Well now that the stories have been collected, it's time to vote for your favourite one. Read them all first! And then Re-read them! And then re-read them some more! There is no point in voting if you merely read the first story and decide you can't be bothered reading the rest.
Good luck to the anonymos contestants . I was slightly disapointed at the amount of entries but hopefully if there is a next time, we may have more support .
The identities of the Authors will be identified at the end of the Voting phase at the same time as the winner is announced.
As i said, good luck!
Voting closes on the 1st of February.
And Now For The Stories....................................
Cadius felt sick, his stomach churned and flipped as gravity pulled at his entire body while the roaring of the descent enveloped him in the cramped drop pod. His bulk did not help; the Tactical Dreadnought Armor he wore had already took up a good one quarter of the Drop Pod and his fellow battle brothers too were clad in these massive suits, and four of the heaviest and bulkiest armor in the Adeptus Astartes squeezed into a container like space hardly gave the marines any comfort. The drop pod sped towards the surface at over a few thousand kilometers an hour and from the small windows in the drop pod, Cadius saw a blazing orange-red film over the reinforced glass pane while the surroundings were in a blur as the rock solid ground neared. Then, a sudden lurch made his insides tighten as the retro rockets of the drop pod fired while the screen fixed in front of him started its countdown from twenty. Cadius gripped the inner rails tight and braced himself for the bone shattering impact that he knew would soon follow. Despite having been part of countless drop pod assaults, the First Company veteran was experiencing his first time in a drop pod whilst clad in Tactical Dreadnought Armor. The power fist fixed on his left arm felt strangely alien as its massive fingers were wrapped around the seemingly fragile rail, as though threatening to break it. Cadius allowed his recent promotion to the hallowed First Company to slip into his mind as the timer ticked away. The joy of the news, the honor of receiving his new armor and the very relish of the battle that would follow as he would be able to put his new suit to the test the moment the pod hit the earth. Five, Four, Three, Two, One. As the final number flashed on the screen, a massive shockwave surged throughout the body of the marines and a deafening slam rang through their ears as the drop pod crashed unceremoniously into the unforgiving ground. Cadius's grip loosened upon impact but he had neither stumbled nor groaned as before; the complex servo fibers and shock resistors embedded within the armor had lessened the normally violent crash into a mere shake. Then, the explosive charges locked on the doors of the drop pod blew as the metal, petal like doors crashed onto the ground and the Astartes within stepped out to the chaos of the furious melee.
Cadius and his squad emerged from the dust and crushed rock kicked up by the drop pod as four hulking figures stomped into the maelstrom of battle. Landing right into the midst of their enemies, the Space Marines withdrew their bolters and unleashed their first shells into the bodies of the traitorous heretics to the periodical bursts of blood and gore. Cadius had his finger depressed against the trigger of his Storm Bolter as the dual barrels laid down a withering volley of gunfire that mowed down over a dozen cultists in the first few seconds. Stepping forward as his massive armor-clad boots crushed pebbles underneath, Cadius delivered his first contributions to the raging fight that surrounded him. The massive Tactical Dreadnought Armor had felt sluggish he thought but it was now he fully appreciated the beauty of this massive suit as the thick layers of ceramite and adamantium shrugged off the countless beams of las-shots and bolt rounds. His bolter took down the cultists without effort while he advanced towards the bulk of Word Bearer marines that were at the back, raining down bolter fire while the horde of cultist meatshields bore the brunt of the enemy attack. Around him, Cadius saw his battle brothers stepping closer towards the line of Chaos Space Marines as the frail cultists made futile attempts to even slow the advance of the wrathful loyalists. The first heretical marine he met emptied a full magazine of bolter shells into his chest but the surface of the armor had only a small dent that was surrounded by rings of soot as the explosive rounds were shamed against the might of Tactical Dreadnought Armor. Cadius's own Storm Bolter spat a burst of rounds that impacted against the helmet of his foe while the latter abandoned his bolter and drew out his chainsword that whirled threateningly as he brought it down on Cadius's head. Tactical Dreadnought Armor was slow in comparison to the speed of marines clad in Power Armor but it had relinquished dexterity and agility in favor of immense protection and strength that made its bearer an equivalent to a human tank. The armor proved this as the normally lethal blow had only left a scratch along the helmet of Cadius. The loyal marine swung the massive power fist in retaliation as the punch wreathed in blue energies crushed the breastplate of the Word Bearer and he stumbled at the sheer force of the blow while his mouth spat blood as the crushed ribcage ruptured his multi-lung as well. Without hesitation, Cadius put two shots into the exposed flesh of his enemy and the bolt shells detonated violently, bursting the heart of the chaos marine as his fell to the ground, only to have his skull pulverized mercilessly by the crushing weight of Cadius's step.
The marine now knew why he was called a Terminator. The strength of the "typical" space marine was impressive but the power granted to him by the Terminator Armor was simply breathtaking. Even the marine who would kill an ordinary man in a punch had fell like a puppet before his overwhelming might and Cadius felt elation as a sense of purposeful destruction and strength swelled in his veins as he clenched the crackling power fist to crush the next enemy.
The next two marines had met their ends with three blows from his mighty power fist and a hail of bolter rounds, leaving their corpses lying in pools of blood as their entrails were splattered across the ground. The clearing the Terminators wrought in the formation of the enemy marines had finally revealed the leader of the warband; a Dark Apostle wielding an Accursed Crozius and a boltgun, his revealed head scarred and bald but the unmistakable sadistic grin etched across his face drove Cadius into a rage as he felt him calling upon all the speed his armor would offer and charged towards the Chaos Lord, releasing a burst of bullets as he ran. The Dark Apostle did not turn his attention down and directed his bolter against the charging Terminator, only to see the bolt rounds detonate uselessly against the reinforced plates. Cadius threw out his massive power fist as he neared into range, only to find his foe ducking below it and trashing out his massive Crozius against his chest. The Tactical Dreadnought Armor buckled under the blow of the Chaos Lord as its heavy head wrapped with daemonic energies and blessed by the very Chaos Gods themselves smashed against the thick plates of Cadius's armor. Cadius knee rushed forth and the Word Bearers leader leapt backwards and swung his massive weapon out once more. The Terminator flung his own power fist to meet the incoming attack and both weapons crashed with a resounding cymbal like bang that rang throughout the battlefield. The warriors stumbled at the force of their blows but leapt at each other again almost immediately, Cadius aiming his fist towards the head of the Dark Apostle while the latter bent his weapon forth to ram it against the massive form of the loyalist marine. The length of the Accursed Crozius proved to be an advantage as its owner landed the blow before Cadius could even reach the head of the heretical marine. The impact of the attack was further enhanced by the Chaos Lord who rammed it home against the chest of the Terminator, his whole body threw forward and weapon outstretched as Cadius staggered backwards, his shining blue armor cracked under the mighty force of the enemy's attack. Still, it had been insufficient to even shake the bones of Cadius as he raised his storm bolter and it roared at his opponent, emptying the last few rounds in the cartridge. The bolts blasted the armor of the Chaos Lord as he barely had time to duck after his all out attack, leaving his chestplate dented and charred. As Cadius reached for a new magazine to reload his weapon, the chaos marine pounced on him again while Cadius ducked to the otherwise concussing blow. He bent low to avoid another strike as he slapped in the magazine into his bolter, only to have it forced out of his grip as the mace like weapon slammed it out of his fingers; the ruinous energies of the weapon burning away the plating of his gauntlets as well.
"Fool! Your pathetic attempts to stop Chaos will never come close!" sneered the smug Apostle as his elbow came down on the helmet of Cadius.
Power Fist launched at the descending limb, Cadius smashed his fist against the incoming elbow and his opponent withdrew it, howling in pain as it surged through the length of his arm like a powerful shock. The Astartes warrior took his advantage and unsheathed his power sword and thrusted it forth at the shocked chaos marine. Its tip burned through the armor at the side of the foe and blood clinged onto the weapon as the Apostle recoiled in another jab of pain. Both marines now stood facing each other, their body language wished the other nothing but a horrible death as they primed their weapons for the next assault they would launch at each other. Cadius was over a head taller than the large build of the Apostle thanks to his Terminator Armor but he knew that height and build only served to scare weaker minds and his opponent, a former Astartes would not even be distracted by it. Without warning, both of them springed at each other once more, ignoring the din of the battle surrounding them for they were locked in a furious one of their own.
Cadius's blade gouged a silver off the shaft of his enemy's Crozius the latter weapon missed its mark while the Power Sword barely made contact with it. The Chaos Lord came down on Cadius's head again while the Astartes slashed a chunk off the armor of his opponent. However, his attack was ill sacrificed for the blow he took was far more serious. The heavy end of the Crozius bashed his helmet in and Cadius gripped his head in agony, retreating backwards to avoid another blow. His world had momentarily dissolved into darkness and pain but he rapidly recovered, only to realize his helmet had ceased to function after the attack and his vision distorted by random waves of static. Tearing out his ruined helmet, Cadius hurled it at his foe who blocked the projectile with a swing of his weapon. Leaping forward for the second his makeshift weapon gave him, Cadius hacked at the chest of the Dark Apostle and the power weapon cleaved through the armor and ruptured a heart in its wake, allowing a fountain of blood to spurt out into his face. The normally fatal blow had been greeted with nothing but a sharp gasp as a pain swept up the nerves of the Chaos Champion. Nonetheless, he fought back with renewed fury for his secondary heart was still strong and nothing but another similar blow would leave him lying low.
"For the Dark Gods!" screamed the Apostle like a madman in a frenzy and he landed a series of blows that would have killed a normal marine many times over; something only a First Company Veteran can parry with his own skillful strikes, which Cadius proceeded to do.
The rage that seemed to rob the Apostle of every single shred of humanity left in him granted him a forbidden strength as daemonic powers allowed him to lash at Cadius with inhuman might. Cadius was forced backwards under the onslaught of the Chaos Lord and it was only when the frenzied warrior swung his Accursed Crozius in a punishing arc to smash at Cadius's shoulder plate did the latter strike back. The sight of the gold inlaid Crux Terminatus crumpling under the withering blow of his enemy replaced the pain inflicted with a terrible strength fueled by a rage that knew no bounds. The pride of each Terminator was the Crux Terminatus and to behold the sight of it being destroyed with utter contempt had worked Cadius into a violent rage. Meeting the next blow with his own, the Terminator slashed ferociously and forced the heavy power fist at the Crozius to force back the Apostle. Crozius matched the power weapons of the furious marine as he relentlessly ploughed forward in a storm of heavy strikes, forcing the enraged Apostle to backwards further. His power blade carved whole chunks of armor off the champion of chaos but the latter returned them with a measure of his own frenzy; an unearthly ram against the chest of Cadius, reducing the already weakened plates into powder and small chunks as the sheer force of it sent Cadius a few steps back. The pain that would have been crippling under normal circumstances held no weight the Terminator. His mouth was dripping his own blood while half of his face was smeared with the spurts of the Chaos Lord's own. Not even bothering to wipe it off, the Astartes threw himself forward.
"For the Emperor!!!" roared the charging marine; his eyes widened with anger as his choler overtook him and buried Cadius under layers of adrenaline and ungodly strength, immune to pain and oblivious to danger as he flew towards the Chaos Lord, blade raised and power fist clenched.
The Apostle met him face on with a speeding Crozius powered by daemonic might and Cadius's power fist came down, wrought in lighting blue energies. The two heavy weapons clashed once again but the sound was no longer audible with the chaos of the battle around them taken to new heights at the sight of their merciless duel. Cadius brought his sword down to hack at the Crozius which was withdrew to launch another deadly attack. Cadius gathered all the strength his Tactical Dreadnought Armor could afford him and pushed forth with the mortal blow. Despite the Accursed Crozius coming down on his back and shattering the ceramite layers lined over his spine, the very power of Cadius's strike was unable to be ignored even by the greatest warrior as the Apostle was sent flying backwards under the crushing might of the power fist, augmented with the strength of the Terminator Armor. There was no respite as Cadius projected himself with the flying figure of his foe, the massive figure of a Terminator wielding a gleaming Power Sword following the wrecked form of the Dark Apostle.
The energy laced edge easily dislocated the head of the Chaos Champion, his mutilated face aghast as it spun off the hold of his neck. Cadius grabbed the severed head and raised it into the air in triumph as the Ultramarines around him fought on with renewed vigor.
Emperor Guide Our Path!
Emperor Guide Our Path!
The whining scream of bolter shells was all-consuming, a constant presence that drowned out most sound. It made Palatine Rosia’s heart warm to see the Emperor’s Justice meted with such fury. Ducking behind the ruined corner of a chapel– count the stones, and force them a step back for each brick removed– she took a moment to reflect.
Over the various comm-channels, a hundred different prayers were repeated through the battle, backlit against an opera of explosions and the stirring sound of flamers cleansing filth from the Emperor’s Rightful Realm. Rosia liked listening to the prayers. An array of prayers in battle, she found, mingled together into a wall of sound that did her heart good to hear. Among them, there was the pure note of faith that made her heart stir with well-controlled pride.
She could always tell if something was amiss with her Sisters, because a note would be off in that sound, a tiny crack in the rhythm that spoke of a weakness. Or guilt. Or perhaps one of the other myriad paths to Damnation. Upon finding it, she would hunt through the channels, squad-by-squad, until she found the source of that imperfection, then she would deal with it.
There was no such imperfection, and it did her good to know it. But I have tarried too long, and the Emperors Work is yet to be done. Rosia spun away from the stone and levelled her bolter at a group of Xenos brutes. Alas, there is no traitorous filth among this group to mete His Justice upon. But Xenos are as deserving of death as any other! She thought, then loosed a string of precisely-aimed shots that bowled the monsters from their feet and cracked skulls open. The crackle of her powered sabre was worthy of a prayer as it left it’s sheathe, but she held her tongue. The Emperor’s Enemies were unworthy to hear the purity of His Devotions.
Though these were Orks, somewhere among them they had enslaved a worrying number of Mutants, and purging both fell to the Sisters as agents of His Will to those mockeries of the pure, human form that is the Mutant.
A flurry of bolt shells thundered over her head, raking the heaving mob before her as she blasted another from it’s feet. “His Benevolence guided us to your aid, Palatine” came the reassuring voice of the Sister Superior of her Celestians, a veteran of enough battles that she was worthy of commanding a Mission of her own. Rosia had asked her why she did not once, and she had answered that humility stayed her. In her heart, Rosia often wondered if it was a kind of pride, that the Sister Superior was too prideful to extend her experience to a Mission of her own. Such thoughts were unbecoming of her though, and never more than fleeting.
By the time she came to grips with her foes and the Celestians fury slackened, there were only a few left, and being Xenos as they were, easily dispatched by a Servant of the Emperor. For a few moments, Rosia busied herself severing heads from those bodies that were not so irrevocably damaged as to not require the treatment. Greenskins were well known for escaping rightful death at the hands of His Servants, and returning to beset them another day.
That done, she dropped to a crouch in the middle of the carcasses as the Celestians formed around her, snapping off shots at any target that presented itself and surveying the battle situation; she was mildly put out to find herself lagging behind her sisters. The battle was half-won, truth be told, the glorious, inexorable march of the Sisters driving the Orks back, ripping a trail of corpses from them.
Wiping the blood from her sabre and sheathing it, Rosia rose into a battle-run to catch up, gesturing for the Celestians to follow. Soon, she was ahead of her sisters again, a corridor clear of shells opening up for her like a path laid out by the Emperor Himself. No, it is arrogance to believe the Emperor is responsible for my every gain, some things I have only my Sisters to thank for. Mentally assigning herself a punishment detail, Rosia drew her sabre again and dropped to a knee halfway between the lines and attracted the attention of the biggest brute she could see with a cascade of bolts. “The Emperor calls you from your hole, filth!”
As the brute noticed her, she saw the malevolence in its eyes spark as her shots stripped it of its companions, before it thundered across the rubble and corpses toward her. At first, she did not bother to register his war-cry, but the words hammered their way into her pure mind; “I ‘ope your ’M’prer is bigger’n you girl, I wants a fight sometime!”
Fury ran hot in her veins– His name was not to be abused so by such an abomination! Rosia felt rather than heard the scream rip it’s way from her lips, the intensity of it almost making her ears bleed inside the confines of her helmet.
As the brute charged, she rose up from her crouch, her sabre extending in a low lunge. Top-heavy as he was, the Ork was too slow to dodge and too intent on attacking to block. The wrench as her blade bit into it’s flesh was astounding. Sidestepping with the strike to avoid the Orks charging blow, a heavy overhead that threw up dust in the air, Rosia whipped her bolter up lightning fast and pressed it to the Orks chest. She’d already flicked the weapon to automatic fire and a thunder of shells tracked a path up it’s wretched body, knocking it free from her blade with a modicum of difficulty.
Coming back to herself, Rosia noticed the sparks playing around her a moment before a smattering of Ork slugs hit like hammer-blows on her armour. Ineffective, but the sheer force of them jarred her. Mentally admonishing herself for allowing her wargear to be drenched so thoroughly in the gore of Xenos, she set herself to the only recourse worthy of her– charge!
Absently noting potency of her Sisters fire increasing around her, she credited their quick wits. She had no wish to be drowned in Ork corpses, and made a note to thank them for saving her the disgrace it would have heaped on the purity of her blessed wargear.
Getting to grips with them, she took the first with a cut to the head, splitting it’s skull like a ripe melon as she hosed two more with the last shells of her magazine. Holstering the sanctified gun, she took her blade two-handed and laid about her with heavy blows, opening wounds on whoever ventured near and reducing weapons to worthless lumps– not that Orkish equipment was far from worthless to begin with.
It began to dawn on her that, for all her fury she wasn’t having much effect on the Orks, and as she redoubled her efforts the worm of doubt crept into her mind. She quashed it with a silent prayer and heard the rumble of engines before a wash of heat flanked her to either side. Glancing around, her spirits soared at the sight of a pair of an Immolator to either side of her, the sisters atop them spraying the area with holy fire. More warriors poured from the vehicles innards, adding their fires to the purge and soon the area was nought but a blackened clutch of corpses and ash.
“Palatine! Your courage is heartening, and what cohesion the brutes had is fled, the day is ours! Praise be Him that it is so.” the Sister Superior, a constant presence.
Looking about her, Rosia touched the fleur de lys upon her helmets brow in recognition of the victory, then ordered a transport for her and her Celestians to ride the Orks down in, and assigned others to gather up the bodies of the fallen, or burn the Orkish dead. The battle never stopped once the enemy fled.
When the Rhino arrived it barely slowed for her, leaving her to leap aboard hastily. Gathering herself in the Rhino’s doorway, she glanced around, noting the group of Sisters in their seats. They were agitated, looking ready to leap at a moments notice and their zeal was impressive to see. “Calm yourself, the Orks will be under your guns soon enough”
Her words had a visible effect, as the Sisters settled back into their seats grudgingly, a quiet murmur of agreements and apologies filling the speeding vehicle. Tapping the armoured thigh of the Sister standing in the top hatch, Rosia waited for her to drop into the vehicle and calmly stepped up to crew the pintle-mounted storm bolter.
Ahead of her, she saw the Orks falling back in a ragged mob, some firing shots over their shoulders without looking back. Fury ran through her as she saw where they were fleeing to– the Orkish cowardice had purpose in a ragged assortment of light transports a way aways, where some were already mounting up.
No! I will not see the filth escape!
Shifting to look back, she surveyed the vehicles arrayed around and -most importantly– behind her and picked out the Exorcist at the rear of the pack. “Rain down the Emperor’s Fury on them!” she called, before turning back and picking out the nearest Ork truck to stitch with bolter shells.
The explosions twisted and shredded the metal of her target but caused only superficial damage, until she raked the driver with shots as it blazed away with a ramshackle firearm in her general direction. Sweeping the weapon over the targets swarming the transport area, she caught the first Ork trying to replace the driver but a hail of heavy-calibre shells forced her to duck back inside the Rhino, and by the time she rose the vehicle was already beginning to move away.
With the knowledge of how fast Orkish vehicles were known to move, her hopes began to fall. The closing fire of her Sisters was taking it’s toll, but more and more Orks were mounting up and moving. She knew that once they started to move, it would only be a matter of how many they could catch before the Orks escaped the range of her guns, and the knowledge irked her.
Rising up to take the gun again, she glanced over it. Battered, but a squeeze of the trigger proved it was still ready to dispense His Justice. Something was off though, a look at the Orks and a thought of past experiences told her they should be further away. True, the area was rubble-strewn, but Orks rarely -if ever– bothered with such considerations and their lack of speed was perplexing.
It clicked when she took a closer look at the transports the Orks were using. They were brimming with Orks, each one fighting not to be crushed in the pile of bodies desperately clinging to the transport in order to not be left behind. They were too overloaded to flee at full speed!
Beginning a prayer of thanks, she raked the nearest transport with shots, aiming low for its tracks. Several shots brought belches of smoke from it and soon it was burning. Still though, it didn’t stop, though it slowed down somewhat. Leaving it for her Sisters to burn as they went past, Rosia swung the weapon over to another target before noticing an Immolator coming up close by her right, it’s side hatch lowered toward her.
“Palatine!” came the experienced voice of a Sister Superiors . Rosia looked over, noting the ornamentation of her Celestians, nodded once to her then turned back to her aim. “We have intent to close with them, and would be honoured if you would join us!” There was an undertone to that voice, the undertone of get the warp on this transport with your bodyguards before you get yourself killed you stubborn young fool!
If Rosia caught the undertone, she didn’t comment. What she did notice was that the suggestion was sound, and her impatience to finish the Orks won out. Ducking back into the Rhino, she signalled another Sister to crew the gun before opening the hatch, fixing it as a platform level with the ground. Giving thanks for the stretch of flat ground, she took a running start and leapt for the Immolators doors.
Her draining momentum took her halfway through it’s hull in a stumble. Sororitas Power Armour might not have had the strength enhancement of it’s Astartes counterpart, but it had to have enough to let the wearer move it, and that amounted to potent servos. Even so, the short leap was a monumental effort in the incredibly heavy armour, and a credit to her might.
Noting the main turret was uncrewed, Rosia hastily took place at it’s controls. Her fondness for crewing a vehicles main gun was well-known among her Mission, owing to original service as a vehicles gunner, where she had spent a large portion of her service to the Emperor. Habitually checking the ammunition count for the heavy bolters on either side of her, she settled herself in position and took aim.
The familiar thunder of heavy ordnance thrummed through her veins, taking her back to the early days of her service, prompting memories of times when her faith was fragile, or doubts had taken hold. How could she have been so foolish? The Emperor was all, and humanities right to rule was his divine gift to them. What else could there be?
Scowling at the memories, she began a short prayer to dispel them. Immortal Emperor, guide my shots to the heart of your foes, the guns swept over an Orkish transport, reducing it to broken in bodies and twisted metal satisfyingly quickly, that they might be cleansed from a realm they are unworthy to witness, she trained the guns on that spot a few seconds longer as a few Orks struggled to rise, blasting them to bits with the ease of practice.
All-powerful Emperor, grant me the strength to see your work done, the guns thundered all around her, tearing the fleeing Orks to pieces as Rosia picked out one truck whose driver was blasting Orks from it’s vehicle, doubtless coming to the conclusion that less Orks meant less weight, and less weight meant more speed. Whether this notion had anything to do with getting away from the pursuing Sisters, or simply more speed for it’s own sake, she didn’t care. For the enemies are many, and their horrors diverse.
A precision burst knocked the driver from its vehicle in a collection of ragged lumps, and a more sustained burst slew it’s passengers. All-Creator Emperor, accept the thanks of your servant for all you have done, a succession of volleys pitched the bodies of heavily armoured Orks from another transport, and a crude tank turned it’s guns on her for a moment. An explosion buffeted her as the first rocket overshot, and the second careened off behind her. Sparks danced across the Immolators armoured hull, heavy-calibre shells scoring gouges in the armour. Rosia took aim on the lead of the tank, for your Imperium prospers, and the foe trembles before Humanities might!
A stream of shells ripped away first one turret, then another, and decapitated the gunners of two more, before the next volley skittered across the hull. One rocket struck the leftmost gun of the turret, and though it failed to explode it smashed the sanctified weapon beyond use. The fury of zeal ran through Rosia’s veins as another transports occupants opened fire on her, cracking the armourglass of the Immolators firing screen and disrupting her aim. A knot of relief unwound as a second Immolator pulled into range of the tank, hosing the Orkish vehicle down with its flamers, while yet another finished aiming with its Multi-Meltas.
Rosia’s visor dimmed to compensate for the intense brightness as the fusion beam reduced the ramshackle tank to the scrap it deserved to be, then turned her remaining gun on the Orks firing on her. Her remaining gun rained fire on them. A sudden change in direction threw her aim off a moment, and she glanced down to ascertain why. Nothing was in their way, but– eh? Something attracted her gaze low down at her right, and she leaned to the edge of the firing pit to locate the oddity.
A spark of pride filled her at the sight at her Sisters ingenuity. One of them had opened the Immolators right hatch and was kneeling with a heavy bolter on top of it, while a second Celestian fired over her head from inside the door with a bolter, both adding the weight of their fire to Rosia’s own. The woman wielding the heavy weapon noticed the Palatine’s attention and steadied the weapon touch the Aquila pendant at her neck. “Sister Alexia, milady; your earlier leap gave me the idea. His Will be done!” So saying, she returned her attention to the weapon in her hands, and Rosia didn’t bother to suppress the soft smile tugging at her lips before doing the same.
“Sister Thalma, milady!” came a voice from behind her, and Rosia recognised the following shots as the distinctive doubled report of a stormbolter. Taking stock, Rosia saw the driver was veering the Immolator off to the left edge of the chase to give her passengers a wider field of fire, and Rosia made a note to commend the driver for keeping up so well.
Alexia picked out a nearby Orkish transport lagging behind the others, raking it with shells and throwing up shrapnel that forced it’s occupants to duck low, before a wild volley of shots responded to her fire. One slug sparked off her shoulder guard, whistling perilously close by her helmetless head and dragging a flinch from her. Thalma blasted an Ork carrying a heavy weapon from his feet before Rosia saw something spark with power in the midst of the mob. Taking brief aim, she hit the mob with a volley of shots that struck a firm barrier of orange pulses. She’d heard tell of some Orks designing crude forcefields, but had never encountered one.
Then she realised the bigger problem. The side hatch was open, and the Immolator was almost on top of the Orks!
The next volley of shells punched several Greenskins from their feet, but even as the Sororitas driver veered the vehicle away, the Orks broke cover and closed the distance. Fleeing as it was, the vehicle proved too difficult for the Orks to board fully, and with Alexia blocking the doorway they could hardly get inside. But that didn’t mean Alexia herself wasn’t vulnerable.
A huge Ork, more than three times her bulk, barrelled into Alexia at speed and knocked her clean off the Immolators hatch with a triumphant roar. Thalma levelled her weapon at some of the nearby Orks– Aiming at Alexia’s attacker was too risky, but more Orks could be kept away– and a pair of Celestians blazed from inside the Immolator as it circled around for Alexia.
Rosia rained shells on the mob, but apparently they were made of sterner stuff than the others because for all the grievous wounds they took, most kept on their feet. A goodly number of shells never found their mark either, that damned field was still up.
It’s trying to get it’s hands around my throat– I won’t let it. Bad enough that it dares defile my armour with its touch, but never shall a Xenos hands touch the pure flesh of His Servants! Still, it’s massively strong and I’m ashamed to admit my terror. I can hear the servos in my armour protesting at my demands, sections of plating beginning to buckle as the Ork tries to pry my grip off its arms so it can kill me.
Emperor– give me strength! I am a Celestian, and I will not be brought low by filth such as this! My Faith runs white-hot in my mind, and I draw up a leg before kicking at one of the Orks. It doesn’t notice, but when I draw back for another kick I notice the leg isn’t in good shape. Another servo-enhanced kick and the leg snaps. The Ork still doesn’t notice, but it loses its balance, allowing me to lodge both feet in its gut and push it away in the direction of its broken leg with a wordless scream.
The Ork answers my yell, kicking out with its good leg as I try to rise. I forget. For all its brutality and bulk, Orks are lethal and skilled fighters. Blood fills my mouth, and I feel a tooth shake loose. I hit the ground again, but I managed to reach the knife on my thigh. The Ork grabs its… I’d call it an axe, but really it’s just a lump of sharp metal.
It swings at me, and I manage to roll aside a little. The blow crushes the armour of my left hip instead of my gut, crushing bones and muscle as it does so. I grit my teeth and try to rise again, the Ork does the same. It lodges a punch on my chestplate, denting the armour but not knocking me down this time, in retaliation I lodge my knife in its gun-arm. It barely even notices, knocking me back with a trio of heavy slugs.
The balance is off on my leg, I collapse in a roll, exposing my back. I can hear the Ork rising, and desperately search for an answer. The only thing that appears is my heavy bolter, a weapon too unwieldy for this. But what else do I have?
I remember being in the cell of a heretic once, before my Sisters freed me and put him to the torch. Among his rantings and insane lies, there was the phrase “Faith is madness put to use”.
Well if this idea is madness, then I must have faith it is the right kind of madness. I grasp the handle as the Ork lodges its axe in my backpack, knocking me into the rock-earth below me. I feel a rib break and more armour buckle. “Hur hur, you’ze gots plenty o’ bitz, da mekboyz’ll gimme some good gubbinz for you’ze!” I hear the beast say. I drag my heavy bolter to me, pushing myself up. A prayer fills my, racing through my mind with the speed of practice. I know it by heart, a catechism of hate and retribution. The Ork reaches down and grabs my shoulderguard, pulling me up for an execution blow.
I am the tip of His sword.
The edge of His axe.
The point of His spear.
The shot in His gun.
I whip my elbow back, rolling with the motion to shake the Orks arm off. Faith fills me, like glory in my blood. I feel the touch of divinity as I hear the Orks arm snap. Emperor– Your strength is appreciated as much as your humble servant can.
I am the Hand of the Emperor!
I roll over, dragging the heavy gun with me and lodging an odd roundhouse kick into the Ork that knocks it back a pace. The servos in my armour are screaming and juddering, battered and damaged. I can feel their strength fading. I shouldn’t be able to lift the gun with both hands, let alone one.
I do it anyway. It feels like my arm is going to break, but by the Emperor’s Grace I do it, and I blow the Ork in half with a volley of shells. I have the pleasure of seeing its features flicker in incomprehension before it falls apart. I force myself to rise to my feet, and try to raise the gun. I can’t. I can barely stand. So I don’t. I collapse to my knees and balance the gun on my leg before I pull the trigger at the mob before me.
I see Alexia’s foe fall apart, and pride fills me as I watch her rise. Battered, bloody and bruised, her faith keeps her going. It does me good to see the efforts of the faithful rewarded, and to know it means the Emperor has judged her faith to be enough. The Celestians have departed the Immolator in short order, laying down a curtain of fire on the Orks. It held them back, but their shield held off the brunt of our firepower. Alexia was a gift from the Emperor– her first salvo must have had His Guidance, because it slipped by the Orks field and blew apart one in the midst, smaller than the rest. Whatever the beast was, it must have had the generator because suddenly the field failed, and I relished the sight of my Celestians blowing the beasts to bits.
I climb out of the gunnery pit hastily as a group of Celestians go among the downed Orks to dispense kill-shots among the watchful eyes -and bolters– of their Sisters. As I draw closer to Alexia, I see she truly did take a pounding. Her armour is dented and buckled in a half-dozen places, her backpack is sparking intermittently and blood is flowing freely out of a wide gap in the armour of her thigh. The gun looks heavy in her hands, and her steps lack the easy speed of a Sister in good form– I realise the power in her suit is failing.
I gesture a Sister over, then have her help me help Alexia to the Immolator. She looks at me seriously for a moment, and I nod. I don’t need words to tell her she did well. Half a minute later, we’re loaded up and moving, lagging behind the other Sisters again.
++Marauder flight 00791 to Palatine Rosia of the Order of the Argent Shroud, requesting confirmation of bombing run and angle of attack++
The message takes me by surprise for a moment, until I process what it means. An Imperial Navy flight of Marauders, assigned to finish off the Orks we’ve been hunting. Checking the battleground I can see most of the Ork vehicles have bled themselves of enough passengers to start escaping, and I offer a concise prayer of thanks to Him for the Marauders fortuitous timing.
++Marauder flight 00791 to Pala-++
++Palatine Rosia to Marauder flight 00791. Confirm bombing run on parallel angle to Orkish line of retreat. Emperors Grace above all++
++Confirm angle, Palatine; risk of frien-++
++Angle confirmed Marauder flight, begin the run! Emperors Fury to His foes!++
A short pause, and I think I hear a muffled, if heated insult aimed at my sanity.
++Angle confirmed, Palatine Rosia. Emperors Preservation to His servants++
Their hesitation irks me, but I remember that they are Guard, not sisters. Common soldiers, not so blessed with unswerving faith in Him as my Sisters are. More’s the pity.
++Palatine Rosia to all Sisters. By His Grace, a flight of Marauders is approaching to open the Orks from front to back– clear a path for them, that they may carve their path through Xenos hides without fear of harming His Servants. Imperator Eternus!++
A flurry of confirmations swamps my comm and I feel the Immolator turn sharply to one side, increasing speed. I scan the horizon for the Marauders, then check behind me and spot them. Three rapidly-approaching silhouettes. I can’t hear them of course, thundering over the landscape, the Emperor granting them the speed to outrace the roar of even their own engines. I spot the first muzzle flashes and turn quickly to watch the Orks… Evaporate.
A clutch of transports go down amid a volley of lascannon beams, and several more are engulfed by heavy bolter shots. An all-encompassing roar washes over me as the bombers begin their run, a line of furious explosions starting a little before the Orkish vehicles and after a moment, engulfing them. The sight of the detonations stirs my heart– a testament to the all-conquering power of the Emperor. I have seen more stirring sights in my time, but the effects of Marauders have a certain… ease about them, the knowledge that this is the level of destruction the Imperium I strive to protect commonly employs, the kind of fury that is meted out on Xenos, heretics and witches on a common basis.
It’s not over, I know that, the Orks still have a horde of enslaved mutants to be dealt with, but the day is a victory and I and my Sisters can rejoice. Emperor willing, many more will follow.
If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
-Records of Ancient Terra, Volume XIII – Fragments
Auster van Morgentaler gazed into the empyrean vastness of the Warp, pondering its hues. Always shifting, always changing, that was the nature of the enemies of man. It was said that there was only one certainty in a cruel universe, and that was the Emperor, his light an eternal testament to benevolent order in the maelstrom of the Warp. But the universe was vast, so vast, and cold.
Auster gazed into the Warp, and sought in its twisting madness the Emperor’s light. Today it was not to be found.
Today he celebrated his one hundred and fiftieth year of service to the Imperium of Man, following the same ritual he had since he began his service as a young interrogator, seeking the greater order in chaos. One hundred and fifty years, always the same result.
Auster’s thoughts returned to his surroundings, the observation deck of the space freighter Plutus, worn with tremendous age and lack of repair. It was a wonder that the hulking vessel held together, but on fringes of the Imperium one could not be overly discriminating in their choice of transportation.
Behind Auster stood one of his retinue, the Eldar Ranger Isengul, his tall cloaked form silent and sinister. Isengul had been bound to Auster through one of the mysterious pacts of the Eldar, the content of which he would not speak. An outcast of the craftworld Alaitoc by choice, he had wandered the galaxy for years untold. Auster thought that perhaps they shared a kindred spirit, though it was heresy to do so.
Auster himself was a tall man of slight build. Though he was only of a middle age for a man of the Imperium’s upper classes, he chose to wear the years upon his face, only permitting adepts of the medical arts to provide him with the minimum rejuvenatory treatments necessary to continue his duty to the Emperor. Long white hair framed his gaunt and slightly wrinkled face. His eyes were dark, but a fierce and unnatural yellow that had marked him as a psyker from his youth. He wore over his matte black power armor a dark crimson cloak and carried at his side the rune inscribed blade Twilight through which he focused his considerable psychic powers, honed in fierce battle since his days of training at the Schola Progenium. At his side hung a Tau plasma pistol, taken from a dying Tau commander he had killed while on a raid of a xenos cult. Compact and more efficient than unstable Imperial models, it had served him well since. His inquisitorial rosette hung on a chain of white gold from his neck, glimmering against the blackness of his armor.
Auster was a member of the Emperor’s holy inquisition and he had come to prosecute His justice.
Called radical by some for employing xenos and their arcane tech-sorcery, he had long since left his posting in the Ultramar system, using his seniority to guarantee his freedom. Though he owed allegiance to the Ordo Xenos, and pursued his duty with the utmost vigilance, he found the company of his Inquisitor brethren stifling, their petty politics unbearable. Some had called him a Recongregator for his antipathy towards the stagnant mechanisms of the Imperial machine, yet truly he owed allegiance to no faction. Auster preferred solitude and kept his own counsel. For him there was only the wandering of the stars and the justice of the Emperor. Weary though he was, this was the way of his life.
Isengul at his side, Auster traveled through the maze of the Plutus, his booted footsteps marking out a metallic rhythm that punctuated the almost subsonic humming of the great warp drives. Where he walked the members of the Plutus’ crew parted with silent trepidation. Few citizens of the Imperium would have dealings with the Inquisition during their lives, yet all knew of it through whispered tales of fear and awe. The sight of the inquisitorial rosette made men quickly find duties that needed to be attended to elsewhere.
“Captain, how fares our progress?” Auster said as he strode on to the bridge of the Plutus, turning to face the ship’s corpulent captain. Seated upon his throne, enthralled in the operations of his decrepit vessel, Captain Alvin Xerxes was a poor sight. His faded finery bulged precariously, trying to contain his great bulk, and much of his once gold-plated throne had been worn clean with the accumulation of the man’s sweat. At length words oozed phlegmatically from his mouth, reminding Auster of the speech of some wretched Nurgle-spawned plague demon:
“We are almost at our destination Lord, the Warp has been unexpectedly treacherous in these parts…I apologize for any delay” he said. Auster could see the Captain’s sycophantic excuses for what they were. The warp had little to do with the delay, it was clearly the degenerate state of the Plutus that had caused them to travel at this lethargic pace. His only joy in the Captain’s report was that he could soon leave the detestable man’s company.
“Very good Captain, that will be all.” He said as he left the room, the stench of the Captain’s body odor following him long after he had departed the bridge. Auster made towards his quarters to prepare for his work upon the world Alethea Minor. On his way a hooded figure strode out of the dimness of the ship’s corridors to meet him. Strode perhaps would be the wrong word, for the other member of Auster’s small retinue, Magos Pheastus of the Adeptus Mechanicus traveled without legs - the tech-sorcery of the Adeptus affording his mechanical body the power of levitation.
“Inquisitor, how long shall it be before we depart this ship? The machine-spirit of this vessel cries out to me in wretched agony and it pains me greatly to not answer its call. If we do not disembark soon I am afraid it shall drive me mad.” Came the artificial sound of Peastus’ vox unit.
“It will not be long friend, I have it on the authority of the ever-reliable Captain Xerxes.” Auster replied with not a small amount of sarcasm in his voice. Peastus shook with the bizarre metallic laughter Auster had become used to after long years of having worked together with the Magos. Pheastus was something of a rogue himself, having made common cause with Auster because of his interest in xenos tech-sorcery. His body was a bewildering assemblage of the technology of a hundred species; though Pheastus assured him it all worked “quite harmoniously by the providence of the Machine God.”
Pheastus had enjoyed many opportunities on the edge of the Damacles Gulf to explore alien lore, and in return his services to Auster had proven invaluable. After a brief discussion Auster suggested that they return to their respective quarters to prepare for the work that lay ahead of them. Pheastus bobbed in the air as a sign of agreement, a peculiar clicking noise emanating from his body, while Isengul simply nodded and left, the faint sound of his rustling cloaks all that could be heard.
Alethea Minor was an insignificant mining world that supplied some of the factories of nearby systems; it was dotted with mining camps and only had one city of any size, unimaginatively named Alethea City, with a population of around a million it served as the administrative center for the whole planet. It was a planet that had never seen war, never supplied troops to the Imperial Guard, and outside the occasional miner’s revolt had never seen much in the way of civil unrest. All told it was a world that few would expect an Inquisitor to visit. As the Plutus made its uncertain transition from the Warp, metal groaning and mechanisms shuttering, Alethea Minor appeared in the ship’s viewports as little more than a dull brown spot in the vast expanse of space. Inquisitor Auster van Morgentaler knew its significance was far greater than appearances might suggest.
Months of poring through dusty tomes in the libraria of more civilized worlds suggested that the Alethea system had once been under the sway of an alien civilization of considerable power. A report of strange artifacts being retrieved from the mines of Alethea Minor had decided the matter. With reports of Necron encounters having risen alarmingly in the last century, Auster had become increasingly wary of the archeological endeavors of overbold explorers. The events of the Dark Crusade had made the threat to the area only too clear. Pheastus was enthusiastic about the endeavor, but Auster suspected his interests resembled those of the dangerous explorers more than his own.
Auster’s party left the Plutus with only the barest formalities paid to Captain Xerxes. Even a world as unattractive as Alethea Minor seemed like Holy Terra herself to the weary travelers after a stay on the decaying vessel. Auster couldn’t help hoping that there would be another freighter passing through the system when it came time to leave.
Aboard the Blessed Productivity, a ship Pheastus had “appropriated” from the Adeptus Mechanicus, the group entered Alethea Minor’s atmosphere, the planet’s giant sandstone mountain ranges gaining definition against the beige background of its deserts. Soon Althea City came into view, a sprawl of low rise habs that varied little in color from their sandy surroundings. A local greeted them at the starport with a thick accented Low Gothic and directed them to the planetary governor’s manse.
Undoubtedly the only structure of any sophistication on the planet, Governor Parsons’ manse stood two stories high and featured a portico that extended along the front of the building that was decorated with some affected devotional verse. An attendant greeted Auster at the door, to which Auster simply replied by showing him his Inquisitorial rosette and beginning to enter the building. The attendant stared at him blankly and refused to step aside.
“Would that symbol indicate something I am currently unaware of?” he said in his thick Low Gothic. Would the wrath of the God-Emperor’s Inquisition indicate something to you? Auster willed into his dim mind, causing the attendant to fall to the ground stunned, his nose bleeding with the psychic shock. Auster proceeded upstairs, stepping over the attendent’s shaking body and beckoning for his retinue to follow. Pheastus floated over the man and Isengul passed with as much ease.
Above a background of music Auster heard voices coming from upstairs, signaling for his retinue to halt. He opened his mind to the voices upstairs - thoughts travel further than words, or so they say. He could sense four minds upstairs; three of them had the avaricious air of rogue traders, the last the avaricious air of a backwater planetary governor. This had proved to be a valuable trip. Auster could see the particulars of the dig site, the look of the artifacts, but he had to be sure of the location. He motioned to Isengul to find a secondary entrance and be ready to storm the room. With a slight breeze the Eldar ranger was gone, ready to perform his deadly business. Pheastus followed behind Auster silently, his mechadendrites emerging from his robes, ready to strike. Auster drew his plasma pistol, counted to three, and knocked on the Governor’s door.
“I am not to be disturbed Aaron!” came the Governor’s irritated voice.
“This is Inquisitor van Morgentaler, in the name of the Emperor open this door and submit to questioning!” Auster yelled through the door. 150 years and always the same thought Auster as a jumble of frightened and confused thoughts came spilling out of the room and into his psychic awareness. They make for the window he willed to Isengul. Not waiting for a response he opened the door himself and stared at the trembling Governor.
“My good Lord Parsons, it would seem your guests do not care for my company. Do not worry, my agent has gone to convince them to stay and they shall be rejoining your lordship shortly.” Auster said in his customary deadpan, causing the Governor to wet himself and mumble excuses feebly. Through the open window Auster could hear yelping as the hapless rogue traders were dealt the deft ministrations of Isengul’s netgun. “Shall I help Isengul collect them Auster?” said Pheastus with a metallic glee. Auster replied with a nod and turned to question Lord Parsons.
A few moments later the four conspirators sat side by side in the Governor’s drawing room, sneaking frightened looks at the hooded figure of Isengul watching them from the corner. Some inquisitors were of the school of thought that sheer volume would cause a suspect to submit. Auster preferred a quiet delivery, it kept them nervous.
“The situation, gentlemen, is very simple. You will take me and my associates to the site of your excavation and I will perhaps find the mercy in my heart to not have all of you executed for recklessly endangering not only this planet, but the whole system as well. You should all know very well that there is a standing ban on all archeological expeditions in this sector after the Kronus incident.” One of the rogue traders made to protest but his compatriot hit him over the head to silence him
“Alright lord, we’ll cooperate.” The trader replied.
The dusty landscape of flew by as the Blessed Productivity traveled towards Alethea Minor’s north pole. The Governor and his conspirators had directed Auster towards the planet’s polar continent, across a dust ocean. Pheastus grumbled in his bizarre binary language about air intakes being clogged in the great clouds of the stuff that washed up in brown waves, kilometers into the atmosphere. Auster sat staring out of the ship’s front view port, lost in thought about the ruins that awaited them. Once arrested the rogue traders had told him what they knew without much in the way of psychic prodding, yet aside from the ruins’ location, they had precious little to reveal. The level of education on Althea Minor was basic at best – all the more reason that traders should have little to do with the relics of lost civilizations, their ignorance only increasing the danger such explorations posed to the rest of the Imperium. Auster was startled out of his thought by Isengul’s liquid voice:
“The ruins are likely those of my people. This world – I sense that it was not always as it is now.” He said with his usual gravity. The Eldar did not speak frivolously.
“Exodites do you suppose?” Auster queried.
“No…older still. There are…things that should not be spoken of there. Stories of my people better left forgotten. I can sense evil beneath these sands.” Auster sometimes found Isengul’s statements maddeningly ambiguous, yet he had spent enough time with the Eldar to understand that this was Isengul at his most emphatic. He had not felt anything since he had landed on the sandy world but the Eldar had a connection to each other and their past that no man could understand.
“I would see this planet’s secret Auster.” Spoke Pheastus, floating over to join the conversation. “We should at least catalogue the ruins’ contents before leaving. The journey has been long and I would not leave entirely emptyhanded.”
“You do not know of what you speak” replied Isengul.
“No he is right, we must understand what is in those ruins, it might indicate a broader threat in the sector to be countered.” Auster had decided, and his word was final. Although he knew Pheastus’ aims were much less simple than he had said he had to agree with the old Magos, though on different grounds. A stream of binary clicks came from one of the Blessed Productivity’s servitors. They would be landing shortly.
The excavation site was like a gaping maw emerging out of the endless sands of Alethea Minor. Stepping out of the Blessed Productivity Auster braced himself against the cold of the polar dust storm that whipped about him. He waited for Pheastus and Isengul to disembark with the Rogue Traders in tow and waved for them to follow him down into the pit that had been rent out of the desert.
Inside the excavation site the winds surging above the entrance produced an insane howling. Auster ignored the sound and focused on the path in front of him, a skull servitor providing illumination with an attached lamp. Centuries of sediment gave way gradually to the graceful and sinister form of wraithbone, the Eldar’s psychically constructed material. He could sense even with his ambient psychic senses that Isengul was touched with profound melancholy at the sight. The Eldar had never said how many years he had been away from his people but I could only imagine his loneliness. Pheastus for his part was busy recording every detail of the site he could find.
As the party descended into the depths of the excavation site the howling of the entranceway subsided and we were left in profound silence. Auster could still not sense a thing with his psychic awareness, making him all the more concerned. A grimace spread across his age worn face as he peered into the ever-receding darkness and walked on. Eventually the tunnel opened into a vast dome structure. Intricate sculpture decorated the roof, celebrating the myths of the Eldar, though Auster knew he would never understand their meaning. What was more important here was his duty to the Emperor.
“We only went in this far” said the head Rogue Trader. Auster could see that parts of the interior had been removed with lascutters, explaining the surfacing of artifacts around the sector. “There’s a door that goes farther in though, we were going to explore it after this part had been…salvaged.” The trader explained. Auster grimaced at the man’s stupidity, but saw that he was correct – there was an arched doorway more elaborately decorated than the rest of the room. Following his gaze the skull servitor illuminated the intricate ruins that covered the doors.
“I will read them.” Isengul said as he walked towards the door. He scanned the writings for a few minutes before turning to the rest of the small party. “This door should not be opened. There is an abomination sealed within that could destroy us all.” He said.
“What manner of creature is it?” Asked Pheastus.
“I do not know exactly, it is of a time far before our own, and only an elder of my race could discern the true meaning of this inscription.”
“We should examine them further…the results could be revealing…” Pheastus trailed off as his mechadendrites extended from under his cloak and brushed against the inscriptions, recording them for future reference.
“No, it is forbidden!” Isengul said with an uncharacteristic amount of emotion and rushed over to the Magos – a dark blur. He tackled Pheastus to the ground, the Magos’ body clanking against wraithbone. But it was already too late. The inscriptions flared to life a fiery red, the sorcery of the place awakening. Auster instinctually drew Twilight, the sword flaring to life as well. Still he sensed nothing. For a moment there was nothing but the hum of the runes, Isengul and Pheastus recovering from their fall with Pheastus making some irritated remarks. Then it came. Auster’s psychic senses went wild as the door began to bulge outward and disintegrate, the songs with which it was created signing backwards perversely. Isengul retreated to the shadows and drew his rifle, Pheastus’ robe fell away to reveal a number of weapons that extended out of his body. The door gave way in a burst of psychic power that made Pheastus give out a burst of static from his vox and blew out the minds of the hapless rogue traders. The skull servitor was dashed against the wall by the force and exploded into dust. Auster reeled and Twilight flared, burning into the flesh of his hand as his mental defenses struggled to protect him. In the wake of the psychic burst came a flood of blackest malice that threatened their sanity. Out of the doorway strode a naked male Eldar, or rather what had once been Eldar. Over its skin flared failing runes of binding, and its hands ended in wicked wraithbone claws that were strangely jet black. Its long hair flowed wildly down its back and in its mouth were wicked teeth of the same colour as its claws. The thing laughed without opening its mouth – a terrible dark laughter whose message was oblivion. It turned to where Isengul was concealed.
So considerate of you to waken me young one it willed into his mind. I shall repay you the debt by devouring your soul. Phaestus opened fire on the creature, a withering storm of projectiles spraying harmlessly off its form. The creature grinned and in an instant it was beside him, driving its arm clean through his torso as though it were but thin air. Pheastus’ vox wailed horribly in a mechanical death scream as the creature then conjured psychic flame that flowed out of his clawed hand to burn the Magos inside out. Isengul took the moment that the creature was distracted with its sadistic pleasure to fire a flurry of rounds unerringly at its head. The Eldar rifle crackled as the energy bolts flew from it, the sheer force of them overcoming the creature’s psychic shield, already weakened with his attention on immolating Pheastus. The creature’s neck snapped from the shock, and its head hung grotesquely from skin alone, but then somehow righted itself, regenerating through sheer psychic might. Auster charged it, Twilight glowing in his hands and raised above his head. He brought the blade down and the creature moved instantly to block with its forearm, stronger than ceramite. Auster’s whole body vibrated with the shock as he returned to a ready stance, guarding himself. Isengul fired again, but this time the shots were absorbed by the creature’s defenses. He shouldered the rifle and ran to assist Auster, drawing a wraithbone sword from under his cameleoline cloak. The creature turned to receive his attack.
“With me Isengul! We shall overcome it!” Auster shouted as he pointed Twilight at his enemy, focusing his psychic powers into the sword. The Eldar warrior traded a flurry of blows with the creature and turned to assist Auster, his psychic powers adding to that of the Inquisitor and turning Twilight white hot. Auster gasped as he released the psychic bolt at the creature, fire flowing out of Twilight explosively and enveloping its monstrous form. For a moment he thought they had defeated the Eldar thing, but then the flames began to take a humanoid form.
You underestimate me young ones! It roared psychically, fire erupting out of its form and vapourizing Isengul. Then it turned on Auster. Truly in his life Auster had never known such terror and all the discipline of his career as an inquisitor failed him. A clawed and flaming hand surged towards him and he saw his heart torn out, on fire but somehow still beating. There was nothing but flame around him. In his last breath he tried to look for the Emperor’s light in its madly shifting form.
But the universe was vast, so vast, and cold.
The Darkness That Befalls Us
The Darkness That Befalls Us
I remember when I was human, lowly, weak, ignorant, foolish, but I was happy. Now the sounds of guns and death cloud my mind, perception and judgment. All I know now is duty and death. I am one of few who stand and fight against the vile xenos and against the horrors of the darkness. At least I thought I did fight against the horrors of darkness.
Although my memories of my youth are clouded with the horrors I have witnessed, I still remember my home. The windswept plains of vibrant grass and small flowers dotted the fields. The smell of the sea and the crashing of waves seem like a paradise now. I had a sister who was younger than I was and we would run through the fields that my parents farmed and enjoy looking down at the water below. Times were great back then, but that changed quickly.
I do remember though the flyer that caught my eye, it was a competition and there was a reward, but it didn’t say. If I recall correctly, it said that it was a once in a life time opportunity to serve your planet and serve the Imperium. At that time I did not know what the Imperium was, for I grew up on a small planet that did not have any contact with other planets. I did not even know that the many places I have been existed, but this flyer, the one I kept, changed my life.
I left in the morning with one of the finest steeds that my parents raised and supplies and headed towards the events that would change me forever. When I arrived, there were 3000 other young children, all boys, waiting to compete as well. All were crowed in the town square and standing on a podium was a behemoth of a man. He wore a dark burned red suit of armour with black accents. When he spoke it was as if the earth trembled and as if the clouds themselves feared this man. I remember this clearly though what he said. He told us; “You have answered the call, but now the call must choose you.” He pointed towards the west, towards what we called the “Daken” which means the Mountains of Darkness. “Head west and do not stop until you reach the highest peak, there you will find a large building, larger than your minds could ever imagine. There you will proceed to the next task. Reach it within one day or you will not continue.”
There was a great pause then we started to leave the town square. Some of the boys left and headed home, while others very anxious and headed towards the mountains immediately. I was driven by curiosity and the thirst to know, so I was one of them that headed towards the mountains. The journey was dangerous as we climbed through the rugged mountains. We helped each other for we knew that if we did not work as a team; the darkness would surely come to claim us. The vast crevasses shrieked and the sun was blocked out by the peaks, but we continued onwards, our curiosity driving us. We did not know which peak was the highest, but the only way to go was up, so we continued upwards and upwards, the cold biting at us as the eyes of dark beasts below us.
As we came closer to the top we saw the giant castle, more massive than the largest town I had visited and it was adorned with large symbols that I would learn later belonged to the inquisition. Their symbols scared me when I saw them, and the fortress scared me as well, but fear of what manner of beasts had been following us scared me more. We pressed on through the snow, our clothes had been reduced to rags and frost bite had begun to settle in. We approached the massive fortress; our group had now been reduced to no more than 500 of the original 3000. I guess that makes me one of the fortunate ones. When we reached the door, there were armed men, inquisitional storm troopers I know now, but at the time they seemed like statues standing guard for they did not flinch nor move even as we walked past them.
When we entered there were men who directed us down a separate path and to a room. When we had all entered they locked us inside and we heard the voice of someone and he said to us: “You must now escape the labyrinth that you are in. Only the strong will pass.” Fear set in and some started to panic, but I was not one to fear such a task. I did not fear the labyrinth and we were able to easily pass through it. Only 40 of those who were with our 500 we did not see again for they chose a different path in the labyrinth; however I was not ready for the next task.
When we exited the labyrinth we were greeted by the current chapter master, the same one who had given the brief speech at the town square. He smiled at us and then told us: “Welcome to your final task, but for now you rest. Come, a feast waits for you.” I remember that well as hunger had gripped me because I had not eaten for at least a day. The food was great and all 460 of us feasted well. Then Chaplain Remus gave a speech about the history of our chapter, the chapter that I belong to. I know it well for I have heard it on many occasions. “Welcome children, you have proven yourself strong enough to pass two of the tests, but the final one awaits you tomorrow. Until then, rest, rest... let me tell you of the Dark Dragoons. We are the Space Marines, grandchildren of the Emperor of Mankind and sons of Dorn. The Emperor’s gaze reaches all and his empire spans the entire stars of this galaxy, but there are those who oppose his divine rule. Foul xenos and those unfaithful to the Emperor seek to kill all of those who are faithful, but we are his Angels who bring his vengeance and his death to his enemies. Now sleep well children for tomorrow is your final trial.” I do not remember what exactly happened next, but I do remember the next day for it was a day to remember.
I was escorted personally by a space marine and led into an arena, there one other from our number. Then we were told: “Kill the other.” I was in a daze, but I remember those words so clearly. He attacked me and I attacked back. The fight was long and brutal and we both knew that only one of us would survive. I do not know why I killed him nor do I clearly remember how, but I killed him and it made me sick to my stomach. I remember looking at him, broken and bleeding on the ground. He looked at me breathing heavily as I stood above him and the last words I remember him saying was: “Why?” then he died there as I looked at the body. I was congratulated on my victory, but as soon as I had time to think another entered. He too was covered in blood just as I and I killed him as well. This time the sickness started to feel less and it became less the more that I killed. I guess I just got used to it. After many rounds of fighting a Chaplain approached me and took some ashes from chalice then sprinkled them on me.
I believe I passed out after that as next thing I remember is waking up a new man... if I can call myself that. After that day, my life would never be the same as I tower over ordinary men and have the strength to crush them with my bare hands, but yet I still felt like it was a dream. It was far too much for me at the time, I had two hearts instead of one, and additional lung and many other organs that I do not know the names for, but somehow, I still felt the same. I left that inquisition fortress as the entire chapter did for the Dark Dragoons are fleet based; I have no homeworld to return to, only the towering battleships and fleet. As is customary with every chapter I was placed in the 10th company. There I learned of our chapter’s customs and how to fire a bolter. It soon became as like breathing and soon I was combat ready. The sound of the bolter firing became so familiar to me I don’t remember a single day that I have not heard the sound of the bolter firing.
My first combat experience is unforgettable, it is a blur of emotions and thoughts all wrapped up into one thought; secure the objective. I was one of the three scout squads dropped into a vibrant forest, we had painted our armour in anticipation for the drop, but we would require more than camouflage to live through the mission. We were to infiltrate a Tau base of operations and secure an artefact that they had stolen from the Inquisition. If I recall correctly, the inquisition had been investigating a rare artefact when they were attacked by the Tau. Few had survived, but they were able to track the Tau back to an outpost where the artefact was being held by the Tau. Our mission was to infiltrate the base of operations then set up teleport homers for the terminators to arrive. Once they arrived they would cleanse the base and the artefact would be ours for the taking. We would have some support from the Inquisition, but not much only a few storm troopers.
It was nightfall on the planet as we were dropped into the planet’s atmosphere. I remember the drop well; it was quiet except for the landing. The drop pod screeched through the sky like a meteor and I wondered whether the Tau would have detected us or the storm troopers who were descending elsewhere on the planet. When the drop pod landed we immediately disembarked at took up point, ensuring that we were alone here and that no Tau patrols had spotted the drop pod. The night made the jungle feel thick and musty, but that was the least of our concerns as we crawled through it. I recall my veteran sergeant telling me: “Welcome to your first combat experience. Hopefully it will be your first of many.” He seemed nice enough, pity I did not know him very well.
We approached the Tau complex under the cover the darkness. I remember it well and I will never forget as I had never seen anything quite like it. The buildings had an almost smooth shape, unlike the harsh jagged edges of the Imperium. I removed the thought of it at the time and clenched my bolter harder. Three of the scouts with sniper rifles took up position overlooking an entrance, while we with bolters moved in closer. My heart started to beat faster as we approached and although I had gone over our orders and battle plans many times, I was still nervous. I did not know how the battle would end, but I know it would be unforgettable.
We received the signal; the Inquisitional Storm Troopers had begun the attack on the north side of the complex. Soon sounds of alarms filled the air and I could see battle suits taking to the sky. That was our signal to infiltrate the complex. We got strait to work and planted melta-bombs at the Tau gate. In a fiery explosion we emerged firing our guns, the sound of the bolter was familiar, but there was a new sound. The sound of foul Xenos dying.
We charged in, ignoring the pulse rifle shots that were raining down upon us. I felt one shot hit me and it burned my flesh, but I ignored it. Some of my fellow scouts were not so fortunate... As I followed my sergeant and another scout, an accurate pulse rifle shot blasted his head clean off. It was a disgusting sight, but I had seen much death, perhaps too much for my own good, so I carried on and even ran over to his bloody corpse. How I still remember, picking up the teleport homer from the lifeless corpse, it looked peaceful and yet vengeful at the same time, if a corpse could look as such. The homer would not leave his hands without a fight though as if he was still trying to hold on to the device. I got it loose and continued to run through the rain of gun fire. The other scout squads had joined us in combat and were adding some suppressing fire to the mix.
The noise of gun fire still filled the air as ran to set up the teleport homer and I felt another shot hit my right arm. This one burned more than the previous and I still carry the scar from it, but I worked through the pain. I was thankful for the training exercises that we preformed endlessly back on the Dark Dragoon flagship; His Righteous Fury. I had to set it up in the open as I was trained to and at the moment I did not give it a second thought as I followed my orders. I opened the device and set in the coordinates then pressed the signal button and hopped that reinforcements would arrive soon. I pulled out my bolter and begun to shoot at the foul Tau, the noise was beginning to become a comfort compared to the high pitched noise that the pulse rifles made.
I had to take cover as Tau battle suits began raining missiles down upon the battle field. Most of the scouts took cover, but those that didn’t were destroyed, the armour could not hold against the power behind the missiles. Soon a trio of Tau battle suits landed in the complex and begun raining more missiles at us space marines, but added dangerous plasma rifle shots to the rain. Now it was becoming a storm as we returned fire at them. Our bolter shots seemed to bounce off of them while their plasma shots were burning through my comrades.
Suddenly there was a blinding flash of blue light and twenty terminators stood next to the teleport homer. They immediately began to open fire on the Tau battle suits, their storm bolters finding their mark on the green battle suit armour. They battle suits directed their attention at the terminators and fired their weapons, the missiles exploded harmlessly on the terminator armour, but the plasma rifle shots were aimed true and a terminator fell. I saw the carnage of one of our prized terminator armour fall completely ruined in smouldering flames, and immediately felt more anger towards our enemy. I still do not know why I felt that kind of anger, as now when I see a terminator fall I do not feel overcome with the anger that I felt that day. I aimed my bolter at the battle suit and fired. I must have been extremely lucky or the Emperor must have guided my shot as I recall the shot going through the Tau battle suit head. The machine staggered then took flight away from the fighting. The other two battle suits followed suit, but one was shot down by a cyclone missile from the third squad of terminators that had just arrived. Now the cleansing of the complex had begun.
The Terminators begun to fire at the Tau soldiers that were up on the buildings taking cover, but the rain of pulse rifle shots did not cease. In my wisdom at the time I decided to enter the nearest building and try to cleanse it of the Tau warriors on the roof. I do not know why I decided to do such a task, but I regret it... for what I found inside that building was my fate and the fate of many more. As I approached the door it seemed as if more and more pulse rifle shots were being aimed at me, but I paid little attention and simple fired my bolter blindly as I ran. When I got to the door, to my surprise there were two other scouts placing charges to open it. It exploded and we ran in, just in time too, as I heard the crash of more missiles. I guess more Tau Battle Suits must have begun to join the battle.
Alarms were going off and the sound was deafening, but we stayed true to our mission. The building was like nothing I had ever seen before, all the sleek smooth bright hallways were in stark contrast to the fleet that I am used to. I know that the temptations that the Tau offers are almost as dangerous as those which Chaos promises. That much I do know. We silently and carefully walked through the hallways, taking up point and covering our advances, in case there were Tau soldiers still in the building. Our dark burnt red armour did not blend in well with the hallways that were a bright white, but we were fortunate for we did not encounter any soldiers. What we did encounter was far worst however that has brought great change and despair, but I did not know it at the time.
As we continued through the building, we began to hear some voices, not the voices of fellow space marines, but the strange foul tongue of the Tau. We approached a door; I took up point while the other two scouts moved towards it prepared to open it. As they placed the explosives, I held my breath, for it could have resulted in my death, what if behind that door were one hundred fire warriors preparing for battle. We would not be able to kill them all and fear settled in, but I know better now, for my knees do not quake when I think about these things. When the melta bomb went off, it seemed as if time itself had slowed down as I took a deep breath and aimed my bolter; ready to kill any Tau that may be inside. The fiery roar of the burning flames rushed past me and it felt good.
The smoke cleared and I saw two Tau figures; one pulled what appeared to be a pistol at me and I shot him through the head. It was like breath a breath of death, as the bolt shell went through his head. The emperor must have been guiding my weapon that day, for it was the second well aimed shot of the day. The other Tau figure wore robes and carried a gold staff with a highly polished gem at the top. We entered with our guns raised and he raised his grey skinned hand as a sign of surrender. I remember what he said that day very clearly, as the words burned into my mind and still do.
“I am defeated space marine,” the Tau alien said “you and your kind have bested me, but know that you will never defeat the Tau in the end. The Greater Good will prevail.” He spoke high gothic with a slight accent, but none the less it was well presented. His expression was grim as he said these words and those black eyes I will never forget.
“The Greater Good will be coming out of my bolter and into your head foul Xenos,” shouted one of the scouts who I would come to know as Brother Sepheron. He glared at the Tau as he pointed his bolter at him.
“Strong words from such a non-believer,” replied the Tau alien.
“It is you who are the non-believer!” I exclaimed, “The Emperor of mankind rules all and He demand that we, His angels of death purge all who do not believe in him.” Rage was beginning to enter my heart and I could have ended the standoff right then and there, but I didn’t as the objective was more important than schooling some foul xenos.
“Tell us,” said the other scout who I now know as Brother Aukun,
“Where is the relic that you stole from the Imperium?” I was sweating at this point as I feared that he would be able to inform thousands of Tau soldiers of our presence and whether they would come and kill us.
“You had no right to claim that item as yours,” replied the Tau alien, “It belongs to the Greater Good just as all the stars will soon be united by us. But if you demand it so insistently, you do not have to look far for it. On the table in front of him, he began to reach for a button.
“Hold fast xenos,” I said, “How do we know that you will not call for reinforcements?” It was weighing on my mind too greatly and I did not want to take that risk.
“You do not know,” replied the Tau alien, “But I admit defeat and I will accept it honourably.” He pressed a button on the table in the centre of the room and it opened. What we saw inside was horrible and unsightly; I still suffer from nightmares because of what I saw. Out came a black orb so dark that it absorbed all light and it radiated its own dark light back. I could not look away and I heard voices in my head as I am sure my other two compatriots heard as well. Whispers of tempting power and of the truth flowed through my mind. It was like no other pain I had experienced.
“You see human,” said the Tau alien, “This is your so called “relic”. I did not think it so precious, but now that I see your expression I feel that it must affect you differently than I; however you will not have this so called “relic” for I will destroy it.” The Tau alien raised his staff and the whisper became a demand. I heard it clear in a harsh voice, demanding that I stopped the Tau alien. Everything became so confusing and I became frozen. Brother Aukun also became frozen and I still wonder whether he heard the same call, but I never had the guts to ask him. I remember seeing the staff come down, as if time had slowed, and I watched as if dazed as the events unfolded.
Mentally I was prepared to hear a loud crashing noise as if glass had been cracked, but the noise never came. The staff stopped only a few centimetres from the orb and when I looked up I saw Brother Sepheron holding the staff, preventing it from moving any further. It seemed like an epic struggle as they fought for control over the staff, but we being more than just humans easily had an edge over the Tau alien. Brother Sepheron over powered the Tau alien and threw the staff away. He then pulled out his combat knife and drove it into the neck of the Tau alien; cyan blood spewed over his dark burnt red armour. I was frozen in place, but I slowly began to regain awareness of what had occurred. The whispers stopped and I quickly lowered my bolter and surveyed the room. I saw Brother Sepheron approach the orb, pick it up and then lift it into the air as if it was his trophy. I now believe that it called to him and possibly congratulated him for saving it.
Suddenly I heard loud footsteps, those that could only be created by fellow space marines. Sepheron lowered the orb quickly and a few seconds later we saw the Chapter Master accompanied by the Chief Librarian and some terminators. The Chapter Master seemed pleased as he had a slight smile on his face as he approached us. His iron halo lit the room up and purging the dark aura from the orb. At the time the Chapter Master was Brother Anglout.
“Excellent work Brothers,” he said, “You have recovered the relic that the inquisition seeks. The Emperor has truly guided you and you will be rewarded for your loyalty and bravery today.” Brother Sepheron handed the orb over to the Chief Librarian. He examined the orb very carefully and seemed to be using his psychic powers as his eyes began to fill with blue fire.
“This orb has been damaged slightly,” he exclaimed, “Part of its power seems to be missing, but the majority of it is still present. We will hand this over to the Inquisitor immediately. I am sure that he will be pleased.” As he placed the orb in a container decorated with many purity seals I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a small chip in the orb. I did not know why the orb had been chipped at the time, but I know now.
“Honoured Brother Anglout,” said one of the terminators, “Inquisitor Terin approaches.” I remember seeing the man approach, a grim look on his face as I know that many Inquisitors condemn billions of people to death at a whim. With him he carried his demon hammer and his Icon of the Just. He white scared skin told of many battles that he had participated in, and although he is a servant of the Emperor all Inquisitors cause stress in my mind.
“What honour do we owe to such an occasion Inquisitor?” asked Honoured Brother Anglout trying to be as gracious as possible. I respect Honoured Brother Anglout and I still do.
“Thank you Chapter Master,” replied Inquisitor Terin, “I thank you for retrieving this relic, but I am also here to pass judgement on those who retrieved the orb.” I saw his eyes meet mine as he said this and the stare sent a shiver down my spine at the time. Now when I see the eyes of an inquisitor, I see a hollow shell that enforces the law of the Imperium.
“They are outside of your control Inquisitor,” replied the Chapter Master, “It is true that you may command anyone from a planetary governor to a citizen, but the space marines are outside of your authority. The chapter will pass judgement on these brave brothers of mine.” They gave each other a long stare at each other then the Inquisitor grabbed the box and left without saying a word.
When we returned to the fleet there was a great ceremony for us who had participated in the battle. The battle had gone according to plan with the exception that the captain of the first company had fallen in battle and he was honoured by the chaplain. The Inquisitor who requested us to retrieve the orb attended and thanked the whole chapter for participating. Brother Aukun, Brother Sepheron and I were promoted to battle brothers and implanted with the black carapace. We were given full suits of power armour, new bolters and were given purity seals by the Chaplain of the 10th company for our bravery.
I was placed in the 5th company along with Brother Aukun, but Brother Sepheron for slaying what I learned was a Tau priest was promoted to the 3rd company. I would not see him for some time, but I never did forget what he did and has done for our chapter. Brother Aukun and I grew a strong bond as battle brothers in the campaign to come. He knew what planet he came from and he knew far more about this universe than I know and perhaps more than I will ever know. He had been in the scout company for a year before the event in which we met and he knew Sepheron well as they became scouts roughly the same time.
In the campaign against the green tide of Orks we were truly tested as there was no rest during it. We fought day and night over the course of many years trying to purge the Orks on Lorn VII. Although normal men would have tired after two years of constant warfare, we were different. Where the Imperial Guard line broke we, the Dark Dragoons, were there to fill the gap, pushing the tide of Green skins back. Our bolters sending His righteous fury at these foul Xenos. I remember firing my bolter at the Green tide and watching many fall, while their crude weapons were fired wildly, hitting as many of my battle brothers as they did their own. By time that the battle ended, my armour was stained in Ork blood and my ammunition had run dry.
We could not be everywhere at once and our numbers slowly dwindled over constant warfare. For every Ork we killed there would be two more to take his place, but for every battle brother we lost there would be no one to replace him. The campaign was taking its toll on the two companies sent to Lorn VII and we did not seem to be making any ground in the battles. Many battle brothers fell and I was eventually promoted to Sergeant because the Sergeant of my tactical squad was killed in battle. I did not deserve the rank for any superior acts of bravery, but was given it out of necessity for tactical squad leader.
The situation turned bleak when I heard of a report that the Captain of the 5th company had been killed in a surgical strike against the Ork Leader. It was a desperate attack to end the war, but it failed and now with my knowledge of combating Orks I would say that it would not have helped. We still fought and the 1st, 2nd and 6th companies were brought in to support our numbers, but even with the added support of 300 more battle brothers we still could not turn the tide of the war. The Imperial guard were becoming depleted as thousands of them fell in each battle and soon only 15 of their companies were left with our 5. We still held out for 40 more years, but by that time, our numbers were so few that only 90 battle brothers from the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 5th and 7th remained. We were ordered to withdraw and leave the planet to its fate.
When we returned back to the fleet they ordered a cleansing of the world, but it failed. We had underestimated the Orks as when our thunder hawks began heading towards the battleships in orbit, they sent their own aircraft after us. They must have anticipated it as Ork spacecraft were launched from the planet, many more than we could handle and we retreated. Lorn VII is now an Ork infested world and will most likely be for many years to come.
When we were given rest from our long campaign, I was promoted to the first company for my valiant effort during the war. I cannot recall the exact battle that had earned me the promotion as there were many battles and now they are one green blur in my memory. I was glad that it was over, and yet I felt great shame for failing. However it was during the campaign that Brother Aukun discovered his psychic potential and soon he began his training to become a Librarian. The long rest was much appreciated as we recovered our ranks; I only participated in one significant battle as company champion for Brother Captain Sepheron.
He had proven himself in battles against the Tau and was promoted to the 3rd company, but he would even exceed that. As the story goes, he defeated a Xenos beast in single combat while fighting the Tau and was then promoted to company champion. During the short campaign the captain of the 3rd company died for mysterious reasons and as tradition within the Dark Dragoons there is a gladiatorial competition for the position. It is not bloodless, but it is rare that any of the competitors die. Brother Sepheron was victorious in his fights and he was awarded the position. He led his company to victory over the Tau after his promotion after a single year of war. It was unbelievable, but after the defeat that the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th companies suffered it was good news.
We were to battle against the Eldar, who I have come to respect, but I still hate. Their lies and deception combined with their psychic powers has caused many problems. Fighting them is fighting mist, when I see figures off in the distance and even when they come closer they fade away only to attack a squad from behind. When it seems that we are victorious they only retreat because they know that another race is going to attack us that they most likely brought. This battle that I fought was like the others, except for a strange encounter that I had the fortune and misfortune of participating in.
My memory is skewed in this battle as it seems like a bad dream. We fought in a marsh, where the noxious ammonia fog was very thick and this was favourable for the Eldar, like every battle they fight. I remember advancing with Brother Captain Sepheron and the rest of the command squad, but even though we advanced as a group there was no one around me. I was not afraid like I had been before and I readied my power sword as I expected an attack. I was not disappointed.
An Eldar witch came at me with his sword raised dressed in green robes. I parried the attack, but he struck again very quickly and wounded me in my leg. I saw my chance and struck him with my sword, but he was protected by their alien magic. I was not about to let that stop me though and as he came for another attack I tackled him to the ground then proceeded to beat him with my fists. I brought back memories from the first thing I had ever killed. For a moment I saw the face of the child I had beaten to death and the words ran through my head “WHY?” but I am the servant of the Emperor and no memories will stop me from my duty.
When I was sure that he was dead I looked up for any other Eldar who may be near. In the distance I saw another Eldar witch and she carried a similar sword as the first, but she wore white armour that had many runes that adorned it. Her eyes pierced my soul and sent shivers down my spine. I grabbed my sword and readied myself for her attack but none came. Then I heard her voice, but her lips did not move.
“Space marine,” she said, “You are blind to that which occurs around you. Can you not see for yourself the destruction that your captain leads you down?”
“You lie witch!” I shouted, “My captain is loyal to the Emperor and in His name I will cut you down.” I charged with my sword raised, but when I got within striking distance the witch was gone.
“In the name of your false seer or in the name of your captain?” I heard that in my head and I turned around to see her standing off in the distance. “Are you blind to his new appearance? If so then you have doomed many.” She faded into the fog and I was alone again. What happened next I am unsure, but I remember many terrible memories and many terrible experiences, however I was not afraid as I had faith in the Emperor. His light guided me through that dark time and many other dark times.
The fog eventually cleared and I saw what carnage had unfolded. My fellow Battle Brothers were decapitated and lay in pools of blood while I did not see a single Eldar body. It was if they had never been there, but I knew they had for all of the twenty battle brothers that we had fought with lay dead with only Brother Captain Sepheron still alive. The body of the Eldar witch that I had slain had disappeared and blood did not cover any of my body although I remember it. Blood covered his axe and his head was covered in sweat. He turned to face me and the face that I remember was no longer there. He had changed as battle had scared him, but his eyes were red.
When we returned from battle the chapter’s numbers were now growing, but there were very few veterans left and we needed many captains. I was promoted to Captain of the 4th company and given a new power sword and new suit of power armour. Brother Aukun was assigned as the 4th company librarian while Brother Captain Sepheron was promoted to Captain of the 1st company. Brother Aukun and I fought many battles together over the next five years very successfully as his foresight was very accurate and his psychic powers were powerful; however things were about to get worst.
When we received news that our Chapter Master had died we were immediately called to withdraw and rendezvous with the fleet of the 1st chapter. Brother Captain Sepheron was then promoted to Chapter Master though another gladiatorial battle. This concerned me greatly and I remember the conversation that I had with Brother Aukun on our way to the rendezvous point.
“Does something trouble you Brother Captain?” asked Brother Aukun
“I am uncertain of why we were called back from our campaign against the vile Tyranids,” I replied as I looked out from the command deck into the darkness of the warp, “I am certain that the Imperial Guard will be disappointed with our withdrawal. I feel that the Emperor would rather have us fighting against his enemies than reporting back to the fleet.”
“The Emperor guides us and I am certain that he has a reason for us to return,” replied Brother Aukun, “Have faith old friend.” At the time I wish I could smile, but I was still concerned.
“Tell me Brother Aukun how does one know whether he is serving the Emperor or not?” He paused for a while and looked out towards the vast void himself. I looked at him and I knew that he was struggling to find an answer, but after a while he spoke again.
“Service is fighting against those who threaten all that the Emperor stands for. We must be resolute in our faith and not fall to the temptations of easy power that Chaos offers or give into despair that the xenos offer.” Those words I still remember and I follow them to this day.
“Thank you Brother Aukun,” I replied graciously.
“Perhaps you should talk to Chaplain Yuten. Perhaps he will have some wise words of advice for you. In the mean time, I will go to the Library to meditate.” He turned and exited out of the command deck. I did not go to see the Chaplain that day.
My dream that night did not help ease my thoughts. In fact it was more of a nightmare. I remember fighting many daemons, but for everyone I cut down, more would clamour over the dead bodies. Their claws punctured my armour and they gnawed at my skin, but I still struck them down with my sword. All the time though I remember hearing the words over and over again: “Give in to us...” As I cleaved my way through the daemons their faces started to change, from where once horrible maws and teeth had been, now were the faces of battle brothers. I continued to cleave through them, until I saw the face of Honoured Brother Sepheron and I tried to strike him down, but he was too powerful. I then awoke in a cold sweat and for the remainder of the trip I did not sleep.
When we met up with the fleet, I was to observe the recruitment fights along with Sepheron as it is customary for the Dark Dragoons to do. What I saw I thought was quite horrid compared to what I had to do. The fight began as any other; the children beat each other as ordered. It did not make me sick as I was used to killing, but after the fight was over and one child was victorious another was brought in. A new fight started until Sepheron felt that there had been enough fights. I was expecting a Chaplain to enter and sprinkle ashes onto the child’s forehead, but I did not see any Chaplain nearby. What happened next was grizzly and I rarely speak of it as it made me sick to my stomach.
Brother Sepheron then gathered all the victorious children in one of the arenas and brought the corpses of all the others. He then ordered the children to impale the corpses upon rusted pikes then drink the blood that trickled down. Some were reluctant and he shot them on sight. They immediately did as he said and began the gruesome act of drinking the blood of the slain. Then he ordered them to take the heads of the slain and pile them up in a mound, and then he preformed heresy. Taking the blood of the slain he painted the mark of chaos on their foreheads.
At this time I realized what had happened so I stood up and said: “Honoured Brother Sepheron, what act are you committing? You paint the eight pointed star on the foreheads of these recruits. That is heresy Sepheron against the Emperor of mankind.” I saw that the blood of those impaled on the pikes had begun to seep into the stone of the gladiatorial ring and there was an ire red glow being emitted from the cracks.
“I will not lie to you,” he said, “for the false Emperor has lied to you enough. He is false as makes you weak with his false promises. When have you ever had strength? Never for the Emperor does not listen to your prayers. Do you not hear it in your head, the voices of the true gods call to you? They do, for they will answer your prayers and they will grant you strength, more strength than the Emperor would ever. Join us and accept the black testament.” I must admit, I did hear voices calling to me, but in the back of my mind I heard a voice more powerful than ever before. I knew it was the voice of the gods of chaos beckoning me, but I resisted them for I knew that strength came from the Emperor.
“I will not accept the black testament,” I replied, “for only the weak minded and weak in faith sell their souls.” I jumped down from where I was sitting into the gladiatorial ring and raised my sword to challenge Sepheron.
He laughed and said in a dark voice: “You dare think that you can challenge me? Pathetic, but if you will not bow down to Chaos then I will sacrifice your soul to feed the gods of chaos.” He raised his axe and charged at me. I dodged the attack and began to swing my own sword, but I was not prepared for his next attack. He rammed his fist into my stomach and although my power armour was strong, Brother Sepheron was far stronger. I was knocked back by that single blow, but I regained my feet and attacked again; my aim was true and I struck him in the shoulder. He then tackled me into the wall and began punching my armour where he had previously. I struck him down with my power sword and jumped back to ready myself to attack. Sepheron charged with his axe, but I was ready and I dodged the attack and cut his wrist in the process. The axe fell to the ground, but he struck me with a knife in my side. I still bear the wound today. I fought through the pain, but as I came to attack again, he punched me in the face and I lost my concentration so my sword went wide. He then stabbed me again where my armour was weak and I fell to my knees. I was exhausted, sweat covered my face and my energy was spent. I could feel my energy leave my body as I saw him raise his knife for the final blow. I raised my sword in defiance one last time, but he knocked it out of the way and I knew that it was going to be over.
“FOR THE EMPEROR!” I heard this great cry and I heard the sound that I was so accustom to. Sepheron did not look too pleased and he ran off like a defeated dog with his tail between his legs. I slowly rose to my feet as I felt my strength returning to me and looked around. I saw Brother Aukun and my battle brothers from the 4th company attacking the Heretics of the Dark Dragoons. They did not expect the attack and we cut them down swiftly, but this was only a handful of heretics and there were far more to come.
“Brother Captain,” said Aukun, “Are you ok?” He jumped down and ran to my side.
“I am fine Brother Aukun,” I replied quickly, “It is my honour and pride that has been hurt more than my body.” I picked up my power sword and dusted my armour off. “I still have unfinished business to take care of.”
“We all have unfinished business, but take this cloth and wear it on your arm. We will differentiate ourselves from the heretics when we strike quickly.” I nodded and took the cloth.
“Listen my brothers of the fourth company,” I said over the comlink, “The other companies of the Dark Dragoons have fallen to the powers of chaos. We will bring the Emperors wrath to them. Now quickly, strike at them and purge the heretics. FOR THE EMPEROR!” I felt a strength entering my body and some days I think that it was the Emperor who was giving me strength, but I can never be certain. I picked up my sword and pointed it forwards to direct my battle brothers onwards. We mobilized for battle against these heretics very quickly.
We moved quickly through the corridors of the ship mercilessly killing any heretic that got in our way. Our furry could not be matched and we cut through the rare group of heretics. Aukun used his psychic abilities in an attempt to located Sepheron, but I had a gut feeling that he would be in the chapel committing some act of heresy.
When we barged into the chapel, the atrocities that I witnessed far surpass anything I have seen today. Dark symbols of chaos decorated once holy artefacts that belonged to our chapter and many bodies were crucified upon the eight pointed star. It was a sight that would have made me puke if my will was not so resolute and focused on my goal. I drew my sword and pointed it at Sepheron or what he had become. Now spikes decorated his armour and where his skin was exposed had been the victim of many terrible rituals. I bellowed at him: “Sepheron. This ends here. By the Emperor I will bring His vengeance to you.” I charged at him and I could see a faint smile appear on his lips. Suddenly demons began to emerge from walls, horrible drooling maws and many claws started to lunge towards us, but we are angles of the Emperor. With our holy wrath we smite the foul demons back to the warp and I approached Sepheron quickly.
He swung his axe and I dodged it, while thrusting my sword at him. His armour took the hit and it drove deep into him, but it seemed as if he did not even feel the pain as he simply smiled. He knocked me aside and in a bestial fury unleashed a storm of attacks against me. I tried to parry them all, but was forced to jump back. He turned to face me, then charged with a bestial furry screaming “I will end your pathetic life!” I raised my bolt pistol and fired a few rounds into him, but his armour deflected them all, but I had a trick or so I think I did. I waited then just as he was about to attack me I blocked the attack and swung my sword around, striking him in the back. More blood oozed and he fell to the floor, his axe crashing into the ground.
As I stood above him with my sword raised, I saw something that I recognized for long ago, something that should have been destroyed. It was a shard of that accursed black orb around his neck, and I knew it was the same as I heard the same voice calling me. I even heard Sepheron say “It beckons you, take it.” I plunged my sword into his neck, ending the conflict once and for all.
“It is over brother Aukun,” I said, “Let us leave here, quickly. We do not have the means to take on the entire Black Dragoons chapter.”
“Where will we go though Brother Captain?” asked Aukun, “Surely the inquisition will hear of these events and we will be hunted as Black Dragoons.”
I paused for a moment pondering, but as I looked at the white band on my arm I knew what had to be done. “Listen to me brothers,” I said, “We are no longer the Black Dragoons. We will cast down our heraldry and start new. We have fought as trusted brothers and under the protection of our swords we have stood tall. Now we will be the Brotherhood of the Sword. Brother Aukun, I trust you will be capable of writing the history of the Brotherhood of the Sword.” He nodded and we quickly returned to our ship. Many years have passed since that fateful day and the Brotherhood of the Sword still remains few, but as I look at by battle brothers wearing newly painted armour, there are few I would rather trust then them.
Ignorance Is Bliss
Ignorance Is Bliss
There wasn’t much that Adris and Peltan didn’t know about their country. Murento was a member of a number of other provinces that made up the country of Nuriman, a large island nation that was surrounded by the harsh seas of Isamar II. There were other nations on the planet, that much the schola had told them, but that was as far as the teaching went. As for the province of Murento itself, there was little not to love about it. Deep forests, caves to explore, plentiful water and a warm year-round climate made it ideal for raising vast crops of grains and other produce.
At each harvest, the two young friends would watch the large land carriers come in with their foreign crews and the funny-looking man wearing red robes with a stylish skull/robot design set on a cog pendant. He never talked to the boys when they tried to speak to him, but after their first efforts, a pair of large men with wires sticking from them had moved to prevent them from coming any closer. They stank of oils and looked rather unhealthy but were big enough that the boys daren’t ask them about why, not that they talked anyways, they just stared ahead.
Both Adris and Peltan were your typical young men who were not yet at the age of adults. Their duties amongst the large grain farms were negligible and after their studies, they were mostly free to do as they pleased for at least another year or two and so, being boys, they ran off into the woods with their friends and played war games, based off of the tales that the village ancient told them at the harvest festivals. Oh how they longed to go fight. Ancient Zima told of battles amongst the stars where more men than they could count fought wars against alien enemies with hundreds of claws or hyper-advanced weaponry, but no matter the odds, the humans always won. “The Imperium endures, forever!” he had said and the boys believed him. And so it came to pass that they would fight out these stories and there was always a fight after the “aliens” were chosen, because no one wanted to lose.
“Adris, this is not fair! You played the General Allima and the Glorious Armies of Mankind the last three times! Give another a chance. You cannot always be on the winning side!” Peltan didn’t care which side he was on, because he always won his duels… he would accept “heroic death” if it meant glory in “life” during their mock battles. Eltor, however, hated losing and he had been picked to play the enemies of man eight times in a row. No one else had played on Mankind’s side as much as Adris. “Adris, come, let Eltor play as Mankind at least once this week! Everyone rotates… that’s the rules!”
“Come now Peltan, if little Eltor wants to play as General Allima, then he needs to tell me himself or, better yet, take the staff from me to prove he deserves it!” The staff was but a whittled stick that the boys had painted to represent the power rod that the General had carried on his campaign to cleanse the stars of the alien menace. “If he can take the staff from me, then I will gladly step down and play as the enemy! Eltor, come! Come depose me!”
It was a no-win situation for Eltor. The smallest of the group, he had no chance of besting Adris and so he just sighed and shook his head. One day, he thought, …one day I shall make him pay for always bossing me around! The smaller child simply took up his “gun” and walked off, dejected.
“Adris! Give him the rod, he deserves it!”
Adris laughed at his friend and stayed exactly where he was atop a rock so he could look down on all the other children. “Peltan, if he can’t take it, why should I let him? He’s weak! He’s lucky we let him play at all! I tell you what… since you two are such good friends, YOU come and take it from me!”
“Oohs” and “aahs” came from the few dozen children who were around. A challenge! Fights were common, but rarely were they a completely even match. Adris and Peltan, however, were as close as it would come to choosing the exact same fighter against the other. Both were larger boys and both were fast and smart. They would make fine militia some day if they chose to pursue that path.
“Fine, Adris, I’ll fight you but if I win, then you have to be on the losing side for an entire month and Eltor plays as Mankind!”
“Bring it, swine’s breath!” jeered his friend as he hopped off of the rock and tossed the “rod” to one of the other kids encircling the two best friends.
“Always an insult from you, grox-brains!” shot back Peltan and the two charged, each tackling the other, colliding and crashing to the ground. A wild swing from Adris went high and Peltan slammed his fist into his friend’s ribs, blasting the air from him and causing him to gasp for a second and then grin at the well-aimed blow. If nothing else, both Adris and Peltan loved a challenge.
Adris came back in, acting as if he were feinting right to go left, but instead kept coming right. Peltan didn’t fall for it and moved to his right lashing out with his fist, but knowing that Adris would dodge it. As his friend warded off the blow, he stepped into the block, grabbed the blocking arm and put his hip into Adris’ pulling suddenly and tossing the other boy over his shoulder. His friend’s startled yell caused the other kids to laugh until Adris slammed into the ground and deep, resounding “boom” echoed throughout the clearing. They all stared at the fallen Adris and the stunned Peltan who had both stopped moving and were looking in horror at their feet.
All around them, the ground was sagging and leaves and dirt were sifting away through fissures that had sprung up. “Adris, get back! All of you, back up!” shouted Peltan, but all of the children were rooted to the ground, staring in fright. Only little Eltor moved, grabbing a rope that they used in their games and slinging it around a tree, grabbing the other end to anchor and throwing the loose end to the two boys in the center.
“Grab on!” Peltan and Adris scrambled for the rope, the ground heaving beneath them as another echoing “boom” sounded in the open area, shaking the earth beneath the kids and knocking many off of their feet. As the two friends grabbed onto the rope, a sudden “crack” shot through the air and a huge slab of earth flipped into the air, tossing youths from the heaving area and revealing a yawning hole, blacker-than-the-black. Stale air, dense with ancient particles shot into the air, making the youths choke with the musk before settling and allowing them to catch their collective breath.
Adris and Peltan scrambled along the rope but Eltor couldn’t hold it and there was no help from the other kids. He grabbed frantically, trying to stop the end from slipping from his grasp.
“Adris! Peltan! I can’t hold to the other end! I can’t keep us from falling!” He finally let go of the tighter end grasped the free end with both hands, hanging from it as the ground continued to heave and the earth the tree was lodged in broke free as well, lifting into the sky, leaving all three children dangling from the tree by the rope, Adris and Peltan on one end and Eltor on the other, sliding towards the trunk and the two heavier boys were too much of a weight on the other side of the rope.
“Eltor, let go! Save yourself!” cried Peltan as he fought the panic of the gaping hole while Adris struggled to keep ahold of the rope, nodding at his friend’s advice. For all his bullish ways, he did not wish Eltor to die should he and Peltan perish. “Yes Eltor! You will always have our thanks for trying, but do what you can to save yourself and the others!” But it was too late… the slab of earth broke free of the roots and detritus, flipping into the air and sending all three boys, to the horror of the other children, into the now gaping chasm that had formed.
They stared about themselves in shock… two others had disappeared, but Adris, Peltan and Eltor had all vanished into the hole. One of the young girls bled from a heavy cut over her brow and four were unconscious and they knew they had to get help so, as a group, they collected their injured friends and made their way back to the village with their tale of tragedy.
● ● ●
The darkness seemed absolute as Peltan awoke, his head throbbing. He could feel a trickle of blood along the left side of his face, but nothing seemed broken. Everything ached and the air was heavy and still. He reached about him, searching for something to use to guide his way when he felt the giving form of another body. Adris! Eltor!
He moved his hands along the body until he found the shoulders and he shook them lightly. “Adris… Eltor? Are you ok?” The body stirred and groaned, but made no other acknowledgement. Peltan continued to make an assessment, feeling that nothing seemed broken and deducing that this was, indeed, his friend Adris. He fumbled about in the darkness trying to find a safe place to prop his friend when he hand came across something he hadn’t expected… a… grate?
A coughing and scraping noise to his left caused him to start and he stared into the blackness. “Eltor!” he hissed, “is that you?” There was a paused in the movement before it began again. “Eltor? Please tell me that it’s you, little friend…” The scraping continued and sweat broke out on Peltan’s brow as his fear mounted.
He continued to search frantically for something and came across a branch and remembered the fire starter in his pocket and hurriedly tried to set the bough alight. The flames from the starter flickered and he could only catch a glimpse of the movement beyond the feeble radius of light, but it served only to heighten his panic. His starter finally caught on the edge of the bough and he held it before him, trying to encourage the flame to grow and provide him light. It started small but then, as the leaves dried in the heat, the branch exploded into light and he stared in shock before him.
Eltor was dragging himself closer, his throat a mass of bruising which indicated why he had not answered and his eyes shone with pain as he tried to get closer to Peltan. Peltan, however, did not help his younger friend for he was affixed to his location in awe. Eltor didn’t understand why Peltan was not helping him, though he realized that the older boy’s gaze was locked onto something behind him. As he tried to turn to see what it was, he hissed in pain and a gurgle came from his lips in agony, shaking Peltan out of shock.
“Eltor, oh my gods! I am so sorry!” He rushed to the smaller child’s aid and helped him beside Adris who was still unconscious and then evaluated both in the light of his burning branch. Eltor had clearly broken a leg and maybe some ribs. Adris had a huge lump the size of a guarna melon sticking from his head and had heavy bruising around it, possibly a concussion.
In the failing light of the limb, Peltan hurriedly collected the splintered wood of the trees that had fallen with them into the pit and built a fire within the reach of Eltor. “Eltor, you must maintain the fire. I will search around this place and see if I can find a way out. And then… well… then we must tell the ancient and the village elders of that.” And in the brighter light afforded by the now roaring fire, Eltor’s eyes opened in shock as well…
A mass of metal lay twisted and broken, but still massive as it formed a huge wall in front of the youths ending in a sharp point with the other side of the wall vanishing into the dark. They were in a large cavern beneath the ground and the wall of metal soared into the heights where the faint light provided by the opening in which they had fallen shone upon the uppermost parts. The bluish tint lent by the light edged the massive beak of an eagle’s head, giving it the appearance that it was looking down, disapprovingly on the three young men below. Dirt still cascaded down from the edges of the hole far above and lent an eerie mist to the massive shape of the wall.
Peltan had never sent the like before and for a few minutes he just kept looking at the mass before him. It was the gurgle from Eltor that once again brought him back to the present and he looked to his two friends once more before grabbing a few branches as torches and wrapping the torn remnants of one of the children’s capes that had fluttered down with them around the sticks to provide a better torch and light. Lighting one, he moved off into the dark, the shadows cast by the torch dancing like sinister spirits waiting to consume him.
As he edged farther away from his friends, Peltan felt a renewed sense of purpose start to override his fears. He had to find a way to rescue them both or they would perish here beneath the earth. It was his job to make sure that they were all safe as he was the only one capable of doing anything. I must make sure that I can at least get help for my friends… and what must be inside of this? It appears to be the work of men… that hatch over there… that’s the right height and I can recognize the letters, but not the words. Maybe there is help inside!
Peltan moved to the hatch that was at a level he could reach and pushed as hard as he could, but it wouldn’t budge. He saw a panel with some buttons and looked around him to ensure that Tech Adept Monsur wasn’t around. Whenever he tried to mess with machinery in the village, it seemed that the Tech Adept was always there to berate him which always earned him a stern beating from his father. When he saw no one around, he started pushing buttons. A faint light kicked on and he heard a slight whirr, but then the panel went dark and no matter what he did, he couldn’t bring the light back. Shit, I’ve broken it! I’ll find another way in and act like I’ve not been here before… the last thing I need is another beating.
The young man continued to search for a way into the massive wall, his first torch guttering as it ran out of cloth and wood to burn. He pulled the second from his waist and lit it before tossing the spent torch upon the ground and moved on. The rivets were strong and the metal as well, but the rust was everywhere and Peltan knew that whatever this was had been trapped underground for a long time. He muttered a brief prayer to his gods as he continued on, hoping that any spirits that had died when this thing had been buried would be appeased. He almost missed the opening as he finished his prayer, but his foot struck the uneven edge of sheet metal and he stumbled to the ground with a cry of terror, his torch flying from his hands.
His skinned knee burned and he knew that if it had gotten any rust it in, he must see the medicae for a shot. He had accidentally fallen on a rusty nail when he was younger and the medicae had given him a painful injection that he’d rather not go through again. In the dying light of the torch, he looked at his knee, but it looked none the worse for the wear and when he picked up the torch, it flared back to life and he saw the opening in the metal. Eyes wide, he poked the torch in and heard and saw the flight of the critters that had inhabited the metal structure.
Nodding that it was safe if there were small creatures inside, he pushed farther into the rent metal and saw that the opening widened with beams crossing here and there and old wiring tightly bundled against the metal sheets between the rivets. Awestruck, he continued to push on, delving deeper into the metal mass, the air growing more and more stale, but breathable. His torch only shone a few feet in front of him, but with the clutter, that was all he needed anyhow.
Rust fell from the girders as he moved by them and he grimaced as he coughed up a lungful of the red air. He needed to get beyond this somehow. He kept moving until he sensed, rather than saw, the opening to his right and he moved the torch to the area, showing a large grate covering. He frowned as he thought of the metal grates he had seen in the village, for they were too strong to break, but maybe because of the rust… he kicked hard and the grate flew into the interior beyond and Peltan smiled.
He knelt and thrust the torch into the dark which revealed a long passageway the led to both the left and right but was almost perfectly preserved. There was little to no rust on the walls and a lubricant came off on his fingers when he touched the surface. He raised an eyebrow… Has someone been here recently? He moved more cautiously now and as he took a step, he heard the unmistakable sound of metal falling and hitting metal from not too far to his left.
Scared, he ran to the right as fast as his feet could carry him, the sound growing more faint, but regular… the sound of footsteps! He continued to run until he couldn’t hear anything else and his torch slowly brightened back up as he slowed down, chest heaving with exertion. He leaned against a wall and shouted out in surprise as the wall hissed and gave way, tumbling him into a room where he sprawled across the floor and lost his torch again, watching it bounce off into the dark. As it flew from his hands, he caught brief glimpses of the room around him, shelves of tomes, screens and wooden furniture.
He groaned as he lay on the ground and then started as the door hissed shut. As he rolled over and moved to his knees, Peltan suddenly grabbed at his ears as a piercing shriek went off. Light sprang into the room as a series of blue nimbuses flared to life around the now visible cases of books and parchments, data stacks and cogitators. Peltan himself was encased in a blue shield that he couldn’t get out of, no matter how hard he struck at it. Outside of the shield he suddenly heard a calm voice and a sharp hiss.
“All library occupants please remain calm as the fire is extinguished.” He looked around for the source of the voice, but he could see none. The voice was clear and without static, so it could not have come from a radio or speaker, reasoned the youth. All around him, vents opened up powerful jets of gas quickly filled the room and the torch guttered out almost immediately. The vents then quit emitting gas and then, in a reversal, sucked the gas from the room. Peltan stood there in amazement, watching this all and then jumped again as the blue nimbus around him disappeared. He stood there in the dark, smelling the extinguished torch and was about to light another when a soft glow started to fill the room.
He continued to stand there as the lights slowly flickered on… well half of them, at least and revealed the room in its entirety. Desks lay in neat rows, fastened to the floor by heavy bolts, their aged wood well maintained, but still the lacquer was cracked. The chairs around them were solid, but their cushions and upholstery were tattered and rotting. The floor was clean of debris and the shelves immaculately clean and orderly. Ladders lay on rollers that could move around the great room which was larger than any the young man had ever before been in. Peltan didn’t know what to do and so continued to just look around.
When the door hissed open again, he jumped and scrambled for a place to hide, reaching a ladder and climbing up it, smacking his face against one of the rungs in his haste. What came into the room next shocked and terrified him. A man-sized figure ambled in, its hands replaced with tools and a number of pumps providing a leaking trail of liquids. The flesh of the thing was gray and bruised, but largely intact though covered in now calcified lesions… it looked sick. With a whirring click, the thing moved through the room with a limp, its metal/flesh feet the sound Peltan had heard earlier. Cleaning the trail of fluids was a small machine with brushes, ensuring the floors were left unmarked by the passage of the servitor.
The youth continued to stare as the machine ambled over to the remains of the torch and gathered up the debris without saying a word or making a noise other than the leak of fluids and the creak of its joints… the shuffle of its limp. As the construct moved back to the entrance, it paused for the door to open and as it stepped through, a flickering image flashed in front of Peltan’s eyes, startling him and causing him to fall from his perch with a yelp.
He started at the apparition in fright and made a sign of warding as the image of a face tried to initialize. “Gr…gr…gr… greetin… ng master. Ple… ce your han… itor for …quencing and author… of access to this lib…” A small panel tried to open on the side of the ladder and after a few tries, the covering slid open to reveal a little glowing pad. “… eetings young master. Please pl… hand onto the monitor for… rization of access… this library.”
Peltan was terrified, but the voice was soothing and he understood the words except for library… he’d never heard that one before, so he reached out his hand and placed it on the monitor that had opened and gasped as a small current shocked him, causing him to jerk his hand back. He stared at his hand, but there were no marks and he backed away from the monitor.
“Young master… cords indicate that you a… the descen… Lord Altair of Eurynix… please confirm.” Peltan didn’t know what else to say and so he just mumbled a tentative, “yes?”
The scrambled ghostly face went away.
Peltan sighed in relief.
“Young Lord of Eurynix, please come this way for your morning lesson!” Peltan screamed and spun around, staring into the eyes of an old man standing his height. He once again made a sign of warding and pressed up against a stack of tomes with a few tumbling to the floor. He looked at the figure from head to toe in fear, but it stood there looking at him expectantly and in amusement. “If you are quite through with the thea… ng man, please follow me to begin your morning lesson.”
It was only then that Peltan realized that the figure was but an image. A ghost? He put his hand into the image and it wavered, but did not feel cold as the stories had said about spirits, nor did it move to attack him in any way. “If you are quite through with the theatrics, young man, please follow me to be… esson.” And without a clue as what else to do, Peltan followed the apparition to a terminal, his curiosity getting the better of him as the spirit had said “lesson” twice now, so evidently, he was expected to learn.
Peltan sat down at the terminal and stared as it flickered to life…
● ● ●
Four hours later, Peltan knew what he had to do to save his friends and ran from the room with his newly acquired knowledge, following the maze of corridors of the giant vessel. It was an interstellar colony ship, he had learned, capable of travelling beyond the stars It was thousands of years old and had crash landed upon this planet, disgorging its savior pods to save the settlers as its plasma core had ruptured, venting deadly gasses throughout the entire hull and killing many before the others could make their escape. Peltan’s family had been amongst the survivors that had made it to the surface and started their life anew… the Lord of Eurynix reduced to commoner by the fate that had befallen the starship.
None had known where the vessel had crashed and, indeed, at the time of the crash, the cavern had been underwater, but a massive earthquake had lifted land and the vessel had become landlocked beneath the tons of shifting earth that was now above the sea level, though this much, Peltan did not understand. What he did know was that there were things on board that were still good that could help his friends and so, with that knowledge, he ran to them and out of an open escape hatch.
They remained where he had left them and the shame of his leaving them for so long filled Peltan’s heart with grief, but now they would not die!
“Peltan!” cried Adris, “You’ve come back!”
“Oh Adris! You wouldn’t believe what I have learned and what knowledge we can take back to the village! We will be heroes! Eltor too!”
Adris had awakened not too long after Peltan had left, a splitting headache preventing him from getting up initially. It had subsided, however, and he had spent the rest of his time tending to the much more severely injured Eltor who had nearly died to protect him even with all the abuse he had heaped upon him. Eltor was weak from loss of blood, but he still lived and between the two, Adris and Peltan made a litter on which to carry him, Peltan leading the way back into the massive ship.
“Adris, it is a spaceship! It is capable of travelling to the stars and beyond! It is thousands of years old and it is how our people came to be here!”
Adris, of course, had his doubts. “A space ship? Who thinks of such things? And why, if it is meant to travel the stars, is it here, beneath the ground?”
“It crashed and because of the contamination, our people could not come to get the things they had lost. They also did not know where it had crashed! Now we know where it is and with what this ship can teach us, we can improve life by so much! I found this place called a library that is full of wondrous information. Hundreds upon hundreds of books and it still has power because the generator for the library is not the same for this ship. Its… plasma, I think it was called, is still generating power. There are caretakers that look human, but are not! They aren’t really alive, but they keep this place running. They look sick and some are broken or aren’t working completely, but enough are left that could take care of the library! After we have treated you and Eltor, you MUST come to learn as well!”
And so it was that Peltan, led his best friend Adris and their young companion Eltor to the Library of the Ancients where they spent over three days learning until finally attempting to make their way back to the surface, emerging from a cave not too far from the village after Peltan had travelled far and wide to find a way out, finally seeing where a stream was flowing into the cavern and tracing it back to where it entered the dark. The ship had taught him that much… he had pored endlessly over geological texts of underground caves in an attempt to find an escape route for the three. When they came forth, Eltor still on a litter, albeit a much better one from the materials of the vessel, they came upon a dejected search party, one of many who had given up on finding the children alive. They were armed with “lasguns” that had been in the sealed armory and had stayed alive in the dark by killing the large rodents that were within the cavern and cooking them, drinking the fresh water that flowed past in the stream. They had also discovered that the colony ship was many kilometers long… a feat of engineering none believed until they saw it themselves.
They were heroes, but Tech Adept Mansur had mysteriously disappeared shortly after their arrival, though he was not missed. He was unnecessary now that the villagers had gleaned the knowledge of how to repair their machines for themselves and the schola began teaching the new sciences discovered in the library and children from the neighboring villages and towns would travel dozens of miles each morning and night, just to attend the school that they might learn the knew knowledges. The blights would not harm their crops anymore… fending off predators from livestock with lasguns would be so much easier… it was certain that the village would prosper greatly. They would hail the thirteen year-old Peltan as “the Discoverer.”
● ● ●
The wind was blowing gently along the ridge as Peltan and his two friends looked down upon their village. Business was doing well in the months after the discovery and already there were new inventions sputtering around in the fields to harvest the crops. Today’s lesson at the schola was one about artificial intelligences and computers and the children were fascinated. They were learning of how electronics worked and how it was possible to create machines that imitated intelligence, such as the learning machine that was being used to teach the schola instructors and Peltan, Adris and Eltor who had unrestricted access because they had found it.
But that was not all that was being taught. Curiosity was given as the impetus for change and discovery. “How could you ever know that which you did not before,” the learning machines queried, “if you do not ask questions? Knowledge is power! Learn all that you can, that you may better serve those whom you walk amongst.” And so there were questions about everything and slowly, the world became less one of mysticism and one of science… there was no faith but that of science. If you could not explain it, find a way, do not attribute anything to miracles. If there was a god to any of the village and the surrounding towns, it was that of Eurynaya, the fabled goddess of science of the world their ancestors had left so long ago.
Peltan and his two companions were now lost in the designs of one of the inactive servitors. They had it opened up and taken apart and were trying to figure out what it was that made the construct work. The bits of machine interspersed with the diseased, yet still living tissue was a puzzle. The poked and prodded and thus none heard the footsteps approaching, nor did they see the group of individuals coming along the path towards them. A loud clearing of the throat caused all three to look up in surprise which morphed rather quickly into masks of fear.
“Greetings, young masters!” The voice was cheery enough, but the countenance from which they had been uttered was anything but. The man who addressed them stood at an impressive height, towering over the three young boys and their dissected servitor with a manual bearing the seal of the Adeptus Mechanicus opened to a page describing the vascular system. “And what have we here?”
His accent was funny, but he spoke their dialect without error. Flowing black robes covered his shoulders and upper torso, opened at the neck to reveal the tiniest hint of armor beneath. His left arm lay casually at his side, his right hand rested upon the pommel of an ornate sword, sheathed in a scabbard of dark reds, whites and blacks. His legs were covered in black armor, edged in silver and on each kneecap was the golden image of a sun rising out of the darkness. His feet were shod in rugged boots.
But his face… his face held their attention; in specific his eyes. Icy pools of grey, framed by frowning brows and slight crow’s feet. A long scar ran from his forehead across his face to his mouth, but there appeared to be no lasting damage. His mouth seemed locked into an almost predatory smile of perfect white teeth. His face was so riveting that the boys did not even pay attention to the twenty heavily armed men who flanked him.
“I’ll ask again, younglings… what have we here?”
Adris was rooted to the spot in terror. Peltan didn’t know how exactly to respond. Eltor stood in defiance. “What does it look like, good sir? It is but a dysfunctional servitor. We are trying to figure out its workings that we may repair it to better serve us, praise Eurynaya!”
The other two youths looked at Eltor in shock. Not because of the content of his answer, but because he had answered at all. The small, shy youth he had been months ago when they had discovered the colony ship was gone, replaced by a young man with a solid grasp of science and the convictions to argue any point he felt valid. Was it not right to defend their good work here? Had they known the results of Eltor’s response, they would have beaten their friend in order to force him to hold his tongue.
“Praise Eurynaya, boy? Is that to whom you look for guidance? Who was it that taught you of such a being?” The predatory look was in full effect, but Eltor did not care.
“What does it matter? She blesses us with science that we may better understand the world. She guides us in life and she has provided us with a bounty of knowledge. I know of her through my own research as do we all here. I teach of her to those who would listen. To whom do YOU pray, good sir?”
For a moment, the imposing figure seemed taken aback by the choler of the youth’s response and he chuckled to himself before answering. “To the Emperor of all Mankind, foolish boy! To worship any other is heresy and I am charged with ensuring such an occurrence does not happen.”
Sensing that Eltor was in trouble, Adris stood up to defend his friend, but Peltan stood faster and pushed Eltor behind him. “I am the one who found the ship, whoever you are. I am the one who brought the knowledge to our village and beyond. Be gone if you have not come here to learn! By whose authority do you come here with such harsh words! The ancient and the other village elders shall hear of this!”
Another chuckle sounded from the man before the youths as he slowly brought his left hand up for them to see. As they looked closer, they saw a glittering ring on his finger with a stylized “I” on it, three lines cutting across the letter. “That same Emperor of Mankind to whom I pray and whom you serve by the very fact of your existence, whelp!” The ring meant nothing at all to them, but the sheer malevolence coming off of this man rang warning bells in all of their heads. “And what answer do you have for that? What answer do you have for a representative of the Emperor’s Holy Inquisition, youngling? What answer do you have for me, Inquisitor Patris Tirado?”
Inquisition! The learning machine had talked of inquisitions and they were fanatic examples of persecution throughout history and this man was a representative of just such a society! Their eyes wide in fright, the three turned to flee towards the village, but out shot the man’s hand, faster than could be imagined, grabbing Peltan by the throat, choking him with its steel grip.
“Peltan!” Adris leapt to break the hold by the Inquisitor and was then flying through the air, a broken mass of flesh with a hole the size of his head blasted through his chest. Eltor, too, turned to help free his older friend but Tirado’s backhand blow from the hand holding the smoking bolt pistol crashed into his skull and the youth crumpled to the ground in a heap.
“Peltan? You are the Peltan who found the fallen vessel and did not report it, in secrecy to Tech Adept Mansur? You are the same Peltan who has encouraged the learning of knowledge banned by the Imperium? You are he who seeks, as is evidenced here, knowledge sacred to the Adeptus Mechanicus?” Peltan struggled to answer, but he could not with his throat being squeezed, not that it mattered anyhow. “Your denials do not interest me, heretic. You are charged with the fomenting of heresy against the Emperor of Mankind and his Imperium. Your knowledge and continued worship of a false idol forces me to name you Idolater and false prophet to the masses!
“You are subsequently charged with endeavoring to seek out forbidden knowledge as decreed by the Emperor’s Holy Inquisition. In addition, you have violated fourteen protocols and treaties between the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus, safeguarding the secrets of the Mechanicus and the preservation of society due to restriction of knowledge.
“For your actions, I declare thee Heretic! Peltan the Deceiver, your crimes are numerous and by the power invested in me as an agent of the Divine Emperor’s Will, I sentence you to execution. Your heresies are an abomination to mankind and I shall see to it that the foul stench of your corruption shall not go further than this land! Look now, upon that which you have wrought!”
Patris Tirado, Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, stood on the hilltop, his retinue behind him and held the disbelieving boy out over the hillside so that he could see the great plains and the various villages within few miles. At first he could see nothing, but the beautiful land before him and tears started to cascade down his cheeks as he thought of his two dead friends whom he was sure he would follow into death. Then he caught a flash from above and looked skywards in time to see a lance of light streak from the heavens and slam into his home where his mother was no doubt cooking supper and his father was most likely playing with his two little sisters.
When his eyes cleared, a smoking crater was all that was left of his family and home. As he started to cry out, more lances struck from the heavens and before Peltan’s eyes, he saw his entire world vanish.
He screamed in rage and terror but then settled into a shocked silence as other villages within sight vanished beneath the fires from heaven as well. The clouds boiled away as the lance strikes seared through them and a firestorm washed across the grasslands, engulfing hundreds of workers, livestock and homes that were outside the boundaries of the villages and town.
“This is the work you have wrought, Peltan the Deceiver. You have brought this upon your world and you have forced my hand. Your heresy ends here, traitor of all mankind. Would that you had simply revealed the location of your colony ship that those privilege to such knowledge could have ascertained their dangers. Your zeal for that which is forbidden is what has ended all that you know. I remand you into the light of the Emperor. May he have mercy upon your soul, heretic. Have you anything to say before this servant of the Emperor?”
“I… I…” Peltan couldn’t get the words out, “I…” and finally as he gathered himself enough to speak, he screamed. “I DIDN’T KNOW! I… WE… WE ARE ALL INNOCENT! HOW WERE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT KNOWLEDGE WAS FORBIDDEN!?!?! WE ARE INNOCENT, DAMN YOU! Innocent…” and Peltan broke down into heaving sobs, physically and emotionally spent.
Inquisitor Patris Tirado looked down at the youth, contemplating the shattered soul that sat in a crumpled heap amidst the sea of flames and smoke that swirled about the base of the hill. He knelt down and lifted the boy’s chin with his left hand, his eyes grabbing that of the child’s with their intensity and yet within them was a hint of compassion. “There is no such thing as innocence, youngling, only degrees of guilt.”
Peltan wasn’t even aware of the single shot from the bolt pistol as it erupted from his upper back and ended his life. All he knew was a bright light that engulfed him and his misery was at an end.
The inquisitor picked up the youth’s shattered form and threw it down the hill to burn with the rest of Nuriman. “Ignorance is bliss…”
Metal On Mettle
Metal On Mettle
“Cover! Take cover! Now!”
“Keep your heads down!”
This was the fifth enemy barrage on their position within the last two hours, courtesy of the Iron Warriors traitors and their stolen Basilisks. Explosions erupted before them, sending the rubble, mortar and masonry of the former Imperial city flying in all directions. Once a pristine example of Imperial power and human civilisation, it had been reduced to ashes and ruins, with the blood of slaughtered Imperial civilians replacing the mortar. They had come across piles of dead during the morning; the corpses of civilians scarred and desecrated piled high, with a scattering of heads belonging to their comrades impaled on spikes nearby. The tension and fury were beginning to mount. In spite of their massive training and combat experiences, they could not restrain their emotions. Some wept, others raged, and more became sombre as the full realisation of the barbarity of their enemy became fully revealed to them.
The barrage lifted. Fires raged. The ground, previously with the features of a blasted lunar landscape, now looked even more desolate, if that were even possible.
He rose. His ears rang and his helmet swung loose courtesy of a broken chinstrap. He patted himself down and felt himself for injuries. Finding none, he yelled to his men.
His second hauled himself to his feet. Nursing a left hand depleted by a few digits and wrapped in a bloody bandage, he ran from foxhole to foxhole, cover to cover, checking for survivors. He returned after a few minutes. By this time, those who could stand had done so, rising from their places of shelter, checking their weapons and equipment for breakages. The second returned after a few minutes.
“There are five dead, First Lieutenant. Strangely, no injured.”
“Very strange to have no injured when under artillery fire. We’ve suffered injured and casualties in the previous barrages. Fate must have smiled a little upon us a moment ago.”
“Perhaps. Your orders, First Lieutenant?”
“Have the men recover and redistribute arms and equipment from the dead. Leave the bodies. Our comrades behind us can deal with that grizzly task. We must press on.”
“Yes, First Lieutenant.”
His second turned and moved away to convey the orders to the men. Looking down what was once a main city street, he saw one. And felt one. A few hundred metres away it stood. An Iron Warrior silhouetted against the setting sun, a power sword in its left hand, a large, unrecognisable gun in the other. A servo-arm attached to its power pack moved lazily over its head. It reached to the sky as if to caress The Eye that filled it, before giving a mock wave to him. Hatred welled up inside of him, rolling and roaring like a red sea. A sea of blood that he desired to spill from this traitor for all the suffering and desecration he and his men had seen earlier in the day.
“I will have you, wretch. For all those felled by your hand and the hands of your men, I shall have you,” he thought.
He was surprised to hear a response within his head. The traitor must have heard his thoughts and responded in kind. He stifled his surprise.
“No you shan’t, lapdog. For all your hate, you are a mere mortal wrapped in slavery to a being as dead as those piled high on my orders. And though you may will it with all your being, my death will never be yours to inflict. For you are weakness, and the weak will always be dominated by the strong.”
“You are not strong, and you shall taste your own bitter words when my screaming sword severs your head from your body. You will pay for what you have inflicted here.”
“We shall see, weakling. Until we meet again. And we shall, soon. Make no mistake.”
The figure moved, turning away before walking out of sight into the ruins further ahead.
He called to his second.
“Yes, First Lieutenant?”
“What is our current strength in weapons and men?”
“From one hundred soldiers, seventy-one remain. All personal sidearms are in working order and each man still has most of his grenades. The four missile launchers are still in working order, with approximately forty missiles between them. One heavy bolter from the original three was damaged in the second barrage and was abandoned, but we still have all three remaining autocannons with full ammunition loadouts for each gun. However, we are down to four remaining working vox units.”
“Thank you, Second Lieutenant.”
Standing atop a nearby pile of rubble that afforded him a view of the remainder of the platoon, he addressed his men.
“Soldiers. You have seen the work of the enemy and have been witness to him. We have suffered artillery barrages and assaults by traitorous militia, whom you have cut down with the efficiency taught to you in your training on our home world. Despite our losses, others rely on us to clear this path towards the city centre, so that the traitors who have made their home there will be uprooted and cut down without mercy, as they have done to the innocent who reside here. The enemy ahead however, is unlike the rag-tag mass you have encountered so far. Beyond lies the Iron Warriors, the very traitors from the Heresy. It is they who have shelled you and it is they who have slaughtered the innocent. The time for justice and revenge is at hand, but do not forget your training. Do not forget your composure, lest you sink into madness not unlike that which fuels the very enemy we will soon fight. They know we are here, and they know we come for them. They expect a typical group of Imperial guardsmen, but they do not expect us. Remember your training, and we shall be victorious.”
The men cheered, raising their weapons and helmets aloft. Smiling, he gave the orders.
“Move out in skirmish order. Five metres of spacing between you and the man next to you. Watch those flanks and tall buildings for ambushes, and make sure you have fresh magazines in your weapons. Autocannons and missile launchers will stay back to cover our advance. The heavy bolters will come with us.”
He jumped down from the rubble pile and positioned himself in the middle of his men, his second at his side. They drew swords and pistols together. All around, magazines slammed into weapons and bayonets were fixed.
“Forward to victory.”
The platoon moved forward as one, weapons at their shoulders, eyes scanning all around for signs of the enemy. No face showed fear, his men buoyed by his words. Nothing was left unobserved by his men.
“This does not feel right,” he thought. “It’s too quiet, and we’re too close to the traitors.”
Suddenly, a sound was heard. The front soldiers span around, weapons trained on the ground in front of a soldier behind them. The man stopped dead, then took a few steps back, his weapons sights not leaving the ground trained upon by his comrades. It lay there. They knew what it was, but were too stunned and slow to react.
“Grenade!” he yelled. “To cover!”
Everyone dived for cover, save for the man whom the grenade had had the misfortune of landing near. He saw the man throw himself upon it, and his body destroyed by the explosion. Although he had yelled for his men to get to cover, he had been slower to react and had not escaped the radius of the explosion. It blasted him back and upwards, and he fell to the ground. He felt himself hit, and waves of nausea and pain overcame him. Suddenly, he felt himself transported away, back to a time far in the past.
He was standing in a ten by ten square formation of men in combat uniform, and all were looking forward at a man dressed in a black coat and hat, with ornate armour and a face scarred by decades of war.
The man spoke.
“You are now soldiers. Whether you volunteered or whether you were conscripted, it makes no difference. There is no distinguishing between soldiers, for you are all equal. Today begins your training, and it will take several years for you to complete it. This is a basic training course, yet easily superior to many similar basic and advanced training regimens on other planets. Suffice to say that when your training is complete, you will be among the finest soldiers the Imperium has produced. There will be no weapon you have not fired, no vehicle you have not operated and maintained, and no equipment that is unknown to you.
Our world and the composition of its forces are radically different to those on other worlds. The basic composition of an armed force from this world includes sections, platoons, companies, regiments, divisions and legions. A section is ten men, a platoon is a hundred men, a company a thousand, and so on until a legion, which numbers a million men. Before me stands one hundred men, which makes you a platoon. Within a platoon are ten sections, and you shall be assigned to sections after this address. A First Lieutenant and a Second Lieutenant lead a platoon. These officers share joint command of the platoon, but leadership defaults to the First Lieutenant in matters of disagreement. Sections are led by a First Sergeant and a Second Sergeant, who again share command, which again defaults to the First Sergeant in cases of disagreement between the two. You are soldiers, privates to be exact. Through combat experience and the demonstration of proven tactical and strategic talent, you may find yourselves promoted to officers, which starts with the rank of Second Sergeant. Each officer in our world’s fighting forces was once a soldier like yourselves, and has been promoted through performance, skill and talent under fire, rather than buying their ranks as some officers of other worlds do. Therefore professional and proven soldiers will lead you once your training is complete and you are sent to fight. Your aim is to train hard and fight hard to the best of your ability with the skills and weapons provided to you. Do this and you will be promoted in time.
As stated previously, the training regimens of our world are significantly superior to the Imperial standard. Therefore you will be pushed to and beyond your limits as men in order to prepare yourselves for war. Often, you will fight alongside other Imperial forces. Though they may differ to you in many ways, these men are as much your brothers as those who stand next to you now. All Imperial soldiers serve the same purpose. Only the details differ; the raw material stays the same.
Facing you will be foes, nearly all of whom will be inhuman. Eldar, Necrons and traitors in all their forms to name but a few. The enemy does not matter, save for death to be inflicted upon them by your hands. You will not flinch. You will not falter. You will not forget your training. Do these and you shall be victorious.”
He felt himself fade back to the present, the immense pain he felt all over his body replacing the flashback. The ground was trembling from heavy footsteps and weapons fire, and there were bursts of light as he saw his soldiers firing at it. It did not fall, but merely cut a laughing swathe through the ranks of his men, hacking and firing with abandon. His men were falling to it. He tried to rise, hands gripping his chainsword, ready to do battle.
“I’m ready for you,” he thought.
It finished butchering the last man nearby, then turned to look at him. It laughed.
“No, you’re not,” it replied. “You never will be. You cannot defeat me. Your men cannot defeat me. A shame. I expected better.”
It strode towards where he lay, clenching its sword in a two-handed grip above its head, ready to strike. And it struck. The sword came down towards him, so slowly. It felt as though time itself had slowed down. It arced towards his face, and the traitor laughed at him as the blade came closer. A moment longer, and he would be dead. He could not move, but could only watch as the blade neared.
But it was not to be.
The blade impacted the ground next to his head, the energies of the weapon striking the ground it had fallen upon. He looked up towards it, towards its hideous, mocking face, expecting to see a cruel laugh. Instead, there was nothing save for a stump where its neck used to be. It was dead, head blown clean away. The armoured corpse began to fall towards him, trying in death to achieve what it failed to do in life.
He felt a hand upon him as the corpse descended upon him. Then a wrenching force as he was dragged away before it could impact on him. Looking up, he saw his second, face bloodied but smiling. His second hauled him to his feet.
He looked around, surveying his men. Nearly twenty had been killed, cut or gunned down by the traitor. Some were injured. His second spoke to him.
“That was very fortunate, First Lieutenant. I’m glad to see you’re alright.”
“What happened? It made to impale me, but it did not strike true.”
“No. A masterful shot from the number three autocannon destroyed its head. The covering weapons could not fire when it was amongst the men, for fear of friendly fire. Once it focussed on you, the men dived for the ground and gave the weapons a clear shot at it. The traitor’s arrogance was as great a factor in its demise as the autocannon shell. The crew are understandably pleased at having felled such a powerful enemy, as well as saving you at the same time.”
“Give my thanks to the crew. Such expert shooting will not go unrewarded. In the meantime, vox our armour following us and tell them it is clear to advance. We will consolidate here until they arrive. Have the medics take care of the wounded, then have one come to me once the wounded have been taken care of. I think I may have been injured by the blast.”
“Yes, First Lieutenant.”
The Second Lieutenant made towards the nearest vox-operator, who began to relay the order. He then ran back to where the autocannons were set up, and conversed with the crew, who looked even more jovial than they did a moment ago. They looked towards him, and he gave them a salute, which they returned. Smiling, he sat and waited as the armour following his men advanced up the street towards them.
“A good days work,” he thought. “Command will be pleased that it has been killed.”