Ahosi Aminare Kanika rose from prayer as her transport ship, S’ofo, jumped out of warp space, stopping suddenly in the Deep Expanse. She had found it difficult to meditate, even in the dark silence of space where outside, there was nothing but the omnipresence of darkness as far as she could see, with only a few colorful spheres shining out in the distance. The red light of the system’s sun reflected off of the star-glass, painting the room like sparks of flame and she had thought this was a sign that her goddess Nimra heard her prayers. Yet, she still felt as empty as she did standing as she had when she first knelt hours ago.
Ami wrapped her white and scarlet robes around her body. Caramel brown hands lifted a hood over her head and draped a gold cape over her shoulder. The Ahosi’s stomach growled and she sighed softly. Her refrigerator held only fruit and vegetables, even then, she ate very little, her stomach tight with the odd pressure of worry. Ami hadn’t been able to say or do much of anything since she had boarded her ship, weighed down by sleep deprivation, hunger and the silence of her goddess. She yawned and left her chambers to wander the halls. Outside of her room, armed guards stood at attention, their fists slamming onto a fiery tiger insignia on their chest, representative of the Kebulani war goddess Nimra. Two of the guards filed behind Ami as she headed onto an elevator that carried her down to the command deck of her ship. Her captain, a woman with cropped blonde hair and skin as richly brown as Ami, turned to her and dipped her head.
“My Lady,” she said. The Ahosi smiled lightly.
“Where are we, Kalare?” she asked. Captain Kalare brought up a red hologram, mapping out the entire galaxy before zooming in on the S’ofo’s location within a star system. Twelve planets surrounded, sporadically placed around the massive red star that burned at the center. From what Ami could tell, S’ofo was close to a small world dominated by oceans.
Captain Kalare dipped her head and pointed. “Currently, we’re in the Coridan system. The Grand Irawo’s last recorded stop was on this planet below. Strangely enough, it doesn’t seem to have a large population at all.”
The Ahosi nodded. “We’re out past the edge of colonized space. This cluster is where you go to disappear,” she replied.
Captain Kalare asked, “Do you think that’s why the Grand Irawo came here?”
The Ahosi couldn’t honestly answer that nor could any of the other priests back on the Yangin holy planet of Tenso. Many theories were floated out and of the three Yangin churches, the Church of Ekun, dedicated to wisdom and knowledge had been the most vocal while the others had advocated for action not words, yet only Ami had decided to take action when the other priests had refused. It seemed as through no one could see how dire the situation was.
The Grand Irawo, the leader of their entire religion, was missing. This had just been one in a long line of failures of Yanginism that Ami had done her best to ignore. Their churches were dying and even the once powerful Church of Nimra had lost many of its warrior-priestesses searching these new worlds. Only one Iyas’dar, the highest honor an Ahosi could achieve, remained with her fleet guarding Tenso. When Ami looked at all the things that held her people back from prosperity, she often wondered if it was even worth it at times.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Ami finally admitted. “I’ll be better able to figure out what the situation is once I’m on the ground.”
Captain Kalare wrinkled her brow with concern. “My lady…”
The Ahosi didn’t turn as she headed back to her chambers.
“Prepare a small guard force. No more than three, understood?” Ami said. As the elevator doors closed, she caught Captain Kalare nodding and starting to issue commands.
Ami let her guard down as the elevator rose to her private chambers. Her mind raced with a myriad of thoughts. Never in the recorded history of her people had a Grand Irawo ventured away from Tenso without an entire fleet guarding them, especially not into hostile space. Even in ancient times on their former home planet Manzil, the Irawo were always accompanied by a massive, armed caravan. The entire situation made Ami uneasy and unsure. Nevertheless, it was her duty as an Ahosi and servant of the Church of Nimra to ensure that she preserved the lives that led the religious Kebulani. What little of her people remained, anyway.
The Great Departure from Manzil had occurred nearly four centuries ago under the orders of the last yasur when their world had proven uninhabitable. What had once been dozens of expansion colonies throughout the galaxy had dwindled down to three confirmed pockets of Ami’s people. One of those hadn’t returned contact in the last ten years and as a result, Aminare feared the worst.
She needed guidance and reassurance that her path was the correct one, especially in times like these when she feared that everything she was doing was for nothing. All she could see was her dying people and think of all of the ways she could help that her religion forbade. This was exactly why finding the Grand Irawo was so important.
Ami pressed her hand against her armor chamber and the mechanism hissed as it opened up.
“Recognized, Lady of the Nimra church. Welcome Ahosi Aminare Kanika,” the AI said. Ami stepped inside the chamber and let the mechanical arms strip her of her robes and layer her armor on her body. Red metal pieces covered her shoulders and chest, the golden tiger of the Church of Nimra emblazoned over her right breast, with white and gold armor shielding her legs. The only remnant of her robes was a gold cape that protruded from her left shoulder. Once she had been fully outfitted with her armor, the Ahosi pulled a laser rifle from her locker and a small sidearm that clicked with a hiss as it attached itself to the magnetic waistband of her armor.
Goddess, give me strength.
Ami took the S’ofo’s lift down to the docking bay of the ship. Three armored figures stood in front of her transport shuttle, saluting as she approached. The Ahosi quickly dipped her head.
“You’ve been briefed?”
“Yes, ma’am. Ready to move when you are,” one of her guards said.
“Let’s go, then.” Ami passed by the guards and entered the ship through the raised door. Her guards followed her, then surrounded her after she sat. Inhaling and exhaling, Ami began to pray, calling on Nimra to strengthen her body and bring back the training she had received as a girl. She barely felt the transport lift and leave the hangar bay, drifting off into space before the thrusters pushed it down toward the oceanic planet below.
Ahosi – a rank amongst the Yangin priests, reserved for warrior-priestess trained in physical combat by the Church of Nimra. They are renown fighters, volunteered by their parents at the age of three and trained in combat until they pass their rite or die. The elite among them are called “Iyas’dar” meaning, “Great Women”.
Ekun – the Kebulani goddess of wisdom in Yanginism, represented by a sapphire blue leopard with black spots. The Irawo of this church possess greater mental abilities, often call upon for the precognitive and telepathic powers in order to predict certain events.
Great Departure – A mass exodus from the planet Manzil ordered by Yasur Asterí Keita.
Irawo – a rank amongst the Yangin priests. Heads of the various churches serving the three deities of Yanginism are called Irawo, followed by their god’s name. The head of the entire religion and the three churches is the Grand Irawo, who serves as both priestess and protector, often dealing in prophecies.
Kebulani – a race of dark-skinned humanoids, hailing from the planet of Manzil. Initially, a nomadic and tribal people, the Kebulani united under a single banner, following Yasur the Consolidator to become a single, spacefaring empire as the centuries passed. An unknown catastrophe four hundred years prior resulted in the Great Departure, scattering the Kebulani throughout the galaxy. The Kebulani are naturally superhumanly strong, fast and smart with certain enhancements coming from the unlocking of latent parts of their genetic code to access powers like telekinesis and telepathy. Those rumored to be “touched by the Gods” exhibit characteristics and traits like golden-amber eyes and platinum blonde hair.
Kiniun – the Kebulani god of creation in Yanginism, represented as a pure gold lin. The Irawo of the Kiniun church possesses some minor matter manipulation abilities, gifted from the god.
Manzil – the ancient homeworld of the dark-skinned Kebulani people, long since forgotten after the Great Departure.
Nimra – the Kebulani goddess of war in Yanginism, represented by a charcoal black tigress with fire for stripes. The Irawo and higher-ranking Ahosi possess superhuman attributes, including strength, speed, durability and reflexes.
Yanginism – the ancient religious practice of the people of Manzil prior to the Great Departure. Focuses on three primary deities: Nimra, the goddess of war; Ekun, the goddess of wisdom; Kiniun, the god of creation. At the head of this religion is the Grand Irawo, who heads the church. Three lesser Irawos representing the three gods and named accordingly (Irawo Nimra, Irawo Ekun, Irawo Kiniun) head their churches and have various priests and warriors below them. The Yanginism holy planet is now Tenso.
Yasur – an ancient Kebulani word meaning “king; ruler; father” and also the name given to the male Kebulani emperors. The first yasur was actually named Yasur the Consolidator and he existed in the ancient times of Manzil, while the last official Kebulani yasur was Asterí Keita, who ordered the Great Departure.