into existence, but he destroyed. And now, they were only pawns in a battle they didn’t understand and couldn’t win. Pathetic.
The large doors to the inner sanctum of the temple opened slowly, and Raksh walked through tall and proud. Though the Nand were elegant, he commanded attention whenever he entered a room. He knew his power was felt by all who met him, and he nurtured that presence as part of his role as leader and benevolent bringer of hope. He moved to the center of the floor and eyed the hundreds of people sitting around him in tiered seating ten high.
At the back of the room, twelve seats towered over the proceedings where the leadership of this world sat solemnly. The lead priest, Vilru, rose quietly as Raksh and his men stopped in the center of the room beneath the vaulted dome where shafts of light created a heavenly glow. Behind the leaders, another mural depicted a similar image of a spirit leaving a body, but Raksh didn’t let it bother him. He had experienced so many religions through countless lives, all blending into similar ideologies in a vane attempt to describe the Universe they didn’t understand.
Vilru spoke quietly, but the acoustics in the room amplified his words to all who stood in the center. “We have consulted the Zarasic Law and find your offer acceptable. We are a peaceful world and do not wish to upset the balance with your conflict.”
Too, bad. Raksh thought darkly. His men hadn’t seen battle in some time and were growing soft. Still, it sounded like the priest was agreeing to their terms, so his mission would soon be over and he could leave this rock for good.
“We do not strive for technological advancement and do not want your assistance in that matter, but we can have an accord where your armies may use our world to continue your vane efforts at quieting the galactic violence we feel through the Zarasic Law.”
Again, mumbo-jumbo. All Raksh cared about was the base on their world. If they didn’t want technology, no skin off his back.
“Before we complete our agreement,” the Priest continued, “Zarasic Law stipulates we must perform the ritual of transformation as we embark on this new path. It is an ancient tradition and must be adhered to lest our world meet unfortunate future events from our mindlessness.”
What is he spouting? Raksh thought impatiently. Ritual? Did these meaningless creatures never stop their inane efforts to bring nonsense into the universe? “We would be honored to watch your ritual.” He said deferentially, bowing slightly. “Afterwards we can work out the details of our treaty.”
Vilru nodded and sat down signaling to all within the sanctuary. In unison, the people intertwined their arms and closed their eyes. As one voice, they began chanting a melodic verse that Raksh didn’t understand. The eerie similarity to the mural was not lost on him, but he was willing to put up with it if it meant the treaty would be signed.
The chanting rose and fell, and the amplification off the chamber walls was nearly deafening. But Raksh and his men stood quietly as it progressed. Suddenly, Raksh’s communicator came to life. He turned up the volume to hear what his men were saying. “What’s that, Pero?” He asked barely able to hear above the din.
“They are all chanting something, sir.” Pero said in a desperate tone. “All at once they simply sat down and linked arms before beginning to chant. The sound is beginning to hurt our ears! What should we do?”
Even Raksh felt disoriented, and a growing pain formed in his ears from the sound as it reverberated off the stone walls. “Do nothing! We are close to a deal.” He replied, but there was no response or it was lost in the chanting as it rose in volume and cadence.
His men looked beleaguered from the onslaught and held their ears to ward off the deafening sound that only increased in strength with every chorus. Raksh began to see spots before his eyes and he staggered backward as he could no longer maintain his balance. He realized too late what they were doing. Only once before had he seen sound used as a weapon, but it had been very powerful. He cupped his ears and tried to move to the entrance, but his steps were unsteady and he fell to his knees.
Through the rush of sound, he heard his men’s screams as the energy from the chanting damaged their ears and vibrated their cores. At that moment, Raksh felt a burning pain as his Onyalum spirit began ripping from Hosha’s body by the sound that grew to a torrent like needles piercing his body. He screamed in anger and lifted his head high as he fought the separation. A bright white light blinded him as all sound became a single note of agony prying him free of the fleshly bonds.
It was done. Raksh floated silently above Hosha’s lifeless form, the spirits of his men clouds of gray smoke floating to the angelic dome overhead and the infinite beyond. He eyed the mural behind Vilru and realized their religion wasn’t just another in a long line of ideologies to help them sleep at night. They had tapped into a power even Onyalum barely understood let alone mastered. For the first time in his existence, he felt fear.
He was about to transition back to Kiirgatt when he noticed Vilru staring at him. The people had stopped chanting and looked to their leader expectantly. Raksh almost believed the priest could see his ethereal form but he knew that was impossible. Still, they had separated his spirit from flesh, who knew what else they could do.
A voice sounded in Raksh’s mind. It was the priest.
We follow the Zarasic Law and it governs all things in the Universe, even you. Go back to your god and tell him we will not be part of his abominable armies. Though we were created by a god, we have transcended that realm and live in another, higher plane of existence. Send any other forces to our world and they will suffer the same fate as you and your troops.
Tell him we will not bow to his will and will not succumb to his, or any other evil, Demon. Tell him he will be lucky to survive us as we strive to defeat all darkness in this Universe. Zarasic Law has determined you are a plague to all life, and we are the cure. Tell them all that their war is nearly at an end and all will lose. We have found the power, and they will come to restore the balance. Tell them their end is near.
Raksh was about to respond when he felt the rush of a transition. When he came out, he was far from Minerza in some distant part of the Universe he did not recognize. How had the priest done this to him? How did they wield such power? Was the Universe working with them, granting them the power over Onyalum and all spirits, or were they tapping into some potential that, as yet, had not been seen before? He felt fear once more.
The priest’s words were ominous, and he would report them to Kiirgatt as directed. He hoped the god would grant him another body, but after this failure, his days might be over in this conflict. He pictured the bridge of Kiigatt’s ship and made his transition.
As the blinding light rushed him across the Universe, a disturbing thought nagged in his mind. The priest had said they will come. Who are they?