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 Aspirant

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CheeZe
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PostSubject: Aspirant   7/10/2013, 10:39

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This was the day.  This was his time.  It didn’t matter that he was counted last amongst the aspirants.  He knew without knowing that there would be a place offered to him.  All he had to do was pass the Trials and he would be rid of this half life.  There was only this chance to prove his worth.  A Trueborn aspirant who failed his first trial found it infinitely more difficult to petition for a second chance.  That was also assuming he lived past the Trials.

For now, all he needed to do was sit and wait.  The other aspirants were taking their turns.  The order of participants had, officially, been by their skill.  The first few were supposed to be the most promising and of the highest pedigree.  Yet that wasn’t necessarily true.  Quite a few of the aspirants who were “ranked” lower were quite skilled but lacked the connections or pedigree to be amongst the first few.  Only those with the best bloodlines from within the Kabal went first.  It was expected of them to be better.  Those of lesser bloodlines or from outside the Kabal were reduced to hoping that their betters didn’t get chosen before they went.

The Trials were a way of proving that a Trueborn was ready to join one of the elite ranks of Archon Kaila's bodyguards.  They were a series of deadly tests, supposedly concocted by the Archon herself.  If an aspirant passed and managed to impress the watching Dracons, they were immediately selected.  Competition was always fierce for the first promising champions.  The farther down the list, the less likely one was to get a spot since the openings would naturally be fewer.  To be at the bottom of the list was to say that one was the least promising of all the aspirants.  Yet this was his only chance and it would be his chance to leave behind this life of always being considered lesser.  So for now, he would wait, adjusting his old, creaking armor every now and again, listening to the cheers, roars and delights of the crowd.

Chapter 1

The Trials were almost over.  It was time for the last aspirant and yet the Dracon had not chosen a second Warrior to replace the fallen Zsaszim.  Why was she waiting until the last one?  The last few aspirants had been completely incompetent idiots who didn’t deserve the title of Trueborn Warrior.  The last two had, in fact, died during the second stage of the Trials, much to everyone’s delight.  What hope could this last one have?  Caelith Bloodspire, Trueborn Warrior of the Kabal of the Enraptured Downfall, could see no point in this exercise in futility.  What had possessed her Dracon, standing so confidently right beside her, to hold off the selection of a replacement until the last one?  None of the other Dracons were still present, only a crowd of onlookers waiting for the last bit of amusement.  If the aspirant lived and passed, no one could contest the choice but was he even worth it?

“So tell me again, this aspirant.  Why is he last?  Is he truly the worst of the bunch?” Dracon Evlina asked the Halfborn overseer.  The man was not in charge of the Trials, he was just the announcer who also provided tips and information for the curious Dracons.

“No, not the worst, milady.  Just not the best,” was the best deflection he could give her.  Evlina bit down a hiss of contempt.

“Your last few were worse than mud and now you tell me he’s better than them.  I want to know why he wasn’t placed higher in the lists.”  Caelith noted how patient the Dracon was being with the fool.  She, Caelith, would have simply threatened the man into revealing all that he knew.

“It is his… pedigree.  He is, by law, Trueborn but at the same time, he is not… one of us,” the announcer replied again in the same cryptic manner.

Caelith found his newest deflection to be even more aggravating.  Why couldn’t she just slide her knife under his neck for effect?

“Explain exactly what you mean, or I will have you slowly disemboweled alive by our slaves.  What is his name?” Evlina said, again in her same patient voice.

“Illian.  Illian Tarzsiz.”

The fool was still dragging out his explanation.  Yes, it was a strange name but strange names were common in Commorragh.  “And his name is supposed to tell me what detracts from him?” Evlina pressed.

“His father was Sybarite Voloms Tarzsiz, now dead for 20 years.  His unit … encountered our cousins from Biel-Tan some time ago and he managed to beget him,” the man pointed to the aspirant, doing his final warm-ups in the holding pen.  “The Biel-Tan did not take kindly to the encounter but withdrew, taking the mother with them.  Except when he was young, an embassy came to our Archon and returned the child.  He has been with the cadres since, using that… horrible name.”

Evlina blinked, unsure if that was the entire story, before laughing loudly.  Caelith just returned her attention to the helmed warrior, in whose veins coursed both Eldar and Dark Eldar lineages.  He would prove himself with these trials, regardless of the color of his blood.

*****
The gates opened and it was his time.  Illian Tarzsiz knew that this was what he was born to do.  The first trial was one of adaptability.  The moment he crossed that threshold and set foot into the arena, Illian Tarzsiz could only leave if he completed the Trials or if he died in the attempt.  He took his first step into the arena, deliberately savoring the moment and absorbing as much as his senses could.  Illian felt the sand shift beneath his feet as the grains gave way to his weight.  So the ground was also an obstacle.

Above him, spectators still gathered to watch the deathmatch.  They ringed around the top of the arena, looking down on him.  Their excitement was palpable and infectious.  Illian’s blood raced as he drank in their anticipation.  His eye caught sight of two armored warriors, watching him.  They stood out from the crowd the way a leaper-cat stands out from a herd of sewer vermin.  He could not tell who they were but their deep purple raiment told him all he needed to know.  They were from the Enraptured Downfall and if he was impressive enough, they might choose him.  Illian then realized, with disgust, that there were fewer onlookers than earlier, for the numbers he saw could not produce the roars that greeted the starting aspirants.  Part of him felt robbed of having an audience to his skills but then, that just meant the privileged few were in for a treat.

Illian Tarzsiz, Trueborn aspirant, noted his opponents and grinned behind his restrictive helmet.  Five Mon-keigh, clad in hardened leather vests and armed with long knives, now circled around him.  The circular sand pit was lined with spikes to prevent any of the spikes and the viewing platforms above were ringed with armed guards and audience members.  If anyone tried to escape, either the guards or the watching Dark Eldar would kill him.

Like any aspirant, he wore a set of armor that was similar to what true Kabalite Warriors would have worn.  It was old, ill-fitting, and rusted but it was armor.  His helm had been stripped of optics and turned simply into a metal bucket for his head.  It provided only a limited field of vision and was hard to breathe in.  None of those conditions were a bother.  The only problem he had, though, was that he was unarmed.  That was where the need for quick, versatile thinking came in.  Mon-keigh were slow but when all five were together, they were a difficult foe.  Illian examined their formation for a heartbeat.

These slaves were all spread out, each one waiting for someone else to go first.  So they were not a team.  Simply a random mix of slaves who probably didn’t even know each other’s names.  The match was his in six moves.

His first was to kick the sand into the face of the slave directly to his right.  The slave managed to block the sand from getting into his eyes by raising his arms to cover his eyes.  But the effect was the same.  Illian only wanted his victim’s vision restricted, whether by the sand or his own arms mattered little in this game of death.

With such a brief opening, Illian pressed forwards in two steps, he had reached combat distance and launched his attack.  A left hook caused the slave to lose his balance in the loose sand and drop his guard.  Before the Mon-keigh could recover, a kick to his stomach caused the poor fool to stagger backwards and as he did so, Illian rushed him, pushing him forwards despite the resistance of the sand.  The Eladrith Ynneas thanked fortune that the bulk of his battle-plate gave him greater momentum when he crashed into his opponent.

As they fell backwards, Illian rolled off his opponent as the slave was dashed upon the spikes lining the coliseum.  His cry of terror was cut short.  As he died, the slave dropped his knife.  Illian snatched it up as quickly as he could, spinning in place to rise up and face the remaining four.
Two of the others were too shocked to react, their jaws had dropped.  Clearly they were not fighters like the other two, who had grouped together.  Now was the time to strike and reduce their number further.

With a single flick, the knife left his hand and buried itself in the open mouth of one of the humans.  The watching crowd laughed and roared their approval as the wounded man screamed, staggering back in panic.  He was no longer a threat, screaming and panicking as he was.  And he had dropped his knife, which was picked up by one of the more soldierly slaves.

The three of them were now together, working loosely as a group and armed with four knives.  Three moves down, three left.  He could always add more since no one was counting but him.  Illian Tarzsiz, however, disliked having his initial estimates proven wrong.  Pride, his father had called it.  Nonetheless, pride was everything right now.  Pride in being Trueborn, even if he was the Halfblood or the Biel-Tan Bastard.  Life there was dull, wretched and aggravating.  It wasn’t his mother’s blood which was dominant.  His father’s fiery passion overwhelmed the rigid, ascetic piss that served the Craftworld Eldar for blood.  That was why he was shunned and finally returned to Commorragh, like a damaged product being returned to a vendor.

So how could he end this in three moves?  The Mon-keigh were grouped together, armed and waiting for him now.  There was fear, he could sense it, taste it, breathe it.  Honey in the air, perfume on his lips, electric through his breath.  But the two soldiers were experienced and blooded enough to be able to keep it from overwhelming them.  Fear wasn't a tool he could use anymore.  And while they were slower than he, it wasn’t much of an advantage in this sand.  That was when his thought was pierced by another scream from the wounded man.  If not fear, then awe.  His deathly visage would be the last thing they saw.  And he knew how.  Illian walked up to the slave, pulled the knife out of his mouth and shoved the screaming man towards the other three.  As he predicted, the two soldiers braced to stop him.  Perhaps they intended to use him as a shield?  Didn’t matter as long as their vision was blocked for a few moments.  Illian used that time to run behind the Mon-keigh and use his back as a springboard to launch himself behind the trio.  He landed feet first and as he rose to his full height, Illian drove his knife into the gut of the third, cowering human slave while snatching the knife that came loose.  As the stunned soldiers turned to try to react, they were hampered by the flailing man in their arms.

One move left, if he was to keep to his original estimate.  Impossible.  Illian drove his newest knife into the gut of the man holding two knives and twisted it, eliciting another scream of pain for the delighted crowd.  But the two soldiers were fighters.  They lunged at him together.  But if Illian Tarzsiz was handicapped by the sand, so were the two lumbering brutes before him.  It took longer for their heavy boots to rise and fall than his own decrepit plate.  He used that time to backpedal, sidestep and then direct the two charging bulls into the waiting spikes.  Their own momentum, which had caused the aspirant to retreat, was now their undoing.

With either dead or dying opponents, aspirant Illian Tarzsiz had completed the first of his Trials.  Illian was annoyed to find that he was breathing hard and that his count had indeed been off.  A section of the Coliseum wall opened, leading towards the next Trial.

*****
“So far, I like what I see,” Evlina commented with a wry smile.  Caelith looked at her with questions that didn’t pass beyond her lips.  “The next Trial is ready, mistresses,” the announcer told them as he and the rest of the audience filed towards the next area.  Caelith lingered long enough to see Tarzsiz bend over to pick up a pair of knives and slide them into his gauntlets.  “You’ll need them,” she said softly.


Last edited by CheeZe on 13/6/2014, 07:11; edited 2 times in total
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Thor665
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   7/10/2013, 11:36

So far I like what I see Wink

You have certainly overcome one issue a lot of stories here have, and that is that you're not worried about rushing.

Two small niggles;

1. Firmament...when you used this word I think you meant raiment. They have two different meanings...now, *maybe* it was just a really roundabout way to suggest the two ladies were sky-clad or something...but I'm guessing not.

2. To my mind, your introduction should be part of Chapter 1 unless it is a prologue. If it's a prologue it should be labeled as such (and probably expanded upon) if not then it is part of chapter 1. At the moment it feels like a bit of exposition sort of tapped onto the front of the story - you could have just as easily started chapter 1 with one of the Dracons discussing the practice with her fellow, or maybe the announcer explaining the rules. Exposition is tough, and the way you're presenting it just sort of screams 'hey, I'm exposition, notice me!' when the last thing you really want your reader to do is notice they're reading exposition. Play with it, I'm sure there's a better method.

Not a complaint, as it can be a stylistic choice, but I sort of feel the two lady dracons could have been introduced better. Evilina especially basically came out of nowhere and it took me a moment t realize what had happened.

I do love your descriptions though, very well handled, and the fight sequence was imaginative and visually interesting which is always a huge plus with me. Writing combat is tough and it's very enjoyable to read a fight that is paced nicely and flows logically.

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Mngwa
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   7/10/2013, 18:00

@Thor665 wrote:
You have certainly overcome one issue a lot of stories here have, and that is that you're not worried about rushing.
Hey! Razz

Seriously though. Looks pretty neat so far, and I really like the idea of partly craftworld-parents. That way the child is pretty much guaranteed to be trueborn! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   10/10/2013, 20:58

Great story, can't wait to read more!

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CheeZe
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   19/10/2013, 08:16

Thanks guys.

@ Thor - You're right on the firmament/raiment. I added that section at 2am while i was suffering a bout of insomnia so i knew my vocab was probably off. I've fixed it.

With regards to your second point, it's a stylistic thing for me. Having been a GM for online single-post role play for the past 2.5 years, I've become very used to writing in that kind of style. I apologize if it's not your cup of tea but it's what I feel serves the story best. Switching between exposition, Caelith, and Illian. Also have been highly influenced by CS Forester and David Weber, who both use similar styles.

However, if it pleases your ego, I was certainly inspired to pen Aspirant after reading Incubi. I had wanted to use something related to the Trueborn but since you already had that title, I felt it unwise to be quite so shameless.

Evlina is the Dracon, Caelith is her subordinate. I'll reveal more in the next chapter about why Caelith is important, but suffice to say, she is more important to Illian's future than Evlina.

My only wonder is whether i should have a cameo of the Archon herself or leave it to Evlina. I showed this to a couple non-40k writers as well as the fluff I wrote (in our Kabals section), and they wanted to know more about the Archon. I would like to write about the Archon's story as well, but since I also GM on another forum and work as a teacher, I can only do so much writing per week.

I would say that the next chapter is due around Oct 31. I have the basic format in my head, just working out the details before I put it onto Word.

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CheeZe
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   13/6/2014, 07:03

Chapter 2

The second Trial was one of speed and agility.

Caelith remembered it from her own days as an aspirant. A pathway of sinking stones across a lake of roiling green acid. In five seconds, it would eat through the armor and a mere heartbeat longer for the skinsuit and aspirant’s skin to be burned away. The last two aspirants had died here, screaming wildly as they were dissolved in the opaque pool of bubbling death.

Caelith remembered her own time during this part of the Trial. Her own experience of the stage had been a close shave. She had tried to get past with her helmet on, but that was a mistake. The narrow eye slits restricted vision, the weight increased fatigue and the enclosed space troubled the aspirant’s breathing. She had only made it through upon her own preternatural athleticism and agility, correcting a wrong step before it had become fatal.

There was only a second or so before the weight of the aspirant caused the sinking stone to slide under the acid. There were multiple paths to the middle but only one small stone, large enough only for a hand or toe, linked the various paths to the single one leading to the opposite shore. The stones themselves were made of a material resistant to the acid but they were also slippery. An ill-timed step or one made in haste could cause the unlucky aspirant to slip and fall into the acid.

“We’ll know if he’s …” Caelith started to say when Evlina held a hand up for silence. She was watching the aspirant, not recalling old memories. So Caelith turned her eyes towards him as well.

*****

Stony floor, stony steps, acid death. Illian tested the ground again and noted how little friction there was. Too little or too much inertia and he would miss the critical stones. It was not simply speed but coordination. Getting across would not have been difficult if not for the middle stone. That was, quite literally, the crux of the problem.

Running in the helm would be tiring and its restricted vision could cause him to miscalculate. Yet it was too early in the Trials to surrender a perfectly good piece of equipment.

With a practiced ease, Illian unbuckled the helm and slid it off his head. With a quick shake of the head, his eyes adjusted to the greater exposure to light. His breathing was unimpaired now. All impediments had been removed. In his right hand, he gazed into the empty visor slits and smiled.

Illian walked towards the back wall, ignoring the heckling from the crowd. This would be done in his own time, not theirs. When his armored toe touched the back wall, he spun suddenly in place and started running with his right hand arched back to launch the helmet.

It sailed cleanly, straight and true, clattering against the far wall. Evlina smiled again. This male, Tarzsiz, had demonstrated many of the qualities that Evlina was looking for to fill her last position. Cunning, dexterity, precision, and now strength. If only she could end the trials here and claim him. But tradition demanded he complete them all. So she watched and was interrupted.

“So this is where you have been. You know you missed the summons?” a hooded figure, taller than Evlina spoke. Neither of the two Trueborn had even noticed the approach of this newcomer but both of them became rigid at the sound of the voice of honeyed spider-silk. “Still watching the Trials? Isn’t this the last poor fool? Why waste your time? Surely a mercenary would be a better choice than the dregs of a particularly bad vintage,” the newcomer commented on Illian.

“Hardly the dregs, mistress. More like the undiscovered barrel of perfectly matured bittersweet wine hidden by our expectations of a bad vintage. I have every confidence he will succeed,” Evlina replied without turning to face the mysterious guest.

“A wager of fifty pain crystals?” the cloaked and hooded figure asked sweetly. “Done. I look forward to spending the Mistress’ wealth,” Evlina replied coolly as they watched Tarzsiz finish his preparations.

*****

Illian sprinted, not at his fastest, but at a steady pace. He leapt over the first stone to land on the second, pushing off it immediately with his momentum to land upon the fourth. Nary a misstep or wobble in his exertions despite the wet, acid coated stones best attempts to drag him into their deadly pool. His unorthodox strategy continued until he reached the eighth stone, whereupon he launched himself forward past, the remaining two stones in the path and towards the middle stone.

There was no way for him to land with his feet. It was physically impossible. However, a single hand would be enough of a lever to propel Illian onto the exit stone pathway. As his hands touched the acid coated stone, barely large enough for his palm, Illian smelt the burning of leather and metal on his hand. Slowly, the heat crept towards his skin but Illian ignored it. Mental discipline is what you lack, his mother and everyone on Biel-Tan had said. Now he showed them how wrong they were. With his single arm’s

strength, Illian launched himself towards the stones leading to safety, twisting his body in the air to orient himself properly.

This time, he landed hard on a stone step, shoving it into the pool of acid and causing the green chemicals to coat his armored boot. Willing himself forwards, Illian lunged out of the acid pool and onto the next step, ignoring the prickling of acid against his bodysuit. There was no time to stop and think. As soon as he had one foot on a stone, he leapt over the next, leapfrogging at a swift, controlled pace. He had stopped counting and paying attention to the stones. Their placement was regular and his goal was in sight. On the ninth step, Illian threw himself forwards onto the welcome platform leading to the exit. He rolled before stopping, lying still on his back and panting. Then laughing, oblivious to the roars of the crowd above.

“My fifty crystals, mistress?” Evlina asked. “Tut,” the other said, “It was for completing all the tasks. Not just the one.”

“Very well then. I would like to raise the stakes to one hundred pain crystals and eight shards,” Evlina smiled.

“Such a precise number. I take that challenge.”

Illian rose, panting from the exertions just as much as the adrenaline rush. He noted how pieces of his left boot seemed close to falling off and his blistered right hand showed through holes created by the acid in his armored glove.

He moved to pick up his helmet, fastening it back over his head and watched as the walls parted for the next trial.
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CheeZe
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   13/6/2014, 07:04

Chapter 3

Illian braced himself as the doors swung open this time. Whatever opponents he would face, the young warrior felt confident he could best it in wit or combat. To his surprise and greater bemusement, the next chamber was tiny. It was more of an antechamber with another set of double doors across from him. But in front of him was a bound, blinded, and gagged slave, nude save for the leather bindings. She stood with her arms tied across her chest, hands outstretched to hold up a tray as well as her breasts. The tray pushed the slave’s breasts up and out, distracting Illian. Around her neck, hanging from thick black cord, was a sign with two runes written on it: “Choose One.”

He looked again at the tray and realized that he had missed two important objects. A splinter pistol and a plasma grenade lay on the tray, beside the slave’s distracting breasts. Illian wondered what else he had missed and looked around. The slave’s face was covered by a black mask, made of some kind of cloth. Her mouth was open but she was prevented from speaking because of a steel ball tied around her head. Her feet were chained to the floor and a tall, thick pole kept her upright by invading her body. A single spy lens near the top left corner of the ceiling showed enough for Illian to identify

it. The presence of such a device meant that some, or perhaps the entire audience, was watching and the slave girl.

“They really get a kick out of seeing her naked and helpless,” Evlina mused as she watched the screen. The crowd was ogling the high quality picture feeds of the slave girl’s curves.

“No more than your or I get from watching them bound and helpless,” the hooded guest spoke. The halfborn announcer was the verge of saying something about her presence in such a privileged viewing position when he was silenced by a glare from Caelith. “At least he’s not even thinking of playing with her. The last one to get this far spent a long time playing with the previous slave’s … assets,” Caelith added.

“Jealous of the slaves, Caelith? How unbecoming of you. They’re called breasts. You have them, I have them, the slave has them,” the mystery person teased. Caelith made no reply, burning with heated embarrassment, and returned her attention to the aspirant. He had chosen the pistol over the grenade. She wondered why.

A splinter pistol was, in Illian’s mind, a more versatile weapon than the blunt explosive force of a plasma grenade. It also had greater longevity. A grenade could only be used once but a pistol could be fired multiple times and could, assuming he knew how to aim, kill more opponents. And if for nothing else, the splinter pistol looked new and unused. It was utilitarian, lacking any ornate decorations or designs on its body or grip, but it was also light and well balanced in his hand. A full reservoir of toxins gave him a greater chance of completing the Trials and increased the number of ways he could have fun killing his enemiesly

He lifted it and tested the pistol, finding it to be well-balanced in his hand. With a pistol in his right and long, curved blade in his left, Illian wondered momentarily if he resembled his mother, clad for war.

He had no time to think on it, though, as the next set of doors swung open, forcing Illian to put the knife away. He would need a free hand, probably. For sheer cheek, Illian reached out and twisted the slave’s right teat as he walked past her. She jerked in surprise and he paid her no mind.

This time, his opponents were not alien. They were Dark Eldar, like him, but scum, unlike him, whose greatest contribution to Comorragh was to die for the masses’ pleasure. As though They were three gangers, hellions, by the looks of their body markings and grubby rags, stripped of their skyboards and forever grounded. Two males and a female, Illian counted. Each was armed differently. The female, probably the meanest looking of the trio with short hair, bared her teeth at Illian. She might almost have been attractive if not for her plainness and filthy rags. The only thing of note was the simple splinter rifle she carried. At a glance, Illian considered it to be one of the cheaply produced models, carried in any weapons store in Comorragh. Being cheap and simple to produce were its only redeeming qualities. The barrel was probably not properly aligned, causing a wider spread of splinters and its reservoir efficiency was going to be

much poorer than the more carefully crafted weapons issued to the Kabal’s elite. For all of its faults, however, it was still the deadliest weapon on the field.

The tall, lanky male carried a splinter pistol and hovered close to the female. His gait seemed awkward in the soft sand of the arena. Just as when he had faced the Mon-keigh, this was another trial of combat in sand. The final male didn’t seem to be armed with anything, simply clutching something tightly.

Instantly, the air was filled with poisonous splinters as Illian rolled on the ground to avoid the stream. Illian had not yet thought about how many moves he would need. The amateurs hadn't thought to divide their firepower to straddle him. As he rose, Illian fired a short burst of splinters from his pistol, which found their mark in the seemingly unarmed male. The hellion screamed in agony as the toxins flooded his veins and burned within. A small part of Illian’s brain wondered which of the Kabal’s toxin concoctions was loaded inside his pistol but it was a fleeting curiosity. He had just realized that the dying hellion had just dropped a plasma grenade. And it was armed, by its flashing signal.

Without thinking, Illian fired again at the clustered duo then, with his free hand, pulled one of the combat knives from his sleeve. A splinter smashed against his creaky armor, striking his left shoulder pad and knocking him back. As he fell backwards, Illian flung the knife at the duo before crashing onto the sand awkwardly. His left arm muscles strained against the impact and pain coursed through him with unwelcome familiarity.

The knife flew true to its targets but at the last second, the female pushed her companion away, towards the ticking grenade. He stumbled in the sand, unable to regain his footing in the soft, fine grains that parted to swallow each footfall. And then the stadium was filled with a brilliant light for a half-moment and the half-incinerated corpse collapsed into the sand, spreading black ash amongst the white grains. The crowd above cheered at the spectacle of the kill.

Illian spent no time listening to the cheers as he focused on the last of his opponents. She was decidedly harder to overcome as she was clearly more skilled than the previous two and was, thusly, better armed. Illian leapt and sprinted and rolled all across the arena as he tried to evade the stream of splinters fired by the female hellion. He had no speed advantage over her as he had with the Mon-keigh slaves. She quickly avoided his shots whenever he fired on the move. But if the sand trick worked on the humans, it might be worth something to get her to stop shooting splinters at him for just a moment. After all, they had not lived to spread word about it.

The next time he rolled, Illian scooped up a handful of sand and threw in the air to blind and baffle the hellion. It worked better than he had hoped. She had covered her face and dropped the rifle. After a heartbeat and just before another, Illian had gotten to her, an evil smile across his face as he prepared to shoot her in the gut, point blank. “Mercy!” she shrieked, causing Illian to pause before smashing her head with the back of his armored fist. She fell to the sand, head bleeding, when Iliian yanked her hair, forcing her back up.

“What is he doing?” Caelith asked aloud. Neither of the other two spoke. “This insect begs mercy! What is your judgment?” the aspirant shouted to the crowd. Evlina stayed silent but it was clear that this was directed at her. The crowd started screaming for her death in various visceral and, often, creative ways. The aspirant was looking at her and Caelith for their answer and while she remained silent, he did nothing. Sensing this, the crowd quietened and turned their attention to the representatives of the Kabal.

“I can find a use for her somewhere. The girl has some fight in her, claim her for me,” the hooded figure spoke quietly to Evlina, who didn’t even look like she was listening. It would, after all, be unseemly for them to see her listening to an anonymous figure. “The Kabal may find some use from this one. Leave her and continue your Trial!” Evlina announced clearly. The aspirant bowed and threw the hellion to the ground.

“He showed mercy. Shouldn’t we discard him now?”Caelith asked, puzzled by her superior’s acceptance of the fact. “It wasn’t mercy. It was a way to make sure we were paying attention to him. He could have killed her but he disarmed and subdued her. Skills that any of us would need on a slaving raid. Watch for these subtleties, Caelith. Otherwise, this one will soon be teaching you,” Evlina cautioned.

Caelith bit her tongue in silence.

“That course didn’t even challenge him,” Evlina chuckled to her guest. “We’ll see what the next one does for him,” the other replied haughtily. Her previous elegance and sophistication had vanished, replaced with unaccustomed annoyance.

_________________
Story: Aspirant
Kabal: Kabal of the Enraptured Downfall
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Hellion


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Join date : 2013-07-19
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   13/6/2014, 07:05

Chapter 4

Armed with a splinter rifle, pistol and combat knives, Illian felt like a warrior now. Only two more Trials and he would be able to leave this half-existence and win himself some respect. He knew now that the Kabalite Trueborn were still watching him, that they were still looking to fill a place. If Illian completed the challenges, he would not have to fear for his future.

Again, he braced himself for the next trial as the doors swung open. And again, it was something unexpected. The room was fully enclosed and no trace of an arena was visible. Lavish furniture and ornaments decorated the room. To Illian, used to the sparse and inadequate barrack housing for applicants, this was palatial. In fact, he realized, it was palatial! The room was some sort of recreation of a palace. Exquisite food was laid out on the table, highly refined and exotic drugs were offered to him, like finger foods, on trays by the serving slaves, and animal pelts hung from the walls as trophies. Smoky incense, undoubtedly laced with various drugs, hung in the air and blunted his razor focus.

What was the point of this Trial? Illian seethed as he marched around, trying to understand what was expected of him. Something was wrong. He knew that. But what was he supposed to find? Slaves came up to offer him food, wine, their bodies or, in one case, their life. A male slave had come up to Illian to offer himself “to die for the great warrior’s pleasure.” He wore the tattoo of a well-known suicide cult, people who believed in helping others experience the height of pleasure at death. The slave before him was obviously one of their playthings, trained to believe that he would experience the greatest pleasure at the moment of his death. Illian had immediately backhanded the slave with appropriate arrogance and continued on his way.

“Come on! Think, you fool! What is your primary duty as a Trueborn?” Caelith hissed at the screen. She was getting worked up over the aspirant again.

“Oh my, Caelith is supporting him too now,” the hooded figure teased. Again, Caelith silenced herself in humiliation.

In the corner of his eye, Illian saw something that stood out from the rest of the luxurious pleasures that surrounded him. He spun on his heels and moved deliberately towards it, swatting aside a Mon-keigh slave-girl who had come to offer him saxberry wine. He didn't even know what a saxberry was but he would not sate his curiosity now when so much depended on the decisions he had to make.

At the far end, on the wall, hung a simple painted portrait of the Archon Kaila Deserax, depicted as she would have looked as a young, bloodthirsty Wych and missing all of the badges of her current office. The eyes of the young woman stared back at him. Beneath the portrait, two runes were written. “I call.”

Without any hesitation, Illian knelt before the portrait and recited the lines oft drilled into the Trueborn aspirants.

“My Lady. You have summoned and your servant has come.”

The walls behind the portrait shifted, splitting open to reveal the passageway to the last Trial.

“You,” Evlina spoke to the sycophantic announcer, “I know what he will do for the final Trial. So I want you to give instructions that I will purchase the item which he does select. Relay those instructions now.”
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   13/6/2014, 07:06

Chapter 5

As the final set of doors swung open, Illian was greeted by a loud, animal roar. Orks! A single Ork bellowed loudly as it charged towards him even as the doors opened. The Ork held large cleavers, each longer than Illian’s arm, in each of its massive hands. Without hesitation, Illian raised his splinter rifle and shot a long burst into the massive brute. The toxic splinters drove into Ork, pumping their virulent toxins into it. Nonetheless, Illian had to step out of the way to avoid the Ork’s rush. Still, however, it stood, glaring with hatred at Illian with its beady red eyes. The Ork drew breath and bellowed its war cry again, oblivious to the splinters that Illian shot at it.

Evidently, it was too stupid to know that it was supposed to be dead. Illian dropped his rifle where it would be safe and pulled out one of the long combat knives that he had picked up an eternity ago. He held it in his right hand and crouched to meet the oncoming Ork. Just as the Ork was about to plough into him, Illian leapt grabbing the

Ork’s left bicep and pivoting himself on it, landing on the Ork’s back. The Ork thrashed to get him off but the game was Illian’s. He drove the knife through the back of the Ork’s neck and out again, causing a fountain of red blood to spray him and the black stone floor.

Illian jumped off and savored the beast’s last moments as he slowly walked to the splinter rifle he had discarded. He had made it and no one could deny him that. Above him, the crowd of Dark Eldar spectators cheered at the blood sport. Illian was satisfied with his victory today. Until he saw three more doors swing open and three more Orks shouted their defiance.

“It’s supposed to be one Ork! What is this?”Evlina shouted in a fury.

“Orders from the Archon. She said that we should finish the Trials with something unexpected,” the announcer replied with a sadistic grin. Evlina half-turned to the hooded figure who seemed to be pressing her hand to her face in exasperation. “And why would I say that when each Trial costs me crystals and slaves? I’ve already lost enough on this boy, why would I want to lose three good Orks and an excellent Trueborn?” she pulled off her hood to reveal her beautiful face, enhanced by the anger of having her name used to justify an unfairness.

“My L-Lady!” the announcer stammered, “He is r-assault-get, his mother is one of the Craftworlders’ warriors, and his father is years expired! His death would bring greater entertainment to the crowds!”

Kaila Deserax looked at Caelith, who was straining against the ledge to see what the aspirant was doing to stay alive. Evlina was glancing between all three of them, her body taut and ready to pounce like a true huntress. “Caelith, go save your new toy,” the Archon commanded. “Evlina, kill this one slowly. He clearly doesn’t understand the point of the Trials.”

*****

Illian was surrounded by three huge Orks. One, or even two, more he could have handled but unless he was extremely lucky, these three Orks would be his undoing. Before he could do anything more than run and shoot them ineffectively, something dropped onto one of the Orks, turning it into a bloody mess. Illian focused on it and saw a scowling, beautiful woman with a severe face and a brilliant blue agonizer whip in hand. Her black hair was tied into a top-knot like his, though larger, and was streaked with red. What struck him the most, however, was the deep purple of her armor and the insignias she wore. She was part of the Archon’s personal bodyguard.

Another flash of blue and the next Ork crumpled to ground, bloodied and broken. The suddenness broke Illian’s reverie and he turned his rifle to the last Ork. Body shots were pointless. But headshots could still be deadly. The splinters had enough force to blast off the head if enough of them were fired. Illian dropped to a knee, steadied his aim and shot a long burst. The Ork had no time to roar as its head was pulverized by a thick stream of sharp finger-sized splinters fired at high velocity.

He stayed in that kneeling position, rifle on his shoulders, until the Trueborn came to him. Then he put the gun down and bowed his head, only to be hauled to his feet unceremoniously.

“You don’t bow to me, fool! You’re not even finished with the Trial!” she scowled at him, pointing to a platform at the far end that he had not seen at first.

Illian walked up to it and two runes appeared. “Choose one,” it read. Again… Illian sighed. Two alcoves in the wall revolved to reveal his choices.

One was an ornate and well-crafted set armor, with matching greaves, shining gauntlets and a sturdy helmet as well as a sinister splinter rifle, probably hand-crafted by an artisan. The rifle caught his eye and he lingered on it. It had a curved blade at the end of the barrel, like a scythe. To Illian, it reminded him of the tales his mother had told of him of the Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra. Illian liked the comparison with the vaunted Phoenix Lord and the idea of mocking him with a copy of his famous weapon. But in the other alcove stood the slave from earlier who had held the tray with his pistol and grenade. She was still nude, save for the chains binding her hands and feet, the collar that symbolized her status as property and the black leather face mask and gag covering her face.

His decision was made and Illian put his hands to the slave’s mask and lifted it off. She was younger than he and a pretty thing, not yet fully matured. She was, clearly, a Dark Eldar, one of the tube born creations of the Haemonculi who served the Kabal. Her whole life had been bred for this moment, where she would be dedicated to serve him obediently and capably. Above, the crowd roared as the slave girl blinked away the glare of the lights to see the face of her new master.

Kaila Deserax stood and soaked in the cheers from the crowd, some of them cheering for the aspirant, others for Caelith’s intervention, others because they were plain drunk. The Trials were for one purpose – weeding out the weak, the foolish and the incapable so that only the best Trueborn served in the Archon’s ranks. Entertainment of the masses was a side-effect that served to increase the Kabal’s popularity but it meant nothing as long as the most worthy aspirants were selected. This one, despite his place as last, had shown himself to be more than capable and well worth losing some pain crystals to her favorite Dracon, especially since some of that sum had gone right back into Kaila’s pocket when Evlina purchased the armor set.

“Why?” the Trueborn warrior asked Illian as she strode up to him. ”Wealth can always be easily won or lost. Power is only grudgingly gained and easily lost. Therefore, power over one is far better than power over none,” Illian replied with confidence. The other nodded slowly, the grim severity turning into a wry smile.

She pointed to the armor set that Illian had forsaken. “Congratulations, warrior. Don your armor.”
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   13/6/2014, 07:16

So, yeah. That thing about Halloween...

Anyway, here it is in full. I am now torn between doing the origins of the Archon (as was requested by a friend) and a sequel. Comments and Constructive Feedback are always welcome and would love to know why you say what you say. Also, let me know which of the two stories I should work on next.

I won't commit myself to any time frames on stories as I am currently in an intensive Master's program (everything crammed into 1 year instead of the regular 2) and it is very writing heavy. This is a way for me to unwind during the bus rides and not have to think about all the academic lingo for a while. Very Happy

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Story: Aspirant
Kabal: Kabal of the Enraptured Downfall
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Join date : 2013-05-02
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PostSubject: Re: Aspirant   14/6/2014, 23:22

Hurrah, very descriptive
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