Chax paced out another arc, then broke the silence. "Aun? Is this a bad time to talk?"
Aun had considered breaking the silence himself, but had refrained in order to give Chax time to think. The Oistrem had looked... not physically unwell, but as one who clings to an idea that is crumbling at the edges. Aun put down his frenting rod and stretched his arms. "It's a good time. I was about to take a break anyway."
Chax continued to pace; guard duty could be stretched around certain activities, but was not subject to breaks. "I had meant to ask. Can you tell me why we encountered so little resistance to our presence from the drones? I know that there are drones specialized to repel intruders, and these I have fought when entering Kollen before, but I have seen none today."
Aun gave a flat little smile. "It's probably because I'm here—because I entered in the correct way before you did. There is a... covenant, or Precedence as you might put it. The Kollen drones won't attack Strasmin."
Chax slowed just a beat in his constant pacing. "Very odd! How did that come to happen?"
"If the Ancestors remember, they don't tell much of it. What I gather is that once the Strasmin lived among the various creatures, and they—Mlierd, Glume, Kollen, and so on—lived with us, and the Strasmin guided the others in growing. And the Strasmin and the beasts, the plants, and the things that are both... we all worked together and helped each other, until..." Aun cast down his eye and tapped his foot.
Chax assumed a look of mock horror. "Until the evil Oistrem descended and ruined everything, correct? I won't take offense, Aun; we have similar stories about you Strasmin."
"Thanks for understanding. Yes, you were all supposed to be jealous of how well we got along, and desire only from the evil in your hearts to destroy it all. Or perhaps you were all just foolishly misled because you didn't know any better. And so you all supposedly came down from Susekho, which then was a place of beauty..."
"It stirs my heart with joy each time I see it," said Chax earnestly.
"I'm sure it does... but this is still the Strasmin side of things. Up until then Suskeho was joined to the world, but when you Oistrem descended to intervene—and the Ancestors would not speak clearly about any of this—you supposedly did something, and what you did let loose a dark horror from the sky, and there is no counting the number of those who died that day. The number dwarfs that of all who have fallen in the thousands of cycles ever since. It was the world itself crying out against a vast betrayal, and so in pain that it could not distinguish its faithful children from its direst foes, lashing out against all.
"And so... I have so few details, but Strasmins somehow stopped the destruction and soothed the world and saved some of each of the beasts and plants, and at this time a pact was worked out with each... All knew that things could not go on as they had before, but a way to make things work was found, and for each a means of... interaction was agreed upon. Well, all save one. The Glume... don't get me started on the Glume, right now.
"Anyway, before the world calmed down, there was a vast heaving, and Susekho was thrown into the sky, into the home of the dark invaders, and it became dark itself and ugly with their evil, and the Oistrem were tainted forevermore. The world had no power to destroy them utterly, but as with the Strasmin and the beasts, the world reached some accomodation with them. If evil could not be banished, it could still be made to serve some purpose... as a test for the faithful, if nothing else.
"And it was from this that Botaram rose to its full glory. Before it had been content to rest within the world, and permeate it with its eternal luster, but when a beacon was needed, it rose forth and stretched to the depths of the sky. And Botaram was not only thereafter the home of the Eirefrast, by which we lay down our material bodies and live evermore in spirit, but also a ward against the dark horrors and a proof against and rejection of their evil. And always has Susekho circled vainly, striving to encircle and corrupt, but it cannot approach, for it and those born from it are unfit to commune with the beauty and majesty of Botaram, which holds the broken world together."
Aun became aware that Chax had stopped pacing.