For a long time afterwards, unrelenting agony swept through me from head to toe.
I could barely breathe, my vision blurred as tears welled in my eyes but otherwise I stayed silent, never did I whine or complain, determined that I would not show such weakness just in case they bugged the room. I had already shown enough weakness as it was. I had moved far too much and now dealing with the consequence that was all I seemed to do lately, dealing with retribution in one way or form, perhaps it wasn’t actually for my actions at the Twilight Bar the reason why Glaitis was putting me through this hell? Perhaps it was for what I did to Vex?
But why would Elandria have said it was for what I did at the Twilight Bar? In all honesty, I could not imagine it was about the Vex incident; the term “selflessness” was the very anathema of Glaitis’ soul. Sure you were expected to sacrifice yourself for the contract, but only after it was fulfilled, before that you were supposed to resort to anything and everything to win, and we still had yet to hunt down Brutis Bones and so, contract unfulfilled as simple as that.
I had faced down the Arco flagellant without giving a single thought of what would happen if I somehow had survived. That wasn’t just punishment this was Glaitis’ cruel attempt at teaching me a lesson, that such kind actions would lead to nothing but pain and misery. Again it was the brainwashing; she was trying to break my spirit to turn me into a monster like Darrance, like Elandria, like my father, like her.
She was putting so much effort into my indoctrination, which I still couldn’t understand, why was I so damned special? As Elandria had said earlier in the eyes of any assassin excluding Castella it seemed what I had done in the Twilight Bar was idiotic, beyond idiotic shouldn’t that act been enough to make Glaitis believe me to be a liability not worth any more effort and leave me to die?
Was all this because of who my father was? Serghar frigging Kaltos was it that she believed his immense skill and ability was hereditary, and perhaps it even was, but surely she could have taken an apprentice of a younger age one which would be far easier to brainwash and would less likely to suffer any crisis of conscience. She took me in when I was eighteen which is ridiculously old for any starting apprentice, children usually as young as five or at the oldest ten where the atypical age bracket for assassin training, perhaps she had believed that my father had brainwashed me already? Or that being forced to scavenge and murder for survival among the ruins of Varander in the Chaos incursion of Elbyra had destroyed any semblance of my humanity, well if she was counting one of those she was wrong on either which I could not help feeling some pride in.
As I had said earlier, I had always found it impossible to understand Glaitis and just as I was beginning to believe I finally had her pegged she pulls this stunt. It seemed trying to understand the way that woman’s mind worked was akin of attempting to understand the infinite miasma which was the warp, and just like the immaterium, I suspected that it would drive one insane in the process.
I sighed, and that act brought back the pain, I was buried so deep in my thoughts it had acted somewhat as anaesthesia. I grasped out for the alarm hanging from my fluid feeder with a lack of any coordination I would never believe I could ever be capable of and I felt more and more depressed with each missed grab, now it was beginning to sink in that my once swift coordinated hands where lost, maybe even forever. I dared not even think how long it would take for me to earn back such skill if I ever could. I needed to summon someone, anyone to my aid I could not lie here with this pain any longer. But I could not help wonder why no one had come to check on me after I had screamed at Elandria.
Finally, my bandaged fingers found the button, my thumb pressing down with all the strength I could muster, and perhaps I had pushed for a bit too long but I wasn’t in the condition to care.
I lay back in my bed, gasping for breath my tear-blurred eyes gazing up at the eternally white tiled ceiling and I only had to wait a few seconds before my door opened and someone stepped through I was not sure who as all I could make out as a white blur.
“Mr Kaltos!” cried the man who I could only assume to be medicae Feiult as he ran to my bedside, “Oh God Emperor! I need help in here, now!” he roared, and I had no idea why there was so much urgency in his voice I was just in pain, I was always in pain what could be so bad? But I could not think on it any longer as suddenly darkness took me once more into its sweet embrace.
I dreamt again though unlike my last I was aware it was a dream, the first portion was a sparring match of unarmed combat, non-contact against a beautiful young woman with long brunette hair who I knew was Elandria.
I was winning quite convincingly leading her attention with quick high hooks, jabs and crosses which allowed for my low and medium kicks to bypass her defences with ease.
She was smiling and laughing in utter, genuine joy something which I would never see from the real Elandria even though she was losing and my own heart sang with happiness I felt alive. I felt free it was intoxicating. I could do this forever, but as I knew this was a dream, I also felt horrible heartache, knowing that she would never be this way in the real world.
But at times my sparring partner would briefly, inexplicably transform, sometimes she was Glaitis sometimes she was Castella, sometimes an attractive blonde woman who I had never seen before. Always one of those four and with each switch I would feel my emotion change, from Glaitis I would feel suspicion of such strength it made me sick to my stomach, with Castella came to a strange uncertainty my heart turned into ice and leapt it in my chest but not in a fearful way. It seemed to bring even more happiness than when it was Elandria. When it was a bizarre feeling that was alien to the blond woman from her and me, I felt fear, great fear that made my attacks sluggish and my feet heavy but also an extreme familiarity. Like I had known her for my entire life but yet I had not, what I felt from her was the strangest of them all.
Then I dreamt that I was back on Elbyra, once more a scavenging orphan among the ruins of Varander, I was so heavy and ached all over, every footstep being a horribly fought battle against screaming limbs, I wanted to stop to sit and rest, but my body moved with a life of its own. My eyesight boarded with white, and I couldn’t raise my attention, it was fixated inexplicably down to my feet, and the rubble which I walked over and I felt my mouth move but could not hear any words from my lips.
I have had dreams, no, I have had nightmares many, many times of my life in the ruins of Varander, nightmares which I could only suspect to be repressed memories of the horrid acts I had committed in my desperate fight for survival, acts that I could never, ever admit of ever done to anyone. But here I could remember them all, my mind sifting through them like a pict reel. My eyes burnt and tears flowed freely down my face, and my sanity slowly degraded away.
I begged for the images to stop! I pleaded! I even prayed! But they would just keep coming over and over again seemingly with more glee as though my mind did it to spite me, and still my body kept walking over the debris, left foot, right foot, left foot right and despite it being a dream I could feel my bare feet meet the cold, hard rockcrete.
Then I fought, I began to fight against my body and my mind with every ounce of my will. It was like trying to stop a ship spinning out of control through the black nothingness of time and space, but I never halted. I resisted and resisted for what felt like hours then days ignoring the images which forever flipped through my mind’s eye. But for every second I fought I felt more pain until it transcended into unimaginable agony. My mind and my body seemed to scream to say that the suffering would stop if I just stopped resisting, but I kept fighting and fighting never giving up, for I knew that if I didn’t, I would be stuck in this hell forever more.
Finally my feet slowly, slowly, painfully came to a halt and immediately I collapsed falling onto my face and gasping out for breath and agony. Then the images stopped, and my pain was forgotten, replaced with such joy that I got to my knees roaring out to the heavens, it was the first time seeing the sky, which was so crisp so blue so beautiful that it took my breath away and I wept.
I had won! Although I was not so sure what I had won precisely, then the sky disappeared, and everything faded into a shining eternal white.
The shining, eternal white turned slowly receded into the white tiled ceiling of the medicae facility, and my sight cleared further revealing the three faces looking down at me, each expression hidden behind medical masks, but I could make out the concern from their eyes they were saying something, something which I could not hear.
I wanted to laugh, to smile to say that their fear was unwarranted that I was fine but found myself unable to do anything then I felt my eyelids grow heavy, and I blinked once, then twice, and the third stayed shut. I slept, but this time I did not dream all that I saw was the peaceful nothingness of black.
Never had I slept so soundly, never had I felt so at peace.
But also I had a deep sense of satisfaction I had earned this rest after going through that hell, I had more than made it.
But somewhere out in that thick black, I could hear voices barely audible at first, but it was similar to Castella’s prayer the voices seemed to slowly approach, closer and closer until I could listen to the conversation.
Two voices, one which I recognised instantly it belonged to Glaitis I could tell without a shadow of a doubt, her tone was haughty and deathly cold even more so than usual and it sent shivers up my spine.
“Did he pass your test?” demanded Glaitis.
“Yes,” answered the other, the voice was distinctly female, as soft as silk and echoed ominously. It was alien and monotone but held indescribable wisdom, just from that one word I could tell the speaker held knowledge of the forbidden so much so that it would drive anyone else insane, “he has remarkable willpower, for a M-.”
“Don’t you dare call us that!” snarled Glaitis with such rage it made me flinch, “we are neither your pawns nor anyone else’s!”
“Your position here seems to contradict your words Glaitis human; you are but a pawn of fate as is everyone else. I am but fate’s messenger I exist to make sure all will run it’s intended course, for I am the only one with strength and tact enough to do so.”
Glaitis let out a growl of frustration which was so out of character I wasn’t sure what to think.
“You are just as arrogant as the rest of you’re kind!” she roared.
“Do not pretend to be able to lecture me on arrogance human,” said the voice as though scolding a child, “you cannot imagine what I know, what I have seen, what I have done you are but a mere child, you are like all your kind! Nothing! It isn’t arrogance to state so; it is a fact, simple fact.”
I listened in shock, I wasn’t sure if this was real or just a dream, perhaps these two were talking at my bedside? I tried to force myself to be awake but found I was unable, as though my eyes were weighed shut.
“Y-you almost killed him,” stammered Glaitis and I had never heard her sound so weak and timid, “your test almost lost you your newest pawn.”
“But that is all he is,” said the voice and I could almost feel the contemptuous sneer with the words, “a pawn to use as I please, it is all in the name of fate, and even if he dies I still have you, do I not?”
“Y-yes,” sighed Glaitis, utterly defeated, “yes you do.”
What was this? Who or what was it that could speak to Glaitis with such influence and power? Had Glaitis made pacts with the ruinous powers? Why the hell did I hear all this?
But worst of all I felt with sickening certainty that they were talking about me.
“It is good that you learn your place,” said the extremely tall, thin form as it seemingly materialised out of the black, its armour was esoteric, form-fitting and utterly intimidating, from its alien shaped helm two small glowing, lifeless red eyes seemed to stare straight at me, piercing into my very soul.
Glaitis had shown me picts and taught me of them, but I had never seen one with my own eyes, an Eldar!
“Now you see what your ‘mentor’ indeed is Mon Keigh, see how she is nought but my servant,” it said, “You will follow in her footsteps as fate decrees, as I decree it to be.”
With a cry, I awoke and sat bolt upright in my bed.
I was back in the real world, back in the medicae facility back to the pain.
But yet, no agony swept through me like fire I was fine.
I raised my hand to my face and flexed my fingers, expecting that the movement would cause the pain to shoot back but again nothing. Was I healed?
But how? Perhaps I was unconscious during the entire estimated month of recovery? Glaitis’ voice had said that the Eldar’s “test” had almost killed me perhaps that was the dreams, perhaps that was what caused me to fall into a coma?
With the thought of Glaitis, I closed my fist and clenched my teeth as sudden rage curdled within my slight form.
I needed to talk to my erstwhile mentor, I needed to know what I had heard was only a dream! But deep within me, I knew that it wasn’t that what I had witnessed was true.
I was no Imperial zealot; my ideals did not adhere to the rampant xenophobia with the rest of the Imperium. But if the Inquisition were to ever find out about our mercenary force working in cohesion with the Eldar, there would be no escape; they would hunt us down without mercy and crush us underfoot.
How could Glaitis be capable of such idiocy! How!? What could drive her to become a willing servant to the Eldar and why was I to “follow in her footsteps”?
I needed to talk to her, I needed to hear the answer from her full lips, and I began to clamber out of bed still half expecting the pain with the movement.
But then the door suddenly opened, and my jaw dropped as I saw who stepped through.
It was Glaitis.
“M-mamzel?” I stammered, completely unable to hide my bemusement, but it was then that the explanation why Glaitis had allied with the Eldar just suddenly became painfully clear.
Farsight, Glaitis craved control of her fate and that of everyone else. But I never imagined that she would go to such an extreme scope for that control, but it explains oh so much like how she could be so far ahead of enemies seemingly able to pull through with perfect, convoluted schemes and who was more skilled at such power than the Eldar? Though in the ironies of ironies she had no control now at all, the Eldar was her complete and utterly undisputed master.
She was just as much a slave as I was.
“Child I see that you are finally awake, I came down to see if you were okay.”
I stayed silent, feeling my jaw set ever so slightly, wondering why she had used such a weak lie.
She moved across the room to my nearby window and closed the shutters with an abrupt, Clack!
“I am sure that you have questions-.”
“What happened,” I interrupted with such force in my voice that it took me by surprise, “I need to know what the hell happened in the Twilight bar!”
A look of terrified shock appeared on Glaitis’ face but was gone as quickly as it came. Replaced by an empty smile.
I took note on that expression; I could hazard a myriad amount of guesses as to the reasoning behind it.
“I am not even sure if you will believe anything that I say about that young one,” she said almost tenderly, “you did not believe Castella why would you believe anything that I would say?”
My eyes widened, she did indeed have a point. Why would I believe her even if she told the truth? At times like this, I truly wished I could read minds.
“You have finally learned the truth young Attelus, “trust nothing, suspect everything” you may have known those words but now you understand the true wisdom behind them, it is the only way to live in this world you are almost an assassin you are almost there.”
I sighed, “if that is the only way to live then...Really what is the point of living?”
At that Glaitis threw back her head and abruptly burst out laughing which caused me to flinch in fright.
“Ahhh this is the consequence of taking an apprentice who is so old, so self-righteous so stubborn. That is the one thing in this world which is in no short order of young one “the point in living” to some their service to the Emperor is their point,” and I could hear a slight undertone of bitterness at her mention of “The Emperor.” “Some serve the ruinous powers, some serve for the good of humanity, you’re “point” is to serve me.”
“So that is it?” I cried, “the only point is to serve another? But they serve because they believe what they do is right! How can I serve you when I can’t trust you?”
Her expression turned as hard as steel, “because you know the consequences if you do not, you have seen the consequences if you do not a-”
“A fate worse than death,” I finished my eyes widening in fear.
“I saved you Attelus Xanthis Kaltos, I took you in, I have given you purpose just remember that, and also do not be so naïve that only trust and belief are what drive them, just like you they have a fear of consequence.”
“Yes, yes I know,” I sighed, Exterminatus the destruction of an entire planet that was the ultimate consequence and that was the first which came to my mind, but I could not help but wonder with a glance at Glaitis.
What is your purpose? What is it that drives you?
Glaitis turned and began to walk to the door, “that is all I have to say, young one I encourage you to think about my words and-“Then the realisation hit me.
“There are other purposes that I can think on for living,” I interrupted, internally cursing as I realised that I had never once wondered what exactly the relationship between my father and she was until now all that she had ever said was just she knew Serghar Kaltos on a “personal level” that was all, “how about...Revenge being one?”
That made her suddenly halt in her exit, her hand still laid on the doorknob.
I smiled, now I was finally unravelling this woman after that dream now I knew she was human and not some all powerful, all knowing being.
She was like every other human flawed and idiotic.
“Yes, young one that is another purpose indeed,” her voice halting as though barely keeping back anger, “after the medicae checks you out you are to report to Hayden immediately for briefing he is on the fifth floor of my tower, don’t keep him waiting.”
With those words, she closed the door leaving me all alone.
So this was all about my father and this confirmation brought in all new and very interesting revelations about why she had taken me in, perhaps she was using me as a hostage? Or as bait? It also explains why she was so eager to keep me alive, but why train me? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep me in a cell or something?
Was it all just about Serghar Kaltos? Or was there more something more? Surely not just revenge would have enough inertia to drive mamzel Glaitis into cooperation with Xenos?
I sighed and silently swore that I would find out the answers to these questions no matter the price.