---- Edited 11/06/2013 word limit corrected. ----
Having not contributed anything to this shrouded chamber in far too long, this competition seemed to perfect time to clamber out of the flesh-work and participate... or possibly pontificate.
In any case below are the three tales I submit for your perusal.
The First is my take on the common theme that seemed to occur to us, one and all on hearing the general theme - there was originally planned to be a second to that end but it seemed better to step into slightly more uncharted territory than simply change the view point mildly.
The Second is as it says on the tin. An interlude in between parts one and two of 'The Templar & The Alien', for the official record part 2 is indeed coming.
Finally, whilst the content may imply a link to 'The Templar & The Alien', and the Harpy of Tears is a key member of said tale, the events are in fact something and somewhere else entirely.
Addendum: All of these stories were likely formatted entirely differently in word, any insight as to how to add simple things like paragraph indents on this would be highly appreciated.The First:
A Moment's Calm
I can see the clouds coming down from the hills. All bunched up and blunt-ended, the marks of a good summer storm. The farm needs the rain, its earth is hard and cracked, resisting what little strength I have to break it up. Rain will change all that, even with the weakness of my back I can till the slurry-mud it will become and then we might make the tithe. I smile, stretching the old scar-tissue on one side of my face, it aches like always but I don’t care. For once, for right now I can be happy and put the ever-present pains aside. They’ll get worse with the moist air, venom burnt skin reacting to the water, my poorly remade bones aching in the evenings chill. But I can endure that. The rain gives us a chance and the work will keep me busy, keep the neural damage at bay and keep the mind out of old memories.The Second:
It’s almost reached us now, the churning, roiling grey on grey. I can just feel the change in the wind, that slight breeze before it picks up and the rain clouds open. I should get indoors; close up the windows lest the water gets in, but I won’t just yet. I’ll revel in the freedom and watch a while longer. The clouds and the sky, the moving storm front, even the dried out plains are beauti…. What's that?
There. Something in the cloud, a craft of some kind maybe? I shiver involuntarily, sending a spark of pain across my back. Must be the cold. I strain my eyes to see it more clearly. Oddly familiar….. Small, arrow-edged and barbed….. Definitely a craft. So fast… and there, another, streaking out of the thunderhead. So familiar… the memories flash across my mind. Wicked alien things. Vicious. Callous. Always pain and darkness… Throne…the agony it’s so clear. No. That’s all it is. Just a trick of the light, an old memory, it must be. It has to be. No…. there’s a third. No. Throne no. Not them… not again….
The Templar & The Alien:
The last of the mon’keigh had been secured and anything of import retrieved from the wreckage of the two raiders when the sandstorm finally reached the ruins. The wind rose in pitch to a howl that was echoed by the engines of the remaining grav-craft accelerating into the lee of the central spire once more. Aboard the Tantalus the Inked Archon scowled. The sport had been diverting for a time but now with the matter ended even the abrasive sting of the rad-wind on his mottled blue and alabaster cheek did little to rouse his jaded senses.Finally:
“Your delay grows tiresome Rack,” the armoured haemonculus bobbed in apology, opening chapped lips to speak but being cut off by another disdainful smirk.
“The fruit of their vessel hangs in orbit. Inform that Harpy Isdraab to bring her ship around. I will have sport with its insides.”
A body twitched on the corpse hooks beneath the vessel. The single surviving wych of the Glass Splinters shifting at the sound of her mistress’ name, as she slowly bled out onto the dust below.
“Of course our Archon.” The Spider bowed low before it paused, twisting its lips into a jagged smile, allowing the Pain Engine to drift lazily to the balustrade, before returning to its full height as it continued, “the coven would be most pleased with more of these…. Things.” It half turned, extending a hand to run gauntlet-covered fingertips across the carapace of the Talos in a caress that lingered over the exposed sample containers, brimming with thick fluids and post-human organs.
“And alive they could easily entice Dread Archon Isdraab to make her Corsairs more available in the future. Assuming of course any of them survive...”
The Inked Archon grunted in response, not rising to the barbed words. There would come a time when The Spider and its Coven-brothers would feel the blade of his hatred. When that day came he would sup the blackest agonies of these creatures and find how far removed they truely were from their origins. And he would smile. But it would not be today..
Harpy of Tears
Against the glittering dark of the void the shields were a cacophony of violent, vibrant bolts. Livid purple lightning arced in deadly feedback loops across the hull of the vessel as the generators struggled to hold back the barrage of plasma. But, under each successive blow the coruscating energies were beginning to fail. Amidships was worst. Where the two overlapping fields were thinnest, with each at the edge of their generators reach, the defensive bubble was bulging inwards under the deluge, an ancient roof weathered by age and the elements finally about to give way under the full force of monsoon rain.
The xenos vessel knew. It’s sensors could feel the delicate breeze that presaged the collapse, could hear the creak of splintering timbers, and so it changed the angle of its attack. The plasma bursts stitched a staccato rain towards the flaw, ripples in the shields amplifying as more and more formed, even as the downpour slowed for a moment.
The flood becoming a drizzle.
A moment’s pause.
Sparks screamed from the generator bubbles on the Imperial vessel as men in the depths scurried to slam fresh capacitors home, to reroute power from overloaded systems. A few minutes might be enough. But there was no time.
The resuming torrent struck as a tsunami, and one section of the human vessel vanished in fire and howling gales of decompressing air, as the shield generator blew. The second fought on. Defiant in the face of the maelstrom, but in vain. It too was swept away.
Pulsing shafts of energy pierced the hull of the vessel. The shadowed heat of stolen suns melting through hull and human with equal speed. The plasma stream smashed into the failing structure and pinioned between lance beams it snapped in a slow agonising motion.
As the hurricane of weapons fire subsided another craft was revealed. Exiting the eye of fire from its parent craft it disgorged smaller raiders to pounce upon the fragmenting vessel. The Harpy was the mother of the storm, and she would feast well on the tears in the wake of its passing.