[Rite of Passage]

Written by ZeusLegion. Edited by Auspex Turmalis.

In a time shortly before the Zerg threatened the Koprulu Sector, an aging Protoss seeks to make peace with his past as the cold void of death approaches to embrace him...

The crimson clouds of dawn were illuminating the morning skies of Shakuras as Laurioch hobbled down a dimly lit alleyway in the Dark Templar village of Lyrim. His bones ached with the passage of time and he felt the burden of those years weighing heavily upon him. He was now 894 years old and the time for his Rite of Passage had come at last.

He arrived at his workshop, a worn and weather-beaten building carved from sandstone three hundred years ago. It seemed like such a long time... a third of his lifetime had passed since then. Seeing it on this morning flooded him with images and half-forgotten memories coupled with a tinge of sadness. Today would be the last time he would ever see it again. He gathered up his strength and entered.

Moloch was standing in the laboratory, poking some of Laurioch's leftover experiments with a Tonn'fa stick he had found lying about. Evidence of his curiosity was immediately visible in the form of broken vials, spilled chemicals and misplaced beakers scattered about the lab.

"Good morrow, Moloch," Laurioch said.

Moloch spun around in surprise, a vial falling from his hand and spilling its contents onto the stone floor with a shatter of glass. "En Taro Adun, Master Laurioch. I... apologize for the disarray I have brought to your workshop," he looked around briefly.

Laurioch chuckled. "It is fine. Your unbounded curiosity only reminds me how far you have come in all these years. Zeratul and his friends have taught you well."

There was a sound from behind, and Laurioch turned to see Khrillian standing in the doorway.

"Master Laurioch. I was told you called for me?" he asked.

"Indeed I did," Laurioch said, ambling to a circular platform that held his most prized possession beneath a sealed glass dome. He pressed a sequence of buttons and pulled a lever, and the lid rose into the ceiling to reveal his journal. He picked it up, turned and placed it into Khrillian's hands.

"My time is at an end. Today you are no longer an apprentice. You are a master. Protect this book of knowledge well. It may help you in the trials to come."

Khrillian looked at the object in his hand in disbelief, unsure of what to say and unable to grasp the reality of the situation.

"No," came Moloch's naturally thunderous bass tones. His heavily amored feet pounded the stone floor as he took several steps forward. "It cannot yet be your time. You are barely 900 years old. Others have lived for at least a century longer!" he insisted.

Laurioch placed a hand on the Dark Templar's shoulder. "Moloch... please do not make this harder than it must be. My time is here. I have felt it. Would you deny me my Rite of Passage?"

Moloch's shoulders slackened. He paused, trying to find the words that would erase this conversation and its implications. Words that could make it go away as if it had never happened. When they refused to come, he cursed himself and the sadness swelling up inside him.

At length, he spoke. "I cannot deal with this. Forgive me." And with that, Moloch left the workshop, never turning back.

Khrillian watched as Laurioch's face saddened. The old Protoss seemed to be shrinking right before his eyes. "Should I... go after him?" he offered.

Laurioch placed his hands on the slate table, almost as if to keep from falling. "No. He will not come back and I must leave soon. Watch over him when I am gone, and protect the knowledge I have given you."

"Where will you go?" Khrillian inquired, as if the knowledge would somehow comfort his own uneasiness.

"To visit the past," Laurioch replied.

Laurioch felt uneasy, alone in the seemingly spacious confines of the shuttle as it slowly descended through the thin atmosphere of Umbra. Through the viewport, Laurioch witnessed "second dawn" on the dead moon as the gas giant around which it revolved came up over the horizon. Sensor scans were in full effect and yet, as he had almost hoped, there were no life signs registering. The shuttle landed, kicking up a billowing cloud of dirt and rock, and he prepared himself for his trek.

Little less than an hour later, he found the outskirts of the necropolis. Obsidian rocks carved with hieroglyphs jutted up through the crust of the world like the talons of a horrifying beast. A small gale wind crept through the valley, its current buffeting the obelisks, making them seem to whisper the city's name in his mind: Nitramneadh... City of the Dead.

He studied the markings, trying to ascertain the events that had happened since he had last visited this world so long ago. The history of the fallen Scion legion was all too clear. After Jepok had stranded them, they had erected the city to bury their dead from the battle... and one by one they joined their brethren until the last of the survivors could no longer withstand the loneliness and went mad, finishing off the rest.

Laurioch shuddered... Am I to blame for this? I led Jepok here to seek out retribution for my people... Did these Protoss deserve to die this way? Is it justice?

He looked around, trying to imagine what it must have been like to live here, constantly surrounded by reminders that your friends and loved ones had taken the dark journey... and that you would soon follow. What did they do here to pass the time? Laurioch wondered. No technology to distract them from their plight... no hope of rescue... it must have been horrible.

Walking amidst the ruins he realized the answer: They carved their stories into the stone... perhaps as a method of cleansing these memories from their minds. A desperate attempt to forget the tragedy that had become their lives.

He followed the shiny black epitaphs, noting the despair they must have felt. Could they have been redeemed for what they had done to my people? Should we have given them the opportunity? Sevorak was manipulative and cunning... he had given the orders. Should they have paid this price for obeying?

He wasn't certain. It had been so long ago... another time, another life. He could not forgive them then... could he now? Was it time to let go of the past?

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a glimmer of movement. His pulse quickened and he was filled with dread. He turned and stood in a defensive stance ready to take on the horror of...

...a tattered piece of cloth blowing in the breeze.

He let out a sigh of relief, and laughed at himself for being such a frightened old fool.

He then noticed a shape on the horizon and moved closer to inspect it. Coming up over the ridge from which his enemies had once charged over to ambush his allies, he saw something that shocked him to the very core.

In the distance, embedded in a nearby a plateau, the face of Sevorak came back to haunt him in the form of a massive obsidian carving. The tomb of Sevorak... Laurioch surmised. It made him physically sick to see it and yet there was something about it, beckoning him... A cold chill grabbed hold of his innards and he forced himself to suppress a scream.

The feeling passed after a few minutes, and he sat in the dirt just letting his mind wander away... thinking about all that he was leaving behind... the legacy of his long life. After a time, he was at peace... calm and relaxed. Finally the answers came to him.

He started his long trek back to the shuttle, filled with a euphoria he could not explain nor cared to.

Before entering the shuttle, he turned and looked out in the direction of the city.

As my time is at an end, so is yours. The evil you wrought so long ago is forgotten. It is no longer a matter of right and wrong... wrath or forgiveness... I defy you... I wash my hands of you...I am free of you and all that you did is nothing but a quickly fading memory. You can no longer hurt me, my friends or your own followers. We are all finally beyond your grasp.

And with that, he entered the shuttle and lifted off from the dead moon of Umbra and back into the star-streaked cosmos.

Finally at peace with himself, free of his burdens and ready to embrace the end.

The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.

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