That last night as We lay there together, the shadows around the cell thickened and became substantial as the walls of the cell faded away. We stood together, even Pak'ma'ra-me, to face whatever this may be. Death come to greet us? The dim light of the cell increased and became softly lambent.
Surrounding Us were the Dead, the Markab that had gone before Us. A ring of Markab Elders stood around Us. As I-me looked around, I-me dropped to one knee. It just felt right. I-me saw a little child standing in this first circle. Kimmini.
One of the Elders stepped forward. "We have waited a long time."
"I am Kronos, the ancient seer of Markab. Oldest of seers and representative of all the Seers of Markab that now stand before you. We have come here before you to tell you a story. A great story. A story of how the events of today have come to pass. A story that has its roots in ancient times, more than a thousand years ago. A story for which the final chapters are yet to be written." His voice was deep and unmarked by accent. He turned to one side. "Darrin, of this story what do you tell?"
A smaller Markab stepped forward. "I am Darrin, Keeper of the Memory of Markab. I see the past, remember the past so that what was once learned is not forgotten. I see the Markab as they once were, before the price had been paid, young, vibrant, mortal." Mortal??? But they were all dead! Of course they were mortal!
Darrin continued. "I see them building great cities, creating the most wondrous works of art, flying to the stars in ships travelling faster than light. Not ships that had been given to them by others, but ships built solely by the Markab.
"Upon the glorious light of the Markab civilization I see a darkness fall. The darkness of a most ancient, powerful and terrible enemy. An enemy known as the Shadows."
Exhausted as I was, drained of life and interest, I still took notice of what Darrin said. G'Quan's writings spoke of a great darkness falling upon the land a millennium ago. Perhaps Narn's sufferings were not the only ones.
"Against this enemy and its allies, the people of Markab rallied. They flung themselves against the darkness. They rose up in great numbers, men, women and children. They fought with whatever was at hand. At the Battle of Vakren the Shadows were defeated, but only after the bodies of Markab were piled twenty high. So much suffering, so much loss. But it still was not enough. Only with the help of others, the Minbari, the Vorlons and other races now dead or gone, were the Shadows finally defeated and cast back to beyond the Rim. But the cost had been most terrible.
"By the time war ended, fully two thirds of the Markab people were dead, and Markab lay in ruins. The Markab looked upon their fallen sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and neighbours. And they wept.
"The Markab vowed that such loss should never happen again. And they struggled to find a way to defeat death. They succeeded.
"The Markab found that when a body dies, it is not necessary that the soul should also be destroyed. They found a doorway to another world where the soul could live on. But they also found that only a very few, the seers, ever found a way through that doorway. With the help of the seers, the Markab scientists found that by changing their genetic structure, all Markab and their children would be able to find their way through that doorway. And no Markab would ever truly die."
The sonorous voice of Kronos broke in at this point. "But immortality came with a great price. To become immortal, the Markab would have to become slave to the Edicts, for the change that allowed access to the second world also changed the functioning of their minds. Now to stay sane, the Markab had to follow a strict regimen of rituals and rules. A regimen that left little time to continue the great work achieved by those that preceded the immortal Markab. And this is how it was for nearly one thousand years." He looked beyond us. "Argath, prophet of Corflu, what do you see? Of this story, what do you tell?"
A Markab near Kimmini stepped forward. "I am Argath, True Seer and Seeker of Visions. I see what may come to pass. The Future. I see the Ancient Darkness rising once again to raise its fist against the galaxy. I see great death spreading amongst the people of Markab. If this time comes to pass it will be in half a century."
Half a century from now? 50 years? But the Markab are all dead now. Not in fifty years time!
Kronos spoke again. "We must prepare. We will need weapons to strike down the Enemy. Machines to heal the sick and wounded. But our people are old and weary. The curse of the Edicts weighs heavily upon them. They do not have the heart to fight another war. We must seek allies. Nadren, Far Seeker, do you see any who may aid us?"
A female stepped forward. "I am Nadren, Far Seeker. I can see across the vast expanse of space to other places and other worlds. I see a young race, angry, blind, afraid. They fear the imminent destruction of their homeworld. They seek new homes which they are attempting to take by force."
I thought she spoke of my people, but what she said next gave me cause to doubt and to fear what she spoke of.
"The other races have cast them back to their homeworld where they will die in the inferno as their sun reaches the end of its life."
Narn's sun was not at the end of its life, not yet anyway. We had not been cast back to our homeworld, though if what the Dilgar said was correct, we had been savagely battered by the Centauri. I began to understand that the Seers were not speaking of the future but of the past and the present. Narn had a proud story-telling tradition and the narrators of my people often spoke like these Markab.
"This is a people that seeks a home."
Kronos replied "There is room on Markab for many"
"This is a people hated across the galaxy"
And Kronos replied "When given Redemption, the Markab will forgive them." He and Nadren were performing what sounded like a liturgy.
"This is a people that require protection"
"The Markab will protect them"
"This is a people that burns with a great flame."
"The Markab will temper the flame and turn it to fire the forges of war. With the spirit of the Dilgar and the wisdom of the Markab, we will build the machines needed to fight the Great War."
They spoke not of the Narn but of the Dilgar. How could they be so blind as to not see the evil within these beings?
"And so it was. To many Dilgar scientists, engineers and technicians we offered redemption. 50,000 of them accepted. With our guidance and co-operation, and with access to the many secrets held in the libraries of Markab, technical achievements advanced at a great rate. We thought that it was all that we hoped for.
"But it proved to be our undoing.
"The Great Death that Argath saw in his vision was not, as we thought, the work of the Shadows but rather the work of one of those to whom we had given Redemption. It was the work of a truly evil being. A being of great patience and cunning, for it kept its true self hidden from both the Seers and its supervisors for many years. A being burning with dreadful hatred for it wished for the destruction of so many. A being of great intelligence, for it carefully crafted the virus that resulted in our first death. A being of great power because for all our searching we have not seen its face or seen its devilish handiwork in progress. We call this being the Beast.
"The Beast now roams free on the surface of Markab. Its dark heart will not allow it to rest. We must stop it." Kronos turned and looked around the circle of Seers. "Who of us still walks in the first life?"
The reply whispered back to him. "There are none. All the Seers have fallen prey to Drafa and now live their second lives."
"Then we must seek out one of the Markab to defeat the Beast. Who of us can see a Markab who is worthy of this task and still walks in their first life?"
The Seers answered, "There are none. We can see but a handful of Markab in their first life and they are scattered amongst the stars. Should they come to Markab they would most certainly pass from their first life. Only one Markab remains alive on Markab, and he seeks only to join his people in the second life."
Beside me, Djikiden started. That Markab was most surely dead, and killed by the Pak'ma'ra's hand.
Kronos sounded like he wept as he spoke. "Then there is no one to defeat the Beast and it will be free to work its revenge upon the universe."
A small, high voice piped up. "I see someone."
Kronos turned, seeking, "Who speaks?"
"It is I, Kimmini, the young seer, daughter of Orini."
The full attention of the Seers moved to little Kimmini. "Who do you see?"
She stood straight and tall, well as tall as she could. I felt pride for one so young daring to speak in the company of her Elders. "I see four outsiders. I was touched by one of them as I passed into the second life. Through her I can see the others. They are the four outsiders who lead to the defeat of the pirates and were brought to the home of my father."
"I know of these four." Kronos passed judgment upon us. "They are not worthy."
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