Heat, it was the first thing he felt, even wrapped in the shimmering cloths in his pod. The First Sensation he felt in his existence, was Heat, and he knew it was heat. Subconsciously, subliminally he understood what the new sensation washing over him was. It was heat unlike any other, beyond the simple fact his pod was burning through the simmering atmosphere, the world he was hurtling to was Hot. It was covered in heat so pure and simple, that its surface was more molten than solid. Rivers of liquid metal flowed down towering mountains of simmering gold. Yet it was not gold, it was Brass, Titanium, Aluminum all of these were glinting in the bright light of the Red Giant this world called its Sun. He could feel it, even protected as he was, the Heat.
The Heat, it was comforting. He felt its warm embrace caress him to his core, and it caused him to slumber deeper even through this hectic scenario. His pod was wrapped in fire, hurtling towards an unforgiving world wrapped in flame and metal, its ground caked with charred stone and vegetation so brutal its bark was partially metal as well. The lakes he passed over were perpetually boiling, sending plumes of white steam into the air like great pillars. His pod swerved, veering due to the drag, or something else entirely, sending it rocketing down into the crevices of the burning world into the cooler shadows.
His burning pod swerved once more, dipping into a Golden City, carved into the very walls of this great canyon. Gleaming marble, coated with decorative golden brass and filigreed silver Aluminum. The buildings style called back to the older Greco-Roman architecture of Terra's forgotten past. Great Palisades rising into the air, walls meant more for containing the citizenry than preventing an invasion. Yet the people that walked the streets seemed no worse for it all, nor for the heat. Their skin was like Pale Ash, deepening in color with some, with others being even paler than the majority. His pod passed over large Vending Areas, over guards and commoner alike. Shooting across this gleaming city, towards a pristine building situated at its center. Passing over the outer walls, his Pod finally crashed. Sending dirt and Stone flying in all directions as the pod finally was pulled from its great journey to rest at last.
He still slept, and yet even as he did so he could feel his blood shifting, his skin changing as his body adapted. As if it knew that the world he had landed on demanded a different sort of person to survive its intense climate. His skin became ashy white, the tone deepening only slightly. His veins swam black, then highlighted with a Brassy tone, and his eyes darkened with the whites bleeding to black and his pupils burning to that Golden Brass. He was aware, he could feel them coming, and so could the pod. Its covering retracting as voices whispered, swords and spears rattling even as the cock of guns and the whine of lasguns could be heard in the back. Yet they were silenced with a shout, as a Man and a Woman approached the pod. Covered in pure white vestments, with purple and gold embroidery along the edges. His Golden Eyes took in the first sight it had truly ever saw, the man and woman he would come to call Father and Mother. He was silent, he did not cry nor make any sort of sound, as he examined them and they examined he. The woman broke into a bright smile, reaching down she lifted his small form from the pod and held him aloft, as if to look at him more closely. He soon found himself buried in her bosom, her now revealed stomach with a slight turn of a curve revealing she was with child. He could tell, she was going to take him. To make him her child, yet he did not have the words for this, he simple understood it as a feeling.
They spoke hurriedly, as the Man dismissed the guards minus those they had take his pod back to the home. The woman cooing relentlessly at him, enraptured by him, drawn to him in ways she couldn't understand as her matronly instincts took over full force. "Baramidius, what shall we call him. He has come from the heavens, sent as a gift to us by the spirit beyond the sky." she said with a full smile bright and gleaming. The male came over, running an hand over the short hair on the childs head looked thoughtful for a moment. "Kargon, we shall call him Kargon. After the Great Hero of old, the one who captured star fire for his forge." he spoke, with a deep resounding voice.
The newly named Kargon looked at them both, before one of his hands reached up and pat against his mothers cheek, softly stroking it as he committed her and his fathers face to memory. He would always remember this moment.
Though night had fallen, the full moon had allowed her to pick her path carefully. Still, were she not an experienced tracker than she’d likely be cursing the consequences of her choice all the fiercer. The rest of the tribe was already packing up, having been disturbed from their current campsite by the falling star. When she had voiced her interest in seeing the star for herself, most of the tribe had disagreed. Quite loudly at that. Still, she insisted. It wasn’t often one got to see a star up close, after all. And she was curious as to what could bring one down.
The rest of the tribe was waiting for her. But she would have to make this quick. They indulge her because she was the top tracker, and just that very night the tribe had been preparing to feast upon the fallen beasts she had slain. But their patience would not last forever, and rightfully so. Between the full moon and the pillar of smoke, her destination was clear, even if her path was not. The smoke, while a marker, also worried her somewhat. It had rained recently, but even then the fire might have spread. And if it did so too quickly…
Well, regardless of her own curiosity it may still be a good thing that the tribe was packing up.
She ducked under a branch, cursing the way it had nearly snapped into her face, and the spray of water it had slapped her with. The sound the falling star had made was loud. Very loud. Most beasts would be scared away by it, which helpfully accounted for the easy time she was currently having on her lonesome. Still, she kept her spear ready just in case. She didn’t get this far by not being duly cautious.
The transition was as jarring as it was sudden.
One moment she was using her spear to shove aside a particularly large batch of leaves she knew for a fact secreted a slime that wasn’t quite poison, but still itches painfully, and the next she was stumbling over an overturned dirt mound, then falling into a crater. She adapted quickly, turning her fall into a roll, before snapping up into a jump, spear held at the ready. Even as her hard green eyes did a quick, instinctive scan she couldn’t help but gasp at the sight before her.
It was like an angry god had slammed its fist down onto the jungle. Everything had been blown away, trees and grass, plants and animals. Whatever had existed here before was simply eviscerated. Only churned dirt, smoldering from the force of the blow and broken into a crater, remained. Fires burned here or there, small things: Far from the inferno she had feared. Rain would see them gone in quick order, if they lasted that long to begin with. But that soon filtered from her mind when she saw what lay at the center of the crater.
Some sort of giant metal ball smoldered there. It was in the unpainted gray of the Uplanders, the parts that weren’t marred by vicious scorch marks at least. Steam wafted up from it, hissing from the force of impact still. Something was on the side of the pod, some sort of symbol, but the blackened metal only deigned to reveal that something had once existed there, and had ruined far too much to tell what, exactly, it was. At the center was a pane of glass, and Malsa couldn’t help but marvel at the fact it was still intact. Only Uplanders could create that kind of hardy glass, but even with her limited knowledge of them, she doubted they could make something as sturdy as that surely must be.
Yet for all the strangeness of the ball, Malsa couldn’t help the rising disappointment that stung at her. This is what a star looked like? For all the grand beauty and bounty of navigation they provided her people, she was expecting something…grander. Brighter. Foolish of her, because it was dangerous to hold assumptions about anything, but she couldn’t help it.
She jumped, smashed from her thoughts by the ball hissing open. She held her spear at the ready before she even realized what she was doing. Though she was far from the ball, at the edge of the crater where she had stumbled upon it, a rising thought popped into her mind. That, perhaps, it may have been foolish of her to come in search of the fallen star. Especially all alone. She shoved that regret out of her mind as quickly as she could. Perhaps it was. But she was here now, and there was little time for regrets of any sort.
So she stood at the ready, to fight or run as needed, and watched the ball carefully.
All the monsters she had fought, which now swirled in her mind at what terrible creature that must surely inhabit the stars, was chased from her mind by what actually crawled from the fallen star. She almost lost her grip on her spear when the baby plopped to the ground.
Bigger than any child she had ever seen, the baby was exactly that: Just a baby. It looked around curiously, apparently unbothered by its rough landing. She stood there, paralyzed by dumbfounded disbelief, as the child worked its way to its feet. Bare of any hair save for a few wafty black tuffs, the baby stood with an assuredness that looked somewhat ridiculous on a child, especially one so young looking. Suddenly feeling foolish, Malsa lowered her spear. The motion caught the child's eye, and it looked at her with an awareness that should have been beyond a baby.
They considered each other for a moment, before the child smiled.
As Malsa stared at that wide, sloppy smile, she knew there was only one thing she could do.
Malsa sat by the fire, rubbing her sore shoulder.
Around her the Bodan tribe gathered, drawn by the tales of a star-child. No tent was big enough to hold the whole tribe, and so the elders decided to hold the gathering around the great fire pits that were always the center of the tribe's encampments. The low hum of chatter filled the area, a stark contrast to the grim, hurried silence that had suffused the camp only hours earlier. Beside her, the star-child sat staring curiously back at the score of eyes that observed it—him. Him. Not it. The star-child had been heavy, not really more than she had expected. But between her spear and the child she was a little sore. She was a tracker and a hunter, yes, but she wasn’t ashamed to admit she was not the strongest out there. Physically, at least.
The star-child had refused to leave her side since they had entered the encampment, even when she tried to coax him to stay with the elders, so they may properly decide how to interpret this omen from the gods. But he had refused no matter what was tried. And so, to her own great embarrassment, she was dictated to sit by the elders by the Chief-Warlock, so that the star-child could be properly examined without him squirming from the elders' wrinkled hands. Many looked upon her with some jealousy, to be granted the honor of sitting by the elders when they gathered was great indeed, even for a tracker such as her.
The only one the star-child didn’t seem to squirm from was the Chief-Warlock, the wizened sage hummed and hemmed as he poked at the star-child, meeting those gold-flecked gray eyes with little surprise at the intelligence that lay within. The star-child examined the Chief-Warlock in turn, as ridiculous as it was to say. His poking's with those pudgy fists seemed random at first, but she could start to parse out a pattern to it. The star-child was drawn to the Chief-Warlocks guardian tokens, random pieces of the world that had been attached to his robes, and thus him, that had apparently gained some significance or another.
The low hum of conversation died out when the Chief-Warlock raised a hand. The old man cleared his throat, rising up from his examination and turning his gaze to the elders. “He has the touch.”
A ripple went through the crowd. Only Warlocks held that touch, that gift of nature which allowed the Bodans to survive the increasingly harsh wilds in ways few other tribes could match. It was dangerous as it was beneficial, and while some days Malsa was bitter she had not been granted it, she was equally glad that Nisha’s touch had passed her. With proper training, the touch was a powerful tool. But without it…
Well, there was a reason that everyone who had the touch must become a warlock.
“What do we do with him?” A voice shouted from the crowd. “We barely have enough food as it is! Look at the size of him, he can’t stay.”
A murmur filtered through, and before she knew what she was doing Malsa was on her feet, hands clenched into fists as her red hair snapped through the air at the force and speed of her rise. “And what are you going to do about it, Jor?” She snapped. The crowd parted, revealing the hunter. Tall and powerfully built, his was a frame of corded muscle and scars. His own reddish-brown hair was pulled back into the ponytail of all hunters and trackers. Despite his size, he looked vaguely put out at the crowd shuffling out of Malsa’s way. Though he stood his ground still.
“You know we’re struggling.” Jor said, crossing his arms. “This ground is bad. We were moving already, and your damn curiosity has brought us another mouth to feed. We could-”
“Could what?” Malsa snarled with such ferocity that she surprised herself. At her feet the star-child shifted uneasily, sensing the tension in the air. “You don’t have the balls. In fact, you try anything and I’ll make sure of that.” With that, she spun away from him, turning to the elders imploringly. “I’ll hunt for him myself if I have to. Cook for him, clothe him. Everything. But we…we can’t just leave him here. He is a gift from Nisha! He has the touch! He is no ordinary child, he could be a great warlock one day.” She paused, less so because she was out of things to say and more to do with the soft hand that had clutched at her leather pants.
Looking down, she saw the star-child shuffling close to her, and smiled despite herself.
Silence greeted her words, and the elders shared glances. Children were not often raised solely by their parents. There was too much to do, and the demands of the tribe weighed heavily on them all. So children were passed to those most available at the time, and learned at the feet of the whole tribe more often than not.
One man grunted, leaning forward. A giant of flesh, Chief Harlo was a great warrior, and even in his autumn years he was something to behold. Barrel chested and littered with scars, his grand white beard flowed down to his stomach, and great bushy eyebrows made his gaze hard to see, almost like he was squinting.
“You’ll go that far? Even when your duties call you away from the tribe?”
Malsa shivered under that old gaze despite herself, but stood tall still. “Yes.”
The old chief grunted, staring at her. Around him the elders whispered to each other. For what seemed like an eternity that muttered to one another, conferring in quiet. Then, one by one, they stopped. The last one to speak was the Chief-Warlock, who shuffled over to Chief Harlo and whispered into his ear.
The Chief nodded, bringing a massive hand to his bead and stroking it. “A noble sentiment.” He rumbled. “But we Bodans are not so poor to each other to force such a thing. You will be his primary caretaker…but he will be a Bodan, and will be raised as such. He is a gift from Nisha, as you say. Who would we be to refuse such a thing?”
The relief almost toppled her. She could barely hear the words spoken behind her, Jor’s angry stomps little more than a distant flicker of imagination. She had barely known this child for a few hours, but already she cared so deeply for him. It was astounding. She had never thought she would be a mother, everything involved seemed far too painful. But now…
She smiled down at the star-child, laughing softly at the way the boy tried to copy her.
“Come, my fallen star.” She said softly. “We must pack up.”
It was a night like any other and although the planet is no stranger to meteors and comets but from the dark and heavy clouds forming a blanket under the night sky, a single sphere of bright pure light descended onto the earth at a speed uncharacteristic of a falling star. However, the landing remained violent and dinning for the inhabitants unfortunate enough to be too close to the vicinity. Yet, any would-be witness would have seen the unadulterated glory of the impact site. A circle of shattered trees, splintered stones, and pulverized dirt. What should have been the shattered remains of rock from space were instead a pod forged of metal and polished to perfection. The shape and material were completely alien to the human settlers on this planet.
The first people to discover this artifact was a small retinue of nuns, armed with holy scripture and blessed weapons made of metal and wood, who approached the landing side with anxious wariness. After an eternity of fighting undead horrors, strange objects falling out of the sky indicates extreme boons or curses. But much to the relief of the human women clad in habits and armor, the pod opened, and after the smoke and steam dissipated, revealing a small baby girl. Healthy and untainted by mutation and corruption alike. They took it as a blessing from their god, a sign of deliverance.
A small lock of raven hair was already growing on the babe's head as the women took turns examining her. After the moment of respite, the nuns wasted no time taking the baby home with them with her pod in tow. Once arriving at their sacred church and home, the youngest members returned to their beds after storing away the pod while the eldest nun and leader of the expedition party offered one more prayer of joy and resolution before retiring for the night. In her aging mind, she called for a name from her god for the child delivered from the heavens. Looking over at the side to see the child sleeping peacefully and undisturbed in the crib, one name immediately popped into her head:
But in the back of her mind, the elderly nun also felt a tinge of pity and remorse. This lost child was cast onto a dying world where men and women hide behind tall stone walls, where towns and cities were islands waiting to be swallowed by the flood, and where death was never too far away...
A few hundred sirens blared in the deep pit of the Fabricator General, a similar count of screens suddenly lighting up to provide all sorts of readings. An extraterrestrial threat was approaching, the velocities and relatively small mass failing to vapourize in the atmosphere suggesting this was no ordinary celestial object. Air defence systems activated, the first stages of emergency response protocols were activated and thus hundreds of multi purpose servitors were mobilized for any contingency imaginable to one of a machine mind.
Yet the crash heard outside of Olympus Mons seemed rather innocent given the great stir it roused. No earthquakes from tectonic munitions were brought forth, nor were any viruses dispersed into the atmosphere.
What the Serberys cavalry arriving upon the scene relayed was something wholly unexpected. A child, humanoid in the wireframe display but otherwise quite alien. Skin flowing like mercury, and it was as tall as any of the machine cult’s warriors on their steeds. Borrowing the visual feed of one of the cavaliers Salkor witnessed the child reach out towards one of the Mechanicum’s warriors with almost curiosity. Yet the raider mistook it for a threat, and fired its revolver at the pecuiliarity. The bullet seemed to bounce off of the fluid skin like a rock skipping off of water and a soft exhalation came from the Serberyte whose vision Salkor had borrowed. With a panic in the remaining human parts of the Martian brains they reared their steeds to try to flee upon witnessing the child sprint and bisect the offending rider with a downward swing of its arm; the event occurred in a single frame of the visual feed.
Curiously, the child seemed wholly not intending on further violence, instead crawling back to the crater it had crashed in where it curled against one of the walls in a fetal position.
Somehow, something in the interaction reminded Salkor of his own arrival on Mars more than a thousand years ago. A hiss of hydraulic gasses came as he disconnected thousands of cables and supports from himself, the sequence of separations long mastered to ensure no failures of programming happened nor excess datafeeds would enter him. At last in his nominal for, he hovered off towards the scene of the crash. Above, a whole flock of archaeopters and pteraxii flew both ahead and behind him as vanguard and rearguard respectively.
Seeing the arrival of the Fabricator general, the silvery child went from a fetal position to a crouch as if to spring upon him or as far away as it could depending on if fight or flight was the selected way forward.
With an emotion as close to greed as the cyborg could manage, Salkor hovered over the rim of the crater and into it. One of his many mechadendrites more resembling a human hand was extended and raised up and down in a motion that he knew was considered placating by the outdated patterns of humanity. At the same time dozens of scanners for every wavelength of light sound and otherwise measurable energy emerged from his body, taking in the full physical measure of what was before him. Almost nonchalantly, another mechadendrite extended a particularly powerful vacuum to suck up the ricocheted bullet to be analyzed.
Child and Archmagos stared upon one another for an entire minute, the silence eventually broken only when the Archmagos had made a decision. He adjusted his voice synthesize for a kindly accent and voice, and thus spoke.
The concept of heaven is a place where those above look down upon those walking upon the Earth. It is a concept, many cultures and religions have their own forms of heaven and they have different meanings, different trials to reach, and different names, titles, and depictions. It's where the gods look down upon the mortals they guide, it's where souls go to rest. In some cultures, it is the opposite of hell. A perfect place where souls rest after their praise and lives have been fulfilled to the best of their abilities. People live, fight, love, and die. When a soul goes to heaven, it knows it has lived life to its best and has chosen a pathway guided by belief.
But what happens when the sky above you is flames when the heavens have decided to throw wroth and hate? Is it something you have done, not likely, but priests, demagogues, prophets, and all of the other loud voices may say that it was you, or it was your neighbor, the next town over, some barbaric tribe; blame is all that it is, for sometimes it is nothing but meteors falling from the sky.
But over the skies of Belivahnn, they were alight with fire, rock, dust vaporizing and high speeds as it entered the planet's orbit, burning up in the atmosphere. Still, there was one object that was as bright as a star in the pitch-black sky, it trailed around the planet as it had made several orbiting loops around the planet before getting caught by gravity and bringing a portion of the planet's rocky ring down with it. It circled the planet for an entire day before it began to speed up, and when it finally began its final approach to the surface of the planet, it and the dust it dragged with it began to form wings in the sky as it made its way towards one of the planets few forests in the midlands.
The Knegh forest is a relatively small forest, but it was surrounded by one of the few areas north of most of the kings' reach. Some two hundred people lived there in relatively peaceful lives, but for in beasts, random bandits, or sometimes even a taxation party from one of the southern kingdoms. But tonight, it was a fire. At first, when the artificial sun had died out for a minute after, the wings of death descended from the heavens. The meteor shower had ended, and an older vagabond was yelling about how the son of the planet was born, one who would become a king, a warrior lord, a crusader, a horse rider. The man spoke a thousand words, used through the orders, the tribes, the kingdoms, and the wanderers for terms of endearment that could possibly be used to quell an angered god. Many thought of him as crazy; only a few traders that were in town that night would believe him after that night. Johannesburg was soon to be a grave memory for them, as fire would broil their dreams into nightmares each night after.
When many of the villagers had arrived home, and the vagabond was seen leaving the town, an echo came from the small hills to the east overlooking a lake that separated the village from the forest as a light began to appear. It turned into a thunderous boom as a flash lit the sky back up for a minute and the towering trees of Knegh turned into torches in the night. Next, the creatures of the forest began to flee; those that had made their homes there, those that lived all of their lives under the leaves of the canopy, fled in droves. Heads bobbed in the crystalline reflections in the water as they tried to swim the cold lake water towards the nearest shelter, many of these creatures would drown, but those chose that over being suffocated in smoke or burning in the charnel house of their once home. The town's lights flickered like the safety of a warm sun. There were others that fled from the treelines into fields of grain and vegetables churning the tilled earth like the season had started, but their goal was to run as far as possible from their burning homes.
The villagers not within a gated area or their homes were trampled, cut down by hordes of animals fleeing and searching for shelter. Those that opened their doors in confusion had similar things happen to them as creatures ranging from large quadrupedal beasts to small creatures the size of small dogs and large birds sought a way to hide from the blaze across the lake. As soon as the beasts came, many of them were gone, many others were hiding inside homes, barns, or any shelter they could find. Most were too scared to eat upon the dead carcasses of other animals, people, or stockpiles of grain and food that littered barns and granaries throughout the village. But that only led to something worse because as the edges of the forest began to burn, so did the fields beside it. The thin wooden fencing acts like the wire connecting fire to fields, the bright red paint made from berries known to grow the larve of a local pollinator acting like the promethium fuel inside an engine. Fields went up in flame, the buildings closest to the forest became infernos, and those inside fled to the best of their abilities before being choked out of air, as screaming turned to deaf cries of agony as charred hands scratched for throats. Few made it to the road, but they almost all collapsed, only those who were strong, and those who were loved by the strong made it farther.
Next, the first grainery was caught in flames, and it set off like a bomb as the grains dust set off a low-yield explosive. Debris and fire spread quickly across roads, more fields, and homes. Several tried to take pumps to flood their fields; in hindsight, it was a good idea but done far to late in the catastrophe that was taking place. Buildings burned, screams rang out, people fled, some stayed and tried to fight, tried to save their homes, but they were soon consumed by fire, and by the end of the night, as buildings went up in fire. But even once the buildings, the people, the fields, and the trees were charred, they stayed alight. This fire burned quietly without fuel, but it persisted and burned.
Johannesburg burned, and many of its people lay charred in ashe-covered streets, hugging each other in beds, closets, or underneath the hooves, paws, and claws of beasts that hid with their corpses from their eventual downfall of being trapped inside a burning hut. Out of the inhabitants, maybe thirty survived, five traders and an old man who was found nearly crushed outside of the village. The survivors began to migrate when they found him. They once thought he was delusional, but now they saw that he likely spoke the truth, and they were ashamed at whatever misgivings they gave a maligned god. A small camp was set up in stony soil, it was one of the areas they could reach that night that was not alight with the wildfires that were spreading at random through the grasslands. And that next night, they saw the forest that still burned and raged with a firestorm the likes that had not been seen in likely a hundred years of the planet. Here in these camps, they sent several people back to collect whatever they could and search for food. That, though, was nearly impossible as the fires reached out and protected themselves and the lands before them like a child lashing out, or reaching out for something. The fires created wails as the winds blew past those who stared into what used to be their homeland, now it was home to something else. Within several days, the first orders arrived along with a caravan of soldiers from the nearest kingdom of Ukrye. They saw what was happening, and began to cordon off what was left of the forest and around the still-burning areas of the grasslands.
First, a Seargent at arms, along with several of his soldiers were asked to scout and enter the area, they were padded thick with metals, and damp cloths. They were tasked to search for survivors within the village, should there be any, to find any sign of what was happening. They also sent for both a seer, and for one who uses the wyrd. Those that entered the zone, were gone for days, beyond the sight of the veil of flames, but they did come back, and several short. There were three instead of twenty, and one was not of the party, but of a living girl covered in burns, and for most they would think of her as a charred corpse, if not for the screaming.
Once inside the tents and away from the screaming girl, the two men reported that the forest was still alight as if it had only started to burn. The lake would be one of the safest options for approaching the forest, but they would not have protection from the fire as they would likely have to swim, as wood and anything flammable grew hot and would start to burn without warning or reason. By that time, several orders had arrived, and many others had begun to journey to the firestorm, both to see it, and to begin building a wall to protect from it. It was as if hell had come to earth, and it spread a plague that had only started when it landed for the beasts had began to drive across the plains rapidly, and almost unchecked if it was not for the tribes, the orders, and walls that were built to help contain and control the flow of grazing animals in the south lands. They were a threat, but this was also one, but it could be contained whatever it was until the beasts were dealt with or at least partially dealt with.
The first part of the wall was built in two months; while a deep trench was made, a wall was needed to contain the firestorm, considered the Johannes line, and the first gate Johannesburg after the town that once stood a mile to its west. It was functional, there were three buildings, two to tend to those who get too close to the fiery embrace, and one to store supplies to keep them out of the weather. They were all built of stone, everything had to, or else it would burn; even the seasoned wood was not enough to keep flames from enveloping it. They had learned that the hard way several days into the construction of the trench as a barracks of southern laborers was killed in minutes by a flame that hugged the ground around it. It took three days for the fires to be brought down around the building, and by then all that remained were the flakes of that inside.
Several more excursions were made inside the storm, most of them returning similar to those that came prior; even a seer entered, only to be doused by flames moments later. But those who returned alive said it sounded as if there was a child wailing in pain or from lack of attention. The death cry of so many sounded like a haunting reminder of life and death. It was a dreary thing.
"Marek," Aleksandr said, "the storm's cries are growing louder; could something be coming?"
"I do not know, but whatever it is, I bet it is heading to finish off that girl... do none of the villagers know who she is, have any recognition of her?" Marek had replied, looking back at the younger noble. "One of them has to; it's a small town, maybe once she's calmed down and her voice has had time to rest, someone can tell who she is, or she can tell us her name."
"I don't think anyone could, her screams are filled with agony and pain... I hope the officer's barracks are made soon; my betrothed is coming from the south. As much as I would like to walk several leagues to the wall each morning, I would rather live beside it in stone; that way, I don't have to replace my tent again." Aleksandr finished. "Maybe the mender will be able to help her regain her voice... but right now, I think she won't survive much longer."
From the edges of the fire came a whimper as if someone was out there, crying. It did sound like crying as if someone was far within the depths of the firestorm. The two men stared and took deep breaths.
"I will have someone come up in a minute to replace us and start watching over this part of the line. Right now." Aleksandr said, listening to the wailing; he hated that noise, and it reminded him of a child dying of some illness. He wanted to get to somewhere he couldn't hear it. "Tomorrow, after my wife should be here, and I will head off into the firestorm..."
Marek looked back at him, "it's finally your turn; at least you get to see your wife one last time."
"Oh, I'll survive, just a touch of fire, and I have the family mage coming with me... What could possibly go wrong?"
The next day, Lady Thelis of House Aleksandr arrived with a caravan of fifty armed men, and a young man, maybe the age of twenty, but possibly younger, around his head was a round cage, and through his palms were spikes of lead. His head twitched, and he moved his hands to the cage as the spikes barely touched his head.
"Screaming... all I hear is screaming, want, need... It is like a child born to a dying mother who can't hold up a babe." the psyker dropped to his knees, moving his hands to rip the spikes out of his hands and then begin to scratch and tear for the cage around his head, "Please take it off... Take it off!" the man screamed as he went into shock, his body spasming as he jerked, blood gleaming from his slick hands, and his head stuck in the cage protecting the vital bits.
Two men were atop him, holding him tightly to the ground so he could not hurt anything else, but behind them the fire started to rage and burn. They were trying to keep the mage alive, and trying to keep others around him to stay alive as well, the elder seer who had come had perished in a ball of fire that immolated thirty men who were walking by him when the firestorm last surged.
Aleksandr ran over with a small contingent of men, Marek and several others tailing behind with their own retinues from the hierarchies of different orders that had come to stop the firestorm and whatever was inside. This time, the camp and those around the mage were lucky. The fire on the opposing side of the wall died down for a moment.
"Thelis... I am glad to see you..."
"And I am glad to see you alive; what is on the other side of the wall, a deamon?" the woman asked her husband, "No... I do not know, I was going to set out inside with the magi, but... I will wait for him to be calmed before I enter the fire. It gives me time to see you once again... Marek will look over this, but I wish to show you what I will be walking into. You can see a farmhouse, but that is as far as you can see... It was owned by a man named Tom."
When both of them arrived at the top of the wall, the woman stared at the veil of fire that slowly made it's way towards them, it was watching them, it was alive. Aleksandr did not realize that until his wife was up with him, and he took a deep breath turning towards his right. He stopped in horror at what he saw, the woman's hand was up raised towards the fire as it reached out for her. It touched her, and the fire dissipated entirely from the land and the stream of fire that reached her. The glow was gone to the forest in the distance, and only the early morning sky was alight.
Behind both of them was an old man.
"Go... find the son of our world... for he will bring our world into a new age one day, one that none of us will have ever thought of..." the old prophet said, "Go together... he will reach out for you..." An old clouded eye seemed to turn towards the woman, "But soon, he will need someone to raise him to be a warrior... and he will become one... the warrior our world needs... A king..."
On many planets, the presence of a 'falling star' would have been viewed as some omen or divine sign of some sort. Not so on Abenteuer. Logic and science had been one of the planets founding pillars in eons long passed and a bulwark that ensured the survival of its inhabitants long after it was left to fend for itself when some unknown disaster cut them off from wider Humanity. Ancient and well maintained machines that had originally been set up to observe, record and provide scientific information of the planet of Abenteuer lit up at the presence of the celestial object as it soared past the atmosphere and refused to burn up before striking the ground. Seismic activity of the event was caught by several sensors that had been placed by ancestors long gone... through sadly at least two were caught up in the blast itself and were suddenly cut off from sending back information.
Among the more intellectual of Abenteuer's minds, it was an interesting development to be sure since it was rare for celestial objects to enter the planets atmosphere, let alone survive entry. The fact that the impact site happened to be in one of the furthest reaches of the planet, far away from human settlement where some of the more dangerous predators lived was seemed as something of a lucky break because the damage that might have happened had it landed on a town would have easily been tragic. Further evidence that their desire to reclaim an orbital presence had merit.
But for a small band of untested ritter who had yet to go on a quest and prove their metal, the 'fallen star' was in many ways a godsend. It wasn't to say that more common or localized quests weren't interesting or deserving of attention, but the chance to travel to one of the far reaches of their world and contend with some of the nastiest predators on the planet in order to try and recover both the damaged remains of two sensor beacons that no one alive had ever seen in the quote on quote 'flesh' and secure an unknown object that had come from space that had almost certainly never been seen by human eyes before... well, it was going to be a hell of a story and they would be the ones to live and write it!
So with much enthusiasm, they prepared for the months long journey ahead.
Mohn had once been a very different kind of person. A weaker, pathetic person.
When the visions had started and the voices began whispering in the night, the girl she had once been had been sickened and horrified but the things she had heard and witnessed. Clawing out her own eyes had been a vain attempt to make the visions stop and in the end she had tried to run from her fate by fleeing into the wilds of Abenteuer in order to try and get as far away from the people she had cared about so that no matter what happened, they wouldn't be brought to harm.
It had taken years for the last traces of that disgusting empathy and compassion to be melted away in the crucible of the warp. Years of manipulation and well placed actions to get the stupid girl into the right place and more effort then one cared to admit to change her into the tool that would be needed. Housing their glorious being for any real period of time had required such careful molding over such a period of time, else the vessel would not be able survive long enough to get the task done or they overwhelm it and waste all the effort with a misshapen, mindless failure.
And all that hard work risked being cast aside in complete and utter failure because the location they needed to be had been wrong.
Of course they couldn't risk being exactly where the child of the Anathema was going to crash down; That would have just been stupid and thrown away all the hard work of creating a decent host body in the first place. The plan had been to foresee where they were going to touch down and then be far enough away from the blast radius of impact as not to be caught in it, but close enough to swoop in before the child had a chance to properly develop and was thus weak.
But even as the ground shook with the tumors of impact, they could tell that the vision they had foreseen had been wrong. The child of Anathema had landed in the wrong place. Why the vision was wrong was an important question to be sure, but even with the original plan having failed, another was already slotting into place. With an inhuman squawk talons pushed off the ground as what should have been the awkward flapping of wings raised the figure off the ground with unnatural grace.
Possession was now no longer an option. Destruction was the path forward now.
As a larger then average human baby slumbered in the comfort of their pod, the pod itself was making calculations. The data it was picking up from its sensors of the local area suggested that while there wasn't any human settlement or presence as far as it could reach, it did detect the presence of several clearly human information sensors that were actively broadcasting and being received by somewhere outside of the pods range... as well as getting signals back. It could also detect the presence of a variety of inhuman, animal like bio signatures within its range.
The pod didn't have enough resources to sustain the child within indefinitely, but while there was evidence that there were humans on the planet and that they were aware of the pods location, when they could be expected to arrive was uncertain. The presence of numerous lifeforms that were clearly predatory in nature only further cemented the pod's final calculation; It would sustain the child within for the time being, since it calculated that by the time it had run out of resources to sustain them, they would have grown to a big enough size that they could survive against the local wildlife and wilderness.
Ryza was in a festive mood, or at least as close to that state one as a world belonging to the Omnissian faith could be. Dignitaries had arrived from a small human realm, the Grellae Hegemony it had called itself. After a brief encounter with an Ark Mechanicus, they had decided they best attempt diplomacy and convince the Heirophant Technis that the exchange of fire between them was wholly a misunderstanding. Of course, Patrimonia knew they were lying. But at the same time their realm had little that warranted true conquest, and thus more value would be found in simply having them as a partial buffer between Ryza and WAAAAAGH Fire-Skull.
The men and women of the Knight House and Titan Legions were of course the most eager for the event. Bearing more or less the sum total of what could be “personality” in the Forge, they made the best use of it they could. Drinking and carousing, flirting with the foreigners. If Patrimonia cared, then the concession would be made that it indeed was a damn fine party. But even the most self indulgent hedonists present would be solemnly aware that if it did not go well, a shooting war would erupt between the two civilizations that neither had a grand interest in.
At last the ambassadors of the Hegemony were assembled at dusk, together with several representatives of the Forgeworld for a united signing of a clear treaty of not only peace, but also further non-aggreession and indeed trade.
Patrimonia looked upon this with satisfaction, a flick of a finger activating a laser to finely engrave the characters “GHVM” to the satisfaction of the Grellans. The ceremony of departure began, the Grellan envoys all smiling as they headed towards their landing craft whilst flanked on either side by a grand honour guard of Skitarii. It was just as their Chief Ambassador turned to bow to the Ryzans that the sky tore upon, and a whole five of his party turned to vapour from a crash. Shocked, the ambassador looked between the death of the party, and then the Mechanicum, before tapping a device on his wrist several times to activate a teleportation system in an effort to bypass the wasted time of getting upon the landing craft.
In a similar hurry the flyer also raised its ramp in an effort to flee as quickly as possible. But the entire honour guard that had been placed had not been idle in this brief period. Their servo limbs moved in unison as they went towards the impact crater, surrounding it with weapons at the ready. Heirophant Technis Ghum looked on with interest at the being that arose from there, the creature about the same size as the Forgemaster. “Identify yourself!” hundreds of mechanical voices demanded as a choir.
There was no reply from the figure that simply gazed upon the machine man with a ponderous glaze to the silvery eyes. As one, the Skitarii fired their galvanic rifles. Hundreds of servitor-assisted bullets flew upon the standing figure. About half met their mark, but it was enough to discharge sufficient electric charge to destroy many mighty vehicles in the Mechanicum’s arsenal.
The figure they targeted however, seemed to yet live. It lay in a quickly growing pool of its own blood but by some sort of miracle was able to push itself upright. The thing wailed louder than many a Titan’s horn, collapsing to its knees, and then drooping down again. But Patrimonia knew that the thing lived, many a scanner indicating different signs of life.
“Every single Genetor on-world is to report to Prosperity within an hour.” came the binharic order from the Heirophant, an order given to cease fire shortly after with a summons for many servitors to carry the thing away to the labs of Prosperity. While awaiting the arrival of the expert biologians, Patrimonia had to think long and hard on how to try and salvage the diplomacy with the Grellans.
Kargon stared at them, watching them closely, the quickly growing youth understood what they were doing almost instinctively. As they poured over charts and ledgers, they spoke of quotas and logistics all to the end of supplying another of the Crevice Cities a few leagues away after a Molten Flow burst from the wall and cut off one of the underground railways. It was inane babble, far to much discussion about unnecessary topics but it seemed to put their frustrations at ease, and that helped him understand them better. They were complicated, delicate beings despite the hardiness of their form and lives. Even at his young age of 4 he understood that in order for people to live and work together amicably, you must ensure that they felt comfortable with you, and that involved conversation and pointless diatrade.
He stood at the table, and looked over the papers himself, while his father and his servant spoke he made short concise changes in schematics for a new tunnel to be dug. He listed ways to carve the stone, natural ways to improve weakpoints to better prevent unexpected molten flows in the future, as well as ways to temper the stone to further reinforce it. It was all so simple in his mind, things that flowed to the forefront when confronted with a problem. He did not question it, because it was simply that simple, and he saw no difficulty in helping his father with his work. He finished quickly, the work his father had been contemplating for 3 days was finished in ten minutes. He tugged at his fathers robe, drawing him from his conversation. Yet even as the man looked at his son, in order to address him, he saw the altered schematics and started to pour over them with his worker. They spoke in hushed tones, disbelief in their voices, and the servant questioned the veracity of anything designed by a child.
Despite this, Father saw fit to give his son's work a bit of trust, because he felt it would work. It took three months rather than the full year they thought, the tunnel was simple and strong and the finest engineers in the city complimented the man's ingenious design. Yet he knew, his son was gifted, and he began to bring him to more and more of the same issues. His son designing clever ways around them, and as the years passed the issues he dealt with only grew and yet were solved as simply as before. It didn't matter, be it city planning or reconstruction, each was dealt with swiftly with precision planning and revolutionary designs. The City became a modern marvel, and the planet benefited from the advanced designs and better logistical planning offered.
Soon however Kargon found himself drawn to other pursuits, most importantly, he found himself drawn to the Forges. It was here he truly shined. Soon, from the Forge of his home, he crafted truly remarkable things. Things that had not been seen in many, many Centuries. Things he knew he could not have known, yet he knew instinctively. It would bare later thought, but for now, he simply needed to forge what he could. He felt things changing.
Vion 5 was a planet filled with technology from before the Long Night and matched only by the willingness of its inhabitants to wage brutal war amongst the archaeotech fortresses that lined its surface. Yet, despite the great religious upheaval that occurred below that threatened the temporary peace, Hox could not bear to think of such conflicts or war. The station was serene, the cold of space brought with it an eerie peace that was utterly unseen on the planet below, even as tech-thralls patrolled the station or the servitors mindlessly performed their duties. The budding tech-priest looked down upon the umber planet, taking in the brief peace from a life filled with hardship and strife. Despite this, the grim reality of his purpose was setting in as the monitor he gazed from zoomed in upon the planet and brought a hive into view. His hands clutched the hems of his white and red robes, peace giving way to anxiety as calculations instantly ran in his mind.
Peace was never a factor, a worthless prerogative that the Mechanicum had long learned to cope with on this planet, yet even then peace had shown through intermittently. Could this not yet be another time for such peace? Robotic words echoed in his mind as another of his kind spoke from another part of the station, “Solar Arrays less than 45% charged, awaiting target confirmation, Enginseer.”
The green hue of his retinal replacements merely looked upon the hive that he was to doom, a hive of Hereteks to be sure but a hive nonetheless - filled with people who knew nothing outside of their homes for the hive was their world. And Hox was to damn them before the heresy took root, condemning them to an irreversible fate that would only be met with an equal attack should any other hive know of what happened. His logic emitters told him to confirm, echoed that his emotional dampeners were not functioning properly, but Hox ignored it, instead listing out the reasons to not proceed with this. The first and primary being the stark cost of such a task, losing such potential labor. Precious milliseconds passed without an answer to his other, servos whirling as Hox’s third arm moved back to grasp onto a flat, data-storage device - a start-up sequence for the weapon - and positioning it over a slot in front of him.
Sweat pooled on the flesh of his brow, nerves overtaking him with the gravity of the situation as the Lingua Technis filled his auditory receptors once more, “Enginseer, proceed with targeting confirmation immediately.” The words were no solace in Hox’s mind. They echoed in a hesitant mind, one furious with his own sense of morality that the disk hovered a mere breath away from condemning millions to a quick death.
Hox did not have the time to deliberate the course of action, to destroy or not to destroy, to damn or to bless. It was a simple question but a hard one to answer. Yet, fate would decide for him as an alarm blared as the screen he watched turned red.
A warp signature appeared.
A torpedo sped towards the station.
Point defense activated as servitors scrambled to senselessly gun down the foreign object. Hox ran to the nearest viewport, mechanical legs slamming into the floor. He looked out into the vastness of space and focused his optical lenses on the rapidly approaching object. It was not a large ordinance, but torpedoes would set their whole operation behind more than his own hesitations had.
“Hox,” his compatriot’s voice started, unperturbed by the sudden alarms, “Confirm target, NOW!”
This order drove Hox from the viewport, feet slamming into the metal flooring. He would not have time to insert the drive with the proper rites but time was desperate.
Yet, he was far too late. The torpedo impacted the station, sending Hox to the floor in front of the console. The sound of broken metal and the horrid screeching of alarms filled his senses, even before he could get his bearings, he knew the station had been knocked free of its orbit. The entire station rumbled as Hox got to his feet to check the status of the station and the sight brought a primal fear into his heart. The torpedo had ripped straight through the heart of the station and out the other side, breaching the reactors and the targeting array.
“D-Dominus?” Hox called. No response came.
There was nothing left to do as the thoughts of his failure roused his mind. The Enginseer looked to the viewport once more and there he saw the red outline of the station begin its re-entry into the planet’s atmosphere. He looked to the screens once more, the image frozen of the torpedo that had damned him. Yet, as he stared upon the death of himself, Hox realized that the torpedo was not what it had seemed - no it was no torpedo. Within it bore the image of a child, his killer and destroyer.
No. His savior. Having saved Hox from the guilt of destroying countless lives - even if it meant his death. It was the will of the Machine God.
He activated what he could of the communications array and spoke of his death - his heralding, “It is the will of the Machine God that we are destroyed. Praise him. Recover his avatar from the pod. Praise be the Angel of the Machine God. Praise be the Angelus Machina.”
//2 Hours After Destruction
The destruction of the battle station had heralded a great movement amongst the upper echelons of the Mechanicum, still keeping Hox’s decree a secret. It was his death cries that usher the throngs that made up the Holy Synod to convene and discuss the apparent arrival of the “Angelus Machina”. Yet, they were not the ones mobilizing to meet the coming divine, for it was instead a local scavenger who had motioned to the pod. He thought nothing of it at first, believing it to be a piece of debris from some ruined satellite. Yet, scrapped metal was always in demand in Vion 5, from use constructing the Mechanicum’s automata to great towering spires. Luckily for him, it was a lucrative enough business - supporting his family for who knows how long.
It was for this reason that Nirek was more than happy enough to travel between the many redoubts and fortress networks to get there before anyone else could. His speeder was certainly fast enough, bobbing between valleys and killing fields - all while hoping some rogue tech-priest or some automated turret didn’t decide him to be a threat that day. Yet, it all seemed that the day had blessed him with being clear and even then he could see the smoke stack from far away. Nirek rapidly closed upon the crash site, the speeder listing to the side as it careened around an old sensor tower - knowing that his activities would be viewed by some being out in the rocky wastes. The speeder screeched to a halt, the decrepit grav pupulsion coming to a swift stop and the bottom of the vehicle scraping across the ground in a lesser mimicry of the salvage that he was so keen upon collecting.
Rock and metal scraped against one another before it finally halted itself, leaving Nirek not even ten paces from the crater. Swinging his legs out of the speeder, Nirek grabbed a scanner before he made his way to the assumed debris - the smoke billowing in such quantities that he could not see with the naked eye. He held the scanner close, using it as a better pair of eyes to penetrate the thick smoke before he was right on top of the crash, quickly he pulled out a fire retardant from his belt and began to douse the source of the pillar. Yet, the sight of what he would come to see would astonish him - for there was no debris, instead what had landed looked to be an intact artifact. His scarlet eyes twinkled as numbers ran through his head, knowing that the tech-priests would find great value in this for the data-hoards.
So, Nirek knelt down looking over the pod before noticing a singular viewport that was now partially covered by the flame douser. He assumed that it was a screen, assuming that this must have been some interstellar probe that perhaps belongs to times before Humanity’s fall. Again, Nirek would be surprised as he found that what he found inside was a child - no, an infant. The scavenger let out a gasp, instantly pushing the pod over so that he might pry open the transport. His muscles strained against the door, synth muscle flexing as his fingers drew blood. Eventually, the pod’s door flew off and Nirek instantly swooped up the crying infant, holding it close. He looked around as if the child’s parents were near.
There was not a soul in sight, not that there would be out in the dead wastes of the planet. Nirek would not leave the child to die, knowing that the pod might not be able to support him for an indefinite time and who knew how long it would be before another would come to this site.
For a moment he pondered how the child survived atmospheric entry.
He wondered where it had come from.
Inevitably, he wondered why.
Nirek sequestered the child back to his speeder, the prospect of scavenging had now been abandoned in his mind. The grav engines hummed to life before Nirek sped away from the crash site, as if he had just committed some great crime of abducting this infant rather than potentially saving its life. Through mountain valleys and titanic fortress-ruins, Nirek raced back to his home, attempting to comfort the child all the while. The grav speeder had to swiftly turn, lurching to the side before stopping a hairs length away from a metal wall. The scavenger held the steering wheel with both hands, breathing heavily but allowing himself a moment to recollect himself. This brief respite was enough to bring order back to his mind, calming himself.
The man let out a sigh before looking over the child, who had by now stopped crying though, perplexingly, staring at Nirek like Nirek had been staring at the child. Nirek’s scarlet eyes gazed into the deep blue of the child’s and, for a moment, the two seemed to hold an understanding. Despite being below any age of comprehension, the child looked around his surroundings, his gaze holding upon certain architectures or pieces of scenery as if he was absorbing the sight and locking it away. The infant’s eyes wordlessly darted back to Nirek as he spoke, “You’re an odd kid.”
There was a toothless grin as if it was a true response to Nirek’s words, but the scavenger allowed himself to relax as the child began to act its age. He wondered what to do in that moment, thinking of the possibilities that he might be able to do. “One-One would never allow you,” Nirek commented to himself, the baby cocked his head earning an explanation from the scavenger, ”She’s this grumpy old hag known as a wife. Though you might just be charming enough to get through to her, kid.”
The baby laughed, earning a more and more curious gaze from Nirek as he tried to piece the kid together. “How do the Priest Orphanages sound?” Nirek asked off-handedly, earning a rasp from the baby as if he understood the question. Nirek chuckled to himself before speaking, “Well, I guess One-One might just have to bear with you for a bit.”
With those words, the speeder started on its path again, diving through the countryside as Nirek began to think of ways to charm his wife into allowing the temporary adoption. He figured that it wouldn’t be too hard but as he approached a redoubt, armed to the teeth with turrets and other such automated defenses, Nirek couldn’t help but feel a pit of dread within his stomach. The child gave a concerned gaze, sharing Nirek’s worry as the turrets followed the craft as it came closer and closer to the ancient, independent fortification. Though, Nirek’s worry was not for his own but for the prize that he had decided to bring for he knew One-One was not bound by the same human morals as he. In fact, he could see her form looming over the precipice of the redoubt, glowing optical blue tracking them as the speeder approached, swiftly coming to a stop.
A feminine, synthetic voice quickly called out, “I have detected two life signatures. Explain.”
Nirek slowly got out of the speeder, raising his hands as if surrendering to a militant force, before he spoke, “A guest. One-One.”
“Elaborate,” the monotone voice barked back. He could make out the hood of her white robes, even more threateningly, Nirek could see that she had two servo-arms pointed downwards - one at the child and one at himself.
“I found the child in the wastes, love. I could not leave him. You know what would happen if the Mechanicum found him, Machine God forbid if the Cult did,” Nirek said, allowing silence to follow as One-One seemed to steep herself in momentary thought. Eventually, the two robotic-arms lowered themselves, leaving Nerik to let out a sigh of relief before leaning into his vehicle and grabbing the child, swaddling him in a light rag that he normally used for scrap.
He held the child close as he approached, the door shifting open for him and revealing the comforts of his home. Nirek would have let out a sigh of relief to be back home, but One-One came into his view, still bearing her axe. Her hood was lowered and so he gazed upon the graying skin of her face, at least what was visible under the respiratory mask that was now melded where her mouth and nose should be. The scavenger braced himself.
“Was it impossible to notify me of this intrusion beforehand?” The synthetic voice chided, setting her axe against the wall.
Nirek let out a silent thanks to the Machine God, “I wasn’t thinking. I am sorry.”
“You ought to be,” One-One growled, moving into a different room almost dismissively to her husband who closely followed behind. She walked to a screen, gazing upon its information.
“Listen-“ One-One raised a finger, silencing her husband without meeting his eyes.
“You said you had found it in the wastes?” The tech-priestess questioned, continuing to gaze upon her screen. Nirek gave her the affirmation with a light grunt, keeping still behind his wife. One-One turned her head in brief acknowledgement, her monotone voice speaking briefly inquiring more, “Where exactly?”
“In a pod, past the Antioch Array,” Nirek answered.
One-One was upon him, swiftly grasping her husband's throat as if he were one of her many thralls. Her audio-drivers strained themselves, “If you were seen you have doomed us! Do you know what it is that you have brought into our home?!”
Nirek continued to hold the now screaming child in a desperate attempt to not drop him. “One-One…” he choked out.
“The Angelus Machina! Did you not think when I said I wished to distance myself from that accursed order! Dispose of it,” She ordered, dropping the man on the floor.
“I can’t,” Nirek said in defiance, earning One-One’s baleful gaze as he scrambled for his balance. He spoke out against her once more, “No one will come for us! Abandoning a child to an unknown fate is not something I can do, my love. You wouldn’t do it either, at least, not while we still lived amongst the forges.” This wording had seemed to disarm the priestess, her stance shifting and relaxing as the weight of her own mind was crumbling. Nirek rested a hand on her shoulder, “We wanted to start a new life, away from that cult. That doesn’t mean we must abandon our morals. This child - this ‘Angelus’ - has no one to go to. At least none that would treat him as a child, we can give him that home.”
One-One looked away from Nirek, contemplating before speaking softly, “Why must you be so insistent? My emotional suppressors strain against your words.” Her gaze shifted to the babe, “Does the Angelus have a name?”
Nirek shook his head, before offering the child to his wife and she took him into her arms, holding him as any mother would. She knew that she could not be a true mother to this child but even as she gazed into its deep blue eyes, she felt the phantom tears well behind her blue optics. One-One leaned her head into her husband's chest, feeling the warmth of his embrace around her. Perhaps, this would be the way for her mind to be at peace, to perhaps gain some control after it was so brutally ripped away from her. With a synthetic sigh, One-One spoke, “Then may I name the Angelus?”
“Anything, my love,” Nirek confirmed, resting his chin in her blackened hair.
“Then, let it be known to all that I shall name him after my father and your family…
Let it be known. Let it be known, that he hath come.
Usriel Andreadth, the Angelus Machina. Our new beginning.
Salkor pored over the vast readings from analyzing the child he did not yet know to be a primarch. It was related to humanity in some way. Not just by the aesthetic, but a sample of genetic material relayed that inevitably it was a distant cousin of the homo sapiens. But it had been optimized. Stronger, faster, and clearly far more intelligent. It had apparently not known neither High Gothic nor binharic upon first arrival to Mars. Yet in a mere day it had mastered both of the languages as a student of many years might. Though confined to a glasscrete cube, the creature seemed strangely understanding and compliant with its situation once fully understanding it. Indeed, it went so far as to correcting a warped hydraulic in one of the servitors that had arrive to take its genetic material. Indeed, once the concept of a dissection had been explained it had even assisted in the examination of its own internal organs!
Much to the Fabricator General’s surprise, the creature had made for a good conversational partner. It had queried why the genetic samples would be needed, what they would be used for, and if the projects to use the information were successful then what that would mean for Salkor, for Mars, for the future, and for itself. Truth be told, Salkor himself didn’t even know what would happen if he could manage to clone the beautiful child. For one, that largely depended on what exactly this thing would mature to, assuming that indeed it was simply a child for now. But there was also the question of how simple would it be to make more of such beings even if the Priesthood did manage to wrap their minds around the biology of the synthetic person.
That was what it was, Salkor decided. Such a thing could not simply evolve. Not over millennia, likely not in billions of years. Such a thing needed the guiding hand of intelligent design in its origin. The Mechanicum sought to augment itself with plasteel and adamantium where it could to surpass the boundaries of mere humanity but whoever manufactured this particular individual had managed to do so much better with mere meat. To what extent it could, this angered the Archmagos. The thought that all of the thousands of years of careful improvements on the human form with machine could be so thoroughly surpassed with flesh was just wrong to him. Jealousy, that was what he felt. The bit of him yet human screamed and wailed that it was unfair that he had to sacrifice all of himself save a few grams of brain whilst this creature was already born with perfection!
Though initially he mostly visited the thing to personally take new readings and observe its growth to an even more herculean form, he found eventually that he was coming to the laboratory it was held in simply for the sake of being there.
It was at one such visitation that he was disturbed by a servitor demanding his attention. It reported atmospheric great atmospheric disturbance, and initially Salkor was excited. Was he to get even more such subjects to study? If he had two, that would certainly allow him to be more… callous with the tests on one of them. Alas, he was to be disappointed.
“Thousands of missile signatures. Countermeasures.”
Salkor paused for a moment, floating over to a cogitator in a wall and plugging into it. Looking upon Mars from a satellite he could even now see the crashing of vessels from orbit down onto the red dust. It had come to Salkor’s attention that in his new obsession he had neglected his domain, and if anyone else had noticed this fact they would be sure to bring it up when this sudden outburst of violence across the red planet would be inevitably discussed. His frustrations quickly grew when data reams would come that the sites of the missile barrages had all been rather close to Fulgurite temples. He knew for a fact they would leave behind no proof that they were the ones striking the vessels which he was now almost certain would be full of corpuscarii priests or their ideologues. Shame quickly replaced the frustration, for he had so long tried to maintain the fragile peace between them and now had failed. There was only one thing left for him to do, and that was to summon the Martian Parliament to discuss how to proceed.
Jonatan Rhen liked to think he was a simple man. He owned quite a bit of farmland, sure, and was one of the wealthiest in town because of it. But that didn't mean he was afraid of some honest work. Which was why he found himself knelt down, working away at his crops by hand. He'd been told the town would be getting some new tools he could buy to help with this. They'd told him that last year too. And the year before. By now, Jonatan had consigned himself to simply whittling away at it on his own. He sighed, looking up from the dirt to wipe his brow. Maybe he could-
His thoughts were cut off by a thunderous roaring from the sky, and a sharp glare catching him across the face. He looked to see what looked to be some sort of falling star careening off across the horizon. And it was headed straight for his fields several acres away. He stood, and quickly began to sprint off towards his farm home.
"Marthe, Marthe, come quickly!" he shouted as he ran, calling his wife to come outside. She did, startled look across her face.
"What is it, Jonatan? Why are you shouting, is something wrong?"
"I don't know! Something strange just came falling from the sky! It crashed in the field a ways away! Grab some water and come look with me, I don't want it to burn the crops!"
As Jonatan rushed away from the home and towards the object's landing site, his wife hurried to fill a pair of buckets from their well, rushing after him.
Marthe arrived heaving a bucket in each hand, nearly dropping them from shock at what she saw. Jonatan stood there too, eyes transfixed upon what had fallen into their world, changing it forever. A large, shimmering metal object, looking unharmed from the impact and partially burrowed into the ground. The strange thing opened with a hiss, and what was inside shocked them even more. A baby, the largest either of them had ever seen. The couple looked at each other before both carefully stepped towards the object, reaching in and hefting the child out together. Silently, they carried him to their home, both contemplating the bizarre situation they'd found themselves in. The baby looked up at them both, emerald eyes glinting in the daylight, hands reaching out to them.
Bringing the child inside, the two quickly worked to make up something they could set him on, as they figured out what to do.
"What do you think it could mean, Jon? A baby, falling from the sky? Its like something from out of an old fairy tale!"
"Well, this definitely isn't a tale. We've got to deal with this somehow. We need...we need to take him in."
"What if he's dangerous?!"
"We can't just abandon a baby out into the wilderness, Marthe! The right thing to do is to take him in and...see if anyone comes looking for him."
"Who would come looking for him? He fell from the sky, Jon!"
"Well maybe there's people out there. People like him. He's big, far bigger than he should be, he's definitely no normal man's son."
"So we're raising him then? Adopting a baby from the stars... Not at all how my mother would've expected her first grandchild."
"Well, if we're raising him, he'll need a name. Got any ideas, Marthe?"
At his, Marthe knelt down to look the child in the eyes, letting him softly grip one of her fingers in his hand.
"Wolfram, after my grandfather. People said he was a strange man, and I have a feeling they'll say the same about this boy here."
"Wolfram it is, then." Jonatan said with a small smile, kneeling down as well to gently rub the boy's head. Then he stood, heading back for the doorway. Marthe gave him a concerned look as he did, standing up.
"Where are you going now?"
"To bury that thing he came in. Last thing we need is people flocking from all over to oggle at the strange thing crashed into our farmland."
Wolfram grunted as he hefted several sacks of grain onto a cart in quick succession. He gave his father a smile as he dusted off his hands. The boy had grown incredibly fast, almost inhumanely so. He was already almost twice as tall as Jonatan, and seemed to have no sign of slowing down. He was strong, insanely strong. In the time he'd been helping around the farm he'd already made the job far easier than it could be. And that wasn't mentioning just how smart and gifted the boy was. When he'd heard about some of the new tools his father had been expecting, what they were supposed to help him do, he'd gone out, examined the crops for a while, then gone into town, and come back having built them himself. Standing here now, Jonatan couldn't help but be equally awed and startled at the way Wolfram was progressing.
"Thanks again, son. I can do it, it just goes by a lot quicker with your help."
"You're welcome, father. Is there anything else I can do to help?"
"Why don't you ride into town with me? I've got some stuff I need to tell you, and I think you're ready to hear them."
Wolfram stood in front of the mirror, examining what he could of his massive body within the frame. He was barely large enough to fit into the room without needing to duck down, much less the whole mirror. Nonetheless, he looked over the well-tailored outfit he'd been given, designed to fit his large size. It didn't bother him too much, being so large in comparison to those around him. Not after what his father had told him, shown him. He knew he wasn't a normal person, wasn't really his father's son. That strange object he'd been found in, buried at its crash site years ago, was still something he dwelled on from time to time. Its part of the reason he was doing what he was now, preparing to leave his hometown for the first time, to head to the largest university in Korstel, his homeland.
He'd gained more and more of an interest in machines, cities, and people as he'd grown. Learning how people grew their food, built their homes, traveled, and protected themselves. And eventually, he'd reached the limits of what he could learn in the town, and the neighboring towns. He knew he'd need a proper education if he wanted to learn more, especially if he wanted to learn about the object he'd come from within. And this was why his father and mother had been kind enough to give him a large amount of their savings, to help him see out his dream by attending the Vohenburg University for Science and Engineering.
The large man gave his parents one last hug goodbye, taking his things and loading them onto the cart they'd prepared for him. Guiding the animal and the vehicle out onto the road, he looked back at his home, and then forward towards his future. He didn't know what was in store for him, but he knew he had much to learn.
Darkness, writhing and scaly, surrounded his visage in a whirlpool around him. A tempest built of slithering, serpentine creatures that flowed as liquid in an unending torrent. Incorporeal bodies that hissed rhythmically in a bizarre dance, capering to an unknown tune. Their movements obscured any conceivable source of light, permeating even the sky above from his sight.
He is their focal point.
Despite this, their darkness was as welcome as one’s own home. Their encircling dance posed no form of malice. Each one of their ethereal bodies swam through the air to protect him. Every one of their slitted, orange eyes never faltered from staring directly at him. Their predatory gazes held only a silent warmth.
He is under their protection.
He reached out to touch their scaled forms only to find his fingers shorter than he had ever imagined before. Not since the earliest days of his being had he seen such a small hand. The writhing cyclone responded to his wishes, enclosing around him in a slow, deliberate manner. His tiny digits brushed against the beautiful, umbral scales of the serpentine masses. Each of the ethereal serpents pushed against one another to be acknowledged by their protected one. He felt his lips turn upward as they rushed to his hands.
He is their master.
It dawned upon him that they reacted to his will as if puppeted by invisible strings through an unknown nexus. He let out a laugh, a bubbling and incoherent sound. The writhing mass chortled in a flurry of hisses and snorts uncharacteristic of their apparent forms. He moved his hands in random patterns, watching as the obsidian torrent moved and flew to his desires. He clapped his hands together in appreciation of their efforts. Inhuman, predatory smiles revealed rows of fangs as they responded to his acknowledgments.
He is something more.
His visage swiveled to the land before him and beheld black sand that was unknown to his gaze. Slowly, he picked himself up from his seated position in the midst of the tempest. He turned his attention upward. The swarm acquiesced to his demands, unveiling the sky above to their protected one. An eternal dusk greeted his gaze, darkened even further by rows of bloated clouds. Across several patches, the sight of the greater beyond peaked through to reveal the twinkling abyss. He understood what they were without any further consideration. A smile, toothy and wide, broke across his lips.
He wishes for the abyss beyond his gaze.
A handful of enormous, celestial objects curved across the sky in a slow orbit. Illuminated globes of incomparable size shone through the perpetual dusk of the outstretched land in his view. He basked in the light of the abyssal globes. A hand raised to wave apart the writhing swarm. They hissed and roiled in protest to keep their precious prisoner within their fold; however, he would submit to their will. A sound emitted from his lips, an attempt at communication that reverberated several times over as if echoing into a small chamber. Instinctually, the serpents parted away to reveal the landscape that stretched out before him.
He will claim everything for himself.
The black sand beneath his feet continued on for an incomprehensible length, interrupted only by pools of aetheric liquid. Across the landscape, large stones of crackling energy floated in the air through powers unknown to him. Enormous, tidal dunes stood as mountains that separated what he could and could not view. Immediately in front of him, an enormous pool of the unknown liquid coagulated. Those slithering, hissing forms continued to emerge from the fluid. Behind him, a casket made of unknown metal lay broken and destroyed by an unknown assailant. Hanging in the sky, far beyond the rocks, flew a gargantuan structure of impossible engineering.
He will create things beyond imagination.
He marveled at the impossibility of the structure for only a moment before turning his attention back to the aetheric lake. He walked forward towards it, the writhing mass following him as if he were the center of a storm. His knees sunk to the ground as he gazed into the depths of the liquid. It offered his reflection as a sublime reward. A tanned, youthful face with orange, serpentine eyes stared back at him. Internally, he began to panic as he realized that he was not staring at his own face. The reflection tilted it’s head in confusion before reaching out with one of it’s small hands. He felt an incomprehensible pull towards the reflection, reflecting the movement to touch the outstretched hand.
He is the Promised One.
Suddenly, violently, his vision distorted into a whirlpool of darkness unlike that of the writhing masses. Yanked from the abyss, he drowned with an inaudible scream. He felt a bewildering pull as if his very existence was drawn through the fabric of reality. Fortunately, within the realm of his mind, it was only a short trip. His eyes snapped open to behold the sights around him. His old body shot up in panic, a hand suddenly grasping the apparatus attached to his face for verification. Cold, shaped metal greeted his draconic, tanned hands. A sigh of relief escaped his lips, passing through the automatic filtration system installed into the facial device.
Muahad, the name his people had given him, pushed his body from the slab that he called a bed. His eyes fervently scanned each meter of the room, quickly verifying that he was not stuck in the vision that he had witnessed. Satisfied, his legs brought him to the closest window in the chamber. Environmentally sealed from the black deserts, the Old Man gazed into the eternal dusk of his homeworld. His dreary reflection confirmed his identity. A tall, lanky figure garbed in a dark, compressed scale robe appeared before him. A skeletal mask covered his facial features, interrupted only by a pair of unnaturally incandescent azure eyes.
He turned away from the window as he heard the quiet steps of his asasiyuns approaching the door at the furthest edge of the chamber. The sound of groaning, hissing mechanics announced their arrival. A single individual entered, garbed in the traditional robes of compressed scale and dark hues natural for their culture. Beneath the attire, however, the entity wore an impressive suit of extremely lithe powered armor covered in a variety of hairline piping. The guest clasped his hands together and dropped to one knee before Muahad.
“Muahad, I apologize for interrupting your rest. Pandjoras knows you require your rest, but I come bearing news of our scouting ventures beyond Neu Alamut.” The man spoke in a rhythmic voice, a tone filled with the natural trill of the Pandjoran language. His features were hidden beneath a smooth, scaled cowl; however, Muahad could easily see his orange, serpentine eyes bare to the world.
“You’ve arrived adeptly, Nakim.” The Old Man spoke, his voice as gravely as the oldest chunk of rock on Pandjoras. Each word was spoken deeply and intently. His tone projected decades of wisdom and draconic knowledge. Only the apparatus stuck to his voice added a faint staticness to his words. “A vision has become clear.”
The final words confused the arriving asasiyun, Nakim, who picked himself up from the ground at the mention of a vision. He knew that the Old Man of the Mountain held insights into inspirations beyond their capacity. The prophetic dreams from the Unifier of Pandjoras had always been heeded. So too would this one. He dared not speak to interrupt Muahad. The elder, noticing the silence, continued.
“From beyond the cosmos, he shall come. He speaks in words spoken from the aetheric tides. By right of his existence, he claims the black sand and dominates the void serpents of Pandjoras. He bears the marks of eternity. He is promised to us, but we shall hold no sway over him.” The Old Man of the Mountain spoke, closing his eyes to reminisce on the vision that he had awoken from. Nakim felt the air grow still from the revelation gifted to him. His breathing became sharp at the thoughts of a ‘promised one’. A gauntleted hand reached up to his face, covering his mouth in thought.
“Then it is fated, Muahad. I’ve come bearing news of a child found out in the black sands, nearest to the Aether Lake. The void serpents encircled the child like a storm. He appeared to the command it with his voice alone. Several of the hassan felt compelled by the child’s enunciations.” Nakim spoke in a rapid voice, relaying the information as quickly as possible. To Muahad, the man appeared to be unraveling at an unprecedented rate. He released a sigh of disappointment, crossing the distance between them to lay a hand on the asasiyun’s shoulder.
Nakim visibly deflated as his breathing calmed to the point of silence, his eyes closing to the world around him. The erratic air around the asasiyun disappeared as if it had never appeared. Wordlessly, the Pandjoran turned away from the Old Man of the Mountain to exit the room. There was no need for excessive words between the two as Muahad followed after through the corridors into Neu Alamut.
Muahad stepped out onto the orange, serpent-silk carpets lining the gravitic stone structure that was their citadel. The duo continued to pass beneath arches decorated with sculpted forms of void serpents and roiling dunes. Each corner held carefully sculpted, ophidian pillars with archaic glowglobes attached to the top. Black sand, coarse and rough, remained scattered in spontaneous amounts no matter the destination. Passing hassan dipped their heads in respect to the Old Man, offering a short salam before attending to their duties. Every Pandjoran they passed, despite their role, wore the traditional dusken robes of compressed serpent-silk.
The pair of Pandjorans stepped out onto a balcony overlooking an atrium fit to house a hundredfold men. A domed roof hung over their heads, ornately decorated with an intricate map of Pandjoras’ known regions. Glowglobes chandeliers lit each corner of the spherical chamber, while penumbra stalk incense lingered in thick wisps from ceramic censers. At the center of the room stood a handful of black robed hassan with a single, quickly garbed child in the midst of them. Their armored boots, minus the child’s, were planted over a wealth of black sand that covered the carefully laid brick of Neu Alamut.
“As it was fated, wished upon a thousand and one grains of black sand.” The Old Man of the Mountain spoke quietly, despite his intensely deep voice threatening to shatter the ears of Nakim. Muahad felt himself perspire as he and the other Pandjoran walked down the ascenders to the ill-fated child and his escorts. He felt nothing short of awe at the sight of the child; however, he claimed a face of neutrality beneath the skeletal mask. The hassan dropped down to their knees as he closed the distance between the ascender and the anomalous adolescent.
“You have traveled far, dreamer.” Muahad stepped closer to the child, who raised their hands up in an effort to be hoisted. The elder offered a single, deep chortle before acquiescing to the demands of the adolescent. Each hassan began to shift, approaching to take on the role offered, but Muahad waved them off. Lifting the child from the black sand of the atrium, the Old Man beheld the sight of his envisioned ‘promised one’.
“What should we do with him, Muahad?” Nakim voiced the concern of every Pandjoran gathered around him.
“He shall become hassan.” The answer was simple and resolute. The tone of the Old Man of the Mountain’s voice was unflinching as he stared into the orange, serpentine eyes of the child in his hands.
When I was young, my father spoke of titans, gods, and giants. Beings that controlled the world we lived on, shaped it, and created it. Some were good, some were evil, and the titans were primordial. Those who came before the gods were kind, but most have long since been dead. To warriors with long ears and heads, they were gods, and they still worship those they believed to be alive. The gods, those my husband's people worship, and to them, well, most of them, benevolent, but some of the clergy have fallen upon dark ways. Jihad and conviction have made these priests bloodthirsty. When I look to my husband's land and then my homeland, that is why so many of my people are now gone. His father, jihad, and ritual death are a corruption that spreads across the lands, and if it were not for larger kingdoms, it would encompass the world. I was lucky he found me, but now I am a part of a game I do not like.
When I look back to when I was young, I remember stories, many of them of these gods, titans, and giants fighting. The three had been around since the beginning of time, and many other divine beings spread out, but those three were the most important, for they controlled the world. They controlled the universe; they allowed time to flow and to be something. But they work in mysterious ways.
The titans and the gods have always been in a battle, and they sing to those like the witches, the wizards, the priests, my father. They sing to those who listen, and I've tried to listen, but I cannot hear them. I cannot hear anything besides emptiness; those who use the wyrd, or magic, had a rough time with her, some screamed when near her, others just got headaches, and a lot of people got headaches around her, but my husband saw me and believed I was his savior. I changed him, he was supposedly cruel, but I changed him. He saw everything and needed it. It was everything, and he believed that I was the deceiver of his faith, but he believed something besides that. In my faith and in his, several events are similar. One is that of the son of the giant; one is that of hope, and one is that of destruction.
His father, the priesthood of his father's lands, they called me the deceiver. Maybe I am; maybe I am the mother. Tonight, I talked my husband and my guard into walking with us. There is a gap in the line where my husband's guard is holding, and they will let us slip in through. The fire didn't touch me, and I won't let it touch them. We have reinforcements should anything go wrong, but it shouldn't; prophecy dictates this happens either way. I must do this, and I have heard his wailing since I came here. Few have, now I shall stop it.
It was dark three hours after the sun dropped down below the horizon. We went out in leather and dark cloth, hidden in the clouded ash sky from what little the moon shined down upon the world. When we reached the wall, we passed underneath a stone archway that was to have a door emplaced eventually on the outside, while the inside facing the fire would be a blanket of flat stone slabs, but those weren't there yet. We entered the fire zone, and it was as if a tunnel was formed in the fire, but it was for me alone. Those behind me walked through hell, they all would, but they would regardless of what would happen.
My husband, and our retinue that marched out with me heard the screams of the dead, and they saw ashes; they saw death and destruction. All I saw were ash statues littering the ground, running, holding each other in fear. They saw much more in flames, hounds were heard all around us, and tiny flickers of light followed us like wolves prowling. Maybe we were being hunted, or maybe they were guardians but were they protecting the wailing child or us? We went through as quickly as we could into the wood; the heat got intense, and I felt it, every moment of it. It began to burn, it began to feel like I was walking through hell, but they continued to move forward toward the crying.
Then it hit, fire hit us, it felt like an inferno, and the screaming stopped. I looked around and saw everything, and the firestorm continued around us, but we were also flames. We were walking flame. We continued to move forward, and we were flame. It was nothing before seen. The fire couldn't touch me, I was more of a walking ball of flame, but the others were flame; their armor and life were flames. They saw all in the world; all I saw was my son. I reached out forward, and I saw him, a perfect son. He had thick brown and red hair like he was born out of the fire. He was a large babe. I took him in my arms, and the crying stopped. I looked into my son's eyes and felt my child inside me kick, a family at once.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and we had to go. I turned, and we started running. The fire subsided around us, and we burst like phoenixes through the forest. We continued to move swiftly, quicker than we came in. We got to the town and started low to the ground; I was thankful that the boy was no longer crying. We would be heard across the fields, but we continued back to the wall. I heard fighting, so much fighting. We were caught; the prophecy was broken by her and the others. Then the crying began again, and my husband's soldiers lit up like warriors of the night. The night was lit by fire. I listened for hours as a fight raged; those sixteen soldiers and my husband were warriors like nothing. They were fast, and their blades cut through steel and iron like it was nothing. The soldiers of his father, of his faith, were nothing against just those seventeen men.
The men protecting the wall were good warriors as well, and others joined in. It became a battle of the ages as my husband fought and bled for our family. Hours went by, it seemed, and I was standing there listening to crying. It died down sometime around noon, with the firestorm, and with so many men. Two thousand, maybe two and a half thousand, were dead. Plenty more were dying; almost every order and army lost men, and almost all were gone. There were around sixty left in total. When the orders from the north came, they joined the reconstruction. A new fort and city are to be built in the north.
Belivahnn would be the name of this settlement.
The name of her fathers house, it was a fitting name. But, there was a new house born with her son.
The entity that was inhabiting the body of Mohn was currently in an emotional state of... well, something difficult to describe. How does one describe the emotional state of a creature that was born from an idea? A fundamental hope that the universe could change in a manner that would be beneficial to the person dreaming for it or cause misfortune to someone or something that they deemed deserving of such ire? From a mortal point of view it could have been viewed as having an understanding of different emotional states, but only in the sense that it could point at another entity from the warp and say what emotion brought them into being; It knew that anger existed, but it never truly would be able to experience it in a manner that was truly its own.
Another entity might have stewed on the fact that something had gone wrong and that all the time and effort they had put into the failed plan to the point of being driven into a berserk rage or simply laughed it off because of course something vital would go wrong and endanger everything. For this entity, its mind ran through countless new possibilities for the future now that its intended plan had gone off course. There were plenty of paths which would end in failure, but those outcomes were discarded to better see the successes. Hope sprung eternal after all.
The pod beeped as its sensors started to pick up on lifeforms that were starting to enter its range. At first it was just animals, the information registered and carefully passed on to its young charge so that they would be better prepared if they needed to be removed from the pod before a suitable caretaker was located. A relatively small group of entities appeared soon afterwards that proved more... interesting to the sensor equipment. Based on the information that it had in its data banks, the group seemed to be made up of a mixture of genetically altered strains of humanity; Several were clearly descendants of those modified for high gravity worlds while the others had been altered to have more animalistic traits. Scans of their equipment (which failed to detect anything electronic in nature) suggested that this group was unrelated to those that had sent up the devices that it had picked up earlier.
Before the calculations of the risk vs reward of entrusting the care of its ward to the group of primitive relations to humanity could be processed, a third contact appeared on the sensor array. One that radiated a high psy level, heavy mutations of the body and an energy signature that caused the pods data to display an error message before the scans shut down automatically and warning programs of a high level threat were pulled up from the depths of its data banks.
Armored plating started to slide into place as the pod went into a lockdown mode. It's primary duty was to protect the cargo within and it would do so to the best of its ability.
"'hy we here Big Bob?" asked the smaller of the two Ogyrn as they gazed down at the massive crater, ignoring the small herd of goat like beastmen that were clopping along, spears and bows at the ready as they investigated the area and were clearly looking for something.
"Cuz pointy boss said Lil Bob." Big Bob answered with the conviction of someone who had given the only answer that was needed. It was the way of the tribe to follow the smartest and strongest and while pointy boss was something of an outsider and one of the smol ones, he proved smarter and stronger the everyone else in the tribe... so they followed him. The fact that Pointy Boss was also the chief of a variety of other tribes, like the goaty men was simply further proof that he deserved to be leader.
There was a moment of relative quiet between the two larger abhumans before Lil Bob spoke up again. "Nah, I knows that. I meant 'hat we meant to do once we gots here?"
There was another silence, but this time it was because Big Bob was being forced to think about a rather complicated question. Pointy Boss had given them instructions on what to do once they got there, but Pointy Boss tended to be difficult to understand at times. He was smart and thus could use long words easily, which meant he often needed to stop and rethink what he said before talking slower with smaller words when giving instructions to members of the tribe. Remembering stuff wasn't Big Bob's strong suit, but after working through several aborted attempts at conversation Big Bob remembered "Wes here to hunt the sick bird thing."
"'Hy we hunting a sick bird? No good meat on sick birds." Lil Bob forcefully huffed, before a meaty slab of flesh in the form of Big Bob's hand smacked him over the back of the head.
"'Cause ya idiot, if we leaves the sick bird alone it'll make other things sick. Pointy Boss doesn't want that. So wes here to hunt sick bird so no other sick animals." With the law laid down by Big Bob and Lil Bob's curiosity sated, the two were about to go and help the goats with looking for the bird when a sickening feeling of wrongness seemed to fill the very air itself. Despite it being a temperate day, steam came out of the mouths and noses of those humanoids gathered as if it was freezing.
As the source of the wrongness seemed to draw closer, the Bob's and the goats turned towards where they knew the wretchedness seemed to be coming from. Weapons had grips tighten on them, hooves pawed at the ground in an antsy, angry manner... and Big Bob pulled back his arm and started aiming the metal tipped throwing spear in his hand. "Seems like the sick bird has come to us!"
Much like the location of the Child of the Anathema, the battle with the primitive, mortal creatures had not been foreseen. They had been creatures unworthy of the gift of intelligence, little more then brutish animals... but as pathetically small as their minds were, their stupidity had made them a greater annoyance then one would expect. There wasn't enough room for things such as doubt, ambition or fear... instead the oafs had clung to the order they had received to 'kill the sick bird' with the single minded dedication of those who were giving the task at hand their total devotion.
As the final, larger slab of meat fell to the ground dead with a heavy thud, burn marks scarring their flesh while the black smoke that used to be blood poured out of brunt ears, tongueless mouth and empty eye sockets, the entity took a moment to access its situation.
Mohn's body was a wreck. The spears and arrows embedded in several locations that would have killed or crippled a normal human were easy to see, while one of the wings it had been using to fly around in real space had been torn off by a surprise throw of one of the slabs spears... it wasn't sure which one had done it. Calling upon its own abilities in order to overwhelm and destroy the mortals had also taken a heavy toll, causing flesh and bone to rip and tear. It was only the presence of the entity itself that was keeping this body going, but the damage inflicted upon it had also compromised its ability to continue to contain the entity itself.
Mohn was dying. The entity that possessed her didn't have enough raw warp energy to restore the body to a stable state at once. Making the attempt to restore the body at a slower rate would only speed up the rate of degradation as its inability to contain the entity would only worsen as more warp power was pulled in. Attempts to scry into the immediate future turned up a simple truth that could not be denied; There was no course of action or move it could make, in this moment, that would result in any form of victory.
The Child of the Anathema was simple too well defended and strong in their own right. Even if it gambled on throwing everything it had at breaching the pod and assassinating the child, the pod would be destroyed but the Child would be spared and unharmed while the entity itself would be destroyed in the effort. Abandoning the host and trying to use one of the corpses wasn't viable either; The dullards didn't have a strong enough connection to the warp to serve as a suitable host and would be destroyed before the entity could even get within range of the Pod.
The whole point it had taken a host body in the first place was because the warp was remarkably weak here; It would simply not be able to hold onto its form in real space long enough to get the job done. The opportunity it had striven to take advantage of had been lost to it and there wasn't a damn thing it could do about it.
Accepting the defeat with a surprising amount of grace, the possessed Mohn turned in a seemingly random direction before offering a small, respectful bow to the air itself before the daemon within abandoned its host. Mohn's body dropped to the dirt quietly, dying almost instantly without the presence of the warp entity to sustain it further. Within minutes what remained of Mohn's physical form started to drift away as dust, only leaving behind only the broken arrows and spears that had been left inside of her body.
This round had gone poorly... but there was always next time.
Rows and columns of thousands of ocular lenses gazed upon the strange silvery youth. Servitors typed away at keyboards or even wrote on vellum, every test done upon the creature being a morsel of information each Genetor and other sapient member of the Mechanicum present was eager to digest.
The thing was truly a marvel, its musculature having broken through dozens of different attempts to restrain it until eventually a system involving the hydraulics of small titan models was made into an impromptu means to hold it down. The creature still thrashed, which admittedly made the study of its biology somewhat difficult. They flooded its system with enough sedatives to kill many larger things yet its reaction was to simply expel all of the chemical through projectile vomit. It was a truly fascinating thing, made all the more interesting when a sample of its blood revealed that it had some sort of relation to humanity. An abhuman of course, nearly as far from homo sapiens as an ape on ancient Terra. But this was no mutant. Whatever this was had to be stable, simply because of the fact it was undeniably an engineered biology.
Theories spread in the assembled ranks of the Techno-Clergy ranging from suggestions that this was the manifestation of archeotech from the past, to this being the project of some Techpriest present, to being the result of some sort of manipulation of the human biology by a xeno race of some sort. The most concerning however, was that this was some sort of weapon of the Grellans. Their technology had always seemed inferior by and large to that of the Ryzans outside of a few instances such as their cameleoline production methods and their abundance of plasma weaponry, but if they could produce such things then they most certainly eclipsed the Ryzan realm of the Mechanicum’s Empire in the field of biology. To think that with flesh could be crafted something so much more perfect than machine gave odd thoughts to many within the chamber.
Ultimately, no theory had any real proof to it. The thing was clearly more than just its impressive physiognomy of course. The rigorous tests on its musculature, bones, skin, and so much more certainly proved that - what most conceded seemed to be a pre-pubescent gene-warrior of some sort - could destroy entire formations while in the nude. Yet what of its mind? Opening its skull clearly elicited a pain response, though unsurprisingly it seemed the life-support provided to ensure it wouldn’t perish in the event of an accident was redundant.
But the most surprising was yet to come. The thing was clearly capable of speech based on the sheer variety of sounds it made from the pain it suffered. But, just before the probes of the Mechanicum could reach the bottom of the thing’s skull it spoke. “Please stop.” was the simple utterance. It started off quiet, before becoming extremely loud, but at least settling on a powerful but nonetheless soft timbre that echoed through the room. The words somehow were commands, but also clearly not threats or demands. They did not intimidate, but nonetheless gave the impression of this individual being one’s master. The servitor received no such input to make it cease as ordered, yet it did. The Genetor in control of it could not muster any will to countermand the seeming malfunction.
The silence that overcame the onlookers eventually came to pass. At last the Heirophant Technis spoke, the force of mind to not simply be in awe of the speech a clear demonstration of why Patrimonia held the rank. “That can be arranged. Who are you, and why did you crash into my Forge?”
“I do not know.”
“I cannot answer the query, I do not know the truth.”
“To the former or to the latter?”
There was a brief pause, before the Heirophant stated bluntly even for a Techpriest: “Lie.”
Another brief pause, before the celestial arrival replied. “No. I can predict why I am here, there was a failure of some sort. I am out of place, I should not be here. Something very, very important failed for me to be stranded among you. Beyond that I do not know. Who you are, who I am, what this place is. I am unaware.”
Almost as if on queue to make the truth or lie of the child’s words hold greater stakes, the Archmagos’s HUD showed a message. The Grellans had declared war on Ryza for what they claimed to be a cowardly backstabbing. As the message spread among the most senior of the Genetors present, hundreds of Ocular lenses zoomed further on the creature.
As the Heirophant was thinking on how to proceed, another message came warning of a warp-storm to the Galactic West of Ryza. There would be no support from Mars, and no sending of the data learned from this creature to the Mechanicum’s homeworld.