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Monday, April 29, 2013

Shopping for Paints and Supplies in the Japanese Countryside

I live in a little tiny town in the center of the country and getting supplies is a tremendous hassle for me. There is one hardware store that is of great help to me, but the closest actual hobby shop is over an hour away and the train schedule here is awful. If I do go that far to do some shopping, I can't find any of the paints I like there. I've come to use Tamiya paints a little more than I otherwise would have because of how easy it is to get. Not that that's a bad thing. Their paints are nice, but there are tons of times when I want to be using MIG, AK, PP or Vallejo. There's also the utter lack of non-train scale scenery and flock. To get any of these things, I find that I have to order from the net.

Here are a few of the sites I use the most:

And obviously is a good resource too.

Anyone know any other good Japanese sites to order from? Or even international sites with convenient/reasonable shipping?

Tokyo Road Trip, Quiet Thoughts and Nagoyahammer 2013

I had an extra busy weekend with a quick 2-day trip to the US Embassy in Tokyo. We took the car because the trains would probably be a lot of trouble with the kid. All in all it was a great trip. I don't get out of the countryside much these days and I certainly don't take many road trips.

Lake Suwa in Nagano prefecture.

Cherry blossoms bloom late in Nagano because of the cool weather. 

Long drives are actually very valuable to me for the quiet thinking time they afford. Whether I even have good ideas or not doesn't matter much to me. Ever since college I've just enjoyed quiet drives and stress-free thinking. This trip I came up with a good deal of new material for my 40k fiction including a whole story concept that I get to set aside until I finish the story I've already started. I've already moved on from those notes and tossed some of the ideas back and forth with Scott. What I've got now, I managed to write out as an outline that doesn't make any leaps of logic or simply sound stupid. Those are two major hurdles down.

The next step will be to get to more concrete work. Drafting scenes that I already know I want to write. Testing out perspectives and voices. I'm going to be introducing enough characters that I think I need to start a chart. The iOS Headspace app has a perfect format for that kind of charting. I may give that a try. Haven't used it for this yet. I'm very much looking forward to progressing with all this. It's been fun to play with so far.

I have an event coming up next weekend though. The Nagoya 40k gamers are having their annual Nagoyahammer event. Looks to be a blast. This will be my first time attending. I've been busting my butt to get my army finished for it. Just finished up the painting tonight and I'll be wrapping up some bases tomorrow. I also have to get to this commission that a friend of mine has been patiently waiting for once this is all over. Allowing myself to write after that will be my reward to myself for finally painting his stuff. You know...assuming a huge Eldar release doesn't suddenly demand all my hobby time.

The Nagoyahammer site is in my link list on the right, by the way. In case you're interested in checking it out. They're good people, the guys I've met. Just wish I could get out there more often to game with them.

And to sign off with, here's this...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Phil Kelly Writing the 6th Ed. Eldar Codex?

Seems there have been some rumors that Phil Kelly wrote the new book after all. Posted originally on Faeit 212.

I remember hearing a long while ago that he specifically did not want to do the next book because he would be competing with his own work. Or something to that effect. If the rumors are true though, I'll be really glad for it because I like the way the Dark Eldar turned out. There are lots of fun, flavorful, powerful options in that book. I feel like Kelly has a good grasp of what Eldar ought to be like and I'm (mostly) confident he'll do them justice once again.

I must confess, however, that his treatment of my beloved daemon weapons in the new CSM book does worry me a little. Those were a big disappointment to me.

Scrying the Future of the Eldar: Warp Spiders

Truth be told, Warp Spiders are one of the reasons I began playing Eldar at all. They're the first thing I remember ever learning about Eldar in 2nd edition when I was playing Tyranids and they were my favorite unit in Dawn of War. Heck, even the name is incredibly cool.They were the second Eldar unit I painted and have won themselves a spot in almost every list I write. It's very much so an understatement to say that I'm interested in where they are going to end up come June.

In terms of power on the table, I'm actually a little worried simply because they're good. Very good, actually. They are second only to Scatter Walkers in terms of S6 hit:point cost efficiency. They're very fast, fairly tough, tricky and have good deployment options. They are perfectly ripe to be nerfed. Especially since everyone has them already. Luckily the models are old, so if they get redone it could give GW a profitable reason to keep them powerful.

Thematically, I think they're in an awkward position because of three other units: Eldar Jetbikes, Grey Knight Interceptor Strikes and Necrons with the Veil of Darkness. Their fluff translates into gameplay by allowing them to jump 2d6" in the assault phase, regardless of whether they assault or not. Now that Eldar Jetbikes have that exact ability along with a Jink save and 36" turbo boost, there is no reason (forgetting the cost) to take a Warp Jump Generator for an Autarch. It's functionally worse in every way and could instantly kill him if he uses it on his own. And it casts this whole unit in the shadow of something much better just a few pages over.

What I'm saying here is that there is a lot of precedent for the most fun elements of Warp Spiders to get even more interesting. We have one unit that teleports far once per game, one that deep strikes each turn and one that has the same exact ability as Warp Spiders but without the dangers or direction restrictions.

I want Warp Spiders who bounce around. Their teleports seem like they ought to be short-ranged, erratic and confusing to the enemy. Their current rules fit those criteria, but other units like the EJB invalidate the uniqueness of the WJG. The EJB having it's movement profile in the BYB means it isn't going to change, so where does that leave those brave enough to risk  the hazards of the warp?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Heresy Online: Combat Calculator

Wow what a find! I just stumbled across this and can't wait to play with it at length. Just messing with it for a moment, I'm really impressed at some of the options as it's not easy for me to calculate rends and re-rolls in my head. I like being able to set up multiple attacking model groups too. It could use an update for 6th edition though. I'd like to factor in Look out Sir as well.

Combat Calculator at Heresy Online

Zen and the Art of Airbrush Maintenance: Oh you, O-rings!

Iwata HP-BH. Excellent for the scale of our hobby,
though I sometimes wish for a bigger color cup.

I want to talk about o-rings. They are very important to the operation of airbrushes. Simply put, o-rings are there to make a seal. They block air and/or fluids from flowing between parts at a joint. Unlike the stainless steel parts of your airbrush, they do not hold up well when exposed to organic solvents and other cleaning agents. Being made out of rubber, under the wrong conditions they can corrode or maybe swell.

Luckily for me I haven't had any problems like these (yet). The problem I had recently was pretty simple, but figuring that out took a good deal Googling and reading. Basically, the trigger was sticking which meant air was continually flowing through the valve. There are a two most likely causes for this. One could be that the o-ring is swollen and squeezing the piston. That could prevent the control spring from returning the button to the off position.

In the image above, the control spring is inside that detached piece, which is the air valve set. Air flows through this when the piston, visible as a silver circle in that hole just below my index finger, compresses the pin at the top of the valve set. The piston o-ring is barely visible around the piston there.

Disassembled airbrush with the top of the piston visible through the trigger slot.
The other cause, the one that I had trouble with, is that the o-ring could need lubricant. If there is too much friction between the piston and the o-ring, it could cause the same problem as the situation I described above.

Here you can see the o-ring and the piston separately.
From what I have read, you have to be incredibly sparing in how much you apply. Using too much could result in getting oil all throughout the air passages. That could contaminate your work later on when you spray. I used a toothpick and a really tiny kind of Q-tip I buy from a local hobby shop. Apparently you also need to avoid some oils that can damage the rubber. Iwata has a specialty lubricant of their own, but as with most specialty goods I expected my local hardware store would sell a product in some ridiculous quantity I could never use up. Probably 90% cheaper than the brand name one too.

What I found was a huge tube of lithium grease. I wasn't sure that the recommended lubricant, Medea Superlube, was a lithium grease so I had to Google until I found the material safety data sheet (the MSDS). Be sure to look around for yourself if you want to use an off-brand as different companies use o-rings made of different materials.

This post is mostly about the o-ring that was giving me trouble, but there is another important o-ring in my model (probably in all of them, I'd think) and it is the one that creates a seal around the needle. I couldn't get a picture of it, but it is just behind the color cup. That one also needs to be lubricated as you don't want friction between it and the needle. I wasn't having any problems with that one, but I went ahead and greased it anyway while I was at it.

When I finished, I sprayed two shades of purple over the course of an afternoon and didn't have any more issues with the trigger. I'll post more about these sorts of topics, but it'll be most likely if I have a problem with some of my hardware. Let's hope that's not the case!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Eldar Rumors Running Ridiculously Rampant...R.

Here is a pair of links to Natfka's blog. He has posted some rumors about Eldar Autarchs, paths and Guardians in the first one and about a variety of units in the other.

The rumors of distortion missiles or bombs on the aircraft has me really excited because I've been thinking lately that Eldar have really lost some thematic ground with Necrons being espoused as the hi-tech army. In terms of technology, distortion weapons are really the only unbelievably powerful option they have that is suitably advanced and without counterpart in the Imperium of Man. I'm really hoping to see  our weapons tweaked to be more attractive in general, but a greater distribution of D-weapons would be really fun.

Moving aspects to our compulsory troops slots sounds like the right direction to go with them. The thought of an army with 90 Fire Dragons just fills me with so much sad. I'd be surprised if there are even more than three shrines on a single craftworld. So thematically, I think taking up to two aspect units as troops would make sense. It also provides plenty versatility. 20 Warp Spiders as troops would free up my fast attack slots for the Hornets, Nightwings and Shining Spears I want to take. Plus I'd have my troops covered with tough eldar that can tear up most anything in the game with shooting and move incredibly fast when objective missions call for it. Then I still have four more troops slots to fill with units that are almost sure to be improved considering they're presently some of the worst available to any army.

As neat as the other rumors are, there really isn't much that I think needs to be said until there are pictures available. Although, based on that sweet new Farseer I think it is very likely any pictures that get leaked between now and June will be fantastic. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I think Natfka is right about the size of the release. Look at the releases for other armies recently and then at all the stuff that is rumored to release for Eldar. With all the new kits, I doubt they can afford to redo so many of the old plastic kits. I expect new Jetbikes for sure, but beyond that I'm gonna remain skeptical.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New Plastic Farseer Pictures Leaked

Here's a link to the BoLS thread containing the leaked picture of the new plastic Farseer. It first appeared on Natfka's blog, apparently. Have a look at Natfka's blog because there is a ton of awesome news about Eldar that just surfaced there, including a digital reconstruction of the Farseer's pieces.

This is really exciting not just because it seems Eldar will be released sooner rather than later. It's also another HQ that is currently in Fail Cost resin that is moving to a singular plastic sprue. I can't say how happy that makes me after the last four Farseers I bought had air bubbles in their heads that cause their faces to implode. It was a horrible tragedy to see their ghost helms fail them in a critical time of need.

I currently own seven Farseers including a Chapter House mini and a converted one on a jetbike; despite that I still intend to get this one when it comes out. Take a close look at the hand with individual fingers splayed out. Check out the excellently done base, complete with thematic Eldar runes. Notice the very subtle improvements to the curve of the helm and the effect it has on slimming the head and making the model look more elegant. The folds in the robes are accentuated this time around, but are still subtle and realistic. All in all the parts look incredible. I can't wait to put one together myself.

One last thing: this has got me really hungry for a new Yriel model. Outside of Eldrad, he's probably my favorite character in the codex. My only problem with him is that his model looks hideous. Especially that force field hand of his with the fingers all stuck together. It looks ridiculous. I would love to see the attention to detail and posture that this new Farseer exemplifies applied to the Eldar special characters that have models left over from second edition.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hands, prints, radios and labs. Amazing links on color.

Yup, those are the mantis shrimp's real, natural colors.

I have something very special for you today. The first of these two links is Handprint, a site with a wealth of in-depth information on both the scientific and artistic sides of colors. It is a really fascinating and helpful site. It was neat to me not just in hobby terms, but also because color filters for flat panel displays are one my company's main products. There is an unbelievable amount of content on the site and I still have yet to read it all. It may be of value to just skip around to areas of interest. You can find the color and color theory sections through the two top right links on his home page.

The second of these is, if you don't know already, from the best podcast there has ever been. No, really. Radiolab is produced by WNYC and the quality of the research, stories, interviews, editing--all of it is top notch. All the time. And there is no boring episode either, despite the variety in the topics. Episodes range from fascinating to hilarious, to awe-inspiring to heart-wrenching, sometimes within the same episode. I'd describe this one on colors with the first three. It's even a topic that I have read a lot about, but when they say something I already know (on any topic) I am always sure it will lead into something I don't. Or at the least that the way they talk about it will be interesting in it's own right.

Whether these links are of practical use or not, I expect them to be entertaining. Enjoy.


Radiolab - May 21, 2012 - Season 10, Ep 13: Colors

And just because, here&s a funny comic about the mantis shrimp they talk about. At the bottom there are a few videos I highly recommend.

"Why the mantis shrimp is my new favorite animal"

Monday, April 15, 2013

Scrying the Future of the Eldar: Rangers

Right now I'm smack in the middle of Gav Thorpe's Path of the Outcast. I'll save comments about that book and its prequels for another time, but this story has got me thinking about Rangers and what could become of them with the new codex release.

Rangers may have improved with the changes to sniper weapons, but I feel like it is a unit that lives in the shadow of its former incarnation. The Craftworld Eldar version of Rangers saw them manipulating the enemy's reserves with the disruption table. I didn't play Eldar at that time, but I can imagine how sinister that must have been.

Now, Rangers really do live as outcasts in many people's collections. They have been thrust from a unique role of reconnaissance and sabotage to the role of an upgraded version of the Imperial Guard sniper. There is a huge divide in their role in the fluff versus the way they play on the table. They ought to be preparing the Eldar for what is to come. Instead they shoot moderately well and hide in shrubs. I think this might be something that GW will change about the unit with the codex update.

Now I realize that fluff seldom matches the rules, so I'm looking to other sniper updates to divine a trend in their unit design. In particular I'm thinking of Necron Deathmarks, Kroot with sniper ammo and Tau Sniper Drones.  All three of these units are set apart from the Space Marine and Imperial Guard snipers in how they work on the table. Deathmarks have interesting rules to make them squad assassins. Sniper Drones have rules for them to benefit from a controller and for very long-ranged sniping. Kroot are cheap infiltrators who engage at close-medium range. This gives me the feeling Rangers may find themselves being used in some unexpected way once again to help the Eldar force adapt to the enemy or to disrupt the enemy battle plans.

I'm not trying to guess how they will approach the actual rules, but recently I've been considering the new codex in terms of what themes Eldar units are supposed to play under. The current Ranger/Pathfinder unit is pretty far removed from the original concept and I think we will see something more interesting than move through cover and stealth when they get rewritten.

Thanks to...

Just wanted to say thanks to Jason, Scott and Jake for drudging through my rough drafts on Heretics Divided. I really appreciate every minute you guys spent on it. Oh and for helping me work my way through continuity with future plot lines. Very cool of you guys.

Didn't get a chance to say anything about this earlier.  This is the cover drawing for chapter one. It's something I put together the other night. I don't have any experience coloring with software, but I think it could really use it. It's a moment from one of the scenes. I hadn't drawn anything in a really long time, so it was kinda fun to do. Took long enough that it's not something I want to have to do often. It would have been much faster to paste in a picture of a model and call it a night.

Another nifty fact: almost the entirety of the story was typed on my iPhone. Over seven thousand words if I recall. I did do the actual editing in a proper word-processor, so don't let that turn you off reading it. You won't have auto-correct errors giving you a migraine if you do.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What makes a codex "made for an edition"?

Haha, get it?! Hahahah...ahhhh...

When new codices come out, people often discuss how well they interact with the current edition. Really though, how do you determine whether a codex suits an edition or not? Is it just about the mission objectives and the army’s ability to achieve them? If that were the case, I think the CSM codex would have been better received. It’s not like that book is hurting for ways to take or hold objectives. No, I don’t think winning is enough to say a book is “made for the edition.” What I have been thinking lately is that people feel books fit an edition when they have the ability to circumnavigate, negate or benefit from the rules of the edition that usually act as obstacles to an army’s success.

In sixth edition I’m really thinking about a couple of specific rules when I say that. Today I’m thinking of Skyfire, Overwatch, Nightfighting, Ignores Cover, Look out Sir and random charge distance. I’m thinking about those ones, well, because they do have a big impact on the game. But the real reason is because they are all important aspects of the sixth edition rules that the new Tau codex can work around, flat out ignore or take advantage of. The new Tau Empire book is the first book that really exhibits what I think makes a codex geared toward the new rule set.

A lot of the Tau’s methods for dealing with and taking advantage of these rules come from markerlights. From the opposition’s perspective, that’s very good because not that many units have access to firing more than one at a time. But that’s not the case with all of them. Nightfighting is a relatively cheap upgrade. Ignoring LoS! is a personal Warlord Trait (one of six very good ones, too). Skyfire is an upgrade one of their deadliest weapons platforms, Broadsides, which every competitive player was already fielding nine of every game. Combined overwatch is pretty much army-wide and even a single markerlight can help you fire snapshots. How potent would it be to combine that with a Grav Wave Projector to slow assaulters and then kill the few (if there are any at all) that would have made it into combat with the overwatch fire from three separate squads?

This isn’t just to comment on how powerful these things are, though they do seem very effective. The point is that the Tau are very capable of simply not having to deal with a lot of the new edition’s rules that the rest of us have to plan around while writing lists and playing the game. Many little rules that are a pain in the butt for other armies are either a non-issue or an advantage with a TAC Tau list.

This actually reminds me of one time during fifth edition when I saw ATSKNF referred to as “and they shall know no inconvenience.” At that time (and now too, incidentally) Space Marines just didn’t have to deal with little details like losing an assault by suffering one wound, then failing a Ld test to see the whole unit run down and wiped out instantly. The Tau are now in a similar position with regard to many of the challenging situations that can arise in sixth edition. As with every development in 40k rumors and releases it has me wondering what implications are there to be read for my beloved Eldar. But for now I’ll let it stand as something to wonder about.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Modeling Tutorial: Rangers in Cover

The goal of this conversion is to make a unit of Rangers themed on their use of cover.  Some of the postures available in the Ranger box are more suitable to the conversion and have benefited more from it.  Others will be left more simple.  The intent is to balance unique addition vs. visible miniature detail.  Cover will consist of a wooden fence, a wooden fence with barbed wire, a tree and tall grass.

Tools Used

Hobby Knife
Needle nose pliers
Tweezers (2)
Frayed copper wire
Basing sand (large grain)
Modeling tool for green stuff
The needle of a compass for detailing the green stuff (though I've since bought a tool for that)
Pinning tools (vice and paper clip)
Wire cutters
Excess sprue plastic
Modeling tall grass flock
Liquid super glue

Part 1 (a) - Wooden fences

First, find some trash sprue that is roughly the shape you want to make the fence in. Use a sharp hobby blade to shave it down. This will give a natural, fence-like texture.

Make notches where the pieces will glue together. If need be you can putty them to clean them up later. I considered dental floss as binding at the intersections, but it was too late at that point.  Maybe next time.

The assembled fences.

Part 1 (b) - Barbed wire

Frayed copper wire that we will use.  First, make a long one by twisting two frays together.  I use pliers to hold them at the point where they're twisting.  Move the pliers as you twist so you don't overstress one point and break the wire.

Wrap and glue like so.

Now wrap very short segments onto the long double one.  It's okay if they're too long, you can trim it (pic below).  You'll need two of these for each barb in order to make it look right.  Tying these on is where the pliers and tweezers come in handy.

Trimming the barbs.  I used needle nose pliers to hold the barb where I want to cut it, then pressed against the pliers for leverage.  Be careful though, it's easy to slip and cut yourself doing this (luckily that was learned the easy way).

Both fences completed.

Part 2 - Tree!

Making this tree took a good deal of stop-and-go putty work. I tried to balance it's size for such a small base.  The segment of frayed wire I used was 12cm long. I then split it at the top for 2 main boughs and trimmed them to my own taste. I glued the excess to the point where they split so I would have 2 more boughs without wasting more wire (less \ spent on materials is more spent on figs!)

For durability, I drilled through the base and
bent the tree trunk into it with pliers.
Many double and triple twists for smaller branches.
Glue twists in place before sculpting.

The entire tree will be coated with green stuff for durability.  Trees can be made from just wire, but I don't trust them not to break or flake off my paint when they bend. I also don't like textures that are easily seen for what they are. I want stuff to look believable.

Here is what not to do. I tried to put a thin layer on the wire and then carve into the GS with a sculpting tool in order to get a bark-like texture. The effect I got was horrible. It looked like a cactus and not even a good one at that. Not using enough GS means you don't have enough material to give the sculpt depth and you can't exaggerate any of the shapes.

Close up of exaggerated shapes. Work was done in stages,
sculpting one area and letting it dry so as to not ruin previously done putty.

Here you can see how I wasn't shy with the
amount of GS I used. When I detailed the limbs, I
failed to take pictures but the final pictures give an solid idea of what I did.  I let the GS cure  a little bit (probably less than most people do, as it was still quite pliable).  Then I used the end of a math compass to poke lines in wood patterns.  Again, exaggerate.  You don't have to draw too many lines because the brain will fill in the blanks as long as the texture looks about right.

Bonus! A hood!

I made this hood because I already had another unit with this same model in it. I like that figure, so I wanted this guy to look a little different. The hood was made with a small thin patch of green stuff that I draped over his head and pushed into shape.


This is a bag of tall grass I bought in the model train section of a handicraft store. There may be better materials for getting this effect, but this is what I have used so far. It is a hassle to handle the way it comes in the bag. The strands get every where and getting them all going in the right direction takes a lot of patience.

Glue a lock of the grass at one end. I used liquid super
glue this time, but since then I have been using regular
 white PVA glue. It takes longer, but is easier to work with.
Along the lock of grass, place glue at intervals
approximately as long as the tufts you are looking
to make. Cut the grass when dry.

Finally, use a very, very small amount of super glue to bend the grass for wind effects. I feel that this was the strong point of my method, but that overall I was dissatisfied with the grass. I had made many tufts of grass. Even though grass does grow like that in nature, it is hard to achieve an effect like the models are wading through grass this way. Then there is also the practical problem that if you achieve that look, you might as well only build the top half of the model because you won't see the bottom. If you like the figures you have and want to see them, it is something of a waste.

A few words of caution:

The tree took a lot of time and a lot of green stuff.  It probably added $4 in materials and it took like a week of daily here-and-there work to get it done.  I much prefer it's look to the wire trees though.

After using super glue on the grass for this unit I used regular PVA glue on a different one. That time I didn't do wind effects, but I expect there is a way to do that with glue that isn't as caustic as super glue. Doing the grass in this tutorial was not particularly good for the skin on my fingers, to put it lightly. Be careful if you try it this way.

The painted conversion:
The whole crew together.

The two guys with fences.

"There's nothing creepy about watching...just a little."

"What do you mean you can see me hiding back here?!"

Thankfully my painting has improved since I made these guys some years ago, but I still like the basing and I still use some of the things I learned from making these guys.

Hope this is helpful. Thanks for having a look! Cheers!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Space Hulk Adaptation on iPad and PC: 2013

Space Hulk: Interview and Game Play

There's a link to an interview with Thomas, of Full Control which is currently developing a Space Hulk game for PC and iPad. Judging from the game play footage the project still needs some work but it looks incredibly promising. While the old Space Hulk PC game was very faithful to the board game for its terrifying atmosphere and the unforgiving death it dealt your troops, it was more of an action game. It certainly wasn't that they tried to reproduce the board game in software.

This is what I'm most excited about with this new release. It's clear that they're putting a lot of work and love into making a faithful digital version. This is actually something I'm dying to see happen with regular 40k, though the effect it would have on model sales almost definitely prohibits it. Still, it works for Wizards of the Coast with their Magic video game on XBox Live. The secret there was for them to successfully monetize it. They allow players to buy digital versions of the cards and build decks in-app. A similar system would work for 40k in terms of software, but realistically the production costs for GW's models is much higher than the cost to print cards. And then there is the need for the hobby culture to promote and cultivate sales. It's not anything I actually expect to see happen, but that's probably a good thing if for nothing other than the amount of time I would lose to it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chapter One: Heretics Divided

            Mud in my mask. In my boots, my gloves, my long-coat. Mud in my mouth. Maggots in the mud. Bacteria and viruses in the maggots. Saw them squirming on my muddy goggles, mashed against the ground. Imagined them in my air filters. Crawling into every crevice. Burrowing into my skin and infecting me with unholy disease. War all around me. Grenade blasts and shrapnel, hot slugs hurled through the air.  A halberd blade inches from my throat. Ancient weapon. Powerful. Noxious green flames licked up the blade. Cast sinister light on the tactical dreadnaught armor towering above me, pinning me down. Boot crushing my shoulder. I gritted my teeth. Glared. Thick plates of ceramite engraved with battle prayers. Lined with rust. Ribbons and parchment scrawled with blessings fixed to every surface fluttered in the foul-smelling wind.  He had shoulders broader than most men are tall.  Was twice their height. Helm with lenses glowing the same wicked green as the fire blazing across his blade. He loomed over me. Cast a cold shadow. Chilled me through my gear.
Grandmaster Ithacus. Highest rank in his chapter of the Adeptus Astartes. His was a secret order. Outside the Inquisition, knowing about them meant death. Maybe they get in your mind. Steal your memories. A gift. The Emperor's last gift to humanity. Supposed to be incorruptible. Purported to be anathema to daemonkin.  The tip of the spear humanity would throw into the heart of the Warp. But something went wrong with Ithacus.
He crushed my shoulder under his boot. Pain shot through my arm and neck. Didn't bother dispensing pain-killers from my implants. I let the pain keep me warm. Let it fuel my hate. I'd need it. Heard groaning from a daemon like the undead. It was close. Tilted my head back in the mud and saw the limping,  wretched thing upside down. It droned on and on. Didn't breathe in, just made continuous noise. Its tongue was a worm.  Hung through a hole in the bottom of its jaw. Craned 'round and 'round like it was trying to escape. Heard gunshots louder than conventional canons. A tracer round zipped in and punctured the daemon. An explosion from within burst the thing apart.
"Inquisitor," Ithacus said. His voice boomed like that of a tyrant. "Care test yourself against me? You grip that plasma pistol so desperately. Here, let me free you from that temptation." He stepped on my wrist with his other foot. I felt a crunch. Bit my tongue. Didn't make a sound. Arm went numb. Cold, unfeeling fingers still held the pistol. I think. Couldn’t be sure. "It is a shame," he continued, "you have no one to throw onto my blade, coward. You have shoved the last of your faithful soldiers into the rotting hands of the plague god."
"My men gave their lives in service to―"
"Their lives you took! That is your office to hold. My men owe you nothing!" Blade drew closer to my throat. Crackling energy coming off it. Like static. "Never again will you shield yourself with my knights’ armor. Never again with their lives!"
Found the bastard's button. Only pushed it once. So that was what it took to get under his skin.
Burst of flame erupted from a knight's incinerator. Nearby. Felt the heat. Rush of fire ignited the rotting monsters. They surged forward. Oblivious. Fire seared what little meat they had left. Stench would render any normal man unconscious. Filters helped, but not enough. Microbes that bore the stench would do far worse. Filters helped there too, but barely enough. Men with incinerators cut the fuel feed. Other knights stepped forward. Blades blazed green fire like Ithacus' did. They raised their left arms. Wrist-mounted guns with huge clips protruding from them. The guns roared to life. Hurled forth a torrent of bolts. Like miniature missiles. Worlds apart from usual weapons. Deafening.  The slugs sank deep into rotting meat. Slight delay. Ammunition detonated and their bodies exploded. Man-sized fountains of half-dried guts and gelatinous fluids. I smirked. The Emperor's work be done.
Jolt of pain. Couldn't get up. Shoulder was still pinned."Damnit Ithacus!" Nothing I could do. Fire in my stomach, under my skin. Mouth dry. "Have I skulked in the shadows? Leered at your soldiers and licked my fangs? What have I done to provoke your ire? You are crushing the bones of a man who fights at your side." At his side. Good lie. He let up a little off my shoulder. "In hatred of daemonkind you have no other equal―"
"You are not my equal." He stepped harder again. Overdid it. Damn.
"I should expect no less pride from the Astartes. It will be your tragic―"
"You misunderstand. You are not my equal. You and the rest of the Inquisition are to the Imperium what the plague god's rot is to this planet. I remember now. Being king of Odyssea. I could feel it before, some obligation, some sense of duty, some love calling me back. A king's love beckoning me back to my people. Even were I still just a man, you and I would never be equals."
I spat warm dirt into my mask. Clenched a fist around my pistol grip. "You openly admit to an inquisitor that you remember your life before becoming an Astartes. Do you realize what that implies about your order? About the rites of passage? Do you understand what accusations of heresy it invites if even one of you is flawed? You can’t impale the entire Inquisition on that blade." Would like to see him try. I laughed dryly at the thought.
"I do not need to. I will put down the only devious, mistrusting worm that knows and then I will go home to pay my respects to my queen. I shall shower my world with gifts like they have never known. My crusade will continue. I will clear a path all the way to the Black Gate."
"It’s not a crusade if it isn’t sanctioned! You’re rampaging through the segmentum with a regiment’s worth of the Imperium’s best resources! Killing what you feel is evil! Where is the investigation? The process? This is not the Emperor’s justice.”
“Must I investigate this rotting cesspool to know what work needs done?”
My investigations led you here! I am responsible for saving this sector!”
He laughed at me. Said nothing. I felt hot hate boiling the bile in my stomach.
“You were righteous―" I said.
"I am righteous still! There are no purer minds in the galaxy than those in my order. Look there, see them purge this world of its disease!" He pointed. My head followed the gesture. Side of my face hit the mud with a splat. World turned sideways. Astartes waging war not far off.
Couldn't deny them their excellent brand of death. Sound tactics. Advantages in their equipment. Training too. Made use of every bit. Couldn't deny them that. They fought like the tides. Ebbed away from the enemy. Air in between erupted with frothy explosions. Like sizzling suds on the shore. When the daemons closed in they flowed. Rushed ahead. Blades raised and raging with terrible energy. Skillful, determined, disciplined--couldn't deny them that. But pure and righteous? Lies of the most heretical degree. They were corrupted. Was his fault.
Undead didn't know pain. Didn't pay any mind to a second death. Stumbled and limped. Staggered through a hail of destruction. Smoke drifted from their bodies. Like they were seared solely by the knights’ presence. Undisclosed weaponry. Psychic techniques, maybe. More secrets kept from the Inquisiton. Magnified feed from my visual implants. Undead flesh crawled with worms and maggots. Erupted spontaneously with boils that burst with virulent infection. Like bubbles emerging from water. Constantly in motion. My bioengineered viruses didn't compare. Can't compete with witchcraft and the Warp.
Turned my attention to the knights. Felt disgust. No, pity. Maybe remorse. Ithacus had ruined something good. I could admit--their deeds were right. Couldn't say the same for their intent. It is said that we are made of what we do. Does not follow that it makes who we will be.
A soldier might kill the right enemy with wrongness leaking from every pore in his skin. He will blast the brains from his enemy with righteous fervor. Helm will gleam in the light. As if he were a saint of battle come to save the wicked from their own existence. But inside he will thirst. For glory, for opportunity perhaps. To prove himself. For some, however, that will not satisfy. The soldier will become the heretic. He will thirst for much else. Glory and gain may lead him into heresy. But once arrived the suffering and carnage of others will be as drugs to the afflicted of the hive worlds. Bringing death to the defenseless will be mechanical. A reflex or habit. Some will crave it and others will resist. All heretics are unique. But whether they know or not, they have lost themselves. Lost to urges they do not understand. Probably don't even come from within.
The people of this planet had once been very lucky. Met their governor many years before. Saw pride in him. Like I see in Ithacus. This world had been rich. Prosperous resources and an ideal atmosphere. These people led some of the best and most comfortable lives to be led in the Imperium.
But a storm raged from the warp in this sector. Cut them off from trade and supply. Their population swelled with their excess. Demands on their planetary stocks were too great. They blamed each other. Argued. Should have established a realistic plan for self-sufficiency. They fell into civil war. Winners blamed the defenseless and they fell into fascism. Defenseless became the aggressors and rose into rebellion. Overthrew their tyrants. Reestablished control through genocide and fell back into fascism.
Numbered nearly two dozen billion. They lived in filth. Disease coursed through the population and the people despaired. They cried at night. Out loud and in silence. Begged to be delivered from their pain and suffering. They prayed and were heard. The plague which already ravaged the planet mutated rapidly. Almost instantaneously when the people's despair peaked. Nurgle, the god of plague, gave them what they wanted. Gave them what interrogated heretics invariably call a "gift." The disease he beset on them relieved them of pain. But it corrupted their bodies with hives and rashes. Within an hour the afflicted flesh ripped open. Bodily fluids flowed freely. Infected every surface they touched as they writhed, wracked with involuntary convulsion. Their selfish prayers for themselves were answered. They lifted their bodies, falling apart and oozing with infection. They walked the streets. Shared their gift to heal the pain of their friends and family.
Or so I expect. Can guess based on my last visit. Process never varies. This world is not unique. Like thousands of others across the galaxy. Came here with Ithacus. Thought there was something to salvage. Erred in my judgement. Heresy here accelerated his own. Didn't anticipate that.
Fighting flared up. Looked at the Astartes again. Knights there steadily backpedaled. Led the enemy by some meters. Pumped round after pompous round, into the staggering, rotted bodies. Could easily imagine their sneering faces. They delighted in inflicting death on death itself. A mechanical reflex, like the hungering junky's.
Sly. They led the daemons on until the enemy ranks were over-committed. Spread thin. They exhausted the advantage of distance. Readied their swords and braced themselves in defensive stances. One foot back. Two-handed grips. They received the charge. Then waded into the horde of monsters. Swear I could hear the thrill in their breath. Excitement in the forced dry tone of their battle hymns. Each stride came with a sweeping strike. Decayed arms, heads sent soaring through the air.
Spotted the sergeant among them. Was easy. He fought with skill and passion. Swung his weapon precisely. With purpose. No motion wasted. He began with a single stride forward on his right foot. Brought his sword down diagonally with both hands. Sword blazed. Burned. Roared. Sliced through the torso of a daemon. Singed it clean. Wafts of smoke and stink of burning, rotted meat. Another daemon came from his left. Reached out with virulent, drippy claws. Mouth moved in silence. The sergeant pivoted on his left foot. Effortless. Momentum in his legs became power in his arms. Sword sung up through the air. Completed the cut he began carving with the first swing. Severed the daemon's hands. Brought his sword to rest by his left shoulder. Turned his sword with a snap. Returned weight to his right foot. A horizontal slice sent the creature's decaying head soaring through a jet of flame from an ally's incinerator. It disintegrated. Blew away as ash.
"Death does not convince me," I said. "It doesn't matter how well it is wrought. Heretics may well have talent in bloodshed. You are risking their souls with your insane war."
"Absurd! I cannot risk what cannot be gambled. The psychic wards of our order are unbreakable." A thin brown fog drifted in. Enveloped the grandmaster's boots. Flowed over me. Ominous. Reeked differently than all else around. "You are investigating men more righteous than yourself! The only heresies committed have been yours: your fantasies of chaos behind the eyes of the faithful around you. And the whimsical sacrifices you offer the daemons when you hide behind others."
"Ithacus, your heresy is no fantasy to me. It is a nightmare I watch in waking. In the sick green glow of your force weapon and in the corrosion of your armor, I have seen it. Show me ceramite that rusts! Anywhere in the galaxy, show me! The Plaguefather beckons and your soul listens! Your reply may be forthcoming, but it will come eventually. Time is His currency and He has invested heavily in you already." There was a screeching wail as if in reply. No, more like a hundred of them in unison. Gunfire and the sound of metal crumpling.
"Is that what your shifty little eyes have watched over these long years? The paranoia of the Inquisition poisons your mind. You accuse me and my knights of--"
"The Astartes are no more unerring than the rest of mankind, no matter what you may think of mere humanity. And it seems you are no different." I spat the words through my teeth. Heard my hissing, seething hate in my breath. "I will put you before a tribunal. The Inquisition will judge you righteous or not. No one is above their obligation to the Imperium."
"You have no authority to judge even the lowest of my order! Do not confuse us for the common Astartes. And do not mistake me for a fool. The Inquisition holds no trials. There are only sentences to one death or another." The brown fog rolled in thicker around his feet. Grew hazier beyond him. Shrouded the battlefield. I saw movement. Something huge. Hunchbacked and lumbering. Saw its silhouette pick up a man and pluck his limbs off. It reared back and I heard again the howling chorus. "How many do you think they would purge afterward? If they convince themselves that the Emperor's infallible knights could be corrupted, how far would they go to keep it secret? How many would die to their paranoid delusions, their fits of terror at every shadow in the night?"
"Terrors in the night? You know what terrors we guard against. It's a preemptive battle that we wage. A war against the intangible, the unintelligible and the unforgivable!" I shouted. Shook with anger. Pictured my knives in his neck. Pistol under his chin. Grenade in his mouth. It brought a wave of false satisfaction. Quashed by frustration and returned feeling in my hand. Still uselessly gripped my gun. I told him, "Every witch we burn, every heretic we bleed out is a world saved from the daemons that they may bring from the warp. It's a messy job. I do it well. Well enough to know you can't be allowed to wield chaotic power."
"There is no reasoning with you! Do I not kill daemons for His glory? Is my skill, my dedication not unparalleled in battle? If you can't see me as other than a heretic, at least you won't harm the Imperium from hell. When we return to Odyssea, it will be triumphantly. No daemon, not even their gods shall stop us. And I will raise a monument to the inquisitor who gave his life valiantly to turn the tides of battle for the Emperor. This fiction will have little to do with you, but perhaps it will satisfy your puppet masters. Hopefully, they will keep their dementia to themselves and out of my crusade."
Ithacus put his weight into my shoulder. Bones bent. Eyes rolled back. Tasted blood and realized I was biting my tongue again. To hell with it, I thought. Dispensed local anesthetic through implants. Wasn't helping yet. Heard howls again. Very close this time. The brown cloud of rot rolled in thick. Obscured everything. All but the green fire of the halberd blade and the dim glow of his eyes. Couldn't lift the pistol. Held down by a heretic. Execution coming. And I couldn't do a damn thing about it. Frustration boiled my insides. Heard howls. Didn't know what else to do. Fired blind shots along the ground in that direction. Howls turned into enraged shrieks. Pierced the ears like spikes. The earth shook. There was movement and a gust of air. The plague fog parted. A massive limb swept into Ithacus with a crash. Sent him soaring through the dust cloud.
I stood and stumbled a few steps through the mist. Wiped the lenses of my mask. Smeared mud across them. Undead hands reached blindly through the fog. I shot plasma into the creature. Kept moving. Heard more shrieking and sprinted the other way. Eventually this filthy fog would seep into my armor and equipment. Let my imagination get carried away with what it would do to me. Pushed it out of mind. Ran.
The cloud thinned. I looked back over my shoulder. Saw it. It towered above the plague mist. A gargantuan beast of legion. It was made of rotting flesh. Bodies. Must have been a hundred corpses. Its head was one singular thing made of dozens of human bodies. So, so many faces. A face of faces. Ironic, I thought. The plague god has but one face. One that in their despair, the people of this planet will never look into again.
The giant swung a massive tentacle limb like a rotting rat tail. Size of a tree. Came rushing down over-hand. I winced. Anticipated the crash. It didn't come. Only a wail of fury surged through the landscape. It echoed through the valley below and reverberated with decaying resonance. Slowly faded into a silent death. The mist cleared. I saw Ithacus with his halberd braced over his head. The end of the monster's tentacle lay at his feet. Sheared off and steaming.
If his knights fought like the tides, Ithacus fought like a river. Fluid. Powerful. Absolutely unceasing in his rushing onslaught. The giant daemon was almost pitifully helpless against his full attention. He rushed the monster. Gripped his halberd widely. Dropped low on the toes of one foot. Balanced himself with a sweeping kick from the other. Kick lowered his center of gravity. Positioned that absurdly long polearm. He spun. Struck low. A cyclone of violence.
The maneuver severed both of the creature's feet. By the time it was sliding off the seared stumps, Ithacus rebounded. New momentum. Dragged his halberd's blade across the soil. Left a sizzling trail of singed earth. He slashed a crescent-shaped uppercut. It split the daemon's gut vertically. Bloated gremlin-like creatures poured from the wound. They gibbered and bounced. Round little balls of putrid green and brown rot. They seethed with excitement at their release. A chance to taste live flesh. I thought briefly, might have once been human. It was wasteful. Their own damn fault, but a waste anyway.
They overflowed from the giant's belly. Ithacus ignored them. His weapon was already raised at the end of the sweeping slash. He followed the momentum. Leaped. Plunged the halberd through the center of the daemon's head. Through that mass of corpses. Braced his feet against the giant's chest. Leapt off. Raging howls drowned out by the sound of gushing gelatinous blood. Gooey innards. He had sliced his halberd out of from the thing's head. Cleaved it open. It spewed out a geyser of fluids and gibbering daemons.
The giant collapsed. Became a miniature mountain of corpses. A volcano. Erupted small, maniacal daemons. Scores of them carpeted the ground around Ithacus. They swarmed him and met his halberd. He carved swaths of them in two. Raised his arm. Wrist mount fed them explosive gunfire. But the daemons were closing the gap. One leapt at his face. He caught it mid-air and crushed it. Sick wet juice sprayed from his gauntlet. He killed dozens. Dozens more clung to his armor. Swarmed over him. Wasn't long before I couldn't see him at all.
I took aim. Grinned. Couldn't help it. Tough shot with plasma. Pistol nonetheless. Too far. Still I had to try. Smirked. This was going to feel good. Imagined his smug face, towering over me. Crushing my shoulder. My arm. Considered his heresy too. If he were to return to Odyssea his world would surely follow into hell the damned king they think they know.
Decaying fingers rose from the loose dirt. Clawed at my boots. I tuned it out. Focused. Imagined his smug face. I squeezed the trigger and a bolt of plasma roared through the air. It crashed into him. Scattered swarming daemons from his body. Knocked him off balance. Through the steam and smoke I could see his wicked, glowing eyes. They glared in my direction and suddenly he began to sprint. I snapped off a couple more shots. Missed.
He was barreling toward me. I turned to run but hands tugged at my boots. Nearly tumbled to the ground. Kicked at the arms and broke one in half. Ejected a combat knife from my forearm implant. I severed the tendons of one arm. Slashed the fingers off the last. I struggled free and began to run.
Ithacus chased. Sprinted, pumping his arms and legs. Left behind a trail of bloated daemons. He gained on me. Became faster with each daemon that lost its grip. He was a different breed of man. Even for an Astartes. His pride was not for nothing. I needed some other advantage.
All around the dead rose from the earth. Bodies of soldiers long forgotten after the rebellions. They struggled through moist earth. Crawled with carrion. I weaved my way through them. Hamstrung them as I passed by. Left behind undead traps. Glanced back and saw them claw at Ithacus in feverish frustration. Some he trampled into organic sludge. Others gripped tightly onto his armor and slowed him. Still others left behind their severed arms. Reflexively clasped his armor. Added to the mass weighing him down. He could no longer keep up. Must have known it because he stopped and had an Astartes with an incinerator torch the gnawing little monsters from his armor.
I had to flank my way around the main battle front. Acquire transport from the planet. Ithacus would survive. Smash his way through the galaxy all the way back to Odyssea. I had to prevent that from happening. Had to alert the Inquisition. Keep that arrogant heretic away from his throne. If he remembered his old life there was something wrong. No telling how he would react if he found out what had happened to his home world.

* * * * *

Path to the ship was blocked. A sea of the undead. I'd run aground. Didn't have the means to break through. I was on the edge of a rocky cliff. Leering horrors of disease before me. A chasm behind me. I backed up until my heels hung off the edge. Raised my pistol. Felt the trigger under my finger. Put my hand on my grenade belt. Then the rocks under my toes gave way and I fell. So much for glory. I tumbled and turned. Passed jagged rocks. Each narrow miss a gift. Gave me some time to think. I thought of Ithacus arriving at Odyssea. Imagined his fleets bombing neighboring sectors into submission. Emerging with greater strength. More ships, more men, more factories. Multiple sectors lost. Before he even sells his soul for power. A light appeared below me. Periodically came into view as I spun.  The cliff face sloped away. Receded from me. The light grew as I drew near. Could tell it was big. Looked like the containment field around our ship's plasma reactor. So, I thought without comfort, I will vaporize rather than splatter.
I passed into the field. Felt a jerk sideways. My guts spun first. Then lurched along with me. Faster and faster I accelerated until I felt divorced from my own body. I lost my mind. Not my sanity, the location of my consciousness. My sight flickered sporadically. Like a faulty comm channel. I heard a chorus of noise. The familiar voices of anyone and everyone I knew. They spoke at the same time. In fragmented sentences. Couldn't understand. Wondered what it meant. What they were all trying to tell me. My skin crawled and I wished to stretch my bones as if they were muscle. I tasted foods I'd never known. Smelled odors of every kind. At once pleasant, intoxicating and repulsive.
Then an utter failure of all senses assailed me. Stimuli became a foreign language. My mind struggled to make sense of it. Like a child smashing a cube into a circular hole. Then wondering why the sound makes the cube taste like blue. I received responses across my senses that were jumbled. Fragmented and misplaced. I could hear colors. The perfect gradual hues of the spectrum were an audible and constant climb in pitch. I saw, no, I heard a spattering of immaculate geometrical shapes. They appeared to me as a series of tones in staccato. Textures too. Arose in my memory as sound effects. Both comforting and terrifying. The sounds prickled my body with spines that could have been made of either chitin or cotton for all I knew. All of this supra-existential music simultaneously fed my senses. Flavors were misinterpreted as colors, though I processed them as odors. Then they seeped into my skin. I tasted them with my fingers as the recoil of my pistol. As the cold of my implants. As humiliation. And vengeance.
Sense made no sense and I knew this place was not fit for man.
My sight returned to me. I had a vision of my myself from behind. I was zooming through a winding tunnel of energy. It looked like water in zero gravity. Wavered and rippled. Beyond its edge was a swirling mass of color. Contorted space-time. The Warp. I'd only ever seen it from the safety of a ship's Gellar field. Magnificent and terrible. Silhouettes of hideous creatures raked lecherous claws against the field. Skimmed along the edge of the tunnel. Kept pace. They sought a crack, I thought, or a weakness in the field. Meant to pry it open. Invade.
The tunnel split into two paths. I saw my body swerve left. The shadowy creatures split up. Majority followed me hungrily. I sped along. Sometimes curved widely along broad paths. Sometimes jerked down narrow off-shoots. Changed direction many times. Lost my bearing. Then the force pulling me stopped. I came to an abrupt halt. Consciousness slammed back into my body.
Tunnel was slightly broader here. Had no idea where I was. Obviously not real space. Not the Warp either. The daemons that followed me made an accidental pass. Looped back around like ravenous creatures of the sea. By the time they returned, more had arrived. They slowed. Leered at me. Got my first good look at them. They had distorted feminine faces. Unnaturally long arms. Thin needles for claws. Long as my forearms. They had no legs. Just a murky, flowing mass of shadow. Like ink drops in water.
So many of them. They blotted out the colors of the Warp swirling behind them. Swam like a school of sharks. Swooped. Dove. Swarmed in their frenzy. Dozens of them crawled all over the tunnel. Pulled themselves with their long limbs. Deliriously they scratched at the field. Searched for a way in. They clawed with ravenous fury. One or two in front were ripped apart by the monsters in back mindlessly clawing through them.
Suddenly a thin, needle-like claw punctured the force field. It retracted. Punctured the field again. Retracted. A pair of needles came through. A set of five. Two sets. Over and over again they pierced. Made the holes wider. The claws stabbed through again. Up to the hands. The daemon heaved. It pulled its head and shoulders inside. Hissed and screeched at me. Black, glassy eyes spun. Thirsted for my soul. Then the thing lost its grip against the field. The hole contracted. Instantly the beast's torso was cleaved in half. Just below the shoulders. Purple blood erupted from the carcass. The severed upper body drifted weightlessly until it faded away. Dissolved into nothingness.
Brief moment of relief interrupted. Realized the damage had already been done. Hole wasn't closed. Already three more daemons were tearing at it. Hauling themselves inside. Other holes being torn open. More than a hundred daemons crawling on the field. Hundreds more besides swooping and diving in the aether beyond.
A daemon slipped in. Fell from the hole it tore open. Tumbled into the tunnel. It righted itself and leered at me. Screeched. Dove at me. Claws of needles and teeth of knives came at me. Its jaw was dislocated. Opened wide enough to fit my head inside. Her teeth glistened with saliva.  Anticipation of feasting on my skull. I shot a blast of plasma from my pistol. It fit neatly into her gaping mouth and blew her head apart at the jaw.
Her form dissolved into the air and a few more of the creatures dropped into the tunnel. Dropped into the blast of a hallucinogenic gas grenade. My own concoction. I smirked proudly. The results varied little from the testing I conducted on volunteers from the Imperial Guard. The daemons inhaled the noxious fumes. Scratched at their faces. Razor-tipped claws dripped their own blood.Then they shredded one another maniacally.
I fired on the next bunch with lasers. Discharged my digital weapon implants. Have several dozen of them hidden in my body. Another dozen in my equipment. Got them under my fingernails, in my knuckles, my wrists, elbows, knees, several more in my face. You can never be too careful. Hands might be full or bound. Might be severed. I've got them in my boots, gloves and mask too. Fired those first. Can't know what's in the air out there. Can't risk putting holes in my gear. The lasers are weak. With the right targeting implants though, several shots can bore a hole in stone. I hit a pair of daemons coming into the tunnel. Adjusted targeting through my optical display. Fired off four more quick volleys into the flesh singed by the first. Near-white blue beams flickered out. The two daemons had minuscule holes straight through their heads. Their carcasses floated off. Dissolved.
Next group was bigger. Fed them my fragmentation grenades. Didn't have that many. Threw them the whole damn belt. Aimed it to soar past a daemon in front. It shielded me from the shrapnel, but was launched straight at me. I was ready with a pair of knives. Put them deep into its neck. Expected the impact to send me sprawling in the tunnel. Zero G and all. But I felt some resistance holding me in place. Like I was pinned in a magnetic field.
Heat of the moment. Hadn't noticed when I fired my pistol. Or when I threw my grenades. Wasn't in zero gravity. Controlled gravity, maybe. Advanced tech. Not imperial. Inertia was no issue, I realized. Could ignore recoil. I let loose hot plasma fire from my pistol. Unleashed blast after blast on the bottle-necked breaches. Splash from the impacts was damaging the force field. The daemons slipped in more easily. Four or five at a time. I fired plasma as fast I could pull the trigger. Threw caution to the warp.
My pistol overheated. Discharged a hot, blue jet of fluid fire from the exhaust. Seared my arm. Made me drop it. My only firearm. It drifted away. Smoothly and solemnly. Left me with only my fists. Hidden knives. I cursed.
Several daemons were slipping into the tunnel. Soon there would be several more. And then dozens. I would meet death and she would take from me time. Time I need. Time I've spent. And time I've taken from others. I remembered my childhood. Thought of the first heretic I ever denounced. A witch. Manipulative and full of lies. Thought of the second heretic I ever denounced. A cultist. Subversive and lost from grace. The witch tried to pervert my mind. Used her power to control me. She would have forced me to kill innocent people. The cultist tried to pervert my soul. Wanted to open my mind to the dark gods. He said he would give me new perspective. Show me where I fit in the universe. I remembered their faces when the arbites arrived in full riot gear. When they were hauled out from their hiding place. Remembered the fear. And time I took from them. Time they would have invested in unholy sedition. I remembered.
As the host of daemons closed in around me, a glowing haze approached. Came from the direction I'd been going. It came closer. Much closer. Such incredible velocity. Now it glimmered. Shimmered. Shined like the sun through shattered glass in the wind. The daemons flinched. Cowered from its brilliance. Recovered. Began to scatter. What horror could cause a daemon to flee? I waited as the answer rushed toward me with blinding speed. It flowed around me. A cloud of crystalline creatures. Innumerable. They crashed into the daemons and I saw them as a swarm. Like locusts on a harvest. They covered the demonic entities and fed on them. The daemons writhed. Howled as they dissolved. Their limbs broke apart and drifted away. Were consumed by the crystal insects. In moments they devoured the daemons. Set about repairing the breaches in the force field. They were methodical. Mechanical in their precision. It was a truly beautiful sight of creation. Despite their ominous arrival. Like spiders spinning webs. They rushed about the edges of the holes. Clicked away with tiny legs. Scurried to new locations. Begin again. And again. Until all had been sealed.
The spiders then rushed to me. Swarmed over my entire body. Crawled, clicked, scurried. Scattered all over me. Brought to life every nerve in my flesh. A terrifying thought came to mind. That of ants and their propensity to strike simultaneously. Signaled by pheromones. I waited for that moment. My breath choked me, caught in my throat. I waited. Listened to the sound of crystal spiders clicking their mandibles in my ears. Felt their sharp legs like a million pins puncturing only the finest layer of my skin.
I waited.
The spiders stopped in unison and there was silence. Silence such as I have never known. I became uncomfortably aware of the noise my own body made. Heard the spurious, irregular beat of my heart. Creaking in my bones. Dry breath in my throat. And then they dispersed. Some hidden duty done. They drifted from my body. Glided off en masse as they had come.
I felt a tug. A force that pulled at all of my body equally. I resumed my course. This time the ride was slower. Smoother. I didn't lose myself. Relieving. Getting here, the pace must have been a safety precaution. Against pursuers, I thought.
Around a bend I came to face a wall of light. Purple, pink and white. It flowed like the walls of the tunnel. Like water in zero gravity. Another force field. Blocked the only path. As I neared it, I braced myself. Then passed through it harmlessly. I was now in a short segment of the tunnel.  Faced with another field. I passed through it. Found yet another. Another. Another. Passed through ten or more until I came to a platform. It was a veranda. Maybe a docking bay. It was made of the smoothest of surfaces. Not polished, but a soft matte. Mix of browns and creams. Looked old, judging by the colors. But was without scratch. Without cracks or any other structural mar. In it were cut lines. They divided the platform into large plates of several square meters. Near the edge I found round protrusions. Same material. Housed glowing gems, polished and perfect in their contours.
I was brought to float above the dock. Gently set down on my feet. Journey had weakened my balance. Upset the nerves. Hands were shaking. Last thing I needed. Preparation is the next best thing to luck in combat. Instructed implants to release a cocktail of drugs. Stimulants and anxiolytics mostly. Hands steadied. Mind felt sharper. Heart beat fast. Little too fast. Made a mental note to tweak the recipe.
I righted myself and looked ahead. Another energy field. I strode up to it. Peered in. At my own flowing, contorting reflection. I shielded my eyes. Tried to look through the glare like it was glass. Field then began to fade away. Faded so smoothly I could hardly tell it was changing. I reached out. Laid a hand on it. It was like touching glass. Like electrified glass. Tingling sensation through my arm. Some time passed. The field settled into a near-transparent state. Behind my mask, my jaw gaped open.
I'd somehow arrived before a massive city. Stood in an open plaza. Buildings and towers beyond. Sculpted of the same surface as the dock. Smooth yet matte. Pristine yet ancient. Towers stretched to an unblemished blue sky. Brought to mind images of ribs protruding from a carcass. Curving toward the heavens. Smooth, matte, bleached light by the sun. The towers too were divided into large plates. Segmented by engraved lines. Encrusted with the most glorious gems. Sparkling with sheen and pulsing with light. The city glittered with these stones. Stretched into the distance until the structures blocked the horizon. The curves of the place were fluid. Voluptuous. Unlike any architecture or vehicular designs found in the Imperium. I've seen Tau vessels. Seen the craft of dozens of races. None of them express such an appreciation for elegant curves.
Concentration broken. Attention suddenly seized from the magnificent city. Open plaza before me. Nine slender figures approached. They were deceptively tall. Robed in black. Wore helms and light armor. Intricate runes on them. Same mysterious bone-like substance. Their faces were covered by flat bone masks. Eye lenses pulsed with soft purple.
They came close. Stood in a large semi-circle. It was easy to tell which of them ranked highest. Armor gleamed with polished gems. But I'd have known regardless. Couldn't understand why, but I'd have known. Like his presence told me.
He tilted his head slightly. As if he nodded at the air lock itself. Then I heard a soft hiss. Saw a swirling mix of pink and purple gas flowing into the room. Came in between the plates in the floor. Panic spread in my mind. I crashed my fist into the translucent force field. There was a faint ripple that emanated from the point of impact. Pain rushed through my hand. I kicked the field. Got no better results. I looked to the leader of the robed figures. He nodded his head however minutely at me. By his side, his hand raised at the wrist. He extended his thumb and forefinger. I felt a tug at my head. Mask exploded off of my face.
I closed my eyes. Held my breath. Then I drained the charge in my digital weapons. The ones in my face. Blindly fired at the force field. Probably the walls and ceiling too. Couldn't hold out any longer. I opened my eyes. Room was misty purple with gas. I took a deep breath. It tasted sweet. Could feel the gas burning my mouth, throat and lungs. With each breath my imagination burst into life. Fear. I knew the Inquisition's experimental gasses. Made many myself. Memories flashed at me. Test subjects vomiting their insides. Their guts came out the other end too.
Then suddenly I felt a wave of unfamiliar emotion. Something like disappointment. Weaved into reassurance. Carried context. Specifics like cultural mores and expectations. I had something of a vision. I witnessed a barren world. Purple atmosphere. My sight zoomed from the macro to the microscopic. I saw a virus unable to penetrate the cell walls of healthy cells. It was withering. Finally died. I watched the world's history in both reverse and fast-forward. Simultaneous. I saw its birth, collapse and rebirth all at once. I was made to know the nature of the gas. Its role in cleansing the contaminated. Those infected with Nurgle's Rot. I was assured of my safety.
Then for the first time he spoke to me in words. "Inquisitor Kashaph Shinuy. Welcome to the Eldar Craftworld Uram Woharas. Your stay shall be long and unpleasant for all, but you will be allowed to return to your purpose in time." As he spoke I felt violent pain in my head. A rush of images emerged in my mind. Some still. Others in full motion. Saw myself in battles I didn't recognize. With company I didn't know. Felt emotions that weren't mine. Powerful beyond anything I had ever felt. At the utterance of his people's homeland I knew pride unparalleled. At mention of the Inquisition I knew hatred so heavy it pressed the air from my lungs. I recovered. Took a deep breath. Tried to speak but was dismissed.
He told me to sleep. Must have. I remember nothing else of our meeting.

* * * * *

The farseer stood over the shattered soul stones of two dead eldar. He watched them with his eyes closed. He allowed the psychic imprint left on the atrocity to flow into his mind. Uncountable glowing, feathery lines like strands of DNA were weaving, curving and colliding, coalescing here at this pivotal juncture. Yohsok followed the interwoven strands of fate until he located the primaries, the prime causalities. He picked one carefully and rode it backwards from this moment. On the periphery he could see other fates that had not come to pass. Coincidences that had not coincided. Pushing them farther out he followed this one that had come to be. He watched over and again the Inquisitor's confrontation with Ithacus and his subsequent journey to the craftworld. There had been other less violent strands that bound Kashaph to his arrival here. It was unfortunate that he rode one slicked with blood.
Yes, unfortunate, the farseer thought and cooly exchanged his rage with focus. He delved the multiverse of potential futures he would investigate in order to find the inquisitor and steer him down a more agreeable strand. Finding him would be difficult. His mind was lost and its shifting prismatic nature meant that his future was entirely unpredictable. Yohsok retreated from the strands of fate and returned to his body.
"We will do this the hard way," he told the two seers beside him. "We will have to follow the truth he has left behind rather than anticipate the lies he has yet to tell. We are going to track him down." He looked again at the shattered soulstones and reconstructed them in his mind. The destruction of these stones was the worst fate for any eldar. A soulstone catches the spirit of an eldar when he dies and preserves it, saving him. These two were lost forever to an eternity of suffering, an eternity being devoured by She who Thirsts. He considered the hundreds of thousands of futures he did not wish the present to become. Many of those futures saw his whole craftworld lost to the same fate as the deceased before him. It is not only a matter of how much death there will be. If we are to die, I would have it be the right death, he thought. There is no ending this well.