Fast Fiction

From a Moment of Weakness

From a Moment of Weakness

An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Benjamin Joseph
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Needlespines ripped out of the mist but Koh-yak danced aside from the hail of razor-sharp keratin. He bumped hard into a Fire Warrior as he spun, and he heard the little Tau stumble and fall as the needles passed harmlessly overhead. Koh didn’t have time to spare him a second thought. The Wirewurm surged forward through the thick fog, every one of its hundred eyes fixed on its intended prey. Koh pivoted away again, bringing the butt of his rifle down hard on the creature’s neck. The wurm reared back with a roar, its ambush foiled, and Koh saw his opening. Skinning knife in hand, he swayed beneath the final desperate flurry of needlespines, then came up fast and close, ramming the slim blade firmly between the scales at the base of the neck. The creature screeched and writhed, but Koh held the knife tight until silence fell.

When he stood, Tohk was watching him.

‘Good kill.’

Koh nodded at his brother, then turned back to the Fire Warrior he’d knocked aside. The blue runt was still sprawled in the mud, staring open mouthed at the corpse, clutching his rifle like it was his mother’s teat. 

Koh turned away and spat hard into the marsh.

 

+++

 

‘Pathetic.’ He muttered that evening, as the two Kroot crouched by their fire, set apart from the Tau they were escorting. ‘Why do the Shapers respect them? They are not true warriors. They cling to their technology and science, just like our ancestors did. They are beneath us.’

The fire leapt high, green-tinged from the marsh gas. Across the flames, Tohk chewed on the leg of the dead Wirewurm. 

‘They fought for Pech.’ The older Kroot shrugged. ‘And they pay.’

‘Then they say we cannot eat their flesh.’ Koh muttered, as if his brother hadn’t spoken. ‘As if they even deserve the honour. What strength could we gain from weaklings like them?’

Tohk paused his chewing. ‘They do see differently. They see their Greater Good.’ 

Koh scowled into the darkness. The meat felt bitter and dark in his throat.

 

+++

 

The convoy moved slowly through the marshes. Bulky battlesuits struggled through the mud, cannons swinging uselessly through thick fog that their scanners couldn’t penetrate. Even the smaller Fire Warriors moved with difficulty, narrow hooves sinking deep into the soft ground. 

The brothers took it in turns to range ahead, helping the Tau pick their way through the swamp – and watching for signs of the Wurms. They had only encountered lone hunters so far, but larger packs of the predators roamed this region, and every day brought them closer. 

 

+++

 

The day after the last attack, a Fire Warrior approached Koh. It took a moment before he recognised him – it was the one he’d shoved aside as he fought the Wirewurm. 

‘Thank you.’ The Tau said with his strange soft lips. ‘You saved my life.’

Koh just stared at him, until the boy shifted his feet awkwardly in the dark mud. The Firewarrior pointed at the scout’s long chest.

‘You mighty warrior.’ The Tau smiled, then turned and stumbled back to his Fireteam, his white armour stained dark by swamp water.

Koh forced himself to unclench his fists.

 

+++

 

On the third day, the Wirewurms returned. The Kroot smelt them first – a sharp scent that cut through the thick fog. 

‘Wurms!’

Tohk was already running back towards the convoy, arms waving. The Battlesuits swivelled and stumbled into motion, pulling awkwardly into a defensive formation. Koh ignored them. He kept his eyes outwards, scanning the mists, tense and low. The wurms were killers, apex predators of the marsh. But so was he. 

There.

Needlespines tore holes in the mist where Koh had been only moments ago. He streaked through the mist, as the wurms closed in on the convoy. Plasma boiled the air around him and lit up the marsh as the battlesuits opened fire, yet they hit nothing. The wurms simply melted away like ghosts, then re-emerged to snatch away the weaker infantry. Pathetic.

The mists before him parted, and a wurm reared out of the gloom, all scales and spines, chittering with rage. Koh didn’t even try to stop. He used his momentum, ducking and rolling under the first needle volley, then the second. If he could get under the creature’s guard as he had last time…

No. 

A second wurm, emerging from the mists to his left. A flurry of needles shredded his arm before he could react and send him sprawling down into the mud. The two beasts reared above him, combined cries chittering like laughter in his ears.

Koh looked into the eyes of a good death.

Then a blur of white cut across his vision, and a roar of sound and searing heat consumed him. 

 

+++

 

It was a long time until he realised he still had eyes to open. Before him lay the shrivelled and scorched corpses of two Wirewurms. Between them, almost unrecognisable, he found a blue skinned figure in white armour, clutching the shattered pin of a grenade between the charred shapes that had been its hands.

Koh knelt over the body of the Tau, as the mangled young warrior struggled to speak his last.

‘Mighty Warrior.’

Koh stayed with the body until the sounds of battle had faded away to silence. A shape loomed from the darkness, and he tensed – but it was only Tohk. The other Kroot watched Koh cradling the dead Tau.

‘Why did he do it?’ Koh asked.

Tohk shrugged, as he always did. ‘They see things differently.’ Then he turned and walked back towards the camp.

Koh watched the dew settle on blue skin as the warmth passed out of the body. The Tau’s eyes were peaceful and still.

‘You were so weak.’ He murmured. 

What, then did that make him? 

Alone in the darkness, Koh stared at the body, at dead flesh -and forbidden knowledge. Then, as the mists closed in round him, he bent his head, beak quivering, and bit deep into the unknown.

About the Author

Benjamin Joseph is a 40k fan, and writer, based in Dubai and trying to find the Grimdark in eternal sunshine.

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