Time 71:24:56 (Accuracy 1/10 to that of Forerunner), forty-third sunrise shift of the sixteenth month (Sanghelios Time Unit), 6th Age of Amendment (Covenant Time Unit, based on Forerunner Time Unit)
Location: Vadam Keep, Kolaar mountain range above State of Vadam, Yermo, Sanghelios
1200 Hours, August 28th, 2567 (UNSC Military Calendar)
"They have grown so much," said Cyla 'Cazal fondly, watching the two young Sangheili males standing outside the Vadam Keep.
"Yes," Autel replied, but his mind was elsewhere. There was a problem, something so obvious that he couldn't believe he didn't see it until a few days ago.
"It is almost time for them to be trained individually by an older Sangheili," his spouse said, still gazing at her sons.
"Cyla..." the albino pulled her gently. She walked with him down the mountainside, quietly so that Adra and Kysa would not hear them. She had insisted on seeing them today, and against his better judgement, Autel had agreed. Now, as they headed back towards the state, he felt hesitant. How were they going to figure this out? But he knew that he couldn't do this on his own, so he had to talk to her about it.
The two Sangheili's journey back into Yermo was quiet. Although Cyla seemed to enjoy the tranquility, Autel felt more uneasy than ever. But he took a deep breath, and finally told her what had troubled him so much.
"As you know, Sangheili males are trained by the maternal uncle," he began.
"Hmm?" The albino knew that she heard what he said, but was curious as to why he was bringing this up.
"And I know that you do not have any brothers, apart from...Urei."
Cyla froze. Her relaxed expression tensed, and she replied stiffly, "Yes. That's true." She had been very shocked to learn that her own brother was the leader of the separatist group, the Fallen. Ever since then, Autel avoided bringing up the subject unless it was absolutely necessary.
"So...who is going to train our sons?"
She thought for a moment. "I believe that if it is the only way, the father's brother may take that role. Stel was the one who raised you, right?"
"Yes." And a better uncle I could not have asked for. But that does not solve the problem at hand.
"Taszar could do it."
Autel shook his head. "Taszar is my step-brother. He was born from another female, and I do not think it would be wise to inform him that we have the same father." He knew that Taszar would be more than capable of looking after Adra and Kysa, but tradition was tradition.
They had another moment of silence. As they entered the city, Cyla asked, "I recall that you have another brother...Ryas?"
The albino sighed. It was exactly why this was such a problem. "Yes. But Ryas is still young. He has only begun his service in the military earlier this month."
"Age isn't an important factor, Autel."
"I know, but...there is another issue. Ryas was hardly a disciplined one in his childhood. I have seen what he is like, and Stel has told me some very odd things about him..."
Cyla gave a faint smile. "Well, we hardly have a choice right now. Unless you would prefer to train our sons yourself?"
Autel shook his head. It was strictly against Sangheili culture to know the identity of one's father. He himself had discovered that he was offspring to Thel by sheer accident.
"Then you must put faith in your brother. After all...he is a Vadam."
The albino was still feeling a bit reluctant. But Cyla did speak truly. So he said, with a bit of reluctance, "Okay. I'll ask Ryas."
"But I will be keeping a very close eye on them. All three of them."
Time 4:21:72 (Accuracy 1/10 to that of Forerunner), forty-fourth sunrise shift of the sixteenth month (Sanghelios Time Unit), 6th Age of Amendment (Covenant Time Unit, based on Forerunner Time Unit)
Location: Vadam Keep, Kolaar Mountain range above State of Vadam, Yermo, Sanghelios
0100 Hours, August 29th, 2567 (UNSC Military Calendar)
Autel entered one of the Vadam Keep's many stone halls, where Ryas was sitting stiffly in one of the hard-backed chairs. He looked slightly uncomfortable, and somewhat bored. But as soon as his older brother (he had no knowledge of this, but still holds a Special Operation Officer in respect) walked in, he quickly changed his expression to look raptly attentive.
"Eleven cycles in, and you have already received your first injury?" the albino asked, half-disapprovingly.
"We were surprised," Ryas replied, bowing his head slightly. "I did what I thought was right."
"Then it seems that some changes would be ideal. Your Field Master tells me that you are reckless. Can your discipline not keep your headstrong nature in check?"
"I hope it will, Autel. But I have come here today only because you asked me to."
"Yes. There is a matter I would like to discuss with you." Now that they were going into the subject, he added, "And you don't need to look so submissive. It would be best if we leave out the formalities during our conversation."
Ryas looked up and into the commando's eyes.
"Now," Autel said. "It is time for my sons to receive training from an uncle. But I know that my spouse's brothers are unable to provide this guidance, and I myself know of no direct relations." Not strictly true, but there was no other way to tell his younger brother what it was he wanted. "I am asking you to train them, discipline them, and earn their trust."
Ryas looked confused. "But, Excellency. Would it not be better to find someone...older?"
"My offspring are not the only ones who require these teachings. The efforts you made to learn subordination during your childhood is questionable. There are those in the Keep who doubt your ability to be an adept warrior. So this is a test for you, Ryas. As you create a bond between other Sangheili, regardless of age and experience, I am hoping that you yourself will find maturity. I'm willing to oversee the results of this experiment. Are you ready to take on this responsibility?"
Ryas looked away, thinking. He remembered when he was younger; the outcast he had made himself, the countless times an older Sangheili had berated him for something he had done, and his struggle to remain separate from the discipline they hammered into him. He had never been able to place his feelings on it all, whether he liked being the outsider. At times it was fun, to be sure. But eventually the loneliness would catch up to him. He was still young. It wasn't too late to change things; earn the reputation he always was capable of reaching. And Autel was giving him a chance to do just that. He would show the elders that he could see this burden through, and that he would succeed.
Ryas returned his gaze directly at the albino again. But this time, his eyes had a glimmer to them.
"I will do it."
It had been easier to make a promise when you were talking about it, Ryas thought, staring at the two Sangheili males standing before him. But now that he realized what it meant to take on the responsibility, he was feeling a lot less confident.
So this was Adra and Kysa 'Vadam. They were only two heads shorter than him, and were no doubt tall for their age. They looked very much alike, and were scrutinizing him in a way that told him that they didn't quite respect him.
So let's see if we can change that. Fixing them with a look that he hoped looked stern, he tried to think of something to say.
“To become a true warrior, one must be equal parts spiritually fit, mentally fit, and physically fit.”
These words felt foreign in Ryas’s throat, hanging in the air like a dark fog. These were not his words, and he was not their proper speaker. This fact was most evident in the faces of the two students before him. Eyes squinted with distrust, limbs slightly tightened at the teachings of a master, being awkwardly spat out by one so low.
Despite this, he continued.
“These three pillars have been covered in your basic teachings before. Here is where they are to be perfected, making you rise above lesser Sangheilli.”
“You mean one such as yourself?” Exclaimed Adra.
“You are quick to judge an elder! What do you know of warfare!?” Ryas bellowed, attempting to seem more assertive.
“I know the difference between scum and leaders!” Adra yelled back.
“You know nothing! A lowly Sangheilli such as yourself, not even a rank on your shoulders. And you judge me? Your teacher? One who surely would understand the fabric of being a warrior better then unranked younglings!?”
Once again the realization that he was channeling someone else was obvious. It startled him quite a bit.
“He thinks himself a Light of Helios! A sage and weathered veteran. You are no older than us, imposter! Nothing more than a Minor! A notch in a miniscule cog within the great machine” Kysa said, finally joining in.
The anger inside Ryas rose. Everything is falling apart and I’ve only spoken a few words with them. The reminders of past failures surged through him like a tidal wave. Every moment, every insult, every look of disdain. He was ready to do something stupid.
“SO!” he yelled “The children speak words of Generals! How about we see who the best is?”
Ryas quickly paced to a wall containing training equipment. Grabbing three inactivated sword, he threw two in the direction of the students.
“We cannot learn with these!”Adra objected”It is not our place to be swordsmen! And certainly not yours.”
“Enough talk!” Rysa said, activating the blade. “Attack me, show what you know!”
But even as he spoke this, Rysa felt an unbearable heat at his hand. Looking down he realized with horror that the blade was quickly becoming unstable and plasma was spilling everywhere.
By the gods, I’ve turned it on wrong.
The two students stood grimly as Ryas dropped the blade, deactivating it.
“It isn’t your place, this is obvious. We can’t learn from you.”Kysa said.