A Flintloque Short Story by Mac Coxhead
Through a twice cracked, darkened mirror, an alternate history grew brighter in it's telling...
The God-King lay, in his gold-embellished sarcophagus, as if sleeping. Technicians, Priests and servants scurried around, finalising the preparations that would send him to the stars. All was ready, and the High Seneschal of the Templars intoned the Rites of Sending, his deft fingers moving swiftly across the sacred hieroglyphics.
The God-King, in his frozen body, felt the conflict of being and not being. He looked into the naked eternity of the Universe, awaiting his imminent death and with it the release of this life. The release followed by the irresistible force, which would draw him on... on through the stars to his destination.
All was not going well for Tribune Sharpe on Ypres IV. He felt totally out of his depth, uncomfortable and unhappy. Just like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Only a few weeks earlier he had been a competent and clever NCO in the 5th “Alemain IX Old Pals” Crusader Infantry regiment; wise to all the tricks his squad could play on him, and well established in those he could play on the “nobs” above, but that was all over now…
One unlucky shot! Being in the wrong place at the wrong time and cursed fate had meant he had saved the life of a General of the Army. Not just any General either, it had to be “Beak-Nose” Wellesley; darling of the Corps and, if rumour was to be believed, of several officers of the Fleet as well.
So Sharpe was now an officer, the Argent shoulder plate of rank marred by the standard FCF badge showing him as base-born. He had been transferred to the 2457th Levy Brigade on this isolated, half formed world; somewhere to put a chap who didn’t quite fit in with way the Army worked.
He knew he was despised by his fellow officers, and quietly ridiculed by his subordinates and the rest of the men. He had failed in his first duty as a combat officer, due to the refusal of his men to carry out his orders, and to getting the shit kicked out of him by a burly trooper named Harper. Of course punishments had been dished out the men involved, but this had been left to the discretion of their new NCO - the very same Sergeant Harper.
Sharpe was now in the incomprehensible world of stores; in all his years of scamming and filching from the stores he had never learned how the quartermasters made good their losses, or worked their own fiddles, and he had never learned to count beyond “one, two, few, many”.
Things had just got worse when the Templars came to Ypres IV. The mysterious warrior monks of the God-King had found something that interested them here, something so interesting that five of their order had descended on the planet at the same time. Even a single Templar was a rare event for most people in the Free Company Worlds. The demands they made on Sharpe’s stores were beyong belief. Some things he had never even heard of. The things he could procure he delivered as fast as he could, vast quantities of technical equipment and a single item from the ice-vaults. An item that required no less than seven digital codes and three actual keys to obtain. Even though he himself had spent hours waiting for it, not to mention nearly a days rotation gaining the necessary access, when the plain container appeared it was immediatley packed into an armoured shipping crate and taken away by the Templars.
But Sharpe had keen eyes, he'd had to being base-born. Before it was taken away, he had glimpsed something, a flash of gold through one of the armoured vents. Sharpe’s devious mind went into overdrive. Gold! The rarest element in the universe, it was known to exist only on Earth, the long-left home of all humanity. To possess even a grain of the metal was to be rich beyond dreams, and Sharpe knew there was more than a single grain in that box.
The container was now in the Templar Chapel; it hovered above a rectangular dais, and was guarded at each corner by a fully robed Ermine Templar. The fifth Templar, wearing the Vair shoulder plate of a House of Antiquity, busied himself at the alter moving his hands in a seeming random pattern over the strange symbols there.
All this Sharpe took in at a glance, and as he concentrated he could see through his imager the intricate web of beams that criss-crossed the chapel, giving further protection, if it was needed, to the object above the dais. He thought back over the last couple of hours.
Planning ahead, Sharpe had carefully added a few things to the Templar requisitions. Some items just for him, strange items, rare items but not even double checked when authorised with a Templar seal. He had collected them earlier in the rotation and approached the vault. Now from his vantaghe point by a little used door he made his move.
He took the first of the strange items out from his pouch; it was a thin, glittering tube less than a millimetre in diameter and a centimetre in length, and he placed it in the tiny space between the door and the ornate doorway of the chapel. He activated it and it grew in length, and diminished in size until all he could see was the protruding tiny opening of the tube. He next retrieved a control chip and an egg-sized machine; carefully he inserted the chip into his imaging controller and set the egg shaped contraption before the minute tube opening. He blinked as the remote bot disappeared into the dimensional transport tube.
So now he found himself looking up at the massive chamber from the perspective of the tiny robot. Minutes that felt like hours passed as Sharpe slowly moved the bot closer and closer to the armoured container. His hands shook as he recalibrated his imager and saw the guarded container, finally, from below. There! There was the glimpse of gold through the vent, he manoeuvred the machine until its tiny grabs could lock on to the gold, and fraction-by-fraction he drew it from the vent. He noticed a faint glow was growing in the air above the container now, and Sharpe stopped, suddwnly worried that it was caused by his actions. He waited a few seconds, but none of the Templars responded to it, and so he carried on with his theft. The glow grew to a brightness and Sharpe’s robot pulled at a 2 centimetre long piece of gold foil which, with one final effort from the bots servos came away from whatever it had been connected to.
Blackness fell instantly and a soft sigh sounded in the dark.
Within the container, what the foil had come away from, was a regal Sarcophagus; and within that Sarcophagus was a body of the God-King, and that body was lifeless.
The God-King Aleksander XXV felt the moment his body gave up his essence as a moment of ecstasy. In the same instant he was everywhere, in the same instant he was nowhere, he sighed. He had seen the chapel and his servants waiting to receive him on Ypres IV, and then there was nothing – not even oblivion.
He knew he was in the Wyrd, The place outside of existence; he knew he was doomed.
Impossibly he felt a presence, a presence that was trying to connect with him in the Wyrd and a warm recognition flooded through him. He felt the delicate touch of Wylde Magicke, a force known only to the God-King and his highest Templar Priests. The Magicke drew him to itself along a channel of force that Aleksander had never suspected could exist. In the world of the Free Companies, Wylde Magicke was but a weak power that could only affect the laws of chance; this power was raw, illimitable creation!
Time passed again.
Without being cold, he sensed the frozen wastes around him, without eyes he saw the ice and snow and felt the long dead corpses that lay beneath it. He let his awareness spread further, beyond the ice and snow, and then recoiled!
He absorbed the unmistakeable stench of the Shia Khan, the self styled rulers of the galaxy; their agents were here, thin faced and haughty; they were near him and getting closer.
He felt within the dead and he found that he could animate them to a kind of copy of life using the Wylde Magic; it seemed so abundant here. The dead rose from their frozen sleep.
Deep under the ground he found a mind that was open and he filled it with images of tubes spouting fire and a simple chemical formula.
He reached again, avoiding the agents of the Shia Khan, and found a mind with a blood enmity towards them, it was a bone hard mind, coarse and unsophisticated, he tried to pour in his own consciousness, but it was pointless. His thoughts ran through myriad possibilities of connection and one flowed. He had thought of his favourite general - Wellesley, but the though that transmitted itself was of an ancient and legendary Wellesley, of red coats and stifling stinking smoke.
Aleksander fell back within himself, he would plan and scheme, he would arrange for the eradication of the Shia Khan from this planet. He would take his time to find a way home.
Many years ago, late one night in a crossfire of emails, I asked Mac Coxhead, Flintloque's co-creator, about the world of Firefight 1.0. He told me a little of it's background and hinted that it even shared a character with Flintloque. This year, after many years away from Valon, Mac kindly agreed to share with me the story he had referred to all that time ago...
"Secret Lore" was written by Mac exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe as part of it's 2011 Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar and was first published on Monday 12th December 2011.