The Tales of the Emperasque: Part Two
Continued from The Tales of the Emperasque: Part One.
The observation void platforms of Macragge are, by necessity, among the best left in the galaxy. It was that world, the home of the Ultramarines, the second birthplace of Robute Guilliman, that drove Hive Fleet Behemoth to pieces, and houses the mortal remains of the second greatest leader the Imperium has ever known. The void platforms, named Calgar, Tigurius, and Cassius, for the three leaders of the Ultramarines, were the templates used to design the great Void Stations of Armageddon, which helped prevent the loss of that world to the Orks.
It was these stations that first detected something approaching the planet from the direction of Segmentum Obscurus. The return of a splinter fleet could not be discounted, and so the full force of the first, second, fifth, and ninth companies of the Ultramarines, the finest warriors of the Astartes, were assembled at the northern polar fortress, which had managed to hold off even the Dominatrix of Behemoth. Librarian Tigurius, perhaps the most potent human psyker in the galaxy barring the Emperor Himself, joined Chapter Master Calgar before the stasis-locked form of Primarch Guilliman in the Shrine of the Temple of Correction, seeking one final prayer of guidance from Chaplain Cassius. The black-clad old Marine slowly raised his hands in prayer before the frozen body of his genetic predecessor.
“We seek your beneficence, Lord Guilliman, and the guidance of the Emperor on Earth, blessed be the Golden Throne. May the defense of the innocents of Macragge be steadfast, and the protection of the honor of the Chapter never falter.”
Suddenly, Chief Librarian Tigurius rose to his feet, disrupting the sermon. He spun to gape at the ceiling. Calgar looked up at him is surprise. “What is it, old friend?”
Tigurius cradled his head in his hands. “I…I feel a great, terrible, divine power. It approaches us, Marneus, with the winds of the Warp at its back.”
Cassius joined Calgar and the rest of the assembled Ultramarines, and the thousands of pilgrims, Ecclesiarchal drones, and PDF honor guards in staring at the ceiling, as if they would suddenly develop the same psychic powers as the Librarian, and see what he saw. Calgar grimaced. “A divine power…is it one of those accursed Eldar Warp entities, Avatars?”
Tigurius shook his head, nearly weeping tears of joy. “No, Lord battle-brother, it is nothing so profane…such a presence…it can only be our Emperor himself!” Calgar felt his jaw drop.
“Impossible!” he proclaimed without thinking. Realizing his mistake, he continued. “The Emperor sits the Golden Throne, never to march alongside mortal Man again.”
“Apparently not, brother,” the wizened psyker whispered. “He comes to us.” Cassius turned to the frozen body of Guilliman and bowed his head, grinning.
“It seems,” he said faintly, “that my prayers are to be answered.”
The pilgrims scattered throughout the vast sepulcher started gibbling to themselves, several taking a reverent knee, others fainting from the shock. The PDF honor guard were little better, milling about uncertainly, and the Ecclesiarchs around the room clustered before the body of Robute Guilliman, locked in its eternal rictus of pain, the poisoned wounds at its neck clear to see.
Abruptly, the sky beyond the adamantium sepulcher turned a vivid purple, as the warp being flashed into existence outside. The faithful fell to their knees and sobbed, the Ultramarines stood true and proud, and the Ecclesiarchy minions called out His most Divine name in rapturous joy.
For several seconds, there was nothing but a howling wind beyond the walls of the vast, mountainous temple. Then, with a suddenness that shocked the assembled mass of humanity, a loud WHAM sounded from the ceiling above the marble throne. The Ultramarine contingent visibly tensed, and the gray-haired Tigurius nearly toppled. Calgar caught his arm, baffled. “What is it, brother? What just happened?”
Tigurius shook his head. “The…the God-Emperor, he can’t…this can’t be…”
Before Calgar could ask him what he meant, a deafening roar sounded from above the building. “DEAREST ROBOUTE, WHY DID YOU ALLOW YOURSELF SUCH TASTE IN ARCHITECTURE? I MEAN, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE THE ECONOMICALLY-MINDED ONE.”
The ceiling shook visibly, the ancient marble and adamantium buckling under a vast impact that threw the standing gathering to the ground, save only the most sure-footed of the Space Marines. The voice continued. “I MEAN, JAGHATAI NEVER NEEDED A TEMPLE THE SIZE OF AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER. HE HAD A HORSE AND A GUY WITH LIGHTNING IN HIS ASS AND A MOTORCYCLE THE SIZE OF A BUS. WHAT MORE DID HE NEED?”
The whole building, walls of armor and all, shook with the force of the next slam. Everyone left standing toppled to the ground. “AND RATHER MORE TO THE POINT, WHO BUILDS A TEMPLE OUT OF FUCKING ARMOR? WERE YOU THAT AFRAID OF DORN STICKING HIS BOOT UP YOUR ASS? DID THOSE WOLVES RUSS USED TO HAVE SCARE YOU THAT BADLY?”
Finally, the ceiling gave way, and a hole big enough to fly a Marauder through appeared in the abused roof. Vast chunks of the building fell inward around the hole, sending the pilgrims scrambling for their lives. Tigurius overcame his stupor to dazedly knock the bigger chunks harmlessly aside, as an enormous orange animal fell through the hole. It landed with an earth-shaking THUD at the foot of the throne, knocking Cassius aside like a bowling pin. The enormous creature stared at the figure of Robute Guilliman on the throne, and in a rather more reasonable tone, continued. “SHIT, SON, THAT GLITTERY TRAITOR FULGRIM REALLY FUCKED YOU UP, DIDN’T HE? GOOD THING SLAANESH USED HIM FOR TOILET PAPER.” The creature padded up the flight of stairs leading to the throne, with the Ultramarines at its feet gazing on in astonishment. The monster looked at the man with…what? Pity? Sorrow? Regret?
At length, it spoke again. It was still gazing at the blue-armored man on the marble chair, but its words were directed at the Ultramarines. “HEY, YOU GUYS. LISTEN, GO GET IN TOUCH WITH WHOEVER’S RUNNING THE BLACK TEMPLARS THESE DAYS, HUH? I HAVE A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT TO BE AT.” With no more talking, and no pomp or bombast at all, the colossal monster vanished with a thunderclap of displaced air, taking the stasis-protected Primarch with him.
Marneus Calgar, the man who punched Khaine to death, the Space Marine who broke Behemoth over his knee, stared at the empty space his bestial Emperor and spiritual liege had just vacated. All he could manage, with his centuries of oratorical skill, was a single
“What the FUCK?”
Astropathic communication, as humans know it, is a complex and unpleasant thing. First, one must actually be soul-stripped and rebuilt, and if that doesn’t kill you, you invariably go blind.
Not all races came into psychic power as humans did. Some races had it far before the advent of the Dark Gods rendered it unusable. The Eldar possess a very refined form of it, and are able to shape it into many forms, from divination to pyrokinesis. The Orks have a very simple form of it, binding their Wyrds to the primal force of the WAAAAAAGH. The Slaan are even more in tune than the Eldar they helped create, though they have withdrawn from the universe to meditate and taunt the lesser races. Rumors abound regarding the Tau Etherials.
But one thing is for certain: there are few psyker forces more potent than ten Eldar Craftworld Farseers in one place.
It was Farseer Macha of Biel-tan who called the meeting to order. Her voice cut through the low hum of the other assembled path-lost Seers with all the authority she could muster. “I need hardly tell you all why we’re here. The Mon-keigh Emperor is back, and he’s merged with a Warp Beast. It’s a type we’ve never seen before, with all the psychic, physical, and mental capacity that both have wielded at their peaks combined. The question is: do we attack, watch from a distance, or help out?”
Her brusque manner caused a few hackles to rise among the more conservative, older Farseers, but nobody said anything. Finally, Spiritseer Iyanna Arienal of Iyanden spoke. “What choice have we? This was something literally none of us saw. We have no choice but to let the events play out and hope that we can direct the re-emerging Imperium in a favorable direction. After all, we are only at war because of actions of Eldrad, who is gone, and Fulgrim, who betrayed the humans. This…new Emperor may be amenable to common sense.
“Perhaps, Iyanna, but the return of an entity such as their Emperor, bound to a Warp Beast of nearly indestructible strength, is not a force we can hope to direct. Frankly, Maugan Ra himself would be ill-equipped to battle such a monster if ever it would attack us,” Farseer Dra’aniel of Alaitoc replied.
“I think that quietly letting it…him…know that we know it exists would be wise, if only to drive it to caution. It can not withstand the might of the Eldar Assembled.”
“No,” Arienal said tightly, “but neither can we afford to direct our full might against it. We are already at war with no fewer than two entire Imperial Battlegroups. How many of our Craftworlds harbor our enemies at the moment? Two? How many more have we lost? Nine?”
“Your point?” Macha replied icily. “We can hardly wait to— FUCK!” She spun around as every head in the room twisted to gaze at the distant Wraithub of Ulthwé, where the vast Webway Gates that ferried her troops into battle stood. A horrible, sickly, green glow was emanating from one of the largest gates, and Macha reeled. Her half-sister, Taldeer of Ulthwé, clasped her shoulder for a moment, and Macha shook her head free of inborn superstition. “Those accursed Necron…they are at the gates! Prepare for immediate combat!”
On the streets below, Guardians in their thousands mustered. The vast, enclosed skies of the Craftworld seemed to come alive as small fliers darted out from innumerable towers and hangars, bringing the citizen soldiers of the Craftworld to battle. Ulthwé was not one of the more populous Craftworlds, but it still could field a chilling force in its own defense. Before the gates themselves, the Aspect warriors of Ulthwé, and the guards of the Seers that had convened for this phenomenally poorly-timed meeting took positions. A wraithlord rumbled forth from a nearby shrine, and several dozen Warp Spiders took cover behind the structure of the Gates themselves.
And a single human in a ski mask carefully coiled the right sleeve of his shirt up to the shoulder, to prevent the passage of blood from interrupting his aim.
Taldeer, as the ranking Farseer present at the meeting, was first to arrive, her face grim behind her mask. Her “partner’s” total absence from sight didn’t surprise her; the human was remarkably good at remaining concealed.
The gates were starting to look downright necrotic now, with the deeply unnerving greenish glow starting to shimmer from invisible points in the air, rather than just emanating from the frame of the gates themselves. Several Wave Serpents settled to the ground before the gate complex, and over fifty more Banshees piled out, brandishing their glittering weapons. Taldeer sighed to herself as the light from the gates grew brighter and brighter, the security they had put in place to prevent the Webway from ever being used against them in their own homes clearly failing. “I wonder…” she asked herself aloud, pulling a few small blue runestones from her pocket. She knelt, casting them to the ground and watching their movements. Her brow wrinkled as one seemed to hover in midair, then gasped as it shot towards the ceiling.
“That’s…not supposed to happen…” she managed to say, just before the shimmering green glow broke out of the gates. A Necron Pariah stepped forth from the webway, brandishing its gauss stave. A warp spider, hiding behind the arch of the webway gate, pressed its weapon to the machine’s back and pulled the trigger. The Pariah flew apart with a horrid screech, but was quickly replaced by two more, who body-slammed the warp spider into the gate arch with a sickening CRACK. One of the two Pariahs lurched backward with a sizzling crater in its chest, and half a second later, an unmistakable *click* noise echoed from the top of a nearby tower. Taldeer smirked. The assassin was clearly not in poor form from his time in traction. The final Pariah fell to a sheet of shuriken from the Guardian phalanx protecting her, and her eyes were drawn back to the runestone, now lost high in the air. Despite the chaos caused by the sudden emergence of the Necrons, she couldn’t help but wonder what could have caused it.
Abruptly, a Tomb Spyder shot out of the gate. The Dark Reaper bodyguard accompanying Taldeer opened up on the base of machine’s hover-pads, dropping it like a stone. Taldeer noted with a start that it had already been damaged before it arrived, trailing sparks from its necrodermis shell. The green glow from the gates suddenly shut off, and the Webway node slowly started to shut down. Taldeer blinked in confusion. “Wait, that’s it? They only sent four units?”
Iyanna’s Wraithlord clanked up to rest alongside her, with the Spiritseer herself looking over the (limited) carnage in confusion. “Did we not see a much larger force approaching?”
Taldeer nodded and doffed her helm. “We saw a whole battalion.”
The Webway gates flared up, this time in their usual light blue. The cleanup team that had been securing the necrodermis shrapnel for disposal froze, and the Eldar troops who had been deployed around the gates snapped back to readiness. Iyanna smiled grimly. “Perhaps we spoke too soon…”
Taldeer nodded and put her helm back on, but before she do anything else, a sudden burst of pain wracked her head. She gasped and stumbled, pitching forward. She clamped her hands over her ears, not that it helps in a helmet. Her assassin partner’s voice spoke in her ear, sounding uncharacteristically worried. “Taldeer? What’s wrong?”
The Farseer straightened up, wincing. “Someone’s…coming, something that shouldn’t be in the Webway at all…I can’t even—“
CRACK. The central gate sprung to life, the eldritch energies within spilling forth. A colossal creature jumped forth, crushing the remnants of the Tomb Spyder. A streak of shimmering blue fell past it with a loud CLANG, scattering the clean-up crew. The assembled guardians collectively gasped and raised their shuriken launchers. The vast monster opened its fanged jaws and spoke. “SO WHERE IS ELDRAD THESE DAYS? I THINK HE OWES ME A FAVOR.”
Farseer Sen’tiar of the Lugganath massaged his temples wearily. They had been in conference with the…thing that had emerged from their gates for nearly an hour, and the psychic pressure of being roared at by the most potent entity in the galaxy was getting to him. “So…you truly didn’t have a choice, then? You saw your true death as inevitable, and merged with this warp beast to escape death?”
“HELL NO, I WOULD HAVE RETURNED AS MY OLD SELF, IN A NEW HUMAN BODY, BUT CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED? NINE MONTHS I’D BE CARRIED BY A HUMAN WOMAN, UNABLE TO DIRECT THE LIGHT OF THE ASTRONOMICAN. PURE ANARCHY. EARTH WOULD STARVE, EVERY FORGE WORLD WOULD REBEL, AND YOU CAN BET YOUR ASS YOUR DARK COUSINS WOULD HAVE CARTED OFF HALF THE IMPERIUM FOR USE AS SLAVES,” the Emperor-critter roared derisively. “CAN’T HAVE THAT.” Macha stared.
“This seems a bit…drastic, though, doesn’t it? It’s not becoming.”
“TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T BLOODY KNOW,” the Emperor said. “I CAN’T EVEN CONTROL HOW LOUD THIS THING IS.”
“We noticed,” Taldeer muttered. Louder, she added “The fact that you are under the false impression that Fathe…Farseer Eldrad owes you a personal favor is rather more distressing, frankly. He said nothing of that.”
“IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL, ACTUALLY,” the colossal orange being replied, “BUT HE SAVED THE LIVES OF FOUR ENTIRE IMPERIAL SECTOR, RAPID REACTION, AND SEGMENTUM FLEETS A FEW YEARS BACK, AND I REPAY MY FAVORS. ALSO, EVEN THOUGH IT TOTALLY WASN’T MY FAULT, I KINDA FEEL BAD ABOUT WHAT FULGRIM DID TO HIM.” “But…that would be you owing HIM a favor,” Macha replied, totally nonplussed.
“RIGHT. AND THEN, LESS THAN TWO WHOLE WEEKS AGO, I SAVED HIS ASS FROM BEING EATEN ALIVE BY SLAANESH. TWICE. SO NOW HE OWES ME ONE. WE AGREED ON THIS,” the Emperor roared back.
Taldeer and Macha looked at each other, stunned into silence. How could that have even been?
It was LIIVI, of all people, who found his voice first. “My Lord God, how do you mean?”
The Emperor glared down at the Vindicare with what was probably a mildly irritated expression on his massive, scaly face. “FIRST OF ALL, THAT’S BETWEEN ME AND HIS DAUGHTERS, AND SECOND, WHY IS ONE OF MY ASSASSINS ON ULTHWE IF IT ISN’T FOR STRATEGIC TARGET REMOVAL?”
LIIVI bowed his head respectfully, trying very, very hard not to let his knees turn to jelly. “It is a phenomenally complicated story, my Lord God, but rest assured that this is probably where I belong,” he said, even his Vindicare training failing to keep his emotions from welling up.
The Emperor was silent for a few seconds, then shrugged his orange shoulders. “EH. I’LL TAKE YOUR WORD FOR IT. I HAVE MORE URGENT TASKS TO ATTEND TO THAN KILLING YOU FOR DESERTION.”
“Those being?” Taldeer asked curtly, trying to change the subject. Macha grinned at her knowingly.
“CASHING IN A FAVOR, REMEMBER?” the Emperor sighed. “I WANT YOU TO RESTORE MY SON HERE TO FULL HEALTH. MY OWN POWER DOES NOT EXTEND TO THIS, BUT YOUR TECHNOLOGY AND WARP-BENDING MIGHT.”
“Er, about that,” Farseer Yriic Blueflame of Yme-Loc spoke up. “Why us? And for that matter, why should we believe you when you say Eldrad owes you a favor?”
For a few long, terrible, gut-churning seconds, the bestial God-Emperor stared at the Farseer, until finally he made a noise that was probably a sigh of frustration. “FINE. FUCK. I’LL GO GET HIM AND SHOW YOU. YOU’LL OWE ME TWO NOW, THOUGH.” And with a crack of displaced air and purple flash of light he was gone, with a final comment of “TAKE CARE OF MY PAPERWEIGHT SON HERE, I’LL BE BACK SOON ENOUGH.”
The Harlequins of the Eldar tell tales of a pocket of the Webway where the walls grow thin, and the Old Ones and the Slann did not make the wards properly. The realms of Tzeench exist beyond them, where the Webtunnels bend and twist impossibly, and time is not as it should be. For at the outer edges of the galaxy, the Webway and the Immaterium do not cross, and the grasp of Chaos grows faint, for there are no living things beyond the galaxy save the Outsider and the Tyranids, who are hardly on speaking terms with the Dark Gods.
But in the center of the galaxy, where Tzeench once ruled all Chaos before he was thrown down by the other three, the Warp is present and strong; the Webway tunnels that were built in the primordial times stray dangerously close to the Warp, there are places where time halts, or flows backward, and nothing is as it should be. Some Solitaires seek this place with a morbid desperation, trying to find these chronovortices to fling themselves back in time and prevent the Fall.
The denizens of Commorragh avoid these places with terror, sensing the Thirst grow deeper in their proximity to the Warp, and even what few Slann remain do not remember it.
It is in these dark places of the Webway where Jaghatai Khan found himself eternally, lost and alone, chasing the Dark Eldar who had so skillfully eluded him. All time and logic had left this realm, and a single step could take a lifetime.
He didn’t even bother keeping track of time, for he knew it to be pointless. All he could do was wander, and hope he wasn’t going backwards.
Then, one day, something changed.
As Jaghatai retraced his steps for what could very well have been the millionth time, he felt something. Not in the endless tunnels of the Webway, but beyond, in the mad realm of Chaos. The eternally twisting patterns of entropy and creation splint and bent aside, allowing something to pass by. Jaghatai stopped and stared, horrified and awed. What could be powerful enough to bend the Warp so much it could alter time itself? He snapped out of his shock, and bolted for the nearest side-tunnel, one too far away to reach while trapped in the chronovortex. Just as the being passed his position, he could almost hear the creature, which seemed to be talking to itself, but words eluded him.
As the creature passed, he could feel the tug of time at his mind, pulling him back into the chronovortex. He screamed in frustration and doubled his effort, sprinting for the edge of the tunnel. With a massive, final effort, he leapt through, as the creature, whatever it was, passed by completely. He lay on the floor of the infinite tunnel, panting roughly, before clutching his arms to his sides and laughing, tears of relief streaming down his face. Finally, he was free! Now…how to escape fully?
Two dimensions and ten to the seventeenth meters away, Slaanesh was having the day of his life. For over ten thousand years, he had been feasting on the souls of the Eldar, and the infinite pleasures of the Immaterium were his to share. Surely, his oldest foe, the one who had escaped his birth, would delight in their bounty together?
Slaanesh was wise enough to know that he could never properly entertain Eldrad Ultran in his own palace, not if he was to enjoy this fully. So, he had had his dearest, closest Princelings drag the gibbering Eldar to the Pit of Lust, for their mutual enjoyment. Eldrad had realized what was happening in the disastrous Battle of the Blackstone, naturally, and had used his power to clip his own optic nerve cleanly in two in his last moments before being dragged screaming into the Warp. It irritated Slaanesh just a bit that Eldrad wanted to avoid his gifts so much, but it couldn’t be helped.
Slaanesh’s many sensuous claws ripped the mask off the Eldar’s face, before pushing him bodily into the Pit. He stood at the edge and giggled at the incoherent scream that emanated from below, reveling in the delightful noise. It was all he could do not to throw the Slick One in after him, seeing as how she did so enjoy the Pit, but no…he wanted this luxury for himself.
Eldrad clamped his hands over his ears and whimpered pitifully as the hundreds of severed hands in the Pit slowly passed him down the walls, caressing him even through his solid wraithbone armor. He clamped his teeth around his tongue and prayed. “Isha, lady of healing, please, oh please help me, your eldest child, now, in my time of direst temptation, Ashurra and Khaine, lend me your strength, protect me from the foulness of the Warp…”
“They can’t hear you now, dearest,” Slaanesh giggled to himself. He paused for a moment. “Well, Isha, perhaps, but I broke Khaine over my knee, and Ashurra died with the Old Ones…you know that, silly!” Eldrad ignored him.
“Asuryan, father of the Pure, protect me from the depredations of evil and madness…”
Slaanesh laughed, loud and happy. “Asuryan! Wow, I haven’t heard that name since I ate him alive!”
Eldrad wept through blind eyes. “Taldeer, Macha, please, please forgive me my weakness and my absence, I can not love you more than I do right now…protect our families, and—“
“Oh, enough,” Slaanesh sighed, “this is getting just downright maudlin.” He slunk down the spiral walls of flesh that lined the Pit, his form shifting and flowing, at once too beautiful to ignore and too repulsive to behold. “Your daughters will service my Lust Lords and Keepers of Secrets as I flood you with my gifts.”
Eldrad could FEEL his mind breaking…no mortal, no Eldar, no being with a soul was meant to be here. “Oh, please, Gods, grant me swift death or deliverance as I fall into darkness…” he cut off as he finally reached the bottom of the Pit. Slaanesh took the last few steps at a jump, landing scant few meters from the Eldar, who had curled into the fetal position and locked his hands over his nose and mouth, whispering “never…never…never…” over and over.
Slaanesh took a moment to enjoy it…his oldest Eldar foe, ready to break and serve him. He slid his hands over the velvet floor of the Pit, towards his ancient enemy. “You escaped me at the Birthing, lover, you escaped me at the Direst Purge, you TRIED to escape me at the Battle of the Blackstone…but that clever lad Abbaddon fooled you , dear, and you learned…you can NEVER escape me a third time.”
Eldrad went limp, his hands falling from his nose and mouth as he shook convulsively. The power of the Chaos God of Pleasure was too much, even for him, this close, in his own realm. He felt a manic grin creep across his face as he felt the Dark God’s toxic scent flow over him…
Slaanesh sighed happily. All was as it should be. All was right in the Warp. He bade the light above dim, and it did so, turning from a hideous pink to a deep, dark red, an impossible color with no name lacing the clouds of nonexistence. “Now…serve me…” he whispered. The clouds above turned purple, as the Prince of Excess paused over his convulsing enemy.
“COMING THROUGH!” a voice suddenly yelled. Slaanesh looked up, startled. A huge shadow appeared at the rim of the Pit, staring through beady purple eyes. “I DON’T WANT TO INTERRUPT, BUT I’M KIND OF IN A HURRY HERE. HAND HIM OVER OR I WILL FUCK YOU UP SO BAD YOU’LL HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR TITLE TO PRINCE OF EUNUCHS.”
Slaanesh gaped. What the fuck was this? A Khornate daemon, here to rob him of his prize? “You’ll not seize me for your master, foul rage beast!” he snarled, his good mood interrupted. “I’ll tear you to ribbons and return you to your master!”
“LIKE BUGGERY YOU WILL,” the being retorted. A massive wave of blue light flooded the Pit, and Eldrad was suddenly gone. His body appeared at the foot of the colossal creature, and Slaanesh howled with rage and disappointment. The Prince of Excess hurtled himself up the wall of the Pit, landing opposite the massive beast.
“I know not how you face me without turning to my service, creature, but you have no hope of victory. No entity in any realm may overcome the power of—“ “SHUT YOUR NASTY LITTLE FACE BEFORE I HACK THE OTHER BREAST OFF,” the monster roared in irritation. “I’LL BE BACK TO SCHOOL YOU SOON ENOUGH.” With a brilliant purple flash of light, the beast and the Eldar were gone, leaving the Chaos God to stand there, baffled.
Far away, as much as the words have a meaning in the realms of the warp, Tzeench gazed at the vast Sight Crystal before him and chuckled. “He sure didn’t see that coming.”
Back at Craftworld Ulthwé
Farseer Taldeer, daughter of the mightiest psyker the Eldar race had ever birthed, knelt at the side of the stasis-locked body of Robute Guilliman. His face was stopped in time, and Taldeer could see, with her Eldar eyes, small pockmarks on either side of his mouth, a grimace of pain. A nasty, green-tinged cut crossed his neck, and an empty, sad look filled his eyes.
With his mind as frozen as the rest of him, all she could do was look. She couldn’t read his mind, even if she tried: even the Eldar can’t reverse or unfreeze time. LIIVI sat down in a chair next to her and looked at the Primarch pensively. “So…that’s what he looks like. We were always told that he was the one who held the Imperium together in the aftermath of the Heresy.”
She shook her head slowly. It was unnerving to be next to someone with a mind frozen in time. Such an empty blankness where thought should be. She straightened up, slowly. “I have no idea. That was before I was born.” LIIVI looked at the shimmering yellow field of energy that surrounded him, maintained by the tiny black box the Emperor had brought with him from Macragge. Taldeer looked at him sideways and let a smile quirk the corners of her mouth. She gently stretched her mind to LIIVI’s, and his lips twitched in the approximation of a smile he saved for her.
“I can feel that, you know. Aren’t I as blank as he is?” She shook her head emphatically.
“No, you’re just free of clutter. Waste. His mind is just…not there. A dead man has more of a mind than he does.” She grinned and sat beside him, letting her head rest against his. When she spoke again, it was almost silent. “I have to wonder what he meant…if Father’s all right.” LIIVI didn’t answer.
Neither of them could see it, but the air around the base of the Webway Assembly Gates was suddenly filled with a suffuse, purple haze. The Guardians posted nearby pointed and backed off, uneasily. The monstrous new body of the Emperor of Mankind appeared in the midst of the clutter of Gates and landing pads. “FINALLY. I HATE RAW WARP TRAVEL.”
Taldeer, several buildings away, leapt to her feet when she sensed the Emperor return…with someone else in tow. “It…it can’t be…”
With the characteristic CRACK of displaced air that always accompanied a teleportation, the Emperor’s monstrous new form arrived in the conference room. “GOT HIM.”
Taldeer gasped and ran to her prostrate father, who was clearly comatose, with a rictus of impossible ecstasy on his face. “Father! No…was he too late?”
“HE’S RIGHT HERE, FARSEER, AND NO, YOUR FATHER WILL RECOVER. MIGHT TAKE A WHILE THOUGH, I’D TIE HIM TO A BED SO HE DOESN’T HURT HIMSELF IN WITHDRAWAL.” The seventy foot long Emperor did something with his shoulders that was probably a shrug. “SATISFIED NOW?”
Taldeer was in no condition to answer, bent over her father clutching his chest, heaving sobs inconsolably. LIIVI squeezed her shoulder, which he was pretty sure was what someone with a sense of empathy would have done. Macha tore into the room from where she had been waiting with the rest of the council, in the next room over. She saw her father’s form on the floor and screamed. “Father! You…” she broke off when she saw his condition, and rounded on the gigantic Emperor. “Is he…is he dead?”
“NOPE, I WAS JUST IN TIME,” the quadrupedal God of Man replied, with a sense of smugness that didn’t really make it through his alien mouth.
Yrric and the others filed in more sedately, gazing at the tableau before them in awe. The gigantic Emperor turned and stared at them, his footfalls shaking the floor with every step. “SO, DO WE HAVE A DEAL? YOU HEAL MY SON BACK UP?”
Iyanna glanced at the others, catching a few nods. “The Council of the Farseers are in your debt, make no mistake of it. Roboute Guilliman will live.”
“FANTASTIC. NOW, I HAVE SOMEONE ELSE TO FIND, BUT I WON’T BRING HIM HERE. I CAN THINK OF A MUCH MORE SUITABLE PLACE FOR HIM TO WIND UP…” the Emperor trailed off, distracted, before teleporting off into the Warp once more. Macha knelt beside her sister and traced her hand over the soulstone Eldrad had bound to his armor.
“You’re not the only one who pays their debts, friend…” she whispered to the empty air.
An ork is a fascinating person, most of the time. They don’t really suffer from angst or stress, they love what they do, and they never run out of people to fight. As long as there’s enemies to fight, they’re just as happy as clams, if Orks even have clams.
Not that they view every single enemy through the same lens, oh no. They don’t really like the Tau, they’re too boring to fight fair, so they cheat with those big dakka-shooting armor suits that look like what those humie gits call Titans. They love fighting the humies, there’s always so many of them! They even fight other orks, all the time in fact.
The little orks, though, they’re usually not so lucky. They might have to lug the ammo around if there’s no burna-grot around, and they’re nothing more than squig-herders on the more boring worlds.
So when Grix, the chief gretchin-minder of the Bluddroks clan, found a funny-looking humie all alone, in the middle of the forests of Zargh 3, he was over the moon! Finally, an enemy to fight. He ran towards the funny humie, waving his choppa and shouting WAAAAGH!
The humie didn’t even seem to notice, though, he just sat there on his knees, holding his own shoulders and laughing, with tears on his face. Grix didn’t even slow down, charging straight at the humie.
With a movement so fast it looked like a bolt of lightning striking a tree, the weird humie spun his arm out at Grix. Before Grix could even block with his choppa, suddenly the world was upside down! He blinked in confusion, his tiny brain trying to register what was going on, when his head hit the ground, and the rest of him bounced off of a rock.
The “humie,” Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of the White Scars Legion, loyal son of the God-Emperor of Mankind, stood up, still chuckling, wiping his tears from his eye with his clean hand.
He faced the open, blue sky and smirked. “Father!” he called aloud. “I bet you can’t hear me, but I saw what you did! I felt you pass, father! I’m back!”
It’s mighty hard to keep a secret on a planet with a population of seventeen trillion. Try as you might, words pass around, and as the old adage goes, NOTHING travels faster than bad news.
And somehow, the Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes throwing open the Eternity Gate and ordering two Titans to kill whatever’s inside draws attention.
11/1000s of the year had passed, and even the most adroit Administratum Adept had given up trying to contain the damage. Hundreds of pilgrims had noticed the commotion as they traveled the Path of the Sacred Pilgrimage to the Gate, and even the Custodes quietly imprisoning or liquefying the witnesses hadn’t contained the information fully. The entire planet was abuzz with the knowledge that something had gone UTTERLY wrong in the Hall of the Golden Throne. The Captain-General himself had already committed suicide by disembowelment, much to the horror of the rest of the High Lords. Now, they gathered to try and contain the situation before the entire Imperium Collapsed.
TRANSCRIPT APPENDED: SESSION OF THE HIGH LORDS, EMERGENCY GATHERING DATE EXPUNGED BY ARBITES REPRESENTATIVE
ATTENDING (all representatives referred to by title):
Lord High Inquisitor
Grand Provost Marshal
Grand Master Assassinorum
Grand Master Telepath
Lord Commander Militant, Guard
Lord High Admiral, Navy
SUBSTITUTION: CHARTIST CAPTAIN for CAPTAIN-GENERAL
Ecclesiarch: Were the news not delivered by one of our own, and confirmed by his colleague, I would not believe it. Our Emperor is taken from us.
Grand Master Telepath: Master [of the Astronomican], is the holy light disturbed?
Master of the Astronomican: No. We are guided by His hand even in His absence. He must persist elsewhere.
Paternoval Envoy: Agreed. I am told my fellow Navigators can still see and hear the Astronomican.
Grand Master Telepath: One of my astropaths has informed me that he sensed an impossibly powerful Warp presence streaming for Cadia mere hours after the beast appeared in the Hall of the Throne. Mere hours after that, in turn, I am informed by a panicked astropath on Cadia itself that a massive Warp beast appeared in the parade ground of the kasr where the Lord Castellan was holding an emergency meeting. Then, less than a day later, a Force Recon sergeant sights Abbadon being crushed by an angry beast, who then spoke to the Sergeant as the Emperor.
Lord Commander Militant: I received an identical report. The Sergeant is in custody, while one of Creed’s sanctionites watches him for Warp contamination.
Fabricator-General: And this…beast. Did it fit the description of the one that appeared before the Custodes?
Grand Master Telepath: Perfectly.
Inquisitor *faintly*: Why should it be true?
Chartist Captain: Pardon?
Inquisitor: Why should it be true? Why would our Holy Emperor bind himself to that…thing?
*Silence for several seconds*
Grand Master Assassinorum: How does it matter? The more important question is not yet answered. Where is he?
Sometime later, at The Rock
In the final, waning hours of the life of the Horus Heresy, no legion escaped unscathed. All eighteen of the surviving twenty legions had either gone over to Chaos or broken, save the Ultramarines. By the time of the Thirteenth Black Crusade, none of the loyal Primarchs remained, unscathed. Three were dead, in fact: Dorn, Sanguinius, and Manus. The others vanished or fell in battle after the fact: Guilliman, his throat cut; Corax, Vulkan, and Russ entered the Eye, and Jaghatai and The Lion simply disappeared.
Disappeared, however, does not mean died.
In the tumbling rocks of Caliban, overseen by the Watchers in the Dark, lay Lion El’Jonson, still comatose, but fully healed, after his climactic battle with Luther. Only Luther himself and the Watchers knew of this secret…aside from the Emperor.
The empty caverns below the citadel of the Dark Angels bent, folded, and popped as the massive Emperor stepped forth. The purple flash illuminated dark corners of the chamber that had probably not seen daylight since the planet was sundered thousands of yeas ago. The Emperor looked around and sighed. “LOOKS LIKE I HAVE SOME WORK TO DO.”
Above, in the fortress-monastery, the Angels were thrown into a panic. “What do you MEAN there’s a psyker signal from the Rock?” Sammael roared at the hapless Librarian.
“I…mean what I said, brother, there is someone down there. Someone with a psychic power that is horrifyingly vast,” the Librarian answered contritely.
Azrael, master of the Secrets, leader of the Dark Angels, strode into the room in fury. “What in the name of the Golden Throne,” he began without a trace of irony, “is going on in MY monastery?”
Sammael spun to face him. “Brother, there is a psychic signal emanating from the places where the Watchers in the Dark go to die. Something is down there.”
Azrael buried his face in his hands. “I gathered that. I have ordered what few elements of the Deathwing remain here to gather, and prepare for an excursion into the Rock.”
“Let me save you the trouble,” a rasping voice said.
Azrael and the other two men in the room spun about –a sight to see in power armor – to face a ragged old man, leaning on the wall, nursing his head. He was surrounded by a rapidly dispersing purple mist, and his free hand was blocking out the light in the room. Azrael gaped.
The old man nodded slowly, then winced at the evident pain that caused him. “Yes…yes, brother Azrael, it is I. I confess I have been away for a time. I recall this world having trees when last I was here.”
The Librarian sank to knees, overcome with emotion. Sammael slowly raised his gauntleted hands to cover his gaping mouth. Azrael, however, recovered his composure, looking grim. “Ah…Master El’Jonson…the Vault…it is not refilled.”
The Lion sighed and gingerly stood upright once more. “I can not tell you much much of a fuck I do not give, brother.” Azrael gasped aloud.
“But…Master, it was ever the duty of the Keeper of the Truth to fill the Vault—”
“—In the event that I did not return, brother,” El’Jonson said, keeping his voice level and free of censorship with a grand effort. “I quite clearly have.” He grinned faintly. “Don’t look so disappointed.”
Sammael slowly turned to face his Chapter Master. Azrael looked utterly crushed, certainly not how he should have looked upon finding out that his Master had returned. El’Jonson must have grasped Sammael’s confusion, for he sank down the steel chair fitted to the wall behind him, and stared at the floor below him, as if seeing where he had nearly had his head caved in by Luther ten thousand years prior. Before he could explain however, a massive noise from beyond the chamber walls heralded the Deathwing. The first of the Terminator-clad giants entered the room in a rush, already speaking. “Lord Azrael, we have drawn together what lingers here of the First Compa…who the hell is that guy?”
Sammael turned to the Terminators, suppressing a smirk. “Can you not see that he is Lion El’Jonson himself, returned to us?”
The Terminator Captain glanced at the withered old man, the still-prostrate Librarian, Azrael, who looked to be on the verge of tears, and finally Sammael, who had failed entirely to suppress the smirk. “You’re shitting me, aren’t you? You’re so full of shit, your eyes are brown.”
“As I was saying,” El’Jonson said loudly, then immediately looked to regret it, placing a hand on his forehead, “ah, blast, that stings like a mother’s bitch…Azrael, you have executed your task ably, but the time for further adherence to the Truth is concluded. I have returned to complete the role I abandoned when I lost to Luther.”
Azrael, among the most feared Space Marines in all the galaxy, slowly slumped his shoulders and nodded. “…Okay.”
The Lion shook his head again, and managed to keep from wincing. “The Emperor already filled me in on what has transpired. Not all of your…actions thus far have been…meritous, brother. Believe me, though, I would rather return from the vast sleeping death of the Rock to find you darkened than dead.”
He turned to Sammael, who was looking rather startled at that pronouncement, hastened to explain. “The Truth, brother, the fact the position of Truth Keeper was created to protect, was that I swore to the Emperor, as I lay dying in the Rock, to fill the Vault of the Watchers with the geneseed of The Fallen, and should I awake before the last of the Fallen are killed, then my oath has been broken.”
The Terminator Captain visibly stiffened at those words, and Azrael shuddered. El’Jonson let the mood hang in the air for a few seconds before smiling. “That said, I have been released from the Oath by our new Emperor. Actually,” he said off-handedly, ignoring the horrified gasps of the assembled Deathwing, “I guess he’s the same Emperor with a new body. Ah well, same thing, really. The teeth will take some getting used to.”
*The meeting of the High Lords of Terra continued unabated, with twelve of the nineteen most powerful humans in the galaxy debating long into the night. Finally, the chair—presently the Grand Marshal Provost—calls the meeting to final order.*
Provost: Gentlemen, under the circumstances I see no further value in lingering here. We have decided. We shall appear before the commoners and let them know a select slice of the truth: the Emperor lives on, but has journeyed to fight the Great Enemy with their own weapons.
Ecclesiarch: This is madness, I tell you! There will be riots in the streets!
Charter Captain: He’s not wrong. Perhaps we shouldn’t mention the part about “their own weapons.” I mean, the commoner hears “Great Enemy,” they hear “weapons,” they’re going to think “demons.” Do we want them to think the Emperor is consorting with demons? No matter how factual?
Provost *angry grunt*: You solution is no better, Captain.
Lord High Admiral: Then it is decided. We should perform the address, promptly.
*horrible shriek, Paternoval Envoy, Grand Master Astropath, and Astronomican Master double over, bellowing in agony*
Lord Commander Militant: What?! What is going on?!
Assassinorum Grand Master: ARGH! My…my head…something is coming…something terrifying! Something UNHOLY!...Gaaah, my head…
*purple flash of light from center of conference table*
UNKNOWN: BEHOLD, SENATORS. I RETURN.
*crunching noise as conference table breaks under the unknown beings’ weight, catching Charter Captain’s augmetic leg in the process. Captain shrieks and begins throwing sparks*
UNKNOWN: OH. SORRY. GUESS I DON’T KNOW MY OWN STRENGTH.
*All four psykers cease feeling pain now that the apparition is in the room and not approaching*
Grand Master Assassinorum: My Emperor? It…Is that you?
UNKNOWN: YES, IT IS I, LORD OF MANKIND. I’VE GAINED WEIGHT, BUT YEAH, IT’S ME.
Lord Commander Militant: How…oh, most divine one, tell us, how have you returned to us, your most loyal servants?
UNKNOWN: IF YOU THINK YOURSELVES MY MOST LOYAL SERVANTS, YOU’VE NEVER MET THIS FELLOW I’VE HEARD OF NAMED FERIK JURGEN. BUT TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION, I LEARNED OF THE PLANS OF THE ONES CALLED THE ILLUMINATI TO KILL MY CHILDREN AND SACRIFICE THEIR SOULS TO ME. I KNEW OF THEIR PLAN, AND KNEW THAT IT WAS GUARANTEED TO FAIL, SINCE TWO OF THE…WHAT DID THEY CALL THEM, SENSEI? YEAH, THOSE GUYS. THREE DIED BEFORE THE ILLUMINATI GOT TO THEM, AND ONE MORE TURNED TO CHAOS AND GOT EATEN ALIVE BY TZEENCH, SO THEY COULD NEVER FORM CRITICAL MASS.
Lord Inquisitor *sweating profusely* : Shall we round up and purge these heretics, my Lord God?
UNKNOWN *turns to face the Inquisitor, who changes colors several times*: ‘WE’ SHALL DO NOTHING OF THE KIND. THE SENSEI ARE MY BLOOD, AND THE ILLUMINATI, WHILE CRUEL, ACTUALLY HAD A PLAN FOR MY RETURN, WHICH IS MORE THAN I CAN SAY FOR ANY OF YOU. *turns to Fabricator-General* THOUGH I CAN’T GET MAD AT YOU, REALLY, AT LEAST YOU HELPED REPAIR THE GOLDEN THRONE THAT ONE TIME. OUT OF CURIOSITY, WHAT DID YOU DO WITH IT NOW THAT IT’S VACANT?
Fabricator-General: Now that it is no longer in use, Omnissiah, we have deactivated it and are attempting to repair it. It should be…easier, now that it is not…active.
*UNKNOWN steps off conference table, Charter Captain grabs leg, attempts to reattach it unsuccessfully. Fabricator-General leans over to repair it.*
UNKNOWN: GOOD, GOOD. LISTEN, I GUESS I SHOULD APOLOGIZE FOR NOT COMING TO YOU FELLOWS SOONER…
Grand Marshal Provost: I’m certain you had more pressing needs, my Lord God.
UNKNOWN: YEAH, I SENSED THAT ABBADON THE DESPOILER WAS ABOUT TO USE A NURGLITE VIRAL BOMB ON CADIA, WHICH WOULD HAVE ALLOWED HIM TO TAKE THE GATE. CAN’T HAVE THAT. ALSO, MY SONS, ROBUTE AND LION NEEDED MY HELP WITH…THINGS. I SHOULD GO FIND JAGHATAI, TOO, THOUGH HELL IF I KNOW WHERE HE IS. AND WHOEVER THE FUCK EVEN KNOWS WHAT VULKAN AND LEMAN ARE DOING OFF THE ASS END OF THE EYE.
Lord High Admiral *hesitantly*: And…Corax as well, my Lord God?
UNKNOWN *nods vigorously, dust falls from ceiling*: YEAH, BUT I ALREADY KNOW WHERE HE IS. ANYWAY. I WANT YOU ALL TO LISTEN VERY CLOSELY.
Administratum Master: I assure you that will be very easy, my Lord God.
UNKNOWN: YEAH, SORRY, THIS BODY’S A BIT LOUD. ANYWAY. I WANT YOU TWELVE TO GO GET ON THE HOLOPICT CASTS, THE ASTROPATHY RELAYS, ALL OF IT, AND START TELLING THE PEOPLE THAT I WON A GREAT BATTLE AGAINST A DEMON OF KHORNE AND CONSUMED ITS VERY ESSENCE, AND THE CAPTAIN-GENERAL OF MY GUARD DIED IN THE HEROIC STRUGGLE. A LITTLE WHITE LIE. ALSO, I WANT EVERY SINGLE EVERSOR ASSASSIN IN ALL OF THE IMPERIUM READY TO GO ON MY ORDER ASAP. I HAVE…PLANS FOR THEM.
Grand Master Assassinorum: You honor us, my Lord God! I shall assemble them at once!
*UNKNOWN turns to face him, placer board falls from ceiling*
UNKNOWN: MAYBE YOU DIDN’T HEAR ME. I SAID ‘READY’ THEM, AS IN READY THEM FOR ACTION, NOT ‘GATHER THEM ALL IN ONCE PLACE LIKE I NEED THEM TO MOVE FURNITURE.’
Grand Master Assassinorum: As ordered, my Lord God.
UNKNOWN: FANTASTIC. THANKS. MEANWHILE, I HAVE BUSINESS ON ORCICIA. I’LL BE BACK LATER.
*UNKNOWN teleports out in burst of purple light. The doors give in as the guards pressing against them tumble in, having been restrained by UNKNOWN’s psychic power. Fabricator-General steps back from Charter Captain*
Fabricator-General: …I gave you rocket knees.
Continued in The Tales of the Emperasque: Part Three.