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The Naga Drums [Fanfic]


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They met in the cold, bleak wastelands of Mars, hidden from sight by sheer cliffs of ice and snow, their words kept secret by the howling Arctic winds. They came via secret paths known only to themselves, roads of shadow that they spoke of to no living soul.

 

Three Loki came first, their Warframes painted a dull metallic silver. They stepped out of the secret path together, and had there been anyone to witness there arrival it would have seemed that they appeared from a swirl of gently falling snow. Next, on the far side of the valley, eight Ash frames emerged from a drifting wisp of smoke. Their armour was grey, brown and bone, like giant beetles.

"Where are the rest?" One growled at the trio of Loki.

To appease their counterparts, five more Loki made themselves known. Three in black, two in dark green and trimmed in gold. The party of Ash-clad Tenno eyed them with suspicion; the two groups were much alike, yet also so different in many ways.

At last, the gathering was finished by the arrival of two more Tenno. They arrived simultaneously, appearing amidst their respective parties. One Loki, one Ash. Both were clad in the alabaster and gold frames of the Primes, the first of the Tenno.

 

"Excalibur is dead," Ash Prime said coldly.

The two Primes knelt together, face to face, so close that they could whisper and hear each other clearly over the wind. It was a closeness born of friendship and brotherhood, of a deep, unbreakable trust. A closeness of conspiracy.

Loki Prime nodded slowly. "I know," he said. "I mourn him. But at least he had disciples, and they are numerous. He will live on through them."

The other Tenno stood in a circle around their masters, their backs turned out of respect. Secretly, every one of them strained to hear what was being said between them. They were intertwined, with each of Loki's followers stood between two of Ash's.

The Primes let the wind howl for a time. Their thoughts were heavy, and they stayed silent, perhaps hoping the wind would catch their burdens and carry them away. At length, Loki Prime spoke again, "I wish to speak aloud, to give form to my thoughts. They are difficult ones, concepts that could easily be misconstrued as sinister, perhaps even treacherous."

"But treacherous to whom?" Ash Prime replied, too quickly to be a spontaneous question. "To your pupils? To me? To our people?"

"To our creators. This war, this long and bloody war, was born of a series of events that I would judge neither good nor bad; I judge them simply as moments in history. This war is, in the eyes of some, a terrible, perhaps even apocalyptic event. To me, this war is a blessing - for without it I would not exist, at least not in the form I now possess. The war marks the end of an era, and the beginning of the next."

Ash Prime nodded. His hands gently clenched and un-clenched in time with his breathing. "Yet what we see is not a desire for change, but a desire for continuity; to ignore the lessons of the present in favour of reliving the past."

 

The snow fall stopped and the wind died down. Both Primes looked upward at the sky, perfectly clear and impossibly blue. Loki Prime raised a hand upward, as though expecting to find that the sky was nothing more than an aquamarine canvas pulled tight above his head. "Things cannot remain as they are. There must be closure. We owe it to our people, to all peoples, to let history take its course."

"Then let me speak plainly, old friend; to turn upon our masters would be costly. Even with our success, our great armies, and how much they depend on us, the cost would still be terrible. It is not enough to burn the old world down - that would be a crime beyond forgiveness. We must be sure there is a new world to take its place. And we must be sure the Tenno are there to bear witness."

Loki Prime lowered his hand once more. "Who else have you spoken to?"

"You know better than to ask that," Ash Prime replied. "Just as I will not ask you the same. A year ago, they might have cut me down for even considering this. A month ago, they would have said it was too much. Now, with Excalibur dead, there is a sea-change in their moods."

"I have felt the same."

"Then all that remains is to decide how best to ensure we survive the coming storm."

Slowly, Loki Prime turned to the circle of Tenno around them. "Perhaps we need not survive, if we have taught our students well."

 

Ash Prime and his companions vanished into the smoke-filled realm from which they came, and one by one the followers of Loki embarked on the shadow roads back to home. Only two remained behind; Prime, and a single Tenno in a green and gold Warframe.

"I would have you remain here," Loki Prime said.

"For how long?" The Tenno replied.

"Until fate awakens you. I will call forth your Liset and arrange a stasis unit. This is an important place; it should be protected."

The Tenno shifted uncomfortably. "Master, I could not help but overhear what you said. It is not that I question your plans, but I feel..."

A fatherly hand came to rest upon his shoulder. "Put aside your thoughts, my apprentice. Be at peace, and know that I am proud of what you have become. Soon, from your perspective, you will have to take my teachings and put them to use. Follow your instincts, remember your lessons, and trust your Magicks. I do not think we shall meet again."

There was more the Tenno wished to say, and wished for his master to say, but Loki Prime had vanished with barely a sigh of displaced air, and the Tenno was left alone.

 

He had been told to follow his instincts, and those instincts made him wait before taking his rest. He sat on the edge of the cryopod, which he had secured in a hollow in the ice, away from prying eyes. He had steadied his breathing, cleared his mind and let his soul wander in the Void, reaching out across the stars. His third eye saw a familiar aura and he followed it, letting himself be drawn into an aethereal dream-realm. Visions came to him, a heady mix of long-past events, present moments and the untold possible futures that might yet come to be. He felt the aura pulling him to one such future; a great gathering of people who had come to honour the Tenno. He saw them, cold and gold, still as statues before the admiring masses. He felt the air shake as the ceremonial naga drums were struck, all across the worlds, beating out in unison to praise their saviours. Then the ninth beat sounded, and he saw the clouded future suddenly become sharply, terribly clear.

 

The aura that had led him there faded, and the Tenno knew he was no longer welcome. He returned to his body, wracked with shivers that had nothing to do with the cold, and he knew it was time for him to sleep.

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