Child of Night (Short Story)
|Series||Horus Heresy series|
|Collected in||The Silent War|
In the dark hive sumps beneath Terra, Chief Librarian Fel Zharost of the Night Lords Legion is being hunted. Having abandoned his insane primarch and brothers many years ago, he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, but he’s sure he doesn’t want to be captured. What will happen when he discovers that his Legion has fallen into heresy? And where will his loyalties lie?
The story begins with a legionary holding a bolter to the head of Fel Zharost, a dream-eater/librarian of the Night Lords. The legionary was hunting him and found him beneath the "prison sinks" of Albia, Terra, Zharost's birthplace. Before the legionary can fire, Zharost grabs him and forces him to experience his life story. The vision shifts to Zharost in combat before being overwhelmed by the flare from gunfire before he was knocked to the ground. His attacker was a woman named Calliope, another of the night-born, who chastized him for opening his eyes and said she should have left him as bait for creatures. Zharost then asks her about their prey; a hunter with a large gun who was hunting them.
Zharost and Calliope waited in the dark as they hunted the hunter, seemingly merging with it as Zharost believes murderers like him were born to do. They followed the hunter as he moved to the upper levels, moving swiftly through the dark as they ran but the hunter was very fast. Eventually, he stopped, and, as Zharost crept up on it, he could smell machine parts. Calliope attacked from another angle. The hunter heard her, but she managed to stab at his neck. Zharost attacked too as the hunter became visible, huge in a metal suit and holding Calliope by her throat. Zharost managed to stab him in the neck and Calliope was released. Before Calliope could attack, he raised his hand and fired his gun. Zharost experienced his gift, which seemed to freeze time, but it quickly resumed with Calliope's death. The hunter then removed his helmet, examined Zharost, then announced that he came for Zharost.
Mortinar, Seventy-First Prefect of the Saragorn Enclave, wakes up from a nightmare, but his aides become worried because he was not asleep and it took place during the middle of a meeting. Mortinar believes it is regarding an eminent attack, but he is soon informed that there was none. Looking outside, he saw fire coming from the sky, but awoke to alarms blaring. His aides were busily with the conflict until a vox come from one of his aides who traveled north. The aide was weeping and said that his eyes were taken along with other parts while he was being ordered to contact them to say that the Night Lords were coming for the prefect. Mortinar awoke again, blind in the darkness, and he groped around feeling blood in the room. When he managed to light up the room he was horrified. Zharost was in the room behind Mortinar, watching him as the light came on. The prefect expresses that he was loyal, but Zharost points out crimes committed by him in gene splicing millions. The Night Lords were there as retribution, and Zharost reveals that he was having the dreams repeat dozen of times to punish Mortinar for his crimes.
The vision moves to a new scene and asks for the judgment of one at the foot of a throne, Sevatar, who he did not respect. At the time, he no longer had a psychic hood because of the Council of Nikaea, and he demanded judgment from Sevatar over the matter. Sevatar reveals that the Night Haunter was being punished by his brothers, the thrice-time, and offered that he could cut the throat of the librarians. Zharost watched Sevatar and reflected on the difference between Terran and Nostramo Night Lords, how they were similar but the Terrans were more sensitive to light, were hairless, and there were relatively few left. The Night Lords as a whole shifted from distributors of judgment to terror, and the Terrans equally joined. Zharost pushed the matter, and Sevatar pointed out their mutual hatred between the two groups.
Zharost demands from Sevatar judgment, and Sevatar responds by attacking him with his deactivated chain-glaive. The judgment is to cast Zharost from the Eighth Legion and condemned him to death if he ever saw the librarian again. Asking about the rest of the librarius, Sevatar refused to pass judgment. Angry, Zharost began to release his psychic power and green flames spread. Sevatar turned his chain-glaive on, but Zharost grabbed him, telling Sevatar that he was killing the legion. Then Zharost was knocked back by a psychic attack and realized that Sevatar was still at the throne and was never actually attacked.
They return to the present, and Zharost looks at the legionary. He did not know why he was being judged, but expected that it was due to breaking the Nikaean decree to that his legion did something intolerable enough to be judged. Zharost then enters the mind of the legionary and witnesses the Horus Heresy and becomes overwhelmed. The legionary says that he did not come to just him, but "that right belongs to another."