I remember the dust…
It coated the tops of the rafters I was clinging to. It hung heavy in the air. There was a full moon that night and I could see the dust dancing where the hole I entered through allowed a stray moonbeam through. Looking back it seems almost poetic, the amount of dust present in that room. How it clung to everything there. How it needed to be cleaned.
See, Hope was covered in dust. More than dust. In filth. It coated everything. Metaphorically speaking of course, although the word filth aptly applied to that man that sat below me that night. The dust needed to be cleaned away if Hope was to become anything. If Skaven was to become anything. It had gone without cleaning for far too long. That man was dust, and I was there to clean him away. To kill him.
I say kill, but of course it was more than likely murder. It was entirely legal, don’t get me wrong. He deserved it, as well. He was a vile and selfish creature, as crime lords tend to be. The amount of wrongs he committed I do not think I could count. Still, I’m sure a good man would have forced him before a trial, or given him a chance to realise his wrongs and turn himself over to justice. Something like that; something different than quick, cold death. My orders did not allow him such a luxury however, and I was quite happy with it that way.
I’m getting sidetracked by philosophical musings on morality aren’t I? I shall stop that. Where was I? Right. There I was, perched in the dark rafters of the roof, hidden in shadow along with the dust. Two others hung to beams nearby in a similar fashion as myself; there for the same reason as myself. We all carried crossbows. They were loaded; vorpal coatings had been applied to the bolts. The distraction team had drawn most of the guards away, as was planned. Only two remained. One man for each of. This needed to be ended quickly and efficiently.
I will admit, my hands were shaking. I’d served in the war, so obviously I had seen, and caused, my fair share of death. This, however, was very different from a war… and yet incredibly similar. Whether it was the difference or the similarity that got on my nerves I couldn’t tell, but I couldn’t steady my aim. That’s probably why my bolt hit him in the arm, instead of the head. What followed is a terribly embarrassing memory. I panicked, drew my blade and threw myself from the roof onto the man, where I stabbed him repeatedly to death. It is not a pleasant state of mind to remember, and one I do not wish to ever be in again. I thank my stars that my comrades had been more accurate. I would not have fared well had the muscle survived their respective bolts and born down on my person.
Regardless of my sloppiness, we finished our mission, as many other teams were finishing similar ones throughout Hope that night. It was a bloody night of cleansing that, when the old criminal powers who would not convert to the new order were put down without mercy. It was a necessary night though, never forget that. The dust had to be cleaned.
He felt the pull. It drew him to Hell, and for no apparent reason, he went. He found the cultist, and for a moment thought to join them, but somehow he knew, they were not what he was looking for. He stood on a hill, overlooking the mess, observing these “cultists” in their sacrifices. With every thrust of their blades into innocent flesh he felt his flesh crawl. Somehow their actions were polluting all he holds dear, but he had no way of knowing what was happening, or why, so he simply observed.
He had heard tales of Hell. He heard of Echo, and was never quite sure if he respected the man, or need to destroy him. Luckily that choice is no longer his. So he watched.
The cultists were dancing, and singing. Not music and rhythm though, but a cacophony of sound and movement. Suddenly everything went silent.
He revelled in the silence, for with the silence came a sense of his powers returning. Within the silence came another pull, and when he looked up he saw her, far on another mound, a woman in a dark travel worn cloak. He knew she was important, but did not immediately know why.
He saw her opening her eyes, and as they opened he could feel his magic has returned, but something was wrong. Something has changed. His powers felt darker, unnatural.
The cultists were busy raising those they sacrificed! They were making an unnatural army using the corruption of chaos magic!
The woman opened her eyes and saw what the cultists were doing. He saw a light flash in her eyes, and in a moment her sword was in her hand. There was a glow emanating from a pendant that she was wearing. He stood silently on his hill, leaning on his walking stick, watching the woman wade into the necromancers, leaving their dead bodies behind her in a wake of destruction. He smiled, for at that moment he knew why he was drawn here.
As the last decapitated body fell to the floor the light from her pendant receded, and the woman fell to the ground.
“Right” he said to himself, allowing the magic to play on his finger tips.
“Be careful with that,” Zeek called out to his fellow workers. “We don’t want to scuff the floor with this thing, remember what she did to that crew that made that mess in the Flame hall.”
The man to his left gritted his teeth the memory of having to dispose of the ashes still fresh in his mind, while the man opposite furrowed his brow in concentration. The golems they had between them began moving with greater dexterity as they slowly edged the large granite block through the low arch leading into the Earth hall.
Having successfully navigated the arch the three worked their golems into position before the golden contraption that would house their master’s prize. The golems carefully raised the block into position, making sure to not glance any of the ornate figures or glass orbs that littered the supports. With a grating noise the block slid into position and gave one last shudder as if to confirm its last resting position. The block stood still for a moment before the runes carved over its surface began to pulse with a red glow that seemed to be collected by the orbs on the device, condensing the light into an almost liquid form that flowed down the supports and through intricate spiral patterns cut into the floor of the hall before snaking their way up the columns in the corners of disappearing into the unknown darkness above.
“Well that went well.”
“Greatly so, those poor fools back on the prime plane don’t realize what they’ve given us here.”
“That they don’t,” a new feminine voice joined in.
“Master,” the three managed to breath out at once at the sudden appearance of the woman clad in a golden cloak that they studied under, their heads all turned down in their own crimson cloaks.
“Its a wonderful sight to behold isn’t it?” she asked no one in particular. “An actual heart of an earth leyline, and one so removed from the corruption of the material plane.”
She continued as she approached the heart, running a hand along the surface, flecks of red energy trailing the lazy pattern she traced.
“It is a magnificent sight Master,” Zeek agreed.
“And all thanks to those silly little fools in their bubble,” the Master gave of a cruel laugh that made the three men each shudder.
“It was a brilliant plan Master.”
“Of course it was, I was the one who made it,” she replied casting a scowl at Zeek, who turned his head down and wondered if his ashes would leave as bad a stain as the worker in the Flame hall.
“However,” the Master continued after enough time to leave Zeek to squirm had passed. “You did show great devotion and the kind of guile I can appreciate while performing it Zeek.”
Zeek dared not move his head up from the floor where his gaze had been locked.
“I think, you may need a reward of some sort. Perhaps another brilliant plan to put into action? How much do you know about the water heart?”
Before Zeek could answer she continued. “Hopefully more than the last man I sent to find it. You are to leave immediately. Secure the area and await my arrival.”
“At once Master,” responded gesturing to the other two men while pivoting to the archway they had come in through.
“Oh and Zeek,” he froze mid step. “I want you to take the entropic distortion relays with you. You figure out the radius needed,” she commanded now taking in the earth heart again.
Zeek under his hood had gone pale but continued trudging away from the hall, wishing he had rather made a mistake moving the heart than face this new task.
In the hall the Master looked up and down the contraption once more.
“Halfway there now, those ants will be begging for their bubble to be popped before I’m done.”
– Written by Douw Pretorius –