Underhive Adventures: Commenters Command Part 2 – Chapter 1

Underhive Adventures: Commenters Command Part 2 – Chapter 1

Chapter 1: From the Fire

The Before:
Quick with the shuf I was, the Tower of Hosts was burning, though one could scarce imagine it. The great hold of the Five-Queens was alight from the jagged crown down. In some places where the gang halls, vapour lodges, and synth-labs had been attached to the great hive-foundation column they were breaking away, crashing down onto the lower platforms and sending up waves of sparks and flame. The alarm bells still tolled but intermittently, but the rattle of autogun, and whine of las-fire had diminished greatly.

We were 30 levels down on the deepside, where the great-branch buttress joined the main tower column, and, so far, the fighting hadn’t reached us yet. I and the other juves of the Barbed Vines, had grabbed our harnesses up and hurried from the juve-block looking for our Gang Sisters. Those menials able to keep their wits ran for water and tools, trying to extinguish the fires started in the mushroom beds and growing blocks by the falls of burning debris.

Maram Je’Ardahl was blind and toothless and many swore she was over 1000 cycles old, but those that questioned that she should still be our Queen were quickly silenced either by her flint-eye enforcers, or if rumours were true, the poisons that she brewed in her great black pot. How the Five-Queens felt about her was anyone’s guess but they were content for her to remain in fief, leaving her to whisper to the glowing fungus and under-hive plants that we cultivated on the buttress, the harvests paid in tributed – hoisted up to the labs and joy-dens in the tower above.

Some would say the acrid tang of smoke from above or the cries of gangers cut down was all she needed despite her blindness to tell what was happening but those of us that were there, even the young bloods like myself knew she had knowledge greater than that and the dark things in the Hive surely whispered to her more clearly than to most.

Though there were plenty of voices raised who wanted to fight, to stand with our Fief-Mistresses it was not to be. Our heritage as a gang had always been for those who’d earned their colours to vote on our actions, with the Matriarch having final say, but that night Maram Je would have none of it, she spoke and we all listened. She warned us that death had come to the Tower-of-Hosts and this was no raid or grudge being settled, just an extermination and she would not see us fall to that. She cast us out, Barbed Vines no more, we were lost, to flee, to hide, but to survive. Scattered like razor gorse seeds caught in the tunnel-winds, looking for new places to take root.

I remember looking back as our sisters hurried us away to grab up what we could carry, Maram Je and her eldest Matriarchs on the Ganghall steps, her sightless face turned up to the light of the fires that consumed all we had known.

Cant and Count.

I don’t remember the Sister who called the huddle, but I remembered what she said, to follow Maram Je’s last instruction, to get away. If we stayed in the great cavern of the Tower we were trapped and dead, but we had choices:
The main way up through the Tower was lost to us, but we could go down through the service ways built into the buttress and try to get out that way. It was known to some of the Sisters who’d hunted the tunnels for vermin but they had never gone too far and many of the tunnels were collapsed or flooded.
Or we could cross the buttress itself and meet up with the cavern wall then escape into the hive proper. But the way was treacherous, it was exposed to fire from above and had been fortified to prevent others from gaining access to the tower from the other direction.

Neither options were sure and both had risk that whoever had planned for the downfall of the House of Escher at the Tower-of-Hosts may have considered either escape route in their schemes.

Me and the other Juves got no vote having not earnt our colours, but for the rest, the cant had been said, now it was time for the count. Thumbs up we climb up the buttress, thumbs down we descend into the tunnels.

The result:

Up or Down

That’s it. We climb the buttress then.