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The Bloody- Handed One

By Doro Schluter

It happened shortly after my brother was elected to be the Young King and during my time as a Swooping Hawk. The events had cast their first shadows over us when news came that a planet along the course of the Craftworld seemed to have been seized by a previously unheard-of chapter of Space Marines. At first nobody took much notice of this, since the planet was of no interest to us and the Space Marines generally did not meddle with the Eldar if we left them in peace. But then the Seers of our community had consulted the Runes, and had tried to discern what our future held. What they had found had left them genuinely distressed. Three days later Tiarn Dalach, one of our most respected Farseers and incidently also my father, had spoken to all of us to tell us of the danger that lurked on a small world along our path, ready and waiting to befall us, and of the utmost neccessity to strike out and destroy it before it could take root and grow until it would be able to subject the whole area to its dreadful rule - Chaos had befallen that small, innocent planet; the Eldarīs most intimate enemy was stretching its clawed hands in our direction: We were to face Slaanesh itself.

His speech had roused all of us, all over the Worldship people were going to their shrines to don their warrior identity along with their armour, just as I was myself going to the Swooping Hawk Shrine to become Fay-ak Swooping Hawk once more: Our Craftworld was preparing for war. Eagerness to fight our most hated enemy was resounding throughout the Wraithbonecore and deep down in his sealed chamber the Avatar began to stir. Soon he would call out to us  to give him life and free him from his confines, just as we would then free our wish to aggression, to kill, from its restrictions in our minds. Even now, the oldest and most revered of the Exarchs were preparing the ritual that would allow the Avatar to walk among us once again.

My brother and I had been very close when we were younger, so close that I had often shed tears when he had hurt himself, even when I didnīt know what had happened. Nobody could ever explain why we shared joy and pain alike, but people always said it was because we stuck together all of the time. When he was a warrior, I feared for him, but oh, I had been so very proud of him. The day he became an Exarch was a day of sorrow for me, for I felt a part of my brother die, never to be near me again. When he was chosen to be the Young King I could not help but to cry. They told me what a great honour it was for our family, but that did nothing to comfort me. Since that day I was afraid of the time when the Avatar would wake up and demand blood.

And now it was about to happen.

She was the sister of the Young King, and almost everybody knew how close they had been. When he became an Exarch, she had followed him to the shrine of the Swooping Hawks to enter upon the path of the warrior, and to stay close to him. On the battlefield there had always seemed to be a link between them, without conciously looking out for the other they had kept each other safe over and over again, always returning to the shrine together. And now she had come to the shrine again following the call of the Farseers, to don her winged armour and become Fay-ak Swooping Hawk, while in the heart of the Craftworld the Exarch that had once been her brother was being prepared to face the Avatar. She seemed to be lost in thoughts when she took off her garments, and whereas her Aspect comrades chatted and teased each other while putting on piece after piece of their pale blue Hawk suits following the ancient rituals of the shrine, she stayed silent, almost entranced, absent-minded... When a warior goes into battle, he should go with his heart and his mind intact, and the Exarchs supervising the ritual felt a wave of foreboding wash over them.

Right now, I could feel fear, a tiny spark of dreadful uncertainty in the small part of mind that remained of my brother in the collection of thoughts that formed the Exarch that was now him. If I listened closely, I could feel his armour being taken off, could hear the Exarchs chant as they bled him into the Cup of Criel, only a small pain, never even realised by him. They draped a cloak around his shoulders, it settled heavily on me. Me? They gave me a mighty sword to carry and in my other hand they pressed the bejeweled, blood-filled Cup. In front of me the great bronze doors started to open, the sound of a raging fire became deafening and the intense heat seared my eyes and burned my flesh. Part of me welcomed the pain and longed to enter the pulsing light, another part of me was filled with naked terror and urged me to stand back, but somehow I was unable to resist the pull of the inferno inside that room; so slowly I walked into the light, until it seemed to burn through my mind and I could see and hear no more.

And then I felt the tall doors fall shut behind me.

The ritual was almost finished, the Swooping Hawks were donning their masked helmets to complete their transition into warriors, when suddenly Fay-ak, lifting her helmet with both hands, eyes unfocused, cried out as though she had received a mortal blow, and collapsed to the floor, unconscious. One of us immediately hastened to her side to help, while her comrades stood by  looking concerned, crowding each other with their wings in the tight knot around the kneeling Exarch and the prone warrior. But at that moment we could feel the Avatar stir deep down in his chamber, and so the ritual had to be finished. Fay-ak came to again, looking slightly dazed but utterly determined. Ignoring the concerned questions and the helping hands offered by the Exarch at her side, she stood up and put on her helmet. Gripping her weapon, she hurried after her comrades who were already on their way to the portal which would bring them onto the battlefield.

The Exarch accompanying the group of Hawk warriors tried to keep an eye on her during the battle, but when the Avatar appeared amid our forces and veritable hordes of the vile Chaos warriors rushed at them, she was cut off and carried away by a whole wave of deformed Marines. In the press of fighting that now began to rage around the Avatar swinging his mighty sword in deadly arcs and killing minions of Chaos with every stroke in a rising mist of blood, he lost sight of her and silently prayed that her death might have been mercifully swift.

The struggle was fierce, and even the presence of the Avatar did only just sway the outcome of the battle to our favour. The one saving grace had been that at our terribly weakened left flank for some strange reason no further attacks had occurred, else the enemy would have had us surrounded and all would have been lost. But after what had seemed like hours, eerie silence finally descended on the field of carnage. The fighting over and Chaos defeated for once, the Avatar had left the battlefield to return to his wakeful sleep in the heart of our Craftworld.

Suddenly, utter stillness came upon me and I felt my own forgotten self crash back into my mind, bringing back its fears and sorrows.

He who had been my brother all my life, who had been so much more and so much less for the last few hours, who had been me during that time, he was gone...

Gone from the field of war and killing, back into his chamber deep inside the Craftworld, and had left me to my self and its imminent horrors and the grief for my brother that was threatening to overwhelm me, now that I knew him to be forever lost to me.

I stood motionless, unable to move, in the midst of my fallen enemies, Chaosmarines that I must have slain, for no other of my people was near me as far as I could see and the sword I must have picked up somewhere still lay in my hand forgotten, and bloody up to hilt. There was blood on my hands, too, and spilling from my forearms onto the already bloodstained soil. It had sprayed even my armour, giving it a sickly violet hue. It was everywhere -blood on my heart, blood on my hands- reminding me of that other one who was known for the blood dripping from his hands, like it was now dripping from mine, who had been what he should not have been anymore for all I knew: my brother, the Avatar, who had also been me.

And even the immense mystery how I had managed to bring death to all those terrible Marines without incurring it to myself did nothing but vanish in the abyss of my unbearable grief for Finnor, my brother.

When it was all over those of us who gather the Waystones of the fallen found her some way off surrounded by dead enemies, standing there unscathed and entirely motionless, a sword gripped in her unfeeling fingers, her armour sprayed whith a red mist and her arms and hands covered with thick, oozing blood. So terrible was the sight of her, that for a while no one dared approach her. During that time she made no move but simply stood there totally apathetic. Finally we led her away and she offered no resistance, but did not speak or react in any other way, either, so we brought her back to her shrine and left her there in the care of the Exarchs.

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