Author's Note: For those interested, there are now five advance chapters on P-atreon (remove the spaces and dash): p-atreon/ SkySage24.


The souls of her children were bright.

If a human soul was a spark, then the souls of the Aeldari were bonfires, burning brightly in the Sea of Souls.

Yet…the flame was tainted. What should have been a bright flame was marred by the shadow hanging overhead. Ever-hungry, ever-waiting.

The corruption. The curse. The damnation her children had brought upon themselves, forever bound to Slaanesh.

It should not have been so. It was her mother, Morai-heg, who was the Keeper of Souls, who oversaw the cycle of reincarnation and ordained the fate of her children.

But her mother had been devoured by Slaanesh, her claim on the souls of the Eldar usurped by the Dark Prince.

And Slaanesh had no use for Isha's children except as food.

All the same, despite that ominous shadow, it was good to be on Iyanden, among her people.

Isha could have revealed herself in a burst of divine light and splendour, appearing at the heart of the Craftworld for all to see.

But she wasn't in the mood.

Instead of masking her aura and presence, Isha donned the appearance of an entirely ordinary Eldar woman and made her way down the World Tree.

Many of her children were on the tree as well. There were the Priests of Asuryan (or perhaps former priests would be a better description), collecting the dreamstones from where they hung on the branches of the trees, tucking them away in containers and pouches. Children played among the branches and leaves, their high-pitched laughter and joy echoing through the air as their guardians lingered nearby, watching them with fond smiles. Despite her weariness, Isha could not help the smile tugging at her lips at the sight and sound. Within her, even the Huntress, the Daughter of Khaine, settled somewhat at the sight, pleased.

All parts of her were the Mother of the Eldar, after all.

Other Eldar were simply praying. Many of them had clustered at the base of the tree, hands clasped, silently praying to her, their hopes and fears laid bare to her.

Thank you, Mother.

Please shield my child from the Devourer, oh Everqueen.

Rebuilding is going well, but I can't help but wonder if things will ever be the same…

Isha let the warmth of their prayers wash over her, feeling her strength grow with each one, little by little. It was hardly anything, compared to what she had known at her height, but it still mattered.

In return, she let some of her power flow over them, a warm embrace of reassurance and the promise that she was there.

All save for one.

Forgive me my sins Everqueen, please show me the path to salvation.

Isha's good mood was abruptly wiped away by that one voice, and she immediately focused on it.

It was a single man with silver hair and blue eyes, dressed in black robes, seemingly no different from any of the others.

But Isha saw his soul and knew.

Malerion.

A former pleasure cultist, who had only realized the truth too late and turned away from the Fall at the last moment.

A wretched, benighted soul, and Isha felt the Huntress roar within her, enraged by the sheer audacity.

She could see what Malerion had done. Isha saw into the depths of his mind and soul and saw every murder and every atrocity. How he had revelled in thoughtless slaughter and cruelty among the gladiatorial pits of the Dominion.

And he had not been a child conscripted as a slave, oh no. Malerion had been a grown man of many millennia, who had eagerly embraced the blood sport, relishing in the thrill of murder.

He had butchered his opponents, whether they were other Eldar to whom death meant nothing, or scared slaves kidnapped from innocent worlds.

Malerion had participated in vicious raids upon innocent worlds and species as well. Oh, nothing like a true military assault, the armies of the Dominion had not been rallied in tens of thousands of years before the Fall.

But even the forces the spoiled scions of the Dominion could muster on their own were sufficient to shatter young civilizations. These cruel ego trips by the worst of her children were known to the rest of the galaxy as "Incursions", but the pleasure cultists had called them The Savage Hunt.

As if attacking worlds that had done nothing to them, slaughtering millions of innocents, carting millions more into slavery, cracking continents and poisoning atmospheres, all for the sake of sadistic amusement, was a hunt.

And there was no real remorse or regret in that soul. Only enough intelligence to recognize the damnation that was coming, and the desire to escape it.

And this wretched boy dared to ask her for salvation and forgiveness?

Isha's will passed over Malerion, but it was not to offer comfort. Instead, the former pleasure cultist screamed as Isha reached into his mind and ripped out his darkest memories.

But these were not the memories Malerion knew. Instead, in this vision, the roles were reversed, and he was the victim, not the tormentor.

A parent begging for mercy for their children, only for none to be given…

A slave torn apart in an arena to the cruel laughter of the crowd…

A pair of orphaned children sobbing in the ruins of their home as they died of a plague designed to turn them to glass from the inside out, inch by excruciating inch…

Falling to the ground, Malerion writhed and shrieked in agony even as the other Eldar turned to him in shock, their prayers disrupted.

Isha watched Malerion with cold eyes.

Perhaps she should have felt regret or pity. She would have, once.

But she had spent too long watching her children debase themselves and each other, sinking to depths of depravity and monstrosity as they birthed a god of evil in their foolish pursuit of apotheosis.

Farmer, Healer, Mother, Huntress…every part of her was united in this, coalescing into one as Isha the Queen impassively watched Malerion weep and scream.

The wretch below should be glad he was alive, and Isha had not slain him where he stood for daring to ask for the mercy he himself had never given to anyone.

If he learned something from this, true guilt and remorse instead of just self-preservation…well, then Isha would see.

Perhaps.

But it would still be better than what Malerion deserved.

Unnoticed by any of her befuddled worshippers, the goddess walked away.

Leaving the World Tree behind, Isha quietly slipped into the streets of Iyanden.

Much of the Craftworld was still in disrepair, the signs of long millennia of strife and age everywhere. Collapsed buildings, abandoned enclaves, shattered bridges.

But at the same time, reconstruction was in full swing. The psychomatons that Isha had rebuilt had been set to construction. Following the instructions of bonesingers, the psychomatons lifted rubble and stacked material, labouring away to restore that which had been lost.

It should not have been necessary. A single bonesinger should have been capable of building cities, of shaping and moving material wherever needed. The idea that manual labourers were needed as assistance was ridiculous.

But they were needed now. She could sense the hesitance and fear among the bonesingers, their unwillingness to draw too deeply on the Sea of Souls…and their resentment that they could no longer do so. That painting their emotions and will onto the canvas of reality, as her children had done for ages immemorial, was no longer in their grasp.

Not even with the Dreamstones that some of them carried, their souls shielded by her Tears.

So instead, they directed the psychomatons around as best as they could, only using a limited fraction of their power to reshape what was already in front of them, rather than simply dismissing it and calling forth new shapes from their imagination.

Crystal flowed like liquid, broken rubble and abandoned ruins melting into the roads, filling in the gaps and smoothing over the cracks. Domes became towers, and towers became domes as an enclave was remade, being prepared so that people could move back into it.

Smaller and less magnificent than it had once been, perhaps. But it would be livable once more.

Isha continued to drift through the Craftworld, as invisible to her children as a ghost.

She could feel her father's shard, still frozen below her in the ice made of her hatred and spite. It was trying to call to her, but no part of Isha felt compelled to go, not even the Huntress.

She already knew what Khaine would say.

And then there was the spark.

The Flame of Asuryan, at the heart of the Craftworld, crackling. It had grown since Isha had last seen it, the embers burning brighter and stronger.

But it was nothing. It was not a shard of Asuryan, only the barest lingering part of his power. It had grown brighter, yes, reflecting the hope that had returned to Iyanden, but it was still not him.

And yet, Isha found herself drawn to it, her steps soundless against the Craftworld's roads as she approached the Temple.

There was a new pathway to the building, lined with both pillars and trees.

And at the end of the path was the Temple itself. It had been expanded since she had last been there. It was larger and taller now.

And…it was no longer just a Temple of Asuryan. Asuryan's runes were still there, but Isha was startled to realize that on the main doors, the Phoenix King's symbols were arranged around a single large rune: her own.

But more than any changes to the Temple were the people. There were priests and acolytes everywhere, and more seeking guidance and help. The Temple was a bustling hive of activity, more full and alive than any temple in the Dominion which Isha had observed in…hundreds of thousands of years before the Fall.

It was good, but it also hurt to know that it was only now, after much pain and disaster, that her children had returned to seek their guidance. Even among the Exodites and Craftworlders who had rejected the pleasure cults, precious few had thought to seek answers from the Pantheon.

If the pleasure cultists had never gotten it into their heads to build a god, if they had simply been content with their status as masters of the galaxy, would her children have ever changed their minds? Or would they have just forgotten her forever, rejected every lesson she had ever tried to teach them, secure in their power without any regard for the galaxy they ruled and the other races that lived in it?

Even if she had been a seer like her daughter, or mother, or Asuryan, and could have caught glimpses of worlds and timelines that could have been, Isha wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer to that question.

She made her way quietly through the crowd, slipping under the notice of everyone. As far as any of her children were aware, she was merely an ordinary Eldar woman in blue robes, barefoot and with a hood over her head. The instant she passed out of their sight, so did she slip from their minds.

Isha had come to Iyanden to speak to her children, and she would…but not yet.

Entering the temple was easy, and Isha was pleased to see that inside, many Eldar were being guided through bonding to their dreamstones by the Priests of Asuryan. The Priests had improvised their methods and were relying primarily on the way her Tears would bond with her children almost instinctively as long as her children would let them. But the Priests were still doing well, despite their limitations.

She would give them some advice on how to better improve the process later.

But for now, she made her way to the heart of the Temple.

The chamber of the Flame was empty, and a simple thought ensured no one would interrupt her as Isha stood in front of the brazier containing the last spark of Asuryan's light.

She pulled back her hood, staring into the crackling flames, the only source of light in the room.

"Are you happy now?" Isha asked. "Was the Edict worth it?"

There was no answer. Of course there wasn't.

But she could not stop herself. This was everything she had longed to say to Asuryan for aeons, and which she had never dared to speak.

"No, I know you're not," she sighed. "I know you wanted to lift the Edict by the end."

Bitterness leaked into her voice. "Well, it was too little, too late, wasn't it? The great Phoenix King could not let go of his pride until doing so accomplished nothing."

"You always thought you knew best. I waited for you, you know. I thought, surely, you would not leave Kurnous and me in Khaine's hands forever. Not you, oh God of Justice."

"But you never came. Vaul and Eldanesh did. And Vaul ended up imprisoned forever, and Eldanesh died. And you didn't do anything to save them either. But I suppose you and I are the same, then. I was too afraid to seek justice for them. God of Justice, Goddess of Rebels…perhaps they should have just named us gods of betrayal and cowardice instead."

Isha sighed and ran a hand across her face.

What was she doing? What did saying any of this to the last ember of a dead god accomplish?

And yet, she had needed to say it.

"I don't forgive you," she said quietly. "I don't think I could even if I wanted to. But I want to save you as much as I want to save the rest of our family. I don't know if I can, but I'll try."

Isha extended a hand to touch the flames, letting them crackle and dance across her fingers. They didn't hurt at all. They couldn't.

She let a spark of her power flow downwards into the flames, which devoured her power, the fire growing stronger.

Not by much. Just a shade brighter, just a shade stronger.

But the hopes and dreams of Iyanden were reflected in the flame.

It would grow stronger yet. It had to.