‘Get me the rifle, boy,’ Herskil commanded and his son obeyed.
The grox were restless. They hadn’t been restless since the colonisation finished 12 years ago. Whatever this place was, it was paradise for both grox and their herders. It seemed that this peace had come to an end tonight. Herskil could smell and taste the hormone exuded by the grox, the one responsible for their aggressive episodes. Every grox-herder worth his salt learned to notice it. Those who didn’t were dead or would be soon enough.
‘What is it, da?’ Sefrik asked, looking bewildered, but holding out the weapon to his father. Herskil took the lasrifle and checked the energy cell. It was operational, but only barely.
‘I dunno, lad,’ Herskil replied truthfully enough. ‘But get your ma and sister into the basement. I got a bad feelin’ ‘bout this.’
The young boy nodded and rushed off to fulfill his duty. Herskil descended from the porch and headed in the direction of the grox pens.
The tall grass surrounding the farm gently undulated in the evening breeze. The wind brought with it the scent of a nearby stream, flowers in bloom and the acrid stench of grox in distress. The foliage was barely disturbed by the shadows stalking forth in its midst, heading for the single source of artificial light under the velvet darkness of the night sky.
Herskil stepped into the grox pens and flipped the lumen switches. The great reptiles shuffled anxiously in their pens, their slitted eyes quickly adjusting to the brightness. Herskil was glad that his old instincts were still sharp and he didn’t forget to lock the pens. The years had been so tranquil that many grox-herders had given up on the old safety measures. Heck, the grox didn’t even need to be lobotomised to keep them in line.
‘What got you uglies so riled up in the night, eh?’ he asked the beasts without expecting an answer. Gripping his lasrifle tightly, he briskly crossed between the holding pens, looking for anything out of the place. He couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but by the Golden Throne, the place stank awfully. Those damn grox hormones soured the air in his lungs.
He was just about to head back to the house when his brain caught up with what his instincts had been telling him ever since he stepped into the building. The grox. They were all staring at him. Sure, under normal circumstances, these beasts were vicious and aggressive, but they weren’t pack animals. They never did anything in a coordinated fashion. And they were all looking at him, their reptilian eyes following his every movement.
A chill ran down Herskil’s spine. Carefully, he flicked the safety off on his lasrifle. The weapon slowly whined as it cycled into life, ready to be unleashed. Herskil prayed that it wouldn’t come to it.
A scream came from the house. His blood seemed to freeze in his veins. Herskil turned and ran.
The dead mon’keigh’s body slid from the wraithbone spear, thudding wetly on the wooden floor of the primitive dwelling. Glidion savoured the look of shock on the vermin’s face. It was unbefitting for her to enjoy the extermination, but enjoy it she did. It was not the act that brought the joy, but the knowledge that with each kill, she was restoring the purity of the Maiden World and her World Spirit.
With a swift motion, she spun her heirloom weapon, cleansing it of the vermin’s tainted blood. The younglings gaped at her resplendent war-form, clad in seamlessly fitting bone-plates daubed with the colours of her tribe. Their dumb mon’keigh faces were contorted into laughable incomprehension. Glidion brought her spear around in a glistening arc, ready to finish off the rest, when a hand touched her shoulder.
Kaelion’s fingers were light as a feather, yet it stopped the lightning fast strike before it could land.
‘I thought I told you, dear sister, that we were to leave some. Let it be these infants. They are as pure as these mon’keighs will ever be.’
‘Yes, chieftain,’ Glidion replied reluctantly, shrugging off her brother-chieftain’s hand and stalked off. Kaelion listened to the soft rattling of bones braided into her hair as she left. He turned towards the frightened mon’keigh children, a faint smile playing across his lips.
‘I spare your lives only so that you may breed us more of the ahigasiyo.’
Sefrik didn’t understand what the xeno had said, but the hateful grin on that slim alien face made his soul burn with righteous anger. Holding his trembling sister, he watched the barbarians leave their ravaged home. He could hear his father shouting, calling their names, followed by crimson lightning strobing into the night once, twice. His father’s blood curdling scream silenced the lightning.
Dragging his sister along, he went out on the porch. Herskil lay not a dozen meters away, feathered arrows pointing skywards from his fallen body. His fingers still twitched around the handle of his lasrifle.
Sefrik stumbled over to his lifeless body and picked up the weapon. He would protect his sister and himself, in his father’s stead. He took a step forward, to follow Herskil’s trail to the grox pens, but what he saw made him stop dead in his tracks.
Out of the pens came the grox. All of them. Lumbering forth in neat lines two abreast, the great reptiles – grox to the humans, ahigasiyo to the Exodites – were ridden by more of the abominable xenos. The aliens clutched organic looking bows and spears of exquisite craftsmanship, their lissome forms bedecked in painted armours of bone.
Kaelion and his tribe rode their newfound battlesteeds into the darkness of the starlit plains. The mon’keigh would resist them, but with each breeding pit they raided, their power grew exponentially. They would not resist them long. Eventually, the Aeldari would retake what was rightfully theirs.
About the Author
Daniel was born on a sunny, peaceful spring morning in Budapest, Hungary. He preferred watching television over reading books. Like, a lot. That changed when his school took him to the public library and everyone was forced to pick a book to read. He chose The Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Despite his initial disdain, our hero devoured the book in a few days and hasn’t stopped reading since. If you got this far, please send help, his budget (and shelves) can’t handle more books! Oh, and he occasionally entertains the idea of being a writer. The fool.