Erik Thullus bled out, screaming obscenities at his brothers, who coveted his wealth.
This grim occupation hadn’t been one Lesthel would have chosen. Through his life, Lesthel has been a soldier, a miner, a thief, a corsair and a murderer. It wasn’t until the council sentenced him to life in the deep halls that he’d found his true calling.
Now, nearly a hundred years later, Lesthel was the last scribe of the Squats. His holy function, to give voice to the dead, would only end when every last one of them had perished.
Ordus Brine stepped into the oncoming Ork horde, closed his eyes and pulled the pin.
The deep halls ran for hundreds upon hundreds of miles. On each wall, Lesthel placed chisel to stone and etched the sentences. The work was an art and burden to which he gave up his health, his youth, and the entirety of his life.
The slave master shot Mithra Darkbind dead at sixty paces, but she died free.
His fingers were stiff with calcium deposits, his muscles constantly seized and ached. Decades before, the pain was limited to the knuckles and joints of his hands. Now, age and repetition pushed the misery throughout his arms. Deep into his back. Every movement was dull, dragging agony. Yet he continued.
Armrack of the Engineers Guild burned to death in a promethium blaze. Too afraid to move, Armrack sealed his fate.
The Yud-Ro Engine was an ancient device, predating the Great Isolation. How it catalogued deaths from across the region was long forgotten knowledge. It was a scribe’s primary tool beyond his chisel. Even though its range only covered one small corner of Squat territory, it spat its records endlessly.
Pockrum Finnigar shoved his commanding officer to the ground, taking the sniper’s blast in his stead.
Their League lay nestled on the far eastern fringe of the Homeworlds. Close enough to the galactic core that they suffered from the effects of time dilation. Life to the west of them rolled along at speeds two or three times their own, leaving Lesthel’s people woefully behind in culture and technology.
Baccus Redbeard’s lungs froze, and his heart burst as he opened the airlock, condemning the raiders to mutual violent implosions.
Yet that maddening drip of time served as a buffer, where the west fell swiftly, the east observed it with terror. The closer their enemy came, the more it slowed, the more time his people had to ponder just what manner of end was approaching.
Norell Stethcore died laughing as she emptied her clip into the face of the Night Lord, and he snapped her spine in two.
‘Death never finds a Squat. A Squat discovers an end worthy of themselves, and embraces it.’ These were his long deceased mentor’s first and oft-repeated words to him. For the hundreds of years after he ascended to head scribe, Lesthel never questioned the sentiment… Until the sentences changed.
Diatra Moldson died screaming.
A simple phrase. Enigmatic and imprecise. The Yud-Ro had always provided a unique and unambiguous sentence for each death. Never repeating itself. Until now.
Orson Cragshelm died screaming.
A billion times each day. The oncoming wave of homogenised death blotted out any other epitaphs. Whatever tragedy flooded across their territory came on swiftly and had no variations. No longer did the Squats choose their own ends. Instead, a specific and all-consuming death had chosen them.
Lrokk Ironbide died screaming.
As the years passed and the tragedy crept closer, less disciplined scribes fled. The epitaphs had grown too repetitive, the deaths too constant, and there remained too little time to record them. Soon after, the names took on familiar shapes. Names from his own world, then names from his own stronghold. Names Lesthel knew personally. His first love. His estranged brother. The adjudicator who sentenced him.
Ella Cronehulk died screaming.
When you live your life in the deep halls, you develop a sense for the most minuscule of changes. The soft click of the arachnoid feet of the low-creatures from the depths. The subtle metallic aroma of a cave in, days before it occurs. The taste of brimstone from a magma pocket ready to burst. Today, it was the softest breeze. The hairs of his arms prickled and bristled. Miles above, the portcullis had opened. He was to have his first visitors in a decade. His death had found him.
Watch Commander Raag died screaming.
At the best of times, descent to his level of the deep halls could take weeks. The fluctuating air pressure and the growing cacophony reverberating from high above, made it clear that his visitors would arrive much sooner.
Valiera Rennugtin died screaming.
Lesthel tried to buy himself more time. He littered the upper halls with ignited gas pockets, forced cave-ins, and constructed improvised traps. Anything to continue his sacred duty for that much longer.
Cor Krabow died screaming.
He etched sentence after sentence upon the halls. His chisel blunted, but no time remained for sharpening. His exacting holy technique gave way to cheap mass production. Blood from the torn flesh of his hands spattered the walls. The only moment he paused was when the Yud-Ro fell silent. With that he knew there remained no others, save himself, to die. Lesthel uttered a small prayer for his race, finally at rest. But he could not join them, not yet! There were too many names still unwritten! Too many voices never to be granted the honour they deserved!
Esther Oldmind died screaming.
Damon Rocksmith died screaming.
Lord Arksmuth died screaming.
Lesthel could see their shadows cast by the flickers of the work-lumens. Still, he toiled, every breath he squeezed from life another name was immortalized.
Lynna Heraldstone died screaming.
Arik Coslo died screaming.
Samus Hyllfire died screaming.
Lady Arksmuth died screaming.
Danro Mullinthrop died screaming.
They were coming. They were unstoppable. They were inevitable. With his last moment, he gripped his chisel and wrote his sentence.
Lesthel, the last Squat, died screa–
About the Author
Noah Miller is a writer/director/animator from Los Angeles, CA. You can see more of their work at www.theopposition.party, including the short film Alien: Alone from the 40th Anniversary Alien Celebration.