“Is it done?” Aenaria leaned against a broad bulkhead, her raven wings pinned against her blood-slathered plate. “Have you summoned your ally?”
“All things are revealed in time.” Mirathir stepped down from the raised dais as the holographic projection shuddered into dormancy. “Should Nyst play her cards correctly, I believe we should here from our Thousand Son very soon.”
“Thousandth Son.” Aenaria rolled the words on her tongue. “Choose your enemies and friends wisely, Raven Prophet. This Tyrioc looks imposing and well-versed in the art of war. Are you certain that you can trust him?”
“I trusted him once.” Mirathir gestured with a sweep of her arms across the vast chamber of wires and cogitators. “And a world trembled and burned before our combined minds. But you are correct, Tyrioc can only be trusted to a certain degree. Our struggle no longer involves the fate of the Imperium, but our very strongholds. He may very well decide to take everything for himself, should greed and madness push him toward the precipice.”
Mirathir indicated that they begin walking toward the chamber exit. “If such an imposing figure did choose to make himself my foe, would you remain loyal? Or would you serve whoever was stronger?”
Idle thrall-servitors powered into life at their approach. They were horrid creations of the Dark Mechanicum, machines of pallid flesh and machine-infused sinew. Yet in spite of the intricate labyrinth of cabling that bulged from beneath their burgundy robes, there was a haunting majesty about the half-human machines. The dark prayers they whispered into the ether as they pushed back the murals that led into the wilderness beyond was something Mirathir had found strangely comforting.
“Eternal Abyss!” Aenaria exclaimed. The blinding rays of the desert sun penetrated deep into the chamber the moment the mural-doors could even be creaked open. The Guardian recoiled from the brilliant radiance, but the thralls did not stop until the gateway had been completely thrown back.
Mirathir could only smile as she heard the angel gasp in wonderment.
The Aeretica Wastes glittered on the horizon, expanding across the east and west. A labyrinth of canyons and plateaus arose from the dunes to surround the Fortress of Aurellan’s flanks. Stretched out beneath them was a writhing sea of urban sprawl, bristling with fortifications, and bustling crowds. Mirathir gazed out beyond the fortress’ high walls and into the open desert that engulfed everything beyond the canyons.
Countless thousands had been vanquished in those sands. And yet not a shred of evidence of their passing remained. Nothing but the lingering futility of the lesser races.
“Welcome to Tarmathon IV, Aenaria.”
Aenaria beat her wings constantly, creating a breeze that cooled them both. “I must confess, to my shame. This is the first time I have set foot upon a mortal world. Can’t say I understand what all of the fuss is about.”
“You will learn, soon.” Mirathir crooned. “Your forces. How many have you arrived with?”
“Several thousand.” Aenaria pondered the question. “Enough to aid you in whatever task.”
Mirathir nodded. “You only just arrived. How long until your troops are ready to fight?”
Aenaria blinked, she obviously did not understand the question. “Give the order, Raven Prophet, and my host will be ready to conquer the Crystal Labyrinth if need be.”
“I will not reveal my hand just yet.” Mirathir said. “Though I do not like the idea of you and your horde remaining idle in my fortress either. Keep them under control. I shall have an opportunity to use your talents soon.”
Aenaria slammed a fist against her chest. “Your bidding, eternal.”
Mirathir sighed. “Please, Aenaria, I am not your master. Raven Prophet shall be appropriate between us.”
A distorted, mechanical voice thundered from behind them. “Mistress Mirathir?” Mirathir and Aenaria turned to reveal a Tech-Priest of the Dark Mechanicum looming over them. The creature was mostly machine, snaking forward on metallic tendrils and pointing at her with a bony finger. “Please excuse my interruption, but there are matters that require you attention. Immediately.”
Mirathir arched a brow. “What has happened, Dominus Tachyon?”
The Tech-Priest’s inner-workings rumbled. “An improbable event. One of our mechanicum outposts have relayed reports of an attack on their facilities. They also report heavy casualties.”
Mirathir sneered. “The Tau Empire?”
Tachyon inclined his head. “This unit has not been able to confirm such findings. Yet all evidence would suggest that such an outcome is likely. With your permission, this unit would begin the process of dispatching reinforcements to the designated location.”
Mirathir nodded. “Of course, Tachyon. Do what you must to eliminate the threat. Any clue as to what they might be after?”
“The facility in question happens to also be housing one of the planet’s precious orbital cannons.”
Mirathir paled. “Send the remaining facilities on alert status. Dispatch reinforcements to every cannon, I do not want a single one falling into the hands of the enemy!”
Aenaria unfurled her wings in anticipation. “Perhaps I could be of service, Raven Prophet?”
“Perhaps,” Mirathir said. “Tachyon, summon my Sorcerers. It appears the Tau have come early.”