Xabre - A Nightmare Unseen
Sanguinus lay on the ground, his body still convulsing in its death throes. Dark blood pooled from beneath his body, staining his ivory wings crimson. His chest fell with his last breath, the broken blade of his sword buried through his armor and into his heart. His eyes closed, and the Angel was gone.
The pool of blood continued to spread, gathering at the feet of a god among those counted as gods among men. The great Betrayer, Horus, was standing there, towering in armor of slate grey and ebony. Done with Sanguinus’s weapon, Horus drew his own, a fel blade rumored to be gifted by the gods of all things terrible. Lightning crackled on the blades of the claw that graced his other hand.
As dark and ominous as Horus seemed, the figure above him was just as magnificent. Even now in the darkest of times he seemed to defy description, a perfect creature that burned with all the glorious radiance of the sun. Golden armor as exquisite as was ever crafted graced his form, making him seem both regal and imposing, elegant and lethal all at once. The two figures were perfect opposites, the void of night against the blaze of the stars. Only Horus would dare to try and eclipse the magnificence of the Emperor of Mankind.
There was only one thing more absurd than the idea of father and son in conflict like this, and that was it would be witnessed by a mere mortal. In the shadowy corners of the throne room was another presence. He had no name, merely a string of numbers, a designation that seemed pointless and pathetic compared to the colossi before it. The figure was tiny and frail, and in the back of its mind it knew that was normal for a member of the Choir, though it could not remember what the Choir was. No other thought existed except for what was happening before it.
Horus and the Emperor were speaking to each other now. The sniveling creature heard them, but there were no words. From the Betrayer came terrible sounds of fire and thunder and death, while his father’s voice was a chorus of angels and a symphony of peace. The thunder grew more terrible, while the symphony was calm and soothing, each growing more intense as their argument heated. Finally the discussion came to its climax, with the quiet finality of the Emperor’s melody more terrible in its sudden chill than all the noise that Horus spouted.
The time for words were over with the Emperor’s final dismissal. From his throne he drew his sword, a blade of golden light that defied true definition. Like two titans of ancient Terra, Horus and the Emperor did battle. They were forces of nature, elemental powers that seemed less like men and more pure primal entities. The creature watched from the shadows, terrified of being caught up in the maelstrom. Its robes caught in fiery wind, threatening to draw him in, and his fingers bled as he clung to the wall and watched, unable to look away.
The battle seemed to last for hours, days, lifetimes. The two warriors moved in a blur that could not be followed by the unaided eye, and yet the huddling, numbered being saw every detail in slow motion. Blades flashed against blades in a corona of light. Armor was torn and blood was spilled. Small cuts gave way to grave injury, and still both fought on. At last one of the figures fell to his knees. It happened so fast that the choirman needed heartbeats to realize it was the golden Adonis that had fallen.
The menial had no control of what happened next; he screamed. It was the cry of mortal terror, of loss beyond any soul could ever hope to endure. Behind the Emperor’s throne, the very sky shuddered out the window, and fire rained from the stars as the universe mourned. And when the mortal’s scream abated, he turned and fled.
He had no idea where he was going. He disappeared into the shadows and found himself running blindly down endless tunnels. At one point he found himself running through corridors that seemed like they belonged in a starship. Rounding a corner brought him to the dark avenues of the City of Silence. The golden halls of the Imperial Palace gave way to ancient stone roads. Through it all he kept running, with the echoes of his own scream following. Somewhere in the midst of his flight, the menial’s mind managed to process that this was wrong. Some terrible dream.
As soon as that thought triggered, he found himself at a dead end. The hallway ended in a dark room, some form of observation lounge. A massive window overlooked the curve of Holy Terra from orbit, and the entire mass of the palace could be seen from above. The city was burning, and fire fell from his perch in space, searing the world. The man ran up to the window, slamming fists against the glass. Behind him, nothing allowed escape as shadows closed in. He was trapped, watching the end of the galaxy. He banged on the class, clawed at it. Above Terra, a star exploded over the northern plane of stars. He watched the nova expand, until a blazing eye like fire could be seen. All at once the numbered wretch knew what he had seen. All he had to do was get the warning to Him, down there in the fiery blaze that was the palace. If he could just claw through the glass…
“Dead, you say?” The Mistress of the Astropathic Choir followed her assistant, already looking bored. Telepaths burnt out all the time, after all.
“Yes, Mistress. But this one was strange. Come, see.” The assistant all but pushed the Mistress into the small cell.
Inside the sleeping chamber was a small withered husk of a man, his body pressed up against the tiny slit of a viewport his chambers provided. His eyes were gone, burnt out of their sockets, and his fingers were mangled and broken, bloody and shredded from digging and clawing. Bloodstains around the window gave evidence to that. He had bitten his tongue and choked on it, it seemed, as if the rest were not enough.
“What could have caused it?”
The Mistress had no answer. In the distance, she saw a tiny flicker in the window, through the blood. A star had blossomed from the warp, and the flicker seemed to burn, like an eye in the darkness.