The Conclave

The Ordos Majoris - Roleplay => In Character => Topic started by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 06:46:36 PM

Title: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 06:46:36 PM
"As Khaine's hate does burn within our veins, so does His strength. As His fervour is ours, so is His skill. To our kin, protection; To our enemies, death." The voice was soft, melodic. It sounded as if a choir sung his words, such was their rhythm and tone, but they were unmistakable as the words of a warrior. Every syllable betrayed an eternity of bloodshed.
"Death to them all." Alundirel spoke the final words, and bowed.
"You have done well, Alund'athil. Your skill is quite formidable for one so young." The voice had changed, but was still the same. A resonant chorus of sounds, one voice and many at once.
Alundirel burned with pride at the Exarch's praise. "I have thrived on your instruction, Exarch."
The Exarch stood, and extended a hand to the young warrior. "Instruction does nothing but awaken prowess. We are finished for the day, Alund'athil. Return tomorrow morning, and you shall join your fellow Dire Avengers."
Alundirel nodded, smiling at the honour bestowed upon him, and walked from the Shrine.

Iyanden stretched out before him, vast and glorious. It shined in pale starlight, glittering spires and domes covering its hull.
Alundirel stood, deep in thought, in the chamber at the top of one of Iyanden's many observation spires. He stared into the depths of space, wondering what was out there.
"I thought I would find you here." A female voice, light and gentle. Mother. The familiar, comforting presence suffuses him, and his body relaxes, soothed by her proximity.
"I always-"
"Come here to think. I know. Sometimes I feel you think too deeply for one so young, Alund'athil."
"Mother, I am ninety-seven years old."
"And strong beyond your years, my child. I can see it. Your father could, before he left. All your tutors could see it... and so can Exarch Cuhuldain, apparently."
"I join the Shrine tomorrow."
Loreclai smiled, "I did not doubt it for even a moment." She stepped over, and cradled her son in her arms, the warmth of her body pushing aside the chill of space. "And I do not doubt that you shall do a great deal in your lifetime."
Alundirel closed his eyes, and exhaled. He didn't need to say anything. Loreclai could read him better than he could read himself. And why not – she was his mother, and they shared the bond of family. Only lifemates, and the kinsmen of the Fir Caurifel could approach the strength of that bond. And only death or entrapment upon the path could break it.
"You're scared." Loreclai sounded surprised.
"Something inside me cries out for battle... something I do not know if I can resist."
"We all feel it, Alund'athil. All of us. Most of us can resist it. And I do not believe that you will be one who cannot."
"But I'm not so certain..."
"You will be. When the time comes to put aside the armour and the weapons, you will know that the Warsong cannot command you."
Silence filled the spire.

It was exhilarating.
Alundirel knew, intellectually, that this was merely a psychoreactive simulation, but that didn't prevent the feelings of power and urgency. His Shuriken Catapult screamed, and Orks fell, thick crimson blood pooling around their lifeless green corpses.
Alund'athil, Tsirren, Kedath, advance to the fourth checkpoint. Salvanar, Edricé, provide covering fire.
The words of Exarch Cuhuldain rang clear within their minds, and Alundirel began to move. As quick as he was normally, he moved faster now, when Khaine's fire rushed through him. The Orks seemed to be moving in slow motion as they rounded the tree line, raising their crude rifles to fire. The repeated ‘Krak-krak-krak-krak' of their guns seemed dulled, and the heavy metal slugs they fired whipped past Alundirel's swift form.
He stopped, back pressed against a large rock, as he loud footsteps of the Orks neared. They could smell him by now, no doubt, and he braced himself. Their grunting, guttural tongue was almost deafening now. They sounded like they were arguing.
Two... no, three voices.

Tsirren, three enemies within four-span of my location, moon-wards. Suppressive fire on my mark.

A pause. In spite of only being in training for a day, Alundirel trusted that his comrade had received and understood the message.

Now

His trust was rewarded by the tell-tale scream of a Shuriken Catapult from the other side of the ridge. Orks grunted in confusion as they came under fire. Alundirel took the moment to round the corner, unleashing a hail of shuriken in half the time it took the Orks to realise that they'd been ambushed.
Blood soaked the ground. Alundirel looked up at Tsirren, and nodded, before both of them started moving swiftly in the other direction.

The simulation ended all too quickly for Alundirel's liking, but he was still pleased. Orks weren't difficult to outwit, but they were tough enough to make up for it. It hadn't mattered in the end, however.
"Good, all of you. Edricé and Kedath both performed exceptionally in the last three simulations, and Alund'athil has proven that my faith in his prowess was well-founded. Go and disarm yourselves. You deserve the rest."
Alundirel, at that moment, felt the exhilaration of battle wash away, replaced by a reluctance that was almost painful to confront. He numbly followed the others to the armoury.

He placed the Shuriken Catapult on its rack, and the holster carrying his Laspistol behind it. Then, cautiously, he reached for his helm. The ‘click-hiss' of the release catch brought a flood of relief, and Alundirel lifted the helmet from his head. A wave of clarity washed over him as the white, crested helm dropped solidly into place on the armour stand, and he felt free...
Removing the armour was simple. A mental impulse, and the tight, psychoreactive material became loose, allowing him to slip it off easily. His waystone was swiftly reattached to its chain, and hung about his neck moments later. He didn't just feel free, he felt in control, confident. He could inspire and deny the Warsong as he needed – it didn't command him.

And that knowledge was both comforting and satisfying.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 06:49:01 PM
"And so it is, than on the eve of your two-hundred-and-thirtieth year, the one-hundred-and-thirty-third year of your time on this path, this way, your accomplishments are noted and honoured.
"Iyanalundirelesikcamanseall'athil, your skill has proven your worth, and for that you are elevated to the position of Ionnare, battle-leader of the fourth shrine of the Dire Avenger, and declared second in mastery to its Exarch.
"Such is as we have done since the birth of the Path; As it was, as it is, as it always shall be."
A roar of celebration went up from the assembled Dire Avengers, some only weeks or months into their new path, others veterans of a hundred conflicts. Alundirel's pride burned brightly, clear to all those who stood in witness. He stood, basking in the moment, as new legacies were crafted into the stock of his Shuriken Catapult, and as he moved his armour and weapons to their new place of honour, nearest the altar where the Exarch's wargear lay, a satisfied smile never left his lips.

More than a century had passed since he took his first steps on this path, and Alundirel had fought countless battles, against Orks, and Humans, and Hrud and a dozen other races. Battle had become second nature by now, and he revelled in every moment... until the time came to put aside the mask and the weapon, where a new calm washed over him, purging his soul of the darkness that gathered whenever the Warsong called. The call had gotten stronger, but so had he, and though still young, he bore a keen insight and fortitude of mind that many twice his age did not possess.
Life was good.
For several hours after the ceremony, Alundirel walked the halls, gantries, domes and spires of his home, or as much as he could, given its size. Just as he did when he was a child, he spent much time in silent thought, dwelling upon places and people and things. Tsirren, now a Warlock, said that thought was a strength, and to act without consideration was what condemned their kin to this life.
As much as Alundirel felt Her hunger, the gnawing, whispering sensation in the back of his mind, he enjoyed this life, and the wanderlust felt by others - including Kedath - wasn't strong enough in him to make him consider the outside. Every battle, he saw new worlds, new sunrises, and that was sufficient. He could imagine a time when that wasn't the case, but it wouldn't be for centuries.

Several days after that, it began. Great rituals, known only to the Exarchs and Farseers, were set into motion, and every Eldar could feel it. Like the beat of a drum, only felt rather than heard, it pulsed through Iyanden, infusing the walls and floors of the immense Craftworld, and flooding into every living soul.

Blood Runs, Anger Rises, Death Wakes, War Calls!

The chant, unspoken, but clearly heard, resounded through every hall, and Alundirel knew exactly what it meant.

Kaela Mensha Khaine

For days, it continued, building slowly and steadily in pace and force. Days blended into weeks, and until two weeks - twelve full days - had passed, the resounding chant, the stifling heat and the scent of hot blood were all the inhabitants of Iyanden knew.
And then, silence. The sound and fury was gone, and slowly, it was replaced by a rumbling, booming noise, emanating from the centre of the Craftworld. Then, hours later, that too was gone, replaced by a roar that came from no mortal mouth, and a shock wave of psychic force that shook the very structure of Iyanden itself.
A moment's silence, as the realisation sunk in. Then, every single Eldar on the Craftworld cried out in exultant fury, a shout that echoes into the void.
Khaine is awoken. The Eldar go to war.

Alundirel stood beside immortal Cuhuldain, a bowl cradled in his hands. The bowl was filled with the blood from each of the warriors of that shrine. The smell was intoxicating, awakening something dark and fearsome deep in the hearts of each Eldar present.
Cuhuldain recited an intricate ritual chant, stepping before each of the warriors of his shrine and marking their faces with bloodied runes, the feel and smell of the blood bringing forth the Warsong. As each warrior's war-mask was applied, they stood, walking purposefully towards the armoury to don their armour and complete the ritual. One by one, the warriors emerged from the armoury, stood before the shrine's doors. Alundirel was last to emerge, banner-topped vanes emerging from his back, and a rune-marked cloth hanging from his waist, marking him as Ionnare. Before them, stood Cuhuldain, resplendent in deep blue, almost crystalline armour, the Diresword Khalifeth - the Void's Herald - handing in its scabbard at his waist.
"It is done. And to war we march."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 06:50:41 PM
Alundirel sat and watched as the Webway enveloped the Haraimen Khaineyass, the psychic display showing him what the ship 'saw' as it slid silently through the void.

He was three-hundred-and-seventy-eight now, in the prime of his life, and he had already walked one path. Vague and distant memories of the Warrior Path flitted about the corners of his mind, pushed away to protect him from their ferocity.
His second path was a reluctant acceptance of the wanderlust that had built within him. For most Eldar, the curiosity was a sign of youth, but Alundirel's strength of will and self-discipline had suppressed it. Mostly.

Little by little, that need edged its way to the front of his mind, and he had stepped upon the Path of the Mariner as a result.

The tight blue-and-yellow bodysuit he now wore marked him as one of the officers in Iyanden's fleet. Still new to this way of life, he sat to one side in the command dome of this Wraithship, letting his senses and his soul become accustomed to its gentle life-pulse. He watched through its eyes the shimmering terrain of the Webway, mentally propelling course corrections and warnings to the rest of the command crew, his mind touching theirs through the ship's wraithbone core.

An unusual sensation, but a pleasant one, to be so connected to his kin and this immense weapon. But more than that, to be this close to the stars themselves, hearing their resonant song and feeling the gentle caress of celestial winds upon the sails.

A patrol mission - simple and brief - it was supposed to be a little light starfaring to ease the newcomers into their role. It turned out quite differently.
Ork pirates had set themselves up in the asteroid fields of Serennis, one of Iyanden's colony worlds. The Haraimen Khaineyass emerged from the Webway to witness a petty skirmish between the Orks and the Shadowhunters of Serennis' defence force.
Though far more mobile and better-trained, able to twist and turn within the asteroid field, the Shadowhunters were outmatched by the larger, more resilient and more heavily-armed Ork frigates and gunships.

Still undetected by the preoccupied Orks, the Haraimen Khaineyass sped forth, its launch bays preparing to unleash squadrons of Phoenix Bombers and Nightwing fighters. As it neared them, the Orks pulled back from their fight with the Shadowhunters, sweeping towards the lone Wraithship, guns blazing ineffectually.

Alundirel could almost smell the Orks, almost hear their guttural snarls and yells, but he knew that the command dome was utterly silent. Mental impulses flickered around the dome's structure, passing from officer to officer. With a series of thoughts, the weapons fired.

The first four Ork craft detonated under the searing hail from the Wraithship's Pulsars. The remaining ones broke off, wheeling round for another attack, only to be assailed by holofield-shrouded bombers.

It was over in minutes.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 06:58:18 PM
The void was filled with silent fury as the glittering flotilla of Iyanden danced and whirled like a flock of birds around the ungainly but inexorable plague fleet.

Alundirel, seated in the helmsman's couch, allowed the battle to unfold before him, his perceptions stretched out beyond the psychoplastic hull of the Haraimen Khaineyass, covering hundreds of thousands of sail-spans in all directions.

He was 497 years old now, still young and full of vitality, and eager for experience. His speed and willpower, and well as his decisive manner had led him to become helmsman on the Haraimen Khaineyass, and the Craftmaster was confident that Alundirel would have a command position within the decade.

"Chaos escort group, voidward beneath and to stern, one-hundred-and-forty-eight thousand sailspan and approaching." The young female, Sarisae, in the beholder's couch intoned, her voice altered by the mere act of being soul-bonded with the ship.

"Bring us about, helm. Misdirecting serpent to strike the unknowing." The Craftmaster, Illuren, spoke calmly and without hesitation. He was pathtrapped, a peerless Mariner solely because he could never be, never even want to be, anything else. His life was utterly consumed by a lust for the stars.

Unlike the rest of the crew, he strode the deck, his soul so tightly and utterly bonded with the ship's that he needed no psychoactive couch to ease his mind into the infinity circuit. He merely needed to be on the ship.

It took no effort to decipher Illuren's metaphor - the Mariner-Exarch's speech was carefully chosen to register on an instinctive level with his crews, conjuring memories of the mythic cycles of the Eldar and conveying precise meaning at high speed. It was an unusual cant, but one that Alundirel had long become accustomed to.

"It shall be, Craftmaster." Alundirel uttered, responding more to the transmitted thought than the spoken word or gestured inflection. The sails twitched at his command, and he felt the distant solar winds playing against the sails.

The ship twisted in the void, almost breaking free of the constraints of inertia before the sails caught the starlight again and it sped towards its new heading. It didn't go directly towards the Nurgle-devoted ships, instead aiming for a point slightly to the starboard and underneath of the craft, keeping their guns on the flanks of the Eldar ship and making itself a far harder target for their crude mass-drivers.

They sped forth as well, clumsily trying to adjust their course to intercept, but the Haraimen Khaineyass was too quick for them, constantly altering its angle of attack in ways too subtle and quick to match. It flashed past them, holofields flaring as the chaos vessels brushed the edge of their protective enclosure, and then turned almost on the spot to face them, levelling it's prow at their exposed undersides.

"Fire."

At less than twenty-five thousand sailspan - each sailspan roughly a kilometre in human terms, at least relative to the Haraimen Khaineyass - the sleek Eldar craft opened fire, streaking the starlit void with glittering blue-silver bolts of destructive force. Two of the sickly ochre craft detonated in discoloured bursts of power, their corrupted plasma reactors overloading. The third was cast adrift, its engine section reduced to molten slag in seconds.

The Haraimen Khaineyass rocked suddenly, shuddering at sporadic impacts.

"Enemy cruiser, sunward and above, closing fast!" Sarisae was quick to identify the source of the attack. "They're firing batteries, wide spread, trying to saturate the area around us to flush us out." Kavanil, the weaponsmaster continued Sarisae's description, barely a pause between their speech.

"Move to elude, image of phoenix." Illuren spoke, his voice only slightly showing stress, the pain of impacts relayed to his mind.

"Minor scarring to our topsail; I'm having difficulty bringing her around, Craftmaster."

Illuren suddenly had a distant look in his eyes. "Bonesingers, damage to topsail." As quickly as that, it was gone... "Helm, compensate until damage is repaired."

"As you will."

The ship burst through the hail of fire, whirling and spinning to avoid the worst of the enemy fire. Black marks scored along the bone-white hull, and the aft edge of the topsail was scarred and cracked from a shell impact. Emerging within the Chaos cruiser's weapons range, the Haraimen Khaineyass opened fire, extinguishing the pallid glow of their target's void shields and blasting deep gouges into the scabrous and corroded gun decks.

"Swordsmen beside Khaine, advancing by his command."

At that mental signal, four squadrons of Phoenix bombers emerged from the launch bay, whipping forwards to deliver payloads of plasma bombs, vibro-missiles and disruptive distort-charges. Warded by iridescent holofields and piloted by masters of their craft, the bombers closed with lightning speed and ruthless efficiency.

Two squadrons died less than three seconds after entering point-defence range. In place of squadrons of jagged, dart-like Chaos interceptors came swarms of smog-belching craft, more reminiscent of ork ships than the baroque, twisted Chaos daemon-machines. Their numbers and ferocity overpowered eight of the Phoenixes and forced the others to disengage before they could unleash their payloads.

"Wings of night, vanquish like the spear of Khaine, ward like His shield."

Squadrons of interceptors, swifter and more agile than the Phoenixes, burst forth from the landing deck as the remaining bombers returned. For minutes, they danced around the swarming interceptors, disrupting their assaults and evading their reprisals. After a while, the blighted chaos vessels were reduced to smouldering scrap metal.

***

Several hundred thousand kilometres away, a most blessed child of Grandfather Nurgle looked out across the void at the distant, sparkling star of Iyanden.

The Craftworld glinted in the distant starlight, surrounded by barely-perceptible motes of light that were obviously starships orbiting their home.

At an unspoken command, the Sartoria Grandis continued its approach towards the ancient Craftworld.

***

The Haraimen Khaineyass peeled away from its attack run, having scored deep wounds in the armoured form of its adversary, but having taken damage in return.

Little was seriously damaged, and the Wraithship slid away as its troupes of Bonesingers healed the injuries, but they had still been forced to disengage.

Illuren looked pale and unsteady, even the slight injuries taking their toll on the revered Craftmaster.

"Craftmaster, a missive from Farseer Anurfel. The Chaos Fleet has broken through the cordon and is advancing against Iyanden." The Illuren's lyricist, Ethrelan, spoke from the couch beside the central spirit stone, his role to convey messages from other ships.

"Hawks circling, Falcon's deliverance, Khaine's spear to defend the Shrine of Asuryan."

The ship's course shifted, and the Wraithship began speeding towards Iyanden.

***

If the vacuum of space could contain sound, then the Sartora Grandis would have been heard rumbling and grinding through the void for thousands of kilometres around.

By the same token, the Shadowhunters, Dragonships and Wraithships of Iyanden would have hummed a singular note, like a cross between the faint after-tone of a chime recently sounded, and the distinctive noise of a sword being unsheathed.

The din of their guns would have deafened anyone listening... if sound could be heard.

The fleets clashed fiercely, glittering Eldar ships wreathed in scintillating light against smoke-belching chaos-fuelled monstrosities contained within sputtering bubbles of force. Bolts of coruscating light flickered past explosive shells and scything beams of discoloured red energy.

Centuries-old Adamantium and Plasteel armour buckled under laser bolts, plasma blasts, pulsar hails and vibromissile impacts. Psychoplastic and wraithbone splintered under heavy shells, explosive impacts, torpedo blasts and armour-piercing missiles.

But most disconcerting was the discordant music that impossibly echoed through the void. Cacophonous sound, an almost pestilent dissonance that was beyond hearing, that made crews shudder with involuntary spasms, and that blackened and corroded the work of Bonesingers, as if it were some fatal dirge.

Illuren died the moment it entered his mind. He felt it as a distant, malevolent susurration, a whisper of malice that caused his link with the ship to wither and die. Shorn from his connection, his soul torn between ship and body, and already weakened by the stresses his ship was placed under from the battle, the Mariner-Exarch expired quietly, blood trickling from his ears, his eyes vacant and lifeless.

Alundirel was shaken to full consciousness, awakening from his pilot-trance and leaping to his feet. The second helmsman took control, and Alundirel dashed to Illuren's prostate form.

Alundirel would have wept for the death, but the Warsong called too strongly. As it had done in centuries past, when he had walked amongst his kin in the field of battle, Alundirel's mind was focussed upon war and death - sorrow would have to wait.

Silently, he strode across the deck, laying down in the command couch, and allowed his mind to sink within the ship's infinity circuit, already wailing in agony from the discordant song of chaos, and forced his willpower to drown out their voices. Then, with all his might, he pushed onwards, seeking vengeance.

Only a handful of words emerged from his mouth, already twisted into a hateful snarl: "Hawk circling, a murderer identified."

Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:11:03 PM
All Eldar Craft, this is the Haraimen Khaineyass. Redirect your assaults to the Chaos flagship. I repeat: redirect your assaults to the Chaos Flagship. Bring it down!

***

Alundirel directed the Wraithship with swiftness and fury, twisting and looping to bring its guns to bear against the Sartoria Grandis while evading the battleship's firepower.

"Craftmaster, the Chaos flagship is launching transport craft."

"Lyricist, order a squadron of Shadowhunters to intercept. Ordnance, launch Nightwing squadrons."

"Ai, Craftmaster."

***

The transports were predominantly ramshackle craft, barely-held together by crude welding and the vague beginnings of the corruption of Chaos. Numerous but generally ineffective against the skilled pilots and powerful guns of the Eldar interceptors and escorts, they were reduced to dully-glinting fields of debris.

But that was the point.

Charax the Deathless, formerly Munitionsmith Charon Oberis, XIV Legion Astartes 'Death Guard', 7th Company, stood behind the command pulpit in his stark, unadorned suit of Tactical Dreadnought Armour, staring out over the bridge of his flagship, and out into the void before him through the viewscreen.

His tail - a recent mutation, with virulent slime dripping from the curved stinger - twitched of its own will, its carapace rattling slightly. The noise irritated him, the sensation still unfamiliar. His displeasure could be clearly seen on his pallid, features, lit from below by a fitful yellow light from his gorget.

The displeasure was mingled with satisfaction, however. The swarming fodder-craft he had deployed with his actual assault craft were taking the brunt of the Eldar counter-attack, leaving the ancient but well-maintained 'Stormbird' assault craft to hurtle towards the Eldar ships with impunity.

A smile crept across his thin, pox-scarred lips. One of the Eldar cruisers had changed course, and was now moving swiftly to attack him. It appeared to have rallied several others to do the same.

"Helm!" His voice, a deep growl, distorted by a wet rattle that issued from his decaying throat, echoed across the bridge, causing the grime-covered cultist-officers to jump in surprise. "Bring us about; I want that Xeno vessel rushing into our broadsides! Ordnance! I want the second wave of assault craft ready to launch in five minutes."

***

"Stay on course, Seluin. Hold fire until we reach weapons range. Prepare Vampire Raiders for close assault."

"As you will, Craftmaster" came the chorus of responses.

"Aspect Warriors, prepare for assaults. I will be joining you in battle."

"We are Khaine's Spear, Craftmaster. Direct us, and we strike true." The familiar resonant tones of Exarch Cuhuldain issued up into Alundirel's mind as he vacated the command couch, his nominated second taking the seat swiftly and efficiently.

***

"My lord, the Eldar have launched assault craft." The mewling cultist's voice was practically a bubbling hiss, as decaying matter rushed from his lungs as he spoke.
"Then prepare defence turrets and launch an interceptor screen. Must I prompt you weaklings on every matter?"
"N-no my L-lord. I am s-sorry." The pitiful creature bowed repeatedly as he scurried away to convey the orders.

***

Alundirel snatched up his power sword, and grabbed a Shuriken Catapult from the weapons bay as he rushed to join the boarding parties. His sword glittered as it slid cleanly into its scabbard, and the catapult hung from his shoulders on a dragonhide strap. The suit of mesh-weave armour felt dull and unreactive compared to his old Aspect Armour, but he had left that path now, and would never return to it. A silken mesh-weave cloak was layered over the top, shimmering under the luminescent gems of the launch bay, to add more protection.

"We are ready, Craftmaster."

"We have divined the presence of a small landing bay beneath their command decks. Aim for there."

"As you wish, Alund'athil"

***

"Interceptors launched, my lord, but they are having little success. Defensive turrets are finding it difficult to target them through their countermeas-"
The cultist was smashed aside by Charax's armoured fist, shattering his bones and spraying a mixture of blood and other bodily fluids across the deck as the unfortunate human's body convulsed and ruptured under the impact.
"Do we have a target location? ANSWER ME!"

"Two of their assault craft have just made it past our defences and are coming in to land in the bay beneath the command tower. Several more are landing in the main launch bays and the cargo bays as we speak, Lord."

"Despatch cult units to the lower decks - let the Eldar blunt their blades on the carcasses of the worthless. Have my Chosen alerted and brought to me."

***

Shuriken Catapults screamed in time with the psychosonic chorus of Banshee Masks. Powered blades cut through sickly flesh, and the foetid smell of death filled the air.

The cultists took little time to slay. Against the skill and speed of Aspect Warriors, they stood no chance of survival, let alone victory. A squad of Fire Dragons darted forwards through the carnage, placing melta-charges against the sealed bulkhead at the rear of the chamber, before rushing away. Single-word commands detonated the charges, searing a hole in the dull metal.

Alundirel's face was a mask of hatred, behind the warhelm he had donned before boarding the Vampire. Disease-ridden cultists died with every barrage of shots, every swing of his blade. The Warsong filled his heart and mind, leaving the Exarchs to give commands and direct their squads.

The anguished screams of his kinsmen shook him from his killing trance, and Alundirel turned to see what had happened.

Human warriors, armoured in thick, cumbersome metal, towering over the cultists, their armour caked in filth and dripping with decay. 'Space Marines', Alundirel had heard them named, by other humans. Ones clearly devoted to the Plague God.

Their guns smoked, and the reason for the screams became clear - half of the Fire Dragons had been cut down by the sudden retaliatory fire from these Space Marines.

Their Exarch, Sahandurinn, his flame-wreathed dragon-glaive flashing in the poorly-lit landing bay, stood against the colossal plague-warriors, searing and scorching them with blow after blow, before flipping backwards and slaying one with a blast from his fusion pistol. The remaining two, now able to bring their weapons to bear, began pumping shell-after-shell into the ancient warrior.

Tarasi's Howling Banshee's were already sprinting to Sahandurinn's aid as the Fire Dragon Exarch was brutally cut down, his form hurled back by the guns of the Plague Marines. Their cries of anguish were channelled through their masks, forcing the corrupted Space Marines backwards with pummelling waves of sound and psychic force.

Alundirel, slightly in shock from the sheer brutality of the battle, shook the doubt from his mind, and drew his sword, rushing to aid the Banshees. Cuhuldain was beside him, the Diresword Khalifeth sparkling with lethal promise.

One of the Banshees leapt with supernatural grace above the clumsy blows of her adversary, landing softly beside one of the Plaguemarines and severing his arm with a precise stroke. The human laughed, a guttural, phlegm-filled sound, before slamming the stump of his severed arm into her mask. The force of the blow shattered it, and the Eldar warrior's neck snapped under the impact, hurled backwards into the wall with her lifeblood pouring from her mangled face. A subtle decay seemed already to have gripped her form, but Alundirel had no time to dwell on it.

Two more Plaguemarines could be seen advancing towards the loading bay. Tarasi span, her vitriolic shrieks blasting the remaining enemies backwards with their ferocity, and she leapt forwards, flipping into the air. Gore-soaked ribbons trailed from her vambraces and weapons, whipping about her as she sailed back down towards her prey. Executioner held point-down, she gripped the haft and balanced her foot upon the blunted base of the blade, using her momentum and weight to drive the powered weapon down into the warrior's chest, tearing through his lungs. She leapt again, releasing her grip, and landed on the solid haft. The force of her landing wrenched the blade upwards and pulling it free, tearing through the pestilent warrior's ribs and destroying one of his hearts.

Cuhuldain was a single step in front of Alundirel, and the Dire Avenger Exarch ducked under the first furious attack of the wounded Plaguemarine, then parrying a second, the sword-sized combat knife sliding down Cuhuldain's Diresword. Alundirel joined his former mentor, forcing the Plaguemarine to divide his attention.

The remaining Banshees, now joined by Exarch Sahandurinn, charged forth to slay the enemies that marched down the corridor, the sounds of their conflict echoing in all directions.

Alundirel dodged around his foe, circling to avoid the massive warrior's immense strength. Cuhuldain still took the brunt of the Plaguemarine's attention, but was skilled enough in defence to be able to fend off punishing blow after punishing blow. Narrowly ducking a crushing blow from the Plaguemarine's arm-stump, Alundirel saw his moment, and slammed his blade upwards, forcing the powersword into the Plaguemarine's armpit. It grunted in acknowledgement, and whipped around, wrenching Alundirel's sword away. Alundirel, defenceless, moved to flip backwards, the Plaguemarine's knife scoring a thin, shallow cut diagonally across Alundirel's face as the young Eldar evaded the worst of the attack.

Cuhuldain, acting on warrior's instincts unclouded by any other thoughts, circled the Plaguemarine, spinning to deliver a slash to his opponent's neck, spraying diseased, discoloured blood in an arc across the chamber.

The wound could not kill such a resilient creature. But a Diresword had struck the final blow, and it did not wound the body. The Plaguemarine's soul was blasted with psychic force, shattering it and leaving behind nothing but a massive festering corpse.

The Eldar regrouped, needing to take stock of the situation and get their bearings. One of the Howling Banshees, trained in healing as well as death, tended to the injured, and purged Alundirel's shallow wound of any disease that might have been on the knife. The worst of the decay was removed, but the otherwise-insignificant wound would leave a vivid, narrow scar.

Of the forty Eldar who had disembarked from the Vampires, eighteen were dead. The Exarchs moved around mournfully, collecting the waystones of the fallen and placing them aboard the Vampires.

"We are below their command chamber." Alundirel explained. "If we can assault it, we can cripple their command structure and send their fleet into disarray."

"I have only a handful of my warriors remaining, Craftmaster. Are you certain that this is the best course of action? Their bridge will likely be heavily defended." Sahandurinn questioned as he struggled to his feet, the crackle of flame evident in the depths of his voice. The Exarch was seriously injured, but such things were not as great a complaint for an Exarch as they were for mortal Eldar.

"I agree. The least of their warriors are no match for us, but success may be costly if ill-planned - their leaders are resilient, seemingly immune to pain." Tarasi spoke next, her voice distorted by her Banshee Mask.

"Then we must ensure that we are well-prepared for it. We know now what we face; we have seen and tested the strength of our foe, and can account for it." Alundirel's temper was rising again, a heat forming in the back of his mind that threatened to overwhelm him. He could scarcely believe that these Exarchs - embodiments of war and destruction - were advising caution, questioning the need for conflict.

"Alund'athil is correct. Our enemy is formidable, but can be overcome. Even animals may be possessed of mighty strength, but it can be overcome, turned aside and rendered useless, for they lack the wit to use it correctly. A dense hide can be pierced." Cuhuldain was always speaking with the voice of a reasoned and considered warrior. This time was no different.

***

Charax gripped the control handle of the chainfist, feeling the weight and power of the weapon as it connected to his armour. The metre-long blade buzzed, then roared, with destructive power as he pressed the activation stud. With his free hand, he picked up his sword, a slimy film coating the blade, and slid it into the scabbard at his waist. Gesturing to the nearby armaments servitor, he hefted his bolter, ensuring that the magazine was full and the meltagun attachment was fully fuelled. He nodded in grim satisfaction, and another servitor advanced on spider-like metal legs. It pulled itself to its full height, and clamped Charax's helm in place.

It became momentarily claustrophobic - a confined space lit only by pale yellow light. Then, the autosenses kicked in, feeding sight and sound to his brain from the helm's sensors, bypassing his eyes and ears altogether. Charax flexed his muscles, testing his own flesh and the metal servomotors that encased it. He was ready for battle to be joined.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:11:14 PM
The Eldar rushed up the corridor, slaying anything in their path. Another two of their number had fallen, but they had the measure of their foe now.

They rounded a corner, sprinting up the metal stairs, Dire Avengers laying down withering hails of fire as they advanced, before drawing back to allow Fire Dragons to blast through a pair of bulkhead doors.

On the far side of the doors lay the Bridge. As the doors finally collapsed into molten slag, a hail of gunfire burst out from the chamber. Prepared for this, the Eldar ducked backwards and to the sides, forced to stop their advance for the moment.

The gunfire ceased for a moment, the Plaguemarines firing having stopped to reload. Consummate warriors, they acted quickly.

But the Eldar acted quicker. White-hot blasts from Fusion Guns cut into the Plaguemarines, melting through metal and vaporising flesh. Sahandurinn joined them, despatching one with his Fusion Pistol as he limped into the room.

The Dire Avengers moved up next, entering the Bridge and unleashing hails of shuriken that slaughtered cultists and scored gouges into power armour and plague-hardened flesh. Alundirel was among them, directing a storm of blades into the face of the nearest Plaguemarine.

The Banshees finished the assault. Leaping and sprinting into battle, their battle cries paralysing many cultists and forcing several of the Plaguemarines to pause.

Except one.

This one towered over the others, his head covered with a tusked mask that jutted out between two broad armoured shoulders, like a tank built in the shape of an Ork. A long, chitin-covered tail, ending in a clearly poisonous stinger reached up over his back, poised to strike. It thundered forth, smashing aside the nearest three Banshees, eviscerating one with a sweep of the chainblade on its fist. Shuriken fire pattered off it like rain off a building, occasionally lodging in a gap between armoured plates, but falling away as quickly.

The remaining Fire Dragons turned their attentions to the hulking form, and one of the massive shoulder guards was blackened and melted by the first blasts.

***

Charax snarled as he felt the heat wash through the ceramite layers of his armour, reducing his right pauldron to a molten lump. Shrugging it aside, spattering liquefied plasteel across the deck, he brought up his bolter, slaying two of his attackers with the first two shots, and forcing the third to duck backwards behind a console to avoid the deadly reprisal.

He turned, to see the Eldar assault troops charge forth, their power swords glimmering with their own light. Their masks contained powerful sonic amplifiers, demonstrated by the effects of their war cries on his men and the cultists. His armour's buffers, and his own mental defences, prevented such trickery from bothering him. A quick thought, and the nearest four were hurled backwards, cast aside like toys by the force of his mind.

"Qualistar!" One of the Eldar shouted.

"Im kharanis kiram!" yelled another, one of their leaders. The leader broke from cover, firing some form of pistol melta-weapon that would have seared away his helm were it not for the psychic shield he'd just set in place. Psychic power clashed with intense heat for just a moment, before the Eldar leader closed.

***

Sahandurinn leapt forwards, vaulting over debris towards the massive warrior of chaos. His glaive ignited as he charged, yellow-white flame dancing over the edges. He fired again, punching through the psychic ward and scorching his foe's breastplate with the last of the shot's heat.

Battle was joined. Sahandurinn stabbed forwards, cutting a deep gouge into his enemy's vambrace, the massive armour hindering any but the most deliberate motions. He weaved around the counter-attack, darting aside as the chainblade swept and stabbed past him.

***

Charax struggled to keep pace with his swift combatant, his disease-ravaged form resilient but sluggish, made more so by the bulky Terminator armour and the clumsy chainfist. Tossing aside his bolter, he reached for his sword, slamming aside a blow that would have punctured his gorget and impaled his neck.

Less reliant on the clumsy chainfist, Charax could speed up his motions. Channelling the power of the warp into his limbs and nerves, his reactions sped up, though still hindered by his armour. The Eldar warrior was moving too swiftly to focus on properly for a telekinetic assault, and seemed to be partially shielded from telepathic intrusion.

They traded blows for a while, blocking, parrying and dodging as required. Every failed killing strike added to Charax's frustration, and he bellowed out in impotent rage. At that, his barbed tail darted forwards, catching the Eldar on the shoulder and stumbling him.

So unused to having the appendage, Charax had focussed on his weapons, ignoring the chitin-clad tail. But it had given him an opening. The Eldar warrior was steadying himself, and quickly, so Charax acted.

***

Sahandurinn coughed, blood filling his helm as the large, slime-coated sword slammed through his chest. The souls in his armour screamed in mourning as he felt his body wither under the ravening infection the sword bore. He desperately tried to enter a healing trance, to force his immune system to fight harder... but it was already dying, and the pain of previous wounds shattered his focus. He was a decaying husk by the time the sword was pulled from his body.

Seeing this, Alundirel shouted out, hacking into the neck of his adversary and pushing past. Rushing towards the towering Chaos-creature, Alundirel dropped into a roll, snatching up the fallen Exarch's Fusion Pistol. As he got to his feet, he fired, again and again, slamming shot after shot of overwhelming heat into the armoured form that bore down upon him.

Molten metal trickled down to the deck plating, running like silver water and forming puddles that smouldered with heat. The armoured beast didn't stop, however. The air around it crackled with a foul miasmal storm as it advanced, throwing aside the bulky chainblade and causing the deck plating to shudder with every step. Alundirel fired the last shot the pistol had, and hurled it aside, bringing his sword up to defend himself.

He didn't have to. A high-pitched shriek signalled a barrage of shuriken that sliced deep into sticky, half-molten metal. The weight of fire was barely enough to hold the chaos creature in place as Alundirel scrambled back, grabbing the decaying body of Sahandurinn and dragging it away.

The last two remaining Fire Dragons added their fire to the bladestorm, the sudden bursts of heat almost forcing the hulking monstrosity backwards a step.

As they retreated back towards the Vampires, the Eldar heard the cacophonous sound of a Champion of Nurgle roaring in anger.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:13:02 PM
The battle aboard the Sartoria Grandis, and the conflict that had raged around it, had been a costly one, and Alundirel rarely felt the Warsong as strongly afterwards. Its ferocity spent for now, Alundirel struggled with the responsibilities of being Iyanden's acting Fleetmaster.

That was twenty years ago.

His surroundings now were different. A serene calm washed through the wraithbone walls of this dome. He breathed deeply of the scented air, and exhaled, slowing his mind and his body to appreciate the view. Translucent, faintly luminescent psychoplastic stretched in tapering lengths from the floor, forming columns and walls, and arching over to form a ceiling. In various places, pools of shimmering fluid showed visions of distant places across space, time and reality: places long gone, places yet to be, and places that never could be but for dreams. The scent of the air was a mixture of incense, herbs and mineral spices, a subtle blend of the smells of temple, garden and beach. The room was almost silent; only the distant, barely-perceptible humming of the Craftworld could be felt.

Then a heart-beat. Someone else was approaching. The smell of their body, recently washed and oiled, mingled with the room's ambient scent, and their light step disturbed the pervasive silence. The air buzzed with energy, as if waves of it rolled off the body of the newcomer.
"Seer, I am honoured." Alundirel spoke, bowing low.

"Cera, Alund'athil... and please, stand. This is no time for ceremony; especially for a friend." Tsirren smiled, a warm expression that Alundirel reciprocated for a brief moment.

"I honestly don't feel that I can continue serving Iyanden's fleet, See- Tsirren." Alundirel stood taller than the gifted Warlock, but the buzzing power left him feeling small and childish. "My instinct for battle..."

"Has been blunted, I know. It will pass. It always does. I have seen enough warriors lose their battle-lust in the wake of atrocities, only to see it return with time and patience. Khaine's fire burns in all of us, brighter in some than others, and it cannot be extinguished. You feel you cannot progress amongst the Mariners anymore; so be it. Choose another path, another way, and explore another part of yourself."

***

"Are you sure about this, Alund'athil?" Loreclai asked, as she embraced her son.

"It's what I need to do, mother. My soul has tired of battle, and I need to find another outlet for my mind." Alundirel reluctantly relinquished his grasp on his mother.

"That was all I needed to know, my child. I needed to hear it from your mouth and your mind, and know that you mean it without hesitation."

"Is there any word from father?"

"Your father sends his love and his pride; I spoke to him only yesterday. He still travels, wandering with Ethcorai, but he returned home for a few hours for supplies and to check on your progress."
Alundirel was slightly taken aback, "You should have told me... I haven't seen him in so long. What must he do that is so important to drag him from his family? What right does Ethcorai have to drag father away?"

"Your father's work is important, Alundirel. And you know better than to blame Ethcorai: he is a friend of this family, and has been for many centuries. They walk different paths to us, child, and live different lives. Now, hurry up, or you'll be late to meet with Lord-Seer Miraith."

"Yes, mother."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:17:54 PM
The Farseers were quite unlike any of the other Path-trapped Eldar Alundirel had ever spoken to.

There was no obsession in the eyes, no overwhelming focus that threatened to consume you if you looked too hard at it. They were serene, as if they had seen the nature of the universe and knew what had to be done.

If the stories were correct, that was actually the case.

Alundirel had only briefly met Lord-Seer Miraith before, twenty years ago in the aftermath of the battle against the Chaos-worshipping humans. He'd only met three Farseers in his lifetime, and never spoken for very long with them. There was something alien about them that unsettled and yet calmed him.

Miraith led the council, and had done since Alundirel had been a child. From what he knew, Miraith had led the Ruling Council of Iyanden since shortly after The Fall. But that wasn't why Alundirel was meeting with the venerable Farseer.

Like all Farseers, Miraith was trapped upon the Path of the Seer, the Witch Path as some called it. But where other Farseers such as Keleb-Har and Soreth were formerly Warlocks, where Astrannaer had been a Bonesinger and Incalion was a Way-Seer or Prophet, Miraith was a Healer, gentle of manner and incongruously humble for one so powerful.

Which meant he was the foremost Healer on the Craftworld, and the one being Alundirel needed to speak to.

***

"Tsirren speaks highly of you, Alund'athil." Miraith spoke, after several minutes of simply watching Alundirel.

"We walked the Path of the Warrior together." Alundirel responded, slightly nervous in the presence of such a powerful being. Miraith's skin seemed luminous, like moonsilk lit from behind.

"And he became a Warlock, while you became a remarkably talented young officer in our fleet. But something has changed about you, hasn't it, Alund'athil? I saw the spark in you twenty years ago, a fire that would not go out; Khaine's fire." The table between them was littered with tiny wraithbone runes, which Miraith shifted without apparent consideration, picking them up, observing them and rearranging the pattern seemingly at random. Had he not been a Farseer, Alundirel would have thought Miraith to be playing with the miniscule shapes.

"With all respect, Lord-Seer, I don't feel that way any more."

"I know. The runes say as much."

Alundirel was slightly taken aback. What he had taken for idleness, or perhaps a form of moving meditation, had been something else entirely. He glanced down at the runes, but could make no sense of them... "I don't see anything..."

"If you are able to cope with the challenge, they'll make sense to you eventually."

"I want to try." Alundirel tried unsuccessfully to mask his doubt and loss of confidence.

"A start, but not much of one." Miraith picked up one of the runes, and handed it to Alundirel. "This is Phiriel - it means "sanctity, passive protection from the tainted", in the older dialects of the homeworld. Hold it in your hand, and concentrate on the shape."

Alundirel closed his hand around the tiny rune... and felt nothing. The sensation of the rune was there, but he couldn't feel any energy; there was no presence, no power, nothing. He tried to picture the rune's shape in his mind, letting the feel of it on his skin draw an image of it for him. He tried extending his mind through it, as he had done with starships. "It's not doing anything."

"It won't. It doesn't mean anything to you yet. You know what a Shuriken Catapult does, you know how Aspect Armour should react, and you can sense the very structure of a Dragonship... because those things have meaning to you, and you can extend that meaning into their forms. Just as one cannot grasp water between his fingers, you cannot manipulate the runes without knowing how, and you cannot know how until you know why."

"How will I- Yet?" Alundirel stopped. "Does this mean I can learn from you?"

"It does. You have considerable strength of mind, and great control, but you are disheartened because you've lost the will to do the only thing you've ever tried. It will be healthy to give you another outlet, and I feel that you are more than up to the challenge the Seer Path provides. Return tomorrow, after you have rested. I will continue teaching you then. Be warned, young one: there are years of study ahead of you, before you can even begin to make shapes in the Aethyr." Miraith smiled, and began gathering up the runes into a plain cloth rune pouch.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:21:01 PM
"The rune before you is Phiriel. It is the means by which you ward your mind from maleficent intent. In some, more aggressive dialects, it might be known as Fiallathandirel - Wall against Evil..."

Lord-Seer Miraith looked over the three young initiates - Noldareth, Infellaié and Alundirel. Each one sat cross-legged on the floor, with three Phiriel runes on three tiny pedestals in front of them. It was the second day of their training - the first had been filled with much theory and history. This was the first proper chance they had been given to learn about the runes themselves.

"Take the rune into your hand, and hold it in the light. Don't attempt to feel the shape or structure yet... just hold the sight of it in your mind."

The rune was an unusual shape, Y-shaped and almost flat, but slightly curved and twisted along the stem. Tiny ribs spread outwards along the rune's length, each subtly different from the others.

"There is a hollow at the centre of the rune, where the stems meet. Imagine yourself at that point, and focus on it. Imagine the stems spreading out from the point you inhabit."

The air crackled with static.

"Yes... good. Concentrate on holding yourself within the rune in your hand. Start spreading out along the stems, filling every angle of the rune's geometry with your consciousness."

Alundirel felt himself slip... there was a force in the Farseer's words that spurred him forwards in directions he was unable to describe or even comprehend. He felt like he reached out with his arms, like he moved them into the sleeves of a tunic... no, the sleeves of his old Aspect armour, fitting perfectly around him, and reacting to everything he did or thought. Then a tugging sensation, a feeling like being pulled in a direction opposite to the way he was moving, but no less indescribable.

He opened his eyes with a start, unable to remember having closed them.

"Your soulstones are bound to you, and you to them. They will not let your soul leave your body completely, and will counter almost any pull that would draw your essence out. It is far, far too easy to lose yourself in the geometry of a rune, and it is why Seers have always used soulstones, even before the Fall."

It felt almost like the room itself shuddered at the Seer's almost casual reference to that horrific time.

"But, you have explored the depths of this simple rune. You know what it feels like, and you have been shown the way to enter it."

Alundirel gestured to be allowed to speak; Miraith nodded in assent. "You were directing us... I felt you push our minds in a direction I had never known to exist..."

"It is... necessary. The rune is halfway between here and the Aethyr, and acts as a safe haven from which to observe and tap into the churning energies of that realm. Except in the simplest, most instinctive ways, none of you have ever needed to reach into that place, though you always understood it was there. None of you knew, until that moment, the direction your mind must go to enter and leave. Over time, it will become easier, and you will learn to leave a part of yourself into the rune for a time. Phiriel is the gateway - the shape and concept are like the crystalline walls of the observation spires - you can see beyond them, but the void is kept out. From there you can witness the Immaterium - though I did not allow you to linger long enough to see anything today."

***

Alundirel walked away from the Seer's teaching chambers, and felt an unpleasant familiarity return. He had not noticed its absence... but knew, in retrospect, that every time he had entered that place, the feeling had vanished, held at a distance.

He stopped, and looked around... there was something different. Everything still looked the same, but there was another dimension to things. Height and length and width and time were still there, as clear as always... but something else was there. Alundirel realised what it was as quickly as he had noticed it: his perception was heightened. He had pushed his mind towards the Immaterium, and knew which direction to go to find it... and he could see that direction. It was like opening an eye and gaining depth perception.

Then he knew, truly knew, what the feeling was. She Who Thirsts... he had never been without the unpleasant feeling that She created, not until recently. It was like a whisper, a feeling of guilt that couldn't be shaken away, the gnawing sensation that reminded you that all your nightmares had a name that you dare not speak. The feeling wasn't She Who Thirsts herself... but rather, the acknowledgement that She was there and it was, in part, your fault. The Seer's chambers were shielded, warded against Her, and while within them, the feeling went away as the Eldar inside were suddenly distanced from Her.

He would need to speak to Ilindriath, his home-district's Bonesinger, about warding his own quarters in the same way...
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:25:27 PM
"Dyannparten! Dyannparten!"
The cry caught Alundirel's attention, and he turned to face the bustling group of people who pushed into his craft-chamber.

A male Eldar, some eleven hundred years old, Alundirel guessed, was being carried in by several of his comrades, blood trickling from a wound in his abdomen. They were still part-garbed in the armour of Aspect Warriors, suggesting some sort of accident.

"Calm yourselves - all of you. Your agitation will disturb the environment of this chamber. Now, place your comrade on the couch, and I will tend to him. Can any one of you tell me what came to pass?" Alundirel spoke calmly, his state of mind forced onto his surroundings with enough force to give the room a cool breeze all of its own.

One of the older warriors stepped forwards, as his kinsmen placed their wounded brother on the couch. "There was an accident in training," The warrior twitched and glanced around, almost nervously. "He mis-timed a dive, and clipped one of the Eagle Spire's supports on his way down. He would have been slain when he hit the bottom, but Exarch Weafeothan caught him."

So that was it... Swooping Hawks. That explained the panicked demeanour - they were so hasty in leaving their Shrine that they had not fully extracted themselves from their warrior persona. A bird-like edge still lingered in their personalities. This was as serious as the injury itself, if not dealt with. "All of you, your comrade will be fine in my care. Return to your shrine and let the warsong pass properly, else it do some lasting harm."

The aspect warriors filtered out, leaving Alundirel alone with the wounded warrior.

"Can you hear me, MearNovas?"

"Na- Nachurien... my name is Nachurien..."

"Thank you, Nachurien. I want you to focus your mind on where the pain is strongest. Can you do that for me?"

"Y- yes..." The warrior's flesh was pallid and cool, and his pulse was weakened.

"You have a deep wound across your abdomen; it may have breached the outer wall of your stomach." Alundirel kept his gaze level, keeping eye contact with his patient. Already, his mind had reached forwards, barely glancing against the edge of Nachurien's consciousness, just enough to locate the centre of the wound. He reached into a small leather pouch, and extracted a handful of runes. Even now, a century into his time on this path, Alundirel marvelled at how his unconscious mind always drew exactly the runes he needed. He cast them upwards, and they hung in the air, only falling for a moment before settling into the required pattern. Runes of anatomic concept clustered near the middle, glowing and fading to represent breathing, heart rate and other factors of vitality. External concepts flitted around the exterior, defining cause and type of injury. Phiriel glistened in the air between Alundirel and his rune-cluster, a conduit from him to the runes.

"You may feel some heightened pain for a moment. Do not be alarmed." Said Alundirel, almost by rote, as he pushed his mind into Phiriel and watched the Immaterium unfold in front of him. The glimmering forms of the runes were linked by silvered threads of potential, and he pushed further forwards.

Energy flowed from the Immaterium. Warded by Phiriel, Alundirel caught it, and spread it into the other runes. Through warp-clouded vision, Alundirel could see his patient's pulse strengthen, his breathing slow to a calmer, stronger pace. He reached forwards, and forced tendrils of energy to surround the wound, covering it to staunch the bleeding.

"You'll be fine. I need only to close the wound, and then you may rest and recuperate."

Energy surged forth once more, and Alundirel responded, casting another handful of runes into the air. They lit up with the nascent power, representing tiny facets of the patient's physiology. Then, suddenly and without warning, they blazed with the fury of the stars. Alundirel's brow furrowed under the strain, and one of the runes burst with a blinding flash, leaving charred shards of wraithbone to scatter on the floor. But the process worked, in spite of difficulties... Nachurien's flesh began to reknit itself, regrowing as Alundirel hummed a faint melody of concentration.

After several minutes, the wound was closed, inside and out.

"Raiphelehar..." Alundirel muttered, forcing the notion into his patient's mind with force of will alone. Nachurien slipped into a restful sleep.

***

"Lord-Seer?" Alundirel asked, stepping into the Farseer's public chamber.

"Enter, Alund'athil. I have heard good things about your skill as a healer. You are progressing swiftly." Miraith responded, not looking up from the rune-tablet he was studying.

"I overextended myself. It took all my control to keep from spawning a cancer in his abdomen when one of my runes exploded."

"Calm yourself, young one." Miraith looked up from the tablet. "You have been on this path for only a century, and it is both a long and arduous one. Ignore doubt, and take pride in your progress - it may have taken all your control, but that control was sufficient, was it not?"

"Yes, Lord-Seer." Alundirel responded, slightly bolstered.

"Then it matters little. Come, we shall-" Miraith's words were interrupted by another presence in the room.

"Seer Miraith; the Council requires your immediate presence." Spoke the messenger.

"Alundirel, return tomorrow - I cannot teach at the moment."

"As you require, Lord-Seer."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:32:04 PM
Once more, War had come to Iyanden.

Enarclanash. "World of the Radiant Crystal". One of Iyanden's many colonies, bound to the Craftworld's fate since before The Fall. So named because of the abundance of phosphorescent crystals that could be drawn from the planet, that grew like plants into luminous forests of fragile stone.

The gem-forests did not burn, but they were shattered. Mankind had found this world, and claimed it for their own, butchering the colonists they found, and bombarding any and all signs of non-human life into dust.

Iyanden responded swiftly and with all the fury they could muster, bursting from hidden webway gates and slicing through the fleet that hovered in orbit.

Alundirel had seen warfare on countless occasions before... but this was the first time ever he had seen it from this perspective.

Alundirel concentrated on the rune-pendant he wore around his neck, and felt the world shift. When his eyes opened, he saw nothing different about the world, but felt some odd displacement that hung around him like a cloak.

"Only our kind will see you now; though the eyes of the enemy can perceive you, their minds will not stop to acknowledge your presence. You can move about in safety, Alund'athil." There was a tone in Miraith's voice that had not been there before, a feeling of distance that was as striking as the way the Ghosthelm muffled the seer's voice.

Alundirel focussed his senses, and found a reason... the Seer's mind was no longer contained in just his body, but spread across a portion of the entire host, seeing through their senses and feeling their thoughts. Alundirel shook his head to clear the image from his mind, and moved to rejoin the group of healers he was assigned to.

Alundirel didn't think he had ever witnessed a battle so brutal or bloody. He knew, intellectually, that he had, but the warsong shielded him from the toll such bloodshed would take on his spirit. Lacking that protection now, he felt insignificant and frail in the presence of such merciless destruction.

He and his fellow healers moved about the battlefield as individuals, darting from cover to cover some distance behind their own lines - near enough to see the wounded, but not so close as to risk being attacked.

Alundirel followed a kin-squad of Guardians, who advanced in support of several Aspect Warrior squads. Every few hundred paces, they paused, directing shimmering bursts of white-hot fire from their Scatter Laser platform before continuing. They moved swiftly and with a feeling of purpose that only the warsong could bring.

A group of humans skulked at the edge of the light-glade, clad in bulky armour painted in crude patterns that failed to mimic their surroundings, moving as if they could not be seen. The Guardians whirled around, advancing, allowing their weapons platform to pump searing bolts of energy into the gem-trees, lighting them up as the laser energy refracted through multifaceted branches. As they closed, the shrieking began, the familiar sound of a dozen Shuriken Catapults firing. The humans were pinned down, forced deeper into cover against the unexpected hail of fire as their ambush was turned against them. Sporadic flashes of dull red light whipped back towards the Guardians, most of them missing.

Then a hit. One of the Guardians pitched over backwards, the burn of a human las-bolt striking against the yellow of his armour where it had scorched his shoulder. Alundirel sprinted forwards. He could hear the uncertain guttural shouts of the humans now, above the piercing wail of shuriken and the sound of shattering crystal. Alundirel drowned it all out, forcing the sounds of battle away from his mind as he pulled the wounded Guardian to safety.

"Calm yourself. The wound is not life-threatening. Hold this," Alundirel handed the Guardian a coiling, gem-studded object made from wraithbone, "And concentrate on it. It will ease your pain and begin the healing process. Meditate upon your injury, and the pain will ease. When you are well enough to move, return to the Webway Gate."

"As you instruct, Dyannparten."

The battle had turned quickly. The would-be-ambushers had called for assistance - the pleading tones that buzzed in the air were clear enough to understand, even if the words were meaningless. Alundirel stared into the shattered forest and concentrated, spotting one of the humans speaking into a device that drastically changed the sound of his voice and hurled it through the air indiscriminately. It was a high-pitched croaking warble of a sound at the very edges of hearing, one that was discordant and distracting, but which the humans themselves seemed unable to hear themselves.

The humans retreated, throwing crude explosive devices to deter pursuers. Alundirel, not caught up in the fury of the Warsong looked deeper... and tried to dismiss what he saw. Surely the humans were too crude and ignorant for such a tactic... but there it was. A feint. Three large groups of human warriors, armed with a variety of lumpen and blocky weapons. The Guardians - spurred by the Warsong, but not masters of it as Aspect Warriors would be, stepped right into a trap, and were slaughtered by the hails of fire; dull thumps from projectile-throwers, cruel fire from flame-projectors and more of the dull red lasbolts. Not a single Guardian survived...

Alundirel paused... frozen to the spot, unable to comprehend the slaughter he had just witnessed. The humans advanced now, picking their way through the ruined and broken forest, ignoring their dead as they moved.

This was the closest Alundirel had been to humans without the Warsong to shape his senses. He saw them, clearly now, with the analytical eye of a healer, not the death-focussed vision of a warrior. They moved in an ungainly manner, like some crude parody of Eldar movement, hauling the weight of their misshapen bodies from one foot to the other in a monotonous motion. They spoke and moved casually, the tension of battle cast away by their success. Their voices were loud, and produced a guttural croaking noise that seemed to be their language, and he could feel nothing of true communication. Their body language was simple, and seemed to go all but unnoticed, and the air did not shift with psychic impetus. Their words were given no definition by the emotions and thoughts they produced, and Alundirel found it hard to think of their speech as anything but noise when it lacked something so fundamental to communication.

He tucked himself back behind the rocks, and closed his eyes. Lord-Seer; Guardian Squad Ahret-sul has fallen to a Mon-Keigh counter-attack in my sector. They still linger nearby, and appear to have grown complacent in wake of their success.

I have directed reinforcements towards your location, Alund'athil came the response, calm and measured.

He looked back over the ridge. The humans had become tense again, their motions tight and forced. They had spread out, and were searching for something, their dull fleshy eyes glinting in the light cast by the scattered shards of gem-forest.

He froze as he heard the crunching, lumbering footsteps of one of their warriors move towards him, and glanced around. The warrior's weapon was raised to his shoulder, pointing in the same direction as the warrior's face, to fire at anything he saw.

The warrior passed the ridge, and turned round. Alundirel stared at the human, standing less than an arm's length from him, so close that the human's scent overpowered Alundirel's sense of smell. But the human detected nothing. Even when he looked directly at Alundirel, his mind did not register the prone Eldar healer. The warding-rune buzzed with power as it performed its purpose.

Raucous melodic laughter and ancient songs filled the air, and the human turned to see from where it came. His head bounced off the rocks moments later, malodorous human blood pouring into the dirt.

Alundirel's eyes lit up as he saw what the reinforcements were. A dozen clouds of flitting shards of light, each like a billion mirrors reflecting distant worlds, burst past him. Every moment they stopped, their images coalesced for a single moment, revealing lithe and brightly-clad warriors, all wearing masks split down the middle and carrying weapons of graceful destruction. A moment later, they moved again, and their images burst once more. The pressure of a single toe upon the ground, or the stump of a crystal-tree, or the torso of a victim was sufficient to catapult them many times their height into the sky, and their glimmering forms whirled and span with every leap. The mocking laughter of the Rillietann echoed from every location, and the humans were thrown into disarray as evershifting forms cut them down with little difficulty.

One human, a leader by his garb, lashed out with a howling Chainsword, striking nothing but air. His body convulsed as his foe coalesced in front of him, plunging a metal tube through armour and into his chest. The human's body crumpled like silk, boneless and with blood oozing from every orifice as the Brathu-Angau - the Kiss of Doom - did its grisly work. Limbs and heads were sliced away by warriors who appeared whole for the single moment of their attack.

Fifty-eight human warriors died in less than the time it took Alundirel's heart to beat three hundred times.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:34:55 PM
The Harlequins moved with unequalled grace as they approached Alundirel.

He had seen them before - Harlequins, though likely not these specific ones - and remembered how astonishing their agility, their dexterity and their speed were when they performed. He remembered marvelling at the Lay of Ulthanash forty years before, and being left in stunned silence after the Dance Without End. But this was different. This was real, a truth rendered in bloodshed and joyous wrath, as opposed to the staged nature of their performances.

Every motion was effortless, as if their bodies weighed just enough to keep them on the ground, but no more. They strode slowly over, their twitching musculature seeming to flow like water beneath their garb, now visible and unclouded by the deceptive Dathedi.

And when they spoke, their voices rang with musical clarity, every tone and syllable impossibly perfect. Alundirel's mind reached out to feel their emotions as they spoke, but could only feel the emotions they deliberately projected. Nothing seemed left to chance, nothing was casual... everything was perfectly measured and perfectly performed, when dancing or when slaying.

"Alundirel Seall'athil of Iyanden. Child of Isha, Vassal of Asuryan, Warrior of Khaine."
"You are known to us."
"Our business is fate, and yours is most interesting."
"Most interesting indeed."

They spoke collectively, each one taking a turn, speaking at some unseen, unnoticed cue.

"Warrior of noble and terrible vengeance."
"Witness to the Stars; he who wields the hand that murdered Eldanesh."
"Healer of broken forms, soother of pain, protector of the body, defender of Isha's Gift."
"These are what you are and have been."
"They are not all you will be."

Alundirel's mind span with the implications, tones in their voice, inflections within their gestures and emphasis in their emotions that suggested knowledge, not speculation.

The Harlequins set to moving again, gliding in a triad of overlapping circles, with Alundirel stood, bewildered at the point where all three circles overlapped, their Dathedi slowly flickering as they sped round, creating fragmented spectral images bearing his face.

"Scholar, philosopher, contemplative."
"The Sword that burns with crystal fire."
"Outcast, exile, wanderer of the void between stars."
"Istaurmen."

Silence. The final word stopped the dance, and stopped the rhythmic chanting. Alundirel dropped to the ground at the force of it. He blinked to chase away the after-images of their dance, only to find the Harlequins gone, the only sign of their presence the carnage arrayed before him, and the faint sound of euphoric laughter in the distance.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:36:43 PM
Centuries later...

It was four days after the nine hundred and twenty-seventh anniversary of Alundirel's birth.

Battles had come and gone, thirty-two wars in four centuries. Lord-Seer Miraith had died, slain in battle, a little over forty years previous, and the loss of such a respected and wise soul was still keenly felt after only four decades of mourning. Alundirel felt the loss every day, having taken up the revered seer's duties teaching new initiates onto the Path of the Seer and the Way of the Healer, while the council deliberated as to a replacement Lord-Seer.

More than anything else, Alundirel felt cold, numb and tired. The serenity of the Healer path was waning, and Alundirel knew that soon he would step from this path. The horrors that life had shown him were a continual strain on his mind, and he still dreamt of his encounter with the Harlequins, thirty-one decades before, on Enarclanash.

"Dyannparten?" Alundirel was roused from his introspection by the questioning voice of one of his students, a young female called Silivraine, only in her third century and not yet burdened by the things that weighed on Alundirel's mind.

Alundirel looked up, and smiled, "Apologies, Silivraine. My mind wandered for a moment. What did you want?"

"The meditative trance you taught us yesterday... I can't enter it." The girl looked somewhat ashamed at her percieved failure.

"It isn't surprising. Meditation is personal, and we each respond to it differently. If you cannot use the trance I taught you, then we shall simply have to find another one; one that does work for you." The youth and inexperience of his students constantly reminded Alundirel of his age - almost a millennium now - yet while he felt tired and worn from the pressures of experience, his body still retained the vitality it had possessed five centuries ago, and his mind remained undulled by the passage of time.

Miraith had called his longevity the 'two-fold gift'. "Long life gives one longer to seek opportunities, but longer to regret the ones we have missed. For every joyous moment we experience because of our endurance of time's passage, every moment that bolsters us, there is a moment of equal sorrow to balance it, a moment that weighs us down."

Alundirel agreed - he felt the strength and clarity of the peak of his years, in what should have been his middle age.

"When I was your age, I used to enjoy contemplating the void, from the top of the observation spires. I used to try and count the distant stars, to remember the names our people used to call them in ancient days. It relaxed the mind, and served as good preparation for meditation. Come, I'll show you. I think we could both do with something to ease our troubled minds."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:43:02 PM
That afternoon of meditation, one year ago, had made Alundirel ponder his choices.

He had walked the Warrior Path because... Alundirel couldn't remember why. He was still young at the time, not even a century old, and stepped upon the Path of the Warrior because it seemed like the right thing to do. For a time, it was. It gave discipline, and yet came with a thrill and purity of thought that was intoxicating.

He walked the Mariner's Path because he was curious. He wanted to see the stars, to look upon the void. He had left it because he was in mourning, and his despair had dulled the Warsong.

He walked the Seer's Path, the Way of the Healer, to focus his thoughts on something else. He had faced decay-made-flesh in close combat, and sought a way to ward against such malevolence. The healing arts seemed the best way... but in retrospect, it was for the wrong reasons.

Alundirel stood in the Dome of Crystal Seers. There was an unmistakable psychic noise about the place, a susurrant whisper that hung like leaves from wraithbone trees, ringing like wind chimes at the back of his mind. The dead lingered here, and called it home, at once united as the Craftworld's spirit, and yet retaining their independence from each other.

Alundirel's meditations upon his life - and there had been many, this past year - had led him to a singular conclusion. He had thrust himself upon a Path to avoid confronting his feelings. He had not mourned for the loss of so many of his kin, and as friends and comrades and even complete strangers fell to war, to sickness and to age, he had driven himself further into his studies.

No more. Time for a change. Time to step from the Path and learn some other facet of life. It was that decision that had led him here.

"Honoured ancestors; I have seen my folly, and turned aside from it before it consumed me. I am ready to learn, if you are willing to teach."

A musical sound filled the air, faintly reminiscent of kindly, mirthful laughter.

You learn well, Alund'athil.

There was no voice, just feelings of intent. Alundirel's mind interpreted and formed the words from the projections of dead souls.

Indeed. Self-realisation is the key to the Path. Understanding of self, acknowledgement of failure, and questioning of purpose. Failure to do these things leads to tragedy. Those who do not understand themselves can become lost. Those who do not see when they have fallen, can never rise again. Those who do not question why, will find no answers.

Unbidden and not of his own mind, a memory surfaced. Spires and palaces, tranquil glades, and luminous statues of the gods, as tall as Titans, arrayed along a roadside, welcoming travellers. Above it all, a fierce blue-white sun, and the glittering suggestion of three moons... one white as snow, one green as the forest, and one red as blood...

Rejoice

Alundirel knew this place, from his studies as a child. Ilirunas. The capital city of Thelcontir, the jewel in the crown of the Empire of his kind. But where his knowledge was from books and scrolls and stories, this was a gestalt memory, a combination of the memories of many hundreds of the dead within the Craftworld. Alundirel didn't just see it, he smelt the fragrant air, and felt it upon his face. He heard the bustle of crowds in the market terrace, and his skin tingled with the resonance of the world - a world he had never and would never walk upon, a world now dead, at the heart of the Esikaith, the Terrible Eye.

Weep

The avenues ran with blood. Baroque constructions appeared on every terrace, adorned with the impaled and ruined corpses of the murdered. Carrion serpents writhed along barbed railings and feasted on the flesh of the dead. The air was overcast, tense with malevolent clouds of red and purple and flickering with unnatural lightning. Raucous laughter and pained screams filled the air. Scholars dabbled in things that should not be, unravelling space and gazing into the abyss. It was night where before it had been day, and a crimson light shone in the sky, blotting out the moons of green and white that cowered behind it.

Despair

Alundirel shuddered as the memory changed again, and tried to force it away. A prickling sensation covered his flesh, and he let out a yell of dismay as he fell to the ground. A rumbling, almost bestial in nature, could be felt, but the earth did not shake. The sky trembled with power, and was rent asunder, accompanied by the momentary screams of the damned. A howling abyss could be seen from horizon to horizon, yet still the red moon shone. Billions died on this world alone. A hundred trillion died across the galaxy, and every one of their souls was coming here...

The memory stopped. Alundirel opened his eyes, and shivered. He was in the Dome of Crystal Seers, and his own thoughts and memories flooded back to fill his mind.

Understand. That was the doom of our kind. It takes time and fortitude to bear witness to it, but we felt you needed to see it.

"Why... to wrack me with greater guilt and remorse?" Alundirel's anger burst forth, furious at the presumption of the dead.

In part. You asked to learn. That is what we teach. The great mistake of our kind. No study of the self, or of the legacies of our kind can be considered without knowledge of our self-inflicted damnation. To learn of history is to guard against such things happening again.

Alundirel was left in silence, to consider what had been said to him, and what he had seen.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:44:20 PM
Iyanden's libraries were vast. The Craftworld contained one of the largest preserved repositories of the history and philosophies of the Eldar race out of any of the Craftworlds.

It had to. The scion of Ulthanash was one of Iyanden's citizens, and descendants of noble bloodlines from across the Empire called the Craftworld or one of its colonies home. Where Biel Tan was home to warriors, and Ulthwé was condemned to eternal vigilance, where Alaitoc was crowded with lawmakers and disciplinarians, and Saim-Hann was composed of wild-eyed savages, Iyanden was the last remnant of the nobility of the Eldar people.

As such, when the nobles fled the homeworlds, thousands of years before, centuries before the Fall finally happened, they took their wealth and their legacies with them. Such bloodlines had become increasingly meaningless as the Philosophy of the Path had taken hold, but the lore archives remained for any who wished to use them.

Alundirel wished to use them. He had neglected the past for too long. He did not wish to repeat the mistakes of the past.

So, the last three centuries or so, he had taken to a life of isolation. For much of the day, he wandered the archives, and taking the scrolls, books and memory-gems that interested him to the Glade of Silence, where he could learn in peace and solitude. The rest of the time, he walked through the Dome of Crystal Seers, asking questions about the things he had learned.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:45:57 PM
Seledhain Seall'athil, 436th Heir to the Line of Eldrannael the Swift, bearer of the sword Whitefire, lay on the dry, dusty ground, his life's blood bubbling through the ragged wound in his torso, past the fingers that pressed at it.

He turned his mind inwards, and tried to centre himself, to slow his heart, lessen his blood pressure and force the bleeding to cease, but the pain and the severity of the wound was too great.

"Seled'athil!"

Ethcorai leapt over a boulder, his Lasblaster blazing blue-white fire at the squawking, clicking Kroot that stalked towards his old friend, driving them backwards with his ferocity. One of them - a leader by all appearances - cawed a challenge, and Ethcorai met it, whirling around as he drew his power sword, cleaving the barrel from the Kroot's bladed rifle, and ducking back from the return stroke, firing the Lasblaster one-handed as he backed off. The Kroot dodged aside, clicking and growling as it ripped a long barbed knife from the sheath on its leg and lunged forwards, quills rattling.

Ethcorai threw the Lasblaster aside, parrying the first strike with his blade, shearing through the crude knife, and drawing a broad-muzzled shuriken pistol. The weapon screamed as a dozen shuriken whipped outwards, lacerating Kroot flesh and stunning the avian creature long enough for Ethcorai to strike its head from its shoulders. The remaining Kroot lurked at a distance for a moment, waiting for the Eldar to leave before consuming the remains of their dead.

Ethcorai sheathed his sword and pistol, leaving his rifle where it lay, and dashed over to his friend's prone form.

"Seled'athil... save your strength. I'll get help from the Exodite colony. It's only a couple of-"

Seledhain raised a hand shakily to stop his friend.

"I can feel myself passing already. Give... give Whitefire to Alund'athil... tell him about our work, about his lineage."

"No... come on, Seled'athil, I'll get us out of here..."

"Alund'athil..."

A silent scream caused Ethcorai to shudder, and he glanced back down at his friend. The old Eldar's eyes were lifeless and dull, but his soulstone was luminous and vibrant. The scream was one of death, of the soul passing from the body into the soulstone.

Solemn, he looked to Seledhain's other hand, and reached for the ornate blade gripped there. He reached to pick it up.

ONLYonlyoneTHOSEwhoWHOhasearnedourtrustAREOFOURBLOODmayMAYwieldusWIELDUS

The barrage of thought stunned Ethcorai for a moment, but he gripped the blade nonetheless, slipping it reverently into its scabbard, and tucked it securely into his pack. Seledhain's soulstone, torn from its chain, followed.

Unable to carry his friend's remains back as well, Ethcorai turned away and walked towards the Exodite village and its Webway gate.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:48:13 PM
Ethcorai looked on as Seledhain's soulstone was interred into Iyanden's Infinity Circuit. The wraith-tenders of Iyanden moved with ritual precision and skill, anointing the soulstone with the correct oils and unguents that would allow the soul within to flow through the vast Craftworld.

He glanced across at Alundirel, who had been brought out of his studious seclusion to mourn his father's passing, and at young Chithurien, a child at only forty years, still in his own studies. Both stood close to their mother, Loreclai, who wept openly and freely.

Alundirel, now nearly thirteen-hundred years of age, stood silently, his face an unmoving, solemn mask. He stepped forwards, glancing at Ethcorai as he approached the wraithbone tree. He knelt, pressing two fingers lightly against his father's soulstone, and muttered a prayer. Such was the room's acoustics that his low whisper carried to all nearby.

"Vassal of Asuryan, your service is done. Warrior of Khaine, lay down your sword. Child of Isha, your kin mourn your passing. Walk amongst the dead, and know peace in eternity."

A single tear traced down Alundirel's cheek, and he squeezed his eyes closed to hold back any more.

Thunder filled his ears, as his heart rumbled in his chest.

***

Ethcorai entered the habitation district, and looked out over the mist-wreathed gardens as he strolled over the gantries. He barely noticed Alundirel approach, swiftly and with purpose.

At the last moment, he turned to greet and offer condolences to the younger Eldar, to find himself slammed forcefully against a wall by hand pressed against his chest.

"How could you let this happen? HOW?"

"Alund'athil-"

"You were his friend! You stood by him in battle! You swore to us that you would sooner face the abyss than fail to bring him home to us!"

"Please, let me-"

"It was always you... you always kept him from his family, from his home! Always on some unmentioned mission, some undisclosed quest."

"ALUND'ATHIL, PLEASE!" Ethcorai bellowed, forcing Alundirel backwards. "Come with me. I'll explain everything."

***

They sat cross-legged on the ground, facing each other, in a clearing in the middle of the glade of silence. Alundirel had calmed only a little, but was ready to listen.

"Your father wanted me to give you this, Alund'athil." Said Ethcorai, quietly, passing the sheathed sword to Alundirel. "This is Whitefire, a blade that has existed within your family for over two and a half million years, and borne into battle by the eldest sons of your bloodline for four-hundred-and-thirty-six generations. As your father wielded it, so must you."

Alundirel slid a hand around the grip, and moved to draw the blade.

alegacysuchasusmustbeearned

The barrage of thought caused Alundirel to withdraw his hand.

"It won't let me draw it."

"It won't let anyone draw it, at first. Even your father needed time to earn the sword's trust."

"Trust? It's a blade..."

"No, it isn't. Look closely."

Alundirel peered closer at the sword's hilt. The gem set there glittered with an internal light.

"A Diresword? I've only ever seen one of these before, and that belonged to my old Exarch when I was younger."

"This one is unusual, as are many not borne by Exarchs. Most Direswords contain only one soul. This contains fragments from many. Everyone who has ever rightfully wielded this sword, has added an imprint of themselves to it. This sword is your legacy, and it contains echoes of your ancestors back to Eldrannael the Swift, whose soul is at the core of the blade. I am here to teach you what your father wanted me to pass on. I am here to teach you about your ancestors, and about how to wield that blade. Shall we begin?"
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:51:13 PM
Several hours had passed, as Ethcorai explained what Seledhain had told him of his family's heritage. Alundirel listened intently, but looked increasingly unsettled as time wore on.

"Ethcorai... tell me - how did my father die?"

Ethcorai closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath, exhaling through pursed lips, as if contemplating how to begin. "Your father and I had been tracking a tribe of Kroot across a string of Exodite colonies on the easternmost fringes of the galaxy."

"Kroot? I'm not familiar with them..." Alundirel inquired.

"A feral, bird-like species from a small forested world a few days journey from here. They're cannibalistic, and fierce hunters, known to adapt quickly to new challenges by consuming the flesh of others and evolving as a result. They're primitive, but very quick through rough terrain, and naturally stealthy, which can make them a threat. They travel from world-to-world on the ships of others, as far as I can tell - buying their way with their services as mercenaries and trackers, or simply stowing away. But these ones were different."

"Different? How?"

"This group had adapted to be able to migrate from world to world via the Immaterium. Presumably by eating Croatalids or a similar aethyric predator. Freed from dependance on mon-keigh vessels, they've been hunting where-ever they please, hopping from world to world and adapting over the generations. When your father and I found them originally, about fifteen years ago, they'd stumbled onto an Exodite colony and were preying on the dragon herds. They've been elusive, but we drove them off when we encountered them on several worlds. Their tactics developed in response. They started hunting the Exodites, trying to gain their agility and perception and who-knows-what-else."

Ethcorai paused, sipping from a small bowl of water. "And?" Alundirel asked, so near to the answer he sought.

"We were on Tir'iosash, having tracked part of this group down there. We were about an hour's walk from one of the smaller villages when the Kroot burst from the trees nearby. They attacked from two directions, separating myself and your father. My group was smaller, lacking this hunting pack's leader, and I slew enough to drive them back, but I was..." Ethcorai stopped, shuddering as he remembered the fight. "...I was too late. Kroot knives had already ripped into your father's body, and he bled to death in that clearing. I slew the leader, and drove back the few he had not yet killed, and gathered up your father's most important possessions - his sword, and his soulstone, before heading back to the village. When I returned with help from the Exodites, the Kroot were gone, having consumed their leader but apparently too panicked and cautious to attempt to eat your father's remains. He was cremated the next day, and then I returned here."

Alundirel knew his father's killers now. He stood, and snatched up Whitefire where it lay in its scabbard.

"Alund'athil? Where are you going."

"You have explained to me how my father died, told me where he was slain, and which hands are stained red with his blood. I go to avenge him with his own blade." Alundirel stated matter-of-factly.

"Alund'athil, you can't bear that blade without training - the sword's spirit will not permit it."

"It will permit me. And you will assist me. Like the hawk, you have circled above my father's murderers and identified them. You will show me the way." Alundirel's voice had a hard edge to it, an edge that had not been there a few minutes ago.

"No, Alund'athil. Not yet."

"YES!" Alundirel bellowed, furious at being defied when something so important stood before him. "YOU WILL YIELD TO ME!" The air flickered red, and became hot, Alundirel's fury washing off him in waves. He shuddered, half in rage and half in pleasure... the anger, the fury was intoxicating, and he could feel the urge to set blade against the flesh of his enemies. He reached for Whitefire's hilt. The blood sang in his veins...

...the Warsong...

Alundirel stumbled backwards, realising what he was almost considering. The air popped as it became cool and still again. "I'm... I'm sorry."

Ethcorai smiled. "You haven't felt it in a long time. It was why I was hesitant to tell you. I didn't know if you still remembered what it felt like, or how to control it. I needed to bring it out slowly, carefully, before we took up arms and went to avenge Seled'athil's death. And we will, once you have been reminded of the control you need over it. But that sword will be nothing but sharp metal unless the spirits inside it let you use their power. They may be your ancestors, but they need to be shown that you are worthy of them."

"And what will that take?"

"Time... and patience. I have friends working to curb the excesses of those Kroot, but they will be waiting for us when you are ready."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:57:00 PM
Weeks had passed. Alundirel clutched Whitefire in his right hand, and gasped for breath. The sword was quiet now, giving him silence and distance, and acting like nothing more than a mundane sword, but the knowledge of what Whitefire was and could do made that silence seem vast and all-consuming, like an echoing cavern.

Ethcorai stood a dozen paces away, sword held lightly in a defensive stance, his face passive.

Alundirel shook off his fatigue, and snarled in frustration as he leapt forwards. His downward strike was evidently clumsy, as the older warrior sidestepped it with little difficulty, and swatted aside Alundirel's sideways swing without looking. Ethcorai turned, his back to Alundirel for a fleeting moment, and ended up a couple of paces back, his blade back in a defensive position.

"You're not concentrating, Alund'athil."

Alundirel drove forwards with a low thrust, but his blade was diverted, and he stumbled, overextended. A blow to his upper back from Ethcorai's hilt knocked him to the floor.

"I could concentrate, if you stopped making it look so easy. I am glad nobody watches us; I look like a clumsy child by comparison." Grumbled Alundirel as he picked himself up.

"Alund'athil, we've been at this a matter of weeks. You're competent with a blade, but you've never received more than fundamental training with it, and that was centuries ago. At least you've reached a state where Whitefire has stopped questioning your prowess." Ethcorai extended a hand, helping Alundirel to his feet.

"Yes, wondrous progress. Now my ancestral blade merely ignores me instead of deriding me."

Ethcorai smiled. "Another go?"

"Let me at least recover. And explain to me how you manage to see every attack coming."

"Experience. And necessity. I've been in a lot of serious fights with a lot of deadly opponents. I find it easier to survive if I don't let my enemies strike me."

"Very funny. You use a style I've never seen before, not even by Exarchs."

"I athrad en sélanen. It's an archaic form, many hundreds of millennia old. Your father taught me, and he was taught by... actually, I don't know who he learnt it from. It was before I met him, before The Fall. It means "the way of wind and water". The philosophy is one of passive defence and inexorable offence - allow attacks to flow or be diverted past, but retaliate with force enough to overwhelm your opponent's defences. You've been experiencing it with every fight we've had over these past weeks."

***

Dodge left

"What?"

Alundirel heard his father's voice, but the shock of hearing it distracted Alundirel, and the flat of Ethcorai's blade slapped the side of Alundirel's neck. He blinked in surprise, as much from the blow as the voice he'd heard.

Two more months had passed, and Alundirel had improved considerably... but was still being soundly defeated every time he sparred with Ethcorai.

"Did... did you hear that?"

"I didn't hear anything, Alund'athil."

"I heard father's voice... telling me to dodge left."

"If you had, you'd have avoided my attack. It sounds like Whitefire has started to offer advice."

"Then we go again. I want to see if my birthright is finally starting to soften towards me after nearly three months of training with it."

Alundirel pulled Whitefire close, the pommel only slightly above his right shoulder, and awaited Ethcorai's attack.

It came moments later, and Alundirel stepped into it holding the blade horizontal above his head to block the downward stroke. He swatted the attack aside, and stepped back, sweeping his blade past his legs to deflect another attack. He smiled at his success, and brought Whitefire back up vertical against his shoulder.

Then the real attacks came. Alundirel was driven a step back by every blow he turned aside, barely having time to contemplate a counter-attack.

Jump backwards

Alundirel, less startled this time, did as instructed, leaping backwards over a low swing that would have struck his legs.

Now attack

Alundirel landed softly, but stayed still for only a split second, darting forwards to capitalise on an opening in Ethcorai's defences. Tapping aside a hasty attempt at a parry, Alundirel slid Whitefire in above Ethcorai's left shoulder, tapping the older warrior gently on the cheek with the flat of the blade, and grinning in satisfaction.

"First touch. About time I won one."

Ethcorai rubbed his cheek where the blade had touched, and nodded. "Well, you need work, but at least your sword has started providing assistance. If you continue to improve this quickly, we'll be able to avenge Seled'athil's death within the year..."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 07:59:11 PM
The next year...

Alundirel leapt from the bushes, his Chameleoline cloak flapping out behind him, revealing his blazing yellow mesh armour underneath. A roar of anger and hatred escaped his lips as he pounced upon the Kroot, who hissed, cawed and rattled their head-spines in response.

Their pheremone-stench filled the air, as the hunting pack turned to face their aggressor. Two fell, as a Shuriken Catapult screamed, glinting blades tearing through their flesh, and the fallen Kroot shrieked in agony. Alundirel let the weapon drop back onto its carry-strap, and ducked under a counter-attack, crude blades whistling over his head.

Alundirel drove an elbow upwards into the Kroot's midsection, causing it to gasp for air, and span round, slamming his armoured boot into its face, sending the avian predator sprawling across the muddy ground.

He stood, idly flicking a strand of hair from his face, and then drew Whitefire.

The blade was silent, expectant rather than disdainful, and hung loosely from his hand. One of the Kroot - the one who'd been knocked to the ground moments earlier - croaked orders to its kin, gesturing with a ragged-edged long knife.

The forest burst into life, blue-white bolts of energy searing another three Kroot as Ethcorai dropped from a tree, landing on a fourth, drawing his blade as he stepped away lithely.

Alundirel weaved round the lead Kroot's savage attacks, parrying a few with deft swings of Whitefire. It was quick, but moved more with ill-honed instinct and bestial reflex rather than skill. It was an animal, nothing more.

Alundirel's confidence overturned his caution, and he pressed forwards, only to be driven to the floor by a snarling assault from his flank. Another Kroot, one he hadn't paid attention to, lashed out with a bladed rifle, slamming it against Alundirel's stomach. The cells of the armoured material held under the blow, stiffening at the impact and turning the blades aside, but the attack still hurt, and Alundirel grunted in pain. He slammed his right fist sideways, catching his new attacker on the cheek and giving it pause, but the leader found its opening, wrapping a twin-thumbed, clawed hand around his throat and lifting him up.

Alundirel struggled for air, wheezing as his back was pressed into a tree by the fearsomely strong creature. It cocked its head sideways, and cawed something unintelligible. Alundirel kicked feebly, his legs flailing at his attacker to no effect. Ethcorai was on the other side of the clearing, fending off several other Kroot, and Alundirel raged at the futility of his struggle to get free.

Let me help, spoke his sword.

Alundirel couldn't concentrate to respond, as the Kroot's fingers pressed harder against his throat, and he reached up with his free hand to grasp at the Kroot's arm.

Let me help!

The sword's words echoed deep into Alundirel's brain. Alundirel responded instinctively, lashing out with his free arm, but the Kroot's arms were longer than his, and he lacked the reach to strike it. Then, suddenly, instinct faded, drowned out. Alundirel tightened his left hand... to find that it was empty.

Whitefire lay on the ground, a short distance away. Furious denial filled Alundirel, and he thrust his open hand out towards the inert sword, to no avail.

Then it twitched. It skittered across roots for a moment, and then was still. Alundirel tried again, and the blade leapt upwards, landing solidly within his grasp. With a hoarse, stifled bellow, Alundirel thrust the sword up into the Kroot's chest, and the blade burst into life, blazing with translucent white flame. The Kroot's grasp relaxed as it died, mind shocked into submission by the sword's psychic blast, and it fell backwards as Alundirel drew his weapon back.

No blood stained the blade. No ichor marred its surface. It glittered in a light of its own making.

A gift, Scion of Eldrannael, in a moment of great need. In time, you will learn to unleash that power and to draw on your line's strength without our guidance.

Alundirel looked up, his face lit from below by Whitefire's luminescence as it faded, and smiled grimly.

Then, he charged, driving his blade into the neck of one of Ethcorai's assailants, and tearing its head from its shoulders.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:02:54 PM
The Kroot had been driven back six weeks ago. After Alundirel had sated his need for vengeance, he and Ethcorai finished Seledhain's work, and pursued the Kroot kindred to the very fringes of that cluster of worlds, slaying enough of them that they would not consider resuming their raids on the Exodite colonies for a long time to come.

The last six weeks had been spend ensuring that the task was complete. The pair of Eldar wandered through the Webway, reporting their successes to the World Kings of each colony they came to. On Tran'qelash, both were gifted with dragonbone hunting daggers, ornate broad blades as long as Alundirel's forearm, with a hilt wrapped in the silken belly-hide of a Megadon. The blades hung in dragonscale sheaths that were strapped to their scabbards, echoing the traditional style of the Tran'qelash Exodites.

But, at last, Alundirel returned home, dropping his pack by the door, placing his twinned scabbards on their rack in the corner of his chambers, and slumping over his couch as fatigue overcame him.

Sleep is not a necessary thing for the Eldar. Their bodies require periodic rest and their minds require occasional meditation, but true sleep is not required.

Alundirel, like many Eldar, slept anyway. Waking rest was sufficient for his body, and meditation allowed a structured and purposeful ordering of thoughts and memories, but sleep, or rather dreaming, was something different. And so, Alundirel slept, allowing his mind to relax in his rune-shielded chambers, safe from the gnawing hunger of She Who Thirsts, and waited for a dream to form.

***

Memories not his own filled Alundirel's sleeping mind.

Disordered tides of refugees fled towards a Webway Gate, on a world Alundirel didn't know. At their heels, the lumpen forms of Man.

Clad in white armour, trimmed in green, the humans strode steadily forwards, their guns barking and spewing forth thick explosive shells that tore through flesh and bone.

"Like the guns of the plague-warriors..." Alundirel mused, recalling a familiar sight and sound.

Something caught Alundirel's attention. a flicker of white amidst the fleeing Eldar, and the familiar shriek of shuriken.

"Father." The thought came unbidden, but Alundirel knew it was true. The light was unmistakable as being that of Whitefire.

Seledhain's face was twisted by rage, and he bellowed orders at his kinsmen, clad all in blue-grey armour, their faces masked by bone-white helms, and their shoulders draped with shimmering cloaks. Another scream, and another volley of shuriken, followed this time by the hissing roar of a fusion gun. One of the human warriors fell backwards, his face reduced to molten flesh by the blast. Two more staggered under the withering fire of the Eldar, but did not fall.

The distance between the two groups of warriors was closing quickly. Seledhain's mind flicked with intent, and a single shot whipped from his shuriken pistol. An unearthly wail issued forth, and slammed through the elbow seal of one of the human's bulky armour. The human's arm jerked backwards in shock, but it lasted only a split second before the warrior turned back towards his target.

Alundirel's perception swept in closer. His knowledge of healing allowed him to sense something awry, but he could not tell what. At least, until the human warrior convulsed for the first time.

An armoured hand grabbed at a steel-clad biceps, unable to reach it for the thick protection that contained the warrior's form. He convulsed again, the shock driving the warrior to his knees, and he scrambled for the release catch of his helm, flinging it aside with unnecessary force as he vomited up thick crimson blood. Alundirel's dream-state perception heard an unpleasant gurgling reverberate through the human's body, and he shuddered again, wracked with agony. The veins of his thick neck and broad face turned grey-green, and he bellowed in pain and frustration, his roar interrupted by a coughing fit that sprayed discoloured blood everywhere. Two of his brethren had dropped back to attend to their kinsman, while the rest pressed on, attempting to strike down the Eldar who had done such harm to their fellow.

Another convulsion, and the sound of metal shearing as the warrior's arm twisted into an unnatural position, ripping through the seals of his armour with adrenaline-fuelled strength. He staggered to his feet, stumbling across the broken, gore-stained ground and roaring incoherently with confusion. He had walked a dozen halting paces before a loud, wet thump broke through the sounds of battle. The warrior's headless form sprayed corrupted gore in every direction, chunks of armour plate thrown off by the force of his metabolism detonating, leaving a barely-recognisable lump of acidic flesh and twisted steel where before there had been a soldier.

One of the dead warrior's kinsmen, whose back was adorned with a vast array of fume-belching pipes, articulated automaton-claws and gleaming thermal-cutters, roared in anger, and thundered forwards, the metal limbs of his harness flailing as they echoed his rage. He levelled a blunt-nosed, twin-barrelled weapon, and rained a hail of explosive shells into the Eldar lines as they pulled back to the Webway.

The warrior's rage felt familiar, somehow, but Alundirel couldn't place where he had felt it before. The memory faded, growing dim as Alundirel's body stirred.

"Where was that?" He mused, as the last tendrils of the dream retreated from his mind.

The humans call it Daroth, after one of their war-leaders. We called it Sirrianash. I helped defend its people when the humans tore across the stars during their 'Crusade', but the world was lost to us... so soon after The Fall, we could do little to turn them back, and we lost much to the human dream of conquest, though we made them pay for every world they took from us.

Alundirel sat in silence for a moment, taking in his father's disembodied words.

"Show me how to find this world stolen from us. I would know more about the wrongs done to my people..."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:05:19 PM
Sirrianash... no, not anymore. Daroth. A world choking on its own exhalations.

The Eldar world of aeons past was long gone, even the scorched plains and trampled fields Alundirel remembered from his sword-vision, replaced by groaning industry.

Dull metal in baroque structures twisted away into the dense, jaundiced cloud, and great rents scarred the ground. The world was blasted and blighted, a minor jewel of the Eldar Empire infected with some planetary malignancy. A corpse of a world.

Alundirel walked through bustling streets, almost gagging on the dual reeks of humanity and industry, heavily robed and keeping to the abundant shadows. Those who did notice him soon found their attentions diverted by a shroud of psychic static that buzzed and hissed around the wandering Eldar.

Guttural mumbles filled the air, and more than once, Alundirel reached for Whitefire in moments of inexplicable fury that passed as swiftly as they arose. Every time, Alundirel restrained himself - it would be foolish to cause such mayhem as would quench his intermittent rage, in such a crowded and hostile place. Still, the Warsong was as loud and clear as it had been in a long time, and its familiar heat churned uncomfortably within his psyche.

Here

Alundirel paused, and looked around. He stood in a vast plaza, the paving slabs - obscured by the milling crowds - marked out a vast two-headed bird, a common symbol of Man's ramshackle Empire. Several of the buildings around the plaza were marked with similar emblems - crossed lightning bolts clutched in the claws of double-headed eagles and the fists of armoured warriors, the symbol of the haloed skull protruding from the tops of archways, and all manner of crude religious iconography.

"Here?" Alundirel whispered, quieter than the ears of humans could detect.

Here. This is where Man brought death to our shattered people.

Alundirel's senses swam, and the original appearance of Sirrianash floated spectrally, super-imposed over the stone and steel of human artifice. Vast translucent spires and domes lay scattered in patterns of mythic significance, surrounded by a turquoise forest that bloomed with iridescent flowers. Thick, sweet-smelling grass mingled with harsh, lifeless stone in Alundirel's mind, showing past and present as one.

Fire rained from the sky, flattening the memory-landscape and blasting away structures that had stood for millions of years. Great metal shells slammed into the blackened settlement, crushing luminous statuary and impossibly old relics where they landed, before bursting open like perverse flowers and disgorging white-armoured humans...

No, not humans. Seeing man's past next to it's present, he saw that the warriors were of vast and terrible aspect, dwarfing the lesser men who infested this world in the present.

Eldar died in their dozens, fleeing the sudden assault, and Alundirel caught a glimpse of a tall, proud Eldar rallying defenders to his side.

"Father..." Alundirel breathed, seeing history unfold.

More of the transport pods were scattered heavily across the landscape, followed by vast aircraft studded with brutal cannons and smoke-belching missiles. All bore the haloed skull emblem upon their shoulders. With brutal efficiency, the armoured warriors spread across the settlement.

Is it any wonder that such creatures fell to Chaos?

Alundirel pondered his father's words as the last aircraft disgorged a familiar warrior in a smoke-belching harness laden with additional clawed limbs and lifter arms. The warrior paused, inclining his head towards Alundirel for a moment, almost as if he was able to see through time... even in the psychic memory of this place, the warrior's emotional signature was clear.

"He was the Chaos Champion I fought in defence of Iyanden... why does he look towards me?"

I cannot answer that. However, it seems as though the fate of this one is of importance, in some distant future. Watch him, stand against him when you must. Now, you must leave this memory and this place. Much is left for you to learn...
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:13:51 PM
Six Millennia Earlier

Five figures sat about a long table, shrouded in darkness, their presence suggested only by faint silhouettes in the light of luminescent stones. Four seats remained empty.

"Are we all who could attend?" Spoke the first, at at the head of the table, placing a rune-tablet in front of him. The emblem of the Shrine of Asuryan glowed enough that all could see it.

"It would appear so." Responded the second, Isha's Tears upon his tablet.

"What of the Sierann? Do they not answer the call?" The third placed his tablet, a heart within a chalice, upon the table before him.

"They wish nothing to do with us. They forsake what they see as fallen ways. I am of a mind to agree." The eternal serpent marked the fourth.

"Yet you still came to hear us out, while they did not." Khaine's blade and the crimson moon glowed before the fifth.

"Is there news of the Rillietann? Do Cegorach's children send word?"

"Word and cryptic rhyme as always; no meaning of it known until after the fact."

"Unsuprising that a warlord would be blind to the Mirthful One's missive. Why are the Rebirth of Ancient Days represented? This matter concerns our future, and they are concerned only with past and present"

"All were invited; this matter concerns all of us, regardless of our differences. Messengers were even sent to the Dark City, and though their response was predictably vile, it was remarkably restrained. Apparently some respect for kin lingers within the Otann, at least for now."

"So we five are all who responded? There are dozens, even hundreds of Kionash out there. Are those who seek more than meagre survival so few?"

"Many of us lingered too near to the Esik-Yirraith as it opened, having stayed behind to rescue what survivors we could. Your homes all escaped the worst effects, distant from the Birthworlds as you were. Most were not so fortunate, and it has been only a matter of years since the cataclysm."

"Enough! We have matters of grave importance to discuss, and yet we bicker like Mon-keigh. I trust all of your homes have been visited by Asurmen and his disciples?"

"He carries Khaine's blessing, that is sufficient for us. His Path shall spread amongst our number."

"As will it amongst us. We need this strength he offers to withstand any further depredations of She Who Thirsts."

"The Hand of Asuryan's intentions are noble enough, but his methods are facing some resistance amongst my kin, and the Sierann will not accept it - they care little enough for the ways of those not dwelling amongst them as it is."

"It is not yet in place, but my kin endeavour to follow the guidance of the Asur."

"It will be sufficient for most things. But we all know that there is more at stake than survival or corruption. Tasks were set in place by the Old Ones, which were all but forgotten in the days before the Cataclysm. The Rillietann sing of them still, and more now than ever before must we heed the warnings of those who created us. As in aeons past, we need heroes, not merely warriors."

"And I suppose the scion of Ulthanash would provide this? It is always the way - those of ancient lineage and noble blood cling to the glories that once were, while those who bleed and die on alien fields are dismissed as 'mere warriors'. Would you claim that Baharroth or Arhra were 'mere warriors'?"

"You mistake my meaning, and seek only to antagonise; I speak of no specific bloodline or lineage when I speak of heroes, but of any Eldar who might stand alone against the darkness and do what is necessary to pursue the goals of our kind as a whole. Already, we have seen that some struggle beneath the discipline of the Path, but are we to crush their free will and yoke their potential, or are we to see them freed and given a different purpose?"

"You speak of the Path as some sort of burden? Preposterous. It is the salvation of our species and should be embraced without reservation, not discarded when we feel it is slightly uncomfortable. We have seen what happens when control gives way to thoughts of comfort and pleasure, and it almost destroyed us all."

"The representative of Light in the Darkness is correct; as it has been foretold, there will be a need for the strength of individuals beyond that of the collective and the Path. We need a means to do things beyond the reach of armies and seers. If the Path is our Iarstillmen - our sword-hand - then we need an Istaurmen - a silent hand - to act in ways that the majority of us cannot."

"The representative of Song of Ulthanash speaks wisdom. I agree with him and Light in the Darkness."

"As do I"

"As do we." A new voice, almost musical, entered the room. Lights flickered around the source of the voice, shifting between contradictory images.

"I speak on behalf of He who is most joyous. He has predicted your need and grants you his blessing in this most important task."

"Loathe as I am to this agreement, I will not stand opposed to the Laughing God's emissary."

"Then we are agreed. We shall see the founding of a kindred of individuals, gifted and strong of will and purpose, to act as our silent hand in the gravest of matters. Where armies cannot march, they shall be our blade. Where ancient treasures cannot be reached, they shall reclaim for us. Where distant manipulation is too imprecise, they shall subvert the goals of our enemies."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:15:22 PM
Present Day - 4.254.989.M34 by Imperial Reckoning

Hive Ixis, Tobansworld, Relem Drift Sub-sector, Salamon Sector, Segmentum Obscuras


"After him!" The shouts of the pursuing humans echoed through the steel labyrinth of their claustrophobic city.

Alundirel, swifter than his would-be captors, was hindered by the endless forest of pipes and conduits and cabling and broken machinery that seemed to exist in all directions. He could feel the half-buried webway gate in the distance, but every corridor, duct, abandoned vent and transit arterial seemed to lead him away from it.

His pursuers had no such difficulty. Presumably accustomed to the dense and unnatural terrain, they rampaged forwards like a tide of sweaty, hirsute and malodorous flesh, clutching noisy and crude guns that spat lumps of hot metal and clouds of stinking smoke. Every so often, one or two of them would spot him and fire, striking the surrounding metal with a rain of hot lead.

Alundirel had no time to turn and fight, nor any inclination to do so yet. Whitefire hummed at his hip, his constant companion for three and a half centuries now, and an elegant pair of laspistols were tucked into the small of his back beneath his shadow-weave cloak. In his hands, a slender tablet of polished wraithbone, studded with glittering gems, each one engraved with the rune of one of the Gods, the surrounding engravings telling a story in a form so ancient that Alundirel struggled to understand it.

The item was a personal shrine, of sorts. A simple item carried by travelling Eldar so he or she might pay observances to the Gods even in the wilderness. It had been abandoned here on this world during the cataclysm... and Alundirel had recovered it, from the 'art' collection of a human of looser morals than most. A relic of worthier days, to be returned to his people, not handled by the meaty fists of humans...

That was why they pursued him - he had stolen from them, so they believed. Certainly, he didn't think they had yet discerned his nature.

Alundirel swept round a corner, ducking under a low-hanging coolant pipe to catch his breath. The thundering footsteps of his pursuers were nearing rapidly. Alundirel slipped the shrine-tablet into his pack reverently, and then burst from his hiding place.

A hail of gunfire followed him, metal whipping past him. Alundirel leapt up and forwards, grabbing a narrow metal railing with one hand and pulling himself upwards into a ventilation shaft as he swung round. Upside down and sailing into the air, he drew his laspistols and unleashed a storm of blue-white bolts into the surging mass beneath him. The power cells exhausted themselves just as Alundirel reached the peak of his ascent, and he tucked his arms and legs inwards, slipping his pistols back into their holsters and righting himself.

With inhuman grace he landed, feet first, amidst the crowd of humans, dropping into a crouch to rob his landing of its momentum. His cloak swirled around him as he touched the ground, crouched, span around and stood in a single fluid motion, drawing Whitefire and disembowelling a human with his first stroke. He whirled and struck, again and again, moving faster than the humans could comprehend, slaying them as they struggled to react to a foe so swift, still in shock that they had encountered such a foe. A dozen human bodies littered the floor in seconds.

A blow caught Alundirel on the back of the right shoulder, and he rolled forwards, standing at the end of the roll. The element of surprise was lost, Alundirel knew, and the humans would not be so simple to overcome now they had a measure of him. Eight of them remained, holding rough swords, lengths of weighted chain, metal cudgels, knives, and the seemingly-obligatory metal-spewing pistols.

Alundirel took a step backwards, and found himself pressed against a solid wall. Whitefire still blazed in his hand. His dark eyes glittered in the light, and his features were illuminated by the crackling emissions of the ancient sword.

"It isn't human..." he heard one of them mutter, astonished, angry and somewhat afraid...

"Whatever it is, it'll die all the same!" Growled another, who stepped forwards to strike with his sword.

Alundirel moved towards his attacker, whipping round and kicking out, stumbling the human backwards. With the extra room gained, Alundirel ran towards the wall, then up it... after three paces, he felt his momentum starting to give way to gravity, and he pushed against the wall instead, jumping backwards over his adversaries.

"Your ineptitude is astounding." He spoke as he landed, facing them. The syllables of the human language still felt rough and unpleasant as he pronounced them, but learning it had been a necessity given how far the Mon-keigh had spread.

"DIE!" Shouted one of them, and they collectively began to charge.

Alundirel glanced upwards, and smiled slightly as he realised exactly what he stood beneath. The humans seemed to move and react so slowly to the world that it felt like Alundirel had an eternity to act. Whitefire flicked up, ripping a gash into the pipe that ran above Alundirel's head, and he stepped backwards.

Just as the humans reached it, a gout of steam blasted downwards through the rent in the pipe.

Alundirel turned on his heel and walked away, his cloak shimmering to conceal him as he departed at a more comfortable pace.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:17:12 PM
Four Weeks Later, Biel-Tan Craftworld

"Bielastaeinmeantokathesdainnfaredinillweasliddronath of House Caranilleth?" Alundirel asked, as the door opened.

"Please, call me Astonath." Smiled the dwelling's owner.

"As you wish. I have your pilgrim-shrine."

"Wonderful! Come in, come in!"

Alundirel stepped in, and glanced around. The dwelling was typical of those on most Craftworlds, grown from the surrounding superstructure, and decorated to the occupant's tastes with subtly coloured light, fondly possessed trinkets and works of art.

"Take a seat. Would you like a drink?" Astonath asked, as he crossed the lounge.

"Sarath, if you have any."

"My lifemate distilled it as a hobby when she was on the Warrior Path. The Biel-Tan varieties are particularly potent, however, and only get stronger as they age." Astonath poured out two glasses of glittering blue-grey Sarath as he spoke, and handed one to Alundirel.

Alundirel brought the glass to his lips, and sipped at the spiced liquor. "Certainly interesting. Not quite as powerful as the Canac I had on Haran forty years ago, though - the Exodites there are a spirited people, and it shows in everything they do. Now, about your shrine."

"Yes, of course." Astonath accepted the carefully-wrapped package, and began unfolding the silken covering. "Marvellous... I can't believe it took only a decade to uncover it."

"The human who had claimed it was quite the braggart; his statements to the quality of his 'art collection' were numerous. His security, however, was less so: he was in the room when I took it from its plinth, distracted by a servant."

Astonath laughed as he imagined the scene, and finished his drink. "Well, I am most grateful; I had thought this long lost. My father's spirit shall be overjoyed at its return. How can I repay you."

"I seek no compensation; the journey and the purpose are sufficient for me."

"Are you certain? You wish nothing in return?"

"Nothing. I seek to wander the stars, but my sense of purpose will not yield to my wanderlust, so I cannot wander idly. Speak well of me to your kin, and send word if they have a task I might perform for them." Alundirel downed the last of his drink, and set the glass down lightly. "Now, if you will excuse me... my road will not wait for me to walk upon it."

"As you wish, Alund'athil. Isha sustain you, traveller."

"Furtafar, Astonath. Lileath grant you fortune."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:19:03 PM
Four Millennia Earlier

"Lord-Seer... How long until the humans reach Iltarasash?" A seer, young by his voice, asked as he strode into the warded chamber.

"Days, maybe a week. The runes are vague, imprecise. We are nearing a shadowpoint, and events are becoming difficult to discern with any reliability." The older Seer stepped forwards, gathering a cluster of floating runes with a gloved hand, and holding them up to the light.

"I have ordered the fleet into ambush positions, as you directed. When the mon-keigh emerge from the Aethyr, we shall strike." The younger seer sounded proud and satisfied.

"It will not be enough. The human fleet is large, and their warrior caste lead it amongst the stars and upon the ground. Their wars are inelegant, but brutal and swift. Do not underestimate them. The fleet shall attack only at my instruction."

"My lord... Elthran... how could the humans have achieved so much? They have carved an empire from the darkness in scant decades, trampling across the ruins of our own legacy."

"And they shall fall harder and more swiftly than we did, bringing the galaxy with them, unless something is done. We are merely three centuries from an event of considerable importance... an event that I cannot yet see."

"But you will avert it?" Another Eldar stepped into the chamber, clad in armour well worn from travel.

"Not I alone, but I think we can." The Lord-Seer, Elthran responded. "It is good to see you again, Sariel."

"And you, my friend. It has been too many long years since I stood upon the Lay of Ulthanash. But there seem to be little time for pleasant conversation in these dark days. The council sent me; they said you contacted them about a task of grave importance."

"You have heard the situation. A human warfleet, a herald of this 'crusade' they are committed to, is in the Immaterium, headed to Iltarasash. There are weapons on that world of great power that the humans must not be allowed to claim. Already we have lost sight of so many of them; Vaul's Talismen were lost to us during the Cataclysm, and many hundreds of more besides, relics of the War in Heaven and conflicts since."

"Am I to halt their advance, or deny them their prize?"

"The former is too great a task to ask anyone; the humans are relentless and numerous. You would not stop their advance unless you slew their leader, and I can neither see that come to pass, nor can I see any good coming from it. No... the prize is to be denied to them. Take whatever weapons you need, travel to Iltarasash, and do whatever you feel you must to prevent those weapons from falling into human hands. I can only pray that their purpose shall never been needed."

"The Silent Hand acts at your direction, Lord-Seer."
***

Chapter Master Ramus of the IVth Chapter, XIIIth Legion stared from the Battle Barge's command pulpit, to the sight presented on the viewscreen before him.

"I want an explanation for this..."

"My Lord..." muttered a human adjutant carrying a stack of dataslates up to Ramus. "...Mechanicum Explorators and a full Rogue Trader survey showed the world to be verdant and habitable but presently uninhabited - ideal for colonisation."

"And yet, I am presented with a barren world patterned with rivers of lava and smouldering volcanoes." To say the Astartes officer was irritated did not do justice to his mood.

"I shall have the Navigator double-check our location, my Lord."

"Then do so. Until that time, let the record state that this world be marked as the Ninth one to be claimed in the Emperor's name by the Eleventh Expedition. Request that Magos Thaddeus organise a survey team to look for any natural resources of worth."

"At once, my Lord."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:20:40 PM
Present Day - 7.565.391.M35 by Imperial Reckoning

Shimmering azure walls and clinging mist surrounded Alundirel on all sides, and Alundirel felt lost again.

After two millennia of life, four hundred of which had been spent wandering between worlds away from home and the Path, Alundirel still found it difficult to negotiate his way around the Webway at times.

Pathways seemed to flow into one another, and were only visible from certain angles. Directions that shouldn't be possible were the only viable routes. It was entirely feasible to travel in a circle without ever turning a corner or noticing the correct path, and if a traveller was incautious, even turning around and retracing one's steps wouldn't necessarily lead to the same places...

"Oh for Isha's sake!" Alundirel exclaimed angrily, "Which way is it?"

His words echoed oddly, flickering off of walls that weren't entirely real, and often sounding like another person had spoken them.

Frustrated, he sat down, crossing his legs. He was tired and hungry - it had been weeks since his last meal, and the needs of his body were catching up with him, even in this ageless place.

"Where... ah, there it is..."

The faint echo seemed to have his voice, but the oddities of the Webway were dizzying to contemplate too deeply, and Alundirel returned to rummaging in his pack.

"Where... ah, there it is..." he mumbled as he retrieved his flask, then paused, recognising his words as matching the echo he'd heard only moments before.

Contemplating this, he chewed on a wad of dried Nauroq meat and gulped back a few mouthfuls of water. He slipped the cap back onto his flask and wiped his mouth dry with the back of his hand, and glanced upwards.

"That wasn't... oh, never mind." There was a pathway directly above him, open and clear, that hadn't been visible a few minutes ago. Hauling his pack onto his shoulders, he stepped up towards it, the mist rolling around like water finding its level in a glass as wall became floor and the tunnel seemed to reorient itself.

***

It might have been an hour, it might have been a day, Alundirel couldn't tell, but the tunnel had continued in what appeared to be a straight line for a considerable distance. He was about to relent, to look around for an unnoticed passage leading away from this causeway.

The tunnel itself had broadened immensely, and was now wide enough, Alundirel suspected, to contain an entire warhost of warriors and vehicles, and tall enough that another could travel above them on the tunnel roof. The mist had taken on a faint and unpleasant greenish-grey tinge, and the ambient light had dimmed somewhat.

A few paces further, and Alundirel realised why.

Great black spires, ridged with serrated crenelations, protruded from every direction in a cavern of unimaginable vastness. Shrieking craft - barb-winged jetbikes and grav-skiffs - flicked rapidly between the criss-crossing towers, darting about like the vicious flourishes of a knife-fight.

Alundirel had heard Ethcorai and his father speak of the place, and everyone knew the rumours and legends... but to see it sent a chill down Alundirel's spine. The pungent smell of blood, the lingering sounds of a billion voices screaming, the palpable waves of utter dread, and the sheer sight of it all told him that it could be only once place in all of the galaxy, a place he would rather have never stumbled upon.

The Dark City of the Druchii, the malefic demesne of the Otann.

Commorragh.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:22:31 PM
"Issss it ssscared?"

The voice sent a shiver down Alundirel's spine, a flickering whisper of dread that seemed utterly unfounded and yet entirely rational.

"It issss.... it fearsss the Dark Place... dreadsss it beyond conscioussss imagining..."

The same one, or perhaps slightly different, Alundirel couldn't tell. The sibilant whispers echoed unnaturally within the tunnel, sometimes muted as if underwater, sometimes as clear as the sound of a bell mere hand-span's from the ear. Alundirel span around, looking for the source of the voice or voices...

"We are as sssshadow, pretty one. Death wrapped in shroudssss of night."

"Isss it for usss, sssister? May we take it?"

Yes, definitely two voices, maybe more. A reassuring surge of warmth reminded Alundirel of Whitefire's presence at his hip.

"Yesss... yesss it isss. Thissss one burns as a lantern in the twilight, not the guttering flame of our sssiblings in the City..."

"Then we feast!!"

The last word was mangled into a feral bark, and the creatures set upon Alundirel.

In a blink, Whitefire had flown from its scabbard and blazed with energy, a white inferno running along the blade like flames wrought from diamond. The illumination it brought revealed his attackers to him.

They were as Eldar, but debased and twisted almost beyond recognition. Their forms were emaciated and hunched, their skin a pallid grey-green that seemed to swirl and shift uncertainly. Their eyes were pitch black and glinted with untamed malevolence, and their bared teeth were discoloured and narrowed into vicious points. In each hand, they clutched a writhing serrated blade of some description, every one different in shape but singular in form, and so sharp that they almost sang. The gloom of the tunnel seemed to writhe with them, dragged along by their twitching, animalistic motions.

They were within their knives' reach within a heartbeat. Alundirel ducked the first, parried a second, then a third, and span backwards to elude the next. In the mounting gloom, and with their constant motion, Alundirel couldn't see how many there were. Oddly cold breath puffed at him from any angle, and Alundirel continued his frantic defence.

A blade got through, Alundirel's reflexes barely sufficient, and ripped a ragged gash in his cloak that would have otherwise crippled his arm. Alundirel followed the motion of the blow and rolled backwards, pushing himself to his feet with his free hand, before lunging forwards with the blade in his other one.

The creature wasn't there anymore. The shadows parted and revealed only air, and a whispered, hoarse laughter whipped past him.

Alundirel whirled and lashed out, striking nothing once more. A cold sensation, and the promise of pain to come, slid down his cheek, followed by a thin trickle of hot blood. He span again, striking in the direction the attack came from, once again to no avail. Every sense was screaming that another attack was coming, and Alundirel twisted to meet it with his blade, batting it aside a fraction of a second before it would have pierced his back.

Another puff of cold breath, behind and to the left. Alundirel turned to strike again, snatching the hunting dagger from its sheath and clutching it in a reverse grip. Whitefire whistled through the air once more, and Alundirel stepped forwards, spinning on his heel to face the predicted attack from behind. Both blades raised together, swatting the creature's attack upwards, and then Whitefire alone descended, ripping through debased flesh and sending the creature squealing back into the gloom.

Another one incoming... Alundirel ducked and attempted to counter attack, but found no enemy, no attack to counter. A sharp blow to the back of his knee stumbled him forwards as he rose, and he rolled sideways to elude the inevitable follow-up, then struck sideways. Whitefire struck flesh once more, severing an arm at the elbow. Squealing and mist once again, as another fled before it could be slain.

Left...

Whitefire's instruction was acted upon reflexively - Alundirel had long since come to trust his sword's instincts. A creature - the final one, Alundirel guessed, since the gloom had subsided so much - stumbled forwards, having put too much effort into its attack. Alundirel struck, but the creature dodged, hopping nimbly over the arcing diresword, before darting in to attack again.

It stepped in close, surprisingly strong as it slammed into Alundirel's body and knocked him backwards. Alundirel's grip on Whitefire slipped, and the diresword skittered across the tunnel. He brought his dagger-hand up to strike, but the creature pinned it to the floor. The creature's face pulled towards his, leering, like some monstrous parody of a smile. Alundirel's empty fist lashed up, catching the creature and knocking it slightly aside, and in a moment, Whitefire had leapt across the room to its master's hand. One sharp shove toppled the creature from where it crouched, and Alundirel drove onwards, ramming the blade deep into its chest, pulling it close enough to look it in the eyes as it died.

The corrupted soul fled its debased body, and Alundirel shuddered as he felt the psychic moan of it entering the Warp and being consumed utterly by She Who Thirsts. Then, without warning, he slumped wearily backwards.

Shocked by the sudden lack of strength, Alundirel looked down at himself.

"Sha'eil..." he cursed, reaching down to touch the ragged wound in his stomach. It ached, and the pain was getting worse as Alundirel's mind washed away the heady rush of combat.

Thinking back to his centuries as a healer, he pressed down on the wound and concentrated on it.

It wasn't too deep, fortunately, having struck against his abdominal ribcage rather than plunge into his stomach. It still hurt, though. And it was bleeding profusely.

He took a deep breath, and held his eyes closed. The Webway was not the best place to enter a recuperative trance, but it had to be done, even if only for a short while. He grabbed a dressing from his pack, holding the cool fabric against the wound after peeling away the armour that covered it. With his other hand, he pulled a small pouch, and then picked a couple of tine wraithbone runes from it, tucking them into the folds of the dressing.

Alundirel's breathing slowed, and the runes and the injury became the only things he was aware of. Slowly, as seconds and minutes passed, the bleeding slowed to a trickle, and then stopped. His eyes snapped open, and he was aware again. He looked down, pulling the dressing back. It was soaked in his own blood, and he carefully extracted the runes from the sodden mass of fabric, placing them reverentially back into their pouch. The wound wasn't healed, or even closed, but the blood flow had been redirected elsewhere, and the pain numbed considerably. The dull ache that remained flared up when he attempted to move, and it would still take some time before it was completely healed... but at least the risk of imminent death by blood loss was considerably lessened.

Alundirel fixed another dressing into place, and pulled his armour back down over it, stiffening the mesh-weave around the wound with a thought, to compress and support the injured flesh.

Wincing as he hauled his pack onto his shoulders again, Alundirel set off, away from the Dark City.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:25:34 PM
Four Millennia Earlier...

Humankind... their so-called Imperium... had torn itself asunder. One attempt to halt it had already failed... and it was too late to stop it now.

All that could be done was to limit the damage that could be done... it wasn't much, but to stand idly while Chaos thrived was unconscionable. Still, it was up to the humans to end this war.
***

Silvraine spotted their quarry on the rubble-choked streets below. Human armies clashed, and the warfare that flooded through the human city around them was loud and incredibly violent.

A troupe of Rangers crouched nearby, their shadow-weave cloaks making them all but invisible, and not a sound could be heard from them as they lined up another volley of shots.

Silvraine stepped back, and unspooled a line of wire and affixed it to another grapnel, ready to move as soon as the Rangers were done.

A dozen harsh, high-pitched cracks echoed across the rooftops, almost too high-pitched for human ears to discern. A dozen humans in thrall to the Ruinous Powers fell silently, not even having time to scream or clutch their wounds before their pitiful lives ended.

And the Rangers were up, moving like shadows towards the edge of the roof. Silvraine ran alongside them, and as one, the thirteen Eldar flicked out grapnel lines and leapt, as they had done countless times before in the last week of conflict.

The lines caught, as they always did, and the Eldar sailed to the next rooftop, barely breaking stride as they landed and continued to sprint, vaulting over and sliding under obstacles with blinding speed.

A few minutes running, and they stopped.

Another rooftop, another set of targets. Silvraine looked down again, her dark eyes surveying the situation carefully.

There.

An officer, of the human warrior-caste, larger and better-armoured than those surrounding him. The stink of corruption was evident even at this range. The warrior's armour was the a deep crimson, trimmed with silver, and his head was bare and heavily tattooed with abhorrent writings.

The Hawk Circles she thought to her companions.

Then here do our journeys divide, Istaurmen. Khaine's fury sustain you. Their leader replied.

And Kurnous' cloak conceal you.

They were fourteen stories up. The target was on the ground. Silvraine smirked, and let her body fall backwards off the building, tucking into a tight ball moments later, before kicking outwards against the building.

Half way down.

She soared across the street, grabbing hold of one of the cables that criss-crossed the city, and span round it, before perching atop it and looking downwards once again.

She smiled. It hasn't seen me, she thought to herself.

Springing from her perch, Silvraine grabbed hold of a protruding flagpole and deftly pulled herself up, holding steady for a moment before leaping out again, forwards this time, running along the wall to slow her descent.

Nearly there...

She kicked out again, pushing against the wall she'd just run along, and drew both swords. They hummed and sparked with energy as she crossed them, forming an X with which she pushed down against the ground, vaulting backwards over her prey.

She had killed his kind before. They were faster than most humans, much stronger and much more difficult to kill, but it could be done, by one of sufficient skill. She landed, and sprang forwards, blades bared. The warrior reacted, swinging up a heavy mace bearing the eight-pointed star of the Ruinous Powers.

Twin power blades dug into the warrior's cuirass, and were pulled away as quickly, as Silvraine pulled herself below the angry sweeping arc of her foe's mace. She jumped upwards and forwards from her crouch, flipping over her enemy and lashing out with both blades as she passed, upside-down, above him. He parried, the impact disrupting Silvraine's leap, and she crashed to the ground sideways, momentarily dazed.

"And what inexplicable purpose brings you here, I wonder..." growled the human.

Silvraine spat a mouthful of dust to one side, and grinned. "Nothing so complex. You are a servant of the Ruinous Powers. You are my enemy. My enemies die..." she said in slightly accented Low Gothic.

"So confident... so arrogant. The Mardagg will enjoy your soul, mortal."

Silvraine charged, sidestepping a heavy swing of the human's mace, and drove her left-hand blade into the gap under his pauldron, into his armpit.

A hissing roar of pain was her reward, as she pulled the blade back and thrust the other blade at his neck.

In spite of his injury, he shifted sideways and batted the blade aside with an armoured hand. Sparks flew at the moment's contact.

"Not so easily. Chaos fills my veins..."

"All the more reason to open them!" Silvraine interrupted, slashing across with both blades, carving long furrows into the warrior's armour, but spilling no blood.

She didn't see the attack coming. A mace half her weight, crackling with energy and stinking of abhorrent potency, slammed into her side, breaking a dozen ribs and hurling her sideways into the rubble.

She groaned as she tried to sit up. Her armour was buckled and blackened from the impact. Her body was severely injured from that one blow alone. She looked over at her enemy.

There was something else there. It pushed at his face from within, leaving the impression of serrated ridges of bone along his cheeks and jaw, and a cluster of vestigial horns pushing from his temples. Cold warp-light shone from his dark eyes, and his tattoos glowed fiercely in a shroud of gloom that was akin to a hood woven of darkness and draped over his head.

A spatter of blood - her blood - could be seen on his face, and he licked it away with a long forked tongue.

"Are we quite finished?" It asked, the daemon's voice, like a blade dragged down a pane of glass, mingling with the baritone growl of its host.

Silvraine tried to speak, but could only cough up blood.

"Lost for words, are we?"

"N-not quite yet..." she choked out in response, a hoarse whisper, as she shakily reached inside the satchel beneath her cloak.

"A final attempt to slay me? How tiresome."

Silvraine smiled weakly, and pulled out a spherical device, marked in faintly-glowing runes. A liquid within sloshed slightly as she handled it, tracing her fingers along the runes in sequence, lighting them up further.

The daemon-in-flesh strode over, and snatched the thing from her hands.

"A bomb? Really... I had expected more from the Eldar than cheap pyrotechnics."

"Sha'eil take you, daemon." Silvraine spat, driving a dagger into her heart. As the last of her life drained away, her waystone took on a lambent glow, and with her final breath, she hurled it with a roar into a building down the street.

The sphere flickered, and then imploded, collapsing into itself as it activated. A sphere of purest annihilation opened and expanded in a heartbeat, destroying everything it touched.

Then, as quickly as it appeared, it was gone, leaving only a perfectly spherical hole to show it had even existed.
***

The Rangers moved silently about the city. The servants of the Ruinous Powers had been driven elsewhere on this world, and the city was dead and quiet save for a handful of disinterested and fatigued patrols.

"It is here." Said one of their number, in Lam-Eldannar reminiscent of Alaitoc's dialect.

"Her sacrifice will be remembered. Let us return her spirit to her loved ones..." Said another, as the discarded soulstone, still glowing, was slipped into a pouch.
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:28:23 PM
Present Day - 214.604.M35 by Imperial Reckoning

The bazaar was immense, stretching for miles in every direction, composed almost entirely of landed shuttles and lighters surrounded by tents and awnings of all shapes, sizes and colours. A few dilapidated buildings were scattered here and there, constructed from rough stone.

Everywhere Alundirel turned, there were other creatures. Thousands of them, of dozens of different species. The humans knew this world as Voq, the Re'mal knew it as Nash'tai, the Visserik Union called it Sspal... a dozen different species, each knowing the world by different names, and the Eldar were no different. This was Borifeth, the Void's Gift.

It was an empty place, once, a desert wasteland of no value, discovered by the Eldar in ancient times, a single world system in the region the humans knew as the Halo Stars, and the very fringes of the galaxy. The old poem said Bonifeth illweand ashwé - 'the Gift of the Void no longer sings its song'. To this day, "the void's gift" has been synonymous with "hollow gesture".

Now, it was not so empty, but neither did it sing with its own life as worlds should. Instead, it was crawling with existence from countless other worlds.

Alundirel didn't care. No Eldar did. Bonifeth was a worthless lump of dead rock at the fringes of the Empire, and if it served a purpose, it was of no concern to the Eldar as a whole. The world was of no interest in and of itself.

What dwelt here now was far more pertinent.

The world's solitary, tiny webway gate was a hundred miles from any settlement, buried deep in a cave that was only just accessible from the surface. Alundirel had walked that distance, and was somewhat fatigued from the effort, but that was why he was here. His last journey, tracking down a ceremonial blade lost by a family on Lugganath, had taken him far from any Eldar-held territories, and he was running low on supplies. This was the closest trading settlement, and Alundirel needed to restock before he travelled the winding road back to Lugganath.

Few beings paid him any heed - few Eldar visited this place, but the sheer assortment of bizarre alien creatures surrounding him were used to seeing unusual things, and carried on with their business. Even the humans seemed uninterested, when they were normally so intolerant of even the smallest differences.

A nearby building roared, shrieked and chittered with activity, and the smell of various intoxicants was potent in the air around it. Alundirel had seen such places before on countless worlds and not a few craftworlds, and instantly recognised the signs of a communal den of vice... a tavern, drinking-hole or whatever other term was given to it at the time.

Alundirel brushed aside the curtain that served as a door, and allowed his eyes to adjust to the smoky gloom. The bar was manned by a single human, one quite plump and worn with age and the excesses of life, and pair of heavily-cloaked Vrekym crouched at the far end, dipping their mandibles in some pungent liquor. A few humans sat about a table at the far end, regaling each other with stories, but otherwise the room was empty.

"Excuse me..." Alundirel ventured.

"Can I help y- oh. We don't see many of your kind around here."

Alundirel smiled sadly "There are not many of us to see, and it has been aeons since we set foot upon this world in any numbers. And yes, you can help me."

The bartender set down the glass he was cleaning, and walked over as Alundirel sat on a stool.

"I am in need of supplies," Alundirel started, "I have a long journey ahead of me, and what I have remaining will not be sufficient."

"Supplies? You mean food and drink?"

"Precisely. A few flasks of water, some trail rations, and so forth. Nothing too scarce, I hope."

"I'll see what I can put together... assuming you can pay."

Ah yes... the human predilection for monetary compensation. Eldar trade needed nothing so crude as currency, but the humans apparently did. Alundirel had been caught out by the difference a few times before, but this time he was prepared.

"Payment will be generous." He pulled a pouch from his pack, and tipped the contents out onto the bar. "Sith Rionnasc. Star-jewels, 10% opacity, and will luminesce when exposed to certain forms of natural light."

There were forty-four star-jewels on the bar, and the bartender's eyes widened at the wealth they represented.

"That should be more than sufficient. Your pulse has quickened, and you are definitely appraising their worth." Alundirel leaned in closer and whispered, "Attempt to cheat me, and I'll rip your throat out, human. You will find my benevolence has its limits..."

"Of- of course... I'll see to this right- right away..." The bartender scooped up the jewels, and then nearly tripped over himself attempting to get away.

"I'd be wary of showing of such wealth, Eldar." Said one of the humans, who had approached during Alundirel's conversation with the bartender.

"I can more than adequately defend myself, human."

"I didn't mean to suggest otherwise... but skilled or not, people attempting to rob you can be inconvenient. Jequin Hos... I'm a Rogue Trader."

"I neither know the relevance of your path, nor do I care. Leave me be."

"I deal in commodities... explore the darkness beyond the edges of human space, trade for esoteric things of worth and bring them back to mankind. You have things of worth... or the potential to find them."

Alundirel turned to face Jequin. "Trade requires that you have something of value for me. I doubt that you do."

"You'd be surprised. My crew are unloading my last haul now. We found a good dozen or so artefacts from an abandoned Eldar world out in the Halos. I know your kind is always looking to reclaim lost treasures... so I'm willing to let you buy them... in exchange for some of those very valuable gemstones, before I put them up for auction tomorrow."

Alundirel rubbed his chin in thought, "Perhaps. I would have to see them. My past experiences with your kind have not exactly engendered trust."

"Of course."
Title: Re: Legacies
Post by: N01H3r3 on August 03, 2009, 08:30:28 PM
Present Day - 215.604.M35 by Imperial Reckoning

The holds of The Opportunist were vast and filled with all manner of treasures and trinkets... but those of Eldar origin were lacking in worth.

Hos stood nearby, his satisfaction showing in a broad smile as he watched Alundirel sift through the shelves and crates.

"Ugh... and what did you think this was?" Alundirel turned, a disgusted expression on his face as he held out what looked to be a strange crystalline mineral.

"There were dozens of them, buried on Heresfell near the ruins of an ancient Eldar settlement." Hos' expression faded somewhat at this.

"It's faecal matter, Hos. Biological waste. You probably found the remnants of an animal pen. Only a human could dig up the dung of a Megadon and believe it to be treasure."

"Oh... you're certain?"

"Collectively, I've spent fourteen years on various Exodite worlds. I know what it looks like. This however," He said, picking up a gem-studded sphere the colour of sun-bleached bone, "is a marvel. This alone is worth more than the rest of the true Eldar artefacts here, and I will not leave without it."

"What is it?"

Alundirel traced a finger along one of the rune-etched gems, and watched as the sphere began to hum slightly, the gems beginning to fluoresce. "If I were to continue this sequence of runes, there would be a perfectly round hole in your cargo hold large enough to fly a tank through. It's a distort charge, a weapon that tears holes in matter and leaves absolutely nothing behind. I will not leave without it, and if you somehow manage to stop me, there is no conceivable way that I would reveal to you the sequence in any manner except by demonstrating it first-hand on the weapon itself."

Hos went pale and took a step backwards. "Let's not be hasty here, Eldar. I wouldn't trust any of the potential buyers on this world with a weapon like that in the first place."

"I will take the weapon for safekeeping away from the grasp of your kind. There is nothing else here of any value to me; broken trinkets and the irrelevant detritus of an abandoned Exodite colony."

"We had a deal..." Hos started to exclaim.

"Yes, we did, human. My wealth in exchange for the lost treasures of my kind. There are, however, no lost treasures, only a weapon of immense destructive power, three fragments of a broken plate, a damaged power cell from a lasblaster, and a pile of animal dung. The former I am taking, regardless of your desire for recompense, and the rest is worthless. Goodbye."

Click

Alundirel stopped in his tracks as he walked away, the device tucked into his bag. He turned, to see Hos stood there, a bolt pistol aimed steadily at Alundirel's head.

"No. I will not be left with less than I started with. Anything of worth you own... that fancy sword, for a start."

"My blade has been with my family for longer than your species has existed. It will not leave my side."

"HAND IT OVER!"

"Do you honestly think you can best me? I am two and a quarter millennia old, and in my life I have brought war to hundreds of worlds, slain countless thousands, both face-to-face and from the command chamber of a starship. Every one of your accomplishments, every facet of your life that you pride yourself on - your commanding presence, your skill at arms, the reputation of your ship - I have equalled or bested in my long existence, and I am not done yet."

"I'm the one with the gun."

"Yes, you are. You are, by your species' reckoning, three metres from me, with a loaded weapon aimed directly at me. It would take you one-tenth of a second to will yourself to squeeze the trigger, and another few fractions of a second for the weapon to respond and fire. Against any human, you would be the victor. I am no human."

Half-derisively, and half still shaking with panicked frustration, Hos laughed, and moved to squeeze the trigger.

Alundirel just smiled, and it was not a pleasant smile. In almost no time at all, he had crossed the distance between them, stepping to the side of the outstretched gun, and level with Hos' shoulder as the weapon discharged.

"You blinked," hissed Alundirel. Hos dropped the bolt pistol in shock, unable to comprehend how any being that looked so human could move so fast.

Alundirel walked away again. "Attempt to stop me again, and you shall not live to regret it."
***

Alundirel entered the Webway, and reached into his pack, laughing softly to himself. He ran his fingertips along the runes of the device, and faint music played as the lights grew more intense, before the image of lithe dancers coalesced above the largest gem, wrought from light.

A music box, and one that Alundirel had sought for a friend on Iybraesil for many a decade. The trick had been simplistic, but the Rogue Trader had sought only to ascertain what was valuable and what was not before auctioning it off to other greedy humans - Alundirel merely broke the deal before the human could.

As he strode away, his laughter mingled with the echoes of the music, and the Void's Gift was left far behind.