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Voices
by Darrell Whitney


"Sister, it is time for you to know the truth. Though Orakio and I have fought for many years, we finally realize that we have been deceived. An evil force from times beyond legend is using us to satisfy its desire for pain and suffering. We are joining forces to fight this ancient evil. In case we never return, I leave you the pendant; you will hear this when you are ready. Goodbye!"

The voice seemed to hang in the throne room of Mystoke, the Castle of Silence. Even Wren, the emotionless android who did not have a sense of the momentous or the aesthetic, appreciated the import of the moment. After all, the voice had been that of Laya, who had led her forces in the Devastation War against Wren's master Orakio one thousand years ago.

"Then...the knight with the black sword my sister left with...was Orakio?" stammered the blond girl who held the voice-recording pendant. Her name was Laya, too, and she was the younger sister of the ancient leader. Her strange dark eyes held confusion in their white-pupilled depths.

"This seems likely," Wren observed. "Orakio was well-known for his sword, which was superior to even planar-honed weapons of laconia, and this recording sheds a new light upon his relationship with Laya."

"It also explains Orakio's Law and Laya's Law," said Sean. The green-haired Prince of Azura was a descendant of Orakio, but he was also three-fourths Layan, as both his mother and paternal grandmother were full-blooded Layan women. In a way, Wren's current master was a living example of the paradox they'd just heard. "Both Laya and Orakio ordered their forces not to kill each other in order to stop the war. They're probably also responsible for sealing off the passages between the various worlds of this spaceship."

"That is speculative," Wren agreed, "but--"

"Those bastards!"

The scream of rage did not come from Laya. Nor did it come from Sean, though he'd be entitled to it. Since the death of his parents and the destruction of most of his people when the blue moon, Azura, had been destroyed by laser fire, Sean had seemed almost as emotionless as Wren himself, the mask of cold determination never slipping, even for an instant. Had he been able, Wren suspected he would have felt concerned for the young prince.

But the anger had not been Sean's. Instead, it had come from Mieu. Like Wren, Mieu was an android, centuries old. Unlike him, her artificial-intelligence personality was imbued with an emotional capacity.

"Mieu, what is the matter?" he inquired.

"Orakio and Laya!" she all but screamed. "How could they do this to us?"

Often, Wren did not understand Mieu's viewpoint due to her emotions, but it seemed that this time the humans didn't comprehend, either.

"Do?" Sean asked. "Do what?"

"They knew there was no point to the war, that whatever had started it was a lie, didn't they?"

"Yes..."

"But they didn't tell anyone!" Mieu screamed. "For a thousand years Layans and Orakians have hated each other for no reason at all! Wren, do you remember how when we first came to Agoe and Shusoran they were on the verge of another war? Lune's hordes of monsters butchered Orakians throughout Elysium and Satera, while Siren destroyed the Layans of Cille and Shusoran. And how many others have died over the last millennium? All over something that had no meaning in the first place!"

Mieu spun and lashed out, slashing deep ruts in the throne's faded upholstery with her laconian claws.

"Wren," she whispered plaintively, "Orakio left us behind the same way Laya left this pendant and our Laya, didn't he?"

"Yes, the two conditions seem somewhat analogous."

"Then why didn't he tell us the truth?"

Laya reached out and laid a soft hand on Mieu's shoulder.

"Maybe they did try to tell people," she said, "and no one believed them."

Wren pondered this answer. It seemed very much in accord with what he knew about human psychology.

"This is very likely. Perhaps it is the reason Siren and Lune were banished to the moons, because they were not amenable to a peaceful resolution."

"Or maybe the 'evil force from times beyond legend' was moving fast and they didn't have time to slow down and solve things fully," Sean said. "Instead, they banished their generals, locked the passages to keep their forces away from each other as best they could, left the three of you behind as an emergency backup, and went off to fight the evil."

Mieu's eyes would have been tear-stained had she been given the ability to cry.

"Then...they...Orakio and Laya..."

"Once the evil was defeated, they could have come back to their people and led them onto a path of peace, but they never had the chance."

"So the 'evil force' defeated them?" Mieu asked, although she already knew the answer.

"Most likely," Wren stated. "However, it is also probable that they in turn injured or destroyed this force, or else the subsequent centuries would not have been largely peaceful."

"Things aren't peaceful any more," Sean said. "Maybe this evil force has come back."

"I have no data which would tend to confirm or deny your supposition."

"It doesn't matter." Sean put a reassuring arm around Mieu's shoulders. "Whatever is the cause, we'll find it and put an end to it, and unlike our forebears we won't leave tears and silence in our wake."

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