∴ A Champion’s Tool∴
Another explosion sounds from beyond the blasted temple, blood-curdling cries in its wake. You spit a mouthful of grit and blood into the carpet of white ash you are crouched in, and grimace as you rise to your feet.
Your helmet remains wedged under your arm, but even without its heightened senses, you can sense that you’re not alone. An armoured figure steps from behind a crumbling pillar, and with relief you spot the Imperial sigil emblazoned on his shoulder. He carries a caliver slung over one shoulder, and something swathed in black cloth held flat in both outstretched hands.
There is something about the carefully-wrapped object that holds your attention, even as you look the figure up and down. It is as if it speaks to you. The edge of a whisper, lost at once against the clamour of battle. You furrow your brow, at once enthralled and repelled.
The intruder speaks in a low rumble, half muffled by his helmet.
“He says you are chosen to wield this weapon,” he begins, shaking the thing loose from its bindings.
It is a sword, you can tell that much. But where you expect the harsh reflection of honed steel, there is only shadow. A deep, mottled darkness that absorbs what little light makes it into the ruinous space.
“He?” you ask, confounded. The whispering grows more distinct as you step toward the figure. You think you can make out words, but they are lost again before you can settle on what they are.
The stranger tilts the sword toward you, and suddenly the screaming and explosions cease, all sound imploding into silence. You feel as if you have been plunged into cold, dark water: the ecstasy of anguish, infinitely removed from the world around you, the sword consuming your consciousness.
It is bleakness and beauty, a broad and dominating blade that drinks in light, beneath a grinning silver skull, splashed with gold. The hilt is half-wrapped in golden wire, and crowned with a cruel black diamond pommel.
Here in this world between worlds, the whispers take form – and in tongues you did not know you knew, they tell of the sword’s many centuries, of its first forging at the Emperor’s command, and of a new command: your name, again and again, growing louder and rhythmic like a heartbeat.
With the Emperor’s will surging through your blood, you push forward with a roar, clasping your metal-gloved hand around the wire-wrapped hilt, and snatching it away from its bearer.
At once you feel something blacken inside you. That same velvet-deep void that the blade beckons now fills your mind, and you know with appalling and pitch-black certainty what must be done.