/Error: Critical memory error detected! Eminent system termination.
!Admin ctrl. Hêtynn6718256
!Q: Are we safe?
The chilled fane air swirled around the ancestor core. Grymnyr Hêtynn Gâard waited for the Votann’s answer, stroking decorative braids in his long grey beard. Lightning coruscated from the mouths of the ancestor core, flooding the room. A holo-scene bloomed around Grymnyr Gâard.
A nest of thick cables ran from the crucible’s opening, lolling from the raised circular mouth of the accessway. Beyond the opening, the gestation cylinders pulsed with faint blue light. Hêtynn walked forward into the crucible.
Gâard worked quickly. His presence within the Crucible would not go unnoticed indefinitely, and Îyka, his apprentice, would note his absence from the fane. Though he wore armour underneath his robes of office and had his Darkstar sword, Rôkhbrandr, slung across his back, he did not want to cross blades with Embyr Âmmuk Deyprôkh’s this day. Gâard drew Rôkhbrandr. He looked up to the circular opening that led into the heart of the crucible, to where the cloneskeins gestated in their cradles. Hêtynn sliced through coolant lines and optic cables. Hêtynn remembered why he was doing this; he recalled the Votann’s holo-scene.
Hêtynn walked forward into the crucible. The glass of each cradle was opaque with frost, the submerged kin were shadows writhing in amnionic fluids. When the newborn Kin began beating their fists against the glass of their cradles, Hêtynn stumbled backwards, losing his footing on the steps.
‘What are you doing, Gâard?’ Embyr Deyprôkh stalked into the heart of the crucible. Tall for Kin, she towered over the Grymnyr. The storm brewing in her age-lined face was framed by a curly cloud of steel-grey hair. One glance at the smoking remains of the control interface was all she needed.
‘You will be brought to account Hêtynn Gâard.’ Lightning crackled across her concussion gauntlets as she swung for the Grymnyr’s head. He ducked to her left, dodging, pointing his sword at the ground in a fool’s guard. He would not see her harmed unnecessarily.
Deyprôkh had no such qualms. Gâard’s dodge brought his face in line with her other fist. The mass driver technology in the concussion gauntlet crushed the bones of Hêtynn’s face and sent him sprawling over the crucible controls. Darkness danced at the corners of his vision.
Gâard awoke from tortured dreams to the torture of his broken face. He spat clotted blood and mucous and leaned against cold metal. Beyond the weavefield, an Ironkin Hearthkyn warrior stood guard. He had no doubt that Embyr Âmmuk Deyprôkh would convene the Hearthspake to judge him. The penalty for violating the pillar of the crucible was death. He hoped they would let him explain the Ancestor’s message. He regretted that he would not be there to see Îyka The Stoic ascend; she was a talented apprentice, and he was sure the fane would be safe under her guidance.
After what felt like days of staring at his gaoler’s iron back, the Hearthkyn abruptly marched away. Hêtynn shot to his feet with a groan. Something was wrong in the hold. Through the weavefield, he could just hear the clang of armoured boots on metal decking.
Several Hearthkyn ran past with weapons drawn, technicians and vassals. Many were injured. Hêtynn beat against the barrier, and green sparks flew, but the prisoner went unnoticed by the panicked kin. Îyka the Stoic slamming into the weavefield from the outside also went unnoticed. She tapped furiously at the control panel, eliminating the barrier.
‘The crucible has fallen.’ Her apprentices’ robes were smeared with blood and grime. Rôkhbrandr, in its baldric, was tucked under her arm.
‘It functions, Grymnyr.’ She handed him the baldric, and he strapped it to his back. ‘…But the Kin-’ She turned at the sound of a nearby scream.
‘It is happening now,’ Hêtynn said simply.
An Îyka cloneskein barrelled into the passageway before them. Eyes blazing, it leapt for the apprentice Grymnyr. Hêtynn stepped in front of her and plunged Rôkhbrandr into its abdomen. The newborn Îyka evaporated around the blade.
‘Initiate lockdown. The fane must survive, and so must a Grymnyr. I go to finish what I started.’
The crucible doors slid open, and Hêtynn was met with a disturbingly familiar sight. Bodies were strewn about the floor. Many were newly birthed cloneskeins, naked and amnion-slick. Hearthkyn weapons, plasma pistols and ion blasters had severed many threads. Others were Hearthkyn- their armour ripped open, with ragged wounds and bite marks.
Hêtynn ignored the bodies and walked into the blue glow of the crucible. Several gestation cradles had been broken open from the inside. Some units were intact. He pulled Rôkhbrandr and set about his work, one cradle at a time. His sword was raised, ready to plunge through the next unit and the thrashing cloneskein within. Before the blow, the cloneskein threw itself through the glass, showering the Grymnyr with warm fluid as the cloneskein bore him to the ground.
Save the wild eyes and gnashing teeth, it was like looking into a mirror. It was a Hêtynn. The two Hêtynn’s wrestled in the slicked crucible passageway. Grymnyr Gâard found himself on top and used his knees to pin the cloneskein, reaching for Rôkhbrandr. He took the sword up in a two-handed grip and thrust it down into the heart of his twin.
/Error: System memory fault! Cradle code 171564423C. All cradles inactive.
!Admin ctrl. Îyka6718257
‘The crucible is lost, our Embyr is dead, and still the error persists.’ Îyka turned as Hêtynn Gâard entered the fane. His robes and armour streaked in gore.
‘We will convene the Votannic council.’ Hêtynn’s voice was solid as iron.
‘We cannot survive this.’
‘We will do what Grymnyr have always done: listen to the ancestors.’Grymnyr Gâard flicked a bloody gobbet of flesh from his beard. ‘Kin endure, Îyka. The void is in our veins. The ancestors are watching. True as wrought.’
About the Author
E. Nicole Gary is a scientist and Warhammer lover. She received her PhD in microbiology and immunology from Drexel university college of medicine and studies vaccine design and immune responses. When she isn’t writing scientific manuscripts, she’s reading, watching, and writing sci-fi and horror. She loves wine, crochet, chaos, and laboratory mice. You can find her online @NickyinBrooklyn on instagram, twitter, and tiktok, and on the 40k bookclub she shares with her loyalist husband all linked below.