Fast Fiction

Cromlech

Cromlech

An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Darren Davies
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The stones are silent.

Fasenil steps into the vast clearing from beneath the boughs of the forest, a shadow come forth into the night. Overhead, the arch of the sky glitters, clear and cold. Before her, the menhirs are looming, black silhouettes stretching away to either side. 

She glances back into the forest before breaking into the circle of stone. Firelight flickers between the trees where her people gather beside the blazes they have built. They will talk long into the night, the Farseer and his words the only conversation. Many will wonder where she has gone; a smaller number would seek her counsel if she were there. Yet she cannot, for she must make her communion with spirit and stone. 

A step forward. A pause, and a breath with eyes closed as she seeks focus.

“In my dreams, the skein of fate twists and breaks.”

The Farseer’s first words as he addressed the tribe echo louder now than when he spoke them.

“A cataclysm approaches. A rift…”

Moonlight casts the rough, irregular shapes of the towering monoliths in monochrome relief. She reaches for one, her hand a hair’s breadth from touching cold stone, then hesitates before pulling back and moving further into the circle. 

“War will come, chieftain, and we must be ready. Your warriors are skilled…”

It had been obvious from the beginning, when news reached her of the opening of the portal, that the Craftworlders had not come without exigency. Yet the elders had listened to the Farseer’s words and provided the visitors with every right and privilege required by the laws of hospitality, watching with quiet eyes as their unsophisticated fare was received with grace, if not always humility. 

He asked too much, more than was within her authority to give. He knew this, yet as his words carried between the trees, Fasenil knew some would heed them. It was the way of things for persuasion and promise to take insidious root in the minds of those craving wonders. The aeldari knew better than most what consequences came when clever tongues found fertile ground.

The inner circle of stone lies before her, offset from the outer ring. The grass beneath her feet is moonlight tinged, a carpet of silver guiding her steps toward the centre. That is where she must go, for the rock here is silent still.  

“Tell us, Farseer, how do our people fare, those who interfere in the events of the galaxy? Do they still scatter like leaves in a winter’s storm? Do you fill your infinity circuits with the spirits of your dead children? You should tell us how much value you place on your own kin before demanding we trust you with ours.”

The words burn in her mind, anger rising again at his presumption, his arrogance.

The tribal elders had nodded with discontent, yet even then, she had known it would not be enough. Though there would be no exodus of warriors following the Farseer into the fires of war, some would go. Few, if any, would return.

A single menhir rises before her, the very core of the shrine. This stone is taller than the others, hewn in ages past from a single mountain shard. It is an immense weight on the mind, the pressure of generations past standing in judgement upon the living. The grass beneath her feet changes as she draws closer; no longer silver tipped, it deepens, shifting through the spectrum from yellow to orange and beyond. Here Fasenil stops, her gaze travelling up its pitted surface to the apex and the stars beyond.

She places her hand on the rock. It is cold, the chill of lives no longer lived heavy upon it. She bows her head and closes her eyes, asking her questions within the silence. How long she stands like that she doesn’t know, but gradually, she feels heat from the stone, though at first, she cannot recognise it as such. It grows, and as her eyelids flutter open the rock glows with threads of light, like veins moving blood beneath the skin. The light continues to grow, the spirits of her ancestors moving within the lattice. Around her, the other stones illuminate in harmony with it.

Fasenil steps back, the light from the stone bathing her face. There is no pattern within it but that of movement. 

Beneath her feet, the grass has become crimson. The colour bleeds up into the rock, and the stone deepens, matching it so that when Fasenil turns, every menhir in the clearing glows that same, baleful red.

In horror she falls to her knees, covering her face with her hands as if to deny what she sees. She shuts her eyes, but there is no escape; the light bleeds into her mind, pulsing crimson. The pressure builds in her head even as she tenses against it, suffocating thought and reason until, without warning, it is gone.

Fasenil shivers as she gets to her feet. The night is as black as it had been before she entered the circle, the grass once more a silver reflection of the moons light.

The stones are silent.

Her rage is ash in her mouth.  An answer has been given, a prophesy of the World Spirit to match that of the Farseer. War will come, and her people will taste its bitterness. The thought leaves her numb. She turns away from the menhir and walks toward the waiting trees, her stride slow. The Farseer’s final words come to her again, strident, and desolate.

“My kin have bought your peace with their blood for generations, chieftain. We can do so no longer, for whether you wish it or not, the future will come for us all.”

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About the Author

Darren Davies is a professional engineer living in Ireland with his family, and far too many animals. A long-time admirer of all things science fiction, he fills his spare time by looking for a quiet place to write about the strange things that come into his head.