Chapter the Second part 3 of 5
As the last Dragon fell, Veghard felt himself stumble back from the rock knuckle. The edges of his vision faded to a foggy grey and a sound like the roar of the ocean filled his ears. Fighting to stay on his feet, Veghard lost the feeling in his legs and he felt himself slide forward into a never ending fall through seemingly infinite fog.
Grey fog parted as Veghard fell. The ground spun crazily below him, and the browns of grasses blurred with the greens and blacks of the blasted forest. The roar that seemed to have started with the roar of the ocean, he now recognized as the scream of wind as he shot towards the surface of a planet. Veghard, who most considered level headed even for a squat, felt panic tighten his chest. He did not know how or why he was suddenly suspended in the air, or falling from such a height. It would not matter in moments, but that fact did not keep Veghard from flailing his arms in futile panic, trying to somehow stop his meteoric descent.
“Ah! You made it!” A semi-familiar voice announced near him, totally unconcerned with Veghard, or the other’s predicament.
A hand reached out and grabbed Veghard, stopping his flailing. At once, the screaming of the wind stopped, the world righted itself, and Veghard found himself again at the rock knuckle. Shock filled him as he watched the battle unfold itself before him, Novarius falling before disciplined fusion gun fire, while the One Seventy Seventh melted away as Abelard was cut down. No supporting fire came from his position as unlike just moments ago, his heavy bolter was nowhere to be seen. Somehow, his actions had no effect. The battle below him, sliding away as the Dragons moved into the draw, was different that the one he could remember just fighting in. Veghard looked behind the rock knuckle, expecting to see his own body, melted or charred beyond recognition. There were stories of those who had been miraculously resuscitated who spoke of the ancestors coming to guide the fallen. The stories were similar, so most took them as dreams that were half remember and so the dreamer would fall back upon the other instances to copy them for some type of explanation. Dreams made up while the brain slowly died, yet found that life was not quite done with them.
Veghard was as most. Such stories were just that, stories for the gullible. The ancestors were revered, just as the Emperor; unseen, untouched, and unknown. The Emperor would no more stride the battle field, like the Eldar Avatar, than an ancestor would come hold your hand as you died. The dead did not sit in judgment as taught to all squat children, but their achievements and actions were to be emulated. The Living Ancestors were an anomaly, but an anomaly in a universe of anomalies. Veghard gave the Living Ancestors credit that was their due, but in the end they were only psykers. Useless to the Imperium, though revered by the Squats, the Living Ancestors lacked the unbridled power of the sanctioned psykers, the Eldar warlocks, or the magics of the Chaos sorcerers, all of which had been witnessed or experienced by Veghard. The mumblings of a senile squat held little import in Veghard’s eyes.
Rock solid belief was now shaking inside Veghard. He could piece together the destruction of the Eldar, not his Imperial forces. Looking behind the rocks, an almost unconquerable fear was building inside of him. Somewhere he would see his own body and life would be denied him, even as he felt as if he was alive even now. Would seeing his own body end even this? Yet, around the knuckle there was no sign of blood, gore, or even body. Veghard was so engrossed with seeking his fallen body he started with a jolt when the voice he had forgotten about pulled his attention from his search.
“You won’t find anything looking down there, Veghard.” The voice came from another squat. Dressed as Veghard, the squat looked no different from any other Veghard had dealt with.
Veghard found his voice had a quavering note to it, shaming him, but being unable to quell his fear he was unable to force it to his regular timber. “Are…are you an ancestor? Are you one of my ancestors?”
The other gazed back at him. Veghard knew immediately what the newcomer would say. Something like, “What do you think?” or as evasive. The thought of such a retort made Veghard angry, which loosened the grip the fear had over him at the thought of being dead. Surprisingly, the other simply nodded and Veghard found himself without an angry retort.
“Am I dead?” Another question, but this time the other smiled and shook his head negatively. “Then what am I? What’s going on?”
His anger had found a target, but the gruff tone of his voice had no effect on the other.
“What is your name? You know mine, who are you?” Veghard was not sure what was angering him more, the other’s sudden silence or the mocking smile that refused to leave the man’s face, though the direct question did finally get a response.
“My name? Why it doesn’t matter. Call me what you wish. My name died with me, but my purpose has always held me. I will be your guide, for a short time. There will be others who will need me, and soon you will not. You will find others to counsel you. Come, you don’t have much time. Your strength will wane soon and you must see.”
“See? See what? Everyone was killed”, Veghard gestured to the Dragons that had moved past the draw and were moving up the other side. “My plan failed. I didn’t even fire a shot.”
His guide followed Veghard, watching the Dragons move away and he even chuckled. “Well, that’s different.”
“What’s different?” Veghard was puzzled by the other’s disinterest in the death below them.
“This isn’t what happened. This is was what the Farseer was grasping for. Most Ancestors don’t see options of the past.” He turned to look at Veghard. “Of course, that is why we have been waiting for you. Because you are different, my friend.”
“My friends have names”, snorted Veghard.
“Then give me one”
Veghard paused. Fear began to build in him again. Squats were not by nature susceptible to tendrils of chaos, but strongholds had been subverted. Though not many, such places were hated even more than the greenskins. Veghard felt cold. If he was not dead, this could be some chaos creature that had invaded his mind, if that could happen. How did someone become possessed? If he named this vision, this dream, would it gain access to his soul? Possess him? Or was he already damned and no longer protected by the Emperor? He wanted to turn and run from this unknown squat, but squats did not turn and run. And if this was some chaos spirit, where would he run to? Veghard tried to think of his options but all he could think of what that he was at the mercy of this creature.