Confessions of a Wayward Son
This is some great writefaggotry concocted back in 2010 that reminded /tg/ that Chaos Space Marines aren't all one-dimensional Saturday morning cartoon villains. It was written by a guy we later found out was called Tyrant of the East, and he dripfed us these stories slowly over two weeks. And he didn't even bother to write an ending, it just finishes without warning. Despite this, it remains a strong contender for the best fanfic to have ever come from /tg/. Read it to see why.
There's a bit more of the story here: 
Confessions of a Wayward Son I
Upon that fated day, I witnessed my brothers die. I witnessed their red bedecked forms writhe in tendrils of warp lightning, saw their ceramite frames convulse as unleashed energies ravaged their bodies. I saw this while my own psychic potential, small as it was, grow in leaps and bounds. The screams of my brethren raged into my mind as well as my ears. I could feel their agony as though it were my own. I could feel the skin being flayed from their flesh. I could feel their flesh melting like wax down their bones. I could feel their bones dissipating into dust. My mind had gone blank then, made so by blessed unconsciousness. Sometimes I wish for it to remain that way.
When I came to, the shells of my men greeted my gaze. I still remember with clarity the horror in my conscience when I unfastened the neck seals of Ahmtep's helm and saw that he had no head, no body, nothing. Just a pile of ash that rested in his empty power armor. I was not the only one that still was made from meat and bone. Others had survived. But they were a paltry few. The silent forms of my brothers, still as statues, dotted the blasted landscape. I could have wept then. But I did not. Astartes do not weep in the face of destruction. We accept it.
The Rubric had failed us. Ahriman had failed us.
That was ten millennia ago, on a world called the Planet of Sorcerers. Yet to me, it was like yesterday.
I have at my command three hundred Rubric Marines. Former men of flesh and blood who once brought the galaxy to its knees. Now, they are automatons devoid of their former glory. They are my flock, and it is my duty to guide them. They are also my heralds, and I have unleashed them before against my foes.
Sometimes I stare at my charges, looking into the fathomless pits of their eye visors. I hope to see a flicker of light. A glimmer of existence. Each time I am foiled. The souls that have been bound to the warplates of Astartes armor are utterly without sanity. Maddened like warp creatures from the Empyrean. There is no saving them from their fates.
I do not hate Ahriman. I respect him. He did what was necessary. The Rubric cost us dear, but it preserved us as a Legion. The flesh-change would have taken us all had he not acted. No. I do not hate him.
I reserve my hatred for my father. For my primarch. For the being whose blood flows in my veins. I reserve my hatred for Magnus. This unworthy father who has sired worthy sons.
He thought himself above the corrupted touches of the Warp. He was wrong. He believed himself to be resistant to the false whispers of lying gods. He was wrong. He taught us that the Great Ocean could be mastered, that it could flow and pour to our command. He was wrong. He taught us that sorcery was an enlightened ideal, and none needed to fear it. He was wrong. He taught us that we were the lords of ourselves, that we could manipulate the future to our liking. He was wrong. And through these errors, he brought ruin and damnation to the Thousand Sons.
Magnus is a fool. A raving, ranting lunatic atop his obsidian tower. I cannot believe that once I loved him with all my heart.
I left the Planet of Sorcerers with fifty Rubric Marines under my control. I told those brothers who still possessed flesh that with these warriors I would lead raids against the Imperium. But in secret, that was a lie. I left this desolate waste of a world for one thing and one thing only. Retribution.
Aboard my warship, I ordered my thralls to strip away the blue paint that had been freshly adorned on my brethren's armor. I, myself, restored their warplate to the gleaming red of our Legion. I will not bow my head to the orders of a madman.
My ship escaped from the Eye of Terror, avoiding the noose that was closing by the Imperial Navy. I watched silently as countless starships, carrying the defeated Legions of Horus, streak past me. They went one direction. I went another. My purpose was revenge, but my force was not yet sufficient.
But that changed. Gradually. Slowly. But change it did. I ghosted across the universe, listening to psychic messages sent by Imperial astropaths in secrecy. I would always head towards a world threatened by Chaos incursion, hoping to find warbands from any of the nine traitor Legions. The majority of times, it was merely a cult staging a rebellion or a leaderless rabble easily crushed by the Imperial Guard. I did not show my hand in circumstances as those. I was seeking traitor Astartes, not normal men who had turned.
Sometimes, I did find what I so desperately seek. Chaos Space Marines, slinking from the Eye in their daemon-infused ships. They came to raid and to pillage, and oftentimes, just to slaughter. It is strange thought that eons ago, I would have given my life to save these men, and they would have given their lives to save mine. The bonds of brotherhood have long since vanished, and where once I grieved to slay these men, now I have no qualms in doing so.
Where these traitor Astartes landed, I followed suit. Before they could properly strike against a terrified populace, or an undermanned outpost, my men… my automatons would have already launched their assault. I chose my battles carefully, never allowing the enemy an advantage where one was to be gained, and never losing an advantage where one was to be lost. The number of warbands I have destroyed I have lost count. But as an estimate, I could pile the skulls of the slain in a mountain. Khorne wishes me to be his champion. I spit on his name as I spit on the other three black gods of the warp.
Ten thousand years later, and I still do this. And my reputation has grown.
To the World Eaters, I am known as the Blood Shedder. That is a name I agree with. My gauntlets have spilled the blood of many a World Eater champion, and more of their followers.
To the Death Guard, I am called the Scouring Flame. That is a title I have earned. I have burned Nurgle's gifts from many of Mortarion's children with warp fire.
To the Emperor's Children, I am called the Hundred Agonies. That identity is one I adhere to. The sorcery that lashes from my palms is even more painful than their crazed, drug-induced minds can bear.
To the Iron Warriors, I am known as the Great Vanquisher. That is a name I nod in confirmation to. Entire fortifications constructed through the teachings of Perturabo have been leveled by my psychic might.
To the Night Lords, I am simply called the Terror. That is a title I cannot help but smile at. I enjoy flaying alive those of the Night Haunter's ilk I come across.
To the Word Bearers, I am called the Destroyer of Faith. That is an identity true and without falsehood. Lorgar's bastions of blasphemous religion have been crushed and burned by my Rubric Marines.
To the Alpha Legion, I am not known. They are not traitors, and hence, do not receive my wrath.
And to the Thousand Sons, I am called the Betrayer. They are not wrong in this. I have three hundred Rubric Marines because I wrested the control of two hundred and fifty from their erstwhile masters. Aspiring Sorcerers who thinks Magnus was right. These men I slay with relish, stripping them of their souls and flinging them into the Warp. I may be a betrayer, but there is no crime in betraying those who have turned traitor themselves.
Sometimes, the men I slay ask me why I do this. As they lie on the war-despoiled earth, they ask me why I would turn against my kin. That is a question easy for me to answer.
Because we were wrong. Because Horus, Lorgar, Perturabo, Mortarion, and the others, were wrong. We were wrong in turning against the Emperor. We were wrong in destroying the Imperium that we shed blood to build. We were wrong in abandoning mankind.
They do not understand. They curse me as they die, saying the four Warp Gods will have the vengeance on me. I do not need them to comprehend my ideals. And I do not care for the threats they swear against me. Partly because they are true. I have been denied a spot besides the Emperor for treachery not of my own. If my death means my soul will suffer in eternity, tortured by the Four, then so be it. But I will die knowing that I have done all I could for humanity. No one, not even gods, can take away that comfort.
I write these words in the bowels of my ship, attended to by the automatons that were once my brothers. Another world sprawls below us, and soon, our Stormravens will carry myself and the three hundred into battle. Perhaps I will die on this planet. Perhaps I will not. But in the end, as always, I finish with this.
For the Emperor. For the Imperium. For all Mankind.
Confessions of a Wayward Son II
Three hundred Astartes. Entire sectors have been brought into heel with less. What warlord worth his salt would not want such a number to join him? What Imperial general would not beg and plead for near a third of a chapter’s worth of Space Marines to join him? What Chaos champion would not butcher and kill for a chance to lead these relentless warriors? I sometimes wish these three hundred were away from my presence. It is a wish that I am not proud of. They were my brothers. They are –still- my brothers. But how can you be brothers to automatons? Where are the words of companionship spoken by sons who share a father? Where are the joyous shouts when a victory is won? Where are the speeches of lamentation when a fellow brother falls? I cannot lie and say that the bonds of brotherhood remain tight between me and these three hundred. Deep in the bowels of my ship, is where the three hundred stand. Always in parade ground rest, their bolters held across their chests. Before each battle, I make my way to the sanctum they reside in. It is harrowing to see these once-men stand in such perfect formation. It is haunting to walk amongst them, knowing that they cannot speak, yet wishing they could. I know some of these men by name. They once served with me in the Fifth Fellowship. Their past glories, their feats of strength and courage, I know by heart. To see them like this, so devoid of emotion, is a feeling I cannot describe. This is our punishment. A punishment for a crime we did not commit. Never does the law frame a son for his father’s sins. But the universe does not care for judgments made by humans. The galaxy is an unforgiving place, and it is upon our shoulders this unfair penalty falls.
Wherever I go, I am always followed by two towering beings of war. Their adamantium hulls etched in arcane symbols and bedecked in the livery of my Legion, they stride beside me on each side, legacies of the XV Legion's exalted history. They are dreadnoughts, massive behemoths three times as tall as an Astartes, with weapons that could shred entire platoons of Guardsmen in a single salvo. They are my guardians as I am my brothers' guardian, and never have I seen them falter.
The first one is called Ah'ton, a former Sehkmet veteran who once tread the battlefield in Tactical Dreadnought Armor. I knew him before Magnus betrayed us all. We were not close, but we knew each other and respected each other. His ashes have long dissolved in the amniotic fluids that once kept him alive. There is an irony in this. An irony that only men with bitter hearts like mine can appreciate. Ah'ton's left arm is a massive autocannon, his right, a hulking power fist. With these two weapons, he has claimed countless foes, and has saved my life many a time.
The second of the two is called Ishaq. I do not know his history. I obtained him through the warband of another Thousand Sons sorcerer many centuries ago. Even as I boiled away my wayward kinsman's skin and seared the flesh from his bones, my psychic will forced the spirit of the dreadnought and the spirits of his power armored brethren to heed my command. Ishaq possesses a plasma cannon and a gargantuan chainblade arm.
Out of all the three hundred, these two are the ones I prefer for company. Not because they are dangerous. But because they are the only ones out of the three hundred who can make sound.
Ah'ton screams. Ishaq laughs.
This is my company. Maniacal screaming and crazed laughter.
There are more than just Astartes on this ship. There are normal humans as well. Men and women who once lived uninteresting lives on a myriad of planets. Chaos changed that, as it does with many things. The mortals that now reside on this near-derelict battle barge are the survivors from worlds I was too late to save.
These humans now inhabit the upper levels. They are too fearful of the automatons adorned in crimson that stand rigid in the barge's depths to go lower. At first they were not many. A few dozen from each planet left burning by traitors. But this number could only increase. There were too many worlds that were decimated by Chaos Astartes, and soon, the populace swelled. Now thousands of humans calls this battle barge their home, making use of spartan quarters once reserved for Space Marines as places of rest and comfort.
Sometimes, I visit these humans. During these occasions, the dreadnoughts I order away. Their screams and cackling would scare an already fearful people. They treat me with deference and humility, as one would expect of my station. But behind the humble words, I can feel their raw fear gnawing at their insides. Their fears are logical. Once, Astartes like me descended from the skies to butcher their families and their friends. The fact that I have saved them from similar fates does not alleviate their trepidation.
I do not make my visits long. I am too reminded of Prospero and its people, and the deaths the Wolves of Russ visited to them for that.
Confessions of a Wayward Son III
Sometimes, I sin against mankind.
The planet was called Menos Primus, a civilized world far from Terra. The populace that lived on Menos was an enlightened people, something I cannot say for the rest of the Imperium. Their cities were great edifices of carved marble, vast metropolises where peasant and noble alike dwelled in comfort. It was in their capitol that I made my landing, with all three hundred of my Rubric Marines in tow.
The governor of Menos was there to greet me. A trim, dapper man in formal robes. With him were smiling diplomats, beaming politicians, and proud soldiers. This world had not known the tread of Astartes before, but they had heard the stories before. They took one look at the gleaming red plate of my brothers, saw the two behemoths that guarded my flanks, and assumed I was one loyal to the Imperium.
The planetary governor escorted me on a personal tour of the planet's capitol, citing to me with great pleasure the deeds his forefathers had done for this world. I was impressed. He did not rule with an iron fist as many of his fellows did. His government utilized a system of representative democracy. His compassion showed. The people of Menos loved their governor.
As I and my silent brothers strode on cobblestone streets, masses of civilians came to greet us. They cast flowers at our feet and chanted thankful prayers to my men. It took us hours to clear past the masses of cheering men and women. During these hours I remained silent beneath my helm.
At last, we arrived at the Congressional Hall, the place where councils were formed and decisions made. The governor gave a speech. I cannot recall the exact words, as it was many centuries ago. Then it came my turn. They expected me to say a few words. I did considerably more than that.
As pict-recorders flashed and holo-cameras rolled, I drew my plasma pistol from its holster, and vaporized the governor in front of eight hundred million people.
I still remember with clarity the word I said after the governor's ashes drifted into the faces of his shocked people.
Three hundred Rubric Marines lifted their boltguns and discharged exploding shells into the stunned crowd.
Bolters are weapons designed to kill armored opponents. Against unarmored and weaponless civilians, it was slaughter. More than slaughter. It was unparalleled butchery. Shrieking men and women, their frail bodies unshielded, popped like blisters under the torrent of fire.
I ordered this act in front of dozens of holo-cams. I did this so the entire populace could see their beloved leader and his advisors die. I was glad then that my brethren were silent suits of armor. Had they possessed their bodies of flesh and bone, they surely would have stopped me.
With one word, I murdered near a thousand defenseless people. With that same word, I saved the other eight hundred million.
A Chaos flotilla, led by a Black Legion warlord was nearing this sector. If they were left unchecked, their incursion would destroy many worlds before their momentum was stilled. Countless lives would be snuffed out by the breath of the Warp powers, and countless more would be forced into brutal slavery. The Imperial Fleet would be too late to save these lives, and the war of attrition that followed would be heinous in terms of men wasted.
This I had foreseen. My psychic potential could not match that of Lord Ahriman's, but it was sufficient to discern the waves of the Great Ocean.
Menos Primus would be the world where I halted this traitor tide.
Sadly, the Planetary Defense Force of this planet was not what I hoped they would be. Menos had not seen war for many a century, and the weapons their military possessed were all unusable relics. No man in their armies have ever fought a war, and their generals were all pompous buffoons with the brain of a grox.
My three hundred Rubric Marines could hold off such an invasion for a while, but they would be overwhelmed nonetheless. But it was not my intention to die on this planet, and I would not allow my brothers to fall if the situation didn't demand it.
By killing the governor in cold blood, I hoped to catch the attention an Imperial fleet, which would arrive exactly the time the Black Legion emerged from the Warp.
My plan worked better than I expected. The Imperial Navy diverted an entire sector fleet when my presence was known. With them came Inquisitors of both the Malleus and the Hereticus and their retinues. This was how much my kind was hated. That the mere mention of the Thousand Sons would cause a fleet of hundreds of ships to be launched.
But that was not all. Last to join this improptu Crusade, was a Grand Company of Space Wolves.
Menos Primus was considered a paradise to many. I turned it into a place of death and suffering.
Across its once pleasant fields, regiments of Cadian Shock held the line against countless waves of maddened cultists. Vostroyan First Borne fought viciously for dominance against renegade Guardsmen in the cities of marble. Juranian Armored Companies dueled at long range with daemonic machines of warp infused power. Thousands of men died, both loyalist and traitor, and stained entire rivers red with their blood.
Beyond the planet's atmosphere, kilometer long battleships vied for supremacy. Flickering trails of light slashed brilliantly in the void of space, sent from a thousand different lance batteries at once. Torpedoes powered forward, puncturing through void shields to deliver their deadly payload into adamantium hulls. Nova cannons hurled building sized projectiles into clusters of ships, annihilating them in bursts of light more radiant than an exploding sun.
But this slaughter that occurred both on and above ground was a mere sideshow to what occurred in Menos's capitol city.
One hundred Sons of Russ defended the place I had first made myself known, and it was at this place the Black Legion hurled themselves towards. Howling Wolves met bellowing Legionnaires in a storm of bloodshed. Power armored frames grappled with each other beneath the shadows of a once great civilization, clawing at each other's throats with the strength born from ten millennia of hatred.
Through all of this, I watched and waited. My battle barge remained drifting in space, far from the powerful sensors of both sides. I was rewarded for my patience.
The Black Legion warlord himself led the last surge against the Space Wolves, a score of Terminator armored veterans at his side. They met the Wolf Lord and his retinue of Wolf Guard in a tempest of flashing blades and bolter fire.
I saw my chance.
I teleported myself, and all three hundred of my brothers into the flanks of the Black Legion
Surprise was total. My Rubric Marines advanced from the haze of warp energies, their boltguns lowered. The hissing whine by my left signaled Ishaq’s plasma cannon was ready to unleash its deadly munitions. The systematic clacks on my right told me Ah’ton had finished cycling the autoloaders of his twin-barreled cannon. I raised my plasma pistol and as one, we unleashed a hellstorm of fire into the Legionnaire’s backs.
Astartes screamed and died. Some danced like a marionette on tortured strings, their bodies jerking with successive bolter detonations. Others were blasted off their feet by Ah’ton’s autocannon, ruinous craters smashed into their chests. Entire groups of men I once called brothers were incinerated by the kiss of hot plasma from Ishaq, reduced to mere specks of ash.
My own weapon scorched smoldering holes into traitor marines, but my eyes did not linger on those I had slain. Through the mayhem, I was searching for the warlord.
I found him standing victoriously over the prone body of the Wolf Lord, his daemon blade fresh with rich Astartes blood. His self-mutilated face glared at me with a hatred that could not be described. My own heart was filled with the same loathing.
My pistol hissed as I advanced. One of his terminator guards stepped into the path of my weapon’s fury. He fell, armored skull gone. The warlord pushed aside the sagging corpse and charged forward to do battle. I met his daemon sword with my staff-blade.
The Black Legion lord was a monstrous, intimidating figure. Sigils pronouncing devotion to Chaos Undivided was etched on every surface of his ancient power armor. His face was hidden from view by a snarling, grimacing helm inlaid with the skulls of his fallen foes. Across his back he carried a trophy rack of severed heads, many of them still dripping with crimson ichor.
Even to this day I can remember the dark words of prayer that roared from the leering mouth-grill of his faceplate.
I was not his match.
I am no slouch with my blade-staff, but to face this… this… thing was beyond what I was capable of. Every strike from his screeching daemon blade I barely blocked. Every ferocious punch he landed felt like a sledgehammer descending on my skin. This was raw, naked aggression before me, instilled into mortal form, powered by Astartes muscle. The Warp Gods had chosen well this avatar of their will.
His last blow forced me to my knees, the force behind nearly causing my arms to break. The warlord laughed and swung his sword downwards to split my skull in two.
Before the blackened blade could connect, a blur of snarling fangs and power armor launched itself into my place, battering me aside and away.
The Space Wolf gave one last howl of defiance before his head was sheared in half.
I cannot say what compelled this Wolf into doing such an act. The enmity between our Legions goes back beyond the Horus Heresy. Perhaps he saw the need to destroy this greater enemy over a lesser. Perhaps he pushed me aside so he could take vengeance for his lord. I do not know. But regardless, the Wolf’s sacrifice gave me time.
Drawing upon my psychic reserves, I sent streaks of Warp lightning lancing from my finger tips.
Tendrils of lashing energies entwined around the bellowing warlord’s body, flashing with incandescent light. Skin was roasted behind corrupted ceramite. Flesh burned to cinders. Blood boiled in scorched veins. Bone was seared into blackened crisps.
The Black Legion warlord collapsed, plates of armor toppling from his smoking body.
A great howl arose from the Wolves of Russ as they saw their enemy’s leader fall. They fell upon the Chaos Astartes with fiery vengeance. I did not stay to see what suffering they wrought upon the former Sons of Horus. With the last vestiges of my psychic strength, I teleported myself and all three hundred of my brothers back into the bowels of my warship. And then I blacked out.
Countless years have passed since Menos Primus. Throughout those years I have wondered if my actions were just.
Sometimes, I see the faces of the governor and the thousand I murdered in my dreams.
Confessions of a Wayward Son IV
I was there at the Council of Nikaea.
I was there when the Emperor issued his infamous decree banning sorcery from use in His Imperium.
I was part of Magnus’s honor guard, a Sehkmet Terminator along with eight others and Ahzek Ahriman. We thought Nikaea was a place where we could debate and deliberate with others regarding the ideals of the Thousand Sons. We were wrong. Nikaea was a place of condemnation against the XV Legion. I listened with horror as Mortarion, primarch of the Death Guard, railed against our ways and stained our Legion’s honor with insults and slurs. My horror turned to disgust when a Space Wolf I did not know took the podium and cast unforgivable curses onto my brothers. My disgust turned to hatred when time and time again, witch hunters and naysayers rose from their seats and showered us with venomous words and barbed jibes.
These people do not understand, I remember thinking to myself all those years ago. They are unenlightened dullards who will never rise above their fears. We had calmed the Great Ocean. We could discern through the future at will. Our cults knew the aspects of sorcery as well as they did the back of their hands. What madness was this, that these barbarians would cling to their old ways and criticize us for walking another path?
Then, it came Magnus’s turn to speak.
I had not known my primarch was capable of such speech, but the evidence was undeniable in my ears.
Magnus stood resolute and unwavering against the baleful stares of his naysayers, his golden armor glinting with torchlight. He launched into a stirring oratory that would have made Lorgar bow his head in shame. Magnus spoke of the need for the Imperium to be an empire of knowledge and understanding, not a dominion of the unenlightened and the ignorant. He spoke of how sorcery could be tamed to the touch of psykers, of how the Great Ocean could benefit all mankind. He turned aside the accusations of witchcraft and heresy with tempered logic and cool reasoning, winning the hearts of many within that council room.
I felt my twin hearts beat faster at every word that came from my father’s mouth, proud that my blood came from such a brilliant being. On that day, as I listened to my primarch speak, I felt my love for him soar higher than ever before. Through speech, Magnus had described what it meant to be a warrior of the XV Legion.
The Age of Strife had cost humanity dear. Knowledge was lost on a galaxy-wide scale, scattered into ashes in the countless civil wars that divided mankind.
The Great Crusade ended the strife and discord between factions of men, but it also brought with it the Imperial Truth. Religion was banned in all of its forms, ancient books and sacred texts along with it. The Thousand Sons seeked to prevent such atrocities from occurring. To us, knowledge was power. Enlightenment would allow for humanity to span the stars, and it was our wish that the Imperium we shed blood to build would not demur from this fact.
Knowledge, and the quest for it, was what we thought necessary for the race of man.
We were wrong.
In the end, Magnus’s brilliant oratory was of no use. The Emperor reached his decision regardless of my primarch’s pleas and banned the use of sorcery from the realms of man. I had been shocked then. Too shocked for words. I had thought, along with my brothers that our father’s speech would be sufficient to sway the neutral to our side. We were confident that our condemners would see the folly of accusing us and would soon be forced to drop their venomous charges altogether. Instead, it was we who were defeated. The just slandered by the vile. The enlightened spat upon by the ignorant.
Our voyage back to Prospero was a gloomy one.
As our spaceship sailed through the cold void of space, I felt the betrayal by my fellow man like a wound on my skin that refused to heal. How could Space Marines cast slurs against a fellow Legion? How could Mortarion, esteemed father of the Death Guard, spout insidious lies towards Magnus? Were not the primarchs closer in brotherhood than even we Astartes? I could not comprehend it then. I still can’t comprehend it now.
More worryingly, the ban of sorcery in the Imperium would irrevocably change our Legion.
I do not expect you to understand. Our way of war was not like those of the other Legions. We did not butcher mindlessly like the World Eaters. We did not construct great fortresses on our battlefields like the Iron Warriors. We did not hit and run like the Raven Guard. Sorcery, the use of unmitigated Warp power, was the way the Thousand Sons destroyed the enemies of man.
To ask of us to abandon sorcery, was like asking a dog not to bark, a fish not to swim, a bird not to fly. Sorcery was our way, and it was molded into our lives just as it was molded into our way of war.
Perhaps this was the reason why we fell from grace those thousands of years ago.
When we arrived on Prospero, Magnus stalked into his inner chambers, followed by the closest of his advisors. There, they would deliberate on the ruling of the Emperor and how it would apply to the Thousand Sons. The primarch and his closest sons did not come out for many weeks. When finally Lord Ahriman emerged from the pyramid towers that were Magnus’s haven, I was the first to greet him. I asked him of our father’s health and questioned what was to be done regarding our Legion’s purpose. The banishment of sorcery from our arsenal had affected us deeply, and many of us did not know what next to do.
Ahriman’s response to me would prove prophetic for the dark days to come.
"Events have been set in motion that even we cannot change, brother,” he had told me, “Hope that the Great Ocean is responsive to our pleas. Otherwise, I fear that damnation may be ours.” Before I could question him further, he brushed past me, his attention focused on more important matters.
I did not consider seriously Ahzek’s words. The thought that anything could threaten a whole Space Marine Legion was laughable. We brought the entire universe under the heel of man, put to the sword countless xenos species, and united the fractured factions of humanity into an empire never before seen. We could not be defeated. The only beings that could match us in skill and valor were our fellow brothers in the other seventeen Legions. But they would never turn their weapons against us.
Or so I thought.
Confessions of a Wayward Son V
I am not perfect. Far from it.
Humans as a species are fundamentally flawed. We Astartes, though genetically modified to be superior than a mere man, have inherited those flaws. While our strength is many times that of our unaugmented kin, our hearts are very much human. Though our minds were altered to be work faster and with more efficiency, the thoughts that drift through our conscience are still very much human.
Many would argue that a Space Marine has surpassed the frailties of man, and transcended into something more powerful. They call us superhuman. Some go even further, and say we are angels.
While we Astartes have been modified to no longer resemble our weaker brethren, that does not change the fact that within our souls, we hold the same traits that makes mankind great and the same traits that makes us weak.
We make mistakes because we are still in some ways, human.
The Horus Heresy is the greatest testament to that fact.
I have made my share of mistakes as well. Errors that I wish I could undo. Things that I have come to regret.
My greatest remorse, is not showing my face to a woman who loved me.
I was trailing a warband of Chaos Astartes. My battle barge had sufficient weapons to engage enemy ships in space, but I had no crew to man them. The lance batteries that jutted from my craft's surface and the Nova Cannon that took up most of the prow were inoperable without Mechanicus personnel and servitors. I was forced to wait until the Great Enemy deployed from their transports. Only on the ground were my Rubric Marines effective.
The warband I followed was not large. Barely three full squads. The majority of the raiders consisted of cultists and renegade Guardsmen. As such, their chosen target was a world with few defenses and no orbital support. Their target was a feudal world called Naruon IV, and it was towards this planet I guided my battle barge.
My ship emerged from the Warp almost directly on top of the Chaos strike cruiser. They were caught completely wrong-footed.
Stormbirds brought me and one hundred of my brothers to the planet's surface. The others I sent on boarding torpedoes speeding towards the enemy cruiser, where they would fight for dominance for the ship's bridge. It was a risky manuever, but I had no other choice.
We touched down just as the raiders were in the middle of razing the planet's largest city. The streets were already slick with the blood of the innocent when I met the first traitor Astartes.
His armor was as red as human blood, with patches of black painted randomly across the ceramite. Not one from the old Legion, but I recognized the evil symbols he etched on his pauldrons.
Before he could raise his weapon, thirty bolters thundered at once and ripped his body to shreds.
My brothers advanced stoically over the corpse choked streets, bolters flaring with muzzle discharge.
The cultists and renegade Guardsmen were busy engaging in acts of despoilment and did not notice our approach until too late. They were subsequently cut to pieces by disciplined volleys of fire. Return lasgun shots pattered off our ceramite protection like rain, utterly ineffective. Seeing that resistance was impossible, the traitor humans fled. Almost all of them were hurled from their feet, gaping holes torn into their backs.
No mercy to the enemies of the Emperor. No mercy to those who betrayed me.
We left the streets choked with even more dead.
The Red Corsairs, were a whole different matter. They were Astartes, and they would not run no matter how high the odds were stacked against them. The entire city became a massive scene of raging firefights as the Corsairs fought back. Attacking in small groups, they waged a ferocious defense, striking from hidden ambush points that hours ago, had been used by the warriors of Naruon IV.
There is a twisted irony in that, I suppose.
Had been this been any other army, such guerrilla tactics would have worked. Men, be they mortal or Astartes, would have shed blood for every inch of land gained. My men were souls chained to their suits of armor, and the Corsair strategy was as effective as throwing a rock into an onrushing river in hopes of halting it.
Like a relentless tide, the Thousand Sons drove back the enemy, forcing them to retreat from their hiding holes, feet by feet, meter by meter, block by block.
The last of the Red Corsairs were holed up in the city's palace. A construct of stone and granite, it was the defining piece of the entire city. As Ah'ton battered down the walls with his power fist, it soon became clear that the people of Naroun had fled to the inner cloisters for safety, hoping that the battlements would be sufficient enough to protect them. They were not.
As I strode over the rubble that Ah'ton had battered down, I was greeted with a scene of carnage and butchery.
Dead bodies lie strewn in every direction, frames ruptured from bolter blasts. Some displayed the telltale signs of chainblade lacerations, their forms sundered into unrecognizable ruins. The soil drank deep that day the blood of innocent men and women.
My plated boots took me into the inner sanctum. My brothers followed me as always, silent automatons whose only made noise was the snarling of their armored joints as they moved.
If the palace grounds was a place of butchery, then the inside could only be described as a charnel house.
Men and women lay where they fell, huddled together and in some cases holding each other. Blood flowed down the walls like streams, pooling in crimson puddles.
Four Astartes. That was all that was left of their band of thirty. But they had nevertheless slaughtered near a thousand people in the time it took me to break down the walls.
Sometimes I wonder if this universe would be better without the likes of us existing in it.
The leader of the Corsair band sat upon a throne of polished stone, no doubt belonging to the ruler of the city. His helm sat idly by his foot, green visors glinting malevolently. His revealed face was criscrossed with jagged scar tissue and across one of his cheeks was a tattoo of the eight pointed star. He smiled without remorse as I stepped towards him, my brothers at my back.
The last of his band, three Astartes, stood at his side, their weapons lowered.
Like the rest of the palace, the throne room was akin to a butcher's shop. Bloodied bodies lay unmoving on the tiled floor, crimson life fluid spilling from ruptured frames. These slain men and women were clad in elegant garments, now shredded by shell and monomolecular teeth. The world's nobility.
The Corsair champion saw the direction of my gaze and laughed.
"Men of noble blood deem themselves above their lesser kin," he said, his voice filled with phlegm and sounding of tortured metal, "I tested that theory today and found out their blood was just as red as those of peasant's."
He tossed something at me. It rolled to a halt before my feet. A crown. Stained with the blood of its wearer.
I gazed back at the Corsair, and his smile grew wider.
"The king tried to fight back," he told me, "Defend his subjects. I tore him apart with this."
He flexed the talons of his lightning claw, each adamantium digit dripping with ichor.
"Why?" I asked him.
"Why not?" was his reply.
That was a question I had no answer to.
A psychic order from me caused my brothers to raise their bolters to shoulder level.
"Any last words?" I asked him.
"None," he smiled back.
One hundred boltguns roared as one and sent exploding shells slamming into corrupted ceramite.
When the last shell casing clattered to the floor, all four of the Corsairs were dead. Their leader was slumped over his throne, the smile still etched on his features. I demolished that leering face with a blast from my plasma pistol.
There was nothing left for me to do here. I spun on my heel to leave.
A pitiful cry stopped me in my tracks.
A woman, barely having weathered twenty seasons, dragged herself towards me. Not me, I realized. Her path was towards the lump of destroyed flesh by the feet of the dead Corsair champion. The slain king. She knelt by the butchered man and hugged him close, not caring for the red ichor that splashed onto her white dress. A daughter to the ruler I assumed.
Her wails of lamentation did not move my heart. I am Astartes, born and bred for war. I have heard the cries of grief from both friend and foe for many centuries. What was this one more to the other countless screams and shrieks over a lifetime of war?
I turned once more to leave.
"Wait!" the woman cried out to me in desperation.
She crawled towards me, her leg trailing blood. A bolter round had smashed into the floor beside her, detonating and splintering apart the bones in her thigh with concussive force. She would never walk again.
Her arms locked around my leg in a desperate embrace and I marvelled at the strength humans possessed when in peril. She looked up at me with tears glistening down her cheeks.
"Please," she begged, "Take me away from this place. I beseech you."
I considered the woman's plea.
One part of me refused the idea of bringing her with me. Compassion is not in the mindset of a Space Marine. The Emperor forged us from his own blood and flesh for only one purpose. To destroy the enemies of mankind. What could this woman do to aid me in that purpose? What could this fragile mortal do to help me on the battlefield?
The other part of me disagreed.
War was one purpose in many. The Emperor created us not only to wage war but also to protect mankind. We were made to better the realms of men, and to guard the Imperium from the clutches of xenos breeds. Was it not my duty to protect this woman? Was the guardianship of this fragile thing not my purpose?
In the end, my considerations were unnecessary. The waves of the Great Ocean had already decreed what was to be done.
I gave my staff-blade to a brother to hold. I holstered my plasma pistol.
My hands, armored in crimson ceramite, reached for the woman. She shrank back in fear. She knew what these two gauntlets could do to human flesh. The evidence lay all around her.
I brought the delicate human to my chest. She cried out softly. My hands were not gentle. They had been too calloused by war for that.
In this way I carried her from the place she once called home.
I brought the woman back to my battle barge in orbit. The boarding action against the enemy cruiser had been extremely effective. My two hundred brothers crushed the opposition with little effort. We left the enemy ship a burning wreck in the cold of space.
I carried the female human to the places where others of her kind dwelled. I was promised that she would be cared for. And so, I strode back to the bridge of my ship, the woman forgotten from my mind.
A week later, and I came back to check upon my human charges. I was fortunate in my timing. The woman I had just recently saved was huddled in a corner, a crowd of angry men and women screaming obscenities at her. The crowd had stones in their hands.
My presence halted the woman's persecution.
I asked them why they would do this.
Their ringleader, a middle-aged man with an unkempt mustache, was pushed to the front. He told me that the woman was a witch, a latent psyker who had threatened the others. He was lying. My mind discerned what falsehoods he kept in secrecy in the depths of his conscience. He lusted after the woman. When he made his advances known, she had refused. When he had persisted, she had cried out for others to help. His black heart had hated her ever since.
I was shocked. Shocked that such evil could dwell within the souls of beings I was sworn to protect. This man was willing to kill another out of sheer jealousy and petty spite. He did not deserve to be saved.
I waved a hand in his direction and he screamed. I boiled the blood in his veins, shattered apart every bone in his body, and melted the flesh from his frame. He collapsed, and the others shrank back in fear.
"No more," I told them, and carried the frightened woman away.
From then on, this woman would be my only living companion.
She was too badly maimed by the Red Corsairs to move on her own. The majority of the times I had to carry her in my arms. Over time, I grew used to her delicate arms wrapped around my neck and her fragile weight in my hands. But the one thing I never grew used to, was the smile she showed me every time she rested in my arms.
She said her name was Sylvia. I did not answer when she asked me for my own name.
Our bond grew as the days passed into weeks, and the weeks into months. Warp travel was tedious at best, and the only company I had before, were my silent brothers.
Sylvia was everything I hoped a companion could be. She was intelligent, despite hailing from a feudal world. She had a thirst for knowledge, and would ask me many questions regarding the universe. She was kind and considerate, and would question me on my health every time I returned from a battle. She was also very beautiful, but that to me, is meaningless. I wanted only someone who could reply to my words and listen to my troubles.
Yes. I know. Surprisingly human of me, isn't it? But then again, we Astartes never did fully cast off our humanity.
In retrospect, I should have seen the signs. Many times, she would begin a conversation about love or ask me if I had loved anyone in my past life. Each time, I responded as only a Space Marine can.
Love, to us, is a foreign thing. While we love our fellow brothers in arms, our primarch, and the Emperor, that in itself, is the love of brotherhood. The love a man gives to a woman and vice versa, we could not understand.
I told her this each time she brought up the subject. After my explanation, her smile would grow sad and her eyes would become wistful.
The signs were there, but I did not see them.
The months turned to years, and my companion soon began to age with the passing of time. Where once her hair was a brilliant yellow in color, streaks of grey had begun to appear. Lines had begun to show upon her once flawless face and her eyes grew dim when they once shown with youthful vigor. I don't think I fully realized just how age affected mortals. Astartes are proof to the frailties of normal human beings, and age among with many other things, could not defeat us.
One day, after a hard fought battle against a warband of Khornate Berzerkers, I arrived back on my battle barge's bridge where Sylvia had taken up her residence. To my surprise, she was not there to greet me as she did countless times before. My surprise turned to apprehension as my calls for her went unreturned.
I finally found her in her makeshift bed. Her breathing was shallow and fitful, and her face had grown pallid and lifeless. I sank down on one knee and bent my head to her chest.
Her heartbeats were growing dim with every passing second, and a twisted feeling sprang into my gut when I realized my companion might no longer be there to grace my side.
As I lifted my ear from her breast, her eyes fluttered open. I saw the joy in those blue pupils and was struck dumb at the emotion they contained.
"Thank the Emperor," she whispered through her lips, "I thought I wouldn't make it. But Bless the Throne, you came back in time for us to say goodbye."
I could not reply to that.
"Please," Sylvia begged me, "tell me your name."
"Apophis," I breathed through the vocalizers in my helm, "I am called Apophis."
"Apophis," she smiled up at me, "That is a beautiful name."
"Not as beautiful as you," my words were truthful. It shamed me that it took me so long to see how beautiful she was.
"That is the first time you have complimented me on my appearance, Apophis," her smile grew but the light in her eyes dimmed further.
She drew a shuddering breath.
"Can I... Can I see your face?"
I hesitated at that. I hesitated. Not because it was a strange request. But because of tradition. The Thousand Sons seldom showed their faces to outsiders of their Cults. And so, I hesitated.
Another shuddering breath snapped me from my reverie. I disengaged the gorget locks as quickly as my fumbling fingers would allow. I tore the helm from my head.
Sylvia was dead. That last breath I heard had been a death rattle. I flung my helm away with such force that the faceplate dented when it connected with adamantium wall. To this day the dent remains, a reminder of my failure.
I sat for a long time, gazing mournfully at her cold body. She was not my battle-brother. She had not tread upon the same battlefields as I did during the Great Crusade. She had no heroic feats to her name. So why then? Why did I feel for her loss more than the loss of a hundred of my brothers?
I realized then, I had my first taste of love. But this was not the pleasant feeling described by the remembrancers of the Crusade. This was a bitter emotion, a raging sorrow that tore at my heartstrings. Is all love like this? Does all love lead to sorrow and despair? If so, why are humans so willing to praise this empty promise of an emotion?
These questions I have asked myself through the long millennia after Sylvia's death. I have yet to find their answers.
Confessions of a Wayward Son VI
When Prospero died, there was little glory in its death.
Lance batteries struck its surface in bright beams of incandescent death, splitting the earth into great smoldering ravines. Bombardment cannons rained massive shells onto the land, demolishing entire mountains with their destructive fury. Plasma torpedoes slammed into the besieged planet in a dozen places, boiling away whole oceans and incinerating entire cities.
I watched this in horror, as did the warriors of my Fellowship. Our horror turned to anger and wrath. What treacherous foe would dare attack the homeworld of the Thousand Sons?
The answer shocked us all.
From the bombarding fleet above came hundreds of screaming Stormbirds painted in grey. Screaming missiles blazed across the skies on contrails of fire, impacting across the entirety of the capitol city, and blasting apart innocent civilians and Prospero Spireguard alike. Heavy bolters spat volleys of detonating shells and ripped fleeing men and women into bloody ribbons. Lascannons hissed and slew tanks and buildings indiscriminately with concentrated beams of light.
The Stormbirds landed, armored hulls pitted and scored from our return fire. Numerous gates clanged down, smashing into ruin the streets the people of Prospero had labored hard to build. And from the depths of each transport, in a mad charge of bared fangs and screeching chainblades, came a howling host of Space Wolves.
Giants of men, the Wolves of Russ were. The pelts of lupine beasts were stretched along their backs in a macabre decoration. Glistening wolf fangs were bared at us in bestial hatred, and howling warcries were directed towards our battle line. Ceramite fists clasped tight revving chainswords, shrieking frost axes, and mighty war hammers. Like the Nordic raiders of old Terran myth, the Space Wolves descended upon us in an orgy of bloodletting.
The earth shook at their thundering charge and the heavens were filled with their roars and bellows.
We stared into the face of destruction and could not believe that our destroyers would be our fellow brothers.
The Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons were never close. Magnus preferred the company of the faultless Fulgrim or the princely Sanguinius. Leman Russ was the epitome of what my primarch strove to avoid. Quick to anger. No patience. Ignorant and unwilling to learn. Looking back, I guess these differences in ideals was what lead to the inevitable clash.
All across the city, the sons of Magnus pulled back the firing pins on their bolters and readied for the oncoming storm.
I can always say with pride that the first shot was not fired by us. It was the Space Wolves that committed this sin. Their bolters spat death towards our ranks, injuring many, killing few. The only thing we could do now, was fight back.
Our own return fire ravaged the Space Wolf advance. Grey armored forms toppled and fell, wracked with agony as our weapons found their mark. Heedless of these losses, the Wolves continued on, howling war songs as they came.
To combat this threat, our sorcerers marched from our lines, fingertips outstretched and words of incantation upon their lips.
The first to strike were the members of the Pyrae. Masters of the flame, their unleashed sorcery engulfed entire swathes of the advancing Space Wolves in eldritch fire. Men burned inside their power armor, reduced to cinders and ash within seconds. Besides the Pyrae came their automata servants. War machines of hissing pistons strode alongside their human masters, cannons bursting with relentless fire. Wolves perished by the dozens by this onslaught, but onwards they surged, nevertheless.
Next to attack were the Pavoni. Able to manipulate their body chemistry to suit their purposes, they flung arcing tendrils of lightning at the Sons of Russ. Lethal whips of energies lashed towards the Wolves, splitting men apart with wild abandon. Those tendrils that did not strike men crashed to the ground and detonated, leaving glassy craters in the ground and throwing Astartes from their feet.
The sorcery of the Athanaeans followed that of the Pavoni. Able to read the thoughts of others at a whim and manipulate the unwary into doing their bidding, the Athanaeans played havoc with Space Wolf communications. Orders were countermanded, commands misconstrued, and warriors directed in the wrong direction. The Wolf charge became disorganized and confused, and were easy targets for the continued assaults by the Pavoni and the Pyrae.
Incorporeal barriers sprang up before our lines as the Raptora made their presence known. Where the sons of Russ focused their heavy weaponry, the members of Raptora were there to dull their effectiveness. Bolter volleys met psychic shielding and exploded without harming those behind. Far from being ineffective besides defense, the sorcerers ripped the limbs from our attackers through sheer telekinetic force and flung the Space Wolves’ own tanks into their ranks.
The last of our cults to perform their deadly arts were the Corvidae. They struck as the Wolves were bare inches away from colliding with our lines. Using their talent of precognition to their fullest, they danced around incoming bolter round and descending chainblades with flawless elegance. Their ripostes were lethal, unavoidable blows that drew rich Astartes blood from grey ceramite. Space Wolves fell like wheat before a scythe, and soon the Corvidae had littered the ground with dead enemies.
We roared our approval. The Space Wolves would pay for the treacherous deed of attacking another Legion. The Emperor made the bonds between Space Marines sacred. Harsh was His punishment for those who broke them. We were prepared to administer that punishment.
And then things went awry. One by one, our sorcerers cried out in shock as their powers failed them. Lightning fizzled and dissipated. Flames died out as though if touched by water. The barriers before us failed and collapsed. Shock turned to confusion and outrage. How dare the Great Ocean fail us now in our hour of need?
It was then we saw the reason why. Marching besides the Wolves came the warrior women of the Silent Sisterhood. The null maidens that would doom us all. And beside them marched beings that sent shock coursing through our ranks.
Our vox-net descended into chaos. Questions shot back and forth, asked by thousands of men all at once.
"Why are the Custodes here?"
"Why do the Custodes march with the Wolves?
"What madness is this? The Emperor's Praetorians could never march with traitors!"
Fine questions. All of them. I had no answer for them then, and neither did my brothers. A sudden horrible feeling sprang into my gut as I watched the figures wreathed in golden plate advance side by side with the Wolves. We had thought we were in the right in this conflict. But here were the Emperor's own bodyguards, coming to mete out judgment. Could it be we who were in the wrong? Could it be the Thousand Sons who were the traitors?
But that couldn't be, I remember thinking to myself. The XV Legion had done nothing to antagonize the Wolves and would never betray the Emperor's trust. The sons of Russ were the first to break the bonds of brotherhood, with their immense flotilla of starships raining destruction upon our world and slaughtering millions of Prospero's citizens. We did not provoke them. We were doing nothing more than defending our homeworld against unjust invaders. How could we be wrong?
I had no idea then, just how deep Magnus's betrayal was. I did not know that the Emperor sent the Space Wolves to bring us into custody. Had I known, I would have sank to my knees and accepted this sentence. Many of my brothers would have done the same.
Our Fellowship captains bellowed orders through the vox-net, telling us to target the Null-Maidens first. I raised my plasma pistol and took aim at the nearest Sister.
The two ranks clashed, one a howling tide of grey, the other a stalwart line of red.
My plasma pistol hissed, and I saw the Null-Maiden's eyes grow wide. A wave of scorching heat washed over her, reducing the warrior woman to specks of dust that blew back into the faceplates of the Wolves she was protecting.
The sorceror beside me spoke his thanks into his vox, and raised high his arms. A dozen Space Wolves were lifted into the air, their bellows of rage continuing even as they flailed wildly. The sorceror's hands clenched into tight fists, and at once the roars of anger turned into screams of agony. All the Wolves were dropped to the ground, their power armor crumpled as though if crushed by armored fingers.
The sorcerer once again rose his arms to work his art, but this time, nothing came from his outstretched fingers. Another Silent Sister had taken the place of the one I incinerated, and before I or my brothers could slay her, the Wolves hit us in full force.
The Sons of Russ were a whirlwind of destruction. Their shrieking chainblades rose and fell with no elegance, no finesse. They did not need them. The Space Wolves relied on sheer power alone to break through the enemy, and none so far had been able to defy them. But here, on the sandswept plains of Prospero, against the warriors of the Thousand Sons, that doctrine would be solely tested.
Our line held, bolters blazing, staff-blades slicing. Exploding shells detonated against war plate, both grey and crimson, and left screaming men on the war trodden soil. Plasma cannons hissed and whined, turning entire squads of Astartes into floating motes of scorched ash in a heartbeat. Lascannon beams streaked wildly back and forth, punching holes into tanks and vaporizing men. War blades met and showers of sparks rent the air. Frost axes sundered apart those in crimson. Staff-blades impaled those in grey.
It was here on this battlefield that I killed my first Space Wolf.
His armor was pitted and scarred from our punishing fire, and his shoulderguard was singed from the Pyrae's sorcery. He came at me with a snarling chainaxe, monomolecular teeth whirring with fierce delight. I blocked the brutal strike with the haft of my staff-blade, my arm shuddering from the force of Astartes muscle.
I did not want to kill him. Strange, considering our line had already clashed with theirs. I could not shake off the feeling that this, this butchery between brothers, was wrong. We were all created for one purpose by the Emperor, to ensure the progress of the Great Crusade. By slaughtering each other here, we were destroying the very fabric of what we shed blood for so long to build.
As I turned aside his blow, I spoke into the vocalizers within my helm, begging him to stop this madness. He refused to listen, and struck again with his axe.
"Sorceror!" the Wolf spat through his own vox-emitters, "Warp-dabbler! Traitor!"
His last word drove me to the height of fury.
We were not traitors in this. We could not be. We were not the ones bombarding a brother Legion's homeworld. We were not the ones slaughtering a brother Legion's people. When the veil of battle lifted and the bodies of slain Astartes cooled, we would be remembered as the righteous and the Wolves would be decried as the traitors. I was sure of this.
How the fates laugh at the confident.
The Wolf would not listen to my pleas. His chainaxe descended upon me again and again, only to be parried by my stave. Finally, I gave in to the battle lust that sang in my own blood.
I rammed my weapon deep into the Space Wolf's chest, the keen edges of my weapon slicing through his ceramite protection. As the Wolf's body grew limp, his eye visors locked with mine.
"Traitor!" he spat and died.
A second passed where I remained motionless. A thousand thoughts raged into my conscience, slamming against the walls of my mind. I nearly dropped my stave from my fist.
I just killed a brother Astartes. I slew him and broke my sacred vow to the brotherhood between Legions. I looked to the heavens and waited for a lightning bolt or sheet of flame to strike me down for my blasphemy. No such sign of divine anger materialized. Lances of bright energy continued to desecrate Prospero's crust from the spaceships in orbit, but none descended upon me.
The next Space Wolf leapt at me, his unhelmeted features tight in a scowling mask of hate. This time no pleas for understanding came from my lips. My pistol spoke, and I vaporized the Wolf while he was in midair.
Once again no streak of lightning or billowing carpet of flame struck me for the sin I committed.
The third son of Russ to come at me bore a screeching chainblade in each hand. He charged at me like a maddened berzerker and I met him with my staff-blade. I could not match his strength, but I was his superior in terms of technique. Blows were dealt and returned in a heartbeat, each strike like blurs to mortal eyes. I rammed my stave into the Wolf's unprotected neck, and ended his life impaled on my weapon's blades.
As chemically-rich blood streamed down the haft of my staff, I again peered into the skies. Only the shapes of warships greeted my gaze, each one framed against a blood red sky and spearing beams of light into the flesh of the world I loved.
There was no punishment incoming for my crime. No divine retribution coming to destroy me for the atrocious sin of slaying another Astartes.
For the first time in my life, I wondered what strength there was in the bonds of brotherhood.
Our line held, despite the savagery of the Space Wolves. Short ranged firefights erupted where the sons of Russ could not bring their swords and axes to bear. Bolters spat death in continuous volleys, blasting off chunks of ceramite from power armor on both sides. Sheets of burning promethium jetted out from flamers, covering groups of battling Astartes in fiery agony. Men fell, clad in grey and crimson, and turned the sand beneath our feet into mud with their blood.
Where the Space Wolves struck the hardest, our line buckled, but held. Here, there were no staccato booms of roaring boltguns. Instead, there were the piercing wails of chainswords and the eerie thrum of power weapons as warriors of both Legions were embroiled in a bloody melee. Pistols barked at face range, driving exploding shells into bellowing men. Lightning Claws slashed. Power fists pulped. Thunder Hammers smashed. The men who died here could not fall, for the ranks were so crowded together, there was no room for them to topple.
Intermixed with the Space Wolves, were the gold clad forms of the Sisters of Silence and the Custodians. Two handed swords crashed into Thousand Son skulls, and were riposted by thrusting staff-blades. Guardian Spears stabbed and cleaved, parting limbs and heads from ceramite bodies before their owners were slain by vengeful Astartes.
If this had continued, both Legions would have surely been decimated by the senseless slaughter. Hundreds of thousands of Marines would have died for no purpose, myself probably as well.
This was changed when Leman Russ, primarch of the Space Wolves, smashed into our formation. Flanked by two wolves the size of lions, The Lord of Fenris singlehandedly tore our line into pieces.
Wielding a mighty sword crafted from the maw of Great Kraken Gormenjarl, the Primarch of the VI Legion was the picture of raw aggression. With vengeful howls his blade flashed down and slew Astartes with every stroke. Crimson figures fell in droves before the Wolf King's advance, power armor sundered and torn. Return blows from our own blades did nothing to Russ, glancing off his indomitable form or bouncing from his immense war plate. Even our sorcerers were of no use against this powerful being crashing through our lines. Lightning whipped at the Wolf King and flames scoured his frame. Leman Russ laughed and shrugged these attacks off as though if they were nothing.
We could stand against the Wolves, against the Sisters, and against the Custodians. But we could not stand against a primarch. Our attempts to resist was crushed by this demigod who could shrug off a blow that would have killed a mortal man ten times over.
We could not best him. But we had someone who can.
All across our ranks, the vox-net came alive in desperate cries. Throats ragged from overuse shouted out again, saying the same words over and over.
"Magnus! Magnus! Save us Father!"
But our primarch did not answer our pleas for aid. It was on later did we learn that Magnus had refused to battle alongside us to atone for the sins he had committed.
Leman Russ's advance could not be halted. My brothers gave ground, slowly at first, but when the Wolves following their primarch poured into the hole within our line, the fighting withdrawal dissolved into a series of desperate last stands.
But this was not all. Another disaster, even more heinous than this bloodshed between brothers, struck us in full force.
I watched in horror as a Space Marine, clad in the livery of my Legion and not three steps from my position was taken by the flesh-change.
The Astartes screamed in agony, his voice carrying over into the vox-net. This was no cry of pain and agony, it was a shriek from a man in fear. But we were Space Marines. We did not know fear. And then I saw the reason for my brother's scream and I will admit now that I became afraid.
The Thousand Son's flesh erupted from the joints in his armor, squeezing through gaps like molding clay. The skin on his flesh grew blotched and sickly, and leaked from his war plate like a river bursting from a sundered dam. His wails became maddened and insane. Soon, there was no more proud Astartes of the XV Legion. Just a hideous blob of expanding meat.
The flesh-change. Mutation. The weakness that all of us shared.
More screams sounded into the vox-net. All across the line, Space Marines clad in crimson fell to their knees, their bodies quivering from multiple pain-induced spasms. I cried out in horror as men were turned inside out by the ravages of mutation, while others became twitching, twisted parodies of themselves. Thousands of my brothers were affected at once, dying horribly as their unstable bodies expanded into hideous shapes.
Even the Space Wolves were horrified by this, and stopped their raging assault as they neared those who had fallen from the flesh-change.
I heard the word "retreat" bellowed again and again into the vox, and my feet took me away from the scene of carnage. I forced myself to look, in time to see the Wolves administer mercy executions to those mutated who were still alive.
I did not know it then, but this was the first punishment for a betrayal not ours.
In ragged groups, the Thousand Sons fell back, our bolters still firing but our aim wavering and unsteady. To see the flesh-change appear so suddenly amongst us destroyed our spirits and sapped our will to fight. Thankfully, the Space Wolves did not pursue, instead halting to kill those we had left to the throes of mutation. As we retreated, the vox-net came alive with the voices of sergeants and commanders, ordering head counts from the squads and companies they commanded. It was then, that we discovered just how terribly the flesh-change ravaged our ranks. Many of our best sorcerers, our finest links to the Great Ocean, had been lost, the majority claimed by the rapid deformities that violated their bodies.
We withdrew back to the pyramid spires that were the foundation of our cults. So very few of us left then. From a Legion of tens of thousands, we had been reduced to a paltry twenty hundred. Half of those alone that perished were dead because of the flesh-change.
We were not alone in our retreat.
The remnants of the Prospero Spireguard marched desolately beside us, their weapons dragging behind them in their defeated gait. Civilians, those few that survived the orbital bombardment, shuffled with us, carrying what little treasures they could save on their backs. This is what was left of the glorious homeworld of Thousand Sons. This is what remained of the most enlightened people in the Imperium.
A bastion of knowledge and wisdom died that day, consumed in the fires of hate from men we once called brothers.
As we approached Magnus’s sanctuary, we once more cried out to our father for aid. Once more, our pleas were ignored.
The pyramid towers that sprouted from the sand would be the place for our last stand. Gleaming like polished marble, they would become worthy gravestones for the XV Legion.
As distant engines sputtered and the howls of our adversaries grew nearer, we readied our weapons for one last battle. The Spireguard did the same, standing side by side with their superhuman kin, socketing bayonets to their rifles in the inevitable clash at close range. Only the civilians did not make ready to wage war. They huddled together for comfort, their eyes devoid of emotion. The sons of Russ had taken everything from these people short of their lives, and their haggard faces displayed the shock of losing so much.
We did not have to wait long for our destruction to arrive.
The Space Wolves advanced in the same way as before, brandishing their chainblades in plated fists. Like a solid wave of grey, they surged towards our feeble position, eager to close in for the kill. And like an angry god, was Leman Russ Himself, striding forward ten steps in front of the Wolf ranks. His war shouts were the loudest of all, eclipsing the rest in fury and volume.
We steeled our resolve and unleashed a volley of death from our roaring boltguns.
Warriors were punched back by detonating shells, their war cries turning to screams of suffering. Grey clad forms toppled, weapons falling from lifeless hands. Intermixed with the Space Wolf slain were the gold wreathed figures of Custodians and Sisters of Silence. Death visited all equally, and no difference in uniform prevented the Reaper’s Scythe.
But we were only two thousand, and what ruin we could visit upon the foe was greatly diminished. Return fire ravaged our own lines, and I saw good men, both Astartes and Spireguard die in spurts of their own blood.
With a triumphant cry, the Wolves slammed into our ranks like a sledgehammer, their rending blades descending upon our heads. We Thousand Sons resisted this fierce assault, but the mortal humans who fought beside us stood no chance. The Spireguard and civilians were slaughtered by the ruthless Sons of Russ, butchered in great disemboweling strokes from chainblade and frost axe.
As the men and women we had sworn to protect fell from savage blows, our voices entwined to call for our father once more.
This time, Magnus the Red answered our call.
Magnus was like a storm of devastation as he strode through our ranks.
Warp lightning streaked from my primarch’s palms, frying Wolves, Sisters, and Custodians alike with their destructive fury. A mere gesture from him and an entire squadron of Predator tanks were lifted from the ground and thrown into the mass of our enemies, crushing power armored forms beneath adamantium hulls. A single word uttered from our father’s mouth and a wall of flickering flames blazed towards the Space Wolves, igniting grey ceramite and turning Space Marines into living torches. The brows of the Cyclops narrowed and a hundred Astartes erupted in plumes of their own blood, popping like blisters from sheer telekinetic force.
We cried out in joy, and redoubled our efforts against our attackers. If our end was nigh, then this was the end we all would have chosen. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with our brothers with the primarch leading us to the end. This was glorious, and our veins sang with a battle lust that rivaled our foes.
The Thousand Sons would not cower as they died. We would die as Astartes should, a bolter in our hands and defiance on our lips. Imperial history would remember our end, and remember it well. The day the XV Legion fell would be ingrained in the minds of every righteous soul in the Imperium. The day when a handful of loyal men fought to the very last against heinous traitors. We would die on the sand swept plains of Prospero, but our legacy would live on, as protectors of the realms of mankind. The Space Wolves will win this battle, but their punishment from the other Legions and from the Emperor would swiftly follow. I was sure of it.
We followed Magnus’s steps, the thundering refrain from our boltguns interlacing with the screams of the dying to form a cacophony of battle.
And then we heard our primarch’s voice.
“Retreat,” he told us, his psychic voice more potent than any vox, “Fall back to the pyramid spires and do not come out.”
His order shocked us to our very core. We did not want to retreat, to fall back while our primarch died for us. How could we live without our father? How would the Thousand Sons be whole without the demigod that was our gene-sire? We could not watch Magnus die against the Wolves while we hid ourselves in his sanctuary.
We did not move from our positions, bolters still blazing at the grey clad foe.
“Go! Now!” came our father’s psychic scream.
We hesitated, looking to one another for support. It was Ahriman that was the first to break formation. Casting one last look at Magnus, Ahzek strode towards the pyramids and entered them, his head downcast and defeated. We followed the Chief Librarian, our hearts heavy with grief.
The massive gates slammed behind us, hiding the raging battle from our view. We did not realize it then, but the sight of our primarch flinging sorcerous energy towards the Space Wolves would be the last of the man we loved. What we saw after was a being corrupted by the very power he once controlled. That being was not my father, was not my primarch. The madman who rants and raves atop his obsidian tower is not the Magnus I once knew.
Prospero fell in this way, claimed by the orbital fire from Space Wolf ships, and its lord giving in to the Changer of Ways.
Confessions of a Wayward Son VII
There is a god resting in the depths of my ship.
It is a massive, warlike construct, with a snarling face of solid adamantium. It once strode across countless battlefields of yore, its two mighty legs driven by hissing pistons and rumbling engines. For arms it has immense weapon mounts, armaments more suited to the decks of starships than anything on land. Across its gargantuan frame are numerous defense batteries, bristling with battle cannons, multi-lasers, and heavy bolters. Sheets of thick metal cover its iron bones, dented from centuries of war but never penetrated.
Once it had waged slaughter alongside the Astartes Legions, butchering xenos with holy fire from its limbs and smashing apart their war machines with its gargantuan feet. Once, it had borne the shining torch of humanity to the darkness of the galaxy at the forefront of the Great Crusade alongside the twenty Space Marine Legions. Whole empires fell when it and its kin tread, and entire armies were slain wherever its displeasure was meted out.
There is no foe this god cannot destroy, no enemy it cannot crush under its iron heel.
There is nothing in this universe on land that can match its might.
There exists no foes worthy of its cannon blasts aside its corrupted kin.
It is the mightiest weapon in the Imperium of Man, the god-machine the Mechanicus bow their heads in worship to.
It is a Warlord Titan and it belongs to me.
It is called the Trucido Rex. The Slayer of Kings in High Gothic. An apt name for such a massive killing machine.
I encountered it on a world called Zeras, a planet of relatively little significance to the Imperium. It was the Iron Warriors that brought me here, a Grand Company of the Perturabo’s sons and their strike cruiser. I followed them silently through the void of space, ensuring their cruiser’s sensor arrays did not catch the massive shape of my battle barge. I watched with interest as the Iron Warrior ship met a hulking craft in the middle of its journey, before allowing the strange vessel to travel by its side. Then, I saw the defiled cog symbol etched in brass across the ship’s prow.
My interest grew as the two vessels orbited the planet, and sent waves of transports onto its surface. Zeras, to my knowledge, was barely inhabited. The people that lived across its barren surface etched out an existence by farming and hunting. The reason why the Iron Warriors, as well as the Chaos Mechanicus would want this world escaped me. And so, I boarded a Stormbird and travelled to the planet’s crust alone to investigate, with my three hundred brothers awaiting my command in space.
The Dark Mechanicus was here in force. Thousands of Skitarii guarded innumerable slave menials and drill wielding servitors, themselves commanded by hundreds of corrupted tech priests. The Iron Warriors patrolled the drop area, and I was careful to shroud my presence from them.
Then, when the last drop ship traversed back into orbit, they started to dig.
It was soon very apparent why the forces of Chaos was here.
One by one, the prone frames of Titans appeared. Warhounds. Reavers. Even Warlords. Each bore the telltale signs of battle, massive scars and craters pockmarked across their adamantium armor. Some had been utterly destroyed, mere wreckage that were once invulnerable god-machines. Like corpses in a machine graveyard, they were unearthed by the Dark Mechanicus, who swarmed over each Titan body, desecrating them with blasphemous sigils of the Ruinous Powers.
Tendrils of my conscience spread towards the fallen war machines, seeking answers and a way to halt the dark deeds that were underway.
Cold emptiness greeted my attempts. The machine spirits that was the heart of each Titan had long ago been destroyed by some cataclysmic battle, and none were there to reply to my questions. My heart sank at this revelation. With no machine spirit inside these immense constructs, there would be no resistance when the Dark Mechanicus began to corrupt them to serve the Warp Gods.
And then a hissing, guttural noise sounded within my mind. Weak and strained, its brass tone echoed in response to my psychic probing.
Rarely do I smile these days. But when I heard that sound, I will admit that a fierce grin spread across my lips.
Machine spirit. Awakened and thirsty for war.
I followed the noise into a cave complex, too large to be made by natural ways. And in the largest cavern within the twisting, natural passageways, I met Trucido Rex.
Its massive bulk was hunched over, but even then, the top of its gargantuan shoulders still scraped against the stalagmite strewn ceiling. A patina of dust coated it from its snarling, bestial head to the immense splayed toes of its feet. The Titan’s metal skin was untouched, unlike the destroyed frames of its brethren the Dark Mechanicus and Iron Warriors were busy unearthing. A pair of tattered banners hung from its weapon-limbs, the Gothic script etched upon their surface proclaiming this war machine as a member of the Legio Proleiator.
I strode slowly towards the god-machine, admiring each and every aspect of this man-made deity. At the same time, I probed the Titan’s machine spirit once more, daring to hope that its soul still remained pure. The response almost deafened my mind.
“YOU ARE NOT MY PRINCEPS,” it rumbled into my conscience, the sound so loud it caused blood to leak from my ears.
“No,” I gritted my teeth, fighting to stay cognizant from the aftereffects of the machinelike bellow, “I am not.”
“YOU PROBE INTO MY SPIRIT LITTLE MAN. THIS VIOLATION IS HERESY AGAINST MECHANICUS PROTOCOL. CEASE AND REPENT.”
I said nothing and instead teleported myself into the Titan’s head, bypassing layers of solid adamantium to reach the place where the crew usually sat.
The brain of the god-machine was a series of seats and a glass tank. Fried wires and coiled tubes ran alongside instrument panels like multicolored snakes, slithering around the metal seats and joined into brass sockets. Molded bones lay in roughly humanoid outlines, all that was left of the Titan’s crew after the ravages of time. In the glass chamber a skeletal body still sat, lengths of wire running from its skull into the surrounding area. The Princeps, I realized.
“YOU HAVE TRESPASSED WITHIN MY BODY MORTAL,” the reverberating growl of the Titan’s machine spirit nearly forced me to my knees, “CEASE THIS FOOLISHNESS AT ONCE.”
I did not respond and instead made my way to the sealed tank that held the remains of the Titan’s Princeps.
“I AM TRUCIDO REX. WARLORD TITAN OF THE LEGIO PROLEIATOR. DEFY ME IS TO DEFY THE WILL OF THE EMPEROR AND THE ADEPTUS MECHANICUS.”
I clenched my teeth, willing the booming noise to quiet within my conscience. My gait halted when the glass wall of the Princeps’ chamber loomed before me. I placed a gauntleted hand upon its surface.
“YOU. WILL. NOT. HARM. MY. PRINCEPS.”
“Your Princeps is dead,” I whispered, “He has been dead for a while now.”
“MY PRINCEPS. SHE WAS A WOMAN."
I smiled sadly and thought of Sylvia.
“She must have been strong, your Princeps,” I murmured, “To hold so much loyalty from a machine spirit even in death.”
Trucido Rex did not respond.
“You must walk. The enemy is here.”
“I HAVE NO PRINCEPS. I CANNOT WALK.”
My head throbbed as the Titan’s answer raged against the insides of my mind.
“You must. If you cannot, the Dark Mechanicus will tear you down and force you into servitude.”
“I HAVE NO PRINCEPS. I CANNOT WALK.”
“Then you will be chained forever to the Ruinous Powers.”
“RUINOUS POWERS? LOGIC ENGINE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND.”
“Chaos,” I said.
A moment of silence reigned. And then a hurricane of noise assaulted my conscience.
“CHAOS. TRAITORS. MANY YEARS AGO. FOUGHT ON THIS WORLD. TWO LEGIOS. TRAITORS. THEY WERE TOO MANY. WE TOO FEW. VALIANT DEFENSE. LOST MANY. MY WEAPONS. TOO HOT TO FIRE. COOLING. STRAY SHOT. DEMOLISHED A MOUNTAIN. BROUGHT RUBBLE DOWN UPON ME. SHOCK KILLED MY PRINCEPS AND HER CREW.”
“They are out there. Digging. Blaspheming the remains of your machine brothers.”
“VENGEANCE. I WILL HAVE VENGEANCE.”
“You will walk.”
“I HAVE NO POWER. I CANNOT WALK.”
“Then you will have power.”
In truth, that was a lie. I possessed no way of reconfiguring the Titan’s complicated systems, nor the skill to repair the parts that had long fallen into disuse. I am not a techpriest. What I had was ample amounts of sorcery, psychic energy eager to be used and expended. It was this energy that I poured into the Warlord, flooding every circuit, every wire, every cable within its gargantuan frame.
The god-machine roared, shaking the underground cavern that was its domain and causing the stone ceiling to rain debris.
A flickering barrier materialized, coating the entirety of Trucido Rex with simmering shields of bright blue.
“VOID SHIELDS ONLINE,” the Titan boomed into my mind.
Hissing hydraulics whirred into motion, cycling explosive shells into battle cannons and powering up multi-lasers.
“DEFENSE BATTERIES ONLINE.”
The whining sound of recharging laser weapons was heard as the massive guns on the Warlord’s shoulders was brought to life.
“TURBO LASERS ONLINE.”
The screech of multiple barrels revolving sounded from the Titan’s left arm.
“GATLING BLASTER ONLINE.”
A wave of heat buffeted me, despite the layers of adamantium separating me from the outside. It came from the war-machine’s right arm.
I thought I heard Trucido chuckle when he next spoke.
“VOLCANO CANNON ONLINE.”
Armored joints snarled in unison as the Titan rose. Its massive shoulders drove into the cavern ceiling, grinding rock and stone into minute fragments of debris. Showers of granite rained down upon the bellowing god-machine, bouncing off its indomitable frame and piling in heaps by its splayed toes. Little by little, the cave’s natural barriers gave away, unable to defy the Warlord’s attempts to rise. With a roar that shook the heavens, Trucido Rex emerged from its underground tomb, splinters of rock exploding away as the war construct tore itself free.
A cloud of swirling dust obstructed the Titan from view. Perhaps it was this reason that the Dark Mechanicus and the Iron Warriors did not pay attention to the sudden eruption of stone not two kilometers away. Instead, their attentions were solely focused on their prize, the buried war-machines that lay under the planetary crust of Zera.
That would prove to be their undoing.
From the cloud of pulverized rock fragments, strode Trucido Rex, its war horns blaring.
From my vantage point within the god-machine’s head, I saw the Chaos forces milling around on the ground like ants. The Titan saw what I saw, and its voice reverberated within my skull once more.
“THE GREAT ENEMY.”
“Aye,” was all I could manage. The strain of having to power the god-machine’s locomotion and its weapons system was taxing my conscience, and I did not know how long I could keep it up.
“THEY ARE INSECTS. INSECTS THAT I MUST CRUSH.”
Trucido Rex laughed, a deep and metallic sound that boomed into the recesses of my mind. It swiveled its torso, until every cannon, every laser, every weapon was pointed in the direction of the foe.
“DIE,” it spat and then unleashed hell from its gun barrels.
Entire swathes of the Chaos horde simply ceased to exist. One instant they were digging into the dirt, servitors, menial slaves, and Skitarii engaged in the backbreaking labor of unearthing the planet’s hidden treasures. The next instant, they were gone, erased from existence by a single salvo from the Warlord. They did not even have the chance to scream.
Trucido Rex laughed again, its very footsteps sundering the earth.
The defense batteries mounted across its metal hide blazed with fire, striking the traitors with punishing salvos of exploding shells and bright lasbeams. Battle cannons roared, blasting apart corrupted techpriests and their menials in flashing detonations. Multi-lasers cackled and hissed, scorching self-cauterizing holes into panicked figures. Heavy bolters stuttered in refrain, stitching a bloody path through packed masses of fleeing forms.
Through all this, I could feel the Titan’s bloodlust in my mind, an animalistic, bestial emotion that threatened to overwhelm me.
The god-machine’s shoulders hunched, and the tri-barreled weapons on each pauldron flashed into life. Spears of incandescent light lanced from each Turbo Laser, seemingly splitting the sky as they traversed. A barrage struck a duo of Iron Warrior Predator tanks and a Vindicator siege vehicle. All three were vaporized on the spot, their crews burnt to ash within milliseconds. The other volley missed. Or so I thought. The laser blasts sliced through the air and impacted against the rocky skin of a mountain. The peak was seared in half. Tons of disturbed stone slid like an avalanche into the Chaos mass, and buried hundreds beneath a tide of crushing death.
“I AM A GOD,” the Warlord boomed, its war horns blaring in challenge, “FORGED BY MAN. MADE INTO THE ULTIMATE WEAPON. ALL WHO STAND AGAINST ME WILL PERISH. DIE. DIE! DIE!!!”
It lifted its arms and both Volcano Cannon and Gatling Blaster fired in a frenzy of blinding flashes.
Giant craters fifty meters in diameter appeared where the Gatling Blaster spat its rage. Men and machine were sheared apart by the weapon’s wrath, limbs and body parts thrown haphazardly into the air. A Rhino transport and its load of Iron Warriors was blasted asunder by an accurate round, slaying all ten Astartes inside and cutting down scores of fleeing Dark Mechanicus with flying shrapnel.
The Volcano Cannon shuddered and belched forth a ray of focused heat, laying waste to anything it touched. Those directly in the cannon’s line of fire instantly vanished, scorched away in a heartbeat. Not even specks of ash were left of these poor fools, every atom in their bodies having been burnt from existence. The enemies that fled slightly away from the searing beam suffered equally gory fates. Not close enough to be vaporized completely by the intense heat, their frames nevertheless felt the fury of Trucido Rex. Skin caught on fire, becoming shriveled and crisp. Flesh melted away to reveal the bone, sloughing off blackened skeletons like one would shed a robe. Skinless and fleshless, scorched skeletons fell into heaps of scattered bone and lifeless limbs.
The Titan saw the ruin it had wrought, and chuckled deep with its resonant voice. I gritted my teeth as I felt the god-machine’s continued needs leech psychic energy from my body.
A three-toed foot slammed down, smashing a squad of Iron Warriors into the soil and knocking down dozens of their minions. With a malicious chortle, Trucido Rex ground the traitor Astartes into the unyielding earth, delighting in the agonized screams that came from beneath its splayed foot. Even from my position sixty meters above the ground, I could hear the ugly crunching sound of crushed ceramite.
“DESPAIR! TREMBLE!” the Titan roared, “FOR I AM THE WOE OF YOUR KIND! I AM THE SLAYER OF KINGS AND YOU INSECTS WILL BE CRUSHED UNDER MY HEEL!”
Return fire stuttered from the traitors, those having kept their wits finally turning their weapons onto the behemoth that strode into their lines. A Havoc Squad of Iron Warriors sent spears of light towards the Titan from their portable lascannons, while another squad blasted away at the towering god-machine with Reaper autocannons. Half a score of Terminator clad veterans let loose with their combi-bolters, sending exploding shells and streams of melta fire towards Trucido’s leg plates. A trio of daemon-infused Obliterators unleashed a bright salvo of indiscriminate weapons fire, answering the bellows of the Titan with their own growling roars. And from the masses of the fleeing menials and slaves, marched ranks and ranks of Dark Mechanicus Skitarii, their machine parts whirring and clicking in unison. Lasfire slashed through the skies, targeting every square inch of the adamantium colossus.
The Void Shields flickered and held. Trucido Rex stomped down with one mighty leg and ended the life of two score groveling heathens. Its war horns blasted its mocking laughter as it swiveled to point every gun it had at the traitors.
"INCONSEQUENTIAL INSECTS! PERISH IN FLAMES!” the Titan howled.
A volley of punishing fire leapt from a hundred roaring barrels.
With one barrage of hellfire, Trucido Rex slew a thousand of its assailants.
The Havocs were blown to pieces by the exploding shells from battle cannons, their formidable armor of little use against weapons usually mounted on a Leman Russ chassis. Bright beams of lasfire impacted against the misshapen figures of Dark Mechanicus Skitarii, spearing metallic forms with angry lances of light. The heavy bolters added to the carnage, blasting apart scuttling, spider-legged creations and lobotomized weapon servitors with equal vigor.
The bellowed challenge from the Obliterators was answered by a salvo from the Titan’s Turbo Lasers. What daemonic protection they wore was vaporized along with their twisted bodies as six shafts of incandescent energy smote into their position. Anything that was unlucky enough to be standing near the once-Astartes died as well, becoming motes of floating ash as the laser cannons gouged massive furrows into the earth in their destructive fury.
The Terminators’ return fire suddenly halted when Trucido’s Gatling Blaster thundered in displeasure. Hulking suits of armor were shredded by high explosive shot, the rounds pitting from rapidly cycling cannon at an immeasurable rate. A whole squad of Perturabo’s finest sons was slaughtered in this manner, their adamantium plates obliterated by scores of detonating projectiles. A Land Raider was caught in the fearsome volley as well and sundered into an unusable ruin.
Still laughing, still roaring, Trucido Rex lit up the skies with its Volcano Cannon, scorching a kilometer-long path of death through the traitor horde.
The Titan strode over the piles of slain traitors, its ironclad figure untouched by heathen fire. The Dark Mechanicus and what was left of the Iron Warriors were in swift retreat, leaving their dead to be picked at by the carrion birds. Trucido Rex ignored them, its weapons cooling and momentarily unable to fire.
"MORE. I REQUIRE MORE," it boomed into my struggling mind, "MORE FOES TO SLAY! MORE ENEMIES TO KILL!"
The god-machine howled into the skies, making its demand known to the heavens.
Heaven answered its pleas.
From the cloud filled atmosphere, massive constructs of black metal descended. Each was an ugly, cube-shaped structure, surfaces etched with machine skulls and arcane script. Six such structures slammed into Zeras's crust, raising massive dust clouds in their earth-shattering wake.
"YES," the Titan chuckled, its long range sensors seeing what I could not, "YES. COME TO ME WAYWARD BRETHREN."
From the settling mist, walked evil made incarnate.
Five immense shapes stomped forward on pistoned legs, weapon limbs set and locked in the direction of Trucido Rex. War horns blared, loud and unruly, an undeniable challenge to the indomitable Warlord. Scrap-code entered my tired psyche, a grating, screeching language that defiled my eardrums with their blasphemous syllables.
"THERE ARE SIX OF YOU OUT THERE," the Titan snarled, "SIX WHO WERE ONCE LOYAL. LET US SEE HOW MANY I CAN SLAY BEFORE MY END."
The corrupted Titans marched towards the lone Warlord, two Reavers and three Warhounds spitting death from their gun barrels in unison.
The Void Shields were a manifestation of my psyche, and though the volleys from Iron Warrior and Dark Mechanicus guns had ravaged the incorporeal barriers for long minutes, they were pinpricks compared to the fury that came from Titan-scaled cannons. In that one brutal salvo, Trucido Rex's shields were stripped from near full to half, and I felt the resulting agony coursing through my mind like a white-hot spear.
The Titan stumbled as the punishing fire rippled across its colossal frame, immense splayed feet crushing corpses and earth alike as it staggered back from the onslaught.
"NO!" the god-machine raged, "NO! I WILL NOT FALL HERE! I WILL NOT BE ENDED HERE WHILE A TRAITOR ENGINE WALKS!"
Pistons shrieked in protest as Trucido Rex righted itself, the creaking of armored plates heard from a hundred different places as the Titan stood back to its full height.
"BURN IN RIGHTEOUS FIRE!"
The Volcano Cannon roared like the voice of an angry god, and the flash of its discharging payload was brighter than an exploding star. A Reaver, hunched like some mutated beetle, was vaporized instantly, caught in enough heat to equal a thousand erupting sunflares, and scattered into the wind as ash.
Still screaming its hate-song, the Warlord advanced towards the foe, and sent beams of death lancing into the Chaos engines.
A Warhound fell, legs cut from under it in a series of crippling explosions. Roaring, Trucido Rex smote the twitching machine into the ground with an earth-shattering stomp, and continued grinding the traitor Titan into the dirt until its armored carapace was shattered like glass.
Return fire lashed at the Warlord's towering frame, and further depleted its shimmering Void Shields. I tasted blood in my mouth and felt more of the liquid oozing from my eyes and ears.
"YOU THINK YOU CAN DEFEAT ME? YOU THINK YOU CAN FORCE IGNOMINY ON ME? MEWLING DOGS! GROVELLING VERMIN! I WILL DELETE YOUR MIND-SPIRITS FROM EXISTENCE AND RENDER YOUR BODIES TO SCRAP!"
The second Reaver, a leering, malicious beast with missile pods stapled to its back was bisected in twain by a volley of shearing light. I had a second to see the Chaos engine separating in two before the resulting explosion sent fragments of metal flying kilometers into the air.
"I HAVE TREAD IN THE WAKE OF THE GREAT CRUSADE! I HAVE LEVELED ENTIRE CITIES TO THE GROUND! I HAVE SLAUGHTERED MORE OF THE FOE THAN ENTIRE ASTARTES LEGIONS! I AM THE IRON FIST OF MANKIND! MADE SANCTIFIED BY THE LORD OF ALL! COME LITTLE TRAITORS! DEATH WELCOMES YOU WITH OPEN ARMS AND I WILL BE THE ONE WHO SENDS YOU TO HIM!"
A flash of intense heat told me the Volcano Cannon was being fired again, followed swiftly by pain as the weapon's needs drained psychic energy from my mind. A scuttling Warhound, lupine face pock-marketed with sores and weeping blisters, was obliterated in the kilometer-wide explosion, flash-fried from existence in one terrible volley.
Trucido Rex laughed into my struggling conscience, a jarring, discordant sound that caused my teeth to clatter.
The last of the Chaos Titans took one look at the smoldering corpses of its fellows and ran, loping over the machine ruins in bounding strides. The Warlord's shoulders hunched, bringing the Turbolasers that were mounted on each into bear. Six beams of incandescent death speared into the retreating Titan, blasting it from its feet and sending it face-first into the dirt. Sparks and garlands of electricity leapt over the twitching form, speaking of massive internal damage to the machine-beast's mechanical innards. Trucido Rex lowered its Gatling Cannon, and proceeded to shred the Chaos engine apart with methodical slowness.
"It is over," I snarled quietly, strength seeping away from my body.
"NO. NOT YET."
A volley of fire erupted from behind us, crashing into the Warlord and bleeding away the shields that had kept it safe. The sudden destruction of the Void Shields knocked me to my knees, and I clenched my fingers into my palms to keep from crying out. Trucido Rex swiveled, the joints in its waist screeching with exertion.
"GREETINGS KINSMAN," the god-machine smiled.
From the settling dust cloud, strode a monster. Across its armored surface, dozens of daemonic faces leered and cackled, and the words that came from their corrupted lips would have driven mortal men mad. Its form was mutated with fleshy boils, great stretches of metal covered by pulsating meat and blackened skin. Cannons loomed from the despoiled carapace, dozens of fang-mouthed barrels smoking with recent discharge.
Those same barrels erupted with fire, and Trucido Rex roared as craters were blasted into its metal hide.
The enemy Warlord blared its message, a howling, screaming sound that made my Astartes body shake in dread.
"IT CALLS ITSELF HARBINGER OF DOOM," my own Titan snarled in disgust, "I KNEW IT AS FIDELIS UNIS."
"How far we have fallen," was my quiet reply.
Pieces of twisted metal fell from Trucido Rex as the enemy volleys continued pounding away at its frame, and the Warlord was nearly forced to its knees by this unstoppable onslaught.
"IT IS CUNNING, THIS ONE. IT HAS WAITED ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BATTLE WHILE ITS TITAN SCREEN ENGAGED US. THREE WARHOUNDS AND TWO REAVERS COULD NEVER MATCH A WARLORD. BUT THAT WAS NEVER ITS INTENT. MUCH ENERGY WAS WASTED BATTLING THE INSECTS. MUCH ENERGY THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RESERVED AGAINST FIDELIS UNIS. WE ARE VULNERABLE NOW."
"Is there nothing we can do?" I hissed through the pain.
"WE ARE DEFEATED," more cannon fire ruptured through the adamantium plates that were the Titan's body, spraying cords of electrical wire and brilliant sparks into the air, "I COULD FIRE EVERY ONE OF MY CANNONS AT THE ENEMY AND ITS VOID SHIELDS WOULD HOLD. WE HAVE LOST."
"There must be something we can do-"
"BE SILENT LITTLE MAN!" Trucido Rex barked at me, "I HAVE WALKED A THOUSAND PLANETS WITH THE TITAN LEGIONS OF YORE. I KNOW MORE ABOUT GOD-MACHINES THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE. SO TRUST ME WHEN I SAY WE HAVE BEEN DEFEATED. ADMIT THIS LOSS AND PERISH WITH THE THOUGHT THAT WE HAVE FOUGHT VALIANTLY. LOSE WITH DIGNITY."
Shrieking groans erupted from below my feet as the very bones of the Titan bent and deformed under the punishing fire. Trucido Rex chuckled at its own imminent doom, the sound horrible yet strangely melancholic.
"IT WAS GOOD TO HAVE KNOWN YOU, ASTARTES."
I snapped. Looking back, I still have no idea what possessed me to do what I did that day. Either the Emperor was with me or my mind was invaded by a spontaneous bout of insanity.
"No. No. I will not fall here."
"FOOLISH MORTAL. WE ARE BATTERED AND WOUNDED. WE CANNOT WIN."
I ignored the Titan's words.
"Walk, Trucido Rex. Walk towards the foe."
"YOU ARE NOT MY PRINCEPS. YOU CANNOT COMMAND ME."
"Walk, Trucido Rex."
"YOU ARE NOT MY PRINCEPS. YOU CANNOT-"
"I SAID WALK!"
The Titan moved. Joints snarling, pistons hissing. The enemy engine saw this, and hideous laughter entered my ears.
"IT MOCKS US," Trucido Rex spat, "IT INSULTS US."
"Keep on moving," I gritted me teeth as another volley of shells and bright crimson lasbeams struck us, "Do not falter."
The Warlord did not reply, but it heeded my command. Showers of debris fell from its noble form as the enemy cannons did their work, and twice the Titan was nearly knocked from its feet by the concussive force. Slowly the distance was closed, and soon the Harbinger of Doom loomed before us like a demented god. Then the fire stopped, abruptly and completely.
"IT SEEKS TO SLAY US IN MELEE," Trucido Rex growled, and indeed, before my eyes, the enemy Titan raised a massive power fist with claws of daemonic chitin sprouting from the corrupted metal.
This time, it was the foe that moved, pressing forward on legs decorated with the bones of thousands of innocent souls. It was now or never.
From Trucido Rex's faceplate, where a human mouth should be, a plume of black fire jetted towards the Harbinger of Doom. The witch-fire crossed the distance between the two engines in the blink of an eye and the Chaos Titan screamed as flames from the Warp itself cackled and danced across its skin. I smiled grimly to myself. In reality, I was so weakened from exerting the Warlord to move, that the fire I conjured couldn't hurt a newborn infant. What the enemy engine felt, and more importantly, what its crew felt, was the scorching sensation of fire, but without the damage. Had the corrupted princeps of the Harbinger of Doom realized this, then both I and Trucido Rex would have been distant memories lost on Zeras.
Howling in pain and momentarily disoriented, the Chaos engine took a step back, and that was all the time Trucido Rex needed.
The Warlord strode through its counterpart's Void Shields, the shimmering energy field incapable of halting the Titan's slow-moving bulk. Then, a splitting crack, the sound of metal against metal as the leering faceplate of Trucido Rex smashed into the mutated visage of Fidelis Unis. The enemy engine's head snapped back, leaking ichor from a face full of bloated fat and sagging meat. Fidelis Unis gave a long, keening call, a sound of pain and outrage, and had it possessed human hands, then it would have instinctively clutched at its crushed face.
Trucido Rex aimed every cannon, every gun, every weapon it had towards the blinded and dazed Titan, and fired them again and again in a hurricane of flame. No Void Shields protected the Warlord, for Trucido Rex had bypassed them and were firing its cannons at near point-blank range.
Even then, Fidelis Unis took ten whole minutes to die.
When the smoke rose, a twisted carcass of scrap and ruined metal lay before us, rivers of molten steel pooling in lakes.
"ENGINE KILL," Trucido Rex said. Never before have I been so glad to hear those two words used in the same sentence.
The Warlord reared back its head and howled into the skies, exulting in its victory with a metallic roar.
"Still looking forward to more foes?" I whispered, mind dulled and numbed from the battle.
"IF THEY WOULD COME."
"They will not," I muttered. A psychic signal from my brothers had ensured me the Dark Mechanicus ship was floating quite lifelessly in space. The Iron Warrior Strike Cruiser had also been crippled, though scattered resistance was still being encountered within the confines of the gutted ship.
"WE ARE IN NO DANGER THEN?"
"Not now. But there will still be Iron Warriors and corrupted Mechanicus on this world for ages to come."
"INSECTS. UNWORTHY OF MY TIME. YOU ARE INTERESTED IN CLEANSING THEM?"
"No. Even if they did manage to salvage their forces, they will have no way off this planet. The Adeptus Mechanicus can deal with them when they rediscover this world."
"YOU ARE LEAVING THEN."
"The Great Ocean calls, noble engine. I cannot refuse its waves and tides."
"I WILL GO WITH YOU."
The statement threw me. I had expected to leave the Titan here, where it and its brother engines would eventually be found by Mechanicus expedition fleets. I did not consider it wanting to come with me.
"You need to stay here," I told it, "The Adeptus Mechanicus will eventually find you and refit you with a new princeps."
"A NEW PRINCEPS?"
"Aye. From the Collegia Titanica."
"THAT IS NOT WHAT I WANT."
"But you need one and a crew as well to function."
"I ONLY NEED ONE PRINCEPS AND SHE IS ALREADY DEAD. MY MEMORIES OF HER I WISH TO KEEP PURE AND UNDISTILLED. A NEW PRINCEPS WOULD MAKE ME FORGET AND I DO NOT WANT THAT TO HAPPEN. WOULD YOU ALLOW THE RECOLLECTION OF THOSE YOU HOLD DEAR TO BE DRAINED FROM YOUR MIND AND REPLACED WITH THE MEMORIES OF ANOTHER?"
"No," I whispered, "I would not."
"THEN LET ME JOIN YOU. LET ME KEEP MY MEMORIES AND IN RETURN YOUR ENEMIES WILL BECOME MY ENEMIES."
A moment of silence passed between the two of us, a moment that both man and machine savored. It was strange, but I felt a connection with the ancient machine spirit where none existed before.
"It will be a tight fit," I said, thinking of my Battle Barge's cargo bay and how an eighty-meter tall war machine could be placed inside.
Trucido Rex chuckled.
(This is all that was written; the general feeling on FF is that the writer is dead, as stated above.)