While the stars died, fires stifled by the cold one by one, their attendant planets spiralled to their own dooms, and void-vessels screamed as the Warp imploded, daemon and mortal alike sharing brief suffering. No species was spared, souls beyond counting perishing every second, scoured beyond all remembering. No grand, final struggle, no gods laughing, merely mutual extinction.
From within the craftworld’s dome, such apocalypses were nothing more than dwindling lights in the sky, less notable than the cracks rippling across the ancient crystal itself as the wards of the oldest farseers fought to resist annihilation. Spires of wraithbone shattered and fell, each loss in its way as tragic as any of the dying civilisations beyond, as another section of the infinity circuit failed.
There was not time enough for the full scope to be appreciated, let alone to be expressed, explained to another what was being witnessed. At the balcony, the railing itself crumbling around their hands, Thryn managed to encapsulate the event with a precise tilting of the neck, the nuance of aeldari body language encapsulating far more than words ever could. Their head held the position for a precious moment in which billions more died before – having received no response – turning and resorting to their voice, a melodious sound amidst the devastation.
“We have failed. Millennia of effort, of sacrifice and manipulation, and to no end. The time of the aeldari has been prolonged, only to now end without purpose.”
Reclined upon a divan, Ydomanth caught their gaze, eye motion speaking volumes.
“I don’t understand,” Thryn admitted.
Ydomanth’s smile was a crude display of emotion, and quite at odds with the situation. “We die. Our people die, on this craftworld and every other, on the maiden worlds and in the dark city. Everywhere. This was always to be our fate, for nothing lasts forever.”
“Then why did we fight for so long? Why did we resist?”
“For this. Our final victory is in our final ending. We do not die alone. Out there, in their crude shelters, the orks and humans suffer just as we, as far as the beasts can understand the concept. All the younger races, those few older, none will escape. Do you see?”
Thryn turned back to the balcony. The cracks in the dome now criss-crossed its entire surface.
“You do, don’t you? We shall be outlasted by no lesser being. The aeldari shall expire only when the universe itself gasps its last breath. If we can live no longer, it is only because nothing can.”
The balcony snapped as Thryn tightened their grip upon it. They stepped back from the edge, calming their breath before turning back to Ydomanth. “Smug satisfaction, is that your perceived prize? What good, when there will be nobody to appreciate it, not even yourself?”
“I had hoped you’d share my elation. Can you not spare a final indulgence at this time? Whether any other being out there realises it or not is irrelevant – as you say, they won’t be around to remember anyway. But I will know. I can die, safe in the knowledge that they did not beat us, they did not eclipse our glory. From the beginning to this bitter end, the aeldari outshone all others.”
“That does sound like smug satisfaction to me. From such a venerable seer, with so many centuries of life to appreciate, I can almost forgive you. You have something to savour, and even I can admit to a handful of happy memories across these eons of struggle. But what of our child?”
Ydomanth did not move their eyes from Thryn, but in their arms the newborn mewled, as if aware of the mention.
“They have no past beyond today, and they will have even less of a future. The doom of the aeldari comes for us all, and the little one is denied so much more than we two.”
While not sparing the child so much as a glance, Ydomanth did permit an elegant hand to stroke the infant’s head. “Were they older, they would savour this as much as I. They would be honoured to stand as the last of an illustrious legacy, the final eldar. We die not in decline, but retaining the vibrancy of the people destined to define this galaxy.”
Ydomanth had stood during their speech, pacing forward with child cradled. The baby whined.
“Our offspring seems as unconvinced as I. Hand them to me, that they may know at least a scant time in the arms of one that loves them, rather than what they represent.”
The chamber itself quaked, the craftworld’s outer shell now breached.
Ydomanth gently held the child out. “Take them, if you wish. Yet I fear it will not calm your emotions…”
Thryn sneered as they moved to accept. “You are a fool if you think anything may give me cause to hate you even more.” The expression softened upon recipt, cooing to the newborn. Ydomanth smiled, an expression of cruel triumph that grew even as Thryn’s joy froze on their face. Their child burbled obliviously, heedless of their parent’s mood or the echoing lamentations even
now arising from the craftworld’s dwindling population.
“You should have had the chance to know more,” Thryn whispered, slowly drawing a finger down the child’s cheek. “We have brought you into this life only to die.”
“I have my pride,” Ydomanth stated, standing tall, “and you did have your loathing of it and of me. Fine emotions to possess a soul on this end of all days, but you chose to give over instead to regret. Scant comfort at the time of death, I would imagine.”
Tears were all the reply Thryn could manage. Ydomanth moved to embrace them and their offspring both. “I never hated you, and as my pride becomes pity, let us die together, supporting through solace.”
Words were too crude for Thryn’s reply, too quiet in the wake of the craftworld’s ending.