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Author Topic: The Falcon Lord  (Read 1826 times)

Offline LinnScarlett

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The Falcon Lord
« on: March 02, 2013, 11:24:27 pm »
A little vignette I wrote for Aun, as a one-off and/or co-op story that gives a little limelight to a swath of our characters and their lives after the Black Crusade RPG(s).



THE PLANET WAS BARREN but for one thing: gold. And it was upon this resource alone that the sprawling interstellar empire had been built. Not a small feat, even for them.

HE HAD COME here for his brother; thought lost so long ago. He had searched for him far and wide, in all the corners of reality and across the expanse of the universe, following misleading information and trails turned cold decades past. His brother had covered his tracks well, but not well enough… for he found him here, at the heart of a dissident empire, and that surprised him not.

HE COULD HEAR the wind whistle around his bulky frame as he strode down the Dreadhawk’s ramp, a jackal at his heels. The sound of his heavy footfalls and the animal’s gentle padding upon the grated steel were snatched up and scattered by the restless winds. The protective, heavy sable robes he wore thrashed about him in the strong gales, doing little to protect his artificer power armour from the sand-blasts and exposing the ancient, regal blue ceramite with its intricate imagery of gold-embossed wastelands and wild life to the abrading grains. The winds whipped the damaging particles against him and they clattered across the gilded surface of his helmet loud as vox distortion. Already thin scratches appeared in the soft metal of his faceplate, which bore the likeness of a jackal with a narrow snout and long ears. The red lenses forming the eyes sparkled like twin rubies in the harsh desert sun. He did not bother to replace his hood; it would simply be blown off again.
           When the animal trotting beside him turned her snout to the sky and growled, he halted abruptly and turned to follow the canine gaze. High above them two birds tumbled through the swoops and dives of their courtship display. At first glance they appeared to be some type of raptor, falcons perhaps, but upon closer inspection there was something altogether otherworldly about the way they darted through the airstreams; their forms growing more and less distinct as if flitting through the very fabric of reality. Their waltz was a ruse and he knew it.
“Anput,” he said curtly, his voice stern and authoritative as he gestured in the direction of the raptors overhead. The jackal’s growl swelled as she bounded forward across the sandstone platform and leapt off the edge landing seemingly in mid-air. Her bark echoed on the winds as she sprang forth across invisible steps into the sky, her sleek form shimmering and blurring until she were gone. Quietly he watched his tutelary embark upon her hunt. He then beckoned the six Rubricae looming in the shadows of the Dreadhawk’s hold before he turned and resumed his path, the tacit husks of his erstwhile brothers now shadowing his steps in the jackal’s place.
           The Dreadhawk had landed upon a vast, elevated sandstone landing dock in the middle of the sweltering desert. As he strode across the windswept platform his gaze travelled ahead of him, along the great steps of the stairway down to the broad thoroughfare below. The paved avenue cut straight and deliberate through the ochre landscape towards the colossi-flanked entrance arch of the low-rise hive city sprawling along the horizon. Heat haze made the skyline shimmer as if it were but a mirage. He halted atop the first step at the sight before him and leaned upon his ancient, dual-handed Force Khopar as if it were a simple staff; the curving, glyph encrusted end of the ancient war scythe’s blade gleaming in the harsh sun. Though he was far from needing its support, he always stood so when lost in thoughts. For the low-rise skyline was dominated by a cluster of immense pyramids, perfect in their dimensions and glinting under the relentless sun as if they had been fashioned from uncounted mirrors. As his gaze fell upon them something withered and half-forgotten ached deep within his chest; the shattered remnants of an old love for a place forever condemned to memory. His brother had rebuilt it in his own image… such hubris. Now he was certain his long lost brother was here.
           In the distance a dust cloud formed, rapidly approaching down the broad road. “Anput,” he called as he watched it, and at the edge of his consciousness he felt a faint, apologetic tug from his phantom companion. He nodded to himself. A pity. He’d been seen, and the raptors had escaped to warn their master. Very well. He beckoned the six Rubricae behind him and started down the grand steps. As he turned, the harsh sunlight glinted across the golden world serpent cresting his pauldron only to be swallowed by the black raven painted within its embrace.

ONCE HE HAD reached the bottom of the stairway he waited, his eyes still on the rapidly nearing dust cloud. It was not long before he could distinguish the shapes within it. They appeared to be warriors mounted upon great sauroid beasts. To his surprise, they did not seem to be Rubricae. Had he been mistaken? No, those had been no ordinary falcons. He had barely thought it or Anput materialised from behind a column to his right. One of her ears was torn and thin claw marks ran across her left flank. She padded towards her master with a yap. He briefly glanced at the animal, nodding in acknowledgement before returning his gaze to the approaching riders.
           He could clearly distinguish his ‘welcome committee’ now. It comprised over a dozen warriors dressed in the motely armour typical of tribal clans the galaxy across. However, their chosen mounts were far from typical: the ceratopsid beasts were larger than adult Rhinox and covered in dusty green to brown scales from their powerful, elephantine legs to the high frill crests shielding their thick necks. Curiously, the beasts seemed to wear more armour than their riders did. Only the figure riding at their front appeared properly armoured, the burnished silver plates of what was clearly power armour reflecting the harsh sun with blinding intensity. The sound of the riders´ approach was like the nearing of rolling thunder, the ground trembling under the weight of the stampeding beasts. When they arrived, dust and dirt flew in their wake as they circled him, forming a virtually impenetrable wall of scaled flesh as they lowered barbed halberds at his relatively vulnerable neck. Up close now, he could see the eager gleam in the barbarians´ eyes and the predatory cast to those of their mounts. He paid them no heed for he was fairly sure he could take them and their beasts on a whim. Their apparent leader interested him far more.
           At first he had thought her one of the stoneborn, a golem given life by the will of a Sorcerer: so pale and finely chiselled her features were, so unmarked and unchanged by the passage of time. Now that she had dismounted her peculiar steed and strode up to meet him he could see that she was made of flesh and blood after all. Her statuesque features were framed by a regal blue keffiyeh, held in place by a thin, gilded agar. Despite it, the harsh winds had pulled long bangs of pale blonde hair free to their whim. She wore what amounted to a miniature version of artificer power armour, the smaller, silvered ceramite like the garments of a doll compared to his own. The burnished silver plates were engraved with familiar scenes of hunting predators and swooping raptors, the pauldrons covered in rows of engraved glyphs. A long, deep blue cloak whose shoulders were covered in raptor quills billowed behind her. At her waist hung pistols of a make unknown to him, beside ancient bound tomes, a glinting hour glass and what appeared to be several unmarked scroll cases. His expression hardened when he saw the ancient, faded cloth of the tabard she wore and the swooping vultures emblazoned upon its slip above a sun-crested scarab cradling a cartouche in its spindly beetle legs. He knew that garment. Was it true, then, what the others whispered?
           She strode up to him with the boldness of someone that had seen much and feared little. Her eyes shimmered through the colours of a clear ocean, their gaze far more magnetic than any mortal’s ought to be. He warded his mind and steeled his will but did not avert his gaze. She was a mortal. “What is it you want, Sorcerer?”  She demanded as she stood before him. He thought she was small and slight of frame, even for a mortal. Although she barely reached to chest height that did not seem to bother her in the least as she glared up at him. Birds of prey cawed overhead. He did not need to look to know that the falcons had returned.
“And a good day to you too, Lady,”  he returned, a wry smile appearing behind the inscrutable visage of his helmet when he saw one of her eyebrows arch ever so slightly at his words. “Might I know your name?”
“I doubt that is what you came here to find,” she returned, her unnatural gaze boring into his. He could feel the brief nudge at one of the back doors to his mind, and barricaded it further.
“Humour me,” he returned, letting the attempted intrusion slide. He was confident she did not possess the strength of will necessary to peer into his thoughts.
Her gaze flicked briefly across him, as if taking in the measure of him, before she answered. “Nephthys,” she replied then, a vague smile playing around her lips. “Now tell me what it is you want.”
“I have come for my brother,” he answered as he briefly wondered what could possibly amuse her. He pushed it aside, it mattered not.
“Your… brother?” she asked as she pulled a questioning expression that suggested his words meant nothing to her. He could feel the veneer of her lie across her surface thoughts.
“Don’t play the fool,” he retorted, his voice dropping and his expression setting once again. “I know he is here, bring me to him.”
“I do not quite understand of what you speak,” she persisted, her aptly formed clueless expression all but infuriating him. He had no time for petty games.
“Do not make me make this unpleasant,” he threatened as he drew himself up to his full height, towering over her. She merely cocked her head sideway as she looked up at him, not impressed in the slightest by his display. She had been about to reply, indeed she had already opened her mouth to speak, when she abruptly closed it again and the hint of a frown wrinkled the bridge of her small nose. She paused a moment as if listening and pursed her lips, a brief expression of displeasure flitting across her flawless visage. Then she looked up at him and that mocking smile returned to play around her lips once more.
“Very well,” she said and turned to leave. When he did not move to follow her, she halted and glanced back at him across her shoulder. “This way, Lord,” she added through her smiling lips and beckoned him as if he were a suitor.

DESPITE HER SLIGHT built and undoubtedly meagre constitution she kept pace as they walked down the broad avenue towards the hive city, giving sign of neither discomfort nor fatigue. The barbarians followed in a vague semi-circle around them, the stomps of their mounts sending tremors through the ground. When they passed by the giant colossi flanking the entrance arch into the hive city a wry grin pulled onto his features. His brother was here, alright: his features had been chiselled plain as day onto the monumental guardian statues. Whatever had he told these peasants?
           The majority of the hive city consisted of low, wattle and clay dwellings of unimposing proportions and appearance. Only closer to the pyramids did grander, sandstone buildings appear. They marched through the Viae Publicae unobstructed, the ignorant locals quickly making way for them. Many knelt promptly in obeisance, others simply fled. The grand avenue was straight and true even into the hive city proper and led directly to the pyramids. Although the pyramid they entered was not the largest it was surely the grandest, whole sections of it constructed from glinting, mirror-like panes and decorated with gilded ornaments. When they reached the steps that led up to the pyramid’s entrance the barbarians stayed behind. However, as soon as they had entered they were promptly followed by a dozen Rubricae, appearing from shadowy alcoves around the hall to form a semi-circle around him and his own Rubricae.
           Striding through the hallway was as if walking through a memory, the endless sandstone colonnades and elegant friezes echoing a life long since lost to them back to him. Stepping out into the grand atrium it led to, was as walking from a memory straight into the very past itself. The atrium was a familiar expanse of polished marble floor terminating in a shallow, clear pond like a desert oasis. A narrow path led to a stepped marble dais on which stood a throne, imposing due to its central location despite its simple design. Palm trees grew all around the indoor oasis, shrubs and exotic flowers clustering at their feet. The mirror-panes which formed most of the walls were one-way windows showing the sprawling hive city outside, making the atrium seem vaster still. Sunlight filtered through them, bathing the out of time place in a soft, tranquil light. There was the sound of running water in the distance and the twittering of birds of paradise overhead as a crocodilian briefly breached the still water surface before disappearing into its depths once more. He could perceive the faintest whiff of incense he had not smelled in an age on the still air and it was that, more than anything, which reminded him of home.
           He stood for a moment, quietly lost, as he teetered on entering the atrium. A shiver ran down his spine despite himself. Such hubris. He could not help but wonder, perhaps even question, why his mentor wished for his brother’s presence now. He had never been with them, had always loathed them in particular. He was self-satisfied, arrogant in his obedience of their father, condescending of their one great failure as if he had known all along. Even now, he lived in the past, acted as if nothing had changed. Everything had changed.
           When he saw the woman glance back at him, and the satisfied smile playing around her lips, he stomped his rearing emotions down and locked them and the surfacing memories back where they belonged: in the past.
“Ramla!” she called as she strode into the immense atrium, and from somewhere to his left a girl came running. She wore a simple, white linen dress cut in an old Achaemenid snit, clasped with light golden ornaments. Her dark brown hair had been shaved up; the remainder a curtain of tumbling curls spilling down her neck. Unlike the locals, and in fact much like the woman, her skin was very pale. Clearly, she was not from here either. However, where the woman’s skin was unmarked hers carried a myriad of faint scars, fine like a spider’s webbing. Her large, almond eyes were the brightest blue he had ever seen. No, not quite the brightest, he corrected himself, but second only to those. She was younger than the woman, thinner and taller, and there was something… unseemly about her. An unsettling aura that was disquieting even to him. And yet he could not quite put his finger on what exactly it was. He disliked her immensely, immediately. The girl made a quick curtsy as the woman beckoned her and then fell in step behind her, her head slightly bowed.
           As they approached the path to the dais the woman raised her hand and the Rubricae halted. To his chagrin, he noticed this included his own. The girl halted too, lingering at the start of the path and glancing at him from the corner of her eyes without raising her head. He wished she’d go away. He followed the woman across the path but halted at its end and watched her climb up the steps. She strode towards the throne until she stood beside it, turned around and clasped her hands behind her back. The smile still played around her lips as she waited.
I need more time to do the Emperor's work!

You can read my stuff on 2S's Fluff and Stories.

Or, you can come visit my author page on Archive of Our Own. WARNING: NC-17

Offline LinnScarlett

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Re: The Falcon Lord
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2013, 11:24:43 pm »
Minutes crawled by and at some point Anput lay down at his feet, her snout on her paws as her eyes followed the falcons once more circling above them, growling ever so softly. He leaned on his Force Khopar as he closed his eyes and wrestled his budding irritation down, reciting the psychic mantras that helped quiet his mind. He knew what his brother was trying to do, and he would not allow it to work. Only when finally the clang of ceramite-shod feet across marble came to his ears did he drop his meditations and opened his eyes once more.
           From further inside the atrium, down a path snaking through the oasis, his brother approached. His gold embossed, regal blue artificer power armour gleamed in the filtered sunlight and the cloth of his white robes snapped around him as he strode towards them. Two virtually identical Force Khopesh hung at his sides, accompanied by a tome and various scroll cases. The faceplate of his golden helmet bore the shape of a typhonic beast, with its narrow, curved snout and long, rectangular ears straight and towering as horns. The eye lenses flashed with a bright, flaming orange.
           He strode towards them at leisure, climbing the steps to the dais and walking over to sit down in his throne. The girl promptly dropped into a deep obeisance but the woman neither hailed nor deferred to him, their gazes merely crossing briefly. More curiously still, his brother did not take offense. It was true then. The fool.
“En hotep, Memnon,” he hailed formally as he inclined his head ever so slightly.
There was a brief silence before his brother replied. “Herhut.”
Herhut glanced back up and caught his brother’s gaze. “Indeed, it is I.”
           Memnon observed his brother quietly. He remembered Herhut: sharp eyed, sharper tongued and with a symmetry of visage that had been the envy of many; mortals and Astartes alike. Plagued by visions, he’d been confiscated by the Corvidae the moment he had completed his Astartes training. As he was a decent telepath with a knack for pyrotechnics, Memnon had always suspected the younger marine’s immediate induction into the Corvidae had been a heavy-handed scheme from higher up the food chain. “What brings you here?” he demanded unceremoniously.
“The thirteenth Black Crusade,” Herhut answered, taking his brother’s direct and uncourteous manner into stride. “I have come to invite you to join us, to join your brothers.”
“A thirteenth Black Crusade?” Memnon laughed. “I am not interested,” he added with a wave of his hand as he rose from his throne. He pointed a reprimanding finger at Herhut. “You tell Abaddon, he can stick his ‘invitation’ up his arse.” He turned to leave. This had been a waste of time, as he had known it would be. He should have destroyed his impetuous ‘brother’ the moment he had entered the system. He glanced at Vallerie as he passed her. Damn her, and her curiosity. Never before had any of his so-called ‘brothers’ showing up turned out to be good news. Why had she insisted it might be different this time? For that matter, why had he bought into her logic, again? He shook his head as if disappointed with himself. He had no idea why.
           Behind him, Herhut flicked his head sideways as if spitting on the ground at the presumption of Memnon’s words. “It is not the master of the Black Legion who bids you to come, brother.”
           Memnon halted, a frown creasing his brow behind the inscrutable faceplate of his helmet at the way Herhut stressed his words. He glanced across his shoulder at the younger Sorcerer, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Who is it then that has the nerve to summon me?”
           It was Herhut who smiled then, at his brother’s oblivious tone and the woman’s genuinely nonplussed expression. The satisfaction was audible in his voice as he uttered the name of he who had summoned all of them:
           “Ahriman.”
I need more time to do the Emperor's work!

You can read my stuff on 2S's Fluff and Stories.

Or, you can come visit my author page on Archive of Our Own. WARNING: NC-17