Zona ‘Ostanee sat on his knees in the middle of a sparsely-decorated room. At his front, an ornate silver altar spread out among the far wall, two lines of metallic alloy reached up to the ceiling, then branched out into a halo, surrounding a five-pronged star of blue light.
Zona held up his arms, igniting a tinder stick by rasping it against one of his nails, leaning forward towards the altar, and lighting three fragrant sticks of incense, before snuffing out the flames, and letting the room fill with rich aromatic smoke.
Many of the Zealots he commanded thought his rituals strange, but they each worshipped the divine in their own way, and permitted Zona his own methods, passed down as they were from Kaidon to Kaidon, as old as the Keep from which he hailed.
As the scent filled his lungs, Zona rested back on his knees, shutting his eyes and mandibles together. He found solace in the simplicity of the aromas, the silence of the room, and his own meditations.
At least until the door behind him hissed open, and heavy armoured footfalls broke the silence apart, dashing it to the ground.
“Swordmaster,” a voice said. “The Shipmaster grows impatient.”
Growling, Zona opened his eyes, and turned his head just enough to see who it was that dared interrupt his personal ritual. A young warrior, barely fresh from his first kill, stood at the doorway. It wouldn’t even be worth it for Zona to strike him down, so he closed his eyes and heaved a great sigh from his lungs.
“Impatience is a sign of poor blood,” he rumbled, levelling his breathing and banishing the ire of being so interrupted, though not without great effort. “And poorer upbringing,” he spat. “He would do well to remember our task is mandated by the Prophets themselves.”
“He demands progress,” the Minor said.
“Demand?” Zona balled his fingers into a fist, then relaxed it, growling low in the back of his throat. “The Shipmaster is in no position to demand anything of me, or my kin.”
Silence passed between them, for a time. Zona could hear the Minor’s breathing, the shifting of his weight from foot to foot in the creaking of his bodysuit and armour. Eventually, the other Sangheili spoke once more, but quieter, and more reverent. “What should I inform him?”
The Swordmaster hummed in thought, glad to see the Minor so humbled. Zona stood to his feet and craned his neck up towards the ceiling. “Inform him that our task shall be carried out with utmost haste,” he said, then turned his head to flash the Minor a dangerous glare. “And that further interruptions shall not be tolerated.”
The Minor averted his eyes, and stooped into a bow. “By your leave, Swordmaster.”
Zona threw a dismissive hand towards the Minor. “Begone.”
The door to the room slid shut with another hiss, and Zona was once more shrouded in shadow, lit only by a single light from up above. He craned his neck back once more, resuming his habitual practices, and held his hands out on either side of him, snapping his fingers.
At his beckoning, shadows began lumbering out of the darkness surrounding the center of the room. Seven Unggoy scurried forth, waddling in their lopsided gait, and wobbling on shaky, stumpy legs from what they carried in their arms. Four carried plates of armour in their stubby digits, two others carried washrags affixed to sticks, and the last a jet black undersuit, draped about his shoulders.
The nanolaminate plates of armour shone under the violet lights from above, reflecting shimmering pearlescent hues as they were brought forth towards the altar
‘Ostanee breathed deep of the fragrant incense burning atop the altar, holding his arms out further. The Unggoy with the washrags began dabbing at his skin, the numbing agent taking hold in moments, sending shivers up and down the Zealot’s spine, followed by an absence of all sensation.
The bodysuit was laid atop the altar, beneath the opulent Forerunner symbol. His helmet was placed atop it, and the seventh Unggoy retreated far from the Zealot with quiet, hurried steps. Learning of the need to be quiet, the rest of the Unggoy held Zona’s armour close to their chests, and waited for the Sangheili to continue his pre-battle ritual.
Zona lifted the helmet off of the bodysuit, placing it to one side, before lifting a sick of the burning incense from the altartop, and sweeping it over his bodysuit.
“Reverence is the foundation of strength,” he said to himself, placing the incense back down, and lifting the bodysuit up. “With this do I show my reverence.”
He slipped his arms and legs into the suit, feeling it adhere to his numb skin as though an observer to it, rather than the one experiencing the sensations himself. He pulled the suit up until it covered his entire body, stopping at the base of his skull, and took a relaxing breath.
“Strength is the foundation of honour,” he continued his mantra, letting his arms fall to his sides. The Unggoy stepped closer, affixing armour to the docks on his suit, snapping them into place with a flurry of clicks.
One of the Unggoy clambered up on top of another to secure the back of Zona’s combat harness, with another knelt down before Zona and handed over the chest piece, which Zona himself pushed into place, locking with the back place and sending a blue shimmer over his entire armour.
“With this, do I proclaim my strength,” Zona said, lifting the helmet from the altar, and affixing it over his head.
“Honour is the foundation of reverence,” he said, holding his hands out in front of him. The seventh Unggoy waddled forth, weapons in hand, placing a plasma repeater and an energy sword into the waiting hands of the Zealot.
“With these,” Zona said, inspecting the weapons in his hands, “do I defend my honour.”
He latched the sword to his thigh, the repeater to his back, and turned away from the altar, heading for the door.