Read in a Rush: Succession

The Bolthole's monthly 1,000 word story competition.

Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby LordLucan » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:12 am

Good day, my subjects fellow boltholerites! This is the inaugural thread for posting stories for the July 2013 'Read In a Rush' Competition.

The rules for now won't be changing, so I've pretty much copypasted JDD's wise ministrations below.

To enter the competition, you must write a story of between 850 and 1150 words in length addressing in some way the prompt word or phrase announced at the start of the competition. In this case, it is Succession.

Audio scripts and their accompanying audio files are admissible. The format for presenting those scripts, however, is strict. Include the audio script, properly formatted (no spoiler tags, please), first. A link to the audio file should then be provided after the script.

Whether you're writing a prose entry or a script entry, you must provide a word count alongside the title of your work.

At the moment poetry entries are not admissible.

You should post your entries on or before the deadline of 2200BST on Monday 22nd July. There is no limit to the amount of entries you can post, but only one may be submitted for voting. If you've only posted one entry in the posting period, then you don't need to do anything. Your entry will be automatically submitted for voting. If you've written more than one entry, you will need to PM me with the title of your chosen entry. You will be given a full week to make your decision about which story to put forward. If you do not manage to PM me before that time, then I will put your first story into the voting thread.

Any questions, please feel free to PM me.

We also have a suggestion thread here. Feel free to peruse it and post your thoughts on any and all things RiaR.

PLEASE NOTE. If you submit a story you are also committing to vote (and the custom here is that you vote for stories other than your own). Stories whose writers have not voted will be disqualified from the competition and their votes will not be counted.

All the best,

Grand Overlord, the new, one true RiaR Monarch Lordlucan.


EDIT: Also, I will allow stories set in Bloodbowl, and original settings of your own devising. Just make sure to specify that it is an original setting story at the start of your tale, to avoid confusion with the fanfic stuff.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Rahvin » Sun Jul 14, 2013 2:02 pm

Well, I've been absent from this for a little while, so it looks like I'd best kick things off...
1,146 words, including the title.

Inversions



I was fourteen when the light in the heavens went out. It was a few months, long enough for me to celebrate my brother’s birthday, before the news really broke.

I suppose the people at the top knew straight away. Without the Astronomicon, ships couldn’t navigate. The warp storms started rolling in. I remember the traders stopped coming – at the time we put it down to war, or bad warp currents. Delays weren’t unheard of, especially since there’d been whispers coming down the rumour trail that there were xenos raiders just a few systems over. After two or three months though, when the traders still hadn’t come and the world was on the verge of famine and drought, that’s when the panic started to seep in.

The lower levels were first to feel it. The bio-reclaimator machines couldn’t cope on their own – they were never intended to. So when we suddenly had enough food for a few hundred million, to feed a population of a few hundred billion… you do the maths. The rich barely felt it, sitting in their spires. We went hungry, in the upper mids, but we weren’t starving. Most everyone below the midline had to make do on their own.

By the end of the year, the southern hemisphere was almost entirely abandoned, at least by the authorities. Famine and fear led to rebellion. Underhivers rose up and slaughtered starving middies and spires alike. Two whole continents went incommunicado, lost to anarchist rebels. The Protectors pulled out, ‘redistributed’ food and water stores to just Hive Primus and my own Hive Secundus. Those were dark days. The stockpiles were in lockdown for rationing, and none of us knew how much longer the rations were going to last.

I was seventeen, eighteen almost, when Secundus started to run dry. Population control had been in force since the beginning, and the Protectors had spent the last two years purging the dark levels. The economy was all but gone, we were under General Talasca’s rule for the most part. Food stamps and water cards were the currency, and the easiest way to get more of those was to enlist in the Protectors. I’d just finished basic when the ship arrived.

It was a full fleet, but at the time, from poor, dishevelled Secunda, all we saw was a pair of shuttles descend through the choke clouds like angels from Terra. They landed on the spiretop with the whole hive ablaze with excitement and… nothing. For two weeks they stayed up there, shuttles motionless. Whoever was inside must have been talking with the General, but all we could think about was that if there were shuttles, there must be a ship. And ships meant supplies. Food, water. The chapels were almost overflowing with prayer slips.

When the General appeared, at the Governor’s Plaza, more than a million of us were lining the viewing areas. More were watching via vid-link.

He had two Astartes with him. That was the first thing we saw, when he stepped out. General Talasca is not a small man – he’s lifelong military and it shows. But these two giants dwarfed him. He barely reached the shoulder pads of their crimson armour. He spoke, introducing them. Sortis and Thesiel, he named them. Bearers of the Word. They looked magnificent.

They praised us, congratulated us. Said we had lived through fear and famine, held on to love and hope, endured uncertainty and despair. They even praised the tertiary hives in the south, the ones overrun. Said they had found strength in their anger, taken the helm of their futures. Said they had been right to rise up, because they were still alive at the end.

Then they said the Emperor was dead.

I remember the silence. The awful, terrible silence. Sortis and Thesiel filled it with words, explained that this was the reason the Astronomicon had failed, that ships couldn’t make the journey between stars, that messages couldn’t be sent. I don’t think any of us heard a single word.

The Emperor was dead. We didn’t really believe, back then. I still catch myself, sometimes, halfway through a quick prayer by force of habit. Something of a faux pas these days.

The silence was eventually broken by crying. Have you ever heard a million people wailing in forlorn despair? It was overwhelming. The General let it run for a time, giving us chance to let our grief and anguish and disbelief out, before firing his pistol skyward. The gunshot got our attention.

Thesiel said there was still hope, still a chance for survival. The Master of Mankind was gone, and for all his godlike power his passage proved that he was still mortal, still human after all. But there were real gods, the Astartes told us. Powers in the sea of souls. Without the Emperor, they were our only chance. Without them, we’d starve alone in the dark.

They proved it when the landers started pouring through the clouds. Dozens and then hundreds of them, millions of tons of food and water dispersed through the entire hive, every spire, every landing pad.

We barely heard the General over all the cheering and crying. He was trying to tell us that we had been delivered. That the Powers Beyond the Veil had chosen us to be saved. At that moment, it could have been the greenskins themselves manning those shuttles, we’d still have loved them.

That was twenty nine years ago. I’ve been with the Fifteenth Fleet for most of those. The Devoted, we call ourselves these days, those of us who fight for the Gods Beyond and spread the word of the Eightfold Path. Most of us live up to the name. It’s not faith, not when you can see the Gods working. It’s obvious. We still love the Emperor’s memory. He protected us for so long, but in the end, it turned out he was just a man. The Astartes don’t like it, but as long as we’re good and proper in our devotions to the Gods, they let it sit.

We’re the only ones sailing the warp now, our Crusade Fleets. The greenskins still try, and if by some miracle they pop out of the storms with survivors, we mop them up. The warp storms are everywhere. I’ve seen things I never would have thought possible thirty years back.

I lost a leg and an arm fighting the Eldar. They’re probably the biggest thorn in our side, the biggest obstacle to our dream of reuniting the Imperium under the True Gods. Their webway still seems to work fine. Scuttlebutt has it that we’ll be joined by the Prophet himself to bring the fight to one of their Craftworlds.

I can scarcely bring myself to believe. Fighting alongside a living myth. A Primarch.

Lorgar himself.

The galaxy is an exciting place these days.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby LordLucan » Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:28 pm

Nice one Rahvin. Perfectly paced for the 1000 words, and a decent narrative voice.

If you got it to 1000 words precisely, it'd be near perfect, but it's not a pressing concern.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Shaggy » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:29 pm

Finally kicked my lazy backside into gear in time this month... not really sure what you'll all make of this one, it's a bit of a perpendicular idea, but I thought I'd try exploring something a little different.

(Exactly 1000 words, excluding the title)

Diminished Returns

There are many paths to immortality, it seems. For some aliens it’s as natural as breathing… some are just too damned tough to kill and too stubborn to die. Others – well, there’s everything from strange sorcery to swapping flesh for metal. None of which sounds particularly pleasant, but that’s why they’re called alien.

For us humans, it’s a bit trickier. There are some out there that seem to just keep coming back the same as ever, even after you kill them. They’re a rare breed, but I’ve met a few of them. Not that they knew about me, of course. I don’t know if anyone else does it the way I do, maybe I’m the only one… and I’ve no intention of letting anyone start exploring exactly how. They’d probably use something sharp, and even after all these lives and deaths I don’t really fancy that much. Or they manage it by simply not dying. I’ve only ever seen one of those, and I couldn’t get away from Him fast enough – I suppose He was once human, but I’m not sure how long that label really applied to Him. Of course He finally got it in the neck in the worst way possible… not dead but not living either. Think I’d prefer eternal oblivion to that fate.

There’s a particular trick to the way I do it. Have you ever been in a hall of mirrors? Stood with one mirror in front and another behind, just offset a little? Endless rows of you stretching off into infinity, all of them identical. Well that’s what I see – except every image is different, a different possible me. And I just pick one. I’ve been a Roman legionary, tramping through the forest of Germania… I was in the second wave of coldsleep colonists to Proxima Centauri. A deckhand on a clipper ship, a clerk in an insurance house, a water-seller, a nanotech designer… occasionally I’ve led exciting lives, been a hero or someone famous, but mostly I’ve just lived. And when I die – I simply pick another and return to play the game all over again. The selection always changes, possibly based upon my last choice – I really don’t know. All I know is that there’s an endless succession of images floating in front of me, like playing cards.

At least, it was endless. Not any more.

The images stretch backwards through history, right back to the beginning of mankind. Trust me – it was no fun being a caveman back in the dawn years! I’d like to claim to have been killed by some magnificent beast like a sabre-toothed tiger, but actually I just got an infection from a badly-broken leg. And the images stretch forwards, on and on… right into the far distant future. That’s the problem – I know what the future holds. And it terrifies me. I’ve made sure to avoid going that far forwards whenever possible, although it hasn’t always been easy – hell, I haven’t dared to even look beyond there before now. I can’t access all of the possibilities every time – many of them are just images that I can do nothing with on that particular occasion – but there are normally enough accessible ones to provide plenty of choice. But not now.

There’s just one image that looks open this time… and it’s right at the end. You know, I once spent a life as a science-fiction writer – didn’t do too badly, got several books published. But I never imagined anything like this. The entire galaxy consumed in waves upon waves of war, plague, suffering and death. Giant modified warriors, alien horrors rampaging across entire worlds, fleets of ships unleashing planet-cracking weapons fire. Suspicion and fanaticism rule, ignorance and dogma taking the place of knowledge and enquiry. And behind it all, the endless screaming of a living corpse shackled to a machine-throne, worshipped by unthinking trillions of people. It’s horrible.

That would be bad enough, but survivable (in my own unique way, of course) if it weren’t for what’s hiding behind it all. There seems to be an entire alternate reality, but one that sort of co-exists with ours. Enough so that humanity (and aliens?) that far forward actually travel through it to cross the galaxy. And it’s full of… things. I don’t know what they are, but I’ve seen what they do… they consume souls. Thing is… I don’t know how I came to be this way, how or why I can do what I do. So how can I be sure that when I die there, I’ll be able to escape these things? Will I have any more options open to me or will they eat my soul and end my journey? I assume that reality has always been there, lurking behind the scenes as it were, whilst humanity rolls on oblivious. But maybe they’ve woken something up, disturbed the order of things by moving into that realm with ships. Maybe they’ve blurred the lines too much.

But the really scary question is this – is that really the end? I’ve lived throughout almost all of human history, hopping about here and there. The beginning is a bit hazy, I’ve never seen much past the caveman era – but this one at the end really seems to be THE END! Is there anything beyond? To think that our species could end like this - a mass of brutalised drones, being butchered or harvested by frightening alien races and collapsing from within. That terrifies me almost more than what might happen to my own existence. There just doesn’t seem to be anything beyond. No haze like before the dawn times – just solid blankness, as if the writer put his pen down and said that’s it.

Then again, there could be other options. Maybe this last choice is the doorway to a new sequence of images, a fresh start. Or maybe I should pick up the pen and start writing for myself. Start a fresh page. But what should I write?
In defeat, malice.
In victory, revenge.

My lifeform type is tee tee hatch nex ool
Shall we do rishathra?
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Rahvin » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:10 am

Love it. The narrative voice is great, the premise is fascinating. The intro is very strong, but I can't help but feel that the last half of the piece doesn't quite stand up to the standards of the first. The very last paragraph, I think, comes off as a hastily-added 'end'.

Also, the way the narrator drops hints to meeting the Emperor and knowing his fate on the Golden Throne (implying a presence at least as far forwards as M31), and then goes on to profess complete and horrified surprise about the existence of the warp and what lies within it just seems to not quite match up. I like the idea of a reincarnator having to come to terms with the existence of entities that can kill not just the body but the soul as well, that's fantastic. Perhaps if the initial mention of the Emperor's eventual fate were to be removed, maybe replaced with a mention of meeting him along the way of his conquest of Earth, at the head of the Thunder Warriors?

Still, on the whole, bloody marvellous job. I'm thoroughly impressed.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Liliedhe » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:35 pm

Acolyte

The moment I step off the ship, I feel out of place. I have never been on a Starfort. I did not know there was a Starfort in the Euphrates Sector. The hangar is bigger than all of Alphaeus Hive. The echo of my boot heels on rockcrete comes back from a great distance. The SDF boat that brought me here looks like a quail egg in a rockh’s nest.

I look around the semi-darkness for a reception committee, but there is none. Everything seems empty and abandoned; only a line of ground lights marks a path without doing anything to dispel the gloom around me. Once more I check that my uniform and my utility belt are in place, and then I follow the invitation and stride into the unknown.

Ten minutes later I finally reach open blast doors and leave the empty space behind. During my walk, I heard the ship start its engines and lift off again. It tells me there is no way back. Whatever happens when I reach my destination, if it does not work out, I will likely go nowhere. Or rather, I will meet the Emperor a lot earlier than I hoped.

While I did not expect to reach a great age, to be honest, as Arbites rarely die in bed I had still dreamed of a distinguished career. I did not think it would end so quickly.

Around me, the corridors of the Starfort are as empty as the hangar. Once more, my way is lit, leading me past junctures and doorways and up staircases. Ever upwards, and all of it on foot. When I hear the screams, I realise I am being tested. My stamina, in climbing millions of stairs. My ability to follow orders by lighting the way and throwing distractions at me, the kind I would have to answer as an Arbites.

Cries for help, gunfire. But the path is always leading in a different direction. At first, I hesitate. Engrained reflexes are strong, so is my desire not to fail. Maybe the test wants me to show initiative? Then I remember. Five years ago, I was part of a squad sent to aid an Inquisitor. We helped him cleanse a cult from the underhive. It is pretty much a blurr, I think we were mindwiped afterwards, but there is one thing that stands out clearly in my recollection: A voice like mummified parchment, telling us to look ahead, to go forward, and forward only.

“Look where I tell you, go where I tell you, stay obedient, and live.”

Whatever happened back then, it must have made an impression. It got me this invitation here, a transfer to serve the Emperor’s most holy Inquisition to replace a lost Acolyte, and now, whoever wanted me is trying to find out if he chose wrong. So I climb, and climb, and climb. I take my rosary from my belt and begin to tell the beads, one after the other, following all the prayers for the day, then the week and eventually the month.

I have finished the fifth weekly cycle, when I reach the tower. For the first time, there are windows, and I can see the void. There are no stars, only darkness. I shiver.

My journey is at an end now, because in front of me on the landing is another open door, and behind it, in a dimly lit office, sits the Inquisitor I met back then. He looks no different, bent and unbelievably ancient, wispy grey hair around a wrinkled face. A black cloak with a high collar gives his face a disembodied quality, like a servo skull floating in the dark. Around him, there is a mess.

There is no other way to describe the overstuffed bookcases, sideboards, low tables and decaying, mouldy chairs, all piled with scrolls, books, bones, plates, techno junk and rotting things. I stop in my tracks, stunned.

I hesitate to step into this cesspool. I have seen shops in the underhive that were cleaner and more ordered. Then I notice there is no stink. All I smell is the musty note of old books, mouse droppings and old mould. No decay. No unwashed body. Is this some trick?

I cannot fathom it, but I have no choice. I see mockery in the Inquisitor’s dark eyes as he watches me hover on the threshold, and finally I step over it, and into the final part of the test. I guess.

“The Emperor is watching you, Candidate.”

I blush, fiercely. Did I fail? I step closer and he does not stop me. I can see his desk is piled with papers, too, but there is a place, directly in front of him, that is empty and clean, polished even. In the shine of two oil lamps with tall glass cylinders I see a bolt pistol lying before him. It is not ornate like the models I saw in the hands of the Ecclesiarchy’s warriors, but it is a build I have never seen before with a longer barrel and a slender grip. A scope lies beside it, and a dozen bolts with the hardened tips of Kraken rounds.

As the Inquisitor notices my gaze, he turns the weapon around, so I can see the stylised I of the holy ordos carved into the stock. His hands are as supple as the weapon, not gnarled with age or spotted. He loads the weapon, ignoring me. I hold my tongue. Is this still a test? Or is he assembling the weapon to shoot me?

I do still wear my armour, but it will not withstand a hit like this at such a short distance. I swallow and become still. If this is my fate, I will accept it. I did not understand a thing of what happened here since I stepped off the ship. I hide my smile, as that was the first lesson I had to learn when I joined the Adeptus Arbites: Do not expect to understand the Emperor’s Will. Just follow it to your best ability.

I face the Inquisitor’s empty dark eyes. If this is the Emperor’s Will, I will not fight it. The weapon ready, he gets up and looks at me. He is as short as me. The weapon is steady in his hands as he sights at me down the scope. The corners of his mouth twitch. A drop of sweat runs down my temple. I am still as a statue. I will not run. I will die, if I have to, but I will not shame myself.

He turns the weapon around and hands it to me, grip first. I take it, stunned. Now he gives in and allows the smile to form. “The Emperor has found you adequate” – he pauses for a moment, before finishing: “Acolyte.”

Words: 1140
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Shaggy » Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:23 am

Rahvin "Inversions"
Interesting... I like the way that you've got news filtering through to this world in only dribs and drabs... there's no Imperium-wide internet, after all. Bit surprised that there's not even a hint of Horus, the Heresy or exactly how the Emperor died (which, since he was killed by Chaos, could make worshiping 'The True Gods' a little awkward) but it does still fit within the context provided.
Nice little piece, and doesn't leave you hanging.

Liliedhe "Acolyte"
You always do well on the very personal level, I've noticed... this story is no exception. Observations, feelings, doubts, memories, decisions... I don't think you've missed a single aspect of the psychology of someone in the situation you describe. Which makes it very effective at putting the reader in the place of the narrator.
Front-runner so far.


Reaction to feedback on mine so far:-
Rahvin wrote:Love it. The narrative voice is great, the premise is fascinating. The intro is very strong, but I can't help but feel that the last half of the piece doesn't quite stand up to the standards of the first. The very last paragraph, I think, comes off as a hastily-added 'end'.

I think I succumbed too much to the temptation to make it exactly 1000 words. I'm not too unhappy with the entirety of the last half, but on re-reading... I think you've got a point about the last paragraph or two. Definitely weak.

Also, the way the narrator drops hints to meeting the Emperor and knowing his fate on the Golden Throne (implying a presence at least as far forwards as M31), and then goes on to profess complete and horrified surprise about the existence of the warp and what lies within it just seems to not quite match up. I like the idea of a reincarnator having to come to terms with the existence of entities that can kill not just the body but the soul as well, that's fantastic. Perhaps if the initial mention of the Emperor's eventual fate were to be removed, maybe replaced with a mention of meeting him along the way of his conquest of Earth, at the head of the Thunder Warriors?

The intent was to show that whereas the narrator can see some aspects of the future, there are others that are a mystery. There's no reason for him to know anything about the warp, for example. Glimpses via the future images and experiences as ordinary people through the ages... some things will be known by him, others not. I deliberately kept the time of the 'meeting' between him and the Emperor vague, as there's so many eras from which to choose. And to be honest, in this case I'd say earlier is better. But if the weak ending could be changed... perhaps there could be some way to flesh it out a little.


What are the rules about editing a submitted piece? Are we allowed to do so, or is it a one-shot deal? (No complaints from me either way, I can understand arguments both for and against allowing editing).
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In victory, revenge.

My lifeform type is tee tee hatch nex ool
Shall we do rishathra?
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Liliedhe » Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:31 am

Well, as long as the thread is open you can edit (after all, you could enter a second piece, too).
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Commander Shadow » Fri Jul 19, 2013 5:01 pm

damn, deadline fast approaching. Time to start burning the midnight oil.

Submissions looking good! When i have some free time i'll try and get more concrete/substantial feedback!
- And there arose from the abyss a terrible beast and the armies of man were laid low by the walls of the ancient city. The ground shook and the skies trembled and all knew as the beast had come forth and that the end of time was upon them.

"Shadow is always right, except when he tries to save his men from charging orks" - Ang
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby Shaggy » Sat Jul 20, 2013 5:34 pm

Liliedhe wrote:Well, as long as the thread is open you can edit (after all, you could enter a second piece, too).

Just to let you know, I enquired about this and was advised that - for now, at least - editing and/or re-submitting isn't really on. For the record, I have no problem with this - the explanation given was clear, logical and completely fair. Should teach me a little more self-discipline when submitting an entry... re-read, analyse, wait a while and re-read again... and only then submit if satisfied.

I hear and obey! :D
In defeat, malice.
In victory, revenge.

My lifeform type is tee tee hatch nex ool
Shall we do rishathra?
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby LordLucan » Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:35 pm

Just letting everyone know the deadline is tomorrow, so any last minute entrants, get posting asap!

(Also, great stories so far folks!)
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:13 pm

Memento mori - 1099 words including title

It was inbetween cycles and whole divisions of scribes and adepts were shifted, thousands of men and women trading places at their work stations. Valentinia heard little of it though. She had elected the Walk of Chastisement, and this far off the cavernous chambers swallowed all noise, save for a distant, ghostly echo. Light pored down amidst the arches from windows high above, illuminating all in a sharp glare. Motes of dust danced in the air around her as she walked on, alone.

Valentinia Kontondus, Prefector Secundus of the Estate Imperium, sub-division XXXI -XL, on the world of Arcon II, had as precious little time as any adept, if more of a choice in how to spend it. The parts of the Complex Administratus where she currently walked were seldom used, but now she felt the need. And according to her calculations she had enough time before her rest cycle started, as long as she didn't dally.

The Walk stretched into the impossibly far distance, lost in a haze of light. Occassionally, a weak groan would call out for her, seeking her attention. She kept her gaze fixed forward and strode on.

Leading the way before her was the jangling form of her Proclaimer. It had served her faithfully for decades, though she knew it too would have to be replaced now. In the Administratum there was a given, divine order to everything, and the whirring servo-man before her was only fit to serve prefectors of the Secundus strata.

Yes, change was coming. The holy institutions of the Imperium seldom altered, but when they did, even the tiniest shift was monumental, establishing beyond doubt the purity, and thus finality, off the Emperor's rulings. Valentinia knew that, to a stranger, the workings of the adepts seemed incomprehensive; certainly she suspected that even some adepts housed such thoughts. But they did not see. Somehow, a simple, fundamental fact had eluded them; divinity begets complexity. The more intricate the design, the holier its nature.

After the removal of Argon Cicilian as Prefector Seniorati, ancient data had once more been drawn upon to recall wisdom from ages past. Steeped in tradition was the code of succession used to conjure forth a replacement, its every wording carefully interpreted so that no misunderstanding of mortals be allowed to tarnish the message it held. An arduous task, reserved only for those most holy and senior of rank, the result finally pointed to… her.

“Prefector” the Proclaimer whirred, snapping her out of the memory, “your rest cycle is scheduled to begin in fifteen time-sub-units.

“I am aware”, she replied, looking ahead. Light and dust, only light and dust as far as she could see; light stabbing at her retinas, dust settling in her eyes, making them water. She squinted. An arm grasped for her robes and she angrily rapped it aside with her sigil cane.

“Please, mistress… I must provide for my family…”

She stopped and turned towards the noise. Before her was one of the wretches, and for the first time she was looking directly at him.

He was little more than skin and bones where he hung, chained like so many others to the wall. Unkempt hair sprouted where it had been allowed to grow wild; parched lips bled, cracks of bright red amidst ashen skin. He stank.

The Proclaimer was at her side, swinging its censer wildly as it blared: “Thou shalt be glad of thy master’s punishment, for it is deserved and it improves thee!”

Valentinia sneered in disgust as she realized that even the servo-puppet held more dignity than the man. Without sparing him a second glance she walked off, with smart strides, onwards down the Walk of Chastisement. Her eyes never wandered to the sides again, but she saw them all the same – the failures, the trouble-makers; all those who’d proven to be unworthy of further service without first being rectified.

Many, like the man, were lowly clerks and menials, and would never be released; their bones would remain until they crumbled to dust. But the Walk was there for all who failed; even the mightiest adept could be chained to its walls.

Never Valentinia though. Never.

A shift in the light up ahead signaled her destination; an arched entrance in the wall to her right. No gates barred it, and beyond, in stark contrast to the glare of the Walk, lay only shadow. She stepped through as her Proclaimer blared out her arrival, filling the gloom with echoes: “Enter Prefector Secundus Valentinia Kontondus, of the Estate Imperium, sub-division XXXI –XL!”

Silence greeted them. Blinded at first by the darkness, Valentinia found her eyes adjusting, seeing the outlines of a chamber, larger than she’d first expected. Hulking machinery towered at the walls, and between them stood smaller, man-sized objects. She knew what they were even before she saw the first pair of eyes stare at her, blankly.

She snapped her head around as a figure detached itself from amidst the things and shuffled towards her.

“Adept”, the tech-priest droned, “welcome”.

Valentinia bowed, hands at her chest in a formal greeting of the Aquila. “My thanks, Artisan. I have come to inspect my new Proclaimer.”

The tech-priest’s lenses stared at her. “It is not yet finished. By your coronation, I shall have it done.”

“No matter”, she replied. “I wish to see it now, whatever its state.”

“This way then.”

He led her amidst the servitors, standing in various states of completion. Pieces of flesh and metal lay on the floor or hung from harnesses. Open eyes stared without following them.

She stopped at the severed body indicated by the tech-priest. Tubes and coils of wire connected the pallid flesh to various forms of machinery. Fresh scars indicated the work already done; in the shadows burnished metal appendages lay, waiting.

Valentinia could feel the priest’s stare in her back as she knelt before the body. As Prefector Secundus, her assigned Proclaimer had been nothing special; one servitor among thousands. She had no idea whose flesh it contained.

As Prefector Seniorati though…

It was said that Argon Cicilian had screamed day and night, the echoes of his wails resonating up and down the Walk of Chastisement. Now his features were blank, his open eyes distant. Valentinia looked deep into them, seeking to understand, seeking whatever flaw that had brought his service to such a shameful end. The logical part of her railed against her behavior; had she not been appointed her new position by divine and immaculate right? Had she not been proven pure enough for the task?

Yet she kept looking.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Succession

Postby TunnelRat68 » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:55 pm

(1139 words including title)

The Edge

With a rhythmic pressing, the pedal powered the grinding wheel upon which he ran the Gladius’s edge. Always ensuring he started in the same place and keeping even speed of wheel, angle of blade and thrust; switching between sides every 5 stroke so as not to favour one side or upset the micro-balance of the simplest but altogether most satisfying weapon that he possessed. As he conducted this daily ritual, Brother Samuel recited the blessed rites of maintenance and preparation, adding sacred oils to the finely honed blade to ease its passage across the wheel, protect its surface and finally aid its release from the scabbard in pursuit of his duty.

Unfortunately, on this day as had occurred on others recently, his mind was not pure and focussed. Instead it was skittish and fogged by recurring memories or visions of future choices and consequences thereof. As a veteran of double centuries and an honoured Sergeant within his Company he felt the calling of his duty and everything that meant to him and his fellow Brothers. Conversely, that self same duty bade him onto greatness and to pursue the best for his Chapter and everything that meant beyond the fortress walls; the Emperor, the Imperium and even Humanity itself.

The thing that bothered him most of all was that in any other aspect it would be a natural occurrence; indeed his home world thrived on the inherent risk of a challenge and the threat of suddenly losing all. The issue was things were not natural in many ways; most singularly the problem with being a superhuman warrior was just that, you were a superhuman, nigh on invincible warrior with little to really threaten your life and much to protect it or recover it. Without a doubt it was the ultimate honour to be selected just for training, failure at which meant a life outcast from your birth village or a swift death to a winners blade; charity or pity. Even the grueling training made you wish for the simplest of advancement, thinking that it would in some way bring respite but in reality the pressure would simply manifest itself in some other way.

The life of a marine was prone to repetition through the years and decades into centuries, albeit in a different solar system, planet or battlefield; facing innumerable alternate foes with missions of the simplest form causing untold misery to the most complex and interwoven plans that held the very survival of a planet in their grasp. Therein lied the problem, should a marine do as he was bade and perfect his skill set; be it shooting, swordsmanship, heavy weapons or even the elitist apothecary, chaplain or librarian then he could expect to serve scores of years simply maintaining that expertise without advancement or reward other than the acknowledgement that he was doing his job and his duty. Ambition was a fickle trait that could lead even a Marine astray from the path chosen for him, concentrating on one goal to the detriment of others or it could bring him to the fore amongst his peers, such that he could be chosen for specialised training, missions or command.

Brother Samuel found himself drifting away from the task at hand and into the options that lay before him; Continue in the mould that had been set, or choose to make the situation fit him. Either way he was facing the challenge of duty over the greater good. His problem was he didn’t know which fitted which and even more threatening, how he could possibly discover the true path forward without causing a tear in the Chapter that might never heal not to mention being damned for oblivion. The metallic rasp of the Company Techmarine Brother Eligius caught him unawares “I see you are trying to turn a weapon of precision into a blunt instrument of frustration”. With a jolt he looked down to see that his precious short sword had been over sharpened along one edge leaving it immediately duller, blunter and without the infinitesimal balance that he could feel as he guiltily turned it over in his hand. “Apologies Brother Eligius, I was........ distracted. I shall repair my error and double my rites to the weapon’s spirit such that I trust it forgives my inattention.” “Better that you allow me to restore the blades edge and balance, whilst you focus your attentions on that which would cause a Brother of your standing to be so.........distracted?” Brother Eligius growled in what Samuel took to be sarcasm.

Returning to his cell, Samuel felt the overwhelming urge to do something, anything, to decide his path and then as any Astartes would do, achieve it. Instead he found himself again turning to the minutiae of his preparations for the forthcoming assault on the unfortunate planet that required the might of his chapter to turn the tide of another war, battle or uprising; it did not matter this time or any other, it was his duty and he would ensure it was done. He knew also what the plan would entail; him following his Captain off the Thunderhawk and straight into battle, but then it would unfold with enemy resistance causing his Captain to falter and be less directed and ultimately Samuel having to take the lead whilst still deferring to his Captain when he deigned fit to command again.

As he mused the imminent future, Samuel identified his nagging doubt was not that his Captain was’t up to the job he was charged with and needed to be replaced forthwith, that was a given; more that he feared his chosen path to resolution would highlight his own shortcomings such that the Chapter Command would not consider him worthy for the position that he felt was his already by actions alone.

“Brother, I have restored your blade to its prescribed sharpness and balance. You may wish to test that it is also to you own standard.” The words tore Samuel back into the present and he turned to see the Techmarine stood in the door way holding the Gladius, looking as new, in the passive hilt first offering. Taking the blade Samuel hefted it in smooth swings and thrusts whilst switching effortlessly from hand to hand. Samuel let the short sword drop into the ‘at ease’ position and nodded a bow, “Brother, I am indebted to you, I shall not allow this to reoccur. My thanks.” Brother Eligius, making the sign of the Aquila over his Cog and Skull embossed chest added simply “It is my duty to serve, I strive to do my best for myself and all I serve; in that we are no different”. Returning the Aquila sign, Brother Samuel, veteran Sergeant held the gaze and nodded “With this weapon, that is what I shall do”.
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