Eufemia sat in her hexagonal office. Her large, obsidian desk was littered with vox-reports, datapicts and “order-applicant” papyrus. Scribes and servitors went back and forth. It was the final days before the Atla, and her waking fleet, was to leave Makyra. The Morkins had freed the small celestial body from a contingency of the larger foreign invasion force, and most of the scattered population at Makyra viewed exodus along with the Morkins as a good alternative to subduction by powerful foreign invaders. They also feared the Green-skin swarm, and rumors of what nightmarish battles had transpired at Gorydia had left the Makyrans feeling trapped and without other options. A formidable feat in logistics was going on, as Makyra´s resources and population was transported onto ships in the Morkin fleet.
Atla, the Morkinhall Saga capital ship, had lay in orbit above Makyra during most of the aftermath of the Gorydian campaign, but now had to leave due to the overwhelming presence of the Foreign Empire in the neighbouring systems. Although House Morkin had fought hard battles on the surface of Gorydia, the final show down had proved that defeating both the invading forces, and the terrifying Green-skin “Warhulk”, was a monumental challenge. Priorities were in order. They had to make haste, and reluctantly left the Gorydians to the whims of the invaders. The Foreign Empire now had a strong hold along the rim of Ouroboros, but Eufemia estimated that there was still time to amass resistance against the encroaching enemy before they could find a way further into the Constellation.
Her squire entered the office. He saluted his Lady and went over to her side. She lay down a papyrus with thousands of signatures on it, all Makyran applicants wanting to join the exodus. “Brede, you bring more labour my way, no?” She picked up a pict-recorder and overlooked the manifest over the ships that had left the Atla´s fleet a month prior to the exodus. “I bring tidings, my Lady. Firstly, about the Troll-king´s transport”. Brede pointed his bionic finger at the topmost ship at the manifest. Eufemia looked up at him. “You will refrain to proper titles as long as you are part of Kansler´s Household. Leave scorn and “Nid-titles” to the Jorsal Saga. I will not have it.” The squire looked down at his boots, trimmed his mustache ever so slightly and apologized. “Forgive me, my Lady, I meant to say the transport carrying the Lexx Supreme in Absentia. Their ship will rendezvous with the capital ship Fimbul in six months…” He paused. Eufemia looked up at him. “Yes?” She looked bothered. He perched his lips. “We have received Light, my lady..” “Yes, well off-course we have! How else would the Fimbul acknowledge Abacus´ arrival?” she answered abruptly. The squire closed his eyes. “The Light didn´t stem from the Fimbul, it has come from the Margerd, my Lady. One message is via the Fimbul. The other is the King´s session at Morkinhall, from about seven months ago… We have received the latter directly from Cydonia.” Eufemia looked up from the manifest. “The Margerd..? What were their tidings?” Brede answered as clearly as he could. “It would seem that the Lexx Supreme´s mission to Kovhiri space might run into (he paused), complications…”
Eufemia remembered how adamant Abacus had been before the Atla left for Gorydia. He demanded that the House forces stay at the Prasada so that it would not break free from Lexxian bonds. During the final stages of the war at Gorydia, he had gained support from the Jotungard Saga and the High Voice at the Cydonian Forge. He was sent to regain control of the House properties in Kovhiri space, and above all else, the Prasada.
“Complications? What complictions? Speak out, man!” Eufemia´s patience was running thin. “Well, the Prasada is gone, my Lady!” Eufemia raised her eyebrows. Brede continued. “It´s not there anymore. Neither is the world of Katch, its neighbouring planetoid!” Eufemia thought for a second. “How come this Light has reached us from the Margerd?” Brede stalled himself. “Well, my lady, the Margerd has been travelling towards Kovhiri space for a long time, it would seem. They have been close enough to make long-range scans. They have also changed their course.. It would appear that the “head” we have sought to sever is not a “head” at all.. It is but a “finger”. The Foreign Empire is flooding into the Constellation at a pace far beyond our own. The Margerd´s Transit Beam is set towards a far off planet known to the cartographers as Askiya”.
Eufemia had fallen into deep thoughts. While she processed the information shared by her squire, she gazed on the wall opposite. There was the baroque depiction of Kansler during the “Battle of the Princes”; the knight-chassis of the King´s Hand about to be pierced by Jiger, the black and red knight of Prince Arkham of Morbius. She had demanded that mural be carved on the wall of her office so that she was reminded of her dead spouse Parceval. He was the former King´s Hand, helm of Kansler and dear friend of the Morkintul. Fourteen years had passed since that last battle where the King of Morkin had fought the Morbius Princes. Only the King´s forces saw the end of it… But not Parceval. His helm ended the day Jiger stabbed the chest of Kansler. Who expects to find the body of a Scion when his Throne Mechanicum is exposed to the full force of a Cerastus Shock Lance… She did… She wished… The memory of her spouse shadowed her every thought and trailed her wherever she went. Even her Seidar consort could not quench her carnal thirst for that which Parceval had given her during their time together. Her lover knew perfectly well her inner longings. So did she.
Her thousand yard stare got interrupted by Brede. “My Lady..! The Margerd and her fleet has been in transit for seven months.. This means the Verdande Saga has been drawn into this war. The Light from Cydonia is clear. The Morkintul called the Lord Protector to rise during the session at the King´s Table..” Eufemia discretely removed a tear from her cheek. She looked up at him. “This turns out to be the greatest war in our time. Everyone will want to join.. We need to synchronize with the King´s Session held at Morkinhall and find out who claimed the Helm of the Vendigo. Who received the Light?” Brede paused. “The Eistla, My Lady. The Jorsal Saga has invited all Households on board their capital ship so that the synchronisation may commence.” Eufemia rose to her full height, her lean bulk dwarfing that of her gaunt squire. She turned to him “Make the preparations. All of the Morkinhall Households will be present at the King´s table on board the Eistla. We also need to prepare to depart this system. We will set the Transit Beam for Kaylo. It is in the dark and will be a springboard from which to mount our next assault on the Foreign Empire.” Brede seemed astonished. “That is more than thirteen months away.. Surely..” Eufemia interrupted him. “The Margerd and the Fimbul are both formidable war-engines. They will handle their challenges well. We will continue to sever “fingers” so that the “hand” is rendered useless. I will voice the departure for Kaylo at the King´s Table. Make haste!” Brede bowed as he stepped backwards. “At once, my Lady!” He left the teeming office.
Eufemia looked over at the mural. How she wished her spouse were here sharing the glory, now, at what could very likely be the end of all things.
Later, the King´s table was set in the great assembly hall on board the Eistla. The great communications device, resembling a long-table littered with screens and cables networked to powerful holographic projectors along the roof, was the centre of Morkin power. Without these devices (one centred at Morkinhall, the others on board each of the House capital ships) the Morkins would not be able to coordinate their far flung sphere of influence. The House Sacristans that maintained them told stories about the days of colonization, when each of these devices where installed throughout the modules of gargantuan colony-ships. Before “the Pitch Black” (from where House Morkin derived its name), the Cydonians were believed to have come from a single such ship. Alas, “the Pitch Black” had wiped out all collective memory of such a utopian past.
It had been some time since Eufemia had been to the Eistla, as most of her responsibilities as King´s Hand were carried out either at Morkinhall or on board the Atla. She and the Kansler´s Household, along with the others from the Morkinhall Saga, joined the session. Already, most of the Households of the Jorsal Saga, considered to be the largest and most venerable of House Morkin, were already there. As the visitors from the Atla came to find their seats, the Jorsal Scions were singing an Epitaph. They had sustained losses at Gorydia, and honoured their dead by singing their memory before the session would begin. Their voices echoed through the halls of the ship, and many of the officials and commoners working throughout the ship paused in their labours to listen and honour the glorious dead.
Each King´s table had seats for all Scions of the Morkin Saga. That is to say, if they were ever at the same location simultaneously, they would fill all the three hundred (or so) seats. This was never the case. A Scion would probably never enjoy the experience of being in the same room as all other Scions during his or her lifetime. A good majority of the Scions would occasionally assemble at Morkinhall. At other times, a vast fleet out in space would be massing (like in the Days of Fire, when Technopolis was sacked), but the Order of Leidang and the impossible vastness of space, made it impossible for all Morkins to meet in person. This was remedied by synchronizing the sessions at the King´s table.
The contingency from the Atla sat down, the Jorsals concluded their song, and the laser-dish aligned so that synchronization could commence. It took but a few seconds, but for most attendees (except for the older ones, the Gandarch for one), this was a spectacular thing to behold. Slowly, the holographic image of a Scion approached each vacant seat. Some were attendees from the last session, others from years past. There were Scions Eufemia had not seen in a decade, like those of Gandagard or Grimheim, and some she had seen on departure from Cydonia (and considered friends). Amongst these were the Morkintul and the Gandarch of Drasiil Tower (the only living Scion of the entire Drasiil Saga). The Faceless Scion, the “Knight Recluse”, currently helming the dreaded Atrapos Bonachon, was also present. The enigma Scion sat down opposite Eufemia, and she could see that the mirror mask reflected no one. When the King´s table was set seven months ago, there where no one present from the Morkinhall Saga, save King Artus and his closest companions. Not until now, that was. For the shortest of moments, she wondered if the holo-dish would add her resemblance in the Recluse´s mirrored mask.
Eufemia looked up along the long-table as each hologram sat down next to knights present in the Hall of Eistla. Most of the Scions greeted their phantom peers, and salutes where politely given back. The illusion of being assembled as one unity was strong, even though one knew that decisions had been made and that half the attendees where sacattered all over by this time. All where updated on their pict-screens of the different bills and orders that had been passed during the last couple of cycles. Eufemia was more occupied by the Morkintul. She looked at her left hand-side, and there, only an arm´s length away, stood the hologram of the Morkinul. He looked in Eufemia´s direction as he sat down, nodded and then looked over at everyone present. His image flickered a bit. Eufemia responded with a slight nod and a formal, “my King!”.
She looked down at the pict-screen and skimmed some of the information, but her attention was stolen as the Morkintul started the session and several Scions asked to be heard. First in line where the ones present at Morkinhall (those that where holograms). They spoke of the disappearance of the Prasada and how Ouroboros now lay exposed. Then the attention was given to the rest. This was where the marvel of synchronizing came to show. Scions could debate their phantom peers and it would all be present in the master file, sent as Light to the next capital ship in line of session. Again, the powerful device would continue to synchronize the sessions until the cycle ended. It was then sent full circle to Cydonia for scrutiny and logging. An entire cycle would take years to complete, even though sessions where conveyed via laser-dish.
While she heard the different Voices speak their case, she gave her pict-screen information to Brede, who stood by her side. He looked more carefully through the information. While Brede did this, Thidrek, High Voice of Jorsal Saga and helm of Stallar, spoke. He told of much that had transpired during the War of the Prasada and the conflict at Gorydia. Eufemia, as well as other notable Scions, where asked to fill in with details less known to the Jorsal High Voice. This part of the session took some time, but it was necessary. The war with the Foreign Empire posed a greater threat to Cydonia than anything in the Morkin sphere of Influence. After a long debate, Thidrek ended his contribution with the following statement; “Furthermore, I consider House Dagon must be destroyed!” This was well supported amongst the Jorsals, with positive replies like “Hear, hear!” and flat palms slapping the table continuously. Even some of the phantom peers, those of Grimheim and Jotungard in particular, seconded the motion in the same way (as they probably knew that the High Voice of the Jorsal Saga would end his contributions with his famous quote).
The Morkintul asked for order and pressed that there were larger issues at stake. He then looked to the empty seat by his left-hand side and with a seemingly heavy heart, said: “In light of the unprecedented threat posed by the Foreign Empire to the Ouroboros Constellation, I ask for the Lord Protector to rise!” He paused before saying it again. “Rise!” At this point, several other Scions joined in and formed a chorus. “Rise…. Rise… Rise….” After but a moment, all Scions present, both phantom peers and attendees on board the Eistla, joined in. It was at this very moment that Brede looked away from the pict-screen in his hands. He tried to gain his Lady´s attention, but the sensation on calling forth the Lord Protector was too great. He only managed to whisper “my, Lady, you need to..” before the chorus was interrupted by a Scion that rose to the challenge.
It was the faceless one, opposite Eufemia. A silence fell first in the phantom hall, then in the Hall of Eistla. Many were astonished, as never before had the Faceless Scion joined in, or contributed anything, at the King´s Table. That was the Oath of the Knight Recluse. Now the Scion, clad in the black robes and mirrored helmet, hiding the true identity underneath, stepped aside (Everyone´s attention was so focused at the one standing that there were those that didn´t see that another, an exact copy of the one that just rose, took the seat of the former Faceless Scion).
The one standing, removed the mirrored helmet. A collective gasp went through the Pathweb form the Scions present. Eufemia could not believe what she was seeing. On the opposite of her stood Parceval; former King´s Hand; former Helm of Kansler; former friend of the Morkintul; former spouse.. Eufemia sat completely still, and she could only glimpse in the corner of her eye, that King Artus rose from his seat. Through a haze, like one hears someone calling from a distance, dreamlike, she could hear the Morkintul utter the name “Parceval..!” But, that could not be true, she thought. It had to be a glitch in the synchronicity.
At this point Parceval and Eufemia where locked in each other´s gaze. Eufemia was out of words. The phantom Parceval then looked over at his King and said: “I rise to claim the seat of the Vendigo; the Murder Knight, so that I can serve Morkinsaga as Lord Protector! Say it will be so, my King!” Parceval moved slowly towards the Morkintul, who for just the tiniest of moments had shown an expression of sorrow. Now, the phantom King had regained his stern demeanour. “Rise, Lord Protector! Claim what is rightfully yours!”
The hologram of Parceval walked along the table, and Eufemia followed him with a look in her eyes of growing puzzlement, relief and contempt, all at once! She had trouble straining herself and kept the palms of her hands firmly planted on the table top. As Parceval passed the Scions on his way towards the empty Throne Mechanicum of the Vendigo, he received looks of recognition from phantom peers and current attendees. When he reached the Throne Mechanicum, he first looked at King Artus and said: “I ask for the Ritual of Howling!” Artus looked at his friend and said “You shall have it, so say we all!”
Parceval then looked down at Eufemia, but she had turned to look the other way. Her pride demanded it. The Scions sitting next to her along the table; Falkvor; Erex; Blanzeflor; Magnhill and Vilman all saw the look in her eyes; Hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman. She teared up, but her anger held them back. She said through her teeth: “I will not speak to you!” Behind her, the phantom Parceval rounded the King´s Throne Mechanicum and it paused just behind her. Some seconds passed. “I know you will not speak to me! Hear me then… I could not bear to do this when I was still with you. When Hamde died, a part of me died with him. I could not go on. Hatred festered in me, I knew only one thing could quench it. Prince Arkham, by mere chance, gave me the opportunity to die. I took it, on a whim, and the Recluse took me in..” The clicks and hissing of synchronicity was all that echoed in the hall just then and through Eufemia´s mind went the thoughts that she had so pondered for many years; how Prince Arkham managed to get the best of the King´s Chosen… He had let it happen. For what? So that he could leave, only to die so many years later? Passion and fury overwhelmed her. Her breathing intensified and her heart raced. Without turning, and with closed eyes, she spoke again: “I will not howl for you!”
The Synchronicity flickered and Parceval spoke again. “How wondrous it has been to see you rise to the seat of King´s Hand; How proud I am when the Kansler speaks of you; How I have longed to call out your name in the Pathweb…” The phantom Parceval paused again. “I will go now! I do not expect you to howl for me!” She said nothing. He then replied “I know!”
The hologram glitched as Parceval turned around and went over to the empty Throne Mechanicum. He sat down and the rest of the Scions rose. Eufemia still sat facing the other way, saying louder than before “I will not howl for you!” Parceval rested his head back and let the Throne Mechanicum connect to the sockets on his body and in the back of his head. His expression was calm when it happened, but all Scions knew that to connect with this knight carried with it a monumental strain. Eufemia turned to face Parceval as the machine spirits connected with his own. He looked back at her, with eyes she remembered so well. With tears in her eyes she yelled at him “I will not howl for you!!”
His Thorne Mechanicum overpowered him and started the slow descent. The strain of the binding showed in his face. He bit his teeth together, but he could bear it no longer. Just when he filled his lounges to scream out in agony, Eufemia rose and screamed with him. She screamed all of her anguish, spite, hate and regret! She emptied her lounges so that her cries could outlast those of Parceval.
Although the other Scions joined in the Howling, only Eufemia´s tormented screams echoed through synchronicity, reaching Parceval all the way down into the Vendigo.