‘I am certain I just misheard. Could you please repeat that?’
Atem’yoq, noble emissary of Biel-Tan, stood aghast. It had been scarcely three local days since his delegation had arrived at the Exodite colony of Seii-Mon, dispatched to renew ties of fealty and the reserve tithe of raw materials and foodstuffs rightfully owed to his Craftworld and necessary for its continued war efforts. Everything seemed to be going well, and after two nights of festivities, they had been brought to an audience with one of the world’s leadership, when this had happened.
‘You heard me the first time. We have enjoyed hosting your party, but now it is time for you to leave.’
The Exodite princess, Ailyn, stood poised before Atem’yoq with a sense of serene defiance, her delicately waved tresses of twilight bouncing ever so slightly in the zephyr that ran through the verdant Conclave Grove and swept over her robes of green and gold.
‘Then I understand you correctly?’ said Atem’yoq. ‘You would choose to forsake the tribute you are duly owed to us, your most gracious protectors?’
‘Please do understand, envoy,’ Ailyn said, ‘we wish no strife between our peoples, and you may rest assured that the royal household of Seii-Mon debated for many moons on the decision, but in the end, we have concluded that we no longer feel it necessary to support your Craftworld with the fruits of our world.’
‘Your tongue looses murehk!’ Atem’yoq stammered, his temper boiling beneath his skin, ‘For more than one thousand years, we have been loyal allies, and you would throw that away? Have your people not thrived under our protection?’
‘With respect, envoy,’ Ailyn replied, ‘We did not ask for your assistance. Our ancestors came to this Maiden World long before yours were whisked away from the damnation they so knowingly wrought upon themselves. We appreciate your military assistance in the past, but have decided it perhaps does more harm than good.’
‘And have you weighed this decision against the greater consequences I wonder?’ Atem’yoq asked, ‘You know nothing of the wider galaxy. Our realms are beset upon all sides by darkness! The enemies of the Eldar are legion! By the blood of our people alone are you and your world kept safe!’
‘If I may, envoy,’ Ailyn said, ‘We have reached a very different conclusion. The Rangers have told us a great many things. As you well know ours is a world upon the very fringes of the galaxy, and is far away from all but a few of the conflicts that rage within it. Between that and the nature of our industry, there is little reason for any would-be conqueror to invade our world.’
‘Oh, a proper tale!’ said Atem’yoq, ‘You speak as if the galaxy is populated by civilised lifeforms, when it is filled with savages and barbarians! Tell me princess, what would your people do when confronted with marauding Greenskins, who come for you only out of lust for battle and love of slaughter? Why, just last night at the banquet I was told of how your world was recently assailed by the servants of She Who Thirsts, intent on despoiling and corrupting the very spirit of your people!’
‘It was indeed harrowing,’ said Ailyn, ‘But it must be remarked that the war band specifically targeted our world for its tranquillity and harmony, and our seers determined that they very nearly assailed another world instead. But more to the point, envoy, we dealt with the attack without your assistance. It is proof that your aid is not necessary for our prosperity. Those meagre incursions of Greenskins that find their way here can be contained by our Dragon Knights and Ranger allies.’
‘And what would you do when faced with destruction rather than invasion?’ Atem’yoq said, ‘What would you do when The Cobra looms over you from the firmament, to rain fire and death upon your world? How will your warriors and vagrant friends help you then?’
‘The Rangers inform us that a fleet of Corsairs has recently taken this region of space under their wing,’ Ailyn said, ‘And they have already agreed to hold congress with them on our behalf. Granting them a reward for their assistance as and when needed is a smaller burden than your constant tithes.’
‘We are at war!’ Atem’yoq snapped, ‘Does that hold no meaning over you? Victory in war requires sacrifice. Every colony and every Eldar must play their part for the survival of the empire!’
‘No,’ said Ailyn, ‘You are at war. Save for the occasional raid, we exist in peace. I understand it may be difficult for your people to grasp, envoy, but the empire is gone. It has been gone for a long time now, and it’s not coming back. And so it should be – the empire drowned in its own wickedness for a reason. Leave the past to rest; it is a new galaxy now, with new opportunities and paths for the Eldar.’
‘So you would see the whole of Eldar space trampled beneath the boots of lesser life-forms?’ Atem’yoq asked incredulously, ‘You would willingly submit all of our rightful space to our ancient enemies while you spend your existence grubbing in the earth for sustenance? What sort of life do you hope to gain from that, princess?’
‘Why envoy,’ Ailyn replied, ‘The most precious and sacred life that can be attained, of course, one to cherish and prize above all others…
‘A peaceful life.’
About the Author
Max lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and has always been a natural storyteller which has led him to pursue a career in writing. When not working towards that, he can often be found writing fiction or painting models for Warhammer 40,000, which is a hobby he has enjoyed for almost 20 years.