For the latest segment in the Featured Fiction line, i bring you a rousing story by one Dirge Eterna. He is himself a fanfiction writer, and Heresy-Online veteran. I’ve enjoyed his works greatly, as i’m sure you will as well. Here it is, his story, Oathbreaker.
Oathbreaker – Dirge Eterna
Althalos moved nearly silently. His sword was padded with worn cloth to keep it from moving.
He stooped down, his gloved fingers brushing the ground.
These tracks. They split off from the main group..
He paused, glancing down the thickly forested trail.
Can’t tell exactly…somewhere near the village to the north.
A low rumbling echoed through the trees as they were pushed aside by the huge black dragon edging it’s way through the trees.
Sydney moved from the treeline, scanning the woods with her striking violet eyes.
Althalos never actually found out why he could speak to Sydney in such a way, without making any noise. Like they could hear each other, but no one could hear them. He eventually dismissed the thought. It was just the way things were.
Do you think they went to the village itself? Or just passing by?
Althalos frowned, concentrating.
I’m not sure…the main group passed the town. Maybe raiders.
It’s all well and good. Fine. Don’t fly, keep low. I’m going to scout ahead.
Sydney nodded her huge head, turning one eye to stare at Althalos.
Very well. Don’t stray too far ahead.
He set off down the trail.
After ten minutes, the village of Reikstahg came into view. Two hundred miles east of Kislev, the town was the last stop for many passing over the Middle Mountains to Middenheim or Altdorf.
Althalos stared blankly down the small incline into the village.
Dozens of Empire soldiers were marching down the main avenue, divesting weeping civilians of husbands and sons.
“By order of the Count Elector, a state of emergency is declared for the town of Reikstahg. All able-bodied men must report to camps for armarment and training. All women must assist in the fortification of the city. Once again, a state of emergency is declared. Reikstahg is now under martial law of the Count’s army.”
Men kissed crying wives. Sons were pulled from weeping mothers. The soldiers did their grim work with a look of sadness and fear in their eyes.
What’s going on?
Sydney’s voice rang through his head.
Althalos chewed his lip. The Empire’s conscripting the civilians. Looks like trouble may have found us.
As it always does.
Will you help them?
Althalos considered her words. No. I don’t owe the Empire anything. They left me…us, for dead.
Does one life you left behind justify these people dying?
He sighed. Sydney always disagreed with him, usually to make him prove a point.
Althalos nodded and turned back into the forest surrounding the town. Empire troops were busily hacking down trees to clear lines of fire. A single blazing Wizard stood among them, flashing trees to ash.
He walked for a half-hour, thinking.
Sydney followed him, occasionally letting out a plume of smoke in her distaste.
This is taking too long..that village is running out of time!
“Brother of Khaine! Have you some to join us against the foul Men?”
A tall warrior clad in black armor stepped lightly from the treeline.
Althalos quickly disguised his confusion.
“No, but I will if you have need.”
The warrior hefted his spear.
“Yes, we do, my friend. Many raiders were lost crossing from Naggaroth, we are searching for renegades or survivors.”
Althalos thought about the elf’s words. He obviously thinks I’m one of his kin..but how?
Sydney replied Your armor, your helmet, myself. You must seem like a noble of his house.
Althalos turned to the elf. “Yes, I will join you to fight with the Druchii.”
The warrior bowed slightly before beckoning him to the shoreline, only five minutes away.
We can do much more damage if we strike from the rear.
Sydney let off a plume of smoke. The elf edged away from her.
The Dark Elven encampment wasn’t much more then a quick and simple fort Empire troops sometimes built. Bolt Throwers lined the wooden stake walls and several Tents bore horrific stains. Screams echoed from these tents.
The elf noticed. “You feel the power of Khaine himself? He has blessed us with a Wych cult to take the fight to the humans!”
They walked through the small camp, passing elves sharpening weapons or fletching arrows. Some bowed as he passed.
“What house are you of, noble?” asked the elf conversationaly.
Althalos quickly (and fearfully) searched his memories for a name.
“House Aeidael,” he said, “I left to pursue a broader aspect.”
The elf nodded. “Your house continues to do service in the name of Khaine, my noble. They returned from Ulthuan with the bones of their fallen and many slaves.”
Althalos breathed a sigh of relief under his helmet.
An agonizing half-hour later, the Druchii formed up a short distance from the village. One of the Lords of the elves noticed his plain sword.
“Here, nobleman. This is much more proficient for fighting from dragonback.”
He handed Althalos a huge halberd, it’s surface an odd purplish shade, while horrific jagged teeth lined it’s blade. The Dark Elves obviously only cared about the maximum pain inflicted on an enemy.
He hefted the halberd in one hand, sitting calmly on Sydney’s back. “Thank you, lord. This will help me to deliever judgement to the prey.”
“As you will, Noble.”
A massively armored Elf stomped to the front of his host, attended to by a thinner elf with a large burlap sack in his hands.
“Surrender and we shall take you as slaves! Fight, and all of you will die! Choose, or suffer the doom of your herald!”
The elf opened the sack and brandished a severed head. He stretched his arm back and flung the head into the ranks of Empire troops and conscripts.
Nothing moved for a long moment.
The Bright Wizard Althalos had seen earlier called back.
“Go back to the abyss, creature! We will not bow before your foul master!”
The elf shook his head.
He turned to his attendant.
“Sound the charge. Take as many alive as you can!”
The elves roared their approval.
A low horn blew from somewhere in the army, and suddenly they were moving. The elves stamped alongside Sydney, brandishing weapons and shouting in eldritch tongues.
Get airborne. We’ll circle around the front of their army.
She opened her wings, and launched into the sky. Althalos saw just how deep the Empire was in. They were outnumbered. Not by many, but given the quality of conscripted troops…
The Wizard saw her and spoke one word to an archer nearby. The man raised a bow and fired.
The arrow burst into white flames, obviously sustained by magic. Althalos raised his shield. The arrow burst through the thick wood and struck him on the arm, drawing a grunt of pain from him. A flash of worry crossed his mind.
It’s fine…keep going. Can’t let them win.
Syndey flew to the front line of the elven force, nearing Reikstahg. She opened her jaws, and a ravening blast of black fire roared into the elves, cooking dozens instantly.
The wizard’s mouth dropped open in surprise.
Sydney kept the fire going as long as she was able, eventually closing her jaws. The Empire had whittled down the remaining raiders. Free Companies chased Corsairs away from the barricades, while Handgunners fired merciless volleys into the Druchii ranks. The elves were on the verge of breaking, their fight with the Empire and the sudden immolation of their brethren putting their morale on the edge.
The Dark Elven Lord Althalos had seen at the head of the army pointed at him. “See! See the traitor in our midst! Flay their hides and bring me his skull!”
Althalos flipped the halberd in his grip.
He removed his helmet.
He dropped his shield.
And hurled the halberd with all his strength, directly at the Lord.
It burst into radiant flames halfway down it’s path. Althalos looked at the Wizard, who smiled.
The Lord was almost fast enough. The spear caught his left breast, and drove almost completely through him, the barbed teeth shredding his organs and leaving him gasping on the scorched, bloody field.
The elves took one look at their leader’s corpse, and broke.
Sydney strode through the piles of dead elves and Empire. Although it was only a small, very quick battle, small heaps of corpses still littered the battlefield.
Althalos pulled an arrow from a standard bearer’s stomach. The man grimaced as the recurve head slid from his flesh. He instantly began to bleed. Althalos cursed.
He leaned close to the man so no one else could see, and removed his glove. He pressed the bare hand against the wound, and spoke two words. The wound glistened, then wove back together. The man clutched at the unbroken skin, then looked up at Althalos.
Althalos cringed. “No. I’m not. OK?”
The man looked confused. “OK..Thank you.”
Althalos gave the man his waterskin, and the standard bearer ran to join his surviving companions.
The Bright wizard walked among the men, directing them to pile the Empire dead into graves. The Dark Elves were burned.
“You’re sneaky,” said the Wizard, “But not sneaky enough.”
The wizard reached into his robes, producing a tome.
“Aqshy.” he said.
Althalos smiled without humour. “Ghyran, Shyish, and one without name.”
“Life and Death?” asked the Wizard, aghast.
“Life from the Jade Academy, Death on my own.” said Althalos.
“And the third?”
“I’ll keep that to myself, if you don’t mind.”
The wizard gestured with his arms to the battlefield around him. He pointed in particular to a scorched and bloody patch where the Elves had been incinerated by Althalos’ deceit.
“Not after that, I won’t mind. Keep your secrets, lad. Would you like to stay here, at least for the night? We’ve not seen your like in many years.”
Althalos removed his bladed helmet. He reached to his side and removed the halberd from the Dark Elven Lord’s body. The blade had sucked the blood from the creature, making his corpse pure white and withered.
“I’d like that. Does Reikstahg’s tavern still stand?”
Althalos clashed a stein of ale with a man in the colors of a Kislev knight. The man’s comrades laughed. Sydney was outside, chewing noisily on a deer carcass. Several State Troops were drinking, or playing dice on the tables. The brewer looked tired from hauling barrels upon barrels up from the cellars.
After soundly beating the knight in a drinking game, the Bright Wizard sat down across from Althalos at the table.
“What I really want to know is why you’re here.” said the Wizard, stroking his smoldering beard.
Althalos had his boots on the table, and was sharpening a dagger with his whetstone.
“That…is a very long story.” he said.
The dagger made an uncomfortable rasp on the stone. The wizard grabbed the blade, and melted the edge to a near-translucent sharpness.
“Thank you.” said Althalos, retrieving the knife.
“We have all night, and I’m certainly not going anywhere. Kislev’s forces are still scattered, trying to regroup from the Storm.”
Althalos set his helmet on the table. It was cylindrical, with a cruel visor and small breathing holes punched into it’s front. A crown of blades rose to a nest of points aboive his head.
“Well..,” he said. “It all started with this.”
Althalos had been six years old when his father left to fight the Beastmen in the northern wastes. He left four times, each time coming back with armfuls of fresh bread and sausages. He also seemed to become more and more decorated, his armor grew more elaborate, his weapons more ornate. Then, he never returned. His helmet and sword, along with a note of condolence, was given to Althalos’ mother. She had died ten years later, after being sick for many weeks. Althalos was then shuttled to the Jade Academy, after his uncle had noticed him healing a dead tree in front of his brewery.
Four years after his mother died, he left the Jade Academy for good. The wizards were old and for the most part, boring. Only his mentor, Ulrik, ever interested Althalos. He learned from the Lore of Death in his solitude, and there, he met Sydney.
He had originally thought the black egg to be a large rock. Althalos had picked it up out of curiousity, and brought it to the next town he stopped at. There, it was recognized as a dragon egg. The Empire conscripted him, and attempted to take the egg for one of it’s counts (or dignitaries. Althalos had little patience for earls of something).
He escaped with Sydney, and fled to Kislev. There, Sydney hatched and grew, while he hunted phesant and rabbits to eat. Two months after Sydney had hatched, she was old enough to ride, and Althalos had begun to travel, selling himself as a mercenary.
He had grown tired of fighting inbred duke’s wars for them, and simply left, occupying himself with staying alive. He had been tracking a group of Empire soldiers when the Reikstahg party split off and engaged the Dark Elves.
The wizard nodded.
“Well then, would you continue to fight for money?”
Althalos’ violet eyes gleamed.
“Of course. Who’s the target?”
“Why, why did it have to be cold?” he said.
“Why der yer think it’s called der Chaos wastes, laddie? Der ain’t not’in out ‘ere.”
Althalos hugged himself, trying to stay warm. Sydney huddled closer to him, and suddenly he was much warmer. The small fire wasn’t doing much besides melting a puddle of snow around it. A knot of swordsmen had gathered around him, as Sydney was the only real source of heat there was.
The oldest of the swordsmen, a gnarled old man with an eyepatch and several missing fingers, had befriended Althalos almost immediately. His name was Hadrian.
Hadrian was sitting next to Althalos, chewing noisily on a small bone of some kind.
The opposing army was visible as a mottled line about a half-mile from where Althalos was lying against Sydney’s belly.
Black standards were raised among them. Hulking figures in red-black armor. A wide-mouthed cannon of some kind was tended to by hateful-looking Dwarves.
The Bright Wizard moved through his men, encouraging them, handing out bread, and occasionally asking them about families or children.
After an hour, a cry was heard.
Hadrian pulled his sword from it’s worn scabbard.
“Best be off, lad. The Enemy isn’t known for his patience.”
Althalos sat atop a pile of dead enemies, the sickly purple glow of the Druchii halberd making their red armor appear darker then it was. His armor was rent in a dozen places, small, weak strikes that the Chaos worshippers had managed to land on him. His greatest worry was a suppering wound in his side. A grime-encrusted Champion had somehow danced a rusted sword past Althalos’ guard, and struck him just below his ribs.
Sydney had immolated the man, and the majority of his equally grime-encrusted followers, in a single blast of dragonfire.
Hadrian and his remaining Swordsmen were laying around the pile, catching their breath or taking a drink. The main engagement was to the east now, most of the Marauders had fled after Sydney’s blazing charge into their lines. The few Chaos Warriors remaining had fought to the death, taking many Imperial lives. The mortuary wagons were still rolling through the battlefield, picking up the obviously dead, and marking the wounded for the stretchers. The Chaos warriors they burned in a heap at the edge of the field.
“Erh…Sigmar! It hurts!”
“Hold still, lad. You’ve still got a piece stuck in you…”
Gregor maneuvered the forceps into the ragged wound in Althalos’ side. He pinched something. Althalos bit down hard on the stick Hadrian had given him. A smaller man, looking a bit green for a battlefield surgeon, was watching Gregor pull pieces of the Plague Knife out.
Althalos quickly figured out why. The wound was an awful green splotch, with pus seeping from the dead areas of his flesh. A shard of the knife, roughly four inches long, was leaking rust into the cut. Small boils were springing up around the injury.
Gregor moved into the way of his vision.
“It’ll be OK, lad. These eyes have seen worse.”
Sydney’s thoughts touched his.
I doubt it.
Althalos whimpered as Gregor tightened his grip on the shard.
If you die under his knife I will personally hunt him down and turn him to ash.
Er….It’s not his…ah…fault.
None the less. My anger will be sated on a scapegoat if need be. That heretic didn’t suffer enough before he died.
You’re starting to…eh…sound like a Druchii…
Outside the surgery tent, Sydney snorted fire and glared at the nearest guard. The man edged away from her.
Gregor tensed. Althalos winced as the forceps tightened to their maximum.
The old surgeon placed both hands on the tool, and yanked the rusted shard out of Althalos’ side. He screamed as the full pain of the wound struck him. The younger orderly’s eyes rolled back into his head and he passed out.
Gregor pulled a length of twine and a red-hot needle from a brazier, and stitched the wound closed with powdered Mandrake root in it, to prevent the Chaos spawned infection from spreading. Althalos winced each time his skin burned from the needle, but compared to the plague, the pain was nothing. He allowed himself to fall into the abyss of unconciousness. He smiled at Sydney’s restrained wrath a second before everything went black, and there was peace.
Althalos groaned. He heard voices.
I think he’s coming to.
You know what happened last time we had a Everta here.
I know. This one’s different.
No, he’s not. You’re just getting attached to him. He lied about the Jade Academy. He’s not a Wizard.
I saw him heal a trooper.
He’s a sorcerer, idiot! Haven’t you seen that creature?
The dragon? That doesn’t prove anything.
Not the dragon! I think it’s a familiar…a demon!
Althalos squeezed his eyes shut, and gripped Haze tightly to his chest under the sheet.
The Wizard brushed the tent flap aside as he walked briskly inside. Althalos smiled weakly.
“Feeling better?” asked the Wizard. Small embers detatched from his beard and smoldered on the ground.
“An overstatement to say better, but yes. I’m getting there.” said Althalos.
The Wizard smiled, then pulled the rough blanket off in one motion. Althalos rolled over.
Althalos didn’t move.
The Wizard grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and wrenched him over. Haze flopped out and fell onto the bed. The small familiar cringed in terror as the Wizard loomed over it.
“You lied about the Academy.”
Althalos lowered his gaze. “Yes.”
“You lied about your parents as well?”
“Not entirely. My father did die fighting the beastmen, and my armor and weapons are his, but my mother is not dead. In fact, she is what I ran from.”
The Wizard stooped low over the bed. “I am a great many things, young Althalos. I have seen a great many wonders and terrors. But I will not be lied to. You know freelance Sorcery is punishable by death.”
Althalos didn’t waver. “I cannot help what I am. Seperation from Haze would be akin to losing my soul.”
“And your dragon?”
“She already knows. We are very alike, Sydney and I. But I will not face the gallows because of the Empire’s intolerance. Your Emperor attempted to kill me once. It shall not happen again.”
The Wizard stroked his beard. Althalos got off of the simple straw bed and began to strap on his armor. Boots, greaves, gauntlets, cuirass, pauldrons, and finally his bladed helm. He strapped his sword to his side and slung the halberd across his back.
“Young Althalos, I do not know what it is like to be hunted. Truthfully, I came from a wealthy family. I never knew hardship. But, unfortunately, the law is the law.”
Outside, Sydney growled. Betrayal! Oathbreakers!
The Wizard pulled a burning sword from it’s scabbard. “Althalos, son of none, I hereby name you traitor in service to the Emperor of Altdorf. You are stripped of all rank and will submit to a full tribunal, at which time the extent fo your crimes will be made known.”
Sydney opened her mouth, and a ravening blast of black fire consumed the man, along with the front half of the tent. Haze ran up Althalos’ arm and into a chink in his armor. Althalos placed his boot into the iron step and vaulted onto Sydney’s back, pulled the halberd from it’s sling. A young Swordsman ran at them, screaming. Sydney roared, and the man dropped his sword, and then fell to his knees. The great dragon crouched, and then shot into the sky, a plume of smoke trailing behind her.
The Bright Wizard picked himself up from the ashes, and brushed a bit of singed fabric from his robes.
An Engineer with a long rifle began to draw a bead on the retreating dragon. The wizard placed his staff on the barrel of the gun.
“He may be a sorcerer, but by the Gods, he knows how to make an exit. I think he’s perfect for what the Tribunal has in mind. Fetch me Golrik. He’ll know how to track one such as he.”
Sydney flew long and hard, passing well over the Middle Mountains. She saw the city there, it’s magnificent Palace seeming small and incomprehensible to one such as she.
Her vision, as always, was tinted a slight violet color by her eyes. Humans scurried to and fro as she entered their field of vision. Archers fired small darts, which pinged harmlessly off her armored hide. Eventually the archers were berated by a tired-looking knight, who shook a sword at her until she left his field of vision.
When they finally reached the western side of the Middle Mountains, Althalos fell asleep on her back, his arms and legs tied to the saddle, so he would not fall. Sydney wriggled in the air as a cloud covered her with small droplets. She turned her head, making sure that the slight weight of Althalos’ body was still there. She nudged his dreams.
We have passed the spine-in-the-earth. Many leagues seperate us from the shoreline, but we will be there before tomorrow, if the winds remain true.
Althalos’ mind fell back into the dream, and Sydney chuckled a low rumble.
It was six hours later that it happened.
A dozen or so Dwarven Gyrocopters swung out of a cloud, armed with large netguns and spear throwers. Bearded pilots and gunner swore curses and drank from aleskins.
Sydney dove through them, shredding one of the machines with the downdraft of her passage.
The clouds parted. Land lay just a hundred feet below.
Sydney’s wings snapped open.
The dwarves began to sing a slurred song. Nets ensnared her legs and tail. More pinned her wings. Althalos managed to cut one of them in twane before a second pinned him to Sydney’s back. The black dragon hit the rocky soil, driving the breath from her lungs. She attempted to stand. The Dwarves fired the weighted spears. They struck the ground, holding Sydney’s frame against the earth.
An odd gyrocopter flew above them, a large tank slung underneath it. A strange mist drifted toward the ground.
Sydney gasped as her lungs finally found air.
Her vision dulled. Her belly lost it’s fire, her feeble attempts to down the copter met with only wisps of smoke. Sydney sank back down to the ground as her vision blurred, and the world went black.
She heard onle one thing before she slipped away.
“We’ve got em’, we’re slingin’ em’ between three of the copters’. That oughta’ do.”
“Excellent work, Golrik. Bring them to Aeyri Peak immediately. We have some things to talk about.”
Sydney jerked awake, her long neck twisting this way and that, searching for enemies. Althalos was next to her, his eyes fluttering open.
She bent and licked him, her rough tongue brushing against his helmet and face.
Uh…where are we?
I know not. The Dwarf drugged us. I was only just concious. Did your familiar survive?
Haze is fine. As far as I know, he is immune to the pains of the flesh.
A stout dwarf entered the chamber. Sydney reared up and roared, showing her vast maw. The dwarf didn’t even look up. Instead, he tugged at a fat brass lever, and the wall he was at clanked into the ceiling and out of sight.
A vast golden statue remained. It’s body was polished until even Sydney’s black scales were reflected as gold. It’s eyes shone with gold-shot rubies. Althalos and Sydney both felt the intelligence that spoke.
Young ones. It has been many years since your kind set foot amongst my halls.
Sydney’s eyes widened. Althalos sat up.
“Our kind? Who are you?”
I have no name that can be spoken in this tongue.
A series of images and ideas flashed through Sydney and Althalos’ shared conciousness. Long tooth, broken claw, damp cave, burned bone, one-hundred-five eggs sired, and thirty offspring grown to full dragons.
Rather, I am known as Aurum, as a result of my present form. I have a task set aside for you, hatchlings. But for that, it will have to wait. You ask what your kind is. You tell me, young one. What do you have that makes you so different?
Althalos’ eyes flashed to Sydney.
“We are one…in all but body.”
Althalos thought he saw Aurum’s ruby eyes flash.
Exactly. You are among the last of the Ihn Draconir, the “One with Dragons”. It was a talent many possessed before the last Chaos War. Many were lost, most before their time. But now is not the time to mourn, for we have found our target for revenge.
The dwarf, who had remained silent through the exchange, cursed and spat on the stone floor as Aurum said “target”.
Sydney looked at him.
“That traitorous cretin, Jakob Vernier. He is regent of most of the lands to the northwest of the Middle Mountains. It was his troops that failed to hold back the Storm.”
Vernier and five of his closest companions hold my sons and daughters hostage, each for their own reason. None of them are pleasurable, all of them are dark and terrible, benefitting only the oathbreaker responsible for such acts.
“Your sons and daughters?”
I am old, youngling. Very old. I was ancient before Sigmar first swung a hammer, and will quite possibly endure until the end of all things. But I consider myself to be the father and protector of all those dragons not twisted by undeath or Chaos.
The Bright Wizard entered at the head of a small band of dwarves and humans.
“The dwarves found Aurum decades ago, and we agreed to help them in his quest. In return, he gives us the use of Aeyri Peak and the Whispering Caves to use as a base, fortress, and safehaven. Nothing that can’t fly is getting up the mountains, and nothing that can fly flies without Aurum’s permission in the peaks.”
Althalos stabbed an accusing finger at the wizard.
“In Reikstahg, you tried to kill me. You tried to kill Sydney.”
The wizard nodded slowly. “I had to make sure you were not too expressly loyal to Karl Franz’s regime. For all his pomp and ceremony, many of his dukes and regents are not so savory after all.”
“Like this Jakob Vernier.”
Precisely. Will you help me, Althalos Half-Elven and Sydney Darkscales? I require your skills to free my children. Only they can help you defeat Vernier.
Althalos looked at Sydney.
Aurum, we accept your offer, but many years have made us quite…paranoid. We require proof of your claims.
I expected no less. Go to the forests north of the spine-in-the-earth. There you will find your first target. The elf Kilf. She has enslaved my daughter, Adurna, to use as a hunting beast. Go now, and may the wind lift under your wings.
I’m a bit of an awesome person. I’m a semi-famous 40k Intellect and the Business Manager of Chique Geek Entertainment, LLC. www.chiquegeek.com. I’m a book reviewer and the owner of TheFoundingFields.com. Beware my wonky-ness…