‘Lord Grimnyr! The planet’s core has been breached!’ One of my Kin reports.
I order back, ‘Begin resource extraction immediately! Time is of the essence! The Ancestor wills it!’
My Kin salutes me with the hand signal of our league pounding against her chest and running through the dark caverns we dug through the planet. I speak the truth. Our Kahl is not the most patient of us, but even he is a saintly figure compared to our Votann and its will. Ever demanding. Ever impossible to please. Without it, our league would be a mere blip in the annals of our species. Some question its demands, especially the timeframe we are forced to act. Of course, such dissenters I swiftly nullify. The Ancestor wills it, after all, and I alone have the ability to speak with it.
I make my way through the caverns the Imperials allowed us to mine and survey the fruits of our labour. Ironkin and forgemasters strike at the rock and stone with plasma cutters and power spades. Even some human volunteers join the toil to dig for the core’s wealth and secrets. Shame I must lie to their foremen about our Ironkin, thinking of them as lowly servitors. It is all for the progress of our work, though. The Ancestor wills it.
Treating with the humans of this planet proved difficult, but the promise of some of our ‘approved’ lower-quality weapons changed the Governor’s tune. What are a few of our cheap models, far better than the best Imperial technology, compared to what we gain from their resources at the behest of our Votann? If only the humans knew what would happen to their planet. The less they know, the better.
My CORV drones show me the vid-log of our bore drills at work in the core and the engineers with their thermal shield suits. I close the display and smile to myself, satisfied with our progress. The Ancestor will be pleased.
‘Lord Grimnyr! Lord Grimnyr!’ an emergency transmission erupts from the drill’s command deck.
‘What is it?’
‘We’ve struck something! The bore drill is straining! It’s overheating our systems already!’
‘Have you followed the coordinates exactly? We cannot afford a mistake at this time!’
I do not like to berate my Kin, but we have gone too far now. Many planets we have drained. Many of our kind sacrificed for the Ancestor. I order the drill to continue and signal some emergency Sagitaurs to enter the tunnel and flood the exposed mechanisms with argon gasses for cooling. Then, the only casualties will be the humans outside the drill. The emergency warnings die down, and my engineers aboard the drill give an all-clear. I sigh in relief and covertly mute the vox channels of the humans to silence their screams. The Ancestor wills it.
My reprieve ends when an explosion rocks the foundations of the tunnel. I try to vox the drill engineers and hear nought but static. My heart sinks as I switch to channels from our other dig sites and outposts on the surface. I hear nothing but the sounds of terror from the humans and my own people. Mechanical noises break my concentration as I whip my head in the direction of the bore drill tunnel and see flashes of unnatural light.
‘Lord Grimnyr!’ my Kahl voxes from our command ship, ‘It’s happening again!’
Of course, I knew this would happen again. Every planet our Ancestor wills us to mine has fallen in this manner. But why so soon? By its calculations, our league would have enough time to leave the system before the planet destabilises. Have I been wrong in interpreting its wishes?
I rush to my personalised Hekaton fortress amid the quakes and mechanical roars coming from the caverns. I must commune with our Votann! Surely, there must be an error, and we need to evacuate! More explosions and quakes ring about the caverns, collapsing smaller tunnels and trapping my brethren within. I signal the CORV drones to activate the defence protocols of the land fortress while I enter, safe from whatever calamity is occurring.
‘Mighty Ancestor Core, I beseech you!’ I plead on my knees, ‘The destablisation is happening sooner than our timescales have calculated! What can we do to save our league?!’
The great cogitators synced to our Votann mainframe back on our Hold world hums to life and project a holoimage of the glorious bearded face of our Ancestor. It studies me and buffers its processors before replying,
‘Nothing?! What of our surviving Kin?!’
‘As with all great ambitions. Sacrifices must be made. Including the league itself…’
My heart stops as if caught in the grasp of a power-vice. The proximity alerts of the land fortress blare, and warning lights flash about the chamber. The Ancestor Core buzzes and continues,
‘You have played your part well. But now your pathetic race’s usefulness has ended…’
‘But your will! We have fulfilled it as you demanded─’
The door to my chambers burst open, and metallic skeletons rush in to hold me down. The Votann holoimage shimmers, distorting its features into a metal beard and alien skeletal face before phasing into existence.
‘You did fulfil my dynasty’s will! Foolishly thinking you served an ancestor core we destroyed millennia ago!’ he speaks in a grating mechanical voice. ‘But your performance was magnificent! And you shall be rewarded accordingly!’
The monstrous machine phases its claws through my skull, and I freeze as chittering creatures burrow into my brain. When it lets go, I cannot move or scream.
‘Take this one to the Phaeron once he awakens!’ it orders my captors. ‘Perhaps he’ll set you in a place where you can see our mighty dynasty you helped awaken…’
The skeletons drag me outside the land fortress. All around me lay the destruction of my league, and I scream in my own mind at my folly toward the unnatural light. The Ancestor, nay, this Dynasty, willed it after
About the Author
Gerald Stakely lives in the United States and works in the field of Physical Therapy. When he’s not busy with patients or his dog, he spends time unwinding with music, drawing, or writing. A fan of writing whimsical stories since middle school, he has translated these passions into his relatively new discovery of Warhammer 40k, where he has written short stories read by the Lorehammer Listener Lore podcast. He is also a co-host of the GrimLore podcast where he and his friend, Reyway, discuss Warhammer Fantasy in anticipation for its revival as ‘The Old World.