The conditions were ripe, she knew it. Her minions were here, now, on the very planet of her banishment, and soon to be her rebirth. She was a god to them; they would do anything she told them. Stupid fools, but useful fools, she thought. With their collective deaths she would tear her way from the immaterial into the real world. And then what would stop her? Absolutely nothing, she thought"
I looked around. Biel-Tan was very different from Alaitoc I realized. So was Ulthwe for that matter, I thought, thinking back to my last ill-fated mission. All of the militarism I saw around myself reminded me of my old Exarch, and I put my hand into my cloak to make sure the spirit stone was still there. The stone I had carried since my exile.
"You would like it here." I whispered.
I was waiting for Elsar. He was in the Hall of Answering, where the Council of the Young King was gathered. Of course I wasn"t allowed in. I only half listened to the guards at the door explain to me that "Wanderers" were not permitted inside. I got that attitude from everyone on Biel-Tan.
I had only been here a few hours, and I knew I was not welcome. I had committed some unforgivable sin, being Outcast. That is true, but they saw it differently. It was not the fact that I had let my Exarch die; it was the fact that I no longer served my Craftworld as much as they did. That was why they did not like me. Thinking on this I was getting quite impatient and wanted to be out of here as soon as possible. The Council finally broke up and I caught Elsar as he walked out the door.
"Ah the Pathfinder returns, I have much to tell you. How did your mission go?"
I looked at him sternly. Elsar did not know what I had done over the last few weeks, and I was under orders that the secrecy of Alaitoc must be upheld, and that I could not talk about what happened. Not that I wanted to anyway.
"Don"t ask." I replied finally.
Back on "Khaine's Fury" Elsar told me what he had been doing while I had been away.
"Ork hunting mostly. Went down to Shyr-Gann with some troops to help the Craftworlders fight off the Orks. Good to be back with the Exodites again I must admit. We made short work of them. Between an Exodite host lead by my father, and the Sword Wind lead by Glorintor the Orks had no chance." Elsar paused. "But that isn"t the interesting bit."
"Go on." I prompted.
"Biel-Tan's Seers have been going crazy for the last few days. And yesterday a message from Ulthwe arrived. Everyone concerned has been tight lipped about it, and when I was in the Council just now, I was asked to do something, and they wanted to know if you would do something as well."
This caught my attention. A message from Ulthwe and they were asking me to do something. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, thinking how the Seer Council had let me go. I wasn"t too keen to find out what my part was.
"The entirety of Biel-Tan is gearing for war, and they want me to go to Saim-Hann, and you to Iyanden. We are supposed to convince them to send a war host to this planet, quite soon." Elsar said, bringing up a star map and pointing to a desolate planet.
"Apparently Alaitoc has already consented, so has Biel-Tan, and this is Ulthwe"s initiative," Elsar looked me full in the face, "but why do I get the feeling you know something about this?" Elsar looked at me sharply.
"I don"t know anything about this." I lied. "And why us?" I continued, trying to steer the conversation.
"The Council decided on us because I"m an Exodite, and we get on well with Saim-Hann, and something in Ulthwe"s message made them pick you to go to Iyanden."
"Interesting" I said feigning ignorance, "When do we leave?",
"In a few days. Oh also, I saw some old friends of yours on Shyr-Gann. Daramas, Malkeus, and Tualarc wished to see you. You could make it down there before we leave."
Setting foot on Shyr-Gann brought back memories of my past life, my first few days in exile. It would be good to see Daramas, Malkeus and Tualarc again, a small ray of light among the darkness of Alaitoc"s missions, being a Pirate, and the impending future. All of a sudden I felt something, like the happiness I had felt a moment ago had been sucked out of me. It was like being in a void.
I looked around. The transport was behind me, and I stood in a small clearing surrounded by forest. I leveled my shuriken pistol at a section in the undergrowth were I was sure something was hiding. Then the feeling disappeared, and was off to my far left. I saw a black blur out of the corner of my eye before I was knocked off my feet, flat on my back with a black clad figure on my chest.
I could feel its weight but apart from that I felt nothing. It was a void. Its face contorted showing a laughing skull, and then the skull was hacked to bits, replaced by a new and equally hideous face, only to be replaced by another. It dawned on me that this was a Solitaire. It pressed its face close to mine.
"Where is Malkeus?" it rasped.
I looked around incredulously. The beach was off to my right, I was surrounded by jungle, and apart from the ship I was alone with all things a Solitaire sitting on my chest interrogating me.
"Well he"s obviously not here is he?!" I said nervously. I could feel his Harlequin"s kiss digging into my side. He leapt of my chest, and stood slightly hunched over looking at me. I realized he was quite tall, quite muscular, and was well armed. It was hard to tell, his Holo-suit seemed to be absorbing the light, but I could make out the kiss, some sort of pistol, and a number of knives and grenades.
"Take me to Malkeus." he rasped. I looked at the Harlequin"s kiss again and decided to do what he asked.
"Follow me." I said, leading the Solitaire down the path I had been lead down so long ago.
The three Rangers were standing outside the Wraithbone bunker that served as the outpost, with the Webway portal towering over them.
"Malkeus, you seem to have a special guest." I said as we entered the clearing.
"We all have a special guest, Harloriith." Malkeus corrected. "Fury here," Malkeus said, gesturing to the figure behind me, "has come to take us to where we need to be."
That night Fury reveled in dance, telling us stories about the Eldar"s past. Despite the fact he was a little stand offish, I grew to like Fury. All of a sudden he stopped and motioned for all of us to walk outside.
"It is time." Fury said, and with that he caressed on of the crystals on the Webway portal. The emerald gems pulsed with life, turning a fierce red.
"You know, I always wondered if that thing actually worked." Tualarc said. A great portal opened and Daramas, Tualarc, and Malkeus stepped into the swirling maelstrom that was the Webway. I suddenly realized something.
"Wait!", I said to Fury. "Elsar is expecting me back, where are we going?"
"Elsar knows where you are going. You are going to Iyanden." He said as if that settled everything.
"Right"" said, and seeing no point in arguing, I plunged into the secret domain of the Harlequins. The Webway.
Fury led us through the chaotic realm of the Webway. I can"t say for how long, I was completely disorientated. I just prayed to Khaine Fury knew were he was going. Eventually we stopped, light assailed my eyes, and all of a sudden we were standing on a desolate planet, at the base of a Webway portal. There was a large Eldar encampment in front of us. I could pick out Eldar from Alaitoc, Biel-Tan, Ulthwe, a few Exodites, and even some Harlequins. It looked like they were trying to fortify the camp; a huge Wraithbone wall had been constructed all the way around the portal and the camp. The Sky above was the color of an angry bruise, and figures hurried around the small Wraithbone structures in the shadow of the immense wall, as if time itself was against them.
"You two are to report to the Farseers of Alaitoc." Fury said, pointing to Daramas and Tualarc. We watched them disappear into the crowd of the camp, off looking for the Farseers.
"You two" Fury gestured to Malkeus and myself, "follow me."
And with that we were back into the Webway.
I looked around myself and realized we were on Iyanden. I followed Fury down the steps of Iyanden"s Webway portal, down the winding halls, past all the other Eldar with curious looks on their faces. We walked down the maze of crystal white corridors until we came to the Infinity Circuit of Iyanden.
"Here we leave you Harloriith, we will meet again." Fury and Malkeus turned to leave.
"Wait!" I said. "Where are you taking Malkeus?"
"I am to become a Harlequin." He said simply. "I hope to see you again Harloriith." and before I could say anything else they left. I turned around and a Warlock was standing beside me.
"I have been instructed to help you" the Spiritseer said. "Please follow me." His vivid blue and yellow robes disappeared around the corner, and with a sigh followed the Spiritseer.
A delegation of Seers stood at the heart of the Infinity Circuit. They bowed as we approached.
"Greetings Harloriith. You bear the Spirit of an Exarch who would address us." The Lead Seer said. With a wave of her hand she dismissed the Spiritseer, and it dawned on me that it would not be me, but my old Exarch that would convince Iyanden to go to war.
The Lead Seer stretched out her hand, palm up, rustling her white robes as she did so. I gave the Seer my Exarch"s Spirit Stone. She took it and slotted it into a gap in the wall. He pulled out a small ceremonial knife, and grasped the blade in her free hand. I suppressed a gasp as I saw what she intended to do with the knife. I had never seen this ceremony performed before, and it seemed to clash with all my instincts to not harm oneself. She grasped the blade in her free hand and pulled the knife from her grip. Her features twisted a little in pain. The Seer then took her bleeding hand in the other, and held it over the Stone, letting her blood hit the stone in slow drops. She then placed her uncut hand on the stone, shut her eyes, and listened to the spirit of my old Exarch.
It occurred to me what a surreal picture this was. A group of Seers, standing around a kneeling white robed Seer, talking to my Exarch, with me in my now white chameleoline cloak sitting behind the Seers watching. Once the last of the seers conversed with my Exarch, they turned to me as one.
"We will head your Exarchs plea." The lead Seer said. He then turned to one of his brethren.
"Notify the Craftworld, we are going to war."
I found out later what Elsar had to go though to get Saim-Hann on side. His time on Saim-Hann will be told in full later, but needless to say he dazzled me with a tale of high adventure, culminating in a break neck speed race against some of Saim-Hann"s best riders. All to prove he was worthy to plead to the Seers that Saim-Hann should go to war.
I marched shoulder to shoulder with Iyanden"s Wraithguard out of the Webway, into the Eldar encampment on the desolate nameless world. The camp fell silent as they watched the ghost warriors march from the portal. The camp became deathly silent as they watched the dead walk, their boots hitting the Wraithbone steps of the portal, then the dirt of the planet in perfect time. The blue and yellow warriors were as ominous as the grave, silent as death.
"A gift from Iyanden!" I cried out, my voice carrying in the silence. The portal remained open, people anticipating more troops, but I knew all that Iyanden had sent had come through. Then a red and black jet bike streaked from the Webway, then a second, and a third, and another and another until an entire host was assembled along with mine. The cosmic serpent told all that this was Saim-Hann"s host.
"And a gift from Saim-Hann!" Elsar shouted to the assembled crowd, which erupted in deafening cheers.
"To think I saw this far"" the Farseer I had dueled with on Ulthwe said half to himself.
"You could not possibly fathom the part you have played in this Pathfinder. Ulthwe started this, the visions, the emulator, the scouring of this very world, and all might have gone amiss were it not for the intervention of Alaitoc, and yourself." the Farseer said grinning.
It was a dire time. Death was at hand. Battle had to be joined. I looked at all the Eldar around me, all with grim looks on their faces. I stood on the wall overlooking the soon to be battlefield. The ground was cracked in many places; lava could be seen bubbling up through them. To top things off it was raining, but the ground was so hot that it was merely evaporating as steam. It was all very strange, thinking about what had lead up to this, and I realized that most of the people that I had met on my strange journey were here to see the end with me.
I looked down on the camp from the walls. Tents had sprung up everywhere, and I picked one out that bore Eldanesh"s Moon impaled by the Sword of Khaine. The very seers that had exiled me from Alaitoc so long ago sat inside that tent. I could see the transport pilot Morithan, helping unload a transport of supplies. Daramas had been assigned to lead Alaitoc"s Rangers and Pathfinders on the walls, and I would fight beside him. Tualarc was Daramas"s second in command, commanding a section of Rangers himself.
Even Tualarc, the ever looking for the funny side Tualarc was as dour as the rest of us. We could all feel the weight that laid heavy on us. Elsar was somewhere to be found I knew, talking to the Wild Riders, or with his own contingent of Pirates that he would lead in the upcoming battle.
The Seer Council of Ulthwe was present; indeed I had already spoken to one of them I was well acquainted with. Glorintor could be seen with his host of aspect warriors. He was addressing them on what looked like a make shift parade ground. Each warrior standing stiffly at attention before the Young King, resplendent in shining armor. Glorintor was furious; the Seers of Biel-Tan and Ulthwe had persuaded him not to sacrifice himself to the Avatar of Biel-Tan. They had already sacrificed one Young King earlier this year, to help rid Shyr-Gann of the Orks, and to lose a second Young King to the Avatar this year would be sacrilege. In consolation, an Ulthwe Farseer had spoken to him in privet, telling him he had a bigger part to play.
I turned, hearing a sharp sound behind me, and saw that the Webway portal was opening up. From the immaterium sprang figures surrounded by a maze of colors. Black flipping and leaping, the pattern mixed together until it looked like pure light came from the Webway. The Harlequins had sent their host. Looking closely at the swirling mass of color I could pick out a dark figure. Fury strode from the Webway with Malkeus at his side, now a full-fledged Harlequin.
All the Craftworlds had sent more reinforcements. I had watched the Black Guardians and the Seers of Ulthwe march out of the Webway, their military discipline only matched by the ranks of martial aspect warriors, Biel-Tan"s finest. The Spirit Host of Iyanden had been reinforced by more Wraithguard and Iyanden"s Spiritseers. Rangers and Pathfinders from all over the galaxy that Alaitoc had summoned came through in groups.
I would be fighting alongside my brothers and sisters as I had done so long ago. The Wild Rider Chiefs had mustered more troops, and Jetbikes and Vipers came through in waves. Not to be outdone, the equally as wild Exodites poured from the Webway, mighty dragons bearing their masters to the battlefield. The Exodite host was lead by Elsar's Father, Calabon, and his personal seer Xiailleith was also present. I looked down upon the Eldar host, and it amazed me that I could be a part of something so big.
"So big and yet it is to grow even more. One last player is about to present himself." I turned and saw an Ulthwe Seer, picking up on my thoughts. And with that the Webway portal opened one last time. The sound of perfectly in time marching troops rang out across the entire camp, reminiscent of the cold Wraithguard, and Dark Reapers marched from the Webway. More and more marched forth, forming up outside the portal, and turning as one as their leader stepped from the Webway. Maugan Ra, the Harvester of Souls.
The walls were lined with Maugan Ra"s Reapers, and Glorintor seemed torn between feeling admiration for his Phoenix Lord, or feeling taken aback, looking at all of the Harvester of Souls Reapers, compared with the small unit of Dark Reapers that he commended.
Along with the Reapers, Rangers studded the wall, Long Rifles at the ready. Amongst them Seers were interspersed, waiting to cast their powers at the multitude of foes that would face them. But what form this rumored multitude would take exactly, few but the Seers knew, and they weren"t telling.
Behind them heavy weapons had been put into position, Distort cannons, Vibro cannons, and Shadow Weavers were armed by their Guardian crewmen. I looked down at the gate, and beheld the force ready to get to grips with the enemy. Maugan Ra was foremost amongst them, then the legions of aspect warriors from the various Craftworlds, lead by no less than three Avatars. Behind them ranks of Guardians and Wraithguard were ready to give support to their brothers. Squadrons of Jetbikes and Vipers were ready behind the wall to engage the enemy at the first sign of them. What could hope to stand against such a force? I thought. Then I got my answer.
The horizon seemed to be rippling, and I pulled out a pair of binoculars to get a better look. They were the enemy. Slaanesh"s minions had come in force. There was no end to the hoard. Demons and Mutants of the foulest sort flooded towards our position. And sticking out like a stalk of corn in a blighted field was Her Avatar. A living embodiment of She Who Thirsts. A Seer spoke beside me, "She is looking for a way off this world, and we are guarding it."
"Why not just evoke the Rune of Ending on the gate?!" I asked incredulously.
"Because that is only a temporary solution. She must be stopped here and now."
With those lovely thoughts flowing through my mind, I tightened my grip on my long rifle, took a deep breath, looked down the scope and readied myself.
The air was filled with the report of Long Rifles, and then filled with the thunder of reaper launchers joined by the heavy weapons. But I wasn"t concerned about that. The only thing on my mind was reloading the Long Rifle so I could keep firing. Like magic as I moved one finger, an enemy at the other end of my scope would jerk and fall to the ground. But I could not work this magic fast enough. No one could. Like a foul tide they crashed against the walls.
The gates came crashing open and ranks of chaos spawn fell and the combined power of Maugan Ra, three Avatars and an army of aspect warriors vented their fury. Then the air was filled with vibrations. I looked up Jetbikes screamed over our heads to get to grips with the enemy. Psychic storms raged, mutant after mutant fell to our guns. The warriors of the Bloody Handed God had cut an enormous swath through the enemy, but it was not enough. Not nearly enough. On they came.
The grotesque Demon of Slaanesh approached, and as if sensing her proximity, lights flared as Harlequins revealed themselves and joined the slaughter.
I was firing faster and faster, in a vain attempt to fell more foes when I saw a dark blur rush across my scope. The Solitaire Fury blazed towards the Demon, and I helped him get there, sniping anyone that got in his way. At last Fury reached the Demon and entered mortal combat, stabbing the Demon over and over again with the Harlequins kiss, and deftly fending of the Demons blows.
She was huge, standing over five times the normal height of an Eldar, with four arms, two of which ending in grotesque crustacean like claws. In the other two she wielded a massive sword, which rippled with pink and purple light. Her face was a mass of horns, her feet ending in cloven hoofs. Her skin shimmered and she seemed like the most elegant thing I had ever seen, but this was chaos. Chaos could make its Demon look elegant to the eyes, but it couldn"t hide the ugliness from our souls.
Slowly the Demon was overwhelming Fury. I watched the Demon raise one of its huge claws, and bring it down for the killing blow. Fury went flying, his broken body lying in a heap. At that point fate sized me. I knew what I had to do. I looked to Daramas and Tualarc beside me. Both screamed "NOOOOO!!!" as I dived off the wall into the morass of battle.
I landed in a crouch surrounded by friend and foe. i pulled out my power sword and started hacking my way to the Demon. I lost myself in the seething dance of death as I made my way to my target. Many of my foes fell to the ground before I even touched them, and I realized my friends on the walls were doing what I had done for Fury.
After what seemed like an age I found myself at the feat of the Beast. I roared my defiance as it brought down one of its many claws attempting to crush me. I fell to the ground, pain coursing through my body. I looked up at the Demon, watched it bring down its mighty claws to finish me off. Then there was a bright explosion above me and the Demon pulled back in pain, roaring anger. I later found out that Glorintor had shot the Beast in the face with his Eldar Missile Launcher. At that point one of the Avatars came into my vision, and to my amazement the Demon and the Avatar became one. The Bloody Handed god, Kaela Mensha Khaine stood over me howling in pain. I looked at myself and I was resplendent in the colors of the House of Eldanesh. I looked again and I was covered in my blood stained chameleolone cloak, but I was filled with renewed strength. I grasped my monofilament knife, the knife I had carried all the way from my Craftworld, the knife that had saved me from the Seers blade on Alaitoc. I leapt onto the Beasts stomach, and with the knife and sword began climbing the Beasts chest.
I knew what I had to do. I raised my power sword, plunging it into the Beasts sternum for something to hold on to, brought up my monofilament knife, struck above were the Beast heart would have been, and pulled down slicing a hole in the Beasts chest. My ears were filled with the Demon"s unholy roar as I pulled out my Exarchs spirit stone and shoved it into the heart of the Demon.
My Exarchs spirit coursed through the Demon, tearing it apart. The Beasts screamed in pain, a deafening wailing sound, which slowly turned into a bloody gurgle. Gashes appeared all over the Demon has if she was being attacked by some invisible assailant, black ichor pouring forth from the wounds.
The Demons minions, sensing that their mistress was lost, began to scatter, and were mercilessly cut down by the Eldar. I was thrown from the beast by its death throws, landing near the body of Fury.
The Demons carcass crashed to the ground with a thunderous boom, lifeless. The Demon had bee banished back to the warp. I pulled myself closer to Fury"s body and whispered, "I avenged you brother, I avenged you." I dragged myself to my feet, bloody and sore. Cries of joy went up from the walls and the troops on the ground. I joined in the cries of victory. I had defied the gods; I had stopped the plans of the Great Enemy. I am Harloriith. You have heard my tale.