Preservers

"You consider us lesser species, yet we outlive you by thousands of years. You live at most, what, only a thousand orbits of your homeworld?"

"The star that shines twice as bright burns only half as long. Look upon our world, alien, and tell us that we do not eclipse you."

"And what of the dark that follows, when your fire has burnt out, and so called 'lesser races' are the ones that thrive?"

"I will not dally with such hypotheticals."

"Of course not."

The conversation was tense, and to Zamara's mind, crude. The alien spoke as so many did, with an orifice that was used for eating as well as speech. She was forced to communicate with him through words, his tiny mind cut off from the Khala. She, a preserver of the fourth level, was forced to deal with this creature because the Judicator Assembly had allowed it. Had ascertained that an alien contacting the Protoss Empire was not in violation of the Dae'Uhl. The gods had come to the Firstborn in their infancy, empowered them, abandoned them, had let them grow to claim the stars as their own dominion. The sons and daughters of Aiur were the gods now. If lesser creatures sought to hear the words of gods, then so be it. She would sit in the hall of the Sanctum, watching the light of star and moon filter in through its arches. She would treat this being to water and samuro fruit, and listen to what it had to say. And then it would be gone.

"So then," he said, smirking. "Tell me of your function."

"My function?"

"I understand that you are called a preserver. That you collect the souls of your people within your gestalt. Your Khala."

"You may consider it as such."

"Only consider?"

She'd had enough. She had bid her kin goodnight, not wishing them to see her with this lesser creature. In time, her own memories would join the Khala, and protoss yet unborn could see her humiliation. That day was long off though, and she would not suffer such indignity now.

"I know that other species call your kind 'soul hunters.'"

She would cut through the jungle, and come out to the sea.

"Such is their want."

"Some call you shag toth. Others 'geethes.' In your own language, you call yourselves the Speakers, based after your progenitors."

"You know so much." He took a sip of water. "You cut yourselves off from the people of the galaxy, yet are not ignorant."

"You, at least, know something of us as well," Zamara said. She had the urge to walk away now, to end this charade, and enter the company of her own kind. "You would know that there are many among us who would see you gone."

"Yourself included."

"You are telepathic. If on the level of the Firstborn, I would not need to reveal my feelings." Her eyes flashed, and psychic energy crackled in the air around her. "But yes. I would see you gone."

"And depart I shall. If only after I receive the knowledge I seek."

Her gaze narrowed. "Ask," she said. And begone.

Her thoughts were shielded. This creature, small, squat, and weak, would answer. Then it would be over.

"You are called a preserver, for that is your function," he said. "To store the memories of your people. Often those considered to be the greatest your race has given birth to."

"That is correct."

"Then you are aware of the…flaw, in this system?" The soul hunter smiled. If she possessed a mouth, Zamara would have frowned in response. "Are your eyes so bright that you cannot see beyond their glare?"

"Our eyes see clearly through the dark."

"Then you are aware that you are storing memory in a being that will eventually die. A being who could fall to mayhap or mischief before your body expires. And that if that happens, with no other preservers nearby, all your knowledge will be lost."

Zamara flexed her hand, her claws cutting into her palm. "It has…happened," she said.

"Then use us," the soul hunter said. "Our methods. Our services."

The claws cut deeper. "What?" she asked.

"You know of us," the soul hunter said. "Our mission to preserve souls, lest they be lost. To save the minds of the greatest individuals the galaxy knows."

"I care nothing of the supposed souls of lesser species," Zamara said.

"But the Dae'Uhl"-

"Commands us to protect their flesh. The matter of their souls is the domain of whatever gods they believe in."

"You consider yourself mighty, yet you do not know the truth." The soul hunter glared at her, and just for a moment, Zamara felt cowed. "Your Khala saves the spirits of your people, true, but only for so long. It is inefficient, and will one day end."

Madness.

"Let me help you," he said. He leant forward. "Let me save you. All of you."

Zamara's eyes burned with the light of suns. Leave, she said, her mind linking with his, accessing his innermost thoughts. Leave, and do not return. The Firstborn have no need of you. Your very presence is an insult to this hallowed ground. Leave now, or not even the Dae'Uhl shall protect you.

He smiled. He said nothing. But she heard his thoughts. Heard them say, protection…

He struck. And in that instant, she knew all.

He had long since realized that saving souls was a long endeavour. Few soul hunters could be at the side of giants as they died. Fewer still were allowed access, such was the fear of lesser species. But in this case, Zamara could understand why. He was willing to kill. To pierce her flesh, take her spirit, and the spirits of every protoss he could through her, such was the Khala's strength. Take them, and in his mind, 'save' them. In her mind, submit them to isolation. Madness. A fate that any Khalai would prefer death to.

The blade came out with the speed of the bengalaas. Her claws slashed his throat even faster.

You shall not have me, she told him, as she rose to her feet, the soul hunter falling down. You shall not have them.

Then you have damned them all.

Even in death, he was calm. At peace with himself. The sun had burnt twice as long, and would end its life in such calm as well.

You damn yourselves.

I am not interested in your lies.

No more than the truth.

He coughed, and Zamara watched the blood erupt from his mouth. Disgusting, she reflected.

But the truth is always revealed in time.

Indeed it is. And I know what is in your ship. She knelt down – he was but a child compared to her. Know that I will free them.

Obliterate them.

Believe that if you will. Your belief is not required to guide my actions.

But your own is.

They were his last words, spoken in silence, in the end of all things. And so he died. The soul hunter, the Speaker, the shag toth. His name unknown. And she uncaring.

But still she departed for his ship. She would free them – the 'spirits' of lesser creatures, if they even possessed such things.

The Dae'Uhl demanded such a thing, she told herself.