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Escape from Madness
A blood curdling scream filled the air. In it self this was nothing extraordinary among the dark corridors of Commoragh. The source of the scream however was a different matter. The broken body of the Haemonculus lie crumpled on the floor, like a ragdoll tossed down a flight of stairs by its owner.
The dark streets of Commoragh are a twisted parody of the thoroughfares of mankind. Littered with the sadistic cast offs of the Dark Eldar race they are enough to make a normal man run and cower in sheer terror.
A giant of a man ran naked through the streets, in stark contrast to his surroundings. The horror not even registering on his determined mind.
Occasionally he would meet one of the filthy xeno blocking his path, but they never lived long enough to realise. A snapped neck or compacted breast bone making swift work of them.
It was quiet, too quiet. Where was everyone? The seven foot man hunkered down behind some crates while he decided upon his next move.
It was a rare event indeed that would unite the citizens of Commoragh in relative peace. Today however was just such an occurrence. The Harlequins had come to visit!!
All the Houses of the Dark Eldar had gathered in the main square to witness the event. A Harlequin troupe hadn’t visited Commoragh for nearly three hundred years. Nobody knew why they had chosen this day to visit, or even if there was a reason, but that was not important. The Harlequins were to be treated with respect and reverence, for they knew things and had witnessed sights that no mere mortal could ever comprehend.
The giant of a man rose from behind the crates and looked around, made the sign of the Aquila on his chest and finished his prayer
Proelier Quoad Obitus
The Harlequin troupe stood on the perimeter of a circular stage in the centre of Commoragh’s main square. Their backs to the webway portal in the centre. Thousands of Dark Eldar surrounded them watching intently. The Harlequins faceless visages giving off no hint as to their thoughts or emotions. It would not be long now.
The space marine had circled his way round to the far side of the city square where he stood in a darkened doorway taking in the events before him. His Reclusiarch had told him about the Harlequins, and how no human had ever seen their re-enactment of the great fall. This was not the time for such things, as he had to find a way to get to the centre of the stage and through the webway portal, somehow bypassing the several thousand strong mass of Dark Eldar warriors. A plan needed to be formulated and fast.
Unbeknownst to everyone in Commoragh the Harlequins were aware of the Space Marines presence. His name was Umbricius Flaccus. High lord and Chapter Master of the Crimson Shadows. Ironically his capture and subsequent internment by the Dark Eldar is deemed a pivot point in history by the Harlequins for reasons only they can understand.
Little is known of the Crimson Shadows history prior to their home planet of Eden being virus bombed by the Nurgle fleet of Scabius Bilerot. This single event wiped out over three quarters of the chapter, as those unfortunate enough to not be conflagrated by the initial impact were slowly warped into hideous Nurgle spawn by the pestilence released. Within hours all biological mass on the once verdant planet had been transformed into a sickening soup of vitriolic ichors.
The reason such a large proportion of the chapter was destroyed was due to the chapter celebrating founder’s day. A huge feast whereby the entire chapter gather to give praise to their founding fathers. Founder’s day was the biggest celebration in the Crimson Shadows diary. Where small contingents of the chapter were sent out on pilgrimages, to various sites of importance to the founders.
It was such a pilgrimage that led to Lord Flaccus being held captive in Commoragh.
Lord Flaccus’s retinue set out on their pilgrimage to Baal, the home of their primarch Sanguinius. As was the duty of the chapter master!
They had taken the usual route through the Hengeris system when they were set upon by a Dark Eldar raider fleet. The reasoning behind this attack is unknown, but the single Space Marine barge did not go down easily, despite the superior numbers. Four Dark Eldar vessels were destroyed before they managed to get into boarding range. Once within range, wave after wave of warriors boarded the stricken Space Marine vessel, only to be beaten back by the hardened veterans within. Lord Flaccus’s retinue fought valiantly, killing dozen xenos for every fallen brother. After a protracted battle the last man left was Lord Flaccus himself. His mighty twin headed power axe sweeping back and forth. Slaying and dismembering the finest the Archon could throw at him with each stroke.
Lord Flaccus was the mightiest warrior of the chapter. Bedecked in the finest armour the chapter could provide. However he knew that even he could not defeat the force surrounding him single handed. The enemy would pay for this! Lord Flaccus raised his axe and charged head long into the wall of xenos.
‘For Sanguinius and the Emperor.’
He bellowed as his shoulder plate crushed the first Eldar. That was the last thing Lord Flaccus remembered!
The next year was like a dream. Drifting in and out of consciousness pumped with a cocktail of drugs by the sadistic Haemonculus he would later break. Lord Flaccus contemplated this quietly as he hid from view in the main square of Commoragh. Wondering the reasons behind his capture, he at first assumed they were after information, but he didn’t remember being questioned in anyway. After thinking about this for what seemed an age the only logical solution he could think of was they did it because they wanted to!! The Dark Eldar captured and tortured purely because they could!!!
Such heinous acts were an affront to the Emperor and must be dealt with accordingly. First however Lord Flaccus would need to escape this place and return home so he could re-equip and muster his marines. Little did he know that they were no more!!!
He assessed the mass before him calculating the safest route to the webway portal at the centre of the stage. It didn’t look good! Between him and safety were several thousand Dark Eldar warriors and wyches and a troupe of Harlequins.
The Harlequin Shadowseer sensed the Space Marines thoughts and decided now would be a good time to act. At the psychic prompting of the Shadowseer the Harlequin troupe began to slowly dance around the stage, projecting holographic images around themselves depicting the history of the Eldar race. The Dark Eldar onlookers were entranced as if hypnotised by the fluid motions of the performers. A distraction just as the Shadowseer intended.
Having picked up on the attentiveness of the crowd Lord Flaccus decided now would be the best time to make his move. He skirted around the back the nearest onlookers until he reached one of the many columns dotted around the square. The strange material the columns were constructed from seemed to absorb all surrounding light leaving the base shrouded in perpetual shadow. Ideal for the purposes of the fugitive Space Marine!
The Harlequins continued their dance slowly unveiling the excesses indulged by the Eldar race eons ago. All the while Umbricius Flaccus careful moved from shadowy pillar to shadowy pillar careful to stay out of sight at all times. The Harlequins dance had started to pick up speed as they re-enacted the steady decline into madness and depravity. The crowd had started to sway imperceptibly in time with the actions of the performers as the performance started to build towards the Great Fall itself.
Lord Flaccus had managed to work his way through the majority of the crowd and was only a short sprint from stage itself. His thoughts now moved from the Dark Eldar to the Harlequins themselves. How would he get past them? They were an unknown entity at the best of times but this was definitely out of the ordinary even for a Space Marine chapter master. His thoughts were interrupted by the movement of something close by. A grotesque had spotted his movement and was moving in to investigate. Lord Flaccus considered his move. Should he try to remain hidden or should he confront the grotesque creation. Everybody else remained transfixed on the show before them so the Space Marine took his opportunity and lunged. His fist caught the grotesque clean in the throat. The creature gurgled and slumped to the floor.
The Shadowseer gave a wry smile to himself as the naked Space Marine felled the twisted abomination. He silently ordered the troupe to continue the dance so as to keep the rest of the Dark Eldar distracted. The Space Marine must escape!!
Lord Flaccus leapt over the body of the Grotesque only to be confronted by four more of the monstrosities. He deftly sidestepped a clumsy jab from the first grotesque and turned to head butt the second who was now directly in front of him. His victim stumbled slightly so with the augmented strength granted to him by the Emperor, he drove his knee full force into the creature’s chest. The grotesque slumped as every organ in its chest was ruptured. One down three to go!
The Harlequins were dancing in an ever more elaborate and visual manner as they represented the battle between Khaela Mensha Khaine and the Prince of Pleasure Slaanesh himself. The Shadowseer was now keeping a very close eye on the events below the stage but could not directly interfere yet as it would disrupt the show and release the entire crowd from their present distraction.
Spinning round on his heel the Space Marine right hooked the closest grotesque directly in the nose. There was a crunch of bone as the nasal bone broke and entered the brain, killing the creature instantly. Three left and nothing between Lord Flaccus and the stage, but what of the Harlequins? They had done nothing to interfere but must have surely seen him. He ran towards the stage as fast as he could ignoring everything else around him, the distance closing between him and the Webway portal.
On seeing the Space Marine running towards the stage, the Shadowseer leapt into the air with a dazzling display of coruscating lights. The Eldar race had fallen!! The show was at its climax and the stunned Dark Eldar were coming out of their transfixed state.
By the time The Archon and his dark retinue had realised there was a naked Space Marine running amongst them it was too late. Lord Umbricius Flaccus had thrown himself directly into the webway portal. Into a realm where very few humans have ever stepped, much less returned.
The Harlequins swiftly followed safe in the knowledge that their part in history had been upheld. The Space Marine could find his own way now, although the Shadowseer knew they’d meet again.
A Warhammer 40000 based piece of fan-fiction by:-
Michael Barnes (Elblondino)