The Prodigal Son
This is a short (just over 1000 words) story I wrote from the POV of Prince Yriel himself.
Thoughts welcome. I advise you to look up Kelmon on the Lexicanum if you're unfamiliar with him - it'll enrich the ending for you.
Yriel the Proud, they used to call me, and I am proud. They whispered that it would lead me to darkness, to the path of excess that damned us all and when I left those conservative fools behind me I only confirmed, in their eyes, my inevitable damnation.
I had saved them all, won an unwinnable battle, and they chastised me even as my name was cheered in the streets. High Admiral Yriel, Bastard-Prince and Saviour of Iyanden.
They said it was for my recklessness, but that was not the reason. They had not foreseen the battle, my actions, and they would never forgive me for that. They were as proud as I, perhaps moreso, because I at least could see it.
I could not bear to look such hypocrites in the face, much less obey their will and flawed vision. I left them, left my beloved craftworld and the safety of the Paths, embracing a life of freedom and grandeur.
So many flocked to my banner, and I revelled in the liberties and power of a pirate-prince. For centuries, my legend, my prestige and my fleet swelled. I became the greatest of the princes, bane of the mon-keigh Imperium and a hero to many.
And yet... In spite of the riches, the glory and the glamour, it was never enough for me. In this, I felt the truth of their warnings. It would have been easy to lose myself and repeat the mistakes of the Fall, to be no better than the Dark Kin.
I resisted this path. I would not grant those blinkered fools vindication.
When I heard of the Doom of Iyanden, there was no hesitation. I would not stand by to see any Craftworld destroyed, let alone my own. My skills, further sharpened by my years spent as a corsair, saw to it that my fleet tore through the swarms of bio-ships until I walked once more under the crystal domes of Iyanden itself.
Sometimes I had pictured a moment when I would return to Iyanden, met with cheers and a procession in my honour, the Seers silent at last.
There were no parades to be found in the blood-soaked gardens and crumbling palaces of that broken paradise.
Now the Seers have found me. They look upon me with familiar suspicion in their eyes even as they thank me, name me again the saviour of Iyanden. It fills me with anger; for all their pretensions of precognition, they did not see this tragedy coming! They have been forced to stoop to necromancy just to stem the tide of filth that despoiled the once beautiful spheres of our craftworld and taints the Wraithbone itself.
“Your will, most honoured lords and ladies?” I smile, my speech perfectly formal even as my mind rages, a conceit they can no doubt appreciate.
“Your forces have seen to most of their bioships, Prince Yriel, but the battle here hinges on defeating the beast at the head of the swarm. It is a creature of terrible power - Korandriel of the Shining Spears and Autarch Velathorn have died at its claws. It withstood even the rage of the Bloody-Handed One. If we are to save Iyanden, this dragon must be slain,” says one.
“And this is to be my duty?”
“No, Yriel. It is your destiny.”
It is Farseer Kelmon himself that steps forward, leaning upon his staff. He moves stiffly - his wasted body is congealing into crystal - and his voice is scarcely more than a whisper.
“Darkness swarms around you, Bearer of the Flame, as it always has, but for all of your sins, you have not fallen. And perhaps the same can be said of us. Everything has been prepared for you.”
“I... I do not understand you, Farseer.”
“You will, Yriel.”
With that, they withdraw, and I am filled with a familiar fury. Even now, they speak only in riddles. And they expect me, alone, to defeat the creature...
I am an accomplished warrior – millennia of experience as Admiral and Pirate taught me to use my blade well, but my truest skills lie in command, not single combat. How can I succeed, alone, where living legends like Korandriel have failed?
Everything has been prepared for you.
At the very heart of Iyanden there lies a weapon which could slay this beast, a blade that burns with the heart of a sun. A blade that waits for one of my bloodline to claim it and be consumed in its fires.
The Spear of Twilight.
Kelmon asks me to kill myself! Even as he speaks words of contrition, he weaves his plots around me! They issued no order; they let me choose damnation for myself, a choice they had no doubt planned for me. Such subtlety...
They will humble Yriel the Proud at last.
I walk the steps to the Shrine of Ulthanash, and while the hatred burns in my blood, I weep for the dead. Manipulated or not, this was still my own choice. If I am to be sacrificed to save Iyanden... Then it is a worthy sacrifice.
For so long I have lived only for myself, for glory and my own amusement. Even when I still fought for Iyanden, truly I served only my vanity.
I take the Spear, and I can feel it burning, not in my hand, but in my soul. It is bound to me now, bound by ties of blood, and in time it will burn me away.
I turn and find Kelmon waiting. He wears his ghosthelm and his Council wait for us outside the Shrine.
“The Warsong resonates within us, prodigal one. We shall join you in battle, Bearer of the Flame.”
He pauses for a moment.
“I sense the hate within you, Yriel. It is at war with your nobility. You think that we have manipulated you, but know this; you are not the only one of us with sins to atone for. You are not the only one who faces their destiny this day.”