THEIR TRAVELS CONTINUED…
Warhammer Fantasy Fiction
By Robert James Freemantle
The Future Passed
This is an account of the end of all humanity and the destruction of the forces of light within the Old World. Yet we start not from the beginning like other tales might. Instead, we continue now from the end itself. The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end came before, but the finality of chaos had not waited for the usual story to reach its final page in its book of mythical adventure, it had instead closed the book. The pages of the tome were time, yet even time was susceptible to this controlling power. One day of the year when anything was possible, when this was possible: Hexenstag night, 2523.
One moment he had been elsewhere, in his study, casting a spell. All had been well, in fact, all had been too well. The spell had backfired in some way from its overpowered critical success, his future divination aethyric experience had somehow manifested itself into a personified state, however, time did not have a person, not until now. Maestro had become its personification. He was in the right place at the wrong time, but perhaps that had always been his problem! Now though, he was...somewhere else, disappeared from the Wizard’s College room in an implosion of aethyric catastrophe, with not even a drop spell in sight to have caused it!
Maestro was gone, presumed dead or at the very least lost in a place from where there could be no return. His fellow Magisters were at a loss to find him, even through their ancient arts of magical divination, for future seeing was indeed the nature of this order, theirs being the celestial, yet no record showed of his presence anywhere in the future, nor puzzlingly in the past either! Worse still, the magisters speculated that whatever Maestro had done, whatever spell he had accidentally discovered and hence cast, had ripped open the time continuum in such a way as to create an aethyric dam of misplaced energy through the warping winds of foci.
The whipping winds were ice cold and jarring as they snagged the wizard's robes and kept yanking at them in the same direction. Maestro though at this moment in time was oblivious to the cold, though his skin was embittered and turning red from frost exposure, his chief concern was on the surroundings about him. He was in Kislev, this he knew and all around him buildings were sacked, wall fortifications were broken down and the people, the Kislevite people…There were so many people, young and old alike who had come outside as if to witness an event of some sort. All were now dead of course, frozen solid in place like statues. Mixed looks of unexpected wonder and fright were chiselled upon their stone like faces. By his reckoning, death must have been so swift it took them by surprise as their expressions didn't truly convey the horror of what had actually befallen.
He wandered on, into the Palace. Though guards stood watch, their frozen weapons presented threateningly in an attempt to bar another frozen ragged man from entering the spacious luxurious ground behind them. But these guards were far too dead to have a say on who should and should not enter now, as Maestro walked past them unchallenged. At least they were actually dead considered Maestro, there were after all much worse states to be in, within the Old World. But where was he in the Old World? Or more to the point, when?
It felt rather eery to Maestro to walk through the courtyard without permission or explanation. This made the terror that was welling up inside him and threatening to take over rise all the more. Though it was cold, this growing fear at his realisation of circumstances was much colder to him.
He walked past beautifully created rooms, all with a glaze of ice. The solid floor was icy too, every now and then making Maestro slip a little and slide along it before he caught his footing enough to walk once more.
Slowly, stair by stair he made his way up a slippery ornate double staircase. He ventured up on the right side, with both sides leading to the same upper landing. The carpet and furnishings about him were a rich burgundy in colour draped here and there were beautiful tapestries lined with icicles about their frames.
With a trembling hand Maestro clutched the door handles of the huge ornate entranceway at the top and pulled them open.
Cold cracking sounds indicated that the frozen frame protested under duress but snapped apart in its cold binding form to allow the doors to glide open the rest of the way, taking the wizard by surprise. This hadn’t surprised him half as much as the poleaxe now sticking almost up his nose. One of his nostril hairs trembled from his minute frightened shaking as it made contact with cold steel.
Within moments Maestro stopped worrying, realising it was just a dead kislevite guard, frozen solid like all the others.
Maestro gently removed his large nose from the weapon’s end and limboed under the lengthy haft of the weapon before him before putting a hand backwards to catch his balance on his uprising. However, the only support his quickly reaching hand could find was the solid form of the dead guard in its defiant stance. As his hand pressed against it, he pushed off of its form and found his balance of upright footing once more. The guard though began sliding from the push as if skating along the ground in his solid form, whisking out through the door and across the balcony outside before hitting the bannisters and turning a little more than a right angle around, as if trying to look back into the room.
“Gosh” started Maestro out loud, “he kind of reminds me of Tordrad now I look at him. Oh I wonder how Tordrad is? Mind you, it’s obvious he would, they both always had a cold shoulder for me! hah!”
The wizard joked out loud like this in times of great stress, as hearing his own voice seemed to calm him down. Though it did tend to have the opposite effect on everyone else! But he reasoned, while he could still talk he was still breathing.
Maestro stared through the chilling fog that hung low in the large room he now found himself in. He could just about make out silhouettes through what he reasoned was the throne room of this palace.
As he got closer to the figures, a glazed shimmering over their surface gave them away as being likewise deceased like the rest, but as he passed the last of a procession of upright frozen guards he saw steps that led up to the throne itself! Somebody was sitting there, but they were obscured by the form of a frozen solid guard who died while baring his pole axe threateningly towards the seated person.
Maestro began ascending the steps as he glanced left and right to see yet more figures of stoney guardsmen running up and towards the throne, again with a threatening posture about them.
Trying not to think too much about what it could all mean, Maestro continued up to the throne and peeked around at the guard with the weapon so readily pointed to attack. He thought he spied frozen tears in the man’s disbelieving eyes, but this of course could have just been coincidental frosting...
Maestro slowly turned to look at the throne and saw a figure who was a statuette queen of ice preserved in a beauty unlike any he had ever seen before (Maestro could relax around dead women at least). He was shocked to see the eternally screaming form of the Tzarina herself!
Maestro half whistled and half cooed from the immensity of this new fact and his breath formed a hot foggy ring from his single word in utterance, “Gosh”. But, as usual, a single word was all that was needed for Maestro to cause trouble. As his still somewhat heated form stood perilously close to the frozen guard, his proximity had made the guard’s forward left foot unthaw just enough to make the solid form begin to collapse!
Before he knew it, Maestro had a dead cold man’s hands at his shoulders and a weapon over the front of his neck. In exclaim, Maestro shrieked, falling under the heavier man’s momentum of gravity. This sent the wizard falling directly into the lap of the now dead Kislevite Queen and at this sudden push the throne itself came unstuck from its place, and slid off down the steps behind it and into the back of the throne room, like a makeshift sled, still seating both the Tzarina and Maestro. The woman-like shriek could almost have been coming from the ice queen, due to her gender and current facial expression. However, it was of course coming from the wizard, who at this moment didn’t know what factor to be most afraid of. The proximity of an Ice Queen corpse so close to him, or the “ride” they currently shared on a journey to who knows where?
As their throne shaped vehicle whooshed at great speed through a divider curtain and down a frozen floored hallway, growing in speed by the moment, Maestro screamed in horror as he saw a closed door at the other end. He realised that such a crash could be fatal! So he did what he always did, panic and act in a knee jerk manner to save his own skin. With that, he fired a bolt of magic ahead of him, which for some reason bit his fingertips with sudden chill, as his electricity spell instead manifested as a similarly shaped jagged spear of ice.
The wizard’s empathic channeling had once again tuned into to an outside source of nearby power!
The ice bolt struck the door with such force that it cracked the frozen ice and smashed open on its hinges just as their makeshift monarchical toboggan reached the doorway.
The throne slid onwards through the room, knocking several lifeless attendants out of the way and through an arched opening that led into yet another hallway. This time though there was no door at the end! Maestro could see that this hallway led to a balcony and beyond he remembered from his approach outside, that there was a huge drop before land would once again be found. A higher area of snowy land continued off in that direction, but reaching it would probably be impossible, at least at this speed.
Maestro for the second time knee jerk reacted in fearful realisation that he was going to have to speed up his ride! So, he pointed his staff down the hallway that he had just come from and summoned all of his aethyric energy into one solid spell, as he called forth the blue winds, (being intruded upon by the currently overflowing ley lines of ice magic) an extremely frosty chill wind blasted from the powerstone at the end of his gnarled icicle covered stave. He fought with two hands to control the massive blast of power it sent out into the palatial hallway, taking his arm from around the Tzarina’s neck where he had been clutching her fearfully only moments before.
The cold everflowing windblast jetted him along faster than ever and as he screamed, stopped screaming to swallow a dry lump and continued screaming again the throne in a blur of movement shot up the snowy rise on the balcony and shot out over the edge of the abyss with great momentum behind it! Maestro’s hair was whipped backwards and his beard threatening to choke him as it turned about from the whooshing ride. Maestro was at first hopeful that the throne was going to manage the jump, to get to the other side, but no, the extra speed hadn’t been enough to make the clearing and his hopes sunk. But he had sped the throne up to an almost impossible extent. Then suddenly, the throne was gone, in a crackle of aethyric lightning energy. It never had the chance to hit the ground and the only trace left of it, was back in the hallway of the palace, where the extra speed had scorched the floor and still left two trails of flickering flames...Of course, he would have managed this a lot easier had he had access to a DeLorean, but that’s another matter entirely...
Only Maestro’s fearful juddering screaming was left to continue echoing through the frozen hallways of the now deserted Palace.
Back in the current time…Altdorf. The Celestial College.
The Celestial Council of High Magisters sat around a large telescopic lens that had been crafted into a glass table of impressive size, their gathering taking place in the observatory within the highest spheres of the highest turrets of the highest chambers of the College.
A raging debate was taking place between them, to decide a course of action to take next.
High Magister Arfonso spoke aloud, “What would you have us do then? Inaction will feed our enemy our heads on a platter.”
Murmurs of agreement came from all sides.
Another wizard, Hollant spoke in reply, “The enemy seeks to misdirect us. Chaos waits for us to move and then will go the other way. We cannot simply act.”
Yet more murmurs of agreement sounded out…
Another wizard appeared to have fallen asleep, but when his colleague nudged him, he jumped with a start and opened directly into a statement, “We have the piece of the puzzle they desire. The girl. That is our advantage. We must continue to find out what she knows, even if she doesn’t know that she knows it...you know?”
More murmured agreements.
Anastasia, the young Kislevite woman shivered at the thought of yet more probes and tests by the wizards. They hadn’t touched her, that wasn’t the problem, but the process being so remote and spirit based felt somehow more invasive for it. The central ring they had made her stand upon while conducting their tests, marked with strange symbols of unknown meaning made her feel light headed. She had told them as much but this made their curiosity grow even further...She began second guessing her own self. Maybe something was wrong with her. The wizards knew that she was the key to stopping the End Times and they would endeavour to keep her from being assassinated by forces who desire this above all things.
The problem for the Azyr community was, while they were indeed masters of future sight and premonition, Anastasia was a blank slate to them, thoroughly unreadable. This disturbed the Magisters to no end, at least initially until they resolved that her fate had become inextricably linked to...the lost one of their number. He who had somehow stepped out of the current time continuum and into who knows where instead. But that was the difficulty, because there is not meant to be a somewhere else, only here, and now.
Because Maestro had effectively left this reality he ceased to be involved with the timeline of events. All measure of his actions having their own effect on the future were null, and because he had gone missing from reality itself, Anastasia’s future was blank. The Magisters had never seen the like of this before.
Tordrad stepped forward out of the long shadows that surrounded the table and spoke in a still very strained attempt at Reikspiel, “It has been year and half, and stupid wizard still not come back. He must now be with trouble. Better then that he not return as trouble then find us, yes?”
The Magisters stared at the Kislev man and Hollant spoke, “You know, you will be important, yes, because he travelled with you. You and anyone else he knew, that is the only way to get him back.”
Tordrad replied seemingly to himself, “They not ever listen. I know him more than they do.”
“By Sigmar’s loincloth, I think you are on to something there old boy”, chirped up Magister Farrozich, “yes...we must bring together those who travelled with him, those who understand him, they are the only ones who can find Maestro now.”
Tordrad shook his head and spoke again, “You be talking of how to stop Chaos! Not finding of wizard who very good at nothing except getting self lost.”
The Magisters ignored this and Hollant replied, “Yes, exactly what I was thinking. We find Maestro first and then the girl’s azyric pathway will reopen to us.”
Tordrad rolled his eyes at this and thought internally at how pointless this meeting was anyway, after all, the wizards had already pre-ordained this entire conversation and would have already viewed their decided course of action through it. Yes, he was getting used to how these wizards worked now.
It was decided that Anastasia was too important to allow to leave the campus grounds, but Tordrad had refused to take on the mission of Maestro’s recovery. The gaze that fell between he and Anastasia spoke volumes of their growing closeness over the last nineteen months. Tordrad was resolute that he would not abandon her to the experiments of the wizards. They would just have to find the stupid one without him, this girl needed him more, and he...he needed her too.
Meanwhile, very many floors below, where reality was in a different flux from those above, a dwarf slayer was being shown into the College through the front doors, his guide a Magister. Very soon his history of involvement in past events was confirmed over a drink of fine dwarven ale (they had prepared his order in advance) and payment was rendered in the form of a promise that if he carried out this task for them he would have as much gold as he could stagger away with, but more importantly, that they would read his possible futures and tell him which of them involved his most magnificent and worthy of dooms…
The next recruited wasn’t hard to find, in fact she had come to them, all bluster and demands aside, she cared for her “maesty-row” and had to find him again. She wore armour, but over that were her garments of Sigmarite Sisterhood.
The Magisters were confident that everything would fall into place, like it always did for them, only a short wait would bring the others together too, they knew.