Another piece of fiction set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this one was written years ago at the outset of Games Workshop’s Fall of Medusa V global campaign. Depicting necrons, I tried to keep a balance between calculating machines and former living beings that retained some of their most powerful emotions.
– Awakening –
In a dark, airless room, where absolutely no light had shone for millennia, two glimmering dots of light suddenly disturbed the total darkness. Though pale at first, their brightness steadily increased, as the machine they were part of became increasingly aware of its own existence. At full intensity, the two electric green lights started to slowly move around, as if the machine was looking around, analyzing it’s present surroundings.
Then there was a long hiss and a low rumble as a huge, stone door started to rise, revealing the doorway to a long, faintly illuminated corridor. As the door was steadily rising, making the entire room vibrate, light was trickling into the chamber and the two green lights observed the thin, metallic frame they were connected to.
The bulk was somewhat round and covered with a black, obsidian-like material that had crests running along the sides as well as a golden symbol in the center, composed of a circle, five lines that connected to it and a semi-circled directly above. From this main part sprung four thin limbs, of which the lower two were somewhat thicker and sturdier looking, ending in flat, steady bases, while the upper two stood apart not only because of their shorter more delicate appearance, but due to what they had at their end.
As the machine’s green eyes studied them, it was interrupted by a blurry visual image. The machine was looking at the same limb except there was now another creature held between it’s limb’s five sharp endings. There was no darkness either. On sandy dunes, under a scorching pair of suns, the machine was surrounded by other thin machines – the word servants suddenly appeared in his memory – that were atomising other creatures – now the word harvest appeared in the machine’s data stream. As it turned its gaze towards the creature it was holding – enemy – it analyzed the pale skin and the long, sharp features of the its face, while a thick, red liquid was starting to appear around the neck, where the five sharp claws were piercing the skin.
‘Do it already, Dead One! Or do you need an express command from your sadistic masters?’
Along with these last words, a strange, burning energy went through the machine’s body, and almost instantly its hand closed shut around the victim’s neck, severing the head from its frail body. Then the machine was back in its dark chamber, realizing that was a memory from an age long ago, and that the searing energy that traversed its circuits was nothing physical, but a faint trace of one of the few feelings it had left: anger.
As this diagnostic was being established, a big, hovering silhouette appeared in the tall doorway of the chamber. As it approached, a few small, insect like machines entered behind it and quickly crept on the walls to get close to the thin body of the machine. Then the bigger machine established contact, and amid the transmitted data the machine recognized the term Lord as its designation, and Ihraim as its particular appellative.
Along with these two words, more memories revealed themselves: memories of huge battles between phalanxes of thin, metallic warriors and ranks upon ranks of living creatures; memories of hate, anger and contempt; memories of dark masters, ever living gods, floating above the earth, slicing through swathes of living creatures, reveling in the slaughter.
During this time, the metallic scarabs started to move about the Lord’s body, using their small limbs to repair and polish the effects countless millennia had upon the metal, while the giant spider lifted the Lord completely from its holding pedestal and set it down on the chambers floor. As the feet touched the stone, the surprisingly heavy clang echoed across the chamber and into the corridor beyond.
Then the hovering creature stopped in front of its master. Lord Ihraim gazed upon the enormous servant as it waited, and the word keeper revealed itself through the circuitry that made up its current mind.
Contemplating its position, Lord Ihraim remembered the other servants in the memory he just recalled. He then looked upon the great keeper and transmitted ‘Servants.’. The giant spider turned around and started hovering slowly down the corridor, with the little scarabs trailing behind it on the ground, on the walls and on the ceiling. Lord Ihraim started to walk behind it.
After a few moments of walking down the dark corridors, Lord Ihraim and the giant spider reached a small balcony that opened into an immense hall. From here, the lord could see row upon row upon row of hundreds of metallic, skeletal, warriors. Its servants.
As he was gazing upon them, another vision overlapped the halls image. A tall, skeletal figure, similar to his own, but with broader shoulders and a long, sharp tail. In of its clawed hands I was holding a great staff, crackling with energy. Behind it, vast dunes of sand and rocky cliffs were illuminated by great bolts of lightning. An expression came to mind: Storm-Bringer.
‘Good, you are awakened. Bring your warriors to the fifth planet. There is much life to be harvested. The Great Work needs all the servants of the Gods available.’
Instantly the vision disappeared. Lord Ihraim realized that was not a memory, but a command from a fellow Lord, servant of the Gods as well. A Lord that he was a servant to. Turning towards the great keeper, with one hand raised and pointing to the thousands of dormant warriors, the transmission was brief: ‘Awaken the servants.’
The spider sent a short answer: ‘Damage to fix…Time required.’
‘Awaken all that can harvest. Repair all others. Haste.’
As the last word was being transmitted, dozens of doorways opened along the great hall and more keepers entered to begin working on raising the sleeping troops, accompanied by an entire swarm of the smaller, metallic insects. While watching the keepers at work, the Lord analyzed the transmission received from his superior. The term ‘warriors’ had a lot of data associated with it. Then Lord Ihraim suddenly transmitted another thought to the great keeper beside it. ‘My bodyguard.’
The spider turned back into the corridor they came through. After a moment it turned on a side-passage and stopped in front of another tall door, waiting for the heavy stone to be pulled up enough to allow entry. This room was a smaller scale replica of the hall they had just been in. There were a few rows of warriors, ten long each, similar to the servants in the other hall, but these versions were bigger and bulkier. The spiders accompanying scarabs quickly dashed around the room, checking each body.
‘Ten can be awakened…Others need repairs.’
Then Lord Ihraim remembered something else from its earlier memory. Among all his servants that were harvesting the living ones, one in particular stood out by its unmatched ferocity in combat. As the memory was being replayed, the swift killing slashes made with the warscythe became apparent along with other details, such as the intricate golden details on the servants body. Eventually it found the term ‘Prince Hamun’ somewhere in the associated data stream.
Lord Ihraim realized there was something of importance to this servant, and turned to the great keeper that was already reactivating the warriors that would form the Lord’s body guard.
‘Prince Hamun. Now. Other keepers tend to my bodyguard.’
Instantly, the spider halted its work and went out of the chamber, while other keepers entered from the other side to continue the work, all of them accompanied by the tiny scarabs. On the other side of the main corridor another door began to rise. Inside this similar chamber a few dozen warriors were also asleep. These ones were of rather normal size, like the ones in the great hall, except their hands had enormous obsidian claws, bigger even than the Lords. At the other end of the chamber, on a small pedestal Lord Ihraim sighted the servant from the memory, Prince Ihraim. The spider kept going until it reached the pedestal and immediately the scarabs started to work on the body just like they did earlier in the lord’s chamber. Soon the prince’s eyes started to glow as well, and it came walking to the Lord. Though it stood tall in front, the transmission indicated a double feeling. That of servitude and that of familiarity.
The Lord’s circuits were assaulted with memories once again, but this time the memories were from further back, when the metal body wasn’t even a dream. When the Gods had not yet come down from the stars. When the war with the Long-Living Ones had only been taking place for a few hundred years. Lord Ihraim was on the battlefield, directing phalanxes of living warriors clad in metal plates. And ahead of the best of these phalanxes was Prince Hamun. His ‘son’. The battle was brutal, thousands of tall warriors clashing in mighty charges across sun baked plains. In the middle of the fight lied the Prince, slicing all around himself with his battle scythe. The look in his eyes told of nothing else but gleeful pleasure at the slaughter taking place around him. Dozens of blue, scaly creatures laid lifeless at his feet, some missing limbs, others with their heads detached while some were simply cut in half.
Lord Ihraim was pleased as he saw the blue ranks dwindle away under his massed troops. But then something unexpected caught his eye. From the middle of one of the last remaining bulks of blue warriors, a giant, wrinkled, pathetic excuse for a creature, so bloated it couldn’t even move on its own raised its tiny hands and powerful energy began to arc between them. Then it thrust its hands towards the middle of the fight, and an enormous ball of dancing electricity moved forward, landing right where his son was fighting. Rage filled Lord Ihraim as he realized what had just happened, and he ordered his special reserves to slaughter the creature that dared strike at the Lord’s Son.
From behind a small hill to the right of the Lord, a dozen hovering chariots soared and headed for the rear of the scaled warriors line. Within seconds a hail of deadly shots was decimating the last blue warriors still putting up a fight. One of the chariots brought the Prince to his father. The great lord was overtaken by grief as he saw the horrific wounds on his son;s body. The prince stirred and tried to talk. He was alive, but he would never again be able to fight or even walk for that matter. He would have to spend what was left of his short life as a crippled spectator the battles his father will fight.
The rest of the memory unfolded quickly. His son grew increasingly mad due to his inability to take part in any combat, until one day the Gods came down from within the very stars of the universe. And one of them granted the prince a vision. A vision of a way to fight for eternity, a way to exact vengeance on the entire race that crippled him. And this vision quickly became reality, for both the prince, his father, his servants, his entire race. They had all replaced their weak, fleshy bodies with strong, eternally living metal. Little did they know that this eternal life would also mean slavery to these gods. And though this slavery allowed them to manifest retribution upon that which they hated most, it was nevertheless, still, slavery. They would all spend eternity as servants.