[Facade][Chapter I]

Written by ZeusLegion. Edited by Auspex Turmalis.

Table of Contents

Chapter I

"Allow me to kill them," Thuras intoned.

The Archon glared at the Zealot, studying him with apparent contempt. His arm shot out and gripped the smaller Protoss about the neck and lifted him up until they were face to face. Thuras squinted his deadened eyes, trying to avoid Nannoth/Taeradun's incandescent presence. "As much as I would like burn them and you, I must learn what they know and I need you to aid me in this matter," the Archon hissed.

"They know nothing! They are fools!" Thuras projected as his legs dangled from the ground.

The Archon flung the younger Protoss to the stone floor of the temple. "Be that as it may, they are competent warriors and their presence here weakens our enemy's forces," he replied.

Thuras rubbed his strained neck and stood. "Why do you waste your time on them? We have the artifact. Your enemies are likely food for the Swarm by now, driven into the jaws of death by your psionic influence."

Nannoth/Taeradun allowed himself a fleeting sense of satisfaction as he imagined Turmalis being torn apart by an unending stream of rampaging Hydralisks. He regained his senses and turned to face Thuras. "A fool's errand for a cadre of fools. I, however, cannot afford the luxury of assuming they are dead until our work is complete. Therefore, the twins live until you are told otherwise. Now go and keep watch over them and that they see only what they are meant to see."

"As you wish," Thuras said angrily. In his mind the voice called to him, ushering him to kill the twins, take the artifact and flee.

The Archon turned to glare at him again and the voice dissipated, crawling into the recesses of his mind. "Why are you still here? GO!"

Thuras fled the room.

"You were manipulating him," Nannoth/Taeradun stated.

The orb rose into the air from behind a granite statue. "Yes. As we are manipulating you. Take us to the dark place," it said.

"You will go there when we find what we came for. For now, you belong to me and you will aid me in my task."

The orb paused a moment. "Yes. We belong to you... for now. We shall aid you and in return you shall aid us."

"My thoughts exactly," the Archon said.

"We know," the orb replied. Nannoth/Taeradun felt a cold chill run along his back.

"We should not be here," Khorun said.

"Agreed," Nurohk replied. "We should have gone with Judicator Turmalis and the others. They go to Char with limited forces and will surely die there while we..."

"...we are trapped here, watching the citizens of Scion rebuild their city while the rest of Aiur crumbles under the Zerg onslaught," his brother continued, angrily snapping a branch he had picked up during their trek along the perimeter of the city. "Pfah! There aren't any Zerg for a hundred kloms!"

"Do you not find that strange, brother?" Nurohk asked, his actuators whirring as the Dragoon's lens turned to focus on the other.

"Find what strange?" Khorun asked, tossing the broken ends of the branch to the ground.

"That there are no Zerg here. Not even in the skies above us."

Khorun eyed his brother. "You believe the great evil the spirits of the Khala spoke of is here?"

The Dragoon lowered into a resting position. "I do not know but it seems too calm here. It seems unnatural."

"Perhaps we should investigate the city itself?" Khorun questioned. "Perhaps Nannoth/Taeradun has sensed its presence."

They heard a rustling in the trees and turned. Khorun's blades unsheathed and Nurohk's photon receptors flared to life, waiting for the imminent attack.

They were unprepared for what they saw. A rippling effect in the very fabric of space itself shimmered as it moved toward them and a shadowy figure appeared before them.

"By Adun's spirit, a Fallen One!" Khorun cried out as he moved into a fighting stance.

The Dark Templar waved a hand. "There is no need for violence, young Zealot. I come as a friend and had I sought to slay you I would not have made myself visible," she said. "I am Khashigal."

Nannoth/Taeradun stood outside the Temple, watching the Scionese marching back and forth through the city, lugging heavy equipment to the former dig sites. What appeared to be a massive construction project had originally been exactly the opposite. The Protoss under the Archon's command had torn apart every building over three hundred years old, under the guise of replacing it with something more modern. Keeping the facade running had slowed the work to a crawl, and the Archon would take no risks in the event that Turmalis returned or the twins started to suspect him of something less than heroic.

But they had found the orb, and now the true construction would begin. They would no longer pretend to build, but actually begin doing so. He only had to hide the fact that what they were building was not a new Scion but something far more useful.

He consoled himself with the knowledge that when his work was completed, they would all die at his hands for the inconvenience.

You cannot win, Taeradun. You were defeated before and you will be defeated again.

Silence! Crawl back into your hole and die there. You are beaten. Admit it and leave me be!

I will never leave you, Taeradun. We are bound together for eternity and I will be there to haunt you every waking second.

You lack the strength to oppose my will. When my work is finished here I will use the Eyes to cut you out of me once and for all!

I may lack the strength, my old friend. But I have patience. You can already feel me getting stronger with each new sunrise. It is only a matter of time before I challenge you again.

And you will fail again.

Then I will build up my strength until I can challenge you yet again and I will keep doing this until you are defeated at last. I have eternity, Taeradun. You and I are bound. There is no escape.


Taeradun felt his other half slink away into the shadowy recesses of his mind thanks to his master's intervention, and was thankful.

He let out a bellowing roar of involuntary laughter that was not his own as the orb joined him.

"Why are you here on Aiur?" Khorun barked. "It is forbidden for your kind to trespass!"

"Hear her out, brother," Nurohk said.

Khorun sheathed his blades and turned away.

"Listen to me. Please," Khashigal asked gently. "Long ago I met a young Shelak scribe and inventor from Antioch. He too was surprised to see one of my kind on Aiur. But he was kind, gentle and wise and found that we were not so different from each other as the Conclave would have you believe. We became enamored with each other. He wanted me to make the commitment to him but he knew we could not do so in public. After much consideration, we made a secret commitment to each other."

Khorun looked at her now and saw in her eyes the truth of her words. There was great love and great sadness in her soul.

"Eventually, the Conclave and his own Judicator betrayed him because he consorted with others who also believed our kind were not so different," she continued. "They banished him and his friends from Aiur as they had done with my ancestors. We were free at last to take our vows, or so I had thought."

"Please, continue," Khorun said with a gesture of understanding.

"My love was Laurioch, young Zealot. He who had witnessed the massacre of Teross and aided in the battle against the madman who had enacted the vile deed."

"I know little of Teross other than that it is a place of dry mud and lost souls," Khorun replied.

Khashigal signaled bemusement in her eyes. "Of course, young one. You and your brother were but infants in that time. My apologies. In those days, Teross was a shining city of learning, ten thousand strong and ruled by the Shelak. It became what you know when a mad Judicator slaughtered the people and turned the city to dust."

"And you have come here to tell us this for what reason?" Nurohk asked.

"Laurioch and his allies had discovered that the mad Judicator had awakened an ancient evil and had sought to unleash it upon the galaxy," she said.

The twins eyed each intensely for a brief moment.

"Laurioch had visions that this great evil would be released again and took precautions for the future. We lived happily together for over two-hundred-fifty years until the visions began to haunt him again and he knew the time was drawing near... as was his own end," she said sadly.

"My love is dead. I have felt this. He died a tortured soul and his spirit will not rest while this evil looms overhead," she said. "He visited me not long ago and told me to seek you out. To warn you and your friends, but I was too late. I am fortunate enough that the two of you stayed behind or I would have failed in my mission."

"The spirits of the Khala have visited us before," Nurohk said.

"They also tried to warn us but what good is the warning if we do not know what to do with it?" Khorun asked gruffly.

"Perhaps that is why he sent me to you, young one," she said. "I can tell you who your enemies are and aid you in defeating them."

All of a sudden she shook violently for brief moment, and the twins watched in horror as a psionic blade penetrated the flesh of her chest. It dissipated, and she collapsed to the ground, Thuras standing behind her.

"How dare you consort with a Fallen One! Have you taken leave of your senses?" he shouted.

Anger boiled up inside Khorun and coursed through his body like a river of fire. Thuras' head flew through the air as a photon blast punched a hole through his torso.

"No... no... please, no..." Khorun muttered as he knelt beside the fallen Dark Templar female. Grief flooded through him, washing away his anger and numbing his mind. In her eyes, he saw her life essence fading, and he felt as helpless as when his own brother had fallen to the Zerg.

She placed a hand on his shoulder and her eyes showed tenderness to him. "The Gray..." she said.

The twins watched as her flesh dissolved and beams of light pierced outward from her body until all that remained was her spirit. Ascending into the air, it slowly faded into nothingness.

"What do we do now?" Nurohk asked nervously. "Nannoth/Taeradun will surely connect Thuras' death with us, and we have no proof Khashigal ever existed. We will be hunted down as murderers and this great evil will be unleashed."

Khorun rose to his feet and looked at Thuras' body. "Then we must make it so that no one can prove he is dead," he said. "We will destroy the remains and tell no one of this. If asked, we never saw him. Do you understand?"

"Yes," his brother vowed sadly.

"Come, we will be expected to return shortly and must make haste before others come looking for us."

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