World Tree

Nine years is a lot longer than Gossin anticipated it would have taken for The Might be to named as the replacement for the guards and even when it had come it had only be achieved by the narrowest of margins. If he should call it such a thing at all that is. He isn’t sure he should. It certainly hadn’t felt like one at the time. Instead, when it had come Gossin had felt relief. Yet, an unintentional benefit of The Might replacing guards as the protectors of the Protoss was that he’d been named as the representative through which The Might would report any and all findings. That had been a little over two years ago and in that time Gossin has been sure to gather everything he could reasonably manage on man’s development. To his disappointment they had not moved on as he had stated to that young guard all those years ago. The cleric isn’t sure what happened to him when the guards were dispatched. Some joined the ranks of The Might, if they proved capable enough of course. Few did to be truthful and so many former guards took other positions within Protoss society. Usually as assistants, aides or subordinates to Clerics. Essentially performing the same duties they had previously, except this time without the moniker or uniform of a guard. Some had been embittered by that change.

Gossin didn’t then and doesn’t now care about the sleight some, mainly the elders, felt back been dealt to them. Instead, what the cleric does care about and has concerned himself with is the erection of a massive city right across the border from Yggdrasil which man have dubbed Adame.

 Apparently, the name links back to their now held belief that all human life stemmed from a pair known as Adame and Evelyn. And they preach that it is this pair from whom all of their species are descended. It’s fallacy. Implausible, outrageous and yet that is their unwavering belief. Much like the idea that the world tree, Yggdrasil, is not the creator of all things that walk upon the surface of this once desolate realm. Apparently, man dubs all creation to have been the work of a God, whom they are made in the image of. Plus have taken to calling this realm Midhaven. The cleric could seldom grasp it when he first learned of these delusions, for that is what they are. Man has been ignoring, even twisting and perverting truth all to craft an origin of their liking. It’s offensive and abhorrent.

Still, Gossin presented these findings, this data, to the other clerics. Painfully, he was met with nothing. They refuted the changes in man’s bearing and defined that The Might had unearthed unreliable information. They proclaim this all while man continues to expand and grow their Adame.

If that were the sum of their indiscretions then perhaps Gossin could accept it. However, he has had reports, ever more frequently in the last few weeks, that man are marching upon Protoss territories. Territories which they are claiming as their own via the spilling of innocent first form blood and burning of relentless fires.

As such Gossin had charged all Might to meet humans on Protoss territory with equal savagery and force. Though, they are to keep such clashes out of all reports so such actions do not become known to the upper clerics who are in denial that man has become an aggressor.

Suddenly, there is a hard series of bangs on Gossin’s door. His reply is almost immediate. “Come.”

At one time it would not have been. Rather, he would have considered and pondered, lost in his thoughts. Such days are gone and he now embodies, unintentionally, the generals of old. Never did he imagine that he, as a cleric, would be charged with command over combat troops. Yet, as the last remaining trained Protoss cleric it made perfect sense. The other clerics were never going to take charge of such things themselves and in the previous few years have shown all they wish to do is withdrawn from Protoss life almost entirely. Save for giving out their commands that all in society should adhere to the tenets of the civilization they have formed over the millennia since they were birthed by Yggdrasil.

Gossin sees it as cowardice, as well as a refusal to face fact. That fact being that man is coming for land, for Yggdrasil even. For reasons he cannot be sure. Still, Gossin won’t allow it and yet cannot say that The Might will be enough to prevent the violence that will one day soon come.

The Might captain dressed in all her finery stands at attention before the 3rd Cleric. Her armour shines gold even in the limited candle light, while her eyes burrow deep into a section of wall just above Gossin’s head. Unlike the guards of old The Might are confident and sure. They never show hesitation or pause. They speak and they act, but do so while firmly keeping protocol in mind. Gossin likes them for this. Especially, this captain who is stood before him now, whose name is Berendi. If The Might are strength then no one embodies it more than this armour clad woman who is patiently waiting for Gossin to speak. To dally would be disrespectful to her time and so he soon offers, “Speak your words Captain, I feel time is short.”

Gossin prefers this. There is none of the flowery irrelevance that existed during the time of the guards. All of which was borne from a time before the guards had whittled down themselves into pointlessness. That degradation of themselves left them as little more than a ceremonial group that possessed no power or experience pertinent to the present.

By contrast Captain Berendi has fought, off the records of course. It’s how she got the scars across her face. Those had been in her youth, long before she’d joined The Might; back when she’d been a young girl who had witnessed her land overrun by man.

You see her family had owned a farm near the edge of Protoss territory, which man had wanted for themselves because of its fruitful year round produce. As a result Berendi had been forced to watch as humans slaughtered her entire family. Her parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents all butchered like cattle. However, she had not bowed or accepted defeat and offered herself to death like many others have and would. Rather, she had armed herself and engaged the humans in battle. They had prevailed, unsurprisingly with their number and strength over a young girl, and yet had made the gruesome miscalculation of leaving her alive. Gossin expects they regret such a falter in judgement now. Not that it matters to those who committed such atrocities. Berendi has long since gutted the men who had been responsible for the slaughter of her kin that one summer’s day. Still, the land has rested firmly in man’s grip ever since.

“Man is marching. They are an army, ten thousand strong, ready for blood and war. And a few hours out at that cleric.” Berendi states calmly. If Gossin didn’t know the woman he’d feel uneasy at hearing the way she speaks, and had been when she had first set foot into his presence. That was almost a year and a half ago and since then they have both become intimately knowledgeable of the other. Yet, it is nothing like when his Inara had been alive. This was a different relationship entirely and not just because it was imperative it was kept secret. Though, Gossin still isn’t sure if the secrecy is for his benefit or Berendi’s. Not that it matters.

“They head here, for us?” Gossin asks wanting to be sure. He doubts he needs to be and yet couldn’t stop himself for some reason or another he doesn’t see the point in wasting the time to consider.

“They are cleric.” Berendi says without shifting her gaze from a spot on the wall behind the 3rd Cleric. She knows better than to break from protocol no matter that she shares the warmth of a bed at night with this man who she keeps a secret. Her position, and his, demands it. She is a member of The Might, a captain no less, and as such clerics are not to be twinned with. However, something about him, about his blue skin and how it contrasts with her own yellowish brown made it impossible for her to resist. Were she a differently inclined Protoss woman she may have been able to suppress her whims and wants. But Berendi has never been one to suffer humiliation and regret for taking what she wants. After all, that is how she has lived since the day her family were massacred by the humans.

They are diseased locusts, the lot of them. Consuming and contaminating everything they touch. Though, they will learn soon enough the strength of the first forms, the Protoss.

“I will inform the other clerics. Then join you at the wall. We must stand together if we are to repel the viciousness of man.” Gossin declares without a hint of hesitation. If only he felt as sure of the action as he does the words leaving his mouth. He does not and to pretend that he does would be a pointless lie. After all, the clerics are like hermits. They dwell in their abodes and keep to themselves. It isn’t the way and yet it is entirely self-imposed. Because of that there is a high chance that they will not listen to him, he is from a lesser tier ultimately, and they have become so resolute in their denials. Yet, he feels they must see what man has become. What they intend. Maybe, if he can do that, it will be enough. It will stir the brilliance of the clerics. Boost morale and lead the Protoss to victory.

“Cleric, while I agree on many levels I must admit that your presence on the battlefield is not wise. You would be better suited to command…” Berendi begins only to be cut off by the cleric who queries, “Do you truly think I am so lame as to be unable to partake in battle?”

“No cleric. It is just that…” Berendi begins only to again be interrupted by Gossin who asks, “Is it my age? Is that what concerns you?”

“No cleric, not at all.” Berendi pauses. She is sure Gossin will interrupt her again. At any other time she would chastise him for his actions. This would be later, of course, when they are alone together in the warmth of their bed and out of the potential earshot of eavesdroppers. Except the bed they share is not theirs. It’s his bed, but he calls it theirs. Berendi isn’t sure why.

Yet, it isn’t the one he sleeps in when he is alone. The bed he frequents when alone is the one he and his departed Inara shared. Berendi knows Gossin will never let her go. Much like she cannot let go the loss of her family. Perhaps that is what brought them together, shared loss. They should’ve spoken of such things but alas have not. It feels like a waste. Not one that can be adjusted now though.

With Gossin having not interrupted Captain Berendi and a full minute having passed, she feels confident in continuing and so does exactly that. “It is more to do with your training cleric. The background you possess. After all, you are the only remaining cleric who possesses the knowledge that you do and as such I believe you would be better suited to an overview of the situation.”

“I’m no commander.” Gossin replies annoyed at the suggestion he thinks is being made. It isn’t but he believes Berendi is attempting to say, without actually doing so, that he would be subpar in the heat of battle for he has never fought for his life like she and her Might have.

“You are to us Cleric.” Berendi utters, her eyes having now shifted from the spot on the wall behind him to his orange eyes. The shift of her glance results in a quiet gulp from Gossin who has only ever seen that look in her green eyes when they are alone together. At any other time he’d query as to why she is taking this risk, but he knows why. Yet, he is not about to speak the reason or even consider it. He doesn’t need to. They have both talked about it. And even though they had both been sure this day would come he still doesn’t feel ready now it is upon them.

There is a knock on the clerics office door. Gossin blinks confused as he wasn’t expecting anyone but Berendi. The captain in response sighs and has the briefest of expressions line her face prior to them being swiftly vanquished and her professionalism returned. The cleric wonders is he should query what the reason for her falter is. He can’t bring himself to and so instead orders, “Enter and declare.”

A half second later the simple door to Gossin’s office is pushed open. It’s done so slowly. Or perhaps he only has the perception that it is being done slowly. He can’t quite tell. What he does know is that the sound that leaks through is alarming, and while he has never heard anything like it previously he finds he has a conclusion as to what it is immediately, as a Protoss male limps in clutching one of his arms.

Captain Berendi has turned, alerted by the sounds of battle that she knows she well, her eyes go wide as they settle on the man that has entered. It’s why she utters “Derecisius!” and then rushes to his side to prop him up and then drag him deeper into the largely empty square space of Gossin’s office.

The heel of her boot catches the partially open door and sends it slamming shut while Gossin is left to leap to his feet. He doesn’t have an answer as to why. It just feels right that he should.

“Apologies cleric, ca…but the warriors of man…are already here. They are…assaulting…our home. Our numbers…already thinned. I hurried…as fast as…legs would carry me.” Derecisius struggles to inform during his slump down to the planked wooden floor of the office cabin. Under the floorboards lie ancient boulders of hard granite rock that are uneven as the bark of Yggdrasil but three times as sharp.

“Derecisius man are hours march away…they cannot be here.” Berendi mutters barely loud enough for Gossin to hear. It’s the first time the cleric has ever heard panic, as slight as it is, in her voice and that chills him cold.

“And yet…they are here Captain. Tens of thousands of them. They washed over us…like a wave. We couldn’t hold. The entire outer ring…is lost. They’re…attacking from three sides.” Again Derecisius struggles to offer his reply as he speaks through the pain and exhaustion that are tightening around him.

“What about the other Clerics?” Gossin exclaims without proper thought for the man before him who is dying from his wounds. At any other time the cleric would not allow his shock to subvert his responses like it has now and yet he hopes this member of The Might will understand.

Derecisius’ head begins to move but in what manner neither Gossin nor Berendi can tell, and then to make matters worse it simply lolls, seemingly due of loss of control.

“Lieutenant, talk to me! Hold on. We’ll get you fixed up.” Berendi swears as she begins to rip sections of the wounded Protoss males cloak free to create bandages.

“They…are…gone.” Derecisius suddenly remarks far slower than any Protoss has ever spoken. His answer comes mere fractions of a second prior to a gurgling sound that erupts from the back of his throat. Following the sound he slumps sideways to the floor.

He’s gone. Gossin knows it immediately and it recalls to him the images of how his Inara had faded while she’d been in his arms. That too had been a result of man and yet it had not been intentional. Or at least until this very moment the cleric had never seen it that might have been. Now he isn’t so sure, and because of that he feels a sudden boiling mass spitting violently from deep within his gut. Sadly, this rage is nothing compared to the void where his heart should be. It’s immeasurable and the direct result of learning that the clerics are dead. He is the last, or one of the last. It’s impossible to know for sure that he is all that remains of the upper levels of the hierarchy of first form society. It does seem logical that he would be. As does the feeling that he’s alone at the edge of a precipice.

“We must move Cleric.” Berendi says. She hates that she intends to leave Derecisius behind, without returning him to Yggdrasil and yet her concern has to be Gossin. Unfortunately, he doesn’t react to her words. Rather, he stays rooted to the spot. He isn’t staring. In fact, Berendi isn’t sure what he’s doing. The look in his eyes is not one she has ever seen from the man before and that worries her more than the sudden surprise attack by the humans. It’s why she even considers that he too may be lost. A couple seconds later she determines that such a conclusion is cruel and over sure and so she casts the idea aside disgusted at herself.

“Cleric, we have to get moving. Our people need us. Do you hear me Gossin?”

The 3rd cleric does but can do little more than bring himself to nod barely perceptibly. Berendi doesn’t like it and is inclined to get in his face but just as she reaches such a conclusion the door to the clerics office creaks open. The Captain’s attention is drawn their immediately but still she can scarcely believe the shape of a human in the doorway when she spies it. Still, her belief makes no difference to her instinctive reaction, which is to draw the split blade from its position on her hip. As she does so the man roars some unintelligible nonsense she doesn’t understand and throws themself at her.

In less than a blink of an eye the captain has her split blade up and manages to block, with ease, the savage swing of the hatchet that had been aimed at her neck. Right after Berendi shoves the human back. He isn’t armoured like she is, arrogance! A snarl ripples across her features for a moment in condemnation of the pomposity.

The humans reaction is simple and undeterred, he rushes her with the hatchet held high. He is reckless, feral might even be her description, and as a result she is easily capable to driving her blade forward. The twin tips of her weapon pierce through and sink deep into the human’s chest, dead centre, shattering the rib cage underneath. He stops, the hatchet falls from his mighty fist, all while his eyes stare wide and hard at her. She resists the urge to spit though does shove the impaled human back releasing her grasp on the grip of her split sword once her arm is fully extended.

The human takes several steps backward as if nothing is wrong before his legs buckle and he crumples to his knees. He looks up, utters something she doesn’t understand and then to Berendi’s surprise grabs the hilt of her weapon and shoves it deeper. The Captain half turns away as blood splatters from the wound in the seconds before the human falls onto his side dead. Berendi shakes her head and then convinced the attacker is not partaking in some ruse, turns toward Gossin who is still in his internal trance. It’s like he is completely unaware of the danger that almost befell him.

“We need to…” Berendi begins to say only to hear a creak from the door behind her. It could be a breeze or a fellow first form and yet something tells her to look all the same. As she does she is met with the blunt end of some kind of club shaped weapon. The force of the strike takes her off her feet, rendering her immediately unconscious prior to her limp body crashing to the wooden planks in a heap.

“So we meet at last.” A voice says in a primitive version of Protoss tongue.

Gossin turns toward it but isn’t at all shocked to find a human stood before him. Despair continues to keep him paralysed. Even when he notes the absence of Berendi and looks around only to find her unconscious at his feet does the cleric conclude that he feels little other than the pit inside himself deepen. As it does he falls with it further down into whatever this place inside himself is. It’s nothing like it had been when he’d lost Inara and somehow that realisation makes him feel worse. Yet, he has no name for it.

“I see the cat has got your tongue.” The man dressed in thick tan coloured hides mutters in something close to the approximation of first form language. As he speaks he brings the club up to rest upon one of his broad shoulders. His head is thick with scruffy almost shoulder length matted dark hair as well as a pair of ever seeking amber coloured eyes.

However, Gossin doesn’t understand the statement. The words make sense to him but the meaning of them conjoined does not. He feels his brow furrow. It doesn’t but that is the feeling he gets. If he were not paralysed by loss and pain then his expression might actually shift to reflect his current feeling of confusion.

“Never mind. It’ll all be over soon.” The man says with a smile that is in no way pleasant.

To make matters worse the statement brings myriad questions to Gossin. Except these questions are far further from his mind than they should be rightfully be. It’s like they are at the periphery, as though there is a wall between them and him proper. He feels obliged to describe it as his core self. He doesn’t understand why and can’t seem to get much further than that. And then in comes the club. Gossin, the 3rd Cleric, sees it at the last possible moment. Still, he can’t react. And so the blow is horrific. He wants to scream and howl in pain but cannot. Not because of his despair but due to his jaw now being shattered and somehow locked shut. It makes little sense as to how that is possible. Before he can hope to consider the cleric it met with a sudden end to his downward momentum. It’s far more agonising than he would have anticipated. In fact, he’d consider it almost on par with the blow of the club, almost.

Sadly, that is not where his misery ends. Rather, the human glides into view so that he is stood over him, grinning. He looks almost mad, in his expression, and likely would if not for the violence in his eyes. The look conveys he is pleased with the barbarity of his actions. Gossin cannot comprehend that. It seems so foreign and alien to him as a concept. Perhaps Berendi would understand. Suddenly he worries about her. Why now at this moment he cannot say, and to make matters worse what he hopes to achieve with this worry is lost to him. So he simply lets it be. After all, his body continues to object to any demands he wishes to make of it. It’s as if his body is not his own. Very strange, he thinks. Then he realises what is going to come next. The club, which had been held by the human high above the beings head, is now…

The club slams into Gossin’s face. Bones shatter and blood spurts. The strike renders the cleric unconscious and yet the human, Brendan, hauls the heavy wooden club high into the air again for another strike. He ignores the blood smearing the rounded end of the weapons rough surface just so he can bring the weapon down again and again and again until several minutes later there is nothing left of the first form cleric’s head other than a deep stain of a puddle and a collection of shattered fragments.

Beyond the confines of this hut, as he would term it, Brendan can hear the screams as the battle for the tree continues. Man has won. They will soon have claim, sole, over their birthright, the Earth, their world. Yggdrasil will be forgotten. It is a heathen idea followed by this soon to be extinct ancient remnant. A failed group of abominations who believed themselves and this place to be something more than it really is. And Brendan’s people, other humans including his King, will watch as the world tree burns down to a pile of ash that will help to nurture Adame’s crops her generations to come.

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