Blessed by Holy Light

4.5/5 (2)

‘The worthy will come to know the word of the Father, 

and the blessed will see His holy light.’

Ulsaman’s foot slipped, and his entire body tensed. Pain pulsed through his forearms from the force with which his hands gripped the rockface. His heart pounded as his toes scratched at the facade, blindly probing for purchase – the current ascent may only have been a few meters, but the fall would be a lot further. His foot found a notch, and he allowed it to take his weight while he let his hands rest. Glancing up, he could tell he was just five or so meters from the pinnacle. Imagine coming so far only to plummet to his death now.

It had taken Ulsaman thirteen days to reach this final climb from the Shrine of Oltimar, the point at which his expedition to assail the peak of Tangra Mons was formally recognised as a petition to become an aspirant of the Second Suns chapter. His journey had been far longer, setting out from his village on the Altam Steppe weeks before his eleventh name day. His sorrowful parents had bid him farewell at the Northern Gate before thrusting him into the bustling streets of the vast Enkauri fortress-monastery. He had found it challenging at first; it wasn’t difficult to meet other hopefuls – there was a handful on every corner – but Ulsaman was a quiet boy and acutely aware of the sniggers with which his people, the Quilgam, were greeted by citizens. For some months, he did little but begrudge his parents for abandoning him to this place, to these people who look down upon him, forcing him to mature with unwelcome haste. Gradually, he formed friendships and even came to enjoy the variety of informal tutelage that came with being a postulant in Enkauri.

Over two years, he picked up a nascent understanding of the Imperium and the Second Suns, as well as gaining a reasonable grasp of High Gothic. Of course, the primary training he underwent was physical and was intended to give him the best possible chance of scaling the gargantuan mountain looming over the city. 

Still, he could feel the resentment coursing through him as he embarked on the final leg of his ordeal. Every bone, muscle, and sinew ached, but he knew there was only one person in the universe he could rely on, and now his only option was to complete the trial by reaching the mountaintop. Suddenly, he felt his hand reach the ridge, and with one final gargantuan effort, he heaved upwards and lurched over it onto solid ground. He lay for a moment, his chest heaving, his legs burning, a giddiness began seeping into his body – then he turned his head to survey the summit. 

Sat before him was a tall, carved stone. A squared pillar that tapered to a point at its zenith, it was intricately engraved with motifs that Ulsaman’s eyes passed over with barely a thought, exquisitely wrought though they might be. His gaze was instead drawn to the symbol cast in relief at the column’s centre and the words immaculately inscribed beneath it. 

The pattern was the familiar Sambal sun, an ancient planetary icon that had become the insignia of the Astartes when they had arrived there. It adorned the banners decorating Enkauri and was painted onto the pauldrons of the chapter’s armour. Below the sun was printed a word in High Gothic, ‘ARDUUS.’ Its meaning was dual, Ulsaman had come to understand; to reach and to toil. 

The worthy will come to know the word of the Father; he almost recited aloud. This was the word. This word would change his life; it is the word he must utter at the Gate of the Veil when he reached it during his descent of the mountain’s southern face. However, it was the word inlaid below it that was the reason Ulsaman found his eyes unexpectedly burning with tears. Carved below the High Gothic text on this imposing structure at the top of the world was the same word translated in Quilgama, ‘UMBEK.’ 

Ulsaman’s conception of his people within the social hierarchies of Sambal was that they were less than others, they were unenlightened horse wranglers whose lives were primitive compared to those in the city-states. He had felt this condescension and even, perhaps, partaken in it. He had disparaged his parents’ simple manner and decried the hardships of life on the Steppe, not least when witnessing first-hand the sophistication of other postulants he had come to know from Xerion or Coraska during his time in Enkauri.

Now he saw the language of his people –  a language they no longer even used in day-to-day life – displayed on this holiest monument. His chest was fit to burst with pride in his people and their history, overwhelmed at the regard this showed for the Quilgam – the honour and prowess it implied. He placed his palm against the rough stone, and the familiar word chiselled into it. While doing so, he turned back towards the north and looked out at the vast plane of the Altam Steppe, his home, stretching to the horizon. He thought of the young boy departing his village two years previous, of how lonely and isolating the following period had been, and how suddenly now he felt connected to something bigger, something more than himself. The Father truly had spoken to him.

Ulsaman sat atop Tangra Mons for some time before realising the day was slipping away, and he needed to begin making his way down. As he descended, he cast his eye back to the summit just as the twin suns disappeared behind it. Their rays caught the mountain at slightly different angles and conspired to refract an astonishing blue-green light through the brilliant marble of the peak, making it glow with an uncanny, almost supernatural aura. And the blessed will see His holy light. Ulsaman wept.

About the Author

Ben Nicholson is a writer and curator based in London. When he was in his late teens he got around 160,000 words into an epic Warhammer fan fiction novel. Now, having returned to the hobby after a lengthy break, he’s dipping his toes into those water again.