Fast Fiction

Stars Grown Cold

Stars Grown Cold

An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Darcy O’Sullivan
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Nylean was named after a star in the Eldar’s empire of old. It was said that the star was growing cold, but the Eldar artificially extended its life through technology. It was a somewhat strange name to give to one’s child. Her mother however, said that they named her so because she was the light of their lives and like the Eldar of old they fought so hard to give her a future. It was touching in that respect, but ominous in another. The star of Nylean was dead now.

It died after the Fall, when there were no longer any Eldar to keep it sustained and the entire region of space was consumed by the Warp. Nylean the Eldar could not shake off the feeling that she had a similar fate in store, now that her family too was gone. Perhaps that notion should have struck fear into her heart. Perhaps the ever present reminder of her mortality should give her reason to rethink how she spent the remainder of her days. It did not. Nylean had already grown cold.

It began with her mother, Alyana. She was a healer then a painter, but when the call to war came she and her sister, Nylean’s aunt, would ride to battle on an arrow-like two-seater jetbike. The pair made a fantastic team. They would swoop and dive through the air, harassing the enemy with bursts of fire as they weaved through returning volleys. The blasts of their guns were not meant to kill however, but rather pin the enemy down. Many Eldar were able to swiftly fall back as Alyana and her sister ran interference with their sudden darting attacks.

As far as Nylean could remember, her mother never bragged about her service in the army. In fact, she disliked those Eldar in particular who acted like glorious saviours for fighting beside the Exodites in defence of their worlds. Alyana always tried to impress upon Nylean that fighting was a service that should be done for the benefit of others. If the Craftworld only ever fought for itself, then they were little better than the sadistic Orks. Nylean had believed that, up until the battle on Athelaq.

 It was over plains of golden grass that they fought. The rolling hills formed natural trenches and the pockets of red-leaved trees became bunkers. Here swarmed a horde of brutish, savage Orks. They lumbered across the hills in their bestial hides and crude metal armour, roaring and howling as they gave chase to the Exodites fleeing before them. The mobs of the Orks stretched miles wide, and their ranks seemed without end. They had fought the Exodites out of the forests and over the plains. The Exodites could not run forever.

Those who rode lithe-limbed raptors desperately charged into the monstrous horde, stabbing at the enemy with lance and spear before falling back to charge again. It was a delaying tactic that would not save them forever. Eventually, the Orks would run them all down.

Yet before that could happen, the war host of Biel-Tan arrived. Like a wave of white and green, their elegant grav-craft crested the hills and crashed down upon the Orks. Swift death fell upon the brutes as the Eldar tanks unleashed torrents of fire from their weapons. Almost as quickly as they had come, their sleek vessels spun and turned, falling away from the Orks, only to return once more over another hill. Wave upon wave of Eldar fell upon the Orks, drowning them in their own blood.

Alyana and her sister participated in that slaughter. Their jetbike picked off any stragglers who thought they might catch an unlucky victim. Like always the two were focused on saving lives, no more Exodites would die that day. Yet battles were rarely without loss. The Orks carried a plethora of primitive slug throwing weapons. In response to the Biel-Tan Eldar’s attack, they filled the air with a hailstorm of bullets. The sound of all their weapons firing was deafening and although their technology was basic, the quantity was staggering.

Nylean did not know how it must have felt for her aunt. She only knew that when the glass screen of the jetbike was pierced, her mother used her final moments to slow the vessel as best she could. Neither died in the crash but now on foot with Alyana wounded and the Orks approaching, the only thing Nylean’s aunt could do was give Alyana mercy.

Nylean mourned the loss of her mother. She had never before understood pain as she did then. She left the Path of the Mariner and travelled the Path of Grief for many years until she could re-join Craftworld society. Then her father died. 

She was told he died in a jungle of bioluminescent flowers on the planet Charnac, holding the line so that the Exodite tribes could gather their forces together. As with her mother, Nylean took the Path of Grief, although for not as long. Years later her aunt died too, fighting Orks in a glacial palace on the planet Svehlin. Nylean did not mourn her aunt as she did her parents, as she was already growing cold.

Eventually Nylean realised she could not avoid the Path of the Warrior forever. Nylean was weary of life, always dwelling on death. That was how she found herself crouched in a forest of red ochre bark and cyan leaves, surrounded by Exodite warriors, waiting for the signal to strike. Nylean did not know whether her name was truly a premonition, or if she was merely seeing a pattern in her life. It did not matter, not anymore. She was nothing more than a spectre now. Nylean was not a star fighting to preserve the lives of others like her mother. Her light had gone cold. She merely fought. 

The Warp tainted humans neared her position, and as the signal was given to attack, Nylean stood from her cover.

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About the Author

Darcy is a university student, currently studying Creative Writing and Japanese. They got into Warhammer when they were twelve through the Battle of Black Reach box set, but since then they’ve collected Necrons, Tyranids, and Craftworlds. If Exodites were an army for sale, they’d definitely collect them too.