Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by itarichan
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The pod knows something has gone terribly wrong as soon as it touches the water. Its sensors immediately begin a scan for humanoid life. Its calculations show that it doesn’t matter though. Unless they were within the immediate vicinity, they would never be able to find it. The pod does find life, but the discovery only makes the situation worse, as it senses a giant beast coming towards it. Alarms begin beeping and red text scrolls across the screen. The child within cracks open an eye, then rolls over onto her side, covering her face with an arm. The pod only has one choice. It immediately begins to make preparations for long-term internment. According to its calculations, The child will be able to survive for two days, fifteen hours, thirteen minutes and fifty-four seconds on the seafloor, which it will reach in approximately three minutes. At the speed the beast is traveling, it will reach the pod in two minutes and forty-two seconds. The current best case scenario would be for the beast to pass by without noticing the pod and for it to be found later. This seems unlikely, as no intelligent life has been detected within a one thousand kilometer radius, but given the situation, it is the only available option.
Only one minute left until the pod touches the seafloor. The beast disappears from its sensors; it appears to have turned around and left the area. Thirty seconds left. Five. Four. Three…The pod does not sense the dragon coming from behind until it’s too late. Alarm bells ring and lights flash, but there is nothing to be done. The beast engulfs it one smooth motion.

Hessen carried the pod in his mouth for over an hour, taking it to a small isle with an abandoned temple. Since he didn’t know what it was, he wanted to make sure that it was as far away from the populated mountains as possible. The “temple” was nothing more than a circular foundation with a half circle stone wall, and a rectangular slab of rock in the middle. Hessen gently opened his mouth and let the pod roll onto the stone bed. Bright red lights flashed as the device beeped incessantly. He squinted in the bright light and did his best to stop himself from crushing it with his foot. After ten seconds or so the device calmed down. A metal cover on the outside retracted, revealing a window. Hessen used a claw to roll it until he could see inside.
He was greeted with a pair of pale blue, almost colorless eyes that matched his own. The two stared at each other. Well, Hessen stared and the child glared back. She was an ugly little thing. Too skinny and long, as if someone had grabbed her by the hands and feet and pulled until she’d been stretched out. He tapped the window and the pod hissed and slid open. The child did not seem interested in moving and continued to wrinkle her eyebrows at him. Hessen leaned forward and touched the tip of his nose to her forehead. He chuckled, a deep rumble in his throat. Someone, somewhere had sent him an ugly, angry baby. And yet, he knew the second they touched that he would die for her.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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The wrath of the gods fell upon Fenris.

As a star blazed down from the sky, a roaring scream across the heavens, countless eyes turned to regard it and felt only fear. A blazing baleful eye to those who beheld it, it was a sure a sign of any to most that the Time of Fire was upon them, the onset of the great floods of meltwater. It had come too soon, the twins seasons of Fenris measured in years not months, none would be prepared.

The comet fell lower and lower in the sky, a great boom of force signaling the objects collission with the lower atmosphere, not that the tribesmen upon the savage world would know it to be so. To them, it was a thunderous warcry, loosed from the lips of a vengeful god. Many took up the cry, screaming savage chants back at the blazing light, seeking to show their cosmic foe there would be no easy victory.

The sight carried on, however, regardless of their roars of battle. A blazing corona burst into life around it, the air itself igniting on contact with the streaking object, punching through from the outer atmosphere to the rich air of the habitable planet.The wrath of the planet did not rise up to contest the comet’s inferno, the great ice wreathed volcanos remaining dormant as they would for much time hence. Instead blazing form surged onwards, pulled towards the might of the greatest peak. It impacted The Fang with a force that rolled down from pinnacle to base, a cascade of rockfalls and avalanches that would eradicate countless settlements dwelling within the mountain’s shadow. The force was such that the sharp peak of the Fang shattered, the comet plunging within its volcanic depths.

The frozen mountain gave way to the miasma of heat and sorcerous energies within it, the shining surface of the extraterrestrial object pushing deeper within the rock, until that rock gave way to something not of the material plane. With a shattering boom, the wrath of the heavens plunged into the realms of the Great Dark.


All she knew was cold.

As she pulled herself free of the wreckage, a blazing but dying inferno around her, the wind howled in a biting torrent. She knew little, her mind racing to form the barest of thoughts. She felt as if she should hold memories, but instead all she could recall were these fleeting moments. She knew as well that the licking flames around her should have raged with heat, but they did not. The corona of orange barely punctured into the great depths of night. Only the cold white of the ground and the colder dark of the sky marked the landscape before her, even as she continued to drag herself along the ground, the landscape worked to remove the only interruption in its surface. The flames were dying, and the shattered remains of what she had arrived in steadily being covered, a creeping sheen taking hold of whatever it had been.

Dragging herself along, she noted the very same about herself. The white of the ground began leeching up from her contact with it, a chill even greater than the cascade of the wind shuddering through her where ever the moisture seeemed to attach to her, then harden.


The word came to her mind even as she began to brush herself down, ridding herself of a layer before in the next moment it began to form again.

Stand, she had to stand. Another thought came to her without warning or precedence. How did she know to think this? To do this? This eluded her, but still she did it, wavering limbs that had never done so, but somehow could, pushing her first to her knees and then to stand. The frost still clung to her, the chill still leeched into her bones, but it had at least slowed the process. In the same manner as she knew these words and actions without knowing ‘how’ she too was aware that something was amiss. In her mind and heart she knew that such things as cold and chill should not matter to one such as her,

For all the hidden knowledge she seemed to hold, she knew nothing of this place. The horizon, where frost met sky, was an unending and even line in the far distance. The only landmark was behind her, the disappearing shape of the pod behind her.


Another word, but that one had less inherent meaning to her. Perhaps a name?

For the first time the half-formed knowledge within her came into conflict. Information that had been granted to her to ensure survival and prosperity. No, it was more than that.

To ensure victory.

Yes, that was it. A word that meant little to her yet, another name? All the same, that knowledge spoke to her. In the absence of any notable features in an unknown landscape, venturing away from her one guide was incorrect. She should remain.

Something more primal, however, raged in her head, pushing her on.

They are coming.

The frustrating half truthes that her mind gave her were even more nebulous on this matter. She did not know who they were, just that it was not something she should seek out. Quite the opposite, in the first moments of her life she knew true dread.

She pushed on. Even her fast racing mind, another thing she innately knew should be easy to her, could not calculate how far she had moved. Still, she did not stop. Her flesh cracked and bled, then froze again. She knew this would be the death of most, even when she didn’t know what ‘most’ could mean or be. She knew that it would kill even her eventually.

However fast she moved, it was not fast enough. Soon the unbroken line of the horizons around her began to break with flicking shapes, the silouhettes of unknown beings flashing across her vision. Her mind raced for a means to prepare, to find anything, that might defend herself.

Victory, Victory, Victory.

The thought pulsed in her head, even more than the sense of dread at the approaching figures, but it was an ineffective pulse. She had nothing. Suddenly a new emotion was born within her. The heat that the fire had not provided her could not rival the sudden surge of fury. If she could not have this victory, she would not grant it to whatever followed her either. Her broken and cracked lips drew back, a motion she immediately knew to be one of hostility. A snarl.

In response to her growl, howls beat back in the air around her. Not the howls of the wind, but a warbling, mocking cry, as they finally showed themselves.

They were monsters, twisted things. She did not know what they had been twisted from, but the smoothness of their skin suddenly giving way to a coarse fur coat around their limbs and heads marked them as hybrid things. They howled and laughed at her, drawing closer, hunger in their eyes.

She roared and howled back at them as they drew close, sounds which seemed to bring them further amusement, but for now the presence of ‘fight’ seemed to halt them. She knew that the moment she went quiet, they would strike. The cold was not helping, however, as more and more clung to her, her movement ceased to confront the encircling creatures, it leeched her strength, and already her voice wrasped with exhaustion. She was struck with the sudden sense of her impending doom, of potential not met, and the rage of that gave her strength for a few further moments, before she slumped to her knees, her defiance little more than a whisper.

Her prediction had been correct, as she did so, they drew closer, the mocking howls growing louder and louder, a hideous noise that scraped at her mind.

Then a new noise joined the cascade, a distant, continous…


“Away, Away!” Another voice cut through the night, and suddenly before her was another figure. She knew, innately, as she had with everything else, that this was the form of a man. He was withered with age, but stood straight and defiant. Heavy robes clung to his form, decorated with strange other fibres.


It seemed ludicrous, the hybrid forms were much larger, more powerful, than this single man, yet he gave them pause. Their mocking howls became growls of anger and confusion. Much as she knew she was not of this place, she felt the same for this man, and the hybrids knew it to.

“Away!” He snapped again. One of the hybrids attempted to bound for him, but the man raised one hand. There was a flash of baleful light, and suddenly the Hybird convulsed in mid air. The torrent of wind suddenly seem to bite so much more harshly at the figure, peeling flesh from bone. With a howl of pain, the hybird slumped to the frost, and never rose. That was enough for the others, with yelps of surprise and snarls of rage they bounded back into the darkness.

The man approached her, stooping to lift her from the frost. For the first time she felt warmth, a sensation that washed over her from him, especially from his hands that were uncovered from his robes, a beating heat that she clung to.

“..W…Who?” She rasped, burrying her face against the carpet of robes and feathers.

“Sweet child, you may call me Crowfather. Come, let us get you to safety.”

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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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“Do you see the land around us? The depth of the frost, and darkness of the sky?” Some time had passed, she was not sure how much, but the beating warmth which radiated from Crowfather brought thought and feeling steadily back to her, the child he carried in his arms. She did not speak in turn, untill he offered further. “Can you tell what is wrong here?”

“It is all the same?” She offered, the words coming to her in much the same way that she seemed to understand some of what she encountered innately. Her voice was rasping from the cold, but it was still clear.

“No, child. The flaw is that it is always changing, every moment, into something new.” The look of confusion that writ her features brought a kind smile to the wizened man’s features, before he explained, “You remember, when you arrived, your pod remained in place, until it was claimed by the Frost. It was too static for this realm, it was the same for more than a moment, so the everchanging frost claimed it.” She began to understand the logic of what Crowfather spoke to her, if not the spirit, and she nodded against his hot, beating, chest. She did not interrupt him as he continued. “There can be no progress here, for each moment, the individual shards of frost, the cloud of darkness upon us, must be cast into turmoil. Change is the only aim, and with that, the Realm remains as this.”

She frowned as he spoke. The words tracked, but the meaning did not. While the land before them held the character of change, it had embraced it so fully that it could not attain its own aim. The concept was frustrating, and flawed. The principle was appeased, but not the reality.

“There are places, in this great expanse, which do not obey such rules. Some are holdouts, some are those which have bowed to rule of this land and earned a reprieve.”

“Bowed to who?” She felt again, with the words of Crowfather beating through her senses, that something was wrong. We should all bow to one. Which one was that? She did not know, but she knew it was not one who would condemn the world to ever changing stagnation.

“To the great evil that rules these lands.” Crowfather spoke with a tone which seemd to bring discomfort to his kindly features, a flash of realtity which showed to her how there was weakness beneath this aged form. “To the Great Changer.”

“He rules this land?”

“He does, long ago there were many, but now it is him, who has confined the realm to this existence.”

“You want us to stop him together.” It was not a question, but it had doubts. She had seen the ease with which Crowfather had dispatched the twisted forms of the hunters when they assailed her. She did not know why some one such as him could require her aid for anything.

“Yes child, we will defeath the Great Changer, and you will find your home.”

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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by itarichan
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Hessen never thought that he would raise a child. Let alone, a monster child that grew faster than any creature he knew and tested his patience nearly every day. He loved her anyway. On the third day Hessen was jolted awake by a voice in his head, speaking in the mother tongue he had almost forgotten. He immediately dove into the water, calling out to his lost kin, chasing after the voice that taunted him but found no one. When he returned, the child was waiting for him, smirking. That day he accepted her, not as a human, but as one of his own. He named her Suni.

Suni quickly outgrew the little isle Hessen brought her to and let him know by flinging herself into the water after breakfast two days later. Hessen dove after her in a panic only to see the gremlin swimming as if she had been born in the water with the largest shit-eating grin he had ever seen. His relief was quickly replaced with the feeling of questioning all of his life choices as she spent the next three hours using her small size and maneuverability to hide and avoid all his attempts to catch her. That night though, as he did his best to lie still to avoid disturbing the sleeping babe on his snout, his heart felt full.

It didn’t take long for rumors to spread among the humans. They spoke of seeing a strange figure that accompanied their god. Some thought she was a ghost. Others thought she was a new dangerous sea creature. Hessen steered her away from them, worried of what they would think of her. Humans were so often afraid of things they couldn’t understand, and they understood so little. At first, Suni didn’t seem to mind the lack of human contact. She satisfied her curiosity by speaking to and often, despite Hessen’s warnings, fighting the colorful ocean life around her, earning their friendship and respect. After a year, Suni became restless, giving Hessen the choice to take her to human city or wait for her to sneak away and see it alone. And so, for the first time in over five hundred years, the great dragon made the journey to the home of those who worshiped him.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Bright_Ops
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Bright_Ops The Insane Scholar

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Time passed, as it was want to do.

The war for Pentious continued, but after the smiting of Warboss Kracker'Laker and the force he had brought with him to make the final push to claim the world for the greenskins the nature of the war changed somewhat. With the Warboss that had united them dead and no clear contender to step up and replace him, the orks splintered into tribal warbands under local bosses that had been left behind to overseer production in the captured forges or lesser camps that had been set up for one reason or another over the course of the war.

While orks would assault Forge-Alpha over the course of the period, they would do so without the strength in numbers or tactical leadership (such as it was) that Kracker'Laker had brought to bare that made him such a dangerous threat. They died against the outer defenses easily enough (or as easily as an ork can die). But by and large, Forge-Alpha was largely ignored by the more successful would be Warbosses as they focused on each other.

There was an understandable logic to this from a human perspective; None of the more successful Warbosses had enough military power to credibly try and take the human held Forge-Alpha individually. If they were to be united under common cause they would have been able to, but without a clear Warboss in charge, none of the contenders for the position could afford to trust any of the others to work together due to one of the primary virtues of the greenskin was 'Brutal Kunning'. Therefore, the only real way for the orks to unite again was for one of the contenders to defeat and cast down his rivals and subjugate their tribes.

While the reprieve was greatly welcomed by the holdouts at Forge-Alpha and it gave them much needed time to recover and rearm for the conflict ahead, they did not simply lick their wounds and rest. As the various forces of the Mechanicum rebuilt themselves, a close eye was kept on the various splintered greenskinned tribes and their leaders. Calculations and stratagems of some of the best and brightest tactical minds that humanity had to offer were fed, forged and if faults were found, reforged again and again in dedication to a singular task; Preventing the greenskinned horde from reuniting under a new leader.

When action was required, regardless of whatever form that action needed to be in, squads of Myrmdons would go out into the world to see it done. While the tech-priests of the Myrmdon sub-cult were known for their destructive dedications and abilities, they could prove surprisingly subtle when the situation called for it. It was important that actions against current threats be taken to prevent the stalemate of the greenskins from being broken, but restraint had to be shown as well; Sabotage one tribe too much and the other tribes would simply pounce on and consume it, growing stronger while removing one of the fronts of their civil war.

Even as the orks continued to spin their wheels in the mud pointlessly, the humans of Pentious were recovering their strength. The vats were pumping out fresh humans to be converted into combat servitors, tech thralls or even skitarii almost daily, while machines of war were repaired or freshly built for the battles to come. Weapons and armor were being produced around the clock.

...And in a recovery vat, the strange child that had delivered them from Warboss Kracker'Laker continued to grow larger by the day as his body recovered at an incredible rate. Until one day, their vitals and brainwaves started to show the signs of waking up.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by MarshalSolgriev
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MarshalSolgriev Lord Ascendant of Bethesus

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Serpent Dance

-Four Years After Arrival-

The perpetual penumbra of the dusken world stretched the horizon, supplemented only by several shattered moons orbiting through Pandjoras’ debris rings. Heavy, baleful clouds drifted in sporadic clusters across the valley, graviton particles falling in torrential clumps as rejuvenating rain against black sands. Strange, floating stones hung in the air several feet from the ground, bristling with glowing, purple cracks. Enormous, jet black dunes waxed and waned as gravity storms passed by. Runoff from eerie tempests replenished graviton lakes that posed as false oases, soothing those beings that thrived within the depths. A pair of floating, magnificent palaces on hovering shunts meandered along stormy paths.

All of these and more were watched by a pair of peculiar, orange eyes with serpentine pupils. A young man of staggering height stood in the open air of a dusken world, his form garbed in serpent silk robe that clung to his body. Messy, black locks of hair spilled out of his cowl and over the rebreather that he wore. Beneath his attire, a lithe suit of powered armor tightly clung to his physique. Thin tubes crossed over carapace plating from gauntlet to foot to a small powerpack attached to his back. Black greaves remained firmly planted against gravitic brick, dusken mortar caking the structure together. The youth turned his head in a quick, calm manner as another figure slowly walked towards him from the opposite edge. A smarmy, toothy grin grew on his thin lips.

“I didn’t think you’d take that long to arrive, old man. Any longer and I’d think that my duties as your successor would come sooner rather than later.” His voice was as soothing as freshly woven silk spread out across a masterful bed, seconded only by overbearing confidence weaving within his tone.

“Hmph. You fail to surprise me anymore, Zaphariel. Many years have passed, but you remain the only one able to detect me.” The old man spoke slowly and deeply, his voice altered by an alabaster skull mask. His body was swathed in heavy, black robes devoid of armor or wargear. A pair of disturbingly blue eyes met the youth’s orange, searching orbs. “You have yet to achieve your place as hassan, even less so to succeed as Grandmaster.”

Zaphariel continued to smile as he pulled closer to the old man of the mountain, offering a hand to assist the beleaguered elder to his ledge. To his chagrin, Muahad refused help with a shake of his head and simply carried forward in his silent footsteps. Both stood at the edge of Neu Alamut’s highest bastion, the dusken world of Pandjoras spreading out before them.

“Four years. The sands shift in your favor unlike any other I have seen. Were you not so coy with your vices, perhaps you would have attained enlightenment by now.” Muahad spoke, his dreary voice an incalculable dirge as he reminisced the arrival of the dreamer beside him. The short lecture earned a muted chortle from the youth. It was silenced with a look until Zaphariel opened his mouth once more to speak.

“Four years and I’ve grown this large, achieved so much, and survived further than my brethren. Am I not allowed to enjoy the fruits of Pandjoras or should I dine upon a thousand and one grains of dark sand?” Zaphariel responded with a query, his voice lackadaisical and without worry. The dreamer stared out into the night, his vision piercing the clouds and debris ring beyond to see the darkness of space in perfect clarity. He felt a calling, not unlike when Muahad had first found him in the graviton lakes.

“You are not a natural entity,” The old man of the mountain began to speak, moving away from the edge of the bastion to the center of the rooftop. His voice fell into a contemplative state, a signal to the sheik that Muahad could easily enter a state of oneness. “But you are doubtlessly one touched by Pandjoras. The Eyes of Hassan are proof of this. Your origin will be found when you achieve oneness, Zaphariel.”

Not unlike many conversations that the sheik had with his adoptive father, Zaphariel found the statement confusing. He mused on the words spoken by Muahad. The dreamer was certainly in agreement that he was not naturally born of Pandjoras, yet that fact had never bothered him. A typical Pandjoran child should grow to an adolescent at roughly sixteen rotations, yet he had become an adult in such a short span of time. It was perplexing, irritating, and emotionally beyond his capability to understand. Perhaps, he thought, this is why he couldn’t achieve oneness.

What would you have me do, Grandmaster? I’ve accomplished more than regular hassan have. The asasiyun of Varranis refuse to acknowledge me as your successor candidate.” The dreamer asked, his tone shifting to feigned pleading rather than actual contemplation. A hint of irritation bubbled through his words as he spoke. In response, the old man sighed as if having to perform a task far too simple for him. His skull mask turned to face young Zaphariel.

“Use your keen ears to listen, Zaphariel, just as you will now. There is a prophecy amongst our people of a dreamer that will fall as a star upon Pandjoras, shifting a thousand and one grains of black sand throughout the land. He will arrive as a tempest, a being beyond understanding that would unify our people - further than I have already done.” Muahad’s static voice began to recount the tale as he turned his attention to the scenery behind him. A single hand raised from beneath his robes, one of the digits directing their vision towards the hovering palaces. “The promised dreamer - the harbinger of the prophecy - was said to raise thirteen palaces by his own hands and be capable of taming the likes of Falak.”

“Falak?” Zaphariel asked, the word uncomfortably dripping from his lip.

“The grand wyrm of the void. One born from the deepest pits of Pandjoras. The largest ever recorded across our history. A being that is always on the tongues of prophets and dreamers. A creature of prophecy.” Muahad said, his vision falling from dusken sky to graviton lakes beyond their citadel. Tiny, serpentine forms slithered by every body of gravitic liquid, their scaly silhouettes unnaturally gliding through the air. He disregarded those creatures, turning his attention back to Zaphariel.

“You will encounter Falak as it was prophesied. It is unknown when it will occur, only that it certainly will. Your actions will dictate the end of your tale, dreamer. Until that time, find your place amongst your brethren.” Before Zaphariel had a chance to respond, the old man of the mountain left as silently as a shadow. He rolled his eyes in response to the effortless subtlety of his adoptive father. Golden, serpentine eyes turned from the opposite edge of the bastion to the graviton lakes below.

“So be it. I’ll find Falak and become a worthy successor.”

Neu Alamut stretched an impossible distance from within, twisting corridors and lengthy alcoves constructed deep into a mountain. Archaic glowglobes, decoratively set into serpentine sculptures, dimly lit every snaking pathway of the citadel. Banners of serpent silk lightly wafted along every wall, lifted by Pandjoran atmospheric conditioning. Beautiful, dark rugs of similar material sprawled out in various places throughout the castle. Black, coarse sand remained littered in innumerable clumps by corners and causeways. Silhouettes of Pandjoras in heavy, tenebrous robes shifted to and from their destinations, offering short salaams before pressing onward.

Sheik Zaphariel watched them from within the thin shadows of Neu Alamut, unnoticed by all save for the Grandmaster of the Hassan. Orange, serpentine eyes scanned every Pandjoran that he passed, remembering every face that didn’t offer a salaam to him. It was a vain, unsightly thing to do to his people, but he felt it was necessary. If they couldn’t detect his presence, then how could they survive in a thousand and one grains of black sand? He walked in utter silence, every footstep emanating a soundless, muted thump.

The promised dreamer stepped into a vaulted training atrium within Neu Alamut, his feet stopping short of railing overlooking the chamber. The scent of mulled serpent blood filled the air with an aroma of spice and fresh desert. He drank deeply of the fragrance before casting his eyes down to several hassan within the training pit. Pandjorans silently conversed between themselves as they sat cross legged in dusken sand. A hushed tone was a normality for every hassan of Pandjoras, yet these soft voices spoke quieter than a hidden snake.

“...It is troubling that he was nominated as a successor so early, even if he is as promised by the stars.” A male’s voice was heard amongst their number, venom dripping from his waggling tongue.

“He is certainly from the great aeon beyond. Not even the theuban grow as quickly as he has. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to his abilities.” Another spoke out, a woman’s voice, agreeing with the previous speaker. A short, disgusted grunt rumbled out from their group.

“Yes. He is extraordinary, perfect, and preordained by the stars; however, he is not hassan. Zaphariel cannot claim to be one of us until he passes the trials as we all have. I will not accept him. Not even Muahad can force me to accept it.” This voice was an elder of sorts, a deep and aggressive tone that carried the hefty burden of time. A man that had spent many days amongst those of the same ilk. A bygone relic.

“Ease yourself, elder, he is still learning our ways. You would be kinder to him if you remembered that he has only been with us for four cycles. It is still too early to decide how to approach him…” The final voice was that of a soft, youthful woman with a kind tone. He would remember this voice well.

They conversed for some amount of time, expressing their dissatisfaction with several other qualities within Neu Alamut. As their goblets emptied of serpentine blood, Zaphariel left the chamber with his temper fouled. Irritation bubbled up from within his being, frustration threatening to spill over into his jovial mask. He shook his head in an attempt to shake off pointless emotions. His agitated footsteps brought him through a labyrinth of underground corridors, each as decorated as the last.

Zaphariel finally stepped out into a small chamber, bedding and personal effects in place to represent an informal barracks. A myriad of five Pandjorans moved in a deadly dance around the room's center. Claws, blades, and graviton darts twisted amongst their lithe, armored forms. They fought as lighting quick phantoms, low sweeps and swift lunges accompanying deft acrobatics in their caper. None held an upper hand over any, their complex moves blending perfectly into one another. None expected the fight to come to a premature end as the promised dreamer stepped into their midst.

Faster than any of their orange eyes could perceive, the promised dreamer had completely flipped their dance sidewards. One of Zaphariel’s hands had snatched a hassan by their throat, tossing them into another while snatching both of their daggers. A low sweep of his leg sent another Pandjoran sideways, followed shortly by a swift punch to their chest. The last two hassan had only just begun to shift to their invader before they, too, were forcibly disabled. Both were impaired by the hilt of Zaphariel’s daggers, spittle flying from their lips as they lost consciousness. Sand settled across the chamber as asasiyun groaned in pain.

“... Sheik Zaphariel… it is a pleasure to have you…” One of the hassan spoke through gritted teeth, their harsh voice aching from pain. A mature man with plentiful facial scars, he picked himself up from the ground with one hand against his chest.

“Of course, Ramses, wherever I go I am a pleasure to be had; however, your furusiyya requires some adjustments. You are supposed to be a serpent, not a scarab, uncle.” The promised dreamer said with a cocky, toothy smile. One by one, Zaphariel assisted those hassan that he had thrashed in mere seconds. Each returned his wide smile with one of their own, thanking him with short salaams before standing on their own.

“You certainly prove yourself as the successor with skills like those, but I doubt you came here just to boast of your talents. Did you wish to count a thousand and one grains of black sand, or would you rather we speak over some refreshments?” Ramses al-Varranis asked with a smile, gesturing to one of his cohorts to retrieve beverages from a nearby refrigerating unit. An aching hassan responded, limping over and pulling out a sealed pitcher of serpent blood. Carefully, salt-cooled drinks were served in black glasses from an ornate tray. Zaphariel acquiesced, planting himself on the sandy tile and crossing his legs with the rest of his kindred.

Zaphariel tipped back the glass of serpent blood against his lips, drinking deeply of the precious drink. Disgustingly sweet ichor drenched his throat, a sharp taste of iron and spice lingering on his tongue. A refreshing taste that would’ve addled lesser minds, such as his kin, yet it had never had such an effect on him. Even while sitting among those he called family, it occurred to him how much larger than a standard Pandjoran he was. It made him feel isolated for only a moment.

“I will hunt an elder serpent in the Valley of the Void. If Pandjoras is willing, then Falak will appear before me.” The promised dreamer suddenly stated, his voice calm and collected. Ramses choked in surprise, slamming his fist against his own chest to adjust. Each hassan after him shared a similar expression of surprise, horror, or unease at Zaphariel’s desire.

“Zaphariel, you have only fought adolescent to mature serpents up to this point. An elder serpent, the rightful passage of a hassan, is another story entirely. I would recommend spending more time hunting with us. Another year at least, nephew.” Ramses mustered a swift reply, attempting to turn their promised dreamer away from a difficult fight. Tangible tension built up between himself and Zaphariel. Though the successor’s facial features remained perfect and neutral, Ramses felt an invisible frustration emanating from him.

“There! The rightful passage of a hassan. I am not hassan, Ramses, you all know this. I am not treated as a hassan, nor am I treated as the successor. I am an outsider!” An unknowable force built itself up from within Zaphariel, energy charging the air around him in a blanket of emotional outburst. His perfect, figurative mask broke as his facial features contorted in scrunched up bitterness. Ugly veins visibly throbbed on his forehead, while serpentine eyes narrowed into dagger thin slices. Palpable fear welled up in each of the five hassan sat around him.

Suddenly, the brief storm that began to rage around Zaphariel halted as he realized his emotional outburst. He closed his orange eyes to the world, attempting to enter oneness. Darkness did not come to him, but a manner of peace in isolation replaced his frustration. The emotions left his mind quickly, similarly to the swift egress of his unknowable force. When he opened his eyes once more, the young sheik could hear sighs of relief from his kindred. It had not been the first time that such a scenario had happened.

“You have my apologies, kin, but you cannot deter me from my passage. I will make a pilgrimage to the Valley of the Void. I will kill an elder serpent. I will become hassan. I will march on a thousand and one grains of black sand alone if I must.” Zaphariel stated, first apologizing for his outburst and then making clear his intent. Before Ramses had time to properly respond to Muahad's successor, a dataslate was removed from within the folds of his armor. Running a thumb over the activation rune, a local map detailed through auspex and recent data appeared on the slate’s screen. An intricate path from Neu Alamut to a deep valley was traced. “I’ve already plotted a course from Neu Alamut. I will arm myself here, stopping in House Delukar territory for my first resupply and House Nathaz lands for my second resupply. When I get close to the Valley, I will hunt for bait and then leave it out for an elder to claim it. Once slain, I will signal for transport from House Varranis.”

Ramses mused on the young sheik’s plan, a task that would normally require a group of five to ten fully trained hassan. His eyes fell to the dataslate, beholding a route perfectly planned for a singular individual to travel Pandjoras’ harsh deserts. Several gravitic oases were marked for brief respites if required, optional corridors for entrances into other House territories were annotated, and numerous hunting grounds were circled for ease of venture. It troubled him that he couldn’t find any flaw in Zaphariel’s plan.

“I… cannot find any issues in this, but I will not allow you to tackle this task alone. Instead, we will be joining you for the hunt. Muahad would flay me alive if I let his heir die.” The mature hassan relented with a defeated smile. His entourage gave several different expressions of feigned defeat, some sporting similar smiles to him and others still surprised at how quickly Ramses gave in. Zaphariel grew a cocksure smile that spread from cheek to cheek. A display of victory.

“Then it is decided. I will inform the old man while you prepare. We’ll meet in the exterior courtyard once everything is ready. Have some faith, uncle, have I ever disappointed you?” Zaphariel excitedly spoke as he pushed himself up from the ground. The mature hassan rolled his eyes, joining the promised dreamer as he stood. A quick embrace between them was shared before they separated, one gathering their hassan and the other leaving through the corridor they arrived in.

Zaphariel frantically sprinted down the labyrinthine corridors of Neu Alamut as quickly as a shadow approaching day. The young sheik felt as if things were going his way, something that he had pushed for was coming to fruition. The promised dreamer felt it in his blood, a deeper desire for controlling destiny. An unfathomably toothy grin plastered across his lips as he flitted amongst their alcoves. I am coming for you, Falak, and I will take hold of destiny’s binds, he thought to himself. A swift journey brought him to Muahad’s chambers, where he would begin the next steps of his quest.

Midday shone through dark clouds over Neu Alamut’s sprawling steppes, black sand stretching from one horizon to the next. Droplets of graviton runoff pattered against chunks of crackling stone that hung suspended mid-air. Smaller, whimsical pools of silvery-green liquid filled shallow basins where sand drifted away. Further across Pandjoras, great deluges of the same liquid threatened to flood grand oases. Mammothine, winding dunes formed natural hills interrupting savage gales from tearing through desert valleys.

Six figures poised upon the crest of a great mesa, their bodies garbed in midnight suits of lithe, powered armor. Form fitting carapace with clumps of thin tubings complimented their silhouettes, yet paled in comparison to their light-absorbing shrouds. Grand pieces of fabric that cowled their helmets, covered their shoulders, and draped down both sides of their body like partial robes. Bits of daylight glinted off their myriad of weapons, a combination of blades, metallic claws, and guns. Large trunks on heavy gravity shunts idled behind them, weighted down by gear within.

“... the Delukar-Varranis corridor, then eastward by Vorrit’s Lake. Northward from there will be free of shifting dunes during this season of the cycle.” Ramses began to speak, his voice altered beneath a heavy respirator that stretched from chin to ear. One of his fingers pointed out into Pandjoras’ black sands, noting a large gravity lake northwest from their position. Behind him, Neu Alamut rose a formidable distance upon a great mountain of sand and rock. From his point of view, they could see most of their world save for those hidden behind Pandjoras’ second tallest mountain.

“I don’t plan on staying in Delukarian territory, not that I couldn’t handle Cairosian sodomites and gravity farmers.” Zaphariel replied, his voice masked by a respirator and still as sublime as silk. His thin lips had parted into a cocksure grin as he spoke, aware of how weak those Pandjorans outside of House Varranis were. Even with his form crouched, he towered over his entourage of brethren resulting in his chest lowering unto black sand. If they were bothered by their kindred’s length body, then the hassan did not show it.

“Regardless, you know that House Delukar frequently industrializes their land. We are on track to pass by one of their refinery farms as well as the Vorrtian corner fields. Be cordial. No repeats of the Urahal incident.” The mature hassan stated, wagging a finger at their sheik. Zaphariel’s grin widened for a short moment, hiding faintly sharpened teeth beneath his mouthpiece. Ramses felt an indescribable feeling creep up his spine, unaware if it was fear or awe - a feeling that passed every time he ventured with their successor. A feeling that many hassan felt being within a certain radius of him.

“I apologized to the old man already, uncle, you can drop it at any moment you like. I hadn't known that Neu Alexandrios’ patrols didn't require assistance fending off a void tide. They would’ve been serpent food had I not intervened.” Zaphariel raised his hands in feigned defeat, insincere platitudes vomiting from his mouth. A pair of their entourage began to snicker beneath their heavy respirators, resulting in ugly, coughing noises. The remainder breathed a variety of sighs, exasperated by their exchange.

... You are insufferable sometimes, nephew. If only you didn’t have the skill to back up your words, then you would be much more humble. Was it the Nathaz-Varranis agreement or the Sulkat Arms Trade that made you so unbearably cocky?” Ramses sighed in response, his face held in both of his hands. A harsh slap to his own face forced fresh energy back into his body, averting his gaze from black sand to Delukarian territory beyond.

“Both were certainly achievements, uncle! My cunning diplomacy cementing a permanent trade route between Neu Constanoplis and Neu Alamut for our Agreement! My silent steps securing excellent blackmail against Neu Antioch for the Arms Trade! Both paled in comparison to finding the gravity oases underneath Alamut though, once again proving my status as a savior!” Zaphariel praised himself, rising from his crouched position to triumphantly stand upon their mesa. He performed an illustrious bow as if he were an actor in one of their few plays. An act that melted whatever remained of their entourage’s seriousness, resulting in a plethora of chortles and snickers from his hassan.

“Very well, very well. I’ll hope that your final test will be without any more heroic achievements to add to your list, lest you have a glorified array of titles.” Ramses laughed, echoing his nephew’s movements by standing and shortly bowing. By that point, the hassan had picked themselves up with chortles in their throats or smirks upon their lips. Their successor turned his attention to Pandjoras’ black sands, stepping forward towards the ledge.

“Unfortunately for you, dear Ramses, I will always remain legendary!” Zaphariel swiveled about to look at his brethren and stepped backwards off the mesa with his arms spread wide. The young sheik laughed as he fell through Pandjoras’ warm air, his body as light as a feather and as weightless as pristine silk. His cohort dove after him in quick succession. Joy alighted within their eyes, exhilaration driving adrenaline through their veins.

On a normal world their plummet would mean certain death without special equipment; however, on the dusken world of Pandjoras, there was no such worry. Their bodies fell swiftly and softly through their planets’s bizarre gravity, penumbral shrouds gently wavering around their forms. Laughter filled the void where silence would live, Zaphariel enjoying his freefall. The hassan, however, withheld outward glee behind their trained behavior, forced to focus on landing with some amount of ease. Black sand greeted shadowy greaves as a warm host to a surprise guest. The successor landed first amongst their number, effortlessly kissing the ground before breaking into a dead run. If the hassan were any other ordinary Pandjoran, then they would’ve certainly failed to keep up with their promised dreamer. Ramses and his retinue sprinted at a pace just shy of the one they followed, capable of barely keeping speed with their prophet.

Comfortable silence filled their voyage as they traveled into the Delukar-Varranis Divide. Gales of warm wind from nearby mesas brushing against their shadowy carapaces, dusken shrouds whipping along their bodies as penumbral tendrils. Dark sand dunes rose up as monstrous mountains on their path, paling in comparison to Neu Alamut’s enormous abode behind them. The more their journey brought them into Delukarian territory, the more life they saw. Great refineries towered over them along the banks of Vorrit’s Lake, gravity particles slowly being drained from large bodies of gravitic liquid. Occasional thrumming passed above their party, bulky transports on hovering shunts traveling to and from Neu Cairos. Patrols were far and few along the path to the Valley of the Void, a rare excursion venturing into rusted ruins of long destroyed palaces. Never once were they spotted within the Divide, their training as hassan aiding in their shadowbound destinies.

Several nights passed as Zaphariel and his hassan journeyed deep into Pandjoras’ dark wasteland. Pandjoran people, technology, and civilization were unseen for large stretches of the desert between Vorrit’s Lake and the Valley of the Void. Ruins from an older era decorated roiling dunes and gravitic mesas alike, slithering serpents hidden well within their depths. Small gravity storms plagued their quest in short bursts, forcing them to hide in said ruins and refill their powerpacks. As weather relented, the cohort would sprint out into black sand once more with their gravity trailers in tow and their armor replenished.

Finally, the last stretch of their journey came as they crested over a smaller, sandy knoll. Their goal sprawled out menacingly before their eyes. An enormous valley of colossal dunes and leviathan mesas extending an impossible distance. The second largest mountain on Pandjoras, the Korvaix-Tuturan Massif, imposingly loomed at the vale’s end. Green-silver liquid filled every corner of the gorge, graviton particles wafting from its stagnant depths. Grand, elongated shapes moved beneath the sea’s titanic surface projecting lethargic waves across unknown lengths. Gravitic stones, detached from surrounding mesas, hung suspended mid-air, crackling with vibrant energy. The hassan quickly began to descend from their position to close the distance, but Zaphariel remained behind with his orange eyes staring daggers into the gravity liquid.

“I’ve come, Falak. Do not disappoint me…”

Gravity trailers hissed as they were opened to reveal precious contents within. Autolaunchers with grappling hooks, flensing blades with monomolecular edges, and penumbral bindings fashioned from serpent silk filled the bottom of their valuable containers. Gravrifles, ranged armaments combining graviton and bullet, remained racked in separate cases. As the hassan no longer needed to transport their cargo, gravitic shunts mounted to their trailers were switched off to preserve particle capacity. Ramses and his retinue calmly collected every piece of equipment necessary for their task. A pair of hassan retrieved grapples, another grabbed one of their rifles, and the mature assassin took umbral nettings.

Nestled at the edge of the valley’s gravitic sea, shadowy flora sprouted lavishly from beneath graviton-infused black sand. Tall reeds of penumbral vegetation wavered from vale wind, fatty stalks shifted thick seeds on elongated stems. Bundles of knee-high flowers with dusken, orange petals as large as fists branched out between the growth. Dark beetles with silvery, dark green shells the size of large stones swarmed amongst the obsidian undergrowth. Lithe, serpentine shapes lingered within the foliage, obsidian scales and membranal back spines decorating their forms. Sets of four, golden eyes preyed upon defenseless insectoids, toothy maws dripping with multichromatic venom. Just as one of these ophidians coiled to lunge, a black armored hand snatched it out of the air with lightning quick speed. It violently squirmed as razor sharp, metallic claws removed its head from its body in a singular motion.

Zaphariel emerged from umbral foliage amongst his brethren, a smaller void serpent in one hand and monomolecular dagger in the other. Blood freely spilled out of serpentine flesh, soaking black sand below as the promised dreamer stepped closer to his brethren. Effortlessly, the carcass in his gauntlet was thrown onto a pile of similar bodies stacked higher than a field of reeds. The fresh stench of ichor began to waft across the vale as Pandjorans set weapons and traps around the heap. All preparations were complete between himself and his kindred.

“Will it come?” Muahad’s successor asked, curiosity and elation mixed into his tone. He walked past their piled bait, crouching next to Ramses some distance away. None of his kindred turned to address their sheik, orange eyes permanently fixed on the vale’s watery edge. Suffocating tension built up across their cohort, weapons of different varieties held in agitated hands and loose whispers praying on anxious lips. Zaphariel felt nothing short of disappointment as he tasted their fear.

Before Ramses was able to respond to Zaphariel, a reverberant noise howled from within the vale’s depths. Graviton liquid parted away as a leviathan shape began to slither out onto their clearing. A void serpent of gigantic proportion made itself known, two sets of orange eyes hungrily staring down at the succulent offering before it. Facial membrane spines and obsidian horns enhanced an already dauntingly powerful snout unlike it’s lesser kin. Three rows of membranal spicule rose across the creature’s spinal column, beautiful multichromatic webbing intensifying its visage. Effortlessly, it dove straight into the corpse pile with starving abandon. Lesser ophidians were crushed within a maw of innumerable, monomolecular fangs. Viscera exploded outwards in great gouts, ichor torrenting into large pools beneath the gargantuan snake.

Sheik Zaphariel exploded forward in an impossibly swift pounce, orange eyes narrowed into slits and weapons aimed for precise points. The elder serpent, distracted by the savory meal served to it, failed to retaliate in any meaningful way. The young sheik's armaments slammed into obsidian scales with calculated fury. A metallic claw shot straight through lamella, sinew, and bone in one fell punch. A curved saber cleanly swiped a chunk of meat from the elder serpent’s side. Piercing cries of agony burst forth from the creature’s maw, its entire body thrashing and slamming against Pandjoras’ black sand. It didn’t affect the promised dreamer’s relentless assault.

Ramses watched as Zaphariel scaled up to the elder serpent’s skull in a single movement, utilizing the creature’s pained convulsions to fling himself further along its body. Sweat beaded across his forehead as the young sheik rammed a clawed fist straight through scale and bone. Ichor erupted up their successor’s armor, painting black carapace in dull crimson. A swift swipe of the dreamer’s saber separated head and body, gore cascading in clotted lumps from within the gigantic carcass. Other hassan would’ve been relieved, joyful, or thankful for their experience with such an easy kill, yet the great snake’s killer appeared disappointed.

The promised dreamer stepped off his prey as its corpse began to empty of liquid life. Several of his kindred emerged from their hiding spots under black sand and shrubbery alike. They excitedly congratulated him one after another with Varranisian exclamations and warm gesticulations. Zaphariel feigned a smile to each show of gratitude, withholding his true feelings about the fight. It had been easy to kill an elder serpent, precipitation failed to even coalesce on his skin. Frustration had begun to set in when Ramses finally appeared at his side.

Sands of Pandjoras, Zaphariel, I didn’t know you were that powerful! I… I had a feeling that you were otherworldly in physical appearance, but this is something else entirely! Muahad will be proud to learn his successor killed an elder serpent in a single slice!” Ramses blurted out in an exhilarated stupor, his typical tone abandoned for appreciation. The mature hassan’s glee brought a true smile to Zaphariel’s lips beneath his respirator. Muahad’s successor embraced his adoptive uncle in a familial hold, surprising the hassan.

“You honor me, uncle. How about we prepare it for harvest and feast at Neu Alamut?” Zaphariel chuckled as his adoptive uncle was released from their embrace. A surprised Ramses meekly chortled at his adoptive nephew’s actions.

“Of course, nephew! We should be quicker than a thousand and one grains of black sand, or else another elder serpent will come. Not that you would have any trou-” Ramses had begun to speak as something emerged from within the vale’s great gravity lake. A being of impossible height, longer than that which Zaphariel had slain. A grand beast that rose as tall as Pandjoras’ enormous sand dunes. Four sets of orange eyes glared down at the dead elder serpent. A myriad of spines and horns rippled across its facial features. A pair of gruesome maws stacked atop one another dripped with steaming venom. Five rows of membranal talons coursed down the abomination’s spinal column. It reared up on invisible force, swaying from side to side as it watched.

Falak, the great serpent of prophecy and gravity wyrm of the void had arrived.

The sheik of Neu Alamut grew an ecstatic, toothy grin across his lips. Exhilaration poured into his being from the sheer presence of their fated encounter. Fresh adrenaline coursed through his body as the Pandjorans around him fell to the ground in desperate attempts to hide. Zaphariel’s fingers horribly itched to grasp destiny laid out before him. He would taste it. He would rule it. He would obtain it. He would consume it. The great serpent sensed agitation rising from one of the smaller creatures within its view. Both of its jaws split apart into four separate pieces to threateningly hiss at Muahad’s successor.

To the surprise of Falak, Zaphariel hissed back as a showcase of dominance and defiance. An action that had been taught to him by the old man of the mountain in the most dire case scenarios. As his brethren hid beneath umbral sand, the young sheik and the great serpent circled around each other in a deadly dance. Both never faltered in their deadlocked stares, searching and scanning for any sign of weakness or fear. Neither fell for an easy kill.

The great serpent reacted first to their exchange, sucking in graviton particles swirling around its body in a large, breathing gust. A blasting cone of concentrated graviton ejected forth from deep within Falak, crushing anything the spray touched into paste or glass. Zaphariel leapt away with incredible force, muscles and unknowable force pushing him further than he had expected. The young sheik lightly landed away from the leviathan snake’s attack, boosting himself in a deadsprint towards the gravity lake. Undefinable energy coagulated across his lower extremities shortening the distance required to assault the gravity wyrm of the void. Confident from his previous battle, the promised dreamer aimed a devastating strike against the creature’s side with a metallic claw.

Five monomolecular talons scraped against obsidian scale, digging and scything as deep as Zaphariel’s strength would allow. To the young sheik’s despair, the attack failed to leave even a single scratch against Falak’s impossibly tough lamella. Driven by instinct, the promised dreamer flipped backwards with unknowable energy reinforcing his legs. The retreat had proven favorable as the great serpent slammed a portion of its lower body against the place he had previously attacked. The wyrm of the void coiled into a preparatory stance as Muahad’s successor landed further along the vale’s bank. Precipitation dampened his forehead as their legendary battle continued.

Falak sprung forward with gravity influencing fins spread wide, drastically increasing its reality defying speeds. The young sheik prepared himself to dodge, yet the great serpent had been faster than he ever expected. Split maws from the grand wyrm entered his view, threatening to swallow the promised dreamer whole. Instincts overrode Zaphariel’s actions as he entered a state of supreme survival. The world dimmed around him, silencing to a bare decibel and honed in on a single focus. Emotions bled out of his being, culling any form of heightened passion. His reality slowed to a crawling pace, black sand and graviton particles swirling around in a static tempest. The successor stretched out both of his arms to the steadily approaching snake.

Reverberating energy pulsated across the young sheik’s digits as Falak’s maws entered into his hands in slow motion. It rippled across all of his being, coursing from within to cross the great divide in reality to the great serpent. All eight of the grand wyrm’s eyes widened in response, closing both of its colossal mouths. Steadily, the prophetic being of legend closed its eyes just as Zaphariel did. The two linked together within a miniature realm of unreality, their materium disappearing within the depths of the mind.

Purple haze filled an empty area that stretched beyond infinity, black sand crunched beneath his bare feet, and silhouettes of floating palaces hovered overhead. Unreadable shapes shifted within the expanse far past his ability to perceive. One shadow emerged from the dense fog, a serpentine figure with a humanoid body that hurt to stare at directly. Zaphariel could barely make out feminine characteristics before its features shifted in infinite patterns. It knelt before him as a slave would to an overseer.

So you’ve come, Master, long have I awaited you on this cursed planet.’ A feminine voice pierced the silence as the figure seemed to speak. He felt an impulse like a string had been drawn from the core of his being. Zaphariel steeled himself, ignoring the unknowable force that threatened to bind him.

“Are you not Falak, great serpent of Pandjoras?” The young sheik asked with an air of authority, his tone commanding and dominating as one could be within an imaginary realm. His eyes glared down at the shifting figure that called out to him. Even as he spoke, the silhouette refused to look up to the promised dreamer. It radiated an aura of confusion at first before responding to his inquiry.

Yes, I am the grand wyrm of the void, Falak. I have witnessed you, Zaphariel of House Varranis, and I would cement a covenant between us.’ The feminine voice responded, a submissively playful tone dancing across its tongues. Zaphariel felt as if he were being toyed with. Something wasn’t correct in their interaction, but he mustered forward nonetheless.

“I seek to claim destiny itself and would rather you be by my side than slain by my hand. I would become the very thing the Pandjoran people seek and raise them into the stars. I will form a covenant with you, Falak.” Zaphariel replied, lowering himself from a staggering height to engage with the creature calling itself the great serpent. To his surprise, it raised its head to gaze into his eyes. Eight, terrifying golden orbs stared directly into his soul. It smiled a terrible, toothy grin filled with unreadable wanton.

As it was, as it is, and as it will be. I pledge my eternity to your crusade, Lord Zaphariel.’ It responded as their materium began to melt away. Darkness encroached his vision as the creature pressed forward against him. He felt nothing, he saw nothing, and he knew nothing as the covenant was formed. In the last moments of his memory, the young sheik witnessed his hands as malefic talons

The trance ended as the great serpent of the void calmly fled backwards out of Zaphariel’s hands, lowering down to a submissive bow that stretched far into the vale’s graviton lake. Pain throbbed against his temple as he left a state of oneness. It felt as if he had experienced eternity and returned to a single point of reality. Regardless, the young sheik shook off the vestiges of confusion to gaze around his surroundings. His hassan had revealed themselves from their hiding spots, staring at the exchange between two beings of prophecy. The promised dreamer felt words vomit forth from his mouth before he even knew what to say.

Falak! I offer you this elder serpent in exchange for a covenant!” Zaphariel yelled, his voice reverberating several times over with unnatural energy weaved in. A power that he had used less frequently as he trained to be the old man’s successor. The power of coercion. Unsurprisingly, the great serpent happily accepted the decapitated head of his previously slain opponent. An entire serpentine skull disappeared down Falak’s throat, nestling deep within its stomach.

Sheik Zaphariel turned away from the great serpent and glanced at what remained of his Pandjoran companions. To his surprise, all of his kindred remained alive. None had been harmed during their duel. The young sheik held his own suspicions about their miraculous survival, yet he decided to simply bask in the fact they were victorious. He began to gesture with the hand his metallic claw was still equipped with and suddenly felt unbearably sick at the sight. Swiftly unequipping the weapon, he tossed it into the graviton lake and continued.

“Falak is mine. I have slain an elder serpent. From this point forward, I’d like to think it’s fair to start calling me hassan; however, we should return to Neu Alamut. Uncle, would you be so kind as to contact a harvester dropship for us? I will return atop the grand wyrm.” Zaphariel commanded with an unnaturally persuasive voice, one that even he found strange. Reality felt different to how he remembered. It was as if destiny was malleable and he was the sculptor. A toothy grin plastered across his lips as hassan danced to his command.

And he laughed, a triumphant and booming chortle that formed tears at the edge of his eyes. He felt no sort of humor to cause him such elation, yet the young sheik continued to cackle beyond his understanding. Even as great, bulky dropships loomed overhead to secure the elder serpent’s corpse, he continued to chuckle. It wasn’t until Zaphariel climbed atop Falak’s form did his laughing tears dry completely.

A rarity appeared on that day for dusken sky cleared to momentarily reveal the full breadth of Pandjoras’ orbit. Great rings of cosmic dust, debris, and shattered moons eternally spun around the dusken world. Gravity tempests failed to threaten the umbral mountains of Neu Alamut, nor did grand sandstorms of black grains plague their visage. Many emptied out from underground chambers of the Pandjoran fortress to admire their homeworld's skies. Young and old sat expectantly upon masonic stone with rebreathers fitted to their faces, orange eyes with serpentine pupils watching the exhilarating expanse of the void. Even Muahad, the old man of the mountain, accompanied his closest asasiyun atop a personal battlement.

As the populace of Neu Alamut longingly stared out in space, the reverberating beat of gravitic engines thrummed in the distance. A trio of harvester dropships displaying the colors of House Varranis, gray and orange, journeyed on a path to the hassan citadel. Carefully attached to an innumerable amount of hooks, an elder serpent’s corpse was hoisted through the air. All three of the aeronautical vehicles tethered themselves with gravity reels to carry their precious bounty. The Pandjoran people of the umbral mountain excitedly waved and hollered at the oncoming craft. Muahad nodded approvingly from his position, knowing that his adoptive son had been successful on his quest. As he began to turn away from the sight, the old man of the mountain heard shrill cries of terror. His piercingly blue eyes widened as another shape revealed itself.

The largest void wyrm that the old man of the mountain had ever witnessed soared through the sky in formation with the dropships. Graviton particles twinkled in a mesmerizing pattern around the creature’s body, its membranes spread wide to appropriately defy reality. Muahad felt his throat tighten, a thousand and one ideas beginning to course through his mind at how to handle the attacking serpent. Realization dawned on the elder that it hadn’t attacked the dropships. The grandmaster gestured for an object from one of his hassan, who quickly fetched the requested item in swift succession. A set of magnoculars was placed into his wisened hands, then brought up to see further into the distance.

It cannot be.” Muahad spoke, his voice trembled at the sights that were being witnessed. The elder’s body refused to falter instead dropping his magnoculars to rapidly descend into Neu Alamut. Anxiety, confusion, and awe bubbled up amongst the hassan that remained behind, quickly shaking themselves off from surprised stupor to follow after their grandmaster. Wordlessly, the more hassan that ventured down to the depths of their citadel, the more that followed.

The grandmaster of Neu Alamut emerged onto the exterior courtyard of his citadel, a great congregation of Pandjorans following shortly behind him. Muahad felt his pulse quicken as the dropships and the great serpent grew closer. Pride filled his chest as he witnessed the arrival of Zaphariel mounted atop a great wyrm of Pandjoras. He felt compelled to drop to his knees at the sight, yet the elder stood stalwartly rigid with his hands clasped behind his back. Other hassan were not as unwavering, several falling to the ground in Pandjoran exaltation. Blame wouldn’t be placed on their shoulders for a prophecy had been fulfilled.

Zaphariel crawled off of Falak as they gracefully landed before the Pandjoran assembly. Dropships from the valley of the void lowered themselves to his immediate right, careful as to not destroy the elder serpent’s corpse. The great wyrm coiled around itself behind him as he stepped forward to greet his adoptive father. If only the old man could see the smile spreading across his lips, then he would certainly never be able to jest again. Regardless, the young sheik knelt before Muahad with his eyes facing the ground.

“You’ve returned, Zaphariel. It seems that you have decided on a path.” The old man of the mountain walked forward to greet his adoptive son, an unknowable emotion hidden behind his skull mask. He lowered one of his hands to rest on the young sheik’s shoulder and gestured with the other for him to rise. His prodigy complied rising to all nine feet and five odd inches of genewrought majesty. A pair of golden, serpentine eyes fixated upon Muahad.

“I did, father, I believe I’ve found my destiny. A future that’ll see Pandjorans spread across the stars.” Zaphariel replied, cocksure confidence entrenched within his tone. Everything had changed about him in the short time the young sheik had been gone. Something new had crept into his being. Pulsating confidence, unnatural charisma, and lightning focus emanated from his successor. Muahad closed his eyes as if he were entrusting Pandjoras’ future to the young boy he found four years ago.

The old man of the mountain released Zaphariel, turning away from his successor to the Pandjorans gathered outside of Neu Alamut. Muahad raised both of his arms into the air and gestured for their people to gather. The hassan of the umbral mountains steadily congregated in a full circle around their grandmaster and his heir. One of his attendants, assessing the situation, swiftly placed a mobile platform close to his master. Gratefully, the elder stepped onto it and began to speak.

A prophecy has been fulfilled and a new hassan joins our order. Zaphariel, our promised dreamer, has slain an elder serpent by his own merit and has proven himself as hassan. From this point forward, he has earned his place.” Muahad’s slow, utterly deep voice grumbled through the skull mask’s filter. The old man of the mountain suddenly turned to address Zaphariel as his people watched on in awe. “No longer do you hold no house to your name. You are Zaphariel ibn Varranis of Pandjoras. The sheik of House Varranis. You will bring a brighter future to our world, my heir. Tonight, we will feast upon what you have provided as is tradition. Glory to you, Zaphariel.

A cacophony of praise blared across Neu Alamut’s courtyard as Pandjorans of House Varranis pushed their way to Zaphariel. Tears had welled up at the corner of his eyes, gratitude streaming down his cheeks and onto his rebreather. Every acclaim was responded to with overwhelming appreciation pulled from deep within his person. Those hassan that had ostracized him reversed their opinions in a matter of seconds as they clasped hands. Trinkets, bobbles, and gifts were given in droves as if they had been prepared for this day to come. None of it compared to what he heard whispered on every single breath spoken.

‘Glory to the Malik of Pandjoras’
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bright_Ops
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Bright_Ops The Insane Scholar

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Two Years Later

The child that represented the love and wraith of the Omnissiah proved the effectiveness and mastery of gene theory and manipulation that had gone in their creation as time flew by. While a normal child would have been a mewling toddler that was only beginning to find their voice and feet, the child from the pod that had been adopted by Metasurgeon Uixien had instead grown into that of a large teenager with no signs of stopping anytime soon.

This in and of itself wasn't unheard of, since advanced aging was a common practice when it came to the development of humans produced via the vats in bulk; It was generally a very rare situation that a servitor required that the human component be based on a baby, toddler or child after all. But the young Uixien possessed an intellect and curiosity to expand said intellect that the standard vat born simply would never possess, combined with physical enhancements that would normally only be attempted by the highest and most veteran of Genetors. It was a matter of much vexation that the forge simply didn't have the equipment required to peer deeper into the mysteries of Uixien's genetic make up... and the fact that so much of it had been replaced with machinery had been a matter of debate among the various tech priests of the planet for some time.

It had taken some time before Rik was able to understand the depths of the discussion, but at its core it all boiled down to the people of Forge-Alpha wanting something out of the ordinary to discuss and the what if scenarios of if the pod he had arrived in hadn't been damaged had simply one of them. It arose every now and then, but ever since Rik himself had publicly spoken on the matter during the third anniversary of his arrival and the death of the Warboss, the matter was largely considered settled.

It had been a passionate speech, masterfully crafted and condensed into binary in such a manner that all in attendance who heard it couldn't believe that even holy binary could condense and retain such inspiration and beauty. In the future the speech would become famous for the fact that it was simply impossible to translate into any tongue outside of binary in full; Attempts would be made to translate it so that those unable to understand the language of the machine could hear or read the words of Rik Uixien, but anyone who could understand the binary version (either recounted or a direct recording) agreed that these abridged, translated versions simply didn't do the original justice.

It wasn't that the translations were bad. Some would go on to be masterpieces in their own right, finding audiences outside of the Machine Cult to appreciate them. It was simply a matter of the fundamental difference in languages and just how one interacts with it. Binary was a language designed to condense a lot of information into short, sharp bursts that gave the receiver everything the speaker was trying to say at once while more organic tongues were simply forced to waffle on, trying to convey meaning.

How does one translate into mere words the sensation of data flowing through translation software, revealing in an instant to both man and machine the sensation of losing a piece of yourself outside of your will, replacing what was lost with something new out of necessity and then becoming so used to this new state of being that you accept it as your true natural state, since the piece that was lost before was only apart of you for such a short amount of your life that it might not have even better there at all to begin with.

The experience of a moment of pure agony, followed by the torment of lingering wounds and recovery... but worth enduring for the home, family and community that was preserved by that experience. The utter feeling of conviction and certainty that despite the hardships and sacrifices that had been endured, not just by the listener but by their ancestors and all those who didn't get to have descendants of their own, it would all be rewarded with a future in which you and your descendants would thrive.

This speech would go down in history... because it was the very same day that Rik walked up to the highest ranking member of the Myrmidon sub-cult on Pentious and asked to begin his training in earnest.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by FrostedCaramel
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The stink of death permeated the air, a sharp smell of iron that filled Cuauhtl’s head with a dizzying uncertainty as he turned the corner of the passageway. He found himself witness to a charnel house of slaughter, the inner sanctum of the temple desecrated with the bodies and life-blood of its keepers. He ducked under a rope of intestine stretched from wall to wall, its owner's face contorted in a final scream of agony from where he was impaled some three meters up the side of the wall. He slipped as he crept forward, his footing giving way atop a worryingly soft object as the world tilted ninety degrees and pain filled the back of his head.

He scrambled to right himself, his hands sliding across the blood-soaked stones of the sanctum as he hauled himself back to his feet. He wretched, viscous fluid dripping from his hands and knees as he continued his slow movement toward the far end of the sanctum.

Cuauhtl gasped as he approached the sanctum’s pedestal, the haze of the room shifting before him to reveal the tortured form of one of the temple’s keepers strung above the flat surface of the holy altar. He gagged again, the sight of the keeper with their ribs spread wide and their innards missing causing the young boy to swallow down bile in the back of his throat as he inched past the sight.

He stopped dead in his tracks as he heard movement above him. With bated breath he turned his head upwards, following a streak of dried blood up the wall to an overhanging piece of mason work. It was there that his gaze locked eyes with the crazed eyes of the Easterner. The man, crouching on the outcropping, smiled back at Cuauhtl with teeth filed to fine points.

Cuauhtl let out a surprised yell as the man leapt from above him, arms outstretched as if to hug the young boy. His feet carried him without thought from where he stood. He slid into a wall at the far side of the chamber, his hands slamming into the cool stone as he propelled himself down a small hallway and toward the dying light of dusk.

He could hear the feral shrieks from the Easterner gaining on him as he sprinted down the passage, the guttural vocalizations of an animal gaining on him alarmingly fast.

The young man exploded out of the passage and into a new hell entirely. He had only a moment to take in the sight of the death of his home, the fires leaping into the night sky, the silhouettes of bodies on spikes atop the city walls, the feral chanting of the Easterners, the shadow of a savage standing before him.

He slammed into the shadow, his body careening around as he twisted from the impact. He hit the dirt and slid, dust filling his vision for a moment before he came to a stop. Laying there for a moment, staring at the night sky above him, he wondered how the Turquoise Prince could have abandoned him, abandoned his city. His thoughts were interrupted as the Easterner from within the temple sanctum took hold of his ankle and pulled.

Cuauhtl screamed, his fists coming up to beat uselessly on the feral man’s thighs as the Easterner knelt on the boy's chest and cackled like a jungle dog. The horrific stench death and decay of the Easterner brought tears to Cuauhtl’s eyes even as he beat at the man with all the might he could muster. He watched through cloudy vision as the Easterner raised a ritual knife above his head with a crazed grin on his face and could do nothing to stop the inevitable. He closed his eyes.

A crack followed, Cuauhtl gasped as he expected to feel his ribs torn from his chest and his heart ripped still beating to be offered to the moon, but he struggled to register such a horrific fate taking place. At once he realized that it had not.

His eyes shot open, clarity filling them as the head of the Easterner was pulled clean from its body in a gout of dark blood. The savage he had ran into stood behind the Easterner’s body, a small hand, no bigger than his own, rested lightly on the Easterner’s shoulder propping up the lifeless body without effort as the savage, no, the girl, studied the head she held before her face.

“Thank the Turquoise Prince,” Cuauhtl whispered as he the girl tossed the head into the darkness with disinterest, followed by a simple shove to remove the Easterner’s body without effort from atop Cuauhtl, “We must leave this place, run west towa---.”

The girl mounted Cuauhtl just as the Easterner had, except that she was far stronger than the man had been. His eyes rested on the vacant brown eyes of the girl as she studied him now. A hand came down to the side of his cheek, and he felt his heart quicken faster than it had even as he ran for his life just moments earlier. Cold sweat beaded along his forehead as the girl's fingers traced the curve of his jawline, and he felt too hot as her fingers came to rest lightly around his neck.

“Please…” he whimpered as he felt the fingers tighten.

His mind began to slip as the fingers dug deep into the skin of his neck, uncomfortable pressure turning to pain as he felt things within his throat shift to unnatural positions. Warmth spread between his legs. Tears leaked down his face. The pressure released. The weight on his chest disappeared.

He choked for air, his throat ablaze as he greedily sucked in breath. A voice rang out from above him.

“Take us west,” it said, the voice that carried them as sweet as honey, “I will protect you, I promise.”

He felt his heart drop in his stomach as he opened his eyes to find the girl standing over him, those lilting words spilling from her lips. She was lit now by the growing fires around them, and he was more terrified at that promise than he had ever been of anything in his life. The surety with which it was delivered twisted his guts into a knot, and he struggled to calm himself as he stared at the girl as firelight danced over her face before him. Her eyes were too knowing for her age, and her features so unconcerned as a city died around her that he felt nausea well inside him. But even more than these things, he was terrified that he had seen this all come to pass in fever dreams and nightmares, since as long as he could remember he had dreamt of this terrifyingly beautiful being standing over him, and he had seen what was to come next. He prayed to wake.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by BornOnBoard
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BornOnBoard Computer, Maschine, Panzermench

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Salient Tertius

The new recruits of the day stood in a line, sweating, on the hardpan of the Eluhim desert. It was an unremarkable gathering of scalps for the Salubrian Merchant House Army, all in all, save for one detail; there was a single soldier in the new influx who was well over eight feet tall.

He stood, sweating, in his size XXXXXL-fatigues, with about 20 other men and women, most only going up past his waist ever so slightly. The more veteran soldiers, who usually gathered on these influx days to watch the hazing of their new comrades, were instead agog at the absolute size of this latest recruit, for whom they knew nothing except that his fatigues named him as ‘A. Wode’.

The drill instructor, a small, fierce woman who looked as a child next to him, craned her neck upwards, attempting to look as intimidating as possible to someone who quite literally dwarfed her. It was a testament to her skill and reputation that she seemed to mostly be succeeding, although it was hard to tell. A. Wode, whoever he was, didn’t seem to be given to outward expressions of emotion.

In fact, the drill instructor noted, his military bearing was almost perfect. Eerily perfect. She squinted up at him, waving her riding at maximum arm extension in front of the large recruit’s face. He didn’t blink, didn’t even so much as move, even when the crop’s feathered end gently brushed his nose. She harrumphed. That was her favorite trick - get the scalps to sneeze so she could beat the piss out of them.

Denied her easy sport, she decided to work her interrogation up a notch.

“Hey, shit for brains.” She said, testing his bearing yet again. A. Wode, damn him, didn’t even move.

The scalp next to him was starting to crack though, a wiry little man named, according to his fatigues, ‘S. Imogen’. He was constantly looking to his left, little movements that he probably thought were slick. Scalps always thought they were slick. She sneered.

“Trooper Wode.” She bellowed, “What is your name?”

“Trooper Arnulf Wode, ma’am!” The giant scalp bellowed back.

No hesitation, no ‘didn’t you already say my name’. This scalp was good. She felt hot anger in her breast as A. Wode had successfully dodged so many of her traps so far. Her biceps bulged, and her hands became white knuckle tight. Her riding crop, an expensive adamantine alloy implement, bent slightly in her grip, before returning to it’s straight form as she calmed down.

“Trooper Wode, why are you so goddamn tall?” She asked.

“Ma’am!” Wode shouted. “I had my growth spurt, ma’am!”

“Growth spurt?” She rasped. “How old are you trooper?”

Wode’s eyes briefly flicked up as he thought about it.

“...Six?” He said, his voice rising as he said the word. “...Ma’am.”

The entire encampment, scalps included, burst into hilarious laughter. Even the drill instructor, the hard old battle ax she was, turned around, her shoulders shaking slightly. When she turned around, however, her face was murderous. A. Wode, damn him, had stayed perfectly silent during the hilarity, and she knew it.

“You’re a jester, Trooper Wode.” She said, finally having something to nail him with, “And this ain’t a merchant prince palace. This army has no place for shit for brains clowns like you.”

“All of you idiots who laughed!” She raised her voice. “Drop! Deck thrusts! Til I get sick of it!”

The scalps began assuming their sorry push-up positions, including Wode, who she stopped with a *whap* of her crop against his chest.

“Not you, Wode. You maintain attention while they do reps.” She growled. “Let this be a lesson. The smallest mistake can cost others much more than it costs you. Think about that before you open your stupid little mouth again.”

“Y… yes ma’am.” He said. It was the only fracture that she had managed to make in his facade, but this morning, it would do. She nodded, and began to walk up and down the line, barking ‘encouragement’ at the recruits. Wode simply stood there, straight as a ramrod, as the other scalps pushed against the hard desert earth.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Jamesyco
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Jamesyco Forever a Student

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Part Three

"Father." Johannas whispered quietly, "The stag has fourteen points..."

"A stag born the year of your birth... It fits that we find one upon your birthday and the end of the war."

Johannas stood towering over the man by several feet, he drew back what could only be considered a tree branch, but it was a thick bow made for the young giant. He drew it back slowly, letting it glide upon thick white skin, and nocked an arrow upon its string. He slowly let it rise to his eye level. He balanced the bow before loosing the arrow.

There was a squeak as the animal dropped to the ground impaled by the thick arrow.

"Fourteen years at war, it is all you have known, let us hope you never have to see war again."

"I hope I never will... it was needed, but now, let peace and harmony reign."

Johannas leaned against the stone looking over the white fields into the forest. He saw the blackened field and trees of his birth, a beautiful place far away, it was one of his favorite places to visit, he was one of the few able to go there still. He loved it, no longer did fire rage, but most were still too afraid. He had met a friend who lived there long ago, and it is where faith sprouted there.

Faith, something that he had known since birth, it was the reason most fought now, and it is the death of thousands. He had visions as well, along with the blind priest the two had felt something coming. He knew it was something he hated now, he hated what it meant, but he did not know what it was. He knew that it was his burden.

"It is your birthday; you should prepare for your party... it is your first, you will enjoy life away from the field. It will be your first in a long time." An old man with clouded eyes said weakly, "Everyone knows where you are, but... no one has the heart to come up and speak to you as I will... Did you have another vision?"

"No... no, I haven't had one in several weeks, but something is coming... I look out into the sky and see a flicker of light far out into the void of night; even in day, I can see it far into the green skies. It knows me, I feel it... him... I feel him, I feel fire, and war... I feel birth, like I was in Johannasburg... I feel like I was born again when I look into it, a baptism in fire." The young man was shaken, and it was visible, "I feel it now..."

An old hand felt the palm of the young giant, "I knew you since you were the size of your hand, I knew that your parents were right for you since she dragged you from your fire crying. When she hushed you, I knew that this world would become beautiful and wonderful."

"Father Ekhearv... you can't see it's beautiful."

"Oh, but I can... I know that you, your friends, siblings, I know that everyone in your life is happy, everyone you touch has become happy, even those you took everything from, you did nothing to them... They know you, and you are friends with many of those young children of your namesake. You have helped everyone you know since that day... You have warmed quite literally the hearts of many, you are merciful and bright. Deep inside you is a fire that burns, bravery and beauty; you learned to tame fire and made it beautiful..."

"I have killed thousands out of anger..."

"You were in a war against those who see you as nothing but a witch... you are a son of the suns. They spoke against what you were, and you gave them chances, but they threw it away into the flames of war."

"I got angry and burned them and their families."

"I know... but you are strong, and since coming back to me, we have quieted that anger." the priest said, "You have not burned or destroyed anything in some time; you controlled your fire."

"I suppress it; I never wish to see the fire again..."

"Then continue, and live free, live happily... Those visions are far into the future, machines that can destroy mountains, flying metal boats through the stars. War in the stars, those are visions, dreams. Nothing like that can happen, giants like you. I know there are giants, but nothing will be larger than you... You are the titan. You are not one of his sons. It is your choice if war determines the stars, that is your realm, and everything you see now is yours. You will be the king of it all."

"Father... They are visions; they are something happening far away from here. There is a war. There is only war, whatever he is, I don't want it... I don't want more war, I do not like the fire, I do not want to see it grow again."

"Then I will stand with you forever, we all will, all of those who believe in you on this world, we will stand beside you, and you will never see that flame again." the priest lied.

"Fourteen years, fourteen summers, and fourteen winters have passed, my son... You are the heir; you have brought this world to purity; the fields are white... The world is pure, fields of white grain and grass. To you, the purity of this stag shows us all that there is a heart of gold." Aleksandr said quietly, "It is time we grow this world and see culture flourish instead of death. Tomorrow, enjoy life and explore some; you have not been back here since you were my height; when was that... nine years ago, eight?"

"Father... I know... I have grown quickly compared to my siblings and cousins..." he said, "But, they are still children; I am a giant. I know I was born from fire, but still..."

"You are my son... whatever you see will pass, you will see, it will be alright. We will be a jewel; this place will be the brightest point. Art will line the streets, and we will see stone and statues dot the land around. Fields able to feed all. Our people will live free and happy till the end of time."

"Father... if that is your belief, I will trust you... but I would wish to start seeing this place become beautiful... and that darkness of my past covered and buried by the future... I will focus on my studies; instead of weapons of war, I will make tools of innovation and science. I will build cities that can feed, house, and let all enjoy life in a humble way...like we were, I love the culture, but simplicity is where my heart lies."

"Then do as what is needed tomorrow... start, I will allocate funds for your projects, and we will see what happens."

The morning came, and work was set; he was given ten stacks of coins and twenty men to follow him. Then they marched and found a place just before the wall, it was black, soot caked on from years and years of being left alone. It has been guarded since his birth, fire still rages, but untamed wilds come from beyond the eight cardinal gates. Men still died in the hottest parts of the year when the suns were shining together. They livened up the untamed wilds and the trees that had turned resistant to fire, but they often spread their wings of firey death with the firey creatures that still arise from time to time.

"This will become the last fortress I ever build." the young man said, staring at the dark dust that flaked around him and radiated toward him. "Stone... get as much stone as we can, marble, granites, jets... We will start on the southern gate, and this will be the last one... It will be a fortress of solitude, one of peace and harmony, I will end the fire I created forever... I will make sure it never burns again."

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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by itarichan
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Light filtered in from above, illuminating the stairs in a streaky yellow light and warming the stone steps. It gave Else the strength to climb the last section out of the mountain and into the open air temple. It was one of the smallest, as it was located on the smallest isle at the very edge of the mountain range. The circular foundation had been built directly into the mountain, looking as though someone had slammed the two together. Decorated pillars ran along the outer edge that sloped downward in height from the center and opened up to face the ocean.. In the middle was a round, stone bowl with images of the water dragon carved into its sides. Despite its size, the temple was considered one of the most important, due to the fact that its location on the far reaches meant it was the closest to their God’s den and the most likely place to spot him from afar.

She was surprised to see a pair of bare feet as she emerged from the underground. It was usually still too early for worshippers to be leaving offerings. When she finally emerged, Else saw not a devout follower come to pay their respects, but a naked girl staring at the altar with an inquisitive expression. At least, Else thought she was a girl. She looked younger than her, perhaps a young teenager, yet she was most likely the same height or even slightly taller than Else. Her body was oddly proportioned and a long scaly tail brushed the floor behind her. A spear was embedded deep into the stone next to her, making Else gasp. “You’ve damaged the temple! Who are you?"

“Suni.” The girl turned to look at her, eyes squinting in the sunlight, mouth twisted in a small frown. "Is that an adult?"


"They're smaller than you said."

"What are you talking about?" Else asked, baffled.

The girl continued on as if Else hadn't spoken. "How could you forget? Maybe you are getting old."

"Who are you talking to?" Else demanded. The girl titled her head and then pointed to the open ocean behind her. Else opened her mouth to speak when a huge shadow rose out of the deep, showering them both in a torrent of salty water. The entire isle became shrouded in shadow as the great dragon Else had only seen in drawings blocked out the sun. She threw herself to the ground, body trembling, as her God towered over her. She dared not look up, for to look directly at Him this close was forbidden. As she shook frozen in place, Else heard the soft padding of footsteps as the girl, Suni, approached her.

“Hey, can you take me into the city?”

LIght once again illuminated the temple and Else dared a glance upward. Suni stood in front of her, her spear held loosely in her left hand, which Else realized, looked more like a staff with a large pointed fish hook on the end. Her God was gone, but sitting on the shoulders of the girl in front of her, was what appeared to be a miniature version of Him. He snaked around her neck, his long tail wrapped around the upper half of her left arm. “I-Is that..”

“It’s Hessen.”

Suni did not appear to be willing to offer any explanation beyond that so Else could only nod, despite the fact she had no idea who or what a “Hessen” was. “Y-You can speak to our god?”

Suni opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, a slight frown on her face. After a long pause she shrugged, but said nothing.

It seemed impossible, But it was also impossible to deny what she had seen with her own eyes. Else studied Suni for a moment, her eyes stopping on the girl’s eyes - the same color as their gods. She staggered to her feet and wiped the salt water from her face. “Follow me.”

The first floor beneath the temple was dedicated to prayers and worship of their god. It had the highest ceiling in the mountain and was occupied by a gigantic statue of their God in the center that had been carved out directly from the stone when the room had been created. The floor below that, contained the offices of the priests of the temple and the maze-like libraries containing everything from scriptures, histories, and textbooks to fictional fairy tales. Else took them to the floor just below, where the living quarters of the priests were located. She would have liked to take her straight to the high priest, but there was no way she could before giving Suni clothes. At this level of the city, the only thing available were the white robes reserved for priests, and Else hoped the High Priest would forgive her for this transgression, given the fact that she couldn’t exactly parade a naked alien-looking girl with a tail all the way down to the lower levels.

Suni was quiet but stopped often to inspect the various parts of the city. Else had to practically tear her away from the libraries. She didn’t know what to make of this strange creature. She clearly had a connection of some sort to their God, but her attitude and appearance was completely unbefitting of someone of that position. It made her angry. Else and so many others had dedicated their lives to worship of the white dragon, and this ugly creature had appeared out of nowhere and somehow earned his favor for no reason.

At the far end of the third floor were the laundry rooms. Luckily it was the end of the week, meaning that there would be a stack of clean robes to choose from. The girl was the skinniest person Else had ever seen, and the sleeves of the robes consumed her stick-like arms, but would otherwise fit well enough with a belt. She hesitated before picking one out. Traditionally, blue was for the lowest level acolytes, followed by green, red, purple, and then white. Else personally wore a red belt, one that she had worked hard to obtain. If this child could communicate with their God, then she deserved the highest tier, white, but Else couldn’t bring herself to hand her the sacred color. Suni stared at the colored bands of fabric over her shoulder and pulled out two black ones. “Wait! The black ones are for the cleaners.”

Suni shrugged. “I don’t care.” She used one to tie the robe shut. The second, she hung on the first for some indiscernible later purpose.

“We’re going to go back upstairs to see the High Priest.” Else began leading her back to the stairwell, but Suni stopped in the doorway.

“I already saw upstairs.”

“Well, yes but you need to talk to the High Priest?”


“Because you can communicate with our God! We need to.. We have to…” Else wrung her hands together, “I don’t know what we need to do with that information, so that’s why we have to go to the High Priest. He’ll know what to do.”

“Okay, you can go tell him. I’m going to explore the rest of the city.”

“What? Wait, you can’t!” It was too late though; Suni had already begun sprinting down the hallway. She moved at a terrifying speed and it took Else less than a moment to lose sight of her, leaving her wondering how in the world she was supposed to explain what had transpired.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Bugman
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Bugman What happens, when old wounds heal?

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It was the day of the twin tailed comet, as it came to be known in the poetic canons of the Meroec system. To a great many it was said to herald a great weal, yet to many others it would be a sign of damnation. The different cultures of Brahm would all draw their own conclusions and truths as to what truly happened on that fateful day, just as the Polymaths of Asclepius would. But all would be so disastrously wrong.

Yea, the arrival of each sibling to the system was near identical. Though on Asclepius it was night and in the far North, and on Brahm it was upon the night at the equator, both arrived in the midst of rituals.

The people of Asclepius would not describe the Tale of the Fall as it was told to them many centuries ago as a ritual, not really. To them it was a form of art, a performance that would lead to understanding themselves, and to avoid the mistakes of excess that the wise Aeldari had recounted to them. It was unsurprising thus that the display looked quite similar at least to the less developed human eye to what xenologists would describe as Eldar culture. The people were all lean, graceful. Their costumes and movements as they danced and spun were colourful and bearing great artistry. Yet, there was a great care to ensure there was no opulence, nothing sensual or extreme. The outfits covered skin from head to toe, yet were finely ventilated to prevent any sweat of passion forming. Many were even reflective or even coated in cameleoline to ensure individuals would not get too much focus. All were to be modest in all senses of the word. There would be no star of the theater, it was about the story not any of the thousands of men and women within the dozens of kilometres sculpted exactly for the event.

Skirts spun, blades opened flesh that was immediately mended by subdermal cybernetics. It was a very difficult matter, to both ensure the excess was displayed to be understood without this very same excess actually being partook in.

The High Polymaths gazed upon the tightening circle at the centre of the performance, the tightening circle signalling the approaching climax of the display. Though the aesthetic of the theater was deliberately neutered as part of its very purpose, it was undeniable there was skill in the dance and song shown within that humanity in much of its stellar width would struggle to match. One of the High Polymaths nodded with approval as the part of the play where the final collapse of the fall would be displayed would begin. The masks of the performers would morph to the greatest and most artificial displays of ecstasy yet, before a mere moment later they would twist into unimaginable agony.

Upon their hovercraft hundreds of performers that previously remained out of sight arrived as the mystic monsters of excess that brought down hundreds of the dancers. The simulated carnage was brief, as soon after the hovering performers picked up supposedly fallen men and women and flew towards the sky in a widening spiral

As one, the elderly men of the council of High Studies stood up from their seats as the sky split, and a thundering bolt crushed into the earth. The millions of the audience gasped as one in the mistaken belief that this was a component of the performance, but this was far from the case. Nonetheless the actors went on in the mistaken belief this was some part of the performance they themselves were not informed of, their choreography continuing almost perfect and unabated even through the air becoming hazy as heat emanated from molten earth at the impact site.

Quite discretely thousands of drones flew to the site, investigating what happened from afar. Every single type of scanner starting from the mundane auspex to the complex machines attuned to the aether that would detect presence of void shields and gellar fields. Most of them returned readings that were very, very difficult for the Polymaths to interpret, but one thing that all agreed upon was the shape present at the very centre of the display. Weakly, a child rose. Yet as calculations of distance and perspective were done, it became very clear that although the proportions would be of a child, this was no ordinary boy. The thing was as tall as an adult, and it became clear that the silky metallic skin was no costume. The conclusion that this was an alien was the one reached first, but soon a few voices suggested that perhaps this was one of the beasts of excess that the Eldar had warned about. Indeed, this theory soon found support as the creature began to pirouette and spin, to somersault and leap with a speed and grace that not only the human dancers had failed to achieve, but indeed well surpassed that of the Eldar as the few present who had witnessed them could remember.

This was something extraordinary, and one by one the viewers realized that today would forever change how the folk of Asclepius lived.

With a single leap with arms behind it the child crossed the outer circle of dancers, before on the tips of its feet skipping between the other layered circles of performers. Eventually it left the stage, where it began to cartwheel through the crowds almost inexplicably weaving its way through the watchers without touching a single soul despite being larger than most men.

At last, it arrived at the steps that would bring it up towards the high view of the Council of High Studies, the High Polymaths with beards flowing well past their feet watching the thing with a mixture of awe and fear. Hundreds of defensive drones had assembled, yet they were struggling to keep track of it. As it began to sprint up the steps now lacking the previous grace and artistry, the old men suddenly began to sweat as they now perceived a threat before them. Rail shots and lasers flew, but they only served to smash the anti-grav staircase to plasglass splinters as the creature went well past the steps. Yet when it was at last before the circle of ancient humanity, it did not tear them to pieces as they assumed. Rather perplexingly, it went upon one knee. One hand was pressed to its heart, and another outreached towards the old men with a smile on its lips as the head went down towards the ground in deference. Despite the apparent physical supremacy, the creature seemed to openly genuflect towards the Polymaths in a most unexpected gesture of submission.

To Asclepius, the great demiurge had brought interesting times.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by BornOnBoard
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BornOnBoard Computer, Maschine, Panzermench

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Salient Tertius

The rest of that first day, and the following first weeks, were very similar. The scalps would rouse themselves early, eating a scant breakfast, and then they would be issued things. Sometimes those things were temporary implements, only used for the day’s training; hardwood staves for close combat training, or gas masks for what was deceptively named ‘confidence’ training.

Sometimes, the gear issued was permanent. They had received their fatigue spares, for instance, and socks, their webbing gear, body armor, helmets, and even autoguns. They were, of course, not allowed ammunition yet, but they were required to keep them clean. That was, Wode was coming to find out, a challenge. The Eluhim desert’s sand was confectionary sugar-thin. No matter how well oiled or scrubbed a rifle was, it would accumulate that sand in every crevice, and any sand in the gun was an affront.

After the gear issue, inspection. This was a formality, as nothing they did was correct. Wode later learned that this was done as a team-building exercise; if the entire group was subject to the tyrannical whims of the drill instructor, then by necessity they would band together and make sure their own gear was as good as possible before they were seen. The scalp’s favored strategy was to pair off and check a buddy’s gear; and Wode’s battle buddy, Saul, did his best to make sure his fellow scalp, giant as he was, looked as good as possible.

Wode did the same, and of the two, Saul got the far better deal. Wode was turning out to be an enigma - no matter what he did, he excelled at it, from polishing groups, to not puking when tear gassed, to even running. Oh, the running!

When a gig was found during inspection, the drill instructor, that old bitch, sent them running, often for miles, and no matter the gear load, temperature, or fatigue, Wode always left the rest of the scalps in the dust. This punishing physical training was done from midday to evening, and the last item of the day was always class training.

This training was carried out in a large tent, with one-piece desk/chair combinations, and there the scalps received their academic attention. These were often quite relaxed, with the only real challenge being staying awake. Should a scalp drift to sleep, the instructor would often, with pinpoint marksmanship, nail the recruit with a thrown field manual, ruler, chalk, or whatever other weapon the instructor had to hand.

Where Saul and the other, normal scalps often received this corporal punishment, again, Wode seemed entirely immune, often asking questions and taking sheafs of notes which he would pass out to the more lax scalps during the evening meal. Such was the speed of his writing that he would make multiple copies during the lesson itself, and his handwriting never devolved into chicken scratch. The other scalps were grateful to have such a prodigy with them for their training, and Wode did his best to make sure they did as good as possible.

At the end of one such day, Wode and Saul, the former just as chipper as he always was, and the latter just as exhausted as he always was, shared evening rations by a fire outside their tent. They usually ate in companionable silence, but this day, Saul decided to see if he could find out a little about the tall enigma in their midst.

“Hey, Arnie.” Saul said, setting his mug of tea down. “I just wanna let you know I appreciate all the help you’ve been given’ me.”

Arnulf looked up from cleaning the bolt on his autogun. “Hmm? Oh, you don’t gotta thank me. We’re in this together, right?”

“Right.” Saul said, looking into the fire. His hawk-like features took the shadow of the evening’s fire well, making him look brooding and quiet, although Saul himself was an affable sort. “We are. You don’t talk much about yourself, Arnie.”

“Hmm? Why should I?” Wode asked. “The last time I did you all got beat.”

“Yea but, you were just pullin’ her leg, right?” Saul said, looking at the giant. “You ain’t really six years old, is you?”

Wode said nothing. Saul repeated himself.

“C’mon man, I’m your buddy.” Saul probed, “If you’re an underage enlistee or somethin’, I ain’t gonna tell. You hidin’ a medical issue? What’s the problem?”

“The problem is, Saul…” Wode said, putting the cleaned bolt aside, and picking up another autogun part from the towel he kept them on, “...is that I ain’t lying to you. I really am six.”

Saul looked at Wode, feeling slightly frustrated, but Wode’s wide, expressive face hinted no dishonesty, or even humor. Saul raised himself up on his elbows, and stared.

“You really ain’t lyin’, are you?” Saul said, his voice instinctively dropping quieter. “You’re really six?”

“Really really.” Wode said.

“How do you know?” Saul asked, “I didn’t know shit when I was six.”

“The date on the capsule I came out of.” Wode said simply. “It was six years ago.”

“You’re jokin’.” Saul said, “A capsule? What, like, a buried time capsule?”

“No, no. I guess it’s more like an escape pod.” Wode said, screwing his face up in thought. “Crashed into the mountains….”

He pointed a truncheon-like finger at a distant mountain range. “Thereabouts. I think.”

Saul blinked. “You mean you fell outta the god damn sky?”

Wode nodded. “More or less. I don’t remember it, but I suppose I had to have.”

“Gol-ly…” Saul said. “You’re really not lyin’?”

“Swear to God.” Wode said, crossing himself in the Catheric manner. Saul echoed it.

“When we get a pass into town… maybe not our -first- pass, but y’know, when we get to that part, will you take me to see your… escape capsule?” Saul asked. “Y’know, if it’s still there?”

Wode nodded. “Sure. I can’t imagine any reason it would’ve left. You gotta not tell nobody though, alright?”

“Hey hey, cross my heart, hope to die.” Saul said, and crossed himself again. “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ that’s gettin’ our golden boy out of this training class.”

Wode beamed a smile at Saul, who smiled back. They bumped fists together. Afterwards, Saul kicked dirt over their cooking fire, and the two scalps went to sleep. It would probably be a long day tomorrow, and they would need all the rest they could get.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Bugman
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Bugman What happens, when old wounds heal?

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The descent of the young Primarch upon Brahms was much slower than unto Asclepius. The world had a noticeably stronger field of gravity, particularly outside of the field of artificial gravitation instituted closer to the surface of Asclepius. Moreover, it was surrounded by artificial debris that would put the asteroid rings of many a gas giant to shame. The disturbances in the warp that at times surrounded the world and made it an ideal candidate to disgorge the pod of the young Primarch were similarly a factor in slowing down the youth’s descent. These factors all combined to ensure that the first conscious memory of the child was to see the beauty of open space as his craft slowly descended through the atmosphere of the world. To his surprise, the natural pull of gravity abruptly stopped, and the path of the child’s pod now adjusted.

From across the stars, four virtues arise,
Benevolent chaos in celestial skies,
Their wisdom unfathomable, their essence profound,
In the heart of darkness, grace is found.

Men and women alike were dancing around the fire, in the distance many candles and torches lit in the ruins of a temple. They dared not light the once glorious braziers to the Gods and Goddesses, for though their devotion was great they knew the faithless - or indeed the faithful with even greater zeals - lurked nearby. Moreover, it was high time for the Skyfolk to arrive. But they could not delay the ritual. The time to reap the rewards of their masters was now.

Kirna, for our valor, our strength, our might,
Bring us to battle, to war, to fight.
The sound of drums, for blood our quest,
In your fiery realm, brave hearts find rest.

Some of the folk were naked, some were clad in body paint that covered every pore over their bodies, others wore so much cloth, furs, or hide that only their devotion to their beloved masters had not made them fall over from heat stroke even though it was the night’s witching hour.

Harmony in chaos, wisdom in the wild.
Hear our plea, bring gifts, your child.
Almighty, all-gracious, be our guide,
Through the nightsea’s infinite tide

Every so often, one of the men and women would perish of their own volition. One jumped into the flame, not a sound escaping her as her eyes boiled to liquid and flesh turned to ash. Another beheaded himself. For many minutes, the mans teeth would chatter a maraca-like staccato to give the chanting rhythm. One tore a long rope of her entrails out and began to devour them with great gusto — whatever was slurped up like an errant noodle would soon be replaced exactly where it disappeared until at last she collapsed, her dark skin turning pale from bloodloss. At last, one man impaled himself upon a great stake, gibbering sybillant praise as he slowly died.

Nyrielle, lady of life, of death, of rebirth,
You cradle you cradle your children, you praise our worth.
Through your blessings, our numbers grow,
By your will and cycle, once more life flows.

Arrows were fired into the sky at random, and most fell harmlessly into dirt. A few fell and killed performers, or injured them but they continued in their ritual nonetheless. The few who stopped in pain were brutally murdered for their weakness.

Harmony in chaos, wisdom in the wild.
Hear our plea, bring gifts, your child.
Almighty, all-gracious, be our guide,
Through the nightsea’s infinite tide

As more and more blood reached the waters of the nearby beach’s shore, the reflections of moonlight and torchlight very quickly began to shift to something of the sea’s own glow.

Tizh, weaver of destiny, of hope, of change,
In your infinite labyrinth, possibilities range.
Let us purge and end the lies of truth,
Roll us your dice, make heroes of youth.

For most of the world, the night went on without note. But here? The moon turned blue, then red, then purple, then green, before all the colours at once emerged to spin into one another.

Harmony in chaos, wisdom in the wild.
Hear our plea, bring gifts, your child.
Almighty, all-gracious, be our guide,
Through the nightsea’s infinite tide

The soil beneath the praying tribals shifted, sand moved such that they all stood upon an eight-point star. Any disturbance to the formation would seemingly be undone by random movements of the ground matter.

Solnos, muse of passion, of art, of delight,
Stoke our heart's embers, they blaze alight!
Under your beauty’s spell, we submit to a trance,
Pleasure from pain, rejoice, we dance!

It was now that the greatest of shamans went towards the fire, one by one laying corpses in a circle around the flame. Ordinary sacrifices would not do, no. These were all firstborn of the tribe.

Harmony in chaos, wisdom in the wild.
Hear our plea, bring gifts, your child.
Almighty, all-gracious, be our guide,
Through the nightsea’s infinite tide

At last, one newborn was placed within the flame.

Defend us from light, bring us your dark
Save us from the faithless, deliver our ark,
Forgive us our mercy, accept our gift,
A perfect soul, you will find it, sift.

The first line of participants around the flame was instantly vapourized by the Primarch’s arrival. The second line was turned to mincemeat, the third suffering ruptures of organs and catastrophic bone breakages. It was only the fourth that lived to see what they had summoned, and not a one was regretful.

This was with the exception of the two greatest of the Shamans at the scene.

“Ptraf, surely I cannot be the only one, do you not see that this is not what we deigned to summon? The ritual failed, our destiny was stolen from us! This… thing is flesh and blood, I smell it now!” he announced, quietly pointing an accusatory finger at the blood spattered child before whom hundreds were prostrated. “This intruder is not from the demesne of our lords!”

“No, Belsokh. I see it now in the stars. This is a gift far greater than you had ever thought of asking for.”
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by BCTheEntity
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BCTheEntity m⊕r✞IS

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The inhabitants of Phlogiston Quaternus were, by and large, an insular lot no matter the hive you visited. Most so obsessed with themselves, and with their lives, and for many with their profane rituals no matter how pertinent the results, that even those who could see the stars that night were in no position to make note of one stray meteor from up above. One that ought not to have been there, if any of them saw fit to double-check those charts which determined the usual, stately, predictable procession of matter through the cosmic void.

Certainly, none would have a clue of its significance until long after they could hope to change it.

The pod, for 'tis what it was, hurtled through the atmosphere of the planet with absurd velocity, far greater than typical re-entry speeds. Even considering the world's terminal velocity, it was as if the metallic sphere had been launched from a great cannon, spitefully and with intent to shatter it before it ever landed. Though re-entry itself failed at this, the impact was much more than suited to the task - an unpleasant metallic-sounding skim from a curved mountainous rock formation abruptly turned vertical motion into horizontal, sending it well across the horizon, and eventually as it fell through tree after bizarre alien tree, only slightly slowing its momentum before its final, cataclysmic impact with the corner of a distinct, albeit large rocky formation, both pod and mountainside all but exploding into fragments of rock and hyperforged metal, both now liquidous, in the course of their mutual destruction.

Naturally, this rather disturbed the hive of drake-termites within, whose home had been more or less entirely detonated quite abruptly indeed, killing a great many of them in the process. The survivors scattered at first, taking cover in whatever hidey-holes of theirs remained, since even after that initial impact death rained down upon them like angry bio-plasma from the local dragon-hawks, both molten and solid as the remnants of their home shifted and collapsed around them. Soon enough, though, this too subsided, and the drake-termites emerged, their ranks of teeth and claws sullied and largely-vaporised to no more than two or three thousand in number, but plenty enough remaining to seek and destroy the Thing that had done this, which had put to uselessness so much work and effort.

The Thing sat there, in the cooling hole which had been their home. Not the Thing, no - this thing had been inside the other Thing, which was no longer coherent in form. This Thing, the passenger, didn't look much like any dragons that had been eaten by the hive before. It was the wrong shape and colour, more of a ball than a dragon. Some sort of food, maybe a fruit from the trees? No - it had survived what had destroyed their hive, and even swarming over it, their weapons didn't scratch its armour, though the armour was indeed that of a dragon. It felt about right, at least, even if it didn't look right.

Then the ball began to break. At first the drake-termites scattered back, partly from the force and partly from sheer instinct. Not a fruit... an egg! The food was within, a newborn dragon to eat! Even as the egg hatched, they started forward again-

Then stopped.

Something important was in it. Of course, they couldn't understand why this was, for the dragons of Phlogiston Quaternus were not intelligent, they had no conception of psychic power or synaptic connection or mental rewiring- but whatever the Thing was, it was important. More important than them. Important enough that they had to do what it wanted.

It was completion, in a way that no dragon on the planet had ever realised it was missing before.

And it was hungry. Surviving death was a lot of energy.

Hunger, they did understand; and so whilst half of the drake-termites formed a barricade around their new, their new, queen? No, it was more important than even that, and it needed a guard of over a thousand palm-sized insectile drakes, whilst the other half surged into the jungle, seeking prey to swarm, to consume...

No. To feed to their All.

By the time the child had emerged from his cocoon, the biological defense system that had kept him from harm retreating steadily into his body to leave him lying on the floor, he'd already grown used to the chittering, incoherent, non-verbal thoughts of his new protectors. They weren't like him - he picked one up in his clawed hand, turning it over to look at its ochre underbelly, and the six tiny clawed limbs that wriggled on its underside, and recognised very quickly that he didn't have nearly so many arms as that. Arms, and legs. Two arms, two legs, instead of six tiny legs. He was different. But they followed him anyway. Because he was bigger? Because he had two arms and two legs?

Neither did he have much understanding of his own psychic powers, not yet at least. That would come in time. For now, he was a babe, albeit already the size of a toddler, with claws on his fingers, and vision that extended in the four cardinal directions and was duly processed into an image far more detailed and expansive than that of any lesser being.

And... he was hungry. So, for a snack, he crushed the tiny protector, his claws backed with much strength piercing its shell and ending its life near-instantly, and then he ate it, his rows of teeth crushing the meat and exoskeleton into paste, the flavour profiles processed, catalogued, and efficiently converted into forms that were wholly edible as he swallowed the protector's meat.

He didn't eat more of them, though. They were his. They wanted to protect him. It made sense that he should also protect them, instead of eating more. That was how a pack worked... pack? Hive? Colony, army, brood, clutch, pod, shrewdness clutch chattering bed drove skulk leash crashthunderbloatcompanyaggregationpandemonium-

Lots of words he didn't quite comprehend passed through his mind. They didn't have letters to them, his thoughts for now as non-verbal as his protectors, but what they represented was all quite similar. Groups, which worked with each other. Blood, often, in this case so, but not always.

Did they have a queen? No, dead. But her youngest spawn had been fed properly, and survived, and would develop into one, and take over again. Good. Or- she would develop, and become second under him. Unusual. Acceptable.

Now the meal returned. Some of the protectors were dead. This was fine, that happened a lot. They worked to protect the queen, and now him - they did not breed themselves. They didn't matter, if it protected the hive. Food, though: a large thing similar to the protectors, but the size of himself, with the marks of extreme damage done to it. Throat opened, bleeding. No more legs - all six removed, and brought to him.

This could be eaten without remorse. So he did, his mouth opening wide to take a great bite out of its bleeding neck, its vivid violet vitality spilling down his throat in a hot wash of flavour, even whilst the flesh was chewed to ruin and swallowed down, never mind the burning that started after the first bite before steadily fading. His first true meal. Delicious flesh.

He ate half before he was finished, letting out a burp, and letting the protectors have their feed. They needed to eat too, maybe even more often, since they were so small. For now, he was sated, and wanted to digest. So as they ate, he clambered over on all fours to a nearby... tree, then clawed up its bark to the branches, pulling down the larger leaves on its branches so they fell to the ground. Then, back down, and arrange the leaves to cover himself.

He yawned, after all that, and closed his eyes. He'd be fine. The protectors would keep him safe whilst he slept, yes. And then... then he could learn more about this nice place.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bigbagel12
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Segmentum Ultima
Sector Priam, System 3249
World Malfesia, Crown World of the Phobos Family

Change always comes, in Time

Korvo awoke, from yet another dream of fire and blood, years spent watching the world through the eyes of the unseen. He had been an old man this time, pouring over old tomes and scrolls in his tower. He had fought back, feebly and fruitlessly, against a tide of change sweeping over his kingdom in a tide of fire and blood. A Dynasty, a line unbroken for centuries, had been brought low by an upstart Emperor. One that had sought to bring all before him to heel, or put it to the sword. Sometimes he would do the same regardless of submission or revolt, be they meek sheep or dogs backed into a corner lashing out, many would find the ax at their neck regardless.

It shamed him to say that he found himself, in this dream, an Old Dog with no teeth and no ability to use his mind. No ability to think or reason, just an old rat filled with fear at the coming change. He had watched, years upon years, as time whittled by in a blurry haze of fear and loathing, until that Emperor had pushed all the way to the very palace that he had hid in with his tomes and scrolls. Yet what could he do? What could he influence in a dream in which he held no control? He had been forever a passenger in his dreams of other lives, so ultimately the fire of change consumed him. Yet he was not upset at it, it was not Change that he feared, it was the helplessness. To merely be a puppet to the fear of the coming tides, the Unknown was the great enemy. It was Anathema. Even his young mind, tempered by centuries of lessons, could see what so many he had observed missed. Knowledge was power, and those with the most held the power of their fate within their grip.

He was a child, but he had learned much, but among it all what was key was this. He had paid attention, he had learned from failures that were not his own, and he knew that knowledge was most powerful when it was kept to oneself. And so he studied, he applied his mind at every turn, studying the books of his family libraries, finding many connections between his dreams and the written accounts of ages past. He recalled what knowledge and scrolls he had seen in his time as the Old Dynast King, he recalled the ever advancing Golden Army and he understood that with it came change and death for the unprepared. So he would be prepared, for how could he not? Yet even as he read and studied, his ever faithful companion sat on his perch and watched him through avian eyes.

His oldest companion, the oldest friend he could remember, was not another child, but a feathered crow that had come through his windows years ago. WIth feathers that seemed blue in a certain light, yet when you focused all you would see is a crow, though sometimes those eyes seemed to hold a light that felt painful. Yet he said nothing, he revealed nothing, he was nothing but a crow to those without the mind to see the differences. His father was one of those, and he had hoped that his father would have been more observant but it is what it was. Not everyone could be held up to the standards he had come to expect of himself, and he only pitied them, for they were lost in their own ignorance. He would abandon Ignorance, and Embrace Knowledge.

In Time, Comes Change

The Boy read the scrolls, each and every day, he dug through dozens and eventually hundreds of scrolls seeking the knowledge he craved. He was at the very least better than many others of his kind, never satisfied with the things he knew. He craved more, always more and more, he sought the fruit of knowledge held just out of reach. It was amusing, truly, he sought elevation not understanding he was just following the plan laid out before him. He was seeking to escape the fate of the ignorant, and failed to realize he was simply marching down the paths of fate, as a pawn would and should.

Ultimately it was disappointing.

He had held hopes for the boy, he had borne of an auspicious pact made many years ago, well at least according to humanity. The concept of time in their measuring was flawed, they saw it as a linear progression but failed to understand time was a concept that could not truly be understood or defined by their limited scope of knowledge. Regardless he is pontificating now, and had lost track of what was before him. He saw the boy had stopped reading and had simply been staring at him, observing him as he had for so many years now. He had been curious, he had made the pact on a whim, and he did not understand what compelled him to stay.

The boy had proven himself a slave to fate, like everyone was, for even he could not escape the weavings of his master. Fate was the ultimate force in this Universe, in all of Reality! It was a magic so profound and powerful that the sole being capable of manipulating it had used it to ascend to Godhood in the instant of his birth. They had always been fated for it, or so they intended, and simply wove it into being. He was blessed to be even a fragment of such a being, a sliver of an existence which transcended understanding and time and effected change on such a scale as to move all of reality forward on the winds of Magic.

Yet even as he contemplated this, all of the grandeur that comprised his existence and origin, he still found no answer to the question he had. Why did he stay? What compelled him to remain as the aide to a child, even as strange as the boy was, he could see nothing in the weave of fate when he looked at the future held for the child. He could not even see a single day in advance, for anything tied to the boy was as clear as muddied water. Certainly you could argue it was this muddied fate that held his interest, and yet when he gave it supreme thought he realized it wasn’t this. For even if he could not see the exact route he would take to get there, the boy's fate was damnation at the end and that was clear as crystal. So no matter how muddied the path, if you knew the ending then what did it matter?

No it was something else, something that brought a chill to his mind. He could feel it, as if the answer was before him but not forming on the tip of his tongue. So he watched, he played the role of attendant and pet, and observed. That was how the years went by, the boy bloomed as puberty struck, his mind growing in leaps and bounds. He was quickly becoming a man that led millions, billions even. 9 Worlds, the most auspicious of numbers in service to the great one, all called him Young Lord. They answered to him, the men and women who sowed the seeds of harvest all the way to those that marched in formation and fought in the defense of their homes. Generals and Warriors, all powerful men and women, knelt when he strode before them. He saw this all from the perch he held on the boy's shoulder, the loyalty and trust they held in him. He could see why he had them so enthralled, for the Wise always rose. The Ignorant and the Foolish found serenity in Wisdom and Knowledge, and those with both led Empires.

Very rarely the boy ever spoke to him, not in the last few years since his boyhood had abandoned him, he seemed to grow bit by bit every day as he awoke. He was more knowledgeable, wiser and more powerful in mind and will, and he could feel it growing each day. The connection to the weave of magic, he could feel the sorcerous growth on the boys soul and yet he knew the boy had not touched a magical tome or text in the entirety of his existence. It was slightly curious, then again perhaps he was just a natural mage, they did occur quite often in a species as large and expansive as humanity was. Their emotions, while not on par with the Aeldari or their Progenitors, were powerful in how raw they were emotionally.

It made them excellent mages, while also making them pitifully easy to control and corrupt, for even the barest hint of power could have them dancing in your palms moving to the tune you wished. It was laughable, how much that could be achieved with a whispered word or a sweet promise in the ear of a desperate human. Ultimately he knew that the promise of power, mixed with the temptation of knowledge would drive this Human, this Korvo Phobos, into the grip of fate and the ultimate damnation that awaited him. 9 Years had passed, and it had finally come time to leave. No matter how much he felt compelled to stay, nothing had truly changed. He had aged sure, become wiser and more knowledgeable, and even had surged in mystical apptitude. Yet it was not enough.

At least that was the thoughts going through his mind, before the boy spoke to him again after years of silence.

“Hold your flight Vissar, we have many things to do together. It would not do for your time here to be wasted, it would not do at all. The Future is now my old friend, my old companion and you and I have a future to mold. A Fate to Shape. A Path to walk.” the words said as they drifted over his mind, his name had taken root and compelled his obedience. He did not leave, he did not take flight with wing or magic. He could not, after all his true name had been called and so he must answer.

“You!? You know? How? When?” were the only words the Daemon could offer from his perch,his voice was heavy and powerful, and yet held no effect on the boy. A man would be driven to madness at the very least upon hearing his voice, should their mind be weak, and at the worst his presence could cause blistering mutation of the flesh and soul and yet Korvo simply stared and smiled. Vissar could feel the strength of will that had now leashed his own, the dominance of this human over his own existence. Yet his confusion had slammed full force. How had the boy known? How had he even realized? Never had he spoken, never had the boy had any interaction with the Daemonic forces aside from him. No scroll or tome on the planet held the knowledge that would even begin to formulate the idea that he even existed, let alone offer the boy what he had just invoked. A True Name, the one granted him upon his creation by the being whose shard comprised his very existence.

Yet even as he swam in doubt and mystification, he could hear it on the winds of fate, the laughter of an amused god. His great creator had been amused, he had been given a show and been surprised pleasantly. It was his condemnation, but also his validation. His compelled stay, his unnatural obsession with the boy for so long. He had spun this tale into being hundreds of years ago, when he saved a mewling coward from the fate he had been promised and watched a nation spring up in the far reaches of space. He had watched fate weave and twist, as the eddies of the warp manifested a child that would bring damnation. Never did he expect to wind up a slave to his own machinations.

It was a joyful occurrence, and maddening all at the same time. It rankled his feathers, and made him grin in a manner no crow could ever achieve as a bit of his true self slip through his disguise. Black Feathers bled blue, a multitude of eyes sprouting on his skull and across his body all staring at the once boy but now Man, Master of Vissar, a Lord of Change. He was one of the most powerful beings in all of creation, surpassed only be a few select existences outside of the Greater Daemons of the Four Gods and the Princes that served them. Yet now, he had a master that was nothing more than a Human. A Human gaining power was never surprising, many had even managed to ascend to Daemonhood as a Prince, and among them were a select few of notable and fearsome power. Yet not Korvo, he was just a man still, untouched aside from what little his presence over the years had imparted upon him.

Yet here he stood now, a Master Planner that had somehow escaped his notice, who had so subtly gained knowledge of such quality that it should not exist in this universe. He could feel the joy radiating through his being was not wholly his, it came from the part of him still connected to his creator and god, to Tzeentch the Fate Weaver. The Human had, with but one request, gained favor with his god. He had offered no sacrifice, he had made no bargains or pleas for power, he had simply shown his knowledge and his will and had risen. The Human known as Korvo Phobos held great promise, for he was slave to nothing yet. The Only slave here sat upon the shoulder of a human, and he looked forward to what was to come.

“Tell me then, how did you find out? How did you know? Never before have I seen a human as maddening as you, for all the boredom that compromised your existence. Your entire life the result of a passing whim of mine ages past. Yet in this one moment, you have caused me to question everything. Tell me Human, my Master, how is it you came into possession of my name? 9 Years I have known you, and 9 years have you had me fooled. How?” the feathered one asked as the Human began to walk back into his palace. The Great emptiness of its walls and sculpted statues offered them silent vigil as the human smiled. Holding his hand out for the Bird Daemon to step to, the blue feathered many-eyed Daemon did so so Korvo could stare down into those blazing eyes.

“When one knows and sees the eyes as impermanent, ignorance is abandoned and True Knowledge is gained. When one steps into a Dream all things become possible, and the Mind’s eye allows one to see the true nature of things. I have known what you were since I was a boy. I have always known, and you chose to play the role of pet and I allowed it. For the more I observed you, the more I learned and even now I learn more and more. So do not rush to the ending my friend, enjoy the path. Watch and Learn, grow in enlightenment with me and let us carve a path together. I promise, you will not be disappointed.” he spoke so simply. Waving his hand as the candles that lit the path extinguished, the magic was clear and it showed how much the Daemon had missed. And so the man walked in time with the bird sat upon his shoulder, the swaying fabric of his suit and coat shifting from velvet red to pearlescent blues and pinks before going back to the velvet it had always been. The man had found himself blessed, and Change was now following him wherever he may walk.

With a tear, sounding much like a rolling thunderstorm and roaring lightning bolt sizzling away the flesh of an unfortunate victim. A grand swirl began to emerge in the air, thick blue and blacks mixed with a sickening purple that would drive a normal man mad, appeared. If one was to look, they would see anything used to measure the passing of time begin to tick in odd ways, before it began to spin backwards maddeningly fast until the very machinery inside began to slag itself and the portal stabilized. One could see a grand city under siege, and a cowering man clutching at books on the other side of the glassy portal. With little hesitation, Korvo stepped through. Going from the 40th Millennia to the 30th. And with it, the rules had been changed, and the Game started fresh.

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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by BornOnBoard
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BornOnBoard Computer, Maschine, Panzermench

Member Seen 24 hrs ago

“Hey Arnie.” Saul said, lifting their tent flap aside. Wode looked up from his cot, which was comically too small for him, his legs coming over the bottom and resting on the floor.

“Saul?” Wode asked, instantly alert and awake. “What’s up with you? Why do you look like a felid that got into the dunestrider coop?”

“Two day pass big man.” Saul said, brandishing two slips of paper. “Already got it approved.”

“Yea? What d’you wanna do with ‘em?” Wode asked, “That burlesque show you won’t shut up about is in t-”

“No no. Remember what we talked about weeks ago?” Saul said, cutting the larger man off.

Wode sat up, looking at Saul with a serious expression. He looked past the smaller man, seeing if anyone was listening in behind them, and then looked back at Saul. When he spoke, his voice was a whisper.

“I thought you said you didn’t wanna do that on our -first- pass?” Wode said, warily.

“Yea, yea, changed my mind. It’s been eatin’ me up man.” Saul said, also whispering. “I gotta know if you actually came outta the sky.”

Wode screwed his face up. “I told you, ain’t that good enough? Besides, it could be dangerous. I haven’t been out to those mountains in years. There’s no telling if it is even still there.”

Saul hefted his autogun. “Hey, we’ll be alright. We’ll cover eachother. I saw your marksmanship scores, we’ll be okay. We’ll take a day’s rations, two days water, combat load of ammo…”

“Vest and helmet too.” Wode said, “No risks.”

“Sure sure, no risks.” Saul said, “We’ll hike out, see it, and then hike back.”

“It’s thirty klicks, Saul!” Wode said, pulling his last, desperate card.

“Yea yea, you’ll just carry me when I get tired.” Saul said, “Bro, I’ve seen you hump gear. You carried yours, Arnelio’s, Triska’s, and Montaigne’s packs for 20 klicks, and that was after an all day beatdown. You hardly broke a sweat.”

Wode threw his hands up, then rose to his feet, stooping so he didn’t knock their tent off its pegs. “God damn it, alright, Saul Imogen, I am getting my god damn pack.”

“See you at the camp edge, big guy.” Saul said, throwing an ironic salute. He turned around, and walked away.


With only a few bemused glances at they left camp in the opposite direction of everyone else, Saul and Wode began to trace their path through the Eluhim desert. They’d brought extra water for their anticipated early morning start and were glad to have it; by midday both had emptied a full canteen, their shirts soaked with sweat underneath their body armor.

“I liked that story you told ‘em, Saul.” Wode said, screwing the cap on his canteen as they walked.

“Hmm?” Saul said, looking up at the larger man.

“We’re just two soldiers all messed up from training.” Wode said, reciting Saul’s story, “We’ve got some backpacks full of beer and we’re gonna go to the desert, get trashed, and shoot guns.”

Saul’s hazel complexion spiderwebbed into a large smile. He laughed, and Wode laughed too.

“Bro, I didn’t say that. I just said we were gonna go on a hike and take in the view.” Saul said, “We’re gonna hike to the Table of the Gods and just soak it in.”

“Soak in all the sand around us?” Wode asked. “Admire the tumbleweeds?”

“Bro, you don’t know what you’re makin’ fun of.” Saul said, kicking a stone in front of him. Wode kicked it when he reached it.

The stone whizzed through the air, impacting an in-bloom cactonid and exploding the poor plant. Wode and Saul briefly stopped, their eyes as wide as dinner plates.

“Did you-?” Saul asked.

“Yea.” Wode said. They looked at each other, and raucously laughed. After several minutes of this, they continued walking again, trading jibes with each other.


They reached the Table of the Gods by late afternoon, Saul riding on Wode’s shoulders like a small child. Wode let the smaller man down. Both unslung their weapons checking the chambers were loaded. Saul buckled his helmet on.

“Your call big man. Safeties off?” Saul asked.

Wode mulled it over for a second or two, then flicked his own safety catch off. Saul did the same.

“There should be a switchback we can walk up to get inside.” Wode said, his finger pointed, moving through the air as he searched. “There. After that, there’s a tunnel, then it opens into kind of a basin.”

“That’s good, we can refill our canteens.” Saul said.

“Why would we need to? You didn’t hardly walk at all.” Wode said, bemused.

“-I- ain’t a nine foot tall supersoldier what fell from the god damned heavens, Arnie.” Saul retorted. “We goin’?”

“We’re goin’.” Wode said.

“Alright, then lemme go in front of you. You’re too big, I won’t be able to cover you from the back..”


The next hour or so, they navigated the narrow switchback. The footing was perilously narrow, especially for Wode, who had to safety his autogun and sling it to safely navigate the narrow footing. Saul, much smaller, and much more slender, was able to keep both hands on his gun and stay secure. They moved like this, deliberately, helping each other across the gaps that erosion had made in the path. It was not something that could be taken with speed; their pace was slow, deliberate, and focused on getting the perilous journey right the first time.

There certainly wouldn’t be a second chance if either of them slipped. They reached the mouth of the tunnel at the start of the evening, just as the sun was beginning to set and the desert began to cool. Saul and Wode switched on the lamp packs at the end of their autoguns, and moved into the cool cave.

The tunnel was dark, and smelled dry, clean, the antiseptic smell of cool stone. Every step of theirs, no matter how quiet, echoed, a peculiar acoustic phenomenon that only seemed to occur in the dark caves at the corners of the galaxy.

Neither men were experienced tunnelers. The constant echoes of their own steps unnerved them as they slowly crept forward, and between steps, both of them swore they could hear something scuttling far off. They told themselves, the two travelers in unfamiliar territory, that these were normal sounds, not deserving of special attention, but the silence eventually became too much for the both of them.

“Say, how did baby you even get out of here?” Saul whispered, his lamp pack twitching over the smooth stone walls.

“I walked.” Wode said quietly.. “I drank as much water from the basin as my belly would hold and I walked. I made it to Carverstown three days later.”

“God-damn. Six years ago?” Saul asked. “Weren’t you like, a baby baby?”

Wode shook his head. “I was asleep a year, so it was more like five. I think I grew inside the pod, just enough to survive on my own. There was a canister in it that I think contained nutri-paste. It must’ve woke me up when it was empty.”

Although the relief of giving into their nervous urge to chatter was relieving, the walls of the tunnel seemed to press in on them as they went further in. The echoes of their own voices in their heads turned to imagined whispers, caresses from fingers that didn’t exist, and faces leering in the darkness that disappeared the moment their lamp packs touched them.

“I don’t like this, Saul.” Wode growled. “It wasn’t like this five years ago.”

“It- It’s just a cave, man, right?” Saul said, wiping sweat from his brow. His hand was shaking.

Wode gripped the man’s shoulder. It was warm, reassuring.

“Whatever happens, I got you.” Wode said. “Alright? You’re safe. Let’s go see this thing and scoot.”

Saul nodded, his grit restored. “Yea. Yea. We ain’t campin’ out here, alright?”

“Alright.” Wode agreed.

They moved with renewed purpose, the cave seemingly disappointed in its failure to cow them. When it finally ended, they stood above a vast basin of water, an underground lake. In the middle of it, a small, sandy island. The water level had decreased enough that there was a murky sandbar that looked solid enough to walk on leading to it.

On that island, there was a pod, and a tree growing from it. Wode blinked. He’d never seen a tree. At least, not like the one growing from his pod - this one had a thick trunk, with bark, and green, leafy branches. Salient had no such trees - and the ones that grew were short, stubby, with large root networks.

“What the hell is that…” Saul said, in a small voice.

“That’s where I was born.” Wode said. “..The tree’s new though.”

They approached the little island, their guns held at their hips. Saul reached the pod first, whistling at the way the tree’s roots intertwined and trapped the pod within its systems. Both of them searched around the thing, which was about the size of a luxury groundcar, before Saul called to Wode.

“Found a datascreen. Think it still works?” Saul said.

“Hey, don’t get too comfortable with this thing.” Wode said, and looked up. The tree’s branches were heavy with fruit. He picked one, and looked at it, then recoiled.

There was a face. The face of a woman, tattooed, with long, wavy hair. One half of her face smiled, pleasantly, while the other was a manic rictus of feral glee. Wode dropped the fruit in disgust, then picked another. This one was a man, with piercing golden eyes, and a black beard and mustache. His very countenance suggested mischief. He picked another, and found it was two fruits conjoined into one.

He reached out to take another, but Saul’s hand grabbed his arm.

“Buddy, would you quit it with the fruit?” Saul said, bemused. “Come look at your cradle.”

“But…” Wode said, looking down at the fruits. The three he picked no longer had faces. Their pink-orange bodies were bruised where he dropped them, however. “Shit. You’re right.”

“I tried tapping it, but the screen just says ‘Bio-signs rejected.’.” Saul told Wode as they walked around the pod.

“It still has power?” Wode asked.
“Shit I guess. Give it a whack.” Saul said, showing him the screen.

Wode hesitated in front of the arcane device for a second, then touched it. The screen warmed under his massive hand, and a chime sounded from deep in the circuitry. The pod whirred to life, an antenna extending from the back. Lights within the pod shone, unreachable and unreadable behind the root boles that impaled the pod, fixing it to the ground. It began to hum.

“Arnie?” Saul asked, “Arnie, what the hell is it doing?”

Wode took his hand off the datascreen, shaking his head. “I don’t know! I dunno!”

With a loud howl, the antenna shot a blindingly green beam of laser energy into the sky. Both men had to shield their eyes from the bright, radiant green. It went on for what seemed like forever, long enough for both men to think it would never stop, and then suddenly it ended.

Silence. Both men’s ears rang. The beam had been such high intensity, it had burned straight through the tree branches covering it, shooting through a jagged hole in the ceiling of the basin that had been caused when the pod crashed down.

The tree, that beautiful tree, had begun to burn. Half of the thing was completely ablaze, the fruits hissing and popping in the insane heat.It was clear that the blaze would eat the thing up entirely - its fruits never to have been enjoyed by anyone the way it was, despite growing, improbably, from nothing. Wode felt a small pang of sadness at this, but quickly passed it from his mind. There were other things to do.

He swallowed. He looked to Saul, and nodded his head. It was time to go. Whatever happened here, it was done.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Lauder
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Lauder The Tired One

Member Seen 9 days ago

The Angelus Machina

One-One’s eyes darted over the data-slate with an indifference not unlike those found within the Martian tech cults that controlled the cities. She consumed the data within-milliseconds, her bionics feeding the data to her in digestible chunks so as to not overload her. Yet, the priestess would be overwhelmed at the data she read, not for fear or shock but of awe and amazement as to how the Angelus, Usriel, was performing. It exceeded her expectation by a margin nearly incomprehensible to any normal standard for while still only a child, One-One had taken to teaching him advanced formulations that even adepts in the Cult Mechanicum would struggle to learn. Her emotion dampeners struggled to suppress happiness that dwelled underneath her skin and if she could smile, she would.

The sound of shifting sheets broke her from her trance and she looked over her shoulder, to see Nirek stirring from his slumber as morning light began to breach through their singular window. She watched him from the periphery of her vision, falsely making her focus seem to be that of the data-slate. His synth-muscle was illuminated softly in that light as he stood, tall and proud as any freeman would - the years and augments have always been kind to her husband. Tempted, she would finally lower the slate before fully turning to Nirek, meeting his smiling gaze with her indifferent gaze.

“Good morning, my love,” Nirek said, striding over to the One-One who lowered her white-hood and allowed her more human looks to meet his eyes. She always knew that he liked her human aspect, though One-One always viewed it as a weakness. Still, she indulged him as Nirek embraced her, reciprocating it with a single arm. As he pulled away he spoke to her, asking “How long have you been up?”

“This is the 50th day since I’ve last slept,” One-One replied without a beat, as she turned away from Nirek to continue scrolling through the data-slate. The priestess’ synthetic voice chimed to a different subject, “Usriel’s mental development is at an unprecedented level, Nirek. His understanding of the machine, mathematics, and the holy scripture matches any priest. He continues to prove that he is the Angelus Machina.”

Nirek did not seem interested in her fascination, however, knowing that he always wished to treat Usriel just as any parent would treat a child and not like the omnissiac figure that One-One knew him to be. He stepped past the lithe form that was his wife and instead walked over to the window, looking out the barren, fortress-ridden land that was Vion 5. His deep blue eyes wanted to look at the priestess, but all he could do was let out a sigh. Already knowing, One-One had lowered the pad once more - sensing minor distress as she had mentioned Usriel’s title. The scavenger would never understand, however, for he was never inducted into the Machine Cult and so would not truly understand the breadth of what Usriel’s title would mean.

“He is of age, One-One. I need to show him to the Maris,” Nirek said without his usual optimism, sparking a look from One-One who clenched her metallic hands. She could not respond for Nirek did not allow her to, “I know how you feel, but the warlords need to know who to protect.”

“He is not ready for the cruelties of the warlords,” One-One said with an odd sense of maternal instinct, her glowing optics flaring for a brief moment before her dampeners calmed her once more. She loosed a modulated sigh as she stepped over to Nirek, knowing that he spoke the truth but still unwilling to want Usriel to be tainted by outside influence.There was a moment as the two look over the lands from their own redoubt, the rocky crags forming natural killing funnels that the ancient defenders of the planet used to wage war. Yet, now all that stood was the silence of the dead. Her head inclined towards her lover, “I must run additional tests, the Angel- Usriel, must be tested.”

“If he is as capable as you say then he will be fine,” Nirek said softly, unlike the coddling nature of One-One, he wanted Usriel to grow as any boy would which, on Vion 5, meant that he must be shown to a warlord, for they held armies and warriors capable of fending off the likes of the Cult of the True Machine. He turned away from the window and began walking, ready to take Usriel. A tug on his arm caused him to stop - but he needn’t turn. Nirek could feel the burning gaze of One-One.

“Nirek, that boy will be taken if Maris sees his potential just as he had taken you,” One-One spoke with a venom in her modulated voice. Nirek had relented and turned to her. There was more to come, “War and military is not what he needs or wants - the same the Cult would do if they knew what he was. Allow him to be the bright scholar that he can be.”

Nirek inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring. Still, though, he did not speak because he knew that she spoke true, that Usriel did not deserve the possibility of being dragged into conflict. One-One and Nirek stared deep into each other’s eyes in a battle of mental fortitude. Yet, it would be the priestess who would dare to look away first, restrained anger filling her in the moment. There would be no changing the course of this meeting, Nirek would not allow it.

“Our Angelus will not be taken from us,” Nirek promised, once more bringing One-One into his rust-tinged skin. There was a softness to his voice that soothed her and she desired nothing more than to have her worries assuaged. The situation, however, only wrought worry and worry brought with it a gripping fear of losing the closest thing she had to a son.

“May the Omnissiah make that true.”

Small hands worked around delicate circuitry, twisting wires and searching for new access points amongst complex machinery. Usriel moved as if he were a master amongst the machines that connected to the neuro-linked drone. The child reached over to grasp a splicing tool that had been neatly arranged on a bench. His blue eyes scanned the wiring placement for a brief moment before he slowly moved it to a different connection. The Angelus sealed the connection before leaning away from the servo-arm. Happiness at another successful job spread through his face, but he needed to know that it worked properly.

Usriel looked up to the drone who impassively looked at the servo-arm that had just been fully connected by bare hands. The child needn’t speak any command, instead moving the mechanical back and forth, up and down, twisting and turning the claw. The child’s happiness grew and grew before he met the drone’s indifferent stare and asked it a simple question that was overfilled with joy, “Do you like it, Unit 17?”

No vocal answer came from the drone but instead it gave a light smile that only Usriel would even notice. The lips almost inconceivably curled into a smile before vanishing as the lobotomized person stood and moved to do new duties that would be assigned to it. Usriel, for his part, would put down his tool and the giant arm of the workshop automatically retracted back to its starting position in the wall. The child slowly crawled out of his chair belly first, afraid it would roll away as he moved - but it didn’t much to his own relief.

The door to the works slid open, forcing the child’s head to snap over and see the form of One-One stepping into the cold air of her work area. It was a miracle that she did not instantly chastise the boy for being within a prohibited area. Still, Usriel’s feet snapped together and his arms went to his side. One-One inspected the area quickly before she walked up to the boy, looking down with him a glare that could easily be construed as cold. Her modulated voice broke the silence, “What were you doing in here, Usriel?”

The child did not want to answer at first, but he knew the punishment for noncompliance, a timid voice came, “I was making the servo-arm for Unit 17, I heard you say that the bio-chemical connector was giving you trouble.”

“And does this arm work?” One-One asked, her glowing eyes flickering for a moment - a sign Usriel had gathered meant that she was ordering one of the drones. He picked up on such signals quickly enough but he knew that she was going to inspect his work just as she always did. She began to circle him.

“It does, mother. The original problem was the wiring, it couldn’t pull the electrical signals from the body. I had to take it apart and rebuild it,” Usriel responded, keeping his head down as she stopped behind him. He expected to be chastised and yet she wrapped her arms around his small frame, gingerly. It surprised the Angelus for One-One was not known for showing her affections to Usriel often but his hand traveled to grasp hers. There was a brief pause between any words as One-One let out a raspy breath. It seemed to him that her emotional dampeners were faulty.

“You continue to amaze me, my little Angelus,” One-One cooed, scooping up the boy effortlessly to carry him away from her workspace. Her tone went back to indifference as she walked, explaining to her son, “We will be going to the Great Bastion today - you must meet the Lord Maris as per your father’s wishes. I am accompanying you, Angelus, so as to safeguard you.”

“Father will safeguard us,” Usriel said softly. One-One did not respond to the child’s words, instead diligently marching him outside where Nirek was waiting, speeder ready. She continued to hold him even as Nirek gave her a steady glare, though Usriel caught his attention with a wide smile. The scavenger was always happy whenever the Angelus smiled, as any parent would, despite the circumstance ahead of them.

“Usriel, are you ready to see the Great Bastion?” Nirek asked with a soft smile coming across his face, One-One gently lowered the boy into the speeder.

The Star Child cocked his head to the side, “We are going to meet Lord Maris, correct?”

“Aye, the Bastion-Lord must look to any prospective child that is under his domain,” Nirek said to his son, entering the driver’s seat of the vehicle. As he moved to start the engine to the speeder, it hummed to life on its own and so the man gave a confused look before looking at his wife. One-One shook her head in denial, knowing what Nirek looked to her for. He shook away the confusion, instead speaking to Usriel, “I must stress, boy, that whatever Maris asks you to do, restrain yourself.”

“Why? You always tell me to do my best?” Usriel asked instantly, giving no reprieve to his father at the moment.

“Just don’t. Not this time, Angelus,” One-One said instead of Nirek, earning only more confusion from Usriel, but the child did not dig further. He sensed that something was amiss. Would he embarrass his family? Why did he need to restrain himself? The child did not know, perhaps he did not wish to know either as worried thoughts began to cloud his mind. To distract himself, Usriel looked to the countryside that roared past them - towering guns lay distant, pointed towards the skies. Rocky mountains clambered over each other in the horizon, only occasionally interrupted by debris fields of destroyed vehicles that lay half-buried.

Hidden deep within the layers of rock and metal lie the remnants of ancient fortresses, silent witnesses to the fierce battles that once raged upon them. These ruined fortresses, now buried and forgotten, hold a haunting aura that whispers stories of valor, conquest, and the passage of time. The skeletal remains of once-mighty walls, crumbling towers, and shattered battlements evoke a sense of desolation and melancholy. Nature, with its relentless grip, has intertwined with the ruins, creating a surreal tapestry where vines reclaim what was once man-made.

As the layers of earth and debris cover these forgotten strongholds, the battles they witnessed become lost in the mists of history. The echoes of clashing swords and thunderous war cries are replaced by the eerie silence that surrounds the fallen stones. Time has painted these ancient battlegrounds with a melancholic beauty, as rusted weapons, decaying armors, and fragments of forgotten lives rest untouched beneath the weight of ages. These ruins stand as testaments to the impermanence of power and the transient nature of human conflict.

Usriel often fixated upon these derelict fortresses, especially when Nirek had brought him along to scavenge what remained. The child knew what these great buildings of long nights were for - to protect and safeguard. He gazed and saw a collapsed tower and he wondered how it might have looked in its prime, what wonders the planet had hidden deep in rubble and earth. Yet, his thoughts were disturbed as he looked forwards - seeing what they now rapidly approached.

Amidst the rugged terrain of a desolate world, a colossal fortress rises like an ancient titan, its metallic spires reaching the heavens. Crafted from plasteel and fortified with other resilient metals, this fortress stands as a testament to human engineering and technological prowess. Towering as tall as the tallest mountains that surround it, its imposing presence dominates the landscape, inspiring awe and fear in equal measure. Time has failed to tarnish its gleaming surface, and its impenetrable structure remains a formidable bulwark against the elements and any potential intruders.

In the heart of this awe-inspiring citadel, four massive orbital guns stand poised, like guardians of a long-forgotten realm. Once a beacon of interstellar trade and prosperity, the planet beneath no longer sees the arrival of stellar ships, leaving the fortress in a state of isolation. The orbital guns, now relics of a bygone era, serve as a haunting reminder of the world's lost glory. Now, they aim to the skies, a silent warning to any ships that might dare venture into this forsaken land. Despite the fortress's current isolation, the mysteries it holds and the stories it conceals still beckon explorers and adventurers from across the galaxy, drawn to uncover the secrets of this monumental fortress lost to time.

Usriel stared in awe. Soon, they would be wandering within that mountain sized fortress, walking its intricate halls and seeing how life was. One-One looked back to him and spoke in a coo, “See what we once had Usriel, know that you may well inherit it all.”

“Tell me boy, what is your name?” a voice asked, the boy who could merely looked down to his feet. Usriel had been told not to look up but he knew it would be rude to disrespect someone known as a Bastion-Lord, especially under the light of his own halls with men clad in armor, wielding axe-headed spears that hummed ever loudly in his mind. His nerves were beginning to overcome him, the machines that traveled the length of the great fortress hummed far too loudly for the boy's mind to handle. They all spoke to him in inaudible static that not even One-One would have been able to understand - it was a horrid experience.

A hand brought him from his stupor, causing the Angelus to look up and see the man that sat perched on an iron throne. He was larger than even his father, scars littered his face and both of his eyes had been replaced by a singular glowing optic that resembled his own mother’s. He gulped down fear, “I am U-Usriel Andreadth, Lord Maris.”

Maris looked over the boy, seemingly scanning him with his machine-eye, before he arose and looked towards Nirek. There was a silence between them before Maris’ massive form walked towards them, his white glare moving towards One-One as he did. He spoke in a tone that seemed to bring dread to Usriel, “The boy, he is Mechanicum taught. How much does he know?”

“He knows little, Maris. He has not been inducted into the cult,” One-One spat instantly, venom claiming her augment voice, her grip on her son’s shoulder tightened.

“Please, you expect me to believe that?” Maris chuckled grimly before looking to Nirek, continuing his question with his hands wrapped behind his back, “How much does he know?”

Unlike One-One, Nirek would not lie, speaking confidently and stepping forwards, “Usriel has been taught by One-One since birth, m’lord. He is bright and knows his way around the workbench just as any child in the slums might.” The father postured, puffing out his chest and meeting the mechanical looking Maris’ one eye with a one that was as unwavering as the fortress they now conversed in. The two cast glares at each other, speaking in a silence before Maris took a step back, turning away from the family.

“Very well. I needn’t ask the boy if he has fought yet. He looks as though he may shatter at any moment, he has not seen war,” Maris commented, returning to his throne for the time being before motioning to slender man that moved on ten mechanical legs. The abomination brought a long table that hummed with a blue light - a projection of a vast array of mechanical parts and other such items lay there. Maris spoke as the clicking tendrils of the abomination skittered away, “Yet, Usriel,” he spoke to the boy directly, “Come, I desire you to build something for me.”

Usriel looked to One-One who merely glared at Maris, then to Nirek who moved to his mother to get her to release her rather painful grip on that moment. Nirek nodded to the boy and the Angelus timidly began to approach the great Bastion Lord. Each step was heavy, bringing further panic to his mind, it was only at the other side of the holo-table that he stopped with a heart pounding so hard that it threatened to make the boy collapse.

“Make a weapon for me, boy. That priest surely has taught you the inner workings of any weapon that the Mechanicum uses. Show me what you know,” Maria beckoned in a cruel voice. Yet, the boy only stood frozen before he looked at the table, One-One had not taught him anything of the Mechanicum, but he had studied without her supervision on many of the sleepless nights that he had. He knew of what he would make, but fear gripped him.

The boy looked back to One-One and Nirek, seeing fear plastered on both of their faces forced his resolve to harden. Usriel turned back to Maris, resolution burned within him and he desired never to see his parents so worried. No, despite their wishes, he haunches over the table and began to work. Hands adeptly moved, it may have been a mock forging but he treated it as if it were real - he moved faster than any in the room could comprehend and practiced precision overtook him.

It became clear of what he was forging instantly - a weapon of plasma.

The creation of this devastating weapon begins with carefully sourcing the necessary materials. The core components, including a plasma coil, energy capacitors, and a power cell, must be forged from rare alloys and refined plasma-grade materials, ensuring their resilience and conductivity.

The artisan then meticulously assembles the plasma gun, painstakingly connecting the components with precision and care. Each connection is made with specialized plasma-resistant wiring, meticulously soldered to withstand the immense energy output of the weapon. The plasma coil, the heart of the gun, is meticulously wound and calibrated to create the controlled plasma discharge characteristic of the weapon.

Once the physical assembly is complete, the artisan moves on to the programming and fine-tuning stage. A sophisticated control system is installed, allowing the wielder to adjust the plasma gun's energy output, firing modes, and safety mechanisms. This stage demands both technical expertise and an understanding of the volatile nature of plasma energy. The artisan fine-tunes the weapon, ensuring its stability and efficiency, taking extra precautions to prevent catastrophic overheating or misfires. It was grueling, yet Usriel continued on.

It was not long until he had finished, the final product now humming as the mock weapon it was. Proudly, Usriel looked back to his parents but they looked horrified - he had done what they had asked him not to do. A cruel laugh echoed behind him.

“You lied to me, Nirek,” Maris spoke, rising over the table, his massive form drowning out the very light itself. Usriel went to run but the Bastion Lord reached over the table and grasped the boy by his neck.

“Angelus!” One-One cried, stepping forwards only to be held back by Nirek.

“Maris, don’t do this,” Nirek growled angrily, his synthetic muscle straining to hold back the priestess who cursed in a binary tongue that only Usriel understood. The father wanted to move forwards to reclaim his son, but he knew far better than to act on instinct as the armored men readied their weapons, pointing at them. Yet, he knew what Maris wanted, he knew that their wish of family would be wrought away from them just as it had been done before. He let out a sigh. He looked at Maris with a fire, “He is all we desire, Maris. Do not take him from us.”

“Your family was forfeited when you promised me a warrior in your first son, and see how that turned out,” Maris grunted, motioning to the guards for them to take the two out his sight.

One-One broke free of her husband’s grip and stepped forwards, flashing an axe of the Omnissiah and burning it into the plasteel floor. For a moment it seemed as if she would slay each and every one of the men that stood between her and her son, but she froze. The tech-priest collapsed to her knees and would plead with Maris, “Allow me to say goodbye to my Angelus, you already took one from us. Allow me this, so that I may be given what little peace you can grant me.”

A moment of consideration flashed, silence filled the room before dropping the boy to the ground, who in turn scrambled to his parents. Usriel embraced his mother and Nirek quickly enveloped the both of them as well, tears streaming down all of their faces. A wavering, modulated voice spoke out amidst sobs, “Usriel, know that you are my Angelus, and nothing shall change that. Take my axe, may it serve you well and you shall know that I will never be too far, me nor your father.”

He was confused, scared as to what was happening but he understood perfectly as to what the Bastion Lord was taking from him. The confusion was only about why it was happening to him. It was Nirek’s voice that broke the sobs, “My son, we shall see you soon.” With those words he broke the family apart, shoving Usriel back and dragging One-One away, who cried out for her son who was quickly surrounded by the guards of the room. As the doors closed behind his parents, all he could do was grasp the Omnissiahan Axe that was parted to him, imagining One-One’s embrace in that moment - but it was no substitute and there would be no comfort, especially not when he looked to Maris with grief, anger, pain.

His voice came slowly, cruelly and maliciously, “Come now, boy. We will make a warrior of your pitiful line yet.”
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bright_Ops
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Bright_Ops The Insane Scholar

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Orks were not stupid.

It was a lesson that all races that encountered the Greenskins had to learn at some point... often repeatedly. It was an easy lesson to forget after all, considering the average ork.

They were brutish, disgusting, often childish in their thought process at times; After all, who but a child would believe that painting something red and putting flashing lights on it inherently made it go faster? 'Art' for the greenskins was little more then monuments crafted from piles of their own dung. By all rights, this was a xeno species that should never have gotten off the planet that spawned them, content with the discovery that if they picked up a rock, beating another ork to death got easier.

However, despite all of this... or possibly because of it to a degree, Orkish kind had managed to spread to the stars in pursuit of the one thing that seemed to give them purpose; Violence. Despite all their own lackings, the Greenskins knew how to fight and wage wars ranging from one on one battles to galactic campaigns. The crucible of their infighting was designed to promote the rise of a warboss who could unite their people and lead larger efforts against the galaxy at large. While the individual greenskin could be idiotic, there was something very intelligent buried in their genetics that influenced their culture behind the scenes.

Which is why when the Kneekapperz that dominated Forge Beta launched their campaign of subjugation against the lesser Toothbreakerz tribe, they had sent groups of gretchen and orks ahead as both scouts and outriders; While an ork was always up for a fight, traps and ambushes were as much apart of warfare smashing in someone's skull with a rock. When the Kneekapperz' marched on the canyon that would be the only real path to run their tanks and trucks through in order to get where they were going, they found both.

While the majority of the Toothbreakerz were tied up fighting on other fronts, enough of them had been free to plant crude mines throughout the canyon, while up on the canyon walls they started building nests to fire down on invaders from; While a few waves of gretchen were thrown at the mine problem (in some cases, literally), the orkish side of the scouting force scaled the cliffs in order to directly fight the greenskins on the heights. Even as the main bulk of the invasion force showed up, that fight was still raging as the screams of gretchen dying or in pain and the explosions that caused both grew lesser before finally stopping. A successful start to what would be a bountiful, if short war.

At least, that was what all the calculations and data had suggested was going to happen.

When the mobilization of the Kneekapperz' had been noticed and the likely destination of their aggression had been agreed upon at 92.4 percent certainty, the humans of Forge Alpha knew that action needed to be taken in order to prevent a new warboss from raising. While still a young tech priest, Myrmidon Uixien offered a suggestion for a plan of action and after a review by those higher ranked then him it was agreed upon; Days before the Kneekapperz' began their march and the Toothbreakerz started rushing around to make their last minute preparations a force made up of Myrmidons (including Myrmidon Uixien himself), Skitarii and servitors made their way to the canyon that was the only real path that the Kneekapperz' could take and dug in... literally.

Along the canyon, they scaled the cliffsides on both sides about seven or so meters off the ground and dug into the walls in order to create areas they could take shelter in and wait for their targets to arrive. Each 'cave' would have a stockpile of explosives, heavy weapons (both anti-ork and anti-tank, because despite what some people believed there was a difference), sharpshooters and a myrmidon or two... and all of them would have their entrances covered up with cloth that had been painted and decorated with dirt and dust from the very walls they had dug into. It wasn't the most high-tech method of stealth that had ever been devised, but effective all the same at making it appear like there wasn't a murder hole in the cliff face. After all, it only had to look real from a distance because most organics would focus either at the top of the cliffs of the canyon or what was in front or behind them.

So they dug in and sat quietly for days, waiting for the time to arrive. For a normal force this would have been challenging. For them... not so much.

The plan that Rik had offered was in two parts, with the ambush of the Kneekapperz' simply being the first part of it. It was, however, the simple part; Wait until the Kneekapperz' column was fully inside of the canyon before letting of a signal to drop the cloths and unleash a tide of grenades (Photon Flash, Napalm, Blasting Charges and Radiation where to be mixed together for maximum impact and carnage) throughout the column while the heavy weapons ripped into either orkish flesh or their armor. Anything that survived the alpha strike by luck or durability would be focused down by sharpshooters and heavy weapons... or flushed out and dealt with by the myrmidons.

The signal was given...

1 minute and 37 seconds later, Rik leapt down from his ambush point, axe in his hands as an irad-cleanser swept his left while phased plasma-fusil swept the right. Most of the orks near him were already dead and the smaller orkiod sub-species had simply been mulched by the explosives, but if there was one thing that an ork could be trusted to do, it was refuse to die when it was sane to do so.

Four of the nearby brutes roared their battle cries as they charged at him. One had its cries cut off and dropped as one of the skitarii rangers ended its existence, leaving three to try and close the distance. As the irad-cleanser unleashed its payload, the burst of cross-spectrum radiations caused two of the greenskins to suddenly stumble and fall forwards, their furious warcries turned to gurgled screams of pain as their skin and insides started to melt while their eyes started to slide down their hideous faces while the third, somewhat bigger and clearly tougher then the lesser orks, seemed to endure the blast to continue on.

As it leapt for Rik, his reaction was so quick as to be inhuman; The ork didn't even get to blink as a metal hand shot out to stop the axe swing of the greenskin by grabbing the hand holding the shaft of the weapon, nor for the other hand to bring the axe Rik was wielding around to press the edge against its throat and jerk it forward, taking the head off quickly and cleanly. Throwing the corpse aside via its weapon arm, Rik looked around for more targets as he made his way forward. One of the two orks that had been dealing with their bodies melting internally had stopped moving, but the other was still clinging to life... right up until an axe gave them a mercifully quick end.

With those hostiles dealt with, the Myrmdon turned to look for fresh hostiles to bring to an end. Survivors couldn't be allowed for the second part of this plan to begin after all.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Bugman
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Bugman What happens, when old wounds heal?

Member Seen 43 min ago

Flesh on feet sizzled as men and women ran forth to adore the silver figure at the heart of the crater of sand turned to glass. Caressing hands ran across its body, the mercurial texture of the flesh bringing great awe to the cultists. Only the two shamans dared not step on the slag to approach the child. They could hardly see it behind all the fawning men and women upon it but even what little they saw had unprecedented potence that perhaps millions of even great minds as them couldn’t match. As much as an instinct within their brain told them to get on their knees in prayer, they knew this had to be handled carefully.

“O’ gift of the stars, we thank you, we thank the Fathers and Mothers of Sky and Earth for your sight!” Belsokh announced, his eyes skipping towards Ptraf for but a fraction of a second for affirmation.

“My Lord.” Ptraf began. “I hope our offerings were to your satisfaction. How may we serve you?” he said.

“How may we serve our masters?” Belsokh quickly added, somewhat confused by what Ptraf was saying; he was not yet enlightened to what had occurred this day.

“Why are there dead before me.” The figure stated, its voice almost smothered by a tattooed hand running across his lips.

“My Lord, I apologize, we put as much devotion as we could before the sacrifices expired, we-” Belsokh began, before being interrupted by Ptraf.

“It was a necessity. Their lives were given eagerly.”

“But why?” he giant child asked.

“To bring you forth my Lord.” Ptraf replied.

The child looked quizzical for a moment, its skin then very slowly changing pigment and moving across its flesh before it almost perfectly mirrored the appearance of Ptraf; even the tattoos he could not see directly were derived from visions of the man reflected off of the coast’s waters.

Not bothering to dislodge several of the people stuck to him, the child stepped forward and thus upon the stand to stand before the two magicians. It stared in the eyes of one, then the other.

“How did you summon me? I do not believe I was called. I saw the stars, the infinite nothing before I arrived upon this world. I saw the lights of your sister world. I believe my presence is an accident, elder. I do not think I am meant to be here. Harmony in chaos, wisdom in the wild, I do not know what this means. I do not believe any of this is meant for me. I do not think these souls should have died.”

Belsokh looked astounded, and then very quickly enraged despite the fact the figure before him could clearly slay him. “Their lives were spent righteously! They died for a greater cause!” He screamed, unable to be silenced by the hasty waves of Ptraf.

“Sire, Sire, you were brought here by a greater will! Can you not see? I see now you are a being of wisdom, of logic, no? Surely you understand there are no accidents, no chance, that is true superstition before our truth. You can see we are here to serve, to bring truth!”

“Serve, then. Where may I find the greatest realm of this land. Do not say it is here beneath my feet. Who built that?” he pointed to the not too distant temple, made at least in part of materials far too complex for these tribals. “Our ancestors, my lord.”

“Very well then. Who built that?” he pointed. What his finger was aimed at was unseen to all present, but Ptraf knew of what he spoke. “That is the Kingdom of Jhumal. Great are its armies and treasures, but it is not the greatest realm.”

“What is the greatest?”

With a sigh, and a look of defeat followed by one of scorn towards Belsokh, Ptraf sagged his shoulders and spoke. “I will tell it to you my Lord, but only if you make a small promise.


“When you are downtrodden, when you are lost, and unsure of this world and life. Perhaps now, perhaps years, perhaps decades or centuries from now, when such a time comes, you will seek me out and ask me to explain why this is, and then you will listen.”

“I agree to this. When my existence is dim, I will ask you for light.”

“Very well. Up the Coast, to the East. Seek the great walls with great helms bearing galeas as towers, there you will find the realm of Ummaria, it is perhaps the greatest realm upon this planet.”

“Thank you.” With that, the creature reverted to its silvery form and walked off in the direction of this Ummaria.

“I see now, Ptraf. You aim to make this imposter perish in the deserts without slaying our own. Wise.” he said, as the child trodded well past the vanishing point of their vision.

Ptraf shook his head but said nothing. One day, one day he would redeem himself for the failures of this day.

Days later, after trodding far through the desiccated land the child brushed off the dead worshippers who had gladly died of thirst upon him. Washing himself of their residues in the salty waters, the child then looked up and saw the crest of a galea in the distance. There, his destination.

As he approached the walls, many a horn blared. He looked up, hearing the twisting of windlasses long before the ballista bolt missed him. He looked upon it, fingers tracing the painting along the fletching. Hundreds more followed.

Unafraid, he continued towards the walls. Stones soon followed shattering earth and stone around him. Eventually he was close enough that the men within the towers and upon the walls could see the features of the primarch.

“Please, do not fire upon me, I wish no harm!” the child bellowed, the voice carrying far further than any present could imagine. To their own surprise, all men present found themselves obeying.

“Now, please let me in. I wish to see your Sovereign.”

The child smiled as the gates opened for him. The day had just begun.
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