Chapter Twenty-Seven: The View from Ulthwe
Location: Craftworld Ulthanash Shelwé, Scrying Chamber of Eldrad Ulthran
Date: 862.M30 (Imperial Standard Time)
The young Seer sat in the center of a reflecting pool, hovering slightly above the ritual waters in a meditative trance. With practiced ease, the Seer pushed his mind and awareness into the Warp, anchoring himself to his Spirit Stone as he dove in. He was taking a great risk, walking the old paths of soothsaying and peering into the Warp to catch a glimpse of the future like this. But he was desperate. This action was not done lightly but as a final gamble. Every previous method of foresight had proved hopelessly jumbled, as if someone had tossed a mountain into the waters of destiny, stirring it up and obscuring all but the greatest seers. Fate would settle eventually, but that would take time and could possibly form into a disastrous configuration in the meantime.
So it fell to Eldrad Ulthran, the prodigal seer of Craftworld Ulthwe, to take whatever risks necessary to find the future his people needed. Eldrad was of the new generation, born after the Fall and into a galaxy of strife. He was born into an era where the fate of his species and the galaxy with it hung by a thread. Only a few centuries of age, Eldrad had become something of a symbol among his people. He had broken from the old ways and helped shape the new. It was he who spearheaded the reformation of Morai-Heg's temple into the Path of the Seer. He earned the respect of Asurmen and laughed in the face of his broken elders. Now in his own secluded scrying chamber, the increasingly desperate Seer used every method he could, including the impossibly dangerous act he now attempted. After days of meditation and cleansing, he had purified himself to spiritual translucence. His emotions and ego were wrapped up and hidden in order to mask his presence in the Warp. If Eldrad lost focus or let his emotions rise he would be bleeding meat surrounded by hungry predators.
Eldrad took this monumental risk almost regularly now. Every few day-cycles he plunged into the Warp and pulled up priceless scraps of foresight. Slowly but surely he was crafting an accurate picture of what he needed. The few rune-castings he had managed to do without interference pointed him to a key. This new shifting uncertainty of destiny was not truly random. Patterns within patterns traced through the changing futures. Axes of possibility wheeling around key events and people. If Eldrad could locate one of these keys he could use it as a prognostic cipher. Gaining a valuable landmark to center his foresight and let him see past the current turbulence.
It had taken cycles of work but the first of what would eventually be known as the Farseers had found his key, and it was almost in reach. The efforts had almost killed him or worse on fifteen different occasions and earned him a venomous castigation from an ancient former Priest of Morai-Heg. The key he selected to pursue was powerful, it attracted the intense focus of all players in the Great Game. Destiny warped around its actions with causal ease. Eldrad could have of course picked a lesser key for his effort, something safer and easier to locate. But doing so would limit the scope of his foresight and despite his wisdom, intelligence and genius, Eldrad fell into the oldest sin his people suffered. His pride pushed him to do what others thought impossible.
In this most recent dive, the Farseer gathered the last and most important shard of destiny needed to comprehend his chosen key, its name. It had been difficult in the extreme, simply because this name refused to follow the rules of its kind. It was set and static like a Daemons. Everything about a Neverborn is changeable, everything except its true name. It is the truth of the Daemon, its identity and origin together. Knowledge of which could grant power over the Daemon, something the Neverborn fear above all except true death. In that way, the name Eldrad pursued seemed like a Neverborn's, except it was not tucked away and hidden like a shameful secret. This name was spoken across a billion lips in a billion timelines, carved into the immaterium through repetition and intensity. In this way, the name was like that of a legend or minor deity. Rare things in this era, quickly swallowed up by the Thirsting Gods or the Anathema. Then even more curiously, the name belonged to a single shifting soul. Like a mortal's name. However, it did not change with its owner like a true mortal's name would. The name belonged to a Daemon, a Legend, and a Mortal while being none of those things. Its defiance of timeless truths would normally fascinate and amuse Eldrad. Instead, the importance and anomalous nature of the name brought the Farseer a mixture of annoyance, fear, and trepidation.
With his prize in hand, Eldrad finally returned to his body. Eyes that had not seen use for day-cycles sprung open and the Eldar slowly unfolded his body from its meditation pose. Floating just over the shimmering water below him Eldrad opened his mouth to speak the name he had toiled to claim. It came to him easily, the guttural tongue of the name's origin language flowing from his lips as the plucked knowledge did its work.
"Magnus Rubricar," he said, and the world broke in an explosion of visions.
*Two armies clashing in the shadow of burning Pyramids. Each headed by abominations crafted from occult mysteries*
* A Throne of Gold at the heart of everything. A Crimson King seated upon it, blind to all but what his third eye sees*
*Screaming children of a lost Craftworld. Dying as the void pulled a final breath from their lungs.*
* The Library burned as it was brought in chains to the Throne of Gold. The ultimate performer unmasked and enslaved*
* Twenty Godlings kneeling before an Imposter Deity. Hubris to conquer the galaxy, the power to burn it to ash.*
Eldrad did not know how long the visions lasted. They pounded into his mind like surf against the shore. Eventually, the Farseer pulled himself back to some semblance of normal and took great shuddering breaths. His efforts had been worth the danger. Eldrad had learned more than he hoped, and yet countless new questions arose. It would take him time to make a plan of action but he could do it. He would meet this Primarch and use him to help the Aeldari.
Looking out from his scrying chamber, through ornate wraithbone windows. Eldrad gazed up into the void and the abomination that filled Ulthwe's sky. The Eye of Terror, the ultimate monument to his people's sins. Craftworld Ulthwe slowly moved away from the gaping rip in reality with each passing cycle, fleeing the yawning abyss at steady sub-light speeds. Once it had been Ulthwe's destiny to be trapped at the edge of the Eye, stuck in its eldritch orbit and assailed by the Great Enemy till Rhana Dandra. That fate had been changed through the most unlikely intervention. The Human God-Caller had pushed back the darkness slightly. His Soul-Pyre lit the Warp and weakened Chaos' grip on the Galaxy. The psychic fire, that horrid anathema to the creatures from beyond the boundaries of reality, scorched the wound that had once been the Crone Worlds ever so slightly which let Ulthwe escape and chart a new course in the galaxy.
Eldrad did not believe it was a coincidence that his long-sought key was one of the Anathema's summoned godlings. It seemed every strand of fate led back to that great tyrant and its host species. Godcalling and the nature of this so-called Emperor of Mankind were not things Eldrad knew much about. As a Farseer, his duties pertained to the future, not the past. Cryptic hints hidden in the oldest myths and the terror of his seniors told of exactly how dangerous this Mon-Keigh Godcaller was. The Emperor had done the unthinkable, with the kind of brutish carelessness you would expect of its servant species. It had summoned up twenty malformed godlings at once, shoved them into malfunctioning flesh, and unleashed them upon the galaxy. A barbaric parody of the ancient powers of Eldanesh. Eldrad and his few equals among the Seer path expected this botched experiment in ancient power to end in predictable tragedy. Eldanesh and Ulthanesh had been heroes of the Aeldari, champions of the species who were molded by the Gods themselves. Yet they let the Bloody Handed One tear them apart and strike down Eldanesh. What hope did this Emperor have in controlling his creations?
This inevitable lack of control might serve Eldrad. He might just be able to communicate with this Magnus creature. If he could offer it an alternative to its creator's cruel vision, it might be won over. Having influence over such a powerful being that seemed inexorably linked to the changing future would be a great boon. Of the many skills required to manipulate the future, chief among them is the ability to see connections and understand their nature. It was a skill Eldrad had few rivals in. The connections between Ulthwe, himself, the Human Godcaller, and Magnus Rubricar started to paint a picture for the first Farseer. The cause of the metaphorical boulder tossed into the tides of fate had been a mystery. Something which came from no apparent source and disrupted the schemes of every future weaver. Now Eldrad had an idea of its origin, if not its nature. Somehow the human Godcaller had altered the future in some crucial unexplainable way, creating an entirely new unfolding chain of causality that his fifteenth creation Magnus Rubricar was closely linked to.
Magnus may be the key Eldrad had been looking for but finding him now presented new challenges. The Farseer needed to find the lock for his key and learn how to use it correctly. If successful he would gain insight into this new future, a valuable pawn or possible ally. To do this he needed information. The kind of which entire worlds had been burned to get. Farseer Eldrad, prodigal prophet of Ulthwe prepared to journey to the Black Library. There he might learn the secrets of the Godcallers and how to save his species.
Location: Forzare System, the Gloriana Class battleship Ananta-Mandjet
Date: 895.M30 (Imperial Standard Time)
The Imperium of Man was at war on all sides. It fought two great campaigns against the most dangerous Xeno breeds to pollute the galaxy. Along with a hundred more smaller conflicts of expansion and extermination. Fourteen of the twenty Primarchs were devoted to the wars against the Rangda or Orks respectively, with the remaining six rotating between aiding their brothers, using their expertise to aid the Imperiums development, or fighting enemies beyond the scope of mere Expeditionary fleets. That last duty is what fell to the XV Legion as it entered the Forzare system.
The System and its galactic neighbors were ruled by a small but vicious abhuman civilization that called themselves Amonite Commune. Normally the mutant culture would not have been a priority for the Imperium except for its home-systems location and the Commune's unusual powerful psychic abilities. Forzare was located at the very edge of the Golgothan Wastes and its occupants had taken to harassing Imperial ships moving towards the great Orkish wars through a mixture of piracy and psychic trickery. An Auxilia invasion force had been sent a few years earlier. They had retreated with heavy casualties from truly foul warp-craft and impeccably organized resistance. Data gathered in the failed invasion told of an advanced caste-based culture made up of a number of Abhuman species each suited for a particular role. Who despite great psychic potential showed no sign of chaos corruption. Despite this the Amonite Commune was sentenced to total subjugation for crimes of defiling the human genome, engaging in unbound warp-craft and inflicting harm upon the Emperor's subjects. A sentence Primarch Magnus Rubricar and his legion would carry out.
The XV Legion has pushed straight into the Forzare system. Using their formidable psychic power, they rode the Immaterial tides past the Communes outer worlds and right into its heart, bypassing the traditional Warp lanes and moving the full force of the XV Crusader Fleet to the Mandeville points closest to the Capitol world of the Amonite Commune. This precise long-distance Warp travel into unmapped territory was under normal circumstances incredibly dangerous. For the XV Legion, this was standard strategy. The Sons of Magnus had recently earned a name for their actions defending the Imperium from numerous threats of sorcery. The Arcane Brotherhood, or the Arcanists as some called them, were unique among the Twenty Legions. Every member of the Legion is a psyker of some talent. Only those touched by the warp and capable of controlling that deadly gift could be transformed into XV Legion Astartes. The risks to create and replenish this legion were more than outweighed by its incredible power. Something the denizens of Forzare were soon to learn,
Under their Primarch's guidance, fifty thousand Battle-Brothers of the Arcanists guided their fleet into the unknown system. They traveled with a precision that the greatest of navigators would be challenged to replicate. Translating to real space in the Forzare system it came time for the Imperium to strike back against this abhuman degenerate culture with all the power at the XV Legions disposal. Before the Amonites had time to regroup the XV Crusader Fleet had started the attack. Despite the small size of the Arcane Legion, its fleet matched its cousins in size and deadliness. In fleet combat, the XV Astartes did not waste themselves on boarding actions or piloting attack craft. While the Arcanist's ranks hold Astartes specialized in those ways of war, it was not the preferred method of their legion.
The teachings of Magnus say that it's the duty and privilege of psykers to use their gifts to benefit mankind. A tenet that was reflected in the Arcane Brotherhood's methods of war. Covens of united Battle Brothers meditated and focused across the fleet, working together to unleash coordinated and devastating assaults. The ships and orbital defenses of the Forzare system were neither numerous nor especially powerful. Its people relied on psychic trickery and sorcery to fight their foes. This strategy proved to be their undoing, for they were but children at the art compared to the might wielded by the XV Legion. Enemy ships were gripped by herculean telekinetic force, and tossed into their allies with dismissive ease. Imperial fighter pilots found enemy flak cannons missing every shot as they aimed for illusionary ships dreamed up by Astartes psykers. Crews of the most dangerous Amonite capital ships turned on each other and burned alive as psychic assaults tore through their vessels. Any counterattack mustered by the abhuman witch breeds violently imploded or met unsurmountable mental wards surrounding the XV Fleet.
The orbital war was over quickly. There was little the enemy could do to strike back against the Arcane Legion. Even the desperate telepathic calls for aid sent by the defenders were silenced, ripped from the Warp by Astartes scrying the immaterium for such messages. The Forazare system was cut off completely and its worlds faced Imperial judgment. A duty that fell to Magnus Rubricar, Lord of Mysteries and Archmagi of the Primarchs to oversee.
Magnus had watched the battle unfold through all of his senses. To his pride, Magnus's interference had been unneeded. His sons and mortal soldiers had fought using every teaching and lesson he could give them and crushed their foe beautifully. The Primarch mused on how much the Imperium focused on his Legions psychic gifts, and missed its other great weapons. As an army of scholars and learned supermen, they valued knowledge and its use. Every one of his sons had studied the greatest generals of a thousand eras and debated their strengths and failings with their brothers. This culture of wisdom and information had filtered through the entire crusader fleet. Every member of the fleet, from the highest admirals to the lowliest servants spent what time they had bettering themselves through learning. The results of all that knowledge and its combined application had been the true key to such an easy victory. A fact that pleased Magnus to no end. After all, he was born to be more than a warlord. Teaching and spreading wisdom were as much part of him as conquest and battle.
Standing upon the Command deck of his Flagship, the Ananta-Mandjet, Magnus congratulated the various officers of the XV Crusader fleet, both transhuman and mortal for their victory before moving to the great crystal panes of the deck and peering down at the capitol world of the Amonite Commune. On either side of the Primarch stood his twin equerry and closest students. The brothers Ahriman and Ohrmuzd, both extremely powerful Psykers and some of the first successful recruits to the XV Legion. Ahriman was the first to speak.
"What am I sensing from this world? The Souls of its people feel… wrong?"
Magnus observed the planet for a while. He knew exactly what his son referred to, he just did not know the correct words to describe it. The world below them was populated by close to fifty million abhumans of varying psychic potential. A single continent of the planet contained the entire population and it was covered in neat geometric development centered around a singular mega-city. Not anything abnormal for surviving worlds in this Age of Strife, but what truly made it unusual was the planet's imprint on the Warp. To the immaterial senses of Magnus, it seemed every abhuman on the world was connected in some way. Strings of psychic power linking them all in a great web and these threads all traced back to the few most powerful souls on the planet. Puppet strings covering an entire planet and binding fifty million beings into a controlled order. The effect was not powerful enough to control minds, but easily influence them on a macro scale. It was a precise and masterfully crafted piece of Warpcraft, blurring the lines between individual beings and the collective whole.
Magnus found the right description and spoke softly: "They are like insects. Bonded together in a great eusocial hive. No… not eusocial but close to it. They are still individuals, but they are bound to the collective will in a great and subtle way. Not quite psychic slavery, yet still an insidious method of control."
It was Ohrmuzd's turn to respond now. "Can they be freed from it? Could we cut the web and salvage some of these creatures?"
With a mixture of power and finesse shared by a handful of beings in the galaxy, Magnus reached out and brushed against the web. Like a curious child investigating a spider's den, Magnus examined the psychic network, tugging at its connections and sensing its properties. As he did, the Primarch felt himself brush up against something in the web. There was a formidable psychic presence buried near its core. Careful not to alert it, Magnus mentally stepped back and made his conclusion.
"Sadly I do not think so my son." Magnus frowned, sorrow present in his voice.
"From birth, these abhumans are connected to this web. It feeds them a constant intake of information and influences them in a profound way. Destroying the web would drive most of them insane. It would be like robbing a world of an entire sense and key social construct all at once. But while we cannot save them from this fate, neither can we let the web stay intact. This is no product of bizarre evolutionary pressure. Something sits in the center of this sprawl and influences the world around it. We cannot excise the tumor, all we can do is stop it from spreading. "
After a few moments of contemplation, Magnus continued. "I will be joining the assault on the surface. I wish to dissect this anomaly. While grotesque in scope and influence, it might provide insight into better telepathic communication. Perhaps the concepts displayed here might be repurposed for better Astropathic transmission. Even if it's completely degenerate or useless, I wish to be close to the battle when we uncover this world's master. Whatever produced this web is not lacking in psychic power or skill. I want to ensure it dies quickly and cleanly."
The twin equerries acknowledged the Primarchs orders and left him to prepare for planetfall. Standing alone peering down at the planet, Magnus felt as if something was watching him. Knowing it was a sensation not uncommon for the psychically gifted and one that was never to be ignored, Magnus reached out subtly, expecting to find the eyes of some Neverborn horror or maybe the master of the planet below observing him. To his surprise, neither possibility was the source of his discomfort. It was something new. By the Primarchs standards, it was a small and ephemeral spirit and watching him through what could best be described as a 'crack' in the warp where something sheltered from the Sea of Souls.
Shutting his eyes the Primarch turned in the spiritual plane to face the watcher and thrust a simple but powerful telepathic message towards it.
"I SEE YOU."
Instantly the spying presence disappeared and with it any evidence of its intrusion. Frowning and feeling a faint itch on his forehead, Magnus returned to the Material. This was a mystery that would eventually require his attention. For now he had other matters to deal with. Turning to leave the command deck Magnus reached out telepathically to various subordinates across the fleet. Updating them on what he had learned and gathering any pertinent data he might require. As he prepared to move to his arming chamber and occult study, a sudden thought struck Magnus. Imperial records about the Forzare system had been spotty. The mixture of cartography, archaeology, and guesswork that made up the Imperium's investigation into ancient star charts was not always reliable. Still, Magnus had asked one of his personal scholars to find out what he could about the system.
As a final check, the Primarch spoke to his researching scholar telepathically. "Adept Haemweset, have you learned anything new about this system we find ourselves in?"
Haemweset, a youthful if skilled scholar, was pulled deep from his research in the personal library of Magnus by his master's call. Even after years of service, having a Primarch speak directly into your mind without warning was disorienting. Regaining focus the scholar spoke through the opened telepathic channel.
"Yes my lord, I found another source that I think identifies the primary world of the Forzare system."
In the unspeech of Telepathy, the Primarch asked, "Do you have a name for the world? I dislike waging war on a world once in human hands without knowing its name."
Now expecting the message Haemweset responded quickly: "I do actually, the records call it Prospero."
"Prospero" that name tugged at something at the back of Magnus's mind. A vague feeling of recognition and sadness that came uninvited. Quickly discarding the intrusive thought the Primarch readied himself for war. Such flickers were not uncommon for him, his status as the most psychically powerful Primarch came with some baggage. Ever since he and his legion left the Sol System, Magnus could feel the eyes of the so-called Dark Gods upon him. Away from the indomitable aegis of the Astronomicon and his father, Chaos leered at his soul with a disturbing obsession and thirst. Magnus knew why of course, he and his gift were key to the Primordial Annihilator's defeat. For now, he has other battles to fight and Chaos could wait. The mystery of Prospero would be added to the list of mysteries he might uncover, along with his earlier observer.
Departing the command deck the Primarch armed himself for war. The Lightning Bearer has beaten important lessons into Magnus, lessons against hubris and over-reliance on his psychic might. That was not to say Magnus fought with crude blade or bolt like his brothers. He simply acknowledged all forms of power and kept a dagger just in case. As such the arming chamber of the Primarch blurred the line of armory and ritual center. Plates of Ceramite, covered in occult symbols and inlaid with arcane trinkets enclosed the Primarch. A great helm crafted in the image of ancient Magi-King sealed over his head. Its myriad of psycho-reactive materials already glowing at his mere touch. The arming servants of the XV Legion combined the arts of ritualist and armorer, completing complicated pre-battle checks while inscribing symbols of power on polished metal. In his youth, Magnus would have dismissed the bulky power armor and the Plasma Pistol mag locked next to his dagger as unnecessary. Which in truth they would be, anything that could resist his psychic might would not be slowed by mere metal and plastic. Still, Magnus cloaked himself in traditional tools of war as a reminder and symbol. To never let himself fall prey to hubris or ignorance. This act of preparing for war had become a ritual of sorts, which only held power as long as you gave it power.
As the last rivet and neural cable found its place, Magnus reached out his left hand. Sinister, the hand of destruction and retribution. Into Magnus's palm, a blind Astropath placed his chief weapon. It was a Staff, a symbol long associated with power, mystery and the Magi. Yet it was a Staff in the same way the Blade of Psychic Fire the Emperor carries is a Sword. Magnus has "borrowed" extensively from the Sigillites collection and every other trove he could access to craft this tool of Psychic power. The Staff itself was carved from a truly ancient piece of wood that survived a thousand disasters through a mixture of luck, and the intense psychic energy its mother-tree had been saturated in. That near-mythical tree traced its lineage back to an unassuming Fig Tree that sheltered a Prince of a nation long forgotten. A tree that had watched this run-away Prince touch a part of the Warp yet unsullied by Chaos and become a great Teacher. This legend sourced the Staff's name, the Awakened Dream. Of course, Magnus had not stopped with a simple wooden haft, even one with such pedigree. A sphere of polished meteoric stone capped the staff. Its void-black material drinking in light and offering glimpses of the impossible to those who peered into it. Around this dark orb of ritual power floated a halo of fifteen sacred stones. Each cut to mathematical perfection and charged with sparks of psychic power. Ribbons of silk, papyrus, and precious metals coiled down from the orb and along the staff. Every centimeter of each ribbon is covered in esoteric script and occult imagery. The Awakened Dream formed a psychic focus and force weapon beyond compare. A tool of manipulating the tides of the Warp in ways not seen since the height of the Aeldari.
Gripping the familiar heft of his Staff, Magnus closed his eyes as his servants painted the last ritual symbols upon his armor and finished their final psionic-sutras. Leaving the arming chamber, Magnus was flanked by his twin equarries. They had also prepared for War, and would follow him across the battlefield as extensions of his will. A brief telepathic message from the Primarch alerted his Lord-Magi and Coven Chieftains to his intent and orders. He would join the initial assault on Prospero. A flurry of telepathic messages between Primarch and Genesons continued across the fleet as Magnus prepared himself for Teleportation. The XV legion honor guard, the Varaha Shields, clad in Terminator armor awaited the Primarch in the Flagships primary Teleportarium. The Shields membership numbered some of the Legion's best Telekinetics and Biomancy. Experts in turning their minds and bodies into exactly as their name implied, living shields for the Primarch. The Honor Guards Captain, Jedet Geb gave his Genefather a small salute and moved his warriors into position around the Primarch.
A flurry of Telepathic messages poured into Magnus as he prepared for Teleportation. He, alongside close to three thousand of his Legion elite, would arrive in the Amonite Capital of Tizca. They would rip through the enemies defense, push into the heart of whatever psychic threat wormed its way into this planet, and kill it. Under his orders, the Fleet would target the few cities outside of Tizca and blast them to ash. Then unload the full complement of Auxilia and Astartes to besiege Tizca. Where they could either help the Primarchs initial force mop up the enemy remnants or provide assistance if need be. Tizca itself was protected by a combination of mechanical and psychic shields and defenses. Enough to protect, or at least mitigate a true Imperial bombardment. Normally such barriers would stop unguided teleportation, turning it into a near-suicidal task likely to scatter its survivors across kilometers of unfamiliar terrain, if not simply shunting them into solid stone or other obstacles. But by very definition any battle in which a Primarch fought quickly left behind any concepts of normality.
Magnus took his place in the center of the Teleportarium, his most trusted Genesons forming a ring around him. With a deep shuddering breath, the Primarch started to gather up his power. Reaching into the Sea of Souls and making a path through eldritch currents. The esoteric machines of the Teleportarium started to crackle with energy, but not of its own creation. Magnus did not rely on petty mechanical substitutes. If he desired a path through the Warp and back into reality, then he would carve it himself. Magnus struck the center of the Teleportarium with his staff and then his company was gone. In speeds measured in transhuman thought, the Primarch carved a path through the Warp. Dancing between spiritual riptides, arcane break walls, and hungry nightmares with ease. Aside from the Primarch's guards, nearly three thousand other Astartes teleported down to the surface. They used traditional methods but found themselves under their Genefathers Aegis once in the Warp. Each teleporting Squad was guided by the Primarch, slipped through the defenses of Tizca with little effort from Magnus.
The storm stuck Tizca all at once, hundreds of lightning bolts detonating across the city. Punching right through its shields and dropping three thousand Angels of Death into Tizca. Magnus and his Honor Guard arrived at the base of the Great Pyramid. No fanfare, just a flash of light, and then a Demigod stood among broken men. Across Prospero. the Amonite defenders prepared for whatever invasion force the Imperium would throw at them. Their soothsayers and analysts predicted the pattern of bombardment and how the Auxilia would attack. The Astartes offensive had not entered any of their visions. Predicting the future is difficult, preventing others from doing it is by comparison easy. A fact the Seers of the XV Legion were acutely aware of. Gunfire and the telltale sparks of warp-craft soon erupted across Tizca. As three entire fellowships of the Arcanists marched on the Amonite capital. A devastating force capable of ruining entire worlds by strength of arms and psychic power. They were a mere distraction, to keep the brain-bound abhumans of Prospero from recognizing the Primarchs' threat.
Magnus gazed around the plaza at the Pyramids base. Taking in the sights of the expansive nexus of the Amoninte civilization. The roads and buildings of Tizca stood organized in an intricate pattern of mathematical and psionic resonance. Subtly focusing the mental energies of the mega-cities occupants towards the Great Pyramid that stood before Magnus. The shimmering city of Tizca bled latent psychic energy. Controlled and directed with an artisan's touch. It pained the Primarch he would need to destroy it. All of the Primarch's senses extended out to soak in a snapshot of the city around him before it burned with soulfire. The occupants of the plaza finally shook free from their surprise and noticed the Primarch and his guards. They responded quickly. The psychic network connecting them directing its puppets with methodical precision.
Hundreds of different Amonite abhumans pushed towards the Imperial trespassers. The Primarch recognized maybe a dozen distinct castes-races among the Heretics. It seemed whatever mind guided this world had taken advantage of the Warps mutagenic properties. Speeding up specification, birthing specialized abhumans castes. Some were little more than walls of muscle, larger than even Terminator clad Astartes. Kin to the Ogryns of former prison worlds. Bloated parodies of humanity bred for manual labor and unsophisticated violence. Others possessed mutations in reverse of these Prospero Ogryns. Swollen heads pulsing with psychic potential, carried along by spindly limbs. Each abhuman caste showed clear signs of selective breeding and mutation, born for a singular role the ruling intelligence desired. The Amonite Commune was still made up of individual mutants, but for how many more generations, Magnus could not say. It would not be long before any semblance of singular thought had been wiped from Prospero, leaving an Amonite Hive. A psycho-born eusocial organism, a serious threat to the future of mankind the Emperor envisioned. One that would never come to fruition, as Magnus prepared to deal with Tizca's defenders.
Time slowed, and the charging Amonites became frozen like insects in amber. Magnus Rubiracr, Lord of Mysteries adjusted the flow of space/time around him as he responded to the attack. In his little bubble of diluted time, he could spend comparative hours of transhuman brain activity in planning out the perfect economy of destruction. An amused smile crossed the Primarchs face as he looked out across Tizca. It has been a few years since he had needed to use any serious level of effort in battle. His duties across the growing Imperium had kept him from the truly brutal fighting some of his brothers were mired in. He could strike with precise, clean effort, but he was not going to. Magnus expected what he was about to do would provoke the master intelligence of Prospero. A fact he used to justify his desire to cut loose.
Striking the Awakened Dream upon the polished stone of the Plaza and reaching out with his free hand. Magnus reached into the meniscus between Material and Immaterial. Feeling the threads that connected his Abhuman enemies. He traced the strings of Will that bound the Amonites together, gathering up a great bundle of them into his psychic grip. Then he pulled. Raw psychic power latched onto the hundreds of threads and ripped them free of the Souls they connected to. Earlier the twins and Primarch had discussed freeing the Abhumans, using methods of delicate psychic surgery. Delicately cutting the connections, hoping to perverse the minds touched. This was not what Magnus did, his act was of pure and practiced Psychic violence. Instantly almost half of the defenders moving against the Primarchs honor guard fell. The lucky ones died instantly, the psychic shock interrupting the autonomic nervous system or triggering colossal strokes. Most did not get such a clean death. Magnus watched an Ogryn collapse to the ground and beat its head into the stone while screaming its throat raw. Only stopping when its blood and brain matter formed a great halo around his thrashing body. A dozen lithe abhumans with delicate but dexterous limbs turned on each other. Savaging anything they could with a mixture of bladed weapons and precision tools. Many were lobotomized, whatever crucial parts of their brain the Psychic tendril had wormed itself into, irreparably traumatized by the violent extraction.
Watching the scene of madness and carnage unfold, the Primarch reminded his sons with a gentle telepathic message. "This is why the Imperium fears psykers. Our power is great and in the wrong hands could unleash horrors that make this seem tame. Remember that fact and don't ever forget our abilities are as much a danger to us as our foes."
Magnus knew it was terribly hypocritical of him. To be acting the wise sage, counseling restraint while indulging his desire to unleash his power. He hoped his awareness of that fact earned him some leniency in that regard. Besides, showing the raw devastating force of his Psychic might served as a reminder to his sons. What they might aspire to and what they might fear. Turning his focus back to the surviving enemies, Magnus decided another demonstration would prove useful. When he had ripped open the minds of the nearby defenders he had traced the psychic connections back to a nexus of sorts. A more powerful psychic mind that itself was connected to the heart of the web below the Great Pyramid. This nexus had hidden itself, possibly unintentionally in one of the rising obelisk-habs that surrounded the Plaza. Peering down from the shining building, directing the small army that tried to attack the Primarchs honor guard. The Nexus had been also hurt by Magnus's first attack but was already recovering. Magnus could feel it gathering up its own psychic might. Paltry compared to him but surpassing many of his Legions officers.
The Primarch traced the enemy "commander" with his mind as his sons moved in to finish the beleaguered remains of its subordinates. Terminators glowed with psychic flames as they cut down Abhuman fighters with methodical practice. Ahriman and Ohrmuzd never leaving the Primarchs' side. Getting a sense of the creature, Magnus was disgusted. It was like the bulbous-headed mutants of before but taken to a foul conclusion. A warped cranium, rendered egg-shell thin by constant growth teetered on top of a vestigial sack of organs and limbs. Telekinetic effort kept it propped up and floating a few inches from the ground. What passed for a body had been stretched out by the constant pull of gravity, left dangling from the mutated skull. Yet this defilement of the human form was not raised bile in the Primarchs throat. He felt something writhing inside the swollen skull. Its brain grew at a rapid pace for a far more sinister purpose than powering Psychic disciplines. Shadows of writhing maggots fed on the Nexus-Creatures brain, growing fat on psychically active brain matter.
Reacting with the instinctual disgust any human feels when confronted with a Parasite. Magnus reached out with telekinesis to end the abomination. He would not be satisfied merely bursting the creature like an infected pustule, it needed to be wiped out with overwhelming force. The edges of the Obelisk-hab deformed as if gripped by the hand of an invisible giant. Which in a way it was. Magnus ripped the massive spire from the ground. Lifting the three hundred meter tall building into the air and bringing it crashing down. Aiming at one of the entrances of the Plaza like some god-thrown javelin. Even after it struck, Magnus kept up telekinetic pressure. Slamming down on the rubble and closest buildings with a psychic bombardment. Reducing nearly a square kilometer to perfectly flat stone.
The Primarch knew the source of this world's heresy. The nature of what turned Prospero into a planet beyond Imperial Compliance. He had read of many dark and terrible things in his father's library. Of the nightmares that stalked the Warp and fed on those touched by it. Of those Warp Predators, few roused the wrath of Magnus Rubricar like Psychneuein. Ancient hybrid organisms of both the Warp and Material. Taking the form of giant Parasitic Wasps. They laid eggs in the brains of Psykers. Overrunning entire planets in great feeding swarms that would descend on beings with even the slightest psychic talent. Magnus had never fought them before, and what he found on Prospero did not fully match the texts of the Imperial library. Yet the brain-eating parasites were instantly recognizable. Something horrible had happened on this World and Magnus would put an end to it.
The Primarch and his honor guard moved towards the Great Pyramid. The Terminators lagging behind the Archmagi and his twin Equarries. Forming a rearguard as Magnus ascended the Pyramid. It was a grand structure of polished metal and stone. Combining ritual elements and functional architecture. A staircase large enough for even a Primarch to walk cut into the Pyramid. Leading towards a cavity halfway up the structure. The psychic echoes of thousands of minds covered the steps in a spiritual miasma. Each a Psyker of some power bred for an abominable surface and taken to the Pyramids heart. Sparks of lightning rippled around Magnus as he ascended the stairs. He could feel the formidable psychic presence inside the Pyramid. A great tumor of raw power at the heart of an ever-growing Web that stretched across Prospero. To his surprise, the presence offered no resistance to his advance and he wondered if it had even noticed him. Something was wrong with this scenario. On many occasions Magnus had faced down powerful Psychic horrors, yet nothing quite like this. The thing in the pyramid felt… unfocused and unresponsive. A great mass of psychic power lacking a true ego. Power and control without a guiding mind. Prospero found itself shackled to a blind-idiot god, barely aware of its surroundings and content with a sated Id.
It did not make sense, such an entity required direction and intelligence to survive and thrive as it had. The answer soon entered the Primarchs awareness as he neared the Pyramids maw. Nestled within and behind the central psychic nexus was a second mind. A human Psyker, bound up in the Psychneuein infestation's heart. The mind was old and powerful by baseline human standards. Connected to the greater power but not shackled to it like the rest of the population. This was the true mind behind the heresy of Prospero. It would die and its leviathan instrument of psychic dominance with it.
Reaching the top of the stairs, Magnus Rubricar entered the belly of the beast. Beautiful mosaics and carvings lined the passage into the Pyramid. Generations of artistic talent trying to make a Monsters lair beautiful. It did nothing to hide the all prevailing stink of mind-death. The slow and deliberate consumption of psychic minds by parasitic warp predators left a distinct imprint on the environment. Different from the taint of Chaos, festering contamination instead of the lunatic contagion of the Dark Gods. Magnus pushed past it, letting the flames of his soul burn away at the miasma. A brief telepathic message ordered his honor guard to defend the Pyramids entrance. They would be little help against what he was about to face.
The Primarch, flanked by the twin Magi, entered into the abomination's nest. A huge hollow space within the Pyramid stretched out before them. Magnus could only guess at the true size of the chamber as the majority of it was filled. A massive insectoid horror adhered to the roof and walls of the chamber. The form of a Wasp distorted into a twitching mass of warp-soaked tissue. Here at the heart of the psychic web the strings of influence were so concentrated they became visible to the naked eye. Bundles of fiber similar to Arachnid silk and Neuron dendrites covered the monster. Streaming across the chamber and into the Immaterium, then across Prospero. Magnus felt the panicked thoughts and base desires of the entire Amonite commune radiate off the threads. Concentrated psychic filaments leaking a steady stream of primitive spirit discharge into the chamber. The murk of a people dying at his Legions hands only added to the horror as Magnus traced the distended body of the creature.
Long reproductive organs that mingled common biology and warp-born nightmares dangled down to the chamber floor. A dozen of the lesser-nexus Abhumans, of the type Magnus had killed with its own Obelisk, was connected to the stringy ropes of flesh. These abhumans were younger, barely on the cusp of adulthood with bodies not yet fully atrophied. Each had one of the monster's organs inserted into a facial orifice. Magnus did not need to focus with his transhuman senses to know what flowed through the invasive tubes. Psychneuein eggs pumped into a perfect nest. This made little sense. Psychneuein grubs devoured their host in days. How were these Abhumans living, and even functioning with this infestation? The skies of Prospero should be black with Psychneuein wings and its population devoured years ago. Was this some part of the Warp-Parasites life cycle unrecorded by Imperial records? No, this was an unnatural perversion of an already unnatural process. The creature dangling from the ceiling was the infestation's Queen. There was no doubt of that, but it had been altered in some fashion.
A twitch of movement from the horror before him pulled the Primarch back to present. With a mental command, his Staff's meteorite head glowed with crimson light. Illuminating the source of the movement. A human male, withered by time and pain, disentangled himself from the Psychneuein Queens tendrils. He lacked the mutations ubiquitous to Propero, and he reminded Magnus of some of the scholars in his father's employ. With unsteady feet, the man approached Magnus and tried to speak. He doubted the man had used his vocal cords in years. After a few tries, the man spoke in heavily accented Gothic. "I am Amon of Tizca. Who are you Giant? Why have you come to burn my world?"
Magnus looked down on the relic of a man. The guiding intelligence of the Commune that bore his name. A momentary flicker of pity and empathy crossed the Primarch's mind. He did not know the source of the intrusive feelings and quickly locked them away. Peering down at the mortal man who had somehow broken a Psychneuein Queen, Magnus spoke. "I am the Primarch Magnus, fifteenth son of the Emperor of Mankind. I bring destruction not out of malice or hate. I do it because it must be done."
Gesturing up to the Queen, Magnus continued: "This world and its people are an abomination. Heresy in the highest order and not something that can exist in Mankind's galaxy"
Amon let out a breathy wheeze that might have been a scoff. "Heresy? You cannot be serious? You tear down all I have created and slaughter my people because of Dogma"
Magnus looked down at the warped little human, he was surprised this Amon had not reacted to his presence. Perhaps years in the company of the Psychneuein Queen had inured him to the influence a being such as a Primarch could have. In any other case, Magnus would have blasted the Heretic leader from the universe and be done with it. Yet a nagging feeling in his soul sought to justify himself to Amon. "Heresy is a very old and loaded word. At its core, it means something that deviates from the chosen creed. Something that threatens the legitimacy and purpose of a broader idea. My father favors such archaic terms, believing them to hold a certain power later more nuanced words lack. I can understand his reasoning and judge you by his truth as a Heretic. A heretic towards the only creed that truly matters and why the Imperium exists. The survival of mankind is paramount and your actions are a heresy against our cause of survival."
Magnus did not expect the reaction he got. Amon focused on him with a vicious intensity and snarled at the Primarch through age-worn teeth. "Survival? You judge me and exterminate my people in the name of survival? You are an utter fool. Why do you think I took such drastic actions to protect Prospero? Do you think I wanted this? The Psychneuein grew more numerous with each passing year and the Aether grows ever more turbulent. We would have been wiped out, either by the Psychneuein or another Spiritual Predator. I did what needed to be done for us to Survive!"
Amon gestured to the chamber around him and up towards the warp-xeno nightmare. "I saw an opportunity, the Queen was weak just after molting. Nearly two dozen of our greatest mind-walkers died but we broke the Queen. Crippling her mind and finding ways to placate her instincts while also surviving. Prospero's children host her children. Her influence keeps them from fully developing and protects those implanted from the Sea of Souls. We turned a Parasite into a symbiote, yes sometimes the process fails, but we survive at any cost. Surely you can recognize that?"
The shriveled Psykers anger echoed throughout the room and his captive Queen twitched, feedback from whatever telepathic shackles wormed into its mind. Amon continued his rant: "Look at you Magnus, a product of flesh-crafting and soul-stitching. Forged to fight wars you claim are for mankind's survival. You are living proof that in times of darkness we must take extraordinary measures to live another day. You judge me with the certainty of a hypocrite."
With an apologetic flick of his fingers, Magnus gripped Amon with a telekinetic vice and lifted him into the air. The Primarch easily punched through the Heretics defenses and dominated him utterly. Magnus moved the struggling psyker so he could look the man directly in the eye. With a deep breath, Magnus Rubicar opened up his third eye. An occult sigil in the form of a glowing eye ignited on the Primarchs forehead. A manifestation of the Primarch's power and connection to the Warp. Product of years of intense focus and training. The Eye of Magnus acted like a Navigator's own third eye, except crafted entirely from Psychic energy, and far far more capable.
Amon ceased his struggle as he peered into the Eye. In those few terrible moments, he saw the cosmos as the Primarch did. He saw the Warp, the Materium, and everything in between through the eyes of a Demigod tutored by Psychic Sages and the Anathema. Tears of blood and other fluids with coloration that defied reason poured from Amon's own eyes. Amon glimpsed the threads of fate and how perilously close humanity stood on the edge of Damnation or Extinction. He saw a trillion possible futures and how the Emperor and his sons fought to guide the human species on a singular impossible vision. Amon saw what terrors hid deep in the darkness and how his actions aided them. How the survival of Prospero was nothing of the sort. It was exchanging the dangers of being hunted in the wilds for the certain death of livestock. The visions poured into Amon's mind and filled it to bursting. Blood vessels broke in staccato and it only took Amon fifteen seconds to die.
Only two beings aside from Magnus's own family had survived looking into his third eye, and they both served as his Equaries. It was not a painless way to die but was illuminating. Magnus found it poetic in a grim sense. Even on the fields of war, he tried to teach. Granting foes whose mind he had already ripped open a flicker of enlightenment. Usually, he unleashed his Eye as a tool of death as an act of harsh judgment. Laying bare his enemies foolishness. While this use had been touched by that desire, it was also an act of discordant compassion. An attempt to show Amon the different paths and why his death was needed. Magnus knew mentally that Amon had committed terrible crimes, collaborating with Warp-Xenos and mutating humans into a degenerate hive. Yet he could understand the man's desperate actions. Being able to show Amon the truth before he died made what Magnus endured to open his Third Eye worth it. Sometimes he could still feel the cold metal of Gungir, his brother's spear in his chest.
With surprising gentleness, Magnus rested the fallen Psykers body on the group before him and turned up to face the Psychneuein Queen. The psychic chains Amon had created already started to buckle and he watched the monstrous thing start to awaken. It would be mad, driven utterly insane, even by its species standards by its binding. Magnus would kill it before it had time to fully awaken. The twin Equaries took their places. Ahriman summoning up Warpfyre and sifting through a dozen futures. Ohrmuzd readied powerful kineshields and sped up his nervous system. The sword and shield of the Primarch. Magnus readied his staff and started to chant. To an unaugmented mortal, it might sound like a single pure note. Those gifted with enhanced senses might be able to sense the truth of it. Magnus spoke a Psi-Sutra of fire and wrath with incredible speeds. Using the focusing aid of the chant and its words of power to focus and direct his power.
Weaving Psychic Magik with precision entire Covens might be pressed to match, at speeds faster than unaugmented thought. Magnus lifted his staff and unleashed death. A wave of white-hot fire erupted towards the Queen. Burning its bloated flesh and severing its threads of power. He had killed the puppetmaster now he would kill the webspinner. The Queen twitched and thrashed with all the grace of a dying arachnid as flames licked at its flesh. With a great sizzling pop, the Knight-Walker-sized horror fell from the ceiling as fire consumed it. Even mutilated and malformed, a Psychneuein Queen was mighty and tried to push through the flames. It was pointless, Magnus was no simple fire-caller. When he engaged in the brute force of Pyromancy he did it with the majesty and fury expected of a Primarch. The XV Primarch had conjured up heat commonly found in the heart of Stars or in the engines of Voidships. Fire hot enough to push stone instantly to Plasma erupted from Magnus's mind and at the Queen. Normally such raw power would turn the Pyramids innards into molten slag. Magnus focused the heat with molecular precision. Controlling the movement of individual atoms and dispersing heat with the natural cryonic feedback of Warpcraft. It took only seconds but the wretched bulk of the Queen had been reduced to a mound of ash that covered the chamber floor.
Pulling back his flames, forming a ball of radiant energy atop his staff the Primarch waited. Soon movement started in the ash pile. A sickening wrenching pop as bone and skin was ripped open by explosive growth. Psychneuein Drones, no longer constrained by a shackled Queen burst from their hosts. Swarms of the festering grubs devouring their host body and siblings. Then growing into adulthood with such speed it exposed their warp-touched nature. Soon nearly three dozen of the Wasp-Fiends pulled themselves from their mother's ashes. Guided only by instinct, they swarmed the Primarch and his equerries. Ahriman leaped into action. Conjuring bolts of psychic energy that speared the Psychneuein, leaving disintegrating husks in their wake. Ohrmuzd stood between the monsters and his brother and father. Pushing the Psychneuein back with walls of mental force. All while the Primarch struck with a whip of fire. The ball of flame perched on his Staff's head lashed out like some multi-headed serpent of Old-Terran myth. Each coil of plasma striking like red lightning and atomizing a Parasite.
It took them only a few moments to cut through the small swarm, and soon the trio was leaving the Pyramids innards. Knowing what awaited them outside and across Prospero. Even when cloaked in tons of polished stone, a deafening buzz of insectoid wings could be heard. Magnus exited the Pyramid and for a moment thought the sun of Prospero had set. That was not the case. The sky was black with Psychneuein. As every single infected citizen of Tizca and its few outlying communities was consumed. The swarm was unimaginably large. Amon in his attempt to stave off the Parasites had given them a breeding ground like never before. All fifty million citizens of Prospero had some level of psychic talent and were implanted with Psychneuein eggs or grubs. Now the fruits of the Amonite Commune's labor blanketed the world.
The shields of Tizca had fallen and orbital lance strikes started to pour from the sky. Burning away chunks of the swarm and giving Magnus glimpses as his sons across the mega-city. They fared far better than he had feared. Each mixed Coven of Battle-Brothers mixing their talents to defend against the swarm and tear into it. The Primarchs' own honor guard still held the Pyramids stairs. Pouring storm bolter fire and gouts of flame into the sky. Gritting his teeth, Magnus reached into his well of power. He started to grab the warp with his will. Dominating it and using the raw stuff of creatia as his. Following the teachings of his father, preparing to unleash a display of psychic power capable of rending Battleships from the sky. Then before Magnus could unleash his wrath the frightful buzzing of wings stopped. All at once, the world of Prospero seemed to go silent. Then it started to rain Psychneuein, millions of insectoid corpses fell from the heavens. Their warp-soaked bodies already starting to deteriorate after death. As quickly as the swarm had taken flight, it fell down dead.
Magnus held his power ready and watched the surreal sight, wondering if the Queen's mutilation had somehow birthed defective Psychneuein, or was the rapid growth too much even for Warp Predators. The answer to the question soon became clear as Magnus glanced down at the foot of the Pyramid. Where a circle of stone lay untouched by the Psychneuein corpses. In that circle, a number of shapes shimmered into being. He did not know if they teleported or used cloaks even his senses could not detect. Either possibility worried the Primarch.
Fifteen humanoid shapes became clear. Five of them moving statues of carved bone, similar in size to Terminator Clad Astartes. Nine dressed in iridescent robes bedecked with flowing runes and polished jewelry. And in the center a single black-clad figure holding a staff in one hand and a shining cube of geometric golden shapes in the other. Any questions about the newcomer's identity ended when the circle parted, letting the black-robed leader approach the Pyramid. Flowing movement, that confused the eye and seemed far too liquid and graceful for any living being to make. Great helms with ornate plums and decorations. A faint but pervasive aura of otherness and ancient power. The Eldar had come calling.
Location: Prospero, at the foot of the Great Pyramid.
Date: 895.M30 (Imperial Standard Time)
Eldrad Ulthran and his entourage stepped from the temporary webway portal and onto Prospero. Arriving just as the Mind-Locust swarm took flight. The eldest Farseer smiled as he watched the Parasites take flight. Things were unfolding exactly as he predicted. The Godling had unleashed the Mind-Locusts and would be forced to expend himself destroying the swarm. Leaving him open to a hidden blade. But that method had been tried already. Eldrad had learned of the Laughing Gods attempt and would try something else. The Farseer slipped a simple palm sized box from his robes and held it out before him. He focused his psychic power into the box and into the runes that covered it.
Slowly but surely the box unfolded. Spinning discuses of gold and perfectly polished gems floated up and started to vibrate with unseen force. Soon The box formed a head-sized cube of shifting components. Moving in mathematically perfect order with increasing intensity. Then with a surprisingly subtle click the cubes member shapes stopped mid-air. A pulse of energy, undetectable except to those looking for it, flowed out across the planet, instantly shutting off the nervous systems of the Mind Locusts. Eldrad watched the vermin rain down as the box started to wind down back into its original shape. It had taken him some time to track down this curious trinket but it had been worth it. For all their sins, the Old Ones knew how to create things of incredible power.
Ending the Locust threat would hopefully buy Eldrad some good will with the Godling. Looking down at the shining box in his hand, Eldrad mused to himself how wonderful it would be if only all of the Old One's mistakes came with such an easy solution. Looking up at the Pyramid, he watched the heavily armored human warriors surrounding the Godling descend from its heights. Eldrad had observed some of the battle and found the Arcane Brotherhood slightly more palatable compared to the other human armies he had witnessed. While crude and unfocused, their psychic potential was present. Maybe if this went well he could barter a few basic warpcraft tricks for aid in other endeavours. A telepathic nudge stole Eldrad's attention as one of the Wraithlords accompanying him spoke. "I again question the wisdom of meeting with these Mon-keigh young Eldrad"
Khiraen Goldhelm was ancient, having served as champion of Craftworld Ulthwe for centuries before the Fall. While still clothed in flesh, Khiraen had been one of the finest warriors the Aeldari Empire had created. His soul had completed the circuit of rebirth close to a hundred times, serving as an exemplary soldier and commander in each of those lifetimes, only for his last life to be cut short by barbaric humans centuries after the Fall. The sins of the Croneworlders denied him his right to attempt another reincarnation and he found himself sealed in a weaponized tomb of Wraithbone.
Smiling at his friend and counselor Eldrad responded "We have to try, this galaxy is filled with things far worse than humans. I understand your distaste for them, and I thank you for accompanying me"
The Wraithlord twitched in a gesture a human might interpret as a shrug, and that an Aeldari would see as a sign of tentative and worried acceptance. Eldrad stepped forward, between the ranks of Seers and Wraithbone warriors to greet the Godling. Speaking in perfect Terran Gothic, the first Farseer addressed the Imperial force nearing the pyramid's bottom.
"Lord Primarch Magnus Rubricar, scion of the Anathema and Learned One amongst Men. I come in peace with hopes of cooperation and mutual understanding."
The Godling paused mid stride, as did his entourage, momentarily put off by the xenos' use of Gothic and formal address. Weapons were readied and tension filled the air, accompanying the stink of rotting Mind-Locusts. The brutish guards clad in metal slabs seemed ready to open fire on the Aeldari delegation, and for a few painful moments Eldrad feared the Primarch would give the order. Then a slight gesture from Magnus had the guards relax and step aside, allowing their genetic source to reach the bottom of the pyramid. The Primarch reached the plaza and stepped on a Psychneuein. Its body crunched under the Godlings heavy boot and he stopped his advance. Casually, Magnus swung his hand before him, like he was wafting away a foul smell, and flames erupted from his feet.
A psychic brushfire shot out from the Primarch and lept between Psychneuein corpses. Tongues of flame gobbled up millions of Xeno corpses and spread across Tizca. Eldrad gripped his staff hard as fire danced around his entourage. Never coming close enough to hurt, but pushing a wave of heat across the Aeldari. It took only moments but the meter deep tide of Psychneuein disappeared from the grand plaza. Leaving a sea of ash and flickering sparks. The fire continued outwards and Eldrad expected it would continue for hundreds of miles, until it reached the very edge of Tizca.
The message was clear, theAeldari were not the only ones capable of psychic miracles. It had not been exactly what Eldrad had hoped for but considering the violent and direct nature of Humans it was to be expected. Stepping through the piles of ash, Magnus approached Eldrad and looked down at the Farseer. At this distance it was impossible for Eldrad to ignore the psychic power radiating off of the Godling in waves. He looked at the Primarch and found himself feeling momentarily dizzy, an alien sensation for an Aeldari. Eldrads senses, both natural and psychic, tried to make sense of the giant figure before him. The Farseer had stood before an Avatar of Khaine once, experienced the overwhelming bloodlust that dripped from it. The Avatar was a piece of a sapient Idea inhabiting a hunk of alien metal. He had expected the Anathema's godling to feel similar. Both being products of the same process. In some ways Magnus did feel similar, the sensation of drowning in psychic pressure. Yet there were fundamental disturbing differences.
Eldrad thought back to Ulthwe, and the Eye of Terror slowly shrinking away in the distance. The flickers of monstrous, incomprehensible presences that peered through the rupture in realspace. Magnus felt like one of those primordial horrors from the Warp had been cut into the shape of a human. Something powerful and otherworldly forced into a mind and body similar to the naked apes of Terra. The Anathema had done something incredible and terrible. Giving spiritual beings flesh and convincing them it was their native existence. Trying to compose himself, Eldrad returned the Godling's gaze and started to speak. Fearing on some level that the Demigod inside that suit of metal and flesh would break free and unleash unimaginable destruction. Before his lips could fully open the Primarch interrupted him.
"Why have you come here, Aeldari? Your kind nearly cost me a brother. Tell me why I should not destroy you?"
The message itself was what Eldrad expected, he did not expect it to be delivered in Tar-Eltharin, the language of the Aeldari. While slightly antiquated in style, Magnus spoke with fluidity a human mouth would find impossible. Eldrad guessed the Primarch had learned it from ancient Aeldari texts, hence the archaic style. Breaking free from his momentary shock Eldrad responded in Gothic. "Please Lord Primarch, I come before you and speak your tongue as a token. Let us speak in Gothic and discuss matters simply."
Magnus glared at the Eldar and repeated his earlier question in Gothic. Magnus did not know if the Alien was attempting to be obtuse and rude intentionally. He suspected this was as close to polite an Eldar could be with humans. Nodding, Eldrad responded to the Primarch in a heavily accented perversion of gothic. "I come here Lord Primarch to start communications between our peoples anew. The actions of the Laughing God and his followers were…. Extreme. Humanity is one of the few races with any potential to resist the Dark Gods, and we Aeldari have millions of your years of wisdom to draw upon. Why must we fight each other when the looming danger of Chaos holds a blade to our necks."
"You speak of diplomacy and alliance Xeno. Why have you brought this before me and not my Father?" spoke Magnus,
Beneath the onyx helm he wore Eldrad tightened his face in something close to an uncomfortable smile. "We both know that answer Lord Primarch. The Harlequins actions have, as your people say, 'burned bridges'. I fear approaching the Anathema directly would not be constructive. Instead I hoped to speak to one of his creations, one well vested in Warpcraft and renowned for their wisdom."
"His sons, we are his sons, not his creations." growled Magnus in a resonating baritone which Eldrad felt in his bones.
The Farseer did not respond to the Demigod's correction. It seems this Godling would need to come to that conclusion by himself. Maybe he could supply a few pieces of the puzzle. This was playing with fire, but he had not explored the Black Libraries depths out of mere curiosity. Eldrad had learned many dark and terrible things about the being humanity called the Emperor. He would have to be careful, but perhaps a seed of doubt might open Magnus up to more fruitful discussions.
"I understand this new Human Empire you represent has no love for the other peoples of the galaxy? Even those untouched by Chaos or similar corruption. A pragmatic if grim approach to the state of these stars. I hope to prove that reaction is not always warranted. I understand mankind once worked alongside other species for mutual betterment. How might my Craftworld attempt to foster such a relationship with your kind?"
By the standards of Eldar and especially Farseers, Eldrad was being incredibly direct. He could not allow any misunderstanding or assumptions when dealing with the Primarch. No matter how exceptional the Godling seemed, he was the primitive product of a barbarian species. Being painfully blunt would hopefully hammer home his point to the Mon-Keigh prince.
Slowly Magnus leaned down so that his massive face was perhaps a foot away from Eldrad's helm. "Mankind once sought such coexistence and understanding. We are much wiser now. Xenos have proven themselves far too dangerous to trust in any regard. I will offer you a simple mercy. You and your kind stay away from humanity and I will ask my father to refrain from exterminating you."
The Primarchs eye flicked down to the Farseers chest, towards the swirling jewel fixed there. "Of all the species in this galaxy, I cannot think of one I would trust less than the Eldar. The actions of your people's civilization are not unknown to me, Eldrad. You claim you wish to stand with humanity against Chaos, when you and your ilk are already damned. I do not see fellow strugglers against the Primordial Annihilator when you stand before me. I see vermin that drowned the galaxy in death by gnawing through a dyke. Vermin that have the gall to approach those rebuilding and asking for a place in our world."
Fighting back the urge to step back or summon up psychic defenses the Farseer started to respond. The Primarch had used his name, that was progress? Even these vague threats were better than actual violence. When dealing with Mon-Keigh any success in diplomacy could not be taken for granted.
"You judge me for an act we were not responsible for. My Craftworld saw the corruption of the Old Empire and fled with as many refugees as it could. Many of us, including myself, were born after the Fall. My ancestors' crimes are not mine, but I still work to rectify those mistakes. You and your "father" pass judgment when ignoring humanity's own crimes and hypocrisy. But I did not come here to argue over the past, but to try and chart the future."
Pulling back slightly Magnus asked: "And what crimes and hypocrisy do you speak of Xeno? Nothing could match the creation of a Chaos God. The mistakes of a young species forced to survive in this ugly galaxy do not compare to the Aeldari Empire's crimes. It is not mankind that ruled uncontested for millions of years. With access to near immortality, unimaginable technology and the inheritance of the Old Ones. And yet became reduced to depraved addicts who turned their homeworlds into a mouth into hell."
Eldrad ignored the Primarchs grossly over-simplified account of the Empire of a Million Suns. Magnus had taken the bait, he would gladly inform the Godling of its creators hypocrisy and madness.
"You and your Empire speak with such loathing of those you call Alien, hating and fearing those not of your species. Yet you serve and worship such a being. This Imperium of Man is founded on a million lies, but I know the worst of them all. You think it's a coincidence a Psychic being strong enough to battle the Dark Gods just happened to be born on your homeworld? A coincidence you and your siblings were created using a technique of the Old Ones? Have you never wondered why your so-called Father clads himself in every single trope of regal and divine power? Magnus have you ever wondered who- no, what your creator is?"
It took Eldrad a moment to understand what he was seeing. He went from staring into the eyes of a godling, to peering up at the ashen skies of Prospero. An ugly crack forced him to focus, at least one of his ribs had broken. Telekinetic pressure had flattened him to the Plaza's square, and threatened to burst him like an insect. With momentous effort he looked around and saw his entourage and the Primarchs honor guard aiming weapons at each other. Both sides ready to start yet another pointless war. With a gasp Eldard turned one of his compressed breaths into a cry: "No! Stand down!"
Neither side reacted but the psychic pressure started to fade. With much less grace than normal, the Farseer rose to his feet, wincing as his bones started the slow process of knitting together. "I did not mean to offend you, Primarch Magnus. I had heard you were a seeker of truth and knowledge. My hope was to share some of my understanding with you. I wish to work towards a better fate for both of our species."
Slowly both Aeldari and Astartes lowered their weapons. Magnus cut through the settling tension, his normally cultured speech clipped by rage. "Explain yourself Xeno. I may be willing to excuse your insanity as the result of an Alien mind."
"I am not mad and I speak only what I know to be true. I do not know the reason why but your Emperor has deceived you. He is only marginally more human than I am."
Eldrad expected another psychic blow, his own defenses readied, it never came. He took that as a sign to continue. "You spoke of the Old Ones, I assume one, as learned as yourself, knows their tale? Of how they fought the Yngir and were destroyed in the War in Heaven?"
Magnus responded with a curt nod and Eldrad spoke more: "Not all of them died fighting the Star Gods and the Silver Legions. Some lived to watch their mistakes gestate in the Warp. One in particular is mentioned in our Sagas as recently as 50,000 years ago. A powerful but damaged Old One that called itself the Craftsmen. His song is one Cegorach rarely lets his followers sing. It has no dance to accompany it, only the rhythmic dirge of striking metal. It took great effort to piece together bits of his history from that song and other sources. Stories telling how he created the greatest wonders of the Old One's civilization, and helped unleash the monsters that threaten to destroy us. The song ends with an exhausted and broken primordial leaving his forge to die. Furious with his failed creations, and racked by guilt. Proclaiming to his scion Vaul that he would embrace death in sight of his greatest triumph."
Finally the Primarch spoke: "What does this Xeno myth have to do with your claims? Do you think my father is an ancient Xeno god-thing in disguise?"
Eldrad paused and said softly: "Yes, I do. The stories of the Craftsmen say the only thing greater than his skill was his fortitude. He is the type of being that would rather suffer a hundred million years of torment than give in. It seems laughable such an ancient struggler would accept death so easily. Like many of my peoples myths, the truth is there, just hidden behind poetry. The Craftsmen did not die, he transformed. So let me ask you again Primarch Magnus, do you know what your father is?"
The Farseer braced, expecting the Godling in front of him to strike with overwhelming power. Eldrad's visions had prepared him for this moment, if he could survive the blow then he could push Magnus in the direction he needed to go. A feat easier said than done, even for a powerful psyker like him. Then time seemed to twist, as the dreadful silence of the Square was broken by a rumbling noise. Laughter, the Primarch was laughing at him.
A gauntlet the size of Eldrads torso gripped him suddenly. Not hard enough to be painful but ensuring he did not move. "Yes Farseer Eldrad, I know what my Father is. More than you could possibly know. You come here trying to play games. Sowing doubt and confusion. Hoping to gain a pawn in your war against Chaos. Seeing some future where my Legion fights your battles and helps preserve the salvageable scraps of Aeldari civilization. You are a master in reading the future and plotting a course, I will give you that. But I had a better teacher than you could ever hope."
Fear filled Eldrad's innards as he felt something push against his desired future. Another being had interfered, observed his planned timeline and reacted accordingly. An impossibility, all Seers and Soothsayers learned to detect others' interference. Especially that of a being like a Primarch. He had chosen Magnus to be his key into the future because of this. A nexus of destiny that warped the future around him is not the sort of being that can easily change the course of history without being noticed. He would know if the Primarch had interfered with the strands of fate. Then the pieces fell into place. Eldrad glanced over at one of the two Astartes flanking Magnus. Something was wrong about the warrior. Fate seemed to shy away from him. Strands of destiny became unwoven by his presence. This human was hated by destiny and hated it in turn.
The Primarch noticed his focus and said "How do you hide something in plain sight Xeno? You make sure focus is drawn elsewhere. My son Ahriman has a talent for finding the holes in fate. The future you seek is now beyond your grasp, but not mine. Eldrad of Craftworld Ulthwe, you offer manipulation disguised as diplomacy. Many of my brothers would kill you for this, and for a myriad other reasons including your mere existence. However I am not them and my eyes are clear. I have been chosen to ensure humanity's ascension. I see a place for you on that path, one my father does not. It is not my place to question his wisdom, but it is mine to help him. There is a path where the repentant children of Eldanesh might walk beside the children of Terra."
"You know my intent and my goal, and yet you agree to work with me." Eldrad said, sucking in a breath. "Mere moments ago you attacked me and my species. Why make this choice?"
Magnus pondered for a moment "The choice is not yet made. I consider it because to do so is my nature. To answer your question Eldrad, I entertain your request out of curiosity."
Being in this being's presence was maddening. Eldrad felt like he spoke to both a Barbarian Warlord and a Warp Spirit of unimaginable power, which in truth was exactly what Magnus was. Eldrad then spoke to the enigmatic godling. "What must I do to ensure you accept my offer of alliance?"
"Simple," responded the Primarch "Look into my Eye and survive."
Before Eldrad could ask what the Primarch meant, existence started to strain. As Magnus Rubricar opened his third eye and let the Farseer gaze into his very being. Eldrad had looked into the Warp, he had even swum its mad depths, skirting the attention of unfathomable beings. Now he started into such a being's soul. Magnus Rubricar was a newborn god, but a god nonetheless. Looking into the Eye of Magnus, Eldrad saw the future fractal out before him in an infinite recursion of choice and possibility. A mandala of futures, each a self contained possibility in the Warp. Rising up from the depths of possibility, each awaiting the events that would bring it to the surface and make it real. In the center of this orrery of futures sat a Scarlet King upon a Golden Throne. Weaving space/time and fate into a tapestry beyond comprehension. An engine of destiny atop an engine of souls. This Scarlet King was key not only to Eldrad's farsight, but the fate of the galaxy. This was the truth of Magnus, as he was now, as he would be, and as he could be.
The soul of the Primarch turned its behemoth focus to Eldrad and the Farseer felt the crushing presence bear down on him. Looking into the metaphorical face of an infant god, he experienced a revelation. No, he had a revelation thrust into his mind by Magnus. He saw how the universe dies, every way it ended and what nightmares awaited. A trillion trillion futures that all led to the same handful of endings. Chaos devouring everything and itself. The Star Gods snuffing out all life and awaiting heat-death. Nameless hungry things consuming everything only to starve in the depleted void. And…. another path. One paved with suffering and blood, but ended somewhere beautiful. A shining path that humanity had been groomed to walk alone, creating a future where at least the human species might survive and become something greater. Yet even while walking this path, pushing against the tides of destiny, towards a singular island of safety and sanity. Others might follow in humanity's wake, hiding in the shadow of giants and achieving salvation with them. But these followers could easily lead humanity astray or slow them down. It was easier and safer for humanity to alone take the Shining Path.
Eldrad was reminded of a universal parable. A story virtually every civilization develops, of the scorpion and the frog. He could then understand, the Emperor saw everything not human as a potential scorpion. The Old One, if he truly was the Craftsman, would not risk his chosen species on that possibility. The Aeldari could not walk the path set forth, they had tried and failed. No other species was as close to success as humanity. Eldrad felt that fact said more about the state of the galaxy than the human species. So if the Aeldari people were to survive, they would need to join the Craftsmen's Ark and convince him they were not a scorpion. Something far easier said than done.
Pulling himself from the visions Eldrad found his way back to reality. Finding himself on his knees, staring up at the Primarch, whose third eye was starting to close. Vibrant crimson blood dripped from the Farseers eyes, nose and ears. Gasping in a deep bloody breath Eldrad pulled his helmet off and looked around with his own eyes, blinking away red shadows dancing at the edges of his vision. Khiraen Goldhelm lay splintered, his wraithbone body torn in half and a dead XV Legion Terminator slumped over him. The Astartes Magnus called Ahriman held Khiraen's soul stone in hand, flicking the iridescent gem between armored fingers. Imperial warriors and Eldrad's entourage stood in various states of struggle. A brief skirmish had erupted in the few seconds Eldrad had been distracted. Khiraen had probably reacted badly to the perceived attack and struck first. On seeing his recovery thankfully both sides halted combat and looked to him or Magnus for orders.
The Primarch nodded at his sons and they stepped back. Ahriman with disdainful ease tossed the Soul Stone to Eldrad. The Farseer caught his friends afterlife and looked to Magnus. Both Demigod and Farseer had gotten a sense for each other, far more than either bargained for. With dreadful certainty Eldrad knew the fate of his people was interwoven with humanity. And if the look Magnus held was any indication the Primarch found the Farseer acceptable. Pulling himself to his feet again. Eldrad winced, he had been jostled about much in this excursion but hopefully, it would be worth it.
Magnus reached forward to help Eldrad to his feet, a crude but effective sign. The Primarch spoke and did what his kind is meant to do, he changed history: "Come now, Farseer Eldrad Ulthran. We have an alliance to discuss and wars to wage."
Gritting himself to not let anything show, Eldrad privately prayed, though he did not know to whom. No gods worth his pleas were listening, but he did so anyway. Pleading with the universe that what he was about to do would be worth it.
Location: The Xho-Vi Nebula, aboard the Seer's Tears, Personal Cruiser of Farseer Eldrad.
Date: 912.M30 (Imperial Standard Time)
Was it worth it? That question had haunted Eldrad for the last few decades. Many would consider what he did as betraying his species to the Mon-Keigh vermin. There was some truth to that. The Khaine-touched children of Biel-tan would have his head, furious in helping another species claim a galaxy they thought was theirs. The Dark Kin, in their twin cities of sin, would feed him to Daemons or worse for daring to negotiate with lesser species. Ironically, the Harlequin and their god had been most receptive to his actions, more so than even the Council of Seers. It seemed the Clown God was preparing another trick, or at least watching the show his erstwhile sibling put on. So the question remained, was it worth it?
It was when he brought the Spirit Stones of 2,491 Eldar home from Imperial custody. Entire families thought lost could now sleep safely in the Infinity Circuit. It was worth it when the XI Legion helped repulse an attack on Craftworld Kher-Ys. Arriving on the trail of the Keeper of Secrets Heartslayer and banishing the horror before it could do untold damage. He remembered how Aeldari warriors and Mon-Keigh supersoldiers had coordinated to take down a threat deemed unspeakable since the earliest days of the Fall. Horrors of the Warp born of the old empire's debauchery and cruelty were excised from reality by trained Imperial forces acting upon information the Eldar gave them. Eldrad remembered the dozens of Maiden Worlds spared Imperial wrath by his words and warning. Of the horrors kept locked away by his actions and the lives saved. Those things made it worth it, almost.
Eldrad looked out across the Xho-Vi Nebula and watched it burn. A great leviathan of wraithbone had tried to hide in its clouds. It had been pointless, the fleets that now blasted away at the crippeled ship had been guided to their prey. Guided by him, in hopes of sparing others this fate. He did not need to be here, Eldrad could have sent another in his place or simply provided the information his allies requested. But he would not give himself such a luxury. By his actions did Craftworld Zandros burn. Their betrayal of the abhuman core-dwellers was repaid by a fleet of Dragonforged and Squat Adamantclad ships. The horrors the Squats had endured after Craftworld Zandros weakened their defences against the Ork menace of Grunhag the Flaya were repaid in blood and destruction. Eldrad knew the Craftworld was doomed, its own paranoia and perfidious nature would have spelled its end eventually. He also knew as part of the treaty the Spirit Stones and Infinity Circuit would be recovered by Eldrad and his kin. It changed things little. He had willingly sold out members of his own species to curry the favor of Mon-Keigh warmongers.
Sometimes he wondered if Magnus had tampered with his mind, shoved a delusion into him and puppeteered his betrayal. Of course he had checked with every possible method. Even going as far to consult the Pain-Smiths of Commorragh in such matters. His mind had not been tampered with, and every forecast into the future validated his actions. He could see the future better than all of his fellow Farseers, and their best prognostications matched his. This was the correct path, the only path. Staring off into the void, watching an irreplaceable relic of his people die, pangs of misery filled Eldrad. He had allowed himself to create and become lost on the Path of the Seer to get a better view of the future. Now as he watched the past burn before him, he wondered if it was worth it.