Prophet Of War, Watchers In Shadow

By Matt TALON Kirkby

    Within the central Grand Hall of the Monastery of Creation’s Protector, Brother Greymantle studied the Altar of Primus. His head bowed in prayer as candles flickered in a sudden draft. "I ask Thee for Thy mercy and forgiveness and protection," he murmured In a low voice, speaking In a most ancient and almost forgotten dialect. "Shelter us, oh lord of Light. Protect us from the darkness and its soulless minions. We, Thy Children, can ask solely but in hopes of Thy aid."
    "Protection indeed," a deep voice boomed.
    Greymantle looked up. "Elder Primon."
    "Don't get up, Brother." Metallic cloth rustled as the speaker walked towards the Altar. "I can tell you something though." The Primon of the Holy Order sighed, as if he was world-weary. "A terrible storm shakes our world."
    Greymnatle grimaced. "Spare me the embellishments, Primon, and speak to me plainly of the truth."
    The Primon nodded ruefully. "You are unique among the initiates here. Most seek no interest in the outer world, yet you, Greymantle, remain remain concerned with the happenings across all of Cybertron."
    "The Order cannot possibly hope to guide the Children of Primus if the Order itself shares nothing with the cannon people."
    "A valid thought."
    "So tell me something which concerns me."
    "The Decepticons are in complete and utter disarray," the Primon announced after a brief pause. "The last of their newly forged strongholds have fallen to this newest wave of invaders and the few survivors have fled into a handful of hidden places. The Autobots have also long since fled into hiding or retreated off-world. I do not know how many of them are still alive, but not very many I dare think.
    "And," he added, "as ever, the neutral factions are caught in the crossfire." Though many TransFormers wanted no part: of the seemingly endless wars between the Autobots and Deceptions, and although they tried to hold themselves apart; from them, countless communities suffered in every campaign and battle.
    "Can anyone truly be neutral, Primon?"
    "A fair question...we are all Children Of Primus, and yet most of the various factions dislike one other due to foolish squabbles and unreasoning fears. We must be united, if we hope to ever build a lasting, peaceful civilization."
    "The recent eruption of fighting is crumbling all hopes of building such a civilization," Greysnantie sighed aloud. "The Autobots tolerated our teachings, though the Deceptions often did not. At the least, we were ignored by both sides as a powerless faction. I have heard little, thus far, of this new power...the Disciples?"
    "These so-called Disciples of Primus now control most of the planet," the Primon told him in a steady tone. "And they claim to act in the service of Primus—though their militant actions seem more suited to the minions of the Chaos Bringer—-but perhaps the time of our return to glory is at hand."
    "You mean when 'the lost ones return and an ancient wrong is compounded by the new generation'?" Greymantle shook his head. 'If the Prophecies are indeed coming true, Primon, and the meek shall truly inherit, then why are the Disciples in command of such a powerful battle fleet?"
    Primon shrugged. "The workings of Primus are mysterious, Brother. As was foretold, the great cities have fallen—Ibex, Polyhex, lacon...,"
    They fell to the Decepticons as well, during the Great Autobot-Decepticon war, without bringing down our utter destruction or the fulfillment of any of the Prophecies."
    The timing of the exact events is not stated, Brother. The sacred texts did not state 'the' fall but ‘a’ fall of the great cities."
    Greymantle nodded. True, Primon...and what will now become of us?"
    The Teeth of Unicron are of little interest to invaders, nor to anyone else. They are far from any of the cities and lack mineral deposits...they have no strategic or economic value, that is why our Monastery was constructed in these remote and desolate mountains. No one comes here willingly. We are safely removed from the affairs shaking the rest of Cybertron."
    A gust of wind moaned in the distance.
    "Though not from the natural storms," Greymantle observed.
    The Primon nodded. "The weather was not a consideration when our Monastery was founded. If anything, such consistently unpleasant weather serves only to keep the Brothers Indoors where they may safely meditate upon our Lord."
    "Perhaps...but I wonder If any place will be safe."
    The Primon bad begun walking away, but now he paused as he considered Greymantle's tone. "Have you read something specific, Brother?"
    "Many things, Primon, but nothing which seems to reflect upon this situation." He shrugged. "Does 'The guiding Light is dimmed and order shall be turned into chaos’ mean anything for you?"
    "I think not. The Peace of Primus be on you." The Primon left the hall.

    "We have reports of a developing resistance within Mekk."
    Pupil-less eyes didn't flicker as their owner continued staring into a star-strewn sky. "The Disciples?"
    "They continue to advance. We have an ore agent in that region. She does not believe the City will hold."
    "Keep me informed of developments."
    "Always, Councilor."
    Greymantle stood in the entrance hall to the Monastery and stared out at the horizon. "'And the word became light and His radiance did blind those who would profane His word."'
    "You have completed some more of the translations?"
    "Yes, Primon." Greymantle frowned. "Though I do not think that the Covenant Of Primus holds the key to our future." he shrugged his shoulders. "I do not see any of our Brothers as being the hero foretold. To what foe do we command ‘harm not the trees, nor the sea, nor the land, nor the very fabric of time itself’?"
    "I am certain that all will become clear in accordance with our Lord's wishes. What else have you learned?"
    Greymantle gestured to the flickering red glow on the horizon. "And I have seen our doom foretold." The glow was coming from the right location to mark the spot where the capital city of Mekk Province had once stood.
            *            *            *
    The door burst open. "Energon," the battered Decepticon ordered. "Now!"
    "The peace of Primus be on you," the Primon began calmly, as he turned towards the unexpected visitor.
    "Stow it!" the raider snarled. The rifle gripped in her hands was shaking. "Give me some energon! Now!" She glanced back over her shoulder, her expression one of nervous terror. "Fast!" Her armor was battered and stained by combat, the paint scuffed and plating dented. "Now, or else!"
    "There is no need for violence," the Primon told her still in his calm tone. "You have no need of that weapon here," he continued as he slowly paced towards her, "The Brothers of this Monastery are sworn solely to the paths of peace."
    "I'm not." Her finger tightened on the trigger.
    "Primon!" Greymantle screamed as the elderly mechanoid tumbled backwards to the floor, half of his face reduced to molten crater.
    "I want the energon!" the Deception shouted, voice cracking with emotion. "Get it for me!" The rifle wavered from monk to monk. "Fast!" she screamed.
    "Murderer!" Greymantle advanced on the raider, "Cowardly wretch!" He ignored the laser which hissed past his leg. "You were not worthy to kneel before him!" His fist slammed into the raider's face. "For the fist of the Righteous is strong and just!" With that quote, he punched the Deception again and again and then she collapsed.
    Then Greymantle dropped to his knees, and cradled the body of the Primon. "Forgive me, Primon!" he begged.
    Primon's remaining golden optic flickered weakly. "You are your actions," he gasped. "Things change…our Order needs new...guidance." A spasm wracked his body. "Your guidance."
    Greymantle was speechless. "But, I'm not worthy!" he finally protested. He was still aghast at his violent outburst on that poor deluded Deceptico. "Surely there are— "
    "Nor was the...start." Primon's remaining optic dimmed. "You will...become... worthy."
    "We were created as a warrior race," Prlmon seamed to summon all of his remaining strength with which to speak. "You acted to save others...a noble goal...with your., .knowledge., .you will serve the Order well." The golden optic turned dark.
    "No," Greymantle whispered as Primon's once-vibrant colors faded and dulled.

    The viewscreen went dark.
    "Our agent has violated the sanctity of the Temple. That action was never listed among her orders."
    "Neg, but such action may yet alter the path taken by the Order." The speaker paused, "Perhaps we can still make use of our agent's unplanned actions...I must speak with the Core about this."
            *            *            *
    Primon Greymantle paced the corridors of tie Monastery, lost in thought. He had been— as was his morning custom— deep in the Vaults under Monastery studying the ancient Sacral Texts of Cybertron. Lost knowledge, forgotten prophecies, and Primus alone knew exactly what all had been recorded and left in the Vaults over the millennia since the Creator had forged his first generation of Children. Greymantle himself had spent fifty Vorns studying them, and was convinced that he had found but a fraction of a fraction of the total data.
    "'And when the Wraiths come to Cybertron at Proxima, the stars themselves shall wither away and perish." That prophecy was one of the oldest he had found— said to have been written by the near-mythical Mother Prima herself !— and had long been dismissed as false— for Cybertron did not orbit Proxima... until now.
    "But what are these Wraiths?" he asked aloud. The worst part of any prophecy... was it being factual or only symbolic? "And do I really want to know the truth about 'the Seeker of forgotten lore who shall become One with the servants of the Master, to be consumed by the fires and lost to the light of Primus'?"
            *            *            *
    The door to the Monastery burst open.
    Greymantle, Primon of the Order, turned around calmly. "I am head of our Order...your arrival was expected." He had expected to see more Decepticons, possibly a few ragged Autobots, who might have fled to the Teeth Of Unicron to seek a hiding place from Cybertron’s new rulers, yet these intruders were of neither faction.
    "We are the Disciples of Primus," the identical mechanoids announced in unison. Their blue optics gleaned in the candle light which illuminated the grand hall.
    "You are welcome to our Monastery," Greymantle told them camly. "We serve the Protector of Light."
    "You will yield to us...we will indoctrinate you into the true service of our Lord Primus."
    "But we already serve Lord Primus."
    Over a dozen Disciples marched Into the Monastery's hall. More followed...then more. Two of them seized a watching monk and dragged him towards the door.
    "Stop this!" Greymantle ordered. "You mustn’t do this!"
    A scream echoed out of the deeper hallways.
    "This is a place of peace!"
    With shimmers of light, more Disciples materialized.
    Greymantle stared at them in mounting shock. Invasion! ‘And they came from the light:, but they were in truth, beings of shadow....’ He shook his head, trying to gather his thoughts. "I order you to stop, in the name of Primus!"
    Several Disciples froze.
    Greymantle sighed inwardly.
    "There is no other choice but to serve our Lord Primus." The Disciples lurched back into motion, moving as if controlled by a single mind. "You will make an excellent Disciple once you are properly indoctrinated."
    Greymantle stumbled away from them. "Stay back!" he ordered one last time. "I am Head of this Order! Do not force me to summon the Last Guardian to destroy you!"
    Again the Disciples froze. "We will not force this action," the Disciples announced, still in mechanical unison, "for the Will decrees not." Blue optics locked onto Greymantle’s face. "You will submit yourself to the Will of Primus. You will summon forth the Last Guardian so that we may do proper homage to the Last Spark of Primus." The Disciples' tones were harsh. "There is no other option."
    And as Greymantle felt the first hands seize him, he knew that the darkest prophecies were indeed coming to pass.
    And there was nothing he could do.
            *            *            *
    Harsh light blazed through armored viewports. Even with the automatic polarization filters actively dampening the glare, the brilliance was still all but blinding.
    "An impressive sight, is It not, Jonara?"
    The young officer nodded, absently. The Head of the Core had spoken up the very instant the older being had entered the room. "Yes, Autaras," Jonara replied without taking his pupil-less eyes away from the view, "It certainly is."
    The Head stepped closer to a viewport to share in the view. "The boundary between Dimensions," he mused as the fiery void which separated the myriad dimensions from one another swirled with unimaginable violence beyond the transparisteel. "A thing which only a handful of beings in the entire Omniverse know of, and fewer can say they have actually seen." He chuckled as the elemental fires raged impotently around them. "And far fewer still can say that they have ever forced a path through."
    Jonara nodded again, pupil-less eyes gleaming. "As we can and do at will." A momentary lull in the ever-swirling fires allowed him to spot one of the other massive dreadnaughts in the mighty armada— its bulk dark against the surrounding brightness. "Has the Core rescinded its previous decision?" he asked.
    "No," Autaras replied. "Certain Councilors have raised questions about your suitability— K’ronei and Dii’eusis among them—but most of the Council are willing to allow you—young as you are--your chance at this command."
    "I shall not fail," Jonara vowed.
    "The Core will endure, whether you fail or not."
    Jonara knew that if he failed— assuring that he actually survived such a defeat to return to face the Core— he would be replaced and the others would continue their work, "Victory is our way."
    The Head smiled at hearing his favorite phrase— and the Core's slogan— tossed back at him. "Indeed." Absently, he toyed the silver ring on his finger, thinking about what vast power it represented. Ultimate power was his.. .surely no one in the Omniverse could stand against his race not while he possessed it at any rate.
    "I trust the Core has received my reports?" Jonara continued.
    "Yes. Including reports of the actions taken by certain agents we had placed on Cybertron.. .though no decisions have been reached regarding our future activities." He paused, but Jonara said nothing. "Your preparations are still on schedule?"
    "Of course." Jonara smiled. "With K’ronei looking over my shoulder at nearly every moment how could I afford to allow myself to slip behind schedule?" He chuckled for a moment, than sobered. "In all honesty, my task force has been operating ahead of schedule. We are prepared to move immediately."
    "I trust that we will not need to move this task force at all," the Head replied then, pupil-less eyes narrowing slightly. "You know that openly displaying military power is not our way." Oh, such displays were sadly necessary on occasion, but such events were isolated occurrences.
    Jonara nodded. "Yes, I know that." He had studied their race's history records even before joining the Core; since joining the Council, his studies had led him to records believed long lost in the dim mists of the most ancient pre-history. "But given recent events in the currently targeted realm, an open display of force might yet be required." He clenched a fist. "That realm is a powederkeg, Autaras— neg, for it is already alight! A dozen conflicts rage in the very heart of those systems we covet...a thousand times a thousand more are fought daily throughout that realm. Chaos reigns there."
    "We will bring order to that realm," the Head replied calmly, "as we will bring our order to all other realms." He held out a hand and a golden TransFormer—with optics downcast and head bowed—hurriedly stepped out of a shadowed alcove to place a goblet into it and then step away, unseen by the being he served. "Events proceed just as we have planned, Jonara."
    "Do they?"
    "Of course."
    "The factional fighting we have observed appears to be dying down…that realm's Autobots are a broken race."
    "Have you not been observing reports from our agents?" the Head demanded. "The Autobots currently have two leaders vying for command…I suspect that they will soon be moving against their ancient foes once again. A strike against Dnema is already planned."
    "Another war?" Jonara chuckled bitterly. "If those factions had chosen to work together instead of fighting each other…"
    "Yes, but they have become locked into their endless wars...that makes them dangerous."
    "Potentially so...but if the war is escalated by a few subtle manipulations, then perhaps they will simply destroy each other and spare us the effort."
    "Perhaps, Jonara," The Head turned his attention back to the viewport. "All of our agents are working carefully to bring about that escalation. Our chief servant continues to act exactly as we have planned."
    "Yes, but I do not trust this Megatron." Jonara waved the golden Transformer and his drinks away. "He has already proven the shallowness of his loyalty to us by betraying my commands. Since his activation he has subverted our resources—"
    "I know, We have observed the devious nature of Megatron in many realms. This Megatron is no different to any of his reflections." The Head gestured dismissively. "But, even as he conquers worlds for his empire, he only furthers our goals. We will bring our wayard servant to heel soon enough and he will know the full depths of his folly." The Head’s voice was confident. "We will add all of that realm to the others we already control."
    Jonara smiled. "I look forward to that day." He turned back to gazing throug the viewport. "That realm is far too fragmented to ever achieve our level."
    "I am inclined to agree with your assessment." Not that the Core would tolerate any realm approaching their level of technological achievement. "But we cannot take chances. After all, the Humans had already been observed utilizing a primitive form of binary bonding technology, and if they were left to further experimentation..."
    "I know." Protecting their race was the basis of the Core after all! "But as we have observed, Earth has rendered itself impotent. They are a threat no longer."
    "And we did not need to take any actions," the Head agreed. "That pleased many of the Core."
    "Cowards," Jonara sneered. "We are among the most powerful races in the Omniverse…we have nothing to fear." His contempt for policies favored by certain other members of the Core was public—at least in the Core—knowledge. "And speaking of powerful races, what of the Syntara?"
    Jonara’s thoughts were certainly jumping around! The Head chuckled scornfully. "You have been listening to Zra’sheft again," he sneered. "The Syntara are no threat to us."
    Jonara shook his head. "I wish I shared your confidence," he said, "the Syntara can peer info all realms...what if they can also travel between realms as we do? Their species could become a serious threat."
    "They hold themselves to a foolish vow of non-interference. They will only watch events transpire, they will not dare risk altering the course of history by actively tampering with those events." He laughed again. The Syntara possessed such vast powers, and were far too timid to exercise them. "Rest assured, I will deal with them if they interfere." The Head glanced down at his silver ring again.
    Oh yes....
    Jonara noted the glance, and then he sighed. "How long before you must return to Cybertron Prime?"
    "Immediately," the Head replied. "The Core will be meeting again very shortly to discuss current efforts in another realm. Not everyone in the Core has been operating with your level of efficiency or success." He placed a hand on his protege's shoulders. "By that time, Jonara, you will have already departed with the first elements of the Fleet into this realm and began the next stage of manipulation."
    Jonara nodded. "Victory will be ours."
    The Head smiled.
    "Victory," he agreed, "will be ours."