Chapter Seventy-Nine

'The Light From The Candle Is Not Dimmed - It's Just Not There'

Chi Draconis Star System

Planet Minbar

The City of Tuzanor

Time-Now

"In there, I…"

Awe came into her eyes as she remembered.

"…I saw Valeria."

Kodell remained silent out of respect and reverence.

Callenn looked down to the fountain pool, the reflection of stars constantly broken by ripples in the water. "We Sisters of Valeria know the names of the Beloved of Valen. In addition to Cathrenn, we know her as Drala'Fizha, Vik'irildun and ZhaVer'kaff."

Kodell mentally translated the names: Dark One from the Stars, Seaweed Head, and the Outside One. All clearly indicating that Valen's wife was an alien.

"So, Cathrenn was a Human," he concluded.

"As was Valen; part Minbari, part Human."

Kodell reeled from the implications. What the Warlord Kirk revealed was true! And the Sisters of Valeria knew the truth, or at least suspected it! His daughter, Delenn, was a direct descendant of Valen! The thought about Kirk's revelation brought his mind crashing back to the implication of Minbari killing Minbari long before the Ashen came. Pain gripped him at that revelation.

Then he was confused at the next thing that Callenn said: "Kodell, if you ever look upon the face of a Vorlon, all of your doubts will be erased; all of your questions will be answered."

"However…" Callenn looked back up to Kodell, her eyes glittering with unshed tears. "…in my experience, gods need men far more than men need gods. Much the same could be said of rulers and their people."

Kodell wondered in puzzlement. What experience would cause her to think along that line? Out loud, he said, "We certainly do not need the Ashen as our rulers."

Gently, she corrected him: "I was speaking of the Grey Council."

Kodell was shocked.

"Oh, it has its uses, like being a symbol of the union of our castes and clans. I also speak of the Vorlons." Callenn sighed. "So many mistakes, I believe…"

For a second, his mind drifted. The Vorlons helped the Minbari and their so-called allies, the Ashen, in their war against the Humans and their allies. And then the Vorlons suddenly fell silent and vanished back into their space. No one knew why that happened, though speculations and rumors often ran amuck. He couldn't help believe that whatever had forced them to leave had frightened them. But why? They were First Ones. What possible reason could force them away?

But he somehow doubted Callenn was talking about that. "What do you mean?"

"The Vorlons have been behind much of our history. They raised the Katanai Empire to great heights and then deliberately destroyed it and the armies of its enemies attacking the city."

His first thoughts were: You cannot say such things! The Vorlons would never perform such a horrendous act! Katanai was to Minbar what Atlantis was to Earth, and Neinman to planet Xerxes VII.

"They created the Kinase…"

The Kira Zhe!

Legends described them as thirty telepaths so exceedingly powerful that the death of one affected minds all over the planet. They ruled the empire of Kira'nal and sought to conquer all Minbar. They were the reason for the Bright Barrier built by the warrior tribes, now a series of ruins of a complex arrangement of fortresses and crystalline defensive walls stretching from a mountain chain to another mountain range 16,000 kilometers away on the main continent—more than twice the length of Earth's Great Wall of China and three times the length of Centauri Prime's Distaviat. But after terrible wars, they were eventually destroyed by the much more numerous armies of the warrior tribes. Though the children of the Kira Zhe were sought out and slaughtered, most modern Minbari telepaths could trace their genetics to the few children that were rescued and hidden away with other families.

"…and they were responsible for the Dark Century."

"No, Callenn, we were responsible for that. We destroyed ourselves in intertribal wars and forced ourselves to take refuge in the caves underground."

"That's a tale given us by the Vorlons." Callenn sighed heavily. "…so many mistakes, I see," she whispered, more to herself than to her beloved Kodell. "The Vorlons had admitted their role in the existence of the Kira Zhe and the resulting terrible wars to certain elders of the time. These elders spread the story among the tribes. That created anger even as they gratefully received technological knowledge from the Vorlons, until they rebelled and murdered some Vorlons."

Kodell gaped. Vorlons murdered? How? In Valen's name!

"Poison," she answered.

"In anger, the Vorlons fired their weapons at the capital city and kept firing until the city's continental fault line was shattered. Where the city was, we now know as the Crater Sea."

In the middle of standard maps of Minbar, there was a small continent that appeared to be shattered in concentric rings around a crater that had been filled by the ocean through the concentric cracks. Meanwhile, Callenn continued her shocking tale.

"After the city's destruction, the Vorlons turned their wrath to all the other cities on the planet, but not to the extent as they did with the capital. That's what drove us underground. That was the punishment for killing gods. Then after their wrath was satiated, they moved to erase our memory of the rebellion and of their vengeance. Thus, after a century of indoctrination, we came out of the caves and blamed the damages to our world's surfaces on inter-tribal warfare."

Gasping, Kodell stood up. This was too much! First, the revolt against the Ashen, the Human Warlord's revelation of the Minbari people's genetic relationship with Humans, the Grey Council's surrender to the UFOPers, the horror and uncertainty of the coming battle for Minbar, and now this—!

"In Valen's name!" whispered Kodell loudly. The words almost choked him. Valen was Human! The Vorlons were not who the Minbari believed them to be! His heart was breaking under the burden of such revelations and implications. He seemed to be having intense chest pains.

"Minbar is a world of honor," said Callenn sadly. "Yet, it is a world torn between tradition and change; between beauty and horror; between tranquility and violence. It is as a river that tries to flow in two directions at once. A river must flow to the sea." More quietly: "…only to the sea."

Kodell fell to his knees and groped for breath.

He realized that the chest pain was a heart attack. He was dying of a broken heart. Already depressed and shocked by the unprecedented surrender to alien forces and by the implication of Minbari killing Minbari long before the Ashen came, Kodell did not want to fight anymore.

He was looking forward to the sea of stars, so he gave in. With a last gasping and trembling breath, he collapsed onto the smooth flagstones of the temple's contemplation courtyard.

Callenn remained sitting on the bench, sadly looking down at the fountain pool. In her heart, she mourned Kodell's passing beyond the veil. She whispered half-prayerfully, "All life is transitory, a dream. We all come together in the same place in the end of time. My dear Kodell, I will see you soon in the place where no shadows fall."

She sighed with regret. Though she mentally screamed against the inevitability of Minbar's end, there was little she could do about it. The planet's primary sun, Ardbar, was slowly entering the early stages of becoming a red giant. It was predicted by scientists that Minbar had about a million years before life ceased on the planet. It would seem that the end would come much sooner than that now. So be it. This particular chapter has been written in blood, crimson strokes on freshly fallen snow.

A whisper from her barely parted lips: "I would have very much liked to see Delenn one more time."

She looked around at the dark courtyard. It was said that there was nothing in the dark that was not there in the light. But that was not always true.

A shape took form from the darkness under the courtyard's roof. Sister Callenn stood up, clasped her hands in front of herself in the shape of a triangle and bowed toward the shape. Where the light of the moons and stars fell upon the large curved shape, she could see mottled shades of purple. The shape's head seemed to bow back to her and small colored lights danced below the head as a symphony of chimes drifted from the shape.

The head rose until bright light shone from underneath.

"Valeria…," whispered Callenn in awe.

She opened her eyes and mouth wide. Her eyes began to glow. Then, streams of light poured forth from her eyes and mouth into the bright light and kept pouring until the streams ceased. Callenn fainted and lay beside Kodell's body.

The purple encounter suit's head closed down. Ulkesh gazed down upon the two Minbari, one living and one dead. He slid back into the shadows.

From behind the Temple of Valeria, a Vorlon transport rose into the night sky of ethereal Tuzanor and flew over the mountains surrounding the city. Her stealth fully engaged, the ship wouldn't be detected by even the most vigilant and advanced scanners of the Minbari and Ashen. Through the ship's eyes, Ulkesh could see Tuzanor shrinking behind him. The Minbari had a proverb about the city: "To dream in the City of Sorrows is to dream of a better future."

Ulkesh had his doubts about the proverb's truth. He was one of the two Vorlons who survived the Minbari rebellion. The other was Kosh. The Younger Races still had not learned the lessons that the Vorlons were capable of teaching when they are wrathful.

So be it.

The transport continued to fly over the forest wilderness beyond the mountains.

The Federation and its allies would arrive in Minbar's star system soon. The Federation's First Ones had a ban on the Vorlons' involvement in this war, but the ban technically did not preclude observation. It was risky but Kosh had felt it was worth it to implant pieces of his consciousness in certain people like Sister Callenn. Other Vorlons like Ulkesh disagreed. Ulkesh would not let these people continue to carry pieces of Kosh. It was insolence of the highest order, so Ulkesh went around collecting the pieces, including the one carried by Sister Callenn. In order to let Callenn release it to him, he pretended to be Valeria whose impersonation belonged to Kosh. Ulkesh could feel the many regrets held by Kosh.

It was all so unnecessary.

When Delenn's former mother woke up, she would remember what she told Kodell under Kosh's influence. She would remember and weep at her part in Kodell's death. She would never know that it was Ulkesh that stopped his heart. It was painful, but necessary in order to severe the Vorlon Empire's tangled ties with Minbar. They young ones were so fragile. The truth needed not be revealed and Kodell's death would ensure that the young ones would never know. The grand experiment was a failure and the Empire needed to wash its hands of the Minbari.

However, there was one more task that Ulkesh would see to. Faint lights gleamed in an isolated part of the forested wilderness. They were the light of candles and lamps in a temple that had no roads leading to it. The Temple of Shayel.

Hooded Minbari monks tended to their duties within the temple, unaware of the Vorlon transport in the sky above. It was the only place on Minbar that had monks instead of sisters. They guarded a secret within the temple that honored Shayel.

In the annals of the Minbari Religious Caste, Shayel was part of Valen's inner circle of trusted advisers and counselors who helped him fight the Shadows, set up the Anla'shok, and reformed the clans into three castes. Shayel was a telepath and one of Valen's first disciples from the Religious Caste. She was slain defending Valen against a Shadow-controlled Techno-mage assassin and was carried bodily into the heavens by Valeria.

Deep within the secluded temple complex, in its sanctum, a Minbari woman sat cross-legged with her eyes closed. A flame burned at a wick in the tip of a little crystal pyramid-shaped lamp in front of her. Her mind reached out discretely to observe the fleets gathered in orbit above. A powerful telepath on par with the ancient KiraZhe, this woman was Shayel herself.

She knew some of Valen's secrets, including the truth behind his being a Minbari not born of Minbar, and once protected Valen's children when they returned home. In the eight hundred-years long vigil since she was brought back to Minbar by the Vorlons two centuries after her "death", Shayel had come to distrust those who would leave Minbar, and she had never been to any of the colonies nor had ever encountered a non-Minbari. Her role was to preserve and defend Minbar against any taint of the Shadows. Whenever a Shadow or an agent of the Shadows set foot on Minbar, she and her monks would emerge from the temple to destroy them.

No Minbari had discovered the secret of the Temple of Shayel. The fact that Shayel was one of the near immortal servants of the Vorlons was known only to the temple monks who were sworn to secrecy.

Shayel sensed a mind touching hers. A song. She recognized the song which was the total consciousness of the Vorlon race and all its creations. It could be described as a telepathic network linking all Vorlons and yet residing in the mind of every individual Vorlon. The song was constantly evolving belief in order, a fractal philosophy of union and structure. The Vorlon aspects or factions were movements in the song and individual Vorlons were chords and notes. At this time, the movements were changing. The Vorlon aspects of Vorl (Emergent Order), Kosh (Teaching Order), Morh (Analysis), Fiac (Technology), Uler (Guiding the Younger Races), Kail (Order through Religion) and Olos (Diplomacy) were at this time giving way to the militant aspect of Kesh (Destruction of Chaos).

Shayel mourned this sign of regime change in the Vorlon Empire for what it meant for the Younger Races.

The particular chord of the song that touched Shayel was dark with anger and resentment, even betrayal. She knew why. Her people had somehow failed the Vorlons. She recognized the touch to be from Ulkesh and heard his mental singing:

The avalanche returns to the mountain. Shayel, observe. Report. The acolyte speaks with the master's voice.

Shayel understood perfectly. Though the Minbari people failed the Vorlons, she remained ever their servant. She would observe Minbar's enemies when they come to her home world and let the Vorlon Empire be aware of their activities in the aftermath.

She bowed her head in acceptance of the task given by Ulkesh, the action reflected in her mind. Ulkesh, satisfied, sang his ship into ascending into the heavens.

The sky slowly gave way to the vacuum of space. Ulkesh sang with his ship and the transport opened a quantum-space jump point, which would not be detectable as a normal jump point. At most, scanners would sense no more than an odd energy signature in orbit, unless it was the untamed one's technology.

That single thought made the Vorlon rage. They were too savage, too primitive to have such power at their fingertips. A storm was coming and the pebbles would be grinded under when the mountains moved the earth. For the moment, it was small, unseen in the distance. But it was powerful and the untamed ones would learn their place in the universe to their sorrow.

A point of light exploded and a chaotic funnel appeared, similar to a normal jump point and yet not. A bright light roiled and burned at the center of the funnel which appeared to be sucking the light of the universe down into it. The Vorlon transport moved into it and quickly slipped into quantum space. The funnel faded and quantum light gave a final flash after the Q-point disappeared.

The Vorlon went home.

SharlinTurval

Shai Alyt Shaka Commanding

…Shai Alyt Shaka of the clan Wind Swords was about to fire the first shots in a war that could will culminate in the destruction of more than eighty percent of the population of Minbar in less than six hours.

"Alyt Gan'tha, at my command…"

"Shai Alyt, we're receiving an un-encoded message," the female in charge of communications interrupted without preamble. Like everyone the bridge she was aware of what her Shai Alyt was about to order and the consequences if he followed that path. This timely interruption would likely prevent a war between allies. "It comes from the chambers of the Grey Council." Her mouth dropped opened as she listened to the transmitted message. It had always been a possibility but the reality of the message stunned her.

"What does it say?" Shaka demanded, although he already knew what it had to be.

"The Forces of Minbar are to stand down," she said, shocking and frightening the rest of the bridge crew. "An immediate cease fire is in effect. The Grey Council surrenders to the United Federation of Planets. All hostility against them is to cease."

Shaka blinked once, twice. He didn't know whether to be relieved or enraged. They had lost as he knew they had. But for the leadership to announce it was such a frightening thing!

But then, they had lost. And, it was interesting that the UFOPers were mentioned, not their animal allies. Was that a purposeful statement or just an error in the order? No, he thought not. The Grey Council was very specific in their commands.

Now the question was would the different warrior castes adhere to the orders of the Council or continue fighting and possibility doom Minbar in the process? And exactly what would 'he' do?

"Confirm it," the Shai Alyt said. There was an unusual softness to his voice.

"Shai Alyt, it has been confirmed twice. We are to not fire on any ships of the Federation or their allies unless first fired upon."

He shook his head. "So it is to be a slow draw down." This would allow at least some honor to remain to the warrior castes. "Very well, inform our group that we will continue our patrols but there is to be no weapons fire if the enemy is present in our system."

"But, Shai Alyt," Alyt Gan'tha persisted, "Is this not still the Minbari system? Shall we relax our guard if atrocities of the UFOPers are to be perpetrated?"

He couldn't believe the words that were about to come out of his mouth. "If they honor the cease fire, then so shall we. There is no dishonor in losing a war to save a world."

How he hated this war.

"The Y'Ksa contacts us again, Shai Alyt. The commander insists that we investigate the anomaly now three thousand kilometers in front of our position."

"All stop."

Shaka stalked back to his seat and smashed the com button. "It is an asteroid," he growled. "Nothing more."

He didn't believe that for a second. He knew, he knew that it was likely an infiltrating enemy ship. Sensors were insisting that it was nothing more than a rock floating aimlessly in space, but he could feel the truth. He'd learn his lessons well concerning the duplicity of the Federation and its allies well. But now…if it was there, should he even strike against it even if it did violate Minbari territory?

"We will mark its position and continue our patrols." He was proud of himself. It took great strength to say those words in front of the bridge crew.

"If it is an asteroid then it must be considered a hazard to navigation," Shalytni Hyndrai said. "Then it will be destroyed. If it is an enemy ship then it will be destroyed. That you fail to do your duty in either case does not speak well of the Minbari, Shaka," the Ashen Commander said, apparently not realizing the full extent of the danger in front of him. "The anomaly is three thousand kilometers in front of you, coordinates to follow. We are targeting."

"We don't need your coordinates."

"Do not fire on the anomaly," Shaka said. He quickly gave the order to scan the possible target area. The results indicated an asteroid, one that couldn't quite be identified. That just confirmed what he suspected. The Federation warriors were known for their tricks and-he remembered. "Y'Ksa, continue on your patrol. Don't take any action in my patrol area."

"It may well be the enemy," Hyndrai said. "For the glory of the Minbari and the will of the Vorrin, it will be destroyed."

"The Grey Council has given an order. If it is a Federation vessel it is not your concern. The cease fire is in effect. I will not order my ships to fire on them."

"The Grey Council is mistaken," answered Hyndrai. "They don't dictate orders to the Ashen. The war isn't over until they are dead. We believed you to understand duty. But you are lacking like the rest of your people."

"Shai Alyt, they've cut off communications. Ashen sensors are focusing on the targeted area. Weapons are active."

"Shai Alyt, our patrol is asking for instructions," his second informed him. "What are we to do?" he asked patiently.

Shai Alyt Shaka stood motionless, unable to move. His next orders would either continue the war and possibly doom Minbar, or ignite a war between Ashen and Minbari, with Minbar trapped in between.

USS Knowles:

Captain Uhura was staring at the Minbari force of five capital ships less than four thousand kilometers from her vessel. Although her ship was in full stealth mode, and almost completely invisible in the backdrop of space, the Ashen had detected her. The Federation stealth systems weren't cloaks. Instead unless one had a visual on the target, everything seemed to indicate the ship to be nothing more than a barren rock in space. But at such a close distance with active sensors tightly focused on the area, the Minbari hadn't been completely fooled. That had left her with few choices, either fight, or run and the time to make the decision was rapidly running out. There was no way her small communications vessel could handle such odds. Fortunately, she wasn't alone. The Romanov was twelve thousand kilometers out completely undetected. If shots were fired, Chekov would gut everything in the area. She didn't want that especially with the pronouncement of a cease fire. But, she wouldn't have her ship damaged or destroyed either.

"Ensign Chen, we'll have to evade. Prepare for maximum warp out of the system."

"Captain, three thousand kilometers," Ensign Schakowsky whispered. "They're holding position. Ma'am, the Minbari have stopped scanning for us, but Ashen active sensors are bracketing the area. They know we're here, just not exactly where."

"They know enough to get us killed."

"Ma'am, they received the transmission for cessation of hostilities. Are they ignoring it?" asked the young ensign.

"The question is, will they ignore it?" corrected Uhura. "We're still in their territory. Cyn, photon launcher?"

The Andorian's antennae waved quickly as she spoke. "Launcher locked and loaded on closest Ashen ship. Passive sensors locked onto their singularity. It's not an accurate lock, Captain. We require active sensors for that and they're shielded."

"Understood," the captain answered. "But be prepared to fire at my command. If the Romanov fires, don't wait, take it out. Same thing, Mister Chen. Shields on standby. If shots are fired, you get the ship out of the way, maximum warp."

"Evasive course plotted, Captain."

"Communications between the Ashen and Minbari have started up again," Lieutenant Osborn said. "Sensors on both sides are active."

"They're about to fire."

Sharlin Turval

"The Grey Council rule Minbar," Shaka yelled. "Their word is the law here." The bridge crew hadn't heard him scream like that since the debacle against the UFOPer pirate. "I order you to stop your activities now!"

"They are refusing transmissions from us. Their communications frequency is closed," his subordinate said quickly. "Their weapons systems are fully active. Target solutions have been acquired."

"Well, I did warn them," Shai Alyt Shaka of the warrior clan Wind Swords whispered.

No one usurped his command, at least that's what his explanation would be to the end of his days. It wasn't the real reason, it was just that the council's orders were more than a little convenient at the moment. His mounting hatred for the Ashen commander who dared to insult him at every given moment had nothing whatsoever to do with his course of action he told himself. "All ships, fire on the Ashen ships, full power."

USS Knowles:

"Minbari patrol ships have gone fully active!"

"On my command, fire," Uhura said quickly. "Red Alert, shields to full. Ensign Chen, get us out of here."

The helmsman didn't acknowledge the order as his hands flew over the controls. The Knowles started moving before the first enhanced neutron beams could touch her.

Schakowsky turned to the Captain in shock. "The Minbari just fired on the Ashen vessels." He whistled and swore softly. "They're not holding back either."

"Mister Garrett, put it onscreen."

The rapidly retreating communications/science vessel caught a glimpse of three Minbari warships firing everything they had into the two Ashen Hammerheads as the Feds had now nicknamed the Ashen warships. Shalytni Hyndrai never even contemplated the fact that Shaka might turn his weapons on him and thus caught completely unaware and his patrol was in imminent danger of being obliterated.

The Ashen shields glowed intensely as Vorlon-derived Hypania protection fields did their best to deflect and absorb the neutron blasts from twenty neutron mainline cannons. The shields held just long enough for the besieged ships to turn and fire back at their tormentors.

Secondary weapons fire crashed into the Sharlins, turning crystalline armor into melted pools that flaked off of the ship. As strong as Minbari defenses were, the Ashen warships had an advantage in size and were also shielded. Those advantages flashed into clarity as the main guns were brought into play.

The first shots punched a hole completely through the closest Sharlin, puncturing the main power core. The ship disappeared in a titanic blast. But the rear most Ashen ship fared no better as neutron cannon beams followed up by a dozen missiles gutted the Trannus-class ship as the defense fields collapsed. That left the Y'Ksa alone, locked in a vicious struggle at almost point blank range for survival against the two former allies.

A trio of missiles got through the Turval's heavy defensive fire and blew off both of the navigational fins. The other Minbari ship was barely combat worthy after the initial pounding that had decimated her fellow vessel and could offer little more than a half dozen missiles, most which were shot down with the surviving three eroding the remaining Ashen's defensive shields.

The Shai Alyt of the Minbari ship had purposely attacked his own ally to keep it from firing on her own ship. Safely out of range, the USS Knowles stopped to watch the carnage. Uhura quickly weighed her decision whether or not to help the Minbari ships that had defended the Knowles.

That choice was taken out of her hands as four photon torpedoes broadsided the Ashen vessel. Chekov had already made the decision and had acted. Completely taken unaware once more, it was too much and the ship broke apart as its ruptured singularity fed upon itself.

"Captain, we're getting a tight-band broadcast, tachyon – it's from the Minbari ship that first fired on the Ashen hammerhead."

"What does it say?" Uhura asked. Most of the bridge crew was curious as well.

"Translating…sometimes when victory is lost then honor becomes even more important. When the war is over, and if we still live, convey to the Acaltha that I would have a drink with him to discuss the price of honor and the meaning of victory."

The communications officer looked perplexed. "I don't understand."

"I don't think it's meant for us," Uhura said. "Acknowledge the transmission. Ensign Chen, get us out of here back to rendezvous with the main fleet. We've overstayed our welcome. Pass the word to the Romanov and the other groups.'

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Warp three…engage."

"Engaged.

Valen'tha

Chamber of the Grey Council

Rarely had anyone seen the serene moderator Satai Cadoni stalk the chambers of the Grey Council as he had done in the last hour. Shows of emotion within the chambers never happened in the thousand years since the Great War against the Shadows. The Satais were the ones known as 'those who flow in the calm river'. It was their responsibility to present balance and light of the Minbari people. They were an enlightened people, a mature people; ones that others would follow.

But there was a dark side to the Minbari psyche, one that pushed the emotions of rage, vengeance and cruelty to the forefront, the same emotions that had nearly caused the extermination of mankind in their part of the galaxy. The blood rage over the death of their leader Dukhat was merely an excuse to allow the primitive part of the Minbari loose to maim and destroy and kill. The religious caste and the rules of light were there to balance that darkness within the Minbari just as laws and religions were to their cousins, the Humans.

The Ashen had no such balance. They were warriors in heart and soul, genetically altered by the Vorlons to a degree that the Vorlons had never experienced. As the Minbari were the tip of the blade of the Vorlons, the Ashen were the hidden daggers that the Vorlons had been forced to unleash long before their time. They were one of the mistakes of the Vorlons, one of so many. Separated from the Minbari just before the Great War, they were molded into the warriors that they were.

They were Minbari without balance and could be nothing else as their brethren were finding out.

"What has he done?" Hedronn said, stepping into the center circle. "WHAT HAS HE DONE!"

"The Wind Swords came to his aid just as the Ashen arrived in his patrol sector. Warriors on both sides fired on each other. Seven ships have been destroyed and the fighting is escalating. Ashen forces are moving in and the Star Riders and Nova Dark Blades are moving in to assist the Wind Swords. The Blood Knives and the Star Shields have chosen not to interfere for the moment. On the eve of history, we are fighting and killing each other!"

"Shai Alyt Shaka," growled Cadoni. He had never even heard of the Wind Sword's name until now. "I don't know whether we should have him killed or commended for what he's done," he raved as he returned to his place in the circle of light.

"He performed his duty as he was supposed to do," Satai," Sherann responded. "We gave the edict, he performed the action."

Cadoni shook his head. "Either choice would have placed us in this predicament."

"Sutain Lady'll demands to speak to us," Varenn said.

"She can wait," Kalonnon snapped. "She does not make demands of us." Around him, several heads nodded in solemn agreement. "They cannot control their own people. They will not control us."

"If we can avoid more bloodshed let us do so now," Morann announced. "This fighting should have never occurred but it's too late to change the course of events. We need to speak to our brethren now."

"Agreed."

The holographic systems activated. The Ashen female warrior appeared like a statue. There was no movement, no portrayal of emotion from the same female who ordered the death of her brother less than a day earlier. She didn't even look at them as she spoke to the members of the Grey Council.

"We are displeased by the actions of your people," she began. "Before this continues any further, we demand the life of Shai Alyt Shaka and the life of his crew in penance for the betrayal to the Ashen, the Minbari and the Vorrin. You will surrender him and one of the Satais of your warrior caste to our judgment. Your forces will submit to our rule as you are no longer fit to render authority. The Vorrin's will was that the forces of darkness wherever it is, be destroyed, not protected! The Vorrin's will was that the light would strive against the darkness, not surrender to it. Your weakness proves your unfitness to rule. Your warriors are misguided. It is a time for a change before it is too late. The Ashen will ascend to protect you and our world. We will prevail!

The light in her eyes glow with insanity, thought Cadoni. Then he corrected himself. It was not insanity he was observing, but almost mindless devotion. The Ashen were connected to the Vorlons in ways that the Minbari were not. They didn't understand that the Vorlons were First Ones, not gods.

"You forget yourself, Sutain Lady'll. The Minbari rule Minbari. We are accountable for ourselves. We will not surrender to your madness. The cease fire was declared and you violated our dictate. It was not the Ashen decision, but ours."

"But the will of the Vorrin has been made manifest. We know their desires for this war."

"The Vorlons are not here," Hedronn said. "We make our own decisions."

"They're not here because your faith is weak! It is madness not to follow their will made perfect. Your doubt has made you fragile and unworthy of their attention and that is why they have abandoned you. If you had understood the truth of such things then you would gladly do anything necessary, even destroy our home-world rather than submit to the darkness to come. Better death than slavery under the darkness of our enemies at the gate. But this you do not understand and that is why we will do what is necessary for the good of all. If you are not with us then the battle cannot be won but the war will continue. We will ensure that the people of Minbar are honored and not subjected to the incoming darkness. The fight will continue and the darkness will be destroyed by the will of the Vorrin."

The hologram transmission closed.

"These people are insane," Hedronn said, astonished by what he had just heard. 'In Valen's name, they made the humans seem stable in comparison,' he thought with horror.

The Grey Council is astounded by madness of their brethren.

"We dare not ignore this threat," Morann whispered. "They will destroy us all if we allow them. We must deal with this threat before the UFOPers arrive or there may not be enough of anything to surrender!"

"Surrender to our enemies, or be slaughtered by our own species," Satai Dhaliri of the religious caste mourned. "How did it come to this?!"

TBC

Please forgive me concerning the massive time frame between posts. Real life and family illness and loss of family members has been a priority and I have not had the full commitment to write as I should have been doing. I am addressing that now. Please enjoy and postings of everything will be forthcoming a lot sooner.

And don't forget to read 'Reunions are a deleted' by Ash's Boomstick.

Also thank you RenS!