Short Story – “Live by the Sword”

Rune-sigil of the Idrelec

“The Idrelec will fall upon this insolent Haraldr-Grimnir! Neither rune nor prayer shall shield them from our fury. Not a single duardin shall quit the battle with his life, and all the Ceraphate will know the price of trespass upon that which is ours!”

A few in attendance, stupider or more sycophantic than the rest, cheered at Atressa’s words. More nodded in agreement, or stamped in approval. Many of the gathered officers, however, were silent. Basalt Lord Qarang Sarn would have found the muted support insulting, but Eris’ dour master was not here. The Satrap of Valour Atressa Redhand was, and she appeared comfortable presuming the meek acquiescence to be agreement.

It wasn’t. 

Instigating a battle with the Fyreslayer, the invited guests of the Aurannar no less, bordered on idiocy and spoke of sheer, unquenched rage. Yet Atressa’s commanders and courtiers seemed include to yield to her wishes all the same, no matter the consequences. Masters of war, survivors of the Spriefall itself, and all cowed by the woman at their head. One of the sheep glanced at Eris, and she fumed inwardly. Yes, she had a job to do, but for once she wished someone else could do it.

“You should do no such thing.” The tension in the room seemed to break, and Eris steeled herself as Atressa’s glance flashed murder. “It would waste time, warriors, and reputation.”

Atressa Redhand

“So, you think me incapable of victory?” the Satrap retorted, each word pointed like a duelist’s rapier.

“Defeat is not implausible. Their kind are implacable on the defense, and tenacious enough to break through any encirclement. Even if we slay them all, they could reap such a red toll that our armies are weakened for the war to come.” Eris shrugged, aware her words were falling on deaf ears. The Satrap’s pride and bloodlust would not allow her to hear them. Eris pressed on all the same. “It is likely that we will slaughter them, yes. There are few duardin and many Idrelec, and you know the terrain better than the Runefather.” 

“What if you do, then? Let us assume your victory is decisive, and all Iscarion hears how you massacred a Runefather and his fyrd simply because they accepted the invitation of another Satrap. All your foes would thank you for the arrow in their quiver, the proof that Atressa Redhand is little better than a berserker of the Blood God-”

“You are a coward and a weakling,” Atressa spat, leaping to her feet, sword in hand. Eris sighed inwardly.

“Slander! I seek only victory!”

“Enough!” Atressa’s cry rang out across the tomb-quiet chamber, and her charge parted the crowd like an angry megalofin through a bykbeak shoal. Eris’ own axe swung up, just in time to block a swing that would have claimed her head. No matter how many times they sparred, it never ceased to amaze her- she had a foot of height on the aelf and centuries of battle behind her, yet could still barely hold her own. Her daemon weapon howled for the taste of blood and yet bit only empty air as Eris’ opponent deftly eluded her.

All it took was an inch of over-extension, and with a twist of the wrist Atressa’s blade sank into Eris’ shoulder, stopping only when it hit bone. Eris clenched her teeth as the squirming entity in her axe screamed to strike back inside her mind. Instead, she bowed her head to the aelf in respect.

“I have shed your blood today, Khornate.” The Idrelec had perhaps the best medics in the Ceraphate and Eris had been wounded far worse before. She would heal. “The Fyreslayer’s blood need not be added to it. We will face them, eventually- when they march upon us under the banner of war. Alas, that day is not yet come.”

Eris hissed as the Satrap wrenched her sword free and turned to walk away. The Black Pilgrim couldn’t help but offer parting words. “Either you’re mellowing, or I’m improving, my Satrap. Six months ago you would have taken the entire arm.”

“Perhaps I am, Khornate.” Atressa did not look back. “Like you, I seek only victory.”

This article was written by Alex P

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