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Subject: Eldar Recital: Scene Twenty: Physical Distance
Thanks. The story had been getting away from Maedhros since his... little accident. I just felt like we needed a little of a catch up from his perspective. It turned out to be a little fly on the wall of the Eldar camp at the same time too so I was quite pleased with it.
I've been enjoying jumping between the characters in each scene. First Féonwe and Eldanesh, then I had Yevána and Starálfur. This time it was Maedhros alone, and coming up its going to be Galdor and Starálfur, this time entirely in dialogue!
I think maybe it works well because its Eldar and they're an ultimately individualistic society. It seems that way to me anyhow. I can isolate any character easily from the group because they're all so caught up in their own path. I hope nobody misses anyone a whole lot between appearances.
I've been writing furiously and have all the way to scene 27 draughted! Plenty of proofing and revising to do. Keeping them short and on point, mostly. Unlike this comment!
"They speak not, Galdor. Yet one may read meaning just the same."
"Yet two readers may see two truths in the same message."
"Thou speaketh rightly. Come read with me."
"I do not thus skry the fates. I beg your leave."
"I grant it not, but request thy aid. Sit thou and contend with me."
"I know not the way of it."
"Sit thou. See here, I cast the bones before me. Observe how they rest in the mind. What seest thou that escapeth me? What sooth do I seek that thou findest not?"
"This rune, it recalls the crucible. And this, a sword?"
"Nay that is a temple, but upturned. Yet in both I see thy reading. The sword may o'erturn much. War is oft considered a crucible that refines that which is learned in the temple."
"I see another truth, warlock. Where the purpose of the temple is upturned and given over to the tempering of swords for war."
"Indeed. The temple and the crucible are one in the same. What else dost thou read?"
"I see a river and a gate upon it."
"I also have seen thus. Again and still again."
"You think therein lies our way?"
"I do. Yet the river is dry. It must flow for a gate to open upon it."
"Yes, Féonwe tells of a great wall upon the river. He has seen the captive water in the valley beyond. Do your runes tell of it?"
"Nay. I read only gated rivers and war and chaos. This place sickens."
"Then I bid you come and walk with me in the gardens."
"You call these wastes gardens, Galdor? Art thou lost in dotage so young?"
"Come read with me the signs that might be read if one has eyes to see. Come, pick up your bones and walk."
"Thou jest in dire times. I had forgotten such lightness."
"All of nature teaches it. That place we left. Where blood and fire and destruction mar the land. It is not so desolate. A time will come when two lovers may walk hand in hand collecting the stones of the fallen like flowers in a meadow."
"That place is corrupt. All life that groweth there will be but a parody of death. It is always thus with chaos."
"Yet there is order too in chaos. Its pattern repeats like all things in time. The evidence is all around us. In leaves, in lightning arcs. See, even this snail shell."
"Thou speak of fractals."
"Aye. The endlessly repeating laws in nature. Life and death within life and death. A spiral shell tracing a spiral pattern through a spiral gallaxy."
"And what readest thou in this? What way is made clear to thee?"
"The way that has always been. The way of the gods and of our race. We shall do as they did. Our own story is but a map of their story. As this small shell is a map of this great gallaxy of stars."
"That is cold comfort. And now here we may yet both speak truth and yet diverge. For what story art thou in? What role do each of us play? Art thou Asuryan to my Khaine? Shall I try to slay these mortals here against thy will?"
"Surely not. For each life is its own tale where we each but cross upon the same stage. Eldanesh it would seem is one free like the Eldar of old, for unfettered is his will. His own hubris, I fear shall be his fall. Already it is threatening schism. While Anaris, like Vaul has been maimed and bound to his own anvil."
"I comprehend thy thought. For many Eldar paths are understood thus. Yevána chooseth the path of the warrior, like the Eldar of old; driven by the need for a path of discipline and strength. While Féonwe, it seemeth follows the exodite way; the path of the outcast. He like they seeks solace in isolation."
"A path is but a way oft' trodden. By those that went before, by their guides and their forebares, and the gods before them. All of our paths are but echoes."
"And what of thou and I?"
"I may be Isha ever weeping and you Khaine ever warring."
"Truely we each are lost upon our paths. Yet what crossroad is this? What fate do we all share?"
"Each must move toward their own fate."
"Thy truth may be acceptance of fate but mine is resistance."
"Ever does Khaine strive, ever does Isha weep."
"And what of Maedhros. Thou speakest not of the void star."
"You know I will not. He dances naked upon a path we do not tread. Upon which he has already travelled far beyond all reach or redemption. "
"Yet we all must tread that path with him for a time. Or paths beside. Thou fear to name it but it has a name. It is The Path of Damnation."
Yevána sits with Féonwe at work on the prizes they have won but Eldanesh takes no interest. He has already taken that which he requires and now busies himself with his own amusement. He and Anaris are in close communion they disassemble and fine tune, articulate, actuate, honing the blade to a terrible edge.
At a distance Galdor and Starálfur debate as they walk. The cosmos turns on their arguments. Their comprehension bounds time and space in limitless fathoms. The place they now stand is but the ripple of a primordial drop in an eternal ocean.
Maedhros alone sees what comes.
Sprinting from the concealment of his isolation he falls upon Yevána and Féonwe at their work. A blade he takes and an ancient las-pistol. His passing is as a cold wind that snatches breath. All eyes follow him into the horror that awaits.
A tired and agitated band of men has infiltrated their camp. Even now they leap from hiding, forced into action by the sudden unaccountable attack of a naked and silent assailant.
Yevána curses her unpreparedness. The warlock's explicit warning should have been her utmost priority. Her warrior's glory is waning as she fumbles her Fusion-gun from the confusion of their disparate armoury.
Eldanesh is moving frantically. His only concern is to bring his heavy weapon to bare on fresh targets. Anaris is powerless to assist.
Féonwe wants to fly but instead is frozen. He stares in mounting horror. Maedhros is like nothing he has ever witnessed. Lithe and savage and utterly devoid of feeling; there is something in his motion, in his method that speaks of cold calculation.
A first man is killed outright. His eye socket gushes blood from a precision las-pistol strike. A second and third are dealt in tandem. One is left gagging in futile attempts to breathe as the other is felled with a sliced Achilles' tendon. The fallen man is dispatched with the brutal application of a heel to the back of his neck. His companion drops gasping to his knees beside. Maedhros pours a throat-full of blood upon his hopeless state and leaves him to drown.
Shouts and gunfire now but still the blood-drenched dancer moves between them as a bee in a flowery meadow. He feels nothing for them now, these once-free men, these wretched souls. He feels only a deep unquenchable thirst, to fill the void within him with he knows not what, or dares not guess.
He visits upon each in turn a foretaste of their death. An enemy is unmanned and unbalanced, he watches in terror as his gut-shot companion wails in agony. Another receives a paralysing shock to the temple. He stands dazed and confused as all around him blood and blade rain down.
"Galdor, to their flank! Take thee Fëanor and know their number." Starálfur has seen enough of this charnel-dance. Reclaiming the helm of the warlock once more he intones the music of sealing and encloses his mind within its amplifying chamber.
Power floods his senses. The scene before him blossoms into etherial spectrum. Bright white Eldar spirits burn like beacons. They are scattered in disunity and have all been slow to react but their fire is growing steadily. The auras of the tainted men eb away as the voracious void star devours their lives. But even as the warlock draws his witchblade he beholds the ruinous powers at work.
Cursed by some foul sorcerous rite, paid in the blood they have spilled the bodies are beginning to melt and merge. Two great visceral masses are forming, spawned of the maddening abyss.
They lurch and reach out to ensnare the void-star, Maedhros but as they battle and turn their lingering spirits are leached from their flesh. All that remains is void in them and indeed the warlock's wraith-sight cannot tell them apart from the one he means to aid. Stepping forth, helical energies aglow in his blade the warlock finds he must stay his hand or risk a doomed stroke.
A lash of energies erupts from all sides as Yevána and Eldanesh make their presence felt. Anaris is firing on full automatic as Eldanesh struggles to keep his barrels on target baring the full weight of the weapon in his hands, their anti-gravitic generator lies inert at his feet.
As all else around is burned and purged by fire and light, Maedhros stands unsatisfied; his bare flesh arrayed in a desolation of bloody ruin, unscathed if utterly defiled.
"You brought them down upon us, you artless fool!" Fëanor erupts in a torrent of accusations, his blade pointing squarely at Eldanesh. "Not content to be dragged from the fighting you led them hence to our very camp!"
"If I led them they were led to the slaughter." He responds. "You coward's heart! Have you no stomach for bloodshed that you fly from it at every turn?"
"You will be the death of us all!" Féonwe throws his weapon to the dust in his anger and disgust.
"And you, the surety of defeat! We might run from death all our lives and still we would not live eternally.If we are to die I would that we did so fighting." Eldanesh stands a head taller than his accuser and is not cowed in the least. They are face to face and few words remain to them.
Maedhros steps between them and the spell is broken. No greater image of the the fruits of their conflict could be shown to them than the sight of one so fallen. Each, in their shame, relent.
"The enemy are vanquished; their power and hope stolen away and cast back into the void from whence they came." The voice of the warlock is a soothing balm. "Let us not waste ourselves in folly for few enough are the days left to us."
He calls their fractured system to order and once again each of the planets fall into alignment.
They are marching south along the shivering spine of the high side of the valley. Far below falls a barren land, choked of vitality by a great girdle of steel and stone. The great reservoir behind sparkles like a puddle of stars in the sliver of pale moonlight.
Féonwe ranges ahead and on occasion tracks back to guide their path in fairer course. Yevána and her master are in step together as they speak.
"Why chooseth thou the Dragon's way?" he probes, seeking confirmation in place of his assumptions.
"I was given the fusion gun." She begins, "I was chosen for this role."
"By what virtue wert thou chosen?" He pursues, "What providence has laid this fate upon you?"
"I know not." She falters, "For Eldanesh there was also who might have been chosen. He is brave and knows well the weight of power. See how he wields even Anaris!"
"But for him the blade was chosen, yet he has forsaken it. He is ever desirous of power and loves not to take his place."
They walk in silence for a time. Maedhros stalks behind clad in rags and misery. Even the virgin snow of these highland passes could not cleanse his soulless flesh. His slender pistol rattles within a rustic man-made holster. A pair of sleek long-knives are nestled in the small of his back.
Galdor keeps a wary eye upon him some distance behind, with Eldanesh in the rear of the party. He speaks of snowflakes and seasons and eternity but Eldanesh and Anaris are deep in communion. The link they share is complex, a steadily evolving symbiosis.
At last Yevána speaks, "My Mother's sister followed the way of the Scorpion. I knelt often before her shrine and heard tell of her glories."
"The way of the Scorpion is an armoured fist. Its crux is belief in thine own strength."
"We're you long a Scorpion, Master?"
"I was many years a Scorpion in my youth." Her master recalls, "but I was longer an Avenger. The path of the Avenger teaches unity, loyalty and belief in others. An Avenger Exarch was I and a Warlock thereafter."
"And what of the Dragon? Know ye wherein lies its heart?" Yevána is absorbing his wisdom, thirsty for every drop.
"I know not the Dragon's way for ne're was I called upon that path. But it is said that the Dragon's path is the way of the destructor," He pauses, concern for his pupil tempering his prejudice. "that the dragon unmakes that which is made."
"But I am a maker!" her spirit spills over in resistance of his reading. Reigning in her indignation she recollects herself. "At least I might have been, had I remained in my father's house."
"The mind of the maker has much application in war." the warlock consoles. "Allied to the dragon's fire it is a most lethal force. One who perceiveth the keystone, is one who may destroy the whole with its removal."
Yevána is sullen. She has known this to be true but like any creative being she resents the shift.
"I have need of such a one; of a dragon such as thee."
Something stirs in her warrior's soul. It is the necessity which drives all change, the call of the inevitable, the inexorable hand of fate.
"I am thy servant." She intones with purpose."Direct my hand."
The warlock indicates the immense structure below, where men have sought to bend nature to their will.
"See thou this dam?" he asks, "See thou how it is made?"
She studies the crude construct of concrete and plasteel which girdles the valley.
"The river must flow through," The warlock commands, "and we upon that dam, as upon a bridge over flowing water shall open a gate, and thence we shall away."
Yevána contemplates his plan. Her maker's mind unmakes the dam accordingly. "It can be done." She agrees, "There is a way."
He is far from his companions. He takes his rest upon a bare rock, knife in hand, paring the imperfections from his reed flute. Smoother now and carefully worked it is beginning to sound as it should. He sets it to his lips and takes a breath.
The music pouring from him speaks of longing, of loss, of solitude. His heart misgives. Once he was so sure of his place. So confident in his skill, so defiant of death. He would throw himself into battle, through flames, at incredible speeds, so sure was he in himself, in Anaris...
His fingers falter on the instrument. The music gives way again to the silent stars. He must learn to find the strength within himself alone. Resolved, he takes up his instrument once more.
He stands, before all the stars of the heavens, and all the dark realm below and plays for all to hear. Loudly and with rising spirit. He will not be ashamed. Let it be as defiance in the ears of the enemy, and as hope to all else. That music should yet live in these hills is a victory in itself.
This might yet be a purpose he could claim for his own; to bring hope where there is none. To be a light in the darkness. To bring music to the most silent stars.
Féonwe's melody rises and falls. He breathes in time with the night wind, in accompaniment with the swaying grasses and wind-tossed leaves.
He hopes beyond hope that of all his distant companions Maedhros might hear; that he might yet know music in his most desperate isolation.
A chill runs through his spirit, a warning. Seek not the path upon which Maedrhros walks. Is it the warlock's voice coming to him on the wind? He cannot be sure.
The lonely road he finds oft plays tricks on the mind. He is still learning to walk in its ways. Dropping the flute from his lips he turns and directs his feet once again to rejoin the company.
The Webway is vast and impossibly complex. There are permanent and semi permanent paths; gates that open at a thought and others that may be accessed but once a century. Some that may transmit but one soul ere they fade and others fit for armies unnumbered.
No mind has ever encompassed the limits of its scope; not those that use it nor even they who live therein. Indeed one could not for it is as fluid as time. It changes ever as its ancient ways are remade and rediscovered, while some fall foul of warp spawned fiends and others pass into nothingness and are lost.
The warlock stands upon the apex of the man-made stone curvature of the dam cloaked in mystifying energies, witchblade in hand. He meditates upon the task before him. To build a gate.
As foundation he offers the rune of the Cosmic Serpent. His blade scratches the surface of the ether carving out the symbol. The serpent is of both the Materium and the Warp, the guardian of all Secret Knowledge. A natural ally in his endeavour.
Upon the founds he lays two great pillars; The shrine of Asuryan and kindles therein the flame: the hope of their safe passage and a light upon their path.
With skill and dexterity the warlock carves upon the threshold, in the very stone of the dam his own personal runic emblem. It is an anchor and a key, an address upon the door.
Staring up into the starry firmament he selects the topmost point of light. He sets his blade upon it and from that point describes a spiral outwards in step with the spinning of the world. Upon its open end he positions the sickle rune of the harvester to gather the rotational energies down into the spiral and thence upon the spot where he seals it to his gate.
He lays before The Alter of the Flame the Mark of the the Traveller, Cegorach, that is the Laughing God. Five thereof he lays, in petition for his party, and One Transcendent beside. Another still... he hesitates. Between two warding marks he describes, the rune of the soulless, She Who Thirsts, one who is damned.
His final act is to prime the set. For this he applies the directional rune of the River Running. The flow of water through the dam beneath shall be the release of the energies gathered in the turning of the world. While the energy is discharged his portal into the webway shall open and the company shall depart.
Drained from his efforts the warlock steps back and beholding the eldrich construct deems it, adequate. The timing shall be the key he expects. He must watch and wait and judge the effectiveness of his work. How the energy is harvested, the integrity of the whole.
Turning and proceeding back through the mists of his own devising he thinks on Yevána. Her part is next and she must be exacting. All now rests on the precision of the dragon's strike.
Swimming through starlight on a moonless night Yevána is utterly at peace. The cold water calms and focuses her mind. The warm breeze upon the surface recalls the hazy day's march that is washing away from her weary feet.
She reaches out and touches the rough surface of the dam, that which is to be unmade. It is wrought of dull stuff. Heavy and onerous was its construction and it retains much of the resentment of its labourers in the hardship of their toil. Yevána's eyes sparkle with mirth to think of the joy those men might derive from her own night's work at the dam. How they will rejoice in its destruction.
She charges her lungs, once, twice, and dives beneath.
The darkness is absolute. She feels the density and strength of the structure and she dives deeper and deeper down. The sheer immensity of forces at play here is at first overwhelming; the thing is monumentally huge and built to endure.
She resurfaces for air, recalling her mind to order. One who knows wherein lies the keystone, is one who may destroy the whole with its removal. The keystone here is the arch of the dam against the pressure of the water. It must be made to buckle. She dives.
With precise deliberation Yevána measures the distance as she scales down the bare rock face in the blackness of the underworld. Selecting an imperfection in the very base of the structure, just left of centre she places her first meltabomb charge. Her lungs are burning but it is imperative that she gauges it correctly. Only once she is satisfied does she allow herself to return to the surface.
She is thinking of counter-forces and shockwaves, of weakness and strength, of fluidity and conductivity. Now that she has found the weakness Yevána means to turn it to her purpose. She plans a series of smaller charges, plasma grenades timed to fire in quick succession directing their star-fire blasts into the structure to lead the fissure in a neat circular arc across the face of the wall and not vertically to its apex. It is critical that the top of the dam remain an inviolable bridge upon which to cross and so enter the gate that even now the Warlock is at work upon.
Five meltabombs remain to her now. These she positions at the breaking point in a long and arching tangent across the dam's smooth curved back.
She has positioned the means of destruction and now but one thing remains. A depth charge of her own construction she hangs in the darkness a span away from the centre of the area she has marked for unmaking. It is primed to pulverise the spot with a shockwave force, enough to shatter the weakened arch and the immense pressures in the water behind will do the rest. It hangs like a sword of judgement over the spot awaiting her psychic trigger.
As she swims back, a silent ripple in the starlit gloaming Yevána is deep in contemplation. She came to this place a guardian of the people but she is changing, undeniably she is becoming. This task has awakened in her an enlightenment and a new perspective.
Yevána makes one last dive slipping below, beneath the surface swimming for the banks. She leaves the girl she was behind, all fear and ambition and frustration are left in the dark beneath and she emerges a Dragon.
All that is visible in the physical realm is the carven rune of the warlock. There branded upon the surface of the concrete it is impossible to hide even from the dullest of minds.
A guard has stumbled upon it, bleary-eyed on his morning round. First his Security Supervisor and then their Directing Officer are invited into the investigation. Red barrier tape, a concealing tent of striped canvas and more guards and officials join the event. As one line of inquest is handed off to another, and then another the crowds of hangers on and gawk-eyed interlopers multiply. All the while the world turns, the unseen energies build and the Eldar watch from the sidelines.
"I like this not." The warlock is on edge. "They will hinder our passage, the more men they draw thither."
"Let them come," Eldanesh is prepared for a fight. "I know no odds that Anaris and I shall not face laughing."
"Peace, child." Galdor soothes, "Your time will come, indeed I fear there is no escaping it now."
"We must not tarry overlong." Féonwe adds, "Each passing hour, more come to join the happening. Might we lead some off, distract or misguide them?"
"Nay," the Warlock sighs, "They will not leave, though they know not why they gather here. It is ever thus where our power is in the ascendence, it draws the denizens of She Who Thirsts like moths to the flame."
Slowly but surely the sorcerous elements within the rabble sense the latent energies that are beginning to charge the ether around the invisible portal. As power calls to power their master's servants are quick to follow. The men grow restless and excitable as they loiter on the massive dam.
"Warlock, my heart misgives." Galdor is sensing the growing weight of the ruinous powers opposing them. "Something evil approaches. What does your void-sight see?"
"Thy heart reads true." He reports gravely. "These men thou see are not half of what is now arrayed against us."
"We choose the time to strike, and the narrow field favours not their numbers." Yevána weighs up their odds, "We each may account for many more than our number, as is ever our way."
"Aye, sister," Eldanesh agrees, "and we are a versatile force, each of us with their unique skill and potency. There can be little they may throw at us that we cannot answer."
"We need only contend with those few we encounter in our brief passage to the gate." Féonwe assures them, "Many more shall we deny a fight than shall be denied their lives this night."
Yevána nods her ascent. Eldanesh says nothing.
The warlock broods over the etherial energies as tense hours build one upon an other. The physical is as another life to him, where children play at games but know not the true extent thereof. The gate is a bulging store of spiralling forces, designed and directed by his own hand. He can feel the thrumming power of it upon his personal runic mark. They are connected the maker and his creation.
Yet all around he perceives a ruddy mist is pouring steadily up over the arch of the dam from the valley beneath. The stuff of the enemy. It forms as if condensed from the air by the presence of the portal and flows against the direction of his design, coalescing into a thickening fog upon the surface of the lake above.
Yevána is poised. Breathless in anticipation of the destruction she has prepared.
"There is power enough. We gain nothing in delay." At last her Master gives the command. "Release the Dragon's fire."
The charges lying in wait are detonated with a thought. At first there is nothing, but then a great crack. The loud talk and exuberance upon the dam is hushed to an uncertain murmur.
And then the final depth charge.
A great sub-sonic whump flows through the ground and into the soles of their feet and up to their very hearts. Then all is silence.
They look to Yavanah but she is waiting still, listening as the pressure of the water behind the fractured dam begins to take its toll. A massive section of the concrete face of the dam cracks off and falls away into the thirsty valley below. A cry of alarm serenades its fall to a percussive crescendo.
Yevána does not watch it drop, all her focus is upon the ruin of exposed re-bar and shattered concrete that now gapes high in the face of the dam. Is it a thin trickle of water she sees flowing off its surface or is she watching a trail of powdered concrete pouring out and catching the wind? All her being is suspended in hope.
Then the river flows.
Bursting free at once an immense rushing torrent the water pours forth wild and white and unfettered. Those upon the dam who see what is happening turn to run but too late.
Suddenly in their very midst as if wrought of shimmering starlight there stands a massive gate. It shudders into being with the force of a thunder clap sending men and equipment over the side of the crumbling dam wall. It stands impossibly large at the apex of the curving dam, whipping bright nova flares of etherial energies into the night.
A shriek of terror herald's its coming and as the twin elements of fear and anticipation commingle in the dark ether and daemon forms begin to emerge from the waters and the mist and the very flesh of men. Some more singularly touched by the darkness spontaneously mutate and Spawn are rendered in unholy mockery of life.
The portal burns with light and stands inviolable amidst the throng: a totem of raw energy with a dark uninviting aperture into another realm at the foot of its mighty pillars.
Between the Eldar and their goal stands a hellish gauntlet of cursed spirit and defiled flesh. Yet upon the threshold of the dam, there stands against the ravening throng, the meagre Warlock's band. He draws and raises his witchblade defiant, and leads them forward unto their destiny.
Toward the burning bright gate they drive amidst the terrible roar of the rushing waters beneath, and the howling of otherworldly winds that tear at the material realm.
The warlock is directing their charge. Anaris before them rains a torrent of laser fire into their crowded path. At the right hand of Eldanesh, Galdor takes guard, his shuriken catapult striking at anyone who might threaten the heavy weapon team. Behind them follow Yevána and Féonwe and between them the Warlock. On their left is Maedhros, a fell wind of heartless carnage.
Their advance into the hoard of chaos is as a lance to a festering boil. No sooner have they made contact with the first outliers of the mass who throng the dam than a foul pustulation of daemonic power oozes from the wound.
The warlock quashes Daemonettes materialised from the fog dispelling their aura of glamour lest they spur the men into a riot of desire. He counters the sorcery of the enemy at every turn but is relying on Féonwe to protect him bodily.
Yevána is targeting spawn and other mutant flesh. She dispatches a tentacled monstrosity and then goes to work on an improvised barricade. It melts to slag in milliseconds but the press of bodies is endless. She drops grenades in their wake sewing confusion and despair amongst the crowds that enclose their rear.
Maedhros cuts in and out among the enemy. He is a weapon both keen and terrible and utterly without mercy. His touch is death. He can hear the laughter of Eldanesh carried on the wind. There is joy, he reminds himself, even as he brings unspeakable suffering to another damned soul. There is hope for some, even if he himself be damned. He feels no rage, nor contempt, nor hatred nor pity. Yet he hungers for all these things. His body is driven to excesses of violence in desperation to feel anything at all.
Yet for all their skill and valour at arms the Eldar are too few. The warlock's waning powers are heavily taxed. Galdor is tiring. Yevána reaches for her final canister. Féonwe's blood is flowing between his fingers as he drops to one knee. The gate is near but not within reach. All around them even the bodies of the vanquished dead are writhing into hellish forms and lurching forth once more to join the daemon assault.
The warlock's band draw into a defensive ring, beset upon all sides. The Warlock stands resolute, witchblade radiating his influence, emboldening and preserving calm. To stand and resist though all be lost.
"Despair not my friends!" He cries "Even now at our last end. For this evil is but a passing thing. There is high hope that it cannot touch."
He can feel their spirits rising. There is an energy growing in the midst of them; despite all a hope is kindled. There is a shimmer in the air as of soft rain under a full moon and a beating of drums that seems to unify and quicken their hearts.
And unlooked for, from forth the gate the Harlequines come.
They pour from the gate in a sudden shimmering wave. As a storm surge at high tide, overwhelming the enemy's defences and flooding the field of battle. The Harlequin host washes in and recedes back and comes on again as a second shimmering wave.
Their speed and grace and deadly skill go beyond mere efficiency. Theirs is a pure art. To attack when least anticipated, to strike with unequalled finesse, to deliver unmitigated destruction. Their weapons illusion, misdirection, fear and confusion. Their victories snatched, their laughter cruel, their mastery is contempt and disdain for all power. For they stand apart and will not be resisted.
A pair of bone clad jesters stand guard at the portal entrance raining death and mockery into the kill zone that is forming as each wave of assaults washes clean the space between them and the beleaguered Eldar. They are preparing the way for the one who now comes.
Her entrance upon the stage is marked by a flurry of glittering explosions like fireworks overhead as Hallucinogen Grenades rain down a compelling madness. It engulfs the psyche of the maddening crowd turning anger to terror, hatred to confusion and resolve to disunity and suspicion. She strides amidst the chaos in absolute mastery of the field and wholly untouchable, to the spot where the warlock's band now stand. Her surety belies the precarious state of the crumbling structure beneath their feet.
"Who built this gate? In such a place!
There was not its like in all my life."
The Shadowseer's voice brims with laughter. The blank mask beneath her cowl does little to hide her smile.
The warlock is too drained, too war weary even to meet the jest with a smile let alone match her in wits. In a gesture of extreme gratitude he kneels before the uncanny priestess and commends the field to her formidable powers before his body if not his will finally gives out.
Yevána and Galdor jump to his aid and baring him up upon each side they raise the master again to his feet.
"Who are you," Galdor enquires, "who come most happily and unlooked for?"
"A name you ask? They are the Masque
of tears unnumbered fighting yonder."
She indicates the flickering figures dancing a cordon around them keeping the enemy at bay. Maedhros is already one with the dance. The Shadowseer remarks upon his presence.
"This one we sought who long has fought
within your care. This solitaire.
The pupil star of our Avatar
Of Cal'nfaye. But now, away!"
Her song touches matters far beyond their ken but ends abruptly; at a sudden shift beneath their feet she turns their attention to flight. A ragged crack opens in the road on the dam, holding together only by the plasteel reinforcements as foaming waters gush from inside the fissure.
They follow now as the Shadowseer skips lightly over the cracks in the buckling concrete edifice toward the faltering portal. As one the dancers close tight behind them, drawing in the ever lessening gap as they make their escape.
Féonwe stumbles. His hurt is much and he falls in the last sprint. Anaris spins to his protection and Eldanesh, feet planted firmly upon the shifting road stands ready at his will but so furious a fusillade of laser fire he has never before known Anaris to put forth. All available energies are drawn into the attack. All sub-systems, pathways and reserves are rerouted to fuel his fire as Anaris denies all who would fall upon his former partner. Galdor returns to retrieve their fallen brother into the retreat.
The Death Jester guard join Eldanesh, standing joyously upon each flank and the trio of heavy gunners howl and whoop and jeer as they pour contempt upon the baying mob. The ebbing portal behind accepts the retreating Eldar; Yevána, her master and Maedhros among them. Galdor and Féonwe last of all.
First one Jester then the other peel off and back into the portal. Féonwe watches, waiting inside the portal's entrance but Eldanesh still does not come.
"Eldanesh! Come away, the fight is over!" He calls to his companion, his brother, his friend. "Anaris! Relent!" He cries, "Let him go."
Yet, although the distance is little more than a few short steps Eldanesh will not turn. He stands as if rooted to the spot as all around chaos rages. His onslaught is relentless; fuelled body, mind and spirit with all his will, all his resolve, all of his vital force. His mirthless laughter, his dire executioner's aspect is a terrible thing to behold.
Finally, with the groan of rent plasteel and the sudden rushing of an immeasurable tide the superstructure fails, and as the dam falls to ruin the portal's runes are undone.
The gateway is shut. Eldanesh and the sword Anaris are lost.
Maedhros stands in a place utterly foreign. He cannot recall his steps, his path, his name. He has followed the dance and come to this end. Here at the end of all things where only the dance remains.
"This dance will always be," a voice comes to him again "as it is now, as it has always been."
Yet Master Cal'nfaye does not address him alone. He is the Avatar of the Harlequin masque, who stands before the assembled cast in the form of Cegorach, the laughing god. He draws about him those in the roles of Asuryan and of Khaine, of Isha and Kurnous. The smith god Vaul, his servant Faolchú and the hero Eldanesh. The crone Morai-Heg and many more besides. The stage is set for the epic tale of "The War in Heaven".
Though Maedhros knows not the steps, nor the music nor the poetry they have prepared a place for him. A holosuit and horned mask lie ready to receive him. The garb curiously dark and drab in comparison to the riot of colourful costumes on show.
A sonorous voice sings contralto the staves of the central villain of the piece.
"Born of the Fall the get of all
debauchery and excess, She
who thirst for souls, devours them whole
and more besides, yet satisfied
will never be eternally."
Placing the horned mask upon his ashen face, Maedhros steps forth upon the stage.
What little brain matter it had vacates its thick skull cavity leaving a flailing quivering mess in the blood slicked mould.
Féonwe ejects the spent power cell from his Ranger Long Rifle and with an eye still to the sights slots a fresh cell into place and carefully takes aim at another ork brute. It is knocked clear off its feet but it takes another shot on the ground to keep it there.
He is picking his targets, thinning the heaviest beasts from the mass, doing all he can to aid the beleaguered Eldar forces down in the valley.
He has been monitoring communications for weeks and knew this day must surely come. The evacuation of the field. Just as before. Truly, history is a repeating cycle within repeating cycles.
The river is open now and flowing with life. The shoulders of the broken dam a league up stream still stand as testimony to a centuries old struggle. This maiden world, though scarred and defiled time and again will not be left uncontested, though it seems she loves the Eldar not. Once again they are in retreated.
Messages from evacuation craft flood his comms; all transports to facilitate evacuation of forward souls. The birds are coming as once Féonwe himself came. He watches impassive as two Wave Serpents and a Falcon swoop in behind and in a flurry of covering fire the troops are embarked and whisked away. An ork with a custom energy weapon tries to tag his escaping prey but Féonwe has him covered. The ork's shot swings skyward like a search beam as his lifeless body collapses in the grass.
With that the Pathfinder melts back into the landscape.
Now the challenge truly begins. He will not leave. Not this time. He will remain in this place until he has found that which he came for. The spirit stones of his friends, of Anaris and Eldanesh. He shall follow the river come what may and know what can be known of the land hereabout. If they are yet here he will recover them and repay the last dept of friendship that he owes.
Should he find company remaining here, so be it. Should he go on alone, so much the better. He will do as he has ever done, he will continue his journey upon the lost roads of the outcast.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2016/10/10 23:34:59
No prince now resides in the palace. The topiary spires are all grown crooked and unlovely. The esplanades and terraces, once an endless circuitous pathway through many-splendoured wonders, now lead into broken and desolate places where they stray and vanish beneath a canopy of briars.
Only Galdor remains who remembers their prime, though it seems impossible ages ago. In his apprenticeship he may have budded these very Silverthorn vines, now grown monstrous and violent. They smother light and life from the once delicate and carefully attended rarities of the palace arboretum: a malignant cancer grown far beyond treatment.
As he passes the great palace amphitheatre, all cracked bone architecture and protruding roots he is stricken by its barren emptiness. Its open mouth gapes, yawning in vacuous disuse. Echos of voices and applause lingering from time immemorial spark memories of his earliest youth.
Galdor sits upon the broken steps and sees again in his mind's eye the crowds, the stern parents and their joyous children, the beaming lovers and contented elders. Together they watch a troop of Harlequins perform the epic of the 'War In Heaven'.
But now Maedhros himself plays the part of She Who Thirsts. Galdor is on his feet, his hands and heart outstretched in appeal to the one he failed. Tears are clouding his vision and the phantoms of long forgotten dancers flit and swim between his fingertips and are lost once again. He blinks them away from his greying rheumy eyes.
Had he, as a wild uncaring youth really jeered and thrown insults at such a one as Maedhros? Grown both wise and weary now Galdor bitterly repents. He sinks to his knees, an image of tragic regret alone upon the stage.
A feral gyrinx finds him there. So still is he, so utterly at peace that it dares to approach and purr at his side. But Galdor of the havens has already died; his spirit rising at the close of his life's recital.
A host of Eldar spirits, those rescued by his own hand and returned thence fill the ancient amphitheatre. They greet and welcome him and together, celebrating his life they return to the swelling infinity circuits of the craftworld.
In the gardens Galdor tended in life time ebbs and flows. Leaf and flower come and go in their season while his spirit waits for Ynnead.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2016/10/20 22:46:12
The Phoenix Lord, Fuegan of whom the prophecy foretells a mighty doom, comes alone to the heart of the silent craftworld.
None now live as once they did in its broken spires or its untended gardens. It is guided through the great sea of stars as much by providence as by design. A wealth of spirits reside within. They gossip and whisper as the legendary Fire Dragon Lord passes through their desolate empty plazas and down beneath their streets into the heart of the craftworld. There within the darkness glows the last hope of the people, the mightiest of their spirit-kin preserved in the cathedral chamber of the Dome of the Crystal Seers.
Drawn by fate and by bonds of kinship and fealty the pilgrim finds the crystallised body and the spirit stone of the one that they require.
Starálfur, the one who stares. One of the last Great Seers of this craftworld.
"Master," the Phoenix Lord begins, "I have returned to kneel at your feet once more, and also to appeal by our bond of union for your aid in our coming battle."
Eternity in silence follows the petition but by and by the spirit burns once more within its small stone chamber. It speaks to Feugan.
"What bond dost thou invoke? Who am I that thou, oh Great Lord, should call me Master? Who art thou if not my own master?"
"The one who kneels before you now," the Phoenix Lord replies "you once called Yevána. Long has she been upon the Dragon's path, who once you set thereon. Long he she wielded the Firepike and Axe of Fuegan and inhabited his name and armour. For a mighty exarch of the Fire temple was she and a worthy warrior spirit to become one with the Phoenix."
"Daughter! Lord Fuegan!" The spirit of Starálfur is at once full of invigorating joy "I scarce could refuse any request from one so beloved and revered both. Truly the student hath by far surpassed the master! What boon wouldst thou ask of me?"
"We are come to invoke your spirit to empower a Warlock Battle Titan. A steersman have we, a most gifted and a cunning warrior, whose spirit-brothers, although not kin are as close in communion with his spirit as could be desired, they do but require a warlock of your skill and prowess, nay only you for you have been chosen. None other but you may bind their union as you did of old. I beg of you, for none else now exist who may achieve this goal."
"Name thee your Steersman and his brothers for I know not of whom tho speakest, Lord."
"They are Féonwe the wanderer who returned whence Eldanesh and Anaris fell, retrieving there their spirit stones. They now stand resolved to your service once more, for indeed only you will they follow."
"I give myself wholly into thy service, and thy request Yevána, Lord Fuegan does me great honour. Pray take me hence to battle."
"With gratitude I will bare you hence for you serve our greatest need."
Fuegan rises and takes the proffered spirit into his keeping with reverence and care.
"We go not merely to battle, friend, but to the war to end our war: for now we go to Ranadandra."
That's is folks. That's the end.
Huge thanks to everyone who has read and commented and kept this one going right to the end. I've really enjoyed the journey we've all been on and I've been very encouraged by you all. Thanks again.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2016/10/20 22:45:57
Thanks for your kind comments. It's always nice to hear that someone is appreciating the work that's gone into your writing.
Go ahead and borrow away. I borrowed the present tense style from Anthony Doerr- All the Light We Cannot See (an increadibly good novel!) who did it so much better than me and I honestly attribute any great quality in my Eldar Recital to his inspiration.
That's how this writing thing works I guess, read then write, input output. Reading better books inspires better writing.
I look forward to reading your work. I assume present tense is coming to Ardus?
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/01/18 13:32:07