I screamed out as the shards descended on us, I screamed not out of fear, although I knew this to be the end. I didn’t scream out of anger, or defiance, or even out of guilt.
I screamed out of frustration, to have come so close, so close! There were so many, countless even if I managed to dodge and destroy enough to save myself there was no way I could protect Castella and Darrance as well, no way in hell.
“So close!” I roared, raising my sword as the shards and slivers were almost on me. “I was so...clooooose!”
But they never came; they seemingly disappeared when within mere millimetres of me, evaporating into nothing like stones hitting the water.
+Here I am, yet again, saving your butt, Attelus Kaltos.+
“Karmen!” I gasped.
+What!?+ demanded Edracian in my head.
+I am sorry it took so long for me to help you, I have only just managed to defeat Edracian’s pet psyker. But I am tired I will not be able to help very much from here on.+
Abruptly, Castella and Darrance gasped for air and hunched forward.
+Well, besides that.+
“Thank you, Karmen,” I said.
Edracian laughed again, and we turned to face him.
“Why are you laughing?” said Darrance. “It’s over!”
+I laugh because you think you can make a difference! Decades of planning have gone into this! Nothing you can do will change anything! Omnartus will die! It is only a matter of time; it is fate and you can not-+
“Oh just shut up!” I snarled and in the blink of an eye made the twenty-metre distance, slashing my powersword but again it bounced against his shield.
“Frig!” I cried as I reeled back.
Edracian’s laughter grew shriller, louder and hurt my head, then across what must’ve been the surface of the spherical shield crackled what looked like lightning.
+Attelus! Move now!+ roared Karmen.
Without question, I dived to the floor a mere millisecond before the lightning eclipsed the air where I once stood.
“Shit!” I cried through clenched teeth as I clambered to my feet and into a sprint. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
I felt rather than saw the second lightning blast as it missed my back by barely an inch.
Thankfully it was only the lightning, the clap of thunder at such close range would’ve burst my eardrums, at the very least.
The surface of the shield crackled, a split second before lightning erupted out again. I slid out of its path, drew my autopistol and fired a few times into it, I knew it’d do nothing, but I needed to. I needed to feel I was doing something, anything!
“Karmen!” I roared before being forced to sidestep another bolt. “Can you please! Take down that damn shield!”
+I’m sorry, Attelus! I’m too weak!+
Cursing savagely, I emptied the rest of my pistol’s clip at the bastard. Lightning had shot out twice in that time but not at me, Darrance was forced to wheel away from the first, Castella pirouetted from the path of the second.
+I might have a way, mon’keigh.+
“Faleaseen!” I snapped, verbally, unintentionally while ducking another burst of lightning. “Where the hell have you been?”
+That is Farseer Faleaseen to you, mon’keigh! Know your place! As I have told you time and again my power is limited this far! I was blocked from you once you had reached the ninth floor, I have only just managed to break through now.
“Frigging typical!” I snarled while weaving through two quick-fire bolts. “Now can you take that shield down, now! Please!”
+I cannot, I’m afraid. All I can do is provide you a way to phase through the shield to deliver the killing blow.+
“Well! Good! Frigging do that, then!”
+I cannot. I have used much of my power to break through the block. I need to recuperate.+
“Oh for frig’s sake! And how long will that take?”
+Three minutes of your time.+
“Three minutes!” I cried. “I can’t hold on that long!”
+I am afraid, that you must and even if you do not, it doesn’t matter.+
It took her a good few seconds before she replied and in that time I was forced to dodge four separate lightning bolts.
+You needn’t worry. Do not concern yourself upon nothing, and just concentrate upon your enemy.+
I would’ve frowned but found it impossible, being too busy struggling to breathe.
“Why!” I roared. “Why can’t it be easy! Just! For! Once!”
Castella flipped over me and landed on my left.
“So, what’s the plan he who constantly talks to himself?” she said.
I grinned despite myself and darted out of the path of another lightning blast.
“I need you and Darrance to distract him! Somehow! Karmen can help me, but it’s going to take a while!”
“How long is ‘a while?’”
“Frig that!” she snapped.
“My thoughts exactly!”
“No surprise there!” said Darrance as he converged on my right. “Seen as how simple minded you are!”
Before I could make my rather weak retort another burst of lightning forced us to scatter
“Attelus! Take cover behind the pillars!” shouted Castella. “We’ll try to draw his attention!”
I nodded over my shoulder and sprinted toward the nearest pillar.
+Oh no, you don’t!+ Came Edracian’s voice.
+Attelus! Move left, now!+ Karmen cried.
I did, a microsecond before the lightning past by me.
My weave took me out of the path of another blast, but I gaped in horror as it tore into the pillar, gouging a vast blackened gash in its surface.
In the next second, I was past the pillar and behind it. I quickly calculated it’d only take ten to twenty seconds before Edracian’s lightning brought it down completely. Then I’d just move onto the next one.
Luckily for me, the pillar was thick, and marble was a non-conductive material.
Gasping, I cautiously glanced around the edge. Edracian was firing three lightning bolts at once now, forcing Darrance and Castella to dodge and flip through two, the third constantly clashed against my pillar. So much for them distracting him.
Edracian’s laughter filtered through my thoughts, forcing me to freeze in fright.
+Do you seriously think those pillars will protect you?+
I gaped and gasped, and instinct made me turn in time to see the next bolt of lightning curl around the pillar on my left, then headed straight toward me.
I cursed savagely in Velrosian which was the first time in a long time I’d uttered my native tongue as I threw myself to the floor.
The lightning past over me by the barest of margins and instantly I was up and moving into the open. Being behind the pillars, was now a death trap.
“Attelus!” cried Castella, I turned to see she wasn’t far away, glaring at me in dismay. “Why aren’t you behind the pillars!”
“He-!” I was interrupted as another bolt came at me, forcing me to lunge out the way. But like the last, it turned after it passed, though not toward me, toward her.
Castella gaped in shock yet still reacted quickly enough to flip out the away. But again it turned, it turned and smashed into the pillar she’d just stood beside.
It was easily the most potent bolt this far; it instantly gutted the four-metre wide pillar and tons upon tons of marble collapsed in a heap. It happened so fast Castella was still in mid-air, and she didn’t even have time to cry out before she disappeared under it.
I stood frozen in place, I wanted to scream, to roar out her name but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t comprehend. I couldn’t think. The next lightning bolt would’ve vaporised me if Darrance hadn’t knocked me to the floor.
“Get up, Apprentice!” he snarled.
I didn’t, I laid there and realised that tears were flowing down my face.
“Get up!” he roared. “Get up now, or I will kill you!”
Darrance abruptly hauled me up by the scruff of my neck and threw me onto my face, out the path of the next bolt.
“Get up now!” he roared again. “Or do you wish for me to stab you through the heart? Do you think Castella would have wanted that? You disrespect her with this pathetic show! Get up now and fight or I will kill you!”
“She’s dead, I know!” he roared as he pulled me to my feet and slid us out from another blast’s path.
Darrance didn’t throw me when he let go I simply collapsed into a heap.
“How?” I murmured into the floor.
“How! How can you not care!”
I was on my feet so fast; I didn’t realise it until the fist smashed into my face and sent me reeling back to the floor.
“You think I don’t care? You think that I’m such a monster?” He roared, and his next sentence choked with emotion and, there were tears in his eyes. “She was like a sister to me! I cared for her more than anyone!”
“More than you ever will!” he screamed and raised his power scimitar.
A bolt of lightning forced him back before he could decapitate me and Edracian’s laughter echoed in my mind.
+As much as I enjoy this drama show, do not forget about me! I am going to kill you!+
I clenched my teeth and my right hand into a fist as anger suddenly raged through me. He was the one responsible for this; he’d killed her. He’d killed Elandria! I’d sworn vengeance and, here I was just laying here, pathetic! What would Castella think! What would Elandria think! They deserved more! The trillions of people he’d murdered deserved more! I deserved more!
Adelana, she deserved more!
Darrance came at me again, roaring and slicing down.
I snarled, was suddenly in a crouch and smashing aside his sword.
“I’m sorry, Darrance!” I said. “I know you care; I shouldn’t have said that! I’m sorry!”
Darrance reeled from the parry but, he still smiled.
Then we scattered as another lightning blast came at us.
+How long now, Farseer?+
+Two minutes and twenty-seven seconds remaining, Attelus.+
“Karmen? Is she? Is she?” I said with widening eyes, surprised at the Farseer’s genuine use of my name.
+I’m sorry, Attelus, I can no longer sense Castella’s presence. She’s...gone. I’m so sorry.+
I wiped away the tears with my forearm and slid to a stop, the next bolt missing me by a hand’s breadth in front of me. I wanted to charge at him, to run mindlessly and roar with rage, I didn’t but by the Emperor did it take all my willpower not to.
Clenching my teeth, I weaved side to side as I remembered; I remembered Castella how she was the only one who’d always encourage me. How she stuck up for me to Darrance and Hayden. How I’d heard her voice when I was in a coma when she prayed for me.
My tears were flowing freely now but, my eyes never wavered away from Edracian. I didn’t run, just slowly approached, dodging the blasts as they came my way and remembered. I remembered how it was Castella who was at my bedside when I’d first woken. How she’d cried when she’d said she was glad I wasn’t a monster, then said I’d saved the people in the Twilight bar, and I winced at my idiocy at how I hadn’t believed her.
I ducked another blast then slid aside the next.
I remembered how she was the only one who’d laugh at my lame jokes. Remembered when she’d fought at my side against the daemons. When she’d hugged me when I’d wept after I’d found out about the Exterminatus and said it’d be okay. How she’d believed, truly believed we could stop it.
Now she was dead! She was my friend! No! She was more than that! She was like a sister to me! She was like the kind, compassionate big sister I never had!
Darrance was wrong! I cared for her more than anyone!
Then it hit me, the real reason why she’d beaten poor Wesley to a pulp, why she’d left the room in shame when I’d expressed my shock at his condition. It was because of what he’d done to me. She did it because she’d cared for me. How couldn’t I’ve seen it? How?
“Castella,” I hissed.
+Ohhh! What’s wrong? Are you sad over your friend?+
I didn’t reply, only kept walking and dodging.
+Why? She was a nobody! Just another mindless fool! A pawn who was fated for nothing! To be nothing! I don’t understand what you’re so upset about!+
“Shut up,” I hissed, ducking.
+It’s just like Jarvus and Callague!+
+Just like good medicae Feuilt!+
“Shut up!” I growled, darting.
+Just like Olinthre and Taryst!+
+Just like all of the sad, pathetic dead Hammers and Magistratum lackeys, consumed by my daemonic minions!+
“Shut up!” I yelled, weaving.
+Just like, your sad! Pathetic! Know nothing! Girlfriend, Elandria!+
I didn’t reply, just shed even more tears and clenched my teeth all the harder then slid from the path of another lightning bolt.
+Ohhh! Not going to scream for me to shut up at the mention of her name? And for me to never say it? How anti-climactic! Add more to this your pathetic melodrama of yours! Would you please? Please do!+
I grinned, “no, why would I? That’s what you’d want, and I refuse to give you anything more!”
Edracian’s sudden barking, insane laughter erupted through my mind, making me wince which almost caused me to be vaporised by the next blast.
+AHAHAHAHAHA! Fair enough, I guess! Not knowingly anyway! But like it or not! You’re about to give me exactly what I want! AHAHAHAHA!+
“Yeah? You suicidal or something?”
+Attelus Kaltos! I have regained my strength! The time is nigh! Go forth! My shield will protect you! It will only be up for a few seconds!
+I grinned as around me the world turned blue, shimmery; like I’d suddenly plunged into the sea. The clearest, cleanest water imaginable yet I could still breath and see Edracian easily.+
+Huh? What’s this?+ His voice shrill with surprise.
“This is your end, you son of a bitch!” I roared and lunged into a sprint.
Edracian cried out and shot another lightning blast, easily the largest and most powerful one yet. The one which engulfed me. But I never flinched, the bolt past around the shield, harmless.
“This is it!” I bellowed as I drew back my sword. “This is for all the people you’ve killed! This is for Callague and Jarvus and Olinthre!”
The lightning continued to consume me, to crackle and weave around the shield, but there was no resistance. I ran without hindrance and, in the last few metres, I lunged into the air.
“This is for all the innocents you’ve slaughtered and sacrificed! This is for Taryst! This is for Castella! And most of all, this is for Elandria!”
Roaring like I’ve never roared before or would ever since with one slash, I severed Edracian’s head from his shoulders.
The shield abruptly dissipated and I landed and slid a good few metres more before my strength suddenly left me and I collapsed to the floor.
There I saw Edracian’s severed, helmeted head clatter and bounce across the green marble.
There the stench hit me like a punch to the face, it made me gag, my eyes to water and want to vomit.
Even still, I watched the helmet continue to bounce and, in the last jarring impact, the head inside was knocked out. It rolled a bit before stopping still, facing me.
My jaw dropped, it was the gaping, rotting, head of someone long dead.
Just like the zombie-thing from my dream.
Edracian’s laughter made me flinch in fright, but it was no longer his. It sounded less deep and defined now it was soft and sharp, but still male.
It was also accompanied by what sounded like clapping, slow, sarcastic clapping.
“What?” I croaked.
+Bravo! Bravo! Attelus Xanthis Kaltos! Are you sure that your true calling is being an assassin? You really should’ve been on the stage! Such an act! Such fervour! Such fire! Five stars! Too bad that’s out of ten, but that’s neither here nor there! You’re taking to this hero shtick, aren’t you? I didn’t think you had it in you! For Elandria! RAAAGHHHH! Brilliant! Oh, the histrionics! Your mother would’ve been proud!+
+Oh! I apologise! I am afraid this isn’t the first time that Inquisitor Edracian has died! I’m sorry but, I had that honour, originally a long time ago. You must know this whole endeavour was his idea originally; he’d been doing this for, what? Seventy years before he brought me into the fold. I killed him then controlled him because he was having a crisis of conscience, you’d think after the first several billion you would have one, wouldn’t you? Nope! Took him to the eleventh!+
I saw Darrance approach he looked just as exhausted, sickened and confused as I felt.
“If you are not Nonin Edracian, who in the Emperor’s name are you?” he demanded.
+Oh! Again I must apologise! But that is ‘Inquisitor,’ Nonin Edracian to you! He may be dead but, he still deserves your respect. Sorry, off on a tangent there! Where are my manners! I am truly, truly sorry! I am Inquisitor Ferrox Etuarq, of the Ordo Xenos. Well, I was, until those self-righteous arseholes of the Ordos Calixus decided to declare me Diabolus Extremis! Their audacity. I’d only summoned a daemon, or two, or five or five hundred! But that’s neither here nor there! Pleased to meet your acquaintance!+
Darrance abruptly stiffened and hissed in fright, looking at me.
“What?” I managed.
“That’s, that’s the name of your father’s master!” he said.
+Ding! Ding! Ding! Bingo! Yet again correct Darrance! And I am even still! Serghar says hi, by the way, Attelus, and that he’s proud and all that crap and blah! Blah! Blah! You know how it goes!+
I didn’t answer; I was too busy struggling to breathe and trying to fathom this new revelation.
He’s proud because you performed so very well! You were such a good little puppet! Just like Edracian here!
Suddenly, Edracian’s arm raised into the air causing Darrance to jump back in fright.
+May I ask you a question, little Attelus? I am surprised you aren’t called ‘little Attelus’ more! Seen as though you’re so very little! Oh, I’m sorry off on another tangent, there! Did you ever wonder about your name?+
“What?” said Darrance for me.
+You are aware that you were named after Serghar’s only friend. I mean ‘friend’ of the ‘friend’ kind not of the other kind. Serghar had many of the other ‘friends’ if you catch my drift. He was always popular with the mamzels that Serghar Kaltos. I think it was the whole brooding loner thing, but that makes it hard to get friends of the other kind, but that’s neither here nor there. Yes! I apologise! Back on topic! His first and only true friend, a fellow member of my Warband. A skilled assassin by the name of Xanthis Atellus. Sure your father switched the names around and changed the spelling of ‘Atellus’, but that turned out to mean very little! Atellus died only a few years before you were born, we were on a mission on...Wait, sorry! Back on topic! He even gave you his last name; he didn’t give you your mother’s last name, ‘Jakolb.’ Which would’ve made you quite easy to track down for an enemy of Serghar Kaltos determined enough...+
“Glaitis!” exclaimed Darrance. “But, why?”
+Because we wanted her to track him down. A woman scorned and all that! Tell me, Attelus, did you ever wonder why your father taught you the exact...right skills to survive in the ruins of Varander? Did you? I guess you’re not exactly in the right condition to answer right now, so I’ll guess that you haven’t. Because we wanted you to survive so you could one day, seven years later, come to Omnartus and take one little pict.+
“But, but how!” Exclaimed Darrance.
+You are aware that I can read the future, right? We searched every thread of fate and found this path the most likely to come to Omnartus’ end. Attelus Xanthis Kaltos, I thank you. You performed admirably. Well done!+
Again, I heard the slow sarcastic clapping, and I tried to fight back the tears welling in my eyes.
“That’s just sick!” snarled Darrance. “What kind of father would allow his son to be used like that! To allow his son to have the lives of potentially billions of people on his conscience!”
+A father who knows his place as my servant! One who knows all humans are nothing but tools, no matter who or what they are! And not ‘potentially,’ you jumped up little ponce of a thug! It’s going to happen no matter what! The wheels of fate are turning and soon! Very, very soon! Torathe and his requisitioned fleet will emerge from the warp and order Omnartus dead! It’s going to be beautiful! Wonderful! Brilliant!+
“And what about Edracian?” asked Darrance.
+Oh, him? He’s worthless to me now; he’s been compromised. Too many know of his involvement, so I’m afraid I have to find a new puppet, now. But no matter, he can die, after sending a report of the horrid corruption of Omnartus elite, led by Taryst, of course, to his close friend and confidant, Devan Ricci Torathe of the Ordo Malleus. Then dying in a heroic last stand against the chaos worshipping locals just before Torathe can arrive in time. Or so the Ordo Calixus will be led to believe. Aren’t I brilliant? Sometimes I even impress me! Dying along with everyone who knows much anything, of course.+
“So that’s why you’re telling us all this,” said Darrance. “You expect us to die, right?”
+Ding! Ding! Ding! Yet again you are correct, Darrance! I also wanted to see the despair on poor, little Attelus’ face after finding out that his very existence is just nothing but a part of my plan. He’s nothing but a puppet! A pawn! A nothing! That the very reason why he was even born was just to be that and only that! Oh, it’s beautiful! He’s pretty isn’t he? Very, very pretty. Even after being beaten and brutalised and scarred! Looks just like his father, doesn’t he? Or his mother, I’m not quite sure. I think it’s the long hair; if he’d cut it, it wouldn’t be so ambiguous. But even then...His mother was very beautiful, easily one of the most beautiful of Serghar’s conquests, except for the whole being the insane part. Glaitis, she was up there too, y’know! But she was insane as well! So was Elandria come to think of it! And Karmen! They can sure can pick ’em! Like father like son as they say!+
Darrance could say nothing more, only shake his head; jaw dropped in utter horror.
+If only I was there! Oh, how I’d love to bottle those tears! But I wouldn’t waste time and resources for that no matter how much I want to!+
“W-why?” I sobbed.
+Why? Well, that’s one thing I’m not going to tell you, puppet! Just why not? Maybe one day you will understand. Too bad you won’t live long enough! Tell me! How does it feel, Attelus? How does it feel to know that all your struggles! All your development and effort have all been for nothing? Nothing! Give in! Weep! Despair!+
He fell back into his insane laughter.
“Do not listen to him, apprentice!” Darrance snapped. “He is clearly deranged! Clearly sick and sadistic! He is lying! He must be!”
+Oh, I will not deny that I am, indeed, sick and sadistic. But deranged, hardly! But that does not mean I do not speak the truth! Just look at him! Such a pathetic, puerile, little piece of shit. At least you were born like a normal person, Darrance! But no, not him! He’s only here because I’d ordered him to be! He is nothing but garbage! Trash!+
“Shut up!” roared Darrance. “Utter just one more syllable and I’ll…”
Etuarq’s voice snorted.
+Or you’ll what? Kill poor Edracian again? I-+
With a roar, Darrance was suddenly over Edracian’s corpse and slashing his scimitar, which cut through it like it was tissue. Snarling with every slash Darrance sliced apart Edracian’s body in a fit of blind rage.
All the while Etuarq laughed and laughed.
It was only when the corpse was in tatters did Darrance finally stop, gasping, now barely able to stand.
+Are we done? Good! Well, that was rather pointless, Darrance! An excellent metaphor I’d say for everything you’ve said and done up to now.+
“What in the Emperor’s name is going on here?” bellowed a voice and Darrance’s and I looked to its source. Brutis Bones, along with Wesley, Hayden and the rest of the Hammers were just entering the church.
+Oh! Hello! Welcome to my humble abode! Well Darrance, Trash! There was a third reason why I told you all of this.+
“Yeah? And what’s that?” gasped Darrance.
+Delaying tactic. I’ve been waiting for someone special to enter the building and, here they finally are! So goodbye! It’s been nice!+
Suddenly, a blue fire erupted from Edracian’s pieces and, they abruptly rose into the air as Etuarq’s voice laughed.
Then the explosion rocked the building.