Tuesday, 7 February 2017

5th Age of Darthur





V












The path towards radicalism is taken in small steps. My own spiral into heresy started with the departure of Vendrake. Or was it the death of Madine. It is hard to recall the events of those dark days. But recall them I must, if I am to complete the telling of this tale.

I had taken to using drugs to brighten my mood. Chiron had left his store of medicaments, to which I gratefully acquainted myself. Melancholy made worse by repetition, ground my once keen mind to dormancy. Mistakes were noted, and that terrible gaze of judgement fell upon me. My abilities and rank called into question. I did as most do and fled down into the dark dwellings of the underhive.

Here amongst the knaves and hawkers, chapmenne and rottoothed rogues, I found a cloaked quiet.
I knew the place well from my latent days as Vendrake's spy master. Dirty little hobble holes, where the fleshmongers ply their trade in a corpus of dust and death.

Shadows of what once were walk beside me, mocking my choices whilst offering a parlance of redemption. I decline in cant, my preference oblivion amidst the dregs, dross, rags and refuse.


Deeper and deeper I fall. I shoulder Obscura with beastmenne and worse. Lost and forgotten relics of a doomed Imperium. Despair is all, and I wail through warp fractured flecks, lamenting the death knell of mankind.. Palpable irony leaves me laughing and crying at my absurd reflection. Escaping myself I run with resurrection menne in the ratting cove. A gambit for the tall man. No one asks and no one tells. We avoid the knock-knock by using up the cackle, but run adrift against the Moon curser. I am left for dead amongst the sumpdreck fragments of the foreshore. I close my eyes and embrace oblivion.

I wake in a cave. A rank hollow of bones and clinker where a firepit boils a witchery concoction. The acrid brew brings a tear to my watery eye, and I feel the searing pain of life. My healer another forfeit soul, cast away from the Scholastica Psykana for some unspeakable truth, recognised within me a value of sorts.

We spoke little as I regained my strength, words hold power and we were yet weary of each other.
By way of thanks, I offered him recompense. He asked only to be forgotten, but offered me a parting gift. Shuffling to the dusky corner of his crepuscular cavern, he lifted a skull of which I had taken no note. Forecast cards he offered me, the sigil on one I had seen before. Intrigued I inquired as to the meaning. He spoke of destiny, time and fate. But the words meant nothing, ravings of a renegade haruspex. I asked where the cards came from, but he proffered nothing more..


The next years are a blur in my memory. The few notes I made, lost to entropy. My servo skull recorded much of the spoken detail, but the bigger picture remains vague at best. The Inquisition tracked me down several times, ( my name and rank scrubbed from the annals of the Ordo Xenos ). I moved constantly searching for meaning in those forecast symbols, every step a little closer to comprehension.

I learned contradictory tales of a sacred device that grants wishes, or knowledge, or both. An atrophied Deamon engine, crafted by warpsmisths in the eye of terror. Or a true A:I pre Mechnaicum machine; the bloodclock, to whom fleshclock sacrifices are made every hour of everyday.. Fewer still spoke in hushed tones of the heart of the Arkke and the rock of ages.. Finally I heard tell of the aetherium obscured, Ordo Chronos's ChronoLogicus citadel. Destroyed by the Deathwatch in an untimely fashion. The final clue, a courtesy of the deamonhost Clapsydra, with the lure of chaos, my fall from grace was complete.


Anticipatory, I now stand in front of that infernal machine. My mind a library of questions. One amongst all others rises above.



Step forward Lemniscate..“ The words appeared in my mind in a way I could not communicate.

Why do you call me thus.. my name is Darthur”. A false bravado, when I truth I no longer knew who I was..

You are as you have always been and will be, now step forth through the liminal, and ask the question.” A mix of cold fear and adrenalin coursed through my veins.. could this thing really hold the truth I seek.

The wind howled in icy gusts amongst the soot and embers. Through the detritus I could see the bodies of men. Some hulking giants in the armour of the aegis, swords still thrumming with power an aeon after creation. Others barely bearded. Flack jackets bleached to the bone. Curiosity got the better of me, and I willed words into being.

what are you , And who are these men..?

The answers came too fast, before I had finished the words. “ I am all that remains , a relic remnant of rubble'd ruins. And these.. the carrion at the carcass. But that is not the right question.. “

I inched forwards towards my destiny with quiet resolve. A heavy cloak and hood kept the cold air from my shrouded face. Ancient armour suitably fitting for this archaic environment. I knelt at a small outcrop of rock and placed a bespoke shrine to Madine. Blood red candles burned with a fierceness befitting the former Ordo Hereticus Iinquisitor. I stood and tentatively approached the boundaries marker of the Device. For the first time I could see the ritual markings in their entirety. The snaking shape of the sigil flowed around the central Chronological device and out towards a smaller ruin umbilical'ed to the larger, via blood red mechadendrites. A cogged corpse propped the ruin, its head lolling to reveal a dusty hourglass. I readied myself for the answer and clearly formed the words in my mind before speaking. Words I had asked a thousand times to a thousand souls...

Who killed Madine .. ? “

That is not the right question, step through the liminal and ask the question..” Confusion raced through my body, I twisted around to make sure I was alone. The whistling wind my only company. The candles on the shrine had gone out and I stepped forward over the bounder line in a dazed and panicked state.

Ask the question Lemniscate ..” Again the words flowed without sound yet I heard them as if they had been shouted. I shook my head in turmoil.. “ Wait “

Ask the question !” My head spun as a rising tinnitus of turbulence peaked in my mind. I searched deep longing thoughts and feelings until I could stand the ringing noise no more..


“WHO AM I.. ? “



Yes that is the question.. now we can begin the ritual..”








A wave of Euphoria rushed over me and I sank to my knees exhausted on the scree. Could this really be the question I had sought my whole life ? But what of Madine..? a barrage of questions tumbled onto me as I knelt in front of the machine. They would have to wait. I could sense impatience from the ancient sentience, and as winter rain began to fall upon the plains I knew time was against us. My fate was now as bound to this device as that poor cogcorpse.

Rub the redskull and bring the hourglass”

I saw the sun set from beneath my hood, and a moonless gloom swept across the ruins. Had it been that long ?. The rain began to fall faster and faster. The rhythmic patter on my shield, lulling me into a pattern of movement at odds with the situation. I rubbed the skull in the sheen of past hands, and grabbed the hourglass from its silent guardian without contest. The sense of nonbeing I had accepted my whole life began to ebb away. As I stepped into the dark under croft of that profane apparatus a primordial truth dawned.. Know thyself !



















I awoke to the sound of distant thunder. It was still raining, but within the rain I could taste the ash of war. I lay on my back staring up towards a tumult grey sky. The rain fell heavy on my face and pooled in the back of my burlap hood. I looked around for the Chronologicus. Behind me some forty or fifty meters. It seemed quiet.. almost like any other ruin, no sense of power emitted from its stony façade. Around and beneath me were the bones of humanity. As far as the eye could see was death. I stood up to better get my bearings, and saw a flash of lightning on the horizon. I counted out loud until the crack of thunder stuck, rolling over the plain of skulls with a reverberating ease. In the distance vast pyramiidens burned with a sense of morbid eternity, churning pillars of soot black smoke out across the bleakest of worlds .. Bromholme.

I stood upon a ridge looking down at a mort sea of cadavers that swept in tides towards a monumental golden temple, flanked by glorious archangel towers. The bleached bones of the plains behind, lay in stark contrast to the bloated brown rotting remains of a recent holy war. Chainswords and chalices littered the ground, and at every turn destruction.

I had heard about this place many times from the sisters, but never before had I set foot within this charnel house. A cardinal world like no other. Before I could finish the thought, the unnatural noise of war brought me fast to my senses. Upon the celestial tower a weary watchman spied me through a glinting eyeglass. Beneath him a fraternal throng had gathered, all wielded weapons of war, and all started up the the morbid mound with murder in mind. Turning away I took a tumble. My foot slipping on the rain slick skulls, I sent them toppling down the ridge like boulders. The ever familiar sound of gunfire rang out over the thunder and rain. I instinctively snapped off a few bolt rounds in response and scrambled to my feet.

Running atop skulls in the rain is no easy task I assure you, but let it be known I did my best. I cursed my heavy cloak and armour for slowing me down then thanked my good sense for wearing it as as more shots rang off my back shield. The militia had rounded the crest and were intent on adding my apostate bones to their pile.

The machine was within spitting distance now, but still no sign of life.. Again I snap fired my bolt pistol, drawing my sword in readiness for combat. Why did the machine bring me here of all places, this means nothing to me. I cursed my foolishness, I doubt I was the first soul tricked by some forgotten tainted device, and I doubt I would be the last. My gun emptied its last shot and as I reached for another magazine, I saw a golden haloed figure crest the rise. His appearance seemed to inspire the marrow men who lurched forward with renewed vigour. They were upon me now. Cracks of thunderous lighting forked into the plains, adding unnecessary drama to the melee. A lasbolt tore at my cheek and I panic fired in blind and furious vengeance as I felt the world spin.

Colours faded into sounds and the violent men moved in a slow unnerving motion. A glimmer of chainswords tarried with unnatural physics, and I saw the round that killed me, leave my pistol in a predetermined blaze of glory.






















At some point I must have fallen unconscious, because again I woke to see the sky. Not a dull ash grey blanket, but a thin dew laden morning mist of a sky. Clouds moved at their own pace un-harried by wind. A bleak winter sun paled a yellowhite light onto a damp grey cemetery, and the wet grass upon which I lay. I took a moment to enjoy the piece after what seemed like a violent dream.
I noted the brackish gnarled and twisted oaks had shed most of their leaves. The few that remained burned a copper brown against that moist air. My hood, wet from the rain, no not rain blood ! Pain flared through my face. Instinctively I pressed gloved hands to a semi cauterised wincing wound. The silence broken by own galled grunts. I lifted my entire weight of being into that beautiful entropy, the garden of Morr..

I recognised the place almost instantly, how different this sanctuary of death was to the woeful world I had just come from. This the place of my youth. About me I looked to reconcile my memory of it to the reality I saw unfolding. Harsh winters and warm summers were spent reading the writings of the clergy. My ministorum misdemeanour’s were often played out betwixt the hollows within the woad of wood. I cared not to look for the Chronologicus, as I needed little assurance, and feared no threat. I knew that beyond that thicket of thorns lay a path that led to the road, that led to Convent of the Sister of the Ebon Chalice. These Linden trees here about I climbed many times. Cutting and crafting small shields and such for sword practice. I found it strange and could barely believe I was back. So long had I longed to away from this sphere or rules and scripture. But here, now, I could not wish to be any place other. So enamoured, I had almost forgotten the wound to my face.

 Around here or some place else, a timbran hut stands or stood. Built by my own hands as a walloway from my gaolers. I looked for signs of change, but within the thick o the thicket all was brush. I pushed forward through the sunken gravestones and moss lined sepulchres, for but a few yards before coming a complete stop.

A crypt unfamiliar to memory stood upon a place beloved by me most. A great gnarled linden tree, its snake ourobos roots enshrined a cabal of skulls I had engraved many times. The branches made light but hardy shields that gave me a sprightly advantage over my fellow oakensheilded peers during sparing lessons. But no branches were left. Sigils of warding I did not recognise were cut into its bracken bark. Its branches already formed or in the midst of forming new shields, so similar to the ones I created myself I stood a back. The catacomb itself seemed to draw upon my imaginings. An engraving of Vendrake and a dusty hourglass adorned its side. I moved closer to inspect, and I saw Him, prostrate in a mere of his own blood. A simple linden back shield cracked into pieces from the force of the impact. I looked around to seek a perpetrator but saw only the under-croft of the Chronologicus. I knew then in my heart I was guilty. Shaking, I bent down to acknowledge my crime. Barely daring to turn the body and remove that cowl of damnation. Scared to into paralysis I shunned the truth. The Choronologicus spoke for the first time in our journey. The voice an echo of my own thoughts.“ Reveal and accept the truth Lemniscate and bring forth what you must “

How can this be, what senseless joke is this. I spoke the words in silence for I knew the truth. I knelt again in sombre reverence, offering a prayer of forgiveness to the almighty Emperor, and removed the cowl...

I looked older and thinner, much thinner, sallow bare bones, rakish and gaunt. A long grey beard, woody hands with splinters and ink. The face did not look anguished, and I was relieved to see a faint smile, I knew to be to early for rictus. We were at peace. I lifted the body into the tomb and pulled close the curtains. I noticed an open book, the ink still wet, but refused to look any further. Gathering up the man's meagre possessions, broken shield and rolled bed linen etc.. I walked back to the under-croft feeling what few men have felt, and readied my self for the final destination.















I knew before I entered where I was going. There was only one place left for me now...Madine.
Some things I will keep to myself, there is no need to expand upon the details of our relations, but suffice to say, a warplost ship within the Jericho reach was the place of my own conception. The youthful Madine placed me into the care of the sisters at the bequest of her wounded radical saviour.

That is all..
















" Writings taken from The Lemniscate Chronologicus " 
 

14 comments:

  1. That was an absolute pleasure to read Neil. This really gets to a level of character development you do not often see in our hobby. Well done man.

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  2. aw thanks Eli, I didn't expect anyone to read all that to be honest congrats on getting through it mate ! glad you liked it. it was a pleasure to write ;-)

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  3. A thing of beauty.

    When I think of 40K as a hobby these days, I don't think of gaming, I think of the art spaces of the mythology that pieces like this inhabit.

    Really, REALLY well done. I'm jealous.

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    1. Cheers odie , i made an author jealous , :-) job done . Knowing how well you write really pushed me outside my comfort zone, to try harder. So thank you for the inspiration . I agree its kinda weird how the focus has shifted from gaming to arty stuff . But i guess the Internet has changed how a lot of us hobby.

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    2. You flatter my writing abilities way too much. I do what I can, and even then far below what I should. I would love to see your own grimdark worlds on paper.

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    3. Neil this story and the chapters that have come before have been wonderfully crafted. I read every word you write for the style you have makes the 40k settings for me. Thank you.

      The Red Clock is perfect in every way, its miniature and its characterisation. You of course have made a character from terrain, again. I enjoyed the brief mention of the arkke, another character you have created.

      The latest version of Darthur is fantastic, the little shrine behind his head, thumbsup. I'm looking forward to seeing all these in the flesh and how he has changed in detail and purpose, though I guess his purpose and goal has never changed.

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    4. Damb it..just deleted my reply... So glad you got to read this mate, I was worried about portraying bromholme and the sisters incorrect, I see these as your creations.. Cheers buddy we definitely need to hang out, my winter hybernation is nearly ended;P

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  4. Beware the flatterers.. ;-)

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  5. Yay! End of the hybernation.

    I honestly see the all the world's as OUR creations.

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  6. Magnificent stuff, Neil. Real joy to read.

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  7. Hey Neil, I finally got around to reading this. Really good stuff here, definitely the best Inq28 related fiction I've read. With some tweaking and editing, this is professional grade stuff. One of the best parts for me is the commitment to the imagery set by your models, but I also like the first person prose, which is a slight departure from your previous entries that were more into your kind of arcane word-play. Im not completely familiar with your characters, but I am wondering now if Madine is Darthur's mum! Haha. I'm probably totally off. Looking forward to more writing!

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    1. Hey buddy, wow high praise indeed..:-)I felt a bit out if depth with this piece, grammar is not my strength , but I knew the story demanded a longer prose than I am use to writing. Glad you enjoyed It mate. This is the longest text in the series , I am looking forward to concentrating on no feeling for the next installment. And yes , Madine was in fact Darthur's Mother , and he is his own father..

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