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JOSEPH REGENT

That night, Joseph lay down on the bed in the Hermes cabin. He had been told that during the summer, the cabin was packed with campers, and new arrivals slept in sleeping bags on the floor. But as it was only May, there were a few beds free.

Given that it was his first day, he hadn’t directly participated in most of the usual camp activities. After putting all of his things in the attic in the Big House (and meeting the Oracle), Clarisse had given him the tour. He’d watched the archery contest, and attempted a rendition of “The Music of the Night” at the campfire. Tomorrow, he’d get a proper schedule.

He was exhausted. More emotionally than physically. Today was more than just the most significant day of his life. He might as well have been born yesterday, for all that his first fourteen years mattered. He was a different person. He was no longer Joseph Regent, adopted son of Karl and Amanda Regent. He was Joseph, the son of Tzeentch and Gallina Thompson. He’d always been slightly bothered by the knowledge that his biological mother was insane. Now mere insanity seemed safe compared to the terrors of the Warp.

A thought entered his head. The Warp. He had read of it, of course. He knew what it was. He recalled a passage from some novel where an Imperial warship’s Gellar field had failed, and the ship had been overrun by daemons. He wondered if that particular novel was merely a work of fiction, or whether it would actually happen. But he did not doubt that it reflected reality. At the same time, he felt drawn to it. If he closed his eyes and looked inward, he could feel its power inside of him.

He had so many questions. He needed answers. But he didn’t have anyone to ask. He was the local expert on Warhammer. He supposed that the Emperor, wherever and whoever he currently was, would have a lot of the answers, but Joseph had no clue how to find him. Right now, before the time of the Imperium, the only source of information would be the Warp itself.

Or, to be precise, its inhabitants.

He recalled his earlier idea – that he might take his mind into the Warp, seek out the daemons of Chaos. His eyes widened when he realized that the idea wasn’t his. Not originally. He’d seen it in the Lampads’ fires. He hadn’t understood it then, and he’d been focused on dealing with the Lampads anyway.

It was risky, he knew. Many a Chaos incursion began when daemons whispered to untrained psykers. But Joseph couldn’t handle flying blind like this. And he had one advantage – he knew the nature of daemons. He would offer them no services, no matter the knowledge they offered. He would make no promises of any kind. He would ask questions. If he was lucky, the daemons would answer. If they refused, or if they asked him to do so much as twitch his finger, he would leave.

He closed his eyes, and looked inside.

He was standing on a cliff edge. Behind him, a tunnel led through a rock face to his lone bed. The Lampad’s torch was in his hand, and burned bright with madness once more.

Out in front of him was the Warp. Lightning bolts that must have spanned light-years shot across his field of view. Currents of energy twisted, split, and merged. Above, a terrible warp storm was brewing. A thousand terrible screams echoed through the din. Daemons cavorted through the sea of madness, laughing and shrieking. A wind of nothingness blew past him.

Joseph cocked his head, and studied the strange vision. He hadn’t expected this. Well, to be precise, he hadn’t expected to see so much. He’d also expected some mental strain – merely perceiving the Warp and its inhabitants could break a lesser mind, and the majority of psykers, both Imperial and Chaos, were insane to one degree or another. But he didn’t seem to be having a problem with it.

He was part daemon. That had to be it. He was, after all, the son of Tzeentch. Like Clarisse or Travis, he shared some of his divine parent’s essence. In his case, that made him part daemon. He could walk in both the mortal and material realms.

His eye caught a flight of daemons. There were seventeen of them, colored dark blue, and shaped much like great manta rays. They screamed, and Joseph found that he could understand them. Unfortunately, they weren’t saying much, merely expressing their hunger. But this was still good. They were Screamers – and Screamers were daemons of Tzeentch.

“Hey!” he called out to them. Instantly, the Screamers halted their movement, and turned towards him, their screams dying. For a moment, Joseph thought they might attack, but their body language was wrong (although he had no idea how he could read the body language of a daemon). Their expressions were… submissive. He did nothing, and they simply hovered there. Waiting.

He pointed at the nearest one. “Come here.” The Screamer obeyed, while its companions waited patiently. It came to rest next to the edge. Joseph looked at it, and then he looked out into the Warp. If he was part daemon, he might have some ability to navigate the Warp on his own, but he wasn’t going to take many chances. He climbed onto its back, still clutching the torch. “Fly,” he commanded it.

The Screamer flapped its wings, and took off. Joseph looked back at its fellows. “Follow us,” he ordered. They flapped after.

As they flew through the Warp, Joseph wondered what to do next. He had no idea where exactly to go for answers. Maybe he should seek out one of the Lords of Change? He reconsidered that. They were the mightiest daemons of Tzeentch, and could prove too powerful for him.

Then an idea came to him. He so far seemed to be able to command the Screamers. It stood to reason that he might have power over other servants of Tzeentch. If so, it would be a good idea to test how much influence he had.

“Turn left,” he said to the Screamer he rode.

The Screamer turned left.

“Turn right.”

The Screamer turned right.

“Do a barrel roll.”

The Screamer twisted its wings, and did a full three-sixty barrel roll. Joseph smiled. Then his smile vanished, as another idea crossed his head. Stunts were one thing, but would these daemons obey him without question?

To his left and down, Joseph spotted an eddy in the Warp. He could feel it pulling him towards it, although the Screamer seemed to be able to avoid it. He turned his head to see the other Screamers behind him. He pointed to a random one.

“Fly into that eddy.”

The Screamer broke off from the group, and dove straight for the eddy. As it entered, Joseph saw it get torn apart, and heard its death scream. He recoiled in surprise. He had just ordered it to die, and it had obeyed.

Then he saw it. Flying overhead. A massive bird – except it wasn’t a bird. It had the wings and head of a bird, but its body was humanoid, if rather gangly. Its skin and feathers changed color constantly. It seemed to be flying upside-down, although up and down didn’t have much meaning here in the Warp. It was one of the Lords of Change, the mighty servants of Tzeentch.

Then it looked up, straight at him.

“I hope you aren’t going to order me to fly into that eddy,” it said wryly.

Joseph gave a thin smile. “And if I did?”

“Then I would no doubt meet the same fate as that Screamer.” The Lord of Change descended and flipped around, coming alongside Joseph. Its voice was surprisingly human, although it was deep and resonant. “But I know you won’t. Your father gives me visions of events to come, and I do not see an imminently painful death in my future.” It waved a gangly, clawed hand, and a wooden platform appeared up ahead. “Come. We must talk, you and I.”

Joseph decided to follow it. As he got closer, he saw a single comfortable chair. “Come to a stop next to the platform,” he commanded. As the Screamer obeyed, the Lord of Change made a graceful landing. Then, he shifted his form, his wings folding behind him, his beak shrinking back into his face. Seconds later, Joseph was face to face with Chiron, sitting in his wheelchair, a gentle expression on his face. “Take a seat, Joseph,” he said, gesturing to the chair.

Joseph wasn’t amused. He turned to the Screamers. “Surround the platform.” They obeyed, englobing the platform, jaws facing it. Joseph turned back to Daemon Chiron. “I hope you aren’t trying to fool me with that form.”

Chiron’s face took on a grin. “Of course not. I merely chose a form I thought you would be comfortable with.”

Joseph shook his head. “It’s not working. Although…” he raised a finger, “you can take on the form of any person?” The daemon nodded. “Then I command you to take the form of… Winston Churchill.”

The daemon shifted again. Chiron’s face widened. His clothes changed, from a “#1 Centaur” t-shirt into a suit, with a white silk shirt, black jacket, and a red bowtie. A cigar appeared in his mouth, and his wheelchair became a chair identical to the one Joseph stood next to.

Joseph smiled. “I think I like this form better. In fact, I think I will call you Winston from now on.” He sat down in the chair.

Winston smiled back. “You may call me whatever you like. I have heard far, far worse names.” He spoke with an English accent now – in fact, he sounded almost exactly like the recordings of Winston Churchill Joseph had heard in history class.

“So, I can command the daemons of Tzeentch, it would seem,” Joseph said casually.

Winston nodded. “You can, although your father’s commands override yours.” He chewed on his cigar. “And before you ask, yes, he sent me, to provide you with information. I will not attempt to deceive you, although there are some things Tzeentch has not told me, and others he has forbidden me from telling you.”

Joseph shifted in his chair. It wasn’t that surprising. Tzeentch wouldn’t want to make things too easy.

“OK, first question. What is Warhammer? What I’ve seen matches up with its past, but I need to know the truth. Is it a prophecy?”

Winston frowned. “Well, I can tell you that the universe right now does seem to match up with the Warhammer setting… with one exception.” He reached over to a bookcase that wasn’t there before, and retrieved a copy of the core rulebook. He flipped through it, then showed it to Joseph. It was open to the timeline of the future.

“I don’t know why, but this book has the Fall of the Eldar, and the birth of Slaanesh, as occurring in several thousand years. It happened during your Middle Ages. The creation of the Eye of Terror is actually what made the Void Dragon stir. Good thing the Emperor locked him up in Mars.”

Joseph was troubled. He’d wondered if Slaanesh existed yet. He wasn’t that surprised, but it added yet another threat. On top of it, of all the other Chaos gods, Slaanesh was the most likely to have half-bloods of his own. “Do you know where the Emperor is? Who he is?”

Winston shook his head. “Not right now. Last we saw of him, he was the astronomer Carl Sagan. But after Sagan ‘died’, he vanished. Tzeentch probably knows where he is, but he hasn’t told me.”

Joseph raised an eyebrow. He knew that the Emperor had appeared throughout history, posing as various historical figures. The best known ones were religious leaders, but Sagan made sense as well. Of course, that didn’t help his current problem.

“But to answer your earlier question,” Winston continued, “the game and its lore appear to be something of a prophecy. I don’t know if Tzeentch was involved. It’s possible that whoever did it was simply a psyker. And I wouldn’t rule out Eldar involvement either.” Joseph nodded, while Winston puffed on a cigar. “And now, I believe it is time for you to go.”

“Go?” Joseph’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Why?”

“You forget, time passes differently in the Warp. You must soon awaken. You will have a busy day tomorrow.”

Joseph looked to his right. To his surprise, the platform was now adjoining the rocky cliff where he had first appeared in the Warp. The tunnel leading to his bed was open. He looked at Winston, who only smiled.

“Thank you, Winston,” he said as he stood up.

“It is my pleasure,” Winston stood as well. “I will call you when it is time for another lesson.” He set down his cigar, and shifted back into his avian form. He took off, leaving Joseph alone.

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