original story

Prologue

“You cannot be serious!”

“I am perfectly serious”.

Xul’dan stared through the bemused expression on his comrades features. His reasoning was the height of cruel logic, and the best course of action.

“You want to eradicate an entire species on a wim?”

His detractor was Ya’das, a member of his small species that Xul’dan had always found somewhat pathetic. How could that fool not see the logic - the need - for this. It was fast becoming an infestation, a disease that must be purged before it takes over.

The species in question had developed faster than light capability and terraforming technologies far quicker than anyone on the council had predicted, and they had spread across a large sector of their home galaxy with a swiftness rarely displayed by mortal beings.

Xul’dan had watched this expansion, studied the minds and behaviour of many within its ranks, from the lowest of the low to highest of the high, and found them wanting. They were capable of such destruction, such cruelty, that to let them take over the universe would violate everything the council stood for.

“This is not a wim!” Xul’dan snapped. “These creatures must be stopped.They are not mammals, they do not form an equilibrium with their environment, they simply move to an area and multiply, over and over, until all resources are consumed. They are a virus, a very dangerous one, and we must be the cure.”

Ya’das stared at him. Though their species, to an outsider, all look identical, there are subtle differences. For all intents and purposes, Xul’dan and Ya’das could be clones, but they both knew the other's distinctive marks. Ya’das was younger, with a smaller and more oval shaped head. His large black eyes protruded a fraction more, and a fleck of grey curved around his iris’.His skin was a lighter grey than the rest of the council's, belying his age.

Xul’dan stared back, unflinching in his resolve to destroy this potentially disastrous encroachment. He curved the edges of his flat mouth into a sign of smug content.

“Deep down, Ya’das, you know what I want to do is the right path.”

His council brother snorted, extending a long grey finger.

“You have done this before, Xul’dan. This isn’t about any infestation, this is you wanting to display power, to prove that mercy is weak and subtle guidance a fool's errand. Just like with the Kulnaga”.

A ripple of discord floated from the other council members at the mention of the Kulnaga. Xul’dan’s eyes became smaller as he leaned forward and his voice became tinged with malice.

“You dare mention them, Ya’das? I did what was right, even if you are too foolish to see it. They were going to destroy everything this council had created, they brought ruin to everything. The Kulnaga deserved to die!”

“Nothing deserves total eradication!” Ya’das screamed back, slamming his hands on the hard light table the council sat around.

Xul’dan stood up, ready to bounce across the table and throttle the upstart where he stood. It would do no good of course, their species are immortal, omipotent, and total just twelve. Ya’das could hide anywhere in the universe for eternity the second a hand was placed on him.

“You are a naive fool. This species isn’t fit for a place in the universe we created. I want them gone”.

Ya’das sat back down, calmly, the anger gone.

“And the point is made. You see no real threat here, you, and you alone want to eradicate this civilisation. They maybe capable of great destruction, but they are also create beautiful, wonderful things. Their lives are worth keeping”.

A low chuckle stopped Xul’dan just as he was about to make a retort. Both of them scanned the table, quickly finding the source.

Xa’bash was known as the gambler of the council. He liked to make dangerous bets on the fate of creation, and much to vexing of the other members, made jokes.

“Brothers, I have a proposal.”

Xul’dan glared at him, and laughed, “A proposal Xa’bash? I think not. Outline your latest gamble and do so quickly”.

The gambler made a slight clicking sound, then rested his elbows on the table, allowing the sleeves of his dark orange robe slide down, revealing the dark grey skin that stretched over his skeleton.

“Very well. I propose a wager. Let's see who will win, in a battle for the fate of this species, the light or the dark”.

Xul’dan eyed the older being with a distrusting stare, but had to admit his wager showed promise. He did, however, know Xa’bash too well, there will be a twist, there is always a twist.

“Do not get me wrong my brothers, watching you two fight for all eternity, unable to kill each other, would prove to be paradise for me but let us have these creatures decide their own fate. Each of you select a champion, and let battle commence”.

Ya’das chuckled. This was absurd, but he could already tell that Xul’dan was going to agree, and that he was supremely confident of winning.

“What happens to the victor?” he asked.

“Depending on which side wins, different things,” Xa’bash looked down and the translucent table, a slight shimmer of purple marking its edges, “If the light wins, the champion will become this galaxy’s ultimate warrior, its protector in times of great need, and we know those times are heading its way.”

“And if I...I mean the dark wins?” Xul’dan asked, cursing himself for his err.

Xa’bash smiled and raised his head “If the dark wins, the galaxy will be plunged into a reign of terror the likes of which not even we have seen, with the champion as master of all they see”.

He knew he had them both. Xul’dan would want to prove that the species deserves destruction, while Ya’das would stop at nothing to save them from a fate he deemed unfair.

“I accept” they said in unison.

“Excellent” Xa’bash said as he leaned back into his seat, closing his eyes to concentrate.

An explosion of yellow light appeared above each council member, solidifying into twelve ornate swords. Each one shone like a star, radiating an air of hope and peace. The council didn’t stare at the blades above their own heads, like they knew the weapons were true and just. No, instead each member couldn’t pull away from the sword above Xul’dan’s smooth scalp.

It was as different from the others as night was to day. Where the others had bright silver blades, this was black from edge to edge. The hilt purple and crimson, adorned with skulls screaming in pain and spikes.

“What is this Xa’bash? Why is mine so different?”

Xa’bash smiled, “It’s simple really. You say that these creatures are too cruel, that they are capable of such destruction and pain that they don’t deserve the universe we have created for them. So I have created a sword to represent that side of them.”

Xul’dan tore his gaze away from the weapon hovering above his head, and stared at his council brother.

“This weapon is the physical embodiment of their darkness?”

“Yes, all that pain and suffering in one mighty blade”

Xul’dan eyed other swords, and understanding washed over him.There was always a twist with Xa’bash.

“You are once again playing a dangerous game Xa’bash! Hedging your bets and proving what side you are on!

“I take no sides brother,” Xa’bash said calmly, “but your own words have stated that this species is so brutal, so cruel and inherently evil that they deserve to be wiped from existence and never spoke of again. If that is true, then a sword that provides its user with all that power should be no match for eleven others that embody the exact opposite”.

Xul’dan bristled, his council brother had a point, and there was no way around it. The other members stared at him, waiting on a response, but he had nothing. Ya’das for his part, radiated smug confidence.

“Don’t look so confident my young brother,” Xul’dan hissed, “my champion maybe outnumbered but you will soon see just how brutal their kind is, and you will be begging your brothers to see them destroyed”.

“We shall see Xul’dan, we shall see..” Ya’das said quietly, but his thoughts turned to that very possibility. All he needs is one of the chosen eleven to defeat the living embodiment of death and destruction and save their species. He knew of the destruction Xul’dan cites, but he also sees the good, the beauty. The humans create art, music, books that few other species can even come close to matching, even more advanced civilisations. The good in them far outweighs the evil, but that evil is ever present. Hiding at the edge of the light, waiting for the perfect time to crawl in and consume them.

In a perfect universe, the odds are in his favour. One versus eleven, it shouldn’t even be a fair fight, but he knew all too well this isn’t a perfect universe. Xa’bash wouldn’t have come up with this wager if there was no sport in it for him, which means that the line separating victory and defeat will be small. Very small. All it takes is one to better, though, to represent all that good.

“Well then,” Xa’bash said, clapping his hands and leaning back in his seat “shall we begin?”

The others looked at him and gave the slightest nod. He smiled.

“Pick your champions brothers, pick your Galaxy Knights”.