To Serve The Sacred
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Original Kett Character(s), Archon (Mass Effect), Cardinal (Mass Effect)
Additional Tags:
Worldbuilding, Internal Kett Politics (Mass Effect), Fictional Religion & Theology, more religion than theology but that's the canonized tag, this is not ABOUT the Kett religion it's just so present that I felt it warranted the tag
Worldbuilding Exchange 2023
Published: 2023-04-09 Words: 2,233 Chapters: 1/1

To Serve The Sacred


The Archon - supreme leader of the Kett invasion in the Heleus cluster. And yet there is dissent among his ranks. A glimpse into the turning of the tides.


If the prisoner was worthy of the Archon’s attention, Gjjtbk thought, then it would answer the Archon’s question with nothing less than rapt affirmation.
But it wasn’t the prisoner’s answer that surprised Gjjtbk.

To Serve The Sacred

The alien hung in the air, limbs and head limp, as the electric field danced through its body. It had been a pleasant surprise, when they’d first come to Sector 1-19-NYKZ, to see their own contraptions work so well on these aliens. As if they were made for them.

Some standards ago, Gjjtbk had been in the room when the Archon had heard, from a Chosen, about the alien who knew all about this cluster’s history. The alien held a special status among its own and was even, if the faint whispers of memories of the Chosen were to be believed, able to command the buildings of old. Gjjtbk had seen the change in the Archon’s attitude. In this instant he had known that if he ever wanted the Archon to see him, to put him forward to the Thrice Exalted as a candidate for Ascension, he needed to be the one to bring the alien to the Archon.

And so he had. Among the Destined who went to capture it, he alone had returned successful, and some hadn’t returned at all. The squad of Chosen he had commanded was now gone. It didn’t matter. They had died for a worthy cause, and the Archon had already given Gjjtbk command over another squad. That it consisted of twice as many Chosen and not only one, but several Anointed, was a clear sign that the Archon acknowledged Gjjtbk’s value. Once it was exalted, the prisoner was going to be worth more than a dozen of its lesser mates.

“This”, the Archon said to Gjjtbk and the other Destined who stood around the prisoner, “is the turning of tides in this war. Long have we fought for the good of those who refuse to see wisdom. In the face of their needless fight, we have remained steady and faithful. We have kept our promises: we have shown them the elation of exaltation, and those who received it are now true to us. Yet there are many of them for whom this is not sign enough. They are blind – but here is the key to make them see. Our goal, once and for all, is near!”

With a flick of his hand, the Archon deactivated the electrical bonding that held the prisoner in place. It fell to the ground, weak and naked. Gjjtbk viewed it with disdain. He had been among the first to work with them, and yet, even dozens of standards later, couldn’t understand how they preferred this state over the fortunate destiny that was offered them. They’d appeared so appreciative, initially, of the Archon’s generosity.

It was a great fortune to be a Destined and he was glad to be part of their ranks. Sometimes, though, he envied these aliens their chance to chose exaltation just as much as they were chosen for it, and yet they all too often accepted this gift only after it was given. This was going to change now. When the aliens saw that their esteemed idol had chosen exaltation, they were going to follow it. If it was worthy of the Archon’s attention, Gjjtbk thought, then it would answer the Archon’s question with nothing less than rapt affirmation.

But it wasn’t the prisoner’s answer that surprised Gjjtbk. “Tell me,” the Archon said to the prisoner, in a voice as if he was asking the question of questions, “about the structures of old.”

It wasn’t the first time Gjjtbk was at the temple. Back when they’d started, he had been in charge of a small unit whose task it had been to secure the supply chains to its construction site. He’d even met the Cardinal once or twice; and when the aliens had tried to storm the temple, Gjjtbk had seen for the first time just how powerful the Twice Exalted were. He’d seen it many times since. After the Cardinal he’d worked with the Primus, before finally being granted he honour to serve under the Archon himself. He needed to work hard to prove his valour if he wanted to join the ranks of the Ascendants.

It wasn’t his first time at the temple, but it was his first time since the temple was active. Gjjtbk watched ove the newly Chosen as they were being purified. The Archon’s favourite project was among them, and Gjjtbk’s task had been to bring it here.

He was glad to be off the Archon’s ship. With every time the alien refused to answer the Archon’s questions, refused to take its rightful place, the Archon had become more irritable. Gjjtbk barely dared to think it, much less on the Archon’s ship, where his superior seemed to be able to feel every thought, every splitter of doubt, but now, with the Archon far away, the forbidden thoughts crept back into his mind.

“This is why we are here.”

The Cardinal’s voice almost made Gjjtbk jump, but instead, he stilled. He hadn’t heard the Cardinal approach. Hadn’t expect him to address him. For a short, terrifying moment, Gjjtbk thought that the Cardinal was able to hear his thoughts. The Archon was above and beyond all doubt. Gjjtbk couldn’t be caught thinking otherwise.

But the Cardinal continued: “It is a great gift to be granted exaltation even once. It is our responsibility to give it to them. We should not forget that.”

Gjjtbk had the vague impression that ‘we’ did not include the Cardinal himself. It was a warning, and Gjjtbk needed to take it very seriously. He waited.

With a gesture, the Cardinal included everything that surrounded them. “It may be tempting, for some people, to take for granted the work which we do. Their attention is locked on matters less important. They lose focus.”

He started walking, and Gjjtbk followed him, until they saw, from a distance, the one Gjjtbk was tasked to guard. It was safe here, of course, but once exalted, Gjjtbk himself would bring him to the Archon.

“On all accounts, this one is well suited for exaltation,” the Cardinal said, “and yet it has shown an unusual resistance to our efforts to purge the weakness from it. Do you know why?”

Gjjtbk did not. “The Archon has questioned it many times,” he said instead. It would have been easier to bring it here first. A Chosen answered willingly any question a even a Destined asked, and an Ascendant’s questions even more so. But the Archon had wanted specific answers, and those were hard to get from a Chosen. Gjjtbk could well imagine. If he had lived as the aliens did, and then experienced the joys of exaltation, he, too, would be grateful that he didn’t have to remember too much about his previous, lesser state of existence. Perhaps that was how the Ascendants felt about the Destined. “Whatever prevented it from answering may also be what makes it resist the blessing of exaltation.”

The Cardinal snarled in disapproval. “That, or the Archon’s attention has strengthened it.” Then he said, “it is no matter. Its time will come. We can’t focus on one of them, when all of them need our attention.” With that, he dismissed Gjjtbk and left.

The Archon was both their superior. The implication was even more blasphemous than the thoughts Gjjtbk hadn’t dared to think. But perhaps, the voice of doubt whispered in his mind, the Cardinal wasn’t wrong.

The prisoner – and Gjjtbk still thought of it as the prisoner, even though he understood now that in the end, it was no more important than any other – still wasn’t ready for final exaltation. But others were. They were purified, now, these fortunate beings. The Cardinal had spoken to him again from time to time, and Gjjtbk had learned a great deal from these talks. There was a lot he hadn’t known before, about what it meant what they were doing here.

When the explosion came, Gjjtbk didn’t even register it for what it was. A malfunction perhaps, an accident. But then the Archon called, and the Cardinals answer – “we’ve been breached” – told Gjjtbk that it was something else entirely. Gjjtbk hadn’t thought it possible. It was as if the aliens had waited for the ceremony to stage their attack. To disturb their most sacred moment. It was blasphemy and spoke to their ignorance. But Gjjtbk didn’t have time to dwell on it.

The Archon ordered them to secure his prisoner, the one he called Moshae, as if it was worthy of a name. Of course, the Cardinal complied. He might have, in allusions and implications, talked about priorities and goals and what it meant to be responsible for the exaltation of an entire sector, but in the end, the Cardinal wasn’t going to disobey a direct order from the Archon.

“Prepare the shuttle,” the Cardinal ordered Gjjtbk, and then set off to secure the prisoner.

Gjjtbk went. It was strange, he thought, not to be in charge of the prisoner any more. He’d come to feel strangely protective of it. It was his charge, or had been, until the Archon had given the task to the Cardinal. He should be the one to bring the prisoner back to the Archon. To reap the rewards. But it was out of his hands now, and all he could do was to prepare for extraction.

Later, when the truly unthinkable had happened and he stumbled around in the vast snow fields just out of view of what had, just hours ago, been the sacred temple of exaltation, a thought came to him, unbidden: At least it wasn’t his own failure.

The Cardinal, the most elevated of them on this planet, had gone down in his fight against only three of these new aliens. Gjjtbk had heard it through the coms: the Cardinal’s battle cries, which, as the fight became more desperate, seemed to be for his own encouragement much more than they were intended to intimidate the enemy. Gjjtbk had thought about sneaking in to secure the prisoner himself, but when he’d made up his mind, the fight was already over. If he’d come in then, the aliens would have shot him on sight.

Then, Gjjtbk had heard the Cardinal’s pleading tone when he begged the alien to at least spare the temple. But the alien, in its endless ignorance, had opted to destroy the one place in this sector that could bring it salvation. The shot that killed the Cardinal still rang as an echo in Gjjtbk’s mind.

He’d been alone in the shuttle, not even a single Chosen with him. He had done what he could to order all available squads to the landing pad, to try and stop the aliens. He’d coordinated their assault. If only he could still secure the prisoner, he had thought – but to no avail. Even pinned down on the landing pad, the aliens had overpowered their troops, and in the end, all that had been left for Gjjtbk was to flee.

He had escaped on time, just so, and not fast enough to avoid the blast of the explosion. The force of it had rocked through his shuttle and dispersed any hope of chasing and tracking the aliens’ shuttle. It was gone, and his own engines had caught fire. He’d managed to crash on the empty snow fields high up on the mountains.

How could he have succeeded, when even the Cardinal had failed?

The loss still didn’t register with him, not truly. The Cardinal, who, among the Twice Exalted, knew best about their sacred rituals, was gone. And the temple with him.

The aliens had been after the prisoner, that much was clear. They hadn’t come to blow up the temple – that was, in their ignorant ways, just something they saw as an additional benefit. The thought repulsed Gjjtbk, and he distracted himself with another. If the prisoner hadn’t been there, the aliens wouldn’t have attacked.

If the Archon hadn’t wanted the prisoner, the temple would still stand.

Gjjtbk punched the smoldering ruins of his shuttle. He couldn’t think that. He couldn’t blame the Archon for such a loss, it was simply impossible that one so high as he could make such a mistake, could make any mistake.

The Archon had, perhaps, in his obsession with these ruins of old, compromised their efforts to exalt this sector. Their final goal.

Gjjtbk had believed the Archon’s words about the benefit of researching the ruins. He had led many teams to secure the sites, himself. But now … perhaps the Archon had lost his way. And what hope was there, for any of them, if even the Archon couldn’t see their objective any more?

But even though he had followed the Archon’s orders in the end – and to no avail, after all – the Cardinal had known what was important. He hadn’t lost focus. Perhaps there were others like him.

Gjjtbk didn’t know what hope he had. The Archon must already know about the blow to the temple, just as he had known about its breach. Gjjtbk didn’t want to be the one to notify him about the loss of the prisoner, but it was his duty. Perhaps, if he survived that, he could make sure that their ways were kept. Find others who saw the truth as he did. The Cardinal couldn’t have been the only one.

Yes, Gjjtbk thought. When the Archon faltered, he would stay strong. He would always stay true.


Please drop by the archive and comment to let the author know if you enjoyed their work!