A young voice calls through the darkness.
The patter of small feet tip tapping in the black. Tap, tap, tap.
"Mama?" The voice calls again.
Another voice answers. Older, female, laced with worry.
"Isana. Where have you gotten to?"
A small figure steps into the dim light. A young girl. Thin and graceful despite her youth. Her long dress a mixture of the deepest blue and rich yellow. She is swept up into the long slender arms of a tall and beautiful Eldar woman wearing an almost identical dress.
"Isana." She admonished "You mustn't wander off down here. You could easily get lost."
"Mama I saw a Warp Spider." The girl says excitedly.
The woman gives a motherly smile. Any anger she felt at her wayward daughter has long since evaporated "Ahh. That's good luck." She kisses her daughter on the cheek as she lifts her child into her arms.
She carries her through the dim corridors and hallways. The only illumination coming from small lamps embedded in the ceiling.
"Where are we going mama?" Asks the girl.
"Somewhere safe." Answers her mother.
"For when we sleep?"
"Yes my love. For when we sleep. We're going to be sleeping for a very long time. So we need to be kept safe from anyone who might hurt us."
"Like Orks." Says the girl worriedly.
"Like Orks, like Mon-Keigh, like Tau and so many more." Says her mother, holding her close "Which is why we are having the long sleep. While we are sleeping the Craftworld is going to take us somewhere safe. Somewhere, where Orks and Tau and Mon-Keigh cannot get us."
She carries her daughter into a large brightly lit chamber, filled with soft singing. 'The bonesingers are hard at work' she thinks to herself as she watches three of her fellow Eldar deftly work their craft. She and her daughter watch them sculpt the final addition to the chamber. One final pod. It taking it's place beside the hundred or so others that filled the room. Arranged in circles, this one completing the final outer ring.
"Assani!" Called Isana and the lead singer turned towards the mother and daughter. Revealing his greying hair and creased brow. The marks of stress and time.
The bonesinger startled upon seeing who was holding the child "Honoured Spiritseer. We did not think you would be here so soon."
"I had to make sure Isana was here sooner rather than later." Said the Spiritseer with a small smile. She places her daughter on the floor and lets her run to Assani. The older Eldar smiled as Isani rushed into him, almost knocking him from is feet. "I'd rather she was safe in her pod before I become to busy to do it myself." Elaborated the Spiritseer."
"Of course." Nodded Assani.
"Is this where I'll be sleeping?" Asks Isana, almost dragging Assani to the newly constructed pod. "For the long sleep?"
"Yes." Answers her mother as she lifts Isana into the well cushioned pod "You'll be in here sleeping while we travel."
Isana almost sinks completely into the deep quilts of the pod. She lies down and looks up expectantly. She frowns "Mama? Why are you sad?"
"I'm not sad my love. Just worried." Answers her mother. She strokes her daughters hair and forces a smile to her lips.
"Don't worry Mama. The Craftworld will look after us." Laughs Isana "We're just travelling."
Her mother laughs despite herself and kisses her daughter on the top of her head "We're just travelling." She repeats quietly "You should sleep now."
Isana nods happily as she leans back into a mountain of cushions. Assani and her mother watch as she drifts of to sleep.
"She will be safe Iyanna." Reassures Assani as he places his had over the activation crystal on the side of the pod.
Iyanna doesn't answer as the stasis field falls into place.
Three Tau ships moved through the void. The lead ship was flat. A single curved wing riddled with turrets, a series of launch bays covering the front end. The only protrusion being the circular observation point that thrusts out of the top of the ship.
The second was similar to the first. A large, single wing formed the basic shape. The addition of a front, hammer shaped portion was the only thing that would mark it out to the untrained eye.
The final was almost exactly the same as the second. The only difference being the huge dome that expanded the centre of the ship.
As the sand coloured constructs drifted though the cold, dark void of space. They thought they were un-watched. Un-noticed. They were wrong. Across the black. Red eyes watched, and waited.
"FIO LA'SHASH!" Shouts a strong but ageing voice "WHERE IN THE NAME OF THE GREATER GOOD ARE MY SPANNER?!" It thunders down, over the smooth white railing into the bowels of the engine room.
"Underneath your foot Fio'O Firir." Says a younger voice from behind the old Tau "And I became Ui last Month if you'll remember." The old Tau turns to see one of his workers. The stooping older Tau looking up slightly to glower into the eyes of his tall (for an earth caste) subordinate.
"Well clean them up!" He snaps, before adding "Fio UI'Shash" Snidely. "If we're off schedule because I was stuck cleaning up my spanners the whole department will be raked over hot rocks."
"It won't be that bad." Laughs Fio Shash as he leans down to collect the spanner from underneath the heavy work boot if his senior. "I'm sure Por'vre Tsu'bur will be understanding."
"Why would he be? The water caste are never understanding." Grumbled Firir.
Fio Shash stood up and smiled down at Firir "Well you are quite old."
"GET BACK TO WORK!"
Firir stepped into the caste meeting hall. The domed room was brightly lit but sparsely decorated. Nothing graced the white sloping walls. In the very centre of the room lay it's only feature other than the doors that Firir had walked through. Four tables arranged to form a square. One table was blue, another green, another red and the final brown. Each of the tables except the brown was occupied by three people, it was occupied by only two. Firir took his place between his two Earth caste subordinates.
Opposite him was Shas'O Or'es. She looked across at him with one eye, the other long since removed by an Orkish axe. They nodded to each other respectfully. To his left was the tall, thin frames of the Air caste. Firir had quite forgotten their names. He never had the misfortune to interact to much with them. And finally on his right were the water caste, the administrators of this whole experiment. He had the distinct misfortune of interacting with them an a daily basis. Por'Vre Tsu'bur was quickly becoming his least favourite person in the whole empire.
All four groups were talking quietly amoungst themselves. Preparing the notes for their final reports or discussing the general goings on around the ship. This talk ceased immediately as the representative for the fifth and final caste entered the chamber. Tall and regal, the Ethereal swept into the room accompanied by his student. The two Ethereals reached the tables but only the senior of the two moved into the centre of the square. He turned to Firir and addressed him in a soft but commanding voice.
"Fio'O Fi'rios Firir. How close are we to performing a safe test run?"
Firir tried to lie. He could say they have everything prepared, by the time to run the device came he would have had everything ready. But he couldn't bring himself to lie to the Ethereal "We'll have everything ready by tomorrow morning."
"That is behind schedule Fio'O Fi'rios Firir." Intoned the Etheral.
"I'm sorry." Muttered Firir helplessly "But..."
Por'Vre Tsu'bur interjected with a voice like silk "If you had followed my schedule to the letter you would have been done almost a week ago."
Firir growled "Your schedule wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. You didn't allow any time for overrunning repairs or unforeseen circumstances."
"I thought you understood this machine. You've had over three years in which to study it." Said Por'Vre Tsu'bur with infuriating calm.
"You have had three years." Commented the Ethereal quietly.
Firir took a calming breath "With all due respect Aun'Vre T'olku Prinol, this devices operates on principles that defy all the laws of physics as we know it. We still don't know how the first device does what it does. The second device doesn't appear to do anything at all, we're just assuming it is required for the safe running of the first device."
Aun'Vre Prinol nodded sagely "Did you make Por'Vre Ke'lshan Tsu'bur aware of these difficulties. I know I was not aware of them."
Firir felt a whole open up in the pit of his stomach "I'm afraid to tell you that I did make your predecessor aware of these problems. He told me that the experiment was going ahead anyway. And I tried to make Por'VreTsu'bur aware of them but I consistently failed to. I was always told by one of his adjuncts that 'it would be brought to his attention'." Firir looked over to Por'Vre Tsu'bur who at least had the decency to look embarrassed.
Aun'Vre Prinol looked over to the water caste table. "Is this true Por'Vre Ke'lshan Tsu'bur?"
"If it was truly urgent it would have been brought to my attention." Defended Por'Vre Tsu'bur feebly "Fio'O Firir should have made the difficulties clear to my subordinates."
Firir almost exploded in rage, but his impending rant was halted by the deceptively soft voice of Aun'Vre Prinol "In future I hope you will make it clear to your adjuncts that they are not to judge what is and isn't urgent. Especially when it concerns the business of other castes."
"Of course Aun'Vre Prinol." Said Por'Vre Tsu'bur.
Aun'Vre Prinol turned back to Firir "And Fio'O Fi'rios Firir. I hope you will bring such problems to my attention rather than wait till the last moment. I am here to solve such problems."
"Of course Aun'Vre Prinol." Said Firir.
Aun'Vre Prinol turned to Shas'O Or'es. "Shas'O I assume your report will be the same as it ever is." He said calmly.
Shas'O Or'es straightened her back and spoke with a voice like gravel. Her vocal cords worn down by years of barking orders over the din of battle "As ever we have had no security breaches. But Shaper Korless is complaining about a growing lack of meat. I have already begun rationing the meat supply amongst my fire squads but I would recommend that Por'Vre Tsu'bur implement the same policy across all three ships."
Por'Vre Tsu'bur nodded "We are expecting another shipment of all supplies in five hours but I will defer to your experience in matters of limited supplies."
Shas'O Or'es nodded back "In that case I conclude my report."
Aun'Vre Prinol finally turned his attention to the Air caste table. "Kor'O T'olku Fralom." He began with the same quiet voice "Have you anything new to report?"
At ten foot tall Kor'O T'olku Fralom was tall even by the standards of the Air caste. He couldn't even stand without the aid of a sophisticated suit created by the Earth caste. "I have nothing major to report. We'll be passing into the radiation field of a neutron star in a few hours if we don't change our course but I need your approval to do so. It will not interfere with the running of the ship but it could effect the proper running of the device according to Fio'O Firir." Aun'Vre Prinol turned to Firir and gave him a polite look of questioning.
"The odds of it effecting the device are infinitesimal. But the radiation could easily effect the more sensitive scanners we'll be using to monitor the effects of the device." Supplied Firir.
Aun'Vre Prinol nodded with understanding. "You have permission to change course. But Inform Bork'An control of the change."
The Ethereal took a moment to observe the caste leaders. He knew he was the rod of strength that held them all together. Firir could almost see the strain upon Aun'Vre Prinol's face. He knew the other's wouldn't be able to spot the subtle signs, the wrinkled brow, the way his hand clenched his staff a little tighter during these meetings. He was only able to spot them due to his lifetime of experience dealing with the Ethereal caste.
"We will begin the start-up of the device at ten o'clock tomorrow morning." Said Aun'Vre Prinol with finality, before adding "But only when Fio'O Firir is absolutely satisfied that it is safe to do so."
no one even thought about arguing. A command from an Ethereal was as final as it came.
Iyanna Arienal walked with purpose as entered the dome. Light streamed in through the clear crystal as Iyanden slowly passed a small star. It gave a subtle illumination to a large garden. Until recently it had been carefully tended and a wildness had taken a hold of it. To the three Eldar inhabiting the room the garden was no less beautiful, just different.
Iyanna approached the two other Eldar. The first was wearing white armour, under his arm he held a tall green helm. On his hip hung a long chain sword. This was a counterpoint to the other, who wore long black robes embroidered with bone white runes.
"Autarch. Honoured Farseer." Greeted Iyanna "I apologize for my lateness. I had to ensure my daughter entered the long sleep in peace."
"The long sleep?" Questioned the other Farseer with a small smile. His face was marked by time, his tremendous age showing in the form of small wrinkles around his eyes and mouth.
Iyanna gave a hollow smile "It is what I called the stasis sleep so she would not worry."
"I understand. I told my own daughter a number of untrue things when she was younger. A particular favourite of her mothers was that if she continued to cheat on her mathematics tests, then Krandras would come and take her away."
"Where to?" Asked the Autarch curiously.
"We never actually said where to. And it never stopped her cheating." Sighed the older Eldar, smiling to himself.
"I do not wish to interrupt the reminiscing." Interrupted the Autarch "But we are here for a reason."
"Quite right." Agreed the Farseer "Iyanna, how close is Iyanden to being ready?"
"All that remains are the bonesingers." She answered.
The Farseer nodded as the Autarch asked "Who have you selected as your guardian?"
"A mother who died defending her children from a Tyranid beast."
"I can think of no one finer for the duty." Commented the Farseer "Ulthwe has selected a warlock to be ours." He turned to the Autarch "And Biel Tan?"
"We have chosen an Exarch of the Striking Scorpions." He supplied "Also, we are almost ready to travel ourselves. All that remains is to power down our Webway gates, which will be done upon my return."
"Ulthwe is the same." Commented the Farseer. "In twelve hours we shall all activate the traveller drives. And make our way to a knew home."
"Agreed." Said the Autarch.
"Agreed." Added Iyanna.
The Farseer nodded. Then he transformed from his solid shape into a thick white smoke before melting into wisps of nothing.
"I shall leave you to your final preparations." Said the Autarch before he walked quickly from the dome, leaving Iyanna to her thoughts and worries.