tagCelebrities & Fan FictionWarhammer 40k: Void Crossed Lovers

Warhammer 40k: Void Crossed Lovers

byDragonCobolt©

Author's Note: I did not invent the Warhammer 40,000 universe, nor many of the concepts contained within. All elements of Warhammer 40,000 beyond the characters and explicit setting of this story (the Hive Bosporus and a few mentioned planets) are the creation of Games Workshop.

This first part is setting up the romance and adventure - the second part will have the...climax. So to speak. Enjoy!

The musty interior of the shop was rich with the scent of incense, stuffed fetishes, unwashed carpets, and fear. The two men who had stayed -- loyal Veltran and cynical, jaded Kungus -- both of them leaned against the door that lead to the narrow, empty sluice-streets that made up this part of the hab. Acid rain dripped down the sluices, burbling and glugging softly as it moved along the center of the street, a dull phosphorescence shimmering from the liquid trail. Ages ago, a fungus had evolved to take advantage of the industrial pollutants that made most of the world uninhabitable and now, that fungus cast its light on the two loyal men and showed their fear to the world.

"You can still go," the robed figure that sat at the table spoke, her voice a soft whisper. She was carefully shuffling the crys-cards of the Emperor's Tarot -- her alabaster pale fingers rubbed along the edges of the cards as she settled them. "There is still time."

Kungus glanced at her. "We knew this was coming, ma'am," he said, his voice still low and broad -- the accent of an offworlder, so different from Vel's snappier tones. "We're not leaving you."

Such an odd thing to hear from the man who, long ago, had confessed that he believed in very little.

The robed woman's breath caught.

A dark shape darted past one of the windows. In a flash of muscle, sinew and blood, Vel was ripped into pieces. Viscera splattered the walls and ceilings as his mangled corpse was yanked through the window. Kungus -- reacting with the grim determination that he had born his entire life -- sprang backwards and brought his autogun to bear. The barrel was contained by a sleek silencer -- a necessity in the close in knife-fights that dominated the lower levels of the spire. Even so, the noise was horrifying: The rattle of shell casings, the ferocious cat-hiss of the gun itself, and the splattering sounds of the bullets thudding into-

-through-

The being that stood outside of the chamber. Acid splashed across Kungus' face. He screeched, lifting one hand -- far too late. Then a bone-claw slashed down. His hand hit the floor and his head joined it a moment later, disfigured beyond recognition. The whole moment had taken less than fifteen seconds -- and not a single droplet of blood or gore had even reached the robed figure's table. The dark form flowed through the window like water and carefully knelt down. It spread outwards, and when it stood back to its full three meter height, the two corpses were gone.

The sound of crunching bones were almost as loud as boots -- aristocratic, solidly built boots -- crunching through shattered glass.

The door to the shop opened and a tall, slender man entered. His face was narrow and angular and dominated by a hooked nose. His eyes were pale brown, watery. In another man, they might have seemed weak and indecisive. But this man bore himself with an age far greater than the one score and five that he seemed to have -- his eyes were pitiless. Ancient. He was dressed in a sleek uniform that seemed almost naval, though there was none of the Imperial blue and gold, no sign of an Imperial aquilla. Instead, he bore the noble symbol of a star-bust surrounding a single talon. Strapped across his chest was a long barreled, gold and silver solid projectile weapon with a rotating cylinder at the base to hold the ammunition. If it were not for the way it practically tugged away from his chest -- the hint that it contained some kind of counter-gravitic culverin system -- it would have seemed as ancient and primitive as the fetish the man casually batted away from his head.

"I don't suppose you're open for business now?" he asked, his voice dry.

The robed figure didn't move. Didn't even breathe.

The man snapped his fingers and a short woman entered the chamber behind him. She was golden-brown skinned, with a white nimbus of hair that exploded around her head. Her eyes were as empty as the space between stars, and she had a large aquilla tattooed on her forehead, as well as several dozen induction-augmetics that peeked out of her forehead like tiny pebbles embedded into flesh. Her lips were painted a pure black, and she knelt down -- her frilly skirts and corset creaking with the motion -- to pick up the chair that had been knocked over in the fighting. She set it up and dusted the cushion off with a single aristocratic hand.

The man took the seat and clasped his hands before him.

"My question," the man said, casually. "Is why you didn't hire more guards. If you are such a great seer...why not demand more men? Change the situation?"

The robed woman didn't respond.

The man frowned. His palm slammed into the table-top. The tarot deck bounced slightly, and several cards slipped off, spreading out in a confusion.

"Speak!"

The robed woman didn't respond.

The man pulled his revolver. It hummed as he held it out -- the tip of it catching the hem of her hood. He twitched the barrel and tossed it back, to reveal beauty. Her face was ageless as his -- but where he had become cold and distant, hers was filled with a vitality and life that made the whole room seem to glow, even with the towering darkness in the corner and the dead-eyed woman flanking the man. Her hair was a luminous red, spilling around her shoulders, accentuating her pale flesh. The man used the barrel of his pistol to push some of her locks aside, revealing the pointed tip of her ear.

"So it is true," he said, quietly. His voice held the detached curiosity of a collector of insects eying a new specimen. "And here, I thought all the tales of a half-eldar were naught but fanciful tales. Stricken from the cannon." He set the revolver down on the table. "Do you know who I am, abomination?"

The robed woman spoke: "Yes."

"Good," he said. "And you know why I am here?"

Again, she spoke -- again, it was that single word: "Yes."

"And yet, still, you refused me. Why?" the man frowned. "I offered thrones."

The woman opened her mouth -- then considered her words. Then, quietly, she said: "You would not believe it if you had not purchased it so dearly."

"This did not cost me overly much," the man said, dryly. "The Adeptus Arbites won't even investigate -- even the local enforcers won't care if you end up face down in the acid-vanes."

"True," the woman said. "But a man will forever remember what he has killed to receive." Her fingers darted out. She flipped the first of the cards that had been knocked aside, revealing it. "You come seeking a way to end a great dynasty." A leering skull peered up from the card as the seer's eyes became a pale white, their normal hues fading away. And as they faded, the man realized he couldn't remember what her eyes had looked like before. An eternity looked from that warm, beautiful, abominable face.

"If you choose the weak willed minister, know that the Hall's star will fall from high," she said, her voice echoing -- and intensely male. The tone was unmistakable, layered over and through her normal tones. "If you turn their gaze from the lowest place, then the Hall's star will struggle towards the Eater of the Dead and will fall yet again. And finally, if you seek his death, then your granddaughter will control every world in the Hall dynasty."

Her eyes closed and she shuddered as she flipped another card -- revealing the glimmering golden light of the Throne card.

The man breathed slowly out.

"Thank you," he said, softly. "You were right."

"I-"

The man picked up his revolver and fired it through the seer's head.

###

Jornan Hall, Trader-Elect and third child of the illustrious Ruben Hall and the Princess Contessa LaFlur-Devont.21, was sound asleep. This would normally not be an issue for the young Trader-Elect, save that he was in the middle of class. His professor stepped over, picked up the large tome of the Agis Imperialis Dominica, held it over his head...and then thought better of it. Instead, she dropped it beside Jornan's head with an all mighty crash. Jornan jerked up, his cheek moist with drool, blinked and flailed.

"What, no, bolters don't work that way," he said, muzzily.

Governess Maribel of the Order of the Flaming Rose pursed her lips as she looked down at her ward. "Master Hall."

"What?" Jornan rubbed at his cheek. He blinked and rubbed his cheek again. "What is this, sweat?"

"Drool," Maribel said, her voice dry as the tomes that she forced him to read.

"I do not drool," Jornan said, his voice haughty. He leaned back in his seat and sat up ever so slightly.

"The pict-captors may disagree with that assessment," Maribel said, picking up her tome. She tucked it under her shoulder and turned to walk away. Jornan watched her and sighed quietly. It was true that the Adeptus Sororitas -- the militant arm of the Ecclesiarchy and home to the Sisters of Battle -- did not require that their members swear celibacy oaths. But considering the number of times that Maribel had lectured him on eugenics and proper discipline becoming of young noblemen, he highly doubted that he'd ever see anything beneath the immense set of golden and black gowns that she wore -- layered like a cake, and just as decorative.

Maribel stopped by the wall of the tutoring room, slotting the tome in place. "As genealogy is boring young Master, I suggest we change topics." She turned back to face him. "I believe a test is in order."

Jornan gulped.

Tests were a favorite trick of Maribel to punish him for sleeping. Technically, as a Trader-Elect and future captain of five kilometers of starship, Jornan was exempt from most punishments that were meted out to the nobility of the Imperium by the Ordos Famulosa for minor infractions. However, no Imperial Noble house -- planet bound or star fairing -- would ever allow their child to go without punishment for the only cardinal sin that really mattered in the highest reaches of Imperial society.

Failure.

"Best tactics to use when an Orkish waagh attacks a client world," Maribel said, her voice cracking like a whip. Jornan gulped again.

"S-Space based superiority. T-The, ah, largest failing of any Rogue Trader w-would be trying to match the greenskins on the ground," he said.

"Proper way to pass a dinner with a Chapter Master of the Imperial Fists?" Maribel narrowed her eyes. "Assume equality of station for the purposes of the question."

"Customary? Trading favorite passages of the Codex Astartes. Colloquially? Discussing fortifications."

"Acceptable diplomatic discourse with Eldar?" Maribel asked.

"If touched by Chaos, flamers." Jornan grinned. "If not, uh, I believe...bolters?"

Whap!

Jornan yelped and shook his hand -- his knuckles throbbing as Maribel lifted up her ruler, glaring down at him.

"If I wished flippancy, I would have hired a scapegrace to juggle!" she said, furiously.

"Sorry, Governess," Jornan said, rubbing his knuckles with his other fingers. "Um, the only acceptable discourse with Eldar, ah, there are three axioms of xenos interactions? The first, assumption of human supremacy. The second, acquisition of resources is paramount. The third is...is..."

"Wars are not stopped." Maribel hissed. "They are delayed."

Jornan closed his eyes.

Maribel frowned down at him. "For punishment," she said. "I want you to read the entire history of the Sabbat Crusade."

"Whaat?" Jornan squawked.

Whap!

"And write an essay on the propriety of sacrifice and the internment of Saint Sabbat and have it be done before our next engagement," she said, then thrust her ruler at the door. Jornan stood and fled. He got through the door and into the corridor beyond without getting whacked anymore -- for which he was grateful. There, Jornan closed his eyes, breathed in, and breathed out. His knuckles throbbed -- the ruler had some kind of techno-sorcery that seeded his body with aches and pains that went far beyond simple wood and metal. Of that he was positive. Walking down the corridor, Jornan looked at the august portraits of his family that lined the walls.

For two thousand years, the Hall Dynasty had been Rogue Traders -- not merely noble, but granted the freedom and privilege to expand the Imperium's boarders through exploration, trade, conquest and diplomacy. They brought long-lost human worlds back into the fold, destroyed xeno empires before they became true threats, and got very extremely ridiculously preposterously rich. And that wealth was everywhere Jornan looked -- from the beautiful duskwood lacquer on the walls to the servitors that waited at every corner, ready to fetch, carry and kill when needed. He paused by one such golden-skulled and bronze armored creature and looked down one corridor -- then another.

No other servants.

Maybe he-

"Sire," a grating, augmetic voice breathed from behind the servitor's skull-mask. "I must remind you: You have sword training in the atrium in-" the pause was audible and the voice tone changed as the servitor switched over the vox-tapes. "-six minutes."

Jornan groaned. "I just want five minutes to myself."

The servitor didn't respond. The worries of a human was beyond its simple mind -- and as Jornan stomped away, it ignored his grumbling, his muttering, and his soft, whispered wish.

"I wish I wasn't a Rogue Trader's son."

###

Sparks flew as blades crossed.

Rubyiconna Malichor panted as she held her parrying dagger in one hand. A twist of her wrist, a pirouette of her ankles, and the slave's sword went flying. It hit the obsidian floor of the training room and skittered away -- bouncing and clattering and finally coming to a rest a good ten meters away. The slave looked terrified as he backed away, but Ruby strode forward. She sprang upwards, kicked off a nearby wall, and brought the slave down with her knee to his throat. She pressed there as he clutched at his throat, gagging.

"Another."

The cold voice of the Empty Woman rang out -- in time with the smash of her staff-hammer on the ground. Another door opened and another underhive ganger that the Malichor family had picked up charged out. He had been stripped to a loincloth, showing off his rad-burns and winding scars and amazing assortment of tattoos -- but the sword in his hand was the finest Malichor family fencing blade. It was a long standing tradition of Ruby's father that only high-born weapons could spill his family's blood.

The slave showed some measure of knife fighting skill -- but using a long sword like a backally, underhive knife had its own issues. Ruby parried his first tentative cut -- and then stood, her knee releasing its pressure from the first slave's throat. She slashed at the second slave's chest -- making him jerk backwards. Ruby breathed out and snapped her leg out -- the blade of her foot hitting the slave in the jaw. She could have hit the throat, but this strike was considerably more impressive: Blood and teeth misted in through the air as the slave fell. She brought her foot stomping down on the sternum of the other slave. He curled up, groaning.

"I notice that you did not take any lethal targets," the Empty Woman said, her eyes turning to look into Ruby's. Ruby tried to look back -- but it was hard to stare into the void for too long. The Empty Woman shook her head. "What is the first dictate of the Void Being?"

Ruby lifted her chin. "Survival is paramount."

The staff-hammer smashed into the ground again. "The second?"

"Mercy is weakness."

The staff-hammer smashed into the ground a third time. "Third?"

"In the end, all is family."

"Family is blood, family is life, family is all," the Empty Woman said, her eyes closing as she nodded. "All can be sacrificed for family -- the galaxy can burn, the Imperium can crumble. So long as the Malichor line continues, it will be worth it."

Ruby bowed her head forward. But deep down -- hidden beneath a layer of obsidian and haughty chill -- something flickered. She clamped down on the flicker as the observation blister that looked over the training room was suddenly filled -- a pale red luminescence back lit the severe, narrow body of her father. Albus Malichor looked down at her and nodded ever so slightly.

"Very good," he said, his voice slightly muzzy as it was picked up and amplified by the blister's vox-caster. "Ruby, I wish to speak to you once you are finished with your studies."

Ruby looked down at the slave curled up on the ground. He was clutching at his chest, gasping with pain. Quietly, he was whispering in the underhive cant that was nothing but garbled, gutteral grunts. But in there, mixed among the baby-talk words that passed by Ruby without register, she heard a single word, repeated again and again: Emperor. Emperor. Emperor. She knelt beside him, whispering quietly in his ear.

"I'm sorry."

Her parrying knife opened his throat and she stepped out of the way of the blood that started to puddle on the floor. The Empty Woman nodded to her as she walked past -- stepping out of the training room and into the clear, unadorned corridors of her family's manse. She made her way to her father's study, knowing that taking the time to change clothes and step into an abultion chamber would be seen as dallying. Tarrying. Wasting time. Her father sneered at the pleasures of the world -- everything that did not measurably improve the many percentages that he continually calculated was cut from his life with the brutal, efficient chopping of a butcher.

Love?

Chop.

Friendship?

Chop.

Loyalty to the Emperor?

Chop -- but a tiny, flimsy chunk of gristle remained. Purely because the Imperium could still grind the Malichor family under their gears, if it ever wished. Not for any actual damn- Again, the flicker. Again, Ruby clamped it down. She came to her father's office -- there, she could see a window that looked out over the vastness of the Bosporus Hive. Electrodynamic minarets rose from between the smooth, almost organic looking vanes of the spires. Rad-lightning crackled along their lengths as they swayed and twitched their kilometer long progress through the atmosphere and magnetosphere beyond. Unlike nearly every world in the Imperium of this scale, there was a complete lack of aircar and skimmer traffic. The why could be felt -- Ruby put her palm against the window and heard the scream of the wind.

Fast enough to flay an unprotected man alive. In mere minutes.

"Good, you're here," Albus Malichor said. He walked past Ruby and took a seat behind his desk -- a chunk of black stone that concealed enough near-heresy to make Ruby's skin crawl. His mere touch awoke hololiths that projected dozens of different schemes and plans. Orbital transfer patterns. Fealty oaths. Timeline projections. One of those made Ruby's brow furrow -- she recognized the Hall Dynasty's glyphic. But who was...Jornan?

"Our newest target," Malichor said, grinning slightly. A skull grin. "The Hall Dynasty are here. On Bosporus."

Ruby nodded.

How could she have missed it? The ancient enmity between the Halls and the Malichor had been told her so many times that she could re-tell it in a dozen different artistic styles. Terran Haiku, Celestine Longform Song, Catchean Death-Dancing, and others.

"He's their Trader-Elect," her father said. "And I now know the exact way to remove him. Without an heir, the Hall Dynasty will face a succession crisis." He grinned. "A crisis we will be eminently posed to take advantage of."

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