Jungle vines hung through the blasted window that had once looked out across the stars. Its wide oval was about thirty feet across and where it once it held a view of dark stars it now held the prospect of an overgrown jungle. Green vines spilled forth into the command chamber of the Tau battleship. Leaves and plants hanging down over command consoles. The power had been off for about a month and so the edges of once white chamber were hidden in shadows. Dark control panels were quiet and where once the chatter of Air Caste pilots had sounded, now the chatter of exotic birds called out.
Anemos walked cautiously into the chamber. Its silence and her witness to the remnant of what this place once was, made her shiver. There were parts of the ship that still buzzed with activity. She had made sure of it. Despite the rough landing and the destruction of the main viewing chamber, the ship was still intact and she had been running the war from the tactical alcoves several decks below. Hundreds of Fire Warriors worked and planned from other parts of the ship in full confidence of eventual victory. Anemos was not as confident. She returned to this place knowing that this was at the heart of the campaign. She swallowed hard facing the reality that at the core of her command was this room and madness of the jungle crowding around. She looked toward the shadows. She was looking for her god. She knew he was here. She knew he was lurking in the shadows.
“My lord” she called to the darkness “we need to speak of the war”. There was no response. “It goes poorly”.
“I see it” the voice came from one of the dark corners. She looked closer and saw the shape of her Ethereal. “I see it in you. I see your desire”. The voice was ghostly and lonesome. She started toward the dark form and saw that he was dressed in little but rags. “You want me dead. You want me gone”
“I do not. I seek your council.”
“You seek to blame me for your failure.”
She breathed out slowly measuring her temper. He was right. She did want him dead. He had lead their forces into an evil alliance with the Dark Eldar and and their wytches and the Cemephon expansion had become their playground. Their wanton destruction and torture had become her daily observations. They all had been lead to their doom.
“I've seen the horror. Horrors that you've seen.” The voice came from the blackness.
"The field is lost. Our forces are in retreat. The northern front has collapsed and the hives cities are overrun with Imperials.” She paused. Her anger was building. “Obolis is missing. Tranthus’ break through assault on the dark gate has failed. And he is dead!” She paused letting her words sink into the darkness. They also sank into her mind. She thought of Obolis’ warning all those months ago... “Whatever walks through that gate will destroy us” he had said. She now came to see that he had said was right. The call of a Jimjok bird sounded in the jungle outside and brought her back. She could feel her own contempt. “What is your wisdom?” she spat. Her words were soaked in malice.
“You have a right to kill me” the voice from the darkness was slow and seemed to slide across the room like a filthy oil. “You have a right to do that, but you have no right to judge me. I am your god and I have lead you to this point of glory”
“Glory indeed. The inky, bloody revelry of what we have made is glorious. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what glory means.”
“How are we glorious? How?” Her face was twisted in a snarl.
“Glorious in death”.
Anemos eyes grew wide. She now knew what Obolis had seen all those months ago at the start of this war was true. The Ethereal was mad. She loosed her sidearm from its holster and drew it up to fire but her finger never made it to the trigger. A ghostly shadow from behind darted over her striking her and lodging a needle through her neck. It protruded from one side through to the other. She dropped to her knees gurgling as a poison strode through her body. Her face contorted as she twisted against the toxin. She was trying to see the face of her attacker.
The voice from the inky blackness sounded again as calm and slow as cold tar. . “Horror. Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and mortal terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.” She hit the cold deck still writhing against the poison. Her eyes could only see the long black heeled boot of her assassin standing before her. She heard the rasp of her own breath. “The genius of it. The genius. The will to unleash mortal terror on your foes and love it. If I had ten divisions of those dark eldar kin, then our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have warriors who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill with feeling, with passion, with judgment--with Passion! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.”
The Ethereal had stepped from the darkness and walked toward her. She could see his tattooed body. From head to toe it was covered in the insane etches that now covered her warrior’s suits in tribute to this insanity. He carried a halberd in his hand. It was the once proud and now defiled symbol of his office.
“I realized what they could stand was so much beyond what we could do.” He came to stand before her looking down at her. He stood beside the Lady Hosphel, the assassin, and they both looked down at Anemos’s prostrate body. The fire warrior was now still. Her breathing was a labored panting. “These were not monsters, these were warriors, trained cadres, these who fought with their hearts. Our kin, Anemos, the Tau, have no passion. Passion is what is needed.” And with that the Ethereal raised the long blade of the halberd. And with a swift ease he inserted it into the soft flesh of Anemos’ stomach. It easily slid through to the floor with a dull sounding. She gasped with the last of her strength and her fingers spread wide in agony.
“The genius” the Ethereal said again, repeating himself as a widening pool of Anemos’ blood neared their feet.