Blood of Aenarion - By William King
79th Year of the Reign of Aenarion, the Cliffs of Skalderak, Ulthuan
From high atop the cliffs of Skalderak, Aenarion looked down on the camp of his enemies. The Chaos worshippers’ fires blazed in the darkness, more numerous than the stars. There were hundreds of thousands of his monstrous foes down there and even if he killed every last one of them, more would come.
He was going to die. The whole world was going to die. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it. He had tried, with all his enormous strength, with all his deadly cunning, with power greater than any mortal had ever possessed, wielding a weapon so evil it was forbidden by the gods, and still he had failed to stop the forces of Chaos.
Their armies surged across Ulthuan, crushing the last resistance of the elves. Howling hordes of blood-mad beastmen smashed through the final defences. Armies of mutants overwhelmed the last guardians of the island-continent. Legions of daemons revelled in the ruins of ancient cities.
After decades of warfare, Chaos was mightier than ever, and his people were at the end of their strength. Victory was impossible. He had been mad to think it could be otherwise.
He cast his gaze back to his own camp. Once he would have deemed his own army mighty. Hundreds of dragons slumbered amid the silk pavilions spread out across the mountaintop. Tens of thousands of heavily armoured elf warriors awaited his command. They would throw themselves into the attack once more if he gave the order, even though they were outnumbered more than twenty to one. With him to lead them they might even win, but it would be a fruitless victory. The Chaos army at the foot of the cliffs was only one of many. There were other armies, equally great and many greater, scattered across Ulthuan and, for all he knew, the rest of the world. They could not all be beaten by the forces at his disposal.
He turned and strode back inside his pavilion. It was futile to contemplate the size of the enemy force.
He unsheathed the Sword of Khaine. It glowed an infernal black, casting out hungry shadows that dimmed the hanging lanterns within the great silk tent. Red runes burned along a blade forged from alien metal. The Sword whispered obscenely to him in a thousand voices, and every voice, whether commanding, entreating or seductive, demanded death. It was the most powerful weapon ever forged and still it was not enough. It was heavy in his hand with the full weight of his failure. For all the good it had done him, he might as well have kept using Sunfang, the blade Caledor had made for him back when they were still friends.
The Sword was killing him by inches, bleeding away his life a droplet at a time. Every hour aged him like a day would age another elf. Only the unnatural vitality he had acquired when he passed through the Flame of Asuryan had enabled him to survive this long and even that would not last forever.
If the Sword was not fed lives it feasted on him instead. It was part of the devil’s bargain he had made when he had still thought it was possible to save the world, when he had still thought that he was a hero.
Morathi stirred in her sleep, one arm thrown out, casting off the silken coverlet, leaving one perfect breast revealed, a strand of her long curly black hair caught between her lips as she writhed in some erotic dream. The potions still worked for her. She could still find sleep, no matter how troubled. The drugs had long ago ceased to work for him even when taken in dosages that would have killed anyone else.
Wine had no savour. Food had no taste. He lived in a world of moving shadows, far less vivid than the one he had known as a mortal. He had given up much to save his people – his ideals, his family, his very soul.
Kill her. Kill them all.
The Sword’s ancient, evil voices kept whispering in his head. In the quiet of the night he could still ignore them. There had been times when the mad bloodlust was upon him when he could not, and he had committed acts that made him burn with shame and wish that the wine still worked so that he could find forgetfulness in it.
Had there been time enough left, the day would come when he would no longer