he tale is told in the Scattered Worlds of the end of Malreppidar, when the Gergathan fought for its very existence against the Liftagel. In those days the Gathered Worlds were split by passion and lit by the fires of dying worlds. The Liftagel was a creation like unto the Gergathan itself, constructed by the Lord of Strife and imbued with some of its own life-force.
Long raged the battle, and both sides suffered greatly. The Gergathan and its minions constructed, in the bowels of Messilinia, many weapons against the Liftagel.
Then Arivaan, chief of the Foul One's servants, withdrew from Messilinia with many of the dread weapons and a host of Gathered Worlds armies. Not since Aemallana's final assault had the Lord of Strife stood so close to defeat as now, and fear was in the heart of Arivaan.
Now the Liftagel approached, and Messilinia itself quaked and flamed. Now a dark cloud enwrapped the world, hiding it from the light of a million suns.
None knew what forces were unleashed in that final confrontation, for none lived to tell of it. When the dark cloud was dispersed by starwind, there remained nothing but the bare scarred surface of Messilinia. The Gergathan's presence was gone from Geva Ganloohen; ,the Liftagel was never again seen, and never again did its dreadful armies intrude into our space.
The Wise sy that Ka, Lord of Void, put his hand into the final battle, that the full force of his power touched the Liftagel and all its works, rendering them nonexistent in a moment's flash. The Wise say that the Gergathan wrestled with the Elder God, and that after both fell into coma. It is known that the Gergathan slept for more than a million years, slept so deeply that none were aware of its existence, slept behind a barrier that none in the Home Stars could, or dared, breach.
Arivaan, meanwhile, fled to Kohleneb in the Scattered Worlds. From Kohleneb her armies ranged forth, conquering and destroying, until the Realm of Kohlenebia ruled a million worlds. Arivaan's reign was a twisted mockery of Aemallana's, and start to finish it lasted forty times as long as the High Days of Avethell. In all that time, nothing changed within the borders. Arivaan ruled from her dark towers, her servants bred and trained and exercised their potent armies, and from Darliath to Mernadant there was no joy, no beauty, no song.
The Wise met many times to consider Kohlenebia and Arivaan. Testimony was heard from Dhagliar Bruv of the Daamin; from the Elders of the Hlutr; from the Watchers of the Stones; from the Guardians of the Starlanes; from Hes-Namu; and from many others of the Council of the Free Peoples of the Scattered Worlds. In the end it was decided that Arivaan merely awaited the revival of her master, that it might have armies prepared for its use. And at last the Wise determined that he plan should be thwarted.
Now Hes-Namu, the great artificial intelligence, and Dhagliar Bruv of the Daamin, both met with the Liaison of the Galactic Riders. At this time the Liaison was Nemthemet delv Nubti, an Avethellan.
Dhagliar Bruv told Nemthemet of the conclusions of the Wise, and asked that the Galactic Riders enter Kohlenebia and begin spreading the ideals of freedom.
"Since first we visited that realm," Nemthemet replied, "Galactic Riders have shunned Kohlenebia. It is an evil place, a place where people do not even desire to be free. There they worship Arivaan and the Lord of Strife, and they make mockery of everything that we of the Scattered Worlds believe. There Arivaan sees and controls all that happens. There folk have surrendered their very minds and selves to become tools of Arivaan and her lieutenants. It is as bad as Malreppidar was, taryshra. Now you ask us to lift our ban?"
"If Kohlenebia is to fall and Arivaan's power be broken," Hes-Namu said, "It needs must be through the abilities of the Galactic Riders. Kohlenebia has less than a thousandth of the worlds Malreppidar commanded; Arivaan has less than a millionth of her master's power. The entire cadre of Riders could not have served to influence Malreppidar one iota; one in ten of you could sway Kohlenebia. We need but to show them the way and give them hope. The people of Kohlenebia will do the rest."
"And what of Arivaan?"
Dhagliar Bruv looked deep into Nemthemet's eyes. "For Arivaan, dear Rider, we have a special plan. We only need one to carry it out."
"The blood of Aemallana flows in my veins, taryshra. If it is within my power, let me be the one."
"When the blow is to be struck, nuish, you shall be the one to strike it, if at all possible."
"I will appeal to my fellow Riders, ad I think I can assure you that we will lift our ban on Kohlenebia."
So it was that the Galactic Riders began to visit Kohlenebian planets -- first worlds at the borders, then the deeper systems, and finally foul Kohleneb itself. And so it was that, within a generation, the people of Kohlenebia began to revolt against Arivaan and her followers; and the poised armies were turned inward, and the Realm began to thrash like a live thing dying in pain.
Through all this time Arivaan worked to undo all that the Riders wrought. Yet she was not, as Dhagliar Bruv had said, the equal of her master. She could not turn her attention in all directions, and as soon as she put down one rebellion, another started up behind her. Many Galactic Riders died in this effort, but enough lived to spread truth and light through Kohlenebia.
At last, when space about Kohleneb was convulsed with battling navies, Hes-Namu called Nemthemet to itself. Long had the Rider struggled, even upon Kohleneb in the shadow of Arivaan's dark towers. She was weary, yet ready to fulfill her earlier pledge to strike the blow against Arivaan.
Hes-Namu led Nemthemet to the Deepest Crypt far below the Temple of All Worlds, to the place where the Warder of Arms kept all the dread weapons of the Scattered Worlds. Since the Migration of the Daamin this army had been kept by Nar Klerit Tum, a Talebba who was of old the chief arms-keeper of the Pylistroph.
"The Watchers of the Stones and the Clairvoyant Corps have charted the defenses of Arivaan's towers," Nar Klerit Tum told Nemthemet. "A band of Iaranori shock troops will accompany you. They have trained specially for this mission, and they will get you to Arivaan's inner chamber."
From a locker the Warder of Arms removed a silvery light mantle of very fine mesh, a material lighter than spidersilk, a fabric that waved in gentle unfelt air currents. "This is the Mantle of Jel Haran, which was spun for the Warrior by Lirith his love, in the light of the Singing Stones. It will turn aside any weapon that Arivaan is likely to use against you, and it will cloud her perception of you."
Nemthemet wrapped around herself the Mantle of Jel Haran. At once she felt weightless and joyful, as if the music of the Stones could reach her even here, as if it surrounded her and buoyed her up.
Now Nar Klerit Tum opened another box. Within it Namthemet beheld a stubby black cylinder small enough to be carried in one hand. "Observe." The Warder took a specimen of vermin from a cage and dropped the small animal onto the black rod.
At once the rod blossomed, like a flower, like a scintillating jewel, like a sparkling fire. Its light flickered and glinted, and when it died, there was no trace of the animal.
"This was found in the ruins of Messilinia," Nar Klerit Tum explained. "It creates an energy-discharge that feeds upon the life process, increasing itself with each instant until every living thing it touches is consumed. This is one of the foul weapons the Gergathan constructed for use against the Liftagel."
"It is terrible indeed."
"Indeed. Arivaan has one like it, which she wields with an artificial limb more lifeless than dead rock. And then only her extreme concentration can prevent the wand from attacking her emotional and mental energies. That wand is called Ganellanen Vennetlira: the Rays of Death." Nar Klerit Tum gestured to the cylinder before Nemthemet. This, its twin, we have named Gesen Vennetlira, the Rays of Freedom. It will be your weapon against Arivaan."
"How will I handle it, Warder, when to touch it is to die?"
"Wrapped in the Mantle of Jel Haran, you could carry Gesen Vennetlira next to your heart and it would not harm you. Such is the power of the Mantle. In fact, you will carry the weapon in concealment, behind the Mantle, so Arivaan will not know what you bear. Then, when she attempts to attack you with her own wand, you can destroy her."
Nemthemet wrapped her hand in the Mantle, then, and reached for Gesen Vennetlira. She lifted it, felt its cold roughness through the thin Mantle, then replaced it in its box. "I stand ready to go, Warder."
"Then I shall summon your escort. You leave within the hour. Blessing of Maranna, Ellan, and Aemallana go with you."
All things happened as Nar Klerit Tum had told her, and in the fullness of time, Nemthemet stood before Arivaan in the innermost chamber of the dark towers. Nemthemet had wrapped about her the Mantle of Jel Haran, and within its folds she held onto the shaft of Gesen Vennetlira.
Arivaan stood before the empty screens of dead machines. The Gergathans minion was tall as Nemthemet herself, and of similar bodily form. Arivaan;s skin was scaled and leathery, her head hairless, her mouth wide and filled with sharp tiny teeth. Her eyes drank light and heat from the chamber. One limb was constructed of dark, heavy metal -- in that artificial arm she held Ganellanen Vennetlira, its deadly radiance for the moment stilled.
Arivaan spat and swore. "You have taken my realm and my world. Do not think that you will have my life so easily."
Nemthemet beheld her adversary with a steady gaze, and said nothing.
"Even if you kill me, my master will raise me up again as it will raise itself."
"You are an intelligent being, Arivaan. I cannot believe that you hold life so dear that you would have it at all cost -- even to the point of sacrificing your freedom and becoming an eternal slave of the Gergathan."
"When you are dust and your puny world a slag heap, I shall still be alive."
"And still a slave. Better dust and slag. I am sorry for you, Arivaan."
Then Arivaan brandished her weapon, quick as a beam of light. It flickered dimly. "You will see which one of us deserves pity."
Nemthemet took one step forward. "Come with me, Arivaan. Learn to be your own self and not a reflection of the Gergathan."
"A million worlds trembled when I spoke."
"Because you were a reflection. Because they fear your master's power, not you. And now its poweer is gone, its armies impotent -- do those million worlds tremble now, Arivaan? Now you have not only your master's reflected grandeur -- you have only your own slavery.", Again Nemthemet took a step forward, within reach of Arivaan's weapon. "Come with me, learn to have your own life, learn what it really means to love life and love existence."
"Come no closer." Now Arivaan thrust with Ganellanen Vennetlira, thrust against the thin Mantle. And the dread device did not even twinkle with its deadly light.
Arivaan screamed, and thrust the stubby cylinder toward herself.
With one movement, Nemthemet whipped off the Mantle and swung it against Arivaan's artificial limb. The weapon flew away before it touched Arivaan, and skittered on the floor of he chamber.
Nemthemet dropped her own weapon, and took Arivaan in her arms, draping the Mantle around them both. The song of the Stones surged.
"Forty times Aemallana's reign has taught you something, Arivaan. It has taught you to love yourself. And learning to love, to love anything at all, puts you beyond your master's reach. You felt shame, Arivaan, shame and pride. And so you are the Gergathan's slave no longer."
"The Gergathan will create another Arivaan . . . another slave."
"And that will be her problem. You, child, are on the road to freedom. Come, let me take you to Nephestal. You have known armies and worlds and towers . . . now let me introduce you to flowers and stars and children." Nemthemet wrapped both weapons, her own and Arivaan's, in the Mantle; then she guided the erstwhile leader of Kohlenebia out of the dark towers and to her waiting ship.
It is told that Arivaan lived a normal lifespan on Nephestal, where she gave the Wise much information regarding the Gergathan. And it is told that Arivaan had a happy death under the stars and the Gap of Remembrance, and that she was honored by ceremony in the Temple of All Worlds. Further, nothing is said.
But the tale is whispered in the Scattered Worlds that Nemthemet took Arivaan's body back to Messilinia, and consigned it to the seas after the fashion of the eons-old Coruma of which Arivaan was the last surviving daughter.
Thus ends the tale of Arivaan and Kohlenebia.
|The Golden Throne||
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