The Four Strands Modeling, Painting, Gaming and Storytelling

Big Game V – Chapter Fifty Four: Challenge

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In the dusky horizon, Esarhaddon caught sight of an azure streak speeding towards the city. It was time.

Chanting an ancient Prayer of Unleashing, Esarhaddon unsheathed the Black Sword and plunged it deep into the rock of the altar. Underneath the surface of the planet, the enormous machines built by a long dead empire began to stir.

The surface of the planet Iperin trembled as vaults lodged deep in the planet’s core unlocked, ancient wards and runes of incredible power twisting and breaking, unleashing energies that had been trapped for millennia. Thousands upon thousands of souls travelled along meters-thick circuits of living stone, tuned in ages long forgotten to channel the energies of the Ether. While they had been built to traverse between the many vaults set within Iperin’s surface, balancing the energies held within, they had been directed to a single source by the machinations of the Word Bearers. Screaming entities long since driven to rage and insanity mingled with the dim and frightened souls of those who had fallen in the war that still raged across Iperin’s continents as they sped along their path to a single point of obsidian set in Daskros’ heart.

The heat from the altar simmered on Esarhaddon’s face, the energy of souls coruscating through the stone, glowing with an unnatural iridescence. The sword itself shook, emitting a low note like a covered bell struck. Smoke arose from the wound in the altar's surface where the sword lay buried, shimmering with the unspeakable reflections of the Warp itself as the energies of the two dimensions coalesced, and were sucked back into the dark blade. The tremors halted as the wells of souls were emptied, and Esarhaddon plucked the raging blade from the stone.

The Thunderhawk approached the altar, assault bay door beginning to open.

"Let him come," Esarhaddon whispered. "Here, history shall find its new face."

The Thunderhawk swung low and deposited its payload. The enormous angular form of a Dreadnought, painted in the deep blue of the Azure Flames, slammed into the rocky surface of the altar.  Deep gouges formed in the obsidian where its feet came to rest.

“Esarhaddon of the Sicarii,” boomed the voice of the Dreadnought’s inhabitant. “I have come for you. What Victor Kalan started ends here.”

“The prophet Atrus.” The Chaos Lord’s voice betrayed no fear of the being before him, a mocking sneer rising to his leathery lips. “Chosen of the Emperor. You speak of a pawn and lackey, a mere ferryman of something more sacred than you know. Your part in the Great Unbinding may have begun by Kalan’s hand, but be assured, Angel of Man, that it is a plot that began long before you were laid to rest in undeath. Before your Chapter came to be. Before your Emperor walked the Galaxy, unbidden and unwanted by its true masters.

“You have seen visions of slaughter and worship, of mankind’s dark salvation rising from the ashes of Daskros. Do not deny this. You know this place. You know what it is I seek.”

“I do know what you seek, Traitor,” the Dreadnought’s voice was low and calm, with a note of contained fury. “And I shall deny you. Come, it is time to die.”

The energy crystal long forged into the arm of Atrus’ living tomb glowed white hot for a moment, and arced a crackling beam of psychic energy towards the Chaos Lord. The narrow focus of power was powerful enough to destroy the mind and body of even the most terrible creatures.

The beam burst apart as it approached the blade, its energy scattering in a thousand directions before being absorbed into the sword. Esarhaddon waved the blade before him, still crackling with the blast’s energy.

“Well then, Prophet,” he spoke. “Let us begin.”

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