When the Hammers Fall

I saw what happens when the hammers fall,” he recounted to the other representatives of the Interstellar Hegemony.


They all started silently, waiting for him to deliver his report.  Rhaegar was the senior representative of the Kalach Priory to the Hegemony.  He had been tasked with going to the home world of the humans and attempting to find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.


It all began with what seemed like a minor diplomatic incident to the rest of the Hegemony.


They were very wrong.

When the Hammers Fall

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Approximately one and one-quarter cycles ago, a fleet of the Cholan Corporation attacked and laid claim to a world on their border with the humans.  Not a single human was spared.  Since both the humans and the Cholans were members of the Hegemony, the law required that the two parties bring the matter before the Hegemony Congress.  Ultimately, Congress determined that no Hegemony laws were broken and that it was a civil matter between the two parties.

The human delegate opened a folder that they had already prepared before their arrival.  From within, he pulled out a page and held it before his face.  As he read it to the representatives of the Hegemony, a hush fell over the room.

“My fellow representatives, we regret that you have chosen to ignore this invasion of our sovereign territory and the murder of our citizens.  However, I cannot say that we are surprised.  I have been instructed by my superiors to read this declaration to you.”

He looked down at the paper in his hands. 

“From the office of the Chairman of the Terran Confederation.  Representatives of the Hegemony, we cannot allow this attack to go unchallenged.  As it appears that the Hegemony is either unable or unwilling to settle this matter, we will have to take matters into our own hands and act unilaterally regarding the Cholan Corporation.  As such, we, the duly elected representatives of the people of the Terran Confederation, declare a state of war against the Cholan Corporation.  Any member of the Hegemony that renders any form of military aid will be deemed a combatant, and this declaration of war will, at that time, apply to them.  What we humans call humanitarian aid (food, medical supplies, transporting civilians out of combat zones, etc.) would not be considered military aid.  We will confine this war to the Cholan Corporation so long as you do not interfere.  We take this action with a heavy yet determined heart.  As one of the writers of our ancient literature once wrote, ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’.  You have been duly warned.”

The human representative walked forward and laid the declaration of war on the large table in the center of the room where legislation was normally placed for consideration.  He then pulled out a large dagger, about ten inches long, and thrust it through the war declaration, pinning it to the table.  Every human left the room and went straight for the docks and their awaiting shuttle.  They left the capital of the Hegemony and returned to Earth without another word to anyone.

After weeks of debate, Rhaegar was selected to go to the human world and try to reason with them.  Due to his people’s good relations with the humans, he was allowed to enter the Terran home system and transport down to the surface of Earth.  He took note of the things he saw.  With every passing kilometer, his eyes confirmed what he had feared.  The humans were serious about going to war.

The fleet that he saw as he entered what Terran called the Sol system was massive.  Energy readings were off the charts as it seemed a new reactor came on every couple of hours, indicating another ship powering up from standby mode.

Once on the surface and traveling over the cities, he noticed that factories he saw building hovercars on his precious visits were now building ships, munitions, and ground assault vehicles.  The humans had diverted entire industries to make weapons of war.

When his awe subsided, he realized that the transport was not taking him to the government complex in the capital.  It had turned away from the city and headed towards a mountain in the distance.  The mountain had a whisp of smoke coming from the peak.  Was that a volcano?

When he arrived, he was greeted by the same representative who had delivered the declaration of war to the Hegemony.  He motioned for Rhaeger to come with him.

“Welcome to earth.  I am sorry that your visit came under such circumstances.”

Rhaegar softened his gaze.  “So am I friend.  I am sure you know why I am here.  I have been asked to try to find a diplomatic solution to this.  My people know yours.  We have a long history of good relations.  Please, how can we help diffuse this situation?”

“Your people have been good to humanity.  We value your friendship, but you know our history.  You know how much we value the lives of every single citizen.  The Cholans murdered our people and stole our planet.  We cannot allow that to stand.”

They walked along for a few more moments.  The human representative cleared his throat and continued.  “I had you brought here instead of the government complex for a specific reason.  I want you to see something.  A ceremony that has not taken place in nearly a millennia, not since the First Contact War.  It is one of our most sacred and least favorite ceremonies to perform.  No non-human has ever witnessed it.”

Rhaegar bowed his head slightly, just enough to show deference but not enough to show subservience.  In his culture, the depth of your bow meant many different things.  “I am honored to be the first.”

“Don’t be.  We don’t even consider this grim task to be an honor.  It is a heavy burden that we as a people are about to acknowledge.  I want you to witness this for two reasons.  The first reason is so that you can report what you have seen to the Hegemony congress.  The second is so that there can be no further illusion about a diplomatic solution.  You are here to witness the depth of our resolve as a species.”

He continued, “The ceremony you are about to see is sacred.  Once you enter the chamber inside the mountain, you must remain silent.  You cannot speak until you exit the chamber, and you may only exit the chamber when I lead you out.  You must always remain in my sight line.  If you are caught inside the chamber without me nearby, you will be thrown into the fire of the mountain below.  This is the agreement you make when you enter the mountain with me.  Do you agree?”

Rhaegar blinked back at the warning.  After a moment, he nodded his consent.

“Good.  Now stay close and remain silent.  The language you will hear in this place is an ancient language.  I have already sent the appropriate translation algorithm to your translator.  It will erase itself and all record of our sacred language once the ceremony is done.  It is not permitted for a non-human to have a record of the sacred words of our ancestors.  Your translator will only be left with the translated recording of the event.  Audio only.  Visual recordings will not function within the mountain.”

At that, they reached the opening in the side of the mountain.  They wound up a narrow stairway for what seemed like hours.  The stairway was crude and seemed to have been cut out of the stone thousands of years ago by simple, manual tools.  As they reached the end of the stairway, it opened into a room with a door carved into the stone.  On the other side of that door was an enormous expanse.  The molten rock below cast an orange flickering glow on the ascending walls of the ancient volcano.  There was a platform of stone jutting out over the magma.

Just before they crossed the threshold, the human leaned over and whispered, “Remember, stay silent.”

With that, they crossed through the door.  When they had reached a point very close to the center of the platform, they stopped and sat in two of the many arrayed stone chairs that had been caved out of the rock forming a semi-circle around what appeared to be a giant anvil.  As Rhaegar watched, the ceremony began. 

Several humans came out of what seemed like nowhere.  They had to be the largest humans that Rhaegar had ever seen.  The muscles on their bare torso and legs rippled like nothing he had seen in a human.  He had only ever seen the Rhygath so heavily muscled.  The only thing that they wore were animal skin loincloths over their genitals and hoods obscuring their faces.  Each carried what looked like a hammer.  The hammers had a head that had to weigh at least thirty kilograms and around a meter in length from the hammer’s head to the end of the handle.

Another human came from across the platform.  He had a large piece of metal.  It was a solid metal bar of what appeared to be a simple high carbon steel.  As the human made a circuit around the platform showing it to everyone seated, he stopped before Rhaegar and the human representative.  Rhaegar noticed something pressed into the metal bar.  It was a face.  It was the face of the Cholan Corporation’s leader, the one who send the ships that attacked the humans.  The human with the metal bar continued his circuit until he had presented the metal before all in the chamber.

He went to the center of the platform when the anvil was.  Rhaegar notice that there was something else a couple meters away from the anvil.  It was a forge.  The human placed the metal bar into the forge and waited.  It was only a few moments when the human used a pair of metal tongs to remove the bar from the forge.  He placed it on the anvil at an arms length and held it there.  The humans with the hammers made a circle around the anvil.  Taking turns, they all lifted their hammers and struck the metal in succession.

Rhaegar was stunned by the shear determination of the smiths.  After studying them, and the other humans in the chamber, he came to realize that it was not determination that was shown on their faces.  It was rage.  Each time a hammer fell, the human holding it seemed to get stronger, not weaker.  With each blow, the hatred in his eyes seemed to burn brighter.  These were a people who were cosmically angry and were on a hair trigger.  Rhaegar had to finally admit to himself that there could be no stopping the war to come.

After many grueling hours enduring the heat and labor of the hammer, they finally finished their work.  The one with the tongs lifted a finished blade high in the air for all to see.  The smiths placed the hammer head over their hearts and bowed their head with respect for the new blade they had forged.  Some other components were quickly brought out and fitted to the blade.  Guard, hilt, pommel, and scabbard were all attached to turn the blade into a completed weapon.

An older human male stood from one of the stone seats and took the weapon in his hand.  He brought it towards Rhaegar and the human representative beside him.  The human stood and took a step forward.  A couple of humans came from each side and cut the robes off Rhaegar’s companion.  He stood there completely naked.

The human spoke as he accepted the weapon from the old man.  “Thank you, chairman.”  He removed the weapon from its sheath and ran it across the back of his forearm.  It was sharp and cut a gash several centimeters long and at least half a centimeter deep.  

“With my blood, I bless this blade.  I vow that before I return it to the fires of the mountain, I will bathe it in the blood of the one who killed our people.  The Grand Magnate of the Cholan Corporation will fall to this blade.  His fleets and soldiers may find swift deaths at the end of our cannons, missiles, and energy weapons, but he will be granted no mercy.  My blade will not stop while there is still blood in his veins.”

The old man placed his fist across his heart in a salute.  “I call your name, and it is Vengeance.  You will lead our people to retribution.”

With that, more humans came from the recesses of the chamber and began fitting the human with clothing first, then armor.  When they were finished, Rhaegar barely recognized him.  He looked regal and menacing at the same time.  The armor was gleaming in the orange glow, and the sharp edge of the blade caught the light and shimmered.  It was terrifying to watch.

The human looked at Rhaegar.  “Come with me.”

He followed the human out of the chamber, down the long stairway and back outside the mountain.  He could see the transport pad off in the distance.  It seemed so far away after what he had just seen.

Rhaegar looked at the human.  “I understand now.  You carry the rage of an entire people.  You can’t negotiate while the one who ordered the attack still lives.”

“You catch on quickly.  Go back and tell them what you have seen.  Tell them that there is only one thing that will sate our vengeance.  Blood.  The blood of Grand Magnate Ortsalla.  Until we have that blood, we will cut a bloody path across Cholan space.  We would prefer not to kill the Cholan people to get to Ortsalla, but if that is what it takes to satisfy our vengeance, then so be it.  I will personally take our forces to war, and we will not return until our honor is satisfied.  Warn the rest of the Hegemony what they will face if they side with the Cholan.”

Rhaegar had a very vivid memory of the events of his visit to the Terran home world.  As he relayed every horrifying detail out for the representatives of the congress, the room fell deathly silent.  Every now and then, he could hear the occasional representative sob or vomit as he continued to recount what he saw and heard.

When he was done, he stopped for a moment to let them all recover a bit.

“Fellow representatives of the Interstellar Hegemony congress, we were all aware of the humans’ extensive history of war before they joined the Hegemony.  We had the basic facts of their wars since becoming a spacefaring race, but I fear that was not enough.  We should have dug deeper.  Their history of war on their own planet is truly the stuff of nightmares.  Even to them, it is a horrific legacy, but make no mistake.  Their revulsion of the old ways of war will not deter them from employing the most savage of tactics to see their vengeance meted out.”

“Offer whatever charitable aid you wish to the Cholans, but to not give military aid or in any way interfere with the humans.  Regardless of what this body decides, my government will not comply with any decree that had the potential to put us into conflict with the humans.  If you want to help the Cholans, be our guest.  Don’t ask us for aid if you become their next target.  Your requests will be ignored.”

One of the other representatives spoke.  “Your people would refuse a call from the Hegemony?  Why would you alienate all of us just to not anger the humans?  What would cause you to take this drastic of measures?”

Rhaegar looked speaker in all four of his eyes.  “I saw the fury of their hammer blows.  Never again would I want to see the forging of another one of those accursed blades.  Never would I want to see my face on that bar of metal being put to the forge.”

He looked around at several influential members.  “I saw the hammers fall, and I was afraid.”

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