Foundling is an older piece – I actually found that I used it as filler way back around 2001 in the program book for a local Science Fiction convention. Don’t recall specifically why I wrote it, but even now it stands up pretty well. It isn’t technically a ‘Danikan’ story, although the regiment and the colonel both get mentions in it. I have also added it to the Skull Moon, a page a buddy of mine is putting together for Void Phantoms fiction.
The wind skirled around the ruins, moaning in sadness. It lurked in corners, darted ‘round shattered walls and whistled its dirge through the broken windows.
There was a grinding crunch as the Librarian’s blue terminator armor ground brick and wood from the sides of the narrow doorway. The inside was dimly lit through the few windows and walls riven with holes from weapons fire.
Liche was a Librarian. More scholar than warrior most times and able to read legends in most any narrative. There was a tale written here, as clear as on any scroll or computer screen. This tale was written in the bodies of the Orks outside. It was written in the empty las cells that covered the floor by the window loopholes and it was written in the twisted defiant postures of the bodies of the man and woman who lay inside, nearly covered by the pair of greenskins they’d slain as they’d fallen.
“It’s all over here, milord.” The young Phantom behind him had leaned in through the doorway, sun gleaming off his polished bone coloured armor.
“Indeed,” whispered the Librarian in his death rattle voice. He bent and picked up a footnote. A hunting lasgun, the cell chamber empty and locked open in readiness for the recharge clip that hadn’t been available. Its barrel was deeply hewn from its use as a parrying weapon against an Ork choppa and its stock broken off and stained with bright ork blood. Liche reverently placed the weapon on a sideboard that was strangely intact. “How many outside?”
“At least a dozen, sir. Shall I make an exact count?”
“No. No need, really. These fought like Astartes at the end. With their hunting rifle and small pistol. All they had. Not enough.”
“No sir. Shall I put them on the list for a burial party?” The young marine paused a long time. “Emperor’s blood. Twelve orks with a couple of lasers. They deserve better than a mass grave.”
The Librarian turned his dark eyes upon the young marine’s smooth helmeted visage, thoughts and ideas swirling in his head. “You are right, Nine,” he whispered, “correct in a way I hadn’t thought of myself.” He paused for long seconds , his mind racing down the stacks of his memory. “Yes. A combination I think.”
“For burial. The ground here is too swampy for interment. We have no ship to place them in like a Fenrisian. But that Wolvish tradition combined with a Danikan High Warrior Mausoleum might just work given the nature of the ground.”
“Lord Liche – I’m not sure I understand. Fenris I know. But what’s a Danikan? And why not simply use a Phantom burial if mass interment isn’t sufficient?”
Liche bent down and pulled the Orks off the bodies of the two colonists, laying them at their feet and carefully arranging the man and his wife in more respectful repose. He replied as he carefully laid their poor shattered weapons upon their breasts. “A Void Phantom burial, young Nine,” he rasped, “is a devotion meant for those who spent their lives in the Emperor’s service and his wars. It would be appropriate if nothing else was available – but the fighting is gone from here and we have unique opportunity to do honor at this place that their courage,” he indicated the bodies, “might not only keep their memory alive but serve as example to others.”
Finished inside, the Librarian forced his way back out through the doors and began lopping the heads off the Orks outside with his gleaming axe. Puzzled but wishing to follow the great Librarian’s lead, the marine quickly joined in with his combat knife. “I’m still not sure I understand, milord.”
The tiniest of twitches could be seen at the corner of Liche’s mouth as he continued the grisly work. The young tried so hard – but knew so little. “Simple, young one. With our rites being inappropriate, we will use those of others I have studied. You have heard of my friend, the Guard Colonel?”
“I’ve heard you know one, sir.”
“Indeed. Arcturan Senekal. Once, when fighting with him, I studied the funerary rites of his world. To honor him properly should he fall. He had hinted, without realizing I think, that such would be important to him. Being a Danikan, and one of the finest warriors I’ve had the pleasure of serving with -”
“A guardsman?!” Nine interrupted.
“Yes, young one. A guardsman. You would do well not to underestimate them. At any rate, Danika is a world of warriors. They have an ancient warrior tradition that stretches back so far into the mists of time that its origin has been lost. A planet of mercenaries whose main export has always been soldiers even before their weapons.”
“Mercenaries.” The tac marine’s voice seethed with contempt, “Thugs for hire.”
“Aye, Nine. Ones who always honor a contract. Regardless of their hire. Noble men. Warriors.
“But we digress. They use Mausoleums to inter their dead, surrounding them with those they have vanquished as we will do here. The dead at their feet to serve and the weapons to take with them into the afterworld – those traditions I draw from Fenris. They seem appropriate here.”
Nine stared, totally confused by his superior. Honor the dead, certainly – but all this talk of funerals and different ways of laying them to rest was unnerving him somewhat. His Chapter’s fixation on it was, he felt, sometimes unhealthy and was personified in the grim Librarian.
Over the next quarter hour the two mounted Ork heads on stakes and piled the bodies for burning. Then Liche used his axe to chop at the remains of the clay brick house, carefully bringing it down around the fallen couple.
The axe froze in midswing. Nine’s bolter came up.
Slowly, the Librarian’s axe came down again. Away from the dark hole he’d punched in this side of the now mostly collapsed cottage.
“Out now, Daddy?”
The servos of his armor whining, Liche knelt by the hole, setting his axe down as a toddler crawled from the hole.
“Bad done, now Daddy?” The little boy, clad in a tiny jumper and covered in dirt and brick dust carefully stood up, pulling himself to his filthy bare feet using the terminator honor on the knee of the Librarian’s millennial suit. Liche couldn’t help himself, smiling at the irony of it.
“It appears, young Nine, that I was wrong to think of them as fighting like Astartes. No indeed. That is not how they fought.” The young marine was silent, “No, they fought like lions – protecting their cub.”
The tiny boy stared up into Liche’s darkened eyes, meeting them bravely with his clear blue ones. “NOT my Daddy!”
“No my little one, I am not.” He lifted the child from the rubble and turned with him carefully nestled against the chest of his tactical dreadnought armor. With a thought, he flung the rest of the building down with a quick blast of psychic force – concealing the bodies of the child’s parents.
“All that work,” Nine muttered looking down at his dust covered armor, “and he could have done it that easily? Mmmph!”
“Honest labour is good for the soul, Nine,” the Librarian called as he strode away from the scene. The marine slowly followed.
“Not my Daddy!” the child persisted.
“I am Liche.” The Librarian whispered. “You father has given you into my care.”
“Daddy?” The child’s anger was beginning to pass – tears starting from his eyes. Liche soothed him with a warm thought and an armored hand on his brow.
“It’s all right, young Teleus,” he whispered backing up his reassurance with the gentlest touch of the Emperor’s power. “You will grow strong and well in the care of those your father bequeathed you to.” The boy nodded, suddenly confident.
“Milord,” Nine had caught up. “what do we do with a child?”
Liche paused, considering. Slowly he turned back towards the fallen cottage, its pyre of burning orks bathing it in a ruddy glow. A thought entered his mind, with such force it startled him. A field of a dozen ork corpses. A lasrifle, clip port open, hacked and beaten the stock covered in blood. A statement. An epitaph. Not the end of the story at all, but the beginning.
“We teach him, Nine. His father was a warrior. One who full well deserved the honor done him back there. His mother a noble fighter who stood by her family and died with wounds upon her breast defending her young.” The Librarian paused, looking down into the toddler’s eyes.
“We teach him – and see to others as well for his instruction. In this way, the nobility, courage and honor that are his heritage is not lost to humanity.”