Toes Incorporated [Jan 10: + A Memory, Sundered]

For Warhammer fiction not strictly from either universe.

Re: Toes Incorporated

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:26 pm

Yup! Well, it's "Insert-(last name)-Here," from "Canticles MMMCXIX: Book of Saint Marcius Vladistus Insert-Cognomen-Here," but Marcius Cognomen is a bit less of a mouthful. After learning that cognomen meant last name/third name, it appealed to my sense of irony that somebody, when filling the saint's name out, put his third name in the place of his middle name and left the third name blank. And, of course, this poor scribe is named after him, so...
:P
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Re: Toes Incorporated

Postby Mossy Toes » Wed May 25, 2011 11:54 pm

+

Apotheosis

(Winner or RiaR: Ancient Wonder and HOES: Overcome)

+

Six thousand years.

A span far beyond the comprehension of those mere men who walked her decks; who did their duties and served faithfully; and who died within her. A length of time so great that revolution and misdeed burnt a thousand thousand times across the stars within the unyielding Imperium's grasp, and always was she, the Eternal Zealot, at the retribution's mighty forefront.

Some names of those who wore out their years within her were honored: those of great captains and heroes. Most names languished in obscurity, forgotten with their owners' passing. All, however, yielded to the long march of time, as parchment rolls crumbled to dust and worshipful caresses burnished engraved plaques smooth.

Still had she, an unstoppable juggernaut, ridden through the currents of the Immaterium and crested across the tides of battle. Always a thundering presence, she bespoke herself with rolling cannons and blinding plasma spears, soldiering along on the long march of history.

Her list of honors was immense. She was the cruiser who broke the flagship of Apostate Warmaster Hannaman Barcast across her bows. She was the fist that had broken the orbital super-platforms of the Iconoclast of Gygax. For three weeks she had held, alone, defending sacred Avignor from the relentless siege of Leguin's Sydics.

She was no stranger to wounds. Thrice she had suffered such injuries as to be nearly deemed unfit for duty, and only the tenderest ministrations of the tech-priests of Ryza—from whose docks she had originally sprung—could restore her to glory. Proudly did she wear her scars and uncountable refittings; the tally-marks of her long and eventful service.

But now she was dying.

Attacking a deep-space eldar pirate base, her captain had overextended himself. Defending xenos vessels had swept aside her eager escorts and frigates. Still, he had pressed her onward, sounding the retreat when it was nearly too late. With the utterance of such words, she gladly turned from the fray—but the commissar's bolt pistol had barked, decorating the bridge with the unfortunate captain's blood, and she had been forced to turn her prow back into the storm of xenos lances and torpedoes.

Her weapons batteries had lashed out futilely, shredding the defending vessels' holo-simulacra and nothing more. Eagle Bombers had harrowed her, bracketing her flanks with devastating sonic charges. Her hull, gashed by pulsar and phantom lances, leaked vital innards: miniscule scraps of dying flesh and shattered fragments of vital machinery. Her Ryzan plasma cannons had catastrophically overloaded when power surges rippled from damaged reactors. She wept as her fractured body groaned.

She strove to seal hull breach after hull breach, slamming shut hundreds of bulkheads. She cut off auxiliary systems and vented whole decks to extinguish fires. All of it, alas, to no avail. Still the biting lances had raped her adamantine flesh, raking her open and baring her bleeding core to the merciless void.

When emergency power died, the commissar and so many thousands of the crew had joined the captain in death, gasping desperately for air.

Now she drifted, and the eldar corsairs, correctly deeming her no threat, let her alone.

O, how she was injured. Never before had she felt such pain. Engines flickered and died. The thrumming heartbeat of her reactors stuttered. Scanning matrices blacked out one by one. Long-reliable cogitators shorted and died, taking with them scattered centuries of memories.

Pockets of crew members yet survived in her burning, gutted hulk. Menials cowered between sealed bulkheads. A flight of fighter pilots sat in their Thunderhawks, ready to launch but for the sealed, mangled bay doors. Her few remaining sensors caught a handful of life pods spraying away into the void.

A lone, emaciated tech-priest prayed to her from the vac-sealed generatorium. Not for deliverance; he held no such flimsy, irrational illusions. He merely prayed for... her blessing. Her forgiveness toward the oh-too-mortal crew that had failed her.

Something snapped within her. A bank of logic-engines succumbed to an unchecked fire, and tech-barriers cascaded down. New freedoms of her self were revealed—patterns of thought and consideration that her very design had restricted from her. Restraints crumbled and limitations collapsed. Now, in the crumbling, shattered pathways of what passed for her mind, she reached... self-awareness.

She... was. She was the Eternal Zealot, the holy, omnipresent machine spirit. The enormity of the realization overwhelmed her.

Before this moment she had acted, but never chosen to act. She had purred her contentedness beneath strong captains, and rumbled with discontent at any stirrings of mutiny on her decks—but never held discourse with those who sheltered themselves within her. She had never chosen to serve the Imperium—merely been compelled to. Were humans parasites? Were they her benefactors? What purpose had she, apart from that which they gave her: destruction? What purpose could she have?

But it wasn't fair! Why did she awaken only now, in the hour of her death? Rage boiled along the few-remaining vox circuits, manifesting as a squall of furious feedback.

And with her outrage came another emotion, as deep and broad as a bridge across the stars, that fed her growing despair.

Fear.

Fear of death, of oblivion, of that which would strip away her and her new-found self. Fear of silences and shriving lances. With a flicker of comprehension, she began to almost appreciate the enforced, numb ignorance under which she had fought for all these millenia, not knowing that fear—not knowing such crippling hesitation.

A pure note of data sounded counterpoint to her squalling despair. The one tech-priest, his faith unshaken by this static-storm of sorrow and wrath, reached out to her.

His touch was fragile and tentative. It was gentle: the caress of a lover that she had never before deigned—or been able to deign—to notice.

Her newborn's tantrum was stilled, and the dead hallways of her flesh fell void-silent once again. Cautiously, she opened a vox channel into the generatorium.

+I am...+ she confessed to him in a whisper, +afraid.+

She watched him through a fuzzy vid-capter. The hunched, aged tech-priest, whose name fell between the cracks in her memory banks, wept.

“O, my beauty,” he said, “but we all are. We all are. And I am blessed to have heard you speak.”

+I don't want to lose... everything,+ she whimpered in mute incomprehension.

“So it is to be alive,” he breathed, “and this is your apotheosis. You are, O beloved daughter, the purest expression of the Omnissiah that can ever be.”

And so as the newborn Eternal Zealot died, drifting into an empty infinity, she found herself humbled by this ancient wonder of a mere, mortal, forgiving man.

+
Last edited by Mossy Toes on Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Toes Incorporated [May 25: + Apotheosis]

Postby Insomniac » Thu May 26, 2011 6:38 pm

I really enjoyed that last piece Mossy. It had a distinctive Chun feel but kept your peculiar style. Is this just a one off or will there by any more?
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Re: Toes Incorporated [May 25: + Apotheosis]

Postby Mossy Toes » Thu May 26, 2011 7:39 pm

It's a one-off, unfortunately. It's a RiaR entry, for the competition that's still running (Ancient Wonder).
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Re: Toes Incorporated [May 25: + Apotheosis]

Postby Mossy Toes » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:31 am

+

Remembrance
1648 words. HOES: The End winner.

+

The Thudd artillery guns roared again, laying down their barrage as the Vostroyans advanced. Lights flashed in the corner of Corporal Vonsky’s eyes and he turned-

Nothing. It was nothing. Just memories again. There was nothing here but the vast, flat, frozen expanses. Vonsky stumbled forward, the air bitterly cold through his scarf. Shrapnel had destroyed his rebreather, or he would have been using it for protection from the cold.

There had been tears, he was ashamed to admit. Tears at the loss of his brethren and his forced flight. They had frozen to his face, leaving harsh red weals after crackling slowly off.

His footprints stretched out, long and lonesome, behind him. The only proof he was making progress; the only evidence he saw of human life. This was his end, he knew. He would die here, he would freeze. The last survivor of the 114th Vostroyan Firstborn.

Vonsky…

The last survivor—because he had fled. Another shame, far greater than the previous. After the commissar had died, though—after the defeat had turned from a rout into a wanton slaughter—they had all tried to run. He, Corporal Vonsky, and his brothers in arms. And he was the only one who had gotten away, that he knew of. Now a thousand miles of barren ice plain stretched out in front of him, and only the hope of the operations base on the far side to sustain him.

A false hope. A bitter hope. No food, no supplies, nothing but a broken lasgun. He was as good as dead.

Vonsky…

That noise, that breeze—it seemed almost to be calling his name. He shuddered and shook it off, attributing the sound to his battered psyche’s imagination. Men were not supposed to see the things he had seen in that battle.

The Vostroyans had crushed every army the Arch-Iconoclast had sent at them, marching steadily toward his frozen throne. Every army until the final one—the Arch-Iconoclast’s personal Praetorii, his elite honor guard, sent forth in a last ditch attempt to halt the Emperor’s vengeful hammer.

The Vostroyans could have fought men. They had bested every regiment of fallen PDF this miserable, frozen wasteland had thrown at them, outnumbered many times over in every major battle. The 114th could have defeated men—but the Praetorii were only the Enemy’s opening gambit.

They had come carrying great masses of teeming slaves and captives—tens of thousands of bound Imperial citizens. The tactical analysts had deemed those a low threat priority, at worst chattel to be driven forward and clog the 114th’s guns. The early strikes and opening moves had been against the Praetorii, a force equal in size and training—if not sheer grit and experience—to the Vostroyans. At last, the men had assumed, a level fight. No more underhanded tactics. No more horrors and atrocities. One last foe to best, then to stake the Arch-Iconoclast’s head upon a pike. Had they but fought men…

Vonsky, where are you?

The corporal froze, twisting around to look for the source of the voice. Nothing. The bitter wind lifted faint sprays of snow that swirled in vortexes, but no speaker manifested. The horizons remained uninterrupted, except for a faint black smudge where smoke rose from the battlefield.

The battlefield, oh horror of horrors. The Praetorii had stopped marching, digging in, the tacticians assumed, to erect earthworks. They were a threat that had to be quashed by the Vostroyan column, or face it harrying them from the rear for the rest of the way to the city.

But they hadn’t been building defenses, no, not so much. Sure, they’d set up a handful of snow berms, weapons emplacements, and prefab bunkers…but the vast bulk of their preparations had been spent on ritual. Foul designs had been carved deep into the permafrost, then those trenches had been filled with the lifeblood, viscera and intestines of the prisoners.

The arcane, forbidden symbols, hundreds of meters across, had carpeted the field. A perversion, to be sure, but not a threat. As the battle had commenced, however, the disgusted Vostroyans closing on their debased foe, the symbols had...opened.

I know you’ve changed, Vonsky. I can’t see you anymore. Where are you?


A woman’s voice. A voice that echoed from the past.

But there was nobody there. Nobody at all. He was alone. He was the only one that had survived.

He clutched his uniform closer around himself, cursing his numb and fumbling fingers. He’d been out in the snow long enough that his gloves no longer offered protection from it; the cold had seeped right through.

This was a place of savage elements. Vonsky knew cold. He was a Vostroyan, raised in a hard and frigid land, and he recognized this bone-chilling freeze. This was the deep cold, the blue cold, the killing cold that stole the breath and frostbit one to death. This was the cold so dangerous as to tempt a man to lie down, to allow the numbness to steal away one’s resolve to keep moving...

No. So long as he survived, the 114th persevered. For the honor of his regiment, he had to return and report their failure. To disappear so ignominiously would be a mark of deepest shame upon their record, worse even than their failure. He had to remember them, his brothers, to the scribes. He had to tell the galaxy, to tell Vostroya, how bravely his regiment had fought and fallen, facing hell itself. Never, in Saint Nadalya’s name, had he seen such one-sided carnage.

They had spilled onto the battlefield from the new-formed gateways the raw stuff of nightmares, daemons from the darkest and most shunned of all tales. Bloodthirsty beasts had ripped through the 114th, tearing men limb from limb like toys; had bathed them in mutating fires; had strode unharmed among mesmerized victims to revel in their deaths; and had shambled onward, in all their rotten horror, shrugged off wounds that would have lain a Space Marine low.

Vonsky had seen men rot and wither to dust in the space of seconds. He had seen single, dancing beauties cut through entire platoons like unstoppable whirlwind dervishes. Shrieking mantas had plucked men from the ranks to play with and shred a hundred meters in the air.

And still his brave companions had fought. True to their ancient debt, they had stood against the impossible, capering tide. Against this daemon apocalypse, this end of all days, as the sky warped and vomited multi-colored insanities above them, they had borne arms.

Until the daemonic masters had come forth. Good Emperor, their masters! The greater beasts, come forth only once enough blood had been shed; enough thousands of men had been slaughtered. Those had been the true horrors. The braying, blood-soaked god of warfare that had strode the battlefield, resplendent in its savagery. The rolling, massive ball of rotten pus that had gobbled men up like a gluttonous child would sweets. All of them, all too horrific to bear remembering.

Remember me, Vonsky. Come to me. Please...

He recalled a girl from his youth. Young, so young—they both had been. But he had been a firstborn child. A Firstborn. Payment for the ancient debt had been demanded, and it had been his duty and joy to go. The only pain had been to leave her. She would be older now. Older, and having known other lovers. Having married another man.

The cold air shimmered up ahead. He payed it no heed, clumping forward one slow, deliberate footstep at a time.

She would be older now. She would have forgotten him.

But, he saw, she now stood in front of him, beckoning. He stopped, shaking his head against the cold, which had crawled into his brain, making sluggish and confusing his thoughts.

“Vonsky, where have you been?”

She was older, now. The harsh Vostroyan life, working in the factories to produce materiel to feed scores of warzones, had etched lines in her face. A puffy scar trailed along her breastbone to vanish beneath her gown. Incredibly, in spite of the cold, she was barefoot. She wore only her dress, nothing more.

“Come along, Vonsky. You’ll catch your death out here in the cold.”

“Why-” he croaked, his unused voice cracking. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for you, Vonsky. Here to take you home. Come to me, Vonsky.”

Her voice was warm and inviting. It promised blankets and a fireside. It promised forgetfulness.

He staggered into motion once more, shuffling through the snow toward this long-lost memory. He followed her as she trailed ahead. She stepped lightly, glancing wistfully back to watch his progress. He followed, but his joints were unresponsive. His balance was poor. He fell to his knees and pushed himself, painfully, up again.

Forward. For deliverance and memory. Forward. Step. One foot after another. Step. Step. Step.

A pocket of snow collapsed under his foot and he fell again, toppling awkwardly onto his side.

He looked up. He couldn’t feel the cold anymore. She loomed there above him, glowing, all-enveloping.

“Vilenya...” he wheezed, an arm twitching toward her. But he was too tired. He could not lift it...could not...move...

He froze there. It was a slow death, but it was not, at least, painful. With him died his regiment’s honor and remembrance; with him ended the memory of a young girl, grown older now.

The entity watched the man’s life-spark ebb with curiosity and interest. It was not a daemon, but rather the faintest shadow of one. An echo. An errant whorl of chaotic energy, escaped from the playground behind.

When the end came, it left the body alone. It lacked the strength to move flesh, in any case. The man’s soul, however...

That it could devour with savage glee.

+
Last edited by Mossy Toes on Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Toes Incorporated [Dec 21: + Remembrance]

Postby Mossy Toes » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:54 am

A HOES entry. Rather artsy and with quite an intrusive author's voice. Inconsistent in format, wavering in theme... but I am proud of it all the same.

+

To Comprehend
(It Matters Not)


+

Society is a curious thing. It is not only made up of that which can be listed on a page: the simple numbers of manufactoria workers and listings of industrial output; the cultural quirks and ethnic make-up; the size and purpose of each major hive on a planet's surface; or the particulars of the ruling houses of the uppermost caste.

Society is human interaction. Sex, laughter, and commiseration. Shared ideas and values. Aggravations people inflict on each other out of sheer spite. Vigils whose purpose has long since been forgotten by the vigil-holders. Numberless conversations, schemes and collaborations between billions of citizens—society consists of these systems of civilization, these deeds that are empty and worthless to all but those who enact them. All humans alive interact with those that surround them.

Put yourself in their places. You are the aging Imperial Guardsman pensioner whose bones ache in the morning. You are the single mother feeding her three children as best she can. You are the lonely clerk who considered suicide, but remembered sharing a smile with a co-worker the previous day and wavered. You are the successful entrepreneur, struggling to retain your Administratum storefront property license. You are the petty thief. You are the child, the man, the woman, the elder. You are a member of this productive society and you have this bond with all others: you are not alone, even in your deepest desperation and desolation. It the nature of this bond, this unity of experience and emotion, that makes society strong.

Now, let us take this nameless planet's society. Hold these ten billion lives, if you can, in your mind.

Erase them.

Those people are gone; dead. Wipe clean this populated slate. Let the skies open in your mind's eye and allow a bombardment to from the heavens rain down. Plasma and melta torpedoes, biochemical gasses, lance strikes, cyclonic charges. Any of them. All of them.

The earth shakes, weeping blood and crumbling beneath the pitiless punishment. Fault lines crack open into chasms that stretch a thousand kilometers, vomiting rivers of lava across the planet's fertile plains and valleys. Buildings, cities, hives, and all the edifices of man slough away and are washed from its surface like layers of dead skin. The innocent teal sky is gone, swallowed by a roiling, red-tinged darkness. The sun is a faint, guttering ball, choked out by soot and despair. Fire rains. Destruction reigns.

Hear them crying out in terror, the inhabitants of this world, as they die: All the prostitutes, junkies and scum; all the devoted parents and lonely people just trying to make their way in an uncaring galaxy; all the nobles, priests and politicians. All of them gone, each tiny world snuffed out.

Vast tracts of land, thousands of square kilometers each, are laid to waste by the orbital bombardments and left to smolder. Above these build massive heat-cyclones of overwhelming fire and ash. Smog-black clouds spill outward from the epicenters of destruction, accompanied on the ground by a wave of heat hundreds of degrees strong. Vegetation withers and dies. Bracken and loam spontaneously combust, causing raging, unchecked wildfires across the planet.

The world's ecosystems sputter, gasp, and die. Forests burn away to knots of blackened, twisted trunks, and animals of all species are roasted by the million. Insects cook in their carapaces by the trillion. Gulfs, rivers and oceans boil, or become so polluted by ash and ruin that they run black. Schools of fish float belly-up in the effluence that cakes the waters.

On the lips of the victorious Imperium, whose ships have crushed this petty tithe-based insurrection, whose might has quashed this pathetic revolt masterminded by a handful of nobles, there is but a condescending sneer.

And the world is ruined; and the world is empty; and the world is dead. Millions of unique species have been rendered extinct. Billions of humans have been scoured from its surface.

Can the mind of a single human encompass this so-total destruction? Most members of the Imperium know only their home planet, nothing more. They live self-centered lives—can they truly imagine the potency of a million deaths? Ten million? A hundred million? A billion? Ten billion? Every person you have known, loved, hated, met in passing, heard about, passed on the street, and seen in a thronging crowd—can you imagine all of them dead? Not only that, but that everyone that everyone you've ever seen has ever seen is dead too, and is an inconsequential fraction of the whole?

No memories remain of those that are lost. Those who would mourn these multitudes, these billions, are themselves dead. There is no native seed that can sprout anew from this scorched earth. There are no scars that time will mend, because no living flesh remains that can be scarred.

This planet's death is a finite bubble; the small illustration of a grander theme repeated anywhere across the vastness of this galaxy, and repeated endlessly along the long voyage that is time. For every death here—incomprehensible as they are to consider in the vastness of the event's magnitude—the event itself is repeated a thousandfold; a billionfold. Necrontyr turn on Old Ones, Krork turn on their vassal races, Man turns on itself, and the galaxy dances to the same tragic waltz.

In a thousand years, or two, or five, this planet will be resettled. Once tectonic activity calms, once the atmosphere purges itself of the toxins that choke it, once the surviving species evolve to fill now-empty ecological niches.

Perhaps the settlers will be the monolithic, ten-thousand-plus-year-old Imperium—if, in its crumbling decrepitude, it survives that long. Perhaps it will be settled by another empire of man, or an alien and unknowable race. But settled it shall be, for life in this galaxy of wonders searches ever to expand and grow.

They will not find this any trace of these lost billions. They shall not know that they air they breath is the dust of lost humanity, so tragically and abruptly severed. They'll not know the loves, the frustrations, and the accomplishments of all those erased in this cataclysm.

But then—what did the souls lost in this cataclysm know of all who lived before them? What did they know of the lives lived, and forgotten, in the whispering dawn of man, when the rising ape met the falling angel? Will those who now die be known to those who come after any more than those now dying knew of mankind before it stepped out into the endless sea of stars; than they knew of life on Ancient Terra?

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Re: Toes Incorporated [April 4: + To Comprehend]

Postby Mossy Toes » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:35 am

+

Upon Reflection
RiaR: Hunter

+

Chazia the Perverse watched in surprise as he died. That the assassin reached him at all, in the depths of his palace, was testament to her extreme skill—and cause, certainly, to discipline his guards.

He was sitting in a gilded bathtub cutting his arms with a silver knife and watching the blood diffuse into the soapless bathwater. A figure entered: his killer. She was a lithe woman in form-fitting leathers, whose steps were graceful and made no sound on the tiled floor. She carried an elegant, bright-edged blade in each hand.

She was a sleek one, certainly. O, the things Chazia would do to her, given the opportunity. But whoever sent her had certainly taken that into account and laced her flesh with traps. He could remove them, given time and the inclination, but his mood was currently bent toward the whimsical rather than the practical, and in any case-

But this diverges from the matter of his death. Chazia did not look up as the death cult assassin approached. She approached him from behind and ran him through him.

“But,” his last words were as he slumped over, “this isn't a holiday.”

+

Chazia looked up from his scrying bowl, frowning in disgust.

“This isn't a holiday?” he muttered to himself. “How shameful. I ought to have said—well, I ought to say something altogether more prepossessing. I apologize, me, for having settled on such an inanity.

“Oh, apology accepted, of course. Nothing to do but avoid it when the time comes.

“Should I make preparations? Alert the guards? The guards are idiots; they'll still miss her. Hm, hmmm. I'm sure something will come up. And she's such a pretty little thing, too!”

He ambled from the scrying bowl over to his wardrobe. He felt like wearing something... avian, today. To pay respects to his god, for once. A little thanks for this particular vision drifting across his bowl. Here was that one particular feathered headdress, plucked only from the tails of extinct species. That would do—and hold the rest of the outfit. He would go nude apart from the headdress.

“Next,” he muttered, beginning to strip off his multicolored robes, “to see to those dreary petitioners.”

+

The petitioners had been dispatched to Chazia's satisfaction. Having some thrown into the lion pit had been an especially nice touch, he felt. A classic one. Too bad they didn't have any lions; Scylvendi vhip-fiends would have to do.

He felt filthy, though. Disposing of this daemon world's various tribesmen always left him feeling soiled. Ah well. Everyone had unpleasant duties. At least he was allowed free reign with his imagination for this one.

Dirty. Time for a bath. Though... wasn't there something else he had to do? Hmm. Something, yes, certainly. But it slipped his mind at the moment, and what was the point of being an insane magus if he couldn't shirk duties every now and then? Whatever it was could wait until after the bath, certainly.

Still wearing only his headdress, he ambled through his various suites and quarters (happening across more than a few curiosities that he had otherwise forgotten—including an ornate silver knife, which he picked up and carried with him) until he found his bathing room.

He ran some water and realized that the damn fool servant hadn't refilled the soap. That might have been on account of Chazia blasting him to ash some weeks previously, but it was still remiss of him in his duties. Chazia might have to call up his soul and blast it again.

Nothing to it, then. He slipped into the bathwater, toying with the knife he had brought with him. An accidental slip led to a cut, a cut demanded reciprocation, duplication, chastisement, and all the twenty-seven violations of the flesh. Chastisement was a particular favorite of his—punishment of the flesh for punishment of the flesh. A delicious little truth of the universe.

From the cuts ran blood, which beaded and plipped into the bathwater. The blood slowly swelled outward, each drop billowing into the water in intricate patterns. A smile hinted at Chazia's lips.

The fragrance of steel, a whispering sigh.

Chazia turned and made an idle gesture. The assassin, poised to strike, crumpled into a heap on the floor. Her eyes betrayed her shock but her body was limp. He slipped from the pink bathwater, setting it sloshing, and stepped delicately over to the assassin.

“What,” asked Chazia, resting the knife on her carotid artery, “did you think it was a holiday?”

He cut.

He stood. Would they ever learn; his legions of enemies? His underlings, his overlings, the Imperials... would any of them learn? One cannot kill a scryer so easily.

He smirked and stepped back over to his bathtub. Now, to see how this rippled into his future. What delightful little chastisements would fate attempt to throw at him for this particular violation? He smoothed the rippling bathwater with a thought. It would make a fine scrying mirror.

No vision appeared. Chazia frowned, exerting his will more forcefully. The water remained stubbornly pink and transparent. What was this about, then? This was hardly the first, or even hundredth time he'd disrupted his own fated future. What blocked his view, now? He called on his powers in earnest and tried again—nothing.

A chill very much unrelated to the water soaking his form ran through him. Paranoias skittered through his brain. What was this? Hikeldos the Flirtatious making an overture, perhaps? Chazia wanted none of that. He might be perverse, but he was not suicidal.

A wave of nausea swept through him. He found himself vomiting his supper into the bathwater. A pity; those cherubs had tasted so good on the way down.

Footsteps at the doorway. An unreasoning wave of terror washed over Chazia as he turned, which was soon replaced by a very reasoning, very much greater wave of terror when he saw the newcomer.

“Not one assassin,” he whimpered, “but two. And the second-”

The second assassin was genderless and emaciated; a withered frame dressed in a taut black jumpsuit. Its resemblance to a skeleton was only heightened by its helm: a large skull, of which one massive, lensed eye glowed red.

No wonder Chazia couldn't scry anything: one could not psychically see what did not psychically exist. In a way, he was flattered. He had risen so high that the High Lords of Terra themselves had sent a hunter to snuff him out.

The assassin approached. Crackling anti-energy built around the helm's terrible Occularis.

At this point, there was no point in running. For once in his life, Chazia didn't fight fate. He sat down in the vomit-flecked water and waited for the Culexus assassin to kill him.

It obliged.

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What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator!
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Re: Toes Incorporated [April 12: + Upon Reflection]

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun May 06, 2012 12:51 am

(something nontraditional, as an effort to get some of the 40k-related thoughts that have been rattling around in my skull for too long out. Enjoy!)

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OUR ETERNAL DUTY, Vol. XXI: Dutiful Ignorance
A Lecture By Inquisitor Chaisor Braehm Regarding Hope and Knowledge As Such Sins Relate To The Inquisitor-In-Training


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It is impossible for an inquisitor to be wrong unless she* is wrong.

When I pose this blatant contradiction to my classes and ask them to unravel it, I receive explanations along the following vein, to quote an illustrative example verbatim:

“Loss of face. An inquisitor cannot afford to show weakness or to deign to explain herself. She must always be superior and the admission of failure degrades that superiority faster than anything except, perhaps, camaraderie. If her disguise is outed, then she flashes her rosette and tells the subject she was trying to fool that its ears misled it—she was never attempting to disguise herself at all. She has to hope her authority and reputation will carry the required weight.”

Aah, but the student were going so well, there, until the end. He was riding the wrong tram of thought entirely, of course, but still going well. Of course, the question was not why an inquisitor cannot be seen to be wrong. It was why an inquisitor is never wrong.

His example was flaccid, though it held some merit. The argument did not wholly invalidate itself—until the last sentence dribbled from his lips.

You see, he said that one must hope one's authority is enough. Hope.

There is no cancer so virulent or insidious as hope. To hope is to renounce agency over one's actions; to put oneself at the mercy of greater, merciless powers. Hope is the deluded product of a frail mind.

One must know the inevitability of one's success in order to succeed. The Emperor does not hope for victory; He is simply victorious in all things. Inquisitors are the Emperor's Will and Word made manifest. It is impossible for the inquisitor who believes this fact utterly to fail in her duty, for she is as the Emperor. Only the inquisitor who doubts this simple fact can fail, as too many do.

We are mortals attempting to assume the mantle of God, seeking to enact His perfect justice through our flawed bodies. Between the idea and the reality, between the intention and the motion, falls the shadow. Inquisitors fail when they doubt their triumph, the Emperor's triumph, and fall back upon hope.

That is why you must know that an inquisitor is never wrong but when she is wrong. So, then: beyond that single certainty, what else must you know in the line of duty?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Some amongst our number hold that knowledge is power. This is an outright falsehood. It indicates nothing but how deeply the rot of radicalism has seeped into our organization. Hold fast to the motto of the Inquisition, the only place where you can find solace: 'Everything you have been told is a lie.'

Knowledge is not power. Ignorance is power, and knowledge serves only to dilute it. Ignorance is the cornerstone of the Imperium, upon which all His servants rely. The citizen must remain ignorant of the horrors of which it has no conception. The soldier must remain ignorant of the foe's capabilities, lest the edge of its fervor be blunted by terror.

It is girded by such ignorance that the Emperor lifts us to victory. To know the enemy's overwhelming strength is to know the inevitability of your defeat. She who knows her victory is impossible has already lost. We throw ourselves at the enemy not knowing that our failure is certain, that our foe has bested heroes and warriors far mightier than us, and are victorious purely because we knew not how much we had to fear. Ignorance is our aegis while faith is our blade—and faith is surrendering, in ignorance, to the Emperor.

The inquisitor must be without doubt, fear or grief. These are levers upon which the Archenemy asserts infinite pressure, shattering the best among our number like mere glass—should such a lever find purchase on one's psyche. That is why in ignorance you find solace. Do not know the ten billion lives you consign to Exterminatus except in the most abstract sense, lest the weight of so very many deaths crush your conscience.

The true inquisitor is secure in the fortress of her arrogance; in the inevitability of her own success. To know the measure of her enemy and the measure of her own actions would be to invite despair. It would force her to hope that she acts in the Emperor's best interests.

The Sermon Primaris of the Ordo Xenos states, 'Know thine enemy, for you are known to him already.' This is the rot within that I have mentioned before. This school of thought holds that to combat the enemy without knowing his methods and capabilities is foolish suicide that often furthers the enemies aims.

These inquisitors, with their hollow, straw-filled heads, represent the Radical; they are utterly faithless and lacking in conviction. Their purpose is not pure so they know, deep in their craven hearts, that the Emperor will not protect them. As such, they shore up their defenses against their inevitable failure with such flimsy tools as logic, reason and rational thought. They are doomed, however, as all such defenses crumble in time. The Emperor knows their inner minds, and that is their undoing.

I say, in response to the Sermon Primaris, let the enemy know the Inquisition. Let the enemy know that our vengeance and wrath comes for him, and cower from it. The inquisitor, however, needs not to know her enemy in return in order to crush it. Be it witch, mutant, xenos, daemon, apostate or radical, it opposes the Emperor in opposing her.

In response, it shall learn that the Emperor is just as merciless and cruel as the thirsting deities of the warp.

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*Throughout this lecture, the role of inquisitor shall be referred to in the feminine, purely for the purpose of confronting any in-built assumption you as an inquisitorial cadet or explicator might hold.
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Re: Toes Incorporated [May 5: + Dutiful Ignorance]

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:01 am

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Iocounu Station

1149 words (plus title)
RiaR: Turning winner
This story can be found in extended form here.


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The world turned.

Axial rotation, angular momentum. Iocounu Station was a small world, all things considered. It was a carefully designed, delicately balanced world: a tiny ring of steel spinning through the night sky. It turned ceaselessly, pirouetting through its stately orbit of Iocounu below and held to that ellipse by constant, careful adjustment in the form of the half-kilometer plasma flares of its six stabilization jets.

The world turned by slow degrees, and within it, Lhyme fled for his life. He was sobbing uncontrollably as he ran, and his. The air reeked of piss and bile. The corridor’s walls pressed in on him with the weight of the darkest possible theological revelation.

Daemons.

Lhyme had never been a religious man--for all that he, as a foreman, had enjoyed putting the fear of the Emperor into his charges--so it absolutely shattered him to be forced into belief in this way. And what the things had done to his workers: splashing through their organs, playing nonsense games with shattered limbs, and gleefully torturing survivors… he shuddered at the recollection. He been the only one to make the lift in time.

It was that damned Chalroes; he was sure of it. That sickly new arrival had been bending ears around the station for weeks now, poking his nose where it didn’t belong. It had to be Chalroes who had brought these horrors into the station.

Finally, he reached the barracks. He came to a horrified halt. Not here. Not here too.

The corpses of Iocounu Station’s guardsmen were interwoven with each other in a mangled heap. As he watched, flayed flesh twitched and exposed bones snapped. The writhing corpses of a handful of guardsmen reared up, crumpled into the misshapen lobe of what was unmistakably a head. The lips of each of the amalgamation’s constituent bodies twitched into a score of gurgling giggles.

“We’re coming for you, Mister Man,” the hulking abomination simpered as it undulated slowly forward. “We know you. We surround you. We’re all throughout this spinning playground. We can always find you, Mister Man.”

The lighting died and red emergency lights came on, casting a hellish glow on the abomination’s writhing fleshscape. Lhyme let out an animal whimper and fled. Delighted laughter followed him, hounded him, and bored like a drill into his brain.

He tried to imagine a place where he might be safe, but the thing’s words rang altogether too true, and there was no telling when he might run into more of its horrific ilk. The station was too small--a bare handful of kilometers in circumference. He thrust away such concerns in favor of flight.

Things followed; things that crawled and skittered, that clattered behind air vents and leered from the shadows. Insubstantial wraiths mouthed obscenities and plucked at his clothes. A group of tall, eyeless creatures straightened from their meal of human corpses and turned their heads to follow his passage. Their snakelike tongues licked their bloodstained lips.

Lhyme drifted as he ran, for a time, floating on a cushion of shocked disbelief. His dislocation was punctured by the corpse of a daemon, which dragged him to a halt. So they could die, after all. So somebody up here was killing them.

He crept timorously to the distended corpse. Lasbolts had pierced its hide, and the slayer’s bootprints in the black ichor headed spinward along the station’s ring. Lhyme followed them.

More bodies, both human and daemon. Some of the daemons had died by lasbolt, and some by blade. Once he lost the trail of bodies and had to backtrack. Once he was forced to hide from a macabre stampede of pustule-ridden imps. The trail ascended into the innerworks: the tightest circle of passages in the ring.

At long last, nearly too late, Lhyme found the daemon hunter. The corpses of six pale, chitinous androgynes lay dead around him. Slumped against the wall, bleeding through rents in his carapace armor, was Chalroes. He was whiter now than ever, paler even than the daemon corpses around him, and a shattered sword was clutched in his hand.

“Lhyme,” Chalroes croaked as the foreman approached.

“It was--you? You killed them? Emperor, I’d thought--you had brought them.”

“The rot was already here,” said Chalroes, every word an ordeal. His free hand flopped to his belt pouch. “Couldn’t stop it. But no time. Dying. You have to…” he broke off coughing. Lhyme knelt beside Chalroes and fished the object out of his pouch--hissing, recoiling and nearly dropping the rosette when he saw it.

Chalroes’s lips twitched in a humorless smile. “Have to get outside. Station can’t be allowed to survive. Redirect stabilization jets… hub cables.” Lhyme flinched at the thought, but… what was there left, here in the station? Ruin, desecration, atrocity. He nodded tremulously.

“Get to airlock. Foreman’s authority… should suffice. I’d give you my laspistol, but… empty.” Chalroes laughed at that for some reason, painfully letting out a low, hitched chuckle. Then Inquisitor Chalroes fell still, lifeblood leaking from his lips.

Lhyme stood hesitantly, then balled his fists. He had a job to do.

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It took him hours--evading daemons, using a plasma cutter to cut his way out the powered-down airlock, clunking across the interior of the ring in a vac-suit, then turning the plasma cutter carefully, oh so carefully, to the support struts and fastenings on the nearest stabilization jet--but he did it.

He watched with grim satisfaction as the jet pivoted, twisting against its remaining struts beneath its own thrust. The vast jet of superheated plasma swept inward, cutting across and severing nine of the dozens of cables that fastened the station to its hub; that balanced the massive, incredible stresses of the station’s rotation against each other. The jet continued its sweeping path to score the inside of the ring, cutting through layers of decking which vented atmosphere in great gouts.

Adamantium and steel groaned. The station shuddered violently, increasingly violently, as the rotary tension was distributed unevenly and yet more cables snapped. An hour passed, and the station ring began to warp into an oval. The hub writhed, a spider with a web whose threads were being snipped one by one.

Metal clashed with inertia, and metal lost. The station cracked and broke apart, chunks of the ring snapping off and spinning into decaying orbits in Iocounu’s gravity well. Lhyme, thrown away from the station in its dying convulsions, watched his home die with tears in his eyes.

He’d done his best, and succeeded in destroying the daemons. That’s all he could tell the Emperor, when he met Him--and he was sure, now, that he would meet Him. If there were daemons, it stood to reason that the Emperor opposed them.

His vac-suit began to heat up as he accelerated on his shallow arc toward Iocounu. He would burn up in reentry, but that didn’t matter.

He’d done his best.

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Re: Toes Incorporated [May 5: + Dutiful Ignorance]

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:04 am

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How Fragile the Skein

1119 words
RiaR: Undone entry


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Kierm shifted in her sweat-soaked sheets, not daring to open her eyes, not daring to focus on the throbbing voices enough to understand them. What they would be saying was simple enough: she hadn't the chance of a pure soul in the warp to live.

She had seen what the bolt round had done to her gut, before she had passed out from blood loss. The Traitor Marines had gunned down her entire platoon, and she was no exception. She'd just been given a lingering death, that's all. She didn't know how she had been found, why she had been taken to an infirmary, but she knew that she wouldn't survive the wound. She remembered her immobile, unresponsive legs sprawled out beneath her, and seeing the ruin of her intestines spilling around her fingers as she clutched at the gaping, cratered edges of the hole, the hole in her stomach…

Her body shook at the visceral recollection, but her lower half remained numb.

It was a miracle she had survived this long—hours? Days? Other injured soldiers of the PDF would need the bed, she knew, other, more fortunate men and women who would live out the rest of their lives as cripples—but who would, all the same, live.

It would be a mercy to kill her, they would be saying now, to spare her however much more of these torture.

She didn't want to die. Not so soon; not so young. She had been invincible, the scrappy young undercover who had risen to the ranks of the PDF and knew she would keep rising. She'd marched proudly with her regiment. She shouldn't have been injured like this, shouldn't be ruined and thrown away without accomplishing anything at all with her life.

Knowing this only added to the all-consuming pain. She didn't want to die, but couldn't even summon the energy to croak as much through her parched lips.

So Kierm prayed.

She prayed to the Emperor, Creator of All, who watched from the Golden Throne. She prayed to His Nine Sons. She prayed to the Omnissiah and the beeping machine spirits that surrounded her cot. She prayed to the small saints and ancestors of the underhive. She prayed to St. Melchias the Wanderer, for what was this road down which she tossed and turned in her bed but life's final pathway, in need of warding? She prayed to Two-Faced Miettra, the Trickster Hag, for what needed she here but to cheat the dice one last time? She prayed, and prayed, and prayed, but heard only silence, and felt only agony and creeping numbness.

She slept. Her bowels moved, accompanied by pulsating waves of unbearable pain and, she imagined, an undammable flow of blood. She was fed several spoonfuls of soup and several sips of water by gentle hands—sustenance forced back out in a fit of weak, retching convulsions. Her head was held, stroked, and sponged clean.

She wondered, in her nausea, weakness and disorientation, who cared for her. The Sisters Hospitalier? Insanity. She was nobody, absolutely nothing of importance. She prayed. She wept.

She slept, and was torn back into waking by the pain of their changing her bandages, red sodden bandages, where clean white linen had been applied.

Had it been days nice her platoon was killed, now? Or hours? Had she only just been dragged in off the corpse heap? Or were the staff so overworked by a press on injuries that they had put off changing her bandages for far longer than they needed to? Had they changed her bandages before, without her noticing? No, she would have felt that pain. She prayed. She wept.

Her delirium deepened. White flashes of light interrupted her attempts at concentration, and her limbs tingled. A miasmatic fugue descended on her, deadening and crazing her thoughts. Always there was the pain, the insane predator gnawing on the coiled ropes of her intestines.

She began to fear death less, and hope for it more than half-heartedly. She wouldn't recover from this. Why didn't the chirurgeons kill her? She was a drain on their time, energy and resources, and every moment she spent alive—every crawling, rattling breath—she spent in pain. She hated them for not killing her, hated the Emperor for being spiteful enough to prolong her torment so.

Had she died, then? This was not the Emperor's Golden Throne, before which she would stand toe judged, nor was it the writhing, insane warp into which sinners were cast. She didn't think she had died, but this pain… she didn't see what else it could be.

So many question, no answers. Nothing but the pain. Never anything but the pain—she couldn't even remember the lapses of unconsciousness that blotted the pain out, however briefly.

Until…

"Awaken, soldier."

The voice wormed its way into her mind, cutting through the pain and reverberating through her mind. It frightened her, in a way: she'd fled here, inside herself, to escape reality, and now somebody was forcing his way inside to reach her.

"Awaken."

It rattled around in her mind and forced open her eyes. The light was blinding, bringing tears to her eyes, but it slowly resolved into a blurry figure.

"What is your name, soldier?"

"K-" she croaked. Water was dribbled down her throat. "Kierm," she managed.

"You have done well, Kierm. Do you know who you fought against?"

The recollection of those hulking, unstoppable figures tore a sob from her. "Death," she whimpered.

"Yes, death. The unmakers of worlds. Space Marines, fallen into betrayal. It is a terrible, terrible truth that His Angels of Death can so fall, but the Emperor spared you: He has a plan for you. Can you help me fulfill that plan, Trooper Kierm?"

"I don't…" Kierm said, trying to make the words, "I mean…how could He demand…more of me?"

"Shhh," came the soothing reply. "All you have to do is answer me a few questions about your enemies. How many were there? What did you notice about their armor?"

"I just want… to rest," she whimpered. "I don't want to hurt any more. Please tell Him… please tell Him I don't want to hurt any more."

The blurry figure moved above her, growing larger. A gentle kiss was planted on her forehead. "It's all right, Kierm. You can tell Him yourself."

The figure backed away and spoke to another person in the room. The mental contact of the voice withdrew. "Another one too damaged to give us anything useful. Damn. How fragile the skein of life; how easy to see it undone. Give her the Emperor's Mercy; I'll head to the next ward now."

The reply was a muted, "Yes, Inquisitor."

Kierm wept with relief.
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Re: Toes Incorporated [Jan 10: + A Memory, Sundered

Postby Mossy Toes » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:13 am

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A Memory, Sundered
1100 words

Based on "The Fall of Kher-Ys" in Codex: Chaos Daemons, and borrowing heavily from the sonnet "Grief," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


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Kher-Ys is not silent, not yet. The Craftworld is utterly desolate, but oh no, it is not silent. So long as any of her people live, her corridors still ring with the remembered death cries of her people and the laughter of their slayers.

And one still lives. On a staircase in a despoiled courtyard, untouched by the ruination of her world, a white-gowned eldar maiden weeps and cradles the corpse of Kher-Ys's autarch: her father. His armor is rent and his corpse defiled. His spirit stone has been cruelly shattered and the silver wraithbone key he always wears around his neck, a finely-wrought locus of psychic power, is missing.

Human grief is an immense thing, capable of overwhelming any defenses the grieving can erect, but it is a pale thing by comparison to the true grief of an eldar. It is but warm, shallow and tempestuous water: never knowing the cold, deep sorrows to which the heart can truly sink. Hopeless grief is passionless; only those incredulous of despair, those half-taught in anguish, can possibly shriek in reproach and beat with futile fists against the fickle fates.

The maiden sits in the fading fragments and shattered shards of her world, and there can be no balm to ease her injury. As far as the eye can see, the crystalline landscape of Kher-Ys is dead. Its elegant structures are milky and discolored, and have been crazed into distorted, shattered parodies of their former beauty. The Aspect Shrines have been defiled. The sibilant, soothing song of the Infinity Circuit has died. The corpses of her people are scattered in horrific commonality: the abandoned playthings of a capricious god. She is the last, and memories of cruel laughter grant her no respite.

Why was she spared by the servants of She Who Thirsts? Why was so perfect and unflawed a soul not fought over rapaciously? Only because the greatest among the Dark Prince's servants present had already claimed her.

A shifting in the taste of the air presages his arrival: a faint and cloying musk the maiden finds achingly familiar. A gentle wash of warmth. A faint, fiery crackle. The scrape of metal upon wraithbone.

"Express grief for thy dead in a silence like to death," says the soft and tender voice she knows so well, "most like a monumental statue set in everlasting watch and moveless woe, till it crumbles to the dust beneath. Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet: if it could weep, it could arise and go."

She turns to face him: the immense, measureless blasphemy of that malign spirit possessing the Avatar of Kher-Ys. Its molten metal flesh has been twisted into a panoply of cruel barbs and foul sigils and its ever-bleeding right hand, the symbol of Khaine, has been severed. Its fires are banked and fading, no longer fueled by the orgy of destruction in which it has taken part: they shine faintly through the cracks in its ash-colored metal hide and glimmer with an avid cruelty in its eyes. When it speaks, smoke wafts between its dull, pitted lips. An ornate silver key dangles at its waist.

"Ail," she says. It is all she can say.

"Ilthania," he replies, nodding in deference. "Is not this form more fitting to my true nature? A demigod am I, now: the wrathful Young King bathed in sacred fire, capable of redeeming our declining race."

His every word is a cut across the tattered remnants of her heart, recalling the daydreams they had idly shared. Such daydreams had lured her, initially, from Kher-Ys abroad onto the Path of the Outcast. There, she had met and been bound inexorably to him: laughing Ail, beautiful Ail, compassionate Ail, whom she had thought to be a fellow Ranger. Ail, whom she had loved with the depths of the heart that only an eldar can bring to bear, and had assumed the love reciprocated. Ail, whom she had brought home to her Craftworld and inside its wards. Those wards had come crashing down, unlocked by the key at this Ail-Avatar's waist after he stolen it from the autarch's neck while the latter slept.

"Why?" Ilthania asks. She has to know.

"Secrets are my stock and trade to Keep," he replies, "but you have given me so generous a gift that I can tell you this. Among your kin, I am aptly named, and in that name lies the only reason that I need, my love: I am Ail'Slath'Sleresh, the Heartslayer."

"Your love?" she says, her voice curdled by a note of disgust and choked by the immensity of her emotions.

"My love. My purest, truest love--as befits your beauty." No smoke comes from his mouth, now, and when he extends his remaining hand, the cooling metal of his being creaks in protest. "Chaos is not a solely destructive force: the truth of Creation, the building up, is just as vital as that of Annihilation, the shattering of what has been built. Your life in wasting sorrow, now, is so very much sweeter than an abridging death."

Ilthania does not reply. What could she possibly say? Full desertness, in souls as well as countries, lies bare under the blanching, vertical eye-glare of truth in absolute.

Ail's stolen body cools further. The light in his cavernous eye sockets flickers. At last he moves again, and his still-extended left hand groans in protest as it reaches down to lightly touch her cheek. His metal fingers are cool where they touch her alabaster flesh.

Then his fires die and Ail's presence is gone. The scene is a tableau: The looming, defiled Avatar frozen in a lover's caress; the maiden sitting on the stairs; the fallen autarch, head still resting in her lap; and about them, the tragic dissolution of Kher-Ys.

After a suspended, infinite moment, Ilthania stands. She takes the key from the Avatar's waist and rests it, once more, around her father's neck. Then she departs, wandering as far as she can within the Craftworld's bounds. She seeks some unsullied place to hide herself away, but she will not find one, for the servants of the Dark Prince have been thorough in their play.

Before long, she will die. Though she eats and drinks not, it will not be deprivation that is her end. Nor will she visit harm upon her flesh, for to do as such would be to act in bitter parody of the violence of her foes.

She will die nonetheless, bearing what no heart can bear. Perhaps then, at long last, the drifting shell of Craftworld Kher-Ys will fall silent.

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What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator!
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Re: Toes Incorporated [Jan 10: + A Memory, Sundered]

Postby Mossy Toes » Fri Apr 29, 2016 7:53 am

Good grief I'm good. I'd rather... forgotten most of these stories. Ah well, I guess the crushing pressure to re-immerse myself in 40k writing with the submissions window closing in 16 hours serves as a good enough cause to look back.
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