Monday, April 12, 2010

Tales of the Rancid Blade: Part 26: The fields beyond the city

Her eye scanned over the dawn and the broken teeth of ruins that rose up before her. Black and dark against the dawning sky they were like the brutalized souls that had been cast down in this city. Her robotic hand gripped a wall and her clutching claw feet, like a birds', gripped the broken parapet. Her crisis suit crouched, lurked, atop the blasted ruin of what was once part of this city. Several stories above the street she looked out beyond the ruins, beyond the city walls. Her digital view cast out toward the fields beyond the city. The dawn was drawing golden shapes across the hills that lay beyond the city. Slow morning clouds countered the sun's expanse. Within her suit she could still appreciate the beauty of the dawn even while the optic processors scanned for threats. There were none located.

There had been four days of almost constant fighting for the blasted ruins that lay behind her. The marks of battle adorned her suit. A large cloud of black marked what had once been white. A crack along the jump engine on the right side had been growing since two days ago. She sighed thinking of all the events of the last few days. What a toll had been paid to simply align the balance of the scales. What a penalty in lives had been metered out in order to simply preserve the light against the dark. There had been days of fighting and little change in her fortunes. She pondered her contributions to the scales of fair and fey. Though she had respected the will of the Anu and admitted the Dark Eldar into the city she knew in her heart that this had contributed to the darkness as much as the humans themselves. Obolis had railed against admitting the Dark Eldar into the greater order and he had been right. The Kabal of the Rancid Blade had swept across the city butchering all in their path. Like a fleet of scythe crickets they had killed with wanton abandon. At the time she had leaped to stop them, but Ari'Arshi had held her back. He had nodded his approval as the pirates attacked the humans. She had reported the rumors that the Dark Eldar had begun attacking her own lines to Ari'Arsi and he had dismissed her. She had seen the evidence herself. But she could not turn against her God. She could not be like Obolis~ cursing the Etherial in the dark of the night. Only the death of Actev Nu, the leader of the fiendish host, had halted its rampage. She had been quietly relieved when the dark king had fallen. She had watched, from the eye of a hidden seeker drone, as the alien was cast down by the blade of a human. She sensed that Ari'Arsi had been relieved also. At first the Etherial had seemed renewed but then hours later he fell into a distraught pall and was evacuated to orbit. Her Fire Warriors despaired thinking the Etherial would die. The Dark Eldar had abandoned the fight too. They slipped away like blood down a drain. They left her lines exposed and she was unable to recover. Then again perhaps it was the will of the Fire Warriors~ gone like their God.

She turned toward the east again. The hills now had the sun in full. She added a polarized filter to her view screen as the sun cast its light onto her also. She had been unable to secure the city as a landing site for the Tau fleet. Right now the fleet was landing in the plains to the east under the great guns of the Imperial artillery. A landing under fire was not ideal. The initial battle reports that fed to her had not been good. She sighed thinking of the diminished force she would now lead to conquer this sector. It would be a longer war, a harder war. A smoldering war rather than a firestorm. She had lost her chance for the fury of fire. In a moment she flicked several switches within the suit and the engines shuddered into action lifting her from her perch. The suit rose above the broken city. The dark husk of the abandoned city dropped below. She could see on the long range scanners that the Imperials were abandoning the city also. She could see their lines moving to reinforce the battle at the Tau landing site via the Holdilco Pass. Her Devilfish had moved out under the cover of darkness hours ago. She was confident she would meet those Imperials again. Confident that, without so many distractions, she would best them. As she flew from the city she was joined by a couple of other suits as they cast through the sky. She thought of Sylax. What had become of him? Was he dead? No, she thought not. She was confident that she would see him again also. And when she did, she would kill him.

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