Ashur of Banipal

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Ashur of Banipal
Ashur of Banipal.jpg
Title/Honours

The Megatherion, The Lord of Bronze and Bone, The Behemoth, The Planeswalker

Discovered (world)

Babylon V

Discovered (period)

846.M30

Legion

Loxodontii

Great Crusade Command

Primarch, 37th Expeditionary fleet

Heraldry/Sigil

Loxodontii Pre Heresy.jpg

Unique Weapon

The Spiked Maul, powerfists "Thunderclap" and "Sky Shatter"

Distinguishing Traits

Diplomat, Empath, Close Combat Brawler

Flaws

Weak-willed, appeasing,

Brotherwar role

Traitor (Undivided)

Fate

Becomes a Daemonprimarch

This page details people, events, and organisations from Warmasters Triumvirate, a fan re-working of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. See the Warmasters Triumvirate page for more information on the Alternate Universe.

Ashur of Banipal is the 10th found Primarch, and genesire of the Loxodontii. A gentle soul and an earthy personality, he loved the common people and tried to keep close familial ties with his Primarch brothers, however, his attempts were not reciprocated by all of them and in fact viewed as a weakness of his character. His leniency and wish to please would eventually lead to a grave betrayal in his legion and the corruption of several other Space Marine legions. Having grown up among the nomad tribes of his homeworld Babylon V, he became accustomed to working with vehicles and quick raids, which he would later adopt into his legion's core stratagem in order to force their enemies to surrender. If he could not avoid joining combat himself, Ashur would either bring his trusted spiked maul or equip his two thunder fists and swat enemies away with his fierce power. He was prone to a reckless rage that he himself often regretted in the aftermath, which is why he preferred diplomacy and directing his troops' movements.

History[edit]

Primarch Origin[edit]

Ashur was hurled unto the surface of the arid feudal world of Babylon V after the Dark Gods of Chaos had dragged his incubation pod from the Emperor’s laboratory. During this time, the infant Primarch would phase in and out of real space, beholding both the beauty and horror of the void of space and the warp, which would later deeply influence his person. His coming was like a falling star, and the priesthood of the stargazing people would be in utter chaos, not knowing whether to view it as a dark omen or a sign of prosperity. The crash landing of Ashur’s vessel shook the entire planet and the population of nearby settlements threw up their hands, begging the gods above and below to spare them their wroth.

It wasn’t long until the orphan was found, although not by the civilised world, but pagan caravans who relied on both mechanised vehicles and sturdy animals like camels and elephants to carry their goods. As he grew up, so did Ashur quickly take to both engineering and caring for animals. Although their lifestyle did not allow his clan many luxuries, they existed in peace and good health, which is where the later Primarch learned to be a kind soul and to see the kindness and good in all his fellow men and women. This would later be his downfall.

The young man quickly grew to stature and strength beyond all his fellow clan members, sometimes carrying nearly the same load as a fully matured elephant, and his great intellect allowed him to easily process even the minuscule details of their flat surroundings. His charismatic, endearing personality made him many friends and made him a formidable merchant. He would often go to the great cities of Babylon V, where he would first taste the finer things in life and stoked his love for jewellery and little luxuries. It was in this time a calf was born and the mother died in childbirth. As he had always been enamoured with the thick-skinned beasts, he quickly took to nurturing the babe and called it Ninki. Eventually, the calf would grow into a strong and healthy cow, taller than other females and becoming the leading animal in the caravan’s herd. The two became inseparable, and Ashur would often sleep not in his own tent but with his “little sister”, as many called her in jest. For many years, the Primarch’s caravan grew and prospered and he himself earned much respect from his fellow people. Eventually, however, the prosperity of Ashur’s family led to their neighbours scheming their doom in envy.

On the eve of his official maturity (as he had become a fully grown man long before, but simply wasn’t “of age”), the enemy struck. Their tents were set ablaze, their trailers were either destroyed or stolen, their animals slaughtered, and they themselves were murdered or enslaved. Ashur himself was so overwhelmed by the brutality of fellow humans that he stood in shock, watching as terrible violence was wreaked on his people. It was then and there that a terrible fury overcame him, a numbing rage that crept up his spine and clouded his mind. All by himself did he slaughter dozens of their attackers, tearing them limb from limb, crushing them underfoot and hurling their dying remains across the camp. He only woke from his blind stupor in the late morning. It was the sound of carrion birds feasting on the dead that pulled him back to reality. He stood amidst the ruins of his former life, surrounded by mauled bodies, the festive ceremonial clothes on his back splattered with blood and gore. In shock, he tore it off his body and threw it into the smouldering fires, where the drenched cloth only slowly sizzled away. Exhausted and wounded he fell to his knees, tears streaming down his cheeks. This fateful event cut Ashur so deeply he fell into a crushing depression as his world had shattered around him.

Yet, he was given no respite. Now, weak as he was, his enemies returned and chained him, an archeotech collar around his neck supposed to keep him mindless and obedient. The measure, however, was superfluous – Ashur’s spirit had already been broken at that moment. He was brought back into the great city of Banipal, where his knowledge of engineering was used to help maintain the vast mechanical underground complexes. Obedient and thoughtless like a servitor he toiled, uncaring whether it was day or night, improving processes as needed although he did not know why, as if a spark deep within him spurred him on to make things better than they were before. Another decade passed and Ashur’s knowledge of technology had not only surpassed all of his superiors but he, in turn, had increased theirs as he alone managed to unravel the mysteries of long-abandoned archeotech. He could never explain how he accomplished such a feat, and when asked he would often say that he’d prayed to the spirit trapped within, as he had so many times with the trailers of his family.

During his time he had once again made many friends despite his automaton-like behaviour. Not even the archeotech strapped to his neck could suppress his warm and helpful nature. Whenever he saw a slave stumble and fall under the weight of their load, Ashur picked it up. Some would say it was not out of compassion but simply efficiency, but many who looked into his eyes claimed to see a deep sadness and a glimmer of empathy. Pitied by many like a docile beast unknowing that it deserved much better was Ashur and eventually, his fellow slaves plotted to liberate him of his chains. They broke the archeotech collar from his neck in the deep of the night and guided him to freedom, outside the great city of Banipal. Although he himself was still like a child, he smiled at his friends and thanked them with gentle hugs and tears of joy, and then made off into the night.

For weeks he wandered, living off the land and actually thriving again, healing, far away from humanity, his mind a simple, primitive thing like that of a wild beast. He would hunt and forage when hungry, would drink when thirsty, would sleep when exhausted. Eventually, he would come across another caravan, small and weak, and he would follow them, observing from the distance, giving them small hints for water sources and hiding stashes of food in their reserves. When one of their animals ran away, he would return it, and if one of their machinery failed, he would repair it – All the while being unseen. Soon the caravan would start believing they were blessed by a good spirit and left food and water out for him, in return. Although he had no need for it, being able to easily fend for himself, he would still graciously accept. One day though he was discovered. His trauma kept him silent though polite, distancing himself as to not become too attached, but his compassion and love for the people overcame his coldness and he became part of their tribe.

The cycle repeated itself, with Ashur greatly improving the life of his tribesmen and -women, increasing their wealth and maintaining their machinery. One fateful day, they came across the tattered ruins of a caravan camp. The bleached bones of animals and people lay scattered on the field. Within the Primarch rose a feeling of unease, the sense of familiarity creeping up his spine. Eventually, they stumbled over an elephant skeleton, and Ashur knew where he was. This was his old family, picked clean by carrion birds, and in front of him lay the remains of his beloved little sister. It all came crashing down on him and the mountain of a human being crumbled like a frail elder, cradling the skull of Ninki to his chest and weeping bitterest tears of sadness. A whole day and night did he mourn while his caravan camped an hour away, deeply shaken to see their patron so broken. On the next sunrise did Ashur return, the skull in hand, claiming the forge and dousing his “little sister’s” skull in bronze. Over the course of the following day and night, he carefully polished and cleaned the bronze, carving the inscriptions of his first tribe into it, writing “Ninki protects me” into the shimmering metal along with many spells and prayers of good fortune and protection. It wasn’t until the following morning that he resurfaced, his sister’s skull strapped to his shoulder, his hands burnt and his face befilthed by soot and charcoal.

As time passed did once again the envy and jealousy of man rise and endanger Ashur’s peace. Rival tribes had identified Ashur and quickly reported to the great city of Banipal, whose merchant lords and priests had feverishly scoured the land for their prized slave. Troops were sent, and once again did they assault Ashur’s caravan in the cover of the night. But this time, they didn’t have a ceremony to make their prey drunk and uncaring.

Just as they fired their first shots, so were grenades lobbed into their midst and the roaring of engines tore through the night. The caravan’s trailers had been modified into battle wagons, their crude turrets allowing their operators to keep their attackers pinned in place while bike riders flanked them and pummelled them with explosives. After the first assault, a tremor shook the earth, and from behind the cover of their trailers came forth Ashur clad in plates of scrap metal, wielding a giant spiked maul, the elephant’s skull on his shoulder gleaming in the muzzle flash of blazing guns, his eyes aflame with terrible anger and a deafening war cry bellowing from his throat. In his wake followed his tribesmen equipped with long knives and pistols, and like a pack of starved hyenas fell the mob over the stunned and disoriented enemies. The battle did not last long, and the troops from Banipal routed in chaos, chased by the screams of their dying and the victorious howling of Ashur’s new tribe.

The Primarch himself was lost again to a bloodthirsty stupor, but not numbed by it. He was invigorated, empowered, and although he still mourned the loss of life from both friend and foe, the experience of combat felt so natural. He realised, in a way, that it was no different from hunting wild game or butchering a camel for food. Just as food came to his mind, he realised a smacking sound around him, and as he turned to face the noise he realised his tribesmen were gorging themselves on their fallen enemies. Disgusted by this gruelling display he shouted and ordered them to stop, that he forbade them their practice. Confused they stared at him, slowly backing off from their meal, but nonetheless eyeing their most cherished clan member with suspicion. Ashur could see in their hazy gazes that they wanted to challenge him, but their tribal bonds and better judgement stayed their hands.

He ordered them all to clean themselves and go to bed, while he retreated into the night. Sleep did not come easy, as the rest of his tribe didn’t follow his orders to a T, instead sneaking out to strip the dead of their flesh and belongings. Ashur knew he had to stop them, but he did not want to lose another family, so he let them have their way. Just this one time, he swore. His leniency that night would spark just another of many insurrections to his authority.

Many battles would be fought over the following weeks until the Primarch could no longer pretend that he could return to his peaceful life. If he was to live life free and safe, he would have to cull the threat. Over the course of a month, he united almost all neighbouring nomad tribes through diplomacy, bargaining and, if inevitable, violence. His knowledge of technology allowed him to craft machines and weaponry that rivalled the quality of their enemies. The following months were spent campaigning, conquering major routes and bringing more tribes into the fold, until Ashur was certain he would be able to take the ones responsible for hounding him so: The merchant lords and priests of the great city of Banipal.

The attack began slowly. First, supplies were cut off. “Raids”, it was called, “Highwaymen” stealing their goods. The upper echelon of Banipal sent their troops to investigate and punish the culprits, but none ever returned. The signs were crystal clear in hindsight, but the elites of the great city had become complacent in their luxury, not expecting that they could ever come under a direct attack from the rural populace outside their walls. To them, the events were too disconnected, too random. It wasn’t until the great city of Banipal was surrounded with camps, barricades and siege cannons that they realised that they were trapped – And that they could never hold an attack.

While the lords and priests had indulged in their luxuries and pomp did Ashur’s spies infiltrate the city and recruited the slaves for their cause, leaving crucial defence mechanisms unmanned and damaged. The great city of Banipal was taken in one fell swoop, and as Ashur’s army stood at the palace gates did the lords and ladies come forth to surrender and beg for mercy. Some were pardoned, others were hung from the city gates, and some banished to the arid wilderness where they would fend for their lives in penance.

Ashur, despite wanting to return to the plains himself, was convinced by his closest friends to don the mantle of king, thus becoming Ashur of Banipal, the lord of Bronze and Bone. It was here that he truly realised potential, improving supply lines between cities, fortifying trade caravans and returning the great cities to glory of time immemorial as he and his most gifted machinists and engineers repaired the archeotech installations. Although many still envied him, hated him, the majority of Babylon V loved him. Ashur himself remained humble and often ventured into the wild at his leisure, visiting the nomad tribes and trading caravans. Yet his duties only increased, allowing him less and less time in the wild and chaining him more and more to the royal palace, where he was surrounded with luxury, pomp and overindulgent wealth. While his rule brought the planet to a new glory, his good nature was exploited by remaining nobles and figures of authority, and although everything was still going strong, more and more influence was wrestled from the Primarch under the guise of delegation.

The Great Crusade[edit]

On the eve to the 78th anniversary of Ashur’s ascension to king of Banipal came a stranger to Babylon V and praising the Primarch’s good work. That man later revealed himself to Ashur as the Emperor of Mankind in private, and he told Ashur of all the great things they could undertake if he joined the Emperor’s crusade across the stars. Ashur hesitated, believing that his absence would lead to Babylon V falling into a state of disrepair, again. His suspicions would later turn out to be true, but at the time the Emperor swayed him, promising of all the good he would be able to do, how he could improve the lives of people throughout the galaxy and helping to create an Imperium of planets where humans of all kinds would be able to live their days in peace. Ashur eventually agreed, and for the first time since his infancy did he travel into space and behold the beauty of the void. It was here he was reunited with his Legion, the thirteenth, calling themselves “Packmules” in jest for they were specialist drivers used for logistics and deployment of other troops. Ashur was immediately awestruck and recognised the deep connection to his genesons and he would be seen embracing whole squads at once and celebrating their reunion in his own way. His Legionnaires, not used to such gleeful affection, quickly overcame their military demeanour and returned it in kind.

Ashur had entrusted all his chapter commanders with his full support, as he saw himself as the first among equals, and his genesons vowed to do everything in their capacity to not disappoint him. In fact, seeing how much the separation of Primarch and Astartes hurt both sides emotionally, Ashur proclaimed that his chapter commanders would be as much Primarch unto the other Astartes as he would be and that they should be loyal and faithful to them as they would be unto him. This order brought about quite some confusion, yet at the same time the Lord of Bronze and Bone had deeply anchored the strong ties of loyalty and brotherhood in his legion, and the idea to embrace their chapter commander’s wisdom and righteousness would only further breed a sense of internal reliability. If only he had seen what this sense of self-reliance would cause in his genesons maybe Ashur had been wise to decide otherwise.

Over the course of the Great Crusade, Ashur would repeatedly face the harsh reality of being a Space Marine primarch as he would have to fight time and time again, making his heart bleed at the loss of life and destruction in his wake. He would often face criticism over his delicate approach from his brothers and the Emperor, as his progress of bringing worlds to compliance was always slower than other Primarchs'. The first and most devastating experience of his military career was the conquest of the Domush sector. The local population fought with unparalleled zeal for their sector's self-declared Emperor and proved to be a worthy match for the Astartes, much to Ashur's personal frustration. After their campaign was ended succesfully, Ashur worried that having to shed blood in such cruelty was to be his fate forever until the end of his days.

Another grievous experience to the Lord of Bronze and Bone was his campaign on the planet Yar Kin Nu alongside the Chosen of Hecate and their Primarch Lambach Kropor. Having grown up superstitious and fearful of "wychcraft", he was shaken deeply at the sudden revelation that his battle brothers were also Psykers during the climactic battle at the planetary capitol Dom Ran Kin. Before that very battle, he and Lambach had exchanged many words and he had grown to love Lambach the most out of his brothers that had been discovered up until that point, and so the realisation of Lambach's talents hit Ashur hard.

After the battle at Ullanor and the Emperor's terrible defeat, Ashur became ever more unruly at the seemingly increasing pressure of Terran bureaucracy and its dictatorial rule, and he would often be heard criticising the Lords of Terra - Unofficially, of course. Apart from this, many reports would reach Ashur involving questionable military actions and collateral damage caused by his Loxodontii legionnaires. He would ignore them, not wanting to doubt his own genesons and waving the reports off as misunderstanding or exaggeration. Eventually, he could not ignore them anymore as they became more detailed and more numerous. He realised he had to take back control over his legion by force and purge his chain of command.

Brotherwar[edit]

As he assembled his forces in orbit over Babylon V and was about to execute his chapter commanders, all but two of them ordered their forces to open fire and take their Primarch hostage. While they initially planned to kill him, they couldn't, and Ashur was instead collared again by an archeotech collar that made his mind docile and submissive. In the wake of this betrayal, Ashur was held in the cargo hold of the Anu, his own flagship, strapped to a gruesome machine and doused day and night in the blood of butchered serfs as a ritual was acted out on him. At the height of his legions frenzied infighting and the arrival of a punitive fleet to destroy the Loxodontii and free Ashur, the ritual reached its conclusion, fusing his flesh and the machine into one monstrous body and elevating him to Daemonhood. As the legion fractured and the warbands escaped into different directions, Ashur himself would be held in a state of restless sleep aboard the Anu until he would be visited by Lambach Kropor, who returned a portion of Ashur's own mind and restored his vitality through warpsorcery. Ashur, in turn, would then be swayed by Lambach to join the efforts of Marduk Engur to attack Terra and kill the Emperor, as Ashur now believed Lambach had been visited and blessed by the Babylonian gods.

Ashur and the Loxodontii played a role in breaching the outermost defenses of the Imperial Palace, but not before murdering, butchering and devouring the civilian population. Je'She faced the Daemonprimarch and the Loxodontii with his own Sentinels. Once the Chaos Traitors had been defeated, Ashur would be banished to the Warp, forever roaming the chaotic Otherworld in search for prey.

Fate & Legacy[edit]

Ashur of Banipal roams the Warp and is summonned by his legionnaires as a mighty beast of war to crush and devour their enemies. His mind fluctuates between catatony, a beastial sentience and a lucid awareness alike his former, human form.

Rules[edit]

N/A

Shortstories[edit]

Stampede Across the Domush Sector[edit]

Although often willing to prolong diplomatic negotiations, and usually staying longer than expected to ensure a stable infrastructure was available, the Loxodontii made good progress as many of their enemies were but dry weeds under their mighty treads. For most of their initial time as crusading expeditions did the legion make good time as they simply swept across enemies putting up a military resistance, having them surrender after the first engagement. This lured the Loxodontii into a false sense of superiority, a certainty that the conquest of the stars would bemoderately difficult, at best. In their arrogance, they were utterly surprised to find a worthy opponent, an enemy not willing to surrender at any cost. This was the Domush sector, an interplanetary coalition of theocratic and highly militarised worlds. They all had sworn fealty to a God-Emperor of their own, a being of such radiance that each and every single last one citizen of the Domush sector worshipped it with all their soul.

First contact was difficult to establish, as this interplanetary “Imperium” had been hugely isolationist. Negotiations went bad, and time and time again did Ashur’s pleas fall on deaf ears. All the while did the Loxodontii’s spies bring back reports of people toiling away their lives, sometimes not seeing a single ray of sunlight until their deaths, and although some reports claim to have seen people actually be happy about their situation, most others existed in constant dread and fear - Fear of punishment from their God-Emperor and his authorities. It brought Ashur’s blood to boil as he saw the common man and woman enslaved, beaten while already on the ground. And yet, he stayed his hand, for he did not want war, he did not want bloodshed. He did not want these slaves to view him and his men as just a greater, stronger tyrant wrestling control from another. It was his luck that, on yet another diplomatic mission, this so-called God-Emperor’s military postured them just a bit too much, and shots were exchanged between the Loxodontii’s auxiliaries and the locals. with this, he had reason to retaliate - In all the brutality this oppressive regime deserved.

Orbital bombardment would pummel the planetary defenses, and soon carrier craft would darken the sky and deploy the mighty warbeasts of the Loxodontii unto the surface of a planet called Argintium, the outermost planet of the sector, and Ashur was certain that the Domushi’s resolve would crumble after this first mighty display of power.

They didn’t.

With a terrible zealotry did the Domushi military deploy en-masse, throwing themselves against the forces of the thirteenth in suicide runs. Although victory was achieved in the end, the Loxodontii had paid a high price, and Ashur racked his brain over his own guilty conscience and his duty. He had to free these people, he had to bring these worlds into compliance, and he had to do it with less losses on his side. And he wanted to crush this self-declared God-Emperor under his boot like the foul parasite he was.

It took him two days of attritious battle that Ashur had had enough, and he ordered several more of his chapters to rally around him. The fourth, at that time, had already been so distant that they could not heed their primarch’s call, and it greatly embittered them to have been excluded from this great triumph of their legion. Nine chapters stood united under their primarch, and in one enraged charge did they trample throughout the sector. Within barely two weeks of fighting rampage arrived the legion at the Imperial palace, like so many years before when Ashur had besieged the great city of Banipal. This time, however, he could not easily break the fortifications with infiltrators. The God-Emperor of Domush had been more clever than the lord of banipal, and so they had sealed themselves within in good time.

It only added to Ashur’s fury, and the Behemoth made truth on his namesake. with terrible fury he ordered orbital bombardments and ordinance to batter the palace’s defenses, and with his own two hands did he tear apart the sealed gates, tore them open so that the Loxodontii at his back could enter. The roaring of engines, the bellowing war cries of the Astartes and the tremor of a legion trampling their enemies shook the entire complex. Uncaring, unflinching, in blind fury did the Thirteenth charge through the hallways which were so enormous that a landraider could drive through them with room to spare for a Space Marine on either side. The palace guard was merciless and fought tooth and nail, yet it only added to Ashur’s fury and the anger of the Loxodontii. Those not shot dead were crushed underfoot, those not quick enough to disperse were crushed by the bulk of rampant astartes.

Eventually, they reached the throne room. With a single swipe of his maul broke Ashur the gates open only to reveal a measly battalion of palace guards standing ready to open fire, behind them a curious figure tied to a machine with countless tubes and wires stuck in them. A voice in his head pleaded him to offer mercy, yet the Plainswalker’s patience had run out. One salvo of shots was fired from the palace guard, and in that time the primarch had charged right through them, hefting his hammer above his head and bringing it down in one brutal swing that utterly crushed the throne and the one upon it to a pulp. With their emperor dead, the palace guard routed and a signal was broadcast across all the Domush sector that their idol had fallen.

On this day, Ashur returned to his flagship Anu, and retreated to his study. There, he dwelt for another day, not receiving anyone, not making any reports. He just withdrew to process an experience, a realisation, that he had never even dreamed in his worst nightmares to have: That he might be killing good men and women for the rest of his life.

The Scholar and the Savage[edit]

Ashur allowed himself to withdraw to the Thunderhawk. The battle he had just fought had been as brutal as it had been quick – What resistance his landing party had encountered had been sent routing the moment they had deployed their heavy weaponry. These open fields so much like the arid steppes of Ashur’s homeworld offered little to no cover. He had not even been required to take the field, himself, for which he was grateful. Although he knew he had been made to fight and dominate, he was afraid of the damage he could cause. He was afraid of not being able to reel himself in, and the last thing the people of a world brought to compliance through force needed was to be even more afraid of their conquerors. He was grateful he did not have to add to the horror of war… Yet.

He knew he had yet to show himself, to join the fray. He could not avoid it. This battle was but a skirmish to test each other’s strength. Right now, more of his gene-sons, the stalwart Space Marines of the XIIIth Legion called the “Loxodontii”, were descending from orbit. And as he was rallying his forces, so, too, was the enemy building his defences. Their victory was nothing compared to the campaign ahead, and while all their intelligence pointed towards a mildly challenging opponent at best, Ashur maintained the thought that he must remain vigilant. Even if victory was assured, he had no reason to risk more men to die than necessary out of arrogance.

He entered the briefing room of the landing ship, where several of his officers stood by. “At ease, my sons”, he said warmly, his eyes lighting fatherly against the cold glow of the holopicts that displayed a map of their target destination. His officers smiled and assumed a more relaxed stance. “Primarch, we are honoured that you grace us with your presence”, Shamil, captain of the fourth company, proclaimed, “and your timing is excellent! We have just received new information from our Scouts. It appears that our previous intel has been lacking in the defences of our enemies – The core installations of their administrative hub seem to be shielded by a form of kinetic field. Infiltration squads are still tracking down the power source, however, we seem to be lacking any visible connectors.” Shamil shifted uncomfortably in his stance before he continued to speak: “We seem to have no clue as to where or how these shields are being maintained.”

Ashur listened patiently, then nodded with a grateful smile. “Thank you for this information captain!”, he declared, which brought Shamil’s face to brighten immensely. “It seems we are dealing with unknown technology. That alone would be no issue, I’m sure – but time is pressing. We are behind on this sector, and we’ve been delayed by the last campaign. I have received word that we must be more… ‘Invested’ in our efforts, or that we would face reprimands for our lack of progress.” He sighed heavily, frustrated at the implications. Be merciless and apply force without hesitation, he mused. He was to be a sledgehammer. No doubt the Emperor believed just because Ashur preferred to utilise armoured vehicles, he must be like an avalanche. That one such as him could use subtlety and precision seemed unimaginable. The truth was that Ashur was more than capable of such feats, it just took him a bit longer with the resources at his disposal. And that minuscule delay seemed to displease his father.

“What is your plan then, my Primarch?”, inquired Aikil, captain of the thirty-second company, an undertone of worry in his speech. “My plan, captain”, Ashur replied, “is to wait for our reinforcements. I have been informed by higher command that for this particular campaign, we will be accompanied by our brothers from the legion previously known as ‘Warpclaws’. It is a joyous occasion, for they have been reunited with their primarch! I will get to meet one of my brothers!” Ashur beamed with anticipation as he further explained: “The renamed “Chosen of Hecate” are particularly observant, I am told, and will greatly help us in analysing this enemy. I am told they should arrive within the day, which should give us enough time to prepare a suitably fortified landing site.”

Just as he had uttered the words did a signal flash on the holopict: An incoming message. Ashur opened the channel, and the helmeted face of an astartes greeted him. “Salutations, esteemed primarch Ashur of Banipal of the Legio Astartes Loxodontii! This is Gaius Mendel speaking, Grand Warp Claw of the Chosen of Hecate. I am to inform you that Primarch Lambach Kropor’s vessel is set to arrive within the hour and that he wishes to make use of his early planetfall to meet you, his brother, for a private exchange. You are free to bring your own envoy, if you so wish. We are looking forward to make battle alongside our accomplished cousins of the XIIIth!”

With those words did the channel close, and Ashur’s smile widened to an almost childlike grin. “Within the hour! Did you hear that?”, he asked superfluously, and each of his officers chuckled in return. “What are we waiting for! Prepare a tent! Make sure our brothers will be accommodated accordingly!”

As promised did Lambach’s Thunderhawk land within the hour, it’s feet touching the ground with a deep thrum and it’s engines slowly coming to a rest. Ashur stood outside, excitedly shifting in his stance, anticipating his new found brother. Surrounding him were a few of his personal protectors of the Third Chapter, carrying their trademark adorned shields on their backs and their faces concealed by masked helmets. The hatch opened and the ramparts were extended. Suddenly, an irritating sensation befell Ashur. A tingle at his temples, boring through his eyes. He shook his head and the sensation faded, yet an unnerving feeling remained. Nevertheless did Ashur approach the tall figure descending the ramparts, followed by his own Astartes. This was Lambach Kropor. His face carried a disarming smile, his hair a loose mane of black. The Lord of Bronze and Bone immediately recognised him as a brother, and wrapped his arms around the arrival in a loving embrace.

“Lambach, brother! Welcome, welcome to our humble base of operations! I hope the journey to Halmat Forn has been pleasant for you!”, he proclaimed, patting Lambach on his shoulders. The other primarch returned the joyful welcome with a slap on Ashur’s shoulderguard. “The Warp jump was acceptable, but the descent into orbit could have been a little smoother.” The two brothers gave a quick chuckle, then Ashur motioned Lambach to follow. Right outside the range of the powerful gusts that a landing Thunderhawk produced stood a tent in the fashion of Ashur’s homeworld, with the legion’s banners gently dancing in the wind. He pulled back the curtain and offered Lambach to enter, first. “If it is alright with you, brother, I would love to keep this exchange as exclusive as possible. My bodyguards will remain outside”, he explained, and Lambach nodded in acknowledgement. “Then so will my envoy. Our legionnaires will definitely find it in themselves to have a brotherly chat, as well”, he replied.

Inside the tent was a table on which there were pitchers of water and bowls of food on display. While the sun outside stood in late afternoon and burned in terrible heat, the inside of the tent was cool, in part due to the ingenious design, in part due to modern technology lowering the temperature. Ashur bade the primarch of the Chosen to sit. “Sit, drink, unwind from the journey!”, he motioned his brother while reaching for a cup, himself. Again, a surge of headache came over him and he shuddered, pausing him in his action. “What in the…?”, he muttered under his breath, Lambach curiously looking over at him. “Is everything alright, brother?”, he inquired, to which Ashur hesitantly nodded. “Quite alright. I seem to be under the weather… Of sorts”, the Lord of Bronze and Bone replied. A Primarch shouldn’t be “under the weather”, though. The surge subsided, and the two continued their brotherly meeting.

For Ashur, it was an amazing experience. Of all the brothers he had previously met, Lambach seemed the most gentle, something which deeply spoke to Ashur. Lambach knew they were trying to make the galaxy a peaceful environment for the children of Holy Terra, and he carried that peace, that positive energy with him. He was a student of history, a philosopher, a builder to a greater future – A scholar. Ashur felt almost diminished, being a man of the land and having grown up among people who view scripture and academia reserved for those who could afford such luxuries. He was eager to learn of Lambach’s upbringing, of the beauties of his homeworld Miletus, and naturally just as eager to impart his own story to his brother primarch. They exchanged their experiences, the wonders and pearls of wisdom of their homeworld’s cultures, and while Ashur was overjoyed to find his newest brother to be charismatic and companionable, a boring sensation in his head kept disturbing him throughout their exchange.

Lambach just finished another anecdote of his studies, where one of his peers had been scolded for falling asleep during one of the final examinations. The absurdity made Ashur bellow in laughter, yet as he regained his posture his gaze changed into something more serious. The examination had been of otherworldly studies, of the Immaterium and its metaphysical properties. Since his childhood did Ashur fear and adore the Otherworld, as it was made known to him by the tribal shamans of Babylon V, and while he was certain that all of his brothers had experienced similar if not more intense, he could not shake the feeling that it… Haunted him, for a lack of better words. He dared not speak to any of his previous brothers, expecting ridicule or incomprehension. Lambach, he felt, would be different.

“Say, brother”, he began, cautiously, “when you jump through the Warp – Have you ever looked at it passing by? Have you taken the time to try and see its patterns? Have you ever… Made sense of it?” Lambach cocked his head to the side, his eyes telling of his thoughts processing the question. “Naturally, I have looked at the Immaterium, brother. And of course I have tried to make sense of it. What I know is that it is… Much ‘deeper’, than what we see when we travel through it. Like an ocean, our ships are only journeying on its surface. There is a world behind the veil of our reality”, he turned towards Ashur, again, and upon seeing the latter’s expression, he added, “but I assume that is not what you mean, right?”

Hesitantly, Ashur shook his head. “No”, he replied, and was willing to end the conversation, but Lambach kept digging. After some consideration, Ashur opened up. “I am sure you, too, remember some of your early childhood. The time when we were infants. I remember it in my dreams. I know these events happened, somehow”, he paused, taking a moment to put himself at ease, then continued, “I remember how I was hurled through the Warp. I remember, somewhere between asleep and awake, that I looked into the miasma of colours, the currents of the Otherworld – And that it looked back at me. Not… ‘Something’ from it, but the very essence of the Immaterium peered into my incubation pod, surveilled me, judged me.” He looked up at Lambach, whose expression was so unlike his previously pleasant and charming demeanour, and immediately he felt ashamed for speaking of his experience.

“The Immaterium is a difficult place to grasp, Ashur”, Lambach suddenly replied, making the primarch of the Loxodontii pause. “I highly doubt that what you described to me just now is truly your experience. Yet… I also have to admit that I sometimes feel watched, as well, when I enter the Warp. I attribute it to human nature, that there is an innate sense of discomfort in an environment we cannot fully perceive. I remember swimming in a lake with friends growing up, and every time we left the immediate shore for deeper waters, a sensation cautioned me for awareness. The lake was so deep that you could not see its bottom, and in those murky depths, I would suspect monsters and predators, although everybody could tell me without a doubt that the biggest fish in those waters were no bigger than a toddler and definitely would not attempt to take a bite out of me.” Lambach reassumed his smile and pointed across the table towards Ashur. “I assume what you dream is your intuition trying to tell you to keep on guard from the yet unexplored depths of the Warp. But you need not be afraid, Ashur of Banipal – It is my calling as a Chosen of Hecate to bring light into the darkest corners of the galaxy, be it realspace or the Immaterium!”

Ashur smiled at Lambach’s comfort, yet deep down he could not truly appreciate it. He may not be a scholarly man, but he was not stupid. He had meditated, spoken to his Shamans and Stargazers, had spoken to the priesthood of the Great City of Banipal, of his dreams. None could take away what he knew deep down inside: That his dreams were a most vivid memory.

“Thank you for your kind words, brother”, Ashur replied, “and here’s to you brightening this obscure galaxy!”

The two toasted and gulped down the last contents of their cups, then Lambach took changed the topic. “It was very good to meet you, brother. Now, I am curious to hear what you’ve learned of this world’s military.” Ashur nodded in response and quickly imparted their intel on his brother, ending with their momentary task of finding ways to disable the kinetic shielding of their prime target. Lambach listened carefully, making notes in his head. As Ashur finished talking did Lambach chuckle sensibly. “If you allow, I would like to send my Warp Claws with your Scouts. I have a suspicion that our problem is very much rooted in our opponents employing a form of technology that is based on the human mind.”

“The human mind? What do you mean by that?”, inquired Ashur, puzzled.

“I am talking about psykic shields, Ashur. I suspect the shields are generated not, at least exclusively, by machinery, but by individuals with a tremendously gifted mind. My Warp Claws will easily be able to confirm or to deny my assumptions. And if they prove me right, then it is all the better that the Chosen are here! We have studied the ways to apply the powers of the mind on technology, and we continue to learn more with every world we visit.”

Ashur was overwhelmed. A tremendously gifted mind?, he asked himself, unable to make sense of how the mind could play into technology like that. Yet, if his brother was so certain of his legionnaires success, then Ashur would support them in any way he could! “Very well, brother! I can have escorts ready to bring your Chosen to our Scouts within the next half hour. They were still in the field when you arrived, and their order was to remain in place until they had found ways to lay those shields low. I suggest we brief our officers.”

“Agreed. I’m certain that a sufficient number of my Chosen have already made planetfall, so we may as well mobilise in full force and prepare for the finishing blow.” Ashur nodded in agreement, and as they stepped outside did he indeed see a remarkable number of Thunderhawks in the beige colours of the Chosen of Hecate unloading Astartes and supplies. Lambach and Ashur called their officers and quickly briefed them on their new task, and with utmost haste were Rhinos and bikes prepared to carry Lambach’s finest to their destination, then they vanished with sand and dust being blown into the air from their quick departure while the rest of the two legion’s forces readied the actual hammer blow.

The Stargazers, the spiritual guides and esoteric diviners of the Loxodontii, walked through the ranks, painting the legionnaires’ armour with symbols of good luck and warding properties, while they themselves painted their faces with symbols of divination and spiritual expansion. Lambach and his retinue of Warp Claws observed curiously, yet also with a certain amusement, this display of superstitious practice. Eventually, Ashur himself knelt before Kenai, the head of the first chapter’s Stargazers, and received the symbolic warpaint. “Brother, would you or your Chosen like to participate?”, did the Lord of Bronze and Bone ask his brother Lambach, who was taken by surprise at the question. Obviously he doubted the need for the practice – Yet at the same time, what harm could it do? He, Gaius Mendel and several of his closest Warp Claws knelt and received the paintings. Ashur grinned sheepishly at his brother, who returned the expression in kind. As they went on to mount their transports did the Primarch of the Loxodontii overhear Gaius Mendel mutter to Lambach something that included “the improvement of perception” and “increased sensitivity”.

Finally, the combined armies stood in sight range of their prime target: The capitol city Dom Ran Kin. Invisible to the eye, but clearly present in the minds of all were the psykically created kinetic shields. Lambach’s Warp Claws had been added to the Loxodontii’s Scouts, and indeed they confirmed to be able to perceive a signature that they attributed to a “psykic source”. While Ashur still was not certain what any of that meant, he was prepared to launch his forces to attack the moment his Scouts confirmed the shields were down.

A quiet moment that seemed to last an eternity passed, and suddenly an electric buzz filled the air. The shields, invisible to the naked eye, began to flicker and dissolve. “Now”, commented Lambach, and Ashur ordered the attack with a collected voice. The roaring of engines heralded the advance, and within the hour had they crashed the city walls and were flooding its streets. Everything seemed as usual: The Loxodontii footsoldiers trampled down any resistance, the sound of bolter rounds exploding upon their targets echoed through the hubs, backed by the cracking noise of concrete breaking under the weight of the Rhino transports filled the air. Then, at the grand square, they came to a halt.

“Citizens of Dom Ran Kin, hear me. I am Ashur of Banipal, and I have been sent to bring your world into the safety of the Imperium of Mankind. Your army has not been able to resist my advance, and your defeat is inevitable. Lay down your arms now and join us. There is no more need for further bloodshed”, did Ashur’s voice boom from the speakers mounted on his personal transport. Across him, on the grand square, stood the defenders in rank and file, their banners lazily dancing in the wind. From them came forth a single man clad in long, flowing robes, his face concealed by a curious mask fitted with many tubes and cables. A deep hum resonated from him, and a voice manifested in Ashur’s head – A voice that was not his own. “We know who you are, and we know your purpose. We have underestimated you and your forces until this point, but now we know we have to bring our full arsenal down on you. Expect no mercy, Ashur of Banipal. You will never conquer this world.”

With those words did the masked figure return to the ranks, vanishing among the men. “W-What was that?!”, did Ashur hear one of his Astartes shout. “WYTCHES!”, screamed another. Their sudden panic was answered by several of their enemies raising their hands in unison – And lightning springing forth from their fingertips. Several Astartes fell to the ground, the smell of burnt flesh and hair filling the air.

It was then and there that Lambach unleashed his legion’s power upon them. The Warp Claws raised their hands, themselves, and psykic shields appeared in front of the Loxodontii. Ashur was shaken. His enemies had been Wytches – And so was his brother. It took him precious seconds before he had regained his senses.

“My sons! Advance! Trample these fools, leave none alive!”, did he scream, not even needing the vox caster anymore. The sheer volume of his voice roared across the square and even made the enemy psykers pause for a second, frightened by the physical power of their adversary.

Like their first battle, this last one was quick and brutal. Last time though did Ashur leave them to escape, but this time they were cornered and annihilated. It took Lambach’s furious protests to let only a handful be spared the Thirteenth’s wrath.

“I did not take the Loxodontii to be butchers, Ashur”, did Lambach take a jab at his brother, his usual smile twisted with a glimpse of frustration. The two stood on the ruined square, apart from their forces. Ashur turned to Lambach, his face a bitter expression of doubt, confusion, and barely contained hostility. Each syllable gave Ashur another pounding headache, and now more so than before did Ashur clearly perceive what he had only assumed previously: Lambach’s aura was bright, almost painfully so, and it radiated in colours that made Ashur nauseous. It took him everything to keep calm, as he could not predict what would happen if he lost himself.

“We are not butchers, Lambach”, did the Lord of Bronze and Bone finally reply, “we are protectors. The threat of the Wytch is a universal one, and my sons and I will make sure it is culled wherever we find it.” His eyes narrowed and he stepped closer to the Primarch of the Chosen. “That you, my dear brother, would turn out to be one, is deeply unsettling.”

“What do you mean by ‘Wytch’? Those are psykers! There’s nothing magical about them – They harnessed the innate capacity of the human mind to utilise the Warp in order to affect reality!”, did Lambach retort. “And why you find my warriors to be unsettling when they helped you win this fight with ease is a mystery to me.”

“Because you toyed with the same dark forces as did our enemy!”, did it burst from Ashur, who instantly had to reign himself back in. He regretted his outburst, for Lambach was still his brother, and a very like-minded one, as well. “Listen”, he began anew, “I do not understand your 'psyker' business. I know it resembles a craft that I have sworn to fight as best as I can. Our father seems to accept it, or else he would have made sure you were put in your place, already, and that is why I will tolerate it. So will my sons. I implore you nonetheless to stop at it while you’re still ahead. While you have shown me to be a man of great intelligence and sensibility, I greatly doubt you know the risk you’re taking.”

Ashur stepped back, his face sombre, and he sighed heavily. “We have done our part. The occupational forces are moving in. My sons and I will be leaving.” He turned away, motioned to mount his transport, but then paused. “It gave me much joy meeting and talking with you, Lambach Kropor. I hope the light you carry with you does not escalate to a wildfire, with the arts you are practising. I hope I shall meet you again when the Imperium has no more need for warriors – Especially not those who play with such volatile powers.” With those words did Ashur enter his personal Rhino, and the Loxodontii withdrew from Dom Ran Kin, leaving behind their brothers of the VIIIth Legio Astartes, the Chosen of Hecate.

Testimonies[edit]

Ashur sat, quietly, and listened to his brothers speak. One by one, they all brought forth good arguments, both in favour of and against the Librarium program. Lambach’s speech made him shiver in his seat, the radiance of his psykic potential causing Ashur a migraine. Once the Primarch of the Chosen of Hecate had made room, the Lord of Bronze and Bone motioned to take the stand.

Like Kinnévail, he did not wear his power armour today. He was clad in light robes of the colour of onyx and a belt fashioned from polished copper seated around his waist, with many charms hanging from it as well as from a coppery necklace, which all tingled with each of his heavy steps. He observed the room, saw curious glances as well as condescending expressions. The savage from a backwater world dared to speak on such a fateful and sophisticated topic. Ashur chuckled lightly at the irony, that the savage could probably speak the best about this matter.

“On my homeworld”, he began, “there lived a man. He was an outcast. He used to be a medicine man who had learned otherworldly craft to heal, and to divine good fortune. Instead, he betrayed his kin. He broke his vows and dived deep into dark arts, and he exploited his knowledge to search and identify the evil within the hearts of men to nurture it, so that he could manipulate and abuse them. He had become a foul wytch.”

He paused and surveilled the room as he let those last words hang in the air, then continued: “Mind you, he didn’t just come by these skills. He was chosen at an early age by an experienced and wise shaman. He had been guided for long years of his life, had been educated in the dangers of his craft, had been under close watch for signs of corruption or failings of character. Nobody expected him to fail the test – And yet, he did.”

“He failed, and many others paid the price. He murdered his teacher and his chieftain and enslaved his tribe through fear and sorcery. He tyrannised his neighbours until they retaliated in brutal hatred. He escaped to the steppes, but his tribe had been annihilated. He roamed alone, offered his despicable craft to anybody, and sometimes threatened people with curses for food and shelter. Sometimes, he called down plagues over the great cities.”

“One day, he came to my tribe, when I still lived in the plains. I could tell from far away that a darkness radiated from him, that his soul was befouled in ways I cannot fathom to this day. I remember him approaching, speaking in a voice that made my ears ache and my heart skip a beat”, he turned towards Lambach for a second, a worried expression on his face, “and children crying. He threatened us, that if we didn’t let him stay for the night he would kill our firstborn on the spot. We declined – And he held true to his word.”

“He called out to the darkest corners of the Otherworld and struck down three of my tribesmen where they stood, their bodies crumbling to ash. He spoke more cursed words and a living darkness began to thrash my camp. I remember being… Paralysed, and I remember how my entire body stirred in defiance of his evil. I deeply regret every second I did not react then, but the horror I had beheld had overwhelmed me so that every feeling had seeped from my body. I struggled to regain my senses, and when I did...” Ashur paused, his eyes surveilling the room and, whether intentional or not, stopped again at Lambach. “...I killed him.”

The Lord of Bronze and Bone let the words hang in the air, his eyes cast to the floor, choosing his next words. “I understand the reasoning of my brothers who speak in favour of this program, and I do see its potential. Yet, the age-old traditions of my homeworld could not prevent this one man to abuse his skills. In fact, he was not a single instance: The history of Babylon V is riddled with good men falling victim to corruption. And now, barely a few decades of research are supposed to establish a program that presumably should be able to prevent another individual to be torture upon his neighbours?” He shook his head in disbelief, then continued: ”I caution my own Stargazers daily to be diligent in their task to find those among their ranks unsuitable for the burden of just divining through their traditional means, to not ever go beyond the boundaries. This program demands we not only go beyond, no, but we should also tear the boundaries down and trample the ruins!”

He motioned to retake his seat, but then paused in his step and turn towards his psychikally inclined brothers. “I have no doubt you have best intentions. I have no doubt that you believe in your willpower. I very much doubt your sons to match up to you, and I very much doubt you are aware of the consequences should one of yours fall.” With that last sentence, Ashur calmly left the middle accompanied by the tingling of his charms and retook his seat. Visible for all was his worried, almost mournful, expression. He did not like to speak about this memory, for it made him appear weak in the face of his stalwart brothers, and he knew it made him appear hostile toward his ‘gifted’ brothers although he wanted nothing more than to embrace them. Yet it was his hope to show that, if a Primarch could be so utterly shaken by a mere man falling to corruption, then it was truly a terrible enough thing to not risk an Astartes to do the same.

The Necromancer and the Megatherion[edit]

Lambach wandered through the insides of the battleship Anu, the bottom of his spear Venus Gospel gently tapping the floor with each step. His psychik sight could already perceive the streams of Warp energies flowing through the ship’s walls, floors and ceilings like blood pumping through veins, but only as he came closer to his destination, reality did truly shift and distort through the powers of Chaos that had pervaded the vessel’s essence. A smile crept across his pale and sicklish face. The one brother who had always feared the Immaterium the most had now been the one fully swallowed by it. The one whose efforts had been greatest in quelling the psykers of the Imperium had now become a vessel for the Warp in Realspace. Ashur of Banipal, the Behemoth, the Lord of Bronze and Bone, the Giant Beast, was now a monster fuelled by Chaos, incarcerated within the bowels of his own once-proud flagship.

Lambach stood before the gate leading into the cargo hold. Powerful spells of holding were scratched across the metal plates in wild, seemingly erratic patterns, and Stargazers stood guard facing the doors. Their already bewilderingly decorated helmets were further distorted by the Warp as it merged flesh and steel into a terrible living tissue. “I demand entry”, Lambach announced, and the Stargazers humbly withdrew. A lazy gesture of his hand brought the inscriptions to life, gleaming in all the colours known and unknown to human vision, then they died off again. A deep growl, an aching noise, rolled from behind the doors, and the primarch of the Chosen of Hecate hesitated for a moment. He knew that his brother had been… Changed. The noise erupting from the cargo hold implied that it had been a lot more than he had previously imagined.

The doors slid apart agonisingly slow, as if they were reluctant to open the way for what they were holding, and Lambach Kropor entered the barely lit room. Immediately the stench of rotting carcasses stung in his nose, although he had grown accustomed to the sensation as the gifts of Grandfather Nurgle were spreading through the ranks of the Chosen. Crushed bones littered the ground and dried blood and gore were splattered all across the room. In the middle of the gigantic cargo hold was a circle drawn unto the floor, its symbols glowing faintly and appearing to shift and dance, almost pulsating, and within it, mighty chains kept a brutal creature in place. Its lower body, a mutilated shape alike an elephant and a giant lizard fashioned from flesh and machinery, was lying flat on the ground. Where its head would have been, the body of a man was joined from the waist up, equally disfigured and bent over, resting uncomfortably. Its head was like a skull. Bony plates and brass linings instead of skin, an unnatural spark glowered in hollow eye sockets and its teeth filed to a point with two mighty tusks protruding from the jaws. As Lambach approached the beast, it lifted its head, revealing a metallic collar that had fused with the tormented skin at its neck.

“Good to see you awake, brother Ashur”, Lambach smiled, a condescending edge to his tone. Ashur’s eyes flared for a moment before going dim, again. “The Immaterium’s gifts suit you well”, the primarch of the Chosen continued.

“Quiet”, a voice growled deeply, thrumming from Ashur’s chest. He spoke without moving his mouth, his vocalisation reduced to noises that through some unnatural trick mimicked human speech. “I warned you”, Ashur continued, though his rumbling speech was weaker now, as if exhausted. “You said I was wrong. You said...”, he faltered, his eyes flickering, “you said we had nothing to fear...” The hulking creature slumped, a groan accompanying the futile struggle to stay awake. “You… Lied...”, came the growling voice one last time, before Ashur drifted off into a delirious state. The accusation faintly stung Lambach, yet he shrugged it off just as easily. What point was there in contemplating a guilty conscience? Although he did not seem to understand, Ashur had received blessings of masters whose power rivalled – Nay, exceeded! - Those of the Emperor’s. While indeed Ashur’s superstitious understanding of the Warp had suspected a much more accurate picture than Lambach’s academic teachings, the Primarch of the Chosen of Hecate gladly accepted to be wrong. The Dark Gods that dwelt in the Warp would teach him and all of mankind so much more than the Emperor would ever allow! “No, I did not lie, Ashur”, Lambach finally replied. “I was wrong, simple as that. It is what scholars do: We are right, until we are not, and then we learn from it. And learn, I did...” Lambach raised his hand, and with a flick of his wrist did he end the banishing spell that held Ashur in place. The pulsating runes vanished, and life sprung back into the Daemonic Primarch’s eyes. “I need you to finally open your eyes, Ashur of Banipal! You have always been one with the land and the world of spirits and spectres! We are to become its warriors! We are to deal the finishing blow to the one man who would deny mankind its soul!” Lambach approached his mutated brother, who struggled into an upright position. “Carry us on your mighty shoulders, who is blessed by the Gods.”

Ashur’s fiery eyes fixated on Lambach, who appeared minuscule before his monstrous brother. The spark within the hollows surged to life. “The Gods?”, he growled, and he seemed to ponder the word for a long moment. “The Gods...”, he repeated, his unnatural voice an even deeper pitch than before, “what do I care about Gods? My sons… Chained me. My brothers… Abandoned me. All my life, people discarded me once they didn’t need me, anymore.” The daemon raised its head, fixating Lambach with its burning eye hollows. “What would make those Gods different?”

Lambach Kropor studied his brother’s reaction. Ashur of Banipal, so convinced of family and loyalty, speaking so low of it seemed unlikely – Unless, of course, certain voices had exploited a darkness in his heart. He smiled. “Those Gods, brother Ashur, will see to it that all will have their comeuppance. The Gods are not of this Universe and they will not lightly discard you like all the fools of your past. They love you, need you, they have already shown so by bestowing upon you gifts like none have received before.” The Great Beast lowered his head, appearing defeated. “What could Gods possibly need me for?”

Lambach’s face lit up to an expression of mad excitement.

“To let the Galaxy burn.”