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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
White Shield Abelard threw himself down into the dust and grime below the ragged remains of a stone wall, a sharp jab in his shoulder told of a sharp rock he had not seen while scrambling for cover. The report of shots fired and the resulting pinging of ricocheting shuriken let the panicked boy know how close he had been to being shot. Dust caked his mouth and nose and he huddled atop his lazrifle, panting into the ground. Explosions peppered the ground beyond his makeshift cover, and he waited for the ill fated round that would fall on the wrong side of the stacked stone fence that was his lone protection from the Eldar forces arrayed against him.

Forcing his eyes open, he fought to turn his head to the side, looking down the line of the low wall to see how much of his squad made the mad dash. The artillery barrage continued to fall, and Abelard knew it was just a matter of time before he would be under the guns of the bombards that were blindly firing into the coordinates they had been supplied. It had been the sick joke of a common problem back at the barracks, artillery that failed to stay within the proper firing coordinates and troopers dieing by friendly fire. It had been a mad dash across the short field. Mad and bloody, for Abelard watched the men ahead of him, as they charged together, get cut down by the withering fire coming from the Eldar in the tree line ahead. Looking down the wall Abelard could see that he was the only trooper on station at the wall.

A slap to the back of his head caused him to turn to look the other way. There in the dirt along side of him lay Sergeant Michael, Germain, Gregoria, and Damon. The lieutenant was speaking to him, but the concussion from the barrage was still ringing loudly in his ears, there was no sound but an eerie quiet that masked all other sounds. The order was clear though. They were not stopping at this shattered wall. They needed to continue as the barrage tapered off. He was a moment slower than his fellows nearer the center of their platoon and again he was the helpless observer of death as those first brave souls made their last vault over the stones that made up the low wall that sheltered them from the barrage. The lieutenant reached back and grabbed Abelard by his webgear, dragged him out of his stupor and over the stones. Thrusting the boy ahead of him, White Shield Abelard stumbled forward, blindly following his fellows, mouthing prayers of protection to the Emperor that He ward him from the deadly rain of shuriken fire, or at least make sure there were far more guardsmen than Eldar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Abelard blindly crawled through the rubble and debris kicked up by the bombard’s barrages. His face was streaked from his tears and the grime of the battlefield. His lazgun was lost, as were his companions. The withering fire of the Eldar wiped out their charge and his companions after splitting him from his troop. Shame and fear were all that kept his body moving. Fear of the Eldar warred within him with the fear that one of the commissars who patrolled the army seeking bad behavior to make examples of would find him and shamed by his cowardice, for he never even fired a shot once from his missing lazgun.

His shaking hands dragged him around great boulders tossed into the air by the massive explosions that continued to pound the ground all about him. Abelard tried to think which way he was supposed to be moving, as well as how he lost his rifle. His last thought was a panicked blur of watching the fastest of his platoon getting cut down by their hidden enemy and a confused view of sky as the concussion of an nearby blast knocked him down. Now he was alone, unarmed, and lost. The One Seventy Seventh in their tan and black were reduced in number to a single white shield who was almost too terrified to even keep moving.

Worming his way along the lip of yet another blast crater, he cried out in alarm as a strong hand reached out from behind him and hauled him away from the crater he was attempting to slide into. Abelard was tossed unceremoniously onto his back and found himself staring not at one of the elder, but a man. Abelard continued to whimper as he attempted to crab away from the newcomer. Still mostly deaf from his advance through the artillery barrage, he realized he must be making more noise than he thought, for the man who dragged Abelard into the small defile first clamped a hand of stone over Abelard’s leg, dragging Abelard again to his side and then clamping a gloved hand over his mouth. Bright spots of pain blossomed in Abelard’s teeth and jaw brought on by the punishing grip of his captor.

“Quiet!” though seeming far away, the command and glare that followed it pinned Abelard like a mouse beneath a cat’s paw. After ascertaining Abelard’s compliance, the other peeked around the rim of the debris that formed a tiny battlement. With one hand, the stranger reached over and with a grunt threw a heavy bolter onto his shoulder, and with a practiced hand reset the ammo clip and thumbed off the safety.

As he lay in the mud, Abelard began to regain his senses. The crushing fear receded, and Abelard found himself staring in shock at his savior. Though his uniform was of the tan and black of the One Seventy Seventh and he sported the crossed rifles of Abelard’s company, a third regiment patch was stitched below that. It was a hammer trailing a stream of fire over a green field, with the patch’s rim in silver. Several service hash marks covered the left sleeve, out of compliance with field regulations, but Abelard was unable to count them as he suddenly cringed under a shower of hot brass when the bolter opened fire.

“Veghard. Sixty-First Detatched Thunderers. Get out of my way.”

Veghard shuffled to the other side of the rock he had fired past. He kicked Abelard when he didn’t move fast enough and then bracing himself, fired several quick bursts. White teeth flashed though a coal black beard that was fuller and more meticulously groomed than an officer’s doxy as Veghard grinned down at Abelard. The short stump of an unlit cigar waggled its way from one side of Veghard’s mouth to the other.

Blazoned on the front of his blouse was his name tag, Veghard. An unknown chevron pattern at his lapel gave testimony of some rank beyond Abelard’s own White Shield. Thick gloves the widened out at the wrists covered his hands, but the bit of skin that peeked around the thick beard and from below the strangely billed combat helmet was pale. Arms as thick as Abelard’s legs held the heavy bolter, while legs near as thick as two of his own didn’t show the least bit of strain as Veghard moved back and forth now that Abelard was out of his way. A backpack, a non-reg modified piece of equipment, looked to be packed near to bursting with special pockets holding additional ammo clips. An odd looking lasgun was stowed along the side, within reach of Veghard’s free hand.

Scrambling to his feet, Abelard looked down at Veghard. With the heavy bolter on his shoulder, Veghard came up to Abelard’s chin, and Abelard was far from being the tallest in his platoon. Without the heavy weapon, Veghard would be hard pressed to be much over four and a half feet. Abelard began to giggle at the funny sight of Veghard’s diminutive height wielding a weapon that Abelard would barely be able to carry, let alone fire when a hand shot out into his gut, doubling him over. The loud report of the bolter accompanied by the musical chiming of the falling brass caused him to flatten himself to the ground while he tried to recapture the breath that Veghard had knocked from him.

“Time to move, boy”, Veghard reached down and pulled Abelard up to his knees as he gagged for breath. “On your feet! Shake it off!”

Another two bursts rang out and then Veghard scrambled out of the defile and onto the stretch of ground Abelard had been crawling along.

“On my six, boy. I’d give you a weapon, but I don’t want to lose Gracie quite yet. Keep up, or them scorpions will get you” Veghard laughed as he trotted off.

Veghard began to lope through the debris as if he had some destination in mind, seemingly to be oblivious that somewhere hidden in the tree line hid elder sharpshooters. After a moment’s hesitation, Abelard hurried after Veghard, easily outpacing the smaller man, only to be roughly grabbed and tossed to the ground.

“Keep your head down, or you’ll lose it, boy”, was all the gruff voice had to offer in apology.

“You’re one of them stunties!” blurted Abelard. “Aren’t all of you dead?”

He gulped at the sharp glare that was leveled at him, making him feel more exposed than he had a moment earlier. He waited for some retort or fist to add weight to the glare, but none came. Instead, Veghard turned from him and was looking along the lower portion of a slope Abelard remembered running over earlier in the day.

“Your artillery squads need a lot more training, I though White Shields weren’t used to man auxiliary units. They’ve messed up the lines of this battle” Veghard grumbled, and turned an ear to the sound of several distant explosions. “There they are.”

“Move out, boy.”

Without a glance back to see if Abelard was following, Veghard set off below the crest of the slope with a ground eating trot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Novarius was not a happy man. His squad had been decimated, leaving only him to carry out their mission. The support that had been expected by the guard units had vanished like the dew of the hot mornings on the world they were attempting to defend. The eldar force that had somehow moved onto the world was far greater than Novarius had ever engaged and after a run in against a squad of warp spiders, Novarius found himself alone and deep within enemy territory.

Again, he tapped his helmet. The vicious mono filament strands fired into his squad without warning had damaged his armor, though it had kept him alive. His battle brothers were not so successful at dropping to cover. The warp spiders had appeared and then disappeared, without returning, giving Novarius the indication that the attack had been an attack of opportunity while they were moving elsewhere. Whatever damage had been sustained by his armor, vox and satellite data were both knocked out. He still had the basic tactical data along with his inertial locator detailing where he and his squad had originated from. Doctrine stipulated that he advance, following his inertial locator, until arriving at the deployment zone or he reestablished vox communications, but as he had recovered from the Eldar ambush, the Guard’s artillery began saturating the area that his return path indicated.

The blue of his armor, newly scored by the incoming fire of the vanished aspect troops, still shined bright. The shoulder pauldrons still proudly bore the golden U of the Ultramarines. His bolter clacked as he installed a fresh clip, and after taking a moment to orient himself, Novarius began to move out. The barrage pattern would move over his immediate area and he had no desire to attempt to sit though an artillery barrage fired by his own support. Unable to properly apply battle doctrine, Novarius moved through the forest, attempting to follow the direction the warp spiders had seem to vanish towards. Moving through the underbrush, Novarius’s progress was masked with the sound of artillery and small arms fire. He had successfully made his way out of the barrage pattern and he had managed to orient himself matching terrain to what was left of his tactical information. He found himself wishing for a tech marine for having only the silence of his thoughts as he made his way through the battle disconcerting, even a scout would be good company. Never in a battle had he been without any vox communication of any kind. Moving around a tight copse of wood, Novarius found himself facing the back of six eldar guardians as they lay suppression fire down before their position.

The dakka-dakka of his bolter echoed in his ears as it jumped and leapt as he began firing into the rear of the guardian squad that seemed to be firing out of the forest at a Guard unit. Two of the elder fell under his first salvo while the other four suddenly looked about for where the shots emanated from. Grinning under his helmet, Novarius turned his fire on the fasted of those remaining. More shots rang out as the hapless guardian jerked and fell back, his armor unable to fend off the multiple hits from Novarius.

Shuriken whizzing by his head, the last three guardians brought their catapults to bear on the advancing marine. Several ricocheted off his shoulder and legs, while a scant few managed to stick in his chest but were unable to penetrate through. Novarius continued to fire down on the guardians, but their armor was able to deflect the lethal fire of his bolter when, without warning, one of the guardians suddenly burst into a bloody fine mist as the rounds of a heavy bolter ripped through his armor. Another burst followed the first, demolishing a tree next to Novarius, causing him to seek his own cover and a third burst that spun another guardian to the ground. The last eldar, a woman, reached down to grab her wounded partner and began to drag him away. More bursts cut through the foliage seeking the fleeing eldar and kept Novarius down, but fired blindly they were more of a danger to the marine than the retreating eldar.

The heavy bolter fire ceased, and Novarius felt it was safe to get back to his feet. Bringing his bolter up, he gave chase to the remaining two eldar. They had not even escaped his sight, as he trotted up the trail behind them. The woman continued to try and pull her injured compatriot even as Novarius closed on them. Mercilessly he raised his weapon and relished in its kicking strength.

“Xenos scum. Feel the Emperor’s wrath!”

Novarius slapped a new magazine into the receiver of his bolter. Today he was not only unable to save his battle brothers, but he was almost cut down by friendly fire and rather than an entire squad detailed to the objective, there was only himself. Doctrine dictated he reestablish communication and contact, but without vox and hemmed in with misapplied artillery barrages, he would be hard pressed to accomplish either and that would mean a reprimand or even demotion. Novarius was not a happy man.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Moving with his accustomed purposeful stride, Novarius moved swiftly along the tree line as he attempted to ascertain if the Warp Spiders who ambushed him had indeed traveled in this direction. The lack of tracks or signs of passage frustrated him, and in his heart he knew lacking more marines he was more likely to miss the necessary egress points the Warp Spiders had to use. If speed had not been their need perhaps he would have found some sign of their passage, but their attack and failure to follow up upon it pointed to an urgent need for speed. A flicker of movement caught his eye and his bolter came up to face the danger even as he turned to identify the disturbance.

Beyond the sparse edge of the woods he moved through was the blasted field that had been pounded by the bombard company far back in the distance. Next to an uprooted boulder stood two men, an Imperial Guardsman and a Squat Warrior bearing a heavy bolter. The guardsman was oblivious to Novarius’s presence and location, but the squat looked right at him and sent a nod and sketched a quick salute to him. Once he had done that, he tugged on the guardsman and began to trot along the tree line, though it was soon obvious the two would cross under the trees another few hundred feet away.

Without conscious thought, Novarius abandoned his hopeless attempt to follow the Warp Spiders and began to run an intercept course that would meet him up with the squat and the guardsman. It mattered not if the two had any communications as his forming up with the unlikely pair would begin to satisfy his requirement to reestablish contact with Imperial forces. He continued to scan deeper in the wood as well as ahead of him. The sudden lack of enemy was maddening. The short, deadly attack on his battle brothers had brought up his anger, and his own ambush of the small Guardian squad did little to appease him. Novarius found himself fearing that even with the distant sound of combat that was obviously drawing the other two soldiers towards it, the eldar were long gone. That they had achieved their goal on this flank and had reduced the advancing Imperials to two guardsmen and a single marine.

It was without incident that the three met together at the blasted edge of the wood. Abelard had not even seen the marine until Novarius stopped beside them. Abelard was bent over at the waist with his hands supporting him by bracing his knees. The heavy footfalls of the marine caused him to look up in surprise and almost caused the young man to faint in shock.

“Veghard. Sixty-First Detached Thunderers.”

“Novarius, Fifth Company”

Veghard looked at Abelard who was shocked to be faced with a space marine. Though the marines were not commonly encountered by the average guardsman, many dreamed of getting to meet them. When Abelard still did not speak, Veghard did for him.

“This is Abelard, One Seventy Seventh, White Shields.”

Novarius looked the panting, sweating White Shield over. No backpack, no weapon, no obvious wounds. It all added up to either a deserter or coward. It also explained why he and his battle brothers had not received the support they had been told to expect. If they had known that it was a White Shield force, they would have had more battle brothers accompany them on the mission. White Shields were to prepare an enemy position for attack, not support Astartes in straight up combat. Remorselessly he raised his bolter. This Abelard would pay for his failure now.

Veghard, the squat, batted Novarius’s arm with one of his gloved hands. Novarious found himself battling with being either shocked or surprised by the intervention. He had never been touched by anyone who wasn’t a space marine. Within his helmet, he glared down at the abhuman. He could not help but wonder if both of them were not traitors and were trying to desert. With the evidence of Veghard’s attack on the Guardians, Novarious was at odds with himself on whether he should administer the Emperor’s Justice on the two of them or not. Veghard’s gruff voice interrupted his internal debate.

“You don’t want to do that, son. We’ll be needing him soon enough.”

There was no fear in the squat’s face, only an implacable glint in his eye that actually gave Novarious pause, an action that gave him a start when he realized that Veghard could elicit such a response from him. Veghard continued to steadily regard him, until something in his body language satisfied the squat and Vegard turned from him. While doing so, Veghard reached to the lasgun that was stowed on the side of his backpack. A quick tug pulled the weapon from its stowed position and he offered it to Abelard.

“This is Gracie”, Veghard said to Abelard. “She’ll do you right if you remember a couple things. One. She’s not your standard issue. She’s my work. So if you’re rough, she won’t fire for you.”

As Abelard took possession of the weapon, Veghard’s hand continued to caress the lasgun as he explained the modifications done.

“Two. Her range is better than that excuse you call a firearm. Use the scope for anything beyond a block or two. Three. She’ll get warm to the touch, so don’t panic. Finally, she cycles faster that what you’re used to. Which means that I don’t want you to waste energy spraying like you were shown in training.”, Veghard explained what he had done to the lasgun, and finished with a cold tone that caused the boy’s face to pale and send a shiver of remembrance down Novarious’s spine.

“You will not lose Gracie. You will not hurt Gracie. You will tend her before you care for yourself. If she touches dirt or water, you will be punished for it and if you do lose her, she will be the last thing you lose. She is your wife now, so treat her as such, but I am still her father and I reserve a father’s right to protect his daughter. Do you understand me?”

While the trooper nodded vigorously, Novarious could hear the echo of the training cadre officers drilling weapon care into him and his fellow aspirants and the punishments dealt to those who failed to make the grade.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Note from the Author

Note from the Author

I am picking this thread back up and I apologize for the delay on this next post. On July 14th my daughter went to the dentist to have teeth removed to prepare for braces and rebuild her jaw. Unexpectedly she stopped breathing and only the swift action of the doctor's office calling 911 and the attending ambulance crew kept her alive to reach the hospital. My daughter now has two new scars which I sometimes remind her is better than having one new pine box.

The Fall and Holidays kept me from adding to this story, but I shall finish it now.

Each installment will be approximately 1000 words and the goal is to keep the pace of one post per day. According to the outline there are 16 posts remaining. It is my intention to have this story finished by the end of January.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
5 - Veghard's View

Veghard looked the young boy over. Getting caught in the barrage still had him rattled, but against normal human behavior, Abelard had not broken. Veghard’s concern did not diminish though. He was pleased that Novarius did not kill the boy outright for having obviously lost his unit, his weapon, and his field gear, but he was not sure how long the marine would stay his hand. A mercy that would not survive any further failure on the boy’s part Veghard knew. He also knew that they would need the boy, and soon.

Vertigo struck Veghard having him drop to the ground on one knee. His vision blurred and the sound of his own breathing drew to a deafening crescendo. Though their voices were garbled and indistinct, Veghard knew the other two were speaking to him. He was unsure of their concerns as even the tones of their voice were lost between the breath of his lungs and the now thunderous drum of his heart. The streaks of white and tan sloshed about his vision. He could tell that others had joined the three of them. He could feel them moving about him, though they said nothing. Only Novarius and Abelard spoke and Veghard tried to calm their fears and explain what had happened to him. Then as suddenly as it befell him, the world snapped back into focus.
Veghad found himself kneeling before a map drawn in the dirt. Novarius and Abelard were knelt down to either side of him with Abelard speaking to him.
“And once we have rejoined these forces here, in which we will not…” Abelard’s paused, puzzlement creasing his forehead. “How do you know we won’t face any opposition?”
Novarius nodded his agreement and added a comment of his own.
“The white shield is right. This map is incredibly accurate, but we have no updates of enemy movement. These guardians that were stationed here were at best advanced warning of any broken units working the area, which will bring reinforcement, most likely in the form of their rangers.”

Veghard looked at each of his companions. He was still struggling to ascertain how he even drew the map, but he could not shake the feeling of assurance that if he moved and followed the directions of the map he seemed to have drawn that no harm would befall him. Time though was limited. Looking at Abelard, Veghard knew that the man would be crucial in the moments ahead, just as he knew the working of his lasgun. It felt like a half remembered conversation, the actual words and arguments used forgotten, but the gist and outcome remembered. Novarius would not be swayed. He would have to decide for himself if he would follow Veghard and Veghard knew that the likely ness of that was slim. Abhuman as Veghard was, it was a show of extreme will that the marine was even speaking with the two of them.

“Time is not on my side”, Veghard had decided to attempt to explain himself would be a fruitless endeavor. “Elements of the One Seventy Seventh will have been driven along that ditch line.”
Vehard toed a point of the map in the ground.
“The Sixty First’s initial orders were to hold to the left and ensure the shields were not flanked. The remainder of the thunderers will still hold that position and that is where I need to be.”
Vehard picked up his heavy bolter and sank his shoulder into its harness.
“Emperor guide you, Astartes”, he saluted the marine and then turned and barked an order to the white shield. “Abe, on my six and stay close.”

Several miles away, a tall lithe figure stood before a silvered pillar that sent a soft white glow up towards the sky. Suspended within that glow, slowly orbiting themselves floated a gathering of rectangular chits colored the hue of aged bone. After contemplating the flow and dance before it, the figure turned its attention to a map. A delicate hand, encased in armor, deftly touched icons defining troops and their positions and moved them. Elsewhere, troops picked up their gear and began moving.

Turning back to the silvered pillar, the figure gathered the chits and after a moment’s meditation, gracefully scattered the chits back into aura of light to watch their dance. Each chit was etched with a single rune of a geometric design, each different and unique. A oracle of ancient design that had always been the harbinger of good things, and the cry of warning in times of trouble. As the runes spun and the chits slowed their orbits, the figure that initiated the toss froze in disbelief. Another figure, armored and helmed as the first, stepped up to contemplate the rune’s message.
“What is it, Farseer?” the newcomer asked.
“Trouble, my friend”, the farseer reached up to remover the helm. Long tresses of bright golden hair spilt down the back of the farseer. “You may find your service in higher demand than I first divined.”
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
6 - Abelard's Charge

The next thing Abe realized was Veghard trotting down the low ridge he had been illustrating to him and the marine. With a trepidatious look towards Novarius, Abe jumped to his feet and, crouching low, ran after the squat warrior. In a space of a few steps, he overtook the shorter man. Remembering his last chase, Abe made a point of keeping to the rear of Veghard. He cradled Gracie at port arms as they trotted along the draw, fear beginning to gnaw at his gut again. Abe could not control his breathing and found himself panting, almost out of breath, even though Veghard was not pressing forward with any great haste.

As the two ran along, the lack of action or enemy fire, Abe found himself recovering. No whistling shuriken flew by, no explosions from incoming missiles or grenades. The absence of opposition began to bring more of a sense of boredom than fear. A feeling that was shattered when Abelard looked to his right as he scanned the copse of trees that they were passing beneath when the deep marine blue of Novarius’ armor loomed up above him. Abe stumbled, almost losing his footing. He had first thought that the marine would shoot both him and Vegard down when the squat all but ignored the marine’s concerns. Though when they had moved some distance, and no shots rang out, Abe thought that Novarius had decided to go elsewhere. Running almost silently, a shocking feat to Abe, the giant marine had moved up and took position off his right shoulder.

The silence that had fallen over their area, was shattered by a scattering of laser fire from ahead of them. The draw continued ahead and wound down to their left, chasing the sloping end of a finger from the crest of a hill. Veghard veered up and out of the draw and began climbing the side of the finger, choosing a small outcropping of rock at the midpoint from the top of the hill. The area was clear, for the copse of trees had fallen to their rear. Dry grasses that only came to their knees was the only cover available to them besides the hill they had yet to climb over. The rocks that Veghard was navigating towards formed a military crest along the ridgeline of the hill’s finger. Kneeling down, Veghard looked to the both of them. Abe felt the fear that had receded earlier return with such great force that his bowels almost turned to water.

“Abe. You will lead from here on. I want you charge over the hill at this point, the rocks. You must cross at their peak! Look!” Veghard pointed emphatically at the outcropping.
“From there, you will start to lay suppressive fire into the forces that are holding the high ground. Stay focused! Novarius and I will be just above you in the saddle.”

Abe’s face paled as the blood rushed from his face. Veghard swiftly reached out and slapped him hard. Spots flashed in his vision as he tried to clear the ringing in his head.

“If you cannot do this Abe, your usefulness to the Emperor is finished. Novarius will fulfill his duty. Climb the rocks. You are behind the Eldar here. Remember the map? Fire down upon them. Surprise is on your side, and once the shock of your fire is absorbed, we will be set at the saddle. You are free to choose your action after that. Get to cover if you need to. We are not alone. The rest of the 177th is there, pinned in the draw. Only you can save them.”

“But…”, Abe’s voice was weak. “Novarius is astartes! Why can’t he do it?”

“We all have roles to play, Abe. This is one is yours.”

Novarius slammed the bolt carrier on his bolt gun, bringing a fresh clip into the receiver. Abe jumped at the unexpected sound. The expressionless helmet hid his features, but Abe knew the marine would shoot him down if he felt Abe was too frightened to do as he was told. Veghard stared hard at the boy.

“Go!” Veghard said to him, and pulled him around to face the last short yards to the crest of the finger. “Go! Now! They need you to pull the Eldar’s attention away from them!”

Abe did not look back. With what seemed as just three steps he found himself standing atop the exposed rocks that seemed to form a knuckle in the hill’s finger. A wide low bowl was formed below him. To his left, deep in the draw, was the remainder of the 177th. Just before him though, advancing in rank and fielding suppressing fire, aspect warriors of the Eldar forces closed in on the pinned men below them. Abe brought Gracie up to his shoulder, depressed the firing stud, and with a high pitched whine Gracie threw bolts of light down and into the side of the Fire Dragons that were clearing out the humans from before them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
7 - End of the 177th

Vondel sprayed the make shift trench before him mercilessly. Left and right, his Dragon’s Breath spat death across the mon-keigh forces. These stragglers had fallen into their fusion guns just as Lanteiel had foreseen. Deniilan’s own fusion gun fired, passing through and melting away in a flash the human that had popped out of the trench to fire a futile burst of coherent light from the paltry firearms they carried. In enough numbers the weapons could be lethal, but haphazard shots were more often turned away by the bodysuits the Eldar wore or bounced ineffectively off the reinforcement plates protecting the more vulnerable areas.

Where these troops had originated from in the battle, Vondel did not know. The Farseer had given him explicit instructions on which checkpoints to maintain, and how long. The skirmishes that his unit of Fire Dragons had swept through had culminated in this body of men running headlong into the muzzle fire of his arrayed plasma guns. His own Dragon’s Breath, usually hampered by its shorter range and disdained by the majority of his brethren in the Aspect Temple in favor of a firepike, rained a fiery doom upon those foolish enough to think the trench and rocks would aid in protecting them from the Eldar force they had ran into unexpectedly. The fear that had gripped the humans after the initial salvo that decimated their force had indeed saved the lives of some, who did not go to ground and try and hide from the Eldar’s fire. Haurin, Fellthain, Iyannashi, Tellqui, Lleyyagho, Jaaxisha, and Bispasqu continued unabated fire in the broken human unit. It would be suicide to let up and give the mon-keigh and opportunity to lick its wounds and recover. Like treating any wounded animal, death would be kinder and safer.

More of the humans died in the trench and Vondel knew the few remaining would be eliminated in moments. A gasp and sigh from his left caused him to turn. It was not an unfamiliar sound. A mortal wound had somehow found one of his unit. Tellqui, he saw, fell forward. It was the slow fall made with no effort to catch oneself. Several holes had been burned though the chest piece of his body suit. Another companion lost, another soul caught in the sparkling gem that now came alight with almost a renew purpose. Another task, one of incredible distaste, that Vondel would repeat as he had countless times as his role of Exarch. All around his fallen comrade, more stabs of light sent tiny puffs of smoke up from the dead grasses and duff that covered the ground. Swiftly they traversed the distance between Tellqui’s position in the formation and closed in upon Iyannashi. Vondel barked warning and turned to bring his Dragon’s Breath to bear upon the counter attack that had surprisingly come from a secured sector of control.

Expecting to see perhaps a small squad of mon-keigh, stragglers who escaped notice, Vondel watched a single human fire from over the crest of a knuckle in the low ridgeline. The human, even before Tellqui finished his fall, charged down towards Vondel and his Fire Dragons in a suicidal rush screaming incoherently. More flashes of contained lightning fired out of the muzzle of the human’s lasgun. Almost twice the cycle of fire, Vondel realized as he counted emotionlessly, of a normal human weapon as he raised his own to eliminate the surprise nuisance. With a detached air, Vondel gauged the distance to the human. Iyannashi had delicately moved away from the scattering fire laid blindly down, for Vondel could see now that the human did not even have his eyes open. How Tellqui had succumbed to such a random act as a blindly firing human pained Vondel, and even the knowledge that the act would be avenged was no salve against the wound on Vondel’s own soul.

Thundering staccato broke Vondel’s attention. Iyannashi, who had so deftly moved to bring the silly human to a swift end, exploded in a rain of tiny metal explosions that tore effortlessly through the armor plates and body suit. Haurin, who had continued to deal death to the scattered remains of their original prey, joined Iyannashi in her fate as the merciless fire continued along the end line of the Fire Dragon’s formation. From yet another quarter, though not far enough removed to indicate a new unit, Vondel saw two more individuals moved in from the saddle that ran between the rock knuckle and the crest of the hill. Above and between his troop and their path to safety, the two new figures were now Vondel’s primary concern. The broken humans, including the charging mon-keigh, were of no importance. The presence of the heavy weapon, a heavy bolter Vondel recognized not only by its bulk but by its signature report, was of highest import. To the side of the heavy weapon, and now down the hill, charged one of the constructed menaces of the human empire. Clad in its signature dark azure and argent rune, Vondel knew it was stronger and more resilient than those in his troop and should the human successfully close with them only Vondel could walk away from such a clash easily, if the marine made it all the way to him and his. Another order sent out to the remainder of his troop brought guns to bear on the Ultramarine and his supporting heavy weapon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
8 - A Berserker called Jyn

In another place, at an earlier time, Jyn stood before a mirror. Two runes tattooed across her cheeks stood out and dominated all other aspects that might catch someone’s eye. No one would comment on the luxurious fall of her brunette hair. It now lay, brutally shorn away, in a scattering circle around her. The bright blue of her eyes would not bring smiles or flirtatious glances from those she would meet. Either one of the runes would kill such greetings with utter finality. No man’s eye would surreptitiously sink to gaze, however briefly, upon her bosom or perhaps fall even farther to admire the lay of her day’s choice of clothing. Eyes would instead flick from rune to rune and then upward to her hair. There in her hair they would see tradition, tradition so old that no tale told of its birth. Sickly greens, off whites, and colorless grays now graced her once brown hair. Lye, in ritual application, now bleached her hair. The lye’s presence stiffened the once pliant glory that she had taken such pride in, and now brought out such horrid color. Her hair now stood upright and molded into an array of spikes. The days of her existence would no longer be counted in years, but counted in battles. Should there be more than one, other tattoos would join the two on her cheeks, but today there would only be the important ones, Loss and Rage.

Battles later, on another planet, at a later time, the Ancestor slapped her hard. Though her head snapped back, the Ancestor did not have the strength anymore to cause real harm. The blow did snap her out of her drunken stupor. She did not remember what had been going on, the grog that had been in her tankard had finally stopped filling and refilling the damned thing and she had been staring at the somehow empty tankard. She knew it was empty, but not what she should do about it. There had been quite a commotion in the tent, but Jyn paid it no mind. When the horns would sound, she would take her place with her brothers and sisters to kill and kill and, should the ancestors relent, die. Then the Ancestor slapped her.

With a cry of rage, Jyn hopped to her feet. Her combat dagger shot out in her fist. The silly thing always knew when she would need it, she never even needed to reach to its sheath. It would simply appear in her hand to cut and maim whatever needed it. Strength and determination drove her arm forward to bury the blade deep in the eye of the ancient squat in front of her. Honor demanded the strike be returned and death would be the result of it. Jyn was a berserker. Her hair was dyed purple to red in full spectrum. More battles than colors in life and Jyn was still killing. No one commented to a berserker, but another berserker and no one struck one. Death dealt from a berserker was never prosecuted. Berserkers were already accepted in society as dead, they simply were still breathing.

The knife point stopped inches from the Ancestor. Movement stirred behind the shrunken old squat. Armor clad attendants shifted their weight, preparing to intervene, but Jyn stayed her hand. Berserkers were not struck as a matter of safety, but no one struck an Ancestor. The living conduit to all those who had died throughout all the ages, the Living Ancestors were ageless creatures who spoke to and heard counsel from the dead and no one struck an Ancestor, no one. With a sob, Jyn turned from the Ancestor and threw her free arm down on the field table she had been sitting at. With jerking motion, she carved another rune into the flesh of her forearm, cutting across half heal scars of other runes. Marring the angry red and partially healed wounds, she chanted to herself over and over as blood flowed from her and she carved a new rune, “Shame. Shame. Shame.”

The Ancestor stood, impassively watching Jyn cut upon herself. After a few minutes Jyn looked up, surprised to see the Ancestor still waiting.

“Jyn”, the Ancestor said, once she stood before him. Jyn nodded, the blood from the superficial wound dripped unnoticed to the ground. The guards behind the Ancestor looked on, disgust apparent on their faces. Berserkers were despised by the average squat for they were individuals who committed a crime or chose to pursue death rather than face whatever problem they encountered in their life. The two runes on Jyn’s cheeks told of a woman abandoned by her husband and who chose to die instead of resolve her problem.

“I am Desdyn and I have a task that you need to do.”

Another time, another day. Jyn reached up and touched the unit patch on the chest of her flak jacket, it was the flaming hammer of the Sixty-First. She didn’t understand why Desdyn insisted she add the patch to her kit, but it was one of the instructions he told her. Checking a map reader, she compared the time and location. She did not understand why the Ancestor sought her out, there were others in the tent that were the same as her. The route that had been sketched for her in the map reader had taken her in a very circuitous route to the side of a low hill. Her instructions had been explicit. She was not to engage any enemy, unless attacked. That prohibition ended at the hill she had come to at the bottom. She smiled when she heard the sounds of battle. Pulling her pistol and drawing her combat knife, Jyn ran with all her speed towards the conflict ahead of her.

--*--*--

Veghard continued to fire down upon the Fire Dragons in the bowl of the hill below him. Novarius charged down the hill, swiftly closing with the Eldar below. Veghard, freed of the marine’s constant observation, began a slow trot that took him down towards the rock knuckle Abe had abandoned. Firing as he moved, he knew such action would be better protection than a good bunker. Most did not worry about a heavy bolter moving from a position. The squats had long since been able to wield heavy weapons that would force the taller humans to stand and brace themselves. Their short stature and life under heavy gravity made the squats stronger than most any appreciated. That coupled with their superior understanding of gyros and anti-recoil technologies brought the standard squat heavy bolter a greater degree of mobility than any other Imperial equipment.

The Fire Dragons turned on Novarius, their plasma weapons locking on the charging figure when Veghard had reached the knuckle. The elimination of the One Seventy Seventh had been averted, but Veghard knew what was coming and he was afraid the Fire Dragons would cause too much damage to the few troops Veghard knew of. Squeezing his trigger again, a hail of spent casings fountained around him and cascaded about the rocks. Starting at the far end of the Eldar line, Veghard watched another of the lithe creatures dance in jerky motion before falling still under the weight of his fire but he knew his effort alone would not be enough to save the lone marine.

Down at the end of the bowl he stood sentinel over, Veghard gave half an eye to the boy, Abe. He had survived his initial rush and had provided the time Veghard had needed to cut down the two Eldar who had been tasked with clearing out the draw the One Seventy Seventh had taken cover in. Novarius had not reached the Eldar, and his shots which were fouling the aim of one Dragon failed to bring it down. Lasgun fire from Abe completed what the Astartes had not, but what brought a small grin to Veghard’s visage was Abe’s wild gesticulation at the cowering troops in the draw. Up from their hiding places, the remnants of Abe’s troop began to pour lasgun fire into the Dragons. Fired upon from multiple directions, the discipline of the Fire Dragons began to break down. The coordinated fire started to instead be divided between the marine and the recovered humans, none of which hit their mark as the Fire Dragons broke ranks and attempted to retreat back up the bowl. In moments, the rout of the One Seventy Seventh had been turned into the elimination of the unit of Fire Dragons.

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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
9 - Veghard's Vision

The 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 the 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 resuccitated 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 anomalys. 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 unconcerable 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 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?” His first real question not saturated with fear, 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 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 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 other’s 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. “But you’re path has been laid for you, luckily too I might add, 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. Not many, and such places were hated even more than 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 was that he was at the mercy of this creature.
 

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Wow

WoW. I guess that you have been adding to this for some time? I have not been on this site for too long but I sure am glad I found this novel in the makeing. It started to be confuseing on the last page so I will check back soon for the conclusion. I took it all in in one mighty chunk and did not want to stop reading...I cant wait for more. Adrian
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
10 – Veghard’s Vision 2

Author's Note: Thanks for the kind words, Adrian. I'll work on those transitions.

Veghard licked his lips, nervousness had a grip on him he could not shake. As a squat, psykers were a phenomenon left to the Imperium. They were not an issue among the Squat worlds, and now he did not know what he should expect or what kind of defense he needed. The spirit, if that was what it was, look at Veghard with a concerned look on his face.

“Time is not a commodity we have much of. I need to guide you, to explain what you might see.”

“What I might see?” Veghard asked.

“Opportunities, Veghard. Opportunities”, the spirit looked about expectantly. “We need to move on from here. You’re strength will not hold out forever. Besides, this never happened. The Farseer tried for this series of events, but she wasn’t able to change what had been chosen. If you don’t listen to me, she will get ahead of you and you will be at her mercy.”

Veghard frowned. This wasn’t making much sense to him. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, trying to separate out what the spirit was talking about while he tried not to think what would happen to him once an inquisitor took custody of him. The spirit’s next comment caused his eyes to open in surprise.

“Perfect! First pull out of the box. You’re a natural, Veghard!” The spirit laughed.

Below them, the carnage of battle in the bowl had changed. The eldar lay where they had fallen to the combined fire of Novarius and the One Seventy Seventh. That was what Veghard expected to see. The dream-like quality stayed with him though, and Veghard found it difficult to keep the proper flow of events in his mind. The fall, the vision, this spirit's evasions and partial answers were only confusing him more. Even the troopers and Novarius celebrating their victory over the Dragons near the draw was difficult to keep in perspective.

Movement at the top of the hill caught Veghard’s eye. Ghostly figures raced along the ridgeline before going to ground. Once in place, on some unseen signal, the figures began firing down upon the Imperial forces celebrating down in the draw. Several of the guardsmen fell beneath the fire of what seemed to be five figures. Down in the draw, Novarius gathered the remaining men of the One Seventy Seventh and had them retreat back to cover among the rocks of the draw they had just exited.

“This, Veghard, has already been chosen. You see those rangers there? When you wake, you won’t be able to see them as they are now, but you will know they are there. The Living Ancestor who set this line has already deployed forces to ensure its eventual victory. The rangers are the gambit played by the Farseer once she realized a Living Ancestor had selected this timeline.”

“What!” Veghard exclaimed. “A Living Ancestor selected a timeline? A Farseer’s gambit? What in the name of the Emperor are you talking about?”

The spirit turned to look at Veghard.

‘Listen. I know you won’t really understand, but Farseers through their use of runes and other oracle devices, always seem a step ahead of their opponents. This is not superior planning on the Eldar’s part, but instead based upon the Farseer’s ability to manipulate the information gathered from whatever oracle they use to scry with. The information they gather is, to be blunt, little more than good news versus bad news, but some inspired actions on the case of a few individuals makes even something as simple as good or bad into a seemingly unstoppable force.

“The Living Ancestor, by contrast, does not need to interpret a bag of runes. He is instead advised by the spirits of ancestors who are not constrained by time as the living experiences it. The Living Ancestor can, by focusing on what he is shown, reduce the acts of random chance and can, in turn, advise the warlord on the best action for a given engagement.”

“You expect me to believe that?” Veghard exploded. “Aside from not making any sense, that’s simply impossible, and its flatly absurd!”

“And yet it will become second nature to you”, the spirit seemed unmoved by Veghard’s anger. “Those rangers there. What will you do? How will you save those men?”



A sharp pain stabbed Veghard as his head struck a rock. With a jarring thud, his wind was knocked from him and he rolled around on the ground trying to regain his breath. Gaining his feet he looked about for the spirit, but the odd feeling of a dream was missing and so was the spirit. Blood came away from a shallow cut as he rubbed the wound on his forehead and worry began to build when he heard Abelard's whoop of victory and Novarius's swift chastisement. Eldar sniper fire would begin moments after the rest of the troopers joined Abelard.

Veghard glanced quickly at the ridge line. Nothing stood out and below he could hear the beginning of a cheer from the surviving troopers. Gripping his binoculars, Veghard surveyed the opposite ridge where he had seen the ghostly figures of the cloaked rangers. It was so quick that if he had not been looking for something, he would have missed it; a shift of grass against the breeze and a flash of metal. Dropping his glasses, Veghard grabbed up his heavy bolter and began to run down the slope to the troopers below, hoping he would be fast enough to get them into cover.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Post 11 – The One Seventy Seventh

The action against the Fire Dragons came to a close. Novarius finished the final Dragon, burying his combat knife deep in the chest of his assailant. His thrust, deflected by a chopping block, had become fouled under the Dragon’s arm and Novarius took advantage of a hard to reach vulnerability in the Eldar’s armor. A ventilation vent, set high in the arm pit, positioned at the tangent formed by the cuirass served as his entry point. A high pitched grunt was all the Dragon could muster as Novarius’s augmented strength allowed him to drive home his strike. Unceremoniously Novarius dumped the Eldar’s body to the ground, freeing his knife.

Novarius frowned inside his helmet as more damage was assessed and recorded by his armor. By the Emperor’s Blessing, none of the wild shots from the fusion guns of the Dragons had found their mark, though just the passing of the super heated plasma was danger enough. Saved by the virtue of its design, and the diligent care Novarius applied, his armor had kept him alive in what would have cut down any Imperial trooper, but Novarius still paid a price in new aches and burns. Such wounds would have to wait for care, but for now he had the pain killers and stimulants to hold him till an apothecary could be found. Turning about, he watched the troopers who climbed out of the draw that had sheltered the few remaining. Dozens lay in and out of the draw, on both sides, and across the bottom. The flamer the exarch had used left even more as unrecognizable charred remains clinging futilely to insufficient cover. Abelard, who Novarius had anticipated having to execute when the boy almost failed to follow the squat’s order, was now waving forward the paltry remains of the One Seventy Seventh White Shields totally oblivious to the carnage that lay about him. As one of the last troopers climbed to his feet, Abelard brought himself stiffly to attention and saluted the soiled officer

“White Shield Terrence reporting, sir!”

“Abe? By the Emperor, you’re alive!” The officer looked shocked to Abelard, and the others of the unit began to cluster around the boy. The office sketched a quick salute and joined the others who gathered around Abelard and began to pelt him with questions. The men were all talking over each other and no sense could be made of the hubbub, all the while Abelard was trying to recount what had happened and how he had been reunited with them. Frustrated, Novarius moved up to the group of men. As his shadow moved over them, silence fell. After a moment where he said nothing, Abelard broke the tableau.

“Sir, this is Ultramarine Novarius. It was him and the squat I was talking about who brought me here.”

The officer paled as he looked up at the towering marine. A shaking hand attempted to salute, but the gesture failed and the man quailed under the unmoving gaze of the marine. His men shuffled behind the officer quickly and left Abelard to stand between the officer and Novarius alone. Abe looked from the officer to Novarius and back again at the rest of the troopers. When he realized the officer was unable to speak, he turned to face Novarius.

“Novarius, this is Lieutenant Germain, commanding officer of Third Platoon, One Seventy Seventh White Shields”, Abe paused to allow the Lieutenant to speak, but Germain simply stared openmouthed at the Ultramarine stood before him.

“These are some of my squad. Michael, my sergeant, Gregoria and Damon.”

“We’re all that’s left of your squad,” interrupted Gregoia causing Abe to pause for a moment before continuing.

“I don’t know the rest of you, other than that you’re from second and fourth squads”, Abe turned back to Novarius. “What do you think?”

Novarius was silent for a moment. He contemplated the cowed Lieutenant and the men who had clustered behind him as they had the stones of the draw. Altogether there were not quite twenty troopers, and all of them were on the verge of breaking entirely. Morale was what was at stake and the Lieutenant and the sergeant were both unequipped to pull their platoon together. Novarius glanced at Abelard who was watching the assemble men, a frown on his face. The white shield had changed after his reckless charge down the hill, Novarius felt. Even now, rather than feeling flush from his success and crowing about it to his fellow troopers as was usual for the average guardsman, Abelard was more concerned with the subdued air that surrounded his compatriots. That and it was to Novarius that Abelard was looking for a solution.

“You have served the Emperor well today. You alone have blunted the Eldar offensive and I salute you. For the Emperor!” Novarius thrust his bolter into the air above him and repeated the cry again and again. After his second cheer, Abelard joined him and they continued until the remaining men of the One Seventy Seventh joined in.

As the troops chanted for the Emperor’s victory, Abe was the first to lower his voice from there cheering. From rock knuckle he had charged down into the battle was Veghard, his short legs pumping him along as fast as he could go. Abe started to move towards the squat warrior and his motion caught Novarius’s eye. Novarius looked up at Veghard as he ran down the hill and was disquieted by the wide eyed look on his face. Novarius moved up to intercept Veghard and Abe fell in a step behind. The troopers continued the chant and began others as they regained their fighting spirit, their voices covered Veghard’s rushed warning as he came to a halt.

“Ambush. An ambush!” Veghard gasped as he came up to his two compatriots. “On the ridge, Eldar rangers. We need to get the men back into cover!”
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Post 12 - A Smoke Filled Room

The rushed squat’s warning did not fall on indifferent ears and while Abe looked shocked from Veghard to looking around the crest of the hill surrounding them, Novarius turned to the rabble of Imperial troopers.

“Ah-ten-hutt!” Novarius called out in the trooper’s jargon. Sharply, the milling troopers jumped to attention, waiting his next order. Scanning the faces, Novarius was frustrated that fear was still too prevalent. Whatever danger was out there, ranger or otherwise, being trapped in a killing field was not what Novarius needed with what was looking like the dregs of the One Seventy Seventh. Rather than the strongest surviving, this white shield unit was survived by the weakest and most craven. It was a theme that often played out in the white shield units, more often than was desired.

Whatever order Novarius was planning to give was too late. Near the rear of the unit, a trooper fell as the crack of a sniper’s rifle echoed through the bowl. In response, Veghard’s heavy bolter began its own heavy staccato report, drowning out other shots. The squat’s uncanny riposte to the initial shot seemed to have fouled the other snipers’ fire as the additional shots went wide, even as the troopers began diving to the ground. Two shots did ricochet off Novarius’s armor, striking burnt pauldrons, but failed to penetrate the heavy plates. Scanning the top of the ridge, Novarius could now see the rangers as their cloaks failed in the frantic movements caused by Veghard’s suppressive fire.

Novarius turned back to the troopers. The lieutenant was lying flat on the ground, trying to make the smallest target possible, while his troops were diligently following his example. Abe alone, once the shock of the initial round of shots was fired, knelt down and was attempting to follow Veghard’s lead, firing blindly up the ridge.

“The scope, Abe!” It was all Novarius could spare the boy, who nodded and pressed his eye to the attachment of Veghard’s modified lasgun. Novarius reached to his utility belt and pulled two blind grenades. The bowl gave all advantage to the rangers, even if they were outnumbered by the Imperial forces. He knew he needed more time to organize what was left of the One Seventy Seventh and how to get it. With deft pulls, Novarius activated the two grenades, and tossed them out between the ambushers and the troopers. It would take seconds for the smoke to rise and provide cover for the troopers and Novarius hoped it would be quick and enough cover to protect the men around him.

The sergeant watched Novarius’s action and turned to the men nearest him. “Blind grenades! Quick, men! Let’s lay down some cover for us!”

Atop the ridge, the rangers had no hesitation as they turned their attention to Veghard. The first shots missed the squat, who seemed quite deft under the weight and bulk of the heavy bolter, even as he fired back at the Eldar. The rangers were quick to adjust their aim, and as Novarius’s blind grenades began to cloak the bowl, two rounds scored hits on the squat. With a guttural cry of pain, Veghard dropped his heavy bolter and fell to the ground. Abe cried out in shock before calling the attention of Novarius.

“Veghard! Veghard! Novarius, Veghard’s been hit!”

Abelard, without thought to his own safety, jumped up from his position and ran to the fallen squat. His back to the Eldar, Abelard grabbed Veghard and struggled to turn him over. Panting from the effort and strain, Abelard checked the wounds. One had gone though the meaty part of Veghard’s thigh, while the other had gone high in the arm. Abelard pulled out two bandages from the first aid kit set in the back of Veghard’s utility belt. His fingers fumbled in their haste to pull the bandages out of their pouches. The first he placed over the thigh wound, it was bleeding the heaviest. Pressing the dressing over the wound, Abe leaned his weight onto the wound. There was the entry as well as the exit wound, and he could not figure out how he would be able to care for both, let alone the arm wound. He could not even tell where the exit wound on the arm was.

The dressing he pressed onto the wound soaked though in moments, and Abe tore the next dressing open. His mind raced as he tried to think what to do as chanted, unaware of himself, the simple training he was given when he was pressed into the White Shield recruitment program.

“Stop the bleeding. Start the breathing. Treat the wound. Check for shock.”

Over and over he repeated himself as he struggled with the heavy squat. Struggling against the weight of his friend, Abe looked up to see lying in the dirt scant feet away from his lay two of his squad mates; Damon and Gregoria. Their eyes were wide as they watched him struggle with the bleeding squat. Anger flared in Abe, anger that the two of them would rather lie in the dirt rather than help another and would even do nothing but watch as someone else struggled while exposed to enemy fire.

“Get over here and help me!” Abelard ordered the two. “Both of you! Now!”

The two troopers started to move when Novarius arrived. The marine took one look at Abe’s struggle to stem the bleeding of Veghard’s leg wound and with one arm rolled the squat so that Abe could reach both side of the wound. He then looked at the two troopers, freezing their movements with a glare. Both quailed as Novarius raised his bolt gun at the two of them.

“You will move when Abelard commands you to, or I will dispense the Emperor’s Justice.”

The two troopers nodded their acquiescence and scrambled to Abelard’s side. From around the four of them, several more blind grenades popped and spewed forth more white smoke, billowing out from around the bulk of the One Seventy Seventh. Novarius grumbled to himself, the sound coming out more as a growl, the troopers had not tossed the grenades far enough and would find themselves more blinded by the smoke than the rangers above them. Looking away from the fallen squat, his eyes fell upon the heavy bolter. Veghard had somehow managed to drag himself away from the weapon after he had been hit and now the bolter lay beyond the cover of smoke. Realizing they would need the firepower of the heavy weapon and trusting to the strength of his armor, Novarius stood and moved quickly over to the abandoned weapon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Post 13 - Advance in a New Direction

Shots rang out as Novarius emerged from under the smoke’s cover, though he was not hit. As quick as he could, Novarius grabbed the heavy bolter and tossed the weapon up onto his shoulder, fitting himself into the harness. Unexpectedly the heavy bolter pulled him almost over, and only his reflexive putting out of his leg stopped him from falling onto his back, even as he was forced to take two steps to stop his surprising momentum. Just as his backward momentum was checked, the heavy bolter jerked Novarius forward, almost with a will of its own. Novarius fought with the sudden reversal of direction when, without warning he was sidestepping to try and keep the heavy bolter settled on his shoulder. He could not seem to get himself into the saddle of the bolter and it was only by virtue of the drunken dance that he was being forced into that kept the ranger’s from landing any hits upon him.

Staggering about, almost in a panic at his inability to stabilize the heavy bolter, Novarius realized the bolter was not adding the appropriate load to the capacity of his armor. His loss of control was more of his over compensation for the expected weight, though the sudden shifts of the bolter had also confused him. The odd dance had brought Novarius back under the cover of the blind grenades, and as realization dawned upon him, Novarius relaxed as he sank into his knees while he attempted to allow himself to simply hold the heavy bolter and not correct, or over correct, the motion of the squat’s weapon. As Novarius allowed his momentum to sink into his legs, the bolter settled onto his shoulder and the saddle closed itself over his shoulder, gripping the armor tightly. Hesitantly, Novarius stood upright. The bolter, which should have been a drag against his motion, rode smoothly without hindrance and Novarius marveled at how light the weapon was.

Another modification by the squat, like what he had done to his lasgun, only this modification answered for the diminutive, though heavy, man’s quickness even under what should have been a crushing burden. Novarius stowed his bolt gun and reached out to a curious handle he had seen Veghard grip occasionally while firing. He had originally though the handle was to stabilize the weapon, but he knew now Veghard would have not needed any such device. Several buttons lay within an easy thumbs reach, and Novarius tentatively pressed the most prominent of them. Through the sight, a laser marker appeared and Novarius was disappointed for the mundane targeting aid, but he turned the muzzle of the weapon towards the top of the unseen ridge and fired a quick burst to test the recoil for the oddly weighted bolter. Braced for what he expected to be even more recoil, Novarius was not ready for the odd vibration that shook the heavy bolter. He cut the burst short, afraid that perhaps the weapon was unstable as Veghard had warned Abelard of in the use of the lasgun. He looked through the smoke to the fallen squat, disappointed that he had fallen unconscious. Novarius needed to know just what to expect from the modified weapon. Its power would be needed to clear a path for the troopers and Novarius and he wanted to know the new properties the squat had built into one of the most standard of heavy weapons.

Turning his attention away from the bolter, Novarius took stock of the state of cover they had from the blind grenades. Moving deeper into the smoke, he came back to Abelard and his two squad members. Together they had managed to stem the bleeding wounds the squat had. Stabilized for the moment, Abelard turned his attention to Novarius.

“Do we retreat?” He asked hesitantly. Since the run and the reckless charge into the Eldar, Novarius’s tenor towards him had changed and the marine’s command to Damon and Gregoria to follow Abelard carried more significance than Abe though Novarius was aware of. While Novarius had wrestled with Veghard’s heavy bolter, Michael had come to Abelard’s aid in treating Veghard and once the wounds had been treated, requested Abe’s next order. Even with the change in his attitude, Abe was very leery of addressing the marine directly, except none of the troopers of the One Seventy Seventh would even look directly at the marine.

“Marines do not retreat”, Novarius’s voice turned cold and Abelard felt its bite and shivered. Novarius though did not seem to take true offence at Abelard’s question. His voice seemed distant, as he contemplated a thought. “We will advance in a different direction.”

Novarius patted the heavy bolter. “This will give us the firepower we need to break out of here. Abe, detail a rear guard. We will circle around to the finger we came up. The rear guard needs to keep the smoke up to make the rangers feel that we are too frightened to move and are staying pinned here. Bring Veghard, with the Emperor’s Grace he will come around soon.”

Abelard nodded to Novarius and turned to the lieutenant. “Sir? What is your”, Abe paused as he searched for the right word. “Suggestion?” But the lieutenant shook his head and Abe looked to Sergeant Michael.

“Yes sir. Second Squad will form the rear guard”, the Sergeant answered Abe who nodded.

“I’ll have Gregoria and Damon make a sling for Veghard and carry him. The lieutenant and I will take Fourth Squad with Novarius. Keep an eye on Second Squad, won’t you Sergeant?” Abelard was uncomfortable telling the sergeant what to do, but with Novarius standing over his shoulder, he was afraid that if he did not direct his fellow troopers, Novarius would kill him for cowardice and all the rest of the white shields as well.

Satisfied with the arrangements, Novarius turned and started to move back down the draw towards where he, Abe, and Veghard had come from before they had found the One Seventy Seventh. Behind him, the troopers divided themselves according to Abe and the Sergeant’s orders. More pops of smoke, followed by a few tentative shots around the area of the grenades, as the Fourth Squad attempted to keep the attention of the rangers. The paltry remainder of the Third Squad made a makeshift stretcher for the squat while Fourth Squad trotted to catch up with the departing Novarius.
 

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I cant stop reading

This story is like a drug that I cant put away from me. I must have more! lots of fun and the transitions are smoother.-Adrian
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Note from the Author

Dear Readers,

Unfortunately, my goal of finishing 'Birth' within January has passed. In addition, my edited expectation has missed its mark as well. What I though I would be able to reduce to 20 posts is on course for 26 again and that would put us at the halfway point today. In January, I felt I could make the 1000 word goal I had set. At this point, I am hoping to simply make 13 posts within February and wrap Veghard's journey, but my wife's pregnancy is rushing to a close and we are unsure if we will even make the March 19 due date. We have had an abundance of doctor's visits, more than expected.

Add in my now rusty tech-priest skills in assembling baby equipment, my sporadic performance will, I fear, suffer even more. I beg your indulgence for the next two months, in which I hope you will be entertained with a dream of what could have happen after the Homeworlds fell.

:drinks:

Adrian - More is on the way, by order of the wife!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Post 14 – Down, but not out

“Stop the bleeding. Start the breathing. Treat the wound. Check for shock”

Veghard could hear Abelard’s voice, though his eyesight was dark and he could not see. The boy was struggling, he could tell and try as he might, he could not help roll himself or be of any aid. Shock, he was in shock. Veghard felt both numb and drained of strength. His limbs did not respond to his wishes, and even as Abe struggled with him, Veghard felt lighter than the Overlord Airships he had crewed upon prior to his deployment within Sixty First Thunderers.

“Get over here and help me!” Abelard sounded panicked. Veghard hoped Novarius was elsewhere. Last thing they would need would be another dead trooper because some marine thought the trooper was too much of a coward. Novarius’s voice killed that hope, but gave new life to others when, without expectation, he sounded out in Abe’s favor.

“You will move when Abelard commands you to or I will dispense the Emperor’s Justice.”

Veghard was rolled over by Novarius. Veghard knew it by the uncompromising strength of the marine’s hand. As he was moved, Veghard realized his eyes were closed and that he was not blind. Opening them, he glanced around. Several troopers were surrounding him, working on his leg and arm, though he could not see what they were working on. Looking beyond them, Veghard saw the smoke obscuring the bowl they occupied and felt tears well up in his eyes. Just beyond the cover of the smoke screen Veghard watched Novarius struggle with his heavy bolter. When he had been hit, Veghard realized that he must have failed to disable the anti-gravity aspects of his weapon. Some malfunction kept the anti-gravity running and now an Astartes carried the weapon, even if it was obvious he did not know how to wield the heavy bolter.

Looking away from the stumbling marine, Veghard’s eye fell on another squat kneeling between and behind two of the troopers who where wrestling bandages onto his arm. When their eyes meet, the new comer nodded, and Veghard realized that it was the spirit guide who had spoken to him just before the mad rush down to the assembled force Novarius and Abelard had managed to save. Veghard frowned at the other’s nod. It was bad enough to have a vision when he was healthy, to be wounded and weak would be unacceptable. The spirit gave him an encouraging smile, moved up between the two troopers, and held out a hand to help Veghard to his feet.

Pulling himself up with the aid of the spirit, Veghard looked back at where he had been lying. Unsurprised, he found himself looking exactly at what he expected to see; himself, still being worked upon by the troopers and Abe. His head lolled to the side, loose and limp. Veghard wondered how long it would be before the men realized they were working on a dead man and what they would do. After gazing at his body, Veghard took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and then let out a great shout of laughter.

“That is a new response, I must admit”, the spirit said as Veghard’s laugh fell to an amused chuckle. “Why the mirth?”

“I can’t be lead astray by you now, spirit. Look at me, I’m dead”, Veghard pointed to his body. “If I’m not yet, I soon will be.”

The spirit followed Veghard’s gesture and shrugged.

“You look alive enough to me.”

The spirit turned back to Veghard and placed a hand on his shoulder. Veghard felt a shudder run though him. Aside from the overly familiar touch, the spirit did not feel insubstantial or cold or anything other than a warm, breathing squat Veghard would expect to meet on any given day. The brotherly grip on him was disconcerting, as was the spirit’s unconcern of the wounds threatening Veghard’s body.

“You are not dying, Veghard. No more than the tiny amount you do every day you’re alive. You have a long road ahead of you and I am your guide for the first few steps on that road. I won’t be around long, and once I’m gone you’ll never see me again. You won’t be alone. Don’t worry on that account, you will have other advisors.”

The guide grinned and turned away from the men working on Veghard’s body. He motioned for Veghard to follow him and the two of them walked away from the smoke filled bowl. As they came out of the obscuring smoke, Veghard found himself standing upon a low hill with the spirit. It was not a hill from the battle field, but somewhere else and curiosity overcame his typical stoicism.

“Where are we?” Veghard asked and the spirit looked out over a brown plain broken with boulders and low points worn from centuries of spring waters cutting paths toward some unseen destination.

“The past.”

Veghard snorted at the response. “The past isn’t a place.”

“For me it is. For almost all of us it is a place. When you do die, you will come to a place in the past. Unless you don’t care to, of course,” the spirit gave a short chuckle. “I suppose I did lie to you. If you’re persistent enough, you might be able to find me again. I just won’t seek you out.”

“You’re not making a whole lot of sense. Why are all spirits so vague? Can’t any of you speak plainly?” Veghard grunted in annoyance. This was turning into more of what he remembered from their last conversation. The spirit shook his head.

“Veghard, I am trying to speak plainly. Most of those I guide already know why they are here, know who I am, what is expected of them, and they have been prepared. I’m not so ignorant that I don’t know how to deal with someone who is, like you, here in an unexpected manner. I will admit trying to be a guide when you’re in the middle of a battle is as far from ideal as I could imagine, but you have done it one better. You are all alone!”

The guide’s voice had risen and he spoke rapidly, anger or some other emotion slipping into his tone. Veghard didn’t feel threatened by it, but strangely satisfied that he had managed to get the other to act in some manner than irritatingly patronizing.

“Well, I know why I’m here. I’m dead, or close to it. So why don’t you just tell me who you are and we can go from there, maybe then you can tell me what is expected of me. We’ll just skip the being prepared portion”, Veghard let some anger slip into his own voice. “As for being alone, I have news for you, Spirit, all of us squats are alone now. You must have missed the loss of the Homeworlds. I take it you don’t stand guard at the Ancestor’s Hall.”

“Ancestor’s Hall? That’s a fairy tale, you idiot! I am a guide and right now I’m your guide, so you had better listen to me!”

“Listen? Hah! To more of your drivel? You have yet to say anything that makes any sense.”

“Drivel? Do you know where you are? How to get back? Anything other than children’s fairytales? What are you waiting for? The Emperor to come striding over the horizon and save you?”

“The Emperor protects us all!”

The spirit breathed heavily though his nose and ground his teeth. Veghard did as well and the two faced each other, leaning in towards one another. Silence, other than angered breathing, held the moment before the spirit broke it.

“Time, I have time now to explain this”, the spirit turned away to look back out across the plain.

His anger seemed to have evaporated and Veghard frowned. Invoking the Emperor did not have the effect he had hoped. If this spirit was some spawn of Chaos, Veghard had hoped that naming the Emperor would have broken the creature’s spell, or whatever hold he had over Veghard. He did not know what else he could do other than hope the spirit was what it claimed to be and was benign. Only Veghard knew from personal experience benign did not exist in the real world.

“Veghard,” the spirit said in a soft voice. Almost the same tone he first used when Veghard saw him the first time.

“Veghard, I am your ancestor. I am your first ancestor. You have become a Living Ancestor and it is my task to show you the past. Our past, and the past of all our peoples, from now on back. You are now the link between the past and the living. It is my hope to keep you alive until you are not alone, as you think you are. Your wounds will not weaken you or your hold on me. I am your prisoner until you release me, and when you do release me, you will awaken.

“When that happens, you will have a battle to fight and warriors to advise. There is another Ancestor on his way to you, and he has sent aid. You must use that aid to prevail and it is my duty to guide you towards that goal, but I cannot tell you how. It is not a game, Veghard. I am not a teacher to trick or grade you. If you are ready to listen to me, not judge, nor ignore me, then we will begin.”
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Post 15 – Long, long ago

“I am a Living Ancestor?” Disbelief filled Veghard’s voice. “I’m not that old, really. Don’t Ancestors have to wait to exhibit their talents until they reach a venerable age?”

“No”, the spirit shook his head. “It is tradition that budding Ancestors are apprenticed to older, more accomplished Ancestors, until they reach an age that is expected of Ancestors, but that is for another to tell you. I am here to show you the past.”

Veghard stayed quiet, patient for now to wait to see what the spirit was so intent in showing him. Looking around, the green plain was far removed from the scrub desert that he had been fighting in. A stray thought occurred to him, as he remembered seeing Novarius attempt to handle his heavy bolter, and the trouble such an act was going cause. The spirit, without a word, stepped out and began walking through the green grasses. Veghard, taken off guard, hurried to catch up. At the top of a low rise, Veghard came to a stop next to the spirit. Looking down, the two watched several figures moving about in an excavation that was widening the low depression of the green plain.

The figures were using primitive tools that were similar in function to mattocks and shovels that they used to mark the earthworks and move the dirt that was hewn away. The individuals were human in shape and color, though the skin was far paler than any Veghard had encountered before and seemed untouched by the sun beating down upon the working crew. Hairless as well with over pronounced ears that swept back as an Eldars might be. Their eyes were large, bulbous in nature with slits like a cat’s. They were dressed in simple clothing, little more than a swath of cloth with a hole cut for the head and belted with a simple cord. Uniform in dye, the color was natural, a neutral tan. No decoration was displayed by any, and they seemed less and less as individuals.

The spirit headed down into the works and Veghard followed, amused by the odd juxtaposition of his last waking moments and this new idyllic scene. As they came down among the diggers, each would pause and reach up to press the fingers of a hand to their forehead as the spirit and Veghard came close. It took a moment for Veghard to realize that these diggers, while slighter of body, were no taller than him. Looking closer into their faces, which would break into almost childish grins, their eyes were all a uniform gold. Their teeth, when exposed by the grins, looked like wickedly sharp thorns wedged into their mouths in haphazard fashion. Overall, the diggers looked like incomplete people. Pale skin, unblemished by the sun and childish faces left blank from inexperience. The hairless scalp gleamed as a facetted jewel, not from sweat, but as from the scales of the albino snakes that were kept as pets and for nostalgia, harkening back to when they were kept for vermin control in the poorer squat strongholds. Veghard shivered when one of the diggers looked him straight in the eye before returning to his work with a mattock.

“They can see us?” Veghard was suddenly feeling very exposed and foolish for blindly following the spirit. “I thought this was the past.”

The spirit looked back at Veghard. “It is. And yes, they can see you.” The spirit chuckled as he divined Veghard’s discomfort. “They cannot touch or harm you though. They simply can perceive your presence. Did you not see the salute?”

Veghard colored slightly. The reflexive pressing the diggers did as they passed between the workers was suddenly recognized. The fingertips were touched by the thumb, forming the hand into a teardrop shape, and then brought to press the forehead lightly. It was a blessing gesture made to Living Ancestors whenever a person was brought into their presence and wished to ask for guidance. Symbolizing a mother’s kiss upon the forehead of her babe, squats that wished to hear from their own ancestors performed the ritual as they would always be as a babe before a Living Ancestor.

“But why do they salute us?”

“We are their ancestors.”

“You said this is the past. I can’t be an ancestor to any of these. They aren’t even human!”

“You aren’t either, you’re a squat.”

“We are still human, of human stock. We may be abhuman now, but we are the survivors of the Old Night.”

The spirit looked Veghard up and down.

“You look a lot like them, Veghard. Don’t you see the similarities?”

Veghard frowned. He wanted to argue, but he did not want to anger the spirit again. That and he had agreed to listen and learn, but the implied insult that somehow these strange diggers were squats made no sense to him. The spirit watched Veghard, waiting for the explosion of anger. After a moment, he tilted his head to the side and gave an impressed sound once he realized Veghard was not going to interject some denial. With a nod, the spirit gestured to Veghard to stand beside him as he stood near the top of the earthworks. The two of them had crossed the area the diggers had been working in, and now on the opposite side, the spirit had been joined by the diggers who all looked towards the horizon.

Veghard stepped up to the group to see what they were all looking at. The sun was setting in a crystal clear sky. The bright yellow sun moving through a true blue sky over a verdant emerald plain dominated the view, the only sound on the plains was the soft whisper of the wind. The grasses bounced in the wind and Veghard was trying to figure out what was holding everyone’s attention, when the silence was shattered and from the sky fell ship after ship, sinking to the surface of the plains on roaring jets that threw out a hot wind that blew out and over Veghard and the diggers.

“Ah. Right on time”, the spirit chuckled. “But then, they always are.”

“Who?”

“The humans, Veghard. Those are the humans. This is the Homeworld. Long, long ago.”
 
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