Votum Infernus by Nick Kyme. A Legion of the Damned short story, originally published by The Black Library, October 2013. Approx. 17 pages.
We close out this year's Haunted Happenings with the last of the Legion of the Damned short stories, this one a yarn penned by Nick Kyme. So, yeah, that is what scared me the most off the bat. Wasn't I pleasantly surprised that this tale of an Imperial Guardsman trying to escape the sadistic Dark Eldar turned out to be an enjoyable, tense, action packed romp.
The world of Kaeros has been laid to waste by Dark Eldar raiders. One trooper, a man named Hersk, is the last man standing of the proud ranks of the Vostroyan 64th. There is no safety; there is no escape. And worst of all, his suffering has piqued the interest of a sibling pair of Eldar succubi. There are few things worse than being privy to the sadistic tendencies of the Dark Eldar elite.
And yet, on the near horizon, a lone warrior stands, clad in in ebon black and bone. What does this warrior's arrival portend for Hersk and his pursuers?
This is by far the best work I have read by Kyme to date. He utilizes strong imagery, helping to generate palpable tension. There are one or two twists in the tale that I really did not see coming. I like his portrayal of the Dark Eldar as well. It is campy, and lurid, as charged sexually as it is violently. The violence is choreographed well, and he knows well how to write for the Dark Eldars' bizarre weaponry, weaponry designed to maximize infliction of pain.
Kyme's portrayal of the Legion is done in a fine manner as well. The lone legionnaire serves as a stoic rock for the wild eldar to break themselves upon. The reason for introducing the Legion in this story works just fine.
Where the Votum Infernus falters a little bit are in the scenes where the number of characters on the page increase. It works best when we have our core quartet; Hersk, the Legionnaire, Slethial, and Yethanda. The parts where more of the Legion appear, as well as larger masses of the Eldar, the writing feels rushed.
It also seems unnecessary to even mention that Hersk and his comrades are Vostroyan. There are no cultural references, save some made up slang, and there are no special tactics either (to be fair, from the onset of the story, the main plan is "run for your lives!"). This is no big problem, and Hersk remains a sympathetic, if pitiable, character.
And there you have it. Votum Infernus is a solid Legion tale that deserves to be read. Happy Halloween everyone!
Here's what it is:
A lone member of the Vostroyan finds potential deliverance from evil in the form of a spectral warrior clad in midnight. This is my second favorite of the LotD shorts.
Same skull, enveloped in green. This green either signifies the Dark Eldar armor, or the fact that Kyme usually writes for Salamanders (I know it's the former). Not my favorite color.
Cover Final Score: