Blinking rapidly, she gazes upwards as another plummeting star enters the atmosphere, its beautiful, blazing journey ending beyond the mountain ridge.
‘Carla, come on, he’s going to speak,’ shouts Arik, his excitement-filled voice causing her to turn from the darkening sky. Her attention now on the boy, his enraptured face, she runs to join him at The Bastion’s gate. Entering together and heading to the Listening Circle, they pass adults who hurriedly exit to retrieve various items from the surrounding fields before firmly locking the gate shut.
‘The Silent Giant never speaks, Arik,’ Carla responds with a condescending smile as she elbows him gently in the ribs. ‘He only ever listens,’ she continues, thinking of The Bastion’s oldest grown-up, and he must be ancient, as he is by far the largest grown-up.
Ignoring the shouting and running adults, they approach the nearby Circle’s benches, arranged at the courtyard’s centre, and Carla smiles broadly at the dozen assembled children. A flash above prompts many to flinch and whisper amongst themselves. This week’s Circle may end up a little stunted, but the usual routine of sharing stories of work and play is going ahead, despite the kerfuffle.
Unnoticed amidst the ongoing hoo-ha, the immense, blue-robed Silent Giant ducks through an oversized doorway, emerging from his quarters. The hooded figure slowly shambles towards the Circle, towering above the tallest adults, favouring his left leg and leaning heavily on the staff he holds at his right. Eventually reaching his wooden, ramshackle throne, it creaks softly under the weight of his frail, decrepit frame as he slowly descends, laying down his vast staff beside him.
Carla sits beside Arik as they join the Circle opposite the Silent Giant. She looks around at the younger youths and sees their excitement, apparently ignorant of the adults’ concerns and aware of the rumour. Another explosion, this time far brighter than before, draws the Giant’s attention upwards. Many of the children glance up to see the fading light of the atmospheric impact. To their surprise, the colossal man reaches up to his hood and draws it back, revealing the seldom-seen face of the Bastion’s most elderly resident.
Hooded grey eyes gaze through a deeply-wrinkled face of loose skin drawn thinly over an immensely-proportioned, robust skull, and shoulder-length silver hair cascades from a high forehead, collecting around a shapeless neck.
‘Millennia ago…’ the Giant immediately begins, the unexpected outburst of his booming voice penetrating the ambience and instantly drawing the complete attention of the settlement’s children. ‘The Imperium of Man spanned across the galaxy in every direction. It was a glorious time for humanity, and….’
‘What’s an Imperium?’ asks Arik, the interruption earning him a jab to the ribs, dutifully awarded by Carla. The children stifle their laughter, distracting them from the next overhead explosion and their parents’ subsequent gasps. Carla notices, though, as some adults at the battlements point towards the mountains and shout, but the Giant smiles weakly, his papery skin deeply creased.
‘Many homes, on many planets,’ the Giant nods slowly, his eyes glassy, as his tone darkens, ‘but all that remains of its people is…here.’ In concert, the other children’s brows furrow in confusion, though Carla has heard some of this story and the tale of mythical, angelic warriors.
‘One by one, its planets fell to its enemies: the Orks, Tyranids, even the T’au…’ his spoken words holding scant meaning to the younger children, the Giant speaks as though confessing. ‘…but its greatest enemy took the Throneworld…Terra.”
A deep rumble begins from all sides, with the Bastion seemingly at the centre of some great stampede. The Giant sighs loudly and rises, leaning heavily on his staff.
‘For generations, you have lived here in a peace the Imperium could never offer, but I knew it would eventually end, for I failed…and I’m…sorry…’ he apologises softly.
The Silent Giant sets off through the Circle, carefully avoiding Carla as he limps past the perimeter of the gathering, watched by the few children not shaken by the deafening cacophony overpowering the hubbub of crying mothers and fathers.
‘It’s time to face my Daemons,’ the Giant shouts, barely audible. Unnerved by his departure and the rising din, the children leave the Circle en masse in panic and seek out their parents, but Carla thoughtfully rises and follows the legendary figure.
As the Giant stops at The Bastion’s entrance, its immense double doors are drawn open by a pair of sobbing adults. Carla stoically marches up beside the Giant, seeking to pass, but he moves his staff outwards, blocking her path. First, she glances at the Giant’s face but then at the farmland beyond the opening doors. Silence descends.
With a gasp, she gazes at the countless approaching figures beyond, their forms unfocused and writhing, somehow indistinct. Her feet now firmly fixed to the ground in terror, she watches as the Giant limps forward and draws an item out from beneath his robe. The ancient, corroded sword whines and flashes three times before eventually igniting in a torrent of flame. Peering beyond once more, she gasps again upon sighting new, towering figures among the distant rabble. With immense batlike, insectoid, and feathered wings, the half-dozen behemoths terrify Carla as she struggles to make sense of the sight.
As the Giant walks onwards, the tearful adults slowly lever the doors closed, blocking her view. Still, through the narrowest of cracks, Carla sees the decrepit Giant raise that flaming sword with the unexpected vigour of a legendary warrior.
Carla turns to see the sorrowful faces of adults clutching their cherished children. She shrugs, confused, and walks inwards, calling to her approaching mother.
‘His name is Roboute, dear,’ her mother interrupts Carla as she reaches down to her, ‘and I’m sorry you don’t know him better.’
‘Will he talk again tomorrow?’ asks Carla optimistically as she calms down, her mind struggling to find meaning in her observations.
‘No, dear,’ her mother whispers sadly, tightly embracing her, ‘there is no tomorrow.’
About the Author
Dan first became interested in 40k in 1996, when he visited the iconic Hammersmith Games Workshop as a child. He immediately began collecting and painting, occasionally fitting in the odd immense battle! He resumed the hobby a few years ago and has since become far more interested in its creative-literary aspects. He enjoys writing short stories and homebrew articles, as well as expanding his numerous armies.