Ahriman: Hand of Dust

Ahriman: Hand of Dust by John French Read Free Book Online

Book: Ahriman: Hand of Dust by John French Read Free Book Online
Authors: John French
Tags: Ciencia ficción
Ahriman: Hand of Dust
    Ahriman: Hand of Dust

    John French
    The dust blows from my hand towards a far horizon. I watch it turn on the wind. My mind can feel every particle of it, can taste the bone, metal and flesh that it once was. I can hear the dead in the dust’s soft touch. For a second I think I recognise a voice, but then it becomes just the soft rattle of dust against my armour. The sun is setting. The sky is a pyre of molten colour. The wind shivers close to my skin. It has a voice of thirst and whispers. I look down to where the dust has heaped against the charred remnants of a building. This is the place where everything began, and everything ended. I thought I would never return here, but here I stand and wait and watch the dust dancing on the wind and I remember. I am Ahzek Ahriman, exiled son of Magnus the Red, destroyer of my Legion, and I remember.
    I remember red. The red was the blood gloss of armour under the high sun. A warrior crouched before me on the polished, white stone. Ivory edged his armour and symbols curled in silver on the polished plates. He was trembling as though from a chill.
    ‘Helekphon?’ I said slowly. He did not move.
    I shifted half a pace forward. Deep, laboured breaths buzzed from the vox-link.
    ‘Brother?’ I tried again. Nothing. Just the trembling and the hiss-sigh of breath and static.
    +Helekphon?+ I sent.
    His head snapped up. Blank eye pieces met mine. The trembling stopped. He had gone very still. I shifted my grip on my boltgun. I could feel his eyes follow the movement.
    +Ahriman?+ he sent, his voice a crushed whisper of thought.
    +I am here.+
    +Please…+ The thought was a moan. It tasted of desperation, of the last breath of life. +You have never… seen this before… have you? You were not on Bezant… or Clorphor.+
    He paused and I felt the dull echo of his panic as his will slipped. +You have heard… but have not seen . This is our curse, boy. This is our fate. You should have killed me when it began. Do it now, before…+
    His thought drained away, and the hiss of his breath rose in my ears again.
    +Brother I cann–+ I began, but never finished the thought.
    Helekphon’s head wrenched back and he screamed to the noon sky. His shape distorted. Armour shrieked as it tore apart. Wet flesh expanded out of the cracks. Blind eyes rolled in the branching mass of blood-slicked flesh. Claws and hands reached down, slapping on the stone floor as the flesh that had been Helekphon pulled itself from the cracked shell of his armour.
    I fired. I fired again and again, until the firing pin clacked on an empty chamber. Then I stood for a long time, looking at the blood and pulped flesh glinting red under the sun.
    The memory slides away with the dust, becoming small and distant as I watch. I breathe. I can still smell the blood. The wind and the dust rise from my hand.
    I remember water. The water was black and still, like a mirror waiting for light. The still surface shattered as my hand scooped up a palm of water to my mouth. It tasted of pollution and chemicals, and life allowed to rot out of the sight of the sun. I took another mouthful and gulped it down. My mouth was still dry.
    Where am I? I thought, as though the question alone would bring an answer. I looked up. There were stars in the sky, but their light did not reflect from the water’s mirror. A swirl of colour lay across the blackness like a stain of rot blossoming on a bandaged wound.
    ‘The Eye of Terror still holds me then,’ I said to myself as I looked down from the bruised night. A world of leaping flames and broken stone extended away from me on all sides. Somewhere in the distance gunfire chattered and rippling detonations smudged the horizon. My armour hung from me, blackened as though by fire. My shattered staff lay beside me, still smoking. I closed my eyes and saw again the face of Magnus, and felt the roar of the warp as I tumbled away from that face.
    Banishment: the last word spoken by my

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