A/N:: This began as a prompt on lj which first spawned Sanctuary. This follows roughly seven vorns later, Sanctuary does not need to be read to understand Perdition.
This chapter contains heavy doses of a hodgepodge of Transformers religious mythos taken at will from . Artistic liscence has been used (and probably abused) in regards to Primus, His origins and all incarnations of the Primes.
All Transformers rights belong to Hasbro, Takara, Marvel, IDW, etc. and all publishers, distributors and anyone else who gets paid to have fun.
Pathline stood in the inner foyer of the Prime's throne room mouth silently agape and frozen despite his aching weariness and despair. Outside of the city called Iacon by its inhabitants entire countries only knew it as Imperial City of Iacon. Outside, beyond the shimmering city's walls and spark-stopping beautiful architecture reaching towards the heavens like hands seeking to reach the glowing orb of the sun, the spark of their God, Primus was renowned for its amazing craftsmanship and ageless beauty.
Seeing all this as he had approached the great Imperial Castle, Pathline had constantly felt pulled to forget the heavy anguish darkening his spark as he took in the sights of Iacon as the wagon he pulled trundled ominously behind him. He had come in through the far southern gate, appreciating the massive mural painted on the wall of a combined force of nightwalkers and mortals holding back a horde of grays seeming to come rising from the ground of the city mirrored in the mural.
Other murals had existed as well, one in the city center, depicting a massive green barrier coming forth from a fey baring green optics. Unlike the many forces depicted in the first mural, this one had rendered the fey with adoration, detailing a nearly lethal exhaustion in the weary faceplates and an anguish in the brilliantly hued optics that made all passersby feel unworthy to stand before so grand a being.
All throughout Iacon Pathline had been introduced to sights and spectacles that filled him with awe, needing to fall to his knees before so great of creations that surely must have been wrought by the will of Primus for their beauty. Yet, now Pathline could only acknowledge that he had been wrong, so very wrong. The many sights and wonders that had greeted him earlier in the orn were nothing compared to this new revelation.
In all of Cybertron, Pathline had discovered in his travels, many cities, districts and entire countries spoke of a Prime. Here, Pathline stood before many. Thirteen thrones stood arrayed in a grand horseshoe trailing up mammoth stairs leading to an enormous dais. Each of the six steps held a set of thrones, each marking the outer edges of the curve leading to the lone, massive throne, never seen but expected due to the pair of blue optics staring out from the mech made from a patch of midnight.
Pathline swallowed tightly, approaching slowly, legs shaking in exhaustion that now hit him as his journey of several long, lonely, agonizingly sorrowful seasons finally ended. As he reached the first step, he wobbled, falling to his knees in a graceless heap before the Primes.
"Are you injured, honored guest?" A voice that resonated with the affection of Primus filled the chamber, vibrating to Pathline's very core with its massive strength and otherworldly gentleness and sorrow.
"No, great lords," Pathline bowed where he had collapsed, flinching as small hands reached him, aiding him to rise and sit in a padded chair before this Council of Primes. The realization that Iacon held an entire council of the great mechs chosen by Primus himself, and not just one as the rest of the world believed, made Pathline desperately grateful for the chair he sat in as grayness began to shroud his vision.
"Master Pathline, please repeat your tale to the assembled." The court Grand-Marshall prompted, reminding Pathline of his presence. So in awe of the Primes and the council they formed the lowly mech had completely forgotten about the military mech bristling with weapons strapped across his frame. The many weapons, all completely functional and lethal, were crusted with precious metal and gems symbolizing that the Marshall stood to protect his leaders and wore a token of their wealth and power in the form of priceless treasures.
Pathline slowly realized his was gasping, exhausted and pale from fright, a once simple farm-mech, he looked to his hands before beginning his story. With one last deep, steadying intake, he looked up begging with his optics that the intimidating and powerful Primes before him heed his tale.
"It began four vorns ago. Mechs, two and three at a time, wwent missing from their homesteads. We'd search for days, but nary a trace existed of them. Then, all sudden-like, they'd be back – but they weren't the same mechs as afore. Young mechs barely past their final upgrades would vanish and return old. Haggard, worn, grey they aged a thousand vorns and looked intake away from death. Worst, they'd never remember a thing.
"Get them a'talkin' and they'd relate their last week, remember'n their younglin's last prank or new love. It were as if they had been frozen, while their frames were ravaged by time. Gearslip, the first of our village afflicted, had been questrioned for vons. He could not understand why we had quarantined him. Then Shearstriker vanished, her new spark wailin for her. It was not natural for a femme ta leave yer younglin' all alone. But, she did. When she returned, Brightstar, her younglin, was near a vorn old. Shearstriker killed her, belivin she was a changelin'.
"More horrors followed, each one worse than the last. It got so bad villages began fightin' one another. We were like monsters ourselves. Regiments from Pax Astronix and Reglix were sent. Yet they suffered just as we did.
"First we believed it a sickness, some ailment of the spark that made mechs lose their way and vanish. But, a few seasons later they'd be right as rain, just – quiet; almost like they was shadows. And with their return came the madness they carried within. Later, after too many came up the same, seasons apart and on opposite sides of the region we began to suspect a parasite, a dark heathen creature that sucked the life from the living for a span of time then went away releasing its victims filled with a new evil.
"Only we could never find any such creature. Then, two vorns ago now, a village disappeared. Up and vanished like a cry in the wind. This time, no one returned and the aging illness ceased. At first it was random, tiny villages, maybe thirty mechs at most would just be gone.
"Three groons ago, it was a town of a thousand mechs near the border of the Forge. They up and vanished, but not me nor any Primus lovin' mech in the town hostel. We bedded down in a warm communal room an woke up ta rain. The only memento of that village was the worn path in the dirt, and the outlines where the houses used to be." Dark, scared optics looked the Primes over. "I have traveled the full circle of territories surrounding the Forge, 'tis the same in all directions. With the disappearance of Althihex Village every spark that had disappeared before and come back old – died." Pathline forced himself to stand, to move to his cart sitting at the entrance guarded by several soldiers. He looked down on the single long crate the cart held, studying the simple hand-folded metal rectangle and hesitating to reveal what lay within.
"Great Primes, there is evil seeping out of Unicron's Forge. I bring proof of my words!" Pathline flipped the crate open, revealing several deceased within. The Primes remained seated, watching, their optics all seeming to stare forward into a void no mere mortal mech could fathom.
"Thank you, Pathline," The darkened Prime spoke, his voice an indescribable resonance that seemed to the very mouthpiece of Primus himself. "The hour is late and we have much to discuss with you next orn. Please accept the quarters we have readied for you. Mainspring, Cannon Spring, please guide him to his quarters.
Pathline looked nervously around the room when no one approached him, then he caught movement out of the corner of his optic. He jerked his helm around to face the Primes, his optics widening, his very core struts becoming veins of liquid ice chilling him with fear.
There, sitting at the feet of the fifth throne from the bottom of the horseshoe nearest the room's entrance were five miniature silver statues all in their own little thrones. He saw it! There! Two of the little statues moved. The statues flanking that Prime's pedes stood in perfect unison, their frames bleeding color into their plating as they moved until they were both red and blue hued, garbed in simple robes of brilliant ocher hue.
Together the little mechs approached, at first stiff and in perfect unison as they descended a small, hidden staircase that lined the massive steps of the dais which allowed them to safely descend. Yet, as they came nearer their motions smoothed, their optics brightened and they were as normal mechs. Pathline felt his optics grow massive, his mouth gaping wide when they finally stood before him. They were his height! His optics darted to the Prime whose pedes they had sat beside and felt his lines freeze in terror. He stood before the greatest giants of their world.
"Rest well, Pathline." One of the Primes spoke, signaling the two statues-turned-mech to escort him from the throne room. Optics wide, bordering on exhausted collapse and terror, Pathline moved woodenly from the throne room and into the wide, massive hall beyond.
Optimus sat in his darkened corner watching Pathline exit. The other Primes of the Council arrayed along their dais and stairs sat riveted as well. No one had dared move during this mech's speech, no one dared even to invent to loudly, each afraid of missing one word the worn mech had softly spoken.
Once the mech had left the room Optimus forced himself to stand. "My fellow Primes, this news does not come to us without forewarning. Long have we heard rumors of evil seeping from Unicron's Forge, and long have we been forcibly sequestered by the absent army of Galvatron's nightwalker horde. Longarm Prime, Liege Maximo and their advisors are brining in troops from across Cybertron. Out spies have finally located Galvatron, and we are ready to march on Kanon, the Vampyer City."
"Only now Kanon canot be our only goal." Liege Maximo, the Warrior Prime, stood to face Optimus. His purple plating reflected only darkness, the narrow red optic visor made him appear an agent of Unicron Himself. Liege Maximo cast his gaze across his fellow Primes, dark visage shadowed by massive horns curving like a cyber-bull's, his helm and thick neck crusted with spikes. The similarity to their depictions of the Unmaker only strengthened with his stiletto-like talons tipping his fingers and the heavy, silvery-blue armor he wore hued of processed energon spilt from the lines of living mechs.
"It is not your intent to leave the villages around Unicron's Forge to be left to their own devices, is it Optimus?" Liege questioned intently, his lips quirking up in a sinister smirk.
Optimus dispelled the black guise surrounding him with an absent flick of his wrist and stared down the most hot headed and ambitious of their number. "No, Maximo, it is not. Our collective forces will split between Kanon and Unicron's Forge. However," Optimus looked off into the darkness beyond their windows, "I fear the two are connected."
"Then it is decided!" Maximo boomed, arms wide as he bellowed his orders – and made the others cringe from the ringing in their audios – to his waiting aides. "Summon our strike force."
It never failed, the one day he let his mates convince him to watch the sunrise with them was the one day everything just had to go to the Pits. Ratchet mentally kept up a mantra of swearing that would have made even Ironhide speechless. None of his litany was voiced, however, he refused to have a repeat of this morning's fiasco with Dawnrunner repeating his absently expressed profanity, especially with her perched happily in his arms as they wove through the unusually heavy morning foot traffic.
The short few blocks from their home, the five story warehouse that had small apartments on the fifth floor, the fourth converted into their own sprawling home and the bottom three devoted to Sunstreaker's art studio and Sideswipe's brew pub; had taken twice as long as normal. Soldiers marched down the main thoroughfare, bearing standards from Polyhex, Crystal Towers, the many small duchies bordering the Crystal Sea and Tyger Pax.
Soldiers abounded everywhere, hunters mingled with them while priests, weapons makers, and caravan riders set up stalls to show their wares or sell their services. Scribes and runners darted through the crowd, their brightly hued clothes and gleaming frames shimmering like quicksilver flashes among the drably armored troops. Talk was everywhere, voices raised in a clamor of war and invaders, but all Ratchet could focus on was keeping his little femme safe until they reached the palace.
"'Addy?" Dawnrunner asked loudly near Ratchet's audio using his 'outside' name, "Are they going to Crimson's party too?"
Around them several soldiers chuckled as they finally noticed the scowling healer in their mists and the tiny, adorable pink youngling in his arms. "Sorry, Little Miss, but we're meeting with the Primes." One older solder replied kindly smiling at the little one, "We don't know anybot named Crimson."
Ratchet looked the solider over, feeling the scrutiny he was getting from others in the ranks walking around him. Optics shifting he realized he was the only civilian walking down this path. It was an uncomfortable feeling.
"Its not nice to stare." Dawn scowled over Ratchet's shoulder at several other soldiers, eliciting a chorus of cackles from the warriors.
"Forgive my mechs, healer – "
"'Addy is Grand Master healer to you!" Dawnrunner hugged Ratchet possessively. Ratchet could only sigh and pinch his aching nasal arch while the soldiers howled with laughter making the little femmelet scowl all the more.
"Dawnrunner," Ratchet barked, his tone and volume cutting through the laughter like a parade ground bellow. The silence greeting his rebuke was deafening. "You do not speak to your elders in that tone."
"Yes 'Addy," She replied, "Da does," the last was mumbled as she hung her helm then caught Ratchet's scowling optic and huffed semi-rebelliously, one orn she would be uncontrollable, Ratchet just knew it. "I'm sorry." She looked to the soldiers with her criminally adorable optics making them 'awe' over her.
"That's alright Little Miss." The commander chuckled again, "Grand Master Healer, please forgive my mens' scrutiny. We have been marching for half a season, and the sight of a happy youngling is one sorely missed."
"Happy?" Ratchet asked worriedly as one arm instinctively raised protectively to hold her closer to his frame, "Never mind, I need to get her to the palace and I am running late for my class. I teach the next generation of healers at the academy." He explained absently taking in the many banners, and flags belonging to troops from over half the known world.
"Well, then, let us assist you!" The commander whistled through his faceplate summoning a transport wagon to his side. "Digger, Road-Out get this mech to the palace!"
"'Addy?" Dawnrunner asked in awe looking at the massive transport that seemed to rumble from out of nowhere. Steam stacks rose towards the sky like chimneys. Its eight massive metal wheels were taller than Ratchet and the two little pede platforms made the climb to the navigator's seat treacherous. The main body, an enormous slate grey monstrosity was nearly as wide as the street, taller than the three story houses that lined the thoroughfare while the smoke stacks from the steam engine reached towards the heavens a further two stories more.
"Hop in," A disembodied voice sounded near Ratchet's audio, he nearly started and looked to a small, blinking spark-light near a suddenly open doorway on the transport. Ratchet swallowed, he'd never ridden in a living transport. The mechs who took on the rigid frames of these massive, behemoth land ships took on a life indebted to others. It was said that dark alchemy was used to separate their sparks and minds from their frames, granting life and sentience to the transport frame. However the transfer was permanent and unyielding. They needed others to bathe them, load their cargo, protect and fight for them, they even needed their mech assistants to feed them. The transport mechs were literally prisoners within their own frames. Willing prisoners living a life of servitude essentially isolated and chaste, the transports could never have families or lovers they could only carry the burdens of others.
"Sure," Ratchet huffed climbing into the narrow opening that led nowhere and realized they were to hang out the open entry as the world zipped by. As if reading his thoughts the transport rumbled into motion at first an agonizingly slow crawl that all too swiftly became speeds even the mechahorses could not attain. Its engine roared as pistons and gears clanked and whirled in a deafening cacophony of metalworks. Ratchet was terrified.
"Faster! Faster!" Dawnrunner giggled, clapping her hands excitedly as she leaned out the entryway to better feel the wind. Ratchet's spark nearly left his plating as he struggled to hold her tighter to his chest and clung desperately to the transport's meager handhold.
'We're going to die!' Ratchet mentally shrieked just as the palace loomed into view all too quickly becoming a massive shadow swallowing the transport. He flinched, braced and expected to perish in a flaming explosion when the transport slowed and ever so gently, stopped.
"Welcome to Iacon Palace," the transport's voice rumbled merrily from the spark-light blinking in Ratchet's face. The healer scowled darkly as he nimbly leapt from the larger frame and landed lightly on the cobblestone courtyard leading to the palace.
"What do you say Dawnrunner?" Ratchet asked pointedly as he ignored the muffled snickers of the transport and its crew.
"Again! Again! Please 'Addy can we?" She asked brightly, optics huge with glee.
"Hmm, I don't know," Ratchet rumbled with a half smirk, "We don't have much time. If you go on another ride you'll miss Crimson's party."
"No! Crimson! Crimson!" She turned in his arms reaching for the palace and her friend waiting there.
"Thank you," Ratchet forced a smile as he turned back one last time to the mechs still laughing at him.
"Thanks Digger-Road-Out!" Dawnrunner waved as Ratchet turned towards the palace, assuming the navigator sitting at the front of the transport had a very long name.
Ratchet refused to correct her. The last thing he wanted was his little femme trying to make herself into a speeding transport. She was fast enough on her own two pedes as it was.
The morning was slow. Sideswipe absently pondered ceasing to sell his energon brews in the morning to the early shifts. He had no problems staying at home while Sunny and Ratch started their work days. I could keep Dawn, then take her to the palace before lunch. She could be my helper.
Sideswipe's mind ran away with his little daughter playing behind the counter 'helping' him. He could see her drawing on the cupboards and playing hide and go seek amongst the brew kettles. He stifled a wince as Ratchet's voice rang through his mind. No, maybe she was better off at the palace.
While Sideswipe's mind meandered his hands were busy. There were always counters to clean, brews to monitor, employees to keep track of. The work was fun.
"Keep telling yourself that." Sunstreaker's voice shattered the calm silence of the morning. "You know the only one having fun anymore is Dawnrunner." The yellow mortal guised nightwalker stood behind the bar counter just before his display of hand crafted energon gel sculptures.
Sideswipe sighed, helm down and and hands spread across the bar. For a moment he wondered if the bar was the only thing holding him up. "I know, but what can we do?" He looked helplessly to his brother. "Ratchet doesn't want to force Dawn to move, and his job is important."
"So?" Sunny huffed, "Being a mortal is boring." He turned, arms crossed tightly as if to ward off the chill of becoming stagnant. "We used to roam the world, now we barely leave the block. Even the winter rotations with Ratchet are no longer a challenge. The entire route is basically one big village now."
It was true. Six vorns ago the northern route Ratchet traveled had been a long, quiet road with a few villages and two towns to boast of. The winter route was had been a haven of rogue nightwalkers, filled with blizzards at each turn and ever increasing dangers. As of last winter it had a village every half-orn walk from each other. The small towns now rivaled Iacon City for population size, only they boasted a majority of darklings.
Nightwalkers were still few, and mostly kept to Stone Sanctuary. The nightwalker haven no longer needed mortal Companions to offer their mech-blood to feed the nightwalker population. Sideswipe's energon synthesizers now made artificial mech-blood to keep them fed. Prowl and Jazz, the nightwalker and his companion who ran Sanctuary had left two vorns ago.
"Sick of painting yet?" Sideswipe asked, looking towards the pub's far back wall that was shared with Sunny's art store and gallery.
"Completely." Sunstreaker sighed, thin looked at the gels again. "I want another one."
"Another?" Sideswipe looked from Sunny to the gels, his mind going back seven vorns as a leering smirk crossed his features. "Oh yeah, we got Ratchet to bond with us with the first gel."
Sunny nodded, "And Runner came after the second."
"You think another newspark would make life more interesting?" Sideswipe asked.
"No, but it would make Runner happy. She's been begging for a little sibling for weeks." The pair shared lusty grins as Sideswipe began mixing up energon gel for Sunstreaker's next project.
Ratchet barged into the classroom, silencing the raucous of dozens of femmes and a few mechs talking and debating all at once. He glared at his class, his burning optics sending them scuttling to their seats as he stepped up to the stage.
"Good morning class," Ratchet began, his voice gruff and bordering on furious. No one had ever seen their professor like this before. He had been happy, joking, gruff, stern and precise but never angry. "Today we have a guest, so watch your language." He set the tiny figure his class had focused on at his entrance, turning the slightly scuffed up, little femme with the trembling lower lip and huge optics brimming with tears to meet them. "This is my daughter –" the class gasped in unison as murmurs of 'Is he bonded?' mingled with other speculations he quickly spoke over – "Dawnrunner, say hello."
"Hi," She waved weakly turning to hide beneath the podium on the stage to a chorus of 'Awww's' at the adorable sight of her climbing under the slanted desktop. Despite the whole class being able to see her through the broken paneling at the front Ratchet still stepped up to the podium, beginning his lecture as his daughter hugged his leg.
If Ratchet had not been on the stage subjected to his class's amusement he might have shared his student's laughter. Instead he was just getting pissed off. The palace had been barred from all visitors – no exceptions. He had been turned from the main academy entrance, forced to use a roundabout servant stair as Dawnrunner went into a fit of hysterics over not being with her friends. Desperate she had slipped from his arms, tumbled to the ground, leapt from a window and into the middle of a training yard – that was in full use for military maneuvers by over a thousand mechs.
Nearly trampled, terrified, lost, and confused Dawnrunner had finally homed in on Ratchet and he had not been able to get more than six inches from her since. Hence, the miniature clinging limpet that clung to his leg impeding his lecturing as he shuffle-walked across the stage. Oh, he knew his class loved watching him limp-step as he paced lifting his left ped carefully so as to not dislodge his already traumatized youngling.
Normally Ratchet thought he never had enough time in a lecture session. There was so much information to impart, questions to answer, guidance to give and he felt that his class of sixty-three students never got enough of his time. Today, however it couldn't end fast enough.
He limp stepped another couple paces as he finally approached the board, lecturing all the while as he picked up a stylus and began swiftly tracing glyphs out for the major systems. "There are six major frame types that apply to mortals. Each type follows its own unique schematic for major systems relays. Further, there are derivatives of each schematic within the major types. Remember, this class covers only the major mortal systems. For those going further in your studies there will be classes on various frame types for the major classes of non-mortals.
"Now, for the next ten-orn, I expect each of you to learn the major lines for the energon and coolant systems. Know all their attachment points and the major derivative locations. Further, know the spark placement and why its position is important –"
"Ratch!" Twin voices sounded from the classroom door, making Ratchet's spark skip a beat. He looked over, feeling a desperately grateful smile cross his features as Sunstreaker and Sideswipe raced to him, embracing him regardless of his class staring at them.
"We were worried," Sunstreaker explained as he knelt to scoop Dawnrunner in his arms, "Silver-Star sent a messenger when Dawn never showed up." Sunstreaker paused, taking in the minor tears in his daughter's new dress, the dirt wedged in her plating and the scuff marks marring her usually pristine, pale faceplates. "What happened?"
The last was asked menacingly, optics dark as Sunstreaker assumed someone had damaged their daughter.
"Over here," Ratchet gestured to an alcove at the edge of the stage, "Quickmeld, Wind-down, continue the lesson," he nodded to two gaping teaching aides who were preparing to take over teaching the lower level courses for him. Once the pair had taken up the stylus and the lecture Ratchet joined his mates and daughter. Once together he explained the morning's fiasco, the soldiers, the transport ride, everything. Now, with so much explained Ratchet felt the need to get plastered off his aft on high grade to drink away the aggravation.
"Love," Sideswipe brushed a hand over Ratchet's cheek tenderly, "We'll take her to Crimson's. You finish your day."
"Then we'll see you tonight." Sunstreaker finished, placing a love token in Ratchet's hand and kissed his palm. With a secretive smile he turned from Ratchet heading towards the door with Dawnrunner cradled protectively to his chestplates as Sideswipe pulled Ratchet in for a deep, intense kiss. Parting swiftly, the red twin gave Ratchet an impish grin and trotted out the door after Sunstreaker.
"Oh Primus," Ratchet looked at the love token. It was a miniature energon gel. A flowering confection of gelled energon shaped into a stem no longer than his little finger. Two blooms blossomed on the end, one a pale melon pink, the other promising pure white. Ratchet swallowed tightly against the heat in his face plates and tingling in his interface panel. The twins wanted another youngling. With Dawnrunner spending the night with her friend in the palace they would have the place to themselves. Ratchet tucked the token away and schooled his expression as he turned to finish his lecture and wondered if he would be able to walk tomorrow when they were done with him.
to be continued ...