Imber is a continuation of Love Can Bloom.
"And...And then I got here," Taldeer finished lamely. She reflected she must look pitiful in front of the Seer Council of Ulthwe, having been grabbed and dragged off of her ragged escape as soon as she had touched onto her craftworld. They stared, impassively, behind their ceremonial masks of judgment.
"We..." Started one, "We sense no lies." "But she IS a skilled farseer," immediately started Eldrad, and Taldeer flinched at her father's cold impassive voice, "And she has changed while she has been away."
She glanced up, to see her father was leaning in close. The mask he wore, strangely, was that of the Laughing God. "Tell me- this, mon'keigh-" LIIVI, she thought, "-This LIIVI; did you copulate with him?" He leaned back in his chair, falling back into shadow as the seers and onlookers stirred and twittered. "Of course not," She hissed at her father's implication, in front of everyone.
"Good, good, because, I realize that you are a mere two hundred years, and in your long time away, you might not have heard of the reports. Reports of what happen when our two species intermingle. To be sure, we ARE compatible, but, the children..." He tittered, shaking his head, "Such sad things. Sad little creatures, the lucky ones dying at birth or before, the others, drooling misappropriate creatures, snaggle-toothed, and jaw broken, half made, barely living creatures. Death is a mercy for them," Eldrad turned away, standing, "But so long as you haven't, I believe we may now convene for judgment, comrades?" They filed out, to lay their judgment for their errant general, leaving Taldeer alone, with herself. She waited, waited until there was no sound but the buzz of the wraithbone, and the wash of the ocean, before she fell to her knees, clinging to herself, weeping, "Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh my child, oh no..."
He was right. It was a mistake.
In her regret, in her shame, in her grief, she whispered his name, "Liivi," wiping away at her eyes, "Fool of a mon'keigh," she coughed, gasped for breath, as she tried to even herself out, "There was NOTHING worth saving. Nothing, nothing," she whispered, shaking her head. She straightened. An eddy- someone coming. Macha. She scowled, wiping away at her tears. She wouldn't show that Biel-Tan witch the slightest ounce of grief. Not give one inch.
Through the veil, she stepped. She was no longer clad in battle armor, a tranquil look on her face, dressed for peace. Immaculate and clean. Standing across from Taldeer, still in battle armor, bloodstained, dirty, hair mussed and tangled. All Taldeer wanted to do at that moment was hit her.
Macha gave her a contemptuous flick of her eyes, and shook her head. "I told you."
"Shut up," whispered Taldeer looking away.
"'Leave a scar' hmm? I didn't take that to mean you wanted to scar yourself," Her sarcasm dropped as she stepped forward, "How many were lost."
"Go away," Whispered Taldeer.
"I saw the survivors. A bare tenth of those that were there. Oh, I know you had your ever important crusade to fight against our ancient enemy-"
"-Who we defeated aeons ago, IGNORING our present enemies, who," A sarcastic grin appeared on our face, "Evidently, CRUSHED you and-" Macha stopped.
"Have you been crying?"
Taldeer didn't answer, sullenly staring away.
"Oh by the stones, you have been," Macha had a smile on her face. Taldeer turned, hissing.
"Good, fine, wonderful of you to find some bit of humor in this mess! Fine of you to have found the silver lining to this! Do you really take that much delight in my misery, you whore? You would see your fellow eldar dead so long as it hurts me?!"
"No I, I," Macha waved her hand, "I guess I never thought you COULD cry," She shook her head, a small grin on her face, "You have changed haven't you."
Taldeer stared at Macha, quivering, holding back, fighting it- before falling on Macha, weeping.
"Shshshshhhh, it's okay," Macha patted her, her voice muffled as Taldeer bawled on her, "It's okay...Khaine, I never would have that you would feel grief."
Macha held her sister patiently, as Taldeer wrung out the last of her despair. Shaking her head the whole time, "Fanatic no more, hm?" She murmured, stroking her sister's hair.
Eventually, Taldeer quietened, and pulled back from Macha, silent. There was quiet. "I'm sorry," Macha eventually said.
"Th-Thank you. Now, if you would please leave me, I have to wait for the council's judgement," a pause, "Sister."
"Of course, sister," Macha nodded, turning back into the corridor, "We will talk again later?"
They came back. It went as expected. Stripped of rank, censured, no Ulthwe would bow their head to her anymore- she already knew, she wearily thought. They already knew she knew.
Partway through the display, she turned, and walked out of the court. No one moved to stop her. Another mark against her, she figured. She cleaned herself, changed, left her armor with a singer to get it repaired, and found Macha once more.
"Going to go hunt the Necrons again?"
"I thought it was your responsibility?" Macha grinned, "To save our universe from this threat that you, you lone faithful follower of gods dead, could perceive?"
"My visions," Taldeer began to backpedal out of it, then shook her head, and continued, "My visions have been proving false of late."
"All of them?"
An unbidden thought came to her. Of a scarred man, looking her in the eye, ferociously warm.
"All of them."
They were walking to the Chapel of the Lost, the temple reserved for those gods that were slain by Slaanesh long, long before. Few visited, Taldeer among them.
"Notice you lost your soulstone."
"Yes," she paused, then smiled wistfully, "Another vision derailed. For the better I suppose. What are you doing here?"
"I heard you came in, that you were being put to trial for your failings," Macha was silent, "I was going to ask them to put you to death, and not let Eldrad give you a free ride. After Lorn-"
"And you didn't?"
"...You've changed. You've lost your self righteousness," Macha turned, and gave her a glare, "Not that I believe your punishment was unrighteous. I hope to never see you at the head of an army for a long time."
"Yes, yes, you're right," Taldeer sighed and nodded, "Let me pay my respects, then I'll be off."
"I'm leaving Macha," Taldeer entered the chapel, her offerings readied, "I'm unsure when I'll return."
"Scarring the universe again?" A sharp note of anger broke Taldeer's prayers, slopping some of the water on the statue of Ellyus, god of storms. Taldeer frowned, and mopped up the spill with her dress.
"No. No more of that. I have duties to engage in."
"What? What could possibly be...Oh. Oh. OH."
"What?" Snapped Taldeer turning, at the smiling farseer.
"Duties, huh? Duties to someone in particular?"
Macha waggled her eyebrows at Taldeer, who rolled her eyes, "Do you never think of anything else?" she murmured as she went back to work.
"Come on, this explains everything. Which was it? A ranger? That'd explain your eagerness to become an outcast. Or one of those quick warp spiders darted in and snatched your heart? You know I know some DELICIO-"
"Enough, I'm in the middle of my prayers. You can live your love life by proxy elsewhere."
"That HURT sister."
Taldeer ignored her, thinking back to when she was young, and she memorized the Twelve Interpretations of Maya, reciting the well worn words to a dead god.
She was walking the path of the Outcast now. It was as simple as that. No ritual, no soul searing experience, no brand, nothing. She just stepped through the door, and that was it. Terrifying. In the book of her life, rites were her grammar. A Ceremony of Birth, daughter of celebrated Eldrad, brought her into this world. A Obeisance of Contrition when she disobeyed. Her entrance to the road of the farseer was wreathed in mysteries and inscrutable dances of protocol. Now.
She stood on the threshold to the Craftworld's Fool's Court. The Court where the outcasts lived and engaged in, which Ulthwe had established for vagabonds to make their own, long, long before. To be sure, she had gone there before, when she was younger, but now, she was going to stay here.
The Harlequin of Kronus had told her there were other ways off of Kronus before. And her smug pity had spoken she had known what the farseer would go through. She wondered, bitterly, if the Harlequin was waiting out there, for Taldeer to pass her by, to make more commentary on it.
Taldeer turned, to her father's voice, even if it was in her head.
"You intend to go then. To find the mon'keigh."
"Yes," she whispered through her helm, now repaired, "There is a crew of outcasts I have arranged with. They'll take me to Patrochus, a free world-"
"Free worlds, daughter, are haven to chaos, and chaos-"
"I'm well aware of your fears father. What your stones tell you will occur, when next the Eye of Terror will yawn open. But I need to do this."
Eldrad approached, his face taut, holding back his emotions.
"At a word, I could ground their craft. I can make them return you. I can bind you here, until this foolish madness of yours has faded."
"But you won't."
They locked, eye to visor for a moment, before she cocked her head, "Why was it so much easier for you to let me take an army to Kronus, than for I alone to go?"
She did not wait for an answer. She turned, and walked to find her craft. She had just turned the corner, her father still staring after her like a statue, when the patter of feet further back in the craftworld barely became audible. At a sprint, a young farseer in fresh armor, holding two rune bags ran onto the scene.
"Where is she!" Caerys ran past Eldrad, hesitating at the entrance into the Fool's Court.
"Who?" Eldrad mumbled, turning away.
"Taldeer! Taldeer! I just got back, and heard she was headed this way- My lord Eldrad, I, I,"
"No, no," he stepped slowly away, picking up speed, "It's quite alright Caerys, I understand you're excited about becoming a farseer."
"Oh, thank you my lord, but, Taldeer?"
Eldrad turned, narrowing his eyes at Caerys, Taldeer's protege. Shorter, yes, perhaps a bit more wan, and chipper, but, in almost every other way, the same.
She was dumbfounded, "Gone? GONE? But, my lord," she adopted a lecturing tone, "She PROMISED me that she would be ready to congratulate me when I gained my title, and donned my armor that I would-"
Eldrad's patience ran out.
"Did you not HEAR me you natty little WENCH? She's gone! Vanished! Disappeared into thin air, to never be found again! Abandoning her craftworld in shame for her utter defeat on Kronus!" He turned, stomping away, leaving the shocked Caerys standing shock still, "And you're just one more student, you twit."
Caerys stood stock still, still clutching her two bags of seer stones, matching, that she had hand carved for her initiation, staring after Eldrad.
Imber was once a Eldar Maiden World. Once. Now, it teemed with humanity, there were a few tribes of eldar left, and even a Tau embassy. It was a world, only recently discovered by a band of Explorators who had sent reports to the sector command that there was a world that needed to be brought back into the fold. The Sector command had its hands full with a recent crippling warpstorm settling on a system, so it sent back orders little heard- Negotiate.
As of such, for the past six months, the tenuous nations of the planet were enjoying brisk trade, lavish gifts, and low scale gang wars as the Tau and Imperial delegations struggled against one another, and the recent cult that sprang up about a word bearer that was attempting to convert the populace. Imber at the moment was the perfect place for anyone to find whatever they needed.
Currently, just outside of one of the larger space ports on the Equatorial hub, there was a building where coarse intoxicating poisons were served. For some reason, some subconscious consensus was reached across all humanity that where alcohol is served, is where business should be done.
"Hm. Now, and the, ah, pay?"
"Whatever you pick off of the ships, I only care about one item of cargo. You can split it with your crew as you wish."
"Mm, and uh, if I may just ask again what the targets were?" From underneath the long coat, a slender, mesh armored arm grew, grasping the wooden cup filled with water, and pulling it to the hood.
"Yeh, yeh," Torbett scratched his chin, nodding, "And, the pay is again?"
"Whatever you get off the ship," dark eyes glared from beneath the hood, "I rather dislike repeating myself."
"I was just checking, because, see," Torbett spread his hands in a gesture of confusion, "That just doesn't make any sense. Why, pray tell, do I go ahead and piss off the foremost organization of psychotic corpse producers in the galaxy, on the off chance that I might be able to grab something of theirs? As far as I see it, there are three major flaws in this plan, number one," Up rose one damaged digit, "I have to get the stuff first, number two," Arose the second digit, "Once I have the stuff, I'll be hunted from here to the Eye of Terror for having it, and number three," Rose the third, then hesitated, then sank back down, "Alright, I don't have a third, but I think the first two are strong enough to stand on their own here. Sorry, but there isn't enough to appeal to me for this," Torbett leaned back in his chair, sucking down his drink, "Slag off."
The woman across from him sat still hands gripping the table for a moment, before relaxing, "Very well then," she said as she stood, "I suppose I won't have to waste any more words with you then sir, if you're unwilling to reach for more than just your mug of piss, I can't bother with it," Taldeer stamped away from the latest in a long string of rejections.
The outcast crew had been kind enough to drop her here, but regrettably, had not been enamored of the mission either, especially when she wouldn't explain the details. Now she had been stuck on this heap of dirt for a week, with nothing to show for it other than having lost what little funds the outcasts had given her at the start.
She stepped out into the humid street, tugging the coat she had been given around herself, tucking low the hood. Eldar trade was frequent, but she had no desire to advertise her condition more than entirely necessary.
"Please, oh honored and wise sister, may you spare some pity for one of your kin?"
She stopped, glancing back at the corner. It was an eldar, like her, under a paper thin blanket. One of those Eldar that got run out of the tribes, or a ship borne one that got left behind. She frowned, reaching into her messenger bag. A pair of coins, the last she had.
It wasn't like she could have bought anything for it. She dropped it into the bowl, with a mumbled, "May you find your way into Shar'ess' heart once more."
Every day that she had been here, she had found a different Eldar beggar. And each time, she had given to them. It was strange, to see her people brought low like this, outside of a war.
"May you find your way home," sung back as she walked on.
On the corner, one of the new domed buildings had been constructed. The city (Taldeer wondered briefly if it had a name; no thoughts she had yet touched had mentioned a name for this place) was a riotous argot, most in the native style, but as the Imperial cult spread, they began to sport carvings of gargoyles, frescoes, even in some wealthier cases, stone being imported. All the Tau buildings were uniform, cornerless ovoids, evidently prefabs cranked out and shipped from somewhere on planet, and what few buildings sported open Chaos affiliation, she stayed well away from. Worrying runes, meaningless graffiti, invectives against "the corpse god," all that.
She avoided both the Imperial and Chaos buildings, veering instead for a corner that had seen a new Tau building mushroom up. Each of the factions had their gifts for the common people, each of them attempting to foster a common revolution against the far too clever leaders of their nations who chose no sides. The people were exceptionally capable at imitating those they followed, and even the beggars grew fat from the donations given.
She reached and grabbed a bowl from the smiling young man who had shaved his head, a pathetic stub of hair growing that he would attempt to cultivate in imitation of his masters. The queue moved along until she managed to get to the server, an older man with a beard who somehow managed to resist the urge to take hairstyling tips from an alien species.
He looked at her as he filled her bowl with hot soup, then said, "You've been here before, haven't you?"
"Well, you can come inside," He said cheerily, waving her back into the building, "I'm sure A'O'Tulro would love to-"
"I think not," she said, and with a mental flick of her wrist, the man blinked a moment, staring ahead as she moved on. He only worked out of his stupor when the next in line tapped the man on his shoulder.
She sat on the corner, gulping the soup down, uncaring of the heat of it. They had grown more watery as of late she noted, but she wasn't about to beggar food from the Imperials or the "Bearers of the Word." Tau, despite their faults at least didn't have a kill policy for her race.
"Oh mistress of the stones..." Just as Taldeer finished her soup, it was that beggar again.
"Ma'am, I have nothing else for you," She said coldly, dropping the bowl to her side, "And if you want to eat I recommend you get in line like the rest."
The blanketed figure shook her head, only saying, "I told you, there were other ways off of Kronus."
The Harlequin. For a moment, the mask's holo field dropped, revealing the truth of it, before it slid back into the normal aged face.
"I swore to serve you so long as you had a mission of worth," She cocked her head, "I believe that your mission is worth something."
"Oh," Taldeer controlled her shock, with some difficulty, keeping a still and placid face, "So can I have my money back?"
"I've been throwing it away," The mask's field twisted into the face of Eldrad, all disapproval, "It was worthless, you've been living with the humans like this, beggaring food from the Tau? Honestly."
"I just need to find a crew."
"A crew?" The face flicked into Olono, the God of Wonder, first to fall to Slaanesh, "You don't have one already? Come," the face switched back to a disguise, "First, I must tell you what has happened, then, we shall get a crew for you, simple child," The Harlequin grabbed Taldeer's wrist, dragging her along the street, toward the older portions of town.
"You CAN'T be older than me."
"But the stories I've learned are. Now silence, and follow."
Down the winding dirt road they stepped, through the humid and clouded air of insects.
OOLAN SEPT PROPAGANDA PRODUCTIONS PRESENT:
"POISON TEMPTATION: A Warning Against the Lure of Slaanesh!"
'Be warned! The scenes that follow are disturbing, especially for those human in the audience! If you are faint of heart, or desire to avoid obscenity, we stress you turn off your receiver, or change it to one of the many other educational channels offered by Oolan Sept Productions! If you choose to watch, and you later grow disturbed, or find yourself thinking thoughts outside of the norm, we urge you to see your local Counsel (Your information informs us that this is "La'Salle, Soothing Waters" three clicks at the corner of M'sor and Unity). This depiction further includes artistic aids, to help further the warning! A recording without these admittedly worrying depictions is displayed one decimal above your current selection on your receiver, if you wish to only have the audio. We further stress again that the subject matter, though very informative is GRAPHIC and DISTURBING. You have been warned.'
5. 4. 3. 2. 1.
Behind the table, the shaggy head glances up, his eyes surrounded by black rings. Some noise, a corner of blue skin in the lens as the broadcaster is righted. Some exchange evidently occurs, as the human nods, then looks into the camera.
"My, ah," he shivers, "My NAME is Telemachus. I am, sorry, was a guardsman in the Holy Emperor's army. In action on Imber, I, I was captured by the Host of Geryon," A pause, as the guardsman looks up over the camera, has a baffled look on his face, then says, "I was impressed into decadent slavery...For Slaanesh."
A pause, then the colors invert, and the camera zooms into the guardsman's pupils to a screech of fearful and shocked noise.
Six minutes of explanation/speculation about Slaanesh later, it returns to the guardsman's tired face.
"Yes. Anyway, it was after the, ah, the third drop wave. I was on the first, bad luck that, my craft got hit before it got to the rendezvous, eight PPZs came right at it, only managed to jink five. Luckily me and three others survived. Unluckily, one was the commissar. So, we went marching on to the meet site. Certain vee uncertain death."
While he talks, small notes blink and pound underneath him in a crawl, offering tenuous explanations of terminology. To provide clarity, the interview goes on with the commentary running below, and to the side.
"Anyway, maybe about a lick n half off from the rest of the army, all those great big Lemans, Basilisks, autocats, fifty kay head of troop, at the tail end of the third wave dropping, we get hit, four of us, by what seemed the whole of Geryon's Host."
He breathes deep, shaking his head, "Maybe about a hundred? Fifty? Feet of tree between us and the division, and they didn't hear us screaming," Telemachus takes a dark look as he murmurs, "Or maybe they didn't care, and didn't feel like separating themselves from their important work of being counted by the laurels."
"Two were cut down. The commissar among 'em, no tears about that. Third pretended to be dead, not that hard, with how cut up he was. I surrendered," He coughed, shaking his head, "I was just... I was just so scared. They came out of the trees, wailing like banshees, four of 'em each for us. It was like a game of grox in the middle. With knives. I got hamstrung, I felt the knife pass through my thigh and heard the SNAP of my muscle rolling up like a curtain, and I knew I had it. I fell over, raising my heads, and, Emperor forgive me, started yelling all the snatches of dark prayer I knew. You get bits, when you're in the guard. Rumors. 'Burn this candle at this hour for Khorne, whispering these words and your gun'll shoot straight for three battles,' and what I heard in my last engagement, over Lampetie. It worked. Oh Olanus, why did it have to work?"
"One of them was all for killing me, all up in a frenzy, as I crawled away from him, with my one good leg, before the others got a hold of him, he broke my shin, and hacked awful at my leg. I was curled up, whispering 'blood for the god of blood' when they started hitting me in the head. I think they were trying to knock me out. Eventually, they gave it up when a marauder buzzed over, and just dragged me off. I had lost a lot of blood, and I wasn't exactly cogent at the time, so bear with me if I skip over this part. I know they dragged me to a stolen groundcar, I travelled for a long while, then I was somewhere dark."
"They had...Stitched me back up. The bandages weren't cloth. As far as I could tell, I was in somewhere concrete, and warm. To my left, some crusty pillows, to the right, a wall, and a corner of a tapestry. I had no idea how long I was out, but when my eyes had adjusted for a light, I realized I was in their pathetic excuse for a temple. There was a pile of pillows, refuse from some law abiding home or another, candles in holders, a squat altar made from cast off cinder blocks, and a tapestry. All aside from that was just your average basement. The tapestry was inexpertly stitched, depicting a blasphemous image of the Emperor, a withered corpse in his famous armor, masturbating to the thought of being devoured by...What I assume was Slaanesh."
"Instinctively disgusted, I tore it down. I crawled forward to the pillows, and laid myself down. I slept again, I know not how long."
"When I next awoke, I found the tapestry had been put up again, and a beaker of piss."
Telemachus pauses again, staring down.
"Before I go on, I wish to just tell you, the viewer," he waved his hand, "That I'm going to go on about this for a while. Because this is important. I grew close to that piss, while I was there. My first response, I back handed it away. A bad idea, but it was right next to me. Now, when confronted with something disgusting, what you don't do is slap it so it ends up all over the place. Especially when all you can do is crawl."
"I crawled to the door then. I wish they had locked it. I really wish they had. But they hadn't. The door was open. And I was confronted with a ladder. I tried climbing it, but...There was nothing at the top. A trap door."
"So that was my day. I got piss all over the place, and spent the next infuriating hours attempting to climb a ladder, only to find out, that the trap door was too damn heavy to open with only one arm, without my legs to brace against the steps."
"I crawled back to my pillows, through the piss, to fall asleep again."
"When I awoke the next day, a new beaker was in front of me. With more piss."
Telemachus looked down, for a moment, emotion overtaking him, as he audibly swallows. "Pius, I can still taste it. Can I get a drink of water?"
For a break, there is a recounting interview by a bold firewarrior, speaking of his engagement with Slaaneshi, a water xenopsychologist speculating about what it is that makes gue'la so vulnerable to the predations of cults, and a final message from a Shas'O of the warning signs of Chaos affliction.
Then the interview starts again.
"Ahem. Eh, yeah," Telemachus waves his hand, "Look, I don't want to stay too much in this because, well, that's it. That's how my days were. I would try and try to get out, I wouldn't make it, then that piss would be there. The seventh time I fell asleep, I was too hungry and thirsty to do anything different. I had already drunk it once. This time, I drank it and sat there," He holds his eyes shut, shaking his head, "The next day, they set out a cup of water."
"It was carrot and stick, pure and simple. But Emperor damn it all, but I sucked that water down in joy when it came. My bandages, I, I forgot to tell you what those were, didn't I?" He summons something up, some will to talk, "They were skin. Flesh. Someone's flesh, I, I, I ca-"
The interview skips a bit. One frame, Telemachus stands, shaking his head waving his hands in front of him, the next, he is sitting back in the chair again, staring down, droning on.
"So that was how I survived, for another seven times I slept. One time, I got the bright idea to get up, when next they dropped off the water, or the, or the, or the meat. I couldn't do it. They must have been watching, must have had a witch, that would have been Ram, wait I'm getting ahead of myself. By the fifteenth, I stayed still. Food was more important than escape, and my wounds were septic. I hoped for treatment."
There is a quick three minute break, for a noted Earth scientist to explain human physiology, before it returns to Telemachus. His eyes are red.
"The twentieth day, she came down," He stares down, then looks up, in anger, "No, I will NOT name her! This may be a slagging documentary for you, and you're trying to keep your 'journ-ul-estic credo-credai-' whatever!" He stumbles over the unfamiliar Tau phrase, "I'm NOT naming her. I'm not giving her the benefit!" Evidently, some discussion occurs behind the camera, Telemachus shaking his head. Eventually he stills, looks in the air despairingly, then nods, "Fine, fine, we can call her Medea."
He coughs, "She, Me, Medea, she was...Radiant. They probably slipped something in the food. Anyway, she, she and I... You don't need the details. It was awful. It was awful and it was good. It was...Emperor above, it was so demeaning. She made me beg. For everything. She barely touched me, and I thanked her for everything. Every damn thing. I was hers. Hers for whatever. I cursed the Emperor, I threatened my commanders, I swore to rape my mother next I saw her, and I, at least she made me think, I meant it."
"And that was that. I was part of Geryon's Host," He shook his head, "They took me up after, took me to Ayn and Ram, the doc and the witch, respectively. They fixed me up, what they could," At this, Telemachus lifts his hand, shaking the lone thumb and pointer finger that remain. The rest is raggedly gone, healed over, with lumps, and a ragged scar matching that of a symbol of Slaanesh.
"It was...A change. I mean, once you're, er, once I was out of the basement. Medea soothed me, as soon as the two had finished, took me back to her place. Used to be a tenement, somebody important must have lived in there once. It surprised me, how clean it was. I mean, usually what you think when you think place was dingy, dirty, unclean shit holes. Hers was...Well decorated. I mean, there were still those gaudy runes that they had hanging around, but they were woven into the rugs, silk curtains everywhere, had a theme of getting people places, even had a cool storage, stocked with food plundered. No recyc. That was the best. After the basement, Hell, after the guard, it was paradise. I was free."
"Was I her pet? Yeah. I daresay I was. It was different then, when we fucked. Er. Copulated? Whatever. She let me touch her. But yet, at the same time, I was free. She called me, and I came because I wanted it. Outside of that though, the town was free for ours to go anywhere we wanted."
He paused, licked his lips, then looked back up at the camera, "That's when I was happiest. No lie. But. Everything has a cost."
He looked down, "We went to war again. I was given a lasrifle, and we went. We treated it like an adventure- oh Gods, I want to tell you about Ram, and Ayn, and Vorbrin, his Vex, and his Slaught and all the rest but," He raised his mangled hand to his mouth, "But I can't. Cause I give up a little bit more when I remember them."
"I was at the battle of Ash pit. That's when the fun ended."
"Me and Brennigan were getting to know each other. We, ah, well, I'm not getting into the specifics," Telemachus gave a sheepish smile, "He was a sweet kid," then his smile withered, as he shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut, murmuring no, over and over again, "no, er, I'm sorry about that. Anyway, I was with Brennigan, he was a new kid, couldn't have been older than sixteen, when Medea came. She was the only one that wore armor, my armor to be specific. A slap dash job to repair it, and she claimed it. Rest of us were in clothes we looted," He glances up, shrugs, and says, "Everyone does it when you're a soldier, doesn't matter what side it is. Only when I was Imperial, you gave 'em a piece of paper, and when I was running with Chaos...You gave 'em a knife if they got lippy," A pause, "I was only one of many. Everyone does it."
An intermission, with a Shas'O, with the most serious of faces, telling the viewer that no not EVERYONE does it and that the armies of the Greater Good would never do such a thing, and any found doing such would be shot immediately. Another moment, this time with a calm ethereal (Stock footage) explaining what to do in case of invasion, proper responses to thieves, murderers, rapists, and other such monsters that filled the enemy ranks. An armored fire warrior, one arm around a human child, the other around a tau child, then a return to the guardsman's interview.
"And Medea comes up, takes in the both of us, tells us to get our guns. She wants to make sure her band is seen at the front. She grabs Ayn, gives him the banner. Tells him to wave it all. Smiles as she says she wants him the first on the capitol building."
"I remember, just seeing, people, as far as the eye could see. A leviathan, of arms and legs and heads, of banners high, of bright glinting slugthrowers and lasrifles. It was a beast of many mouths, but one song. Many legs, but one direction. Many arms, but one purpose. They weren't all like me, tattooed, branded, embroidered. Some looked just average, a head band here, or a armband there identifying them as being with Chaos. Some had never heard of the Gods, of the cause they were fighting for, Hell, one or two were still backwards yokels dragged out that hadn't even heard of the Emperor that they set out to destroy. They were just together, in happiness," A pause, his head drifts to his hands, pushed together, one mangled, one whole, forehead rubbing along the flesh.
"And that's why they died when the firestorm struck," he whispered.
"Chaos is not one creature, feet tramping together in song. The Warp is not a many headed snake, in concord for one purpose. This, this parade, this unification, it was everything that Chaos stood against. Which was why it went first. Why this three mile length of, of, PEACE, of togetherness, were there to take the artillery, to exhaust the ammo," He looks up, hissing, "Chaos is NOT a unified rebellion. It is not a rebuilding, it is not change. It is strength, coming up, destroying the weak, it is a million different men trying a million different things, and the strong succeeding, then devouring each other to find greater strength. They don't stop."
"...Some of the idiots brought their CHILDREN."
"It took the air from us first. You heard the shells fall, but fuck, did you care? No, you were convinced that the Gods had a special plan for you, that each and every one of you were the main character in the story of your life, and that you would be fine, fuck the rest of these Grox fuckers. That's why there were no screams. The kids, oh Emperor, the kids that weren't jacked up on Slaught or Vex, that weren't fucked three ways to Throneday and back, they were the first that cried, tried to run. The one, the one next to me, tried to run. His parents held on to him. Whispered, 'No, you're the Starchild, you have to be here,' whatever that meant."
"It took the words. All you heard, was a mighty wind, and then, the fire. I don't know what they used. Promethium phosmag mix maybe. It burned well. And it burned BRIGHT."
"They say they saw the cinder cone from eight miles out. The people in the middle, drawn right up and through, turned to ash, and spread out across the land."
Pictures are provided, shaky feeders from two, four, and seven miles out.
"And where was Brennigan, Ayn, and I? Back of the column. Thank the Emperor that Medea didn't find us quicker. Gave us a minute or two to run. Well. Ayn didn't run," He sighs, shaking his head, "God damn Ram got him on Vex the day before."
"Me and Brennigan ran for the tree cover, maybe two hundred feet out? Genius, I know, forest fires were already starting out, but truth be told I was scared most of being sucked up off the ground like that, and I already felt myself slipping when we broke."
"Poor Brennigan. Took an auto. Heat cooked off his mags in his pockets. He falls over, I stop a moment, but I hear shells coming on me, as if these basilisks have a grudge against US, and, and," He squeezes his eyes shut, "I shot him when he grabbed my ankle."
Cut, to where the propaganda's director takes some time to talk about soldiers, and the necessity of shooting one another in a particularly pedantic moment, and a Shas'La's response.
It returns. Time has passed. The guardsman has shaved, and has a cup in his hand when the film restarts. Looks above the camera, nods, sets the cup aside, before beginning again.
"When I was in the forest, all I could think about, not the cinder cloud, not Brennigan, not Medea, that BITCH that threw us in here, none of that, I was just running along, and noticing animals running past me. Hundreds of them. At that moment, all I could think of was how damn sorry I was for them. Their homes caught on fire, for no reason. I know, I know. Downright erdminded of me. But I just couldn't help but feel sorry for them, as I ran along beside them. Emperor," he shook his head, "I don't know what got into me, but I started picking up everything slow, held it to me, and ran, looking for something wet."
"By the time I found a stream, that clever idea, the armor had broken through-" Interruption for Air commentary, that citizens need not fear, that their fire caste would never do something so foolish as produce a crippling cloud of ash that would render their air power impotent, and that aside from that, their advanced technology would let them operate fine anyway,"-clever thing that, must have been a spy who suggested burning the people. Anyway, when I found a stream, I dropped my animals beside it, and dove in. Such a relief. Such a pure, wonderful relief."
He pauses, contemplating, before talking again, slowly, "I could have left then. Thrown off the uniform, hacked off the tattoos, torn out the rings, found a nice farmstead, or some other mutineers, rebuilt my life. But I didn't. I helped make Orinstep fall."
"It was three hours later, and at Herod's Gate, when I rejoined with Medea. She smiled sweetly at me when I screamed at her, and fucked me there in the street. I forgot it all again. Evidently, she hadn't known about the artillery plan; or so she said. Those with potential were held back, and she and the others swarmed the gates to man the anti air guns for when the ash cloud cleared. There had to be survivors, I said, there were thousands. Thousands who had to have been angry, it would have split the army in two."
"No. There were survivors, but those that survived were happy enough to rejoin. To follow once more. The weakness had been burned away, those that were in it to form another Imperium. The strong survived. And those that WERE in it to form another Imperium, those that were weak, scared, and angry at their elaborate sacrifice stayed as well, placated with hedonism or too afraid to say otherwise. I wish I was afraid. I just wanted more."
"And...And there was more. There was the money and the loot, Herod's Gate was a large section of the city. I managed to get a hellgun, glamourboy armor, thanks to my connection with Medea. I made a fortune selling Seven Daddies to those unlucky troops that came later. Money enough to buy whatever man, woman, or child I craved at the moment."
At this point, noise breaks through to the one way microphone, as the camera violently shakes, and Telemachus looks up, above the camera again.
"I...I'm sorry, I wish I was ashamed but-" A violent blur, the camera is knocked over, and suddenly there is another figure in frame, sending Telemachus out of the chair, as he assails him, screaming-
The interview skips again, and Telemachus is back in the chair, a bruise puffing around his eye, looking down.
"Mm? Er. Yeah. Look, we, *Cough* we don't need to stay on Herod's Gate it's, it's pretty, pretty raw."
A cut, as a black screen displays facts, figures, numbers, shots and pictures, a long list of crimes, read by a Water caste that manages to sound both detached and in sympathetic mourning. Then, a shot of a grave outside of the newly rechristened 'Mourngate,' the shattered gates with the names scratched across it, and a twenty foot high granite plinth serving as memorial. Return to Telemachus.
"No one needs reminding, right? And, eh, I'm sorry for Gillen again, let him know- let him know I'm sorry for his ma. And if it's any comfort, I never- Oh right, sorry for that."
"Anyway, the problem with Herod's Gate was that once we made a breach, we got slowed down. Me and Medea were off the front, fleecing all the new recruits that came along, so, uh I don't have it first hand what was going on at the front, but apparently the forces came again with renewed vigor. I guess the Arbites and the PDF got sick of blaming each other and getting their asses handed to them, and without an Aeronautica corps to make 'em feel comfy, they decided to actually try working against us. And it did work. For a little while. Then, somebody got the bright idea to run along the walls and go around them."
"Emperor above, the fear we all felt when we saw the guys running along the wall above us. Everyone knew at that instant, that anybody shitting around behind the front when there were people going along the walls were dead when the marines got there."
"The marines. They were coming, apparently, down south, things didn't go as planned, and whoop, there go the Iron Wars, or, eh, Iron Fighters or whoever, leaving behind a crack in the crust on the way out or something."
A brief examination of Melkaus's Fault, wherein upon evacuation, The Iron Warriors, evidently dissatisfied with the commanding Chaos General (Ormachus, at this time), detonated tectonic bombs before leaving, eliminating all ground passage to the southern continent, May, and inflicting severe losses to both sides, (Tau commentary dissects several faults in the inferior, Imperial, escape plan). Five minutes coverage of reclamation and repair efforts.
"We figured, that with the block a month rate, the Word Bearers might forgive us. But if there was some way around that we weren't all on, anyone not doing that would be dead."
"So, that's how Medea and I ended up running the walls."
"There was a reason we hadn't tried it at first. They were rounded, slippery, still slick with rain, and windy as Hell. The amount of people that slipped off, and that even discounts the fact that most of the turrets were still in operation. You can run along it, and avoid all the troops in the city, but as soon as somebody picked you up, you'd be dead."
"But the choice was between certain death when the fanatics got there, or the minuscule possibility of life if you ran the walls. She and I found some half finished building, tore through it, found the last of the industrial glue, and made some traction pads that didn't work. The first try, it stuck, oh yes, but it didn't come off. So, we got some glue and some heavy blocks, and tried using them as lock points for a grapple kit we found. That worked a bit better. But we ran out of bricks time and time again, and eventually we forced some other people in to making a brick line for us and we-"
Telemachus looks above the camera again, licks his lips and nods, and says, "Yeah, yeah, you're right, I'll skip ahead."
"Anyway, point being, we got around to the back, to the palace district. Roundabout now, the PDF were noticing, so we had to make due with being at least two precinct houses from the palace, and its shield generator, lest we get vaporized. By this time, the marine support had arrived and, true to our predictions, killed all those enjoying themselves at Herod's Gate, and kicked the rest until we managed to take half the city."
"Small comfort for me, Medea, and the nineteen or so other fine representatives of degenerates everywhere, sixteen blocks beyond our front line."
"Medea blamed me first for getting us all fucking killed, we hadn't heard about the massacre at Herod's seeing as we were on a fucking wall three miles ahead. Eventually, she managed to calm down enough to get us and the rest of the dumb schmucks moving ahead in the direction of the largest building we could find."
"Long story short, after a truly epic confrontation and blood bath, losing half of our men, and the rest of us bleeding like faucets, we managed to claim the Grand Library of Orinstep, Built with Money Generously Donated by Lord Pliant. It was large, ornate, in the center of the city, we thought it was the palace. Emperor above. We were bottled in with a bunch of moldy tomes recounting arguments about whether or not the Emperor's children were divine, low on ammo, with a squad of Arbites bent on avenging their captain when that over dramatic whore Medea got the idea to stick all of our meltas in a pile, and blow ourselves up to deny the enemy the joy of killing us."
"All of them went with it. Out of spite, cowardice, or blind faith, they all agreed. Except for me. Of course, disagreeing out loud was a ticket to getting shot. So, solemnly, making tedious vows, we took the few melta bombs we had, sat away from the banister where angry fire still emerged, set the timers, and waited to die."
Telemachus shook his head, "I kicked them over the side. Not a lot of blast radius, but the arbites didn't know that. Aside from that, as it turned out, they were defective. In our wisdom, we had grabbed the bombs from the first pile we found, which turned out to be the defective pile in our rush to be glory hounds."
"The arbites broke, I led the charge out, and all of a sudden we held the library, with brand new arbites equipment. We parked their chimera in front of the door, and we served as a fire base for the rest of Geryon's Host as they came in. The city eventually fell, due to the Word Bearers breaking through, but we turned out to be useful enough, and Medea a big enough liar to see the two of us off planet, with a thousand others."
"Keep in mind, I'm not exactly a well traveled man when it comes to Chaos, I'm a mere fifty eight years of age, when there are those in the legions that are millennia old, old enough to remember the Horus Heresy."
An intermission, to discuss the Horus Heresy mythology, and its relevance to modern day politics, the Imperial cult, and the Chaos Cult.
"But here's my theory- there's three layers to Chaos. One is the cannon fodder, like I, and the other guys in Geryon's Host were, the guys that can't even summon daemons predictably, who are just mortals, mere cannon fodder, ever changing at the edges, worn away and replaced in blinks of an eye. We're dumb fucks just imitating the second layer, the armies, those guys who are actual soldiers, who run with daemons and worse. They are the guys that radiate out, using us in the first layer as a glove to shield themselves, and recruiting from them, using the retards like I used to be to, to, to cover up the claws. We fail when we do it alone, but when we have an army backing us up? Yeah. Guess that's kind of why Imber failed."
"Anyway, at the core, you have the space marines. Chaos Marines. Those that have a mission, a purpose, and a grudge for more than plunder and pleasure. They've got rites and reasons a plenty, and thus, they get the power. They know...They know a lot."
He pauses, before starting again, "That's when I knew I was in too deep. When I went to the ceremony, up on the Everaun's Steel, there was just mortals, mortals, mortals, just like me. Sure, the walls were pulsing, and there was flesh slithering away from my feet, but hey! I thought I was hot shit. I stood in a huge hangar, congratulated by Orcus, Geryon's right hand man, telling us he saw our future, as stamping across Terra, gaining glory- But then I met Pullo."
"I was aware of him, when I saw him down the corridor, far down the corridor. We were free to go about the ship, mingle, encouraged to. I noticed the flies first. Fat, black ones, stumbling and buzzing along, rolling down the way. Sick. I had never seen sick flies before. I don't think I have since. He was nine feet tall, in puke green color, scraping along the walls and ceiling inside of his armor. And he was outside of it too. Ropes of flesh worked their way out of the breast plate, all of it, just filth, hideousness incarnate."
"He saw me staring at him, and I ran, I ran, sobbing, before he easily caught my leg, and dragged me over. I... I can hardly remember what he said. He said things of w" A blank, then a screen stating REDACTED FOR THE GREATER GOOD, VIEWING MUST REQUIRE PERMISSION 2A849 LEVEL EROS CLEARANCE, before it returns, the Guardsman hollowly staring down.
"And he didn't care. He spoke those words with perfect clarity, perfect belief, and he didn't care. He knew that he was aiding the end of everything and he did not care. They're all like that. All of them. Every last of them."
"That's when I felt fear. I had never felt fear before, at least, true fear. This was fear that scarred. I wanted nothing but out. And that's when Medea claimed me as property."
"It's basically like this; on this ship there were two concepts; owners and things. You were not an owner unless you owned something. You were a thing then. So, naturally, Medea wanted to be an owner. So she claimed me."
"I came back to the quarter we had claimed, and she looked at me hollowly, before putting on a wicked smile, and saying I was hers. I spoke, for a moment, before she raped her fingers around my throat and repeated again how I was hers. She had grabbed a pipe, and started beating me, black and blue, how I lost this eye," Telemachus jerks a finger to his bionic, "It popped out, she stares at it, dangling by a retina, then putting on a sweet face, drags me out in the hallway, past the bemused vets and shocked new 'cruits, and walks along, hitting me again and again, before she reaches the hangar way, where she grabbed that thing and fucking ate it, in front of me."
"She was always a bitch. Always a crazy, psychotic bitch. But she was always a bitch for her own pleasure, and treated me like a pet for her pleasure, and in some way I was pleased at that. But this? This was livestock, pure and simple. She had EATEN a piece of me. A demonstration of power, and willingness. No reason was given. No reason was necessary. They knew, now, that she was an owner. And that I was her first piece of property."
"That psychotic bitch. She was picked for a chosen on the spot."
"Things went faster after that- I didn't see much, locked as I was to her room on the ship. It was the basement all over again. When I got out of it, I was convinced that Chaos was all about freedom, that they had freed me from my bonds and antiquated ethics. I was right in a way. Chaos is all about freedom, freedom to do whatsoever you wished to whosoever you wished, so long as you proved you COULD do it. I was weaker, still caught by strings of intimacy and want."
"Before this point, she had never changed. To be sure, she had mood swings, random personality shifts, her body was tattooed and pierced in damn near every way she could. But now that she was chosen she changed."
"She kept me, but I guarantee right now, not due to love, or nostalgia, or familiarity, or anything. It was merely because of luck that I lived. So I got to see her, when she changed. Her first gift from Slaanesh was an eye in her hand. She loved it for two missions, waving it around, looking through it, making it look at herself as she looked at it. Then, in boredom, she played with it, poked it, prodded it, then gouged it. Then she received a line of mouths on her arm. The same thing happened, wherein she experimented with it as much as she could, down to biting me with them, before destroying them, smashing them, teeth dribbling out of her arm. Because that's what Slaanesh does to you. It takes you to the peak of experience, until you realize that you can't feel that far, that you have literally run out of all experiences with that, aside from destruction. Like the marine said."
"So no wonder, after every humiliation, maiming, and torture she could think to inflict on me, she sought to kill me."
"The others were already dead when I came to. She wasn't smiling. She was just wringing the blood out of her dress. She had gotten a pretty little dress, of a little girl's, three sizes too small. She was painfully thin. She hadn't been eating. She was covered in the marks were she had gouged out all the mutations. There was a stump of an arm coming out of the back of her."
"She called my name, and gave a nervous grin, before doing a little spin, slipping, in the blood, and falling on the pillows. She lay there for a moment. Chained as I was to the wall, I would have dashed out and strangled her if I wasn't. I was atrophied, true, and I would have died if I had tried. I knew that then. But I just wanted an end. Had wanted an end, since she had torn out my thumb and fingernails, insisting they were useless anyway, and had put a diamond ring in my eye socket."
"She said we were above Imber again, that the governors in charge no longer gave obeisance to Chaos, and that she would have to go and kill them all, but she was bored with that and wanted something new. That killing had gotten so familiar, she wanted to try something special with me."
"She approached then, thinking carefully. Suffocation, decapitation, exsanguination, she went through a lot of 'tions' before finally settling on electrocution."
The guardsman goes quiet now, staring off. The interview pauses, as a caption appears. "The subject would not respond to any queries related to 'Medea's' death. We at Oolan Sept Propaganda Productions apologize to viewers at home that they could not hear of this vile villainess's death."
The interview returns, evidently at a much later date. Now Telemachus's hair has been cut close to his scalp, his face has cleared up, and he has put on some weight.
"They went on with their lives, not caring. Not missing a beat about what had happened. Her master, Orcus, disgraced after Semphion, accepted me into his ranks, even if I was a damaged cripple with no blessings of the gods, and to go forth, on Imber. I was given no command, no arms or armor aside from what I could find. Evidently, we had left mark enough to disintegrate the government, but imperial reaction or politics had forced an evacuation. It was old news now, though, there were still those who had memories. Hole heads had arrived, and the Imperium without force enough was attempting to win over the government through diplomacy."
"We were supposed to be an iron wind, knocking over a house of cards. That's what we were told. It turned out we were the dregs, the unwanted. No one else followed us down, we few that arrived. As soon as we were dropped, the rest left us behind, to build a cult, to start anew."
"I left, and found you, and found the..."
Telemachus stared at the cue card. He had said a lot of things, but... He gave a skeptical look to the Tau behind the camera, who only gave an encouraging wave of his hand. With a sigh, he read on.
"True path, that of mercy, and the Greater Good. Though I do not deserve it, I beg forgiveness of you, and encourage all humans to join the Oolan Sept, and be free of Imperial tyranny or Chaos anarchy. Be free from worry and violence. That's the kind of freedom I can get behind."
Telemachus glanced up, and wearily raised his arm, and accompanied it with a thumb's up.