Psychic Whiplash was one name for it; trauma was the other. Inonar looked down at the pale, ashen face before her, contorted in a final horrible scream. She still held Truicear’s now slack hand to her face, and as she recoiled, the hand fell to the ground. As Inonar followed it, she saw the dull, cold spirit stone embedded into their chest. Both vessels were empty now. Inonar wept tears as she had not for years and pulled the Guardian’s body close.
‘Iaochra, Moirag may have cut Truicear’s chord short, but she does not have to be invited to yours!’
Many voices circulated around her head, a crowded room filled with an orchestra of conductors relaying the rhythm and change of a storm beyond it. The where, why, or how of it screamed louder in her mind’s own voice. What was she doing here, the star receding behind clouds of black smoke, hail streaking her dress? No. She felt the ice as though it was her own skin, but she was clad in armour, the slight weight altering the speed of her breaths. Why was she a guardian? A seamstress on a battlefield was surely amusing Cegorach immensely. He wanted her to show the other side of herself: Iaochra, the destroyer and defender.
‘Iacochra!’ Inonar was pulled to her feet and dragged to the cover of a collapsed pillar of vulgar gothic construction. ‘Your children would be ashamed to see your falter! The vermin persist still.’ Inonar stared back to the cold fury of Reachta, her neighbour, her customer, a godparent of her grandchildren, the disgust in his voice sickening her stomach. He didn’t remain and leapt over the barricade back into the battle.
‘The Falcon will not fail! We are swiftness; we are flight!’ The choir conducted in unison. Data streamed across her visor, and her mind was faster. The Imperium, that dread engine of a Corpse, marched thousands of prisoners into the meat grinder to buy time, but they would be too slow. They had to be. Without her warmind, Inonar was still far more lethal and dangerous than these thralls deserved.
She drew her Catapult and restored the psychic link, her vision dividing between the organic eyes and the barrel of her weapon. This was at least familiar in training and for the many tools of her own craft. She used it to peek over the cover, confirming what she could sense from her psychic power.
Lines of Monkeigh scrambled over the cover of their ruined structures; their presence in the warp exuded a faint heat haze. Her allies, sheltered by crawl spaces and ruined rockcrete, were monstrous, their left hands dripping blood, fire and smoke roaring across their backs.
Inonar steeled her mind and forgave the enemy for their sin of ignorance, sighting those not in the sight of her comrades. Short millisecond bursts were enough to release lethal barrages of shurikens. Their battleline turned into a mist of visceral gore and was no more. Inonar gasped at the slaughter as discipline wore away and loathed the fragment of her mind in awe. Only disgust remained as she saw her comrades drink in the death. It was Khaine, she reminded herself. His pleasure, his thirst, not theirs. They would return to their lives at the battle’s end and condemn this to a rarely surfacing dream as she had once. Could she ever again?
‘The Falcon will not fail! We are swiftness; we are flight!’ She still could not meet the chorus; the Guardians moved with lightning speed, and even as she sprinted after them, they left her behind. The chorus became a medley of information and confirmed kills. The green meadow that now carried her feet was red with their gore. The wind carried their blood, and the falling ice could do nothing to wash it away as they crested the slope. They wouldn’t leave her to die, surely? There was the compassion of the artists, the farmers, the actors, and everyone else that slept beneath those masks.
Pain distracted her; a dozen stinging bites from the warp. Monkeigh “sanctioned” psykers arrayed behind the valley’s bank, attempting to bring the fury of the empyrean upon them.
‘You aren’t the only ones who can play this game, Xenos scum!’ She felt one of them say as she built layers of calm and unconducive warp energy around her.
‘Quiet filth,’ she thought back as their voice faded. ‘Drink deep from that power you fear so much, Monkeigh. You will only find my will at the end of it.’ That psychic voice echoed through her defences with absent-minded ease. Their Warlock was ahead. She now felt the singularity of energy forming around him as the tides of the hidden storm were turned and shaped to his will.
‘Pathetic.’ She felt it as their bodies collapsed into boiling liquid, burst into pure energy, or worse, transformed into twisting mutated shapes. The dozen screaming voices fell silent, and the screams in realspace drowned them out as hundreds of Penal Legionnaires were butchered by the collateral damage. Inonar had not broken her run. She mantled the bank and finally saw the carnage; it was still. Only the Warlock moved, gliding slowly back to the ground as gravity restored its presence. The visage of Khaine beneath his mask was absolutely terrifying.
‘Inonar.’ The visage faded, and the warlock removed his helmet to show his sympathetic face. He drew close, taking her shaking arms in his, exuding only an aura of calm around him.
‘Would you like to return to slumber?’
‘Please,’ she managed to say.
The ashen face had been replaced with that of her Warlock.
‘I … what happened? Truicear.’
‘I’m afraid she took him into her embrace.’ The immense rage at yet another injustice to her people was easily corralled. It would be released in time; through every soul, she would send screaming into the empyrean. Iaochra smiled at the thought while Inonar slept and returned to peaceful meadows.
About the Author
Harry is sleepy but dreams of writing, drawing and creating something as invocative and inspirational as the sci-fi and fantasy that he is a fan of. In the meantime, he will content himself with nature and nostalgia.