(Author's notes: The original version of this story was full of untranslated Eldar words, for the simple fact that I thought it would work better. For ease of reading, all non-name words have been translated.)
The wind, it's cold teeth biting through Addanastari's white and blue armour and folding itself amongst her cloak, remained unrelenting and ever-present, threatening to topple the trees of the battlefield. The skies fared no different - the dark, ominously grey clouds rolled and rumbled, twisted skeins of lightning spliting the heavens apart, or so it seemed.
The Autarch, all but protected from the elements, panned her vision across the battlefield, her helmet's visor displaying information about her squads, the abbreviated Eldar script in a translucent yellow causing an ominous, etherial glow to eminate from the lens. The Dire Avenger warriors were playing a predator's game with the Kabalite soldiers, splinter and shuriken the only exchange between them. The War Walkers had taken down a number of vehicles, but it saddened her to learn of two of the vehicles being consumed by return fire, leaving only the sole survivor. A ranged war between the Fire Prism and the Ravager took place, the victory, likely, to belong to the Pureblood Eldar.
"My lady, we are ready to drop," came a voice over the communications in her helmet. As the master of the army's strategy, Addanastari had the all-too-easily-understated task of coordinating the warhosts forces, directing them for the best effect.
Addanastari's vision flickered over the field, finding a place to send the jetbikers hovering above the field awaiting her orders. A distress call from the Guardian Squad cemented her choice. "Drop at coordinate 33, and bring swift death to our dark kindred."
"Yes, my lady," the voice confirmed before cutting out.
Another Eldar warrior, dressed in a bone-coloured set of armour, her green helmet proudly displaying tufts of red hair out the back, strided up next to the Autarch in nearly complete silence. Her voice was gentle, yet had a harsh undertone that commanded authority. "My lady, my blades long to taste blood."
Addanastari turned to face the Exarch, a subtle smile hidden behind the Banshee visage on her helmet. "We will find your prey soon, Exarch Ilyiana. Follow me."
With little warning or notice, the Autarch began her sprint through the destroyed terrain, the curved wraithbone structures jutting out of the dull ground like the bones of a great beast. Behind her, the Howling Banshee Exarch matched her pace, her pair of swords glimmering in the air. Her squad, each with their own beige armour and red manes, kept in proximity to their leader.
"Autarch Suithenadd," another voice came over the comms, met with the image of Farseer Nikavelehorn Yirraith on her display. "I need to warn you, I have observed the near future. You must not engage in combat-"
"With all due respect, Farseer," Addanastari snapped back, holding a groan of aggrovation back in her throat. "Combat is one field I specialise in; to hang back without my kin would be against my way of-"
"Your way of command, I understand, but you will not likely survive." The Farseer seemed concerned, even if his tone was as ever-neutral as always.
"Hush, my friend, I will be fine," Addanastari spoke with a small smile. "I bear with me the Phoenix Gem."
"An unreliable artifact worn by time." Yirraith muttered quietly to himself.
"Make sure our Tau allies are keeping those Orks occupied," the Autarch commanded. "The last thing we want is those primitives getting involved in our battle."
"Our dark kin would-"
"I do not want to hear it at the moment, Idainn Nikavelehorn."
With a subtle sigh that spoke volumes, Yirraith added, "Yes, Autarch," before dropping the communications. Addanastari shook her head a little and returned her focus to the more immediate situation - her and her Banshees, seeking out prey to destroy.
And soon, an easy target made itself apparent - in an open, arena-like henge of stones, a unit of heavily-armoured Dark Eldar warriors surrounded a figure. It took the Autarch a mere moment to process they were guarding what appeared to be a leader, his or her long blond hair notably prominent through the mass of black and purple armour.
"Incubi," the Exarch spat, "surrounding one of their leaders."
Addanastari nodded, her words low and laden with unhappy familiarity. "And I know who the leader is." Switching to her commanding tone, the Autarch continued; "Banshees, follow me, and charge only on my command, or if worse presents itself."
"Yes, my lady," the Exarch replied in her sing-song voice. The commander dashed forwards, allowing her feet to carry her as she began a quick spiraling path towards the henge, drawing her wraithbone pistol in one hand and her power sword, a gift from her time on the Path of the Banshee, in the other. The Incubi unit shifted, watching the bone-coloured Eldar warriors circle them, lead by a white figure, a pair of banners on her back, bearing a symbol of the old, dead gods their kind used to worship. The leader, a pale-skinned woman encased in ligher armour than her retinue, forced her way between them, and as her eyes locked on the Autarch, a wicked grin crossed her mouth.
"About time she showed up," she muttered, before leveling a dark-tinted pistol at the Autarch, squeezing the trigger.
The Autarch altered her path as she saw the Dark Eldar's weapon being raised, narrowly dodging a beam of what appeared to be pure darkness. Sadly, the younger Banshee behind her wasn't as swift, as her vapourising body displayed, the only remnants being her power sword and the glowing spirit stone another Banshee swiftly recovered.
With firm purpose, Addanastari once again twisted her path and charged down the gulley, before halting within three or so Human metres of the Dark Eldar, holding her hand up. Through the external speakers on her helmet, her voice sounded out, clear and audible. "Archon Vaaki Adrasten."
"Addy!" the pale-skinned woman cheered in mock enthusiasm, her sadistic smile helping little in those regards. "Good to see you! You're looking well, how's life treating you?"
"Silence, you," Addanastari snapped.
"Oooh, sore, aren't we?" Vaaki chuckled, her one visible eye locking onto the lense of the Autarch's helmet. "What's the matter, pissed I killed one of your precious purebloods?"
"We are your kin too. In the... loosest term of the phrase," Addanastari growled, her grip flexing on her sword. Her training as a Howling Banshee was screaming at her to charge, to rush in and let these Dark Eldar taste her rage, her anger, her bloodlust. Discipline was all that kept her held back. "I challenge you to single combat."
The Archon's eye lit up, an unnatural gleam almost visible from them. Foul thoughts lingered in her brain, the virulent drugs in her system helping very little. "Another round of combat, hm? Are you sure that's wise?"
Switching the pistol into her left hand and sword into her right, the Autarch shifted her pose into a combat stance honed into her muscle memory through decades of intense training, her sword raised up across her vision, the flags on her back disconnecting and falling to the ground. "I am."
The Exarch behind her shifted her pose, her head trning to their leader. "And what do we do, my lady?"
"That is up to you, as long as she and I have enough space."
The Archon yawned melodramatically, her curved power sword hanging losely in her hand. "Come on, Addanastari, I don't have all day."
"As you wish," the Autarch said with an almost audiable grin, dashing forward with her sword raised above her shoulder. As she charged, a guttural roar came from deep within her, the sound magified and cast into the psychic spectrum by the helmet. The scream broke the Archon's listless, apathetic composure and she reeled in shock, as Addanastari's blade descended upon her.
And stopped cold on a field of shadow.
Without so much as a thought, the Autarch kept her sword swinging, each hit bouncing cleanly off with a clang, as if the darkness itself was made of steel. A pistol strike did nothing against it, and the Autarch jumped back, observing her stunned opponent as the shadow dissipated.
"What the...?" the Autarch muttered as Adrasten grinned and raised her blade up.
"Surprise." The power sword descended swiftly, almost too swiftly - Addanastari had barely time to move out of the way, as the crest on her helmet soon discovered. What followed was a flurry of well-executed attacks, bolstered by the drugs in the Dark Eldar's bloodstream. A sweeping blow across the torso was easily dodged, another diagonal slice deflected by a combination of parry and the energy shield on the Autarch's armour, but another managed to find home in her side, cleaving through her armour as if it were nothing a spray of blood following the blade as the energy across it evaporated it.
Addanastari hissed in pain, the burning from the energy cutting another string keeping her from falling into a frenzy. Raising her blade up to attack, her foe retaliated a split second before she could react, another flurry of blows swinging out. Another few strikes found her gasping, a lucky strike to her heart deflected by the energy shield. Dropping her pistol, Addanastari dashed back as far as she could, clutching her side as she bit back pain, only just noticing that her visor had disappeared and wind tugging on her hair. With an annoyed groan, she lifted her helmet off her head and tossed it aside, the tall blue object clattering across the ground. The wind grabbed her pony-tail in full force, the long tuft of black hair now resembling a plume of smoke.
Vaaki seemed more amused, if anything. "Wow, Addanastari. You've gotten tougher."
"You've gotten worse," came the Autarch's reply, as she rushed forwards, blade at the ready. The Archon before her sighed and raised her blade in defence, ready to parry a sweeping blow.
Addanastari, with a smirk, jump-dashed to the side at the last second, and around again until she was behind her foe. With a twist in her footing, and her blade held in both hands, she roared and thrust it forwards, right into the black shifting mass of shadows between the Archon and her.
The Archon turned her head, initially in shock, but then in amusement. "Like that's going to do anything!"
Addanastari shut her eyes for a mere second, and the second she reopened them, she planted a foot ahead of her and her hand to the pommel of the sword, and once again consigned more force to her strike. Adrasten laughed, a dark, malicious noise from deep within the foul mockery of a soul her kind all shared.
"Huh?!" Adrasten's mirthful vocalisation stopped, as she turned to see the shadows protecting her had broken like black glass, a full inch of the Eldar power sword embedded deep within it. With another battlecry, Addanastari twisted her blade, and with a sound akin to shattering glass, the shadows fragmented and disappeared, as the blade rushed forwards to meet its destined target. Bypassing the lesser shield within the armour, and the seemingly soft plate of the black and purple plates, the power sword found purchase in the flesh of the Archon, the sparks of power dancing across blade, blood and body alike.
"I guess you were wrong, Vaaki," Addanastari droned, before planting a foot on the body of her foe and unsheathing her sword, flourishing it and flinging the red liquid off as it evaporated.
Vaaki coughed violently as she staggered, blood pouring from her mouth. Yet, an eerie giggle came from her, as she turned to face the pureblood Eldar with her blade at the ready. "It'll take more than that to kill me."
"Then I hope you're ready for more," the Autarch swiftly replied before rushing forwards again. For all her speed, though, the Archon was swifter; both blades alternating between strike and parry, with a few chance strikes getting through. Both swords cut through the other's armour as if it were little more than paper, yet the ethereal sheilds they had provided enough to halt strikes.
Yet, as loathe as she was to admit it, Addanastari felt as if she were fighting against Khaine himself. With her pain escalating with each twist of her body, and her foe's skill with a blade subtly better than her own, it was a struggle not to leave as many openings as possible.
"Had enough yet?!" Vaaki shrieked in a bloodied frenzy of sadism. It was at this time Addanastari remembered all Dark Eldar gained power from pain, and with her body in the state it was in...
Without so much as replying save a guttural shout, Addanastari thrust her powered blade towards her foe, only to have it swiftly deflected. Her body moved forwards on its own accord, the strike carrying it forwards. Addanastari's eyes widened with shock, all her combat training faulting at the last moment.
And, in that same instant, she felt the alien feeling of an energy field pierce her insides, stabbing through a lung and clipping her heart, accompanied by the malicious cacophony of sadistic laughter.
The Autarch felt her eyes lock forwards, shock gripping her brain with more power than any other race would feel. The Archon slipped her head towards Addanastari, eyes narrowed but her grin more than making up for it.
"A Howling Banshee, leaving herself wide open for an attack. How... embarassing." With a violent tug, Vaaki removed her blade from the flesh of her opponent, the wicked curved blade slicing open more flesh and, with it, Addanastari's heart was cleft. Blood flowed out like a red tide, as the Autarch fell onto her front with a grunt, still robbed of any sensibility from the attack. The Archon stood still and left her arms wide, revelling in the joy of pain and death, her veins sparking with eldritch energy as a strange power overtook her body.
Addanastari, unable to cling onto consciousness and life, felt her mind slip into a dark, shadowy pit, one she had feared for a very long time. While she knew her soul would be in her spirit stone, fear still clung to her psyche and refused to depart.
Yet, from within this eternal shade, a small light remained. Addanastari was reminded of a metaphor for her kind she had heard a long while ago from Yirraith. The flame was bright, yet the darkness surrounded it, threatening to swallow it up. The Autarch frowned and, noting that her wargear had disappeared, floated to the flame, reaching out to it and grabbing it in her hands. Eyeing it curiously, she felt a tugging in her chest, and looking down at her bare bosom she saw a yellow gem embedded in it, painless yet ever-aching.
The flame sprung to life, morphing into the vague shape of a falcon as it circled around her, its shrill cry piercing the void. Without so much as a warning, the phoenix flew into her chest, and she felt as if her internal fire had been rekindled, as the flickering flames danced over her body and out from her back, mainfesting as a pair of magestic incendiary wings.
Her body was sent back from where it came, returning back to gravity, light and sound.
Aside from the mad cackling of Archon Vaaki Adrasten and the applause of her retinue, the entire area was silent. The Howling Banshees bowed their heads, the Exarch Ilyiana muttering curses under her breath.
One of the younger Banshees clenched her sword in an iron grip, her jaw set beneath her helmet. "Khaine damn them, we cannot allow this to go unchallenged!"
The Exarch, biting back harsher words, turned to face her charge. "We cannot charge in recklessly, unless we all wish to be killed by her."
"We have enough blades, let her try!"
"Silence!" Ilyiana held up her hand.
"Hush for a moment."
The Exarch turned to the body of their once alive commander, eyes squinting behind the lenses of her helmet. Something was crackling under Addanastari's limp body, like a fire sparking to life.
Vaaki's laughter stopped and she blinked, turning to face the body. "What in the name of...?"
The Incubi squad, cautious, tried to shuffle away from the corpse, not intent on getting involved in whatever was about to happen.
Without notice or warning, Addanastari's body was enveloped in flame, a great tempest of fire rising from her body, licking at everything and anything. Armour protected most of those present, but unfortunately, the fires managed to get through to three - a Howling Banshee who was brought down screaming, an Incubus who's head was gone before any response could be made, and the Archon herself, the flame finding its way through the joints and cuts in her armour and burning the flesh underneath, forcing her to her knees.
The body of Addanastari began to move, as if life itself had been returned to it. A pair of wings of pure flame rose from her back, and with one hawk-like cry, the flames dispersed.
Biting down the urge to cry out in pain, Vaaki turned to face the once-dead Addanastari with a look of bewilderment. "W-what the-?"
Addanastari wasted no time on words or exposition. Grabbing her blade from the ground, she dashed forwards, sword slicing through bone, flesh and armour with contempt, sharp cries of pain providing a discordant harmony to each slash with the blade.
The flurry of strikes remained unrelenting, each cut digging deep into Vaaki's flesh, sprays of blood flinging out with them. The Autarch only relented once the combo had finished, a final dash forwards leaving her in a pose akin to a bird, arms outstretched. By contrast, one of the Archon's arms was very far out - no longer attached to its body, the limb wielding the power sword now lay on the ground, unmoving. The clouds finally relented in its holding of water, and with the crack of thunder came a starting drizzle of rain.
Addanastari moved herself back to a regular stance, walking up to her discarded shuriken pistol and scooping it up. The Archon cried out in pain, but froze as she felt wraithbone to the back of her head.
The Autarch felt her breathing become laboured - her 'resurrection' was by no means complete, as she still had most of her wounds in place. A great gash on her psychoactive plating showed her original wound. Her hair, somehow, had come loose from her ponytail and flowed freely across her shoulders.
Vaaki chuckled weakly, barely looking back. "And somehow, you beat me again... you have to tell me how you keep doing that."
Addanastari pressed the pistol further forwards. "I think I'll pass. As for now, I think it's appropr-"
A bestial roar echoed from the hills that blocked most of the world from view, causing all of the Eldar to look around in surprise. Addanastari winced, reminding herself to find out how they had gotten through the Tau and the other Eldar.
They arrived, as the sound of huge footsteps echoed down, followed by the ramshackle clanks and clunks of those behind it. The downpour picked up, barely obscuring the lumbering creatures approaching them. The Banshees readied their swords and pistols, the Incubi their own twisted weapons.
"Oi! You lot!" a deep, booming voice growled in a language that was as guttural as it was disgusting to the Eldar tongue. "We got through them Tau boys alright, but these poncy space elves isn't as good a fight as the greyskins!"
The Archon chuckled grimly. "Warboss Goreklaw. Just in time."
The head of the beastial figures moved into view. To say he was huge would be an understatement; the creature was almost twice as tall as Addanastari, and would be moreso were he not hunching over. On one hand, a vicious-looking claw encompassed the forearm, while his other hand was free, but would likely hold what looked like a Space Marine relic blade on his back. He was festooned with trophies and totems - a head of a Tau Riptide in forest green featured most prominently. "Yeah, yeah, alright, whatever. You said this would be a good scrap."
"The Tau delivered, and the Eldar helped, I'm sure."
"Why can't we get any of them Marine boys here? They's loads of fun to fight!"
"The Imperium isn't important here."
Addanastari took a few cautious steps away, only to be grabbed by the hair by the Ork. "Oi! Where the zog do you think you're going?"
Vaaki smiled to herself. "Yes, Addanastari, stay a while."
"She Who Thirsts take you both!" Addanastari roared through the pain.
Vaaki looked genuinely shocked. Goreklaw seemed, if anything, confused, as he scratched his head with his power klaw. The Archon stepped forwards and, with her only hand, slapped the Autarch in the face.
"Stupid Craftworld bitch, how dare you insult me!"
Addanastari whimpered a little, before her mind steeled, turning to look straight into the gaze of her polar opposite.
Vaaki chose instead to backhand her this time, before walking away, spinning back on her heels after a few paces. "Goreklaw, about our arrangement."
"What's that gotta do with anything?"
"I'll give you... extra... if you take her out."
The Warboss scratched his head again. "So, crump her, right?"
Vaaki's shoulders shot up as she growled to herself with a frustration one would have when dealing with a stubborn, stupid child. "Yes, that. Stomp her flat, or whatever."
Goreklaw's face was blank for a moment, before he looked over to the flailing Eldar girl in his grasp and his toothy grin widened beyond what could normally be thought possible. "I've always wanted this little pointy-ear's head on me boss pole."
Addanastari shut her eyes and tried not to tear up at the feeling of her scalp being effectively torn off by the hair. Her eyes opened when she found herself being swung around like a crude weapon, and sent flying into a stone pillar. A bone snapped, probably a rib; she tried not to vocalise her pain, not to give the Ork or the Archon any pleasure. The lumbering beast ran up, and in trade for grabbing her, he instead grabbed the stone behind her, hefting it up and preparing to send it crashing down. The placement of a few shuriken, however, prevented it from going forwards; rather, it was sent toppling behind him.
Addanastari tried to run, but her legs gave out as soon as she stood up, sending her crashing on her nose. The Ork grabbed her by the hair again, and with his powered gauntlet smashed it against her over and over again, before he casually tossed her up into the air. The Autarch attempted to manoevre in any way possible, but with little strength and almost no air in her lungs, one of which didn't seem to be working, there was little she could do.
Goreklaw moved himself under where she would land, the rough-hewn yet dangerously sharp point of his boss pole ready to fufill the first part of the Warboss' name. A beige streak, however, shot over the boss and grabbed his target before he could react. His eyes panned down to see a bone-armoured warrior with sword and pistol at the ready, over the body of the fancy Eldar leader.
"Outta my way!" He roared, before sending his powerklaw into the Howling Banshee's side, consigning her to a messy fate elsewhere. He lumbered over to the Autarch and laughed, a mixture of cruelty and good, honest humour in it. "And I thought yous Eldar was supposed to be good at fighting!"
The Autarch simply lay there, limited to breathing and small movements of her head. Her armour was now less white and more red, her face bruised and bloodied, her once-flowing black hair tangled and messy. She looked up, eyes locked onto the Ork, unable to speak. She hadn't been so injured in a long time, maybe even before.
Vaaki walked up next to Goreklaw, holding her dismembered arm in her hand. The bleeding had apparently stopped by now, yet she looked as if none was lost in the first place.
"Come on, Goreklaw. Stomp her."
Raising his foot, Goreklaw chuckled grimly. "I was gonna do that anyways."
Before Addanastari Suithenadd of Craftworld Tielliran could respond, if she was able to anyway, she felt a giant Ork boot crash onto her face and knock her out from the conscious world and into the black void, and this time, no flame was there to guide her.