We waited for more reinforcements to arrive as Verenth, Arlathan and the Hammer pulled out the Glaitis’ sword pinning Brutis to the floor. Then began to take off his armour so the medicae could stem the blood flow once they’d arrived, everyone else was too hurt, too exhausted to do anything.
The place stunk of blood, of defecation. The familiar stench of the recently dead.
Darrance and I sat on the stairs watching on. I’d stopped crying but was forced to war with the exhaustion, my eyelids constantly wanted to close, and my head was a whirl with sickening dizziness.
Arlathan, holding Glaitis’ still bloody blade, approached us, looking at me intently. “I’m sorry, Attelus,” he said with surprising sympathy. “I know he was your friend and…”
“Yeah...Yeah, Jeurat was my friend,” I interrupted, sadly. “But I’m not the one you should be talking to,” I said this while indicating poor Torris with a tilt of the head.
Torris still curled up in a ball and hadn’t made a sound since Garrakson’s death.
Arlathan saw this immediately, nodded and turned to descend the stairs, but stopped and looked back at me. “He talked fondly of you,” said Arlathan. “I could see you were true friends; I’ve lost more than a few comrades too, you know. Many friends...comrades from the precinct.”
I inhaled sharply and looked down, remembering the many Magistratum marshals killed by Etuarq’s daemons only a few short hours earlier.
“I’m sorry, Arlathan,” I said.
Arlathan shook his head, “there’s no need to apologise, kid. If it weren’t for you, they would all be dead. I just wish, I just wish I’d have done more, y’know? Instead, like a weakling, I’d fainted and stayed that way through the entire conflict. I wish I had the guts you’ve got, if I did maybe I could’ve saved a few, maybe. Like you saved all of us.”
I was shocked into silence, only able to gape idiotically as Arlathan started down the stairs again. Then someone began to laugh, a throaty, gasping, deep sound and it took me a second or two to realise it was Torris.
“So! So he’s got you fooled too!” Torris gasped as he slowly, laboriously climbed to his feet.
“What?” said Arlathan and everyone else looked on in silence.
“I saw what you were doing!” yelled Torris with watery eyes. “I saw you were manipulating him! I saw it! Back in Vex’s office, you said to him; ‘you’ll get your revenge’ or something like that, and you smiled! Smiled as you frigging said it! I knew! I should’ve stopped you! I should’ve stopped him! But why? I don’t understand. Why did you manipulate him, I don’t understand, why?”
I swallowed, and my eyes widened as I remembered what the Mimic had told me in Taryst’s bunker, that an apprentice in her organisation was never allowed to kill their master or invite their ire, or some eerie, scary shit like that. Did I sub-consciously manipulate Garrakson to kill her in my place? Did I?
Torris smiled but it held no warmth, it was the smile of someone who knew they were proven right but weren’t happy about it. Not happy about it at all.
“I know that look, I know it well,” he said. “You did manipulate him, you may not have known it then, but you did. You make me sick! I thought you were a friend, but no, you’re just like all the others! Taryst! Edracian! That Glaitis woman! A manipulative, backstabbing bastard!”
With that he turned and left, clasping at his side.
“What the hell was that about?” asked Verenth.
“I didn’t,” I gasped. “I didn’t mean to, I..I...I swear I didn’t mean to..I!” I was starting shake and hyperventilate, had I manipulated my friend? Hell, my best friend! Did I get him killed? Did I?
“Calm down, Apprentice,” said Darrance. “Just try to breathe.”
I looked at him with watery vision, unable to reply through my gasps.
“Attelus!” yelled Arlathan. I was going to faint I don’t know why people can’t faint when hyperventilating. It didn’t make sense! Then my vision started to blur, then blacken, then everything went completely dark.
Immediately, I found myself back in my backyard, sitting on the grass and almost jumped out of my skin as I saw Faleaseen towering over me, she still had her helmet off, and her long, dark red hair pulled into a topknot
“You have done well, Attelus Kaltos,” she said. “Too bad I was unable to foresee Inquisitor Etuarq’s deception. I am sorry.”
I rubbed my eyes and blinked, I was ‘Attelus Kaltos’ now? And she was sorry? Had I somehow earnt some semblance of her respect?
Faleaseen smiled, genuinely and I had to admit it was a nice smile, so nice it made me flinch away.
“I am sorry for your losses; I truly am,” she said as she knelt over me, so we were face to face and looked me in the eye. ”
So many,” I said as tears welled. “Elandria, I loved her, I loved her so much. Castella, she was like the sister I never had and Garrakson, was my friend, a terrific friend. Why? Faleaseen, why did they need to die?”
“I...I do not know,” admitted Faleaseen hesitantly. “I know much, I have lived a long time Attelus Kaltos, even for an Eldar. But even I do not know everything, and now I know that because you have taught me something.”
“What?” I croaked.
“That even though you humans live such short life spans and so many of you are so reprehensible we are, in the larger scheme of things, the same. We live, we love, we die, we make mistakes just like you. I have fought for so long for the future of my race, my people just as you have today. I have held such contempt for your race for so long; it was your kind that invaded my craftworld, that killed my people and forced us to flee and abandon our home. I had interacted with the most reprehensible of your people for so long now, using them as my agents so long that I had come to believe you were all like that, but after seeing what you have done, what you have managed to achieve.”
She paused and looked away, admiring the view, “I will be honest with you. You were one of them, the reprehensible ones, in many ways you still are. You were selfish, cowardly, blinded into stupidity by your pathetic sentiment, but if you overcame that and started fighting for others. Maybe, just maybe the basest others of your kind can too. If there’s hope for them, maybe there’s hope for humanity as a whole and thus, maybe, hope for the Eldar as well. We also have vile, reprehensible people of us as well, The Dark Eldar of Commoragh. I tended to think of them as another race entirely, but they aren’t, they are Eldar too, in fact even more so.”
“Uhh, thanks?” I said, seeing quickly the Farseer’s, perhaps unintentional, backhanded compliment.
She shrugged, “there is no need to thank me, Attelus Kaltos. I am just stating a fact.”
She smiled again, “an irrefutable fact.”
I smiled back.
She sighed, “while I am being honest with you, there is something else I must tell you. I wasn’t going to tell you this for fear it might inspire you to be lax, to fight less hard, but now I see that you now fight for more than just yourself and knowing this might help you in the future.”
“What is it?”
Faleaseen sighed again, “when I came to Omnartus and changed you. I didn’t just enhance your strength, reflexes and bone structure beyond normal human capacity. I changed your very soul as well.”
I raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“You are now, to your kind are a myth of a myth, what was once called a perpetual, or to put it more plainly, an immortal.”
“Do not get me wrong, you can still die,” said Faleaseen. “But I have the ability to track down your soul in the warp and bring you back into the living. Regenerate you, no matter how you had died. You will also never age; you will stay this way for all eternity.” I gaped,
“Yes you are,” she said. “Take that as you will, as a gift or as a curse, it’s up to you.”
I shook my head, unable to comprehend it, so decided to change the subject. “You said earlier because of my selfless actions before, that you’d changed your view on humanity,” I said. “You say that though knowing that I’d manipulated Jeurat into killing Glaitis, he was my friend and I used him like Etuarq had used Edracian, like a puppet, how…”
She stopped me with a raised hand, “no you did not, Attelus Kaltos. You underestimate Jeurat Garrakson, as I had underestimated you. I think he knew or at least had an idea of what you were doing. His sacrifice was not because of your deception, it was you who told him what drove him to do it, of course, but that was nothing but the truth, well most of it. But what truly drove him was his love for Taryst and his friendship with the Olinthre human.”
She smiled, “he also sacrificed himself to spare you, Torris and others from her rampage, as you had sacrificed yourself for the people of the Twilight bar. Your friend, Marcel Torris is just in mourning for his friend and longtime comrade, and I am sorry to say, is taking it out on you. He knows the real reason why the Garrakson human did it, and he will forgive, one day, eventually.”
“He also knew what is at stake, that you are much more capable than him at stopping Etuarq and his plans,” she said. “He did this because you were open and honest with him, well, eventually, anyway. You had said something similar during your earlier meeting with Glaitis, Brutis and Arlathan, didn’t you? You reprimanded them for all their ‘secrets and lies.’ Wise words that have now been proven correct. While I won’t say that all secrets shouldn’t be kept, not much in this galaxy is truly black and white. What you must do now is forgive yourself and fight on, determined to keep his sacrifice from being in vain, the same goes for Elandria, for Castella and Olinthre.”
I smiled, “thank you, Faleaseen, thank you for telling me this. Did you read Garrakson’s mind? How did you know this?”
She grinned and again I was forced to flinch away, “there is no need to thank me, Attelus. I am just stating what you already knew. And no, I didn’t read his mind, this is just an educated guess. I should be the one thanking you, and I thank you by swearing that I will never manipulate you, I will never use psychic torture. I see you now as a human wise beyond his years. A human wiser than many of his kind ten times his age! Your opinion is valid, worth listening to and I wish you luck, but now I must leave. We will talk again, sooner or later. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” I said as the valley around began to fade into white.