- 02.02.2018
THE GREAT TOIL
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Lord-Ordinator Vorrus Starstrike heaved open the door to the arcanoscope chamber, releasing a gentle draught into the stairwell. He inhaled deeply as the air flowed past him. Though the foul scent of the ratmen pervaded the rest of the Warscryer Citadel, the Lord-Ordinator detected no trace of it here. The arcanoscope’s enchanted locks must have held them at bay – thank Sigmar.

Vorrus walked into the chamber. Through his seer’s sight he could see the incandescent rivulets of Azyrite energy pouring from the veins of celestium that ran through the masonry. These lines converged beneath the apex of the arcanoscope’s dome, forming a large, glowing ball of cerulean lightning. This was the eye of the arcanoscope, the locus of futures through which the skeins of fate could be glimpsed and steered towards the path of Sigmar’s righteousness. It was for this that the Lord-Ordinator and his fellow Stormcast Eternals had fought so determinedly, cleansing the citadel of the ratmen infestation so that Vorrus might interpret the portents of what was yet to come.

His mind steeled, Vorrus stepped into the crackling orb. The energy held in the arcanoscope jolted through his sigmarite-clad body, and in an instant the world around him was gone. The dome that had arched above him was no more, and in its place he saw the heavens in all their majesty, extending ever outwards toward the bounds of eternity. Celestial bodies beyond counting were scattered throughout the endless void, each a single point of light in a vast desert of darkness. Every star walked along its long and circumscribed path followed by ten hundred thousand more of its kind, forming an unbroken line that stretched beyond the horizon of mortal comprehension. They were all part of a singular grand design, and they marched to the beat of one unerring drummer. But these were not stars that Vorrus was seeing.

The Lord-Ordinator wrestled with the prophetic vision, straining to bring its true meaning into focus. A long procession of white orbs moving through a lifeless expanse – not in the heavens above, but in the underworlds below. Vorrus could see that the dark desert was Shyish, and that each of the gleaming orbs was a desiccated skull bestowed with cold and malefic vigour. It was a skeletal legion with numbers beyond counting, stretched out in a single-file line as they trudged across the barren flats. Each skeleton moved in perfect unison, their hollow sockets fixed ahead as they marched without pause to some predetermined destination. A visceral chill seeped into Vorrus’ mind. What was this legion, and where was it headed? Had it been raised by one of Nagash’s morbid generals to lay waste to the living, or had it been formed by the Great Necromancer himself for some other cryptic purpose? An instinct just beyond his consciousness told him that this deathly horde had to be destroyed.

The celestial streams surrounding Vorrus began to intensify as he drew the arcane power of the Warscryer Citadel into his mind. The Lord-Ordinator shaped the energy into a crackling cloud of Azyrite lightning, then projected this mighty thunderhead through time and space, willing it into existence within the world of his vision. A shadow loomed over the skeletal legion, and as one the ranked dead turned their grim faces towards the heavens. Vorrus looked back down upon them, a tempest of righteous fury building within his soul. The force of a thousand heavenly stars burnt within his spirit, and with an almighty boom he unleashed the storm upon the wretches below.

An enormous fork of lightning lanced down to ground, blasting apart the dead earth and sending the shattered remnants of a trio of skeletons flying. Another crackling salvo ripped great swathes through the unliving line, setting bones ablaze and transmuting the soil to glass. Vorrus howled in pain and rage as he channelled the energy of the citadel into each strike, sending bolt after bolt to smite the undead. He could no longer see the skeletons, only the billowing clouds of dust that had been ripped up from the scorched ground, yet he continued to fuel the storm. The agony it caused was unbearable, the willpower required untenable, but this was the task for which he had been reforged.

With a bellow of defiance, Vorrus drained the last of his strength to shape a single, blinding sheet of lightning that cracked across the land. A score of decrepit warriors were ripped apart by this blast, the remnants of their bones fused into the soil by the intense celestial heat. Exhausted, mind and soul, Vorrus looked down upon the destruction he had wrought. The heart of the skeletal army had been ripped out. Hopefully that would be enough to change the path of fate along which these undead minions were marching.

But those skeletons still standing continued to trudge across the blasted landscape, and soon they stretched once more from horizon to horizon. With his vision rapidly fading, Vorrus looked beyond the horizon, and there he saw the horrifying truth. Though he had destroyed dozens of undead, they were but the first in an unending line that stretched all the way to the Realm’s Edge. Looking further still, he saw hundreds – no, thousands of processions such as this, each marching its way inexorably towards the same destination.

Vorrus awoke with a jolt. He was lying on the cold stone floor of the arcanscope chamber, the ball of celestial energy at its centre now little more than a dull mote. His body ached as though he had just fought a century-long campaign, and the final, terrifying images from his vision continued to flit through his mind. What horror had he just witnessed? As he pondered the omen, Vorrus heard a faint, almost imperceptible sound echoing through the arcanoscope.

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The distant marching of millions of bony feet.