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[Story] The Great Plague - Warframe Histories


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Hi all. There's been a great wealth of excellent works so far on this side of the forums - stories about warframes, told from the perspective of the Tenno, told from the perspective of the Tenno's enemies. Rather than try to compete with those, I wanted to explore sides of the Warframe universe that haven't yet been touched on, by either fanfiction writers or DE's loremasters themselves.


To this end I'm writing a series of short works about events from the long history of the Tenno, before the Long Sleep. The ambiguity of the lore as it is now gives me the creative space to work with different areas - the origins of the Lotus, the structures and organizations of the Tenno, their doctrines etc.


This one in particular is an excerpt from the Great Plague, an event mentioned only in the Mire's description. I presume it's got something to do with the Infested, and I wanted to write about the technocyte Virus beyond what we currently know. I've also taken liberties with the aspect of the Tenno, and I wanted to make them more than just the characters we control in the game today. To this end I gave them ranks denoting some sort of military hierarchy, and other additions that I hope add flavour to these mysterious warriors.


Part I is up and ready for posting - enjoy! More to come in the following days.




“War is not a state to be entered into lightly. If purity is the penultimate state that all Tenno strive towards, then that must be a doctrine exercised to its maximum in that which we were created for – battle.
The aim of the Tenno warrior-monk must therefore be to attain purity in war, for the two are one and the same. The blade is the extension of inviolate spirit; the rifle a manifestation of holy will. Be unto your foe as heat unto ice.
If any lapse is to be found in martial discipline and commitment, this impurity must be expunged wholly before it poisons the balance of the Focussed Path. Eliminate it. Annihilate it. A moment of laxity breeds a lifetime of heresy. This is the application of war in its purest form.”

-Sunt’zu, Reflections on Tenno Martialism




Enormous security gatelocks, as tall as a man and then half again, groan. Fire-blackened steel buckles, crumples, and is blown clean off its hatches as easily as a rotten wooden door folds away.


Castellan Khanda, broader than two adult athletes, taller than the gatelock itself, strides through the gaping hole where a meter-thick slab of metal used to be. The light inside the courtyard finds him clad in the burnished smoke-and-pearl of an Excalibur warframe. The noble anatomy of a killer ripples lethally beneath the muscle-weave fibre of the suit.


Oudh and Himachal follow after the Seneschal, stooping low to fit through, their skull-close and eyeless helms in place. The Tenno are both Seneschals – lower in rank than Khanda, but no less deadly. They, too, bear the lethal physicality of the Excalibur. Hung from their warframes are ceremonial tassels and half-kilts; in the sickening wind, they brush against the silk gleam of armour shaped expressly for war.


“Here they come,” grunts Oudh. He raises his tulwar into the ready position. The wickedly curved blade glints like glass in the pallid light.


The Infected slither out of the smoke, filling the air with their gurgling jackal-growls. Fast-moving chargers, quick as darts, run like wild dogs ahead of the shambling and tumorous leapers. Their multi-jointed limbs twist violently in ways that nothing natural can mimic.


“Meet them! Deny them!” Khanda orders. Even as Oudh and Himachal leap into the fray, he draws his own weapon from his back. The Orthos snaps to its full length and sings as it cuts through the air.


No light catches the Infected onslaught. It’s as if even the sun is loath to look upon beasts as vile and unholy as these. Where they slobber across the dusty ground, shadows lengthen and yawn.


The Seneschals have buried themselves deep in the horde. They have time to empty just a clip from their Boltors before the fight devolves into a swirling, furious melee. Where the Infected scrabble and claw with the mad instinct of predatory beasts, the Tenno are a thin, pale line of deadly finesse.


Oudh’s tulwar carves chunks of cancerous flesh with every swing. His swordplay is fast, graceful, precise; he bisects and portions the enemy like slabs of meat. Himachal, instead, has foregone the elegance of bladework for the sheer output of his Fragor. The massive hammer, ridiculously oversized, pummels bluntly into an assaulting leaper. The Infected burst into blossoms of ichor and tumour. He swings left with effort, then brings it about, using the momentum to catch the bulbous heads of three chargers in a downward arc. They explode in wrecks of ruined flesh. The atmosphere itself shakes in ruptured shuddering for a split second. Bodies are sent flying, burst like ripe melons.


Khanda is still running. He lofts out of the smog bank wafting about the courtyard, and plunges down into the screaming horde of Infested like a marble bolt. His Orthos tears into the press of flesh and weaves arcs of destruction at either razor-clean end.


The Infested are dying in their droves, but they refuse to retreat. They come on in waves like wolves. There is some sort of hive mind driving them, a ravenous pack mentality that gives them the unthinking savagery of a mob. When they fight, they fight as one howling, mad tumult. A leaper rushes at Khanda as he makes a wreckage of a charger’s mouth, only to be cleaved in half with the backswing of his polearm.


The Tenno by contrast are warriors. Their heroic skill pitted against the worthlessness of their enemies, they fight individual wars in the broken, desolate courtyard. Lions, among wolves.            


The Seneschals and their Castellan whittle down the horde, when Himachal suddenly swears. A charger has his right arm in its slavering jaws, and it drags him to the ground as it savages his armour. Other chargers begin to pile on, pinning him in place, until Oudh and Khanda sink their blades into their flesh and hurl them off.


As the last Infected slobbers and falls, Khanda pulls Himachal to his feet. “You’re getting sloppy,” he admonishes.


Himachal is not in a good way. The charger’s maw has eaten straight through the fibre of the warframe, down to the Tenno’s skin. Deep gashes and bite marks line the bare flesh that shows through the ruptured armour. The skin around the injury has blackened.


The Seneschal winces and clutches his arm. “The wounds burn, Castellan,” he says as he retrieves his hammer. “But I acknowledge my laxity and will be sure to correct it.”


Khanda nods. “Let’s advance beyond the Elephant Gate. We’ve got hordes to clear.”


Khanda digs his Orthos into the ground and takes stock of his surroundings. Soaring above the courtyard are two great stone elephants from which the gate takes its name, locking tusks in a feral dispute. Though they have remained relatively untouched by the fighting, the walls that line the rest of the patio are broken in places. Crumbled masonry sits fallen and forlorn on the ground. The sound of more fighting can be heard in the distance – other Tenno kill-teams, undoubtedly, going about the business of expunging the Infested from the city. Their transhuman genetic code shields the sanctity of their flesh from the parasitic claim that the Great Plague had laid on the rest of humanity.  


The Great Plague. How bitterly natural the term sounds, he reflects. Just over four years ago, the technocyte virus had spread from the hinterland to the cities. Its initial effect, whilst inconvenient, was hardly harmful – it turned cold metal and circuitry into steaming, organic piles of meat. It took over guns, vehicles, walls; anything metallic could be consumed.


But in time the virus evolved to eat living flesh as well. It took on the dimensions of an epidemic +but worse than an epidemic, an epidemic is coldly neutral, not possessed of a kind of endless, void-yawning malice+ and started to spread.


“Did you feel that?” Khanda asks. Oudh nods slowly. He was about to sheathe his tulwar, but now keeps it clasped in

his hand.


The plague eventually grew to target the human genome, even quicker than it identified metal. Its horrifyingly quick evolution saw scores living in the sprawling cities +all of them screaming as they choked on their own haemorrhaging tissue, nowhere to run to, nowhere to escape, trapped in the meat-cage of their own bodies as flesh filled ears, filled eyes, filled throats, stewed brains and smothered tears+  succumb. Before long, millions had been transmogrified into the slavering bio-forms +that are but preliminary tendrils, exploratory, probing fingers, not even a fraction of the ancient, primordial, unrelenting darkness spilling in from the inky fringes of black space, so unimaginably vast that it regards humanity as a whale might regard a plankton before it gets wholly consumed in its colossal maw+ that Khanda and the Tenno had just massacred.


Himachal doubles over. He rips off his helm and retches onto the ichor-stained ground. Oudh and Khanda are driven to their knees, coughing and dry-heaving under the shockwave of the psionic blast.


“Get up, Tenno,” Khanda is rasping as he struggles to rise, to meet whatever this new threat is. “Get up and form on me.” 


to be continued

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Thanks for the kind words :) you asked for more, so here it is - enjoy!


Oudh has caught the weight of a limp Himachal in his arms. “Castellan,” he calls desperately, “Himachal is down!”


“I saw it,” Himachal breathes. “I saw into its head…I saw everything…”


Khanda rushes to help support the wounded Seneschal.


“Wait,” he says as he catches sight of the Tenno’s helm-less face. “His eyes –”


Castellan Khanda has no time to complete his sentence. The Elephant Gate erupts in a colossal explosion of crumbling stone and masonry dust, sending chunks of marble and limestone sailing into the courtyard.


An Ancient has just entered the terrace. It has blown its way through the rock walls of the Elephant Gate with the sheer force of its hateful, twisted musculature. Multi-faceted eyes atop what passes for its head twinkle with the iridescence of animal malice. Sick light, made filthy by the cloud of dust, invests it like the robes of some unholy daemon.


A sharp tang of decay wafts off wet black flesh, puckering above the ripple of muscles attached to translucent skin in a way that isn’t even remotely human. Its right arm is a deformed spur of misaligned fibrous tissue, ending in an amorphous clump of bone and flesh. Its left ends at the elbow in an amputated, gaping hole, coughing a rumble of disease and acid from the orifice. A jagged halo of bone crowns the beast like a pagan god.


This is the shaping of mankind’s nightmares into featureless form. It is a wonder they have not been driven mad by the insanity of it all.


Khanda is the first to recover his senses. He spins his Orthos in a slow figure-eight with the assured promise of violence. “Tear it to pieces,” he orders.


Oudh has risen. He has drawn his Boltor, and it opens up with a dry bark. Flesh-shredding bolts tear into the Ancient and turn it into a meaty pincushion. Everything about the Boltor is designed for stopping power – crafted in the finest of Tenno artificer-halls, its chamber, barrel, and ammunition have all been forged to stagger and push back.


It has hardly slowed the Ancient.


Oudh’s weapon runs empty with a hollow click. He is about to engage with his tulwar, to meet the slow and purposeful advance of the monster, but Khanda is already there. The Castellan uses the reach and sharpness of his long polearm to maximum effect. He cuts and slices divots out of the Infested’s bulbous body, but it is like sinking a blade into a thick block of foam. The beast seems to register no pain at all, and the sheer mass of the Ancient’s flesh begins to suffocate the cutting edge of the Orthos.


With a contemptuous, thundering backhand, the Ancient slaps the Tenno away.


Khanda impacts against the far wall. He can feel his ribs broken in three places. It is hard to breathe with his lungs on fire.

Himachal, helmetless and wounded, face blazing with fury, staggers forward. He has his Fragor held in a drunken grip, his movements more controlled by the weight of the hammer than the other way round. The weapon barrels wildly forward and hits the Ancient like a thunderclap. Viscera spray paints the walls and its neck snaps backward violently. For a moment, Khanda almost believes it is about to die.


But he forgets that it is Infested – that the concepts and limits of natural anatomy are lost on monsters that are built on anything but.


Himachal has made a fatal error. Destructive as it is, the shorter range of the Fragor has brought him straight into the Ancient’s corridor of attack, and it is a mistake that the Infested exploits immediately.


Gas wheezes from the monster’s maw. Wrapping its grotesquely distended right arm around Himachal like a constrictor’s grip, it discharges the fetid plague-smoke of its left appendage onto the Tenno. It leaves him to crash to the floor, wracked by vomit-spasms and seizures.


Khanda forces himself to his feet. His legs feel leaden and his arms cannot move for the burning sensation that is spreading from his solar plexus. His Excalibur’s quick triage-diagnosis reveals two organs punctured by the shards of his shattered rib-cage. Serotonin and combat drugs dispense from the suit’s intravenous connections, flooding his system, numbing the pain.


Oudh is busy dragging the other stricken Seneschal to safety. He’s drawn his Furis, and is discharging the entire magazine into the Ancient – but if the Boltor couldn’t stop it, the smaller calibre of the automatic pistol has no chance.


The Castellan prepares himself to charge. A wounded Tenno is a Tenno no less – transhuman, martial. Built for war. Built, birthed, to bury his blade in the wounds of his enemy, even as his own body is rent and torn. Better to die in acrimony than survive in shame.


Khanda does not get the chance to martyr himself.


Through the gate, moving far faster than anything of that size should be able to, is a Tenno. The transverse crest of horsehair atop his helm marks him out as another Castellan. His fleetness of foot beggars belief. The warrior is built like a tank, all plated metal, and beneath that, all bunched muscle.


The Ancient, busy trying to dismember a frantic Oudh, has not yet noticed him.


With a roar that shakes the dust from the broken pumice of the Elephant Gate, the warrior slams into the Infested with such reverberating force that he actually staggers it. Mailed fists pummel deeply and relentlessly; the haymakers first destroy soft, limp flesh, and then bone.


The Tenno plunges his hand into the puckering ravage that he’s made out of the Ancient’s back. He reaches, finds what he’s looking for, and rips. The beast’s spine comes clean out of its system in an apocalyptic release of gore.


Inexplicably, the Ancient is not yet done. Its unnatural assemblage of bone structure is still enough of a scaffold to prop up its meat-bag body. It is powered on by pure malice, pure hatred. Whatever counts for its nervous system is a mere formality. Like a consumptive bull, hateful, blood-jet eyes turn to focus on the newcomer. Insectoid mandibles chitter in anger.


The Infested is not done, but neither is the Tenno.


He wields the sundered spine of the monster like a sword, and brings the razor edges of shattered bone down onto the Ancient. He cleaves through its face, messily shearing off gobbets of cancerous tissue, even as the spine-sword itself still drips with viscera. Then he draws a Scindo from his back, and lines the Ancient up for the killing blow.


Ancient flesh is tenacious. The plague’s genetic code is engineered to reknit torn tissue, and takes advantage of haemorrhaging cancer cells to grow new meat where it has broken. Swords of lesser make have often made a dozen cuts on the flesh of bio-forms, only to have these wounds healed over before the last laceration has even been made. But the regenerative qualities of the Ancient cannot stand up to the sublime balance and razor-keenness of a Scindo’s monomolecular edge – and not, not even for a moment, a Scindo driven violently forwards by a transhuman arm.


The two halves of the Ancient flop wetly into the dust.


“Cain,” says the Tenno as he kicks at the Ancient’s steaming corpse. “Its name was Cain. I’ve been hunting this one for days.”


Khanda winces in pain as he walks towards the other Castellan. With the tumult of the fight subsiding, he can see clearer amidst the haze and blood-smoke particulated by the violence of every blow traded. The Tenno is clad in a Rhino warframe, burnished in the magenta and teal that are the trademark colours of the warrior-monks’ finest warriors.


“We were in quite a spot back there. You have my thanks,” he says, and extends his hand to the Rhino.


“Wait!” Himachal gasps. Oudh is trying to hold the severely wounded Seneschal back, but he keeps scrabbling desperately forward. “Wait!

“When the psionic blast happened, I saw into the Ancient’s mind,” he explains breathlessly. His face is drawn with pain. “It…it touched something. S…Someone.”


The Rhino begins to advance. “Castellan,” he says quietly. “Come here.”


Don’t!” Himachal hisses, his voice throbbing with the cut of pain. “Listen to me! I felt it! It pried past flesh, past will. Tenno shouldn’t be prone to infection, but it…it happened.  It touched something’s soul and took it over. It touched the Rhino.”


Khanda’s Orthos snaps forward. The pinpoint edge of the blade is pointed straight at the Rhino’s chest. The Rhino stands, arms akimbo in a non-threatening gesture. His right hand still grasps the Scindo.


“Stay back,” Khanda warns, his eyes fixed straight on the other Tenno. “I don’t know what it is that’s going on, but you’d better stay back.”


“Everything he’s said is true,” admits the Rhino quietly, “except for one thing.”


The Rhino moves closer.


“It was your Seneschal that was touched by the Ancient.”


Khanda hears bones crack. Sinew stretches taut to breaking point and beyond. Fat melts like wax dripping. A ribcage expands like bony wings and snaps open. Arms distend, tendons and bones twisting, breaking, reforming, and breaking again. The air is suddenly full of blowflies. Khanda can feel a gurgling jackal-growl at his back.


The Seneschal’s mouth elongates and splits into four mandibles, smearing broken skin and tissue against a tearing warframe that cannot contain the black flesh germinating from within.


Himachal laughs, and explodes Oudh’s head between his jaws in a shower of blood.


to be continued

Edited by Darayas
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