Monday, February 10, 2014

Short Story: Shadow of Veilynndorr Part III (Conclusion)

Kester Bligh waited patiently as the grav-lift slowly carried him up to the Governor Level. His father, Deter Bligh, ruled Verdana IV almost entirely from his luxurious apartments at the top of Sladenkamp Hive. Despite their wealth and power the access grav-lift was little better quality than junk, often stopping for prolonged periods or becoming shrouded in darkness as the overhead light stopped flickering and simply fizzled out. The cramped space was made even more uncomfortable by the size of his two Ogryn bodyguards. While ab-humans were despisable abominations they still had their uses.

He was not certain why his father had requested his presence, but it was most likely something mundane and beneath him, but it was his duty to comply as the heir to the office. The light blinked again in rapid succession. When I am Governor I'll see that gets fixed. In fact I'll see this whole place renovated befitting my status.

The grav-lift went dark. He heard two loud thuds, one on either side of him, and when the light came on he saw a man in loose fitting robes wearing a helmet carved from bone and adorned with a number of feintly glowing stones and marked with intricate patterns. He noticed the man placed a hand on the hilt of a sword at his side, but he did not draw the weapon.

Kester noticed his bodyguards were both lying on the ground unconscious and as he went to reach for his bolt pistol (one of three his father purchased and had cost a small fortune) he found he was unable to move.

A voice came from the helmet, but it spoke in high gothic and he didn't understand. Then, in low gothic it said, “Greetings, Kester Bligh, Do you know who I am?”

A dead man,” he responded, “when my father hears of this.”

It is your father we need to discuss. I am Farseer Liridainn of Ulthw√©.”

Farseer?” Kester said. “You're one of those Eldar!” Rage boiled up within him. His father had been implored by some Inquisitor to foster a partnership with the foul xenos. At first it seemed to be a great succor to their Planetary Defense Force, providing aid to the Imperial regiments stretched thin trying to suppress a rebellion. But recently, as the rebels have grown more fierce the Eldar forces disappeared, leaving the Defense Forces to be overwhelmed in many areas. “What do you want of me?”

I am here because the fate of countless lives rests upon you.”

I am familiar with the lies of your kind, like the lies you told my father. What lies would you tell me.”

You misunderstand,” the Eldar said. “I wish only to show you the truth.” The alien reached his hand out and touched Kester on the forehead. He was blinded by a blast of light that seemed to knock him off his feet, but then he felt the sensation of floating. As the weight of gravity came back to him and his vision cleared he saw that he was no longer in the grav-lift, but was standing in a long building stretching a great distance in either direction. Along the walls were stalls, each one held a vehicle that looked like a mixture of a tank and an aeroplane, only more sleek, as if a cresting wave had been captured and converted for battle. Most of the vehicles appeared long dormant, covered with crystalline webbing that shimmered like gossamer.

My kin have been fighting wars on a scale you cannot imagine since before your species had learned to speak. We tamed stars and mastered light. Here we house the relics of an age gone by, our war engines silent not because they lack ferocity or safety, but because we lack the pilots to operate them.”

Kester felt excited at the thought of all the power those vehicles could confer. He hid a smug smile as he figured out what the alien was doing. He was proposing a partnership. They would provide the hardware and he would provide the operators. Bodies were Verdana IV's greatest natural resource.

We cannot fight a war for you,” the Farseer said. “The loss of every Eldar life is a grievous wound that cannot be healed. Yet, you, have the power to tie the fates of both of our people together.”

The alien garage disappeared in a flash of darkness and when light returned it was dim and smokey. Ten Eldar, all dressed similarly to Liridainn, but with subtle differences in the details of their outfits, sat around a large circular table festooned with layers of patterns and designs. At the side of the room was a monstrous construct that must have stood seven meters tall. Its featureless face was disconcerting and made Kester uncomfortable.

They cannot see or hear us,” Liridainn said. Just as the xenos had spoken Kester started to move, and the head of the construct turned as if to watch him. “Except Wraithseer Colano-ava,” he added. “Spirit walkers do not see the world as the rest of us do.”

Why have you brought me here?” Kester said.

As I told you, I brought you here for the truth. Your father is a disciple of the dark gods. Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, has ensnared your father with false promises. The rebels that your militia fight are worshipers just like him. He is tearing apart your world from the inside.”

The Eldar around the table started to chant in unison. As the sound of their voices grew small runes that appeared to be carved of stone or bone rose into the air and swirled around the room.

He has been tempted with false promises of power and knowledge, but the only true guarantee the dark gods can give is death. If you do not act, death comes to Sladenkamp.”

As the runes danced and spun faster, circling one another a blue glow started to emanate from the air above the table until images started to appear. Kester saw his planet at war, giant, winged bird-monsters descending from a gaping tear in the sky. On the other side of that tear was a realm of madness. Pink creatures appeared from nothing and split into smaller blue daemons. Other creatures had mouths for hands and breathed fire, and anything that fire touched was converted to something from a madman's nightmare. Images flashed showing the continents shift and distort as massive hive spires collapsed in on themselves or erupted like volcanoes spewing the warp effluvia high into the atmosphere. He saw the cluster of warp storms expand and swallow the entire solar system planet by planet.

Darkness descended again and Kester once again stood in the elevator with the Farseer. “Those storms aren't natural, are they?”

No. Your father has been a servant of Chaos since before you were born. Slowly he has orchestrated this plot. He has suffered one loss, hoping to learn how to increase his Master's influence and gain the knowledge to overcome the endless swarm, but that does not matter. That defeat is of no consequence. While he lives the ultimate victory of the dark gods is as unavoidable as the is the loss of this world.”

The loss of my inheritance,” Kester said. “He would leave me nothing.”

The choice is yours,” the Farseer said. “The fate of my Craftworld and your world are both in your hands.”

The light in the ceiling blinked out and when it returned the alien was gone. Oddly, the light no longer flickered, it was as strong and steady as Kester was resolute.

The doors to the grav-lift opened and Kester stepped into his father's apartments. He found his father standing over a long table festooned with maps and speaking, seemingly to himself.

Ah, son, I'm so happy you could join me.”

Without hesitation Kester drew his Bolt Pistol. Deter had two of his own, one on each side of his hips, but his confusion caused him to hesitate. As the explosive round tore through his father, detonating with a boom that reverberated throughout the apartments Kester smiled. He had secured his inheritance and saved his people in one deft move. He had made Verdana IV a force to be reckoned, a regional powerhouse that could, in time, expand its power and sphere of influence with the technological might of his new allies. His smile widened.

-----

            Liridainn watched from the safety of a Pegasus Transport ship as the last vestiges of the Warp Storm cluster dissipated. Without the storms acting as a blockade the splinter hive fleet slowly pressed throughout the void of space, tendrils stretching down towards the surface of Verdana IV.

            “You look pensive,” Gaeolina said from behind him as she placed her hands gently on his shoulders.

            “This is the face of total victory,” he said.

            “Total Victory?”

            “Yes. With the passing of the planet's governor Chaos has lost the heart of its power. Even better, the Imperium of Man will not sit idly while this system is invaded. They will respond in force, dragging the Hive Fleet into a war that will stretch on for centuries, preventing it from expanding on a path that once again threatens our kin. When truth prevails and Eldar lives are preserved, I consider that a complete and total victory.”

            “Truth?” she asked.


            “The manner in which they perished determined our own fate. The truth has always been that this planet was doomed.”

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