The sum’eo fish glowed red, blue, and green in the garden pond, as Qadan chased her lover across the foot bridge, to the traditional-styled pavilion. ‘Stop running away, Batu!’ she laughed, tackling him.
They both toppled over, dress uniforms and all, onto the grass; and jumping on top of him, Qadan quickly undid his uniform pants.
‘What are you doing?’ laughed Batu. ‘Someone could come by here at any moment!’
‘What does it matter? We’ve passed our She’heiin’t’shas, our Trial by Fire, and tomorrow starts our Res’raik, our Wild Time. Why not get a head start?’ she said, tearing off her jacket. Qadan grabbed his hands, and pulled them under her top. ‘Feel how large they are now, Batu… t’ahhh, that feels good.’
‘Shas’La’Kyrn’yolwas please come to the main pagoda. Shas’La’Kyrn’yolwas please come to the main pagoda,’ announced the public address drones.
‘That’s me,’ said Qadan, frowning.
They both jumped up, and getting dressed, made their way back to where the 112th Class of the Celestial Equine Academy, was celebrating their graduation. Waiting for them at the main pagoda was commandant Shas’El’Mont’gaxai, who said, ‘La’Kyrn’yolwas, please proceed inside, there is an important message waiting for you.’
Then as she entered, Qadan overheard the commandant say to Batu, ‘You stay here shas’la, she’ll need your support when she returns.’
Qadan felt a cold jolt shoot up her spine, as she wondered why she would need Batu’s support. Pausing to check her appearance in a reflecting unit, she straightened her uniform, brushed off the grass, and checked her queue. Looking back at her was an adolescent with a freckled blue face, and sea green eyes; but with the shaved head and queue of an adult firewarrior. To Qadan, she didn’t look like an adult, but instead like an adolescent, pretending to be an adult.
‘I’m ready,’ she said to the underclassmen, who opened the door for her.
There in the centre of the circular room were the three elders of her Trial by Fire initiation, Shas’O’Oran’isva, Shas’O’Xutka, and Shas’O’Shas’anukla. Shocked to see the three of them there, Qadan fell back on her fire caste etiquette, to carry her through the moment.
‘Shas’La’Vior’los Kyrn’yolwas reporting,’ she said, bowing smartly.
‘Shas’La’Vior’los Kyrn’yowlas,’ said Shas’O’Oran’isva, Commander Bravestorm, ‘I regret to inform you of the death of your parents.’
Commanders Tusk and Firebird, now came alongside her, and each took an arm, as Bravestorm continued, ‘The 402nd Dragon Contingent was annihilated, while protecting the evacuation of the Te’pe’lok colony. There were no survivors.’
‘No, no, no!’ screamed Qadan, her words becoming one long scream. Bravestorm wrapped his arms around her, and held her tight as she sobbed. When Qadan had quieted down, she said, ‘Being raised as a foster child… I’ve never met either one of them… but I was hoping someday I would.’
‘Ah’m truly sorry, lass,’ said Bravestorm, slipping into his Vior’lan brogue. ‘Your father left a message for you,’ he said, pointing to a hololith projector. ‘We’ll wait outside, until you’re finished.’
‘My beloved Little Cloud, I had hoped to meet you face-to-face one day; but alas the situation here is dire, and we may not survive tomorrow. I am struck by how much you look like your mother, you have her ocean green eyes. Appropriate for a daughter born of a Salash’hei mother,’ said the middle-aged firewarrior in the hologram. Her father wore a long moustache, with a full head of hair and braids.
‘Although, I never held you in my arms as a babe, never saw you take your first steps, or comforted you after your first fight; and though I wasn’t there to teach you rifle marksmanship, or the martial arts. I have diligently followed your progress from the nursery, to crèche school, and to the academy. I see that you’ve excelled in all of those skills, well done, my daughter. You make your mother and I very proud. Still, it saddens me to no end, that I wasn’t there to give you away for your Trial By Flowers; or be there to congratulate you after your Trial by Fire. I wonder if you brought back the head of a Nob, or an Ork?’
‘It was the head of an Ork War Chief, father,’ said Qadan, the tears streaming down her face.
‘But know this Little Cloud, I have always, and will always love you. Well, I have to go now, but let me leave you with this, be passionate in both love and war, loyal to your cadre, and to your ta’lissera brothers and sisters. For the Dawn Blade, for the Greater Good, and for Commander Farsight!’
The hologram had barely faded away, when Bravestorm approached, to say, ‘There’s one more thing, shas’la.’ He pointed to a table, where there lay a long wooden box, very old and much worn, with the sept symbol of Vior’la carved on the top. This seemed strange to Qadan, as the Vior’la sept belonged to the T’au Empire. Bravestorm lifted the cover, and inside was a mont’nan, or combat blade.
‘This is an Arkunasha blade, and it was your father’s ta’lissera’myr…’
‘But wait, shouldn’t this go to the cadre!’ said Qadan.
‘The Red Knives cadre, the one to which your mother and father belonged, was annihilated along with the rest of the contingent; and as such, all those cadres have been struck from the lists. There is no one else to whom the blade belongs.’
‘I see,’ she said, holding the blade in her hands.
The next moments were a blur, and Shas’La’Kyrn’yolwas found herself outside, clutching the box to her chest. However, it wasn’t just Batu, Shas’La’Ka’xdan, waiting for her, but her entire class. They surrounded her in a scrum of love and support, and wept alongside her for the loss of her parents, whom she had never met.
‘The lessons begin, even before they even reach their cadres,’ said the commandant.
‘Aye, they dae,’ replied Bravestorm. ‘From wee barin to adult, in an instant.’
About the Author
In the grim darkness of the upper mid-western US, on the storm driven shores of the great inland sea called Anishinaabewi-gichi-gami, lies an underground bunker. Within its depths is where you’ll find Mr. O’Duffy, spending his time writing Warhammer 40,000 fiction, as well as works of Gothic Horror, and Fantasy. When not writing, Mr. O’Duffy continues his fight for truth, justice and the American Way.