A branch creaked. Arius turned, slightly alarmed, but nothing was moving among the bushes and the trees. For the umpteenth time, he had been scared by a little noise. He hadn’t been immersed in the silence of a forest for years. It was unnerving.
Despite this, he kept moving. His plan was to complete the inspection of the land assigned to his team by noon and to start the work immediately after. Yet, he was nervous: he felt an invisible burden on his shoulders.
Arius was the construction manager of Site 76C, one of the hundreds of building sites that were restlessly expanding the area of the newly founded Hive Corona, on the planet of Seburra. Thanks to people like him and his workers, the Hive had doubled its extension in less than a year. Unfortunately, the operations were slowing down because of frequent incidents: machines exploded, servitors malfunctioned, freshly constructed buildings collapsed. What was thought to be bad maintenance later had revealed itself to be something far worse: xenos.
The planet was already inhabited by Eldar, who called themselves Exodites; they were savages who rode beasts and lived in forests. But the spreading panic around the xenos hadn’t stopped Arius from starting his usual inspection tour that morning. His workers begged him not to leave the site, but he was firm. To him, that was more than a job: it was a mission.
He mentally repeated his belief to himself when another branch creaked. Again, the invisible burden pressed on his shoulders. This time, Arius proceeded faster towards the next point of his tour.
Minutes passed and he found himself on the side of a little lake. For a moment, Arius was breathless, gazing at the calm waters; he was surprised by his own reaction.
He started taking notice of the lake and its surroundings: minerals and rocks on the ground, signs of fauna, the composition of water. When he had finished, he felt unusually tired: the burden again. He sat on the shore to rest. While gazing around, he understood what of the lake had taken his breath away: it resembled a place of his youth.
Arius wasn’t native of Seburra. His homeworld was a planet named Desdemon. It had never been massively colonised: apart from lands barely suitable for farming, there wasn’t anything valuable to the Imperium on the planet. Hence, Arius spent his childhood enjoying the beautiful and untouched nature of his world. It was only when he was an adult that a rare mineral was discovered under the soil. In less than twenty years, every kilogram of that ore was extracted from Desdemon. The planet was now a dead crust of spoiled lands. And Arius had played an active role in its exploitation: he had chopped the trees where he played as a child; mined the mountains he climbed; drained the sea in front of which he received his first kiss.
He had never questioned his own action, because he believed in his mission: to help spread Humanity across the stars, by building cities and fueling the Imperial machine. He was going to do the same thing on Seburra. That made him gloomy sometimes, but his faith had never trembled.
He had ventured so deep into thoughts and memories that he heard, but didn’t listen to, the silent steps behind him. It was only the increasingly pressing burden on his shoulders that made him aware. So he turned.
There was a thing behind him. Tattooed and almost naked, it resembled a woman, yet it was more slender. And its eyes were thin and cruel. An Eldar.
Arius was going to yell, but the thing jumped on him and grabbed his throat too quickly. They fell to the ground. It blocked him and started choking him.
Its gaze. Arius knew the moment he saw its gaze closer: that was the burden on his shoulder. The creature was behind him the entire morning.
‘Mon-keigh,’ it said, ‘you are deaf. I sensed your thoughts. I‘ve watched your memories. You regret your actions, yet you keep making the same mistake. I could kill you…’
Arius almost fainted from fear.
‘… instead, I will bless you. Their cry, mon-keigh. You will hear it. Forever.’
Unable to think, Arius saw its eyes glowing. The grip of the Eldar tightened and Arius lost consciousness.
It was the middle of the afternoon when the concerned workers found him, passed out next to a lake. They had just brought him back to the site when he woke up.
‘Boss, what happened?’ one of them asked.
Arius seemed confused. He looked at the edge of the site, where the servitors were already chopping down trees. A shadow of pain passed on his face. ‘Stop the machines.’
‘Take the day off.’
‘But the program says-‘
‘I told you to take the day off! Go home. All of you.’
The workers were shocked at least, but slowly obeyed and left. On their way home, they discussed about how strange was the boss. One of them swore to have seen him crying while looking at the trees.
Arius remained sitting on the meadow between the site and the forest. The night was silent; his mind, instead, was a jar filled with shouting. He could hear them, now. When he had realised who the voices belonged to, he had to stop his workers. Still, all over the planet, Hive Corona’s expansion marched forward and the shouting didn’t stop.
Is that how the Eldar feel? Do they hear this every day? he asked himself.
That Eldar. She hadn’t blessed him, but cursed him. He heard them now; yet, his work was to destroy them. Had Desdemon cried the same way? The thought terrorised him.
The trees, the grass, even the water: they were yelling in pain.
About the Author
Luca is from the distant land of Italy. He is currently studying at university (Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature; no xenos cultures in his program). He’s come to know the world of Warhammer 40K only recently, firstly through the books, then by painting minis. The hobby has rapidly become one of his favorite occupations. He is an aspiring writer and “They Cried” is his first WH40k-related story.