‘What’s happening?!’ The child asked. She ran as fast as she could to stop from falling as she was dragged by her hand. The farseer’s dome was a throng of panicked activity as they ran.
‘I do not know, child.’ The farseer replied. ‘But we must get you to safety. Be swift!’ They shouldered through a group of eldar civilians running in the opposite direction. The girl was almost knocked from to the ground but the broad shouldered armour of her protector kept the way forward clear as they once again increased their pace.
‘But Lord Maechu...’ The girl protested. ‘What about everybody else?’ She almost tripped but was hoisted back to her feet by the powerful grip of the farseer leading her.
‘Many of us must... prepare to fight.’ Maechu replied. ‘Everyone is seeing to the safety of those who cannot. You are my responsibility now. Please, go!’ He stopped and ushered her forward. She looked to where he was pointing and saw what looked like one of the isolation domes she had seen during one of her earlier visits to the dome of crystal seers.
A tremor ran through the ground beneath their feet. All around them, fleeing or cringing eldar cried out and pointed to the sky. She followed their gazes, but whatever had their attention escaped her.
‘Lord...?’ She pleaded fearfully for some explanation. A single tear formed under her eye as the farseer met her gaze and simply shook his head.
‘Stay in there.’ Maechu commanded. ‘And please, do not come out until I come back for you...’
As the dome sealed her inside, she lost sight of the farseer. It would be the last contact she would ever remember with another eldar...
* * *
A beam of sunlight permeated the darkness, cutting her empty sleep short as the light pierced her closed eyes. She stirred with a soundless grimace of disquiet and slowly stood. Her head was almost devoid of hair, her clothes were tight fitting and almost run ragged and her once beautiful face had become a permanent expression of fluctuating anger and neutrality.
She was as tall as any of her race. As slim and flexible as any of her peoples’ warriors. As resourceful as the outcasts and as forthright thinking as the farseers. To be anything less would have meant death. And to die would mean the extinction of the eldar race forever. No matter how hopeless she felt, no matter how much she wanted to give up, she wouldn’t. She couldn’t, not with the monumental responsibility she had undertaken.
She took a few moments to stretch her joints and reached for the cloak that hung on the wall nearby. Stepping away from the makeshift bed of stretched vines and various scavenged fabrics, she donned the cloak and stepped out of the tiny room. Just outside, there was a belt and a long rifle. She strapped the belt on straight away, and slung the rifle over her shoulder. Pausing for a moment to survey what had become her home, she noted every tiny detail to ensure nothing had been here through the night without her knowing.
It was a giant cave, a hole in the ground. There was no way to say that delicately. The myriad of trinkets and technological artefacts stared back at her, unmoved and untouched since she placed them there. She nodded to nobody but herself as she began to walk towards the hidden exit at the far end of the dome sized cave. Her eyes flittered over the many things she had scavenged or found along the way, each one with a story to tell. Each one a relic of a dead race.
There was a crude metal shaping of a twin headed bird taken from a fallen place of worship. There was a ramshackle weapon which by all scientific rights shouldn’t be able to fire the misshapen bullets in its ill fitting magazine. A round autonomous unit that sported several mechanical limbs fitted with various tools and attachments. And a group of gemstones that once glowed with the brightness of living souls...
She stopped walking, ever so briefly at the last one, to stare into those relics that had been so sacred to her kind. Now they meant nothing. Their purpose was hollow as they now had no souls to harbour, and the malevolent deity that thirsted after them was but a mewling shadow of the all encompassing terror it used to be. She resumed walking with a sigh. Though they were empty, and always would be, they still served to remind her of the traditions and the memories her people left behind. Just as she preserved them, she saw fit to preserve the Aquila, the Shoota and the tech drone. Each in their own way, these objects were sacred to the races that created them.
They were all now testament to a galaxy that had been teeming with life. And now that life was all but gone. Reaching the end of the cave, she brushed aside a thicket of thorns and woven branches. Slipping the hood of her cloak over her head, she slipped through the small gap she had created and stepped onto a ground littered with twigs and dying foliage. With practiced ease she moved through the clutch of trees that concealed the entrance to her underground hideaway and scaled a nearby tree. It was one of the oldest on this planet by the looks of it, sturdy and broad and immovable. She climbed to the highest branch and surveyed the land that surrounded her...
She couldn’t bring herself to call this place home. Home would always be Ulthwe, but instead of the immense craftworld plying the stars, it had become a memory scattered through her thoughts just as the flaming wreckage of Ulthwe itself had come crashing down on this planet. She didn’t know why, but she had always assumed that Maechu had steered the craftworld to this place in his final moments. Somehow he had known what was coming even before it had hit. There had been no warning. The Calamity that had claimed everything had not sent a precursor. It had simply happened, without warning and seemingly without cause.
The Calamity. That was what it had come to be called. The End of Life and the End of Hope.
Her feet landed softly on the ground once more and she broke into a jog. At the edge of the small forest was what looked like a pit of thorns and poisonous blossoms. With one clean leap she cleared the obstacle to land inside another hollowed out underground section completely hidden from view. This cave however was nowhere near the size of the other one. This cave only needed to harbour one thing. She allowed herself a few moments so her eyes would adjust to the dark before picking out the sleek shape before her. Mounting the saddle, she triggered the ancient machine to life and pushed it forward. With a soft shriek of engines, the jetbike roared into life and carried her back out into the daylight.
The machine did not resemble the elegant jetbikes of the craftworld, indeed all wraithbone structures had begun to deteriorate after the Calamity, instead it was the metal form of a corsair vehicle. Perhaps it was good fortune that such a band had graced Ulthwe with their presence at the right time to...
She dismissed the notion with a contemptuous snort. It was nothing but blind luck. Fortune had died along with any other ideals of destiny or purpose in this bleak universe and the only constant anymore was the need to survive. As the ground zoomed past her in a silent haze, she made for where she had left off yesterday. She would have to make more progress today than before however or risk starvation. Already her stomach had begun to speak to her of its emptiness and displeasure.
The hours of silence preceded yet more silence as she reached her destination. Unlike the empty fields of before where at least there was still grass and vegetation, this place was completely devoid of anything living but her. With a grim sense of numbness and a deep breath, she lowered her craft and began to search.
I don’t care anymore. Or at least, I have to keep telling myself that. For every corpse I come across, for every empty waystone I find, every dropped relic of lives long extinguished, I have to remind myself that I don’t care anymore.
I have to keep fooling myself, or else I’ll go insane.
Everything I do now is for profit, survival or both. I have no cause to devote myself to but my own continued existence. A century ago, harvesting wraithbone to sell as power sources to humans and greenskins would have been unthinkable. Today, it is simply another facet of life. With the warp all but dead, everything that was connected to it began to bleed away. The once holy and imperishable material of our homes was no exception, and it gave off a healthy dose of energy as it did so.
But it wasn’t just energy that radiated from that substance. Memories flowed out of it, dreams of a time full of life. To hold the stuff as it faded away was like having a vivid dream of a happier time.
My parents had told me otherwise once. They said to me when I was a young girl, that the galaxy was full of nothing but war and death.
But for that... there had to have been lots of life didn’t there? Sheltered away on that craftworld for all of my childhood up to the Calamity, I had never known what life was really about. And now, with everything gone, it seemed I never would.