Return of the Primarchs: The Primarchs
- 1 Bits of Awesome
- 1.1 Wheels in Motion
- 1.2 The Lion Awakens
- 1.3 Return to Monarchia
- 1.4 Burial at Istvaan III
- 1.5 Fulgrim's Second Warning
- 1.6 Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus
- 1.7 The Khan's Rise in the City
- 1.8 The Deathwatch meets the Son of Thunder
- 1.9 Farsight's Dawning
- 1.10 Corax and Shrike
- 1.11 Shrike's Sabotage of Ghazghkull
- 1.12 Perturabo and Dorn
- 1.13 Dorn's Legion
- 1.14 Legacy of Titan
- 1.15 Horus
- 1.16 Captain Mathaius Ward on Guilliman's Return
- 1.17 Magnus
- 1.18 Ahriman
- 1.19 Magnus and Russ
- 1.20 Ulfrkonungs Saga
- 1.21 Angron
- 1.22 Konrad and the Order of the Obsidian Mirror
- 1.23 The Old Man on Terra
- 1.24 The Compliance of Erandi Setii Seven
- 1.25 Mortarion vs his Daemon Prince Self
- 1.26 Magnus revives the Emperor
- 1.27 The Imperial Palace
- 1.28 Reunion of the Primarchs before siege of Terra
- 1.29 The stage is set
- 1.30 Battle for Terra - Varynski's last charge
- 1.31 Angels Resplendent
- 1.32 Legacy of Sanguinius
- 1.33 The Emperor Awakens
- 1.34 Erebus' Demise
- 1.35 Transcendent
Bits of Awesome
Wheels in Motion
>Cylliun, Segmentum Obscurus
The hive was blissfully unaware of the arrival.
Amidst their numbers hid a robed master, a green stranger who was never seen nor felt. The paranoid of the lot, aware of the unrest caused by a mysterious "Voice of the Emperor", felt his presence emerging, his passionate sermons casting their effects on the people through their growing paranoia of cultists. But they would never find him.
At an abandoned storehouse, the arrival found a good station to set up observation. He brushed off the last of the paint on his armor and began his work observing the street outside to see if he was followed.
Amidst this gaggle, he assured himself, I am as good as invisible.
He sat down upon a crate and began scanning through his dataslate on the actions of a certain Supreme Grand Master of a certain Chapter of Astartes who seemed to have nothing better to do than chase his planted leads.
They just reached the local asteroid belt, where they detected the signal there, just as he had planned it. Now they would be able to defend the region, which was very lightly guarded with so many forces deployed on Cadia.
However, as he turned around, he found himself next to a almost green-blue-armored Astartes, who was looking at that same block. The two looked at each other. "This was unexpected..."
"Cypher? Here? This is quite the turnout..." The Fallen Angel aimed his pistols at the Astartes. "Lower your arms. I am hardly here to kill you, much less interrogate you. I have a feeling neither would fare well with all the people looking for them..."
"What do you want?" Cypher kept his guns leveled.
"The universe is at a critical juncture where things may change for everyone, everywhere...forever..."
"And what would I gain from that?"
"Why, this is something that will dedicate everyone that has served the Emperor, no matter their ways."
Cypher squinted. He noticed something from that sentence...
"Omegon? Omegon, is that you?"
The Astartes raised his hands. "You were always one step ahead in this regard. You should seriously use your talents more often. Could save me from picking complete lunatics as bodyguards."
The two of them dropped from their vantage point to an easier position at the ground level. Omegon began getting flocked by some of his own, all bearing what Cypher recognized was markings effectively forgotten the moment they chose to be traitors. He asked, "What is it that you want?"
Omegon opened his arms. "I have need of your services. I know that Abaddon is looking for your head to decorate his mantelpiece."
Cypher snorted. "And? Not like this the first time I have people hunting me down."
"Hmph, true..." Omegon admitted. "But the plan, it is genuine. I have... well, we discovered a piece of the Emperor's mind in the Webway." Cypher stared dead-eyed. "When His Human Webway project collapsed, a part of His mind must have...snapped off and stayed there. It has been stuck there for over ten thousand years, screaming the whole time at anyone he felt betrayed him."
Cypher had only one question on his mind: "Then why me?"
"He refuses to listen to us. Would you believe that he at one point thought that I was the one who joined the Cabal?" Cypher did not get it. "Right, I should explain that. Well, what would you say if I told you that Horus' revolution could have ended far worse than it did?"
"Hardly something I would notice, but how much worse?"
The Twin Primarch took a scroll out of his pocket, a list of notes, observations, mathematics, all leading to one common result: The death of all life-kind. "Were the Emperor completely successful, then the Chaos forces would instead devour every Primarch in succession, and when there is only one left, he would sound the death-knell for the Imperium of Man, of all life."
"Again," Cypher asked. "What is the point of involving me? Furthermore, What is it that you think I would be interested in?"
"Simple," Omegon answered. "I intend on undoing that stupid mistake my brother made by joining forces with them. We bring the Primarchs back."
"And like that, you lost me," Cypher turned around and began walking. "I swear, I never took you as this sort of an idealist."
"And what if I can assure that I can finally get you closer to ending your mission as well?"
"That would imply you can actually accomplish the impossible." Cypher continued.
"Well, where they return, I am sure they would notice His departure..."
"And what makes you think that they would all want to return?" Cypher was critically asking. "Have you forgotten how two of them chose to leave because of what we made it to be?"
"Even them." Omegon handed over another scroll, with the calculations on a signal. "Even though they have given up on the vision, they will still hear this call, witness their coming with some degree of curiosity. They will try to discern if these new Primarchs are the genuine article."
"And you think this will somehow convince them to return?"
The Primarch pointed to Cypher, "You of all people know the impact the right person at the right time is, yes? After all, what if you were not thrown out after Caliban's doom?"
Cypher was not humored by that, as he aimed his plasma pistol at Omegon's head. "Do not mention that so lightly."
"I am only trying to make an example," he commented as he ordered the Alpha Legionaries behind him to lower their arms. "But consider the possibility that the Pirate-King were to, say, find that an Imperial Navy fleet was under assault by the Terminus Est. Try to imagine what would happen if, for once, someone were so idealistic enough to bring that Xenos-raised recluse out of hiding, thinking that his policies of alien clemency just might have credence."
The Fallen Angel took a seat on another crate, attempting to calculate this whole game.
"This plan," Cypher concluded, "It requires factors far outside your reach. I may not have spent much time among your lot, but I know that your schemes would only want factors you could personally control."
"Which is a good thing I have some...assistance." As if on cue, one of the Alpha Legionaries removed the cloth concealing his right pauldron, revealing a skull, colored black and white.
"Malal...? Are you insane?"
"Only an insane man would trust his words so certainly," The Primarch assured him, "but we both know how Malal would disrupt the other four, and if he keeps it up long enough, we just might be able to influence enough activity in the warp to, say, tear a warp rift open that could safely transport the Primarchs from alternate timelines before they descended into madness?"
"And how, pray tell, would you get that?" Cypher's voice clearly displayed his growing incredulity at the courses taken.
"Besides my forces having relayed what they knew of each Primarch by infiltrating their forces? Well, that is where my second set of hands came about." On another cue, five more Alpha Legionaries reached to their faces and with a deft motion remove masks. Within seconds, they turned into a pack of Eldar Harlequins, all armed with mere shuriken pistols, while their leader, who was closest to Omegon, was equipped with a fusion pistol.
"So you made yourself a tool for all these great forces, thinking they would want to even help us?"
"This is more an understanding that since the Cabal failed in their goal of trying to save the universe from the Great Enemy, it then fell to higher forces to do so," The Troupe Master, a woman from the sound of it, replied. "Our reasons for dancing may not align as neatly with yours, but we all know of how the Mon'Keigh king was the closest chance we had of accomplishing our task."
"What next?" Cypher asked, "You somehow managed to make friends with the Necrons now? The Tau?"
"Ah, the Tau will have their own role to play. They are rather easy to manipulate, if you give them the right ideas," The Primarch commented. "But for the Necrons? Well, let us say that few of them are really that sane, and their gods not very...well, in much of a position to aid us."
Cypher looked up at the ceiling, hoping to find something in the distance even close to being a star. "This is absurd."
"Absurd, but our best way to get this stalemate the universe has to end. We need these people to have hope again."
Cypher asked, "Do you honestly think this will work?"
Omegon could only shrug at the motion, "About as much as any other plan I have."
"And you think that these forces will actually help you with that?"
"At this point, have we any other choice?" Omegon iterated. "The Golden Throne is failing with every passing day. The Imperium is edging closer to oblivion with each step. If we do not act now, we might as well kiss this entire universe goodbye."
"And what stopped you from doing this at any other time?"
Omegon smiled at the Fallen Angel's question. "Who said I was only doing this now?"
Cypher cocked his head. "Wait, what? Are you saying that you were planning this the whole time? For ten thousand years, we were all just pawns for your own scheme?"
Omegon laughed at this. "Hardly, hardly, Cypher! The best plans do not need people to act the way you expect them to! No, the best plans always get you the results you want regardless of their plans! And in our case, the only actions we needed were to make sure the Chaos Gods were so mad at each other that the warp activity they make could be siphoned off without even noticing it!"
"And the Xenos? Why do they want in?"
"Because we know our time has since passed," The Troupe Master commented. "But His time...no, there is still much for your kind to accomplish and we will protect that chance if we need to."
"I was always under the suspicion that you hated mankind."
"Our time has since passed, and the more bitter of our kin have felt that way. But we know that your time is here. We are merely to ensure that it does not fall into their hands."
Cypher then turned to Omegon, his mind very shaken up by the revelations at hand. "Why?" Omegon perked up. "Why do all this?"
"Like I said, I do not trust the Cabal. But I do understand why my Brother did it. He wanted an end to this stupid war as much as the rest of us."
"And that includes betrayal?"
"Where does that place you, Cypher?" He had the Fallen Angel at his grip.
"I am no heretic," he soundly declared. "I have never gone there, and you know that."
"And I agree on that," Omegon was satisfied by the response. "Which is why I need you to pave the final critical steps here. The Dark Angels need to be at the Eye, to witness this last miracle. It will be here that our hope will begin."
"And what price have you found suitable for that, Copy?"
Omegon answered, "Our bastion against their forces: Cadia."
Cypher immediately spat out, "Are you insane?! Without that planet, they'll spill out all over the universe! They'll make a beeline straight to Terra!"
"But they will have a greater reward for that: They gain the Primarchs. With them, the Imperium may have a chance at finally defeating Abaddon's petty crusades once and for all."
Cypher thought long and hard. The faces of every brother he had killed, every price his actions had, and, of course, the hefty mistake Luther mad by falling and the quest he swore to amend for that crime.
"You place too much at risk."
"A man who does not risk gains nothing."
But the promise of ending this eternal war was too enticing to Cypher. The idea that he may finally get absolution for the mistakes his legion made, too tempting. Reluctantly, he extended a hand.
"Where am I needed?"
Omegon shook the hand. "The Voice of the Emperor must make his way to Cadia."
"Landing there is not the goal, though. As long as the Rock makes it to see Cadia's end, they will see the coming."
"And I presume that you have a way there?" On that mention, the Harlequin revealed a Webway rift to use.
"We must inform Him of your goals," Omegon led the way into the rift. Cypher turned back once, to look at the empty room to ensure that he had no trail. He vanished, assured that there may finally have a way to end this story.
14 years later, Cadia finally died, but with her death cries, the Primarchs came. With Cypher and the Alpha Legion hidden, they would make sure that the Primarchs would clearly make their way to Terra.
The Lion Awakens
It was early in the morning at The Rock, or at least what would be considered early in the morning, as battle brother Samiel walked through the ancient corridors of the fortress monastery. He always preferred to get up earlier than his brothers as to enjoy the quiet solitude that The Rock offered, listening to his foot falls echo across the chambers and to hear the quiet rhythm of his breathing.
That, and he enjoyed being first at the morning meal.
He almost never saw anyone in the mess hall before him in his one hundred and fifty years of service to The God-Emperor. But today was vastly different.
As he rounded the corner, he saw lone figure was sitting in the hall, in Chapter Master Azrael's high throne, wearing only a black robe. His face was obscured by a data slate in his hand, and he was holding mug filled with recaff that was huge even by Astartes standards.
Samiel quietly took a step back and drew his bolter.
"I would advise you against that," boomed the figure. "I don't bite, but if you make me you won't feel it for long."
Samiel's two hearts were beating as fast as they ever had in his chest. From the sheer weight of the voice and the power behind, he knew he didn't stand a chance if he faced the mystery figure.
"Come," said the man, "eat, and enjoy yourself."
Samiel rounded the corner again, seeing the figure hadn't even looked up from his data slate.
He carefully walked up to Azrael's throne, making sure he wasn't walking head first into an ambush.
The figure continued to read from the data slate in his hand, only moving to take a sip from his mug, which upon closer inspection had a yawning lion in a night cap on it.
Realizing the figure didn't spare Samiel so much as a glance, he decided to finally speak.
"Who are you," he asked, trying to hide his uneasy feelings behind a mask of assurance. "Why are you in Chapter Master Azrael's seat? How did you even get in here without us noticing?"
Despite being unable to see the figure's face, Samiel could see a smile form upon it.
"To answer your questions in reverse order: First, I've been here thousands of years longer than you've been alive. Second, this was my seat long before it was this 'Azrael's.' And third..."
The figure lowered the data slate, showing off a mane of golden hair and a pair of emerald green eyes that made Samiel feel a very human unease when looking into.
"...who do you think I am?"
Samiel knew the figure, despite never seeing his face in his life. He tried to say his name, but he couldn't, not with the man's undivided attention on him.
"Speak," said The Lion, amused by Samiel's behavior, "it is alright."
"Sir," he finally managed to utter, "My lord I- How- Where-"
"I was in stasis for the past ten thousand years," said Lion El'Jonson, "under The Rock, waiting for the right time to awaken."
Unable to focus his mind with the several hundred questions he suddenly had in his head, Samiel continued to gape at The Lion.
"The Watchers in the Dark have kept an eye on me, and they decided now was the right time to awaken me. I've been pouring over what information we have on the events of the past few thousand years, but I'm shocked we have so little."
"Well..." began Samiel, finally finding his tongue again, "...from what I have been told, humanity has lost much since you disappeared."
"Indeed it has," nodded The Lion. "Unfortunate as the loss of history is, we have more pressing matters to attend to."
"And what would those be," asked Samiel like a child who just meet Father Christmas.
"Our future," answered The Lion, "and war."
Return to Monarchia
It almost seemed like a cruel irony that Lorgar had brought his Legion back to Monarchia. Though the rest of the world had changed, this place had remained the exact same: burnt to the very ground.
"Do you recognize this place?" The Primarch questioned the Remembrancers and Ecclesiarchal guests among his fleet.
"I do." The lead missionary among the Ecclesiarchy responded. "This place...it was birthplace of the Imperial Creed, is it not?"
"Almost." He knelt among the ashes. He couldn't stop hearing of the screams among this plane, no matter how hard he shut himself off. Hundreds of faithful souls, loyal to the Emperor, the God-Emperor, all burned to ash at His order. "He knew of the Lectitio Divinatus before here. It was only here that he had made his point: He was not God."
The Missionary had heard the story before from some less-than-pious Astartes before, but hearing it from a Primarch, the one whose work was responsible for the Ecclesiarchy no less, made him feel ill at ease. "But...why, Lord Primarch? He had done so much that was impossible for a lesser man. So much more than any species had dared hoped!"
Again, he heard the screams.
"Hail to the Emperor, may he protect our souls!"
"Though we may die, may our deaths be remembered always!"
"Our loyalty never wavers!"
He could not take it. This was his pride, his life's work, and it was dashed so easily.
He remembered the story the Sororitas, those women who worked as the Church's soldiers, told them. This was more than his greatest failure. It was the birthplace of an even greater failure.
"Why do you keep torturing yourself with these memories, boy?" Kor Phaeron finally spoke up, disgusted at seeing his son's weakness. "You will learn nothing more from dwelling on the past. He has rejected your teachings. Now we move on to another faith."
Another faith. A fourfold path. An eight-pointed star. A horde of daemons, and a humanity lost. It was because of what happened here that a preacher became the Urizen. Where faith was rejected, he learned cold reason, and that reason was that the only true gods of the universe were...
Come to think of it, Lorgar wondered, why was the First Captain the only one who believed this truth? Why did everyone else seem to believe in a completely different truth, one governed by science and mathematical reason? He then remembered talk from amongst his own sons, doubting the Captain's claims as an Astartes, an elderly man in the shape of a warrior. More pressingly, there were also reports about Calth, a war of petty hatred turned into a dark ritual. And the common link was...
"Have you truly faith in you, Kor Phaeron?"
The elder snorted, "Faith? Of course I have faith! I was the one who taught you faith!"
Lorgar stood erect, his right hand gripping the Illuminarium tightly. "Faith in our cause, or faith in whatever you serve?"
"What does this babbling have to do with-"
He wouldn't finish the sentence, as he was sent flying by the blow. The missionaries and Sororitas who joined them gasped.
"So..." he chuckled. "This is how a father gets rewarded? Pathetic boy..."
"You are wrong." The Primarch started towards the old man. "This is not how a father gets rewarded." Again, he shifted grip on his weapon. "This is how a traitor, a manipulator, a poisoner, get rewarded."
With another swing, Kor Phaeron's head went flying. It landed near the feet of some legionnaires, who merely stepped on it like any other stone. "You never had faith in the Emperor's cause. You only had faith in elevation. That was my weakness." Lorgar turned around, his gaze locking with Erebus this time around. "Hear this well, Chaplain. The reason the Lectitio Divinatus failed was because it enforced worship. We are not worshippers, we are warriors. And we shall dedicate ourselves to fighting for these people, this Imperium, from the hell that exists."
He rose the Illuminarium again.
"Our faith should not be focused upon the divinity of a man, but on the protection of many men! You have seen what hells exist beyond our realm, what things lurk here. These humans, these preachers, we are here because they cannot fight this war!"
The lead missionary asked again, "This is...! THIS IS INCREDIBLE!! I shall spread this to my church!"
Lorgar smiled at that. "Bear this word well, missionary: The Imperium's faith is upon our duty, not upon our icons!"
Burial at Istvaan III
Istvaan III was the sight of innumerable omens, a place where the first rounds of a betrayal would be fired and echo across eternity. Fulgrim had chosen to visit this place alone. He the only being that stood alive on a world of ghosts. His regal purple robe fluttered in the carrion wind.
He had come to atone, not just for the slaughter of his brothers' sons, but that of his own as well. Battle plate still lay on the ground where bones had long turned to dust. He looked forward at the planetary governors' office. From what he had heard, this was where his remaining loyal sons had died, betrayed by Lucius at the last moment.
He strode inside, looking down at warriors, honorable ones that both he and his daemonic self knew. Saul Tarvitz, Ancient Rylanor, Solomon Demeter. He knelt down to the slaughtered remains of one of his sons that had remained pure and held it to his chest, the vicious angry sob of a demigod cutting through the air. 'What have I done?' His mind begged his soul for answers that would actually make sense. He looked across the ground for some form of tool, anything that could move dirt. He made do with a power axe.
Slowly, he carried the corpses of the remaining loyal Astartes to a patch of soft ground. One by one he dug their graves, placing each legionary in the ground with a gentleness that his giant form seemed incapable of, tears streaming silently from his face. He made no noise, the only sound was of dirt being excavated. Each time he finished burying one he made a makeshift monument, a sword, a helmet, an axe. It didn't matter what it was necessarily; its value was far more than its parts. Each had the name of the Astartes laid there and a poem or canticle of their bravery. When he was done only one thought remained. 'I will make this right, even if I can't undo it.'
Fulgrim's Second Warning
"This is... Great Vaul, this is impossible..."
And yet, in the distance of this aging world, there was indeed a giant of a man the Eldar had had since thought lost to the universe, donning a purple robe. "Our orders, lord Farseer?" One of the Seer Council asked the lead Farseer.
"We..." the shock was more than he could take. "We need to retreat further. He will not find us so easily."
They departed soundlessly, but they did not depart unnoticed, as the giant had noticed something.
"Farseer Elsandar, who was that?" One of them asked out of concern as soon as they were out of range.
The Farseer struggled to regain some composure. "That man.. Ages ago, before the ages of Terra's civil wars, my mentor had met with him."
Another one, a woman, concluded, "You mean that he was...."
"Yes," the Farseer mentioned. "He was the man Eldrad Ulthran had tried to warn the Imperium of about the Great Enemy. But...his memoirs mentioned that when he did, the meeting was far too late. This...makes no sense..."
The last of his Seers chided him, "We cannot be lamenting here due to chronological contradictions. You are wasting too much time as it is lamenting the possibility that was wasted ages ago."
Elsandar perked up, "Yes...yes, that would help, Emilri. The last of our charges should be..." He scattered a bit of dirt around to form a crude sort of map. His seer powers then arranged it to form the geographical map needed to detail their objective. "There. Exarch Kathar?"
The Warp Spiders, plus the Exarch, appeared in that instant. "You have need of us?" The Exarch offered.
"I do." He pointed to an open clearing. "Here. We must bury a charge here. Should the Orks land here, as the runes have foretold, this will destroy their largest primitive rok. That will leave them squabbling for far longer and allow us to clear them far more easily."
"Your will be done," He vanished just as swiftly with his students.
Off in the distance, the Farseer kept watch on the Spiders as they jumped to and fro, their course monitored by the Farseer and his Council.
"Be this the place you need it, Farseer?" the Exarch asked.
"Yes. Hide the charge. They will not expect this."
By the time the Warp Spiders finished their job, they heard a faint rustling in the overgrowth. "Someone is here!" one of the Council asked. "We must to cover!" As Elsandar laid low to find his way, he had the worst luck to be had in the history of his race as he ran straight into the giant.
"Hmmm, to find Eldar of all things here..." he noted.
The Farseer was thanking himself that he had kept his faceplate on, for the terror on his face would have been indescribable. If his mentor's memoirs were to be followed, then this would lead to the giant slaying everyone present.
"You...need not be afraid of me," the purple man intoned. "I am not sure what had happened before between our races, but I do not believe that I have any reason to bear a grudge against you."
Before...? The Farseer's mind raced even harder. What does that even mean? How could this man not even know what had taken place if he were the one who caused it? But more terrifyingly, he would be slain by...
Wait, where is the tainted blade? The blade that leaked with the powers of She Who Thirsts, demanding his constant grip?
"I am unarmed," he assured the Eldar with open arms. "I have come here because I have sought a place to gather my thoughts without need to remember what had passed." He had taken a seat as well, presuming the Farseer's silence to be an invitation. "You see, apparently...I had done some reprehensible actions in the past. I had murdered countless many of my own kin, betrayed my brothers, and apparently turned into a daemon. But...I do not remember that."
"I recall being on crusade with my brothers. We were going to target a planet by the name of... I think it was Laer."
Laer was the origin of that cursed sword.
"But by some sojurn," he continued, "We had found our way to a universe mirroring our own in almost every way, shape and form except for the fact that half of us...turned corrupt."
This was... if he never turned to the Great Enemy here, then...
"You...are not our enemy?"
He gave a bit of a chuckle. "Without cause, at least. A sentiment that I think some of my brothers might needle me for, but considering what I am here for, war is the last thing I wish to partake in at the moment."
"And what....is that goal?"
He cast a glance to the stars. "Atonement."
The Farseer cast an uneasy glance. "There is more then human blood that you spilled on that path to daemonhood."
"Is that so?"
"When a Farseer met you ages ago, you were already tainted. In response to accusations of impurity, you murdered his council and, believing that this would be the only way to stop our deceit, destroyed many of our maiden worlds."
He thought this over. "Well, I would take offense to accusations of being corrupt, but outright murder to silence dissent? How craven." He was reminded of Istvaan, of the many corpses ha had laid to rest there. "But...that is not me. Not anymore. To be perfectly frank, the Eldar Culture is rather...something I would be interested in seeing."
The Farseer paused. It was clear that this was not the same Emperor-child that had blighted the Eldar before. He bore the same face, but...that was all. Instead of a festering rot inside, there was something more...familiar. A preference for something far more than just warfare.
"Perhaps..." he thought, "There is a chance for humanity after all..."
Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus
Fulgrim wept as he stared up at the writhing, multi-armed foe that slithered towards him. It bore a resemblance in only the smallest of senses; even the eyes seemed foreign as the four armed beast drew forth weapons crackling with violet energy.
"What's the matter?" The creature hissed sibillantly, a too-wide grin stretching its fanged maw. "Doth the mirror show a pale reflection?"
Fulgrim's grip on his blade faltered, and it remained firmly within its sheathe. Fireblade was silent, his strength waning in the face of his hideous alter ego.
This. This was what his perfection had forced him to become. How could it have gone so wrong?
The creature lashed out, its bladed tail whistling mere inches from his face. "So flawed you are," it chuckled, darting forward like a snake. Its swords raised in a quadrad of points, poised to skewer his embellished plate. "So pathetic."
The blades dropped in perfect unison, each seeking a vital point; Fulgrim blinked as all four were smashed aside in a single movement, and the Daemon Primarch was thrown back from the impact.
"Child of the Emperor, Death to his foes."
The gravelly tone rumbled from within a stentorian chest even as a silver hand fell on the eagle-winged pauldron on Fulgrim's shoulder. Firmly gripped in the Iron Hand's gauntlet was the mighty hammer Forgebreaker, still crackling from the fierce impact.
Ferrus smiled tightly. "We face the past together."
Fulgrim regarded his brother fondly, turning to the writhing horror he had been destined to become. The sloth left his body, and he mirrored the iron knight's gesture firmly.
"The flesh is weak," he intoned as he released the other man's armor, tightening his grip on his sword. With a single, fluid motion, he tore the flaming brand from its sheathe, his purpose renewed. "But our brotherhood is iron!"
Together, the sons of the Emperor met the Daemon's charge with a cry of rage upon their lips.
The Khan's Rise in the City
He couldn't believe it.
Rather, he didn't want to believe it.
He, Jaghatai Khan, Primatch of the V Legion of Space Marines, was not only caught by some lucky skyboarders, but he was also now being sold in a slave market like a common dreg.
Needless to say, it was mortifying. Were it someone else, like Roboute, he would have made things far worse. The image of the haughty statesman standing in his place made the Khan forget his situation and laugh a little when he noticed the truck he was in stopping.
"Out." The Warrior, Trueborn by the look of his armor, started yanking the slaves by their chain leashes. Unfortunately enough, the Khan was among them. They were led through rather narrow corridors, whipped into line were they to trip even the slightest. More insults were fired by the Dark Eldar as they herded the slaves into the auction market.
"COME AND FEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS, THE TERROR OF THE EDGE!!!" The auctioneer erupted as the Primarch was herded out to the crowd. Eager Archons and barons from hundreds of Kabals had their eyes open. To have such a giant in their halls, being their servant, THEIRS, it stirred them into a frenzy.
Treasures from across the galaxy and beyond, slaves of supposedly equal value, fine wines and contracts with Incubi, Haemonculi covens and mercenary clans; all offered just to get this spectacular specimen.
Soon enough, the auctioneer lost count of who offered what and soon the floor descended into an indiscriminate orgy of carnage.
It was then that the Khan's plan sprung into effect.
As the bidders began opening fire, he found one that just got shot to death and found his blade nearby. Using a bit of cunning, he managed to break the chains holding him together. Another Archon died and dropped a rare-looking Splinter Cannon. He hefted the thing and gave it cautionary burst. It was time.
A howl of fury erupted from the Chogorian's throat as he soon jumped into the fray. The venemous blade, though very small for his massive grip, served well as he tore through the ranks. An Incubus tried to cut through him, and instead got fed to an eager Sslyth's gun. A leader of a clan of Scourges tried to take him to the skies to tear him apart, the Scourge ended up wingless the moment the Khan found a way to grab them and cut them off. There was even a coven of Wyches, militants allied to another high-paying Archon, who charged in with bladed weapons and their leader wielding a bladed whip. A dodge to the left had the whip embed itself into a Hellion preparing for takeoff, a duck to the right led to the Wyches attacking a Beastmaster's summoned horde of Razorwings. Their leader, once she got into range, had only scant moments to attack before suddenly getting gutted by the venom blade.
There were few that survived the scouring that took place, but soon the numbers were whittled down, leaving only a small handful of warriors of certain former kabals, all aiming at each other and the Primarch.
"Give yourselves up, whelps," the Khan insisted. "If none of your comrades could beat me, then what hope have you?"
"And pass up the chance of being an Archon? The only chance I have to take down that arrogant bastard Vect?" One warrior had his gun armed. "Only an idiot would pass that up!"
"Stand down, curs!" The Trueborn who herded him in, fortunate enough to survive with mere scratches, ordered the others. "That privilege belongs to me alone."
A Hellion, fresh from killing the last of the Scourges, landed on his two feet, keeping the skyboard on one hand. "I hardly even need the advantage to kill a filthy mon'keigh like you!" The last to make a claim was an Incubus, wordlessly taking claim.
"If any of you honestly want to die quickly, then come on!"
The Incubus, honed since birth to be a killing weapon, made the first swing. The Khan, realizing that his knife would only go so far to stop such a skilled warrior, threw the knife. The Incubus flawlessly spun his Klaive and deflected it to the side, where it hit the dismounted Hellion. He leapt at the Primarch and took a fully-practiced swing, which missed as Jaghatai dove to the side and grabbed a broken Hellglaive from another dead Hellion. This weapon felt more at home to him, as he swing it with practiced ease to halt the Klaive.
"Now you... You, I like!" He complimented the Incubus. The killer did not take note of the compliment as he took another swing and the Khan parried it to the side. The swing's momentum was used as the Incubus spun in place to prepare another swing from another angle. The rising cut came at a dead angle in the Khan's fighting style, managing to open a gash on his arm. Now motivated by the injury, Jaghatai took a risk in thrusting with the glaive. It barely hit, but more importantly, it let the Incubus take the leap he needed to prepare a killing stroke upon the Primarch. "Jackpot," he smirked as he threw his free fist squarely into the Incubus' gut. His fist arced around to the ground and then forced it's way through the Incubus. As soon as he took the fist out, he knew the Eldar was dead.
"W-w-wwwe yield!" The plain Warrior pleaded. The Trueborn had his gun lowered, but he was also showing that he did not wish to battle such a feared foe. As Jaghatai stepped away in order to free what few slaves survived past the carnage, everyone began to hear clapping cutting through the air.
"Well played, Astartes. I must say, you have made this a very riveting affair."
The two Dark Eldar turned to the VIP box, also covered in blood and corpses, to find a lone Archon sitting there, atop a pile of bodies.
"You..!" The Trueborn realized who it was up there, "You're Archon Tahril!"
"A wise soul," Tahril commented. "But you need not fear me. I am...shall we say, no longer within the king's employ."
"But Lord Vect...!"
"Killed only a foolish enough Dracon who stole my other robe." He stood up. "Shows me to leave my wardrobe unattended." Jaghatai aimed the Splinter Cannon at the Archon. "Do lower your gun. It's not like killing me would do you any good."
The Khan sneered, "And why would that be, fiend?"
Tahril leapt down from the balcony to the ground level. "Because I was here to sell my fleet. You see, I had recently come across a much more profitable offer for partnership, so I found that this fleet, while having that personal touch, would only be a paltry fraction compared to the fleet I will soon lay claim to."
"So why bother selling it to begin with?" Jaghatai saw through the Archon's deceit. "This is all clearly a ruse so you can trap them and demolish them at your own pleasure later."
Tahril clapped again. "Clever you. But I do honestly have no desire to keep this fleet. Some of the ships are at the moment too much for a frugal Archon such as myself, and the crew...well, I shall not say." He stepped off, but before he did, he shot a body amongst the scores already there with one hand while casually tossing a ring of keys to the Khan with the other. "Missed one," he commented as he left.
The Archon was actually true to his word, as Jaghatai and the two Dark Eldar he now had to call his flunkies saw three ships in various states of repair. The most usable of these was a Dragonship, shaped more like a giant torpedo than an actual cruiser, with only one sail bearing a mark of the Archon's formal Kabal.
The Trueborn growled, "That bastard set us up! This is one of Vect's ships! He'd be a fool to let a prized ship like this fly free!" "Seriously?" Jaghatai was not quite as nonplussed. He had a plan to fix this.
Before the Trueborn could voice the impracticality of such an act, though, the three found themselves eventually accompanied by more: The Prisoners the Khan liberated. An Eldar, a Craftworld Bonesinger, stepped to the front.
"You...have saved us, human. We are thankful for that, but I wish permission to depart with my kin." Some more Eldar followed behind her. "This city will surely spell our death. We will make for the nearest exit."
"Know your place, prisoner!" The other Dark Eldar spat. "We will not-"
"Go on," the Khan shocked both sides. "I honestly do not need every ship. Besides, the way it is now..." he snickered as he stroked his growing beard. "I could use it for a trick."
The Trueborn applied a palm to his forehead. "I am going to die, aren't I?"
The Dragonship left with little notice and, in the void of the Webway, the Khan had time to inspect the crews of the two ships and the prisoners he freed. All riffraff, either dispossessed warriors or prisoners of war, they would still prove of some use. The humans among the prisoners found their morale tripled upon finding out that their saviour was in fact a Primarch, a son of the God-Emperor. They eagerly took up arms and began learning war and ambush tactics he had perfected during his ten millennia of war in the Webway. The crewmen, being Dark Eldar by majority, could care less about the Khan, but so long as they were able to get pay by a few promises the Trueborn made, they would keep running the ships. Those few that were capable of combat trained alongside the plain Kabalite Warrior, Orafal, while the Trueborn, Iyarsith, kept mainly to managing the fleets.
Within a few months, they had an elite force to accomplish one goal: Securing a Base of Operations for the Khan.
They emerged from the depths of the Webway to enter the fortress of a certain Dark Eldar lord who was within the area at the time.
The plan was simple enough. The ship would go in as it was, their excuse for entry being that they need some supplies and whatnot and, being under orders of Asdrubael Vect, High Lord of Commorragh, they would comply. As the crew distracted the normal security with the mundane details and agreements, the Khan and his clan of loyal warriors would infiltrate past the guards and enter the fortress. From there, they would destroy key components to the facility, ranging from slave pens to gather more troops, to communications arrays to deny them any chance of calling reinforcements, to the quarters of the leader himself, ending with the fortress crippled and the workers sufficiently demoralized and forced to either yield to the Khan or die trying.
"State your name and business," the Fortress opened communications.
Iyarsith took the helm. "I am Iyarsith the Grudgeborn, commander of the Risen Fang. I am here for repairs."
"Go back. We do not recognize you." Well, there is one more part left...
"Then I should inform you," he continued, "That I am here as a representative of the High Lord of Commorragh. To deny me service is to oppose Asdrubael Vect himself!"
"Vect?!" That did the trick. "Crap! Okay, you should have said so first! We'll open the gates!" The line went dead. The Khan, having done some repair work to his armour, though it was far from pristine, came over.
"Good work. Now comes the key part."
The Trueborn was still hesitant. "I still think that this is all stupid, but so long as I get something, then I'm...stuck with you, sir Khan." "Sir Khan," the helms informed them, "They are opening their gates. We had best prepare our plan."
A convenient thing about using a ship that once belonged to Vect were the great variety of exits in case anything went to hell quickly. Some had escape pods for his escape, some merely were vacuum decoy exits to fool any boarders. The latter would be the means Jaghatai needed to get in.
"Men," Jaghatai announced at the edge of one of these escape hatches, "Know that regardless of what happens today, you will all be remembered by the Imperium as heroes! You have had the honour of fighting alongside a son of the Emperor, who fought amongst Him in the Crusade!" The crowd ate it up. "Now, we do this! For Chogoris!"
"FOR THE EMPEROR!!!" The crowd howled as they broke out of the hatch and began their rampage.
Their first goal had to be the slave pens. Without a distraction, there would be no chance of doing anything. The Jaghatai of old may have preferred to just charge in and kill everything, but many ages of practiced hunting against a particular foe honed his skills to perfectly. However, that did little to remove the taste he had like a rotten piece of meat, reminding him of Corax.
His men emerged from the left side, their speed almost being equal to that of Orafal's squad of seasoned Dark Eldar raiders that emerged from the opposite end. Both sides made quick work of the first waves of security, leaving them easy access. From there, they split their paths.
From how many guards they killed after splitting, it was becoming clear that the Dark Eldar in this fortress did not really keep a good watch over their slaves. That suited the Khan's tactics just fine. It just meant more of a surprise when they go to the main court.
The slaves that were kept were from hundreds of different species, some human, some Eldar, even an Ork and a Kroot pack. However, all of them were relieved to see someone out to break them free.
The first to break out was the Ork, who simply begged the Khan, "IZ IT TIME FER FOIGHTAN?!" The Khan pointed out the door and the Ork WAAAGH'ed his way out, eager for any sort of revenge. The others, though, stuck around longer to be informed of the Khan's daring attempt at rescue. Those that stayed with the Khan were trained in the use of their captors' weapons. They now had a full army.
The army, now tripled in size, took their next objective of sabotaging the security in stride. With so many prisoners revolting with their own weapons, the Dark Eldar that lived here were caught by utter surprise by seeing such contemptible filth overtaking them.
Meanwhile, the Dark Eldar team was raiding their way through to the prisoner army. The two forces being equally matched forced the raiding party into a difficult situation, as they were unable to spring any attacks without risking any more of the team.
A situation like this was one that needed the Khan to break in. With a few prisoners stationed at the security feeds, the others were free to go ahead.
Jaghatai's arrival could not have come at a worse time, as Orafal's force had been cut down to a quarter of their original size. The ambush of the army overwhelmed the bodyguards.
Afterwards, the Khan took time to lay the troops that joined him to rest. The Dark Eldar leader objected, "Why do you bother remember them? They were the same as the guards."
"Because," the Khan mentioned, "They still risked their lives for the sake of the prisoners. It does not matter if that really was their goal." Orafal did not comprehend the Primarch's sympathy.
"Over there," one of the Kroot that joined his party pointed to the ornate door. "That door holds one of the owner's deadliest monsters." "Unless a daemon is hiding there," he assured them, "there is nothing that will terrify me."
The door was kicked open. All he could say in the circular room was a collection of random relics from a multitude of cultures. Masks, guns, severed hands and swords were all found here. However, that could not possibly be the only thing there...
Orafal noticed, "That smell..."
The others could notice something smelling like blood and wet fur coming from somewhere. The Khan was the first to identify it though.
A prisoner gave an alerting cry, "Sir Khan! There's a monster here!"
The Khan noticed the gigantic rat-like thing approaching him, it's many eyes scanning everything, it's many nostrils flaring.
"Everyone..." he steadily warned the prisoners, "Back away. This monster sees us. All of us." The humans among them did as they were told, while the Kroot pack that was with them, having engorged upon the Dark Eldar they killed and thus gathered some of their genetic traits, soundlessly leapt back.
Jaghatai, though, held his ground. The Fiend was approaching him, and that let the others fall back. "Come, beast. I will find your master one way or another." He swung the Hellglaive he kept from his liberation at the floor, striking the floor. The Clawed Fiend lashed out at him. Anticipating this, the Khan braced for the charge and rammed into the monster, breaking it's momentum and knocking the wind out. He swung with the glaive and struck it on the face with the shaft. He was about to throw another punch when it gathered it's senses enough to smack the fist away.
"Good," he commented. "Means that I will not be entirely bored after all." The beast made another charge, maw-first. The Khan found a grenade there, probably stolen from an Imperial force. He stepped to the left, making the Fiend tumble into another exhibit, housing what looked like a daemonic mask with a large nose. He took the time to grab the grenade. That grenade would find it's mark.
It roared. He was about to toss the grenade at it's mouth when he noticed something else moving in the upper floors.
"There you are..." he sneered. All he needed now was to lock on to that figure. The fiend howled again as it charged. Another dodge led it tumbling into another relic, and the shadow above shuffled again. "So...you treasure all this, eh...?" He took a look at the floor and found the long-nosed mask. The Khan seemed interested in it and, while the Fiend was charging at him, took the mask and placed it upon his face.
"Actually..." he thought about it, "These masks look familiar to the ones I had on my ship..." The mask intimidated the Fiend now, as it kept it's distance from the masked Primarch, afraid of what it might be.
"Now how did that one play go..." he tried to recall from a lifetime over ten thousand years ago. "Ah! Alack!" He got on one leg while guarding himself with the glaive. "Such a cowardly foe could not possibly best me in combat!" A pause. The beast still circled him, but the figure was still. Good. "You send mere lackeys to challenge me, and you call yourself a king?" There was still no movement, and what he could almost identify as grinding teeth. One more push ought to do it. "When I am done with you both, your souls shall to the daemons!"
It was just as he needed. The Khan instantly tossed his grenade upstairs at the source of the cry, and the explosion cornered him. "Knew those old things had some use!"
As he raced upstairs, he found near the source of the explosion a Dark Eldar who lost half his face to the explosion. Apparently the grenade had plasma in it. Lucky him.
"So...," Jaghatai removed the mask, "I have need of your facility and your ships. Mind if I take them?" A wretching as he tried to grab something. The Khan found the weapon, a Huskblade, and placed it before the Eldar. "Was this it?" Before he could say any more though, he found that the air behind him was humid. "Oh." He remembered. "Yet to kill you. Right."
One deft flip of the blade and he then stabbed into the Fiend. Within moments, the gigantic thing shriveled up into a flimsy-looking corpse. All forms of moisture were drained from it.
"Thanks for lending me the blade. Now... About this place..." The Dark Eldar, still struggling, weakly pointed above. The Khan turned again, expecting more gigantic monsters to kill, maybe in the vein of a Squiggoth or a Haemonculus' monstrous Grotesque. Instead, all he found were a flock of Scourges, all armed with Shardcarbines, except for their leader, who held a Darklance in his hands. "More minions? Have you really no honour?"
"You mistake us," their leader corrected him. The Scoruges lowered their arms as they saw the dead body. "I was about to kill him too. He never paid me for his last mission. Hearing that a ship belonging to Vect was coming by, I was hoping it would distract him long enough for us to kill him."
"So what now?" the Khan asked. "You challenge me now for his head? Because you can have it. I just want his fortress." The Scourges looked again at the scene Jaghatai Khan carved.
"No. He is dead, now his money is forfeit." The leader glided down to the gallery below and grabbed a few of the former Archon's trophies. "This pay shall be sufficient. We know where his vaults are."
The Scourges left soon enough with their money and trophies, leaving the Khan with a few relics and his freed slaves. He went to one of the security feeds and sent a thumbs-up to them. Within moments, Iyarsil met with the Khan and his victorious army.
"We actually did it," the Trueborn was in disbelief. "We actually killed an Archon and looted his entire fortress for our own."
"That we did," The Khan responded.
"So what now?" the Dark Eldar asked, "You kill us both because our usefulness has run out?"
"Hardly," the Primarch donned the mask again, "Now the tale of a new lord begins here!" He considered the idea a little. "Now, a name... Ah yes, Lord Tengu! Archon of the Kabal of the Scarred White! The one who conquered the Terror Of the Edge!"
Iyarsith was about to leave, hoping to find elsewhere to be employed when the Khan halted him, "Iyarsith! You may doubt me, but that is in itself a quality I will need in the coming days. See, I want you to be my face."
"What?" The offer left him unsettled. "Why would you need a face if you already own one?"
"No, no, I would be seen too easily," Jaghatai displayed his gear. "I am still a Primarch, and nothing I can do can alter that. But you, you are a respected member of their society. You can go to the public, secure the deals I need. I owe you a debt of gratitude for what you have done, and now I seek to make you and Orafal partners."
The Trueborn shook his head in shame. "I...have no clue why I haven't killed you yet, human. But the offer of power, the ability to make a change in this place...I want it more than I should want to. I must be an idiot to be doing this..."
The Kabalite Militant stood at arms. "What is our next move, Great Khan?"
"Orafal," Jaghatai commanded the lesser Dark Eldar, "You are going to be my militant commander."
--SOME TIME LATER--
The Raider was full of Astartes, all prisoners taken from a recent raid. As the driver was about to turn, he was struck down and his ride totaled by a rush of Reavers, as a giant of a man landed among the Marines, his red mask displaying a long nose and pointed fangs. His mantle flared behind him and a lance that looked like a nightmarish torture tool was at his side.
"At ease, my sons," the warrior calmed the Astartes. "I am here to guide you back to the battlefield!" The Astartes, all donning white armour, were elated at the sound. "It is time we returned to the Emperor's service." "FOR THE EMPEROR! FOR THE KHAN!! FOR CHOGORIS!!!"
Son of Jagatai
The Astarte walked, draped in chains, through the webway. They'd lead him and the others out of the slave markets of Commoragh hours ago, leading them down. Down through Low Commorragh, with its fight pits for those too poor to see the Wyches. Down past the haemonculi and their theatres of screams. Down where not even the mandrakes went. Down into the twisting tunnels of the webway.
All of this, Battle Brother Yugong Taibing, 3rd Company, White Scars, watched go by in growing resignation. Nothing good came of these Commoraghites and he was now certain that his fate was something so abhorrent that even these foul creatures did not wish it in their city. His eyes moved slowly across the other prisoners. Xenos, but also a surprising number of humans. He noticed that she was there too. She'd been on the planet. His memory cleared. Was she a sororitas? Yes. He had gone to try to support her squad... when... ah... they'd been captured. He supposed she must be dishonoured, too, but for him it was different. He was an Astartes. The God Emperor had chosen him to serve Him and His Primarch against all that would harm the Imperium. He was made better, to be a shield for the weak and to be a sword against the Xenos. And then they'd come, used some vile compound, and carried him away as easily as if he'd been a child. For a moment, when they'd bought him at the slave market, he'd felt a surge of hope. Perhaps they'd take him to the arena. At least that way, he could die on his feet. But no, whatever awaited him, he was sure it had no honor. But the humans, he realized weren't worried about their honor. No, the humans must be... afraid. But the sororitas and some of the others who noticed him seemed somehow comforted, that even here, an Angel of the Emperor watched over them. That made Yugong feel even worse. Still, he straightened and fixed his gaze ahead. And hid his despair when he saw what was ahead. The vaults of the webway narrowed and blocking the path were some strange witch-eldar. He could hear strange instruments droning and smelled the scents of incense and musk. They never quite stopped moving and wore outfits of iridescent material woven in dizzying patterns. All wore masks which seemed to change as their aspect did. Yugong uneasily noted that the guards who had taken them from Commoragh seemed uncomfortable around these witch-eldar. Something nagged at the back of his memory. Something about these Dark Eldar and Slaneesh... didn't they worship him? Were these the priests? Were he and the rest to be sacrificed to Slaneesh? If it hadn't been for the others, he'd have vented his fury in a roar, but he didn't want them to worry. His fears seemed confirmed when the dancers nodded to the Commoraghites, who left as quickly as they could, leaving these masked ones to lead them on. From there everything passed in a blur. The webway grew narrow and twisted. There were strange rooms with unreadable texts scrawled across them in some frenetic calligraphy. Others had murals depicting mighty witches and what could only be Slaneesh casting down their foes. He pretended he didn't notice. It appeared so suddenly that he at first thought it a waking dream. It was a massive castle in the webway. Towers thousands of feet high with windows that blazed with witchfire. Strange pale beings, dozens of feet tall stood guard. Their eyeless faces still carried the weight of a ceaseless gaze. Behind them were soaring doors covered with eyes. They were led inside.
The inner hall was equally immense, hundreds of statues watched them from niches. They led him away first, he tried turning, to tell them he'd be back, but the collar prevented it. The best he could manage was to walk with dignity to what he was sure was the priest's knife. He'd rip as many of them in half as he could first. He prepared his death song, gained as much slack in the chains as he could. He figured he could break them if he could pound them on an edge. He was led into a massive feasting hall. It didn't seem quite right. There were rows of cloaked figures, too large to be Eldar, though there were plenty of them, as well. The decor, too, seemed off. It was somehow familiar. And in the center of the room, before a blazing fire, was truly enormous figure in a cloak. It seemed most familiar of all. He was sure it was warp-magic, but he found his head filled with memories that he had though he no longer had, of his childhood on Mundus Planus. This figure reminded him of his father. He tensed as the figure turned. The face. It was smiling. "Don't you recognize me, my son?" it laughed. "Don't you know that you are welcome in my halls? Remove your chains and join your brothers!" There was raucous laughter as the sons of Jagatai threw off their hoods and welcomed their new found brother into their midst.
It was weeks later, Yugong stood at the prow of a Raider, his armour painted a sable and was adorned in the savage elegance of the Dark Eldar. He looked behind him, smiled as he saw that Sororitas, clad in borrowed Dark Eldar armor. On other raiders, his battle brothers looked towards the battle. Today they were to eliminate an Inquisitor who had fallen to chaos, taking his retinue and private domain with him. Yugong would still have to get used to the idea of calling these Eldar fellow warriors, but he'd get there. He trusted Jagatai and he trusted his mission. How had Jagatai phrased it? Ah yes, the free hand of the Emperor, to strike from darkness and defend the Imperium while it slept.
The Deathwatch meets the Son of Thunder
The situation was a life-threatening debacle, but after serving in the Deathwatch for a few decades, it becomes more routine.
Tyranids were infesting the capital world of the Andamiss system and the rest of the Hive Fleet was threatening to devour the rest unless something could be done now.
It was a good move, then, that they assigned Watch Captain Tassalar of the Novamarines, a warrior who had fought off Hive Fleet Leviathan alongside his parent chapter, the task of delaying them by any means.
Alongside him on this dangerous mission was his Kill-Team, Oratos, consisting of:
- Sanguinary Priest Nielen of the Blood Angels, who had, with the help of a score of other Apothecaries of a dozen other chapters, devised a poison to take down the Hive Fleet
- Armel of the Disciples of Caliban's Ravenwing, who was originally ordered by his Chapter to keep watch for something, but had since kept him there until further notice.
- Taikei, Techmarine of the White Scars, who had made surprisingly good friends with Armel after an emergency bike-repair.
- Valk, a Rune Priest and pugilist all the same, who wanted only to fight worthy foes.
- Carth, self-proclaimed weapons-master of the Crimson Fists, adept at any gun he could lift.
The Thunderhawk dropped the team off in the air, forcing the squad to make a crash-landing. It was Taikei and Armel, riding an Attack Bike with a Plasma Gun, who made first contact on a Warrior, flattening it and killing the nearby swarm. Next was Captain Tassalar on his jump pack, swinging his Power Sword and clearing a swath of the xenos.
"Alright team!" the Captain barked, "We need to make it to that tower there!" He pointed to the Capillary Tower in the distance. "Taikei, Armel, take point! I want reports on any key Synapse Creatures! The bigger, the better! Valk! Keep your powers on supporting us! Carth, Keep your bolter level!"
"Aye aye!" Carth chortled as he opened a hail of death with his Heavy Bolter.
The White Scar and Ravenwing Veteran began their wild ride on top of the corpses of dead gaunts, opening fire on anything that they could find. One Tervigon was taken down by a surprise assault by the two, and soon they had a good vantage point. But even that did not prepare them for what they would see.
"Techmarine, do you see...someone riding a Carnifex?" Armel could not believe it.
Taikei was speechless.
"Captain, we have a point secured and...there's someone on top of a Carnifex."
The Captain voxed back, "What? That would be-"
"I am seeing him right now," Taikei opened up, "And he is riding that Carnifex like a common Grox. And I know. People on Chogoris have done this since the times of the Khan."
Captain Tassalar was incredulous. "I... Agh, I do not believe this. Nielen, go investigate!"
"You see it too, right?"
Now the two bikers and the Sanguinary Priest were witness to the Carnifex-rider now riding the bucking monstrosity charging like a bull through the swarm, slamming full force into one of the Tyrannofexes.
"Well I'll be." The Sanguinary Priest opened his vox, "They are not seeing things. Unless I am seeing things too, there is a man on top of that Carnifex, and he is riding it towards a Tyrannofex."
Another exasperated sigh. "Alright, now I am convinced. We are en route."
By the time the Novamarine, the Crimson Fist and the Wolf made it, the Carnifex was docile again as the gaunts finished feeding on the dead Tyrannofex.
"What in the twelve clans of Fenris is this madness?"
Tassalar looked at the bikers. "I have been proven wrong. This does not happen often."
"What should we do, Captain?" Carth asked.
"Our orders still stand," the Disciple of Caliban insisted. "We deliver the toxins."
"I agree," the Captain advised. "I am leaving it to you two. Nielen?"
"Right" The two got the vials and began speeding off.
So the bike began speeding off, firing upon any and every thing that dared cross their path with either bolts of fury or plasma doom. Warriors, Gaunts, Biovores, even a Genestealer Broodlord, all of them were gunned. As they reached the Reclamation pools, they found themselves under fire from the Hive Guards, who fired their Impaler Cannons upon the bike and one hit even punctured Taikei in the shoulder. Fortunately, though, they were able to fell one of the fiends and make it to the reclamation pools to deliver the poisons.
However, they were down to their last vial when they found themselves beset by the last thing any of them wanted to see: A Flying Hive Tyrant. It swooped to and fro, heckling the bikers on their delivery mission, occasionally opening fire with the twin-linked devourers.
"Damn, I cannot even get a bead on the blight!"
"And his air raids are making it impossible for me to operate!" A swerve managed to get the Tyrant to miss, but it also led them straight to a Venomthrope's suffocating toxic miasma. Armel gunned it again and boosted his way out of the way and found themselves colliding with another Carnifex. Armel tried to start the bike again, but the damage was too severe.
"Of all the times to break down...!" Taikei grabbed his power axe. "We will not abandon this to them."
Armel shared the sentiment and grabbed a flamer. "Not without a fight." He ignited the horde, giving cover to the Techmarine as he repaired the bike to the best of his abilities, but the beasts were growing bold. It was only a matter of time before the flamer became next-to-useless on them.
However, just before the horde swelled once more, it backed away. Fearing the Tyrant's arrival, the two spun about face to find instead the mounted Carnifex. "Ohhhh, what now?" Armel edged to Takiei.
"Allow me." Taikei raised his power axe to rider. "Hail, noble rider! Your mounting skills impress me!"
"I will hold you responsible if he sics that on me."
The two were tense again when the rider spoke.
"I know why you are here. You seek to destroy this hungering mass." A rapping of knuckles lowered the beast's head. "It seems to be a trend that has not stopped since ages past."
"And for a reason." Armel lowered his flamer. "These things would devour the system if they were not opposed."
The rider took a step forward. It became increasingly more obvious that this man was more than some Astartes. Not even an Ogryn could grow this tall.
"So you seek oblivion instead?" The titan finally met ground. The two were now alarmed at how lightly armored he was. He bared his chest and his head to the monsters and wore only a simple robe. Marks of multiple hues and multiple patterns raced across his skin, looking like they were made in any sort of media, be they splotches or intricate webbing. "You believe that you have any more right to this world than they do?"
"This world does belong to the Imperium." Taikei leveled his axe at the titan.
"It will not stay so. All things change, no possession eternal." He then drew from behind him an axe that looked more like a mere stick with a Hive Tyrant's Scything Talons ripped off and tied to it. "This once belonged to a king of this species. I saved his life once when he broke his leg. His kin then showed me gratitude. They are more than things to kill."
Armel raised his flamer. "That...sounds like Heresy to me."
The titan scoffed. "It only makes sense you were raised by him as a role model." He took a step forward. "All he saw in the life beyond Terra was filth to be cleansed. What he could not exploit to his ends, he would turn to a flaming ruin for the mere sin of defiance."
"The Emperor is all."
"No. He is not." He began walking past them. "And no matter how many times I must repeat that, I will find none of you who will listen."
The two were content with just letting the stranger leave as they finished repairing the bike when the Captain opened vox. "Bring. Him. In."
It seemed that there was something far more than heresy that he was guilty of. Ironically enough, the Ravenwing rider, whose job was to explicitly find heretics and traitors to his chapter, could not figure out why.
"Get in!" Taikei cued him to switch spots, now operating as the driver. The two sped up in an instant to catch the giant again.
"What would you know about coexisting with xenos?" Taikei tried to catch his attention.
"More than any of your ilk would ever bother trying."
Armel cut in. "And who are you to claim that?"
The giant stopped. "So he's gone that far, huh? My very existence erased from history because I do not conform to his perfect plan?"
The Sanguinary Priest then landed beside them from jump-pack.
"What was it that- Oh... No, that would mean..."
"What?" The bikers turned to the new arrival.
"He looks... No, he is the size of a Primarch, but..." He was lost in thought.
"A Primarch? Are you insane?"
The giant silenced them all, "Primarch I once was called. Not anymore. That title belongs to murderers."
Everyone dropped their arms in dumbstruck awe.
"Tha-wha-this..." Armel was first to recover "No. No! That is a horrible joke. Now the truth!"
He walked again. This time Nielen began tailing the giant.
"Forgive my brother, he is a very upfront-"
"I have told the truth, and he did not listen."
"The truth?" Nielen asked. "No, there is more to this. Something that nobody is mentioning..."
Armel spat out, "He's a heretic! He consorts with xenos!"
"A Primarch? Consorting with Xenos? Why?"
"They have the same inheritance of this universe that we do. They belong here just as much as you do, and if he still fails to understand that, then leave me." The Priest began piecing something together.
"He? Who is He?"
The painted face of the giant grew a smile. "You seem to be the smart one among your kin. Figure it out."
Nielen kept his pace while thinking before halted in abject horror.
"That....By the Emperor, that.... No... You really are a Primarch. You mean the Emperor?" He stopped. "The Emperor banned Xenos interactions and in doing that, or perhaps before that, he had to remove your legion."
He turned around. It seemed that the Sanguinary Priest was right after all. "That legion was hardly mine. My people, they traverse the stars without need to murder everything for the sin of being different."
The Priest argued, "But the reason we are fighting the xenos is because they would destroy us otherwise. These things, they do not know anything other than ravenous hunger. How are we to stop that? Should we seek to instead befriend every race, even if they do try to destroy us?"
"I am not idealistic enough to believe that. But what I do believe is that there is a way to coexist without war."
Before he could even respond to that, though, Nielen's vox opened. "Nielen!" The Captain called. "An Inquisitorial shuttle will be here soon. Keep him there at all costs!"
"It will be done." He turned around to the giant.
"So, they seek to make me account for my sins?"
The Priest would have said yes. That was the obvious response after all. But after hearing this story, one that supposedly lasted far before Heresy was even a word, he hesitated. "I...I hesitate to that. I have no clue who you would be accountable to, short of Him on Terra, but even then, how am I to call that?"
The giant placed his hand on the Astartes' shoulder. "Do not think of what he or his fiefdom demand. What is your belief?"
"I..." He thought this over. "I do not believe I have the faculties to judge you for Heresy. Let someone else solve that."
The giant looked at his Tyranid mount. "I suppose this is the end, then."
Valk had arrived just as he began to speak in some bizarre language of growls and hums, mixed with words that had to be from some language.
"Wait..." he was perturbed, "Is he...talking to that thing? AND IT'S LISTENING?!"
"Wait, that was a language?"
The Carnifex left as the giant began walking with then. "Now I go along with your laws."
Nielen was surprised. "What? Why?"
"Because if someone like you exists, someone who knows more than just murdering in the name of a god that is not, then there is hope yet."
"God that is not?" Valk caught on to the insult. "You dare-" Nielen cut him off with a swift hand.
"Don't. This is the closest we have gotten to getting him to cooperate. I can only hope the Captain can do the same."
The Kill-Team reunited at the top of the hill, Tassalar and Carth reloading their rounds in the midst while Taikei and Armel rode in on their now-repaired attack bike.
"By the Golden Throne..." Uttered the Captain. "What is he?"
The giant intoned, "Someone whom history now sees fit to remember."
"What does that even mean?"
Nielen whispered over the vox, "There is too much here even I cannot make sure of."
The Captain followed along. "Did Valk scan him?"
"He is just as surprised as the rest of us are."
Valk jumped in on the vox, "He is more than a man. Far more than any I have met. For one thing, when he was talking to that Carnifex, I could sense something melding their spirits together. He has to be some sort of psyker, but not strong enough to get noticed by any means."
"A Psyker? Amongst Tyranids?"
"I can't make heads or tails of this either, Captain."
Before an argument could arise over the giant's possible status as a psyker, the Inquisitorial shuttle arrived and the Kill-Team, plus one, filed in.
"So," a voice welcomed them in. "You must be the team that was stationed on Andamiss Primaris?"
"Watch Captain Eiric Tassalar of the Novamarines," the Captaine bowed. "My kill-team is ready to do your bidding."
"And this one?"
"We..." he tried to remain formal while voicing his uncertainty. "We have no clue what he is. We wish to leave that judgment up to you, lord Inquisitor."
A man stepped in, wearing a black robe and several ornate medals among which was his Rosette. "What he is..." He began, "is the key I needed."
"That man," He pointed to the giant. "He can talk to them. He can pacify the Tyranids! How does that even happen in this universe?"
"Wait..." the Captain noticed something suspicious. "Who are you?"
"Inquisitor Carrol Accipitus, Ordo Xenos. Your Lord Inquisitor had sent me to retrieve you."
The Captain rose and pointed his Plasma Pistol at the man. "Lord Inquisitor Demator may be an Almathian, but there is no way he is a Xenos Heretic."
"Because he isn't." The Inquisitor raised his hand, revealing a rosarius on his person. "Now, may I continue?"
The giant stepped in. "What is your plan then?"
Accipitus continued, "You must tell me how you managed to pacify those Tyranids. How did you make yourself invisible to the Hive Mind?"
"Invisible, I am not." He sat cross-legged on the floor. "But what I am is a friendly hand to those that need it, no matter their species or creed."
"Altruism? You're telling me that your power is altruism? That's absurd! Insane!"
"More than that." Everyone seemed to hinge upon the giant's words. "I am the link of nature between all forms of nature. Where your ilk seek to kill everything for obstructing a fabricated manifest destiny, I seek to build a bond between what exists."
"We believe he is a psyker," Tassalar gritted his teeth. "Not that this would make sense with the Shadow in the Warp cast over this world."
"A telepath?" Accipitus surmised.
"More. I am a kinsmen"
"Kinsman?" Valk cocked an eyebrow. "The feth does that mean?"
The giant told the radical Inquisitor, "Go to the world Ka'Savva. There is someone there that will explain this."
"Ka'Savva?" Inquisitor Accipitus balked, "But that's Tau territory! There is not a chance that I-"
"They will listen to me."
The shuttle eventually it made it's destination on the Inquisitor's personal cruiser. Once there, the ship began a Warp Jump to the planet mentioned.
As the ship was about to enter the system Ka'Savva was in, they heard a transmission.
"ATTENTION GUE'LA VESSEL. YOU ARE INTRUDING UPON THE TAU EMPIRE'S TERRITORY. TURN BACK NOW OR FACE RETRIBUTION."
The Inquisitor was about to make some response when the Giant stepped in. "I wish to speak with Shas'El Kel'Mio. I wish to make a point to these Imperials."
The line was quiet for a while when another voice came on. "The Thunder-Bearer? You live still?"
"It is good to see you too."
"Very well," the line went. "I will be on the shuttle to meet you. You may bring only two guests with you." It ended.
"Well, I can't believe it," Accipitus paled. "He has Tau friends."
Captain Tassalar, still trying to piece together what had happened, stepped forward. "I will not let you leave so easily."
The giant turned to face him, the Captain suddenly realizing the shadow cast over him. "I am not afraid of others because they are not human. That would be you."
The three went to the landing bay when the Tau shuttle landed. Emerging from there was a retinue of Fire Warriors and a much older Tau, wearing what looked to be some Imperial armour mixed among native Tau armour. The giant met the Tau and the two grasped hands.
"I am glad to see you still alive, Chief."
"I share the sentiment, Wind-Stalker."
The Captain and the Inquisitor were both alarmed by the familiarity, which neither of them had seen before in their lives.
"So how does this..." The Captain tried to motion, "relate to being able to control Tyranids?"
"That is a tale," The Tau answered, "that I still have a hard time believing."
The Inquisitor was still rather incredulous at such a sight. "So what, is he responsible for bringing the Kroot to your side?"
"I have met with Kroot," The giant mentioned, "But I am not responsible for their alliance."
The truth was, as the Alien Hunters began to learn, was that the giant was actually a vital part of how the Tau were able to expand post-Damocles Crusade, a note that made Captain Tassalar rather relieved that he kept Taikei, a veteran from the Damocles Gulf, out of sight. The Tau leader was leading a force of warriors on a planet when they found a very unruly species. However, as they were about to wage war, the giant had arrived and, in a shocking move, forge a treaty between the two races as the intermediary. The Ethereal Caste had caught wind of this and, hoping that this would eventually lead to a Tau-Imperial Alliance of some sort, began singling out open-minded Tau of every Caste into small sectors like Ka'Savva, where they would learn the diplomatic techniques their giant friend employed. While they had been able to only discover only part of his skills, there was more to his power that the Tau could not figure out thanks to their naturally weak link to the Warp. With only a tenuous hypothesis that his powers were possibly psychic, the giant decided to figure this out by the most dangerous means possible: Entering a Tyranid warzone. Him returning meant that somehow the power he held was not entirely psychic. Accipitus had to take a seat just to comprehend this, while the Captain, knowing no fear, could only stand rigid, but equally dumbstruck.
"So," the Tau asked, "How does that theory hold?"
"According to the black armored ones, there seems to be a possibility that it is indeed true."
"But..Psykers..." the Inquisitor tried to reason, "Shadow in the Warp...!"
"What is that, exactly...?" The two foreigners asked.
Before the Inquisitor could blow a fuse over the matter, the Captain stepped in, "The Tyranid Hive has this...trait that makes them not only resistant to any psychic abilities applied to it, but also grants this ability to snuff out the warp energies where they sense it. By what you are mentioning, that seems not to be the case...entirely."
The giant thought this over. "Perhaps. The results I garnered were not entirely what I expected would happen. I learned little else about them besides their hunger, and I do remember a sort of a headache upon meeting their king. Whenever he or the large-skulled ones left, it usually went away." He then added in, "Usually, I have been able to at least be seen as a kinsman to them, but if that is the case, then that would explain why they did so little with me."
The Inquisitor then asked a very obvious question, "And...all this time, you've never bothered to ask an Eldar?"
"Eldar are..." Shas'El Kel'Mio tried to answer, "very difficult to work with. We have tried before to communicate with a Craftworld long ago, but it failed. According to the Thunder-Bearer's story, that does not seem to be a rare occurrence."
"The last Eldar I had met to follow this lead were ones hailing from a 'Dark City'." The giant raised a rather large sword, but both of the Imperials noticed: It was a Klaive, trademark weapon of the Incubui of Commorragh. "They too sought only to kill, and for that they paid a grave price."
"So...what now?" the Captain had no clue. "We know you can pacify all sorts of xenos with some psychic power. So what do we do with that?"
Before the Shas'El could answer, though, the ship rocked. "CAPTAIN!" Taikei shouted over the vox. "We are being ambushed by Eldar Corsairs! Five, no six vessels! We need air support!"
"Scramble-" The Tau marched back to their ship and began takeoff. In the meantime, the Imperials and the giant ran back to the main bridge to asses their options. Another rocking, and the Inquisitor was nearly flung to the wall before the giant grabbed his hand and threw him in.
"Scramble what support we have. The Tau are willing to truce with us for the time being." The Captain finished. "Keep an eye on them, but do not fire unless provoked."
"Understood," The Techmarine's contempt was barely disguised.
The battle was under way after the Tau returned with proper gunships. Their firepower proved to be a handy boon to the lone cruiser and what few fighters were docked, but the Eldar crafts were too agile to get a tack.
The battle turned for the worse when the Corsairs disabled the Tau craft. Without any reliable form of defense, it left the Imperials perfectly vulnerable to assault by the Corsairs.
When they began the boarding actions, the giant stepped forward to meet the Eldar. After a few tense moments of waiting, the Eldar finally broke through and were halted by the behemoth.
Their leader choked out, "W-what sort of..."
"I am going to ask that you leave." He demanded. "Now"
"Who are you to-" The giant grabbed his face. "What the..."
The two were still, and their forces kept all arms level.
"Now you will listen to me. Leave. We will not bother you."
"I..." The Corsair was helpless. "I am going to die..."
"No." He slowly removed his hand. "I only wish to depart with my allies in peace."
"But...why with Mon'keigh?"
"Because..." He looked to the Deathwatch Kill-Team. They were armed, but the Captain and Sanguinary Priest caught on soon enough to lower their weapons. "Like it or not, they are my kinsmen as well."
The Corsairs wordlessly departed to their ship, much to the awe of everyone present.
As they began repairs on the cruiser, they found a transmission for the giant: "I have heard of you before, Son of Thunder, but I did not believe that you were here of all places. Know that we of the Calbiath clan give you our respect. Perhaps you might be what our kind needed long ago."
Inquisitor Accipitus asked as he collapsed on his seat, "What do we even call you? What you have done here today... It just might be the breakthrough we need in our struggles against so many of our enemies. So many of them that could possibly be reasoned with because of your power!"
The giant looked out into the expanse.
"Taimak. And if you wish for my help, then I wish to meet with him."
Nielen asked, "To...to Terra?"
When Taimak first set out on his course to Terra, he was only accompanied by the forces of a Tau expeditionary fleet led by a Fireblade and the cruiser of a radical Inquisitor, who had members of the Deathwatch with him.
When he arrived in Terra, his number grew much larger. Alongside him now were Tau of three different Septs, Eldar Corsairs who knew the Son of Thunder by reputation, and Adeptus Astartes from close to a hundred chapters, some comprised of only one or two, but others, like the Mentor Legion, deployed more forces, as they heard the call of their Primarch. These numerous fleets were instrumental in breaking past the Inquisitorial blockade around Terra, allowing the beleaguered Iron Warriors and Sons of Horus fleets to break through and deploy on the surface of Terra itself. Though Taimak himself did not accompany the Warmaster in stopping the mad Inquisitor, the Son of Thunder did eventually make his presence known and, in a shocking surprise, was actually welcomed in open arms by Horus, who saw his arrival as a sign that the Imperium could actually rebuild from the scraps they made it into.
However, Taimak could not spend much time among his brothers. Besides returning the fleets, there was also a strange report by his Tau allies, reporting that the home sept, T'au, had gone insane and then vanished from all recognition. No signals were received, and no communications could ever make it there. Concerned, the Son of Thunder decided to accompany his Tau comrades to the Tau Empire in order to discover where the fate of their birthplace.
As they arrived to the general area in Ultima Segmentum where T'au was, when they found a warp storm erupting over the world. And they were not alone. As they approached Vior'la, they recieved panicked cries of lost heroes, as they proclaimed that the countless heroes of the empire, from Aun'Va to O'Shovah, were lost.
The panic shook Shas'El Ka'Savva Kel'Mio, the Fireblade who began the journey with the Primarch.
"There...there has to be something hopeful...right?" His normally steadfast voice faltered during one meeting with the other Tau commanders.
Sitting alongside him bedecked in multiple cybernetics was Shas'El Bork'an Tai'Saal'Nas. "I am...equally disheartened by the loss of our home, but we must hold strong if we wish to survive," he recited coldly, the cybernetics making his voice tinny.
"The machine is right," supported Shas'O Fi'rios Senn, a grizzled warlord. "Brooding over the loss of our home will only breed weakness. we need to recover, and quickly! Build a new center, re-establish our control!"
Debating that claim was Shas'O Elsy'eir Vo'Shem. "We cannot so simply replace it. The heart of the Tau Empire is lost, and you seek to replace it so simply?"
O'Senn slams the table. "We can't waste our time on that right now! We are on the verge of tearing ourselves apart, and you're concerned about religion?"
O'Vo'Shem kept his tone. "Aun'Va is the heart of our empire, of our beliefs. Without him, what are we?"
"We are still Tau," O'Senn answered. "And we must rebuild!"
As the commanders debated, Taimak, the Eleventh Primarch, stood outside, stalking the halls of the ship that became his after Inquisitor Accipitus was forced to remain in Terra. He knew that the fate of the Tau was not in his hands, but to see his good friend Wind-Stalker in such a state made him worried. It was biting to him.
"Is something wrong, my lord?" Taimak noticed someone ask him. He turned around and noticed a marine aside him. Green with white shoulders and limbs. Mentors, he reminded himself.
"Merely concerned about my friend and his dilemma."
The Mentor asked, "The Tau, sir? What is it that is so concerning?"
"Were we a few minutes late," he answered, "this may have happened to Terra as well. We might have had to share the same pain they do now."
The Astartes felt uncomfortable by the idea of losing Terra. "Then..." he gathered his thoughts. "Do you think they will be able to recover from this?"
Taimak could not make an answer. "We can only wait and see."
Thankfully, the Vior'la Sept allowed the forces to make land on-world, allowing the Tau to regroup with their own kind. Also invited along with them was the Primarch, as the Tau had the feeling that with T'au gone and with it, the center of all of their government, that they might have to submit to the Imperium if it meant their survival.
To the Ethereal's surprise, Taimak was actually actively opposing the idea, as he was still under the suspicion of the Imperium's brutal nature. Supporting him was O'Senn and the local Water Caste leader, whose forces were hearing news of a new war with the Imperium. Opposing them was El'Vo'Shem, whose idealism became a beacon to the group.
However, before they could focus upon that, a Water Caste telecom officer came in, interrupting the debate, and for good reason: They had just received communications from a force thought lost: the Farsight Enclaves. An Air Caste officer who collected the signal confirmed that the Enclaves were also swallowed by the storm not unlike the one on T'au, but had just re-appeared in space.
The message read thusly:
To all that can receive this message, know that I, Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kais Mont'yr, have lived fighting these demons. I have fought them for over 900 Tau'cyr since the storms came, and years before even then. That alone proves that something is wrong with me.
Ever since I learned the truth of these things, they have hounded our kind. Be it me, or be it the expeditions, they always seek blood and souls. I will not let that stand, and I will fight to the last to ensure that we remain a pure race.
That has been my guiding thought since...since a long time ago. Since I learned that the Ethereals have hidden the truth about them from us. Since I learned that the world is not so cleanly explained as they want it to be.
If anyone can hear me...please. Send help. Before we are lost again.
"O'Shovah, you say?" El'Tai'Sal'Naas confirmed the validity of the call. "If it truly were from him, then there should be at least some likelihood that he has somehow defiled himself in order to live that long."
"He's clearly off his rocker, that's for sure!" O'Senn argued. "There's no way, even with our science, that any Tau could live for 900 tau'cyr!"
"More than that," the Water Caste leader added, "the storm that obscured the Enclaves was only for ten tau'cyr. Hardly even the 900 he claims."
Taimak chose now to intervene, "These storms, they do not bide the normal laws of time. These storms are by the Warp."
"The Warp?" O'Senn mocked the notion. "Don't get me started on that stupid theory! What proof do we even-"
"These storms match the same patterns as the one surrounding your home. There cannot be mere similarity guiding them."
"What then?" The Ethereal spoke, as his hands gripped his staff tightly. "What do we do with them?"
The Son of Thunder took a stand. "I shall negotiate with them. Whoever wishes to join me may, but I will not risk your lives."
El'Kel'Mio stood. "You know I am with you, old friend." So did El'Vo'Shem, as well as the Water Caste representative, who was too curious about the state of the Enclaves to let them be undiscovered as it is.
The Ethereal sanctioned this expedition, and let the small group of Fire Caste Leaders, under the command of their own, Shas'O Vior'la J'serr Leif'ros, and with Water Caste Representative Por'O Vior'la Ka'Mahral.
They took the local ships as they Ethereal feared that the Imperium's vessel may frighten the Enclaves into attacking.
As they approached, they heard a link from what they could assume to be the Farsight Enclaves: "Hello? What is your purpose here? Are you...are you with them?"
"Them?" El'Kel'Mio asked. "I am Shas'El Ka'Savva Kel'Mio, here with representatives of the Vior'la Sept. We have received your signals, and we wish to understand what has happened."
"Who do you hail?"
"We hail the Greater Good."
A pause of silence as they waited for the Enclaves' response. It responded: "Proceed to Landing Station Terit. We have much to converse about."
The first thought that entered the visitors' heads as they entered the capital world of the Farsight Enclaves was awe at the state of advancement, yet simplicity that their technology became. Even the landing stations, which were usually more decorated with hundreds of drones and generators, was largely sparse, led by one crewman who looked (at least somewhat) to be of the Air Caste.
Greeting them on the platform was a stout Tau who had a heavily decorated suit of armor, even more bedecked in medals than O'Senn's armor.
"You must be the ambassadors from the Empire!" The Tau was almost unable to mask his excitement. "I...I have to be honest, I have so many questions to ask you about the birthplace of our species! So much that I wish to know!"
"And I am sure you will," O'J'Serr calmly noted. "But...I am curious, how have you survived like this?"
"Ah!" The leader hopped to as he led the guests, "Well, you heard the transmissions, yes? It is because of noble Farsight that we have been able to survive as we have!"
"For 900 tau'cyr?"
"From our last reckoning, yes," he answered. "Well, sort of. When we last had contact it was so, but we then found out that not even eleven tau'cyr passed for the rest of the empire. Curious, that..."
"How do we know that you are all sane?" O'Senn asked.
"Because this is indeed the same pattern as the storms," Taimak answered. "They survived the Warp."
"And what, exactly, can convince you of that?" O'Senn asked.
O'Ka'Mahral had a response, "There's one story I know of, but..."
"I'm no child. Don't hide it from me."
The Diplomat resigned himself. "It's about the death of O'Shassera."
The Fire Warriors all knew the name and hung their heads in respect. They knew the tale involved, about the mother, husband, and son lost that day.
"Ah! Y-you know about the great O'Shassera?" The leader was surprised.
"Once," Taimak mentioned. "But that was ages since, and possibly a different face connected to her."
"Were the records on that conflict the ones mentioning deranged spiked menaces?" El'Tai'Sal'Naas mentioned the records. "Curiously, we never got records from that battle."
"There is a reason for that," The leader answered. "Those madmen were once kinsmen from T'au."
"BLASPHEMY!!!" O'Senn spat. "How dare you mention the-" Taimak grabbed him and held him back.
"I am sorry about our friend here," El'Kel'Mio apologized. "He merely feels for the loss of our home more than the rest of us." More shouting.
He sighed. "I understand. Allow me to at least lead you to my source."
"And that would be...?"
"Oh, where are my manners?" He panicked. "My name is Shas'Vre Sho'Varr Ka'Sy'El."
"And your source?" El'Kel'Mio asked.
"There was only one commander who survived the encounter: O'Shovah himself."
"That's preposterous!" O'J'Serr gawked. "That would mean that he's-"
"Over a thousand five hundred tau'cyr old?" The team was in shock as the Enclave leader so nonchalantly mentioned that Commander Farsight himself has become a relic of the older ages of Tau. Even with the current technology the Tau had, it was considered a miracle if a Tau was able to last beyond even a century, let alone fifteen of them.
As they entered the grand chambers of the famed commander himself, they were met by an Ethereal, wielding a simple stick with a serrated blade on one end.
"Wait..." O'J'Serr paused, "Aun'Shi's still alive?" The Tau of the Empire halted everything at the mention of such a legend.
"My apologies," the Ethereal had a soft-spoken manner, "But I think the Aun'Shi you speak of was my father. He must have been a hero to your kin as well, yes?"
"Ah, indeed," O'J'Serr answered. "We are honored to be allowed the right to visit this domain."
The new Aun'Shi laughed. "These hostilities that existed between the Tau Empire and the Enclaves, they are merely realizations of the difference in doctrine. I believe that above all else, that the Tau should be united as a race before a creed." He then stepped to the door. "Now come, my friends. You have come to visit good O'Shovah, yes?" Vre'Ka'Sy'El nodded and they entered the door to find a massive chamber, flocked on all sides by medical drones. In the middle of it was a floating seat, marked with the symbol of the Enclaves. The younger Tau stood in awe, for they were in the presence of the oldest Tau alive: Commander Farsight himself.
"Are these the ones...?" His voice wavered, held only by an amplifier built into his seat.
"Yes. These visitors hail from the Tau Empire. They even come from your home Sept as well."
O'Shovah chuckled. "What luck. And you, gue'la? Why do you come?"
"Because I am a kinsman to all who seek to make a change," Taimak answered. "If you truly wish to recover the glory of the Tau, then we must act to regain their control."
"How...hopeful. Like that boy..." The ancient commander remembered. "Tell me, how is T'au?"
O'Ka'Mahral took a deep breath. "That is the reason we come to you. T'au has been lost to terrible things. We need a leader more than ever."
The ancient commented, "Find someone else."
"But what about-"
"I am too old to be doing this. By all rights, I should be retired."
O'Shovah closed his eyes. When he opened them, he remembered a slightly nostalgic feeling. "That boy...it is in his blood to lead armies."
"Do you really think he's ready?" Aun'Shi asked. O'Shovah smiled at his comrade. "I have nothing but faith in him. If it is those two, then I know that their son will definitely be the one to lead them to greatness."
"We still do not know who 'he' is, sir," El'Kel'Mio interrupted.
Vre'Ka'Sy'El saluted the high commander. "Yes sir! Where is he right now?"
"I remember that he was supposed to return today..." he told the guide. "He might not stay for the ceremony, but he will at least come to see his men get rewarded."
As the team left, Farsight held Taimak and El'Kel'Mio from leaving.
"Is there something else you need from us?"
"A warning." O'Shovah told them, "The forces that crashed Shaserra's transport that day, they hailed from T'au. Do not trust any more who come from there. Their vision has been broken."
"We shall," the Fireblade responded. This validated his fear moreso, but the return of Farsight hardened his heart more than any Ethereal's word could ever hope to. "For the honor of O'Shassera."
"And you..." he pointed to Taimak. "Your return is not for no reason, is it? What has become of the Imperium?"
Taimak said, "We seek to rebuild our realm. For too long, they have festered upon their own wounds, and for that the people have suffered. My...brothers, they will set things straight, or I will be forced to set them straight."
The commander let them leave. He knew that these Tau and this human, they might bring about a united Tau again, now delivered from lies.
At the main plaza of Sha'Kais, they found a parade already in progress, with fireworks and banners hailing the heroes of a great campaign. However, as the parading vehicles proceeded down the street, the team could notice that the largest of them had a large, ornate seat. However, nobody sat in it. Curious, El'Tai'Sal'Naas asked one of them about the seat. She told him that the seat was reserved for the high commander of the Farsight Enclaves, but the commander would never go, claiming that his place was always on the field.
Meanwhile, Taimak began observing the street and its people.
He focused his hearing to notice one voice, high above the others in a building: "These people, they only hail war. Not the costs that it took."
His curiosity was piqued. He turned to his group and excused himself while he took a walk to the top of the building, walking through a great many flights of stairs.
As he approached the top, he noticed a single Tau, wearing a scarred and burnt suit of armor. "Why are you not there with the others?"
Taimak returned the question back, "I must ask the same of you."
"I do not share the sentiments of these people. The war they idolize, it has terrible costs."
"Are you ashamed of it?"
The Tau turned to face the visitor. "Curious stranger. Why have you chosen to visit me?"
"We seek aid for the people of the Tau Empire."
He scoffed. "An empire of blind decadent dolts?"
"They are changing," Taimak assured him. "They need someone to guide them."
"Do you know who I am? What it is I witnessed every day?"
Taimak extended his hand. "No, but I do wish to understand."
The Tau hesitantly took his hand. "Who are you?"
"I am the Son of Thunder. And I am here to help." As he grabbed on, the Primarch was able to witness his history and his life. He could witness the pain, the sorrow, the losses he had to make in order to survive. He learned every name of every person he had ever met, and saw another vague image. A face that looked...familiar enough.
"I am Commander Blacksun to your language." He greeted his guest. "What would you be, then? You look unlike any human I recognize..."
"I am the kinsman to all who seek unity."
The commander smirked. "What a curious goal. So...innocent. So...idealistic."
"It is the one thing that will guide us further," the Primarch responded. "Without hope. then we can only remain where we have been. The universe is changing, and in that change, lies hope."
As they were talking, El'Kel'Mio walked in to find the two. "Ah, Thunder-Bearer. I was wondering where you went."
Blacksun noticed the Fireblade."Ah, so I assume that you are the touted visitors from the original Tau Septs?"
Taimak commented, "We were told you would come here."
"Oh?" the Commander smirked. "I suppose he told you, then?" They agreed. "That old hound. He raised me like a father, but...I know that he's doing this for some other reason. Whenever I talk to him, there's some feeling of...sorrow. Guilt. He knows of that price of war, and every time I return, I am reminded of that too."
El'Kel'Mio was rather unsettled by Blacksun's grimness. "But...how are you not used to this as a leader?"
"I am used to it," he answered. "What I am not used to is his face. Always, it stays the same. Like he's ashamed of something..."
The two of them looked at each other before nodding. "I am sure you will soon learn. Your legacy is far greater than you make it out to be."
After the parade, the group convened at a lounge, conversing about the history of Farsight's technology.
It was at this point that El'Kel'Mio asked one bombshell of a question, "What can you tell us of O'Kalera?"
"O'Kalera? You found him?" Vre'Ka'Sy'El was surprised. "How curious. However, what I know might be...inconclusive. What I do know is that O'Shovah first brought him home from a great battle, never leaving the child's side. He was trained extensively in the ways of war, only knowing excellence like his mentor." In a way, Blacksun's story mirrored Farsight's, but the problem was that where Farsight was only supported by his endless ambition, Blacksun was taught only to excel, but without much explanation.
As the story continued, regaling the great war the Enclaves waged to survive, Taimak was continually plagued by the memory of a Tau shouting. The face, one of a weathered commander, stuck out to him, but he could not remember where. He remembered that face in a much prouder state, but paradoxically, nowhere near as proud as before.
When the team returned to their ship, Taimak took El'Tai'Sal'Naas to search the archives of the Farsight Enclaves.
It was here that they confirmed the truth about Shadowsun's assailants: Tau corrupted by the ruinous powers. It was also here that he found another curious account, contributed by High Commander Sha'Vastos.
The recording depicted the Commander when he met a certain Tau in the middle of a wrecked Orca, arguing with Farsight. At the end of it, the Commander was given something, and then ordered him away. Again, he remembered that face.
Another recording came from another commander, this time a Commender Torchstar. That recording followed the exploits of another Tau with an XV-22 battlesuit. He recognized the wearer from some previous encounters as Shas'O T'au Kais. Taimak then remembered that, at some point before vanishing, he was considering getting married. That his mate was also someone else very significant in the Empire.
"Say, Ironheart," Taimak asked. "Do you know anything of Shas'O T'au Kais?"
"The last one to bear this title," the metallic Tau informed him, "was a student of Commander Puretide. He participated in the campaign on Kronus, only to withdraw following the death of Aun'El T'au Shiores. Curiously, this also mentions that he was married to O'Shassera. That sounds..."
"O'Kais and O'Shassera... Why does this sound so familiar...?" Taimak began thinking about the pairing, remembering another time he remembered about them. "They first met on the fields of Kerbath, where they led the defensive assault against the Orks."
"It sounds likely," the Son of Thunder surmised. "By the way , was there any records about any...children?"
"Scanning..." the cybernetic Tau scanned the databanks. It took even longer than he thought, though, and even then, it felt completely empty. The histories of O'Kais and O'Shassera cut off at some point before the Enclaves themselves were devoured by the Warp.
This information, or lack thereof, sent a very big warning flag to the Son of Thunder, who had generally every reason to trust the Enclaves right now. However, whatever it was that was concealed about Blacksun's origins, there had to be some significance behind them.
That did not prove to be difficult, though, as Farsight himself summoned the Primarch to his chambers the next day.
"Word has it that you've become rather...curious about the High Commander's past..." O'Shovah began.
"What would motivate you to do this?"
Taimak thought for a moment, trying to discern a proper way to describe his gift, which allowed him the ability to communicate with every species like he meets. "You see, I have a...gift. It allows me to find the spirits of the person I talk to and it allows me to read their feelings, their desires, and their thoughts. When I met the commander, there was an image, of someone shouting. Their legs looked mangled by an accident. And...both this person, and the person carrying him looked guilty about what was happening."
Everything fell silent. While Taimak was waiting for a response, he noticed that O'Shovah's eyes were wet. He was crying.
"I do feel guilty. I have taken him from his family, but in those circumstances, what other choice did I have?"
"He is not my son, yes. His real father...was O'Kais." The Primarch raised his eye. This definitely was something he noticed. "Not a day passes when I remember her face when she entrusted their son to me. Their heir. That is why I always trained him to perfection: Because no matter what I say, Those two were the finest commanders of the Tau Empire, be it this age or any age."
"Why do you feel guilty about this? You yourself said that you had no choice."
"I did not. But it still does not justify the act of stealing their son."
"But if you are not his father, then where is he...?"
Farsight could not answer that. Whether it was from the guilt or because he blamed O'Kais for never coming, there was not a single answer he could make.
"This secret should not be hidden from him," Taimak declared. "It is tearing him apart as much as it is tearing you apart."
A bitter laugh from the ancient. "Is this your secret then?"
Taimak smiled. "My gift was never war. It was unity."
That same day, O'Kalera, Taimak, and El'Kel'Mio were brought again before the aged commander, alongside Aun'Shi.
"Kalera..." O'Shovah announced, "There are things that I have been hiding from you. I wish to hide them...no longer." The high commander stiffened at the mention. "Worry not, this is a personal matter. See...I am not your father."
O'Kalera looked with curiosity.
"See...your mother and your father, they were both great commanders of the Tau Empire, and I...I have taken you from there."
"Then who are my parents?" Blacksun asked.
"Do you remember your lessons about O'Shassera?" The younger commander nodded. "She was your mother. I rescued you from a ruined Orca. I would have saved her as well, but...we had no time." A deep breath. "Have you...any forgiveness...for this bitter old fool?"
"I have always known that you could not have possibly been my true father," O'Kalera responded. "When I see myself, not once could I ever recognize something that was yours. Nothing but lessons. I cannot hate you, for to do so would be to spite all you have done for me in their place."
The old Tau laughed. "You have truly grown magnificent." He then turned to Aun'Shi. "Shi, take the boy, join our guests in returning to their society. His people lie there, and I have kept him from them for too long."
"Are you sure about that?" The Ethereal
"I am." To the Son of Thunder, he said, "You, Thunder-Bearer. If your Imperium has truly changed in my absence, then I wish to know more about it. Tell your Emperor that I will consider allying with him."
Taimak smiled. "We will meet again."
The Tau returned to Vior'la to a relatively hushed applause, for they were more anxious about the news of the Enclaves then the return of the diplomats.
What truly set them off, however, was the news that the son of Commander Shadowsun, the greatest Tau Commander since Puretide himself, was actually alive, and he was here to lead them. This led to riotous applause, heralding that the Tau Empire truly had a leader now. Aun'Shi also was hailed as a leader, perhaps the only person who could possibly unite the Septs under the legacy of his father.
As for the technology the Enclaves brought, the Earth Caste threw everything into the understanding of it, realizing some of the incredible advances developed by this fringe society, such as the nanomachines that allowed O'Shovah to live for as long as he had, and the Pulse Blade, a sword-like weapon that also had use as a rifle. These and several others allowed for the Tau to begin recovering the losses they had taken.
As society was acclimating to this recovery of such valuables, Taimak and Blacksun were watching the crowd.
"Do you feel that you belong here?" The Chief asked.
"It was never about belonging," O'Kalera replied. "It was the feeling of guilt. I could never take that look in his eyes like I was responsible for something, but nobody ever told me." He smiled. "Having him tell me about my parents, it felt like a weight was taken off from me."
"And your relic?"
Standing beside the Commander was an advanced XV-22 Stealthsuit, modified extensively, bearing a helmet colored in the colors of the Enclaves. "I have a feeling that my mother shall stand by my side. Always."
"And your father?"
"I will learn the truth, one way or another."
>Deliverance, The RavenSpire
Corax stood behind his desk, gazing out the transparent bulkhead that served as a window. The Forge world of Kiavahr filled the space before him. Deliverance was on the night-side of the planet, and Corax could see the spiderwebbed traceries of the forges and habs spread out across the surface. He tried to match the layouts he saw with his memories of how the planet had looked in his time. His attention wandered for a moment, and his eyes focussed on the surface of the window... and the Space Marine reflected in it. Corax rotated on the balls of his feet, turning the face the silent astartes. The Marine's armour was pitted with bullet-holes and marks that seemed to have come from axes, but Corax could make out the insignia of a Captain. The Marine noticed Corax' eyes searching his plate, and spoke:
"The biggest Waaagh the Segmentum has ever seen is heading towards Deliverance. The entire chapter is engaged in operations to slow or divert it, but I had to come and see you myself."
Corax seethed at the thought that Orks could now threaten the worlds of his, or any, Legion, but his attention was drawn back to the present as the Captain removed his helmet. Pushing dark hair out of his eyes, the space marine saluted, and spoke again,
"Kayvaan Shrike. When Orks have nightmares, mine is the face they see."
Corax strode down the narrow corridors of the Ravenspire, his long stride threatening to overtake Shrike. As they walked, Shrike was prising off pieces of his armour, which he would hand to various serfs that they met on their way.
"Where are we going?"
Corax' voice was soft, the marine seemed highly strung, as though he would lash out at the slightest provocation. "Refectory; I'm starving. Not eaten anything more nutritious than rations for months."
The marine halted suddenly, nearly causing Corax to walk into him. In front of them was a serf, holding a cloth-wrapped bundle in his hand and nervously fiddling with the hem of his robe.
"Vincente, wasn't it?"
The serf nodded jerkily, and held the bundle out to Shrike.
"Yes milord. My wife made these for you after our daughter recovered."
Shrike took the bundle and delicately unwrapped it. There were three small bread rolls in the center of the cloth. The scent of fresh bread tripped a switch in Corax' brain and his mouth watered, reminding him that he himself had not eaten for days.
"Give your wife my thanks," said Shrike "this is just what I needed."
Beaming, the serf nodded and strode away. Shrike waited until he was out of sight, and then stuffed one of the rolls, whole, into his mouth.
The marine's eyelids fluttered with delight as he chewed and the two resumed walking.
Corax waited until the marine had swallowed before raising a questioning brow.
"His daughter had just given birth when I arrived here." The marine explained, struggling with one of his gauntlets, which appeared to have seized up, "They couldn't stop the bleeding, and the surgeon was on the other side of the spire. I lent a hand." Shrike held up his freed hand, dried blood was caked under his fingernails.
"Some basic sutures were all it needed, I've sewn my own face up so many times, I could do it in freefall."
Corax' mind withdrew as he pondered this. It was refreshing to see that not everything had changed since his time. His Raven Guard were still the same. Shrike tapped him on the arm, bringing Corax' full attention back to him.
The marine held out the, to Corax, tiny bundle of bread, as he attempted to reach the seal for his gorget. Taking the bundle, Corax watched as the Captain detached first the power plant of his armour, and then unfastened the seals of his chestplate. Corax wrinkled his nose with distaste at the wash of foul-smelling air that rushed out of the marine's opened armour. As the marine stretched, groaning as the vertebrae on his back clunked, Corax found his voice: "Why are you here?"
The marine squinted at him for a second and then spoke
"Why am I here? I am here because, just as Abbadon's headbutted his way through the Cadian gate, Octarius has turned into Fabius Bile's wet dream and the Orks are battering down our doors, our prayers seemed to have been answered, with interest, and the Primarchs have returned out of legend. I am here to see if you are actually here, and the whole situation isn't because an Ork's finally got lucky and planted his axe in my head and you're not my oxygen-starved brain misfiring."
Corax was amused
"Do I pass muster, then?"
Shrike seemed to deflate, as though his rant had taken all the air out of him.
"Yeah. You seem real enough."
Corax attempted to change the subject:
"Will we be returning to the front?"
"I will be, you are staying here. We need to seek help from the other Chapters, and you're our best asset on that front"
"Who are you to order me?" He glanced at the marine's rank insignia
"3rd Company Captain? Where is the Chapter Master, or the 1st captain?"
Shrike glowered up at Corax
"No-one's seen flesh nor feather of the Chapter Master since before I was born, and the 1st captain got stepped on by a gargant, he's dead."
Before Corax could reply, Shrike went on,
"2nd Captain, Solari, has been MIA for nearly 2 months, so the Orks are probably drinking out of his skull by now."
Corax stared, this was bad "I am now the highest ranking member of the Raven Guard left, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do."
Shrike fell silent, Corax drew himself up to his full height and spoke with an authority that came easily:
"It sounds as though we have our work cut for us then."
Shrike looked up warily as Corax continued "Meet me in the armour bay in 30 minutes, I need to see if any of my equipment is still around."
As he left the refectory with a bellyful of grox and water that didn't taste of cordite, Shrike mentally tried to inventory whatever scraps of the primarch's equipment remained to the Raven Guard. His conclusion was depressing: the majority of Corax' armour had been on the captain of the 1st company, and, judging by what Shrike had seen the Apothecaries scrape out of the crater, wouldn't armour a rat. The best (in Shrike's opinion) pieces were the talons and flight pack, which were his.
"At least" Shrike thought, quickening his stride: "it had been, when I gave it to the serfs to take to the armour bay."
He entered the armour bay nearly at a run, images of the primarch clutching mangled serfs flashing through his mind. The truth was somewhat more low-key, Corax was adding the finishing touches to a heavy bolter, which appeared to have had a stock and grip fitted. Shrike arched a brow at the sight of the massive weapon as Corax looked up at the captain.
Corax gave a thin glare, before rising from the crouch he had been in, and speaking:
"The servitors tell me much of my equipment has been spread about the command."
"That is correct, what's your poi-"
"Except for my talons and flight pack, which are in the possession of one Kayvaan Shrike." Interrupted Corax, glancing pointedly at Shrike's repaired and repainted armour, which hung on a wall rack, flight pack and talons nearby.
"Wha-What do you need those for, you've got that Big Fucking Gun!" Complained Shrike, struggling to keep the whine out of his voice. He rallied and continued: "Besides, it's all been resized to fit me now, by the time you get it fitted, the Orks'd be breaking down the door."
"Very well," replied Corax, haughtily, "is there anything that would fit me?" Shrike cast his eyes about the room, finally settling on an empty dreadnought shell. He pointed:
"That might, if you put a head-hole in it."
If looks could kill, the Captain would be a smear.
"I should have you shot."
"Good luck getting anyone to do that", remarked Shrike, checking his plasma pistol was secured properly.
"Half the men on this ship have never heard of you, they all know who I am."
Satisfied with his equipment: Shrike stood up and raised his voice;
"Right, you all know the plan, but incase any of you blockheads weren't listening, one more time:" He nodded at the techmarine standing by the projector in the center of the cramped drop-pod bay, who switched in on:
"The High-Value Target , an Ork warlord, who calls himself "Bird-Breaka", is holed up in this factory. We're going in through the ceiling, hence the drop-pods. We kill the warlord, we kill his guards, we kill his pet squigs, I don't care preferably in a messy fashion as possible, then the battle-barge will teleport us back aboard. This is a terror mission here, if we can demoralise the Orks, and take out the local leadership in one go, the Orks on this planet will be vulnerable to a flank attack. Any questions?"
"Yes": Corax, of course.
"Why is the projector so blurry?"
Shrike looked at him, then at the elite veterans surrounding him, as though to say "Can you believe this?!"
Corax ducked his head under the upper lip of the drop-pod and squeezed himself into the interior. His primarch size meant that he had a dreadnought pod all to himself, while Shrike and his veterans crammed themselves into two regular sized pods. Hanging his custom heavy bolter on the pod's weapon rack, Corax set about working himself into the rig that would usually hold a dreadnought in place. As he tightened the straps around his shoulders, he rubbed at his neck with his free hand. The rough edges of the head-hole in what could loosely be called his armour were chafing his throat. Dismissing the discomfort, Corax jabbed the button that would tell the drop-pod cogitator he was secure. He shifted carefully, breathing deeply through his nose, tasting the cool iron-smelling air. He was ready.
"Optimal position for drop achieved." said Shrike, over the drop-pod intercom:
"Beginning Countdown. Five... Four... Three... Two... One."
Corax closed his eyes.
The three drop pods jinked wildly left and right, spraying chaff and decoys in every direction, weaving through long ribbons of Ork ground fire as they plummeted groundwards. Corax' back teeth ground together as he listened to the airframe creaking and groaning around him. He hated this feeling of powerlessness, he was used to being able to control his flight, this was too much like falling out of control for his liking. Suddenly a deafening roar drowned out the sounds of the Ork gunfire, and all the blood in Corax' body began a concerted effort to climb out of the top of his head. Just as Corax thought he could take no more, the roar cut out with a thunderous BANG that almost smashed Corax into the ceiling. The doors of the drop-pod flew open and Corax lurched out, barely remembering to snatch his heavy bolter from its rack as he staggered out into the open air. The drop pods had landed directly on target, smashing through the roof of the factory and taking the Orks completely by surprise. One of the Orks in question was standing not 20 feet away from Corax, squinting at him through the thick dust that filled the room. The Ork's eyes widened as Corax' gun snapped up and attempted to yell a warning, before the heavy bolter spoke, drowning out the Ork's scream. Corax lowered the weapon and looked about, he appeared to have landed inside a room that looked out onto a raised gantry, which overlooked the central factory space. That was where the warlord had set up his throne, amidst a maze of mangled machinery. Shrike's veterans were engaged in a frantic gunfight with the Ork's armoured bodyguards, but the awkward angles and large metal objects scattered about were providing the Orks with a good defencive position.
Just as Corax began scanning the gantries for a good vantage point, he was alerted to something landing behind him. Corax wheeled about, but untensed as he realised it was Shrike. However, Shrike looked... wrong somehow.
Kayvaan seemed to have grown taller, nearly as tall as Corax, the long wings of Corax' flight pack had draped themselves over him like a cloak, and the talons he wore had lost their lustre and seemed hooked, like a real bird's claws. The eyes were the worst part though, blazing red slits that glared out at Corax through the curtain of metal feathers. Corax heard the tramp of hobnailed boots on the gantry and turned to see three Orks charging towards him. The Orks slowed, jaws opening wide in horror. They weren't looking at Corax.
"ITS DA BEAKIE!"
"OH ZOG ME, RUN!"
Dropping their crude weapons, the Orks sprinted away from the monster standing behind Corax. Shrike surged past Corax, leaving a strange smell of rust and dried blood on the back of Corax' throat. He leapt into the air, at the peak of his jump, letting out an ear-rending distorted screech, which was answered by wails and sobs from the Orks, who were now pushing each other aside to get away. Shrike fell on them like the angel of death, ropes of thick Orkish blood flew through the air as his talons tore apart their green flesh. Corax noticed an Ork choose to pitch himself over the gantry railing, rather than face the living nightmare that Shrike had become. An Ork found Shrike's talon closing about his head, and didn't have time to scream before his head burst like a dropped watermelon, smearing Shrike's bone-white helmet with gore.
The Orks who were not in, being subjected to evisceration were now in a state of full retreat. Shrike's sternguard veterans, now given the opportunity to properly use their weapons, cut the fleeing Orks down with a hurricane of customised bolt shells. Corax saw one Ork collapse in on himself, and then vanish in a single point of warped light as a space marine found his mark. The survivors were fleeing into what had been the loading bay, ducking fire from the space marines as they stampeded into the darkened room.
Shrike, seeing that his prey was escaping, gave a barely human snarl and leapt over the railing, closely followed by Corax. Corax landed awkwardly, hampered by his heavy armour, while Shrike rushed along the ancient production line like a wraith out of legend. All the surviving Orks had vanished into the gloom of the loading bay, and Shrike glared into it. He glanced about and saw Corax. He pointed to an enormous rusted rubbish skip:
"S̴̹͊e̸̹͌t̷͕͑ ̵̙̑û̵ͅp̴͚̾ ̴̟̇o̶͈͘v̶̟̍ē̶̪r̵͉͆ ̸͇̋t̷͉͊h̴͈̀e̸͍̍ṛ̷͐ë̵̲,̷̛̮ ̷̝͒g̷̮̐i̷̺͒v̴͚͗ë̸̯́ ̴̦̑ḿ̵ͅę̴͘ ̶̳̋c̷̢̽o̸͖̍v̴̠̉e̸͉̐r̵̬̈ ̷̭̇f̶̦̏í̷̙r̸̮͐e̶͉̒"
The marine's words were barely understandable, his voice had turned into a screechy, barking sound that seemed to be coming from the bottom of a deep well. Corax nodded and took cover next to the skip, seeing the sternguard veterans taking similar positions. Shrike took a deep breath, his vision could penetrate the dark, he could see what was stepping towards him, shoving smaller Orks out of it's way. It's height was such that it needed to duck it's head to fit through the doorway to the loading bay, which were twice as high as Corax. The titanic Ork warlord's glowing red eyes fixed on Shrike, who seemed to be growing smaller as the creature approached. Bird-Breaka huffed once, and then let out a roar that rattled Corax' teeth: "WAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!"
Shrike's reply was immediate: he flung his arms out, and down to his sides, his talons reaching maximum extension. Arcs of lightning crackled between the blades as Shrike supercharged the talon's capacitor. The turbines of his jump-pack flared eagerly, as though waiting for orders. The warlord snarled:
"IMMA KEEL YOU, SPESS MAREEN!"
"Better men than you have tried, Ork." said Shrike:
"And things so far beyond men you can't even begin to imagine them."
The Warlord charged.
The Raven leapt.
The battle was on.
Shrike corkscrewed as he rose, crackling blades carving a chunk out of the Warlord's face, sending the titanic Ork reeling. Shrike caught hold of the Ork's head and held fast, slashing repeatedly at the monster's face with his free hand. The Ork bellowed and screamed, swinging it's massive arms in an attempt to knock the space marine off. The surviving Orks, emboldened by their leader, charged out of the loading room, diving between the warlord's legs, firing their crude weapons at Corax and the veterans. A hail of bolter fire met them, Corax in particular scything down a howling meganob who was trampled by his fellows as soon as he fell. Corax jerked his head back as a slugga round took a shower of sparks off the edge of the skip.
"Don't worry!" called one of the sternguard:
"Orks are the worst marksmen in the universe!" A bullet ricocheted off his helmet with a Clung sound.
"Although they do occasionally get lucky!": Corax called back.
He glanced back at the warlord, whose sheer size was making difficult to reach Shrike, who had climbed atop the giant Ork's head. Corax sent a burst of heavy bolter fire at the Ork's legs, sending the warlord to his knees. Shrike stabbed his talon as deep into the Ork's skull as he could go, and then discharged the power field. The Ork's eyeballs exploded as the fluid in them flash-vaporized. Arcs of lightning leapt through the Ork's brain, charring it from the inside out. The monster went limp, and fell on his face. Shrike stood as the remaining Orks turned to regard their fallen leader. Shrike's red eyes blazed out at the Orks as he seemed to grow impossibly tall. His wings spread out behind him, casting shadow over the Orks and leaving him in silhouette.
All that could be seen were his eyes.
The Orks screamed.
Corax looked about, the Marines had cleared a wide space where they could be teleported without risk of bringing anything with them. Shrike was talking on his radio, conversing with the orbiting battle-barge. From what Corax could make out, the astropaths aboard the ship were talking about some kind of rallying point, and Corax' spirits were lifted considerably by the mention of other Primarchs. Since his mysterious arrival at the Ravenspire, Corax had wondered if any of his brothers had been thrown forwards as he had. He was broken out of his reverie by Shrike poking him in the stomach.
"The Battle-barge is ready for us." Corax nodded and took his position with the other marines, each maintaining at least a metre of distance between each other.
"We're ready," said Shrike.
"Energize" (AN. Sorry, I couldn't resist) There was a flash, a feeling of sudden cold, a whirl of colour and Corax found himself standing in the teleport cradle, with frost tickling his eyelashes. Shrike was already out of his cradle and speaking intently with a tech-marine. Corax spoke:
"Are we going to the muster?" Shrike looked up:
"You are, yes, but not aboard the battle-barge, the situation here is too urgent for me to leave." He beckoned Corax to follow him and began walking swiftly out of the room, continuing as he went:
"The muster is happening around some minute speck of rock called Fervent, or so I'm told. The navigators tell me that the warp-tides are good, so you should make it there within two or three days, maybe more."
He rounded a corner and the two walked out into the hangar bay, where a thunderhawk sat idling.
"This will take you to the Strike cruiser." said Shrike, pausing at the base of the embarking ramp.
"I understand that I haven't been forthcoming with information, or gratitude."
Something of an understatement there, thought Corax, but nodded for Shrike to continue.
"And I can only say that I wish we had met in better times. If half of what the astropaths say is true, however, then better times may already be upon us."
Shrike smiled weakly.
"It was a pleasure."
"Likewise. It is good to see the Guard in capable hands, Captain."
They saluted, and Corax strode up the ramp, banging on the ceiling with one hand to inform the pilot that he was aboard. Shrike watched as the thunderhawk lifted off, before flying out of the depressurized hangar bay. He watched until the shape was lost among the stars, and strode back back into the ship.
He had a war to win.
Shrike's Sabotage of Ghazghkull
As his underlings scurried about, sending world throughout the fleet to make for the humies' boss-world, Ghazghkull sat down heavily on his throne, grinning with satisfaction. Something in the corner of his vision caught the Ork's vision, and he caught a glimpse of a pair of glowing red eyes watching him. He turned to look directly at the eyes, but by the time he had looked around... darkness there, and nothing more.
The Ork sat down again, but the sight had disturbed him. It reminded him of a story that one of Skullcrak's boyz had told him, about a daemon that could move faster than bullets and soak up more fire than a squiggoth. The warboss' train of thought was interrupted by a rapid beeping sound. deet-deet-deetdeetdeet-KABOOM.
A blast of white light filled the bridge, along with a powerful force that tore at Ghazghkull as he clung to the arms of his chair. The boyz who hadn't the foresight to grab anything were being dragged towards the light, their screams choking off as they disappeared. The bright light stopped suddenly, along with the pulling force. Ghazghkull released the arms of his chair and stood up, just in time to see a black figure sprint out the door. Everything came together in Ghazhgkull's head:
"IT'S DA BEAKIE! GET 'IM!"
The orks hesitated for a moment trying to decide who they were more frightened of. A second later, they were piling through the bridge door after the fleeing figure. Ghazhgkull lurched after them, screaming encouragement:
"GEDDIM BOYZ, CHEATIN' GIT HEARD EVERYFING, HE'S GUNNA TELL 'EM!"
Evidently the fleeing space marine heard this, as the next corner the Orks rounded found them meeting a hail of bolter fire from the Space Marine. With minimal cover in the narrow corridor, Orks were forced to diving behind each other as they tried to return fire. Ghazhgkull, taller than the others, let loose a massive burst of dakka, sending the space marine diving for cover. Emboldened by their leader, the Orks charged the Astartes.
The space marine pulled something from his belt and threw it underarm at the charging orks. It exploded in midair, coating the orks in a burning silver powder that burned through their thick skins as they tried to scrape it off. Ghazhgkull elbowed his way through the mass of screaming minions and charged after the retreating space marine. All that was in the direction the beakie was heading was a couple of big gunz, Ghazhgkull grinned, idiot was trapped. He rounded another corner, seeing a metal door that had been blasted open. Squeezing through the narrow gap, Ghazhgkull looked into the room, it contained a massive accelerator cannon they had pulled off a humie ship. The cannon was armed, and Ghazhgkull heard the salvaged console ticking down a countdown. He looked about the room for the Beakie, his boyz flooding the room behind him.
"E's not 'ere, boss" complained an underling, Ghazhgkull slapped him out of the way, realising what the one place he hadn't looked was. He reached for the fire console, and looked into the cannon barrel itself. The beakie looked back, and Ghazhgkull somehow knew he was grinning behind his helmet. He looked down at the timer:
Shrike screamed into the void, jets of flame from the afterburners of his flight pack pushing him even faster. His vision tunnelled, and darkness crept in at the edges as he pulled a 15g maneuver to dodge an Ork fightercraft. His secondary heart was thumping like a war drum, and gel pouches inside his artificer armour inflated, squeezing the blood back into his head.
He glanced at the counter on his HUD, counting rapidly down. He almost didn't see a rocket coming at him, and dodged by such a narrow margin, he saw the grot steering the rocket making obscene gestures at him. He switched the view on his HUD to one behind him, and saw what seemed to be the entire Ork fleet chasing after him. An urgent bleep from the machine spirit returned his view to a frontwards one. After a moment, counter hit zero, and Shrike flipped onto his back, before leaning on the afterburners with everything he had. His vision began to redden and his head span as the negative Gs sent all the blood into his head. The Orks watching were surprised as what appeared to be a pair of doors opened in the middle of empty space, then closed as soon as the space marine had passed between them. Shrike slammed into the hangar deck with enough force to send him spinning into the air again. He bounced twice more, before crashing to a halt. As soon as word reached the bridge, the cloaked Strike cruiser turned and ignited its main drive, burning away a nearby Kruiser like a block of butter before a blowtorch. The Ork fleet, already in disarray, attempted to make chase, but were forced to retreat as it engaged its warp drive, sucking several smaller ships in with it.
Back at his command throne, Ghazghkull fumed. The humie had got away.
Still, he thought, Shooting yourself out of a cannon in order to escape. That was pretty Orky.
Wheezing like a pair of punctured bellows, Shrike pulled himself off the floor. He wrenched off his helmet and staggered, not all of his blood was in the right place anymore. He caught sight of a worried techmarine and grinned.
"Did you SEE that brother?!" I am a master sabotuer!" He wobbled and fell on his rear, the weight of his smoking flight pack pulling him backwards. He pried a tube from his gorget and slurped down water greedily.
He looked up at the tech-marine again: "Are we underway?"
Unclipping his heavy flight pack, Shrike stood up, "Send word to the astropaths, they're to tell anyone who flies under the Aquila, the Orks are heading for Terra."
The few flesh-parts of the tech-marine's face paled.
"Tell them to send it as a Code: Nightmare Ultraviolet."
"I didn't think the scale went up that high."
"That's because there's never been a threat this bad for millenia. Enough chit-chat, get moving!"
The Raven and the Night Lord
Curze sat quietly in a cramped corridor in one of the Vengeful Spirit's forgotten decks. He stared at the floor, eyes seeing nothing. The faintest sound caused him to look up. Corax looked back, his pale face practically the mirror of Konrad's. The differences between them spoke volumes: Corax' hair was swept back from his face, while Konrad's hung over his face, obscuring his eyes. Conrad's eyes were sunken into his face, while Corax' cooly regarded the Night Lord, easily piercing the gloom of the abandoned corridor.
"I was wondering who would find me first." murmured Curze,
"Of course It would be you."
"I was born in the dark as well, Konrad." said Corax, sitting down next to his fellow primarch. He watched as Konrad dropped his head into his hands and began kneading his skull with the tips of his fingers.
"No." Konrad looked up with a faintly crazed look on his face.
"For the first time in... before I can remember. My head is clear. Look:" He seized Corax' wrist in his hand, fingers digging in like steel cables.
"Nothing. I see nothing." He let go of Corax and shuffled along the bench they were sitting on.
"What did you see?" said Corax, attempting to coax the feeling back into his hand.
"Everytime I touched someone, I would see how they died. Anyone."
"We've touched before now, what did you see of me?"
"You were killed."
"There I was, thinking I'd choke to death on a fish bone." Konrad snorted. Corax continued:
The Ragnarok's strategum room had emptied, the other primarchs leaving to sort out their own legions. All that remained was the Lord of Ravens and the Night Haunter. Corax was studying the strategum projection of the Sol system, with Curze standing off to the side, intrigued in spite of himself. Corax' fingers moved deftly over the controls, panning the view away from Terra, and closing on a ringed planet which Conrad did not recognise.
"Saturn. Base of Battlefleet Solar, and location of the Imperial shipyards." The view zoomed in further, to a large planetoid in orbit of saturn. Konrad glanced at the tag affixed to the projection: TITAN. Corax zoomed in even further, past the moon, to a minute station that quickly expanded to fill the projection.
"There," said Corax, stepping back from the controls:
"That's our target. The Cassini array."
Konrad stared at him.
"Care to elaborate, for those of us who do not share your thoughts?"
Corax scowled, as though his plan should have been obvious.
"The array is an ancient lance array, built during the Golden Age, the mechanicum reverse-engineering it lead to the use of lance weapons today. It's shots can reach past the orbit of Pluto, but if we turn it inwards-"
"A clear shot at Terra, I see."
"We can destroy half terra's defences before they know who is shooting at them."
Curze folded his arms.
"Are you forgetting the Inquisitor's Final Solution?"
"Leave the torpedoes to me."
A prismatic burst of warped reality was all that heralded the first time a primarch had entered the Sol system in 10 thousand years. As the warp rift closed behind it, the strike cruiser began to fade from sight, before igniting it's drives, and slipping through the void.
Corax stood close to Konrad, compulsively checking the seals of his void-suit. Conrad, for his part, just stood with his arms folded, watching the countdown next to the airlock door. He glanced at Corax:
"Relax, brother" his voice had a hint of sneer,
"It's not as if we haven't done this sort of thing before."
Corax forced himself to stand straight and keep his hands at his side. He had always been a compulsive fidgeter. He checked the readout again: 15 seconds remaining. He looked out the viewport, the array was a black cut-out against beige Saturn, glittering where it caught the sun.
"Oh, I'm having the strangest feeling of deja vu", thought Corax.
The primarchs braced themselves:
The thunderhawk door opened with a bang, the air rushing out instantly, carrying the two primarchs along with it. Corax turned over lazily, seeing the thunderhawk turn and vanish into the void. He turned back around, the array was rushing towards him at a breathtaking pace. He stretched out his arms, tensing for the impact. But something had gone wrong. His angle was off, he would miss the array by the most tiny margin. Corax stretched his arms out further as the array passed underneath him. Fingertips scrabbled along the smooth surface, desperately seeking a handhold. Cassini slipped away, just out of his grasp. An iron grip on his wrist almost tore his arm out of its socket. Corax looked up. Konrad, magnetic boots firmly attached to the station's hull, had seized his arm at the last moment. He tugged on Corax, bringing him close enough that the Raven Guard could lock his own boots onto the station. Corax bumped their helmets together.
"Thank you, Konrad. I thought that was the end for sure." Curze pushed him away, saying nothing. The two clambered across the hull in eerie silence, Corax' breathing loud in his ears. He stopped as Konrad held up a hand and pointed. A viewport, big enough for both of them to fit through. Corax could dimly see the shapes of men moving around through it. Konrad drew back his fist and looked at Corax for confirmation. The Raven Lord considered for a moment that the men within were loyal servants of the Emperor, merely following orders. Part of him hated himself as he nodded.
Curze punched his fist through the window.
The air rushed out with a howl, buffeting the two Primarchs as they clambered in. The men that Corax had seen were scattered, many clutching at their chests, and coughing up blood where the sudden change in pressure had caused their lungs to burst. One of the men who had managed to empty his lungs in time turned to the primarchs. Curze caught his head and crushed it like an egg. The survivors were running back along the corridor, towards the safety of a hydraulic blast door. As the Primarchs advanced, the door began to rapidly slide closed. Corax darted forwards and jammed himself into the gap, grimacing as the door closed on his arms. Bracing himself against the frame, he pushed against the door with all his might.
"Cut the hydraulics!" he gasped, gesturing to the chevroned panel with his head. Konrad wrenched the panel open and tore out the thick cable he found within. The pressure against Corax slackened immediately, and he forced the adamantium panel back into its housing with a percussive bang. Curze pushed past him, sprinting into the nerve centre of the defensive station. Corax followed, ducking a blast from the shotgun of a particularly quick-witted crewmember, whose neck was immediately snapped by Konrad as he fumbled for another shell. Corax leaped up a ladder, heading for the command console that would give him control of the station. He tried to shut out the screams of the station personnel at the mercy of the Night Haunter. Corax spotted the cylindrical room he had been looking for, and sprinted for the entrance. At the last moment, he saw the edge of a red cape flutter, and turned his sprint into a roll that carried him under the power axe's sweep. Pivoting inside the cramped room, Corax seized the techpriest in a bear hug, trapping the power axe against the Adept's chest. He squeezed for all he was worth, until something in the writhing body collapsed, and cold fluid dribbled out of the red robe.
He let the adept fall and turned to the command console as he heard Konrad's tread behind him. Corax beheld the pulsing text on the main screen, and his eyes widened a fraction.
REACTOR CORE OVERLOAD PROCEDURE: INITIATED. TIME TO OVERLOAD: 180 SECONDS.
Corax heard Konrad speak behind him:
He couldn't help but agree.
Corax turned, shoving Konrad out of the doorway, and looking frantically up and down the cylindrical station.
"Reactor's to the left!" barked Konrad, spurring Corax into action. Together, the two raced for the large door at the far end of the station, emblazoned with warning signs.Corax wrenched the door open and the two forced themselves into the searing heat within.
"Look for the coolant systems!" Corax roared, vaulting a crate of spare parts and looking quickly left and right.
"If we can re-engage it manually, it'll stop the overload!"
"To the right!" yelled Konrad, pointing to a flashing cogitator. Corax leapt for the console and began punching in commands. Konrad turned to a separate console, this one marked CONTROL RODS, and began the insertion procedure. Several tense moments followed, both Primarchs utterly absorbed in their work, heedless of the rising heat and growing roaring sound from the sealed chamber before them. Corax leaned back from the controls, helpless to do anymore than watch the blinking cursor as the cooling systems cycled up.
After what seemed eternity, a servitor's voice spoke over the roaring of the reactor:
"COOLANT SYSTEMS RE-ENGAGED. REACTOR TEMPERATURE: FALLING" Another voice immediately spoke up, cutting over the first:
"CONTROL RODS INSERTED. REACTION SLOWING"
Both Primarchs slumped against their consoles with relief. They looked up at each other, reached out, and tapped their knuckles together.
Konrad stood at the control console, watching the screen showing the thunderhawk carrying Corax jetting away from the station. As it vanished from the sensors, Konrad glanced at the fire control console. Corax had been right, the station's range would reach Terra... and the multitude of starforts and battleships surrounding the planet were proving a very hard target for Konrad to ignore. An alarm bleeped, informing him that the array's sensors had picked up the cloaked strike cruiser passing by.He cancelled the alert, preparing for Corax' signal to begin the bombardment...
ABOARD THE STRIKE CRUISER
Corax strode into the quarters he had claimed for his stay aboard. He nodded at the two Luna Wolves who were standing guard at the door, two of the thousands aboard who were preparing for the first stage of the liberation of Terra.
Corax paused on the threshold... and then smashed his armoured elbow into the helmet of the marine standing to the left of the door. The primarch's strength slammed the back of the marine's head into the inside of his helmet, knocking him senseless. Corax moved forward, knocking the other marine's bolter away with one hand and seizing his helmet with the other. The primarch swept the marine's legs out from under him and pinned him to the deckplate with his knees. He twisted off the struggling marine's helmet and smiled:
"Hello there... Brother Alpharius."
Perturabo and Dorn
I imagine that Peturabo would be very bitter, and since we're getting them before they started hating eachother, he'd be mostly angry at himself for having let something so silly get to him. I don't think he'd go in for buddying up with Dorn, and Dorn seems like enough of an asshole not to give Peturabo the chance to do so anyways.
I think Peturabo would be obsessed with drawing out the original one, sort of an Iron Cage thing and in a moment of pure badass, he'll reveal that he did work things out with Dorn well enough to let Dorn in on the plan.
One of those 'But I know you, this is the end, there's nowhere for you to run' 'You're right about that, but there's something you missed' <Enter Dorn with a thunderhammer> 'I learned from your mistakes.'
Burying the Hatchet
Perturbo stood alone, divested of his armour, studying several of his latest plans. Paper rustled faintly as he pinned one of the drawings to the edge of his drawing board. He let his eyes wander over several of his favourites, an amphitheatre based on an ancient sketch he had found of somewhere called "The Globe", a plan for a style of arcology that took the shape of a sky-piercing shard of glass and adamantium. He leaned back, thoughts darkening. After the battle with the corrupted Astartes, Terra was in ruins. Admittedly, he thought, there had been adequate time to evacuate much of the civilian populace, and spare them the horrors that the traitors had wrought. Still, much of the infrastructure had been razed to the ground, and the Imperial palace had been wrecked, despite Dorn's last-minute fortifications. Perturabo's thoughts darkened further, no doubt that pompous fool was already setting about rebuilding the place in his favourite Greco-Roman style. Perturabo snorted, Dorn's favoured architecture spoke volumes about the man: ancient, tired, dull. As if on cue, the lord of Iron heard the tread of an armoured boot behind him. As if my luck is this bad, thought the primarch, resignedly turning to meet the eye-searing yellow of Rogal Dorn's Terminator armour.
"Shouldn't you be banging rocks together, brother?" said Perturabo, making sure to obscure the drawing board with his body. Dorn, he noted, looked tired. Shrunken somehow, as though he had aged millenia all at once.
"I wanted to ask you something" said Dorn softly, setting off warning bells in Perturabo's head. Dorn never spoke quietly, there were Ork warbosses that were more softly spoken than him.
"Go on." Dorn seemed to grind his teeth for a moment, as though there was a great internal struggle going on within him.
"I want... your help."
For a moment, Perturabo wasn't sure if he wanted to punch Dorn in the face or laugh at him.
"My hel...What do you need ME for? I thought you wanted to rebuild the palace." Dorn looked over Perturabo's shoulder, straight at the drawings, the Iron Warrior noticed with a jolt.
"Why? I thought you were the only one He allowed to build the things he wanted."
"The Emperor is still on the throne, brother. He cannot order you from there." Perturabo glared at Dorn, desperately trying to smother the faint feeling of hope within him.
"Why should I?" Dorn gave a small smile. "It would humiliate me. Any barbarian can build a wall, but it takes a genius to make what you have on that board. Imagine, showing everyone that you really were better than me." Perturabo gaped at Dorn. This was...ridiculous, Dorn would never allow such a blatant shot at his ego.
"Besides," the imperial fist went on,
"I thought the whole Greco-Roman style was a bit tired after 10 thousand years, eh?
" "Was that a joke?"
"I think so."
"Stick to knocking walls down. I..." Perturabo breathed out, this was all happening so quickly.
"I will think about it." Dorn, knowing his objective was achieved, nodded and left the room, leaving Perturabo staring at his drawings. His mind raced, all the ideas and possibilities that had been bottled up inside him for so long.. he finally had a chance to show the imperium what he could really do.
Outside, under a sky still choked with smoke and pulverized stone, a figure in yellow met with a one-eyed giant.
"I have spoken to him." Said Dorn.
"Thank you, Rogal." said Magnus.
"Now, while our brother rebuilds Terra, you can try and rebuild the Legions, whilst I..." Magnus gazed at the bulk of the Palace, his warpsight seeing the golden light within.
"I shall put my mind to father."
The Iron Cage Revisited
It was a scent of iron on the immaterium that attracted Perturabo's gaze. High above the screams and rumble of the daemon forges, the scent made his pulse quicken, his jaw clench. It was as though someone was watching him from some far off place. He shifted uneasily in his Daemon Throne for a moment before the awareness hit him with the force of a thunder hammer. He could feel it being built, towers raised, trenches dug, enfalides planned. Those ruins he had fortified so long ago were being fortified. Nay, desecrated by some lesser hand. But it wasn't a lesser hand. And that was what was galling. He could feel the ingenuity, the careful attention to the smallest detail. It was the work of a genius. It was something He would build. Only one person... but he was dead. He had to be. Dorn. But he had Dorn's hand right there on the table. He had made Angron give it to him. He had almost fought Angron for the skull. Why hadn't he fought Angron for the skull? Was it because he was afraid of Angron? Ha! Afraid of that bloody fool. No, he'd let Angron have his way. Yes, let the petulant fool have his way. Perturabo didn't need it anyways. But Dorn. Only Perturabo or Dorn could build like that. So it must be Dorn. He should have known that Angron couldn't have killed Dorn. Only Perturabo could defeat Dorn. Foolish of him to think otherwise. But there was the hand! Mocking him! Making a fool of him! In a rage, Perturabo lunged at the table, seized Dorn's arm and roared "You're dead! I won. You died! You can't build anymore! I'm the better man! The better son!" He tried to choke off those last words, but the came out anyways. He felt his entire body tense. The gods were watching. The other primarchs were watching. Angron had done this to make a fool of him.
Dorn and Angron had been in on it from the start, laughing at him, hadn't they said as much? They didn't need to, he knew. Behind the smiles of the other Primarchs had been only mockery. Even Horus. Horus who'd failed and humiliated them all. How disgusting. And now Dorn was laughing at him again. They were all laughing at him.
Perturabo's grip on the dessicated arm tightened with mad fury. He could feel Dorn's laughter in it. He pounded it against the wall.
The bones stronger than ceramite snapped, but still Perturabo kept pounding.
The bones crumbled to dust, but still he kept at it.
Only when his fingers were bleeding did Perturabo stop, his chest heaving with rage.
He'd just have to prove Dorn wrong.
Yes. He'd show Dorn. He'd teach Dorn a lesson he'd never forget. And this time there would be no Gulliman to save him. It would be Dorn and Perturabo and this time he'd show him.
Perturabo stormed from the his chamber and roared at the men who worked in the rooms below: "Honsou! Shon'tu! Assemble the men and ready the fleet! We go to crush the enemy!"
On Istvaan V, Perturabo looked up from the construction. Something had changed in the wind. He could feel the baleful light from the Eye, though he couldn't see it. He smiled. Everything was right on schedule.
Perturabo sat uneasily in his seat aboard his flagship. He wanted to tell his men to slow down, to give the whelp that was Dorn more time to prepare, to make his victory all the sweeter. Yes, let Dorn laugh while he still could. It was funny, how that fool strutted and postured, when death came for him. Perturabo almost laughed. But he didn't. They might think he was nervous. He wasn't, but Honsou and Shon'tu. They both thought they were better than him. They were waiting for a moment of weakness from him. And then they'd strike, betray him. Laugh at him. But no. That would never happen because Perturabo was the greatest mind there had ever been. Wasn't this fleet, this vendetta the proof of that? No, the proof would only be when he had Dorn's head in his hand. No more humouring Angron. Angron, Dorn, they'd all pay.
The fleet arrived in orbit around Istvaan V. For a second time Perturabo prepared to drop to its surface. If only Dorn had been there to see him in his glory.
A message came in over the Vox. Perturabo prepared to laugh in the face of Dorn, but it wasn't Dorn.
Perturabo found himself staring at Perturabo. Perturabo was smiling at him. Laughing almost. Making fun of him!
"WHAT CRUEL TRICK IS THIS?"
"This is no trick, my twin. I'm here and I've made a challenge for you. For us. Because there can only be one of us. The true Peturabo will be the one that leaves this planet alive. So come, crush my citadel. If you can."
With that the channel cut out.
Perturabo shook with barely hidden rage. His men were staring at him, confused. No they were laughing at him. Secretly. They thought him a fool! How could he have thought it was Dorn. Dorn was dead. He had his arm. He crushed his arm. And Dorn could never build a fortress like the one awaiting him below. Yes. Dorn would cry to see such a beautiful work. Only Perturabo could build like that. And that was the challenge. He had to crush the imposter. He'd prove he was the real one. The other one was a drone. A doll. And he was not a doll. No, he was a man. A God!
He turned to his men.
"Begin the bombardment, we make planetfall in an hour. Kill everything you find, but leave the impostor for me."
Perturabo and his men surged through the bunker. They'd been on Istvaan for hours now, fighting their way through killing fields and defense lines, into the Citadel, and down, down, down into the bunkers. They were good, but he was better. He knew it. And as the blast doors came down before him, he knew he was. He fought at the head. In hopes of siting the impostor. So his men wouldn't slay him before he could get his hands on him and tear off his laughing head. Honsou probably wanted to steal the glory. Shon'tu as well. Where were they? He'd lost track of them in the fighting. Maybe they had gone off alone and died. Yes. For their arrogance. No. He liked them. They were good soldiers. Good subordinates. But they needed to know their place. He hoped they survived. Maybe wounded. So that way they'd see how inferior they were to him. Yes. That would be good.
He moved faster and faster. Killing, rending, ripping. He began leaving his men behind. They could follow. He knew his way. He knew where the impostor would be, knew that there'd be little in his way. Puzzles perhaps, but nothing he couldn't solve. He'd show him. Yes. He'd be there soon to wring his smug neck.
Perturabo kicked down the last set of doors. This was it. He'd designed this place. He'd find the impostor here. He would kill him and he would prove he was the real one. Yes.
And there he was, the imposter, standing in front of him. But he was no match. Perturabo was a Daemon Prince and the man before him was a mere mortal. Perturabo allowed himself a rare smile.
"This is it. This is the end. Your end."
Perturabo said nothing.
"But you're finished! Nowhere to run! I know you. I know how you think! But I outsmarted you! You're trapped in here!"
Peturabo smiled wanly (Why did he smile?!) and replied. "You're right. This is the end. But there's something you missed."
Perturabo's eyes narrowed.
He hadn't he'd missed nothing.
He'd ignored the other branches because none of them led here.
But that sound, the sound of ceramite boots on a floor. What was it?!
Perturabo turned. Behind him, in the hall, advancing with a thunder hammer in his hands was Rogal Dorn.
Perturabo backed away. Backed away from both of them.
Perturabo was smiling. Perturabo was laughing at him. Dorn was laughing at him.
"You see, I learned from your mistakes."
And in that final moment before the hammer struck, Perturabo wasn't sure whom he hated more. Dorn or Perturabo.
Rogal had much to ponder.
After his reconciliation with his brother Perturabo and the slaying of Daemonic Lord of Iron, he had entrusted him the rebuilding of Terra, Magnus had sought to attempt to revive their father.
Which left him to rebuild the Legions.
Rogal had much to ponder.
He had no fear for the Space Wolves, they had kept themselves strong throughout the millennia, the Thousand Sons had gained some from his Chaotic ilk's forces, the Grey Knights were also watching Magnus, likely to be by his side as a Auxillia to his force, he had rumour that there was one chapter that contained his gene-seed, he would seek them out later, the bloody sons of the Corvidae could wait, for now he had to focus on his Legion, which is why he had sat pondering.
The Spear of Vengeance, one of a few Battle Barges the Imperial Fists possessed sailed through the warp, chasing a vessel that had sailed from Armageddon in pursuit of a Greenskin.
Rogal had much to ponder.
How ironic now that after all he went through, the arguments with Guilliman his "former" self had went through with him, after disbanding his legion, he was the one to attempt to rebuild.
He grunted in slight amusement, his thoughts went now to the Blue Legion, a legion he hadn't needed to worry about, the Sons of Guilliman were many and had cut their own swath in the Imperium, Ultramar.
Rogal looked up from his ponderings, sat on a throne fit for a chapter master, he was looking at the man that normally held this seat.
"Vorn Hagen? what is it?"
The Chapter Master of the Imperial Fists stood, rigid and stern, his stance an example of pure discipline, showing the Primarch the respect and honour he deserves, he had led the chapter by example well.
"We have only a few moments before we leave the warp, this was the last reported place of the Battle Barge Sigismund my Lord."
Rogal nodded, he thoughts went to Sigismund who he sent out with the chapter he was hunting, The Black Templars, he had many tales of glory of the Crusades they held, his sons were indeed swelling his chest with pride, his greying moustache turned up as he broke a small smile. "Good Van Hagen, you may go."
"It is Vorn Hagen my Lord."
The Primarch froze, he had forgetten his name? Him? A Primarch? Forgetting the Chapter Master's name?
Had he been so deep in his ponderings he had forgotten, or perhaps had the greying of his hair signified senility? What was he to do if they continued to listen to him? His thoughts turned to horror of an old withered version of himself lazily directing his forces in battle, falling a sleep while his enemies broke his flanks, reducing them all to ash! while he stood sleeping. What if that was the end to his Legion? What if it happened on Terra?! Why was he so worried about this?!
"Of course it is Vorn, my apologies." He shook off such thoughts of self doubt of his abilities.
"No need to apologise my Lord, You have lived for a long time."
The Primarch shot Vorn a death glare as he stood up, he did not want to be reminded of the subject of age. "My Lord?" Vorn's stern face broke into concern, he feared that he had offended his Primarch with his words, was age a touchy subject?
"It is nothing Varn, just prepare for re-entry to the materium."
"It is Vorn My Lord."
Rogal's eyebrow twitched. "OUT!"
He bellowed in annoyance, he was NOT old!
Despite his small headache at the thought of letting down his Emperor, due to such an unlikely thing as age, they had entered the materium, their long range scans had indicated a ship in the distance.
A communications officer hailed the ship, Imperial code.
"Sir we've sent the signal, we're waiting on the pass code."
Dorn looked towards the inky black of space with patience.
"My lord, it is confirmed, the Sigismund is approaching us."
Rogal nodded, he made towards the hangar anticipating the High Marshal, he had wondered much about the character of a man who led Sigismund's chapter.
Not an hour later, a craft landed, a dozen blackened marines, decorated in tabards, swords in hand as a man strode forth.
His armour was much more ornate, gold, black, red and white blending on his person, a golden cross like crown open on his head.
"What is this mockery I see before me?!" The High Marshal bellowed, his voice echoing across the hangar bays walls.
Rogal raised his eyebrow. Had he not heard of he and his brother Primarchs' return?
"This is sorcery of the highest order! Vorn, have you been possessed?!"
The Templars were confused, chains clanked as they readied themselves for combat.
The stern primarch strode forward...he towered over Helbrecht, he merely put his hand onto the templars shoulder, at first the High Marshal looked in revulsion, then, he had a look of understanding.
"But, I saw your hands for myself, upon the Phalanx."
Dorn nodded,he had indeed seen them for himself, his skeleton, what he was to do with the grim reminder of his death he did not know, not allowing himself to be distracted, he spoke to the confused Templar. "My son, you are right to be suspicious, but your superstitions are overzealous."
The Templar seemed humbled in his presence, he bowed towards him. "What do you need of me my lord?"
Dorn took his hand of Helbrecht's shoulder.
"I am rebuilding my Legion, High Marshal, and I have heard you have men to spare."
Upon hearing of his Primarch's need, a message had been sent out to all of the scattered Black Templar crusades, they had been recalled upon the authority of High Marshal Helbrecht and Rogal Dorn himself.
They had assembled en masse to the Phalanx, something that had greatly interested a few Inquisitors.
The Inquisition had tried for many years to catch out the Black Templars for their non-codex abiding ways, whether or not they considered it as a form of sub-heresy or they just didn't like the thought of a single chapter having that sheer amount of power was unknown.
A Legion was of course Comprised of 10,000 Space Marines, now of course Dorn did not want whole chapters to be absorbed in their need of Legion forces.
He of course had the Imperial fists already, 1,000 strong.
The Crimson Fists of course was underpowered and he didn't dare ask of them any men, much to Pedro Kantors shame, he had been reassured that he no need to be ashamed.
Dorn had 14 other chapters to pull Marines from.
However, none were more generous than the Black Templars.
They had donated 4,000 Battle Brothers to the Imperial Fists.
Rogal had thanked Helbrecht for his contribution, the High Marshal felt truly humbled when Dorn decreed every battle brother would wear a tabard in honour of their gift, as well as introducing Sword Brethren squads to the 4 Companies of Black Templars.
The remaining 5 Companies were soon given by the remaining 14 Chapters, roughly 400 Battle Brothers per Chapter, as not to make them too under-manned, Veterans, Dreadnoughts and relics were poured into the Legion as it grew into a force to reckoned with, new armour had been distributed, tabards of black on every man, all of them had the yellow fist of the chapter emblazoned upon it.
Dorn had proven it could be done.
The Imperial Fists had officially ascended to Legion strength once again.
Cadian forces snapped to their rigid stances, faces stern in front of their Commissar, most had served with him since the Third War of Armageddon, some veterans had served under him in the Second, they had been as zealous to him as the Black Templars themselves, garnering their respect.
Some of the men their were recruits, fresh as the ships docked at the Phalanx, giving them time to request new recruits after their pursuit of the Ork Warboss, something they hadn't given up on.
The recruits had heard many tales of Commissar, how he felled an Ork warboss one handed, then took his arm for himself, that he has a gaze that could kill a man, that he had laser eyes! The man was a legend!
Sebastian looked down on his men, irritated but content he had returned to nominal numbers.
The source of his irritation was the still breathing, though: Ork Warboss Ghazgkhull.
He had hated he had managed to escape because of the Tyranids.
He had hated that they had no leads as to where he went.
And he had hated that Rogal Dorn, the Primarch of the Imperial Fists had come back, only to recall Helbrecht's crusade back to the Phalanx, losing any trail of the Warboss.
What he didn't hate?
The Black Templars were reforming into something different, a 2,000 man crusade, what was left of the chapter after Helbrecht had donated the other 4,000 scattered Black Templars to the cause, their re-assemblence had taken some time, a few months that could be spent hunting. However, these 2,000 men were no mere Black Templar soldiers, they were ALL Veterans from every crusade.
All men of note, all deadly in their own way and from what he heard, Helbrect was not "in-charge" anymore.
He kept his title, but now he had a new man to answer to, another returned from the dead. "Grand High Marshal" Sigismund, the man who originally led the Black Templars in the Second Founding.
Madness, warp sorcery.
The Black Templars were originally in an uproar, until they had been addressed by Rogal Dorn, explaining the Emperor's Will.
The reports of warp sorcery had died down, the men then welcomed the return of Dorn and Sigismund with open arms.
Yarrick had been respectful to the Son of the Emperor as well as his right hand Sigismund, however he had not cared much for it.
His men were still to follow the Black Templars into battle, his Zealotry to the Emperor impressed Sigismund and even Dorn.
Of course he did care for the praise he was bestowed upon by the Primarch.
He had been offered a place as an Auxiliary for the Imperial Fists legion, to which he declined, he had preferred the company of the Templars.
Dorn HAD however gotten him re-equipped, Baneblades and tanks from Kaurava, a most gracious gift, after all with a Primarch personally backing you, there was little to no limit what he could request.
As tempting as it was to stay with the Imperial Fists, he was not a leader of an armoured company, he was loyal to his men and loyal to the Black Templars.
"Men! We are here at a precipice, the Primarchs, the sons of the Emperor have returned and they are rebuilding their forces back to what is was before the time of the great heresy!"
He looked down at the recruits who had begun whispering like school children about the Primarchs and their glory, before he slammed his Klaw into the nearest wall, their eyes returned to him.
"I'm sorry...did I break your concentration?"
The recruits looked dumbfounded, the veterans chuckled some or shook their heads, knowing that the Commissar's wrath was close at hand.
"I believe I said AH-TEN-SHUN!"
The recruits all snapped back into their rigid stances.
"THAT IS A SLOPPY EXCUSE FOR STANDING AT ATTENTION! I SEE I NEED TO TEACH YOU BETTER!"
The recruits collectively gulped, looking in reverence and fear of the Commissar with the massive fist, his bionic eye glowing.
"AT 1800 HOURS! EXTRA DRILL INSTRUCTION FOR THE RECRUITS!"
Of course 1800 hours was dinner for the men, they were to miss out for their ignorance.
He calmed himself, continuing...
"The Black Templars have given most of their men to Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists, they now have a standing force of 10,000 Space Marines." He watched as awe flickered across his veterans faces.
"However, the Black Templars have always been spread across the universe upon numerous crusades, however...they will be born anew as well." He inhaled in, his lungs shook from the sheer power his voice had, before continuing.
"The Black Templars' current 2,000 shall be united into a single crusade, but these men are no mere Neophytes, these men are veterans! forged in the fires of numerous crusades they have undertook, each almost a hundred stories to tell of felling heretics, xenos and mutants across the galaxy, these men are worth individually, 300 heretics in battle."
"...With the return of the Primarchs Legions being the hammer of the Imperium, the Templars are to become a strike force of power unknown to the Imperium of Man, but what of us? the most meek of the Emperors forces, even we veterans who have held his lines, watched our brothers died in his honour?" The Veterans faces became grim, memories frothed to the watery surface of their minds. "We are to accompany them."
Their faces returned to awe.
"We have been given the honour and privilege to join their glorious crusade! we may not be joining the massive forces of the Imperial Fists, but we will be going into the most ferocious of battles, the Importance of such we cannot even fathom! I am no liar, the battles we shall undertake, the enemies we shall face, will be like no other we have seen, for some of you, this is incomprehensible, however!"
"These thoughts bring me relief, they bring me joy, they bring me reason!"
"The relief that my life shall not be wasted in his name!"
"The joy I will destroy enemies who defile our Imperium, as we shall burn them in his name!"
"And the reason for continuing on my existance, so that I may continue to do this! Over and over!"
Legacy of Titan
"A-Addressed to: Lord P-P-Prrimarch Magnus the Red of the XV L-Legion..." Adept Arlen Grandal recited out loud. He was practically scared witless of the Red Giant before him, but his duty demanded that he read out the parchment aloud. Well, duty and the menacing blind red giants that guarded the gates. They were more terrifying than the Arbiter he had as security. "B-by the power invested in me as the Inquisitorial R-Representative of Segm-mmm-mentum Solar, we are to offer our sincerest ap-p-pologies to you and to the other Primarchs f-for the actions of Inquisitor L-Lord Mazzini and his enclave, for their actions h-have no reflection of our w-will."
"They sent you here..." the Red Giant asked, "for an apology letter they could not send themselves?"
"A-aaaaahhh," Arlen stammered, "I-Iiiii, I still have more." Magnus let him continue."A-aa-as recompense for this di-di-disgraceful act of s-sedition, we of the Ordo Malleus, the Hammer of the Emperor's Most Holy Inquisition, h-hereby formally invite you to m-m-meet with Lord I-Inquisitor Mordecai Toth on Titan. He and any other I-Inquisitors present w-will r-re-acquaint you of our situation."
Magnus leaned forward, giving the Adept a better view of the Giant's sacrifices: While one eye was scarred shut, the other looked more like it was put out by fire. In fact, if his studies were correct, they looked like- "Is it my eyes that bother you?"
The adept leaped back in shock. "AII- I, I mean...no! Not at all, Lord Primarch!"
Magnus furrowed a brow. "I can see into your soul. Covering yourself up will not help you."
Arlen slackened a little. "A-ahh, oh,um... Yes..."
Magnus leaned back into his seat. He had something to ponder over if the Inquisition was offering something to him. But there was something more to this, he was certain... "Child," he started, "your Inquisitor, has he ever told you about what I am?"
The adept struggled to gather himself, "Y-you were born from the genes of the Emperor himself, grown to become the perfect warriors and generals for His army."
"And of me in particular?"
"I...I..." he struggled before giving up, "My Inquisitor does not give me the clearance for that."
Magnus gave a humored chuckle. "Such is the case, it seems. I am indeed a Primarch, but...this is not my Emperor. This time, not my own. Whatever information they have of me, of my past, is irrelevant. I and my fleet were absconded from our course to this Imperium, to find a world where I had damned my whole legion for a Faustian Bargain to save my sons. Apparently, the Magnus of your Imperium was a man of...weaker convictions, but he is not me."
"B-but then, why-"
"Am I here? The Warp is...a rather unspeakably unpredictable realm. Time is malleable, space becomes irrelevant, and the invisible will suddenly assault you as if they were real. It was a conflict there that cost me this eye." He pointed to his scarred left eye. "A daemon of Tzeentch, who sought to make me a deal to save this Legion, tried to attack me when I refused his offer. I was able to fend him off, but...at a price. That daemon would try again to make me submit, but when he trapped me in the Warp, I...found my own way out: Here."
"A faustian...bargain?" Arlen was quite slow to notice.
"Ah, that might help explain things about this matter. According to what I know, your Magnus...well, he made a deal with Tzeentch. The daemon offered to save his Thousand Sons from their flesh-change, but to do so, he had to offer his eye and his fealty. The latter, he would learn after this...Horus Heresy, was it?" the adept nodded. "Yes, when the word came that Horus had failed his mission, the daemon decided that this was failing the contract and returned the flesh-change. He sacrificed his legion for nothing"
Arlen gulped. He was too afraid to speak, worried about what his response would incur.
"You need not fear me. Unlike this...administration, I am at least willing to hear your opinion."
Arlen asked, "I...I find that really...strange how you would know of this."
Magnus nodded. "Indeed. However..." to his left, Chief Librarian Ahriman, adorned in an ornate helm with a large ornate scarab covering his eyes stamped his staff on the ground. "We have found sources." To his left, Arlen suddenly noticed, was an Alpha Legionnaire, wearing a pauldron of the Thousand Sons, but little else.
The adept then asked, "A-and your other eye?"
Magnus felt along the bones in his right eye socket. He felt what was left of an eye there, burned out beyond use now. "You know what soul-binding entails, yes?" He nodded. "When I had heard of the Horus Heresy, about that war I had tried to warn Him about ages ago in your time, I was...how to say, crestfallen about the mayhem my failure had caused. My parallel here was responsible for the ruin of the Human Webway, and in doing so, doomed my world as well. Again, the daemon tempted me, saying he could save the city that raised me. Again, I refused, saying that I would die before letting him pervert that image of my home."
"A-and that was when you...?"
"Yes. He had enough." He nodded. "So when I heard that someone was attacking Terra, you would not be surprised if I were to say that I had to do this for repentance, yes?" The adept agreed. "After we had secured Terra, I had decided to perform one rite in hopes of saving my Legion: Soul-Binding them to the Emperor. Although we may still find some aberrations among us, giving our souls and taking His within us had done what I had prayed it would: it saved us."
Arlen began looking very contemplative, his hands twitching to find something to ask, but never sure what it was. "I... may I ask a question...sir?"
"You may. I am sure your question may enlighten us both."
"W-well..." he straightened up. "What makes you so sure that the Emperor would accept what you did?"
Magnus sat upright. "The first man to have successfully been soul-bound was apparently Malcador the Sigilite. In that moment, the Emperor became one with the person that had been his closest companion in his many years. To be so...willing to do so would require an incredible amount of will, even more than it took to actually survive. These astropaths, psykers and the like, are they willingly bound?"
"My Inquisitor insists that they are not."
"And that is the difference. Malcador's willpower allowed him to become a great hero to the Imperium, for he was able to save the Emperor's life. Whereas these children? They are just told to suck it up and that if they die, they die tools. That is not how it works, and I sought to prove it by placing my faith in my Father. He accepted."
"I..." he choked out. "I see. Um..." Arlen looked at the parchment again. "About this-"
"Fret not. Tell your Inquisitor Toth that I will be there." As soon as Arlen and his security left, Ahriman spoke up. "Yes?"
"Do you find it...wise to tell this child our secrets? Surely, this might be what the Inquisitor needs to send some kill-team after us upon suspicions of witchcraft."
Magnus rose from his seat. "I do not think so. What we did down there, on Terra, we are heroes for that. They know their boundaries, I would not think that they would break them so readily. Not to mention that the idea of going to Titan..." he looked out. "There is something there that intrigues me too much for me to ignore."
"Shall we set course?"
Within minutes, the Photep, grand flagship of the Thousand Sons, began a course to Titan.
>Orbit of Saturn
The Thousand Sons were met in orbit by a baroque cruiser of silver and red. Magnus heard the transmission that was being sent from the cruiser. "Greetings," the message began. "I am Lord Inquisitor Mordecai Toth of the Ordo Malleus and, as of last week, Inquisitorial Representative of Segmentum Solar. I must say that I had never expected to meet with a Primarch in my life, not even in my wildest dreams. That is why I must thank you for accepting my Conclave's apology on behalf of the Inquisition. Below us is Titan. I have already taken a shuttle to arrive there. I sincerely hope that you will accept my offer."
Magnus had, in the meantime, began armouring himself as well as nominating a small honour guard. Among these were Ahriman and three members of the Sekhmet, the Scarab Occult that followed the former cyclops himself. The Alpha Legionnaire, while insistent on going, was forced to stay behind, their suspicions not cleared.
>The Surface of Titan
Magnus the Red had met with a relatively tall and well-armoured man, leading three others, one wearing terminator armour, while the others, a man and a woman, remained in just power armour. "I am honoured to know that you accepted my offer, Lord Primarch," the frontmost Inquisitor commented in a thick, but not indecipherable, accent.
"I am merely glad to know that the fallout has been less than the storm."
"That may be." The heavily armoured Inquisitor answered. "Inquisitor Lord Salvarius, Ordo Malleus of the Ormanth Cluster. I was...shall I say, colleagues with Mazzini."
"I apologize for-"
"Do not dwell on that," Salvarius waved it off, "What happened happened for a reason. I cannot blame you."
Toth cleared his throat, which brought them all to attention. "On behalf of the Inquisiton, as invested to me by authority of the Emperor himself, I am allowing you, Magnus the Red, Primarch of the XV Legion of Adeptus Astartes, to visit Titan. Although you may learn and witness what takes place here, I must make it clear that what you are about to see cannot be relayed to anyone unless they are within your Legion."
"Why is that, if you do not mind my asking?" Ahriman asked.
Toth intoned to the Chief Librarian, "The knowledge hidden here is of an unholy nature. The very knowledge of what waits within the Warp has been a very potent source of corruption among those unprepared for it."
"And what about it...corrupts, exactly?"
Salvarius answered, "The lure of the unknown. The idea that they have this knowledge nobody else knows tends to drive them to believe that they are invincible." He lifted his sword, crackling with arcane energy. "We are there to prevent that."
The woman among the Inquisitors spoke, "The knowledge we bear is sometimes enough to convince daemons to trail us. Our duty is to prevent those daemons from taking us without a fight."
Approaching them was a giant clad in immaculate steel armour, ornately decorated with seals of purity and shields and a book near his heart. "Inquisitor Lord Toth, Inquisitor Lord Salvarius, Inquisitor Reallus, Inquisitor Marmel." He kept his words short, almost unsettlingly so. "Welcome. Is he the one you seek to bring?"
"Indeed," Toth responded.
As he did, Magnus turned to realize the light as the same as the one he saw from Terra. He knew that these Astartes, whoever they are, were incredibly powerful psykers. The very soul of this one marine had an overwhelming power of light that even the blinded Thousand Sons shielded their eyes, the light so intense. Magnus had also noticed a tie from this marine from himself to a hundred, no, several thousand others. Whatever they were, their organization had something beyond description to it. And Magnus was ecstatic.
"How curious," the Grey one adjusted his hood. "This would be impossible that you are...the traitor Primarch, Magnus the Red?"
"No more. I am not the traitor from that book," he declared. "I am my own man."
"We shall see."
What took place next was a battle between two monstrous forces of psychic might, both shielded by the Emperor's will, but also shielded by their own wills. It would only be a matter of time until one of them were to falter in their defense, leading to their defeat.
However, that did not happen.
The grey one stepped aside, uttering, "You are worthy. May the wisdom of Titan guide you in your journeys, Magnus the Red." The red giant placed a hand on his chest as a sign of respect, "And may your will guide you to sure victory, Librarian Artall."
The assembled party entered the grand monastery of Titan and found themselves beholding a grand hall, guarded by rows of suits of power armour. Although they all shared the same silver colouration as the Librarians, their appearances and heraldry almost always differentiated. Some had many prayers etched upon every inch of the armour, while others had purity seals, each written to confirm that their purity was among the elite. Some were normal suits, but those nearing the end of the hall were Terminator Armour, with the doors personally guarded by two more warriors, their halberds crossed. Inquisitor Toth flashed his rosette, as did his retinue, and they allowed the guests passage, seeing the mark of the Artall's approval in their souls.
The first stop they made was to the armoury, where Salvarius took a Nemesis Force Halberd by it's shaft. "These weapons are the key instruments in the war of the Grey Knights. Each one is psychically attuned to their wielder, making them neigh-impossible to steal and use against us. In addition, the nature of these weapons also allows them to destroy daemons no matter where they reside, no matter what armour they seek to hide behind."
"They are force weapons?" Magnus took a Nemesis Force Falchion and swung it around. Regardless of what they were, they were unarguably very advanced.
"Indeed. The finest, forged on Mars of all places."
Similarly, Ahriman found another weapon that piqued his curiosity: A staff.
"Pardon, but..." he asked, "what sort of weapon would this be?"
Salvarius took notice, "That would be a Warding Stave. Not meant for attacking so much as it is meant to defend. See, there are conversion field generators inside there and, given the proper focus, it will psychically charge the field to a strength unheard of before. I've seen Paladins wielding these weapons when battling Bloodthirsters, and emerge victorious with nary a scratch!"
"Hm... This is an intriguing asset..."
On another end, the Madam Inquisitor Marmel was helping a member of the Scarab Occult in testing an Incinerator on a practice target. The Grey Knight accompanying them armed himself with the heavy weapon and let loose the psychic flame, which excited the red terminator. He commented, "This is a rather incredible discovery, to psychically charge Promethium like this!"
Marmel agreed, "Indeed it is. This weapon has been an indispensable asset in our never-ending battle against the Daemon."
Inquisitor Toth added, "You need not worry. I am having servitors carry in a package of these weapons to your ship. It should be enough to give you some idea of this technology."
The group then converged onto a suit of power armour. It was same like the others, except this one was rather spartan in appearance. Little more added onto it than the scribings on the pauldrons and the books on his breast and left shoulder. Perhaps this was a heraldry of sorts, The Primarch concluded.
"This is perhaps the pinnacle of Power Armour as we know it," Toth introduced the suit. "The Aegis armour has been consecrated in the blood of saints and powerful psykers, giving it the powerful psychic brotherhood you see. Each one has its powers linked to their wearer, and the wearer projects this power by bonding with his brothers. Clearly, the power this forms is very potent in stemming the flow of Warp powers."
"Am I to believe that only this armour is how they become so powerful?" Magnus asked as he sensed the aura around it, a gleaming silver.
"No." Inquisitor Toth began leading them elsewhere. "Each Knight has been tempered through deeds some would consider...cruel. But this process is what allows them to withstand the full brunt of the Warp and the many horrors within." As they stopped, the Thousand Sons began noticing a massive slab of basalt, the same as the rest of the citadel, but here there were words inscribed, six lists of one-hundred eleven deeds. "This is our test. The Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Rituals of Detestation."
Inquisitor Reallus, the more reserved Inquisitor, spoke, "These rituals are tests that would break the minds of lesser Space Marines, their minds either unable to comprehend the truth of the Warp or driven to insanity about the dark truths the Dark Gods tempt them with. For warriors that serve as the elite hunters of daemons, this is unacceptable."
Toth continued, "Although this is a torturous method, it is through doing so that each Knight's psychic nature is honed to a peak few will ever reach."
As the Inquisitors were explaining the nature of the Grey Knights' recruitment, Magnus found himself scrutinizing the slab further, analyzing the meanings for each of the 666 tasks these psykers, all drawn from the Black Ships. To find psykers able to not only withstand this, but to excel, was a surprise to the Blind King.
"My lord?" Ahriman noticed Magnus' stare. "Is there something you recognize in that slab?"
"I do," He answered. "This is the work of the Sigilite. But it is not directly his, though..."
"You are...correct," Toth commented. "According to our scriptures, this organization was formed by order of Malcador, with the intent of combating this unspeakable foe. To accomplish this, he drew in great heroes from throughout the Adeptus Astartes, some of them from traitorous Legions, but not all."
Magnus knew of the tales the Sigilite's "Knights-Errant", warriors who served to lay the groundwork that would eventually form this Chapter.
"These deeds...they are the basis for how these Knights have fended off the horrors of the Warp." Magnus was mulling through this, "And as they shield themselves with their Aegis, we too must find ways to ward ourselves from the Warp's terrors."
"And that would mean...?"
"If it is acceptable with the authorities present here," Magnus began, "I would wish for these Rituals of Detestation to be placed upon my skin, so that I may know the sacrifices these sons make for the Emperor and the Imperium, and so that I may know how to better shield myself from the Warp's nightmares."
The declaration stunned the Inquisitors, who were not even sure why the Primarch wanted to undergo this. Salvarius was the first to recover, "Y-you mean, you want these Rituals inscribed upon your skin?" Magnus nodded. "Lord Toth?"
The Inquisitorial Representative nodded. Within minutes, Magnus was led by two Grey Knights and an Apothecary, where they would begin the process of scribing these 666 rites into his skin. As the others began walking to witness this, Toth began with another question. "Chief Librarian, I have heard from my acolyte that you have apparently...found a means to learn about the Imperium's current status. May I inquire as to how that is?"
Ahriman kept walking, but hidden from view, his hand shuddered. No doubt the Inquisitor was curious about something that could damn him, and that was one thing he had: The notebook given to him by his doppelganger, Ahriman the savior who damned his legion to becoming soulless automatons. He could not possibly tell that to the Inquisitor.
"Well," he began, "Not unlike these Knights, the Thousand Sons are a brotherhood of psykers. However, we have our Legion divided into separate cults dependent on our discipline. The Athanaean Cult, for example, is a cult focused on the many aspects of telepathy. Not only are they capable of communicating with each other almost entirely without words, but they have also been trained in the arts of Astropathy, allowing them to intercept and decipher messages from throughout the Imperium."
"That is rather enlightening," Toth commented, "But I believe that there is more to it. According to my acolyte, your Primarch had learned about his own Daemonic ascension, yes?"
Ahriman shuddered. He needed another excuse. "...Indeed. Lord Magnus is aware of that."
"No astropath of the Imperium, unless they were exclusively under our control, would know about this. So again, how did you learn about the situation?"
"Has your acolyte also mentioned the informant beside me?"
Toth nodded. "I have. Quite curious of you to trust a member of the Alpha Legion as your confidant. What proof is there that he is indeed loyal?"
"Aside from the extensive psychic evaluations we take with any guest?" Ahriman had hope this would be enough. "The Legionnaire was also among us during the siege of Terra, guiding us to the Adeptus Astra Telepathica so we could coordinate the defenses of our brothers in orbit."
The Inquisitor was satisfied with the answer. "I see. What luck it is to have loyalists among those traitors who were aware of the news over these last ten thousand years."
"It is fortunate enough that we have been given this chance to atone for our sins."
Toth agreed. "Let us hope that you uphold that oath."
----SOME TIME LATER----
Magnus the Red had emerged from the Apothecarion looking little different than usual. However, everyone was able to notice two sigils upon Magnus' hands. One being the sigil of Malcador, the other the Legion's symbol.
"On your right hand..." Salvarius noted, "Is that...a sun?" "Indeed. A sun has been the symbol of my Legion since they discovered me. This sun symbolizes the bright power they have in themselves, for as one, we are truly massive."
The next place the group went was a training room, where the Knights dueled amongst themselves tirelessly. Here, one of the Knights, clad in Terminator Armour, challenged a member of the Sekhmet to a duel. The Son chose a simple force sword, while the Knight chose a Null Rod.
"I say," Ahriman asked, "Why would you willingly remove your gifts?"
The Knight turned to face him. "Our prowess is not merely in our minds, but in our steel. Those who cannot fight as warriors will not survive as warriors." Aware of this challenge, the Scarab Occultist dropped his sword and began charging.
A punch was flung by the Son, but the Knight was able to sense it and strike the Son's back. He stepped back in that same instance, leaving him dazed as he regained his composure. He prepared for another punch from the red one, but that punch he expected was a feint, the other fist nearly colliding with his armour before it was swatted out of the way. The occultist then charged with his shoulder, hoping that his massive weight would unbalance the Knight as he struggled to escape. However, instead of failing to dodge, the Knight calmly stepped to the side and pushed him over.
"Yield." The Knight then helped his adversary up.
"I see that your armour is very..."
"Antiquated, yes." Magnus seemed a bit crestfallen that his elite soldier was so easily bested by the Grey Knight. "A shame at that. The armour they have is incredibly agile."
Salvarius intervened, "More than that. These Knights, their armour is a sacred weapon that is a conduit for their will. The Aegis is more than just some psychic shield. It's a complete system of senses, spreading throughout his entire brotherhood."
As the warriors were conversing, Inquisitor Reallus was met by a Techpriest, wearing so many purity seals and wards that he looked like his robe was made entirely of them. After a quick word, the Techpriest left.
"Lord Magnus," he announced, "We have something that we wish to give to you. A sign of goodwill, if you may."
"A gift?" the giant was curious. "Aside from the weapons cache you have gifted us?"
"This is a more personal one."
They returned to the Armoury to find in the middle of it a grandiose suit of armour in the same sheen as the others. Upon the pauldrons were many scriptures and many languages, wrapped in a red tabard. The Tabard bore gold lining and the Legion's symbol in the front, while near the breast, where a book would normally reside, an XV was there, identifying his Legion.
"Our formal apology, for I and Inquisitor Marmel here," the woman bowed, "we were among those that doubted your authenticity as the Primarchs."
Magnus chuckled. Clearly, this humbling has made them very desperate to appease the Primarch. "Worry not. We may have been opponents, but so long as Terra stands, we will always find a way to reforge that enmity as a friendship."
>Outside the Citadel of Titan
The Thousand Sons and their Primarch, now bearing a specialized armour of the Aegis as well as his new scriptures, had met again with the Inquisitors outside the fortress.
"I appreciate your help with accustoming us to this...new aspect," Magnus thanked the Inquisitors.
"Yes, but," Toth had one last question, "I had asked a question to your Chief Librarian, and I have yet to find it...conclusive."
"The nature of how you learned about the fates of the Traitorous Legions. While I may accept the possibility of an informant of the Alpha Legion, the fact that he knows this much is something I cannot accept entirely." The Inquisitor approached the Primarch. "There is something in there, something that is being hidden."
Magnus was instantly aware of what Ahriman meant. The book was a possible threat, but... Magnus cursed himself. He had thought this was entirely of good intentions that he was not focused on that one item's impact.
"I must add something else..." Toth mentioned as an aside. "As a Primarch, I find that I cannot...properly act as a final arbiter of judgment, and considering your actions on Terra, I feel that I am obliged to at least accept what has been told with no prejudice."
A sigh of relief. Magnus ordered Ahriman to come and hand him over a dusty tome, adorned in innumerable mystic wards and devices. "This tome was the property of Azhek Ahriman, former chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons of this time. In it contains the many notes he had upon the mistakes of both the Imperium and of the universe. When he saw his mirror, hopeful and free of the taint, he saw that there was a chance for redemption."
While the Inquisitors were all visibly shocked at how nonchalant the Primarch was, Toth was contemplating. "Ahh, and this is the final piece. You had your own originals aid you with this. Now, it makes sense how you knew so much about his past."
"What now?" Magnus asked.
Toth turned around. "I am bound by my word. I cannot act upon this. However, should you falter next time... Know that I shall be waiting."
As Horus sat down in a small - now void of any souls save for his own – chapel to the Emperor, his gaze wandered, his mind full of questions and doubts. He knew full well of the developments of his past self's heresy. He knew of the betrayal. He knew of the grief that has been caused. He knew of the thousands of Astartes who had perished, and the thousands more who had descended into madness. Yet he knew, deep inside, that the betrayal was so grave not only because he had turned his back on his father. He knew that in the final hours what he had cast aside was, first and foremost, his humanity. When he saw the brave soldier, the lone man standing between an enraged demigod, a Primarch, and his beloved Emperor, the human being that did not waver and did not make a single step backwards, by striking him down he became an enemy not only to his own father, but to all of mankind. What caused this was of no consequence. What led to this was irrelevant. Horus was a man of honour, and he needed to atone for what he had done. Only now did he realise that he was no longer alone in the chapel. He was so focused on his own thoughts that even his excellent senses did not notice that another man had entered the holy ground. A few metres behind where he was seated now stood a small, frail figure, with its face engulfed in darkness by the hood of its cloak. The silhouette did not flinch when Horus stood up. Then it spoke, abruptly breaking the silence that fell, its voice confident yet soft.
- "Do you know of the religions of old, son of the Emperor?" - the words rang.
Horus did not move after hearing the man speak, and watched as he passed him, slowly moving towards the altar at the end of the chapel.
- "Walk with me, and let me tell you a tale."
The two strode along, the demigod listening in silence as he followed the hooded man.
- "In past times, men did many things in the name of religion. Things that led our Emperor to believe that every belief in the supernatural was evil and led to suffering, without exception. But there is one thing in the ways of old that I see as inherently human, the best virtue that men can aspire to. Do you know what that is?"
Horus found himself strangely enthralled by the speaker. Though his mind was sharp like no other, and he knew the immediate authority his very being held among men, somehow he knew that in this very moment it was his role to listen.
- "I do not."
- "It was forgiveness. Belief that no act, no evil deed would be so foul that it could not be forgiven. Not even the greatest of betrayals."
They stopped, as the were now only a few steps from the altar, and the steps that rose towards it. Horus turned towards the figure, his mind now certain that he knew what needed to be done. He reached to his side and unsheathed a dagger, a weapon that seemed fragile and tiny in his powerful hand, but for a normal man would be as big as a sword. He held it out, and knelt. Even though there were only two of them in the whole chapel, it felt like the whole chamber was now filled with eyes staring intently. Millions of souls waiting for what was to come.
- "I know not who you are. And I need not know, for I know what must be done." – Horus said – "Though I am reborn, the man that caused all the suffering and grief, the man turned against his brethren is a part of me. And it is by these brethren that I should be judged."
The hooded figure took the dagger, and though its eyes could not be seen Horus felt as if he was looking at the dagger, pondering. He held it with a firm grip, and it seemed as if he was no longer the frail, small human that entered the chapel. In front of him was a being as tall and powerful as any Astartes, and his voice was much more powerful as it echoed along the arches.
- "It is only right indeed." - as he said these words it seemed as if the darkness that shrouded his face was now gone, and instead a blinding light shone, illuminating the surroundings. For a blink of an eye, for a moment as brief as a heartbeat Horus though that he recognized the visage of the last man he killed, the man that stood firm against evil that he had once represented and paid the ultimate price for doing so. Or was that just what he hoped for, what he wished for? Maybe he wanted it to be Ollanius, he wanted it to be the man most worthy of punishing the Warmaster.
- "But it is not today that your life should end. You are your own man now, no longer bound by the wickedness and treachery of Chaos. You are no longer Warmaster. You are Horus, son of the Emperor, and for what you have done you must atone."
After hearing these words, for the first time, Horus wept. When he rose, the man was gone and no trace of him left in the chapel. The light was still there, as if the whole chamber was now filled with a strange glow. The dagger lay on the ground. As he rose, he felt as if the gazes of every soul that seemed to fill the chapel were no longer judging. They were proud. He was once more one of them. He was once more the finest of them. He knew what lay ahead of him and as he walked out, he felt ready to face his father, to face his future, to face the great undertaking – the undoing- of his own past deeds.
Captain Mathaius Ward on Guilliman's Return
"Sorry son, you see... your brain its, well I'm not going to fool you, the blood vessels on your brain are going to explode with the first set of implants and augments. I'm sure you're a loyal citizen of the Imperium but I'm sorry you wont be able to be an Astartes"
And that's it, thats how an old Medicae officer crushed my dreams of being an Astartes, one of my biggest dreams that will never be. But now the real big dream of my life is going to be real, to finally see with my own eyes the biggest primarch, second only to the Holy Emperor, a titan, a demigod and writer of the Codex Astartes. Today, finally I'm going to meet him, Roboute Guilliman.
The naval officer was nervous, like a child on Emperor's day, even a veteran of countless battles was not used to see Astartes on real life, and a primarch, a hero of legend was a honor beyond his wildest dreams. He checked again on the mirror every minor detail of his uniform, every brass button and insignia of his parade uniform was polished, his boots, his sword, everything was perfect. The disappointment of youth was long past forgotten, the countless times he visited the Shrine of Guilliman, the visions of fighting the enemies of the Imperium under the orders of his spiritual liege, every minor detail of his life will take him here to this single day.
The sky over the Fortress of Hera was bright, not a single cloud on it. Around the spaceport the ultramarine banners give a festive yet solemn aura to the scene. Fast as a bird of prey the Thunderhawk approached while the honor guard stood waiting for the Primarch to arrive.
The giant ship opened its bay doors and an imposing figure, returned at last after so many years to his homeworld. The Astartes honor guard were the first to welcome the primarch, the noble Marneus Calgar seem small for the first time at the side of Guilliman himself, a thunderous clash seemed to shake the spaceport itself when those two warriors embraced like long lost brothers of arms, two noble and proud warriors separated by millenia of war.
The civilian authorities of Macragge, with the PDF and Naval Honor Guard walked to welcome and greet the living legend. The naval officer wanted to tell him about how honored was to be able to see him, to tell the primarch about his dreams and how loyal and proudly he served on the Fleet over Macragge but the anticipation was too much for him, as he felt himself collapsing and everything went dark.
While a couple of PDF guards took the unconscious naval officer to the Medicae, Guilliman and Calgar walked to the Fortress.
"That officer, who is he?" Guilliman gestured to the prone form of the officer on the stretcher with his eyes.
"He's loyal and brave beyond doubt, but he seems to be... slightly obsessed with you. "
"That could be dangerous", Guilliman's face showed real concern for the human "Please, Marneus, be sure that he gets the best medical attention possible. He's a loyal servant of the Imperium even if he isn't the brightest one. What's his name?"
"He's Captain Mathaius. Captain Mathaius Ward." Calgar replied with a faint smile.
Magnus1 has clearly been stalking Magnus2 and Tzeentch daemon incursions are becoming more frequent. Finally, something happens and they meet face to face. Magnus2 is nervous, grips his holy lance and prepares to slay himself. He's clearly not quite ready for it, his encounter with Russ was only a few days before, and he isn't sure that he even blames Magnus1, but here, in the moment, his lance crackles to life and he tenses for the fight.
But Magnus1 stops him, drops any weapon he has, lowers his arms, lowers his psychic defenses.
'I only wanted to see you with my own eyes. To make sure you were real, to make sure you were me. And you're not me. You're better. So I'm satisfied. Take care of our legion.'
And then he turns towards the conveniently placed Fateweaver or what-have-you of Tzeentch and sets off the psychic equivalent of an A-Bomb. His mortal form psychically combusts as he releases the daemon princedom and the powers his father gave him. You can barely hear him say: 'Forgive me father'. All around, across the battle, daemon's heads explode like its fucking raiders of the lost ark. Chaos Sorcerers are blinded and the Rubricae stand tall, their souls re-bound and they look towards the new Magnus as their leader.
Meanwhile the blazing form of the Primarch grants some sort of stability to the Magnus2's legion, like a mass soul binding with the Emperor, with the spirit of M1 as the bridge.
If we were to talk about Legion practice later, new recruits would drink some holy Soma and enter a trance where they'd see the history of their legion and as it happened they'd feel mutation and impurity surge across them until M1's sacrifice healed them. (By the grace of the God Emperor!)
He stood upon a dead world of ash and bones, his hands tightly clutched around his spear. His back ached, the multitude of ‘holy’ sigils etched there smarting still. A part of his mind rebelled and railed against this word; holy. Belief and faith in the Empire was one thing, but to treat him as a god? It was the antithesis of all the great crusade had been about!
Deep breaths calmed Magnus enough to ease his mind into the familiar routines of battle meditation. He came here with a purpose so great and terrible he needed all the help he could get, whether or not he agreed with the philosophies of the grey armoured Astartes who had armed him. Slaying Daemons was their trade, after all, and he had come here to slay a daemon of unfathomable power, the one they named the crimson king.
Nikaea. That was the name of this rock. He was assured it meant a lot to the King, and that he would be unable to resist the challenge of activity on Nikaea. In truth, the crawling, scraping, bowing scholars that had suggested this place had been most vague as to why. He had been somewhat distracted at the time, as a dozen chanting knights had been carving 666 symbols into the flawless skin of his back. Now his mind sifted through the likely possibilities. Was the King defeated here? Humbled? Or is it the sight of a victory? A testament to his ruthless treatment of defeated worlds? It could mean everything or nothing.
Through the aether, he felt the quake. The second skin of reality seemed to tremble for a moment, shaken by the arrival of his target. He was not alone, however. In front of Magnus, next to the nexus of swirling energy that was the King stood a humanoid avian figure as tall as a Primarch. Its body seemed withered and twisted, however, perhaps because of the hideous mutation of an extra head. Its spindly hands clasped a huge staff that reeked of warp energy. It seemed that the daemon, and Magnus could think of no word to describe it so perfectly, was responsible for his foe’s arrival.
Yes, his foe. The twisting light slowly dimmed and dissipated until the figure was revealed. Magnus wasn’t sure what he had expected, other than that it would look at least somewhat like him. Whatever image had been in his mind, it wasn’t what stood before him. The King was, before everything else, clearly him. From his stature to the slight smile playing across his lips to the mane of red hair, yet each was a twisted. The smile was a little less kind and a bit more contemptuous, the hair a little bloodier and less regal. He wore interlocking plates of gold and blue armour, though it seemed more ornamental than practical, and bore a staff not unlike the daemon’s.
Magnus cleared his face of emotion and stepped forth. The King raised a hand and the daemon bowed and stepped back. Then the towering entity walked forwards to meet himself. When they were finally face to face, the King lifted his hand to touch his own empty socket.
“Together, we have a the correct amount of eyes”
Magnus didn’t reply, his jaw clenched. He could feel the power seeping for every atom of the King’s being. Even when standing before his father on the steps of the Imperial palace on Terra, he had never been so sure that the being who stood before him was his superior in psychik might. It was insane to even dream of fighting the king. Had they known that went they sent him here? It mattered not. The King’s failure was his as well and he would wash it away with blood, and he cared not from whence it flowed. Magnus prepared to begin his assault, with magic and mind as well as tooth and nail.
“Hold Brother. I am not here to fight you. I had to see”
These words cut through Magnus’s concentration perfectly. He stopped readying his mind for the oncoming floor and considered the King’s words.
“You had to see what?” He said at length.
The King smiled sadly.
“I had to see if it was true. They said you were me, but they were wrong. You are more than I am, than I ever was. You haven’t failed. You won’t fail. You will be what I should have been. I only ask that you remember my last act, not those that lead up to it”
Magnus wrinkled his brow in confusion, all attempt at seeming impassive and aloof forgotten.
“I do not understand. They told me you were a traitor, an unrepentant enemy of the Emperor. What happened to you?”
Now the King’s smile collapsed into a look of despair.
“Much happened to me. I never sought to betray him, please believe that. All I wished was to warn him and to save him... but I disobeyed him. In the end, I am as guilty as any of my brothers. Now I must say goodbye, Magnus the Red, for I have one last spell to cast”
So saying, the king turned and strode towards his daemon accomplice. The thing opened its mouths to speak and Magnus could feel its infernal mind spreading through the air. But the King stopped both with a single gesture, holding it immobile until he stood before it. He reached out and gripped it by the throat, pulling it close. Magnus just heard the words that came from his lips, despite the growing roar of the winds and crackle of the warp.
“Didn’t see this one coming, did you?”
Now Magnus could see, with the eye closed to the material world, what the king was doing. All that power was being turned inwards, twisted back on itself again and again, each twist making it more potent and less stable. The daemon was struggling to escape but the King was twisting its essence into his own. The only conclusion of the spell would be the destruction of both and the psychic ruin of the entire planet. Magnus spent less than a second calculating the odds of escaping the planet before the King completed the spell and dismissed them. He would witness this with his last seconds, a worthy end to a life of magic.
Then the spell changed. The mass of energy was no longer twisting inwards. Some of it flew through the aether, further and faster than even Magnus could follow it. He could easily guess its destination, however. It was aimed at where he had left his legion and for a moment he feared for the fate of his sons. The King, surrounded by impossible and unthinkable energies never meant to be gathered in one place, turned to Magnus and smiled.
“I will not let them be used against you as they were against me. Never again shall a Son fall to the flaws of his flesh”
Then his eyes closed and the energy swallowed him and the struggling daemon completely. An orb of sheer oblivion swelled for a few seconds, swallowing much of the ground in front of Magnus but stopping just in front of his armoured feet. He felt the mental presence of both the King and the daemon simply... vanish. The great ocean was still for a moment as the orb dissipated then exploded into a terrible storm. Warp travel around Nikaea would be impossible for some weeks, but that was not Magnus was thinking of. Instead, he wondered whether he had heard what he thought he had just before the climax of the destructive power.
“Father, forgive me and forget me. Magnus will be all that I should have been”
On the dead world of Prospero, 18 figures stood. 2 sets of 9 warriors regarded each other. Both regarded each other with disgust and hatred. All, a teacher and student of the Great Ocean. Two Captains regarded each other.
Ahriman looked to his former self. A torrent of emotions washed over him. Anger, disgust, hope, envy, and despair. Likewise, his counter part also had a flood of emotions washed over him. Both controlled their emotions and powers through the use of the higher enumerations taught to them, by their Father.
"I assume you know why you are here." He said to his past.
"You intend to destroy me? Out of hate? Disgust?"
"No. I intend to do to you, as you have hoped to do to the Imperium and it's citizens. What I had hope to do."
Ahriman looked at him in the eyes.
"I intend to enlighten you. To our mistakes. Our despair. And our hopes. I believe, by having you know our fall, you can avoid our mistakes and attain our goal."
"I do not follow you. After all, do you not wish the destruction of mankind all for your own goals?" Ahriman spat with venom towards his twisted self.
"No... I do not. I seek our redemption. Our salvation. Father may have forsaken us. Some of our Legion, our Brothers, have forsaken us as well, but I have not. I am loyal still and all I care, is to prove our worth. Our strength. Our loyalty."
"After the destruction of our home.... What caused the destruction of our Legion? Our brotherhood?"
"Much. Father forsaken us, trying to scry into the far, far future, to assure himself. Meanwhile, I had tried to save us, only to damn us to a slow and agonizing undeath."
"But that is a tale for another time. Now, I must hand this to you. It is time you carry our burden, our knowledge, our hope, and our salvation."
He handed the scarlet warrior a leather bound grimoire.
"It is my life's work. My shame, my pride and the start of your journey, and the galaxy's salvation."
Magnus and Russ
Russ stepped into the ready room where Magnus was already waiting, Russ unshaven and smelling of mead and Magnus not bothering to conceal his impatience.
'It took you long enough.'
'I've had an eventful past few days.'
'Haven't we all.'
'You try being cast up out of the warp after thousands of years to find your old fleet waiting and brothers you thought lost and dead again alive.'
'Some you even had a hand in killing.'
Russ shifted uncomfortably.
Magnus continued, 'I've learned a lot these past few days. You see, I don't remember what happened at Prospero. I wasn't there. But as I understand it, you were. So why don't you tell me about it? Tell me of your glories, Russ.'
'Not all war is glorious, Magnus.'
'Oh, is it now? Master of the Rout. But it was war that came to Prospero?'
'No, I don't suppose it was.'
'Well, then, why not tell me what it was that toppled and made topless the towers of my home? What was it that killed my planet?'
'The Emperor ordered me, I thought he'd ordered me.'
'Ever the obedient hound, Russ, when it suits you. But tell me straight to my face that you didn't relish the battle. Tell me you didn't enjoy it as Prospero burned.'
'Look! What did you come here for? To start a fight?' Russ spat it all as a single unbroken line of sounds that didn't quite assemble into words. He took a deep breath. 'What do you want from me.'
'Recompense.' Magnus pushed the table aside and rose. Russ stood dumbly, his eyes giving an answer that Magnus decided not to hear. He advanced towards Russ.
'What, Russ, after all the judgements and advice, finally out of words, are we?
If only you'd stayed your tongue like this at Nikea. Or perhaps taken this passivity at Prospero. Or maybe if you'd ever bothered trying to master yourself enough to not let Daemonic Horus use you. But no. You wanted to let loose the warhound within. My dear brother wolf, you've always been the wise one for counsel, about the dangers of the warp, keeping in line. Never mind that your Rune Priests are witches, never mind that your legion turns into beasts. Yes, I know that. I know that and more. They've been very thorough in my education these past days. Why don't you say something? Reply! Answer for your crimes!'
And then Russ broke down. He wept, his speech broken by heaving sobs and Magnus' blows.
'I'd never wanted to. I'd never meant to. I was afraid of what would happen to my legion.'
'Stand up and fight, Russ. Let me see if there's any honor in you.'
Magnus dragged Russ to his feet, moved his arms into a fighting stance.
'I can't! I can't do it again! The first time nearly broke me! You're more right about me than you know! I am indeed a dog. Loyal to my father, loyal to my brothers. I'd wanted to talk to you, talk it out. But Horus. Horus manipulated everything. Made me believe you'd gone rogue.
After Prospero, I defended Terra. I defended the Imperium. But mead lost its taste, the sky lost its colour. Battle and song lost their joy. I tried, oh I tried, for centuries to live, to go on knowing what I had done, what I was. And that was when I thought you were a traitor! Every year, I hated everything more and more. I could only think of you. I left. I left Fenris. I went into the warp, to find you. To end this. Either with your death or mine and Emperor, I hoped it would be mine. So go on, kill me. I deserve it and if you don't maybe I will. It isn't like I've not considered it, sitting here. Even the mead doesn't do anything anymore. So go on. Do it.'
Magnus just stood, silent. He'd never imagined that Russ was anything but the Emperor's hound. He advanced towards Russ again and embraced.
'I. Will. Not. Let. It. Happen. Again.' grunted the Wolf as he forced his blade against the Cyclops's lance. 'I will not let you tear the galaxy apart again!' The Cyclops watched as his brothers blade pushed against his own weapon, forcing it lower and lower until the edge of the power field began to cut into his armor. Drawing his psychic might he knocked his brother back against the far wall, his adamantium armor, scavenged and mismatched, cracked and fractured from the blow. But the wolf was raging now and the strike did nothing to stop him. Launching himself back at his brother he brought his great sword against the golden lance of the Cyclops again and again, wild blows that if swung by anyone else would have left them open to easily retaliation. But the Wolf was maddened, frenzied, and faster than he had ever been before and would ever be again.
Time and time again the great frosted blade beat against the golden flaming lance. Blow after blow the Cyclops parried, blocked and dodged. Unable to stop the Wolves crazed but deadly attacks, unable to concentrate to bring his otherworldly powers to bare on his brother.The Cyclops was faster, stronger and a hundred times more skillful than the last time this battle was fought. But for all his speed, strength and skill he was taken by surprise when the Wolf slammed his forehead against his only eye. He only just lifted his lance above his head to block the next blow that drove him to his knees. The Wolf knocked the lance out of his hands with a mighty overhand blow.
'So I guess after all this time you are still the better fighter.' the Cyclops growled defiantly. Staring into the eyes of the Wolf.
The Wolf stared down at him. Cold grey steel eyes met a singular one, even more red than usual. 'I cannot let it happen again.' The Wolf whispered as he lifted his blade to take the final blow.
The Cyclops closed his eye and waited for the final blow. Unable to bring himself to fight his brother anymore.
The Cyclops felt the air in front of his face move as the great sword swept down in its final strike. He heard the blade sink deep. He heard the ragged cry of defeat. And he heard his brother crying.
Opening his eye he saw the Wolf kneeling, his sword sunk into the great stone floor, face against his chest. He heard the great Wolf crying. And he finally saw how old the Wolf has become.
Aged beyond time. Wearied by forces unimaginable. The great Wolf knelt on that floor. His mismatched armor crumbling and flaking away. His blade chipped by a million strikes. Unable to gather the strength to look into his fallen brothers eye.
The Cyclops rose above the Wolf. Golden light glowing from his form. 'Do you wish to continue brother or are you done?' He asked. His tone hard and unforgiving.
The Wolf looked at his brother. The grey eyes were no longer strong and determined but broken and empty. The red was still hard and full of fire. 'Do not let it happen again Magnus. You do not let it happen again.' The Wolf sighed. The last of his great strength leaving him he lay his head against the hilt of his blade and closed his eyes.
Ho! How we know in yore days
How the Wolf-King, great ring giver,
With the All-Father warred in campaigns great
And made the thousand stars submit, toppling towns
wrecking walls, sending xenos to flight,
And how when Horus fell to foe foul
And benificence betrayed did the Wolfking with were-rod stand
And on Holy Terra did the Emperor defend.
Well taught were the foes of men on that dire day
In death and vengeance wreaked, swords fed
And when they broke, rabble routed,
Did many more a man he slay.
But betrayal foul and dire days
Did to the Wolf-King come and in endless war
Was the All-Father's kingdom by foul flames consumed
And though were-rod, valiant wolves were,
Stoic stood and in battle met
Traitors, beasts, and worse.
No courage could their liege lord spare.
And for many years, did he in woe wander.
Solace seeking, and daemons slay.
Of these times, can many tales be told.
But after wanderings endless
And monster slay, beasts battle
How many of them of dread daemons
Ichor draw, skulls shatter
But when he did An'ggrath awful
Dread Khorne's evil equerry
Eight days and eight nights rumbling battle
Cities shatter, stars crush
Was the Wolfking wounded and from the sky fell,
Bloodied and battered to earth tumble...
There was a man called Þorvegr, son of Grimni Helgisson, of Bjárgarð 138th, and though of many valiant men, on Vanaheim were they by hordes unending outmatched, for though the Fyrdmenn were bold, the years of artillery shelling had reduced the cities to rubble and the smoke and ash blotted out the sun.
For every cultist they felled, more rose to take their place and nightly there was the rumbling of daemon engines.
When the pale dawn broke, it was with the blood red of an ash chocked sky and it was greeted with the roars of the cultists preparing another assault.
So had it been for five years, and yet the blood of men had bought only worthless hills on a dead world.
Contact with the fleet had been lost a year ago and without resupply, the advance had stalled.
And now there was little to them left, save to sell their lives for as high a price as they could fetch, a forgotten footnote for the Imperial war engine in this time of waning.
Þorvegr did not fear death, nor did his men. They'd accepted that this would be their grave in the second year, when the trenches had been dug and the Kriegers were withdrawn for higher priority battles.
They had long accepted that their situation was hopeless and that gave them some sort of perverse will. Instead, what filled Þorvegr with despair was how long they were holding out. It was almost as though the heretics were playing a game, spending lives to see if they could break the will of Þorvegr without ever having to break his body. And Þorvegr was afraid that they'd win.
He had nothing else to do, so he stood at his post, his face blackened from the funeral pyres of the heroic dead. Of his men and brothers, and directed the artillery and guns with whatever was left in him.
It was like conducting his own funeral dirge. He wanted to end it all in some mass charge. That'd at least be heroic, but he couldn't bring himself to it. He wasn't brave enough, he supposed, to meet his end on an enemy bayonet. So instead, he played it defensive, conserved his men's lives above all.
This war would end only after a fight for every last inch of the Emperor's land and with every last drop of the Emperor's blood, and for that determination, Þorvegr's reward was the endless waiting.
And then the Wolf-King fell.
His coming split the ashen night with a searing arc that he'd at first thought was another shell. And they'd found him, covered in daemon ichor, still raging furiously, his eyes wild and too full of something they'd tried to forget.
He screamed to the skies "Angraathr! Ek villr þu findr! Ek villr þun hausits á min koppa taka! Kommr á mik als enna maðr!"
Þorvegr and his men had never seen one of the Emperor's Angels. He'd assumed that they were some sort of fairytale, or a madman's ravings, like the Inquisition. But this being standing before him, roaring challenges in High Gothic could only be one and before he knew what he was doing, Þorvegr was on his knees.
"Well I know the wise one's words; that kin, cattle, and self all die alike, how glory never does. Still I have seen more good men die, and never did the wise one tell of how it feels to watch them pass. I went out and I feared I'd never return, but now I more greatly fear that I'll never tell their stories. I don't wonder if I'll be summoned to his hall. I don't care. I just hope the all-father remembers us."
He had been stalking through this bloodied wasteland for hours now, in search of the one thing he thought could offer him a good fight, or so he had heard. A Daemon Prince, his equal in strength, fury and combat skill. Angron neither knew or cared for its name. Since the Butchers' Nails had been inexplicably turned off with his casting up out of the warp, he no longer felt the furnace rage all the time, just in battle. Angron idly wondered what might happen between him and his brothers now, now that he was no longer the raging psychopath many believed him to be. Maybe he would find out why Russ thought he won their fight. Yes, he'd make Russ show him how he 'won'. And what of his other brothers? New fights, new alliances forged in the furnace of battle? Yes, perhaps. The absence of the Nails left room for some interesting thoughts. Looking around him, Angron squashed these thoughts. Speculation was one of two things: a fine mental exercise or a distraction. And right now, he sought retribution for the murdered Astartes he saw around him. White and blue armoured all. "I may not have those damnable Nails activated at this moment," Angron growled to himself, "but I am still the Eater of Worlds! For my murdered sons and battle-brothers, someone will pay for this!"
Hours later, he stumbled upon something he recognised from his Nucerian gladiatorial days- an arena. The very memories of Nuceria threatened to activate the Nails, such was the rage he felt at the memories of the world that carved his brain up. "What bastard high-riders sit here, I wonder?" Angron snarled to himself. "If they are responsible for the deaths of my sons, they too will perish as my sons did!" Moving into the arena through an archway, he felt his feet once more tread on arena sand. The gate he entered through had a portcullis slam down over it, blocking off his exit. Whatever entered this arena now, Angron had to fight it. "Let them come." Angron muttered to himself. "It matters not what they be, they will still die by my hands!"
One of the three portcullises at the far end of the arena grated up, and Astartes in purple armour entered the arena, bearing a wing sigil on their armour, and human skin stretched between spikes. Angron knew this design, but only vaguely, just as he knew, vaguely, the green-armoured Astartes entering behind them, known to him by the scythes some of them carried. Another group, armored in red and blue, bore horned helms and rigid stances. Another group, armoured in grey with black-and-yellow stripes, marched with them, alongside some in red and grey, and some with armour of midnight blue, and lightning and skull insignia. The final group wore black with bronze-ish trim. Together, they made about 300 Astartes. "The Emperor's Children- and the- Death Guard? The Thousand Sons, Iron Warriors and Word Bearers? The Night Lords too? The Sons of Horus?" Angron asked them. "What madness is this? What insanity has befallen you?"
The corrupted Astartes did not answer. The Emperor's Children raised sonic weaponry, and cried out "FOR SLAANESH!" before screaming forward at the Primarch. The Death Guard advanced slowly in the background, letting the Children and other Legionnaires go first, letting them wear the World Eater down. Or so they thought. Angron, though not corrupted as they were, was still a Primarch, and the Eater of Worlds at that. And the Eater of Worlds was a raging berserker in battle, something that had not diminished with time or 4th- dimensional warp realm fuckery. Still, before letting the Nails activate and losing himself in the fury, he sought answers one last time. "What madness is this? What are you doing? TELL ME!!" Angron roared as he laid about him with Gorefather and Gorechild. The Astartes of the former Death Guard answered him.
"We are no longer servants of the corpse you call 'father'." they gurgled, words bubbling up from foul lungs. "We serve Chaos, just as your legion do. And soon, so too shall you! Again!"
"WHAT THE FUCKING GORE DO YOU MEAN AGAIN!?" Angron screamed as he hacked through Traitor Astartes left, right and centre. He got no answer. He had, in his fury, destroyed them all. Looking up, another screech of metal on stone echoed across the arena as another portcullis rose and red-armoured warriors stormed into the arena. The sight shocked Angron to his core. They bore, on their pauldrons, the insignia of fanged jaws closing over a planet. The insignia of his Legion. "You- you are- my sons..." Angron stammered, for the first time in his life. "What... what is this?"
Another voice roared out over the arena, and Angron looked up to the boxes of the high-riders to see a daemonic figure stood there.
"They are the World Eaters! The Legion worshipping the Blood God! The deadliest fighters this galaxy will ever know! Your father sought to control you, but Chaos will release you and help you find true glory and battle honour! You will join us, leaving behind the corpse on Terra! He never cared for you, but we shall show you how to bring him down, and make him pay for the blood of your brothers and sisters!"
That old chestnut again. Angron felt his rage ignite again, but then, looking at the corpses around him, something clicked into place, something that should have done centuries ago, something that the Nails no longer inhibited. The high-riders' armies had outnumbered him by many thousands to one, and not even he could have slaughtered that many. Sooner or later, he would have fallen, and it was only because of that fucking 'Emperor'- no, his father, that he was still here today. Today, their memories lived on in his sons, doing even greater things in their names and memories, honoring them with every high-rider they laid low!
In that moment, the old Angron, the mindless, blood-crazed slaughterer, vanished forever. A new being was born, one possessing the skill, strength and ferocity of the former, but with new self- control and sense of family, justice and peace.
"My sons honour those who fought with me to carve the high-riders from Nuceria! They do great, and perhaps greater things in their name and memory! I have a family now, a family who I have neglected until now, a father who I hated- until now, and the rage to kill you and every one of your false 'World Eaters'! I killed those false Astartes for my brothers, I shall kill your red-armoured bastards for every one of my true sons they slew, and I shall kill you for the Imperium, and my father, who worked hard, and fought, I no longer doubt, to create it!"
"KILL HIM!!" the Daemon Primarch roared. The Traitor World Eaters charged, and formidable fighters they were, but they proved, again, as they once had on Isstvan III, no match for the World Eater. Standing in the gore of the traitors, Angron raised Gorefather and pointed it at the daemon that could be none other than his corrupted self.
"Now," Angron growled, as the Daemon Primarch leaped from the box and crashed down in front of him, "let us see how good you are. FACE ME, CRETIN!"
Angron looked skyward at the daemonic embodiment of the failures his anger caused. Its massive size eclipsed the faint red light that the planet's star cast over the planet, dwarfing even the massive visage of the younger, much less corrupted Angron.
It charged forward but the Primarch stood fast until its daemonic axe was about to come down upon his head before he leapt out of its path. Every time his daemonic self charged towards him he dodged out of the way, further enraging the giant daemon.
"HOLD STILL! FIGHT WITH HONOUR!!" it bellowed loudly, as he attempted to attack the Primarch again. As he did Angron shifted to the left of the blade and brought his massive chainaxe down on the crimson arm, chopping through the wrist. Boiling blood sprayed from its severed wrist. The daemonic Primarch swung his left arm at the uncorrupted Angron and the handle of its Khornate Axe smashed into his ceramite- bound frame, flinging him into the arena wall. He charged at him screaming "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!!!" The Daemon Prince's howls split the sky with fury. Angron's impact into the wall caused a huge section to come down on him. He flung himself out from the rubble and slid under the charging Daemon Prince, slicing through his right ankle as he did so. It knelt and shrieked at the sky before turning itself towards the pure Angron, swinging its remaining axe and slamming the stump of its wrist at the Primarch, missing every blow and become more furious.
"You serve this Blood God and this is all you can do?! Your gods have made you foolish and blind! You are weak and so are your gods..." The last part calm, and far more enraging in its mocking tone. He grabbed the injured wrist of the daemon he had become in fates hands and slammed it to the ground, bending back the elbow, and charging to its neck. He grabbed onto its head and slid his chainaxe beneath its neck. "And now you may rest." He said in a tone of pity as he carved through its neck.
Konrad and the Order of the Obsidian Mirror
Kurze looked around the command hall again. Order of the Obsidian Mirror seals were still on the wall by the door behind the rows of vox and cogitator terminals at which Sororitas and Astartes sat. When he'd visited the space in the morning, he'd found it depressing, the fact that his Legion was being merged with ex-Inquisitors, Arbites, and Sororitas, as part of an Imperial Security Service, seemed a testament to his failures. After the day's meetings and exercises, after seeing these people in action, he found he was feeling something verging on hope. The Inquisitors were clever, the Arbites dedicated, and the Sororitas facile with data and full of surprises. No, he decided, he wouldn't change the emblem. His legion would always be the Night Lords, but the time had come to step from the shadows, not just to inspire terror, but heroism as well. If these mere humans could do it, then so could he; wasn't that what the God- Emperor had made him for?
He almost allowed himself a smile.
A furrowed brow.
'What happened to me... ah, him. After he... er, I destroyed Nostramo?' he asked one of the Sororitas who had been guiding him. Yketrina was it?
She didn't say anything, clearly thinking.
'I wasn't wrong about Nostramo. What I did.'
He thought he saw her nod ever so slightly. He felt an odd warmness and again almost smiled when she spoke: 'He survived the Heresy. He withdrew to the edges of the Imperium and allowed an assassin to take his life. He'd been waiting for her, it seems. His legion didn't survive his death; it broke up into roving terror bands that haunt the Imperium to this day.'
Kurze thought for a moment about that, about the assassin, and, without thinking murmured aloud:
'Death is nothing compared to vindication.'
The Old Man on Terra
He just appears one night, past the guards and assassins, in a teleportation locked room, before the inquisitor.
Just to talk.
He identifies himself as the hand of the Emperor's Judgment.
And he looks it, his ornate armor nearly aglow with witchflame.
Inq goes for bomb,
shhhhh. No... now is not the time for that, besides I'm not one of those 18 primarchs. Now there are only dreams. So let's talk. You're here, sticking to your principles. I respect that. But are you sure of things? I mean you're talking to a 20 foot tall dude who appeared in your inner sanctum.
No, don't call the guards, I'll be gone before they arrive.
Consider me a figment of an overworked mind. I know that's how I think of myself. Something unsettling about warp travel, no matter what we say about it. So you make up a story. Helps you, your men. You make up a character. He'd never worry about the warp and the clawed things that craw there beyond men's sight.
He'd never worry about the warp and the clawed things that craw there beyond men's sight.
He's one of them. He's divine justice. You feel a bit more at ease because you can half believe in him. And your men do completely.
So what's your story? Guardian of the Imperium?
The way things are must be for a reason? Otherwise you've got to deal with the idea that the God Emperor isn't always there for you?
Yeah, I get it. I don't even blame you.
But are you sure?
And I don't mean sure as in the 'If it's not true, then I don't want to live in that world!' sort of way.
I mean are you sure that what you think is actually what you think?
How did I get in here?
Is that really a cyclonic torpedo you've got there?
I read a story once, or maybe it was a dream I had. They're hard to tell the difference on some times, aren't they?
It was about a man who lived on a world where it had always been night and he'd heard that dawn was coming. So he fought it, he built walls and passed laws, you get the idea. Anyways, he awoke. Turned out it had been day the whole time and that he'd been piling pillows. And what I'm saying is that that torpedo looks more like a pillow to me. But what do I know?
It's not possible for me to be here anyways.
And with that, the man began fading, until only his smile was left, which lingered for a few moments before it too vanished.
The Inquisitor ran to the door, to find his guards standing at attention. Dismissing their questions, he returned to his room, though where he'd thought the torpedo had been, was his cat. Asleep as usual, but certainly not as he remembered things. The torpedo was at the foot of the bed now. Where he'd put it in the first place. He turned to get back into bed. To find his face inches away from the giant from before. It bent down.
Just be sure that you're sure of things before you go blowing up Holy Terra.
The Inquisitor staggered backwards.
But it was too late. The giant was gone.
The Compliance of Erandi Setii Seven
It was a few days after Kurze had assumed command of the Imperial Intelligence community's ISS, long enough that he was no longer surprised by the numbers of humans around, but not long enough that he was entirely comfortable with it. Most of them looked at him with a mixture of fear and a distant sort of respect and the ones like Yktrina, who openly admired him (for what he had no idea), were worse. He felt more comfortable around the dark cynicism of Jago and the rest of the marines. They at least knew he was no hero. He gazed distractedly at the planet below. He almost felt bad for them; they'd revolted along with the rest of the sector, at the instigation of The Hand of the Emperor, that crazy old Inquisitor on Terra. Kurze had helped to break him. His duty to bring the Emperor's Justice, just as it was to do so here. No, what concerned Kurze was that he'd enjoyed it. He hadn't really felt comfortable discussing it with anyone, not even Corax or... he paused as he realized he'd never gotten his brother's name. He'd said 'Call me Ishmael', but Kruze had suspected that wasn't it. Ishmael had just laughed 'Names are power. I give you my true name, what's to stop you doing warp-magic and turning me into a newt? Besides, does it really matter what my true name is so long as you've something to call me?' Kurze had had to admit it didn't matter and that had been that. But no, Ishmael had enjoyed his part as the 'face of judgement'. Corax had clearly enjoyed the sneaking about, and Alpharius had clearly enjoyed the planning. And he'd enjoyed it too, but the company most of all. Yes, they'd all enjoyed driving that old man insane, driving mad his disciples, and breaking apart their entire force from the inside. Kurze had had to fight to keep from giggling (Corax did), when the old man had given Ishmael the detonator, convinced that Ishmael was a lieutenant and that he was no longer able to judge reality. What fun. And yet he couldn't deny that he'd enjoyed it, smiled as suicides had increased, as inquisitors fled from the fortresses, pursued by assassins. It meant they were saving Terra, he'd told himself, but a deeper, more honest knowledge told him he enjoyed the challenge. And what was so wrong with that? Alpharius did too. Alpharius started up a betting pool for how long it would take high priority targets inside to break. Ishmael was uncomfortably accurate. And yet they were the heroes of the Imperium, the God Emperor's semi-divine sons.
And here he was, to bring 'justice' to another world. As he looked around his staff, he couldn't blame the assembled humans. They had conviction, and, more importantly, they'd never brought a world to compliance. And Kurze could at least comfort himself that he didn't exactly enjoy this either. All except for that same voice as before which told him he did, which told him to make the streets run red. On Nostromo, he'd used to listen to that voice. He tried to ignore it now as he prepared to give his orders. "Make the traitors pay, make them suffer", it said. "This is a grim task, that we have before us, but these people have declared war on the Imperium. They have turned their backs on the God Emperor. They're just afraid. And when they're afraid, they become stubborn, and like this, we cannot reach them except on their own terms. Most of them are good people caught up in the moment. It falls to us to pass judgement." He paused for a moment. The humans looked at him with respect. And Yketrina was admiring. He wondered if they'd still look at him like that when they were finished. In that moment, Kurze made a decision. It was a new era, he could try something new. "We commence the operation at dusk."
At dusk, the drop pods fell from the sky. Marines in midnight clad emerged, bearing icons of the Emperor. "You have denied his will. Return home and to the Imperium, or face his judgement." Kurze relaxed visibly as most did just that.
The rest began throwing stones and firing primitive stubbers at the Astartes. "You have been found guilty." The bolter fire cut down the rows of rioters. In minutes, every major dissident group on the planet had been torn to shreds. The bodies were left where they fell. Kurze spoke over the voxes, "We have been merciful. Imperial control is restored."
Three planets in the area capitulated. Most ignored the event except to stockpile weaponry. For the next few days, Kurze carried on the compliance of the sector listlessly. Marines had to fight on every world and the secessionists only grew bolder.
It was late when Yketrina came to his quarters with news, but Kurze told her it could wait a moment. "You seem confused by my actions of late." "Well, it was just that your reputation was..." "Bloodier?" "More effective. You know, the Obsidian Mirror has done compliance operations, too. There are arbiters on this ship. We've all experienced imperial justice before." "I know that, but I was hoping that there was another solution, that the heads wouldn't have to adorn pikes. I figured my brothers and I have been given a second chance, so I might as well try to take it." Yketrina paused. "Then it grieves me much to tell you what I must." She told him that militants sized infrastructure on Erandi Setii Seven and several other planets they'd brought back into compliance. People who had surrendered and returned home had been tracked down and killed, their bodies placed on public display. Chaos iconography had popped up on other planets that were preparing for war. On the worlds that did remain loyal, terrorist cells were beginning public bombings. Kurze closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Inside that voice was laughing. "People never learn, they only understand one language. You know what that is Konrad." He ignored it. "We return to Erandi Setii Seven. I fix my mistake."
Hours later, the fleet arrived in orbit over Erandi Setii Seven. Kurze went on the vox all over the sector. "Hello. It seems that my initial visit was not enough to convince you the error of your ways. And really, that's not my job. Lorgar is the one for theology and worship. Sanguinus is the one to set the heroic example. I'm here as judge, jury, and executioner. I'm the law and I find you guilty. What you need to understand is that when you commit a crime, you undermine the structure of your society. To those of you who consider yourself 'innocents', every one of you is in a unique situation. Many of you are too afraid to fight for what is right. I understand that. Perhaps you have family that they'll hurt if you stand up to them. Fair. But if you let them have their way, how long will it be before they come for your family anyway? You let them have their way and it means that we must fight them. When you stand by, you let them have their way. Some of you are too young or too old, and sometimes there are not enough of you, and in these cases, I am sorry. But in cases like these, the guilty will take the innocent hostage. The terrorist hides in a school, the tyrant behind the voice of an oppressed people. And we cannot afford to allow this. We do not negotiate with terrorists, we do not allow the guilty to make a shield of the innocent. We will try to save hostages whenever possible, but it isn't always and for that, I personally apologize. I pray that you find your way to the Emperor's side, but we cannot allow justice to be stayed. I hope that the rest of you watching will learn from this little lesson so that I shall never again have to repeat it. I hope that the sacrifices of today are worth it. To all of you: Think on your sins. We have come for you." As he went off-air, he hoped he was doing the right thing. "You may begin."
Within moments, the arrays deployed, turning day into night across the world below. Marines rode drop pods screaming towards the ground. Their orders were simple: 10 heads per marine, kill any that resisted, leave children alone. Pile the heads in town squares. Take trophies of judgement as usual. If a site was home to organized resistance, level it.
Within 3 hours, resistance had ceased. The leaders of the rebellion and the cells were captured and flayed alive, their screams broadcast across the sector. On dozens of planets, riots broke out immediately, the citizens attempting to return to the Imperium. Several suceeded even before the support squads Kurze dispatched arrived.
That night, Kurze dreamed of Ishmael. Ismael was sitting, talking with him and told him to call him Brother Ishmael. They talked about books and about drama as they had on many evenings when they'd been together, but in the dream, they talked about the relationship between actor and role and author and book. The dream was interrupted when a Void Reaver entered, 'O Captain, my captain' and Ishmael had had to leave. Kurze awoke thinking about that. He remembered that amongst Ishamael's men, he'd only ever heard of them call him 'Captain' or 'The Captain'. And Kurze understood.
When his fleet arrived at the few worlds that still resisted, Kurze tried something new. "When Conrad Kurze came, he offered you the chance to surrender. That chance is gone. Now, Night Haunter is here. Now, it is time for justice." After this broadcast, he turned to a surprised Yketrina. "Conrad Kurze is merciful, but he only comes once. I think the most important thing for us, is that we have rules and that we follow them. Otherwise, we're just monsters in a uniform, imperial sanction or not." Kurze still wasn't sure he believed it, but at least time her admiration didn't make him feel unclean. And that, for now, he could live with.
Mortarion vs his Daemon Prince Self
Around Mortarion his legion was dying, the vile plague that had wracked this world and brought his "counterpart" here had run its course through his marines. The sick were swiftly executed, he would not make the same mistake as his damned twin had. In the ruins of what was once a hive he stood with the last line of defense his marines had put up, nowhere to run and a horde of Nurgle's vilest servants immune to pain and the fear it brings charging towards them, their predecessors vile with weak will and corruption. Pathetic is the only word that could come to his mind as he opened his mouth and in his grave voice he spoke to his marines "These pathetic hordes wish to see us dead and broken, but we have not bowed like our predecessors. We held our strength and endured the worst plagues these foul creatures god could create. AND WE HAVE ENDURED! AS WE ALWAYS HAVE! NOW I EXPECT YOU PROVE TO THESE WRETCHES WHY THE DEATH GUARD IS THE MOST STALWART LEGION AND WHY WE WILL ALWAYS ENDURE COMPARED TO THESE WEAKLINGS. NOW ON ME MEN WE WILL MAKE THEIR PATHETIC MASTER REGRET SENDING HIS "DEATH GUARD" TOWARDS US. FORWARD FOR THE IMPERIUM, FORWARD FOR REDEMPTION!"
And so with an uncharacteristic yell the remaining Death Guard charged. Mortarion bounded ahead his power scythe cutting down plague marines, ripping their foul insides out of them. When at last he spotted the one he had hoped would come. A great black shroud covered the towering figure, a great rotting scythe dripping with the foulest plagues of Nurgle's creation pointed at him as his deathly voice cracked "You... Impostor, come accept your death." Mortarion grinned "We shall see who endures you weakling, I will not bow so easily as you!"
He ran forward slicing his scythe at the torso of the cloaked one who easily blocked it with his own the rot rusting Mortarion’s Scythe. "You are slow..." The figure hissed, Mortarion jumped back as the figure's scythe tore apart the ground he stood on moments ago. "And you are weak willed!" He ran forward ducking low and around the figure his scythe raking along his back ripping apart his black cloak, as it fell he could see the corruption it hid. Foul boils and sloughing skin covered the daemon Primarch his flesh stripped bare on his hands. He looked at a visage of corruption that parodied his own. "Gaze on what true power looks like..."
The figure whipped around before Mortarion could so much as blink and brought his scythe down on the kneeling Primarch, he only had time to block it with the his own scythe which shattered from the blow a great light blasting him back. Mortarion coughed and looked at his battered armor; then his weapon, it was shattered but so was his counterparts who hissed at him "Come accept your death."
Mortarion spied a ruined edge of his scythe shattered on the ground. "Never."
He jumped up with inhuman speed and grabbed the edge driving it through the eye of his foul counterpart a sickening squelch as his eye and the puss that filled it popped. "I will endure."
He ripped it out tearing a chunk out of the daemon prince's head and the sent it through his neck "My death guard will endure you pathetic fool."
He looked around, the battle had not stalled around him and as the traitor's saw their prince destroyed by a mere mortal they began to run, not fast enough though as the remaining death guard cut them down. Mortarion raised his voice "WE ARE REDEEMED BROTHERS! THE WEAKNESS HAS BEEN PURGED! FOR THE IMPERIUM!"
A cheer rose up, and Mortarion allowed himself to smile... The coming weeks were arduous, the remains of the Daemonic Primarch was thrown into a boiling vat of silver then cooled and covered in the greatest wards possible before being put into a stasis field and thrown into the core of a dark planet only Mortarion knew the location of. His legion was broken, but they would endure and grow strong again and once more guard the weak from death.
Another Take, both, of course, are equally true
Mortarion climbed. He didn't look back. He didn't need to; he knew that his men would win. Even though they were mere mortals, unblessed by any god, they had something that those plague bloated parodies lacked. Just what that was, Mortarion didn't know, but he'd seen it. His men braced themselves against the recoil of their field guns wit some sort of silent satisfaction. Their artillery pieces were as some sort of call to greater action. Though their advance was one where blood was paid for every inch, they seemed to move with some sort of serenity, that absorption of one for whom the impossible is not beyond hope, but a rallying cry, because they know that the insurmountable can be surmounted, the unedurable endured. The plague marines, though tough beyond belief, were simply there, as though they'd sprouted on the battlefield and kept to war out of some old habit. And that's why Mortarion's men were winning, why he'd been able to reach this mountain and why he climbed. But what made them fight and what made him climb, he had no idea. He only knew that he did.
It was in smog and night that Moritarion reached the summit. The filth corroded his armor, he'd have to finish this quickly; no one was coming to save him this time. 'Hail Mortarion, son of the Emperor', called a voice that sounded like the emptying of bedpans in a mocking tone 'That name, you lost the right to call me by.' Nonplussed the voice responded, 'Fine, have it your way. Butcher mythology and become a self made Prometheus. I don't care.' A pause, as if hoping for some sort of rise from Mortarion. 'Anyways, what are you doing here? Come to undo a mistake or something? I think you're the mistake. Listen to me. Remember that first day when we came down off the mountain? And we saw the people in the fields, just gathering in the harvest? Just nice simple people. They had no big dreams, they didn't know how to. And then we came in, we changed everything. We showed them that fighting back was possible, gave them hope that they could be free, be more than they were. And all we wanted to do was sing harvest songs. And then we lead them. How many died? How many died in misery, as failures, their hopes crushed? And then the Emperor came, and suddenly the universe was so much bigger. And people worried that their farm life wasn't good enough, they were scared of the immensity of the possibilities. In a world where you can be anything, it requires so much confidence to be something. They were better off in their hovels, where they didn't have to worry about potential and opportunity. The were better off without us. That's why your men fight, you know? You. They see you as an inspiration, that you make a space for them to achieve their own greatness. And where has it gotten them? Dead, mostly. Better, I say, they'd stayed at home and never dreamed. Really, who's more powerful, who's better, the man who spends years making a statue or the man who smashes it?'
Mortarion responded: “So what are we supposed to do? Bedeck our mountaintops with toxic fog?
‘You’re not listening!’ Petulant more than angry. ‘Think about it this way. A cold coming they have of it. It’s so hard, such work, such hard work. Them pushing themselves to keep up with the possibilities in our strides, all with the voices in their ears, saying that it all is folly. But there’s a solution! Teach them that smashing the statue is the same as making it. Better even! When birth and death are the same thing, it takes the pain and bitterness from the death and the special joy from the birth. Then they can go back to their hovels and their little groups, confident that they have discovered happiness. They blink, and say that formerly all was chaos. See? Now they can be glad of another death.’
‘That’s not what that meant.’
‘Does it matter? I made it my own. What’s some long dead poet going to do about it? No skin off my ass.’
‘Leave to me my world and our works, which you had no hand in. I know of nothing more despicable than you and your ilk; perhaps, back then, when I was a child and did not know better, I perhaps thought as you did. But when, ever, has mediocrity led the way forwards? When ever, has it devised better hearths, warming hearts? When ever, has it heightened our joys? You did point out something that I’d missed. I am an inspiration to my men. And they don’t hate me for it because all I do is provide them with confidence to be the men they are. Just look below. Who’s winning? There they are, men in my own image, to struggle, to weep, to feel joy, and to cast you down.’
‘That may be so, but I doubt you’re going to defeat me. You can’t even breath up here. All I have to do is wait. That’s why apathy is so powerful, because passion eventually cools. It has to. Doesn’t it?’
‘You know? On Barbarus, I had to slay that thing. You, I don’t think I have to. I’m leaving.’
‘Wait! You can’t do that! You can’t leave me here! What if I do something?!’
‘You won’t. Maybe, before I returned, you’d have done something, but now? You’re going to sit right here, trying to prove me wrong, because if you don’t you’ll become me. Action now will invalidate everything you are.’
And over screams of protest, Mortarion climbed back down the mountain. He’d return, glass the site from orbit and coat it in molten adamantium, but that was perfunctory. The old Moritarion was gone. Mortarion returned to the foot of the mountain, to his legion and the world of men bearing fire in his heart.
Magnus revives the Emperor
So I sincerely believe that Magnus has the power to revive the Emperor. Hear me out before you go on about the Astronomicon and shit. Magnus IS a fantastic Psyker and so are the Thousand Sons (duh). So Magnus goes down to the Golden Throne with a few thousand warriors. Seeing his father's corpse-like body during his first return visit to Terra shook him to his very core. He knows that despite his power and the good intentions of his brothers, they need the Emperor now more than ever. For the first time in ten thousand years, times are changing. Mankind has a chance to turn the tide of chaos and once again retake the galaxy.
He approaches the Throne as his warriors rise through the Enumerations. Opening himself to the warp, he's nearly blinded by the light of the Astronomicon. Over the thousands of years the light has dimmed a bit, a very worrying development. He drops to his knees and places his hands through the stasis field, grabbing the Emperor's robe.
Days, weeks, months pass. His marines have been taking rotating shifts of 666 members of six choirs, communing with Magnus and fueling his efforts. The strain on these psychic warriors is immense, but their Primarch bears the brunt of the Chaotic onslaught attempting to prevent him from completing this most crucial task. The first two months are spent in preparation for the task ahead, his sons providing a bulwark of psychic energy while he completes the delicate rituals needed to call the energy needed to revitalize the Emperor. The next three are spent with his sons battling and purging the denizens of the warp and preventing daemons from possessing even one of the many warriors gathered. One month is spent channeling the warp, gathering enough energy for the final phase.
On the first day of the seventh month, the tipping point is reached. Magnus has not moved an inch, his sons out of rotation from the choir tend to the many wounds that have appeared on his body.
Throughout the entire ritual, the Custodes have kept watch on the Thousand Sons. They have trained on them their most devastating weapons that can be wielded so close to the Golden Throne. Their orders are clear. If at any moment they have even the slightest reason to believe the Emperor's well being to be in jeopardy they are to eliminate all members of the Thousand Sons and take their Primarch into custody.
Despite their best precautions, a few of the marines do succumb to the warp. Corruption soon appears and discord is sewn through the Choirs. The Thousand Sons have planned for this though. Each member of a choir has a watcher, a brother marine who stands vigil over his charge. The second any sign of corruption is detected, a bolt shell is put through the back of the corrupted marine's head. The longest outbreak of corruption recorded during this event was exactly thirty-five seconds long, the delay in granting the Emperor's Peace attributed to a jam in the watcher's bolt pistol. He was reprimanded and placed under censure, his punishment to be decided after his Primarch returns from the aether.
On the second day of the seventh month, the battle against the beings attempting to prevent the Emperor's resurrection has been won. After the tipping point was reached just a day before, an aura appeared around Lord Magnus. The Rites inscribed on his back began to glow, then burn. Golden flames licked the shimmering air around his body. His grasp on his Father's robe tightened. Sweat poured down his body in thick rivers, pooling beneath him.
The Choirs of Resurrection began to howl and the room's temperature dropped significantly. The Custodes surrounding the Thousand Sons began to shift and stir, the change in the Choirs and the Primarch proving to be highly unnerving to them. All members of the Thousand Sons joined in with the Choirs, lending their strength to their genefather.
A new light burned next to the Astronomicon. Not nearly as bright or powerful, but bright enough to be seen by Astropaths close to Terra. Thousand Sons began to burn out, slaving their life essence to the new beacon. Each marine who perished were witnessed to simply burst into gold and crimson fire which was drawn toward and into the trembling Magnus. In all, eight hundred and seventy three marines gave their lives.
The room was silent. Not even the constant background noise of the Golden Throne's quiet humming could be heard. Light began pouring into the room, the source was Magnus himself. For the first time in seven months he let go of his Father, tears of liquid fire streaming down his cheeks. Bright red wings of flame hung behind his back, his one eye, now open, shimmering and dancing with thousands of shades of colors.
"Thousands of years ago, the one who both is and is not me undid your greatest work. I turned on you, the one who gave me life, the most perfect being to stride the stars and delve the immaterium. The one who is both I and not I not only destroyed that work, but along with the other traitors attempted to destroy your Empire in the name of false gods. On that day thousands of years ago your most trusted son turned your body into a corpse. On this day thousands of years later, with the return of your sons, with the power you gave me, you, through me, restore this blessed body so that you may once again lead us against the enemies of man. We are your generals, we are your servants, we are your sons. From you came me, and now from me returns you."
With the words he needed to say finally said, Magnus turned his head to the sky, his mouth agape, his eye wide, and his hands raised in praise. White hot light poured forth and pooled around the Golden Throne, the chants of the Choirs reaching their climax. A mighty shout was raised, streaming out along with the light through Magnus' open mouth. The light pooled around the Throne appeared to be drawn up through the Emperor's feet, giving his body a steadily brightening golden glow.
None could look upon the Golden Throne, for the blazing inferno that raged around it seared the eyes of all who tried to gaze upon the wondrous sight. Magnus, his role now fulfilled, leaned wearily against a column as Ahriman rushed over with food and water. Magnus had not ate, drank, or slept for all these long months.
For five days Magnus slept and for five days the inferno of light engulfed the Golden Throne. On the fifth day the light began to die down and strange creaking noises could be heard from within the torrent. A loud burst like that of a thousand warriors teleporting to the surface of a planet with a particularly dense atmosphere rang out and a being of golden light descended the stairs toward Magnus.
All eyes were cast down, all bodies prostrated before the wondrous being of golden light before them. Any person even remotely in the path of the being scrambled to clear a path. Through this, Magnus slept, his chest rising and falling.
The figure who could only be the Emperor of Mankind knelt before his son and drank in the sight before him. What was once one of his most beautiful and regal creations was marred with bruises and lesions throughout his body, his aura flickering like a torch in a windstorm. Not even when his traitorous self flew from Prospero many years ago had he exerted so much strength, poured forth so much of himself into a psychic exertion. The Emperor lowered his hand and brushed away the bright crimson mane from Magnus' forehead. He extended one finger towards the center of his son's forehead and placed his other hand on his own chest.
Instantly the many bruises and lesions covering Magnus disappeared, his aura once again burning bright. Magnus' eye snapped open and with a sharp intake of breath he jerked his upper body vertical. For the first time in ten thousand years, Magnus looked into his Father's eyes.
Before he could say anything, The Emperor lifted one hand to the blank spot above his cheek where Magnus' eye once sat. When his hand was removed, his eye had returned. Tears rolled down the Crimson King's cheeks, the pain of the long months spent battling the forces of Chaos on their own turf evaporating in an instant.
For the first time in over ten thousand years, The Emperor of Mankind, the being most humans revered as a god, spoke:
"My son, I am here."
The Imperial Palace
The Emperor strode the ancient corridors of the Imperial palace, dressed only in a long sheet that he had wrapped around himself like a toga. A pair of Adeptus Custodes walked behind him, struggling to keep up with his enormous strides. The Palace was in turmoil, facilities that had not been used for ten thousand years were being hastily staffed and re-opened. Although no-one wanted to admit it, very few of them had expected that the Emperor would awaken within their lifetimes. A frantic search was underway for the Emperor's wardrobe, the only place where clothing that would fit the Emperor's titanic frame could be found. The Palace kitchens were desperately searching for records of the Emperor's favourite delicacies, every chef wanting to be the one to impress him. Word had been sent that the mechanicum's fabricator-general was en route from recently embattled Mars, wanting to study the golden throne now that it wasn't being used. The Custodes were in a state of controlled panic, few of them had imagined their job involving anything more than standing around alot. Now the one they had sworn to guard was walking around the palace wearing an enormous bedsheet.
"This is surreal." One of the Custodes muttered to the other, shaking his head. The Emperor's foot caught on the edge of his sheet and he stumbled for a moment, then cast a glance back at his guards.
"How is the search for my clothing going?"
"Slowly, my lord. The palace does cover nearly a quarter of the planet's surface, and no-one can remember where your chambers are."
"The west wing, in the 43rd spire."
One of the Custodes keyed his comlink and spoke rapidly to one of the searchers, whilst the other spoke up:
"If I may ask, where are we going?"
"The kitchens of course. I am hungry."
"Ah." The custodian keyed his comlink and spoke to his fellows in the kitchens. The burst of expletives on the other end did little to improve his mood.
Reunion of the Primarchs before siege of Terra
The battlefleet has been forming for months. The size of it was incomparable to anything that Mankind has seen since the Emperor first ventured out in search of his stranded children. First were the Space Wolves, the massive grey battleships silently orbiting a small moon in the system of Fervent. The whole chapter was the quickest to act, as even after milennia had passed they were never broken down into various successor chapters as the other legions, and it was rumored that the famed 13th Company has been stationed onboard their flagship Ragnarok, after their return to Fenris in circumstances shrouded by mystery.
Next was the orderly and well-equipped detachment of the Ultramarines, their vessels joining their brethren in orbit of the rocky globe. In short notice their successor chapters began arriving, and it would be that every day a seemingly endless stream of reinforments from these countless chapters poured down into the solar system. Then came all the rest, every Emperor-loving soul, both Astartes and Imperial Navy alike, the corvettes, the cruisers, the carriers. There was a sense of agitation and eagerness in the crews, for it would be that after ten milennia of endless battle, bitter defeats and bloody victories, humankind had the upper hand once more. Along the miriad vessels which formed up around the moon of Fervent II, there was one ship which looked as insignificant as can be – a small, frail corvette, its hull painted white-and-black, which flew straight towards the Ragnarok, where the Primarchs that had already arrived have gathered. As it went, it looked as if it was swallowed by the bristling organism of the fleet, ships changing paths to make way for its precious cargo. It entered a docking bay on the side of the battleship, and sat down on the steel deck.
The hall was empty, save for a few servitors gathered around its edges, busy with maintenance duties, and a single Astartes, his grey armour scarred and battered, bearing memories of countless battles. His helmet was on, and it looked as if he was a part of the ship itself – so firmly he stood, waiting, with a power glaive in his arm. As the ship descended and opened its hatches, he watched as a tall, powerful figure emerged, followed by many other Astartes, guardsmen and naval security officers. He walked straight towards the waiting Grey Knight, with his helmet at his side, revealing the face of a Primarch – the one who led the betrayal, who began the Heresy – Horus.
The Grey Knight did not move an inch as Horus stopped in front of him, and silence fell. The Primarch broke it first, his powerful voice echoing in the hangar bay.
- Now I see how right they were, calling you the quiet one, my son – he said, staring into the visor of the helmet, with no trace of any emotion on his face.
The words rang, and for what seemed an eternity, nothing happened. The guardsmen froze, gaping at the scene and waiting for what was to happen in anticipation – and perhaps fright of such powerful beings. And then came the strangest thing – the laughter. The Knight began shaking as if in spasms, and took of his helmet, revealing a bustle of grey hair, a face strangely old – even though Astartes were beings practically immortal – and a pair of eyes that radiated joy.
- In truth, I came here to see for myself if the news were right, and to strike you down if need be. But look at me now – cheering like an initiate after his first victory, me – a veteran of old – he said, and looked Horus straight in the eye – for I can see taint where it lay, and I can say that there is none in you. And this feeling was worth waiting for milennias.
Horus nodded after hearing those words, yet he did not make a step yet. Instead he spoke.
- There was an old ritual, a tradition that was practiced in the old days that I was always fond of. Is there a man here willing to bear witness? - He turned, facing the people that have now gathered around them. From the crowd a man walked forth, his black, bleak uniform covering his body, and with a single, golden rosary pinned to his chest.
- Inquisitor Casimir Gaunt, my lord. - he said, gently bowing.
- Very well. Loken, do you still remember the words?
- As clear as day. - the Knight held out his glaive in one hand, as he handed a parchment to the Inquisitor to write down the words.
- I am here to hear you, and Inquisitor Gaunt is here to witness it. Do you, Horus, son of the Emperor, accept your role in this? Do you promise to lead your men into the zone of war, and conduct them to glory, no matter the ferocity or ingenuity of the foe? Do you swear to lead the Legions once more in the name of the Emperor and mankind, to strike down the enemy and retake what was lost? Do you swear to stand true to his words and not succumb to the treachery of the taint? Do you swear not to waver in your resolution?
- On this matter and by this weapon, I swear. - Horus said. Though there were scores of men around them now, not a single word was uttered as the oath was taken, everyone engulfed in what was to become a historical moment.
- Kill for the living, father, and kill for the dead – Loken said, and he took the parchment now inscribed with this testament from the Inquisitor. He gave it to the Primarch, who attached it to the chest of his armour plate. As he did it, men cheered, and the scream was so loud Loken could have sworn it was heard in every single ship of the fleet. The Grey Knight thought to himself in amazement, how his Primarch did not change. In a simple way not only did he garner the support of every man under his command, bolstering the morale of those who would still doubt the reborn son of Emperor. He also gained back the trust of his former advisor, he who was prepared to use his glaive to kill the Warmaster if he noticed a sign of heresy. Millenias go, and nothing changes – here I am, once more the quiet one. Once more a Luna Wolf by heart.
- Let us go then, your brothers are ready at the strategum, sire – Loken said and went ahead, as if a herald bearing word of hope, as his Primarch walked to begin his Crusade anew.
The walked through the corridors of the Battleship, passing Astartes and guardsman alike, getting ready for the oncoming onslaught. They eventually arrived at the main cathedral of the battleship, its gigantic doors bearing the emblem of the grey wolf as big as a land raider. The doors opened with a loud wail, and revealed a massive archway leading to an altar – now remade into the heart of the strategum, covered with maps and parchments. Above it was displayed a sizeable image of Sol, slowly rotating, with small dots indicating confirmed hostile warships. At the edges dozens of vox comms wailed, as reports were pouring in.
At the head of the altar stood the host, clad in grey armour and with wolf hides around his pauldrons, his long hair hanging down as he looked down upon a data slate. To his right was Perturabo, his apparel immediately recognized by Horus. His siege warfare expertise would be most useful in the oncoming battle, and now he was briefing the other Primarchs about the basic strategy of the future siege of Terra, seconded by Dorn in his shining, yellow armour, both of them working in unison.
To the left of Russ they could see the Lion and Guilliman, engaged in a discussion, their gazes fixed upon the enemy fleet positions. Closest to the entrance, and with their backs turned to the entrance, stood three other Primarchs, one of whom wore what seemed like a dreadnought plate on his chest and shoulders, though at first Horus could not recognize who it was. Only he walked towards them, with Loken still by is side, could he see that one of them was in fact the most talented among the psykers – save for the Emperor himself – Magnus the Red, clad in a bright red-and-gold armour, his hands crossed as he watched the events in silence. To his left there stood a pair of his other brothers, both silent and grim. As he came close they turned to face him, and he recognized Corvus Corax in his unorthodox armour and Konrad Kurze, eerily alike in their stern expressions. Their gazes taxed him and judged him, as he approached the altar. The discussions stopped, and everyone fixed their eyes upon the Warmaster.
- Brothers. - Horus said, his voice confident and full of authority. Indeed even Loken could see, that though the sight of so many demigods gathering in a single place was awe-inspiring in itself and not for the faint of heart, Horus was something else entirely. It was as if every one of the leaders knew in their heart that it was him that was meant to lead this fight. - There is much to be said, but there is little time for that. Right now I need a briefing on the current situation, and – here he made a smirk as he looked at Corax's new garments – perhaps a quick explanation what is this heap of metal is doing here.
For a moment, Loken could've sworn that Corax was going to punch Horus straight in the face. Be it due his respect for the Warmaster, or due to his own sense of humour – that he did not know, but the first one to break the silence was the Raven Guard Primarch himself, who – oddly for him – began to laugh out loud. The atmosphere at the table changed, as all the rest of the brothers joined in, Russ' laughter as loud as a cannon's roar, and even Kurze allowed himself to smile a little.
The stage is set
The command centre on the surface of Mars was filled with servitors and Astartes going about their duties, a nest of neverending commands, reports, exchanging of information and various tactical displays. In the massive hall where it was set up, in the heart of a lonely pinnacle, in the middle of the ruthless red wastes that Mars was covered with, there was a sense of agitation. Behind the strategum table, surrounded by rows of seats where representatives of Imperial Guard, Imperial Navy, the Inquisition, the Mechanicum and many other orders that had come together to fight off the Black Crusade, there was a massive door leading to the private chamber of the Warmaster Horus. The chamber was mostly empty, save for a table surrounded by two couches and a few chairs, big enough to allow a Primarch to feel comfortable. It ended with a window spanning metres above the floor, revealing the surface of the planet and the skies above it. Looking through the glass stood Horus – at his sides two other Primarchs, Dorn and Russ, each clad in their armour, their faces stern. Neither was wearing a helmet, with Russ' long, red hair falling softly on his shoulders, his pauldrons covered by a wolf hide much like that of Horus. Compared to him, Dorn seemed much older, and much more composed, with his short, grey hair, and weary skin, a cold and calculating look in his eyes. At the table sat Garviel Loken, still wearing the colours and emblems of the Grey Knights, quiet and calm and Imperial Fists First Captain Darnath Lysander, seemingly undisturbed by his Primarchs' return to life. Next to them stood the gigantic figure of Bjorn the Trueclaw, his body entombed in the mighty Dreadnought vessel, scarred and battered in countless battles. To each Primarch – an advisor, to each leader – an aide. Each waiting for their parents to discuss the matters of war.
- The defences are adequate, I've done all that was possible with Perturabo to fortify our positions in Sol. In fact, he's overseeing the lines as we speak – spoke Dorn, his words very matter-of-fact and confident. - Should they break through the naval blockade and actually launch their invasion, they shall be greeted by a barrage of anti-aircraft artillery and swarms of atmospheric fighters. If they manage to make landfall, their beachheads will be assaulted tirelessly by Titan legions, courtesy of the Mechanicum. Should our infantry fail at driving them back, Russ' forces will prove more than adequate, their offensive capabilities making sure that not a single heretic survives the sin of raising their hands on the Imperium.
- My men will wreck their skulls and maim their bones until there is nothing left standing – said Russ eagerly, as if hoping that he would personally get a chance to throw himself into the fight – I'm afraid that there will be no glory left for the Imperial Fists, brother. - he smiled, as if taunting Rogal.
- What if they make for Terra, disregard Mars? - asked Horus, though he knew very well the answer to that question. He wanted someone else to go through the plan, check for mistakes, hear it for himself so he can verify that there was no mistake in their preparation. Indeed, any error would prove fatal for the very being of mankind.
- Then that will be their undoing – spoke Lysander, rising from his seat. Horus turned to face him, as did the other Primarchs. - The Cassini array is operational, its lance wrecking any units that dare detach themselves from the fight. In the shadow of Mars a reserve fleet, hidden from our enemy's sight, lays in wait, their batteries ready to rip apart anything that goes beyond their brethren in the frontlines. And on the surface of Terra – the very best of the Imperial Fists and Adeptus Custodes guard the Imperial Palace, aided by countless guardsmen. Luna itself, an impregnable fortress, the most powerful orbital defense systems the Imperium has to offer waiting for a chance to strike. And on the orbit of Terra – the Phalanx, our fortress monastery. By the Emperor, if they thought Cadia was a hard nut to crack, I dare them to take a shot at what we've got in store. - and as said these words he grinned, as the defense plan was the greatest fortification effort he'd been part of, the very scale and precision of it very true to the doctrine of his order.
- Isn't the enemy aware of that too? - Loken found himself surprised as he heard himself speak the question out loud. Horus smiled as he tilted his head. Loken cursed himself for not remembering what it was like being in the Mournival. He wanted me to say this. He wanted me to be the one casting the shadow of doubt, and me being ridiculed by them so that others speak their minds. As much as Russ and Dorn would not hesitate to do so in front of Horus, Bjorn and Lysander would likely hold restraint in questioning the Warmaster – they won't hold back against a man of the same rank.
Lysander waved his hand as in disbelief.
- You're suggesting these crazy fanatics have common sense? They won't even get to Mars, nevermind Terra. The very idea is preposterous.
- Let him speak, Darnath, I think he did not finish his thought – Dorn spoke – speak your mind, Garviel.
- Well, if I may be blunt, they were stuck on Cadia for hundreds of years – and that's just thanks to the Imperial Guard and their illustrious generals. They surely know that what we've prepared here dwarfs that force by multitudes. If they choose to attack us head on, then perhaps they have a different plan in work, something much more sinister, something that would give them the upper hand? - Gavriel asked these questions to himself, unsure how to answer – It must be more than Abbadon's pride leading him, for all his vile acts I don't think he'd be a mindless moron that would throw away all the forces that he'd gathered - just like that.
The men pondered on these thoughts, and it seemed that there was some merit to these words. Indeed most of the Chaos armies' actions, though mindlessly cruel, prove always to find a way to thwart the Imperial defenses however powerful they be, be it by deceit, treachery or outright ferocity of the assault.
Bjorn, who so far stood silent as the council debated, now bellowed with his hollow, metallic voice, though one could easily recognize that the ancient dreadnought grew wise with age, his words like those of an elderly scholar.
- The captain raises concerns that ought to be resolved, for it is clear that we are well-prepared for a direct assault, thanks to our illustrious brethren of the Imperial Fists. - now he had the attention of the council, everyone listening to the words of the Space Wolf – If we want to prepare for what is to come, perhaps we ought to see if the enemy plan is as mysterious as brother Loken made it sound.
- What do you mean, old friend? - Russ asked.
- What I mean is rarely does one stray from plans that succeed. Abaddon the Despoiler won his fight for Cadia. He might believe that we he had done there will work in Sol just as well. Pride is a thing most powerful, and it had always been the undoing of many. - as he finished, the dreadnought fell back on its legs, and rested as if tired by such a long conversation. His point had been made.
Now it was Horus who spoke.
- Abaddon never was a man capable of grand schemes. He's effective at what he does, yet simple in his plans. The blow will not come from within. It will be something much more mundane. - he began – He would strike at the heart of the enemy, seeking to sever the command structure, decapitate the enemy with a single, potent blow. His main advantage on Cadia was the vicinity of the Eye of Terror. Now the warp rift closes in on Terra, feeding his forces with reinforcements. If we are to stop him, we must not let this battle turn into one of attrition, lest it become another gruesome conflict we'd be doomed to lose.
- And how do we go about that? - Loken yet again asked the obvious question, now getting used to being the naysayer in the group.
- It's simple. We let him have his golden opportunity. He will not hesitate to act if he thinks he has the upper hand. We let him make planetfall and rid us of his presence – once and for all. - as Horus finished these words, he looked at his brothers.
Both Primarchs stood there, both of them strangely fond of the plan. Dorn would get to test his bulwark against the tides of Chaos, and Russ would be given his fight, his Wolftime. Here was a man eager for battle if there ever was one.
- We will need the Navy to fool the enemy into thinking they're center ranks are crumbling and retreating. Have them fasten their flanks and let the heretic hordes sweep past them, and as they land cut them off, leaving them stranded with an attack from all sides.
As the Warmaster began working on the details of the plan, Loken gazed upon the skies, where battle had already begun.
Battle for Terra - Varynski's last charge
- Target the Spiteful, all starboard batteries – open fire! - the order rang out through voice comms from the command bridge of Ragnarok, and shortly after every available cannon spat out what was to be a deadly salvo of laser fire. The enemy cruiser burst into flames and trembled as its hull was shattered, the debris filling space between the two ships. It was no match for the flagship of the Space Wolves 1st Fleet, and soon went up in a bright explosion, which was shortly after extinguished by the vacuum of space.
At the strategum, now filled with red light as the whole fleet entered a full-scale battle with invading Chaos units , Grand Admiral Daniel Varynski was looking at the tactical appraisal of the current situation, his firm, clad in dark blue uniform silhouette surrounded by various officers of the Navy. A few metres behind him stood the Space Wolves 5th Captain, brother Anatolius, his bolter held in front of him, helmet by his side. The admiral took off his cap ran his fingers through his long, grey hair.
- Master Garth, have Jormugand and Odin follow us into this breach in formation pattern Mercury, keep it tight. With the destruction of the Spiteful we have an opening. Ready the batteries for full broadsides and have them hold their fire.
The first officer nodded and began transmitting through vox. The Chaos fleet that emerged from warp no more than a few hours ago was now engaged in a full-scale battle with the loyalist ships, and the engagement reached its climax. Their forces were spread thin, and through an opening in their formation the Ragnarok could make an attempt to break their force in two, turning the battle into an easy victory for the Imperial forces. The only thing of importance right now was momentum, and, Terra, Admiral Varynski would get his Emperor this victory.
- Full speed ahead!
He watched the tactical display above the strategum table, which indicated that the Cassini array was still defiant, broadcasting what seemed to be a litany to the Emperor on all external comms, flooding the Chaos fleet with Imperial chants. He chuckled.
- Have the 3rd squadron, the Justice and Fenris Defiant move in on our right flank. How much left before we're in range of enemy fire?
- Sir, two minutes before their battleships are in range.
- Very well. Brace for impact men, and don't forget that the Emperor protects. - Varynski uttered, as they went at full speed into the space between two enemy battleships, their cannons already fixing their aim on the Ragnarok. After a few moments, a devastating salvo fired from both of them, hitting the flagship's hull. The bridge trembled and men fell to the ground.
- Status report! Now! - the first officer yelled, as he stood up.
- Sir, two hull breaches reported, and we lost starboard batteries two to four. Also hangar bay number 5 is gone.
- Seal the breached compartments, and send repair crews immediately. Now show them how we deal with heretics on Fenris. All batteries, take aim! - Varynski yelled, and his order was passed on through the officers at the strategum table. - Fire! - as he spoke those words there was a moment of chatter, and suddenly everyone could feel as the whole room trembled.
Every side battery fired and for a brief moment Ragnarok was surrounded with bright lasfire, as it tore through enemy hulls. The two capital ships to its sides wiggled as the impetous salvos hit their marks. The flagship did not wait to see the results, instead going at full throttle to separate the battle groups. In his wake the other two battleships followed, with gigantic statues of the Emperor shining at their bows as if empowered by his grace. The Black Crusade ships didn't get a chance to recover from the first strike, as both Jormugand and Odin unloaded a full broadside each, finishing the kills.
- Captain Anatolius, tell your men to be ready to board. We're going to engage in close combat with enemy forces now. - the admiral spoke, and the captain nodded, a rare event of an Astartes following orders from a simple naval officer. That being said, Varynski was the commanding officer of the whole fleet, and his authority was granted by Leman Russ himself. At that moment, it was as if the Primarch was behind the command.
- Launch the reserve fighters, have them clear the path for our squadron. Turn the ship starboard, have Jormugand and Odin follow our assault, with Justice and Fenris Defiant holding our former position. Let us unleash the Emperor's fury upon these wretched souls!
The first officer did not wait for his commander to even finish his orders as he began relaying through vox. The Ragnarok, though battered, began its lumbersome turn, leaving behind the ravaged wrecks of Chaos ships, with friendly units following him. From its hangar bays a myriad fighters emerged, immediately taking point ahead of their mothership, and taking course on the enemy screens that began to adjust their positions in anticipation of the Imperial maneuver.
- Sir, new contacts! Five, ten, thirty – the comms officer suddenly stopped as he watched his screen get filled with various new signals – Sir, we have more than a hundred unidentified warp signatures, quadrant Mars-two-two-zero, emerging now!
- Identify those ships, now! Begin hailing them and demand compliance to the Imperium this very moment! - Varynski fought to get his orders through the chatter that filled the strategum – Silence! What do we know about these ships?
- Sir, some of them are stored in our memory-banks, pirate or rogue units. Most of them we have no record of. Sir – the second officer spoke – we don't know who they are.
- Keep reaching them and focus on the matter at hand. Give our fighters support fire from bow batteries, and keep our formation with Jormugand and Odin. This is our chance, men!
- Aye, sir! – multiple voices responded, as the bridge staff took to their duties.
Officer Garth walked to the admiral's side and hushed.
- Sir, if I may, we should consider altering our formation in case these units prove hostile. We might get caught up between two enemy formations, sir.
- Objection received and noted, master Garth. But this is our chance – here Varynski pointed to the tactical display – If we get the enemy flank routed, we can rebuild our right wing and form up defensive positions, with half the enemy fleet gone. We cannot let this chance slip away.
- Sir! I have a response, sir! - second officer shouted in agitation as he continued on – Sir, they're Imperial! They're transmitting old codes, sir, milennias old, but they're definitely Imperial!
- Who in the name of Terra is leading them? – the admiral spoke as if asking himself. - Master Garth, you have the bridge. - As he said, the officers responded and saluted, watching him walk to a vox station. The aged admiral put his hand upon the operating officer's shoulder – Son, patch me through to the unit responding our hail. Demand to speak with their commanding officer.
- Aye, sir.
Tense moments passed as Varynski listened to his subordinate patch through to the new formation. Eventually he handed his headset to the admiral, nodding.
- This is Grand Admiral Daniel Varynski, commanding officer of the 1st Fenris Fleet and acting commander of the Ragnarok, state your purpose and identify yourself!
- This is the commanding officer of Keshig, captain Ogedei Berke, and acting commander of the fleet. Our vessel carries White Scars' Primarch, Jagathai Khan. We bring aid to your units. Do not – I repeat – do not open fire, we are friendly. - the vox headset rang, and Varynski nearly froze as he heard those words.
- Confirm the presence of Jagathai Khan, Keshig.
- Message confirmed, we have the Khan onboard. It's good to be home, sir.
The admiral couldn't help but allow himself to grin. By the Emperor, the tides have finally turned. He walked back to the strategum, making his way through a crowd of bridge officers.
- Have the Khan's fleet join us in formation pattern Ardentium – it's old, they should recognize it – and aid us in a pincer attack. Broadcast to the Cassini Array, have them provide fire support on the enemy vessels on the right flank. This is what we've been waiting for, what humanity has been waiting for, men! This is our moment of glory! - As he said these words, the officers around him cheered. The old admiral seemed as if invigorated with youth, his gaze eager to engage the task at hand. He was born to lead his men in this very battle, now he knew that for certain. He watched as the display showed the Khan's ships join up and wreak havoc among the rear Chaos ships, and witnessed the whole flank crumble under relentless assault.
The Ragnarok has forgone broadsides in favour of continuous fire, targeting multiple ships as it aimed at doing as much damage as possible and sowing confusion in the enemy ranks. And when all seemed to go as it had been planned, a new message came through.
- Admiral, we have new warp signatures, quadrant Mars-two-three, they're emerging now!
- Give me tactical display. Are those Khan units?
- Sir, we recognize the signatures. They're Dark Eldar vessels!
All the officers at the strategum watched as display got filled with small red dots, each one – an enemy ship emerging from warp behind the Khan's fleet in what seemed to be a pursuit. Ten, twenty, fifty, so many that Varynski eventually stopped taking count, as the dots formed a chaotic and irregular formation. They were extremely fast, and were heading at full speed in their direction. He saw one ship in particular, designated Delta Echo One, that looked as if it was keeping at the rear of the formation, despite it's monstrous size. That would very well be the flagship of the Dark Eldar, the race ever-hesitant to risk their lives in vain.
- How long before they reach Khan's fleet?
- Sir, about thirty minutes. Khan won't make it in time.
Indeed, as the display zoomed out they could see the situation clearly. Closest to Mars, where the Imperial Battlefleet had drawn the line, was the main battle, with units fighting among asteroids and in the vast vacuum of space around the planet and its moons. Then, there was a good few dozen, close to a hundred small ships, a ragtag band of rogues and pirates brought together in some mysterious way by the Khan to aid Terra. And then the powerful Dark Eldar fleet, its size such that it could very well turn the tide of the battle. If they strike now, Varynski thought, the whole right flank of the Imperium would crumble, and with it – the whole formation, as most ships were now engaged in close range fights.
However, if Ragnarok could delay the Dark Eldar somehow long enough for the right flank to rout the Chaos forces completely, they would stand a chance. Not a big one, but that was at least something to work with. For some reason, the elderly admiral reminded himself of his old mentor, back from his cadet days.
- Engage thrusters, Daniel, slowly. Just like in the simulator. That's right. - he heard the calm voice of Chief Instructor Toivonen guiding him as their vessel lifted off the ground. It was an unarmed, training ship, fairly agile and fast, designed to test the abilities of a pilot as he was given a very sensitive unit to handle. Terra, Daniel would show them how it's done. He'd spent hundreds of hours in the simulators, and by now he could've done it with his eyes shut. - Now there, don't be cocky, cadet. We still haven't reached the orbit. - the instructor said through vox, as he saw the confidence of the young pilot. It didn't change the fact that he smiled as he was saying those words, happy he wasn't there for his student to see him.
- Aye, sir.
The ship went higher and higher, above the spires of the port authorities, above the highest houses of the nobility, and then – into the vacuum of space around the planet of Tars, a system located a few light years from Fenris, an important world on the ever-busy route to Cadia. Through the glass of the cockpit's visors Daniel could see his instructors ship, the same class as his own, rise up next to him.
- Allright, let's do this nice and easy then. We have two rounds around Tars II to do, and after that maneuvering through Tars III asteroid fields. Cadet Varynski, commence training exercise.
- Roger that. Moving to two thirds sublight speed.
The pair of ships began their flight around the planet, with the cadet's ship performing various maneuvers around the artificial satellites and through traffic routes as per the training's schedule. After a good few hours, they found themselves en route to the rocky belt surrounding the star of Tars, near Tars III's orbit. All was going well, until the scanner picked up a strange warp signature.
- Sir, flight Echo One Nine, reporting unidentified warp signatures in quadrant Tars-four-one-five, relaying data now.
Toivonen raised his brow as he watched the information pour in. By now his sensors also received the signal. Weird, he thought, there was nothing scheduled here from Cadia today.
- Ignore that cadet, focus on the task at hand. I'll analyze the new data.
- Aye, sir.
And so they kept their course, as they went closer to the signatures' point of origin. By now they were close enough for the training ship equipment to properly assess the data. When he saw the feed, Toivonen went pale.
- Cadet Varynski, form up on me, pattern Jupiter five, and do not stray.
Daniel did as he was ordered to, though reluctantly. What was going on? Was it that weird signal? He fought with himself, but eventually he disregarded his order and began to run analyzation sequences on the few ships that entered the system. By now they were nearly at the asteroid belt, and a few of the signatures separated from the main group of about five. It seemed that some light ships, possibly fighters were heading their way, with ETA at about ten minutes. He realised he'd began sweating now.
- Cadet Varynski, I need you to plot a course for comms array Epsilon right now and head there at full throttle. Have them contact Tars Primary and Fenris. Tell them that we have hostiles inbound for Tars Primary. - the rest of the transmission he did not hear properly.
- Sir, repeat your last order.
- I repeat, Cadet Varynski, make haste for comms array Epsilon, now! Tell them that we have Chaos ships inbound to Tars Primary! Get a warp-ready ship and make at full speed for Fenris! Get help goddamnit!
- Sir, what about you?
- I'll provide cover from those fighters that are inbound.
Varynski looked at the screens. The training ships were unarmed. It was madness. Chaos ships came from the direction of Cadia. Terra almighty! They passed the blockade! It was a splinter from the Black Crusade! By now he realised what was going on. Tars' Primary sensor arrays were on the far side of the planet right now. Before they get past the shadow of the globe, it will be too late. The ships will begin their assault before they even get a warning. But if they made it in time to Epsilon...
- Sir, I advise you follow me and we both head for Epsilon. You will die there, captain!
- Their fighters are too fast. Besides, I shouldn't hog all the glory. Toivonen out, and may the Emperor watch over you.
He watched as the instructors' ship changed course to intercept the fighters, and engage them in a horribly one-sided dogfight among the asteroids of Tars III. He would die there, for sure. But he might just get them focused enough that they forget about the single training ship that will sound the alarm.
He knew Toivonen had made his choice, and it was up to him if his sacrifice would be in vain. He pushed the throttle to its maximum and his craft began its journey towards one of the stations around Tars III's moon. He watched as his radar showed five Chaos fighters engage and pursue the single, defiant green dot that danced its way through the rocky path. Explosions, quickly vanishing in the vacuum, burst as their laser fire tore through the asteroids. Now it was too late to change what they've done.
It took a good few minutes before the array was visible, with his instructor's ship long gone from his scanners, too far to see. He hoped he would make it. He knew he could not. He began hailing.
- Epsilon array, this is flight Echo One Nine, requesting clearance to dock. I repeat, Epsilon array, this is flight Echo One Nine, requesting clearance to dock. This is an emergency. Open the hangars! - he could hear the panic in his own voice as he voxed through.
- Echo One Nine, this is Epsilon array. You are not scheduled for docking. State your business.
- Epsilon array, this is Echo One Nine, open those hangar doors or I'll ram my ship in them! We have Chaos ships in the system inbound for Tars Primary!
- Wait a moment, we need to check your information. - the painfully cold voice voxed, and now all that was left was static. Goddamn fleet bureaucracy! There is no time for that now, Daniel thought.
- Clearance granted, hangar bay two opening up now. Follow docking procedures.
- Roger that Epsilon array, Echo One Nine commencing docking now.
If there ever was an ideal docking, it was done now. He didn't even slow down as he made at full speed for the bay, using his reverse thrusters to put the ship to an abrupt halt as he flew in, smouldering parts of the station's hull as he entered. There is no time, there is no time, he uttered to himself. The hatch opened and Daniel jumped out and ran through the hangar, ignoring the alarmed shouts he heard from hangar personnel. He burst through the corridors and went directly to the command room, almost knocking down a few naval security officers as he ran.
- Relay the information to Tars Primary! We have a small Chaos unit inbound for the planet, coming from the direction of Cadia! - he yelled towards the commanding officer at one of the stations. The array was a small outpost and there was hardly any crew in the room. - I'm under orders from Captain Toivonen of 5th Stormbolts to secure and command a warp-ready vessel, and get you to send distress calls to whoever can answer.
The commanding officer looked at him as if he did not understand what he just said. Daniel cursed under his nose and just went up to one of the comms officers.
- Give me Tars Primary, now!
- Sir, what are you- the commanding officer began and froze, as Daniel simply reached out for his gun and pointed it at him.
- I am no commissar, officer, but as a fleet cadet I am of senior rank here, and I will lay down His wrath on anyone who dares defy His work. Now give me that fucking connection!
The comms officer did as he was told to, and soon Varynski was done. All was in the hands of the good souls on Tars Primary now. They did not have much time, but at least they could shelter some of the hive cities' population by the time bombardment begins.
- Now get me my ship and an astropath.
It took months to fight off the incursion. He made it to Fenris, almost killing the Epsilon array's commanding officer in a fit of rage in the process. He warned the fleet there and soon an expedition was on its way to liberate the distressed system. Captain Toivonen's shipwreck was found days later, among debris from two of the Chaos fighters that could not match his piloting skills and crashed into the asteroids of Tars III. Toivonen had no guns, and still managed to save countless lives. For their achievements, Daniel was awarded command over his own ship and began his career as a high ranking officer of the fleet, with personal recognition from the Astartes chapter. Posthumously, Toivonen was raised to admiralty, and awarded a Macharian Cross.
Now it was different. He wasn't unarmed like Toivonen. He had the fleet's mightiest ship under his command, and he knew what needed to be done.
- Master Garth, get me vox comms to all friendly units in our vicinity, and reach out to Khan's ships. I have something to say.
- Aye, sir.
After a few moments, he was ready.
- This is Grand Admiral Daniel Varynski of 1st Fenris Fleet and acting commander of the Ragnarok. To any and all who can hear me, we have a new situation on our hands. We have a sizeable Dark Eldar fleet inbound, pursuing vessels of our beloved Emperor's son, the Khan. The Ragnarok will engage that fleet and delay their arrival for as long as it is able to, securing a safe passage for our allies and buying us time to completely rout the Chaos forces on our flank. I hereby transfer command of the 1st Fleet to Admiral Sofon onboard the Jormugand. Any ship willing to aid us in this task is welcome to do so, though chances of success are slim. Good hunting men, and may the Emperor have mercy on us all.
As the words rang out, the whole strategum went silent, everyone staring at their Admiral. The Astartes captain Anatolius walked forth, and stopped at the strategum table. The Admiral spoke once again.
- Have the crew man any fighters, thunderhawks and escape pods they can. Transfer batteries command to my station. Brother Anatolius, have your men off this ship. We're not going back from this one.
- Admiral Varynski – the Astartes captain spoke for the first time during the battle, his voice calm – I am born to fight, not to run. We will stand with you.
The fleet commander gazed at the people around him. Every man in the chamber was now standing, looking at their leader. Not one of them deserted his post and it wasn't looking like anyone was planning to. Varynski felt proud to be the leader of those brave soldiers, and proud to be human. The eyes of his subordinates were full of defiance, of courage, the look that he thought Captain – no, Admiral Toivonen had when he sacrificed himself for the good of the Imperium. The first officer broke the silence, and handed a vox communicator to the Admiral.
- Sir, this is for you.
Daniel grabbed the vox comm and spoke.
- Strategum, over.
- Admiral, this is Chief Mechanic Sareth. Forgive me for speaking bluntly, sir, but I think I speak for all of my men when I say that if you think we're leaving you now you're much dumber than I thought. Sir. - Varynski could hear a distant cough and almost see the tense faces of the men gathered in the engine room, as his officer began to understand that what he just said could easily end in a martial court in normal circumstances. He smiled.
- Objection noted, Chief. - he said, as he looked up upon the display ahead of him.
- Allright men, show is over. Let's see what this beauty can do, shall we? Turn her about Master Garth, and give me as much speed as we can get. Ready the fore batteries!
The Ragnarok took a slow turn, as it raced to face the Dark Eldar vessels already on their way to intercept Khan's fleet. Its giant and majestic hull danced through the enemy formation, never ceasing to continuously pummel the surrounding enemy ships, now scattering in panic. A small corvette of the Chaos fleet didn't anticipate the Imperial ship's maneuver in time, and simply blew up as it crashed its miniscule form on the starboard of the monstrous flagship. To his surprise, Varynski could see the display showing multiple friendly units forming up in an offensive Scythe pattern ahead of the Ragnarok, with multiple ships changing their course to follow in their wake, including Fenris Defiant and Odin, two sizeable battleships.
- Grand Admiral, this is Commodore Ulther of the battleship Odin – the vox chattered – we'll be proud to be of aid.
- Rangarok, Foxtrot Wing is glad to provide fighter cover, over.
Similar reports kept pouring in as the ships nearest to their flagship heeded the call and formed up around it. Most of the fleet, however, kept formation, hurrying to finish up the fight on their flank and get ready to repel the new threat, with Jormugand engaging in what seemed to be a boarding operation with the enemy command ship.
The ragtag fleet of pirates and rogues under the Khan's leadership flew past the makeshift defence fleet, hurrying to join their compatriots. The enemy fighters were already beginning to fire at straggling units, as they closed in on marauders.
- Fore batteries, provide covering fire for the Khan. Fire at will! - the first officer shouted over the strategum table, and shortly after lasfire and projectiles created a monstrous barrage in front of the ship, blowing up a sizeable chunk of the enemy fighter formations. They spread out, and that was to be their demise as Foxtrot Wing jumped in on them, flying in formation as if on a parade, and killing what was left. Still ahead of them loomed the whole fleet though, with the enemy flagship designated Delta Echo One beside the first waves of cruisers.
- Rudder five degrees to starboard, take course to intercept target Delta Echo One, have fore batteries make us a path and hold your fire on port batteries! - Grand Admiral ordered, and the ship adjusted its bearing slightly. First enemy vessels were getting in range and a carpet of lasfire opened up between the two sides, as they closed in.
Varynski remembered his years back in the officer school. Dark Eldar are best beat when forced with overwhelming odds, and if he could make it look like their very lives were in danger, he could force the enemy commander to retreat, leaving his fleet to its doom.
- Captain Anatolius, have you men get ready to board Delta Echo One, if we can't take it down by force, we'll take it from them with the help of your battle brothers. - he spoke to the colossus next to him.
- I'll lead the charge myself. - Anatolius said, as he began to walk out, headed towards the hangar bays. - It's been a pleasure, Admiral.
The Astartes walked out, his heavy armour clanging on the steel deck. The doors to the strategum were shut as he left, leaving the Navy to take care of the task at hand.
Which was arduous to say the least. Ragnarok was now receiving fire from a multiple of enemy detachments, and though each one of the enemy vessels was laughingly small compared to its bulwark, their combined efforts began to tear apart the ships front armour. The flagship however was not falling short, as it wrecked any Dark Eldar spacecraft in its immediate course, securing a bloody path towards its goal.
As the two behemoths lined their sides towards each other with no more than a few hundred metres between them, an eerie silence fell in the strategum as everyone waited for the Admiral to make the call. Finally, the order came.
- Port batteries, open fire! Full broadside! Boarding ships, follow up on the salvo! Rudder to port, ten degrees, slow down to two thirds! - Varynski called, and his officers relayed the orders through vox.
There was a powerful blaze as both the Dark Eldar and Imperial ships opened a relentless barrage, their batteries shredding enemy hulls and sending both ships into a dance of death.
After the opening exchange of lasfire, drop pods and thunderhawks shot out of the side of Ragnarok, looking as if a second broadside was fired – instead this time delivering a deadly payload of enraged Space Wolves. Their ships went through holes torn out by their motherships' guns and began the assault.
The enemy fleet seemed stunned by the audacity of the Imperial Admiral, fighting to scramble ships to aid their distressed flagship. Their advance toward Terra was put to a halt, and a bitter fight ensued between an overwhelming Dark Eldar fleet and the few ships that followed the Ragnarok in its charge. Seeing the events on the display, Varynski couldn't help but smile. The plan was working. Terra, it was working!
- Sir, we have multiple hull breaches in starboard compartments. We're getting blasted here, admiral. - First officer Garth relayed the report. - The ship won't last long.
- I am aware of that. - he replied, and looked across the table at the one man that kept silent throughout the whole battle - Inquisitor Moros, I ask for the Holy Orders of the Inquisition approval of cyclonic torpedo use.
The chiefs of staff assembled at the strategum all looked at the Inquisitor, who didn't respond for a moment, assessing the situation as if feeling its gravity. And then he spoke calmly, his decision made.
- By the powers granted upon me by our beloved Emperor, I hereby approve the use of cyclonic torpedoes to rid this xeno filth from the face of the Materium. You are free to proceed, admiral.
- Very well. Transmit a message to all those that followed us telling them to steer away as fast as possible. Have the armaments officers load up torpedo tubes one to fourteen with cyclonic torpedo payloads. - and, after a second, the Admiral spoke, looking in the eyes of all those surrounding his elderly figure – It's been an honour serving the Emperor with men like you.
By this moment Ragnarok was merely a shadow of its former glory. Its starboard armour wrecked, with gaping holes ripped by enemy fire, still pouring down on the helpless battleship. Its nemesis, the Dark Eldar flagship, was also heavily beat up, with parts of the hull seemingly blowing up from the inside, obviously the work of the boarding troops wreaking as much havoc as was possible and placing detonator charges inside its wretched halls.
The Odin and a few other corvettes, aided by what was left of the illustrious fighter wing that heeded the call, were now turning about, their engines roaring as they made haste to clear from the immediate vicinity of the two behemoths. After them many enemy crafts went in pursuit, shooting down whatever targets they could lock on, slaughtering the Imperials thanks to their agility and firepower.
Then Ragnarok's torpedo tubes opened up one after the other, screeching as they went. One, two, five, ten, fourteen shafts opened and in one moment spat out fourteen deadly missiles, which went straight for the heart of Delta Echo One. First, they used melta detonators to bore through the hull of the flagship, and after that – they disappeared.
For what seemed a millennium nothing happened, seconds going by. Then a powerful blaze encompassed the two ships, caught up in their deathly embrace. The Ragnarok's hull cracked and broke in two, seconds before it was swallowed whole by the fireball. It kept encompassing more and more vessels, until it swept a good chunk of the Dark Eldar fleet away with a potent blast. The blaze was so huge, that it could be seen on the surface of the planets of Sol, and even Terra. Then came the shockwave, hurling the retreating Imperial forces towards their kin, their ships spinning and struggling for survival.
The men aboard the Imperial vessels still fighting off the Black Crusade cheered as they saw the sacrifice of their leader, who even in death was able to deal a mortal blow to the enemy.
The old man has shown them what we're capable of, they thought.
He's shown them we're not going to back down.
He's shown them we're going to win whatever the cost.
Sanguinius, the Angel, primarch of the Blood Angels, stared at the gates of the fortress-monastery. From the outside, the fortress looked abandoned, no lights shone from it's windows, and several of its towers had fallen into disrepair. Gently, the Primarch pushed on the great door. The hinges squealed as it swung inwards. The Primarch stepped into the gloom, his faint halo providing a glow bright enough for him to see by. What he saw concerned him. Deep scratches adorned the stone walls, on which had been scrawled nonsense and crude symbols that Sanguinius did not recognise. He passed close to one of the scratch marks and found, to his dismay, the marks fit his fingers. It had not been some species of xenos that had made those marks. The Primarch stode on, he had arrived at the fortress of the Angels Resplendent seeking his sons. Now he just wanted to know what had happened. Something squished under his boot, and the primarch crouched down, focusing on the floor. What looked like the remains of some kind of cloth lay on the ground, rotting into mulch. The Angel's eyes were able to make out the remnants of several pigments still clinging to the threads. They seemed chiefly gold and blue, although the Primarch noticed several smears of bright red. He stood up, pushing his enhanced eyesight to penetrate the gloom beyond the light his corona cast. All along the corridor lay destroyed tapestries like this. Glancing at the wall, Sanguinius noted several pegs that the tapestries had been mounted on, some still adorned with small tufts of thread. The artwork of the Angels Resplendent, regarded the galaxy over, had been torn from the walls, trampled on, and then left to rot. The Primarch increased his pace, heading deeper into the fortress, his resolve to find answers growing.
The Primarch strode down through the forsaken halls of the Angels Resplendent. His sword hung heavy at his hip, and his hearing strained for the slightest sound. Suddenly, he thought he heard a voice, and stopped. Closing his eyes, the Primarch rotated on the spot, searching for the sound.
"THE EMPEROR CONDEMNS!"
The scream echoed through the fortress, causing the Primarch to turn. The sound had come from an antechamber, off to the Primarch's left. Without a moment's hesitation, Sanguinius sprinted for the source of the sound, leaping over shattered statues and piles of ruined tapestries. He arrived in the antechamber with such speed, he skidded on the thick layer of mulched tapestries that covered the floor. His wings fluttered as he recovered his balance, and the sound they made elicited a whimper from the far corner of the room. Sanguinius cautiously approached the sound, boots squelching on the muck. As he approached, his corona lit the corner. A Space Marine, helmetless but otherwise armoured was curled up in the corner, attempting to press himself into the corner. In between whimpers the marine whispered a desperate prayer with barely a pause for breath, words tripping over each other:
"theemperorcondemnsnonearebeyondhissightogodpleaseforgivemeididn'tknowididn'trealiseithoughttheywereright." the marine's words were choked by sobs. Sanguinius knelt down, reaching to place a hand on the marine, when a glance at the marine's armour stopped him. The armour was a matte black, daubed with lines of a tarry reddish-brown colour. At some point, some of the paint had been scraped off, and the colours beneath were blue and gold. The colours of the Angels Resplendent.
"My Son." said Sanguinius, soothingly as possible.
"Who did this to you?"
The marine turned at his Primarch's voice.
"The prophet, the martyr, he told us how we had sinned. He said we had to kill them."
"Kill who?" the primarch's voice rose with alarm, but the marine was no longer listening:
"OH GOD-EMPEROR I'M SORRY" The Marine's screams echoed through the fortress. "Listen" Sanguinius caught one of the marine's hands and squeezed it tightly. "I will tell the Emperor you are sorry, if you tell where the ones who did this are." This seemed to calm the frantic marine slightly:
"I-in the centre of the fortress. They judge us from there."
Sanguinius stroked the side of the marine's face.
"Thank you, my son"
With a violent twist, he snapped the marine's neck. It was a mercy, he said to himself, then stood. He walked from the room, drawing his sword as he did so. He took a moment to orient himself, and began to stride in the direction of the fortress' council chamber, where the captains would gather.
As the angel walked, his face showed no trace of emotion, but his psychic corona brightened steadily, lighting up more and more of the fortress as he passed through. He could see the faint shapes of astartes moving through the gloom, staying at the very edge of the light. Why do they hide from me, the primarch wondered. A small voice in the back of his mind spoke up: maybe they remember who you are, and they're ashamed of what they've become. The primarch stepped through a tall archway, into the council chamber. The faint smell of charred ceramite hung in the air. Sanguinius stepped into the centre of the room, and looked around. Astartes crowded into the room, none willing to step into the light, all wearing black and red armour. Atop thrones made of scorched ceramite, some of which still had blue paint clinging to them, a circle of nine chaplains regarded the Primarch. The red lenses observed him out of skull faced helms crowned with barbed wire.
Sanguinius asked the only question he could:
"Why?" "We are unclean." Chanted the chaplains.
"The curse is in our blood"
"We must show our purity before the Emperor."
When Sanguinius spoke, his voice trembled with fury:
"This is not purity. This is a Nightmare. You were the exemplars of what we could be." The chaplain immediately in front of Sanguinius stood up.
"Those who stood unblemished yesterday shall fall tomorrow or the day after, for treachery hides in our blood, cloaked in pride."
Sanguinius looked at the Chaplain. "Was this your doing?" "Yes, lord. We are your sons. We would do anything to show our father we were worthy."
Sanguinius struck his head from his shoulders. He turned to the others, eyes blazing with psychic power held barely in check.
"You are not my sons. You are an insult to me and the Emperor. You are animals, and I am putting you down!"
The first Chaplain to go for his crozius, Sanguinius decapitated. The others leapt from their thrones, moving out of the primarch's reach. They were in a circle around him, so he could not focus on all of them. A strike to the back of his knee brought the angel to his knees. THe chaplain in front of him lowered his crozius and spoke:
"We cannot allow you to blaspheme against the Emperor."
Sanguinius heard the others hiss:
His reply to the chaplain was succinct:
"BURN" The chaplain shuddered for a moment, and then he screamed as the psychic power of the primarch immolated him from the inside out. The primarch surged to his feet with a single flap of his great wings, whilst the other Chaplains reeled back from the incredible heat that had melted their comrade. A chaplain to the left charged the Primarch, swinging his crozius at the angel's head. The red sword passed beneath his guard and cut him in two without stopping. Another charged from behind, and a mighty wing smashed him into the air, where he crashed against a pillar and then went still. The remaining four chaplains grouped together, facing the Primarch. The astartes around the circle closed in tighter. The Primarch looked around at them, taking in the pale faces and sunken eyes that regarded him. He pointed his sword at the circle of chaplains and spoke to the lost marines.
"If you truly are capable of redemption, destroy the architects of this travesty!"
The marines pressed inwards for a moment, before a chaplain shouted:
"The Emperor Condemns!"
They halted, hope fading. Then a desperate, nameless marine somewhere in the crowd shouted back:
"WE WILL RISE ON BURNING WINGS!"
The Angels Resplendent charged the fallen Chaplains.
Outside the ruined fortress, Sanguinius studied his Resplendent sons. The ones that could had cleansed their armour of the tarry, dark colours of the Angels Penitent. As the Primarch watched, an honour guard of Marines marched out of the gate, carrying between them the Chapter banner. The banner had been kept safe by a serf who had seen the madness overtaking his chapter and vowed to save at least one thing from the iconoclasts. It bore the symbol of the Blood Angels woven onto a scroll, with the blue and gold of the Angels Resplendent surrounding it. As the guard carried it past the crowd of marines, they all turned to watch it, what little conversation there had been dying. The Angel, standing in shadow of a thunderhawk that had answered the urgent requests of the Primarch, stepped forwards, nodding to the honour guard as his mailed fist closed around the haft. He raised the banner into the air and then planted it into the Earth. He looked at his sons and spoke quietly:
"Rise on burning wings. You are so much stronger than you think you are." Without another word, he turned and walked into the dark interior of the thunderhawk. Another man walked out. Among the crowd of space marines, several eyes widened. It was Varzival, the Knight Resplendent, thought lost for so long, who had returned to them at last. He looked at the Astartes facing him, then at the Chapter banner, then back again.
Legacy of Sanguinius
"STRIKE AT THEM BROTHERS!!!" - Cried out Chaplain Argus, clad in Terminator armour, as he led the charge of his Death Company Terminators into the heat of the battle against the Glistering Host. The old Lamenter was raging at what he saw in the fallen progeny of his beloved Primarch and the atrocities they committed.
"IN THE NAME OF SLAANE--GUAH!!!" - the fallen marine felt under the strike of one of Argus's Death Company Terminators. The assault was relentless and merciless as the berserking Lamenters steamrolled their way into the inner sanctuary the Chaos Marines have erected over the ruined city that was once Valaran.
Before the Glistering Host descended on the agri-world of Lyon, Valaran was a peaceful place where the citizens worked hard to produce food for its home sub-sector. Yet when the Slaaneshi worshipers descended on them, they leveled the city and did horrid and abominable things to the people there.
The Lamenters heard the people's cry for help and went en route to save as many as possible. What they saw was something that couldn't be described in words. The Chaos Marines spared non, not even the youngest.
The Terminator members of the Lamenters' strike force were immediately overwhelmed with the Black Rage after what they saw. This was something that Argus didn't anticipate. For that the Commander put him in charge of the Terminators and lead them to their final fight. "BY THE EMPEROR, WE WILL REMOVE THOSE ABOMINABLE PARODIES OF OUR PRIMARCH'S IMAGE!! TO BATTLE!! FOR SANGUINIUS!!!" - cried out Argus as he opened fire from his Assault Cannon.
The Terminators that the Lamenter's Chaplain led had their wargear hastily replaced with the heaviest weapons the Techmarines were capable of finding and modifying. Such was the wrath of the Lamenters that they even took the weapons that were left as emergency supplies and after hastily altering them, grafted to the Argus's Terminators. Apart of Argus and two other members getting Assault Cannons, the rest had a combination of Multi-Meltas, Plasma Cannons, even Heavy Bolters instead of traditional Storm Bolters. Some sported Cyclone Missile Launchers, not to mention that they even had their Power Fists replaced wit Lightning Claws, Chain Fists and other Power Weapons.
The Death Company Terminators and Argus went deeper and deeper into the sanctuary, dispatching more of the Glistering Host. Even the two Hellbrutes that guarded the entry to the utmost inner part of the sanctuary were quickly dispatched by the enormous firepower the Lamenters sported.
When they breached into the central part of the Chaos construction, the Death Company met its quarry. The Daemon Prince that was the mastermind behind the destruction of Valaran and the forces that were tormenting Lyon.
"What do my eyes see? Our brothers from the Lamenters, how delightful of you to come and pay a visit to a fellow Blood Angel successor. It's a good thing that you were to appear. I hoped that would happen, as any successor from other of the 1st Founding Chapters wouldn't be quite the same. Now brother, let us--" *DAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKA* - The Daemon Prince of the Glistering Host was promptly interrupted by a salvo from Chaplain Argus's Assault Cannon. The Chaplain was sickened, if not barely controlling himself from falling into the Black Rage himself.
"SILENCE DEGENERATE ABOMINATION!!!" - shouted the Chaplain - "YOU'RE NO BROTHER OF MINE AND HOW DARE YOU EVEN UTTER THE NAME OF OUR PROGENITORS!! YOU WERE A SON OF SANGUINIUS!! YOU ALONG OTHER SUCCESSORS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE A SYMBOL OF HOPE FOR THE IMPERIUM!! INSTEAD YOU AND THE REST OF THOSE TRAITORS SOLD YOUR SOULS TO DARKNESS!! FIGHT HERESY WITH HERESY!!? ONLY THE MOST MISGUIDED AND DELUDED OF THE INQUISITION'S RADICALS USE SUCH WAYS OF THINKING!!! AFTER WHAT YOU DID TO THE PEOPLE OF VALARAN, AND THE TORMENT YOU UNLEASHED ON THE REST OF THE PLANET, I'LL SEND YOU SCREAMING BACK TO THE WARP FOR TEN THOUSAND YEARS!!! PREPARE YOURSELF DAEMON, FOR RETRIBUTION SHALL BE DELIVERED IN THE NAME OF THE PRIMARCH AND THOSE WHOSE LIVES YOU WASTED!!!" - Argus finished. Now he was calmer after he threw out what he thought. Still his rage was burning like the ray shot out of a Melta Gun.
The Daemon Prince fell when he was unexpectedly shot in both face and chest by the barrage. The Glistering Host stood up as if nothing happened.
"Pity brother, and I thought that I would have a short chat with you before I slay you and sacrifice your geneseeds to Slaanesh. Whatever. Let us get to business then. Show me how you Lamenters die for those you cherish." - The Daemon finished smugishly as he opened warp portals around the marines... Possessed!!! - Chaplain Argus immediately realized what he was facing. Vile traitors that allowed daemons to inhabit their bodies for greater powers and capabilities. Argus had it enough of the Glistering Host and he would see it through to defeat those bastards even if his limbs were to be ripped off his body.
As the Possessed Chaos Marines leaped out from the portals, they were immediately met with the fury of Argus's Death Company Terminators. It was a very good idea to equip all of them with weapons heavier than Storm Bolters - he thought. Even with the overwhelming firepower and the immense close combat mastery, the Terminators lost five of their members to the mutated traitors. Four more died while they attacked the Daemon Prince himself. They were either swept aside by its wings and daemonic mace, or thrown through the walls by its tentacles.
Of the ten Death Company members under Chaplain Argus, only sergeant Antonius remained. As he dispatched the last possessed Chaos Marine, Argus had one last remaining target, and that target was the foul daemon.
"You wanted to see us dying monster. Then we will show you, but not until we banish you to the warp. BRACE YOURSELF!!" - Argus immediately turned to Antonius - "WITH ME BROTHER SERGEANT!!!" - cried out Argus to the sergeant as he charged the Daemon Prince, still firing his Assault Cannon. Antonius promptly followed.
"Naive." - Uttered the Daemon as he swiped the Chaplain with such force that the marine dropped his Assault Cannon. The weapon did nothing to the warp creature like the first time, for the Daemon was taken by surprise. - "Truly Chaplain, I thought that you'd be something of a intriguing plaything for me, but it seems that I was wrong. Now prepare to join your br--GAAAAAH!!!"
he impact of the force that sent the Chaplain flying would've killed him in a instant if it wasn't for the Terminator armour he was clad in. The only weapon he still had was his Crozius, and even then it was little to face the foul warp abomination. When he heard it scream, he saw lying on floor what caused the Daemon Prince pain.
Sergeant Antonius managed to close in fast enough to slice the daemon with his Glaive Encarmine. The wound was deep and gaping as it started to spill out daemon blood.
"YOU DARE!!!?" - Cried the daemon, angry for the first time when he finally suffered a wound that actually made him loose his composure. The Glistering Host smashed sergeant Antonius with such force that not only did he reduce him and his Terminator armour to a crater filled with gore and armored bits, but the force also destroyed his mace.
When the daemon killed Antonius, the sergeant's Glaive fell towards Argus. The Chaplain immediately stood up and picked up the Glaive while the Daemon was tending to its wound. The Terminator Chaplain immediately charged by dual wielding his Crozius and the sergeant's Glaive, striking at the daemon before it could react.
"RETRIBUTION IS UPON YOU MONSTER!! YOU SHALL FALL HERE!!!" - bellowed the Chaplain as he assaulted the daemon with Crozius and Glaive, inflicting deep wounds and crushing the armoured parts of its body.
"FOOL!! YOU WISH TO DEFEAT A CHOSEN OF SLAANESH!!!?" - replied the Glistering Host in pain - "I'LL DESTROY THAT CONVICTION OF YOURS!!" - and with that, blades sprouted out of its body.
Before Argus could realize what was happening, the blades popped out in a flash, going through the joints between the body armour and the pauldrons, cutting off the Chaplain's arms off. The Lamenter felt immense pain as his arms were cut off. The daemon retracted the blades back to its body and punched the marine into the wall. The impact was weaker that the previous one, yet it still had serious physical power behind it.
Argus slumped to the ground, armless, and completely unable to fight. He was slowly losing consciousness, yet he saw the daemon approaching him with the Glaive he was wielding.
"The Glaive Encarmine." - uttered the daemon, with his composure regained - "A weapon given to the members of the Sanguinary Guard. I do wonder why a lowly Death Company member wielded this weapon. Was he given it after one of your members died in a previous battle and you didn't chose who to give it to yet?" - he continued as he looked at the weapon, as if transfixed by its beauty - "You know what brother? I wish that this situation ended differently, yet it seems that I'll have to dispose of you now." - he finished speaking and looking at the Glaive and turned to the Chaplain.
"Do your worst traitor. As if you would think that I would start begging for mercy." - responded the Chaplain with a measure of difficulty. This time he was losing consciousness faster with each passing second.
"I didn't think so. Still, I'm quite merciful, so I'll quickly kill you with the Glaive." - said the Daemon Prince as he raised the enormous blade - "Prepare to meet your brethren Lamenter."
Chaplain Argus, barely conscious of what was going on, braced himself for the Impact, when suddenly a flash of light started to shine from behind the Glistering Host...
Commander Makkan. Captain of the Lamenters forces that operated on Lyon, was racing to the center of the sanctuary along with two tactical squads. He hoped that he would be able to save Chaplain Argus and what few fellow Death Company members remained. The marines passed the dead Glistering Hosts and the two Hellbrutes that were mutilated by the Terminator's firepower. When the Lamenters finally entered the sanctuary, they saw the carnage that happened there. Both Chaos and Loyalists. Mutilated horribly while fighting each other. That was not the case however, as the Captain saw in the middle of the large sanctuary.
A winged figure was kneeling before the slumped Chaplain, while the Daemon Prince was lying dead on the ground next to it, its face frozen in shock and unbelief as it had its chest ripped open.
"Who. What?" - the Captain was stupefied as he looked at the scene, only to gain a better composure - "Who are you?" - asked the Captain.
The winged figure stood up and turned to face the marines. For a moment, the Captain didn't expect anything from the figure, but when he looked closely, his eyes widened in unbelief, while his fellow brothers froze after looking at the figure.
"Fear not my son, for I came here to aid you after I felt your struggle with the great enemy." - replied the figure. Armed in a golden suit of armour, wielding a enormous blade as big as the Glaive Encarmine which was coated in the blood of the Daemon Prince. It's wings silver-like, yet what was actually striking in it was the figure's face.
"It can't be..." - uttered the Captain - "This canno--" - "But it is." - interrupted the figure - "Lamenters. Successors of the Blood Angels Legion. I have returned."
From this moment the marines knew what the figure was. Sanguinius returned.
"My sons. Before I traveled here, I had to make sure that one of the Blood Angels' successor was set back to the way it was lost. Now I'm here to repair the damage the Imperium has taken. I also want to learn more about the history of the other successors, for what I learned from the Angels Resplendent was not enough since I was in a haste." - Sanguinius spoke out, warmth emanating from him.
As he stood there, some of the Lamenters fell on their knees. Captain Makkan regained his composure.
"What about the Death Company and venerable Chaplain Argus?" - asked the Captain, still barely believing that the Primarch from which the Lamenters are descendant is standing in front of him and his brothers.
"I managed to save the Chaplain, yet I regret that I couldn't save the others. If I were here faster, then none of this would've happened." - replied Sanguinius as he turned towards the Daemon Prince - "Yet what really makes me feel curious is the daemon that I slew to save the Chaplain. Something familiar is about it."
The Captain didn't know how to tell this to his Primarch.
"Lord Primarch," - he started - "this daemon was...still is part of a Chaos Warband known as the Glistering Host. They are...were one of the successors of our parent Chapter. Successors of the Blood Angels." - he finished.
The Primarch turned to him, eyes widened in unbelief and shock, and then back to the dead Daemon Prince. Makkan didn't know what to expect from his Primarch. What he saw was also something unexpected...
Makkan thought that Sanguinius would be angry. That the Primarch would be furious at how far into disgrace one of the Blood Angels successor fell into the darkness of Chaos. Instead, there was sadness and pity coming from the Angel of Baal.
As he looked into the face of the Daemon Prince of the Glistering Host, a single, tiny drop of tear fell down on the floor. After a few seconds, Sanguinius spoke, still looking at the daemon.
"Captain" - he spoke without turning to the Captain - "take Chaplain Argus to the Apothecary. Retrieve the fallen Lamenters. I'll join you later. For now, I want to be alone here."
The Captain wanted to ask why, yet he quickly realized what Sanguinius wanted. The tactical marines took the Chaplain and the Death Company Terminators. Carrying them with all the arsenal they were equipped with made them difficult to move. As the Lamenters exited the sanctuary, Sanguinius remained, still looking at the Daemon Prince's face.
"My son," - he muttered to himself as he touched the daemon's face - "what have you done to yourself?" - he finished. Every word he uttered was filled with pain over what one of his own geneseed turned into.
As he composed himself, Sanguinius stood up as the daemons body started to be engulfed in warp fires. When the corpse disappeared, the Primarch halted and started to talk.
"You know, you don't need to hide yourself." - he spoke as a figure in golden armour walked out from the shadows.
"When I was still with the Angels Resplendent, I noticed records about you." - the Primarch continued as he looked on the golden man with silver wings - "You appear when the Blood Angels or any other successor of theirs is in dire need, only to change the tide of the battle. Noble, I say, but you don't need to disappear after each battle."
The Sanguinor stepped closer towards the Primarch. His golden armor looked as if it was perfectly suited to his body. His Death Mask shined even more intensely in the light. He looked for a moment at the Angel of Baal and replied.
"We know who you are. I am both you and Azkaellon. United in symbiosis. Looking over the Angels and their progeny. If we wanted to, we could've lived among them." - said the Exemplar - "Yet how would they react to the fact that from the inside, the warrior who they call as a reborn you, looks completely differently from what they thought."
The Sanguinor removed his Death Mask, showing the Primarch his true face. Like a maggot ridden corpse in a advanced state of decay he looked. Maggots were moving under his face. His eyes were bloodshot with darkened blood. In this moment he actually looked like some warp abomination. Sanguinius however was unscathed by it and replied to him.
"Even so, you shouldn't vanish after every battle. The Blood Angels and their successors need you as much as me in these dark times, if not more. Come with me to strengthen the Chapters. I am you and you are me. Though different, we are the same. We share the same ideals. I want you to help me to free them from the Black Rage and Red Thirst. Please, do this for me. With me. You are also Azkaellon. So the two of you should know how important for me it is. As well to not allow other successors to fall the same way as the Glistering Host did." - Sanguinius replied, stretching out his hand towards the person that was both him and Azkaellon sharing one body.
"We wish It was that easy," - replied the Exemplar - "but We cannot. There are also quarries that We have to face so that the Imperium would avoid tragedies. We don't appear only to fight along the children of Baal and their progeny. We also disrupt the machinations of Chaos from making them real along those that others call the Legion of the Damned. For now, We want you to guide the Blood Angels and their successors. We want them to see a Primarch, their father. We want them to see Sanguinius, not some abomination that is controlled by the souls of someone slain during Horus's Rebellion and one of his Honour Guards. Make sure they'll simply see the brighter side of you in us." - as they finished, the souls of the original Sanguinius and Azkaellon put on the Death Mask, turned around and opened a warp portal. Before they departed, the Sanguinor said one last thing to Sanguinius. - "I will continue doing what I did during these millennia. Do what you can for them."
"I promise." - vowed Sanguinius - "Yet I hope that the two of you will be appearing more frequently from now on. Not only to change the tide of a battle."
"We will see what we can do." - the Exemplar added as he vanished into the warp portal.
For a moment, Sanguinius thought about what the Sanguinor said. He was the Primarch of the Blood Angels. Yet a Legion, a Chapter having two Primarchs? Maybe the two were right about it. He then turned his way towards the exit to join with the Lamenters.
On the Lamenters' Cruiser, the Sanguine Shine, the Primarch studied the records of the Lamenters as they were travelling through the warp. Sanguinius couldn't comprehend the amount of things that the Lamenters went trough. It was simply some bizarre miracle that they still functioned somehow despite being betrayed, deceived, blown up, butchered, left for death, running into one of those things that Imperial Scholars called Tyranids and survived. In all his life he never met someone who had that much bad luck, yet alone a whole Chapter. And despite all of this they never ceased to help others. They were indeed his sons, albeit supernaturally unlucky.
It was ten days since the battle on the ruins of Valaran. Chaplain Argus had his arms replaced with powerful bionics. When the Chaplain saw Sanguinius, he had the same stupefied reaction like the other marines. The marines that ceased to behave stupefied behaved naturally around the Primarch. While Sanguinius and Captain Makkan were walking down the corridor, the Captain asked the Primarch about what should they do if he has returned. The Angel had a simple answer.
"I will do everything in my power to strengthen the Blood Angels and every single successor Chapter of theirs. This should aid militarily the Imperium if my progeny will be replenished. I will also try to have an impact on the decisions the High Lords have been executing. For now the Lamenters will accompany me in my travels. But before I set my plan in motion, I must address the situation of one of the successors."
"Which one Lord Primarch?" - asked the Lamenters Commander.
"I have heard that the Knights of Blood were decreed renegade by the High Lords due to their "excessive" behaviour on the battlefield. Since then they were being hunted by the rest of the Imperium. I would like to set them straight a little. Not to mention a couple of other Chapters." - replied the Primarch.
"Lord Sanguinius," - Makkan said with a serious voice - "The Knights of Blood would be everywhere as we speak. They became very adept in masking their presence in Imperial space. Looking for them is the same as looking for some incredibly ancient and rare STC...unless there would be a alternative method to call them."
"You suggest to travel to Baal and call EVERY successor? Including those that might have went renegade?"
"I thought about it a moment ago, but there should be a alternative to it. Maybe we..." - "No, no, no, no." - interrupted the Primarch - "That is fine. In fact that would make my work easier and I wanted to see how much Baal has changed."
The Lamenter immediately saw the spark in his Primarch's eye as he grinned on the thought of seeing Baal again. The Lamenter followed with a grin.
"Set course for Baal?" - he asked.
"Make it so brother Captain." - Sanguinius replied.
At that moment Makkan contacted the bridge to set course for the Blood Angels' homeworld.
The Emperor Awakens
The Emperor opened his eyes.
The world was rendered through a lens smeared with oil, all he could make out were vague shapes and colours. There were seven shapes standing before him: one gold with two white shapes stretching behind it, another was a boxy bright yellow shape that stood close to a dull grey shape of similar shape. Two smaller shapes stood to the Emperor's right, one fluctuated in shape as though shifting its weight, the other stood absolutely still. On the Emperor's left was a wide greenish-black smear with a thin gap of light in the middle. Everything behind them was bright light that stung the Emperor's eyes. Something was holding him in a sitting position, and he weakly turned his head to see what, muscles in his neck creaking as he did so. Through his fuzzy vision, the Emperor glimpsed a massive red shape moving from past his side, and obscuring his view of the other silhouettes. He thought he heard it say "It is finished.", but any attempt at further discerning was ruined by the red shape slumping forwards, to be narrowly caught by the others. The Emperor blinked. Dry lids scratched across the surface of his eyeballs like sandpaper. His arms tingled, as though filled with pins and needles, and he caught a glimpse of the wide, golden device he was strapped to.
The Emperor inhaled. Dusty air that smelled of ozone and old leather whistled between cracked lips, and past a dry tongue. The Emperor swallowed, the dry inside of his mouth producing an audible rasping sound. A flex of the tongue produced a faint moisture within his mouth. His eyes too, were moistening, and each blink brought the world more into focus, like a telescope being gradually focussed. He swallowed again and coughed at the taste of the air. There was an audible intake of breath from the shapes before him, shapes that were gradually rendering into figures, like statues being sculpted from chunks of marble.
As he looked again at the figures, two still propping up the crimson giant, his mind began to assign them names. They were not the only thing he remembered. His limbs ached for a moment as he felt his arm being torn off and his ribs collapsing under an iron claw. For a second, his vision cleared, and he saw a planet on fire, and billions crying out for their saviour. He saw a man close his eyes as he was flayed into nothing. He remembered everything.
The Emperor spoke.
The figures (primarchs, his subconscious whispered), moved forward, almost colliding with each other, then they moved back, as though none wanted to have to speak first. He blinked again, and saw past the figures, a hall stretching into infinity, lined with banners and tapestries and murals that defied description. Breathing in again, he smelled, just for a moment, a meadow under the bright sun. He blinked again, the figures snapped into sharp relief and he could remember what to call them now. "Magnus" he said, voice quiet and croaking, but loud enough for the figures to hear. Dorn glanced at the pale-faced cyclops he was holding up, as though asking for permission. Magus nodded and, taking a deep breath, took his weight from his brother. The giant stepped towards the throne, as a prisoner steps towards the gallows. For a second, the emperor's eyes fluttered and he saw Magnus with his warp-sight. The primarch's essence flickered, like a lantern in a gale. The Emperor could only imagine how Magnus could remain on his feet in such an exhausted state. Lifting his right arm gently off its rest, the Emperor beckoned the Sorcerer closer. Awkwardly, Magnus knelt besides the throne, his head at the level of the right hand. He opened his mouth to speak, but the Emperor placed a finger to his forehead, between the many-hued eye and the whorl of scar tissue.
"You seek forgiveness."
"Yes" Magnus' voice was a papery whisper.
"For a crime which I deliberated, Magnus. You are forgiven. Now and forever."
Before the Magnus could speak, the Emperor drew on the power that had been with him since birth, a power bound into every cell in his body. He held it for a moment, let it build, then released it into the primarch. The others were amazed as a path of glittering lines spread from where the Emperor's finger touched Magnus' forehead. The light spread out, travelling down every blood vessel, every nerve cell, every hair of Magnus' being. For a moment, he was made of golden light. Then it faded, and the Emperor's hand drew back. Magnus turned to the others, rising from the kneeling position he was in, as though he was in perfect health. The others saw his face, saw where every psychosomatic bruise, every scar, every burst blood vessel had healed. That was not what drew their eyes. From where there had been just a knotted scar, a bright eye twinkled back at them, glittering with colours. As the giant stepped forwards, behind him, the Emperor placed his hands flat on the golden sides of his chair and pushed. Life-support monitors fell away, nutrient pipes disengaged and dust fell in a rain as the Emperor Stood.
"My sons." he said.
"I am so glad to see you. We have much work to do."
(Author's note, I started writing this at 11:30 on the 19th of March. When I finished, it was the 20th, the first day of Spring. It seems appropriate)
First came the dust storms, covering the sky with darkness. Then came the ships, swarms of starfighters aided by their daemonic allies clashing with planetary defense vessels, each side ferociously struggling to gain air superiority, air filled with projectiles and lasfire of anti-air batteries' fire. Outside of the powerful curtain walls erected around four of the mightiest crater-forges, Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons, Arsia Mons and Olympus Mons – where the planetary headquarter was set up, countless warriors dug trenches, set up bunkers and prepared for the onslaught. All was ready, when out of the cloud of darkness rising ahead of them like a red tsunami they heard a monstrous, inhuman yell which echoed among the flatlands.
- They're here – Horus whispered.
Ground trembled as the enemy marched with seemingly no rhythm, a frenzied tied rising to flood the faithful, though the first enemy units were yet to be seen. Instead the shroud that covered them moved ever closer, and was now within a few hundred metres before the first lines. Commanders yelled their orders along the ranks, ordering their men to hold their ground.
Some guardsmen were shot by the commissars as they turned to flee, panicking before their foe would even show himself.
And when it seemed like the Imperial defenses would be swallowed whole by the gigantic wall of dust, the Archenemy sprung out of the darkness. Endless hordes ran charging out, their screams terrifying, their eyes hollow with madness, their skin covered with symbols that would twist a weak mind just by gazing upon them. Cultists and fanatics, human shields sprung forth like a tidal wave, and the inferno began. The first lines were set up close the the curtain walls, as only around them the surface was habitable. Artillery that the Mechanicum installed upon them began their barrage, their opening salvo so loud that many of the troops that were close to them went deaf from the very sound. Titans, set up deeper within the defense lines began to set up a wall of plasma and melta fire ahead of their troops, their concentrated efforts causing the ground to melt. On the frontlines it was as if all hell broke loose. Guardsmen from the 3rd Death Korps Siege Regiment were entrenched in defensive positions upon the edge of a cliff, below them a valley that spanned kilometres. They could hear the penal regiments' ranks ahead of them break as the expendable units have met with enemy onslaught. Lieutenant Damakis watched through binoculars the slopes ahead, as the Chaos infantry – a mix of unarmed crazed fanatics and twisted guardsmen overwhelmed their allies.
- Sareth, Paul, open up on that slope, suppressive fire! - he voxed to his heavy bolter squad leaders.
- Sir, there's friendlies still there!
Damakis looked again at what was left of their front line.
- Not anymore there isn't. Do it!
Heavy bolters opened fire, and as soon as they did the Lieutenant saw that he made the right call – shots cut down more than twenty enemy soldiers that sprung out from cover no more than a hundred metres ahead of them, their bodies disappearing in red mist as they got torn apart.
Then he heard a high-pitched voice, a screeching sound he knew all to well.
- Incoming! - he roared and threw himself on the ground, seconds before the blast exploded in the trench next to them, his and his soldiers' lives saved only by the zig-zagging frame of the defense line.
He ran to where the shell hit, and only because of his experience did he not throw up when confronted by the bloody gore that covered the place. He heard steps above him, and only managed to grab a lasgun with a bayonet fastened onto it from the ground as a fanatic ran up to the edge of the trench and jumped down upon him.
He stuck the bayonet up, and held it high, impaling the wretched soul instantly.
- Captain Keeler, Damakis reporting, we're getting swarmed, requesting suppressive artillery fire on quadrant Five-Five-Hotel, I repeat we need artillery support now! - as he voxed he stood up to see if any more enemies were incoming. Indeed, no less than forty enemy infantry managed to get past the heavy guns' arc of fire and were now creeping towards their lines. Damakis turned to his right and yelled to one of his soldiers.
- Sam, frag them! - he pointed to the enemy positions, and the guardsman nodded, stood up and threw as hard as he could. One, two, three... Damakis counted in his mind and when he reached 'five' he heard a loud bang, followed by screams. - Well done.
So far, so good, Damakis thought as he stood up to assess the situation. There were no enemies in sight, though the damn clouds were too thick to get any decent visual.
- All right men, check your ammo, check your squadmates. They'll be coming any second now.
And yet there were no enemies, the attacks stopped as suddenly as they began. Something is not right – Damakis uttered to himself, and soon he knew why that was.
First they thought it was a friendly Earthshaker hitting its mark, artillery finally giving them a helping hand. After three tremors, they were fairly sure that it was something else. After five, they've finally seen what horrors awaited them. Damakis went pale as he felt his palms begin to sweat. He grabbed his vox set and said with a voice so calm that even he was surprised – This is 3rd Death Korps, Lieutenant Damakis. We've made contact with daemon engines in quadrant Five-Five-Hotel. I repeat, deamon engines sighted. - as he finished, he turned to his soldiers, as frightened as him, cowering in their trench, and simply said:
- May the Emperor help us all.
- There, Five-Five-Hotel, is that information confirmed? – Horus turned to one of the comms officers, pointing to the display above strategum table in his temporary headquarters just a few metres from Void Gate, the main entrance to Olympus Mons hive-forge.
- Sir, we've failed to confirm, we lost contact with that unit a minute ago. It seems they've been overrun, my Lord.
Horus tapped his finger on the table, his demeanor calm, eyes fixed upon the green line now vanishing from the display. After a few seconds his mind was made up. He turned to his aides, the four members of his Mournival.
- Ready our men, have the 1st, 3rd and 10th make their oaths. The rest shall stay here under command of Aximand as reserves. We'll reinforce Five-Five-Hotel and fight back those machines.
- My Lord, this report is sketchy to say the least. It might've been some panicked officer begging for help for his unit, exaggerating their reports. - the First Captain spoke, his helmet by his side.
- You question my judgement, son? - the Primarch said those words very slowly, in a manner that made the other Captains' skin crawl.
- Never. - Abaddon apologised and bowed humbly. Since their reunion, the relations between Horus and his officers were tense to say the least, just as between the officers themselves. Loken made no remarks, and found himself pitying Abaddon. Everyone was on their toes now, afraid to step out of line. They'd seen what happened to those that did in the past, and the images were not pleasant to say the least. That being said, there was Emperor's work to be done, and Garviel walked out of the tent, following Horus, with brother Kibre of the Justaerin and the elderly Qruze following in his steps.
They quickly went about giving out orders, as Horus oversaw the men embarking their transports row after row in perfect order, with the 3rd and 10th entering Thunderhawks, while the lumbersome Terminators of the Justaerin slowly walking into the crammed compartments of Land Raiders. Their departure was watched by many guardsmen and civilians around with awe, and many of them cheered and sang hymns to their God-Emperor, as if not noticing the endless artillery barrage that echoed like a thunderstorm inside the curtain walls.
Horus entered the first Land Raider as soon as the last Astartes was ready, and soon his armoured column was heading at full speed through the red plains, with dozens of Thunderhawks accompanying them in the skies, some twenty metres above them. He couldn't help but feel glad. At last, it was time.
Horus watched a tactical display inside his transport, modified to accommodate staff personnel. There was an opening in Imperial ranks in the very spot that the report from 3rd Death Korps came, and enemy forces were now pouring into the breach. On their side of the cliff where the infantry was stationed the ground was mostly flat, with a few hills on their left flank – and on those hills their defenses were much more successful in organising a second-line defense. The right flank was a wreck however, and was crumbling by the seconds.
- This is Horus to all squads, we'll be moving in force into the flank of their advance in quadrant Five-Six-Hotel, Thunderhawks await for a landing zone as the ground troops make way. Follow up on the armoured assault and proceed with your attack towards the cliff. - he voxed through the Raiders vox, and immediately afterwards called up his second in command – Void Gate HQ, this is Horus, where's that artillery support?
- This is Void Gate HQ, my Lord, we're beginning as we speak – and indeed, there was a loud roar as rear batteries began to lay waste to the ground ahead, the wall of fire moving forward as the column made at full speed towards the frontline.
The Raiders that were moving in a column so far now changed their formation, forming a long wedge, with Thunderhawks awaiting clearance to land and keeping on low altitude behind them. Ahead of them the battlefield had turned to a wasteland, with small groups of surrounded guardsmen still fighting back against their enemies in a bitter close combat in what was left of their trenches. The Raiders did not stop as they went over the Chaos infantry foolish enough not to run away, with their guns opening up on whatever targets they could find.
The rumored siege machines of their foe were nowhere to be seen, though arguably the dust cloud was now encompassing the field of battle, rendering it nearly impossible to get a grasp of the situation.
The Land Raiders opened their rear hatches and the Justaerin disembarked, their slow, seemingly clumsy steps making friend and foe alike turn their heads and see in awe as they were all obliterated by relentless fire from their twin-linked bolters that ravaged their positions. As soon as the immediate vicinity of their location was moderately secure, the Thunderhawks swooped in one by one, dropping of their cargo and taking off in an endless effort, and despite the efforts of the ground forces they were constantly under fire, though erratic and ineffective.
As Loken jumped off the Thunderhawk, as it was faster for them not to land on the ground but hover just a few metres above and depart, he made a head count, and as soon as he was done he led his company to the trenches ahead, their might armours stampeding over enemy troops that lay hidden in what they perceived as a hiding place against the Emperor's finest.
- Palladius, Talonus, on me! Rest of you brothers, spread out, search the trenches and secure the perimeter! - he voxed his orders.
Horus watched as wave after wave the Thunderhawks dropped off his land forces, and saw them secure their position and slowly advance towards the breach. He tried to assess the situation, which seemed peculiar. There was no real resistance here, and these worthless troops could not possibly have overrun the seasoned troops of Krieg, especially in excellent defensive positions like these. The enemy machines were nowhere to be seen. Something was amiss. Then a vox message came through.
- My Lord, we've found strange tunnels in the trenches. It's possible that it was through them that the enemy infiltrated the frontlines. I'm sending squads to investigate them as we speak – he heard a report by the 3rd Captain.
- Act with caution, Captain. - Horus replied briefly and was about to go back to his command Raider as on of the Astartes inside speak – My Lord, the dust storm is interfering with our scanners, but I'm receiving a strange signal. Come see this – he pointed to his console, which indicated subterranean contact no more than fifty metres behind the armoured battalion. Horus immediately grabbed the vox.
- This is Horus to Thunderhawk wing, stop your approach! I repeat, stop your – he did manage to finish as he felt the ground tremble.
Yet another of the dropships was now hovering above ground at the makeshift landing zone, with Astartes preparing to jump off it as the sands below it seemed to erupt and swallow the machine whole. Horus watched as a machine tore through the soil and grabbed the Thunderhawk with its maw, crunching on flesh and metal. It was a beast about fifteen metres tall, with four short, mechanical legs and a long torso, which ended with something that resembled a head, the engines' mouth engulfed with flames, its eyes blazing red.
Nearby more enemy units were emerging from the ground, catching the Astartes by complete surprise. Horus did not wait for the foe to make their move, and began to run towards the first unit. His power claw began to charge, his left arm armed with a bolter pounding at the creature's head. It already crawled out of its tunnel, the debris from the destroyed dropship falling around in a rain of scrap metal and gore. Horus jumped, his right arm held high as he came down on the foes neck, the claws tearing through steel. The daemon engine tried to shake him off, one of its legs reaching to grab him. Horus was however much more agile than the lumbersome beast, and as soon as he landed on the ground he began to run below the monster's belly, punching out huge holes with his weapons.
His foe, unable to grab the Warmaster, desperately tried to trample him, its four massive legs stomping on the sands, never quite reaching their mark as the Primarch emerged from below the creature. He did not stop in his assault, and – as he dodged the beasts tail left and right – made for its rear left leg, throwing himself into a spin to gain momentum and hitting his target as hard as he could, tearing the limb off. The enemy bellowed and roared, as it crumbled and fell down on the ground. Horus jumped onto it, and ran through its spine. He stopped atop its head and plunged his claws right into its skull. His enemies eyes opened wide, and the whole machine shook as if in spasms. After a few seconds it stopped, its body laying on the ground.
He took a few quick breaths as he looked around to get a grasp of the situation. His Astartes were still fighting a few of the beasts, and saw one of them get destroyed as a Thunderhawk made a low run, firing off its lasers and missiles, each consecutive hit inflating the chassis from within, until a violent explosion sent it back to the hell from whence it came . His vox was patching through reports, albeit interference from the storm was severe.
„We have * static * in the tunnels! * static * just a dist- * static * -just a distraction!”
Before the Warmaster could make sense of the words, he saw the dust cloud ahead of his units dispel, revealing the ground ahead of them. Under the cover of darkness, they could not be noticed – yet now they stood there, rank after rank, their banners and unholy icons held high, their lines marching through the wasteland towards them.
There was no mistaking, as every Astartes knew those red-and-silver colours well.
The Word Bearers.
The Dark Apostles.
He heard the Raiders open up a barrage of bolter and lasfire, but for every one of the enemy marines that had fallen, a new one took his place, their crawl relentless. Then they began to chant, a wicked, twisted litany rang out across the battlefield.
He looked round, and saw a squad of battle brothers, some ten men, setting up their positions. He raised his claw high and yelled.
- My sons! Finally the enemy have revealed themselves! Follow me, for Terra, for the Emperor, for glory!
The men rose up, their bolters in one hand, chainswords in the other, and roared.
- Lupercal! Lupercal! Lupercal!
And then they charged, and as they passed the trenches more Luna Wolves emerged, joining the attack. It was as if a flood of grey steel struck upon a red shore, the first Astartes using their speed to strike with fury at the first enemy lines.
- For Terra!
The two sides clashed and went into vicious close combat, trenches ringing with the sound of chainswords and chainaxes plowing through metal armour and flesh. Horus in the middle of the assault, his figure towering among regular marines. His chestplate no longer grey, now drenched in blood, he moved through the enemy formation like a hurricane, his powerful claws tearing through the enemy left and right, with seemingly nobody to stop him in his fury and anger, his loyal sons following in his wake.
As he decapitated the enemy marine in front of him, a twisted parody of a human being, he looked up and to his surprise, saw that the enemy were now ignoring him, moving past towards his Luna Wolves, and there was nobody near him save for one man, a few paces away, his bald head inscribed with runes and prayers that would break a mind simply by gazing upon them. In his right hand a powerful crozius, in his left – an open book that reeked of warp taint. Upon his chest plate a human head, constantly spouting out Chaotic gospel, constantly moving, twisting in a manner unnatural and sorcerous.
Upon his face – a content smile.
- Welcome, son of the Emperor. - the Dark Apostle spoke in a calm, soothing voice – You've come back to finish what we've begun?
They began to walk in a circle, paying no heed to the battle surrounding them. Between them an empty space, the air heavy with tension, their eyes fixed upon each other.
- I've come back to finish what my father began, and to defeat any who dare raise their hand upon his work. - Horus replied angrily.
- So yet again the mighty Warmaster accepts the role of a servant? The great Primarch, first among his kin, once more reduced to a lapdog? - Erebus seemed amused by the conversation, a smug grin still on his lips. - You'll return to obeying the tyrant, you – who would lead the Imperium to greatness? I'm unimpressed, my Lord, millennia pass and men keep repeating the mistakes of ages past.
- I make no mistake when I stay true to my father, to my brothers, Erebus. - the Primarch answered.
- And yet you were the first to acknowledge the error in your ways once. Surely, in your wisdom, you will follow that same righteous path once again and lead your kin to freedom from their despotic Emperor. Look at them, praying to the false god, holding his icons as if they were some holy artifacts, their minds unable to accept the truth! - the Apostle waved his hand towards the hive-forge, his voice raised – Is it not what your father had planned all along? His tyranny is foul and wretched, Horus, for he not only rules their bodies, but also their hearts!
Horus felt his blood rush through his veins in rage.
- Silence! I won't listen to your words any longer, Apostle. So high and mighty, so righteous, so full of yourself! Look at you, your gospel and preaching! Whatever madness and sorrow now plagues the Imperium it is my doing and mine alone. And I will atone for what I've done by sending you back to those Warp Gods you so cherish! - Horus roared and they both ran towards each other, their weapons meeting with a loud clang. Both of them struggled to throw their foe back, and their faces were inches away now, separated by screeching steel.
The twisted preacher laughed.
- Accept the truth, Warmaster! Your father used you like a smith uses his hammer, and built an empire of lies while you were busy running his war for him – and now you're back, yet again an errand boy! Horus clenched his teeth as he heard the Apostle's words. For a moment there, he felt something akin to fear. Astartes were incapable of fright, and it was not as if he was afraid for his life – he was born for battle, born for this. Then why, why did he feel this strange sensation? Was it because there could be truth in Erebus' words? As he felt his blood boil with fury, he suddenly realised – what he was afraid of was in fact that he would once again fail the ones he held dear. That he would once again turn his back on his own.
The two men fought to gain the upper hand, pressing hard on their weapons. Their powerful armours clanging as steel met steel, Marine met Marine. Demigod met demigod.
The preacher's crozius suddenly slipped, and ran down towards his pauldron, barely leaving Horus time to jump back to avoid being torn in two. He was late, however, to completely evade the attack and the unholy mace crushed the side of his armour. As it went down, the Primarch saw it tear off the parchment that held his oath, the words he spoke onboard the Ragnarok.
The seal flew through the air like a leaf on the wind, Horus' eyes fixed upon it like in a trance, the whole world slowing down around him.
Do you, Horus, son of the Emperor, accept your role in this?
Do you swear to stand true to his words and not succumb to the treachery of the taint?
Do you swear not to waver in your resolution?
Terra, how stupid I've been.
Erebus didn't have time to recover, as the sheer force of his attack sent the Crozius swinging into the dust. Horus did not pay attention to the pain he felt in his arm and chest, and with renewed strength simply ran himself into the Apostle, throwing him on the ground. Erebus' smile was now gone, now replaced with a face twisted in shock.
- I am no lapdog, traitor. And I am no errand boy. I am Horus, son of the Emperor! - his words echoed, as the marine below him desperately tried to reach for his weapon – I have judged you, and you have been found wanting. Accept your sentence and go back to your beloved Warp – and tell your 'Gods' that we're coming for them! - He raised his arm, bolter in his hand, pointed it in his foe's face, and pulled the trigger.
Once he was done, he looked around. With their leader gone, the Word Bearers were in full retreat, Luna Wolves mercilessly slaughtering the straggling heretics. They formed up around him, and from the crowd emerged Qruze, the elderly Astartes stopping in front of his Warmaster. He stared at what was left of Erebus, and his Primarch, drenched in blood and breathing heavily. He turned to the other Luna Wolves, and raised his chainsword high.
With a low howl he roared.
And his brothers replied.
How they Got Here
Ever since Trazyn revived Vulkan the two have become good friends. An alliance is even being talked about between the Imperium and the few Necron dynasties that don't dislike Trazyn. However, both the Imperium and the Necrons will always wish to benefit from any alliance formed and both have decided to extend a show of good faith to each other.
The Necrons have dispatched Crypteks to the Cadia. They are to repair the damaged parts on the Pylon network in order to better strengthen the Imperium's ability to defend against the Black Crusades.
The Imperium however must make a more warlike show. The Tomb World of Vrasksia and it's ruling dynasty, the Novokh Dynasty, has been divided into two. Due to reckless use of C'tan shards to destroy encroaching Tyranids, half the dynasty has been taken over by a Transendent C'tan. The other half is now fighting a stalemate against the controlled force. The Imperium must end this stalemate.
As much as Vulkan himself would've preferred to lead the force, he is not the closest Imperial army. The closest Imperial military presence is two Imperial Guard regiments, a 13th great company of the Space Wolves and 300 marines of the Thousand Sons.
Vulkan initially didn't think it was wise to have the Thousand Sons and Space Wolves fight alongside each other given their history but Leman Russ and Magnus have assured him that they have reconciled and that they will insure that the members of their legions will leave behind their history when entering the field of battle. Vulkan was still slightly skeptical, but trusted their judgement, reasoning that fighting alongside each other will help erase the feuds of their history.
As they approached the planet. Trazyn has ensured that the Novokh dynasty was informed of the arriving reinforcements. The non-controlled Necrons have disabled the Pylon networks on the section of the planet under their control so that they won't weaken the psykers of the arriving aid.
The opposing Necrons will never show such a courtesy, leaving most of the Thousand Sons to be on the defensive since they can't enter enemy territory without the weakening of their powers.
Unless the enemy pylon network is taken out, the Imperium will not be able to make the full use of its abilities to defeat the Transcendent C'tan.
The Thousand Sons and Imperial Guard have spread out across the Novokh controlled regions of the planet to bolster it's defenses against attacks.
Imperial Guard and Space Marine officers and Necron Lords meet periodically to discuss how best to make use of their alliance.
Imperial Guard squads find themselves hiding behind a horde of Necron Warriors, their Lasguns sometimes being just the little extra firepower needed to turn a firefight against the C'tan's necrons.
Deathmarks have intercepted ambushes from Triarch Praetorians attempting to destroy Imperial heavy vehicles.
Unfortunately, the C'tans forces have been bolstered by the flayed one packs. Before the Imperium arrived they were useless to both sides as machines produced neither blood nor gore to draw them. Now, with warm bodies present; they ambush human troops at every opportunity, bursting from beneath the snow and ice to tear into the nearest meat.
Several Wolf Scouts and Legion Recon Squads have been deployed. Delving into the catacombs with a Cryptek or two as their guides. They must destroy the Pylon network of the C'tan so that the might of the Psykers and Terminators may be used. Several dozen marines are lost in the process but it is successful. With the Pylons disabled, the C'tan no longer has any effective counters towards enemy psykers, nor the means to prevent Terminators from arriving wherever they please. The war turns against the C'tan as Terminators open gaps in the C'tans defenses while psykers shred every foe they encounter.
The Necrons are capable of enduring many attacks, and with them standing between the C'tan's forces and the great offensive power of the Imperium, the planet is steadily retaken bit by bit.
At last the transcendent C'tan enters the field of battle on it's own. Having identified the near religious awe that the new opponents have towards Leman Russ and Magnus, it intends to kill them both, if that doesn't cause the Imperium to despair, then it'll at least mean it's taken two of the most dangerous opponents it's ever fought with it.
Russ ducked under the sweep of another massive arm, swinging his frost blade at it and seeing the blade glance off, yet again. Magnus, to his left was faring little better, trickles of blood running from the corners of his eyes as every thunderbolt and fireball he hurled at the enemy glanced off. Russ looked up into the sneering silver face and roared a fenrisian curse at it. The great silver fist descended again, too quickly to dodge. Magnus set his feet, and Pushed. The enemy's fist hovered just feet above the sorcerer's outstretched hands, trembling as the foul creature pushed for all it was worth. Seeing the foe's attention fixed on Magus, Russ charged the monster's body proper, batting away silver tendrils that reached for him, before swinging with all his might at the enemy's torso. The shock vibrated up the Great Wolf's arms, but the enraged scream that tore at his ears, told him that he had hurt it. His train of thought was brought to an abrupt halt as the eldritch winds that tore at his hair and pelts increased a thousandfold. Russ planted his sword in the ground and clung to the grip, feeling the wind ripping the skins from his armour as it tried to pick him up. Even as metal snowflakes tore at his skin like claws, the Great wolf smiled, this was nothing to a fenrisian blizzard. The wind halted abruptly, and Russ barely had time to open his eyes before a metal fist slapped him into the air. Russ tumbled head-over-heels, struggling to maintain his sense of direction as he flew. A force stopped him, and lowered him gently to the ground. He caught Magnus' eye and nodded. The sorcerer nodded back, just before a thunderbolt exploded in the metal snow before him, hurling him off his feet. The ground quaked as the enemy strode towards them. Russ tightened his grip on his sword and glared defiantly into the metal face. It wasn't smiling anymore. The terrible figure towered over Russ like a mountain, and raised its fist for a killing blow.
Russ spared a moment's glance for Magnus, lying stunned in a snowbank. The Sorcerer closed his eyes for a moment... then a thunderbolt leapt from his hand, straight at Russ. The bolt went past the Primarch and hit his sword with a mighty flash. The sword glowed and trembled in Russ' grip, as though trying to get free. The massive fist descended. Russ dived out of the way, and brought the crackling frostblade down on the monster's wrist. The monster screamed in genuine pain as its hand fell away, white light streaming from the stump. Russ looked into the creature's eyes and realised he wouldn't get a better chance. He pivoted on his left leg, and hurled the blade straight at the enemy's face. The ancient frostblade planted itself to the hilt in the creature's forehead. Russ would never forget the frozen look of horror. The creature trembled for a second, light spilling out of every orifice. Then it exploded with a sound like worlds colliding.
After what could have been a thousand years, Russ dragged himself out of the metal snowdrift he had face planted into. As the adrenaline wore off, the pain of his injuries began to make themselves known. He limped over to the giant lying on his back in a snowdrift, and collapsed next to him.
"Did we win?" rasped Magnus. Russ rolled onto his side:
"Most certainly. I doubt there's enough left to make a mug with."
A hand weakly slapped his pauldron.
"Well done. Now, if you don't mind, I'll just have a rest here. These snowbanks are strangely comfortable."
Russ pushed himself back to his feet:
"You have fun."
He turned and began to limp towards the crater. Magnus spoke up:
"Where are you going?"
"Get my sword back."
With the Transcendent C'tan shattered into pieces, most of the Necrons on the planet fall back under the control of the Novokh dynasty while the various leaders such as the Lords regain their free will. The shards of the C'tan - now temporarily comatose - are re-imprisoned in Tessarect Arks. Hopefully, the Novokh dynasties leaders have learned from their mistakes.